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Obama under pressure

Miodrag Soric, Washington / sgbSeptember 4, 2014

Within two weeks, two US journalists in Syria were murdered by the terrorists of the 'Islamic State.' But there is no quick and easy solution to the IS problem, writes DW's Miodrag Soric.

Barack Obama (Photo: REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque)
Image: Reuters

The President of the United States cannot leap tall buildings in a single bound to stop terrorists. And he's right not to do so. The barbarians in the Syrian desert have hoped that Barack Obama would order violent retaliatory attacks after the brutal murders of a pair of American journalists.

Far from it. The president responded calmly and appropriately. He has stood up to the growing public pressure in the United States "to do something."

If he had immediately ordered airstrikes on positions of the "Islamic State" (IS), he would indeed have fulfilled the wishes of many Americans - and numerous Congressmen in particular.

Miodrag Soric
Miodrag Soric heads DW's Washington officeImage: privat

But it would have changed absolutely nothing concerning the basic situation in the Syrian-Iraqi border region. The leader of the world's last superpower would have only enhanced the IS terrorists' status. And that is exactly what must not happen.

Keep calm and show strength

But doing nothing and continuing to cobble together on a strategy for this region, however, is also not an option. Obama must act soon. A coalition of Iraqi government forces, Kurdish fighters, the unfortunately far too weak "Free Syrian Army" and other allies needs to be assembled as quickly as possible.

The United States has to make it clear to Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey that any form of cooperation with IS will have serious consequences. These and other traditional Sunni states long saw Syrian President Bashar al-Assad as their main enemy, not IS. So they secretly supported the pseudo-caliphate of IS, or at least tolerated its expansion. And America looked away.

This must stop. NATO partner Turkey must put more effort into guarding its borders with Syria and Iraq. The flow of fighters into the war zone via Turkey to reinforce IS has to stop!

But the West as a whole should show more bite. Why can a German, French, British or American citizen who commits murder as an IS fighter continue to enjoy a Western citizenship and all its privileges?

Whoever as a Western citizen commits crimes in the ranks of the IS has given up everything for which our societies stand. Should he at least be stripped of his citizenship? Whoever changes sides so radically, permanently abandons his family and neighbors in London, Frankfurt and New York. They should not be allowed to reenter their former home country - ever!

An army of lawyers will certainly present arguments why this is "not so easy." Especially in Germany there are historical reasons why the state cannot withdraw citizenship. However, today's Germany cannot be compared with the 1930s. Another lesson of the Nazi era is still that a democracy must defend itself against its enemies. A constitutional amendment should be at least discussed.

Time pressure

On the other side of the Atlantic, President Obama does not have much time to show strength of leadership in the fight against IS. Americans' impatience is growing. Elections are coming up. Voters want to know what their representatives - including Democrats - intend to do against the cultureless savages in the desert. There is no simple, fast, purely military solution. America and the West will need endurance in the fight against the Islamic State.