Thursday, September 11, 2014

Conflict Begetting Conflict: ISIS This 9/11

I don't post about 9/11 every year, because I usually don't feel I have anything new or important to say.  This year seems to call for it, in part because of the sharp rise to prominence of al-Qaeda's former Iraq affiliate, which now claims to be the (implied one true) Islamic State, and tries to urge all Muslims to migrate to it.

I can't, however, shake my hatred of the situation, not only of the rise of ISIS, but the way conflict fuels more conflict, and necessary evils often thrive, even if they are still evil.  Al-Qaeda itself did not rise from a vacuum, but rather made organizationally incarnate an ideology developed in Afghanistan during the 1980's war, when those influenced by the Muslim Brotherhood's program of Islamic identity-based activism hooked up with those influenced by the puritanical law-centered Islam brought by volunteer fighters from Saudi Arabia.  It was then fueled by perceptions of the sanctions placed on Iraq in the aftermath of the first Persian Gulf War, perceptions engineered by Saddam Hussein manipulating the situation so that lots of innocent Iraqi suffering could be advertised.

Al-Qaeda entered Iraq with the Anglo-American invasion of 2003, and ISIS, a moniker I prefer to  "Islamic State" in solidarity with those who deny their claims, having been beaten in Iraq, gained new life from the civil war in Syria.  There, another evil dictator, Bashar al-Assad, enabled it, letting transnational salafi jihadists out of prison and avoiding taking them on directly so he could claim that al-Qaeda affiliates and fellow travelers were his major enemies.  Although President Obama has pledged to find Syrians to work with who are in neither the al-Qaeda nor the Assad camp, I am dubious that any are strong enough, and such a policy will certainly prolong a civil war that has already claimed 200,000 lives.

In other words, thirteen years after 9/11, evil is on the march.  Civilizational hatreds run wild across social media.  I suspect that if contained, ISIS in Iraq at least will collapse under its own weight.  Much human suffering would happen in the meantime, with northern Iraq's religious demography probably never being the same.  It is an open question whether this will be the crisis which makes Iraqi democracy by causing the downfall of budding strongman Nouri al-Maliki and the rise of a prime minister seemingly more committed to being a leader of all Iraqis.  Perhaps, however, there is a sort of hope in the unity with which most reject ISIS:
IS has achieved something scarcely conceivable in the Middle East by uniting the bitterest of foes in a common purpose. Such diverse actors as Europeans and Kurds, the embattled Syrian regime along with many of the rebels opposing it, Turkey, a slew of Arab states, as well as Israel and the Iraqi government itself have all clamoured for American intervention. Even Iran, though unenthusiastic about the Americans’ return to a theatre that it has worked hard to squeeze them out of, has accepted a tacit, temporary alliance with the Great Satan.

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