M D Nalapat
- Although the major NATO powers have been in a “state of war” with Daesh (ISIS) over the past 15 months, after it became too obvious to ignore that the terror group was attracting dozens of their citizens each month, the response has thus far resembled the “Phony War” of the UK and France during 1939-40,when the two powers allowed Germany to gain an extra eight months between the declaration of war on September 3, 1939 and the latter’s attack on France through smaller west European countries. The refusal of Paris and London to agree to an alliance with Moscow resulted in Stalin signing a no-war agreement with Hitler days before the Nazi invasion of Poland on September 01,1939.
Unlike Josef Stalin, who was in many respects a leader of very limited vision who failed to recognise the danger posed to his country by Adolf Hitler, Russian Head of State Vladimir Putin has been realistic in accepting that Daesh poses a severe threat to Russia, as indeed it does to the US,the UK, Israel and India, and to a lesser extent to China. Should the organisation motivate cells of suicide warriors (for they need not only use bombs to kill but also guns and other implements of mass murder) in the key cities of target countries, mayhem would result. There would be apparently random explosions and shootouts across each country,thereby scaling up substantially the security threat and affecting everyday life. Unlike the Taliban, which is transparent about its membership, and Al Qaeda, which is overwhelmingly so,in the case of Daesh, the leadership of that organisation has followed a policy of asking its members to remain recessed within the societies in which they reside.
Indeed, several of the “Active” cadre” of Daesg (as distinct from “Facilitators” and the lower-order “Followers”) bad-mouth the organisation in public so as to camouflage their participation in its activities. The Daesh ideology is at its root more about raw power over “The Other” than it is about theology, and hence the spread of this virus is potentially much more than was the case with the Al Qaeda variant, especially now that the non-charismatic Ayman al-Zawahiri is in formal charge of what is left of the group after the US has quietly rolled up the networks exposed through the data cache left behind by Osama bin Laden in his last place of stay.
Not only Turkey but Qatar as well seem to be less than enthusiastic about fighting Daesh, with the former actually assisting the group through degrading the capabilities of a leading anti-ISIS force, that led by the Kurds. This falls in the same category as Stalin’s error of judgment concerning Hitler, for both Ankara as well as Doha will be at risk from the terror group before long, should it continue to hold on to the territories within Iraq and Syria that it won through bribing Iraqi and Syrian commanders with the help of money from sources that would be known to the US,but which the Obama administration seems still to be protecting from disclosure, perhaps to avoid the exposure of policy errors made during the period Hillary Rodham Clinton was US Secretary of State.
While Vladimir Putin may not be everyone’s favourite, the fact remains that he has adopted a course against ISIS that is in the best interests of not merely the Russian Federation but the global community. Hence the question why the US and the UK (both of which claim to be waging war on ISIS) is annoyed with Moscow for its air strikes on terror targets. A reason may be that both Washington and London are still holding on to the disastrous theory that there exists a “moderate opposition” on the battlef ield of Syria if not Iraq,that needs to be protected so that they may in time wage war on Daesh. This is a theory which makes as little sense as France and the UK standing by and waiting for the blow to fall during 1939-40 rather than patching up relations with the USSR and launching a coordinated action before Hitler could ready his forces and his plans for the campaign against France, a country he hated for its courageous resistance to Germany during 1914-19.
Despite the theatrics and the multiple reports of “deadly” air strikes on Daesh targets, or the expansion of operations to include France and Australia, the reality is that NATO is waging a Phony War on Daesh, the way France and the UK waged a phony war on Hitler after the savage occupied Poland and began to seek to destroy its civlisation through genocide and repression. Ostensibly out of fear of civilian casualties but in reality clearly the belief that Daesh can be used as a lever to force Bashar Assad from office before taking serious action on the terror group,NATO air strikes have been pinpricks designed to sting but not to stun. In particular, Daesh has been allowed to retain control of Raqqa, when the fall of this city to any - repeat any - anti-Daesh force would severely reduce its morale and ability to hold on to the rest of the territory it controls. A week of systematic bombing could result in the collapse of Daesh resistance in Raqqa, but NATO knows that that the “moderate opposition” does not exist except in CNN,BBC and Al Jazeera broadcasts, and hence that the forces taking control would be those of Bashar Assad. It is because of this that this far, Daesh has in effect been given a free pass by NATO to rape,kill and torture countless Yazidis, Shia and Christians across huge swathes of territory.
Vladimir Putin has called NATO’s bluff. By entering the war, he has shown the deliberate impotence of NATO air strikes, and should the Russian military next target Raqqa and ensure the defeat of Daesh, it would show up NATO as being either complicit or incompetent in the war on Daesh. John Kerry and Philip Hammond placing the interests of Recip Erdogan and others who see Al Baghdadi as being more benign than Bashar Assad above the need to eliminate this scourge before the virus spreads in a manner which will result in a war needing nearly a decade to conclude. Hopefully, Russia will ignore such efforts at making Moscow too join London and Paris in a phony war on Daesh, and focus on Raqqa, the fall of which will marka Stalingrad for that evil organisation. Indeed, Daesh should be called AIS ( Anti-Islam State), for that is what it is.
—The writer is Vice-Chair, Manipal Advanced Research Group, UNESCO Peace Chair & Professor of Geopolitics, Manipal University, Haryana State, India.