The “West” and the Growing ISIS Threat

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From a dear friend and ex colleague at Carter Center an interesting article on ISIS and Middle East situation

The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has caused the Western world to shiver with news of the Sunni militant group’s execution and persecution of Iraq’s ethnic and religious minorities. In addition, the recently released video of a British rapper turned violent Jihadi beheading American reporter James Foley has augmented American fears toward the Islamist groups growing control of northern Iraq and eastern Syria. During the past couple of weeks, American media outlets such as Fox News, CNN, and MSNBC have been beating the war drum in order to enable President Barack Obama to prevent ISIS from attaining more territory in the troubled region by deploying American troops, stepping up airstrikes in Iraq, and directing airstrikes in ISIS controlled eastern Syria.

Let’s take a step back and ponder how the media has been able to lure criticism of Obama in regards to this growing ISIS threat. Perhaps the answer could be the media’s obsession of constantly showing glimpses of Foley’s execution video in order to instill fear into the American public, so Congress and other executive departments could justify an entanglement in Syria and Iraq in front of a war weary American public. Anybody remember the execution video of Nick Berg back in 2004 when Al-Qaeda in Iraq leader, Abu Mussab Al-Zarqawi, beheaded the innocent American? Western media, and other countries participating in the Iraqi invasion, incessantly showed the video on television to strike fear into the hearts and minds of Americans in order for the US and its allies to continue the souring Iraqi occupation. In this case, the same tactic is being utilized, and no media outlet seems to bring up the Berg execution video’s success of intimidating many Westerners into continuing their support for the 2003 invasion.

If ISIS has been able to grab vast amounts of territory in Iraq and Syria is because the territory just so happens to be settled by marginalized Sunni Muslims that are looking for a separation from Iranian and Western influence in their countries’ governments. Furthermore, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime’s brutal attack on Sunni moderates and intellectuals during Syria’s revolution has enabled the country’s Sunni population to adopt radical allegiances; especially among lower socio-economic Sunni populations in eastern Syria. The same can be said for former Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki’s pro-Shiite/Iranian policies and former President Jalal Talabani pro-Western/Kurdish government portrayal that has oppressed Iraq’s Sunni Arab population.

Essentially, a possible answer to the ISIS threat is not American muscle, but rather American logistics to organize and support a moderate Sunni Arab coalition to combat ISIS while assisting and advising Iraq and Syria to install all-inclusive/moderate governments because of the militant group’s growing strength stemming from Iraq and Syria’s dysfunctional government institutions. Most importantly to note, the remainder of Iraq’s military in conjunction with Kurdish Peshmerga forces, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, Lebanon, and even Morocco have been receiving American military aid and equipment since the 1940s due to constructed treaties for mutual benefits, so the notion of these regional players not being able to do anything about ISIS is absolutely nonsense. Egypt and the UAE recently coordinated aerial attacks on militants in Libya that are threatening stability in North Africa and OPEC’s interests which leads me to question why these countries cannot conduct a broader assault on ISIS. The West, Iran, and Israel cannot combat the ISIS threat alone because well, individuals are joining ISIS due to these three factions’ controversial hegemony in the region for religious and political reasons.

Hence, the answer lies within the US’ organizational abilities to create a coalition of moderate Sunni Arab countries that perceive radical Islam as a threat to global order and their own government’s legitimacy. The example of George H.W. Bush’s coalition against Saddam Hussein in Operation Desert Storm back in 1990 is a sufficient example of gathering moderate Sunni Arab countries together while utilizing Western logistic and military support to oust a threatening government from having detrimental control of the world’s oil supplies. The ongoing lethargic and sluggish actions taken by the Obama administration could hinder building this coalition, or this could be a part of a regional game for the US to team up with the Assad regime to hit ISIS targets in Syria and Iraq in terms of pleasing Iran and Russia for an Iranian nuclear deal. Unless Obama carries out a foreign policy victory in regards to the Iranian nuclear deal, or defeating ISIS, the American public will deem Obama’s second term foreign policy agenda as a failure.

(Jowi Asmar is a final year student at the University of Nevada, Reno, double majoring in Political Science and International Affairs with an emphasis in Diplomacy)

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