The Islamic State – building its infrastructure
REPORTED: the group maintains three weapons factories mainly designed to develop missiles. Foreign scientists – including Muslims from China, fighters claim – are kept in a private location with bodyguards.
While much of the focus has been on the fighting and atrocities committed by ISIS/IS (Islamic State), there has been little coverage in regards to areas that are firmly under ISIS/IS control. A recent Reuters news report provides a glimpse of how a governmental infrastructure has been established and is growing:
In the cities and towns across the desert plains of northeast Syria, the ultra-hardline al Qaeda offshoot Islamic State has insinuated itself into nearly every aspect of daily life.
The group famous for its beheadings, crucifixions and mass executions provides electricity and water, pays salaries, controls traffic, and runs nearly everything from bakeries and banks to schools, courts and mosques.
While its merciless battlefield tactics and its imposition of its austere vision of Islamic law have won the group headlines, residents say much of its power lies in its efficient and often deeply pragmatic ability to govern.
Syria’s eastern province of Raqqa provides the best illustration of their methods. Members hold up the province as an example of life under the Islamic “caliphate” they hope will one day stretch from China to Europe.
In the provincial capital, a dust-blown city that was home to about a quarter of a million people before Syria’s three-year-old war began, the group leaves almost no institution or public service outside of its control.
“Let us be honest, they are doing massive institutional work. It is impressive,” one activist from Raqqa who now lives in a border town in Turkey told Reuters.
In interviews conducted remotely, residents, Islamic State fighters and even activists opposed to the group described how it had built up a structure similar to a modern government in less than a year under its chief, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.
The main thing separating ISIS/IS from past Islamic militant groups are the efforts centering around establishing a sovereignty. The civilian governmental structure in place is described as being somewhat independent of military operations:
Reflecting Islamic State’s assertion that it is a government – rather than simply a militant group that happens to govern – Baghdadi has also separated military operations from civilian administration, assigning fighters only as police and soldiers
Instead, Baghdadi has appointed civilian deputies called walis, an Islamic term describing an official similar to a minister, to manage institutions and develop their sectors.
Administrative regions are divided into waliyehs, or provinces, which sometimes align with existing divisions but, as with the case of the recently established al-Furat province, can span national boundaries.
Fighters and employees receive a salary from a department called the Muslim Financial House, which is something like a finance ministry and a bank that aims to reduce poverty.
Fighters receive housing – including in homes confiscated from local non-Sunnis or from government employees who fled the area – as well as about $400 to $600 per month, enough to pay for a basic lifestyle in Syria’s poor northeast.
By pushing a “state” setting, the report explains that the ISIS/IS goal is to attract foreigners to serve as jihadits and experts in various fields to provide infrastructure support. An interviewed ISIS/IS supporter stated that wealthy Islamists have, “sent money to Raqqa to support the caliphate“. The Reuter’s report adds:
According to sources in Raqqa, the group maintains three weapons factories mainly designed to develop missiles. Foreign scientists – including Muslims from China, fighters claim – are kept in a private location with bodyguards.
“Scientists and men with degrees are joining the State,” said one Arab jihadi.
The group has also invested heavily in the next generation by inducting children into their ideology. Primary, secondary and university programs now include more about Islam.
The group also accepts women who want to fight – they are trained about “the real Islam” and the reasons for fighting.
Islamic education groups are held in mosques for newly arrived fighters, who, according to militants in Raqqa, have flocked to Islamic State-controlled territory in even greater numbers since Baghdadi declared the “caliphate”.
“Every three days we receive at least 1,000 fighters. The guest houses are flooding with mujahideen. We are running out of places to receive them,” the Arab jihadi said.
The report indicates Reuters journalists were not allowed into ISIS/IS controlled Raqqa for security reasons. Information was based on remotely conducted interviews of residents and jihadi fighters. It was noted that even activists opposed to ISIS/IS described an infrastructure similar to a modern government.
The complete article can be viewed HERE.
COMMENT/ANALYSIS: The first point to stress is the Reuters reporters had no visual confirmation and the entire report could be simply an ISIS/IS propaganda attempt. As we noted in an earlier report, the group has shown its ability in manipulating social media sources. It would be a safe assumption that news outlets would be targeted, as well, in order to gain support and promote their agendas. What is quite clear and independent of the above report: ISIS/IS has become interwoven into the civilian population centers of territories it has claimed. Any military action against them will not be a simple task.