ISIS play a gruesome, deadly, but highly sophisticated game

The civilised world is united in revulsion at the depths of barbarism plumbed by ISIS. The terrorists had only just released footage of a middle-aged homosexual man being thrown off a five-storey building, when they published the video of 26-year-old First Lieutenant Moaz al-Kasasbeh ? the Jordanian fighter pilot whose plane went down in December ? being burned to death.

Demands for revenge against the perpetrators of such unfathomable inhumanity have been universal.

The Grand Sheikh of Sunni Islam?s most prestigious university called for the crucifixion of Islamic State militants over the burning. Even Al-Qaeda ? itself no shrinking violet when it comes to committing acts of horror ? condemned the killing as proof of Islamic State?s depravity.

For its part, ISIS has clearly decided that there is method in killings that stun the mind with their horror. Even psychopaths can have a strategy.

Since ISIS began its rampage last summer, it has used extreme terror both as a recruitment tool and as a weapon to intimidate enemies. A much larger and better equipped ? but demoralised and unpaid ? Iraqi army fled before Islamic State?s fanatical cadres as they cold-bloodedly massacred prisoners.

Christian civilians and those of the Yezidi tribe in Iraq were cowed into submission by the use of violence as punishment, and their women subjected to sexual slavery.

But given the worldwide disgust at such savage tactics, the question is, why is ISIS still being allowed to get away with it? If the world is united in condemnation, why are these barbarians not being wiped from the face of the Earth?

And why are the media fueling this by being ISIS’ de-facto publication arm? ?

The terrifying truth is that ISIS appears to be winning this war against an indecisive and inadequate coalition. So what can that 70-nation coalition do to combat it?

So far, Islamic State?s opponents have relied upon desultory, pin-prick air strikes to ?degrade?, if not to destroy, the organisation. Since August 8 last year, coalition aircraft have carried out about a thousand sorties over Iraq and another 800 over Northern Syria where IS has its headquarters at Raqqa.

Although this may seem like a lot of air activity, in fact, it is a fraction of the number of lethal strikes the Israeli Defence Force flew against Hamas in Gaza, for example. Whereas the Israelis sometimes flew 300 such missions per day, the coalition against IS only managed that number in a month, mainly because Turkey won?t allow the coalition to use its bases.

And while the coalition may boast that ISIS lost a thousand men in Kobane over a five-month period, the terrorist group actually gained 2,500 recruits over that period, so has ended up stronger.

No, if we are to truly engage in war with ISIS, we should not be bashful about how we wage it.

I believe we should launch devastating attacks on ISIS?s nominal headquarters in the city of Raqqa in Syria. Vast bombardments, using B52s, would inevitably mean civilian casualties. But unless we are ready for this to drag on for several years, it seems to me this is necessary to obliterate its command and control systems.

The problem with sending troops to fight ISIS is that they would inevitably stoke local tensions further. Western forces cannot be used because the entire Arab world would object. More depressingly, the Arab nations ? which are terrified of even getting involved in airstrikes ? would not dream of sending in ground forces.

This means the only real opposition to ISIS from the Arab world is the Shia Iraqi national army and various Iranian-backed Shia militias, or even the Iranian regular army ? though the danger is that Tehran would take part only in return for a deal that allows them a nuclear bomb.

The prospect of U.S. war planes providing air cover for an Iranian-directed ground force is a nightmare scenario for the Sunni Arab coalition states such as Saudi Arabia, since at a stroke it would extend Iran?s influence deep into their orbit.

ISIS understands all this only too well. And despite the medieval barbarity of its violence, its political game-playing is becoming more sophisticated by the day.

With new recruits reaching Islamic State in their thousands while we pick of a few hundred through sheer luck, we won’t achieve much. ?It is indeed time for the world to go in and sort these people out – once and for all. ? And yes, there will be deaths. ? Cutting out a cancer invariably takes some healthy tissue out as well. ? It’s the price we need to pay for stopping the relentless advance of ISIS.


– Michael Burleigh, Daily Mail