HTS 2041: The Modern Middle East

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Signs of the Apocalypse?

As ISIS grows, so does its pool of enemies. It has formed enemies with the West, with Europe, and with many countries in the Middle East. It has formed enemies with Christians, Kurds, Shia, and other Sunnis. ISIS is even at war with Al Qaeda. The big question that comes up here is why? Why is it that ISIS is continuing to form so many enemies? Why does ISIS continue to probe enemy action all over, especially in the West?

In just the past few months, we have seen countless videos containing brutal murders, be-headings, crucifixions, shootings, rape and enslavement of women, etc. of ISIS enemies. What also seems disturbing is that these videos are published and promoted by ISIS. As Peter Bergen of CNN described in his document ‘Why does ISIS keep making enemies?’: “…The Nazis… went to great lengths to hide their crimes against humanity. Instead, ISIS posts its many crimes on social media for global distribution with seemingly no thoughts for the consequences.” So, why does ISIS not bother with trying to hide the fact that they are causing such heinous crimes throughout the world? It is common knowledge that their actions are mostly religiously driven. What lacks is an understanding of what their actual religious beliefs are, and further studies of their ideals could help bring about possible solutions.

A possible answer behind their religious motivation can be found in the recent seventh issue of the ‘Dabiq’, an online magazine used by ISIS to recruit new members. Below are two pictures from the magazine. The first is of the seventh issue, which was released within the past week. The second is a picture of the kind of propaganda that is used in these magazines to recruit individuals to join ISIS. As you can see, ISIS utilizes vivid colors, pictures, and slogans to recruit new members to join their ranks.

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The seventh issue describes the ideology of ISIS as one of an “apocalyptic cult”, where we are all nearing the end of the world (we can see this linkage to Sufi Islam), and ISIS is awaiting its coming. It describes that there will be a final battle between Islam and “Rome” (mainly the West, Christians), and it will take place in Dabiq, Syria (the magazine name itself describes the importance of this ideology for ISIS). The ideology is clear that one is either with ISIS or against them. So, anyone who stands in the way of ISIS is wrong and should suffer accordingly. However, for the prophecy to come true, the West would have to come to Dabiq. A masked British man from several ISIS videos, known as ‘Jihadi John’ had this to say after the murder of Peter Kassig, an American aid worker, “We bury the first crusader in Dabiq, eagerly waiting for the rest of your armies to arrive.” So, at this point, it seems that ISIS is probing at the West and just waiting for the “Hour” to approach.

So, the bottom line is, what can be done using this information? How do we combat this kind of ideology? Do we give-in to their apocalyptic views and attack where it is needed, or do we stay as far away as possible? How do we avoid feeding the situation, and is there a way not to? It seems that if we sit still and let things play out, ISIS will continue to probe the West, in order to fulfill their prophecy. If this is truly what they believe, they will not stop with the terrible crimes until they get what they want, which is a final battle. I think, that by all means, we should try to do all we can to not let this situation escalate to this final point. If anything, the best the West can do would be to strengthen governments within the Middle East, as we already are trying to do, to wipe out the enemy so that we can have as little direct involvement as possible. However, if it does escalate to that point, the West would have to do something about it. They would have to get involved by force. ISIS is known to not be a very rational group, and only listens to violence. So, it seems that this may be the only way to combat this situation. But again, would this just be adding fuel to flame?

As more issues of the Dabiq are released, we hopefully will get more insight into the minds of the leaders of ISIS. Ultimately, this may be the best way to combat them—analyzing their thoughts and strategically planning from that. It will be very interesting to see what other information they will release to the general public, and if that information could be used to make sense of those acting in accord with an irrational ideology.

Resources and More Information:

http://www.cnn.com/2015/02/16/opinion/bergen-isis-enemies/index.html
http://myfox8.com/2014/09/02/motives-behind-islamic-extremist-groups/

http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2014/09/16/the-apocalyptic-magazine-the-islamic-state-uses-to-recruit-and-radicalize-foreigners/

http://www.jamestown.org/programs/tm/single/tx_ttnews%5Btt_news%5D=42702&cHash=0efbd71af77fb92c064b9403dc8ea838#.VORR7PnF-So

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/belief/2014/oct/10/islamic-state-dabiq-important-not-end-of-the-world

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19 Comments

  1. missypittard says:

    It seems world leaders are finally realizing the first step in combating the Islamic State. To defeat ISIS, they must first understand ISIS.

    ISIS is first an foremost an ISLAMIC organization. They are living their religion by the book, an ideology that has been coined as “Prophetic ideology.”They have brought medieval tradition smack into modern day, slavery, beheading, and all.

    ISIS’s propensity for enemy creation is no surprise. They see themselves as purging the world clean. It does not take much to be on their hit list. Roughly 200 million Shia Muslims are marked for death simply because their practices are not based in the Qur’an, along with anyone else who has elevated any man made law above laws made by God (sharia).

    A deep understanding of ISIS, what makes it different, and what they value, will be prerequisite for their dissemination. It is going to take fighting fire with fire to bring this terror to an end.

    Fantastic and thorough article:
    http://www.theatlantic.com/features/archive/2015/02/what-isis-really-wants/384980/

    • austinsoper says:

      What is interesting to me though, is how perverse their brand of Islam really is, as evidenced by the Jordanian military writing “You do not belong to Islam” on the bombs that were to be dropped on IS military targets. Islam is largely a peaceful religion, and the mutilation, torture and execution of multiple people is not sanctioned by any monotheistic religion in existence today. Judaism, Islam, and Christianity all preach peace and harmony. ISIS is not an Islamic group. They are a group of deranged and psychopathic terrorists.

  2. emartin36 says:

    I think that ISIS differs from the Nazi movement in that, while both committing heinous crimes against humanity, ISIS is fundamentally a terrorist organization. Their main goal is to instill fear in those who do not agree with them, and therefore, posting such videos on social media for everyone to see falls perfectly in line with their goals. They were completely unheard of up until recently and have not come to any political or military power like the Nazis did. Even they know that they are not making any allies in their endeavors, but their goal to me seems to simply be terrorize, which they are doing quite effectively.

  3. Travis says:

    I believe at some point ISIS needs to be confronted. Due to the fact that their actions are fueled by religious beliefs, it will be nearly impossible to convince them to cease their radical behavior. The question is, “Who will confront them?” Will it be a country in the Middle East or the United States. Hopefully, as you mentioned in your post, the United States can avoid getting extremely involved, but it looks as if things are beginning to get out of hand based upon this post and other posts presented this semester regarding ISIS. It will be interesting to see how the plans to address ISIS will take shape.

  4. trevormcelhenny says:

    Personally, I hope they get their “final battle”, sooner rather than later. Someone needs to put an end to their heinous and horrific acts. Hopefully, this will come from a coalition of Middle Eastern nations (possibly with US backing), but at this point I believe they have provoked the world enough.

    • amiteichenbaum says:

      I completely agree. Too many people are suffering at their hands, and only more will continue to suffer until someone steps in. Clearly the local areas being occupied by ISIS can’t win against them. It gets to a point where we have to say, how long can this go on? How long can we sit and watch these atrocious actions take place? Why does it have to directly affect us in order for us to do anything about it? I know many people, including myself, often feel that the US “butts” in all the time, and are often unwelcome. However, this is a case where we have a common enemy, there are no real political ties, and we are basically lacking the complexities that we’ve seen in other situations in the middle east. There is no diplomatic way to solve this. I hope we see a real action against ISIS soon.

    • Kevin says:

      I am typically against military involvement in the Middle East, but this time I agree. As others have said, diplomacy will not be able to convince ISIS to stop. We have already tried arming the people of the area who are currently fighting against ISIS, but it seems that isn’t enough. It may be time for the US to step into the ring. This time, our intervention could strengthen our relationship with the affected countries.

  5. khospedales3 says:

    I’m surprised that this propaganda actually works. That legions of people join in this effort of chaos and discord, that they have a desire to become a part of something whose vicious, rash, and extremist ideals are so clearly spelled out. I suppose there are those out there who truly feel the have nothing, and joining with ISIS must be the result of a “better than nothing” mentality. Or I suppose its the mysticism of it all that captures some people, that the idea of rapture and a grand clash of nations must invigorate some people in a sort of deluded way.

    Anyway, I hope there is a way to put an end to ISIS’s terror without giving the group exactly what it wants.

  6. coreilly says:

    I agree that ISIS will only respond to force. There is no reasoning with them, which leads me to believe there will have to be a war against them. The problem with a War like that, is that you are fighting an idea, not necessarily an organized army. It will be hard to get rid of ISIS’s influence in the region because of that fact.
    I thought the propaganda was pretty interesting. I never really thought of how ISIS recruited people but to a young man, thinking that you are doing the right thing, ISIS can be a very attractive organization to join.

  7. mlucchi says:

    I like that you delved into the propaganda of ISIS to explore their motivations. Discussions are always more interesting when looking at every point of view. It’s an interesting question about how to go about putting an end to ISIS. As it was said, more violence might be the only way, but at the same time, conflict is their main goal so wouldn’t it also be counterintuitive? The modern way to battle antagonistic countries is with economic sanctions and trying to deplete that country’s economic resources. The Soviet Union fell not because of some grand battle with the US, but because it couldn’t economically support itself. However, ISIS isn’t really a nation. It is more of an ideology than anything else. There isn’t really a physical way to fight an idea like radical religion.

  8. lalaninatl says:

    The ISIS problem needs to be solved swiftly in my opinion because the longer they go, the more damage they’ll deal. This includes people’s lives and brainwashing children in their ideology. However, killing to them would be part of life and we need to combat ISIS without exterminating everyone. The other question that arises is who. Should the Middle East handle this themselves? Should foreign countries provide aid? I think these are some of the questions that is delaying the resolution of ISIS

  9. ssweeny3 says:

    This is a very interesting take on what is currently happening in the Middle East with ISIS. It could very well explain many of the actions they are taking. The atrocities that they commit are probably committed because they believe that they are the all powerful and that they will end the world. This aligns with some of the stuff we were talking about in class, with respect to some believing in the apocalypse and a “messiah”. However, this does not excuse them from their actions. Now that their is more insight into how ISIS is recruiting, there is opportunity to stop it. It may be difficult to implement and control, but it may reduce the number of lives lost in this imminent conflict.

  10. jkempa3 says:

    I agree with the above comment. Radical ideology cannot be reasoned with. People willing to do whatever it takes no matter the cost will not stop until they accomplish their goals or are killed or captured and isolated from society. I like that this blog addresses the real issue that many nations are fighting against. The issue of radical ideologies. The only way to truly stop the problem is to prevent ISIS from continues recruitment. ISIS, like any entity can only exist as long it has supporters. Educating people on the negative impact organizations like ISIS have on the world is one way to try and prevent recruitment into the organization. Unfortunately many of these types of organizations promise their followers intangible rewards such as salvation on judgement day, something that cannot be rationally proven or dis-proven. Fighting people is easy, fighting an idea or ideology is significantly more difficult and usually takes generations of slow change to defeat.

  11. jyount6 says:

    Regardless of the actions of the West, people will continue to die. If we go to war, we send our own men and women to their deaths, if we do not, we condemn those in the path of ISIS to death. It is a sad reality, and I’m not sure if one can say that Westerners are feeding the flames. Perhaps a better way to look at it is to say that we are not in charge of the fire, at least completely. Sure our country has made mistakes in the Middle East, and will probably continue to do so. But the goal should be to minimize mistakes as we go forward. I’m thinking this is not something ISIS is willing to negotiate on and they have a set path and will not deviate from it greatly. We just have to decide the worth of Western lives against Middle Eastern lives (a sad way to look at this situation, surely, but look at the fresh wounds this country has and has dealt recently in the Middle East).

  12. elenajoy92 says:

    It would be great if ISIS was never granted this full out war they desire since all of their horrible actions have been done towards this goal. Obtaining this war would (for them) justify all of those previous acts and possibly show others that their approach “worked.” Further analysis into the group and their recruiting methods can provide different means of fighting ISIS since there is no group if there are no followers. If it does come down to a war, I don’t think US direct involvement would be good since many in the Middle East are tired of US force. I believe other middle Eastern countries should act with US help and support.

  13. owest3 says:

    Great post! I did not know that this could be one of the motives behind their actions. I think that there is no way to know if these apocalyptic theories are their true motivation so we shouldn’t pay them much attention. If the west did acknowledge these theories and pulled back because of them, we would be accepting some truth to them and associating the United States as a whole with the beliefs of Islam. There are theories about the end of time in every religion, just because a group thinks they can initiate the apocalypse by taunting the west doesn’t mean the end is near.

  14. kimpgt says:

    Interesting read! I think that ISIS forms so many enemies is due to their extremist views. They feel that anyone opposing their ideology or thought should be attacked because ISIS is correct and everyone else is wrong. Perhaps enemy countries’ allies are also considered enemies to ISIS. In response to stopping ISIS, the method of strengthening Middle Eastern countries is great, as to avoid direct US involvement and warfare in the ME. If that fails, then perhaps the US will need to be directly involved, but I worry about ISIS tactics in warfare. They could capture and torture US soldiers just as they’ve done to their enemies, and make attacks on the home front. ISIS fights intensely and does not take mercy, so picking a war with them should be taken with caution.

  15. apabst3 says:

    I really think that ISIS needs to be confronted sooner rather then later. The world can’t keep its head in the sand for much longer while innocent people are taken advantage of. The heinous crimes can’t be taken in a political sense, ISIS can’t be reasoned with. They are committing terrible crimes against innocence people and I think it is about time that the world stands up to them.

  16. zhu64 says:

    I agree with your article in order to eradicate terrorism, united states will have to strengthen the governments of the middle east countries. If US goes in and destroy ISIS and in the process spends billions of dollars and thousands of lives then another group will takes its place. When there isn’t a strong government small groups with different agendas will arise. US can’t oversee the whole middle east.

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