In last few days I have appeared on a number of Arab TV channels discussing the growing threat of ISIL and what will be required to fully defeat the organization.
ISIL is barbaric and violent. The brutal murder of journalist James Foley last week showed the true realities of ISIL to an American audience; but throughout the region under their control, their unimaginable barbarism is prevalent.
There have been mass beheadings and whole villages buried alive by ISIL. Rape is being used as a weapon of control, and there have been reports of children being sexually abused and openly sold as slaves in villages throughout the ISIL region.
As U.S. Secretary of Defense, Chuck Hagel said on Thursday: “They’re beyond just a terrorist group. They marry ideology, sophistication of strategic and tactical military prowess, they are tremendously well-funded. This is beyond anything that we’ve seen. So we must prepare for everything. And the only way you do that is take a cold, steely, hard look at it and get ready.”
ISIL is an existential threat to every Muslim, every Arab – and soon an existential threat to everyone.
The Arab world, supported by the international community urgently needs to destroy ISIL.
To do this, there needs to be three distinct approaches
First, ISIL will need to be destroyed militarily. However, this should not be done with “U.S. boots on the ground”. We have learnt over the last 10 plus years, that this approach, while successful tactically, leads to resentment and does not work long term.
We need a full coalition of Arab armies, working together to defeat ISIL and its associated terrorist grounds. Yes, the international community will, at first, need to support this coalition with supplies, logistics, intelligence and training. But this Arab Security Coalition must take the lead. And like NATO, it should be established to permanently defend the people of the whole region against such groups.
Secondly, the breeding ground of the false approaches that ISIL uses must be tackled – a new economic structure must be created for the whole region, and this must focus on creating an economy based on mass employment.
Ideas such as the Arab Stabilization Plan, which calls for a fund of over $100 billion for infrastructure investment, is a start, but more is needed. Arab economies need to be liberalized. Investments in manufacturing, chemical processing, heavy industries, as well as education, should be encouraged. It is also key that small and medium sized businesses must be easier to start and grow. All-in-all, true economic transformation will be required.
Lastly, a fully credible narrative and positive leadership must be created. For too long, the only groups offering a future, albeit perverted, for young Muslim men and women have been groups like ISIL. They offer a future based on a past that never existed.
So-called moderate leadership has been seen as corrupt, old and decaying. This is not good enough. The Arab world needs accountable leadership with a vision of how a better region could be – safe, secure and with a full economy.
Regional leaders such as newly elected Egyptian President el-Sisi, could help lead this effort. If he sticks to his plans for accountable governance, security, economic transformation with piety, he could be part of the new leadership of the Arab world, which is the only way ISIL and its like will be defeated.
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