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The True Essence Of Islam And The Evolution Of Modern Jihad

By Col. Tom Snodgrass (Ret.), Right Side News

  21st Century Jihad Has Been Some Time In The Making

khomeiniIslam renewed its1400-year jihad (Islamic Sharia law: to war against non-Muslims to establish the religion” of Islam) against Western civilization. The event that set off the renewed jihad in earnest was the 1979 “Iranian Khomeinist Islamic Revolution.” The Grand Ayatollah Ruhollah Mustafavi Khomeini led a uprising that overthrew the Persian Pahlavi dynasty of Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi, a United States’ ally and Persian Gulf partner. The success of Khomeini’s revolution served to catapult the Islamic Shia sect into the jihadist leadership of the Islamic ummah (translated: worldwide Muslim “community” or “nation”).

In light of Khomeini’s victorious Islamic revolution, here are Khomeini’s beliefs regarding Islam’s place in human life:

We shall export our revolution to the whole world. Until the cry 'There is no god but Allah' resounds over the whole world, there will be struggle.””

Establishing the Islamic state world-wide belongs to the great goals of the revolution.”

Islam makes it incumbent on all adult males, provided they are not disabled or incapacitated, to prepare themselves for the conquest of [other] countries so that the writ of Islam is obeyed in every country in the world. . . . But those who study Islamic Holy War will understand why Islam wants to conquer the whole world. . . . Those who know nothing of Islam pretend that Islam counsels against war. Those [who say this] are witless. Islam says: Kill all the unbelievers just as they would kill you all! Does this mean that Muslims should sit back until they are devoured by [the unbelievers]? Islam says: Kill them [the non-Muslims], put them to the sword and scatter [their armies]. Does this mean sitting back until [non-Muslims] overcome us? Islam says: Kill in the service of Allah those who may want to kill you! Does this mean that we should surrender [to the enemy]? Islam says: Whatever good there is exists thanks to the sword and in the shadow of the sword! People cannot be made obedient except with the sword! The sword is the key to Paradise, which can be opened only for the Holy Warriors! There are hundreds of other [Qur'anic] psalms and Hadiths [sayings of the Prophet] urging Muslims to value war and to fight. Does all this mean that Islam is a religion that prevents men from waging war? I spit upon those foolish souls who make such a claim.”

The significance of this 1979 emergence of the Khomeinist Shiites as Islam’s most admired jihadists lays in the three facts. First, the leadership position of Islam has been bitterly contested between the Sunni and Shia denominations since the death of Mohammad, which left the succession in question as to who should lead the ummah. Second, the most important organizing principle of Islam is spreading world dominance of Islam through non-violent “dawa” (persuasion) deception and subterfuge and/or violent jihad in order to accomplish the global installation of draconian Muslim Sharia law. The purpose of installing Islamic Sharia jurisprudence as the dominant legal authority is to clear the way for complete ascendancy of Islamic religion and culture. Third, approximately 85% of the world’s 1.6 billion Muslims are Sunni, while approximately 15% are Shia (additionally there are small numbers of Muslims who are members of other minor Islamic sects); therefore, the triumph of the Khomeinist Shia revolution in Iran, engendering the admiration of the Islamic ummah, was a tremendous reversal of historical Sunni influence.

Consequently, Khomeini’s Iranian Shia Revolution spurred Sunni Sheik Osama bin Laden to found the al-Qaeda jihadist organization by recruiting veterans of the mujahedeen (jihadists) resistance movement that had defeated the Soviet military invasion of Afghanistan. Bin Laden, a zealous Sunni Salafi jihadist (that is, a Muslim warrior dedicated to a return to the bellicose imperialism of Mohammad and his companions), saw the Iranian Revolution as a direct challenge and threat to Sunni majority’s paramountcy with regard to the world Islamic ummah. The widely heralded Shia victory in Iran led bin Laden to conclude that Sunni Salafists must answer the Shia challenge with their own spectacular jihad success to regain ummah confidence in Sunni jihadist mastery. The 9/11 jihadist mass murder of non-Muslim “infidels” in America was bin Laden’s answer, and the ummah support advantage largely shifted back to the Sunnis in 2001.

However, 9/11 caused the West’s military, intelligence, and financial forces to focus on al-Qaeda and associated Sunni Salafist groups in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Yemen, the North African Maghreb, and the sub-Saharan Sahel. The West’s multi-front offensive against the Sunni Salafists initially blunted and degraded their capabilities. So, while the Sunni Salafists were locked in combat with the West, the Khomeinist Shia jihadists in Iran saw their opportunity and struck out on a combination of different strategic approaches to re-achieve jihad preeminence with the Islamic ummah. To do this, the Iranian Khomeinists’ formulated a two-prong strategy to pursue their leadership-recapture-quest.

First, they renewed their efforts to develop nuclear weapons in order to achieve strategic deterrence against U.S. and Israel attack on their Iranian jihadist base of operations and simultaneously to attain regional nuclear-intimidation-dominance over Sunni Middle East neighbors.

Second, the Iranian Shia mullahs (clerics) leading the Iranian state have endeavored to extend Shia hegemony from Persia through the Levant land of Iraq, Syria, and all the way to the Mediterranean coast in Lebanon and Gaza. In order to execute this territorial expansion, the mullahs used the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), that is also known as the “Pasdaran” (Persian for “guards”), and the IRGC special operations component, the Quds Force, to train, arm, and provide leadership to proxy foreign paramilitary and terrorist organizations like Shia Hezbollah of Lebanon, and Sunni Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad in Gaza. Additionally, a key part of the Shia Levant domination strategy also includes the IRGC’s training and material support of Syrian dictator Hafez al-Assad’s army and his Alawite militias fighting Sunni Salafist jihadists trying to overthrow him. (Note: The Alawite Islamic sect is an offshoot of the Shiites that comprise one of the minor Islamic sects mentioned above.)

But in this unending dual between Sunni and Shia jihadists for allegiance of the ummah, the Sunnis countered the Shia offensive Levant domination strategy with Sunni Salafi groups like Jabhat al-Nustra in Syria contesting the Iranian Shia-Alawite-Hezbollah coalition forces keeping al-Assad and the Shia collation in power. Another Sunni Salafist contender contesting the Shia-Alawite-Hezbollah Levant power grab was an al-Qaeda associated group, al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI), that began its jihad during U.S. Operation Iraqi Freedom by slaughtering Shiites and American soldiers in Iraq under the leadership of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. Al-Zarqawi ended his jihadist career by being on the receiving end of two 500-pound U.S. laser-guided bombs in 2006.

al BaghadiBy the time that the U.S. withdrew it’s forces in 2011, AQI was being led by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi who went on to challenge bin Laden’s al-Qaeda successor, Ayman al-Zawahiri, for the leadership of the worldwide Sunni Salafist movement. Al-Baghdadi expanded AQI’s combat operations into Syria, against al-Zawahiri’s orders, and his organization became the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL). ISIL eventually displaced Jabhat al-Nustra as the preeminent Sunni Salafi jihadist organization in all of the Levant,

Now, changing its name to the Islamic State (IS), it is proclaiming itself to be the 21st century manifestation of the Islamic Caliphate that had been forcibly terminated 90-years ago as a result of Turkey’s defeat as Germany’s ally in World War I. The IS leader, al-Baghdadi, has claimed the title “Caliph” and is demanding allegiance of the world Islamic ummah. It remains to be seen how responsive the ummah will be to al-Baghdadi’s unilateral proclamation of his Islamic world Caliph leadership, but the IS successes in Iraq and Syria are definitely attracting Sunni jihadists from all over the globe who want to join the Islamic “winning team,” and IS has surpassed al-Qaeda as a truly dangerous jihadist threat to the Western world.

To put al-Baghdadi’s IS threat in perspective, here are al-Baghdadi’s statements about his intentions for the Caliphate that he is constructing in Syria and Iraq, as well as his plans for the rest of the world:

Rush O Muslims to your state [IS]. It is your state. Syria is not for Syrians and Iraq is not for Iraqis. The land is for the Muslims, all Muslims. … This is my advice to you. If you hold to it you will conquer Rome and own the world, if Allah wills.”

I'll see you guys in New York.” [Said to U.S. commander of a detention facility in Iraq upon al-Baghdadi’s inexplicable release from U.S. custody in 2009]

"We offer them three choices: Islam; the dhimma contract - involving payment of jizya; if they refuse this they will have nothing but the sword." 

Assessing The Implications Of The Sunni-Shia Struggle For Jihadist Leadership Of The Ummah

Simply put, the essence of Islam is religious war, or jihad, in order to impose Sharia law everywhere, thus clearing away any obstacle to the domination of Islamic religion and culture by neutering/disbanding any institutions and imprisoning/murdering any individuals that stand in their way.

Although jihad is as old as Islam, it has evolved in the 21st century into the arena of leadership warfare between the Sunnis and Shiites. The murderous battle between the Sunni and Shia denominations for command of Islamic world ummah is a no-holds-barred blood vendetta that will be without end as long as both Islamic sects survive. Since jihad is the means by which Islam is perpetuated and expanded, whichever Islamic sect is most successful at waging jihad stands to gain the most loyalty and allegiance among Muslims.

Conclusion

Different benighted, ill-informed Western politicians, policy-makers, and pundits talk of Sunnis or Shiites possibly being “natural allies” of the West that can be collaborated with in the war with Islamic extremism. Such thinking is misguided in the extreme. Both sects of Islam are in deadly competition to wage victorious jihadist conquest over Western civilianization. Believing that peaceful alliance with either Islamic sect is utter folly.

Col Thomas Snodgrass USAFCol. Thomas Snodgrass, USAF (retired) served over a year in Peshawar, Pakistan, working with Pakistani military intelligence. During his year in Vietnam he daily scheduled 130 U.S. Army and Air Force intelligence collection aircraft. In his final overseas tour he was the U.S. Air Attaché behind the Iron Curtain in Warsaw, Poland.


In total, Col. Snodgrass was variously an Intelligence Officer or an International Politico-Military Affairs Officer serving duty tours in seven foreign countries, as well as teaching military history and strategy at the Air War College, US Air Force Academy, and USAF Special Operations School during a thirty-year military career.


Additionally, he was awarded an Air Force scholarship to get a history master’s degree in revolutionary insurgent warfare at the University of Texas, as well as being granted a year's educational sabbatical to teach and to write about international relations on a graduate school level as an Air Force Research Associate at the Center for Advanced International Studies, University of Miami, Florida. Following the Air Force, Col. Snodgrass was an adjunct professor of military history for ten years at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, Arizona.

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