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Defeating the (un)Islamic State

While the thought of thirty foreign states working as a coalition to eliminate the threat of IS might at first seem reassuring, at a second glance, it may not be the best approach. Although I think everyone can agree that the threat that IS poses needs to be eliminated, military action will only get us so far. Even if by some chance we succeed in eliminating every person aligned with IS, that doesn’t mean that the threat is forever gone. The same conditions that spawned IS will continue to create similar groups until these issues are addressed. I believe that the only effective way to defeat IS is to engage Sunni leaders within their communities, address the social and economic issues that are causing people to join, and possibly even defeating their social media campaign,

One of the major ways that the US was able to combat al-Qaida in Iraq was through the use of Sunni leaders. Since al-Qaida, as is IS, is a Sunni militant group, Sunni leaders were able to work within their communities, mobilizing forces to oust extremists. Also as during the Iraq War, the Shia dominated government lacks support in the north of the country; inaction by the military in the area fails to show Sunni citizens that Baghdad is concerned for them. Sunni leaders have spoken out, saying that if Sunni political rights are protected in Iraq, tribal militants will work to oust the group. Baghdad needs to work towards creating a truly inclusive government if the state is to succeed and remain an intact state; if not the state’s best chance may have to be splitting up based on ethnic/religious lines.

Many domestic recruits to IS are young men, typically poor, Sunni, unemployed, and uneducated; they feel disenfranchised by the Iraqi government and feel as though the Islamic State can provide better for them. Until the problems facing Sunni’s are addressed by Baghdad, these types of militant groups will continue to spawn in the region. There are also many stories of men relocating to IS from other parts of the Middle East in hopes of securing a better paying job or benefits for their families. And then of course there are the young people who join IS in hopes of becoming a part of something bigger and to find their way in life.

One thing that all of these recruits have in common is disillusion. The IS has an extensive media campaign that is working wonders for the group. Between the social media and outreach campaigns, they are figuring out ways to reach out to all types of people. Their social media campaign has successfully been feeding a false reality of what life in the state is like; filled with guns, money, and women. The US has been working on a social media campaign to counter IS called Think Again Turn Away, which exposes facts about terrorist groups and addresses their propaganda. Since its creation in December of last year, it hasn’t proven very successful, but I hope that it will continue and expand, and eventually end ISs social media reign.

So although airstrikes may be a good idea currently to dismantle ISs operations, in order for a long term solution to be reached Iraq must be willing to alter their government to include Sunnis and their needs. Also the Sunni community as a whole needs to work together to stop the spread of IS as well as stop supporting them. It is important for other states in the region to work towards eliminating IS as well as they can provide ideological alternatives and governmental advice. It is not a coincidence that IS rose to power in the aftermath of the failure of the Arab Spring; there is a crisis among the states in the region that is causing these revolutions, violent or not. These governments lack legitimacy, as well as the power to effectively govern. Without the ability to govern, these states are unable to provide for their citizens.

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