Casually perusing through books on Amazon, I noticed a New York Times Bestseller with a scary, and yet very appealing, cover of the ISIS Army coming from both sides to get us. The thought that instantly came to my mind was the magnum opus of ISIS – “Inside the Army of Terror”. I had to buy this book. I had to read it.
The book attempted to answer a few questions, “Where did ISIS come from? “ and “Seven months into its concerted multination air campaign, backed by the provision of arms to selected allies and proxies, is it winning or losing?”
It seems the book was written before the ISIS crisis in Iraq and that it was continually updated as time went on. This made the book seem too contrived as it was based on initial ideas and themes that continued to evolve. A large portion of the timeline of the book covers the time period when the American Army was present in Iraq, leaving out the part of the book covering the list of terrorists and their group’s biography, stories, and fratricidal bloodshed. The Arabic names and words used made the book sound bombastic.
It is very easy to know the list of terrorist groups operating in any country. There is no need to emphasize, even proclaim, that an intense effort took place to “[draw] on dozens of original interviews conducted with former US military intelligence and counterterrorism officials and Western diplomats“. Wikipedia and Google could have provided me with that information just as well.
The book is partial in its judgment, and the authors do little of explaining the geopolitical tension between countries that led to the rise of this “Army of Terror”. It seemed the focus was on Iran’s support to the proxy militia groups, such as Shia Iraqi Jaysh al-Mahdiand Shia Lebanon’s Hezbollah.
BUT when listing the Sunni terrorist groups such as Ansar al-Islam, Jabhat Al-Nusra and others, the authors depicted them to be only a pivot or a franchise of Al-Qaeda. The authors stopped short of mentioning that some Sunni countries were behind these groups – as if these groups never got support from Sunni countries. The authors implicitly stated that the Sunni countries did not have a hand in instigating conflict, even though that is obviously not true.
The pompous authors claimed they interviewed countless people, asked pinpointed questions, and conducted an extensive research. Yet, they could not even provide a list of Arab countries supporting these terrorist groups. Let’s say, maybe Qatar or others? It seems their questions were not only esoteric but qualitatively SELECTIVE.
The political reality is that the war in Syria is a proxy war between regional and international countries. ISIS is only a proxy to this war. The axis of this proxy runs through Iraq dividing Iran, Syria, and Russia on one side, and Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and America on the other side.
Another issue the book failed to explain clearly is the very question it presented at the beginning: “How did ISIS manage to do so much damage in so short a period of time?” The succinct answer is that the road between Baghdad and Damascus was unsupported. The Sunni people were ignored for years – they were totally marginalized.
After the American Army withdrew from Iraq, it created a major void to be filled by all the fugitive terrorists, who were able to escape from the sustained and successful pressure of the American forces in Afghanistan. Terrorist groups and individuals around the world had motive to funnel into Iraqi territory and play on the chaos of Syria and Iraq, which has led to the rise of the “Army of Terror”.
Iraq and Syria are the Yin and Yang of each other. In Iraq, the Sunnis have been marginalized since day one from the liberation of Iraq. In Syria, the Sunnis have been marginalized for years. Saddam ignored the Shias of Iraq. Bashar and his father ignored the Sunnis in Syria. The Sunnis and Shias oppressed by their opposite sides ignited the 1500-year-old sectarian violence in the Middle East.
Let me quickly address a few more areas the book failed to explain. How did ISIS manage to sell oil for months and years? Who are those vendors and countries?
And did a few hundreds ISIS terrorists really manage to “[overthrow] a city in central Iraq guarded by as many as thirty thousand American-trained Iraqi soldiers and policemen in Mosul?” The explanations were naive and without any political ground. Is it because maybe the people of Mosul wanted to shelter them? Were there unrecorded voices heard on the streets from the Mosul Sunnis saying things like, “We rather put our hand with the Devil than Nouri al-Maliki”? Did the formidable forces of ISIS bring Nineveh Province to a downfall? Might Nineveh Province have been sold?
Next, the book talked a bit about the Kurdish city in Syria named Kobani and explained the philosophical Islamic prophecy, but stopped short of explaining Turkey’s position. Turkey remained silent and didn’t interfere to liberate Kobani from ISIS. Turkey kept its borders loose for years for all these terrorist members to ride their subway system. Turkey has much to blame in playing same role in Syria as Syria played in Iraq.
(Below YouTube video recorded by an Iraqi showing two ISIS members riding the Metro in Istanbul. (Pay attention to the hidden T-shirt)
Moreover, for many years, there were numerous international meetings supporting the opposition regime of Syria, but they failed drastically to unite and form a coalition government. They couldn’t come up with ONE agreed upon strategy. It seemed Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was the only guy who had a strategy and united the “embattled Sunni minority” much faster than any coalition.
Lastly, I am still wondering how a book could proudly claim to be a New York Times Bestseller and pretentiously have a title: an INSIDE of the Army of Terror, yet fail to even mention Turkey Albin’aili (البنعلي تركي ) who is Bahraini born, commander of the ISIS religious endowment, the producer of ISIS content, and the vocal leader and idealist motivator of suicide operations? Simply put, he is the religious center of ISIS and his name was absent from the book.
The book should have been titled “ISIS: Terrorist groups and leaders bios”.
As mentioned, one of the co-authors is a native born Syrian. He said, “The book is personal.” Allow me to add my Iraqi native Christian perspective. If Bashar al-Assad is removed, ISIS WILL conduct an ethnic cleansing against all the Christians from all their Syrian villages. The current state of the Christian minority in Iraq is vivid proof of that – case closed.
Christians and other minority groups would rather live under Saddam or Bashar dictatorship than under so-called “Islamic Democracy” or “Arab Spring”.
It is not about name dropping, but what do I know?? I am just a guy………who lived in Iraq through American liberation, pre-ISIS, through ISIS, and…post-ISIS.
ISIS is marionette……And regrettably, Syria ended up on the wrong side of history.
As for one of the earlier questions, is ISIS winning or losing? It has been more than a year with 6,000+ air strikes of coalition resulting in killing more than 15,000 fighters. YET they are/were able to recruit. Their numbers might be between 20-30 thousand fighters. They are able assault quickly, reorganize, reconfigure, integrate, pivot, with extremely powerful social media reach! ALL in real time! I wonder if ISIS has the chance to write books to the American public, ISIS will have 10x BEST SELLER.
What type of an organisation can do such a thing without any support from any country(s)?…I don’t know…Maybe it’s the rebirth of “Exorcist” in city of Mosul.
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An extremely well written and insightful review of this book Ninos! You do a great job challenging the author’s theories.
Thank you Paul!
Insightful analysis by someone who cares deeply about the victims of ISIS atrocities and understands its politics!
thank you very much!