November 23, 2017 – I keep up with the news pretty well, and I thought I knew the recent history of Iraq, Syria and Iran, at least for the past 20 years or so, pretty well. Then I saw this revealing documentary, which gave me insights into one of the largest humanitarian disasters in history, which is the self-destruction of Syria.
While it is well known that one of the leading causes of the rise of ISIS was the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003 and subsequent installation of a Shia-dominated government that kicked the Sunni Muslim-dominated Arab Socialist Ba'ath Party of Iraq out of power. A government purge of Sunnis from the army and positions of power, led directly to the rise of ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIL, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, also frequently called Daesh in Arabic in this film).
The film reveals the rise of ISIS to its height of power, and then its fall, but it also reveals how ISIS governed in the territories it conquered. The film reveals that ISIS was routed early on by a broad coalition of rebel forces in Syria, but ISIS rebounded within Iraq and returned to counter-attack people in Syria, with the aid of Russian and Syrian government forces. ISIS got large amounts of money by selling black market oil, looting archeological sites and by heavily taxing the occupants of its territories.
The film follows one family as it flees Syria to Turkey and then tries to get to Europe. People in the family talk about life under ISIS rule and the constant danger they faced under the ISIS reign of terror. ISIS rules by fear, but it also made enemies because of its tactics. It ended up alone against very powerful foes, including the United States, Russia, Iran, Syria and Iraq, and it was taken down, methodically stripped of its territories. Iraq is now said to be free of ISIS rule.
Other mistakes of U.S. policy are outlined in the movie, like the removal and death of Muammar Gaddafi in Libya, which created a power vacuum in that nation, followed quickly by chaos. That, and the death of Saddam Hussein in Iraq served as a warning to Syrian President Bashar Hafez al-Assad. The film argues that the downfall of those men made Assad determined not to suffer their fate. The way to do that, Assad decided, was to make no compromises with reformers that could lead to his downfall and death. When Syrians began to demand reforms and an end to corruption, he declared all out war on political opponents, who quickly became rebels.
The film argues that for Assad, civil war was preferable to reform. Assad released terrorists from prison, hoping the various rebel and terrorist factions would fight each other. Since the U.S. and other nations were not willing to arm and support a unified rebel army, the rebellion became fractured, with many small groups seeking independent funding and support. With Russian support, and rebels fighting terrorist groups like ISIS and Al-Qaeda, the government forces were able to drive out the rebels.
The film makes a point of faulting President Barack Obama for not following through on his threats to attack and weaken Syrian government forces in 2013. Perhaps one of the reasons for Obama changing his mind about attacking Syria was the disaster resulting from similar actions by U.S. forces against the Libyan government two years earlier. Whatever the reason, the failure of the U.S. to attack Syrian government forces did empower Assad and Russia to carry on more successful attacks against the rebels, while giving ISIS forces a free pass.
The film argues that it is hard for terrorists to recruit people, unless their lives so bad that they feel they have no other choice. It starts with government corruption, according to the film, unrest and rebellion start when governments are corrupt. Civil war, like the one in Syria, leads to the conditions favorable for recruiting terrorists. ISIS arose with the promise to clean up government corruption and to cleanse “Western influences” that were corrupting the morals of the people.
Rather than being a reform movement, the film argues, ISIS acts like a criminal organization, extorting money by taking hostages, using protection rackets, implementing high taxes, selling archeological treasures on the black market and instituting a reign of terror to maintain power. The film argues that the Syrian disaster is a result of a civil war that went on too long, causing more and more people to join in.
The film argues that the people of the world are all connected. While there are certainly disasters when one nation involves itself in the civil war of another nation, there are also problems when nations think they can stand aside and not be affected by a civil war in another nation. The civil war in Syria, the flood of Syrian refugees and ISIS terror attacks have had profound effects, not only in the United States, but all over Europe and other parts of the world which are still being felt. This film rates an A.
Click here for links to places to buy or rent this movie in digital formats, or to buy the soundtrack, posters, books, even used videos, games, electronics and lots of other stuff. I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.