July 18, 2014

Isn't It Time to Unite?

Part 1.

Look who's here!

Middle East continues to present surprises, whose consequences and unpredictability are terrible. A new tough and uncompromising player has come, able to radically reshape the geopolitical map of the region. ISIL is here!

Radical terrorist group «Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant», having received an additional financial injection from the Saudis and Qataris, has dramatically increased its strength and invaded Iraq. It took ISIL's militants very little time to make the numerically superior government army run.

What kind of organization is ISIL? What are its aims and objectives? Who is behind it and who finances it?

The grouping «Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant» (ISIL), also known as the «Islamic State of Iraq and Sham» (ISIS) is the umbrella organization of the Middle Eastern rebel groups of the Islamic (Sunni) wing, built on the territory of Iraq in 2006 and originally called the «Council of Mujahideen». In its creation was actively involved one of the leaders of «Al Qaeda», the widely known terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. Within a short period of time the «Council of the Mujahideen» was joined by other Islamic groups such as «Jaish al-Taifa al-Mansur» («The Army of a Victorious Community»), «Jaish Ahlus-Sunnah wa al-Jama'ah» («The Army of the people of Sunnah and Community»), «Jaish al-Fatihin» («The Army of Conquerors») and «Jund al-Sahaba» («The Army of the Companions»), and then on the 15th of October, 2006 was announced establishment of the group «Islamic State of Iraq» («ISI»). Later it was joined by small Islamist groups such as «Ansar al-Tawhid», «Al-Gurabo», «Islamic Jihad», «al-Asaib Ahval», «Jamaat al-Murabitin», «Ansar al-Tawhid al Sunna», «al-Tawhid Fursan», «Jund al-Millat Ibrahim». The first leader of the «Islamic State of Iraq» was Abu Omar al-Baghdadi.

The true heyday of the IS came in the war in Syria, where this group rapidly evolved into one of the most important and toughest players, surpassing the Western-backed «Free Syrian Army», let alone other rebel forces. Today ISIL is a «halfreal quazistate» with Sharia form of government. It partially controls the territory of the «Sunni Triangle». The nearest enemy of the organization has been announced Shiite Muslims («Raafidis»).

Since April 9, 2013 the organization has become known as the «Islamic State of Iraq and Syria» (according to another version, «... and the Levant», «wa Sham») because militants of «ISIL» got involved in the civil war in Syria as an independent force. Subsequently, this fact caused problems between the «ISI» and «Al Qaeda» (Ayman al-Zawahiri), whose members called on «ISI» to return to Iraq. As a result, the «legitimate representative» of the «Al Qaeda» was declared «Jabhat al-Nusra».

In March 2010, allegedly as a result of air strikes, were eliminated two leaders of ISI — Abu Omar al-Baghdadi and successor of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, Egyptian Abu Ayyub al-Masri. The new leader became the Moroccan An-Nasser Lidinilla Abu Suleiman. After Abu Omar's death, statements about the actions of the organization have been made on behalf of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

At the end of 2013 ISIL established control over the Syrian city of Raqqa — the unofficial capital of the ISIL in Syria. The city was quickly landscaped, Sharia courts were established, and the city management is based on the Islamic law. ISIL’s militants began the genocide of Christians.

Since the beginning of 2014 ISIL has begun a large-scale offensive in Iraq:

- January 4, 2014 ISIL’s fighters took control of the city of Fallujah;

- At the beginning of February 2014 the High Commandment of «Al-Qaeda» reported that it refused to support the «Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant». «ISIL is not a branch of Al-Qaeda movement. We do not maintain any relations with it and cannot be responsible for its actions,» — read the statement. Fighting between ISIL and other opposition groups became one of the factors of the beginning of the civil war in Syria. Fighting began between ISIL and the official department of «Al-Qaeda» in Syria — «Al-Nusra Front», which resulted in about 2,000 people having been killed since the beginning of 2014.

- June 10, 2014 — On the fifth day of street fighting in Mosul (Nineveh Governorate) militants of ISIL put to flight the Iraqi Armed Forces. The Army was followed by officials and Shiite population of the 2 million city. According to the «BBC», over one night a quarter of the population left the city.

Two Christian cathedrals — St. Ephrem the Syrian (belonged to the Syrian Jacobite Church), and the Cathedral of the Chaldean Catholic Church were destroyed. Islamists desecrated and robbed the altar of the temple by setting on their domes black banners of the ISIL instead of crosses. ISI's militants destroyed a mosque on the site of Prophet Jonah’s grave.

ISI's militants executed 12 sheikhs — theologians who had refused to take the oath, through shooting them before the city mosque Al-Isra.

- By 11 June ISIL’s militants had captured Tikrit and came close to Baghdad;

- June 15 militants captured Tall Afar;

- June 17 Baaquba was captured. The leaders of ISIL decide to rename the group into the «Islamic State», and proceed to printing their own passports;

- June 29 the IS (Islamic State) announced the creation of the Islamic caliphate in the northern and western provinces of Iraq and in the eastern parts of Syria (Aleppo province). Abu Bakr Sheikh al-Baghdadi became the caliph.

Note: Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi (also known as Ibrahim Awad Ibrahim al-Badri, Abdullah Ibrahim Awad al-Samran), 43 years old, was born in the Iraqi city of Samarra, graduated from the Theological Faculty of the University of Baghdad and even defended his doctoral dissertation in Islamic (Sharia Law). He has a reputation of a good preacher, and an expert of religion. Here it is appropriate to give a small explanation of the name of the Caliph. In Islam are honored the first four caliphs (deputies of the Prophet), bearing the nickname «righteous» Abu Bakr, Omar, Othman and Ali. It is likely that the new Caliph took the name of the first righteous deputy of Prophet Abu Bakr.

According to his friends and acquaintances, he was a polite and pretty calm guy, who studied Islam, a bespectacled man, to whom few people paid attention. Where he did shine — it's on the football field when he was playing for the team of the local mosque. «He was the Messiah of our team, our best player,» — one of those who used to know the future «Caliph», told the British edition of The Daily Telegraph.

As say those who used to know al-Baghdadi at that time, he initially showed no hostility toward Americans. But in 2004 he had to leave the house where he lived, and, apparently, that was when he joined the anti-American opposition. In the period from 2005 to 2009 he was in the «Camp Buka» prison controlled by the Americans: he was imprisoned for his religious extremism. That's where his radical views significantly strengthened, and in 2009, when the prison came under the jurisdiction of Iraq, he and other prisoners were released. Warden, Colonel Kenneth King recalls that as goodbye al-Baghdadi confidently dropped, «See you in New York, guys». At first, he led some small armed groups, then was promoted to the Council of the «Islamic State of Iraq», and after the death of its leader in 2010, took his place. Al-Baghdadi's supporters call him «Caliph Ibrahim» — it is the reference either to his real name, or to the name of the biblical prophet Abraham, the forefather of Arabs and Jews, also revered by Muslims. Now in the USA there is a reward of 10 million US dollars for living or dead al-Baghdadi.

- July 9 in the Muthanna Governorate militants seized a warehouse with chemical weapons, where about 2500 chemical rocket engines, as well as chemical warfare agents had been kept.

The Islamic State today claims to power in 8 out of the 18 Iraqi Governorates (provinces) with a predominantly Sunni population: Anbar, Diyala, Kirkuk, Salah al-Din, Ninewa, Baghdad, Babil and Wasit. Militants continue their advance on Baghdad. Most of Iraq has already been conquered. A considerable part of the group is represented by former servicemen from Saddam Hussein's army.

It is noteworthy that since the beginning of its existence, the group has created a powerful propaganda structure. As media department of IS positions itself the news agency «Al-Furqan» («Distinction»), which is being developed and improved up to now. The released in May 2014 film «Ringing of swords» («Salil as-Sawarim») Agency CNN compares in quality with products of American filmmakers.

Implanted by IS' radical Islamists interpretation of Islam and unjustified cruelty to those who disagree, have alienated from them most of their recent allies.

Muslim scholars around the world refuse to recognize the Caliphate, the proclamation of which was announced by members of the group, claiming that Muslims are not obliged to express loyalty to the so-called Caliph Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. For example, a revered Moroccan theologian named Omar Haddushi called the leader of the Islamic State an apostate. In turn, the Egyptian preacher Hani al-Sibai published through «Twitter» a warning addressed to IS’ militants that «God is only with faithful Muslims.»

A spiritual leader of the «Muslim Brotherhood» Islamist Yusuf al-Qaradawi has bluntly stated that although with his like-minded he does dream of restoring the caliphate, but the proclamation of it as the «Islamic state» in Iraq and Syria will provoke dangerous consequences in relation to both, the Iraqi Sunnis and Syrian rebels. Because the title of Caliph can only be given by the entire Muslim Ummah and not by a separate grouping.

The tactics of the group is not limited to a conventional guerrilla war against the invaders. Militants make bloody terroristic acts using suicide bombers and car bombs. They kidnap people — Iraqis and foreigners alike. Typically, videos and photos of cruel executions of hostages and all dissenters are put on the Internet.

The IS' ideologues declare principles of brotherhood and unity of Muslims, but at this, their rhetoric contains sectarian intolerance not only to the traditional enemies of the Islamists, but also to other Islamic groups acting under Islamic banners. IS' militants fight even with their closest seemingly ideological brothers — «Jabhat al-Nusra» and «Al Qaeda».

Based on available data, foreign jihadists are the backbone of militants of the Islamic State (80%), fighting in Syria, especially in the leadership of the group. Among them there are people from the North Caucasus — some of them fighting under the leadership of Umar Al-Shishani (Chechen Umar). In November 2013 jihadist websites reported that the led by Umar Al-Shishani group took the oath to the IS' leader al-Baghdadi.

Analysts believe that creation of the caliphate is the realization of Osama bin Laden's ideas of the «return to basics, to the very first caliphate». Islamists do not recognize borders between states that emerged (such as Iraq and Syria) at the behest of European states after the collapse of the Ottoman Empire. Thus, the creation of a medieval caliphate from the Mediterranean Sea to the Persian Gulf is dished up as the restoration of historical justice. Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi has been proclaimed «Caliph of the Islamic State», and «the legitimacy of all the emirates, groups, states and organizations» has been declared invalid with extension of Caliph's power and arrival of his troops in these areas,» reads the statement of the Islamic State. Moreover, a representative of the IS Abu Mohammed al-Adnani has stated that the «Islamic state» takes the claim to act as leader of all Muslims in the world, as al-Baghdadi is announced by his supporters the «leader of Muslims everywhere».

It seems that the announced by the IS war against the whole world has activated a «secret spring mechanism of uniting». According to rumors, inside B. Obama's administration has begun arguing about whether the United States should continue to support the idea of overthrowing Assad or should they enter into an alliance with Damascus for fighting the common enemy? Because now, Washington, Baghdad, Damascus and Tehran «all of a sudden» have a common powerful and ruthless enemy.

Not jokingly worried is Saudi Arabia, who has sent to the Iraqi border 30,000 of its soldiers. The Wahhabi monarchy, despite the fact that it is suspected by many (including representatives of Shiite Iran) of supporting Sunni militants fighting, in particular, against the Syrian President Assad, is itself a target of criticism from extreme jihadists, including from the «Al-Qaeda». Despite all that, Riyadh has denied supporting Sunni insurgents in Iraq.

According to the site of the Lebanese newspaper «Daily Star», recently Iranian President Hassan Rohani has said that he will take necessary measures to ensure protection of the Shiite shrines from Sunni militants in Iraq: «We warn the world powers and their lackeys, as well as terrorists: the great Iranian people will do everything to protect Karbala, An-Najaf, Al-Kazimiyi and Samarra». The President referred to numerous online petitions signed by Iranians expressing a desire to go to Iraq to fight terrorists. However, according to H.Rouhani, in Iraq there are enough volunteers from among the Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds who want to fight militants. He also promised to help the government of Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, if such a request comes from Baghdad.

Meanwhile, in the Iraqi government there is still no agreement in the face of new threats. Politicians accuse each other of conspiracy and treason.

It is difficult to predict how the situation will develop further. The arrival of militants of the Caliphate has changed this country forever. Even without it the country is on the verge of a split. How will Kurdistan act? Will it fight for its independence and statehood? After all, Mosul is already lost, the enemy is on the doorstep of Kirkuk. And these are, albeit controversial, but oil-rich territories.

Will Iran start a war against the Caliphate, protecting its Shiite shrines in Najaf and Karbala?

Will Washington agree to the loss of Iraq, where so much effort and resources have been invested to ensure stability and order?

And how about Tel Aviv? How will it behave when hordes of al-Baghdadi's militants will stand on its borders?

How is Turkey going to coexist with the Caliphate?

Will Islamist groups unite in the face of threats to their existence, or will they join the ranks of the IS, having lost their independence? Questions are numerous. And the answers?..

To be continued