By Azhar Imtiyaz
Is the so-called Islamic State (IS) really a creation of America? The emergence of IS aka Daesh in Iraq and Syria has created chaos. Leave aside non-Muslims, even many Muslim organisations are calling this group a creed of the West and many say they are the new Khawarij. But a common man gets confused that if IS is America’s ‘baby’, why on earth is Daesh fighting its ‘owner’?
Let us try to understand what Daesh actually is, and if it is really an American creation and where it emerged from. To understand this we need to ask a few questions. The first: how could this organisation reach the level of power and control over areas it has if it were not backed by a superpower such as America? Answer: anyone looking closely at how Daesh achieved control over Mosul and other areas in Iraq must factor in the collapse of the Iraqi army and its withdrawal without a fight. The answer stems from the weakness of the Iraqi army and its deterioration, not from the strength of Daesh, which was a relatively small force before it seized control of Anbar province. The organisation grew stronger and expanded in Iraq and Syria after it took territorial control, not before. Second, assuming that America is behind the rise of Daesh requires proof that the US is somehow controlling the situation in both Iraq and Syria, thus allowing the emergence of a group such as Daesh. This is a wrong assumption and there is no evidence even remotely backing it up, neither in Syria nor in Iraq. America was forced out of Iraq and it had not yet been engaged in Syria at the time of Daesh’s meteoric rise. How can an entity that lost authority grant it to another entity? And since when does America hand over control to anyone else?
The second question to ask is: Is it possible for Daesh to have become a prominent organisation over the past four years and achieve the power and control it currently enjoys without some kind of foreign or external support? Answer: This phenomenon must be read in terms of the reasons Daesh grabbed the power and control it has; not in terms of abstract reason or logic The fact that Daesh has managed to progress so quickly, and the fact that it separated from Al-Qaeda and formed into what it is now, must be seen through the lens of the prevalent balance of power, divisions, conflicts and conditions in the region. First, the Iraqi state collapsed due to the American occupation. Second, the country descended into civil war as a result of the dissolution of the army and the misguided attempts to restructure a new state from scratch. Third, there are deep divisions amongst the various components of Iraqi society, coupled with prevalent corruption in the Iraqi state and the entrenchment of the conflict along sectarian lines – all of which created an imbalance of power that allowed Daesh to quickly reach its current level of control and strength. Daesh also possesses certain special features that have consolidated its power network, such as taking risks, and committing barbaric acts (which they later tag to the Shariah).
If it were not for the fall of the Iraqi state and the entrenchment of doctrinal divisions, Daesh’s fate would have been the same as that of the Juhayman Al-Otaybi movement in Saudi Arabia, who stormed the Grand Mosque in Mecca in 1979. The Juhayman movement took action under different circumstances and in light of a strong state and a cohesive regional and international balance of power – it only lasted for a week before being eliminated by the Saudi state. There are precedents in the history of the global superpowers, especially America, in which they have been able, from behind the scenes or through intelligence infiltration, to support a phenomenon such as Daesh, all the while publically expressing hostility towards it.
Question three: If America intended to actually eliminate Daesh, it would have sent troops to attack it. However, it is using Daesh for an ulterior motive. Why is it fighting Daesh half-heartedly? Answer: Indeed, in the past, America could have sent its troops and engaged in a ground war against its enemies or adversaries. However, today, it is unable to do this because of its experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan, after which neither the American government nor the American public were willing to send troops into battle. America has lost its influence, control and leadership role in the Middle East. Russia’s latest military intervention and its control of the political initiative in Syria is conclusive evidence of America’s weakness in the region.
As for those who say that the US is fighting Al-Qaeda or Daesh half-heartedly or via a “half-war”, the explanation lies in the US’ ability in accordance with the general balance of global power, not in its ability to engage in a comprehensive war. America did not intend to intervene in Iraq again until Daesh took control of Mosul. What pushed America into military intervention was the danger Daesh posed to the Kurdish entity in Iraq after the organisation made moves towards Erbil and the Peshmerga retreated. However, despite this, the US limited itself to aerial intervention and a few experts on the ground, nothing more. This is the weakest form of intervention because a war is ultimately decided on the ground, not in the air. This understanding of the balance of regional power should not cover up the contradictions, struggle and hostility between America, Al-Qaeda and Daesh, or make the theory that these forces are America creations acceptable.
However, this understanding of American policies should also not hide the fact that part of America’s weakness is the fact that it takes advantage of Daesh’s conflicts with other forces and uses them, indirectly, against it. There are other forces America considers more dangerous than Daesh and Al-Qaeda. This is where politics takes the form of complexity. For example, America considers Iran, Syria, Hezbollah, Hamas and the Islamic Jihad more hostile and dangerous than Daesh, not to mention Russia, China and many other forces in the world. Therefore, despite the fact that its declared strategy considers “terrorism” as enemy number once, and it has mobilised via this by highlighting the threat of Al-Qaeda, Daesh and those who resist Israel or consider Zionism an enemy, the US has made this strategy confused and, more importantly, has neglected the threat Russia and China pose to its control in the international balance of power on military, political and economic levels.
Question four: If we drop the argument that Daesh was created by an outside force and assume that it is a “self-creation”, how can we explain its quick growth, and the support it receives, in one form or another, from many countries? Answer: In addition to its features of risk-taking and terrorist tactics, such as the beheadings and atrocities it commits in an effort to intimidate its opponents, the international, regional and Arab balance of power has also helped its success. Daesh first benefitted from the collapse of the Iraqi state, it then benefitted from internal sectarian, tribal and regional divisions in the country, along with the spread of corruption and inefficiency that led to the failure of national consensus. International, regional, Arab and internal divisions and disputes pushed many forces, at various times and phases, to facilitate the transfer of fighters from other countries to Syria and Iraq to join Daesh and other organisations. This was done with the intention of dealing a blow to the regime in Syria, without taking into consideration the threat and dangers that may arise from such an influx of fighters. This also applies to countries that indirectly or directly supported Daesh with money, weapons, or the purchase of oil under Daesh’s control in Iraq and Syria.
While it is true that Daesh received support from several countries, none of them can be considered as having control over the organisation, as it is simply an uncontrollable force. The question that requires an explanation above all else is: What is the benefit of ruling out the possibility of Daesh being an American creation and exempting America from the responsibility for Daesh’s actions? The answer is simply that you cannot come up with a comprehensive and cohesive plan to control Daesh and defeat it if you do not see it truthfully for what it is; and you will not know the truth behind the relations of any country with Daesh if you do not consider the contingent balance of power, political situation and sectarian strife. I will conclude by saying that when Daesh is linked to a sponsor or a party capable of directing it, and the internal divisions and fractures in the armies and nations fighting the organisation are glossed over, then we are constructing a platform from which to confront the alleged sponsor of the organisation without addressing the wider fissures that have led to its rise to power.
—The writer is a M.Pharma student.