Tuesday, 17 June 2014

ISIS – A new monster is born

A piece I wrote for BBC-Vietnamese, highlighting the unique profile of ISIS.

Not everybody knows that ISI (Islamic State of Iraq) joined the Al-Qaeda’s affiliate in Syria and became ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Sham [greater Syria]) without prior approval from Al-Qaeda’s leader Al-Zawahiri. After the “merger”, Al-Zawahiri annulled it and requested that this branch focused on Iraq and left Syria for other branch. This was ignored, and ISIS assassinated the chief mediator between the two groups. February in this year, Al-Qaeda publically disbanded ISIS. Behind the reason that ISIS is too brutal, too radical for even Al-Qaeda, is the humiliation that Al-Qaeda’s authority was snubbed by one of the minions, and the territory conflict among the branches.

However, what came as a surprise for Al-Qaeda was that 65% of its jihadists went with ISIS. Al-Qaeda has lost in its leading role in the global jihad.
Almost all mainstream coverage of these events has wrongly referred to ISIS as "Al-Qaeda-linked" and "Al-Qaeda-affiliated". These are misleading and dangerous, because ISIS has moved several steps beyond our assumption. This is a new kind of terrorist that is much more dangerous than Al-Qaeda, not only because of its infamous brutality (ISIS or death) and anti-Shia doctrine but also because of its vision and leadership.

ISIS has a surprisingly sophisticated bureaucracy with courts, schools, police force, charity network and religious service. Once a city is captured, ISIS immediately got it back to stability; everyone was given some free gas to cook. It tries to win the trust of those who don’t run away. It builds markets, roads, soup kitchens, distributing electricity and gas, allocating orphanage to families, organizing fun fair for children… Some Sunni may disagree with ISIS's Salafi extreme Sunni doctrine, but it does guarantee some stability in the war zone.
Unlike other groups that are usually non-state actors, ISIS has carved itself a quasi-state of jihadist. This territory has under its belly big fat oil fields, and the pocket of ISIS is swollen with $2 billion. Remember when Al-Qaeda attacked the Twin Tower, they had roughly $30 million and we thought they were rich. When the Iraq army was defeated, it also left behind for ISIS ultra modern weapons that US sponsored.

Now that ISIS is rising, many eyes are looking at the Kurds in Iraq, who are famous for their bravery and often known as “peshmerga”, meaning “those who face the death”. They rule over their autonomous Kurdistan and will fight till death to protect their stability. To involve the Kurds, Iraqi government can negotiate and make compromise over the oil rich city of Kirkuk that has long been in dispute.

However, the biggest twist of alliance goes to a potential cooperation between the US and Iran. They now have a common enemy to shake hand with each other. The idea may sound awkward, but this will not be the first time they cooperate. When the US attacked Afghanistan in 2002, Iran gave away all information about Taliban, hoping to use the hand of America to ward off a Sunni-enemy.

A new monster is born and it is important we do not underestimate it.

1 comment:

  1. 25-6 Thủ tướng Iraq nói không lập chính phủ đoàn kết. Như vậy là người Shia chấp nhận cuộc chiến "một mất một còn" rồi phải không bạn Phương Mai ?


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