2014: The Conflict with Islamic State Should Teach the West a Lesson
Novinite's team is publishing brief daily comments about major events that have taken place in Bulgaria and abroad this year.
At a first glance the militant group Islamic State's gains in Syria and Iraq caught the world by surprise.
A second look, however, places IS within the context of the string of events originated in Syria's civil war, the instability and US troops' withdrawal in Iraq, involvement of the West and Turkey in the Syrian conflict and, generally speaking, the constant battle for predominance within the region.
After having conquered a few Iraqi cities and large swathes of land in Syria, IS (then still Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, ISIL) declared a "Caliphate" within the territories under its control. The Sunni extremist group's excesses prompted the US and other states to intervene, launching air strikes on IS targets in Syria and Iraq. Kobane, near the Turkish border, was the tipping point which reminded of both the weight Bulgaria's southern neighbor could throw behind the operations in Syria and its vulnerability to the conflict. The number of Syrian refugees in Turkey, well over a million in the summer, swelled by hundreds of thousands just within a few months. Nevertheless, despite US pressure Ankara refuses to directly intervene in Syria unless Washington agrees to setting up a buffer zone and to an operation which would topple Syrian President Bashar Assad.
What is it that strikes one most about IS? Was it infringement on the Yezidi community or persecution of "unfaithful" Christians or Shia Muslims? Were abductions and beheadings of foreign journalists and aid workers, the events that turned out to be most shocking to European media outlets? IS itself, on the other hand, is not that much impressed with the right to life: its looks at Westerners' bodies as war trophies, while their souls (the souls of those attracted to the jihadis' side) are a huge blow to the democratic world.
Comments as to how IS correlates to the essence of one of the world's most popular monotheistic religions also go both ways: Arab Studies expert Vladimir Chukov argues the group's beliefs are a "deviation", while according to Iraqi-born Bulgarian journalist Mohamed Khalaf it embodies "the pure essence of Islam", which unlike Christianity has not been, in his words, "reformed" yet.
What seems to be a bigger concern are the reasons why IS emerged. This environment will certainly produce new and new "Islamic States" even after this one is swept away. The lack of proper statehood preventing sectarian conflicts and refraining from any sacrifice of its citizens' well-being in the name of "higher" goals such as predominance in proxy wars. Apart from being a factor carrying repercussions to regional and world economy, IS is also a symptom of the impossibility of Middle Eastern governments to bring peace and well-being to their societies, either due to foreign or domestic factors. Hiding behind the veil of the West's "destructive interventions", this incapability of Middle Eastern governments actually leads to the injection of "fresh blood" - fighters from across the world - into the IS system and turns into the latest justification for a militant group that has received assistance from various sources to "break free" and enter the war of influence that has been shaking the region.
Islamic State is the lesson that the West should eventually learn this time after failing to do so with either Al-Qaeda or the Taliban.
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