The U.S. is paying a rising price for the early failure of the Obama Administration to wage an all-out offensive to destroy Daesh [the Arabic name for the Islamic caliphate, ISIS or ISIL].
The Obama Administration – the President notoriously characterized them original as “J.V.” –originallysaid America’s objective was to “ultimately destroy” ISIS. .
Beyond the wildest earliest expectations, Daesh is lining up allies throughout the Moslem world – threatening to unite all the terrorist elements at least nominally in a juggernaut against the forces of civilization with every more barbarous acts.
The terrorists, despite some local defeats, still hold most of the large cities they have seized since 2014. It is funding itself with black market oil sales and other more sophisticated financial transactions. And with its hold on this piece of Syrian and Iraqi real estate as its sanctuary, Daesh is waging a very sophisticated campaign for support through the social media throughout the whole Moslem world.
Nothing succeeds like success, and its growing stature is attracting young misfits from throughout the Moslem world – as well some young Western adventurers.
With polls showing a widespread concern among Americans that Washington has failed to bring Daesh to heel, Obama has begun to step up his rhetoric at least about the fight. In his January state of the union address, he did say that fighting ISIS [also known as the Islamic State, ISIL, or Daesh] and other terrorists is the top priority of his administration.
The U.S. is incrementally stepping up its program of bombing raids, inserting additional special operatives on the ground to more successfully direct what had been an air campaign only a fraction of earlier bombardment in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.
Daesh’s response has been a campaign to enlist the various insurgencies with Moslem leadership through Asia and Africa. Many have smouldered for decades, as much based on ethnic, linguistic and regional antagonisms as on any Islamic religious character. But that, too, is tending to change with their new found allegiance to Daesh.
In southern Thailand, for example, the long low-level insurgency in its three southern Malay-majority provinces is being enlisted by Daesh. The long-standing ties which both Kuala Lumpur and Bangkok obfuscate between the Moslem rebels in southern Thailand and radical Islamic forces in northeastern Malaysia are strengthening with new political problems in the ruling party in the capital.
In the southern Philippines, the on and off rebellion of the Moros – going back to Spanish and American colonial days – is blossoming. A Saudi official, an opponent of Daesh, was recently assassinated there in a dramatic manifestation of Daesh’s increasing influence. Manila, facing an increasing threat to its position in the South China Sea by Beijing’s push there, has more than it can handle. And it has begun to restore the old alliance with Washington, if at a slow pace and against considerable domestic opposition.
Daesh has tried to link to the old Moslem radicals in West Java, again dating back to Dutch colonial days, but recently manifesting their deep roots with terrorist acts in the national capital of Jakarta. The blood attacks on the tourist island of Bali have shaken the Indonesian government and it is behind the curve in taking on the search for Islamic terrorist ties to the Mideast.
In Nigeria, the Boko Harum – originally a nativist movement rejecting all so-called Western cultural aspects – has now officially linked itself to Daesh. Its bloody attacks on local Christian and Moslem communities has become a major concern for the Nigerian government, always carefully balanced between its more developed southern and Christian and animist regions and the Moslem region in the north.
All this has brought into focus a crisis for Washington on how to deal with Libya and the growing strength there of Islamicist elements which, again, have now proclaimed their loyalty to Daesh. The Islamic terrorists are a product of the overthrow of the Mohammed Qadaffi’s dictatorship by a European alliance with the then Sec. of State Hillary Clinton pursuing Obama’s famous “leading from behind”. If the Libyan rebels, with their close geographic ties to Daesh – and their threat to Egypt’s western frontier – manage to grab Libyan oil fields where they are active, the whole international network will take on new and ominous significance.
Obama, despite his determination to withdraw from all Midesast conflicts, is now facing a brutal decision in Libya which could overturn what is left of his strategy of retreat from contested areas.