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If you want to understand the Islamic State, better known as ISIS, the first thing you have to know about them is that they are not crazy. Murderous adherents to a violent medieval ideology, sure. But not insane.
You have probably heard that ISIS has a degree of popular support among some Iraqi and Syrian Sunni Muslims. That's true: without it, the group would collapse. People sometimes assume that this says something about Islam itself: that the religion is intrinsically violent, or that Sunnis would support the group because they accept ISIS's radical interpretation of the Koran.
That's all wrong, and misses one of the most crucial points about ISIS: the foundation of its power comes from politics, not religion.
The key thing to understand about ISIS and al-Qaeda is that they are competitors, not allies, and certainly not part of the same larger group.
ISIS used to be al-Qaeda in Iraq. But the group split apart from al-Qaeda in February 2014 because it wouldn't listen to al-Qaeda HQ's commands, including orders to curtail its violence against civilians. (That's right: it was too violent for al-Qaeda.) This ISIS-AQ divorce is a key reason why ISIS is so unremittingly violent, yet many people still lump the two groups together.
It is true that ISIS opposes Bashar al-Assad's government in Syria, and the two constantly fight one another in Syria. But calling ISIS a "Syrian rebel group" misses two critical facts about ISIS. First, it's a transnational organization, not rooted in any one country, with lots of fighters who come from outside the country and are motivated by global jihadist aims as well as the Syrian war specifically. Second, Assad and ISIS are not-so-secretly helping each other out in some crucial ways, even as they fight. ISIS and Assad are frenemies, not full-on opponents.
There's a theory that Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is solely, or mainly, responsible for ISIS's resurgence in 2014. It's true that Maliki's policies enabled ISIS's rise. But blaming him alone misses the real drivers of sectarianism in Iraq — and the complicated, multi-faceted sources of support ISIS enjoys.
What we actually know about ISIS's approach to women, however, paints a rather different picture. ISIS has all-female battalions, called "al-Khansaa" and "Umm al-Rayan," that operate in Syria. ISIS female fighters wear full burqas and carry rifles; they exist to force other women to comply with ISIS's vision of sharia law. "ISIS created [them] to terrorize women," Abu al-Hamza, a local, media activist, said in an interview with Syria Deeply.
The truth is even more disappointing: There is no magic American bullet that could fix the ISIS problem. Even an intensive, decades-long American ground effort — something that is politically not on the table, anyways — might only make the problem worse. The reason is that ISIS's presence in Iraq and Syria is fundamentally a political problem, not a military one.
You occasionally hear, especially from supporters of the Obama administration's cautious policy, that ISIS will eventually destroy itself. ISIS's view of Islamic law is so harsh that no population would want to live under it for long, so a Sunni revolt against ISIS is inevitable. And ISIS will overreach: its desire to expand to new territory exceeds its actual military power, meaning that a devastating counterattack is inevitable.
Reading the news of ISIS's conquests in Iraq and Syria, and even its recent foray into Lebanon, you might get the sense that ISIS is unstoppable. That it'll sweep Iraq, and really, truly, establish an extremist Islamic state in Iraq and eastern Syria.
This isn't true. ISIS is smarter and more effective than it used to be, and it's too strong to collapse on its own, but it's still quite vulnerable. The Iraqi government, with Kurdish and American help, really could make major inroads against ISIS.
As it claims.
Myth #4: ISIS is a Syrian rebel group
But calling ISIS a "Syrian rebel group" misses two critical facts about ISIS. First, it's a transnational organization, not rooted in any one country, with lots of fighters who come from outside the country and are motivated by global jihadist aims as well as the Syrian war specifically. Second, Assad and ISIS are not-so-secretly helping each other out in some crucial ways, even as they fight. ISIS and Assad are frenemies, not full-on opponents.
it's a transnational organization, not rooted in any one country, with lots of fighters who come from outside the country
originally posted by: helldiver
a reply to: samsamm9
Sorry but the first myth is truth. Maniacs to a man!!
originally posted by: Nechash
a reply to: samsamm9
Islam is inherently political. The Muslim calendar didn't officially begin until Mehemet founded his army. It should be noted that if they follow the decrees of their prophet to the letter, Christians and Jews should be allowed to live in their territory in peace, but Atheists and pagans are screwed.
originally posted by: Daavid
That is true, even though Islam has its roots in paganism moon worship.
originally posted by: starwarsisreal
a reply to: borntowatch
Um okay we have Bush and company declaring Holy War when the war in Iraq started. Doesn't that sound like Isis to you does it?
Apologies for off topic statement. And correction my name is Star Wars is Real. Not Israel.