THE REAL AIMS OF IRAQ JI­HADIS

The Jewish Chronicle - - FRONT PAGE - BY TIM MAR­SHALL

UN­TIL RE­CENTLY, much Western anal­y­sis re­garded the hur­ri­canes blow­ing through the Arab world as safe­guard­ing Is­rael. The idea was that its en­e­mies were a bit busy to be both­ered with the “Zion­ist en­tity”.

This was a short-term view, and now that the Gaza con­flict has again flared, shortly af­ter the Is­lamic State (IS) pub­lished its blue print for the re­gion, we see a roadmap to­wards a po­ten­tial fu­ture war on mul­ti­ple fronts for Is­rael. IS was for­merly known as ISIS, the fi­nal S is for the word Al Shams (The Le­vant), which in­cor­po­rates Le­banon, Syria, Jordan, Is­rael and the Pales­tinian ter­ri­to­ries. Now in con­trol of swathes of ter­ri­tory in Syria and Iraq, the group grew out of al-Qaeda in Iraq and has goals sim­i­lar to those in its pre­vi­ous in­car­na­tion: to drive the Amer­i­cans from Iraq; to de­clare the caliphate; to spread the caliphate into neigh­bour­ing re­gions; and to use the ex­tended caliphate to de­stroy Is­rael. Think of IS as Ap­ple to alQaeda’s IBM. When al-Qaeda lost Osama Bin Laden, it lost the op­por­tu­nity to re­gain ground when it missed the Arab up­ris- ings. The new poster boy for wouldbe ji­hadist is the IS leader Abu Bakr al-Bagh­dadi who, de­spite the fact — or per­haps be­cause of it — that he is bor­der­line psy­chotic, is now the big­gest, baddest, rich­est, ji­hadist in the game. Since 9/11, Bin Laden only talked the talk, via DVD, but IS con­trols ter­ri­tory. Granted, it can­not move east or north as it is blocked by the Ira­ni­ans, the Kurds and the Turks. In­stead, it seeks to move south and south west to­wards Saudi Ara­bia and Jordan.

Both of these coun­tries have re­in­forced their borders as IS fighters ap­proached. This is mostly to try to pre­vent the ji­hadis’ move­ment. The group will not at­tempt a con­ven­tional at­tack across the deserts, it learned the hard way in Fal­lu­jah that it suf­fers sig­nif­i­cant losses when it fights in num­bers.

In­stead, it will seek to un­der­mine the two king­doms from within, draw­ing on sup­port from Sunni tribal lead­ers, and in the case of Jordan, Pales­tini­ans who bear no al­le­giance to the Hashemite King­dom. In­ter­na­tional Salafi ji­hadists have no truck with the na­tion state.

In the event of suc­cess or even the cre­ation of mayhem in Jordan and Saudi Ara­bia, IS would then be­gin to at­tack Is­rael. The Jewish state would then be back where it was in pre­vi­ous decades — fac­ing reg­u­lar in­cur­sions from mul­ti­ple di­rec­tions.

We wait to see if IS can main­tain its caliphate. It has adopted the Amer­i­can mil­i­tary strat­egy of “clear, hold, and build”. It has suc­ceeded par­tially by co-opt­ing Sunni tribal lead­ers keen to gain a tem­po­rary ally against Shia dom­i­nated Bagh­dad. But the sheikhs have their own plans and these may not in­clude con­trol by the new, self-styled caliph. Al­ready al Bagh­dadi has felt the need to ex­e­cute sev­eral tribal lead­ers in Iraq’s Diyala prov­ince for fail­ing to swear loy­alty to him.

IS may also have over­stretched and will be sus­cep­ti­ble to the prob­lems in­ter­na­tional ji­hadi groups have when com­ing up against lo­cals who share some of their aims, but who will not be gov­erned by for­eign­ers.

The thing to watch for is if IS can con­sol­i­date in Diyala, Salah al din, Nineva, and An­bar prov­inces. If so, we will then see its first stir­rings in Jordan, and pos­si­bly Saudi Ara­bia, with bomb­ings and as­sas­si­na­tions of lo­cal of­fi­cials.

Even if IS does not go on to con­trol the re­gion, the foun­da­tions of the na­tion state Mid­dle East are be­ing un­der­mined. As long as that threat re­mains, Is­rael will not be­gin to coun­te­nance a deal with the Pales­tini­ans which gives away con­trol of the Jordan val­ley, and the spec­tre of war on mul­ti­ple fronts will re­main a real pos­si­bil­ity.

IS fighters pa­rade along a street in Syria’s Raqqa prov­ince. The group con­trols

PHOTO: GETTY IM­AGES

King Ab­dul­lah of Jordan

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