The group known as the Islamic State, also often called by its former name, ISIS, (Islamic State in Iraq and Syria), has established itself as the world’s largest, most ruthless and most successful terrorist organization. To achieve its goal, it has incorporated two of the Arab world’s most potent weapons: religion and oil.
And both Islam and oil are proving to be powerful weapons, even when confronted by the best technology in weaponry that money can buy. Religion is buying them recruits, and oil is buying weapons and providing the funds needed to maintain their war effort.
The group’s construed form of Islam they profess to follow is far removed from the true meaning that Islam is meant to convey. As removed from reality as the group’s business practices, which include kidnapping and extortion.
Having consolidated some of the territory it captured, ISIS is now gearing up for a new round to begin as the air campaign aimed at crippling it continues. The terrorist group is at a crucial point today as it tries to demonstrate to its followers and potential recruits that it can face the full brunt of the joint aerial assault unleashed on its positions by the United States and its Arab and European allies, and continue to thrive.
And at the center of this war now lies a public relations battle; the battle for control of the town of Kobani. The outcome of this battle could very well end up shaping the future of the current Middle East conflict.
In a way Kobani represents a microcosm of the complexity that is the politics of the Middle East today. Allies are not what they used to be and neither are foes. The Middle East has always been an area of conflict, but in the past there seemed to have been some political guardrails. The balance that once existed through the pro-American countries and those supported by the former Soviet Union gave the region a certain amount of stability amid the generalized instability.
Today it seems as though the gloves have come off and everything is permissible.
Kobani, a small nondescript town close to the Turkish-Syrian border is at the very center of the cyclone. It is being defended by Iraqi Kurds, who have been promised support by the allies, which include Turkey. Except that one of the conditions put forward by Turkey to help the anti-ISIS coalition is not to give the Kurds too much help. Turkey has long faced issues with its own Kurdish population and has labelled the PKK, the Kurdish Worker’s Party, a terrorist organization.
Despite more than a week of intensive aerial bombing by the U.S, Arab and European allies on ISIS positions around the town of Kobani, it appears to have had little effect on the group’s ability to recruit more fighters.
U.S. officials seem to be split on the decision of how to proceed in Kobani. The Kurds, who are fighting with their backs to the Turkish border – in other words with no escape – have managed to slow down the ISIS onslaught.
Some U.S. State Department officials, however, have said that they do not consider Kobani as “strategic.”
James Jeffrey, a former ambassador to Iraq, said it was a mistake for U.S. officials to suggest they didn't view Kobani as a critical fight.
"If we lose this thing, what message is this going to send to regimes in the region about American steadfastness?" Jeffrey asked. "What would compel American officials to say that publicly?"
He said Kurds are fighting hard in the city to keep it out of the hands of militants. "Those Kurds are fighting for America."
ISIS is in dire need of a victory, at least a public relations victory. It is no coincidence that the group is now aiming to surround Baghdad, and if they manage to reach even the remote outskirts of the Iraqi capital it would be a huge victory.
By Claude Salhani of Oilprice.com
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