Sadly, major world powers, including the United Nations, have not appeared serious about fighting terrorism or the Islamic State (ISIS, IS) or similar terrorist groups.
UN Security Council Resolution 2170 (August 15, 2014) called on member-states to take "national measures to prevent fighters from traveling from their soil to join the IS and deny it any arms or financial support. The resolution also "expressed readiness to consider putting on the sanctions list those who facilitated the recruitment and travel of foreign fighters."
The continued growth of the Islamic State, however, shows that the UN's member states have done little to fight it. According to an intelligence estimate more than 20,000 fighters have arrived in Syria and Iraq to fight for the IS. Of these, about a quarter hail from North America, Australia and Europe. Clearly, such a movement of IS fighters would not have been possible if the member states had been conscientious about implementing the UN resolution.
Sadly, the conduct of the UN Security Council does not seem any different today. Of late, four of the five permanent members of the Security Council -- the United States, France, Russia and Britain -- have been bombing IS locations, but the major powers seem to have divergent objectives in their war on ISIS.
Washington's policy in the Middle East has been among the major reasons for the rise of the Islamic State. But today it is not clear what the United States wants, except for the next president to clean up the mess being made by this one.
Beijing, for its part, continues to back Syrian President Bashar Assad. In the past, China extended support to the Assad regime: even in the midst of allegations of chemical weapons attacks and slaughtering tens of thousands of civilians, China, together with Russia, repeatedly blocked sanctions attempts against the Syrian regime. Russia, one of Syria's biggest arms suppliers, seems to have as a key goal blocking American efforts to shape the region. China appears more concerned with its financial ties with Syria.
Today, the presidents of Russia and Syria "have bound themselves together in an alliance that reflects not only the urgent priority of salvaging the crumbling central government in Syria, but also each man's eroded standing on the international stage." And possibly at home. If you are a dictator and feel your popularity slipping, it might seem better to start a war.
The main fight against the Islamic State probably needs to be waged with "boots on the ground." Saudi Arabia and its allies do not seem to be serious about targeting the Islamic State. The Saudis seem opposed to IS only to the extent that it has been a threat to them in their internal struggle for power. The Saudis would probably prefer IS to be "part of the Sunni forces that are fighting Shia forces in this regional sectarian conflict."
The Sunni states seem to perceive themselves to be "in an existential battle" with both the Iranian and Syrian regimes. Syrian rebel groups do not appear either united or strong enough to resist. In the recent past, some have chosen to flee, leaving behind whatever arms and ammunition they had been provided with to fight IS.
Turkey has also allegedly been complicit with IS in facilitating its trade in oil. Turkey has "failed to seal its border, thereby facilitating ISIS oil exports" and "profit[ing] at stages of the supply chain." The Kurds have fought hard against IS on the ground. But Turkey has been bombing the Kurdish rebels on its Syrian border.
* * *
One wonders why India is downplaying the threat that the Islamic State currently poses. Recently, India's Home Minister, Rajnath Singh, said at a ceremony in Lucknow, India, "Presently the world confronts the challenge of ISIS, but in India there is no threat from it. Because the high values of life refrain our youths from joining this organization."
Given the ideology, agenda and notorious terrorism of the Islamic State, it is a threat to all of modern civilization, including India. According to a report supposedly based on the information from India's intelligence agencies, more than 150 Indian youths may already have been influenced by the Islamic State's ideology. About two dozen Indians are now fighting in Syria, and many more have been intercepted trying to reach IS-held territory.
Given recent reported activities, such as the appearance of IS flags in India's troubled province of Jammu and Kashmir, the actual number of the Islamic State's supporters may be far greater than current official estimates. New Delhi would do well to take steps to prevent the spread of ISIS before it arrives in full force. India needs to strengthen its own internal intelligence and security mechanisms, and also see to it that no Indian citizen who goes abroad to fight for the Islamic State is allowed back in. India has already banned the Islamic State under its Unlawful Activities Prevention Act. Now New Delhi needs to implement that Act.
In 2014, this photo of Muslim ISIS supporters in India's Tamil Nadu state went viral on Twitter.
The nations of the free world might benefit by coming together and fighting the war against the Islamic State and similar terrorist groups wholeheartedly. Otherwise, even if IS is taken down, other extremist Muslim groups will rise up to take its place. Will democratic countries realize that in this war against the Islamic State, it is preserving values of individual liberty that is at stake?
Other dangerous, "asymmetric," Islamist threats that need addressing include Hamas, Hezbollah, al-Nusra Front, Islamic Jihad and the Muslim Brotherhood in the Middle East; Al-Shabaab, Boko Haram and like-minded groups in Africa; and the Tablighi Jamaat, Ahle Hadith, Jamaat-e-Islami and allied terror outfits in Pakistan. The ultimate objective of these groups has been effectively the same as that of the Islamic State -- the destruction of modern pluralistic civilization and its replacement by an extremist Muslim entity. Some groups, such as the Muslim Brotherhood, seem to have as their goal, as recommended by Hassan al Banna, of infiltrating the West. Through infiltration, they often attract a following that is even greater and a penetration in the West even more successful than IS.
Many extremist Islamic groups are still shielded by states such as Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Iran. These countries have so far not severed their links, overt or covert, with these outfits. Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Qods Force has been behind terror militias such as Hezbollah, Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, Houthis in Yemen and others.
Unfortunately, the West -- especially the U.S. and Europe -- is cultivating Iran. The U.S. has led the P5+1 (the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany) into a surrender to Iran's nuclear weapons program. They are even rewarding Iran's repeated violations of its commitments not to build nuclear weapons under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) by handing Iran up to $150 billion.
The United States and other countries of the free world urgently need to take corrective measures not only against terrorist groups but also against the states that sponsor them.
Washington, in its relationship with Tehran and Islamabad, among others, is on the wrong track. Its approach towards a rogue Iran is not likely to "bring it in from the cold," but to embolden it even further in its various terror activities the world over.
As for Pakistan, Washington might at least try to use whatever influence it has to see how the top brass in the Islamabad establishment could rein in those elements within the Pakistani Army and military-operated Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) who seem to have been aligned with the radical Islamist groups and terror outfits in the country.
Reining in Pakistan-based Islamist schools and their India-specific terror groups would be very much in the world's best interest. The Pakistani terror outfits are hostile not only India but to the United States and its close allies as well: Pakistan's ISI chief at the time, General Mahmoud Ahmed, wired $100,000 to the lead 9/11 hijacker Mohammed Atta.
When will Washington and the world's democracies start to grasp that to win any victory over terrorism today, the threat by radical Islamists of all stripes -- including Wahhabi-Salafism, Khomeinism, al-Qaeda, and the Islamic State -- has to be combated. These groups may superficially clash with each other but they all share a common ideology and goal: to roll back modern civilization and its shared values. The expansion of any of these proponents of radical Islam is detrimental to humanity.
Jagdish N. Singh is a senior Indian journalist based in New Delhi.