After taking over Fallujah in January and, last week, unsuccessfully storming a second Iraqi city, Samarra, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (or the Levant) stunned Iraq and the world by seizing Mosul and its surroundings. Its forces then occupied part of the oil refinery town of Baiji and are moving toward Baghdad. In the New York Times, Suadad Al-Salhy and Alan Cowell write:
With the rapid advances of the past two days, the insurgents have widened the zone under their control and now threaten the region around the capital. Mr. Maliki’s weak central government is struggling to mount a defense, a problem made markedly more dangerous by the defections of hundreds of trained soldiers, and the loss of their vehicles, uniforms and weapons.
ISIS (a common acronym, but obviously shorn of its reference to Greek mythology in this case) was founded by uber terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who eventually consented to fold it into Al-Qaeda. Seven years after his death, ISIS continued in Zarqawi’s brutal tradition and Al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri disowned the group. Now, Al-Qaeda has been eclipsed by ISIS.
In the meantime, asks Joshua Keating at Slate, “should we start thinking of ISIS as a proto-state … ? Or will it meet a similar fate to that of Azawad, the rebel state in Northern Mali that declared independence after chasing out the Malian military, only to be routed by a French-led international force the following year.” Keating would “tentatively lean toward the latter.” Why?
For one thing, the brutal brand of Shariah law ISIS enforces in the areas of Syria it controls—including beheadings and amputations—seems to be provoking enormous resentment among the people who live under its black flag.
Opposition to ISIS is a rare cause that the leaders of United States, Iran, and even al-Qaida [as previously mentioned — RW] can agree on. After today, I’m guessing it will be getting a lot more international attention.
Regarding the brutality, is ISIS that much more brutal than the Taliban, whose rule seems inevitable in Afghanistan? Meanwhile, from an American point of view, not that I supported either intervention, but U.S. withdrawal from Iraq opened the door to Islamist extremist rule just as, when the United States turned its attention away from Afghanistan to pursue the Iraq War, the Taliban returned in full force.