Now is not the time to slacken resolve against Islamic State

Editorial: The tide may be turning in the war against Islamic State. Which is why the desperate thugs feel the need to move farther afield.

French military patrol near the Eiffel Tower the day after a series of deadly attacks in Paris , November 14, 2015.   (Yves Herman/Reuters)

French military patrol near the Eiffel Tower the day after a series of deadly attacks in Paris. (Yves Herman/Reuters)

Last week’s bloody attacks across Paris were carried out by so-called Islamic State terrorists who travelled to France from Belgium, following the same route that invading armies have taken for centuries. It is part of the long and complicated history of Paris that it is fated to endure such violent calamities. Certainly no city has shown more resolve in the fight for its own liberty.

But what is significant about these latest indignities is not the targets chosen or the path taken but rather the strategy revealed by the perpetrators. It’s an indication that the West’s fight against Islamic State is finally showing progress. Now is not the time to slacken our resolve.

When Islamic State first appeared on the world stage as heir to al-Qaeda’s bloody mantle, it was a puzzling and mysterious force. Driven by an obscure apocalyptic vision of Islam, it seized control of vast swaths of Syria and Iraq and declared itself a caliphate in fulfillment of ancient prophecy. Unlike al-Qaeda, which focused on acts of mass terror in Western countries, Islamic State operated as a kind of malevolent state government: providing local services and earning money from oil exports while at the same time publicly massacring its enemies, destroying archaeological treasures and engaging in sex slavery.

This geographic presence remains crucial to Islamic State’s self-image, and its ability to recruit jihadists from around the world. Take away its land and it becomes just another faceless group of Islamist thugs. Unfortunately, the United States and its allied powers have been unwilling to commit troops to convincingly defeat Islamic State on the ground. Air strikes and training programs for local forces are preferred to keep Western casualties to a minimum. But air power alone will never dislodge Islamic State, and the quality of the Iraqi army has proven disappointing. This past summer, for example, Islamic State seized Ramadi from a vastly superior Iraqi force.
Lately there’s been reason to believe our local allies have improved their game. The strategically significant city of Sinjar was recaptured last week by Kurdish forces backed by the U.S. Air Force. Iranian-supported Shiite militia have also had some success. The recent appearance of Russia in the region presents another threat to Islamic State’s geographic integrity. It is too soon to declare victory, but the tide may be slowly turning in the ground war against Islamic State.

The attacks in Paris, as well as the bombing of a Russian airliner earlier this month, need to be seen within this context. Exporting terror across borders represents a significant change in effort and image for Islamic State. It is evidence the group is being squeezed in its homeland and feels the need to move farther afield. There is a sense of desperation in these moves.

What does this strategic shift mean for Canada, and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau?

The prospect of Islamic State’s evolution into a “conventional” terrorist organization should help stabilize the volatile Middle East. Shifting the danger abroad, however, raises the risk of new terror acts in Western nations, including Canada. This will require continued vigilance. Since 9/11 our security and legal systems have developed substantial experience dealing with al-Qaeda-type threats. It will never be possible to eliminate every scheme or lone wolf, of course, but the recent sentencing of the Via Rail bomb plotters is a useful reminder of the competency of Canada’s police and intelligence services in this regard.

Further, while we know air power alone is insufficient to defeat Islamic State, in concert with reliable and well-supplied ground troops it is finally proving its utility. During the election, Trudeau vowed to end Canada’s bombing mission against Islamic State in favour of an enhanced role supporting Kurdish allies. But there’s no reason we can’t do both. This is no time to ease the pressure on this group of murderers.

Finally, there’s been considerable debate over Trudeau’s election promise to bring 25,000 Syrian refugees into Canada before year’s end, since one of the Paris attackers may have entered Europe hidden amongst the recent crush of refugees. Trudeau’s commitment remains a worthwhile and noble national goal—and the refugees slated for approval are those considered most vulnerable by the United Nations, many of whom have been in refugee camps for years. That said, it would be foolish to become so fixated on a number or a date that we lose sight of bigger issues. If appropriate security screening procedures delay progress on this file by a few months, no one should consider that a broken promise.

The Paris attacks represent the first major test of Trudeau’s abilities as Prime Minister. We are witnessing a major shift in strategy by our enemies in Islamic State. To check this new threat, he needs to demonstrate an equivalent flexibility.


Now is not the time to slacken resolve against Islamic State

  1. We attacked Syria……Syria did not attack us

    • One line response that’s out of left field and just leaves you shaking your head… Don’t even have to look to see who posted this comment,

    • Emily,

      the folks of ISIS have also been whacking the heads of women and kids and putting them on sticks like decorations for Christmas. they haven’t whacked your head off…so you feel no need to stop them eh?

      The reason they don’t want to what your head off is not why you think. They just don’t like to take empty ones.

      • I will repeat for the slow ones…..the west has been interfering in the ME for over a century.

        Naturally they don’t like it…..and recently they began to fight back

        As binn Laden said..they will break the west financially……and that’s exactly what they’re doing

        • Emily,

          Nice to see your side the the head-hackers, but your reasoning is incorrect. They don’t want to kill us because we are in the middle east. they want to kill us because we are not followers of their backward, hate filled religion. Period.

          but you just keep banging your empty head against the pill bottles. No one takes what you write seriously. You are simply our comic relief.

  2. Say we commit fully and beat ISIS. What then? How do we stabilize the area so they (or a worse version) don’t come back?

    ISIS came after the removal of Hussien, Gaddafi and Assad (well, his power over that half of the country). We removed dictators and allowed something worse to spring up. How is this time going to be different?

    • “We removed dictators and allowed something worse to spring up.”

      The problem is, despite the media’s constant drumbeat, that Assad is the worse of the problems in Syria. It’s his brutality that caused the situation. He’s raping, torturing, incinerating and starving far more people than the IS. He’s just not putting videos of his crimes on the internet.

    • If you want the middle east to stabalize……simply take back all of the technology we have givent them. No more computers, no more servers, no more gas engines…no more help with resources, etc..etc..etc…

      let them revert to a camel economy. If it was created with Western help…give the fanatics what they want. Destroy it all. And leave.

      Failing that, the only solution is a “Marshal Plan” of some sort, along with the provision that ISLAM be outlawed. that is the only real solution; though it is untenable as we all know.

  3. Yes, there is indeed “considerable debate over Trudeau’s election promise to bring 25,000 Syrian refugees into Canada before year’s end” as the article says.

    Matthew Fisher writes, in an article today entitled “Clock ticking on Canadas refugee plan while concerns expressed over tight timeline”, that when it comes to discussing the feasibility of the end of year deadline: “officials did not want to be identified because diplomats and immigration officers have been told by Ottawa not to speak about the matter, with all requests referred to the government.”

    If true, this is concerning for at least 2 reasons:
    1) The new government, recently elected at least partly on a mandate for openness and transparency, is apparently employing the muzzling tactics of the old government.
    2) The people who will be implementing the plan are the ones who should be reassuring Canadians of the feasibility of responsibly meeting the arbitrary, self-imposed deadline. These people can likely be considered neutral, as opposed to cabinet ministers who are anything but neutral.

    The article also claims “Representatives from Canada and the UN and diplomats from other embassies posted in the region privately expressed grave doubts about whether such a large resettlement project could be completed in a safe and responsible way in such a short time frame.”

    As well, it goes on to mention that the UNHCR only does initial vetting of refugees and that it’s up to host country to conduct in-depth screening. This seems to suggest that despite claims to the contrary by some, prior UNHCR screening will not have bought much of a speed-up.

    My 2 cents: AFAICT the deadline for the 25,000 refugees was made as an election promise in an attempt to one-up the CPC and NDP. That time-frame was pulled out of thin air with little, if any, consideration given to its feasibility. As such, the government needs to provide full transparency, including not silencing immigration officers, and it needs to be willing to push back the timetable if so advised by those who are actually implementing the plan.

    • Funny how the muzzling of immigration officials hasn’t gotten any attention. I guess it’s different when the Liberals do it…

  4. Trudeau may not be a genius, but he does know that declaring you will stop the bombing of terrorists abroad will get the Muslim votes in Canada.

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