Time Before Iraq Invasion Holds Lessons for Fight Against ISIS

26 Nov 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Daesh? ISIS? Islamic State? Why what we call the Paris attackers matters..

LONDON — The adversary is different but, as war talk spills once more through the corridors of power — this time directed against the Islamic State — it is tempting to recall the fervor of earlier days, before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, as much for the lessons learned as for those that have been ignored. While interest remains focused on Islamic State activities in Syria and Iraq, jihadist groups are capitalising on government instability in north Africa to expand their control.The response from the Republican presidential candidates has been to whip up hysteria over Syrian refugees and hostility toward all Muslims — with rhetoric so repulsive that it shames the country.Despite the fact that everyone agrees that the Paris attacks were cruel, there is plenty of quiet chattering that blames the French themselves, or more expansively, the West itself, for these attacks. Ben Carson likened refugees to “rabid dogs,” while Donald Trump said he would “absolutely” create a database to track Muslims inside the country.

Bush as a junior partner to topple Saddam Hussein in the seeming belief that democracy would emerge as despotism’s natural heir — a notion that finally foundered in the aftermath of the Arab Spring in 2011. Add in the passion-filled modifiers various Western parties have suggested (French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius: “Daesh cutthroats”; United Nations General Secretary Ban Ki-Moon: “Un-Islamic Non-State”; Egypt’s Foreign Ministry: terrorists, executioners, assassins, murderers) and you have quite an ideological spectrum to traverse just to talk about them. The examples of Libya, Egypt and Syria seemed to show that Western support for the would-be successors to the region’s dictators, from Tripoli to Cairo to Damascus, had helped sow the seeds of mayhem. How we name things is significant, because to name something is to define it, to own its meaning, and to persuade people to see it through the lens the namer wants.

The title ISIS chooses for itself shows how it wants to be seen, while monikers that others use reflect how they want the group to be perceived — often two diametrically opposed positions. “These are important words to parse properly. It’s really important to reflect how people see the same events through different prisms,” said Michael Slackman, international managing editor for The New York Times, in an interview. These days, another British prime minister, David Cameron, is seeking political support to join the American-led air campaign in Syria — action that Parliament ruled out in 2013 during an earlier crisis, limiting Britain’s formal role to attacking targets in Iraq. Slackman is charged with helping make some of those calls, and the paper has made the decision to refer to the group as “Islamic State.” ISIS is the English-translated acronym for al-dowla al-islaamiyya fii-il-i’raaq wa-ash-shaam, or “Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.” (The actual spelling varies, reflecting the imprecision of rendering the sounds of Arabic words into English.) ISIL or ISL are similar, although the final letter stands for “Levant” referring to a much larger swathe of territory. Movement of these recruited youth into and out of Europe may have significant, unexplored consequences for Australian economic interests and domestic security.

While people disagree as to its exact boundaries, it’s generally understood to encompass at least part or all of Syria, Iraq, Jordan, Israel and Lebanon. Abaaoud, the child of Moroccan immigrants who grew up in the Belgian capital’s Molenbeek-Saint-Jean neighborhood, was identified by French authorities on Monday Nov. 16, 2015, as the presumed mastermind of the terror attacks last Friday in Paris that killed over a hundred people and injured hundreds more. (Militant Photo via AP) Western critics, typically from the political left, argue that the U.S. has somehow abandoned the Middle East and thus all its violence is somehow our fault. The left has created a fictitious narrative of the U.S. as a colonial power with a dodgy record that includes blind-support for Israel, decades of oppression of Arabs, and leaving Iraq in a mess in 2010.

France and Russia, both opponents of military action in 2003, are now flying sorties over Syria — albeit with different targets in their bombers’ sights. The name Daesh — which the group itself strongly objects to, even threatening to cut off the tongue of anyone heard using it — is simply the Romanization of an acronym in Arabic for exactly the same words as underly ISIS. Spurred by the bloodletting in Paris, France has proved a particularly zealous ally of the United States, relegating Britain from its long-cherished position as Washington’s leading partner. It triggered a geopolitical struggle between Iran, on the one hand, and Saudi and the Gulf States and Turkey, on the other, which led to their supporting different extreme sectarian actors across the region, turning local grievances over poor governance into regional proxy wars.

And when pronounced, Daesh just one sound away from an Arabic word that suggests something that “crushes,” “tramples,” or “sows discord,” and is easy to lampoon. The U.S. played a modest political game in the region for most of the period up to 9/11, overtly supporting democracy in principle but unwilling to upend the status quo and cause regional insecurity.

Obama missed his chance in 2012 to aid thousands of moderate Syrian Sunni fighters, including many army defectors, who might have developed into a viable force to repel both Islamic State and Bashar Assad. The word literally means a state or territory governed by a caliph, a Muslim leader both spiritual and civil — much like a Pope and a king all in one. The logic goes like this: Western societies have not done enough to provide social benefits, such as education and guaranteed employment, to Muslim young men. They then cross the Libyan border into Ben Gardane, Tunisia and continue on to Sousse where Islamic State has taken advantage of weak governance to establish a robust operation and primary departure point for human trafficking into Europe.

One of the main lessons we should draw from Iraq is that there is no military solution to the war in Syria, but military actions can help shape the political environment and create room for greater diplomatic action. Militants are trained to exploit personal contacts, predominantly those in Spain and Belgium, believed to be the main strongholds for Islamic State’s sleeper cells. Roughly — but not exactly — as if some separatist group in North America claimed to be establishing a religiously-based “kingdom” or “monarchy” in Arizona or Saskatchewan. “I understand why political leaders would want to choose [which name to use],” says William McCants, author of The ISIS Apocalypse, published this September, and director of the project on U.S.

Even after the terrorists’ downing of a Russian plane, Putin’s primary goal — and Iran’s — is to bolster the Assad regime, not to defeat Islamic State. The relative wealth of terrorists should not surprise us: many violent Islamists come from family wealth (Osama bin Laden) and have high levels of education, like medical doctor Ayman al Zawahiri. I’m looking for a more neutral way to describe an organization.” He notes that in academia, it’s usual to call groups what they call themselves. The tragedy is that after the colossal mistakes at the beginning of the war, the US succeeded in midwifing the emergence of such a political order 2007-2009 – only for it to unravel when the US disengaged.

This is why it is so important for the administration to stop its shilly-shallying about helping Iraqi Sunni tribal leaders who have been eager to enter the fight for more than a year. “If Iraq is the only front where we can reduce ISIS, it becomes acutely important to get back the cities there that they control,” said retired Col. Tunisian tourism has suffered a tremendous blow in the wake of two separate attacks in 2015, including an Islamic State attack at a seaside resort in Sousse that resulted in the deaths of 38 tourists. Video obtained by Britain’s Daily Mail appeared to show the Islamist gunman aiming point blank at a woman under a table and trying to fire. (Image source: Daily Mail) Although it is widely understood that the departure of Coalition forces did contribute to an already unraveling Iraq in 2010-2011, this does not explain the faltering Bashar al Assad regime in neighboring Syria nor the wider resonance of violent Islamist ideas across Muslim communities worldwide. In other words, the Syrian civil war would have continued to play out even if Iraq were significantly more stable and even if there were thousands of U.S. troops on the ground in Iraq.

Occupation of these strategic areas presents major risks to Western economic interests, including nearly a hundred Australian companies, primarily in the mining, oil, and gas sectors. Six months ago, when I visited the sheikh, he hoped to get U.S. support to re-enter the fight against Islamic State, but he says nothing has happened since then. “We met with Americans last June and told them we had 4,000 volunteers and gave them a list at the end of July,” Yawar told me Thursday. “They told me that in two months, they would start training 2,400 and would give us weapons. The Paris massacres were not caused by U.S. support for Israel, or old British colonial policy, or even the demise of assimilation policies in favor of politically-correct multi-culturalism, across the West.

These advances coupled with emerging evidence of the group’s sophisticated weaponry and possible involvement in the downing of Metrojet 9268 incite uneasiness. It suggests the term “Islamic State group” — which assigns the body the name it prefers, but appends “group” because “we think it’s important to indicate it’s not a state by normal criteria,” according to Thomas Kent, AP’s standards editor. Islamic State control of routes between North Africa and Europe not only fosters expanded networks on both continents, but also introduces new complexities for Australian border security.

The result: Only a couple of thousand Sunnis have joined the struggle. “There are no real Sunni fighters being trained to take back Mosul,” says Yawar. “Seriously, there is nothing moving to face ISIS.” This is nuts. The Vienna talks provide the start of a potential political framework to help agree ceasefires at the local level; and to plan for the future of Syria with decentralised governance, protection of minorities, and power-sharing at the national level.

Whilst current immigration and refugee policy have thus far succeeded in preventing terrorists from entering Australia, the process of identifying jihadists with European backgrounds will be decidedly more complex in years to come. Amid the relentless focus of this past fortnight, it was possible to believe in a global consensus on the fundamental importance of destroying Islamic State. Islamic State exists because it gets lost amid the much bigger fights going on around it – you know, between armies that actually have planes to shoot down. It seems odd to argue that you can deny that reality by not naming it as such.” The words are hard to choose because they carry with them deeply held beliefs and represent such high stakes: For the militant groups, it is their very legitimacy.

If we, and our allies, do not work to promote the sort of world we want to live in, non-state actors and states hostile to our interests will fill the vacuum left by the withdrawal of western powers. It’s easy to forget that back in 2011, as the Arab uprisings rounded on Assad, he dismissed his protesters as terrorists and foreign agents as a way of justifying his brutal response, and convincing the world to leave him in power. The attackers understood their behavior to be justified by their understanding of Islam and fully expected that their suicides were actually the heroic deeds of martyrs going straight into the arms of a proud god. She served in Iraq from 2003 to 2004 as the governorate coordinator of Kirkuk, and from 2007 to 2010 as political adviser to General Raymond T Odierno, who was the commanding general of US forces in Iraq

The blame is theirs and the West must do everything in its power and commensurate with its values to stop such attacks from occurring again in the future. It must aggressively yet thoughtfully target that minority of Muslims who have chosen violent Islamism as an ideology and way of life and forestall future attacks of this nature, rather than clucking over inclusion, social services, and multiculturalism. And, instead of twiddling its thumbs over immigration issues from the relative safety of home, the West’s leaders must deny Islamic State any safe haven in which to hide. Eric Patterson, Ph.D. is Dean of the Robertson School of Government at Regent University and author or editor of numerous books, including the co-edited volume “Debating the War of Ideas.” TheBlaze contributor channel supports an open discourse on a range of views.

The Sunnis living there have little desire to be part of what they consider to be a repressively Shiite state governed from Baghdad, and the southern Shiites seem equally content to cut the Sunnis loose. Turkey is now a mirror image of Russia: a proud, once-imperial nation led by a macho aggressor determined to entrench its interests, subdue its separatists and act on behalf of its ethnic brethren. So, as Russia nicked Crimea off Ukraine in the name of protecting the Russian-speaking population, so too is Turkey enraged at Russia’s air strikes on Syria which drop bombs on ethnic Turkmen. Partly that’s because most nations recognise IS has no air force, no history of military victories against capable enemies and controls a largely empty swath of land, which it has recently commenced losing.

Western populations have tired of war – a fact reflected in an Essential poll this week revealing that even so soon after Paris, fewer than a third of Australians want to see us step up our military involvement. And what of the far likelier result that the land ends up contested by scores of warring groups engaged in an encore performance of the carnage in Iraq that gave birth to IS in the first place?

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