by Dr. Ephraim Herrera
In the annals of Islam, Alawites are perceived as heretics, idol worshippers, informants and collaborators with the enemies of Islam. For Islamic State, the thrust of its war is against Shiite Islam and its emissary on earth, Iran.
This week, for the first time, the Islamic State group was able to terrorize the heart of the Alawite government stronghold in Syria. Over 150 people were killed in a string of suicide attacks in the coastal cities of Tartus and Jableh.
The savagery of the attacks was evident in the choice of targets: One of the terrorists chose to blow himself up in a hospital emergency ward, the other at a central bus station. The justification for these horrific acts was that the Alawites "must experience the taste of death that Muslims have already tasted due to the bombings of Muslim cities by Russian planes and the planes of [Syrian President Bashar] Assad."
To this point, Russian and Syrian planes have bombed some 15 medical facilities. In February, when they were kind enough to grant 15 minutes of grace between bombing runs, they hit a hospital sponsored by Doctors Without Borders, taking out first response medics along the way. As a result of this grisly tit-for-tat, nearly half the Syrian population lacks access to any form of medical treatment.
Beyond the obvious geopolitical interests of Russia and the Western coalition, the brunt of the fighting has essentially been between the Alawite minority, which controls Syria despite comprising a mere 10% of the population, along with its Shiite Iranian patron, and the Sunni majority that represents some 80% of the population. In the annals of Islam, Alawites are perceived as heretics, idol worshippers, informants and collaborators with the enemies of Islam. For Islamic State, the thrust of its war is against Shiite Islam and its emissary on earth, Iran.
Islamic State -- as evidenced by a regional assessment that appeared in the group's in-house journal in January -- sees Shiite Islam as a form of hereticism, with an integral Jewish aspect. For Islamic State, as for many Sunni clerics, Shiite Islam was established by a Jew who converted to Islam, Abdallah Ibn Saba, who lived in the time of Islam's founder, the Prophet Muhammad. They believe Saba was responsible for the murder of the third caliph, Othman, and that he established the Shiite variation to exacerbate the internal war between Muslims, with the goal of destroying Islam. Islamic State, therefore, considers it a religious duty to annihilate the Alawites and eradicate them from Syria's coastal region, from where it believes Islam's global domination will sprout. In the second phase, the Shiite heretics will be targeted, followed by the detested Jews.
Islamic State is enduring the super powers' aerial bombardment and is even carrying out deadly attacks, not just in the heart of the Alawite strongholds in Syria, but in Iraq, Sinai, Africa, France, Belgium, the United States and more. Indeed, Islamic State is certainly up to its neck in its war of survival against the "Crusaders" and their aerial attacks, and in its war to topple the Assad regime. The Jews, and Israel, however, remain a primary target. Terrorist attacks against Jewish targets abroad, such as at the Hypercacher kosher market in Paris and the Jewish Museum in Brussels, can attest to this.
Dr. Ephraim Herrera is the author of "Jihad -- Fundamentals and Fundamentalism."
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