Analysts: Mistakes in Iraq, Syria behind resurgence of terror groups

Al Arabiya Global Discussions panelists fault U.S. disengagement and global inaction

Ismaeel Naar
Ismaeel Naar - Al Arabiya News
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Much has been said, but what was been done has not achieved aspired results regarding the “war on terror” in the past 15 years, analysts said Wednesday during the first panel discussion at the second Al Arabiya Global Discussions Forum held in Dubai.

Nearly 15 years after Al-Qaeda attacked the United States and brought down the World Trade Center, the Middle East and the West face new enemies, mainly in the form of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

Analysts say concrete actions, such as the newly-announced Muslim military coalition headed by Saudi Arabia, is welcome given the lack of American and global leadership in fighting terrorism.

“The engagement of the United States has been the main issue in the Middle East,” said Saudi political writer and commentator Salman al-Ansari.

Salman Al-Ansari, Saudi writer and political commentator. (Al Arabiya News)
Salman Al-Ansari, Saudi writer and political commentator. (Al Arabiya News)

“We can’t forget who handed Iraq to Iran on a silver plate. The Obama administration has not been leading from behind - it hasn’t been leading at all.”

The Islamic military coalition, announced by Saudi Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, is made up of at least 34 nations, with more expected to join.

Saudi Arabia is expected to lead the coalition, with a command center based in the capital Riyadh.

Egypt, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) are among the Arab countries in the alliance, together with Asian and African states.

Asked what makes the coalition different from those led by the United States, Ansari replied: “I’m pretty sure its top priority will be placing boots on the ground that would work toward eradicating ISIS and other terrorists groups.”

The coalition “will be effective and this region knows exactly how to deal with its issues, but we need intelligence collaboration from the United States and others to stop the problem, not only in Iraq and Syria but across our region.”

Political and security analyst Brooklyn Middleton criticized the regional “failures of the Bush administration” that led to the rise of groups such as ISIS and Al-Qaeda-linked Nusra Front.

“Bush’s vow that the fight against terrorism wouldn’t end with Al-Qaeda has proved tragically prescient,” Middleton said.

Brooklyn Middleton, political and security analyst. (Al Arabiya News)
Brooklyn Middleton, political and security analyst. (Al Arabiya News)

“But it was in part his administration’s failures that produced such a reality. Identifying the factor that led to Al-Qaeda’s revival in Iraq can help in the battle against ISIS.”

Nathaniel Tek, regional spokesperson for the U.S. government, said there “are no silver bullets to the regions problems.”

Nathaniel Tek, Regional Spokesperson – U.S. Government. (Al Arabiya News)
Nathaniel Tek, Regional Spokesperson – U.S. Government. (Al Arabiya News)

He added: “It’s become fashionable to say the United States has become disengaged with the region. I disagree with that, and our administration disagrees with that.

“The question is what kind of engagement we want to see from the United States. Do we want to see large-scale, open-ended military interventions? Or do we want to see engagement of all aspects of American power in order to address root causes?”

Julien Hawari, co-CEO of publication house MediaQuest, said extremism was not solely a Middle East problem given the recent Paris attacks that killed at least 130 people.

Julien Hawari, Co-CEO – MediaQuest. (Al Arabiya News)
Julien Hawari, Co-CEO – MediaQuest. (Al Arabiya News)

Hawari said racism in Europe has exacerbated security issues, but “this isn’t a new phenomenon that started with the Charlie Hebdo and Paris attacks.

“The number of people leaving France, going to Syria and getting trained by ISIS is high. We have to ask ourselves, are there things ISIS is giving them that we [the French] aren’t?”

Middleton said the question of the future of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has to be addressed, as the region cannot afford further stalemate.

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