Daesh went out of their way to take over Dabiq, a town in Northern Syria.
This in spite of the fact that Dabiq has no apparent strategic value in the lay of the land and probably contains as many goats as humans.They also named their principal propaganda organ Dabiq. What this tells us about Daesh theology can inform both how much danger they pose and how best to fight them. Paying attention would require the kind of care that did not inform the second invasion of Iraq.
George W. Bush’s administration sent people to help rebuild Iraq’s government who did not understand the difference between Shi’a and Sunni or the implications of Iraq being a fake nation created by British and French diplomats in the ashes of the Ottoman Empire.
Sir Mark Sykes and François Georges-Picot concluded a written agreement in 1916, long before Mustafa Kemal Atatürk abolished the Ottoman Caliphate in 1924. We American Indians, of all people, should understand what happens when imperialists draw lines on a map to suit their interests.
To Daesh, what we call a War on Terror is a confrontation between Dar al-Islam and Dar al-Kufr, an epic struggle in which any peace is temporary and tactical. Islamic theology matters to the fight we are facing but it’s not something the public would understand and to tell Muslims or any sect of Muslims how to interpret their own prophesies is absurd.
Daesh does not represent Islam and that’s why our fight is not with Islam. Jeb Bush and Ted Cruz made themselves part of the problem when they said the only Syrian refugees the U.S. should admit are Syrian Christians. This idiocy lives in the right wing media bubble where Barack Obama is a Muslim and all Muslims are alike.
From the Daesh point of view, Obama belongs near the top of their wish list of people they want dead and not just because he was POTUS when we first clashed. He is a target because his father was a Muslim and Obama accepted Christianity, so he is an apostate and marked for death.
Christians and even Jews are considered “people of the Book.” Jews use the same term to mean followers of the Torah, but Muslims mean all of the Abrahamic faiths that antedate al-Islam, and the Book of which they are people is the Holy Quran.
People of the Book are to be conquered but not killed, provided they submit to the Caliphate and pay jizya, which could be seen as either protection money or a tax on deviant beliefs. Because the people of the Book have been exposed to part of the truth, they already worship the One True God and all they need to do in addition to deserve equal regard is accept that Muhammad is his prophet.
Which brings me to the status of American Indians, at least those who have not converted to Christianity. To Daesh, we are pagans, and fit only for slavery. They have the option to let us live if we grovel in a convincing manner, but our wives are their concubines and our children are slaves.
Remember, the Caliphate recognizes no borders except those between itself and the rest of the world. They are on a literal mission from God to rule the world. If they have not attacked us at home, the reason is because they can’t, not because they are willing to let us be.
To summarize: people of the Book may convert or pay jizya, Indians and our ilk may convert or die — a status we have understood since the Spanish and Portuguese invaded our homes. Apostates like Barack Obama can only die. It is a matter of religious duty for Daesh to kill approximately 200 million Shi’a Muslims, also for apostasy.
None of this registers among most fundamentalist Christians in the U.S., who believe our greatest enemy is Daesh’s greatest enemy, Shi’a Iran, and that our war is against all Muslims, on whom Barack Obama is at least soft even if he didn’t hide a prayer rug in the oval office.
Another thing Daesh shares with fundamentalist Christians is the conviction that we are living in the End Times. Both agree that we are destined to meet a resurrected Jesus in modern Jerusalem but Daesh expects some fighting along the path to the apocalypse to begin in Dabiq, where the Caliph’s forces (Daesh) are destined to meet the army of Rome (the U.S.). They did their best to bait us into that fight when they had a substantial land base, but Obama did not bite.
Daesh still expects to take heavy casualties in Dabiq, eventually. Battlefield setbacks do not alter what they believe to be the word of God. They do not fear the U.S. because they do not fear death. They also see no contradiction to their faith in causing the death of great numbers of professing Muslims. Those Muslims who disagree with the Daesh theology are apostates and therefore deserve death, while those who agree with Daesh theology are holy martyrs if they become collateral damage in the war between good and evil.
The Prophet said,
If a man says to his brother, “You are an infidel,” one of them is right.
Splitting the umma (the Muslim community) was something the Prophet taught is a sin — and Daesh commits it every day.
All human beings have a role to play in the End Times. Daesh expects to escape from Dabiq, severely weakened in numbers if not in spirit. Still, they will go on to “sack Constantinople,” which is now Istanbul.
The Turks, who used to host the Sunni Caliphate, will be fought on the way to Jerusalem, where a resurrected Jesus (the Christian Redeemer) will join with the Madhi (the Islamic Redeemer) in the great final battle against Satan’s forces. The only clue to the time frame in this drama is the current Caliph being eight of 12, but some Sunni fundamentalists believe the Madhi is already born and living among us, a belief already common among Shi’a fundamentalists. This idea of a literal military engagement in which Jesus intervenes is common in fundamentalist Christianity, although the Madhi has no role.
The prophecies in the Torah — to which fundamentalist Christians still cling — are much older than Islam, as are the visions of St. John set out in the New Testament. No Islam means no Madhi.
Christianity — all of it — claims to be a fulfillment of the prophecies in the Torah. Islam claims that the Abrahamic God was not finished giving instructions and so the Holy Quran does not conflict with the instructions that came before. Here in North America, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints makes similar claims for the Book of Mormon.
Mainstream Christians took enough umbrage at the claim God was still speaking though modern prophets that great numbers of Mormons paid with their lives for taking up with the wrong cult. I only mention the Salt Lake City church because it has been a relatively successful cult, not because it’s the only one that claims to build on the Abrahamic myths.
It’s easy to fall into these historical detours when people are still dying over what the One True God said to whom. One of many great ironies in this history is that Jesus was executed for sedition against the Roman Empire but his cult achieved dominance when Emperor Constantine made it the state religion of that same empire and subsequently instructed the Christian bishops to pull together which written teachings were to be considered “canonical,” in the sense of being binding instructions from God rather than just folk tales. The results of those labors became the Christian New Testament, customarily bound with Jewish scripture within the same cover to make what we call the Holy Bible.
Part and parcel of all these developments was the competition that continues to this day for access to military force. Complications stack on top of other complications in what would be a comedy if it were not a tragedy of epic proportions.
As this is written, the second largest army in NATO, the Turkish one, is in action against the Kurds who allied themselves with the United States to fight Daesh. The Turks do not effectively distinguish between the YPG (“People’s Protection Units”), which are the primary military driver of the SDF (“Syrian Democratic Forces”) and the PKK (Kurdistan Workers Party).
The U.S. and Turkey agree that the PKK is a “terrorist organization,” which from the outside appears to be a fine distinction in a region where terrorism is a common tactic taken up by both bad guys and good guys. It was actually a force backed by the Turkish army and including Kurds that accomplished the first eviction of Daesh from Dabiq in an offensive that took place between August of 2016 and March of 2017.
The PKK has a long history of asymmetrical warfare aka terrorism waged within Turkey as a way to agitate for Kurdish autonomy. The Kurdish demand for autonomy within the fake nation of Iraq was several times inconvenient for the U.S. as it tried to hold Iraq together, but the major role of terrorism had been Saddam Hussein’s government in Baghdad terrorizing the Kurdish population.
Ethnic Kurds live in Iraq and Syria and Iran in addition to Turkey. “Kurdistan” is an aspirational nation. It has a flag and a national anthem and millions of loyal citizens but no real estate. If that sounds odd, it remains no odder than many other political fault lines in the vicinity. The fault line the U.S. needs to exacerbate rather than smooth over is the one between Daesh and Al Qaeda.
Al Qaeda is the mother organization. It had very little penetration into Iraq before the U.S. invaded and deposed Saddam Hussein, the Sunni dictator who had been holding together a majority Shi’a nation by main force. Everybody but George W. Bush understood that free elections in Iraq would result in a Shi’a government likely to become an ally to Iran. The Sunni minority, used to running things, would resort to the tactic of terrorism and the most likely leader of a Sunni insurgency would be Al Qaeda.
This situation, as well as the purging of all members of Hussein’s political party from the Iraqi army, created the organization that called itself Al Qaeda in Iraq, with a pre-existing land base in the so-called Sunni Triangle. When Al Qaeda in Iraq began governing the Sunni parts of Iraq with a degree of intolerance and violence that was creating an obvious backlash, Al Qaeda tried to assert leadership authority to dial back the violence against Sunnis. The resulting power struggle was won by the organization calling itself ISIS, and called by opposing Arabs Daesh — a name I use in my writings on the theory that Arabs are entitled to pick their own insulting epithets for organizations they don’t like.
If Daesh and Al Qaeda patch things up and work together, that would be our worst nightmare. Daesh showed some theological flexibility when it began to teach the faithful to avoid tactics that might erect obstacles to those two terror factories putting aside their differences. The Al Qaeda organization has long been working to terrorize Western Europe and the U.S. from a network Daesh was only recently trying to replicate when the Kurds evicted them from their “Caliphate.” An alliance of Daesh and Al Qaeda would immediately put our families in the crosshairs if analysts are correct in believing that not all Al Qaeda cells in Europe and the U.S. have been activated.
Daesh requires a land base to identify as Dar al-Islam, the abode of Islam, the Caliphate. Al Qaeda has no such pretensions but it does have a worldwide network of terrorist cells living off the land. Because the Caliphate requires land to rule, they will at some point — unlike Al Qaeda — once more have to stand and fight a conventional battle. The first time did not go well for them. The SDF, armed by “Rome,” handed Daesh their ass.
The Obama strategy was to keep Daesh at a slow bleed. It’s hard to tell what Trump intends. He’s not a strategic thinker. Intent or not, it appears that Trump’s invitation to Turkey to attempt destruction of our Kurdish allies will result in a jailbreak by the remains of Daesh. By their lights, Daesh needs to recapture Dabiq.
The big question will then become whether to take the bait Obama declined and go to Dabiq. If we do, it would be prudent to take the top six inches off the place — exterminate them. But some of us are proud that, at least since the Indian wars, the U.S. has not had the stomach for that kind of fight. Our self-image is that we don’t do extinction as a battle goal. Is it wise to give that up?
Daesh aspires to do in Washington what it did in Paris, which killed some 130 people, and then rinse and repeat. Can that happen? Sure it can. It will be harder to get potential martyrs here but, once here, weapons are easier to come by.
The shock of the Paris attacks was not just the numbers of dead but that they were non-combatants. We all want to see our kids off to a ball game or a dinner date or a concert and be reasonably certain they will come home.
To this end, Congress needs to pass an Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) against Daesh, which did not exist when Congress passed the AUMF on which Obama had to rely. When Obama requested a new AUMF, Congress failed to act.
If we send ground forces into Syria, the battle turns into a war of attrition against us, a test of how long we are willing to bleed. This is the war the Taliban have been fighting since 2001 and the precursor organization to Daesh, Al Qaeda in Iraq, has been fighting since 2004, the year after our second invasion of that benighted desert real estate.
There are valid arguments for and against playing into the fantasies of a millenarian religious cult, but no excuse for not understanding our assigned role from the enemy’s point of view. Failing to decode the theology because we are angered or scared would be, in President Obama’s words, “shooting first and aiming later.”
If the Daesh jailbreak comes to pass when the Kurdish guards have to abandon their posts to protect themselves from the Turks, Mr. Trump will have brought our policy in Syria back to where it was in approximately 2015, but there will be two differences to tell us we’re not in 2015.
Daesh has lost a bunch of infrastructure. How much has been destroyed and how much can they get back with just a display of violence?
The more important difference for us is that we have no allies for a second war on Daesh. We burned our allies too badly the first time.
If Mr. Trump’s Twitter feed is telling the truth, he intends that we withdraw from the Middle East generally and let the oceans protect us. Trump has not yet resolved to abandon one of his favorite autocracies in Saudi Arabia, but our European allies will be left, like our Kurdish allies, on their own.
What could possibly go wrong?