Wars and Military Conflicts

Has poor governance in the Middle East aided ISIS?

A senior political figure from the Middle East said that a lack of governance and "violent" and "wrong" policies were partly responsible for the rise of Islamic State (or ISIS) militants, with young people in the region lacking appealing alternatives to extremism.

Amre Moussa, a veteran of Egyptian and Middle Eastern politics and diplomacy, denounced the rise of the terrorist group, but warned that the current turmoil in the Middle East had "not come about by chance," speaking from a World Economic Forum (WEF) panel discussion in Jordan on Friday that was moderated by CNBC.

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An Iraqi fighter from the Shiite Muslim Al-Abbas popular mobilization unit monitors from his position near the village of Nukhayb west of Baghdad, on May 19, 2015.
Mohammed Sawaf I AFP I Getty Images

"I believe that the bad governance has led to part of what we see today in the region," the former secretary-general of the Arab League and ex-Egyptian foreign minister said.

"In so far as Daesh, or ISIS, is concerned, it is but a demonstration on wrong polices: Had there been no wrong policies, violent policies, bloody policies by the previous government in Iraq, perhaps Daesh wouldn't have that chance."

Moussa added that Daesh—another acronym that does not recognize Isis's adherence to Islam—offered young men money and, in some cases, the promise of a wife and accommodation, in order to attract recruits.

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WEF Managing Director Espen Barth Eide, who was part of the panel discussion, agreed that there was a power "vacuum" in the region and for some young people, joining the terrorist group appeared the only option.

"One element is the collapse of all systems that were not able to deliver, that creates a vacuum," he said.

"People looking for solutions and for some young people, the only solution presented is the false allure of Daesh or ISIS, which is not only a product of frustration, but also a quest for identity and meaning and purpose in a world that seems chaotic for a lot of people."

Reuters reported on Friday that ISIS had advanced further east in Iraq, taking control of Ramadi and pushing towards Fallujah. In neighboring Syria, the terrorist group has extended its control around the ancient city of Palmyra.

The helpfulness of U.S. aid to Iraq in fighting ISIS is under debate. During the panel discussion on Friday, Saleh al-Mutlaq, deputy prime minister of Iraq, said that a political solution must be reached to go along with any military action, so citizens "feel there is hope" and "justice."

'Powerful states' behind ISIS?

Moussa added that major powers in the Middle East could be helping finance ISIS, in order to gain strategic advantage in the region.

"Powerful states are trying to weaken others through, or by using, such an organisation, financing them and paying and letting them change the landscape," he said.

WEF's Eide added that some nations in the region were trying to "exploit" the unstable political and security situation, which he likened to the situation with Russia and its annexation of Crimea in Ukraine last year.

"There is a strategic competition in this region which resembles what we are seeing in the Ukraine. The Ukraine is not only about Ukraine, it is about Russia and the West," Eide said.

"We need to make a strategic compromise. We need to accept new key players and realize this crisis will not be solved will a single government," he added.

Perhaps more optimistically, Moussa forecast that ISIS would not survive long term in the region.

"I believe that Daesh is a passing phenomenon: Violent though it is, it will come and go. It cannot stay and rule the Middle East, it is an impossible proposition," he said.

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