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Ozan Ormeci: What is ISIS, and what it wants?

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Baku, 13 September 2014 – Newtimes.az

The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, also known as ISIS, is a terrorist organization that rose to prominence for violence in Syria and especially Iraq in the last few months. The organization caused worldwide outcry after they kidnapped Turkish diplomats and consulate staffers, attacked the Iraqi army and took control of Mosul, and massacred Shia Turkmens, Christians and Yazidis. In the last few weeks the group released videos of how they behead kidnapped American journalists, provoking hatred of the world community [1]. Later, starting from August 9, the U.S. army and the British Special Air Service (SAS) commandos launched attacks on ISIS (mainly air strikes) [2]. Although ISIS claims that its ideology is based on strict Islamic beliefs, the group`s illogical moves and extreme acts of violence prove its being an umbrella organization that serves geopolitical and political interests, rather than religious ones. In this work, I will try to look into what ISIS is and briefly analyze what the world community thinks of the group`s structure and goals.

Contrary to what many believe, ISIS is not a new terrorist organization. Founded by Jordanian Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, under the name Jamāat al-Tawḥīd wa-al-Jihād in 2003 after the USA`s invasion of Iraq, the group later swore loyalty to al-Qaeda and changed its name to Tanẓīm Qāidat al-Jihād fī Bilād al-Rāfidayn, "The Organisation of Jihad's Base in Mesopotamia", commonly known as al-Qaeda in Iraq [3]. The organization was supported by smaller terrorist insurgent groups, including Jaish al Fatiheen, Jaish al-Taifa al-Mansoura, Katbiyan al-Tawhid wal Sunnah, and Jund asl-Sahaba, as well as al-Qaeda [4]. ISIS` major aim is to build a Salafi caliphate in the northern parts of Iraq and Syria inhabited by Sunni Arabs, Turkmens and Kurds [5]. Professor Ata Atun believes that the group wins local people`s support because it shares the trophies with them [6].

From 2004 to 2010 the terrorist organization was establishing itself. The year 2010 was a turning point in the group`s life when Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi came to power after the U.S. army annihilated leader of the organization Abu Omar al-Baghdadi and his assistant Abu Hamza al-Muhajir [7]. Al-Baghdadi`s becoming the number one of the organization boosted its power and increased the number of members. America believes that al-Baghdadi, who announced himself the caliph of the Islamic world, still lives in Syria and plans out the organization`s attacks [8]. The second turning point for the organization was the USA`s withdrawal from Iraq in 2011. This paved the way for the organization to expand the scope of its activity and gain ground among Sunni groups in Syria and Iraq, striking fear into people`s hearts. [9] The third turning point for the organization was the Arab spring. Although ISIS pinned great hopes on the Arab revolution, it appeared to have caused only trouble. The spread of the Arab spring to Syria and the Assad regime`s losing control of half of the country`s territory helped ISIS seize control of large areas in Syria and start coordinating its attacks on Iraq [10]. The fact that Gulf countries such as Saudi Arabia and Qatar and Turkey began to support the anti-Assad movement, which also involved radical groups, speeded up the emergence of an important stronghold of ISIS. The fourth turning point for the organization was the Al Maliki government`s wrong attitude towards Sunni groups, which elevated the status of ISIS among local public [11]. As a result, it won a lot of support from Iraqis, with many cities falling under the organization`s control.

There are different versions on how ISIS is funded. According to Zachary Laub from the Council on Foreign Relations, despite ISIS seems to be a political and religious organization, it is in fact a terrorist group and the bulk of its financing, experts say, comes from sources such as smuggling, extortion, and other crime [12]. The organization funds its own operations through bank heists, extortion, kidnappings, and other tactics. ISIS consists of Salafi jihadists coming from different parts of the world (Chechnya, Africa, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Libya and even Europe). Experts believe there are between 5,000 or 6,000 ISIS militants in Syria, and more than 10,000 in Iraq. They say there are many Turkish citizens among the jihadists. Experts say ISIS steals arms from US bases in Iraq and also uses weapons supplied by Turkey, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and US to the Syrian opposition [13].

Although ISIS claims that its primary aim is to establish a caliphate — a single, transnational Islamic state based on sharia [14], experts say the organization uses its ideology to win local population`s sympathies. In fact, ISIS wants to establish an anti-Western Sunni state in Iraq and Syria and get rid of different religious groups in the region (Nusayri Shias, Christians, Shias, Yazidis). ISIS ideology defends a strict sharia law, separate education, music ban, obligatory covering for woman and Ramadan fasting. In fact, the difference between Turkish and world political Islamic thinkers and parties and ISIS is that the latter is trying to achieve its goals by means of force [15]. According to Alastair Crooke, former MI-6 agent, the real aim of ISIS is to replace the Saud family as the new emirs of the Gulf region [16]. And who supports the organization has remained a big mystery. In this context, the fact that the organization has not been engaged in a serious standoff with Kurdish groups and murdered mostly Turkmens, Christians and Yazidis draws attention to claims that ISIS aims to build a Kurdish state in the north of Iraq. The reason is that the regional leadership of Kurdistan, which is forced to defend itself against ISIS, is behaving as an independent state and is arming Peshmerge army with weapons purchased from European countries. It should be noted that Israel too has recently expressed its readiness to recognize Kurdistan.

To summarize, whoever stands behind ISIS it is a fact that what the organization has done so far considerably undermined Islam and Muslims all over the world, legitimizing the West`s military intervention in the region. In this sense, a claim that under the cover of the enemy of the West ISIS may probably be supported by certain West-headquartered organizations seems to be more than a conspiracy theory. Thanks to ISIS the crisis-hit defence industry of the West has enjoyed revival and the entire world – including Muslims – has provided support to the operations against the region. The fact that most of the Muslim countries do not have an established secular state building and, moreover, that there are efforts to destroy the only successful model (Turkey and Kamalism) justifies the West`s military intervention. So Muslim countries` backwardness in terms of a secular and democratic state building, unfortunately, impedes their growth into independent and strong political powers.

Note: I hail the efforts of Newtimes.az analytical Internet portal, which is published in brotherly Azerbaijan and which is a brotherly website of the International Political Academy (UPA), towards promoting real Islamic values amid ISIS terrorist organization`s violence and atrocities that disappointed the entire Islamic world. I hope that the Turkish press and broadcasting agencies will follow this example.

Dr. Ozan Örmeci

[1] ''What ISIS, an al-Qaeda affiliate in Syria, really wants'', The Economist, Erişim Tarihi: 09.09.2014, Erişim Adresi: http://www.economist.com/blogs/economist-explains/2014/01/economist-explains-12#sthash.NXeBJmBk.dpuf.

[2] Bu konuda bir değerlendirme için; Tansi, Deniz (2014), ''ABD’nin İŞİD Operasyonu'', Uluslararası Politika Akademisi, Erişim Tarihi: 09.09.2014, Erişim Adresi: http://politikaakademisi.org/abdnin-isid-operasyonu/.

[3] Göktürk, Tüysüzoğlu (2014), ''İŞİD Ne Yapmaya Çalışıyor?'', Uluslararası Politika Akademisi, Erişim Tarihi: 09.09.2014, Erişim Adresi: http://politikaakademisi.org/isid-ne-yapmaya-calisiyor/.

[4] Atun, Ata (2014), ''İŞİD Kim ve Ne Yapmak İstiyor (1)'', Avrupa Gazete, Erişim Tarihi: 09.09.2014, Erişim Adresi: https://www.avrupagazete.com/ata-atun/84108-isid-kim-ve-ne-yapmak-istiyor-1.html.

[5] Göktürk, Tüysüzoğlu (2014), ''İŞİD Ne Yapmaya Çalışıyor?'', Uluslararası Politika Akademisi, Erişim Tarihi: 09.09.2014, Erişim Adresi: http://politikaakademisi.org/isid-ne-yapmaya-calisiyor/.

[6] Atun, Ata (2014), ''İŞİD Kim ve Ne Yapmak İstiyor (1)'', Avrupa Gazete, Erişim Tarihi: 09.09.2014, Erişim Adresi: https://www.avrupagazete.com/ata-atun/84108-isid-kim-ve-ne-yapmak-istiyor-1.html.

[7] Göktürk, Tüysüzoğlu (2014), ''İŞİD Ne Yapmaya Çalışıyor?'', Uluslararası Politika Akademisi, Erişim Tarihi: 09.09.2014, Erişim Adresi: http://politikaakademisi.org/isid-ne-yapmaya-calisiyor/.

[8] Laub, Zachary (2014), ''Islamic State in Iraq and Syria'', Council on Foreign Relations, Erişim Tarihi: 09.09.2014, Erişim Adresi: http://www.cfr.org/iraq/islamic-state-iraq-syria/p14811.

[9] Laub, Zachary (2014), ''Islamic State in Iraq and Syria'', Council on Foreign Relations, Erişim Tarihi: 09.09.2014, Erişim Adresi: http://www.cfr.org/iraq/islamic-state-iraq-syria/p14811.

[10] ''What ISIS, an al-Qaeda affiliate in Syria, really wants'', The Economist, Erişim Tarihi: 09.09.2014, Erişim Adresi: http://www.economist.com/blogs/economist-explains/2014/01/economist-explains-12#sthash.NXeBJmBk.dpuf.

[11] Laub, Zachary (2014), ''Islamic State in Iraq and Syria'', Council on Foreign Relations, Erişim Tarihi: 09.09.2014, Erişim Adresi: http://www.cfr.org/iraq/islamic-state-iraq-syria/p14811.

[12] Laub, Zachary (2014), ''Islamic State in Iraq and Syria'', Council on Foreign Relations, Erişim Tarihi: 09.09.2014, Erişim Adresi: http://www.cfr.org/iraq/islamic-state-iraq-syria/p14811.

[13] Göktürk, Tüysüzoğlu (2014), ''İŞİD Ne Yapmaya Çalışıyor?'', Uluslararası Politika Akademisi, Erişim Tarihi: 09.09.2014, Erişim Adresi: http://politikaakademisi.org/isid-ne-yapmaya-calisiyor/.

[14] ''Viewpoint: ISIS goals and possible future gains'', BBC, Erişim Tarihi: 09.09.2014, Erişim Adresi:http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-27801680.

[15] ''ISIS: The first terror group to build an Islamic state?'', CNN, Erişim Tarihi: 09.09.2014, Erişim Adresi:http://edition.cnn.com/2014/06/12/world/meast/who-is-the-isis/.

[16] Crooke, Alastair (2014), ''Middle East Time Bomb: The Real Aim of ISIS Is to Replace the Saud Family as the New Emirs of Arabia'', Erişim Tarihi: 09.09.2014, Erişim Adresi: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/alastair-crooke/isis-aim-saudi-arabia_b_5748744.html.

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