If, like me, you’re confused about ISIS; i.e. who they are, where they came from, who funds them, how dangerous are they, and what the hell is going on in the Middle East, I’ve done a little bit of research and I think I’ve got it sorted.
ISIS stands for the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. Or the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), depending which newspaper you read.
They’re incredibly ambitious, and they hold a fair amount of territory already. They own chunks of land bordering Iraq and Syria - equal to the size of Belgium actually - but they want more. They want to stretch right the way across the Middle East and even into North Africa, because fairly obviously there are a few oil fields in there. But, as I understand it, they’ve got absolutely no chance whatsoever. They’re nowhere strong enough to topple either the Iraqi or the Syrian governments, but this expansionist Islamist ideology is still pretty worrying.
Now just like gangs of Bloods and Crips in L.A. where there are actually dozens of gangs at war with each other, there are actually different mobs of Muslims having a tear-up in the Middle East. You’ve got Iraqi Sunnis and Iraqi Shias (or Shiite). Both share Islamic beliefs but their differences stem from arguments after the Prophet Muhammad’s death. Muhammad, by the way, is just one more prophet in a long list mostly shared with Christianity; i.e. Abraham, Moses, Jesus, Muhammad.
Having meditated for years on the ignorance and superstition of his fellow Arabs, Muhammad felt called upon to teach a new faith. He began to receive revelations of the word of Allah, the “one and only God,” who had chosen him as the prophet to convey the eternal message to his people the Arabs, just as Moses had brought it to the Jews and Jesus to the Christians. Allah is simply the Arabic word for God, so we shouldn’t read too much into Muhammad’s claim that ‘He’ is the one and only God. The interpretation is simply in the language
Muhammed, who came from the city of Mecca, was actually quite surprised when his early preachings were rejected by the Jews and Christians of the neighbouring city of Medina. As a result he accused the Jews of misinterpreting the Old Testament, of turning the religion of Abraham into an exclusive nationalistic system, and of rejecting the virgin-born prophet Jesus who had already been sent by Allah to show the Jews where they had gone wrong. He accused Christians of blasphemy against Allah by saying that His prophet Jesus had been defeated in the humiliation of crucifixion, and of idolatry.
Islam is regarded by its adherents as the last of the revealed religions (following Judaism and Christianity), and Muhammed is seen as the Seal of the Prophets, building upon and perfecting the examples and teachings of Abraham, Moses and Jesus. So as Christianity and Islam both share the blood of the same family tree, you wouldn't be too wide of the mark describing them as kith and kin. In fact, the word ‘Islam’ is simply the Arabic term for "submission to the word of God."
I only mention this in passing because certain Anglo-Saxons should stop accusing every Muslim they come across of being a terrorist, and radical Islamic extremists should just piss off! We’re all the same! We’ve got the same religion, or rather the same prophets, and the only difference – the ONLY difference mind – is that of Sharia Law, which is evil.
Sharia Law dictates death by stoning, beheading, amputation of limbs and flogging for crimes of sin such as adultery. The bible dictates stoning to death for adultery. No difference, you see. Just that advocates of Sharia law take what it says in the Koran literally, whilst Christians do not take what it says in the Bible literally. That’s the only difference.
Muhammad was a camel driver, the son of a poor merchant, and trip on this, he was also white! His son-in-law, Ali, described him as, "…..of middle stature, neither tall nor short. His complexion was rosy white; his eyes black; his hair, thick, brilliant and beautiful, fell to his shoulders. His profuse beard fell to his breast."
So when the Honourable Elijah Muhammad, son of former slaves and the father of Muhammad Ali's boxing coach, Herbert Muhammad, was to proclaim to Malcolm X thirteen hundred years later that the Nation of Islam is the "natural religion for the black man, anti-white and anti-Christian," he was either seriously misinformed or he was being quite disingenuous.
But back to the Sunni and the Shia. When Muhammad died of fever in the year 632, it was little more than a family punch up at the funeral between the Sunni and the Shia, each of whom wanted to be known as top dog. It’s more political than anything, and has been going on for almost 1400 years. Saddam Hussein was a Sunni, and nowadays ISIS are Sunni.
Now it was Iraq’s Prime Minister who really screwed things up. His name was Nuri al-Maliki and he absolutely refused to take steps to accommodate the Sunni. He used anti-terrorism laws to mass-arrest Sunni civilians and Iraqi police killed peaceful Sunni protestors. Now that’s not good, but you’d think arresting terrorists would be a positive move, wouldn’t you. But it wasn’t, because once arrested they started torturing them and clever Sunnis used this to start recruiting ‘freedom fighters.’
ISIS had first shown their face in 2000 when a geezer called Abu Musab al-Zarqawi formed an al-Qaeda splinter group, although as such they weren’t officially named. He was killed six years later in a US air strike and a fellow called Abu Ayyub al-Masri announced the creation of the Islamic State in Iraq (ISI). In 2009 ISI claimed responsibility for suicide bombings that killed 155 people in Baghdad, as well as attacks later in the year killing 240. In 2012 Bombings targeting Shia areas in Syria killed more than 500 people. Al-Baghdadi, the Caliph (Politico-religious leader) of the Islamic State renamed it ISIS. Al-Qaeda chief, Ayman al-Zawahiri, ordered that ISIS be dissolved. Al-Baghdadi told him to piss off.
These were violent times. In 2013 alone 3000 people were killed (and 7000 injured) through suicide attacks, car bombs and assassinations. And the fact that President Obama was assisting the Shia majority didn’t help either. The United States released a huge number of al-Qaeda prisoners from jail giving ISIS an infusion of skilled, terrorist manpower.
Then Syria happened, which only served to benefit ISIS because they’re currently sitting between Syria and Iraq, attacking both countries, who if they weren’t at war with each other would be able to crush them. But ISIS has now become like the Mafia, except more violent. To fund their militant activities they collect taxes, sell electricity from captured power plants (to the Syrian government they’re fighting) and export oil to Turkey through an Iraqi pipeline that was delivering 600,000 barrels a day. They can now pay better salaries than the Syrian or Iraqi army, causing mass desertions on both sides as ex-military personnel join ISIS. These people have now become mercenaries. ISIS confiscates property and money from Christians and Muslims alike. They don’t give a shit.
If they get hold of all of Iraq’s oil the whole of the Middle East, let alone the world, could be in serious trouble. Imagine what effect that would have on global oil prices alone.
ISIS aren’t the only Sunni rebel group by the way. You’ve also got Jaysh Rijal al-Tariqa al-Naqshbandia (JRTN), many of whom are former members of Saddam Hussein’s mob. The two groups kind of tolerate each other at the moment, but they’re not best mates. ISIS are more organised and their fighters are match-fit, having spent years fighting in Syria and Iraq. JRTN doesn’t really have the financial resources either, but they’re not to be underestimated.
So things aren’t looking too good. However on the plus side, they’ve got to contend with the Kurds, who down through the centuries have never been known to take any shit. They’re an ethnic group inhabiting a region known as Kurdistan, which spans parts of Iraq, Iran, Syria and Turkey, although they’re more Iranian than anything, and there’s about 30 million of them. They’re a bit wild and there are some great legends about their origins.
One legend claims they’re descendants of King Solomon’s Angelic Servants, the Djinn, or Djinni (or Genie), who were supernatural creatures in pre-Islamic Arabian mythology. The Djinn were born out of ‘smokeless and scorching fire,’ and are mentioned frequently in the Quran (in particular the 28 verses of the 72nd chapter). The Djinn were sent to Europe to bring King Solomon 500 beautiful maidens for his harem.
However, when they returned the king had already passed away, so they married the women themselves and settled in the mountains. Their offspring came to be known as Kurds.
Now this in itself is fascinating because if we put aside the hatred, intolerance and bigotry this was a truly magical and enchanting era. You see how even Arabic Genies are very similar to ours. Ours live in a bottle or a lamp and by rubbing the lamp we allow the Genie to escape, for which he grants us three wishes – the biggest castle, the most beautiful princess and an unlimited amount of gold are usually favourites. Unlike the giant, blue-skinned, muscular Genies westerners are familiar with through Disney films, the Arabic Djinni are often invisible, although they have the power to shape-shift to just about any form they like, even human. Many people still believe they are with us today, although mostly living in deserts, mountains and caves.
A fellow called David Morehouse claims to have seen them when he was in the military and camped out with Jordanian troops. They were in a valley called Baten el Ghoul, which the Jordanians believed to be haunted. Morehouse had been shot in the helmet, leaving a lump on his head which seemed to give him temporary psychic vision. He described sighting the Djinni below;
“Sometime in the night, my eyes opened to a surreal light outside the tent. It was like the light of an eclipsed sun and wasn’t coming from any stove. It filled the night sky. The entire Baten en Ghoul and the hills beyond were bathed in the strange bluish gray light; I walked to the edge of the bluff and stared into the valley. Dark figures moved effortlessly across its floor, like apparitions. They poured from the rocks in various heaps and shapes and moved about the clusters of tents. I could hear muffled cries from the Jordanian encampment, and momentarily I thought we were being overrun by thieves or Israelis. Panicked, I turned to run for help. Colliding with one of the figures, I reflexively closed my eyes, except I didn’t collide. I walked right through it. Turning around I watched the figure disappear over the edge of the bluff.”
Djinni are difficult to control and even when granting favours have been known to have a trickster nature. One of the few people said to be able to control them was King Solomon, and it’s said that this was by use of an iron and copper magic ring given to him by God. Legend sometimes states that the ring was inscribed with a pentacle and had a living force of its own. Solomon set the Djinin to building the first Temple of Jerusalem and even the actual city of Jerusalem.
One story tells of a Djinni who stole the ring and reigned over Solomon’s kingdom until God made the Djinni throw the ring into the sea, from where Solomon retrieved it. As a punishment Solomon imprisoned the Djinni in a bottle.
Djinni can even possess humans for a variety of reasons, sometimes just because they’ve got a crush on them. The joining of humans and Djinni in marriage is still practiced in some parts of the world, and the Queen of Sheba was rumoured to be part Djinn by both the Jews and the Arabs, although no one seems to be able to agree as to whether she had a relationship with Solomon or not.
In the Bible she’s assumed to be Ethiopian and various revisions of the Songs of Solomon describe her as “Very dark, but comely,” or “Black and beautiful.” Legend tells that the Queen of Sheba brought to Solomon the very same gifts which the Magi later brought to Christ. However, even though there is no mention in the bible of any relationship between the two of them, the Quran discusses a child she had by him, and the Ethiopian holy book, the Kebra Nagast, discusses how Solomon seduced her, the Ethiopians believing Menelik I to be their offspring. And even the Luhya people of Kenya claim her as one of their own. They claim she was a noblewoman known as Oloye Bilikisu Sungbo, and certainly that name is very close to the Jewish and Arabic name for her, which was Bilqīs. An anonymous medieval text known as the Alphabet of Sirach actually claims that Nebuchadnezzar II was the offspring of Solomon and the Queen of Sheba.
You want my opinion? I’m with the Ethiopians on this one. They view Sheba as the mother of their nation, and because the kings of the land are directly descended from her, they have divine right to rule. Emperor Haile Selassie had that enshrined in the Ethiopian Constitution of 1955. And as Rastafarians revere Haile Selassie as the returned messiah - and he’s certainly a defining figure in both Ethiopian and African history – it’s possible that the routes of Rastafarianism are deep-seated in a queen who was part Genie!
But back to the Kurds. An Armenian historian tells a different story concerning a fellow know as Melik Kürdim. He was apparently one of Noah’s community and ruler of the town of Judi, the first town to be built after the flood. He lived 600 years and finally settled in a place called Mifariqin, raising several children and inventing a completely new language of his own, independent of Hebrew, Arabic or Farsi. He called the language Kürdim, although there are apparently twelve different dialects.
Putting these legends aside for the moment, although they’re semi-integrated into the Iraqi culture there are somewhere between 80,000 and 240,000 Kurdish Peshmerga militia who answer to no one. The name Peshmerga literally means ‘Those who confront death.’ They're well trained, well equipped and represent a serious military threat to ISIS.
The Peshmerga helped the United States in their mission to capture Saddam Hussein, and they also captured Osama Bin Laden’s messenger, Hassan Ghul, who after being held at a C.I.A. Black Site for a couple of years handed out information which led to Operation Neptune Spear, in which Bin Laden was located and killed.
And to be fair to the geezer, if I were held in a Black Site amongst a bunch of other ‘ghost detainees’ I’d give them whatever information they wanted in two minutes! Forget two years!
Anyway, with US and Iraqi support the Kurds have pushed ISIS out of the area and are gradually pushing them further back. Both America and Great Britain have now launched a mission to train and equip the Peshmerga, and they could very soon be in a position to launch a wider campaign against ISIS. All great stuff!
Estimates of ISIS fighting strength ranges from 10,000 to 50,000 battle-hardened troops. Iraq has 250,000 troops plus armed police, so realistically ISIS doesn’t stand a chance of challenging them, especially when you consider Iraq has tanks, helicopters and airplanes
But – and this is a BIG BUT – the Iraqis are really shit soldiers. When ISIS took Mosul in Northern Iraq in June they were outnumbered 37:1, but 30,000 Iraqi soldiers ran from 800 ISIS simply because they dropped their bottle and didn’t fancy dying for their country. In fact they ran away so fast that they left several tanks and helicopters behind!
Despite the United States spending billions of dollars training the Iraqi army before the American withdrawal in 2011, their still bottle merchants. But even so I seriously doubt ISIS could take Baghdad.
Iraq has Iran on its side as well, because Iran doesn’t want any Sunni rebels toppling a friendly Shia government. In June Iran sent 500 Revolutionary Guards to help the Iraqis. And these aren’t just any old troops. They’re a special elite operations group known as Quds Force, supposedly one of the most effective military forces in the Middle East. They can easily outclass ISIS on the battlefield, but memories of the Iraq/Iran war haven’t completely faded, and there are a lot or Iraqis who are a bit pissed off that Iran is now being asked to take charge.
America and Iran have been at odds for decades but the two powers now find they want the same thing, and that’s for the Iraqi government to start pushing ISIS back. On September 10th America announced a comprehensive strategy for destroying ISIS in both Iraq and Syria. Obama announced a six-point plan;
1. Significantly expand the bombing campaign in Iraq – “We will conduct a systematic campaign of airstrikes against these terrorists”
2. Train and equip the Iraqi army and Kurdish troops – “American troops are needed to support Iraqi and Kurdish forces with training, intelligence and equipment.”
3. Begin bombing in Syria – “I have made it clear that we will hunt down terrorists who threaten our country, wherever they are” (okay, well at least that’s a little more honest than President Bush in 2001 who after 9/11 stated, “Our war on terror begins with al Qaeda, but it does not end there. It will not end until every terrorist group of global reach has been found, stopped and defeated.” Big words at the time, but where was America in the 1970s and 1980s when the United Kingdom needed their help? I’ll tell you. They were funding the IRA so they could carry on murdering innocent people in the shopping centres and pubs of Great Britain. Didn’t matter back then, did it? America wasn’t bothered at all in the 1970’s and 80’s, were they? These were just English people being murdered. But they soon came running for help when they found themselves attacked on their own soil, didn’t they? At least Obama makes no pretences about giving a shit about any other countries except the USA).
4. Train and arm the Syrian rebels – “Across the border, in Syria, we have ramped up our military assistance to the Syrian opposition. Tonight, I again call on Congress to give us additional authorities and resources to train and equip these fighters”
5. Get regional actors like Saudi Arabia and European allies on board to counter ISIS regional and international influence – The Jordanian monarchy has already committed to assisting America in arming, training and funding Syrian rebels. He also requests the UK increase their ‘on-the-ground efforts’ in Syria and Iraq, also acknowledging that roughly 1500 Europeans have already travelled to fight in Syria, and these may well be coming back to plot attacks in the Europe. He pledges to cooperate with Europe in order to stop these attacks. Which sounds good, but ….
6. Keep US troops out and stay away from the Syrian and Iranian governments – “American forces will not have a combat mission - we will not get dragged into another ground war in Iraq.” Whoa! Now wait a minute here. He wants the UK to up their ‘on-the-ground efforts’ but in practically the same mouthful promises the American people he won’t be putting any combat troops on the ground. So Britain gets shit on again!
Now into all this mix we’ve also got the Yazidi, who are pretty cool. They’re an ethno-religious community living primarily in Iraqi-Kurdistan. Their religious beliefs are a mixture of Zoroastrianism and Sufism. Zoroastrianism had profound influence on Judaism, Christianity and Islam, and is also thought to have inspired a belief in a savior to come in both Hinduism and Buddhism. For over 1000 years it was the official religion of the eastern Persian empire; i.e. Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan. Sufism is kind of like a mystical dimension of Islam, although some contend that it views each of the world’s religious traditions as sharing a single, universal truth on which foundation all religious knowledge and doctrine has grown. Sufis consider themselves as the original true proponents of this pure original form of Islam.
So with a heritage like this, which you have to admit is pretty cool, you can understand why a bunch of head-cases like ISIS would feel threatened by them, can’t you? The Yazidi have been persecuted for centuries, but more recently ISIS has targeted them in their campaign to “purify Iraq and neighboring countries of non-Islamic influences.” A bit nutty, I know, but that’s ISIS for you.
They’ve taken 1500 Yazidi women and children as slaves, and these have been divided amongst the fighters. They’re either used as concubines or are being sold on by them. The United Nations has stated, “We are gravely concerned by continued reports of acts of violence, including sexual violence against women and teenage girls and boys belonging to Iraqi minorities. Atrocious accounts of abduction and detention of Yazidi, Christian, as well as Turkomen and Shabak women, girls and boys, and reports of savage rapes, are reaching us in an alarming manner”
ISIS pushed into Kurdish territory and secluded thousands of Yazidi on Mount Sinjar without food or water, so a US-Kurdish-Iraqi cooperation was formed to break the siege.
On August 6th ISIS took Qaraqosh, Iraq's largest Christian town, and there’s been very limited access to food, water or power ever since. Some of the Christians have been given the ‘choice’ to convert to Islam or be killed. Khalil Touma, a 43-year-old driver, told The Independent, “I was given three days to decide whether to become Muslim, pay jizya – a special tax imposed on Christians under Islamic rule – or leave.” Adamant that he and his family shouldn’t have to pay such a tax they’ve now left for Lebanon.
The tomb of Jonah (of Jonah and the whale fame) was bombed. Houses belonging to Christians were daubed with the letter ‘N’ – short for Nasare, a Muslim term for Christians which derives from Nazareth. And properties, including wedding rings, were confiscated, sometimes with fingers still attached.
And we then met Jihadi John, the black robed fanatical Briton who has so far murdered UK aid worker David Haines, US journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff, and taxi driver Alan Henning in the most brutal fashion possible, possibly by beheading, and supposedly in retaliation for American bombings.
Unbelievably it’s now estimated there are 2000 Britons currently fighting with ISIS, but he is now one of the most wanted men in the world. Hostages freed earlier this year have described three UK-born militants who they nicknamed John, Paul and Ringo, although Jihadi John is said to be the most intelligent. There are French-speaking Jihadists and one Belgium, but it’s the British who are the most feared because of their “taste for the macabre.”
Academics have put his accent as ‘New Cockney.’ In other words a multicultural East London accent.
And in the last week or two Britain has taken part in bombing raids against ISIS positions in Iraq, although just yesterday Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has blamed America, the Jews and “especially the veteran expert of spreading divisions, the wicked government of Britain” for creating divisions between the Sunnis and Shi'ites. Sorry, old son, that goes back centuries, you should know that.
There are currently 12 soldiers from the 2nd Battalion of the Yorkshire Regiment on the ground, along with non-combat army trainers who are providing the Peshmerga with heavy machine gun training for guns that have been gifted by the UK last month.
There is growing concern for British photojournalist, John Cantlie, who is still in captivity, and with British soldiers heading to northern Iraq to help train Kurdish forces fighting ISIS he warned in a recent video that ISIS are “dug in for the fight.” He has also warned that it is “conceivable that foreign jihadists may return to their home countries to launch attacks.” In other words those 2000 Britons could somehow find their way back to these shores. Already a leading counter-extremism think-tank estimates that out of 300 Brits who have returned from ISIS strongholds in Syria and Iraq only 60 have been arrested. That thought alone is quite terrifying!
The UK terror threat has now been increased to ‘severe’ from ‘substantial’ (just below the highest level of ‘critical’) and Home Secretary Theresa May has announced this is as a “direct result of the threat posed by Britons returning from Syria and Iraq where they have fought alongside ISIS combatants.”
The story of the two Austrian teenage girls, Samra Kesinovic 17, and her friend Sabina Selimovic 15, is distressing. They’re both attractive girls and left notes for their parents saying, “Don’t look for us. We will serve Allah – and we will die for him.”
Once they arrived it’s rumoured they’ve been married off and are both now pregnant, but they’ve now had enough and want to come home. Unfortunately for them, Austria isn’t going to allow this. So here’s my take on it. Anyone who leaves their country to join ISIS should have their European (or American or Australian) citizenship taken away. They want to become Jihadists then let them stay there for good. Let’s see how they like living the rest of their lives out in a country that allows none of the freedom of their birth country.
Freedom of thought, freedom of speech, freedom of dress, freedom to sit on the toilet seat instead of standing on it and freedom even to wipe your arse with whatever hand you want.
They want to become terrorists, well it’s their choice, BUT these are children. They’re not old enough to make informed decisions about the rest of their lives. They should be allowed back home to raise their babies and allow them to speak out about the mistakes they made (if it’s considered safe to do so).
They’re children for Christ’s sake. Austria should not be allowed to throw them to the wolves for a mistake that’s harmed no one except themselves and their families.
That’s how I feel about it anyway.
Finally some Tweets from a jihadist who used the name Abu Musab al-Jazairi before his Twitter account was shut down;
“To the people in the UK – because of the actions of your government it will be you who will pay the price, blame them and not us.”
“Everything and everyone will be targeted; it is only a matter of time before it happens inshallah.”
“Don’t know why people in the UK think they can speak for us, we’ll come back to the UK and wreak havoc bidnillaah (if God wishes). British people watch out.”
So there we have it. A bit convoluted but at least I think I understand it all a little better. ISIS can’t win. They’re battle-hardened, cold-blooded and barbaric. Completely psychotic actually. But they can still cause a lot of problems and a lot of deaths.
I don’t see the attraction. I don’t get the radicalization. But then again Hitler was incredibly persuasive, as was Ivan the Terrible (who pronounced his first death sentence at the age of 13).
The biggest concern is if these radicalized killers arrive back on our shores with access to money, weapons and dirty bombs. They we could see true terror!