General Sir Rupert Smith, former Deputy Supreme Allied Commander Europe of NATO, is a senior international authority on defence, security and strategy.
In an exclusive interview with Chartwell, Sir Rupert gives his take on the West’s strategy towards ISIS – or lack thereof – and whether the West has got it right, following Britain’s recent decision to perform air-strikes in Iraq. Sir Rupert also draws comparisons to the crisis in Ukraine, though noting that the situations are very different from one another, and comments on the ability of strategists to think about, and prepare for, long term solutions.
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Writing in the Financial Times, former Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs of France Dominique de Villepin argues that the West has to do what it takes to eliminate Islamist violence.
Following the barbaric murder of Alan Henning, Dominique believes there is a fresh call for more efficiency in the fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS). However, with reference to the on-going global war on terror, he points out that there is “confusion over what is said, what is done and what is wished.” He goes on to say that “40 years inconsistent policies, especially in Washington, have fuelled war between nationalist dictatorships and Islamist movements.”
Dominique asserts that “we cannot afford an endless war of fragile truces punctuated by brutal outbursts that leads, little by little, to a clash of civilisations.” In response, he sets out three imperatives as a core strategy to achieve the elimination of Islamist violence:
- The key strategy remains political, and requires the unity of the Arab nation states.
- The second imperative is responsibility: the regional war can only be solved by the region’s countries.
- The third imperative is reconciliation. In the Middle East, the West needs to promote local peace, in one place at a time, to achieve a regional peace tomorrow.
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Writing in the LA Times, Dennis Ross, expert speaker on geopolitics and one of America’s foremost foreign policy experts on the Middle East region, warns that Washington’s actions toward ISIS now must be taken with both Iraq and Syria in mind.
Dennis explains that the calculus that guided the U.S. in Iraq and Syria was fear over the costs of action, which led Washington to ignore the costs of inaction. He argues that sanctions, a political process and humanitarian assistance did not affect reality in Syria, and that today we are seeing the cost in terms of spillover in the region, and the consequences of radical Islamists coming to dominate the opposition.
He goes on to say that “there is no border between Syria and Iraq, and the re-emergence of a terrible sectarian conflict in Iraq is inextricably linked to Syria. There will be no effective or enduring answer to the ISIS threat in Iraq without also taking steps in Syria to deny it a sanctuary and a recruiting base.”
Dennis argues that “there will be risks to acting, but by now we have seen the costs of inaction — and they are only likely to grow over time.” The military and diplomatic steps that President Obama has ordered reflect the U.S. need to prevent ISIS from embedding itself in more of Iraq. Whether they will work, Dennis adds, is another matter.
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