In his weekly roundup of world events for Serbia’s Happy TV network, Dr. Trifkovic discusses the future of the Islamic State. He also looks at a viable strategy for President Donald Trump to emerge victorious from the impeachment battle.
(Translated from Serbian, slightly abbreviated.)
Q: What has changed with the killing of al-Baghdadi? Is the ISIS story over, or can we expect it to launch terrorist attacks in Europe and America under the new leader?
ST: The story is over in the form in which the Islamic State emerged on the world stage in 2014. It spectacularly conquered Mosul, seized an immense arsenal of the Iraqi Army weapons, and close to half a billion dollars in cash.
Q: The Islamic State was founded by Saddam’s generals and colonels?
ST: With the support of Saudi Arabia, the Emirates and Qatar, and with the tacit approval from Turkey.
Q: Was America behind its emergence?
ST: I don’t believe that Saudi Arabia, the Emirates, or Qatar would have acted in this manner without a silent nod from Washington, or at least without the approval of U.S. intelligence operatives on the ground. An important feature of the Islamic State, which distinguishes it from al-Qaeda, is its focus on territoriality… Initially they conquered substantial portions of western Iraq and northeastern Syria. For a while they controlled this territory, they collected taxes, they maintained a military forces, and they exercised authority over the population. Therefore, they had all key attributes of a state.
It is unimaginable that the Islamic State will be able to repeat this feat any time soon. Back in 2014 they enjoyed a set of uniquely favorable circumstances. Bashar [al-Assad] was on the defensive, and his focus was on those “moderate rebels”—hard-core Islamists, in fact—who were supported by America and the Western world. His primary enemy was the Nusra Front, which was a subsidiary of al-Qaeda. Al-Baghdadi established himself in parts of Iraq and Syria thanks to such auspicious conditions, which are unlikely to be replicated.
Q: Some analysts say that al-Qaeda and ISIS are merely among many emanations of the Muslim Brotherhood, a movement which has been on the scene for decades…
ST: The Muslim Brotherhood has a substantially different approach. As we have seen with the late [Mohamad] Morsi in Egypt, they try to exploit a state’s lawful mechanisms to establish political control. The example of Hamas in Gaza provides the blueprint for the Brothers in action. Hamas is a branch of the Muslim Brotherhood which has used existing legal instruments to take and keep power. Their objective is not to achieve this through revolutionary or terrorist means, as the Islamic State had done.
Secondly, once they do take power they try to present themselves—at least initially—as more moderate than they really are. In Egypt this did not work because Morsi had tried, only six months after coming to power, to write a new constitution, to introduce Sharia, to turn Christians into second-class citizens, women too, etc. Then General Sisi decided that enough was enough. To his credit he imposed order, and did it very well indeed. In the Gaza Strip, however, they [the Brotherhood] still enjoy complete power.
But back to the Islamic State. It has tried to replicate the model of the early caliphate, under the rule of Muhammad’s first four heirs, Abu Bakr, Omar, Osman, and Ali. Ali’s son Hussein was killed in the battle of Karbala, which is the foundation of Shiitism. Those four early caliphs are still identified, in the Islamic tradition, with the golden age of Islam. It was a theocracy, religious authority merged with political power. In the Islamist vision of an ideal society, there is no separation between mosque and state. Both form an integral whole. In that sense Sharia is not merely a religious law for the faithful, it is the basis of all law and all legitimacy for all times. Therefore [President Barack] Obama was not right when he declared, four years ago, that the Islamic State was “un-Islamic” because Islam opposes terrorism and violence. That is just nonsense.
Of course Donald Trump has not been too burdened by such slogans. He or his advisers seem to know the collective psyche of the Islamic world, as manifested by his announcement of al-Baghdadi’s killing. It was carefully calibrated to resonate in the Islamic world, which was obvious from his three references to dogs…
Q: What can Trump expect on the home front now? Is it possible that he was actually pleased with his political enemies initiating the proceedings to impeach him, knowing full well that his main political opponent Joseph Biden will be discredited and demolished?
ST: Biden has already ceased to be Trump’s main rival. The Democratic Party is increasingly focused on Elizabeth Warren as the likely candidate. It is obvious that the Bidens, father and son, have too many skeletons in their Kiev cupboards, and the damage is irreparable. It is significant, however, that the Democrats have been obsessively focused on Trump’s July 26 conversation with the Ukrainian President.
Trump now has the opportunity to turn this to his advantage, saying “Yes, I have used unconventional means to come to the bottom of the Bidens’ saga of corruption! I am not a figure of the establishment, and I have used non-establishmentarian methods to bypass the monolithic Deep State, and to drain the corrupt swamp that is Washington!”
I think that this approach would resonate with the electorate. Most of them do not really care if there was a quid-pro-quo, whether Zelensky was actually aware of any pressure, whether Trump had overtly or only indirectly indicated that the military aid package would be released only if an investigation is launched into Burisma, the firm which had hired Biden-junior. These are all peripheral details for most voters.
Q: It is not uncommon for top decisionmakers to try and cash in on their influence. We’ve seen that with Dick Cheney and Halliburton, Madeleine Albright and Wesley Clark have done the same in Kosovo. They all want a piece of action, and Joseph Biden is not any different…
ST: Joe Biden did go a step beyond the rest. Talking of exerting pressure: he has openly boasted—there’s a a video recording which the pro-Democrat media prefer to ignore—that the Ukrainian prosecutor-general was replaced on his specific insistence. And why? Because he had initiated an investigation of the Burisma company, the one which provided Hunter Biden, Joe Biden’s son, with a rich sinecure for nothing. We are talking about a totally useless, not-so-young man who has no career of any kind, who has been discharged from the military for using drugs, and who was suddenly hired in 2014 as a consultant by a company from Ukraine—which he is probably unable to locate on the map—in consideration of a fee of over $50,000 a month and additional huge one-off payments. Did this have anything to do with the fact that his father was Vice President of the United States? I should think so…
In addition, if you look at the Democratic pretenders’ debates, all leading ones are proposing programs which will result in higher taxes for the middle class. They all want free health insurance for illegal immigrants, they favor de facto abolishing controls along the southern border with Mexico, and they support forgiving debt from student loans. This will penalize all those who had worked during studies to reduce their debt burden, and reward others who owe up to $100,000 or more.
The extent to which the Democratic Party has stepped into the sphere of pure surrealism is obvious from the statement by one of its pretenders, that if the Government does not pay for some program or another then the taxpayer will have to foot the bill. In this paradigm the “Government” is the source of unlimited largesse, separate from those who fund it. This is a form of advanced cognitive dissonance. It reflects the delusion that the Federal government is the savior, like Jesus with two fishes and five loaves of bread, with which 330 million will be fed. This will cost the Democrats dearly.
If you watch them, their statements and debates, you will see that they really belong to an alienated elite which looks upon the real, middle America with a studied contempt. Between California and the East Coast that land is populated, in Hillary Clinton’s memorable phrase, by the “deplorables.” That postmodern elite spirit now dominates the Democratic Party…
[Image via HappyTV.]