Success of Anti-ISIL War Depends on New Shiite-Sunni Dynamic (Le Figaro, France)
rallying of four Arab countries (Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Qatar and the United
Arab Emirates) which have joined the American Air Force, thereby legitimizing the
bombing campaign on Syrian territory, has above all symbolic value. ... The important
thing is that the five are Sunni and seem finally to have realized that they
have, to differing degrees, given birth to a monster to wage a war against the
Shiite axis directed from Tehran. … The extreme complexity of the overlapping conflicts
in the region makes any outcome uncertain. One must hope that the barbarity of
the Islamic State arouses a profound enough response to initiate a new dynamic."
Barack Obama has tried everything to avoid getting here. His
desire to extract the United States from the Middle East is in fact one of the principle
causes of the catastrophe that now forces him to act in a place he never wanted
to. Like his predecessors, he cannot escape it. Whatever its policy, America
seems doomed to make war on the Arab world.
If a terrorist organization merits pulverized under bombs,
it is certainly the Islamic State. Beheadings, mass executions and calls for
murder in the name of jihad make it morally more than despicable. The danger
cannot be underestimated. Its organization, its military, its financial
resources, and its capacity to conquer vast territories and attract thousands
of foreign volunteers have no precedent. In comparison, al-Qaeda seems like a
bunch of amateurs. Now is the time to respond if we wish to prevent the
phenomenon from spreading, other "caliphates" from springing up in
the Maghreb, Africa or Asia, or a wave of terrorist attacks to break out across
Europe and America.
Barack Obama had to respond. Better late
than never. And if it had been better to help the moderate opposition
combat Bashar al-Assad at the time, i.e. right from the start, it would have
been futile not to attack the enemy in Syria under the pretext that it could
help the regime. In the current context, the argument about international law
doesn't stand up. Baghdad has asked for help. Damascus was informed and has
refrained from responding, even rhetorically. As for the legal objections of Vladimir
Putin, the annexation of Crimea singularly limits their impact.
'Islamic State Recruiting'
'I can do flash video editing and beheadings'
Will aerial bombardment be sufficient to eradicate the
Islamic State? Evidently not. Barack Obama had the
audacity to say that his objective is not just to "degrade" the
Islamic State, but ultimately to "destroy" it. It will take years
and, for once, that suits Washington. It will be especially necessary for
countries in the region to take charge and decide to give battle themselves
against radical Islamism, because they are its first victims. Without an organized
Sunni uprising in Iraq and Syria, the air strikes will not finish off the
The problem is that this new confrontation is superimposed
on the war between Shiites and Sunnis waged across the Middle East since at
least Iran's Islamic Revolution
of 1979. The rallying of four Arab countries (Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Qatar and
the United Arab Emirates) which have joined the American Air Force thereby
legitimizing the bombing campaign on Syrian territory has above all symbolic
value. Its operational usefulness will depend on their level of engagement and
the course taken by military operations. The important thing is that the five are
Sunni and seem finally to have realized that they have, to differing degrees, given
birth to a monster to wage a war against the Shiite axis directed from Tehran.
If the Sunnis, whether they be the Gulf kingdoms or Iraqi
tribes, tolerate an entity as barbaric as the Islamic State, it is because they
dread even more seeing their Shiite enemies, even if for the most part they are
minorities in the region, destroy their ancient supremacy. Turkey is in the
same situation, which is even more heartbreaking because in this case, there is
the added Kurdish element: the old adage "my enemy's enemy is my friend,"
so frequently used in the region, applies here twice as much.
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America and her allies have neither the military or
political means to bring an end to this regional civil war between Shiites and
Sunnis. It is even likely that the ongoing rapprochement with Iran on the
nuclear issue contributes to this by exacerbating the obsessive fears of the
Restraining evil and promoting calm is all that can be
expected. The extreme complexity of the overlapping conflicts in the region
makes any outcome uncertain. One must hope that the barbarity of the Islamic
State arouses a profound enough response to initiate a new dynamic.
*Pierre Rousselin is Deputy Editor of Le Figaro in charge of