By: Scott Taylor
Following the Friday-the-13th savage ISIS attacks in Paris there has been a frenzy of emotions displayed with very little logic espoused by Western leaders. In the immediate aftermath of the slaughter, President François Hollande declared the ISIS killings to be an “act of war”. Given that France has been participating in the allied bombing campaign against ISIS since September 2014, was France not already de facto at war with ISIS?
Following the Paris terror attacks, the French air force made a lot of fanfare about the fact that they were significantly intensifying their air attacks against ISIS, particularly targeting the Syrian city of Raqqa. Now Raqqa has been considered the ISIS capital since they captured it from Syrian government forces back in October 2013.
Any identifiable ISIS targets in that city would have been examined for months by allied intelligence using aerial photography and satellite imagery. The only explanation as to why these sites were not previously hit would be the possibility of creating collateral damage among the Syrian civilians.
However, after Paris was struck, that meant all bets were off and if that meant French bombs accidentally kill women and children, then so be it. Killing begets killing.
Hollande has called for Russia and the U.S.A. to put aside any differences for the moment to concentrate on eliminating the ISIS scourge, which brought so much bloodshed to his country. Such a reaction is understandable, but it also reveals just how complicated this task will be.
First of all, while ISIS may employ terrifying acts of barbarity, such as mass beheadings against their enemies, the fact is that in Syria and Iraq they are actually holding territory. The ISIS fighters are using conventional weapons, mostly captured from former Iraqi security forces and of U.S. origin, and they are fighting from clearly marked defensive positions. They are also governing and administering the needs of the civilian population residing within their controlled territory. This includes the city of Mosul with its nearly 1.5 million inhabitants.
In other words, if there truly was an international will to eliminate ISIS’s self-proclaimed caliphate, professional NATO armies could easily defeat the fanatical ISIS volunteers in open battle. This would unfortunately only drive them underground to engage yet again in a bloody insurgency against occupying forces similar to the war that they waged against U.S. troops for over a decade in Iraq.
Despite years of fruitless searching, the West has yet to find a local champion worthy of our committed support. Embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad clings to power in those few areas that his loyalists continue to resist.
Although Russia supports Assad, his ties to Iran and his alliance with Hezbollah make him a liability to Western leaders. In Baghdad, unelected interim Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi is an impotent puppet, relying on the Iranian backed Shiite militia to contain ISIS advances.
Although the Americans have held their nose and bombed in support of Iranian led, Iraqi Shiite militia, Canada and other allied nations have withheld such co-operation.
In their respective territories, the Kurds do not see themselves as either Iraqis or Syrians and they are fighting to increase the territorial bounds of an independent Kurdistan. This just happens to include large tracts of eastern Turkey, where an outbreak of Kurdish separatist violence threatens to destabilize a key NATO ally. The Kurds will fight ISIS where their territorial claims overlap, but there is no way that the Kurdish peshmerga militia want to fight their way into the ISIS controlled Sunni-Arab triangle.
Then, of course, there is the little matter of ISIS having spread their influence into the violent anarchy, which the West created in Libya. No one even mentions eliminating ISIS in Libya, yet if we are going to eradicate the ISIS cancer, it will mean destroying all of it. This would also involve returning to Afghanistan, where ISIS has begun to challenge our old nemesis the Taliban for the title of the meanest dog in the junkyard. Most important is the fact that those murderers who rose up to attack innocent Parisians were already residing in Belgium and France.
France intensifying air bombardments against an ISIS held city in Syria might be a symbolic gesture of defiant resolve. It is not a solution. Killing begets killing.