By Proloy Bagchi:
These medieval marauding brutes of Islamic State of Iraq & Levant need to be stopped on their tracks. Working through a Caliphate these brutes are spreading death and depredation in the areas under their control which they now call simply the Islamic State (IS), after removing the names Iraq and Levant from its earlier avatar. The State poses a threat to life and security in the Middle East and elsewhere and is poised to absorb more and more areas in the region under it. It has piled up human rights abuses against it and the Caliphate’s dealings with adversaries, civilians, women, children, journalists and religious minorities have been unspeakably inhuman, brutal, cruel and utterly uncivilised.
Established in October 2006, the Islamic State of Iraq, as it was then named, began claiming authority over several provinces of the country. Gradually it expanded into other parts of Iraq and also into Syria, fulfilling its goal nursed since 2004 of establishing an Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIS) and re-named it as such. It now claims to control as many as 16 provinces in the two countries spread across the Iraq-Syrian border. IS is a Sunni extremist group that adheres to the global jihadist principles. The US Intelligence described it as no longer a militia but an army on the move – beyond being a terrorist group. It is reported to have incredible command and control systems with swift communicational facilities up and down the line; actually it is a well-oiled fighting machine.
IS is cruel to the core. With the beheading of two American journalists by its executioners and now a British aid worker it displayed its beastly side making the international media erupt into a frenzy of recriminations. But its crimes are far more brutal. From ordinary banditry to genocide is what seems to sustain it. During June 2014 Iraq conflict it released videos of indiscriminate killings of thousands of Iraqi civilians as they disliked their ethnicity, religion or sect. Shias have come in for special attention and they have been subjects of murderous attacks in which thousands have lost their lives. The IS brutes have also brazenly killed hundreds of Yazidis, an ethno-religious Kurdish community the ancient religion of which is linked to Zoroastrianism. Thousands of them have fled their native lands in the Nineveh province of North Iraq, a region once part of Assyria. The IS has also been particularly harsh on the Assyrian, Chaldean, Armenian and Syriac Christians. Like Mahamud of Ghazni, that 11th Century brute raider in India, they asked these hapless people to convert to Islam or face torture, mutilation or even death. Besides, photographs have recorded their cold-blooded en masse shooting of captured Syrian army men out in the open.
The IS men are ruthless with women who have been kidnapped and raped in large numbers. Sexual violence is rampant in all the areas controlled by IS where an upsurge was noticed in crime against women. “Kidnapping, torture, executions, rape and many other hideous crimes” are routinely committed without any let or hindrance. A stiff dress code has been imposed on women, non-compliance of which entails torture and humiliation. The Guardian reported that the IS’s agenda extended to women’s bodies and that women living under their control were being abused and raped. Captured Yazidi women are being raped as sex-slaves on daily basis. They are being made to narrate their experiences to foreigners only to inform the world how barbaric the IS rebels are. Around 500 Christian women captured from areas overrun by the IS have been sold as sex-slaves. It has even made overtures to Uighur girls in China to come and act as sex-slaves for them. These monsters are plumbing new depths of depravity although they claim to be ruling by Sharia, “religious law of a prophetic religion”.
Though there are few reliable figures but IS probably is the richest jihadist group in the world. It has accumulated wealth from the loot of about $430 million from the Mosul Central Bank after the city’s capture and additional millions looted from other banks. In addition the gold bullion stolen from banks has added millions to its coffers. The IS members are racketeers par excellence. They are into collecting ransom as also extortion from big businesses, gold retail outlets and even truck drivers. Analysts believe that it makes around $2 million every day from sale of oil of the oilfields captured in Northern Iraq and other rackets of extortions, smuggling and ransom it runs in the area under its control which is now believed to be approximately the size of UK. Observers feel the IS are as bad as Taliban, the only difference being they have oilfields under their control which makes them frightfully rich. In addition they have a large stockpile of arms and ammunitions looted from Saddam Hussain’s arms cache comprising various kinds of assault rifles, missiles, tanks, anti tank missiles, field guns, howitzers, surface-to-air missiles, stingers and so on building up capability to fight on stolen or captured equipment. It even captured a few Blackhawk helicopters and cargo planes stationed at the Mosul Airport and has thus become a formidable force which is unlikely to be subdued by the inadequately equipped Iraqi or Syrian forces.
Considering itself to be patron of both IS and the Syrian group of jihadists al-Nusra, Al Qaida was, however, against the merger of the two which was decided unilaterally by IS. Al Qaida fell out with IS on this issue as the latter paid no heed to its directives. Isolated, weakened, somewhat peeved and jealous of the giant strides taken by its one-time protégé, it has now threatened jihad in the Indian subcontinent with the cooperation of its host country Pakistan and Afghanistan. Obviously, weakened as it is, it will use the resources Pakistani and Afghani jihadists of Lashkar-e Toiba and the Talibans, respectively, of both the countries for a push into India. The Pakistani jihadists and their patrons in Pakistan Army would only be too glad at the prospects of getting a force-multiplier. Their combined forces along with the home-grown Indian Mujahideen could pose a massive threat to India’s security.
The rise of IS has been ascribed to the failure of the US before its pull-out from Iraq to build up capacity in the Iraqi Army and its paramilitary forces to confront such eventualities as emergence of IS. Hillary Clinton has also indirectly blamed the US failure to help build up a credible force against Bashar al Assad in Syria yielding space for the rise of jihadist organizations like al-Nusra. This is a repeat by US of its Afghan campaign from where it pulled out leaving the field open without a capable deterrent for the abhorrent Taliban and their mentor, the Pakistani ISI. Obama has now resolved to take the fight to IS calling it a cancer that needs to be liquidated before it poses serious threat to US lives and property. Only future will tell what the fall-out of this engagement will be on India, which is under as much threat. It has to shore up its resources to fight the new menace on its horizon. It would need to marshal its economic, financial and political strengths to meet this challenge.