What ISIS Really Wants
February 16, 2015 7:06 AM   Subscribe

In the past, Westerners who accused Muslims of blindly following ancient scriptures came to deserved grief from academics—notably the late Edward Said—who pointed out that calling Muslims “ancient” was usually just another way to denigrate them. Look instead, these scholars urged, to the conditions in which these ideologies arose—the bad governance, the shifting social mores, the humiliation of living in lands valued only for their oil. Without acknowledgment of these factors, no explanation of the rise of the Islamic State could be complete. But focusing on them to the exclusion of ideology reflects another kind of Western bias: that if religious ideology doesn’t matter much in Washington or Berlin, surely it must be equally irrelevant in Raqqa or Mosul.
posted by shivohum (113 comments total) 40 users marked this as a favorite
 
The Islamic State, by contrast, requires territory to remain legitimate, and a top-down structure to rule it.

Is there a functioning country within the boundaries of the current ISIS (whatever) territory?
posted by sammyo at 7:19 AM on February 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


Well, that's certainly on the to-do list, right after "kill anyone of a different religion." Gotta get to the important things, like killing and enslaving first.
posted by happyroach at 7:30 AM on February 16, 2015 [3 favorites]


Perhaps that's not exactly accurate:

Exempted from automatic execution, it appears, are Christians who do not resist their new government. Baghdadi permits them to live, as long as they pay a special tax, known as the jizya, and acknowledge their subjugation. The Koranic authority for this practice is not in dispute.
posted by sammyo at 7:42 AM on February 16, 2015


“What we need now is fatwa about how it’s haram [forbidden] to ride a bike on Jupiter,” one tweeted drily.

Okay, ISIS, you made me laugh once. I'm still not forgiving you for the horrific atrocities though.

This was a really interesting article. I feel a lot more educated about why the group seems to have so much ideological and religious appeal among a certain crowd.
posted by Drinky Die at 7:46 AM on February 16, 2015 [10 favorites]


if religious ideology doesn’t matter much in Washington
I would say that it does matter in Washington, quite a lot, either directly due to Christians, or by those who must deal with them. The beliefs in Washington certainly affect choices in the same way, though not necessarily to the same degree, as beliefs of ISIS.
posted by librosegretti at 7:51 AM on February 16, 2015 [10 favorites]


The quote in the FPP is absolutely moronic. I don't even know how to engage with it, because its more confused about its meaning than I am. It is, as they say, not even wrong. But it does serve its purpose of shitting on academics, so I guess the Atlantic likes it. Anyway, Said's been dead for nearly a decade so I guess its reasonable that he didn't have an opinion on ISIS.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 7:54 AM on February 16, 2015 [12 favorites]


How many people in the congress, cabinet, supreme court profess to be something other than Christian or Jew? I cannot think of one now or ever. Bobby Jindal professes to be a Christian for crying out loud. The Indian people I know consider that one a very bad joke.
posted by bukvich at 7:56 AM on February 16, 2015 [2 favorites]


if religious ideology doesn’t matter much in Washington

"Come on down to the Atlantic Monthly, folks, and see the world biggest if !"
posted by devious truculent and unreliable at 7:58 AM on February 16, 2015 [26 favorites]


Maybe I'm falling for the "both sides do it" fallacy, but when I read damning accusations such as
According to Haykel, the ranks of the Islamic State are deeply infused with religious vigor. Koranic quotations are ubiquitous. “Even the foot soldiers spout this stuff constantly,” Haykel said. “They mug for their cameras and repeat their basic doctrines in formulaic fashion, and they do it all the time.”
I think less of ancient crusaders and more of the modern American military which relies heavily on evangelical Christianity for unit cohesion and psychological support. If I had a dollar for every time I heard some fresh-faced airman say, "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me"...
posted by muddgirl at 8:00 AM on February 16, 2015 [25 favorites]


Imam-entize the eschaton!
posted by Devonian at 8:06 AM on February 16, 2015 [19 favorites]


So tell me what ISIS wants, what ISIS really really wants!
posted by I-Write-Essays at 8:11 AM on February 16, 2015 [3 favorites]


ISIS wants you.
posted by sammyo at 8:16 AM on February 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


In Islam, the practice of takfir, or excommunication, is theologically perilous. “If a man says to his brother, ‘You are an infidel,’ ” the Prophet said, “then one of them is right.”
For anyone confused by this part, it's an incoherent paraphrase of Hadith 1732 (The Gardens of the Righteous)
1732. Ibn `Umar (May Allah be pleased with them) said: The Messenger of Allah (PBUH) said, When a person calls his brother (in Islam) a disbeliever, one of them will certainly deserve the title. If the addressee is so as he has asserted, the disbelief of the man is confirmed, but if it is untrue, then it will revert to him.

posted by zamboni at 8:17 AM on February 16, 2015 [3 favorites]


If I had a dollar for every time I heard some fresh-faced airman say, "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me"...

....we could pay for their deprogramming?

(It takes all kinds to make a cohesive military. That doesn't mean I can't object like hell to the evangelicals trying to take over. And most of them don't see that they're the other side of the coin, the tails to ISIS's head.)
posted by mephron at 8:18 AM on February 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


Religious fervor certainly seems to be effective in inspiring various armies throughout history, including very recent history.
posted by sammyo at 8:22 AM on February 16, 2015 [2 favorites]


The reality is that the Islamic State is Islamic. Very Islamic.

The more extreme you are, the more Islamic you can claim to be. Right ? Wrong. Allow the excellent Doug Muder to set you right on that one.

Leaders of the Islamic State have taken emulation of Muhammad as strict duty, and have revived traditions that have been dormant for hundreds of years. “What’s striking about them is not just the literalism, but also the seriousness with which they read these texts,” Haykel said. “There is an assiduous, obsessive seriousness that Muslims don’t normally have.”

So most muslims don't think this way, which means the outliers, the tiny minority, the absurd fundamentalists are the True Islamists. Hm. I suppose you have spout this sort of bollocks if you want to keep your gig at Princeton.
posted by devious truculent and unreliable at 8:23 AM on February 16, 2015 [13 favorites]


Eh, the tu quoque line here is kind of a derail (maybe the op could have chosen a different pull quote, or pulled it in its entirety) and muddies the point of the FA, which is that ISIS' goals are fundamentally connected its strict Salafist interpretation of the Koran and its millenarianism. Recognizing that offers some context to the group's actions and perhaps suggests how ISIS can be countered more effectively. (Woods' idea is to deny ISIS territory, for without it, no caliphate may be declared, and with no caliphate, there is no caliphate to emigrate too, and no caliph to submit to, and the vitality of the movement would necessarily wither.)

Thanks for sharing the link.
posted by notyou at 8:26 AM on February 16, 2015 [12 favorites]


bukvich: I cannot think of one now or ever. Bobby Jindal professes to be a Christian for crying out loud. The Indian people I know consider that one a very bad joke.
Fuck them. He's allowed to be Christian, even if his bloodlines are Indian.

Seriously? Fuck them.
posted by IAmBroom at 8:27 AM on February 16, 2015 [17 favorites]


zamboni:
In Islam, the practice of takfir, or excommunication, is theologically perilous. “If a man says to his brother, ‘You are an infidel,’ ” the Prophet said, “then one of them is right.”
For anyone confused by this part, it's an incoherent paraphrase of Hadith 1732 (The Gardens of the Righteous)
1732. Ibn `Umar (May Allah be pleased with them) said: The Messenger of Allah (PBUH) said, When a person calls his brother (in Islam) a disbeliever, one of them will certainly deserve the title. If the addressee is so as he has asserted, the disbelief of the man is confirmed, but if it is untrue, then it will revert to him.
In what way is that an incoherent paraphrase?

If a man says to his brother, 'You are an infidel'
When a person calls his brother (in Islam) a disbeliever

the Prophet said
The Messenger of Allah (PBUH) said

then one of them is right.
one of them will certainly deserve the title.
posted by IAmBroom at 8:32 AM on February 16, 2015 [12 favorites]


How many people in the congress, cabinet, supreme court profess to be something other than Christian or Jew? I cannot think of one now or ever.

Some recent names:

Rep. Keith Ellison. (Muslim) Sen. Mazie Hirono. (Buddhist) Rep. Tulsi Gabbard. (Hindu) (And a combat veteran since we are mentioning the military) Rep. Kyrsten Sinema. (None)

Christians and Jews do have outsized representation and influence compared to the general population in the US, but this it not a theocracy.
posted by Drinky Die at 8:33 AM on February 16, 2015 [12 favorites]


We should dress a guy up s a Roman legionnaire and have him ride into Dabiq on an Israeli bred red heifer.
posted by charred husk at 8:34 AM on February 16, 2015 [3 favorites]


The paraphrase is incoherent because the person being called an infidel did not make any claim to be right about. Yes, one of them will be an infidel, but the phrasing "one of them is right" is an incoherent way of expressing this.
posted by I-Write-Essays at 8:35 AM on February 16, 2015 [7 favorites]


Bobby Jindal professes to be a Christian for crying out loud. The Indian people I know consider that one a very bad joke.

India has more Christians than Sikhs or Buddhists. It has five times as many Christians as Louisiana.
posted by Etrigan at 8:35 AM on February 16, 2015 [25 favorites]


devious truculent and unreliable: The reality is that the Islamic State is Islamic. Very Islamic.

The more extreme you are, the more Islamic you can claim to be. Right ? Wrong. Allow the excellent Doug Muder to set you right on that one.

Leaders of the Islamic State have taken emulation of Muhammad as strict duty, and have revived traditions that have been dormant for hundreds of years. “What’s striking about them is not just the literalism, but also the seriousness with which they read these texts,” Haykel said. “There is an assiduous, obsessive seriousness that Muslims don’t normally have.”

So most muslims don't think this way, which means the outliers, the tiny minority, the absurd fundamentalists are the True Islamists. Hm. I suppose you have spout this sort of bollocks if you want to keep your gig at Princeton.
I think most of us understand that "Very Islamic" means " absurd fundamentalists", which you then proceed to agree with. No one outside of Islam is suggesting the moderates aren't true Muslims - nor are any moderates within Islam.
posted by IAmBroom at 8:36 AM on February 16, 2015 [3 favorites]


[ISIS is] actually a religious, millenarian group, with theology that must be understood to be combatted.

Yes, it is generally a good idea to understand people's ideology, even though people's ideology is never sufficient to understanding their relationship to that ideology.

In Haykel’s estimation, the fighters of the Islamic State are authentic throwbacks to early Islam and are faithfully reproducing its norms of war. This behavior includes a number of practices that modern Muslims tend to prefer not to acknowledge as integral to their sacred texts. “Slavery, crucifixion, and beheadings are not something that freakish [jihadists] are cherry-picking from the medieval tradition,” Haykel said. Islamic State fighters “are smack in the middle of the medieval tradition and are bringing it wholesale into the present day.”

Uh, no, your contemporaries are not 'throwbacks' somehow re-animated by the magical inherent powers of texts. They have their own reasons for choosing their adherence.

Also, you do not get to declare that your equally co-temporal 'modern' Muslims somehow have false consciousness about what is really 'integral' to these texts. That's some weird form of prescriptivism on your part, which is not going to be useful. Unless what you want help doing is equating and repressing all forms of Islam. Which is, in fact, a legal strategy being argued for in some right-wing circles in various parts of the world right now, some in the US and Europe.

As the Said quote indicates, an immediate battle being revived here is one between cultural essentialism and its postcolonial critique.
posted by feral_goldfish at 8:37 AM on February 16, 2015 [10 favorites]




Infidel (literally "unfaithful") is a pejorative term used in certain religions, especially Islam, for one who has no religious beliefs, or for those who doubt or reject the central tenets of one's own religion.

Yes, that's a definition of infidel, but I don't see what it has to do with the original paraphrase of the hadith being incoherent. Let me try again.
“If a man says to his brother, ‘You are an infidel,’ ” the Prophet said, “then one of them is right.”
Only the first person (a man says) is making a statement, and thus he can either be right or wrong. The second person (to his brother) makes no claims, and cannot be right or wrong. Thus, the statement then one of them is right is incoherent.
The translation I quoted - one of them will certainly deserve the title - is much clearer.
posted by zamboni at 8:49 AM on February 16, 2015 [8 favorites]


IAmBroom, I know what infidel means, could you please elaborate why you linked the definition?

I'll repeat: The reason the paraphrasing "Then one of them is right" is called incoherent is because there is nothing for the accused to be right about.

A coherent rephrasing of that sentence would be "If two people call each other infidels, then one of them is right" but the phrasing actually used only had one person making a claim. If the accuser is wrong, he is an infidel for making false accusations, but there is no counterclaim for the accused to be "right" about. That is why the paraphrasing used is called incoherent.
posted by I-Write-Essays at 8:51 AM on February 16, 2015 [2 favorites]


Thank you for finally making your point coherently.

I think you're nitpicking the wording - "one of them is right" is just a hand-wave for "one or the other is an infidel", and most people would understand that. Most, but not literalists.
posted by IAmBroom at 8:58 AM on February 16, 2015 [11 favorites]


This article is interesting, and it does more than many articles on this subject, but it seems to suffer from a lack of historical perspective – which is hard not to do when speaking about Islam. When we get past the silly notion (justly derided by the author) that "Islam is a religion of peace" or some such attempt to paint Muslims as the same as us secular moderns, then it's tempting to conclude that, yes, ISIS really is legitimate Islam, from the earliest time, a revival of the one true faith. And for people on the outside of Islam, there can hardly be any immediately obvious reason to make distinctions.

But this is commonplace in the history of Islam; it is not some dramatic, unprecedented new turn of events, a once and future revival of the 'original' Islam. The history of the region is the story of more than a thousand years of radical preachers teaming up with warlords and despots. And on that backdrop, a millenium of scholarship strove to sort out how exactly to interpret the reams of advice and requirements, often apparently contradictory, in the Koran and Hadith.

It is easy – particularly for post-Protestants from a tradition that believed that holy books are incredibly simple documents that say things plainly in language everyone understands – to believe that Islam just means following the obvious and literal words of the Quran and Hadith. But that is not necessarily the nature of the tradition in Islam; the most devout and highly regarded Imams have stated that parts of the Quran and the Hadith are not literal but to be interpreted; it is pretty clear that Muhammad himself said the same thing.

In short: it is fair, and probably helpful, to say that ISIS clearly believes their religion, and is earnest about wanting their faith to be genuine and correct. It is unfounded, however, and likely incorrect to say that they really, truly, and simply represent the true and honest revival of the exact principles of the Quran as intended and practiced by Muhammad almost a millenium and a half ago. This is a claim made by warlords and despots for the entire time since that moment. It isn't a claim we should take any more seriously than we've ever taken it. The interpretation of the Quran and Hadith is not a simple or easy matter.
posted by koeselitz at 9:01 AM on February 16, 2015 [17 favorites]


Let's not get off on a derail about who is doing the nitpicking here. There are more interesting things to talk about than the use of a single adjective to describe a quote.
posted by I-Write-Essays at 9:02 AM on February 16, 2015 [5 favorites]


bukvich: I cannot think of one now or ever. Bobby Jindal professes to be a Christian for crying out loud. The Indian people I know consider that one a very bad joke.

Why do they consider it a very bad joke? Is it because they think he came by it opportunistically which is not a very charitable reading either or because Indians can't be Christians? Is he a demagogue who cynically uses his religion? Yes, but in that he is no different from a Huckabee or any Indian right wing pol back home. I also do not understand your use of the word profess. Are you applying some kind of test as to what passes for a real Christian? I am only used to language like that from fundamentalist Christians who definitely would not think he professes to be a Christian.

I identify myself as Christian and was born in India (baptized and confirmed there) and only left when I was 21. Would my faith be a bad joke? I find Jindal abominable for his beliefs but his ethnicity has nothing to do with that. There is a strain of thought in India that thinks people converted only because of the jobs provided by the Brits during colonial rule which I also find very offensive.
posted by viramamunivar at 9:03 AM on February 16, 2015 [14 favorites]


zamboni:
"In Islam, the practice of takfir, or excommunication, is theologically perilous. “If a man says to his brother, ‘You are an infidel,’ ” the Prophet said, “then one of them is right.”
I highly recommend reading the Jihadica blog for more insight into the dealings/writings of various Jihadists. Generally more regarding AQ, and ISIS, but also people like the Jordanian al-Maqdisi (spiritual mentor to Zarqawi - remember him? The forerunner to ISIS via AQAP...) -- in fact, I'm going to quote an article they wrote regarding Maqdisi and ISIS beheadings of various hostages. I think it's relevant due to the question of proclaiming Takfir upon almost any Muslim who doesn't live to their exacting standard. I write this because I find it interesting that while IS seems to love pronouncing almost everyone Takfir, it seems that Maqdisi appears to believe that it takes tremendous amounts of evil to be considered a disbeliever, not a mere slight. I think this might be due to that passage? Like - he doesn't want to falsely accuse someone of not being a Muslim, so he leans toward the side of leniency, even when he expresses massive disapproval of their methods (He has even been interviewed by Jordanian TV on a news program, decrying these sorts of things -- though how much is more about tactics vs morality, I can't say)...

IS Beheadings of Western Hostages - Jihadi Ideologues Speak Out
A similar conclusion is reached by Abu Muhammad al-Maqdisi, another Jordanian radical Islamic ideologue who has often spoken out against IS but who, in his latest writing, also concludes that IS “is still in the ship of the Muslim community. It has not left it, despite its [own] striving to expel many Muslims from [the Muslim community through takfir].” The reason for al-Maqdisi’s latest article is not, however, to criticise the international anti-IS coalition, but to refute the idea that abducting and killing aid workers is Islamically legitimate. While David Haines had not been killed yet when Abu Qatada made his statements, al-Maqdisi focuses entirely on him and other aid workers.

Al-Maqdisi states that, in general, non-Muslims who enter Muslim lands to engage in charitable activities are not spies and should be treated as musta’minun (people who request and are given aman, an assurance of protection). As such, these aid workers should be protected and respected, al-Maqdisi writes, just as the Prophet Muhammad did with polytheists who helped him. Instead of abducting and killing them, al-Maqdisi states that they should be thanked for their help, citing a hadith stating that “he who does not thank people does not thank God”.
Jihadica really does provide excellent access to a lot of the underlying tensions within the various groups. Also a good list on his blog roll for more resources to dig through for those who are interested in such matters.

Certainly much better insight than the facile right-wing bloggers who try to analyze Islam from within their preconceived "Islam is Eviiiiiillllll" banter, and the other easy facile Western Narratives that try to ascribe motives and aspirations on these groups from within a particular framework colored by their own Colonial lenses (no matter how well meaning - I mean this like in places like Slate, MSNBC, hell, even The Atlantic, etc.. and let's not even think about places like CNN)
posted by symbioid at 9:06 AM on February 16, 2015 [14 favorites]


It's also worth pointing out that, because of all this history and the accretion of prejudices and ideas, it is not so easy to "revive" the "original" idea of Islam. The Quran was not a historical document. Reading it literally – against its own advice and the advice of a hundred generations of legal scholars – yields a self-contradictory and confused notion of what happened in those times. American Christian "fundamentalists" claim they are the true revival of the early Church. So do Catholics. So do the Orthodox. Who wins? Hard to say, but it's difficult to believe that the simplistic and obtusely obstinate "fundamentalists" are right.
posted by koeselitz at 9:15 AM on February 16, 2015 [6 favorites]


....just 5,000 remain, cornered in Jerusalem. Just as Dajjal prepares to finish them off, Jesus—the second-most-revered prophet in Islam—will return to Earth, spear Dajjal, and lead the Muslims to victory.


As they say, it is written.


Now how can anyone imagine diplomatic solutions with a large body of true believers imminently prepared to be directly involved in the apocalypse?
posted by sammyo at 9:15 AM on February 16, 2015 [2 favorites]


Its actually quite easy. Even raving lunatic political groups are sensitive to cost benefit calculations.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 9:20 AM on February 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


Good grief.

I knew they were a toxic throwback to the middle ages, but the explanation of the expansionist dynamic seems to put them somewhere between the Khmer Rouge and the Nazis in terms of being folks with whom co-existence on the same planet is conceivable.

I'm normally in favour of getting rid of nuclear weapons, but the existence of Da'esh makes me want to hug a Trident missile.

Brr.
posted by cstross at 9:29 AM on February 16, 2015 [10 favorites]


if religious ideology doesn’t matter much in Washington

Except it very much does, more than in any other Western capital, and it very much actively influences certain policy considerations. For instance: why do conservatives so staunchly support Israel? ("Liberals" do too, for the most part, but it's a bedrock article of faith on the right.) The answer: because many conservatives in Congress, or their constituents, are evangelical fundamentalists who are 100% convinced that Israel must exist to be destroyed in the biblical End Times of the book of Revelation. That's one major geopolitical area where religious ideology has an outsize influence. On domestic policy matters, religious ideology affects the debate on most of the contentious "social issues"; abortion, LGBT rights, feminism and women's rights, etc. If you consider something like ISIS to be the outcome of fundamentalists who have a certain interpretation of religious doctrines gaining the upper hand over moderates and secularists, it's no more than what happened in Iran in 1979, or what the Christian right have been trying to do to the USA for most of the past 40 years or so.
posted by Pseudonymous Cognomen at 9:43 AM on February 16, 2015 [5 favorites]


the Islamic State regards Shiism as innovation, and to innovate on the Koran is to deny its initial perfection.

Does anyone know where I could find a wider, more in-depth, historical examination of how this view on innovation (outside of just the Sunni/Shia aspect noted in the quote) has affected social and political structures in Islamic states, both during and after the time of the Caliphates?

I've wondered about this before, but rarely see mention of it other than a casual reference. To me, this ideal of a '1.0 version only' of Islam seems like its greatest weakness when it comes to creating functional stability for long term governmental and social structures. Wouldn't this not only make expansion inherently more difficult by making military conquest almost required to gain territory, but also create rival and opposing factions both inside the organization and amongst the population of occupied territories? Even if such a state were to be created, it would have a great deal of elements inside it creating instability in addition to those outside it. Any real or perceived error could then be used as a tool to advance one faction of a government at the cost of another.

For a very long time, outside governments have exploited these factional aspects of the middle east countries for their own ends to either destabilize things like the Ottoman Empire and more recently, to help keep the region separated and un-unified. I'm just kind of surprised I haven't seen more mention of it when it comes to examining the strengths and weaknesses of IS and their plans for a Caliphate.
posted by chambers at 9:47 AM on February 16, 2015


The west should immediately grant passports to all who want to travel and join this "Caliphate."

Think about it. It is a little like "Please don't throw me in that briar patch!" (Br'er Rabbit) Those two facile would be jihadis sitting and commenting over Vietnamese coffee would be wiping their asses in Raqqa, and out of everyone's hair, and enjoying their new Caliphate, maybe even get jobs as garbage men. Talk is expensive let them finance their fervor with some sweat.

That both Syria and Iraq could not protect the Yazidi minority from enslavement is a fail of their nations.

The first thing Daesh did was to take sex slaves. Energy like this is typically overspoken by religious fervor, but in the end it is the lower impulses funding a sex and power grab. This fundie version guarantees territory and sex, and a blessing from the guy in the sky.

This article, longwindedly, but clearly communicates the stated mindset of Daesh, this set of "Islamic Fatwas" as espoused allegedly by Daesh, makes me wonder why Saudi Arabia didn't declare the Caliphate a long time ago. It surely looks as if AQ carries out the continuous jihad, so they can live at peace in the kingdom.

There is a lot of crossover in Islam and Christianity, in the early history of Christianity the largest sect was in India, where Jesus of Nazareth, allegedly taught, and is buried, in the Tomb of Amir Jusef, Srinigar, Kashmir.

We all have belief or disbelief, but letting every would be member of Bagdadi's Caliphate leave the west, is the very wisest thing to do.
posted by Oyéah at 9:47 AM on February 16, 2015


I'm normally in favour of getting rid of nuclear weapons, but the existence of Da'esh makes me want to hug a Trident missile.

Yeah, that'll work - like all those other wars the USA has recently fought.

We avidly watch videos of them beheading journalists. They avidly watch videos of children in their parents' arms who've been decapitated by our drones or Israel's - technically they've got some mileage to catch up in terms of horror broadcasting, actually. Visit any market in the middle east and pick up the DVDs for next to nothing.

Where did ISIS come from, and what are its intentions? The simplicity of these questions can be deceiving, and few Western leaders seem to know the answers.


You have to laugh at the western liberal wringing his blood-soaked hands and whining. ISIS got rolling with weapons and money from Saudi and the USA during the Syrian civil war, plus leftover weapons from the incredibly successful humanitarian mission that the USA carried out in Iraq recently in support of some nonsensical medieval bunch of hot air George Bush used to call 'Freem.' Before that there was no Al Qaeda in Iraq; that movement was the direct forerunner to ISIS.
posted by colie at 9:54 AM on February 16, 2015 [11 favorites]


You have to laugh at the western liberal wringing his blood-soaked hands and whining.

From whom specifically are you claiming this moral high ground?
 
posted by Herodios at 10:13 AM on February 16, 2015 [2 favorites]


I think less of ancient crusaders and more of the modern American military which relies heavily on evangelical Christianity for unit cohesion and psychological support.

It actually makes me think a bit of Nazism. They've created an aesthetic and culture of superiority that is extremely powerful, psychologically. It's formed in their language, their style of clothing, their way of life, their dedication to their cause. It borrows from Islam, but also modern persuasive rhetoric that seems similar to born again Christianity to me. Anyway, now to actually RTFA, which has been getting praise all over my twitter feed, though from some dubious sources.
posted by Golden Eternity at 10:19 AM on February 16, 2015 [2 favorites]


I knew they were a toxic throwback to the middle ages, but the explanation of the expansionist dynamic seems to put them somewhere between the Khmer Rouge and the Nazis in terms of being folks with whom co-existence on the same planet is conceivable.

Yeah, but their own rules make them easy to stop. To be a Caliph, you have to rule territory. The problem with Al Qaeda is that they don't, so, they can hide. ISIS has to be in the open, in a fixed place. That makes it easy for other nations to beat on them. That's an unmovable goalpost. We like those -- esp. when we can completely control the airspace above it.

This is why when we did start air attacks, they stopped gaining much territory. To hold territory, you need to be visible, but if you're visible and the other side has air superiority, you lose.

Better yet, by demanding full obedience to the Caliph, they're cutting themselves off from the nation most likely to fully support them -- Saudi Arabia. There is no way in hell the house of Al Saud is going to fall in line with these guys, period. They're already against Iran, because, well, they're the People's Front of Judea, not the Judean People's Front. splitter!

Indeed, the propaganda attack I would be using is "Where is this caliphate? You claim he exists and that we are required to follow him, but I don't see any Caliph. Where is he? No, your tapes can be faked. Either people start thinking "You know, maybe they are full of shit" or the guy shows his face.

Which is the other problem with a caliphate. There's a Caliph. One guy. A central head. We can't cut off Al Qaeda's head because it has many. A caliphate? There's just the Caliph.

So, while ISIS pretty much rank as "incredible fuckheads" in the civilization scale, if they try to become an effective force, they just become a target. They have to hold territory, and the thing that Western armed are built to do is deny that. The moment ISIS starts to build up industry is the moment you can attack the factory.

This, by the way, is why Shrub went after Iraq rather than Al Qaeda. He could beat Iraq. There was a goalpost.


BTW, folks, the reason cstross said "trident" is that's he's not an American, he's from the other nation that fields the trident.
posted by eriko at 10:21 AM on February 16, 2015 [17 favorites]


ISIS got rolling with weapons and money from Saudi

Would someone tell me when the media is going to start calling out the Saudis on all the shit they've pulled since, well the creation of that state. I know they'll get a pass from the US gov't because hey, they gots the oils, but someone besides Jon Stewart needs to tear into this feudal theocracy.

Yes, I know the US is to blame for a fair amount of the problems in that region. But it's high time we stop calling these misogynistic neanderthals an ally and treat them as a terrorist-sponsoring state.
posted by Ber at 10:24 AM on February 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


From whom specifically are you claiming this moral high ground?

From the Left I believe. "Liberal" is the new conservative. But actually, it was when Obama stepped back and let Turkey (AKP) and Qatar run the show in Syria that Daesh really became powerful. This was when the Muslim Brotherhood was running Egypt, and their plan was to install MB regimes in Iraq, Syria, and throughout the ME and eventually replace Western style governance. They were counting on the US striking Assad.

I believe there was actually a point in time after the surge, before US troops pulled out of Iraq, maybe near the time of the Sunni Spring, that ISI was almost defunct.
posted by Golden Eternity at 10:33 AM on February 16, 2015


The moment ISIS starts to build up industry is the moment you can attack the factory.

True, but it's more complex if 'the factory' is oil fields. I'm sure the USA would prefer ISIS to settle down into more amenable medieval multi-head-choppers like the Saudis (who in fact chop far more heads than ISIS and the corpses are often crucified and displayed for days after), and run those oil fields the way our multinationals like them.
posted by colie at 10:35 AM on February 16, 2015 [2 favorites]


BTW, folks, the reason cstross said "trident" is that's he's not an American, he's from the other nation that fields the trident.

Atlantis?
posted by Etrigan at 10:35 AM on February 16, 2015 [21 favorites]


Eh, the tu quoque line here is kind of a derail (maybe the op could have chosen a different pull quote, or pulled it in its entirety) and muddies the point of the FA

I don't think it is a derail, nor do I think it muddies the point of the FA. It seems to me like the point of the FA is that the West cannot understand ISIS because we attempt to secularize their motives and do not understand that ISIS holds sincere Islamic beliefs. But Americans well understand religious extremists with the sincere beliefs in the primacy of a holy text over political matters - we often elect them to local, state, and federal positions.

To me, Obama's secular rhetoric when dealing with ISIS does not seem to reflect a misunderstanding of ISIS's motivations at all - it reflects a disagreement with the author over who the target of American propaganda should be, moderate Muslims or potential jihadists. I think it's fair to criticize the administrations actions or lack thereof. It's fair to criticize them for treating ISIS like an al-Qaeda extension despite intelligence to the contrary. But complaints about secularists in their ivory towers not understanding religious extremism at all muddies the waters. It's a shame that such an interesting article poisons itself right at the start.
posted by muddgirl at 11:04 AM on February 16, 2015 [2 favorites]


" ...incorrect to say that they really, truly, and simply represent the true and honest revival of the exact principles of the Quran as intended and practiced by Muhammad almost a millenium and a half ago. This is a claim made by warlords and despots for the entire time since that moment. It isn't a claim we should take any more seriously than we've ever taken it. The interpretation of the Quran and Hadith is not a simple or easy matter."

But...Muhammad himself was one of those Warlords. He did lead quite a few barbarous invasions and grand rapes of innocent villages. When he first tried to gain followers he could not (and unlike other prophets Muhammad DID try from the start to raise followers and an army who would obey him. He really tried hard to sell his power big time and might as well have been a walking ad/political campaign. Just because some of the things aren't meant to be literal, doesn't mean that most of them aren't.

Every religion is a lot like abstract art in that you can derive whatever literal or non-literal meaning you want from it. And to me that's probably the most beautiful thing about religion. What someone gleans from the scripture can tell you all about what's in the deepest recesses of that person's heart- good or bad. I mean even a pile of shit covered in flies has 'god' in it, if your heart is open enough to see it.
posted by manderin at 11:12 AM on February 16, 2015 [2 favorites]


George Bush claimed he was told by God in a dream to invade Iraq. He said this in 2005, and added:

"We're facing a radical ideology with unalterable objectives: to enslave whole nations and intimidate the world,"


So the official line remains the same 10 years later - enemy dudes have a new name tho.
posted by colie at 11:23 AM on February 16, 2015 [8 favorites]


But...Muhammad himself was one of those Warlords. He did lead quite a few barbarous invasions and grand rapes of innocent villages.

Yeah, I don't think we want the Islam as practiced by Muhammad, which we can only know so much about. I think orientalist Islam as perceived by the West in the early twentieth century with fez's and what not, sans Sharia plus Sufiism, is the Islam we want.
posted by Golden Eternity at 11:35 AM on February 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


From the Left I believe. "Liberal" is the new conservative.

As far as I can tell, colie is on the left and taking the moral high ground from the writer of the OP, who appears in The Atlantic, which is as mere-liberal a publication as you could want, and whose article's lede willfully ignores the Islamic State's roots in US foreign policy in the Middle East between 2003 and the beginning of the Syrian civil war.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 11:41 AM on February 16, 2015 [2 favorites]


Yeah that's what I was trying to say. Sorry if my practical illiteracy obscured it somehow. Except, from what I can tell the Left's theories on the roots of Daesh are mostly bogus and sometimes outright absurd. Though, certainly Western involvement in the ME and Afghanistan is a big part of the story.
posted by Golden Eternity at 11:50 AM on February 16, 2015


ISI was decimated in Iraq precisely because of their brutality. Their strategy of provoking sectarian violence resulted in a lot of anti-American insurgents becoming anti-ISI insurgents. Al-Qaidi under Zarqawi is smart enough to know that you have to play the long game. You can't consolidate power without at least some support from the population. But ISIS is going full-tilt jihad and there's no reasoning with that line of crazy.
posted by dephlogisticated at 11:55 AM on February 16, 2015 [2 favorites]


(In case you missed it, notyou sums it more succinctly than I will.)

Condensing the (admittedly engaging) historico-poltico-theological context Wood provides in his misleadingly-titled "What ISIS Really Wants" reveals the article's true appeal.

"What ISIS Really Wants" is an appeal to what some opponents of ISIS want, which is the destruction of the caliphate controlled by Baghdadi. That is, Wood's article is an eloquent, circuitous, and (most importantly) seductive call to war.

While even the tl;dr version is a bit long, I think it's worth its weight in quote-and-gloss:

First, Wood delegitimizes any accommodation for Islamic sects that could peacefully coexist with non-Muslim faiths by, pretty much, calling such people "stupid religious liberals". He then trots out Haykel as (the most) legitimate authority.
Many mainstream Muslim organizations have gone so far as to say the Islamic State is, in fact, un-Islamic. It is, of course, reassuring to know that the vast majority of Muslims have zero interest in replacing Hollywood movies with public executions as evening entertainment. But Muslims who call the Islamic State un-Islamic are typically, as the Princeton scholar Bernard Haykel, the leading expert on the group’s theology, told me, “embarrassed and politically correct, with a cotton-candy view of their own religion” that neglects “what their religion has historically and legally required.” Many denials of the Islamic State’s religious nature, he said, are rooted in an “interfaith-Christian-nonsense tradition.”

Every academic I asked about the Islamic State’s ideology sent me to Haykel. Of partial Lebanese descent, Haykel grew up in Lebanon and the United States, and when he talks through his Mephistophelian goatee, there is a hint of an unplaceable foreign accent.

Which authority goes on to tell us that ISIS is true-bluebrown Islam and, in its heart of hearts, is barbaric and incorrigible.
According to Haykel, the ranks of the Islamic State are deeply infused with religious vigor. Koranic quotations are ubiquitous. “Even the foot soldiers spout this stuff constantly,” Haykel said. “They mug for their cameras and repeat their basic doctrines in formulaic fashion, and they do it all the time.” He regards the claim that the Islamic State has distorted the texts of Islam as preposterous, sustainable only through willful ignorance. “People want to absolve Islam,” he said. “It’s this ‘Islam is a religion of peace’ mantra. As if there is such a thing as ‘Islam’! It’s what Muslims do, and how they interpret their texts.” Those texts are shared by all Sunni Muslims, not just the Islamic State. “And these guys have just as much legitimacy as anyone else.”

All Muslims acknowledge that Muhammad’s earliest conquests were not tidy affairs, and that the laws of war passed down in the Koran and in the narrations of the Prophet’s rule were calibrated to fit a turbulent and violent time. In Haykel’s estimation, the fighters of the Islamic State are authentic throwbacks to early Islam and are faithfully reproducing its norms of war. This behavior includes a number of practices that modern Muslims tend to prefer not to acknowledge as integral to their sacred texts. “Slavery, crucifixion, and beheadings are not something that freakish [jihadists] are cherry-picking from the medieval tradition,” Haykel said. Islamic State fighters “are smack in the middle of the medieval tradition and are bringing it wholesale into the present day.”
So once we understand these things
  1. Interfaith liberals, hurf durf.
  2. ISIS is 100% Genuine Old Skool Islam™
  3. (and there will be no prisoners or tolerance for those who might suggest a subtle approach)
We can see "What ISIS Really Wants" really wants is for the West to go in and kill 'em all and let God sort 'em out.
One way to un-cast the Islamic State’s spell over its adherents would be to overpower it militarily and occupy the parts of Syria and Iraq now under caliphate rule. Al‑Qaeda is ineradicable because it can survive, cockroach-like, by going underground. The Islamic State cannot. If it loses its grip on its territory in Syria and Iraq, it will cease to be a caliphate. Caliphates cannot exist as underground movements, because territorial authority is a requirement: take away its command of territory, and all those oaths of allegiance are no longer binding. Former pledges could of course continue to attack the West and behead their enemies, as freelancers. But the propaganda value of the caliphate would disappear, and with it the supposed religious duty to immigrate and serve it. If the United States were to invade, the Islamic State’s obsession with battle at Dabiq suggests that it might send vast resources there, as if in a conventional battle. If the state musters at Dabiq in full force, only to be routed, it might never recover.
posted by mistersquid at 12:13 PM on February 16, 2015 [17 favorites]


The Saudis behead something on the order of 100 people a year. I have no idea how that compares to the number that ISIS beheads but I'm pretty comfortable calling it barbaric.
posted by Justinian at 12:15 PM on February 16, 2015 [3 favorites]


Invisible Green Time-Lapse Peloton, check out this twitter account: @StopGulfSlavery. Also note that many of Daesh's actual slaves were sold into SA, and that SA has been a big source of private funding of Daesh.
posted by Golden Eternity at 12:16 PM on February 16, 2015


When It Comes to Beheadings, ISIS Has Nothing Over Saudi Arabia

This is from October 2014 (in that hardcore ultra-left rag Newsweek), but fair enough it's a very fast-moving situation. You could argue that there's more beheading going on now with ISIS but in Saudi it is in enshrined in the day-to-day legal system of a key US ally (along with cutting off hands for theft etc.)

Anyhow, now ISIS is an official state enemy and the media is softening us up for the next war, daily - with some events that will probably turn out to be false flags - journalists will be well rewarded to write whatever they like about ISIS regarding beheadings... no doubt they put people in shredders like Saddam did etc...
posted by colie at 12:22 PM on February 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


I was aching for a white house credentialed journalist that was ready to move on to ask directly to POTUS that on his recent visit to Saudi Arabia if he had been invited to or managed to attended a beheading.
posted by sammyo at 12:45 PM on February 16, 2015 [2 favorites]




If ISIS is Muslim, is it Shia or Sunni Muslim, or, in this situation does it not matter. Since those two branches of Islam are at war with each other then it might matter.
My offhand guess is that ISIS would like to remake the days of the Caliphate, but to do so, they must unmake those pesky political states, cobbled together from the remains of the Ottoman Empire.
posted by Postroad at 1:18 PM on February 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


As an atheist in a religious world, it bums me out that so many people are poking and prodding ancient documents to argue over whether they tell us to do this that or the other. I'm not sure the bible, koran, torah or any other texts written in those times really have a lot to tell us about how to live our lives today. I feel like my life is full of possibilities and if I want to change my mind tomorrow I can just do it, and I don't have to ask a priest or rabbi or imam if it's ok. I realize that most people in the world really want to live in a system of laws that has some sort of cosmic, supernatural significance though, so maybe the best we can do is convince the extreme elements of each group that this or that more moderate version is "what god really said".

Of course I'm biased and in the minority, but I hope the world can become a just and fair enough place someday that we can move beyond all that stuff.

On the ISIS side, whatever religious justifications they try to make, it's really just a bunch of unemployed aimless angry testosterone-filled dudes who want an excuse to rape, pillage and feel manly. Obviously Western policies and hypocrisy (e.g. Saudi Arabia) in the Middle East have made things way worse, but that doesn't excuse these guys. Especially the ones coming from Western nations. Those guys sure as hell should never be allowed back in Europe or the US again. They've made their choice.

For my money Western secular democracies are inherently superior to any sort of theocracies and are a step upward. The capitalism part ... meh, that's more complicated.
posted by freecellwizard at 1:28 PM on February 16, 2015 [4 favorites]


If ISIS is Muslim, is it Shia or Sunni Muslim ...

They are Salafi Sunni jihadists greatly influenced by Qutb. They don't believe Shia are Muslims at all.

I'm sure there is a lot more in the FPP, which I'm finally getting to myself.
posted by Golden Eternity at 1:34 PM on February 16, 2015 [2 favorites]


mistersquid: "What ISIS Really Wants" is an appeal to what some opponents of ISIS want, which is the destruction of the caliphate controlled by Baghdadi.

Is there a problem with wanting that? ISIS is a genocidal, expansionist organization that has explicitly legalized sexual slavery and which reaches heights of tyranny in the areas they control which are on the level of the most infamous regimes in history. They are an utter abomination, and I think it's about as clear as it can be that the world is a worse place with them in it, and that almost any position other than that of either complete isolationism or total pacifism demands that efforts be made towards their destruction. How that's done is another question, of course, and not one which necessarily implies a military answer, or at least not entirely one- I fear that the solution to the problem of ISIS is one which inevitably will have to be, at least partially, a military one. I don't agree with sending in US ground troops to destroy them, which I think would play into their hands and likely have many other negative effects, but ISIS is truly so terrible that I think they are one of those rare cases where the best outcome from a humanitarian standpoint is almost certainly one that involves war. (Though not necessarily one where the US is prominently involved, and in many ways I do think it would be better if other countries and forces were doing the bulk of it, given past US history in the Middle East.) This isn't common, but it does happen- the Vietnamese overthrow of Pol Pot was a war that had a better outcome, from a humanitarian standpoint, than would have been the case if no war had happened, and I think with ISIS the world faces a comparable situation.

(I'm also quite sure it isn't just Western propaganda that leads me to the conclusion that ISIS is what they are- the only way one can assume that is to resort to conspiracy theory of a scale that would make "9/11 was an inside job" type stuff look plausible. If anything, having followed the Syrian conflict for a while, I'd say Western media actually doesn't fully get across how bad they are- the beheadings, as atrocious as they are, are not even the worst thing they do- and that is based on stuff they put out themselves, not the propaganda of their enemies. The manual they released to their fighters on "war brides" is one of the most appalling documents I have ever read.)

That the US played a major role in creating the conditions that allowed ISIS to become what it has is indisputable (though I'm pretty sure the US never directly armed them, as some comments here seem to imply), and it most definitely should give us a lot of pause in how we approach them and the Middle East in general. On the other hand, to say that therefore we should sit back and do nothing about them seems to be equivalent to saying that the Treaty of Versailles was unjust and helped create the conditions which allowed for the rise of the Nazis- therefore the Allied powers should not do anything about Hitler. (And I know, Godwin, but I think ISIS's genocidal nature and their goals of conquest- as well as their murderous anti-Semitism- makes the comparison appropriate for once.) I absolutely think the entire world should be doing as much as it can to destroy ISIS, but obviously we shouldn't be going about that in a way which ultimately plays into their hands, furthers their ideology, or would make us villainous in our own right. So I'm against the idea of US ground troops because I think that option is quite likely to fail all those tests, but I can't agree at all with the idea that because of the US's past history, it should do nothing about them- I'm very aware of the many, many terrible things the US government has done, and I don't believe it's a force for good in the world, but all that doesn't change that ISIS is worse than pretty much anyone. And I don't think this is just some subconscious American nationalism/exceptionalism on my part- if Iran and Hezbollah were the only ones fighting ISIS, I would say that Iran and Hezbollah were (and are- they aren't the only party involved, but they are one of the major players involved in the fight against ISIS) doing the right thing and should have the world's full support in doing so, despite the many issues I have with their own ideologies and humanitarian record.

(Personally, I think the best thing which could happen, though geopolitics are such that it's very unlikely, is for the US and the world to throw their full support behind the PYD/YPG- a libertarian socialist, feminist organization that is both actively fighting ISIS and has been one of the most effective groups at doing so, and which, IMO, should be getting far more interest and international solidarity from the left than it currently is.)
posted by a louis wain cat at 1:49 PM on February 16, 2015 [11 favorites]


If ISIS is Muslim, is it Shia or Sunni Muslim, or, in this situation does it not matter

From the link:

"Islamic State regards Shiism as innovation, and to innovate on the Koran is to deny its initial perfection. (The Islamic State claims that common Shiite practices, such as worship at the graves of imams and public self-flagellation, have no basis in the Koran or in the example of the Prophet.) That means roughly 200 million Shia are marked for death. So too are the heads of state of every Muslim country, who have elevated man-made law above Sharia by running for office or enforcing laws not made by God."
posted by Mister Bijou at 1:58 PM on February 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


It all really makes one pine for some old-time secular Pan-Arabism.
posted by notyou at 2:12 PM on February 16, 2015 [4 favorites]


(Personally, I think the best thing which could happen, though geopolitics are such that it's very unlikely, is for the US and the world to throw their full support behind the PYD/YPG- a libertarian socialist, feminist organization that is both actively fighting ISIS and has been one of the most effective groups at doing so, and which, IMO, should be getting far more interest and international solidarity from the left than it currently is.)

On a quick read there, the explicitly Kurdish nature seems like a problem as far as making them the main spearhead. More as a matter of local politics than international politics.

I think the article has it right that containment is the way to go. It was the correct solution for Saddam as well. It's probably the best we can do without making the situation worse.
posted by Drinky Die at 2:26 PM on February 16, 2015


On the ISIS side, whatever religious justifications they try to make, it's really just a bunch of unemployed aimless angry testosterone-filled dudes who want an excuse to rape, pillage and feel manly.

Wow, you drank the koolaid in one gulp.

(Stated less bombastically, there is absolutely nothing useful in your quoted statement. They are not a bunch of unemployed aimless blah blah blah. Most of the IS fighters hold a sincere conviction that their actions are a religious obligation. We ignore this at our peril)

I thought the article was pretty good; for me its only weakness was underplaying the decades of Western meddling that have fucked with the legitimate aspirations of the people of that region, to the point where hardliners like the Taliban or IS become attractive to so many.

For me the article drove home the fact that Islam at its most extreme hasn't grown past its intolerant barbaric past to the same extent that Judaism and Christianity have, which makes radical Islam such a potent recruiting tool for IS. It's hard for me to reconcile this with my own experience with Muslim friends and co-workers, who are loving and peaceful. Maybe there's two Islams...

Hey I'm as secular/progressive as they come, but it's inescapable that there's religion-based justification for IS and their actions, as well as a history of meddling and oppression, and that it makes them that much harder to deal with. If only they did their killing in private and just pumped oil, they could have become our good friends like the Saudis.
posted by Artful Codger at 2:34 PM on February 16, 2015 [3 favorites]


It all really makes one pine for some old-time secular Pan-Arabism.

This film looks really interesting: Iraq Odyssey. I guess in the early fifties Baghdad (and probably Cairo, Tehran, Lebanon) were looking towards a bright, modern, secular future.
Samir captures his family in all their warmth and resilience, along with a hint of wistfulness, of fond remembrances when the Arab revolutions of the 1950s offered hope that an equitable, liberal society was possible. The failure of those dreams provides an inescapable, and disturbing, silent commentary on more recent unrest in the region.
This is ironic from the fpp:
The Islamic State supporters I spoke with still refer to Osama bin Laden as “Sheikh Osama,” a title of honor. But jihadism has evolved since al-Qaeda’s heyday, from about 1998 to 2003, and many jihadists disdain the group’s priorities and current leadership.
If only the "sheikh" were still here to keep jihadism on track and put Baghdadi in his place.
posted by Golden Eternity at 2:39 PM on February 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


a louis wain cat:
Once again I find myself grateful for your perspective.

I've been completely swamped with work since the excellent pair of ISIS threads in late Sept./early Oct., and haven't been keeping tabs... I guess my question for anyone who'd care to chime in is - has anything significantly changed since then? IS entered Libya to add a third faction to the existing Muslim Brotherhood "Libyan Dawn" / secularist "Operation Dignity" conflict, that much I know, and also that Kobane defenders finally threw out ISIS but from what I can tell there's otherwise been very few significant changes in the regional balance of powers.

Did I miss anything?
posted by Ryvar at 2:44 PM on February 16, 2015


- The Kurds have been steamrolling Daesh in Rojava after the victory in Kobane. They have reached the Euphrates, Raqqa province, and Tel-Abyad.
- There are now something like 100k Shia/Iranian militia members in Iraq, which dwarfs the actual Iraqi military.
- The shia militias are accused of many atrocities against Iraqi Sunnis
-Some of them are headed to Kirkuk which could create a conflict with the Kurds.
-The governments in Baghdad and Erbil are both broke. Baghdad failed to meet its oil revenue obligations to the Kurds. Which interesting considering Kurdish desire for independence. These may be the two most corrupt govt.'s in the world.
-Supposedly Daesh are still getting tons if recruits, but its hard to trust information in this area.
- I believe something like 800 Iraqi troops just finished training by the US in Erbil. I suspect there will be more troops ready over the next year.
- An Iraqi invasion of Mosul seems near.
- The Syrian military is dominated by Iranian militias and Hezbollah.
-Assad is still barrel bombing children.
- The Baghdad curfew of many years was finally lifted causing much celebration and some hope in Baghdad.
- It seems to me suicide bombings in Baghdad may be starting to diminish, but it's hard to tell.
-Daesh just did a major attack in Ramadi near an airbase with US marines but it was repelled.
-Daesh just captured 30 more Egyptians in Libya.
- Somethin like %70 of Egyptians and Libyans believe the copts were actually beheaded by an intelligence agency and Daesh was created by the CIA. Libya is a mess.
posted by Golden Eternity at 3:08 PM on February 16, 2015 [4 favorites]


I should not that the YPG in Rojava is fighting alongside a significant number of FSA, and has been for some time.
posted by Golden Eternity at 3:16 PM on February 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


Huge thanks, Golden Eternity - all of the Erbil/Mosul items were indeed news, ditto the scope of the Iranian militias. That was everything I needed to start filling in the blanks with Google.
posted by Ryvar at 3:17 PM on February 16, 2015


Most of the IS fighters hold a sincere conviction that their actions are a religious obligation.

that makes no sense to me. A religious obligation to torture and kill the innocent, loot towns, extort money from shopkeepers, and keep women as sex slaves? I mean serial killers often have a "sincere conviction" that they are ridding the world of the unclean or something.

I think you're giving people too much credit. I'm a guy, and I have known a lot of guys who are generally pissed off and aimless because of woman problems, job problems, or whatever it may be. Once people feel like they've got nothing better to do they'll go join a cult, start fights in bars, or do just about any kind of crazy shit to feel better about themselves. And if whatever they are into gives them an excuse to whoop it up, blow shit up, or whatever, they're off to the races. Hell, I went to college in a wealthy liberal town and when the local sports team won a championship it was all burning cars and fucking rioting in the streets. This is just that dark side of masculinity amped up to 1000.

I'm just happy that I personally have no religion to be "obligated" to.
posted by freecellwizard at 3:33 PM on February 16, 2015 [2 favorites]


This was fascinating. Thank you for posting.
posted by scaryblackdeath at 3:37 PM on February 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


freecellwizard: I'm not sure I understand your objection. It makes no sense for a religious person to believe they have a religious obligation to do something you find irrational? Well, yeah. That's why its called faith and not reason.
posted by Justinian at 3:38 PM on February 16, 2015 [3 favorites]


Here's an example of Daesh-speak that just came across my twitter (regarding the status of other jihadi groups):

@sunnahkitab2:
Few days ago a Jaysh al muhajireen wal ansar shar3i published an article in which they claimed that the Islamic state make takfir on them.

In my previous retweets sheikh Abu Azam al-Najdi is challenged by a guy to admit if there are any groups on tawheed aside from those who gave bay'ah to the Khilafah. Sheikh Azzam answers by saying. "Who told you we make takfir on people who don't give bay'ah to the Khalifa?"

And "Yes there are groups who haven't given bay'ah and are on tawheed, like 4 example Jaysh al muhajireen wal ansar and others than them."

"We dont make takfir on anyone from the Muslims unless he commited a Nullifier from the Islam and this(absence of bayah) is not a Nullifier"
posted by Golden Eternity at 3:49 PM on February 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


Fascinating article. Religion is such an amazing thing - the dynamo behind the kindness of soup kitchens and terror of machine guns. Absolutely the greatest means of control ever created by humankind.
posted by four panels at 4:24 PM on February 16, 2015


Drinky Die: On a quick read there, the explicitly Kurdish nature seems like a problem as far as making them the main spearhead.

They actually are not exclusively Kurdish- the organization is open to anyone who agrees with their ideology, Kurdish or not. They don't think of their ideological model as being for Kurds only, and they welcome anyone else who shares it- I know there are members of other ethnicities besides Kurds in the YPG, though it's not a large number, and that some of the local Arab communities in the territories they control are allied with them.

But that is the main problem, yeah- they don't want to rule all of Syria, and they're so strongly associated with one (minority) ethnicity that it's impossible to imagine that they could even if they did. They've said that they believe their model of governance could be a solution to the problems Syria faces right now (and I think they're right about that), but it's also clear they have no intention of imposing it on the rest of Syria by force (and doing that would be inherently contradictory to the ideology anyway), and no desire to rule over any areas where they don't have popular support (which is pretty much any non-Kurdish part of Syria.) A coalition between the YPG and sympathetic Arab forces might get somewhere, but there aren't enough of the latter to amount to much.

For all those reasons, I think you're right that they couldn't really be the main spearhead against ISIS- however, I see supporting them as having the most potential in terms of the long-term, non-military side of things. Even if the PYD/YPG itself never controls anything outside of the Kurdish part of Syria, if Rojava survives and thrives, it may help the surrounding areas to see that there are other options besides the corrupt secular dictator/Islamist theocracy binary choice that, at present, I think most people in the region don't see any alternative to. And in the long term, that is probably the most valuable measure that could be taken against ISIS and groups like them that there is, and the route which I think offers the most hope for a better future for the area. Sadly, this is also the reason why it's highly unlikely that the US will actually offer the YPG full support- I believe Rojava has the potential to be something that isn't just an alternative to the Middle Eastern status quo, but to that of the rest of the world as well. It should be obvious why this isn't exactly in the interests of the US government. I think the PYD/YPG is being very smart and pragmatic in how they're approaching the present situation, but I fear for their future- I fervently hope that they somehow manage to navigate this in such a way that they survive and receive some degree of recognition from the international community without compromising their vision too much, because I think it's the best and possibly only hope for something positive to come out of all of this.

Ryvar
: Once again I find myself grateful for your perspective.

Thanks, I appreciate that. I do feel like a lot of discussion on ISIS I see in left/progressive spaces doesn't grasp the magnitude of what they are and the problem they pose- I hope that I can make the case that this can be recognized without going down the neocon path. (Also, I want to raise more awareness of the PYD/YPG- I've thought of doing an FPP, but it's a difficult subject to do full justice to.)
posted by a louis wain cat at 7:13 PM on February 16, 2015 [12 favorites]


freecellwizard: that makes no sense to me. A religious obligation to torture and kill the innocent, loot towns, extort money from shopkeepers, and keep women as sex slaves?
Yes. And they aren't innocent - they are apostates. That makes anything "we" do to "them" sacred and righteous - same as it ever was.

You pretend to be unaware that the torture, imprisonment, and execution of (accused) witches and heretics (protestants) was "a religious obligation", throughout European history. Also, the crusades.

Something doesn't have to make sense to you to be a motivation to others.
posted by IAmBroom at 6:47 AM on February 17, 2015


Fuck them. He's allowed to be Christian, even if his bloodlines are Indian.

And the wider Muslim community is allowed to decide what "Islam is." I think this is a great but depressing article, except where it seems to insinuate "Daesh is True Islam," which contradicts Haykel: "as if there is such a thing as ‘Islam’! It’s what Muslims do, and how they interpret their texts.” Juan Cole's first point on this is good: Today’s Top 7 Myths about Daesh/ ISIL

Also well put by @iyad_elbaghdadi:
"IS Islam is a certain form of Islam" = correct (unfortunately).
"IS Islam is the true & authentic Islam" = so, so wrong that I can't even.
Though it's not clear that Wood actually does this, I think he should make it more clear that he isn't. Another problem with talking about "true Islam" that way is that it in a way validates the myth of fundamentalists that there is revealed Truth to be found by correctly interpreting 1400 year old texts. This hould be challenged instead. There probably is valid criticism of how consensus Islam has become more fundamentalist since the Islamic revival of the seventies, which I think may be an important piece left out of the daeshbag story. Talking up the Quiet Salafis might be a good idea for dterring prospective jihadis, but the wider muslim community should be challenged to become more liberal.

It seems to me a good argument for the muslim community to make is that Daesh is forcing the world to hate all jihadism and in so doing turn a blind eye to Assad, causing massive suffering to Muslims in Syria. Daesh and AQ have caused the world to hesitate against Assad, for good reason.

The article does not read to me like a neocon call to war, I think that was just one of his ideas on how Daesh could actually be stopped.
posted by Golden Eternity at 1:26 PM on February 17, 2015 [4 favorites]


Golden Eternity: "IS Islam is a certain form of Islam" = correct (unfortunately).
Yep. Every time I hear a Christian complain that "Timothy McViegh wasn't a Christian", I think, "OK, as long as you also insist Muslim terrorists aren't Muslim... - but wait, you don't".

No True Church of Scotland fallacy.
posted by IAmBroom at 1:35 PM on February 17, 2015


I don't understand why ISIS beheaded 21 Coptic Christians if (as the article reads) they're supposed to according to the Koran allow the Christians and the Jews alone so long as they pay a tax. The article brings up the issue of the tax, and then separately we have this incident involving the beheadings. Does anyone know what the rationale was exactly, because it sounds like to some degree ISIS believes they're obligated to leave the Christians and Jews alone because of this tax policy.
posted by scunning at 2:25 PM on February 17, 2015


This is a good podcast by Hassan Hassan: Middle East Week - ISIS in North Africa as War Against Them Grows. He talks a bit about Management of Savagery (an Al Qaeda manual used by Daesh) and what the motivations for Daesh's extreme violence may be. It makes some sense: one of their goals is apparently to scare local opposition from resisting them, allowing them to secure territory with minimal losses.

He's very knowledgeable and has just written a book on Daesh with Michael Weiss: ISIS: Inside the Army of Terror.
posted by Golden Eternity at 3:45 PM on February 17, 2015 [1 favorite]


Does anyone know what the rationale was exactly, because it sounds like to some degree ISIS believes they're obligated to leave the Christians and Jews alone because of this tax policy.

Apparently vengeance against "the crusadors" for OBL was the explanation given by the MC at the headchopping:
“All crusaders: safety for you will be only wishes, especially if you are fighting us all together. Therefore we will fight you all together,” he says. “The sea you have hidden Sheikh Osama bin Laden’s body in, we swear to Allah we will mix it with your blood.”
Vengeance is a legit reason for savagery according to them, I guess.
posted by Golden Eternity at 7:58 PM on February 17, 2015


Interesting, I hadn't realized they're so similar to the American Christian "Armageddon Lobby" aka "Dispensationalist Christian Zionists".
posted by jeffburdges at 2:06 AM on February 18, 2015




Rawstory rebuts Graeme Wood
posted by notsnot at 6:17 AM on February 18, 2015 [2 favorites]


what is this i don't even
posted by tonycpsu at 9:00 AM on February 18, 2015


No Single Root Cause, No Silver Bullet

‘Islamic State’ mystery: The anti-history of a historic phenomenon

ISIS and the academic veil for Islamophobia

After Kobane: Turkey’s New Pan-Kurdish Nationalism

Preparations for international brigade in Rojava
The call by the Marxist Leninist Communist Party (MLKP) ‘to defend the Rojava revolution’ has reverberated in Europe as well as in Turkey. Internationalist revolutionaries have begun to travel to the land of the revolution.

From Madrid to Rojava

The MLKP’s efforts to create an international brigade recall the international brigades established to defend Madrid during the Spanish Civil War. When I was with the fighters I could hear the words ‘No pasaran’ in my ears. In those days Spain was not just Spain, it was the peoples’ hope and future.
posted by Golden Eternity at 9:50 AM on February 18, 2015




ISIS and the academic veil for Islamophobia

Dumb article. One academic does not an "academic veil" make.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 3:24 PM on February 18, 2015


The title is bad, but I thought a lot of his criticism of Wood was really good. He is probably right that promoting quietist Salafism would be idiotic. And I liked his rebut of Wood's criticism of Obama, that Obama was only supporting the international Muslim communities language in saying that Daesh is not Islam. Obama's speech today was really good as well, I thought. He changed his language a little; he said Daesh had "perverted Islam." I like "not Islam" better actually.

@thisisnafissa: "4 years today since #Libya's revolution"
posted by Golden Eternity at 3:38 PM on February 18, 2015


"community's" "crusaders" Christ.
posted by Golden Eternity at 4:21 PM on February 18, 2015


Oops, I also borked one of the links:

‘Islamic State’ mystery: The anti-history of a historic phenomenon
posted by Golden Eternity at 8:27 PM on February 18, 2015


@thisisnafissa: "4 years today since #Libya's revolution"

And I fear the same cheerleaders who led us to bomb Libya for freedom are going to lead us to re-invade Iraq to bring the 2000lb bombs of freedom there again too. The drumbeats are starting. Hell, they've been going for months.
posted by Justinian at 1:26 AM on February 19, 2015


Justinian: The drumbeats are starting. Hell, they've been going for months.
Which is made all the more chilling when you take reports like this into account:

“Odierno warns 2016 sequestration could result in 'hollow' Army,” J.D. Leipold, U.S. Army News, 28 January 2015

The strategic picture is extremely troubling to me. Odierno testifies that 33% of U.S. brigades are combat ready. Which means what? The usual suspects are going to bay for blood in Iraq and the Army will be ordered to attack a 600 km front with 10 brigades? 50,000 troops versus some 30,000 ISIL fighters? That's not even a 2-1 advantage. Or is it a 1-4 disadvantage? Who knows? And if the U.S. commits everything, that leaves no ready reserve to counter other exigencies.

To paraphrase and modernize an old saw, you can't execute a 100 brigade strategy with a 35 brigade army.
posted by ob1quixote at 3:04 AM on February 19, 2015




"We’ve decapitated more civilians than ISIS ever has" by Chris Hedges
posted by jeffburdges at 12:09 AM on February 23, 2015


Islamic State messaging to Central Asian Migrant Workers in Russia

Daesh recruitment stuff from twitter:

@JihadiHipster: "Ikhwa from France, Netherlands, UK, Finland, Switzerland, Australia, Norway, Maldives etc all united for the sake of Allah. This is Islam."

@AbuHurayra_3:
Living in the #IslamicState is a wonderful thing.
1- The #IS sees to all the needs of the Muhājirīn:
2-
Monthly rental
Electricity it's free
Water is free
Monthly allowance for general stuff
Monthly allowance for food
Free rifle
Fuel money
3-
Hospitals are free for Muhājirīn and Mujahidīn
If you go to a dentist, you give the receipts to the #IS office and you get it back
4- The houses in Syria aren't top class, but it's totally livable, a cheap house would be $50pm and an okay one for $100pm
Alhamdulillāh
5- The #IS will give you the rental money but if you want something very big or a free standing house, then you can get a Villa for $500pm
6- If you take a Villa, then if course, you'll have to pay that from your own money
7- Mobile data connections aren't allowed inside the #IS because of security reasons.
8- So we use the WiFi from the NetCafe which reaches our house, different providers have different prices, we pay 500 Lira ($2.6) for 175MB
9- All the men are separated from the women until they finish the two Muaskars:
Shar'i Muaskar 2 weeks
Military Muaskar 3 - 5 weeks
10- After completing the last Muaskar, you get to choose which Katiba (battalion/squad) to join and fight in, I.e English Katiba, Arabic.
11- After that you can start living with your family in a house, and then you'll get your monthly allowances etc
12- A good tip: once you're here, look for a house to rent, then tell #IS you want to rent that house, because #IS has a shortage of housing
13- Because the #IS never expected this much Muhājirīn to enter into the #IslamicState
Alhamdulillāh
14- If you have a friend or family in Dawla, you can tell the Dawla that you want your Family to stay by them while you're in Muaskar
15- I say this cuz its hard for sisters to live with othr sisters for the few weeks sometimes the treatment from the other sists aren't good
16- Every man has to go through Shar'i Muaskar and Askary Muaskar (Military)
But men over 40 are exempted from the Military training.
17- The men gets their guns after Military Muaskar
18- You can buy guns for the sisters, weapons aren't too cheap because non-Mujahidīn or non-Muhājirīn aren't allowed to have guns
19- Handguns are the best to get for the sisters, so that they do not appear armed and they can fire at the enemy from within their Cloaks.
20- Rifles and shot guns are fine too, but they're easily disarmed, especially if the attackers are 2 and the victim is alone.
21- Attackers aren't common at all, The Dawla is very safe, but necessary precautions should be taken, a Muslim is always prepared.
posted by Golden Eternity at 10:45 AM on February 23, 2015 [2 favorites]


Now that Daesh is losing ground in Syria, Nusra and other jihadists are speaking out against them more: ( from juspasteit )
The Turkish army in the care of the Khalifa. 

This incident showed most of that people’s errors so subhan Allah. It proved the lies of their Shariis in front of all. They said that the shrine does not contain a grave and that Baghdadi sent a delegation to it and they found that it was not a shrine. 

It proved that the takfeer they have is a political takfeer, meaning that they make takfeer on those who oppose them to make their blood permissible and not to aid the religion of Allah. They made takfeer on groups and its soldiers for less than this. The takfeer on those groups were to justify fighting them in order to attain power and government. 

After this incident they said that the State has no energy with which to fight the Turkish army. It must instead be considered neutral even if it came at the expense of the religion and monotheism. And here also it becomes clear that they play with the religion of Allah so that it fits their whims and lusts. You brought countries larger that Turkey to the fight and you did not care about what the learned and shuyuk said who called for them to be considered neutral. You said they were deviant and were afraid of the crusaders. 

Did you not bring the US to the fight when you slaughtered its citizen?

And it does not have a polytheistic grave in your lands.

Did you not bring Egypt to the Libyan fight by slaughtering poor Coptic workers?

Your goal from this was that it would be said: the US and its allies has gathered against the State and to take pride in this. You did not consider the benefit of the Muslims and that airplanes would bomb them and that the conflict would be prolonged. 

Yesterday you said that you got rid of the Sykes-Picot borders and this was the reason Baghdadi refused his emir’s orders. But today there is no problem to make it an excuse for protecting a polytheistic grave. 

Was not accepting the Sykes-Picot borders in the judgement of Emir Al-Zawahri more deserving than accepting them in protecting a polytheistic grave?

So contemplate may Allah preserve you:

That all that propaganda the State conducted was for its worldly benefit in attaining governance and power and nothing else. A look at the judgements the State plays with and uses wherever and however it wants. But subhan Allah who exposed them in front of all people and made those who used to brag that they were following the truth and not following men, it made them look for excuses

 

The orginal text: http://justpaste.it/jkkf

Translated by @ibnulislaaam 
posted by Golden Eternity at 1:34 PM on February 23, 2015 [1 favorite]


@DiabolicalIdea: "'God would tell me...end the tyranny in Iraq,' Caliph Dubya of the Idiotic State of Interventionist Stupidity (ISIS)."
posted by Golden Eternity at 9:46 AM on February 25, 2015






Malise Ruthven writes on ISIS and Islamic apocalyptic - Lure of the Caliphate
posted by Flitcraft at 8:38 AM on February 28, 2015






Islam is Privilege by Aral Balkan
There is no discussion of Islamism or ISIS there but it echoes the views of most Turkish people I met living in Istanbul.
posted by jeffburdges at 12:47 AM on March 9, 2015 [1 favorite]








I donno if ISIS not wanting people to read the Quran counts as un-Islamic. Catholicism avoided ideological competition partially by keeping the Bible in Latin too. There is a power play in Islamic authorities treatment of the Arabic Quran as authoritative too.
posted by jeffburdges at 12:40 AM on March 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


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