The geopolitics of Daesh/Isis

by Giancarlo Elia Valori, Honorable de l’Académie des Sciences de l’Institut de France

Daesh/Isis was proclaimed by Al Baghdadi on the first day of Ramadan, on June 29, 2014.

While, in the past, Al Qaeda was a network of terrorist organizations with an undefined territory – which all swore before the Caliph, Bin Laden or Zawahiri, their allegiance  to the leader and the central organization – Daesh/Isis is a State organized not as a terrorist organization, but as a territorial group still at war “with Jews and Crusaders”.

abu-bakr-al-baghdadi-11The territorial nature of Al Baghdadi’ structure makes the work of the West more difficult, considering that the latter had adapted very slowly to a war of attrition against the many Qaedist organizations – not to a frontal and conventional attack against a State, albeit a “rogue” State, such as Daesh.

The West does not want and perhaps cannot fight a medium-long term conventional war and it had adapted itself  – also from the technological and doctrinal viewpoints – to the multipolar and asymmetrical anti-terrorist activity of the various “branches” of central Al Qaeda.

Brief and surgical strikes – often kept secret to avoid alarming a population who does not want to fight any longer, not even for its own survival – repositioning of Qaedists and then another attack.

Until last year, that was the sequence of the fight against the jihad in the West.

Even the criterion of “terrorism” was, anyway, wrong: for Al Qaeda, terror was not an end but a means – it was its way to wage a pirate war, a blitzkrieg, and exploit the surprise effect with low investment in technology and the maximum possible damage caused to “Jews and Crusaders”.

Both Bin Laden’s and Al Baghdadi’s group, however, want to fight for the restoration of the Caliphate in the areas where Muslims were present in ancient times – in Europe and elsewhere – and hence the strategic concept is simple: to regain the Caliphate’s old expansion areas in Europe and in the West (suffice to recall the map published by Isis some time ago) and claim, as their own, the new Islamic repopulation areas when the majority of European population will be of Muslim origin and religion.

Both Al Qaeda’s and Daesh/Isis’ idea is to prepare the world for the Day of Judgment, the Yawn al-Qiyama of the Koranic tradition.

Nevertheless, even the Twelver Shiites – the majority of the ruling class in Iran – believe that the Finis Mundi is close and must be carefully prepared.

It is by no mere coincidence that the English magazine of Daesh is named Dabiq, which is the Syrian town near Aleppo where – according to a Muhammad hadith – there will be the final battle between the Islamic armies and the “Roman” (namely Western) ones before the End of the World.

At geopolitical level, we are faced with a radical change of the European and Western global vision and strategy.

In the past, even after the end of the Cold War, Europe was thought to be a strategic unicuum linked to the Atlantic system – and hence to the USA – while now Europe has realized it is alone before a Middle East which is no longer a buffer between it and Asia, but an area of continuity with all the tensions that Central Asia and Africa have.

The Great Middle East is no longer split in the various States which, since the Sykes-Picot Agreement of March 1916, have been watering down the Islamist and nationalistic tensions of the region, but it is unifying – thanks to the jihad – precisely in the areas which are at the core of the oil and maritime trade routes towards the European peninsula, between the Sinai and the Shatt-el-Arab.

The fact of not having understood, since the very beginning, to what extent it was vital for us not to be stifled in the Suez Canal and the Persian Gulf, is a very serious fault of all EU politicians, who obviously do not know Heraclitus’ saying: “Polemos (War) is the father and king of all: some he has made gods, and some men; some slaves and some free”.

The calculation of some Western countries, including the United States, was to isolate Iran and to seal the Syrian-Iraqi passageway and centre of gravity, as well as to damage the Russian Federation by eliminating Baathist Syria and do a favour to the Gulf Sunni States. Finally the calculation was also to use some jihadist “rebels” (such as Jabhat al Nusra in Syria, the local Qaedists) to destroy “the tyrants” and possibly bring the famous “democracy”.

We have witnessed the mad ineffectiveness of this project in Libya – hence I will not dwell on the obvious criticism leveled at this strategy.

But what does Isis/Daesh really want? First and foremost, as it is clearly stated in an issue of Dabiq, it wants “to destabilize the Taghut” – namely idolatry – by destroying the States which pursue it. According to the naively extremist theology of Daesh/Isis, the nation State which tends to its own political identity-based religion is, in itself, taghut – namely idolatrous. Incidentally, this criterion should also apply to the Caliphate of Al Baghdadi.

After this phase, the regime of the Caliph of Raqqa should expand and become an emirate, by also conquering the ancient Islamized areas or those where, in non-Koranic States, there is a wide and often majority Muslim population.

Obviously the current and future borders of Daesh are strategically very important.

Today the Caliphate controls the Syrian borders with Turkey – the second NATO largest armed force – which exploits its ambiguous relations with Isis/Daesh to close once and for all the chapter with the Kurds of Mosul and Suleymanya. Al Baghdadi has encircled Baghdad before annexing it to his State, probably mindful of how important the Iraqi capital was in the strategic thinking of Lawrence of Arabia. He is besieging Aleppo, the heart of the Alawite region and gateway to the North and the Mediterranean, and has finally arrived in the area of Al Hasakah – in the direction of Anatolian Turkey – and up to Mandali, in the direction of a possible war of attrition on the Iranian borders.

Without a real action of war – even prolonged – in the Middle East against Isis/Daesh, led by a EU and Russian Federation’s coalition, with China’s help – possibly only at logistical and financial levels – the Caliph’s action will be successful.

Президент_Республики_Египет_Абдельфаттах_СисиLater, however, we will realize that Daesh will begin to expand toward Syria and Israel, by connecting with its Sinai jihadist networks up to the Suez banks, so as to destabilize Al Sisi’s Egypt from two sides, the river side and the Libyan side.

At that juncture, Europe will no longer have geopolitical (and economic) significance. It will be a land controlled militarily, and along its trade routes, by Al Baghdadi’s territorial jihad. It would be good to take actions now, which is already late.