By Sal Bommarito
True success in the ISIS confrontation would be the total extermination of the terrorists and an era of peace in the Middle East. Unfortunately, neither of these is realistic. So, what outcomes would be considered favorable?
The U.S. must emasculate ISIS so that it could no longer effectively fight against government and militia forces in Iraq and Syria. This would entail killing many of the ISIS fighters, eliminating ISIS command and control and cutting off funding. This may be possible, but it will be difficult without boots on the ground to mop up after U.S. bombing sorties. The U.S. needs the cooperation of all Arab nations to ensure ISIS does not receive more financial support to continue its fight.
A successful outcome would mean peace in Iraq and the formation of an inclusive government that shares power with Shiite and Sunni factions. It would also require the cessation of insurgency encouraged by Iran and Saudi Arabia. The chances of these becoming a reality are remote. Shiites will not share power with their former oppressors, and Sunnis will continue to fight for equality. The Iranians and the Saudis will likely continue to use Iraq as a killing field.
A successful outcome in Syria would also be peace. However, the elimination of ISIS is only the first step in this process. After ISIS is dealt with, President Assad must be dethroned. Assad is a tyrant who kills his own people to secure his position and foments radical Islamic ideology in the region. Given that Iran and Russia support the despot, the chances of true peace in Syria are slim. An ancillary issue is how the moderate rebels in Syria will respond after ISIS. Will they lay down their arms or continue to fight with Assad forces and/or the U.S.?
The underlying issues that preclude peace in the region are fourfold, and they are affiliated to one another.
1. The Shiite/Sunni feud is a battle that has spanned centuries and will not end during this generation.
2. Insurgency, which is an outgrowth of the aforementioned item, will likely continue. Shia will cause problems for Sunni regimes, and Sunnis will respond in kind.
3. The existence of Israel infuriates nearly every Arab in the Middle East. The Israelis, with U.S. support, will continue to respond to terrorism and threats of all types.
4. Because the U.S. supports Israel and because America will likely interfere in Middle East matters in the interests of national security, the Arab world will forever be threatened by the U.S. Many still believe the U.S. is principally interested in the region’s oil reserves.
President Obama should be managing American expectations regarding the outcome of the ISIS crisis. There is no panacea after ISIS. The proverbial whack-a-mole mentality will dictate U.S. aggression in the Middle East to the consternation of all Arabs.