As President Barack Obama on Tuesday deployed several hundred troops to provide security for U.S. personnel in Iraq amid a growing insurgency, two Kansas University professors urged caution and talks with longtime foe Iran to help reach a political solution.
Don Haider-Markel, professor and chairman of the political science department whose research includes terrorism, said that the Sunni Muslim insurgency known as ISIS, for Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, is a potent threat.
"ISIS is the greatest single threat to stability in the Middle East and the greatest jihadist group threat to Western countries for the next several years or more," Haider-Markel said.
Haider-Markel said ISIS wants to take down the government in Iraq and Syria to set up a Muslim state. They have a battle-hardened leadership, recently acquired hundreds of millions of dollars and benefit from a discontented population because of resentment over the rule of Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki.
"Our best strategy, unfortunately, is really to work with Iran on this," Haider-Markel said.
Marie Grace Brown, an assistant history professor at KU, said the roots of the fighting included grievances from many factions against the government.
And she said that while ISIS has taken control of several Iraqi cities, and was reportedly nearing Baghdad, she didn't think it would be able to take control of the Iraqi government.
"I think we are a long ways from ISIS completely gaining control of Iraq where it becomes a state and grows to be an enemy of the West," she said.
Brown, who is a cultural historian of the modern Middle East, said that when U.S. officials consider their options, they should "reassess its allies in the region" and work with Iran.
"The government in Iran and population in Iran are more moderate than they have been for some time," Brown said. "This is a time for us to be in discussion with Iran on what we can do jointly to stop the Sunni radicals within Iraq."
The Obama administration has said it was willing to talk with Iran, according to The Associated Press.
"We're open to discussions if there is something constructive that can be contributed by Iran, if Iran is prepared to do something that is going to respect the integrity and sovereignty of Iraq and ability of the government to reform," U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said.