The Government of Bharat and Bharateeya intelligence agencies will have to be on their toes to ensure that ISIS is not able to disrupt the peaceful atmosphere by targeting Hindus and Shiites in the ongoing power struggle between Sunni Saudi Arabia and Shiite Iran for geo political supremacy.
The ongoing conflict in Syria and Iraq has baffled the world community. In the Sunni-Shiite conflict with Saudi Arabia-Qatar—Turkey representing the former and Iran-Syria and Iraq representing the leadership of the latter are fighting an indirect war for supremacy and thus are not only engulfing the region but countries beyond the region also. In this conflict there are well-demarcated fault lines. The Saudi-led bloc for sure wants to see the end of Assad’s regime in Syria and Iran can’t think of losing a trusted and valuable friend like Assad moving out. Assad’s regime which was pushed to the wall has got a new lease of life with the Russians joining the war against Islamic State (IS). The conflict in the region yet can’t be called between American bloc led by Saudi Arabia-Qatar-Turkey and Iran-Syria-Iraq-Russian bloc. One America is committed to the unity of Iraq post-Saddam and has been helping the Iraqi Government in fighting the IS menace but the intensity of US forces against IS is missing as it was once evident against Saddam Hussein on the mere suspicion of mass destruction of weapons. Or is it that Americans are playing a double game by letting Saudi Arabia/Turkey use the IS to dislodge Assad’s regime in Syria and later on encourage the division of Iraq along Sunni and Shiite lines without getting the blame for the division of Iraq post-Saddam Hussein?
Iran considers itself as a leader of Shittes and is known to back the interests of Shiite population and regimes. Syrian President Assad, who has been battling the Sunni IS, enjoys the trust of Iran. Tehran is believed to have sent its officials in war torn Syria to assist Assad’s forces against IS. President Assad is an Al-Wiate off shoot of Shiite. In the Middle East one out of every third person is a Shiite. And Iran intends to leverage this advantage to become the undisputed leader of Shiites to pose a challenge to the Sunni leadership in the region. Hutu rebels in Yemen are Zaydi Shiite backed by Iran and are fighting a war against Saudi-led Sunni coalition forces. With Shiite majority, Bahrain is a tiny Kingdom and is ruled by Sunni royal family and it enjoys the support of Saudi Arabia. A couple of years back during unrest by the Shiites in Bahrain against the ruling royal family, Saudi Arabia was seen backing the Sunni Royal family and Iran was seen openly supporting the Shiite protestors on the streets.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has pointed out that some member countries from G-20 are financially supporting the IS, which is predominantly a Sunni Muslim terrorist organisation and has already wrecked havoc against Yazidis, Christians and Kurds in the areas under its control. It has even displaced millions of Shiites from Iraq and has killed thousands of Shiiites in series of bomb blasts. Terrorist organisations like Boko Haram owe their allegiance to IS and al-Qaeda wing in Libya had promised its loyalty to the Caliphate of IS.
A couple of months back, Qatar based Al-Jazeera conducted a poll for its Arabic speaking population to know their opinion on the victories of ISIS. And more than 81 per cent respondents supported the ISIS. Survey’s result justifies activist Tarek Fatah’s statement “Within Islam, there is a running celebration of violence”. And this shows there is overwhelming support for the barbaric and inhuman activities of IS in this region.
If reports are to be believed, IS is making efforts to get a foothold in Bharat and sub-continent. Many young Muslim boys from Kalyan and Thane have left their families to join the IS. Afsa Jabeen was deported to Bharat from UAE for recruiting young Muslims for IS. Mehdi Masroor Biswas, IS sympathiser who handled pro-IS twitter account “@Shamiwitness” was arrested in Bengaluru. In the Kashmir Valley Muslim youths have unfurled Islamic State flags from time to time.
The Recent attack on Shiite Mosque in northern Borga in Bangladesh by IS sympathisers is a dangerous sign for the countries where Shiites are in minority. This was the second attack on Shiite Muslims in Bangladesh; the previous one was at old Dhaka that left two dead and over 100 injured when a blast targeted a gathering of Ashuras. The attacks on Shiites in Bangladesh is not only a disturbing trend for the Sheikh Hasina Government but also for the Bharateeya Government and intelligence, as it has the potential to inspire IS sympathisers in Bharat to carry out attacks on Shiites Mosques and carry out massacre of Shiites in Bharat who constitute roughly 4-5 per cent of country’s population.
This is not the first time that Shiites have been attacked in the Bharateeya sub-continent. Every year in a Sunni-majority Pakistan, many hundred Shiites are killed in terrorists’ operations by radical Sunni organisations usually before the start of Ramzan. Sunni militants in Pakistan have targeted Shiite Mosques and Sufi shrines from time to time. But attacks on minority Shiites in Sunni-majority Bangladesh by sympathisers of IS and the recent killing of 14 people in the US by the Muslim couple–Tashfeen Malik and her husband Syed Rizwan Farook in San Bernardio in California, are ominous signs for the Bharateeya establishment. What is common in both the attacks, the one that left 14 dead in San Bernardio and the other attacks that took place in Bangladesh, the perpetrators owe their allegiance to the IS ideology.
Pakistani born Tashfeen Malik involved in the shootout with her husband is linked to Islamabad’s radical Lal Masjid. During Pervez Musharraf’s regime, Lal Masjid was a scene of standoff between heavily armed extremists and Pakistani Army. The women’s wing of Lal Masjid along with its cleric, declared support and pledged allegiance to Abu Bakar al-Baghdadi and even invited the IS to launch operations in Pakistan. Investigating officers working on the San Bernardio massacre have also found Tashfeen’s pictures with the cleric of Lal Masjid. The involvement of Tashfeen in the shootout poses serious challenges for the Bharateeya intelligence, as lots of cross border marriages are solemnised between Bharateeya Muslims and Pakistani Muslims and Bharateeya intelligence will have to be extra careful to keep a track on these potential “terrorist-couples” who visit India very often. There is high probability these unsuspected potential terrorist-couples from Pakistan also have links with radical Masjids, Madarsas and terrorist organisations—LeT, al-Qaeda, JeM etc. The other possibility which can’t be ruled out is that some of them might be working as ISI agents like David Coleman Headley. The Government of Bharat and Bharateeya intelligence agencies will have to be on their toes to ensure that IS is not able to disrupt the peaceful atmosphere by targeting Hindus and Shiites in the ongoing power struggle between Sunni Saudi Arabia and Shiite Iran for geo political supremacy.
Manoj Sharma (The writer is a senior journalist)