What Makes Islamic State A Formidable Terrorist Group? – OpEd


It is an indisputable fact that morale and ideology plays an important role in the battle; moreover, we also know that the Takfiri brand of most jihadists, these days, has directly been inspired by the puritanical Wahhabi-Salafi ideology of Saudi Arabia, but ideology alone is not sufficient to succeed in the battle.

Looking at Islamic State’s spectacular gains in Syria and Iraq in the last couple of years, a question arises that where does its recruits get all the training and state-of-the-art weapons that are imperative not only for the hit-and-run guerrilla warfare but also for capturing and holding vast swathes of territory?

The Syria experts of the foreign policy think tanks also seem to be quite “worried,” these days, that where do Islamic State’s jihadists get all the sophisticated weapons and especially those fancy white Toyota pick-up trucks mounted with machine guns at the back, colloquially known as “The Technicals” among the jihadists?

I think that I have found the answer to this riddle in an unprecedented December 2013 news report [1] from a website affiliated with the UAE government which supports the Syrian Opposition: it is clearly mentioned that along with AK-47s, RPGs and other military gear, the Saudi regime also provides machine gun-mounted Toyota pick-up trucks to every batch of five jihadists who have completed their training in the training camps located at the border regions of Jordan. Once those militants cross over to Daraa and Quneitra in Syria from the Jordan-Syria border then those Toyota pick-up trucks can easily travel all the way to Raqaa and Deir ez-Zor and thence to Mosul and Anbar in Iraq.

Apart from training and arms which have been provided to the militants in the training camps located on the Turkish and Jordanian border regions adjacent to Syria by the CIA in collaboration with the Turkish, Jordanian and Saudi intelligence agencies, another factor which has contributed to the spectacular success of Islamic State is that its top cadres are comprised of former Baathist military and intelligence officers of the Saddam era. According to an informative Associated Press report [2], hundreds of ex-Baathists constitute the top and mid-tier command structure of Islamic State who plan all the operations and direct its military strategy.

While we are on the subject of Islamic State’s weaponry, it is generally claimed by the political commentators of the Western mainstream media that Islamic State came into possession of those sophisticated weapons when it overran Mosul in June 2014 and seized large caches of weapons that were provided to the Iraqi Armed Forces by the Americans during the occupation years.

On logical grounds, however, is it not a bit paradoxical that Islamic State conquered large swathes of territory in Syria and Iraq before it overran Mosul, when it supposedly did not had those sophisticated weapons, and after allegedly coming into possession of those weapons it is continuously losing ground? The only conclusion that can be drawn from this simple fact is that Islamic State had those weapons, or equally deadly weapons, before it overran Mosul in June 2014.

More to the point, only thing that differentiates Islamic State from all other insurgent groups is its command structure which is comprised of professional ex-Baathists and its state-of-the-art weaponry that has been provided to all the Sunni Arab militant outfits that are fighting in Syria by the intelligence agencies of the Western powers, Turkey, Jordan and Saudi Arabia.

However, a number of Islamic State affiliates have recently sprung up all over the Middle East and North Africa region that have no organizational and operational association, whatsoever, with Islamic State proper in Syria and Iraq, such as, the Islamic State affiliates in Afghanistan, Libya and even Boko Haram in Nigeria now falls under the umbrella of Islamic State.

It’s understandable for the laymen to conflate such local militant outfits for Islamic State proper but how come the policy analysts of the think tanks and the corporate media’s spin-doctors, who are fully in the know, have fallen for such a ruse? Can we categorize any ragtag militant outfit as Islamic State merely on the basis of ideological affinity and “a letter of accreditation” from Abu Bakr al Baghdadi without the Islamic State’s Baathist command structure and superior weaponry that has been bankrolled [3] by the Gulf’s petro-dollars?

The Western political establishments and their mouthpiece, the mainstream media, deliberately and knowingly falls for such stratagems because it serves the agenda of creating bogeymen after bogeymen to keep the enterprise of Fear Inc. running. Before acknowledging Islamic State’s affiliates in the region, the Western mainstream media also similarly and “naively” acknowledged al Qaeda’s affiliates in the region, too, merely on the basis of ideological affinity without any organizational and operational association with al Qaeda Central, such as, al Qaeda in Arabian Peninsula, al Qaeda in Iraq and al Qaeda in Islamic Maghreb.

Notwithstanding, in order to create a semblance of objectivity and impartiality, the American policy makers and analysts are always willing to accept the blame for the mistakes of the distant past that have no bearing on their present policy, however, any fact that impinges on their existing policy is conveniently brushed aside.

In the case of the formation of Islamic State, for instance, the US’ policy analysts are willing to concede that invading Iraq back in 2003 was a mistake that radicalized the Iraqi society, exacerbated the sectarian divisions and gave birth to an unrelenting Sunni insurgency against the heavy handed and discriminatory policies of the Shi’a-dominated Iraqi government; similarly, the “war on terror” era political commentators also “generously” accept that the Cold War era policy of nurturing the al Qaeda, Taliban and myriads of other Afghan militant groups against the erstwhile Soviet Union was a mistake, because all those fait accompli have no bearing on their present policy.

The corporate media’s spin-doctors conveniently forget, however, that the formation of Islamic State and myriads of other Sunni Arab jihadist groups in Syria and Iraq has as much to do with the unilateral invasion of Iraq back in 2003 under the previous Bush Administration as it is the outcome of the present policy of Obama Administration in Syria of funding, arming, training and internationally legitimizing the Sunni militants against the Syrian regime since 2011-onward in the wake of the Arab Spring uprisings in the Middle East and North Africa region. In fact, the proximate cause behind the rise of Islamic State, al Nusra Front, Ahrar al-Sham, Jaysh al-Islam and numerous other Sunni Arab militant groups in Syria and Iraq has been Obama Administration’s policy of intervention through proxies in Syria.

Notwithstanding, fighting wars through proxies allows the international power brokers the luxury of taking the plea of plausible deniability in their defense and at the same time they can shift all the blame for the wrongdoing on the minor regional players. The culpability of Western powers lies in the fact that because of their self-serving policies, a system of international justice based on sound principles of morality and justice cannot be built on an international stage, in which the violators can be punished for the wrongdoing and the victims of injustice and tyranny can be protected.

Sources and links:
[1] Syrian rebels get arms and advice through secret command center in Amman:

[2] Islamic State’s top command dominated by ex-officers in Saddam’s army: http://www.dawn.com/news/1199401/is-top-command-dominated-by-ex-officers-in-saddams-army

[3] Weapons flowing from Eastern Europe to Middle East: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/jul/27/weapons-flowing-eastern-europe-middle-east-revealed-arms-trade-syria

Nauman Sadiq

Nauman Sadiq is an Islamabad-based attorney, columnist and geopolitical analyst focused on the politics of Af-Pak and MENA regions, neocolonialism and Petroimperialism.

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