Frontline’s “The Rise of ISIS” (PBS), shown on Tuesday, was a very revealing look at the origins of the terrorist organization, which went from nothing twelve months ago to being the world’s most feared terror group today, a group which has the potential to bring down the West. Although it has its origins in al-Qaeda, it is a far bigger threat. It’s leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is more successful than Osama bin Laden ever was. He spoke recently to the faithful in a mosque in the conquered city of Mosul, something bin-Laden never did.
The birth of ISIS has its origins in the Sunni-Shia conflict, which the US led Coalition failed to understand from Day One of the invasion of Iraq in 2003. In fact, the whole debacle in Iraq and Syria is a classic example of a clash of civilizations, with a great deal of bungling on the western side. Two civilizations clashed – the West and Islam. Neither side understood the other.
Prior to the US invasion, Iraq was led by a ruthless dictator called Saddam Hussein. Saddam was not a religious man and kept the religious extremists under control. Al-Qaeda did not even exist in Iraq under his rule.
The western invasion changed everything – and the consequences are likely to be with us for decades to come.
Saddam was a Sunni, a minority in Iraq, which has a majority Shia population.
The West saw democracy as the solution to everything. I remember an interview with President George W. Bush who, quoting an author, enthusiastically said that the spread of democracy would end all wars. British Prime Minister Tony Blair felt that democracy in Iraq, strategically located in the Middle East, would spread to other countries in the region, ending all the friction that leads to war.
Inevitably, once democracy was imposed on Iraq by the West, the majority Shia came to power, under the leadership of Anwar al-Maliki. This was a major shift in the balance of power in the region, giving Shi’ite Iran much greater influence in the Middle East.
As “Frontline” showed, it was al-Maliki’s paranoia that set the stage for the triumph of ISIS. Only one day after US troops left the country, he turned on leading Sunnis.
Al-Maliki could not embrace the Sunnis in government. Remembering Saddam’s reign of terror, Maliki was fearful of the Sunnis and feared a return to Sunni domination. It soon became clear that he would send Iraq’s army out to crush Sunni opposition, even when peaceful demonstrations were being held.
Al-Qaeda saw an opportunity to get into Iraq and soon had even moderate Sunnis supporting the organization, which was seen as the protector of Sunni Islam in the country. In February this year, ISIS broke away from al-Qaeda, pursuing a more extreme course. ISIS is sustained by the Shi’ite – Sunni conflict in Iraq. It also operates in Syria, where it has a big base.
Many in the West may see ISIS supporters as “mad,” but there is clearly a method in their madness. They have a dream of establishing a Caliphate across the Muslim world. Extremist Islamic terror groups threaten many countries throughout the Middle East and Africa – the dream could be realized. The latest casualty is Egypt. Over thirty Egyptian troops were attacked and killed just a few days ago. The Egyptian president responded by saying that the terrorists threaten the Egyptian state. The border with Gaza is to be more strictly enforced to keep Hamas fighters out of Egypt. The country is the most populous Arab state. If it falls, others will fall, just like dominoes.
Bible prophecy indicates that the entire region will become part of the “king of the south,” mentioned in Daniel 11. “At the time of the end” (v. 40) is the time period for this. The “king of the south” will push (attack?) against the “king of the north” (an alliance of countries to the north of Jerusalem). The king of the north then has to invade the Middle Eastern countries. Egypt is specifically mentioned, suggesting that Egypt will become a part of this extremist caliphate, just as the president warned could happen.
If ISIS is defeated, which seems unlikely at this point in time, the dream of the Caliphate will endure and another group will simply take over, just as ISIS has replaced al-Qaeda as the main threat in the region.