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Darker Clouds over Iraq

Iraq, Syria and the Middle-East are caught in a knot fashioned by the lightning military strikes of ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) militia which want to establish an Islamic caliphate. Although the avowed aim is jihad, the real intent is political control. The aim of ISIS is different in both nations. In Iraq it is a conglomerate of disaffected people, mostly Sunni Muslims who feel left out of the power structure by a government led by Shia Prime Minister Nouri Maliki. Even though the battle in Iraq has taken on religious overtones and is being bandied as a fight between Sunnis and Shias, it is the appalling level of inequality that is fueling the conflict. And with Maliki showing no signs of resolving the issue through political means, the end appears distant. ISIS is not a rag-tag collection of disaffected fighters. Led by
Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi who has been declared a terrorist by the US, it is becoming increasing clear that this group is being trained and guided by former Baath party military officers who owed allegiance to Saddam Hussein. Isis aims do not exactly dovetail with the secularist ideology of Baathist officers, but a common disaffection with Maliki has united them for the present.  ISIS has used a combination of speed, terror, military tactics and tribal deals to come within 60 km of Baghdad. The Iraqi military has so far proved ineffective and given the swathe of land now controlled by ISIS fighters dislodging them could prove to be quite difficult. The ISIS has access to water and oil which it is making available to locals, however it is the brutal treatment meted out to opponents that could eventually upset the balance. On the heels of beheadings and crucifixions, ISIS has made a stern offer to Christians to either convert to Islam, pay protection tax or leave Mosul. The last time a jihadist group controlled vast areas of Iraq was in 2006, but harsh treatment of locals and a surge of US troops eventually destroyed it. With the West showing no appetite for intervention and Maliki resisting calls for political resolution a dark cloud of uncertainty hangs over Iraq.

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