THE DANGER OF ISIS AND WHAT TO DO ABOUT IT
"As the attention of the world focused on Ukraine and Gaza, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (Isis) captured a third of Syria in addition to the quarter of Iraq it had seized in June. The frontiers of the new Caliphate declared by Isis on 29 June are expanding by the day and now cover an area larger than Great Britain and inhabited by at least six million people, a population larger than that of Denmark, Finland or Ireland. In a few weeks of fighting in Syria Isis has established itself as the dominant force in the Syrian opposition, routing the official al-Qaida affiliate, Jabhat al-Nusra, in the oil-rich province of Deir Ezzor and executing its local commander as he tried to flee. In northern Syria some five thousand Isis fighters are using tanks and artillery captured from the Iraqi army in Mosul to besiege half a million Kurds in their enclave at Kobani on the Turkish border. In central Syria, near Palmyra, Isis fought the Syrian army as it overran the al-Shaer gasfield, one of the largest in the country, in a surprise assault that left an estimated three hundred soldiers and civilians dead. Repeated government counter-attacks finally retook the gasfield but Isis still controls most of Syria’s oil and gas production. The Caliphate may be poor and isolated but its oil wells and control of crucial roads provide a steady income in addition to the plunder of war. The birth of the new state is the most radical change to the political geography of the Middle East since the Sykes-Picot Agreement was implemented in the aftermath of the First World War. Yet this explosive transformation has created surprisingly little alarm internationally or even among those in Iraq and Syria not yet under the rule of Isis. Politicians and diplomats tend to treat Isis as if it is a Bedouin raiding party that appears dramatically from the desert, wins spectacular victories and then retreats to its strongholds leaving the status quo little changed. Such a scenario is conceivable but is getting less and less likely as Isis consolidates its hold on its new conquests in an area that may soon stretch from Iran to the Mediterranean. The very speed and unexpectedness of its rise make it easy for Western and regional leaders to hope that the fall of Isis and the implosion of the Caliphate might be equally sudden and swift. But all the evidence is that this is wishful thinking and the trend is in the other direction, with the opponents of Isis becoming weaker and less capable of resistance: in Iraq the army shows no signs of recovering from its earlier defeats and has failed to launch a single successful counter-attack; in Syria the other opposition groups, including the battle-hardened fighters of al-Nusra and Ahrar al-Sham, are demoralised and disintegrating as they are squeezed between Isis and the Assad government".Patrick Cockburn, "ISIS Consolidates". The London Review of Books. 21 August 2014, in www.lrb.co.uk.
"Over 40 people have been arrested in Kosovo on strong suspicion of maintaining close links with the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq. Authorities in the small Balkan nation said the Monday arrests were part of “a major police operation” aimed at preventing Kosovar citizens from joining the violent Islamist group. Kosovo gained independence from Serbia in 2008, following several revolts and uprisings in the 1990s. The vast majority of its citizens are ethnic Albanians, most of whom practice Islam. However the lifestyle of its largely pro-American population remains markedly secular. Observers have thus been startled by reports that an estimated 100 to 200 Kosovars have so far traveled to Syria and Iraq to join the Islamic State, known previously as the State of Iraq and al-Sham, or ISIS. Last week, an 18-year-old Islamic State volunteer from Kosovo was reported killed in Syria; he was the 16th Kosovar member of the Islamist group to have been killed in the field of battle. There is allegedly footage on YouTube showing Lavdrim Muhaxheri, the commander of the Kosovar Islamic State members decapitating an Iraqi teenager. Aside from the detention of 40 suspects, the Monday crackdown is believed to have netted significant numbers of weapons and ammunition discovered in more than 60 locations around the country. Police said that the dates of birth of the arrestees range from 1962 to 1994. Authorities are looking for more suspects who were “not found at their homes” during the countrywide crackdown, while many Muslim clerics are also being investigated for links to radical Islamist groups. The 40 that are in custody are now being questioned under procedures recently established by the Kosovo Penal Code, designed to protect “constitutional order and security in the Republic” of Kosovo.".Ian Allen, "ISIS views spread in Balkans as Kosovo police nab 40 militants". Intelligence News. 13 August 2014, in www.intelnews.org. It is times like the present which makes one recall the Bolshevik leaderand mass murderer Lev Davidovich Trotsky's dictum that: 'those who wish for a quiet life should have been born in a different century'. The news conveyed above by Intelligence News, and the most cogent analysis of the usually gauchiste Patrick Cockburn in the London Review of Books makes for quite depressing reading. The Fanatics of ISIS are not going to disappear nor are they, per contra to the initial analysis of quite a few policy experts a few months back, going to defeated by the Sunni populations under its rule 1. In fact as the above referenced report as well as yesterday's news in the Financial Times clearly show, however ridiculous the ISIS statelet may appear on the surface the fact is that it is already acting as a recruiting sergeant for Muslim ultra-fanaticism the world over 2. As Cockburn piece shows, there is every possibility that left to itself, ISIS will be able to expand its area of control in not only Iraq but even in Syria itself. The Lebanon and Jordan also are on the front lines of possible attacks by ISIS. However, much the current American Administration may dislike the fact, the only possibility of defeating conclusively ISIS and forcing its leaders and cadres back into the caves and dungeons where they truly belong is massive, yes, massive American air attacks. And the sooner the better. This fact may perhaps be very unwelcome, but it is entirely accurate 3. Air attacks and massive equipping of the Kurds, the Jordanians and perhaps most important of all, calling a truce to the Western endeavor to over-throw the regime of Assad Fils. As William Young, a senior Analyst at the American, RAND Corporation, recently argued:
"To disrupt al-Baghdadi's advance, the United States and its allies should start by addressing the source of the problem — the conflict in Syria. They can begin by negotiating a truce with President Bashar Assad to stop the fighting in Syria. At the same time, an international stabilization force should be mobilized to create humanitarian safe zones in Syria so humanitarian aid can be delivered. This force, made up of NATO and Arab forces, could also be instrumental in taking back territory lost to the Islamic State, and in countering the spread of jihadist influence by Jabhat al-Nusra and its al-Qaida affiliates. This will show the people of the region that al-Baghdadi's new Islamic State is not invincible and that it does not speak for the majority of other Muslims in the region or beyond. Assad might accept such an arrangement because it would allow him to retain power over at least a portion of Syria" 4.It is only a combination of all of the above action, but in particular the extensive use of American air power which can not only call a halt but to defeat overtly the threat to Western predominance in the Near & Middle East that ISIS represents. As the premier American military expert, Anthony Cordesman cogently argues:
"There are times—although President Obama seems to have trouble grasping this point—that do not serve those who stand and wait 5."1. For a typical example, see: Fred Kaplan, "ISIS’ Leader Just Declared Himself Caliph: Why that might actually mean that the militia is sputtering". Slate. 1 July 2014 in www.slate.com. 2. Besides the article in Intelligence News, see: Sam Jones, "Pro-Isis leaflets distributed in London’s Oxford Street". The Financial Times. 13 August 2014, in www.ft.com. 3. Anthony Cordesman, "Iraq: A Time to Act". Center for Strategic and International Studies. 6 August 2014, in www.csis.org. 4. William Young, "To Fight ISIS, Make Peace with Syria's Assad". The Rand Corporation. 13 August 2014, in www.rand.org. 5. Cordesman, op. cit. See also: the mots of the French analyst Marc Pierini: "The momentous developments currently taking place in Iraq and Syria are at least as important as the terrorist attacks of 9/11, even if they have attracted much less attention by virtue of the relative media vacuum in which they have so far occurred. It may not look like it, but on June 29, 2014, a whole new world may have emerged. The biggest folly would be for foreign policymakers to belittle the proclamation of the Islamic State". See: "Do Not Belittle the Islamic State". Carnegie Europe. 10 July 2014, in www.carnegieeurope.eu.