|ISIS photo: "Baghdad we are coming!"|
It is disturbing that, aside from Senator John McCain and a limited number of political and military analysts in the US and the West, there has been little discussion of confronting ISIS terrorism. In scathing questioning on July 24th of Under-Secretary of State for Iraq and Iran, Brett McGurk, before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, McCain asked him why no attacks had taken place on ISIS forces, especially those operating on unprotected desert roads. Unfortunately, McGurk could not offer a meaningful answer.
With reports that ISIS has invited al-Qa'ida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) in Yemen to come to Syria to try and build bombs that are undetectable and could be taken aboard commercial aircraft, the ISIS threat has global implications. Clearly, the Obama administration should act with greater urgency to confront this threat and the positive example ISIS military successes are providing for terrorist organizations throughout the Middle East and Africa.
The only military forces that have effectively stood up to ISIS thus far are the Kurdish Peshmerga (those who confront death) and Syrian Kurdish YPD forces in northeastern Syria. However, with ISIS' capture of large amounts of US weaponry (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/syria/10991995/Islamic-State-uses-high-grade-captured-weapons-to-fight-Assad-troops-in-Syria.html) that the Iraqi army abandoned, including an estimated 1500 Humvees with TOW guided missile units, KRG and YPD forces are confronting great challenges in the battle against ISIS forces.
Indeed, in recent fighting in the town of Jalawla, in Iraq's Diyala Province, the Peshmerga captured 2 districts from ISIS, only to subsequently lose them after being forced to retreat when they ran out of ammunition. Meanwhile, YPD forces have faced ferocious ISIS attacks in northeastern Syria that will only intensify as ISIS brings more captured US weaponry to bear in that military theater.
The following are 10 suggestions for initial steps that should be taken in the struggle to defeat ISIS:
Step 1: The Obama administration should immediately ask Congress for a supplemental appropriation to provide the KRG with military assistance, including weapons and military advisers. Every effort should be made to provide the Peshmerga with the weaponry and material support it needs to prevent ISIS from making any further gains in northern Iraq. Further, efforts should be made to coordinate military cooperation between Peshmerga and YPD forces to more effectively fight ISIS and protect Kurdish civilians from possible massacre by ISIS forces
Step 2: The US should provide the KRG with military advisers to help Peshmerga forces improve their attacks on and defenses against ISIS forces. This should include providing US technical staff who can operate the most sophisticated means of intelligence gathering to improve the Peshmerga's military efficacy.
Step 3: ISIS takes great pride in proclaiming its control of the areas it has seized through signs proclaiming its presence. Its logo is to be found everywhere in its so-called "caliphate." US drones and targeted air strikes should maintain a steady attack on all border crossings, administrative buildings, so-called "Islamic" courts, and weapons transfers (see photograph below of seized US Humvees being transported by ISIS tracker-trailer).
|US Humvees being transported from Iraq to Syria - a perfect target for US air attacks|
|An ISIS troop convoy - another target for US air attack|
Step 4: The US should start a massive public diplomacy campaign to isolate ISIS. One method would be to drop thousands of leaflets that document the executions, mistreatment of women and expulsion of minorities in areas under ISIS control. The organization's corruption should be documented, including bank robberies, kidnappings, extortion of merchants, and the use of funds derived from oil wealth to pad the pockets of ISIS' leadership.
Another goal would be to disseminate this information on radio stations, satellite television and social media to bring it to the attention of people living under ISIS control, much as Radio Free Europe did during the period of Soviet communism.
Step 5: The US and its local allies should create radio stations and satellite television channels that broadcast a 24 hour stream of pronouncements by Sunni Muslim clerics who document how ISIS has deviated from Islam. These pronouncements should offer chapter and verse from the Holy Qur'an and the sayings (ahadith) of the Prophet Muhammad that demonstrate that ISIS' actions not only have nothing to do with orthodox Islam but actually contravene its teachings.
An example would be the verse in the Qur'an that says "Let there be no compulsion in religion" (Surat al-Baqara 2:256). With ISIS forcing Iraqis and Syrians to conform to its distorted version of Islam, clearly it is contravening the word of God. Another example: “Whoever kills a believer intentionally - his recompense is Hell, wherein he will abide eternally.” (Qur'an 4:93). ISIS atrocities against innocent civilians again contradict the teachings of the Qur'an.
Step 6: Just as the Iraqi government did in 2003 and 2004, captured ISIS members should be put on television, and their testimony rebroadcast on social media, to explain what terrorist activities they engaged in and why. Muslim clerics should interrogate these terrorists by asking them what religious justification existed for their actions.
It would immediately become clear from the questioning that ISIS members know little or nothing about Islam as a religion beyond the terrorist slogans they learned through ISIS and other extremist indoctrination. Such interchanges would undermine ISIS' claims that it in any way represents Islam.
Step 7: Large monetary rewards should be posted for ISIS leaders, both political and military. Rewards would be given for information leading to the capture or killing of these individuals.
Step 8: Pressure should be placed on Turkey to prevent youth from Europe and elsewhere using its territory to cross into Syria to join the ISIS and other terrorist organizations. The US should deliver a not so subtle message to the Erdogan government that its failure to interdict such traffic would force the US to publicize lax Turkish efforts at controlling its border with Syria. Indeed, many Turks have already criticized the Erdogan government for its border policy with Syria.
Step 9: The US should pressure the Saudi and Qatari governments in particular, and the Arab Gulf states as a whole, to prevent state funds or those supplied by their nationals from reaching ISIS forces. Consequences for not acting to halt the flow of funds to terrorist organizations in Iraq and Syria would entail making public the times and dates of the delivery of funds as well as the names of the funders who provide support for ISIS.
Step 10: The US should reach out once again to Sunni Arab groups in northern Iraq, such as the tribal network that Shaykh Ibrahim al-Ta'i recently announced to protect the Christian population of Ninewa Province. Gradually the US should encourage the rebuilding of a new "Sahwa" (Awakening) movement that can be mobilized to fight ISIS forces.
As there is a move on the part of ISIS to gradually implement stricter control over the Sunni Arab population that it rules, cleavages will certainly develop between it and Arab tribes, especially those that are not part of ISIS' patron-client network centered around the distribution and sale of oil and gasoline.
Because the initial US military assessment of the Iraqi army found that so many divisions are either penetrated by pro-Iranian or pro-Sunni extremists, only the units still trusted by the US, such as Iraq's elite counter-terrorism units, should be included in American efforts to defeat ISIS. Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has made clear that he will not reform the Iraqi army and thus, in its present form, it should not play a central role in the US' immediate plans for combating ISIS.
Maliki's pronounced, when being initially informed of the large ISIS mobilization outside Mosul in early June, that he would only authorize KRG Peshmerga forces to reinforce the Iraqi army in Mosul if he received assurances that they would withdraw after the battle. His reaction indicates that he viewed the imminent attack through his personal political lens rather than through the lens of a leader of all Iraq and commander-in-chief of the Iraqi army whose main job is to protect national security. (http://www.foreign.senate.gov/imo/media/doc/McGurk%20Testimony%20072414-Final%20Version%20REVISED.pdf)
With the probability very high that Maliki will be replaced as prime minister, the Iraqi army may then be reorganized to become a professional force. Only after that eventuality has begun to take shape, should the US rely on it to fight ISIS forces.
Finally, it should be noted that hundreds if not thousands of ordinary Iraqis are actively trying to combat ISIS. The US government should join them as quickly as possible in addressing not only an existential threat to Iraq but one that threatens the entire Middle East and the world beyond as well.
|"Without you (the Christians), we Muslims cannot celebrate the Eid" (end of Ramadan)|