The sub-themes of the discussion were as follows:
1. Understanding the genealogy of the ISIS and the theological motivation for their formation
2. Whether the ISIS is a sovereign entity and can be accorded statehood
3. The impact of the operations of the ISIS in the Middle East and North African region
4. The United States as a game-changer in light of its economic and military policy
The Discussion began by taking up the first issue i.e. the intellectual genealogy of ISIS. This topic primarily dealt with the theological motivation behind the creation of the world’s most feared terrorist organization. Two main ideologies were elucidated: Rejectionist Salafism and Jihadism.
Rejectionist Salafism is an ultra-Sunni identity that rejects allegorical readings of scripture, views scripture primarily as proof-texts that determine correct belief and action, rejects the four major Sunni legal schools, and describes today’s world in theological terms derived from the early centuries of Islam. While Jihadism advocates armed struggles and preaches radical Islamic thoughts and beliefs. Salafism emphasizes on the purification of faith; affirming oneness with God. On the other hand, Jihadist school of thought is based on the idea of formation of a Caliphate. Salafism does not deal with the formation or governance of any Caliphate.
The discussion proceeded to next and perhaps the most important topic of the discussion. It dealt with merits and demerits of granting statehood to ISIS. It was put forth that the granting of the statehood would make it easier to manage the affairs and enable the international community to intervene legally. However it was conceded that the modern definition of sovereignty cannot be ascribed to ISIS as its entire existence is based on the rejection of Western ideals of statehood. The strict interpretation of Quran by the ISIS members prohibits the acknowledgement of eminence of pre- existing government. Moreover the highly porous border of Syria and Iraq which is a major stronghold of ISIS worsens the fragile situation. The political and economic instability in the Arab region itself further deepens the crisis. Thus it was concluded that it will not be favorable to grant statehood to ISIS.
The third topic discussed was based on US interests and policy against fighting ISIS. The US policy primarily focuses on Iraq followed by Syria. US along with its allies have conducted massive airstrikes in the region. However the status of Iraqi forces on ground remains unclear. On the global level, it has been observed that the decisions taken by United States of America are largely influenced by the US- Iran nuclear Agreement. The geo-political situations of neighboring countries like Saudi Arabia, Yemen and Jordan also need to be taken into account. It was agreed upon that the situation got out of hand primarily due to the increasing marginalization of Sunni Muslims in Iraq and Syria. This was exacerbated by the vacuum with respect to absence of strong and functioning Government.
The discussion concluded with the framing of the possible policy option:
1. It was agreed that is necessary to deal with the power vacuum
2. Support should be extended to Kurdish Forces in order to fight against the ISIS efficiently. The Kurdish forces so far have been successful in their fight against ISIS as they could garner support from the local tribal communities.
3. United Nation should play a more active role along with US and its allies to curb the meteoric rise of ISIS