Thursday, May 22, 2014

al Qaeda's Nation State

Suriya al Kubra!

All that fighting in Syria - plus 44's rather goofy failure to hook up an Iraqi SOFA has helped create the latest nation state.

And it's an al Qaeda nation state

The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) is no longer a state in name only. It is a physical, if extra-legal, reality on the ground.  Unacknowledged by the world community, ISIS has carved a de facto state in the borderlands of Syria and Iraq.  Stretching in a long ellipse roughly from al-Raqqah in Syria to Fallujah in Iraq (with many other non-contiguous “islands” of control in both Iraq and Syria), this former Al Qaeda affiliate holds territory, provides limited services, dispenses a form of justice (loosely defined), most definitely has an army, and flies its own flag.

ISIS controls territory on a grand scale, and appears far more capable of securing it.  In Syria, ISIS greatly overshadows its rival group the Al-Nusrah front, the official Al Qaeda franchise that also allies with the Free Syrian Army.  And, ironically, Iraq is now without an official Al Qaeda branch, with ISIS’ only real competitors coming from the neo-Baathist JRTN and the more nationalist 1920 Revolutionary Brigade, Ansar al Islam and the Islamic Army in Iraq.

ISIS has a real army (indeed, as once said about the Prussians, it may be less a state with an army than an army with a state) and contains a much more robust capability to defend and expand its territory in both Iraq and Syria.  Before beginning its open offensive in Anbar province in Iraq, ISIS had been fighting against the forces of the Assad regime in Syria (and their Hezbollah/Qods Force auxiliaries).  It is obvious from the very sophisticated tactics displayed against the Iraqi security forces this year that ISIS learned a great deal from this traditional, if dispersed, urban combat. 

U.S. government officials have testified that ISIS is now equipped with heavy machine guns, anti-aircraft weapons, and .50 caliber sniper rifles.  From their safe havens inside their de facto state, ISIS cadres are able to continue to recruit, train and equip their highly motivated volunteers, and push them against both the Baathist Assad regime in Syria and the elected Shi’a majority government in Iraq (where, in both cases, they also often work and fight alongside more indigenous jihadist groups).

ISIS presents a clear and present danger to American and European interests.  The group does not have safe haven within a state.  It is a de facto state that is a safe haven.
Pic - "ISIS bolstered its growing reputation as a key player in the jihad against the Syrian regime"