Iran and Syria have reportedly already sent soldiers into Iraq to help fight the jihadist group Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), and the United States has deployed 275 soldiers to help protect the embassy in Baghdad. With reports that 40 Indian construction workers have been kidnapped, the conflict threatens to go global.
The news of the kidnapping swept the nation Wednesday as Foreign Ministry spokesman Syed Akbaruddin explained that there were no clear indications of who had abducted the workers and no signs of where the hostages were being held or what their captors want. The forty workers were in Mosul at the time of their capture, a city overtaken by ISIS last week. Relatives of those captured told the Wall Street Journal that their family in Iraq had described the situation in Mosul as “scary” before disappearing and that the area was “captured by terrorists.”
The Times of India now reports that the situation has developed and the government has knowledge of the hostages’ location. Foreign Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj confirmed that “the 40 men are safe… When the situation normalizes, we will try to get them released.” There was no further information regarding who kidnapped the workers or where they were.
The government did dismiss the possibility of a large-scale evacuation of Indians from Iraq. “A hostage rescue operation with Special Forces like the National Security Guards or Army para-commandos is not an option as of now,” an unnamed official told the Times of India. Iraq is currently home to about 10,000 Indians.
While India evaluates its position relative to the crisis in Iraq, the United States and Iran continue delicate discussions regarding whether they will cooperate in fighting ISIS. Secretary of State John Kerry has already announced that America is “open” to the possibility of working with Iran. Representatives of both nations are current in Vienna to discuss potential nuclear energy allowances for Iran. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s chief of staff Mohammad Nahavandian made clear during those talks that leniency on the nuclear issue would make Iran more open to working with the United States. Those talks, he said, would be “the test for confidence building” that could help with cooperation in Iraq.
The United States government, the New York Times reports, dismissed the possibility of conflating the two issues, with State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf saying, “Any discussion about Iraq with Iran will be entirely separate” from the nuclear issue; “Any effort to link the two – or any other regional issue – is a nonstarter.”
Nonetheless, the Obama administration continues to contemplate the possibility that special forces could be of use to advise the Iraqi army. President Obama is said to be preparing to meet with his national security team and was scheduled to make a statement at 12:30 PM Thursday.
In towns where ISIS has established a firm foothold, the group has begun to impose its version of Sharia law, confiscating “inappropriate” clothing for women, burning cigarettes with alcohol (both banned by Sharia), and imposing a “Christian tax” on non-Muslims in the area.