ISIS is not a social issue. You don’t kill 130 people in Paris because you lost your job or never had one. It is ideological. It must therefore be fought by a counter-ideology, among other things. This neither the United States nor Europe nor their nominal Arab and Muslim allies have been able to articulate. Saudi Arabia and Turkey have played double games with their bastard child, ISIS…ISIS is working on the means to make the carnage in Paris look modest.
Inside the jihadi workshop of death: How ISIS is developing driver-free vehicles for bomb attacks in the West and sophisticated new missile technology capable of downing passenger jets
Shadow of a bloody past: For centuries, Islam and Christianity were locked in a brutal conflict most have forgotten. The horror, a top historian argues, is that for jihadis it’s as real today as it was in the Middle Ages
Militant Islam: Modern-day ISIS fighters see themselves as being engaged in a war as old as Islam itself
In the gloating communiqué it released after the terror attacks in Paris last week, France was condemned in decidedly medieval terms: as the capital of ‘the Cross’.
This is because jihadis see themselves as being engaged in a war as old as Islam itself: a struggle for global supremacy against Christianity.
Sayings became attributed to Muhammad which cast warfare in the cause of the Muslim God as a duty of the Faithful, such as: ‘I was ordered to fight all men until they say, ‘There is no god but Allah.’ ‘
By the 15th century, a continuous chain of Muslim lands had come to stretch from the Atlantic to the China Sea.
Year after year, Turkish forces probed Christian defences, crossing the plains of Hungary, or churning the waters off Malta with their warships. In 1529, and again in 1683, an Ottoman army almost took Vienna.
Yet that was to be the last great attempt to extend the Caliphate across Europe. The global balance of power was shifting, and nearly a millennium of Muslim preponderance was drawing to a close.
It was Christians who colonised America, established trading empires that spanned the globe and started the process of industrialisation. By the 19th century, with India ruled by the British Raj, and the Islamic Ottoman Empire scorned in Western capitals as ‘the sick man of Europe’, Muslims could no longer close their eyes to the sheer scale of their decline.
Today, according to a poll, some two-thirds of Muslims worldwide want to see the restoration of a Caliphate. It is not empires per se they are opposed to — just non-Islamic empires.
That Constantinople has been a Muslim city for almost 600 years, that the Crusades are done and dusted, and that Europe no longer defines itself as Christendom, barely intrudes on the consciousness of many jihadis.
They inhabit a mental landscape in which the Middle Ages never went away. The menace of this way of thinking is brutally evident — a world in which young people murdered at a rock concert can be cursed as ‘Crusaders’ is a world on the verge of going mad.
The shadow of the past is growing darker over Europe, and the world.
“A great exodus of the Islamic State leadership in Syria and Iraq is now establishing itself in Libya,” said Omar Adam, 34, the commander of a prominent militia based in Misurata.
…When the United States started airstrikes against the group last fall, its official spokesman, known as Abu Mohammed al-Adnani, called for Muslims in the West to stay where they were and murder those around them.
“If you can kill a disbelieving American or European — especially the spiteful and filthy French — or an Australian, or a Canadian,” Mr. Adnani urged in an audio message, “then rely upon Allah and kill him in any manner or way however it may be.”
Only 30 Paris Muslims in City of 224,000 Muslims Turn Out to Protest Bloody ISIS Attacks
Sixty years ago Asian dictators told their people in effect, “I am going to take away your freedom — but give you the best education, export-led economics and infrastructure that money can buy — and in a half-century you’ll build a middle class that will gradually take your freedom back.” In the Arab world, 60 years ago dictators told their people, in effect, “I am going to take away your freedom and give you the Arab-Israeli conflict, a shiny object to distract you from my corruption and predation.”
That difference, 60 years later, has produced the Asian economic miracle and fueled the Arab civilizational meltdown/disorder in Yemen, Libya, Syria and Iraq.
Turkey cares more about defeating Kurds; Saudi Arabia and its Arab Gulf allies care more about defeating Iran and its proxies in Iraq, Yemen and Syria; Qatar cares more about promoting the Muslim Brotherhood in Syria and annoying Saudi Arabia; Iran cares more about protecting Shiites in Iraq and Syria than creating a space for decent Sunnis to thrive; and many of the non-ISIS Sunni activists in Syria and Iraq are still Islamists — and they’re not going away. How do you weave a decent carpet from these threads?
It may already be too late and too difficult, however, for any swift or easy solution to the tangled mess the Middle East has become in the four years since the Arab Spring plunged the region into turmoil.
What Jordan’s King Abdullah II referred to as a “third world war against humanity” has, more accurately, become a jumble of overlapping wars driven by conflicting agendas in which defeating the Islamic State is just one of a number of competing and often contradictory policy pursuits.
Turkey could cut off Islamic State’s supply lines. So why doesn’t it?
It might seem outrageous to suggest that a Nato member like Turkey would in any way support an organisation that murders western civilians in cold blood. That would be like a Nato member supporting al-Qaida. But in fact there is reason to believe that Erdoğan’s government does support the Syrian branch of al-Qaida (Jabhat al-Nusra) too, along with any number of other rebel groups that share its conservative Islamist ideology. The Institute for the Study of Human Rights at Columbia University has compiled a long list of evidence of Turkish support for Isis in Syria.
…The exact relationship between Erdoğan’s government and Isis may be subject to debate; but of some things we can be relatively certain. Had Turkey placed the same kind of absolute blockade on Isis territories as they did on Kurdish-held parts of Syria, let alone shown the same sort of “benign neglect” towards the PKK and YPG that they have been offering to Isis, that blood-stained “caliphate” would long since have collapsed – and arguably, the Paris attacks may never have happened. And if Turkey were to do the same today, Isis would probably collapse in a matter of months. Yet, has a single western leader called on Erdoğan to do this?
Ellio t2511 30 Nov 2015 06:22
“Earlier, Turkey promised to help stem the flow of migrants to Europe in return for cash, visas and renewed talks on joining the EU”
A country that regularly locks up journalists is in talks to join. And just when I think the EU cannot become any more contemptible. Maybe Saudi Arabia can join as well.
The European project is finished; the pathetic weakness, comic ineptitude and scandalous, monstrously arrogant disregard for public opinion or public welfare that EU leaders demonstrated during the refugee crisis surely sealing this wretched organisation’s doom.
Merkel and her cronies can now start to dissolve the Union in an orderly fashion, or wait for a coming wave of right wing nationalist governments to tear it apart.
y1989 28m ago
Commentators, please think of your health. The 3 billion euro’s will be returned to Europe, Switzerland will receive most of it.
As Syria unravelled, Turkey doubled down on its commitment to a range of militant groups, while at the same time appearing to recognise that the jihadis who had passed through their territory were hardly a benign threat. The change in the dialogue with western officials was marked: security officials no longer insisted on the extremists being called “those who abuse religion”. Labelling them “terrorists” in official correspondence was no longer the problem it had been.
Despite that, links to some aspects of Isis continued to develop. Turkish businessmen struck lucrative deals with Isis oil smugglers, adding at least $10m (£6.6m) per week to the terror group’s coffers, and replacing the Syrian regime as its main client. Over the past two years several senior Isis members have told the Guardian that Turkey preferred to stay out of their way and rarely tackled them directly.
The world’s determination to defeat Isil is a myth
None of the countries fighting Isil actually want to defeat it or think they will
By Richard Spencer, Middle East Editor
2:58PM GMT 17 Nov 2015
There can never have been a policy that more governments are committed to achieving without actually trying to achieve it than the world’s so-called determination to “defeat Isil”.
Everyone is now at it – fighting Isil, that is: the Syrian and Iraqi governments, obviously, parts of whose territory Isil controls; within those failed states, a smorgasbord of local and foreign Shia militias, Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, two major Kurdish fighting forces and in Syria non-Isil anti-Assad rebels, including al-Qaeda.
Then there’s the Western allies – the air forces of the United States, Britain, France, Australia, who are bombing Isil in one country or both, with help from other European armed forces in various ways. Russia, of course, has joined in, proudly suggesting that in some way it is the only nation really serious about “defeating terrorism”. Finally, there are other Middle Eastern states with a vested interest in preventing Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant’s caliphate getting out of control – Jordan, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey are all active or notional parts of the coalition.
Isil are either miraculous fighters or – and this is the truth – the attempt to defeat them is a myth.
It is not of course a myth that all these actors are fighting Isil: the bombs the RAF is dropping are real enough, as are the massacres of Iraqi, Syrian and other troops whose battles have ended in surrender.
It is just that none of these actors has a plan to take Isil’s territory and capture or kill all its fighters, the conventional notion of defeating an enemy. Other priorities get in the way.
•The Americans – and the British at least among their allies – want Isil to go but think it will take a properly trained ground force to get rid of it and are not prepared to commit troops, for domestic political reasons. President Obama, additionally, believes that there is no point defeating Isil while the conditions that led to its rise are in place, such as localised sectarian conflict, though he has no real notion of how to get rid of those conditions.
•Some elements in the Iraqi government may genuinely want to see the country reunited at all costs but others realise that if the Sunnis in Iraq return to the national fold the Shia majority will have to share power with them. Currently, Shia supremacist parties hold sway. These Shia parties are linked to the Shia militias that are fighting Isil on the ground – but signally failing to attack them in Sunni Arab strongholds like Fallujah and Mosul.
•The Assad regime’s strategy presumably sees it eventually taking on Isil, but over most of the civil war its main enemy has been non-Isil rebels, who pose a more direct threat to regime heartlands. Having Isil fight them simultaneously has not been a bad thing.
•The Iranians don’t want Isil to gain ground but having a Sunni bogeyman, for whose existence they can blame their Sunni foes in the Gulf, has a certain use. The existence of Isil also prevents Sunni Arab states presenting a united face against their own ambitions.
•The Gulf states want to keep Isil down but they also see Isil as a lesser enemy than Iran, and certainly aren’t going to waste forces attacking fellow Sunnis that they could be using to fight Shia proxies in Yemen.
•Russia has ruled out sending ground troops, and has mostly targeted non-Isil rebels with its bombing campaign, since it believes the priority is to preserve the Assad regime. As these rebels are also fighting Isil, this has had the unfortunate effect of actually helping Isil advance in some areas, even as it cedes ground to Russian-backed regime forces in others.
•Turkey has made clear its main enemy is the Kurdish PKK, rather than Isil.
•The Kurds have a track record of success against Isil in both Iraq and Syria – thanks in part to their alliance with the US and other western air forces. But they have little interest in pushing beyond Kurdish territory. In Iraq, the Peshmerga took Sinjar last week, not Mosul.
Some people, understandably, say that when they see all the different forces at war in the region it must simply be just too complicated to beat a well-organised, highly ideological enemy. But in fact, it’s all very simple: no-one, including Britain, is quite threatened enough to take the risk of injecting overwhelming force.
In May, when the provincial capital of Iraq’s Sunni-dominated Anbar province, Ramadi, fell to Isil, both the Iraqi government and the Americans talked of attacking and retaking it within days.
Periodically, reports have been issued about an imminent assault; it has never happened.
The explanation given is that the Iraqi troops are not strong enough to do so, and will not be until they have been “trained” by the Americans – something the Americans have already spent a decade trying to do.
The real explanation is that Iraqi ground forces are dominated by Shia militias whose priority is to guard the strategic approaches to the Shia-majority areas of Iraq rather than retake Anbar.
Why should we fight against Isil if the Sunnis aren’t prepared to do it for themselves, Hadi al-Ameri, the Iranian-backed Shia militia leader in Iraq, said to me at the time. He outright derided the suggestion of a full-frontal assault on Ramadi.
A properly mounted, properly manned, and properly equipped western army probably could dispatch Isil’s caliphate reasonably quickly, if it were prepared to inflict and sustain the casualties normal in traditional warfare.
But if France has that in mind, the evidence suggests it will be on its own.
“Daesh” is an Arabic acryonym for “Al-Dawla al-Islamiya fi Iraq wa al-Sham”, the full name of the group that calls itself the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, or Isis. The acronym is favoured by mainstream Muslims, who say the term “Islamic State” gives a religious dignity to what is simply a terrorist sect.
“Daesh” also sounds similar to the Arabic phrase “Dahes” – or “one who sows discord” – and as such is regarded as highly insulting by Isis followers. In July, a group of 120 British MPs wrote to Lord Hall, the director-general of the BBC, urging him to instruct his staff to use “Daesh” as well. Lord Hall said that would break BBC impartiality rules by giving viewers the impression that the BBC was explicitly supporting the group’s opponents.
In Rise of ISIS, No Single Missed Key but Many Strands of Blame
By IAN FISHER NOV. 18, 2015
…And there were, in fact, more than hints of the group’s plans and potential. A 2012 report by the United States Defense Intelligence Agency was direct: The growing chaos in Syria’s civil war was giving Islamic militants there and in Iraq the space to spread and flourish. The group, it said, could “declare an Islamic state through its union with other terrorist organizations in Iraq and Syria.”
“This particular report, this was one of those nobody wanted to see,” said Lt. Gen. Michael T. Flynn, who ran the defense agency at the time.
“It was disregarded by the White House,” he said. “It was disregarded by other elements in the intelligence community as a one-off report. Frankly, at the White House, it didn’t meet the narrative.”
No report or event can stand in hindsight as the single missed key to the now terrifyingly complex puzzle of the Islamic State. And assigning blame has been part of the political discourse in the United States and beyond: The decision by President George W. Bush and allies to marginalize Iraq’s political and military elite angered and disenfranchised some who formed the heart of the Islamic State. More recently, President Obama and his allies have been criticized as not taking seriously enough the Islamic State’s rise.
Abu Musab Zarqawi, the godfather of Iraq’s insurgency. CreditU.S. Department of Defense
…Looking back this week, John O. Brennan, the C.I.A. director, recounted in a speech to a Washington think tank that the Islamic State was “pretty much decimated when U.S. forces were there in Iraq.”
“It had maybe 700 or so adherents left,” Mr. Brennan said. “And then it grew quite a bit.”
There is little dispute about that initial success. The American military and Sunni tribesmen, banded together in what became known as the Awakening, left Al Qaeda, the Islamic State and other Sunni jihadists in disarray by 2010. In June of that year, Gen. Ray Odierno, leader of the American troops in Iraq, said that “over the last 90 days or so we’ve either picked up or killed 34 of the top 42 Al Qaeda in Iraq leaders,” using one early name for the Islamic State.
Americans wanted to believe that the Iraq war had ended in triumph, and the troops were soon withdrawn. But almost immediately tensions began rising between the Sunnis and the Shiite-dominated government of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki — supported by the United States and Iran, the Shiite giant to the east. Salaries and jobs promised to cooperating tribes were not paid. There seemed little room for Sunnis in the new Iraq. The old Sunni insurgents began to look appealing again.
Pictures said to have been taken near Aleppo, Syria last week shows mounds of what looks like cut off facial hair, alongside discarded packets of razors. In order to cross the border to Turkey undetected, ISIS jihadists are said to be shaving and disguising themselves in niqabs – a veil covering all but the eyes worn by some muslim women.