Who really is ISIS?

November 19, 2015

To understand. The wise say, one would do well to go back to the very beginning of a story….

Before 2003, the borders of Syria and Iraq were stable. Secular Pan Arab nationalism appeared to have triumphed over the ancient forces of tribal enmity and the incendiary religious divide between Sunnis, and Shiites. Different religious communities—Yezidis, Shabaks, Maliki, Al Alewi, Christians, Kaka’is, Shias, and Sunnis—continued to live alongside one another in relative peace and harmony. Iraqis and Syrians had better incomes, education, health systems, and infrastructure, and an apparently more optimistic outlook, than most in the developing world.

Even though sectarianism has always been a powerful solvent that threatened to tear Iraqi society apart – this was in part palliated by the national ideology that ruled Iraq based on the Pan-Arabism first promulgated by Gamel Nasser which legitimized Sunni rule over the majority Shiite.

Outwardly, the ideology of the Baath Party was blind to the divisions of sectarianism – it specifically promoted a cross-sectarian society by leveraging on secular Arab nationalism. For example, millions of Shiites were members of Baath party.

After 2003 when Bush invaded Iraq and installed Ahmed Chalabi as a puppet de facto leader – sectarian violence erupted between Sunni and Shiites. Pandaro’s box had been opened. This resulted in the systematic alienation and marginalization of Sunni’s in post-Saddam Iraq and also inspired the uprising in Syria.

Today, US foreign occupation is over and many Iraqi Sunnis still insist life was much better during the good old days of Sadam – as under the present day sectarian-centric Shiite leadership of Maliki, the Sunni’s have become marginalized from jobs and all opportunities for self determination. A once proud people has been reduced to wander from wadi to wadi like the Palestinians. Many Sunni’s feel short changed and cheated. Above all they feel powerless and naturally they are all very angry with the West who once rolled in with tanks and promised them a better tomorrow which never really materialized.

It is this tsunami of collective sentiment of powerlessness and hopelessness that fuels mass sunnification presently in both Iraq and Syria. This is the nucleas of what, we call ISIS today.

Bombs will solve nothing…if anything in my humble opinion, it will only reinforce failure and history will repeat itself again. Only clever diplomacy to carve a homeland for the Sunni’s can put an end to all this insanity.


‘Recently I was asked by the village elders to use my influence to reason with the world’s greatest troublemaker. Some of them advised me to give him a stern rebuke. Others suggested an ultimatum. Then there were those who demanded that I teach him a lesson. I told them all very plainly that I would do none of these things as I am not a hired gun. Besides it is well known to all that I have taken a solemn vow to renounce evil. I went on to tell these anxious old men. I am only willing to mediate under the laws of the old country – and the rules are clear, they all had to share with me truthfully HOW the world’s greatest troublemaker managed to end up in this corner of the world.

My words were something to the effect – ‘after all, the world is so big…how did the world’s greatest troublemaker end up here? It is truly a mathematical improbability…there must more to this than meets the eye.’

After a long pause when it became very clear to me no one was prepared to share the history of how a perfectly reasonable and sane man was transformed into the world’s greatest troublemaker….I told the village elders brusquely, I don’t have time for this. I got up. The meeting ended abruptly.

Two days later one of the village elders came to me privately and recounted the story of what happened 20 long years ago. The entire village had once conspired to cheat this man by selling him a piece of land that turned into a mosquito infested swamp during the rainy season. Since they had shown him the land only during the dry season – it looked wonderful then. But after purchasing it, it turned out be a nightmare and he had to labor all by himself for many years to make it productive. Somewhere in the struggle. His wife died of malaria. The elder who showed me the grave of the trovulemakers wife murmured to himself – this is our shame and ever since then the man has harbored a great mistrust along with red hot anger for the entire village.

A few days later when the rest of the elders came to see me again – I told them all that they had a moral duty under the ancient laws to right this wrong that they once committed 20 years ago with compound interest. I went on to tell them all, this they could do by offering a handsome parcel of land that next came up, where all of us will not bid for it to keep the price low and reasonable. Those who conspired in this con job would have to subsidize the partial of purchase of these lands from the largesse of the village common fund which they had to pay back with interest. As concession to save face the identities of the ring leaders would never be revealed.

They all agreed because the world’s greatest troublemaker was causing too many incidences of heart attacks and high blood pressure amongst the villagers.

On the day a handsome piece of land was put up for sale. I personally took the grant and visited the world’s greatest troublemaker – I told him plainly in a businesslike manner, I have here bearing an offer of peace from the village…a beautiful piece of land at a reasonable price, partially paid in full as an act of restitution for past crimes.

The man sneered at me. I snapped a chopsticks and held it up as an outstretched hand and asked of him, do you know the language of the old country? He bowed his head apologized and whispered, ‘they have sent a prefect to give me justice.’

There was however one condition and I would only reveal when I showed this man the land. When the troublemaker saw the land, he exclaimed, ‘she is truly a beauty.’ That was when I dug a hole and put my hand on his shoulder and asked him to put all his hatred and bitterness into it. It is a very ancient custom that goes all the way back to the old country – to tell one’s deepest pain to the earth to bear witness and to cover it with a clump of dirt thereafter. Never to ever speak of it thereafter.

The man wailed like a baby as he slowly recounted his sorrowful story into the hole that he had carried like a mill stone around his neck for so many years, while I encouraged him to put it all in and to leave nothing behind.

Thereafter the man who was once bitter, angry and mistrustful was magically reincarnated into a very happy, reasonable and convivial fellow.

They say I am wise beyond my years. But that is only because I heed the advise of the wise. Who once said, if a man truly want to understand a thing…then he must always go back to the very beginning of the story. Never just take and run with a thing, just because someone tells you to do so…understand it for what it is and not what others say it is.’

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