The abilities of the jihadist terrorist organization Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, which has notched significant achievements in western Iraq, should not be minimized, but it should also not be given undue credit.
Jordan is still far from falling into the hands of the extremist Sunni group, comprising 10,000 members, which recent reports have warned could happen. Not only does Jordan not need help from Israel and the United States, as reported by the Daily Beast news website, but in light of the balance of forces against ISIS, which primarily consists of several gangs, Jordan can also depend on its small but disciplined and trained army.
ISIS, which was founded in 2003 following the American invasion of Iraq, has grandiose aspirations. To establish the Islamic caliphate they dream of, however, they need the masses to join them in their fight. While they do, in fact, enjoy a Sunni tailwind of support in Syria and Iraq, where the local populations are extremely hostile toward the Shiite regime in Baghdad and the Alawite regime in Damascus, there is still a long road before ISIS rallies the masses to its cause.
The group’s brutality is working against it like a boomerang. While its viciousness does indeed deter the enemy (note how Iraq’s Shiite army conceded without a fight), it also raises sincere concern among those (in the Sunni population) who would otherwise join as partners in the campaign. ISIS’ conduct in Iraq has even deterred the Saudis, who have supported the Syrian rebels as part of their larger struggle against Shiite Iran, but today even they think twice about supporting the group in Iraq.
The Middle East is changing. This is a fact. The concept of the Arab state is crumbling, and something else will rise in its place. The Sykes-Picot agreement of 1916, which gave birth to the Middle East as we have known it, has come to its final station. Something new will be born out of the churning mayhem. Terrorism is today an important element of our Middle East, but it (still) does not have the power to fill the vacuum that has been created. Jihadist terrorism can do damage, but it cannot lead.
Officials in the Hashemite Kingdom are, of course, closely following the situation in western Iraq and eastern Syria, where ISIS is currently in control. The Jordanians, as stated, can count on the loyalty of the local population to the kingdom on both sides of the two main border crossings with Iraq. The Jordanians can also trust, as stated, their army and their effective air force, which can inflict severe damage on the Sunni terrorist group. They can also be encouraged by the reversal of fortunes in Tikrit, where the Iraqi army has regained the upper hand.
Israel in this story needs to be less worried about ISIS and more about Iran. The success of the Sunni organization in western Iraq is a direct result of the changes in our region, and of the fact that Iraq and Syria do not have strong leaders like they once had, who could impose order in their domains. The world also no longer has a policeman, after the U.S. under Barack Obama has willingly forfeited its regional status and ability to influence events.
In a normal world, the Iranian nuclear race should be the main concern. But British diplomat William Patey admitted recently that ISIS is more dangerous than the Iranian nuclear threat. The priorities are changing.
Suddenly Sunni terror is more dangerous than a Shiite nuclear bomb. Suddenly, in order to combat Sunni terror, Iran has become a courted country and is even perceived in Washington as a stabilizing force.
This is precisely the change Israel needs to be wary about. The West is liable to let the Iranian cat watch over the cream.