Fighting ISIS, SBS VICELAND’s special report from the frontlines of the war against the Islamic State is enough to provoke a sudden onset of panic. If the mere existence of the Iraq-borne apocalyptic death-cult is enough to keep you awake at night, wait until you learn the complicated way in which they came about and spread to surrounding nations, the complications required to defeat them, and the further complications that may arise if that defeat became a reality. That is, if defeat is even possible. Did I mention it was complicated?
Once upon a time, in a place called Iraq…
In 2006, when Nouri al-Maliki took over as Prime Minister of Iraq, instead of using his power to bring the Shiites and Sunnis together after Saddam Hussein’s maniacal reign and the dastardly US occupation, he took revenge on the Sunni minority that had previously ruled the country, murdering thousands on a daily basis.
Those wanting to rage against Maliki’s genocidal creed grouped together and would eventually become ISIS. At first, they were seen (by some) as good Iraqis trying to curb the death and destruction for everyone’s sakes. Emphasis on the words at first.
A glimmer of hope came in 2010, when nonsectarian candidate Ayad Allawi won an election against Maliki, but didn’t have enough support to form a majority. US president Barrack Obama’s decision to ignore the election results and support Maliki’s second term is seen as just as heinous as George W Bush’s decision to enter the region in the first place.
From then on, hell begat further hell.
A war on three fronts… and beyond
ISIS swiftly formed into the jihadist death-cult we now know it to be, and it now controls a third of the Iraqi nation. Fighting them on three separate fronts are the non-ISIS Sunni majority, Shiite majority, and Iraqi Kurds.
VICE correspondent Ben Anderson visits all three. He meets fighters and affected families, as well as major players in Iraq’s surrounding nations, and Russia and the US.
You’ll meet Sunni volunteer fighters
With an “army” of 600 tribal civilians, it’s a wonder why the Sunni volunteer fighters even bother. With no help from Baghdad or the USA, these brave men (with members ranging from as young as 14 and as old as 73) cobble together their uniforms and share approximately six AK-47s among them. One particular member, dubbed "The Lion of Sumaria”, turns old automobiles into combat vehicles, and brings dead weapons left over from Hussein and the US deployment back to life.
Iraqi Kurds fighting for independence
The Kurdish army, known as the Peshmerga, are fighting not only to defeat ISIS, but to see their territory become a free, sovereign nation. Day and night, the Kurds come face-to-barrel with ISIS IEDs, but have been relatively successful at keeping the Islamic State from infiltrating their home, even with almost no outside help. Iraqi Kurdistan has also become a sanctuary for those minorities in danger who’ve been forced to flee ISIS.
Shiites with questionable backing
The third of these fronts is lead by Hadi Al-Amiri, head of the BADR organization. His territory has been successful at battling ISIS due to their inordinate arsenal of military resources thanks to Al-Amiri’s close ties to Iran. In fact, Al-Amiri’s beliefs are said to align with the Ayatollah, a man who has not only repeatedly pledged to destroy the US, Israel and each of their allies, but is said to be guilty of raining the same kind of hell on the people as ISIS. If BADR were to defeat ISIS, one monster could merely be replaced by another.
You’ll also meet unnamed captured ISIS fighters
One-on-one convos with three captured members of the Islamic State dot the documentary, and each comes with his own take on the situation. One is overwhelmed by the situation and seemingly conflicted – he joined ISIS for reasons most wouldn’t expect.
Another staunch captive, however, not only predictably prophesises doom, but when asked what would happen if Anderson was caught by ISIS, his response is chilling:
But all unnamed captives agree on one thing: as more and more jihadists are migrating from all over the world into ISIS hot spots, and considering their ever-strengthening manpower and accumulation of weaponry, ISIS will never be defeated.
Fighting Isis covers so much ground over the course of 45 minutes that you’ll walk away with your head spinning. The above is merely the tip of the iceberg. Yes, you’ll know a lot more about the origins of ISIS, how it spread, and if and when they’ll ever see defeat, but you might want to get up off the couch as slowly as possible.
Watch Fighting ISIS on Thursday 7 December at 8:30pm on SBS VICELAND.