Friday, September 09, 2016
To Crush, Or Not To Crush
Should ISIS be wiped out? - David M. Weinberg
[A] controversial article published by the respected director of the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies, Prof. Efraim Inbar argued that the West should not seek the destruction of the Islamic State (IS, ISIS or Daesh), only its weakening.
A weak but functioning ISIS, Inbar argued, would actually be useful. (He termed ISIS a “useful idiot” organization).
Inbar feels that the continued existence of ISIS can undermine the appeal of the caliphate among radical Muslims, keep bad actors focused on one another rather than on Western targets, and hamper Iran’s quest for regional hegemony.
Inbar argued, admittedly counter-intuitively, that a weakened but lingering ISIS would help undermine Tehran’s ambitious plan for domination of the Middle East, while a complete defeat of ISIS would only enhance Iranian hegemony, buttress Russia’s role in the region and prolong Syrian President Bashar Assad’s tyranny.
Inbar: “A dysfunctional and embattled ISIS is more conducive to the disillusionment of Muslim adherents of a caliphate in our times than an ISIS destroyed by a mighty America-led coalition. The latter scenario perfectly fits the narrative of continuous and perfidious efforts on the part of the West to destroy Islam, which feeds radical Muslim hatred for everything the West stands for.”
The West yearns for stability, and holds out a naive hope that military defeat of ISIS will be instrumental in reaching that goal, wrote Inbar. “But stability is not a value in and of itself. It is desirable only if it serves our interests.
And the continuing existence of ISIS serves Western strategic purposes.”
The reactions to Inbar’s article came fast. Inbar’s colleague, Col. (res.) Dr. Eran Lerman (a senior research associate at the center and a former deputy director of Israel’s National Security Council), published a counter-article on the center’s website declaring that the continued existence of ISIS fortifies, rather than enervates, Iran’s quest for hegemony.
“The destruction of IS should be the first stage in a campaign designed ultimately to isolate and contain Iran,” he wrote.
Lerman admitted that Inbar’s hard-knuckled, realist point of view reflects the anguish felt by many in Israel and across the region as they watch the US administration and others get their priorities wrong, by defining Iran as an asset and potential ally in the war against the so-called caliphate.
“Even so, a strategy that leaves ISIS bruised but alive would pose serious dangers. The norm that terror cannot be tolerated is a precious one... and the coordinated Western campaign against ISIS is a development Israelis and others should welcome, not disparage. Moreover, the total defeat of ISIS on the battlefield likely would lead to the collapse of the ideas for which ISIS stands. Furthermore, the continued existence of ISIS and its horrors is a gift to Ayatollah Khamenei. He uses it to lure Turkey, blame the Saudis, and justify the ravages inflicted on Sunnis in Iraq and Syria by Iran’s proxies.”
Lerman similarly rejected President Barack Obama’s raw, realist attempt to portray Iran and ISIS as balancing rivals.
The Western and Sunni “camp of stability,” he says, must craft a strategy that sees all Islamists – Iran, ISIS and the Ikhwan (Muslim Brotherhood) – as enemies.
“Together, these partners should outline a phased campaign that begins with the destruction of ISIS, moves on to the marginalization of the [Muslim] Brotherhood, and ultimately isolates the Iranian regime and takes back the gains it made in the name of fighting ISIS.”
Inbar was similarly challenged by another colleague, Prof. Steven David of Johns Hopkins University (a member of the International Academic Advisory Board of the Begin-Sadat Center).
“Defeating ISIS and the horror it perpetuates requires nothing less than the elimination of its caliphate. Through control of territory, ISIS is able to inspire and train recruits, to direct terrorist attacks, and to demonstrate the West’s inability to eradicate a pressing threat,” Prof. David wrote.
“In the heart of the Middle East, ISIS thumbs its nose at the world, killing hundreds of innocents while destabilizing a critical region. What does this say about the West’s ability to protect its own? With each terrorist outrage and triumphant claim of responsibility from ISIS, the West’s credibility shrinks. If a collection of the world’s most powerful states cannot eliminate an ongoing threat to its interests perpetuated by maybe 30,000 fanatics armed with little more than pickup trucks, the ability of the West to ensure the security of its own countries – to say nothing of creating a liberal world order – is called into question.”
IS Losses on Battlefield Won't End Threat - Deb Riechmann
Despite the Islamic State's loss of territory, Islamic extremists will continue to pose serious national security problems for the U.S. and Europe in coming years, the directors of the FBI and CIA said.
"The threat that I think will dominate the next five years for the FBI will be the impact of the crushing of the caliphate, which will happen," FBI Director James Comey said. "Through the fingers of that crush are going to come hundreds of hardened killers, who are not going to die on the battlefield. They are going to flow out."
He predicted that many will head into Western Europe and try to duplicate recent attacks in Paris and Brussels to maintain IS' credibility in the militant world. Others will try to bring the fight to the U.S.