The unforeseen rise of ISIS as an Islamic radical group, has ambitiously captured vast lands in Iraq and Syria with the sole purpose of creating an Islamic Caliphate in the Middle-East. ISIS’s trail in the Middle-East and other countries is littered with episodes of plunder, summary executions, rape and the desecration of century old historical sites in Iraq and Syria. As ISIS continues on its quest to establish a Caliphate, many have argued that the United States of America, by toppling Saddam Hussein, is responsible for creating conditions for the establishment of ISIS. If the US is responsible for creating ISIS, is it not morally obligated to lead in trying to quell the terror organisation, which is constantly threatening global peace and security?

The birth of ISIS

The roots of ISIS ideology can be traced to the Jamal’ at al Tawhid wal Jihad, which was established by the Salafi-jihad Jordanian Abu Mus’ab Al Zarqawi. Al Zarqawi redirected his group’s allegiance to that of Osama bin laden’s Al-Qaeda network, and he duly changed the organisation’s name to Tanzim Al Qaeda fi Bilad fi Bilad al-Rafidayn (Al Qaeda Organization in the Country of the Two Rivers). In 2006, Al Zarqawi was killed by American troops and was later succeeded by Abu Hamza al-Muhajir and Abu Omr al-Baghdadi who were also killed in 2010. Al Qaeda in Iraq was then succeeded by the leadership of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

The Al Qaeda network in Iraq embraces a Salafi-jihadi ideology which derives its teachings from the authentic beliefs and practices of the al-salaf al-salih (pious ancestors) who comprised the companions of Prophet Muhammad (d. 632), the followers of the companions, and the followers of the followers of the companions. It is from these beliefs that the Salafi-Jihadists formulate their understanding of life, through the Tawhid al-asma’ wal-sifat, which is prescribed in the revelation as God’s depiction of life. The texts of the revelation in the Koran and the Sunnah (customs and traditions of Prophet Muhammad), are thus seen as the blueprints of life and are enforced to practice by Salafi-Jihadists. Through jihads, Salafi-Jihadists fight wars against idolatrous regimes, who do not follow God’s laws as prescribed in the revelation

Al-Baghdadi, a student of Al Zarqawi also believed in violence as a way to enforce the salami-jihadi ideology, allied with the Syrian Salafi-jihadi organization Jabhat al-Nusra in 2011. In 2013, Al Qaeda in Iraq and Syrian Salafi-jihadi organization Jabhat al-Nusra merged into one group namely, Al Qaeda in Iraq and Al-Sham (ISIS). However, the merger was doomed from the start because ISIS went against Al Qaeda’s principles which did not have ambitions of imposing its authority on Syrian and Iraqi provinces. In a swift tactical move, ISIS began to impose its authority on key geostrategic areas in Iraq’s al-Anbar and Ninawa provinces, which ended with a campaign with the sole objective of creating a transnational Caliphate between Syria and Iraq. In late June 2014, when ISIS overran Mosul and firmly took control of the border between Iraq and Syria, ISIS announced the establishment of a Caliphate by installing al-Baghdadi Caliph Ibrahim.

Today, ISIS has wreaked havoc in Syria and Iraq and other countries where lone terrorist attacks have killed dozens of innocent lives, as the fight to establish an Islamic Caliphate is being enforced in the Middle-East. Here is a brief chronology of ISIS’s gruesome attacks from the year 2014 to the month of June 2015. Looking at the chronology of events in the last 3 months, it is evident that ISIS is a bigger threat to global peace and security than Al Qaeda was. The groups’ objective of setting up a Caliphate between Syria and Iraq sets it apart from other terror networks, which have operated covertly to enforce their objectives. The attacks on innocent civilians who do not want to cooperate or adhere to their system of beliefs, is evidence of the lengths the organisation is prepared to take to set up the transnational Islamic Caliphate between Iraq and Syria.

With the current threat to global security, who bears the responsibility for creating conditions which were conducive for the Salafi-jihadi’s to form the terrorist group ISIS?

The undisputed fact remains that Al Zarqawi’s Al Qaeda of Iraq which morphed into ISIS, is where the terror group began. The fall of Saddam Hussein saw the government of Nouri al-Maliki alienate the Sunni tribes, by excluding them from the political system of Iraq. Others have blamed al Maliki’s sectarian policy for furthering discontent between the Shiites and the Sunnis, which at that time played an integral part in mobilising support for ISIS. Rafi al-Essawi who was the minister of finance in Maliki’s cabinet, also like many others, has  negative things to say about Maliki’s policies:

Thousands of Sunnis were arrested after the Americans left the country, tens of thousands in fact. They come to any district with a car bombing, for example. They’re collecting 200, 300 people and they stay in [prison] for years without a trial

Others have blamed the invasion of Iraq in 2003 as being the pre- cursor for creating a conducive environment, which promoted sectarian strife between the Shiite and Sunni tribes. What is generally overlooked from this point of view, is that the invasion of Iraq is seen by others as an illegal war which broke international law. George Bush Junior’s administration which adopted the pre-emptive strike strategy after the September 11 tragedy, failed to secure authority from the United Nations to invade Iraq  in 2003. The major drawback to this war was that the ‘coalition of the willing’ attacked Iraq, on the premise that Saddam Hussein had long acquired Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMDs) which were a threat to global peace. However, after the war, it was found out that Iraq had no WMDs which led to the scrutiny of the intelligence used by the USA to make their case for war. The problem is that the US waged a war which is deemed to be illegal, and the aftermath of such a war has resulted into the creation of ISIS.

Click here for part 2

Image Source: Flickr