ISIS or ISIL, who are they and what are their goals?
ISIS or ISIL?
From a definition standpoint ISIS stands for Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. ISIL on the other hand stands for the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. I have heard many people, including politicians use these terms interchangeably. However, after doing the research, I found there is a marked difference between ISIS and ISIL. ISIS describes the territory that dis-enfranchised Sunni militants want to control in the short term, namely Iraq and Syria. But they also have long term goals of controlling the Levant. The Levant includes the following countries.
- Parts of southern Turkey
As you can see from the map below, ISIL is a much more ambitious movement than ISIS. Since ISIL is a long term goal for the movement, from this point forward in this article, I will use the term ISIS to mean both ISIL and ISIS.
What are the differences between Sunni, Shia, and Kurd?
In general, there are three main religious groups in the region with at least three separate belief systems about who should lead the Arab Nation.
Sunnis believe Mohammad said that Muslim countries should be ruled by a leader who is the most capable. This leader is called a Caliph, the supreme religious and political leader of Islam. The land and people the Caliph rules is called a Caliphate.
Shias believe Mohammed said that Muslim countries should be ruled by direct descendants of Mohammed. These leaders are called Imams, the supreme religious and political leader of Islam.
The Kurds have a mixture of many religions including Sunni, Shia, Christian, and many off-shoots from all of those religions. However, they are sitting on an oil rich territory that borders southern Turkey. They were nomadic people, who from the time of World War I, have not had a country or a national Identity. Their territory is called Kurdistan, but it is not recognized as a sovereign state.
Apparently,how the leader of Islam becomes a leader is very important for Sunni and Shia, and also some of the Kurds. It is so important that they are willing to fight and die for their beliefs.
But let us not forget, a wise man once said:" All wars are fought for economic reasons."
What does the the Ottoman Empire have to do with the Mid-East?
In order to understand how the mid-east countries were formed, one has to go back to before WWI. Before WWI, the major political force in the mid-east was the Ottoman Empire. The map below shows the countries in the middle east today. The dashed line borders define the region the Ottoman Empire controlled before WWI.
What Happened After WWI?
As a result of WWI, the Ottoman Empire was destroyed. The Sykes-Picot agreement between the British and the French resulted in carving up the former Ottoman Empire into zones of influence as shown in the map below. These zones were laid out without any regard for the differences in ethnicity, culture, or religion. However, this gave the British and the French control and influence over the region.
Here is how the sectarian groups are distributed throughout the middle-east.
Shiites occupy the coast of Lebanon and Syria and parts of Turkey. Today, ISIS is calling this the Levant. This is what this area was called after the British mandate. Shiites also occupy southern Iraq as the majority.
Sunnis occupy most of Jordan, Syria, Saudi Arabia, and the southern parts of Turkey where they are mixed with the Kurds. They also occupy most of the northern parts of Iraq, where they are in the minority.
Shiite/Sunni mix are in the western parts of Syria and Turkey and parts of Iran
Kurds occupy the Southern parts of Turkey and the northern parts of Iraq. They are in one of the most oil-rich regions in the middle-east. They are also one of the largest populations of people in the world without a country.
The map below shows the distribution of groups throughout the region.
What does the Invasion of Iraq have to do with ISIS?
Prior to the U.S. invading Iraq, Sunnis were the minority and Shia were the majority population. Saddam Hussein, a Sunni, was the President. Saddam kept the Shia majority in control by his tyrannical means of governance. He was even an ally to the U.S. at one time. After Persian Gulf 1, Bush 1 was asked why he didn't take Saddam out. His answer was that "He was like an antibody, a weakened germ that kept balance in the region."
After Saddam was removed from power, the U.S. made Nouri al-Maliki, a hardcore Shia, the Prime Minister, with hopes of creating an inclusive government. Saddam's Ba'th Party was removed from power and told to go home along with all the Iraqi Military and their arms. Of course we let the soldiers keep their arms, which they later used against our troops! And now ISIS is made up mainly of those dis-enfranchised Sunnis and using many of those same weapons and armament to wage their war.
Should they be called ISIS, ISIL , or Sunni Extremist? I vote for Sunni extremist. It is a much more descriptive name for them. The I in ISIS and ISIL stands for Islam, but they do not make up or represent the entire nation of Islam. They are only a part of it. However their goal is to become a world wide movement and they are doing a good job of terrorizing other countries throughout the world. Because of their propaganda, they are successful at recruiting from other nations and religions, even the United States. According to the latest news, they are bringing in more than 50 recruits per day.
The media should stop calling them ISIS/ ISIL and call them what they really are: disenfranchised Sunni terrorists extremists. People should understand that Iran is mainly made up of Shiites who are fighting these Sunni's. We should stop looking at them as coming from specific countries. The Sunnis, Shias, and Kurds are all religious sects that do not have an allegiance to a specific country but to their form of religion, no matter what country or region they are from.
Currently, the Obama administration is negotiating with Iran about limiting their nuclear operations. However many politicians are stating that we should not be negotiating with them because they are threat to their neighbors. Their neighbors being Israel. However Iran is made up of primarily Shia who are fighting ISIL (Sunni's) in Iraq. In other words, they are helping to remove ISIS from Iraq. Why would this administration want to jeopardize this situation if it benefits us?
What Armament does ISIS have?
- Thirty T-55 series Soviet Tanks
- Five to 10 Soviet T-72 series Tanks
- Humvees, acquired from Mosul when they over-ran the city.
- AK-47 Soviet Assault rifles
- M079 Rocket Launchers
- RPG Grenade Launchers
- M198 Howitzer - Acquired from Iraqi Army
- M59 Field Guns
- ZU23 - Soviet Anti-Aircraft guns
- Stinger MANPADS - Acquired from Iraqi Military
- HJ8 Anti Tank Missile
- DShK Machine Guns
- English Language Social Media Propaganda.
I know this is a lot to digest, but it does give one a feel for the depth and breadth of their fire power. Probably one of the most important weapons they have is propaganda. It gives them the tools to recruit additional military people, and to add new followers to their ranks, and to strike fear into their enemy's by be-heading westerners.
Source: New York Times
Who is the ISIS Caliphate?
They have a self-proclaimed Caliphate named Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. His original tactics were to control the land mass of the middle-east. That is, he would start from one end of a country and control the land mass as they advanced. These are the same tactics that were used during WWII by all the axis powers.
However, our air strikes along with coalition forces have denied them the control of land mass. So now they have changed their tactics to much like al-Qaeda. Where they use guerrilla tactics, attacking at night and hiding among the civilians during the day. Of course this makes it much more difficult to route them out without creating collateral damage.
Where does ISIS get its Money?
The way ISIS is funded creates many ironies.
- ISiS has taken over oil fields in Eastern Syria and is currently pumping oil that it sells on the open market.
- The Syrian government buys electricity from power plants that have been taken over by ISIS. even though its goal is to destroy the Syrian government.
- ISIS confiscates money from Christians and Muslims it doesn't like.
- Their goal is to destroy the Syrian state and become the tax collectors to take over their revenue stream.
A point of Interest. ISIS was said to have robbed over 400 Million from Mosul banks. From everything I have read, this was a rumor started by Ahmed Chalibi. He is the Shia from Iraq that Saddam exiled. He came to the U.S. and stated that Saddam Hussien had weapons of mass destruction. This was the impetus that gave us the justification to invade Iraq. But that's another story!
Who Replaced Nouri al Maliki as Prime Minister of Iraq?
Haider Al-Abadi, a Shia, has replaced Nouri al Maliki as the new Prime Minister of Iraq. He was designated by President Fuad Masum on August 11, 2014 and was approved on September 8, 2014 by the Iraqi parliament to succeed Noure al-Maliki.
The question is will Al-Abadi be able to form an inclusive government? Inclusive government is an euphemism used by the west for bringing the Sunni's Shia's, and Kurd's under control of one government, with the end game being their government would be a democracy.
Update: 3/25/2016 Bashar Al Assad and Putin
Bashar Al Assad the President of Syria and his followers are Alawites, which is a sect of the Shia religion.Their enemy is the Shiites that live in Syria. Several months ago, President Putin brought in his military to fight the Shia and Sunni and to protect the Bashar Al Assad's regime. He did this under the pretense of attacking ISIS. However, instead he attacked the rebel groups comprising Shia and Sunnis and never attacked ISIS. Recently he removed most of his military from Syria, claiming his mission had been accomplished. But he left his command and control system and air defense system in Syria intact, just in case anybody else including the U.S. would attack Bashar Al Assad's regime.
- ISIS wants to take the mid-east back to the days of the Ottoman Empire, to the time when the region was led by a Caliphate. They are very good at propaganda. They even use be-headings and most recently burning people to death to create fear in all that view such atrocities. And they are very successful about recruiting new members.
- The U.S. and its allies want to convert the people who live in the mid-east into a democracy. I've heard politicians state that all we have to do is "democratize" them and all will be well. And then we can all live happily ever after! That's not going to happen. The west has not learned their lesson. They think they can go into a country that is governed by a theocracy and convert its people to a democracy. In other words an all inclusive government.
- Air-strikes will work for a while, but Arabs are very smart people. They know how to use "force multipliers" as weapons of fear. Every time they enter our country and try to terrorize us we lose a little bit more of our freedom. They used the shoe bomber, the underwear bomber, the toner cartridge bomber and now they are talking about using toothpaste and clothing material dipped in explosive substance as non-detectable bombs. Are we going to have to board a plane in our birthday suites? The point I'm trying to make is they use just one person that does not even have to be successful in blowing up things, but just the attempt is enough to scare millions of people into losing more of their freedoms. That is a force multiplier.
- How long do you think we can hold out before we have to put boots on the ground.? This is what the world wants to know. They say one definition of insanity is doing the same thing many times and expecting a different outcome.
- Should they be called ISIS, ISIL , or Sunni Extremist? I vote for Sunni extremist. It is a much more descriptive name for them. The I in ISIS ad ISIL stands for Islam, but they do not make up or represent the entire nation of Islam. They are only a part of it. However their goal is to become a world wide movement and they are doing a good job of terrorizing other countries throughout the world. Because of their propaganda, they are successful at recruiting from other nations and religions, even the United States.
- The media should stop calling them ISIS/ ISIL and call them what they really are: disenfranchised Sunni terrorists extremists. People should understand that Iran is mainly made up of Shiites who are fighting these Sunni's. We should stop looking at them as coming from specific countries. The Sunnis, Shias, and Kurds are all religious sects that do not have an allegiance to a specific country but to their form of religion, no matter what country or region they are from.
- Currently, the Obama administration is negotiating with Iran about limiting their nuclear operations. However many politicians are stating that we should not be negotiating with them because they are threat to their neighbors. Their neighbors being Israel. However Iran is made up of primarily Shia who are fighting ISIL (Sunni's) in Iraq. In other words, they are helping to remove ISIS from Iraq. Why would this administration want to jeopardize this situation if it benefits us?
Before you read this article, did you know that ISIS was made up of members of the Sunni Sect?
Before you read this article, did you know what a Caliphate was?
Do you think the west will ever be able to democratize the Mid-East?
Do you think we will ever have to put boots on the ground to stop ISIS?
Do you think if the West was not dependent on oil, these conflicts would exists?
In your opinion, why are wars fought?
Thanks for stopping by. I hope this article has shed some light on what ISIS is, where they came from and what their goals are.