21.11.2015 Author: Martin Berger

Is the Lesson of Latest Terrorist Attacks Going to be Learned?


In recent weeks, ISIL has manifested itself as one of the most aggressive groups in the world of international terrorism. As  pointed out by Foreign Policy magazine, in just a month the group claimed responsibility for two highly elaborate attacks against two of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council – France and Russia, accompanied by simultaneous bomb blasts in Beirut on November 12. According to The Wall Street Journal, the latest ISIL attacks outside the Middle East have forced the US and EU to rethink their methods of combating terrorism, putting an emphasis on the creation of a united front that will comprise all players, including Russia and Syria.

It’s hardly a surprise to anyone that G20’s agenda in Antalya gravitated towards the fight against international terrorism, namely ISIL, therefore, the absolute majority of the participants of this international forum agreed that there’s a need for close and effective international cooperation in this field. French President Francois Hollande urged all the states to join their efforts to oppose this evil, thereby repeating the statement that was made two months earlier by Russia’s leader Vladimir Putin in front of the UN General Assembly.

As it was stated by Russia’s leader at the summit:

We proposed cooperation on antiterrorism; unfortunately our partners in the United States in the initial stage responded with a refusal. But life indeed moves on, often very quickly, and teaches us lessons. It seems to me that everyone is coming around to the realization that we can wage an effective fight only together.”

The creation of a “large and unified coalition” requires a lot of work, for this reason the French President is going to visit both Washington and Moscow, in an attempt to find a common understanding among all the parties involved in the fight with international terrorism.

Of course, such a coalition must be recognized by international law and the UN Security Council, to avoid “clubs on certain political interests” from being created. Such clubs are often launching air assaults in Middle Eastern countries under the supervision of the United States, while paying no heed to the UN Security Council. For example, Washington has been trying time and time again to unilaterally start different military engagements in Syrian territory without any form of consent from Syrian authorities or the international community.

However, this “big and united coalition” must agree on a comprehensive plan of action, that will involve a possible ground operation. According to some experts, such as Michael Doran – former member of the National Security Council under President George W. Bush, to date Washington’s actions against ISIL have been marked by a number of miscalculations, the most grave among which is the complete and utter dependence on Shiites and Kurds . This mistake can be avoided in the future if the United States will demand its Sunni Arab allies to join the fight, for without them there’s no way to hold the territories reclaimed from ISIL.

The head of the Wall Street Journal’s Washington Bureau Gerald F. Seib proposes a plan of assembling an army of region-based soldiers that are to be supported by the US Air Force, intelligence services and advisers. However, while he doesn’t see how Russia could fit in this plan, which can and should be playing a role in the resolution of the Syrian conflict, he himself recognizes that his option stinks of Western colonialism.

Certain European representatives, however, voice other proposals, that are controversial in nature. In particular, the newly appointed Polish Minister of Foreign Affairs Witold Waszczykowski suggested in an interview with the Polish television station TVP Info to send Syrian refugees that seek asylum in Europe, back home to fight Islamists. But, of course, such ideas show the narrow scale of political thinking of Polish politicians, due to their disregard for the humanitarian concerns and the suffering of refugees that flee to Europe from the countries devastated by the military intervention of the US and its closest allies, including Poland.

Recent terrorist attacks have uncovered a number of shortcomings in the Western fight against international. In particular, the question on what happens with the weapons that the US and EU supply to the so-called “moderate opposition” in Iraq and Syria still remains unanswered. Although everybody understands that there’s nothing “moderate” about this opposition, and that its fighters largely deflect to ISIL after receiving weapons and training in Jordan and Turkey.

Among the factors that led to the strengthening of ISIL in the past two years has been the outright lethargic actions of the US-led coalition, that failed in inflicting any serious damage to the terrorists. At the height of American military intervention in Iraq and Afghanistan, ISIL has been perceived for a long time as an instrument of toppling the legitimately elected regime in Damascus, but not an international threat. This led to “highly ineffective” strikes against this Islamist groups, that have been reported as such by both political analysts across the globe and the Pentagon itself.

However, the most important question – how should ISIS be deprived of its funding to prevent it from preparing new terrorist act?  It is for this reason that Vladimir Putin chose to address his colleagues at the closure of the G20 summit to notify them that the power of the Islamic State comes from illegal financial support provided by the citizens of a number of countries across the world. Thus, he has put Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey in a truly difficult position, while underlining that certain states are involved in the illegal oil trade that ISIL uses to carry on its activities.

Hopefully, the recent terrorist attacks will have a sobering effect on a number of Western politicians that seemed to have a bewildered understanding of the true threats to humanity. In this context, the words of a prominent Russian politician, cited by The Wall Street Journal, may show the way to a ultimate solution: “We have had disagreements in the past, in the 1930s, but that didn’t stop us from creating a coalition against Hitler, and it was effective. Today, we also need to form a new coalition against this qualitatively new challenge.”

Martin Berger is a Czech-based freelance journalist and analyst, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook 

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