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Issue No.: 576 | June 2015
 

ISIS - A New Threat

Ashok Karnik
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We do not comprehend the mindset that allows the crudest form of violence like beheadings, rapes, mutilations, burnings, slavery, mass executions and genocide that the ISIS commits. We are lost without knowledge of ISIS philosophy, ideology and methodology.

The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has emerged as a new international phenomenon. It is the Caliphate that the Islamic world was supposedly waiting for. The Caliphate demands obedience by all Muslims and has declared war on more and more areas. It has won large tracts of land in Iraq and Syria and secured the allegiance of followers in Yemen, Libya, Nigeria, Somalia, Chechnya, Pakistan, etc. ISIS or Daesh in Arabic, believes it to be Allah’s Army specially anointed to take on and defeat the Army of Rome. The Army of Rome is a generic term to include every Western influence from the 11th century to the 21st century. It alludes to the crusades launched to liberate the holy lands in the Middle East. More pertinently, the military conquests by the Western industrialized nations led to imposition of Western notions of culture in large parts of the world, including the Middle East. The dismantling of the Ottoman Empire and rearrangement of national boundaries of many Middle East countries to suit colonial compulsions left bitterness. It was interpreted as defeat of the Islamic way of life. This resentment against this cultural and political onslaught had to erupt sometime; it is happening now. It is no longer a Rome-oriented religious campaign by the West but for the jihadis it continues to be the Army of Rome vs Islam. The war is against Western culture, Western education and Western military might. The Ottomans had won their final battle in 1516 against the Ghouris at a place called Battle in Syria. The ISIS/Daesh believes that it will fight its final battle against the Army or Rome at Dabiq. Its offensive against the infidels and apostates is thus based on its absolute faith in the Quran and prophesies of the middle ages! It should not be mistaken for a band of bandits. It has its own theology and philosophy, howsoever repugnant its barbaric conduct.

Puritan Daesh v/s Al Qaeda

For Daesh it is not a simple ‘we’ (Islam) and ‘they’ (West) fight. ISIS/Daesh simultaneously fights the battle for theological purity; it is also a fight amongst Islamic fanatics themselves, all of whom swear by the Quran and Hadith but become bitter enemies over interpretations of topics outside the Quran. Daesh is a progeny of Al Qaeda but challenges the latter because of differences over defining who are the true Muslims and who are the ‘infidels’ or ‘apostates’. Who needs to be destroyed first and who can be won over as friends? Al Qaeda treats the West as the immediate enemy and tolerates (not accepts) the Middle East countries under Western influence. Daesh treats them as evil and wants to destroy them too. Al Qaeda controlled the jihadi movement all over the world because of its global network and more importantly its money power. Osama bin Laden had legendary abilities to raise funds and could dole out money to deserving jihadi organizations. Al Qaeda could decide whom to attack and whom to ignore; who could be treated as potential supporters and who were to be declared ‘infidels’. The debate started with the Arab Spring when Middle Eastern countries started a revolt against their despotic rulers and won. The victors adopted various means to secure power; although all of them were Muslim majority countries, some accepted democracy (elections) and some did not mind a pact with secular forces to strengthen their hold. None adhered to Quranic edicts and imposed Sharia. Al Qaeda decided to tolerate the religious deviation and supported the emerging regimes as potential allies. The more puritan Daesh could not accept the ‘infidels’. Daesh rejected the Al Qaeda line and broke away. To add to the discomfiture of the Al Qaeda, Daesh did not require Al Qaeda’s financial support. In fact, Daesh was/is so much flush with funds that it can support other jihadi groups.

The theatre of war has shifted from AF-Pak to Iraq Syria. Those opposing the ‘infidel’ and the ‘apostate’ are engaged in war and not giving sermons from the caves of Af-Pak. The dictates of ISIS are more appealing than those of Al Qaeda. Trouble is brewing between the two. Daesh swears by ideological purity and treats shias, Kurds, the Muslim Brotherhood and all accepting any form of democracy as enemies. While Western powers are distant enemies, the deviants are the near enemies to be fought here and now. It does not care if it has to fight on multiple fronts but it is determined not to tolerate infidelity and meets out the harshest (barbaric) punishment to those it considers guilty. The horrendous atrocities the ISIS commits are beyond understanding. The attack on Ismailis in a bus in Karachi on May 13, 2015, killing 43 people is a case in point. Daesh is proud of the killings of the ‘infidels’ while the world weeps in shock. We do not comprehend the mindset that allows the crudest form of violence like beheadings, rapes, mutilations, burnings, slavery, mass executions and genocide that the ISIS commits. We are lost without knowledge of ISIS philosophy, ideology and methodology. Initially we thought that the new Caliphate was an outburst of tribal passions, ethnic animosities and regional ambitions. It goes much beyond that and has a perverted but effective ideological-cum-philosophical base which can influence millions of Muslims all over the world. Daesh believes that it is its divine duty to cleanse the earth of the scum that misrepresents the teachings of the Quran.

Jihad – The Only Answer?

The ISIS does not hide its objectives. What it lacks in military sophistication, it compensates with religious zeal and passion against centuries of pollution of what was the domain of the Quran. In the process, all rational ideas and sensitivities get drowned even among those who are otherwise modern. Jihad is the answer for every problem; life without this cause is meaningless for its adherents. Once the fear of death disappears, an individual becomes all powerful and no argument can stop him from dying for his goal.

ISIS has its weakness in its lack of military sophistication; it does not have an air force, missiles, satellite support or a navy and depends totally on brutal land warfare. It has made a tactical error in appearing on the horizon, leaving its strong suit of anonymity. Terrorism flourishes because terrorists are not easily identifiable; they merge with the population and are difficult to detect. ISIS has given up its anonymity and declared itself a State with loose but identifiable land presence. It had to take this step as a Caliphate is a necessity for spreading Allah’s message and imposing Sharia. It is now vulnerable to better equipped attacking forces. It is fortunate that with the disillusionment in Afghanistan and Iraq, the West and particularly the US, is wary of deploying its armies to fight a land war as it is afraid of getting sucked into an interminable conflict which would be basically unwinnable. It can push the ISIS through air attacks but it cannot eliminate it; the jihadis’ local support would get stronger as they emerge as martyrs to another assault by the West. It is a dilemma that the world faces.

The Endless Madness

The disturbing aspect it that the extreme fanaticism of Daesh is becoming acceptable to the West’s pampered children; every malcontent thinks that he can jump on the bandwagon of protest against Western culture. It is not surprising that thousands of Europeans and Americans are joining the ISIS fight. Those who cannot join ISIS choose to become "Lone Wolf” terrorists. We do not know when the madness will end and what damage it can cause till its defeat. The rumoured death or incapacitation of Caliph Baghdadi could make a huge difference as such autocracies generally split due to fights over succession. However, one should not depend on wishful thinking. The world should understand what lies in the future. It would add urgency to the need to evolve measures to resolve the threat before it engulfs the world in further strife.

Mr. ASHOK V. KARNIK is formerly Deputy Director, Intelligence Bureau, Government of India.
 Freelance writer and member of the Advisory Board of Freedom First.
 Email: ashokkarnik2001@yahoo.co.in

 
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