ISIS: what is the real threat?


There are three threats arising from the conflagration in Syria and the surrounding region.

Firstly there is the indirect threat of ISIS’ operations in the Middle East and other parts of North Africa. Indirect because they are not about to invade Europe. The implications of its activities are the local destabilisation and destruction and the translocal movement of vast numbers of refugees. Aerial bombardments are having limited effect and, even if eventually effective, will result in a political vacuum which will be filled – as many commentators have already outlined – with ISIS mark 2 or further instability as the other warring factions compete for territory and power.

There is a direct threat evidenced by the terrorist events in Paris recently and higher levels of security in Brussels, London and elsewhere. There are undoubtedly cells of so-called Islamists waiting to bomb the “Christian west” in revenge for our activities in the Middle East against Islam and in punishment for our perceived or actual (depending on your viewpoint) licentiousness. Further bombing in the Middle East by Western countries will only exacerbate these feelings. It is usually the pattern (this is not a new feature of world history) that those who feel undermined, disadvantaged, put down will eventually explode in rage. Addressing the social, financial and political causes within our own country would be a better short-term use of money and reap more fruitful dividends in the long-term.

Thirdly there is the threat of fear. Fear causes suspicion and hatred. Fear results in people, communities and societies digging trenches, retreating into ghettos. It is like middle class people buying homes in gated communities and suddenly thinking they are safe from the other. This is not a solution to social and political instability whether direct and local, or indirect and global. Fear is reduced by creating understanding, crossing boundaries and building relationships.

When the USA, under the direction of Henry Kissinger, in 1971 started bombing the Viet Cong who had retreated into Cambodia it created huge resentment among Cambodians. The consequent anger was exploited by an initially insignificant group of Cambodian rebels which suddenly burgeoned into a mass insurgency. Within four years the Khmer Rouge marched across Cambodia and took over – millions of people died and millions of others were forcibly relocated. The Americans thought they could bomb the Viet Cong into submission. Instead they indirectly caused the implosion of an entire nation which has not yet fully recovered.

We are fools if we think that we can extinguish the threat of ISIS, Al-Qaeda and others (or their successors) by throwing tonnes of armaments at this distant threat or that locking down the capitals of Europe will enable us to live harmoniously with others who are different – whichever side of the fence you feel you are on. Let’s invest the time, energy and money into something more long lasting.

* Nick Coates is a member of the party in Bath and North East Somerset. He is a post May 2015 joiner although he has been involved in single issue politics for most of his life.

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  • Eddie Sammon 30th Nov '15 - 4:27pm

    I think as long as Cameron isn’t given a blank cheque and tough limits it should be fine. The threat of terrorism can never be eliminated, so the question is how do we respond to terrorist attacks? Do we do very little and hope they get satisfied? Possibly, but with an ideology like ISIS it is not simply about avenging the west – they would attack anything that doesn’t look like their version of Islam until we gave into them.

    This is why the stopping the cycle of violence theory doesn’t quite stack up to me, because ISIS is about an ideology, rather than simply revenge. Although individual fighters and terrorists will have their own motives.

    A fair article though.

  • Eddie Sammon 30th Nov '15 - 4:52pm

    Sorry, I mean Cameron should be given tough limits, just to clarify. The real propaganda blow comes from civilian casualties. People don’t hold up signs saying “the bombs didn’t come with a peace plan” – they hold up photos of dead kids and other civilians. Plus bombed civilian infrastructure.

    It’s the dead kids that get the retweets and need to be avoided as strongly as possible, whilst still risking airstrikes.

  • ISIS – What is the real threat?
    The real threat occurred when ISIS spun out of Western control. Let’s have a frank conversation here. The branch of ISIS that is fighting against Assad, is clearly being supported in every which way, by Washington, Saudi Arabia and Turkey. But the ISIS threat has migrated to our western cities, and even western tourists on the beach.
    The wool that Cameron is trying to pull over our eyes, is that a vote for bombing in Syria will save our Western cities. It will not, and there is no logic to that conclusion. Be under no illusion ; Cameron will take this vote as a blank cheque to mission creep his way to Assad, but it won’t solve the ISIS threat.
    The conversation that no-one wants to have is that ISIS exists [and thrives], at the behest and financial support of Washington, Saudi Arabia and Turkey, and as such the real threat is the ISIS support by our so called allies.
    I look forward to the politician who is brave enough to not fall for this Cameron sham vote, and instead is willing to put their head over the parapet to openly question the motives of our so called allies, who are simultaneous secret ISIS supporters and funders. Let’s get real, we don’t need yet more bombs to eliminate the ISIS threat. Without oil and money, and the deceitful support of our ‘Allies’, ISIS would wither on their psychopathic vine.

  • Nick, your arguments are well meaning but I would like you to be honest. Would you have fought in 1939, and especially after Dunkirk in 1940? Would you have supported the Korean War, remembering it was a United Nations force. I hope you would have but If not then your arguments are meaningless because you are just identifying issues and problems to support doing nothing.
    My father was very left wing as a young man and unwilling to get involved in war. However come the hour when Hitler went into The Rhineland he strongly supported military or the threat of military action to stop the Fuhrer. He believed if that had taken place the second World War may have been prevented.
    Really what you are suggesting could be termed another form of Appeasement. Frankly ISIS must be laughing. The French must be crying.

  • Little Jackie Paper 30th Nov '15 - 6:42pm

    ‘Further bombing in the Middle East by Western countries will only exacerbate these feelings. It is usually the pattern (this is not a new feature of world history) that those who feel undermined, disadvantaged, put down will eventually explode in rage.’

    So your argument here is what exactly? Someone might commit a terrorist act so we should therefore do what that person says. A great many people feel, ‘undermined, disadvantaged, put down,’ over, for example large numbers of refugees/economic migrants entering the EU, and have made threats – do you therefore feel that the appropriate response is the cessation of refugee flows, just to make sure these people don’t explode in rage/make good on threats etc.

    Add to this there also seems to be an argument doing the rounds that NOT acting is somehow tacit support for someone or other.

    ‘Addressing the social, financial and political causes within our own country would be a better short-term use of money and reap more fruitful dividends in the long-term.’

    This seems to be a load of empty talkboardisms. Causes of what? What does this mean?

    Incidentally – as a matter of interest – ‘Nick Coates is a member of the party in Bath and North East Somerset. He is a post May 2015 joiner although he has been involved in single issue politics for most of his life.’

    What, ‘single issue?’

  • Shaun Cunningham 30th Nov '15 - 6:58pm

    What I find difficult to accept with Nick”s viewpoint, after the deaths of 131 innocent people in France, it could have easily been London, Bristol or Birmingham, he does not put forward an alternative solution in tackling an evil ideology hell bent on destroying our way of life other than, we must not upset them.

    Their mentality is unaffected by notions of appeasement. One can’t speak to them because they don’t believe in a political process, they are driven by a demonic religious doctrine of hate.

    All Western civilisation is their enemy in fact, they are at war with anyone who fails to lend their heart and soul to their warped mindset.

    People who believe that if we just leave them alone then we will be all right simply do not understand the threat.

    It’s not good enough to bring forward excuses for inaction and comparing any future military action to Vietnam or Iraq, are we that desperate for finding grounds of inaction.

    Doing nothing is not an option. We are already at war with these terrorists. Is it not clear to everyone that our own intelligence services have stopped numerous attacks this year, which could have resulted in many deaths here in the UK. Do we have to wait to see carnage on our streets before inaction results in action. Sorry I am not a support ” we must not upset them”

    I understand tonight our parliamentary party is meeting to decide their position and Tim will announce the outcome tomorrow morning. They need to look at all the facts, the threats we face, but above all they need to weigh up inaction against standing back and do nothing.

  • I don’t wish to criticize those that are in the frame of mind to vote to send UK fighter aircraft into Syria, because I do understand that deep feeling that comes from the angst of .. ‘we must do something’. And I too want to do something to stop these ISIS psychopaths in their tracks, both here in Europe and the Middle East. But I just can’t join the dots between how bombing Syria will make Manchester safe. Can the pro-bombing voters, please explain the logic of how precision bombing Raqqua will mean that I’m safe this Christmas going out with friends in The Shambles and the Northern Quarter of Manchester ?
    Explain the logic,.. that when I find I have an infestation of cockroaches in my home, I send Pest Control to spray a house in the next town, and that will solve my cockroach problem?
    Yes,.. let’s do something,.. but let’s think it through instead of just chucking ordnance at it, and repeating the Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya disasters.

  • Shaun,
    Until recently attacks similar to the one in Paris we were informed were the work of Al Qaeda. After 15 years of war, the destruction of two nations and heavy action in Afghanistan not only does Al Qaeda still exist, but so does the Taliban and ISIL seems to have grown from nothing in those failed states we have spent the last 15 years occupying and then bombing. If you look at this and then conclude that more of the same will work then really there is nothing to say.

  • Shaun
    “tackling an evil ideology hell bent on destroying our way of life”
    Cammunism as once was said years ago and used to justify military action to keep God’s Country free.
    The Parrot’s Beak as mentioned here was just bombed but invaded by the US and the SVA.
    Regarding Kampuchea,I wasn’t in the play but did was in the movie, the Killing Fields. The Americans didn’t win.
    We move on from Reds under the Bed to the evil Ogre of Daesh.
    Living with terrorism? Did we bomb Dublin because of the PIRA?
    In fact the RAF is bombing Daesh in Iraq and given this countries limited resources there isn’t that much room for expansion.

  • …was not just bombed…
    …but was in the movie….
    Macular degeneration setting in!

  • Nick Coates 1st Dec '15 - 12:57pm

    It was useful for me to put words to my thoughts on this website for the first time. And I have appreciated the comments.
    However, I don’t think people are appreciating the difference between the direct and indirect threats.
    ISIS are a malevolent and destructive force, adept in creating and managing chaos at the cost of lives and freedom. But if we bomb (continue to bomb) ISIS and we succeed in degrading or even crushing them then what is left. A power vacuum which will be filled by the anti-Assad forces who largely detest or at best distrust each other. They, in turn, would be attacked by Assad and his allies. There is no political solution in this context, just a military one – contrast Libya to see how that turns out. Cameron and others have no post-bombing strategy. The solutions must be found from within the region and we should support them, if necessary with peacekeeping troops.
    What happened in Paris was horrific. And I agree that it could happen in any major city in Europe as Indigo says. This is where our immediate threat. And this is where I see the urgent requirement. Many of the fighters going to join ISIS are Europeans. Many of those are coming back and agitating trouble. I commend the intelligence operations for the work they do – but we all have a job to do as nations and local communities to break down barriers of fear. Bombing in the Middle East will be perceived as a general attack on Islam by many in the Muslim community. It will exacerbate the local problem.
    Theakes I don’t know what I would have done in 1939 or in Korea as I was not around. Ask me about subsequent military interventions and I can answer the question. I am not an appeaser but there is little evidence that, even precision, bombing is effective in providing long-term solutions.

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