Europe's Fight Against ISIS Is Doomed From the Start

ISIS has a global strategy, while Europe has none

Thu, Mar 10, 2016
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The author is the Italian industrialist and Honorary member of the Academy of Science of the Institut de France with long experience in the Middle East. He wrote this article especially for RI


Too little, too late. Any international effort to "bring peace" to Libya is unlikely to lead to positive results.

About 6,500 ISIS militants are estimated to be present in Libya, twice as many as we thought just a few days ago. Their numbers are growing rapidly as Al Baghdadi transfers to Libya and Tunisia, by land and by sea, terrorists who, thanks to the Russian and Syrian victories, can no longer reach ISIS territory from the Syrian and Turkish borders.

Currently, Assad’s army is a few dozen kilometers from Raqqa, the Caliph’s "capital city”. However, Baghdadi’s cells were present in Libya before the Russians enabled a Syrian comeback, and Gaddafi’s fall paved the way for jihadist groups such as Ansar al Sharia, that killed the American Consul in Benghazi in September 2012, and Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, to make a comeback. At least 36,000 "foreign fighters" from 120 different countries may have arrived by now.

Al Baghdadi’s strategy is to turn Libya into a base from which to bring war – not just terrorism, which is a specific war strategy - into the Eurasian peninsula through a sequence of actions: at first, terrorism, then the manipulation of the large Islamic minorities present in the EU into effective masses, and finally guerrilla warfare inside Europe.

Whether a “unity” government is established in Libya or not is irrelevant. What is important is that it should have no real power and be unable to really reunite the tribes that Gaddafi commanded.

If there is a European intervention - or, to be more precise, a French, Italian and British one, with US support - the sequence of events will become even more predictable:

There will be a call for help by the Libyan unity government, which will not necessarily silence diverging interests, followed by a resolution of the UN Security Council (an organization that former Italian President Cossiga dismissed as “useless”). Later, military will come, possibly under an Italian joint command, with a view to "training" the local police, with some Special Operations Forces’ initiatives.

Too little, too late.

It’s politically feasible to join Britain, France and Italy in a peace keeping operation in Libya, but this would not make operational sense. (UN “peace keeping operations" were devised when Islamic terrorism or, rather, the jihad, had not yet appeared.)

For ISIS, Libya is the second front of its jihad, as well as a base from which to sell smuggled hydrocarbons, thanks to the decrease in oil prices and the cover of producing countries that mix their oil with the jihad’s.

ISIS has a global strategy, while Europe has none.

The United States have clearly shown they no longer want to deal with the Middle East, the EU is split into at least two groups on immigration, and Great Britain, which should logically participate in a Libyan operation, is slowly but surely walking out of the European Union.

The original Islam scenario is repeating itself: when the Prophet Muhammad died, the Byzantines and the Iranian Empire were exhausted by a long war with each other, and it was easy for Caliph Abu Bakr to conquer the Iranian empire and its capital Ctesiphon, then head to Egypt and from there up to Andalusia.

The divisions among Christians fostered the arrival of the first jihad, and many Eastern Christians, treated as heretics by the Byzantine Basileus, preferred the new Arab regime to the Eastern Empire’s repression. Today the divisions between Westerners and their internal weaknesses favor this new jihad. Italy does not want migrant boats landing on its shores, and that’s why it wants to take action to "bring peace" to Libya.

That’s not enough. We need to manage the destabilization of the whole Sahel region that produces migrants; destroying boats is spiteful and naive: they can afford to buy new ones.

The oil issue does not seem to be particularly interesting to current Italian decision-makers, who have a blind faith in the progress Iran’s newly elected reformers are supposed to foster but, as Voltaire used to say, "in spite of facts, people are often hard-headed".

Rouhani’s reformers won a majority, with 83 seats, Independents won 64 seats and those against the P+1 agreement won 10 seats, which, if we consider the 39 who will go on to second ballot in April, make the victory of the supporters of the agreement with the West less remarkable than we may think. Not to mention the fact that, thanks to his political victory, Rowhani will soon dictate his conditions to the West.

France probably doesn’t have the strength to manage a ground situation in Libya.It is already present in the Sahel region, is carrying out counterterrorist operations on its territory and also in Senegal and Mali. it By the way, do we want to support the "national unity" government in Tripoli or combat ISIS?

Great Britain will participate because it wants to recover part of the Mediterranean. It will not succeed, but it certainly doesn’t want France and Italy to retake the key Libyan coast.

Three diverging interests for three countries that are supposed to fight together.

The United States will launch drones, but little else.

To put it in my usually brutal terms, a broader strategic logic - not a propaganda-demagogic logic - is needed again in the Middle East and the Mediterranean.

If the United States walks out of the region - and I do not think the new president will be more interventionist than Barack Obama - the small and medium-sized European powers will find a new global player.

Alone, one hates to imagine the results. They could never succeed.

China could be the new global player, in connection with Israel, with whom it has excellent relations. It also has a strategic relationship with the Russian Federation  that is operating in Syria against ISIS.

China is the ideal player: it has excellent, stable relations with all these countries; it has the technology, including the military, to change the situation on the ground, and it can also apply pressure, without being affected beyond an acceptable limit, on Iran and Saudi Arabia. China also has relations with the Jewish state, its reference point for the most advanced technologies.

On his recent visit to the Middle East, Xi Jinping built a broad political project and, after a cleansing of the CCP and major Chinese companies – see the recent elimination of the top managers of China Telecom and high fashion - the Chinese CCP Secretary will be very powerful, probably even more than Mao.

Hence, the Libyan issue should be seen in its Mediterranean context, which is now a unified strategic theatre. ISIS, a terrorist-jihadist group, operates in the name of and on behalf of one or more States.

These states want certain things: putting it politely, they want Libyan oil; a government - in Tripoli or Tobruk, it doesn’t matter - entirely subordinate to their interests; and finally they want to use this "liquid" phase of jihadist terrorism to wipe out the Maghreb states that are friendly to the West (and Russia), namely Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco and, using a different template, Egypt, which is also a world choke-point thanks to the Suez Canal.

The European Union has structural weaknesses that suggest a rapid geopolitical and economic decay. The United States are undergoing their cyclical isolationist phase, enabling the Sunnis to conquer the Maghreb region in order to intimidate Europe, flood it with immigrants and control it with the North African oil that will shortly compete with Russian and Iranian oil.

If we fail to think big, we will not even solve the peace-keeping operations that have been dragging on since the Cold War.


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