The Islamic State (IS), which has morphed from ISIS or ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant), which in turn morphed from al-Qaeda, is a dangerous and worrisome phenomenon, with the potential of changing the political and geographical map of West Asia. The entire international community, not just America and the West, ought to be concerned and join forces to combat this menace.
Much of the world, including many in India, ascribes most of the ills afflicting the region of West Asia today to the United States. There is justification for this belief to some extent. In particular, it can be asserted, with reasonable objectivity, that the illegal invasion of Iraq in 2003 by the George W. Bush administration on the most egregious excuse of non-existent weapons of mass destruction is largely responsible for the chaotic and explosive situation in West Asia. That single misadventure cost America more than 4,500 lives and $1 trillion, but the cost being borne by the region and its people, as well as by people beyond the region, is incalculable in terms of instability, growth of terrorism and the sectarian strife that it ignited.
The motivation of the Bush administration was a mix of oil and Israeli pressure. It deflected attention and resources from what was then a winnable war on al-Qaeda. But that is all history. There is also the gross mishandling of the Syrian situation by the West, which has made possible the emergence of phenomena such as Jabhat al-Nusra and the IS. However, now is not the time to apportion blame or responsibility; there will be time enough for that. Hillary Clinton, who has already launched her presidential campaign in anticipation of the Democratic Party’s nomination, has openly criticised her former boss, President Barack Obama, for lack of firmness in dealing with the Bashar al-Assad regime.
The priority ought to be to collectively deliberate on how to confront the present and clear danger posed by the IS.
The IS is a bigger threat than its progenitor, al-Qaeda. It has by far more funds than al-Qaeda; indeed, it is the richest terrorist organisation in the world. It has modern weaponry, including tanks and anti-aircraft missiles, looted from the Iraqi army that was equipped by the Americans, as well as from the Assad regime. It has a force of more than 10,000 fighters capable of waging set-piece battles.
It is tech savvy and uses social media most effectively, not only in Arabic but also in several European and Asian languages. It collects taxes and imposes its brand of law and order. It calls itself a Khilafat or caliphate, and its CEO calls himself the Amir; he is both the secular and religious leader. The IS has the ideology continued…