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September 22, 2014 / Congau

Who Supports the IS?

How is it possible for a terror militia to conquer such a large area in such a short time. As they first swept across the land of Iraq during a few short days this spring, there was talk of a few hundred fighters only. They reached the outskirts of Baghdad and they still hold most of the territory they grabbed. A few hundred fighters… How is that possible?

They are primitive and cruel. They wave their black flag of fright and decapitate their prisoners. They are a small gang of fanatics who cannot possibly enjoy the support of anyone except a tiny group of extremists.

Obviously there’s something wrong with this picture. No army can be so successful in such a short time without an extensive support. True, the Iraqi government may have been disorganized and there may be an element of surprise in the advance of the militia, but that cannot possibly be the full explanation.

It’s a common propaganda tactics to deny your enemy any popular support, but the Western press is not engaged in propaganda, is it? Well, of course it is, but we may still hope to meet some sober analysis in our media reports. So just admit it: The obvious facts indicate that the IS enjoy a support that is far greater than just a handful of mad extremists.

For a large number of people in the Middle East the IS are probably not seen as terrorists, for no one gives a bad name to their allies, and if we want to be neutral, we shouldn’t give them that name either.

But how could we avoid calling them terrorists, you may ask, when looking at the atrocities they have committed? Well, atrocities happen in all wars, so that would qualify any fighting force as terrorist, but admittedly the picture the IS are spreading of themselves is not quite one of an ordinary military. Those decapitation videos are of course absolutely gruesome and abominable, but such images are not designed to create popular support. What makes the IS somewhat attractive to the local population, is probably its identity as a Sunni force combating a Shiite government. Given its rapid ascent it’s likely that it actually is a coalition of different Sunni groups (including secular Baathists) who don’t necessarily support the entire IS ideology.

The image of cruelty may originate from just a small fraction of the IS coalition, for otherwise it’s hard to believe how a force that has been so strategically successful, can possibly do something as strategically stupid as distributing those images. What the IS really is, is still a riddle.

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