ISIS. This is not the International Secret Intelligence Service. This is arguably the newest state on the planet, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.
In the mayhem of the Iraqi Civil War, the preeminent threat to Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and his Shiite government is the militant Sunni group, ISIS. Actually, truth be told, the fledgling state is a threat to the entire status quo of the middle east – the frontier moves through Syria and Iraq, because ISIS isn’t concerned with what it sees as artificial divisions designed to suppress the creation of an Islamic state.
The area ISIS now occupies is larger than Israel and takes in oilfields, electrical grids, prisons, abandoned weapons depots and small manufacturing hubs. When ISIS swept through Mosul, it captured its Central Bank with estimated reserves of over $240 million. Comparatively when al-Qaida attacked New York in 2001, it had reserves estimated at $30 million. So not only do they have vaster reserves to dig into, but the capacity to draw revenue from the areas they occupy that are still populated. The threat ISIS poses to the region now seems to dwarf al-Zahawi’s al-Qaida, its greater wealth and revenue capacity make it a viable state and have brought unlikely bedfellows together for the sake of crushing a common enemy.
Not everyone is as concerned about ISIS’s capacity to prolong its existence against the damage it can inflict in the near future however. Many think that the jihadist state will go the same way as Northern Mali, which was seized by rebels and declared independent from the rest of the state last year only to be routed by French insurgents in the following months. The brutality that follows in ISIS’s wake as it as has taken Tikrit, Mosul and Fallujah along with its “Repent or Die” motto does set it at odds with a long term goal of sovereignty. In fact, ISIS first came to international prominence with cell phone footage of prisoners of war being crucified for apostasy in a public square. Not even Sunni Muslims are safe from ISIS’s wrath with some Sunni Muslim’s have been reported as killed for being suspected US sympathisers/collaborators.
Nevertheless, the terror that the advancing frontline has brought broke some of the Iraqi defence which has only in the last couple of days managed to regroup around Baghdad – although fears now run rampant over insurgents within the city rather than those advancing on it.
Despite being undoubtedly quite far away, these developments are likely to have a repercussion for some Australians, with a third international jaunt into Iraq now on the cards. The Prime Minister labelled ISIS as “a splinter group too extreme for al-Qaida” and when asked about military intervention said that he would “wait and see”. The United States has sent the aircraft carrier USS George W Bush to the Persian Gulf but doesn’t appear committed to sending in ground troops unlike neighbouring nation Iran which has committed to working with Iraq in repelling the advancing militia.
(image courtesy of: sunnewsonline.com)