The rise of IS in Iraq and Syria

By Arian Mufid:

IS  leader Baghdadi, who met with US Senator John McCain in 2011

IS leader Baghdadi, who met with US Senator John McCain in 2011

To understand what IS is about, one must also know who they are and their true identity. How did the world come a point that is, I think, similar to September 11th, 2001? The complex network of IS (also known as ISIS, the Islamic State of Iraq and Sham) was born following the death of the major Jordanian terrorist, Abu Musab Zarqawi, in Iraq in 2006. This new terrorist organisation embraced Middle East Arab fundamentalists, especially from Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Libya. They specialised in car bomb explosions in cities such as Baghdad, Mosul and Damascus.

In 2011, when the bulk of the people of Syria came onto the streets to ask for freedom and justice, the Assad regime’s response was to spray them with bullets. People then had no choice but to take up the armed struggle and the violence spread.

From the outset the opposition Free Syrian Army was supported by the West and Turkey. The Syrian civil war began in 2011, chaos ensued and the atrocities started, with massacre after massacre. There were many calls for the Western powers to intervene but they refused and this allowed IS to attract the support of layers of the population and fill the gap of lawlessness in Syria. First the Jabhat Nusra group began to fight the Free Syrian Army and then IS came onto the scene to fight both of them. IS learned that the West was incapable of intervening and this enabled the terrorist organisation to flourish. IS is obviously backed by several states in the Middle East. From the start Turkey was very much in favour of the activities of IS and Nusra because they were fighting the PYD Kurds on the western front of Syria, and the Turks don’t want another model of self-rule for the Kurds.

IS has enjoyed great backing, mainly from three states in the Middle East; otherwise it could not have acquired so much money, weapons and human resources, even in advance of capturing Mosul in June. Last November, IS managed to shoot down a Syrian military airplane. Not many countries, never mind an insurgent group, can down an army jet; it became obvious to observers in the area that Qatar was supporting IS, along with Turkey and Saudi Arabia.  IS didn’t start as a great power but it was given a green light, through Western negligence, to expand in Syria and establish its arms bases, schools, hospitals and security apparatus in the regions of Aleppo and Raqqa.

IS was telling people that, under Obama, the American century is over. Obviously this is true. In both the Ukraine and Syria, the Russians are playing a huge role. IS found itself become an irresistible power that was easily diffused through the Sunni areas in both Syria and Iraq. In Iraq, Sunnis had been expelled from political life by the sectarian former prime minister Nuri Al Maliki. Therefore IS found fertile land on which to grow in Iraq and, by early 2014, it controlled large chunks of the Fallujah and Anbar areas.  Along with its mixed experience in Afghanistan, the US also has important lessons to learn from the rise of the IS menace.  First, it failed to react quickly enough to cut IS out of Syria. Second, not long ago IS received some support from America: for example, in 2011, the high-profile Republican Senator John McCain met in Syria with IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi  (then known as Ibrahim al-Badri) and other terrorist leaders. Definitely this situation has taught the US a lesson. They made a big mistake and have come to realise it very late. Today the US is paying a heavy price for its flawed foreign policy, with two US citizens being slaughtered by IS on camera in a most barbaric way that has shocked the whole world. The US failed to adopt any strategy in the Syrian civil war and this helped IS to dominate the battlefield and threaten American interests in the region.

Most IS terrorists are not motivated by faith or ideas. There are psychopaths aplenty among IS followers. The majority are driven by their hunger for women, drugs and loot, and people in Iraq and Syria know that IS is everything that is not Muslim. Any new IS member can have a woman straightaway and there are plenty of volunteers wanting to sleep around under the pretext of what IS calls ‘jihadi marriage’. When Peshmarga forces in the south of Kurdistan recently seized some IS bases, they found stashes of drugs and alcohol, revealing the real basis of their obsessions. That’s why, when some Sunni Arab tribal leaders sought to use IS to strengthen their own hand against the government in Baghdad, they invited IS gangs into their areas, telling them to help themselves to the women, money and household goods of the Yazidis and other unfortunate minorities.

One Response to The rise of IS in Iraq and Syria
  1. Kurd
    September 4, 2014 | 21:50

    IS is a card that can be used against any country to destablize it.

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