Sir John Baggot Glubb, better known as Glubb Pasha, was one of the modern Mideast’s most colorful and romantic figures. He and ‘Chinese’ Gordon of Khartoum were the last of the great British imperial officers.
Seconded by Britain to its protectorate, the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, Glubb built up its small Bedouin army, the Arab Legion, into the Arab world’s finest military force.
Glubb’s Arab Legion would likely have defeated Israel’s forces in the 1948 Arab-Israeli War had Britain and Jordan’s double-dealing king Abdullah not blocked the Legion’s advance, as Glubb Pasha bitterly recalled in his memoires.
When asked which of his many medals and honors he valued most, Glubb surprisingly replied , “Defender of the Shepherds of Iraq, ” This obscure award was conferred upon Glubb by the King of Iraq when Sir John commanded the Iraq Border Constabulary during the 1930’s.
Glubb Pasha and his men had waged a long campaign against the Ikhwan of Saudi Arabia. The Ikhwan (Brotherhood) was a collection of fanatical Saudi tribesmen imbued with the puritan desert creed of Wahabism. They saw all non-Wahabi Muslims as infidels (kufr), fair game to be robbed or killed. Even the king of Saudi Arabia failed to control the marauding Ikhwan.
Eight decades later, the Ikhwan is back, this time with heavy weapons. Instead of camels and horses, its men are riding Toyota Land Cruisers and American Humvees captured from Iraq’s puppet army. The Ikhwan in Syria and Iraq now calls itself, the Islamic State.
There is nothing Islamic about the Islamic State, or ISIS. It is not a state. What we are seeing is the recrudescence of the fanatical Wahabi movement from Saudi Arabia combined with a bizarre modern form of violent Arab nihilism embraced by bitter, marginalized young men from the Mideast and Europe who have too much testosterone, too little sense, and deep anger from being discriminated against in Europe. They are Europe’s forgotten underclass among whom unemployment is over 60% and drug dealing endemic.
ISIS is also pure blowback from western imperial bungling in the Mideast. The fanatical group was formed and armed in Jordan by CIA, British, French, and Turkish intelligence, and funded by Saudi Arabia.
ISIS, in Washington’s thinking, was supposed to be composed of “moderates,” a short-lived, easily controlled force used to overthrow Syria’s government, which had been marked for death by the western powers for refusing to turn against ally Iran.
As often in the past, the Saudis sought to use militants, in this latest case ISIS, as a tool to vent revolution away from their borders. The Saudis contribution to ISIS was arms, cash, and Wahabi fanaticism. Ironically, while the world recoiled in horror at ISIS beheadings, its Saudi patrons cut off the heads of 27 prisoners at the same time – with hardly any notice from the western media.
But the ISIS Frankenstein quickly ran out of control and turned on its creators.
The next step in this disaster was to further widen the chasm between Sunni and Shia. Soon after invading Iraq in 2003, the US, in the best imperial divide and conquer policy, made an alliance with the Shia majority against the nation’s Sunni minority. The strategy of using Shia against Sunni was highly successful in keeping US control of Iraq. Washington even quietly aligned itself with Tehran over Iraq.
Shia death squads were unleashed against Sunni regions; Shia torturers used electrical drills and acid to make Sunni prisoners talk and break the anti-US resistance. The US funded and abetted this dirty war, using technique perfected in Central America’s civil wars. Israel provided much useful advice.
Turning Shia against Sunnis “stabilized” Iraq, but it intensified dangerous tensions across the Muslim world all the way east to Pakistan. The long proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iranian intensified.
As religious hatred was being fanned, out of the bowels of the Mideast came the ferocious ISIS claiming to be waging jihad against Shia “unbelievers” and “apostates,” among them the Assad Alawite regime in Syria. ISIS became Saudi Arabia’s weapon of choice. But then ISIS turned on the US-installed regime in Iraq and routed its toy soldiers.
Throw into this witch’s brew the hatred and fury of the Arab world that has been invaded, bombed, and exploited by the western colonial powers for a century. The US has committed acts of war against at least ten Muslim nations in our era, killing untold numbers of people and imposing ruthless tyrants as overseers, all under the banner of fighting “terrorism.”
Can there be any doubt that the thirst for revenge is intense? These are the sons of the aborted “Arab Spring” that has withered and died under western and Saudi counter-revolution. They are the cousins of the 9/11 hijackers – who were mostly from Saudi Arabia.
ISIS uses the idiom of Islam, but it’s a bloodthirsty mob of enraged young men who understand little about Islam. Their stupid brutality is stirring up intense Islamophobia everywhere.
Interestingly, there is an ancient Muslim saying (hadith) that warns of the coming of dangerous men with black flags, phony geographical names and long hair.
They appear to have finally arrived. Now it’s up to the Muslim world, not outsiders, to eradicate this lethal plague of 20-something crusaders.