Friday, April 10, 2015

The Rise of Islamic State: Isis and the New Sunni Revolution, by Patrick Cockburn

Staff Review by Chris Saliba

Irish journalist Patrick Cockburn has written an excellent primer on the rise of Islamic State. 

The rise of Islamic State (ISIS) has taken many, inside and outside Iraq, by surprise. Irish journalist Patrick Cockburn, who has extensive experience and contacts in the region, has written this short, sharp history of the group’s extraordinarily swift military victories in Iraq and Syria. Large chunks of both countries are now held by ISIS.

The main conflict, as Cockburn describes it, is between Sunni and Shia Muslims. In Iraq, under the prime ministership of Nouri al-Maliki, the persecution of Sunnis by Shias has been rife. This is why Sunni dominated areas have simply put up no resistance to ISIS. Coupled with this was a completely ineffectual Iraqi army which was hopeless in combating ISIS’s small army. Cockburn describes the rest of the Iraqi population, not under ISIS control, as being dazed and confused, not completely comprehending the full extent of what has happened to their country.

The book takes a critical look at Saudi Arabia and its funding of terrorist groups and regional promotion of Wahhabism, an austere and fundamentalist 18th century version of Sunni Islam. It’s pretty well accepted that Saudi Arabia is funnelling money to these groups, while bizarrely remaining a Western ally. Cockburn also examines Western policy towards Iraq and Syria, with its myriad of failings.

This is an excellent primer on a Middle Eastern conflict that is explosive and highly unpredictable. The stakes are high as ISIS controls so much of Iraq and Syria, and could have serious global ramifications.

The Rise of Islamic State: Isis and the New Sunni Revolution, by Patrick Cockburn. Published by Verso Trade. ISBN: 9781784780401  RRP: $21.99.

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