A former head of the Mossad said he doesn’t envision any joint effort between US and Iran in dealing with the Islamic State group, despite their mutual interest in halting the jihadist group’s advances across Iraq and Syria.
“The Iranians need to fight the Islamic State anyway, since they are a central factor in the survival of [Syrian President] Bashar Assad’s regime,” said Efraim Halevy in a Sunday interview with Army Radio. “The Iranians will do what is necessary, whether the Americans approach them or not.”
Although the US has already conducted numerous airstrikes in recent weeks, Halevy said it is still too early to see the American military deployed in a ground operation.
However, alongside the continued intensive air assault, Halevy predicted widespread commando missions by US special forces.
“I think the Americans concluded that it wouldn’t look good to have a massive entry of military forces to Iraq or Syria to beat IS,” he said. “They are putting their trust in special actions with special forces, but in a wide scope. We are not talking about a few individual missions, but many missions of this kind.”
Israel, he said, must also be on the alert, not so much because of the IS forces battling the Syrian army for control of areas right along Israel’s border in the Golan, but rather due to supporters of the group within its borders.
“There are indications of sympathy for IS among Israeli citizens,” he said. “When there is a background of sympathy, there are usually also individuals who go on to broader activities.”
Israel also needs to keep an eye on Jordan and the Gaza Strip, he said, “even though in Gaza there is an effective deterrent to IS — Hamas.”
Last week, Israel’s Channel 10 broadcast what it said was footage from a recent “Islamic State gathering” on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. The report said the gathering underlined that the Islamic State intends to focus on Israel in the future.
A few days ago, police in Nazareth removed several signs that quoted threatening verses from the Koran warning heretics that they will be dismembered, along with an Islamic State symbol, Ynet reported.
One of the founders of the Islamic Movement in Israel, Abdullah Nimr Darwish, told Israel Radio that IS does not have any supporters among Israel’s Arab population.
However, the head of the southern faction of the Islamic Movement in Israel, Sheik Hamad Abu Dabas, said that IS demands are reasonable — such as having an Islamic state — but its methods are raising fears in countries around the world.
Arab and Western nations’ opposition to IS comes from a rejection of Sunni Muslims’ rights and demands, he asserted.
“I think that IS is hurting itself when it films its sickening and cruel acts,” he said, but added that in his opinion, Israel and the US are no better.
“I am against murders, but it is important to note that the methods of killing of Israel and the United States are no better than IS,” Dabas said. “The organization [IS] is making reasonable demands, but with cruel methods. If it wasn’t for the dreadful methods of killing, it would be possible to see IS as a jihadist movement by all accounts.”
Avad Mansour, from the Arab town of Tira, told Ynet there are a thousand supporters in his town alone.
“They are becoming dangerous people,” he said. “IS are not Muslims and they have no connection to Islam. Our religion respects all religious and ethnic groups, and not like they are doing. IS is sullying the name of Islam and its history. They are robbers, rapists, persecutors. Where is that written in the Koran?”
If it comes to a fight, some are ready to join the IDF to beat the jihadist threat.
Wadi Ara resident Ahmad Masoura said that there is growing concern in his town too.
“IS is worrying all of us,” he said. “We are against joining the IDF [in principle] but in recent days, I have heard a lot of young people who are prepared to join the IDF to fight against IS.”
Masoura added that he was upset there have not been more local demonstrations against IS.