Claire Wiles is a North Eugene High School teacher and Navy reservist who served for a year in Iraq and will speak about her experiences and her knowledge of Iraq. The following are notes from her presentation:

Shia v Sunni 101…
  • Both are Muslim.
  • The death of Muhammad created a divide politically. Some sought elective (Sunni) leadership and others were in favor of hereditary (Shia) leadership.
  • Quran interpretation is also a divisive point.
  • Iran’s reach in to Iraq is a result of trying to protect its Shia people.
In the Beginning…
  • Saddam ruled Iraq.
  • Opposition forces including terror groups were closely monitored and controlled, which of course, the US changed.
  • Iraq government was dominated by Sunni leaders. Saddam wanted to make sure the Shia were not able to get power.
Enter the US…
  • Short sighted anti-Baathist (anti-Sunni) policies were not focused on nation building.
  • We were at war with terrorists, not Iraq.
  • Unemployment became rampant. People were starving and blamed Americans.
  • The US disbanded the Iraqi army and as a result sent highly trained men with weapons home unemployed.
  • We didn’t clean up weapons depots, which then outfitted the Sunni armies.
  • Incarceration = Radicalizing. There was no selection of guilty vs innocent and it took months to return innocent men to families. Many became terrorists while incarcerated.
  • The largest prison became, essentially, a terrorist University. Americans turned their back on that prison due to lack of personnel.
  • The US turned a blind eye to sectarian violence (100 bodies a day).
  • There was no political surge to match military surge.

Enter AQI…

  • Means al-Queda in Iraq.
  • They are Violent and Extreme.

Sectarian Division…

  • The Iraqi prime minister targeted his Sunni Vice President. Shia took over when Americans left.
  • ISIS came along and played in to the hands of the enraged Sunnis.
  • ISIS is a terrorist group with a sprinkle of leadership and statesmanship. They know how to run a territory they take over.

The Way Ahead…US Troops Should Not Be Introduced…

  • Everyone wants to kill Americans so there will be an increased appeal to foreign fighters if America elects to engage.
  • American involvement sharpens and evolves terrorist tactics.
  • It is difficult for US troops to work in that environment. We would be asking troops to serve with people they were trying to kill in 2006-08.
  • Force protection becomes the focus for US troops.
  • American involvement increases propaganda and provides a common enemy and increases unity of disparate factions. If we do not get involved, there is a real possibility that ISIS will destroy itself.
  • Our involvement will not resolve underlying issues that led to the formation of ISIS. Terrorism is a Hydra. Chop off the head and it will grow another. Infrastructure, employment, etc. is what Iraq needs. US troops enforce helplessness.

The Best Future Overcomes Dis-empowerment…

  • Unless we plan to stay in Iraq for 50 years, the Iraqi people need to be empowered to develop infrastructure, the economy, and “national guard” security.

Click here to see Clair’s full powerpoint presentation.

*the image is of a map indicating territory ISIS would like to control