Fighting the IS Plague

Post-Doc and Teaching Fellow at Alzahra University
Fighting the IS Plague  Fighting the IS Plague

One of the biggest failures of governments is indecisiveness about the catastrophes unfolding around them. While it takes days for a team of experts to produce a report of cost-benefit analysis of any action, humanity’s sworn enemy is getting bold, more arrogant, more violent… while more innocent people are dying. At this juncture it seems there is lack of much-needed motivation for governments to take effective action to fight IS. Western democracies are taking comfort in visible procrastination and 'waiting' for parliamentary approval while the Americans are grappling with their old ways to 'lead' the world.

The Iraq experience has made western countries skeptical about their role in fighting the so-called Islamic State (IS) in Iraq. While they try to learn from a pattern of past mistakes, simple gestures of coalition with allies is not enough. Given the circumstances, humanity’s future more often than not depends on making the right decisions fast and effectively. It seems most if not all governments are waiting for the US to lead the anti-IS campaign.  Closer to home, Turkey has demonstrated a strange and rather disturbing role in the crises enveloping Kobane as Ankara considers its own Kurdish group, the PKK, to be a more urgent threat than the IS.

The west is also hazy about Iran’s role against IS. While, there was some expectation of early dialogue between Iran and the west to take on the IS, it seems there are more disagreements to resolve before asking Tehran to intervene and do its share. For example, many considered the landmark meeting between President Hassan Rouhani and British Prime Minister David Cameron as a sign of improvement in Iran and UK relations. However, just after the meeting, Cameron rather undiplomatically at the UN General Assembly talked about “Iran’s support for terrorist organizations” and its nuclear program. He went so far as to say "Iran should also be given the chance to show it can be part of the solution, not part of the problem”. 

In the case of Turkey which has a security agreement with the west, it seems that all the leading players have a good understating of their enemies, but cooperation among them is subject to prioritizing the enemies. For now, what matters most is an agreement on singling out IS as the most urgent threat and then worrying about independent Kurdistan or the embattled President Bashar Assad of Syria.

The problem is the opportunistic attitude of all players who want to use IS to meet their strategic long-term agenda. By doing so they let the Kurdish Peshmerga do the fighting and the dying alone against the well-armed IS while bombing distant lands and feigning that airstrikes are doing the job.

Needless to say, neither Turkey nor Iran is immune from the IS threat. Turkey is clearly playing a dangerous game by restricting the Kurds to defend Kurdish cities and being preoccupied with the threat of an ‘independent Kurdistan’. The clock is ticking for Turkey to make the decision; starting a fresh fight with the PKK or joining the bigger and more urgent battle against IS. We hope wisdom will eventually prevail in Ankara’s halls of power before it is too late.