From an objective standpoint, the Islamic State’s bloody acts of violence in France were not perpetrated in madness, but as an intentional show of strength; the terrorist organization did not mistakenly invite trouble upon itself, but rather deliberately sought to make headlines and build upon its infamous reputation.
The reality of the situation is somewhat counterintuitive. After more than a year of strikes by the U.S.-led coalition fighting terrorism, the Islamic State group has not only emerged relatively unscathed, but is now expanding even more aggressively. According to a report released by the U.S. State Department in May, in 2014 there were terrorist attacks in 95 countries, a 35 percent increase over the previous year. Deaths caused by terrorism similarly increased by 81 percent, mostly attributed to Islamic State group activity. This year has seen even more Islamic State group-linked terrorist incidents. Several such examples include attacks targeting the Charlie Hebdo magazine in Paris on Jan. 7, resulting in 12 deaths and 11 people injured; on June 26, two hotels in the Tunisian resort town of Sousse were attacked, killing 28 and injuring 6; on the same day, a mosque in Kuwait was hit by a suicide bomber, with at least 25 dead and over 200 injured; on Aug. 13, a Baghdad car bombing killed at least 60 and injured over 200; and on Oct. 31, more than 200 died when the Islamic State group brought down a Russian passenger jet, with Russia openly announcing on Nov. 17 that the plane was destroyed by a bomb planted in the cabin by the terrorist group.
The Islamic State group is running rampant, and is brimming with confidence as it does so. At present, its territory exceeds that of the United Kingdom, and its steady flow of funds is more than adequate for its needs. Seizing hostages for ransom and forcibly collecting tolls from cutting off transport lines are only minor sources of income for the terrorist organization, with the lion’s share coming from oil. Five Iraqi and six Syrian oil fields have already fallen into Islamic State group hands, and its petroleum sales on the black market reap up to $2 billion per year. And this is only the tip of the iceberg; it is certain that there exist even more hidden avenues of funding below the surface. According to figures previously cited by Russian President Vladimir Putin, more than 40 nations are helping to fund the Islamic State group, of which some are G-20 members. Recruiting fighters is also not a problem for the Islamic State group, which disseminates its views via the Internet and other channels, drawing youth from many countries with promises of a generous pay-out. The organization currently stands at 50,000 or 100,000 strong; nobody can say for certain.
With every nation in the counterterrorist camp harboring its own designs for the future, the nations are divided in purpose and engage in much commotion with little effort; some nations even enter into clandestine dealings with the Islamic State group. This has not escaped the notice of the terrorists, who well know that they can ratchet up their aggression even further. Over a year of indiscriminate bombing, the U.S.-led coalition against terrorists has done little to the Islamic State group, and this is clearly one reason why the group holds international forces in such contempt. Although Obama and Putin recently found common ground on countering the Islamic State group, their separate interests and ties give the Islamic State group cause to doubt Obama and Putin’s ability to form a cohesive front. For example, Putin must protect Syrian President Bashar Assad, and the United States is beholden to the wishes of Saudi Arabia and other Gulf nations. Furthermore, in the view of the Islamic State group, Obama and Putin’s critical pledges not to deploy ground troops are an indication that it need only suffer the occasional jab, not the knockout punches that could bring it tumbling down.
Many tragic events have told us that the Islamic State group is the most dangerous and vicious enemy we face today, and that it presents a threat to the whole world. The entirety of the international community should band together as it did to fight the fascist invaders during World War II and form a wide and united front against the Islamic State group, not sparing any manpower or matériel and undivided by nationality, race or creed. We must shed selfishness and double standards to hold accountable and punish those who fund or deal with the enemy, whether it be individuals, groups or nations.
In combating the Islamic State group, we should address both the cause and the symptoms. The task at hand is to effectively sanction and cut off four types of resources: funds, matériel, fighters and information. Some of these will prove more difficult than others, such as depriving the Islamic State group of fighters and information, while others such as drying up its oil income will be more manageable. At the G-20 summit, Putin presented a set of photos shot using space and aerial reconnaissance, explaining that they “clearly demonstrate the scale of the illegal trade in oil and petroleum products. The motorcade of refueling vehicles stretched for dozens of kilometers, so that from a height of 4,000 to 5,000 meters they stretch beyond the horizon.”
Striking such a massive and obvious target should not be a difficult task. The only reason why such targets remain safe is that several nations require the oil those convoys provide, as it is far cheaper than that on the open international market. Such is quid pro quo, with no regard for allegiances. From this it is clear, however, that financial support is being given to the Islamic State group in no small measure.
France has already announced that it has entered a state of war, with the world united against its common foe. All nations should seize upon this opportunity to launch a global campaign against the Islamic State group. To complete such a difficult and complex task, all parties must cast aside petty concerns and pull together, and by doing so hasten the day when the Islamic State group is returned to the dust from whence it came.
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