If there is one thing we can learn from the past with regard to terrorism, it is, “Never underestimate the enemy.”
On Sunday June 29th, ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) declared the establishment of an Islamic caliphate – an entity that has not existed since the fall of the Ottoman Empire in 1924.ISIS is what used to be Al Qaeda in Iraq established by Abu Musab Al Zarqawi.
More recently there was a disagreement between Al Qaeda leader Ayman al Zawahiri and ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi on the strategy that should be taken to achieve their goals. Zawahiri is more global oriented whilst Baghdadi is more local oriented. However this move by ISIS may prove to be global in nature.
Al Qaeda’s end goal has always been to establish a world encompassing caliphate. In the past their strategy was via Jihad. However to date, they are no closer to their goal and seem to be more invested in the methods of achieving their goal than their actual goal until now.
Now that a Caliphate was declared, the question of “Why Now?” must be asked.
The short answer is that they want to achieve their final goal, and the first of Ramadan seems like a good day to start. Yet, there is always another more complex reason behind political actions that is not aired publicly.
The attack on the World Trade Center in 2001 was viewed by Al Qaeda as the “Great Provocation” to the western world. The U.S reaction to the attack was exactly as Al Qaeda predicted.
Obama has criticized President Bush’ strategy on the war on terror, and developed his own strategy that he laid out in his speech in Cairo in 2009. He said that only together with the Islamic world can we fight Islamist extremism.
The method of doing this is to use soft power in order to bring moderate Muslims to his side while isolating the extremists. Similarly to the U.S. Presidential elections it is essentially a battle over the moderates.
ISIS may have chosen now to establish the caliphate to provoke the U.S into getting more involved. As poker players know, once you are invested, it is easier to invest a bit more. Two weeks ago, Obama deployed 275 troops into Iraq.
In turn, If there is more involvement, the Muslims in Iraq and other Middle Eastern countries may shift from the center to the more extremist side. Historically, western involvement has always been a reason for radical Islam to rally and wage a jihad against the west.
This New Caliphate may be the provocation needed for the U.S to get a bit more drawn in, and lead to a shift to extremism in the Islamic World. For ISIS it is win/win. If the US does nothing, they will expand further. If the US gets more involved, it will inflate their ranks considerably.
The West must seriously rethink its strategy, as we are getting further and further behind the eight ball.