By Mike Thomas, Webster student
The recent waves of terrorist attacks in the Sinai Peninsula, Beirut and Paris have shocked the world. The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has taken credit for these reprehensible and inhumane acts. Are these attacks part of the “volcanoes of jihad” that ISIS caliph Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi promised? If so, is our current strategy going to eliminate this vile group?
According to CNN, ISIS used a bomb disguised as a soda to blow up Russian Flight 9286 out of the sky in the Sinai Peninsula, killing all 224 passengers. Just a day before the Paris attacks, an ISIS suicide bomber killed 43 people. The day of the Paris tragedy, ISIS slaughtered over 130 people during six coordinated attacks on Friday, Nov. 13.
The United States started a global war on terror after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Instead of focusing on Osama Bin Laden’s al Qaeda group, then-President George W. Bush turned his attention to Saddam Hussein. The Bush administration used false intelligence to promote a war that did not have the support of the international community.
The Iraq War was a disaster for all parties involved. It was extremely costly, divided the U.S. public and wrecked Iraq. The U.S. instigated a sectarian civil war by disbanding the Sunni Iraqi army, and empowering a Shi’ite Iraqi government. To this day, Iraq is divided between Arabs and Kurds, Sunni Muslims and Shi’ite Muslims.
The U.S. and its allies did not learn from their mistakes after Iraq. During the 2011 Arab Spring, President Barack Obama joined France, Britain, Saudi Arabia and other allies in bombing Libya in support of rebel factions. After an eight-month bombing campaign, Muammar Gaddafi was toppled. Four years later, Libya has no functioning government and extremist groups have taken over the country.
The Arab Spring protests also spread to Syria. According to the White House, U.S. policy since 2011 is that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad must resign. U.S. allies such as Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the Gulf Arab states sent dollars and arms to the opposition fighters and Syria fell to a violent civil war. The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), the Pentagon and European nations also began programs to arm and train anti-Assad rebels in Syria.
These policies have led to the rise of ISIS in all three countries. The so-called Free Syrian Army does not really exist, and there are no “moderate rebels” within Syria. With the exception of the Kurds, the non-ISIS rebel groups are jihadist radicals. The strongest one being the al-Nusra Front, which is the Syrian al Qaeda affiliate. If the moderate group is al Qaeda, then why the hell do we want to take out Assad?
The truth is that our Middle Eastern allies interests are not our own. Saudi Arabia uses their oil wealth to export Wahhabi extremism; funding madrassas, mosques and militant groups. Wikileaks published a 2009 memo from Secretary of State Hillary Clinton that said, “donors in Saudi Arabia constitute the most significant source of funding to Sunni groups worldwide.” The Saudis use these terrorist proxies to battle their Shi’ite Iranian enemies.
Turkey is more interested in deposing Assad, and killing the Kurdish independence movement. The Turks have allowed foreign fighters to cross their borders to join the anti-Assad insurgency. The Gulf Arab states, Saudi Arabia and Turkey have not lifted a finger to stop ISIS and may be funding them to take out their geopolitical enemies.
If we really wanted to destroy ISIS, we would partner with Iran and Russia. Iran is a Shi’ite nation that fights Sunni terrorist groups like ISIS and al Qaeda. Russian President Vladimir Putin has offered to work with us and is currently bombing both groups in Syria and Iraq. According to The Telegraph, French President Francois Hollande has called for France, Russia and the U.S. to unite forces. Obama should include all nations against ISIS in the coalition, and cut off support for allies who continue to back terrorist groups.