The downing of a Russian passenger jet in Egypt, the Paris massacre, the deadly bombings in Beirut and other terrorist acts masterminded by ISIL lend a new urgency to the multinational counterterrorism efforts in Syria.
- Memorial event for victims of Russian A321 crash and Paris terrorist attacks© Sputnik / Nadim Zuaui
- Russian Airbus A321 passenger airliner crash site in EgyptPress-service of Russian Emergency Situations Ministry
- Flowers and candles are placed near the scene of a shootin the day after a series of deadly attacks in Paris , November 14, 2015© REUTERS / Vincent Kessler
- Lebanese army soldiers and security forces gather as Lebanese and Hezbollah flags are erected at the site of the two explosions that occured on Thursday in the southern suburbs of the Lebanese capital Beirut, November 13, 2015© REUTERS / Aziz Taher
But we will only be able to truly tackle ISIL and other Islamist groups if we understand their origins.
"Painful as it is to admit, the West, especially the United States, bears significant responsibility for creating the conditions in which ISIS has flourished. Only a change in US and European foreign policy vis-à-vis the Middle East can reduce the risk of further terrorism," Sachs wrote for the Project Syndicate.
These efforts also included a CIA-led operation to create a force tasked with ousting the Soviet Union from Afghanistan. Young Sunni fighters – recruited, trained and armed by US intelligence services – became known as the Mujahideen.
"By promoting the core vision of a jihad to defend the lands of Islam (Dar al-Islam) from outsiders, the CIA produced a hardened fighting force of thousands of young men displaced from their homes and stoked for battle. It is this initial fighting force – and the ideology that motivated it – that today still forms the basis of the Sunni jihadist insurgencies, including ISIS," Sachs explained.
In the 1990s, the Mujahideen directed their efforts against the country that helped create them. This trend was reinforced in the 2000s.
"America's unprovoked war on Iraq in 2003 unleashed the demons. Not only was the war itself launched on the basis of CIA lies; it also aimed to create a Shia-led regime subservient to the US and anathema to the Sunni jihadists and the many more Sunni Iraqis who were ready to take up arms," Sachs noted.
The NATO-led operation in Libya and the Western stance on Syria helped destabilize these countries and the region further.
An efficient anti-ISIL strategy, according to Sachs, should consist of three components. The key step is to put a definitive end to covert CIA operations. Not only have they failed to achieve their intended purposes, they have created political and social vacuum which terrorists use to their advantage.
"The UN framework should include an immediate end to the insurgency against Assad that the US, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey have pursued; a Syrian cease-fire; a UN-mandated military force to confront ISIS; and a political transition in Syria dictated not by the US, but by a UN consensus to support a non-violent political reconstruction," Sachs detailed.
Finally, lasting peace can only be achieved through sustainable development in the war-ravaged regions, meaning they need "a surge of investment" in all areas, including education, health, renewable energy, agriculture and infrastructure.
"More wars – especially CIA-backed, Western-led wars – will solve nothing," the economist concluded.