Wednesday, March 11, 2015

The Islamic State Under Pressure

Michael L.

It is an unusual coalition of forces that are gathering to challenge Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi's Islamic State fighters in Tikrit.

Erin Cunningham writing in the Washington Post tells us:
BAGHDAD — Of all the allies that Iraqi forces might work with to defeat the Islamic State, the Jubbour tribe would seem to be among the most ideal.

Its members are powerful, pro-government and eager to take on the jihadists. But for Shiite leaders in Baghdad, there was one problem: the Jubbour tribesmen are Sunnis — and from an area where local tribes have collaborated with the Islamic State.
Whatever the Obama administration and its Iranian partner may be planning for our friends in ISIS, those plans are entirely opaque and that is as it should be.  There is no reason for the US and its allies to signal their punches.

What it is beginning to look like, however, is a fairly serious operation in Iraq, using Iranian Shia military leadership and Iraqi troops, both Sunni and Shia, to push back on an important ISIS stronghold.  Given American influence within Iraq, it makes sense to start there.  The Islamic State, of course, is also in Syria, but Syria looks considerably more difficult because there are no significant forces in that country that we can possibly have any faith in.

The Iraqi army, however, is under American training and we will see if they honestly have the will to fight for their own country.

I see Tikrit as an important test, because a defeat there would be very humiliating to Abu Bakr and his people and might tend to stem the influx of True Believers.  Perhaps I am mistaken, but my take on the current Caliphate is that it is something like a shark.  It must keep moving in order to survive.  ISIS must continually take more land and more people into the fold in order to maintain the faith and allegiance of its followers.

If it looks weak or if it looks cautious, the types of people enticed by the romantic glory of medieval Islam will be far less likely to fling themselves into a losing proposition.  (Or so one would hope, in any case.)  Would three young, dumb, Muslim British girls make their way to the Islamic State, via Turkey, if it looked as if Abu Bakr and his people are being readied to be heaved upon the trash heap of history?

I would not think so.

Furthermore, there are fundamental questions in need of asking.  If the Iranian military is coordinating with US Intelligence, what does this say about a potential US - Iranian alliance in the Middle East?  And what does that suggest about Obama administration intentions regarding Iranian nukes?  And, of course, what does all of this mean for US - Israeli relations?

When thinking about Netanyahu's recent speech before Congress and The Bad Deal with Iran, we need to keep in mind that it seems as if the Obama administration is resetting US - Iranian relations and seeking to make Iran into a global partner of the United States.

Although the United States wants its allies where it can find them, do we really want to find them within the international movement for political Islam?

One of my major, ongoing criticisms of the Obama administration is that it seems to think that it can partner with some Islamists, while opposing others.  This is a terrific mistake because, whatever else it might result in, it legitimizes a political movement that stands in stark contrast to everything that we hold dear in the West.

How is it any better than when American Cold War administrations bolstered anti-Communist authoritarian regimes throughout Asia and Latin America?

More and more, it looks as if the Obama administration is endeavoring to create an alliance with an authoritarian theocratic regime that hangs Gay people from cranes, calls for the annihilation of the Jewish State of Israel, and has absolutely zero interest in either democracy or social justice.

The Islamic State is greatly in need of unequivocal defeat.  In truth, it needs to be squashed like a bug.  But partnering with Iran is a monumentally bad idea unless, or until, the people of Iran topple this highly aggressive Islamist government.


  1. Beating ISIS is, unfortunately, not Obama's priority. It has to come second to his will to make an alliance with Iran. He does seem to be realigning the Middle East in Iran's favour. With Iran as the new power broker in the region, America can move out. Importantly America is freed up from having, or needing, a 'special relationship ' with Israel. The Sunni Arab states are as alarmed as Israel at this dynamic. That doesn't seem to bother Obama. Neither does the potential chaos of a hugely disquieted Sunni opposition to increasing Iranian hegemony. America pivots towards Asia, and away from the M.E. This seems to be Obama's desired legacy.
    He will not let anyone ( Congress) stand in his way. Nor does he care that the majority of the American people are unhappy with his decisions re Iran. He is a complete ideologue. For him, and all his fellow travellers, the problem behind everything is Israel. And an America freed up from more International duty, is an America that can get on with being fundamentally transformed.
    If another Democrat follows him into the Oval Office, and that still looks most likely, then there is no reason to expect a different approach. If Hillary Clinton's candidacy gets derailed, then it is likely that Elizabeth Warren would run. She is the natural ideological heir to Obama. That is frightening.
    In the eyes of the American left ( and the European left) Iran has the right to take up more space on the world stage. And America should take up less.

    1. k, this is not directly in response to your comment, but the sadism of this organization just screams out for psychoanalysis.

      I don't know who they are, but out there somewhere are members of the medical profession - probably attached to universities - weaving together the strands of psychological diagnoses.

      Within 6 months to a year, on the outside, expect to see books with titles like:

      "ISIS, Isis, and Id: The Shadow within Contemporary Theocratic Sadism"

      Or, say, from an academic Lit-Crit point of view:

      "Redeeming the Infidel: Themes of blood, revenge, honor, and the Apocalypse within Islamic State Social Media"

      {The possibilities are endless.}

  2. Actually, that would be, in its way, a positive response. If there are 'academics' of a medical background who would choose to see ISIS 's staggering sadism as stemming from their theological belief system, that would be interesting. My view is that most analyses of ISIS will continue to be ones which seek to blame their sadistic behaviour on external causes. Anything but their religious ideology.

    1. There's no doubt, k, that the tendency among western liberal politicos will be to blame... white people, essentially.

      At this point, it's doctrinal.

      But there are always rebels about.

  3. You do realize that every single Muslim uprising in the history of Islam is just like this. All that's different about this is better cell phone coverage so you see it.

    1. One of the prominent differences between this Caliphate and the historical others is that some of them succeeded.

      This one is doomed... because we're going to kill it.

  4. I can't imagine bolstering the Iranian regime in its current form will reflect very well upon us amongst the next generation(s) of Iranians we should be hoping will either change or reform their country from within.

  5. The whole ISIS thing is a total cluster-f--k. With so many different groups (none of which is any where near ideal in human rights) and no clear group to back, I tend to think the best thing we as the US could do would be to fall back, and let it all play out.

    And as one side gets stronger, drop a few bombs and reset it so that all the different islamic theocracies and non-state groups keep at each others throat weakening them all.

    By doing this they will be too preoccupied to go after Israel and the rest of the world.

    Kind of like the old Star Trek episode (Original series) Balance of power. WHere Kirk admitted arming the peaceful villagers was a bad idea, but the balance of power had to be maintained after the Klingons armed the roving band of people attacking the peaceful villagers

  6. We already utterly failed the Iranian people when we turned our backs on the Iranian Green Movement. Obama's name was being chanted in the streets, by people begging for help to free them of their dreadful regime. He did nothing. One has to presume his desire for détente with Iran, even at that stage, trumped a movement calling for democracy, rights and freedom from Islamist rule. They were chanting " Obama Obama where are you?". To no avail.

    1. How right you are. That was a dead giveaway for me regarding the intentions of this administration. He would rather befriend the mullahs than help free the people.

  7. "How is it any better than when American Cold War administrations bolstered anti-Communist authoritarian regimes throughout Asia and Latin America?"

    It's not better. It's worse. The anti-Communist authoritarian regimes were not religious cranks tying to export a revolution based on a medieval theology to the rest of the world.
    Obama wants to form a regional partnership with a government that hates us, and will continue to hate us and call for our destruction. It's in their ideological DNA.
    Quite interesting that Obama has embraced the mistaken notion advanced by those who opposed the domino theory in the 1960's and now think that Israel is the key to the dominos falling in the mideast. It's a fantasy of course, with anti-Semitic undertones. Martin Kramer has written about it.