Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Israel Is a Strategic Asset in the Struggle Against the Islamic State


The Islamic State (ISIS) has emerged nowadays as the main security threat not only for Gulf countries and the vast majority of Middle-Eastern nations, but also for the West. The brutality of ISIS and its fearsome expansionist objectives have demonstrated how urgent it is to be united and to cooperate in order to stop it. Indeed, more than 40 countries, including the UAE, Saudi Arabia, or Bahrain, have decisively chosen to defeat ISIS jointly. However, despite of the fact that it has not formally joined the International Coalition against ISIS, there is another country providing valuable help for this paramount objective: Israel. As the Israeli PM stated last September at the Herzliyah International Institute for Counter-Terrorism "[…] we are playing our part in this continued effort. Some of the things are known; some of the things are less known;" along the same line Israeli Finance Minister Yair Lapid stated that Israel’s intelligence "is part of the regional effort" against ISIS.

Due to its highly-renowned and expert intelligence structure as well as to its experience to deal with ISIS-style groups such as Hamas, and given its commitment to keep the stability in such a hostile neighborhood, in which it has coexisted, Israel is playing a key strategic role in the international offensive to defeat ISIS.

First, as Reuters quoted on September 8, an anonymous Western diplomat said that Israel is providing the U.S. with satellite surveillance in order to support the U.S.-led aerial campaign against ISIS in Iraq as well as with information on Western citizens who have either joined ISIS or could carry out attacks in their home countries. According to the diplomat, Israeli spy satellites, flying over Iraq at angles and frequencies unavailable from U.S. satellites, had provided images that allowed the Pentagon to "fill out its information and get better battle damage assessments" after strikes on Islamic State targets. Regarding Western citizens suspected of joining ISIS, the diplomat highlighted Israel’s skills in analyzing international travel databases and Arabic social media in order to track and identify these activists. Moreover, Harvard Law Professor Alan Dershowitz has pointed out that Israel is providing real-time intelligence regarding ISIS, its access to hiding places, its financial supply route, and on a range of other issues.

Second, Israel has great expertise on dealing with guerrilla tactics employed by ISIS-like terrorist movements such as Hamas. Actually, Hamas and ISIS share some core views, for example, the use of violence to establish a radical version of Islam, which violates human rights and oppresses minorities and other religions. In this regard, both groups seek the establishment of a Muslim caliphate under Shari’a law. Mahmoud al-Zahar, one of Hamas’s historic leaders, said in a ceremony to honor police officers killed during Operation Protective Edge in Gaza; "We don't want to establish an Islamic emirate in Gaza; we want an Islamic state in all Palestine."

Besides common goals, ISIS and Hamas use a similar strategy, a guerrilla warfare led by masked troops combined with the massive murder of civilians. While Hamas has killed thousands of Israeli civilians with suicide bomb attacks and rocket launching, ISIS is exterminating Christians and Yezidis in Iraq, and Kurds in Syria. While Hamas uses the Gazan population as human shields (in order to exploit the benefit of media attention due to killed civilians) and carries out public executions of pro-Israel collaborators, ISIS is uploading the beheading of Western non-combatants for a worldwide audience to recruit newcomers to its cause and to terrify the world. ISIS is also using human shields in Syria, according to reporter Gianluca Mezzofiore.

However, as Dershowitz has reminded, Israel has been combating this king of strategy for more than 50 years; therefore, its expertise will be truly useful in enabling the international coalition to execute more accurate strikes against ISIS positions and to locate foreign ISIS-newcomers in Western countries.   

Third, Israel has always asserted its efforts to keep the stability in the region. Over the last years, Israel has prevented Hezbollah and other radical groups operating in the Syrian civil war from acquiring chemical weapons located in arsenals and military research centers run by al-Assad forces. Some years earlier, on September 6, 2007, Israel’s Air Force carried out Operation Orchard to destroy the Syrian nuclear reactor in the Deir ez-Zor region, preventing al-Assad regime from acquiring the nuclear bomb – and also impeding the transfer of the bomb to Syrian allies such as Hezbollah and Iran, and eventually preventing radical groups such as ISIS from getting their hands on the bomb too.  

In addition, Israel has definitely committed to act accordingly if ISIS reaches Jordan, in accordance with diplomatic sources recently quoted on Israel’s Channel 2 onSeptember 12. The Israeli commitment to the stability of the region is once more an unquestionable guarantee for the West.

The Islamic State’s barbarism as exhibited in Iraq and Syria, where they have perpetrated mass murders on anyone opposing it, is also threatening to harm us in our own cities. Israel, that has suffered for decades waves of massive terrorism, is a pillar to rely on in the fight against ISIS.

The Friends of Israel Initiative has always claimed that Israel is a strategic asset for the West, the last frontier for freedom and democracy in the Middle East; the Israeli support to the anti-ISIS international coalition is just one more proof. Once again the struggle of Israel is the struggle of the West.

Photo: U.S. President Barack Obama meets in New York with representatives of the five Arab nations that contributed in air strikes against ISIS targets in Syria, September 23, 2014. Also pictured are U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, U.S. National Security Adviser Susan Rice, Jordan's King Abdullah and Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi. REUTERS/KEVIN LAMARQUE