Bin Laden's Dream is Coming True in Iraq and Syria

Osama bin Laden is probably laughing at us from wherever in hell he resides. He may well have missed out on the 72 virgins, but his holy war continues to be waged, and recently it seems that the guys who according to president Obama are 'decimated and on the run' have conquered a rather sizable slice of Iraq.

The group that used to call itself 'AQI' ('Al Qaeda in Iraq') did not exist prior to the US invasion of Iraq in 2003. There probably wasn't a single jihadist anywhere near Iraq, as Saddam Hussein was well-known for his disdain of Islamist extremists (Saddam was a secular tin-pot dictator who gave lip-service to Pan-Arabism and practiced a kind of Arab goulash communism).

'AQI' has in the meantime renamed itself ISIS, i.e., the “Islamic State of Iraq and Syria” so as to better reflect its ambitions. What is truly funny is that these guys are toting US weaponry, including Humvees. Partly they have probably even been funded by the US effort to support assorted rebels in their fight against Assad in Syria and partly they are taking weapons off the official Iraqi army, which is fleeing in droves whenever ISIS is showing up somewhere.

The group now controls large swathes of territory in both Syria and Iraq, and its goal is evidently to erect the very Islamic Caliphate Osama was regularly going on about in his interminable exhortations to the faithful. 

And they are definitely not just a rag-tag militia that doesn't know what it's doing. They even have bulldozers at work flattening the berm that marks the border between Iraq and Syria, so as to make transportation in the area they obviously now regard as their new state easier. Not only that – they just conquered Mosul, Iraq's second largest city, and on that occasion managed to plunder their way into their very own central bank. This is to say, the raided  Iraq's central bank branch in Mosul and got their mitts on the equivalent of $430 million.

According to one observer this makes them “the world's richest terror force”. One reader commented that this mantle already belongs to the US government, but be that as it may, one must assume that $430 million are quite a shot in the arm for the jihadists.

For a 'decimated and defeated organization on the run' (see video below) these guys are doing exceedingly well for themselves. You really couldn't make this up.

 

'Al Qaeda is on the run' – president Obama in October 2012. Between mid August and November 2012, he variously claimed Al Qaeda to be 'decimated', 'on the path to defeat', 'nearly defeated', 'on the run' or some such variation a total of 32 times. Feel free to extrapolate from that.

 

The effectiveness of Iraq's army meanwhile is indicated in the excerpts from  press reports on the situation below. What isn't mentioned in these reports is that the reason why the Peshmerga (Kurdish militants) were able to seize Kirkuk so easily and quickly was that the Iraqi army fled the city, fearing ISIS would attack it next. Meanwhile, prime minister Maliki's government couldn't even get a quorum together in parliament to declare a state of emergency:

 

“More than 90,000 Iraqi soldiers deserted rather than confront the militants, according to the official close to Maliki’s office who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to talk to the news media.”

[…]

Even as the security forces attempted to regroup elsewhere, the government lost control of more territory in the northeast of the country, to Kurdish forces who took advantage of the chaos to assert control, unopposed, of the city of Kirkuk.

The government of the semiautonomous region of Kurdistan has long coveted Kirkuk, which sits atop a large if depleted reservoir of oil, as the capital of an independent Kurdish state. Successive Baghdad governments have pushed back against those aspirations, and the seizure of Kirkuk further exposed the helplessness of the central authorities.

Meanwhile in Mosul, one of Iraq’s most important cities, ISIS set about asserting its control, issuing an 11-point charter spelling out the creation of an Islamic state along with new laws, punishments and incentives. Alcohol, cigarettes and drugs are outlawed, citizens will henceforth be required to pray five times a day, thieves will have their hands amputated and women must stay indoors except in cases of emergency, the charter said.

“To those of you who ask, who are you? The answer: We are the soldiers of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria . . . who took it upon ourselves to bring back the glory of the Islamic Caliphate and turn back injustice and indignity,” the charter announced.

[…]

ISIS issued its own pledge to avenge past grievances, vowing to march on Baghdad “to settle scores” and also the holy Shiite cities of Najaf and Karbala further south. In an audio address posted on the Internet, ISIS spokesman Abu Mohammed al-Adnani taunted Maliki. “What have you done to your people, oh foolish one?” he said. “You lost a historic opportunity for your people to control Iraq, and the Shiites will always curse you for as long as you live.”

In yet another indication of Maliki’s growing powerlessness, parliamentarians failed to show up in sufficient numbers to secure a quorum for his request for the passage of a law declaring a state of emergency.”

 

(emphasis added)

It is worth noting that people apparently celebrated in Mosul, welcoming the ISIS takeover (those that didn't flee that is). In another indication how extremely well organized this group is, it has immediately restored electricity and is running city services – something the previous administration of Mosul was apparently not capable of. It should be noted to this that the ethnic cleansing campaigns that occurred in Iraq during the US occupation have made things a lot easier for  Sunni radicals: Sunnis and Shi'ites already live in a kind of apartheid in Iraq. As a spokesman for Iraq's army meanwhile explained:

 

“We can't beat them.They're trained in street fighting and we're not. We need a whole army to drive them out of Mosul. They're like ghosts; they appear to hit and disappear within seconds."

 

The troops that fled Mosul conveniently left most of their arsenal behind for ISIS to capture. And this is apparently the man who will become the Caliphate's first Emir: Sheikh Abu Bakr al Baghdadi.

 

abu bakr al baghdadiAbu Bakr al Baghdadi, leader of ISIS, clad in fighting gear.

(Photo source unknown, via novostink.ru)

 

Abu-Bakr-al-Baghdadi-Al-Qaeda-Iraq-ISIS-400x330And as behooves a future emir, here is he is lecturing the faithful. Where have we seen that hand gesture before?

(Youtube screenshot / Viedo author unknown)

 

Obama: Osama bin Laden, muerto en operación estadounidense

Right – that's where!

(Photo: DPA)

 

Another very interesting news item was that the ISIS fighters surrounded Iraq's biggest oil refinery in Baiji, but were allegedly 'talked out of destroying it' by nearby tribal leaders (they had warned the tribes by telephone that they were coming, telling them not to resist). Actually, we believe they regard the refinery as valuable plunder. Why would they destroy an oil refinery on the territory of their own state? People have often wondered why Islamist militants have never attacked the vulnerable oil installations of Saudi Arabia. We can actually guess why – they plan to eventually incorporate Saudi Arabia too, and in the meantime it already represents a fount of money for them.

 

An Arc of Instability

We don't envy those that have been conquered, even if they are reportedly happy that ISIS showed up. The ISIS jihadists are strict Salafists and are enforcing a version of Islam that was last seen practiced in Afghanistan under the Taliban. While there are many deeply faithful people living in the region (this is something Westerners often fail to understand), life under such medieval throwbacks is definitely not much fun.

One of the main sources of funding for the Islamist jihadis fighting in Syria and Iraq is Saudi Arabia. Not only the Saudi government is said to be helping them out, but also rich private individuals. The point of the exercise is to root out various 'apostates', namely the Shi'ites of Iraq (in Saudi Arabia, Shi'ites are a repressed minority) and the Allawites of Syria (the sect Assad belongs to).

This seems to be a typical 'sorcerer's apprentice' situation. The Saudis may not fully understand whom they are actually helping. What if the barbarians stand before the gates of the House of Saud one day? As noted above, we have a feeling that's their long term plan (not that it would make a lot of difference to the average Saudi, given the Wahhabism practiced by the current regime, but the Saudi princes would certainly have good reason to quake in their boots).

Oil traders are definitely rather worried by now. Brent crude was in backwardation already prior to the recent news, and seems about to break higher from a large triangle. Below is a daily chart of the active August contract:

 

Brent crude

August Brent crude, daily. A sizable move up out of a large triangle. With the market in backwardation, more strength must probably be expected – click to enlarge.

 

Not to belabor the obvious too much, but sharply rising oil prices are definitely bad news for oil consumers.

Readers may recall that we have written about the ongoing civil war in Iraq almost a year ago already (see: “Iraq and Other Interventionist ‘Success Stories’”) and again on occasion of the bout of violence directed against Chaldean Christians at Christmas time (see: “A Blood-Drenched Christmas in Iraq”). We noted that the corporate media had simply stopped reporting on the deteriorating situation – well, they can obviously no longer ignore it.

On these occasions we inter alia showed some data on the ongoing death and destruction in the country – as you can see at Antiwar.com, the number of people killed and wounded every day is (not surprisingly) rising even further now – and those are only the 'confirmed' deaths, as it is presumably difficult to track what precisely is happening in the cities ISIS has conquered.

All we know for certain is that the ISIS jihadits never arrive somewhere without publicly executing a bunch of perceived enemies as a warning. In fact, these guys are so bad, that even the original Al Qaeda doesn't want to have anything to do with them anymore. They were reportedly deemed 'too hardline' by Ayman al-Zawahiri himself.

We have previously pointed out how instability has been spreading across the Arab peninsula and the Maghreb – often with active Western help. It is not quite clear what the point of this policy is (provoking chaos certainly could be seen to further certain unsavory long term political goals), but it sure seems that things continue to get rapidly out of hand.

One way in which the situation could escalate further is the potential involvement of Turkey. While in Mosul, ISIS fighters captured Turkish diplomats and their staff, whom they now presumably hold for ransom. Turkey has already announced it will 'take revenge' if anything happens to the kidnapped Turkish nationals. Turkey is a NATO member, so a military engagement could potentially be interpreted as a reason to invoke the mutual defense clause (NATO has so far judged this not to be the case, but that could change).

Iran's government is reportedly also weighing whether to intervene, since obviously Iran's Shi'ite compatriots are in danger. Soon the situation could turn into a veritable free for all.

While we are writing this, we hear that the US government is now also considering whether it should 'do more' than just deliver new weapons to Iraq (these deliveries were already planned for a while). As it were, such weapons would likely stand a good chance of ending up in the hands of the jihadis anyway, judging from the Iraqi army's somewhat less than honorable non-attempts to hold them off. In other words, the unintended consequences from previous interventions are now to be 'fixed' with new interventions. Good luck with that.

 

Conclusion:

Instability continues to be the order of the day in the region. Supporting the rebels in Syria may now be backfiring, as the most radical factions have obviously carried the day in Syria. While they have actually suffered a number of setbacks against Assad's forces of late (this is no wonder: the Allawites have nowhere to flee too. They either prevail or they are dead), they have more than made up for that by picking apparently low-hanging fruit in Iraq.

Fascinatingly, it ultimately all started out with the search for non-existing WMD that were allegedly in Saddam's possession. Saddam was a dictator and not exactly the nicest guy on the planet, but the way he was taken out was akin to squishing a spider by bulldozing the garage. So far the mission remains rather conspicuously unaccomplished.

 




An picture handed out by the Palestinian Authority shows Palestinian President Yasser Arafat and Iraqi President Saddam Hussein in BaghdadHi guys! Miss me yet? Saddam in his heyday, surrounded by assorted cronies.

(Photo source unknown, via nationstates.net)

 

 

 

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6 Responses to “ISIS Attempts to Establish Islamist Caliphate”

  • Floyd:

    Also, I’m yet to see a Western intervention, let’s say since the 1960s at least, which hasn’t lead to strengthening of fundamental style of Islam.

  • jimmyjames:

    Wow .. they have their own central bank now..

    Will the IMF force them into taking a bailout package and demand they impose austerity on the people?

  • Floyd:

    I recall 11 years ago or so, when the US was about to invade Iraq, touting to my friends and coworkers about how destructive this would be.
    The first part, throwing Saddam away, was surprisingly smooth (not to say without casualties and suffering).
    But, what came after was mostly predictable.

    With all due respect, American politicians and generals do NOT understand the middle and near east.
    They just utterly do not.
    Virtually ANY intervention in the region, particularly forced ones – by arm or diplomacy, lead to *unexpected* unintended consequences.

    Just superficial knowledge of the history and ethnic makeup of the region would inform any thinking person that the US has nothing to look for there (except maybe buying oil).

    I’d be surprised if the ISIS gets far south of Baghdad because then they will have to fight in Shiite dominated lands.
    But, the question is how comes a Shiite dominated armed force cannot fight the ISIS effectively 100-200 miles away.
    Is this foreshadowing the ISIS conquer of the Iraq Shiite?

    • dear floyd,

      you are still thinking the us wanted to improve the situation in irak. I think, they did not at all. and they will do everything to prevent any local political movement to gain control, since their business runs best in an unstable environment. this has become a clear pattern of us interventionism in the last years … destabilize and take max profit home.

  • This looks like a procession of administrations that were dumb, dumber and dumbest. Whatever was happening 25 years ago, pales in comparison to what has been created. This appears to be a prelude to world war III and it won’t be confined to Arabia.

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