A US AV-8B Harrier jet launching from the flight deck of the amphibious assault ship USS Makin Island during flight operations in the Arabian Gulf. File photo
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Amsterdam, the Netherlands – The fight against the Islamic State’s radical group (IS/ISIS) will be effective only if the US-led coalition imposes no-fly zones in Syria and significantly increases its military and financial assistance to non-radical Syrian rebels, said Dr Benjamin Herscovitch, author of the research report “The Fog of Foreign Policy: Why only ‘least bad’ options are available in Syria, Iraq and other global hotspots”.
“The threat of Islamic State will not be neutralised until Syria’s civil war ends, and this conflict will grind on indefinitely unless the international community intervenes more forcefully on the side of non-radical Syrian rebels,” Dr Herscovitch said in a statement to ARA News.
The Syrian Civil War has mutated into a messy existential fight between the Alawit-dominated government in Damascus, a panoply of rebel factions of various ideological persuasions, and powerful Sunni jihadist groups like Islamic State and the al-Qaeda affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra.
According to Dr Herscovitch, this witch’s brew of sectarian divisions and internecine violence served as the crucible of Islamic State’s meteoric rise, and will offer a fertile safe haven to the militant group even if it is pushed out of Iraq.
“To end the Syrian Civil War, and thereby deny Islamic State its home base in Syria, the US-led coalition must support the emergence of a non-radical fighting force that can simultaneously draw Sunni support away from radical Islamists and either defeat the Assad regime or force it to sue for a negotiated end to the conflict,” he said.
By restricting the range of operation of the Assad regime’s air power with the threat to shoot down military aircraft entering designated airspace, no-fly zones would allow non-radical rebel forces to regroup and gather strength, while also protecting civilians from the Syrian air force’s indiscriminate bombing.
A ground force much stronger than the mooted 15,000 US-trained and equipped ‘moderate’ rebel fighters will also be required to defeat radical Islamist groups like Islamic State, according to Dr Herscovitch.
“The US-led international coalition should supply large, established non-radical rebel groups with extensive military and financial assistance, including funds to pay the wages of fighters and air-defence and anti-tank systems,” Dr Herscovitch said.
Candidates for expanded military and financial assistance include the Syrian Kurds and the secular Southern Front, which recently made impressive gains against Assad regime forces in south-western Syria and publicly announced its refusal to cooperate with radical Islamists like Jabhat al-Nusra.