In our region, it is clear that areas controlled by ISIS are afraid of liberation at the hands of regime forces and this can be seen in Iraq and Syria. Iraq is a glaring example because the areas that are being freed now were previously under Al-Qaeda’s rule, were later freed, are now under ISIS’ control and attempts are now being made to liberate them once again.
This does not mean that the residents of those areas under the control of ISIS are extremists or that they welcome extremists. However, there is a fear of oppression carried out by forces that are supposed to belong to regimes, when in fact they are Iranian militias such as Hezbollah in Syria, Iranian mercenaries, Afghans as well as the Hashd Al-Shaabi in Iraq. Both Hezbollah and Hashd Al-Shaabi are led by Iran, and Tehran is always proud of the role played by Gen Qassem Soleimani!
Today Fallujah in Iraq is under siege so that it can be liberated, and it was previously liberated from Al-Qaeda. However, we cannot say that Fallujah is an extremist area and it is therefore easy for it to fall into the hands of extremist groups. The fact is that the Iraqi handling of the issue, like the Syrian approach, is what facilitates the fall of cities and the missions of extremist groups. Serious political solutions are not provided, sectarianism is not put to an end as can be seen in Iraq and the Iranian- Assad killing machine in Syria continues.
The simplest proof that areas that fall into the hands of ISIS are not necessarily extreme is what happened in Baghdad recently, which is 50 km from Fallujah. The United Nations and the organisation Human Rights Watch said last month that residents of Fallujah were facing acute shortages of food and medicine amid the siege by government forces!
When we say “what is happening in Baghdad”, everyone can see how the Abadi government is struggling to maintain security in Iraq and protect the Green Zone which has been invaded twice. Is Baghdad extreme and susceptible to falling into the hands of terrorists? The same applies to Damascus; if it wasn’t for the Iranian security grip there on the ground and the Russian air protection, Damascus would have fallen two or more years ago. Does that make the people of Damascus extremists too?
Therefore, extremism exists in Fallujah, Anbar and Raqqa because the solutions are not real or serious. As long as there is sectarian extremism, Iranian intervention and killing, matters will relapse from time to time. Everything that is happening now in Iraq and Syria is only a formal cosmetic procedure, and the violence and extremism will continue to prevail because the residents of these areas choose between death from sectarianism or death from extremism, both of which lead to despair and alienation from the so-called state authority, especially when its state is fragile and it is covered in sectarian flags like the flag of Iran. Hence, as long as there is no real end to the Iranian-Assad killing machine in Syria and no radical political reform in Iraq, the bloodshed will not stop, unfortunately. The cities will fall even if they are freed because they will be freed from repression only to be repressed again by another oppressor.