‘IS could expand to Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey’
On September 12 the US announced for the first time that it is “at war with the Islamic State / ISIS in the same way it was at war with Al-Qaeda and its affiliates.”
The British PM David Cameron vowed to work with the US and support military action against the ISIS after the beheading of the UK aid worker David Haines.
The ambitious expanding of ISIS in the Middle Eastern region pushes more and more countries to cooperate in taking joint action against the potential threat. On Monday, an international summit of foreign ministers aimed at combating the jihadist group opened in Paris, with around 40 countries, including 10 Arab states, signing up to a coalition to help fight ISIS in Iraq and Syria.
“If ISIS metastasize like Al-Qaeda, it could become much larger that an immediate regional threat, otherwise, it will remain primarily a Syrian and Iraqi problem”, Wagner said.
RT:The US anti-terror campaigns against the Taliban and Al-Qaeda are widely considered to have failed. The White House now says it's at war with Islamic State. How will this be different?
Daniel Wagner: It will be different because it will be coming on the heels of two failures you have just described. Part of the issue here is a change in the psyche of the American people. When America went into the two wars in Afghanistan and Iraq it was very different: it was on the heels of 9/11, it was at the start of the “war on terror.” Now, 10 or 12 years later, it’s a very different proposition because all of the money, the effort, the personnel, the time that was spent to fight those two wars didn’t yield the outcome that people hoped and expected. In fact, just the opposite occurred. So going into this potential conflict, many people are weary of what that means and cynical about what the outcome will be.
RT:The United States says it will use airstrikes on Syrian territory as a means to battle the ISIS threat. But Syria hasn't agreed to this. Why is Washington so unwilling to team up with President Bashar Assad regime in the fight against Islamic State?
DW: Part of it is the face-saving issue. The US government has called for the ousting of Assad almost since the beginning of the Syrian conflict. For it to reverse course now, and to suggest that Mr. Assad will be a suitable partner - it is just not going to happen. Even though the staying power of Mr. Assad and the fact that he has proven to be a very cunning political tactician is not enough to warrant change of course, or a public change of position about whether he will be a suitable partner or not. This is interesting also because the US faces the same issue with Iran. Having had so many lengthy conflicts with Iran in the battle of international opinion to the very idea of potentially partnering with Iran to battle the Islamic State presented the US with a real dilemma.
RT: How likely are the US allies to join in and how will this plan being viewed by the international community?
DW: My expectation is that the coalition of the willing, whether it’s 10 states or more than 10 states, will probably follow the US lead. That doesn’t mean that every member of the coalition would participate in a bombing campaign in Syria.
But at this stage of the game the relations that most of the coalition members have with Syria is such that whatever the Syrian regime says it wants, it is probably not going to make much of a difference. If the roles are reversed and the Syrians were going to be bombing one of the coalition countries, of course it would make a big difference. The question becomes whether the Syrians are actually capable of bombing, of taking US or coalition aircraft and blowing them out of the sky. If they are successful in doing that, if they are going to do that, that could make a real difference in the willingness of the US to keep bombing inside Syria.
RT:The number of ISIS fighters has been estimated to be 20,000-32,000 fighters and is growing. How big of a risk does ISIS pose for the world?
DW: ISIS poses a real risk for the immediate region at the moment. The question becomes, to what extent they can metastasize? Will they metastasize like Al-Qaeda has metastasized? If so, it could become much larger than an immediate regional threat. If not, then it will remain primarily a Syrian and Iraqi problem. However, given how fast ISIS has developed, how much it has expanded and how many recruits it is attracting in a very short period of time, it’s not unreasonable to expect that there will be many more such recruits in the future, and that the conflict could indeed expand beyond the borders of Iraq and Syria.
RT:In your opinion does ISIS pose a direct threat to the United States?
DW: ISIS doesn’t pose a direct threat to the US at this time. The concern that the US government has, as well as the governments of Europe, Australia and other coalition members around the world, is that citizens from their countries will return and wage jihad on the homeland of those particular countries. How realistic is that? If you take the approach like the UK government has done and revoke the passports of the 500 UK citizens who have apparently joined the ranks of the IS, it would clearly greatly reduce the risk. Will the US government do that? I don’t know that they will. It seems to me like it would be a very sensible thing to do, but it’s a very complicated thing from a legal prospective.
RT:ISIS has been expanding their controlled territory at a rapid pace. How far are they planning on going?
DW: The Islamic State has the potential to affect the entire Levant. So the territory that they possess now, which is roughly a third of Iraq and roughly a third of Syria, could certainly expand among the countries in the crosshairs, of Jordan, Lebanon and even Turkey perhaps. So these governments are very mindful of the risk, and they are also very mindful of the need for them to participate in the potential solution.
One of the issues of great concern now is how few countries in the region are contributing to the effort. It seems that they are just very happy for the US and other coalition partners to do the work that is needed in order to start to reverse the tide of IS. If more regional countries were participating not only with money but with material, with fighting forces, perhaps the battle would be somewhat easier. You would think, given the long-term risk that these countries have as a result of the existence of IS, that they would want to do just that. Time will tell whether they will.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.