Did U.S. policies lead to Baghdadi’s Caliphate?

The U.S.’s ongoing mistake of being lenient in dealing with Bashar al-Assad’s regime has made it easier for ISIS to advance toward neighboring Iraq

Bakir Oweida
Bakir Oweida
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The U.S. has put a $10 million bounty on the head of Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi. It would make no sense for me to invite President Barack Obama to pledge allegiance to Baghdadi, who has now ludicrously proclaimed himself a “Caliph.” But the truth is that the policies of the current U.S. administration—among other factors—have helped the legions of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) to establish their foothold in several locations on Syrian territory. A blind eye was turned even when the organization declared the Syrian city of al-Raqqa an interim capital and moved to exercise the oppression of swords and killing of people on its streets and alleys of the city.

The U.S.’s ongoing mistake of being lenient in dealing with Bashar al-Assad’s regime has made it easier for ISIS to advance toward neighboring Iraq. With the arrival of ISIS in Mosul, then being a stone’s throw from Tikrit and closing in on Baghdad, it seemed to Baghdadi that the “caliphate” had come under his beck and call. He has gained power and influence, and it has therefore become necessary that the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria named itself the “Islamic State.” ISIS consequently demanded that each group that does not pledge support to it and to its leader, the man the U.S. has declared as the most dangerous terrorist in the world, should disband.

The U.S.’s ongoing mistake of being lenient in dealing with Bashar al-Assad’s regime has made it easier for ISIS to advance toward neighboring Iraq

Bakir Oweida

The situation in the Arab world is no longer merely on the brink of fragmentation. There are actually now only two choices: either to make a move or collapse.

There is an old Sudanese adage that goes: “Whoever gets wet with water should swim.” I remembered this adage, as I—like many others—see how dangerous the situation in the Arab world is.

Anyone, wherever they are in the world and whatever views they hold, is free to act on proverbs they hear and say aloud what they believe is right as dictated by their interests.

Now, the most important question is whether the Arabs can continue down the path the Arab Spring created. Or is the situation too grave to be rectified? Have these events already impacted all those who felt able to remedy this situation?

Gaging our own actions

I do not have an answer, but still, it is not right to surrender to despair. The objective logic requires conceding that it is not only the U.S. that miscalculated on Syria, Iraq, Libya and other communities. Before blaming major countries, the people of these communities ought to look deeply into the actions of their own key forces or players.

The dream of change has retreated, followed by the collapse of the hope for the peaceful transition of power. This failure has shuffled the order of priorities, thus disrupting the order of society.

Everything has become a issue of contention, and so it is no wonder if things lose their meaning.

Throughout history, civilizations rose and then perished. Some were declared but did not live long, such as the unification of Libya and Tunisia under the name of the “Islamic Arab Republic” declared by Muammar Qaddafi after a sudden summit with Habib Bourguiba on Jan. 12, 1974. Other countries rose up from the rubble of destruction and strongly weathered the wind of unrest around them.

In this context, it can be said that this new state declared by ISIS may live on for some days, weeks, months, or even years - who knows? But it remains that a small faction that broke away from al-Qaeda managed in four years to organize thousands of fighters under banners that could occupy vast areas in Iraq and Syria. It is also important to remember that if this development in itself was not taken as seriously as it should have been, given the size of future dangers it posed.

Is it still possible to neutralize the impact of ISIS, that outcome of miscalculations? The answer should be an absolute yes, backed up by lessons from what happened and knowledgeable and objective plans. Let’s hope that this is what’s coming next.

This article was first published in Asharq Al-Awsat on July 3, 2014.

Bakir Oweida is a journalist who has worked as Managing Editor, and written for several Arab publications based in London. His last executive post was Assistant Editor-in-Chief of Asharq al-Awsat newspaper, responsible for the Opinions section, until December 2003. He can be reached on [email protected] and [email protected]

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.
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