The Foundation of ISIS
By Bismellah Alizada
A terrorist group and a quasi-state
Who is ISIS/ISIL? Fundamental Islamists seeking political power to establish a caliphate in the Middle East? Agents of a proxy war by the United States and Israel in the region? Or simply, can the conflict be reduced to a sectarian war between Shiite and Sunnis?
To answer these questions, it is necessary to understand the formation of ISIS, how it became powerful, and what it wants to accomplish.
The United States invasion put an end to Saddam’s regime—a Sunni regime—in Iraq, responsible for atrocities against Shiites that is compared to those in Yugoslavia. In post-Saddam Iraq, Shiites rose to power led by Nuri al-Maliki, Iraq’s ex-Prime Minister. In 2006, Sunnis led by Abu Masub al-Zarqawi, embarked on a crusade of brutality against Shiite civilians in Iraq, reasoning that “… [t]hey were being persecuted by the Shia-dominated government led by Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, starved of resources and excluded from a share of power.”1 After al-Zarqawi was killed by American Forces, the group was weakened. With U.S. forces withdrawn from Iraq, the group was revived and some Iraqi officials began to speak of a “third generation of al-Qaeda rebranded in 2006 as the Islamic State in Iraq”.2
In 2010, in a joint U.S.-Iraqi operation, Abu Omar al-Baghdadi was killed and Abu-Bakr al-Baghdadi, who has a Ph.D. in Islamic Studies from an Iraqi university, became the new leader of Islamic State in Iraq (I.S.I.). He added another ‘S’ to that initialism in April, 2013, after actively engaging in Syrian Civil war that had broken out earlier in 2011. “In March 2013, it took over the Syrian city of Raqqa — the first provincial capital to fall under rebel control.”3
Following Raqqa’s fall, many other Iraqi provinces including Musol fell under ISIS control with oil refineries that served as a major source of income, and ammunitions left by Iraqi army in cities ISIS conquered. The group has recently changed its name to I.S. (Islamic State) which is in part, an official declaration of a quasi-state. Many volunteers have joined the terrorist group from all over the world, including Afghanistan, Iran, and Europe. “Over 3000 European citizens have joined ISIS”4, reported B.B.C. Persian. U.S. airstrikes and international coalitions have hindered the group, but there are still shocking atrocities occurring in its territory against Kurds and Shiites.
The Doctrine of Islamic Caliphate
In the height of its advances, when al-Baghdadi first declared the Islamic Caliphate, he asked all Muslims in the region and around the world to pledge their allegiance to the Caliphate. But what does that mean? What is a caliphate? A simple state like any other?
A caliphate is an Islamic State governed by a caliph who represents a fundamentalist ideology with its unique system of values, and seeks to universalize both the ideology and the caliphate. The caliphate should stretch beyond Iraq to all Muslim countries and then to non-Muslim ones. It advocates jihad, enforces sharia law, beheads opponents, separates boys and girls at schools and universities, forces women and girls to sex-jihad, destroys cities, and commits war crimes and genocide.
Like any other ideology, it delineates between friends and foes; it annexes friends to the territory of the caliphate, while declaring jihad against the foes. The foes include Muslims and non-Muslims. Muslims who interpret religion and the holy Kuran differently than ISIS are treated as apostates whose killing is a religious duty and part of jihad.
Is it a major threat?
The group lacks international support. A coalition of over 30 countries has shown commitment to fight against it. Meanwhile, a coalition of ten Arab countries has joined forces against the phenomenon. It is not supported openly by the Islamic world either. The only point that remains mysterious is where its seemingly endless supply of money comes from.
To some extent, as puts Daniel Byman, professor at Georgetown University and research director of the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution: “[its] aura of invincibility speaks less to their talent as it does the lacking effectiveness of their opponents.”5 Most of ISIS’s funds come from capturing oil refineries and exerting taxes from local businesses. Additionally, they use their dominant online presence to collect donations from sympathetic parties.
Although establishment of an Islamic caliphate seems unlikely, atrocities by ISIS demands serious action. An insecure Middle East under control of blood-thirsty fundamentalists does not benefit any country in our world.
1 Lister, Tim. (June 12, 2014). CNN. ISIS: The first terror group to build an Islamic state? Accessed November 02, 2014, from, http://www.cnn.com/2014/06/12/world/meast/who-is-the-isis/
3 Gryboski, Michael. (August 15, 2014). Christian Post. Who Is ISIS? 4 Important Facts About the Ruthless Terror Group in Iraq. Accessed November 02, 2014, from, http://www.christianpost.com/news/who-is-isis-4-important-facts-about-the-ruthless-terror-group-in-iraq-124853/.
4 BBC Persian (09, 2014). Over 3000 European Citizens have joined ISIS. Accessed November 02, 2014, from, http://www.bbc.co.uk/persian/world/2014/09/140926_l31_is_europe_fighter.
5 Gryboski, Michael. Ibid.
6 Zarate, Juan. (June 28, 2014). New York Times.
SYRIA: THE RUINED BATTLEGROUND
By Bismellah Alizada
In the continuation of the Arab Spring Movement—a public uprising against tyranny and absolute rule in the Arab World—Syrians, too, rose against the authoritarian regime of Assad, in March 2011. The Syrians’ demand for civil rights, freedom, and contribution to political power, from the very beginning, faced harsh suppressive reactions from the fear-stricken regime. In order to remain in power, Assad’s administration took extremely suppressive measures against the protestors as a result of which “more than two million Syrians are now refugees” (1) and “more than 100,000 people are thought to have died.” (2) Cities are destroyed, economic infrastructures and public services are ruined and defenseless women and children have been killed, displaced or deprived of their basic rights which is a full-scale humanitarian disaster that has shocked the international community. There is even a serious concern on “a ‘lost generation’ of child refugees ill-equipped to help rebuild Syria in the future.”(3)
The calamity, however, has not remained in the limits of Syria. The conflict has grown from a merely civil war to a conflict whose regional and international dimensions are thought as serious common threats to be confronted through a collective international action. The fear has grown into a serious rhetoric after it was proved that the regime has used chemical weapons against civilians (its own people). On the other hand, peace-making tries by UN-Arab League special envoy Lakhdar Brahimi and the subsequent one by Kofi Annan failed; thus, any diplomatic means to restore peace to Syria seems to be currently off the table. Attacking Syria is apparently the inevitable option on the table now. Obama said: “We don’t want the world to be paralyzed. Our nation has an “obligation as a leader in the world” to hold rogue regimes to account for breaching the rules of war.”(4) Assad’s government has obviously neglected its obligations as a country committed in global peace. Use of chemical weapon and other war crimes are impudent violation of international law and international conventions. In order to maintain global peace, every state is duty-bound to observe rules of ‘international law’ that else would endanger global peace. Once so, there is a collective responsibility to take action against the common threat. Based on the aforementioned reasons, U.S. and its allies feel an obligation to attack in order to save regional and global peace, a slogan that per se is subject to serious questions.
Contradictorily, Syria is the conflicting point of interests for major players in the Middle East and also the world. Israel, Turkey and Iran will inexorably get involved in the issue of Syria. China and Russia as countries who will veto the UN authorization of military invasion for the U.S. will also be dragged to the battle field because China is Syria’s largest trade partner and Russia is its largest military partner and apparently its only weaponry contractor. China’s exports to Syria, for instance in 2011, was $2.4 billion. (5) Such positioning recalls the polarization of the world in the time of the cold war.
Considering all the above, the military invasion is still subject to severe and of course thoughtful controversies. Evaluating all defensive measures that will be practiced by Syria, does military invasion seem a logical option that can be concluded as a victory? And, would invasion be a means for making peace or expanding war? Attacking Syria—armed by Russia and Iran—will have serious Backlashes both by Syria and countries who share interests in the region. Wail Nader, Syrian prime minister has talked of “maximum readiness”(6) of the Syrian Army to “confront all challenges”. Meanwhile, the Chinese government has “warned the United States against conducting airstrikes against Syria.” (7) Besides, Russia and Turkey won’t be passive in such a scenario neither would the Israel especially when Iran takes overt or covert actions. In addition to the puzzling military confrontations, the Syrian Electronic Army—a group of hackers backed by Assad regime—can be a serious cyber threat that can create paralyzing cyber insecurity. They have recently successfully targeted C.N.N. and New York Times and some European media organizations according to “CNN.com.” (8) There is also a strong likelihood that Syria resort to retaliatory proxy wars in the region in collusion with Iran, Hezbollah and Hamas (and very likely al-Qaeda); what turns the invasion to a long-run guerrilla warfare in which no side can really claim victory.
Moreover, military action against Syria can be an opportunity for Iran and Saudi Arabia who are seeking chances to win over the opponent in the big rivalry for the leadership of the Muslim World. In such a scenario, interferences of Saudi backed al-Qaeda will be strongly predictable. These interferences can add to the complexity of Syrian war and will undoubtedly drag it towards a chronic cataclysm in the Middle East.
Furthermore, Invasion and long stay in region can toughen the anti-Americanism—a term used by anti-American features and al-Qaeda who concludes such intrusions as neo-colonialism led by U.S. This, in turn, can instigate the al-Qaeda led radical Islamists to outpour terrorist actions against U.S. and the West in wider range than Central Asia, Middle East and North and East Africa. Especially in the wake of 2014 when U.S. and its allies pull out their troops from Afghanistan a surge in al-Qaeda’s terrorist activities will turn the withdrawal to a completely infamous defeat that would help them carry out their extremist activities with even high morale.
Altogether, attacking Syria has nebulous and meanwhile question-arising ends. In case the military invasion fails to meet its peaceful ends by back strikes from Russian-Iranian backed Syrian Army as a result of which the war on tyranny turns to a guerilla war with no clear end, would Syria turn to another Iraq? Or Libya? A well-reasoned logical answer to this question is as undistinguishable as is that of the end of military invasion.
Photo Credit: www.telegraph.co.uk
MORE ON THE CRISIS IN SYRIA
By Rob Howle
Living in Dubai gives you many different perspectives on almost every issue out there. American perspectives, European perspectives, and Arab perspectives. Although it is great to have access to so many different opinions and beliefs, at the end of the day, the only ones that matter are those who are actually involved. In the case of Syria, many, including the United States government, have very different beliefs on the issue. One of my good friends is Syrian and I asked him what he thought of the issue. All he could say was that he simply wanted the violence to stop and he did not care how. His family living there has experienced many of the atrocities that war brings, including having their house broken into and robbed. When I pressed him about who he wanted to be in power once the fighting did stop, his answer surprised me:
“Honestly, I want Assad. With him, you know what you’re getting and times were much better under him then they are now. If the rebels do take over, who knows what will happen. I fear it will simply be Eqypt all over again, and we will fall into a cycle of war. I’d rather deal with the devil I know, than the devil I don’t know.”
Although my views may differ from my friend’s, I understand where he’s coming from. He’s worried about his family in Syria, and whether life for them will ever be the same. However, I think that if he truly wants Syria to be better off, he may have to sit through this Civil War to the end. No country that wanted democracy got it easily, and there are definitely going to be some ups and downs.
Photo Credit :www.telegraph.co.uk