You do not have to be an expert to predict that the West’s new strategy in the war on terror will fail just like its previous ones. The more the West fights terrorism, the more violent the latter becomes and the more it spreads. The assault on Raqqa, Daesh’s stronghold in Syria, is bringing together more and more countries; even NATO has joined the international coalition, which is considered a milestone in the war on terror.
The political establishments of the US and Europe are gradually losing public support, having failed to tackle challenges in a changing world. They now greatly need to consolidate the societies around them via a victorious war that can garner positive media coverage.
In this regard, taking Raqqa is an ideal operation. Few care about short-term effects, and the effect will be truly short-term as Raqqa’s fall will not mean the end of terrorism. On the contrary, it will mushroom. For example, liberating Mosul has involved torture, rape and targeted killings, so the victims and their families may be pushed to embrace extremist groups due to sectarian violence and oppression.
Considering the massive assault being prepared to liberate Raqqa, it may turn out to be the bloodiest massacre in modern history. But progressive Westerners will not shed tears over the civilian death toll. To them, the end justifies the means. But the perception will be different on the ground, sparking anger, despair and hatred.
With no concrete leader or strict hierarchy, neither the liberation of Raqqa, the elimination of Daesh leader Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi nor financial restrictions will deter the organization. Ideas instilled in heads cannot be eradicated by violence. Attempts to control the Internet and shut down social media groups and chat rooms are also useless. Dozens are shut down daily, only for as many others to emerge immediately after.
Seeking to put boots on the ground to solve short-term image problems will doom the West to failure and risk a rise in terrorist threats at home; that may be inevitable, but these tactics will only increase the risk. The symbol may be defeated, but the phenomenon will be fueled. The more people suffer under coalition strikes, the more terrorists can manipulate the masses by using the inevitable atrocities of the “crusaders” killing Muslims mercilessly.
Taking Raqqa is an ideal operation. Few care about short-term effects, and the effect will be truly short-term as Raqqa’s fall will not mean the end of terrorism. On the contrary, it will mushroom.
The methods of conducting terrorist attacks will keep evolving and diversifying, becoming increasingly unpredictable and dangerous. One such method that has already emerged is cyberterrorism, the consequences of which will be far more dramatic and unpredictable than bomb blasts that people have gotten used to. The means to counter cyberterrorism are limited.
Violence will spread in the West but more so in the Middle East, targeting political circles, religious minorities and ordinary civilians regardless of their beliefs. The political situations in Middle Eastern countries will be aggravated, undermining shaky regimes and spreading chaos, which will generously feed extremism. Waiting for the West to save the day will cost both the West and the Muslim world dearly.
Wherever and whenever Western powers intervene, they create a mess because they play their own geopolitical games. Regional powers and moderate religious circles do not believe in their own capacities so they ask others to rescue them.
Terrorist cells are thriving worldwide, and Muslim communities continue to lack coordination and consensus against major threats and extremists’ distortion of Islam. Their passivity is interpreted as silent consent. But there is still a chance to stop the spread of extremist ideology in the medium term. The Muslim world has to take its destiny into its own hands, and Muslim communities must unite.
• Maria Dubovikova is a prominent political commentator, researcher and expert on Middle East affairs. She is president of the Moscow-based International Middle Eastern Studies Club (IMESClub). She can be reached on Twitter: @politblogme.