Middle East continues to remain hot spot of international policy for many powerful countries, trying to pursue their own geopolitical interest. During the last period, another player, Islamic State of Iraq and Syria emerged in the region. ISIS is a terrorist organization. It was formed by self-declared Caliph and Imam Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. It has direct hierarchical control and the head of the government is Caliph. ISIS is a Sunni extremist group, which in the territories under its control threatens to ultimately destroy people with different religions and values. Now, it has control both over the north-eastern part of Syria, and “Sunni-triangle’’. According to different sources, the territory of ISIS is considered to be 60-80sq. miles. This group has attained one part of its weapons, as an aid during the struggle against Turkey, Qatar and Saudi Arabia. Many of the weapons used by the Islamic militants were simply captured from its enemies in Syria and Iraq, especially in 2014, after an ISIS attack in Mosul. ISIS has the US A16 and the Russian AK series, captured from Syria, M7990AT Rocket Launcher, against anti-Assad protests in Syria, used as anti-tank rockets. After the fall of Mosul, ISIS captured Sud missile and Mi621 military airplanes, 30 Soviet T-55 Main Battle Tank and 10 T72 Main Battle Tanks. Plus, ISIS used Chemical weapons in Qabari. This group is the richest terrorist organization. At first it was only surviving due to donations, reparations: paid for slaves, but then became financially independent and stable organization. Now days, ISIS has control over the number of Iraq’s and Syria’s oil wells. Only 2 oil refinery daily produces 16000 barrel oil. They also have control over the 45% of Syrian gas –reservoirs, but ISIS is not allowed to use it yet. According to various sources, the profit of ISIS by selling its oil, daily reaches 2- 6 million dollars.
Within the framework of Syrian Conflict, Turkey’s approach forces to beware. The role of religion is getting important in Turkey. Besides, Turkey attempts to increase its political forces and influence on the region. The leading “Justice and development Party’’ in Turkey, has the same approach as that of Ottoman Empire, hoping to have influence on the adjacent nations and to create a country similar to Ottoman Caliphate. Besides the enlargement of influence, it is necessary for Turkey to prevent the separation of Syria, because it will lead to new developments of Kurdish issue. Hence, this is the only point, when the interest of Turkey and Russia match. Russian influence and military presence in Syria is only possible with the regime of Assad, otherwise the results for Russia may be unpredictable. Referring to Turkey, again, no matter how it announces all the time, that the ideology of ISIS differs from the ideology of Islam, anyway the existence of ISIS is profitable for Turkey. Supporting ISIS, Turkey helps to weaken the positions of Arab countries, such as Syria, Iraq and Lebanon and it gets new weapons in case of a conflict against Iran. The troops of ISIS pass the Turkey’s boarder, and according to certain sources, during several operations Turkey provided military aid to ISIS.
Turkey imports large amount of oil and natural gas from Russia, whereas Iran’s more expensive energy resources have been an alternative choice for them. Turkey needs to diversify its energy market. Turkey has become international front page news, as they illegally imported gas and oil from Iraqi Kurdistan, without their agreement and now these oil-gas requirements can be satisfied only by illegally imported oil from ISIS. Though Turkey was under the control of the USA, it allowed the Kurds to move to Syria and fight against ISIS; nevertheless, Turkey refuses to implement active military actions. The reason is that the Kurds may have high self-consciousness, as a result of these military actions, and the links between Iraq, Syria and Turkey may become deeper, leading to the increase of the amount of Syrian- Kurds ,as well as the Kurds in the northern part of Syria, may raise the question of their autonomy. This problem is really dangerous for Turkey, based on the Kurds living there.
Recently, threatening announcements by the Islamic Republic towards Caucasus and Middle East countries are being used actively. The number of armed people in ISIS from Caucasus is about 1500. Armenia is an apple of discord between the interest of ISIS and Turkey, and it is located in the way of the future Islamic Republic, which starts from Iraq and Syria and goes through Russia to China. After strengthening their position in Syria and Iraq, ISIS may be a serious danger for the National Security of Armenia. It is not accidental, that during ‘’Shant-2015’’ Military Command and Staff Exercises in the Republic of Armenia in September, 2015, the scenario was the possible military actions, in case of the affirmation of ISIS in the territory of Turkey.
The ambitions of ISIS towards the whole territory of Caucasus is unavoidable, especially the possibility of Islamic revolution in Azerbaijan or maybe in some cases the scenario of movement to Nakhitchevn, by armed forces. This contradicts to the territorial interests of Russia, but the question is will Russia be able to protect its interest in such condition and complicated territory. There is no other choice for Russia, because when losing its territory, it will face threatening danger towards its own territory.
Examining the Military forces (which according to different sources, is 50000 – 250000 people) and its danger, something is unclear. How was the struggle against ISIS impelled?
In this context the main importance is focused on who leads the struggle.
- International coalitions against ISIS with the head of the USA.
In September 2014, two American journalists were subjected to death penalty, after this, the US president Barack Obama, declared the beginning of military actions against ISIS.
The New York Times referring to the White House, clarifies, that it plans to take military actions with 3 stages: using airstrikes, training the military forces of Iraq and Kurdistan and hunting down the terrorists in Syrian hiding places.
This coalition includes the EU countries: Saudi Arabia, Jordan, The United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Qatar, United Kingdom, Denmark and Australia.
- Kurdish ‘’peshmerga’’ military forces
In 1970 in the northern part of Iraq an autonomous Kurdish region was built. Iraqi constitution recognized Kurdish ‘’National Right’’, including the right of having their own troops (peshmerga means ‘’one who faces death). The military forces of peshmerga form about 190000.
- The Iraqi armed forces
According to the announcements of the USA National Security, the Iraqi Armed forces are in hopeless situation. Nevertheless, it has a great power, including 190000 soldiers and around half million policemen.
- Kurdish soldiers in Syria
This is a union formed by Kurds. It is located in the northern region of Syria. The number of soldiers is about 65000, one third of which are women.
- Syrian army
Since the Syrian Civil War in 2011, the number of Army has been half million, including the reserve duty. In 2015 Syria implemented certain operations together with Lebanon Hezbollah; the later is Shiite terrorist group.
- Russian Federation
Since the 30th of September, 2015, Russia conducted airstrikes in Syria against ISIS. Russia used air-based cruise missiles, 4 destructive MI-24, M-17 helicopters. The Russian airbase was protected by Russian Navy, in the Caspian Sea.
So, enormous military and financial forces are struggling against ISIS, without any success, as they all are trying to pursue their own interest.
The ratio of interest between regional countries
The main reason of struggle between Israel-Saudi Arabia and Iran is the volume of impact on the region. De facto Saudi Arabia is the head of Sunni, but Iran is the head of Shia. The reason of how Iran and its allies gain strength and how their influence on the territory increases is the following:
- Israel and Saudi Arabia are ready to cooperate
- The USA is not only ready, but it also started supporting radical groups, such as in 2011, the USA helped radical opposing groups in Syria, but in 1880-1988, it helped Saddam Hussein attack Iran.
Foreign Policy in 2013, CIA documents show the U.S helped Saddam Hussein use chemical weapons, as the USA gassed Iran. In this article, it is mentioned, that senior American officials were being regularly informed about the chemical weapons used against Iran, but they didn’t prevent it, and didn’t even talk about it. It is mentioned, that the Iraqi military forces used American satellites and other reconnaissance data. According to Foreign Policy, if chemical weapons were not used, then the Iranian troops would win the war, leading to Iran’s rapid development and rapid growth of the impact on the territory.
After the downfall of the authorities of Saddam Hussein, Shia took control of the government, due to the USA, leading to drawing of relations between Iran and Iraq, after a long time. The Shia Crescent (or Shiite Crescent) was formed, which stretches from Iran through Iraq, to Lebanon and where the head of the authority were Shiites, making trouble for Saudis.
After 2004, the USA was to change its political course in the region.
According to Seymour Hersh’s 2007 article, ‘’the Redirection’’ in New York Times newspaper, it is mentioned that the USA has to use the Sunni forces in the Middle East, in order to have control over the developing Shiites in Iraq, to weaken Lebanon Hezbollah, to not allow the development of Iran’s Shiites, and of course, to weaken Iran’s, main ally Syria. When talking about Sunni forces, the USA firstly refers to Saudi Arabia. Al Qaeda, also mainly consists of Sunni Muslims. The unwanted consequence of this policy may be the activation of Sunni extremists, as well as the creation of the Islamic Republic. According to Hersh, the USA is not able to provide balance between Shiites and Sunnis (who fight against Iran). This situation has resemblance with the 80’s, when the USA supported the Islamic resistance opposing the Soviet Union in Afghanistan, and when after this Al-Qaeda was formed.
The roots of all these situations go back to the 7th century, when Sunni and Shiite were split, because of religion.
Sunni had control over Arabic Caliphate, later over Ottoman Empire. Around 90% of world’s Muslims are Sunnis, but the majority of Iran, Iraq, Bahrain and Lebanon are Shiite Muslims. The growth of Shiite Crescent’s influence on the regions with rich oil reservoirs makes trouble for the West and the Sunnis. The development of Iran bothers Saudi Arabia not only as it imbalances the forces in the region, but also leads to many problems inside of the Saudi Arabia. The thing is that in the Southern part of Saudi Arabia, which is famous for its oil, the number of Shiite Muslims is large, that is why the preclusion of development of Shiite Muslims is more important for Sunni Muslims, than the downfall of ISIS.
2014, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the USA, general Dempsey announced in the Congress, that he knows many Arabic allies of the USA, who help the ISIS. One of the senators answered, that this was done, as the Syrian army is not able to fight against Assad, whereas ISIS tries to remove its army. In 2014, October Joe Biden announced that the Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Turkey are so keen on bringing Assad down, that they are ready to give hundreds of millions of dollars and hundreds of ton of weapons to those, who would fight against Assad. It is not excluded, that ISIS is the result of this.
In 2014, the UN peacekeepers, from the Golan Heights, reported to the Jabhat –al- Nusra’s forces about the supporting by Israel. From the same An -Nusra and other anti- Assad groups, many armed people were checked into ISIS.
So, it is obvious, that the struggle against Shiite Crescent or ISIS is nothing but a choice, for above mentioned forces. Now days, the enlargement of influence of Shiite Crescent’s countries is more dangerous than the existence of ISIS. And destructive actions will be implemented only after the weakening of Iran and its allies. According to Superpowers and worldwide economy, Middle East has great meaning; hence the issue of who would have more influence in the region is important.
Author։ Hmayak Baghramyan: © All rights are reserved:
Translated by Ashkhen Arakelyan