Egypt Airstrikes against Islamic State Bases in Libya Usher New Strategy to Fight Terrorism

With lack of a coherent strategy by western powers to contain the Islamic State Terror menace, Egypt and Jordan taking initiatives to take war into IS strongholds in Libya and Syria won populist approval as well as western leaders support, but this not enough; a wider world wide strategy and action is called for. It is now evident that the battle against the neo-Islamo-Fascism in the form of the self-proclaimed Islamic State took another twist in the early hours today when Egyptian air-force jets bombed weapons storage, training camps and sites occupied by IS terrorists in neighbouring Libya.

The early morning raid was announced by the Egyptian government as retaliation to IS murdering 21 Egyptian hostages – all were Christians-  and putting the sickening video of the cold blood murder, which caused a wide protest in Egypt and calls for retaliation. But another wave of raid by Egyptian jets on targets in Libya indicated that Cairo changed tactics  from covert selected operations to widely open air-raids and putting the IS on the defensive as a wider strategy.

Egypt decisive action, which was taken without seeking green-light from Washington, or even bothering to inform their American allies,  won the approval of western leaders who are reluctant to do much else beyond words of support. Prime Minister David Cameron called Egypt President Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi to give his condolences and to “recognise Egypt interest in neighbouring Libya and the concern about security” which translates into supporting Egypt’s action.

If the Egyptians continue with this action, like the Jordanians raids on IS bases in Syria, it is a strategy that should be followed by all.

Unfortunately the American led coalition  battle against Islamist terror   seems to be confused and lacking a coherent strategy . There has been no military action with any meaningful results  apart from airstrikes which had limited effect mainly stopping the IS fighters  travelling in large convoys of armour they captured from Iraqi army which fled last June when the terrorists marched on Mosul and declared their caliphate. The Iraqis were making some noise about their army starting a counter attack, but, experts says, the IS would hardly take any notice of threats from Baghdad.

The only force on the ground which effectively stopped the advance of IS fighters, and rolled back many of their gains – like liberating the Turkish Syrian border town of Kobani, are the Kurdish peshmerga, who have been denied supply of adequate weapons by our UK government and other western powers (apart forma few heavy machine guns)  giving in to pressure from Baghdad and Ankara. Neither government want to see an independent Kurdistan.

In addition to lack of a strategy by UK, USA and the western powers, they have failed in identifying the enemy. Without defining the enemy you fight, you cannot device strategy nor have any hope of defeating it.   On the contrary, IS has a clear strategy. It is far from the naive definition by the west of IS/ISIL as a terrorist group. It is not just a terrorist group, but a semi-political entity with evil fascist ideology, a colonial expansionist movement, and it must be defined as such; an illegally declared state that illegally grabbed land in Syria and Iraq beside taking over parts of Libya, setting up terror bases in Sinai (with the help of  Hamas in Gaza), threatens Jordan, Egypt and other countries.

Defining it as an illegally declared state with colonial expansionist aims and racist fascist ideology, would make containing it militarily simpler. Article 51 of the international law is clear giving any country threatened   directly to take military action, and can call upon regional or international powers or a coalition of powers to assist without the need to go to the UN Security Council for a resolution. This is exactly what the Jordanians understood and did, setting a precedent on February 4, which the Egyptians followed on Monday (16 Feb).

The IS released ( Feb 1)  a sickening video showing the  burning alive of captured Jordanian pilot Muadh al-Kasasbeh, it was part of its  tactics of psychological warfare:  strike fear within the families of pilots from Muslim countries taking part in the coalition air attacks on IS. Also to warn inhabitants or defenders of areas targeted by IS advance not to resist or face a dreadful fate (it worked last year with Iraqi army soldiers who fled before IS advance leaving their weapons behind). And wanted to further spilt public opinion in Jordan to pressurise government to stop participating in the coalition.

This showed that air-raids, although not a long term strategy,  was hurting and disrupting IS and its plans. More important, IS miscalculated the reaction within Jordan public opinion. It presented King Abdullah II of Jordan, a British trained officer with a rare window of opportunity to take advantage of his subjects’ mood of unity to act militarily.

Instead of blaming the country’s foreign policy (as British media and political establishment did in the wake of terrorists attack like July 2005 or the violent murder and attempt  beheading of Lee Rigby in Woolwich – only need to listen to BBC, watch Channel 4 news or read Fleet Street columnists to see a, mind-set of blaming the British foreign policy instead of blaming the terrorists).

Mass demonstrations, in which all shades of society participated, men and women, including Queen Rania, calling for a military action.

From February 4 Jordanian air force continues to carry out raids on IS camps, ammunition stores and bases inside Syria. Article 51 is clear here on Jordan side. IS had occupied a number of border crossings between Syria and Jordan. Under the article, this gives Amman the right to take military action and only inform Damascus as the operation is taking place. Practically, President Assad of Syria, is delighted that his once, Hashemite arch enemies, are fighting the menace threatening his rule.

The Egyptians followed the Jordanian example and carried airstrikes against IS and their affiliates in Libya, destroying ammunition stores and training camps. The  Egyptians, in association with United Arab Emirates special forces  and aircraft, have   been conducting a low key covert operations against Libya based  IS ( Islamists terrorists in Libya and Sinai were assisted by the Muslim Brotherhood whose affiliates and their secret organisation – alGihaz elSerry –  are engaged in a daily terror campaign inside Egypt). Following the terrifying video released by IS of brutally executing 21 Egyptian citizens. All Christians, taken hostages in Libya, public pressure on President Abdel Fattah el-Sissy forced the government hand to make a big show of Monday dawn raids on terror bases. Although announced as a retaliation attack, Egyptian sources say it is part of a wider a strategy that will continue and want the west to get involved, not just to issue statements of condemnation.

A complicated political game in a region that was once as well known to the Foreign Office as they know the pavement stones colours on King Charles Street. Unfortunately, our diplomats are nowhere to be seen when you badly need them.

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