Confronting ISIS requires new strategy
Multiple terror attacks hit three continents on June 26th. The bloody attacks took different forms: A suicide bombing in a Shia mosque in Kuwait; shooting of tourists at a beach resort in Tunis; decapitation of a French businessman by his Arab Muslim employee in Lyon, France.
The first two attacks were claimed by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), a group that has its base in large parts of those countries and has inspired many extremists worldwide to join it and in some cases to break ranks with al-Qaeda and pay allegiance to it.
The third attack was clearly inspired by ISIS’s beheadings of hostages and prisoners, which the world grew accustomed to seeing on the internet sites of the terrorist group and news organisations. ISIS has turned execution into an art by broadcasting its various ways of killing its victims: drowning, shooting, burning alive, blowing up or beheading.
Tunisian President Beji Caid Essebsi made an honest declaration after the brutal attack that claimed the lives of 38 beachgoers, mostly European tourists, by saying his country stands helpless in front of the waves of terrorism.
France is one of the world’s great powers while Tunisia is a small third world country with limited resources. Yet both stood equally helpless in the face of modern-day terrorism.
The terrorist threat is no longer an ordinary security threat police are used to dealing with. Like the assailants in the June 26th attacks, many attackers nowadays are people without a known history of violence and have no track record of associating with terror groups.
The attackers in Tunis and France were described as ordinary people — Muslims believed to have been inspired by ISIS.
How can security people deal with a threat that enters people’s minds through cyberspace? It is impossible.
The ISIS appeal to young men has become a serious issue worldwide and no longer confined to those who have served in the ranks of the group in Iraq and Syria. People who were living ordinary lives are being transformed into mass murderers and sadistic killers.
Security and intelligence agencies are facing a tough challenge. They simply cannot watch every single Muslim living in or passing through their country. They just do not have the manpower and in some cases lack the necessary technology to do so.
Families and friends of the would-be terrorists are also having a hard time coping with the new reality. Each of the attackers in Tunis and France was described as a very ordinary person behaving normally just a day before the attacks.
In Kuwait, the bomber was a Saudi who had never left the country before or been suspected of affiliating with terrorist groups, according to Saudi and Kuwaiti security sources. However, he was known to be a reserved person with extremist ideas.
ISIS apparently managed to reach and recruit him for the attack on the Shia mosque that killed 27 people.
Kuwaiti authorities have arrested the alleged driver who picked up the suicide bomber and took him to his target, and they have clamped down on random civil society groups raising funds for Syrian rebel fighters but also indirectly providing cover to shadowy organisations associated with ISIS and other terrorist groups.
Tunis decided to close 80 mosques where radical clerics were preaching fiery sermons that could make young people prone to ISIS propaganda.
However, the problem is much bigger than the sermons. There are dozens of television stations and websites reachable by people around the world that are caught up in the current sectarian war sweeping the Middle East, and all of them are spreading radicalism and inspiring violent extremism.
These various media outlets and communication tools are being used to poison the minds of young people and turn them into walking undetectable time bombs.
Unless the international community puts in place a mechanism to monitor and censor cyber agitators the world will likely lose the war on terrorism.
The war on ISIS should not be allowed to drag on indefinitely. The strategy in fighting the group, which is laid out by the US-led international alliance, must be revised at once to bring about a quick and decisive victory without regards to the interests of some regional players who themselves have become victims of ISIS attacks.
The strategy calls for limited air campaign with the objective of weakening and degrading ISIS capabilities while building Iraqi military forces and training moderate Syrian rebels to be capable of leading the land offensive to uproot the terrorists from Iraqi and Syrian territories.