FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Why States of Emergency and Extreme Security Measures Won’t Stop ISIS

The “Islamic State”, as ISIS styles itself, will be pleased with the outcome of its attacks in Paris. It has shown that it can retaliate with its usual savagery against a country that is bombing its territory and is a power to be feared at a time when it is under serious military pressure. The actions of just eight ISIS suicide bombers and gunmen are dominating the international news agenda for days on end.

There is not a lot that can be done about this. People are understandably eager to know the likelihood of their being machine-gunned the next time they sit in a restaurant or attend a concert in Paris or London.

But the apocalyptic tone of press coverage is exaggerated: the violence experienced hitherto in Paris is not comparable with Belfast and Beirut in the 1970s or Damascus and Baghdad today. Contrary to the hyperbole of wall-to-wall television coverage, the shock of living in a city being bombed soon wears off.

A further disadvantage flows from excessive rhetoric about the massacre: instead of the atrocities acting as an incentive for effective action, the angry words become a substitute for a real policy. After the Charlie Hebdo murders in January, 40 world leaders marched with linked arms through the streets of Paris proclaiming, among other things, that they would give priority to the defeat of ISIS and its al-Qaeda equivalents.

But, in practice, they did nothing of the sort. When ISIS forces attacked Palmyra in eastern Syria in May, the US did not launch air strikes against it because the city was defended by the Syrian army and Washington was frightened of being accused of keeping President Bashar al-Assad in power.

In effect, the US handed ISIS a military advantage, which it promptly used to seize Palmyra, behead captured Syrian soldiers and blow up the ancient ruins.

The Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said at the G20 meeting in Turkey that “the time for talking is over” and there must be collective action against “terrorism”.

This sounds like an impressive Turkish stand against ISIS, but Mr Erdogan has explained that his definition of “terrorist” is wide-ranging and includes the Syrian Kurds and their paramilitary People’s Protection Units (YPG) whom the US has found to be its best military ally against ISIS.

Mr Erdogan’s enthusiasm for attacking Kurdish insurgents in Turkey and northern Iraq has turned out to be much stronger than his desire to attack ISIS, Jabhat al-Nusra and Ahrar al-Sham.

There is little sign that the G20 leaders gathered in Turkey have understood the nature of the conflict in which they are engaged. ISIS’s military strategy is a unique combination of urban terrorism, guerrilla tactics and conventional warfare. In the past, many states have used terrorism against opponents, but, in the case of ISIS, suicide squads focusing on soft civilian targets at home and abroad are an integral part of its war-making strategy.

When the YPG captured ISIS’s border crossing into Turkey at Tal Abyad in June, the group retaliated by sending fighters in disguise to the Kurdish city of Kobani where they slaughtered over 220 men, women and children.

When Russia started its air campaign against ISIS and extreme jihadists on 30 September, ISIS responded with a bomb planted on a Russian plane leaving Sharm el-Sheikh that killed 224 passengers.

Another mistake made by G20 leaders is to persistently underestimate ISIS. David Cameron said it should not be dignified by the name “Islamic State”, but unfortunately it is a real state and one which is more powerful than half the members of the UN, with an experienced army, conscription, taxation and control of all aspects of life within the vast area it rules.

So long as it exists, it will project its power through suicide operations like those we have just seen in Paris. Because the potential target is civilian populations as a whole, no amount of increased security checks or surveillance is going to be effective. The bomber will always get through.

The only real solution is the destruction of ISIS: this can only be done by a US and Russian air campaign against it in partnership with those on the ground who are actually fighting it.

The US Air Force has done so effectively with the YPG, enabling them to defeat ISIS at Kobani, and with the Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga, who captured the city of Sinjar last week. But the US baulks at attacking ISIS when it is fighting the Syrian army or the Shia militias in Iraq. Given that these are the two strongest military formations fighting ISIS, America’s military punch is being pulled where it would do most good.

Given the international sympathy for the French after the massacre in Paris, it is inevitable that there is almost no criticism of France’s muddle-headed policy towards the Syrian conflict.

Earlier this year, in an interview with Aron Lund of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, one of the leading French experts on Syria, Fabrice Balanche, who is currently at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, said that “in 2011-12 we suffered a kind of intellectual McCarthyism on the Syrian question: if you said that Assad was not about to fall within three months you could be suspected of being paid by the Syrian regime”.

He noted that the French foreign ministry took up the cause of Syrian opposition, while the media refused to see the Syrian revolt as anything other than the continuation of revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt. They were blind to sectarian, political and social divisions which meant that there were always two sides to the Syrian civil war.

With the state bureaucracy, army general staff and security services packed with Alawites, it is almost impossible to get rid of Mr Assad and his regime, whose leaders come from the Alawite community, without the state collapsing, leaving a vacuum to be filled by ISIS and its al-Qaeda counterparts.

Despite the latest terrorist attacks, there is still no long-term policy to prevent it happening again.

More articles by:

Patrick Cockburn is the author of  The Rise of Islamic State: ISIS and the New Sunni Revolution.

July 18, 2018
Bruce E. Levine
Politics and Psychiatry: the Cost of the Trauma Cover-Up
Frank Stricker
The Crummy Good Economy and the New Serfdom
Linda Ford
Red Fawn Fallis and the Felony of Being Attacked by Cops
David Mattson
Entrusting Grizzlies to a Basket of Deplorables?
Stephen F. Eisenman
Want Gun Control? Arm the Left (It Worked Before)
CJ Hopkins
Trump’s Treasonous Traitor Summit or: How Liberals Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the New McCarthyism
Patrick Bond
State of the BRICS Class Struggle: Repression, Austerity and Worker Militancy
Dan Corjescu
The USA and Russia: Two Sides of the Same Criminal Corporate Coin
The Hudson Report
How Argentina Got the Biggest Loan in the History of the IMF
Kenn Orphan
You Call This Treason?
Max Parry
Ukraine’s Anti-Roma Pogroms Ignored as Russia is Blamed for Global Far Right Resurgence
Ed Meek
Acts of Resistance
July 17, 2018
Conn Hallinan
Trump & The Big Bad Bugs
Robert Hunziker
Trump Kills Science, Nature Strikes Back
John Grant
The Politics of Cruelty
Kenneth Surin
Calculated Buffoonery: Trump in the UK
Binoy Kampmark
Helsinki Theatrics: Trump Meets Putin
Patrick Bond
BRICS From Above, Seen Critically From Below
Jim Kavanagh
Fighting Fake Stories: The New Yorker, Israel and Obama
Daniel Falcone
Chomsky on the Trump NATO Ruse
W. T. Whitney
Oil Underground in Neuquén, Argentina – and a New US Military Base There
Doug Rawlings
Ken Burns’ “The Vietnam War” was Nominated for an Emmy, Does It Deserve It?
Rajan Menon
The United States of Inequality
Thomas Knapp
Have Mueller and Rosenstein Finally Gone Too Far?
Cesar Chelala
An Insatiable Salesman
Dean Baker
Truth, Trump and the Washington Post
Mel Gurtov
Human Rights Trumped
Binoy Kampmark
Putin’s Football Gambit: How the World Cup Paid Off
July 16, 2018
Sheldon Richman
Trump Turns to Gaza as Middle East Deal of the Century Collapses
Charles Pierson
Kirstjen Nielsen Just Wants to Protect You
Brett Wilkins
The Lydda Death March and the Israeli State of Denial
Patrick Cockburn
Trump Knows That the US Can Exercise More Power in a UK Weakened by Brexit
Robert Fisk
The Fisherman of Sarajevo Told Tales Past Wars and Wars to Come
Gary Leupp
When Did Russia Become an Adversary?
Uri Avnery
“Not Enough!”
Dave Lindorff
Undermining Trump-Putin Summit Means Promoting War
Manuel E. Yepe
World Trade War Has Begun
Binoy Kampmark
Trump Stomps Britain
Wim Laven
The Best Deals are the Deals that Develop Peace
Kary Love
Can We Learn from Heinrich Himmler’s Daughter? Should We?
Jeffrey St. Clair
Franklin Lamb, Requiescat in Pace
Weekend Edition
July 13, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Brian Cloughley
Lessons That Should Have Been Learned From NATO’s Destruction of Libya
Paul Street
Time to Stop Playing “Simon Says” with James Madison and Alexander Hamilton
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: In the Land of Formula and Honey
Aidan O'Brien
Ireland’s Intellectuals Bow to the Queen of Chaos 
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail