2 September 2014
To deal with terrorism threat, mainly from British jihadists volunteers with the Islamic State IS (although IS pay a jihadist five times as much the salary of a qualified Syrian doctor ), Prime Minister David Cameron introduced a set of measure in the Commons Monday. But is this enough more overall strategy needed and how to tke the fight to the terrorists
It was the failure to find a solution to 2011 Syrian uprising, turned into a full-scale civil war which empowered the worst type of fanatical Islamists in modern history, known as ISIL, to spread their terror into neighbouring Iraq and set up a medieval terror caliphate IS threatening genocide of non-Muslims and ethnic minorities.
Our intelligence services and the Foreign Office failed to anticipate ISIL next move. Clues were in the name which would have enabled any Arabist with basic knowledge of the region to work out the group’s strategy. Instead the government opted for assisting “Syrian opposition” and turned a blind eye to money, training, and weapons given to ISIL from Turkey and Gulf ( especially Qatar, host to the leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood, the Granddaddy of the Islamists groups are based).
The Name ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant) gives a geographical definition as the exception to the rule. None of the Islamists jihadist groups chose a name, or a mission statement, indicating geographical boundaries, national goal or affiliation to the country of birth. The word Egypt doesn’t exist in the “Muslim Brotherhood Association”, while Palestine is absent from HAMAS ( Movement of Islamic Resistance), no geographical names in al-Qaeda (the Base of Islamic Jihad) or Jabaht al-Nusrah (the Partisans of Islam Front) , or Islamic Jihad.
The Arabic version of ISIL (Daaish) appeared in Arab press 2012, and the origins were ISI ( Islamic state in Iraq) a spin off al-Qaeda beefed up by Iraqi Sunni Arab Islamists Islamic Shuhra Counci, existed two years before the Syrian uprising.
Instead of thinking of a decisive plan, our government waited to follow a dithering hesitant president Obama. Some Middle East experts, and retired US National Security advisers urged the White House – and we mentioned this plan in The Tribune in June – to provide the Kurds with air cover and heavy weapons ( they are only equipped with light arms while ISIL captured armour, tanks and advanced American heavy weapons from fleeing Iraqi army units) .
Had the White House and Downing street acted then, many lives would have been saved among Yazidis, Turcoman and Christians in Iraq, while Mr Cameron would have avoided the panic, the cost of airlift aid and the non-clarity of strategy to contain, in his words, “ the direct threat to every country in Europe”.
Kurdish Peshmerga forces have been making steady progress pushing back terrorists since American airstrikes began to pick IS armour, mobile artillery and rocket launchers. At the weekend Peshmerga and Iraqi army units managed to break IS two months siege of the town of Amerli ( where RAF dropped emergency food and medical supplies), sparing its ,mainly Turkmen Shia population a sure massacre.
While rolling back IS gains in Iraq is tactically achievable , it is important to military destroy their strong bases inside Syria to strategically eliminate their danger, US and British military experts say. This requires an “urgent review of opening channels of communication with President [Bashahr] Assad regime in Damascus,’’ former chief of staff Lord Dannatt told the BBC last week.
It was unwise of former Foreign Secretary William Hague to publicly shut the door on communication with the entire Assad regime, thus excluding a desirable role for Britain in organising sharing of power then a possible peaceful transition to an elected government in Syria. Instead Britain followed the US in betting on the so called Free Syrian army –almost nonexistent on the ground- and “moderate Muslims” (who became a channel for supplies and finance to ISIL). His successor Philip Hammond should reverse his hastily negative response to Lord Dannatt’s wise and experienced suggestion. First Britain should use the NATO summit this week in Wales to press Turkey to cooperate and cut supplies to IS fighters (Mr Erdogan’s pro-Islamists strategy is to weaken the kurds to stop them having an independent state and to support his Muslim Brotherhood allies taking over the region further Ankara’s influence as an example of moderate Islamists rule).
Second Cameron government must recognise that Assad might be an evil man, but at least he is a lesser evil (and certainly not a direct threat to Britain) than the IS. Channel of communication should be established with Damascus officials to organise airstrikes on IS bases. Mr Cameron should take a leaf of Sir Winston Churchill’s book. “ If Hitler invaded Hell ,” said Sir Winston to his private secretary Jock Colville in 1941 (as German troops poised to invade Russia), “ I would at least make a favourable reference to the devil in the house of commons.”