Cautiously, Iraqis and Syrians welcome expanded US fight against ISIS

In a speech last night, President Obama announced a major expansion of US military action against militants from the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

Seattle Globalist reporters asked Iraqis, Syrians and Jordanians on the streets of Amman and Erbil (in the Kurdish region of Iraq) what they thought of the speech and the prospect of renewed American military involvement in their region.

Here’s what they had to say:

“It’s good this decision has been made. It’s late, but there’s still a chance….The only drawback is that Iraqis fear that with the soldiers being sent to Iraq, the situation might end up in the same way as the U.S. invasion, with the soldiers killing civilians, and then after they left the country we had militias, generals and Islamists taking over. So we’re afraid history will repeat itself with the renewed killing of civilians and Islamists taking over. However, I support the military action against ISIS.”

— Azhar A., 36, refugee from Baghdad living in Amman


“There should be an Arab ally with Obama. As an Arab, I didn’t find anything offensive in his speech. There is no problem [striking] Syria because the opposition asked Obama to do the strike. As for Iraq, there is an army base there and it should be protected.”

— Jerry Eida, 39, shop owner, Amman


“I don’t care… I’ve reached a point where I can’t take any more bad news. I decided to stop caring. It will make a difference but nobody knows what direction. I’m imagining Iraq 2003 times ten. We were missing the American element, now we’ve got it. It might be good in the long term but not in the short term. Every time I see that everyone is arming someone, I’m imagining an escalation of events. As a Syrian I really know how people are thinking. And I’m not optimistic at all.”

— Ghaith Hafez, 26, Syrian aid worker, Amman


omar assad“Kurdistan desperately needs American support to confront ISIS. In all likelihood Erbil would’ve been taken by the terrorist fighters if there weren’t US airstrikes. I support Obama’s strategy to arm Iraqi Security Forces, Kurds, and the Free Syrian Army; he knows they have to surround ISIS and hunt them down.”

— Omar Assad, 18, store clerk, Erbil


“U.S. airstrikes need to attack the root of ISIL, which is in Syria. I absolutely agree that the ISIL funding should be cut off. Just to remind the world again: ISIL is a threat to everyone. People should not assume they won´t be harmed. You are already in danger when you have terrorists in your own country, who support ISIL in either joining them or spread their ideas.”

— Hajan Majid, 30, bank marketing manager, Erbil


Ameem Ali“Obama’s support in the fight against ISIS will involve America in a long war. ISIS will be defeated soon because a group that beheads people is inhumane and will not be accepted by society — people have limits.”

— Ameen Ali, 25, university student from Aleppo, Syria living in Erbil


“Thanks a lot Obama! For us Kurds we definitely highly appreciate Obama’s effort against ISIS in Iraqi Kurdistan.  The Obama administration should have take action early, but it’s still not too late to eliminate ISIS wherever they are in the world. If American forces can defeat on ISIS in Iraq — and I am sure they will — IDPs can go back to their home land and restart their lives.”

— Hakar Ismail, 22, public relations, Barzani Charity Foundation, Erbil


Amanj Shawkat“Barack Obama’s strategy is welcomed although much delayed. But I think a long term US military presence in Iraq is very much needed. This to not only counter ISIS but to prevent the Iraqi central government from reverting to the sectarian policies that caused the terrorist entity to gain foothold in Sunni parts of the country… We should not only treat the symptom but also the cause, and in this case the cause was premature US withdrawal from Iraq coupled with support for an aggressively sectarian government in Baghdad.”

— Amanj Mushir, 30, business consultant, Erbil


“It’s too late. Thousands of people have been killed in Iraq and Syria and now he comes to kill ISIS? It’s too late.”

— Yousef, 40, nut shop owner, Amman