In just a few days last June, hundreds of thousands of Iraqis were sent fleeing their hometown and almost a third of the Iraqi Army and Federal Police divisions melted away. These dramatic events weren’t due to an earthquake or an invasion from Iran or Syria—they were due to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant terror group, known as ISIL or ISIS [Islamic State of Iraq and Syria]. And they might just come for you in the future.
The above events transpired during the dramatic takeover of the major Iraqi city of Mosul, according to testimony from US Deputy Assistant Secretary Brett McGurk posted on the State Department website. In one fell swoop, ISIS not only crushed the Iraqis opposing them but became a threat to nations across the world. Shortly thereafter, according to The Daily Telegraph, the group announced they had formed a new Caliphate, or Islamic nation, in areas, which are part of Iraq and Syria. At the end of June, they renamed themselves the Islamic State (IS). But it doesn’t stop there.
“[ISIS] favors the destruction of Israel and the eventual conversion of the West to Islam,” said Middle East expert Dr. Jonathan Spyer. “The [Caliphate] is intended eventually to encompass the entire world, absurd as this may seem.”
Dr. Spyer, a senior research fellow at the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center at IDC [Interdisciplinary Center]-Herzliya in Israel, isn’t the only one who has noticed that ISIS has global aims. The United States has seen it too. McGurk, in his testimony in late July, said of ISIS, “Flush with thousands of foreign fighters and suicide bombers, ISIL in Syria and Iraq increasingly represents a serious threat to US interests….Days ago, ISIL boasted that an Australian and a German blew themselves up in Baghdad, and it is a matter of time before these suicide bombers are directed elsewhere.”
In the meantime, ISIS is terrorizing Iraqis, including Christians. The US State Department released a statement in mid-July outraged at ISIS’ announcement that “Christians in Mosul must either convert, pay a tax, leave, or face execution in the coming days. We have also seen photos of reportedly Christian houses in Mosul marked with pejorative terms for Christians.” Other groups, including Shia Muslims, have also been targeted by ISIS.
“These abominable actions only further demonstrate ISIL’s mission to divide and destroy Iraq and contradict Islam’s spirit of tolerance and peaceful co-existence,” said US spokesperson Jen Psaki in the statement. “It should be clear that ISIL is not only a threat to the stability of Iraq, but a threat to the entire region.”
Seemingly, the international community agrees. In August, the United States began a campaign of air strikes against ISIS in Iraq. Since then, additional US troops have been sent to the area. The UK has gotten involved as well by providing military equipment to the Kurds who are battling ISIS, and by dispatching a fleet of Chinook helicopters to airlift refugees. At this writing, the European Union is also considering steps to provide arms to Kurdish forces.
Months before they took over Mosul, ISIS was developing into a threat. Dr. Spyer said that ISIS managed to “gain a foothold among the Syrian rebels” in that nation’s civil war “because of the commitment of its fighters and their relative absence of corruption. ISIS fighters proved themselves in a number of key battles in northern Syria.” Combine that with the “corruption and sectarian divisions within the Iraqi army” and the region was ripe for ISIS’ rise.
“In general, while ISIS is capable, it has also benefitted from the relatively weak nature of the enemies it has faced,” said Dr. Spyer. And so ISIS has managed to transcend Al-Qaeda in at least one important area. “Al Qaeda was never able to establish its own uncontested sovereignty over a particular space. It was always at best a guest of a friendly regime such as the Taliban in Afghanistan,” said Dr. Spyer. “ISIS has managed this, and from a jihadi point of view, this is a historic achievement.”
ISIS, which Dr. Spyer said also benefits from a young leadership group that contrasts with Al-Qaeda’s “aging” core, may also be the world’s wealthiest militia in terms of cash, according to the BBC. Following the takeover of Mosul and the Iraqi central bank located there, ISIS is believed to have [US] $2 billion, according to Prof. Peter Neumann of King’s College London, who spoke with the BBC.
The BBC further listed Iraqi and Syrian oil fields under ISIS’ control as additional producers of income. Hisham al-Hashimi, a security analyst interviewed by The Daily Telegraph, saw ISIS documents taken in an Iraqi military raid and said the terror group has taken on various spoils, including US weapons and transport groups left by the Iraqi military, worth a billion dollars.
McGurk’s testimony paints an improving situation in Iraq, thanks in part to American help. Dr. Spyer believed that as of late July, ISIS appeared content with its gains in Iraq, while still seeking ground in Syria. He noted that the push in Syria shows that ISIS “undoubtedly is not satisfied with the current dimensions of its ‘caliphate.’”
Dr. Spyer recommended that “all measures”—including covert action and cutting off ISIS’ financing—should be used to defeat them. That doesn’t mean that all people should be enlisted to help fight ISIS. One tempting option for the West is that Syria’s brutal dictatorship and Iran are both threatened by ISIS. That could lead to the West working with those groups in a desperate attempt to overcome ISIS.
Dr. Spyer believes there is another way and warned against enlisting the West’s enemies in Iran and Syria to fight a common foe. “This would be like allying with cancer to defeat cholera,” said Dr. Spyer. “Makes no good sense—political or medical.”
Indeed, the world is filled with evil people and threats to peace. ISIS is just the latest name to be added to a dangerous list—but it’s a name we all should know.
Source: By Joshua Spurlock, The Mideast Update
Photo Credit: Oleg Zablellin/shutterstock.com
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