Monday, August 18, 2014

Current measures will not defeat Islamic State

United States Secretary of State John Kerry and British Prime Minister David Cameron may live to regret their decision to rule out ‘boots on the ground’ in Iraq to counter the threat of Islam State militants.

Of course their statements were principally for home consumption — for electorates tired of adventures in the Gulf who would rather try and forget the existence of Iraq and Syria. In Australia the emphasis has been placed on dealing with Australian militants returning from the battle zone, something that will probably not happen now they have been identified so clearly.

Instead the West is relying on a three-fold strategy — a political solution engineered by the Government in Baghdad; arming Kurdish forces who are in the front line against the Islamic State, and strikes against Islamic State forces from US aircraft stationed on carriers in the Gulf.

This is an approach based on hope rather than any real prospect of success. The Iraqi Government has been hopelessly deadlocked for months and it remains to be seen whether the nomination of Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi will improve the situation.

In any case Baghdad appears to be intent on protecting the Iraqi capital and the Shiite heartland in the south of the country rather than making any advances, either political or military, against the Islamic State.

It is extremely doubtful whether the Kurds, armed by the West or not, can make serious inroads into the territory captured by the Islamic State. In Syria it has withstood the all-out assaults on ground and in the air by the forces of President Bashar al-Assad and is reportedly still on the offensive.

Most military experts agree that a war cannot be won solely from the air. Continued bombing and strafing of Islamic State positions may hold up its advance but the best that can be hoped for is a stalemate which could go on for months.

The militants have only to wait out the US air campaign and resume operations when it ends – as end it will eventually.   

Without combat troops to finally clear the ground of the militants, the Islamic State is likely to be a permanent feature in growing Middle East turmoil.

In ruling out a ground offensive Mr Cameron said keeping people in the United Kingdom safe was his top priority.

One wonders just how safe Britons, Americans, or Australians will be if an organisation dedicated to the destruction of anyone who does not accept its ‘values’ take root in large areas of Syria and Iraq.   



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