The dramatic and tragic images of refugees pouring into Europe from the Middle East represent more than a temporary migration of people seeking asylum from persecution. We are witnessing the onset of a massive exodus of humanity provoked by civil wars in Syria, Iraq, Libya and Yemen, escalating insurgencies in Egypt and Afganistan, and the rise of ISIS and al-Qaeda.
This great migration will change the face of Europe, and as moderate Muslims seek safe refuge from hideous acts of terror and war, radical Islam will gain territory, wealth and influence in the Middle East. Can the terrorists be stopped?
Afganistan: The Resurgence of the Taliban and the Growth of ISIS
A U.N. report issued last month showed that ISIS has gained a foothold in Afghanistan, despite U.S. efforts to limit the power of the Taliban and the spread of ISIS, which has strongholds in 25 Afghan provinces. Afghan officials told the U.N.’s al-Qaeda monitoring team that 10 percent of Taliban insurgents are ISIS sympathizers. President Obama reversed his decision to pull out of Afghanistan this year and has decided to leave nearly 10,000 troops in the area through 2016 and about half that through 2017. To date, the US has lost 2,360 service men and women in Afghanistan.
Recently, ISIS launched coordinated attacks on about a dozen Afghan police checkpoints in the eastern part of the troubled country. The death of Taliban leader Mulla Mohammed Omar and the divide among the Taliban leadership over who should succeed him was used by ISIS to recruit new fighters. Despite these losses to ISIS, the Taliban has not taken a backseat. In late September, the terror group launched one of its largest attacks since the U.S. war began in 2001, capturing the provincial capital Kunduz. The governor‘s office, the police headquarters and the main prison were all captured, releasing hundreds of prisoners and detainees. It was the first time a provincial capital was lost since 2001. After a fierce battle, Afghan security forces retook Kunduz. This month, the Taliban launched large attacks on two other provincial capitals, Maymana in the north and Ghazni in the east.
Iraq: A Broken State on the Edge of Bankruptcy
After twelve years of public corruption leading to $550 billion of Iraqi oil money spent irresponsibly between 2006 and 2014, Iraq is on the edge of bankruptcy. Three vice presidents, three deputy prime ministers, twelve ministers, many hundreds of advisors, deputy ministers, ambassadors, general managers army and police generals and colonels were fired. About 14,000 army soldiers who were supposedly assigned to guard senior officials were sent to the Defense Ministry to fight against ISIS.
It’s a start, but not enough to return the country to solvency. Iraq still has more than 700 deputy ministers, 6,000 general managers and nearly three million civil servants. The government has just announced salary cuts that weren’t received well by Iraqis. One third of the Shiite militia fighters, Iraq’s most motivated fighting force against ISIS, were not paid for months. With little discipline and oversight, some of them run loose in the Iraqi streets, kidnapping people for ransom or for sectarian revenge. As am example, sixteen Turkish workers were kidnapped in Baghdad last month and later released.
Just this week, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi complained about the dire fiscal situation in the country. Speaking on national TV, he said: “We make 59 trillion Iraqi dinars from exporting oil. When we take the cost of exportation out, that leaves us with 45 trillion. When we take the cost of serving the debts, we have 40 trillion left. The state employees’ salaries and pensions cost us 50 trillion. How do we spend on war, health, education, agriculture, services, poverty and others?”
Shi’ite fighters fire a rocket toward Islamic State militants in Baiji, Iraq, October 16, 2015. REUTERS/Thaier Al-Sudani
Syria: The Russia Connection
Russian air raids against various Syrian rebel groups are an effort to tip the Syrian conflict in favor of Putin’s ally, dictator Bashar al-Assad. The consequences of Russia’s move into the Syrian quagmire could match that of its disastrous intervention in Afghanistan thirty-five years ago — the very conflict that gave birth to al-Qaeda.
Russia aims to avoid losing another dictatorial ally after it lost Saddam Hussein in Iraq and Muammar Gaddafi in Libya. Russia and Syria have been allies since the 1950s. For several decades, Russia has used a small military base on Syria’s Mediterranean coast.
“There is a larger and more immediate goal — to bolster Syria’s Bashar al-Assad, a key Russian ally, by attacking U.S. and Arab-backed rebels as well as ISIS. Joining the war in Syria gives Moscow a military foothold in the Middle East and protects its access to a deep-water port in the Mediterranean. It also gives him the opportunity to flex his muscles for the entire world to see,” writes Ian Bremmer, president of Eurasia Group, a political risk consultancy.
The Islamic world was already saddened and enraged over the Syrian tragedy. With Russia’s bombing of the Sunni Syrian rebels, the rage will deepen.
Russia’s army in the past — from Afghanistan to Ukraine through Chechnya and Georgia — depended on Soviet-era arms with “stupid bomb” technology and conscripted soldiers. Under Putin, Russia has upped its game with state-of-the-art technology and what some believe is a first-rate military. Still, while the U.S. and its Western allies try to avoid harming innocent civilians in military operations, Russia is less concerned about collateral damage.
Russia’s involvement has been used already by al-Qaeda and ISIS propagandists to recruit new members. ISIS captured a military base from Syrian rebels, 10 miles north of Aleppo, Syria’s largest city, when Russian air attacks hit that area. Meanwhile, the Syrian army launched an attack in eastern Aleppo that forced more than 70,000 people out of their homes.
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