Thursday, July 9, 2015
and therein lies their Achilles heel.
Abdel Bari Atwan writes:
When It Comes To ‘Islamic State,’ The West Just Doesn’t Get It
July 09, 2015 "Information Clearing House" - As the US ramps up airstrikes on Islamic State targets in Raqqa—the self-styled Caliphate’s capital—and the UK mulls further military involvement, it is surely time to ponder the effectiveness of bombarding densely populated areas, causing civilian deaths and casualties and laying waste to homes and infrastructure.
After fourteen years in Afghanistan and ten in Iraq (not to mention the drone campaigns in Yemen and Pakistan), isn’t it obvious that a military solution is impossible and that, in terms of ‘hearts and minds’, such missions are counter-productive, often propelling ‘moderate’ Muslims into the arms of the extremists?
It seems to me that there is much the west does not understand about its latest enemy.
Islamic State (IS) continues to expand—en masse in Iraq and Syria, and in smaller enclaves elsewhere from Sinai and Libya to Afghanistan. It has demonstrated a burgeoning ability to strike outside its territories, with attacks in Tunisia, Kuwait and France marking the first anniversary of the declaration of ‘the Caliphate’ last month.
It is my job, as an Arab newspaper editor and author of several books on the subject, to observe and chart the activities of Salafi-Jihadi organisations. It is obvious to me that IS is a very different—and infinitely more dangerous—creature than any of its predecessors, al-Qaeda included.
A debate about whether the western media should use the term ‘Islamic State’ is currently raging, with some arguing that to do so confers a sense of legitimacy. This rather misses the point because IS—incredibly—is already a state to all intents and purposes; what it is called is largely irrelevant.
Under International Law the criteria for statehood are relatively simple. The 1933 Montevideo Convention on the Rights and Duties of States concluded that, in order to declare itself a state, the entity must have a clearly defined territory, a permanent population and a government capable of exercising authority over the population, its territories and its resources. Recognition by other states is not a necessary requirement according to Montevideo.
The Islamic State currently rules sovereign territory the size of Great Britain in Syria and Iraq, with a population of approximately 10 million people, its own army, police force and judicial system, and a budget of at least $2 billion per annum. Recent polls suggest that millions of people in the Arab world regard IS favourably.
Do not get me wrong; I am not some kind of apologist for this violent and intolerant entity. My point is rather that the west is underestimating the danger and has yet to work out how best to confront it. Last week President Obama readily admitted “we still don’t have a strategy,” and yet his warplanes were carrying out daily raids in both Iraq and Syria. A war without a strategy seems, at best, irresponsible.
The evolution of IS
IS has not sprung from nowhere. It is the latest evolutionary step in the Salafi-jihadi movement, specifically the global jihadi, anti-American tendency introduced by Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri in 1996. This strand has an explicit goal of re-establishing the Caliphate and expanding it through the Middle East, parts of Africa, much of Asia and southern Europe.
Much as we would like to think so, this is not empty rhetoric. Nobody in the west took Osama bin Laden seriously...until 9/11. The approach to IS displays a more culpable nonchalance ......