The brutal slaughter, by radical Islamic Jihadists, of 129 French citizens, visitors, students and tourists in Paris, was both eerily similar to, and yet different from, 9/11.
Both of them were well-planned, well-prepared and well-executed multiple-target attacks. Both were perpetrated by extreme Islamist terrorist groups, al-Qaida and ISIS, and both were part of the all-out war declared by radical Islamic spiritual leaders against Western cultures, values and religions.
The difference between them is that while al-Qaida has, to date, focused mainly on attacking the U.S. (9/11, Khobar towers, the U.S.S. Cole, the shoe bomber, the underwear bomber, Times Square, etc.), ISIS has declared both in videos and social media that the downing of the Russian airliner with an onboard bomb and the recent attacks in Paris are just the beginning of an ongoing and sustained campaign of terrorism: strikes against every member of the U.S.-led coalition, airstrikes in Syria, as well as against Russia and Iran.
So to be clear, there is no doubt in my mind that ISIS and its worldwide radicalized, in-country affiliates are currently preparing multitarget, mass-casualty terrorist attacks in: the U.S., Canada, United Kingdom, Australia, United Arab Emirates, Jordan, Turkey (again), France (again), Russia (again), Saudi Arabia (maybe), Qatar (maybe) Morocco, Bahrain and — though with very little chance of success — Israel.
Can these attacks be thwarted? Yes, at least some can — but not by dropping a few bombs here and there in Syria, or building a broader “coalition,” and certainly not by declaring that the goal of the U.S. is to “degrade, and ultimately destroy ISIS.” That just ticks them off and draws thousands more to their ranks.
As Eli Wallach, as “Tuco,” said in The Good the Bad and the Ugly: “When you have to shoot, shoot, don’t talk.”
The military power of ISIS can be destroyed by less talk and by sending tens of thousands of U.S. and coalition troops into Syria and Iraq, with much more massive air support, and with full Russian and Iranian coordination and participation. This very hypothetical operation, like the “D-Day” invasion during World War II, will recapture critical cities and bases from ISIS, kill as many of their fighters and leaders as possible, including any radicalized Western jihadists they find.
They should then establish separate interim Sunni, Alawite, Kurdish, Yazidi and Druze autonomies under a strong U.N. or NATO peacekeeping mechanism, or — even better — individual foreign temporary mandates, like after World War I.
- Russia — the Alawite autonomy
- Turkey — the Sunni autonomy
- Israel — the Druze autonomy
- U.S. (temporarily) — the Kurdish/Yazidi autonomy, until a time in the future when Kurdistan can be reunited.
This fantasy military operation will only degrade and probably destroy the physical Islamic State. But it will have no effect on the ISIS ideology, which is deeply rooted in traditional Islam, the Quran and the early reliable scriptures.
It’s these beliefs and ideologies that motivate and drive the thousands of ISIS influenced Islamic jihadis in North America, Europe and the Middle East, that are at this moment preparing to fulfill their Caliph’s recent orders to “kill the enemies of ISIS with bombs, guns, knives, stones or your bare hands.”
Robust, ongoing anti-Islamist/Jihadi police operations, based on excellent and actionable intelligence, can in most cases (but not all!) prevent these inevitable terrorist attacks.
But to stop the “cancer” of extreme, radical Islamic Jihadism, as described by many commentators over the past weekend, its core source of influence must be eradicated, and that is not the Islamic State, but the so-called “Caliphate.”
The “Islamic State” controls large areas of Iraq and Syria. So by definition it is a “state.” However, a “Caliphate” has to have a “Caliph” who (1) cannot be self-appointed and (2) must fulfill certain criteria. Abu-Bakr al-Baghdadi not only appointed himself Caliph, but also does not meet the full qualification test.
So if al-Baghdadi can be convincingly delegitimized and disgraced, then his whole compelling narrative about the prophesied re-establishment of the Caliphate becomes a lie and fallacy. Hopefully this will damage the ISIS brand.
But the U.S. can’t do that; neither can any non-Muslim.
This kind of religious ruling, or fatwa, can be issued only by one or both of the highest recognized authorities of Sunni, Islamic jurisprudence today: Ahmed Al-Tayeb, the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar University in Cairo, and Saudi Arabia’s Grand Mufti, Sheik Abdulaziz Al al-Sheik, the highest religious authority in the country.
Both have strongly condemned ISIS and al-Qaida as “enemies of Islam.” But to date neither has demanded the removal of al-Baghdadi as an impostor nor initiated the complex mechanism to install a legitimate Caliph.
So even if someone kills al-Baghdadi, and then kills the next self-appointed leader of ISIS, and then the next one and the next one, the terrorist attacks won’t end. As long as the dream of the “new Caliphate” is alive and well in the cyberworld, and the tempting, heavenly “benefits” that Islamic “martyrdom” bestows on those who “earn them” attract disenfranchised and marginalized young people from all over, we can expect many more ISIS ideology-driven attempts at mass casualty terrorist attacks.
ISIS and its followers will not stop with Paris. Its next targets are listed above. They said they will do it, and I have no reason to doubt them.
Agree or disagree, that’s my opinion.
Lt. Col. (IDF res) Gil Elan is president and CEO of the Southwest Jewish Congress, and a Middle East analyst. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Briefings and SWJC events are listed at: www.swjc.org
DISCLAIMER: Opinions are the writer’s, and do not represent SWJC directors, officers or members.