With Assad Gone And Iran Evicted From Syria, ISIS Can Be Defeated - Former Italian FM
26 November 2015
By Giulio Maria
Newsweek - Images of people pouring out of a concert hall, many wounded and
others lying face down in a pool of blood. Explosions during a football match
and looks of fear, pain and horror.
This is what the world saw in France last week, something it saw less than a
year ago and in previous years—acts of violence and the terrible wounds they
leave on innocent people.
Just as summer turns into autumn, autumn to winter and winter to spring, this
attack is also part of a cycle, and there is a good chance it will be
followed by another in the near future. Islamic fundamentalist organizations
such as the Islamic State militant group (ISIS) are trying to overpower
Western democracies on our own soil, and we must act urgently to halt their
This, unfortunately, is the new reality faced by the Western world. It
constitutes an incredibly difficult challenge, no doubt, but if we address it
at its roots, we can break this cycle of violence, death and fear.
Syria and Iraq are ISIS's hub, a base for organization, recruitment, training
and weaponry, and the West must intensify its campaign to end this epicenter
of evil. However, attacks against ISIS alone will not stop the cycle of
violence. We have to fight against the triggers of radicalization as well and
combat this cancer at its root.
That means the West ought to be unequivocally decisive in pressing for the
ouster of Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad, whose carnage against the Syrian
people amounts to a crime against humanity and has provided the unsavory
social and political circumstances for the rise of ISIS. At the same time, we
need to work urgently to eliminate the sectarianism being spread by the
Iranian regime and its allies in the region.
Here in Europe, any broad reaction of collective punishment against Muslim
immigrants would be not only horribly unjust but also dangerous. Eight people
caused last week's reign of violence. That's a minuscule percentage amongst a
huge number of refugees and an even smaller percentage amongst a population
that represents over 10 percent of France.
Let's instead remember recent history. It was a Muslim who saved Jews during
the attack last January on a Jewish store and a Muslim policeman who was
killed defending Charlie Hebdo journalists who ridiculed his faith. These
immigrants are escaping horrors perpetrated by the same people who carried
out or were the root cause of last week's attack in Paris.
Focusing on the extremists amongst a largely peaceful population means
focusing on ISIS and also on Iran and its proxies.
Before ISIS, Iran invented the notion of exporting Islamic extremism; propped
up regimes in Iraq, Syria and elsewhere; and encouraged them in the
implementation of sectarianism and rampant bloodshed. Even if the Shiite
militias that acted as killing squads against Sunnis in Iraq, or perpetrated
widespread massacres in Syria, didn't entirely cause ISIS's rise, they
undeniably added fuel to the fire and continue to do so.
There should be zero tolerance by the West for Iran's nefarious meddling in
Syria, and, as members of Syria's pro-democracy opposition have said, there
should be no question about giving Tehran a say over Syria's political
If the U.S. invasion in Iraq has taught us anything, it is that imposing an
ideology that is not popularly supported, from the outside alone, is a
disastrous policy. Instead, working with moderate stakeholders committed to
inclusive rule, similar interests and, if possible, similar values is a far
better path to take.
That means working with Kurds and moderate forces in Syria to replace Assad
and battle ISIS, but it also means working with those same allies against
Iranian extremism. Luckily, in that case, we have a large, organized partner
with whom we share not only the goal of inclusive rule, or even interests,
but also values. That group is the National Council of Resistance of Iran (
Maryam Rajavi , president-elect of the NCRI, a moderate Muslim woman leader
who is fiercely anti-fundamentalist, said immediately after the Paris attacks
that fundamentalism under the name of Islam has nothing to do with this
religion, whether it is under the pretext of Shiite extremism or under ISIS's
Sunni brand. Such anti-human crimes have nothing to do with Islam, and such
evil is the enemy of peace and mankind wherever it exists.
Moderate policies at home, including identifying with moderate Muslims who
are our allies, coupled with military countermeasures that strike ISIS in its
lair, are the best defense France and indeed the West can produce. But any
gains will soon dissipate if we're striking at one extremist group while
A piecemeal solution is going to be short-lived. To not see more carnage next
season, the order will be to get rid of Assad as expeditiously as possible
and stop Tehran's meddling in Syria as his main backer.
Let there be no illusion. Assad and Iran make up the second half of this
extremist equation, and we must work with moderate allies to combat them as
well. Only then will we be able to break this cycle of violence.