A vile force has risen in the lands between Damascus and Baghdad, and it seeks to spread in the surrounding areas, and not only…
ATTENTION Syrians, Lebanese, Jordanians, Turks, Palestinians, Israelis and Cypriots — the Levant is an area that consists of regions in the following countries: Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, parts of Turkey, Palestine, Israel and Cyprus.
Now I don’t know if you’ve heard, but there’s a terrorist group called ISIS operating in Iraq and Syria lately. They’ve recently captured a number of key areas in northern Iraq, including its second largest city, Mosul, and are advancing toward Iraq’s capital, Baghdad. If they overrun it, they’ll consolidate their power in the region, threatening to destabilize and overrun neighboring states.
I’m scaremongering, you say? Maybe, but let me finish.
Who are ISIS?
ISIS are Islamic fundamentalists from the Wahabi movement, hell bent on establishing a Caliphate. They started operating in Iraq after the second Iraq War of 2003, growing stronger over the years.
What is a Caliphate?
A Caliphate is an Islamic state led by a supreme religious and political leader known as a Caliph i.e. “successor” to Muhammad and the other prophets of Islam. No such state exists anymore (the last one fell with the Ottoman Empire) but ISIS wants to reestablish one.
Those familiar with history will identify the modern caliphate idea as a religious fascist movement, the aim of which is to employ totalitarian rule to unite a variety of people under its banner — a people it considers superior to everyone else.
In other words, ISIS want to have all Muslims operate under their control. They want to run the religion of Islam in accordance with their ISIS set of laws, denouncing all other forms of governance — Islamic and non-Islamic — as blasphemous and satanic.
If you haven’t yet realized what a bad idea this is, keep in mind that ISIS interprets the world only through the eyes of religious fundamentalism, terror operations, and war. They’re also involved in social services, providing garbage collection and local government in the areas they occupy, acting as a proto-state, but they enforce their rule via an ultra-strict version of sharia law, which they’re eager to export wherever they can.
Still think I’m scaremongering? Maybe, but let me finish.
More on ISIS
As I already mentioned, ISIS started off as an Al-qaeda offshoot known as Al-qaeda Iraq (AQI) after the second Iraq War of 2003. They operated in the north of Iraq where they seized control of a number of regions, renaming themselves Islamic State of Iraq (ISI) in 2006.
When the trouble in Syria started, ISI took advantage. They entered the conflict and seized key areas, where they applied their ultra-strict sharia law. They also seized key resources, such as oil fields. Alarmed, some of the other Syrian rebel groups fought alongside Syria’s government forces to repel them.
And Al-qaeda cut ties with ISI (imagine if Al-qaeda wants nothing to do with you.)
ISI was undeterred. Their reign of terror spread steadily. They entrenched themselves, renaming themselves ISIS — the Islamic State of Iraq and… al-Sham (not ‘Syria,’ as many people think).
What is al-Sham? I’ll tell you in a minute…
Back To Iraq
Having secured parts of Syria, ISIS are now making a comeback in Iraq. They’ve taken Mosul and are preparing to advance on Baghdad.
If you haven’t yet realized what a bad idea this is, keep in mind that ISIS interprets the world only through the eyes of unhinged religious fundamentalism, terror operations, and war
You may consider this irrelevant or boring — just another bloody conflict in the troublesome Middle East — and you may be right. But before you turn away, consider the nature of the problem.
Sunni vs Shiite
ISIS is made up of Wahabis who have a deadly grudge against Shia Muslims. Their aim is to destroy the Shia-friendly government of Iraq and stamp out Shia influence from the region. Their natural enemies are therefore neighboring Iran, which is the Shia stronghold of the Muslim world.
Still not worried? Yes, you are, if you’re Iranian, or Shia.
If you’re not, consider the social media presence of ISIS before you go.
Twitterror And Other Anti-Social Media Campaigns
ISIS have launched a sophisticated Twitter campaign to intimidate Baghdad’s residents and empower their troops. Their technical operations are shrewd, through which they spread their message globally, gathering followers from around the world.
They’ve also released a YouTube video urging their ‘brothers in Kashmir’ to rise up in Jihad against India.
Still not your problem? It is, if you’re Indian.
If you’re not, you may go back to your life, but consider the name of ISIS once again: Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham.
What is Sham?
Sham is Arabic for the Levant.
What Is The Levant?
As I mentioned earlier, the Levant is a geographical area that consists of regions in the following countries: Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, parts of Turkey, Palestine, Israel and Cyprus.
By adding the term al-Sham to their name, ISIS are laying claim to all countries within the Levant, by default.
Still not your problem? It is — if you’re from one of these countries, or from neighboring ones.
If you’re not, you may deem ISIS’s name a mere intimidation tactic, or great marketing, and you may be right; using an old word to lay claim to sovereign lands without ever mentioning them is a wily trick.
ISIS Are Billionaires
Speaking of wily tricks and laying claim to sovereign lands, ISIS are not just a band of ragtag nut jobs going gung-ho crazy in the middle of the desert. They’re the richest jihadist organization in the world
Speaking of wily tricks and laying claim to sovereign lands, ISIS are not just a band of ragtag nut jobs going gung-ho crazy in the middle of the desert. They’re the richest jihadist organization in the world. The looting of Mosul and other towns in north Iraq gave them ~$1.5 billion in cash and gold bullion.
ISIS also have control of a number of Iraqi and Syrian oil fields. They command a formidable budget of over $2 billion in total. They can buy arms, train armies, hire accomplices, infiltrate organizations and exercise both intelligence and counter-intelligence operations.
To put things in perspective, Al-qaeda’s budget is reported to have been a measly $70-400 million.
If ISIS capture Baghdad, their economic power will multiply. Their political power will be consolidated even further and their reach will grow even wider. They’ll be able to infiltrate the Iraqi and Iranian administrations more efficiently and send agents to countries of the Levant to gather intelligence and, if they so wish, destabilize their territories. They’ll inspire religious fundamentalists around the world to rise up and join their cause, or to rise up in the name of another jihadist cause.
In other words, they’ll have the capability to influence events globally.
Still not your problem? Maybe not. Why should you care about a $2-billion-rich terrorist organization that operates like a proto-state and whose declared goal is to establish a caliphate, unifying its followers round the world under the Ummah, a sovereign nation state, the ruler of which will be the caliph i.e. the successor of Muhammad, who will rule according to the Constitution of Medina and Islamic law (sharia), as interpreted by ISIS?
Still not your problem? It is your problem.
All this talk about caliphates and we still don’t know what one looks like.
Here are a few maps of older caliphates, which will undoubtedly serve as reference points to the one that ISIS are trying to establish.
Brown area: Expansion under Muhammad, 622–632.
Orange area: Expansion during the Rashidun Caliphs, 632–661
Yellow area: Expansion during the Umayyad Caliphate, 661–750
Still not worried? You should be, especially if your country is featured in the above maps. A revamped caliphate will always regard its former acquisitions as its own.
Power To The Madmen?
War is something that goes on all the time and we haven’t yet been successful in stopping it. Atrocities like the above take place all over the world, despite our best efforts to prevent them.
So why bother with these ones?
Because ISIS are looking to seize control of areas that hold the world’s richest oil fields. If they’re successful, their leverage on the entire world will be frightening. They’ll control part of the global power supply, dictating world policy in both direct and roundabout ways.
Still not your problem? Think again.
From your cautionary Spin Doctor,
Eyes open, mind sharp.