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Thursday, October 02, 2014

Fighting ISIS: "The enemy of my enemy . . ."

The "unifying" factor of getting pounded from the air
If politics makes for strange bedfellows, getting pounded in a war can unite entities with those fighting their common enemies.

This point is made again in this Long War Journal article Pro-al Qaeda ideologues propose truce between Islamic State, rivals:
The Islamic State, headed by Abu Bakr al Baghdadi, has been warring with the Al Nusrah Front, al Qaeda's official branch in Syria, and other jihadist organizations since last year. Some of the signatories were involved in previous efforts to reconcile the Islamic State with its rivals. Those efforts failed, but the jihadist ideologues are trying once again.

"We call on all factions in Syria and Iraq to cease fighting among themselves no later than the evening of [Oct 3, 2014], for perhaps Allah most high will descend his mercies upon Syria and its people in the prayer of Muslim crowds on that great day," the proposal reads.

The document continues: "And we request from all the factions that they announce their position regarding this initiative in their manner in three days from the date of the publication of this statement, so that it can be made known and clear who rejects this blessed initiative."

The authors argue that "forty countries have united and gathered together to wage war against" Islam itself. They ask: "[S]o does our loyalty to Islam and its people not require of us to stop the infighting under the bombardment of this Crusader campaign at the very least if a permanent [final] end to it is not possible?"
Sort of like "united we stand, divided we fall," isn't it?

It would simplify the problems of all the factions if they could focus on their common enemy without having worry about each other.

Probably doesn't matter all that much to the forces fighting these jihadists. I suppose, if their organizations matter so much, it is truly appropriate to use the alleged old Crusader phrase (reportedly spoken during a Christian -um- sect battle): "Kill them all and let God sort them out."

You might note that this phrase has been suggested as being the official White House strategy in Syria:
The new plan seems to be: “Kill’em all and let God sort them out,” a Vietnam-era slogan echoing the original from the Middle Ages.

The real problem is that the White House’s strategy looks like it’s being run by two angry women, Susan Rice and UN ambassador Samantha Power. Neither they nor President Barack Obama seems to have any grasp of military or geopolitical strategy. It’s amateur hour driven by a frenzy of alarmist hysteria from politicians and the media.
Well, I wouldn't exactly call it a strategy, but united or not, there are reasons to not wish any of these jihadists groups well.

Another leg of the attack on ISIS is to cut their funding, and at least one source suggests that the bombing is helping in that effort:
U.S. airstrikes in Syria targeting oil refineries controlled by the Islamic State group are cutting heavily into the group’s profits, which at one point were, on average, between $2 million and $3 million a day, analysts say.

“It is crippling for ISIS,” Luay al-Khatteeb, director of the Iraq Energy Institute, said of the destruction of oil refineries. After more than a week of U.S. and coalition bombings targeting the Sunni militant group in Syria, “profits [for ISIS] are out of the equation." The group’s profits are now in the thousands rather than millions of dollars per day . . .
Yes, but you only bomb the refineries once. It is the other behind the back funding that needed to be totally quashed. More on this funding issue here:
Learning from their previous incarnation as the Islamic State of Iraq, when they received money from foreign fighters, Islamic State has almost weaned itself off private funds from sympathetic individual donors in the Gulf. Such money flows have come under increased scrutiny from the U.S. Treasury.

Instead the group has formalized a system of internal financing that includes an Islamic form of taxation, looting and most significantly, oil sales, to run their 'state' effectively.

This suggests it will be harder to cut the group's access to the local funding that is fuelling its control of territory and strengthening its threat to the Middle East and the West.
Nevertheless, financing from Gulf donors may prove more critical in months to come, if U.S. President Barack Obama's mission to "degrade and destroy" the group succeeds and the group loses territory and finds itself looking abroad for funds.
In the end, squeezing the group's finances will involve a mixture of intelligence and force. Ending the group's control of a given area using military might would remove its ability to raise local taxes, for example. Tracking smuggling routes or Gulf donors, in contrast, would involve local informants.
The article references kidnapping and ransom and other criminal activity . . . but an "Islamic form of taxation?" This site discusses the concept of "zakat" - a tax structure allowed by Islam:
As far as the various rates of zakat are concerned, three distinct categories can be classified:

1. Wealth: After deducting the nisaab and taking into consideration other exemptions mentioned above, the wealth of a person, shall be taxed annually at the rate of 2%. Tax on trade capital shall also be levied at the same rate by considering this capital to be the sum of cash in hand and cash in trade.

2. Produce: Zakat on produce is deducted at the time of produce and depending upon the various items has three rates: 5%; 10%; 20%

i) 5%: On items which are produced by the interaction of both labour and capital: eg. produce from irrigated lands and industrial produce from factories7.

ii) 10%: On items which are produced such that the major factor in producing them is either labour or capital, but not both. Examples of the former include an artist’s creation like paintings and the works of scholars and intellectuals, while examples of the latter include rented houses, and produce from rainy lands.

iii) 20%: On items which are produced neither as a result of labour nor capital but are actually a gift of God, eg treasure etc.

3. Animals: Only those animals which are bred and reared for the purpose of trade and business are subject to zakat. The details of the rates of zakat on animals can be consulted from any book of fiqh.
At some point even turnips run dry, so "local" taxes seem to be a short-term solution.

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