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Home » Blogs » Defeating Daesh (ISIS) needs politics of justice not military vengeance

Defeating Daesh (ISIS) needs politics of justice not military vengeance

Daesh (sometimes known as ISIS or IS) is, beyond doubt, evil and their fellow cohorts in terrorism are the embodiment of monstrosity. They deceitfully use religious symbolism – Islam’s article of faith in their flag and slogans such as ‘God is great’ – whilst murdering and enslaving those, including Muslims, whom they call God’s enemy. This is both deliberate and sadistic.

Like the Al-Qaeda that emerged in the aftermath of a bloody war between the Soviet occupation army and the US-backed Afghan Mujahideen, Daesh is the product of the illegal invasion of Iraq by the US-led coalition in 2003, exacerbated by a failed uprising in Syria against the murderous Assad regime in recent years. The Iraq invasion shattered the age-old balance of sectarian and tribal power politics in Iraq, marginalising its Sunni population as opposed to the Shia mistreatment under Saddam’s brutal regime in the past. Without any sense of responsibility, the Bush administration disbanded Iraq’s state apparatus which paralysed Iraq and rendered hundreds of thousands of civil and military personnel jobless. The backbone of Iraq was crushed almost overnight. Saddam’s henchmen went into hiding and were waiting to take revenge, or advantage, for their misfortune and humiliation.

The Arab awakening (known as the ‘Arab Spring’) gave America a unique opportunity to redress some of its past mistakes, but it was not willing to commit its support for the historic upsurge. Counter-revolutions were schemed and the Arab passion for change ended in still-birth; Egypt returned to its past despotism and all hell broke out in Syria.

Daesh’s Blitzkrieg gains of large swathes of Syrian and Iraqi  land in 2014, either by the complicity or sheer incompetence of the Assad and Maliki regimes, gave Saddam’s former henchmen a golden chance to control Daesh and lead its military operations. These murderous Baathist thugs had nothing to do with religion during Saddam’s reign, nor do they care about Islam now. In fact, Daesh and their cohorts are using the name of Islam to hide their evil acts; it is not surprising that a Boko Haram commander ‘can’t read the Koran and doesn’t know how to pray’. The suspicion from many quarters is these terrorist groups are doing someone else’s dirty job to wage a religious war between the West and the Muslim world. It is heart-rending that, with Syria now uninhabitable, half of its population are refugees and hundreds of thousands took the perilous route this summer to enter Europe.

Daesh has proved that war in the name of religion can be sadistic, as twisted religiosity breeds a ‘holier than thou’ mindset among some followers. The Kharijites in early Islam, ‘Assassins’ in medieval Syria, Crusades in the holy land and the European age of religious wars were all dark sides of human conflict. Even the otherwise pacifist Buddhist monks in Myanmar are currently showing their ugliness towards their Rohingya people.

Daesh’s deliberate use of extreme monstrosity is to lure the West to retaliate with vengeance and test their tolerance, liberty, human rights and freedom of speech. Through each of its provocative acts, it wants western Muslims to be vilified or punished. And sadly, the rise of Islamopobia in many developed countries is a testimony of this happening, in spite of the total condemnation of terrorism by Muslims. Muslims, particularly women wearing hijab, are being targeted as hate crime against British Muslims soars.

On the other hand, Daesh’s slick online propaganda is designed to recruit young, generally disadvantaged and often marginalised Muslim youth into their fold with the allure of a ‘cool Jihad against the infidel’. Their ‘success’, although very limited, is a scary phenomenon for many Muslim parents with teenage children. The Muslim communities in the West are now going through a terrible time indeed.

The biggest question is where is the sense of urgency from the world powers and the international community to stop the bloodshed in Syria? As the Geneva and the Vienna processes appear to be in the backburner, we see they are now competing with each other in the aerial bombardment of Daesh territory; territory which was forcibly occupied against the will of Syrian people. With such high civilian populations in these areas innocent lives are bound to be lost despite all the sophisticated weaponry. Daesh are also using their recruits or lone wolf followers in the West to deliberately terrorise people and put all in danger. In the meantime, the main villain in this war, the Assad regime, has been causing maximum civilian deaths in Syria; the regime and its enemies have already turned a historic land into rubble in front of our eyes. Over 300,000 civilians, slaughtered in Syria, are just represented as simple numbers to the outside world.

As Assad is rewarded by Russia under the watch of the US-led coalition, sadly for many the bloodbath in faraway lands do not matter, as long as it is contained in the region and terrorism and refugees are not exported closer to home.

The recent terror in Paris and the French President’s ‘War on ISIS’ has encouraged the British Prime Minister to join with other countries in bombing Daesh in Syria. As the opposition Labour Party ‘cannot support UK air strikes in Syria’ the debate is producing more heat than light. There is no question that this terror group must be defeated. But, given the complexity of the regional politics and Daesh’s strategic manipulation of Sunni discontent in the aftermath of their total marginalisation in Syria and Iraq, the question is how. Are these high-altitude bombings, with unpreventable collateral damage, going to defeat terrorism on European soil? Informed experts, including one who spent time with fighters in Syria and northern Iraq, have expressed the opinion that Western bombs falling on Raqqa will fill ISIS with joy. Such is the nature of a death cult that we are facing.

Is Daesh an existential threat to the West and civilisation itself? It is sheer alarmism, say many. Unfortunately, arguments based on expert opinions are often discarded by politicians who work on short-term goals. Unless political wisdom prevails over anger there will be more bombings, with more civilians killed which Daesh will exploit for their evil desire. Bombing the terror group in their turf and recapturing the occupied land may not be too difficult, but is there a military solution to a deep-rooted problem with an ideologically-driven death cult? Al-Qaeda has survived without a land and even after their main leader was hounded to death. Without a political solution bringing basic justice to the region Daesh will always find ways to survive, send its recruits to the West and poison people’s mind in demonising Muslim minorities in Europe.

US ambivalence during the Arab Spring and its lack of decisiveness in political leadership whilst witnessing Daesh’s continuous onslaught in Syria and Iraq has energised Russia to come forward and defend Assad with its full might. This is Russia’s strategic move to compensate its isolation on Ukraine. Russia is now in the driving seat in setting the agenda for the future of Syria. Many in the Muslim world suspect that the Russian move in Syria might have an implicit support from America, as it is going to serve the age-old Israeli roadmap for the Balkanisation of the region to secure Israeli hegemony for generations. It is striking that Daesh has never criticised Israeli injustice or pledged support for Palestinians, despite their brutal occupation being one of the main obstacles to achieving peace in the holy land.

It obviously falls on the Arabs in the region to step up their game and find ways to rise up for their own future.

We must accept the fact that the never-ending post-9/11 ‘War on Terror’ through military means has only expanded the frontiers of war. The model of vengeful dealings with enemies has sadly been replicated by many tin-pot dictators to destroy their political opponents. Despotic regimes aside, even some so-called democracies that the West blindly supports for its economic or geopolitical interest are squeezing political space from their opponents using the fear of terrorism as an excuse. The post-9/11 world is now less safe because of a vicious circle that has been created since then.

It is time world powers become serious and desperately bring their heads together to find a political solution in Syria, address the root causes of terrorism and defeat the terror groups with a long term strategy. The world cannot fail now, as it did with a wrong-headed policy in the case of al-Qaeda’s atrocities. ‘Where there is a will there is a way.’

The first step is to bring the Assad regime and its authentic opponents on the table with a specific target of ending the proxy war and stopping bloodshed. If this can be achieved through a meaningful ceasefire, with rigorous enforcement, the next phase will be to devise ways to liberate the lands occupied by Daesh. One way is to cut off the arms supply to Daesh and their financial lifeline, as ‘oil is keeping them fuelling terrorism’; strangulating Daesh should not be a difficult task at all. Bringing together arch enemies is not easy, but not impossible if there is a collective will and the narrow ‘national interest’ of world powers does not stand as a barrier. Once some sanity and stability can be brought back, many who are now desperate to leave the country will think twice and stay behind in their homes. With time, and if some reconstruction starts happening with the help of the world community and peace is seen in the horizon, some displaced refugees will start returning to their own homes.

Most important for us in the West – how do we keep our streets in Europe safe from the sort of terrorism that has caused carnage in Paris?

The answer lies in all communities coming together with solidarity, better intelligence-gathering, increased police presence in public places and the whole society being vigilant against terrorism. Civil society in European countries has an historic obligation to proactively work for better community relations with a robust vigilance so that no group of people is seen with suspicion or denigrated unjustly. Suspecting the diverse Muslim communities in our midst and scape-goating them for the crimes of others do not make sense; this is against natural justice and is also an extremely counter-productive technique, as this alienates them from the mainstream society.

Our world is now more fragile and divided than ever. We must not allow our humanity to be weakened by falling into the trap of an ‘us and them’ situation between people.

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