Just as the U.S. involvement in Iraq was diminishing, the advance of ISIL is being closely watched in Washington.
“I’m gravely concerned about recent developments in Iraq,” Sen. Chris Coons said.
Coons, The First State’s junior senator, talked about the advance of fighters with the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant in an interview that airs this weekend on WHYY’s First.
ISIL, sometimes called ISIS, is well-equipped and well-funded and is targeting America and American interests in the Middle East, Coons explained.
“I think we’re in a very difficult spot,” he said.
The al-Qaida breakaway group has seized much of Syria and Iraq. On Sunday, ISIL formally declared the establishment of a new Islamic state, demanding allegiance from Muslims worldwide in a move that could further strain relations with other militant groups.
While not supporting the “reintroduction” of American troops in Iraq, Coons said he would support a more limited action including air strikes against ISIL positions if they come close to overthrowing the Iraqi government.
“There is a great deal of not just Iraq fatigue, but Afghanistan fatigue and, frankly, intervention fatigue that I hear loud and clear from Delawareans,” Coons said. “We have to be very mindful of the real threat to the United States and our interests in the region posed by this group.”
Coons met with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry last week and said there’s is “great resistance to any significant re-intervention in the Middle East.”
With brutal efficiency, the Sunni extremist group has carved out a large chunk of territory that has effectively erased the border between Iraq and Syria and laid the foundations of its proto-state. But Sunday’s declaration, made on the first day of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, could trigger a wave of infighting among the Sunni militant factions that formed a loose alliance in the blitz across Iraq.
The spokesman for the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant declared the group’s chief, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, as the leader of the new caliphate, or Islamic state, and called on Muslims everywhere, not just those in areas under the organization’s control, to swear loyalty to him.
Sen. Coons will be a guest this week on WHYY’s First, which airs Fridays at 5:30 and 11 p.m. The Associated Press contributed to this report.