Metastasis of the Islamic State

by Vijay Prashad

Jordan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Turkey, the anti-Assad powers, refuse to join a united front with Iran, Iraq and Syria to tackle the IS threat. With absent coordination, the Islamic State will continue to thrive.

IS has slipped through the cracks of regional disunity.

IS has slipped through the cracks of regional disunity.


Comfortable in its bastions along the Euphrates river in Syria and Iraq, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s Islamic State (IS) has struck at its two ends — in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley and Iraq’s Jabal Sinjar. Barred from entry into Baghdad and from making a dash to Damascus, the IS has moved with dramatic ferocity into Iraq’s northwest and into the breadbasket of Lebanon. A resolute Lebanese Army response in Arsal stopped the IS advance down the Bekaa toward Beirut. A delegation from the Muslim Scholars Association helped the IS and Lebanon’s government broker an agreement for the withdrawal of the fighters over the mountains into Syria. Consistent aerial bombardment by the Syrian government moved the IS and its sometimes ally, Jabhat al-Nusra, back north toward the city of Raqqa. An uneasy quiet reigns for now in Lebanon. But not so in Iraq.

Superiority and fearlessness

After regular shelling and threats of extermination, the Islamic State finally left Mosul for the towns of Sinjar and Qaraqosh. The Kurdish fighting force, the legendary Peshmerga (“those who confront death”), could not hold their defensive lines. “What took place was a tactical retreat,” said Brigadier General Azad Jalil – the Peshmerga do not have the capability to fight the Islamic State across the region. It retreated to defend Irbil, its capital. The Peshmerga is poorly armed and badly paid. In May, a Peshmerga division blocked the Duhok-Akre road with the complaint that it had not been paid in two months. Morale has been low among the soldiers, who could not withstand the firepower and braggadocio of the jihadi army. The Islamic State was, therefore, able to threaten Iraq’s largest power and water source — as the Peshmerga fled from Mosul dam. Each victory makes the IS more powerful — they get arms, they get new infrastructure, and they get momentum.

For the full article in The Hindu, click here.