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.
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

“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

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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