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May 22, 2015

Can the U.S. stop the Islamic State?


Fighters from the Islamic State (ISIL) won several victories this week, raising U.S. concerns that the extremist group’s influence may be growing beyond control.

ISIL took control of new territories in Iraq, Libya and the ancient city of Palmyra in Syria.

The United Nations is concerned that fighters will destroy the 2,000-year-old Roman ruins and the relics near Palmyra, as has happened to historical sites in Iraq, and has urged a cease-fire.

In the U.S. Senate, lawmakers and former army officials criticized the Obama administration, saying it lacked strategy and relied too heavily on airstrikes.

“We are, in fact, losing this war,” retired U.S. Army General Jack Keane said. “Moreover, I can say with certainty that this strategy will not defeat ISIS.”

Republican Senator John McCain of Arizona, who ran against President Obama in 2008, also criticized the administration, saying it lacked strategy and could not inspire the confidence of coalition allies needed to continue the fight.

President Barack Obama said in an interview with “The Atlantic” earlier this week that he does not consider recent setbacks signs that the U.S. is losing the fight against ISIL.

“Baghdad is consolidated,” he said. “And ISIL has been significantly degraded across the country.”

Warm up questions
  1. Where are Iraq and Syria?
  2. What do you know about the Islamic State (ISIL)?
Critical thinking questions
  1. Why are the U.S. and other countries concerned about the expansion of ISIL?
  2. What factors must the U.S. take into consideration when deciding whether to intervene in a conflict in another country?
  3. What are the risks of other countries taking military action in this situation?
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