Syrian rebels hail Islamic State

Militant Sunny rebels in Syria’s northern Raqqa province have hailed the change of name by Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) into Islamic State and the declaration of a new Calipahte on 29 June. After the deceleration by Islamic State spokesman Abu Mohammad al-Adnani, Sunny rebels held a parade and cheered the leader of the Islamic State, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, as new Caliph. The promulgation came after the organization conquered a large part of Iraq to add to its territory.

In an audio recording distributed online al-Adnani announced “The Shura [council] of the Islamic State met and discussed this issue [of the caliphate]. The Islamic State decided to establish an Islamic Calipahte and to designate a caliph for the state of the Muslims.” He added “The Jihadist cleric Baghdadi was designated the caliph of the Muslims.” He also stated “The words ‘Iraq’ and ‘the Levant’ have been removed from the name of the Islamic State in official papers and documents.” Al-Adnani described the Caliphate as the dream in all the Muslims hearts and the hope for all jihadist.

“I say to the Islamic Ummah now we are in Iraq. Allah, glorified and exalted smashed these borders, the borders of the Sykes-Picot” the promulgation read. ‘Sykes-Picot’ refers to the division of the territories of the former Ottoman Empire between Great Britain and France in 1916. Ever since the death of the Prophet Muhammed Caliphs have been designated as political leaders of ‘the believers’. The Islamic States mirrors the second Abbasid Caliphate from the eight century. After the fall of the Ottoman Empire in 1924 the Caliphate system was abolished by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk. 

The destruction of borders

Islamic State spokesman al-adnani said “The legality of all emirates, groups, states and organization becomes null by the expansion of the caliph’s authority and the arrival of its trips to their area […] Listen to your caliph and obey him. Support your state, which grows every day.” He added “gather round your caliph, so thaht you may return as you once were for ages, kings of the earth and knights of war.” Analysts say this announced might cause problems with neighboring countries, Shiite Muslims and other Sunny rebels.

According to professor Neumann from the international center for the study of radicalization at Kings College London, the announcement of a formal Islamic state by ISIL is a ‘declaration of war against the West and al Qaida.” He said “It’s a declaration of war, not only against the west and all the countries that are currently fighting Isis, but more importantly, against al-Qaida. Isis now see themselves as the legitimate leaders of the movement and they expect everyone to fall in line.” He added “For ideological jihadists, the caliphate is the ultimate aim, and Isis, in their eyes, have come closer to realizing that vision than anyone else. On that basis, Isis leaders believe they deserve everyone’s allegiance.”

The Arabic states in the Gulf, including Saudi Arabia, are likely to be alarmed by the open declaration of a Caliphate that challenges their dominance over the region. Baker Institute Gulf-expert Kristian Ulrichsen said “Gulf rulers will view the statement as evidence that the organization poses a grave external threat to their stability.” Other analysts dismiss the threat of an destabilizing effect on the region and look towards rebel infighting. They fear that different rebel groups might start fighting each other and cause wide spread infighting. Rebel infighting killed around 7,000 people in Syria so far.   

The advance of the Islamic State

The advance of the Islamic State into Iraq has caused a political crisis in the country. The countries highest Shiite cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani called on 27 June on all Iraq’s political blocs to appoint a new Prime Minister in order to increase the pressure on embattled prime minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki. According to a representative of al-Sistani, Abdul Mehdi al-Karbalaie “Iraqis have passed bigger crisis then this in the past history […] we must not think of dividing Iraq as part of a solution for the current crisis. The solution must protect the unity of Iraq and the rights of all is sects.”

Meanwhile, on 29 June former Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi called on his supporters to boycott the crucial vote on 30 June, meaning the biggest parliamentary bloc will abstain from voting. Iraq’s National Coalition led by Allawi said it needed more time to avoid the mistakes of the former government. Reuters reported that top Shia, Sunny and Kurdish lawmakers scrambled to agree cabinet nominations before the parliamentary meeting on 1 Juli in order to hold the advance of the Islamic State.

Iraqi forces are in constant battle with Islamic State rebels. There are conflicting reports over how far the rebels have advanced. On 29 June Iraqi forces announced they had retaken the city of Tikrit the hometown of former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein. But on 30 June soldiers were still engaged with Islamic State rebels.

Sources: Al Arabiya, Al Jazeera I, Al Jazeera II, Haaretz, Reuters I, Reuters II, The Guardian, The New York Times.
Author: Koen Migchelbrink

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