The Issue: ISIL
This summer, a militant group in Iraq and Syria has been making major headlines. ISIS, or ISIL as world leaders call it, has made a name for itself. The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant is known for its massacres and hostile takeovers of major Iraqi cities.
The increasing violence in the region prompted President Barack Obama to send in American troops, about four years after the last combat troops left Iraq. However, these troops are not on the ground, instead, they are just using air power. Along with airstrikes, the U.S. also carried out humanitarian aid drops, most famously to the Yazidi minority in Iraq, that were trapped on a mountain.
Within the past few weeks, the situation got even more dire, due to the beheading of American journalist James Foley by a member of ISIL. Foley was kidnapped in Syria two years ago, and was held for ransom since. ISIL is claiming they are holding another American journalist who disappeared in Syria in 2013, NBC News reports.
According to NBC News, the United States had tried to rescue Foley and the other journalist, but the mission failed due to a location error. Foley was being held for ransom for about $132 million. ISIL militants have also been accused of killing and holding Lebanese soldiers.
And on Tuesday, many news outlets reported that ISIL beheading the second American journalist in their custody, Steven Sotloff. As of press time, neither the White House nor the State Department could confirm the video of the beheading.
Within the past few days, Iraqi troops, along with U.S. airstrikes were able to liberate the Iraqi town of Amerli, after “a months-long blockade by Islamic State militants that had surrounded the Shiite Turkmen village and raised fears of an impending massacre,” the Washington Post reports. The militants surrounded the town in June.
The Issue: Russia
Russian President Vladimir Putin is at it again. After a bit of a lull in the militant fighting in Ukraine, minus the downing of Malaysian Airlines Flight 17 by Ukrainian rebels, more trouble is brewing in the region. Within the past few days, Russian troops entered Ukraine. According to the Associated Press, Western countries say Russian troops and supplies went to Ukraine “to bolster the pro-Russian rebels.” Western countries are also alleging Russia has given weapons and fighters to Ukraine. According to AP, NATO says there are at least 1,000 Russian troops in Ukraine.
On Sunday, Putin “demanded that the Ukrainian government negotiate directly with pro-Russian separatists,” the New York Times said. Putin also suggested the issues of “statehood,” the Washington Post is reporting. This call for negotiations, and possible statehood, comes around the time where other European leaders threaten tougher economic sanctions against Russia if the conflict does not end within the next few days.
Even though Putin brought up the idea of “statehood,” he is claiming that “this did not mean Moscow now endorsed rebel calls for independence for territory they have seized,” Reuters reported.
According to the United Nations, the death toll of this ongoing conflict is about 2,600 people.
Editor’s Note: The featured image for this article originally showed a member of an Iraqi militia. The image was changed to a photo of ISIL members.