IS globalizes and India joins Russia, China Antiterrorism Coalition: What about Arab Cooperation with the Kurds?
Despite headlines declaring the Islamic State has got global, the terrorist group has not truly spread throughout world in the way they overran much of Iraq and Syria in 2014. What the Islamic State has managed to do is sell itself as a threat to the global powers they and others have declared war against, thereby uniting extremist jihadists behind their winning brand. Where US-led and Arab Coalition Airstrikes are helping to break the ability of IS to entrench itself and forcing it to metastasize, a lack of unity on the ground is encouraging support for a growing international coalition of terrorists.
Looking at the Kurdish Peshmerga as the most effective ground force against the Islamic State and their efforts to push the Islamic State out of Syria, the response of the Turkish government and many Syrians has been condemnation. They fear the Kurds may well be trying to form their own Country by pushing Arabs out of their homelands. Truth be told, the establishment of a Kurdish Nation out of territory that is traditionally Kurdish is an eventuality that must be considered, especially given the strength of the Peshmerga. Resistance to the notion of a Kurdish State will only lead to conflict that will help the Islamic bolster its efforts.
Instead of declaring war on the Kurds, the Turks, Syrians, Iraqis, and Iranians need to do their fair share of the heavy lifting. Quite frankly, the Kurds will not have to expand beyond their traditional territory if enough effective ground forces were willing and able to fight the Islamic State. In Syria, the most capable forces are already too busy fighting each other, because Assad is not willing to give up on his dying horse, so the last thing the Middle East needs is the Turks and Syrians turning on the Kurds. On behalf of the United States, more needs to be done to help coordinate airstrikes with Syrian rebels in Syria, because sectarian divisions mean the Kurds cannot leave their territory, even though the Islamic State must be defeated within Syria.
With that in mind, news of rivals India and Pakistan joining the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) in their efforts to tackle terrorism and drug trafficking demonstrates the kind of cooperation needed between the Turks, Syrians, Iraqis, Iranians, and Kurds when facing the Islamic State. Composed of China, Russia and the former Soviet republics of Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, with India, Pakistan, Iran, Afghanistan and Mongolia currently serving as observer nations, the SCO may well prove to be useful in the fight against Islamic State. As the Islamic State has spread into Russia and Afghanistan, it is clear that the Asian coalition will need to aid the West and the Arabs in their efforts to cleanse the world of globalized terrorism, if SCO is to have any value to the member states.
On the other hand, the Ukraine Crisis and the South China Sea Crisis creates complications. Before Russian provocation and rising Chinese aggression divided the International Community against these two global powers, news of Pakistan and India joining SCO would have been more than welcome. After all, armed conflicts between Pakistan, India, China, and Russia are a major threat to the International Community and that threat is only expected to grow as competition between these massive nations intensify. SCO is a solution to that issue; however, there are also raising concerns that these four powerful nations might be uniting against the US and its global coalition of partners.
Where Pakistan has long been an unreliable, and often antagonistic, partner of the United States, India under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi has sought to be a neutral actor and partner to all. In doing so, India enhances its own diplomatic leverage when the United States, China, and/or Russia challenge each others’ influence. That said, Modi has been willing to engage Pakistan and China in armed conflict in order to protect its interests along the Pakistani and Chinese borders. In an apparent attempt to pacify Indian fears of Chinese aggression and to encourage India to militarily neuter itself, Chinese military officials have warned India about militarizing the India Ocean as though it is “India backyard.”
Clearly hypocritical given the Chinese militarization of the South China Sea, as well as China’s potential plans to build up a military presence in the Indian Ocean, Chinese statements and actions remind the world that India has cause to be guarded against China. Recognizing the United States patrols the waters of the world in order to safeguard global commerce and ensure the other navies of the world honor International Law, India has far less reason to see the United States as a threat. Coupled with deeply entrenched traditional grievances, the SCO is likely to be a limited alliance that can and will be easily broken.
It is, however, a test for the United States. The monopolar world of the post Cold War era is over and the United States must rely on the strength of its allies in the multipolar world of today. To do that, it must be tolerant of allies partnering with adversarial nations. In many respects, it is that same challenge seen in the Middle East where US allies must work with countries like Iran in order to defend against their common threats. Just as the SCO nations are overcoming their deeply entrenched divisions to cooperate on common threats to their national and regional security, Turkey, Iraq, Syria, and Iran must do the same thing with the Kurds.
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