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How the Islamic State Became the Juggernaut It Is Today

How the Islamic State Became the Juggernaut It Is Today

It was
evident that Western governments had entirely
misread the situation in Iraq and Syria. For two
years Iraqi politicians had been warning anybody who
would listen to them that if the civil war in Syria
continued it would destabilise the fragile status
quo in Iraq. When Mosul fell everybody blamed Maliki,
who certainly had a lot to answer for, but the real
cause of the debacle in Iraq was the war across its
border. The revolt of the Syrian Sunni had caused a
similar explosion in Iraq. Maliki had treated the
Sunni provinces like a conquered country, but the
Iraqi Sunni would not have risen again without the
example and encouragement of their Syrian
counterparts. The ascendancy of ISIS that resulted
from its being able to act as the shock troops of a
general Sunni revolt may yet be reversible. But the
offensive they led in the summer of 2014 has likely
ended forever the Shia-dominated state that was
brought into being by the American invasion of 2003.



The fall of
Mosul was only the latest of a series of unpleasant
and unexpected events in the Middle East to catch
the outside world by surprise. The region has always
been treacherous ground for foreign intervention,
but many of the reasons for Western failure to read
the situation in the Middle East are recent and
self-inflicted. The US response to the attacks of
9/11 in 2001 targeted the wrong countries when
Afghanistan and Iraq were identified as the hostile
states whose governments needed to be overthrown.
Meanwhile, the two countries most involved in
supporting al-Qa‘ida and favouring the ideology
behind the attacks, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, were
largely ignored and given a free pass.



Both were
long-standing US allies, and remained so despite
9/11. Saudi Arabia may be now pulling back on its
sponsorship of jihadi fighters in Syria and
elsewhere around the world for fear of blowback in
the kingdom itself. Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz
Sharif may insist that he is doing all he can to rid
the Pakistan security services of their extremist
elements. But until the United States and its allies
in the West recognise that these states are key in
promoting Islamic extremism, little real progress
will be made in the battle to isolate the jihadists.


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