Deterring ISIL is Not Enough

By Rachel Ehrenfeld
Friday, February 13th, 2015 @ 4:53AM

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“Muslims need to change the religious discourse and remove from it things that have led to violence and extremism.” Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi in Davos, Switzerland, Jan. 22, 2015

President Obama’s requested Congressional authorization to indefinitely use U.S. military forces in “systematic campaign of airstrikes against ISIL in Iraq and Syria” to “degrade and defeat” it. While ISIL may be degraded in that limited area, it will not be defeated in the rearguard war fought by the United States in the Middle East, because the organization’s core jihadist ideology cannot be defeated by non-Muslims.

The Arab Sunni states in the Middle East fear ISIL and, like Obama, condemn its jihadist barbarism as “not-Islamic”. But of all the Arab leaders, only Egypt’s president Abdel Fattah el-Sisi recognizes that unless Islam is reformed, groups like ISIL cannot not be defeated. Speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, last month, el-Sisi repeated his call to Muslims “to modify this religious discourse…and remove from it things that have led to violence and extremism.” On January 1, 2015, speaking at al Azhar University in Cairo, el Sisi, a devout Muslim, called on “religious clerics” to lead the “religious revolution” “The entire world is waiting for your next move,” he said.

Yair Naveh, Distinguished Visiting Senior Fellow at the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS), says “Deterrence against non-state–and especially jihadist–actors, lacks any academic or doctrine-based foundation. The IDF, like other Western armies, is forced to adapt the concept of deterrence, formulated for nuclear arms situations and refashioned for use for conventional weapons in the context of states and national and military coalitions, to the context of non-state actors. Israel’s founding fathers developed the state’s security concept, in which deterrence played a major role. David Ben-Gurion stressed that Israel was incapable of achieving a strategic decision against all the Arab nations, and that it was therefore necessary that every military confrontation end with a clear outcome on the battlefield in order to postpone as much as possible the next round of fighting, ensure years of peace and calm, and allow the country to gain strength and prosperity.”

In the meantime, Shiite Iran, whose theocracy is similar to ISIL’s, is doing its best to fill the vacuum created by failing Sunni regimes in the region. To contain Iran, the U.S. and the West must develop effective long-term deterrence strategies, which will discourage the mullahs from developing nuclear weapons, dissuade them from directly and through proxies take over parts of the Middle East, thus threaten the rest and pose a real existential threat to the U.S.

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