Miroslav Antić


Combatting ISIS

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Is the U.S. losing a rare opportunity to foster a broad coalition of nations in this common cause?

by William Hessell

Hessell, a PhD Psychologist from UCLA with International Relations nndergrad degree, has had long years of looking at the psychological aspects of political decisions as they affect the world at large.

December 4, 2015

ISIS has emerged in the last few years as the most dangerous enemy facing major Western powers, as well as being a threat to Muslim nations and others not interested and willing to create an extremist, radical Islamist caliphate in the Middle East.

Its rapid rise has astounded the West. ISIS’military leadership has been constructed from elements of Saddam Hussein’s Baathist Sunni army, which was disbanded by US occupying forces when they took over Iraq in 2003. These military careerists were turned loose without employment, and were increasingly joined by other disaffected Sunnis in Iraq who were alienated by the Shiite government that the US had installed. They merged with radical Sunni rebel forces in Syria fighting Basher Assad’s Alawite Shia government. They were also joined by other anti-western, extremist Islamic youth who otherwise might have been attracted to the now deflated al Qaeda movement. Soon the ISIS became a major military and financial force. They were able to capture large supplies of US military weaponry, as well as oil producing areas that the US-trained Iraqi army was unable to defend.

ISIS’s hatred of the West seems to know no bounds, and similarly shows no mercy on other Muslims who resist its overtures. It has declared war on Western nations, especially those with any history of involvement in the Middle East––and on Muslim nations and peoples that dare stand in its way. Its prime strategies are to advance and conquer areas of the Middle East, and now even Africa, where its reach extends by vicious attacks, and by spreading terror and fear within Western nations beyond its immediate reach. The nations of the West, the Middle East, and much of the world, have no alternative but to respond in force.

Facing such a sworn enemy, a rare opportunity exists for all nations to join together in a broad, cooperative coalition––this includes even those who have various issues that tend to keep them apart. If the major forces with reason to oppose ISIS (namely Iraq, Syria, Turkey, Iran, Afghanistan, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, the Kurds, other Middle Eastern Muslim nations and sects) were providing troops on the ground; with combined US, French, Russia, the UK, and Germany providing air support, ground advisors and military coordination––their power working together would be overwhelming. Unfortunately, to date the dynamics of current multi-power politics are preventing this from happening.

A major obstacle is the U.S. insistence that the removal of Assad in Syria continues as a priority of its policy. Meanwhile the U.S. continues to support rebel terrorists groups fighting Assad, while at the same time launching attacks on ISIS in Syria. This puts the U.S. in opposition to the position of Russia, which is supporting Assad staying in power at least for the present until elections can be held. Russia has had a long partnership with Syria and a legal military base in Syria for years which adds to Assad’s military strength––Syria is the major ground force fighting ISIS in Syria today. Turkey’s motivation to fight ISIS is diminished by its ongoing conflict with Kurdish populations and other revelations coming out. Iran is desirous of fighting ISIS and has forces on the ground in Iraq, but its diplomatic challenges with the US make any real coordination in their mutual efforts problematic. Although Iraqi forces are weak, they are appropriately reluctant to accept US boots on the ground. The majority of local Iraqi populations are aware that the presence of Western ground forces is a major recruiting attraction for ISIS. And on and on it goes, with a region so racked by its long history of western interference, in addition to their deep sectarian and political divisions. They have difficulty uniting even temporarily to defeat a common enemy.

Much of this immediate crisis, like the rise of ISIS, was created through misdirected Western involvement. Therefore, Western nations should be a major factor in its resolution, but without using ground forces to engage ISIS in land combat. Middle Eastern nations have the most at stake with the rise of ISIS. It’s necessary that they provide the ground troops to regain and hold the land that ISIS has overtaken in Syria. Over time, only local populations can hold and maintain peace on that land. The West cannot successfully do that, and if it tries, it diminishes the motivation of regional nations and peoples from fully engaging in their own battle. The West must, however, provide the coordination, facilitation and air support necessary to ensure success.

This is where current US policy is failing to demonstrate responsible leadership. As the major instigator of the ISIS crisis––and the nation with the most military power in the region, the primary coordination role should reside with the US. It has resisted this role against ISIS––with its priority being to replace Assad in Syria, and secondly with its strong antipathy towards Russia. The French government, after the ISIS attack on Paris, has made it very clear, the immediate priority is on defeating ISIS, other considerations are secondary. They are in consultation with Russia to push for a broader coalition.

Russia also is clear that it has been attacked by terrorists repeatedly, and that it has large Muslim populations and restive adjacent peoples which are being ignited by the terrorists. As far as Russia is concerned, extremist elements in Syria must be defeated in Syria before they come en masse to nearby Russia––and secondly, that established governments like Syria must be maintained, not take out, when threatened by extremists. Taking Assad practically guarantees that Syria will become a Caliphate.

Regime change and nation building by the West has failed elsewhere, why would Syria be any different? We have only to look back at Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and others to understand this reality. US policy remains, unfortunately, highly conflicted, and tragically is inviting conflict among the nations that should be working together against ISIS.

When Russia made the decisive move to enter the fray in Syria, it seemingly out-maneuvered the months of equivocation and hesitancy of the US policy. The US response was far from welcoming to Russia’s initiative. Instead, they made a reference suggesting that our coalition was much better than that of Russia and Syria. This was hardly helpful to laying the ground work needed between the two nations, who have many reasons to learn, through experience, how to work together for a beneficial common purpose.

Is it too late to reverse the process? Is it too late to model a more cooperative efforts that is desperately needed ––and in a region that has long suffered from its absence?

One certainly hopes not, but the prospects are not encouraging. The US would need to alter its stance toward Syria and Russia and provide more creative leadership. The most vocal voices in the US Congress are currently reactive, conservative and fear-dominated. When threat and fear are paramount in the political thinking of leadership, it produces a constrictive effect on the vision needed for sound policies.

A call for change needs to arise from American citizens and it needs to be loud and clear––that is,to push for more enlightened policies. It is utterly tragic when chances for cooperation as vital as the defeat of ISIS (and the avoidance of a potential major war between the U.S. and Russia), are not acted upon and carried out to the fullest.

(bolding by ST to assist rapid reading)



Written by Mika

10. decembra 2015. u 09:52

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