The Institute for the Study of War, the US based think tank specialising in the Iraq affairs, had forecasted that the Islamic State is likely to upstage its proclamation of a caliphate by announcing a new milestone during the month of Ramadan, celebrating first anniversary of the New Caliphate. The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) did not disappoint the experts and continued their brutalities in Syria, made their presence felt even in France. Since the pronouncement of the Islamic State caliphate under the leadership of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi on June 29, 2014, the first day of Ramadan last year, the religious fundamentalist idea has not only grown in size, both territorially and in its ranks, but also killed thousands of civilians, beheaded scores of journalists and allegedly blasphemous individuals to display their terror agenda to the whole world. Despite this, the Islamic State is a mystery for many of us for three reasons.
Unlike the earlier versions of militant groups, the Iraq and Syria based splintered group of al-Qaeda, directly claimed the control over territory and state resources. Though there are many thinkers who are not ready to buy the claims of statehood, ground reality is most of the resources, territory, public services with an estimated military force of tens of thousands, equipped with heavy artillery is supplied by the Americans to the Iraq Government are controlled by the IS. It includes approximately cover over 80,000 square miles, including a population of approximately 10 million people, much more than many tiny countries of the world. Still there is no clarity over strategies to fight the violence perpetuated by this self proclaimed state.
Secondly, Islamic State (IS) has gone on to create more than two dozen franchises around the world. They have not created “new jihadists” but received allegience from the existing jihadists who have switched over from other groups including Al Qaeda. Islamic State has carried out 3,097 attacks last year which are intense and brutal. The antagonistic relations with al-Qaida and claiming sole supremacy over global jihad makes this group more inexplicable.
Lastly, though most of the governments all over the world are in denial mode, it is a fact that the IS has rekindled the idea of Islamic Caliphate for Muslims all over the world. Especially, after the killings of Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden, the sentiments of victimhood among the Muslims Youth have been methodically nurtured through propaganda. The social media campaigns such as “You Only Die Once: Why Not Make It Martyrdom”, are prevalent in many important cities across the globe. Catching the popular imagination of common Muslims about the Universal Islamic Brotherhood is the most intriguing factor in dealing with the ISIS.
To deal with the Islamic State, we need to accept that this phenomenon is a spillover of Cold War period external interventions in West Asia by superpowers. Thisngs have become complicated for the oil reach region, with the Soviet Union ceased to be a superpower and the US in withdrawal mode. It has also posed a threat of regional sectarian war between Saudi Arabia and Iran. Mere high handed military approach will not address the issue; on the contrary it would make the group more popular. There is a need for coherent containment strategy to deal with the menace and the selective abetment as China did to Pakistan in the Lakhvi case will not help the cause. There are Islamic countries in West Asia who believe in democratic traditions and understand the dangers of IS menace. They should lead the strategy for containing the Jihadi forces. Denouncing the idea of Muslim brotherhood based on victimehood is also critical in this regard. Many Muslims themselves are victims of Jihadi terrorism, their voices need to be strengthened. Unless we openly accept that Political Islam with the ideology of Jihadism has emerged as a challenge to the Western Liberalism, we will maintain the piecemeal approach towards the problem. Without the coordinated approach, the Islamic State can be temporarily defeated but the idea of Caliphate will continue to perpetuate violence for hundreds of years.
(July 12, 2015, Page:5)