Global leadership lacking in 2014

Are terrorists gaining international respectability?

Khalaf Ahmad Al Habtoor

Published: Updated:

Are terrorists gaining international respectability? That question isn’t as ridiculous as it may sound. The other day, while watching a popular news channel, I was stunned by a ticker that read “U.N. Secretary-General urges [ISIS] captors of Jordanian pilot, whose warplane was shot down in Syria, to treat him ‘in accordance with international humanitarian law’.”

What on earth was Ban Ki-Moon thinking when he is the voice of an organization representing 193 member states? Does he seriously expect bombers, torturers and rapists, who’ve been slicing off heads and selling women in a slave market, to abide by the Geneva Conventions or humanitarian law? And, moreover, the very suggestion gives those creatures and their “caliphate” international recognition. What is the world coming to?

There is a sword hanging over all our heads. Yet, most Arab countries are turning a blind eye

Khalaf Ahmad al-Habtoor

There’s no getting away from it, 2014 was a good year for terrorists. Why, because the former world’s policeman, the United States, along with its traditional allies, has been falling short in their job. The Commander-in-Chief of America’s Armed Forces President Obama has failed in his efforts to eradicate “the Islamic State” in Iraq and Syria, even though it poses a threat to many other regional states as well U.S. interests.

Empowering a band of killers

Such ineffectiveness not only empowers this band of killers, it entices more recruits. According to Hisham Al-Hashimi, a security expert based in Baghdad, the Islamic State’s numbers have swelled to 100,000, whereas a year ago, it was estimated to have no more than 15,000 – 20,000 fighters.

Almost all military strategists agree that merely dropping bombs won’t cut it, including U.S. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Martin Dempsey and former U.S. Defence Secretary Robert Gates. Senator Lindsey Graham told CNN “There is no way I can see to fix the problem in Iraq and Syria without American ground troops. The job of the commander-in-chief is to protect the country…”

In the meantime, rather than run to rat holes to hide from U.S. might, ISIS terrorists are establishing state institutions and running social programs, says German reporter Jurgen Todenhofer, who was given access to the group’s territory in northern Iraq and was lucky enough to return home alive.

Fighters have an “incredible enthusiasm and sense of victory” he told the BBC, adding that he saw hundreds flooding in daily from all over the world to join them. They boast about being willing to kill millions, he said, claiming al-Qaeda is “peanuts” in comparison. Interestingly, he maintains, “only Arabs can stop ISIS, the Western countries will never stop ISIS.” I don’t necessarily agree with that statement. If the West showed determination, ISIS would hardly rate a mention in history books. U.S.-led coalitions have unseated Saddam Hussein, Muammar Qaddafi, the Taliban and numerous Latin American regimes.

Arabs are under the greatest threat

Nevertheless, Todenhofer has a point. Arabs are under the greatest threat. There is a sword hanging over all our heads. Yet, most Arab countries are turning a blind eye. A few have engaged their air forces, but they can’t finish the job on their own. If the Arab world joined hands to share human intelligence, surveillance capabilities, military hardware, airpower and manpower, ISIS would be decimated in a matter of months.

With our region collapsing like a house of cards due to terror organizations, such as ISIS, al-Qaeda and the al-Nusra Front in Syria and Iraq, Shiite Houthi rebels in Yemen, Ansar Beit al-Maqdis in the Egyptian Sinai Peninsula and Ansar al-Sharia in Libya – all different facets of the same coin - questions must be asked.

For instance, why is ISIS’s siege on 350 villages near the Syrian town of Kobane, close to the Turkish border, still ongoing? Clearly coalition airstrikes have achieved little in more than three months.

Secondly, when the world and its wife are aware that Turkey is reportedly being used as a transit destination, why isn’t President Recep Tayyip Erdogan being asked to explain himself?

Thirdly, how was ISIS created? Where does its weapons and funding come from? Which countries are buying its stolen oil? And why aren’t those states being internationally sanctioned?

Lastly, are were seriously to believe that the world’s most militarily advanced nations with the planet’s most sophisticated surveillance and intelligence capabilities are impotent to stem terrorism’s proliferation in the Middle East or to liberate captured territories where civilians are crying out to be rescued? President Obama has left those victims to the wolves just as he earlier failed to rescue the Syrian people from the missiles, the chemical attacks and the prisons of one of the most brutal dictators the world has ever known. Likewise, he didn’t succeed to thwart Yemen becoming an Iranian hub since Houthi rebels stormed the capital in September and imposed conditions on Yemen’s government. Yemen is now a terrorists’ free-for-all. An al-Qaeda in Yemen even has the audacity to launch a magazine dedicated to “Jihad on America” with tips on how to blow-up commercial airliners.

Who should be held responsible for this mess all around us? I am not in position to be able to accurately pinpoint blame because I don’t have access to insider intelligence. But these questions are valid and deserve answers.

In short, 2014 will be remembered as a perilous year in a world without decisive leadership. No leader has displayed heroic qualities. No leader has had the courage of his convictions. In short, most have been a disappointment. Unless they miraculously come to their senses, we can only trust in the Creator’s mercy. Happy New Year! May God make it so!


Khalaf Ahmad al-Habtoor is a prominent UAE businessman and public figure. He is Chairman of the Al Habtoor Group - one of the most successful conglomerates in the Gulf. Al Habtoor is renowned for his knowledge and views on international political affairs; his philanthropic activity; his efforts to promote peace; and the has long acted as an unofficial ambassador for his country abroad.Writing extensively on both local and international politics, he publishes regular articles in the media and has released a number of books. Al-Habtoor began his career as an employee of a local UAE construction firm and in 1970 established his own company, Al Habtoor Engineering. The UAE Federation, which united the seven emirates under the one flag for the first time, was founded in 1971 and this inspired him to undertake a series of innovative construction projects – all of which proved highly successful.

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.
Top Content Trending