The West and its Arab Allies Must Militarily Engage ISIL

Journal of Political Risk, Vol. 3, No. 5, May 2015.

By Mark Nader

FILE - In this Monday, June 16, 2014 file photo, demonstrators chant pro-Islamic State group slogans as they wave the group's flags in front of the provincial government headquarters in Mosul, 225 miles (360 kilometers) northwest of Baghdad, Iraq. The IS declaration of a "caliphate" in Iraq and Syria inspired a stream of thousands of foreign fighters to join it and earned it pledges of allegiance by individual militants around the region. (AP Photo, File)

In this Monday, June 16, 2014 file photo, demonstrators chant pro-Islamic State group slogans as they wave the group’s flags in front of the provincial government headquarters in Mosul, 225 miles (360 kilometers) northwest of Baghdad, Iraq. The IS declaration of a “caliphate” in Iraq and Syria inspired a stream of thousands of foreign fighters to join it and earned it pledges of allegiance by individual militants around the region. (AP Photo, File)

Since proclaiming itself a caliphate on 29 June 2014, militants of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) have killed over 5,000 civilians in Iraq, while displacing hundreds of thousands more.[1] In Syria, ISIL has embedded itself in the country’s ongoing civil war, where the actions of the Islamic State have led to the deaths of more than 200,000 people[2] and the displacement of more than three million civilians.[3] Although ISIL began as a splinter group of al Qaeda, known as al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI), it has since grown into a hybrid organization that is “part terrorist network, part guerilla army, and part proto-state,” within which terrorists with transnational ambitions have taken refuge.[4]

Militants of the Islamic State seek to eliminate the state system altogether and replace it with a global Islamic caliphate that is governed in accordance with Islamic law. The next few pages are devoted to answering the question: what are ISIL’s short, intermediate, and long-term objectives? Many leading foreign policy experts believe that the Islamic State represents an international security threat, however, the degree of this threat, and the strategy that is best to combat it is the subject of disagreement.[5] Next, I will discuss the consequences of failing to destroy ISIL, the contributing factors that led to the rise of this terrorist network, and policy recommendations by experts to combat this phenomenon. It is my position that in order to defeat ISIL we must destroy the organization altogether. This requires a strategy to strengthen the periphery states[6] surrounding ISIL in order to contain their militants and to prevent them from further expanding; a sustained air campaign designed to destroy key infrastructure targets and to disrupt ISIL’s logistical capabilities; and a comprehensive ground operation consisting of combat troops to root out all existing traces of the Islamic State.[7]

EXAMINING THE THREAT

Militants of the Islamic State adhere to a “distinctive variety of Islam whose beliefs about the path to the Day of Judgment matter to its strategy.”[8] According to Graeme Wood, the ideological purity of the group and the atrocities that follow from their learned interpretation of Islam – biblical punishments involving stoning, crucifixions, the amputation of limbs, and crop destruction – in addition to its forthright pronouncements of its strategies to achieving its destined utopia, has allowed the West to “know its enemy” and to “predict its behavior.”[9]

In the first issue of Dabiq – the Islamic State’s English language print publication – ISIL’s intelligentsia outlined the group’s strategic objectives in detail, referring to them as the “four phases of jihad.”[10] First, militants of the Islamic State seek to breakdown state boundaries and generate conditions for civil war throughout the Middle East.[11] Next, the group seeks to establish the Islamic State as an Islamic Emirate – a political territory that is ruled by an Arab monarchy. [12] Then the group initiates a recruitment campaign that is designed to recruit like-minded people from around the world to fight for and live in the Islamic State.[13] Only after the group renders the entire Middle East borderless would it seek to initiate its final goal: the establishment of a worldwide Islamic Caliphate.[14]

The Caliphate that the militants of the Islamic State desire to restore is one that is based on a hard-line interpretation of Sunni Islam and that is governed in accordance with Islamic law. If ISIL is to succeed in establishing a worldwide Caliphate, it must conquer the entire Middle East to render it stateless and borderless. If this ambitious goal were to be actualized, ISIL militants would have to conquer existing nation-states that have professionally trained and well-equipped standing armies. The group retains its legitimacy through its capacity to physically control its territory, without which, ISIL cannot impose the religious and cultural reforms they desire.[15]

Control over physical territory precedes and assists the implementation of social policy. In the case of ISIL, once the group establishes control over newly acquired territory, it begins to implement a cohesive social control strategy designed to pacify the civilian population.[16] This socially cohesive strategy is a descendent of the techniques advocated by the eighteenth century preacher and Islamic scholar Abd al-Wahhab.[17] The purpose of these tactics, says Alastair Crooke, a former British diplomat, is to “instill fear.”[18] Military scholar, Jessica D. Lewis, validates Crooke’s claim by arguing that ISIL does in fact pursue a strategy of social cohesion mainly through “coercion, strategic messaging to encourage emigration of like-minded jihadists, financial service based incentives to pacify civilians, civilian displacement, and assassinations to deter resistance.”[19] To maintain social cohesion, and to ensure that others do not resist, ISIL terrorizes and inflicts “horrific atrocities” on resistors as a means to discourage others from dissenting.[20]

Militants of the Islamic State resort to heightened methods to control the civilian population in large, densely populated urban centers. These measures include the establishment of a local police force, Shari’a law, religious schools, reconstruction projects, and food distribution.[21] To maintain greater social cohesion within these densely populated areas, ISIL utilizes an urban control strategy that deliberately displaces segments of the population, allowing the Islamic State to select the civilians who it does and does not want to govern.[22] As a result of this policy, the Islamic State enjoys greater social cohesion by displacing those who may appear to be problematic in favor of civilians who submit to the laws of the land.[23] Greater social cohesion has somewhat legitimized ISIL’s portrayal of life in the Islamic State as ideal, thereby inspiring foreign fighters, professionals, and families to immigrate and settle in the Islamic State.[24]

Much of ISIL’s propaganda is directed towards foreigners, in an attempt to recruit like-minded individuals to emigrate from their countries to live in and fight for the Islamic State. Important messages are often released simultaneously in English, French, and German, and then later translated into other languages, such as Russian, Indonesian, and Urdu.[25] According to Thomas Hegghammer, a leading scholar of jihadist history, foreign fighters have been the perpetrators of the Islamic State’s most horrific atrocities in Syria.[26] Hegghammer goes on to say that foreign fighters have further radicalized the conflict by making it more “brutal” and “intractable,” because people who come as foreign fighters are “on average, more ideological” than the typical Syrian rebel.[27]

The Islamic State not only utilizes graphic violence and unfettered barbarism as tools for recruitment, it also appeals to sympathetic foreigners and civilians throughout the Middle East by portraying itself as a self-sufficient state capable of governing effectively.[28] It is self-sufficient as a result of its diverse stream of revenues generated through taxation[29] extortion,[30] the selling of oil and electricity on the black market,[31] and funding from wealthy Arab Gulf donors.[32] ISIL’s net worth is estimated to be over $2 billion.[33] Some experts claim that the Islamic State generates about $3 million per day[34] from selling crude oil on the black market, while others believe that it only earns $1 million a month from such activities.[35] Notwithstanding the inconclusive estimates generated from oil revenues, ISIL remains the world’s wealthiest terrorist organization.[36]

THE CONSEQUENCES OF INACTION

There is near unanimous agreement among foreign policy experts that the Islamic State poses a significant threat to international security.[37] Former U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel believes that the Islamic State is “as sophisticated and well-funded… as any group we have seen.”[38] When asked if the Islamic State represents the same level of threat as al Qaeda did pre-9/11, Hagel responded that ISIL: “marr[ies] ideology, [with] a sophistication of strategic and tactical military prowess. They’re tremendously well funded. This is beyond anything that we’ve seen.”[39] The former Defense Secretary’s refusal to respond to the answer with a direct yes or no is telling. For instance, the Islamic State is far wealthier and more influential than al Qaeda.[40] ISIL maintains a strong presence in major provinces and cities in Iraq and Syria, while in the period preceding the 9/11 attacks al Qaeda maintained a stronghold in Afghanistan only. Moreover, the Islamic State possesses a standing army with sophisticated weaponry and training that has gained experience through successful conflicts with the Iraqi military and militia groups. Al-Qaeda has never had a standing army of its own, nor has it ever possessed the same level of war-fighting capabilities that the Islamic State enjoys.[41]

Henry Kissinger, former U.S. Secretary of State and National Security Advisor, is primarily concerned with the collapse of the state, which he sees happening in Iraq and Syria.[42] According to Kissinger, when states disintegrate “they become fields for the contests of surrounding powers in which authority too often is achieved through total disregard for human well-being and dignity.”[43] “The collapse of a state,” he goes on to say, “may turn its territory into a base for terrorism, arms supply, or sectarian agitation against neighbors.”[44] For example, the safe haven provided for al Qaeda by the ruling Taliban regime in Afghanistan allowed the terrorist network to actively recruit and train the jihadists who launched the 9/11 attacks. It was documented in the 9/11 Commission Report that these terrorist attacks were the result of a “failure of imagination”—a case where something seemingly predictable and undesirable was not planned for.[45] In an era of suicide terrorism and proliferating weapons of mass destruction (WMD), it is conceivable that terrorists operating from within a safe haven provided by the Islamic State could successfully launch a devastating attack on foreign soil, killing thousands of civilians in the process.

If the Islamic State reaches a position of preeminence in the Middle East, this would upset the balance of power. If left unmitigated, the prospect of a hegemonic Islamic State becomes ever more likely as experts believe that ISIS militants have seized 40kg (90lb) of radioactive uranium in Iraq, which could be used to make a dirty bomb.[46] Furthermore, a recent takeover of a Saddam-era chemical weapons complex in Iraq by ISIL has worried experts that the terrorist group could use this facility to make chemical weapons. [47] These reports are a concern in light of a newly published New York Times report that confirmed that Saddam Hussein did have in his possession a considerable amount of chemical weapons, many of which are still buried in Iraq and unaccounted for.[48] It is therefore possible that the militants of the Islamic State could uncover these weapons and use them to target civilians. Furthermore, to allow ISIL the capacity to augment its standing army with weapons of mass destruction would grant these militants greater leverage in wresting away land and cities from neighboring nation-states. Moreover, these weapons could be launched against states outside of the Middle East. Therefore WMDs in the hands of ISIL militants would not only have a destabilizing effect on the Middle East, but also the world.

If left unmitigated, the Islamic State will look to expand its territory, and acquire a larger tax base. Greater revenues will lead to more successful terrorist operations. ISIL currently leverages its wealth to fund terrorist activities by paying better salaries than moderate Syrian rebels or the Syrian and Iraqi professional militaries, which allows them to poach the most talented terrorists from other organizations.[49] The money that ISIL generates is also used to fund its military and state apparatus. Since those on ISIL’s payroll are financially secure relative to their counterparts, the Islamic State enjoys high levels of social cohesion.[50] According to Douglas A. Ollivant and Brian Fishman, ISIL has created a “multi-ethnic army” similar to the “foreign legion” to secure its territory.[51] They go on to say that “these cadres – trained, indoctrinated, networked, equipped, and funded – will doubtless present a challenge” for the Arab world and the West in the coming years.[52]

THE RISE OF ISIL

Up until 2008, U.S.-led coalition forces succeeded in degrading al-Qaeda in Iraq to the point that some believed the terrorist network was on the verge of extinction.[53] Between 2008 and 2011, however, U.S. forces began to reduce their military engagement within Iraq and the scope in which they actively pursued Islamist targets.[54] Militants of the Islamic State took advantage of this and actively recruited prisoners and former ex-Saddam era Iraqi army officers.[55] Although U.S.-led coalition forces succeeded in undermining ISIL, they ultimately failed to destroy the organization.[56]

While there are multiple contributing factors to ISIL’s rapid transformation from a mere terrorist organization to a self-proclaimed Islamic Caliphate, there are two main causes. The primary reasons for ISIL’s meteoric rise are the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq in 2011 and the Syrian Civil War. These factors are connected, as it was a decreasing U.S. military presence that gave ISIL ample time to refurbish its forces, consolidate its power in the region, and ultimately reach a position of preeminence relative to other major international terror networks.[57]

Operating from Iraq, ISIL was able to expand its influence to Syria. The Syrian Civil War enabled ISIL to expand across Syria and portray its organization as the face of Sunni resistance to Bashar al-Assad’s regime. Wealthy Arab Gulf donors began to fund ISIL, in solidarity with fellow Sunnis against Assad’s forces.[58] The U.S. responded by applying pressure to the governments of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Qatar to crack down on individuals funding extremist groups in Syria.[59] However, these regimes refused the demands of the United States, informing them that these donors were justified in backing rebel forces in Syria since the U.S. had failed to remove President Assad after he had used chemical weapons on civilian protestors.[60]

Former Secretaries of Defense Leon Panetta[61] and Bob Gates,[62] as well as former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations John R. Bolton,[63] believe that a major contributing factor to ISIL’s success has been President Barack Obama’s decision to withdraw all American forces from Iraq in 2011. The decision to withdraw from Iraq created a vacuum, which ISIL gradually filled. Bolton, Panetta, and Gates claim that the absence of a prominent U.S. presence in Iraq resulted in the fracture of the Iraqi government. Had the U.S. maintained an active presence in Iraq, it could have coordinated with Iraq’s various ethnic and confessional groups to form a sustainable national government.[64] Moreover, had the U.S. remained in Iraq, many of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s callous decisions—such as prohibiting Saddam-era officials from holding office, arresting peaceful Sunni protestors, and aligning with non-governmental Shia militias which had slaughtered Sunnis during the post-invasion civil war—could have been prevented.[65] The consequences of Maliki’s actions were instrumental in aggravating Sunni grievances, and thus alienating moderate Sunnis who would, as a result, join ISIL in solidarity against the Iraqi regime.

POLICY OPTIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS

Foreign policy experts generally agree that the Islamic State poses a clear and present danger and must therefore be stopped; they disagree, however, on the strategy that is to be used to combat the threat of ISIL. Jessica D. Lewis and retired Marine Gen. John Allen argue for a strategy consisting of a full-scale combat mission, led by U.S. forces, to destroy ISIL on the ground in Syria and Iraq.[66] Max Boot, on the other hand, agrees with Lewis and Allen that the Islamic State represents a significant threat, but argues that a policy aimed at destroying it would be too ambitious for the present.[67] Rather, Boot prefers an incremental strategy that focuses on prohibiting further expansion from ISIL, while gradually wresting control of territory away from the terrorist group, as to reduce its sphere of influence, thereby limiting its reach.[68] Henry Kissinger’s solution is to continue striking ISIL with a sustained air campaign and to lend support to Arab states fighting ISIL, barring U.S. ground troops.[69] In his book, World Order, Kissinger cautions against allowing Iraq, Syria, or any other Middle Eastern state to become a failed state. However, others like Dov S. Zakheim believe that the Islamic State does not constitute an immediate threat to the West, and should therefore be combated with a containment strategy to deny ISIL the capacity to expand its territory, which would allow the Arab states to fight a weakened version of the terrorist group themselves.[70]

Jessica D. Lewis applies a “Center of Gravity” analysis to combating ISIL, which was first introduced by Carl von Clausewitz in his masterwork On War. A “Center of Gravity” refers to the enemy’s primary source of strength.[71] The Islamic State’s Center of Gravity is its military, without which the organization cannot achieve its strategic objectives.[72] Following from Clausewitz’s Center of Gravity analysis, defeating ISIL will require all efforts directed towards destroying its military capabilities.[73]

General John Allen mirrors Jessica Lewis’ policy recommendations in his article “Destroy the Islamic State Now.”[74] The destruction of ISIL, he argues, will require a substantial number of armed military personnel on the ground.[75] Allen argues for a strong U.S. presence in the region to lead a coalition of combat forces against the militants of the Islamic State.[76] This coalition must be comprised of the Kurds, the Sunnis, and the Free Syrian Resistance army.[77] Furthermore, Allen calls for the refurbishment of the Iraqi military so that it can adequately combat ISIL and deter future Islamic militants.[78]

Max Boot recommends the deployment of more aircraft, military advisors, and special operations forces, while “loosening restrictions under which they operate in Iraq and Syria” to combat ISIL.[79] Boot cites the current U.S. bombing campaign against the Islamic State to be remarkably restrained in comparison to the strikes against the Taliban and al Qaeda in Afghanistan after 9/11.[80] “When the Taliban lost control of Afghanistan between October 7, 2001, and December 23, 2001—a period of seventy-five days—U.S. aircraft flew 6,500 strike sorties and dropped 17,5000 munitions,” he says.[81] Conversely, “between August 8, 2014, and October 23, 2014 the United States conducted only 632 airstrikes and dropped only 1,700 munitions in Iraq and Syria.”[82] If ISIL is to be destroyed, the U.S. must intensify airstrikes alongside allied countries.[83]

The second major recommendation Boot makes is to place combat soldiers on the ground in Iraq and Syria.[84] “President Obama has not allowed U.S. Special Forces and forward air controllers to embed themselves in the Free Syrian Army, Iraqi security forces, Kurdish Peshmerga, or in Sunni tribes when they go into combat,” says Boot.[85] Ground personnel are necessary to facilitate the process of calling in air strikes and improving the combat capacity of U.S. proxies.[86] Following from General Martin Dempsey’s recommendation for 80,000 effective military troops to recapture territory lost in Iraq,[87] Boot rebukes the insubstantial number of ground troops currently in Iraq – only 2,900.[88]

A competent ground operation in Iraq and Syria would allow successful special operations missions with forces like the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC). “Between 2003 and 2010, JSOC – composed of units such as SEAL Team Six and Delta Force – became skilled at targeting networks of al-Qaeda in Iraq,” says Boot.[89] “[JSOC’s] success was largely due to its ability to gather intelligence by interrogating prisoners and scooping up computers and documents—something that bombing alone cannot accomplish.”[90] JSOC squadrons could be stationed in Iraq, the Kurdistan Regional Government, Turkey, or Jordan in order to target senior ISIS leadership members and to recover documents that could produce actionable intelligence.[91]

Henry Kissinger believes that U.S. ground forces are unnecessary. Kissinger prefers a policy designed to thwart ISIL’s advances with heavy airstrikes. “If we can enlist other countries, or other more local groups to do the fighting,” Kissinger says, “we might actually destroy them [ISIL].”[92] If the West were to succeed in the war against ISIL, it would mean that a short-term strategy of sustained airstrikes coupled with an active military presence would precede a long-term strategy of nation building, argues Max Boot.[93] Boot agrees that it is necessary to nation build in Iraq and Syria once ISIL has been defeated, to ensure that those nations become fully functioning states capable of defending their land and protecting their civilian population from Islamist groups.[94] However, this does not mean that Iraq and Syria should remain autonomous. Boot suggests that the United States should “lay the groundwork for a post conflict settlement in both Iraq and Syria that does not necessarily require keeping both political entities intact.”[95] In the Iraqi context, this means “offering greater autonomy to Sunnis and guaranteeing the Kurds that their hard-won gains will not be jeopardized,” Boot says, “the United States should propose to permanently station troops in the Kurdistan Regional Government.”[96] The international community should not be opposed to creating one or more Kurdish states in Syria or Iraq if this outcome will result in stability in the Middle East.[97]

The problem with sending American forces back into Iraq, argues Dov S. Zakheim, is that the Iraqi people will not welcome them.[98] ISIL will simply exploit the presence of U.S. troops in Iraq for recruitment purposes.[99] In Syria, Zakheim believes that the Americans would be even less welcome.[100] Furthermore, the dynamics of the Syrian battlefield make it difficult for U.S. forces to succeed in that part of the world, since they would be thrust into a multi-front war against ISIL, Assad’s forces, and Jabhat al-Nusra.[101]

Zakheim prefers a containment strategy as opposed to a full-scale military invasion.[102] He affirms that containment will not destroy ISIL: this task is up to the people of the Middle East to accomplish. Moreover, a policy of containment will “buy time” and allow those within ISIL’s ranks to revolt or for the organization to eventually self-implode.[103] Zakheim supports arming the Kurds and using airstrikes to halt ISIL’s advances.[104] The U.S. should increase its military and economic assistance to Jordan to prevent ISIL from expanding upward.[105] Furthermore, the U.S. should not strike Assad’s forces in Syria. Rather, it would be ideal to allow Assad’s forces to battle ISIL, which will weaken both sides.[106]

The United States should also get tough with Qatar and Turkey. Qatar has been pursuing a “two-faced policy” of hosting American forces while supporting ISIL, Washington, Zakheim argues, does not need bases in Qatar as it can move its forces to the United Arab Emirates.[107] Furthermore, the threatened withdrawal of those forces would send a clear message to the ruling al-Thani family in Qatar that they must choose between ISIL and the West.[108] Zakheim goes further to say that Turkey has presented the U.S. with similar problems by refusing the American military the right to fly through their airspace.[109] In response to this, he argues, America should immediately loosen its economic ties with Turkey.[110]

CONCLUSIONS

It has been argued that the Islamic State represents a clear and present danger to international security. The strategy of ISIL is to dissolve state boundaries and to generate conditions for civil war, after which the Islamic State hopes to transition into an Islamic Emirate.[111] Following the creation of the Islamic State, ISIL militants recruited individuals from all around the world to fight and live in the Islamic State.[112] After the entire Middle East becomes stateless, borderless, and under the governance of a Sunni Islamic Caliphate, the next step for these militants is to expand its borders worldwide.[113]

The likelihood of ISIL ever establishing a Caliphate that consumes the entire Middle East is highly unlikely, but it does currently occupy a substantial portion of land, which allows it to function as a state and serve as a safe haven for terrorists. Incidentally, remnants of ISIL proved successful in 2008 at transforming the fledgling network into the world’s wealthiest terrorist organization. If left unmitigated, the Islamic State will remain an entrenched power within a region marked by instability, suicide terrorism, and proliferating weapons of mass destruction.

If we are to prevent the Islamic State from becoming a beacon of jihad we must engage militarily with ISIL, which will require a sustained air campaign coupled with Arab combat soldiers on the ground. Following from Zakheim’s analysis, it is clear that Western soldiers on the ground in Iraq and Syria – U.S. troops in particular – will serve as a recruitment tool for ISIL. Thus, the West must assist the Middle Eastern states that are currently fighting ISIL – which includes Syria’s Assad – with air power, intelligence, and training. Only once the ISIL threat is eliminated in Syria can a process for negotiating an end to the Civil War begin.

Mark Nader is a Masters candidate at the University of Western Ontario concentrating on political risk analysis. Dr. Anders Corr and Ms. Sarah Becks provided editorial oversight for this article. JPR Status: Working Paper. Archived on 5/26/2015.

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Woodward, Bob. “Robert Gates, Former Defense Secretary, Offers Harsh Critique of Obama’s Leadership in ‘Duty.” The Washington Post, January 7, 2014. Accessed January 26, 2015. http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/robert-gates-former-defense-secretary-offers-harsh-critique-of-obamas-leadership-in-duty/2014/01/07/6a6915b2-77cb-11e3-b1c5-739e63e9c9a7_story.html.

Zakheim, Dov S. “The Best Strategy to Handle ISIS: Good Old Containment,” The National Interest, September 24, 2014. Accessed February 11, 2015. http://nationalinterest.org/feature/the-best-strategy-handle-isis-good-old-containment-11341.

Footnotes

[1] The Guardian, “Iraqi Civilian Death Toll Passes 5,500 In Wake of ISIS Offensive,” The Guardian, July 18, 2014.

[2] Al Arabiya, “Syria Death Toll Now Exceeds 200,000: Monitor,” Al Arabiya News, February 14, 2014.

[3] The Economist, “The Loss of a Nation,” The Economist, October 23, 2014.

[4] Steve Coll, “In Search of a Strategy,” The New Yorker, September 8, 2014.

[5] For example, see spoken and written analyses by Henry Kissinger, Jessica D. Lewis, Fred and Kimberly Kagan, General John Allen, Max Boot, John R. Bolton.

[6] These states should be provided with the requisite amount of lethal aid and intelligence reports so that they themselves can attack ISIL as well as stave off its advances. The ongoing power struggle between Saudi Arabia and Iran has further inflamed the conflict, making it difficult to decide which forces to arm. Nonetheless, ISIL represents a clear and present danger to international security, and its destruction must be paramount. A shrewd and astute policy is one that would bring balance to the Shia-Sunni regional divide between Iraq and Saudi Arabia, while at the same time strengthening specific proxy states in a strategic manner to facilitate the demise of ISIL.

[7] To defeat ISIL, the West must win the hearts and minds of the civilians in the Middle East. The lesson of the U.S. invasion of Vietnam, the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan, and the U.S. invasion of Iraq, is that ground operations typically fail against insurgent forces. They also come at a high cost, both financially and in terms of casualties. It is important that civilians in the Middle East do not misconstrue foreign assistance in the fight against ISIL as an occupation of their land. The combat troops fighting ISIL must therefore be Arab and they must come from Arab countries.

[8] Graeme Wood, “What ISIS Really Wants,” The Atlantic, March 2015.

[9] Ibid.

[10] Jessica D. Lewis, “The Islamic State: A Counter-Strategy for a Counter-State,” Institute for the Study of War, July 2014, 18.

[11] Ibid.

[12] Ibid.

[13] Ibid.

[14] Ibid.

[15] Ibid.

[16] Ibid.

[17] Alastair Crooke, “You Can’t Understand ISIS if You Don’t Know the History of Wahhabism in Saudi Arabia,” Huffington Post, August 27, 2014.

[18] Ibid.

[19] Jessica D. Lewis, “The Islamic State: A Counter-Strategy for a Counter-State,” Institute for the Study of War, July 2014, 19-22.

[20] Fred Kagan and Kimberly Kagan, “US Strategy Against Islamic State is Too Much Air, Not Enough Boots,” American Enterprise Institute, October 7, 2014.

[21] Ibid.

[22] Ibid.

[23] Ibid.

[24] Ibid.

[25] Jessica Stern and JM Berger, “Thugs Wanted: Bring Your Own Boots: How ISIS Attracts Foreign Fighters to its Twisted Utopia,” The Guardia, March 9, 2015.

[26] Ibid.

[27] Ibid.

[28] Ibid.

[29] Charles Lister, “Cutting Off ISIS’ Cash Flow,” Brookings Institute, October 24, 2014.

[30] Nour Malas and Maria Abi-Habib, “Islamic State Economy Runs on Extortion, Oil Piracy in Syria, Iraq, The Wall Street Journal, August 28, 2014.

[31] Staff Writer, “Experts: ISIS Makes Up To $3 Million Daily in Oil Sails,” Al Arabiya News, August 28, 2014.

[32] Ian Black, “The Terrifying Rise of ISIS: $2bn in Loot, Online Killings and an Army on the Run,” The Guardian, June 16, 2014.

[33] CNBC Staff, “How ISIS Managed to Acquire $2B in Assets,” CNBC, June 16, 2014. http://www.cnbc.com/id/101761986#.

[34] The death of ISIL’s chief financial officer, Abu Sayyaf, represents a temporary blow to the organization’s earning capacity in the oil and gas sector. Sayyaf was only a midlevel manager, however, and will most likely be replaced with someone equally as capable.

[35] Associated Press Report, “ISIS is Earning $1 Million Per Day In Black Market Oil Sales, Says Treasury Department Official,” Daily Mail, October 23, 2014.

[36] Jeremy Bender and Amanda Macias, “Here’s How the World’s Richest Terrorist Group Makes Millions Every Day,” Business Insider, August 27, 2014.

[37] See Henry Kissinger, Jessica D. Lewis, Fred and Kimberly Kagan, General John Allen, Max Boot, John R. Bolton.

[38] Kate Brannen, “Hagel: ISIS is More Dangerous Than al Qaeda,” Foreign Policy, August 21, 2014.

[39] Ibid.

[40] Ibid.

[41] Ibid.

[42] Kissinger, Henry. World Order. New York: Penguin Press, 2014, 143.

[43] Ibid., 144.

[44] Ibid., 143.

[45] National Commission On Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States, “The 9/11 Commission Report: Final Report of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States,” July 22, 2014, 87.

[46] Tom Coghlan, “Dirty Bomb Fears after ISIS Rebels Seize Uranium Stash,” The Times, July 11, 2014.

[47] Damien McElroy, “ISIS Storms Saddam-Era Chemical Weapons Complesx in Iraq,” The Telegraph, June 19, 2014.

[48] C.J. Chivers, “The Secret Casualties of Iraq’s Abandoned Chemical Weapons,” The New York Times, October 14, 2014.

[49] Zack Beauchamp, “17 Things About ISIS and Iraq You Need to Know,” Vox, October 9, 2014.

[50] Ibid.

[51] Ibid.

[52] Douglas A. Ollivant and Brian Fishman, “State of Jihad: The Reality of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria,” War on the Rocks, May 21, 2014.

[53] Zach Beauchamp, “The 9 Biggest Myths About ISIS,” Vox, October 1, 2014. Accessed October 1, 2014. http://www.vox.com/cards/isis-myths-iraq/crazy-irrational.

[54] Ibid.

[55] Ibid.

[56] Ibid.

[57] Ibid.

[58] Ibid.

[59] Ibid.

[60] Ibid.

[61] Marc A. Thiessen, “Obama Ignores Leon Panetta’s Warning,” The Washington Post, October 6, 2014.

[62] Bob Woodward, “Robert Gates, Former Defense Secretary, Offers Harsh Critique of Obama’s Leadership in ‘Duty,” The Washington Post, January 7, 2014.

[63] John R. Bolton, “Destroy the ‘Islamic State’: This Must be the No. 1 U.S. Objective in Iraq, National Review, September 8, 2014.

[64] Ibid.

[65] Zach Beauchamp, “The 9 Biggest Myths About ISIS,” Vox, October 1, 2014.

[66] See Jessica D. Lewis and General John Allen.

[67] Max Boot, “Policy Innovation Memorandum No. 51,” Council on Foreign Relations, November 14, 2014.

[68] Ibid.

[69] NPR, “Henry Kissinger’s Thoughts On the Islamic State, Ukraine, And ‘World Order,’” NPR, September 6, 2014.

[70] Dov S. Zakheim, “The Best Strategy to Handle ISIS: Good Old Containment,” The National Interest, September 24, 2014.

[71] Jessica D. Lewis, “The Islamic State: A Counter-Strategy for a Counter-State,” Institute for the Study of War, July 2014, 19-22.

[72] Ibid.

[73] Ibid.

[74] General John Allen, “Destroy the Islamic State Now,” Defense One, August 20, 2014.

[75] Ibid.

[76] Ibid.

[77] Ibid.

[78] Ibid.

[79] Max Boot, “Policy Innovation Memorandum No. 51,” Council on Foreign Relations, November 14, 2014.

[80] Ibid.

[81] Ibid.

[82] Ibid.

[83] The Washington Post cited a study by a Harvard researcher, Linda J. Bilmes, which suggests that the U.S. will pay between $4 to $6 trillion for the Afghanistan and Iraq wars. The U.S. would be expected to incur further costs if it were to continue to engage ISIL militarily. Some experts say Russia, China, and cyber-warfare represent graver threats than ISIL. They may be correct, however, the problems posed by Russia and China could be solved diplomatically. With regard to cyber-threats, they will be dealt with in the domain of cyberspace at a cost considerably less than that of armed warfare. It would be dangerous to allow ISIL to provide terrorists with transnational ambitions a safe haven from which to plot attacks on the West, similar to what the Taliban provided for al-Qaeda pre-9/11. It is in Americas best interests to deny safe havens to terrorists, so it should therefore continue to allocate the resources necessary to destroy the threat of ISIL.

[84] Ibid.

[85] Ibid.

[86] Ibid.

[87] David Alexander and Phil Stewart, “Iraq needs 80,000 Good Troops to Retake Lost Territory: U.S. General, Reuters, November 13, 2014

[88] Max Boot, “Policy Innovation Memorandum No. 51,” Council on Foreign Relations, November 14, 2014.

[89] Ibid.

[90] Ibid.

[91] Ibid.

[92] NPR, “Henry Kissinger’s Thoughts On the Islamic State, Ukraine, And ‘World Order,’” NPR, September 6, 2014.

[93] Max Boot, “Policy Innovation Memorandum No. 51,” Council on Foreign Relations, November 14, 2014.

[94] Ibid.

[95] Ibid.

[96] Ibid.

[97] Ibid.

[98] Dov S. Zakheim, “The Best Strategy to Handle ISIS: Good Old Containment,” The National Interest, September 24, 2014.

[99] Ibid.

[100] Ibid.

[101] Ibid.

[102] Ibid.

[103] Ibid.

[104] Ibid.

[105] Ibid.

[106] Ibid.

[107] Ibid.

[108] Ibid.

[109] Ibid.

[110] Ibid.

[111] Jessica D. Lewis, “The Islamic State: A Counter-Strategy for a Counter-State,” Institute for the Study of War, July 2014, 18.

[112] Ibid.

[113] Ibid.