Islamic State: The end of an era or the beginning of a new one? – Apr. 20, 2019

The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) supported by the International Coalition for Combating Terrorism recently announced full control over the areas controlled by the Islamic State in eastern Syria, with the end of the Baghuz battle, which lasted more than three months. Following this victory, Washington has not yet defined its future direction for this region. The presidential decision at the end of last year to withdraw from Syria was revised and went back to the table. According to the latest information, Trump has given the green light to the Pentagon to maintain 400 US soldiers, 200 in the east and 200 in the Al-Tanf base. Also, General Dunford, a few days ago, announced that Washington is continuing its talks with allies and the Turks to come to an agreement that will contribute to the security of eastern Syria. But as long as Moscow continues to support Assad against the Syrian armed opposition in northwestern Syria, elements of the Islamic State are still moving in the desert. The unstable and complex environment in the wider region where ISIS was born is not a good omen but gives a negative impression of the future of peace and security there. The differences in views and rivalries between many regional and international players in the northern part of the Middle East were one of the main reasons for the creation of the Islamic State at the end of 2013 and remain an important factor in its continuation.

With the fall of Saddam Hussein’s regime, the first test for the US government at that time was to consolidate peace on Iraqi soil and try to prove the theory of the proliferation of democracy through the formation of an Iraqi government that would bring the balance in the country. But popular resistance was the first barrier to this plan. Iraqi Sunni and Shiites caused violent blows and losses to Washington in the first year after Saddam Hussein’s fall, which killed hundreds of soldiers on Iraqi territory. The original American orientation was to try to appease the active Sunni and Shiite leaders. Indeed, a US delegation met with Ali al-Sastani, the powerful Shiite spiritual leader in southern Iraq, who proved surprisingly open despite being a student of the anti-American school of Khomeini and Khamenei. The Americans succeeded by a fatwa issued by Sistani to suppress popular resistance in southern Iraq. Many sources confirm that Washington paid a huge sum of money personally to Sistani for this service along with the promise to allow the Shiites to rule the country. With the events that followed, namely the conflicts between the Shiite militias and the Sunnis who resisted in central Iraq and the placement of Nouri al-Maliki, a representative of the Iranian origin Dawa Party as Iraq’s Prime Minister, the country entered a dark tunnel that was one of the main reasons for the Islamic State’s appearance later on.

Injustice and oppression are always the cause of many evil in the world. What happened in Iraq because of the Sunni oppression by the Iraqi Shiite government, publicly supported by Iran and Washington, the injustice that led to the capture of thousands of Sunni and the murder of even thousands without trial or proof of guilt, lit the fire of vengeance in the hearts of Sunni in Iraq. In the light of the difficult economic and military conditions prevailing in the country, there were small jihadist groups who exploited this Sunni hatred for their interests, directing, guiding and recruiting them. This oppression was the main reason for the birth of the Islamic State in Iraq in 2013.

Inside a volcano of rage, Syria waited for the last wave of the Arab Spring. This wave has led to the fall of many dictatorial regimes in the Middle East and North Africa. As the Syrian people surged into a peaceful revolution, the Assad regime’s immediate response was death and nothing else. Hundreds of thousands were killed and arrested, and millions were displaced from their land simply because they demanded freedom and democracy. Thus, under the hypocritical stance of the international system, the first Islamic groups entered the Syrian territory from Iraqi borders to exploit the same conditions they used in Iraq. And despite the fact that the Syrian people are mostly ideologically moderate, death was a sufficient motive to transform tranquility into a still burning fire. The hypocrisy of the international community in dealing with the Syrian revolution is another important reason for expanding the influence of the Islamic State from Iraqi to Syrian territory.

The international and regional conflict in Syria and Iraq has continued so far. The injustice against the Sunni of Iraq remains. The Syrian people, on the other hand, continue to suffer from Western hypocrisy, and the international community continues to play its dirty role in maintaining the Damascus criminal regime.

All the factors and conditions that caused the spark of creating the most dangerous jihadist organization that the world has ever known in our century did not disappear, instead they grew. Although the media machine is trying to show that the Islamic State has finally ceased, the reality is that thousands of its fighters are still in the Syrian and Iraqi deserts. The causes of its existence persist and its organizational structure is not dissolved. So I can say with certainty that what happened at Baghuz is not the end but the beginning of something more dangerous, more experienced and ruthless.