Available on Amazon. Syria: Refugees and Rebels

Featured

Click the picture to be taken directly to my book on Amazon.

Syria: Refugees and Rebels Book Cover

Syria: Refugees and Rebels Book Cover

My book is 21.6 x 21.6 cm or 8.5 x 8.5 in perfect bound softback with a laminated cover. 102 pages with an introduction of why I went to Syria as well as a brief history of the Syrian Revolution. Images are a combination of Colour and Black and White. The photos are in 3 sections, The Refugees, Life in Aleppo, The Rebels

A little more about the Author and book below:

Book Publicity

Book Publicity

Bank Espirito Santo. Holding company files for creditor protection

Espirito Santo International, the holding company of Portugal’s 2nd largest bank, filed for creditor protection late Friday evening after financial markets closed.

Not to say this will trigger part two of the financial crisis which began in 2007 but it does demonstrate the continued fragility of the global banking system. Saying this, it will be very interesting to see what happens as the threads of debt are unwound. When markets open on Monday I will be watching closely to see the reaction.

UPDATE 22/07/2014

Yesterday I was curious to see how markets would react to the news about Bank Espirito Santo’s holding company. The Portuguese stock market, the PS120, stayed flat, increasing by 0.05%. For now markets seems to be discounting the level of risk. Admittedly, Espirito Santo is not a big bank in relation to the likes of Credit Suisse, its market capitalization is $3.7 billion versus the $44.5 billion of Credit Suisse. The risk is in the fact that there are many banks in the periphery of the Euro-Zone which are equally fragile, when added together the figures will begin to become serious. I just checked the price of Credit Default Swaps for Euro-Zone banks, the cost of insuring against a debtor not being able to pay, and prices for insuring against a bank default in the Euro-Zone are starting to increase again.

This situation is a slow burner but it is inevitable that we are going to see another banking crisis in Europe. I will update this post as the situation develops.

 

Hate rules the world

As a lifelong student of world history, religion, politics, economics and current affairs, I think it has to be said we have reached a point in human history from which there is no return. Wherever we look in the world we see division, selfishness, greed and hate. If one word could demonstrate the nature of the world we live in today then it would have to be the word sociopathic. The political, economic and religious systems that make up this world are all expressing the same sociopathy. By its very nature it is ultimately self destructive.

Consider the current situation in Israel. Hamas launching rockets from Gaza at Israel, so far not doing any real damage, Israel bombarding and killing about 120 people, many of them women and children. There is so much hate on either side, it will never be possible for there to be peace. Attitudes on both sides are so deeply entrenched, they are irreconcilable. Hate fills the air so strongly it could almost be cut with a knife. Politicians on either side have become dehumanized, both seeing the other side as little more than animals to be destroyed.

We see how politicians of so called democratic countries are increasingly polarised, refusing to cooperate for the common good. Society, even in the West has become tribal, no political group working with the other even if there is a good reason, for the reason that working with the other side is seen as almost traitorous. This includes the ordinary people driven by a me first attitude, who are coalescing into increasingly fragmented groups, competing instead of cooperating.

No longer is there any cohesion of society at any level, everything is based on selfishness. When you look at some of the major reasons why empires fall, it is because of such divisions. Today this is happening on a global scale. We have reached the inflexion point, the point at which everything changes.

There is an old expression: United we stand, divided we fall. The more divided human society becomes, the closer it comes to collapsing.

Even if there were some sort of global revolution tomorrow nothing would change. Power would corrupt those who take over and the bad would dominate the good as has always been the case. This quote from ancient times correctly testifies “man has dominated man to his injury”. I don’t think it has ever occurred to the majority of people that we simply don’t have the ability to govern ourselves, all of human history is testament to this. We have tried all forms of government and non of them work. As we can see there is a growing separation between governments and the people they are supposed to be governing. On the other hand people feel that their governments no longer represent them and have taken on a me first attitude as a way of trying to protect themselves. This simply leads to more fragmentation of society. A contributing factor to the downfall of many ancient empires was the breakdown of society. Today, in the “global village”, the effects will be much greater.

Please share if you found this interesting.

Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. Unanswered questions.

Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is without doubt causing a stir in the Sunni muslim world but what do we actually know about him? Not a lot actually, but what has been made public raises certain questions.

Let’s start with what is publicly known about him. He was born in 1971 and went on to research Islamic Studies at PhD level in Baghdad. When the USA and Britain invaded Iraq in 2003 he was still studying and not thought to be part of any militant group. By late 2005 however, he was captured on suspicion of being a mid-ranking figure in the Sunni insurgency against US and British forces. While in detention he was described as being inconspicuous, bad but not one of the worst and generally a nobody. He was released in 2009. Until very recently there were only two pictures of him in the public domain, then suddenly he appeared in public to give a sermon at a major mosque in Mosul. While the video of him speaking is still to be verified, most analysts believe it is the real thing. Finally there is the claim, yet to be challenged, that he is a direct descendent of the prophet Muhammad.

What permitted Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi to go from being a middle ranking, inconspicuous figure with no real stand out qualities to being the head of an organization, which is not only totally ruthless against those who oppose it but also highly effective at the practicalities of governing, running utilities, schools, hospitals and other social services? ISI before it became ISIS was a part of Al Qaeda. Al Qaeda while well funded, have never been able to demonstrate this level of efficiency of organization, to put it simply it isn’t part of Arab culture to operate in this way. Where does this ability come from?

I have always maintained that Iran is supporting ISIS as a way of creating chaos in the Sunni muslim world. As yet the Shia dominated south-east of Iraq has been almost untouched by ISIS, which is unusual considering how much ISIS hate the Shia. But there is another avenue which could also be worth considering. When Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was captured by American forces in 2005 he was basically a nobody with no major ambitions. Could it be that he was turned? Not only turned but given training and support in the period leading up to his becoming leader of ISI as it was then known. Until making his face publicly known at the mosque in Mosul he has always kept his face hidden, very few in ISIS had any idea of what he looked like as the two pictures of him were several years old and only released at the beginning of this year. Under these circumstances it would have been relatively easy for him to travel and meet people without being recognized.

Why would I think such a thing could be possible. To do that we need to look at the current situation. The USA is refusing to be drawn back into the Middle East, starting with Syria it has refused to take action despite being warned that by so doing the growth of extremism and terrorism would be inevitable. It seems this has been the plan for a while, by allowing the growth of ISIS a new balance of power between Sunni/Shia is created in the Middle East. Actually balance is the wrong word, what is being created are the conditions for permanent fighting between different groups in the regions with no group supposedly strong enough to win an outright victory. This is the “balance” which will arise from the situation. At the same time it could well be that Iran and the USA have a tacit agreement for it to take over as the dominant power in the Middle East. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) has been sidelined to a certain extent by the USA forcing it into a situation where it is trying to improve its relations with Iran as a way of protecting itself from tsunami of chaos which is threatening to engulf the region. Now that KSA knows America won’t come riding to the rescue, it is being pushed into making new alliances, including with Israel, as can be seen from the way Israel, Jordan and KSA have been collaborating regarding Syria.

I would suggest that Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is little more than an instrument being used to create chaos. This chaos has the possibility to weaken many governments and countries in the region. A chaos which is only just beginning. While the vast majority of mainstream muslims and scholars mock the claim to be Caliph by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi it does not take into account thoughts of millions of young muslims, mostly men but also women, not only in the region but around the world. Many of them feel disenfranchised, ignored by their governments, having limited education and employment possibilities. For them, the ideology of an Islamic State is very attractive, to this they will be looking as a way of finding an identity. You can be sure that at this moment many young muslim men and women are seriously considering going to Iraq, that quiet conversations are happening in mosques all around the world. There is evidence to suggest ISIS is financially helping those who want to join the Jihad in Syria/Iraq. These networks are often connected to mosques as certain individuals use them to identify those who can be convinced to join Jihad. It is extreme but considering the danger posed by the threat of international terrorism, ironically allowed to develop by the USA, the best way to counteract this threat would be to close all mosques around the world for a period of time. Could it ever happen? Expect the unexpected.

Please share if you found this article interesting.

ISIS and Islamic State

ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) has chosen an interesting time to declare that it is now simply called “Islamic State”, covering the territory it holds in Syria and Iraq. Its leader Abu Bakr Al Baghdadi has been declared Caliph of the new Islamic Caliphate.

Abubakar Al Baghdadi

Abubakar Al Baghdadi. Leader of ISIS

That this has happened so soon after the beginning of Ramadan, a time most holy to Muslims, when many go on Haj, that is go on pilgrimage to Mecca, has several implications. The first is that by declaring the Caliphate with Baghdadi as Caliph, they are saying that only they have the authority from Allah to say what can and can not be done. This is a direct challenge to the authority of Saudi Arabia, which took on the role of leader of the Muslim world after the fall of the Ottoman empire. Because the area held by ISIS is transnational, covering parts of Syria and Iraq, they believe they are on the way to rebuilding the Muslim empire of old, which stretched from the Mediterranean to the Persian Gulf. With this declaration, Sunni Muslims are being asked to decide where they stand. If they don’t side with ISIS, they will be seen as traitors and enemies of the Muslim faith, wherever they are. The declaration of “Islamic State” at this time acts as a clarion call to many young Muslims who have long been searching for an identity and a cause. That it has happened at Ramadan will encourage many more to join the cause. It has been reported that many Muslim families in Europe are extremely worried about the seductive effect of ISIS propaganda on their young men. To the point that some will not allow their sons out of sight for fear they will run away to join ISIS. Another question has to be asked, who gives them the money to travel? There must already be a large underground organization in Europe which helps them get away and join ISIS.

Another effect of the declaration of “Islamic State” is to force other Jihadist groups to decide where they stand. In particular this is aimed at Al Qaeda and its supporters. It is being given a choice to join with ISIS or to be seen as heretical, worthy of destruction. ISIS obviously feel they can take on Al Qaeda if need be, they certainly are not short of money, weapons and infrastructure. In fact this is one of the curious things about ISIS, its level of organization and bureaucracy, it has been established that central control of even the tiniest details is very important to the running of the organization. They demand receipts for even the smallest expenses. Why is this interesting? Arab culture does not place much importance on the idea of institutions and deep organisation, yet here we have ISIS very quickly organizing not only the running of a war down to the last detail but also the running of their ‘Islamic State’. While they are known principally for being very bloodthirsty and ruthless in battle and the application of their version of Sharia, (there are several versions), they have also been very quick to manage the practical realities of running towns and cities, the schools, hospitals and social services etc. This is another reason why I do not believe ISIS is being backed by an Arab country such as Saudi Arabia, culturally it would not be something they could get organized in such a short time. One has to ask the question, which country or countries benefit from there being chaos in the Sunni Muslim world and also know(s) how to set up and run institutions along with the bureaucracy needed to manage those institutions? I leave that for you to ponder.

As it is now Ramadan, you can expect to see an increase in the level of fighting, part of the reason for this is due to the fact that ISIS fighters believe that if they are killed fighting in the name of Allah during this period they will be extra blessed in heaven. A fighter in Syria once told me that one time he was fighting alongside a another fighter from Jabhat al Nusra against a Syrian army position. It was Ramadan, the fighter from Al Nusra was shot but his radio stopped the bullet, I think most people would be happy to have a lucky escape, not this Al Nusra fighter, he was sad and felt he must have done something to offend Allah that he didn’t let him die during Ramadan. This is the mentality of ISIS fighters, not only are they very well trained and battle hardened, they are virtually unstoppable. The desire to meet Allah during Ramadan can only mean one thing. If you think ISIS have been pushing hard in Iraq so far, it is nothing compared to what is coming in the next days and weeks.

ISIS has a hard fight on its hands, at the moment it is collaborating with ex members of Saddam Hussein’s regime as well as certain tribal leaders. After he fell and the Sunni lost power in Iraq these Ba’ath party supporters melted away waiting for the right time to show themselves again, A lot of these are ex Republican Guard, those who have experience of fighting in the Iran-Iraq war, tough fighters. They see the situation in Iraq now as an opportunity to re-establish the Sunni Ba’ath party in Baghdad. So for the moment they are collaborating with ISIS. However, it won’t last, ideologically ISIS and the Ba’athists are totally different. It will lead to internecine war in Iraq. Add Al Qaeda into the equation, which is unlikely to accept the spiritual leadership of ISIS and what is brewing is something that could make even the situation in Syria look better compared to Iraq.

Talking of Syria, members of Jabhat Al Nusra are joining ISIS, even with all their funding from Saudi Arabia they know they can’t defeat ISIS as it consolidates its hold in the north and east of the country. Saying this, it could be that Al Qaeda will open up new fronts against ISIS in Syria. As for the moderate rebels, whose revolution has been hijacked, honestly they don’t stand a chance. In the areas held by ISIS they are too weak, fragmented and under resourced. President Obama stating he now wants to aid moderates with $550 million of weapons and equipment is simply words, too little and far too late to do anything about reducing the power of ISIS in the north and east of Syria. In the south it will only help the moderate rebels to secure territory in Syria along the borders of Israel and Jordan, a buffer zone against ISIS.

While the foot soldiers of ISIS really believe that they are helping to create an “Islamic State”, Baghdadi and the country(s) that back him know that the only result will be perpetual war in Sunni regions of the Middle East, no one side, ISIS, Ba’athists or Al Qaeda will be able to win an outright victory. It seems the intention all along is to create a conflagration in the Middle East as fundamentalists, not only Muslim, want to try and bring about the “End of Days”

Please share if you found this article interesting.

 

 

The growth of ISIS

Thanks to ISIS or ISIL or Daash as it is also known, the Middle East is in the process of descending into chaos. The USA was warned last year that the growth of ISIS in Syria would lead to a regional conflict, the warning it appears, fell on deaf ears. The result of the growth of ISIS has led to a situation which is only just starting.

As ISIS becomes stronger, it is attracting more and more support from disenfranchised Sunni muslims. How can that be? It is after all a very ruthless and bloody organization. The simple fact is this, if you are loyal to them, they are loyal to you and will look after you. There are many poor Sunni muslims who feel betrayed by their governments, in Syria, Iraq, Jordan and Saudi Arabia, if you belong to the right tribe or family then you will have a host of economic advantages and opportunities for education, the rest are left to make a living as best they can. These disenfranchised Sunni muslims see what ISIS is doing as an opportunity to change the status quo, to rebalance and redistribute opportunities to those who follow ISIS. Its ambitions are supranational and do not stop at just Syria and Iraq. Many poor Sunni muslims in the entire region are putting their doubts about ISIS to one side if they feel there is the chance it can bring down those governments which ignore so many of the population.

I stand by my opinion, which I wrote about here, that ISIS is ultimately funded by Iran as an instrument of chaos in the Sunni world. Many commentators say it must be Saudi Arabia which is funding ISIS but honestly I don’t see the advantage for them to do this, Saudi is just as worried as its neighbours and is in the process of trying to improve relations with Iran, it knows it will need Iran’s support in the not so distant future as the USA can no longer be relied upon to assist in the Middle East. ISIS is against all Sunni who don’t support it, an example of this is how in Syria it spends more time fighting against moderate Syrian rebels than against the Syrian army of the Alawite/Shia government of Bashar al Assad.

Due to the supranational nature of ISIS and the support it is receiving, it seems a time is coming when many poor Sunni muslims will be drawn to it. What we could be seeing is the start of a revolution spanning many countries but under one banner, a larger scale version of both the French and Bolshevik revolutions. A situation where the ‘Haves’ and ‘Have nots’ of the Sunni world go to war against each other.

This should terrify governments all over the world, with the squeezing and shrinking of the middle classes in many countries around the world,  there is potential for what is developing in the Middle East to happen globally. In the Middle East it will happen in the name of religion but the underlying principles apply everywhere. If the situation in the Middle East continues as I think it will, imagine the impact on oil prices and the global economy. What would happen if such a revolution were to succeed in the Middle East? Might not people of other countries follow suit as the impact on the global economy global shatters lives and security on a much larger scale than happened in the financial crisis of 2007 or the Great Depression of the 1930′s.

It is now one hundred years since the assassination of Duke Ferdinand in Sarajevo, which rapidly led to the start of the First World War. Today, the global economy is very fragile, many countries are competing to increase their spheres of influence, nationalism is on the rise, the middle classes are being squeezed from all sides. We are living in a global tinderbox, it only needs a small spark to set it alight, as did those 2 shots fired on 28 June 1914.

Please share if you found this article interesting.

Today is World Refugee Day

There are now as many refugees in the world as at any time during the Second World War. The number of refugees worldwide has now reached some 50 million, more than the entire population of many countries.Refugees are a symptom of a failed global political system which allows the wars and oppression that create the problem.

The United Nations in particular has failed miserably in its mandate of maintaining international “peace and security”. Why? Because the countries it consists of are more interested in their political and power games than in people.

The way things are going, the global refugee crisis is going to get worse not better. The political system is not going to resolve the situation because it is at the heart of the problem, eating away like cancer.

For the moment, this is going to continue so we need to think about our fellow human beings and how we can help those who have been forced to flee their countries. Donate something to a charity that focuses on helping refugees, every penny counts but I would avoid giving anything to a United Nations organization, they waste too much money, very little reaches the people who really need it.

These are people we are talking about, what has happened to them can happen much closer to home too. Remember what happened after hurricane Katrina? Who is to say something like this won’t happen again. It is about time we start thinking about people as humans, rather than what group they belong to. Remember, we are all part of the Human Race.

As an aside, China Youth Daily, one of the biggest newspapers in China have run a feature today for World Refugee Day. I was privileged to be able to contribute to it with my experience in Syria. Here is a link to the Google Translate version in English of the article

China Youth Daily

China Youth Daily, my contribution to them for World Refugee Day

 

Coming Soon. Video Interview with Syrian Revolutionary and Ex Fighter

Soon I will publish an interview with a Syrian who was deep inside, he fought against both the Syrian government as well as ISIS as the leader of his own brigade in Menbij in northern Syria as well as being very active at the political level in Menbij. We need to protect his identity but he was happy to talk to me. He is very candid about his role as well as his experience of how ISIS seems to be working with the Syrian government. He also explains how many Free Syrian Army brigades are controlled by foreign countries. In the end he quit the fight and explains why. There is about an hour of video to go through and edit as well as clean up the sound. I’m a photographer more than a videographer so please be a little patient with my work. Video interview coming soon, watch this space.

Interview with a Syria rebel

Interview with a Syrian rebel

ISIS in Iraq and Syria. Who is it good for?

I know that many will disagree with what I am about to write here but I want to give you another point of view to think about. When you dig under the surface of what ISIS is doing you will see it is of huge benefit to certain countries.

When I talk to contacts in the middle east, all come to the conclusion that Iran is behind the incredible growth and expansion of ISIS. Kurdish media also agrees that it has Iranian backing (Kurdish News Article in English)

ISIS began their expansion in Syria, mostly in the north and east of the country. When the Free Syrian Army fought back against them in the winter, many ISIS fighters ran for cover in Syrian regime held areas before they were able to fight back and regain lost territory. Also, what is interesting is the fact that ISIS are not trying to push towards Damascus, rather they are trying to take over territory held by the FSA. They also paint their headquarters with their colours and have huge flags waving above, yet not once have they been bombarded by the Syrian airforce. So many of my contacts in Syria have told me about this. There is a lot of circumstantial evidence coming from the modus operandi of ISIS, that it is working in collaboration with the Syrian government, which itself is backed by Iran. If ISIS is collaborating with Bashar al Assad and Iran is his main supporter then there must be a connection, ISIS have to get their funding from somewhere and Saudi Arabia will not support a group which is helping Assad.

The we come to Iraq. The Shia majority government of Nouri Maliki is known to have very close ties to Iran. The last few years have been spent buying the latest military hardware from the USA so that it could defend itself after the US army fully withdrew. On paper it has, or should I now say had, a standing army of about 900,000, yet when fewer than 10,000 ISIS fighters advanced on Mosul, the second city of Iraq, they fled, leaving behind all their equipment and bases. They didn’t even try to resist, despite the huge advantage in numbers and weapons. Then at this time of crisis the government couldn’t even get enough votes to declare an official state of emergency. Neither did they ask the Kurds to send their well armed and experienced Peshmerga forces to help. Everything about this is suspicious. Considering how close Maliki is to Iran could it be that it was all a plan, a way of being able to arm ISIS with all the latest military hardware?

But why would Iran, which is Shia, help an extremist Sunni group? The answer is simple, to create havoc and chaos in Sunni dominated areas. Over time you will see that ISIS will not concentrate on trying to capture Shia areas. Baghdad is mixed between Sunni and Shia so they may try to take it but it is unlikely. However, the south-east of Iraq is by far majority Shia, I will be very surprised if they try to push into this part of the country. It will give a further strong indication that they are working with Iran.

Of course, to keep up appearances, Iran will make a show of helping Iraq to resist ISIS but it is more likely that Iraqi Sunni militias will be created from the remains of the army and other groups. It will end up similar to Syria, where the FSA while fighting the government, is also spending a lot of time trying to fight back against ISIS. The entire region will descend into a state of perpetual conflict, with only the Shia areas of Iraq remaining quiet. This is what Iran wants. The danger of using a proxy such as ISIS is that you have to keep control of it. Has Iran got ISIS on a short enough leash? Time will tell.

The question that comes to my mind is why has this happened now? The simple answer is oil, or rather the price of oil. Over the last year, oil has spent a lot of time below $110 per barrel often closer to $105. The chaos created by ISIS has pushed the price up to $113 at the moment. Iran and Russia are very close, Russia has been using a lot of its cash reserves to prop up its banking system as capital flight increases, people and businesses are taking their money out of Russia. Oil and gas are the main sources of income for the Russian economy but it needs a price of about $117 per barrel to have enough to top up its cash reserves and keep the economy going. Could it be that Iran has arranged events in Iraq to help its closest ally Russia? Of course this helps all oil-producing countries but the main benefactor is Russia, it is desperate for cash and the events in Iraq could not have come at a better time. Iran also benefits greatly, the war in Syria has cost it a fortune as it supports Bashar al Assad, extra money is always needed. Of course Saudi Arabia also benefits but they already have a mountain of cash, the increased income while welcome will not really change anything for them.

As I said in my previous post, Saudi Arabia is attempting to improve relations with Iran. It can see the coming tsunami of chaos which is about to engulf the region, I think it finally understands that Iran has the upper hand in what is going on. As a result I think we will see a deal between Saudi Arabia and Iran with regards to Syria, they will settle on a division of the country. In return Saudi will get assurances that ISIS will not invade, this has to be one of their greatest fears. ISIS could make havoc, especially as it now has a huge amount of modern American made military hardware. This all depends on Iran maintaining control over ISIS, if it loses control then all bets are off.

Extreme Islamist group ISIS go from strength to strength, for the moment

The Islamic State of Iraq and Al-Sham (ISIS) had a huge win a couple of days ago. They were able to enter with out opposition, the Iraqi city of Mosul. Such is their fearsome reputation that the Iraqi army there abandoned everything and fled, leaving behind all their equipment, weapons and uniforms. Tens of thousands of Mosul residents, mostly Sunni, have fled and continue to flee the city to nearby Kurdish controlled areas.

This is a major win for ISIS. Under the strict control and command of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, what started as a small splinter group after its ejection from Al Qaeda for being too bloodthirsty even for them, has grown over the last 2 years into a well-organized, trained and equipped army. The capture of Mosul extends their area of control and influence that holds in its deadly embrace large areas of both Syria and Iraq. See map graphic below.

ISIS territory

ISIS territory. Link to map source here

It is interesting that ISIS were allowed to develop in strength in Syria by Bashar al Assad. He wanted the civil war to become sectarian and helped them to grow. In this he has been very successful, however in so doing he allowed, for want of better words, a monster to develop. ISIS is causing worry in many countries in the middle east. This is why in Syria both Jordan and Israel are helping the Free Syrian Army (FSA) to create buffer zones along their borders, ISIS has intentions to take over most if not all Syria and many governments have finally woken up to the fact that their political games have led directly to the situation which exists today. Now on the doorstep of Europe is a very strong Islamic fighting force which is going to be hard to resist.

It is difficult to see how Iraq will be able to deal with the situation. Although it has a large well equipped army of 900,000 soldiers, most of those are patronage jobs, they are there for the money and not because they want to fight. Add to this, the fact they have very little training in guerrilla warfare, which is the modus operandi of ISIS, and one has to consider the real possibility that ISIS will make further large gains in the country. It could be that the Kurds will send Peshmerga fighting units to fight ISIS in Iraq, they have a lot of experience in asymmetric warfare and will want to protect their regional capital of Arbil against any possible threat.

This will not be the type of war where you can send in the air force to strike at well-defined targets, ISIS operate very much in a hit and run style, they are very good at disappearing while at the same time holding control. They really have become masters of psychological warfare as demonstrated by the huge exodus from Mosul by both the army and civilians. They are known as heartless butchers and their reputation precedes them wherever they  go.

Looking at what their ultimate goals might be could also give a possible explanation for other developments in the middle east. ISIS believe they have a god given mission to set up an Islamic caliphate, one that would rule very harshly based on their narrow understanding of Islam. This religious caliphate would ultimately need to have Muslim holy sites such as Mecca at its centre. With rapid growth in strength and territory of ISIS over the last 2 years and with no sign of them slowing down, Saudi Arabia must be starting to worry that they will come into the cross-hairs. Saudi Arabia has a well equipped army but to be honest has no fighting experience and most of its commanders wouldn’t have a clue how to defend the country as many have the job as a result of royal patronage, to be honest they are not up to the job. ISIS would see the country as a soft target. This could also explain why Saudi Arabia has recently been making peaceful overtures towards Iran. Iran is possibly the only country in the middle east which can deal with ISIS. There are many in Saudi who are totally against any rapprochement with Iran, for them it is their biggest enemy mainly because the Shia Muslims of Iran and the Sunni Muslims of Saudi see each other as religious heretics. The new Saudi Crown Prince Salman bin Abdulaziz al-Saud is a contentious figure among the Saudi royal family because he is willing to talk to Iran, publicly many members of the family are against him because they say his is not a legitimate heir but privately it must also be due to his stance on Iran. However they can’t say this too loudly as the ageing King also backs better ties with Iran and he could cut off the funds of many royals if they were to jeopardise his wish for better ties. The problem is that many don’t realize the threat ISIS could pose to their comfortable existence, few have ever done any real work, they simply live off the oil wealth of the country, out of touch with reality.

The main sticking point in Saudi/Iran relations is their support for opposing sides in Syria. Iran supports the government of Bashar al Assad, it has committed huge resources in what is a very expensive war, not only financial but also in manpower. Saudi Arabia supports the Sunni revolt, Sunni are the majority of the population but with nearly half the population now displaced the Sunni majority is greatly reduced. The fact that ISIS is a rapidly growing problem in Syria and Iraq could lead to the 2 countries making some sort of compromise in Syria so that they can confront ISIS together. You can be sure Iran does not want to see Mecca in the hands of ISIS any more than Saudi Arabia does.

This situation also plays into the hands of Iran, if Iran is to lead the fight back against ISIS then it will also expect to be recognised as the leading power in the middle east, which has been its intention all along, its hegemonic ambitions are hardly a secret. Could it be that Iran secretly supported ISIS even though it is Sunni? Bashar al Assad has certainly done so in Syria and he is backed by Iran. Once a deal is done between Saudi Arabia and Iran over Syria this could be the moment Iran steps in to confine ISIS in the areas it generally holds now, both in Syria and Iraq. Saudi will be forced to accept Iran as the dominant power in the middle east. With ISIS being so close to the Turkish border it could also be the moment that Turkey steps in the create a buffer zone in northern Syria probably working in conjunction with the Kurds with whom it now has a better relationship. In Syria, this will leave areas of permanent warfare in the north and centre of the country between Syrian rebel militias and ISIS. In the south and east of Syria there is bound to come a time when the rebels know they can’t advance any further towards Damascus, it is too well supported by Iran and Russia so will settle for a semi autonomous area buffering Israel and Jordan and supported by those 2 countries against any threat from ISIS. Bashar al Assad will be weakened but still in power which will suit Israel perfectly. Syria will be divided.

As for Iraq, ISIS will hold power in certain Sunni dominated areas which is going to create yet another enormous refugee crisis. I wonder if ISIS realise how much of a pawn they are in this bloody game of chess. It will certainly resist any attempts at confinement. I’m sure the eventual plan is to reduce its power, which will lead to all sorts of other complications, there are always consequences. For the moment ISIS is being allowed to go from strength to strength as part of the bloody games being played in the middle east.