The Islamic State vs. the Islamic Republic

Refugees fleeing the advancing Islamic State forces in western Iraq tell tales of savagery. The accounts have a number of common factors. A new report just issued by Amnesty International notes that the Islamic State has begun "a systematic campaign of ethnic cleansing” in northern Iraq. The report focuses on the actions taken by Islamic State forces against Yezidis living in the Sinjar mountain area of Iraq, close to the border with Syria. This area fell to IS in early August.

The Amnesty report lays bare a reality in which the Islamic State appears to be seeking to terminate the existence of non-Muslim religions on its soil. It describes, for example, two incidents that took place in the Yezidi villages of Qiniyeh and Kocho in mid-August. In both cases, the males of the villages -- men and boys -- were rounded  up, forced into vehicles and then taken out of the villages and shot. Women, meanwhile, were abducted by the jihadis.

IS have established a slave market in Mosul, where women are sold for prices ranging from $5-25.

Christian and Yezidi places of worship and Shia mosques have been systematically vandalized  or destroyed by the advancing Islamic State forces.

That the Islamic State is committing crimes against humanity is clear. What is less clear is the nature of the western policy toward the emergent jihadi state.

The U.S. response in Iraq, it should be said, has been firm. Very plainly, the administration drew a red line in front of Baghdad and the Kurdish capital of Erbil and made clear that the Islamic State would not be permitted to enter these areas. As a result, the IS advance on Erbil stopped 45 km from the city and remains stopped. The jihadis understood after the first U.S. airstrikes that if they attempted a rush for the city they would be wiped out from the air.

With the help of U.S. air power and special forces, the Kurds and the Iraqi army are now pushing the jihadis back from the easternmost of their conquests in Iraq. The Mosul Dam has been won back. The siege of Amerli has been lifted.