Degrading the Islamic State; the debate inside America

Posted September 17th, 2014 at 6:56 pm (UTC+0)
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ISIS chief
By Iftikhar Hussain
President Obama, US top officials and Congress are engaged in a grappling debate over how to degrade IS or Islamic State, the extremist Sunni militant group that holds large swaths of territories in Iraq and Syria raised the level of threat for other nations, including Western capital.
As the broader lines of the US debate crystalize, American experts with a focus on the debate in Washington are forecasting that answering the question to counter the group will not be an easy one. And to put it exactly in the words of US Secretary of Defence, Chuck Hagel, the war will be “long and complicated.” He called for effective partnerships. And more importantly, US military Chief Gen Dempsey testifying in the Congress did not rule out boots on the ground in Iraq, if needed.
To begin with, it took Secretary of State John Kerry hectic rounds of Arab and European capitals in the past two weeks to put together a coalition of some 40 nations, including Arab states, which agreed in Paris to counter the IS. The coalition meeting was not without serious disappointments, analysts and experts said after the conference. Effective partnership needs action more than words, says Wayne White, former US Assistant Secretary of State for the Near East affairs. “It is really a big disappointment to see Turkey backed off on its promise to be part of the coalition,” he told Deewa Radio. “Istanbul was strategically crucial,” he argued.
The IS successful propaganda of video killings and recent gains in terms of occupying territories has put it in comparison to with its global rival – Alqaeda. Wayne White says the IS is more vulnerable than Alqaeda. He says, “Alqaeda is more elusive while we know where the IS is and what is its weaponry”.
For many in Washington part of the challenge to defeat the IS is the limitations to hit the group in Syria, where it can be made to lick its wounds if targeted successfully in Iraq. That is a big strategic disconnection, says Dr. Alam Payind, Director Middle East Center at the Ohio State University. Dr. Payind told Deewa, “the real challenge will be to defeat the IS in Syria in the face of a hostile Asad regime battling his own survival”.
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is a major player not only in the Arab but in the entire Muslim world and Riyadh’s role has been under criticism due to its policies based on sectarian imperatives. Alex Vatenka is an expert with the Washington-based Middle East Institute and believes that the Kingdom has to play an important role. But its dual and varying policies cast doubts on the success of any partnership in the region, he says. “The Kingdom will be willing to cooperate with the US against the IS in Iraq but things might get complicated in Syria because Riyadh would not like to lose an opportunity to remove the Shia Asad regime in Damascus.” The complication Vatenka underlines here seems appears to be Riyadh’s willingness to see Syria’s Bashaar al-Asad gone from power to
The emergence of IS, like other outfits of Alqaeda, Boko Haram in Nigeria, Al Shabab in Somalia, Lashkar Tayyaba and Tehreek Taliban in Pakistan and so many others from North Africa to East Asia, brings Islamic radicalism under scrutiny. The answer, experts and scholars agree, probably lies within Islam because it has strong internal religious dimensions.
The mainstream Islamic narrative has been at the center of the debate among both the Muslim and non-Muslims scholars to counter radicalism but apparently it has lost its appeal. The counter-radical narrative in Islam is either weak inherently or not appealable to the Muslims.
The condemnation of IS by leading scholars from Al Azhar University signifies that such groups are more damaging to the Islamic societies itself than to the outer worlds. US Muslim Affairs Council policy analyst Khoda Alshahtawi while talking to Deewa on the topic said that the group has no appeal to the US Muslims because American Muslims, like other Muslims around the world, adhere to the mainstream Islamic teaching of peace. One wonders why all these and similar voices are not loud and thus heard in the Muslim world. It leaves one with a question: has the mainstream Muslim narrative been hijacked by radicals or the Muslim majority is empathetic?
Arab world interpretation of Islam is crucial to the rest of the Islamic world, many in the Islamic world agree. The sectarian division of the Arab world, led by the Sunni Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and Shiite Iran, is so deep rooted that resonates beyond the Middle East splitting the Muslim world on religious lines. A democratic and tolerant society may be the general answer to the Muslim radicalism but the IS emergence on the scene is a recurring reminder that such groups mean failures of Muslims both as states and societies as a whole.

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