Jake Bilardi was a white Australian teenager who became a suicide bomber with ISIS. Jake left Australia for Syria at the age of 16 after he became a “self-radicalized” Muslim, over the internet. He is one of an estimated ninety Australian citizens fighting with ISIS.
A couple of weeks ago, a great deal of attention was given to three British teenage girls who disappeared, traced eventually to Istanbul and then Syria. A month or so ago, teenage girls from Denver attempted to join ISIS in Syria.
Meanwhile, the BBC World News tonight showed British veterans in Syria fighting against ISIS. According to the report, at least two have died in fighting in recent weeks. All of these men volunteered to go and fight ISIS after hearing of the atrocities committed by the terrorist group. The report also showed other foreign nationals, including an American veteran.
This means that people with British passports are fighting on two sides in the Syrian conflict. As there are more than two sides, it is possible that some are fighting with other groups. The First Lady of Syria is a British born Syrian, married to President Assad, who spent years working in London before returning to Syria to take over as president.
It was also revealed today that South African mercenaries are fighting against Boko Haram in Nigeria. Boko Haram recently pledged its allegiance to ISIS. Both groups are fighting for the self-proclaimed Caliphate under Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.
The above facts show the increasing internationalization of the ISIS/anti-ISIS conflict.
A particularly disturbing report, also on the BBC this evening, was from the Iraqi town of Tikrit, the birthplace of Saddam Hussein. The city is currently a battleground between ISIS forces and anti-ISIS troops of the Iraqi and Iranian governments and Shi-ite militias. The report showed that serious atrocities are being committed by these groups, as bad as anything we’ve seen from ISIS members.
These atrocities should be of great concern to Washington, which is sending more arms to help the Iraqi government. The arms will be accompanied by 3,000 US military personnel who will be giving further training to the Iraqi military.
The presence of Iranian troops is also awkward for the United States. While America and its allies may be grateful in the short term for help against ISIS, long-term the end result is likely to be a stronger and greater Iran. A nuclear Iran will only complicate things further.
The growing internationalization of the conflict is clear and is likely to worsen.