How did ISIS, the blackest-hearted and most dangerous of Islamist groups take Iraq’s second city, Mosul, so easily? The lesson of their success in Raqqa province, Syria, is that they thrive on existing incompetence.
In Syria the relative uselessness of the other rebel groups, especially any affiliated with the official Free Syrian Army, made ISIS an attractive proposition for young radicalised Muslims. Paul Wood, who has written for us brilliantly on ISIS over the years, has pointed out that it was disgust over the venal corruption of the FSA that turned young men to ISIS.
In al-Maliki’s Iraq the conditions were, are perfect for ISIS. Unemployment has risen leaving young men desperate and directionless; corruption is rife and public services are disintegrating.
ISIS are bad news for everyone. Bad news for us because they have a global mission, first to carve an Islamic state out of north-eastern Syria and western Iraq then proceed from there. But they’re bad news especially and immediately for other Sunnis and rival islamist groups. In a recent statement they said: ‘Our army is full of hungry lions who drink blood and eat bones, finding nothing tastier than the blood of Sahwa [the other rebels].’