SEEMA MUSTAFA | 27 AUGUST, 2014
Well funded and armed Islamic State militants pose for pictures
2nd in 2 part series
NEW DELHI: A great deal has appeared about the Islamic State in the media across the world with the reports in The Citizen taking into consideration many of the more independent writings on this as well as response from intellectuals in West Asia to put together a basic profile of the militant organisation that is moving ahead despite tremendous factionalism and infighting referred to in the first part of this two part series.
There seems to be considerable exaggeration in the western media about the territory it holds, with big Syrian cities also being mentioned in the 75,000 to 90,000 square kilometres credited to be under IS control. The IS is in control of large tracts of Iraq moving down from the northern Kurdish areas to spread through Iraq, with its militants poised to attack Baghdad at one point in time.
A modus operandi, however, of these militants has been established. The IS is a faction ridden loose coalition of groups and organisations that had been deployed with the backing of the US and western powers to destablise Syria. In short to overthrow the Assad regime behind the cover of Syrian rebel and opposition groups who were soon dwarfed by the criminal gangs operating at the border, the drug lords, the Salafists, the al Qaeda remnants and a host of other groups and organisations who moved to the Syrian borders to avail of the lavish flow of money and arms that was being pumped into the area through friendly governments at the time.
These groups were armed with sophisticated American and other weapons, with reports even then wondering where the weaponry would next be deployed. The coming together of the IS provided the answer, as the groups spread out into Iraq and started their ‘march’ forward from the northern areas of the beleaguered state. The militants used their march through large swathes of territory to one, recruit new ‘soldiers’, two. gather money, and three add to their armouries as it were.
Young volunteers were immediately recruited into the IS army with the militants insisting that their numbers had grown dramatically. There has been little independent corroboration of the figures, except the fact that the militants are well trained, and sufficiently lethal to march through their chosen tracts of land without much opposition.
Money has come from banks, kidnappings and extortion. Western experts insist that IS takes in over two million dollars a day, although again the figures are disputed. Suffice it to say that the Islamic State is not short of money, and has enough to keep its cadres trained, fed and with perhaps sufficient ‘pocket money’ for their needs. The militants are reckless and ruthless as the mass executions have demonstrated over and over again, and prepared to accept money from any source and by any possible methods. Conservative figures assess IS monetary gains at 25 million dollars a year, making this the richest terrorist organisation now in the world, surpassing even the al Qaeda.
Three, the weaponry has only increased as the militants have attacked Iraq military bases, or at least that is what US officials have said at briefings, and gathered caches of arms that range from Stinger Missiles to armoured vehicles to even US helicopters. The militants are supposed to have acquired the last in Mosul that is under their control. Sniper rifles, mortars, heavy machine guns, anti-tank weapons, Humvees etc are all part of the militants arsenal with the US contemplating, but unable to take a decision, to act against what it had created and supported in Syria.
The IS militants seem to have an extraordinary and macabre sense of publicity and have used it to their fullest advantage. Videos and photographs of executions, of their armoury, of their fighters have been taken and disseminated across the world. A hostage negotiator Dr James Alvarez has written in The Telegraph of how “expertly staged” the IS video of British journalist James Foley’s last moments was. The assassin spoke in a “deep, resolute London brogue” adding to the impact of the gruesome incident, and generating the hate and fear that was clearly the IS intent.
The Islamic State has been using the social media to the utmost with Twitter handles and Facebook and Vimeo in particular , along with other channels on the internet, being used to disseminate photographs and videos and its gruesome ideology and statements. Clearly the militants are followed by trained camera persons as part of this media campaign that it is running, with Google and YouTube joining Twitter in trying to erase and block the barrage of video clips and photographs crowding the sites. This points to a well run and coordinated publicity wing of the IS that is clearly regarded as very important by the terrorists for their doctrine of violence to gain ground and strike fear across the world.