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Iraqi conflict: Is America in danger?

Members of the Iraqi security forces patrol an area near the borders between Karbala Province and Anbar Province, June 16, 2014 (Credit: Reuters/Mushtaq Muhammed) Sen. Lindsey Graham serves on the Committee on Armed Services and the Committee on Homeland Security.  He tells CBS News that "the seeds of 9/11s are being planted all over Iraq and Syria.  They want an Islamic caliphate that runs through Syria and Iraq . . . and they plan to drive us out of the Mideast by attacking us here at home."

Is there reason to be so alarmed?  Absolutely.

First, we need a very brief lesson in Muslim politics.  As you know, militants have taken Mosul, the second-largest city in Iraq, and are advancing on its capital city of Baghdad.  They are Sunnis (85 percent of the Islamic world), Muslims who believe that the "caliphs" who succeeded the Prophet Muhammed were God's intended leaders for global Islam.  This leadership position (known as the "caliphate") was abolished by Turkey in 1923.  As Sen. Graham notes, many Sunnis want to reestablish the caliphate as a base for global Islamic expansion.

Shiites (15 percent of the Muslim world) disagree.  They claim that Muhammad's son-in-law, Ali, was the Prophet's proper successor.  Most believe that eleven other successors (whom they call "imams") followed; they say that the Twelfth Imam disappeared in A.D. 941, but will appear again at the end of history to dominate the world for Islam.

Sunni militants formed the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in 2006, after a Shiite-dominated coalition came to power following the fall of Saddam Hussein.  ISIS has been planning the current offensive ever since.  Their goal is to destroy the Shiite authorities in the region and gain control of much of Syria and Iraq so they can reestablish the caliphate.

Why would it serve their aims to attack America and the West?

Militant Muslims believe that attacking us is a defense of Islam required by the Qur'an.  Many also want to see Israel destroyed.  In addition, our military presence in the Middle East is a barrier to ISIS's militant vision.  If attacking Westerners would cause our citizens to force a military withdrawal from the Middle East, their goal would be fulfilled.  Not surprisingly, when the ISIS leader was released from American captivity in 2009 he said, "I'll see you guys in New York."

What will happen?  I've written a longer essay on this issue, "Why Iraq Matters," but I'll summarize five predictions.  First, the conflict in Iraq expresses centuries-old animosity and will continue.  Second, the war could escalate, drawing in Iran (supporting the Shiites) against Saudi Arabia and other Sunni nations.  The results for the global economy and oil prices could be devastating.

Third, Christians will face increasing persecution.  More than half have already fled Iraq and others are following.  Fourth, other countries will work for a unity government in Iraq sharing power between Sunnis and Shiites, a call President Obama and other leaders have already issued to the Shiite-led nation.  Fifth, Christians will unite in praying for war to end and spiritual awakening in the Muslim world to spread.

A pastor in Iraq was asked by an American missionary how he has maintained his joy in the face of mortal danger and national turmoil.  His answer: "My Savior Jesus is with us wherever we go and he will never leave us."

Do you agree?

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