Unprecedented response needed for ISIL



Most reporting of the declaration by the militant group the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) that they had re-established an Islamic "caliphate" across parts of Iraq and Syria, put the word caliphate in quotation marks. This is appropriate, because ISIL, and its leader in hiding Abu Bakr Al Baghdadi, are neither religiously qualified to declare the re-establishment of the caliphate, nor politically qualified to rule it.
The early caliphs, which ISIL seek to emulate, led from the front, meeting their people in public and leading their troops in battle. Al Baghdadi, by contrast, is familiar only from grainy photographs, his whereabouts unknown, while sending the sons of other men to fight for him. Worse than that, however, is the brutal rule that ISIL have imposed everywhere they have gained power. The caliphs that they recall ruled by consent, not by force. Look at the brutality with which ISIL have treated everyone – civilians and other armed forces. If ISIL really are a state, then at the least they ought to treat Iraqi soldiers as prisoners of war – that is, respectfully, as Islam commands – rather than, as video released by ISIL appears to show, massacre them in a ditch.
It is tempting, of course, to dismiss the hubris of this militant group. Yet the ambitions of ISIL cannot be dismissed. They have made considerable gains across Iraq and Syria, two nation states in dire need of stability. They have openly declared their intention to attack Jordan, already straining under the influx of hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees, and Lebanon, which is similarly feeling the heat from the conflict next door. The threat is real. ISIL may not be able to run this new nation state they have declared, but they can certainly destabilise existing ones.
A concerted effort to combat this scourge is required.
Iraq's prime minister still appears to underestimate how serious the threat is. Tens of thousands of Iraqis have been displaced in the three weeks since the crisis began, and still the prime minister appears to be thinking of his own political position. Iran, Russia and Israel only appear to want the conflict to worsen.
Neither Russia nor Iran have moved to cool the civil war in Syria by pushing their client Bashar Al Assad to make concessions – even though it is the Syrian civil war that is chiefly responsible for creating the conditions for ISIL.
Worst of all, the United States, which has repeatedly declared itself a friend to this region, is largely absent, seeing the conflict with ISIL only through the lens of the next election. Given that this conflict directly threatens its allies in Jordan and the Gulf, the region deserves better.
It may be time for more coordinated action by Arab countries.

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