July 27, 2014
By Saeed Qureshi
The ISIS (The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) an army of the Sunni Muslim Jihadists comprising some 4000 warriors has overwhelmed the militarily powerful Shia regimes in Iraq and Syria in a relatively short span of time. Correspondingly they pose a dire threat to Iran that professes Shia brand of Islam and supports both Iraqi and Syrian incumbent regimes.
With the establishment of the caliphate under a ferocious, fanatic Sunni Jihadist Al Baghdadi, the large scale carnage in subsequent times in two states of Iraq and Syria cannot be ruled out. Already one can see the spine-chilling and barbarous style of summary killing and beheading of the soldiers caught in combats.
The Christians in these beleaguered and strife torn regions have been ordered by ISIS to leave or to embrace Islam. One cannot believe that this religious extremism laced with limitless savagery to the human beings can resurface in a modern world resplendent with galore of human rights and liberties.
But if dispassionately analyzed in the hindsight of history, one would find out that these lands have always remained battlefields between Sunnis and Shias alternating the mutual bouts of ethnic cleaning and annihilation. With the unbridgeable sectarian divide only a ruthless tyrant like Saddam Hussain of Iraq or Hafez- al-Asad and his son Bashar-Al- Asad could hold the people in check.
Starting for Omayyad dynasty to Ottoman Empire and to later dynasties we find it was always brutal repression that kept these areas, inhabited by volatile people with colliding faiths and idiosyncrasies, under a semblance of order and control. The last of such ruthless tyrant was Saddam Hussain in Iraq who was hard on Shias and with extreme repression he maintained the geographical and people’s unity for over two decades.
His fall at the hands of allied forces led by United States has unleashed another spell of democratic chauvinism of the Shia regime under Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki of “Shiite United Iraqi Alliance since May 2006, directed at their majority Sunni population, In Syria first the heartless butcher Hafiz al-Asad and later his equally merciless son Bashar al Asad professing Shia Alawite faith have been dealing their Sunni subjects with hideous ferocity since March 1971. They follow the Alawite Islam a branch of the Twelver school of Shia Islam.
The sudden spurt of ISIS (also known as ISIL) is a frightening dimension in the chaotic terrain of the Middle East. These Sunni Jihadists can be equated with Taliban of Pakistan and Afghanistan who pose constant threat to these two countries with their incessant suicide bombing and terrorist’s attacks for over a decade. The Taliban also want to revive the defunct caliphate with Sunni faith.
They can also be equated with Kharjis who surrounded Medina and killed the third Muslim caliph Osman in 661. The assassins (Nizari Shia Persians) are another group in the early Islamic history that terrorized and killed the Persian, Abbasid, Seljuk, and Christian Crusader members of the government for political and religious reasons.
They ISIS has proclaimed caliphate on 29 June 2014, installing Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi as its caliph in Levant region. The Levant territories are Jordan, Israel, Palestine, Lebanon, Cyprus, and a part of southern Turkey.
It is said that ISIS has the Saudi backing. If Saudi Arabia is under the impression that she would be immune from the onslaughts of these latter-day crusaders and enforcer of Khilafat then it is a terrible misconception. If the autocratic regimes in Iraq and Syria are being brought under the canopy of caliphate then this principle is equally valid in case of Saudi Arabia which is royal family dynasty and therefore in liable to be converted into caliphate.
How the West is going to deal with emergence of ISIS would be unfolded in the coming days. If the ISIS has taken center stage in Iraq and Syria with the aid and abetment of the western powers most notably the United States then no questions asked. The concern that could accrue to Western countries is that Christians have been ordered by ISIS to leave or pay the Islamic tax to stay.
This ISIS’ declaration of orthodox Islamic caliphate and expulsion of Christians from the occupied territories could invoke the crusading passion of Christians and thus strings could also be pulled to debilitate ISIS in the longer run and replace it with secular regimes sympathetic towards the west and serve as protégé like Egypt. Would that trigger the clash of civilizations as extensively being talked for quite some time about in the Western societies? Professor Huntington is one of the prominent proponents of this doctrine.
The underlying objective of the West could be to demolish the Shia regimes in Iraq and Syria first and then deal with ISIS with military might annihilating them as they did with the al-Qaida. The end of Shia regimes in Iraq and Syria could also dilute or end the massive influence of Iran in Syria and Iraq.
If ISIS does not touch or challenge the Sunni dynasties in Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Qatar then mot of Arab peninsula would come under the sway of Sunni Islam. Turkey a relatively secular and detached country from this scheme of things would be pacified with the advent of the Sunnis in the Middle East.
So the Middle East at the moment is in a boiling pot and would remain so for quite some time entailing more gruesome confrontations between the rival sects and races. Yet there is another glaring possibility that Syria and Iraq dismember into various units. For instance Iraq is being projected to be bifurcated into three independent portions, one for Shias, the second for the Kurds and the third for the Sunnis. This possibility if translated into practicality can be a lasting solution for the centuries old sectarian and ethnic feuds.
But what is the guarantee that these three independent blocs would remain at peace with each other and this division would prove to be a lasting solution of a perennially bizarre situation and persistent chaos that has kept on fire the stability and peace in this part of the world for several centuries.
Nevertheless let us watch how the developments unfold and how the stakeholders and the actual combatants move ahead. Let us also watch if ISIS would finally prevail and the caliphate would stay on or checked and challenged by the contenders: both Shias and Christians.