World View: ISIS, Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi Sweep Across Iraq, Capture Tikrit

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

  • ISIS sweeps across Iraq, captures Tikrit
  • The collapse of Iraq's army
  • What next for ISIS and its leader Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi?

ISIS sweeps across Iraq, captures Tikrit

Families in massive traffic jam fleeing Mosul on Tuesday (Reuters)
Families in massive traffic jam fleeing Mosul on Tuesday (Reuters)

Iraqi citizens are panicking as the Islamic Emirate in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) continued its sweep across Iraq on Wednesday, capturing another city, Saddam Hussein's home town Tikrit, the day after capturing Mosul, a city with 1.6 million people.

At the same time, over half a million people have fled their homes in Mosul, either becoming homeless refugees or hoping to be taken in by family members elsewhere. The exodus surged out of concerns that Mosul would quickly run out of food and gasoline and, according to several reports, out of fear that the Baghdad government will begin bombing Mosul, as he bombed cities in Anwar Province earlier.

Iraq's desperate Shia prime minister Nouri al-Maliki appeared on television on Wednesday and ordered all military leaders who deserted their positions to be court-marshalled. He also called on Shia militias to go out and fight the Sunni ISIS. This is essentially a call to sectarian war.

Shia cleric Moqtada al-Sadr whom readers may remember played a prominent role in opposing American forces in 2003 after Saddam Hussein's army had been quickly defeated, responded immediately to al-Maliki's call, saying:

"We’re ready to coordinate with some government entities to set up Al Salam Brigades to defend things that are sacred."

These Shia militias will have to face an ISIS that is an order of magnitude stronger than it was just a week ago, having gained momentum from the successful attacks on several villages and cities and, most important of all, having taken control of more than 200 U.S.-provided armored vehicles and masses of weaponry from stores in Mosul. It would not be unexpected if Iran supplies weapons and fighters to al-Sadr, just as it has to Syria and Hezbollah. Bloomberg and CNN

The collapse of Iraq's army

What astonishes most people is that a lightly armed group of about 1,000 ISIS fighters was able to overrun Mosul. Government forces in Mosul included two army divisions, numbering up to 25,000 soldiers, along with 10,000 federal police officers and some 30,000 local police officers. Amazingly, reports indicate that all of these security officers dropped their weapons and fled, leaving the city open to ISIS.

A lot of this can be explained from generational theory. Iraq's last generational crisis war was the Iran/Iraq war of the 1980s, climaxing in 1988 with Saddam's use of chemical weapons, so Iraq is no in a generational Awakening era. Iraq's army fought brutally at that time, as all armies do during a generational crisis war, and are considered by many to have won the war. However, once the crisis war reaches a climax, people look back at the horrors and atrocities -- the enemy's and their own -- and they vow never to let that happen again. For America after World War II, that's why there was so much revulsion toward the Korean War in the 1950s, and so much opposition to the Vietnam war in the 1960s and 1970s.

So by the time of the 1991 Gulf War, Saddam's troops had little or no fight in them, and they lost quickly. That was still true in the 2003 ground war, and it's true today as the Sunni population has no will to fight against the ISIS invaders. According to several reports, positions in Iraq's army and security forces are among the best paid jobs available in Iraq today, and so many young men get these positions through bribery and corruption, and under the assumption that they won't have to do much fighting.

In the 2004-2008 time frame, I wrote many times about the unwillingness of Iraqis to fight. (See "Iraqi Sunnis are turning against al-Qaeda in Iraq" from April, 2007.) I quoted a letter from Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the Jordanian terrorist who ran the al-Qaeda in Iraq, apparently for Osama bin Laden:

"Jihad here unfortunately [takes the form of] mines planted, rockets launched, and mortars shelling from afar. The Iraqi brothers still prefer safety and returning to the arms of their wives, where nothing frightens them. Sometimes the groups have boasted among themselves that not one of them has been killed or captured. We have told them in our many sessions with them that safety and victory are incompatible, that the tree of triumph and empowerment cannot grow tall and lofty without blood and defiance of death, that the [Islamic] nation cannot live without the aroma of martyrdom and the perfume of fragrant blood spilled on behalf of God, and that people cannot awaken from their stupor unless talk of martyrdom and martyrs fills their days and nights. The matter needs more patience and conviction. [Our] hope in God is great."

One of the most remarkable features of the Iraq war at that time is the there were no Iraqi suicide bombers. Fathers and mothers refused to let their sons become martyrs in this way. As a result, al-Zaquawi had to import young men from Saudi Arabia and Jordan to blow themselves up and become martyrs.

A few years have passed since then, and there's a new generation of Iraqis growing up, with no personal memory of the Iran/Iraq war, but there are still too many survivors around to be willing to risk fighting another war. So the Iraqi people of Mosul simply flee, and the Iraqi soldiers of the army drop their weapons and do the same thing. Al Monitor (Washington) and Bloomberg

What next for ISIS and its leader Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi?

The same war-weary Sunni population that drove the foreign fighters in Al-Qaeda in Iraq out of Anbar Province in 2007 are now completely disillusioned by the contempt directed at them both by the American administration led by Barack Obama, and by the contempt directed at them by the Shia al-Maliki government. The hearts and minds that the George Bush administration had won over to the American side are now willing to join ISIS as their only hope to improve their lives. At least they're unwilling to oppose ISIS.

This gives ISIS's leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi a vision of turning Iraq into a hardline Sunni Islamic state. With the help of old supporters of Saddam Hussein, as well as other young men willing to join the fight, al-Baghdadi has Baghdad in his sights. Saddam was able to govern Iraq and its Shia majority by means of terror and torture, and al-Baghdadi may believe he can do the same. This will be alarming to Iran, which will not sit still and just let it happen. Debka


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