It is August the 22nd, 2003.
The marketplace in front of the UN headquarters in Baghdad, Iraq is bustling with activity. It has been just four months since the United States led coalition invaded Iraq, subsequently overthrowing the tyrannical Saddam Hussein. The United States has promised a new and a better future for Iraq. However, it is business as usual for the people of Iraq, as they have experienced everything: From incompetent monarchy, to tyrannical dictatorship.
Suddenly, the people observe a flash of light, and then a huge explosion. The Iraqi capital has just been bombed. With this bombing, an altogether new power has swept into the scene: al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) which will soon be renamed as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. After long years of fighting with the Iraqi government and the Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad, in 2013 ISIS stunned the world when it swept through Iraq’s second largest city of Mosul in 2013. Soon ISIS declared a worldwide caliphate, and named a Muslim Wahhabi fundamentalist, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi as its caliph. ISIS declared the Syrian city of Raqqa as its capital. This was the rise of a new era of terrorism, murder, hate and violence.
ISIS claims religious, political and military authority over all Muslims worldwide. Though ISIS’s doctrines have been widely rejected by Muslims worldwide, the fact is as of 2016, over 6300 foreign fighters are fighting for ISIS in Iraq and Syria. Despite an international fight back, ISIS managed to cling to key territories across Iraq and even expand its hold in neighbouring Syria. Cities quickly toppled from the control of the government. First Raqqa, then Fallujah and finally Mosul was captured, completely putting the government forces on the backfoot.
Perhaps the most startling thing to notice here is that ISIS has actually annexed the territories it has captured. It has formed an actively functioning government and implemented a strict interpretation of the Muslim Sharia law in those territories. ISIS has established its own functioning economy: It operates dams, oil fields, universities and mints. In 2015, ISIS was at the peak of its power, it seemed undefeatable. The crisis not only threatened the borders between Syria and Iraq, but their continued existence as states. The worst of all, the people in ISIS occupied territory in Iraq and Syria had starting losing hope….
On the 27th of June, 2015, the U.S. Secretary of Defense, Ashton Carter, declared in an interview with a newspaper that the U.S. will bomb ISIS “back to the Stone Age”. This symbolised the United States’ stepped up campaign to defeat ISIS in Iraq and Syria. With the U.S. came the United Kingdom, Australia and the others. The airstrikes were intensified. Money was poured into Iraqi and Syrian armed forces by the U.S. and Russia respectively. This was the death-knell for ISIS in Iraq and Syria.
ISIS lost key cities Tabqa, Taji and Tel Afar in quick succession. Though it still retains key strategic cities, ISIS is losing ground in Iraq and Syria. This is why we are seeing ISIS upping the ante in sponsoring terror activities in Europe and the United States. Paris, Nice, Orlando and Munich are all recent examples of ISIS sponsored terror activites. ISIS wants to bring the battle to the West and wants to strike fear into the heart of the common citizen. But ISIS should remember one thing:
“Fear may win sprints, but it is love alone which wins the marathon”
Author – Rajvir Batra