Declaration of a caliphate raises the stakes in Mideast

Although its demand for alle- giance from Muslims worldwide has been largely ignored, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant isn’t giving up on its plan to create an Islamic nation from northern Syria to the Iraqi province of Diyala.

ISIL, an al-Qaida breakaway group, already controls that vast stretch of land ruled by a caliph, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. He is the leader of ISIL.

“The legality of all emirates, groups, states and organizations becomes null by the expansion of the caliph’s authority and the arrival of its troops to their areas,” a spokesman said. “Listen to your caliph and obey him. Support your state, which grows every day.”

While most Middle East experts aren’t convinced that the creation of an Islamic state is a long-term proposition, there is cause for concern.

To begin with, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant was ignored when it launched its attacks in Syria and then moved into Iraq because it didn’t have a large fighting force.

But what the Sunni extremists did possess was the will to fight and die and a level of brutality that shocked even other Islamic militant groups.

Today, as a result of their successes, including their occupation of the crucial Iraqi city of Mosul, the world is paying attention.

The embattled Shiite-dominated Iraqi government, which is being urged by the Obama administration to invite the Sunnis and Kurds to share power, has launched counter attacks against ISIL fighters.

And while Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has made it clear that the insurgency won’t succeed, the idea of an Islamic state led by a caliph and governed according to Shariah law cannot be defeated militarily.

Islamic extremism

Therein lies the challenge for countries in the Middle East that do not want to follow in the footsteps of Iran, which is a theocracy, and for the West, which must be vigilant against the spread of Islamic extremism.

Indeed, the irony of al-Qaida, which was responsible for the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on America’s homeland, expelling ISIL for being too violent is not lost on observers of global terrorism.

While the actual number of fighters is relatively low, there are reports that boys as young as 10 are being forced to join the group. They are being trained to use weapons and have been observed with guns as they ride in trucks with veteran fighters.

Such child abuse should not go unchecked. The United Nations, which long ignored the Lord’s Resistance Army in Uganda that kidnapped thousands of children and turned them into soldiers, should do whatever is necessary to rescue the youngsters who have been captured by Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant and are being brainwashed.

The danger with having so many children on the front lines of the fighting is that they will grow up to be terrorists.

This situation demands an international response.

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