Paralysis caused by too much analysis
Moreover, at least 25 terrorists were emboldened to launch an audacious attack on that airbase, which they managed to infiltrate wearing Iraqi uniforms over suicide vests, some of which were reportedly detonated. While IS fighters are willing to enter the lion’s den, the same cannot be said of its foes.
US lawmakers are still debating the virtues, or otherwise, of putting American boots on the ground. It’s true that President Obama is now asking Congress to authorize war on the IS — following news of the death of Kayla Mueller, a US aid worker, held hostage in Syria — a move that is set to be supported by a majority of Republicans, but his formal request does not mention any insertion of ground troops, apart from those involved in rescue and intelligence operations. Many analysts believe that without troops in theatre it’s a war that is either virtually unwinnable or one that will be protracted over years.
Larry Johnson, a former CIA counterterrorism expert with the US State Department was quoted in The Washington Times as saying, “What a waste of time. We have not learned a thing in 80 years. The IS is an army. Air power is not going to get the job done. Until you put troops in and kill these guys, they are going to continue. They adjust to tactics; they meld into the civilian population.” You don’t have to be a military analyst to get his point. Anyone with an iota of common sense can understand that IS fighters aren’t generally conspicuously grouped together staring up at the skies waiting to be bombed. On the contrary, they’ve abandoned their barracks and are now mixed in with civilians.
Given Obama’s hitherto lackadaisical response to the group massacres of Yezidis and Christians that were followed-up with multiple beheadings of western hostages and the barbaric incineration of a Jordanian pilot, who can blame the terrorists from feeling invincible!
Jordan has unleashed massive “Revenge for Muath” airpower on IS training camps and weapons depots in Syria and Iraq and King Abdallah has vowed to wage “relentless war” to eradicate the killers from the face of the earth. But, unfortunately, Jordan is hidebound by a paucity of F-16s, spare parts, precision missiles and night vision equipment. The United Arab Emirates, another regional partner in the fight along with Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, is keen to ramp-up its military interventions against the IS and other terrorist organizations but it, too, requires allied nations to supply its armed forces with advanced weaponry. Lt. Col. Hassan Ali Alanazi of the UAE Air Force says the UAE needs more aid. “We want to increase our combat effectiveness with more weapons or advanced weapons that we’re looking for so we can do our job in a better way.”
In the meantime, the IS in Syria is undeterred. Its foot soldiers are kept occupied with executing or lashing civilians for committing the crimes of swearing or smoking cigarettes. Fighters around the town of Kobani who have difficulty kicking the habit are said to sneak smoking breaks across the Turkish border.
Turkey is the elephant in the room. Until recently, it was the go-to transit destination for IS recruits en route to joining their fellows in Syria and fighters were being cared for in Turkish hospitals supposedly for humanitarian reasons. Videos on YouTube show members of the organization gathered together in Istanbul. A leaked report by the Turkish national police, revealed by Jane’s Intelligence Weekly, warns of “sleeper cells” around the country comprising approximately 3,000 individuals linked to the IS.
While the report doesn’t suggest those cells will be activated against Turkey “the risk is high for western consulates and commercial assets.” Under pressure, the Turkish authorities have now arrested a handful of suspect individuals attempting to cross into Syria and have pledged to block the group’s financing but is still not prepared to permit its Incirlik Air base to be used by the US-led coalition. Now the wonder here is this. Just days following a claim by US intelligence officials that foreign fighters are streaming into Syria and Iraq in unprecedented numbers, a State Department spokeswoman described Turkey as an important partner in the anti-IS coalition.
In short, the IS is flourishing because of a lack of resolve on the part of the superpower and its allies to broaden the mission, finish the job once and for all — and to lay blame where it should be. If the leader of the Free World isn’t up to the task and the Arab world continues to wait for Washington to supervise the neighborhood’s cleanup, the map of the Middle East could be indelibly re-drawn.
Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not necessarily reflect Arab News' point-of-view