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Wednesday August 23rd 2017

The global fight against Islamic State

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  • Syed Kashif Ali | October 13, 2015 | Daily Times

How on earth has a tiny terrorist organisation like IS been able to survive against the most modern and sophisticated air power of the US and its allies?

The fight against the so-called Islamic State (IS) has become a catchphrase in the contemporary world. The sole superpower, with all its air power and sophisticated intelligence apparatus, is apparently leading the fight against IS in Iraq and Syria. The US and its allies, Iran and Russia all consider IS to be a great threat to regional peace and stability. Apparently, the US and its allies are waging a war against IS but the monster is getting bigger and bigger with each passing day.

According to the US Central Command, ever since August 2014 when a coalition against IS was assembled by the US, until September 30, 2015, a total of 6,770 air strikes against IS have been carried out in Iraq and Syria. Despite this relentless effort by the US and its allies, IS was able to capture more than 50 percent of Syrian territory and several Iraqi cities. Notwithstanding the global campaign against IS, the group was able to recruit, indoctrinate, train and launch throat-slitting barbarians to behead, drown or burn unarmed people alive. Surprisingly, the coalition failed to dismantle the IS command and control structure and communication networks notwithstanding the fact that IS physically existed and controlled large swaths of territory.

IS operatives were allowed to launch global online recruitment drives and propaganda campaigns to reach out to the people for their heinous objectives. Interestingly, IS recruits were also able to travel from all over the world to IS-controlled territories and some survivors were able to flee back to tell the world about the horrible treatment of women and children under IS rule. Most interestingly, the oil-rich territories of Iraq and Syria were captured by IS and the oil was sold to neighbouring countries (many of which are coalition partners in the war against IS) for very low prices

The question is how on earth a tiny terrorist organisation like IS has been able to survive against the most modern and sophisticated air power of the US and its allies? Were the US and its allies complacent or incompetent? Or was there a lack of will and commitment? In the process of eliminating IS, Iraq and the Syria were turned into rubble with their basic infrastructure destroyed and the whole of the Middle East engulfed in sectarian and ethnic fire.

In the recent past, the US and its allies were not only able to get low-priced oil from the conflict-ridden Middle East but were also able to export arms worth billions of dollars to the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states. According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), the US topped the list of largest arms’ exporters for the year 2014 with 31 percent of the total global arms exports while the aggregate total for the US and its allies amounts to 53 percent of the total world’s arms’ exports. US arms’ exports in 2010-2014 were raised by 23 percent.

According to SIPRI, Saudi Arabia rose to become the second largest importer of major weapons worldwide from 2010 to 2014, increasing the volume of its arms’ imports by four times compared to 2005 to 2009 while the arms’ imports to GCC states increased by 71 percent in 2010 to 2014 as compared to what the export volume was in 2005 to 2009.

Watching his US and the European friends in an utterly helpless state, Vladimir Putin from the Kremlin rose to the occasion and decided to help them by showing them how to bomb a terrorist outfit. A request for military assistance was made by the Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad. The Russian president, Vladimir Putin, decided to strike IS targets in Syria. On September 30, Russian aircrafts carried out 20 missions to strike IS targets in the Homs and Hama provinces of Syria. To the surprise of the world, the screams of the US and its allies were louder than IS, which was being hit by the Russian air strikes as the US and its allies lamented that the anti-Assad ‘moderate rebels’ were being targeted in Syria. President Obama warned Russia of a ‘quagmire’ in Syria while NATO and US-Arab allies also urged Russia to end air strikes on what they term as “Syrian opposition and civilians”.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said that Russia’s airstrikes in Syria “do not go beyond IS, al Nusra or other terrorist groups recognised by the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) or Russian law.” US Senator John McCain, once proudly photographed with militants — many of whom later joined the ranks of IS — in Syria talking to CNN admitted that Russia was targeting CIA-trained and backed militants in Syria. One may quite rightly ask the honourable US lawmaker who had authorised the CIA to meddle into the affairs of a sovereign country located in another continent.

Did the UN authorise the US and its allies to topple western-educated, secular Assad in Syria? The US embraces Arab dictators notwithstanding their horrible human rights’ record. The Egyptian dictator, Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, who toppled a democratically elected government and massacred thousands of unarmed innocent Egyptians is getting $ 1.5 billion annually in military aid. A sane mind may quite rightly ask why the so-called champions of democracy do not send troops to restore democracy in Egypt.

Iran and Russia, the two main backers of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, will go to every possible extent to save Assad. For Iran, which has already sent ground troops to bolster the Assad regime, Syria serves as the nerve centre for what they call a resistance front against Israel consisting of Iran, Syria, Hezbollah and the Palestinian jihadists. If Syria falls to western-backed militants, Hezbollah –Iran’s greatest strategic partner in the region against Israel — will be deprived of its military supplies from Iran through Syria. The Palestinians fighting Israel with the support of Iran will also be weakened and there will be no one stopping Israel from attacking Iran for a regime change.

As many as 40 different insurgent groups — the majority of them being supported by the outside world — have pressed upon the regional governments to forge an alliance against Russia and Iran in Syria while the Saudi clerics have made a call for jihad against Syria’s government and its Iranian and Russian backers. The Syrian president has said the coalition, comprising of Russia, Syria, Iran and Iraq, must succeed or the whole of the Middle East will be destroyed. There is no military solution to the Syrian crisis; a political dialogue must be held comprising of all Syrian factions once the foreign interference into Syrian affairs ends and the Syrians themselves are allowed to decide their future.

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