By Brigitte L.Nacos
It took the beheading of American James Foley for “the entire world” to be “appalled” as President Obama said the other day. Never mind that the same savage horde has beheaded and otherwise brutally killed and maimed many, many Christians, Shiites, Yazidis, and even fellow-Sunnis both in Syria and in Iraq.
The whole world should have been appalled for a long time and banned together to fight the jihadist killing machine. But there is no united front in sight.
Call it Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), or Islamic State. The name does not matter. What matters is that what was once a group of terrorists has grown into a well-financed and well-equipped guerrilla force that can stand up to al-Assad’s Syrian army and to Iraq’s military. Their reign of terror is so horrendous that Al Qaeda Central, looking almost moderate in comparison, cut its ties to ISIS a while ago. The self-proclaimed Islamic State is too brutal for Al Qaeda!
How did ISIS become so powerful? Some blame George W. Bush for invading Iraq and removing Saddam Hussein; others blame Barack Obama for pulling out of Iraq and for not supporting pro-democracy rebels in Syria; still others cite all of the above.
But this is not the time to play the blame game. Instead, it is high time for the White House to recognize that ISIS is an imminent threat and act.
According to the group’s slick news magazine DABIQ, “the world has divided into two camps, the camp of Islam and faith, and the camp of kufr (disbelief) and hypocrisy – the camp of the Muslims and the mujahidin everywhere, and the camp of the jews, the crusaders,their allies, and with them the rest of the nations and religions of kufr, all being led by America and Russia, and being mobilized by the jews [sic].”
This is not the time to laugh about ISIS’s version of Samuel Huntington’s “clash of civilizations” prediction. They consider “the historic battle in the current region” (Syria/Iraq) as the step that will lead to “the conquest of Constantinople and Rome” and an expansive Caliphate.
ISIS must be stopped, defeated. Otherwise, these hordes continue to steamroll ahead. They already control about one third of Iraq’s and Syria’s territories.
Air strikes in Iraq will not do. Nor will an expansion of such strikes to Syria. Not the Kurdish forces and not what is left of Iraq’s military will be able to defeat ISIS. U.S. Military leaders know it. And I suppose the president’s national security team knows it.
If they have not already done so, members of the National Security Council must come up with a strategy or strategy options to best counter ISIS. Now!