Winning: Caliphate Confidential


July 19, 2015:   ISIL (al Qaeda in Syria and the Levant) is facing growing resistance to its harsh rule. Another example of this occurred in early July. In Mosul, which ISIL has ruled since June 2014, one or more of the cooks preparing the Ramadan feast (the big meal Moslems enjoy after nightfall when they can eat and drink again until sunrise) poisoned the food for 145 ISIL men. About a third of these Islamic terrorists died and the rest were very sick. It is unclear who the cooks were or what happened to them. The Kurds are suspected this time. This sort of thing has happened to ISIL before. Actually, this sort of mass poisoning during Ramadan is an old tactic for Moslems at war. It also occurred several times during World War II when partisans poisoned German troops and after World War II Jews who survived the concentration camps poisoned German prisoners of war.

Food poisoning is only one of the many malign aftereffects of ISIL declaring a caliphate in mid-2014. A caliphate is a religious dictatorship that is the supreme religious and civil authority for all Moslems. This was the earliest form of government in Islam but the last real caliphate disappeared over a thousand years ago and numerous efforts to revive it since then have failed. The closest thing to a caliphate is whoever controls the most holy Islamic shrines in the cities of Mecca and Media. These are in Saudi Arabia and the Saud family justifies its rule because it is the custodian (and a pretty competent one) of those shrines. But that rule does not extend outside of Saudi Arabia. For that the Saudis use the prestige from being custodian to exercise some influence over all Moslems. ISIL wants to take that away and kill all members of the Saud family it can get to. This has caused a large amount of animosity between ISIL and the Saud family.

In the last few years Iran has suggested that it would make a better guardian of the shrines and that dispute was temporarily put aside when ISIL appeared on the scene. While both the Saudis and Iran support a violent (the Saudis use beheading for capital punishment) and intolerant form of Islam they feel ISIL overdoes both the violence and intolerance and makes all Moslems look bad. Also ISIL is seen by most Moslems as unsuitable as the leader of a new caliphate. Actually most Moslems have doubts about the Saudis or Iranians ruling all of Islam, with or without declaring a caliphate. For most Moslems restoring the caliphate is a sort of fairytale and not a realistic goal.

This dispute over the caliphate is another example of the major problem with Islam, which is the quality of the leadership. It's all about credibility and Moslem, especially Arab, leaders don't have a whole lot. The fact that most of them are despotic tyrants doesn't help much. Guys like this are accustomed to saying whatever they want, and killing anyone who objects. Free speech issues aside, the result is the tendency of Arab leaders to support fantasies and deceptions, and do so for decades. They support each other’s illusions as a form of professional courtesy.

Given their savage methods ISIL is having problems with the inhabitants of their new “Islamic state”. Even the skilled foreigners ISIL recruited are unhappy. The ISIL call also brought a lot of foreign volunteers with no useful skills and ISIL tries to use some of these as fighters or suicide bombers. Few people with useful skills are eager to join ISIL. Internal criticism is not just about cruelty and poverty, there is also the matter of prominent defeats in Iraq and Syria as well as continued rebellions against ISIL rule in both countries. Inside the ISIL run “caliphate” (eastern Syria and western Iraq) there are growing shortages of everything and ISIL is finding that conquest is easier than running an economy. The economic problems fuel the rebellions and desertions and it’s a vicious circle that is destroying ISIL from within. The problem with ISIL is that so far it has solved its supply (logistical) problems via looting. But there has been no new conquests to loot and the stockpiles of plunder taken in 2014 is nearly exhausted.

In eastern Syria ISIL has been fighting several tribes since 2014. The rebellions began in mid-2014 and so far several thousand members of the tribes have been killed, many of them executed. Some of the executions are particularly gruesome (beheading, crucifixion blowing people up), to increase fear among the others in the area. The local tribesmen were not happy with ISIL efforts to enforce a strict Islamic lifestyle. Also unpopular was the ISIL attitude that anything the Islamic terrorists did was above reproach. That resulted in an edict that anyone who said (in person or via the media or Internet) anything hostile to ISIL would be severely punished. At first there were some executions of prominent critics, including five who were crucified and many more who were beheaded. All this led to several battles in villages as the tribesmen fought ISIL and initially won. At first ISIL leaders sought to negotiate the problem but that did not work out to the satisfaction of ISIL. So in the last few weeks ISIL tried force and killed enough tribesmen to obtain a surrender and promise of subservience, for now, from most of the unhappy tribesmen. Some tribesmen continue to resist.





Help Keep Us From Drying Up

We need your help! Our subscription base has slowly been dwindling.

Each month we count on your contributions. You can support us in the following ways:

  1. Make sure you spread the word about us. Two ways to do that are to like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.
  2. Subscribe to our daily newsletter. We’ll send the news to your email box, and you don’t have to come to the site unless you want to read columns or see photos.
  3. You can contribute to the health of StrategyPage.
Subscribe   Contribute   Close