Since Boris Johnson took over as Britain’s prime minister, a rapprochement of views between London and Washington has emerged, which could spill over to a common change in the strategy to counter ISIS.
This suggests that the two sides’ current positions regarding the confrontation with ISIS can now be drawn, as the United States is moving to withdraw from Syria and the conflict zones in which it has intervened with its forces over the past years, particularly in Syria and Afghanistan.
Not participating directly to counter terrorist organizations is the same as Johnson’s view, having adopted a strategy of fighting ISIS based on a “ground war”, relying on cooperation with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, as the Syrian army is in a better position to launch a ground offensive against ISIS in Syria.
In an article in the Daily Telegraph in 2016, Johnson challenged that ISIS would be defeated only if allies united with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and Russian President Vladimir Putin, especially as the latter supports the Syrian regime against terrorist groups and armed organizations.
“Do I support the Assad regime and the Russians in their joint venture to restore this amazing position? I bet I do. It doesn’t mean I trust Putin. It doesn’t mean that I want to keep Assad in power indefinitely, but we can’t suck and blow at once,” Johnson said in the article.
More than three years after Johnson’s article, the reality on the ground has not changed much. ISIS continues to be a global threat, despite the United States’ announcement earlier this year that the group’s last stronghold in Syria had been wiped out, with active terrorist cells and branches still constituting a threat.
Ahmed al-Beheiri, a researcher at the Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies, said that Prime Minister Johnson, a member of the far right, tends to reach a consensus with the United States according to the policy of leaving disputes in the Middle East to be borne by the countries of the region, which is what Trump is also seeking.
Beheiri added that Johnson’s view of leaving the conflict with ISIS in Syria to be assumed by President Assad is very likely, with support not to the regime politically but support for the fight against ISIS, whether through logistical support or participation in airstrikes.
Dealing with ISIS, according to Johnson’s vision, is also affected the returnee crisis, a case that preoccupied public opinion in Britain at the time of the trial of two “Beatles” suspects. Despite the fact that the punishment was not applied in London, the Ministry of Interior cooperated with the United States to hold a trial in Washington.
Johnson, however, criticized this approach and took a stand against the prosecution of the British Beatles terrorists in the United States without guarantees that they would not be executed. He considered the move a challenge and warned of possible reprisals against British citizens if the Beatles were executed in America.
In his June 2018 speech as foreign secretary, Johnson said he had concerns about the move and that it should be discussed whether the UK should help America prosecute the men without requiring them to avoid the death penalty, because of Britain’s position on the death penalty.
This position coincided with a position of agreement with the US government, which retracted the placement of returning ISIS terrorists to Guantanamo, according to Trump’s pledges during the 2016 presidential campaign. Instead, the Justice Department chose to prosecute ISIS returnees in US courts and even release and resettle some of them, but the process is still in its infancy.
“The United States has committed to taking responsibility for its citizens who are trying to travel or have already traveled to support ISIS,” said Justice Department spokesman Marc Raimondi. “Yes, we have prosecuted more than 100 people who have tried to travel to support ISIS, and we brought direct accusations against those who returned from our citizens under US law.”
In general, with warnings that ISIS could return after building tactics and dormant cells in Syria and Iraq, terrorism experts point out the ineffectiveness of the international coalition has dealt with ISIS, which could foreshadow the re-establishment of an international strategy to counter ISIS in the future.