Sunday, 15 June 2014

Iraq crisis and the rise of ISIL: the cost of failing to intervene in Syria

Along the endless stream of amateur footage showing systematic human rights violations in Syria at the hands of state forces, throughout 2011 we heard one Western leader after another saying that the Syrian President Bashar Assad should go. Yet, a plan to force him out never materialized. The exodus of Syrians into neighboring countries intensified, eventually becoming a protracted refugee crisis.

In August 2013, it became clear that the regime of Bashar Assad have made use of chemical weapons against its own people. A United Nations team of experts concluded that the Syrian chemical attack used sarin and was worst in 25 years. Harsh words were used to describe Bashar Assad ‘s regime, but nothing else was done. Western leaders also failed to arm the moderate Syrian rebels -a force now too fragmented to make a difference. Western leaders also cowed by allowing Putin to call the shots during this crucial stage of the Syrian crisis. A destabilizing front eventually opened in Ukraine.

The widespread impression in large segments of Africa, the Middle East, and central Asia is that the unwillingness of the United States and its NATO allies to intervene in conflicts is simply a demonstration of their diminished role in the 21st century world order.  A succession of unwise political decisions some say; however, this poor decision-making has fast unraveled highly volatile geopolitics. To put it simply, inaction means that from central Africa to Iraq, fundamentalist factions are winning the day.  The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS; or the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant or ISIL) is perfectly aware of the West’s current stance towards conflict intervention. This bunch of brutal fighters feel naturally empowered and free to unleash carnage.

Let’s forget for one moment what a gigantic intelligence failure paved the way for ISIS to rise and gain control of large segments of Iraq in a matter of days. In the last 50 years, we have never been this close to a regional or world war as of right now. Western leaders please stop watching the World Cup or thinking about your summer holidays. This is one of the big ones and will not simply go away, as there are dangerous 'social movement' and religious threads in the fabric of this conflict.  If the U.S. and NATO fail to put their act together and act NOW, we will be fast heading to, at least, a violent low-intensity conflict spanning from the Middle East to Africa!

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