In the most disturbing development in the bloody saga of Iraq yet, the militant group ISIS has taken over a crucial dam which could cause a humanitarian crisis of disastrous proportions for religious minorities in the region. At the same time, Hamas is refusing to disarm and has called upon Palestinian negotiators to reject extending the 72 hour ceasefire agreed upon with Israel in the Gaza conflict.
While the world's first concern is, and should be, humanitarian, it also needs to pay close attention to a key aspect of both these terrorist organizations that could escalate the crisis in the Middle East beyond measure and quite possibly bring the region to the brink of destruction.
That aspect is the fact that ISIS is not just looking to spread terror and wipe out Shiite Muslims, Christians, and the Kurdish Yazidis, but to take over Iraq. No longer content to control scattered tribal areas, the group wants to create an actual Islamic state (which is also their name) based on fundamentalist principles. Such a bid for nationhood is what makes ISIS so incredibly dangerous. In the event that ISIS was to succeed, it would be able to institutionalize terrorism in a way that we have not seen so far (despite the tacit support given Al Qaeda and other groups by autocratic Arab governments in the past).
It is this dubious goal that Hamas shares with ISIS and which makes the former just as dangerous. While Hamas' goal is ostensibly to establish an autonomous state for Palestinians which is free of intimidation and interference from Israel, it's real aim is to consolidate its own power within that state and use it to spread terror in the region as well as internationally. Hamas' stated target may only be Israel, but that is deliberately misleading. As the actions of ISIS, which kills Muslims just as indiscriminately as it kills non-Muslims, demonstrate, the philosophy of terrorism knows no loyalty to anything or anyone but itself.
The Palestinian people deserve peace and autonomy but they will get neither under Hamas, which is why Israel, the United States, and even moderate Arab nations are loathe to let the group remain in place and why they see the absolute need for disarmament. Even as Israel comes off a month long military campaign against Hamas in Gaza and the U.S. begins a bombing campaign against ISIS, it is important to recognize why these campaigns are so important and why they are being waged.
As long as terror groups like Hamas and ISIS remain in business, there cannot be lasting peace in the Middle East. Every conflict carries a humanitarian cost, but if we don't intervene to destroy terrorism before it attains nationhood, the resulting humanitarian cost will be unimaginable -- as we are already witnessing in Iraq.
Sanjay Sanghoee is a political and business commentator. He is also the author of two thriller novels. Please visit his website at www.sanghoee.com and follow him on Twitter @sanghoee.