This house believes the West created ISIS
There are three extremely important elements that have contributed the rise of ISIS and illustrate the Wests responsibility in that process. They are the creation of a vacuum of identity, the opportunity to seize power, and political instability. All of which have been found in an environment created by the West through our colonial legacy and subsequent interventions.
So who are the West? The West are the state actors, primarily Britain, France, the US and indeed collective organisations such as NATO who represent the interests of those states - globally.
And, who are ISIS? This is something that the media have manipulated to scare us into understanding anything East of our European borders. ISIS are a collection of both rebels who attempted to overthrow Assad during the Arab spring and other smaller groups who have joined forces. They primarily advocate for an extreme interpretation of Sunni Islam that has been manipulated to suit their ability to gain power and control in order to replicate something geographically similar to the Ottoman Caliphate and impose extreme Sharia law. So where do the West fit into this?
Focusing initially on the Wests involvement in imposing a vacuum of identity in the region. This dates far back to the colonial era, where France and Britain dominated. Not only did they dominate territorially – but in terms of culture, language and politics. This manipulation of identity, did not end with de-colonization and the dismantling of Ottoman jurisdiction as one would assume, as it was up to the politicians in Whitehall to draw the lines, with a ruler, on a map to decide what land became what state. We know that as the Syke’s Picot agreement. This left the region with nations that in many cases split communities and smaller collective identities. Right down the middle.. Your family could be in Egypt, while you’re living over the road in Libya. With no legitimately recognised state decided by the people, and dictators that are imposed to favour the former colonial masters .. What was supposed to unite the Sunni's, Shia's, Christians and Jews when they were unable to unite under a common state? This was the first step towards creating the vacuum of identity that extremism has been able to flourish within today and is entirely the legacy and responsibility of the West.
The strategies that these former colonial powers are using today in an attempt to tackle ISIS are outdated methods, for dealing with outdated structures. The fictitious jurisdictions drawn by the West failed to acknowledge divides in culture and sect, and Sunni/Shia divide in the conflict are directly a result of this. This is evident in a private conversation that was leaked between former Head of M16 Richard Dearlove and Saudi Prince Bandar, who told him “God Help the Shia, more than a billion Sunni’s have simply had enough of them”. This is the legacy of the Wests imposition of a political system that has failed to represent both Sunni’s and Shia’s. This means that ISIS are a legitimate part of the Middle Eastern political landscape, they are an insurgency with legitimate popular support from sects of the Sunni community that the political structures and states that the west imposed and failed to cater for.
Flash-forward to the contemporary situation in Syria, of which I will give you a brief overview as I’m aware my colleagues will cover this. By funding the training of Syrian rebels who have later become ISIS militants, the US has played a significant role in building up their military strength and strategic skills. The involvement of Major non-member allies of NATO, who claim to conform to mutual defence pacts of the West, have been scundered through the admission of America’s top military General Martin E. Dempsey that Qatar, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Turkey have sold weapons either directly or indirectly to militants. There are nations who are supposed to advocate in the interests of the NATO pact and represent Western interests in the region.
So to conclude, the colonial legacy alone is just the tip of the iceberg in to how the West has contributed to the rise of ISIS. My colleagues here will go on to explain the contemporary involvement of the west, but not only how covert funding, CIA training and provision of weapons to ISIS has materialised from the West and but how our mollycoddling of the region, combined with our media-manipulated fear of the Eastern world will only serve to hinder our further understanding of Middle Eastern cultures and identities as well as our historical role in trying to create a region that benefits the West. I urge this house to consider these arguments and facts I have presented to you and support the motion that this house believes the West created ISIS.
This speech was used at the debate held by the Literific at Queen's University Belfast on the 1st October 2015 by Jessica Simonds.