[SEE THE FOLLOWING]
Judgment Day–Dec 06 2007
The jihadist group wants America and its allies to be dragged into a ground war.
As the debate on how best to contain the Islamic State continues to rage in Western capitals, the militants themselves have made one point patently clear: They want the U.S. and its allies to be dragged into a ground war.
In fact, when the U.S. first invaded Iraq, one of the most enthusiastic proponents of the move was the man who founded the terrorist cell that would one day become the IS, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. He excitedly called the Americans’ 2003 intervention “the Blessed Invasion”.
His reaction — ignored by some, and dismissed as rhetoric by others — points to one of the core beliefs motivating the terrorist group now holding large stretches of Iraq and Syria: the group bases its ideology on prophetic texts stating that Islam will be victorious after an apocalyptic battle to be set off once Western armies come to the region.
Should that invasion happen, the IS would not only be able to declare its prophecy fulfilled, but could also turn the occurrence into a new recruiting drive at the very moment when the terror group appears to be losing volunteers.
It is partly that theory that President Barack Obama referred to in his speech on Sunday, when he said the U.S. should pursue a “sustainable victory” that involves airstrikes and supports local forces battling the IS rather than sending a new generation of American soldiers into a ground offensive.
“I have said it repeatedly: Because of these prophecies, going in on the ground would be the worst trap to fall into. They want troops on the ground. Because they have already envisioned it,” said Jean-Pierre Filiu, a professor of Middle East Studies at Sciences Po in Paris, and the author of Apocalypse in Islam, one of the main scholarly texts exploring the scripture that the militants base their ideology on.
The IS’s propaganda is rife with references to apocalyptic prophecy about the last great battle that sets the stage for the end times.
The specific scripture they are referring to describes a battle in Dabiq as well as al-Amaq, small towns that still exist in northern Syria. The countdown to the apocalypse begins once the “Romans” — a term that militants have now conveniently expanded to include Americans and their allies — set foot in Dabiq.
Last year, when IS militants beheaded American hostage Peter Kassig, a former U.S. Army Ranger, they made sure to do it in Dabiq.
“Here we are, burying the first American crusader in Dabiq, eagerly waiting for the remainder of your armies to arrive,” the executioner announced.
Dabiq is now the name of the IS’s monthly online magazine. Meanwhile, Amaq is the name the militants have chosen for their semi-official news agency.
How to undo IS is a matter of intense debate. As the U.S. prepares for a general election, Republican contenders are pushing for a ground invasion, with Sen. Ted Cruz vowing to “carpet-bomb them into oblivion”.
Regardless of a ground intervention’s potential to succeed, some veteran analysts caution that the act of invasion would play handily into the group’s prophetic vision.
“To break the dynamic, you have to debunk the prophecy,” Filiu said. “You need to do so via a military defeat, like taking over Raqqa. But it needs to be by local forces — by Sunni Arabs.”
That so far has been the approach of the Obama administration, which has armed as well as provided air support to a number of militias in northern Iraq and Syria, hoping to give a local veneer to the tip of the sword. — New York Times News Service