Is IS the sum of all fears?
As this blog is titled 2020 Visions and exists, primarily, to help me imagine the future for my children, I read with interest that the terrorist organisation that has dominated the dark side of the 21st century so far has its own 2020 vision.
Although you need to take stuff written on Wikipedia with a hefty pinch of salt sometimes, particularly related to fast moving, politically charged events prone to cyber misinformation, there is a section on the Al Qaeda entry relating to the organisation’s strategy, which cites two separate sources from 2005 who basically agree on the general outline of what is titled “Al Qaeda’s Strategy to the Year 2020”.
It begins with provoking the US to attack a Muslim country by killing many of its citizens on its home soil.
Now, whether or not this has a degree of post event reasoning from the sources, personally I thought in the wake of 9/11 that the main outcome Bin Laden wished to achieve through such a world shaking atrocity was to get the US on the ground in Iraq – as George W Bush wouldn’t be able to restrain himself from finishing what his father started. I’m sure such thoughts and feelings were top of the mind of many of the millions who protested against the West invading Iraq.
Again, there could be more post event reasoning but 3 phases of the Al Qaeda strategy highlight Iraq as a centre for operations and the likes of Syria as areas in which conflict would expand. If indeed this strategy was first documented in 2005 then it would appear that Al Qaeda and the more barbaric offshoots it has spawned are succeeding all too well in executing it, with the US-led coalition struggling to make progress against it despite launching over 2000 air strikes over the last six months.
Indeed, what is described as the fifth phase – establishing an Islamic Caliphate between 2013-2016 – would seem very prophetic in light of current events and it would appear that the strategy is well and truly on course.
That said, phases six and seven sound very ambitious and talk of ‘total confrontation’ and ‘definitive victory’ with the US economy collapsing under the strain of multiple military engagements and the world being “beaten down” by the Islamic Army in a battle that would be completed in two years between 2018 and 2020.
In Tom Clancy’s novel ‘The Sum of All Fears’, set at the beginning of the 1990s, Palestinian terrorists get hold of an old Israeli nuclear weapon that had been lost in Syria and aim to detonate it on the US mainland. In the later film of the book, set in 2002, the bad guys were switched to Neo Facists supported by nuclear scientists operating from Soviet era facilities in Ukraine.
In the last week, the US has announced it has killed an IS chemical weapons expert in Iraq – the irony of course being that while there wasn’t actually a weapons of mass destruction threat in Iraq when the US and the UK invaded originally, there clearly is now …
Saddam Hussein was a bad man on a number of levels but the mass of rational thinkers in the West did not believe he would use WMDs outside of Iraq, even if indeed he did have them.
The IS death cult is a different matter altogether. To have any hope of achieving phases six and seven in the Al Qaeda 2020 vision, they need weapons of mass destruction and we should have no doubt that they will use them with all the barbaric ruthlessness they have shown elsewhere.
The neo fascists in the world’s other big flashpoint of the moment reckon that Russia would not have attempted to enter Ukraine if it still had the massive arsenal of nuclear weapons it did before voluntarily giving them all up after gaining independence from the Soviet Union. They are probably right and this illustrates the importance of having such weaponry when attempting to confront the world’s biggest nations.
So, if ‘total confrontation’ and ‘definitive victory’ logically requires a WMD/nuclear threat, what chance does IS and/or Al Qaeda as a whole stand of achieving this?
The nearest warheads to the current IS frontline would appear to be in Southern Turkey, along the Syrian border from Kobane, at the US Air Base in Incirlik. It would take a pretty daring raid for IS to take over a facility like this and hopefully Turkey and the US are well prepared for such an event.
Probably more worrying is that observers reckon Asia is currently seeing a growing nuclear arms race with the only nuclear armed powers in the world expanding their nuclear weapons being China, India, North Korea and Pakistan.
Of those, the notoriously unstable Islamic Republic of Pakistan is expanding its capability the fastest and could have as many nuclear devices as the UK by 2020.