ISIS: If bombs aren’t the answer what is?

Terrorism and conflict are still a constant presence in the 21st Century, the latest expression of which has emerged in the form of ISIS. As cynicism of interventionist foreign policy grows, Raphael Kiyani explores what alternatives could be pursued to end the threat of ISIS.

ISIS, the Jihadist death-cult, has consumed the international discussion with its expansion of power and the many sickening atrocities they’ve inflicted on humanity, both towards Muslims and Non-Muslims alike. Military intervention whether through bombing or boots on the ground is widely considered to be a last option. So a question arises – if bombs are not the answer- what is? Here I shall put forward some practical international actions that could be undertaken to eliminate ISIS.

‘Back’ Assad

By no means a perfect man and this can be viewed as controversial but, it’s fast becoming clear that  the West’s hatred for Assad is scuppering the opportunity to obtain vital intelligence in order to co-ordinate in the region. Take the liberation of Palymra, now freed from the clutches of ISIS due to strategic co-operation between Assad’s Syrian Army and Russia – no carpet bombing, just precision airstrikes that aided the Syrian Army to retake the historic city. Whilst, yes, a few weapons were used through Russian intervention, it was largely a victory by Syrian government forces – demonstrating that putting aside differences with the Syrian President to thwart ISIS can remove the need for mass military intervention.  Secondly, if Assad were to be removed from office, a power-vacuum would occur which would lead to further instability. Many now believe Assad needs to be kept in power to stop ISIS, including UK military chief Sir David Richards.

Quapan / Creative Commons License

Quapan / Creative Commons License


To end ISIS and the emergence of other terrorist networks, better, more coherent political solutions need to be reached. More pragmatic approaches could be the key to fostering a more stable Middle East including open and genuine dialogue with Russia, China and Iran for instance. New political settlements could very well cultivate a better future for the region without the need for bombing. Various figures in both the political and military establishments are beginning to agree that interventionist policy is not necessarily the answer to terror – From security and foreign policy analyst Daniel L. Davies to former French PM Domininque de Villepin

Back the Kurds

The Kurdish forces already fighting ISIS on the ground are a key ally and non-lethal aid could very well turn the tide in their favour. The International Community could improve their intelligence co-ordination with secure-communication equipment and GPS applications, strategic fighting could be improved with night vision goggles and means of travel could be improved in the form of functioning spare parts for vehicles the Kurdish forces have captured.

Arian Zwegers / Creative Commons License

Arian Zwegers / Creative Commons License

Stop arming ‘Rebels’

So-called ‘Rebel’ groups in Syria funded, armed and trained by The West to topple the Assad regime have been causing instability and violence across the region. In fact numbers of their members and weaponry have made their way to ISIS for financial reasons. It’s clear that vast swathes of ‘Rebels’ are not freedom fighters at all but mercenaries and to continue to support them is, in effect, to support the rise of ISIS. Furthermore, ‘Rebels’ that haven’t joined ISIS aren’t largely fighting them but fighting Government forces in Syria. For Western nations it seems there’s now a question of priority – what is more important? The removal of Assad or the defeat of ISIS?

Re-assess Allies that support Jihadists

Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait and Turkey are allies that have exported and financed Jihadist ideology across the Middle East. Fresh talks and perhaps even sanctions on the regimes are necessary to stop the spread of toxic Islamic extremism. It legitimises ISIS and fuels their very existence. Turkey is evidently going further than this – fighting the Kurdish forces already fighting ISIS and there is much evidence that points to Turkey directly facilitating the rise of ISIS, including a black market oil trade. Combating this would begin to dramatically cut ISIS off from power and funds.

Putting an end this vile group  – ISIS, ISIL, IS, Daesh – whatever you wish to call them, for good, will involve us taking a good, hard look at our priorities, expanding our range of options and swallowing some bitter pills.




The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of Development in Action.


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