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The Big Picture – US strategy against ISIS: Will it work?


After having been recognised internationally as the most dangerous terrorist organisation, Islamic State also known as ISIS is now facing a concerted attack from a global coalition led by the United States.

The US forces have launched air attacks and held territories in Iraq and Syria.

Syria, which is worst affected, finds itself in a tricky situation. British PM has said that they will not be supporting Syrian government and blames the Syrian government for the growth of terrorism.

As things have evolved after June when IS terrorists smashed Iraqi army in central Iraq and moved swiftly to capture various cities, the US president had very little options but to combat it in a concerted way.

Obama had no other option when American journalists were beheaded. He has made it clear that these actions are against terrorism and not against Islam.

It is interesting to note here that the US has not gone through UN route. It has been trying this coalition outside the UN system. It is primarily because US doesn’t want to appear as if it is completely against Islam as a whole. It is also because US is looking forward for some support from the Arab states.

There are 3 parties in Syria- the recognised Syrian government, the IS forces and the opposition to the Syrian government. There is no general consensus in Iraq on how to combat this problem.

Some experts opine that Jihadism can be fought militarily but eventually it should be fought ideologically and theologically which has to come from within the Islamic world in general and Arab world in particular.

The 2003 invasion of Iraq is said to be illegal since UNSC had not authorized it. Iraq has become more fractured since then. Different groups like Sunnis, Shias and many others have become more fragmented since then.

Genesis of the present crisis goes back to 2003 Iraq invasion, especially more intensely in Sunni areas. Sunnis who have ruled Iraq for several centuries now feel that they are being deprived of their powers by Shia led government.

US strategy of Degrade and destroy has 5 components: air strike, degrading the capacity of terrorists, shrink their space and territory, prevent funds from flowing to them and block the channels of recruitment.

Criticisms against the US strategy:

Some criticize the US strategy by saying that Instead of solving the problem, it is being aggravated by sucking more and more new regional countries(for eg; Saudi, Jordan). This will create much more extreme groups to emerge.

Some criticize the US strategy by saying it as a practice of mobile anarchy. And it is a Gimmick.

The local governments can take care of this problem. If, Turks take control of their borders this can be solved. Since closing of borders prevent funds flowing in to the IS. And hence US strikes are not needed. But the IS has become fairly sophisticated organization with their own ideals and their capacity has increased tremendously. And hence, it is not possible to destroy by mere closing of the borders.

What India should do?

India should provide intelligent co-operation as it is a war against global terrorism. But we must wait till the UN authorization comes.

Few Indians have also joined IS. Flow of recruits from India should be prevented.

So, as of now, it is better for India to remain neutral.

Regime change policy of the US must be abandoned.