MOSCOW, August 22 (RIA Novosti) - The United States is warning that the Islamic State (IS) radical group presents a major threat to the stability and security of the Middle East region and long-term efforts from several countries will be required to eradicate it.
"They are an imminent threat to every interest we have, whether it's in Iraq or anywhere else," US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel told reporters at the Pentagon.
"They [the Islamic State] marry ideology and a sophistication of strategic and tactical military prowess. They are tremendously well funded. This is beyond anything we have seen," Hagel said.
The United States estimates that so far this year IS militants have received millions of dollars in ransoms, according to US State Department deputy spokeswoman Marie Harf. Most are believed to have been paid by European governments.
The IS, formerly known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS), is a radical Sunni group that has been active in Syria, but started launching attacks in northern and western Iraq in June. Later that month, the radicals seized the Iraqi city of Mosul and announced that they had established a caliphate in parts of Iraq and Syria.
Hundreds of thousands of people, including ethnic and religious minorities, have fled the territory taken by IS militants, who are accused of multiple acts of execution and rape.
In August, after Iraq asked the international community for help, the United States started launching air strikes against IS positions in the north of the country. Over the past two weeks, US drones and fighter jets have conducted 89 airstrikes against militant targets in the area. The operation is aimed at protecting US personnel in Iraqi Kurdistan’s capital of Erbil, as well as preventing the “genocide” of religious minorities.
On August 19, IS militants released a YouTube video showing a masked man beheading James Foley, an American journalist who was taken prisoner in Syria in November 2012. The Foley killing was revenge for US airstrikes against IS positions in northern Iraq, the journalist’s executioner said in the video. The Islamic State also claimed to be holding another American journalist, Steven Sotloff, who appears at the end of the video, and said his life depends on US President Barack Obama’s next move.
Although the extent of future US involvement in Iraq is unclear, it is unlikely that US President Barack Obama, who was elected on the promise of withdrawing US troops from Iraq, would agree to a full-scale re-introduction of ground forces to the country, national security lawyer Bradley Moss told RIA Novosti on Thursday.
US Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey suggested that the IS would remain a danger until it could no longer count on safe havens in areas of Syria under militant control.