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The Mess in the Middle East
As Kurds Advance, Arabs Enlist to Fight for ISIS

As Kurdish forces approach the ISIS capital, some of the locals may have decided that living under the tyrannical but predominantly-Arab boot of ISIS is better than liberation at the hands of the Kurds. Ben Wedeman at CNN reports;

One might expect that the long-suffering inhabitants of Raqqa, who have been under ISIS’ heavy black yoke since 2013, would welcome the approach of their liberators. But according to a tweet put out in English by the activist group Raqqa Is Being Slaughtered Silently, “the strategy of taking Raqqa by SDF… push a lot of people to join ISIS to Defense for their city.”
In other words, rather than preparing to welcome their would-be liberators, some Raqqa inhabitants are choosing to throw their lot behind ISIS.
The problem lies in who those would-be liberators are.
Backed by the United States, the Syrian Democratic Forces are a coalition of Kurdish, Assyrian, Christian, Arab tribal and other forces. But they are dominated by the Kurdish YPG, the Popular Defense Units.
In other words, it’s a Kurdish armed force with a multi-ethnic façade, and the Arabs of Raqqa could well be worried about their intentions in a post-ISIS Syria.
The SDF says its current offensive north of Raqqa is not aimed at the city itself.
Wedeman goes on to give a history of local Arab-Kurdish interactions that’s worth a read. The nub is that:
Arabs have long suspected the Kurds of trying to carve a separate state from Syria and Iraq. Turkey, struggling with a restive Kurdish minority, has the same preoccupation. Those are some of the macro concerns.
The micro — or perhaps more correctly, the local — concerns of the people of Raqqa include the worry that a well-armed, U.S.-supported, predominantly Kurdish force will expel or subjugate them and take their land, and as they say in Arabic, “land is honor.”
Westerners may find it hard to imagine anything worse than living under ISIS. While many Arabs agree, clearly not all of them do—not even all those who are repelled by ISIS’ fanaticism and barbarism. Tribalism and other forces are real, and this news comes as a reminder that policy must take them into account.
This points in turn to an even bigger policy problem than the Kurds. Many Westerners, wary of further involvement in the Middle East, imagine that Assad, bad as he might be, could (perhaps with Russian and Iranian help) crush ISIS and keep Syria quiet again. But if this is how the locals react when the Kurds approach, imagine how they will when the forces of the Iran-backed, Alawite Assad approach—or, on the other side, when the forces of the Shi’a-dominated Iraqi government, backed by sectarian militias under Iranian “guidance”, move forward.
Ultimately, as hideous as ISIS is, it’s a symptom of the Assad regime, rather than the root of Syria’s troubles. And ISIS will never truly be defeated until Assad is dealt with.
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  • Ellen

    Right. The point is, tribal and sectarian hatreds and competition are the basis of most of the conflicts in the Middle East. As the Zionists discovered 100 years ago, offering the Arabs medicine for their eye disease did not make them happy about losing “their” land to these very same people. The Arabs in eastern Syria view Syria as “Arab” land, and will prefer to fight for ISIS against the Kurds then give up Arab domination and live in a nice, tolerant, Kurdish state.

    That, in a nutshell, is why the Alawite and Shiite army supporting Assad is driving out the Sunnis in land they capture. They have no hope of ever convincing these people to live happily again under the rule of Alawites or Shiites. Those days are over.

  • FriendlyGoat

    If the written source material for Islam was anything other than a muddled mess, this kind of result would not be likely. But, as we see, the core beliefs and methodologies of ISIS are not sufficiently refutable from Islamic scripture to make the present “Caliphate” religiously unacceptable to ordinary Muslims. Somehow, it appears, anything multi-ethnic or multi-religious, or secular is seen by some as worse than ISIS. The only way that is possible is if plenty of local Muslims do not see ISIS as completely wrong-headed. And the only way THAT is possible is that the Quran and Hadiths are ridiculously useless for sorting out common-sense civility and human rights in any way that can trump the words of radicals.

    • Jim__L

      The problem here is that “common sense” in this part of the world is not based on generations of Biblical (mostly New Testament) traditions, but on the Koran and Hadiths that you decry.

      If the Left is successful in suppressing Christian values, expect “common sense” to change here as well.

      • FriendlyGoat

        What Christians have in religion that Muslims sorely lack is that the second “person” of our Trinity effectively quashed hardline religious conservatism by putting “love your neighbor as you love yourself” irrefutably above 611 other commandments which can be found in the original writings.
        Then the third “person” of our Trinity reinforces that prioritization by going into the hearts of individuals when invited and helping those indwelt by the Holy Spirit to actually do works of love.
        Islam, to my knowledge, has nothing even remotely similar for putting both the problematic writings of the Jewish Old Testament and the problematic sayings of its own “prophet” under the subjection of a love standard—let alone freeing up individuals to proceed with good works defined from their own Spirit-fueled hearts.
        As for the “Left” destroying common sense in American religion, that notion seems to be entirely contrary to the troubles in Islamic places. There they don’t have an effective “Left” at all—–which is why it’s always just a choice between Religious-Right nuts like ISIS or Political-Right nuts like Al-Sisi or Hussein or Assad or Qadaffi to keep the lid on the Religious-Right nuts.
        In America we have a common-sense love standard from Jesus and the Holy Spirit for our religious hearts (if we choose them) —–AND—–we have secular freedom from those who would revert us to an Old Testament worldview. The “Left” helps both of those and hinders neither.

        • Jim__L

          So the person who said, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them” meant that the rest of the Law can be ignored? What?

          The Law and the Gospel are both critical to understanding what God requires of us. Ignoring the Law (as you seem to be) is just as mistaken as ignoring the Gospel (as you imply conservatives do.)

          • FriendlyGoat

            There is plenty in “the law” which deserves to be by-passed. I was not aware until my post-church years that Jesus did not just make up “love your neighbor as you love yourself”, but rather that he plucked it from what we now know as Leviticus 19:18 and informed the religious leaders of his time (to their astonishment) that all the law and teachings of the prophets depend upon it (together with Deuteronomy 6:5).

            When you go to the very next verse, you find in Leviticus 19:19 the following: “19 Breed your livestock animals only with animals of the same kind, and don’t plant two kinds of seed in the same field or wear clothes made of different kinds of material.” Today, as far as I know, absolutely NO ONE in a place like, say, Liberty University, is the least bit concerned about wearing clothes with two kinds of material being sinful. But is still is one of the 613 Jewish commandments—-obviously out of date.
            Needless to say, in Judeo-Christian America, we do not allow religious courts to order people stoned for various infractions, and NOBODY—-even church people—-want to go back to that (like is presently practiced by The Islamic State.)
            So, Jesus gave us permission to prioritize and change with the times. We have poly-cotton shirts and we do not stone people for religious infractions—–and we can still have Jesus. I don’t think Islam has the blessing of any similar prioritization of their writings.

  • Pete

    You see, this is why the U.S. should not get involved in any of the messes in the Middle East. None of those people are worth a damn. And for heaven’s sake, keep any of them from migrating here. They are nothing but trouble.

  • jeburke

    Be that as it may, defeating ISIS is more important. Unless the US is prepared to do the job with 50,000-100,000 American troops, we are left with Kurds, Alawis and Iraqi and Lebanese Shia.

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