Tag Archives: Zaydi Shi’ites

Islam’s First Terrorists, Part 1

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on August 17, 20151

Book Review: The Assassins: A Radical Sect in Islam (1967) by Bernard Lewis

Abstract

The fourth Caliph, Ali, was assassinated during a civil war that his supporters, Shi’atu Ali (Followers of Ali), lost to the Umayyads, who thereafter moved the capital to Damascus. The Shi’a maintained that the Caliphate should have been kept in the Prophet’s family; over time this faction evolved into a sect unto themselves, which largely functioned as an official opposition, maintaining its claim to the Caliphate, but doing little about it. Several ghulat (extremist) Shi’a movements emerged that did challenge the Caliphate. One of them was the Ismailis. Calling themselves the Fatimids, the Ismailis managed to set up a rival Caliphate in Cairo from the mid-tenth century until the early twelfth century that covered most of North Africa and western Syria. A radical splinter of the Ismailis, the Nizaris, broke with the Fatimids in the late eleventh century and for the next century-and-a-half waged a campaign of terror against the Sunni order from bases in Persia and then Syria. In the late thirteenth century the Nizaris were overwhelmed by the Mongols in Persia and by the Egyptian Mameluke dynasty which halted the Mongol invasion in Syria. The Syrian-based branch of the Nizaris became known as the Assassins, and attained legendary status in the West after they murdered several Crusader officials in the Levant. Attention has often turned back to the Assassins in the West when terrorist groups from the Middle East are in the news, but in the contemporary case of the Islamic State (ISIS) the lessons the Nizaris can provide are limited. Continue reading

Reassessing the Saudi-led Intervention in Yemen

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on July 24, 2015

1

The Saudi-led Operation DECISIVE STORM began in Yemen on March 25 as a campaign of airstrikes against the Iran-backed Houthis, to weaken them and re-install the president, Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi, who was overthrown by the Houthis last September.

In April, I wrote in support of the Saudi-led operation for: (1) having drawn a line against Iran’s imperialism after Lebanon, Syria, and Iraq; (2) potentially decreasing the growth of the Islamic State (ISIS) by providing Sunnis, in Yemen and beyond, with an alternative form of resistance to Iran’s encroachments; and (3) offering a chance for more stability in Yemen, which was then in free fall with Iran, al-Qaeda, and ISIS capitalizing on the chaos. Continue reading