ISIS and the sectarian wars in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon

Hazem al-Amin

Published: Updated:

Responding to the message attributed to Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, in which he asked his followers to be patient and promised them close “conquests”, the US army said that Baghdadi is not an important person anymore and that his organization is in its final stages of defeat, adding that his statements no longer receive much attention in Western security circles.

Politics over ISIS

This response, although it ignores the facts of “a victory over ISIS,” has an extent of realism which one can agree with Washington on. However, we cannot be overly confident here, especially as ISIS was part of a civil war where one sectarian bloc defeated another and there is still the prospect of other groups like ISIS emerging.

In parallel to the American response to Baghdadi, ISIS remains a need for the civil war regimes to manage their crises through it. This became clear following the bloody events that took place in As-Suwayda governorate in Syria. Subjugating local groups still requires using the sectarian card and ISIS is the best excuse for accomplishing such missions. What happened in As-Suwayda is a literal and obvious implementation of this policy.

However, this is not the case in Syria only. The ruling class in Iraq is still confused and is afflicted with corruption and servitude, and this requires an enemy which it can use to recreate itself. “ISIS still exists among us”. This is what many Iraqi officials say. Every now and then, journalists are summoned to cover wars in the desert and the aim of this is to record more victories which conditions, circumstances and developments are unclear. For example, the army says that it raided areas of terrorist hideouts and that these terrorists escaped to Syria.

The war against ISIS in Syria urges its elements to go to Iraq and vice versa. The statements of armies “confronting terrorism” on the borders have strikingly reflected this situation. The fact is that residual elements of ISIS still remain in place. The task of the last phase of the war against the organization is fomenting the regimes of crime, corruption and sectarianism in the eastern crescent of the civil war.

Sectarian regimes

Lebanon has joined those who desire a share in the victory against ISIS. Its security services are broadcasting a statement about a new victory against the organization almost every week. These statements depict Lebanon as an aim which the organization’s emirs in their hideouts dream of reaching one day! The “takfirist enemy” has become a match of the “Zionist enemy” in Lebanese victory speeches which deviate attention from the system of corruption, failure and servitude.

A broad survey of the three ruling systems in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon exposes a scary similarity in the approaches they use to rule their groups – however this does not mean overlooking disparities. Sectarianism and huge and blatant corruption along with dependence on one country or more and the dominance of a false speech claiming victory – and which is powerful and effective – lie at the core of the three systems. Today, we can add ISIS to these elements of similarity. The organization has become a part of the identity of these systems and serves as a factor in each system’s cohesion.

All this does not mean that ISIS has become an illusion and that defeating it has been finalized. It means the complete opposite. ISIS has long been a need amid the civil wars in the region. This need met with other conditions and these all came together when the organization was born and when it infiltrated cities and towns. The civil war condition is still pervades and has even been reinforced by the victory of some groups over others, some sects over others and some tyrannical regimes over their peoples. As for other conditions, it is exactly what ISIS failed in as it has become an enemy of the places affected by the regimes and this facilitated its defeat in some cities and areas.

Today, these people are experiencing a double defeat. They were defeated by the regimes of “war against ISIS” and they were defeated by ISIS. Logic, however, stipulates that this state of defeat will not last long, as other forces will come to invest in it.

This article is also available in Arabic.

Hazem al-Amin is a Lebanese writer and journalist at al-Hayat. He was a field reporter for the newspaper, and covered wars in Lebanon, Afghanistan, Iraq and Gaza. He specialized in reporting on Islamists in Yemen, Jordan, Iraq, Kurdistan and Pakistan, and on Muslim affairs in Europe. He has been described by regional media outlets as one of Lebanon’s most intelligent observers of Arab and Lebanese politics.

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.
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