teleSUR, 10 November 2015 **** Front Page

Islamic State Group: A Political Agency

By Bruno Jäntti

Western leftists tend to see the Islamic State group merely as a legacy of U.S. foreign policy. But the group is much more than that.

A new development occurs. And it just so happens that all political orientations have immediately come up with an exhaustive answer as to why it is happening and who is behind it.

This goes for the emergence for the Islamic State group. For the past two years, all kinds of people have been trying persuade me that IS is a creation of Saudi Arabia, or Turkey, or Israel, or Islam, or Arabs.

The purpose of this very opinion piece of mine is not to produce an account of the origins or leadership of the Islamic State group. Rather, I intend to express some of my concerns on how the the group seems to be perceived among great many progressives.

Albeit an interpretation serves one's own agenda by pointing the finger at the wicked arch enemy – whatever or whoever that favorite enemy may be – does not mean the interpretation is empirically sound. Indeed, shunning away from complacent catchphrase explanations is rarely a bad idea in political research and analysis

For argument's sake, let us assume the Islamic State group is not the collective brainchild of Islam, Arabs, or even a ploy by Israel or Saudi Arabia. What is it, then? What does a leftist assessment on the group look like?

When Western and at times Middle Eastern leftists and progressives discuss the Islamic State group, there is a tendency to describe it as a direct or indirect creation of Western foreign policy in general or U.S. foreign policy in particular. To generalize, this view has it that by destroying the Iraqi state and society, the U.S. foreign policy ended up giving birth to Frankenstein's monster, that is the Islamic State group. In case you want to check whether this actually is a popular view among leftists, feel free to skim through opinion pieces in left-wing publications and decide for yourself. Yet, like the other takes listed above, this one, too, is far-fetched.

A link between two events, political actors or phenomena does not entail causality. Washington's contribution to Middle Eastern politics revolves around undermining the democratic process. This is mainly achieved through illegal warfare, organizing and backing coups, attacking progressive movements and supporting regimes which accommodate to U.S. interests by exploiting and abusing their own population.

And still, notwithstanding the track-record of Washington's Middle East foreign policy, the U.S. is not the main culprit behind the emergence of, or advances by, the Islamic State group.

One of the problems with labeling the Sunni jihadist organizations as mere reactions to U.S. policies is that this view wittingly or unwittingly rejects the idea that Salafi movements, most prominently the Islamic State group, are capable of independent realpolitik.

Let us put the smaller, yet influential, Sunni takfiri groups like Ahrar al-Sham and Jabhat al-Nusra aside for the moment and discuss the Islamic State group. The Islamic State group is redrawing the Sykes-Picot Agreement. It controls a population larger than the populations of Finland and Norway put together. It is involved with full blown multi-front war with over a dozen state and non-state actors  simultaneously. Its economic resources are in billions of U.S. dollars and its armed wing comprises of possibly over 100,000 fighters.

Such outcomes are enabled by concentrated political will, careful planning, efficient organizational structures and commitment to reach specific short-term, medium-term and long-term goals. This is a political agency.

Political movements that we like are generally portrayed as expressions of political will, determination, commitment and so on and so forth. It is less convenient to perceive movements we dislike or detest the same way. Rather, they are a mere reaction to this or that, an almost inevitable consequence of this or that, a symptom of this or that.

In early 2015,  Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC) published “Concluding observations on the combined second to fourth periodic reports of Iraq.” The document is mandatory reading for anyone studying the Islamic State group. Although focusing on children's rights, the CRC shed light on the most dangerous goals and tactics of the Islamic State group, namely its systematic murdering of minority groups. It is possible, even probable, that persecution by the Islamic State group forces could reach genocidal proportions – to an extent, it already has.

“The Committee expresses its deepest concern at the deplorable situation of children and families  belonging to minority groups, in particular Turkmen, Shabak, Christians, Yezidi, Sabean, Mandaean, Kaka'e, Faili Kurds, Arab Shi'a, Assyrian, Baha'i, Alawites who are systematically killed, tortured, raped, forced to convert to Islam, cut off from humanitarian assistance by the so-called ISIL in a reported attempt by the so called ISIL members to suppress, permanently cleanse or expel, or in some instances, destroy these minority communities.”

After the publication of this CRC document, the Islamic State group has carried out multiple more massacres, some targeting these minorities.

From the perspective of realization of democratic process, human rights or the remotest resemblance of equality, the Middle East is not a bed of roses. There is a plethora of entities responsible for this. And there are a number of Middle Eastern movements and networks which are building more just and sustainable political and economical structures. These forces face multiple threats. If Western leftists want to play a constructive role and assist their comrades in the Middle East, they might need to reassess some of their views on the Islamic State group, for in Syria and Iraq, there is no bigger threat to progressive politics than the Islamic State group. Not the Islamic State group the crazy reaction to U.S. crimes, but the Islamic State group the independent political agency. And that agency needs to be stopped.


The archive : Bruno Jäntti, Middle East, Ramzy Baroud, Noam Chomsky, Patrick Cockburn, Robert Fisk, Moshé Machover




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