TEL AVIV – “Leave ISIS Be” is the provocative title of an article published last week by the Kuwaiti daily Al-Jarida, which claims that the best way to combat the terror group is to recognize it as a sovereign state, thereby forcing it to accept accountability for its actions on the international stage.
Despite the rabble-rousing title, the column’s author Fahd Al-Bassam does not sympathize with the Islamic State. Bassam argues that by fighting the terror organization using conventional methods, the world is unwittingly playing into its hands. Neither sophisticated weaponry nor intelligence operations have done much to dent IS’s terror campaign, Bassam said. In addition, efforts to “fight them with Islam, trying to convince them to adopt the path of moderation,” have similarly failed.
Instead, Bassam calls for the world to “change the rules of the game” and give the Islamic State exactly what they’re after; namely, a caliphate.
“Let us face them with some Christianity, in which we will perhaps find our own lost wisdom. Perhaps we can succeed this time by, for example, following the principle of ‘if someone slaps you on your right cheek, offer him your left cheek,’” he writes in the article translated by the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI).
Recognizing IS as a self-contained state will confine the terror group to its own borders. Bassam also claims that doing so will cure the group of its “nostalgia” for the Islamic conquests of old and will propel it to “to abandon the hobby of chasing dust in the desert on four-wheel drive vehicles.”
“’If we can’t beat them, let’s make them join us’ in the international club and in the game of states, politics, and diplomacy. Let them send their ambassadors, and we will send our ambassadors, like things were with the Taliban’s Afghanistan,” Bassam said in the article.
The columnist lists a range of positive outcomes that could come from such an arrangement, beginning with stamping out domestic support of IS’s ideology. Once IS is its own state, he asserts, the international community will gain a better understanding of who really supports it and be able to indict IS sympathizers for treason and collusion with a foreign state.
From a foreign policy perspective, Bassam writes, the new state could act as “an extremist Sunni buffer state in confrontation with Iran, the extremist Shi’i state.” This may lead to a scenario in which both states end up embroiled in a battle against each other, a result that would be desirable for many countries – Kuwait included – that view both IS and Iran as their enemies.
Finally, he claims, it will provide the group an opportunity to prove themselves by establishing a country with a robust economy and salaried jobs. “If they succeed, may Allah grant success to the state [established] by our brothers who rebelled against us,” he writes.
The alternative – which Bassam infers is the more likely option – is that they will fail, proving to the “romantics” in Kuwait, “who hold ISIS in their hearts and on their tongues,” that the dream of a functioning Islamic State will never be more than just a dream.