In recent years fresh terror has arisen in the Middle East, as one of the most brutal organisations on the planet occupies vast areas in both Iraq and Syria. During 2014, recordings showing the decapitations of western journalists and reports highlighting the brutal treatment of local enemies began to stir tensions in the west. Now, as a great chunk of northern Syria and Iraq has fallen under the leadership of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, leader of the organisation, such tensions are higher than ever.
Islamic State (IS), also known as Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham, (ISIS), Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) or Islamic Caliphate, formed in 1999, and shares its roots with the infamous al-Qaeda. Since then, the organisation has committed many despicable acts, both to locals and to foreigners. The decapitation of western journalists is one example, along with the fact that, according to the Moscow Times, the group has openly declared war on the United States and, in a video depicting a member sat in a military aircraft, threatened Russian president Vladimir Putin. The United States and Russia have had a bitter relationship for over half a century, and even after the end of the Cold War diplomatic relations are precarious, especially with the current crisis in the Ukraine. Islamic State, however, has taken the side of neither: they’ve even gone as far as to threaten both.
What does this say about the organisation’s politics? Well, we can determine one thing: the fact that they’ll always take their own side highlights both the incompatibility of their ideology with the political systems of the world’s powers, and for that matter, the rest of the world. No national military will fight alongside their armies, and yet Islamic State continues to commit despicable acts independent of any other regime.
The haunting flag of this ‘rouge terror’
Because of the inhumane brutality employed by the organisation, their lack of any real justification for their actions, and their continuing hostility towards the rest of the world, this is an issue on which I feel the different powers of the world must put aside their differences to combat. Left and right, east or west, all states can share a common viewpoint on the organisation, and thus should all work to secure the safety of innocent civilians in Iraq, Syria, and the bordering states, alongside that of whoever Islamic State may threaten in their own countries.
I’ve made my point clear, but I’ll conclude the entry by addressing the leftists specifically: I feel that it’s essential to understand Islamic State in order to develop a rational answer as to how one should approach the issue, and so it must be made clear that the organisation is certainly not a socialist one, nor one fighting merely for justice or populism. This would seem obvious, but I imagine it would be easy for one to fall into the trap of believing that I.S. militants, existing in an area with a history of atrocities committed by multiple powers in the world (take the recent war in Iraq, or the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan for examples), and one which exists within borders drawn up by the western world, are actually combatting imperialism.
It is definitely true that the area is subject to ongoing foreign mistreatment, including acts that could be considered disgraceful, and the fact remains that Islamic State exists as a militant organisation which opposes those who have treated the citizens of the region in such a way. This alone, however, does not mean that they fight to prevent these acts from being committed. It is essential to remember that amongst the beheadings of journalists, they have terrorised the local population in a similar way. To give an example, the BBC News’s website states that an activist claims they have abducted up to 285 Christians who were seized in the Hassakeh province in Syria, with reports initially placing the number at 90. The website also states that ‘some local 1,000 Assyrian families are believed to have fled their homes in the wake of the abductions.’ Even if other religions are taken out of the picture, their own religion and thus their central ideology (surely a community among which they would find solidarity) condemns Islamic State, showing that they have no true ideological ground to occupy, and certainly no justification for their actions.
This is the reason why this debate is not a political one; there is only a moral and an immoral side. It is an issue in which all sensible individuals, no matter where they stand on the majority of political issues, should chose the moral decision. Thus, discussing the question of Islamic State militarism, communists should come to the same conclusion as their capitalist opponents. It by no means requires an alliance with or respect for the capitalist world, rather the simple recogniton that this is an issue which everyone, from both political extremes, should be able to agree on. Military intervention, on behalf of all those Islamic State threatens, should seem the obvious conclusion.