Is Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi going mad?

Is the latest terrorist attack — a series of explosions in Jakarta, Indonesia — a sign that Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi going mad?  There’s been no indication yet that this has been an Isis project but it’s highly likely to have been.  Al-Baghdadi didn’t become the leader of Isis because he’d written a PhD on the battles of Sunniism as it expanded out of Arabia in the 7th century.  He was himself a very successful leader of small terrorist groups within Al Qaeda before breaking away.

His forte was, apparently, surprise — the ability to carry out an unexpected attack in entirely unorthodox ways. And to carry them out with great speed. His original attack on Mosul, a sizeable city, with only 300 jihadists was an example. He was able to repeat the same tactics time and again.  But most of his gains in Syria have now been bombed out. Al-Baghdadi himself got out and is now in Libya. He’s now repeating his unexpected scatter shots.

But unlike Taliban in Afghanistan he hasn’t established real territory to rule over — something every authentic Caliph should have.  By and large, al-Baghdadi has failed.  He’s losing his judgement. “Those whom the Gods wish to destroy They first makes mad.”

Why no thoughts about Isis?

One reader has said to me why don’t I write more about the Isis problem in Syria and Iraq.  She seems to think I know a great deal about the life and motivation of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.  Well . . . I’m not sure that I’m an expert on him at all . . . but, in my balance of interests, I’m much more interested in the general shape of the future world rather than the Middle East just now.

Without wishing to be superficial about the terrible suffering now going on because of al-Baghdadi’s influence I can’t see any solution.  In any case, I can’t see Isis lasting very long.  As a dysfunctional regime — or an attempted one — in a dysfunctional Middle East whose general population is crying out to be Westernized then it can only be a matter of time before they sort themselves out.  However brutal and terrible this might be, the Western countries won’t be able to intervene in a constructive way — anymore than they’ve been doing so far.

The vast majority of Muslim immigrants who are already here in Europe are no problem at all.  It’s the fanatical Muslims we have to worry about — and also the effect they have over a minority of the young who may be passing through more than usually years.  We need much more intelligent services for the foirst part, and much more thought given to the prospect of young people more generally in a job-destroying age.

The real causes of Isis

It was the attempted introduction of democracy into Iraq that actually caused the present day phenomenon of Isis.  The invasion took away the top power layer of Iraq — namely Saddam Hussein and his secular Baath Party — leaving Sunnis, Shias  and Kurds, the Sunnis being senior in the hierarchy.  For safety, fearing Sunni oppression, most Kurdish families in central and southern Iraq fled to the north of the country where they were in a majority and could thus look after themselves.

Immediately after the invasion the Shias, relying on the Americans for safety, immediately resumed their traditional Medieval festivals where we saw hundreds of young men whipping themselves raw with chains of iron.  Immediately after that, the Sunnis started unleashing bombs attacks on Shias wherever they could be found in crowds in the market place or in police recruitment queues.

Not long after that the Americans tried to impose democracy via a new constitution so that the Shias could have at least equal political power with the Sunnis. The Sunnis continued their terrorism of Shias, aided for a while with Al Qaeda personnel from Afghanistan. Later on, when that didn’t work out, extremist Sunnis started gathering round Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

Thus would never have happened if the Americans had left the Hussein-Baathist-Sunni-Shia hierarchy alone.  Previously, this was never preventing the more intelligent Shias finding their way into the professions and scientific work — and a wish to become Westernized — just as the Baathists and Sunnis were already doing. Gradually, he old hierarchy would have changed into a new one depending on ability and democracy of one sort or another could have been introduced by the Iraqis themselves when they were ready for it.

Each one of all cultures believe their own culture to be superior to all others and are almost impossible to change unless it comes from within.  Western culture generally — America and Britain in particular —  with its painfully acquired quirks, such as one-person-one-vote elections, are as intractable as any other.

In this country we  are awaiting next year the Chilcot Equiry Report which has postponed publication year after year giving everybody who will be criticised a fair chance of responding. This delay suggests that, unlike almost all previous major Enquiries carried ou by ex-senior civil servants, this will be an honest report, not a whitewash.

If so, this will justify the opposition of those — at first a minority — against the invasion of Iraq. If so, this will also give a full account of the total fiasco that the American and British armies made of the occupation and which thus led to Isis in due course.

America and Britain are the real causes of Isis

It was not so much the invasion of Iraq that caused Isis but our attempt — almost exclusively American — after the invasion to manipulate Iraq into a practical one-person-one-vote type of democracy when Iraq wasn’t ready for it. For any reader who is prepared to go along with this view tentatively then I’ll follow with a slightly longer post to justify this position.

Knocking some sense into David Cameron

There is, of course, no way of knowing that Isis attacks on London or other parts o the UK might, or might not be planned.  However, if David Cameron persists in his wish to bomb Syria, and the House of Commons foolishly goes along with it, then it is almost certain that something special — at least as serious as Paris — will be carried out in London.

Cameron is also announcing the formation of two special ‘strike brigades’ of 5,000 soldiers each.  It is difficult to see what use they can ever be in preventing a well-planned attack during a normal busy day or leisure districts in the evenings. It’s really only an attempt to assure th public

I suspect that some less impulsive heads will be knocking some sense into Cameron’s head today and we’ll have a policy U-turn before too long

The astonishing latency of Isis

It is ironic that the smartphone, the iconic product of the advanced world, is also the only item that the potential terrorist needs to take with him when he joins other immigrants entering Europe.

It is this  fact of life that Jean-Claud Juncker, the President of the European Commission — desperate to preserve the EU and its border-less condition — immediately resisted when the Paris massacre occurred. He declared that it was on way related to the wave of immigrants entering Europe.  A few days later we now know that at least three, and possibly six, of the terrorists had first entered the EU alongside the genuine migrants — and only two or three weeks beforehand.

Once inside, a terrorist only has to use encrypted e-mail to find a network of safe houses, and can then organise the supply of weapons and explosives at leisure. If he stays too long in any one place then GCHQ and other authorities might guess that something new is happening but in no way what it may be or where it may happen.

As well as the Paris episode, the astonishing latency with which Isis responded to the Russian bombing attacks in Syria speaks of an organisation that is far more flexible that the authorities have ever imagined.

Overthrowing Isis

The almost total shutdown of Brussels today must encourage Isis enormously — that they are winning the battle of creating panic and almost-despondency in Europe.

Apparently, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi gained his doctorate with a dissertation on the battles won by Sunni Arabs as they swept out of Saudi Arabia in the early centuries of Islam. But he did not dwell on how the Caliphs administered power afterwards?  As previously mentioned, they were liberal in that they allowed all manner of other religions to continue.  Those who became converted to Islam were released from taxation and, in that way, whole countries became totally Muslim in the course of several generations.

Al-Baghdadi doesn’t allow the ‘luxury’ of voluntary conversion because he kills or enslaves all those who are not Sunnis already. In the Iraqi population the Sunnis tend to be professionals and merchants. so they’re articulate — and powerful — enough.  There are already rumours that they are complaining about the ad hoc nature of Isis taxation.  It’s to be remembered that only a few years ago the Sunnis of Anwar province expelled Al Qaeda — notionally fellow enemies of Shias — almost overnight when they became too burdensome. Numerically, they could easily do the same with Isis when it tries to become too oppressive.

It very much looks as though my preferred solution of isolation is happening anyway by default.  If so, the internal overthrow of Isis can only be aa matter of time.

Dealing with Isis

Just as President Hollande is painting himself into full battle colours President Obama is going off the idea of intensive bombing of Isis in Syria and Iraq.

Quite rightly, too.  Countries with religious governments should either be left alone to work out their own salvation or some all-party Middle East political solution should be tried which, hopefully, will also put paid to the absurd historical enmity between Sunnis and Shias which revived when Bush and Blair invaded Iraq in 2003.

The latter ‘solution’ of Obama’s State Department is also supposed to help ease the various Middle East populations into non-oppressive governments, jobs and our Western standard of living.  That, unfortunately, is a step too far.  We don’t even know what to do about our own economies as automation moves steadily into our jobs.

There’ll be  no short cut from the massive cultural changes that Muslim countries will have to make. Isolation — and principally from its sources of funds — is the best way of dealing with Isis in the short term and countries in the longer term.

As always, real social and political change can only come from within a culture, not in patronising attempts from the outside.  Dictators such as Saddam Hussein, Bashar al-Assad and Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi are — or would have been — more neatly brought down by their own people — as European countries had to do one by one when making their transition from royalties and aristocracies into becoming nation-states.