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March 21, 2016 7:07 am

How We Can Defeat ISIS

avatar by Noam Tibon

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Prisoners are caged and drowned in an ISIS video. Photo: Screenshot.

Prisoners are caged and drowned in an ISIS video. Photo: Screenshot.

The Middle East, as we know it, is crumbling. Civil wars rage across the region, millions have become refugees and hundreds of thousands are dead. Borders that have existed for more than a century are ripe for reshaping. All of this has given rise to a major threat to western democracies: The Islamic State.

Da’esh — or ISIS, as it is called in English — has filled the vacuum, seizing swathes of land once belonging to the now failing governments of Syria and Iraq. From that territory, ISIS plots massive terror attacks against the West. Yet as dangerous an enemy as it is, it can be defeated.

I have spent more than 30 years fighting terrorism. As such, I have learned that while terror organizations excel at adapting to the realities around them, it is possible to defeat them, so long as those who fight terror analyze the ever-changing battlefield — and are ready to change the rules of the game when necessary.

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What follows is a series of steps needed for the defeat of ISIS.

Firstly, it must be stopped from repeating its terror successes — not only because of the murders, but also because of the media attention those attacks draw toward the group. The potent recruitment tool of the media coverage of attacks is even more detrimental in the long term than the death toll caused in the aftermath of an ISIS strike. We know this from the Paris and Jakarta attacks, both of which yielded media coverage that compensated the group for any ground lost in Iraq and Syria.

Secondly, Western countries must tighten their border control measures so as to prevent any infiltration by terrorists. Sadly, this threat is greater than ever, as waves of refugees currently pour out of the collapsing Middle East and into the West.

Granting safe haven to refugees fleeing for their lives is important and virtuous, but so is plugging the breaches through which terrorists can reach Europe. Turkey, a case in point, with its border against Iraq and Syria, sees jihadist fighters sneak in daily; its border must be sealed effectively. If not, for some infiltrators, the next stop could be Europe.

Thirdly, given that Turkey is a NATO member-state, securing Turkey’s border must become a NATO mission.

Fourthly, to defeat ISISthe Arab-Sunni countries must be encouraged to become much more active. The fact that it is losing ground in Iraq to Shiite forces led by Iran is not good news. Sectarian wars between Sunnis and Shiites are a never-ending story and a temporary Sunni setback will always be followed by an anti-Shiite counter-attack.

We must all be clear that militias supported by Iran can be just as cruel and ruthless as ISIS, creating an incentive for more Sunni civilians to adopt the group’s jihadist ideology. A true victory over ISIS is possible only if the group is crushed by the weight of Sunni forces.

Such encouragement has been proven effective in the past. A decade ago, the US made a considerable effort to create such forces among the Sunni population in Iraq. While the effort was terminated when the US left the country, the effort had proven successful until that point.

Finally, more effort needs to be devoted to dismantling ISIS’ financial infrastructure. Oil and gas fields need to be targeted; money smuggling networks need to be eliminated; religious organizations raising money for jihadist activities need to be stopped. From the years I spent fighting terrorism, I know that “following the money” is essential to both achieving military success and preventing a rebirth of any terror organization.

An entire range of economic steps is thus desperately needed in order to fundamentally change the situation in the Middle East in a way that will strengthen stable governments and make it harder for terrorists to gain ground.

Major-General Noam Tibon served in the IDF for over 30 years. He led military efforts against Hamas in the West Bank, first as a brigade commander and eventually as the commander of the entire West Bank region, working closely with the commanders of the Palestinian Authority’s security forces. Major-General (Ret.) Tibon is a Senior Policy & Security Advisor to the organization Our Soldiers Speak. Follow them at www.oursoldiersspeak.orgThe views expressed above do not represent the views of the IDF, the Foreign Ministry, or the organization Our Soldiers Speak. They are reflective solely of the views of the author.

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  • shloime

    certainly some good points, but…

    first and foremost, western countries have to realize that there is a war going on and they are under attack. isis is not attacking paris, or london, or istanbul, but ALL the infidels, with the ultimate goal to destroy or conquer ALL of them.

    second, it matters less whether isis is crushed by sunni, shia, or “crusader” forces, so long as it is crushed. the downside of using iraqi shiites or syrian alawites is not that isis will be resurrected, so much as the question of what to do with the victors. turning them into the next bunch of terrorists that need to be destroyed means the cure is hardly better than the disease. but the first priority should be to crush them, and put an end to their claims of “caliphate”. so far, the sunnis (turks and saudis) have only helped isis, and o’bummer’s “coalition” has conducted a phony air war which has hardly dropped any bombs.

    third, in addition to waging financial war, the west also needs to wage information war. isis relies on internet communications more than any other organization, and this needs to stop. their online recruiting relies on slick videos and internet distribution, which are both exposed to attacks or just plain old-fashioned counter-propaganda, if only the west weren’t asleep at the switch. and their internal communications can’t be any more sophisticated than those of western national agencies, which the nsa spies on routinely, so they should be easy to disrupt.

    if only the “leader of the free world” would admit that he’s in the middle of a shooting war, and act accordingly. so far, he hasn’t been able to bring himself to say the words “islamist” and “terrorist” in the same sentence.

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