[Review] How should we look at ISIS?

How should we look at ISIS?


On April 21st, at the Hall of the National Assembly, SNUAC hosted a joint forum, “How Should We Look at ISIS?” with Representative Choi Jae-cheon of the New Politics Alliance for Democracy (NPAD), and the Istanbul Cultural Center. During the forum, Abdulhamit Bilici, the Director of Cihan News Agency in Turkey, gave a lecture on “Turkey’s policy against Syria and the ISIS issue”, which was followed by a discussion with Jung, Pilmo, Journalist, Lee, Geun Professor of SNU, Park, Hyundo, Research Professor of Myungji University and Kwon, Hee Seok, deputy director-general, African and Midddle Eastern affairs bureau in MOFA.


Director Bilici gave an in-depth analysis on the following subjects: △ facing problems of Turkey and Syria △ How did ISIS form? △ The relationship between Turkey and ISIS △ Negative factors in Syria’s politics △ Why did ISIS gain strength? △ What are the solutions? The lecture promoted a better understanding on the complex and diverse Islamic world, and suggested various solutions for overcoming future ISIS problems.


In terms of the background of ISIS, Director Bilici explained that the original faction of ISIS was Jordan-born Abu Musab al-Zarqawi’s leadership, which emerged in Iraq. With the United States’ attack on Afghanistan after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Al-Zarqawi moved to the northern part of Iraq, and cooperated with Ansar al-Islam, a Kurdish organization in the same region. Moreover, after the U.S. attacked Iraq, they created an organization called ‘Jama’at al-Tawhid wal-Jihad’ and attacked the U.S., which made them become infamous as strong rebels. Director Bilici explained that as Al-Zarqawi was killed by the United States’ strategy in June 2006, they merged with some of the Sunni organizations and changed into the Mujahideen Shura Council, and renamed it ISIS(Islamic State of Iraq and Syria)


Regarding the factors that strengthened ISIS, he insisted that the collision between the internal and external forces pushed the Syrian crisis into a gridlock. Also, he demonstrated that this situation may have been driven by the idea that Al Qaeda will take up the spot if the Assad regime collapses.


In addition, the lecturer mentioned that to overcome the ISIS problem, the following solutions are needed: △proactive criticism by respected Islamic scholars and educators △research on social classes that are used by ISIS △a peace treaty to solve major controversial issues of political groups participating in the Syrian civil war.


The panels gave out various opinions.


Firstly, deputy director-general Kwon mentioned that ISIS is currently conducting joint strategies with the Sunni, s

haring a common goal (restoring the Sunni’s influence in Iraq). However, he stated, it is expected that the secular nationalist Sunnis and the extremist ISIS will eventually split up.


Geun Lee, Professor of Seoul National University Graduate School of International Studies, mentioned that after the 9/11 terrorist attacks in 2001, the United States’ Middle East policy neither has brought about democracy nor a market economy, but rather created confusion, civil war, genocide, poverty, and religious conflicts.


Professor Park stated that if it is impossible to create a government that can embrace various sects and classes into one, it may be possible to have an autonomous, loose federal system formed by groups sharing the same identity.


Journalist Jung pointed out that extremist religious and political groups, such as ISIS, have led to the West VS Arab dichotomy. In addition, he mentioned about how to cease ISIS spreading its propaganda on the media.


The panels lastly discussed on how the power vacuum can be filled up after the removal of ISIS. In general, the panels agreed that the Arabs should be allowed to decide for their own fate, and that conflicts of interest should be solved by international organizations.


This forum offered a ground to perceive that the ISIS issue should not be simply viewed as a conflict between the Middle East and Western developed countries, but should be globally recognized as a serious problem, and that it is necessary to seek for a peaceful solution.