Who and what is ISIL?
Here is Scribbler’s armchair analysis, researched exclusively on the Internet (so it must be true). Opinions are omitted as much as possible. I have them, but there are more than enough opinions on the subject. The aim here is to untangle the religious conflicts.
There are followers of every religion in the Middle East, plus factions, splinters, sects and denominations, but this war is primarily between two branches of Islam, the Sunnis and the Shiites.
ISIL, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, is a group of hard-line Sunnis who want to create an Islamic caliphate, that is, a Muslim state, to rival the ancient Muslim empires.
Previous name: ISIS, or Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham
Previous name: AQI, or Al Qa’ida in Iraq
85% of the world’s Muslims are Sunnis, and ISIL is Sunni. About 15% of Muslims are Shi’a. Here is a breakdown showing which branches hold the majority in the Greater Middle Eastern countries:
SUNNI majority SHIITE majority (Lebanon – mix of Sunni, Shi’a & others)
Saudi Arabia Iraq
Saudi Arabia and Iran are the largest powers in the region. Saudi Arabia provides support for Sunnis, and Iran for Shiites. Photo Credit: Vice News
IRAQ: Saddam Hussein, a Sunni President in a country with a Shiite majority, was deposed and his government dismantled when the US invaded Iraq. Nuri Kamal al-Maliki, a Shiite, was installed. Sunnis aligned with Al Qa’ida of Iraq (AQI), which took control of Sunni areas of Iraq. AQI, however, was cruel and extremist, so moderate Sunnis allied with the Iraqi government and the US, and ran the AQI out of Iraq. AQI joined other fundamentalist groups and became ISIS.
SYRIA. In 2011, Sunni groups rebelled against the Syrian government and Shiite President Bashar al-Assad. The US and Saudi Arabia, among others, sided with rebels. Lebanon, Russia, China and Iran, among others, supported the Assad government. The rebels weren’t very well organized or trained. As the conflict dragged on, Sunni hard liners got more involved, and the fighting devolved into conflicts between competing Islamist groups, as well as between rebels and the government. ISIL emerged as the dominant rebel group, acquired a lot of the supplies and weapons that poured into the region, and took over part of Syria.
IRAQ. From it’s new base in Syria, ISIL attacked and took over part of Iraq, killing minorities, journalists and other heretics along the way.
ISIL’s tactics were too brutal even for Al Qa’ida, who broke off from the group in Feb. 2014.
ISIL and allies gain control of Fallujah. Photo credit: BBC news
What a stew.
Saudi Arabia’s support of Sunni rebels in Syria helped fund ISIL. Now ISIL presents a threat to Saudi Arabia.
Iran, loyal supporter of Syria, the Shiites and Assad, and not so long ago deemed part of the “Axis of Evil,” is now working with the Iraqis, Kurds, the US and allied forces to fight ISIL.
The Assad government has probably become the lesser of two evils as far as the US is concerned, which is fine with Assad who reportedly hopes the US will attack ISIL in Syria, in effect supporting Assad. Hezbollah Shiites from Lebanon who sided with Assad in the Syrian rebellion, now find themselves aligned against ISIL, too.
On it goes.
In sum, a war between Sunni & Shi’a, and between religious moderates and extremists, with fighters and countries changing sides, depending on how the wind blows.
Now to tackle the influence of oil money, climate change, politics, economics?
What do you think? What are the chances that the US, by joining this fight, will help bring about a happy outcome?