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Pinning down IS

Highlights

As black flags of the IS threaten established governments, the US under President Barack Obama is returning to the region it had vowed to quit and stay out

As black flags of the IS threaten established governments, the US under President Barack Obama is returning to the region it had vowed to quit and stay out

News about war-zone casualties, particularly of major players, must be taken with the proverbial pinch of salt. Yet, the wounding in an American air attack of Abu Bakr Al-Badhdadi, the selfstyled Caliph of Islamic State or Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), is unlikely to be ignored. Citing information received from their moles within the IS, Iraqi officials claim that he was hit in Qaim in Iraq's Anbar province, but there is no elaboration. The caution comes because such claims pertaining to Osama bin Laden , Saddam Hussain and Afghanistan’s Mullah Omar were found misleading till credible evidence was produced.

Omar is still around. In Baghdadi’s case, the Iraqi officials’ claim remains un-corroborated by the US. All this underscores the grim strife that has engulfed the two countries. Black flags of the IS, found flying far and wide, are red rags to authorities across the world. Al-Baghdadi, an ambitious Iraqi militant in his early 40s, has, since taking the reins of the group in 2010, transformed it from a local al-Qaida branch into a transnational military force. He has since challenged al-Qaida, positioning himself as the pre-eminent figure in the global jihadi community.

Baghdadi and his followers have become known for the extreme cruelty displayed with people they have captured. Abduction, rape and torture of women of Iraq’s Yezidis, who are Zoroastrians, many of whom were ‘married’ off to the fighters, is just one example. It has set new records in cruelty, higher than al Qaida, Abu Sayyaf and Taliban – both Afghan and Pakistani. Since they act in the name of Islam, they give the faith a bad name. Yet, many Western youths, even women, have flocked to join the IS campaign. In this East-West clash, the American role, too, needs to be noted. Bin Laden was once a hero in the West-led campaign against S o v i e t - l e d Afghanistan. Al Baghdadi reportedly radicalized when held in an US camp in Iraq. Fighting the IS in Iraq, the US has been supporting it in Syria against the Bashar Al-Assad regime.

As black flags of the IS threaten established governments, the US under President Barack Obama is returning to the region it had vowed to quit and stay out. A USled coalition has been launching air strikes on IS militants and facilities in Iraq and Syria to give Iraqi forces the time and space to mount a counter-offensive. Obama authorised the deployment of up to 1,500 more American troops to bolster Iraqi forces. The plan could boost the total number of American troops in Iraq to 3,100. There now are about 1,400 US troops in Iraq, out of the 1,600 previously authorized. It is slow, but steady, and is likely to escalate as IS, with or without al-Baghdadi to lead it, also escalating its campaign. These are grim prospects for West Asia.

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