By Hugo Odiogor, Foreign Affairs Editor
IF the Islamists jihad groups thought that the world will stand by and watch them enthrone a culture of barbarism and their vile ideology of hatred, then the US led global coalition against ISIS and its affiliates should paint a picture that is larger than reciting the Koran and spilling blood as a form of political expression.
The criminality of those promoting the political face of Islam or pretenders of adherents of the faith that projects itself as believing in peace has come to an unacceptable pitch whether in Africa, Asia the Middle East, or Europe.
Britain has joined the United States, Australia, France and host of other Arab countries that have risen up to confront the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, itching to create a Caliphate in territories that stretches from Northern Iraq to Western Syria. The Islamic group emerged as a pan Sunni group that was fighting to end the repressive ways of the Shiite regime in post- Saddam’s Baghdad.
But its wider agenda is to create a Sunni Caliphate by extracting territories from Northern parts of Iraq and Western parts of Syria has been pursued with mindless bloodletting and elimination of its opponents especially the Shiites and minority Christian groups in the territories under its control.
ISIS is a rebel army composed of Sunni jihadi group that calls itself the “Islamic State of Iraq and greater Syria.” Its aim is to establish a theocratic Sunni caliphate in the region which is the global goal of the international jihadist ideology that was spread by Al-Qaeda both in the Arabia peninsula and in the Maghreb. This is the ideology that drives modus operandi of groups like Boko Haram in Northern Nigeria, MUJAO in Mali and Al Shabaab in East Africa, Hezbollah in Lebanon, Haqqani and Taliban in Pakistan and Afganistan.
The ISIS has taken the World by surprise as the US President Barack Obama acknowledged last week that the US intelligence community under estimated ISIS and the existential threat it posed to regional and global peace. Consequently, its activities have alarmed the entire Arab world especially its initial backers namely: Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar and United Arab Emirates, which bought the idea that ISIS was fighting to protect the interest of Sunni Muslims.
ISIS began to unleash its own brand of brutality with summary executions of Shiites and minority Christian groups in its controlled territories. It has also been beheading journalists and aid workers to advertise its brutality. ISIS controls a landmass area that is estimated to cover the United Kingdom and it has not hidden its intention to institute full blown Islamic theological state. Men and women who fail to adhere to strict Islamic jurisprudence and codes of behaviours have been executed or subjected to public flogging.
Global anger against ISIS: Since ISIS made its video of executing British aid worker, Mr. David Haines on September 14, the global anger and condemnation, that trailed that action had galvanised international military action against the Islamic state in Iraq and Syria.
Before the beheading of Haines, ISIS had executed American Journalist Mr. James Foley who was captured in November 2012. The second victim was Mr. Steven Sotloff who was captured in northern Syria in August 2013 but was executed in August 2014.
It must be noted that the killings of Foley and Scotloff caused a dramatic change in US public opinion and prompted Americans to support the airstrikes against ISIS in Iraq and in Syria.
Support for President Barack Obama has risen to 71%. That is an increase of 20% from the number of those that supported the airstrikes three weeks ago.
France which participated actively in Libya and Mali expeditions recognised the possible domino effect of ISIS scourge as one out of 10 French citizen shares the world view of ISIS.
Other European countries like Germany, Great Britain, Denmark are equally backing the action against ISIS. Some of these countries have been experiencing the rise in multiculturalism and there are fears that ISIS has been recruiting and radicalizing young Europeans who may return home to unleash terror on their domestic front.
ISIS Strength and Finance
ISIS has profited from its capturing of oil well and oil facilities in Mosul, Arbil, Raqqa and other territories that it captured in Northern Iraq from where it steals oil and truck it to Turkey border where the commodity goes into the black market. The proceeds are used to fund the insurgency in the region.
ISIS has also benefitted from funds made available by influential and wealthy Saudi and Kuwaiti citizens who initially bought the idea that ISIS was being formed to reverse the Shiite oppression in Iraq. But with the expanded objectives of ISIS to carve out its own territory, the danger of regional religious conflict in the Middle East is a nightmare.
ISIS is believed to be the richest Islamist group with over $2 billion in it treasury. ISIS fighters looted more than 500 billion Iraqi Dinar, worth about $420 million during its capture of Mosul in north of Iraq. The funds came from its looting of the central bank in Mosul, where it took about $429 million in cash.
ISIS also controls the oil rich regions of Iraq from where they lift oil and transport to Turkey where they unleash the oil into the black market. ISIS is believed to receive funding from wealthy Sunni Saudis who financed their insurgency against the parochial Shite led government in Baghdad which marginalized and oppressed the Sunni Arabs.
The role of Saudi Arabia in funding ISIS was highlighted by the Iraq’s Shiite-dominated government which said that Saudi Arabia is responsible “for providing financial and moral support to ISIS”.
In fact Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates and other Arab Gulf States provided ISIS the financial resources as they believed that ISIS was fighting to protect the interest of Sunnis as well as fighting to end the regime of President Bashar al Assad in Syria.
ISIS is believed to have over 10,000 fighters and has so much financial resources to recruit fighters from Arab, Africa and European countries. During its conquest of Mosul, the ISIS fighters captured a lot of US weapons and vehicles.
Having realized the danger which ISIS poses to regional and global peace, the Arab countries that funded the emergence of ISIS are now part of the global effort to crush ISIS and its hate ideology. Saudi citizens now constitute the largest contingent of foreign fighters in ISIS. Most European and Arab countries are afraid that when those fighters come home, to perpetuate acts of terror. On its part, ISIS is shifting its strategy and focus of the war away from regional religious squabble to a confrontation with western counties and values.
Boko Haram and the Maghreb region: Nigeria and other African countries have been stretched by the wave Islamic insurgency on the continent that it could not participate in the events in the Arab world. The Iraqi troops are the ones conducting the ground battle while the coalition forces are providing the air cover. The possibility of African troops contributing troops to fight ISIS on the ground has not been a subject of diplomatic discussion but it has been observed that weakening ISIS will require a combination of aerial strikes and ground troops to recapture territories taking by the global hate group.
Global hate group
Nigerians who under estimate the danger posed by Boko Haram insurgency especially in its capacity to generate support from external sources should study the mode of its operation, in line with what ISIS is doing in Iraq and Syria is not diametrically different from what the Islamist groups in Mali tried to do in Mali where they carved out republic of Azzawad in the Northern part of the impoverished West African state.
Similarly, the Boko Haram sect in Nigeria has become emboldened in its challenge to Nigeria’s sovereignty.
The most simplistic perception of the Boko Haram insurgency is to localize it and treat it in isolation to the global context of jihadist movement.
Taming ISIS in the Middle East may see relocateto West Africa where they want can overwhelm the impoverished and weak and impoverished states in the region with their corrupt security systems.
The world has to pursue ISIS and all the ideological hate groups to the gallows.