ISIS is an unrivaled organization, so says Washington!
ISIS forces are approaching the borders of Saudi Arabia and Jordan; but we have never seen ISIS actively mobilizing against Iran
A senior U.S. official told the media how the Iraqi city of Ramadi fell in the hands of ISIS, adding that the world has never witnessed any organization comparable to ISIS. He said this terrorist group is alarming. He believes that it will be a long war that will be stretched out over the years.
Another U.S. official described how the organization’s fighters surprised Iraqi forces with a sweeping attack using 30 booby-trapped cars in the central area of the city, including ten cars loaded with a huge quantity of explosives, each of which was comparable to the Oklahoma City truck bomb of 1995. He added that ISIS has thousands of foreign fighters volunteering to carry out suicide bombings.
These confessions about the intensifying threats coincided with calls from a Congress to send the 10,000 American troops back to Iraq to fight ISIS, warning that the United States could witness another 9/11.
This fear does not only distress the West; ISIS represents a greatest danger for us Arabs. There is an army of an estimated 20,000 terrorists crawling forward and no one has been able to stop them for a year and a half, despite the magnitude of Iraqi resources, U.S. logistics and intelligence and Iranian support.
ISIS forces are approaching the borders of Saudi Arabia and Jordan; but we have never seen ISIS actively mobilizing against IranAbdulrahman al-Rashed
We are afraid of underestimating the organization’s influence, as many undervalued its predecessor al-Qaeda in the wake of attacks on New York and Washington, almost 14 years ago. They thought the terrorist group will only target the West, but were then shocked to discover that its real target was the Arab region. It has launched many terrorist military operations in Saudi cities for about six years; al-Qaeda’s cruel activities have even reached Morocco.
After identifying the new danger, there is a pressing need to identify the possible scenarios related to ISIS within the regional conflict. Both al-Qaeda and ISIS militants had gathered and crossed from Syria to Iraq. During the years of occupation, U.S. officials had insisted that al-Qaeda is a Sunni terrorist group backed by Gulf states. Many high-ranking figures have said so, such as former Minister of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. The Americans had refused for years to believe the possibility that the Syrian regime and perhaps Tehran too, had been involved in supporting and running al-Qaeda. During their last years in Iraq, the U.S. discovered the truth; they knew that all foreign fighters come to Syria with the knowledge and order of the Syrian intelligence, and later move to Iraq. Thus, U.S. forces have carried out several military operations against Syria and that was enough to stop al- Qaeda’s activities from there. In all cases, it was too late; the U.S. had lost more than 3,000 people in Iraq and decided to withdraw, leaving the country in the hand of groups that are closer to Iran!
Towards the South, not the East
Today, all indictors imply that ISIS indirectly serves both the Syrian and Iranian regimes. If it weren’t for ISIS, the world would not have turned against the Syrian revolution and correspondingly, the al-Assad regime would not have become an indispensable option to counter terrorist groups. If it weren’t for ISIS, we would not have witnessed the growing military influence of Iran in Iraq. ISIS is carrying out attacks in Saudi Arabia, while Houthi militias launch attacks against the Saudis. The outpouring of inciting sectarian messages on Sunni and Shiite social media networks shall not mislead us; many of them are sent by Iranians, or other groups affiliated to Iran in the region. These groups want to create strife in Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states. It is true that ISIS is fighting in Iraq and Syria, but its leaders’ ideology and threats on YouTube are directed at countries such as Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. This is not a spontaneous sectarian conflict; it is rather a regional political conflict that uses sectarian strife for mobilization. When a terrorist group carries out a bombing in a Shiite mosque in Saudi Arabia, we have to understand the attack through the context of the regional conflict, not through the historical ties between the two communities!
ISIS forces are approaching the borders of Saudi Arabia and Jordan; but we have never seen ISIS actively mobilizing against Iran. Thousands of foreign fighters gathered in Syria and attacked southern Sunni areas. They have then crossed the borders towards Iraqi Sunni provinces and seized Mosul, Fallujah, and now Ramadi. They are killing and displacing thousands of people there. They have been continuously crawling in a straight line for a year and a half now, towards the South - not the East.
This article was first published in Asharq al-Awsat on May 23, 2015.
Abdulrahman al-Rashed is the former 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.
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