Who Likes Puzzles? Questioning the Middle East

It puzzles me that the war on ISIS in the Middle East is falling flat on its proverbial. Given the amount of advanced technology that the West holds, and is shared with the West’s allies, how is it that a rabble of fanatics, unschooled in warfare, is able to gain so much traction in Syria and Iraq?

Cowardice, without being blatantly being called as such, is perhaps one such reason; although I will point out, one does not hear that accusation leveled against Bashar al-Assad’s forces.

Is it that the West (and co.) are bound by formal rules of warfare to which ISIS does not have to adhere? ISIS obviously does not care if civilian casualties are sustained and, in fact, seems to enthusiastically embrace the killing of civilians as a way of keeping their conquered populations in check.

Is it because the populations in the conquered territories are predominantly Sunni and support ISIS? Given the number of refugees fleeing newly-acquired ISIS areas, the truth is likely a mix of those who support and those who detest the fanatical presence.

Another question I have is: what are ISIS’ motives? Of course, establishing a caliphate in the Middle East is at the crux of their ‘vision and mission,’ but where does that end? Are they making a gambit of taking over all the unstable Middle Eastern regions? Such a hypothesis would explain Syria and Iraq. Are Yemen and Lebanon on the menu? Yemen certainly is rife with the kind of instability that attracts scavengers, and Lebanon, although we forget about that country, is incredibly unstable with all sorts of groups vying for power.

Should we really be reexamining the Middle Eastern crisis through a Sunni versus Shiite lens, and try to weigh which is the lesser of two extremists? With my admittedly shallow knowledge of both, I would argue that Shiites are slightly more moderate, which I base on the fact that women are marginally more respected in Shiite-dominated countries, than in Sunni ones.

The only certainty right now is that ISIS is expanding at an alarming rate; that our Western air attacks on ISIS positions are hardly impacting the advance of that organization’s cancerous spread through the Middle East; that Western artillery and ammunition are being abandoned by allies and seized by ISIS; that the league of somewhat stable Middle Eastern countries are soon going to have a nest of motivated vipers in their literal midst; that we might have to swallow pride and distrust, and have to work with the modern Middle Eastern equivalent of Stalinist Russia to help overcome a common enemy before it is too late.Map of ISIS territory in the Middle Eas


One thought on “Who Likes Puzzles? Questioning the Middle East

  1. Hi Alex,
    I read a provocative article yesterday that argued that the motivation behind ISIS/ISL doesn’t end at establishing a caliphate and that that is only the foundation of their true goal. That goal is similar to that of radical Christians who are doing all they can to hasten the end of times and their “Rapture”. ISIS is also doing everything they can to hasten the end of days when Jesus, who figures prominently in the Koran will lead them in the fight against evil. This all according to 7th century scripture in the Koran.

    Of course I can’t find the article today but it was in answer to a cover story in the Atlantic: http://www.theatlantic.com/features/archive/2015/02/what-isis-really-wants/384980/

    The closest I found to it was this so far: http://www.aleteia.org/en/world/article/12-things-to-know-about-what-isis-really-wants-5904800487047168

    According to the article, they practice the most extreme version of 7th century Sharia law and it doesn’t matter if you are Shiite or Sunni; if you stray from the absolute written word of the Koran and Sharia, you will pay the price, often with your life. That’s why so many murders and vile torture. According to the article, their extreme interpretation of Sharia law requires this of them, otherwise they are the infidels; circular logic at its best.

    The takeaway from the article I read is that all of this is pre-scripted. If nothing else ISIS is completely predictable in their actions, use of geography and end goals. All that needs to be done is to review their 7th century game plan and figure out where to knock them off their feet. Easier said than done but apparently, up until now, nobody in a position of power seems to be looking at the problem from this angle.


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