ISIS finally removed Maliki – but who will remove Assad?
It is hard for many in the Middle East to differentiate today who did more harm in the region
It is not wrong to suggest that the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) militant group contributed to Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s removal, regardless of the direct or indirect factors at play in Iraq.
Looking at Syria, ISIS and al-Nusra Front and their groups are reinforcing – whether directly or indirectly - President Bashar al-Assad’s regime.
The armed Syrian opposition and its various factions seem to be losing ground to al-Nusra Front and ISIS. The region will now need a broad and concrete plan to confront extremists in Iraq, Syria, and Libya.
Part and parcel
Assad’s removal is part and parcel of this broad plan, regardless of the wounded regime’s renewed efforts to position itself as a cornerstone of past and future efforts to remove extremism.
It is hard for many in the Middle East to differentiate today who did more harm in the regionMohamed Chebarro
Bearing in mind that the regime always prided itself in helping the West in its bid to uproot al-Qaeda in the years that followed the September 11 attacks, Assad’s regime is flirting again with the idea that his joined fight is key to changing ISIS’ influence in Syria.
Yet today, it is difficult for many in the Middle East to differentiate who has done more harm in the region.
Was it the Syrian government, who brutally attempted to defeat the uprising started by the then-unarmed Syrian opposition against a regime that strangled the country and its people for over 40 years?
Or was it a regime that released religious extremists that populated prisons in Damascus for the past decade as a plan to militarize the initial peaceful uprising and discredit it for harboring religious extremists as part and parcel of any potential new Syrian landscape?
Looking at post-Saddam Iraq, it is interesting to see that sectarianism is ebbing rapidly after Maliki's departure. But there is however the nomination of new Prime Minister-designate Haider al-Abadi, a rallying of the Kurdish Peshmerga and the tribal Sunni (albeit shy) forces, as well as an international military support to defeat ISIS in Iraq.
This action is coupled with an entente between Iran and Saudi Arabia to try to contain the extremist group, with the hope this would pave the way for an inclusive Iraq, after eight years of one-man-rule by Maliki and his sectarian politics that sidelined Sunni Iraqis.
In Syria, a test is awaiting regional and international powers to stop the three-year-old onslaught against Syrian civilians by the warring factions.
After more than 190,000 have been killed and 10 million internally and externally displaced Syrians, there is no need to wait for more atrocities by the Assad regime and its allies, such as the wiping out of multicultural cities such as Homs, or the destruction of historic buildings by barrel bombs in Aleppo.
No one want to see ISIS turning against Syrian minorities after finishing off the Syrian Sunni moderate and tolerant communities, before deciding to find a new momentum to end the Syrian bloodshed.
This could be done by concerted efforts to return Syrian refugees to within their countries' borders to a safe haven protected by the international community, as well as presenting an ultimatum to Assad and his family to make way for a transitional government capable of reuniting the country.
This should be done prior to seeing ISIS and its allies tipped against Assad’s regime and his sectarian allies - such as Lebanese Shiite movement Hezbollah - and finally taking their fight to Lebanon and other areas of the Middle East.
ISIS has contributed to focusing the lens of the world on Iraq, and the removal of Maliki was a step in the long road to recreate a viable post-Saddam country.
The world has waited long enough and has been given ample time for the inhumane butchery of innocent Syrians to play out. Let’s not wait for ISIS and al-Nusra Front to battle it out with extremist Alawites and Shiite militias on Syrian soil and beyond before intervening to redress the imbalance in a very post-Arab Spring Middle East.
Mohamed Chebarro is currently an Al Arabiya TV News program Editor. He is also an award winning journalist, roving war reporter and commentator. He covered most regional conflicts in the 90s for MBC news and later headed Al Arabiya’s bureau in Beirut and London.