Intro:The unmatchable evil designs of Islamic State of Iraq and Syria calls for Washington to transform Iraq’s leadership, and elevate a regime capable of reuniting the Shiites, the Sunnis, and the Kurds, now at each other’s throats.
Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), a splinter group of al-Qaeda, rose to prominence in the early half of this year due to its spectacular military successes by capturing swathes of territory in Northern Iraq and threatening Baghdad. This supplemented its earlier similar success in parts of Syria. The world was awed with the professional manner in which Jihadists fighters of ISIS over came in rapid succession the Iraqi Army which in most cases either ran away or surrendered meekly. In the bargain, ISIS not only captured real estate but also war waging material left behind by the Iraqi Army including revenue generating oil fields.
Soon, it was known to be the richest jihadist terrorist outfit in the world. It not only surpassed its erstwhile master al-Qaeda as the leader of global jihad but also ran a perfect administration. Buoyed by the success, its leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi announced the formation of a Caliphate and himself became the Caliph and the terror outfit overnight came to be referred as Islamic State. After initial awe, the Islamic world realised the implication of Baghdadi’s announcement and murmurs began about the legitimacy of the Caliph as most of the Muslims world over were not willing to roll back in time and space and return to the medieval era.
The strategists all over the world were concerned by the threat posed by this new devil and were contemplating ways and means to stall its growing influence. But the ISIS fighters continued on its victory path to capture more towns and oil fields in the North and East Iraq. It also posed threat to the Kurdish territory and soon emerged as an iconic jihadi organisation that eclipsed even the dominant al-Qaeda. Many smaller regional terrorist cum jihadist groups switched loyalty and swore allegiance to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi terming themselves as one of his many arrows. And gradually foreign jihadists including Europeans, Americans and Australians apart from Asia and Africa joined its ranks.
ISIS owed its success to its fighters who were mainly Sunni soldiers of the disgraced Baath Army of Saddam Hussein. They were well trained and highly motivated in comparison to the Iraqi Army which was not only poorly led and trained, it had also been facing Shia-Sunni divide. The Sunni soldiers refused to fight the fellow Sunni Jihadists who were supposedly fighting against the rank sectarian administration of the Iraqi Premier Maliki. Based on Wahhabi ideology and Takfiri philosophy, the Caliphate soon starting showing its true colours.The Sharia law was imposed—Raqa, a Syrian town, became the seat of power and the Caliph began to issue diktats. The message was stern and clear, “Follow or Perish.”
Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi alias Caliph Ibrahim began demanding allegiance from all Muslims by declaring that he is the Caliph and Imam of Muslims all around the globe, and because of which other Arabian rulers felt threatened. Its Wahhabi ideology did not go well with the moderate Iraqi Sunnis; Shias in any case were opposed, and gradually the Kurds also got alienated.
Use of extreme violence as an instrument of submission by the rivals did not go well with the international community. The mass execution of Yazidis, atrocities against women and Christians and destruction of religious places not only fuelled anger, it also developed hatred for the Islamic State.
ISIS’s charm soon started fading. It imposed Jizya on the minority Christian community in Mosul that led to large scale exodus from the city. Its diktat to Iraqi women included Female Genital Mutilation, full veil, shapeless clothes and no perfumes. The statues of famous personalities and the places of worship were destroyed. Mass killings and executions were video graphed and released on social media for public viewing.
The message being spread was unambiguous, loud and clear. There was no place in the Caliphate for those who did not subscribe to their ideology. Once a popular icon, it soon became a symbol of hatred. About three hundred innocent Yazidi women were kidnapped and moved into Syria. Many of them were subjected to forced conversion and even sold to ISIS jihadists.
The ‘genocidal agenda’ of the Islamic State did not remain confined to captured territories in Iraq but spread to Syria as well. The international community was also getting alarmed because of the use of extreme violence and atrocities against the minorities. It was also concerned because of the five-year plan unfolded by the Islamic State for ‘total Islamisation’ of targeted countries. Caliph Ibrahim alias al-Baghdadi released a list of nations that were considered by the Islamic State as enemies of Islam. And India was among the list of many countries named by al-Baghdadi. He commanded the Muslims of these countries to rise and wage a Jihad against their respective countries.
Another US journalist beheaded by ISIS
After the brutal and barbaric beheading of American Journalist James Foley, the Islamic State released another horrific video on September 2 that appears to show the beheading of 31-year-old Steven Sotloff.
The bugle for Global Jihad was sounded. The Saudi rulers who were believed to be providing support to the group were also concerned as were the rulers of other Gulf nations. The emergence of Islamic State ruled by non-state actors posed a serious challenge to the very concept of ‘Nation-State.’ King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia in a veiled message warned the western nations that they may be the next target if the group is not halted in its track in Iraq and Syria. The group, a mere splinter group of al-Qaeda, had now transformed into a monster.
The international community was also concerned about their citizens fighting with the ISIS as foreign jihadists. They were worried of the consequences when these jihadists return home brain-washed with the barbaric ideology of the Islamic State. The international opinion was gravitating towards containing the group. The United States became more active and the media became rife with another American intervention. The US was determined to not to involve its ground forces in the ongoing quagmire. And the Obama administration was under tremendous pressure to act swiftly. The geopolitics in the region however was also restraining America from direct involvement.
On the other hand the ISIS jihadists continued with their acts of terror and atrocities against minorities. Many Sunni outfits that were with ISIS also broke rank with the group due to disagreement with their ideology. America also ordered aerial intervention and the employment of air power to break the group’s back began.
In retaliation to American bombings the ISIS executed in a most brutal manner a captive American journalist James Foley. The graphic description of the execution of the innocent American national filmed in a video sent shock waves around the world. Entire America was teething with anger. The group made the cardinal mistake of challenging America directly. The al-Qaeda’s after such an audacity should have restrained the group but it chose to ignore the same. It was now obvious that the monster would not only be contained but also tamed and maimed.
“America does not forget, our reach is long, we are patient and justice will be done,” said Obama. He also said that he would be doing whatever is necessary in order to go after those who harm Americans. Obama is yet to fully spell out the American strategy for taming the Islamic State.
The evil designs of ISIS needs to be tackled both in Iraq and Syria. Obama’s dilemma as far as Syria is concerned is a hindrance in unfolding the American strategy. However, the American authorities are trying to build a global ‘coalition’ to fight ISIS. The American strategy is likely to revolve around strengthening the Iraqi Army by coalition troops (mainly from the fellow gulf countries and Turkey), use of air power; selective elimination of their leadership; UN enforced sanctions and change of regime in Baghdad. For now, it does indicate the end of Islamic State is imminent.
Brig (retd) Anil Gupta (The writer is a political commentator, security and strategic analyst. He can be contacted at [email protected])