Summary: Amidst the mad cries for reprisals to the Paris attacks, cries for a wider war and more bloodshed, a few voices speak rationally about the causes of the attacks, our foe’s reasoning, and likely ways to end (rather than expand) the war. This essay by Ahmed Rashid is one of the best I’ve seen. Unfortunately I suspect these voices will be shouted down by louder voices using the attacks for their personal political and economic gains, as they were after 9/11.
“In fact none of these targets is random. What they show is that ISIS is now determined to launch attacks against those states that are waging war against it. … Nothing would be more effective in combating ISIS than the successful conclusion of the joint peace plan that is now being negotiated between the big powers and Syrian groups,…”
By Ahmed Rashid
Blog of the New York Review of Books
16 November 2015
Posted with their generous permission
The massacre of innocents in Paris has brought to the forefront a dramatic shift in ISIS’s tactics and strategy. For some time it has been widely believed that ISIS’s overriding aim is to capture and hold territory and create a single caliphate out of the present borders of the Middle East, rather than trying to bomb the West or pull off spectacular attacks like the toppling of the Twin Towers in New York. Such raids on the so-called “far enemy,” aimed at bringing down the capitalist order, have long been the mission of al-Qaeda; whereas the much newer ISIS, in seeking to conquer the “near enemy” in the Levant, has given priority to establishing its caliphate now.
Yet the recent string of ISIS attacks across the Middle East and now in Europe suggests that its aims, and methods, are more complicated. In October a bombing in Ankara that killed 102 people was blamed on ISIS by the Turkish government. A few weeks later, ISIS’s Sinai affiliate claimed to have brought down a Russian airliner, killing 224 people. On November 12, ISIS claimed responsibility for a double-suicide bombing of a busy shopping street in a Hezbollah stronghold in Beirut that left forty-four people dead. There were bombings in Baghdad. And then there was Paris.
In fact none of these targets is random. What they show is that ISIS is now determined to launch attacks against those states that are waging war against it. Turkey has just given the US government permission to use some of its airbases for strikes against ISIS; Hezbollah is helping Bashar al-Assad fight ISIS. The Russians are now bombing ISIS and other groups, while the French are crucial partners in the anti-ISIS coalition. French warplanes bombing ISIS from runways in the Gulf states are about to get a fresh boost as the French government sends its only aircraft carrier to the Gulf.
ISIS’s message is thus clear — the group is waging an all-out deliberate war against all those countries that are lining up to fight it.