Thanks to US President Barack Obama, who took the daring step of presiding over the meeting of the United Nations Security Council two weeks ago, the government of the world so to speak, the reluctant governments decided to take strong steps toward fighting terrorism. This is a top issue globally today. Obama is the second US president to preside over the UNSC; Harry Truman, the 33rd president, was the first.
The UNSC resolution 2178 was adopted unanimously, under the seventh chapter of the UN charter. This means using economic boycott, and, if necessary, waging war against countries that do not abide by the resolution. In fact, the idea of this specific resolution comes from countries that are fed up with putting up with terrorists, in one way or another. One hundred and one countries presented the draft to the General Assembly, which went to the Security Council, and become binding on September 25 for all 193 UN member states. Overall, that was an achievement, but the devil is in the detail. The resolution specifically referred to Daesh (the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant) and, if stretched further, the Jabhat Al Nusra. Nevertheless, foreign fighters don’t only join these two groups. Some countries support terrorism of one kind or the other and send foreign fighters to more than one or two groups.
For example, Hezbollah is fighting a full-scale war in Syria, which is not part of its homeland. Technically speaking, these are fighters on the soil of another country. Will they be hunted down some way down the road? A good number of ordinary Arabs are asking this question. And what about the Iranian involvement, whether in Yemen or Syria or Iraq. Recently Iranian commentators rejoiced publicly as the fourth Arab capital fell into their ideological lap.
The odd thing is that the Americans are trying to let Iran join the fight against Daesh. ignoring its support to groups that the US calls “terrorists”, like Hezbollah. Waging war against Daesh is now being seen by some Sunni Muslims as paving the way for Iranian hegemony in the region.
The Kuwaiti daily Al Qabas on September 23 published the findings of a survey of Kuwaiti citizens. Astonishingly, 12.5 per cent of respondents supported Daesh. Another online survey in Kuwait on the same day found that 44 per cent were against Kuwait getting involved in the war against Daesh. It’s understood that it is not easy to do these kinds of surveys in other Arab countries involved in the fighting. Moreover, comments in social media across the region show a resentment over alleged singling out of Sunnis, and not necessarily because those people are supporting the goals and deeds of Daesh. Some reservations are about singling out one terror group while leaving out the others. And some are afraid that this war will give Iran a free hand, in both Iraq and Syria, and beyond.
A more serious question is being raised by the objectors: What to do with the Bashar Al Assad regime, which is waging a war of attrition against its own people, and indulging in ethnic cleansing for the last three and a half years. There are no obvious medium and long-term plans put forward and agreed upon by those joining the alliance. How to end the Al Assad regime, and find an honourable political solution to end this widening conflict is not yet clear. One of the unintended results of this regional war will probably be strengthening the power of both Iran and the Al Assad regimes. And the wars will continue depleting the resources of the countries participating in the war effort, and putting the future of their coming generations at risk.
So it is good news for some to start the war against this terror group, but the lessons from Afghanistan and Iraq for the past quarter of a century is this: If a job is only half done, you will pay dearly later. The Lebanese situation is another example.
What is urgently needed now, as people watch the jets bombard Iraq and Syria on their TV screens, while unmanned drones kill some alleged terrorists in Yemen, is a grand and bold strategy. Probably one is what Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the Turkish President, is lobbying for: A no-fly zone in the north of Syria to protect Syrian freedom fighters, like the one the international community once provided in Iraq. That strategy paved the way for the toppling of Saddam Hussain in the end. But a long-term solution is to fight the dangerous ideas that emerge in the minds of some youths in the Middle East and to provide them with security, honest means of living and freedom, and a quality education. This can’t be done through fighter jets.
Mohammad AlRumaihi is a professor of political sociology at Kuwait University. You can follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/@rumaihi42