ISIS: Islamic State or Regional Renaissance? 28/08/14
by John Brian Shannon
The Middle East is at a crossroads. Decisions with long-term implications are overdue and more overdue by the day — and for as long as those decisions remain unmade, the events that are now underway in the region conspire to make those same ‘decision-makers’ obsolete.
At some point, the interested parties must draft a plan to combat the growing regional reality that we know as the Islamic State. If they don’t, ISIS will win on momentum alone.
Waiting to make a decision serves no logical purpose, therefore the day of decision is at hand.
Decision-makers who fail to make decisions are key points, are by any definition, extra baggage that society must carry until they can be conveniently dropped from the team.
‘The enemy of my enemy, is my friend’
Whether we in the West like, or want to work with the President of Syria Bashar Al-Assad, or not, is irrelevant.
Our prime goal in the region must be the containment of the Islamic State fighters. Assad’s prime goal must also be ridding his country, and later the region, of the existential threat that ISIS represents to his country.
Therefore, differences aside, we need to make our capabilities available to him, and hope he makes his capabilities available to us.
Bashir Al-Assad is either our ally against ISIS, or he is an obstacle to our efforts to rid the Middle East of that deviant ideology. The rest of the Middle East/North Africa (MENA) will have to wait. The battle is here and now inside Iraq, it is threatening the peaceful Kurdish people and it threatens northern Syria.
‘Help’ is not ‘Help’ — unless it is actually help
A meeting between Iraq’s new Prime Minister, the President of Syria Bashar Al-Assad, the leaders of the Kurdish controlled regions of Iraq, the President of Turkey, and U.S Secretary of State, John Kerry needs to happen ASAP, to decide on the goals and the strategy to achieve those goals, and the tactics in support of that strategy to deal with the Islamic State in the region.
The key players must all put their cards on the table showing what help they can contribute to the effort.
This meeting should have occurred in July as ISIS was gaining significant ground inside Iraq, but now that it has spilled over into Syria and is beginning to show up in other places such as the Golan Heights, it makes it a must-do now.
There is nothing to be gained by waiting and conceivably everything to be lost from waiting.
Do we want nation-states toppling like dominoes throughout the Middle East and forevermore being led by the Islamic State?
No? Well then, get on it! By November or December of 2014 it won’t matter anymore. It will be too late. ISIS will have won.
What we need to accomplish (not talk about, but actually accomplish) within the next 60 days in order to prevent that eventuality.
- A meeting between regional heads of state with the U.S. Secretary of State.
- Full sharing of intel, including satellite intel, between the U.S., Syria, Iraq, Turkey and Kurdistan.
- Full sharing of knowledge, training, advice (military advisors) and equipment between the allies in this cause.
- European assistance, especially in the form of diplomatic assistance and leadership. While the fighters of these various nations and ethnic groups battle, someone (Europe) needs to take the leadership role on informing the UN, the world media, and the diplomatic community. It’s a role they’re well-suited for.
- MENA governments must support the effort with war funding and materiel, especially fuel for air and ground weapons platforms.
- MENA governments must be seen to support the war against the Islamic State.
- The goal should not be the elimination of IS, it is far too late for that. Rather, containing IS to northern Iraq and northern Syria should be the goal. We WANT TO be able to find these guys, we don’t want them living in caves all throughout Asia, only to emerge to blow up a ship, civilian airliner, or other major infrastructure. We need them living out in the open, where we can keep tabs on them, and where we can ‘reach out and touch them’ should they again threaten civilian populations in neighbouring countries.
- A line just south of Mosul, Iraq, should be drawn to just south of Aleppo, Syria, and that should be the firing line for the allied nations fighting IS. Cross that line ISIS, and we will kill you. Anything north of that line, all the way to Turkey should be considered IS territory. Likewise, IS should feel the full force of the allies if it attempts to enter any Kurdish controlled areas. The Kurdish borders must be as sacred as the Turkish border and as sacred as the Mosul-to-Aleppo line. No more, no less.
- As long as IS stays within that zone, the allies should leave them alone.
- People who want to leave the IS zone should be assisted by the allies. Punishment by Predator drone/HellFire missile for any ISIS teams trying to leave.
If we can get all of the above working smoothly by the end of September, 2014, then we have a chance to defeat the Islamic State.
Anything less, is mere hand-wringing.