In a terrifying excerpt from his essential new book, “The Jihadis Return: Isis and the New Sunni Uprising,” veteran Middle East correspondent Patrick Cockburn describes the native barbarous forces overcoming Iraq and the surrounding region, and the kind of society—thanks in large part to the failed U.S. intervention there—they look set to build.
He begins, in an excerpt published exclusively at his home paper, The Independent:
Iraq has disintegrated. Little is exchanged between its three great communities – Shia, Sunni and Kurd – except gunfire. The outside world hopes that a more inclusive government will change this but it is probably too late. The main victor in the new war in Iraq is the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isis) which wants to kill Shia rather than negotiate with them. Iraq is facing a civil war that could be as bloody as anything that we have seen in Syria and could go on for years.
The crucial date in this renewed conflict is 10 June, 2014 when Isis captured Iraq’s northern capital, Mosul, after three days’ fighting. The Iraqi government had an army with 350,000 soldiers on which $41.6bn (£25bn) had been spent in the three years from 2011, but this force melted away without significant resistance. Discarded uniforms and equipment were found strewn along the roads leading to Kurdistan and safety. The flight was led by commanding officers, some of whom rapidly changed into civilian clothes as they abandoned their men. Given that Isis may have had as few as 1,300 fighters in its assault on Mosul this was one of the great military debacles in history. Within two weeks those parts of northern and western Iraq outside Kurdish control were in the hands of Isis. By the end of the month the group had announced a caliphate straddling the Iraq-Syria border.
... This book focuses on several critical short- and long-term developments in the Middle East that are affecting or will soon affect the rest of the world. The most important of these is the resurgence of the al-Qa’ida-type movements that today rule a vast area in north and west Iraq and eastern and northern Syria. The area under their sway is several hundred times larger than any territory ever controlled by Osama bin Laden, the killing of whom in 2011 was supposed to be a major blow to world terrorism. In fact, it is since bin Laden’s death that al-Qa’ida affiliates or clones have had their greatest successes, including the capture of Raqqa in the eastern part of Syria, the only provincial capital in that country to fall to the rebels, in March 2013. In January 2014, Isis took over Fallujah just 40 miles west of Baghdad, a city famously besieged and stormed by US marines 10 years earlier. Within a few months they had also captured Mosul and Tikrit. The battle lines may continue to change, but the overall expansion of their power appears permanent. With their swift and multi-pronged assault across central and northern Iraq in June 2014, the Isis militants had superceded al-Qa’ida as the most powerful and effective jihadi group in the world.
... The resurgence of al-Qa’ida-type groups is not a threat confined to Syria, Iraq, and their near neighbours. What is happening in these countries, combined with the increasing dominance of intolerant and exclusive Wahhabite beliefs within the worldwide Sunni community, means that all 1.6 billion Muslims, almost a quarter of the world’s people, will be increasingly affected. Furthermore, it seems unlikely that non-Muslim populations, including many in the West, will be untouched by the conflict. Today’s resurgent jihadism, which has shifted the political terrain in Iraq and Syria, is already having far-reaching effects on global politics with dire consequences for us all.
Read more here.
—Posted by Alexander Reed Kelly.