ISIS Control in the Middle East DaviD shirokov

Glossary

Reinforcements- are a replenishment of troops

Siege- the long term attacking in order to take control of a place like a city or town

Emir- is like a lord and governor

Allegiance- to fall in line with and become a friend in conflict and peace offering no threat or resistance.

Refugee- person who is displaced from their home by a crisis or catastrophe.

Insurgents- rebels that are actively resisting the government violently.

What led to the rise of ISIS in the Middle East?

The rise of ISIS is very unsurprising when looking at the middle east historical background of Religious instability and Foreign intervention. Major General Noam Tibon of the Israel Defense Forces commented “ISIS is nourished by the Shi’ite-Sunni religious war in the Middle East. As long as the geopolitical situation encourages that war, rather than defusing it, this organization will continue to regenerate, even if it is defeated militarily.” The Shi’ite-Sunni conflict has been going on since the death of Muhammad fourteen hundred years ago when the muslim caliphate had a war of succession and a religious schism. This long lasting social and religious unrest has the terrible effect of destabilizing the local governments and raising people in arms against their neighbors who hold opposing religious views. Another problem on the Middle Eastern plate is the proxy war going on between Russia, China, and the Nato States. Russia and China back the Assad government while western power houses back rebel groups. This revolution leaves a power void that invites ISIS to come in and establish their own oppressive rule and order. America itself is a big player, the Strait times reports “US policy under President Barack Obama was built on the idea that Assad had lost legitimacy. Obama rejected any cooperation with Assad in the fight against ISIS, describing his rule as part of the problem.” America has refused to help establish Assad's rule and instead funds varies rebel groups fighting for control of the country. Though a problem arises as some of the rebel groups a getting increasingly more radical and a lot more sympathetic to ISIS. The problem with funding rebels who are growing more and more radical is the same as the one we found when we were funding the muslim brotherhood and other groups to oppose Soviet control and secure U.S. interest but had the effect of raising Al-qaeda and all its subsequent groups.

How is ISIS getting funded?

With the rising power of ISIS one might question the means by which they are getting funded. The capture of towns like Deir ez-Zor and rural areas, combined with donations, crime, and desecration of ancient ruins all serve to put money in the ISIS treasury. With ISIS gaining more and more land the abilities of ISIS to gain wealth expands. According to Masrour Barzani, head of Kurdish intelligence “Highly localized and multiple streams revenue streams feed the terrorist organization's coffers --- generating up to $6 million a day.” The way ISIS makes this massive sum of money is by running its organization like a government. ISIS collect taxes and tariffs from trade in the cities they control. Another revenue stream ISIS readily uses are the vast amount of resources the middle east has to offer. “ISIS’s oil empire stretches across a landmass roughly the size of U.K. (a quarter of a million square miles) and contains around 300 oil wells in Iraq alone,” according to the data from the Iraq Energy Institute in Baghdad. This wide access to oil allows them to extract and refine their oil for sale to countries that aren’t particularly picky about where their energy comes from; ISIS manages to produce and sell around 385,000 barrels a day. However oil isn’t the only thing produced in the Middle East. ISIS also controls most of the Euphrates river and its surrounding area. This area is historically a very fertile stretch of land which allowed many ancient civilizations to thrive just off the grain that was produced. Since ISIS took control of 40 percent of Iraq’s annual wheat production they have been able to feed their supporters and starve dissidents which discourages any kind of resistance and entices hungry males that just want a full belly and enough income to feed the family, to become ISIS militants. As ISIS expands its influence and control through the Middle East their access to funds broadens making them an ever greater threat.

What are larger powers doing about isis?

With the power of ISIS on the rise one might ask what are the larger nations plans in relation to ISIS. This is an awkward question since many of the nation's troubled by ISIS indirectly caused its empowerment and now are hesitant to act against them and instead pursue their own self interests as any nation's government would do. An article from The Straits Times commented on ISIS’s ability to put up a cohesive defense saying “ISIS fighters are also putting up stiff resistance against separate campaigns being waged against them in northern Syria, one by US-backed militias including Kurdish groups, and another by Turkish-backed Syrian rebel groups.” With the outside support going to so many different parties help against ISIS comes very spread out causing the parties battling ISIS to be much less effective than they could be if they were cooperating as a single united cohesive force. The extent of the of the in cooperation and at times active hostility was made evident by a recent event when a Russian airstrike hit a Turkish backed rebel group outside Al-Bab. “The episode highlighted the complicated battle around Al-Bab, which is besieged both by Turkish-backed rebels fighting to clear the region near the Syrian border from Isis and to establish a safe zone in the area, as well as forces loyal to the regime of the Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad, who consider the town strategically valuable.” wrote Kareem Shaheen, a Reporter based in Istanbul, for The Guardian. With incidents like this occurring frequently it's not hard to see that foreign states involved in Middle Eastern affairs have more interests than just ridding the Middle East of ISIS. Russia has been backing Assad’s regime and the US has been backing many of the rebel groups opposing the government this is quite similar to the Vietnam war in which the US backed an unpopular capitalist government in the south and the Soviet Union backed an upstart communist with wide support in the north. The repetition of history is self-evident as Syria is ending up as another proxy war with the war on ISIS as it’s backdrop.

An example of possible land reform.

Would the middle east be open to land reform?

The large amount of constant unrest in the Middle East shows that underlying issues exists. One old wound that might still be unhealed is the issues that European Imperialism caused in the Middle East. Noam Tibon said “The last time borders were drawn in the Middle East was in 1914, when European diplomats drew illogical borders based upon British and French zones of influence, while completely disregarding issues such as demographics, sectarianism, the economy, natural resources and other factors.” European colonization and imperialism was a large destabilizing factor in the history of the middle east. Many of the large imperial states like Britain and France actively sought lands rich in natural resources among them being the fertile oil-rich lands of the Middle East. The diversity in factors like religion and ethnicity were not taken into account causing the grouping of many people with bad histories and active rivalries with each other chief among them being the Sunni-Shia conflict. Although a possible solution presents itself if the countries and governments agree to redraw their borders. “The solution offered here will not please everyone. Turkey will fear the establishment of a Kurdish state on its border. Iran will resist the decrease of its net influence in Iraq. Israel and Jordan will also surely have concerns about the rise of a new Sunni state on their borders.” speculated Noam. The rise of new states will not please everyone but they might be the one thing needed to start the areas of conflict on a new slate that discourages violent actions made by individuals and governments. This action though will not be possible without strong foreign intervention to oversee these geopolitical transitions the de facto being the United States.

What should the US foreign policy be in the middle east?

With the situation in Syria and most of the surrounding nations shifting constantly, the recent exchange of power in the U.S. government should spark a reevaluation U.S. policy toward ISIS and the Middle East in general. Obama’s cabinet behaved every hostile toward the Assad regime; Actively supporting rebels that are fighting against them. The Strait Times noted that “Obama rejected any cooperation with Assad in the fight against ISIS, describing his rule as part of the problem.” Funding of the rebel groups has yielded some results with the establishment of a new Kurdish state of Rojava has yet to be legitimized but shows great promise with the creation of its own constitution that promises religious freedom and equal gender rights all things that most Middle Eastern governments lack. Other opposition groups have arisen that are more lenient towards ISIS and their views are not to interested in opposing them. This makes it hard to fund rebel groups since many motives of different groups and individuals can be very unclear or even outright deceptive making the funding of multiple groups a big risk and in the end not a good investment. The other option is direct intervention which hasn’t worked out too well in Iraq or Iran. Noam judges that “We [the U.S.] should forgo the notion of parachuting democracy in from above, as attempted by the Bush administration in Iraq.” America’s war on terror hasn’t been seen as particularly successful and some even view it as a massive failure this would make the option of sending boots on the ground once again extremely unpopular. This leaves one more clear option the cutting of ties and involvement in the conflicts of those foreign nations. This act would lead to much of the Russia’s and Turkey’s agendas to go unchecked and could possibly damage any positive work done by opposition groups but America’s hands would be clean of any more bloodshed and reduce tension in the long run. All of this of course will be decided not by the average person but by the bureaucrats and politicians who hold their own opinions, viewpoints, and motives; and the citizens of the world will live with the consequences and results.

Works Cited

Tibon, Noam. "Reshape the Middle East today to prevent the ISIS of tomorrow."The Jerusalem Post | JPost.com. Jpost Inc., 3 May 2016. Web. 30 Jan. 2017. <http://www.jpost.com/Opinion/Reshape-the-Middle-East-today-to-prevent-the-ISIS-of-tomorrow-452916?scrlybrkr=765eff26>

Shaheen, Kareem. "Islamic State surrounds military airport in Deir ez-Zor, eastern Syria."The Guardian. Guardian News and Media, 17 Jan. 2017. Web. 30 Jan. 2017. <https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/jan/17/islamic-state-deir-ez-zor-syria-world-food-programme>

"Losing in Iraq, ISIS seeks to shore up Syria presence." The Straits Times. SPH Digital News, 22 Jan. 2017. Web. 30 Jan. 2017. <http://www.straitstimes.com/world/middle-east/losing-in-iraq-isis-seeks-to-shore-up-syria-presence?scrlybrkr=15478cab>

Di Giovanni, Janine, Leah McGrath Goodman, and Damien Sharkov. “THE MONEY BEHIND THE TERROR. (Cover story).” Newsweek Global 163.19 (2014): 26-41. EBSCO MegaFILE. Web. 15 Feb. 2017. <http://web.a.ebscohost.com.proxy.elm4you.org/ehost/detail/detail?vid=6&sid=bb5ad22c-85a4-4fb4-b578-84623d7b6789%40sessionmgr4006&hid=4112&bdata=JnNpdGU9ZWhvc3QtbGl2ZSZzY29wZT1zaXRl#AN=99236562&db=keh>

Shah, Anup. “The Middle East conflict—a brief background.” Global Issues. 30 Jul. 2006. Web. 05 Mar. 2017. <http://www.globalissues.org/article/119/the-middle-east-conflict-a-brief-background>.

Shaheen, Kareem. "Russian airstrikes accidentally kill three Turkish soldiers." The Guardian. Guardian News and Media, 09 Feb. 2017. Web. 05 Mar. 2017. <https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/feb/09/russian-airstrikes-accidentally-kill-three-turkish-soldiers>

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