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Monday September 16, 2019

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DSA is as much yours, as it is ours!

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Islamic state in Iraq and Levant has spread its influence and control over parts of Iraq at a pace and with a ferocity that few expected. Its expansion from a remote provincial threat to one that could pose a challenge to Iraq as we know it is a serious issue that has ramifications well beyond regional boundaries. It is a challenge to global order as most of society would like it to be, anywhere in the world. An established government, however inefficient or corrupt it maybe, cannot be allowed to be changed by the use of force. Which is what ISIL seeks to do in Iraq, having failed in its endeavours in Syria.

This is jihad with a global agenda. They galvanised fighters for Syria, seeking to overthrow the Assad regime. The call to arms in Syria was based on a sectarian claim, cloaked in regime change language. As weeks, months and years have gone by without success the focus shifted to Iraq, where the government was perceived to be just as vulnerable. To understand what is happening in Iraq it is important to analyse what happened in Syria and why it happened. Soon after public protests began in Egypt, to remove the dictatorship of Hosni Mubarak, scattered incidents appeared in Syria as well. They were uncoordinated at first, but over time they came to be regulated by forces unseen or unheard of. There was a clear global agenda at work and this was a mobilisation of the transnational kind.

Foreign fighters came in droves to Syria to fight what they perceived to be a faithless regime. Since Iran was a backer of the Syrian regime, Arab sheikhs became over active in funding and promoting their proxies in Syria. And these proxies had a clear and announced sectarian agenda. Western countries looked the other way while the Arab kingdoms promoted a distinctly divisive plot in Syria. But to their dismay the country didn’t buckle as they had expected, chiefly because even the majority realised that the option on display was far worse than the problem. So when Syria more or less handled the threat, attention turned to neighbouring Iraq.

The Iraqi government is also perceived to be faithless since it is a Shi’a majority country and that is reflected in its cabinet. The agenda of ISIL is, therefore, rid the region of such governments that it believes are faithless or inspired by the wrong beliefs. It is a clear cut agenda and one that fits in with a larger global goal driven by the same millennial vision. The same is visible in Pakistan with a creeping forward of the jihadis and their latest audacious attacks, whether in Karachi or Peshawar. What is happening in the badlands of Waziristan is of course at a completely different level. The same forces are at play across the border in Afghanistan and as the recent attack on Indian interests in Herat shows they have allies in terror. Which is what makes the current phase of global jihad all that more dangerous and difficult to contain.

Containing the problem is a necessity of such importance that it cannot be overstated. Groups there may be many and scattered, but the unifocal agenda is ultimately the same – the establishment of an Islamic emirate. Whether it is the Jamaat-ud-Dawa in Pakistan, the various strands of Taliban in Afghanistan, or the ISIL splintering Arab societies, they are united in their medievalism. And what propels them further is the relatively easy availability of funds. The ISIL is reported to have seized over a billion dollars and the groups in Afghanistan and Pakistan regularly rake in millions through extortion, illicit trading or simple donations. All of this funding enables the groups to recruit and pay fighters, buy information and most significantly purchase weaponry.

Unless this funding trail is checked this menace cannot be overcome. Just as fish needs water to survive, terrorism and jihad need funds to function. While this fund raising cannot be stopped completely since people will still find ways to transfer illicit wealth, more needs to be done to make recalcitrant regimes accountable for the monies raised in their countries. It is a myth that funds are used only for the area they are raised for. Since the agenda is common and global, monies for jihad have a way of reaching anywhere, just as the menace does.

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Manvendra Singh


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