by James Sorene, Chief Executive, BICOM
The RAF could be about to bomb ISIS. What is this going to achieve? When Parliament voted against bombing Assad I was working in Government.
A week before I was in Afghanistan. Flying over Helmand in a Chinook, an RAF gunner leaning out the open rear door pointing a machine gun at the terrain below provided a moment of clarity about military intervention. To win you need 100% commitment.
Syria is fiendishly complex. Until now the UK couldn’t decide who was on our side and what side we were on. The brutality of ISIS and terror attacks in Europe provided clarity. This week BICOM’s research fellow Michael Herzog published an important paper on Syria. He believes that to beat ISIS the West must destroy it, not degrade it. We need to offer the Kurds and the Sunnis autonomy in Syria and we need NATO boots on the ground. Without that, we won’t win.
Israel isn’t in this fight but cares deeply about the outcome.
Beyond ISIS there are dangerous forces at work. The greatest threat to Israel comes from Iran, a nation committed to Israel’s destruction, emboldened by the nuclear deal and investing huge resources boosting Hezbollah. Hezbollah is one of the most capable armed forces in the Middle East and its experience fighting in Syria has increased its military expertise. Israel has been monitoring Iranian attempts to supply it with advanced missiles, and acted to prevent them reaching their destination. But Russian intervention and its protective air umbrella complicate Israel’s freedom of movement.
Syria is a firestorm, the centre of global jihad and the most deadly front in the war between Sunnis and Shiites and between Saudi Arabia and Iran. It must be brought to an end, but with a focus on future threats. If Hezbollah is armed with advanced missiles the next conflict with Israel will be more devastating than anything we have seen before. If a strengthened Iran is able to continue to act as the regional hegemon, undermining Yemen, Iraq and Lebanon, then a new front with the same Fighters will open up elsewhere with terrifying consequences for the Middle East.