by Patrick Bahzad
It is this, the curse of the Evil deed,
Giving birth to new Evil, on which it may feed
F. SCHILLER “Wallenstein”
About three years ago, almost nobody knew them, yet they were about to make a name for themselves. Ever since the onslaught on Northern Iraq and the autonomous Kurdish regions, not a single day has passed without ISIS – the so-called "Islamic State in Iraq and Syria" – making the headlines for another gruesome execution, bloody massacre or terrorist attack. In fact, we’ve now heard their name so often, that they almost seem familiar to us.
ISIS, a reminiscence of the Demons of old
In our collective conscience, they’ve become one of those barbaric sects or groups of raiders, ghosts really – very much like the Jinns of the Quran – appearing and vanishing into the sands of the Arabian desert. In some way, they also look to us like a modern version of the Huns, who rode out of the steppes of Central Asia, scorching the earth under a fearsome leader, before being swallowed up again by the vastness of the lands they came from, leaving nothing but a trail of death and the memories of a long dark shadow stretching over the countries they had turned into dust.
More likely though, the fate awaiting ISIS won't be too dissimilar to that of the 13th century Hashashins sent out by the "Old Man on the Mountain" from his fortress Alamut, to strike fear and terror into the hearts of his enemies all over the Middle-East. The Hashashins too managed to challenge the powers that be, mainly Seljuk Turks, even though they were vastly outnumbered, and stroke alliances with regional outcasts like the Crusader States in the Holy Land. But then they finally got defeated and wiped off the face of the earth by a much more powerful and determined foe coming from the East, i.e. the largest Mongol army the world had ever seen.
All this though is already far beyond the knowledge that the average citizen has about the Middle-East in general, and the "Islamic State" in particular. And in truth, it's not that relevant to events unfolding at the moment. Just enough to trigger repulsion and disgust at the men fighting and killing under the Black Banner carrying the seal of the Prophet, insufficient however to answer such basic questions as to who they are, where they come from and what they want.
This is what really matters though. Beyond the usual media hype about the barbaric executions and seemingly medieval lifestyle, these are men with an agenda and an organisation, military gear and logistics, as well as considerable financial means. And what we actually know about them is very little, contrary to what mainstream media and their so-called experts would have you believe. More worrying, Western intelligence is almost as clueless as CNN, and the current state of play of the anti-ISIS coalition and its achievements can bear testimony to that.
ISIS has become a Black Hole in the heart of the Middle-East. Come too close and you'll get sucked into it with no chance of escaping. Try and listen or watch and you'll get almost nothing, just some background noise. That is the scariest part about the "Islamic State". There are ways however to obtain information about it and what's going on inside it. Knowing the enemy is the first step towards defeating it …
But getting there means dealing with a number of factors – local, regional and global. It also means getting into issues unpleasant for us in the West, like the real trigger event that set in motion what is now unravelling before our eyes. The aim here is not to play the blame game, what’s done is done and there’s no way back. The only thing at stake is how to get out of this mess and how to avoid similar mistakes in the future, which won’t be an easy task to achieve.
Operation "Iraqi Freedom"
The seminal event, the one single historic development which made all this possible, is without doubt the US invasion of Iraq in 2003. This is not to say that “George W” is to blame for all that happened. In fact, he’s not. He may have been the guy in the Oval Office and, contrary to his successor, he certainly didn’t back away from controversial decisions. He looked like a leader and talked like a leader, but the guy in charge – if there ever was one – was the “wild man” in the office down the hallway. A wild man on the loose, without adult supervision and under the influence of a bunch of sorcerer apprentices, coming right out of the “Neo-Con” school of witchcraft and wizardry, people so full of themselves, they thought they could not only destroy imaginary WMDs, but also build a viable democracy in Iraq, promote peace with Israel and reshape the balance of power in the Middle-East. In the words of a famous RAND Corporation analyst at the time, “Iraq was the tactical pivot, Saudi Arabia the strategic pivot and Egypt was the prize”.