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As Western leaders publicly push the Syrian regime and the opposition to the Geneva II peace conference that begins Wednesday Washington has also been quietly supporting moves by Saudi Arabia and Qatar to give weapons and cash to rebel groups to fight al-Qaeda's Islamic State of Iraq and al-Shams (ISIS) in Syria.
One source said the US was itself handing out millions of dollars to rebel groups best equipped to take on the extremists while another confirmed America was providing non-lethal aid.
The development marks a new phase in the conflict, with international backers working directly with rebel commanders to target al-Qaeda cells, who are seen as a major threat by Western intelligence agencies.
"Everyone is offering us funding to fight them," said one commander in a rebel group affiliated to the Western-backed Supreme Military Council. "We used to have no weapons with which to fight the regime, but now the stocks are full."
The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) is now the richest terror group in the world, after stealing $429 million from the central bank in Mosul, the second largest city in Iraq, which ISIS has occupied since earlier this week. While it will certainly gave their finances a boost, the group has been making millions in other ways for some time to fund a vast array of activities.
“ISIS is most likely getting funding from outside sources and private funding from individuals in the Gulf region,” he said.
A report from the Council on Foreign Relations says that many believe supporters in Jordan, Syria and Saudi Arabia provide “the bulk of past funding.”
However, a key strategic source of funds for ISIS is local populations in the areas it controls.
Even before taking over Mosul, "the group extorted taxes from businesses small and large, netting upwards of of $8 million a month, according to some estimates,” the CFR report says.
The Shiites are concentrated in Iran, southern Iraq and southern Lebanon. But there are significant Shiite communities in Saudi Arabia and Syria, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India as well.
"There is definitely an emerging struggle between Sunni and Shia to define not only the pattern of local politics, but also the relationship between the Islamic world and the West," says Daniel Brumberg of Georgetown University, author of Reinventing Khomeini: The Struggle for Reform in Iran.
That struggle is playing out now in Iraq, but it is a struggle that could spread to many Arab nations in the Middle East and to Iran, which is Persian.
One other factor about the Shiites bears mentioning. "Shiites constitute 80 percent of the native population of the oil-rich Persian Gulf region," notes Yitzhak Nakash, author of The Shi'is of Iraq.
Shiites predominate where there is oil in Iran, in Iraq and in the oil-rich areas of eastern Saudi Arabia as well.
The original split between Sunnis and Shiites occurred soon after the death of the Prophet Muhammad, in the year 632.
"There was a dispute in the community of Muslims in present-day Saudi Arabia over the question of succession," says Augustus Norton, author of Hezbollah: A Short History. "That is to say, who is the rightful successor to the prophet?"
Over the next centuries, Islam clashed with the European Crusaders, with the Mongol conquerors from Central Asia, and was spread farther by the Ottoman Turks.
By the year 1500, Persia was a seat of Sunni Islamic learning, but all that was about to change with the arrival of Azeri conquerors. They established the Safavid dynasty in Persia — modern-day Iran — and made it Shiite.
"That dynasty actually came out of what's now eastern Turkey," says Gause, the University of Vermont professor. "They were a Turkic dynasty, one of the leftovers of the Mongol invasions that had disrupted the Middle East for a couple of centuries. The Safavid dynasty made it its political project to convert Iran into a Shia country."
Shiites gradually became the glue that held Persia together and distinguished it from the Ottoman Empire to its west, which was Sunni, and the Mughal Muslims to the east in India, also Sunni.
"Why has there been such a long and protracted disagreement and tension between these two sects?" asks Ray Takeyh, author of Hidden Iran: Paradox and Power in the Islamic Republic. "It has to do with political power."
In the 20th century, that meant a complex political dynamic involving Sunni and Shiites, Arabs and Persians, colonizers and colonized, oil, and the involvement of the superpowers
originally posted by: Rycas
At last, this thread is now getting some sensible replies!
Here's something to have a look at, the leader of ISIS claims direct descent from the prophet Muhammad and he was born in the area that was once Assyria.
Abu Bakr was a thin man with white skin. Tabari relates (Suyuti also relates the same through Ibn Sa'd al-Baghdadi's report) from Aisha her description of Abu Bakr:
He was a man with fair skin, thin, emaciated, with a sparse beard, a slightly hunched frame, sunken eyes and protruding forehead, and the bases of his fingers were hairless.
originally posted by: jaffo
Why is every thread here anymore a race to be the first to blame the U.S.? Why is it so hard for people to understand that while there are certainly bad men and women in the U.S. government--and EVERY OTHER government--there are also genuinely bad people all over the World? I mean really, it's like NO ONE should ever be held accountable for their actions unless they live and work in the U.S., like NO ONE ever does anything bad unless the mean old U.S. "makes" them do it, like no wars ever were fought and no one ever did anything bad or mean unless the U.S. forced them to. SMH...
originally posted by: Rycas
a reply to: St Udio
I know that the leader of ISIL is using a pseudonym, and I don't particularly believe he is a direct descendant of Muhammad but he is claiming it and his followers are choosing to believe it. And I think your bang on right about Saudi Arabia. A star for you sir.
The terror group may be on a rampage in Iraq. But ISIS is being threatened from inside, it seems. And no one is sure who’s behind the tweets disclosing the group’s intimate details.
A mysterious Twitter account is trying to stop ISIS’s rise to power by spilling the terror group’s secrets online. For more than six months a series of tweets have detailed the alleged covert alliances and conspiratorial machinations behind the ascension of The Islamic State of Iraq and the Sham, the Islamist group taking over large parts of Iraq. Taken together, the tweets form a slanted but valuable picture of ISIS and one of the only portraits of its leaders. Perhaps even more important, the account is still active, sending out tweets days ago about ISIS’s current strategy in Iraq and what it plans to do next.
Sitting over a keyboard somewhere, likely in a Syrian town now held by rebel forces, is @wikibaghdady, the leaker behind the anti-ISIS account. He may be a former ISIS member who defected to ISIS’s rivals in Syria, the al Qaeda-backed Al Nusra front, as some analysts have speculated. Or, “he” may actually be more than one person, with @wikibaghdady serving as the avatar for a group effort to undermine ISIS’s official story and knock it from its perch atop the jihadist movement. Whatever the case, @wikibaghdady has put ISIS in uncomfortable positions, revealing the true name of the group’s leader and a deeply controversial association.