Adonis Diaries

Posts Tagged ‘Martin Chulov

Modern means. Slick production… ISIS forging its archaic Caliphat-hood

Iraqi expert on Isis, Hisham Alhashimi, said:

Abu Bakr Baghdadi wants to bring the US Americans into a war with him so he will prove that what was written in the Quran and the prophecies that (Christians) will fight against the Muslims. He wants to prove that he is the leader of Muslims.

Having the Americans bomb him is not at odds with spreading the caliphate. ISIS dream is a real jihad against the Crusaders.”

Baghdadi does not fear the Arab world’s armies.

He has tapped into the ruins of a body politic across much of the Arab world that has spectacularly failed to share power or respond to the will of the street.

He knows from his time in Iraq, both in US prisons and on the battlefields that to be realistically confronted, the US, or another power, will need to ally with local backers.

 in The Guardian, Wednesday 3 September 2014

What next for Islamic State, the would-be caliphate?

Isis is making very modern military and media advances, but its existence is rooted in religion and old sectarian divides
A Shia militia fighter holds a gun

A Shia militia fighter holds a gun near a graffito that says ‘Amerli‘ in Arabic (city  in Iraq that was freed lately from Daesh). Photograph: Ahmad Al-Rubaye/AFP/Getty Images

The world’s most potent terror group is also its most savvy.

In its 18 month existence, Islamic State (Isis) has imposed its old world view of Islam using very modern means. Slick production, an eye for a camera angle and high definition horror have done just as much to showcase the group – and further its aims – as its rampage across Iraq and Syria.

Almost every move Isis has made has been chronicled in some form, either through shaky hand held mobile phones that have captured battle scenes Blair Witch style, or by applying more sophisticated Hollywood production values.

An hour-long chronology of barbarism that the group posted online in June featured an opening sequence copied straight from the 2009 film about the Iraq war, The Hurt Locker.

Isis may eschew much of the modern world, but it certainly studies its enemy.

And, in what is the biggest punt of its short and bloody life, the group appears to have gambled that it can call the bluff of its most formidable foe.

On extremist web forums and within the organisation, debate is raging about how the US will respond to the beheading of two of its citizens, and what Britain and Europe may do if its nationals are harmed.

A growing school of though is that the gruesome, highly public, deaths of James Foley and Stephen Sotloff (an Israeli/US), have done what three blood-soaked years in Syria and Iraq had previously failed to do: galvanized war-weary western leaders and their deeply skeptical publics to a common and fast growing enemy that may eventually point its turrets their way.

Advocates of toning down the brazen violence say that while such tactics have a strong terror shock value among communities they want to conquer, they also stir sleeping giants.

And if Isis is to continue its quest for dominance, having superpowers collectively enraged so soon might not help further such goals.

The group has enormous momentum at the moment:

1. militarily it is manoeuvering on three fronts at once – something far beyond the Iraqi, or Syrian armies.

2. It is collecting large numbers of Sunnis on both sides of the now redundant border. Some are joining out of coercion, others from fear and a smaller number from a conviction that the jihadis share their values and are acting out pre-ordained prophecies.

Whatever their motivation, Iraq’s Sunni minority shares a common sense of being estranged from any semblance of a political process ever since Saddam Hussein was ousted in Iraq and Shia Islamic Iran established itself as a post-occupation power.

Syria’s Sunni majority, especially in the north and east, has been partly subservient to a Shia-aligned Alawite regime for more than three decades longer. Together they make a formidable support base.

Supporters in favour of a less confrontational approach say that Isis needs this stunning progress to continue if it is to make good its goal of re-establishing a caliphate across ancient Islamic lands.

After declaring the establishment of a new caliphate, what to do now is at the behest of the self-styled caliph, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, and a tightly-knit military council that makes all the group’s strategic decisions.

(Currently, all the leading chiefs in ISIS are Iraqis. The Syrians and foreigners play secondary roles)

Some who study Isis closely say Baghdadi is aiming for an apocalyptic showdown that he wants to bring on sooner rather than later. Interpretations of Koranic teachings underpin all of what Baghdadi does.

And high on the list of teachings being adhered to by Isis is a 1,400 year old prediction that Muslims and Christians would fight a pre-apocalyptic battle in a place called Dabek. (I never heard of that prediction or who did the prediction)

Since establishing themselves as a force in northern Syria in May 2013, Isis members have focused on small hamlet of 4,000 people some 30 miles south of the Turkish border, called Murj Dabek. This, to many among Isis, is ground zero of the war, a place where ancient prophecies will be thrashed out in an existential battle between the faiths.

(I never heard of that prediction or who did the prediction. Murj Dabek is the battlefield where the Ottoman army crushed and the Mameluke army that ruled Egypt and Syria as the Ottoman Empire decided to expand southward during Salim I in the 16th century)

Baghdadi does not fear the Arab world’s armies. He has tapped into the ruins of a body politic across much of the Arab world that has spectacularly failed to share power or respond to the will of the street. He knows from his time in Iraq, both in US prisons and on the battlefields that to be realistically confronted, the US, or another power will need to ally with local backers.

He also knows, that without an occupying army – and re-occupying central Arabia is something that Barack Obama still seems repulsed by – it will be difficult to splinter the Sunni support base that now stands with him.

“There are military leaders working with him, former Saddam henchmen,” said one former middle-ranking member of Isis who left the group before it changed the face of the Middle East in June with its advances into Mosul and Tikrit.

They were not with us then. They thought we were a bus that they wanted to get to their destination. But now, from what I know of them, they are just as ruthless, just as committed. These people are running the war in places like Tikrit. Even if they part ways, they will help Islamic State win.”

Note: Apparently, the western States have not yet decided to crush ISIS and the social networks used by ISIS have been easily circumvented to spread the message.

The Moguls entered Syria: Before and after historical heritage in Pictures

In the last 3 decades, anywhere the US disregarded to resume its engagement and getting involved in a troubled countries, shit hit the fan.

In Afghanistan and Pakistan, the US gave Saudi Arabia the green light to handle these 2 troubled States after the Soviet troops vacated Afghanistan in 1989. The obscurantist Wahhabi religious brand of the Saudis were disseminated, billion of dollars poured in to build mosques and religious schools with Wahhabi clergymen running them.

In 2002, after the US defeated Taliban and turned its attention to conquer Iraq, Saudi Wahhabis resumed their obscurantist behaviors in Afghanistan and Pakistan and aided Taliban to regain lost territories in the mind of the people.

After the US was forced to vacate Iraq, redeafing Taliban was a much harder job to assume.

When the Berlin Wall fell, Saudi Wahhabi lavished the same kinds of aids in Chechnya and created the fanatic Islamist insurgents against Russia.

The same process were taking place in Sudan, Somalia, south Yemen, Algeria, Nigeria and the sub-Sahara poor States.

Iraq of Saddam, Syria of Hafez Assad and Libya of Qadhafi stood fast and deflected the dissemination of Saudi Wahhabi influence.

Just a single year after the US entered Baghdad, Saudi extremists infiltrated the Anbar and Salah Eddin provinces with Sunni majority, the same provinces that the current Iraqi government is trying to wipe out militarily these Daesh salafists, a faction of the Nusra and Qaeda movement.

Immediately after Qadhafi fell, Libya was handed over to these extremists elements. The same is going on in Tunisia, Mali, Chad, Nigeria, Somalia and Yemen.

It is the turn of Syria to suffer the calamity inflicted by the Wahhabi obscurantist religious brand. All these “mujaheddin” were denied re-entry into their homeland and were channeled to converge into Syria.

The same process of denying re-entry to any Moslem who fought in a “foreign land” is being currently applied eveywhere, from England, France, Belgium, USA, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, Chechnya…

Historical heritage in Syria, sleepy tree-lined boulevards where people lived and worked, time-worn markets where they came to trade and exquisitely detailed mosques where, throughout the ages, they prayed.

The war in Syria has claimed more than 130,000 lives and, as these images reveal, it is also laying waste to its historic buildings and Unesco-listed sites

 published in The Guardian this Jan. 26, 2014

Syria’s heritage in ruins: before-and-after pictures

Umayyad mosque

Omayyad mosque, Aleppo – pictured in 2012, before fighting destroyed it in 2013. Photograph: Alamy

All now stand in ruins, ravaged by a war that is not only killing generations of Syrians but also eradicating all around them, including sites that have stood since the dawn of civilisation.

Across Syria, where a seemingly unstoppable war is about to enter a third year, a heritage built over 5,000 years or more is being steadily buried under rubble.

The Old Souk in Aleppo

The Old Souk, Aleppo. Above in 2007 and below in 2013. Photographs: Corbis, Stanley Greene/Noor/Eyevine

The destruction of towns and villages is regularly revealed by raw, and often revolting, videos uploaded to the web, which many people stopped watching long ago.

Only seldom do the shaky images reveal the damage being done beyond the battle – to ancient churches, stone Crusader fortresses and ruins that have stood firm during several millennial of insurrection and purge but are being withered away by this unforgiving war.

At least two million of its citizens have fled into neighbouring states and more than two million others have been displaced within its borders.

Industry and economy has long ground to a halt. Hope too has been on a relentless slide. Syria has six Unesco sites, representing at least 2,000 years of history. All have been damaged.

Al-Kindi hospital in Aleppo

al-Kindi hospital, Aleppo. Above in 2012 and below in 2013. Photographs: Getty

These before and after pictures show the old world order of Syria reflected for decades in history books; where people bought wares in marketplaces or mingled in mosque courtyards.

They also reveal the shocking scale of devastation in all corners of the country and the damage done to Syria’s soul and identity.

In Aleppo, one of the oldest covered marketplaces in the world is now in ruins; its maze of stone streets has been one of the most intense battlefields in the country for the past 18 months, bombed from above by air force jets and chipped away at ground level by close quarter battles that show no sentiment towards heritage.

Those who dare raise their heads above the ruins, towards the ancient citadel that stands at the centre of the city, can also see damage to several of its walls.

A street in Homs, Syria in 2011 and 2014

A street in Homs, in 2011 (above) and 2014 (below)

Several hundred miles south, just west of Syria’s third city, Homs, one of the most important medieval castles in the world, Krak des Chevaliers, has taken an even heavier toll. Directly struck by shells fired from jets and artillery, the hilltop fortress now stands in partial ruin.

Homs itself has fared even worse.

A residential street, where cars not long ago parked under gum trees, has been destroyed. Life has ceased to function all around this part of the city, as it has in much of the heartland of the country. In one shot, a destroyed tank stands in the centre of a street. The old minaret next to it has also been blown up.

This photograph is thought to have been taken in the countryside near Hama, to the north of Homs. But it could just as easily encapsulate the damage done in parts of the capital, Damascus, or in towns and villages from Idlib in the north to Deraa in the south, where the first stirrings of insurrection in March 2011 sparked the war.

Omari Mosque in Deraa

Omari mosque in Deraa. Above in 2011 and below in 2013. Photographs: Reuters

In May 2012, Emma Cunliffe, a Durham University PhD student, and member of the Global Heritage Network, prepared a report on the damage done to Syria’s heritage sites, detailing the tapestry of civilisations that helped build contemporary Syria.

“Numerous bronze-age civilisations left their successive marks, including the Babylonians, the Assyrians and the Hittites,” she said. “They, in turn, were replaced by the Greeks, the Sasanians, the Persians, the Romans and the Arabs, many of whom chose Syrian cities as their capitals. The European Crusaders came and left some of the most impressive castles known and the Ottoman Empire also made its mark. All these cultures co-existed and conflicted, forming something new and special and found nowhere else in the world.

Souk Bab Antakya in Aleppo

Souq Bab Antakya, Aleppo. Above in 2009 and below after an attack in 2012. Photographs: Alamy, Reuters

Speaking this week, she said the threat to Syria’s heritage was now greater than ever.

“Archaeological sites in Syria are often on the front lines of conflict and are experiencing heavy damage. Economic hardship and decreased security mean even sites away from the fighting are looted. This is denying not only Syrians but the world a rich heritage which can provide a source of income and inspiration in the future.”

With little or no access to the country, satellite imagery is being used to track the destruction.

The Global Heritage Fund’s director of Global Projects, Dan Thompson said: “All of the country’s world heritage sites have sustained damage, including the Unesco site cities, and a great many of the other monuments in the country have been damaged, destroyed or have been subject to severe looting.

Umayyad Mosque in Aleppo

Umayyad mosque, Aleppo, pictured in 2012 (above) and 2013 (below). Photographs: Alamy, Corbis

“Shelling, shooting, heavy machinery installed in sites, and major looting are the leading causes of damage and destruction to the sites, although I would not discount that vandalism is also playing a part. As far as we know, no concrete action is being taken to combat the damage in the present moment.”


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