War On Terror: Rethinking Strategy Against ISIL
The main problem the international community faces in this war is that it cannot afford to come up with a single strategy; just the same way it is increasingly difficult to reduce the terror group to a single definition. The world cannot come up with a single strategy to eliminate this group in just a matter of days. There is the need to pay attention to the issues one after the other if truly all stakeholders desire a permanent solution. One of the issues that have been talked about variously, but which adequate attention has not yet been paid, is controlling and ultimately curtailing the economic base of the IS. The group is now the richest terrorist organisation in history.
SECTARIANISM and polarisation, known and unknown, have been a major source emboldening the so-called Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), alternatively IS or ISIS. The organisation has been banking on the divisions, which are becoming more and more pronounced and problematic in the Middle East. It has been trying as much as it could to mobilise people, cashing in on their emotions and sensibilities, to justify its gruesome activities.
The IS fighters did not suddenly emerge unheralded, but were the product of the state collapse and civil strife that followed the 2003 Iraq war and the 2011 Syrian conflict. While there is no shortage of views about the scale and origins of sectarianism in the Middle East, there is little doubt of how IS is taking advantage. The group has become the de facto authority across an area almost twice the size of Britain.
However, chairman, governing council of Lead City University, Ibadan, Prof. Jide Owoeye, told The Guardian, that the IS is on the verge of defeat. According to him, “This group has become a major issue of concern for nations on all sides of the ideological divide. Be it political, religious or cultural. All of them are committed to the preservation of modern civilisation that IS is poised to destroy. From Jordan to Egypt, Russia, France, the United States, United Kingdom, Saudi Arabia, and so on, have all felt the pain of the group’s unprovoked and mean attacks on their citizen’s life, limbs and even way of life.
“This is the common denominator, not just among the frontline states but also those like Nigeria where copy cats terrorism has been linked with IS endorsement. We expect an escalation from air strikes to deployment of ground troops to dislodge this group as soon as possible.”
The main problem the international community faces in this war is that it cannot afford to come up with a single strategy; just the same way it is increasingly difficult to reduce the terror group to a single definition. The world cannot come up with a single strategy to eliminate this group in just a matter of days. There is the need to pay attention to the issues one after the other if truly all stakeholders desire a permanent solution.
One of the issues that have been talked about variously, but which adequate attention has not yet been paid, is controlling and ultimately curtailing the economic base of the IS.
The group is now the richest terrorist organisation in history. According to a US report, IS has been making between three and four million US dollars daily. This is because of the fact it can sell oil in the international oil market, including to adversaries, almost unrestrained. And as long as the international community appears unable to, at least, control the international oil market, they really cannot be serious enough to stopping the organisation or curtailing their ideology.
Beyond individual state’s spontaneous and often emotional reaction to the IS terror campaign, the West have to rethink its strategy in dealing with the group. “Against current anger, governments may be pushed to seek a simple and heavy handed approach to problems that actually require a much more complex solution. Whenever IS attacks a country or nationals of certain countries, what we see is a few days of military heavy-handed response just to prove that we are tough and satisfy immediate local disillusionment. For example, the Jordanian and French responses,” security expert with the UN, Mr. Gani are told The Guardian.
So far, it appears the West’s strategy seems misguided or naïve. The current strategy is not working if the terror group are still holding on to lands as big as Belgium and Holland put together. The IS, which has been described by many world leaders as evil incarnate, barbaric and inhumane, a virus rather than a human creation that needs to be destroyed, has become a very powerful and effective force. One of the reasons for their successful branding is that they have been achieving a lot of successes; they have been seizing grounds and establishing their caliphates in the last two years.
Also speaking to The Guardian, former UN chief, Mr. Bunmi Makinwa, said the call for war on the IS should only amount to one aspect of the rule of engagement. According to him, “The emergence of hard core dissidence and deeply held beliefs are traceable to many roots. They include social disconnect, cultural schisms and political disillusionment.
“A society (in this case, the international community) needs to look hard at itself and critically analyse causes (of the uprising). The more the society understands itself, the better it can arm itself to engage with the root causes. From thereon, more lasting solutions should emerge.”
The IS has its antecedent in al-Qaeda in Iraq. Arising from the scope of its operation, it no longer operates as a shadowy terrorist organisation, but have organised almost like a state. In destroying the IS, according to some of the ongoing debates, the international community must be willing to destroy the group as a state. In this light, the Western army may gain an upper hand since they are more at home fighting a state as against shadowy terrorist organisation. Serious and sincere talks may have to be intensified for a coalition of ground forces to uproot the group wherever they are found. But if there is going to be ground offensive, there must be deliberate attempt at avoiding mistakes that were made, for example, in Iraq.
Stressing that ultimately, the West would win the war against the terror group, Makinwa was however, quick to admit that the IS is a stronger foe than the usual forces that the West deals with. “It is therefore, more difficult to overcome the IS,” he said.
Stressing that there is no question that one of the solutions can be war, as military forces are needed to contain violent behaviours, Makinwa said: “There are people and groups who will use violence to impose their will. Oftentimes they can only be stopped by violence. Boko Haram, al-Shabaab and ISIS are examples of such extreme groups.
They are not open to reason. They have no interest in co-habiting with others. They impose their behaviour and compel society to fall in line. They have no respect for law, rules and established authority. Such groups are not in reality part of a normal world. It is abnormal. It is against social well being where tolerance and understanding makes life possible. Such fundamentalism and violence must be stopped by whatever means.”
Commentators have noted that in the fight against national armies, the West succeeded largely because they were fighting against particular ideology, either it fascism or communism, but in this case they are fighting against no specific ideology backed by any state. They contended that there may be some problems with the on-going aerial war, saying there is need to have ground-based coalition.
It is gratifying that various powers and tendencies are seen to be talking; even though their interests might not align. The allies alignment with the Soviet Union during the Second World War is what the world needs right now in battling the IS. There must be frank and sincere talking going on, reminding everyone that this war is not going to be worn by the world’s political leaders without concerted and coalescing effort.
Yes, ISIS is a non-state actor and has no open support from any state actor, however insignificant, but social media has transformed the powers and influence of non-state actors. Remember the Arab Spring, Wall Street sit in, etc. ISIS has used the social media powerfully, just like our local Boko Haram, not just for recruiting adherents but also for hyping it’s so called conquests. It’s militant collaboration with the Syrian opposition evidently slowed down the decision of US and it’s allies that opposed Assad. But at this stage it’s clear that the sins of Assad pales significantly in comparison with that if ISIS, thus allowing the US and it’s allies to go after ISIS,” said Owoeye.
Capturing or killing of the IS leadership, according to experts, might not for be enough in subduing the organisation. They pointed out that the IS has become a global phenomenon, because it has been able to establish itself as a force on the ground that is capable of distracting its enemies and playing smart.
The group’s most important weapon is its ability to deploy information, attack territories and hold territories. Defeating the organisation on ground would be a crucial step towards annihilating the organisation globally. The group has in some cases squandered whatever goodwill it enjoyed in some communities by showing its hands in internal conflicts or beheading people in these communities seen as religious and not the infidels IS claims to be after. The group’s behaviours on the ground, affect its image abroad. The organisation’s appeal as a caliphate in many places it occupies is dwindling.