Total Western confusion over ISIS, bombing, and terror

By bombing ISIS we might be helping al Qaeda. Oh, wait, we might be helping Assad, who last year we wanted to bomb, but who now we need against ISIS. Do we have any idea what we are doing?

Know who we're bombing?
Robin Mitchinson
On 2 October 2014 10:00

The air-raids on ISIS targets in Syria and Iraq have been a great success thus far. For ISIS. It is surely apparent that the motive behind the grisly beheadings was not simply because these barbarians enjoy it but as part of a careful strategy to provoke Western intervention so that ISIS can present its cause to the Arab world as a struggle between Islam and the West.

From a purely military aspect, bombing alone is certain to be ineffective and a waste of resources for the simple reason that it has to be backed-up by ground forces, especially in a campaign where it is difficult to find targets worth destroying. The combined ground forces of the bordering states are massive, but there is little evidence so far that they have the will to use them, especially the Sunni states.

Major-General Armchair is adamant on the point and he is completely right.

The first and unavoidable question before embarking on foreign entanglements is, ‘What vital British interests are involved?’ The answer to that is not clear.

To date ISIS has shown little appetite for European or American ventures. It has concentrated on continuing the on-going 1,400-year old struggle between Sunni and Shia with the ultimate objective of setting up a caliphate governed by 1,400-yearold laws and values.

But there is another dimension.

The media is telling us that the allies are attacking ISIS targets on the Syrian border. That is not entirely accurate, The US is attacking targets around Aleppo, and they are not ISIS.

They are attacking a group which operates under the umbrella of Al Qaeda called ‘Khorasan’ or the Khorasan Group. Far from being allies of ISIS they are deadly enemies. ISIS has a record of killing members of other Islamist groups.

So why is the US bombing them?

There is a wider context which makes the justification for intervention by  allied air forces much more clear. Unlike ISIS, which appears to be solely concerned with setting up its caliphate, Khorasan’s raison d’etre is to make war on the West, employing foreign mujahedeen to carry out extensive terrorist attacks throughout Europe and the US. Suddenly the Syrian intervention begins to make sense.

It has a black banner inscribed with the hadith: "If you see the black banners coming from Khorasan, join that army, even if you have to crawl over ice; no power will be able to stop them. And they will finally reach Baitul Maqdis [Jerusalem], where they will erect their flags."

Khorasan is a cell in Nusra which owes allegiance to Al Qaeda. It probably includes the sophisticated bomb-makers amongst its number. Intelligence suggests that they pose ‘an imminent threat’ which probably means that an attack on the US or Europe was in the planning stage but not ready to be implemented.

That they lack current capacity to attack the West does not alter the fact that this is their sole purpose.

Al Qaeda’s likely strategy is to let the allies destroy the ISIS leadership and then mount a terrorist campaign against the West ‘in retaliation’. This will put Al Qaeda back in pole position in the Jihadist movement.

Another danger is that Nura is deeply embedded in the Syrian rebel groups fighting against the Assad regime. Bombing Nusra risks bombing other rebels to Assad’s great advantage but also to Al Qaeda’s because it will advance its aim to use Syria as a launching pad for attacks on the West if its enemies amongst the rebel groups are weakened.

The fatal flaw is that the Khorasan are small in number and scattered. Bombing is only effective against concentrated targets. The RAF couldn’t find any on its first sorties.

This looks like a job for the SAS, boots on the ground or not.

And finally: Last year the West was planning to attack Assad. This year it attacks ISIS, Assad’s enemy. And Khorasan, ISIS’ enemy. Confused? Join the club!

Robin Mitchinson is a Contributing Editor to The Commentator. A former barrister, living in the Isle of Man, he is an international public management specialist with almost two decades of experience in institutional development, decentralisation and democratisation processes. He has advised governments and major international institutions across the world


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