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Israel’s Contribution towards Defeating the Islamic State

Manfred Gerstenfeld, author of The War of a Million Cuts reviewed in the June 2015 New English Review, published a prescient essay mid-June in the Jerusalem Post. Gerstenfeld is the former Chairman of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs that sponsored a symposium on his new book on June 22, 2015. It was on the difficulty of “defeating”, let alone “degrading” the resilient Islamic State-the self declared Caliphate, “Will defeating Islamic State take more than a generation? “ While addressing the myriad of threats in the Middle East and potentially in the West from Islamic State Jihadis, Gerstenfeld draws attention to the contributions from Israel’s experience fighting asymmetrical wars against Islamic extremists seeking its destruction.

Tunisian Jihadi gunman Seifddine Rezgui

Tunisian Jihadi gunman Seifddine Rezgui. Photo by Rami Al Lolah

There was a trio of bloody spectacles inspired by the Islamic State on the first Friday in Ramadan. In France there was the beheading of an American owned chemical company executive by a Muslim employee. In Tunisia there was a massacre at a beach resort killing and injuring among others dozens of British, Belgian, Irish and German tourists by a Kalishnikov-toting attacker. In Kuwait there was  the bombing of a Shia Mosque where several dozen  at prayers were killed or injured .

In January there were the Charlie Hebdo and Hyper Casher Market attacks by Al Qaeda and ISIS inspired émigré Muslims that killed seventeen, including four French  Jews and a Tunisian Jew.  Last fall, we saw attacks in Sydney, Ottawa and Quebec. There were an ax attack injuring  New York police officers and a beheading of food service employee at a company in Oklahoma City both perpetrated by converts to Islam. Last month we had the attack by two Jihadis from Phoenix  who were killed  in an attempted attack a Mohammed Cartoon event in Garland, Texas. One of the speakers at the event  was Geert Wilders, the leader of the Dutch Freedom Party (PVV) who is under 24/7 protection of the Royal Dutch Protective service because of threats against his life for his anti-Islam  views in the Netherlands and the EU.

Reuters reported Islamic State spokesman Muhammad al-Adnani urging brothers in the Muslim ummah in honor of the observances of Ramadan to undertake attacks on kaffirs, unbelievers,   whether Christians, Shiites or Sunnis opposing the self-declared Islamic State. He declared in an audio message, Jihadists should turn the holy month of Ramadan, which began last week, into a time of “calamity for the infidels … Shi’ites and apostate Muslims.”  Not lost on many is that June 29th marks the first anniversary  of the Islamic State  self declaration of a Caliphate by  Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

Gerstenfield’s op-ed was triggered by comments from US General James Allen, commander of the US-led coalition combating the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq, suggesting that it might take a generation to defeat IS.  Gerstenfeld wrote:

General Allen’s remarks, whether realistic or not, can serve for more detailed reflection on what it would mean if IS -controlled territory of a substantial size in say 20 years from now. This would indeed have a major impact on the world order, or better said world disorder. It would also have particular consequences for the Muslim world, the West, Russia and many other countries. Israel and the Jews, though minor players, would be affected by the global impact and by possible targeted attacks by IS.

As far as the Muslim world is concerned, the Arab Spring has already added Libya, Yemen and Syria to the roster of failed countries. The continued existence of IS may cause Iraq and possibly other countries to be added to that list. As the Islamic State is an extremist Sunni movement, it is directly opposed to Shi’ite Muslims, with no inclination to compromise. The longer the Islamic State lasts, the greater the threat to the Shi’ites.

That would mean that eventually the Islamic State would likely confront Iran, the leading Shi’ite country. Iran has been an international troublemaker and hardly any external forces have reacted to it militarily in the current century. The more powerful the Islamic State becomes, the more it will have to challenge Iran.  As the Islamic State also opposes the Sunni countries presently ruled by various royal families, the instability in these countries would increase substantially as well. The same is true concerning Egypt.

[…]

The Islamic State calls for murder may bring with it a shift back toward terrorist attacks perpetrated by foreign jihadists. There have been threats and rumors of having them brought into Europe amongst the boat refugees arriving from Libya, or smuggled through the Balkans. … Yet if we speak about decades of sizable continued Islamic State activity, it is likely that there will be attacks from terrorists disguised as refugees.

[…]

Substantial Jihadi-caused terrorism in the West will lead to further stereotyping of all Muslims.

The previous massive influx of Muslims and its ensuing social problems, including the lack of successful integration, has already led to the rise and/or growth of anti-Islam nationalistic parties in various countries.

These include Geert Wilders’ Freedom Party (PVV) in the Netherlands, the Swedish Democrats, and above all, France’s Front National. Substantial Muslim terrorism is not only likely to increase the popularity of these parties but will influence the positions of other parties, who will have to compete for the votes of those with harder positions regarding Islam.

What would all this mean for Jews living abroad? Not much good. Attacks on others are often followed by attacks on Jews.

Gerstenfeld notes the ability of Israel to contend with extremist Salafist jihadi Islamic groups. Groups equipped with advanced weaponry supplied by Iran or Russian and U.S. weapons stocks abandoned by Assad forces in Syria or Iraqi National Forces:

No other country has accumulated as much experience in effectively fighting Muslim terrorists of various kinds as Israel. Israeli know-how in this field is already in demand and that is only likely to increase.

This fact is not well-publicized, but in future it should be, to improve Israel’s image with the Western mainstream populations.

A second opportunity may lie in Israel using the anti- Islamic State (IS)  sentiment in the West to highlight that the majority Palestinian faction, Hamas, is not very different from IS. Israel hasn’t done much about this until now, but at the same time, the grounds for response from the West have been far less fertile than they may become in the future.

A third opportunity for Israel could be the possible change in political alliances in the Middle East. Some Arab states might consider that whatever hatred they promote of Israel to be less beneficial than allying them with Israel against IS, which has become a real threat to many Arab states. A recent poll showed that Saudis consider Iran to be their largest threat, followed by IS, and that Israel ranks third.

There has already been alleged secret meeting between Saudi military and Israeli security counterparts. Doubtless drawn together by the threat of a Shiite Mahdist Iran on the verge of becoming a nuclear threshold state destabilizing the Middle East. That is reflected in the Saudi undeclared war against the Houthi insurgency in the failed State of Yemen. An insurgency equipped and backed by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps.

EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared in the New English Review. The featured image of Islamic State fighters is courtesy of PamelaGeller.com.

Kobani on the brink of falling — Could Baghdad Airport be next?

Yesterday, we posted commentary on Jonathan Schanzer‘s, Politico Magazine piece, “Time to kick Turkey Out of NATO?”  We noted what was behind Erdogan’s refusal to commit forces to lift the ISIS siege of the beleaguered Syrian Kurdish city of Kobani.  We concluded:

Erdogan clearly wants the Syrian Kurds decimated so that they will not have virtual autonomy in the country’s northeast.

We note Schanzer’s conclusion in his Politico article:

The crisis in Kobani once again brings the challenge of Turkey into sharp relief. Despite the best efforts of Washington and other coalition members to bring Turkey along, it now appears clear: Turkey under the AKP is a lost cause. It is simply not a partner for NATO. Nor is it a partner in the fight against the Islamic State.

Marie Herf, one of the two Department of State spokespersons, held forth at yesterday’s Daily Press Briefing packed with US and foreign journalists. She spoke about the meetings in Ankara with US Coalition military chief Gen. James Allen and Amb. Brett McGurk to be followed by a Pentagon military planning team  next week to discuss what assistance the Turkish NATO ‘ally’ might render in the fight against ISIS. The impression left, given questions by journalists at the Daily Press Briefing, is that  Turkey will do nothing  to aid the Syrian Kurds in Kobani, while the US  conducts periodic air assaults that have yet to blunt the ISIS forces surrounding  the city.  Her  colleague, Jen Psaki was engaged in a HuffPost cocktail hour discussion with Washington journalists about the dilemma of the stubborn, but apparently valiant Kurdish PYG defense of the shrinking perimeter inside Kobani against ISIS. The YPG is affiliated with the Kurdish Workers’ Party (PKK) that the Turks, EU and US have designated as terrorists. Turkish President Erdogan considers the PKK and hence the YPG to be ‘worse than ISIS’.

Violent protests by Kurds have erupted in the predominately Kurdish southeastern provinces of Turkey and in major cities. These  have taken the lives of over 36 protesters. The Daily Beast reported:

For three nights now Kurdish protestors, riot police and Turkish ultranationalists have battled each other in dozens of towns across the southeast as well as in Istanbul and the capital Ankara. More than 30 have died so far in the violence and more than 1000 people have been arrested, according to Turkish Interior Minister Efkan Ala. And for the first time in years soldiers are on the streets of the Kurdish towns of Diyarbakır, Mardin, Van and Batman, where curfews have been imposed.

The lockdowns have not stopped the protests. Armed with Molotov cocktails, furious Kurds have been firebombing schools, government buildings and political party offices.

In Diyarbakır, a PKK stronghold, protestors defied orders to remain indoors. “Some people stay at home and just make noise in protest,” a resident reported via email. “But others are going out. The city is crazy. Helicopters are hovering overhead the whole time. There are no cars or taxis but there are tanks.” Then she added: “There is a beautiful moon and the smoke of tear gas.”

Turkish forces were caught by a Voice of America cameraman firing on Syrian Kurdish protesters from the border town of Qamishli. Watch here:

My European source on Turkey commented that Erdogan’s suppression of Kurds in Turkey reflects his fear about the growing importance of Kurdish irredentism. He pointed out in our conversation  that Kurds now account for 25 percent of Turkey’s population and are likely to increase in influence during Erdogan’s term as President.  Erdogan has reached out to PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan, imprisoned on an Island in the Sea of Marmara off Istanbul, requesting him to issue a letter to his followers to remain calm.  That clearly didn’t resonate with angry Kurds in Turkey. Kurdish protests and even street battles with ISIS supporters have occurred in Europe. Rallies in protest of Turkey’s inaction on Kobani have occurred in Canada and in Washington.

ISIS is reported to control half of Kobani, despite the limited air assault by the US-led coalition.  According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rghts, the YPG was taking a toll on ISIS attackers in fierce urban street fighting. Kurdish resistance leaders inside Kobani were tweeting that they were running out of ammunition.  The National Posreported this comment from a Turkish Kurdish member of the Ankara Parliament:

“Islamists open automatic fire while Kurds are careful to fire single shots,” Faysal Sariyildiz, a Kurdish lawmaker in Turkey’s parliament who’s been monitoring the battle, said in an interview. “They are careful with ammunition since they don’t have logistics supplies like Islamic State.”

The fear of possible genocide by ISIS jihadists against Kurds trapped in Kobani was expressed by UN Special Envoy to Syria, Staffan de Mistura, a veteran Swedish-Italian diplomat.  Mistura according to the BBC “urged Turkey to allow volunteers to cross into Syria to defend Kobani, and warned that as many as 700 people, mainly elderly civilians, were still trapped in the town.  He gave this chilling comment about a possible massacre in Kobani  at a news conference, ‘You remember Srebrenica,’ Staffan de Mistura said, referring to the Bosnian town where Serb forces slaughtered 8,000 Muslim men and boys in July 1995. ‘We never forgot and we probably never forgave ourselves for that.’

Without ammunition the Kurds have their backs to wall, Kobani is doomed to fall.  Would the Peshmerga in Iraq supply that?  Are their stocks available from the US National Security stockpile in Haifa, Israel? Israel, we are told has sold off its stocks of captured Soviet era weapons and ammunition. Although it could manufacture such  ammunition, it is unlikely to do so.

The USAF has  probably  has available far more effective Special Operations aircraft with which to conduct a aerial campaign to stave off the ISIS forces ringing Kobani. The USAF Special Operations Command at Hurlburt Air Field in North West Florida has squadrons of the heavily armed  Lockheed C-130A Spectre gunships  and the Pilatus U-28 intelligence aircraft. Both have been used to great effect in Afghanistan. Watch this video of a C-30 Spectre Gunship in action. Then we have a number of  Fairchild-Republic A-10 Thunderbolt Warthog National Guard units that are very effective tank killers. Watch this video of an A-10 Warthog in action. The Spectres are capable of staying over the target area in support of fighting in urban areas with massive firepower . They can take out troops, vehicles like the armored Humvees and tanks stolen from the fleeing Iraq national forces.  They are more effective than the F-18A Hornets, F-16s and the Eurofiighter Tornados and drones currently utilized by the US-led coalition.  Clearly there is no evidence that this Administration plans to use those USAF Special Operations aircraft.

US Embassy Helicopter Rescue Fall of Saigon April 1975

US Embassy Helicopter Rescue Fall of Saigon April 1975

Besides, we have an even more pressing problem, defense of a 300 man US Marine contingent at the Baghdad International Airport now within range of stolen US artillery captured by ISIS. ISIS has conquered virtually all of Anbar Province. Provincial leaders have said that only US combat troops can prevent a complete takeover by ISIS. That puts the ISIS blitzkrieg on Baghdad’s doorstep. Should the runways and control tower at Baghdad airport  be shelled or mortared the only way that those Marines might be evacuated is by  helicopters and not the Apache attack ones we have dispatched. But then ISIS also has MANPADS capable of shooting down both civilian and military aircrafts and those Apaches.  Baghdad airport’s possible fall to ISIS forces raises the question of how the thousands of American contractors, diplomatic staff, and US military advisors will get out to safety from Baghdad’s Green Zone?  That daunting prospect conjures up something eerily familiar to those of us who are Vietnam era vets. The fall of Saigon in April 1975 with images of American Huey helicopters plucking off clamoring US diplomats and Vietnamese from the roof of the US Embassy.

Kobani’s likely fall to ISIS in the face of Turkish inaction despite US limited air attacks will be a momentary disaster awaiting the debacle of what might occur at Baghdad International Airport.

Besides, we have an even more pressing problem, defense of a 300 man US Marine contingent at the Baghdad International Airport now within range of stolen US artillery captured by ISIS.  Should the runways and control tower be shelled or mortared the only way that those Marines might be evacuated is by Apache helicopters we have dispatched. But then ISIS also has MANPADS capable of shooting down both civilian and military aircrafts and those Apaches.  Baghdad airport’s possible fall to ISIS forces raises the question of how the thousands of American contractors, diplomatic staff, and US military advisors will get out to safety from Baghdad’s Green Zone? That daunting prospect conjures up something eerily familiar to those of us who are Vietnam era vets. The fall of Saigon in April 1975 with images of American Huey helicopters plucking off clamoring US diplomats and Vietnamese from the roof of the US Embassy.

Kobani’s likely fall to ISIS in the face of Turkish inaction despite US limited air attacks will be a momentary disaster awaiting the debacle of what might occur at Baghdad  International Airport.

EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared in the New English Review. The featured photo is of smoke from a U.S. coalition air strike in Kobani as seen from Suruc, Turkey taken on 10-10-2014. Source: AP/Leftaris, Pitarakis.