The US, EU and NATO continue to maintain a significant military presence in and around the Mediterranean, but military capabilities must be nested within a whole-of-government, international approach. The challenges in this region demand unprecedented levels of civil-military and intergovernmental cooperation. [Note: contains copyrighted material].
The next Administration faces serious problems and issues in its security cooperation with its Arab allies that cannot be papered over with reassuring rhetoric. Some problems are all too obvious results of the rise of ISIS; the legacy of the U.S. invasion of Iraq; and the problems in the fighting in Iraq, Syria, Libya, and Yemen. Other problems, however, are less obvious, but equally or more important. [Note: contains copyrighted material].
Two years on, the U.S.-led campaign against the Islamic State, or IS, has achieved some important gains. This is particularly true in Iraq, where the liberation of Fallujah last month has focused attention on Mosul—the capital of the so-called caliphate. But military victory is only half the battle. As the Islamic State is pushed out of Iraqi cities and towns, the communities it ruled must be integrated back into Iraq. Nature abhors a vacuum; the U.S.-led Global Coalition to Counter ISIL should do more to support the Iraqi government in filling that vacuum. For its part, the Iraqi government itself must display a greater commitment to inclusive governance that reinforces its own legitimacy. [Note: contains copyrighted material].
As strife in the Middle East continues to make headlines, from the militant group ISIS to Syrian refugees, the Muslim world is sharply divided on what the relationship should be between the tenets of Islam and the laws of governments. Across 10 countries with significant Muslim populations surveyed in 2015, there is a striking difference in the extent to which people think the Quran should influence their nation’s laws. [Note: contains copyrighted material].
Analysis of publicly available information on homegrown violent jihadist activity in the United States since September 11, 2001, suggests that the Islamic State (IS) and its acolytes may pose broad challenges to domestic law enforcement and homeland security efforts. Homegrown IS–inspired plots can be broken into three rough categories based on the goals of the individuals involved. The first two focus on foreign fighters, the last on people willing to do harm in the United States.
On September 10, 2014, President Obama announced the formation of a global coalition to “degrade and ultimately defeat” the Islamic State (IS, aka the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, ISIL/ISIS or the Arabic acronym Da’esh). According to the U.S. State Department, there are currently 66 participants in the coalition. Each country is contributing to the coalition in a manner commensurate with its national interests and comparative advantage. The brief report offers several figures. The first is a map of the training and capacity building bases across Iraq, and key nations operating out of those bases as reported by United States Central Command and supplemented with open source reporting. The second is a table depicting participants in the military campaign, and what specifically each country is contributing in terms of military forces.
Since late 2014 the Islamic State has declared war on Saudi Arabia and launched a series of terrorist attacks on Saudi soil intended to start an uprising. In a further attack on the Saudi kingdom, the self-declared caliphate has claimed to be the true representative of the severe form of Islam indigenous to Saudi Arabia, Wahhabism. These two very different versions of an Islamic state are at war over a shared religious heritage and territory. [Note: contains copyrighted material].
Operation Inherent Resolve (OIR) – the military campaign to counter the Islamic State (IS) – has three primary components: coordinated air strikes, training and equipping local security forces, and targeted special operations based out of northern Iraq. Perceived setbacks in OIR have led some observers to maintain that inserting significant numbers of additional U.S. and/or coalition ground forces is becoming necessary. Proposals include, but are not limited to, the introduction of additional ground forces to secure territory once it has been taken back from the Islamic State, and the introduction of additional trainers for local security forces. However, there are no clear-cut answers to determining the suitability, size, and mission profile of the ground elements of any military campaign; determining the disposition of military forces is in many ways as much an art as it is a science.
Leaders of the Islamic State impose a rigid and fundamentalist interpretation of Islam, maintaining that the religion does not condone Western values of democracy, individual freedom, economic globalization or education. Moeller urges Europe to develop a grand strategy to combat extremism by recognizing how the long history of the Middle East influences political agendas, intensifying a laser focus on collecting intelligence, and praising Muslim leaders who insist that Islamic State actions contradict the religious faith. [Note: contains copyrighted material].
The international coalition targeting the Islamic State’s tenuous hold of communities in Syria and Iraq has divided interests that could prolong the war in Syria. “The war is driven by multiple, interlocking layers of conflict,” explains Chris Miller. The priorities vary and desire to maintain influence in the region runs high: The United States, France and Russia disagree about a role for the Assad regime; Turkey worries about Kurds demanding independence; and Shia and Sunni sects are at odds, both at the national level with the rivalry between Iran and Saudi Arabia and among militias fighting on the ground. Mistrust lingers between the West and Russia since the latter invaded Ukraine and annexed Crimea in early 2014. A mixed bag of priorities overshadow the diplomacy required for bringing peace to the region. [Note: contains copyrighted material].