It’s been thirteen years since the horrific 9/11 attacks on America by Al Qaeda. Since then, Americans and its allies have vowed to fight and end terrorism and their supporters in the Middle East while terrorist groups continue to grow. Today, Americans and its allies face a new radical foe who call themselves ISIS (Islamic State in Iraq and Syria). If the United States would focus on the root of the problem, could we finally take steps forward in the war of terrorism and the rise of new radical groups such as ISIS, in engaging Iran in making policies for the region and managing terrorist activities?
In Iraq, for instance, what helped ISIS to grow? After the defeat of Saddam Hussein regiment, Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki of Iraq excluded Iraqi Sunnis from having any power in the government and favored the majority in population: the Shia. In doing so, he incorporated several policies. Among them was the use of Iraq’s counterterrorism laws which would allow him to imprison Sunnis in Iraq. He would also prohibit Saddam former employees under the Hussein administration to hold office in the new government if they were Sunni. Maliki, against advice from the United States, formed death squads to hunt down Saddam’s Hussein ex officer corps and in turn ex high ranking officers of Saddam regime went into hiding and vowed revenge on the new regime that had replaced them. With the help of Tehran’s Iranian Revolutionary Guard and Iranian backed militias, Maliki continued to prosecute the Iraqi Sunni community forcing them to find a way to defend themselves and seeing ISIS as a way of defense against persecution.
In Syria, ISIS leadership saw an opportunity with the withdrawal of American soldiers in Iraq in December of 2011 and an uprising which began in Syria in March 2011. President Bashar al-Assad reforms created and uneven economy which angered its citizens as living conditions worsened, living cost continued to rise and jobs remained scarce. Syrians inspired by the rebellions in Egypt and Tunisia voiced their unhappiness and were advocating for democratic reforms. The government responded to these protest with extreme measures such as torture, kidnapping, and killings of protesters. After government troops began opening fire on civilians, Syrians organized and began arming themselves to protect themselves from government violence. Various volunteer fighters came to the aid of Syrian rebels in their cause such as ISIS. Tribes and rebel fighters are constantly recruited by ISIS who supply them with basic needs such as food, money, equipment that they don’t receive from its government. ISIS is able to support Syrians through its key source of income, oil from territories captured in Syria Deir al-Zour and Raqqa and the province of Nineveh in Iraq which ISIS uses to court tribesmen in the Iraqi-Syrian border.
Other means of revenue for ISIS is taxation as well as kidnapping of foreigners and wealthy Syrians for ransom. President Bashar al-Assad has slaughtered, gassed and killed “1,429 people, including 426 children ” as stated in an article written by Alisa Wiersema of ABC NEWS, while the rest of the world has done nothing to stop him. It’s no wonder why with ISIS caliphate in Raqqa gives Sunnis a feeling of security and a sense of justice and hope from the Syrian led regime ran by President Assad. ISIS feeds on the suffering of Syrians as a way of recruiting and spreading its ideology through high quality recruitment videos, which promises the reward of having purpose and playing an important role in something larger than yourself.
What separates ISIS from other terrorist groups as stated by Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel “as sophisticated and well-funded as any group that we have seen beyond anything we have seen. ” ISIS operates as an army due to its military council being made up of former officers from Saddam Hussein’s army and have been known to launch serious military strikes against Iraqi and Syrian military bases and police stations from Mosul to Nineveh, and parts of Diyala provinces with astonishing success. Unlike al Qaeda, whose goal was to draw the United States into war with the Muslim World and create chaos, ISIS on the other hand wants to take territory, hold it and build an Islamic State.
I believe one of the biggest obstacles for the United States is how to bring Iran back into the international community and building an antiterrorism relationship with Iran. The international community would like Iran to address concerns over its nuclear program and human rights abuse. Iran continues to arm militants and plays a major role in sustaining violence in the Middle East, particularly in Syria. In doing so, the United States would have to respect Iranian regional interests. Lee Smith of The Weekly Standard, says “Iraq’s new prime minister, Haidar al-Abadi–named to the post by Quds Force commander Suleimani–is every bit as much an Iranian asset as Maliki was. ” Iranians have a lot of leverage with the Shiite governments such as Iraq and Syria which have led to a Sunni rebellion. Iran is a huge supporter of President Assad who slaughtered rebels who were mostly Sunnis and continued to support groups such as Gaza militant Hamas. Benny Avni of Newsweek writes in an article War and Terrorism Collection “Iran would like to see the aggressively militant Hamas taking over from the more moderate Palestinian Authority, led by president Mahmoud Abbas, who has advocated a nonviolent approach to finding a permanent peaceful settlement with Israel. ” Major General Qassem Suleimani, the commander of the elite Quds force states “disarmament of resistance is a daydream that will only come true in the graveyard for Israel. “
The question is what will a post ISIS plan look like? In Iraq for the country to have any stability, Shiite, Sunnis, and Kurds will have to share power. A Shia only government will only help ISIS and other extremist groups recruit Sunni that hate a central Shia government and have no confidence in Shia policies. In Syria, the country is war-torn by a civil war and continues to be run by President Assad brutal regime. As the Weekly Standard editors Hussain Abdul-Hussain and Lee Smith write, “What’s most extraordinary about the Middle East at present isn’t ISIS and the rest of the Sunni rebellion. Rather, it’s the Obama administration’s inability to formulate a policy that would protect American interests by pushing back against Iran’s project for the region. Instead, the White House is squared off against traditional American allies in a way we’ve never seen before–with the Sunnis now galvanized by a 4,000-year-old tribal code and led by a caliph. “
The real problem is the struggle for power between the Sunni-Shiite, and how that allowed terrorist organizations to thrive in the aftermath. America does not have the correct perspective in drafting an effective policy in dealing with terrorism in the region. More accurately that America is ignoring the Iranian hidden agenda and just focusing on the militia of ISIS and ignoring the politics of Iran.
Avni, B. (2014, August 15). Turmoil in the Middle East Is Setting Up Some Strange Bedfellows; Why is Iran suddenly making nice with Hamas? Newsweek, 163(6). Retrieved from http://go.galegroup.com/ps/i.do?id=GALE|A377699314&v=2.1&u=nm_a_dona&it=r&p=PPWT&sw=w&asid=5a3821ff3112231dc5199890e12bc9dd
Eichenwald, K. (2014, September 5). Hearts and Minds and ISIS; The terrorists win when we attack each other. Newsweek, 163(9). Retrieved from http://ic.galegroup.com/ic/ovic/MagazinesDetailsPage/MagazinesDetailsWindow?failOverType=&query;=&prodId=OVIC&windowstate=normal&contentModules;=&display;-query=&mode=view&displayGroupName=Magazines&limiter;=&currPage;=&disableHighlighting=true&displayGroups;=&sortBy;=&search;_within_results=&p=OVIC&action=e&catId;=&activityType;=&scanId;=&documentId=GALE|A380381813&source=Bookmark&u=nm_a_dona&jsid=a83766bb52b6f5c1a406df7c61a70895
Wiersema, Alisa. (2013, August 31). Everything You Need to Know About the Syrian Civil War. Retrieved from http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/syrian-civil-war/story?id=20112311
Windrem, Robert. (2014, September 21). Who’s Funding ISIS? Wealthy Gulf ˜Angel Investors,’ Officials Say. NBC NEWS. Retrieved from http://www.nbcnews.com/storyline/isis-terror/whos-funding-isis-wealthy-gulf-angel-investors-officials-say-n208006