HUFF POST – There is no doubt that the Islamic State (ISIL) – the nascent caliphate being set up by ultra-extremist fighters in Syria and Iraq – is a serious threat to all Western democracies and to the peace and stability of the world. All reasonable observers, of all whatever political hue, agree upon this fact. What is nonetheless a matter of dispute is how best to meet that threat. And far too many commentators are already committed to the notion that we can drive ISIL out of existence by simply bombing its captured territory and partnering with enemies or adversaries, whatever form they may take.
The tactics of ISIL are so shocking, the content of its rhetoric so unqualified that we can’t help but focus upon them. But recognizing the threat does us little good if we fail to assess it in its proper context. We can supply massive quantities of arms to the Peshmerga and bomb ISIL positions to oblivion, but we equally must confront and grapple with the root cause of this threat.
In an August 16 commentary in the Telegraph, Prime Minister Cameron, for once, touched superficially and briefly upon the reality that the current conflict in the Middle East is not merely Sunni versus Shiite, but is instead a competition between ordinary Muslims and all manner of violent extremist groups, each of whom will seek to express its ambition through whatever Islamic tradition is under the pressure of the current power – e.g. Sunnis who were under the Diktat of the incompetent al-Maliki. However, the West seems intent on seeking to exploit the idea that, somehow, Iran may be a viable partner in undermining the extremism represented by ISIL.
What they fail to recognize is that the Iranian theocratic regime is the opposite side of the same extremist terrorist coin. Its commitment to radical Shiite Islam helped to create the conditions for the rise of ISIL, by supporting an exclusively Shiite government in Iraq and a repressive dictatorship in Syria.
Others argue that UK must engage with Iran and Assad in the global fight against ISIL similar to our co-operation with Stalin against Nazi Germany during the WWII. What the advocates of this policy fail to recognise is that, whereas Stalin’s dictatorship was never born in some sort of reaction to Hitler’s Nazi Germany, the religious dictatorship in Iran and its puppet allies in Syria and Iraq, have paved the way for the creation of vicious terrorist groups like ISIL.
The West – Obama and Cameron – have been naïve in their lack of sensitivity for regional allies in its fight against Middle Eastern extremism. Relatively moderate Muslim countries that are traditional Western allies have a positive role to play. Their contribution to the fight against the ‘Islamic State’ is unlikely to take the form of direct support for alternative extremist groups. Hence Iran, shrewdly playing both sides against the middle can be no more than another adversary in the West’s fight against extremism.
Should the West be more diligent in listening too, rather than dictating to, countries like Turkey and Jordan, to name but two, it could influence on a broader geographical basis a policy of working to stabilise the Middle East in a way its love/hate/threat relationship with Iran can never achieve. Unfortunately, our policy of hasty rapprochement has alienated some potential allies who simply will not be reassured by our bomb Assad/ don’t bomb Assad tactics has suggested. The Obama/Cameron meddling has shamed the West’s credibility because of its inconsistency and logical contradictions. Is it not frightening that 11 years after our invasion of Iraq that country has become the very base for ISIL barbarism? To date, 3,000 members of the foremost Iranian resistance group, the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK), remain stranded in Camp Liberty, Iraq, under constant threat from both Iranian agents who totally permeate the government in Baghdad, and the encroaching Islamic State extremists.
On 27 June, British MPs from both houses of Parliament, took part in a grand meeting of 100 000 Iranians in Paris, who were joined by hundreds of Parliamentarians, dignitaries and Former State Officials from the US, Europe and other continents, to support the President-elect of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), Mrs Maryam Rajavi.
Mrs Rajavi, representing the broader Iranian democratic opposition coalition, announced her vision for future Iran summarised in a Ten Point Plan that envisions a free, democratic, secular and nuclear-free Iran. The UK neglects democratically-driven PMOI/NCRI seemingly for not annoying Rouhani, of all people!
Our neglect for her movement, is part and parcel of a painfully short-sighted approach to the escalating conflicts in the Middle East. The Islamic Republic of Iran with its barbaric treatment of its own people surely cannot be a credible ally in the fight against ISIL. It is, with its dominating influence in Baghdad, a major contributor to current crisis – if embraced by the West it will be the nursery for World War III.
If an endless cycle of extremism is to be avoided, the West must immediately make a stand against extremism in all its forms. In order to do so, we must extract leverage from all possible relationships with moderate, secular, and democratic players in the Middle East, from the NCRI to the Iraqi Kurds to the Gulf Cooperation Council. Our objective cannot merely be to destroy the 2014 Islamic State, but to destroy the conditions that allowed ISIL to exploit a popular uprising in Mosul against the dreadful Nouri al-Maliki. NCRI/PMOI cautioned and alerted the West for 11 years but that fell on deaf ears until reality dawned.
For the West to acknowledge that there are at least two prominent enemies to freedom and stability in the Middle East would be a start. But by embracing one and opposing the other the West may disrupt the current flow of violence, but it will never halt the growth of extremism. As long as a Shiite theocracy remains in place in Iran, new Sunni extremists will always stand ready to compete with it for control over the soul of the Muslim world.