Aw­ful truth? Isis want Is­rael, and As­sad is the fi­nal buf­fer

The Jewish Chronicle - - WORLD NEWS - JOHN R BRADLEY

THE IS­LAMIC State’s be­head­ing of James Fo­ley gar­nered the ji­hadi out­fit the no­to­ri­ety it had been aim­ing for, thanks to the in­ter­net. But such was the univer­sal re­vul­sion at the video, the ter­ror group may have un­wit­tingly signed its own death war­rant, too.

As a flood of sen­sa­tional sto­ries in the US me­dia claimed they were gear­ing up to blow to smithereens en­tire Amer­i­can cities, the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion hinted it would soon be tar­get­ing the Is­lamist State’s lead­er­ship with air strikes. Bri­tain, mean­while, pre­pared new leg­is­la­tion to make it eas­ier to im­prison home-grown ji­hadists.

The Is­lamic State’s fun­der, Qatar, for the first time pub­licly de­nounced its Franken­steinian mon­ster, and — re­al­is­ing its in­ter­na­tional rep­u­ta­tion was in free-fall — was re­ported to have paid a ran­som to quickly se­cure the re­lease of an­other cap­tive Amer­i­can jour­nal­ist.

Khaled Mashaal, the Qatar-based leader of Ha­mas — which at the out­set of the Syr­ian Civil War de­clared its sup­port for the Is­lamists — gave a TV in­ter­view in a des­per­ate bid to dis­tance his own group from the atroc­ity.

Tur­key, too, wit­nessed un­prece­dented diplo­matic pres­sure to close its bor­der with Syria, through which for­eign-born ji­hadists have been pour­ing into the war-torn coun­try.

Egypt, which un­der de­posed Is­lamist pres­i­dent Mo­hammed Morsi had called for all able-bod­ied Mus­lims to join the Syr­ian ji­had, flatly an­nounced that the coun­try now sup­ports nei­ther the Syr­ian regime nor the op­po­si­tion.

Egypt’s for­eign min­is­ter was then dis­patched to the Saudi com­mer­cial cap­i­tal, Jed­dah, to join his coun­ter­parts from Saudi Ara­bia, the UAE and Qatar, as well as an ad­viser to Jor­dan’s for­eign min­is­ter.

Un­der dis­cus­sion: the Syr­ian con­flict and “chal­lenges in­clud­ing the rise of ter­ror­ist ex­trem­ist ide­ol­ogy”. Panic was ev­i­dent in their fi­nal joint state­ment, which high­lighted — cru­cially, with ter­ror-spon­sor Qatar’s ap­proval — the need to cut off the ji­hadists’ fund­ing to “pre­serve se­cu­rity and sta­bil­ity” in Arab coun­tries.

The Is­lamic State si­mul­ta­ne­ously took the main mil­i­tary air base in north­ern Syria, and does now look ca­pa­ble of over­throw­ing the As­sad regime. Seiz­ing the mo­ment, Da­m­as­cus told Wash­ing­ton that it was will­ing to fight along­side the US to crush the Is­lamist in­sur­gency.

How­ever, in the West it was left to a for­mer Bri­tish for­eign sec­re­tary, Sir Mal­colm Rifkind, to state what is now in­deed blind­ingly ob­vi­ous to all but the most blink­ered ob­servers. Namely, that there is a case for col­lab­o­ra­tion with Bashar al-As­sad be­cause, in times of war, an en­emy’s en­emy is a friend.

Pre­dictably, the Bri­tish gov­ern­ment dis­missed his pro­posal, it­self having nar­rowly lost a par­lia­men­tary vote last year that threat­ened the As­sad regime it­self with air strikes. To be sure, the po­lit­i­cal cost of such a hu­mil­i­at­ing U-turn would be in­cal­cu­la­ble.

At the same time, its own pro-in­ter­ven­tion­ist nar­ra­tive — of sup­port­ing “moder­ate” as op­posed to “rad­i­cal” Is­lamists — now has as much cred­i­bil­ity as claims that Sad­dam Hus­sein had weapons of mass de­struc­tion.

Even Saudi Ara­bia has washed its hands of the Is­lamic State. And Jor­dan’s King Ab­dul­lah is having to make ever greater con­ces­sions to the Mus­lim Broth­er­hood in his coun­try in or­der to stave off an Is­lamist re­volt there.

Should the As­sad regime fall, Jor­dan’s monar­chy will surely crum­ble; and there is a real risk of an Is­lamist up­ris­ing in Saudi Ara­bia, just as Is­lamist militias take con­trol of Libya.

The new caliphate, and its vi­ciously an­ti­semitic foot­sol­diers, would then be free to con­cen­trate its con­sid­er­able mil­i­tary might on their most trea­sured goal: the de­struc­tion of Is­rael.

One hopes, then, that Sir Mal­colm’s wise ad­vice will be more in­tel­li­gently con­sid­ered, as — de­spite the of­fi­cial de­nials — the real wheel­ing and deal­ing between the West, Arab states and the Syr­ian regime gets un­der way be­hind the scenes.

Pres­i­dent Al-As­sad may in­deed be a kind of Cer­berus — but the en­trance to hell is just be­hind him. John R Bradley’s lastest book is ‘Af­ter the Arab Spring: How Is­lamists Hi­jacked the Mid­dle East Re­volts’

PHOTO: AP

Kur­dish Pesh­merga fighters — one of the groups fight­ing Isis — near Mo­sul

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