By Claude Salhani |
Based on President Barak Obama’s State of the Union speech earlier this week, chances of peace in the Middle East remains bleak at best, if not a distant impossibility. Here are the reasons why.
Just as you cannot make an omelet without breaking eggs, you simply cannot resolve the problem of the Islamic State without committing the full power of a major military expeditionary force. Think of attacking the terrorists on the scale of the D-Day landings in Normandy in 1944.
Massive aerial and naval bombardment, airborne troops and special forces deployed inland, air cover for troops with armor and heavy artillery. Attacking the enemy on several fronts at the same time, cutting off his lines of communications and supplies. And as the lone super-sheriff nation on the planet the job befalls to the United States. Whether the Americans like it or not, that is the price of being the most powerful nation on earth.
The danger of ignoring the threat poised by the Islamists is very real. Allow them to get stronger and they will come to you. They have said so themselves.
Suffice to look at what they have done to Syria and Iraq and shudder. They intend to do the same to more countries unless they are stopped. Regrettably, the situation was allowed to deteriorate to the point where applying “Band Aids” will no longer work. What is needed now is major surgery.
Today ISIS has enslaved people by the hundreds. They sell young girls, some as young as eight or ten into sexual slavery. They methodically execute anybody not in agreement with them. They have killed people by the thousands. They decapitate hundreds of prisoners. They throw people accused of homosexuality off rooftops and stone to death women who commit adultery. They crucify others. Latest reports from the region speak of them now going after educated women and killing them. This week they executed 13 teenage boys by firing squad for watching a soccer game between Jordan and Iraq.
In his State of the Union speech earlier this week President Barak Obama said that the US would not commit ground troops to defeat IS or ISIL or ISIS, or Daesh, any of the multitude of names the most brutal terrorist organization goes by.
While Mr. Obama is ethically correct in not wanting to send US troops into the horrible muddle that Syria and Iraq have become, he is strategically mistaken to think that he can defeat this group without meeting two criteria.
1. Committing massive forces to the campaign in order to defeat the enemy once and for all, and
2. Implementing an immediate post-combat program to help the people of the region recover economically, so that they will not turn to such groups again in the future.
A military solution alone, even if initially successful, is doomed to fail. This is what happened the first time around. Having said that there is nothing that stipulates that all the combat troops have to be American. Other countries – America’s NATO allies, the Arab countries concerned by the presence of the Islamists should field the numbers needed to face down this menace, after all they are the ones who stand to loose the most if the Islamists gain ground. Egypt and Saudi Arabia, for example, could contribute several thousands troops each.
However, there are three things that need to happen if the Middle East is to be pacified, and before the campaign to oust the Islamists can have a chance to succeed.
1. the civil war in Syria must come to an end. A government needs to be formed that can impose peace and stability in the country, including in the zones now occupied by the Islamists, once those are liberated. The current war offers a perfect breeding ground for these terrorists, and an ideal staging area from where to train and dispatch jihadi fighters to Europe and eventually to the United States.
2. the long-standing conflict over Palestine must be resolved in a manner that is fair and adequate for the Palestinians and the Israelis. Allowing that issue to remain unresolved also provides fodder for Islamists and extremists.
3. Turkey must be reminded that it is a NATO member and as such its loyalty rests with the West, and not with the Islamists. And if Ankara is true to its word – that it is a full-fledged member of NATO — it should be duly rewarded. And what better reward than membership in the European Union?
By any stretch of the imagination this is a rather tall order for any president, let alone one who is now on his way out with two years left in the White House. President Obama began his first term determined to resolve the Middle East crisis. He won the Nobel Prize for Peace for it his efforts–– albeit somewhat prematurely. Perhaps now he can dedicate some time to really merit that peace prize.
Claude Salhani is senior editor with Trend Agency. You can follow Claude on Twitter @claudesalhani.