"ISIS is self-destructing" -Fawaz Gerges
February 8th, 2015
04:12 PM ET

"ISIS is self-destructing" -Fawaz Gerges

CNN’s FAREED ZAKARIA GPS features a political panel about ISIS and the recent events in the Middle East with  Marwan Muasher, the former deputy prime minister of Jordan and the vice president for studies at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace,  Fawaz Gerges, professor of Middle East studies at The London School of Economics, and Rula Jebreal, an Israeli-Arab journalist who has worked as an anchorwoman in both Egypt and Italy.

HIGHLIGHTS

Muasher on Jordan's response to ISIS: "Certainly the unity that took place among Jordanian society is unprecedented for some time. If ISIS wanted to galvanize public support against the government, they miserably failed to do so."

Gerges on ISIS: "ISIS savagery should not blind us to the fact that ISIS is self-destructing. ISIS is strangling itself. ISIS is pitting itself against the Muslim mainstream, Muslim public opinion, Arab public opinion. There is really shock and outrage throughout the Arab and Muslim world. I would argue that ISIS is digging its own grave. And the reality is, this is where you want ISIS to be. You want it to be pitted against Arab and Muslim public opinion. This is how ISIS should be defeated, from within by Arab and Muslim public opinion, because even if you defeat ISIS militarily, you have to deconstruct, dismantle the ideology, which is insidious and which has done a great deal of damage, in particular to Arab and Muslim societies.​"

Jebreal on inclusion in the Middle East: " We need to think beyond terror and tyrant and create a vision for society where there is inclusion. I mean a lack of inclusion of moderate Muslims will open the space for them to be exploited by extremists. So when you view Sisi or Mubarak before him and other autocrat as an answer to terrorism, you have to think this same regime who gave you political Islam with Sayyid Qutb in the '60s, Ayman Al-Zawahiri actually is a product of Egypt, repression regimes of Mubarak. But let's remember the guy that built Al Qaeda in Iraq. He's a Jordanian man, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who fought Shiites in Iraq, but also sent people to blow up themselves in Jordan nine years ago. We need to think on how to - you know - to decimate extremism. And extremist is not only ISIS. It's also al Qaeda. It's also Jabhat al-Nusra, al-Nusra Front. So how do you dry up this? We need consensus and inclusion in these states. But also we need this war between Shiites and Sunni to end. We need Iran and Saudi Arabia to come to terms and eventually reach some kind of an agreement that end up these extremists."

FULL INTERVIEW TRANSCRIPT
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED

FAREED ZAKARIA, HOST: You've heard my take. Let's dig deeper into the latest news about the Jordanian airstrikes, Arab reaction and more.

Joining me from Washington, D.C. is Marwan Muasher, the former deputy prime minister of Jordan and the vice president for studies at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

In Paris, we have Fawaz Gerges, who teaches Middle East studies at The London School of Economics. And here with me in New York is Rula Jebreal, an Israeli-Arab journalist who has worked as an anchorwoman in both Egypt and Italy.

Thank you all.

Fawaz, let me start with you. You've seen the Jordanian pilot immolation, the reaction to it, the Jordanian strikes. What is the state of ISIS after all of this?

FAWAZ GERGES, LONDON SCHOOL OF ECONOMICS: You know, Fareed, ISIS savagery should not blind us to the fact that ISIS is self-destructing. ISIS is strangling itself. ISIS is pitting itself against the Muslim mainstream, Muslim public opinion, Arab public opinion.

There is really shock and outrage throughout the Arab and Muslim world. I would argue that ISIS is digging its own grave. And the reality is, this is where you want ISIS to be. You want it to be pitted against Arab and Muslim public opinion. This is how ISIS should be defeated, from within by Arab and Muslim public opinion, because even if you defeat ISIS militarily, you have to deconstruct, dismantle the ideology, which is insidious and which has done a great deal of damage, in particular to Arab and Muslim societies.

Fareed, I know the debate in the United States, it's all about Westerners and it should be. But ISIS represents a fundamental challenge to Arab and Muslim societies, not to American and Western societies.

ZAKARIA: Marwan, when you listen to this, do you think that this - these events of the last week have made it easier for the Jordanian government to be more aggressive?

Will we see a change not just in Jordan, but in other countries?

MARWAN MUASHER, FORMER DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER, JORDAN: Certainly the unity that took place among Jordanian society is unprecedented for some time. If ISIS wanted to galvanize public support against the government, they miserably failed to do so.

I also agree with Fawaz that what they have shown is their true colors, you know, no sane human being, let alone Muslim, would accept somebody to be burned alive and filmed on TV.

So this has given both the government and the king, of course, a strengthened hand in dealing with ISIS militarily.

I would argue that in addition to the military strike, we badly need today intellectual leaders, religious leaders to start openly and proactively talking about a pluralistic society, a diverse society, an inclusionist society, because that is the only way you can defeat ISIS, in addition to, you know, the military campaign.

ZAKARIA: Rula, when you hear Marwan Muasher say that - that what we need to do is to paint a positive vision that is more pluralistic, more open, you wrote a terrific piece in Salon pointing out that while we are battling ISIS, we are also strongly supporting somebody like President Sisi of Egypt, because he fights Islamic terrorism, but he does not really represent pluralism right now. He's been jailing people left, right and center.

RULA JEBREAL, ISRAELI-ARAB JOURNALIST: I think, Fareed, you're right about this. We need to think beyond terror and tyrant and create a vision for society where there is inclusion.

I mean a lack of inclusion of moderate Muslims will open the space for them to be exploited by extremists.

So when you view Sisi or Mubarak before him and other autocrat as an answer to terrorism, you have to think this same regime who gave you political Islam with Sayyid Qutb in the '60s, Ayman Al-Zawahiri actually is a product of Egypt, repression regimes of Mubarak.

But let's remember the guy that built Al Qaeda in Iraq. He's a Jordanian man, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who fought Shiites in Iraq, but also sent people to blow up themselves in Jordan nine years ago.

We need to think on how to - you know - to decimate extremism. And extremist is not only ISIS. It's also al Qaeda. It's also Jabhat al-Nusra, al-Nusra Front.

So how do you dry up this? We need consensus and inclusion in these states. But also we need this war between Shiites and Sunni to end.

We need Iran and Saudi Arabia to come to terms and eventually reach some kind of an agreement that end up these extremists.

MUASHER: We need to come face-to-face with this fact, that from now on, if we want stability and prosperity in the Arab world, we have a responsibility to start pushing for more inclusionist, pluralistic and diverse societies.

That hits at the core of, you know, presenting a counter-ideology to what ISIS has been saying. Again, ISIS predecessors, Zarqawi and his group, were defeated in 2007 in Iraq only to come back, because we only dealt with the military aspect and we forgot to look at the political and the social aspect, as well.

ZAKARIA: When we come back, we're going to talk more about Islamic terrorism. But I will also ask the panel what they thought of President Obama's recent remarks at a prayer breakfast about Christianity and Islam.

[COMMERCIAL BREAK]

ZAKARIA: And we are back with Marwan Muasher, Fawaz Gerges and Rula Jebreal.

Fawaz, let me ask you how the president's remarks struck you. Very simple recap: The president said we shouldn't get on our high horse when we think about Islam and terrorism. There were a lot of bad things that were done in the name of Christianity - the Inquisitions; slavery was sometimes justified that way.

Now, you are a scholar of the Middle East, Fawaz, but you are also Christian. And I wonder just how this whole issue struck you.

GERGES: Well, Fareed, Obama got it right. ISIS are the Crusaders or today's Crusaders. They are slaughtering in the name of religion. They have a twisted interpretation of the faith. And like the Crusaders, as you know, Fareed, the Crusaders did not only kill Muslims, they killed Jews, they killed Eastern Christians. And ISIS will keep focusing on the few Western victims.
Remember, the overwhelming number of victims are Muslims, not just even minorities - Shia, also Yazidis and Christians - Sunnis. In fact, ISIS has slaughtered thousands of Sunni Syrians and Iraqis.

But the question is, I mean the Crusaders and ISIS, the reality is ISIS has to be deconstructed. These twisted interpretations of the faith must be faced on.

And only - and, again, Fareed - only Arabs and Muslims can deconstruct this particular twisted interpretation of the faith.

And the reality is, this is an internal war. This is a civil war within the Islamic war - Islamic world. This is not about Islam and the West. This is about the identity of the state in the Muslim world, and the Islamic world is raging in multiple places, in Syria, in Iraq, in Libya, in Yemen and other places, as well.

ZAKARIA: Rula, you wrote a piece in which you talked about how Europe has a lot to learn from the United States in dealing with this phenomenon of Islamic radicalism. You were an anchorwoman in Italy for many years. Explain what you mean.

JEBREAL: Well, very simple, the reaction to extremism, whether it's al Qaeda, ISIS and others, triggered in us, obviously, it's designed to induce fear and it's designed to push for overreaction.

So there's two things I think we learn, after 13 years of war on terror.

One, that invasions, Western invasions alone did not work. So less invasions, I said, and more integration. You have 20 million Muslims living in Europe today. Europe stripped its Muslim citizens from a sense of belonging, and that makes them an easy target for radicalization.

But also, if I may, Fareed, we need to address the ideology of Saudi Arabia. We can't have partners fighting with us while they're spreading their ideology that al Qaeda and ISIS share.

That's why in Raqqa, the headquarters of ISIS, they are distributing textbooks that are Saudi textbooks. They share the same ideology. We need to address that issue - political reform and economic reform.

ZAKARIA: Marwan, what about that? Fawaz Gerges says this has to be an Arab debate and the Arabs have to purge this ideology. But as Rula points out, you have, you know, Arab countries that still have very reactionary interpretations of Islam, very puritanical interpretations that they have exported.

Is that changing when you look at - you know, it's one thing to oppose jihadi terrorist groups. But are Arabs taking on these very puritanical reactionary views of their religion which exclude non-believers, which exclude foreigners and which, in a sense, encourage a certain kind of militancy?

MUASHER: Fareed, we had two huge wake-up calls in the Arab world in the last few years. One in 2011 with the Arab uprisings, brought because of a sense that people were marginalized, excluded, not participants in the decision-making process.

And two, in ISIS, a radical, barbaric, violent ideology that is trying to speak on behalf of Arabs and Muslims when it has nothing to do with them.

These are huge wake-up calls that we all need to, you know, both governments and the general public, need to internalize the lessons from. Any time we talk exclusionist policies, this is going to be the result. And the Arab world does have a responsibility.

We cannot escape the fact and we cannot not acknowledge that, from now on, building a, you know, stable and permanently stable and prosperous Arab society is going to take a lot more than military strikes. And just because it takes a lot more time does not mean we cannot and shouldn't start now.

That is the lesson that I hope the Arab world is going to internalize. Is it being internalized? I'm afraid, with the exception of Tunisia, we have not seen any signs of that yet.

ZAKARIA: On that sober note, Marwan Muasher, Fawaz Gerges, Rula Jebreal, thank you so much.

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Topics: Fareed Zakaria • Fareed Zakaria GPS • Iran • Iraq • ISIS
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