A new wave of terror in Iraq has given rise to concern in the world. The religious group named ISIS claimed control of the territory of the country. Experts have a different approach to this. The undeniable fact is that the issue is related to plenty of geopolitical, energy and political factors. ISIS acts not in line with local interests. The group knows what risk it takes. Serious geopolitical changes seem to occur in the Middle East. Who benefits from it and who does not? The answer to the question is not limited to the ongoing developments in the region only.
Sectarianism and politics: interests intersecting in terror
The situation in the Middle East has exacerbated even more. Terror in Iraq has claimed new lives. It is hardly a coincidence. A radical religious organization, the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIS), has truly turned everything upside down in the region. It seized big Iraqi cities of Mosul, Tigrit and Tuz-Khormato with rapid military operations. In addition, it attacked small towns and villages. ISIS continues to advance across the whole country. How was this organization established and what goals does this organization, which lived in the shadow of other terrorist groups, pursue?
ISIS has a salafi ideology. It acts in Iraq and Syria. Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is a leader of this organization. He has under his command the officers who used to serve in Saddam Hussein`s army. They were in the US custody but were released later. This organization was founded as Jamāat al-Tawḥīd wa-al-Jihād. It was founded by Abu Musab Zarkawi (he joined Al-Qaeda afterwards). By estimation, it has nearly 7,000 inIraq and over 10,000 militants in Iraq (see: 10 soruda Irak-Şam İslam Devleti / ”Zaman” newspaper, 11 June 2014).
The history of relationship between ISIS and Al-Qaeda is interesting. These organizations share the same ideology. ISIS initially functioned as a branch of Al-Qaeda. The situation changed after the first ISIS leader Abu Omar Baghdadi killed by Americans was replaced by Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi. Al-Qaeda shied away from ISIS and indicates to the Al-Nusra Front as its representative whose leader was also killed in Syria.
ISIS is fighting against Kurds and Shias. In Syria, the organization battles against Kurdish groups close to the PKK and Iraq with forces close to Maliki and Barzani. We may assume that this is just illusion since actions of this organization testify to uncertainty of its political and ideological identity.
The point is that ISIS works to split Syria and Iraq, strengthen internal feuds. It seeks to create an Islamic state in Iraq but wants to achieve it through terror, sowing dissention among Muslims. Protecting Salafism (Wahhabism), it began to split Islam itself, putting forward extremely dangerous model of sectarianism in the Middle East. Specialists now mention the beginning of the new sectarian discrimination in the region (see: Ihsan Bal. Mezhepçilik Irak’ın felaketi mi olacak? / ”Habertürk” newspaper, 9 June 2014).
From this point of view, the threat of war`s going beyond Syria and Iraq suggests extremely dangerous developments. It is obvious that internal intrigues in the Islamic world reach a new level. It can be assessed as the tussle for the influence in the region. The essence of processes shows that people of the Middle East are played off against each other. For example, Al-Qaeda and ISIS kill their religious mazhab and ideology fellows. The latest manifestation of this was taking hostage of the Turkish diplomats and drivers (see: Servet Yanatma. IŞİD, bayrağımızı indirip, diplomatlarımızı rehin aldı / ”Zaman” newspaper, 12 June 2014)
They account their actions for the desire to clarify if Turks have links with the government of Maliki. In other words, ISIS wants to prove that the government of al-Maliki is its major rival. According to specialists, it does not fully reflect the real situation.
Hidden aspects: to whose mill ISIS brings grist?
One aspect of the problem is related to global geopolitics, results of parliamentary elections in Iraq and factors of energy security. In this regard, what is interesting is that ISIS raids overlap with the start of the export of the Northern-Iraq oil to the world markets through Turkey. The USA stated it opposes the export of oil through this way (see: ABD’den ‘Kuzey Irak petrolü’ açıklaması / ”Hürriyet” newspaper, 23 May 2014). Official Baghdad shares this position. For this reason, its relationship with Turkey cooled. ISIS` occupation of oil-rich Mosul and approaching the Kirkuk leads one to think.
The Iraqi Kurds are also concerned about the current situation. They began to realize that they fall victims of geopolitical interests of America. It is not accidental that Peshmergs reinforced their military in its regions.
On the other hand, the central government of Iraq once again expressed the discontent of Barzani. It let Erbil know that the oil resources of the country may be exported with consent of official Baghdad only. The leadership of the Northern Iraq has not obeyed to the Central Government so far.
Experts highlight the role of results of the parliamentary elections in Iraq in these processes (see: Othman Ali. A Reading on the Iraqi National Assembly Election Results: National and Regional Implications / ”ORSAM Review of Regional Affairs”, May, №3, 2014). Nouri Al-Maliki won the elections held on 30 April this year. He was largely in coalition with the Shia groups.
However, al-Maliki who cooperated with representative of Sunnis Saleh al-Mutlaq allocated 10 seats for them in the parliament. Nujayfi supported by Turkey and Iraqi Turkmans (Mutahidun koalition) did not receive any seat at all (see: Bilgay Duman. Maliki’nin zaferi sonrası Irak manzarası / ”Al Jazeera Turk”, 24 May 2014). The issue of the creation of the Sunni-Shia-Kurdish political balance in Iraq emerged as a result of this.
The real situation is that majority of Sunni Arabs and Kurds do not recognize Al-Maliki. But he is strongly supported by Iran. This aspect of the issue is a special factor inflating political feud in the country. Lack of unity among political forces in Iraq seemed to play a serious role in ISIS success. From this point of view, Al-Maliki`s appeal to the political forces of the country and even to international organizations for support looks quite natural. The United Nations has already expressed concern over ISIS actions (see: BM Irak’ta yaşananlardan kaygılı / ”Zaman” newspaper, 11 June 2014).
Finally, it is difficult to deny ISIS` latest actions with geopolitical games in the Middle East. First of all, experts highlight this organization`s link with Asad. After presidential elections in Syria, official Damask needed some provocation to distract attention.
In this regard, ISIS` steps are totally in line with Asad`s plans. Today, Iraq is the main issue in the world. Strengthening terror and sectarian discrimination can make one forget Syria indeed. No doubt some super powers will also spare no effort to support Assad.
The current situation satisfies Saudi Arabia too since salafis` positions strengthen and at the same time, it prevents the spread of terror in Riyadh. Saudis take the opportunity to demonstrate their influence again in the region. Iran and Israel will gain geopolitical benefits most from these developments. Tel-Aviv benefits from discord and feud in the Islamic world. Tehran takes an opportunity to evolve cooperation with cornered Turkey and provoke it to rapprochement with Maliki and increase influence in Iraq.
In any case, the steps taken by ISIS pose a serious threat to the whole Islamic world. In terms of playing off Muslims against each other, this organization ”brings grist to the enemy`s mill”. All Muslims end up losers irrespective of the sectarian identity.