Wednesday, July 15, 2015

To Deal With Daesh, Understand Its Strategy

By Mohammad Akef Jamal
July 12, 2015
After Daesh (the self-proclaimed Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant) succeeded in laying down its roots in Iraq and Syria, and then in Libya, it started navigating and causing death in the mosques of Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, and in Tunisian tourist sites. This was in addition to the French city of Lyon and it then engaged in a war with the Egyptian army in northern Sinai and claimed a bomb attack in Cairo.
It is not far-fetched to imagine that Daesh will announce its existence in any other location in the future as, seemingly, no country in the region is beyond the reach of this organisation.
Although the media has credited Daesh with these terrorist operations, the organisation may not be behind some of these actions. Instead, they may well be the acts of other groups that hide under the cloak of Daesh for their own safety.
The series of terrorist attacks acquired propaganda value. The Arab League and then the Arab Parliament held emergency meetings to discuss the repercussions of these terrorist attacks and Tunisia declared a state of emergency.
The alarm was sounded, as terrorist operations around the world have registered a significant increase in conjunction with the expansion of Daesh’s operations in Iraq and Syria.
The reasons for these terrorist operations and others that will inevitably take place in the future cannot be fully understood in isolation from the world’s civilisational conflict, and cannot be comprehended in isolation from the social, economic and political realities in societies where Daesh thrives. So, dealing with Daesh calls for understanding its nature in terms of its beliefs, strategy and goals.
True, Daesh’s operations can affect many places in the world. However, their real habitat is the Arab world; the founders of this organisation and most of its affiliates are from Arab countries, to the extent that this stage in time represents a conflict within the Arab world with terrorist organisations.
There are difficulties in comprehending Daesh’s actions and predicting the path of its war, simply because its birth and rapid rise open the way for several Arab countries to make use of and reap the fruits of its operations. The rise of Daesh has raised serious doubts about the real stance of the countries participating in the international coalition against it.
The war on Daesh and other terrorist organisations will not be a short one and will not be resolved militarily alone. A complete victory demands international and regional political solutions. At the international level, Russia and China, still don’t seem to be sufficiently concerned about this issue. At the regional level, there are some states that are unable — with their current political leaders or policies — to see eye-to-eye with the international community both politically and militarily in the war against these organisations.
Western authorities are accustomed to seeing the phenomenon of terrorism as being a characteristic of extremist religious organisations with a single ideology. That is why they have dealt with Daesh just as they did with Al Qaida, without taking into account the differences between these two organisations in terms of their ideology, practices, and the differences in political conditions that led to their emergence. Daesh has erased the image of Al Qaida from our minds, as it has surpassed it in its rhetoric and the scale of its success on the ground.
Some analysts recognise the fact that the West has not yet been able to defeat the ideology of this organisation and may not have understood it either.
This organisation is still able to attract individuals from western societies to its ranks. Indeed, in the statement delivered by Nicholas Rasmussen, director of the United States National Centre for the Fight Against Terrorism, in front of the National Security Committee of the US House of Representatives last February, he said that more than 20,000 people from 90 countries have already enrolled in the organisations.
Perhaps the most important mistake made by specialists dealing with terrorism is considering Daesh as a mere group of psychopaths who find in the rebellion against existing systems and committing brutal killings a sort of release for their sick psyches. The specialists don’t look into the intellectual roots of Daesh.
The war waged by the international coalition against Daesh in Iraq so far is limited to targeting the leaders of this organisation based on accurate intelligence, and depleting its forces through a modest number of air strikes. However, on the ground there are no gains commensurate with the size of this alliance, which includes 60 countries.
The ground forces that are fighting Daesh do not seem to be up to the task.
Iraq is struggling with its fight against Daesh given its internal political crisis and that limits its abilities. It does not look like Iraq will get rid of this terrorist entity anytime soon.
Finally, the increasing level of terrorism in the Arab world is telling of the shortage of regional non-governmental strategic centres that could play an important part in identifying the roots of the problems and recommending the appropriate action.
Mohammad Akef Jamal is an Iraqi writer based in Dubai.