The Islamic State: A Long-Term Strategy

Feb 11, 2015

The United States and other international actors must look to non-military, civilian-led approaches for an effective response to the crisis that will undermine extremist groups. The world should respond to the brutality of the self-proclaimed Islamic State (IS) with effective, principled policy solutions. Expanding airstrikes and introducing new weapons will fuel the conflicts, rather than resolve them. Check out FCNL's FAQ on the Islamic State for more on nonmilitary solutions to address the crises in Syria and Iraq. 

To address the IS crisis effectively, the U.S. should do the following:

In the short term:

  • Bring the bombing campaign to an immediate end. As Col. Wilkerson and FCNL's Kate Gould pointed out in a recent Huffington Post op-ed, "every additional US bomb [...] is a recruitment bonanza for the Islamic State."
  • Support emergency humanitarian assistance efforts to displaced communities and support peaceful resistance and community protection mechanisms wherever possible.
  • Stop supplying more weapons to Iraq, rebels in Syria, and countries connected to IS, which is already using U.S.-provided weapons. Sending more arms to the Syrian opposition will only exacerbate the violence.

In the medium term:

  • Impose a regional arms embargo against all armed actors in Iraq and Syria. Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Kuwait are key regional players who have provided weapons to the armed opposition, including IS, in Syria. The U.S. has provided weapons to Iraqi security forces despite widespread human rights violations, and many of those weapons have ended up in the hands of IS.
  • Strengthen financial sanctions against armed actors in the region by working through the UN Security Council. For example, disrupting the Islamic State’s $3 million/day oil revenue from the underground market would go a long way toward blunting violence.

In the long term:

  • Work for a political settlement to the crisis in Iraq and Syria, especially since these two conflicts are intricately connected and should be addressed holistically. Return to the Geneva peace process for a negotiated settlement to the civil war in Syria and expand the agenda to include IS’ presence in Iraq. Ensure Iran’s full participation in the process.
  • Address both political and economic grievances of the population – particularly among vulnerable populations where IS is most likely to feed off the desperation of Sunni-majority and other marginalized communities. Strengthening long-term political and economic security will help to build a stable and non-sectarian society in Iraq.
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