I think it’s useful in that you can’t expect to bring an apocalyptic cult to the bargaining table. Negotiation of any kind is pointless as long as the true believers stand firm behind their standard. The only way to shake their resolve is for their enemies to crush them. Arming the Kurds and anyone else in the region we can stomach while supporting them with air power still seems the best way to accomplish that to me.
“The mistake some make when viewing ISIS is to see it as a rational actor. Instead, as the magazine documents, its ideology is that of an apocalyptic cult that believes that we are living in the end times and that ISIS’ actions are hastening the moment when this will happen.”
On the one hand I agree with him, I think we have trouble understanding the devout, on the other I find his assertion strange. Not rational? They built a functioning state and they’re trying to expanding their writ through the region. They clearly have long term plans. We may find their methods barbaric, but that doesn’t make them irrational. And their conflict with Al Qaeda makes perfect sense. AQ is the Islamic State’s sole rival for moral legitimacy. They also compete for the same basic resources - the faith and support of the devout - financing from the gulf - and fighters from across the Islamic World.
Didn’t Reagan basically believe the same thing?
Big chunks of Bush II’s administration certainly did.
I think in this case “irrational” refers to the end goal, that is, their supposed belief in the end times and their desire to bring about what is in effect Armageddon and the end of the world. While “rational” in the sense that they have a goal and are working towards it, it’s irrational by the standards of, well, anyone else besides a doom cultist. That’s my reading of what the article implies.
Yup, same here.
“Functioning State” might be stretching the definition a bit far. They are a military organization that has successfully gained control of a vast region of mostly no resources after being handed arms and ammunition by other state-actors. They seized a lot of materiel from the hapless Iraqi army elements that were stationed in Ambar, but aside from small-arms they have neither the knowledge nor the logistics to actually maintain any of it.
They rely primarily on donations from wealthy Sunni states that is funneled to them under the table. Their secondary source of income is ransom and whatever liquid money they can loot from the banks that they seize. They have no agriculture to speak of and precious little industry. Beyond that, they have a trickle of oil that they cannot ship anywhere - while their oil income was a few million a day back last summer, it’s a tiny fraction of that today.
None of these income sources are sufficient to actually maintain a county, even one so sparsely-settled as the so-called Islamic State. They are a literal kleptocracy: without the ability to seize the riches of other states, they have no way to buy food or fuel for their people.
So ISIS is now takng chunks of territory in Libya, Italy is calling for NATO, Egypt is calling for a UN coalition, Jordan is ready to go, the governments of Iraq and Syria (for what they are) have been fighting all this time against them, the Kurds have been fighting against them (and Syria), Saudi Arabia is working against them, the UAE has returned to air strikes, and many Western nations have been dropping bombs, as well. It seems the only nearby nations that haven’t hopped on board are Iran, Turkey, and Israel (… probably because other nations might back out if they got involved).
Any guess as to when the fight might expand beyond its current scope? (US-led or otherwise)
They’re also selling artifacts on the black market at a furious pace. NPR did a piece about that yesterday. They control some of the most archaeologically significant territory in the world right now, and the damage they’re doing to it is immense.
This is a really great article.
I wonder what kicked this all off? Well atleast the global arms industries are doing ok :)
This is a link to a Twitter feed someone sent me; apparently the Iranians are claiming that ISIS gets its guns from the west, with all that implies. Now, of course a lot of the stuff ISIS has was captured or stolen, and some of that probably did originate from the US or other western sources. But the idea of the west being little more than a front for global exploitation is very common in many parts of the world.
Quite. Israel’s best bet is to sit tight (and maybe provide technical aid to Jordan under the table).
Iran…isn’t an option for getting involved either, for geopolitical reasons.
Turkey…now there I AM disappointed. They’re actually fighting the PKK on a limited scale again - and if their blockade had lead to the fall of Kobane, there would have been some really nasty repercussions. It’s entirely down to, sadly, Erdogan seeking new friends among the nationalists at the expense of the Kurds for internal political reasons.
The Atlantic article that was linked in the CNN piece is much more detailed and better.
Nightgaunt already linked to it a dozen posts back. And you’re both right, it’s good.
Worse damage than blowing them up?
When an artifact disappears into the the black market, it essentially is blown up. Archaeology depends on context for meaning. Even if the pieces resurface later, their original site (much less the stratum they came from) will be unknown.
I read, and this could be the western press ginning things up, that ISIS may be selling harvested organs from captives.
So they behead and burn alive captives. They’ve reintroduced slavery. And they may be selling organs. Just about pure evil in my book.