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

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

This morning’s key headlines from

  • 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 anothercity, Saddam Hussein’s home town Tikrit, the day after capturingMosul, a city with 1.6 million people.

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

Iraq’s desperate Shia prime minister Nouri al-Maliki appeared ontelevision on Wednesday and ordered all military leaders who desertedtheir positions to be court-marshalled. He also called on Shiamilitias to go out and fight the Sunni ISIS. This is essentially acall to sectarian war.

Shia cleric Moqtada al-Sadr whom readers may remember playeda prominent role in opposing American forces in 2003 afterSaddam Hussein’s army had been quickly defeated, respondedimmediately to al-Maliki’s call, saying:

“We’re ready to coordinate with some governmententities to set up Al Salam Brigades to defend things that aresacred.”

These Shia militias will have to face an ISIS that is an order ofmagnitude stronger than it was just a week ago, having gained momentumfrom the successful attacks on several villages and cities and, mostimportant of all, having taken control of more than 200 U.S.-providedarmored vehicles and masses of weaponry from stores in Mosul. Itwould not be unexpected if Iran supplies weapons and fighters toal-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 about1,000 ISIS fighters was able to overrun Mosul. Government forces inMosul included two army divisions, numbering up to 25,000 soldiers,along with 10,000 federal police officers and some 30,000 local policeofficers. Amazingly, reports indicate that all of these securityofficers dropped their weapons and fled, leaving the city open toISIS.

A lot of this can be explained from generational theory. Iraq’s lastgenerational crisis war was the Iran/Iraq war of the 1980s, climaxingin 1988 with Saddam’s use of chemical weapons, so Iraq is no in agenerational Awakening era. Iraq’s army fought brutally at that time,as all armies do during a generational crisis war, and are consideredby many to have won the war. However, once the crisis war reaches aclimax, people look back at the horrors and atrocities — the enemy’sand their own — and they vow never to let that happen again. ForAmerica after World War II, that’s why there was so much revulsiontoward the Korean War in the 1950s, and so much opposition to theVietnam war in the 1960s and 1970s.

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

In the 2004-2008 time frame, I wrote many times about theunwillingness of Iraqis to fight. (See “Iraqi Sunnis are turning against al-Qaeda in Iraq” fromApril, 2007.) I quoted a letter from Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, theJordanian terrorist who ran the al-Qaeda in Iraq, apparently for Osamabin Laden:

“Jihad here unfortunately [takes the form of] minesplanted, rockets launched, and mortars shelling from afar. TheIraqi brothers still prefer safety and returning to the arms oftheir wives, where nothing frightens them. Sometimes the groupshave boasted among themselves that not one of them has been killedor captured. We have told them in our many sessions with them thatsafety and victory are incompatible, that the tree of triumph andempowerment cannot grow tall and lofty without blood and defianceof death, that the [Islamic] nation cannot live without the aromaof martyrdom and the perfume of fragrant blood spilled on behalfof God, and that people cannot awaken from their stupor unlesstalk of martyrdom and martyrs fills their days and nights. Thematter needs more patience and conviction. [Our] hope in God isgreat.”

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

A few years have passed since then, and there’s a new generation ofIraqis growing up, with no personal memory of the Iran/Iraq war, butthere are still too many survivors around to be willing to riskfighting another war. So the Iraqi people of Mosul simply flee, andthe Iraqi soldiers of the army drop their weapons and do the samething. 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 inAl-Qaeda in Iraq out of Anbar Province in 2007 are now completelydisillusioned by the contempt directed at them both by the Americanadministration led by Barack Obama, and by the contempt directed atthem by the Shia al-Maliki government. The hearts and mindsthat the George Bush administration had won over to the Americanside are now willing to join ISIS as their only hope to improvetheir lives. At least they’re unwilling to oppose ISIS.

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

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