Tuesday, July 01, 2014

ISIS, the Caliphate, and the War On History

So ISIS (or ISIL or you say tomayto, I say tomahto, you say bloody-minded extremist, I say violent jihadist) has renamed itself IS (Islamic State) and declared a caliphate.  Bold and risky move.  See too the role of history, mangled and otherwise.  While we're on the topic,  don't forget this:
By formally abolishing the Syrian-Iraqi border ISIS doubtless hopes to evoke memories of the Ottoman era before supposedly artificial states were constructed for the convenience of European powers—a time when frontiers were porous and the ways of Islam were universally observed. The fatal flaw in this utopian vision—apart from its obvious historical inaccuracy—is its failure to recognize the division between Sunnism and Shiism that long predated Western interventions in Iraq and Syria. ...
However much the leaders of ISIS seek to draw on the imagery of an international Arab jihad rolling back a century of Western imperialism, the growth of ISIS feeds on these sectarian tensions that have been reanimated across the region. Politically, the jihadists have gained support from the widespread hatred of the Shiite cronyism of the Maliki regime, which replaced the cronyism of Saddam Hussein’s, as well as from the brutality of its counterpart in Damascus. And to the extent that foreign powers are driving the situation, the underlying dynamic flows less from the West than from the rivalry between the Sunni monarchies of Saudi Arabia and the Gulf on one side and Shiite Iran on the other. 

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