The war against ISIL must be a moral one

I waited one day after the savage murder of American journalist James Foley to write this entry. Like most people, I was filled with rage and utter disgust, not only at the barbarian who nonchalantly severed Mr. Foley’s head, but ISIL as a whole, its ideology, and the regimes that have laid the groundwork for its rise.

There is little doubt that the West is now at war with thousands of people, from all over the world, who yearn for the 7th century, desire the oppression of women, and seek the extermination of those who don’t capitulate to their depraved beliefs. Especially worrying are the ISIL fighters who hold Western passports. They must be defeated absolutely in Iraq and Syria.

But how should this war be fought? The details and technicalities should be left up to the Generals and strategists. But there is one detail that matters, for it will define not only the West’s goals in this war but its conscience: We mustn’t, under any circumstances, work with or aid the hideous Iranian and Syrian regimes.

“But our interests align,” the so-called Realist will say, knowing little of the actual business-like relationship between ISIL and the genocidal Assad regime. Iran and its vassals, Assad, Hezbollah, and Shiite militias in Iraq, would like nothing more than for ISIL to retreat into Syria and vanquish one of the last Free Syrian Army strongholds in Aleppo. Is the expansion of Iranian hegemony in our interests? Did it serve our interests in Iraq from 2010-2014?

This war against ISIL is not only about interests, it is an expression of the righteous revulsion any decent individual should feel. How can we claim to be fighting evil if we work alongside a creature who did not hesitate to gas children to death?

There is no question in the Middle East to which Iran and Syria are the answers, perhaps the exception being: “which decadent forces are doing the most to destabilize the region and spread misery among people who simply wish to live free lives?”

Working with Iran and Syria (and there is no conceivable way to separate the two) will have deleterious implications for our Gulf alliances. To make matters worse, it will be at the price of the very moral underpinnings of a military operation.

About the Author
Abe Silberstein writes on Israeli politics, Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and American foreign policy in the Middle East. He can be reached at