Striking ISIS without Assad’s permission

Today, Syria has become the home of global terrorism; it is no longer based in Iraq

Abdulrahman al-Rashed
Abdulrahman al-Rashed
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In response to the Syrian foreign minister’s statement on the need to obtain permission from Bashar al-Assad’s government to strike ISIS, British Prime Minister David Cameron has said Assad’s government lacks political legitimacy, so taking its permission before striking ISIS in Syrian territory would not be necessary, in statements made at the NATO summit this week.
Assad will not mind as long as the strikes do not target him later on – if, for example, the mission changes to bombing his forces and the militias fighting for him. Those militias include the Lebanese Hezbollah, Iraqi Assaeb Ahl al-Haq and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps.

The Syrian foreign minister’s goal when requesting that foreign countries take Assad’s permission was to restore the recognition of Assad’s government as heading a sovereign state. It is this notion that Cameron has rejected.

Eradicating ISIS cannot be accomplished with air strikes, especially since terrorist groups are hiding out in city centers

Abdulrahman al-Rashed

The most difficult aspect in all this is that eradicating ISIS cannot be accomplished with air strikes, especially since terrorist groups are hiding out in city centers, using civilians as human shields. This is what al-Qaeda did in Iraq in the past. How will NATO forces and regional allied countries be able to eradicate ISIS with air strikes? The Americans have fiercely fought against al-Qaeda in Iraq for many years with all kinds of weapons, but they were only able to succeed with the help of Iraqi citizens and tribes.

Questioning the effectiveness

Therefore, we question the effectiveness of the “leadership from behind” policy alone. We are also sure that the policy of air strikes will fail too. The solution lies, first and foremost, in “coordinating” with a Syrian ally on the ground. The only Syrian ally ready to fight ISIS, the al-Nusrah Front, Ahrar al-Sham and the rest of these terrorist organizations is the Free Syrian Army (FSA). It is the only national Syrian force that has legitimacy and civil values, gained from popular support. The war on terrorist groups will take up to two years - this is a relatively long period of time that requires arrangements on the ground, just like what happened in Iraq.

Today, Syria has become the home of global terrorism; it is no longer based in Iraq. This is because Syria is home to ISIS’ headquarters, its armies and other terrorist groups. Air strikes alone cannot do much in Syria; the limited support of the FSA cannot succeed in besieging terrorists. The members of the FSA won’t accept turning their attention to fighting ISIS and its affiliates while abandoning the mission of overthrowing Assad.

Their main project is to control the capital, Damascus, and to establish a new government for all Syrians. The new government will be responsible for the liberation of the rest of the Syrian territories from terrorist groups and mercenaries who are fighting alongside the Syrian regime. The new alliance has to recognize and support the FSA, enabling it to take full responsibility and not only be a mere brigade chasing ISIS for the sake of the West and the Arabs.

This article was first published in Asharq al-Awsat on September 5, 2014.


Abdulrahman al-Rashed is the General Manager of Al Arabiya News Channel. A veteran and internationally acclaimed journalist, he is a former editor-in-chief of the London-based leading Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat, where he still regularly writes a political column. He has also served as the editor of Asharq al-Awsat’s sister publication, al-Majalla. Throughout his career, Rashed has interviewed several world leaders, with his articles garnering worldwide recognition, and he has successfully led Al Arabiya to the highly regarded, thriving and influential position it is in today.

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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