by Sam Culper III
Well, most of us knew it was only a matter of time. The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS), an al-Qaida affiliate, made international headlines this week as they took over Mosul and now threaten Baghdad. ISIS, formerly Islamic State of Iraq, was started by a guy named Abu Musab al-Zarqawi (we waxed him during my first tour in 2006) under the name Jama’at al-Tawhid wal-Jihad. Sometime around 2004 or 2005, Zarqawi officially picked up the mantle of al-Qaida and later started the Islamic State of Iraq as an umbrella for several groups, each of which pushed to topple the US-backed Iraqi government, and eventually rid the State of Iraq of all Shia Muslims. That’s important to understand: with al-Qaida support, these groups formed a Sunni coalition to fight and expel Shias from Iraq.
During the days of Saddam Hussein, the Sunni minority repressed the Shia majority in Iraq. But since the rise of Shia politics in democratic elections, that power balance has been inverted. And with that rise of Shia power comes Iranian influence to maintain that new power in the region. It’s been said that the major support of Sunnis in Iraq comes from their Saudi neighbors, and the major support of Shias in Iraq comes from their Iranian neighbors. Boiled down, Iraq is a battlefield for the sectarian supremacy of the Middle East. For the record, I hope they both lose. (Lebanon was primarily a Christian nation until their civil war in the 70s and 80s, during which time the country went to Shi’ite.)