By Roy Murray
One of the suboptimal habits of humans is to compare different things, expect them to behave similarly, and treat them the way we are ‘used to’. So, when the “Islamic State” (IS) debacle began, the world’s intelligences agencies did what they were used to – tracking jihadists back home. Since Al-Qaeda attacked the western home front, IS must have similar ambitions. They attempted to identify the jihadists, tracked their footsteps to the conflict, then they waited back home, ready to pounce on them with decades of counter terrorism experience. The hysteria grew, with ever more resources ploughed into it, augmented by vast media accounts of the threat the “Islamic State” (IS) of Sheikh Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi poses to our ‘home front’.
It became a dangerous addiction which distracted us from the real “neo-terrorism” threat. By tracking Baghdadi’s returning jihadists, the west is effectively acting as his military police, locking up his deserters – after all, jihad is a lifelong adventure. He couldn’t care less. In fact, our actions morphed into a powerful propaganda tool for the ‘terrorist extraordinaire’ – feeding his propaganda narrative that Muslims were being oppressed around the world, and must rise up against their “tyrants” and establish a great Islamic State. Focusing on the home front, The West left him alone in the Middle East, free to stir chaos, establish, and expand his ‘Caliphate’. With just 10,000 of his Jihadists and other allies, he took down vast armies and militias that outnumbered his forces by factors upwards of 10 to 1. He is not some supreme being, neither are his men super human. Rather, he is a manifestation of the “neo-terrorist”. A veteran jihadist, he is also a cunning strategist, who designed his escapades with a powerful knowledge of the present, and a generous imagination of the future. He exploited the enmities between his enemies and preyed on their most damning weaknesses. Further, Baghdadi exploited almost every racial, sectarian, and political fault line in the Middle East and left all his enemies in a predicament. He wrong footed almost everyone, all the while being humble about the limits of his power, rarely embarking on battles where he doesn’t have ‘the edge’.”. Everyone played into his hand, and the current reality is that the different powers of the Middle East no longer have any ‘good’ options. Rather, they have options of varying degrees of ‘badness’, or even catastrophe. All this is at the expense of the local civilians, who are now staring down at an extended sectarian conflict that will condemn the Middle East to decades of poverty, threatening the social and political fabric of the region.