Islamic State: The Genesis Of A Sectarian Frankenstein
Above photo: From Off Guardian.
Apart from training and arms which have been provided to Syrian militants in the training camps located on the Turkish and Jordanian border regions adjacent to Syria by the CIA in collaboration with Turkish, Jordanian and Saudi intelligence agencies, another factor which has contributed to the stellar success of the Islamic State is that its top cadres are comprised of former Baathist military and intelligence officers from the Saddam era.
According to an informative Associated Press report , hundreds of ex-Baathists constitute the top and mid-tier command structure of the Islamic State who plan all the operations and direct its military strategy.
The only feature that differentiates Islamic State from all other insurgent groups is its command structure which is comprised of professional ex-Baathists and its state-of-the-art weaponry that has been provided to all the Sunni Arab militant outfits that are fighting in Syria by the intelligence agencies of the Western powers, Turkey, Jordan and the Gulf states.
Moreover, it is an indisputable fact that morale and ideology plays an important role in battle, and well informed readers must also be aware that the Takfiri brand of most jihadists these days has directly been inspired by the puritanical Wahhabi-Salafi ideology of Saudi Arabia, but ideology alone is not sufficient to succeed in battle.
Looking at the Islamic State’s astounding gains in Syria and Iraq in 2014, a question arises that where does its recruits get all the training and state-of-the-art weapons that are imperative not only for hit-and-run guerrilla warfare but also for capturing and holding large swathes of territory?
The Syria experts of foreign policy think tanks also seem to be quite “worried” these days that where do the Islamic State’s jihadists get all the sophisticated weapons and especially those fancy Toyota pick-up trucks mounted with machine guns at the back, colloquially known as “the Technicals” amongst jihadists?
According to a revelatory December 2013 news report  from a newspaper affiliated with the UAE government which supports the Syrian opposition: it is clearly mentioned that along with AK-47s, RPGs and other military gear, the Saudi regime also provides machine gun-mounted Toyota pick-up trucks to every batch of five jihadists who have completed their training in the training camps located at the border regions of Jordan.
Once those militants cross over to Daraa and Quneitra in southern Syria from the Jordan-Syria border, then those Toyota pick-up trucks can easily travel all the way to Raqqa and Deir al-Zor and thence to Mosul and Anbar in Iraq.
Moreover, it is clearly spelled out in the report that Syrian militants get arms and training through a secret command center based in the intelligence headquarters’ building in Amman, Jordan that has been staffed by high-ranking military officials from 14 countries, including the US, European nations, Israel and the Gulf Arab States to wage a covert war against the government in Syria.
Furthermore, unlike al Qaeda which is a terrorist organization that generally employs anticolonial and anti-West rhetoric to draw funds and followers, the Islamic State and the majority of Sunni Arab militant groups in Syria are basically anti-Shi’a sectarian outfits. By the designation “terrorism” it is generally implied and understood that an organization which has the intentions and capability of carrying out acts of terrorism on the Western soil.
Although the Islamic State has carried out a few acts of terrorism against the Western countries, such as the high profile Paris, Brussels and Manchester attacks, but if we look at the pattern of its subversive activities, especially in the Middle East, it generally targets the Shi’a Muslims in Syria and Iraq. A few acts of terrorism that it has carried out in the Gulf Arab states were also directed against the Shi’a Muslims in the Eastern province of Saudi Arabia and Shi’a mosques in Yemen and Kuwait.
Recently, the Islamic State’s purported “terror franchises” in Afghanistan and Pakistan have claimed a spate of bombings against the Shi’a and Barelvi Muslims who are regarded as heretics by Takfiris. But to contend that the Islamic State is responsible for suicide blasts in Pakistan and Afghanistan is to declare that Taliban are responsible for anarchy and militancy in Syria and Iraq.
Both are localized militant outfits and the Islamic State without its Baathist command structure and superior weaponry is just another ragtag, regional militant outfit. The distinction between the Taliban and the Islamic State lies in the fact that the Taliban follow Deobandi sect of Sunni Islam which is native to South Asia and the jihadists of the Islamic State mostly belong to Wahhabi denomination.
Secondly, and more importantly, the insurgency in the border regions of Afghanistan and Pakistan is a Pashtun uprising which is an ethnic group native to Afghanistan and northwestern Pakistan, while the bulk of the Islamic State’s jihadists is comprised of Arab militants of Syria and Iraq.
Conflating the Islamic State either with al Qaeda or Taliban or with myriads of ragtag, local militant groups is a deliberate deception intended to mislead public opinion in order to exaggerate the threat posed by the Islamic State which serves the scaremongering agenda of security establishments.
Notwithstanding, in order to create a semblance of objectivity and fairness, the American policymakers and analysts are always willing to accept the blame for the mistakes of the distant past that have no bearing on the present, however, any fact that impinges on their present policy is conveniently brushed aside.
In the case of the creation of the Islamic State, for instance, the US policy analysts are willing to concede that invading Iraq back in 2003 was a mistake that radicalized the Iraqi society, exacerbated sectarian divisions and gave birth to an unrelenting Sunni insurgency against the heavy handed and discriminatory policies of the Shi’a-dominated Iraqi government.
Similarly, the “war on terror” era political commentators also “generously” accept the fact that the Cold War era policy of nurturing al Qaeda, Taliban and myriads of other Afghan so-called “freedom fighters” against the erstwhile Soviet Union was a mistake, because all those fait accompli have no bearing on their present policy.
The corporate media’s spin-doctors conveniently forget, however, that the creation of the Islamic State and myriads of other Sunni Arab jihadist groups in Syria and Iraq has as much to do with the unilateral invasion of Iraq back in 2003 under the Bush Administration as it has been the doing of the Obama Administration’s policy of funding, arming, training and internationally legitimizing the Sunni militants against the Shi’a-dominated Syrian regime since 2011-onward in the wake of the Arab Spring uprisings in the Middle East and North Africa region.
In fact, the proximate cause behind the rise of the Islamic State, al Nusra Front, Ahrar al-Sham, Jaysh al-Islam and numerous other Sunni Arab militant groups in Syria and Iraq has been the Obama Administration’s policy of intervention through proxies in Syria.
The border between Syria and Iraq is quite porous and poorly guarded. The Obama Administration’s policy of nurturing militants against the Assad regime in Syria was bound to have its blowback on Iraq, sooner or later. Therefore, as soon as the Islamic State consolidated its gains in Syria, it overran Mosul and Anbar in Iraq in early 2014 from where the US had withdrawn its troops only a couple of years ago in December 2011.
And now, the wretched inhabitants of those regions are once again in the line of fire from the Islamic State’s suicide blasts and car bombings, on the one hand, and the US-backed artillery shelling and Hellfires, on the other.
Sources and links: Islamic State’s top command dominated by ex-officers in Saddam’s army:
About the author:
Nauman Sadiq is an Islamabad-based attorney, columnist and geopolitical analyst focused on the politics of Af-Pak and Middle East regions, neocolonialism and petroimperialism.