The head of the Center for Strategic Studies "Russia - the Islamic World", writer and publicist Shamil Sultanov, spoke about the origins and organization of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant in an interview with Pravda.Ru.
"How do you assess Obama's program to use Air Force against the Islamist forces on the territories of Iraq and Syria?"
"I think that this is a very interesting and challenging turn in international politics. Barack Obama came to power against the backdrop of the breaking line of the previous course of the US administration in the Middle East. Now the Americans largely return to the ideology, the essence of which lies in the fact that Islamic fundamentalism is a universal threat, around which Iran, Arab and European countries, the United States and others must unite. The only difference is that instead of Al Qaeda the threat is the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant."
"US presidents are very dependent on their parties. Do you think that this step is connected with elections?"
"Yes. You are absolutely right. In November, a third of the Senate will be elected along with the whole House of Representatives and one-third of US governors. Many surveys suggest that Republicans may take control of both the Senate and the House of Representatives. Now they control the Congress. If they take over the Senate, then the remaining two years for Barack Obama, even in a personal sense, will turn into 24 months of quiet suffering, nightmares, political abuse, and so on. Naturally, he does not want this. He feels responsible to the party, to the forces that brought him to power.
"I believe that the next president will be a Republican, a young, aggressive, and very rigidly opposed to Russia and the Islamic world. This will be the person who will have to challenge Putin. Obama was following recommendations. Back when he first became president, General Jones was appointed his national security adviser. I talked to him several times and concluded that Jones was simply recommended by certain people. And Obama could not refuse those recommendations.
"It is America that destroyed all the worst enemies of fundamentalism. Colonel Gaddafi was opposed to fundamentalism, Saddam Hussein was a Baathists, who, despite playing with political Islam, was still strongly against radical Islam. Hosni Mubarak was an opponent of fundamentalism ...
"Fundamentalists strive to revive the Ummah - a human form, a phenomenon, a community, which, in their view, was lost. For them, it is important to return to the basic social form, the Ummah, rather than to a particular type of clothing, hairstyles, rituals, etc. Let's look at current realities. ISIS leaders act by canons of Marxism. Ideology is a process to implement a common cause, which involves millions of people. This is not just a matter of class interests that some ideologues express. This is a mass movement of millions. They formulated the ideology and attracted people. The Islamic State serves as the common cause, which these fundamentalists speak of. They also say that this is the goal for all Muslims. They say to others - come here and build the state with us. Muslims from many countries of the world listen and go there together with their families, their children and they try to revive the Ummah."
"Are there any people from Russia?"
"Yes, the Tatars and the Chechens. Tatarstan is a developed, rich republic, but people traveled to the north-western province of Pakistan, where they began to live by the laws of Islam. Why? One of the main contradictions of the modern world is that people lose the sense of the meaning in life. Many can only say that they live for the sake of children. Why do Muslims go there? A Muslim is convinced that the fate of his children and his own fate is predetermined by the will of God. He, unlike atheists, can not say "I live for the sake of children." Good, satisfied life, oil and other benefits do not mean anything, when it turns out that the amount of money that you have in your pocket, does not define the meaning of your life. Money is a universal equivalent of material being. But at some point, people have to ask themselves - what is it all for?
"The problem is that our modern civilization is a civilization of zombies, a civilization of machines. Muslims and other believers feel this at a much greater extent than atheists. We are dominated by absolute automatism, the wish to copy everything. Young people copy so-called styles, fashions and so on, millionaires copy billionaires, everyone tries to copy everyone. This is universal automatism.
"A human being, if he or she is a believer, an intellectual, has to learn their fate, because their destiny is a unique thing. Ghazali said that the number of ways to Allah equals the number of people. Every person has their own way.
"I'm not defending fundamentalists, although I share some fundamental ideas. Saddam was an atheist. After Saddam lost in 2003, too many people took to the streets. Saddam had nine secret services - a huge number of qualified, highly intelligent professionals. They say that ISIS consists of fundamentalists, supporters of al-Qaeda and so on. ISIS was created by employees of Saddam's secret services. They became disillusioned in their atheism and turned to Islam. The basic designers, creators of the organizational system of the Islamic State were employees of Saddam's party intelligence that was controlling everyone. Then they took part in the fight against the Shiite government of al-Maliki, because they viewed his government as a puppet one.
"When the uprising against Assad began in Syria, those guys thought that it was time to join in and solve the classic problem between Baghdad and Damascus. This is how they found themselves in Syria. Now they control approximately 30 percent of the Syrian territory.
"In ISIS, I see actions of very clever strategists of Saddam's security forces. In contrast to what is happening in Libya, Mali or Niger, they establish relations with the underground Baath party in Iraq. They interact with the Sufis. In Iraq, there is the Naqshbandi army, the largest Sufi order. Thanks to ISIS, the relationship grows stronger. ISIS finances certain military operations."
"And what about Christians? They kick them out. Christians, under Sharia, have a full set of rights and guarantees. Yet, in ISIS, they lose all those rights."
"This is how it works. People come and attempt to establish a new ideology, a new form of state. They have a certain model, three options for Christians. The first one - Christians retain their independence and remain Christians. They only pay a special tax. In Ummah, everything is built on principles of justice. This tax exempts Christians from a variety of other taxes. For example, a Christian pays this tax, but does not pay other taxes that every Muslim pays. The second option - they convert to Islam. The third option - if you do not want to accept anything of the above, you can leave.
"The Islamic State is a very complex phenomenon. There were intelligence services from at least four other countries: Syria, Turkey, the United Kingdom and the United States that took part in its creation. They needed this organization because al-Maliki started acting stubbornly after the April elections. The Islamic State went on the offensive, Mosul was captured, Iraqi troops fled. Baghdad was surrounded, a terrible blow was struck on al-Maliki, and three weeks later he resigned."
"Is al-Maliki an enemy of the United States?"
"Al-Maliki is a protege, a puppet of the United States. Sometimes, though, a puppet may start wagging its master. We know this by the example of Hamid Karzai. Further, various relationships may develop. Sunni tribes of Iraq support ISIS. The main point is that there is an underlying movement, which already has tens or hundreds of thousands of people. And they will act. The Americans may create a coalition of 15-20 countries and they will defeat them, albeit temporarily.
"As a result of air strikes, it is impossible to win absolute victory. They will go up to the mountains, and a long guerrilla war will start. The idea has been planted. This is the idea to return to the Islamic State, the Caliphate, which carries a certain meaning, which the modern world does not have. About 1.5-2 years ago, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant had the population of 10-12 thousand people. Today, this is a 80-85 thousand-strong organization. They have the world's best infantry and best weapons. All secular regimes in the Middle East - from Algeria to Saudi Arabia - tremble with fear."
"Is it a good thing?"
"Yes, it is, because the time of world revolution is drawing near. Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the Emirates call themselves the Islamic State, but then suddenly a fundamentalist Islamic State appears that is directed primarily against them. ISIS has about 10,000 Saudis - they are fundamentalist jihadists from Saudi Arabia. They already say that their prime goal is to topple the rotten and corrupt regime in Saudi Arabia.
"Ultimately, we are entering a very interesting period. This is not a geopolitical or a global economic period - this is an ideological period. Once again, we are entering the period of ideological wars. Religious wars are one of the most acute forms of ideological war. Ideological wars always last till the end.
Interviewed by Sayeed Gafurov
Prepared by Yuri Kondratyev
Read the original in Russian
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