Calling the current situation in Iraq "a stunning development", Montana World Affairs Council founder Mark Johnson said the bad news is just beginning in Iraq.

Johnson, who spent more than 30 years in foreign service in the Middle East, as well as being appointed U.S. Ambassador to Senegal, has been watching the events unfold in Iraq. The Islamic fundamentalist army called Isis has swept through the country, taking city after city, while the U.S. equipped Iraqi army has melted away before them.

"Their first significant target was Mosul where they were able to overrun the local troops who simply laid down their arms and fled," Johnson said. "They were able to seize a large amount of weapons, HUMVEES, and other major pieces of equipment. I've also been told by reliable sources that they looted one of the major banks to the tune of about half a billion dollars in currency, so they're out for blood."

Johnson said the United States simply cannot afford to ignore this situation, since there are so many factors of importance to American interests.

"The U.S. has an enormous stake in this region," Johnson said. "You have Turkey, you have Syria, you have Iraq, and of course, you have to talk about Israel, and above all, you have the main player in the region, Iran. The United States cannot ignore this situation. If anything, 9-11 told us that if we turn away from the Middle East, the bad guys will run after us and chase us down."

Johnson said President Obama only has a few options in addressing the rapidly moving situation in Iraq.

"The most currently mentioned option is airstrikes, and the White House has leaked the possibility," Johnson said. "The President has said there will be no ground forces introduced, and I think at this point, that makes sense. We do have a major carrier in the region, so there's a lot of air power that could be brought to bear if there is the political will to use it."

Johnson also decried the way the Obama administration announced well in advance when American troops would be pulled out of Afghanistan, with a popular saying among the Taliban.

The Taliban, who are not noted for their sense of humor, by the way, said that you Americans have all the fancy wristwatches, but we Taliban have the time."

Montana World Affairs Council founder Mark Johnson


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