March 03, 2015

Netanyahu, Obama and the Geopolitics of Speeches

Netanyahu, Obama and the Geopolitics of Speeches
Geopolitical Weekly MARCH 3, 2015 | 08:49 GMT   Print   Text Size 
 
Stratfor
By George Friedman

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is visiting the United States this week to speak to Congress on March 3. The Obama administration is upset that Speaker of the House John Boehner invited Netanyahu without consulting with the White House and charged Boehner with political grandstanding. Netanyahu said he was coming to warn the United States of the threat of Iran. Israeli critics of Netanyahu charged that this was a play for public approval to improve his position in Israel's general election March 17. Boehner denied any political intent beyond getting to hear Netanyahu's views. The Obama administration claimed that the speech threatens the fabric of U.S.-Israeli relations.

Let us begin with the obvious. First, this is a speech, and it is unlikely that Netanyahu could say anything new on the subject of Iran, given that he never stops talking about it. Second, everyone involved is grandstanding. They are politicians, and that's what they do. Third, the idea that U.S.-Israeli relations can be shredded by a grandstanding speech is preposterous. If that's all it takes, relations are already shredded.

Speeches aside, there is no question that U.S.-Israeli relations have been changing substantially since the end of the Cold War, and that change, arrested for a while after 9/11, has created distance and tension between the countries. Netanyahu's speech is merely a symptom of the underlying reality. There are theatrics, there are personal animosities, but presidents and prime ministers come and go. What is important are the interests that bind or separate nations, and the interests of Israel and the United States have to some extent diverged. It is the divergence of interests we must focus on, particularly because there is a great deal of mythology around the U.S.-Israeli relationship created by advocates of a close relationship, opponents of the relationship, and foreign enemies of one or both countries.

Building the U.S.-Israeli Relationship

It is important to begin by understanding that the United States and Israel did not always have a close relationship. While the United States recognized Israel from the beginning, its relationship was cool until after the Six-Day War in 1967. When Israel, along with Britain and France, invaded Egypt in 1956, the United States demanded Israel's withdrawal from Sinai and Gaza, and the Israelis complied. The United States provided no aid for Israel except for food aid given through a U.N. program that served many nations. The United States was not hostile to Israel, nor did it regard its relationship as crucial.

This began to change before the 1967 conflict, after pro-Soviet coups in Syria and Iraq by Baathist parties. Responding to this threat, the United States created a belt of surface-to-air missiles stretching from Saudi Arabia to Jordan and Israel in 1965. This was the first military aid given to Israel, and it was intended to be part of a system to block Soviet power. Until 1967, Israel's weapons came primarily from France. Again, the United States had no objection to this relationship, nor was it a critical issue to Washington.

The Six-Day War changed this. After the conflict, the French, wanting to improve relations with the Arabs, cut off weapons sales to Israel. The United States saw Egypt become a Soviet naval and air base, along with Syria. This threatened the U.S. Sixth Fleet and other interests in the eastern Mediterranean. In particular, the United States was concerned about Turkey because the Bosporus in Soviet hands would open the door to a significant Soviet challenge in the Mediterranean and Southern Europe. Turkey was now threatened not only from the north but also from the south by Syria and Iraq. The Iranians, then U.S. allies, forced the Iraqis to face east rather than north. The Israelis forced the Syrians to focus south. Once the French pulled out of their relationship with Israel and the Soviets consolidated their positions in Egypt and Syria in the wake of the Six-Day War, the United States was forced into a different relationship with Israel.

It has been said that the 1967 war and later U.S. support for Israel triggered Arab anti-Americanism. It undoubtedly deepened anti-American sentiment among the Arabs, but it was not the trigger. Egypt became pro-Soviet in 1956 despite the U.S. intervention against Israel, while Syria and Iraq became pro-Soviet before the United States began sending military aid to Israel. But after 1967, the United States locked into a strategic relationship with Israel and became its primary source of military assistance. This support surged during the 1973 Arab-Israeli War, with U.S. assistance rising from roughly 5 percent of Israeli gross domestic product to more than 20 percent a year later.

The United States was strategically dependent on Israel to maintain a balance of power in the eastern Mediterranean. But even during this period, the United States had competing strategic interests. For example, as part of encouraging a strategic reversal into the U.S. camp after the 1973 war, the United States negotiated an Israeli withdrawal from Sinai that the Israelis were extremely reluctant to do but could not avoid under U.S. pressure. Similarly, U.S. President Ronald Reagan opposed an Israeli invasion of Lebanon that reached Beirut, and the initial U.S. intervention in Lebanon was not against Arab elements but intended to block Israel. There was a strategic dependence on Israel, but it was never a simple relationship.

The Israelis' national security requirements have always outstripped their resources. They had to have an outside patron. First it was the Soviets via Czechoslovakia, then France, then the United States. They could not afford to alienate the United States — the essential foundation of their national security — but neither could they simply comply with American wishes. For the United States, Israel was an important asset. It was far from the only important asset. The United States had to reconcile its support of Israel with its support of Saudi Arabia, as an example. Israel and the Saudis were part of an anti-Soviet coalition, but they had competing interests, shown when the United States sold airborne warning and control systems to the Saudis. The Israelis both needed the United States and chafed under the limitations Washington placed on them.

Post-Soviet Relations

The collapse of the Soviet Union destroyed the strategic foundation for the U.S.-Israeli relationship. There was no pressing reason to end it, but it began to evolve and diverge. The fall of the Soviet Union left Syria and Iraq without a patron. Egypt's U.S.-equipped army, separated from Israel by a demilitarized Sinai and token American peacekeepers, posed no threat. Jordan was a key ally of Israel. The United States began seeing the Mediterranean and Middle East in totally different ways. Israel, for the first time since its founding, didn't face any direct threat of attack. In addition, Israel's economy surged, and U.S. aid, although it remained steady, became far less important to Israel than it was. In 2012, U.S. assistance ($2.9 billion) accounted for just more than 1 percent of Israel's GDP.

Both countries had more room to maneuver than they'd had previously. They were no longer locked into a relationship with each other, and their relationship continued as much out of habit as out of interest. The United States had no interest in Israel creating settlements in the West Bank, but it wasn't interested enough in stopping them to risk rupturing the relationship. The Israelis were no longer so dependent on the United States that they couldn't risk its disapproval.

The United States and Israel drew together initially after 9/11. From the Israeli perspective, the attacks proved that the United States and Israel had a common interest against the Islamic world. The U.S. response evolved into a much more complex form, particularly as it became apparent that U.S. forces in Afghanistan and Iraq were not going to pacify either country. The United States needed a strategy that would prevent jihadist attacks on the homeland, and that meant intelligence cooperation not only with the Israelis but also with Islamic countries hostile to Israel. This was the old problem. Israel wanted the United States focused on Israel as its main partner, but the United States had much wider and more complex relations to deal with in the region that required a more nuanced approach.

This is the root of the divergence on Iran. From Israel's point of view, the Iranians pose an inherent threat regardless of how far along they are — or are not — with their nuclear program. Israel wants the United States aligned against Iran. Now, how close Tehran is to a nuclear weapon is an important question, but to Israel, however small the nuclear risk, it cannot be tolerated because Iran's ideology makes it an existential threat.

The Iran Problem

From the American perspective, the main question about Iran is, assuming it is a threat, can it be destroyed militarily? The Iranians are not fools. They observed the ease with which the Israelis destroyed the Iraqi nuclear reactor in 1981. They buried theirs deep underground. It is therefore not clear, regardless of how far along it is or what its purpose is, that the United States could destroy Iran's nuclear program from the air. It would require, at the very least, special operations on the ground, and failing that, military action beyond U.S. capabilities. Aside from the use of nuclear weapons, it is unclear that an attack on multiple hardened sites would work.

The Israelis are quite aware of these difficulties. Had it been possible to attack, and had the Israelis believed what they were saying, the Israelis would have attacked. The distances are great, but there are indications that countries closer to Iran and also interested in destroying Iran's nuclear program would have allowed the use of their territories. Yet the Israelis did not attack.

The American position is that, lacking a viable military option and uncertain as to the status of Iran's program, the only option is to induce Iran to curtail the program. Simply maintaining permanent sanctions does not end whatever program there is. Only an agreement with Iran trading the program for an end of sanctions would work. From the American point of view, the lack of a military option requires a negotiation. The Israeli position is that Iran cannot be trusted. The American position is that in that case, there are no options.

Behind this is a much deeper issue. Israel of course understands the American argument. What really frightens the Israelis is an emerging American strategy. Having failed to pacify Afghanistan or Iraq, the United States has come to the conclusion that wars of occupation are beyond American capacity. It is prepared to use air power and very limited ground forces in Iraq, for example. However, the United States does not see itself as having the option of bringing decisive force to bear.

An Intricate U.S. Strategy

Therefore, the United States has a double strategy emerging. The first layer is to keep its distance from major flare-ups in the region, providing support but making clear it will not be the one to take primary responsibility. As the situation on the ground deteriorates, the United States expects these conflicts to eventually compel regional powers to take responsibility. In the case of Syria and Iraq, for example, the chaos is on the border of Turkey. Let Turkey live with it, or let Turkey send its own troops in. If that happens, the United States will use limited force to support them. A similar dynamic is playing out with Jordan and the Gulf Cooperation Council states as Saudi Arabia tries to assume responsibility for Sunni Arab interests in the face of a U.S-Iranian entente. Importantly, this rapprochement with Iran is already happening against the Islamic State, which is an enemy of both the United States and Iran. I am not sure we would call what is happening collaboration, but there is certainly parallel play between Iran and the United States.

The second layer of this strategy is creating a balance of power. The United States wants regional powers to deal with issues that threaten their interests more than American interests. At the same time, the United States does not want any one country to dominate the region. Therefore, it is in the American interest to have multiple powers balancing each other. There are four such powers: Turkey, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Israel. Some collaborate, some are hostile, and some shift over time. The United States wants to get rid of Iran's weapons, but it does not want to shatter the country. It is part of a pattern of regional responsibility and balance.

This is the heart of Israel's problem. It has always been a pawn in U.S. strategy, but a vital pawn. In this emerging strategy, with multiple players balancing each other and the United States taking the minimum possible action to maintain the equilibrium, Israel finds itself in a complex relationship with three countries that it cannot be sure of managing by itself. By including Iran in this mix, the United States includes what Israel regards as an unpredictable element not solely because of the nuclear issue but because Iran's influence stretches to Syria and Lebanon and imposes costs and threats Israel wants to avoid.

This has nothing to do with the personalities of Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu. The United States has shown it cannot pacify countries with available forces. The definition of insanity is doing the same thing repeatedly and expecting a different outcome. If the United States is not involved on the ground in a conflict, then it becomes a problem for regional powers to handle. If the regional powers take the roles they must, they should balance against each other without a single regional hegemon emerging.

Israel does not want to be considered by the United States as one power among many. It is focused on the issue of a nuclear Iran, but it knows that there is no certainty that Iran's nuclear facilities can be destroyed or that sanctions will cause the Iranians to abandon the nuclear program. What Israel fears is an entente between the United States and Iran and a system of relations in which U.S. support will not be automatic.

So a speech will be made. Obama and Netanyahu are supposed to dislike each other. Politicians are going to be elected and jockey for power. All of this is true, and none of it matters. What does matter is that the United States, regardless of who is president, has to develop a new strategy in the region. This is the only option other than trying to occupy Syria and Iraq. Israel, regardless of who is prime minister, does not want to be left as part of this system while the United States maintains ties with all the other players along with Israel. Israel doesn't have the weight to block this strategy, and the United States has no alternative but to pursue it.

This isn't about Netanyahu and Obama, and both know it. It is about the reconfiguration of a region the United States cannot subdue and cannot leave. It is the essence of great power strategy: creating a balance of power in which the balancers are trapped into playing a role they don't want. It is not a perfect strategy, but it is the only one the United States has. Israel is not alone in not wanting this. Turkey, Iran and Saudi Arabia don't want it, either. But geopolitics is indifferent to wishes. It understands only imperatives and constraints.

India and the World – an Update



A Bi-weekly News Digest on India's Foreign Policy

February 16th - March 2nd, 2015
Volume: 2-4

Neighbourhood

Pakistan

Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar to visit Pakistan on March 3 
The Indian Express | February 25th, 2015 
One major consideration from the Indian side was that the talks had to take place "substantially before or after" Pakistan Day which falls on March 23. On that day, the Pakistan High Commission in New Delhi invites the Kashmiri Hurriyat leaders for the official reception and the Hurriyat leaders always attend the event. Since talks were cancelled in August last over Pakistan High Commissioner Abdul Basit's meeting with the Hurriyat leaders, New Delhi was determined not to let it act as a "spoiler" for the talks again.

Pakistan visit: S Jaishankar to talk Zaki-ur Rehman Lakhvi, Dawood Ibrahim 
PTI / Deccan Chronicle | February 26th, 2015 
Underworld don Dawood Ibrahim's continuous presence in Pakistan, Pakistan-based terrorist groups' activities in Jammu and Kashmir besides other issues are said to have discussed by the two top officials, sources said.

No dramatic results expected from Foreign Secretary's Pakistan visit: India 
PTI / Zee News | February 27th, 2015 
"I would be surprised if there are any dramatic results in terms of bilateral ties when Jaishankar talks with the Pakistani side. How the visit impacts on the ties was difficult to predict at this point," said an official.

'Normalisation of ties between India-Pakistan urgently needed' 
IANS / Business Standard | March 2nd, 2015 
"It is premature to predict the outcome of foreign secretary level talks between Pakistan and India scheduled for March 3, but chances of a decision to resume a composite dialogue are likely either in the upcoming or the follow-up meetings," DawnMonday quoted Aziz as saying.

Sri Lanka

Lankan president Sirisena gets the red carpet with deals on defence, nuclear safety 
The Indian Express | February 17th, 2015 
"The bilateral agreement on civil nuclear cooperation is yet another demonstration of our mutual trust. This is the first such agreement Sri Lanka has signed. It opens new avenues for cooperation, including in areas like agriculture and healthcare," Modi said at a joint media appearance with Sirisena.

Bangladesh

India-Bangladesh join hands to defeat terror
PTI / DNA | February 19th, 2015 
The talk discussed in detail security and border management related issues between the two countries. Significantly, both India and Bangladesh expressed satisfaction over the District Magistrates level talks that took place recently. India also assured Bangladesh of its resolve to get the Land Boundary Act through in the parliament as soon as possible that would help the two countries resolve the boundary dispute and related problems. India and Bangladesh have also agreed to resolve the issues concerning fishermen drifting inadvertently across the maritime boundaries.

Boundary issues solved, will take up Teesta with Bangla PM: Mamata Banerjee 
PTI / Business Standard | February 20th, 2015 
"Political geography has divided us, but there is no division in our two minds," she said during her interaction with litterateurs and cultural figures. "Tell me all your expectations...we will respond to them in due time," Ms. Bannerjee said.

Top ULFA leader Anup Chetia won't be deported by Bangladesh till land boundary pact? 
PTI / The Economic Times | February 22nd, 2015 
"The issue of Anup Chetia came up during the Home Secretary level talks. Hints were dropped by the Bangladesh side, which we think as linking the agreement to Chetia's return," an official privy to the discussion said. At the home secretary-level talks held last week, Bangladesh senior secretary for home affairs, Mohammed Mozammel Haque Khan, conveyed to his Indian counterpart Goyal that Dhaka expected early ratification of the agreement.

Nepal

Joint India-Nepal Military Exercise 'Surya Kiran-VIII' commences 
India Today | February 24th, 2015 
The objective of the ongoing exercise is to carry out counter insurgency and counter terrorist operations by guarding the mountains, jungle terrain  and respective borders by joint monitoring and dedicated effort. Focus was also laid on deriving ways for providing assistance and relief during pandemic, endemic and natural disasters. Issues like environmental degradation and pollution are also included in the scope of this exercise.

Asia Pacific

China

China proposes triangular partnership with India, Sri Lanka
The Hindu | February 18th, 2015 
Asked to comment on the visit to India by Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said, "We are happy to see close and friendly development of India-Sri Lanka relations". She added: "We believe the sound relations among the three countries are conducive to the three countries and to the whole region. Therefore we are happy to see development of relations between Sri Lanka and India."

No Chinese incursion into India's territory: Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar 
PTI / DNA | February 27th, 2015 
The Minister also said that appropriate measures are taken from time to time to maintain/upgrade the country's defence preparedness along the borders to safeguard the sovereignty, territorial integrity and security of India.

Japan

Japanese firms facing multiple problems in India: Envoy 
PTI / Business Standard | February 27th, 2015 
DIPP Secretary Amitabh Kant said the government is committed to take steps to improve ease of doing business in the country. "We will make India an easy place for people to enter and exit. This is a challenge but we have taken up this task. We have announced several steps to improve ease of doing business...Japanese companies will grow and prosper in India and not in Japan," Kant said.

The United States

India now among US' most important strategic partners: US Ambassador Richard Verma 
PTI / Deccan Chronicle | February 18th, 2015  
Inaugurating the US Pavilion at the 'Aero India' show, Ambassador Verma termed the exhibit as "the best of US aviation and defence technology". "Air shows like 'Aero India' allow us to demonstrate our commitment to the strategic relationship with key international partners," he said, adding that "and in 2015, the strategic relationship the United States has with India is one of our most important."

Great opportunity for India-US relationship: Bobby Jindal 
PTI / DNA | February 24th, 2015 
Highly critical of Obama's foreign policy, Jindal appeared to be supportive of the president's efforts to strengthen ties with India, which he noted is in America's interest. Responding to questions, Jindal supported joint effort between India and the US in the fight against terrorism, in particular Islamic extremism.

Middle East

'Multiplicity of opportunities' in India, Sushma tells Oman 
PTI / Zee News | February 18th, 2015 
Swaraj also briefed the Omani leadership about the economic reforms and growth agenda of the new Indian government and welcomed increased investments from this oil-rich nation.

Bahrain keen to deepen ties with India in counter-terrorism 
PTI / Business Standard | February 23rd, 2015 
During the meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the visiting Foreign Minister Shaikh Khalid Bin Mohamed Al Khalifa recalled the "deep emotional bonds of friendship that are felt by the people of Bahrain towards India", a PMO statement said. "He conveyed the commitment of the government of Bahrain to deepen bilateral relations, including in the areas of defence, security, counter-terrorism, trade and investment," it added.

Israel

India-Israel likely to sign $ 2 bn defence deal 
Business Standard | February 20th, 2015 
"Israel had expressed desire to share cutting-edge weapons technologies with India. Both countries are willing to move forward. During my visit to Israel in November last year, I had invited Israel to become a partner in the 'Make in India' initiative in the defence sector," Home Minister Rajnath Singh said on Twitter after a meeting with Israel Defence Minister Moshe Ya'alon.

Europe

Need political spark for India-EU FTA: EU ambassador 
Live Mint | February 18th, 2015 
Joao Cravinho, the 27-member EU's ambassador in India, said agreements like the India-EU FTA would ensure duty-free access for goods made in India to foreign markets, making India more attractive to foreign investors. Negotiations on the FTA, called the bilateral trade and investment agreement, began in 2007, but the two sides have missed at least four deadlines to finalize a deal. While the EU is keen on greater market access to India, including for a large number of agricultural products, India wants to see fewer restrictions on the temporary movement of its nationals working in Europe.

Ukraine issue: EU wants India to leverage ties with Russia 
PTI / The Times of India | February 18th, 2015 
European Union Ambassador Joao Cravinho said India can play an important role in finding a peaceful solution to the Ukraine crisis on which Western countries have threatened Russia of more sanctions if it fails to deescalate the tension. "We hope that India, in its interactions with Russia, should express concerns with regard to territorial integrity (of Ukraine), with regard to maintenance of ceasefire agreements that was agreed upon," Cravinho said.

UK to unveil Gandhi statue on March 14 
PTI / The Asian Age | February 22nd, 2015 
"The statue in Parliament Square not only marks his huge importance in the history of both our countries, but will enrich the firm bond of friendship between the world's oldest democracy and its largest," the British Prime Minister Mr David Cameron said in a statement.

 

March 01, 2015

ISIS IN LIBY:A Winning the Propaganda War




Dr. Aref Ali Nayed  is the Ambassador of Libya to the United Arab Emirates and is the Founder and Director of Kalam Research & Media(KRM) and Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Libya Institute for Advanced Studies (LIAS). He also lectures on Islamic Theology,Logic, and Spirituality at the restored Uthman Pasha Madrasa in Tripoli, Libya and at the Fatih Sultan Mehmet University in Istanbul, Turkey.He is Senior Advisor to the Cambridge Inter-Faith Programme; Fellow of the Royal Aal Al-Bayt Institute in Jordan; Adjunct Professor at FatihSultan Mehmet Vakif University in Istanbul; and is a member of the Board of Advisors of the Templeton Foundation. He was Professor at thePontifical Institute for Arabic and Islamic Studies (Rome), and the International Institute for Islamic Thought and Civilization (Malaysia). Hehas headed an Information Technology company. He received his B.Sc. in Engineering, M.A. in the Philosophy of Science, and a Ph.D. inHermeneutics from the University of Guelph (Canada). He also studied at the University of Toronto and the Pontifical Gregorian University.He has been involved in various Inter-Faith initiatives since 1987 , including the seminal “A Common Word” process. His books include Operational Hermeneutics: Interpretation as the Engagement of Operational Artifacts (KRM, 2011 ); co-authored with Jeff Mitscherling andTanya Ditommaso,  The Author’s Intention (Lexington Books, 2004 ); and his monographs, Growing Ecologies of Peace, Compassion and Blessing: A Muslim Response to “A Muscat Manifesto” (KRM with The Cambridge Inter-Faith Programme, 2010 ), and Beyond Fascism: NewLibya Actualized  (KRM, 2013

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THE ISLAMIC STATE: A COUNTER-STRATEGY FOR A COUNTER-STATE




by Jessica D. Lewis

Many have asked what needs to be done about the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), the terrorist organization that recently took control of Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city. Questions range from the acceptability of airstrikes and the viability of a national unity government in Iraq to the feasibility of a counter-offensive that depends upon the remaining capacity of the Iraq Security Forces. These are important and worthy questions, and timely, because ISIS is growing stronger. But these questions preempt the rigorous analysis that is required in order to determine what the U.S. should do about ISIS and why.

ISIS is no longer a mere terrorist organization, but one that operates like an army. It is no longer just an army, but one that is conquering land in Iraq and Syria to establish new ideological rule, in line with al-Qaeda’s endgame. This is no longer a war of ideas against an extremist group with sparse networks, flashy strategic messaging, and limited technical offensive capability. It is necessary to avoid framing a U.S. counter-terrorism strategy to defeat ISIS as if it were. It is particularly important to move beyond narratives of simple or piecemeal solutions. Individual actions are insufficient to dislodge what has become an entrenched strategic adversary.

ISIS draws strength from the complex circumstances that are independently causing Iraq and Syria to fail, including domestic civil and sectarian cleavages, authoritarian leadership, and polarizing regional stressors. Any counter-strategy to defeat ISIS also requires a nuanced strategy to preserve all U.S. foreign policy objectives in the Middle East that are deeply affected by the recent take-over of Iraq’s major cities by ISIS. And yet these considerations call for action rather than deterrence. The ISIS threat is growing, and it threatens the permanent destruction of Iraq and Syria, which will generate exponential threats to U.S. interests abroad.  

ISIS is already a threat to the United States. ISIS is not only dangerous in a regional context because it is overthrowing modern state boundaries in ways that incur massive ethno-sectarian killing and cleansing. ISIS is also a global jihadist organization that shares al-Qaeda’s ideology, such that its progress drives towards a post-state and apocalyptic vision that involves the destruction of the modern state system. ISIS already threatens to escalate violence between states in the Middle East that have been fighting proxy wars in Syria for several years such that ISIS military operations may cascade into a broader regional conflict. ISIS is now a direct threat to neighboring states in the Middle East, and ISIS is broadcasting the intent to attack Saudi Arabia, Israel, and the West. The threat of attacks against the U.S. is present.

It is therefore necessary for the U.S. to consider ways to defeat ISIS, not only to preserve the integrity of the Iraqi state, but to preserve our own security. Defeating the Islamic State will, in fact, be very difficult. Developing a strategy to do so will be very hard. But hard is not the same as impossible. As pressure grows in Washington for a response to the crisis that has engulfed the region, policymakers must move beyond the assessment phase and begin building a comprehensive strategy. This effort must begin with a close examination of the sources of strength, intentions, and vulnerabilities of the Islamic Caliphate created by ISIS. Only then can a coherent counter-strategy emerge. First, we must understand the threat.

This report provides a strategic analysis of the sources of strength and weakness for ISIS. It adapts existing military frameworks to support the development of meaningful national security strategies to counter ISIS. This report does not attempt to formulate a comprehensive counter-strategy, but instead provides a way of conceptualizing such counter-strategies in light of how ISIS forms its own strategy for military and political gain. The frameworks in this study include an evaluation of the ISIS grand strategy and its military objectives in Iraq and Syria; a Center of Gravity analysis to identify the core sources of ISIS’s strength; and a rubric to understand how main efforts and supporting efforts can combine to bring out the strategic defeat of ISIS.

This report finds that the defeat of ISIS must address two Centers of Gravity. The first is a classical military center of gravity that ISIS uses to wrest physical control from modern states and hold what it has gained. The second ISIS center of gravity is a political capacity to provide essential state functions within the territory that ISIS controls. ISIS strength emanates from the ability to translate military control into political control, and thereby to claim that the Caliphate is manifest. A strategy to defeat ISIS must break this synergy among the military and political operations of ISIS and its layered leadership. The U.S. must consider ways to accomplish this in order to propel the strategic defeat of ISIS. Destroying its Critical Capabilities, denying its Critical Opportunities and Critical Requirements, and exploiting its Critical Vulnerabilities are additional component effects that must be synchronized in order to achieve this strategic effect.

A strategy whereby ISIS remains in control of Mosul, Raqqa, and other urban centers in Iraq and Syria will fall short of the desired outcome. Settling for lesser aims or resolving to do nothing are equal. The threat of ISIS is real and expanding, but ISIS is also vulnerable at its present political formation stage. It is vital to design a cogent counter-strategy, and soon, or this door will close.

- See more at: http://www.understandingwar.org/report/islamic-state-counter-strategy-counter-state#sthash.pz2Dwrhu.dpuf