This is the Final part of a 3 part series.
ISIL or IS (the Islamic State as they prefer to be known) are no more than or less than another, in a long line of Islamist revolutionary movements. Their theatrical acts of torture and their public murders have solid roots in ‘revolutionary’ warfare. Extremists will willingly point to the Prophets own actions to justify their behavior. Muhammad publicly beheaded between 300 and 900 male opponents from the Jewish tribe of Qurayza and then gave his victims wives and children to his loyal followers, (in payment for services rendered).
Terror always works to intimidate weaker tribes but if ISIL are bombed out of Syria they will melt away into Iraq and Lebanon, and if permitted, into Turkey.
As a nation, Turkey has thus far successfully integrated a fundamentalist ideology into its main political infrastructure in direct contradiction to the secularist ‘Kemalism’ of the modern Turkish state. So Turkey must be careful how it relates to the Islamic State (ISIL). Turkey is a member state of NATO with a significant South Eastern border that it shares with both Syria and Iraq. It does not want to embroil NATO in what many people in the Muslim world view as an internal Muslim religious conflict nor does it want to be seen to be a participant in the killing of fellow Sunnis.
Kobani is much in the news at this time as it comes under attack by ISIL.
Kobani is the last Syrian town before the country’s northern border with Turkey. Geopolitical maps of what exiled Kurds in Europe call Western Kurdistan transect territory across the Syrian and Turkish borders.
Kurdish forces only wrestled control of Kobani (aka Ein al-Arab) from the Syrian military in 2012. The attack by ISIL represents a dream assault for Neo-Ottoman (expansionist) Turkey. If ISIL manage to capture and massacre the residents of the city then many Kurdish fighters will have been slaughtered without the military being blamed for the bloodshed. If Turkey is then encouraged to intervene elsewhere on behalf of any of its minorities, it will be on Neo-Ottoman terms.
Turkey was much angered by the overthrow of the Muslim Brotherhood led government of Egypt and continues to voice open contempt for the government of General el-Sisi. This too is consistent with Turkish support for an ideologically sympathetic movement.
Appeasing Islamist extremism can only encourage the worse elements amongst Islamists to push the limits of tolerance of any society in which they take hold. It was this logic that saw an Egyptian court place a ban on the Brotherhood on 23rd September 2013.
It is therefore puzzling that President Obama ceased military aid to Egypt after the July 2013 coup. Being seen to support a regime that was both irrational and bigoted because it was initially freely elected is consistent behavior for President Obama but is neither strategically nor historically sound. For example, no US president could justify a similar stand on Communism.
In the early years after the Russian Revolution communism split between Stalinists who demanded the realization of the ideal of “Socialism in One Country” and Trotskyism which opposed “One Country Socialism.” The USA and European nations were intolerant of both variants and remain so. Except in Islamism’s non-hierarchical nature it is difficult not to draw comparisons between Islamism and communism.
The ever bleeding wound of Sunni–Shia antipathy and mutual antagonism has boiled over into uncontrollable, murderous rage intermittently since the Iranian revolution of 1979. The schism between the two main sects of Islam has existed for nearly all of the fourteen centuries since Muhammad founded his faith. Al Qaeda veterans poured into Syria from Iraq and were generously re-supplied by Turkey so that they soon became the main military faction to oppose the Alawite regime.
Thomas Paine, the political activist and philosopher said that “to argue with a person who has renounced the use of reason is like administering medicine to the dead.” And so it seems we are desperate to refrain from making comparisons between Islamism and Communism. Perhaps this is the reason that our leaders are incapable of applying a consistent standard when confronted with the Islamist threat to global peace and security.
Neo-Ottoman Turkey is a member of NATO and yet it has encouraged ISIL. The civil war in Syria and before it, the Iraqi debacle helped to draw out the monumental hatred that exists between the two rival Sunni and Shia sects and not just in Syria where the dictatorship of the Assad family kept the conflict under control.
Turkey has been encouraged to flex its imperialistic muscles by Europe’s de facto acceptance of its conquest of Northern Cyprus 40 years ago. The UN has all but ignored this conflict. When Israel and Cyprus signed a maritime border treaty in late December 2010 Turkey all but asserted its colonial right of first refusal when it judged the accord on 21st December 2010 to be “null and void”.
Conflict with its Christian, Kurdish, Shia and Israeli neighbors demonstrates Turkey’s bona fide right to lead the regions Sunni Muslims.
At the start of the Arab Spring the Muslim Brotherhood took democratic control of Tunisia and Egypt. Syrian Shia minority rule appeared to be increasingly precarious. If Turkey could control Sunni forces it could re-establish Turkish influence in Libya. Iraq’s Shia majority could be destabilized and Sunni minority rule re-asserted. All nations in the region would be subservient to Turkey as had been the situation during the period of the Ottoman Empire.
Analysts and arm chair pundits in the Western media publicly admit that the bombing campaign will do very little to solve the problem of IS. The ideology they represent is one of limitless power for their faithful followers. Their consequent actions are justified through the bloodthirsty history of the first three generations of Muslim history. Nations that supported ISIL now fear ISIL but only because they cannot control it.
The bombing of ISIL in Syria may have inadvertently recreated the conditions for another Lebanese civil war. Shia Hezbollah’s inordinate political influence was based on the support they received from both Iran and Syria. When the Syrian civil war broke out in March 2011, Hassan Nasrallah (Secretary General of Hezbollah) felt obligated to repay his Syrian protector by sending thousands of his soldiers to fight alongside of the Assad regime of President Bashar al-Assad. Withdrawing Hezbollah’s battle tested troops from Syria may undermine the Shia effort to contain ISIL. At the same time, as ISIL disperses it will enter Lebanon and hide amongst Sunni supporters. The coalition will be unable to intervene in Lebanon and this may make inevitable a military flare-up in Lebanon.
The fifth member of the original anti-IS coalition is Qatar. Its role is admitted to be only “in support of” the coalition. It will not be bombing IS positions. According to media reports Qatar continues to fund Hamas, the Muslim Brotherhood, Jabhat al Nusra (the al-Nusra front) and other Islamist terrorist groups, including al-Qaeda (of which IS was originally affiliated). It is through its funding of these terrorist organizations that it undermines its neighbors. Al Jazeera, the Qatari global news network ridiculed the beheading of the two American journalists and described the beheadings as no more than pretext for the US intervention in Syria (to which it is now nominally committed in its participation).
There are many people who try to blame regional and even global Muslim dissatisfaction on Israel because of Jewish Palestine’s conflict with Sunni Palestinians. Inter-Arab and inter-Muslim conflict is ignored or excused with reference to Israel and ‘the Jews’ or Zionists. The wars being waged in Iraq and in Syria are proxy wars between Shiite Iran and Sunni Saudi Arabia with various other regional players such as Qatar and Turkey also vying for greater influence.
Historically, both Jordan and Egypt have similarly sought to manipulate events in the region to their advantage and control.
Those wars being waged between Shia and Sunni are sometimes expressed as tribal conflicts but irrespective of form they will only subside if the root cause is addressed. That root cause is a fundamentalist belief, a theocratic superstition that instead of a shared humanity, we are all of us nothing more than objects for conquest.