Sunday, 24 August 2014

Why the Caliphate could be Established in the Middle East.

'The declaration by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of this new entity, that he is the supreme authority of a new "caliphate" makes it easy to portray the Islamic State as a reactionary throwback. But this is an error. Baghdadi's vision is profoundly contemporary.

It is also a radical break with the strategic vision of previous militant leaders. Political Islamists such as the Muslim Brotherhood and their offshoots have long talked of appropriating institutions and power, by a variety of means ranging from peaceful social activism to a violent coup d'etat, but never about creating a new state.
What Baghdadi has done is fuse the political Islamists' aim of seizing state power with the neo-traditionalists' more global vision to create a recognisable if rough-edged state that is simultaneously supposed to be a launchpad for greater expansion. This unprecedented combination is a powerful one' The Isis leader's vision of the state is a profoundly contemporary one, Jason Burke, The Observer, August 24 2014.
Jason Burke is the most able of all those writing on Al Qaida and ISIS. The new Caliphate is dynamic and modern, a combination of Al Qaida's emphasis on the purifying potential of spectacular violence to remake and reimagine the world and the 'charitable' state functions of the Taliban of Afghanistan.

The difference between Afghanistan in the 1990s and the new Caliphate in northern Syria and Iraq is the way IS has captured major oil installations and selling oil to gain up to $1m a day in revenues. As such it can put the wealth towards benefitting alienated Sunni Arabs in both Syria and Iraq.

The other long term factor favouring an expansionist warlike Caliphate, apart from the supply of money from shadowy Gulf donors and men identifying with jihadism from around the globe, is climate change. Put bluntly and bleakly, the Fertile Crescent which long sustained life in the region is dying.

One reason for the outbreak of the Syrian conflict in 2011 was a combination of higher food and fuel prices and several failed harvests which affected the Sunni Muslim communities the worst. With the collapse of state authority and the chaos created by war, the most ruthless jihadists of IS could flourish.

Assad tried to use control over water as a means to quell Sunni unrest. IS is copying that tactic in trying to control the Mosul Dam in Iraq. The 2003 invasion made an appalling system that was collapsing in Iraq even worse than it was and, combined with drought and crop failure, exacerbated Sunni militancy.

An article in Slate Magazine made plain the longer term factors destabilising both Syria and Iraq,
'The United Nations lists Iraq as “one of the Arab region’s most vulnerable countries to climate change.” In 2004, just after the American-led regime change, a Congressional Research Service report cited “rapid population growth coupled with limited arable land” and “a general stagnation of agricultural productivity” after decades of conflict and mismanagement during the final Saddam years as the main reasons Iraq grew more reliant on imports of food amid international sanctions and the oil-for-food program. A major drought from 1999-2001 also hampered the country’s ability to feed itself. Since then, conflict has raged and the climate has grown even more extreme, with alternating severe droughts and heavy rainstorms'.
The River Euphrates and the Tigris are drying up. Overpopulation relative to resources, and large numbers of unemployed young males, necessarily means the temptation towards violent jihad of IS as a means towards salvation and survival against the rival claims to diminishing water, land and, of course, oil.

IS is an expansionist Caliphate by nature or it is going to be nothing. With the shadowy proxy wars between the regional powers going on, IS could be useful to those wanting to check Iranian ambitions so long as it does not threaten to much to break out and menace Saudi Arabia.

With the Kurdish region, with its better organised government oil and water from the mountains headed towards independence, the battle for Baghdad would intensify and go on for coming decades ahead in a new epoch of semi-permanent chaos and technological barbarism.

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