By Md. Nazmul Islam and Abdul Hannan Tuhin
“International Terrorism is to refer involve violent acts or acts dangerous to human life that violate the state law and international law. Appear to be intended to intimidate or coerce a civilian population; to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion; or to affect the conduct of a government by mass destruction, assassination, or kidnapping.” The recent emergence of Islamic State in Iraq and Levant (ISIL) in Middle East, especially in Iraq and Syria, has taken the attention of the international community with threatening the security and stability of the Middle East countries. The United States, the European Union and Middle Eastern countries are concerned about the spread of ISIL in Syria and Iraq. The organization is well organized and well equipped then the other terrorist group in the world. In the early stage, the organization was limited within the Iraq but recently it extended its purview to northwestern Iraq and northeastern Syria with the aim of remapping the Middle East. The organization conducted a good number of terrorist attacks in Iraq and Syria including the beheaded of two American journalist. As a part of US counter terrorism, US and a coalition of more than fifty states started air strike on the ISIL to abolish them.
ISIS or ISIL of large sections of the Sunni region of Iraq in June 2014 constitutes another dramatic step toward the collapse of the post-Ottoman state system in the Levant. Following Syria, Iraq is fragmenting. The potential ramifications of this touch on the interests of all the countries surrounding Syria and Iraq, and include energy issues, refugee flows, and Salafi infiltration.
Rise of the ISIL
It was only in 2010 that current leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi took over the organization. Baghdadi grew up near Baghdad and claims to be a descendant of the Prophet Muhammad. He has been crucial in rebuilding the organization and prioritizing its Dawa (missionary) activities, which seek to complement the group’s harsh exterior with effective social services, such as providing food, education and healthcare. His tenure has also ushered in an era of unprecedented financial prosperity for the group, which is now the richest terrorist organization in the world thanks largely to its control over oil fields, banks and tax collection in areas under its control.
Baghdadi also spearheaded the group’s expansion into neighbouring Syria, first under the banner of the al-Nusra Front, led by one of Baghdadi’s top lieutenants. But when the Nusra Front began to assert its independence in 2013, Baghdadi took a more direct approach. He expanded ISI itself into Syria, creating the Islamic State of Iraq and the Shams/the Levant (ISIS, or ISIL). ISIS and Nusra battled for leadership of the Islamist rebel movement in Syria, and for the official endorsement as al-Qaeda’s representative in Syria.
By February 2014, al-Qaeda had formally disavowed any links with ISIS, partly because of its proclivity for extreme violence and its brutal rule over areas under its control. ISIS, however, had won the territory battle. Energized by the arrival of thousands of foreign fighters, ISIS controls large sections of Syria and, in June 2014, extended its control to parts of northern Iraq in daring raids on key cities including Mosul and Tikrit.
It was also in June 2014 that ISIS changed its name yet again, this time to the Islamic State, and declared the return of the Caliphate, with Baghdadi as Caliph. Not only is this an existential threat to the sovereignty of the Iraqi and Syrian governments, but it is also a challenge to al-Qaeda for leadership of the global jihadist movement. Al- Qaeda has long sought to establish a global Caliphate, but so far the Islamic State has come closest to making this a reality, both by unilaterally declaring the existence of the Caliphate a move strongly opposed by al-Qaeda and by occupying significant swathes of territory.
Funding and Resources of the ISIL
The supporters in the ISIL control region, including those based in Jordan, Syria, and Saudi Arabia, are believed to have provided the bulk of past funding. Iran has also financed AQI, crossing sectarian lines, as Tehran saw an opportunity to challenge the U.S. military presence in the region, according to the U.S. Treasury and documents confiscated in 2006 from Iranian Revolutionary Guards operatives in northern Iraq. “In early 2014, Iran offered to join the United States in offering aid to the Iraqi government to counter al-Qaeda gains in Anbar province”.
The bulk of ISIL’s financing, experts say, comes from sources such as smuggling, extortion, and other crime. ISIS has relied in recent years on funding and manpower from internal recruits. Even prior to ISIL’s takeover of Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city, in June 2014, the group extorted taxes from businesses small and large, netting upwards of $8 million a month, according to some estimates. Over the past six months, since the group began sweeping across eastern Syria and into Iraq, experts estimate that its leaders have gained access to £1.2 billion in cash – more than the most recent recorded annual military expenditure of Ireland. “Isil is not out in the economic boondocks of Afghanistan or hidden in deserts and caves,” said Paul Sullivan, a Middle East specialist at Georgetown University in Washington. “Isil is developing in a vital oil, gas and trade area of the world. It can grab as it expands.” Private donations from supporters in the Gulf also contribute to their funding although Saudi Arabia and other Gulf nations have tried to make it harder to do so without government approval. During the war in Afghanistan, Saudi supporters could donate money directly at their mosque with no government supervision. When they captured Mosul, Iraq’s envoy to the UN said they obtained nearly 88lb of nuclear material, in the form of low-grade uranium compounds seized from a scientific research facility. The nuclear material would not be easily turned into weapons. After conquering swaths of western Iraq, ISIL fighters also now control territory where 40 per cent of the country’s wheat is grown. The group’s members are also reportedly milling grain in government silos and selling the flour on the local market.
Leadership and Structure of the ISIL
ISIL run like a terrorist bureaucracy, with Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the self-proclaimed Caliph, at its head. Born in Samarra, Baghdadi was studying at the University of Islamic Sciences in Baghdad when the US invaded Iraq in March 2003. He was not thought to be connected to either al-Qaeda or its local offshoot in the early years of resistance. But by late 2005 he had been captured as a suspected mid-ranking figure in the anti-US Sunni insurgency, and he later rose to lead al-Qaeda in Iraq before splitting with them to form Isil. He has since established a team of obedient Islamist mandarins, everything from prisoner management to suicide operations is delegated to his deputies. “He is rational,” said Hisham al-Hashimi, a senior Iraqi researcher senior on Islamic militancy.”He thinks very clearly about what he is doing. He is deeply ideological and committed. He is also very determined to make himself into the one true ruler of Sunni Islam.” At the top is a “cabinet” of experienced military officers.
Abu Ali al-Anbari was a major general in the Iraqi military under Saddam Hussein. Under Baghdadi he is now charged with managing the Syrian territories currently under Isil control. Another former officer from Saddam’s army is Abu Muslim al-Turkmani, who was a lieutenant colonel in military intelligence. The finances of the group’s Iraqi provinces are managed by a man calling himself Abu Salah.
Details of the Isil leadership structure were unearthed after documents were captured during a raid on the group’s positions in June. They revealed that a series of other deputies have been assigned to a variety of roles befitting a major terrorist organization including the oversight of improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and caring for the families of “martyrs”. Beneath the “cabinet” level there are reportedly approximately 1,000 medium and top-level field commanders. Salaries reportedly range from $300 to $2000 per month depending on the job post.
ISIL and the Political Puzzle in the Middle East
To piece together the political puzzle in the region, it is important to analyse two contradictory camps of thought about who is behind ISIS and who employs them to further their interests. The first camp of thought, most prominently put forward by the authorities in Turkey, argues that there is coordination between Assad’s regime and ISIL. According to Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, “ISIL is in league with the regime of President Bashar al-Assad”. Furthermore, as told to Daily Telegraph by some Western intelligence sources, al-Assad is collaborating with ISIS and JN, especially with secret oil deals, as these groups control some oil fields and sell oil to the regime. The camp’s perspective includes the Arab Gulf States and the Syrian National Council (SNC). To reiterate this stream of thought, a report by al-Arabiya emphasised on 21st January 2014 that there was cooperation between the Assad regime and ISIS. There seems a consensus in this camp that the Assad regime is cooperating with ISIS to hamper the moderate rebel advancement and to show the international community that all rebels are terrorists. Additionally, it asserts the historical relationship between Assad’s regime and al- Qaida, pointing out that the Syrian regime was facilitating terrorist activities against American troops in Iraq before their withdrawal.
Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has rightly accused Saudi Arabia and Qatar of having sponsored the Jihadists of ISIS for about three years, ever since the start of the Syrian civil war. Al-Maliki should also blame the US and its European allies. By invading Iraq in 2003, toppling Saddam Hussein, and then fostering and sponsoring of the Jihadists in Syria since 2011, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the US have opened a geopolitical Pandora’s box. Out of it came ISIS. United States foreign policy has been schizophrenic for decades, but it recently reached the apex of contradiction: to please Saudis and Qataris, Washington has supported the Jihadist fighters against Assad in Syria, and simultaneously in Iraq, Washington has supported al-Maliki’s government against those same Jihadists.
The long conflicting nature of Middle East politics is another factor for the development of ISIL. Most of the countries in the Middle East are conflictual in their internal mater. Conflict are continuing for long time in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Labia and little in some other countries. This long time conflict weakening the state apparatus which ignite the breed of insurgent group. The Iraq and Syria are most conflict prone country in the world, civil war continuing in Syria, Iraq is divided in various sects and groups. A substantial portion of land is out of control of the central government which creates an ambience to breed terrorism. The rise of ISIL are not except of it. The institutionalized militarization of Iraqi society and culture has been started from the Saddan’s regime. The establishment of popular militias started as far back as 1980 and continued throughout the Iran-Iraq war (1980-88).
Another argues that ISIL, JN and other extremist groups are funded and supported by Turkey and some unidentified individuals from the Arab Gulf states. This argument is publicized by the Syrian regime, Russia, Iran and the central government of Iraq. However, Iraq’s formal foreign policy is not to back any side, regardless of its point of view. The views of this camp are noticeably reflected in their broadcasting institutions, such as Russia Today, Press TV (Iranian Channel), etc. For example, a report by Press TV (2014) stated that Saudi Arabia and Qatar were sending weapons to SNC and other extremist militants fighting against the Syrian regime.
Terrorist Dilemma on the Issue of ISIL
China and Russia have long been preaching about the “terrorist dilemma” emanating from the region and may well support (Ukraine depending) a counterterrorism operation against ISIL. Similarly, while Iran has rejected the idea of US air strikes inside Syria, with negotiations between the E3+3 and Tehran on a comprehensive agreement regarding Iran’s nuclear programme reaching a decisive moment, it could find a more pragmatic private accommodation with a US policy in Syria limited at attacking ISIL but avoiding any slide to regime change.
Syria, as ever, is where things become more complex. There is wide acceptance that ISIL won’t be defeated until the Syrian civil war ends and unless Obama has an effective plan for the Syrian conflict then the strategy will only go so far. The current plan’s Syrian dimensions are somewhat vague and based around the rehashed policy of supporting vetted “Syrian moderates” along with US airpower.
So the offensive against ISIL offers geopolitical green lights across the main regional and international players. But there are losers and as ever in the era of the refugee these are likely, certainly in the short term, to be those civilians currently living in ISIL-controlled areas. Tens of thousands have already been displaced by a combination of violence in Iraq, Syria, and the ISIL emergence, the addition of this new Obama campaign will place those remaining in the eye of the gathering storm.
Defeating ISIL for Protecting International Peace and Security
The new strategy and tactics should aim to contain and degrade ISIL and enable regional partners to continue to build the tools needed to defeat ISIS’s movement with international support. This report outlines actions to advance several core strategic goals:
l Contain and degrade the threat ISIL poses to the Middle East region and global security
l Alleviate the humanitarian crisis affecting millions of Syrians and Iraqis
l Restore the territorial integrity of Iraq and Syria
l Building and managing an international coalition to defeat ISIS and stabilize the region
l Increasing support for Iraq’s political, economic, and security transitions, in particular with a revived U.S.-Iraq Strategic Framework Agreement
l Initiating a more concerted effort to end Syria’s civil war and support the creation of a transitional government
l Create an ISIS-focused intelligence fusion cell in the region
l Airstrikes and surveillance in support of regional forces and local ground forces fighting ISIL and al-Nusra Front
l Enhance law enforcement and intelligence fusion efforts to identify and counter ISIL and other terrorist fighters holding Western passports
l Urge the appointment of a U.N. special envoy to lead the international response to the regional humanitarian crisis and step up assistance for displaced Syrians and Iraqis
l Seek passage of a new U.N. Security Council resolution on foreign terrorist fighters
The ideology and agenda of ISIL, as well as its collaborators, have seen several ebbs and flows. The changing mood against ISIS in the region may well prove to be temporary unless there is reconciliation of the sectarian and political factions, along with fairness in the distribution of wealth and power. ISIL is the not the only devil among dozens of extremist groups in Iraq and Syria, although it is the one that has caused the most turbulence and instability. The annihilation of ISIL alone will not lead to security and stability, unless the reasons that have created chaos in the region providing an opportunity to groups like ISIL to exploit the situation are themselves addressed.