Wednesday 25 November 2015

The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant              

This despicable terrorist organization chose the word “Levant” which refers to a region on the eastern coast of the Mediterranean Sea north of the Arabian Peninsula and south of Turkey which includes Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Palestine and Syria. Hence, their correct acronym is ISIL However they are also known as ISIS which refers to only Iraq and Syria—which are the two countries they have their forces currently in although they obviously have ambitions to claim the others as part of their caliphate. For the purpose of this article, I will refer to them as ISIL

ISIL is aWahhabi/Salafi jihadist extremist militant group, self-proclaimed to be a caliphate and Islamic state. It is led by and mainly composed of Sunni Arabs from Iraq and Syria. The leader of ISIS is a 43 year old Sunni Muslim who goes by the name of Abu-Bakr-al-Baghdadi, who was once a prisoner of US forces beginning in 2005 and was released in 2009. This man is the group’s leader of the so-called the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant( ISIL). He declared its governmental structure as a 'caliphate' on June 29, 2014 after taking control of large swathes of territory in Syria (which for a prolonged period of time comprised over 50% of that country and northern Iraq.)  Despite this man’s claim to govern a caliphate, his claim is regarded by much of the Muslim world and Muslim scholars to be an illegitimate caliphate based on the teachings of Islam.

When President Obama withdrew the American troops from Iraq, he left a vacuum in Iraq and ISIL then went in and filled the vacuum.

ISIL originated as Jama'at al-Tawhid wal-Jihad in 1999, which pledged allegiance to al-Qaeda in 2004. The group participated in the Iraqi insurgency that followed the March 2003 invasion of Iraq by Western forces. In January 2006, it joined other Sunni insurgent groups to form theMujahideen Shura Council, which proclaimed the formation of the Islamic State of Iraq (ISI) in October 2006. After the Syrian Civil War began in March 2011, the ISI, under the leadership of al-Baghdadi, sent delegates into Syria in August 2011. These fighters named themselves Jabhat an-Nurah li-Ahli ash-Shāmal-Nusra Front—and established a large presence in Sunni-majority areas of Syria, within the governorates of Ar-Raqqah, Idlib, Deir ez-Zor, and Aleppo. In April 2013, al-Baghdadi announced the merger of the ISI with al-Nusra Front and that the name of the reunited group was now the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). 

US troops and allied Sunni militias defeated al-Qaeda in Iraq during the 2007 "surge" but didn't destroy it. In 2011, the terrorists began rebuilding, and in 2012 and 2013 it freed a number of prisoners held by the Iraqi government, who then joined the ranks of al-Qaeda. Meanwhile, al-Qaeda saw an opportunity in Syria, where peaceful protests descended into violence in mid-2011 and 2012. It began establishing a presence in Syria in mid-2011 in order to participate in the fight against Bashar al-Assad's regime, a move that helped it gain fighters and valuable battlefield experience. In 2013, the group once known as al-Qaeda in Iraq— now based in both Syria and Iraq was rebranded as ISIL when the leaders of al-Qaeda broke away from what they believed were repressive fighters. Tension grew between ISIL and al-Qaeda, and they formally separated in February 2014. Over the years, there have been many signs that the relationship between al Qaeda Central and the group's strongest, most unruly franchise was strainedhence the separation of the two groups.

As of March 2015, ISIL has to some degree control over territory occupied by 10 million people in Iraq and Syria, and through loyal local groups, also has control over small areas of Libya, Nigeria and Afghanistan. The group also operates or has affiliates in other parts of the world, including North and South Africa.

It has been estimated that ISIL has at least 200,000 fighters. This includes support personnel, police-style security forces, local militias, border guards, paramilitary personnel associated with the group’s various security bodies and conscripts and trainees from other countries.

Aside from having control of a population of 2,247,693 in Syria alone to administer in which they impose extreme Islamic rule, they also have to sustain large-scale offensive operations elsewhere in Syria and northern Iraq along with keeping control of 2,500,000 people in Mosul, Iraq.  

During the course of the Syrian Civil War many foreign fighters have been documented to have fought for Syria's rebel forces, either for the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (which has elicited the biggest international response), al-Nusra Front, the Free Syrian Army or other factions. The estimate of 20,000 foreign fighters from 90 countries is up from an earlier estimate of 19,000 fighters. 

The U.S.-led coalition's airstrikes against the Islamic State group in Syria and Iraq have failed to halt the momentum of foreign fighters traveling to the Middle East to join extremist organizations like ISIS. About 20,000 fighters from around the world—3,400 from Western countries are estimated to have joined these groups.

Both European converts and immigrant or immigrant's children have gone to fight for the Syrian opposition. This includes citizens from France (with the leading number of fighters), followed by the United Kingdom, Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands and Italy.

Mass executions and videotaped beheadings, including those of two American journalists have led to the American push for a broader counterterrorism mission, which included airstrikes in civil war-torn Syria and Iraq. When ISIS claimed responsibility for downing the Russian passenger plane in Egypt, Russia brought some of their bombers to Syria to bomb ISIS strongholds.

The United Nations has held ISIL responsible for human rights abuses and  war crimes, and  Amnesty International  has reported ethnic cleansing   by ISIL on a historic scale.

As a caliphate, ISIL claims religious, political and military authority over all Muslims worldwide, and that the legality of all emirates, groups, states, and organizations, becomes null and void by the expansion of the caliphate's authority and arrival of its troops to their areas.  Of course, that hasn’t happened yet but that is their goal.

The real concern of westernized nations is the possible influx of homegrown followers of ISIL who are returning home and committing terrorist acts in their own countries. The leaders of ISIL are cognizant of the fact that they will never govern the westernized nations however they believe that they will have millions of Muslim followers within those nations and as such, many of them will destroy those nations from within. It isn’t going to happen however since the vast majority of Muslims in those countries owe their allegiance to those countries. Unfortunately, there are losers in every nation and some of them will accept the ideology of ISIL and create havoc in westernized nations such as what happened in Paris in October 2015.

In order to destroy ISIL, the Muslim countries in the Middle East must also participate in the fight against ISIL if for no other reason than to keep ISIL from gobbling up their own countries.

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