Brookes: ISIS gains strength on global scale


Brookes: ISIS gains strength on global scale

Nov 30th, 2015 2 min read
Peter Brookes

Senior Fellow, National Security Affairs

Peter helps develop and communicate The Heritage Foundation's stance on foreign and defense policy through his research and writing.

No matter how President Obama disses or dismisses the media, Congress, his critics or skeptics — on both sides of the aisle — about his strategy against the Islamic State, the ISIS crisis isn’t getting any better.

That’s certainly no comfort on the busiest travel day of the year and the beginning of the holiday season, when folks would rather think of the warm embrace of kith and kin than the cold possibility of terrorism.

For instance, seriously complicating matters, just yesterday, Turkish fighters shot down a Russian warplane in what Ankara claims was Turkish airspace; Moscow insists it was over Syria.

This latest problem could hamper the fight against ISIS, including diplomatic talks on Syria that the United States has been pushing in Vienna that, naturally, include both Turkey and Russia, among other major players.

Moscow may not see this as just a Turkish-Russian issue, but could toss it into an already simmering cauldron of heightened NATO-Russia tensions, since Turkey is an alliance member.

Quarrelling, even among loosely-aligned, anti-ISIS countries, won’t help.

The State Department has also issued a worldwide travel alert on the possibility of terrorism during the holidays, warning Americans abroad to be very cautious.

While this sort of bulletin is probably pretty common around the holidays after 9/11, it’s clear the Islamic State has gone on the offensive beyond Iraq and Syria based on the Russian airliner bombing over the Sinai Peninsula and the Paris terror attacks.

The violent Islamist threat from the Islamic State — and don’t forget about its rival, al-Qaeda — isn’t just over there.

It’s important to remember that while it’s been a few months, we’ve had nearly a dozen Islamist terrorist plots and/or attacks in 2015, making it the most terror conspiracy-intensive year since 2001.

Moreover, almost all of the homegrown plots or attacks were ISIS-related — with the Chattanooga, Tenn., shootings being a possible exception. There have been a reported 70 ISIS-related arrests this year alone.

Plus, reports from the FBI and others indicate that law enforcement is allegedly conducting some 900 ISIS-related investigations across all 50 states.

That’s not good news.

It really doesn’t look like the Islamic State is “contained” as President Obama insisted in an ABC News interview the day before the Paris attacks.

It’s no wonder a recent Fox News national poll indicated that “terrorism” is at the top of Americans’ worries — strikingly placed above critical issues like the economy.

The ISIS fight has been America’s lead since September 2014, when the U.S. air campaign started. We keep hearing from the White House that degrading and defeating ISIS is going to get done, but that it’s going to take time.

Even yesterday, the president didn’t offer up anything new following his meeting with French President Francois Hollande at the White House beyond the already announced tweaks to his plan made in late October.

The question is: How much pain and suffering are we — and countless others — going to have to bear while Team Obama attempts to lead the shaky, multinational, anti-ISIS coalition to “victory” over the terror group with its standing strategy?

There’s something to chew on while gobbling down tomorrow’s turkey.

-Peter Brookes is a Heritage Foundation senior fellow and a former deputy assistant secretary of defense. Follow him on Twitter @Brookes_Peter.

This piece originally appeared in the Boston Herald