ISIS has announced with pride the execution of 1700 Iraqis, presumably most or all Shi’ites. Reports indicate that those Sunni soldiers captured were released. Ayatollah Sistani, the highest ranking Shi’ite cleric in the world, has issued a call to arms and thousands are heeding the call. Unlike ISIS, he did not appeal to a certain sect but called upon all capable Iraqis to fulfill their duty to defend Iraq. Predictably, the overwhelming majority of those responding to his call are Shi’ites, but there are reports that some Sunnis are forming battalions as well.
Qassem Sulaymani, Iran’s second most powerful figure, is in Iraq as we speak and reports suggest that he isn’t meeting with Prime Minister Maliki or Iraqi generals, but with militia leaders. Iraqi soldiers are salaried employees who lack that ideological vigor needed to battle the zealous and battle-tested ISIS. Thus, Sulaymani is preparing militiamen to serve as an example of how to fight with spirit de corps in the defense of the capital.
ISIS has promised to burn Najaf and Karbala and there is much talk about the origins of this conflict. Before the Syrian war, ISIS was the Islamic State in Iraq, which itself was a merger of al-Qaeda in Iraq and other jihadist groups. AQI was the main faction in the merger and that too was originally Abu Musab al-Zarqawi’s Tawhid and Jihad Organization (Monotheism and Holy War).
Zarqawi, before being killed by US missile strike in 2006, cemented his bloody legacy when he spearheaded the union of jihadist groups into the Islamic State of Iraq.
When Iraqi Sunnis lost the sectarian civil war (2006-2008), many fled to neighboring Syria to bide their time. When the Syrian civil war erupted in 2011, many took up arms against Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad with the objective of winning the jihad in Syria in order to take it back into Iraq. The Islamic State in Iraq and Sham (Syria/Levant) and its recent march onto Iraq is the manifestation of that long-term plan of vengeance.
Thus, when Tony Blair says that him and Bush’s war in Iraq has nothing to do with the chaos in Iraq today, he couldn’t be more wrong. Their war was the catalyst for all this and sowed such resentful seeds that will haunt the region for decades and his denial is either disingenuous or or based on ignorance. Either way, he has lost his right to have an audience.