The US should not lose its head fighting ISIS

After ISIS beheaded two Americans the United States wants to return the favor. The American goal is not actually to do the same to ISIS’ men i.e. to cut their heads off, but to destroy that fanatic entity.

The American dilemma is how not to lose its head i.e. not to get entangled in the Iraqi – Syrian quagmire. The solution to this problem starts in the head, of ISIS. The United States would probably strive to implement a strategy known as decapitation, aiming at annihilating the leadership of an organization / state and by that to cripple and even neutralize it. The United States managed in 2011 to kill Osama Ben laden but Al – Qaida survived, yet with ISIS a similar blow could have more impact.

In September 2013 the United States almost attacked the Syrian regime of Bashar al Assad because he used chemical weapons against his people. Now the United States is attacking inside Syria but the target is not Assad, who continues to use chemical weapons, but ISIS because the latter is considered to be more toxic. Assad, seeing the American air attack inside his country after a year delay, could sarcastically tell himself: better late than never…since he should be pleased seeing his foes, the United States and Gulf Arab states, bash his sworn enemies, ISIS. This is kind of a win – win situation for Assad, in spite of the certain humiliation for him because his many rivals do as they wish in areas that until recent years had been under his control.

American and Arab planes bombed together inside Syria as they did in another Arab state – Iraq- in 1991. Then the nemesis of the Middle East was Iraq’s Saddam Hussein and today it is ISIS. Compared with the horrible video productions of ISIS, showing their Human guillotines at work, Saddam Hussein’s TV shows were relatively moderate, like when he fired with his gun into the air with the crowd cheering. Maybe, following his downfall, his most known video was his execution (almost 15 million viewed that on YouTube). Saddam Hussein was hanged, which symbolized the end of its regime. ISIS, which includes some of Saddam’s men and promotes itself by videos, might too end in one of them. If you rely on the internet you might find your end game there.

ISIS cannot shoot down the planes attacking its men but they can find cover. Furthermore air power would not be enough to defeat ISIS. There is a need of a strong ground force to confront ISIS. But this would not happen soon. In Iraq the local Sunnis support ISIS or stay neutral. The Iraqis Shiites barely manage to defend the capital city. It is doubtful if they could kick out let alone destroy ISIS in Iraq. Anyway the Iraqi Shiites would not go to Syria. The same could be said about Iraqi Kurds although the latter might wish to create a big Kurdistan i.e. to unite their people who live in four countries: Iraq, Iran, Syria and Turkey. At least the Kurds could strive for a state in Iraq and Syria, two countries which are close to becoming failed states, particularly in the areas where the Kurds are.

In recent days military history was made. In one part of Syria for the first time the F- 22 fighter aircraft was in combat while on the other side of Syria for the first time an Israeli patriot antiaircraft missile shot down an Arab plane. At the same time American and Arab planes bombed inside Syria, Israel intercepted a Syrian plane within its border. This is another example of the mess in Syria, the firing range of the Middle East.

All in all, in fighting ISIS the United States has to get its head together. Air strikes have limited effect on ISIS and for now there might be no ground units, certainly not American ones, to finish the job in Syria or Iraq. In the upcoming months or years the best the United States should hope for in Syria and Iraq is to contain ISIS and other Islamic extremists there, affiliated with Al – Qaida.

About the Author
Dr. Ehud Eilam has been dealing and studying Israel’s national security for more than 25 years. He served in the Israeli military and later on he worked for the Israeli Ministry of Defense. He is now a writer and an independent researcher. He has a Ph.D and he had published five books He lives now near Boston, MA. His email: