ISIS: Time for U.S.-Russia ground assault
NOT since Genghis Khan’s hordes descended on the steppes of Russia in 1237 has the world witnessed such brutality, inhumanity, and wanton waste of human lives as ISIS has visited on the whole world, especially Syria and Iraq. The Syrian war has killed over a quarter of a million people and displaced an estimated 10 million, about 2-3 million of whom have found their way to Europe, with terrorists embedded amongst them. On November 13, in a three-pronged attack, jihadists wiped out about 130 innocent souls in Paris, through suicide bombings amongst others, their cowardly trademark.
Two weeks earlier they had destroyed a Russian jet liner in mid-flight en-route Cairo to St. Petersburg in which 224 innocent passengers and crew perished. ISIS and its affiliates have killed more civilians in two years than Al-Qaeda and the Taliban combined killed in their 10 years reign of terror leading to their ouster in 2003.
The U.S. has failed the world in its short sighted and ill-considered policy of not putting boots on the ground to stop ISIS in its track in Syria and Iraq allowing ISIS to become a monster, wiping out whole villages, Muslims, Christians, and Yazidis alike. ISIS has done more damage to human psyche than Al-Qaeda ever did when its operatives flew two jets into the World Trade Centre twin towers in New York on September 11, 2001. With Osama bin Laden long forgotten, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in Mosul and his cohorts have visited carnage, destruction, and cruelty not seen since the Khmer Rouge held sway in Cambodia. With half of Syria and a third of Iraq under ISIS control, its terrorist reach global, and with over $2.1billion spent within the first nine months of the aerial campaign without taking much territory back from ISIS, what other evidence does the U.S. need to agree its policy of not putting boots on the ground in Syria and Iraq is a colossal failure?
Watching from the sidelines to allow America sufficiently cook in its stew, Russia refused to intervene militarily until Damascus was about to fall to ISIS. Russia launched its ferocious air campaign against ISIS and all terrorists in Syria in October 2015, with Vladimir Putin’s forces throwing in everything in its arsenal including 26 cruise missiles launched from the Caspian Sea, about 1,200 kilometres from Syria, on October 7. Rather than applaud and thank the Russians, the U.S. is blue in envy and castigating Putin for bombing mostly “friendly terrorists” groups and not ISIS. The U.S. intelligence community is agog with disinformation how Russian bombs are dumb bombs lacking precision. With all its precision guided bombs America has not been able to make a dent on ISIS advance in Iraq, the capital of which has come dangerously close to being taken over by ISIS in recent months. Rather than focus on stopping ISIS, America is busy insisting Assad must go. Who does not know ISIS will take over Damascus if Assad is toppled today?
The whole world knows Al-Qaeda was a U.S. creation to form a bulwark against USSR following the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979. With shoulder held sting missiles supplied by the U.S., Afghan rebels were able to make mince meat of Soviet helicopters, tanks, fighter jets and bombers during the Soviet-Afghan war. The U.S. glowed in pride how $500 apiece sting missile could destroy a $1.5mm apiece T-72 Soviet tank. Al-Qaeda metamorphosed into a monster, joining forces with the Taliban, trained and equipped by Pakistan, and took over Afghanistan after the USSR departed in defeat in 1989. Lest we forget, Pakistan primed and equipped by the U.S., is the hotbed and global capital of Muslim fundamentalism propped up in the 1970s as a counter force to India in the light of India’s then rapprochement with the then USSR. Enough said, as they say, in politics and diplomacy, there are no permanent friends but permanent interests.
The U.S. created the mess in Iraq, Libya, Afghanistan, Pakistan and has backed the Islamist regime of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Turkey, despite Erdogan’s continued desecration of Kemal Ataturk’s legacies. The U.S. should tidy up the entire mess. First, by getting out of Syria immediately and letting the Russians fix the place. The Russians should put boots on the ground, and together with the Syrian army loyal to Assad, and with the support of Syrian Kurds and moderate rebels, annihilate ISIS beginning from Raqqa. This should be followed by a two-year transition period during which democratic elections should be held.
Having proven to the whole world that he is a man with a heart of steel willing to fight to the bitter end, Assad should graciously step aside and proceed to the Black Sea Resort of Sochi as a guest of the Russian government. After all, Russia has always stood by Syria beginning with Assad’s late father, Hafez al-Assad. With Assad out of the way, Syria should gradually return to normalcy allowing the about 10 million refugees (6.5million displaced internally and 3.5million outside according to UNHCR) to return home and begin their lives anew.
That leaves us with Iraq.
According to intelligence sources, including the CIA, and The Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center (ITIC), ISIS has between 17,000 to 30,000 operatives under its command, out of which about 15,000 are hard core fighters. These figures could be grossly over or understated though.
Notwithstanding, without much delay, the civilised world led by the U.S. and its allies and non-allies alike (Iran in particular) should put in place 15,000 man-strong military task force to dislodge ISIS beginning from Mosul, the putative capital of the Caliphate. Al-Baghdadi should be captured alive and sent to The Hague to stand trial for genocide against humanity. Together with the cowardly Iraqi army, the war should be won within six months, given the allies overwhelming air superiority. This is a war against good and evil. Sunnis, Izalas, Shias or Shites, Kurds and Yazidis should bury their hatchet and face the common enemy, ISIS.
Unless President Obama fixes Iraq and annihilates ISIS before his term is over, history will not be kind to his presidency, noting the untold human suffering ISIS has unleashed on the world. With Jihadi John slitting the throats of innocent journalists with all the gory graphic details captured on video, and over 10 million refugees on the march in and outside Syria and Iraq, it’s time the civilised world woke up and say enough is enough. Obama did not start the Iraqi, Afghan, and Syrian wars but he has the moral duty to stop the carnage before he vacates office.
Time Magazine had predicted that with the defeat and dispersal of Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan, it will spring up as mushrooms in a wet spring day all over the world. Today they are everywhere carrying out lone-wolf attacks making the world such a perilous place to live in. ISIS can be defeated militarily. With the head cut off, ISIS propaganda will dissipate over time. Muslims leaders the world over should rise up and educate the Muslim faithful that ISIS, Boko Haram, Al-Shabaab, are all mortal enemies of Islam. They have killed, maimed, and raped more Muslim women, men and children from Islamabad to Abuja, and from Damascus to Mogadishu than any pestilence known to man. It’s time we stopped them or they will stop us. Meanwhile, I salute the Kurds that stopped them in Kobane. If the Kurds could single handedly do it, together the world can do it.
• Isaiah Negev is a policy analyst in Lagos.
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