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Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Just Call It 'The Caliphate': Historic linkage between the Abbasid Caliphate and ISIS

The Abbasid Caliphate 750-1517


Just Call It 'The Caliphate':
Historic linkage between the Abbasid Caliphate and ISIS

Map of the Umayyad Caliphate: 661-750 A.D.
    Despite almost a quarter century of continuous military operations in the Middle East, the average American (average educated American anyway) knows very little about the history of the Islamic Middle East, and the important historical background of radical Islam and the role that does play in current events in the Middle East.

  The first important historical fact to understand is that while Islam "came" from the Arabian peninsula (present day Saudi Arabia-ish)but  it ruled from farther north, and west.  Major political capitals of the post-Arab/Muslim conquest were Baghdad, Damascus and Cairo.   All three cities had millennial of pre-Islamic and certainly pre-Arabic history, but at the time of the conquest were ruled by Semitic speaking regimes. Further afield, the Arab/Islamic conquest spread into non-Arabic and non-Semitic territories: Spain, of course, but also Central Asia, India and eventually Southeast Asia.

 The second important historical fact to understand about ISIS is the actual history of post-conquest Islam. The "Islamic" world was controlled by a succession of Caliphates, with the two most important being the Umayyad Caliphate (661-750 A.D.) and the Abbasid Caliphate (750 A.D.-1517 A.D.)  The Umayyad's were out of Damascus, and the Abbasid's were out of Baghdad.

  The third important fact is to understand the fall of Abbasid's at the hands of Mongols. The Mongols were in turn defeated by the Ottomans, who were Turks.  After the Ottoman conquest, the area of the Caliphate was ruled by Turks, not Arabs.  In the 18th century, the Wahhabi puritanical movement arose in the Arabian peninsula and originally fought against Turkish (i.e. fellow Sunni Muslim) rule.

  The entirety of puritanical Sunni Islam in its present form can be traced to the Wahhabi movement, both in militant (Al Queda, ISIS and the Muslim Brotherhood) and more friendly varieties (the Monarchs of the Persian Gulf.)

  The final fact is that the Caliphate's concerned themselves "universal states" in a way similar to the Chinese Emperors- they didn't recognize other polities. This means that much of their rhetoric- I'm talking about the Caliphates- not the puritanical Wahhabis from the 18th century- does not acknowledge other countries.  But, as the history of post revolutionary Iran, and Saudia Arabia and the Gulf Monarchs teaches us, modern day Islamic Republics are able to "play ball" within the modern state system.  They not be our busom buddies, but they aren't will nilly invading the entire world, mostly because they want to survive.

  So if you look at a map of ISIS controlled territory:

Present day ISIS controlled area in Syria and Iraq
   What you see if the proverbial heartland of the various Caliphates that ruled the Middle East for over one thousand years.   This state actually makes MORE sense than the bullshit one cobbled together by the Western Powers after World War II.  It's also a state that is obviously going to be ethnically homogeneous (unfortunately here ISIS is more Wahhabi then Caliphate- the Caliphs were pretty loose dudes.)

  So am I saying "let's just let ISIS have Northern Iraq and Northern Syria!" Of course I'm not.  Certainly, our last two decades of smashing terrorists wherever they may seek refuge has been a huge success in terms of "preventing the next 9/11."  BUT- maybe there is some value in drawing all these guys to one place and making them into government bureaucrats.  I'm guessing most people would rather take a job then blow themselves up.   Once they do that, they are already surrounded by mortal enemies: Turkey to the North, and Iran, Iraq and Syria to the South, West and East, so it's like, they'll be busy.  They'll need their suicide bombers to stay home and help out.

1 comment:

by Mario S. said...

This is great!

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