Sunday, June 29, 2014

Indian Navy on watch at the Gates of Hell

The old man implores comrades to repent..."Look at me, I am digging my own grave...". The video ends abruptly with what looks like the swish of a blade falling upon the victim and a one-word caption: "slaughtered".

It is starting to look like a real Grapes of Wrath scenario. Indian warships have now moved to the Persian Gulf and emergency evacuations may be ordered. Last time such mass scale evacuations happened were the Libyan war in 2011 and the Israel-Hezbollah war in 2006 (when 2,500 Indians, Sri Lankans and Nepalese migrants were evacuated from Lebanon).

Our heart goes out to the hundreds of men (also women) who must be in mortal danger from these all-out loonies. A serious suggestion for people who are in touch- please request the captives to convert to Islam. It may mean the difference between life and death. Nothing matters apart from survival- you do not want to be digging your own grave.

An Indian naval warship reached the Persian Gulf on Saturday as part of New Delhi's contingency plans for a possible evacuation of Indians stranded in Iraq.
The navy has deployed INS Mysore, a 6,900-tonne guided missile destroyer, in the Persian Gulf to cut down on reaction time if orders for evacuation are given.

A navy source said there was no official word on a possible evacuation but the warship had been put on standby. "We have assets deployed in the western Arabian Sea and these could be used to bring back Indian nationals if required," he added.

INS Mysore was among the warships involved in evacuating Indian nationals from Libya more than three years ago.  

Another warship, INS Tarkash, is in the Gulf of Aden. Though INS Tarkash is there for anti-piracy operations, it is ready to take on any new task, sources said.

The navy had evacuated more than 2,500 Indians and foreign nationals from Lebanon in July 2006 following the war between Israel and the Hezbollah.

As jihadists storm through the Sunni heartlands of Iraq towards Baghdad, where a Shi'ite government they regard as heretic clings on, they have lifted the veil on deep sectarianism which has also stoked the fires of Syria's civil war and is spilling over into vulnerable mosaic societies such as Lebanon.

The sectarian genie is now well out of the bottle, eclipsing traditional inter-state rivalries that plague the Middle East - even if these still play a part in the drama.
"There is no sense of common identity and therefore wherever there is a division of power like in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Bahrain they end up fighting over who wins. It has become a winner take all situation," said Middle East academic and former State Department official Vali Nasr, also a Senior Fellow at Brookings Institution. "This is being driven from both top down and bottom up."

Glimpses of the savagery of this sectarianism have multiplied as the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), an al Qaeda splinter group which aims to carve out a Caliphate in the heart of the Middle East, captured a string of north and central Iraqi cities in June.
One video posted by ISIL shows its fighters storming the house of an old man and accusing him and his two young sons of fighting in the Iraqi army under Nuri al-Maliki, the Shi'ite Islamist prime minister.
As the captives dig their own graves, a fighter taunts them, "You're tired, Yes? Dig, dig more, where is Maliki to come and save you? Why did you join Maliki's army?"
The old man implores comrades to repent and break ranks with the army, saying: "Look at me, I am digging my own grave, they came to my home and took me". The video ends abruptly with what looks like the swish of a blade falling upon the victim and a one-word caption: "slaughtered".
An ISIL leader reached by Reuters via Skype makes clear this brutality is a considered policy as his movement builds its cross-border Islamic State.
"We will deal with Maliki's followers and his filthy state according to righteous Islamic law", he says. "Whoever comes to us repentant before we have the upper hand upon him, will be one of us; but the one who insists in fighting us and on his infidelity and apostasy, he'll have to face the consequences".
Disowned even by al-Qaeda, ISIL has taken hate speech to a new level in Iraq, denouncing Shi'ites as "dogs of Maliki", or as "reviled and impure rejectionists (rafadah)".
They proclaim that "death is the only language the Shi'ite Marjaiyah (clerical leaders) and their rotten gangs understand".

The Shi'ite side has responded in kind, posting videos of Sunnis being executed. In one, groups of men shot randomly, some in the head, lie next to each other in what appears to be a room with blood splashed on the wall and bullet holes everywhere.
Religion, many analysts say, is being deployed as a weapon to galvanise rival interests, but is taking on a virulent sectarian life of its own, sometimes escaping the control of those wielding the weapon.
"National identities in these countries are eroding and sectarian identities are becoming more prominent," Nasr said.
In Iraq, says Professor Charles Tripp at London University's School of Oriental and African Studies, the process began in the 1990s when Saddam Hussein, the dictator toppled in 2003, started a "piety campaign" to solidify support for his otherwise secular regime in the face of crippling international sanctions.
This indiscriminate encouragement of Sunni Salafism and Shi'ism encouraged "sectarian entrepreneurs who found it very profitable to mobilise people around religion or sect".
In a process which continued under Maliki, the poison of sectarian prejudice hardened into bigotry, exploited by leaders who fell into "an awful bidding war" to claim religious legitimacy, Tripp says. Regional players also cloaked their pursuit of geopolitical advantage in religion, he adds.

While enmity between Islam's two competing sects has often been fierce and bloody, it now spreads over huge swathes of territory from the eastern Mediterranean to Iraq, the Gulf and Yemen.
"It is neither solely religious nor purely political; the two mix and feed upon each other, with personal interests and geopolitical confrontations pouring petrol on the flames," said Tarek Osman, author of the "Perilous Scenario in the Eastern Mediterranean."
Sectarian wars, Osman says, are also occurring at a time when Arab societies are undergoing a transformation from the old political order following the ousting of autocratic leaders, who have ruled for decades to a new, as yet undefined, order.
And for the first time in the last 150 years, the region is witnessing the emergence of highly assertive, well-armed, jihadist groups that are dominating the plains from eastern Syria to western Iraq, and gradually carving for themselves quasi-statelets that they aim to have as permanent entities.
"If that happens, it will not only be a peril to all sovereign states in this part of the world, not only to religious minorities, but to all of the societies," Osman said.

On the ground, it is hard to imagine Maliki regaining Sunni provinces he lost to ISIL with Iraq's army, a force which exists more on paper than on the ground. But regaining it with Iranian-trained Shi'ite militias such as Asa'ib Ahl al-Haq is also a recipe for sectarian slaughter, experts say.
Many predict the fighting will go on until all sects - from Syria to Iraq - Shi'ites, Sunnis, Kurds and Alawites carve up their own fiefdoms even if they stay within the same international borders.
The clearest emerging enclave is the northern Kurdish autonomous region, which has been more than 20 years in the making and which experts say could be permanent.

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