Origins of Radical Islamic Revival

When the Arabs and the Israelis went to war in 1948 and 1967, the Arabs lost more than their military prowess. The Arabs lost their Arab Nationalism.

Since the fall of the Ottoman Empire in the early 1900's, Islamic legitimacy transferred from the Ottoman rulers to a pan-Arabic Nationalism that acted similar to a unifying coalition among the Islamic member states.

After the Israeli defeats, the ideal of an Arab Nationalism lost its will and attention was focused toward combating colonialism that affected most of the Arab states. Arabs states also began to develop their own statehoods, and this introduced a new radical Islamic revival.

This radical revival hoped to assist Arabs states in finding solutions to compete against Western competition, but within an Islamic cultural framework.


When Did Islam Change?

The Golden Age of Islam ended during the Mongol invasion in 1258 which forced the Abbasid Caliphate to move to Cairo, Egypt. It was this move that weakened the Islamic Empire and allowed other caliphates to form.

The final blow to Islam came during the Ottoman invasion of 1517 that further weakened the caliphate to a religious authority. The new role of the caliph shares power with a sultan, who is chosen from the slave armies use to protect the kingdom.


What Motivates Islam to Doubt the West

Islam had its Golden Age beginning with the reign of the Abbasid caliph Harun al-Rashid in the year 786. This period of expansion lasted for five centuries proving that Islam was a serious and established civilization. However, during the last two hundred years, Islamic countries have failed at modernizing at the rates of other countries resulting in colonial attempts to suppress Islamic political and economic growth.

Even Napoleon invaded Egypt in 1798 with the pretense of drawing England into a conflict, but disregarding the Muslim country's autonomous status. Given this example and the many Western hegemonic examples it is no wonder that Islamic doubts toward the West continue. A great civilization being reduced to a subservient class is bound to rise up.


Obama Administration's Strategy for Syria May Be Lacking

Embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. International Policy Digest. License: CC BY-SA
The Obama Administration's strategy in Syria is suited more as a short term approach rather than an overall plan. The strategy calls for air bombings in Iraq and in Syria against the Islamic State, and possible ground troops made up of a coalition of Iraqi forces and Arab League participants. What this plan lacks is a long term solution.

A more comprehensive strategy would involve dealing with Russia's support of the current Bashar al-Assad regime in Syria. Since Russia supports Assad, there is difficulty in creating a UN sponsored coalition to remove him. The United States needs to broker an agreement with Russian President Vladimir Putin to remove Assad, but with the recent Ukrainian crisis, it seems unlikely. Putin supports Assad because a Sunni Islamic takeover from the rebels would weaken Russian statehood - a lesson that Putin learned when Russia faced Sunni extremist Chechnyan rebels.

The Obama administration also needs to develop an exit plan if Assad is removed. The rebel forces that include the New Syrian Army are being supported by US named terrorist groups Nusra Front and the Khorasan Group, and this presents a problem to the US. The US in its air campaign is trying to eliminate these two terrorist groups, but these groups are fighting the Islamic State and the Assad regime. On the one hand, Nusra and Khorasan are helping to remove the Islamic State and Assad, but on the other, they are enemies of the US.

Whatever happens in Syrian needs to be followed up with a unified consensus of the countries bordering Syria in order to prevent another series of splinter groups taking power. Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq and Israel need to form an alliance to improve the stability of the region and curb any breakaway groups that cause more instability.

Causes of Islamic Radicalism

USA --  In the late 20th century there was a resurgence in Islamic radicalism and there have been many explanations for its cause. One explanation is the defeat of the Ottoman Empire in 1922 left many Islamic supporters bitter and that they ultimately revolted against seeing the last caliphate, Abdülmecid II, removed by western powers. Another claim is the Jewish takeover of Palestine after World War II was the catalyst that ignited radical Islam. Both of these events are worthy explanations of the causes of the uprisings but the toppling of the Shah of Iran in 1979 has to be a defining moment of Islamic radicalism.

The Islamic conservatives who removed the Shah were angry at his relationship with the United States and his reforms that reeked of secular westernization. They were affraid that western values would undermine their Shi'a religion and way of life. Also, the conservatives were not impressed with nationalism and capitalism that had failed to modernize other muslim countries. If that wasn't enough, they feared a popular sovereignty where the people might be given the authority to control their government. The Cold War added further distrust against the US and the Soviets and the conservatives thought that these superpowers would create policies that would not be beneficial to oil producing countries. All of these concerns coaleased into the overthrow of the Shah.

From this event, Muslim extremetism was refueled but with a conviction that swift militarism could be used to topple governments and instill a more radical version of Islam. This is precisely what happened.

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