Despite the efforts of a wide coalition of Western nations, including British, American, French, more recently the Russians, and a variety of other sovereign countries, ISIS is still alive and well in Syria, Libya, and Iraq.
The coalition agrees that air strikes must be conducted in close partnership with ground forces, if they are to have a decisive impact. But the partners it has in mind are the Iraqi regular army, which is still a wreck after its defeats in 2014 and earlier this year, and the “moderate” armed opposition in Syria, which is so feeble that it barely exists. When the US tried to create one it ended up with just four “moderate” fighters – individual fighters – in Syria at a cost of $500m.
It was just 18 months ago, June 2014, when 3,000 Isis fighters defeated at least 20,000 Iraqi army soldiers and captured Mosul. And now, the new government in Iraq is seen as even weaker and more dysfunctional than its predecessor. Though heavily supported by US air strikes, its best military units fled Ramadi on 17 May. General Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, commented caustically that “Iraqi forces weren’t ‘driven out’ of Ramadi, they drove out on their own”.
Since then, Libya has collapsed into a “Failed state” after western powers, who had previously exerted their airpower to help various rebel groups overthrown Qaddafi, were completely unprepared for the fast moving ISIS vanguard to sweep into the vacuum, left by the destruction of Qaddaffi’s regime.
The legions of refugees fleeing the area are a testament to the lack of foresight from the First World countries that have made this area their personal game of “Risk”.
The irony cannot be lost, that the same countries- The US, England, Russia, – who had such resolve to end the evil of Facism in the 20th century, that they utterly defeated the millions of well trained and heavily armed soldiers of the Third Reich- cannot find the fortitude to rid the region of an even more heinous evil that has permeated that land, although ISIS number just a few thousand.
Perhaps it is “Mideast War Fatigue”. After 15 years of asymmetrical warfare in the region, which most Americans still can’t find on the map, we are willing to look the other way, when ISIS comes into a town, executes all of the men who won’t convert, and sells the women into sexual slavery. We feel we have spilled enough blood of our young men, trying to bring the Western ideals of autonomy, democracy, and human rights, to an area that quite frankly doesn’t care for those values.
The alternative is to find a consensus among the dominant powers and the regional principals, that ISIS must no longer exist, and take a quick decisive action. However, the US and Britain have a fixation on toppling Assad in Syria, perhaps since toppling Saddam Hussein and Quaddaffi went so well. Russia and Iran don’t feel it is the Anglo countries domain to be determining who can stay in power where. Thus, no consensus will be reached.
ISIS will continue to flourish, until the foremost military powers in the world actually follow through with their posturing about how ISIS should be stopped. But that will mean all parties involved will need to subjugate all other regional aspirations to that single, clear-cut goal.