There is a complexity in the ongoing conflict in Iraq and Syria at this time. In the mist of a struggling sectarian government and an all out civil with no end in the near future, rogue groups have had the opportunity to establish themselves and prosper. Much like Afghanistan during the period before the Taliban and after the fall of the hegemonic Soviet Union, the void was filled with chaotic uprisings from more conservative minded groups.
These groups felt that traditionalism was the answer to stability, and determent from this view was punished through extreme measures. ISIS, or the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, have followed this format. The difference between ISIS and the groups in Afghanistan is their large expansion and consolidation of various groups into one force. Through the black market, generous donations, high demand for cheap oil, and use of prisoner exchanges, ISIS has manage to fund themselves and their “Islamic State”.
Though self identified as Islamic, their teachings and views fall far from normalized interpretations and practices. It is a form of Islam ISIS is using, but a horribly distorted and traditionalist view that even out-dos Wahhabism; Wahhabi is the school of thought and law system used in places like Saudi Arabia.
The issue with combating ISIS and its growth rests in the reactions of coalitions (America and allied states) as well as the reliability of ISIS’ supporters. Terrorist groups thrive off of their legitimacy as a force taking down violent invaders from the West. With each strike against ISIS and the failure to compromise the group, ISIS is able to create another propaganda video/message.
Their legitimacy as a fighting group also allow those traditionalist minded people to easily side with ISIS, or even those who view the West as evil and morally corrupt. Seeing ISIS as the only option, the group has a quick and ready supply of fighters and supporters. Though not as abundant as a national army, their cause seen by some allow for the group’s growth and success.
Though many feel that action needs to be taken against ISIS immediately in order to halt their inhumane actions and war crimes, military action alone is not the solution to dissolving the group. The people described joining ISIS are not necessarily a large number, but do contribute to the group’s growth. There needs to be a transformation in the global community and the response to terror groups. Rather than treat them as a standard target or as a large conventional war, it is crucial to understand the actions and views of both sides. While those supporting ISIS in the end are supporting their violent actions, their original intent and views of the world may be legitimate. There are people who feel that violence is the only way to solve issues or to expel a force.
ISIS has had their success in two regions: finance and propaganda. And it is not just ISIS who thrives on propaganda, but other terror groups. Social action and perception is one of the strongest parts of making or breaking a group’s success. If the global community can protect people from harm (and failing states/governments) and change their viewpoints in a positive manner, ISIS will have that much more difficulty maintaining their “state” in the region.
Photo Credit: NY Post