Fighting ISIS means suffocating it without mercy

In his many diatribes, Terrorist-in-Chief Osama bin Laden had a recurring theme

Octavia Nasr
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In his many diatribes, Terrorist-in-Chief Osama bin Laden had a recurring theme: A deeply rooted desire to “bring America to its knees” by dragging it out or luring it into conflict and letting it “bleed to death.”

One of George W. Bush’s unforgivable mistakes involved stepping right into the trap:

1. In Afghanistan, the U.S. did not commit ground troops in December 2001 in Tora Bora where intelligence located without a doubt the cave where Osama bin Laden was hiding with his key al-Qaeda terrorists. Imagine how different things would have been had the U.S. nabbed Bin Laden then. Instead, Bin Laden lived to tell in an audio message the tale of his “unbelievable” survival.

2. To distract from the failure against Taliban and the al-Qaeda, Bush launched his war on Saddam Hussein, even fabricating information to justify an attack on Iraq. Without an exit strategy and without a clear plan for transition and rehabilitation of the Iraqi army, Bush allowed the insurgency to be born, the Sunni-Shiite rift to surface, and a civil war to ensue. Refugees and violence spilled over to Kurdistan and Syria. They affected Iran, Turkey and Jordan.

Obama’s policies following the Arab uprisings and his flagrant hesitant stance in Syria added salt to the already gushing wound

Octavia Nasr

3. Iraq’s disarray provided terror groups and fundamentalist organizations a fertile ground for the genesis of the “Islamic State” project under several banners all the way to ISIS. Many regional players benefitting from this strife fueled it. The United States with its inaction or delayed reaction fanned the flames of sedition.

Obama’s policies following the Arab uprisings and his flagrant hesitant stance in Syria added salt to the already gushing wound. ISIS was born, a robust terror group, in the midst of disintegrating regimes, corrupt dictatorships and weakened governments:

ISIS’ agenda

In contrast to Arab regimes, ISIS has:

a. Clear political agenda: Spreading their version of Islam and establishing a “Caliphate.”

b. Sophisticated infrastructure to finance, train, propagate, recruit and grow.

c. Successful communication system that is hard to infiltrate.

d. Message that targets - and seems to work - on disenfranchised youth especially those living in the west.

If it is not dealt with decisively now, ISIS will soon become a credible force to be reckoned with and will be able to drag the U.S. into more quagmires.

If the U.S. is serious about fighting ISIS, it should do so simultaneously at several levels: Politically and militarily through alliances and focused, relentless boots on the ground crackdown and strategically, through driving its regional allies towards real reform. All powers must commit to a strategy of absolutely no mercy in dealing with extremism no matter what banner it hides behind even if the banner is that of religion.

It is a tall order but it’s doable; it beats the alternative of a long, bloody war that looms in the horizon.

This article was first published in al-Nahar on September 8, 2014.

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Multi-award-winning journalist Octavia Nasr served as CNN’s senior editor of Middle Eastern affairs, and is regarded as one of the pioneers of the use of social media in traditional media. She moved to CNN in 1990, but was dismissed in 2010 after tweeting her sorrow at the death of Hezbollah’s Mohammed Fadlallah. Nasr now runs her own firm, Bridges Media Consulting, whose main aim is to help companies better leverage the use of social networks.

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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