Libya, Syria, Iraq and Gaza are all edging ever further toward the abyss as the cycles of violence, retribution and retaliation worsen, drawing in – as these matters inevitably do – previously unconnected third parties. Egypt, Israel, Turkey, the EU, the USA and Iran are all getting pulled in by forces outside of their control.
The USA and Iran make an unlikely couple in Iraq as they consider how best to co-operate in the fight against the Islamic State (formerly ISIL – Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (al-Sham)) and the newly declared leader of the caliphate Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.
In Syria, Bashar al-Assad was recently sworn in for his third presidential term amidst allegations of barrel bombing of residential neighbourhoods and the use of WMD in the three year old civil war. IS carve out large swathes of territory from the Iraq border deep into Syria and even the UN states that in the unlikely event of an outcome between the warring sides that the nature of the conflict and “the devastating toll will have sown the seeds of future conflict”.
In Gaza, Hamas are feeling threatened by the emergence and presence of IS and similarly Fatah in the West Bank are feeling the influence of the group on their control of “cells” within their organisation. With the commencement of the Israeli ground offensive in Gaza (07.17.2014) the prospect is raised of the first “official” face-off between Israel and IS.
Libya has seen an escalation in fighting over recent months – between the victorious groups / militia’s post-Gaddafi (who significantly outnumber government forces) – to the point where the EU this week declared the evacuation of all its citizens and a potential call for the deployment of international troops. Tripoli airport is damaged to the extent that the Libyan government has declared it unfit for purpose and the fleet will require hundreds of millions of dollars in repairs to make it operational.
Egypt has only recently emerged from a period of serious instability after the Hamas friendly Muslim Brotherhood regime was ousted in favor of Abdel Fattah Saeed Hussein el-Sisi, former Commander-in-Chief of the Egyptian Armed Forces. Egypt’s attempts to broker a Palestinian / Israeli ceasefire in Gaza failed recently and the Egyptian administration is wary of being perceived within Egypt to be negotiating too closely with Hamas due to the latters association with the Muslim Brotherhood. MB has been accused of being Hamas spies while Hamas is a proscribed organisation in Egypt and is constantly attacked in pro-regime Egyptian media for allegedly meddling in Egyptian affairs.
Turkey is threatened by events to the south and across the Black Sea matters in Ukraine crisis grow more grave as it plays surrogate to a Russia-EU-US power play over regional influence and after Russian arms in the hands of East Ukraine rebels allegedly downed a Malaysian Airlines passenger jet in Russia / Ukraine airspace (07.17.2014).
Meanwhile IS have allegedly shown up in Nigeria in talks with Boko Haram, in Afghanistan and release training videos from locations in Uzbekistan and Chechnya. The IS social media campaign has led to a flurry of border activity in the EU and the US as governments there seek to prevent Mujahid recruits from joining the fight and potentially becoming an internal security threat upon their return.
The effects and consequences of this series of conflicts / crises and the emergence of IS are global. Regardless of the attitude to the declaration of the caliphate – it acts as a new departure in how radical Islam organizes and dispels with national and regional politics in favor of an over-arching unifying call to all Muslims in the context of the Mahdi and “end of days” concept.
The ripples are being felt in the EU and the US as disaffected Western men influenced by the increasingly sophisticated recruitment techniques of IS seek to make the trip to join and fight under the IS banner.