By Sal Bommarito
The possibilities for ISIS are numerous. Depending upon the actions of its opposition, the rebels may survive and/or morph into yet another manifestation of Al Qaeda or another Arab Spring; the former is more likely than the latter.
The surest way to “destroy and degrade” ISIS is for the U.S. to employ ground troops. There seems to be no impetus to do this on a grand scale, but over time, President Obama may approve the deployment of more Special Forces units to help root out ISIS. This action would make bombing missions more productive and give pause to ISIS fighters. Special Forces could also be used to assassinate ISIS leaders, which might destabilize the rebels.
By some miracle, or with the help of Iran, the Iraqis may make some progress in repelling ISIS and recover land absconded by the insurgents. Many are not sanguine about the motivation or the courage of Iraq soldiers, so significant Iranian intervention may be necessary to impact ISIS. Obviously, a mass Iranian intrusion could have a material effect, but there is no reason to believe that the Ayatollah’s army will be more inspired than the Iraqis.
A more significant issue is that the potential influence of Iran will increase in Iraq, as does its military involvement. This contingency will surely affect the tenuous Shiite/Sunni situation in Iraq. The more the Iranians interfere, the less chance Sunnis will ever achieve any significant political power or access to natural resources.
At some point, other countries such as Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Turkey may reach a breaking point and finally become active members of the coalition. This possibility is doubtful unless ISIS threatens the stability of these nations. For instance, unless ISIS recruits large groups to commit terrorist acts, or ISIS grows strong enough to cross the Iraq or Syria borders, neighboring nations will probably refrain from any aggressive actions.
ISIS may try to establish a new religious state on Iraqi and Syrian territory. This is truly a pipe dream. With the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, the last caliphate ended in 1924. It was overseen by a select group of Imams, but ruled by local leaders. Today, ISIS could never muster the resources to build a secure central government. The chances that any other nations would recognize this new entity are zero. ISIS squandered whatever political capital it had by murdering, immolating and torturing innocent men, women and children.
The final possibility is that the ISIS rebels tire of fighting. Constant bombing threats and months away from home will have an impact on the enthusiasm of the group. It just might dissipate over time leaving a massive, social, political and financial disaster in its wake.
After the hostilities subside, the problems are not over. Civil wars are likely in several places in the region. In particular, the Shiites and Sunnis will be at each other’s throats in Iraq. And, the world will once again be demanding that Assad in Syria abdicate. We can all look forward to continuing issues emanating out of the Middle East including the possibility that Iran may have a nuclear weapon in a few years.