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Islamic State: Between the Lines

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ISIS, ISIL or "Islamic State", naming the group is as complex as has been its evolution and full scale emergence on the international scene. But to put it fair and square, IS under Al Baghdadi has succeeded in capturing the limelight for all the wrong reasons in a very short time. It is worth mentioning that there were lesser evils competing for the slot, with IS outperforming all with a well calculated and laid out game plan. In today's globalized network, top broadcast companies in Washington and London have been cautiously handed the job of controlling public opinion and shaping its mindset. So when stories turn into episodes and media screens bombard the same old tricks in new costumes, rest assured something big is on the way. For at least three years, Bashar's Syria was on the hit list, with East and West flexing their muscles for and against the motion. Not long ago Boko Haram staged an entry, leading all roads to Nigeria and the threat they pose to the region. But the IS buildup to the magnitude we witness today was different, the group was on the radar for a few months, but a cautious tho ignorant eye was cast on its movements and accomplishments.

2014_09_050001 - writers and friends join US airstrikes
2014_09_050001 - writers and friends join US airstrikes
(Image by Gwydion M. Williams)
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Hype, Evolution and Regionalism: ISIS

Abu Bakar Al Baghdadi, in his early 40's is all set to make his name part of a long list of fundamentalists who emerged from the ashes, delivers (one wonders what?) and then disappear as swiftly as they emerged. My assessment is based on the way groups like these have operated in Iraq, Syria, Somalia and on both sides of the Durand line (Syria). His predecessor, Abu Hamza, was no less mysterious than Abu Bakar. Twice he was on the national level in Iraq, announced dead, only to resurface in weeks. In 2010 this scenario was repeated after a joint coalition operation, paving the way for Abu Bakar to head IS (then Islamic State of Iraq). He had a Ph.d prior to leading one of the most brutal groups in the world. Not much is known of him apart from his capture and later release (yes, release from detention). We have accounts of him telling his captives "I will see you in America" and of course, US investigators at Camp Bucca took it as a compliment for their hospitality towards Al Baghdadi during his captivity. Al Baghdadi isn't the first, in the past top leaders fighting on both sides of the Afghan border have gone through similar exercises prior to their emergence as battle hardened warriors.

The Syrian campaign with Assad and the West was too overwhelming for ISIS to reveal its presence immediately. Obama and his allies were pushing hard to play their part in Assad's ouster, but fell short due to a diplomatic standoff with Russia. The rebels in Syria fighting for Assad's eviction were getting full support from their backers and their successes were increasing with every passing day. However, the absence of a central authority and growing brutality by rebels made the allied case weak among the masses. With more reporrs of there atrocities, the allies had to cease their plan of legal/diplomatic support of Syrian rebels, in other words of IS.

ISIS/ISIL started making waves with professional standard HD propaganda videos emerging at an alarming rate (even Bin laden didn't use such means like HD videos to glorify evil). This was followed by young fighters from the West (US, UK, Denmark, Germany, France etc) converging to Syria to join ISIS. Claims regarding ISIS strength have varied, some placing it at mere hundreds while other have termed it a conventional army. Al Baghdadi's fortunes multiplied instantly with the group moving into Iraq from where it started (Al Qaeda in Iraq). The defection of the well trained Iraqi National Army has been shoved under the carpet. The Mosul bank showered millions of dollars on ISIS and its fighters like a bounty for turning the Syrian episode into a regional conflict (Hezbollah's rescue of Assad had already made the Syrian war regional). Abandoned military camps provided state of the art US war merchandise to ISIS, which Obama couldn't justify in the 1st phase of his Syrian campaign, with Humvees just the tip of the iceberg. Suddenly it emerges that the man charged with Iraq's revival, the selected, not elected Mr. Al Maliki was to be blamed for Iraqi provinces falling like cold war dominos. This was followed by pointing to the oppression the Sunni segment of Iraqi society has been facing for years, to justify the unexplained yet magical advance of ISIS to the doors of Baghdad. In no time, starting from Syria, Iraq has ended up being divided into three zones, Shi'ite, Sunni and Kurdish respectively. With respect to ISIS/ IS, they have adopted a game plan which is not even practiced by conventional armies, let alone guerrilla warfare. They have marched in broad daylight not in jungles or mountain passes (Taliban) but vast stretches of desert and empty land. Taking out an enemy under these circumstances would be a trophy to a toddler, let alone the so called coalition seen today converging against it.

While US had aligned the Gulf allies against the Assad regime (Alawites), the tables have been turned, Iran and Iraq are now front lines against the Islamic State (referred to as Sunni by the Western Media to keep the sectarian division intact). Similarly, Islamic State has also brought the Gulf consortium against Assad to unite against IS as well. While it is being said that Ukraine and Syria have dragged the world back into the a Cold War, this regional great game to win over allies is unprecedented. However, the nationalities IS/ ISIS has attratced and their numbers until now are the most alarming element in this episode. The way allies route IS will shape their next strategy. This is not Afghanistan, where a Soviet withdrawal led to their peaceful return into the societies from whence they came. Countering them will be a collective threat the countries mentioned above will have to face for a long time to come. However on the other hand, it is believed that the foreign nationals moving into Syria have paved the way for the discovery of sleeper cells operating in the West, and used to make inroads into Syria and ISIS at the start of this conflict. So in other words, like other issues this has been c arefully planned and is under controlled execution.

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Holds a Masters Degree in International Relations. Been engaged with Development Sector from the past 5 years. Field of expertise and interest remain international political dimensions, current affairs, Pakistan affairs etc

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