ISIL and Iraq’s Pandora’s Box
By Ramzy Baroud
“Labeiki ya Zaynab,” chanted Iraqi Shiite fighters as they swayed, dancing with their rifles before news cameras in Baghdad on 13 June. They were apparently getting ready for a difficult fight ahead. For them, it seemed that a suitable war chant would be answering the call of Zaynab, the daughter of Imam Ali, the great Muslim Caliph who lived in Medina 14 centuries ago. That was the period through which the Shiite sect slowly emerged, based on a political dispute whose consequences are still felt until this day.
Dark Forces of Sectarianism
That chant alone is enough to demonstrate the ugly sectarian nature of the war in Iraq, which has reached an unprecedented highpoint in recent days. Fewer than 1,000 fighters from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) advanced against Iraq’s largest city of Mosul on 10 June, sending two Iraqi army divisions (nearly 30,000 soldiers) to a chaotic retreat.
The call to arms was made by a statement issued by Iraq’s most revered Shiite cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, and read on his behalf during a Friday prayer’s sermon in Kerbala. “People who are capable of carrying arms and fighting the terrorists in defense of their country (..) should volunteer to join the security forces to achieve this sacred goal,” the statement in part read.
The terrorists of whom Sistani speaks are those of ISIL, whose numbers throughout the region are estimated at only 7,000 fighters. They are well organized, fairly well-equipped and absolutely ruthless. continue here