ISIS: QUESTIONS FROM PARIS

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ISIS Cover Final 2,pdf-page-001

 

By Al Emid Author Journalist Broadcaster
Chapter 32
The Glamourous Life of an Author

The French air force struck Raqqa, the de facto capital of the Islamic State last night, adding another chapter to the most complex hostilities of our time.

Complex and ironic: with exquisite bad timing, President Barack Obama declared in an interview with ABC News early on Friday that the United States and its allies had contained ISIS. Obama may have been talking about ISIS’s territorial gains in Syria and Iraq, but he must wish he could take that statement back today. “I don’t think they’re gaining strength,” he said. “What is true, from the start our goal has been first to contain and we have contained them,” he said. “They have not gained ground in Iraq, and in Syria they’ll come in, they’ll leave, but you don’t see this systemic march by ISIL across the terrain.”

Indeed, networks played excerpts of the Obama interview during the day Friday – and then Friday night’s attacks tore Paris apart. The horrific series of assaults in Paris that left 129 people dead and over 350 injured, (at time of writing, the estimates still vary), followed two suicide bombings in Beirut Lebanon that killed about 43 people and injured 239, and the downing of the Russian passenger airplane and deaths of 224 people.

Those three tragedies force several disturbing and inescapable conclusions, amongst them that clearly ISIS has metamorphosed once and for all into a global terrorist organization, determined to wreak as much havoc on ‘apostates’ as possible. It has known affiliates in France, Egypt, Libya, Algeria, Yemen Tunisia and its activities provide a template for terrorist groups such as Boko Haram in Nigeria and elsewhere.

What is the ISIS endgame? It executed those three strategies outside of its ‘caliphate’ and for either or both of two reasons: to signal its determination to become the leading global jihadist force or to distract coalition forces from attacking the Islamic State. If the latter were the motive, it failed as the French air force struck Raqqa.

However beyond the rhetoric about ‘act of war’ and avowals of international solidarity that followed, we – and the individuals we trust – have to face some very difficult questions which do not come with easy answers. I can only include some of them here with more coming in another post.

To date, has the American administration underestimated the determination of ISIS? How coherent a strategy does it have? Has President Barack Obama’s so-called ‘strategic patience’ failed? (It would be difficult to argue to the contrary.) ISIS mounted three tragic assaults in three countries in just over a week. That points to the need for a complete rethinking of American foreign policy and with it Obama’s ‘strategic patience’ doctrine

And what of the billions of dollars being spent on intelligence? The ISIS assaults on Paris consisted of three well-organized, thoroughly trained and armed teams and six locations. It involved recruiting and indoctrination of willing suicide bombers, selection of targets with maximum exposure to crowds and at a time (Friday night) when Parisians would be at these targets in huge numbers, organizing a support network for the terrorists, training and equipping them with guns, cars and suicide vests. How did all of that escape intelligence forces until too late?

And what of Western priorities in the region? The United States generally accepts Saudi Arabia’s concerns about increasing Iranian influence in the region. However in the broader picture, the global aspirations of ISIS and the potential resurgence of Al Qaeda arguably have a greater priority than Saudi Arabia’s nervousness about Iran.
And on a personal day-to-day level, can we each find that blurry line – especially when travelling – between not letting this dominate our lives while at the same time acknowledging that it’s fact of life?

More questions in the next post – including the impact on immigration and political discourse — none of them with easier answers than those that I have outlined here.

Al Emid’s fifth book tntitled What You Need to Know About ISIS – Terror, Religion, War and the Caliphate and set for release by Quidne Press goes behind the news about ISIS and what might lie ahead. He has begun developing a follow-up book set for release in 2016.

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