DAESH, the state that didn’t exist…
“When DA(E)SH washes whiter than white”… a slogan for the washing powder brand ‘DASH’, unknown to Arabic and Anglo-Saxon spheres, which will make those laugh who know it from the famous TV and radio advertisements. The French President François Hollande unfortunately (and unconsciously) presented this wordplay on a silver plate by mispronouncing the acronym of the Islamic State; the first time he used it.
It allows me to bring back the discussion to the level of obvious incomprehension at which the Heads of State and Government currently train their hollow and arrogant rhetoric, whilst they are confronted with expanding international jihadism, developing at the speed of a mushroom and the harmfulness of a cancer, whose metastases have already penetrated the European metropolises.
“The terrorist group of which we speak is not a state. It would like to be, but it isn’t; and to call it as such it to honour it. They need to be called the ‘Daesh stranglers’!” That’s it, it’s said! Laurent Fabius, the French Minister of Foreign Affairs, and President Hollande have decided: “DASH” (sic) is not a state…
It shouldn’t be called Islamic State anymore, but simply Daesh.
Which means… “Islamic State”, but in Arabic (DAISH – Dawlatislamiya fi Iraq wa Sham)…
DAESH, not a state?! That’s easily said…
Reducing the Islamic State to peremptory speeches of Presidents Obama and Hollande and to define the Islamic State as a restricted group of indoctrinated and crazy fanatics is not understanding the engagement of these young (and not so young) men, which have enrolled, sometimes leaving their families and countries, to serve ‘a cause’ – about which it would be best to ask some questions.
Because the Islamic State is indeed more than a grouping of “bearded turbaned men with a butcher’s knife between their teeth”: they are thousands of voluntary and willing fighters, mainly Syrians and Iraqis, but in the meantime also from nearly all member states of the International Community, aka the West. In Syria I spent some weeks with freedom fighters, who, despised and left alone by the West, first joined the ranks of the Jihadist movement Jabhet al-Nosra – the Syrian branch of Al-Qaeda with whom I spent some time as well – and then switched to the ranks of the Islamic State. They are neither ‘crazy’, nor ‘fanatics’, nor ‘indoctrinated’, nor recruited by ‘networks’, which apparently ‘washed their brains’.
To reduce the Islamic State to over-mediatised decapitations is to forget the socio-political and religious background, which underpins this pan-Arabic and Islamic Jihadist wave. Contrary to what the President of the United States of America affirmed, the Islamic State is well and truly “Islamist”. To deny it is not to know Islam and to ignore its eminently political dimensions…
Of course the assassinations of James Foley, Steven Sotloff, David Haines, Hervé Gourdel in Algeria and, very recently, Alan Henning provoke a mix of anger and sadness. The hostage, desperate, alone, facing cynic and icy rustling of the political machinery, abandoned, then killed in such a brutal and terrible way… I myself had for long months been kept hostage in Syria: I know very well the state of mind in which these men may have found themselves and the intensity of the suffering of their families.
But beyond indignation, the capacity to analyse needs to be preserved: negating the existence of the Islamic State as a state, of a particular and shifting shape, is to simply refuse to admit that a political universe can exist, which succeeded in developing its own rules. Not only developing them but also benefitting from international support, so far difficult to measure, which allows it to escape the rules imposed by some Western powers following the Second World War, in a time, not so long ago, during which all these peoples were still muzzled by colonial domination, of whom nowadays emerges a wild Islamic identity revolution. They have had enough time, since 1945, to find the way of their destiny, which now appears to become clear.
To qualify them as “terrorists”, in the sense of convened propagandist rhetoric, is to block the road for the realities of a belief, a faith, which produced a different view of the world, a different meta-political universe with a Universalist aim.
The arrogance of the West and the never-ending lessons …
It is a state, which is not recognised by the International Community and which does not have even the slightest intention of asking to be recognised by the same, neither by the UN Security Council, nor by any other institution …
It is a state, which controls and shrewdfully administers its territory. It is a state, which disposes of colossal resources (it appears that the chancelleries of the West have understood: their armies henceforth will target the petrol centres in the hands of the Islamic State… much to the annoyance of Turkey, which benefited so far from this chance and traded with the “terrorists” without any remorse).
But it is a state, which transcends the UN’s concepts: a state without a frontier, which bases itself on the support of thousands of fighters deployed everywhere in the world, as of now officially supported, since the 16th of September, by the Jihadists of Al-Qaeda in the Arabic peninsula (whose historic leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri, the successor of Osama Ben Laden, remains silent after having come forward against the Islamic State), and the Al-Qaeda of the Islamic Maghreb. It is the whole Arab world… the assassination of the French citizen in Algeria, in the days that followed the proclamation of this alliance is certainly not a coincidence.
In the end, the terror attack of the Jewish museum in Brussels was not what the press and the international political sphere had thought: it was neither an anti-Semitic act, nor an isolated act. It was a planned attack by one state against another. There will be others.
The Islamic State is a state, tentacular and underground.
Not within the definition of those comfortably seated in the permanent seats of the UN Security Council, who since more than half a century pull the strings in the “International Community”.
But the UN, in the end, is only an international organisation like any other – no state is obliged to follow or accept its abstractions… by virtue of which “natural law” would it be compelling?
This Islamic State is recognised by the Ummah, the community of the believers, growing more and more. They recognise the caliphate, simultaneously in the ancient Greek political sense of the “polis” and in the religious sense: men and women united by faith, which becomes a catalyst for a communitarian belonging. The Islamic State exists where those that claim it are.
Facing this threat, which gains ground, the West needs to defend itself. It is legitimate.
But it needs to be done well, that is intelligently. The international coalition constructed by the terrible lovers of the Obama-Hollande couple can only fail. Air strikes may slow down the Islamic State’s progression towards Erbil, Baghdad, Damascus or Amman, Beirut; but they will be powerless against the underground advance of this state of a different kind.
We straightaway realise the weakness of the proposed solution.
Besides, this coalition has pushed aside a necessary power and neglected the weak link of the Islamic State.
The Coalition did not really request participation from one of the major actors in the Syrian and Iraqi crisis: Russia (even Moscow accepted the principle of an action against the IS, remaining however opposed to an intervention in Syria). The Ukraine crisis, resulting from intrigues hatched by Brussels and Washington, always hungry to reach towards the East, has made dialogue and cooperation difficult. But it is known that you cannot have your finger in many pies at once…
This coalition did neither take into account the Sunni populations of Syria and Iraq, of whom the majority never had any vague desires of Jihadism: the Sunnis, in those two countries, do only support the Islamic State out of need – it is the only escape route from the dictatorship of Damascus and the Shia control of Baghdad. They would certainly be able to turn the tables if serious and concrete warranties were proposed to them for the future.
It also is a long war, which begins today – a long-term international conflict.
It is proper to warn those who, from Brussels to New York and from Rabat to Kabul, continue to spend their Sunday (or Friday) afternoon watching “football” on TV and do not know where the Iraqi capital is on a map. They seem not yet to have realised the ambition and the human potential of the Islamic State. Tomorrow, war will come into their lives, at a bus stop or a metro station, not far away.