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Isis declares caliphate in Iraq and Syria
June 30, 2014 3:16 PM   Subscribe

The militant Sunni group Isis has said it is establishing a caliphate, or Islamic state, in the territories it controls in Iraq and Syria. This is not the first border we will break, we will break other borders," its spokesman warns. Standing on a border sign he threatens to "break the borders" of Iraq, Jordan and Lebanon.

Isis, a breakaway group from al-Qaida, is notable for its hardline anti-Shia sectarianism, declaring Shia Muslims and other rivals as heretics that deserve death.

Abu Mohammed al-Adnani, an Isis spokesman, defined the Islamic state's territory as running from northern Syria to the Iraqi province of Diyala north-east of Baghdad, a vast stretch of land straddling the border that is already largely under Isis control. He also said that with the establishment of the caliphate, the group was changing its name to the Islamic State, dropping the mention of Iraq and the Levant.

"The legality of all emirates, groups, states and organisations becomes null by the expansion of the caliph's authority and the arrival of its troops to their areas," he said in an audio statement posted online, AP reported. "Listen to your caliph and obey him. Support your state, which grows every day."
posted by whyareyouatriangle (161 comments total) 22 users marked this as a favorite

 
Welp.
posted by entropicamericana at 3:18 PM on June 30 [3 favorites]


MISSION ACCOMPLISHED.
posted by loquacious at 3:20 PM on June 30 [90 favorites]


Somebody with more time and inclination than me should go looking through the MeFi archives to find the first MeFite to predict this.
posted by entropicamericana at 3:23 PM on June 30 [6 favorites]


theme song
posted by jammy at 3:23 PM on June 30 [1 favorite]


Their state lacks infrastructure, and civil rights. Fuck that state.
posted by vrakatar at 3:23 PM on June 30 [6 favorites]


"Ibrahim al-Badri, a run-of-the-mill Sunni Iraqi cleric, gained a degree from the University of Baghdad at a time when pedagogy there had collapsed because of the Saddam Hussein dictatorship and international sanctions. After 2003 he took the name Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and turned to a vicious and psychopathic violence involving blowing up children at ice cream shops and blowing up gerbils and garden snakes at pet shops and blowing up family weddings, then coming back and blowing up the resultant funerals. This man is one of the most infamous serial killers in modern history, with the blood of thousands on his hands, before whom Jeffrey Dahmer and Ted Bundy fade into insignificance.

Al-Baghdadi leads the so-called Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS or ISIL), which today changed its name just to “the Islamic State.” And its members made a pledge of fealty to al-Baghdadi as the “caliph.” Let us please call it the “so-called Islamic State,” since it bears all the resemblance to mainstream Islam that Japan’s Om Shinrikyo (which let sarin gas into the subway in 1995) bears to Buddhism. "

Juan Cole, The Debacle of the Caliphates: Why al-Baghdadi’s Grandiosity doesn’t Matter
posted by whyareyouatriangle at 3:24 PM on June 30 [22 favorites]


Dark Enlightenment, indeed.

Does the word "Isis" have a meaning to them other than the female pagan goddess of ancient Egypt?
posted by ignignokt at 3:28 PM on June 30


I feel almost like a bot for always posting Dan Carlin links, but his last episode of Common Sense is fascinating and talks specifically about ISIS in a way I'd never heard before. Really changed my opinion on the whole fiasco.
posted by lattiboy at 3:28 PM on June 30 [9 favorites]


Somebody with more time and inclination than me should go looking through the MeFi archives to find the first MeFite to predict this.

Was Tom Clancy a mefite?
posted by FJT at 3:29 PM on June 30 [4 favorites]


Islamic State of Iraq and Syria
posted by Foci for Analysis at 3:30 PM on June 30 [4 favorites]


Does the word "Isis" have a meaning to them other than the female pagan goddess of ancient Egypt?

ISIS is an acronym from a translation, so no.
posted by dilaudid at 3:31 PM on June 30 [4 favorites]


Does the word "Isis" have a meaning to them other than the female pagan goddess of ancient Egypt?

"Isis" is an acronym: ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria).

It has nothing to do with Isis, the ancient Egyptian goddess of health, beauty, and love.
posted by jammy at 3:31 PM on June 30 [2 favorites]


I'd like to add one more pertinent read, this time from The Daily Star of Lebanon:

"As the holy month of Ramadan starts across the Muslim world, it is essential now more than ever to confront the threats against Islam, in particular those coming from individuals and groups claiming to represent the religion, and in order to show Islam for what it truly is, and its commitment to tolerance and forgiveness.

The reputation of Islam is being hijacked by extremist fringe elements, such as the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria, which is trying to carve out its own state, all the while committing human rights abuses and deliberately stirring sectarian tensions. They are often accused of attempting to return territory under their control to the Middle Ages, but this actually does a disservice to the religion back then, as at the time it was associated with an enlightenment in terms of science, medicine, design, poetry and philosophy, and largely with coexistence with other religions.

There are undoubtedly legitimate Sunni grievances with the Shiite political establishment in Baghdad, but they should be tackled at the roots without delay and with the pressure of the patrons of both parties in Iraq and elsewhere, and at the political level, not through land grabs and bloodshed.

And in the face of such attempts to divide the two sects, it is imperative that both Shiites and Sunnis work together to confront ISIS and other such groups. Most of the non-Muslim world is aware of the two branches, and tars all with the same brush: all of Islam’s reputation is at stake, so all must work together to cure the virus that is ISIS.

As hundreds of millions of Muslims gather around the world this month, in a spirit of community and charity, those in this part of the world, and especially in Lebanon, must demonstrate the true spirit of the religion."

Show Islam's True Spirit
posted by whyareyouatriangle at 3:32 PM on June 30 [18 favorites]


I would like to see a Rastafarian group overcome ISIS and take over the region.

Just because NO ONE would expect it.
posted by delfin at 3:35 PM on June 30 [11 favorites]


Actually, the Janjaweed might expect it.
posted by ZenMasterThis at 3:37 PM on June 30 [9 favorites]


Do they need more arms and training ? Because we could give them some more arms and training. There is always more money for arms and training.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 3:38 PM on June 30 [12 favorites]


Their state lacks infrastructure, and civil rights. Fuck that state.

I read a comment on Al Jazeera from a Caliphate fanboy to the effect of, "you can't harm our economy because we don't have one." It was not meant as ironic, but is a brute statement of how unworldly some of these Islamic supremacists are. They have nothing but ridiculous blind faith and violent incontinence.
posted by Thing at 3:43 PM on June 30 [9 favorites]


Does the word "Isis" have a meaning to them other than the female pagan goddess of ancient Egypt?

Big fans of Archer?
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 3:46 PM on June 30 [11 favorites]




More fucking wars between theocrats with human beings caught in between.
posted by Small Dollar at 3:47 PM on June 30 [3 favorites]


ridiculous blind faith and violent incontinence

and a country, currently.
posted by DGStieber at 3:47 PM on June 30


MISSION ACCOMPLISHED.

What makes me really angry is, this really is a success for the people who should have egg on their face. More justification for the war on terror, more justification for endless defense spending, more justification for foreign military engagement, more rhetorical fodder for pro-war sentiments, more more more. They don't want stability.
posted by threeants at 3:48 PM on June 30 [12 favorites]


I mean, an actual emergent government declaring a caliphate? That's a neocon's fucking wet dream.
posted by threeants at 3:49 PM on June 30 [4 favorites]


I'm not sure this is as big and scary as it might sound, though it sure is bold. These knuckleheads have not met the A-10 warthog yet. That will give them reason to reconsider.
posted by vrakatar at 3:53 PM on June 30


More fucking wars between theocrats with human beings caught in between.

The Hobby Lobby thread is a few posts down.
posted by The Bellman at 3:54 PM on June 30 [21 favorites]


Somebody with more time and inclination than me should go looking through the MeFi archives to find the first MeFite to predict this

I thought I would give this a shot and I'm appalled at the things I'm reading in the weeks following 9/11. I had forgotten how bad people were in the weeks following. There are semi-serious calls to start mass bombing of the Middle East in some threads!

Everyone really should look, because I had forgotten the open-throated calls for bloodlust until right now. What an ugly, ugly response.
posted by Benjy at 3:55 PM on June 30 [4 favorites]


My daughter's name is Isis.
She performed exceptionally well in Varsity Track this past semester (she is a Thrower of Heavy Things Large Distances), and she made the front of out city sports page about a week before ISIS started really hitting the news.
All of a sudden I kept hearing on NPR about how much territory my daughter had seized control of and how hard it will be to defeat her. I am very proud of her!
posted by battleshipkropotkin at 3:56 PM on June 30 [122 favorites]


I read a comment on Al Jazeera from a Caliphate fanboy to the effect of, "you can't harm our economy because we don't have one." It was not meant as ironic, but is a brute statement of how unworldly some of these Islamic supremacists are.

...or a statement on the vacuum that opens up when you destroy a country's economy.
posted by threeants at 3:56 PM on June 30 [10 favorites]


I mean, an actual emergent government declaring a caliphate? That's a neocon's fucking wet dream.

And it never would have happened if they hadn't destabilized the region in the first place.
posted by Caduceus at 3:57 PM on June 30 [2 favorites]


NOBODY EXPECTS THE RASTA CALIPHATE!
posted by Drinky Die at 4:02 PM on June 30 [13 favorites]


ISIS's five year plan for expanding the caliphate.
posted by msbutah at 4:04 PM on June 30


justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow: "Does the word "Isis" have a meaning to them other than the female pagan goddess of ancient Egypt?

Big fans of Archer?
"

Hey, Lana...

Danger Zone
posted by symbioid at 4:05 PM on June 30 [5 favorites]


> if they hadn't destabilized the region in the first place.

The middle east was stable once, since the British left? When?
posted by jfuller at 4:06 PM on June 30 [4 favorites]


this sets several things in motion, and presents a small set of possible outcomes, all of which include more people dying. :(
posted by oog at 4:06 PM on June 30 [1 favorite]


Yeah if ISIS has actually seized control of an oil refinery I keep wondering how the fuck they expect to keep it running. Even assuming they can convince the talent to stay those things are sinkholes for replacement parts and consumables, which need to be paid for and delivered somehow.
posted by localroger at 4:07 PM on June 30


If you don't have an economy, you don't have a country, much less a caliphate.
posted by Celsius1414 at 4:08 PM on June 30


Keep Cool Babylon
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 4:09 PM on June 30


I'm sure Iran won't mind a Sunni theocracy moving into the neighborhood.
posted by Ray Walston, Luck Dragon at 4:09 PM on June 30


Call me crazy, but I really don't think they give a fuck about the refinery, Roger :(
posted by jpolchlopek at 4:09 PM on June 30


Is that five-year map really from ISIS? I've seen it on the Daily Mail and ABC News, someone claimed it was on the Guardian but I couldn't find it. Looking through twitter, I can't find it on any of the ISIS accounts. So is it real or is someone trying to scare us?
posted by Partario at 4:14 PM on June 30


So is it real or is someone trying to scare us?

It could be both. Sure as hell isn't going to happen in reality, though.
posted by Jimbob at 4:15 PM on June 30


Does the word "Isis" have a meaning to them other than the female pagan goddess of ancient Egypt?

Their actual name in Arabic is al-Dawlah al-Islāmīyah fī al-ʻIrāq wa-al-Shām. It's only after the name has been translated into English that the "ISIS" initialism comes into play. It's just a coincidence.
posted by escape from the potato planet at 4:16 PM on June 30 [6 favorites]


Also, noting that Grasswire took it from Third Position - a far-right wing group, I believe.
posted by Partario at 4:17 PM on June 30


On the slight bright side, the developments of the past few years have basically reconciled the Turks and the Kurds, and might even pave the way for an independent Kurdistan.
posted by Apocryphon at 4:17 PM on June 30 [3 favorites]


I hope this drives up oil prices enough that the right people finally start seriously working on transitioning away from it.

The source is the twitter account for a racist imageboard ("Stormchan", as in "Stormfront"), so probably not real.
posted by Small Dollar at 4:18 PM on June 30 [4 favorites]


Well, isn't this the unified front western imperialist need to condition the public to motion their way into Syria after a failed, "no boots on the ground" campaign awhile back? They could have wiped out ISIS with drones three cities ago, but now they have a reason to intervene in Syria; and keep on trucking 'til they find themselves eying Iran's back-porch. It's the long haul Middle Eastern solution at short term flash point. War is a waste of resources that could be used much better elsewhere, but ah Hell, so's the media, and a few finer points of public education in 'Merica.
posted by mnmlst at 4:19 PM on June 30


...or a statement on the vacuum that opens up when you destroy a country's economy.

The context of the statement was an explicit, "the material world is irrelevant". Those who support the Caliphate are religiously unhinged and childishly delusional, having no clear plan but to impose "god's will" howsoever it emerges from the recesses of their minds, and kill all who oppose them. ISIS is an internecine tantrum by spiritually bewildered manchildren.
posted by Thing at 4:20 PM on June 30 [3 favorites]


People were saying that Iran would collapse in the 1980s, as the educated elite fled the country and their infrastructure was crumbling. The Islamic state of Iran is still around, so ISIS may be here to stay as well.
posted by Triplanetary at 4:20 PM on June 30 [2 favorites]


ISIS's five year plan for expanding the caliphate.

In for a penny, in for a pound, I guess.
posted by weston at 4:24 PM on June 30


the islamic state of iran compromised with reality, which is why they're still around

this so-called caliphate will either learn to compromise with reality or disappear - their calling themselves a caliphate isn't a good sign of their ability to compromise
posted by pyramid termite at 4:25 PM on June 30 [1 favorite]


When did Spain and Portugal turn back into Islamic nations. I know the reconquista sucked but I'm pretty sure that is settled ground. I mean 600+ years is a long time to be holding a grudge.
posted by vuron at 4:28 PM on June 30


I would like to see a Rastafarian group overcome ISIS and take over the region.

Just because NO ONE would expect it.


Let me guess. Would their acronym be IRIE?
posted by jonp72 at 4:30 PM on June 30 [4 favorites]


I really don't think they give a fuck about the refinery, Roger :(

Yeah, the obvious answer to my question is that they care more about denying it to the Iraqi government than making it work for them. Still, they spent quite a bit of effort capturing it and I'm sure it has occured to someone that it could be a source of treasure for them to use in expanding the caliphate. That person is going to be quite disappointed I think.
posted by localroger at 4:31 PM on June 30 [1 favorite]


"What is certain is that the declaration of the caliphate puts all militant Islamic groups in an awkward position. Addressing such groups, ISIS had declared, “The legitimacy of your groups is null and void. It is a sin for any of you to sleep this night without pledging allegiance,” adding that other militant groups delay victory because they are a cause for divisions.

One supporter of al-Nusra Front has questions about the meaning of this caliphate too. He said the move means that Taliban and various al-Qaeda-linked groups, in addition to jihadi groups active in different countries, would henceforth be committing a sin, and fighting them and killing their members is a duty, unless they accept Baghdadi as the caliph.

In turn, a member of the Abdullah Azzam Brigades weighs in. He told Al-Akhbar, “There is no good in declaring a caliphate under these circumstances; it is something that has evil consequences, which means it is invalid.” "

What does ISIS’ declaration of a caliphate mean?
posted by whyareyouatriangle at 4:32 PM on June 30 [4 favorites]


I would like to see a Rastafarian group overcome ISIS and take over the region.

Just because NO ONE would expect it.


My nomination for favorite geopolitical scenarios that no one would expect is to have Vietnam defeat ISIS. The logic is basically the same as the World Cup. If you defeat the United States on points, then you advance to the next round of geopolitical warfare. Besides, ISIS fighters may be fearless because they think they're getting 72 virgins in the afterlife, but the Vietnamese are Buddhists who believe in multiple afterlifes. Get some guys in black pajamas with some sharpened bamboo sticks into Iraq and that'll put the fear of Allah back into ISIS.
posted by jonp72 at 4:33 PM on June 30


Could we PLEASE request that the Caliphate expand first into the Arabian peninsula, just to 'thank' the Saudi Princes who helped finance Al Queda all those years... and then, when they get into the U.A.E., they can ceremonially pull down the Burj Khalifa.
posted by oneswellfoop at 4:35 PM on June 30 [2 favorites]


Not until AFTER I present my conference paper in Abu Dhabi in November, if that's alright with everyone ...
posted by ZenMasterThis at 4:38 PM on June 30 [2 favorites]




I mean 600+ years is a long time to be holding a grudge.

The Sunni/Shia split predates that.
posted by Apocryphon at 4:46 PM on June 30 [1 favorite]


The Sunni/Shia split predates that

By 800 years, in fact.
posted by suelac at 4:53 PM on June 30 [1 favorite]


I think the big worry is the proximal effect this could have on besieged and desperate Muslims in Syria and Iraq. any morsel of perceived legitimacy could galvanize sides that already need very little justification to kill each other en masse. Particularly in Iraq, which is seemingly held together only by very tenuous coalitions as it is. European/Western/Educated Muslims can roll their eyes all they want, but soldiers will keep signing up to kill and die, further cementing divisions and grudges.
posted by oog at 5:08 PM on June 30


I get the impression that declaring yourself a caliph is a bit like declaring yourself a combination of emperor and pope. I doubt that many sects of Islam would give credence to this man's claim, and that many would consider it downright heretical.

It got him his 5 minutes' publicity. The question is, what next?

(On preview: oog seems to have a pretty good guess at the "what next" part.)
posted by Pallas Athena at 5:10 PM on June 30


declaring yourself a combination of emperor and pope

Hail Isis Eris!

...wait, we determined this wasn't a goddess thing.

I don't really have a good reaction to this situation other than chaos, I guess
posted by curious nu at 5:16 PM on June 30 [5 favorites]


Why do these guerrilla leaders never seem to have read anything about guerrilla warfare? Declaring "I am Caliph of the Islamic State" before having any kind real military power is basically saying "Please kill me with a Hellfire missile."
posted by ob1quixote at 5:18 PM on June 30 [1 favorite]


Get some guys in black pajamas with some sharpened bamboo sticks into Iraq and that'll put the fear of Allah back into ISIS.

Worthy fucking adversary, dude.
posted by octobersurprise at 5:20 PM on June 30 [5 favorites]


I'm not sure this is as big and scary as it might sound, though it sure is bold. These knuckleheads have not met the A-10 warthog yet. That will give them reason to reconsider.

I would be 100% in favor of a vigorous American military intervention on purely humanitarian grounds (read: not land-grabbing), were it not for the events of the last 13 years.

I hate to say this, because I don't think military interventions are inherently wrong or unjustified, but we kind of went out of our way to completely screw up this entire region. Even if we've got actual, literal bad guys to blow up, I don't think we're gonna do much good by going back to blow them up.
posted by scaryblackdeath at 5:20 PM on June 30 [13 favorites]


Aaaaand as soon as I say that, I find out that Obama apparently just increased the number of troops moving into Iraq. This article says 200. I'm seeing others that say 300 more (on top of the first batch of Spartans).
posted by scaryblackdeath at 5:27 PM on June 30


re:

Why do these guerrilla leaders never seem to have read anything about guerrilla warfare? Declaring "I am Caliph of the Islamic State" before having any kind real military power is basically saying "Please kill me with a Hellfire missile."

Do keep in mind that ISIS successfully looted the Central Bank in Mosul, thereby netting $429million USD, which will go very far in weapons acquisition and training.
posted by whyareyouatriangle at 5:30 PM on June 30 [3 favorites]


But how many BITCOINS do they have?

You have to look at the future, man.
posted by delfin at 5:32 PM on June 30 [4 favorites]


I wouldn't be so sure about stuff like "You can't harm our economy because we don't have one" or "Call me crazy, but I really don't think they give a fuck about the refinery, Roger". Regarding the refinery specifically, they apparently put effort into actually capturing it as opposed to destroying it; standoffs and negotiations with people inside, allowing workers to leave while the siege is ongoing, etc. But more generally, they are apparently big into fiduciary prudence - for multiple years now they've put out detailed budgetary reports.
posted by Flunkie at 5:35 PM on June 30 [5 favorites]


Related, ISIS: the end of Sykes-Picot (نهاية سايكس بيك) featuring a Chilean ISIS foreign fighter. Mostly in English.
posted by whyareyouatriangle at 5:45 PM on June 30 [2 favorites]


The middle east was stable once, since the British Ottomans left? When?

Coincidentally, happy 100th, WWI!

These guys are the real deal, they have logistical and organizational chops, and now a gigantic bankroll and a shit/ton of top-grade American and Brit hardware "abandoned" by "deserters."

I don't think our intelligence is good enough to know where to send the drones - and these guys reportedly have enough cash to match us bribe-for-bribe.

That said, they're about to run face-first into the Turks, who's ruling regime would fucking LOVE them some dog for their tail to wag at this point. This is provided they don't try to tangle with the Peshmerga or Hezbollah in Lebanon, first.
posted by Slap*Happy at 6:08 PM on June 30 [5 favorites]


That map of ISIS's 5 year plan appears to be, more or less, the boundaries of the Ummayid Caliphate which I believe was the largest of the historical caliphates. That's like Italy wanting to restore the Trajan borders of Rome: an extremely ambitious goal that doesn't seem feasible in the modern age.

I don't know how that bears on the authenticity of it as an expression of their intent one way or another, but it's probably not just a random collection of states.
posted by feloniousmonk at 6:12 PM on June 30 [2 favorites]


I get the impression that declaring yourself a caliph is a bit like declaring yourself a combination of emperor and pope.

From what I understand, a caliph is supposedly the religiously-appropriate temporal authority figure, but authoritative religious rulings need to come from religious scholars. So it's more like Frederick the Great saying that he had divine approval and that rebellion was heresy. The problem with dismissing al-Baghdadi's claim is that many of his coreligionists accept that Moslems should be ruled by a caliph, and that all other temporal institutions (i.e. kings, prime ministers, parliaments, even nations) are at best stand-ins for the Caliphate; if they're in opposition to an actual caliphate they're heretical. So you have lots of people who are opponents of al-Baghdadi but are having a hard time explaining how they can justify this in theological terms. It's quite scary.
posted by Joe in Australia at 6:14 PM on June 30 [1 favorite]


Well, isn't this the unified front western imperialist need to condition the public to motion their way into Syria after a failed, "no boots on the ground" campaign awhile back?

Or we could leave it alone and see if the Islamic world can take care of it themselves. It's going to be an ugly, ugly war. Turkey, Iran, the Kurds and Israel vs most of Sunni Iraq.
posted by empath at 6:18 PM on June 30 [2 favorites]


The map seems to be a combination of the Umayyad Caliphate fused with an alternate-history Ottoman Empire that managed to take Vienna and utterly subsume Austria and the territory of modern-day Slovakia. That's all I can think for the European territories the Umayyads could never wrest from the Byzantines.

Strangely, this alternate universe would probably have to have the Ottomans failing in 1529 as per this timeline and succeeding in their second attempt in 1683, or else I'd expect the high-water mark to be even higher.
posted by Earthtopus at 6:20 PM on June 30


It seems like perhaps the vacuum left by the dissolution of the Persian and Ottoman Empires, replaced with a new form of remote exploitation (without de facto colonialism through viceroy occupation) replaced with pure corruption and resource exploitation through free enterprise and bribery is not good for the overall stability of the area but for a long time it's been beneficial to western interests to have simmering conflicts that allow power-shuffling on the regular. This is so organized and growing so rapidly without apparent internal conflict or infiltration (unless the infiltration is waiting for a critical moment) that it could be "covertly-sanctioned" nation-building taking place before our eyes.

Problem is, "chaos is a ladder" and instability is pretty useful if you have enough power and influence and have some old stand-bys like Saudi Arabia to buffer you from too much chaos (see arms sales, war profiteering, sleight of hand coups to install more-of-the-same-but-on-our-team, currency manipulation, etc).

Hell, Iran is called Iran because England and by extension the US wanted to crush "Persia" as we know it primarily because they were getting uppity about wanting a bigger cut on their oil exports to the company that eventually became BP. This is a PSYOPS tactic, this renaming of countries to destroy or re-shape their cultural identities. I wonder if giving Iraq and Iran such similar names was intentional.

This is the beginning of the unraveling of what happened after World War I, where viceroy colonialism was replaced with puppet-dictator colonialism. Boundaries were drawn around warring peoples to exploit their typically slow-burning manageable conflict (so far this is no different from earlier colonialism, but WWI was a post colonialism world right, meaning the client state is ruled by a "local" who is hand-picked and loosely tied to the area, typically western-educated and cloistered). Each ethnic group is easily played against others (within and without ethnic lines, let alone regional or national) ensuring none of them attain too much influence.

This was particularly egregious and yet extra-understandable with Iraq, with Sunni, Shia, Kurds to rope together and insanely high unproven oil reserve estimates to call dibs on with the help of a Saudi Prince. That was too much for them to bear and Saddam went totally gangster in the pursuit of self-determination like an action movie character (self-determination in this case meaning a "local" running Iraq with an iron first from within using Republican / fascist "we're all in this together motherfucker, don't even think about seceding" ideals ). This was all well and good until he stopped playing ball on things. The convenient thing about making fake countries out of the remains of previous nations is that the warring factions can be so easily manipulated by their unrequited desire to have their own nation again. "Just do one more thing and we'll see about that!"
posted by aydeejones at 6:25 PM on June 30 [4 favorites]




"covertly-sanctioned" nation-building

More aptly, covertly-sanctioned ethnic cleansing (which is where they are too extreme for AQ) and nation-building through creative destruction across ethnic and national lines.

"If they aren't going to kill themselves off, one side just needs to GO" is a historically cyclic refrain.
posted by aydeejones at 6:32 PM on June 30


Love the War-Nerd article, which reigns in some of my wilder speculations. It sounds like ISIS is just going to be useful to us for awhile like a little Tasmanian devil moving through channels we've approved of, maintaining the partitions in Iraq and aggregating large numbers of highly-skilled selected-through-combat militants into areas where they can be more easily bombed.
posted by aydeejones at 6:41 PM on June 30 [1 favorite]


I no longer know what, exactly, the US is working towards in the region. Nominally the administration says we want to protect the territorial integrity of Iraq (and by extension, Syria?), but that seems all shot to hell.

At some point we'll have to accept an independent Kurdistan. And good for them.

But I don't see any viable outcomes for Damascus, Aleppo, Mosul, Tikrit, and Baghdad that don't involve many more years of war and terror. Certainly few are going to accept a new Caliphate, but I would bet that even fewer want a return to any of the status quo ante of the previous century.
posted by kanewai at 6:54 PM on June 30


ISIS and ISI are interesting [Western-constructed] abbreviations for this outfit considering that Pakistani's meta-intelligence-service is called the ISI, and from the War Nerd piece:

When you’ve been fighting for ten years, and seen pretty much everybody you care about killed, often in fairly gruesome ways, you don’t really want to hear a lot of noise about how local sensibilities must be respected, and corporate HQ back in the mountains of Pakistan must be obeyed.

Man, I wish somebody would turn this into a TV drama so I could follow it all better
posted by aydeejones at 6:56 PM on June 30


Isis also shorten its name to Islamic state as part of its ambitious goal to recreate caliphate. It no longer see itself just limited to Iraq and Syria.
posted by Carius at 7:04 PM on June 30


Not long ago it was almost CW that middle eastern Islamists would at least come damn close to owning the world because of owning the energy reserves. Now with the increasing understanding of how toxic more hydrocarbon burning is, the greater availability via fracking of such reserves in places like the US, and the increasing competitiveness of sustainables like solar and wind, a future is somewhat visible in which most of the world's energy needs are met by wind farms and desert solar farms with global distribution via DC high tension lines and the people sitting on oil reserves use them to lubricate the knives they use in their internecine wars because they can't afford better weapons any more.
posted by localroger at 7:06 PM on June 30 [1 favorite]


The End of Sykes Picot. A tour of a captured Iraq-Syria border crossing with a cheeky Chilean ISIS Jihadi named Abu Safiyya. (275 Mb mp4 file, SFW, English)

Edit: oops, just saw whyareyouatriangle's post. Well, in case the YouTube vid gets taken down it's here too. Links to other ISIS videos and press-releases can be found here.
posted by L.P. Hatecraft at 7:31 PM on June 30 [1 favorite]


Does the word "Isis" have a meaning to them other than the female pagan goddess of ancient Egypt?

Their actual name in Arabic is al-Dawlah al-Islāmīyah fī al-ʻIrāq wa-al-Shām. It's only after the name has been translated into English that the "ISIS" initialism comes into play. It's just a coincidence.


As this has all unfolded in the news media it seems less of a coincidence than a convenient way of labeling the "bad guys" so there is an easy reference point for the American proletariat. Simplistic, sound-bite ready, and easier to comprehend than the pesky complex reality of the situation.
posted by CosmicRayCharles at 7:49 PM on June 30


L.P. Hatecraft, that second link is tremendous! Many thanks.
posted by whyareyouatriangle at 8:06 PM on June 30


Bam, you're a Calpihate.
posted by Sphinx at 8:08 PM on June 30


i heard about the latest news on NPR this afternoon. Shit sucks, but I'm interested to see where it goes.
posted by rebent at 8:26 PM on June 30


They called it ISIS because, while that ole Arabic-sounding classic, "Al Qaeda," tested well with 1990's audiences, today's slobbering herd needs an edgier, sleeker terrorist nemesis.
posted by Behemoth at 8:40 PM on June 30 [1 favorite]


Hell, Iran is called Iran because England and by extension the US wanted to crush "Persia" as we know it

That's not true at all. Iran was a historical name of the country and the plateau for centuries; the Sasanid state had thought of itself as Eranshahr, roughly the Iranian kingdom. "Persia" was a Greco-Latin name based on the demonym for one of the several ethnic groups in the plateau that was dominant during the late Achemenid period. Reza Shah asked for the name to be "Iran" in 1935, long before the British-backed coup that brought down Mossadegh in 1953. It's also specious to identify British and American policy aims in the 1950s, when they were not seen as the same at all.

None of which is to say that the state of Iraq is in any way a legitimate entity; I mean, it's literally a gigantic "fuck you" to the region. You take a majority of Shia and a minority of Sunni that is split between Arabs and Kurds, and give them a state with lots of oil but only one port, and then give the power to the Sunni Arabs. The thing is, the secular pan-Arabs in the 1950s and 1960s tended to call themselves "socialists," which caused various Cold War related problems, and the US tended to support suppliant oil dictatorships. So there's no longer a secular pan-Arab ideology that could actually knit together Arabs from the Maghreb in the west to Mesopotamia in the east, and the people who took their place tend to be religious zealots who do nasty shit.

It's not going to be successful at any rate, mainly because Arabic political Islam turns out to be very, very bad at ruling. (Contra that in Iran, which had a very different momentum to establish itself, although that's mired down more and more.) See Egypt, which had a short-lived Muslim Brotherhood government, for examples. It can't really deal with any of the problems of a modern society; they tend to be extremely corrupt and very bad at handling criminality, in part because they encourage sectarian violence.

But really this "Caliphate" is the degenerate, mocking legacy of the failure of Pan-Arabism to create a unified and independent sovereign state that actually had the force and ideology to break out of the pattern of being clients and pawns of world powers. It's not that the Pan-Arabists were perfect by any means, far from it, but they offered something the "Caliph" never will, namely a modern nation-state.
posted by graymouser at 8:41 PM on June 30 [22 favorites]


For me, what's important here is that they made the claim more than anything else. Their chances of actually succeeding in their effort is minimal as the agreements and deals they make with the established regional power structures to establish their legitimacy will just cause them to end up being used as tool for other regional players until they become more trouble than they are worth. Even if they fail and are denounced as arrogant pretenders or heretics, the seed has been planted that caliphate is possible - it's just this time it came from an unworthy candidate.

If we are speaking of predictions, looking to the future, perhaps in 20-50 years you have a major change in one of the governments in the area, perhaps either Iran or Saudi Arabia, the goal of eventually establishing a Caliphate will be used by both Shia and Sunni, not as a direct claim, but as a destination on the horizon to work towards as an means to rally and influence people as a sort of 'shared ideal' of a united Islamic federation. This would collapse after a while due to infighting, but the idea that a Caliphate could be possible gets a bit stronger. 50-100 years from now China's long term investments in African resources and governments begin to help the process along by now seeing China's interests on two sides of the middle east rather than just one, and India's military stance, while mostly defensive, may end up inadvertently make them seem much more of a direct threat to the region and also end up helping the effort to unify in some form, but still no one manages to establish a Caliphate. However, though you may not have a Caliphate, the region may end up being far more united politically and economically than it has since the Ottoman Empire, and it won't be too long after that that some form of union or confederation is a realistic, achievable goal. At that point, those in power will no longer have much need for a Caliph, as this 'shared ideal' of a Caliphate is no longer a useful tool and has become more of a threat to everything they have built so far. I didn't mention NATO or the US at all, as they are far more likely in the next 100 years to be focused on containment of the area, with short strategic intercessions and behind the scenes operations more than directly challenging the process. In any case, any sizable action they could take seems to just lead to accelerating the process of events listed above in the long term.

I'm probably way off on that prediction, and I'm certainly not claiming to be an expert regarding the situation, but I think there's at least something to it, and would dig any feedback on it.
posted by chambers at 9:03 PM on June 30 [2 favorites]


Who is "your caliph?"

Pardon my cluelessness, but is that like a "local priest" or something? Or is there a main man?
posted by CrowGoat at 9:39 PM on June 30


No, "your caliph" means this one guy, not a local priest. A caliph is a supreme ruler, like a sort of combination emperor/pope. By claiming to be a caliph, he's basically claiming to have authority over Islam as a whole, both politically and religiously. Or something along those lines, at least. Definitely not "your local priest".
posted by Flunkie at 9:48 PM on June 30 [1 favorite]


I'm just glad the NSA and CIA saw this coming, this isn't the sort of thing one would want to be blindsided by.

(snark aside; oh fuck, this ain't good).
posted by el io at 9:55 PM on June 30


Even if you don't have the stability or infrastructure to make use of the refinery yourself, it is still leverage and still cuts off a valuable supply line. Plus, if ISIS is effective at asserting itself in the medium run, it's something that lets them get a foot in the door negotiating with international groups for recognition and stability down the line.

The big takeaways from the Dan Carlin piece, for me (and I'm really just noting his points, as I don't claim to know enough to confirm or refute them_ are:

1. The current mid-east borders, as largely drawn by the British and French at the end of WWI, treated instability and impediments to self-rule as a feature rather than a bug. These borders are as untenable as they ever were and are only really seen as meaning anything, or being anything worthy of preservation, because Westerners know them the way they are.

2. A post-colonial "soft-landing" is as necessary here as the post-communist soft landing was 20-25 years ago.

3. These processes for getting to where the region will be and probably needs to be for the future are not monolithic, as we can see with the difference between the carving out of ISIS versus Kurdistan, which even Turkey is seemingly supporting to some degree now.

4. The borders which ISIS can create for itself are likely to be kind of naturally determined by ISIS's inability to take control of the Kurdish mountains or Shia Baghdad. This is an horrific way for this to go down but maybe the only way realisitically to get the three-state solution that is all but inevitable absent a strong-arm Hussein-like leader unifying the arbitrary state with an iron fist.

5. A pan-Arab state, or even a Caliphate, could be in the best interests of the region and the world, as the post-WWI boundaries have allowed for circumstances where fanatical religious hard-liners have been able to take control in countries where they don't represent the majority of citizens.

6. Israel is a good model to look to for a nation where an ethno-religious unity has allowed for hard-liners and metropolitan atheists to live side by side in relative peace.

7. Israel could be safer next to a strong pan-Arab state than next to a bunch of unstable smaller ones.
posted by Navelgazer at 10:16 PM on June 30 [1 favorite]


Sorry, I forgot to mention that the other reason the borders are "worth preserving" is because of lucrative state-controlled contracts, largely for oil of course.
posted by Navelgazer at 10:25 PM on June 30


I no longer know what, exactly, the US is working towards in the region.

Neither does anyone in the US, I think, but there are a list of things that the US doesn't want, and so now it's all about steering away from those things.

Primarily, the challenge in Iraq is all about containing the chaos so as not to create a gap into which some third-party state (e.g. Iran, but in the long run more China) could insert themselves.

Chaos is acceptable, if not necessarily desirable, in part because we don't need the oil, but a land-grab by Iran or the formation of a Chinese client state in the Gulf would not be.
posted by Kadin2048 at 11:10 PM on June 30


Even if you don't have the stability or infrastructure to make use of the refinery yourself, it is still leverage and still cuts off a valuable supply line.

Also, ISIS is going to need the revenue like crazy. A half billion dollars is a lot of money for a terrorist group;not so much for a country.

5. A pan-Arab state, or even a Caliphate, could be in the best interests of the region and the world, as the post-WWI boundaries have allowed for circumstances where fanatical religious hard-liners have been able to take control in countries where they don't represent the majority of citizens.


And to the ISIS Caliphate, Iran is going to say, "Yeah, fuck you." Likewise Turkey, Kurdistan and Jordan. Even the Saudi backers of ISIS are going to be saying "Nice idea, but shouldn't the Caliph be one of us?"

The War Nerd matches what I've heard- we're going to have a de-facto partition, a lot of skirmishes against the Sunnis (and probably the Kurds left alone) in the short term. In the long term, odds are against ISIS being able to form a stable government, but they might pull it off.
posted by happyroach at 12:06 AM on July 1


.
posted by angrycat at 3:26 AM on July 1


This is just nature taking its course.

The modern day borders of Iraq and Syria were nothing more than a colonialist fantasies with no real bearings in the reality of the native populace. Something like this was bound to happen sooner or later and that idiot Maliki helped accelerate the process.

If we play our cards right, we can still use them as a counterweight to Iran.
posted by Renoroc at 3:42 AM on July 1


If we play our cards right, we can still use them as a counterweight to Iran.

Go us! Can we?

Is there any possibility whatsoever that this relentless assertion of one nationality's being the default "we" here might slowly fatigue, turn blue and eventually drop off? Greatest little country in the world and all that, but some of "us" are not worthy.
posted by Wolof at 3:57 AM on July 1 [7 favorites]


As this has all unfolded in the news media it seems less of a coincidence than a convenient way of labeling the "bad guys" so there is an easy reference point for the American proletariat. Simplistic, sound-bite ready, and easier to comprehend than the pesky complex reality of the situation.

Acronyms drawn from translations are nothing new, especially when different alphabets are in play, e.g. "USSR". Besides, I would wager that far more Westerners are chortling about Archer than are thinking about Egyptian fertility goddesses.
posted by Sticherbeast at 4:13 AM on July 1


A half billion dollars is a lot of money for a terrorist group;not so much for a country.

Yeah, to put things into perspective, the military budget for Slovenia is about $519M.

ISIS is important, and their influence will probably grow, but everybody needs to manage expectations.
posted by Sticherbeast at 4:36 AM on July 1


Acronyms drawn from translations are nothing new, especially when different alphabets are in play, e.g. "USSR".

I get the impression that ISIS is a marketing term agreed upon by the press, as Americans generally don't know what the Levant is, but do recognize Syria is a place near Iraq - Diplomatic and Military personnel (Including the POTUS) refer to it as ISIL or DAASH, which is the westernized pronunciation of the Arabic acronym for the group.
posted by Slap*Happy at 5:17 AM on July 1


A pan-Arab state, or even a Caliphate, could be in the best interests of the region and the world [...]

It's funny you should say that, because Saddam rose to power within the pan-Arabist Ba'ath party. It suffered the fractures and bloody internecine conflicts common to most revolutionary organisations, but I really don't think the Middle East (or the world) would have been better if it had remained whole: its plan to create the New Man involved killing a lot of the existing ones. About all I can say in its favor is that it was a lot better than its ideological rival, the Greater-Syrian SSNP.
posted by Joe in Australia at 5:26 AM on July 1 [3 favorites]


I get the impression that ISIS is a marketing term agreed upon by the press, as Americans generally don't know what the Levant is, but do recognize Syria is a place near Iraq - Diplomatic and Military personnel (Including the POTUS) refer to it as ISIL or DAASH, which is the westernized pronunciation of the Arabic acronym for the group.

Sure, but I'm still not seeing what's so pernicious about the term "ISIS", as opposed to "ISIL" or some transliteration of "Daash". It looks like ISIS was the first translation out of the gate, and now no media outlet wants to confuse its readers by "turning" ISIS into ISIL.

The BBC has an interesting take, including this tidbit: "Da'ish is not an Arabic word and the use of acronyms is not common in Arabic. Furthermore, the jihadist group objects to the term and has advised against its usage."
posted by Sticherbeast at 5:28 AM on July 1


Does the word "Isis" have a meaning to them other than the female pagan goddess of ancient Egypt?

There's also this post-metal band with the same name, but I doubt it was formed by radical Islamists.

Although inquiries were not returned at press time.
posted by Noisy Pink Bubbles at 5:33 AM on July 1 [1 favorite]


The problem with ISIS is 1) Isis is already a word known by Anericans, and caries inappropriate historical and spiritual baggage and 2) ISIL claims sovereignty over not just Syria, but Lebanon and Jordan (Oh, yeah, Israel, too).

ISIL was actually first out of the gate, American media then dumbed it down to ISIS so they wouldn't have to explain the Levant to their viewers.
posted by Slap*Happy at 5:43 AM on July 1


BAGHDAD — He took millions of dollars from the C.I.A., founded and was accused of defrauding the second-biggest bank in Jordan and sold the Bush administration a bill of goods on weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

At first championed by the Bush administration’s neoconservatives as a potential leader of Iraq, Ahmad Chalabi ended up persona non grata, effectively barred from the wartime American Embassy here. Now, in an improbable twist of fate, Mr. Chalabi is being talked about as a serious candidate for prime minister. He has also been back to the embassy.


I don't know what emotion I am currently experiencing. It feels like my soul has dysentery?
posted by Drinky Die at 6:11 AM on July 1 [2 favorites]


I don't know anybody who's seriously drawing a connection to the Egyptian goddess. Lots of Archer references, though. For whom in the US does "Isis" carry that kind of baggage?

I see your point, I really do. However, ISIS/ISIL claims to want more than just the Levant, and they don't call themselves either acronym, so the difference isn't as important as it would first appear. Another good take here. If we're insisting on using the term "Levant" over "Syria", then why use "Iraq" for what would more consistently translate as "Mesopotamia"? ISIL may be somewhat more accurate, but it's not *that* more accurate than ISIS.

Besides, they call themselves "Islamic State" now.
posted by Sticherbeast at 6:18 AM on July 1


Ahmed Chalabi again? Please, no. This is like the reboot of Battlestar Galactica, except it's going to be crap from the very beginning. Also, it will turn out that their plan is "kill everyone".
posted by Joe in Australia at 6:23 AM on July 1


It's okay, man, I bet they're going to put Alai in charge, he won't let anything too bad happen.
posted by corb at 6:37 AM on July 1


vrakatar: These knuckleheads have not met the A-10 warthog yet. That will give them reason to reconsider.

Yeah, about the A-10...:
Stars and Stripes
Published: June 10, 2014
WASHINGTON — The House Appropriations Committee voted Tuesday to retire the popular A-10 Warthog, defying earlier votes in the House and Senate and pleas from infantry troops to save the close-support aircraft.

The committee, which holds the federal purse strings, overwhelmingly rejected a measure in the House’s proposed defense budget for 2015 that would have preserved the A-10 from Air Force spending cuts.

The Air Force is under pressure to cut spending due to mandatory budget cuts and had proposed to save about $7 billion by retiring 283 Warthogs. But the aircraft has supporters in the Army and Marines, where it has saved lives during combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. Armed services committees in both chambers of Congress voted to keep the Warthog last month.
posted by wenestvedt at 7:30 AM on July 1 [1 favorite]




Azerbaijan news reported today quoting Turkish media say that a named ISIS representative said they plan on destroying the Kaaba in Mecca and anyone who worships there when they take over Saudi Arabia.

So this is probably one of three things, which at this point each seem equally plausible:

1) A planted story by another organization (anything from a rival group to a government, nearby or otherwise) to discredit them in the wider Islamic community, as the sources are somewhat suspect.

2) An unauthorized statement by a member of ISIS speaking on his own, as it seems the 'spokesman' term can be used pretty loosely and AFIK there is no official PR/Communications rep for ISIS. This could be an indication of a lack of central control within ISIS or factional rivalries within ISIS hopped up on recent successes and became a bit overenthusiastic with their claims.

3) This actually is one of their goals. Perhaps they think that such an extreme claim will somehow win respect by showing how hardline and committed they are and the consequences of directly threatening over a million followers of Islam who make the pilgrimage to Mecca every year is somehow of no concern to them. If this is actually the case, they may have shot themselves in the foot when it comes to one day becoming anything other than a pawn for other regional powers.
posted by chambers at 7:35 AM on July 1 [3 favorites]


Sunnis, Kurds abandon Iraq parliament after no replacement for Maliki named

We will stand by Isis until Maliki steps down, says leader of Iraq's biggest tribe

How Iraq's Maliki defined limits of U.S. power

Seems that partition is a forgone conclusion and Maliki isn't going anywhere. I wish the US were doing more to help the refugees escaping from ISIS.
posted by Golden Eternity at 7:35 AM on July 1 [1 favorite]


Yeah, about the A-10...

The A-10 may retire for now, but there's still a couple of chances left to save it. If it does, I don't think it will be for that long. I would not be surprised at all if in a couple years without it, they will have enough hard data (sadly including a list of our own soldiers lost due to this) that shows the effectiveness of close air support is grossly lacking without the A-10 around, and it will come back. I just hope there's somebody with enough brass on their and chest and wise enough in charge of the decommissioning to retire them in a manner which allows a reasonably fast reactivation.
posted by chambers at 7:47 AM on July 1


There's also this post-metal band yt with the same name, but I doubt it was formed by radical Islamists.

Although inquiries were not returned at press time


this whole thing is really weird for me because ISIS is my favorite band (they broke up a couple of years ago) and I'm an (incoming) PhD student who speaks Arabic and studies the Middle East.

Anyway, seeing ISIS live was one of the top experiences of my life. It was almost religious. They do something that no one else has done before or since. Its a shame they split up but I hope that they take a page out of the Salafists playbook and try and resurrect something from the past, like another killer tour!
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 7:49 AM on July 1 [1 favorite]




Sticherbeast wrote: For those unaware, [The American Conservative] is emphatically not a neocon rag: it was founded in opposition to the Iraq War.

That would be because it's old-style conservative, which is isolationist, not because it has a principled belief in human rights. It also has more than a whiff of fascism about it, starting with its founders: Pat Buchanan, Scott McConnell, and Taki Theodoracopulos. The author of that particular article, Philip Giraldi, is the executive director of the Council for the National Interest, which is purportedly anti-Israel but whose officers frequently seem focused on Jews.
posted by Joe in Australia at 8:17 AM on July 1 [2 favorites]


That map of ISIS's 5 year plan appears to be, more or less, the boundaries of the Ummayid Caliphate which I believe was the largest of the historical caliphates.

Only marginally more ambitious and/or sloppier; the high-water mark of Islamic rule in Spain stopped south of Catalonia, not at the present Spanish-French border.
posted by acb at 8:57 AM on July 1


Iraq's women: 'It's only us who understand each other's reality'
The unfolding tragedy of Iraq continues to be told through a distorted, polarised western gaze, reducing the country and its 32 million population to labels: ‘Sunni’, ‘Shia’, ‘Islamist’, ‘extremist’ and ‘terrorist.’
...

"The gunmen asked for the women waitresses. They then shot the women one by one. It was during the day in a busy part of Baghdad. Men walked in and killed these women to send a very clear message to Iraqi women. We should not be out in our society. We should be rotting inside our homes.”
...

Maha said: “This is not the country I was raised in, this is no longer Iraq. Our society has been ripped to shreds and as in most societies its the women who are carrying the burden. Women are sacrificing their lives to hold families together. They’ve regressed more than 50 years in the past decade.

“The tragedy is that women over the age of 50, they were the pioneers of the women and feminist movement in Iraq. They fought for women’s rights and now its their daughters, nieces, sisters and friends who are being pushed back into their homes, silenced and hidden away.
...

“Iraq has changed forever. There is darkness and heaviness in every home. Our women are existing like ghosts - each person carries with them burdens - some of these burdens can not be discussed openly because of our culture and because of the rules by which we live in society. We try and maintain our dignity, but behind closed doors women talk to each other and support each other. We share burdens.”
posted by Golden Eternity at 8:59 AM on July 1 [8 favorites]


That War Nerd article is really good. ISIS, as mentioned, seems unlikely to be able to create an actual state there, so what's the end game? The idea of partition ends with a Sunni state in that area, but I'm fuzzy on how you might get there from where we are now, since ISIS seems unlikely to make the transition to actual state itself, as mentioned in this thread. Does ISIS slowly disintegrate while bashing themselves against their borders and get replaced a more stable Sunni coalition in the region, maybe inheriting the name along with the territory?
posted by vibratory manner of working at 1:04 PM on July 1 [1 favorite]


About the A-10, I'm not saying I approve of all our weapons or how we use them, I'm saying the A-10 is just hell on the kind of open country truck-based tactics many of these groups use and we're idiots for doing away with it. Choppers do the same job but are much easier to take down.
posted by vrakatar at 1:09 PM on July 1 [1 favorite]


The A-10 had one huge major flaw that makes it unacceptable to the Air Force: it puts Air Force pilots in the role of supporting infantry. The last I heard, the Air Force brass still largely thinks in terms of fighting nations, which means they prefer schemes like the F-18 targeting high-value rear echelon targets. Or an even newer and more sophisticated supersonic stealth fighter to carry out missions that can't be done by drones because of reasons.

Honesty, maybe we need an Army Air Force again, and cut the regular Air Force to a couple of squadrons.

And that was a total derail, sorry.
posted by happyroach at 1:31 PM on July 1 [3 favorites]


Thomas von Linge's:

map of situation in Iraq;

map of situation in Syria.

(if anybody has better maps I would be very interested to see them.)
posted by bukvich at 3:11 PM on July 1 [2 favorites]




With the news these days anymore I figure there is probably some kind of battle going on in the Mideast and I'm hearing a bunch of propaganda, nonsense, and bullshit about it.
posted by save alive nothing that breatheth at 4:23 PM on July 1


I don't know how we can assign any credibility to these reports. Lacking confidence I don't think we can come to any kind of national consensus on what to do. During the first Gulf War we were told of babies being pulled from incubators. During the second it was Yellow Cake and WMD. Why should we beleive the reports this time.
posted by humanfont at 4:29 PM on July 1


bukvich: “(if anybody has better maps I would be very interested to see them.”
I like the maps from the Institute for the Study of War: ISW Iraq Updates; ISW Syria Updates. The situation reports they file detail not just positions but movements and engagements.

Cf. ISIS Battle Plan for Baghdad, Jessica Lewis, ISW, 27 June 2014.
posted by ob1quixote at 5:00 PM on July 1 [3 favorites]


I am reminded of the BBC documentary, the Power of Nightmares. After the fall of the USSR, the Military Industrial Intelligence Police complex fretted over a loss of purpose. So fortunate for the MIIP complex to have found terrorism as an opponent and to have come up with the Long War doctrine. I was happy President Obama abandoned the Long War doctrine. I had assumed that it was the USA intelligence agencies behind the destabilization of long standing regimes in the Middle East. I now wonder if the real driving force is from Saudi Arabia or the Gulf Cooperation Council. I note that the combined military spending of Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, and Oman - three members of the Gulf Cooperation Council - in 2013 would make the GCC the world's number 3 largest military spender.
posted by millardsarpy at 8:33 PM on July 1 [2 favorites]


Water Wars in the Land of Two Rivers: insurgents may threaten Iraq's dams as much as its oil -- with potentially dire consequences.
Meanwhile, Iraq's biggest dam, the Mosul Dam, is right next to a hotbed of Islamic State activity and poses a catastrophic risk even if the terrorists don't open the floodgates or blow it up. If the dam fails, scientists say Mosul could be completely flooded within hours and a 15-foot wall of water could crash into Baghdad.
...

A compromised Haditha Dam is a serious threat to western and southern Iraq. It provides power for the capital and controls water supplies for irrigation downstream. Using Haditha, ISIS could flood farmland and disrupt drinking-water supplies like it did with a smaller dam near Fallujah this spring.
The 'Sons of Iraq,' Abandoned by Their American Allies: Sunnis who battled al Qaeda with us were left to the mercies of Maliki. Now the ISIS killers are slaughtering them.
As the video of jubilant ISIS members extolling their bloody conquests slipped by, I began to fast forward to get through the madness, but I froze when I saw ISIS thugs attacking captured Iraqis. Many of the men being taunted, tortured and killed were leaders of the Sahwa, the Sunni militants who once fought against the American military and the Iraqi government before they realized that their bigger enemy was al Qaeda and joined us in the fight. U.S. forces, grateful for their support, dubbed them Sons of Iraq.
posted by Golden Eternity at 9:09 AM on July 2


These are exactly the kind of news stories that make me wary of the media's coverage of this.

Blowing up the Mosul dam or opening the floodgates to hit Baghdad is not going to happen. It is a total fantasy of what is the most horrible thing that the ISIS / terrorists could do. If this happened Mosul would be a ghost town for lack of fresh water and electricity. Local crops would fail and there would be a serious famine. Supplying a fighting force with fresh water and food would be impossible under those circumstances. Dam's are enormous structures and destroying them is not easy. Not to mention that an operation to destroy the dam would be difficult because dam's are massive structures designed to withstand a lot of water pressure.

The second story suggests that the ISIS militants are slaughtering sons of Iraq. The men who fought in the sons of Iraq were their tribes muscle men. They are seen as loyal to the tribes, not the United States. Currently the tribes and ISIS are working together, so I'm skeptical of the report. It seems to be a pretty transparent piece of propaganda.
posted by humanfont at 11:20 AM on July 2 [2 favorites]


Water supply key to outcome of conflicts in Iraq and Syria, experts warn
It could also be an insurmountable problem should the country split into three, he said. “Water is one of the most dangerous problems in Iraq. If the country was split there would definitely be a war over water. Nobody wants to talk about that,” he said.
posted by Golden Eternity at 10:36 PM on July 2 [1 favorite]




Not to mention that an operation to destroy the dam would be difficult because dam's are massive structures designed to withstand a lot of water pressure.

It would be more difficult to get to and hold it than anything else. Even though an earthwork dam is harder to breach, that particular dam has been considered the most dangerous dam in the world due to its foundation and constant need for new grouting to be pumped into it. Looking at Operation Chastise, made famous by the movie "The Dambusters," as a reference, even a non-engineer like me could see that if you filled a several semi trucks with explosives in waterproof containers and pushed them over the edge of the dam on the reservoir side into the water and detonated them once they hit bottom, you'd have a decent chance of succeeding.

As you say, though, doing that would be a disaster to them and their future, not to mention everyone else.
posted by chambers at 8:15 AM on July 3


“The Caliph Speaks” [Satire], Michael Weiss, Now News, 03 July 2014
posted by ob1quixote at 8:56 AM on July 3


The NYT has one of their cool infographic-and-scrolling type stories up - A Rogue State Along Two Rivers: How ISIS Came to Control Large Portions of Syria and Iraq
posted by rosswald at 10:12 AM on July 3 [1 favorite]




Yeah I think the biggest worry with the Mosul dam is that if the fighting chases off the technicians who are doing the ongoing maintenance, it will just fail on its own without any help from anybody.
posted by localroger at 5:36 AM on July 4 [1 favorite]


A Rogue State Along Twoo Rivers: How ISIS Came to Control Large Portions of Syria and Iraq
Once dependent on Persian Gulf donors, ISIS is becoming independently wealthy. The group started building a bankroll after seizing oil fields in Raqqa, from which it sells much of the crude to the Syrian government.
Telegraph: Syria's Assad accused of boosting al-Qaeda with secret oil deals
Rebels and defectors say the regime also deliberately released militant prisoners to strengthen jihadist ranks at the expense of moderate rebel forces. The aim was to persuade the West that the uprising was sponsored by Islamist militants including al-Qaeda as a way of stopping Western support for it.

Assad, who has during his rule alternated between waging war on Islamist militants and working with them.
Escaped Inmates From Iraq Fuel Syrian Insurgency
...While there is no evidence to back that up, some said they believed that the Syrian government — with assistance from the Iraqi government of Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki, which has largely sided with Mr. Assad — helped orchestrate the escapes.

“By doing this, exporting more foreign fighters to Syrian territory, the Maliki government did Assad’s regime a favor by supporting his claim of fighting terrorism inside Syria,” said Abduljabbar Osso, a rebel leader in Aleppo who has been fighting with the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.
Shades Of Syria: Fears Maliki Will Follow The Assad Model In Iraq
One infantry lieutenant, who also spoke on condition of anonymity, recounted an event in Anbar province in February that shook him to his core. His unit was under attack from about 20 ISIS fighters, so they radioed their commanders for support. It came, he said, in the form of barrel bombs. "They hit the whole area, all the houses, all the farm fields, without distinguishing whether people were ISIS or not," he said. "This gave me a great deal of guilt."
Why we stuck with Maliki — and lost Iraq
posted by Golden Eternity at 4:45 PM on July 4 [1 favorite]


Golden Eternity's last link (Why we stuck with Maliki...) is intriguing, if bizarre, reading. The piece's message is that the Obama administration should have thrown the supposed Iraqi democracy out the window in 2010 and insisted on a leader other than Maliki (who was the author's friend until he turned out to be a paranoid theocratic despot). It's interesting, but self-serving and oily in how it twists the details. Never mind that this would have entailed doubling down on a continued Iraq War, this is the fantasy of somebody who was clearly a massive failure.
posted by graymouser at 6:14 PM on July 4


Well we learned something from Vietnam. Overturning the existing government with a coup or other means just leaves you with a bigger more dysfunctional mess. Had we chosen to oust Malaki we would have 50,000 troops in Iraq now instead of 300 and we'd have President Mitt Romney.
posted by humanfont at 7:05 PM on July 4 [1 favorite]


Oh man, imagining an anti-Iraq War in 2012 Romney is the easiest thing to imagine I've ever imagined.
posted by Drinky Die at 7:11 PM on July 4


Romney had a secret plan to end the Iraq war by bombing Syria.
posted by humanfont at 7:32 PM on July 4 [1 favorite]




we would have 50,000 troops in Iraq now instead of 300 and we'd have President Mitt Romney.

Yeah, we definitely learned something from vietnam.
posted by empath at 9:57 AM on July 5


America has sent military advisors into many places since the Vietnam war.
posted by humanfont at 2:35 PM on July 5


From Guardian coverage today:
Clad in black robes that invoked a distant, almost mythical phase of Islamic history, Baghdadi gave a half-hour sermon during Friday prayers in Mosul and led worship inside one of the most important Islamic sites in Iraq in open defiance of the US intelligence officials who have put a $10m bounty on his head.
Weird to call it distant and mythical when there was still an Ottoman Caliph in black robes less than a hundred years ago.
posted by XMLicious at 5:06 PM on July 6


Golden Eternity linked to: AS US PREPARES TO BOMB, WHAT WE'RE NOT BEING TOLD ABOUT ISIS AND THE IRAQ CRISIS

The Stop the War Coalition is a weird group whose name, I suspect, doesn't really accord with their premises. The leaders mostly come from the SWP, which is why they're not actually opposed to all wars, just ... well, I was going to say "imperialist" ones, but that wouldn't explain why they refused to condemn Russia's invasion of Crimea, or Assad's actions in Syria. If the USSR were still around I'd say they were taking their orders from Moscow. In any event, I don't think their public statements should be relied upon.
posted by Joe in Australia at 8:45 PM on July 6


The article, written by a former Marine who fought in Fallujah and has written several articles for the Guardian, is extremely anti-Maliki. Putin is backing Assad and Maliki. I don't see how this article could have been ordered by Moscow who's narrative seems to be that there are no moderate groups fighting against Assad, but what do I know? (not much).

Anyway, I found it to be an interesting perspective on the "occupy Fallujah" movement and the more "moderate" Sunni militias that were attacked by Maliki and subsumed by ISIS (something I haven't seen a lot of good information on); it contains several links to other reputable sources.
posted by Golden Eternity at 5:46 PM on July 7




“The Foreign Policy Essay: Calculated Caliphate,” Thomas Hegghammer, Lawfare, 06 July 2014
This raises the question: why did they do it? It is hard to believe that ISIS simply miscalculated and genuinely thought the entire jihadi movement would submit to their authority. ISIS is not an isolated sect, but a tech-savvy bureaucracy that monitors enemy Twitter accounts and consumes academic literature (in fact, they will probably read this very article). They must have known the lay of the ideological land. We should therefore not dismiss the move as ideological excess, but rather assume it was based on a careful calculus.
posted by ob1quixote at 10:14 PM on July 7


Perhaps we'll see both a caliph and an anti-caliph.
posted by XMLicious at 11:07 PM on July 7


If so, I hope they meet.
posted by Joe in Australia at 12:26 AM on July 8 [1 favorite]


WAR ON THE ROCKS: IRAQ AND LONGING FOR VIETNAM
Those seeing evident comparisons between the two conflicts appear intent on promoting a certain, if not simplified, version of an immensely complicated affair within the larger Cold War era. Vietnam ostensibly offers proof of a war won by military ingenuity, then ham-fistedly lost by political infirmity. Weak American political leaders not only turned their back on a beleaguered ally in the fight against global communism but, more shamefully, on their own soldiers who sacrificed so much for so little of permanence.
...

This repackaging of a new American dolshstoss (stab-in-the-back) theory should not surprise. In the immediate aftermath of Vietnam, U.S. officers were quick to blame their civilian masters for the fall of Saigon. Admiral U.S. Grant Sharp, Commander in Chief Pacific during the Johnson years, railed against Congress for its 1974 “assault on what was left of our support for South Vietnam by cutting funds for the procurement of military supplies for that beleaguered country.” Speaking to a U.S. Army Command and Staff College class in 1978, General William C. Westmoreland, himself the target of accusations for a botched war, took aim at civilian mismanagement. “Despite military advice to the contrary,” Westmoreland lamented, “our political leaders decreased the pressure on the Hanoi regime and enticed the enemy to the conference table.” If only allowed to see it through, the argument went, military officers could have led South Vietnam to final victory.
posted by Golden Eternity at 10:31 AM on July 14






Life in Capital of a Caliphate: Harsh Rule, but a Level of Order
How ISIS rules in Raqqa offers insight into what it is trying to do as it moves to consolidate its grip in territories spanning the Syrian-Iraqi border. An employee of The New York Times recently spent six days in Raqqa and interviewed a dozen residents.
posted by Golden Eternity at 5:22 PM on July 23




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