Lehigh Valley

Expert weighs in on Iraq situation

Expert weighs in on Iraq situation

EASTON, Pa. - As rebel forces take over more and more territory in Iraq, a local expert says sending troops back to the nation should be a last resort, but it may become unavoidable.

It's the most dire situation Iraq has faced in years.

Armed rebels have taken over many of the country's major cities and are now closing in on Baghdad.

The rebels are from a group called ISIS, the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, which began in 2006 and gained steam after American troops largely left Iraq in 2011.

The group wants to establish a new, fundamental Sunni Muslim nation over much of Syria and northern Iraq.

In spite of ISIS's advances, President Barack Obama said Friday that American soldiers are staying put.

"We will not be sending U.S. troops back into combat in Iraq, but I have asked my National Security team to prepare a range of other options that could help support Iraq security forces," the President said.

Lafayette College's Dr. Ilan Peleg, who has studied the region for four decades, said some of those options could include sending the Iraqi government more weapons and sharing intelligence with them.

"Information gathering, and we have tremendous amount of capability of giving information to the iraqi government, will be much less dangerous and costly," said Peleg.

Some Republicans, who criticized America's pull-out from Iraq, are already hinting at a return for troops.

"As you notice, [rebels] are now going back and forth between Iraq and Syria," said U.S. Sen. John McCain, R - Arizona. "This is an existential threat to the United States of America."

While Peleg believes sending in American troops or even air strikes should be a last resort, he also thinks this particular rebel group is a major threat to American security.

"This organization -- this particular group -- is heavily, heavily terroristic," said Peleg. "Those are organizations that are even considered terrorists by al Qaeda terminology -- more radical than al Qaeda, if you can imagine."

For now, the President said Iraq is largely on its own.

"Iraq's leaders have to demonstrate a willingness to make hard decisions and compromises on behalf of the Iraqi people in order to bring the country together," he said.

President Obama met with his national security advisors Friday, but said a decision on possible actions is a few days off.

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