ISIL (al Qaeda in Iraq and the Levant) is attracting a specific type or recruit (Islamic fanatics, especially the young, especially teenagers, who are not good for much beyond being suicide bombers) and that is becoming a problem. Many of these recruits are foreigners and foreigners are particularly unpopular in Iraq, especially if they are armed and looking to kill Iraqis. This has contributed to the growth in local resistance to ISIL. In Iraq and Syria the Sunni tribes and secular Sunni groups (like the Baath party in Iraq and secular political groups in Syria) are now openly opposing ISIL. These anti-ISIL Sunni groups kept quiet as ISIL strove to take control of western Iraq earlier this year, and especially after ISIL grabbed Mosul and most of northwestern Iraq in June. But as ISIL began imposing their lifestyle rules the resistance began to become tangible. What was really annoying was ISIL sending out groups of religious zealots (some of them armed women) to attack women for not wearing a covering up properly or being out without a male relative as an escort. ISIL also punishes anyone caught drinking alcohol or smoking in public. Watching videos or popular TV shows (like the World Cup) is forbidden as is the use of drugs or playing musical instruments or most sports. In other words, most forms of “fun” are forbidden. ISIL members are expected to rely on sex with their wives (up to four), eating and listening to live or recorded sermons by acceptable Islamic preachers for entertainment. Tormenting and killing infidels (anyone not Moslem) and heretics (especially Shia) is also encouraged.
These extremist policies always backfire.
For all Iraq’s problems, its people have enjoyed the taste of liberty on and off these last 11 years — and experienced the death and violence of the Islamists, too. It shouldn’t come as a surprise which they prefer.
But that’s not to say there’s going to be a happy ending, even if “these extremist policies always backfire.”
The first is that IS/Caliphate might have dealt Iraq the Humpty Dumpty blow — an artificial state, kept together first by brutality and then out of habit, which may never be put back together again. The second is the nature of the self-proclaimed Caliph himself. Anybody with ego enough to proclaim himself the first Caliph in nearly a century, and bloody-minded enough to hire teenage suicide bombers by the busload, isn’t going to go away quietly. It’s great that the people of Iraq are turning on him, but he has the means to make them pay for their defiance.