August 17, 2014

Quotes About ISIS And Its Expansion In Iraq By Experts

"ISIS isn't an Islamic state. They're a Zarqawist death cult, the Khmer Rouge of the Middle East--and will do as much damage if not defeated." - Joel Rayburn, author of, "Iraq after America: Strongmen, Sectarians, Resistance" (2014).

"The more I dig into ISIS ops across northern Iraq, the more I see a pathological campaign to eliminate Shia, mainly Turkmen but also Arabs." - Michael Knights, Lafer fellow at The Washington Institute.

"Since Isis took over large swaths of Iraq, in particular, Arabic media outlets of all types have produced reports about the nature of the group and the source of its ideology. There is a collective soul-searching in the region, coming from everyone from ordinary people to clerics and intellectuals. After the 9/11 attacks, such questions came from outside the region and were shunned as "imperialist" or "orientalist". Today the voices are coming from within and are more powerful. Supporters of the group seek to ground its behaviour in Islamic traditions and object to the notion that its atrocities are anomalies.

But its critics have responded. Mohammed Habash, a cleric from Syria, places blame for the rise of Isis on mosque imams, saying: "We did not speak about the caliphate as a political system that is fallible. No, we spoke about it as a sacred symbol of unity … Isis did not arrive from Mars; it is a natural product of our retrograde discourse." A Saudi commentator, Ibrahim al-Shaalan, tweeted that Isis is "but an epitome of what we've studied in our school curriculum. If the curriculum is sound, then Isis is right, and if it is wrong, then who bears responsibility?"

Such a debate is likely to lead to a positive change, but what about people such as Abu al-Mutasim and their victims? The factors that led to the rise of Isis are still unaddressed, while the group has not even reached half of its potential." - Hassan Hassan, "Isis: a portrait of the menace that is sweeping my homeland" The Guardian, August 16, 2014.

"“I think it is a big mistake to read the Islamic State movement as just a bunch of thugs.  I think these guys are very smart, and they have a political program, an expansionist political program, that aims to create a state which actually controls an ever-expanding amount of territory.  They have a political program that is, by orders of magnitude, more developed than anything al-Qa’ida ever came up with.  These guys are in serious business, not just from a military or we might say a terrorist standpoint; they’re in serious business politically…

I think they have gotten support from a number of different sources, including some of our so-called allies.  There has been a lot of financial support at least that’s come out of Saudi Arabia, some Gulf Arab states, for the Islamic State.  Turkey has been supportive of them at various junctures.  So they do have external support.

It is [also] a transnational movement.  It’s not overwhelmingly Iraqi at all.  There’s an important figure in the movement who’s a Chechen, from Russia.  There are Uighurs from China who are fighting in it.  There are people from all over the Arab world, really from all over the Muslim world who have come to join this cause.

So it is not just a bunch of thugs.  This is a serious movement, with serious external support and a transnational base.”

In reviewing ISIS’s external supporters, Flynt notes that the United States has its “own hand to play in the creation and growth” of what is now called the Islamic State:

“Everybody talks about what a great idea the ‘surge’ was in Iraq in 2007-2008, but basically what the surge amounted to was U.S. arming and training 80,000 Sunni militants of various descriptions.  While we were training them, we paid them $300 a month each so that they wouldn’t kill Americans during the period while we were training them.  But we helped to feed what is now ISIS in a big way with the surge.

Then, after the unrest started in Syria in March 2011, and Saudi money, Gulf Arab money started flowing to this group (ostensibly so they could fight the Syrian government under President Assad), we basically turned a blind eye to all of this.  We wanted to see the Syrian opposition supported, we wanted to see President Assad overthrown, and these guys were the most capable fighters in that arena.  So, if our so-called allies were supporting these guys, that was fine with us.  And now—certainly for us and, I think, there’s a good chance for the Saudis—this movement has slipped the leash, and is no longer really responsive to some of the places from which it got early support.”

Even now, in dealing with the Islamic State, the Obama administration’s decision to launch airstrikes against ISIS fighters plays right into the Islamic State’s jihadist narrative.  As Flynt puts it, “Nothing will rehabilitate these guys like getting bombed by the United States.”" - Flynt Leverett and Hillary Mann Leverett, "Flynt Leverett on Iraqi Politics, Iranian-Iraqi relations, and How to Think About the Islamic State," August 14, 2014.