To Defeat ISIS Requires A Mindset Change



America has long relied on flexing its muscles to get what it wants; the US government has always considered its weapon arsenals as an advantage over the rest of the world. We continue to believe that to drop bombs is the ultimate strategy for victory; obviously we haven’t learned a thing. And yet Republicans continue to spread the obsolete idea that the use of force is the best response in the ISIS’ crisis. I think not. Besides, it’s the use of force which created ISIS in the first place. We need a change of mindset to tackle this challenge and we might just defeat ISIS in the process.

Can ISIS be defeated?
Contrary to beliefs in the West (US, UK, France, Spain, Germany, Italy, Sweden, etc.), ISIS (Al-Qaeda or any terrorist group) is never welcome in the Middle East (Syria, Iraq, Iran, Jordan, Turkey, Yemen, Israel, Egypt, etc.) except by a few radicals. – Here in the United States, the Ku Klux Klan was (probably still is) the radical group – Radical extremists such as ISIS resort to intimidation, extortion, torture and murder to make demands and force submission. There is nothing to like; it is a dark cloud hanging over the Arab world. It’s probably much worse than Al-Qaeda. Arabs want it gone, erased, eradicated. So do westerners. Fortunately, there is a solution. A year ago, in the October 8, 2014 article titled “Obama Needs Assad to Defeat ISIS”, I wrote “Mr. Assad, this is President Obama speaking, we need to talk; a very simple script that could be the difference between defeating ISIS or continuing on without much success.”  Needless to point out that Obama didn’t make the call; ISIS is still striving.

That was a year ago. And a lot have happened since then. In fact, a year ago, ISIS was a localized terror group which sought to establish an Islamic State in Iraq or using part of Iraq, nothing more; at least, that was its immediate objective. It was reported this way, “ISIS is nothing more than another terrorist group … which must be dealt with much the same way any country would deal with ‘society pest’. Despite the much trumpeted outcry from Washington, ISIS is a localized threat governments in the region must deal with if they wish to protect their citizens and preserve life normalcy…” That was then. The beheading of American journalist Steven Sotloff in September 2014 and another journalist James Foley two weeks prior prompted Washington to intensify a bombing campaign against ISIS strongholds in Syria. Everything changed. So has ISIS.

After months of intense bombing, it became clear to the experts in Washington and Obama’s advisors that US War supremacy no longer matters in the world today, especially in a world where the enemy is invisible. As I emphatically reported then “ISIS is a problem US cannot resolve on its own.US may have weapon supremacy in the world but no stockpile of weapons can help in the fight against an enemy that is everywhere and nowhere. Obama should have made the call to Assad.

Having come to the realization that ISIS is no ordinary enemy, Obama’s advisors and experts in Washington advised the administration to build a “coalition” (didn’t we hear that expression before?) to counter the ISIS dilemma.” That was a step in the right direction but the experts fell short of inviting the most important player to join in, the Syrian president, Mr. Assad. Most experts publicly expressed their opposition to having Assad in the coalition. That was a terrible mistake!

That mistake alone is perhaps responsible for ISIS’ rapid expansion across the globe, from the objective of establishing an Islamic State in the Middle East to fighting the Western government everywhere. The terrible mistake of sidelining the most important player, Mr. Assad, has already cost the lives of over 500 innocent civilians (the Russian Metrojet plane Flight 6298 with 234 passengers and now the Paris bombings). In fact, after the announcement that a coalition of countries in the Middle East was being formed – without Syria – to counter ISIS, I took it to task to warn the Obama’s administration against proceeding without Assad, “Obama needs to call on Assad for help with the ISIS crisis; there is really not much hope any strategy that doesn’t involve Syrian Government assistance would work”(Read the article “Obama Needs Assad to Defeat ISIS” for further details).  I went further to say that “If the Obama administration is serious about defeating ISIS, someone in his administration needs to talk to Assad urgentlyMr. Obama, it’s time to talk to Assad. As mentioned in my previous article, Mr. Assad would be more willing to seek a compromise today than he would have three years ago. It is time that Mr. Obama re-evaluates the strategy put forth by advisors and strategists who craft solution to any problem around military solution. It is time to sit down with Assad. He holds the bigger piece of the puzzle…” I “became hyperventilated” over the necessity for the Obama administration to talk to the Syrian president about the ISIS crisis. Needless to point out again that Obama didn’t make that call!

As it should be obvious by now, whatever strategy the United States put in place could not work, did not work. Yes, Assad is a dictator but he is a localized problem for the Syrian people and poses no threat to the world, not even his neighbors. But for some ideological reason, the US Government is “gung ho” about removing him as Syrian president. – This is not an argument to condone Mr. Assad’s handling of the opposition in his country; this is not an argument to rationalize his methods; far from it! – China on the other hand, a communist and oppressive system, which has made no apology and expressed no regret to have massacred its citizens, trampled human rights and consistently found to be in violation of the basic human rights (Read the 2015 Human Rights World report for the latest violations in China) have always been an ally of the United States government. We collaborated with China in North Korea negotiations; we collaborated with China in negotiation with Iran and so on. Why are we not doing the same with Syria?

What is the major difference between the two oppressive regimes, China and Syria? None whatsoever except that we would not dare bomb China but we can freely contemplate the idea of bombing Syria. It seems that the experts in Washington, Obama’s advisors and the warmongers (all those who are itching to start a war with Syria) have not learned any lesson from the recent excursion in Iraq. It’s true that Saddam Hussein was also a dictator but he posed no threat to the world. His removal has created what the world now fears the most, ISIS. This is not a conjecture; in the section below (What is ISIS anyway?), you can read the details about the origin of this deadly terrorist group which has already cost the lives of so many across the globe. We owe it all to our irrational thirst, relentless campaign and irresponsible actions to remove heads of state we do not like or do not agree with, irrespective of the perceived aftermath. To a large extent, the United States Government is indirectly responsible for the Russian Jetliner brought down with a bomb placed presumably in the main cabin by ISIS and the massacres in Paris which claimed the lives of well over 130 innocent civilians and injured more than 500, some critically.

Republican commentators, pundits, experts and even some Representatives in Washington suggest that the removal of US troops from Iraq is somewhat responsible for the problem. It is nonsense and political demagoguery. As you will find out in the next section, ISIS came into existence due to the mishandling of Iraq troops (by the Bush administration) after toppling their leader, Saddam Hussein. The presence of US troops in Iraq could not have prevented the creation and the ascension of ISIS. The Bush administration, after removing Saddam from power, sent home an army (literally, no pun intended) of well-trained military and armed soldiers and their commanders (captains, colonels, generals in some cases). Yes, we the United States of America created ISIS. Today, civilians across the globe are paying with their lives for the mistakes our government has made and continues to make every time the US government decides to remove a head of state we just don’t like.

The US Govt. would never like everything other leaders do; – I am sure the feeling is mutual – we may never get along with all the leaders in the world but there is no need to antagonize them either. It is hundred times better to have an enemy as ally than to have a dozen friends which cannot all be trusted. It seems as if we Americans are cursed to repeat the same mistakes of the past over and over and over, except that we are not cursed. For the past 50 years, the country has been run by presidents (both Democrat and Republican alike) who tried to define their legacy by provoking head of states in order to take the country to war. As such, there is never a justifiable reason to get the country marred in any of those wars; Afghanistan is perhaps the only exception. Time has changed; our government didn’t get the memo. So, it continues on a path which can no longer provide the outcome we’ve come to expect, a US sympathizer head of state. We get the next worst thing (option), ISIS.

What’s done is done. How do we defeat ISIS? Since the Paris’ massacres and for the next few weeks (it could be longer considering we’re heading towards electing the next president), Republicans have upped the ante in their rhetoric regarding how best to defeat ISIS. Let me point out the obvious, it’s just rhetoric. It is impossible to defeat any terrorist group which can be anywhere and everywhere anytime; the best and quite possibly the only strategy is to monitor and contain its footprints. Even the Republican candidates bidding to become the next president know that too; after all, the Bush administration (Republican) had eight years to squash Al-Qaeda and bring bin Laden to justice, that didn’t happen. So, don’t be fooled by the rhetoric that the next president can take care of the ISIS problem once and for all, be it Democrat or Republican. S/he cannot. Terrorism has always existed, and it’s here to stay; nothing short of a miracle can change that.

But there is hope we may be able to taper ISIS’ movements; we need help however; we need the help of the most unlikely ally, the Syrian president, Mr. Assad.  I said it before, I’ll say it again; Obama needs Assad ‘to defeat’ ISIS. The Middle East is a very impractical terrain for any Western government, US is no exception; Great Britain, France and Russia (now the United States) tried to expand their influence in the region but they all failed. Historically, the West has always been at a disadvantage in that region; the culture is very dynamic, the customs extremely fluid and the disposition is unpredictable but most importantly, the Middle Easterner has infinite patience, the West’s biggest liability. In addition, and equally important, the Arab world does not trust the West, and for good reason. The West had double-crossed Arab allies many times; it is one region that doesn’t forget the past. The Arabs learn from their mistakes; they can no longer trust the governments of the West. Although the Arabs are also eager to resolve the ISIS problem, their leaders are very cautious to make alliances with the West (Read the documentary Hamas in Black and White for details on the reasons the Arab world no longer trusts the West). The Obama administration should let Mr. Assad take the lead in the campaign against ISIS. It is the proper approach to solving the crisis. It is a golden opportunity for the United States to learn from people in the region while at the same time to achieve the outcome we so desperately need, to contain ISIS.

What is ISIS anyway?
ISIS is an acronym which stands for Islamic State of Syria; the same group is also referred to interchangeably as ISIL, Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. It mainly comprises Sunni Arabs from Iraq and Syria. But that’s not really the question.  What exactly is ISIS? Without boring you with details,  – which are as complex as the question itself; you wouldn’t really want to spend time reading about all the mumbo jumbo anyway; besides, the details are unimportant for this article – here is a simplistic answer to a very complex question, the United States government created ISIS when he overthrew Saddam Hussein. Nope, I am not kidding. Surprise! Yep! That’s what you get when you’re eager to get rid of heads of state for no reason other than trying to prove you can. – As of this writing, Republicans are beating the drums of war with Syria. Go figure! We have never learned, have we? –

After overthrowing Saddam, – late Iraqi leader found guilty and executed by a US makeshift court for the new Iraqi government, also established by the US government – the Bush administration ordered the dismantling of Saddam’s armed forces. Of course, the US media did what the US media did best, “cheerleading” the Bush administration for his handling of the situation. Now, picture the following, an army of well-trained militia who served the Saddam regime for decades are now in ‘the wild’ with no job, no prospect of a job – Yes, the Bush administration also prohibited employing anyone who served under Saddam – With military training and other important skills and knowledge, those now unemployed military personnel became mercenaries for hire. It would not be long before the top officers (of Saddam’s regime) who fled Bagdad organized those now unemployed soldiers into a more structured group. In the meantime, the newly established Iraqi government was busy putting personnel in place to replace the old army but there was one small problem; those who were now being trained by US had one main objective, to get a paycheck. They were not interested in defending the new government; they were not even interested in being part of it but a paycheck is a paycheck.

In the meantime, in the wild, ex-Saddam loyalists managed to regroup with the original intent to overthrow the US anointed Iraqi government. After several dozen attempts (using RPG, IED, booby-trap, suicide bombings) failed to achieve any result, the well organized group of ex-military decided it was time to have an identity, spread terror, intimidate and recruit others to join their campaign against the US, the very country that had deprived them of their posts and their paychecks. And ISIS was created. Its original intent was never to wage war across the globe.

I do ponder how high is the degree of stupidity of our elected officials. Who came up with the ‘genius’ plan to get rid of all Saddam’s army troops (and their commanding officers) and send them all home jobless to fend off for themselves? Which genius in the Bush administration cooked up that plan? What exactly did the genius expect those trained individuals would be doing? Was it a ‘oh well, too bad’, they should find something to do with their time? I am not an expert in waging war but seriously who came up with that dumb idea? I hope to have shed some light on how it all started. ISIS is a by-product of (mis-) handling Iraq after toppling Saddam; it doesn’t matter how many US troops and how long they would station in Iraq, ISIS was created the day the genius Paul Bremer (appointed by the Bush administration to take charge of the U.S. occupation in Iraq) dismantled Saddam’s army.

Contrary to Al-Qaeda which started off with the main objective of inflicting harm on Western  governments and their people, – in retaliation for the way the Arabs are treated by the governments of the West – ISIS wanted to create an Islamic State. What would ensue next is anybody’s guess. Its members do have the skills to run an Islamic State, at least from a military perspective. What complicated the situation however is the fact they wanted a portion of Iraq. Its members began seizing cities in the outskirts of Iraq, marching towards Bagdad. By May of 2015, ISIS was in control of some major Iraqi cities (Tikrit, Falluja) including Ramadi which was just 70 miles from the capital Bagdad.

US couldn’t allow that to happen; after all, ISIS is a terrorist group. With Iraqi soldiers and security forces fighting ISIS off assisted with US air bombing, ISIS was forced to retreat, giving up the cities they seized control of earlier.  The harder it became to achieve the dream of an Islamic State, the more its members resorted to gruesome acts of murder, beheading, burning its hostages alive and executing large groups of people (civilians and military). While those tactics were primarily used to intimidate civilians to either comply or keep their mouth shut, ISIS leaders quickly changed strategy by targeting individuals from the West. In the region, the task of capturing, torturing and killing westerners was carried out almost exclusively by ISIS members. Publicly, members of Al-Qaeda terrorist group expressed the desire to join ISIS in its campaign against the West, a common interest for both groups. Although the desire to create an Islamic State remains ISIS’ objective, its strategy has changed drastically. Instead of taking another pass at marching towards Bagdad,  – they couldn’t; constant air bombing by UK, US, France, Turkey and even the United Arab Emirates make such initiative a very dangerous option – ISIS decided to embrace Al-Qaeda approach, inflict casualties to large groups of westerners. Those venues are readily available everywhere, football games, soccer games, concerts, etc.

The main objective is to get the West’s attention, US, UK, France in particular. – Russia became the latest target added to the list when Putin joins the fight against ISIS – ISIS hopes to get the West occupied at home (have their hands full so to speak) so its members can attempt once again to create the Islamic State; whether the strategy would work remains to be seen. At first glance, ISIS seems to have awaken the monster. By providing live feed of beheading US journalist, decapitating large groups of civilians, burning Japanese aide alive, ISIS has certainly achieved its objectives. It got the West attention and achieved instant notoriety across the globe. While fear and panic set in for the Westerners residing, visiting or working in the Middle East region, ISIS capitalized on the momentum to spread even more terror, also used as a tool for recruiting Islamic radicals; not only did it periodically air live feed beheading of westerners but it also moved in capturing, torturing and burning individuals of Arab descent as well.

Ironically, it is the barbaric and cruel acts of murdering people that have propelled ISIS to become a group considered more dangerous than Al-Qaeda. Its barbarism had reached the boiling point when its members provided live feed of a Jordanian pilot in a cage soaked in gasoline; as if it is entertainment for the world to watch, a masked ISIS member set the man on fire. It was a grave miscalculation on ISIS’ part; Jordan’s King Abdullah II who was visiting US when he saw the video responded by having two ISIS members who were in jail in Jordan awaiting trial executed immediately. A small setback ISIS is able to recover from pretty quickly.

The West was angry and expressed so publicly but after a fiasco in Iraq, expenses of which the US taxpayers are still paying for, the Obama administration could not possibly justify going to war against dynamic groups which are impossible to define, pinpoint or even identify. ISIS is probably the most vexing problem for the West; to make matters worse, our government lacks the understanding how to interact with the Middle East region. Most Republicans are usually quick to point to US War supremacy as an advantage in any confrontation. Unfortunately, ISIS is not an enemy that can be fought off with bombs or missiles. ISIS is a very agile organization with seemingly guerilla tactics ability. Armed with technology, equipped with military vehicles (US trucks provided to the Iraqi army), specialized in street fights and unafraid to die, ISIS’ members are tough nuts to crack. To defeat ISIS is not a task any Western government can tackle.

If the Obama administration is serious about defeating ISIS, someone in his administration needs to talk to Assad urgently.


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