Terrorist groups like Islamic State cannot be defeated until the Syrian civil war and domestic bombing campaigns are brought under control, according to an independent report into the country’s chaos.
In fact, bombing campaigns conducted by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad were helping extremist groups like IS grow stronger and bigger, and western governments should focus on stopping Assad’s airstrikes rather than the terrorists, the report advises. Meanwhile, federal cabinet will on Tuesday debate whether Australia should begin airstrikes against IS forces in Syria – should a request from the US come through.
But while the Australian government focuses public attention on the chaos caused by the spread of an extremist group known as Islamic State and Daesh, a recent report from the Brussels’-based International Crisis Group [ICG] warns western governments could not defeat these stateless extremists until Syria’s civil war settles. ‘‘By attacking IS while ignoring the [Assad] regime’s ongoing bombardment of civilians, the US inadvertently strengthens important aspects of the Salafi-jihadi narrative depicting the West as colluding with Tehran and Damascus to subjugate Sunnis,’’ ICG’s latest report states. ‘‘Opposition elements cannot build effective governance amid the death and destruction caused by aerial bombardment.’’
Stopping Assad’s airstrikes in southern Syria would do more to bring peace to the area than targeting terrorists, according to ICG. The civil war has been going since 2011. So far it has killed about 200,000 Syrians, created 4 million refugees, and led to a huge wave of migration now moving through southern Europe.
And jihadi power in Syria has increased over the past year despite the US government’s announcement in September 2014 it would ‘‘destroy’’ IS through airstrikes and providing training and military support to anti-IS forces. The ICG urges Washington to stop the Assad government from bombing its own civilians, saying there was no way to contain extremism ‘‘while ignoring the regime’s role in stoking the fire’’.
Former Australian Ambassador to Syria, Professor Bob Bowker, said it was ‘‘completely unrealistic to believe that jihadists can be defeated with external air power’’ in the absence of significant political reform for Syrians.