North Korea

North Korea
The always bombastic and unpredictable North Koreans go hysterical again. This time the country is prepared to "go to war" with South Korea because that country is playing loudspeakers directed at North Korean territory. A headline from a UK paper reads, "More than 50 North Korea submarines 'leave their bases' as war talks with South continue "

Sunday, August 17, 2014

ISIS, boundaries, and porous borders

A long time ago in a galaxy far far away, the Middle East was a place of calm and brotherly-love. All the boundaries between nations accurately reflected ethnic concentrations and had done so since ages past (except for the arbitrary borders of a vast region on the Mediterranean sea occupied by the warlike Zionist entity).

Peaceful and wise governance could be found everywhere – Saddam Hussein did not gas his own people in the village of Halabja in 1988, he did not invade and terrorize Kuwait in 1991, he did not slaughter over 100,000 Shiites in the aftermath of that war that didn't happen, he was not a major funding source for the families of brave Palestinian suicide martyrs fighting against the lone evil in the region – aggressive, oppressive Israel - and finally he did not send rockets into said Israel during the 1991 war that did not happen.

But in 2003, US forces at the order of President George W Bush and his Vice President Cheney, invaded and occupied the long-time secure and sensible boundaries of Iraq where Kurds, Sunnis and Shias lived in geographically connected harmonious bliss, ruled by what might be conceded the firm but fatherly hand of Saddam Hussein. And since that single unprecedented day, and those dreadful years following till 2009 when Bush left office, that peaceful land has not been able to recover, nor any of the nations of the Arab world. Indeed, across all the Arab lands, little divisions have sprung up and coalesced, through no fault of any, into extremist factions of various kinds, where not one existed before (except those groups of would-be martyrs who were only seeking to right the wrongs perpetrated by Israeli occupation of the sacred-since-ages-past, inviolate land of Palestine).

And thus IS (ISIS, ISIL), the most evil result of them all, has surfaced – the consummate end product of the Bush-Cheney imperialist adventure.

The new Islamic State's caliphate - sacred national Arab boundaries be damned. Graphic from

The atrocities of IS speak volumes and are clear enough for anyone who wants to take note. Massacres, crucifixions, torture, rape, beheadings, kidnappings of women for wedding prizes - all are amply reported on, though somewhat jarring to reconcile with Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi (now calling himself “Caliph Ibrahim”) invitation to Muslims to migrate to his land. Though the kindly call for doctors and engineers to build the caliphate has been extended, as noted in an article by the UK Daily Mail, "not a single Muslim country has seen a mass exodus of people keen to live under his version of sharia."

The latest Islamic psychopath, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi (aka "Caliph Ibrahim”) apparently likes his Rolex ... Photo from

National Arabic boundaries

If nothing else, the IS caliphate shows the myth of secure and ethnically sensible boundaries in the Arab world. This group doesn't care, and it scorns the placement of borders by European powers nearly 100 years previous. Yet the larger story is that everywhere in the world, borders have been placed arbitrarily, the result of conflicts or negotiation, or some combination thereof, and has little to do with how the modern governments of any region decide to work with neighbors - friendly or hostile.

Regarding the Middle East, one can start with the Ottoman Empire that was essentially broken up at the end of World War I. The first two maps below show the Middle East in rapid change from 1914 to 1940, while the third map highlights the one and only set of borders (of Israel) that is intolerable to all the other entities whose borders were arbitrarily drawn at the same time ...

The Arab world - before World War I. Graphic from (which is also a very worthwhile website)

The Arab world - before World War II. Graphic from

Yes, that thorn in the Arab side has just as long a history of existence as do virtually all the boundaries of its neighbors. Graphic from

National boundaries today. Graphic from

So the boundaries of the Middle East nations are suddenly being exposed as fragile and arbitrary as they are - the real challenge is governance. Have the Kurds, based on their relatively sound governance in the midst of a broken Iraq, suddenly found an opening to assert their own entity?

Just for fun, here's how a map of the Middle East might look if it were more representative of major ethnic groupings. Click on the image to see a larger, more readable version.

Ralph Peters, a former United States Army Lieutenant Colonel drew a map in 2006, which created quite an outcry at the time. But note, according to a post at "how the proposal for Syria mirrors what is going on now with the Kurds going their own way and the coastal area becoming an Alawite enclave aligned with Hizbollah in Lebanon." Graphic from

Porous borders

We've talked at length in various posts about refugees and internally displaced peoples around the world and in trouble spots. But the borders Teatree speaks of is in regard to the many young ISIS jihadists from across Europe who have gone to the Middle East, gaining expertise in killings and mayhem, and who also have passports to return home. While ISIS currently terrorizes the lands of Syria and Iraq (both likely to disintegrate), the concern of Western and indeed other Muslim nations' intelligence agencies is how to track hundreds of fighters who hold the option of returning to their own lands over the next few years.

British Islamists protest outside the French Embassy in London January 12, 2013. Reuters. Photo from

Possible returnees by the numbers. Graphic from

In the UK, according to an article in, "Communities have been bombarded with the posters, which read: “˜You are entering a Sharia-controlled zone ““ Islamic rules enforced.” The bright yellow messages daubed on bus stops and street lamps have already been seen across certain boroughs in London and order that in the “˜zone” there should be “˜no gambling”, “˜no music or concerts”, “˜no porn or prostitution”, “˜no drugs or smoking” and “˜no alcohol”." Photo from

The cauldron continues to roil, the heat is still rising.

1 comment:

Teatree said...

The story of returning ISIS jihadists to their home countries is just beginning.

Yesterday's beheading of an American journalist, apparently by a UK jihadist, underscores the looming challenge.