ISIS's brutalities and conquests in Syria, Iraq, and Libya have received the world's attention for good reasons, but it's where they're headed next that should concern us even more. Saudi Arabia is their ultimate destination, but they also have their sights on Egypt and Pakistan. Saudi Arabia has always been a strong ally of Egypt and Pakistan, so if ISIS takes Mecca and Medina, what will the rulers of Egypt and Pakistan do?
What happens in Syria, Iraq, and Libya is not as nearly as important as what happens in Egypt and Pakistan. Egypt is half the Arab world, and Pakistan has nuclear weapons. They're both ruled by corrupt military regimes so Islamists have an easy time in the propaganda war against them. Plus, in the case of Pakistan, many lower rank soldiers sympathize with the Taliban, so anything could happen in the future. A failed state in Libya is manageable, but a failed state in Pakistan is not.
The Taliban and ISIS will grind away at the Egyptian and Pakistani states, and continue to drain their resources. Pakistan is dependent on U.S. aid, so it is fragile and vulnerable to any economic shock or shift of direction in Washington. And Egypt has to beg Gulf princes just to pay salaries to its officials so it is not strong enough to wage a war against Islamist insurgents indefinitely. Whether or not there will be disastrous consequences depends on the response of the Egyptian and Pakistani rulers. Do they have enough vision and wisdom to win this war? Most likely no.
Sisi looks like a smart ruler, and he says good things, but he is not a spiritual leader so he will prove inconsequential in the war against ISIS, which is making religious claims and has to be countered religiously.
The person with belief who is fighting for an idea always beats the person who is only fighting for a salary and is only there because he can't find a job outside of the army. ISIS proved this in Mosul and other areas of Iraq, where corrupt officers of the Iraqi army ditched the fight in the middle of the night. It was the PKK who rescued hostages on Mt. Sinjar, and it was Shiite militias who came to the aid of the capital Baghdad. The Iraqi army was not a factor.
The Taliban and ISIS also have a clear advantage over the Egyptian and Pakistani police and military in the ideological field. They are fighting for a big idea. They have a transnational and religious vision. They get recruits from all over the world. They can point to the military leaders of Egypt and Pakistan and say that they have been backed by the United States for decades and question their allegiance to Islam. Egyptian and Pakistani rulers have no response to this.
An excerpt from, "Egypt goes to war on ISIS, masses troops against Islamist Libyan stronghold at Darnah" DEBKAfile, February 28, 2015:
Egyptian President Abdel-Fatteh El-Sisi has deployed his troops for all-out war on ISIS strongholds in Libya, the first Arab ruler to challenge the Islamists in a fellow Arab country, DEBKAfile’s military sources report.
His intiative dramatizes the spillover of the Islamist State’s threat across the Middle East, and the fading impetus of the US-led coalition effort to reverse Islamic State gains in Iraq and Syria.Title: Pakistan: Taliban set their sights on police. Source: France 24. Date Published: February 27, 2015.