Monday, June 30, 2014

Islamists proclaim "Caliphate" in West Asia

The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) has proclaimed itself a Caliphate and enthroned their apparent leader Abu-Bakr al-Baghdadi (real name: Ibrahim Awwad Ibrahim Ali al-Badri al-Samarrai) as Caliph. It is the first such proclamation since the fall of the Ottoman Empire and, considering the precariousness of the militant unrecognized "state", I could only laugh while thinking of the memorable Iznogoud (right).

However on second thought the proclamation seems to have much more serious implications: first of all the de-facto erasure of the post-colonial borders in the region with unknown future repercussions.

The effective control of the militant state is important along the Euphrates but its claims are now much more imprecise. While the ISIS restricted its area of interest to Iraq and the Levant (al-Shams, sometimes mistranslated as "Syria") the new Caliphate demands obedience from all Muslims through the World:
ISIS announced that it should now be called 'The Islamic State' and declared its chief, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, as "the caliph" of the new state and "leader for Muslims everywhere," the radical Sunni militant group said in an audio recording distributed online on Sunday. (RT)

In practical terms "the Islamic State" has a much more modest effective control but what they are doing is asserting their primacy over political Sunni Islamism (theocratic fascism), a widespread reactionary movement which has been dangerously fed by the USA and its allies, many of them Islamists themselves.

Effective factional control in Syria and Iraq (CC by Haghal Jagul, via Wikimedia Commons)
  • The Caliphate (ISIS) 
  • Kurdish self-rule  
  • Syrian Government 
  • Iraqi Government 
  • other Islamists 
I naturally hope that this fascist state will soon collapse but there are other possibilities: it can linger for long in some sort of stalemate or it can consolidate and expand further. It is known that they have Jordan in their line of sight, even if it is the only state on Earth ruled by the clan of Mohammed, the Hashemites, and also Lebanon, but personally I would not be surprised at all if, given the chance, they would bite the hands that feed them in Saudi Arabia or even Turkey, never mind Israel, which is considered enemy of Islam. 

Given the chance these daredevil terrorists can well become the new Hitler of West Asia but by the moment, as happened with Hitler in the 1930s, the global powers let them do, because they act as control of their foes (the USSR and Socialism 80 years ago in Europe, Iran, China and Russia now in West Asia).

But beware: this is the kind of proclamation that can rally a million fanatics who have been waiting for the new Saladin. If something has the ISIS shown is that they control modern communication (such as their Muslim cat videos) and that they are very much able to produce overnight surprises like the conquest of nearly half Iraq in few days.

Update (Jun 30):

From Al Jazeera:
"Caliph" Abu-Bakr al-Baghdadi
In an audio recording released on Sunday, the group formerly known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant declared its chief, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, "the caliph" and "leader for Muslims everywhere".

"The legality of all emirates, groups, states and organisations becomes null by the expansion of the caliph's authority and the arrival of its troops to their areas," said the group's spokesman Abu Mohamed al-Adnani. "Listen to your caliph and obey him. Support your state, which grows every day.''
The group announced that it was now called the "Islamic State". According to the statement, the new caliphate stretches from Iraq's Diyala province to Syria's Aleppo.

"The Shura [council] of the Islamic State met and discussed this issue [of the caliphate] ... the Islamic State decided to establish an Islamic caliphate and to designate a caliph for the state of the Muslims, said Adani.

"The words 'Iraq' and 'the Levant' have been removed from the name of the Islamic State in official papers and documents."
An official document was also released, in English and several other languages.

It describes Baghdadi as "the sheikh, the fighter, the scholar who practices what he preaches, the worshipper, the leader, the warrior, the reviver, descendant from the family of the Prophet, the slave of God".

It urges Muslims to "gather around your caliph, so that you may return as you once were for ages, kings of the earth and knights of war."
I find these excerpts very much underlining the potential threat that it represents for every single established state in the region and, potentially, world-wide. It also demands obeisance from all other armed factions, many of which have been so far focused in their respective states, such as Syria or Iraq.

The Qatari news site suggests that this proclamation may cause many Iraqi armed groups to break up with ISIS because their goal is to change the regime in Iraq in favor of the Sunni Arab minority but I suspect that the Caliphate has weighted seriously that possibility and that pre-existent pan-Arabist feelings actually play in their favor (after all aren't Arabs the chosen people of Islam?)


  1. You see Barzani's interview with BBC from a couple of days ago? He said that he expects the Kurdish Parliament to vote to hold a referendum on independence in the next few months.

    1. I didn't but it does not surprise me the slightest. It seems that borders are being shattered these days, what is largely a good thing in my humble opinion. I just hope that we Basques can benefit from this trend soon, we really need it.

    2. Hopefully with less bloodshed than this example too. It will be interesting to see what happens in Catalonia and Scotland in the fall too.

    3. In Catalonia there won't be referendum: the Central State will intervene in order to impede democracy. It will be tense and highly controversial but that's how Spain works. It is known that there is a military contingency plan to occupy Catalonia overnight and suspend the statute if things get out of hand for the Neo-Francoist regime.

      Instead Scotland will have democracy and it is even possible that the "yes" wins (although we won't really know until Scots actually vote because opinion polls are extremely close). Whatever they choose it is clearly their right to do so.

      But so is the right of Catalans, Basques, Corsicans, etc. and the rights of these peoples will again be denied manu militari.


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