The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, which is as well popularly christened the IS or Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, is presently an international Sunni Islamist terrorist, as well as insurgent, group. Presently, it is in firm control of considerably large Syrian and Iraqi territories. As well, it has considerably pockets of adherents spread across other nation-states (Prados, 2015). It remains rather keen on disrupting global, as well as regional, security and peace with violent, terrorist acts. The terrorist acts associated with the ISIS in recent times especially in Iraq, as well as Syria, have demonstrated its continued capability for jeopardizing and threatening the security of human populations in the US, Europe, Africa, and the Middle East (Bailey & Immerman, 2015). The US is threatened by the ISIS regardless of its capable and sophisticated security forces along with intelligence agencies. The US has put forth various policy proposals regarding how to eliminate the threat posed by the ISIS. In recent times, it appears that the US has adopted a containment policy, or strategy, to decimate the threat. Principally, this paper explores various facets of the ISIS and the effectiveness of the policy in dealing with the threat.
The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant
Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant’s Ideology
The ISIL’s ideology is an exceptionally hard-hitting version of violent jihadist Islamism, Salafism. Its adherents are enthusiastic about employing violence in establishing with they conceptualize as a model, or ideal, Islamic community worldwide. Their understanding of Islam is hinged on a particular appreciation of Prophet Mohammed’s life, the life led by the prophet’s followers as well as particular historically significant Islamic events (Glint, 2014). Consequently, the ISIL beliefs are especially activist, violent, and uncompromising of wider ideological persuasions that have promoted the conflict and extremism that have by and large typified the world of Sunni Islam in recent times. Although supporters of the ISIL may express some peaceful Salafist Sunni views, the adherents of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant are distinct from them on two principal aspects: their preferred approach and their views on the attributes of the model Islamic faith. Leading ISIL figures characterize the organization as a direct successor of the approach adopted by the prophet. Notably, many Sunni Muslims disagree with that characterization (Prados, 2015).
The religious minorities, Shiite Muslims, Christians, and Jews, inhabiting areas predominated by Sunni Muslims are frequently expelled from the areas by the ISIL. The ISIL not only expels them but also seizes or destroys their possessions to force them to adopt the violent ISIL ideology. At times, ISIL adherents kidnap, assault, and murder religious minorities or force them into sexual slavery. The ISIL as well targets various ethnic populations. It systematically and deliberately suppresses the populations with an aim of expelling, cleansing or destroying them.
By and large, the religious, as well as ethnic, populations targeted by the ISIL are viewed by its adherents as being in breach of indeterminate accords with the model Muslim, which would necessitate the defense that they call for in respected Islamic texts such as the Quran. As well, the ISIL threatens the US and her allies, most of who are seen as representing Christendom (Bailey & Immerman, 2015). The ISIL has made various partners of the US in Europe, as well as the Middle East, as unfriendly, or hostile, targets. The partners, including Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Jordan, are projected as agents that partake in a conspiracy led by the US against the interests of Sunni Muslims.
The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant’s principal tactic and strategy are transnational terrorism. It has executed many terrorist attacks, which have occasioned thousands of deaths, in many nation-states, including Iraq along with Syria. ISIL leaders have since 2012 threatened the US with such attacks. The leaders common typify the US and its allies that are predominated by non-Muslim populations as crusaders (Glint, 2014). The leaders encourage ISIL adherents to execute the attacks against specific interests, facilities, and persons within the US or areas superintended by the US or any of the Notably, the organization characterizes such an engagement as a forerunner of the apocalyptic wars predicated by specific Islamic literature. The ISIL frequently issues goading statements that come off as meant to provoke such an engagement (Bailey & Immerman, 2015).
It appears that the terrorist attacks blamed on the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant may be a significant tactic, or strategy, in a wide-ranging calculated effort aimed at drawing adversaries into a direct and extensive military conflict. That view is particularly bolstered by the actuality that the organization has in recent times developed and continually strengthened a peripheral operations agenda, which it implements with lethal consequences (Spark, 2014). It appears that organization is motivated to continue employ transnational terrorism as its lead strategy by its keenness on signaling persistent momentum regardless of the battlefield losses and limited progress it continues to suffer especially in Iraq as well as Syria.
(Glint, 2014). Clearly, the organization is principally dependent on the weapons it captured from the deposed Iraqi government under Saddam Hussein. As well, it captured stockpiles of weapons from the forces that engaged in the Syrian Civil War. The weapons include military aircraft, surface to air missiles, guns as well as armor.
For close to a decade, the principal goal of the ISIL has been to establish a caliphate, or state, ran on Sunni Islamic ideals. Particularly, the organization seeks to have the caliphate ruled by Sunni Islamic religious leaders under a caliph, al-Baghdadi, who is to be taken as the prophet’s successor from his lineage (Prados, 2015; United States, 2015). Al-Baghdadi demands the loyalty of every committed Muslim globally in line with Islamic law or jurisprudence (Spark, 2014).
The organization projects itself as keen on ensuring that the world is full of Islamic justice and truth and ending the tyranny and falsehood that it associates with ignorance. ISIL fighters are keen on conquering the world by eliminating every religion that supports democratic ideals. The fighters are indoctrinated to think of other religions as have marked enthusiasm to kills persons in masses. By and large, the organization seeks to establish military, political, as well as religious, authority or control over every Muslim.
Analysis of Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant Attacks
The attacks launched by the ISIL are aimed at terrorizing, polarizing, and mobilizing targeted populations and compel enemy governments to take actions that they would otherwise restrain themselves from taking promptly (Glint, 2014). The attacks are meant to mobilize the organization’s supporters by being spectacularly deadly. They are aimed at driving a growing wedge between Muslims and their civilian leaders, or governments, making the ISIL caliphate more and more appealing to the Muslims (Bailey & Immerman, 2015).
The ISIL has been keen on diversifying and widening its terrorist attacks against what it considers Zionist enemies and crusader enemies internationally to ensure that the enemies do not form credible alliances against it, thus draining the enemies to the greatest degree possible. Especially, the organization has been keen on attacking soft targets on its enemies’ soils to weaken them.
Commonly, the ISIL publicizes the mass civilian killings and executions it does to instill in own adherents worldviews that are sublime and sacred and to scare its enemies and those doubtful about joining it. The publicizing is as well aimed at breaking its subjects and captives psychologically to guarantee their unquestioning allegiance via intimidation and fear.
Statements and Propaganda
The ISIL views Islam, Islamic traditions, and Islamic texts as authentic if they are ahistorical. The propaganda materials and statements that it issues project its views and actions as being in line with traditional Islamic practices founded in Islamic literature along with jurisprudence. Frequently, the organization’s leaders refer to varied forceful Sunni views on the intricate past of Islamic practice and faith. The views especially include those expressed by Taqi Addin Ahmed Ibn Taymiyyah, a renowned 14th-century polemicist and scholar, and Mohammed ibn Abd al Wahhab. Al Wahhab was a Salafist revivalist and leader in the 18th century (Prados, 2015).
The organization’s propaganda projects all its adherents and fighters as deeply dedicated to the ideology of the group. Even then, it is clear that it is not possibly to have all its adherents and fighters as deeply subscribe to the same ideology given that it is a combination of local and overseas forces in its ranks. Some supporters habiting the areas under the organization’s control pledge fealty to the organization merely to survive or settle neighborhood rows with those averse to the rise of the organization. The organization projects the US, her allies in the Middle East, and her allies elsewhere as the greatest enemies of the model Islamic community (Glint, 2014).
The US Containment Policy Against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant Introduction and Explanation of the Containment Policy
The US has in recent times led an alliance, or coalition, of nations keen on degrading and ultimately destroying the ISAL via the gradual decimation of its political and geographic space, fighters, and resource bases (Spark, 2014). The US has several strategies and policies that are relevant to the question of decimating the space. The strategies include partnering with specific Arab and European nation-states, containing the ISIL militarily, supporting the ground forces of Syria along with Iraq, gathering along with sharing relevant intelligence, constraining the flow of foreigners to join ISIL fighter ranks, and disruption the organization’s flow of finances (Glint, 2014). This paper focuses on the containment strategy, or policy, of the US, which is aimed at decimating the space.
Notably, containment, which is a military approach, or strategy, is geared towards stopping enemies’ expansion or growth (Spark, 2014). The US and own allies used the approach widely during the Cold War era to forestall the extension of communism overseas. During the era, the US and the allies employed the approach and the related policy in responding to the Soviet Union’s successive moves aimed at expanding communism into Vietnam, Africa, Korea, China, and much of Europe (Bailey & Immerman, 2015). A containment policy represents a compromise between rollback and détente. Parties or states that adopt the policy let their enemies elect the time and venue of confrontations between them (Prados, 2015).
The containment policy of the US regarding the ISIL is especially geared towards walling the organization into a more and more limited geographical space or territory and then leaving it to fail independently; owing to internal discord, economic challenges, and mismanagement as opposed to external forces. The overall thinking that has informed the policy is that the organization benefits from the vast resources that it finds in the territories its gains control over and thus should be held back from any new conquests to starve it of the resources it requires.
Originally, the ISIL executed atrocious murders of hostages from the West to provoke American and own allies to react in ways that may trigger an apocalyptic military conflict or war. Even then, the organization has been struggling to force such an outcome owing to containment. The organization is devoid of hostages from the West, whom it would have helped it in exploiting the West, including the US (United States, 2015). There is a common argument that so far, the containment approach has been effective since it has helped shift the focus of the organization to war-zone attacks. As well, the containment approach has been effective owing to the continuing fear-mongering regarding refugees from Syria along with all Muslims by the media and some Republic Party figures in the US (Spark, 2014; United States, 2015).
The strategy has helped the US avoid the losses that it would have suffered possibly if it has a ground force fighting the ISIL. The aversion to going for an all-out military assault against the ISIL is informed by the actuality that it would lead to freeing up, or disengagement, of thousands of ISIL fighters who police the model Islamic nation-state and run its checkpoints. The fighters would become rather available to partake in terrorism attacks (Prados, 2015).
The US’ military actions against the ISIL should be appreciated in the light of the containment policy. In recent times, the US-led alliance, or coalition, has struck ISIL’s Syrian along with Iraqi targets using armed unmanned-aerial vehicles, and combat aircraft along with sea-launched cruise missiles. The targets have been hit to forestall the advancing of ISAL fighters and decimate the related threats to the alliance’s personnel as well as Iraqi religious minorities (Prados, 2015). In recent times, the alliance has struck the targets in support of the Kurdish and Iraqi forces’ offensive, as well as defensive, military acts to compromise the organization’s capability of supporting own operations from own Syrian strongholds.
As well, in recent times, the alliance has been striking ISIL personnel directly outside Iraqi along with Syria. By and large, the alliance’s military engagements against the organization come off as aimed at maintaining, as well as expanding, territorial superintendence lines within Syria along with Iraq (Glint, 2014). The engagements are a reflection of the US’ containment, as well as the fractional reversal, of the organization’s advances in specific areas or territories.
Analysis of the Strength of the Information Gathered on Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant
As noted earlier, the overall thinking that has informed the policy is that the ISIL benefits from the vast resources that it finds in the territories its gains control over and thus should be held back from any new conquests to starve it of the resources it requires. Clearly, the organization cannot be held back from new territories indefinitely. It is expected that the continued holding back of the organization will end when it gets to a tipping point, where it is expected to collapse promptly (Spark, 2014). Unfortunately, the US and other nations fighting the organization are devoid of information, or intelligence, on how long it may take before the containment occasions the organization’s collapse.
The information that the US intelligence teams gather on the ISIL is seen as erroneous at times (Glint, 2014). (Bailey & Immerman, 2015). Even then, it is clear that the organization continues to execute extensive attacks even outside Syria as well as Iraq. Presently, the organization cannot be appreciated as contained but rather as rampant.
The intelligence that informs the overall American approach to the ISIL question is seen as rather insufficient to deal with the question promptly. For instance, at one point, on the strength of the information, the US send only 50 special troops to support rebel groups fighting the organization in Syria (United States, 2015). The troops were too few to offer adequate support to the rebel groups. The troops were too few to make a significant impact on the question. There have been suggestions that the US should invest in gathering intelligence on how to contain the organization rapidly by stabilizing Libya, Sinai, Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq, and Pakistan (Prados, 2015).
Despite these failings, the intelligence, and information available to the US has been effective in helping the alliance cut off most of the ISIL’s revenue streams. The alliance has considerably succeeded in disrupting the streams. The alliance has significantly constrained the organization’s access to official fiscal systems. It has imposed rather effective sanctions on those who facilitate the group financially.
Is the Containment Policy Sufficient?
By and large, the US containment policy for dealing with the ISIL has proved effective, or sufficient. Even then, the defeating of the organization (Bailey & Immerman, 2015).
Any other approach apart from the containment strategy would most likely breed resistance among local populations, offering a fertile ground for the emergence of terrorist groups in the mold of ISIL and al Qaeda, or the strengthening of the extant terrorist groups. Presently, there are indications the containment approach continues to bear fruit. The organization has had marked difficulties in gaining additional territories and its grip on the territories it seats on has been weakening over time. Its ability to exploit resources in the territories has been compromised severely as at now (United States, 2015).
Specific Recommendations for Policy Changes
- The containment approach should be strengthened by gathering intelligence on how long it may take before the containment occasions the organization’s collapse. As noted earlier, the organization cannot be held back from new territories indefinitely.
- The containment approach should be strengthened by ensuring that the accuracy of the intelligence which informs the approach is established before being used.
- The US should invest in gathering intelligence on how to contain the organization rapidly by stabilizing Libya, Sinai, Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq, and Pakistan.
The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, which is as well popularly christened the IS or ISIS, is presently an international Sunni Islamist terrorist, as well as insurgent, group. The ISIL’s ideology is an exceptionally hard-hitting version of violent jihadist Islamism, Salafism. The ISIL’s principal tactic and strategy is transnational terrorism. By and large, the US containment policy for dealing with the ISIL has proved effective, or sufficient. The containment policy of the US regarding the ISIL is especially geared towards walling the organization into a more and more limited geographical space or territory and then leaving it to fail independently; owing to internal discord, economic challenges, and mismanagement as opposed to external forces. There are indications that the continued conflict between the ISIL and the US and other nations may be challenging, violent, expensive, and protracted. The organization’s violent fanatics and transnational appeal are likely to persist in compelling American policymakers to deal with intricate issues regarding the containment approach, utilization of military resources, civil and privacy liberties, identity, national strategic priorities, diplomatic negotiations, religious liberties, immigration, and intelligence sharing.