Thursday, July 10, 2014

Who is Baghdadi?

Abu-bakr al-Baghdadi is the self-professed Caliph of the Islamic State, that now stretches some 250 miles from Aleppo in former Syria to Mosul in former Iraq, also known as ISIS, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.  He was a fomer Imam in Baghdad who joined al Qaeda and then went beyond them.  He has just released a video of himself preaching at a Mosque in Mosul and commanding all (Sunni) Muslims to obey him.  He is now presenting himself as the top authority in Islam.  As such he has many enemies, he has broken with Al Qaeda, and his fighters have clashed with those of al Qaeda.  The difference in tactics between ISIS and al Qaeda is that although their ultimate aims are the same, to establish a world-wide Muslim Caliphate, he has gone directly to that goal, seeing the opportunity in the disintegration of Syria and Iraq, while al Qaeda is hung up on attacking the West and particularly the USA as the chief obstacle to Muslim expansionism.   
His other chief enemy are the Shia, who he and other Sunnis regard as heretical Muslims. The schism occurred very early in the history of Islam and is fundamental to the progress of the Islamic State.  The immediate enemy is the Shia-dominated Iraqi Government of Nuri al Maliki, whose American-trained and supplied forces faded away when faced by the ISIS fighters.  Now the Iraqi army with Shia militias is mounting a counter attack, with limited success.  His other Shia enemy is of course Pres. Assad of Syria, who is an Awalakite and an ally of the Shia, and their principal backer is of course Shia Iran.  The Ayatollahs in Iran must be preparing themselves for a long brutal war against the forces of this new Sunni Islamic State. 
His other enemies are Saudi Arabia, the center of orthodox Salafist  Islam and an American ally, and of course the US and the West itself.  But, he is unlikely to try to mount attacks directly on the US and the West, while he is fighting an intense military war with the Shia in Iraq as well as other local forces, such as the Kurds.  He will presumably try to consolidate his position before attacking Iran or Saudi Arabia or the USA.  He might be a threat to Israel, since he regards Jordan, Lebanon and Israel as part of the historica Islamic State and will no doubt try to undermine them, taking advantage of the millions of Syrian Sunni Arabs now living as refugees in Jordan and Lebanon.   He also regards Turkey as an enemy since they "stole" the Caliphate from the Arabs in 1453 and retained control until defeated by the British in WWI and the subsequent Turkish revolt of 1923, when the last Caliphate was abolished. 
In summary, everyone is his enemy because his Islamic code requires him to try to take over the whole world and convert it to his version of  Islam. Many people have not yet realized the extreme brutality of these Islamists, when they capture a town the first thing they do is massacre the Iraqi Shia soldiers, then they destroy all the Churches, murder the Christians, sometimes by crucifixtion, desecrate the Shia Mosques and forcibly convert the Shia to Sunni Islam.  So you have to hope that he will be defeated soon by one or more combinations of these enemies.  If he manages to survive then expect to see his picture in your neighborhood soon.  In the meantime sit back and enjoy the show as they slog it out against each other.
There are of course many questions that arise regarding the viablility of a State that seeks to go back to medieval times.  Not only will it be hard for them to maintain the loyalty of their citizens if they treat them brutally for any infraction of Islamic purity, as the Taliban did in Afghanistan, but how will they maintain a working economy, they must use modern weapons, communications and develop an oil industry.  In time, and with so many enemies, it is not difficult to predict that they will fail, but that remains to be seen.


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