As Washington and the EU dithered, ISIS expanded in Syria and Iraq. More recently, after Islamist militias in Libya took over the capital, Tripoli, Al-Qaeda and its allies now appear poised to take over the rest of the country.
Understandably, when there are too many fires – including the latest in Gaza , which has just subsided, and the Ukraine crisis, which is approaching boiling point , it is difficult to know where to start.
Even if there is a will to act, the problem of available resources and allies are daunting. Not to mention the law of unintended consequences, as we have seen in Iraq and Libya. You remove one dictator, and you get something even worse.
But the moral of the past few months is that when the EU and Washington do not act, someone else will. Putin in Ukraine is a powerful and painful reminder. And the Middle East is another stark example of the vacuum created as a result of Washington hesitating and the EU waiting for Obama to make up his mind. As a result, regional players are taking matter into their own hands by waging proxy wars against each other, wars that threaten to engulf the entire region, with far reaching consequences for the rest of the world. And who would blame them !
A rudderless Middle East concerns everyone. Those in the West who argue against intervention by saying that this is an internal Islamic-Arabic conflict that may take decades or generations to resolve are only partly true. In a globalised and interconnected world, fires spread faster than you think. And the Islamist menace is just that kind of fire, it does not –as history has shown — stay within the borders of any one country.
ISIS’s initial success in Iraq and Syria is encouraging like-minded groups in Libya and West Africa. More yet to come, if those who have the power to act, continue to procrastinate.
Nearly 200,000 Syrians were killed by the Assad regime, millions driven into exile, tens of thousands killed in Iraq, and millions more forced to fee their homes, thus creating the worst humanitarian disaster since the second world war. Yet, it was the murder of a Western journalist by the ISIS terrorists that shocked Washington and EU into some form of action !
If we put to one side the tribalist dynamics of the Western response for a moment, Libya remains widely off the radar. The statements from the US, EU or the UN are bland and toothless when compared with the ferocity of the conflict and its potential consequences. The Isalmist menace is not only a threat to neighbouring countries, Egypt to the east and Algeria and Tunisia to the West but the entire world, an especially the EU. Can you imagine, a Libyan ISIS in control of this vast and rich country at the heart of North Africa and only a couple of hours away from Europe’s southern shores !
Qatar has been providing both money and weapons to the Muslim Brothers militias and other Jihadi groups in Libya, just as it has channelled money to jihadis in Syria and Iraq. And it got away with it. When someone decided to act to stem the expansion of Al-Qaeda in North Africa (the media has pointed the finger at Egypt and UAE, but no one has produced conclusive evidence), there was angry reactions from Washington and the EU followed by some futile pieces of advice.
The question then is why are the Western powers not pressuring the rulers of tiny Qatar, Al-Thani, to stop their megalomaniac pursuits at the expense of everyone else !Why Egyptian or Emirati intervention in Libya –assuming that was the case – is so dangerous to peace and stability and not the Qatari !
Stopping the global jihadi movement – of which the Muslim Brothers are the chief representative – from setting the entire Middle East on fire requires not only clarity of vision , but also a readiness and determination to act, because any hesitation would be used by those who have been on the war path for decades, those eager to die for a cause.
Osama Bin Laden once said addressing the West : You love life, we love death ? That is precisely what the fighters of ISIS are today telling their enemies in the region and beyond.
Admittedly, it must be hard to take on someone who is so eager to die, someone whose ultimate goal is “martyrdom” [ which is , incidentally, the slogan of the Muslim Brothers], but if you don’t take the fight to them, they will bring it to your doorstep. The wars raging in the Middle East will not stay within its borders. [this piece is written for IslamistGate]