WASHINGTON – The Obama administration Middle East policy can be summarized with this proposition: “Let’s do nothing, hoping nothing really bad happens during our watch”.
Timid on Iran
And this includes the way in which the negotiations with Iran were conducted about nuclear issues. The effort was not about enforcing non-proliferation. It was mostly about trying to regulate proliferation, buying a little time now, hoping that the Iranian regime will mellow later on and decide not to openly pursue nuclear weapons 10 years from now.
The ISIL threat
Well, nuclear Iran aside, the fact is that some really bad things have already happened. Among these by far the worst is the rise of ISIL. It is almost incomprehensible how the Obama administration, from day one has consistently under estimated the horrendous implications of the emergence of this self-described Caliphate.
The fact is that now the Sunni minority in Iraq, along with a huge piece of Syria, are dominated by this radical movement. This is and will continue to be major trouble in an already troubled region.
ISIL inspires others
The very existence of ISIL as a functioning “state” dominated by radicals fuels and inspires more radicalism in the region. ISIL inspired movements are sprouting everywhere, from Libya to the Sinai peninsula in Egypt. It is impossible to predict what these organizations will be able to do, but we should expect the worst.
Just consider the destruction of the Russian civilian airliner carrying tourists. If this accident was indeed caused by a bomb placed on board by ISIL members, (this is the theory now), we can see the far-reaching consequences of a few well crafted acts of terror carried out by ISIL members or sympathizers. In just one day Egyptian tourism has been essentially killed. No more tourists. One bomb, one downed airplane. Enormous economic damage.
Of course, with or without ISIL there will be other radical groups in the region, and some of them will engage in acts of terror. Still, the fact that militants know that there is an actual functioning state that embodies their beliefs is a tremendous morale booster. It reassures the true believers. It tells them that they are winning.
An ISIL defeat would demoralize militants
Imagine instead TV footage that shows ISIL fighters retreating and demoralized, many killed or taken prisoners, territory lost, their black flags gone. At the very least this would deflate the hopes of more would-be jihadists.
Given all this, Obama’s indecision in fighting this enduring menace (after having stated that his aim is to degrade and destroy ISIL) is almost incomprehensible. By allowing this cancer to attach itself to large parts of the region, Obama is disregarding the likely consequences. More radicalism, more violence and more terrorism.
Not the only issue
I fully realize that ISIL is not the only issue to be dealt with. But it is the most virulent and therefore the most urgent. Conferences and high level meetings will not take care of it. America is the only country that has the military power to confront and destroy this menace.
Any day that goes by and ISIL is still there, flying its flags, is a day of victory for all the militants.