Thursday, June 04, 2015

Palmyra and politics

PALMYRA WATCH: Using Violence and Persuasion, ISIS Makes Political Gains (ANNE BARNARD and TIM ARANGO, NYT).
BEIRUT, Lebanon — Days after seizing the Syrian desert city of Palmyra, Islamic State militants blew up the notorious Tadmur Prison there, long used by the Syrian government to detain and torture political prisoners.

The demolition was part of the extremist group’s strategy to position itself as the champion of Sunni Muslims who feel besieged by the Shiite-backed governments in Syria and Iraq.

The Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL, has managed to advance in the face of American-led airstrikes by employing a mix of persuasion and violence. That has allowed it to present itself as the sole guardian of Sunni interests in a vast territory cutting across Iraq and Syria.

I can't find any specific news today about Palmyra's antiquities and ruins, but this article give some informative background about the overall political situation. Also, there's this piece in Foreign Policy:

Save Statues, Save Lives. Stopping the Islamic State’s destruction of the Middle East’s heritage and history must go hand in hand with defeating the extremist group (Matthew Bogdanos, Tess Davis, Atheel al-Nujaifi). It reviews ISIS's dual strategy of destroying some antiquities and harvesting others to sell to finance their operations.
As devastating as this destruction is, history warns us that worse is coming. Once you erase a people’s historical identity, the next step is to erase the people themselves. The Holocaust followed the razing of old Warsaw; Cambodia’s Killing Fields followed the destruction of churches, mosques, and pagodas. Stopping the Islamic State’s devastation of the region’s identity and ending the humanitarian crisis must go hand in hand.

For the Islamic State, death and destruction are inextricably interwoven: According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, the Islamic State recently executed 20 men in the famed Roman amphitheater of Palmyra, in a propaganda stunt redolent of the depravity of Joseph Goebbels. Because terrorists don’t respect borders any more than they respect human life or heritage, this pattern should concern those far beyond the self-declared caliphate. It must be stopped.
A call to action to choke off their supply line in the antiquities market. I would like to see that happen for more than one reason. But it is easier said than done.