Zachary Antoyan is a political science senior and Mustang News liberal columnist. | Ian Billings/Mustang News

Zachary Antoyan

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Zachary Antoyan is a political science senior and Mustang News liberal columnist. These views do not necessarily reflect the opinion or editorial coverage of Mustang News.

I have been called many different races during my time here at Cal Poly. Few times has someone nailed it on their first try. And truthfully, the only reason they guess it is because they are usually Armenian themselves. Or Greek. They usually get it right, too. 

I didn’t grow up in a traditional Armenian home. Instead, I was taught about my culture through church. I was taught about my culture through the stories of my grandparents. It is something spoken very highly of and is often done so. A major reason for this is simply due to cultural preservation.
A massacre in our home of the Caucasus Mountains and under the shadow of Mt. Ararat forced us around the globe. It is a memory that has not, will not and should not be forgotten. In the wake of this, we attempt to keep all who are related to it in some way, even through distant connections, educated on the subject. Many also keep up with the current affairs of the country, and I am one of them.

In the same way that I study the affairs of this country, I also study the affairs of a small, post-Soviet developing country: Armenia. And you thought this was going to be a column about diversity and inclusivity at Cal Poly. NOPE.

Now Dad, allow me to use this space to do three things: justify my pursuit of a degree in political science (as I do every week in this column; brag and shameless self-bump), attempt to dispel any fears you may have of me traveling back to Armenia and provide some knowledge to everyone else about the terrorist group Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in a unique way. No one wants this to be just the obligatory ISIS column; that would be boring.

I get it, though. Having your son exist halfway around the world, almost 7,050 miles away, may elicit some feelings of worry. No doubt, the recent kerfuffle regarding ISIS in that region plays a part in this worry. But to get even anywhere near the border to Armenia, ISIS would have to pass through two countries: Turkey and Iran. The likelihood of either of those two letting that happen is almost nonexistent.

Currently, ISIS is known to mainly operate in two countries — Iraq and Syria, as you may have gleaned from its name. I say “mainly” because we really can’t account for the quieter cells of this organization that exist in other countries. To be sure, there are also groups outside of ISIS that claim to be affiliated with it. They don’t count either, but they’re probably just as terrible.

Despite the best efforts of the American-led airstrike campaign to blow ISIS up from far away, the terrorist group has still made some advances in both regions. The Syrian city of Kobani has been under siege for a while now, and ISIS is taking key positions from Kurdish fighters every day.
In Iraq, a military base in the province of Anbar fell to ISIS, and the nearby town of Hit is under threat of ISIS takeover. Iraq’s armed forces were seen retreating from both locations. I wonder, who trained those guys? Meanwhile, some people think the airstrikes are working, while others think they are not. To be honest, we have no idea. More importantly, it doesn’t matter, because without troops on the ground, all we can do is hope the factions we give guns to do the job for us. 

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not calling for troops on the ground, and I think doing such a thing would probably also be a bad idea, especially considering the chances of being pulled into the civil conflict in Syria. And I’m not the only one who thinks this. President Obama has claimed that such an option is not being considered, and I doubt he would let Congress change that. Since we’re not helping, neither are other countries. Turkey claims, “It is not realistic to expect Turkey to conduct a ground operation on its own,” which means the country that has troops within miles of the fighting in the city of Kobani is going to sit by and do nothing. 

But the moment ISIS ventures into Turkish territory, $#!% is gonna go down. At this point, no one thinks ISIS could stand up to the Turkish military, and I would argue that ISIS knows this. So Turkey is off-limits. No reaching Armenia that way except by force, which is a dumb idea. 

Iran is in even less of a position to deal with ISIS. If it moved into Iraq or Syria to combat ISIS, it wouldn’t be taken so positively by the Israelis, leading to a whole other conflict. And if Iran lets ISIS through, which I literally cannot even imagine happening, it would kill talks between Iran and the U.S. regarding nuclear programs and economic sanctions. So ISIS is blocked through Iran.

Right now ISIS thrives in chaos, and with no international ground effort to stop them, the areas it occupies continue to be a hotbed for its growing numbers. But this chaos is in some ways contained to the north and east by borders to larger, more stable regions.

It succeeds where it is because one country is already so destabilized it can hardly be called a country anymore, and the other is so woefully unprepared for a fight that it’s making France look good (zing! but also too far?). Outside of these places, we have yet to see how ISIS operates, and I would be surprised if it took a major chance like that in the near future, or at all. There is little reason for ISIS to expand north in the direction of Armenia.

As for worries of destabilization efforts in Iran and Turkey, take a look at how Turkey reacted to protestors in its capital, when it killed 19 of them. And if you think a Shia-dominated Iran would let a Sunni organization like ISIS destabilize within its borders, then you know very little about other faiths and should educate yourself. Knowing about other faiths is good for the soul, man.

It would take years for ISIS to become big and bold enough to move north toward Armenia, and I doubt the international community would ever let it get that large, despite its current reluctance to act. Right now, Armenia remains the small little Christian country it is. And that is hopefully how it will stay. 

This is Zachary Antoyan, wishing he didn’t waste the ISISILISIS joke on the first column of this year. Would you even remember? Probably not…but I would. Have a good week. 

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