By James A. Lyons and Clare M. Lopez
One of the worst things that political and military leaders of a country at war can do is to misrepresent, or not understand, the threat doctrine and objectives of the enemy. Like it or not, America has been at war since November 1979 when Iran took over our embassy in Tehran.
On 15 May 2016, The Washington Post carried an article by retired General David Petraeus, which was his attempt to offer some insights for our next President on how to combat the current threat posed by the Islamic State (IS). He also attempted to address the broader Islamic jihadist ideology that animates them! In so doing, there is an unstated presumption throughout the article that “Islam is a religion of Peace” that has been hijacked by Islamic extremist groups, e.g., Al-Qaeda, Islamic State, al-Nusrah, etc. Nothing could be further from the truth.
General Petraeus fails to mention that the so-called “violent extremist groups” are all part of the Global Jihadists Movement (GJM). They, in fact, are carrying out the core principles of Islam as specified in the Quran, Shariah and the hadiths. Muslims do not consider Islam to be a “religion.” They call it a “complete way of life.” Clearly, our leaders need to understand that Islam is a totalitarian ideology, governed by an alien legal system called Shariah that obligates all Muslims to carry out jihad to conquer the world and subjugate it to Islamic Law. Jihadists plan to accomplish this by capturing our “soul” through the use of terror. Not understanding this is how we find ourselves in our current predicament.
To be clear, the doctrine of Shariah is not espoused by all Muslims. However, as pointed out by Andrew Bostom in his 15 March 2016 article in PJ Media, Shariah supremacism with its hateful bellicosity and bigotry remains regrettably the predominant mindset of the world’s Muslims. He states, based on the latest available information, that 77% of Muslims from the five largest Sunni Muslim populations and 83% of Shiite Iranians want Shariah as the law of the land. Furthermore, 91% of liberated Iraqis and 90% of Afghan Muslims support Shariah as well. So much for Muslim help!
Worse yet, Petraeus not so subtly actually attacked our First Amendment rights when he expressed his concern over the current political dialogue that highlights the threat from Muslims and Islam. This was unconscionable! He has fallen into the trap of “Don’t criticize or take a position that might offend” the seventh century sensibilities of the followers of Islam. Perhaps he forgot that one of the reasons our military is fighting against the threat is to protect our Constitution and our way of life.
By his comments, Petraeus is in effect is supporting the global campaign to impose Islamic blasphemy law on all non-Muslim societies. This campaign is led by the 57-member Organization of Islamic Cooperation and, regrettably, has been supported by our last Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton.
Nonetheless, he believes such statements that accurately describe the threat undermine our ability to defeat “Islamist extremists by alienating and undermining the Muslims we need to help us to win.” Of course, his view is based on his experience in Anbar province. He succeeded in rolling back AQI in Iraq because he bought the Anbar Sheikhs with pallets of shrink-wrapped U.S. dollars. Aside from the money, Sunni tribes were tired of assassinations and atrocities led by Baghdad’s Shiite government and AQI.
When President George W. Bush conducted the invasion of Iraq in 2003, he destroyed the Sunni-Shiite balance of power by decimating Saddam Hussein’s Sunni Army. The Iraqi Army was disbanded, a tragic mistake, because it provided a trained military to al-Qaeda in Iraq which eventually morphed into the Islamic State. Compounding this problem, the U.S. State Department wrote a new constitution for Iraq that made Shariah the law of the land under a Shiite government, a move which was a sure-fire recipe for a civil war that continues to this day.
It must be understood, Muslims fight to defend their own family, tribe, clan and of course, Islam—not because they think the Islamic State is somehow “not Islamic” or has hijacked their faith. Likewise, Sunni governments will use asymmetric warfare by underwriting influence operations through their many international organizations, including the migration of Shariah-compliant Muslims to non-Muslim countries. At the same time, they allied with us to protect their ruling families and interests by basing our forces in their countries.
The next president must combat the current threat by planning strategically about what’s best for our long term interests and objectives. Clearly, Iran with its apocalyptic “Twelver” mindset must be prevented from becoming the regional nuclear-armed hegemon.
What we are seeing in the Middle East region is the traditional Sunni-Shia sectarian fight that has gone on for over a thousand years. We must address the IS threat in a way that restores the Sunni-Shia balance in the region while not advancing Iran’s objectives. However, we should not expend one more American life to sustain the regimes in Baghdad and Damascus. They are puppet governments under Iran’s control. If Iran wants to keep them in power, let Iran expand its resources.
We should focus our efforts on enhancing the security of our principal ally in the region, Israel, as well as the Kurds. We should be providing the Kurds direct military aid. Clearly, we need to prevent the spread of IS into Libya and Tunisia. Lastly, we need to ensure that freedom of navigation remains a core principle for the region.
James A. Lyons, a retired U.S. Navy admiral, was commander in chief of the U.S. Pacific Fleet and senior U.S. military representative to the United Nations. He is a Member of the Citizens’ Commission on Benghazi
Clare M. Lopez is Vice President for Research & Analysis at the Center for Security Policy & a Member of the Citizens’ Commission on Benghazi
The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Barb Wire.