A quick review of recent news on the international response to crimes committed by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) reads as follows:
The United States provided the Syrian regime with data on the sites of current ISIL strongholds inside Syria and on the Syrian Iraqi border in Raqqa, Deir al-Zor and Aleppo. Syrian security authorities declared that the US and Syria had embarked on joint cooperation to combat terrorism, and that this enabled the Syrian air force to wage more than 120 raids against ISIL in one day.
US President Barack Obama vowed to pursue a long-term strategy to battle ISIL which already dominates wide swathes of land in Iraq and Syria. He said that US air strikes had helped Iraqi and Kurdish forces recapture Mosul Dam from the hands of the terrorists. Obama said that as soon as an Iraqi government is formed and political stability reigns, the Middle East and the whole world will be more prepared to offer aid to fight the ISIL takfiris. Takfiris are Islamic extremists who pronounce anyone who does not follow their version of faith as kafara (apostates).
Western political circles were overcome by shock and horror at video footage showing the beheading of American journalist James Foley at the hands of ISIL terrorists. President Obama warned that this terrorist organisation must be eradicated. When Americans are targeted, he said, the US does everything necessary to see that justice is done.
UK Prime Minister David Cameron cut his vacation short to chair emergency meetings to look into the necessary steps to combat ISIL. French President François Hollande called for an international convention to discuss security in Iraq, confirming that the threat ISIL poses surpasses by far the threat posed by al-Qaeda back in 2001.
Amid international anticipation of more US strikes against ISIL, US Secretary of Defence Chuck Hagel warned that the ISIL threat was beyond anything seen before. Hagel said that air strikes alone would not be enough to achieve a sweeping victory, and that the US was looking into the possibility of supporting regional powers to confront and eradicate ISIL.
On 3 August I broached the topic of ISIL and the horrendous crimes it committed against Iraq’s Christians. I deplored the passivity of the US and its European allies towards the torture, banishment, rape, and seizure of property of the Christians of Mosul who refused to convert to Islam. This passivity, I insisted, stood in stark contrast to the active intervention by the US and NATO back in the 1990s to save the Muslims of Bosnia and Herzegovina from ethnic cleansing at the hands of the Serbs and Croats. I concealed neither my sorrow nor my rejection of the apparent international apathy vis-à-vis Iraq’s Christians. Even international organisations had nothing but feeble response to offer; the Arab League had only its customary verbal condemnation, and the United Nations assumed its usual role of behaving like water—colourless, tasteless, odourless.
I can now see a drastic turn in events, indicating that the time to eradicate ISIL and save the Christians of Iraq and Syria is fast approaching, and might even extend to undermine terrorism and conflict in Libya. The incident that sparked this change, the slaughter of the American journalist, calls to mind how the Japanese attack against Pearl Harbor changed the tide in WWII.
If the time for deliverance from ISIL is near, will the western military machine alone move to do the job? The US has officially declared war against ISIL after it took the savage killing of Foley to be a terrorist act against the country. But it also said the task would not be easy, given that ISIL is heavily armed, its forces are spread far and wide on the ground, and it gets huge funding from sources that are as yet unidentified.
In 1991 when Saddam Hussein’s forces advanced into Kuwait, Arab armies led by those of Egypt and Saudi Arabia joined the US military to force Hussein’s troops out of Kuwait. I wish that the coming days would bring in a scenario similar to that of the liberation of Kuwait. True, it was the beheading of an American journalist that awoke the American giant, but it would be honourable for the Arab States to give up the lip service they have so far paid, and actively participate in ridding themselves of the lurking takfiri peril.
31 August 2014