Compiled by New Age Islam Edit Bureau
25 July, 2014
• Is Al-Qaeda Making A Move From Afghanistan To Syria?
By Abdullah Suleiman Ali
• Iran Dominates Iraqi Market after Occupation of Mosul
By Omar Al-Jaffal
• Echoes of Apocalypse in Iraq Conflict
By Ali Mamouri
• Don't Look To Yemen Model for Solutions in Iraq
By Farea Al-Muslimi
• ‘ISIS’ Review: Ancient Gods Solve a Murder, Freud’s Involved — What’s Hard To Follow?
By Jane Horwitz
ISIS ‘Worse Than Al Qaeda,‘ Says Top State Department Official
By Tim Mak
• ISIS Brings Human Rights Abuses, Order to New “Caliphate”
By Irene Chidinma Nwoye
• Expelled Iraqi Christians, Give Witness To ISIS Fascism
By Elizabeth Scalia
• Twitter Was So-So At Debunking That False Rumour about Female Genital Mutilation and ISIS
By Jesse Singal
• Hundreds of Muslims Join Pro-Christian, Anti-ISIS Rally In Baghdad
By Frances Martel
• ISIS Jihadist Group Orders Shopkeepers in Mosul to Cover Mannequins with Veils
By Katherine Weber
• ISIS: "Their True Face of Genocide Is Now Showing”
By Brendan Cole
• With Friends like These, ISIS Is Doomed
By Jacob Siegel
• s Iraq’s Kurdish Region Outside Of ISIS Calculus?
By Dina Al-Shibeeb
• ISIS Leader Threatens Obama: 'We're Coming For You'
By Andrea Billups
Is al-Qaeda making a move from Afghanistan to Syria?
By Abdullah Suleiman Ali
July 24, 2014
Al-Qaeda, headed by Ayman al-Zawahiri, is preparing to take a new step in the course of its struggle with the Islamic State (IS). According to leaks from jihadist sources close to al-Qaeda, the organization is planning to [militarily] commit the Taliban movement to this bloody conflict.
The influx of jihadists from Afghanistan to Syria is a further indicator of the upcoming escalation of the conflict between the two sides. However, it also raises questions as to the border crossings used by the jihadist convoys and the regional and international intelligence services that must have facilitated the opening of these crossings. The crossings must have turned a blind eye on the travelers, although some of them are wanted criminals at the international level. Despite these lapses in security, intelligence apparatuses still claim they are on alert due to the "fallout" of the jihadists returning to their countries.
In a remarkable move, the General Command of al-Qaeda renewed its pledge of allegiance to the Amir ul-Mu’minin [commander of the faithful], Mullah Mohammad Omar Mujahid in its first edition of al-Nafir [the call to arms], which is an online bulletin issued by as-Sahab Foundation — al-Qaeda's media arm.
The first edition stated, “Al-Qaeda and its branches everywhere are soldiers among his soldiers, fighting under [God’s] banner to uphold the word of God, spread Sharia and liberate every spot of the land of Islam.”
The renewal of the pledge of allegiance came a few days after a leaked video of former al-Qaeda leader, the late Osama Bin Laden, which sparked controversy among jihadist circles as Bin Laden described his oath of allegiance to Mullah Omar to be "the great pledge." He said, "Those who die without pledging allegiance to Omar will die the death of the time of jahiliyya [time before Islam]."
This coincided with the first statement of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan about the situation in the Levant, which demanded the establishment of a Shura Council including the leaders of all factions and staying away from unbelievers and infidels, in a clear reference to IS.
However, it remains unclear whether or not the Emirate of Afghanistan and Mullah Omar have given the green light to the leader of Jabhat al-Nusra, Mohammed al-Golani, to establish an Emirate in the Levant. There is some doubt that this has been issued, on the part of the Emirate, since its official website Shahamat Net did not mention anything to this regard. This suggests that Golani’s declaration of the implementation of Sharia and the [expected] imminent announcement of the Emirate of the Levant happened in coordination with and the blessing of the Emirate of Afghanistan, through coordination with Zawahiri.
Thus, in contradiction to previous media reports, there is no conflict in vision between Jabhat al-Nusra and its leadership in Khorasan regarding the implementation of Sharia as a prelude to the establishment of an emirate. It is most likely that this step was made upon the directives of the leader of the Emirate of Afghanistan, who is trying to depict his emirate as being a national emirate within the territorial borders of this country. However, the truth is that he seeks to expand his emirate had it not been for the unfavourable conditions.
Thus, the alternative would be to use all the branches of al-Qaeda that owe allegiance to him as a way to stress "his presence." Also significant is the Emirate of Afghanistan did not feel the need to issue a statement on the issue of the situation in the Levant, until after Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s proclamation of the caliphate and thus the emergence of a rival to Mullah Omar in the leadership of al-Qaeda International.
This engagement of Taliban in the jihadist sedition in the Levant, with the encouragement of Zawahiri, will cause possible rifts in the jihadist structure in Afghanistan, in general, and in the leadership of Khorasan in particular. With some of these rifts, one ought to mention the defection of some emirs from the leadership of Khorasan who are pledging allegiance to IS and Baghdadi
In this context, a prominent figure in al-Qaeda, Abu Jarir al-Shamali, arrived in Syria a few days ago from the northern mountains of Afghanistan where he was supposed to be hiding from the prosecution of US and international intelligence services.
Upon his arrival, a website close to IS derided the news. The man arrived along with other eight men who did not reveal their names. Shamali was one of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi's close friends and had left Iraq in 2006 for Afghanistan, following the death of his friend in 2006.
Before Shamali, Abu Hamid al-Barqawi, another leader, travelled the 2,500 kilometers (1,553 miles) separating Afghanistan and Syria, settled in the town of Jarablos in the countryside of Aleppo on the border with Turkey and pledged allegiance to Baghdadi.
As-Safir previously mentioned in a report that Abu Malek al-Tamimi from Saudi Arabia, whose real name is Ali Abdul Aziz al-Nashwan, had arrived to Syria without being stopped or hindered on his way despite his name appearing on the list of international wanted terrorists. He is now settled, mainly, in the Raqqa province.
This easy and safe transition of the most dangerous terrorist leaders from Baghdad [and Afghanistan], mostly through European countries, to Syria poses the same old question regarding the serious measures by Western and European countries, which have repeatedly expressed their concerns about the return of jihadists to their countries.
How did all these wanted leaders manage to enter European capitals and stay there for several days before heading to Turkey and then Syria? Is there any real control on their movements? Is it a lack of good measures on the part of international intelligence services, or are they turning a blind eye to the terrorist leaders heading to Syria?
The route from Afghanistan to Damascus has been travelled many times by international wanted terrorist leaders, including the emirs who defected from Khorasan and pledged allegiance to IS, in addition to many other members sent the Khorasan leadership itself to Jabhat al-Nusra after its resounding defeat in the eastern region of Syria and the fleeing of its leaders.
Will this path become a safe route for terrorist, just as the main pretext for the occupation of Afghanistan was the combating of terrorism?
Iran Dominates Iraqi Market after Occupation Of Mosul
By Omar Al-Jaffal
July 24, 2014
After the occupation of the Iraqi town of Mosul by armed groups, including the Islamic State (IS) and the Baath Party — banned by the Iraqi Constitution — prices of food increased significantly, a result of blocked roads and fighting near border crossings, preventing the flow of goods.
Iraq has only two sea routes, the ports of Umm Qasr and Khor al-Zubair, and the following border crossings: Trebil with Jordan; al-Waleed, al-Qaim and Rabia with Syria; Ibrahim Khalil with Turkey; Mundhiriyah with Iran; Arar with Saudi Arabia; and Safwan with Kuwait.
Iraqi markets rely heavily on border crossings for supplies, especially crossings with Turkey, Syria and Iran. The occupation of Mosul reduced access to the crossing of Ibrahim Khalil with Turkey, meaning there are no safe roads from the border to Baghdad and other provinces. Moreover, the Rabia crossing recently fell out of central government control and into the hands of Kurdish forces. Yet, even before the occupation of Mosul, this border crossing was not favoured by merchants.
The three border crossings on the frontiers of Anbar province that link Iraq to Jordan and Syria are basically inoperative, since Iraqi security forces launched a massive military operation in Anbar to eradicate terrorism in December 2014. Crucially, the Mundhiriyah crossing with Iran has remained out of the hands of the mainly Sunni militants since it is located in the majority Shiite Wasit province.
Furthermore, the Iranian government opened two other crossings with Iraq to facilitate the entry of goods. According to a statement issued by the Council of Ministers, the Iraqi government facilitated the procedures for the entry of goods through this crossing to speed up the flow of imports. The government now accepts certificates of origin, provided by inspecting companies, without taking random samples at border points.
Trade between Iraq and Turkey reached $12 billion in 2013, however, on July 2, the Turkish Exporters Assembly said exports to Iraq had declined by 21%, dropping from second to third place, trailing behind the United Kingdom.
In Jamila, the main wholesale market in Baghdad, merchants complain about how the deteriorating security situation has caused them vast financial losses.
Hajj Yasser Hali, who sells dairy products, said, “Costly transportation fees have forced us to raise prices.” Hali now must take a longer road to transport his products to Baghdad, doubling the transport fees for each car, from $2,500 to $5,000. His vehicles still cross at Ibrahim Khalil, but they go through the Iraqi Kurdistan Region and the Badra district bordering Iran. Hali said, “The security crisis is harming trade activity and forcing merchants to raise prices.”
For years, the Iraqi wholesale markets have been known to work under an exclusive corporate agency system. Hali said, “I cannot export merchandise from Iran. The Iranian companies have agents here.”
The Iranian corporate agencies in the Jamila region are filled with merchandise, since the transportation of their goods is unaffected. These types of companies have increased in volume since the import of merchandise from other countries has become more difficult. Moreover, some groups in these provinces have issued boycotts against Turkish and Saudi merchandise, due to allegations that these two states support terrorism in Iraq.
Abdul-Zahra al-Hindawi, spokesman for the Iraqi Ministry of Planning, told Al-Monitor, “The demand on Iranian goods certainly increased after the Mosul crisis. … The increase in demand and the [increase in volume] of goods pushed Iraq to open new border crossings with Iran.”
However, according to Hindawi, the Ministry of Planning has no statistics on the volume of trade between the two countries. “Iran has become the most important commercial source for Iraq after the worsening security crisis in Anbar, which affected the transportation of goods between Iraq, Syria and Jordan,” he said.
Trade volume between Iraq and Iran in 2013 reached about $12 billion. This year, trade is expected to exceed $15 billion. If the local government in Baghdad follows in the footsteps of the southern provinces and boycotts the import of goods from Saudi Arabia and Turkey, the level of trade between Iraq and Iran may jump to new, unexpected highs.
Echoes of Apocalypse in Iraq Conflict
By Ali Mamouri
July 24, 2014
When George W. Bush invaded Iraq, he was criticized, including for being motivated by eschatology (the aspect of theology that deals with the end of days) and desiring to push a right-wing Christian agenda in terms of the Christian prophecy regarding Armageddon. Yet in 2003, no one foresaw the current conflict in Iraq that would lead many among the conflicting Iraqi parties to see the events as part of the prophecy of the end times, which could have an extensive impact on the conflict.
Religious visions of the apocalypse are applied to the Iraqi conflict in a structural and radical way. The religious aspect of the conflict has exceeded being mere strife between major religious denominations and sects in the country. Both Sunni and Shiite parties have made headway in applying the prophecy of the end times to current events, and have understood the recent developments as part of a prophetic context in their religious texts on the events of the end of days. This has not only exceeded the religious analysis of the events, it has even made both parties work according to this prophecy — with the religious prophecy having become an influential factor in the course of events in the country.
Abrahamic religions — Christianity, Islam and Judaism — despite having an overall structure of the end times, follow different scenarios on their prophecy of what will happen in the future. Jews associate the end with their final return to the Holy Land; Christians link it to the second coming of Christ; and Muslims see it by means of the spread of Islam throughout the entire world. They all associate these events with major tragedies that will take place ahead of these times, and with extensive and violent conflicts that will ultimately lead to world peace. Yet, all of these narratives are built upon the basis of a binary struggle between good and evil that leads to the final defeat of evil and permanent triumph of good.
In Islam, Sunnis and Shiites share most of the religious texts and understanding of the apocalyptic prophecy. They, however, disagree in designating good and evil to the conflicting parties in Iraq and assigning these roles to the main figures in this conflict. There are three major parties in the Sunni and Shiite versions of the end time’s events prophecy: the true Muslims, the misguided Muslims and the infidels (nonbelievers). Thus, Shiites and Sunnis place themselves in the first category; their Muslim enemies are placed in the second; and Western enemies in the third.
Prior to his death, Anwar al-Awlaki, a prominent Salafist figure who was killed in south Yemen in 2011 by US drones, explained the Salafist vision of the end times in a lecture as follows: The call for jihad emerges from Khorasan, which is the area of Afghanistan and its surroundings by today’s map. Then, a conflict between Muslims and the West takes place on the Iraqi territory, paving the way for the final battle and the tenure of the Mahdi, the prophesied redeemer of Islam who will rule before the Day of Judgment. Then, those who raised the black flags will fight both the misguided Muslims and infidels, and the battle ends with the declaration of a new Islamic caliphate.
The emergence of Caliph Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi came as part of this narrative, which is well known to Muslims. It was exploited to assist in the declaration of the Islamic caliphate. Since its inception, the Islamic State (IS) has opted for a black-colorued banner and the caliph himself was seen in black to prove that he is one of the narratives that the apocalypse prophecy speaks of. Based on that, Muslims must welcome him and join his ranks. That he hails from the Quraish tribe and is therefore a descendant of the Prophet Muhammad came in accordance with the Sunni vision of jurisprudence that the caliph should be from Quraish and that the Mahdi, who will appear at the end times, is a descendant of the Prophet Muhammad. An IS leaflet seems to show that this project was planned even before Baghdadi assumed the leadership of the group when the former emir, Abu Omar al-Baghdadi, who also claimed to hail from the Quraish tribe and was therefore a descendant of the prophet, got Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi prepared for the role and planned for the tasks after his death.
On the other hand, in the Shiite view the emergence of IS represents the army of darkness that shows up and exerts its power over the Shiites at the end times, before the Mahdi’s tenure. Some even go as far as to analyze the existing alliances in the conflict based on their own end times prophecy. In particular, they see the negative role played by Turkey and the Kurds in supporting the army of darkness against the Shiites.
Some Iranian clerics have previously used these narratives to support the Islamic government in Iran, and present it as a government paving the way for the Mahdi’s tenure. Some of the close associates of the supreme leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran claimed that the latter is known as Khorasani in the end times narratives and as one of those preparing for the Mahdi’s tenure. Some of the sites that are linked to the conservative fundamentalist wing published an analysis of the end times events prophecy in the region, in an attempt to apply it to the current events.
The ongoing violence and sudden developments in the region are expected to escalate the religious discourse on the prophecy between the conflicting parties, which could significantly feed the battles and open new directions in the current conflict.
Don't Look To Yemen Model for Solutions in Iraq
By Farea Al-Muslimi
July 24, 2014
At a May 19 press conference in Washington, US President Barack Obama had expressed concerns about the deteriorating situation in Iraq and the Islamic State's control over Iraqi cities. As a solution to that political and security crisis, he suggested the possibility of what has become known as the Yemen model, which stems from the transition of power from President Ali Abdullah Saleh to his deputy, Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi. The process also included a plan to restructure the army, launch an inclusive national dialogue and for all participating parties to put down their weapons.
Obama is not the only one to praise the Yemen model, which is laid out in the road map of the Gulf Initiative. In discussions with Al-Monitor, various diplomats and international envoys have also praised this model of international intervention in Yemen, an Arab Spring country. In fact, however, the Yemen model about which Obama and international reports speak — a model efficient at both the security and political levels — has nothing to do with the current reality.
A key point missed by Obama and others is that IS has been inspired by the Yemen model — that is, in seeking to follow the model of insurgency and state-building of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. In fact, the Islamic State’s control over Iraqi cities has followed the experience of Yemen’s al-Qaeda-linked Ansar al-Sharia, which has taken control of some Yemeni cities and imposed its strict version of Sharia. For a time during 2011-2012, the Yemeni provinces of Abyan and Shabwa were under the control of al-Qaeda, the group the United States still considers most threatening to its national security.
The Yemen model has also been held up at international forums and in diplomatic and media circles as a potential solution for Syria, as a model for state-building, a peaceful transition of power, the elimination of armed groups and an end to civil war. Such a comparison between Yemen and Syria, however, is premature. The number of embassies operating in Sanaa, for example, is less than those in Damascus. While the Syrian government has made Damascus secure enough for foreign embassies to operate, despite being in a state of war, the Yemeni government has failed to secure its own capital, a reflection of the government’s failure to build state institutions and establish security.
Behind closed doors, many of the local players and international diplomats who admire the Yemen model and speak of applying it to the Syrian scenario have also expressed their fears to Al-Monitor that President Bashar al-Assad’s bloody steadfastness might actually inspire former Yemeni President Saleh to attempt to regain the presidency, by force if necessary. This fear alone would appear to undermine all claims to success for the Yemen model. How can a political transition be considered effective when the head of the former regime still poses a threat to the transition process?
The Yemen model has failed to provide the most important foundation of the transition and political and security stability, namely, building a state. More than two years after the start of the political transition, and less than a month after Obama praised it, Foreign Policy published its fragile states index, ranking Yemen as the 8th most fragile, five places below Iraq, which was ranked 13. Other Arab Spring countries — including Libya (41st) and Syria (15th) — had better rankings than Yemen.
One will be able to speak credibly of a successful Yemen model when there is security in the country (i.e., a unified army and few risks from armed groups), a stable national economy, at least a minimum level of public services delivery, fair elections for bringing leaders to power, a normal development cycle and no more of the current bloodshed. Yemen today does not meet these criteria.
At the security level, killings, assassinations and banditry continue, increasing periodically, and fighters take out power lines and oil pipelines with impunity. Moreover, traffic between cities is sometimes halted as gunmen cut off roads amid rife kidnappings. The strength of the armed groups has been consolidated at the expense of the state's image and presence. In mid-July, Houthi groups tightened their control around the 310th Brigade in Amran governorate and killed the brigade commander, who is loyal to the Muslim Brotherhood, after months of fierce confrontation.
Thus the level of violence as well as security and sectarian tensions in other parts of Yemen have increased while Yemeni President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi has contented himself with the formation of a mediation committee, a format introduced at the start of the transition process that has thus far proven to be unsuccessful. Hadi has not clarified the situation regarding the Houthi situation in Amran, including whether the camp commander was fighting under orders of the state or if the state even offered its support. The state’s approach to war and peace has not become clear, but regardless is without progress in both instances. The sudden emergence of the Houthis from the north has terrorized the Sanaa, as the bordering northern and western areas are now vulnerable to attack. Amran is no more than 50 kilometers from Sanaa.
Amid this chaos, it is unclear what about the Yemen model is supposed to inspire the Iraqi people as opposed to the inspiration the Yemeni armed groups' advances might provide Iraq’s armed sectarian forces. The most notable achievement of the Yemen model is that it has normalized death and diversified its causes, as insecurity and the number of armed conflicts have grown. This flies in the face of the international goal of sparing Yemen a civil war.
While in 2011 the threat of war between divisions of the army loomed, the possibility of multiple civil, military, sectarian and regional conflicts are present today. In short, while Yemenis' priority was to avoid a classic civil war, the issue today is how to avoid multiple civil wars. Over the past two years, the violent turmoil has led to the deaths of thousands of people and caused economic disaster. According to the United Nations, more than 14 million Yemenis need humanitarian assistance, including more than 1.5 million children, compared with 8 million Yemenis in 2011.
The Gulf Initiative has played a part in turning Yemen into a country over which armed groups run riot while seeking to delegitimize the existing authorities for exceeding their electoral terms. Given the security tensions and level of danger, the likelihood of seeing a foreigner walking the streets of Sanaa has the same odds as seeing a niqab in Las Vegas. Yemen is a failed state gradually being overrun by militias. This is the Yemen model being replicated in Iraq and Syria.
‘ISIS’ Review: Ancient Gods Solve a Murder, Freud’s involved — What’s Hard To Follow?
By Jane Horwitz
21 July, 2014
“I am ISIS, greatest goddess of old!” proclaims a statuesque blonde (Cate Brewer) while unfurling her silver cape. That pronouncement kicks off the comic-mythic whodunit “Isis & Vesco Investigate the Curious Death of Dr. Freud.” The hour-long piece by Monique LaForce earns lots of laughs, but it overplays its conceit like the kind of “Saturday Night Live” sketch that should have ended sooner.
Once she’s made her big entrance, Isis starts talkin’ tough, announcing that she’s working undercover as an NYPD detective. She aims to avenge the very, very long-ago homicidal attack on her husband, the god Osiris (Paolo Santayana), by his brother Seth. Isis’s new partner is Vesco (Sun King Davis), a financial fraudster who is avoiding jail by “consulting” with the cops; he comes on to her from the get-go. She kinda hates it and kinda likes it.
Toss in LaForce’s rhyming film-nourish dialogue, the jazzy soundtrack, the gods and mortals slipping in and out of the Afterlife, and you have quite a smorgasbord.
Osiris, who works undercover in the Afterlife, poses as a hip-hopper, relating fake dreams to Dr. Freud (Terence Aselford). Leaving us to ask: why? And what does the CIA have to do with it? And what’s the love/hate thing between Freud and Jung (also played by Terence Aselford)? Why does the medical examiner (Catherine Aselford) snort cocaine off a corpse?
LaForce cleverly sends up cop-show clichés, psychobabble and the ancient deities’ bizarre family trees, but the narrative and timelines in “Isis and Vesco” digress and confuse unnecessarily.
Some performances stand out: Davis brings to Vesco a wonderfully thick smarminess. Brewer’s Isis commands the stage. Terence Aselford’s Freud and Jung keep it low-key and droll. And Katie Jeffries is a riot in multiple roles.
Horwitz is a freelance writer.
IISIS ‘Worse Than Al Qaeda, ‘Says Top State Department Official
By Tim Mak
Leaders from Foggy Bottom and the Pentagon warn Congress that the group is not just terrorists but a burgeoning state that threatens U.S. Interests.
Top officials crisscrossed the Capitol over the past two days, giving urgent warnings that ISIS represented a threat “worse than Al Qaeda,” in the words of one State Department official, with the capability to create a sanctuary for global jihadists working to threaten American interests.
The self-declared Islamic State in Iraq and Syria is no longer merely a terrorist organization, a top State Department official told House and Senate lawmakers, but “a full-blown army seeking to establish a self-governing state through the Tigris and Euphrates Valley in what is now Syria and Iraq.”
“[ISIS] is Al Qaeda… in its doctrine, its ambition, and increasingly its threat to U.S. interests,” said Brett McGurk, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Iraq and Iran. ISIS is “targeting all Iraqis ... who disagree with its twisted vision of a 7th century caliphate.”
But while ISIS shares Al Qaeda’s ambitions, it shown that it can be even savvier, officials testified before the House and Senate foreign affairs committees this week.
“[ISIS] has proving to be… more effective in terms of organizing and developing a state structure than even core Al Qaeda, and that is why it is more than just a terrorist organization—it certainly doesn’t have the global reach in terms of terrorist capacity as core Al Qaeda, but it has the sophistication to develop what has really becoming a state-like sanctuary for a global jihadist movement,” McGurk said. “They’re a self-sustaining organization.”
These heightened warnings come even as The Daily Beast’s Jacob Siegel reported from Baghdad that internal divisions with the self-declared Islamic State threaten to tear it apart.
“ISIS loves the propaganda that makes it seem like the scariest group in the world. And ISIS really is as brutal as it claims to be, though not yet half as strong,” Siegel wrote.
That didn’t seem to stop top administration officials from magnifying the danger ISIS poses to American interests. Pentagon official Elissa Slotkin told senators Thursday that the U.S. had begun increasing surveillance flights in Iraq to some 50 per day to counter the ISIS threat.
“They are self-funded, they have control over significant territory, they are tested in battle, they are a serious threat. While we don’t assess right now that they are doing distinct homeland plotting… they are open about it, that they are coming for the U.S.,” Slotkin warned. “I don’t want that to fester.”
The ISIS threat was particularly potent, she said, because fighters with the organization were “very, very experience and war-tested.” Slotkin also said that a number of Western passport-holders have travelled to Syria to interact with ISIS, and that ISIS was conducting “active plotting in Europe.”
“In Baghdad jut this week, there was a suicide bombing—there was a German, there was an Australian. ISIS is able to funnel about 30 to 50 suicide bombers a month into Iraq. We assess almost all foreign fighters—it would be very easy for ISIL to funnel that cadre of dedicated suicide bombers” to other regional capitals, Europe, or even the U.S., McGurk told Senate lawmakers Thursday.
ISIS’s stated intent, Slotkin told members of Congress, was “we’re coming for you, Barack Obama.”
But outside of the threat of terrorist attacks, ISIS’s actions in the Middle East could impact the United States by disrupting global energy markets.
“Iraq, through 2035, will account for 45 percent of all of the growth in oil energy exports. If Iraq were to collapse in a major civil war, the effects to our own economy here at home would be quite serious,” McGurk told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. The resulting economic shocks, he said, would be “devastating.”
ISIS Brings Human Rights Abuses, Order to New “Caliphate”
By Irene Chidinma Nwoye
July 24 2014
It appears that it hasn’t been all gloom and doom under ISIS rule since the group recently declared its new Islamic caliphate. It’s been a lot of gloom in the form of human rights abuses, but there has also been an odd form of stability in the region under ISIS rule.
We are familiar with the bleak narratives of life under the Jihadists: public amputations as punishment for crimes under Sharia law, crucifixions, Christians compelled to pay “minority” taxes, women forced to bundle up in Niqabs, black ISIS flags hanging throughout cities, and an overall dampened social life. But a New York Times article captures streaks of a renewed sense of order in the self-declared caliphate’s capital, Raqqa, and how the insurgents are transforming their ideology into reality by establishing their brand of theocratic rule in the eastern Syrian city.
According to the Times, crime in the city has diminished (people are probably worried about losing limbs) as has the culture of bribery that was common under the Assad government. The Islamists are also helping to run bakeries and functional gas stations. Aaron Zelin, a researcher on Jihadism, affirmed what the Times described as “order with a darker side” in an article for The Atlantic last month. ISIS has set up food kitchens, adoption centres, vaccination campaigns, and “‘fun days’ for kids replete with ice cream and inflatable slides,” Zelin reports.
While these images may do little to convince the world to see ISIS in a humane light, it indicates that the group means business about trying to establish their caliphate. Still, ISIS is struggling to provide drinking water and consistent electricity in Raqqa (power outages can last for almost 20 hours a day). Zelin, however, suggests that the $425 million that ISIS seized from Mosul’s central bank might be used in tackling these kinds of problems. Essentially, Raqqa remains the group’s test case; a blueprint for how they intend to run their form of theocratic rule. So far their tactics have apparently been successful in appeasing—as the Times put it—“war-weary citizens... who will accept any authority that can restore a semblance of normal life.”
Expelled Iraqi Christians, Give Witness To ISIS Fascism
By Elizabeth Scalia
July 24, 2014
The choice is leave or takes a bullet to the head; you have ten hours to get out or die; take nothing but the clothes on your back; oh, you need that glucose meter? Your blood pressure meds? That’s too bad.
The Christians interviewed here make me feel very proud, and very humbled. They are obviously hurting, obviously shocked and displaced, yet full of spirit. And who wouldn’t be a bit angry and undone in such a case? As the lady says, “what have the Christians done to you?”
And yet, when the ISIS thugs forced them from their homes, the Christians said, “Congratulations. You have the house.”
It’s such a Christian thing to say. It is a line imbued with the deep understanding that to take someone’s house may seem like a victory, but it is only a material victory; it is the retort of a spiritual subversive and what it is really saying is, you can take the house, the money, the car, the clothes, but you possess no part of my soul, which belongs to and is fed and sustained by Christ Jesus.
These people are in pain, and they are quoting the Lord Jesus, and calling on his name. Watch it all.
The man wonders at the organization and placement of ISIS, and also wonders what government entity is giving them the support such organization requires. That might be a question, indeed? There is a lot to wonder about, but I doubt we’ll ever know, not in any timely way.
This is an ironic information age where answers to questions are suppressed, or sneered at, or shrugged off or subjected to such wild spinning that we are all disoriented and flung about and that, I suspect, is the idea. Evil loves confusion and sows it in the spin.
Whoever and whatever is supporting the advance of ISIS is almost a moot point, though, because we’ve all seen this movie; we’ve seen what jackbooted forces in service to idols of totalitarian ideas do to humanity, and we’ve seen governments and media entities turn blind eyes to what they know is going on. In Baghdad, the bishop wonders, “why is the world silent?”. In that place Sunni and Shiite Muslims band with Kurds and Christians in brave and noble protest, to little notice. In Syria similar destruction is barely mentioned.
It is interesting to me that the government that should most identify with what these Christians are experiencing, and who have the structures in place to give humanitarian assistance and possibly sanctuary, (yes, that would be Israel) is currently distracted by the not-terribly threatening missiles of Hamas. The world is watching an unending loop of “yes, they have a right to defend themselves but they’re overdoing it” and in the distraction of dithering diplomatic reruns — in all of that sown confusion — the jackboot is permitted to make its destructive imprint, and since there is nothing to stop what follows, the headlines are all bound to get much worse.
Yesterday, Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry wrote a brutally honest, and horribly succinct assessment of what is coming around the corner:
The persecution of Christians happens under a great shroud of silence. Maybe, as John Allen has argued, persecuted Christians are too Christian for the Left to care, and too third-worldy for the Right to care (but, you know, there’s a War on Christmas on). And the worst thing for our governments would be to be seen in non-Christian lands as having any sort of special solidarity with Christians (yes, wouldn’t that be terrible), so better to err on the side of indifference. Right?
This blood is particularly on the hands of the American government, which has a special duty to help them and, I am sure, will do nothing of the sort. As my friend Koz writes [FR], the Christians of Iraq are already dead. We won’t do anything to stop it. No one will.
No one will. You know it; I know it; they know it. We are heading into holocaust, once again, and this time in a territory toward which all of human history has been slowly turning, for century upon century.
As Mark Movsesian writes, “a line has been crossed in the Middle East”; if what is being played out before our eyes are old tactics, this is a new line:
As recently as a decade ago, tens of thousands of Christians lived in Mosul, some of them descendents of victims of the genocide the Ottoman Empire perpetrated against Assyrians, as well as Armenians and Greeks, during World War I. After this weekend, virtually none remain. On Saturday, ISIS expelled the fifty-two Christian families still in the city, after first requiring them to leave behind all their valuables. For good measure, ISIS also burned an 1800-year-old church and the Catholic bishop’s residence, along with its library and manuscript collection.
What ISIS has done in Mosul is a worrying hint of Islamism’s possible future. For the moment, ISIS is unique among Islamist groups in advocating formal reinstatement of the dhimma. Although Islamists everywhere reject the idea of equality for Christians, they typically avoid calling for the dhimma, as they understand that most contemporary Muslims would reject the idea. Nothing succeeds like success, however. ISIS has now shown that it is possible to reestablish the dhimma at the center of the Muslim world. Other Islamist groups will take notice.
Here is the truth: what has been put in motion, is unlikely to be stopped, because no government with any sense of agency — except the tiny Papal state of Vatican City, and small Kurdistan — seems to want it stopped. The Persecution of Christians in the Near and Middle East will continue forward, and this poison will spread, and you and I are going to astounded at how quickly, and how far.
And if you think it won’t happen in America, well, we’re already heading toward a repeat of “Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité.”
There is cause for rejoicing here, although for a while you may have to suffer through various trials, so that the genuineness of your faith, more precious than gold that is perishable even though tested by fire, may prove to be for praise, glory, and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 1 Peter 1:6-7
This seems to me to be a good time to read the First Epistle of Peter, which helps us to refocus on our baptism:
. . .and this water corresponds with the baptism that now saves you also–not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a clear conscience toward God. It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who is at the right hand of God, having gone into heaven, after angels and authorities and powers had been subjected to Him.
God’s hand moves slowly, and his mind is unknowable, but we do not need to fully comprehend his plan. “Fear is useless; what is needed is trust.” Mark 5:36
Today is the feastday of the Lebanese Carmelite monk, Saint Sharbel Makouf, who stands amid the white-robed saints, before Christ Jesus and the Father, as Peter tells. Let us ask him to pray, from his place of eternal privilege, for the good of the Christians facing real persecution, here on earth. Light a candle and keep the prayer going.
For the peace of Jerusalem pray:
“Peace be to your homes!
May peace reign in your walls,
in your palaces, peace!”
For love of my brethren and friends
I say: “Peace upon you.”
For love of the house of the Lord
I will ask for your good.
Don’t pass by this excellent report via Peter Jesserer Smith, in the Register:
Patriarch Louis Rafael I Sako denounced IS as worse than the country’s Mongol invaders during the medieval period.
“This has never happened in Christian or Islamic history. Even Genghis Khan or Hulagu [the Mongol destroyer of Baghdad in 1258] didn’t do this,” he said, according to Reuters, at a church service in Baghdad where 200 Muslims joined in solidarity.
“We are seeing great swatches of Christianity wiped from the Middle East,” said Edward Clancy, Aid to the Church in Need’s director of evangelization and outreach. He said IS enforces “the strictest and most brutal interpretation of sharia,” including “little children having their hands hacked off” for stealing food out of hunger
“They have no problem with crucifixion, and they have done it,” he said.
Clancy said Aid to the Church in Need confirmed IS’s atrocities with priests and bishops on the ground through its regional coordinator.
“Simply put, it is all true: They are kidnapping, there are crucifixions, beheadings, beatings and enforced conversions,” he said.
Clancy said he believed the Church leadership in Iraq was hopeful that Iraq would produce a national leader who could rally the country in a way similar to how Egypt’s president Fattah Al-Sisi has rallied Egypt to overthrow the Islamists of the Muslim Brotherhood. But the once hopeful mood has changed.
“Now their position is to prepare for the worst, while hoping for the best,” he said.
Read the whole thing. Don’t turn away. The Kurds are asking the US to help them hold off ISIS. Good luck with that, noble Kurds!
ISIS Jihadists Seize Fourth Century Christian Monastery, Expel Monks
By Frances Martel
24 Jul 2014
The purge of Christians from northern Iraq continues under the hands of the Sunni jihadist group, the Islamic State--formerly the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS). ISIS militants seized the famous Mar Behnam or St. Behnam monastery this week, a fourth century Christian landmark, and forced monks to leave immediately.
According to the Agence France-Presse, the monastery, a famous landmark of early Christianity, is now fully in the hands of ISIS jihadists. A cleric and residents of the monastery reported on Monday that the monks inhabiting the monastery were told that they "had no place here anymore" and to "leave immediately" from the town of Qaraqosh, a short distance from the fully ISIS-controlled Mosul. Witnesses report that they were forced to leave everything behind, taking only the clothes they were wearing. The monastery was previously run by the Syriac Catholic church; up to nine people reportedly still lived there when ISIS terrorists arrived.
Though only a small number of monks remained at the monastery, the capture is extremely significant for its symbolism. The St. Behnam monastery was built by Assyrian King Sennacherib II and named after his son, whom he martyred after he and his sister, Sarah, converted to Christianity. He is one of the oldest martyrs in the Christian tradition.
The monastery itself is one of the oldest monuments in the history of Christianity, a symbol of the rich history the religion has within the borders of Iraq. ISIS has systematically attempted to uproot Christianity from the history of the land as part of its efforts to establish an extremist Islamic Caliphate in territories stretching from Spain (the historically Muslim al-Andaluz) to western China, where the Chinese Uyghur population is largely Muslim.
The expulsion followed a brutal campaign in Mosul, the second-largest city in Iraq, to clear it of Christians for the first time in the history of the religion. Christians in the city were told to convert and pay an unreasonably high tax, flee, or be killed. Almost all chose to leave, and it is believed that the city has been entirely emptied of its Christian population for the first time since the life of Jesus Himself.
Many of Mosul's Christians have sought refuge in another monastery, the Monastery of St. Matthew, where Al Jazeera reports that "dozens" of Christian families have laid down mattresses and begun to wait and pray for the situation to change. They also received a visit from Patriarch Ignatius Aphrem II, head of the Syriac Catholic Church, who led prayers in Aramaic, believed to be the language of Jesus.
Twitter Was So-So at Debunking That False Rumor About Female Genital Mutilation and ISIS
By Jesse Singal
July 24, 2014
Twitter is great at spreading information. The problem is that the platform is agnostic about the veracity of that information, and is equally eager to broadcast valid information about a recent natural disaster and invalid information about President Obama's birthplace. Today was a really good example — a lot of people (myself included) were shocked to see reports emanating from the U.N. and The Guardian that ISIS was demanding that women in the territory it controls in Iraq undergo female genital mutilation. As it turns out, this is, thankfully, a pretty flimsy story.
There are a lot of reasons why false rumours tend to do better than debunking, and Twitter tends to exacerbate them — the short version is that people have a lot of psychological motivation to retweet rumours that fit into their preconceived notions (ISIS is, after all, a rather barbaric group), but tend to be a lot less excited about passing around debunkings, except when the debunking serve some psychological end (Obama ain't a Muslim).
So how did Twitter do in this case? I ran a couple of searches to find out.
First, I entered the search terms "ISIS" and "FGM," or female genital mutilation:
Not bad. Mostly debunky. But things weren't as good when I entered the less fancy "ISIS" and "mutilation" combination:
Only half the stories reflect the latest information, and one of the ones that doesn't is tagged as "top news."
Now, a lot of people get their Twitter news from their feeds rather than from searches, but the searches highlight some of the dangers here: Since I happen to follow a lot of journalists, and journalists tend to be good about debunking false rumors, my feed was full of those debunkings and I was unlikely to miss them.
But what if you're not looped into those networks online? What if you're one of the Drudge Report's 682,000 followers, and you saw the site's tweet spreading the rumour, which as of now hasn't been followed by a correction or clarification? Everyone has some sort of weakness when it comes to their ability to tell a good source from a bad one, or a credible story from a false rumour. Twitter, wonderful as it can be in certain situations, doesn't always recognize these distinctions.
Hundreds of Muslims Join Pro-Christian, Anti-Isis Rally in Baghdad
By Frances Martel
22 Jul 2014
Hundreds rallied in Baghdad this week in solidarity with the thousands of Christians forced to flee from Mosul, Iraq's second largest city, after the terrorist group Islamic State (IS) demanded that all Christians in the city convert and pay an infidel's tax, leave, or be killed. Two-hundred Muslims are believed to have joined Christians at the rally in Baghdad.
Holding up signs that say "I am Iraqi, I am Christian," the ralliers, many of them Christians who arrived in Baghdad fleeing the violence of IS (formerly ISIS, Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham), stood in front of a Catholic church in support of those who still lived in turbulent areas, and against the eradication of their religion from one of its oldest cradles. According to Al-Arabiya, these Christians were joined by Muslims expressing solidarity with the Christian community, also holding up signs that said "I am Iraqi, I am Christian."
Christian leaders in Baghdad thanked Muslims supporters for standing up for their right to live in Iraq. “What gives us hope is a group of citizens - I do not want to say Muslims but they were Muslims - from Baghdad carrying slogans saying “I am Iraqi, I am Christian,” said Father Maysar Bahnam of Mar Korkis Catholic Church to Al Arabiya. “They prayed in solidarity with us, saying that we are people from this land."
About 200 Muslims were believed to be in attendance at the rally on Sunday, some even marking themselves with the Arabic letter "N" for "Nazarene," or Christian. The letter has been used by ISIS in Mosul to tag homes in which Christians lived, homes later looted and used as ISIS property. The situation has been described as among the worst in the history of Christianity. Patriarch of Babylon of the Chaldeans Louis Raphael I Sako told Reuters that the persecution in Mosul "has never happened in Christian or Islamic history. Even Genghis Khan or Hulagu didn't do this." After early reports of ISIS starving out Christians and the current open purge of the religion in the city, it is currently believed that Mosul is completely devoid of Christians for the first time in the history of the religion.
The New York Times notes that Muslims have also been a presence in Baghdad churches this week, consoling Christians fleeing persecution. “You are the true original people here, and we are sorry for what has been done to you in the name of Islam," one Muslim woman told another at a Christian mass on Sunday, also heavily attended by Muslim supporters.
The resistance to ISIS across Iraq by civilians in areas like Baghdad has become increasingly vocal. Even in Mosul, ISIS-painted letter "N"s have been "vandalized" to now read, "We are all Christians," in opposition to the group.
The images of the rally in Baghdad have been widely distributed on social media, with collections of men, women, and children holding up signs identifying openly as Christians in resistance to the terror organization.
Muslim woman in Baghdad protesting ISIS' persecut. of Assyrians, with sign "Christians, the Apostles of peace & love"
200 Muslims join Christians at Chaldean Church in Baghdad to demonstrate against ISIS in Mosul http://ow.ly/zr1M8
Love this picture. Muslims & Christians in #Baghdad holding signs "we're all Christians" - #Iraq
ISIS Jihadist Group Orders Shopkeepers in Mosul to Cover Mannequins with Veils
By Katherine Weber
July 24, 2014
Members of a militant Islamic group are demanding shopkeepers to cover their store mannequins with full-face veils to abide by the strict Islamic teaching regarding the human form.
Local residents of Mosul, Iraq's second largest city, have told international media outlets that members of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS), now called the Islamic State, have demanded local shopkeepers to cover both male and female mannequins with veils. This mandate coincides with a strict interpretation of Shariah law that forbids artwork and statues depicting the human form.
Photographs taken by the Associated Press indicate that local shopkeepers have heeded the ISIS's demands, covering mannequins with black, sheer veils tied around their necks.
A representative with the United Nations also announced Thursday that the ISIS had also ordered women in Mosul and the surrounding areas to undergo female circumcision, a claim denied by the militant group as being false.
"This is something very new for Iraq, particularly in this area, and is of grave concern and does need to be addressed," U.N. representative Jaqueline Badcock said in a recent news conference, according to Al Jazeera news. "This is not the will of Iraqi people, or the women of Iraq in these vulnerable areas covered by the terrorists."
Critics on social media have argued that reports of female circumcision are false and outdated, and a U.N. spokesman from Geneva told The Guardian that the report will be clarified and facts will be checked for authenticity.
As The Telegraph reports, the ISIS is responsible for setting a number of new rules and taxes on the town of Mosul, the second largest city in Iraq. The jihadist group has also forced the majority of Christians to leave the historically rich town after issuing a mandate that all non-Muslims either convert, pay a non-Muslim "Jiziyah" tax, or die.
Additionally, since invading Mosul last month, the ISIS has put stricter levies on trucks carrying goods into the city, charging large trucks $400, while even cars carrying goods are charged $50.
Ahmed Younis, a Baghdad-based expert on armed groups, told the media outlet that ISIS's implementation of various taxes and regulations allows them to establish an economic state that could become quite powerful, given their growing control over infrastructure and resources in the country.
Younis predicts that due to the Islamic State's control in Iraq and its growing control in Syria, the jihadist group could "transform into an economic giant with assets of billions of dollars."
"In future, will they buy shares? Everything is possible," Younis added.
As the ISIS's broadens its control of Mosul, Christians are fleeing for safer cities in the north controlled by Kurdish forces. Residents in Mosul have estimated that following the ISIS takeover last month, only 200 Christians out of 5,000 remain in the country' second largest city.
ISIS: "Their true face of genocide is now showing”
By Brendan Cole
24 July 2014
While the world's attention is on the conflict in Gaza and the tragic crash of flight MH17 in Ukraine, the militant Islamist group ISIS continues to make gains in Iraq. Latest reports say that Christians are under siege and have fled the second city of Mosul. Also, ISIS is controlling the supply of water to Christian and Shia strongholds raising the prospect of a humanitarian catastrophe. Hussein Al-Alak from the Iraq Solidarity Group spoke to VoR's Brendan Cole.
He told VoR: “We are seeing a crisis within the ISIS organisation because when ISIS first arrived, they have said that all minorities are safe and no one will be persecuted. But within a few weeks ISIS have now changed and are saying that everyone who isn’t part of ISIS is going to face ethnic cleansing. This illustrates that ISIS don’t have popular support within Iraq and Syria. Their true face of genocide is now showing.”
Christians who have left Mosul have been told either to convert to Islam or face death. Have those fates befallen those Christians?
“ISIS have now decided to expand their list of war crimes by cutting off the water supply to people who are Christians. We are seeing the supreme ultimate war crime, which is parallel to many of the crimes committed under Nazis occupying Europe.
“ISIS are a sectarian organisation and their first emphasis was to attack Shia because they were a predominantly Sunni movement. It is the same method they have applied in Syria. We are now seeing a ‘Syrianisation’ of the ISIS movement in Iraq.
“When they first entered Mosul, they came in with the support of the Baath party. At first they were reluctant to show their true face because of the support they were getting from the Baath party. Now they no longer need to hide behind the mask of moderates.”
ISIS controlling the water supply from Tigris and Euphrates – will that have a humanitarian impact?
“It will be a humanitarian disaster. The West is turning a blind eye to what ISIS are doing and not pushing the north for opposition to ISIS. Britain has an estimated 500 members of its own population who are fighting for ISIS, which also includes two 16-year-old girls from Manchester.
"These people are ostensibly war criminals. Where the West has failed is their silence and lack of action to prevent these people from leaving the UK and arrest these war criminals upon re-entry. Britain doesn’t know how to seriously cope and respond to 500 British people being in the Middle East currently carrying out war crimes."
With Friends Like These, ISIS Is Doomed
By Jacob Siegel
The Islamic State is no longer a juggernaut; it’s a motley alliance of factions just waiting to betray each other.
BAGHDAD, Iraq — At the mention of Caliph Ibrahim, leader of the self-declared Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, Abu Mustafa points at his chest and nods. “Ibrahim my friend,” he says.
Abu Mustafa says proudly that Mosul, the second-largest city in Iraq, has been peaceful since its conquest by the fighters of what used to be known as ISIS. He tells me his own ties to them go back to the days after the United States invasion of Iraq in 2003, when he fought against the Americans alongside ISIS’s progenitor, Al Qaeda in Iraq. He says the Americans arrested him eight times; an Internet search of his real name turns up one prison record.
“Life in Mosul is very normal,” says Abu Mustafa. Christians there are treated well, prices are low and people are safe and happy, he says, a description completely at odds with news reports and firsthand accounts describing a reign of terror against anyone in the city who hasn’t sworn loyalty to the caliph.
He seems to believe what he’s saying and performs the group’s public relations not just to blow smoke into the journalist’s eyes, but because he honestly hopes to see the caliph succeed in conquering Baghdad. And then, after the victory, he expects to see the caliphate destroyed.
“All we are doing now is just liberation,” Abu Mustafa says. “After the liberation of Baghdad the Islamic state will be finished. The Sunni rebels are only using them against the corruption of the government.”
This is a view more common than one might expect among the Sunni Iraqis who have taken up arms against the government of Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki, although it rarely is voiced so brazenly from inside the capital. They look at ISIS not as a religious prophecy come true or an end unto itself but as a weapon that will be used up after it is has done their work.
“They stay together only to fight the enemy,” and that is Maliki, says Najim al Kasab, an Iraqi political analyst with contacts among the Sunni insurgent groups. “The main force keeping them together is Maliki himself. If Maliki is replaced, the Sunni armed groups will turn on ISIS,” Kasab says.
This may well be wishful thinking. Maliki’s greatest political skill has been his ability to hang on to power. And even if he goes, it is far from certain the Sunni groups will have the wherewithal to defeat the caliph and his fanatics, many of whom are veteran foreign fighters. But such talk does underscore the political grievances—and the cynicism—within the alliance that follows, for the moment, the black flag of ISIS.
When Caliph Ibrahim proclaims from his Islamic State in Mosul that Rome and Spain are next to be conquered, his words may inspire young jihadists watching the speech on YouTube, but many of his allies in Iraq are focused on matters much closer to home.
In the Sunni coalition that includes tribal leaders, former Baathists, and other Islamists, the Iraqi nationalists may outnumber the believers in global jihad, at least for the moment.
Al Kasab estimates that ISIS has about 6,000 hard-line followers including many foreign jihadists, while the other coalition members total about 8,000 core fighters who are all Iraqi. Yet ISIS has become the public face because its fighters have carried the momentum of battle and propaganda. And that momentum is likely helping ISIS grow at a faster rate than its partners.
There’s also the matter of money.
“They have the oil,” say Iraqi journalist Ziad al Ajili. ISIS has seized oil fields in Syria and northern Iraq. “They can pay the fighters and they have the best weapons and vehicles.”
There’s a predictable aspect to shifting loyalties among insurgent groups, Ajili says. “The more money ISIS has, the more Baya [an Islamic oath of loyalty] they will get.”
To these ISIS allies the group is the battering ram that will break down the walls of Shia control around Baghdad and restore Sunnis to power in Iraq. That the battering ram has plans of its own and grows stronger in the process doesn’t seem to bother Abu Mustafa and others like him.
“The Caliph is just playing a role for his time,” says Abu Mustafa, “then we will be done with him.”
Leaders of the Sunni rebellion have expressed a similar view. Ali Hatim Al-Suleiman, emir of the 3 million-member Dulaim tribe, once an ally of American forces and leader of the “awakening” movement that turned against al Qaeda in Iraq, recently told an an interviewer: “When we get rid of the government, we will be in charge of the security file in the regions, and then our objective will be to expel terrorism—the terrorism of the government and that of ISIS.”
The forces in this war are a patchwork on both sides. On one is the Iraqi state’s assembled army, which includes Shia militias, some with a history of hostility toward the government, that are now fighting alongside the conventional military.
Against them there are those, like Suleiman, who advocate Iraq’s partition, Baathists seeking renewed Sunni power in a unified state, and countless other Sunni factions—to much of the world they are known only by the headline-grabbing jihadist rubrics of ISIS, the Islamic State, or the Caliphate. But the fiction of a monolithic force is maintained because it serves everybody’s interests.
Keeping ISIS out front allows the tribes to continue negotiating with the government and pushing for Maliki’s ouster, while exploiting the terror for political leverage. It allows Maliki to obscure his own corruption and the role his sectarian policies played in fomenting the crisis. Ignoring the legitimate claims of Iraq’s Sunnis, whom he has persecuted and marginalized, Maliki can pretend that ISIS is the only enemy, a rabid, death-seeking terrorist mass. Even the Kurds, who have engaged in some of the war’s fiercest fighting with ISIS, are accused by Maliki of sheltering the group.
Of course, ISIS loves the propaganda that makes it seem like the scariest group in the world. And ISIS really is as brutal as it claims to be, though not yet half as strong. Its fighters had impressive military victories in their first rush of advances, but now, even as they talk about conquering Rome, they’re struggling to take Tikrit.
There is a paradox to ISIS’s power. The caliphate has grown to rival al Qaeda for prestige in the global jihad movement but it becomes clearer with every day that, within Iraq, the Islamic State doesn’t extend very far outside of Mosul.
As an attacking force, ISIS might be the most powerful army in Iraq, able to ambush the army in lightning assaults that have either scattered or slaughtered government or militia soldiers. But the skills and composition that have led to ISIS successes on the battlefield haven’t set them up to rule in any more than a handful of cities. They are too small to impose their authority over extended territory. For that they rely on their allies, using them until the day they are no longer needed, just as they, in turn, are being used.
ISIS’s victories and social media theatrics have won it a flock of Internet supporters and death-seeking recruits, but most of its potential followers in Iraq aren’t looking online to choose a cause, they take orders from tribal leaders or other local authorities.
That’s one reason why ISIS has not managed to exert the as much control in Anbar province as it has in Mosul, even though it has been fighting longer in Anbar. The older tribal power networks are weaker in a big city like Mosul. When a U.S. soldier in 2007 asked an Iraqi sheik why the awakening had not spread to Mosul after taking root in Anbar, he was told: “Because the tribes are not strong there.”
Outside of Mosul, ISIS has depended on its Sunni allies, like the Baathist Naqshabandi Army, to control and administer areas where it has routed the army. They all know that eventually their success will turn them into enemies. The hybrid alliance is something of a Frankenstein monster where every arm imagines itself the brain.
The situation seems doomed to greater carnage and collapse, but many said the same during Iraq’s last civil war before the awakening movement bought the country a period of relative peace. The Iraqi government’s current position bears some similarities to where the U.S. found itself when the war reached its height of violence in 2006 and 2007. In both cases, the best chance for halting the escalation is to co-opt members of the insurgency to fight against the movement’s irreconcilable actors. It took the U.S. years to figure that out and Maliki so far seems not to have tried.
Many Iraqis say Maliki will never negotiate and that the war can only end when he’s replaced. Iraq’s fractures grow deeper in the meantime while more people are killed and displaced.
Kasab, the analyst, says of the Sunni insurgents, “They want to stop the corruption and the oppression of the Sunnis but they want a democratic Iraq.”
“All of what we are doing now is to take Baghdad,” says Abu Mustafa. “We don’t care about Mosul. It was only the first bite.” The endurance of Abu Mustafa’s coalition is still being tested. It probably won’t be able to take Baghdad. But it may last long enough to see a new government there that is willing to negotiate.
Is Iraq’s Kurdish Region Outside Of ISIS Calculus?
By Dina Al-Shibeeb
July 25, 2014
Iraqi Kurds have remained unscathed so far from any major assault by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria not only because of their defensive force represented in the Peshmerga but also because of ISIS’ priority of toppling the government of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki, according to analysts.
Initially, some observers believed that the lack of an overt confrontation between ISIS and Kurds in Iraq was due to some understanding between the two sides. In addition, Maliki accused the Kurdistan Regional Government of supporting the ISIS. “The loose alliance of insurgents is united by only one common objective: a desire to take Baghdad and topple Maliki’s regime, which they consider to be an Iranian proxy,” Ali Khedery, who was the longest continuously serving American official in Iraq from 2003 to 2009, told Al Arabiya News.
“They haven’t attacked Kurdistan because they don’t want to open a second front while they battle,” Khedery, who is now chairman and chief executive of the Dubai-based Dragoman Partners, added.
“I believe Maliki accused the Kurds of helping ISIS because he considers the entire Sunni Arab insurgency to be composed of ISIS. In reality, the forces fighting Maliki’s government are 5 to 10 percent ISIS, 20 percent Baathist elements, and 70-75 percent Sunni Arab tribal elements.”
Iraq’s late leader Saddam Hussein ruled the country under the socialist Baath Party from 1979 until he was toppled during the US invasion of 2003.
“Since some of the Baathist and tribal leaders like Sheikh Ali Hatem and Ahmed Dabbash now have a base in Arbil [KRG’s capital], Maliki believes there is a master conspiracy against him,” Khedery said.
Michael P. Pregent, a former US Army officer who was an embedded advisor with Peshmerga forces in the cities of Mosul and Dahuk, described Maliki’s accusation as “false,” saying that the incumbent prime minister “is upset that the Kurds that they didn’t fight ISIS in Mosul,” which is still held by the militants since a lightning offensive by the radical group in June.
Pregent told Al Arabiya News that “the main reason ISIS isn’t fighting the Kurds in Iraq is because in Iraq the Kurds have a national border that they protect and man with checkpoints with well-armed Peshmerga [tanks, artillery, heavy crew served weapons].”
Unlike the rest of Iraq and Syria, where the security situations are characterized by increasing deterioration, the Kurds have excelled at maintaining security to high levels. “[The Kurds in Iraq] know who comes in and who comes out [of their territory],” Pregent, who is now an adjunct lecturer at the National Defense University, College of International Security Affairs in Washington, said.
“They have a very experienced and disciplined Peshmerga militia that will protect Kurdish areas and interests,” he added, highlighting how “Sunnis, Christians, and even Shiites go to Kurdistan to escape violence in Iraq because they know the Kurdish areas are well protected.”
Like Khedery, who pointed to ISIS’s political agenda to topple Maliki’s administration, Pregent believes that the premier’s disenfranchisement of the Sunnis led to a fertile ground for ISIS to operate in.
“ISIS’ success depends on an oppressive Shiite government that marginalizes Sunnis in both Syria and Iraq — ISIS will not gain supporters in Kurdish areas because the Kurds are already protecting their areas from Maliki’s oppressive government,” the former army officer said.
Alliance with Arab tribes
Kirkuk-based strategic analyst Abdulrahman Al-Sheikh described how Sunni Arab tribes in Kirkuk are paramount in fending off the ISIS threat from creeping into Kirkuk as they enjoy the respect of both the Peshmerga and the Islamists.
“There are strong ties between Kurds and the Sunni Arab tribes in Kirkuk, so the fears are less in comparison [to the ISIS-held] Tikrit,” Sheikh said.
Iraq state forces, facing heavy opposition, withdrew from the northern city of Tikrit this week after a renewed effort to take back Saddam’s hometown.
In spite of KRG’s strengths, there were clashes between ISIS and Peshmerga forces 20 km south of Kirkuk.
“This was an attempt to provoke the Peshmerga,” said Sheikh, “but respected Arab tribes intervened to end the skirmish.”
While Pregent expects that there will be fighting “in areas not traditionally under Kurdish control,” he said “so far we haven’t seen any incursions into recognized Kurdish areas.”
ISIS Leader Threatens Obama: 'We're Coming For You'
By Andrea Billups
24 July, 2014
The radical Islamist group terrorizing Iraq and ousting Christians there has threatened President Barack Obama, U.S. sources revealed.
"We're coming for you, Barack Obama," the group threatened, according to Elissa Slotkin, acting principal deputy undersecretary of defence for policy, in a story published by The Hill.
The group's insurgence inside the country has drawn the attention of U.S. officials who have called it "worse than al-Qaida."
"It is al-Qaida in its doctrine, ambition and, increasingly, in its threat to U.S. interests," Brett McGurk, a deputy assistant secretary of state, said in testimony during a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing Wednesday.
McGurk was blunt in outlining the group's intent, calling it "no longer a terrorist organization. It is a full-blown army," the Hill reported.
Former Homeland Security head Tom Ridge also signalled the strength of the group and its capacity to create terror, adding that ISIS's threats had been on the intelligence community's radar for a long time with the ability to enter the United States unnoticed.
"They’ve got a lot of fighters who are from European countries that are visa waiver countries, which means all they have to do is shave their beards and look like normal, responsible civilians and walk into the United States of America without a visa," Ridge said. "It’s a real challenge for our intelligence community to identify them and get their names on a watch list."
Known as ISIL or ISIS, short for the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, the group has powered throughout Iraq in recent weeks, commandeering the police force and entering homes where residents have gone missing at the hands of marauding posses. Whole towns are under siege by ISIS forces, and the group has suggested it will overtake Baghdad, a threat that led Obama to deploy about 750 troops to the war-torn nation, The Washington Times reported.
Christians are under particular assault by the Sunni terrorists, being told to convert or die, Al Jazeera reported. They have also been pressured to pay a tax, and those who have fled have been robbed at checkpoints by insurgents.
"There is not a single Christian family left in Mosul," Bashar Nasih Behnam, 52, told The Guardian.