The coalition war against the Islamic State will not defeat radical Salafist Islam in Syria according to a report produced by the Center on Religion & Geopolitics.
If the effort to eradicate the Islamic State is eventually successful groups with a similar ideology such as al-Qaeda, al-Nusra, Jaish al-Islam and Ahrar al-Sham will replace it. The report states the “West risks making a strategic failure by focusing only on IS. Defeating it militarily will not end global jihadism. We cannot bomb an ideology, but our war is ideological.”
In order to be successful the effort to eradicate IS must be accompanied by an “intellectual and theological defeat of the pernicious ideology that drives it.”
“The greatest danger to the international community are the groups that share the ideology of Isis, but are being ignored in the battle to defeat the group.”
The report says 60% of the major Syrian rebel groups are Islamist extremists. Other estimates put the number far higher and state a “moderate” Syrian opposition is virtually nonexistent.
“The Free Syrian Army and the Syrian National Council, the vaunted bulwarks of the moderate opposition, only really exist in hotel lobbies and the minds of Western diplomats,” writes Ben Reynolds. “There is simply no real separation between ‘moderate’ rebel groups and hardline Salafists allied with al-Qaeda.”
For the Russians the so-called moderate opposition is an unknown quantity. “I don’t think anybody has yet explained what moderate opposition is, and Putin demonstrated quite active interest in the issue and asked in which way the moderate opposition was different from the immoderate opposition,” Dmitry Peskov, Vladimir Putin’s spokesman, told Rossiya 1 TV in October.
The report does not mention the fact the Islamic State and other lesser known jihadists groups in Syria receive financing from wealthy patrons in the Gulf Emirates, in particular Qatar and Saudi Arabia.
In early 2014 then Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki accused Saudi Arabia and Qatar of openly funding the Islamic State and other Sunni Salafist groups.
Turkey also funds IS through an illegal oil trade. Last week a report prepared on behalf of the Norwegian foreign ministry by Rystad Energy revealed “large quantities of oil have been smuggled across the border to Turkey from IS-controlled areas in Syria and Iraq.” The “oil is sent by tankers via smuggling routes across the border [and] is sold at greatly reduced prices, from 25 to 45 dollars a barrel,” according to the report.