Monday, September 8, 2014

Boaz Bismuth: ISIS flips the script

by Boaz Bismuth

U.S. President Barack Obama, at the beginning of his first term in office, asked that the United States erase the term "Islamic terror" from its lexicon. Obama did not want to tie terrorism -- which is a negative term -- to Islam, so as not to offend the hundreds of millions of Muslims around the world within the framework of America's appeasement policies in the wake of the George W. Bush era. Almost six years later, however, Obama, with no other choice, is amassing the broadest possible coalition to wage a military campaign against the Islamic State (ISIS). 

During the recent NATO summit in Wales, the light bulb finally went on for Obama: For years he has managed to avoid problems and confrontations (Syria, Ukraine) and "lead from behind" (Libya), but he has apparently understood it is impossible to be the leader of the world's top superpower and always just hope for the best. 

On August 28, Obama added an unflattering addendum to his presidency, when he admitted to lacking, "as of now," a strategy for battling ISIS. America, to say the least, did not enjoy hearing this while American journalists were being beheaded in the Middle East. One week later and the U.S. president has a strategy, even a coalition, with which to "degrade and ultimately destroy" the radical Sunni terrorist organization. It still doesn't look perfect, but it is the start of something. His media advisors did a good job. 

"We need strong partners on the ground to defeat ISIS," declared Obama, who emphasized he would not put U.S. boots on the ground in Iraq. This is not the only restriction he has imposed on himself. The U.S. also does not intend to act in Syria, where ISIS controls at least seven provinces. 

Obama is right in seeking to include Arab and Muslim states in his coalition. ISIS is undoubtedly a cancerous tumor, which threatens, first and foremost, the Arab world from which it grew. Arab states, however, are so factious, so suspicious, so afraid of the reaction in the streets -- but primarily so untrusting of Obama (the Gulf States, namely Saudi Arabia) -- that they will not rush to join his campaign. 

The president believes in the "strong forces" of the states in the region to do the job in the field: The Iraqi army is supposed to cooperate with the Iranian army and the Kurdish Peshmerga forces. Syrian President Bashar Assad quickly realized the opportunity and jumped all over it, offering his assistance, which Washington and Paris promptly rejected. In actuality though, the regimes in Syria and Iran are the first in line to feel the Sunni threat posed by ISIS. The Islamic State is providing the Shiites with a certificate of integrity. 

Turkey can also benefit. The country which first allowed terrorists to cross its borders into Iraq, today finds itself a member of NATO on the side of the good guys. ISIS has managed to completely turn the game on its head. 

In the meantime, perhaps the light bulb has turned on for the Europeans, as well: The four French journalists abducted in Syria in June 2013 by ISIS operatives and released on April 20, identified Mehdi Nemmouche, the terrorist who perpetrated the deadly shooting attack at the Jewish Museum in Brussels last May, as one of their captors. They told reporters that when Nemmouche wasn't singing, he was abusing and torturing his prisoners. We all remember what he did upon returning to Europe and there are thousands more like him in Syria and Iraq. One day they are expected to return. It is preferable for the Europeans -- and for us -- that they do not.

Boaz Bismuth


Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.

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