By Oraib Al-Rantawi
"Suddenly, and without prior warning, ISIS has found itself in a war against everyone," writes Oraib Al-Rantawi in the Jordanian daily Addustour
Washington is inciting against it and mobilizing all the opposition groups to fight it. Its [former] ambassador in Syria, Robert Ford, is trying to distinguish between the 'inferior ISIS' and the 'superior [Saudi-backed] Islamic Front.' He turns a blind eye to the alliance between the latter and the [al-Qa’ida-affiliated] Nusra Front, which Washington itself has added to its list of terrorist organizations. As for the Nusra Front, it is caught in the middle: It is happy to assume and inherit ISIS's positions in the Aleppo and Idlib countrysides; but it is also anxious that the day will come when it will also be attacked.
[Iraqi PM] al-Maliki is striking at ISIS with two swords: that of open military and political U.S. support, and that of the no less sharp Iranian sword. He has begun to find those responding to his call amongst Anbar province's Arabs and Sunnis. It is only a matter of days before Ramadi and Fallujah are brought back into the state's embrace, leaving ISIS's camps in the Anbar desert as easy prey for fighter jets and artillery and rocket bombardments.
In short, the time for settling all accounts has arrived for ISIS. An international and regional decision to excise it has been taken. And this is reason to raise a number of questions and remarks:
- First, ISIS is not so fragile as to be destroyed by one or a few rounds of combat in Iraq or Syria. The organization is much too ‘solid’ to be defeated by a technical knockout. Implementing the international decision to eliminate it is more likely to require months-- perhaps years, and many battles and wars, as well as leaving thousands of victims from the confrontations, suicide attacks, and car bombs.
- Second, the alternatives to ISIS that are being readied are not that different from it. In fact, most turn in the same orbit and behave in a similar manner to it. But there is one difference, namely that ISIS has an agenda that is more ambitious than that of either the Nusra Front or the Islamic Front. These two restrict their mandate to the 'Syrian province.' But one should not be surprised if the mandate that these organizations have granted themselves were to expand: the Nusra Front, for example, has moved some of its operations into Lebanon. Nor is it unlikely to join ISIS's trenches if it comes to the conclusion that it is the next target of the open regional/international war now being waged against ISIS.
- Third, this open war will eliminate the last margins in which the non-Islamist armed opposition groups are manoeuvring; those groups that are fighting under the mantle of the SNC (Syrian National Coalition) and the FSA (Free Syrian Army). This war will end by consolidating the Islamic Front as the sole legitimate representative of the armed opposition. The Front will then have the last word in deciding the opposition's political stance.
And, here, we should ask about the regional powers that have significant influence with the Front, and about the fate of the Geneva Conference and a Syrian solution for the Syrian crisis. We have to ask whether the Islamic Front will accept the constitutive slogans of the Syrian revolution, given that it actually emerged in opposition to these slogans. Anyone who has any doubts about this should consult the Islamic Front's founding covenant and literature, and try to discover any differences between them and those of ISIS and the Nusra Front.
- Fourth, the Syrian regime is the sole beneficiary of the current wars and battles among its opponents. However, if the Islamic Front and its Islamic army, together with the Mujahideen Army were to achieve a major breakthrough on the battlefront, it would be facing a regionally-backed strike force that is not rejected internationally. In such an eventuality, the military and political duel with these new/old enemies will be more difficult.
- Fifth, the open war on ISIS is meant to precede the Geneva-2 Conference. The aim, first, is to deny the regime its status as the 'sole agent' in charge of fighting terrorism by bringing new forces that are fighting terrorism and ISIS to the forefront. Second, it is to set preconditions at the negotiations table that are consistent with those of certain regional players [i.e. Saudi Arabia] that support the Islamic Front; players who have never manifested any desire for a political solution to the Syrian crisis and who have always viewed Geneva-2 as a threat to their interests, influence, and calculations.
What is happening in North-eastern Syria is a war whose fuel are the people and their dwellings. It is a war that the Syrian people have nothing to do with. It is proxy war that is being fought with cheap Syrian blood, and which may continue until the very last Syrian.
"After all, who would care if another one hundred thousand Syrians are killed?" asks Al-Rantawi in conclusion.