ISIL Fighters as 'Mad as the Nazis or the Reds' (Le Figaro, France)
"Those who adhere to this Islamist ideology are politically
and culturally frustrated: they feel that Muslims are not properly represented
in history, in science, or in the dominant culture. Their dream is as mad as
that of the Third Reich or the classless world that the communists dreamed of,
but one must remember that the Reds of Trotsky and Lenin defeated the White
Russian armies financed by the West." -- Le Figaro senior international reporter Renaud Girard
with Renaud Girard conducted by AlexandreDevecchio
Renaud Girard analyses the consequences of the proclamation
of a new Islamic State, straddling Iraq and Syria. Girard is Le
Figaro's senior international reporter. He has covered every major conflict of
the last 30 years. He is author of a work on the Iraq War: PourquoiIls se battent (Why are
They Fighting, Flammarion, 2006) and his latest work: Le Monde en Marche (The
World on the Move, published by ÉditionsCNRS, [the publishing arm of the French government's
National Centre for Scientific Research].
Le Figaro: The jihadists
announced last week that they are setting up a caliphate that straddles the
border between Iraq and Syria. Can this Islamic state last, or even expand?
What are the consequences for the region?
Renaud Girard: The caliphate streches
from the province of Aleppo, in the north of Syria, as far as Diyala, in the east of Iraq on the border with Iran. In
Syria, contrary to what some Western leaders believed, Bashar
al-Assad is firmly in place and not ready to abandon Damascus. If there were
truly free elections, it is not certain he would win less than 50 percent of
the vote. The Islamist fighters are therefore holed up in the desert.
Christian and Kurdish communities are the victims. In Iraq, the taking of Mosul
was far from insignificant, but Bagdad is not threatened. For this emirate to
have consistency and become more of the fantasy than it is today, it must also
take the two great historical capitals of Damascus and Bagdad. Damascus was the
seat of the Umayyad
Caliphate (671-750), and until the Mongolian invasion swept it aside,
Bagdad was the seat of the Abbasid Caliphate
(750-1258). As long as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant [ISIL] fails to take these two symbolic cities, it will
always be lacking something.
Le Figaro:What are the jihadists' motivations?
Renaud Girard:The ideological motivation of these fighters is very strong because it
is founded on a dream, as was the case with the soldiers of the Bolshevik Revolution
or the fanatical troops of the Third Reich. They subscribe
to the ideal of a return to the golden age of the four Rachidun
Caliphs (the "rightly guided"): Abu Bakr,
and Ali, the four caliphs of the
earliest days of Islam. They think what is needed, like it was in the 7th
Century, is a single caliph to govern the entire Muslim world, the "Ummah."
Confronted with the successive humiliations that constituted the decline of the
European colonization, and the failure of Abdel Nasser's brand of Arab
nationalism, many young Muslims cling to Islam and the dream of returning to
the time of the [Arab] conquest of North Africa and Spain in the 7th and 8th
who adhere to this Islamist ideology are politically and culturally frustrated:
they feel that Muslims are not properly represented in history, in science, or
in the dominant culture. Their dream is as mad as that of the Third Reich or
the classless world that the communists dreamed of, but one must remember that
the Reds of Trotsky and Lenin defeated the White Russian armies financed by the
Le Figaro: Does their
pretense of breaking down the borders of the Middle East seem
realistic to you?
Renaud Girard: This is a dream of the Muslim Ummah, underpinned by the notion that nations, states and
borders are creations of the West. For them, any policy that comes from the
West, be it democracy, elections, or gender equality, are policies of the
devil. What matters is the entire Muslim community, not individual states.
However, I don't think this is realistic. I want to give two examples. The Iraq-Iran War showed that
Arab nationalism was stronger than religious solidarity, since not a single
Shiite-Iraqi soldier defected to Iran. What prevailed in that 1980-1988 war was
nationality. The second example of the durability of the nationalist cause in
the Arab-Muslim world was in 1960, when General de Gaulleproposed dividing up the Sahara with
Algeria (which had the intention of becoming independent from French
the King of Morocco, Mohammed V. The
Moroccans replied that they would address the question of a solution to the
Sahara directly with their Algerian "brothers." This "settlement
between brothers" then took place in 1963: it was called the "Sands War."
Le Figaro: How can the
international community make the Islamists back down? Will that require a new
military intervention, or more diplomacy?
Renaud Girard: The military intervention of George W
Bush ended in disaster, the consequences of which we are paying for today. On
the diplomatic front, Obama should have a card to play in Iran, but the
American president is not very comfortable in the Middle East, mainly because
of the Congress. It is a region that irritates him and he cannot seem to seize
the possibility of a strategic agreement between the United States and Iran,
which, nevertheless, is a historic necessity.
great rival of Iran is Russia and not the United States. This is all the more
so since Iranian Shiism is much more open in nature
than Sunnism, because it tolerates criticism and the
different schools of Islamic interpretation. In Iran, even under Khomeini,
have always been liberal schools of Shiite
Islam. It is a much more open and less radical country than Saudi Arabia:
today, there are churches and synagogues in Iran, and women are allowed to
drive and go to work. When you go for a stroll in Tehran, you notice that
people are rather pro-Western, and that the mosques are empty on Fridays. When
people voted for Rohani (who was elected president of
the Islamic Republic in the first round of voting), they voted for the most
pro-Western of the candidates that the system had ever had. Neither has Iran
ever been a serious threat to Israel. Historically, the
Persians have always supported the Jews. The United States should therefore go
much further with reconciliation to block Wahhabi
radicalism. It is a shame that such an agreement hasn't come about.
Posted By Worldmeets.US
the Americans are bound by the Quincy pact signed by
King Ibn Saud, founder of the Kingdom of Saudi
Arabia, and U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt, on February 14, 1945, on the
cruiser USS Quincy, on their return
from the Yalta Conference. The deal was simple: Saudi Arabia gave a monopoly on
oil exploration to American companies in exchange for which the United States
ensured the protection of the country from its neighbors and pledged not to
interfere in the Kingdom's internal affairs. Too bad if with their oil manna,
the Saudis fund Islamism and terrorism everywhere.
this absence of a strategic dialogue between Iran and the West, Tehran also
bears its share of responsibility. The country is paralyzed by infighting
between liberals and conservatives who are afraid to open up for ideological,
but also economic reasons. If Iran becomes an open country, the Pasdarans (Revolutionary Guard Corps) who control all trafficking
would risk losing much of their business!