MAG THE WEEKLY | LONDON EYE
CRUSHING DAESH AN UPHILL TASK
The world is in a fix on how to tackle the emerging threat from Daesh amidst an influx of refugees entering Europe
by SHAHED SADULLAH
12 - 18 Dec, 2015
#content
CRUSHING DAESH AN UPHILL TASK

By the time this gets to print, we will know whether the UK is to be sending Royal Air Force warplanes to bomb Syria. Unlike Pakistan, where such decisions are taken in ‘All Party Conferences’, here in the UK, the decision to go to war and thereby put its citizens serving in the armed forces in what is described as “harm’s way” is deemed to be the most serious business that any Parliament can ever be seized with – and the House of Commons is seized with it as I write. In actual fact and deed, since no troops on the ground are being committed or ever likely to be committed, the chances of anybody actually dying or even getting hurt are remote unless it is in a rather unlikely event of an aircraft being shot down or one coming down by virtue of mechanical malfunction. Whether or not Daesh have the capability to shoot down aircraft is anyone’s guess, but even that very remote possibility gives the issue the utmost gravity.
Mr Cameron should not have much difficulty in getting the vote, although a handful of Tory MPs are said to be not in favour of the move. The Labour leadership under Jeremy Corbyn is against it, although many senior Labour MPs including the Deputy Leader Tom Watson, along with just under a 100 Labour MPs, have announced their intention to vote with the government rather than their own Party leader. Sensing that any attempt to enforce the whip could lead to mass resignations from the party, Mr Corbyn decided to give his MPs a free vote on the subject for which he has come in for a fair degree of flack. It has been pointed out that if indeed he was convinced that the use of air power was not the way to go about, and if he felt that many in the country do not want to go down this route, it was his job to stop the government’s move as effectively as he could. By allowing a free vote, he has made it that much easier for the government to have its way.
Lest people of this sort of confused political thinking who want to parley with the Taliban draw encouragement from this, it should be clarified at the outset that no one here is advocating that such a course be resorted to in relation to Daesh. They are all unanimous in their agreement that there is no talking to these people, but that the really effective way of dealing with them is to have a well-planned and concerted action in which all the major powers in the field co-ordinate with one another, leading to boots on the ground being supported by aerial action.
What this means is that attempts should be made to get a Muslim force on the ground, who can then be supported by western air power. Now, the most likely Muslim countries to agree to put soldiers in the field against Daesh are Syria and Iran and that is where the plot begins to go pear-shaped. The Israelis, who want Bashar al Assad out at any cost, would be considerably less than amused at the sight of western air power supporting Assad’s forces on the ground in a move that can only strengthen the position of the Syrian President and what does not amuse Israel does not amuse the US and what does not amuse the US does not amuse the UK. Quite simple, really. But that is not all. Supporting Syrian and Iranian ground forces would not amuse the Saudis; the answer may lie in getting the Saudis to join the coalition on the ground but the Saudis joining the Iranians is about as likely as Mohammad Hafeez not being run out. So that’s out too. The question of the US or the UK deploying troops on the ground does not arise as the political will for any such adventure after Iraq and Afghanistan just does not exist, enforcing the point that you may have the most sophisticated weapons in the world but unless someone is prepared to do the dying, these weapons by themselves don’t get you very far. Labour Party members who are against the bombing say this in more diplomatic terms, pointing out that thousands of sorties against Daesh in Iraq have had no effect. One also suspects that they fear that the bombs may turn towards Assad and his army and that by throwing him out a huge vacuum would be created as was done in Iraq and Libya, leading to we all know what. Western governments, however, have not learnt much from these episodes. The government has been talking of 70,000 “moderate” Syrian rebels on the ground but there are grave doubts on that number and even graver doubts on just how “moderate” they are. Certainly on the basis of photographic evidence, there is nothing to choose between the Daesh and these so-called moderates. To both, human life seems to mean very little.
But for all that, at the moment of going to press it seems that Prime Minister David Cameron will win the vote and that the UK will join the US and France in a fierce bombing campaign against Daesh which will be given widespread media coverage for a few days. Just to what extent it limits Daesh’s capability, which is what the government hopes to achieve, is something that only time will tell.

Malala sharing the limelight with Imran Khan in UK But now on to something else. It would perhaps be fair to say that the two most instantly recognisable Pakistanis in the west have been Benazir Bhutto and Imran Khan. The Oxford connection, of course, has a lot to do with it, but added to that is the fact that both – and Imran especially – had been a part of the higher echelons of British society, the level that makes the sort of news that is of no consequence whatsoever to anyone but themselves. It would have been a close call between the two as to who was the better known in the UK, but Imran would perhaps have won it. The sporting super-hero image added to his good looks which made him a favourite with the ladies gave him an edge but now, he has been left miles behind in the race for the top spot as the most recognisable Pakistani in the UK in particular and the West in general. That spot now appears to have been taken up by Malala Yousafzai, whose defiant stand against the Taliban and for women’s education has made her the most recognised Pakistani in the west. The recent release of her biographical movie, He named me Malala has hit cinemas in the west and the publicity campaign before the release of the film was extensive, resulting in Malala’s picture on huge posters in virtually every underground station in London and much besides. The teenager’s journey from student activist to Nobel Prize winner has been described by the makers of the film as “both heartbreaking and inspiring”, who went on to add that the chance to bring her story to a global audience was an honour for everyone concerned with the making of the film. The unfortunate part of it is that in her home country, she is somehow seen as a figure of controversy and that does not exactly do the image of Pakistan any favours out here. It gives the impression that this is a country totally out of sync with western values which in turn reflects itself in the broader anti-Muslim feeling which has been climbing north steeply since the terrorist attacks in Paris. •


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