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11 February 2015

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Harper

Just to complement an excellent assessment: ISIS shura council, sharia council and military council--the governing structure--is comprised of Iraqis only. Baathist officers from the Naqshbandi Brotherhood run the military council, with Chechens as key unit commanders. This is an Iraqi phenomenon first--Sunni. Syria is a vital safe haven , but for the ISIS leadership from awl-Baghdadi down, this is about Iraq and the American and Iranian betrayals.

Charles I

Thanks, pertinent point I hadn't adverted to.

Patrick Bahzad

You're absolutely right in your comment. I didn't want to get too much into details about internal structure but I concur with your statement. Regarding the personal curriculum of some prominent ISIS figures - like Abu Omar al-Shishani (aka Tarkan Batirashvili) - I will get more into this when addressing the power structure of the ISIS-state like entity.
Fundamentally, what you point to is very important though and a crucial difference to the competing Al Qaeda franchises ... And potentially a weakness that could be exploited.

Babak Makkinejad

So, the Naqshbanid Sufi order in supplying the officers of ISIS.

And that order finds nothing wrong with the practices of ISIS.

I hope those who think that "Sufis" are some kind of dead-dog liberal alternative to the Shia or Sunni will take notice of this.

About the "Iranian betrayals" - I find it really funny.

Babak Makkinejad

ISIS is Al Qaeda with brains, per your observation.

Patrick Bahzad

l'll leave the responsibility of that statement to you but I don't think I said or wrote anything along those lines. Besides it's really not the point I'm making either. The purpose is to try and give an insight into the buildup and development of ISIS, whatever I may think about them, and giving clues as to where their weaknesses may be (in piece to come hopefully soon).
To be perfectly honest I think Al Qaeda will outlast them, so much for the brains ...

Lars

Given the paternity of this mess by Mr. Cheney, maybe we should just refer to this nefarious bunch as "Dicks"?

Now Mr. Obama, his Senate Democratic cohorts and the congressional GOP have a new opportunity to get things even more wrong.

toto

The only thing I would add to this excellent essay is a mention of Iranian meddling in Iraq. Not as destructive as US meddling, of course, but perhaps not negligible either.

Example: Is it possible that things would have gone better if Iyad Allawi had been allowed to form a non-sectarian government after winning the elections? We'll never know, but as the author notes, ISIS drew much manpower from disgruntled Sunnis victimized by Maliki's sectarian policies.

alba etie

All
Is there any hope of getting the core Baathist command elements in ISIS to switch sides against al Baghdadi ?

turcopolier

Patrick Bahzad

A truly grand essay, we are pleased that you are a member of the committee. pl

Phil Cattar

Great essay.I completely agree that the invasion of Iraq looking for imaginary WMD was the father of ISIS..............The only thing I would add to the motives of the neocons is I believe a number of them hoped to make a little money off the invasion.

Patrick Bahzad

There's always hope ...
The question, beyond the actual feasability of any such enterprise, is how far are we willing to go to drive a wedge between the formerly secular baathist element and the religious Takfiri component in the ISIS leadership.
In plain English, what can we offer that would make them change their mind ?

Patrick Bahzad

You're right on principle. For clarity sake, the topic at hand being ISIS, I didn't want to incorporate the aspect of the Iranian policies towards Iraq.
Tehran has won great influence over Iraq, but with regard to the development of ISIS itself, one might argue that you would have had enough disgruntled Sunnis even without a Nouri al-Maliki in charge.
The Iranians wanted to create and maintain a certain 'strategy of tension', but one that was kept under control. Bogging down the US in some protracted low intensity war, and still being there if needed as a not so honest broker, knowing that they could also turn on the heat if they so decided.
But again, there are many players at that poker table, substituting Allawi for Nouri would not have necessarily been a game-changer.

alba etie

Phil Cattar
Vice President Cheney's KBR made a big pile of money - even if was in a 'blind trust " ..

alba etie

Patrick Bahzad
If we can assume the Sykes Picot map is no longer alive , perhaps we could then take a brand new view our interest in the region. If we could offer al Douri and the other Baathist leadership that Bremer turned out a return to power in al Anbar in the context of some federation of the former Irak - perhaps that might work . There would be a state of Kurdistan also in this Irak federation as well as Shiastan I suppose. Perhaps ISIL- Daash has concentrated the minds of the regional governments whereby some type of new post Syke Picot map could be made to work . of course there would be many regional leaders that would be opposed to doing this- but it seems unless and until there is a successful political solution to many of these long standing historical grievances we will just have more al Baghdadis come on the ME scene. Of course there would be many regional leaders opposed to a political solution starting with our dear friends and allies Erdogan & Natanyahu . On the other hand if President Obama gets his nuclear freeze deal done with Rouhani perhaps that provides an opening . Hope does Spring Eternal - we shall see.

Babak Makkinejad

None.

You are witnessing the birth of a new state.

Amir

I agree. How would the Saddam loyalists (does not equate to Iraqis) have expected "loyalty" from a nation that suffered a 1,000,000 casualty at their hand. The official and unofficial statements about the final war aims was to fight and remove "Saddam and Saddamian" (Saddam loyalists a.k.a. Ba'athists).

Pierre Marlais

The lesson here is to keep soldiers paid so they don't revolt or go fight for someone else who can pay them. If leaders, planners, plotters, politicians, and neo-cons cannot understand that simple rule, they are forever cursed to fail. Even the Romans understood that two thousand years ag - armies fight on full stomachs. ISIS is a paycheck for most, and some want an adventure, because in a completely broken part of the world (economically, politically, socially, religiously and ethically-morally) feeding yourself and your family is all that counts. "Who's your Baghdahdi?" That's what the Big Dog taught us from the 1990's White House. The relative quiet in this part of the world was maintained so long as DC literally air-dumped tons of US Dollars on the ones who would spread it around that area. Many human problems can be covered up long enough by throwing gobs of money-currency at them. Remember money, currency and income are just legal-accounting fictions that we can create "out of thin air from nothing" and these powerful and interrelated fictions grease human activities around the world so long as they serve as widely-accepted and trusted (1) means of exchange and (2) unit of account. To better understand these fictions, debt, money, currency, income, banks, taxes, finance and similar topics, please visit www.i-globals.org.

Dubhaltach

In reply to Patrick Bahzad 12 February 2015 at 05:06 AM

"In plain English, what can we offer that would make them change their mind ?"

And even if you had something to offer why on earth would they believe one word of the offer?

Dubhaltach

Charles I

Recognition of THEIR own Caliphate!

Patrick Bahzad

Sure Alba, in a perfect - and reasonable - world, everything you say could make sense. Thing is: 1) we can't undo the past (and the legacy of past mistakes unfortunately weighs in heavily on any sustainable solution), 2) there are regional actors who would be impacted by any of the things you mention, 3) there are conflicting interests at work in the US administration itself, which would try to nullify any move made in a direction they don't want to go.
Finally, regarding your comment about having Baghdadis around, you're right: never underestimate the predictibility of stupidity, meaning there's likely to be more Baghdadis to come I'm afraid.

alba etie

Babak Makkinejad
A birth of a new nation - what will that nation look like in it's end end state ?

Patrick Bahzad

First of all, Dubhaltach, I don't have anything to offer that's of any interest to ISIS !
Second, there are several elements in your equation:
1) who would make an offer ? and who would vouch for it ?
2) if it's makes them change their mind, it means they already bought into it somehow
3) any offer would depend on the circumstances it's being made at the bargaining table, i.e. whether you're in a position of power or not.
finally, who says they're not waiting for some kind of offer that would legitimize their territorial and statehood claims ? What they got today could be lost tomorrow, if they don't get any guarantees ... Don't think for a second they don't realize that in the long run, the bank always wins (and they're not the bank in this analogy) !

alba etie

Patrick Bahzad
Yes it appears there are many past mistakes that would keep a reasonable solution from happening such as a Federated Union of Iraq. Clearly Turkey , Iran , & Syria would not want an independent Kurdistan . And of course the USA neocons are still hellbent on invading Persia so obviously there would be great angst here if we tried to shift strategic footing to Iran vs Israel BUT - would that be worse then having a Wahhabi Caliphate come to maturation- that would threaten negatively all the regional players security anyway ? Otherwise it is just foreign policy insanity - repeating old behaviors and not expecting another al Baghdadi to show up . At least we should try a reasonable regional frame work - if nothing else to stop Erdogan from importing radical Wahabbi fighters to the Levant .

Patrick Bahzad

Spoken with the voice of reason Alba, but reality is a multifaceted conundrum ... What you preach for the ME, you'll have to deliver also, let's say, Ukraine ... You want to forget Sykes-Picot, redraw the map ? Why not, but then you gonna have to give the Russians a good reason why they can't redraw the map of Ukraine. As long as it's rationale, and suits the locals, why souldn't that be acceptable also.
Thing is, what may be acceptable to us - in theory - in one area would go against our policies in other regions.
Don't forget China and Taiwan, the Spratley and Senkaku islands. I could go on ... the list of potential frictions between major international players is quite long when you start drawing up a list !

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