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Opinion: The murder of James Foley will backfire spectacularly on Isis

Western powers were growing increasingly weary of military engagements in the Middle East – but this provocation will ensure a sustained, focused campaign to eliminate Isis.

Colm O'Mahony

CAST YOUR MIND back to 10 September 2001: is it not much remembered, but the Pakistani Taliban, through its expanding influence in Pakistan’s military and political elites, were within arm’s reach of seizing complete control of Pakistan’s government, its military and, most terrifyingly, its nuclear arsenal. The Talibanisation of Pakistan was only a couple of years off at most, while the West and the world paid no attention.

It was only the brutal theatricality of Osama bin Laden’s attack on New York the following day that spoiled the show – it forced the attention of the world on the region, and the Talibanisation was halted. The extremists placed more importance on sending a message than winning control, and it cost them everything.

In the same vain, Isis may have just sealed its own fate. The man who beheaded American war correspondent James Foley may have spoken with a British accent, but he and ISIS gravely miscalculated how the west would respond. Western powers, particularly in Europe, had grown increasingly weary of military engagements in the Middle East, and wanted nothing more than to let Iraq slip to the back of their minds. The brutal execution of James Foley has now made that scenario an impossibility.

Germany, a country that strained relations with the US over refusal to join them in Iraq, has pledged arms and aid to Iraqi and Kurdish fighters battling “barbaric” Isis, Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier announced on Wednesday. Similarly David Cameron has pledged to redouble efforts at home and abroad.

And most tellingly, in his first respond to the killing, US President Barrack Obama pledged that the “cancer” of the Islamic State had no place in this century, and would be eradicated. In a short but unwavering speech, Obama left the world in no doubt about American policy: there would be no relenting.


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The Islamic State militants made an extremely risky wager, betting everything on the hope that fear of more bloodshed and expense in Iraq would make the west, and the United States in particular, cower and withdraw. But it has backfired, and all they have succeeded in doing is reminding the world that genocide and murder are not just Isis’s means, but their ends: a homogeneous society where free expression is barred, women are enslaved, homosexuals are butchered, and any deviation from the most backwards, stone-age interpretation of Islam, means death.

Had Isis bode its time, there is every chance that the west would have grown weary of Iraqi engagements and pulled back. Instead it has provoked a restless enemy. Earlier this year its victory in Iraq was a possibility. It has now ensured its own destruction.

Colm O’Mahony a degree in political science from UCD and MSc in International Politics from TCD.

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Colm O'Mahony

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