ISIL: Rebranding of An Old Story

ISIL (Islamic State of Iraq and Levant) has undoubtedly become a real, illusive threat to the whole region. In spite of what one sees on the surface, so many questions have arisen that give us food for meticulous reflection and contemplation about the many factors involved in all the mess provoked by this evil group. Who is/are funding this diabolic group? Who benefits most from this disorder and chaos across the region? Who are the real, major players and accompanists that run the scene and allow ISIL to bully in the region? PRESS TV’s informative, comprehensive documentary “ISIL: Rebranding an Old Story” answers all these question. It takes us back to the formation of ISIL and explains the process through which this group has been funded, armed, and equipped by countries such as the US, Turkey, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, etc. It depicts the US disastrous presence in the Middle East since the 80s and puts into perspective the ridiculous irony in America’s attempts to promote peace in the region.

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SOUNDBITE [English], ISIL Terrorist: “Al-hamdu la allahu rabbi al alamin, we are here in the seventieth division military base just outside the city of al-Raqqa and we are here with the soldiers of Bashar. You can see them now digging their own graves in the very place they were stationed. We are harshest wars the Kuffar. The fighting has just begun.”

Narration: Unlike the sequence you just viewed, history does not have a rewind option. Albeit, sometimes it would serve as an invaluable tool if it did. Not to be rewound to stop a catastrophe from taking place, but to grant us the opportunity to dissect and analyze the events that led up to it. Since June of 2014, the world news apparatus has honed in on ISIL as it’s unleashed a terror campaign across the deserts of northern Iraq until storming and taking Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city. Images of Mass killings, beheadings, and even crucifixions have shocked the world. Our social media has become saturated with these horrific images which the terrorists have utilized to promote their wrath and propaganda. And as a result, many Muslim scholars have had to implore the world community not to associate these few thousand Takfiri madmen and their perverted interpretation of Islam with the over 1 billion law and god abiding Muslims living peacefully under the true doctrines of Islam globally. In the next 25 minutes you will witness the players both in front, and behind the curtains, of this diabolic group. Who is funding, arming and equipping them, and allowing ISIL to grow exponentially.

SOUNDBITE [English], John Kiby, Pentagon Press Secretary: “We don’t believe there it much reason to be to concern about any collateral damage to civilian property kind of thing. But in the civilian casualty issue certainty we take that. And we will continue that and review that as we work though the damage assessment process.”

Narration: For the third time in a decade, the United States has found a strategic excuse to inject itself into the Middle East through the establishment of a coalition. Time and again, these so called coalitions have only succeeded in promoting deeper divisions throughout the region.

SOUNDBITE [English], Antony James Hall, Prof. of Globalization Studies University of Lethbridge: “Imperialist countries France Britain and then the United States and increasingly Israel have been manipulating Islam and trying to explode divisions -build up divisions- in people’s mind. One of the real major scenes of battle is in the imaginations, is in the mind of the people who need to support this war machine in the United States.”

SOUNDBITE [English], Barak Obama, US President: “My fellow Americans tonight I want to speak to you about what the United States will do with our friends and allies to degrade and ultimately destroy the terrorist group Known as ISIL .As Commander-in-Chief, my highest priority is the security of the American people.”

SOUNDBITE [Persian], Hussein Royvaran, Political Analyst: “There’s a problem with analyzing ISIL and that is, the west has a political view about it. The US regards it as a security threat which must be destroyed by bombing whereas ISIL is a social phenomenon rather than military.”

Narration: The name of this Takfiri group has seen many variations. ISIS, ISIL, Al-Qaida in Iraq, Islamic State, SIC and Da-ish. But why the alphabet soup u may ask? The Semantics can only be explained through a careful study of the group’s emergence and ideology. Currently, most Arabic speakers call the group, al-Dawla al-Islamiyafil ’Iraq Wal-Sham, or Da'ish. The name has widely stuck among Arabs, although the group’s own members call it simply the State, al-Dawla, for short or Islamic State. It started as a small but viciously effective wing of a resistance movement to the U.S. invasion of Iraq, called Al-Qaida in Iraq. Following the death of its founder Abu MusabAla-Zarqawi in 2007, Al-Qaida in Iraq rebranded itself to the Islamic state of Iraq, or ISI. And it remained a small militant faction until Syria descended into conflict in 2011. That’s when the group saw an opportunity it could not pass up.

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Narration: By 2013 the group had inserted itself in eastern Syria, and took on the name of ISIS, the Islamic state of Iraq and Syria. . In its next-to-most-recent incarnation, as ISIS, the group sought to challenge "colonialist" borders by using an old Arab geographical term—al-Sham—that applies either to the Syrian capital, Damascus, or to the wider region of the Levant; hence the official American preference for calling it Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, or ISIL, rather than ISIS. The Levant denotes a far larger region and consequently a far larger threat.

SOUNDBITE [Arabic], Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, Leader of the ISI: “… and this is an obligation upon Muslims, an obligation which had been missing for centuries, and had disappeared from the face of the earth so many Muslims have become ignorant about it, and those who have become sinful- Muslims who have become sinful- by losing it and allowing it to disappear while it was their duty to continuously attempt to establish it, so here we have established it and to Allah Belongs all praise and grace.”

Narration: After releasing this video, this man launched himself into the spotlight. Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, or in its complete form Ibrahim Awwad Ibrahim Ali Muhammad al-Badri al-Samarrai, he is believed to have been born in Samarra, Iraq in 1971. He received his PH.D in Islamic studies from the Islamic University of Baghdad. Al-Baghdadi was announced the leader of the ISI in mid-May of 2010, following the death of his predecessor Abu Omar al-Baghdadi. “According to US Department of Defense records, al-Baghdadi was held at Camp Bucca as a ‘civilian internee’ by US Forces-Iraq from early February till December of 2004, when he was released. A Combined Review and Release Board recommended an ‘unconditional release’ of al-Baghdadi and there is no record of him being held at any other time. In late June of 2014, Al-Baghdadi proclaimed the so-called Islamic Caliphate, an area stretching from Northern Syria across Northwestern Iraq to the Province of Diyala, just northeast of Baghdad.

SOUNDBITE [Persian], Hussein Royvaran, Political Analyst: The Caliph is usually recognized by people, but this is not true about Abubakral-Baghdadi. People pledge allegiance to the Caliph, but in ISIL's case, only the members of the group have done so instead of the people.”

Narration: Abu Muslim al-Turkmani, Commander of ISIL in Iraq, Former Army General under Sadam Hussein. Former Lieutenant colonel of Iraqi military intelligence.Decommissioned from the Iraqi army after U.S. forces arrived.Joined militants to fight the Americans.Spent time in a US prison in Iraq, Currently second in command under Baghdadi in Iraq. Abu Omar al-Shishani, Commander for the ISIL in Syria, Georgian Insurgent, Former Georgian Army soldier and veteran of the Russo-Georgian War.Served in various command positions with terrorist groups fighting in Syria, recently dispatched to command in Kobani. Abu Mohammad al-Adnani, Official ISIL spokesman, reportedly one of the first foreign militants to oppose Coalition forces in Iraq. Arrested May of 2005 by Coalition forces in Al Anbar Governorate in Iraq under a fake name “Yasser Khalaf Hussein Nazal al-Rawi”. Released in 2010.Recently ordered Western Muslims to carry out terrorist attacks, ISIL has committed such heinous acts of barbarism and savagery towards both soldiers and civilians, that by February 2014, al-Qaeda’s leader Ayman al-Zawhiri officially broke with the now-rogue Baghdadi and the group.

ISIL raided the Iraqi city of Mosul in June of 2014. According to government figures, it was the deadliest month since May 2007. Nearly 2 thousand people were killed Official figures report 1,393 civilians, 380 soldiers and 149 policemen among the dead. Another 2,610 people were wounded, the majority of them civilians. Their organization and military prowess proved that this group has structure, strong intelligence, and sympathizers inside the country, a shocking revelation for anyone who was listening.

SOUNDBITE [English], Pepe Escobar, Journalist: “In fact everyone is surprised because the way that they moved in June, the way that they moved from north east Syria, Crossing the desert arriving near Mosul and capturing Mosul practically in the day or two everyone was surprised, first of all they were not- the convoy- identified by American satellite which in itself is completely Absurd. Second because they took Mosul so fast. Why? Because there was collaboration with Baathist at least for that objective, third there was collaboration with Kurds as well. Because the Kurds didn’t intervene against ISIS … until ISIS decided … maybe we make push Erbil in Kurdistan Territory. That’s different, you don’t attack Kurdistan.”

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Narration: ISIL has reportedly accumulated over 2 billion dollars in funds, making it the world’s wealthiest terrorist organization. Many mid-east regional countries and their western allies supported ISIL when they thought ISIL’s end game would benefit them. When the reality of the situation started to set in, they played both sides of the fence for a while by both supporting and condemning the group at the same time. But the masquerade fooled no one and the west and their friends knew the monster they had created was perhaps the worst one yet. Turkey offered far more than what Ankara dismisses as an easy border crossing: they provided the bulk of ISIL's funds, logistics, training and arms. Turkish residents near the Syrian border tell of Turkish ambulances going to Kurdish-ISIL battle zones and then evacuating ISIL casualties to Turkish hospitals. Indeed, a sensational photograph has surfaced showing ISIL commander Abu Muhammad in a hospital bed receiving treatment for battle wounds in Hatay State Hospital in April 2014. When ISIL’s notoriety brought Turkey unwanted publicity, Ankara bluffed it would help the so-called U.S. led coalition. Yet as ISIL brought its campaign to within 50 meters of the Turkish border in the Syrian City of Kobani, Ankara just sat back and watched. In fact, this footage shows ISIL terrorists casually chatting with Turkish soldiers on the Turkey Syria border. Although the Qatari Emir bluntly denied his country gives ISIL financial support in a televised interview, an investigation traced a paper trail from Qatar to Kuwaiti banks, and into ISIL coffers. As ISIL takes over town after town in Iraq, they are acquiring money and supplies including American made vehicles, arms, and ammunition. The group reportedly scored $430 million when they looted the main bank in Mosul. They also have a stream of steady income sources, including from selling extracted oil in the Northern Syrian regions they control. ISIL has taken control of a major Syrian oil field, al-Omar. It is the country's largest oil field and can produce 75,000 barrels of oil daily. Initially, a key component of ISIL’s support came from wealthy individuals in Kuwait, Qatar and Saudi Arabia.

SOUNDBITE [French], Thierry Mayssan, Journalist: Today, the Turkish government is collaborating closely with ISIL. Whether we accept it or not, the Turkish government and ISIL, together, are stealing gas and oil from Iraq as well as Syria, and exporting it through a pipeline at the Port of Ceyhan in Turkey. In Turkey a company which belongs to a Turk-Azeri billionaire transports this oil to the port of Ashkelon in Israel.This oil is forwarded to Europe, where the anti-ISIL coalition purchases this oil and consumes it saying "yes, yes and its Israeli oil".”

Narration: Foreign Policy documents that Israel has also given ISIL terrorists free treatment in its hospitals.

SOUNDBITE [English], Pepe Escobar, Journalist: “Israel which we never mentioned in the story, they want completes chaos in terms of balkanization fragmentation and chaos. So Israel continues to be the most, I would say the heaviest presence here because they are a nuclear power inside the Middle East.”

Narration: The so called Islamic State has released new video in which it brags that it recovered weapons and supplies that the U.S. military intended to deliver to Kurdish fighters, who are locked in a fight with the militants over control of the Syrian border town of Kobane.

SOUNDBITE [Persian], Hussein Royvaran, Political Analyst: Kobani is not annexed to the Kurdish territory, nor is it part of Ghamooshli and Haskeh in Syria. It has been under siege from south, east and west by ISIL and it borders Turkey on the northern side. ISIL is looking forward to ruling these areas. ISIL doesn't fight the Kurds there because of their ethnicity or being Sunni. ISIL fights Kurds to expand its hegemony and rule in Kobani.”

SOUNDBITE [English], Pepe Escobar, Journalist: “My informed guess is that more or less they divided the territory.They made an agreement. Ok if you conquer Mosul we are not going to interfere, If you trying to interfere in Kurdistan territory we are going to attack you. So if you stay in Sunni Iraq it Ok you can do anything you want. It’s not our problem and the fact that you go there would allow us to take Kirkuk for ourselves. And that’s what exactly happened. The Kurdistan government they took Kirkuk away from Iraq and they are not going to give Kirkuk back. So in the future if we have Kurdistan Independent, Kirkuk which is asource of oil, the most important element in this occasion is going to be part of Kurdistan. So there was a deal before a hand.”

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SOUNDBITE [French], Thierry Mayssan, Journalist:“We are perfectly sure; the heavy weapons there were bought by Saudi Arabia. They were transferred by airplane and ship to Turkey, where the MIT- Turkish Secret Service headed by HakanFidan-transported this in a special train convoy and delivered them to ISIL.”

SOUNDBITE [Persian], Hussein Royvaran, Political Analyst: The first thing that ISIL does when taking control of a city, is to empty the banks. They try to capture oil wells so they can make money by selling oil. They somehow try to provide people with public service, and their difference with Al-Qaeda is in these areas.Now that the U.S. is leading a so-called coalition to QUOTE degrade and destroy ISIL, let’s take a closer look at America’s disasters track record when ostensibly dealing with terrorist organizations and promoting peace throughout the Middle East.”

SOUNDBITE [English], Zbigniew Brzezinski: “That land over there [Afghanistan] is yours. You will go back to it one day, because your fight will prevail and you'll have your homes and your mosques back again, because your cause is right and God is on your side.”

SOUNDBITE [English], Antony James Hall, Prof. of Globalization Studies University of Lethbridge: “With demise of the Soviet Union, disappearance of the Soviet Union as an opposition there was no more real enemy to oppose and this was a crisis for the political economy of the United States rather than change and developing economy based on some kind of global peaceful order. A new enemy was invented and we were introduced to that enemy on huge scale on 9/11.”

SOUNDBITE [English], Hilary Clinton, Former Secretary of State: “Let’s remember here … the people we are fighting today we funded them twenty years ago … and we did it because we were locked in a struggle with the Soviet Union. They invaded Afghanistan … and we did not want to see them control Central Asia and we went to work … and it was President Reagan in partnership with Congress led by Democrats who said you know what it sounds like a pretty good idea … let’s deal with the ISI and the Pakistan military and let’s go recruit these Mujahideen. And great, let them come from Saudi Arabia and other countries, importing their Wahhabi brand of Islam so that we can go beat the Soviet Union.”

SOUNDBITE [English], Antony James Hall, Prof. of Globalization Studies University of Lethbridge: Now ISIL seems to be the same people who, the foreign mercenaries who were sent in to destabilize and overturn the government of Syria but it’s been rebranded and if anything has been changed there is been an edition of powerful pure function, People that know how to use social media. Have been trained, trained for brag.”

SOUNDBITE [English], Joe Biden, Vice President of United State: “The Turks, who are great friends — I have a great relationship with (Turkish President RecepTayyip) Erdogan, whom I spend a lot of time with — the Saudis, the Emiratis, etc. What were they doing? They were so determined to take down (Syrian President Bashar) Assad and essentially have a proxy Sunni-Shia war.They poured hundreds of millions of dollars and thousands of tons of weapons into anyone who would fight.”

SOUNDBITE [English], Pepe Escobar, Journalist: “My first qualification for the coalition was the coalition of cowards, because most of them refuse to say look we are actually going to bomb ISIS there are another qualification for coalition, coalition of the clueless, cause they don’t know where this is leading and could make the situation even worth.”

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Narration: And since we are on the topic of America’s paradoxical foreign policy, we need to mention a perfect example which took place towards the end of the Iran Iraq war. The Iranian military had spotted a weakness in the Iraqi defense, yet before Iran could utilize this tactical information, the U.S. tips off the Iraqi army knowing full well that they would ambush the Iranian army with chemical weapons. The U.S. provides Iraq with satellite imagery pinpointing Iranian positions, and Saddam uses that info to massacre multiple battalions of young Iranian men with chemicalized weapons. That amounts to a war crime in most political roundtables.

SOUNDBITE [Persian], Hussein Royvaran, Political Analyst: Right now we have more than 100,000 chemically injured people in Iran and this shows that the mass killing done in Halabjah was enormous which totally destroyed the city’s residents. Why did the west ignore this, and on the other hand helps the invasion of Syria on the pretext of using chemical weapons in eastern part of Damascus, either by the government or the opposition.”

Narration: And then ironically, less than two decades later, the U.S. invades Iraq on the pretext that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction. They invade the country, find no chemical weapons to back up their claim, kill Saddam, and send the country spiraling into chaos. The country gets divided along sectarian lines and what emerges out of the ruins? Now to take this convoluted situation and put it into perspective, we need to transcend the middle east to trace the global influence of the group and its unfathomable appeal, drawing multi-national contributors to ISIL … ISIL has attracted over 12000 radicalized militants from over 81 countries fighting in Syria and Iraq. According to the Guardian, five people a week leave the United Kingdom for Syria and Iraq to join ISIL’s ranks.ISIL’s global media operation appears to have two key objectives: to provoke the US and its allies, and to recruit from outside the Middle East. Both seem to be working. In the former instance, the horrific videos of the beheadings of US journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff, and aid workers David Haines and Alan Henning, have helped drag western powers back into combat in the region. Meanwhile, those same countries have seen their citizens departing to join Takfiri group.

SOUNDBITE [English], Joe Biden, Vice President of United State: “With the Turks, with the Jordanians, with the Saudis and with all the people in the region attempting to identify the people who deserve the help so that when Assad goes and he will go, there will be a legitimate government that follows on, not an al-Qaida-sponsored government that follows on.”

Narration: Most of these videos are distributed by Al Hayat Media Center, the new media arm for ISIL that was established in May of 2014. It is unclear exactly who is behind Al Hayat, but it is thought to be the work of Abu Talha Al Almani, a former German rapper also known as DesoDogg, who left Europe to fight alongside ISIL in Syria.ISIL has been growing in numbers due to its aggressive recruitment campaign, and in many cases, forced membership. Many of the tactics employed in the recruitment process are very advanced and have been compared to those used by Nazi Germany during the Second World War. The group has also dramatized its conquests and achievements through images similar to the kind witnessed in Hollywood productions. ISIL glorifies violence and markets its cause much the same way the west has weaponized propaganda to achieve its military goals. By utilizing this approach, the group has drawn on the most vulnerable of society’s disenfranchised youth.

SOUNDBITE [English], Pepe Escobar, Journalist: “ISIS is extremely adapted at the propaganda war they are very slick and obviously they studied everything that happened before from al- Qaeda and from other Takfiri, extra-Wahhabi hardcore, extremist groups and they are more subtle and infact they are scarier. The way they edited the beheadings, didn’thave to show blood, didn’t have to be aggressive it was a very good piece of filmmaking just suggesting fear. You show the blade on the neck and then you show the severe head. So just you are suggesting fear and the impact was enormous, was much more of the impact if we have shown a lot of gory splashy fake blood on the screen.”

Narration:America’s answer to dealing with adversaries which have frustrated its military might has always been dropping bombs. From Hiroshima to Nagasaki, to recent drone campaigns, onto the current coalition it has established, which has as its primary centerpiece, yet another bombing campaign. Yet critics and even the west itself as of late, have admittedly resigned to the fact that this strategy will work with ISIL.

SOUNDBITE [English], Antony James Hall, Prof. of Globalization Studies University of Lethbridge: “Now, of course Islamic State is not Islamic and its not the state.’

SOUNDBITE [Persian], Hussein Royvaran, Political Analyst: “The Islamic literature insists on not intruding followers of divine faiths, and this is also repeated in the verses of the Quran; It says: "لکم دینکم ولی دین" Yourfaith is yours and I’ve mine. One of the fundaments of Islam is said in the Quran: "لااکراه فی الدین", there is no coercion in accepting the religion.”

Narration:Meanwhile, people and communities continue to be annihilated while ISIL continues its savage push towards more conquests. The United Nations announces that an estimated 1.2 million Iraqis have been forced from their homes. This includes Shias, Sunnis, Christians, Izadis, Armenians, and kurds. Now is this the time to repeat the same policies and mistakes which led to the creation of ISIL? Do we need to allow countries outside the region to gamble with our stability? By training more madmen disguised as moderate rebels? And what next when we have to confront them tomorrow as extremists again? Like in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya? If we may one day be fortunate enough to destroy the ISIL threat, are we practically guaranteed a new monster will emerge as long as the West and its allies continue to manipulate the Middle East.

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