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Stopping the 'Islamic State'

Rainer Sollich/ cbAugust 5, 2014

Jihadists have brought large parts of Iraq under their control and provoked a mass exodus. One of the few ways to fight them could be following the Sunni example, writes DW's Rainer Sollich.

IS fighters. (Photo: via ABACAPRESS.COM)
Image: picture-alliance/abaca

While the world watches Gaza, jihadists in Iraq are creating precedents: After militant fighters of the "Islamic State" (IS, formerly known as ISIS) had captured the northern Iraqi city of Mosul in June, they have now also taken Sinjar and Samar, two cities in the vicinity, two oilfields and Mosul's dam - the largest in the country.

Kurdish and Arab news portals report numerous executions and according to the UN, 200,000 people have become refugees. This time, the victims are mostly members of the religious Yazidi minority, whom IS extremists, Shiites and others consider "infidels." Earlier, the region had already seen an exodus of Christians, for whom fleeing was the only way to escape forced conversion or the payment of a special religious tax.

Kurds are weakened

The question of who can stop the IS-terror is becoming more and more urgent. When Mosul was taken, it became clear that the Iraqi army had hardly anything to oppose the well-equipped and optimally financed IS-fighters with. The army practically left the city to the militants without a fight.

Rainer Sollich. (Photo: DW/Per Henriksen)
DW's Rainer SollichImage: DW/P. Henriksen

The jihadists' most recent campaigns show that the highly praised fighting power of the Kurdish Peshmerga militias is limited as well. The Kurds have started a counteroffensive, the results of which remain to be seen. And this time around, they are supported by the Iraqi airforce. But so far, they have had to accept bitter defeats and, most importantly, they weren't able to protect the region's population.

By now, the "Islamic State" rules over an area in Iraq and Syria that is larger by far than Lebanon or Jordan. In this territory, the organization's reign of terror is even more brutal than those of al Qaeda and the Taliban. Even if the jihadists won't succeed in expanding their area of influence, they're already killing and displacing human beings in a systematic fashion where they are right now. For how long can the world look on without intervention?

Jihadists from Europe

It's also disquieting to see that the "Islamic State" seems to be an attractive field of employment for jihadists from all over the globe. The militants are running a propaganda machine that's just as perfidious as it is professional: they're uploading atrocities like beheadings and shootings online, so that as many copycats as possible can find them.

And it's working: there are not only several thousand fighters from various Arabic countries fighting for the IS, but also several hundred from Europe, different intelligence agencies say. The man who allegedly shot and killed four people in the Jewish museum in Brussels in May had fought as a jihadist in Syria before that.

Fighting IS the Sunni way

Terror isn't borne out of thin air. The jihadists profit from Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad bombing parts of his people and from Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki keeping Sunnis from power. Al-Maliki goes so far as to attempt to be confirmed in office on Tuesday (05.08.2014).

Political solutions are complicated and by now probably also insufficient. The "Islamic State" must also be fought militarily. One possible example for this could be the Sunni tribes in eastern Syria, who denounced the IS and are now not only fighting Assad, but also the IS-terrorists.