The jihadist group Islamic State, formerly the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), rose to prominence in June as it swept through northern Iraq, conquering major cities like Mosul and Tikrit. One month later, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon suggested that the group is “deeply worrisome” and countries should sanction it.
According to Reuters, Ban responded to the growing crisis in a UN report obtained by Reuters on Tuesday. In the report, he called the group’s rise in the region “deeply worrisome” and encouraged nations to refuse to sell ISIS weapons or goods necessary for war. Ban “strongly condemn[ed]” the use of violence by ISIS and issued a call on UN member states to “come together and support Iraq in its fight against terrorism… Member states must meet their obligation to implement and enforce the targeted financial sanctions, arms embargo and travel ban imposed on ISIS.” He emphasized the cooperation of nations in the region, such as Syria – which is facing its own ISIS invasion – to prevent the free travel of jihadists from battlefield to battlefield.
Ban’s sudden concern with the jihadist group, so brutal it has received warnings from the Taliban to stop being so extreme, appears to be a recent development. Less than one month ago, Ban appeared more concerned by the potential that Western nations could help destroy ISIS and stop it from conquering Iraqi territory than with the threat of ISIS itself. Intervention by the United States or other nations, he warned, “would help them [ISIS] mobilize support from the Sunni majority that does not share the extremist agenda. It is essential that the government of Iraq and its supporters do everything possible to avoid falling into this trap.”
The Obama administration promised to help the government of Iraq combat the ISIS threat but has stopped short of putting troops on the ground in the region. ISIS, in response, has used social media to mock the Obama administration – even the First Lady – as they continue to acquire American-made vehicles in their acquisition of Iraqi military bases and territory.
While sanctions on ISIS may have had an effect should the international community not sell them weapons months ago, ISIS acquires much of its ammunition now as spoils of war. Many of its humvees, hand weapons, and rockets are loot left over in places like Mosul and Tikrit, where the Iraqi army failed to keep ISIS from establishing itself. In this way it also acquires what is left over in banks from which Iraqis have fled for their lives, and supermarkets whose food they now ration to the civilians trapped in ISIS-controlled areas.