Prevent the rise of Al Qa'ida 3.0

11 December 2017

Prevent the rise of Al Qa'ida 3.0

Last week in the Parliament in The Hague there was a hearing on the large number of civilian casualties of the struggle against ISIS. Many of those contributing pointed to the fact that after more than three years of war the terrorist group's breeding ground in Iraq has not disappeared. On the contrary, they argued, Al Qa'ida 3.0 is in the making. It's of the utmost importance that the Dutch government listen closely to this disturbing but accurate warning.

by Sadet Karabulut

Supporters of military interventions in Iraq and Syria under United States leadership are celebrating the destruction of the Caliphate. This is understandable. ISIS can no longer pursue its cruel policies and people living in towns such as Mosul in Iraq and Raqqa in Syria have been freed from their yoke. This is a blessing for the region.

Western air-raids have certainly contributed to this, but that's not the whole story, as these same air-raids have also caused a great deal of suffering. Tens of thousands, many of them civilians, have died in these cities, and much of Mosul and Raqqa lies in ruins. Millions of refugees no longer have a place to call home. These people, many of them marginalised Sunni civilians amongst whom ISIS has in the past found support, now languish in camps for displaced persons, where they are often treated like dirt by Shi'ite authorities and where everything is invariably in short supply.

It's against this background that Chris Woods, director of the monitoring organisation Airwars, has warned that Al Qa'ida 3 is in the making. ISIS, itself a product of the illegal and failed American invasion of Iraq in 2003 and a direct descendant of Al Qa’ida, is in this analysis 'part 2'. Other guests who spoke, amongst whom were journalists who had seen with their own eyes the extensive devastation which ISIS has brought to recaptured areas, expressed agreement with this analysis during the hearing. The victims of western actions of whom they spoke have no faith in the authorities and one overriding question: are you going to come and rebuild our cities?

There is more to be sceptical of in the claimed success of the struggle against ISIS. The organisation is, for example, far from defeated. They have still got thousands of hardened fighters in the border region between Iraq and Syria and are capable of launching massive attacks or of inspiring others to do so, in Europe too, where tensions between different groups in the population are increasing. The organisation is also raising its voice in other countries, such as Afghanistan and Yemen, as well as Libya, Egypt and elsewhere in Africa. It has recruited a following far beyond the Middle East, moreover. From the Netherlands, several hundred people have gone so far as to travel to Iraq and Syria. ISIS and similar groups such as Al Qa’ida continue to exercise a great force of attraction for our youth.

Despite the fact that there is no sign of a solution to the subordinated position of the Sunni community in Iraq and although in practice this has only been made worse by western actions, the Netherlands wants once more to deploy F-16 bomber planes. That is irresponsible. The government would be much better advised to direct its energies to contributing to an inclusive reconciliation process to bring peace among the different groups in the population and to pursuing and prosecuting war criminals of whatever persuasion.

Though it comes nowhere near the hundred billion dollars that an Iraqi minister estimates would be the cost of reconstruction, the money spent on prolonging the Dutch contribution to this American war – some hundred million euros - would be better spent on the aforementioned peace process. Such an investment would likely contribute far more to preventing the rise of Al Qa’ida 3.0.

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