What comes after ISIS’ defeat?

Washington’s choice to begin from Syria and its refusal to collaborate with Assad in the fight against ISIS indicates that there is a formula of some kind

Raed Omari
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Almost everywhere in the world – and not only in this terror-plagued region – has everyone been waiting for immediate action on the unsurpassed brutality of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). From astonishment to concern then into an earnest plea, we all have sought an end to the hostilities and uncertainties that have engulfed the region with continued ISIS advances.

Now that ISIS is being fiercely embattled by the U.S.-led coalition, the most important question that remains - what is next? I mean, what is the next political step following the elimination, containment and cornering of ISIS, assuming by logic that any military operation is launched within the achievement of certain political goals?


Regardless of the exact number of ISIS fighters - put by intelligence reports as between 20,000 and 50,000 and even 100,000 - the radical group remains within the militia level, I believe, meaning that its elimination or containment is not that much of a difficult job. With Britain’s participation, now there are three superpowers in the 60-plus members of the anti-ISIS alliance.

No army

All in all, let’s not forget that ISIS is neither an organized army nor a sovereign state. It is merely an armed group that benefited immensely from the state of anarchy and lawlessness in Iraq and Syria, with its growing prevalence being no doubt the result America’s indecisiveness on both crisis-hit countries.

Washington’s choice to begin from Syria and its refusal to collaborate with Assad in the fight against ISIS indicates that there is a formula of some kind being put forward for Syria

Raed Omari

But the U.S.’s course of action on ISIS and its very quick decision to hit its posts both in Syria and Iraq makes it legitimate to raise the following questions: Why now? What is the ultimate goal? What is next? When next and how?

Until proven otherwise, terror, or ISIS, has proved to be America’s only stake in Syria and Iraq. Neither the use of chemical weapons in Damascus nor the large-scale suffering of Syrians and Iraqis prompted any game-changing action by the U.S.-led West. But ISIS is a serious threat and to act now is better late than never.

However, that the U.S. is only now deciding to hit ISIS indicates that Washington still deals with the Syrian crisis and the consequent Iraqi dilemma using a reaction rather than action-based approach. The course of action on Syria still lacks the realization that ISIS is just a natural consequence of almost four years of no action on Syria’s unrestraint war. There seems to be a troubling understanding of the cause and effect formula.

Plus, I see no much difference between the way America fought Iraq’s al-Qaeda in 2007 and the way it is leading a fight now against ISIS in Syria and Iraq. In 2007, the alliance of Iraqi Sunni Arab tribes “Sahawat” fought and defeated Iraq’s Al-Qaeda branch with the help of the Iraqi and U.S. armies. The operation culminated in the killing of the group’s leader, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. But the elimination of Zarqawi’s al-Qaeda did not help restore the security and stability of Iraq. It was not even full eradication, only containment, as the now-ISIS is just a defunct offshoot of Iraq’s al-Qaeda.

No guarantee

The same policy is being used now by America and other members of the coalition in their fight against ISIS. Weapons are being pumped into the Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga militias and Arab Sunnis and later maybe to the Free Syrian Army (FSA) who will carry out the ground operations against ISIS. The U.S.-led coalition’s jet fighters will provide air coverage to the advancing troops.

This effort will no doubt succeed in eliminating and weakening ISIS’s abilities, but will not guarantee the restoration of Syria’s and Iraq’s security. More radical groups would emerge in the two countries and ISIS may itself merge into another already existing militia or another one in the making.

In brief, is fighting ISIS more of a means to an end or an end in itself? No clues are provided. Fighting ISIS is not until so far incorporated within a comprehensive solution to the Syrian crisis. There is no mentioning of the nature of the exact role of the FSA in the whole scene, although it has been showing enthusiasm to engage actively in the war and its aftermath.

Assad’s fate

There is even no clear-cut answer to the question concerning the fate of the Syrian regime of President Bashar al-Assad, whose bid to join the anti-ISIS coalition has been refused by Washington. How Assad is exactly perceived by Washington is not clear.

In his speech on airstrikes on Syria, President Obama put Assad on an equal level as ISIS, yet none of the former’s military commands has been targeted by the coalition’s warplanes yet.

Syria is the key to the entire region’s stability and security, full stop. The first step towards eliminating ISIS and other future-remerging radical groups lies first and foremost in finding a comprehensive solution to the Syrian war. Washington’s choice to begin from Syria and its refusal to collaborate with Assad in the fight against ISIS indicates that there is a formula of some kind being put forward for Syria.

But the question now is: how many more would die or be forced to abandon their homes for such a formula to be enforced?

Raed Omari is a Jordanian journalist, political analyst, parliamentary affairs expert, and commentator on local and regional political affairs. His writing focuses on the Arab Spring, press freedoms, Islamist groups, emerging economies, climate change, natural disasters, agriculture, the environment and social media. He is a writer for The Jordan Times, and contributes to Al Arabiya English. He can be reached via [email protected], or on Twitter @RaedAlOmari2

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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