The world looks on as ISIS, a dangerous terrorist organisation, goes on the rampage in Iraq, killing and slaughtering thousands in the name of a dreadful ideology that, despite their claims, cannot be attributed to any religion. The rise of the ironically named ‘Islamic State’ has seen Western powers grow increasingly concerned over how their influence and power threatens the security of the West; with the US issuing air strikes to take out IS militants in Iraq.
Foreign intervention is highly unlikely to be favoured by the British public, or any public to be fair. We’ve seen what foreign intervention does and the damaging long-term impact it has on the societies who are left hostile to a foreign force that has destroyed their lives, their country. During the Iraq war in 2003, the Iraqi civilian death toll reached in the hundreds of thousands as well as the war in Afghanistan which also, arguably had a huge impact on the already vulnerable and poor country. As of February 2014 it is estimated that around 21,000 civilians have died as a result of the war. So whilst we hear about mass executions and beheading of civilians, how did such a group become so prominent in Iraq? Since the ‘war on terror’ which began in 2001, the US claimed to have successfully won, capturing and killing ‘terrorists’ all over the world.
But at what cost has the US been able to do this? Targeted airstrikes in places like Yemen and Pakistan, unlawful detention in centres like Guantanamo Bay and foreign intervention in these conflict-ridden countries have only paved the way for such extreme groups like ISIS. In the US’ attempt to fight against terrorism in the Arab world, we have seen increasing opposition and hostility to Western foreign policy in the Middle East, which has allowed extreme and radical groups like ISIS to emerge amidst a country which lacks political stability. ISIS’ vehement and corrupted ideology spells danger to the West, making it clear that they oppose any kind of foreign intervention in their efforts to create an ‘Islamic State’, despite there being nothing Islamic about what they are doing.
The brutal executions of the two American journalists in response to the US air strikes is putting pressure on ISIS militants in areas of Iraq, and has left the US in a dilemma. They pride themselves on being able to protect their citizens, yet their belief that negotiating with terrorists is not a viable option means there is little hope for the remaining hostages left in the hands of the ISIS militants. Bombing ISIS has also meant that the US are actually indirectly helping Assad. ISIS are on the side of the Syrian rebels whose forces are fighting pro-government forces in a conflict which has seen thousands dead after three bloody years of fighting between the two.
So whilst headlines in the media continue to scare us at the growing threat of ISIS in Iraq, what can Western governments do to combat a threat which only looks set to grow and expand? Britain is clearly not keen on sending troops there, understandable given the strong public opinion we saw erupt after the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. So instead the British government continue to aid the Iraqi Kurds, who are deemed to be one of the only promising fighting forces in Iraq who could launch successful offensives against ISIS and prevent their expansion into more parts of Iraq. ISIS’ use of social media to spread propaganda and threaten the West with their growing influence and power, which sees them in control of large parts of the country, is worrying to governments who fear that ‘jihadists’ will be encouraged to join the group or develop such extreme views. We have previously seen British and American citizens travelling to Syria to join in the fight against what they see as oppression towards Muslims at the hands of the West, with some believed to have joined various terrorist affiliated groups operating in the region. After the execution video of James Foley emerged, conducted by a British man, the fear that British fighters are being recruited to serve in the militant group abroad has only heightened.
The growth of ISIS is worrying and problematic to Western powers, who continue to debate what measures should be taken in a country which they once believed they had ‘liberated’ from the dictatorial rule of Saddam Hussein. But in an unfortunate turn of events, for Britain and America, the war in Iraq has arguably opened the floodgates for extremist groups like ISIS to emerge; angry and aggressive towards Western foreign policy which has damaged the oil rich country and allowed sectarian violence to increase.
The violence and barbarism of ISIS must be harshly condemned and cannot be justified in the face of what they see as aggressive Western foreign policy. What is clear is that the UK and America need to address this problem head-on; whether that is through continued airstrikes or perhaps foreign intervention as a last resort, remains to be seen.