With the continuation of the Syrian war in its third year, there are five factions that are currently fighting in the Syrian war and the factions are the Syrian Government, Syrian opposition, al-Qaeda network and Rojava Kurds. How international community and regional powers are dealing with each faction will contribute to the formation of a new geopolitical map of Syria and the region. Here’s a brief guide to the factions in this conflict:
PART 5 – Islamic State:
Islamic State controls a large geographical areas in Syria and Iraq, and it’s considered to be a major fighting force in both wars in Syria and Iraq. This group has a large number of supporters around the world because of its ideology and military brutality, it is a useful tool for any government that wants to justify its authoritarian policies in the region also there are allegations that Islamic State receives support from regional and global superpowers but there is a little evidence for that.
Islamic State has always shown its true image by committing barbaric atrocities on Muslims and non-Muslims alike including destroying holy places and slaving women. Islamic State group will not be weaken or be destroyed by airstrikes only! There is a need for a more comprehensive strategy, and it must be coordinated by military campaigns in Iraq and Syria.
Islamic State in Iraq and Syria [ISIS] changed its name to the Islamic State [IS] and announced the establishment of a Caliphate, which geographically would include Iraq and Syria, and in theory covers the global Muslim population. They called upon Muslims all over the globe to pledge allegiance to their Caliph Ibrahim Abu Bakr Baghdadi. The establishment of a caliphate has been heavily criticized by Middle Eastern governments and other Islamic organizations.
In the absence of such a strategy, the Syrian government will work to maintain the continuation of Islamic State to weaken the moderate opposition forces. If Islamic State still exists in Syria and Iraq, it will spread to the rest of the Middle East and North Africa. Several extremist groups have been announced in all of Egypt, Libya, Nigeria, Tunisia and elsewhere have sworn loyalty to the group. This dangerous organization must be stopped. However, this must begin in Syria and Iraq.
Islamic State – Jihadist organization in the middle east which is not recognized by no country and no organization in the world, it proclaim itself as a caliphate and it claims to an have religious authority over all Muslims around the globe and encouraging them to travel to live in their controlled land. It is designated as a terrorist organization by many Middle Eastern and western governments like USA, UK, Canada, Australia, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia and United Nation.
Islamic State follows the same Ideology like Al Qaeda which is the Jihadist Ideology and the seeking to establish an Islamic State or Global Caliphate to rule all over the Muslim world and wants to implement an extreme practice of Sharia law.
The number of IS fighters in Syria are around 30,000 fighters most of them are Syrians from Raqqa and Aleppo who got forced to join or they voluntarily joined them for financial or for ideological reasons, in Iraq they have another 15,000 fighters most of IS fighters are Iraqis most of them are from Al Anbar province. But some estimate the number of IS to be high as 50,000 fighters. The group also have many foreigners who are fighting on his ranks most of them are from Europe, Caucasus, China and Arab countries, most of them enter to Syria from Turkish borders. Most of the fighters have the experience in combat since they were fighting in Iraq, Afghanistan and Chechnya.
During the Syrian war the group entered to Syria in 2013, then announced the formation of Islamic State of Iraq and Syria and claimed new areas to its claimed territories which some of them are under Islamic State control and gave them new names like Al Barakah (Hasakah Governorate), Al Kheir (Deir Zour Governorate), Al Badiya (Homs Governorate), Halab (Aleppo Governorate), Damascus (Damascus Governorate), Hama (Hama Governorate), Idlib (Idlib Governorate) and Coast (Latakia Governorate). Raqqah is declared to be the capital of the Islamic State and all those Governorates are called Wilaya which means provinces in Arabic language. Islamic State has also expanded its influence into Libya, Algeria, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Yemen.
Islamic State’s greatest financial success was when they captured the Iraqi city of Mosul in June 2014 alongside other Iraqi Sunni insurgents, they looted £240 million from Mosul central bank and other banks in the city they also stole gold bullions from the banks as well. Later they captured five oilfields which provided them with an extra income of £1.8 million per day with much oil barrels been smuggled across the Iraqi border to Iran and Turkey.
They earn up to $5 million a month from extortion to local business, they also make around $40 million out of kidnappings and taking hostages of important individuals or foreigners which is believed to be worth $3 – 25 million on each hostage.
IS pays a good salary to its fighters compared to other professional armies in the region like Iraqi security forces and Syrian Arab Army. A local fighter [Syrian or Iraqi] gets $400 monthly, a foreign fighter gets $800 monthly and a civil administrator will get $200 monthly, they also offer other financial benefits like $100 for a child and $150 monthly for a wife that also includes a car and a house but this is only foreign fighters.
They use Islamic verses from Quran and Sunnah of the prophet just to justify their brutal actions and the legitimate authority over people they rule but most of the Islamic references are wrongly used and misinterpreted. Islamic State is also known for producing jihadi chants and songs since its creation in 2004 in Iraq when they were fighting US forces and Iraqi Shiite militants.
Islamic State fighters fought intelligently and subtlety also one the tactics which they used is lying, treachery and deception, but the intelligence of IS appears in its military strategy followed by fighting but the strength of this group is not large comparing it to Syrian opposition and Syrian government. They established a strategy which will help them avoid wastage of resources, losses of men and vehicles and to do that they expanded into Syrian opposition territories and stopped fighting with Syrian government forces for nearly a year.
Islamic State achieved this expansion by many malicious methods like sneaking through into the opposition held territory and avoids clashes with strong Syrian opposition groups. Exploit the tolerant psyches of the Syrian opposition and cooperating with small Syrian opposition groups then betraying them by killing them because they are not fighting under the banner of monotheism as they claim.
The general strategy followed by the Islamic State is to occupy Syria and to expand into Syrian opposition areas and to avoid clash with the Syrian government troops because this is the easiest and quickest way for them to gain new territories so they could build their Islamic State which they successfully did. Syrian opposition groups thought that Islamic State would help them by investing its military force on battling Syrian army troops in the Syrian opposition territories but the opposite has happened until 2014 when IS decided to battle against Syrian Army,
The group is headed and run by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, with a cabinet of advisers and ministers. There are two deputy leaders, Abu Muslim al-Turkmani for Iraq and Abu Ali al-Anbari for Syria, and 12 local governors in Iraq and Syria. Beneath the leaders are councils on finance, leadership, military matters, legal matters—including decisions on executions—foreign fighters’ assistance, security, intelligence and media. In addition, a Shura council has the task of ensuring that all decisions made by the governors and councils comply with the group’s interpretation of sharia.