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The ISIL caliphate twist

The successes of the ISIL/ISIS, a terrorist organization working to establish the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, have brought a new twist (rooted in very old anti-civilizational delusions) to the unstable politics of the Middle East.

"Dr Ibrahim", the 40-or-so old "caliph" and the permanently masked chieftain of the ISIL/ISIS terrorists. Caliphates – territories led by a Muslim head – were founded after Mohammed's 632 AD death as a religious (and later political) institution. The previous (or so far latest) caliphate, the fifth one, was abolished by Turkish leader Atatürk in 1924 – he managed to convert Turkey to a nearly modern, almost secular country.

The last letter L/S in ISIL/ISIS is either Syria or the Levant. In effect, it may make a difference because "Syria" would be a relatively "modest" ambition of these bigots. On the other hand, the "Levant" refers to the Orient, the whole Eastern Mediterranean with its potentially flexible definition – see e.g. these diverse maps of the new black would-be state (including the Pooh bear on his trip to China).

Just some months ago, we would visualize the politics of the Middle East as a combination of the "Arab winter" echoes of events that some truly ignorant and naive people used to foolishly call the "Arab spring", the Iranian nuclear threat against Israel and others, and the long-lived inhumanities perpetrated by both sides in the Syrian civil war. These days, the new changes in Iraq seem to be much more urgent.

These ISIL/ISIS nuts already control a large portion of the Iraq+Syria territory. The following map reflected the situation as of last Friday, 3 days ago:

The dark crimson regions are fully occupied by them. The other red regions are being claimed by them. The yellow is the rest of Iraq+Syria.

Their advances have significantly rearranged various alliances in the Middle East. The bosses of Iran began to sleep with Barack Obama, John Kerry, and others (and their mutual sex is really loud these days) whose new alliance with Iran – offering its Shiite forces to defeat the ISIL/ISIS Sunnis – is much stronger than their alliance with Israel, something that is being preserved at the verbal level only.

Saudi Arabia is a Sunni state and some people argue that ISIL/ISIS enjoys the Saudi support. I don't have any precision knowledge but I doubt this belief, anyway. Saudi Arabia is still connected with the interests of a particular dynasty and history which is simply very different from the "caliph" behind ISIL/ISIS.

Almost everyone around is against ISIL/ISIS. Nevertheless, the latter has made lots of progress, anyway. Should Iran team up with the U.S. and others and to destroy ISIL/ISIS? Is such an enhanced war a really good investment?

I doubt it. If the Western folks have the temptation for social-engineering in the region, they should create a more stable arrangement that actually reflects the current ethnic and religious demographics more accurately than the existing states. The power of ISIL/ISIS seems clear to me. They're terrorists because they've had no official power so far. But with some country, they could behave in ways not too different from the average of the troubled Middle East.

In particular, I think that like Ukraine, Iraq has been proven to be an artificial inhomogeneous country whose integrity shouldn't be a top value for any realist politician because it's clearly not an important value for the citizens of Iraq themselves. They differ too much. That's why their patriotism is so weak and why the troops defect so often (despite the huge amounts of money that the U.S. has paid for their training).

There exist politically and religiously different groups in Iraq.

In particular, I still view the Kurds as the most oppressed ethnic group on the territory of Iraq and adjacent countries. Recall that the Kurds are an Iranian nation in the more general sense of the word. They're rather diverse and religiously and politically moderate but most of them believe in the Sunni Islam (unlike the Iranian Islamic Republic which is Shiite). Israeli PM Netanyahu has called for the Kurdish independence in Iraq and I agree with that. In fact, I think it would be sensible to establish a new country of Kurdistan that would include pieces from other countries as well.

Of course that I don't think that Turkey and others would agree with these territorial changes. But if they were truly rational, they would agree. The ISIL/ISIS caliphate could be established as well. If the new arrangement of countries would more accurately reflect the actual nations' and groups' power on the ground, the desire for further wars and territorial changes would dramatically decrease because way too many people would start to think that "the setup is essentially fair".

We won't get there. Instead, various foreign countries will keep on supporting various random forces in the region, randomly fight against others, and support all kinds of nearly unsustainable patterns on the map. It's unfortunate because the Middle East will not get any opportunity to calm down.

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snail feedback (17) :

reader Shannon said...

What a snub for the US !
I have always been flabbergasted by the Americans' ignorance of the mentality of the "Levant" people. They have no clue.

reader Gene Day said...

According to Stratfor, Russia is sending 10 Sukhoi jets to the Maliki government. This brings up a number of questions.
1) Who is going to maintain these warplanes?
2) Who is going to fly them?
3) Will Russia train Shiites Muslims for all the new jobs?
4) What weapons will be supplied?
5) How will targeting be accomplished.
All these questions have answers but, clearly, Russia is jumping into this with both feet. She will have to supply a lot of logistical support and the result will be the killing of a lot of people, including civilians.
I note that Iran has offered drones to Maliki. I don’t know how good these Iranian pilotless aircraft are.
The future doesn’t look calm; that’s for sure.

reader Luboš Motl said...

Dear Gene, you could very well ask these questions to the Czech officials and companies that are selling - or were at least planning to sell - tons of planes to Iraq, see e.g.

The copters are Russian. More importantly, the L-159 are Czech made jewels.

The consumers get some training and similar things as parts of the package. The packaging of the deals isn't that different from selling cars.

The ultimate criterion here is that both sides are satisfied with the deal, if they are. On top of that, one may have moral and political filters but I think it's very clear that the Czech companies or the Czech government won't have any issues or any NATO restrictions with any kinds of weapons sold to the Iraqi government, whether we agree or not.

So many questions similar to yours have the obvious answer "we just don't care". This pragmatic attitude may be presented as immoral but I think that at the end, it is very reasonable for everyone.

reader Gordon said...

Russia is, imo, very worried about its Southern territories (or former).
Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan, Kazahkstan, Kyrgystan,Turkmenistan,Chechnya etc are all solidly Sunni and likely would be absorbed eventually into the "Caliphate".

reader Uncle Al said...

The simple solution: Stop selling/donating food, especially corn, to Muslim countries. Let's find out if there is a Fischer-Tropsch process for bread.

If I were the Vatican, I'd be unamused by a competitor stealing my sales pitch. If I were Israel, I'd be changing the batteries in my golden BBs. God works in mysterious ways, including fission-fusion-fission.
ISIS then “crucified them in the main square of the village, where their bodies will remain for three days,” Curious number, that "three."

Don't rub another man's rhubarb.

reader lukelea said...

Lubos writes: "The bosses of Iran began to sleep with Barack Obama, John Kerry, and others (and their mutual sex is really loud these days) whose new alliance with Iran – offering its Shiite forces to defeat the ISIL/ISIS Sunnis – is much stronger than their alliance with Israel, something that is being preserved at the verbal level only."

If you mean America's alliance with Israel is weakening, I think you are simply wrong about this. It might weaken in the future if third-world and Chinese immigration continue apace, but not as long as there is a big Euro-American (i.e., white) voting majority.

reader lukelea said...

"Saudi Arabia is still connected with the interests of a particular dynasty and history which is simply very different from the "caliph" behind ISIL/ISIS."

I'm not sure the Mutaween in Saudi Arabia couldn't get behind a strict Sharia caliphate based in Syria/Iraq. With them ideology trumps all (from all I have read) and their support is what props up the Saudi state.

reader Gene Day said...

I am aware of the Czech aircraft sales to Iraq, Lubos, but I think the geopolitical implication of Russia’s selling them high-performance warplanes is substantially greater than that of Czechia’s supplying Iraq with more modest (although very fine) aircraft.
Czechoslavakia (now Czechia) has a long and proud history of aircraft design and production; I don’t sell your country short. In fact I have ridden in Czech-produced general aviation planes; they are quite excellent.
I am pleased, for the most part, with both Russia and Czechia in this matter but war is not to be cherished, no matter how justified. These Sunni islamists are not our friends and we certainly do not want Baghdad taken.

reader Gene Day said...

There isn’t a chance in hell of that happening, Gordon. (Of course Russia, too, has had to deal with Islamic terrorists.)

reader QsaTheory said...

"Arab spring" is in analogy with the great upheavals in Europe in the 1840's , and has nothing to do with the season.

reader Peter F. said...

I slightly disagree in so far as it would deal a much more insidious blow to sell them MORE corn (much more) - especially in the form of corn sugar. Get the nutters really fat and phlegmatic. That is how to collapse their caliphate ambitions.

reader Shannon said...

These countries need a good national football team (like Algeria's). First step against fundamental Islam ;-)

reader Luboš Motl said...

LOL, very true. But maybe the Islamic Anticivilization is only able to team up and construct just 1 decent international team to compete with the Western European (and perhaps Latin American) powers.

reader Gordon said...

First, they would have to take the Kalashnikovs and AK47s away from the players :)

reader Shannon said...

...and the supporters ;-)

reader mesocyclone said...

An issue that many miss here is the new incentive for ISIS and Al Qaeda to sponsor spectacular terror attacks on the US. With its success, ISIS is a major threat to Al Qaeda's brand dominance. This gives Al Qaeda a marketing need to succeed in a spectacular way. Likewise, ISIS has yet to make its mark in attacking the west, so it needs to do so.

These are perilous times.

reader cynholt said...

As to the ISIS terrorists plunging Syria and Iraq into bloodbaths, it is a fact that fighters from all over the world were allowed to go and join the fighting fight in Syria to affect regime change. They went mainly through NATO’s Turkey and were funded by Qatar and Saudi Arabia. The evolution and rising strength of ISIS resembles the rise of Bin Laden and Taliban forces in Afghanistan. The US backed them against the Soviet Union’s forces in Afghanistan. It’s what one might describe as the nurturing of domestically existing, but small, dark forces, into very powerful, terrifying Frankensteins.