Have you at last seen the original Sykes – Picot map? It annexes Mosul to Great Syria, and this is exactly what is happening now. So, are we witnessing the restoration of things to what they originally were and the return of the root to the offshoot or the offshoot to the root? Do you recall who said this for the first time?
Why did the first "draft" of the map look like this before it was amended from the notes of Mr. Sykes in London and Mr. Picot in Paris to the current borders between Syria and Iraq? We require a historian to answer this question. However, any simple learner of history will recall that whenever an Islamic state was established in Mosul it soon expanded into Aleppo and the rest of the Levant. This happened in the case of the Hamadni state and afterwards with the state of Al Zinki. So, Mosul is the natural extension of the Levant and vice versa.
This would seem an enjoyable exercise in a history lesson. However, in today's world of politics it is a nightmare for the region. The state we are now talking about is the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS), popularly referred to as "DAISH" in Arabic. I believe it is about time we show the people the respect they deserve following the victories they accomplished last week and after having forced their status quo on everybody else. So, we should call them as they wish to be called "The State". This is despite the severe disagreement with them and the concern and apprehension one should have toward them.
"The State" also comprehends history and dreams of the Caliphate and its eyes are on the Levant. This fact should not be absent in the midst of claims that it is "an Iranian invention" and that it is "allied with Bashar". Such claims are more suppositions and not facts that ought to be taken for granted. Indeed, DAISH (ISIS) did covertly engage in business with both regimes and their intelligence services. Yet, the recent developments prove that this was an exchange of benefits between two sides the objectives of each of them contradict each other. This has always been a huge enigma surrounding such a black relationship between two fundamentalisms that hate, and even despise, each other. The only explanation for this situation is Iran's pretension to be smart as it pursues a short-sighted diabolic strategy aimed at stirring up sectarian sedition, wherever Iran happens to be active, with which it justifies its sectarianism and mobilises the region's Shi'ites by persuading them that they are under constant threat. The magic spell turned against the magician and the devil has been unleashed to threaten both Tehran and Damascus and to devour the most foolish among them. It is clear now that Al-Qaeda organisation has used them in as much as they used it; every one gambled and Al-Qaeda has won.
Saving Syria means preventing its fall in the hands of "The State". Of course this does not take place by saving Bashar and his regime, for he is the source of the calamity that unleashed all this evil. It will only be a matter of time before the borders are drawn between the state of DAISH and the Shi'ite Iraq to the south. As for the borders with the Kurdistan region, these are already in existence. All that will happen is that the responsibility of facing the Kurdish ambitions in Kirkuk will be transferred from the (former) central government in Baghdad to the Courts of the Leader of the Faithful in his secret headquarters. Eventually, everyone will concur on borders, crossing points and measures for passage and transport. Of course, the agreement on all of this will not be signed at the Arab League's headquarters in Cairo, but it will just be de facto.
"The State" has learned from its past mistakes. It has expanded the territory of its alliances. Some of its officials, who were once part of the old Ba'thist regime, have experience and strategic thinking. ISIS is no longer a mere organisation but a real state with oil resources and a population of several millions whose security and livelihood are now its responsibility. It has factories, farms and a GNP, and will, therefore, behave as a state and as a government. Naturally, it will be different from what has conventionally been defined in the world as government according to the established standards of international relations. It rejects and shuns all of this. I can imagine one of them telling the leader of the faithful Al-Baghdadi as they sit around a dinner table one night in Mosul or Anbar: "Begin eating in the name of God, eat with your right hand and eat from that which is closest to you"; and all will laugh. The message, however, is proceeding step by step and avoiding losing battles. This was clear in ISIS's move as it advanced toward Baghdad last week. It avoided Samarra because it knew it does not enjoy popularity therein and cannot guarantee the same rage that opened before it the gates of Mosul and Anbar.
The forthcoming battles will show to what extent ISIS has matured. Most probably, it will stop at a certain point in the south as it has done now with the Kurds in the north. This will give it a chance to rest and benefit from the incapacity of the international community. Certainly, the United States will not wage war, for defeating ISIS will not be possible without a full-fledged war no less than the invasion of Iraq or the invasion of Afghanistan. America and Obama do not want any more wars of this sort, nor do they even want wars smaller than that. Iran knows that the truce with Al-Qaeda-ISIS is over. It remembers well the message sent by the "Jihadi Salafist" movement in 1994 via Ramzi Yousef on behalf of Khaled Sheikh Muhammad, the real founder of Al-Qaeda, when he bombed the tomb of Imam Reza in Mashhad. He is now held in a prison in the United States of America serving a sentence relating to the first attempt to bomb the World Trade Centre. Someone from Al-Qaeda or ISIS must have written to the Iranians telling them: Remember what we are capable of doing and know that your borders are open to us from the east and from the west.
The other region of loose earth as far as ISIS is concerned is Syria whose environment is similar to the conditions that existed in Mosul, Anbar and Ramadi before they were conquered. In Syria, the Sunnis are oppressed and the killing is a daily occurrence amid the indifference of the international community. ISIS is loathed here but it has supporters and success generates more supporters and force changes old convictions. The Nusrah Front and its leader Al-Joulani must be the most anxious now. Yet, there must be a joint common ground that justifies some sort of reconciliation with them and with the Islamic Front and the remaining Salafi organisations. As for the Free Syrian Army, it is almost finished and ISIS's next onslaught will finish it off completely.
The anti-aircraft guns, which the United States denied to the Syrian revolutionaries, have now become available to ISIS and no one will prevent it from moving them to Syria. Just as we woke up days ago to hear the news of the fall of Mosul we shall soon wake up to hear the news of the fall of Aleppo and what is beyond it in the hands of ISIS. Would this be good news? Yes, it would be for those who wish to be rid of Bashar's daily barrel bombs and rid of the negligence of the international community. Those who long for some peace finally, they will accept ISIS.
Those who are concerned and intimidated by the expansion of this fundamentalist state, which seeks to change all the rules of politics in the region, and those who prefer to confine it to its current Iraqi province until it eats itself away or until God implements his will, they would be better advised to go on and bring down Bashar's regime replacing it with a pluralistic one that has a constitution and elections.
Translated from Al Hayat newspaper, 21 June, 2014
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.