PEN & the illiberal boycott of Charlie Hebdo.

April 29, 2015

In explaining away his decision – along with five other writers – to boycott the PEN American Center Gala after PEN planned a tribute and a Freedom of Expression Courage Award to Charlie Hebdo on May 5th, Peter Carey said:

“‘PEN’s seeming blindness to the cultural arrogance of the French nation, which does not recognize its moral obligation to a large and disempowered segment of their population’.”

– The wonderful thing about Carey expressing himself here, is that he’s not likely to be killed for it.

Carey has decided that free expression has a specific task if it is to be considered for recognition; a ‘moral obligation‘ to champion those who Carey considers to be disempowered (this apparently doesn’t cover those most disempowered, who were murdered for a cartoon) anything short of that, deserves no award for free expression… even if it ends in death. On this, of course Carey is wrong. It is determined by the individual what it is they consider to be the ‘moral obligation‘ behind their expression, not Peter Carey, hence the word ‘free’.

In my view – and I suspect I differ from Carey on this – there is a significant ‘moral obligation‘ in challenging, mocking, & criticising any idea or dogma that can result in death for doing so. Across the World blasphemy laws continue to chain the lips of millions, whilst persecuting those brave enough to fight back. The freedom for a large portion of the World to speak, is so violently restricted by the religious sensibilities of others. Following the massacre in Paris, media outlets across the World refused to show the image that Charlie Hebdo staff were killed for printing. Thus, protecting free expression became a secondary concern to protecting a single religion. And so in short; any concept that brings with it the opposite of liberty, must be challenged, because to protect it, is to empower it. There is a distinct bravery – whether you like the content or not – in not only satirising ideas that result in threats to your life, but also continuing to do so after the most violent attempts are made to silence you. To disagree with presenting a Free Expression & Courage award to a publication that endured a massacre to silence it, is bizarre to me. But to boycott it, is to abandon the principle upon which PEN was established, and so it’s probably best if Peter Carey wasn’t there. He absolutely shouldn’t be.

Further, Carey is also wrong in attempting to redefine the parameters in which Hebdo operates. He insisted that PEN was ‘blind‘ to France not recognising its obligation to a disempowered section of the population. Whether right or wrong, it – by association, and the subject – implies Charlie Hebdo focuses on that ‘disempowered’ section also. On the contrary, Hebdo is not simply dedicated to satirising Islam (though even if it were, that would be fine…. ‘Life of Brian’ satirised Christianity without having to mention the ‘cultural arrogance’ of the nation in which it was conceived). Hebdo is famed for satirising a variety of power structures. For example, here:

– And here:

Hollande copy
– And here:

– Indeed, Hebdo has satirised the French government, the German Chancellor, the Papacy, the Front National, the UN, the US, Christianity, and plenty of other power bases. And so it seems to me that Carey – in his dishonest representation of what Hebdo does – is simply uncomfortable with Islam being subjected to that same form of criticism. He – like far too many calling themselves liberal – appear to consider Islam a victim that requires protecting, wrongly conflating Muslims as human beings, with Islam as an idea. In doing so, they not only disempower a basic concept of liberty that isn’t afforded to much of the World, but they empower a single religious idea above all others, implying that it is different, and should therefore be treated differently. This is exceptionally dangerous.

Carey’s thoughts were echoed by former President of PEN – and also not happy at the recognition Hebdo is receiving – Francine Prose. Prose article in the Guardian was one long confusion between content she disapproves of, and the principle of free expression itself. For example, she explains:

“Perhaps my sense of this will be clearer if I mention the sort of writers and whistleblowers whom I think would be appropriate candidates: Edward Snowden, Chelsea Manning, the journalists who have risked (and in some cases lost) their lives to report on the wars in the Middle East.”

– Journalists who have ‘risked their lives‘ is a hugely inappropriate comment, given that the award is going to a publication whose journalists actually lost their lives in a massive terrorist attack intended to silence them. After insisting she admires the bravery of Hebdo, and is fine with blasphemy, Prose said:

“Our job, in presenting an award, is to honor writers and journalists who are saying things that need to be said, who are working actively to tell us the truth about the world in which we live. That is important work that requires perseverance and courage. And this is not quite the same as drawing crude caricatures and mocking religion.”

– By doing this, Prose is presenting a deeply illiberal principle. She sets a sort of bar to be surpassed before she’d consider the expression worthy of an award. A confused bar at that, given that Manning and Snowden aren’t actually journalists. Prose seems to imply that challenging an idea that results in death for those expressing the challenge (and continuing to, even after a massacre), if it targets religion, through satire, does not ‘need to be said‘. That exercising of a form of expression denied to millions, even though you might die for it, does not reach the bar she sets. To dismiss satire of religion so easily, is to dismiss the real danger to human lives risked by satirising religion. For Prose, it seems an unimportant topic, if you want to be considered a ‘writer or journalist who tells the truth‘. In reality, anchoring moral principles to a single time and place – or, ‘religion’ as it’s popularly referred – has been and continues to be one of the greatest barriers to individual liberty the World has known.

Prose ends with:

“The narrative of the Charlie Hebdo murders – white Europeans killed in their offices by Muslim extremists – is one that feeds neatly into the cultural prejudices that have allowed our government to make so many disastrous mistakes in the Middle East.”

– I don’t know what this has to do with honouring people killed for their right to express, because this is not at all a narrative PEN is advocating. Two further things strike me about this comment; Firstly, I would argue that attempt to protect Islam from free expression of critics, feeds the extremist narrative across the World that Islam is a privileged concept, which in turn, is the basis upon which blasphemy laws are conceived, and cartoonists are murdered. It therefore has the opposite effect of what liberals are perhaps trying to achieve. It is wrong to say that Prose sides with extremists on this (as some have said), but her position certainly feeds their deluded sense of privilege. Secondly, Prose’s ending seems like a bit of an irrelevant Chomsky-esque after thought. And a hideously wrong one at that, given that Mustapha Ourrad – the copyeditor with Charlie Hebdo, and one of the victims of the massacre – was born in Algeria, and that Georges Wolinski – a cartoonist with Charlie Hebdo, and one of the victims of the massacre – was born in Tunisia. PEN is not dedicating an award to cultural prejudices that harm the civil rights of Muslims. Nor is it commenting on Western foreign policy. To conflate anti-Muslim hate, with challenging religious narratives that can result in death, is a huge manipulation. PEN is dedicated – as any liberal should be – to open and free expression and enquiry, in which no dogma is considered sacred. Human beings deserve rights & protections… Ideas don’t.

Tim Wise: Misrepresenting Hamas.

April 27, 2015

There is a tendency – since passions are high in the debate – for the partisans on both sides of the Israel-Palestine conflict to creep into the realms of bigotry to make their case. With anti-Semitism on the rise across the World, it is sad to see those who ordinarily stand against bigotry and privilege, crossing the line into a subtle anti-Semitism in order to strengthen their position. To highlight this, I had noticed that Tim Wise – the usually excellent anti-racial privilege writer – had attempted to completely rewrite the goals of Hamas, downplaying their bigoted & supremacist intentions and history, in order to strengthen his own position:

– Here, Tim Wise has compared the goals of Hamas to the goals of Einstein and secularists. He stops at that. Hamas want an end to a Jewish state. This is a wildly simplistic and manipulative re-imagining of what it is Hamas actually wants; the basis of which is articulated – contrary to any secular thought processes – in Article 14 of Hamas’ Charter declares:

“For Palestine is an Islamic land…”

– A reader with a basic grasp of 20th Century European & Middle Eastern History will understand that far from having anything in common with secularism – or Einstein, who supported a bi-national state that favoured no single group or religion above any other – Hamas and their ideological struggle – as an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood – are the product of 1930s/40s Western Fascism infused with a delusional sense of religious ownership of land.

Far from the implication that Hamas share common goals with secularists, in reality, Hamas are an extension of the political far-right, fused with religious dogma; an obsession with a global Jewish conspiracy, that has its birth in Medieval Christendom, perpetuated hideously by the Catholic Church – especially in Germany – only to be exported by the Nazis, and Haj Muhammad Amin el-Husseini – Grand Mufti – to the Muslim World in the 20th Century, and appropriated by the Brotherhood. For the Mufti, anti-Semitism was a religious duty. For the Fascists, it was a socially racist necessity. The mixing of the two gives us Hamas. Mahmoud Al-Zahar of Hamas epitomises that link perfectly. As well as insisting that religious persecution of Jews throughout history, is there own fault (a victim-blaming narrative entirely), al-Zahar had this genocidal warning for the future:

“…there is no place for you among us, and you have no future among the nations of the world. You are headed for annihilation.”

– The desire to eradicate Jewish people has been the thread (and often successful – as with the massacres in Baghdad, of Jews in 1941) that has held Brotherhood offshoots – like Hamas – to the Mufti’s ideals and the Brotherhood since its early days. Indeed, in the 1920s, the Grand Mufti – prior to his support for the holocaust – disseminated literature that included the phrase:

“O Arabs, do not forget that the Jew is your worst enemy and has been the enemy of your forefathers.”

– Further, as the Nazi’s were making their way through Egypt in the mid-1940s, the Mufti was given free reign to air radio broadcasts direct from Berlin. In one example, he stated:

“kill Jews wherever you find them for the love of God, history and religion.”

– Alongside the Mufti, the Muslim Brotherhood were instrumental in translating both the anti-Semitic forgery ‘The Protocols of the Elders of Zion’ and ‘Mein Kampf‘ into Arabic, and continue to spread both. Hamas references the Protocols in its Charter here:

“Their scheme has been laid out in the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, and their present [conduct] is the best proof of what is said there.”

– The Brotherhood obsession with a global Jewish conspiracy is reflected not just with Hamas, but also in Egypt – the birthplace of Islamism (not Saudi, as many believe) – after the fall of Morsi and his Brotherhood supporters. Both sides of the fight for power have accused the other of being ‘Jewish’ and attempting to implement the Protocols. Hamas continues to do the same.

Contrary to Wise’s misrepresentation, Hamas’ Charter doesn’t simply call for the end to a “uniquely Jewish State“. Allow me to highlight exactly what Hamas’ Charter states:

“As to the objectives: discarding the evil, crushing it and defeating it, so that truth may prevail, homelands revert [to their owners], calls for prayer be heard from their mosques, announcing the reinstitution of the Muslim state. Thus, people and things will revert to their true place.”

– It continues:

“The Islamic Resistance Movement believes that the land of Palestine has been an Islamic Waqf throughout the generations and until the Day of Resurrection, no one can renounce it or part of it, or abandon it or part of it.”

– Waqf, in this context, means owned by that single religion. Hamas’ opposes a Jewish state, because it believes the entire region must be subjected to the rules and regulations of their one sect of their one faith. They are religious supremacists. This is reflected in how they police areas in which Hamas has control. For example, Shaul Ganon, of Agudah, a gay rights group in the region, said:

“I know of two cases in the last three years where people were tried explicitly for being homosexuals,they were both beheaded.”

– But what about any peace initiative? Any at all:

“[Peace] initiatives, the so-called peaceful solutions, and the international conferences to resolve the Palestinian problem, are all contrary to the beliefs of the Islamic Resistance Movement. For renouncing any part of Palestine means renouncing part of the religion.”

– Unless a peace initiative is designed to completely eradicate Israel, with power in the hands of one religion, and its believers, Hamas are not going to support a peace settlement.

“Those conferences are no more than a means to appoint the nonbelievers as arbitrators in the lands of Islam. Since when did the Unbelievers do justice to the Believers? “And the Jews will not be pleased with thee, nor will the Christians, till thou follow their creed. Say: Lo! the guidance of Allah [himself] is the Guidance. And if you should follow their desires after the knowledge which has come unto thee, then you would have from Allah no protecting friend nor helper.” Sura 2 (the Cow), verse 120 There is no solution to the Palestinian problem except by Jihad.”

– Here, the reason given for opposing a secular and inclusive structure to a Palestinian settlement, is the Jews, and Christians. It is backed by a victim narrative. The Charter isn’t finished with simply declaring the entire region Islamic – and all who live in it, which never ends well for the LGBT community or apostates forced to live under such brutal Theocracies – it then explains who its enemies are. You’ll perhaps note that it has very little to do with an Israeli occupation, and far more to do with the ethnicity of the people, as is consistent with a Brotherhood/Nazi obsession with eradicating Jews:

“Within the circle of the conflict with world Zionism, the Hamas regards itself the spearhead and the avant-garde. It joins its efforts to all those who are active on the Palestinian scene, but more steps need to be taken by the Arab and Islamic peoples and Islamic associations throughout the Arab and Islamic world in order to make possible the next round with the Jews, the merchants of war. “We have cast among them enmity and hatred till the day of Resurrection. As often as they light a fire for war, Allah extinguishes it. Their effort is for corruption in the land, and Allah loves not corrupters.” Sura V (Al-Ma’idah—the Table spread), verse 64.”

– Hamas’ issue with Israel is not simply with perceived oppression in the territories, but with Jews in general. Hamas, in Article 32 of their Charter, calls upon Muslims across the World to oppose the Jewish population, as a precursor to a religiously-ordained ‘next round’ with the ‘merchants of war’.

Article 7 of Hamas Charter quotes Bukhari:

“The prophet, prayer and peace be upon him, said: The time will not come until Muslims will fight the Jews (and kill them); until the Jews hide behind rocks and trees, which will cry: O Muslim! there is a Jew hiding behind me, come on and kill him! This will not apply to the Gharqad, which is a Jewish tree (cited by Bukhari and Muslim).”

– Two key themes run through Hamas’ Charter, as ran through the Muslim Brotherhood’s purpose. Firstly, the entire region must be brought under the control of one religion. A Theocracy. Secondly, supported by their own interpretation of religious dogma, and mixed with 20th Century fascism; Jews are the enemy. Not Israel. Jews. To both ends, Hamas uses the same anti-Semitic propaganda, the same victim of Jewish aggression narrative, the same Jewish global conspiracy narrative, and a call to fight Jews, to further its end-goal of the region entirely engulfed by their particular brand of religious supremacy. Hamas inherited and furthered the 20th Century Islamist & Nazi narrative. They have nothing in common with secularists. For Tim Wise to downplay the role of religious supremacy and its Fascist origins in Hamas’ Charter – and thus, downplay almost a century of genocidal Brotherhood intentions that inform Hamas – is so vastly dishonest, offensive to the principles of secular liberty, and quite clearly crosses the line into anti-Semitism.

Corruption aside….

April 24, 2015

Sometimes it’s better just to admit you might have backed the wrong man. You might have made poor excuses for him, and you might have been taken in by his manipulations. Unfortunately, humans have a great deal of pride, and so it was inevitable after the Election Commission found former Mayor of Tower Hamlets Lutfur Rahman guilty of election fraud yesterday, that his ardent apologists would be trying to salvage their misguided – and frankly wrong – picture-esque view of a man found to be using religious intimidation, and vote rigging to win power. So I thought I’d share some of the desperation of those who cannot quite bring themselves to admit they might have been too quick to cry Islamophobia:

Predictably Mo Ansar is convinced of a shady conspiracy of fear involved:


The leader of the shady conspiracy, is of course, Andrew Gilligan, the journalist who rightfully documented Rahman’s dealings over the years:

– “Corruption aside“. Let’s just put aside the fact that the allegations of corruption turned out to be true, put that aside guys, move on. If not; Islamophobia.

Critics of Rahman have now for years been dismissed as ‘Islamophobes’, for basic scrutiny of a public official. If one was to highlight Rahman’s backing from the Islamic Forum of Europe (working for “Islamic social, economic and political order”) and the diverting of funds to IFE fronts, they did so because they’re ‘Islamophobic’. Legitimate scrutiny had been reframed as racist. Ansar continuing that now false narrative, highlights the intellectual bankruptcy of Rahman’s apologists.

Lee Jasper of the ironically titled Respect Party played the Galloway-game of invoking Western imperialism to explain away misdeeds:

– The implication is that Rahman was never to be given a fair trial. An oppressed victim of the megalithic colonial, racist, judge. If you’re playing apologist bingo at home, you will only need “neo-cons!” to get a full house. Keep a look out for that one.

Ansar and Jasper are not the only ones to imply that the suspicion that Rahman was far less than admirable was in fact an ‘Islamophobic’ colonial smear campaign. Back in 2010, Mehdi Hasan gleefully wrote:

– This was in response to some of the excellent work Gilligan did investigating the shady dealings Rahman had taken. For example, Gilligan helped to document – and rightly so, given that he’s a journalist, and Rahman isn’t immune to scrutiny – Rahman’s links to the Islamic Forum of Europe. He further reported on the awful campaign leaflet from the Rahman campaign that included the false claim that his opponent – Helal Abbas – was a ‘wife beater’. One wonders if Hasan was equally appalled at the amount of time Gilligan spent investigating claims of the ‘sexed up’ Iraq dossier a decade ago. I suspect not.

Cage – famed for blaming Mi5 for Islamists beheading aid workers – joins Jasper in suspecting a racist element, and have now decided that it isn’t Rahman’s fault at all. He’s actually the victim of neo-con (BINGO!) ‘white supremacists’:

– Unsurprising from CAGE, whose managing director – Muhammad Rabbani – was once a senior activist for the Islamic Forum of Europe. But an utterly absurd comment nonetheless. The implication is that Andrew Gilligan and others like him investigated Rahman, because of his ethnicity, and not at all because he was running one of the most appallingly corrupt and aggressive campaigns in a very long time. Perhaps the fact that he turned out to be corrupt, was just a coincidence.

The absurd claim of ‘white supremacy’ was dismissed by one of the petitioners who had called for the Mayoral election to be declared void. Azmal Hussain said:

“The people who have really suffered are ordinary people of all races who were supposed to accept corruption because it comes from someone claiming to be against racism. It is corruption, pure and simple, and it should be challenged.”

Cage then went on to retweet a comment by Moazzam Begg (but narrated by Middle East Eye during a debate on radicalisation) that I’m still yet to fully comprehend:

– Bizarrely, this implies that full scrutiny of corrupt officials, if they’re Muslim officials, increases the chance of radicalisation. Is this to be considered true for all different forms of identity? Does investigating corruption in the Catholic Church lead to more Catholics becoming radicals? Perhaps Woodward & Bernstein should be dismissed as Republicanophobes radicalising US Republicans. It is as if the book shelves of Hizb ut’Tahrir across the World have replaced Qutb’s rantings, with the journalism of Andrew Gilligan to inspire the resurrection of the Caliphate.

The tone is one of complete denial, that usually comes accompanied with deflecting blame. From Mo Ansar’s implied shady conspiracy, to claims of colonialism and white supremacy, the narrative is designed to paint Rahman as an innocent victim of an undefined ‘Islamophobia’, because to accept that they might have been wrong, is to accept that the victim narrative up until now had been entirely misjudged. So the charade has to continue. Indeed, the tone is a sort of inability to comprehend the idea that trying to couple legitimate scrutiny, with anti-Muslim hate – under the umbrella term ‘Islamophobia’ and then further building on that flawed idea with absurd shouts of white supremacy and radicalisation – will, as cases like this highlight, inevitably prove to be an entirely false narrative. The ‘supremacy’ is not in subjecting officials (or doctrine for that matter) of a particular faith to scrutiny, the ‘supremacy’ is in fighting to protect those officials & doctrine from scrutiny, because they’re of a particular faith.

The Baathists of ISIS.

April 14, 2015

Haider Al-Abadi, Prime Minister of Iraq speaking to the media following the Counter-ISIL Coalition Small Group Meeting in London, 22 January 2015. Picture courtesy of The Foreign and Commonwealth Office. .

Haider Al-Abadi, Prime Minister of Iraq speaking to the media following the Counter-ISIL Coalition Small Group Meeting in London, 22 January 2015.
Picture courtesy of The Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

It must come as a surprise to no-one, that the self-proclaimed Islamic State owes much of its success to ex-Baathist strategists and administrators. Brutal men, with a sense of Sunni superiority, authoritarians looking for a new outlet.

One of the less spoken reasons for the rise of ISIS, is the tactical failure of Paul Bremer, Ahmad Chalabi and the Coalition Provisional Authority’s badly handled de-Baathification process following the war. Specifically, the policy that anyone affiliated with the Baath Party in any way whatsoever, was to immediately lose their job, and be barred from public sector employment from May 2003 onwards. This – predictably – created thousands of unemployed Sunni’s in a war torn country of a majority Shia population, many of whom sought refuge in Mosul (now under ISIS control), many others ended up meeting in close quarters with other former Baathists and – significantly – Islamists in detention camps like Bucca, planning and sharing ideas; especially the reestablishing of Sunni political superiority, and Sunni political superiority finds no greater friend than a newly disenfranchised Sunni population.

Before his death in 2014, Abu Muslim al Afari al Turkmani – who spent time in Bucca – was working as al Baghdadi’s leading man in Iraq. When he was killed, intelligence agents stumbled upon documents setting out ISIS’ leadership that place al-Turkmani (a native of Iraq) as al-Baghdadi’s number two. He seems to have been responsible for working with ISIS appointed governors in cities and towns in Iraq captured by the extremist group. But tellingly, prior to his involvement with ISIS, al-Turkmani was a lieutenant colonel in Saddam’s Iraqi military intelligence.

Al-Turkmani’s counterpart in Syria is Abu Ali al-Anbari. Al-Anbari is responsible for overseeing ISIS appointed governors in Syria. Prior to the toppling of Saddam, al-Anbari worked as an Iraqi Major General for Saddam’s regime. Two of ISIS’s leadership were Baathists, fighting to defend Baath principles and the Baath state, later joining and leading a violent Sunni group, opposed to a return to Baathism.

Abu Ayman al-Iraqi is now ISIS’s head of its Military Council. Prior to life in ISIS, al-Iraqi – real name Adnan Latif Hamid al-Sweidawi – was a colonel in Saddam’s Iraqi Army, and a member of Iraq’s air defence intelligence, before – predictably – serving time in Camp Bucca. Immediately following his release from Bucca in 2010, he coordinated ISIS fighters in Aleppo.

Al-Iraqi’s predecessor as head of ISIS Military Council was a man by the name of Abu Abdulrahman al-Bilawi. Bilawi is believed to have been the head tactician behind the attack on Mosul. He was killed by Iraq’s security forces in 2014. Prior to ISIS, al-Bilawi was a captain in Saddam’s Military between 1993 and 2003, at which point he joined Al Zaqarwi’s AQI, and was later – predictably – serving time in Camp Bucca.

Haji Bakr was a senior commander for ISIS before his death by the Syrian Martyrs’ Brigade in 2014. Prior to his ascendancy in ISIS, Bakr – real name Samir al-Khlifawi – was a Military Officer for the Baath regime in Iraq, working on weapons development. Upon joining the militant group – swelling with disenfranchised Sunnis – Bakr helped to secure al-Baghdadi’s position as leader of the group, by ordering a purge of opponents.

ISIS’ top leadership over the past few years, have been former Baathists. Both al-Turkmani and al-Iraqi were members of IS’s Shura Council. Both al-Turkmani and al-Anbari were fundamental to ISIS propaganda efforts in Iraq. Al-Baghdadi, during the early phase of his leadership – and swift takeovers of disenfranchised Sunni areas – was keen to use Iraqi nationals, rather than angry Western kids to coordinate attacks. An ex-ISIS member by the name of Abu Hamza told The Washington Post:

“All the decision makers are Iraqi, and most of them are former Iraqi officers. The Iraqi officers are in command, and they make the tactics and the battle plans”

“But the Iraqis themselves don’t fight. They put the foreign fighters on the front lines.”

– The necessity of Iraqi nationals in leadership positions in order to give credit to ISIS overall was set years earlier, when al-Zaqawi lead AQI. AQI found to their detriment fairly quickly, that seemingly enthusiastic Sunni communities were less likely to accept Islamist interference in their lives (and those that did, soon changed allegiance with the US and Iraqi government’s diplomatic efforts during the surge), given that it was perceived as an outside, non-Iraqi militant force. A Sunni awakening against violent Islamists was the result. Today, The use of al-Turkmani and al-Anbari is an attempt to provide a national face to ISIS, whilst advocating a borderless Caliphate. This is coupled with a merciless policy of murdering any Sunni tribal groups that resist ISIS, as the Al Bu Nimr tribe found out so horrendously twice in 2014; once for fighting ISIS, and again when 150 women were slaughtered by the group, for refusing to marry the militants.

ISIS use ex-Baathists for the knowledge of the region, the military expertise, smuggling networks, local connections, the administrative capabilities, their nationality, and then they offer an ultimatum; drop the Baathist aspirations, or die. In July last year, ISIS caught 60+ ex senior military officers of Saddam’s regime – including Saifeddin al-Mashhadani, formally on the US’s Iraq’s Most Wanted list – during their takeover of Mosul. At the time, when he was a Parliamentarian, the now Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar Abadi said:

“ISIL called on their friends who are ex-Baathists to cooperate and they did. And now ISIL is kicking them out. Some will pledge allegiance. Those they don’t believe will pledge allegiance, they will execute.”

– For their part, ex-Baathists seem to fall into two categories for IS. Firstly, those who firmly seek a reestablished Islamic Caliphate – those holding senior positions in IS. These are the people intrinsic to the the future of ISIS in Iraq. And secondly, disenfranchised Sunni’s that ISIS consider expendable; those seeking protection, influence, and pay, following a catastrophic sectarian al-Maliki government in Baghdad. The dream of Sunni superiority restored to Iraq might motivate both ex-Baathists and IS, but the ideological differences between the two cannot be masked forever. As seen with Al Zarqawi’s similar attempt to enlist Sunni majority towns to his cause, it is easy to speak to a disenfranchised population and offer salvation, but those people are no more likely to accept long term harsh Islamist conditions that restrict their rights, than they are likely to accept sectarian policies coming out of Baghdad.

The de-Baathification of Iraq, coupled with the divisive sectarianism and revenge mentality of Shia political groups and the government of al-Maliki, has been disastrous for Iraq. It has fed ISIS far beyond what al-Zarqawi could ever have dreamed possible, and far beyond the war itself. The defeat of ISIS will of course take military might and international cooperation (seemingly impossible as Assad remains in power, and funding funnels up from the Gulf, along with Iran’s influence on the battlefield) but the key to a lasting suppression of the poison of extremism in Iraq, is in the hands of Baghdad, the new Prime Minister, and a much needed policy of reconciliation between Sunni & Shia, equal civil protections for all – including the right to expression and belief, regardless of gender, ethnicity and sexuality – alongside representative democratic accountability. Given that the religious dogma that informs the split in Islam is so horribly ingrained, it is fair to say that it is not going to be addressed any time soon, and so a secular political settlement that privileges no sect, and extends civil liberties to all, is the only way forward. And on that front, all eyes are on Haider al-Adabi.