We must re­main vig­i­lant, not im­pul­sive with ISIS

Financial Mirror (Cyprus) - - FRONT PAGE -

The Is­lamic State has been on our radar and been grab­bing head­lines for long enough. Yet, if we thought that their in­flu­ence was sub­sid­ing and grow­ing old, they’ve proven us wrong. Dif­fer­ent fac­tions of the ter­ror­ist group, no­to­ri­ous for their grue­some killings, have stirred vi­o­lence across the Mid­dle East, prompt­ing the in­volve­ment of sev­eral in­ter­na­tional armies who are now co­or­di­nat­ing a joint re­sis­tance. It’s bad news.

Two weeks ago, ISIS re­leased a video of its mil­i­tants burning alive a cap­tured and caged Jor­da­nian pi­lot. The video was re­ported to be one its most in­hu­mane shock tac­tics to date, de­signed to draw mass me­dia at­ten­tion. Jor­dan vowed an “earth-shak­ing and de­ci­sive” re­sponse. The coun­try stepped up its re­sis­tance ef­forts as part of a US-led coali­tion and struck var­i­ous tar­gets in Syria as well as mo­bil­is­ing thou­sands of ground troops on its bor­der with Iraq. Bahrain pledged that it will take ac­tion too and send armed forces to sup­port Jor­dan.

Then last Thurs­day, ISIS at­tacked the city of al-Bagh­dadi, a strate­gi­cally sig­nif­i­cant city in West­ern Iraq where 300 US armed forces are sup­port­ing the Iraqi gov­ern­ment with airstrikes against the ter­ror­ists. The attack was the group’s first ter­ri­to­rial gain in sev­eral months. It co­in­cided with US Pres­i­dent Obama’s ap­peal to Congress to ap­prove greater mil­i­tary autho­ri­sa­tion and the flex­i­bil­ity to em­ploy ground forces, and was un­doubt­edly timed Pres­i­dent and present an air of de­fi­ance.

This Sun­day, Fe­bru­ary 15, the group re­leased a video show­ing the be­head­ing of 21 Egyp­tians, which prompted Egypt to co­or­di­nate re­tal­i­a­tion air at­tacks with the Libyan gov­ern­ment. To­gether they struck a se­ries of mil­i­tant camps and weapon stor­age sites be­ing used by the Is­lamic State in Libya, and Cairo called on the US to broaden their mil­i­tary op­er­a­tions now that the ter­ror group has ex­panded their reach out­side of Iraq and Syria. Ru­mour has it that even Iran’s Ay­a­tol­lah Khamenei has got in­volved and sent Obama a se­cret let­ter about pos­si­ble co­op­er­a­tion against the Is­lamic State if the coun­tries first agree a nu­clear deal. That would cer­tainly be a re­mark­able al­liance.

As the re­sponse to the Is­lamic State es­ca­lates, we must re­mem­ber that ISIS is very con­trolled and cal­cu­lated in its op­er­a­tions. It seems to have pur­pose­fully pro­voked this high

to

em­bar­rass

the emo­tional and mil­i­tary re­sponse from the au­thor­i­ties in the US and its Mid­dle Eastern neigh­bours. In­deed, many an­a­lysts have com­mented that boots on the ground could em­power the ter­ror group in their me­dia and re­cruit­ment ef­forts. Keep in mind that 3,000 Jor­da­ni­ans have al­ready joined their ranks along­side hun­dreds of im­pres­sion­able Amer­i­cans and Brits.

Although the most sig­nif­i­cant eco­nomic dam­age has been in Iraq and Syria, the neigh­bour­ing coun­tries of Le­banon, Jor­dan and Turkey have lost bil­lions of dol­lars in out­put due to shat­tered busi­ness con­fi­dence and the in­flux of refugees which has pushed down wages and used up re­sources. The weaker th­ese coun­tries be­come eco­nom­i­cally, the more vul­ner­a­ble they will be so­cially and po­lit­i­cally to fu­ture ISIS at­tacks. For­eign mar­kets don’t like the in­sta­bil­ity ei­ther. If it weren’t for frack­ing in the US and Saudi Ara­bia’s re­fusal to cut oil sup­ply, the volatil­ity in the Mid­dle East could have led oil’s price to soar even higher than it did when Mo­sul fell to ISIS ji­hadists in June 2014.

The para­dox is thus: we are morally and strate­gi­cally obliged to treat the Is­lamic State as a most se­ri­ous threat to global peace and sta­bil­ity. Yet, by giv­ing them the at­ten­tion they crave, we fuel their rai­son d’être and risk be­com­ing pawns in their con­trolled and blood­thirsty quest for power.

I’m glad I’m mak­ing trad­ing de­ci­sions and not po­lit­i­cal ones.

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