One day before the thirteen year anniversary of 9/11 the world anxiously listened to president Barack Obama deliver a special address outlining his plan to eradicate the terrorist group calling itself the Islamic State (IS, ISIL, ISIS) from Iraq and Syria. In it he called for a “broad coalition” including Sunni Arab states, as well as increased support for the so called “moderate” Syrian opposition. While there can be no disagreement about the dangerous and vile nature of IS, and the need to destroy rather than contain their threat, one cannot help but notice a virtually unbroken cycle of US-led military action and political instability in the greater Middle East. One chief concern is whether increased military action in Iraq and Syria will “degrade and destroy” IS, or bring about a renewed rallying call for Jihadi terrorist groups in the region–and create a new IS in its place.
I most recently expressed my skepticism about the reactive and confused policy by the current White House against the IS threat in the Houston Chronicle HERE.
Over a decade ago in 2003, it was George W. Bush who waged two reckless and illegal wars in Afghanistan and Iraq respectively, destroying both societies and swelling the ranks of Al-Qaeda under Osama Bin Laden and Ayman Ayman al-Zawahiri; the same Al-Qaeda which was thrived under the Taliban supported by the Reagan administration during the 1980s; and the same Al-Qaeda gave rise to the Nusra Front and IS in 2012-2013. The so called “War on Terror” has been the single greatest contributor to the global terrorist threat we face today. Furthermore US military, financial and logistical support to rebel groups and tribal confederations in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria–in the case of the former stretching back to the 1980’s Mujahideen– have directly and repeatedly–given rise to the very terrorist groups the US is fighting today.
Today in Iraq and Syria, there is just as much reason for healthy skepticism as there is military action. How effective will the “broad coalition” of Sunni Arab states be, in light of the fact that most IS fighter came from and received support from many of them? Moreover, hasn’t 30 years of history taught the White house that supporting rebel groups and tribal confederations in the region against their sovereign government is a highly destructive policy that can only increase the threat of terrorism?
This is to say nothing about the more immediate and indeed more destructive role regional interests have had on the civil wars in Iraq and Syria, as well as the deterioration of Libya, Yemen and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Sunnis, Shia, Alawites, Christians, Jews, Yazidis, Arabs, Persians, Kurds, Pashtuns, Tajiks and a host of different ethnic and tribal groups have lived side by side for centuries. Perpetual warfare is not natural. It is big business for rising governments, as well as defense, aerospace sectors and other business sectors.
There are no easy solutions to the current IS threat; and Obama has inherited an almost impossible US foreign policy, which I fear both his action and inaction has only worsened. Both president Obama and former president of the Syrian National Council (SNC), Burhan Ghalyun, have expressed their complete disappointment in the squabbling and failed SNC. There is no ‘moderate opposition’ in Syria, not one one that can ever affect any change.
Moreover, the routine of dropping bombs on Iraq may be necessary at this very moment, but if the world wants to see a decisive end to the threat of Jihadi terrorist groups–IS first and foremost–the White House will need make a drastic change to its long term its foreign policy. Until then, I’m afraid that the greater Middle East–indeed the world–will remain in a perpetual state of war.