David Siddhartha Patel

Junior Research Fellow at the Crown Center and a former Assistant Professor in the Department of Government at Cornell University



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ISIS In Iraq: What We Get Wrong and Why 2015 Is Not 2007 Redux

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David Siddhartha Patel
Middle East Brief 87, January 2015


The rise and expansion of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, poses a serious threat to regional and global security. In response, on September 10, 2014, President Obama initiated a strategy to "degrade and destroy" ISIS through systematic airstrikes and local “partner forces” fighting on the ground. This strategy is based on three key assumptions: first, that ISIS is foreign to Iraq; second, that ISIS will eventually alienate Sunni Arabs; and finally, that Iraq's new government is more inclusive and can thus persuade Sunni Iraqis to break with ISIS and join hands with the government in Baghdad. In this Brief, David Siddhartha Patel explores the origins of each assumption and the reasons why they are not applicable in the present Iraqi political environment. Patel concludes by arguing that the inapplicability of these assumptions means that America's military re-engagement in Iraq -- this time against ISIS -- will be long and difficult.

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