Yesterday, we reported on how the new emergent terrorist group ISIS captured Iraq’s second largest city on Tuesday and stole nearly half a billion dollars from the central bank there. All this week the group has been advancing towards Baghdad, taking a number of towns along the way.
It’s interesting how quickly all of these countries were able to put their political differences aside as soon as there was a common enemy.
On top of this already massive mound of geopolitical shit, the Daily Beast just reported that ISIS has been funded for years by wealthy donors in Kuwait, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia: three of the U.S.’s closest allies in the middle east.
Welcome to the geopolitical clusterf***. My brain hurts.
As the United States has ramped down their military presence in Iraq, the militant groups have been ramping up their attacks.
One of these groups, ISIS, which stand for The Islamic State of Iraq and al-Shams, is proving to be particularly dangerous. The group captured the city of Falluja, just 40 miles west of Iraq’s capital of Baghdad, back in January, and currently control much of northern Iraq.
Fighters from the militant group have also been aiding the rebels fighting against Bashar al-Assad’s regime in Syria. Their eventual goal is to create an islamic state across the Syrian-Iraqi border.
This past Monday (6/10/2014) ISIS forces struck the city of Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city with nearly 700,000 people. The ISIS attack was unexpected and swift: many of the U.S.-trained Iraqi police forces and troops fled their posts in the face of the advancing militants, some even abandoning their uniforms, according to the Washington Post.
The next day, Mosul’s regional governor announced that the militants had looted the city’s central bank, stealing 500 billion Iraqi dinars (equal to $429 million) in cash. The terrorist group also seized a large amount of gold bullion from the bank.
According to the International Business Times, this makes ISIS now the world’s richest terrorist group. Aside from the cash and gold, the militants also seized a considerable amount of U.S.-supplied military weapons and military equipment. They also freed 1,000 inmates from Mosul’s central prison.
ISIS began after a number of hyper-extreme Al-Qaeda members were kicked out for being too violent. The group is led by the fiery Abu Bakr al Baghdadi, a former top man in the Al-Qaeda hierarchy.
Interestingly enough, Abu Bakr was in American custody just five years ago, at Camp Bucca military detention center in Iraq. Camp Bucca was closed in 2009, however, and sometime after that, Abu Bakr was released.
The details are unclear, but one theory posited by The Telegraph is that he was released and amnestied along with thousands of other prisoners as the U.S. prepared to pull out of Iraq.
Whatever the case may be, ISIS, with Abu Bakr at its head, is becoming increasingly powerful, with a significant presence in both Syria and Iraq now.
ISIS is taking advantage of this, promoting themselves as the alternative to Iraq’s corrupt government. Despite their reputation for violence against American troops and Iraqi government forces, the group has been fairly gentle with Mosul’s civilians. One woman, asked if ISIS had been harming residents, said,
“No, no, no. On the contrary, they are welcoming the people.”
A police officer from Mosul who abandoned his post after seeing the Iraqi troops flee voiced the worries of many Sunni’s in Mosul: that Iraq’s Shiite Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki is targeting the Sunnis (Sunnis and Shiites are the two major islamic denominations):
“Maliki wants to end the Sunnis. Can you tell me how many Shiites are arrested on terror charges? Almost all those in prison are Sunnis. He is targeting us. I want to go back to Mosul, but we are afraid we’ll see another Falluja.”
With no reason to trust the Iraqi government, which has proved it can’t even protect citizens in its second largest city, Iraqi citizens have to be realistic about their options- often times tolerating the militants offers the best chance of survival
But don’t be fooled though. ISIS’s Mr. Nice Guy routine probably won’t last for very long.
They recently distributed a leaflet in Mosul, which detailed a number of new rules to be implemented in the coming days, including forbidding alcohol and cigarettes and requiring women to, “stay home and not go out unless necessary.” It also stated that anybody working with the government would be killed unless they sought “repentance.”
And yesterday, the terrorist group tweeted this picture of a decapitated Iraqi police officer, with the caption: “This is our ball. It’s made of skin #WorldCup”
Yes you read that right. Between 2002 and 2005 the US military fired close to 6 billion bullets in the Iraqi conflict, roughly 300,000 bullets per person killed. They also dropped anywhere from 2000-4000 tons of bombs on the country, which left behind a number of contaminants including mercury, lead and neurotoxins, as well as a limitless supply of “metal dust”, tiny particles of metals that are inhaled by the populace and which can cause a wide variety of pulmonary (lung-related) complications.
Compounding the issue, more than half of the physicians who were in Iraq before the war fled the country during the conflict, leaving medical facilities extremely undermanned. Iraq’s health status (as determined by the UNDP Human Development Index, which basically measures overall quality of health) had risen to the top end of countries with “high development” before the war; it is now on the low end of countries with “medium development” (see charts below).
Side-note: this article contained lots of good info, but MSNBC has a very obvious liberal bias, and I think it’s foolish to put all of the responsibility on the Bush administration. Our government as a whole is responsible, and I think using stories like this as political fodder against the other side is sickening, and takes the focus away from the people who are actually suffering.