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The Joint Responsibility for the ISIS Scourge

The Huffington Post logo The Huffington Post 27/03/2016 Raghida Dergham

It will be said that it is not now the right time for talking about the root causes and responsibility for the growth and expansion of ISIS into Europe, especially if it carries blame for international parties and policies, including those of the US, Europe, and Russia. In the beginning, it must be said loudly and with shame that the appalling terrorism linked to ISIS is mostly Arab and Muslim in origin, and that this scourge is principally our scourge. However, pretending that Western and Eastern powers have nothing to do with the making of this terrorism is evasive, and is helping make not only the Middle East a more dangerous place, but also Europe, the US, and Russia too. To have a real chance to eliminate this spreading scourge, it is healthy and worthwhile to admit to some facts that contributed to the rise of fundamentalist terrorism, in order to pre-empt threats coming from hotspots created by international policies, interventions, as well as neglect, led by Libya.
The US Secretary of State John Kerry should remember what his predecessor once said: if you break it, you own it. Successive US policies in more than one part of the world have long avoided owning what they break, avoiding both responsibility and cost. Then the terror attacks of 9/11 struck, the world changed. President George W. Bush decided to hand out lessons out of revenge, and took this to a new level, pursuing his signature doctrine of pre-emptive strikes. The doctrine of the current President Barack Obama, meanwhile, denies the radical US role in destruction overseas under his term and its repercussions. The various European leaders played a key role in tearing countries apart, like Britain did in Iraq together with the US under Bush, and France did in Libya before dodging its responsibility for state- and institution-building there after helping topple its regime.
The case in point of the manufacturing of Sunni fundamentalism was Afghanistan, where a US-Saudi-Pakistani political and intelligence joint partnership sought to defeat communism and the Soviet Union. As a result, the CIA oversaw the mobilization of thousands of Muslim volunteers from around the world, especially North Africa. The Soviet Union collapsed following the Afghan war, as the rise of Sunni fundamentalism coincided with the rise of Shiite fundamentalism with the Mullahs in Iran taking power in the 1979 revolution that brought back Ayatollah Khomeini to Tehran.
In Afghanistan, the jihadists thought they were permanent partners of the US, but soon became its enemies when Washington abandoned them. They thought they would be going to Bosnia with US blessing, but they were banished from there. Now an army without a war, they turned to a systematic campaign of terror aimed especially at the US; in Afghanistan, the US refused to own what it broke, until al-Qaeda's 9/11 attacks came and forced it to.
Bush's war in Iraq was planned in advance, and 9/11 helped activate the plans. Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld were intent to dismantle Iraq, and 9/11 gave them the pretext, before other justifications were summoned, from the need to spread democracy to supporting the defense industry. The US president then further said the goal of the Iraq war was to invite terrorists there to be fought away from American cities and streets.
George W. Bush accomplished what he set out to do. Fundamentalists and terrorists flocked to Iraq to fight and defeat the US there, in their view, fulfilling the prophecies of Bush's pre-emptive wars. Bush carried out his promise and kept terrorism away from US cities. But there in Iraq, "you break it you own it" was again neglected. George W. Bush summoned jihadists and terrorists, and dismantled the Iraqi army, radically contributing to the rise of ISIS that is terrorizing Europe today.
President Obama decided to avoid involvement in others' wars directly, and dissociated the US from the Syrian war. This policy allowed Russia to paralyze any measures in the Security Council to stop the regime in Damascus from turning a civil war to a war on terror. The regime thus systematically sought to allow terrorist groups to grow and thrive in Syria.
Eventually, ISIS grew in Syria in the shadow of Russian obstructionism, US absenteeism, arbitrary Gulf support for rebels, Turkish miscalculations, a destructive partnership between Iraq's former PM Nouri al-Maliki and Syria's Bashar al-Assad, and direct and proxy intervention by Iran in the Syrian war.
Libya, meanwhile, is a European mess more than it is an American mess. France in particular is to be held responsible, thanks to former President Nicolas Sarkozy, who sought to involve NATO in a military intervention there. The guise was to stop Muammar Gaddafi from staging a bloodbath in Benghazi as he vowed amid the muddled march of the Arab Spring, but what happened in the end was the fulfilment of narcissistic and oil-related agendas, foiling the Libyan experience. Libya is NATO's "you break it, you own it", and Europe could now reap what it sowed in Libya.
The horrific terror that struck in Brussels this week must set off all alarm bells in Europe, and draw attention to the misguided policies Europe has pursued in Libya and Syria. It is time to rectify these mistake; Europe and the US must stop pretending to have the high moral ground while turning a blind eye to the tragedies of innocent people in Syria and Libya.
The first places where Western policies should be rectified in North Africa should be Tunisia, whose democracy must be protected, and Libya, which must be rescued from becoming a spawning ground for terrorism.
Syria, meanwhile, is an international responsibility. If recent Russian policies meant to support political efforts and pressure Damascus continue, there could be some positive developments in the horizon. But if Russia's policies are just a maneuver as Moscow and its ally Tehran seek to gain the upper hand on the battlefield in support of the Assad regime, Syria will become Russia's version of "you break it, you own it", bringing harm to the Russian homeland just like it is doing in European cities now.
If ISIS and similar groups strike in US cities, Obama's historic legacy and doctrine of denial will receive a fatal blow, and Donald Trump could well become the next president of the USA.
The Arab responsibility is on par with others'. The ISIS scourge will haunt generations to come, not only because the Arabs will pay the price for the terrorism being exported from their cities to Europe, the US, Russia, and elsewhere, but also because the terrorism equally targets Arab aspirations to join modernity. Allowing ISIS and similar groups to grow further also entails "owning" what ISIS is "breaking".
Perhaps the madness called ISIS will become - as it should become - an impetus for an international consensus for a serious and practical tackling of the roots of this scourge, beginning with acknowledging all parties' roles in creating it and not ending with the policies needed to be implemented it to fully eliminating it.
Translated from Arabic by Karim Traboulsi

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