A nation for terrorists

The possible creation of a jihadi state underscores the failure of the West’s foreign policy across the Middle East

Share

A new country is gradually emerging on the map of the world. Its borders are still in flux, and it is unlikely to enjoy much in the way of diplomatic recognition for the foreseeable future. Its capital city has yet to be identified or named. But its polity has already established several distinctive features.

It is homicidally intolerant of any and all who do not subscribe to Wahhabism, the puritanical Saudi strain of Sunni Islam. Its religious adversaries, if captured, may find themselves strung up and crucified, as happened recently in the city of Raqqa, in eastern Syria. Once established as a functioning state, amputations, stonings and beheadings are certain to become regular punishments. The commercial enslavement of girls and women will become commonplace.

This putative new nation we are describing is the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), and it occupies a huge swathe of land between the shores of the Mediterranean and Baghdad. Out of the north of Syria and the east and north-east of Iraq the jihadi fighters of Isil, Jabhat-al-Nusra and other like-minded groups of ultra-violent extremists have carved their own domain.  

There could be endless discussion of the reasons for the emergence of such a dynamic and ferocious force of medieval barbarism out of the crucible of what was fondly called the Arab Spring. The economic might and proselytising zeal of Saudi Arabia and the Gulf monarchies have played a large part in it. The failure of the Ba’athist tyrannies to give their people the rudiments of a decent life and hope for the future, let alone the civilities of democracy, prepared the ground. 

But a heavy share of the blame rests with successive American and British governments.  By going to war against Saddam Hussein on a false premise, the “coalition of the willing” may have destroyed an evil regime – but by pulverising Iraq’s institutions, it fatally damaged the cohesiveness of this flimsy, artificial state and let loose forces which, 10 years on, it has no power to control.

In Syria, by funnelling military aid to “moderate” rebels whom it naively imagined would obey their paymasters’ whims, the West has added to the sophisticated firepower in reach of the fundamentalists, helping them achieve their atavistic goals. In each case, as also in the case of Libya, the West has intervened just enough to displace the existing government but not nearly enough to establish control. At no point did anyone in Washington or London wish to see the Holy Fascists, as they have been dubbed, marching backwards through history to the time of Saladin, but that has been the most conspicuous result of Western policies.      

With his speech at West Point last month, President Obama shows that he gets it, at least in part. “As the Syrian civil war spills across borders,” he said, “the capacity of battle-hardened extremist groups to come after us only increases.”

But even that is only part of it. It is not merely because they pose a terrorist threat to us in our affluent cities that these “battle-hardened extremist groups” are a problem; it’s because they are driving the Middle East back to the Dark Ages, with all the fatal implications of that for Shias, Sufis, Christians and all other minorities. And, in a globalised world, their problems will rapidly become ours.

We will not defeat these forces by ignoring them and hoping they will go away. But how will we defeat them, given that our recent attempts have been so catastrophically counter-productive? It is a debate that needs to begin.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Associate Recrutiment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped OTE: SThree: SThree Group have been well ...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + OTE: SThree: Real Staffing Group is seeking Traine...

Year 6 Teacher (interventions)

£120 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: We have an exciting opportunity...

PMLD Teacher

Competitive: Randstad Education Manchester: SEN Teacher urgently required for ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
President Barack Obama walks with U.S. Secret Service agents to Air Force One at Los Angeles International Airport in Los Angeles, Calif., May 8, 2014.  

Obama's Secret Service has become sloppy with its delusions of Hollywood grandeur

David Usborne
Chancellor George Osborne got a standing ovation from the Tories for a package of tough measures  

The Conservative party would have us believe that the poor deserve to be punished

Andreas Whittam Smith
Ebola outbreak: The children orphaned by the virus – then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection

The children orphaned by Ebola...

... then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection
Pride: Are censors pandering to homophobia?

Are censors pandering to homophobia?

US film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence
The magic of roundabouts

Lords of the rings

Just who are the Roundabout Appreciation Society?
Why do we like making lists?

Notes to self: Why do we like making lists?

Well it was good enough for Ancient Egyptians and Picasso...
Hong Kong protests: A good time to open a new restaurant?

A good time to open a new restaurant in Hong Kong?

As pro-democracy demonstrators hold firm, chef Rowley Leigh, who's in the city to open a new restaurant, says you couldn't hope to meet a nicer bunch
Paris Fashion Week: Karl Lagerfeld leads a feminist riot on 'Boulevard Chanel'

Paris Fashion Week

Lagerfeld leads a feminist riot on 'Boulevard Chanel'
Bruce Chatwin's Wales: One of the finest one-day walks in Britain

Simon Calder discovers Bruce Chatwin's Wales

One of the finest one-day walks you could hope for - in Britain
10 best children's nightwear

10 best children's nightwear

Make sure the kids stay cosy on cooler autumn nights in this selection of pjs, onesies and nighties
Manchester City vs Roma: Five things we learnt from City’s draw at the Etihad

Manchester City vs Roma

Five things we learnt from City’s Champions League draw at the Etihad
Martin Hardy: Mike Ashley must act now and end the Alan Pardew reign

Trouble on the Tyne

Ashley must act now and end Pardew's reign at Newcastle, says Martin Hardy
Isis is an hour from Baghdad, the Iraq army has little chance against it, and air strikes won't help

Isis an hour away from Baghdad -

and with no sign of Iraq army being able to make a successful counter-attack
Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

The exhibition nods to rich and potentially brilliant ideas, but steps back
Last chance to see: Half the world’s animals have disappeared over the last 40 years

Last chance to see...

The Earth’s animal wildlife population has halved in 40 years
So here's why teenagers are always grumpy - and it's not what you think

Truth behind teens' grumpiness

Early school hours mess with their biological clocks
Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?

Hacked photos: the third wave

Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?