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The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has become among the best-recognized issues of the contemporary political landscape. Since its emergence, ISIS was subject to close attention to numerous international actors due to the potential threats it poses on the local and international scale. However, despite the best efforts of the policymakers of several states, it continues to flourish relatively uninhibited by the efforts. In order to address the shortcomings of the existing policies, it is necessary to create a coordinated effort that combines the military, economic, and ideological aspects of the counteractions and aims at a long-term effect in a comprehensive and sustainable way.
Since its emergence, ISIS has continuously amassed military and political power and expanded its ideological influence. In its current state, it is a theocracy which adopts the extremist interpretation of Islam that recognizes violence as both acceptable and preferable in dealing with the infidels (the individuals or groups that do not recognize the religious doctrine). Under such conditions, it poses a real direct threat to nearby states. It is also reasonable to expect the creation of a similar threat on the international scale once the capacity of the organization reaches a necessary amount. It should be pointed out that while such motivation is not new and has been observed in other groups, the unique setting contributes to the unparalleled scale of the phenomenon. Specifically, the neoliberal approach to the reformation of the Arab World that aimed at creating a society with modern identity and culture resulted in the deterioration of the existing historical values without offering a viable alternative to the population (Khalil). Such a situation eventually created a sort of ideological vacuum that was readily filled in by the straightforward re-articulation of the universal state backed by the support of the religious texts (Khalil). Essentially, the neoliberal reform in the Middle East contributed to the buildup of the ISIS’ power and influence.
Immediately after the recognition of the threat posed by ISIS, several key actors in the global arena responded with the policies aimed at suppressing its power. Their most recognizable aspect is the military effort, with airstrikes being the best-publicized iteration. The participants of the campaign include the U.S., Russia, Saudi Arabia, and numerous members of the respective coalitions. However, while the impact of such an approach is unmistakable, the actual outcome of the event is questionable. Numerous reports and analyses reveal that despite their potential, airstrikes do not have a significant impact on the ideological influence of ISIS and may even have enhanced it. In addition, on several occasions, the strikes have done significant damage to the infrastructure and resulted in civilian casualties (Sanger et al.). In addition, numerous countries decided to assist the military forces, either by providing arms and equipment or by training troops. This policy also resulted in a mixed outcome, as some evidence suggests that arms intended for allied use often end up in the hands of ISIS militants (Amnesty International). Finally, some experts suggest that the policy of ground troop deployment was suggested as a way to circumvent the limitations of the airstrikes. However, such a move can also result in backlash. Specifically, it was argued that military intervention of such a scale could serve as a catalyst for the emergence of similar formations as well as the increase in ISIS’ influence (Saul).
It is worth pointing out that the interventions are not limited to military action. Some attempts were made to undermine the financial capacity of ISIS by cutting their sources of income. This was done both directly, through destruction of oil industry infrastructure, and indirectly, by imposing sanctions. Unfortunately, the exact impact of the latter is unclear since ISIS does not operate through official channels (Myers and Kulish). In addition, such sanctions can have an adverse impact on the regional economy and need to be further refined to reach the necessary level of efficiency. Next, attempts were made to limit the traveling of the ISIS members to other countries. While such a move could be useful as a limiting factor, there is currently no evidence of its successful implementation. In addition, the policy in its current state is fragmentary and does not display the level of consistency necessary for the prevention of ISIS members’ travel (McCaul). Finally, negotiations were suggested as a plausible alternative to the straightforward military opposition. Such a suggestion was met with severe criticism as it is believed to empower the terrorist formations. Nevertheless, some experts state that the most likely outcomes of military conflict are pessimistic enough to consider diplomatic solutions a plausible alternative (Smith). Currently, there is no evidence of this policy’s efficiency.
As can be seen from the information presented above, both the existing and theorized policies have two common weak points. First, they show an insufficient level of planning and coordination. Second, and, perhaps, more importantly, they fail to acknowledge the ideological background of the formation caused by the neoliberal orientation of the reforms in the Arab World. The easiest example is the unintentional increase in the appeal of ISIS’ ideology as a result of the airstrikes. Therefore, it is necessary to coordinate the military and economic policies of various countries and organizations and thus ensure their synchronicity and alignment with the ideological background. Admittedly, such an effort requires a significant amount of collaboration between the key actors. Nevertheless, the growing threat of ISIS and continuous inconsistencies in existing policies suggest that such an approach is both justified and necessary for ensuring political and economic stability.
Amnesty International. “Iraq: Taking stock: The arming of Islamic State.” Amnesty International, Web.
Khalil, Yousef. “ISIS and the Neoliberal State.” The New Context, Web.
McCaul, Michael, et al. “Final Report of the Task Force on Combating Terrorist and Foreign Fighter Travel.” Homeland Security Committee, 2015, Web.
Myers, Steven, and Nicholas Kulish. “‘Broken System’ Allows ISIS to Profit From Looted Antiquities.” The New York Times, Web.
Sanger, David, et al. “How a U.S. Airstrike Missed ISIS, but Damaged U.S. Policy in Syria.” The New York Times, Web.
Saul, Heather. “President Obama Claims Rise of ISIS is ‘Unintended Consequence’ of George W. Bush’s Invasion in Iraq.” Independent, Web.
Smith, Dan. “Syria: Geneva III, the Nettle of Negotiation (Again), and ISIS (Again).” Dan Smith’s Blog, Web.