While there will need to be a military component in the fight against ISIS, it will not succeed if it is not part of a much broader political strategy.
The authors argue that the Vienna process, which represents belated inclusive diplomacy should be the immediate priority for European governments and that an approach which over-emphasizes military action will be missing a huge opportunity – and risks doing more harm than good. Attention should now be focused on securing accord on immediate de-escalatory steps and a longer term political process that aims to devolve power as a means of overcoming the ongoing Assad impasse.
While a political solution will not on its own be enough to end the ISIS threat, the conflict has served as the key recruiting tool for ISIS, while provoking a governance vacuum that the group has occupied. De-escalating the overall Syria conflict is necessary for closing this space down and re-focusing key actors, notably Iran, Saudi Arabia and Turkey, on the ISIS threat.
Barnes-Dacey and Levy assert that Europeans have been all too absent from high-level diplomatic engagement over Syria, allowing others to take the lead. But with the Syrian war and its resulting surge of refugees re-shaping politics across the continent there is too much at stake to remain bit-part players. The Turkish downing of a Russian fighter jet on 24 November is a marker of the risks of a further international escalation..
They contend that European governments can make a vital and distinct contribution to the renewed diplomatic process by adopting an approach aimed at softening up allies for necessary pragmatism as opposed to indulging an unwillingness to compromise.