Islamic fanatics have changed the Middle East dynamic

opinion August 17, 2014 01:00

By The Nation

There is also great concern about fighters being drawn to their cause from many other countries

If there ever was an argument for the support of US intervention in Iraq, this is probably the best chance in a long while to mount it. 
That’s because we are talking about a group of fanatics, the so-called Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (Isis), has rapidly engulfed a big chunk of territory in the region, threatening the make up of the Middle East as we know it.
US President Barack Obama last week, after serious consideration because Washington had proclaimed that there would be no more military intervention in Iraq, ordered military action to prevent a potential genocide in the northern region of the country. 
Besides preventing Isis from massacring the Yazidi religious sect, the idea behind the intervention is to stop these radicals – who now call themselves the Islamic State (probably an indication that they will not stop at just Iraq and Syria) – from advancing on Baghdad and the Kurdish capital of Irbil. 
The move, which involves limited air strikes and food drops, was welcomed by most Americans, according to various accounts, probably because they didn’t want to feel like the past two decades of US involvement in Iraq was for nothing. 
The problem with this latest and limited move is that it is tailored too narrowly for a specific region and not connected to any coherent strategy – not for just Iraq but for the entire region. Lebanon, Turkey, Jordan and Israel are not exactly out of the loop if and when the fighters from the Islamic State advance. 
The fact that they have captured large numbers of US-made heavy weapons from the Iraqis is not the only point of concern. Isis has succeeded in gaining a huge number of followers from various countries worldwide. 
In other words, it is becoming like Afghanistan during the 1980s when the so-called Mujahideen was fighting the Soviet troops. Back then the West called them freedom fighters because they were fighting the Communists. That changed when they turned the guns on the West.
Islamic State fighters came to fight the Syrian government and eventually formulated their own agenda. It’s no more hit-and-run like the war against the Soviets in Afghanistan. This time around they are going conventional. 
According to various analysts, Isis could be digging their own grave by going convention given the fact that the heavy weapons they obtained will be no match for the might of US and other nations in the region. 
But one must not forget that even if Isis do not exist as an entity, the fact that this threat of violence has attracted the participation of extremists from all over the world, and the likelihood that many of these guys will return to their respective country, should at the least be a point of concern. 
As for the immediate concern, Washington and its allies should know that Islamic State’s campaign cannot be defeated unless action is taken in Syria as well. 
Protecting Kurdistan is understandable given it is a pro-Western enclave. But what about the Syrian opposition forces trapped in Aleppo? They are stuck between the government forces and the Isis militants. Don’t they deserve any help?
If the US-backed coalition could some how force Isis and the Syrian government to go on the defensive, there would be more breathing space for the Sunni, Shiites and Kurds in all of these places to talk about reconciliation. 
But as long as Isis is on the move and going strong, one can forget about political harmony and stability in Iraq or Syria.