The Jihadis Return – ISIS and the New Sunni Awakening by Patrick Cockburn

September 5, 2014 12:00 am Published by Leave your thoughts

Recently developments in Iraq are surpassing the magnitude of chaos and destruction to which the country’s citizens have grown accustomed in the decade following the 2003 invasion, shocking even the most seasoned observers of Middle Eastern affairs. In his latest book, The Jihadis Return – ISIS and the New Sunni Awakening, Middle East correspondent for The Independent, Patrick Cockburn, explains the rapid and unexpected growth of the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (more commonly known as ISIS) by describing how Western (predominantly American) foreign policy in both the short and long term has inadvertently created a threat now deemed more sinister than Al-Qaeda.

Interspersed in his narrative are anecdotes of personal experiences where Cockburn has interacted with Iraqi locals and officials in the course of his work. Cockburn shows how a catalogue of mistakes based on an ill thought out American foreign policy that originated in the days post 11th September 2001, not least a propensity to back Islamic fundamentalist groups, has created discord in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria and Libya. Crucially, he shows how these mistakes are repeated in view of the West’s poor understanding of the politics, history and culture of the Middle East, as well as their dependence on dubious allies, such as Pakistan and Saudi Arabia who have done much to fund and encourage the various groups against which the US War on Terror is directed.

Cockburn draws attention to the large number of external players, including several countries in the Arab world, who have their own, often conflicting, agendas in relation to Iraq and Syria. The result is often an influx of weapons and money to local proxies who continue to wage sectarian war on behalf of their benefactors. Cockburn draws attention to the significant role Saudi Arabia has played in funding violent Jihadist groups since the 1980s, a point which seems to be overlooked or ignored by its American ally. He also describes the dynamics that exist between the various ethno-religious groups in Iraq, namely Sunnis, Shia and Kurds and explains why the Iraqi army, possessing the strength of tens of thousands of men, melted away outside Mosul in the face of several thousand poorly armed rebels.

Cockburn concludes with dire predictions if the West continues to repeat its foreign policy errors.

“A blind spot for the US and other Western powers has been their failure to see that by supporting the armed uprising in Syria, they would inevitably destabilise Iraq and provoke a new round of sectarian civil war.”

The Jihadis Return – ISIS and the New Sunni Awakening by Patrick Cockburn

144 pages

Published by OR books


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This post was written by Tomasz Pierscionek

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