The following article is published in the Sunday edition (DNA) of Pakistan Today, dated 6th July 2014
(For online version: http://www.pakistantoday.com.pk/2014/07/05/comment/isis-safeguard-pakistan/ )
(For published version: Page 8 at: http://issuu.com/abidoon/docs/dna_issue_31_new/9?e=3820687/8511302 )
ISIS: Safeguard Pakistan
All is not as it seems about the new caliphate in Iraq
By: Omer Zaheer Meer
The author is a Director of the think-tank “Millat Thinkers’ Forum”. He is a leading economist, qualified accountant and anti-money laundering expert with international exposure who can be reached on Twitter and www.myMFB.com @OmerZaheerMeer or firstname.lastname@example.org
There are tactical maneuverings in geo-politics and there are games. Then there are great games. It seems like another one is unfolding with critical consequences for the world in general and Muslim countries in particular. Pakistan, as has become the custom lately, seems to be the vanguard for the fallout. The ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and the Syria) has literally come out of oblivion with surprising tenacity, resources and success. It is an extreme sectarian group with such extreme ideas that Al-Qaeda divorced it early this year. A few months later, the same ISIS has swept across major towns of Iraq while having a strong hold in areas of Syria. It is estimated to have a net worth of over $2 billion with funding from “sources” in KSA, Kuwait and Qatar, all strong regional allies of USA. It is now moving towards financial “independence” with recent gains on the ground.
A non-entity before their recent mega-arrival on the global scene, ISIS was initially ISI (Islamic State in Iraq) which was born out of the US invasion of Iraq. Its current leader Abu-Baker al Baghdadi is a little known shadowy figure who is hardly ever pictured and relies on audio rather than video messages. The little known history of Mr Baghdadi includes him being a highly qualified individual who served time in the infamous American “terror” prisons. He was released quietly by the US after which he became active in ISIS. Without suggesting any connection let us add to this the fact that US Vice President Joe Biden suggested division of Iraq a few years back into sunni, shia and Kurdish states. This is exactly what’s happening now with ISIS focusing on capturing mainly sunni areas while the Kurds have already attained significant autonomy. Although USA denied Biden’s statement after the ensuing outcry, many journalists and writers continue to vouch for its validity. This should help you start putting pieces together.
The little known history of Mr Baghdadi includes him being a highly qualified individual who served time in the infamous American “terror” prisons. He was released quietly by the US after which he became active in ISIS.
USA formally refers to this group as ISIL (Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant) as greater Syria used to comprise of the region of Levant. Before going further let us examine the intentions proclaimed by ISIS/ISIL. Its name, “Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant” openly communicates the intention to establish an Islamic State in both these regions. We’re well aware of the region comprising Iraq, but not many people are aware of the composition of Levant and its significance. The Levant is the Eastern Mediterranean littoral between Anatolia and Egypt. In simple words, present day Levant consists of Cyprus, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, Palestine, and parts of southern Turkey.
This is significant as the stated aim of ISIS includes bringing Islamic rule to the so-called state of Israel. This is bound to arouse Muslim feelings reeling from the injustices of the World Order for a long time now. But one would expect such an attempt to seriously outrage the USA with its imperial doctrine threatened. But surprisingly we are hard pressed to see any mention of this threat let alone outrage from USA, its allies or even “Israel” itself. Instead the entire ISIS affair is painted as a shia-sunni conflict. In order to understand the subtleties, one has to compare this calm response on ISIS’s threat to Levant (Israel) with the ferociousness of USA’s responses on the smallest of perceived threats to Israel. USA and its allies always come out in force to support its poodle in the Middle-East, with Israel itself creating a lot of hue and cry; the latest example was the “global ire” over the deaths of three Israeli occupiers in occupied Palestinian territory following deaths of 15 Palestinians which were lost to the attention of the Imperialist powers. How is the USA so calm over the ISIS threat to Israel?
It is ironic that the USA even denied air-support to the Iraqi government against ISIS, citing potential civilian damage as this never prevented the USA before, not in its air raids on Iraq itself, not during the drone strikes in Pakistan and not in its bombing campaigns elsewhere. Moreover, the funding bases of ISIS are all within key allies of USA who are totally subservient to its will. However while the USA chooses to publicly condemn what it terms as the “terror” unleashed by ISIS, it prefers to look away instead of asking its allies to put a stop to ISIS funding. This treatment of ISIS by USA and its allies is not surprising considering the geo-political situation, the historical analogies and the existence of exploitable divide between sunnis and the shia.
Effectively with ISIS what we see is a strategy unleashed successfully several times before by different imperialists. The last high-profile use was elimination of the Ottoman “Khilafat” using the divide and rule policy along racial lines between Arabs and Turks.
Effectively with ISIS what we see is a strategy unleashed successfully several times before by different imperialists. The last high-profile use was elimination of the Ottoman “Khilafat” using the divide and rule policy along racial lines between Arabs and Turks. This time the plan is to wedge the sectarian divide to weaken the Muslim world from within once again. This view is further strengthened by the way the USA is enticing Iran into the conflict despite a long history of animosity and still having concerns over Iran’s nuclear program threat to Israel. Furthermore smaller states divided along sectarian and/or ethnic lines are not only weaker and easier to “manage”, but their exploitation is also easier and less resisted.
The fallout of this strategy, however, can be disastrous for Pakistan, which has already been the unfortunate front-line battlefield for proxy wars between Saudia Arabia and Iran. With a sizeable shia population of between 5-15 per cent in a predominantly sunni country, Pakistan has to prepare for the consequences of this great “dirty” game. Further complicating the matters for Pakistan are the aspirations of some key “opinion makers” in USA openly proposing cutting the country to size by annexing Balochistan and KPK, both regions already boiling in trouble. Fortunately, Pakistanis at large are generally tolerant and used to co-existing. The overwhelming majority of Sunnis do not subscribe to the version propagated by ISIS. Moreover it has an organised and strong defence apparatus. However, of late sectarian divisions have been rising, mostly due to foreign sponsored programs and figures. Such troubles from within can weaken even the strongest of states and needs to be attended to with the utmost urgency. It is therefore critical that not only Pakistan cuts off foreign sectarian funding but also gives a strong call to both our brotherly countries to stop washing their dirty linen in our backyard.
Similarly, our friends in USA can be used to “persuade” the American establishment to alter its aspirations planned at the cost of Pakistan by emphasising the losses of an unfriendly nuclear-armed Pakistan to its regional interests, as well as the potential setbacks to its global position by a leading Muslim country joining the camp of its opponents. With China and Russia vying for increased global assertion it should not be too hard to understand.