New approach needed to get off dead end road fighting ISIS

Iraqi forces training
Iraqi troops training for the liberation of Mosul (source: dpa)

Last week, United States Secretary of State John Kerry went to Qatar to meet his Russian and Saudi Arabian counterparts, Sergei Lavrov and Adel al-Jubeir in order to discuss operations against ISIS, writes Prince Michael of Liechtenstein.

So far, the US leading of the global alliance against Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has not been very successful. America has struck ISIS targets from the air but avoided ‘boots on the ground.’ But that’s where wars are won or lost.

Besides some verbal support, European ‘powers’ have chosen to remain absent. The US is therefore looking for local allies.

The Iraqi army has been pursuing an unsuccessful offensive against ISIS, despite having more soldiers, better equipment, US training staff, plus the support of US airstrikes, Shia militias and Iran.

The lack of success is due to Iraq's total failure as a state.

In Syria, where ISIS has its main bases, the situation is even more complicated. To date, the only reliable US allies are the Kurds. The Assad regime is a potential ally, but accepting its support is a delicate matter as the US is banking on the support of some ‘moderate’ anti-Assad insurgents.

US plans to train local fighters abroad as ground troops against ISIS could be failing, as Secretary of Defence Ashton Carter admitted at a hearing at the Senate on July 7, 2015.

The West also supplied weapons, first to insurgents against Assad, and later to some other anti-ISIS warring factions in Syria. It appears, however, that quite a number of weapons finally found their way into the hands of their adversaries.

The recent anti-ISIS flirt between the US and Turkey is understandable, but might antagonize the only reliable allies so far, the Kurds.

It is wishful thinking to believe that ISIS can be weakened by getting banks to cut off their access to funds. Islamic State is essentially self-financing through looting and the imposition of taxes in the regions that it occupies.

The good news from the meeting between the ministers of foreign affairs last week is that the three powers that met have a common interest in defeating ISIS. Although a deep disagreement between Russia and the US on the Syrian regime prevails.

For Saudi Arabia, ISIS presents a potentially lethal threat to the kingdom.

Russia has significant Islamic minorities, and radicalisation could exacerbate the already existing problems with insurgence and terrorism.

The US, as protector of global stability needs to work with other countries.

Russia has friends in the Middle East and is considered as a reliable partner there. Its diplomatic influence should not be underestimated and Russia's intelligence in this area is certainly good. Russia's pragmatic approach could help, in order to avoid mistakes of a Western ‘value driven’ approach, which might not be effective in the local environment.

However, the fact remains that ISIS must be defeated on the ground.

Furthermore, the emergence of similar movements will only be avoided if artificial states such as Iraq and Syria implement structures that respect the interests of minorities, instead of being forced in a so called ‘democracy’ allowing the majority to overrule minority interests.

Related Statements:

Rescuing Iraq plays into the hands of ISIS

Iraq's offensive against ISIS may not succeed

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