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Isis claims to have beheaded an American journalist missing in Syria
August 19, 2014 4:35 PM   Subscribe

Video has emerged showing the beheading of journalist James Foley. James Foley has been reportedly beheaded by Isis in retaliation for US airstrikes in Iraq. He was working in Syria when he was reported missing in 2012.

James Foley has been reportedly beheaded by Isis in retaliation for US airstrikes in Iraq. He was working in Syria when he was reported missing in 2012.

Full transcript of video:
VIDEO OPENS WITH A SPEECH BY PRESIDENT OBAMA ABOUT THE ISLAMIC STATE

JAMES FOLEY: I call on my friends, family, and loved ones to rise up against my real killers, the US government. For what will happen to me is only a result of their complacency and criminality.

My message to my beloved parents, save me some dignity, and don't accept some meagre compensation, for my death, from the same people who effectively hit the last nail in my coffin with their recent aerial campaign in Iraq.

I call on my brother John, who is a member of the US air force. Think about what you are doing, think about the lives you destroy, including those of your own family. I call on you John, think about who made the decision to bomb Iraq recently and kill those people, whoever they may have been. Think John, who did they really kill? And did they think about me, you, our family when they made that decision?

I died that day John, when your colleagues dropped that bomb on those people they signed my death certificate. I wish I had more time. I wish I could have the hope of freedom and seeing my family once again. But that ship has sailed. I guess all in all I wish I wasn't American.

EXECUTIONER: This is James Wright Foley, an American citizen of your country. As a government, you have been at the forefront of the aggression towards the Islamic State. You have plotted against us and have gone far out of your way to find reasons to interfere in our affairs. Today, your military air force is attacking us daily in Iraq, your strikes have caused casualties among Muslims. You're no longer fighting an insurgency, we are an Islamic army, and a state that has been accepted by large number of Muslims world wide, so effectively, any aggression towards the Islamic State, is aggression towards Muslims from all walks of life who has accepted the Islamic caliphate as their leadership, so any attempt by you Obama to deny the Muslims their rights of living in safety under the Islamic caliphate will result in the bloodshed of your people.

NEW PRISONER SHOWN - CAPTION - Steven Joel Sotloff
posted by lpcxa0 (266 comments total) 19 users marked this as a favorite

 
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posted by stinkfoot at 4:44 PM on August 19


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How awful. This week is convincing me that war correspondents are goddamn heroes.
posted by desjardins at 4:45 PM on August 19 [11 favorites]


Awful. Don't watch the video.

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posted by whyareyouatriangle at 4:46 PM on August 19 [3 favorites]


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posted by Renoroc at 4:49 PM on August 19


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Another brave journalist gone.
posted by oceanjesse at 4:49 PM on August 19 [2 favorites]


Thank you for the transcript.

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posted by Phire at 4:50 PM on August 19 [4 favorites]


How obscene.

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posted by bearwife at 4:51 PM on August 19 [3 favorites]


A more suitable tribute that popped up on twitter My Friend James Foley
posted by wotsac at 4:52 PM on August 19 [7 favorites]


I'm not entirely sure a reddit thread and a Guardian link is the best way to frame this for discussion.
posted by Curious Artificer at 4:53 PM on August 19 [4 favorites]


I'm not entirely sure a reddit thread and a Guardian link is the best way to frame this for discussion.

You're welcome to link to more sources, I thought it was good to NOT directly link to the video, the transcript helps.
posted by mathowie at 4:54 PM on August 19 [41 favorites]


It seems as though his murderer, judging by the accent, was brought up in the UK. I would like to say sorry on behalf of everybody in this country: this man is not one of us, and we reject him and his hateful beliefs wholeheartedly.
posted by Thing at 4:56 PM on August 19 [7 favorites]


I'm not entirely sure a reddit thread and a Guardian link is the best way to frame this for discussion.

Or posting the transcript of, what I'm assuming to be anyway because there's no way I'm touching that video link, his last moments which were undoubtedly produced under duress. I don't totally disagree with it but it does feel icky to me.

On preview, it looks like mathowie has already spoken to this. So I'll just leave it with

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posted by RolandOfEld at 4:57 PM on August 19 [1 favorite]


Maybe ISIS or maybe a group that wants to get America more involved. Americans if there is one thing to learn since 9-11 it is that policy and actions driven by vengence and outrage lead nowhere.
posted by humanfont at 5:00 PM on August 19 [6 favorites]


Thank you for the transcript. I think about his family who would want to see video of him and yet not his death. And then about how public execution is so much a state tool of terror.
posted by viggorlijah at 5:02 PM on August 19 [2 favorites]


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posted by lizjohn at 5:03 PM on August 19


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posted by Foosnark at 5:03 PM on August 19 [1 favorite]


rest in peace.
posted by threeants at 5:04 PM on August 19 [1 favorite]


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posted by BlahLaLa at 5:05 PM on August 19


I was trying to articulate to myself what I find so particularly disturbing about the phenomenon of these videos- obviously, the subject matter itself, as watching somebody get murdered is grotesque and horrifying. But it's also that we live in an era of relentless innovation of new technologies, technology that is always said to be world-changing. And maybe it is. But if these world-changing cell phones and internet and Twitter, of all things, can be adapted just as quickly for use in broadcasting acts of primitive barbarism that wouldn't be out of place on a woodcut, then maybe the world hasn't changed so much after all.
posted by Aubergine at 5:05 PM on August 19 [8 favorites]


On James Foley

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posted by roomthreeseventeen at 5:06 PM on August 19 [3 favorites]


I watched the beheading of Daniel Pearl 7-8 years ago out of some weird desire to bear witness/never forget.
I haven't been the same since.
I know that sounds dramatic, but it's very true. It has irreparably altered my worldview. Maybe it's better to know the truth and to see it with your own eyes, but it's no picnic.

I truly wish I didn't completely distrust my government, because there are real bad guys out there. I just wish we had a government and/or media that wasn't a for-profit enterprise, so I could skip the "have to see it with my own eyes" part.

Because that shit cannot be unseen.
posted by FeralHat at 5:15 PM on August 19 [47 favorites]


Surely ISIS knows that this sort of thing just prompts a violent response from the United States, right? I mean, the actual point of this is ISIS actually trying to goad the US into greater involvement, right?

RIP James Foley and condolences to his friends and family.
posted by Joey Michaels at 5:16 PM on August 19 [2 favorites]


It might not be primarily for a US audience. They're demonstrating how badass they are to their enemies locally and communicating their hatred of the US to sympathetic potential allies.
posted by mr_roboto at 5:21 PM on August 19 [5 favorites]


The US didn't need prompting for a violent response, we're already more or less at war with ISIS.
posted by Justinian at 5:22 PM on August 19


Dear CNN: why would you still have autoplay on videos with graphic content warnings? Why?

Thankfully my sound is off and I stopped it while an anchor was talking and I 100% did not check to see what the graphic content actually was, but also: why support them in broadcasting so graphic and terrible an event? Why broadcast a murder relentlessly?

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(and many, many wishes for the safety of the other journalist held by ISIS, and indeed for all of their captives)
posted by jetlagaddict at 5:24 PM on August 19 [9 favorites]


I no longer watch these kinds of things because you don't stop seeing them when you turn off the video (and honestly, isn't this a perfect example of an FPP that would be better and more interesting in a few days with some really substantive links?).

When I was graduating from college and getting a physical so I could join the peace corps, my doctor (who had been a combat medic) was really emphatic about the importance of never living in a dangerous place or seeing bad things. I was like, "Whatever, old man," but now I understand what he meant and there are so many things I wish I could unsee.

The video is meant as an act of trauma and terror, and I wish we treated these things with more reflection and sensitivity instead of just pure reaction.
posted by Dip Flash at 5:29 PM on August 19 [23 favorites]


The US didn't need prompting for a violent response

And yet, one of the horrors about this is knowing that we'll use it as prompting, to improve public opinion of escalation, and that more death will come from it. You can almost hear the speechwriters and pundits honing their lines about how the response won't be vengeance, that we are above revenge, that our response will be precise and accurate.

Instead we should just be mourning, because my god, how horrible, how tragic and wrong of a way to die. His poor family. It breaks my heart.
posted by mittens at 5:29 PM on August 19 [3 favorites]


When someone is in a position like that and knows he's going to be executed, why would he help his murderers by saying things like that?

I'm reminded of "I'll show you how an Italian dies!" as a counter-example.

(I feel very sorry for Foley and his family. Don't get me wrong. But if it were me, I truly wish I would have the courage to do what Quattrocchi did.)
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 5:37 PM on August 19 [2 favorites]


It seems as though his murderer, judging by the accent, was brought up in the UK. I would like to say sorry on behalf of everybody in this country: this man is not one of us, and we reject him and his hateful beliefs wholeheartedly.

I know you don't mean it in the way I'm about to critique so please understand I don't mean to attack you personally.

But after just reading the "Canada is restricting birth citizenship" thread, I think it's important that we refrain from saying things like "this man is not one of us." Of course he is. There is nothing special about any of our societies that we can't produce horrible people such as these. Denouncing his views is fine, of course. But rejecting him makes the argument that the community is fine, and prevents us from self-examining to understand how and why this happens.

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For James Foley.
posted by Lemurrhea at 5:37 PM on August 19 [47 favorites]


By the way, this is a recruiting tool. This kind of snuff porn is very popular with disenchanted young men in the Arab world.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 5:38 PM on August 19 [5 favorites]


fuck ISIS - not saying we should go to war with them - but fuck them anyway
posted by pyramid termite at 5:40 PM on August 19 [1 favorite]


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posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 5:40 PM on August 19


(well, i guess we already are at war with them, kind of - my bad)
posted by pyramid termite at 5:41 PM on August 19


Rest in peace. A dot seems not enough for a life brutally taken, from someone who braved lethal danger to keep the world informed.

Tragedy on every level. The vicious killers of ISIS - an organization and people who are the enemies of mankind. And the U.S. involvement in the ME, yet again.

And yet, one of the horrors about this is knowing that we'll use it as prompting, to improve public opinion of escalation, and that more death will come from it. You can almost hear the speechwriters and pundits honing their lines about how the response won't be vengeance, that we are above revenge, that our response will be precise and accurate.

I was listening to a BBC interview with U.S. General Jack Keane, a defence analyst - 'You have to kill ISIS' - where he was critical of Obama for not expanding military operations against ISIS not only in Iraq, but in Syria. He was very gung ho about a military involvement including U.S. special forces on the ground. All because ISIS is a tremendous threat in the region. Which it is, of course. But what I kept waiting for, was some acknowledgment of how it is that ISIS came to be, and came to control so much territory and become such a scourge in the region. An acknowledgment that it was the U.S. who broke the ME - yet again, after having been doing so for over half a century already. Iraq before our war of aggression, a war based on complete lies, had zero presence of any kind of organized terrorist movement, like the AQ - indeed Saddam was a ruthless enemy of AQ. He was a violent dictator (and seems to have had some Western intelligence services help in reaching power to begin with), with whom we did business (Iran-Iraq war etc.), and then we decided to overthrow him in a blatant war of aggression, and then of course all hell broke loose. Interfere, meddle, interfere, meddle, plot and interfere - and a disaster each and every time in the ME. Not content with destroying Iraq, (and implanting jihadists in Afghanistan and Pakistan) we decided to try our hand in Syria (together with our regional allies - such paragons of democracy as Saudi Arabia and Bahrain), and soon we had another mutating virus, this time called ISIS. ISIS found fertile ground in Iraq too, and concentrated there, finding Sunni allies who were deeply alienated by our puppet in Baghdad. And after almost getting out of Iraq, Obama decides that we need to do some bombing, because which American president can possibly resist getting involved in a civil war in the ME, a war that needs our involvement as much as all our previous engagements that have been such shining successes, absolutely everywhere in the ME (see Libya falling apart). Which is not to say there aren't voices urging an expansion of our engagement, and maybe a war with Iran for good measure.

There is only tragedy here.
posted by VikingSword at 5:41 PM on August 19 [16 favorites]


When someone is in a position like that and knows he's going to be executed, why would he help his murderers by saying things like that?

I doubt ISIS is above torture.
posted by spaltavian at 5:43 PM on August 19 [10 favorites]


Imagine there's no countries
It isn't hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people
Living life in peace...

You may say I'm a dreamer
But I'm not the only one
I hope someday you'll join us
And the world will be as one
posted by Talez at 5:44 PM on August 19 [4 favorites]


Divine Mother, help us.
posted by Hermione Granger at 5:44 PM on August 19 [4 favorites]


When someone is in a position like that and knows he's going to be executed, why would he help his murderers by saying things like that?

Perhaps he didn't know, this could be the 100th time they've had him say something to a camera. Perhaps they said they would harm the other journalist, Steven Sotloff, if he didn't repeat it. Perhaps he sensed it could have been a slower death if he didn't say it. None of us know what was happening, he must have been in a very delicate state after so long with ISIS and it seems a bit odd to second guess him.

RIP James.
posted by jamesonandwater at 5:44 PM on August 19 [61 favorites]


It might not be primarily for a US audience. They're demonstrating how badass they are to their enemies locally and communicating their hatred of the US to sympathetic potential allies.

Yeah, the "casualties among Muslims" bit is pretty obviously a call to Islamist sympathizers.

But that's ISIS's major failing. The people of Syria and Iraq are really culturally and ethnically diverse, and aren't too big on being lumped together so lazily. And they certainly aren't going to be clamouring for a caliphate, no matter how many innocent foreigners are beheaded in their name.
posted by Sys Rq at 5:47 PM on August 19


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posted by homunculus at 5:51 PM on August 19


This is horseshit.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 5:52 PM on August 19 [1 favorite]


I think it's important that we refrain from saying things like "this man is not one of us." Of course he is. There is nothing special about any of our societies that we can't produce horrible people such as these. Denouncing his views is fine, of course. But rejecting him makes the argument that the community is fine, and prevents us from self-examining to understand how and why this happens.

I can assure you, very very strongly, that this man did not learn his hateful ways from UK society. He may have learnt them in the UK, but they are alien to that country and that society. If there is any self-examination needed it is only to ask why we did not stop them earlier.
posted by Thing at 5:56 PM on August 19 [3 favorites]


By the way, this is a recruiting tool. This kind of snuff porn is very popular with disenchanted young men in the Arab world.

If you say something like that, you need to back up your arguments with sources, otherwise you run the risk of actively dismissing an entire swath of people based on their race. I have friends who are "young men in the Arab world", which is as specific of a portrayal as saying "young European man". So sources, please, and no hearsay.
posted by suedehead at 5:57 PM on August 19 [21 favorites]


I am so very sorry for James Foley's and his family's suffering. I am so very sorry for the suffering of the likely one million dead in Iraq and the neighboring region since the first Gulf War. May they all rest in peace. And may the Universe forgive us.
posted by mondo dentro at 5:57 PM on August 19 [11 favorites]


But rejecting him makes the argument that the community is fine, and prevents us from self-examining to understand how and why this happens.

We reject him because of the things he does. British society surely has problems, but making people cut other people's head's off is not really one of them. It's ridiculous to lay this at the feet of "the community", unless the community you're talking about is ISIS.
posted by spaltavian at 6:03 PM on August 19 [3 favorites]


While the US Government will no doubt be using Foley's death as a propaganda justification for escalating its war against ISIS, privately everyone from the White House down is saying "a journalist? whew. at least it isn't somebody IMPORTANT."

. for James Foley

. for our nation
posted by oneswellfoop at 6:04 PM on August 19


I can assure you, very very strongly, that this man did not learn his hateful ways from UK society. He may have learnt them in the UK, but they are alien to that country and that society.

That is exactly the sort of hateful bullshit that adds fuel to their hateful bullshit. Stop it.
posted by Sys Rq at 6:04 PM on August 19 [10 favorites]


The US didn't break the Middle East. The many factions there were not just hanging out on neatly appointed shelve in some giant sandy Pottery Barn until kid USA came along and wrecked it all. The Middle East has been a fucking mess since the beginnings of human civilization.
posted by humanfont at 6:07 PM on August 19 [5 favorites]


People that have seen enough torture and death and horror are not in full capacity of their mental wellness or clarity of thought. The belief systems that arise in reaction to such horrors are often the result of rage and insanity of anguish that has destroyed parts of the brain that might feel normal empathy, particularly for anyone thing/one that gets associated with the cause of the horrors (even remotely).

This force is so powerful because when it comes from having witnessed true horrors, particularly at the hands of humans- or even as a result of deliberate human ignorance and indifference to people suffering before them- there is truth in it.

When we consume the goods of the heinous deeds of community members among us, when we ignore such crimes as they occur, we can not pretend we are innocent.

However-- Regardless of guilt- we can all hope for mercy even for those who have done wrong or have been born through no fault than hunger and need and acceptance of the deeds of their parents and communities, to consume without regard for who is harmed- or who is going without. When we hope for mercy, we must hope for mercy for all, including those who have committed heinous crimes, and to remember that their sadism and cruelty was born from somewhere, and may truly not have even been of their own making. We do not have the tools or accuracy to judge the level of will that has gone into anothers actions, we can only know we see the horrors of what has happened and fight with every fiber in our being to hold on to empathy in spite of what horrors we see.
posted by xarnop at 6:09 PM on August 19 [5 favorites]


That is exactly the sort of hateful bullshit that adds fuel to their hateful bullshit. Stop it.

There are a lot of things the West does that fuels their bullshit, the completely non-hateful comment by Thing is not one of them, so I wouldn't mind if you stopped it.
posted by spaltavian at 6:11 PM on August 19 [19 favorites]


As a member of the Western civilian population, and someone who works in a similar field, I'm trying my best to acknowledge how hypocritical it would be of me to express unilateral rage over this killing. Having said that, this is the type of irreconcilable bullshit that makes me feel like we're inching towards disaster. Which, you know, is really bad news.
posted by phaedon at 6:12 PM on August 19


The Middle East has been a fucking mess since the beginnings of human civilization.

The entire planet's been a mess since the beginning of human civilization. The Middle East is also the birthplace of writing, cities, agriculture, the number zero, bricks, astronomy, etc. ISIS thrives off convincing young people that the West is nothing more than its worst parts; should we do the same?
posted by oinopaponton at 6:15 PM on August 19 [72 favorites]


we are an Islamic army, and a state that has been accepted by large number of Muslims world wide, so effectively, any aggression towards the Islamic State, is aggression towards Muslims from all walks of life who has accepted the Islamic caliphate as their leadership

As someone who comes from one Muslim country and whose family comes from another:

CITATION FUCKING NEEDED
posted by divabat at 6:15 PM on August 19 [35 favorites]


I can assure you, very very strongly, that this man did not learn his hateful ways from UK society. He may have learnt them in the UK, but they are alien to that country and that society.
...
That is exactly the sort of hateful bullshit that adds fuel to their hateful bullshit. Stop it.


What? No, really, what?
posted by Behemoth at 6:16 PM on August 19 [9 favorites]


As a member of the Western civilian population, I'm trying my best to acknowledge how hypocritical it would be of me to express unilateral rage over this killing.

Unless you're supportive of equivalent killings by the West, it's not hypocritical for you to feel rage over this murder. I've never understood it when liberals quite correctly, cogently and patiently explain why an individual Gazan isn't responsible for Hamas, or drone victim in Afghanistan is unfairly a prisoner of circumstance, but then turn around and hold themselves personally responsible for the reckless adventurism of their government.
posted by spaltavian at 6:16 PM on August 19 [16 favorites]


The US didn't break the Middle East. The many factions there were not just hanging out on neatly appointed shelve in some giant sandy Pottery Barn until kid USA came along and wrecked it all.

This is exactly what happened. The U.S. basically came in after 9/11 and fucked the whole region up beyond repair. We actively participated in the destruction of the two most advanced societies in the Middle East. In our wake we left a power vacuum and lots of young angry males.

The Middle East has been a fucking mess since the beginnings of human civilization.

Except for the part where it was one of the birthplaces of modern human civilization. You know writing, beer making, astronomy, mathematics, ect.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 6:17 PM on August 19 [20 favorites]


What? No, really, what?

When you alienate people, they tend to feel alienated.

Is that too complicated for you?
posted by Sys Rq at 6:18 PM on August 19 [2 favorites]


Or what oinopaponton said.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 6:18 PM on August 19


The Middle East has been a fucking mess since the beginnings of human civilization.

This is not remotely true. You're privileging the present.

The rest of the world has also been a fucking mess. The fact that Europe, the Americas, and Asia haven't had many huge dust-ups in the past few decades is an aberration. Europe fought two world wars on its soil, and you can trace back dozens and dozens of shitty, evil wars of aggression back as far as you care to go.
posted by BungaDunga at 6:20 PM on August 19 [11 favorites]


The US didn't break the Middle East. The many factions there were not just hanging out on neatly appointed shelve in some giant sandy Pottery Barn until kid USA came along and wrecked it all. The Middle East has been a fucking mess since the beginnings of human civilization.

ISIS has declared that erasing the borders established by the 1916 Sykes-Picot Agreement is one of its primary goals. Any understanding of the current state of the Mideast requires at least an acknowledgement of the critical and toxic role played by Western colonialism.
posted by ryanshepard at 6:24 PM on August 19 [18 favorites]


This is exactly what happened. The U.S. basically came in after 9/11 and fucked the whole region up beyond repair. We actively participated in the destruction of the two most advanced societies in the Middle East.

Nowhere is "beyond repair", but if you really wanted to pick such a point it would be the sack of Baghdad in 1258, not 2003. Iran is by far the most advanced society in the Middle East and has been for 3,000 years, and what America has done in the Middle East since 9/11 is absolutely dwarfed by what the European powers did, not to mention the Mongols, Turks and Soviets.

There's thoughtful appreciation of terrible American foreign policy, and there's just completely ahistorical hyperbole.

There's several not unthinkable scenarios that could result in a far more stable Middle East; at the top of the list would be a Persian-American rapprochement, which only sounds crazy with a narrow view of history.
posted by spaltavian at 6:28 PM on August 19 [26 favorites]


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posted by allthinky at 6:40 PM on August 19


Respectfully, as I've said in the past, invoking Sykes-Picot is a dramatic oversimplification of what is happening with ISIS right now; namely, where is ISIS getting the money and weapons necessary to destabilize the region, what with multiple reports naming Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait as backers. In this sense, the Middle East is a total cesspool, and the West is to blame in a way that is completely unaddressable. On top of that, a reorganization of the Middle East on these "let's change the boundaries, it is our manifest destiny" terms in no way insures the democratic liberation of the local population. This is potentially a humanitarian disaster, not a triumph of self-determination.
posted by phaedon at 6:40 PM on August 19 [1 favorite]


Nowhere is "beyond repair", but if you really wanted to pick such a point it would be the sack of Baghdad in 1258, not 2003. Iran is by far the most advanced society in the Middle East and has been for 3,000 years, and what America has done in the Middle East since 9/11 is absolutely dwarfed by what the European powers did, not to mention the Mongols, Turks and Soviets.

The U.S. has not existed long enough to compete in such a sweep of history. But it would be hard to argue that the U.S. has not been the single most destructive and destabilizing outside force in the ME since at least the 70's. And no, whatever the Soviets did in the ME, does not in any way shape or form "absolutely dwarf" the impact of the US in ME. And speaking of Iran, our hands are not exactly clean there either.
posted by VikingSword at 6:41 PM on August 19 [4 favorites]


NO spaltavian: a liberal "blame us and my country and the west" is sheer nonsense. I worked with iranians here and know why so many did not return to Iran when the religious nuts took over... Iran is the central source of terror in the entire region: they fund and arm Heazbolah; they shipped technology and armed Hamas in Gaza...they now run Lebanon ..their reach is worldwide.
Of course the US is not innocent nor is the colonial west but that is the past...Name a Muslim state that is not fully repressive and/or at war with other Muslim places...Now we learn that even in Indonesia, Sharia is being enlarged and imposed.
What we should also note is that a Muslim caliphate, what ISIS wants, differs from the goals of Al Qada and the Taliban..ISIS is trying to ressurect the Caliphate that is long gone and to spread its tentacles throughout the Middle East.
posted by Postroad at 6:42 PM on August 19 [1 favorite]


Right Iraq was totally a peaceful place prior to 9-11. Except for the coups that lead to the Ba'ath party taking power, Saddam purging the Ba'ath party. The wars on the Iranians, Kuwaitis, Marsh Arabs and Kurds. You might as well blame the rooster for sunrise.
posted by humanfont at 6:43 PM on August 19


ISIS is following the script: The Management of Savagery (PDF of the entire book, by Abu Bakr Naji)
posted by mondo dentro at 6:48 PM on August 19 [3 favorites]


When you alienate people, they tend to feel alienated.

Good word, you have it exactly backwards. Many of the people who go and join ISIS seem to have been well integrated into UK society--they were not rejected by the society because of their background or their religion, nor should they be. But if you listen to the words of these people many will themselves say that they have rejected the society they were brought up in. They have alienated themselves by adopting beliefs which are wholly out of step with society. If you search for the models of their beliefs, you will not find them in the UK. They are not part of the National Curriculum nor propagated by the BBC. They are not expounded in Parliament nor printed in newspaper editorials. The average man in the street won't chat about the weather and the caliphate. The beliefs are alien to that society and simply do not find their origin or nourishment there.

I'm astounded I have to explain this. Islamic fundamentalism was not caused by the West, does not come from the West, and will not be solved by the West somehow atoning for its faults. Go ask a fundamentalist Muslim, "if the West does X and Y, will you moderate your religious beliefs?" They'll laugh in your face because your guilt, however sincerely felt, is just a tool they wield and not the project they're working on.
posted by Thing at 6:50 PM on August 19 [32 favorites]


The U.S. has not existed long enough to compete in such a sweep of history. But it would be hard to argue that the U.S. has not been the single most destructive and destabilizing outside force in the ME since at least the 70's. And no, whatever the Soviets did in the ME, does not in any way shape or form "absolutely dwarf" the impact of the US in ME. And speaking of Iran, our hands are not exactly clean there either.

Since 9/11, the US has knocked off a tin-pot dictator and done, something to the chaos in Afghanistan that had already been there. The terrible cost has been that an untold number of people have died. That is just unimaginably horrible. Truly, it's a crime.

But the humanitarian cost was not what the comment I responded to was about. It was that the US "broke" the Middle East "beyond repair". The argument was about the sweep of history, and while in personal terms the legacy of American foreign policy since 9/11 is unbearable loss, hatred and fear, in historical terms all America did was move up Saddam Hussein's death, and attendant civil war, up 15 years or so. The sheer pointlessness of the two wars is part of what makes them so awful.

So if you want to talk about who has done a lot of bad things, the US is surely in the running. But in regards to the claim that was actually made, the US will be mired in it's 20th colossal fuck up since Iraq, while Iraqis will still be dealing with the far more fundamental changes other powers brought to the region. Americans tend to combine the most firepower with the lowest ambition: we just didn't change a lot, and didn't really try.
posted by spaltavian at 6:53 PM on August 19 [5 favorites]


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posted by Brian Puccio at 6:53 PM on August 19


Around the web today, I have seen a bizarre process of simplification at work in explaining ISIS as, above all, "the product of America's screw-ups." I wonder if those who are espousing this perspective are fully comfortable with how closely they echo the rhetoric being voiced by ISIS propagandists, who also, as we have seen today, attribute their actions directly to the U.S. government's actions abroad.

I do not dispute that utterly baseless U.S. interventions and invasions helped create the conditions of possibility for the spread of this ideological movement -- along with many other kinds of movements which could also have sprung up post-2002. That THIS is the movement that has achieved (violent) supremacy in the region was hardly inevitable. To treat it as such is either to reveal an extremely negative view of the cultures and peoples of the region, or, perversely, to spin a deluded fairy tale that grants far too much power to America in influencing the cultural climate of other countries.

It's comforting to tell yourself that your country is actually responsible for everything. In fact, there is no Illuminati. Your government does not pull all the strings. It is not the author of every event, even in those places that it occupied. It had a role to play, yes. To treat that as the only role worth considering is simply to give your nation (and by extension, yourself?) far too much importance.
posted by artemisia at 6:57 PM on August 19 [11 favorites]


toxic role played by Western colonialism.

The Ottoman's claim was equally imperial. There is no "true" Middle East that has been obscured by Western meddling - it's crazy churning melting-pots all the way down.
posted by rosswald at 6:58 PM on August 19 [18 favorites]


Since 9/11, the US has knocked off a tin-pot dictator and done, something to the chaos in Afghanistan that had already been there. An untold number of people have died. That is just unimaginably horrible. It's crime.

But the humanitarian cost was not what the comment. It was that the US "broke" the Middle East, "beyond repair".


I claimed the U.S. broke the ME, not "broke beyond repair". And I stand by that claim. Unquestionably, the war of aggression against Iraq was what broke the ME, for the destruction of Iraq significantly weakened Syria by creating a power vacuum next to it that could be filled with the likes of ISIS and other forces attacking Syria. The consequences of that war are far from over and only growing.

[...]in historical terms all America did was move up Saddam Hussein's death, and attendant civil war, up 15 years or so.

Err, no. There is zero reason to believe that Saddam would have faced any kind of internal force capable of ejecting him from power - note how Assad next door is still hanging on, despite being a much weaker dictator with less control than Saddam, and additionally weakened by the power vacuum in Iraq (which allows the opposition free territory to gather and organize).

No single event in the ME since the GWB's war in Iraq can compete for sheer destabilizing effect - Iraq stands out as an enormous event - weakening Syria and even Jordan just by the effect of Iraqi refugees alone, not even mentioning anything else.

No, we're in a class all by ourselves in the ME since at least the 70's.
posted by VikingSword at 7:05 PM on August 19 [3 favorites]


National Journal: These Are The Stories James Foley Risked His Life To Tell

(the page unfortunately auto-plays three videos: two of his earlier dispatches from Afghanistan and Libya, and the third of him talking about his captivity in Libya.)
posted by amy lecteur at 7:10 PM on August 19


Assad's father murdered large numbers of Sunni's in an extended bloody civil war in the 1970s and 1980s. Syria was already broken.
posted by humanfont at 7:16 PM on August 19 [1 favorite]


By the way, this is a recruiting tool...

As was 9/11 footage on armchair warriors in the lead-up to Bush II's war on Iraq.

It's funny how that kind of manipulation cuts across cultures and works so well on all manner of impressionable audiences.
posted by Mr. Six at 7:17 PM on August 19 [5 favorites]


.
posted by Pardon Our Dust at 7:18 PM on August 19


There is zero reason to believe that Saddam would have faced any kind of internal force capable of ejecting him from power

He was born in the 1930s, so there is a lot of reason to expect a coup by the Grim Reaper within 15 years or so of 2003.

I claimed the U.S. broke the ME, not "broke beyond repair".

You didn't, but someone else did, and that's what my initial comment in this chain responded to.
posted by spaltavian at 7:18 PM on August 19


I wonder if this was follow through on a threat made before US airstrikes.
posted by srboisvert at 7:26 PM on August 19 [2 favorites]


This is potentially a humanitarian disaster, not a triumph of self-determination.

I in no way meant to imply that, or to suggest that ISIS is a liberation army.
posted by ryanshepard at 7:31 PM on August 19


Whither George W. Bush?
posted by furtive at 7:32 PM on August 19


An individual on reddit who purportedly knows Steven Joel Sotloff started a thread.

my friend Steve, kidnapped by ISIS

He also provides a few photos of Steve along with a petition to the Whitehouse.
posted by whyareyouatriangle at 7:39 PM on August 19


Surely ISIS knows that this sort of thing just prompts a violent response from the United States, right? I mean, the actual point of this is ISIS actually trying to goad the US into greater involvement, right?

No. The point is to show their peers how righteous and brave and tough and cruel they are.
posted by bukvich at 7:49 PM on August 19 [2 favorites]


Two good organizations to support and to share with young or new journalists:

Reporters Without Borders
Committee to Protect Journalists

Journalists should never be targets.
.
posted by swerve at 7:59 PM on August 19 [5 favorites]


The Middle East has been a fucking mess since the beginnings of human civilization.

Except for those many centuries when it was the absolute pinnacle of human civilization while us white folk were burning witches and not reading or doing math or astronomy or or or or.

For fuck's sake.


.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 8:01 PM on August 19 [8 favorites]


Witch burning mostly happened in the Renaissance, btw
posted by thelonius at 8:05 PM on August 19 [1 favorite]


Right Iraq was totally a peaceful place prior to 9-11.

It was a veritable garden of Eden compared to its current state. That was until the U.S. saw fit to bomb it back to the stone age twice. Our war of aggression against Iraq and the destabilization of Syria by the Saudis and Americans has led us directly to where we currently find ourselves. Without those two events there would be no ISIS.

I have seen a bizarre process of simplification at work in explaining ISIS as, above all, "the product of America's screw-ups."

The only simplification that you seem to be interested in is pretending that the Iraq War and the CIA/Saudi destabilization of Iraq had nothing to do with the creation of ISIS. You also seem to want to pretend that blowback isn't a thing. The current clusterfuck in the northern Levant is an example par excellence of blowback...i.e. unintended consequences.

Assad's father murdered large numbers of Sunni's in an extended bloody civil war in the 1970s and 1980s. Syria was already broken.

Notice how the country didn't fall apart. You seem to be missing my point. My point is not that the dictators of Iraq and Syria were nice guys, but rather that when foreign powers start meddling in other countries affairs bad things happen. Things like ISIS.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 8:07 PM on August 19 [6 favorites]


We actively participated in the destruction of the two most advanced societies in the Middle East.

Sadaam's Iraq, with its rape rooms and gassing of minorities, was one of the two most advanced societies in the Middle East? I have problems with the UAE, Egypt, Jordan, and Kuwait, but I'd put any of them above that.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 8:07 PM on August 19 [3 favorites]


Yeah, sometimes I wonder if Hamas and the rocket-lobbers in Gaza realize they are effectively working for their "enemy" by drumming up justification for occasional "pruning" or whatever it's called.

And here, this fuckin' executioner thinks this isn't going to bring out some tremendous response that leads to his own firey death? Sorry, you're just making liberal peaceniks myself boil with rage and wonder if maybe Islam should be driven to the margins of existence at the barrel of a gun.

And then I reflect on that reaction and wonder if I'm just another part of a Hegelian dialectic in which these videos ultimately serve US interests in perpetual war and occupation. Are these guys CIA assets? Some of them undoubtedly are, I have to think. Even if they're just in "deep cover" right now. I don't know. Fuck it all!
posted by aydeejones at 8:13 PM on August 19


Also, I was totally shocked that Vice's embedded journalist didn't get snared up in this. I'll have to watch those videos now. And yesterday I saw protests in Ferguson where some of the protesters were throwing rocks at MSNC journalist Chris Hayes. So ignorant and poor they don't realize MSNBC is falling all over themselves trying to make them look good. Chris is practically apologizing for them as they throw rocks at him, and he certainly finds plenty of Upstanding Citizens that are willing to talk to him without assuming the worst.

It just shows how scary ignorance and fear can be -- in everyone. We like to think that even if the US started this way, with genocide, we are no longer "like that." We don't just go around taking resources with weapons. Except we do. We toppled Iran to help British Petroleum. We created Iraq with Britain to claim "dibs" on an massive unproven oil orgy. We kept Saddam in power and gave him chemical weapons to test on the Kurds and Iranians. This is in fact what we have brought out in the world.

Fuckin' A. And it was clear back in 2001, and it was clear back during Iran-Contra, and during the Shah's Second Installation in Iran, and it's clear with every public execution in the streets of our "ally" Saudi Arabia, and in the brains of conservatives who wish such barbarism were practiced here.
posted by aydeejones at 8:18 PM on August 19 [4 favorites]


.

For someone who wished to spread the truth, killed by men of lies.
posted by nickggully at 8:24 PM on August 19 [2 favorites]


Sadaam's Iraq, with its rape rooms and gassing of minorities, was one of the two most advanced societies in the Middle East?

By any reasonable measure, yes. Here's a quote from a 2003 UNICEF report:

At the end of the 1970s Iraq was one of the richest and most developed nations in the Middle East with a thriving economy fuelled by sales from its huge oil reserves. From 1975 to 1985, massive social investment by the Government raised standards of living and improved the country's social sectors.

posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 8:27 PM on August 19 [4 favorites]


"it was the U.S. who broke the ME"

Counterpoint: "Enough lies, the Arab body politic created the ISIS cancer," by Hisham Melhem.

I tend to agree with him, although from my perspective (since he is talking to those lulled by conspiracy theories in the Arab world, not here in the US.) The easy knee-jerk stereotypes don't apply; Islam is not evil, brown people are not all satanic terrorists, &c. And it is clear that the US and Europe have been a problematic outside influence (to put it mildly) for a very long time. But it is paternalistic in the extreme to believe that the Arab or Muslim nations stand or fall based on the actions of the US. The horrors of so-called ISIS are not the fault of all Muslims, but rectifying them and standing against them is the responsibility of all Muslims, just as standing against colonialism and genocide is the responsibility of all Americans. And I think the only healthy attitude we can have toward situations in other nations is to see that these are their choices to make, not ours.
posted by koeselitz at 8:43 PM on August 19 [7 favorites]


I still want this to not be true, which is why I objected to discussing the situation based only on reddit and a Guardian link, but apparently his family, at least, has confirmed his death. I would still rather have official confirmation that the execution was really carried out, though. Even though I have not watched the video (nor do I want to) everything I have read says that it was cut off after the beheading apparently started, and was faded back in to show the head sitting on the back. Again, I don't want to make this a conspiracy thing at all, but I still don't think we have enough proof.
posted by Curious Artificer at 8:49 PM on August 19


You're making it a conspiracy thing. Dude's head was cut off. It's awful, but trying to pretend it didn't happen will not help anything.
posted by Justinian at 8:51 PM on August 19 [2 favorites]


My point is not that the dictators of Iraq and Syria were nice guys, but rather that when foreign powers start meddling in other countries affairs bad things happen. Things like ISIS.

Respectfully, the goal posts keep shifting with this type of argument. America's biggest crime is not military intervention, but wanting to do business with these countries. The greatest meddling of affairs is the implicit support of these tyrannical regimes through financial dealings, not their eventual takedown. Look at Saudi Arabia for example. The "kingdom" is nothing but a Western fiction, created no more than 100 years ago. Billions upon billions of dollars in the hands of one family.

So that if, for example, ISIS is hell on earth compared to Saddam, then surely it must be dealt with on some level by the West? Does this not go without saying? And yet, then what? Didn't people warn us that if you eliminate ISIS something worse will replace it? So on and so forth. The point is you trim the bush, and it grows back even larger. But it seem you have to trim the bush. There is no other play. America does not exist in a political or financial vacuum. But explicit society-building in Iraq has been a spectacular failure, and our politicians have lied to us every step of the way.

If you're going to talk about "meddling in other countries affairs" you need to look past the military to get to the root of the problem. My weird personal opinion? You look at the countries that have been touched by Western capital, it's like they have been torn apart by evil. Perhaps it is a kind of "dreaming" to think these people can sit on such vast natural resources and not be corrupted by some kind of outside, or perhaps deeply internal, interest.
posted by phaedon at 8:51 PM on August 19 [5 favorites]


But it seem you have to trim the bush. There is no other play.

How about the play where we stop blowing up parts of the Middle East?
posted by Justinian at 8:55 PM on August 19 [4 favorites]


.

I can't imagine the pain of being forced to say your brother is responsible for your death, while knowing or suspecting you will never have the chance to tell him it of course isn't true.

The still photograph of James kneeling next to his killer in the midst of the desert is one of the bleakest things I've ever seen. But I didn't really start sobbing until reading his mother's response: "We have never been prouder of our son Jim."

Thank you for your courage.
posted by sallybrown at 9:02 PM on August 19 [14 favorites]


They might have edited out the beheading because it went badly, propaganda wise. Beheading is physically hard and requires skill and strength. There's a reason the guillotine was invented. He might have fought back or otherwise made them look weak and inept with a botched beheading.

Note I have not seen the video.
posted by viggorlijah at 9:09 PM on August 19


.
posted by cristinacristinacristina at 9:15 PM on August 19


He might have fought back or otherwise made them look weak and inept with a botched beheading.

It's a dark fucking thread when that's the upside. Seriously.

But yea, I'm going to go with that, that he fought to the end, even by complying with their scripted requirements of false-contrition and forced-condemnation in hopes of release and then, when he realized he'd been betrayed by his captors, he managed to deny them them flawless propaganda video they intended to broadcast.

His mom's got good reason to be proud.
posted by RolandOfEld at 9:18 PM on August 19 [1 favorite]


thing, what do you suppose prompted these people to choose sides in the first place? Did they just flip out of the blue, or could it possibly have been prompted by the UK's enthusiastic participation in the wholesale destruction of Iraq? I'm sorry to be the one to break it to you, but sometimes when you destroy a whole country, that might lose you some friends, and just maybe that's your fault as much as it is theirs.

When you say things like they're not us, or they didn't get those ideas from us, or they are alien, or their ideas are alien, you're only confirming and cementing everything that pulled them away from you in the first place. They're not alien; they're your neighbours. Their ideas are not alien; their ideas are terribly misguided--but, then, so were Tony Blair's. Hell, the comments on the Daily Mail website probably create more Islamist extremists than anything else.

You should be saying, "Hey man, that's some mess you've got yourself into. I'm sorry you feel that way, but I can sort of understand why you do. Hope you pack it in and come home soon." Not out of "guilt," mind you, but out of humanity. At the end of the day, those guys are just stupidly fighting a stupid war in Iraq, just like all those British soldiers were, and for much the same reason: Someone drew a line and told them which side to stand on, and they did. So stop doing that.
posted by Sys Rq at 9:35 PM on August 19 [3 favorites]


.

The third news story I found on the Google news page contained extremely graphic photos that I wish I had not seen, and I definitely would not have chosen to look at on my own. I've been in a sort of sick haze for most of the day - I don't think I'm ever going to get those images out of my head. I don't think I'm going to be sleeping for a while because I see these images whenever I close my eyes.

That poor, brave man.
posted by bibliowench at 9:37 PM on August 19 [2 favorites]


The UNICEF report cited above relies on self reported statistics from the government of Saddam Hussein. Saddam also claimed to have attained impossible gains in literacy. All the while he was murdering his political opponents, gasing the Kurds and engaged in a horrible war with Iran.

I'm uncomfortable with the fantasies that the victim should have shown some defiance in the end. It is a bit like suggesting a rape victim should have cried out or dressed differently. James Foley was a victim here. What happened to him was terrible and he is totally blameless.
posted by humanfont at 9:40 PM on August 19 [9 favorites]


But it is paternalistic in the extreme to believe that the Arab or Muslim nations stand or fall based on the actions of the US

This observation seems quite out of place in the context of a discussion involving a radical Islamic group with anti-US views killing an American journalist and sending messages to an American audience in a country that fell based on the actions of the US and subsequently "stood" briefly based on the actions of the US within the last decade. For chrissakes, during the war American generals were claiming their goal was to draw foreign insurgents in to the country to fight them there. Im not being paternalistic pointing this out.
posted by Hoopo at 9:56 PM on August 19 [1 favorite]


The UNICEF report cited above relies on self reported statistics from the government of Saddam Hussein. Saddam also claimed to have attained impossible gains in literacy. All the while he was murdering his political opponents, gasing the Kurds and engaged in a horrible war with Iran.

Everything I have read about pre 1991 gulf war Iraq contradicts your insinuation. I am also curious as to why you seem to have this idea in your head that repressive authoritarian regimes and social investment are mutually exclusive? If you have any questions or want more info mefimail me as I'm done with this derail.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 10:18 PM on August 19 [1 favorite]


.
posted by p3t3 at 10:30 PM on August 19


.
posted by tonycpsu at 10:46 PM on August 19


Peace to that guy's family and to the families of others caught up in this chaos.

Feh.
posted by notyou at 11:06 PM on August 19


RIP James.
To those who committed this murder: Killing someone who is unable to defend himself is not anything to brag about. It simply proves that you are barbarous cowards.
posted by Cranberry at 11:12 PM on August 19


When someone is in a position like that and knows he's going to be executed, why would he help his murderers by saying things like that?

"Say it, and we make it quick. Refuse to say it, and...well, take a guess."
posted by Decani at 1:54 AM on August 20


FeralHat: "I truly wish I didn't completely distrust my government, because there are real bad guys out there."
There are real bad guys and bad girls out there, in your government, in my government, everywhere. I don't know why so many people think there are baddies in every country but their own.
posted by brokkr at 2:30 AM on August 20 [2 favorites]


[One comment deleted. Folks, this is horrific situation and tough discussion, but let's try to avoid insults, attacks, pile ons, or making it all about one person in the conversation – and just generally remember to focus comments on "the issues, topics, and facts at hand—not at other members of the site." Thanks. ]
posted by taz at 2:46 AM on August 20


I can assure you, very very strongly, that this man did not learn his hateful ways from UK society.

I think he probably did! My understanding is that lack of privilege / opportunity / recognition is one of the main things leading young Muslim men from the West in this direction. I speculate, although it seems pretty obvious, that young Muslim men who are fully integrated into Western society, who feel respected and accepted by society at large, won't buy this ticket.

Iran is the central source of terror in the entire region

Uhm, I am pretty sure that Saudi Arabia and Wahabism is the main force driving most of the radical Islam bullshit.
posted by Meatbomb at 3:05 AM on August 20 [4 favorites]


.

Rest easy.
posted by flippant at 3:10 AM on August 20


Sorry, you're just making liberal peaceniks myself boil with rage and wonder if maybe Islam should be driven to the margins of existence at the barrel of a gun.

Please reconsider how liberal that thought is. These men are but a tiny percentage of 1.6 billion muslims.
posted by ersatz at 4:21 AM on August 20 [2 favorites]


.
posted by foxhat10 at 4:43 AM on August 20


"According to the veteran Middle Eastern correspondent, Patrick Cockburn, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf monarchies are the “foster parents” of Isis. And the former head of MI6, Sir Richard Dearlove, has pointed out that Saudi financial support has proved critical to the rise of Isis. How long can western public opinion tolerate support for the Saudi dictatorship?"... James Foley’s murder
posted by Mister Bijou at 4:50 AM on August 20 [4 favorites]


He's been captive since November, 2012, in who knows what conditions. It's hard for me to criticize him for words said with an axe literally about to fall on his neck. I'm so sorry for his family. And of course I am reminded of Danny Pearl.

The Middle East is the spiritual home of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. They all want a say in the governance of spiritual landmarks, and they all have their god on their side. It also has gobs of a critical resource - oil - that has created vast wealth for the ruling clans in some countries. It has a long history, so, like Europe, there's lots of warring factions, historic injustices, and border disputes. The US has exploited oil resources, as have other countries, the US has supported Israel, which has a lot to do with Muslims not liking us, the US and others have sold lots and lots of weapons there. They don't have a lot of opportunity for stability.
posted by theora55 at 5:04 AM on August 20 [1 favorite]


thing, what do you suppose prompted these people to choose sides in the first place? Did they just flip out of the blue, or could it possibly have been prompted by the UK's enthusiastic participation in the wholesale destruction of Iraq? I'm sorry to be the one to break it to you, but sometimes when you destroy a whole country, that might lose you some friends, and just maybe that's your fault as much as it is theirs.

The history of militant fundamentalism in the United Kingdom long predates the recent Iraq War; groups such as Al-Muhajiron were demanding Sharia law and training British citizens to fight in places like Chechnya as early as the 1990s, and the organization was booted off of college campuses in 2001 for disseminating pamphlets urging the killing of Jews. You can find Al-Muhajiron talking about civilian deaths in Iraq, but given the group's history this smacks of opportunism in the service of recruitment.

This doesn't mean that British history and culture aren't a factor, but rather than the causes are complex and global, reflective of a much more tangled history connecting Eastern and Western Europe with the Middle East. To the extent that it's specifically British, it stems from colonialism in the Middle East well before the 20th century, which in turn has roots in history going back to things like the4 Crusades and Moorish Spain.

It's facile and inaccurate to say that this has nothing to do with UK culture or politics -- the National Front, Enoch Powell, and the racist Tory campaigning of the mid-century surely alienated a lot of people of Pakistani, Indian, Arab, and Persian descent -- but the invasion of Iraq in 2003 wasn't the start or even the primary cause of a turn towards fundamentalist violence among a very small contingent of UK Muslims. Hell, some of it even goes back to the material support Western powers have long extended to Saudi Arabia, and thus indirectly and unwittingly to Wahhabist doctrine.

And there're also problems of unemployment, class warfare, hiring discrimination, and the rest, not all of which are strictly or entirely about derogatory racialist or culturalist assumptions about Islam and/or "the West." Looking for a simple, promximate causes like "foreign Wahhabist influence" or "retaliaton for the unjustified 2003 invasion of Iraq" seems unlikely to lead anyone to a real solution based on a genuinely complete understanding of the reasons for the manifestations of interracial/intercultural global violence.
posted by kewb at 5:05 AM on August 20 [10 favorites]


Err, no. There is zero reason to believe that Saddam would have faced any kind of internal force capable of ejecting him from power - note how Assad next door is still hanging on, despite being a much weaker dictator with less control than Saddam, and additionally weakened by the power vacuum in Iraq (which allows the opposition free territory to gather and organize).

As has been pointed out upthread, it's not that an internal force would have ousted Saddam, it's that he would have died eventually regardless.

And Assad proves the point. Hafez al-Assad is dead, just as Saddam would have died, and now his son’s government is struggling for survival in a civil war.
posted by Jahaza at 5:29 AM on August 20


The still photograph of James kneeling next to his killer in the midst of the desert is one of the bleakest things I've ever seen. But I didn't really start sobbing until reading his mother's response: "We have never been prouder of our son Jim."

I watched the video. I strongly recommend you don't. But I agree, whatever he was forced to say, his steady voice and the tough expression on his face will stay with me. I would never be able to stay that calm and collected and strong in such an awful situation.

.
posted by crayz at 5:30 AM on August 20 [2 favorites]


There's an interesting parallel in Iranian history here: There was a pretty reasonable government in the 1950's that wanted control of its own oil reserves (the horror!). At the time, the oil industry was run by the British, with some royalty paid to the Iranian government. Though the terms of the bargain precluded the Iranians from seeing the books to ensure that they were being paid fairly, and the Brits had a racist policy against teaching Iranians to do any kind of skilled labor in the oil trade. Meanwhile, they used Iranian labor for the grunt work, with many people dying in poor conditions.

When the government decided to nationalize the oil industry, the British staged a failed coup, and the western nations set up a trade embargo. Then the US staged a successful coup on behalf of the British (after all British nationals had been kicked out of the country, following the failed coup), putting the Shah in power. After about twenty years of that bullshit, there was a revolution which left a power vacuum. There was an interesting attempt at a liberal government, but in the end the fundamentalists were better organized and more ready to bust some skulls to get into power.

And that's how we ended up with the Iran that we have today.

Power vacuums in the middle east get filled by either dictators or fundamentalist crazies. The US created a power vacuum in Iraq by kicking out Saddam's government; the space of possible outcomes was either another dictator or more fundies. One of the functions of a strong dictator is to undercut the power bases of anyone else who could potentially take their place; once the Ba'ath were taken out, there wasn't anyone big and strong enough to set up a new dictatorship. So. We have what we have.

ISIS and the Iranian government are absolutely responsible for their own actions and their own bullshit. But it's pretty idiotic to refuse to see the responsibility of the US and other western powers in the middle east. We set the table, even as we try to distance ourselves from the feast.
posted by kaibutsu at 5:43 AM on August 20 [14 favorites]


From Mister Bijou's link above: "According to the veteran Middle Eastern correspondent, Patrick Cockburn, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf monarchies are the “foster parents” of Isis. And the former head of MI6, Sir Richard Dearlove, has pointed out that Saudi financial support has proved critical to the rise of Isis. How long can western public opinion tolerate support for the Saudi dictatorship?"

So, I've had this question rattling around in my head the past few weeks and I wonder if anyone here has a good answer. If we were to imagine that IS were able to create a functioning state, how indistinguishable would it be from Saudi Arabia? In Saudi Arabia, criminals are tortured and beheaded, women are treated as chattel, conversion to other religions is a death sentence, etc. Sure, they have gobs of money and an alliance with western nations, but in terms of the daily lives of the citizens of the country, would living in "The Islamic State" be much different than living in SA?
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 5:50 AM on August 20 [3 favorites]


When the government decided to nationalize the oil industry, the British staged a failed coup, and the western nations set up a trade embargo. Then the US staged a successful coup on behalf of the British (after all British nationals had been kicked out of the country, following the failed coup), putting the Shah in power. After about twenty years of that bullshit, there was a revolution which left a power vacuum. There was an interesting attempt at a liberal government, but in the end the fundamentalists were better organized and more ready to bust some skulls to get into power.

And that's how we ended up with the Iran that we have today.


The Iran-Iraq War shoring up fundamentalist and messianic sentiment surely also helped.
posted by eugenen at 6:28 AM on August 20 [1 favorite]


My understanding is that lack of privilege / opportunity / recognition is one of the main things leading young Muslim men from the West in this direction. I speculate, although it seems pretty obvious, that young Muslim men who are fully integrated into Western society, who feel respected and accepted by society at large, won't buy this ticket.

Nothing obvious about it. The 9/11 crew were secularly educated middle class guys. Didn't stop them from being murderers.

Even if they did have those lacks, that doesn't mitigate their crimes. Millions of others have it worse and somehow manage not to end up killing total strangers.

BTW, a little recognition for the many other non-westerners these people are killing in nasty ways. I'm more outraged over what they're doing to children that what they did to the unfortunate reporter.
posted by IndigoJones at 7:28 AM on August 20 [2 favorites]


Good thing the US got Osama bin Laden, because the hornet's nest immediately quieted down after that.
posted by pashdown at 8:22 AM on August 20 [2 favorites]


As has been pointed out upthread, it's not that an internal force would have ousted Saddam, it's that he would have died eventually regardless.

And Assad proves the point. Hafez al-Assad is dead, just as Saddam would have died, and now his son’s government is struggling for survival in a civil war.


Yes, Saddam would have died eventually. But no, that does not mean the dictatorship would have necessarily fallen apart. You say Assad is struggling, but his father Hafez al-Assad died in 2000, and the protests didn't even start until 2011. And it's a very fair bet that he (Assad) would have had no difficulty had he not been severely weakened by multiple crisis, all courtesy of the U.S. and its allies, downstream from the Iraqi disaster. First the economy was devastated by the Iraqi refugees streaming in, and that is always bad news for dictators. But he'd have survived that just fine, were it not for the fact that Iraq next door has no control over its border areas and harbors a mass of fighters (financed by SA, the gulf states and the US initially). None of that would have obtained with a Iraq still under Saddam. With both Syria and Iraq under dictatorships, there would have been no room or access for any armed and organized opposition. And even with all that, it looks like Assad is going to survive. Meanwhile, as mentioned, Iraq's dictatorship was much stronger than Syria's, and that can last a long multi-generational time (see: North Korea).

The point is not that eventually there wouldn't have been some kind of evolution/revolution in Iraq or anywhere else in the ME. The point is that the U.S. and its Western allies continuously interfere in the internal affairs of countries in the ME, either through supporting - and sometimes even creating - various non-representative governments that are friendly to Western (or Israeli) interests, or through coups and even direct military intervention (Iraq, Libya, Lebanon etc.). There's hardly a country in the ME where the U.S. or its Western allies have not interefered on a scale that's inconceivable to our citizens here in the U.S., not having experienced anything like that on our soil.

That makes societal and political (and even economic) evolution and natural internal development impossible for those societies. They cannot decide their own fate, the masses have no control over their destiny on any level politically. This stunts society - when you have no freedom to form parties, to have free speech, writing and research, when your economy is dictated by resource extraction geared to Western powers, you cannot develop any experience with political evolution, your economy becomes highly distorted and corrupt. This results in despair about the future, destroyed generations of young people, radicalization, anger and tremendous resentment.

Healthy societies don't generate enough people to form an ISIS and other endless streams of motivated jihadis. People who have jobs , a functioning economy, future prospects and political expression, don't travel by the masses to take up guns and fight and die in the name of savage ideologies, unless they have had no alternative credible ideologies they've been exposed to. What are they supposed to support politically with their heart and soul and pride? The private interests of the Saudi (gulf states etc.) monarchy? Or some U.S. supported puppet and local strongman who has managed to strong arm his way to power? Is that supposed to be the alternative for political allegiance, participation and pride? Western democracy? The one they have only experienced as the vicious and devious direct and indirect oppression and ultimate cause of their misery as engineered by the U.S. and its allies? Poor, with no prospects and little education, but seething with anger and humiliation, disgusted to the depths of their souls by the pervasive corruption that surrounds them, they now encounter radical fundamentalist Islam willing to fight the power, promising a golden future of the beyond and god's blessing, and what do you think the result will be?

The monsters and killers of ISIS and other jihadists are human beings. They are fundamentally no better or worse than humans anywhere on this planet. That they do terrible, terrible things is obvious. But it is disingenuous in the extreme to point fingers at some kind of inherent Arab flaw of the soul, culture or societies as responsible for the creation of ISIS. Who caused the conditions that allowed an ISIS to come about in the first place? A fair examination of history points to answers many in the West may not wish to acknowledge (in particular the trauma of Israel's creation and sustenance by outside powers). But avoiding the truth does not change the facts.

What the ME desperately needs, and which it will not get, is for the outside interference to stop - and that means primarily the U.S..
posted by VikingSword at 8:39 AM on August 20 [5 favorites]


From the ISIS fanboys I've seen on twitter ISIS seems more and more like a cult to me. It's eerily similar to fundamentalist christianity in some ways (not equivalent). A lot of, "the guys who are criticizing us for beheadings need to read the Qur'an," type talk. It seems shocking so many people are so easily ready to behead and crucify their fellow humans, but after closer inspection of the last however many years of human history not so much.

By the way, for the time being ISIS is shipping millions of barrels of oil a day ( some of it to Assad apparently) and doesn't need money from Saudi Arabia. They need more heavy weapons I imagine. A lot of their military expertise came from al-Douri and former Iraqi military, and I have to wonder how devoted to Baghdadi some of these guys are.

U.S. Actions in Iraq Fueled Rise of a Rebel. This is a good article on the "caliph."

David Horwitz's Frontpage Magazine: James Foley Went Looking to Support Terrorists in Syria, Instead They Cut Off His Head

From Michael Weiss:
Joke I heard from an ex-Communist goes like this: "Everyone took something away from the movement ... For Radosh, it was the god-awful folk music, for Hitchens it was the atheism, for Horowitz it was being a fucking asshole."
posted by Golden Eternity at 8:50 AM on August 20 [4 favorites]


What the ME desperately needs, and which it will not get, is for the outside interference to stop - and that means primarily the U.S.

But what if they are asking for help to protect them from being beheaded, tortured, crucified, and sexually enslaved? The US, or the West, should not help them?
posted by Golden Eternity at 8:54 AM on August 20


But what if they are asking for help to protect them from being beheaded, tortured, crucified, and sexually enslaved? The US, or the West, should not help them?

America is a friend of freedom everywhere, but a custodian only of our own.
- John Quincy Adams
posted by mikelieman at 8:59 AM on August 20 [1 favorite]


Twitter @RudawEnglish: BREAKING: #Iraqi defense and interior ministries recruited 15,000 volunteers from #Anbar tribes.

That is a good sign.
posted by Golden Eternity at 9:02 AM on August 20 [1 favorite]


But what if they are asking for help to protect them from being beheaded, tortured, crucified, and sexually enslaved? The US, or the West, should not help them?

The best way the U.S. can protect them is by not creating the problem in the first place. By not directly creating monsters such as ISIS (who subsequently get away from the creators, in this case our allies SA and the gulf states, plus our own pilfered help in weapons and money). By not creating the conditions that allow such groups to have territorial control - as in destroying Iraq as a functioning country with control over its borders. By not creating conditions which motivate whole generations of alienated young people to support monsters like ISIS. That's how.

Every time we are beguiled into yet another intervention in the ME, the same siren call is sounded "help the people!" to sell the new intervention to our public. It just sounds better - we even did that in Iraq, after the first lie (WMDs) was exposed. And a portion of our public buys it. Over and over and over and over again. Learning nothing, as each such intervention merely makes the problem worse.

I remember our last discussion of this in the Syria intervention thread. As I recall, you were urging the arming of the "good opposition" so that the likes of ISIS won't take over. At the time, I was opposed to any intervention at all in that civil war. Because I believed strongly, and have been vindicated since, that we have no control over whom the weapons and money ultimately go to. Arming the opposition to Assad, means taking sides in a civil war. And you simply cannot control and in fact have no idea who the "opposition" is. Let those societies sort things out on their own. Instead, we armed the "good" opposition and our allies (SA and the gulf states with support from Turkey) went in big on that (financing ISIS directly for a time). Soon enough, ISIS and the radicals completely overwhelmed whoever the "good" guys were supposed to be, and in fact it transpired that many of the "good guys" were anything but, and instead were in cahoots with the likes of ISIS. More importantly, widespread reports have validated the known "blowback" scenario again: you can control whom you give the weapons to, but you cannot control where the weapons end up, whether given by the FSA to ISIS, or sold by the FSA to ISIS (there are multiple verified reports of enormous sales from FSA whom we armed selling their arms to ISIS), or even obtained by ISIS in battles won against our supported forces. An explosive interview on this subject - Rachel Maddow show of 06/23/2014 - Perils of arming rebels playing out in Iraq well worth spending the few minutes to watch this (start at about minute 3:15).

The aim was to arm rebels in Syria - the result is Assad is still in power in Syria, but it's been an utter disaster for Iraq. Those who argued against arming the rebels were vindicated in spades - whereas those who kept arguing for arming, and continue to do so today, were shown to have been wrong for the umpteenth time (f.ex. John McCain, the cheerleader in chief for Iraqi invasion, again has learned nothing from that disaster).

Had we and our allies not armed the rebels (including ISIS), there would have been no need to protect "from being beheaded, tortured, crucified, and sexually enslaved" in the first place. I wonder whether those - such as you - who advocated back then arming the rebels which resulted in arms ending up in ISIS hands and the subsequent disaster in Iraq, feel really well positioned to now advocate measures to ameliorate the disaster which policies you supported created in the first place. Because I can tell you that dropping explosives from the sky as Obama is doing, or inserting special forces or even regular U.S. troops as others are advocating will not have the effect of "protecting" anyone, but instead, yet again, will result in further escalation of the disaster. Think of the ME as being a giant wound - and now you say we must do something, anything to heal that wound (which we inflicted in the first place), and our tools are the same germ covered rusty hooks that caused the wound in the first place - every additional poke merely spreads the germs further. The best thing you can do is stay far away with your rusty hooks and let the wound heal on its own. More interference will result in more disaster, never mind the excuse "it's to protect!" "it's for the children!" "let freedom reign!". Whether the excuse is sincere or not, we cannot control the outcome, and we will make it worse.

We should stop interfering in the ME, full stop.
posted by VikingSword at 10:09 AM on August 20 [5 favorites]


It's way too late now to just say that the Middle East needs the US and its Western allies to just butt out. That needed to happen much, much earlier. But we really needed all of that oil so we could manage our empires, and manufacture, sell, buy all of the cheap stuff we love more than life itself--a statement that is turning out to be more literal than many of us ever realized.

These ISIS dudes are ideologically very bad, like Nazi bad--with no risk of invoking Godwin--if the Nazis were also fundamentalists yearning to die for their god. So, just as the 1920s era Western plutocrats got fat while creating a fascist monster that everyone, even the leftists, needed to fight against in the end, the fact that ISIS exists as the result of similar historic plutocratic chicanery does not mean that they can be simply ignored. ISIS appears to be capable of taking territory, albeit in a shattered political landscape. And Pakistan is still there with its nukes, which are certainly a target of the larger jihadist movement. ISIS is not just a nasty version of Hamas; they really do have global intent. I'm not equating the strength of ISIS with the might of pre-WWII Germany, but they are no joke for the West, particularly after Iraq War II, arguably the "greatest strategic disaster in US history" (also here and here and many other establishment sources), and the concomitant western financial collapse of 2008, has left the US depleted. Bush and his delusional Neocon handlers did exactly what the then-face of the jihadist movement, Osama bin Laden, wanted them to do. I don't feel like bin Laden's success in this regard is yet widely appreciated.

That's why I posted the Management of Savagery earlier. Note how revenge ("blood for blood") is a major part of the value system qua strategy, and then realize how the video frames the murder as an act of retributive justice. As the book's title indicates, the severity and barbarism is a feature, not a bug. Also spelled out in the book is the need to capture wealth (cash) and resources (oil), which they likewise have managed to do. Just leaving them alone is not going to cut it, at this point. People upthread are asking "don't they [ISIS] realize they're just inviting retaliation?" Yes. Absolutely they realize this. That's what they want. But they're expecting the same kind of stupid, lumbering response they've seen to date, one that kills thousands of civilians, further destabilizes the region, and helps them recruit young men with no other life option and a lust for revenge. (Any similarity to the Israeli action in Gaza is not accidental.) As much as it pains this lefty to say it, I'm afraid that the US and its allies need to use their most potent covert ops (including proxies) to demolish these guys, as much "off the grid" as possible.

The Management of Savagery is an incredibly cogent--if chilling--piece of writing coming from an anonymous "al Qaeda" intellectual. As with most reactionary movements, shape shifting happens constantly, so it's not particularly relevant whether or not ISIS "is" al Qaeda. It's not like there's a single, unified, international al Qaeda, like some Bond villain organization. (Indeed, The Management of Savagery argues against doing that.) But there is a coherent and geographically widespread ideological movement (I believe this is what Qutb referred to as the Umma, or "community") to re-establish the Caliphate and return Islam to its former glories. I'm absolutely no scholar, but my understanding is that the writings of Qutb, who was also an incredibly clear writer, play a foundational role not only for the Muslim Brotherhood, but also for the jihadists (see this PDF of Milestones, particularly the chapter on jihad).
posted by mondo dentro at 10:26 AM on August 20 [5 favorites]


Hey everybody. Sorry we completely wrecked your country, but somebody on the internet pointed out that it was our fault we got you into this mess, so, even though we'd loooooove to help, the best thing for you right now (trust us on this!!) is for us to just sit this one out. Good luck!!
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 10:31 AM on August 20 [3 favorites]


Who caused the conditions that allowed an ISIS to come about in the first place? A fair examination of history points to answers many in the West may not wish to acknowledge (in particular the trauma of Israel's creation and sustenance by outside powers).
posted by VikingSword


The first two "Aliyahs" of Jews to Israel were from 1880-1914 - during Ottoman rule.

The Wikipedia page on Political Islam is more nuanced:
A significant change in the Islamic world was the abolition of the Ottoman caliphate in 1924. In the 19th and 20th century, common Islamic political theme has been resistance to Western imperialism and enforcement of Sharia through democratic or militant struggle. The defeat of Arab armies in the Six Day War, the end of Cold War and collapse of the Soviet Union with the end of communism as a viable alternative has increased the appeal of Islamic movements such as Islamism, Islamic fundamentalism and Islamic democracy, especially in the context of popular dissatisfaction with secularist ruling regimes in the Muslim world.
posted by rosswald at 10:43 AM on August 20


In August of 2011 Obama said Assad had to go.

About a year later the U.S. recognized Syrian rebels as the legitimate govt.

Then......pretty much nothing.

I blame Obama for weakening Assad. I blame Obama for the rise of ISIS.
posted by wrapper at 10:59 AM on August 20


About a year later the U.S. recognized Syrian rebels as the legitimate govt.

Do you have a link for this?
posted by Golden Eternity at 11:01 AM on August 20


Whitehouse.gov - August 20, 2014: Statement by the President
posted by rosswald at 11:14 AM on August 20


I didn't watch the video but I noticed in a still that the guy is holding a small knife. Sweet lord, why do they do it this way? That's how the Daniel Pearl beheading went down too. Why not with one fell swoop of a sword? These are rhetorical questions because I can make a guess as to why but, man, that is some gruesome and utterly barbaric stuff.
posted by ChuckRamone at 11:17 AM on August 20


Hey everybody. Sorry we completely wrecked your country, but somebody on the internet pointed out that it was our fault we got you into this mess, so, even though we'd loooooove to help, the best thing for you right now (trust us on this!!) is for us to just sit this one out. Good luck!!

Many of those who advocate more of our military involvement "because ISIS" mean well - and I include all such advocates on the blue. But they are falling - yet again - into the very same pattern that all those well-meaning folks who came before them fell into. Every single time it seems the grounds for an intervention are unimpeachable - this time for sure! - and every time the result is the same counterproductive one and the opposite of intended consequences. I am not talking about the interventions borne of ill faith and greed, because there've been plenty of those. I am talking about those well-meaning people who support the same mistaken process over and over again.

One can map out the chain every step of the way: but this time it's OK to interfere, because we have to protect the victims from ISIS and so atone for our mistake ("sorry we got you into this mess") - except we were responsible for the creation and strength of ISIS who were created because: this time it's OK to interfere because we're arming the good guys in Syria against vicious dictator Assad. And sorry we broke Iraq and so have to atone for our mistake ("sorry we got you into this mess") - except we broke Iraq, because this time we are atoning for our mistake of having helped him get power, helped him get chemical weapons for a war against Iran which he also used against his own people, and we'll overthrow him and there'll be democracy and freedom in the whole middle east as a result... oops. And why were we helping Saddam against Iran? Well because Iran was (and is) a vicious fundamentalist regime that oppresses their own people and is dragging their country back centuries - so this time we need to help Saddam help liberate Iran. Except we created this fundamentalist Iran, because we engineered a coup and a dictatorship that oppressed their own people. And so on. Every single time, good intentions for some (along bad ones for others who come along for the ride furnished by the good intentioned ones).

The point is, this interference will not help anything. ISIS can only win if we interfere. If we don't, if we bug out and demand that our allies (such as SA and the gulf states) bug out, what will happen is that ISIS will become isolated by a strengthened Assad on one side, and contained by the Shiites in Iraq (with massive help from their ally Iran), plus the Kurds. Eventually, ISIS thus isolated geographically will eventually lose support from the local Sunnis (being essentially an imported force, they're great at alienating the populace), and down the road find themselves throttled into nothingness by the Sunnis.

Meanwhile, if we interfere, we'll continue to weaken Assad, borders will continue to be impossible to police by the Syrian government that is battling for its survival against forces supported by us and our allies, and the flow of fighters and weapons to ISIS will continue to go on. We're battling and isolating Assad and he's returning the favor - note ISIS is not fighting Assad much these days - instead, ISIS is selling oil to Assad who is re-selling it. Rich dividends of this campaign against Assad our campaign has brought. Assad was strongly opposed to fundamentalist Islam as was Saddam. We turned that around. And as ISIS will continue to be strengthened by our interference, by fighters and money from the Syrian situation, our interference will weaken the Shiites in Iraq who are the natural opposition to ISIS, because we'll keep Iran out - resulting in more gains by ISIS. And our continued bombings and interference will slow and reverse the natural falling out between ISIS and the local Sunnis.

We cannot control the outcome. "Sorry we completely wrecked your country" is right, and we should always keep in mind "wrecked your country in the course of trying to "help"", and well, here are people on the internet calling for more "help" from us - wouldn't you just "loooooove our help again?!".
posted by VikingSword at 11:18 AM on August 20 [2 favorites]


Obama Recognizes Syrian Opposition as Government, as Fighters advance in Aleppo, Damascus
By Juan Cole | Dec. 12, 2012

President Obama announced on Tuesday that the US now formally recognizes the Syrian opposition as the legitimate government of Syria: (video)

more

http://www.juancole.com/2012/12/obama-r ... ascus.html
posted by wrapper at 11:18 AM on August 20


I suspect nuclear negotiations with Iran had something to do with Obama's lack of support for FSA. To really give them the support they needed with a NFZ, etc., would have basically meant going to war with Syria, which could mean direct confrontation with Iran and Russia. Who knows how that would have actually turned out, but ISIS probably wouldn't have ended up as strong. In a way it seems that Obama may have used ISIS to help push out Maliki and maybe he is thinking there is a possibility to push out Assad from within Damascus with Russia distracted if he could get Iran to support this, but the consensus seems to be that he was wrong in his failure to strongly support FSA militarily. And Iran and Assad are extremely close because Assad was the only Arab leader to support Iran during the Iran - Iraq war.
posted by Golden Eternity at 11:19 AM on August 20


The eventual agreement between the US/Nato and Iran on Maliki was impressive - I have a hard time though sussing out how indicative that is of future cooperation.
posted by rosswald at 11:25 AM on August 20


Well they are still working on nuclear negotiations. Maybe Iran will question their alliance with Moscow as it becomes clear Putin is bat-shit insane.
posted by Golden Eternity at 11:34 AM on August 20


I suspect nuclear negotiations with Iran had something to do with Obama's lack of support for FSA. To really give them the support they needed with a NFZ, etc., would have basically meant going to war with Syria, which could mean direct confrontation with Iran and Russia. Who knows how that would have actually turned out, but ISIS probably wouldn't have ended up as strong.

Lol - this is fantasy land. And insane. Never mind the wholly invented from whole cloth quid pro quo of nuclear negotiations between Iran and Obama, going to war with Syria would have been a catastrophe - complete and utter. Going to war with Russia in Syria's corner is not the half of it. The real disaster is what would have happened with ISIS - I clearly see you have not watched the Rachel Maddow segment I linked above. We averted disaster by NOT bombing or rocketing Syria - as pointed out in that interview, we'd have not only lost any leverage against Assad, we'd have lost control of the chemical weapons completely - we are not on the ground, and the odds are overwhelming that in that chaos, ISIS would have gotten ahold of those weapons with disastrous consequences for us. Watch that segment, there is extensive evidence we dodged a bullet thanks to not listening to the knuckleheads advocating rocketing Syria or going to war. At least the chemical weapons are under control now, unlike it would have been had we gone in shooting.

And arming the FSA? Do you not absorb the information that's plainly given to you by multiple reports (including the Rachel Maddow segment above)? You can arm until you are blue in the face, and those weapons will end up in ISIS hands, given, sold to, or won. And the FSA and such were not any match for the ISIS and other radicals who are far more numerous, better organized, more highly motivated and a far, far, far better fighting force. Plus again - you arm the FSA means you arm the ISIS. The only way you'd control the weapons is by holding them yourself 100% of the time, which means U.S. troops on the ground, not merely some special forces here or there. Full occupation, otherwise you're not controlling territory. And full military involvement and another war in Syria - with a full proxy war with Iran - plus Russia would love to Afghanistan us in Syria as payback with Putin in charge. Unbelievable how insane this is. Full scale war with U.S. ground troops yet again in the ME, fighting a guerilla war with Russia and Iran on the other side. All to "help" - whom, at this point I have no idea - but I'm sure the intentions were good, "as always".

Btw. NFZ means nothing here militarily - we have full control over the skies in Afghanistan, we are on the ground plus a cartload of NATO allies and the nominal Afghan forces, and we're getting out butts kicked by the Taliban who have no control over the sky.

It boggles the mind how poor some folks grasp is of the situation. No wonder our foreign policy in places like the ME and Afghanistan is marked by a near complete lack of understanding of the underlying dynamics.
posted by VikingSword at 11:40 AM on August 20 [2 favorites]


I blame Obama for weakening Assad. I blame Obama for the rise of ISIS.

We have here the perfect diplomacy Gordion knot. You cannot solve this with any easy answers or clear policies, and swording the knot will just blow it up bigger. There is no simple answer other than massive costly over-interference which would likely consequent in undesirable ways as everybody knows, this thing goes on until fundamentalism ends, we need to immerse their youth in our secularism, that is the only long-range plan that could help.
posted by koebelin at 11:42 AM on August 20 [1 favorite]


America, Russia, U.K., Israel, etc. have clearly acted in counterproductively in the middle east by creating chaos in which the Taliban, Isis, etc. could flourish, especially with the Iraq and Afghan wars. And ISIS has learned form us as mondo dentro observed.

We pulled similar shit in South America too though, but they're mostly doing better and better as our influence there subsides. All except for Mexico has fared the worst because we exerted the most influence there.

Religions are ultimately responsible for the psychopaths they empower because religions exist to centralize power. ISIS is an expression of Islam's "desire" to avoid modernization, and maintain religious power structures, just like the homicidal anti-abortion fanatics for Christianity. We defeat the fanatics by eroding their religion's popular support.
posted by jeffburdges at 11:52 AM on August 20 [1 favorite]


VikingSword: I like your posts because they do a good job articulating a non-interventionist position that makes sense (too me, at least).

But I can agree with 90% of what you're saying and still disagree overall. Actually, saying I "disagree" is not quite correct: I don't really know what the US/West should do about ISIS, and I suspect you'd admit to the same. We're having a discussion here.

So, let's be clear that "disagreement" is an imprecise shorthand.

Your argument seems to be based on a few key premises that I'm having trouble getting behind: first, you say "ISIS can only win if we interfere." If I felt that were true, I'd agree with you. But I don't see how you can say that. It's an article of faith that I don't share. You can't simultaneously say we can't act because we can't predict the consequences, and then make such a precise prediction! I see ISIS as perhaps the strongest, most expansionist incarnation of the jihadi movement to date, one that is operating in an environment very conducive to their goals, largely, as you say, as a result of Western actions over decades, if not longer.

Second, you keep talking about how "we" (US and allies) keep fucking things up because we're trying to "help". But you know very well that we've never been doing anything to help. It's always been naked "self" interest (i.e., the interests of the ruling elites in the US, Europe and the Mideast). My view is that ISIS, or just IS as I think they want to be called now, is a strategic threat. Yes, I absolutely might be wrong about this and yes I realize the bitter irony that I'm invoking a sort of Cold-War domino effect doctrine. But that's where I'm at. So, I'm not suggesting we "help" anyone, but that we work to demolish ISIS, as quietly as possible, while publicly "not interfering, full stop". Then the existing combination of forces you are counting on are more likely to work.

Finally, my argument is that we fucked things up precisely because of the stupid and delusional way we get involved, usually by confusing national security with the interests of corporate lobbyists. The mass armament of the freedom fighters du jour is a good example of this, as you have pointed out. But just because Bush and the Neocons, and now, arguably Obama, are strategic idiots doesn't mean that in principle our Republic should just stick our fingers in our ears and go la la la la. These guys are destabilizingly dangerous. So I'm suggesting that a much more judicious use of unconventional forces, combined with diplomacy and soft power, is required. I wish we wouldn't have got here--I opposed our various imperialist wars and oppose future ones. But here we are.

Now... do I have confidence that we have any leadership in the West who could pull off such a subtle policy? No. No I don't. Corporate capture and rightism are going to work against that, and Obama has seemed diffident in the face of those forces. So therein, perhaps, lies the best support for your view.
posted by mondo dentro at 11:58 AM on August 20 [6 favorites]


Yes, the only "solution" here is long term and non-military. Humanitarian aid as first line - desperately needed for the millions of refugees with the UN out in front and us in the back. Economic engagement with the countries, aid in development divorced from short term selfish interests such as resource extraction - think longer term like the Marshall plan in Europe. If we were engaged in Europe only to exploit, there would have been no recovery. Instead, a longer view with the Marshall plan resulted in powerful economies and our ultimate benefit.

Same here. We need to support economic engagement and development in the ME, long term. That will naturally result in political and eventually social development. Fanaticism of all kinds, including religious, will lose potency and appeal. The ME will develop and become a net benefit to the world, and to us, not just to themselves.

It won't happen. Instead, we'll listen to those who advocate more bombs, more war and more attacks. There will be cries "security first!" - a death knell for any kind of future. Those who cry "security first!" may mean well, but will ensure that all hope for peaceful development will be torpedoed yet again.
posted by VikingSword at 12:00 PM on August 20 [2 favorites]


I am sure opinions vary, but it seems the consensus is positive on the US/NATO intervention in Kosovo and negative on the lack of intervention in Rwanda.
posted by rosswald at 12:08 PM on August 20


I'm no fan of Reagan, but, to borrow one of his phrases, can we please "begin bombing in five minutes" against these ISIL assholes like, you know, an hour or so ago?

Crank up the production lines of our drones, and, for the love of dog, could we get some significant numbers of AC-130s over there? More Hellfires, too, please. Like, flood the joint with 'em. No need to behead those fuckers when you can easily convert them into a fine pink mist that will be great fertilizer for their desert.
posted by InsertNiftyNameHere at 12:17 PM on August 20


There's always more assholes to bomb, INNH.
posted by Justinian at 12:18 PM on August 20


Your argument seems to be based on a few key premises that I'm having trouble getting behind: first, you say "ISIS can only win if we interfere." If I felt that were true, I'd agree with you. But I don't see how you can say that. It's an article of faith that I don't share. You can't simultaneously say we can't act because we can't predict the consequences, and then make such a precise prediction!

I already outlined how I see things going for the ISIS (or IS if you will) without our interference, and the alignment of forces that would mean the disappearance of ISIS - check my previous posts.

How can I make a prediction if it's unpredictable. Let me give you an analogy. When I was a teen, I spent a few summers studying for my captain's licence for small yachts (up to 6 people). One course required steering a crippled yacht to the shore (Baltic sea). The instructor for this course was an old salt, a guy who pretty much lived on boats and has seen it all. But of course, the arrogance of youth, I thought I knew better. You see, the waves would buffet the boat and it was pretty hard work to try to get back on course. Watching the waves, I spotted what I thought was a pattern, and I thought I found a better way - the waves were very regular to my eye, so every time a wave approached, I quickly adjusted the angle of the steering to account for the drift that would result from the hit of the wave and thus keep the course straight without needing to laboriously re-steer afterward. The old salt saw what I was doing and told me "leave it alone; don't try to counteract; any action of steering at this point will only rock the boat harder". I couldn't' believe it, the waves were so regular and my actions for a time seemed to work... until the small accumulated angle drift from all those hits and my counter-actions, suddenly went out of phase and resulted in almost capsizing the boat on one of the waves. I learned my lesson. Sometimes, it is better to let the ocean or natural forces work their way, and try to harness them without exerting control that you don't actually have. Because attempting to exert control over a situation where you don't, results in a much bigger disaster. I can predict the drift of the boat if I don't interfere - I cannot predict what will happen if I attempt to control that which cannot be controlled.

Second, you keep talking about how "we" (US and allies) keep fucking things up because we're trying to "help". But you know very well that we've never been doing anything to help. It's always been naked "self" interest (i.e., the interests of the ruling elites in the US, Europe and the Mideast).

Well, no. As I stated in my post - there are plenty of bad motives and bad actors and bad actions on our part. But it is always SOLD as "help", and good people buy into it. I allow - perhaps naively - that some of our government actions - rarely - are to actually help selflessly.

Finally, my argument is that we fucked things up precisely because of the stupid and delusional way we get involved, usually by confusing national security with the interests of corporate lobbyists.

Yes, yes, yes, a thousand times yes. And then yes again.

So, I'm not suggesting we "help" anyone, but that we work to demolish ISIS, as quietly as possible, while publicly "not interfering, full stop".

One problem: it won't work. Example: Afghanistan - we are not merely "quietly" bombing and inserting special forces. We have special forces on the ground, we have regular forces on the ground, we have the skies to ourselves, we have allied troops on the ground from NATO, we have trained Afghani troops, we have engaged ourselves neck deep. And we're losing.

You cannot defeat this militarily. You must have a long term strategic approach - the first stage of which I outlined when I spoke of geographic isolation after we stop our Syrian adventure. We allow the natural forces in the region, the Iranians, the Shiites, the Kurds and the local Sunnis to control this ISIS infestation. Longer range is economic involvement which I outlined in my later post - which will drain the swamp and cool the fever and set the stage for eliminating the source of this disease.

It takes patience and intelligence and generosity and a longer view. It does not take bullets and bombs.

Bombing "into a pink mist" has not worked in Afghanistan and will not work here - though it might be counterproductive, as it often is in Afghanistan.

There are no one-size-fits-all solutions to all issues across the globe. Every situation must be approached individually. Sometimes even military solutions are what is best in a given situation. But sometimes it is not. And it is my considered judgment, that we should not engage in the ME militarily, either directly or indirectly (such as arming or financing or providing intelligence etc.).
posted by VikingSword at 12:31 PM on August 20 [4 favorites]


...think longer term like the Marshall plan in Europe.

I heartily agree. The Marshall plan was a miracle because we just happened to have a center-left government with some vision. But I think this supports more my view than yours: The Marshall plan wasn't done in isolation. The Cold War was going on at the same time, and the Marshall Plan was a component of that. My view is that we are in a war with the Islamists whether we like it or not. A cold, covert war is the better choice.

The catch is that after WWII we were rich beyond all imagining--we went to the freaking Moon at the same time! Now we're pretty much broke, we have transform our energy economy, climate change, etc.

It's a real mess, no?
posted by mondo dentro at 12:33 PM on August 20 [1 favorite]


We need to support economic engagement and development in the ME, long term. That will naturally result in political and eventually social development. Fanaticism of all kinds, including religious, will lose potency and appeal.

Respectfully, this is about as "democrat" as you can get.

This argument hinges on the idea that American military intervention is the sole, defining contributing factor of the crisis in the Middle East. I would venture to say fanaticism is alive and well in many countries where the US is not militarily involved. Dare I say what you are describing is US foreign policy in times of peace. Perhaps that is naiveté of the tallest order. After all, for decades these countries had been given billions in foreign private capital to build infrastructure. They've had a chance.

You are forcing your rhetorical opponent to raise the possibility that the Middle East is not prepared for the type of political and social development you think is necessary. That "long term development" is code for "simply not ready." That may very well be true, but unfortunately that legitimizes ISIS even more, as a raw, natural force. I don't even know how to take a position on this. Our great country was founded on the slaughter of the local population.

I agree with your criticism of military intervention but don't think as highly as you do of the humanitarian alternatives. You can't laud the Marshall Plan and condemn Sykes-Picot all in one fell swoop. There is more to analyze than just our own actions.
posted by phaedon at 12:33 PM on August 20


Argh. Gross. I really hope the situation with IS/ISIS is solved ASAP.
posted by lukasbrisman at 12:37 PM on August 20


Cuba in Angola is another example of successful intervention. Fidel's intervention was crucial not only to freeing Angola from colonialism but ending Apartheid in South Africa. The extreme anti-interventionist position seems kind of ridiculous. Because intervention has failed in some cases does not not mean it fails in all cases. It is possible to learn from past mistakes to determine how intervention can be more successful. And when faced with enormous humanitarian catastrophe, I think you have to try again in spite of past failures.

Yes, the only "solution" here is long term and non-military. Humanitarian aid as first line - desperately needed for the millions of refugees with the UN out in front and us in the back.

I don't think anyone here disagrees with this. The problem is you often can't provide a humanitarian solution without first providing protection and security which means military support. You couldn't have a Marshall plan without first defeating Hitler. In fact a lot of the failure of the invasion of Iraq was the non-military state building "Marshall plan" portion of it. Rumsfeld and Cheney et. al. thought Iraqis would immediately fall in love with capitalism and start building businesses and stuff as soon as Saddam was gone. One of the first things Bremmer did after entering Baghdad was setup a stock market. The biggest reason Iraq failed, it seems to me, was they didn't grasp the immensity of the sectarian fear and distrust in Iraq that had to be quelled before any state building could succeed, which again is a security problem.

And arming the FSA? Do you not absorb the information that's plainly given to you by multiple reports (including the Rachel Maddow segment above)? You can arm until you are blue in the face, and those weapons will end up in ISIS hands, given, sold to, or won.

There seem to be a number of knowledgeable people who disagree with this strongly. Michael Weiss and Brown Moses come to mind, and who point out that the TOW missiles we have given to FSA recently have helped them tremendously against Assad's armor. But I thought your comment supported my position, actually. Clearly the Pentagon was not hot on going to war in Syria, and they hated the NFZ in Iraq which in itself probably contributed to the decision to invade there again. The idea that negotiations with Iran have anything to do with Obama's decision to abandon FSA is admittedly not backed by any data whatsoever, except Iran's support for Maliki's ouster which was very surprising to me. It makes more sense that they were afraid arms would end up in ISIS's hands I guess, but this happened anyway and there are smart people out there who disagree that that was a necessity. It is odd that Obama came out so forcefully in support of FSA and then abandoned them.

ISIS is an expression of Islam's "desire"

It seems to me it is extremely offensive and Islamaphobic to call ISIS an expression of "Islam's desire."
posted by Golden Eternity at 12:44 PM on August 20 [5 favorites]


But I think this supports more my view than yours: The Marshall plan wasn't done in isolation. The Cold War was going on at the same time, and the Marshall Plan was a component of that.

Yes, the Marshall plan was a component of the Cold War, but that was the weakest part of it. We in fact offered the Marshall plan to the East as well (which they turned down). The Cold War was a miscalculation by both sides, and a terrible drain on everyone involved (not to mention spillover effect in the rest of the world). It would have been better for one side (the U.S.) to continuously de-escalate the Cold War, which I believe would have eventually found a similar de-escalation on the other side soon after Stalin's death. So unlike you, I say YES to the Marshall Plan and NO to the Cold War. The Cold War was a mistake.

This argument hinges on the idea that American military intervention is the sole, defining contributing factor of the crisis in the Middle East.

Oh no. The U.S. didn't even engage much in the ME until after WWII, and more muscularly only in the late 60's into the 70's and on from there. And of course, the U.S. involvement is not the only factor. But it has been exceptionally destructive. We have made this worse, much worse at a horrible human cost in the ME and economic cost to the world.

Fanaticism doesn't need the U.S. to exist - it has always been there. But we have the power to make it worse, much worse.

You are forcing your rhetorical opponent to raise the possibility that the Middle East is not prepared for the type of political and social development you think is necessary. That "long term development" is code for "simply not ready."

If we never interfere from here on, and even had we never interfered, it was never going to be a bed of roses. There may have been a violent change, a revolution, or merely an evolution full of conflict. I don't know. I'm sure it would be rough going, because it so often is, as history shows from East to West. Change is hard, and often bloody. But we don't need to make it worse by magnitudes. The longer range drift - like those ocean waves - are predictable. The short-term eddies are not. Longer term, I believe all countries will always gravitate to what human beings desire - comfort, security, pursuit of happiness. You know where the ocean current will take you - eventually. Eventually. It's short term that's harder to pin down - where will this individual leaf on the wave end up, especially as we beat it with an oar. You can predict the overall state. You cannot predict an individual particle.

I do believe that economic engagement is our best shot. It's not a guarantee of no hard times and no blood. But the emphasis is on time. Sometimes a generation or more need to pass for social change to catch up to economic development. Can bad things still happen, even with our best foot forward? Yes, of course. But the alternative is always worse.

The extreme anti-interventionist position seems kind of ridiculous. Because intervention has failed in some cases does not not mean it fails in all cases.

Here's what I wrote: "There are no one-size-fits-all solutions to all issues across the globe. Every situation must be approached individually. Sometimes even military solutions are what is best in a given situation. But sometimes it is not. And it is my considered judgment, that we should not engage in the ME militarily, either directly or indirectly (such as arming or financing or providing intelligence etc.)."

Yes, it may work in some situations, especially geographically contained and without being globally open to importation of all fighters and materiel etc. (Clinton's Balkan intervention). I am not an extreme isolationist, as I have clearly stated that there are situation where an intervention makes sense. But the converse is also true "just because an intervention was successful in some cases, does not mean it will be successful in all cases." And my point all along was that one such case where military solutions won't work is in the ME - U.S. interference is absolutely the wrong thing to do from every tactical and strategic point of view.
posted by VikingSword at 1:00 PM on August 20 [1 favorite]


How do you propose to deliver humanitarian aid and economic assistance without addressing the security situation?
posted by humanfont at 1:14 PM on August 20


How do you propose to deliver humanitarian aid and economic assistance without addressing the security situation?

First, as I mentioned, address the humanitarian crisis of the refugees. Millions of Iraqis - and now Syrians - have spilled into neighboring countries. This is highly destabilizing and an economic disaster. Had we addressed this to begin with, in Syria, we would not have had the whole Syrian situation. Instead, the refugee situation in Syria broke the economy and the internal dissent exploded. It was too much. Jordan is also straining under the refugee crisis. There was no barrier to providing humanitarian help in Syria - no security concerns - until we let the situation spin out of control by doing nothing. We can still provide help for Jordan and other countries. Get the UN involved on a massive scale, because it's a massive problem.

You can help the Kurds with no security issues. You can help large parts of Iraq which are not under ISIS control, with no security issues. Unless we do so, we can look forward to more destruction as the desperate population will not take up arms to defend a government that does nothing for them. Hungry and displaced people do not make for good defending soldiers. Start there. Because if you don't, it will get worse. This is not charity. This is defensive maneuver as much as generosity. ISIS thrives on desperation, disaffection and having nothing to lose. Don't give them more of that ammunition either.

Delivering humanitarian aid and economic assistance is addressing the security situation. Oh, and btw. it would still be cheaper than a military intervention. Plus it would provide economic benefits down the road, even to us. It's not charity.
posted by VikingSword at 1:39 PM on August 20 [1 favorite]


'Twice as Many' British Muslims Fighting for ISIS as UK Armed Forces - the headline is certainly a bit inflammatory, but the numbers thrown out are interesting:
Khalid Mahmood, the MP for Perry Barr in Birmingham, estimates that at least 1,500 young British Muslims have been recruited by extremists fighting in Iraq and Syria in the last three years.

Mahmood told Newsweek that this figure had been building since the start of the Syrian conflict: "If you look across the whole of the country, and the various communities involved, 500 going over each year would be a conservative estimate.”
Has anyone seen a count of the total number of IS/ISIS fighters (foreign and not)?
posted by rosswald at 1:46 PM on August 20 [1 favorite]


The Kurds were getting their asses kicked until the US provided them with air support and "advisors." They just left town and let hundreds of Yazidi civilians get slaughtered by ISIS. They do NOT have an experienced military and need a lot of help militarily both in terms of arms and training, but as we observed in Iraq training and arms don't necessarily result in an effective fighting force. ISIS has many hardened and trained fighters and are a fairly well organized fighting force it seems. But they are no match against a well trained modern military with modern air power and other technology.

This is interesting: Iran is ready to replace "Gazprom"

Has anyone seen a count of the total number of IS/ISIS fighters (foreign and not)?

Western sources have said 20k-30k, but I saw a pro-ISIS source say 50k in Syria and 80k total or something. I don't have the source handy.
posted by Golden Eternity at 2:00 PM on August 20 [1 favorite]


Has anyone seen a count of the total number of IS/ISIS fighters (foreign and not)?

I don't know if there are any reliable numbers, but for Syria alone there is this for example:

Islamic State 'has 50,000 fighters in Syria'
Monitoring group says the Islamic State group recruited 6,000 members in last month alone, including 1,000 foreigners.


""The number of IS fighters has passed 50,000 in Syria, including 20,000 non-Syrians," he said.

Al Jazeera cannot verify the observatory's figures. However, an Islamic State source backed the statement and told Al Jazeera that the group also had 30,000 fighters in Iraq.

Abdel Rahman said the new recruits in Syria included more than 1,000 foreign fighters from Chechnya, China, Europe and Arab countries. He said most had entered Syria from Turkey
."

Unfortunately, blowback is not confined to the region anymore. Slowly but surely, those countries that have been primary movers behind the aggression against the ME, are experiencing blowback on their own soil. It's interesting to see Britain - as the primary force, next to the U.S., in the attack against Iraq - has so many fighters from her territory joining ISIS.

Britain according to the Newsweek article: 4.3% of the British population are Muslim. Many may be surprised that Switzerland has more: According to 2012 estimates conducted by government of Switzerland, Muslims represent 4.9% of the total population.[2][3] The vast majority of Muslims in Switzerland belong to Sunni branch.

Yet, how many Muslims from Britain - on a percentage basis - travel to join ISIS, compared to Swiss Muslims? I have not come across any claim that Swiss Muslims are joining. Is it specifically from the aggressor countries like Britain? Or maybe they are more alienated in Britain? Well, we know that the Swiss are not exactly warm and cuddly toward their Muslim citizens, so it can't be that.

Intervention in today's world has many unintended consequences, and not all of them obvious at the time (understatement of the year, though the year is still young). Take heed.
posted by VikingSword at 2:05 PM on August 20 [1 favorite]


Change is hard, and often bloody...

Longer term, I believe all countries will always gravitate to what human beings desire - comfort, security, pursuit of happiness...

The longer range drift - like those ocean waves - are predictable. The short-term eddies are not...

Intervention in today's world has many unintended consequences... Take heed...


Frankly, it's a little hard to argue against political poetry. It's a little insulting that you have this "notion" that things will work out if the US steps back. This is, to put it bluntly, a theory.

Worse yet, when you describe a "short term eddie" as unpredictable, it sounds like you are condoning home-grown genocide, so long as it is an expression of self-determination. Clearly, I don't think you believe that. I just think you're taking the non-intervention argument too far. Perhaps that is what is necessary, which means you would be right, but I'm not comfortable arguing in favor of it. Humanity is not a lapping ocean current, and this idea that the Middle East would naturally return to a steady state without Western provocation is patently false.

Surely in no meaningful way have we improved things. What does this say definitively about any one thing we have done I do not know. Perhaps we revert to the notion that foreign policy is dictated purely by power. In which case, this is all moot.
posted by phaedon at 3:00 PM on August 20 [1 favorite]


It's a little insulting that you have this "notion" that things will work out if the US steps back. This is, to put it bluntly, a theory.

That is not accurate. My observation rather is that by stepping in, the US makes it immeasurably worse - which history bears out, as we've seen in Iraq most recently. If the US steps back, it may not be a bed of roses, and indeed it may be quite rough, as I've stated repeatedly - but at least an outside force is not making it much, much, much worse. There is no law that says we have to meddle in the affairs of ME countries, and it would be better if we didn't. I'm proposing not to compound and multiply the problems and disasters.

Humanity is not a lapping ocean current, and this idea that the Middle East would naturally return to a steady state without Western provocation is patently false.

It is not our right to "provoke". Whatever happens, it is their country and the responsibility of their societies. Perhaps we can allow them the privilege of deciding their own fate, even if we don't approve of where they end up and how long it takes them to get there.

And maybe I'm a naive optimist, but yes, I do believe that Humanity is a lapping ocean current, in that - at least so far - the arc of history has been toward the good. I believe that all humans, everywhere, basically want the same things security and happiness for themselves and their children. Yes, it's a supposition and a theory and a presumption. So far, it seems to be true - we have steadily progressed from the days of savagery and the evils of slavery and exploitation. More people than ever have more rights than ever and more prosperity and longer and healthier lives. This does not mean the progress is even. It is terribly, terribly uneven with many a return to darker times and horrific outcomes. If you were to take any shorter period of time, it would be easy to have a pessimistic view of this. But when you look at the sweep of history over millennia - the long perspective, then indeed the ocean current is the right metaphor - we are immeasurably better off today than we were 5000 years ago, and better than 2000 years ago, and better than a 100 years ago. But go into any period of time, and the small eddies in that current, and you could pick any decade - or several decades or even centuries - where humanity was worse off than at some high point in the past. And yet, the broad sweep, the ocean current is firmly headed in a good direction.

Now, this may be a bit pollyanna. Nothing is guaranteed. There are weapons today, and there will be more and worse tomorrow, which could put an end to humanity altogether, and no lack of actors who would love nothing more than to do that. Terrible conflict seems like a permanent condition. People die in violence and slavery every day. We are nowhere near the promised land. Of course. We are just closer than we were yesterday. It's hard to see large trends, and it's easy to get lost in smaller ones, especially when we encounter an outrage like in the subject of the FPP, it's easy to lose hope and become a misanthrope and pessimist.

I retain my faith in humanity, hard as it may seem, even for those who give their allegiance to ISIS. They are human beings. And I have greater hope of reaching my fellow humans with a hand of friendship, cooperation and help, than a fist and a dagger.

At the same time I'm not a misty-eyed naif. I recognize that military power has its uses. I'm just careful to use the right tool for the right job. And in the ME at this time, I see humanitarian aid and economic development as the proper tools to employ and military power and intervention as something we need to deprecate in the ME.

Perhaps we revert to the notion that foreign policy is dictated purely by power and self-interest.

Perhaps we recognize that today more than ever in the past, in a world that's interconnected, our self-interest is profoundly connected with the interests of others, and that we can only thrive when all thrive. Those societies and systems that recognize this reality will prevail, and those who don't, will eventually find themselves left behind by history. We really have no choice, otherwise we will all destroy ourselves. I say this not as a "political poet", but as what I regard myself as - a hard-nosed realist.
posted by VikingSword at 3:28 PM on August 20 [1 favorite]


John Kerry says ISIS will be "crushed".
posted by bukvich at 3:41 PM on August 20


Oh fuck. We're screwed.
posted by Golden Eternity at 4:19 PM on August 20 [3 favorites]


ISIS recruiting numbers are bullshit propaganda.
posted by humanfont at 4:26 PM on August 20 [1 favorite]


U.S. tried to rescue American hostages in Syria , officials say. The mission failed.

"The U.S. government had what we believed was sufficient intelligence, and when the opportunity presented itself, the president authorized the Department of Defense to move aggressively to recover our citizens," Lisa Monaco, a top counter-terrorism advisor to President Obama, said in a statement. "Unfortunately, that mission was ultimately not successful because the hostages were not present."

Monaco's statement did not name the hostages targeted by the operation or the precise timing, saying only that the attempt occurred "earlier this summer." But an administration official said they included slain American journalist James Foley.

The hostages were held by the extremist militant group now known as Islamic State and were under increasing danger, the statement said.
"

The Pentagon said the unsuccesseful rescue attempt involved air and ground components.

"As we have said repeatedly, the United States government is committed to the safety and well-being of its citizens, particularly those suffering in captivity,” Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said in a statement. “In this case, we put the best of the United States military in harms' way to try and bring our citizens home.”


.
posted by VikingSword at 4:53 PM on August 20


Islamic State militants seize four more foreign hostages in Syria
Jihadists flush with arms and relying on shock tactics abduct Europeans and Japanese national as US strikes continue.


"Flush with looted weapons, buoyed by sweeping gains in Syria and eager to shock, Islamic State militants have seized four more foreign hostages near Aleppo in recent days, taking to more than 20 the number of foreigners they now hold."

"Masrour Barzani, chancellor of the Kurdish region security council, said: "They have five divisions' worth of Iraqi military weapons, all of them US-supplied, that they are using to turn on communities that are outgunned, and increasingly outmanned."

Hisham al-Hashimi, an Baghdad-based expert on the group, said: "They are around 50,000 strong on both sides of the border."

Kurdish officials say that the overall numbers are slightly less. Both Kurds and Iraqis agree that Isis had a recruiting boom in July. The group is thought to have successfully lured more than 6,000 new cadres in that month alone. Kurdish and Iraqi officials say the extremists' appeal stems from their capacity to deliver outcomes even through ruthless means that are at odds with values held by most Sunni communities.

The large numbers of foreign fighters are increasingly holding sway in many areas, enforcing hardline Islamic law and dispensing punishment with impunity.
"
posted by VikingSword at 5:23 PM on August 20


David Cameron has admitted that it is likely the man shown beheading James Foley is a British citizen, possibly from London.
posted by Justinian at 6:10 PM on August 20


Is that based solely on his accent?
posted by rosswald at 7:51 PM on August 20


ISIS Pressed for Ransom Before Killing Journalist
posted by Golden Eternity at 8:23 PM on August 20


rosswald: I think some of the ransomed hostages ID'd him based on his voice as well.
posted by Justinian at 8:25 PM on August 20 [1 favorite]


Is that based solely on his accent?

Yes, it is. If you are British. First time I heard that voice I assumed he was not just from London, but from a working-class district north or south of the river in east London.
posted by Mister Bijou at 2:33 AM on August 21


First time I heard that voice I assumed he was not just from London, but from a working-class district north or south of the river in east London.

You need to turn the sound way up, but there's also this bit:

MILITANT #1: Get me his breakfast in bed with my trouble and strife.

MILITANT #2: Sorry, what?

MILITANT #1: His breakfast in bed. With my trouble and strife.

[PAUSE]

MILITANT #3: It's rhyming slang, bro! He wants your wife to bring him breakfast in bed.

MILITANT #2: Well, that's a weird request.

MILITANT #1: It's stupid, that's what it is! Trouble and strife! Knife!

MILITANT #3: No, "trouble and strife" doesn't mean "knife", it's "wife".

MILITANT #2: Yeah, if you wanted to talk about a knife you should have said, oh, "waste of a life" or something.

[PAUSE]

MILITANT #1: OK. Right. Here. Take this knife. And bring me his blimmin' head, OK?

MILITANT #3: OK. Er ...

MILITANT #2: Is this before or after we bring him breakfast in bed?
posted by Joe in Australia at 3:46 AM on August 21


Four Brothers Beheaded For Smuggling Marijuana Into Saudi Arabia
posted by jeffburdges at 3:50 AM on August 21


Saudi Arabia: Surge in Executions - 19 Beheaded in 17 Days; 8 for Nonviolent Offenses

Saudi Arabia beheads man for practicing "sorcery."
Also on Tuesday, a Saudi national was executed in the northern city of Qurayyat for practicing black magic and sorcery, SPA reported.

Muhammad Bakur Al-Alaawi confessed to his crime and the death sentence was upheld by the Appeals Court and the Supreme Judiciary Council.
posted by Golden Eternity at 6:21 AM on August 21 [2 favorites]


Here's a stupid question. I'm not sure that large-scale military involvement by the West is the greatest idea here, but what can we do about the UK and other US/European citizens joining this and other groups? I'm not the biggest patriot in the world, but I say revoke citizenship in absentia and add to a watch list. There should be zero tolerance. Citizens of say the UK or US have no business fighting for ISIS, or Syrian rebels, or Israel, or some kind of shenanigan mercenary group, or anyone else. If you want to be a citizen of a country, your loyalty needs to be 100% there, or GTFO. If it means that much to them then good for them, now they're citizens of ISIS. Good luck with that.
posted by freecellwizard at 7:34 AM on August 21


Not many people get approached with the appeal of being at the top of a tyrannical pyramid by default of some trait about them they have no control over or, in religious cults some claim of innate "higher purpose". I think people with something wrong with them or some huge emotional hole inside them, issues they haven't gotten the support they need with etc...will be more attracted to that. But really creepy experiments have found that an unfortunately lot of young people can be turned to the dark side under the right pressures.

Certainly adults should own their behavior, but I'm honestly not sure that free will exists which means that the desire to label people whose behavior is worse as lesser humans is yet another example of bigotry (which we can't help since there is no free will). However I think the desire for compassion, harmony, peace, humane treatment of prisoners, and rule under a sense of preservation of the welfare of all, is something that can naturally arise in humans, and that it can be cultivated by those who... will... it?

I mean, I certainly think there is something like will, as much as it inspires me to hope that things can change, but where does that hope come from? Do I will it, or choose it or does it happen to me? It really matters which because if humans are more subject to external pressures than we like to think- then cultivating a harmonious and peaceful community might mean a lot more efforts put into how we raise, train and support people through their development, as well as awareness of what exposures and difficulties and emotional experiences they are having and what sorts of compassionate supports they themselves have access to, to even know what such behavior is like in order to value or model it. If there is will, it is a small spark in a sea of otherwise very precise rule following chemical processes. Knowing how the rest of the chemical processes are set and what rules and behaviors they are following, without mercy or awareness for the effects, will give anything like will the tools to have better success.

So I guess what I mean to say is, we like to think we could never behave like them, (I like to think it too) and it's possible that "will" may be part of that... but it's also possible that we are inspired by the efforts of trainings and education about prejudice and hate, and inspired by teachings about love and harmony, and perhaps those of us who value compassion more had more exposures to such teachings or to people in our lives who were living out such principles and valuing them.

I don't mean to discount holding people accountable, anger, rage, showing people who have done such things how bad they are and such in curbing harmful behavior because at the end of the day if it works, and people are saved, that can be worth it. But.... that also means we are willing to accept that harming some people can be worth it to protect others. I'm not saying it isn't true, it's just the mentality pacifist ideals are trying to uproot.

To uproot this kind of philosophy, giving every being innate worthiness of being protected from harm and suffering, regardless of behavior, pulls all violent behavior to a stop. There can be room for humane imprisonment, and even harms committed in self defense to prevent worse harms when no peaceful better means can be achieved, but it means looking for the most peaceful solution first. This kind of compassion means that even those with rage in their hearts, even the rage we might see within ourselves, and it will not make one worthy of harm or suffering. We might begin to ask the rage what it has to say, like a friend, and find that it is in some versions of itself, a blinding beautiful passionate love-- that would to anything for the sake of those who have been harmed, and to prevent such harms happening again. Anything.

We might also find that those who follow orders, terrible orders, believe in their leaders. They are trusting. Support staff that follows the orders of others is the nature of large groups, and such people have a place, regardless of their lack of independent thought and their inability to see the reality of the harms they carry out or question their necessity. We all should fight side with compassion, justice, and truth, to stand up for human welfare even when it's hard or excruciating or terrifying or comes at unspeakable cost- but standing up against one's elders and leaders is dangerous and sometimes, from having seen others try, it may have mean completely worthless in attempt. When it comes to risking ones own life, who is ready to make the leap? And would you make the leap for you family, for your children in the name of justice, when standing up will simply have your children killed and nothing changes? Is that bravery or stupidity? If jumping off a cliff will save the human race it's noble to jump but if jumping off a cliff will simply sign your name to those among the slaughter it is a sacrifice made for no reason, and as every life is precious, it is understandable to try to save ones self and ones family.

I want to uproot this violence. And I understand why people use violence in the name of peace. Having compassion for that force is part of peace. People use violence because they want to be part of something and keep themselves and their family safe.

But the violence will not keep families safe. Once who learn to torture and kill, that force within you can so easily spill over:
"
“Most of the [affected] families come here for help and sometimes we can do nothing for them. Some parents are aware of their disturbed behaviour in dealing with their children but claim they don’t have control, and only realise what they have done when they see their children are hurt and require urgent medical assistance,” Abdullah added."

What is happening is terrible. And, despite the horrors of carrying out violence, there are times and places when it might be worth sacrificing your humanity to become capable of killing, even despite the risk you may not be able to contain what direction that force within you goes from there. I also wonder if education efforts about the true cost of rule by violence, in terms of effects on domestic violence rates, capacity for development of intelligence (exposure to violence tends to damage IQ and cognitive development in children), cost of healthcare for those who carry out violence, those who experience violence, those whose family members are damaged by experiencing violence, cost to productivity of exposure to violence, and overall evidence for the failure of this technique to be a good long term strategy might help those trying to uproot this type of governance and power structures demonstrate their desires are not simply wishful thinking but actually better strategy for promoting functional healthy societies. Most societies have specific incidences in which they think violence is called for, however challenging assumptions about the costs and benefits of such use may do better when examining actual evidence about such use and in what circumstance.

I don't know what will help the middle east, I have most read into cycles of violence, it's origin and factors that promote or reduce it here in the states, however the better we get at understanding it here, the more we will be able to help other nations uproot violence in their own communities.
posted by xarnop at 7:38 AM on August 21 [2 favorites]


Citizens of say the UK or US have no business fighting for ISIS, or Syrian rebels, or Israel, or some kind of shenanigan mercenary group, or anyone else.
posted by freecellwizard


I was curious and so found this Wikipedia page of List of militaries that recruit foreigners, which includes armies belonging to Islamic states. Also, I am not quite sure how accurate this 'About' page is, but apparently Americans can join the Russian military - which I guess makes sense on paper but I still am surprised by.
posted by rosswald at 9:30 AM on August 21


Enabling ISIS, the VICE Videos and the Execution of AFP Photographer James Foley
The week before last, Foreign Policy ran a post, the title of which now seems horribly prescient, even if the wording at the time (in this click hungry and SEO-savvy media environment) seemed all-too gratuitous. It was titled: How to Take a Picture of a Severed Head, and was subtitled: "What are major news organizations doing sending jihadi-approved photos from inside the Islamic State?" Although the first part of the post built on our "enabling" post linked above, it went on to cite photographers in Iraq who had produced some of the ISIS images acquired by the major media. The accounts weren't pretty, describing threats and intimidation if those photographers didn't tow the line.

The thrust of that story focused on the latest, and certainly the most adventurous and robust imagery from "inside ISIS." That is, the multipart video series produced for VICE by a producer who essentially embedded with the organization.

To be sure,  there is a grey area between reporting and collusion, between reporting and enabling, between reporting and being used as a pawn for the dissemination of propaganda. My Reuters piece, for example, received some justifiable critique for failing to more clearly delineate between those terms. Others, of course, have spelled out the precedents for embedding, the sometimes fine balance between censoring versus enabling, as well as the value and media principles of showing us both the despicable and the despised.  Patrick Baz, AFP's photo manager for the Middle East and North Africa (this, the same agency that James Foley worked for) makes the case most graphically in "What to do with horrific images from Iraq," the AFP blog post illustrated by the ISIS execution images that circulated last June.

But still, how clear is the line between news and propaganda, especially with such accomplished "mad men?"
posted by tonycpsu at 9:55 AM on August 21


FOLEY ABDUCTION LINKED TO BRITISH JIHADI KIDNAPPING RING
posted by Golden Eternity at 10:15 AM on August 21


What we can deduce about ISIS from James Foley’s beheading
posted by the man of twists and turns at 1:04 PM on August 21


In the 1980s 4 Soviet citizens were taken hostage in Lebanon. The Alpha Team (Russia's equivalent to Delta force) is reported to have gone to Lebanon. After one of the hostages was executed Alpha team proceeded to identify family members of suspected kidnappers. Alpha team took some of those family members hostsge. Then they castrated and cut some other body parts off of the family members. The body parts were sent to the hostage takers along with a note which threatened the lives of more family and friends of the alleged hostage takers. Shortly after this the 3 remaining hostages were released.

Historians are divided on the truth of this story. Some suggest that the hostages were released after Russia agreed to send some weapons to Iran and that this was just a cover story. People in the region generally accept the Alpha team horror story as truth. Dick Cheney beleives it.

The immorality of these acts, even as a cover story is pretty clear IMO. Whatever crazy shit the US has pulled or is responsible for at least we didnt go that far.
posted by humanfont at 3:41 PM on August 21


The extremists who killed James Foley are as brutal as they are Internet savvy
posted by rosswald at 5:43 PM on August 21


Netanyahu honors James Foley by using his picture to justify slaughtering children in Gaza: Did Netanyahu go too far in using image of murdered journalist to compare ISIS to Hamas?
posted by Golden Eternity at 7:29 PM on August 21


Well, Hamas is a branch of the Muslim Brotherhood. I don't know of any organisational link between ISIS and other branches of the Muslim Brotherhood (as opposed to, say, between Hamas and Egypt's branch of the MB), but they're ideologically similar and they ultimately derive from the same theological background. They're distinct, though, in that Hamas is pan-Islamic but nationalist, while ISIS has declared a Caliphate, a sort of empire-of-the-faithful that would necessarily include the area Hamas is fighting for. I don't think you could have a distinctively Palestinian state within a Caliphate, but who knows.

The point where Hamas and ISIS come closest is their attitude to the primacy of religion.1 If you accept the premise that martyrdom is an honorable thing to be cherished (as they do) then you are not only going to treat your own life lightly, but also that of the people around you. If they're good people they'll go off to martyrdom heaven; if they're bad people they deserved to die anyway. As for your enemies, who are definitively bad, they certainly deserve to die and you should have no compunction about killing them. And this is in fact what we see: Hamas has undoubtedly killed many times more Gazans than Israelis. In fact they have reportedly just executed another three people for "collaborating with Israel".2 I think this makes about forty public executions since the start of the most recent war.

1 Pretty much all the rest of us are hypocrites, and thank goodness for that.
2 I suppose it's possible that they were collaborating with Israel, but it's not like they had a trial or anything... and Hamas has a robust attitude towards solving problems, as can be seen by the way they recently kneecapped a bunch of Fatah leaders in order to place them under house arrest. Perhaps the victims were just inconvenient, or belonged to the wrong faction.
posted by Joe in Australia at 9:37 PM on August 21


The ISIS fan boys I saw on twitter who's accounts are now suspended liked to say bad things about Palestinians for some reason, unless they were talking about ISIS members (citizens? ) in Gaza. I guess they would get along okay with Hamas if Hamas swore to follow the caliph and sharia. Otherwise I presume they would be treated no differently than any other kafir. My guess is the two would not get along very well.

A few weeks after the Israeli prime minister accused Hamas of piling up “telegenically-dead Palestinians for their cause,” Benjamin Netanyahu has found a telegenically-dead victim for his propaganda purposes: James Foley, the brave American journalist killed by ISIS in Syria.

British Muslims blame jihadi subculture after beheading video
"This sub culture of this 'jihadi-cool' - as they call it in the media - within the margins of society ... that is the real challenge," he told BBC Radio.
The Obama administration signaled Thursday that the United States has begun a new war against the so-called Islamic State, and that group’s operatives will not be safe from America’s wrath in Iraq, in Syria, or wherever they can be tracked down.
posted by Golden Eternity at 10:26 PM on August 21


Hamas is a descendent of the Muslim Brotherhood, but ISIL is a Salafi group. Their histories are very different and they are not the same theological background. They both express a desire for country ruled by the Quran and oppose a secular state, but when you look at implementation and policy proposals huge doctrinal issues emerge about what that means.
posted by humanfont at 10:30 PM on August 21 [3 favorites]


Consider how Obama and America's strategy wrt IS contrasts or compares to the current Israeli strategy wrt to Hamas/Gaza. The Israeli strategy has not been at all successful. After multiple invasions and a blockade Hamas maintains political control in Gaza and the ability to conduct terror operations and launch rockets against Israel. Somehow Israel has so bungled it's response in the last decade that sympathy for Hamas is now higher than ever while support for Israel is in decline. And I'm not suggesting that Israel doesn't have a right to defense or that they should just put up with rocket attacks and terrorism. I'm just saying that the current strategy has been a fucking fiasco with no chance of working.

The US response to IS has been late. The fall of Mosul was a clusterfuck. At the same time the US seems to be winning rather than losing international support. In the last week we've had some good gains with the Kurds retaking Mosul Dam and agreeing to join the new Iraqi government. We even got Malaki to step aside. Things seem to be moving our way.
posted by humanfont at 11:24 PM on August 21 [1 favorite]


There are definitely differences between IS and the Muslim Brotherhood, but we're not talking about anything on the level of the Protestant/Catholic divide. They're both relatively young, and their theology and ideology mostly derives from the same group of thinkers who were reacting to the rise of secular Westernised states after the fall of the Ottoman Empire. I don't even know if their final goals are incompatible: an IS state would necessarily be somewhat tamer than their past history would lead us to believe, and a Muslim Brotherhood state would quite likely be more bloody. Also, when it comes down to it, a lot of these leaders are probably more concerned with their position and survival than the niceties of doctrine.

Anyway, my point was that comparing Hamas and IS isn't ridiculous, and the comparison does give some level of insight into the situation. They're both armed gangs and local governments and the focus of religious aspirations and ideologues, which has to affect the way you negotiate and/or battle with them.
posted by Joe in Australia at 11:32 PM on August 21 [1 favorite]


Are we allies with Bashar al Assad now? Because I think we're fighting the same guys again.
posted by Justinian at 3:09 AM on August 22 [1 favorite]


The Department of State has announced the designation of the [Gazan] Mujahidin Shura Council in the Environs of Jerusalem (MSC) as a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO) [...] In addition to these physical attacks, the MSC released a statement in February 2014 declaring support for the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).
posted by rosswald at 5:15 AM on August 22


WAS U.S. JOURNALIST STEVEN SOTLOFF A MARKED MAN?
posted by Golden Eternity at 8:03 AM on August 22


Anyway, my point was that comparing Hamas and IS isn't ridiculous, and the comparison does give some level of insight into the situation. They're both armed gangs and local governments and the focus of religious aspirations and ideologues, which has to affect the way you negotiate and/or battle with them.

What makes it ridiculous is that Israel is all those things too.

Any way you spin it, Netanyahu's tweet was completely tasteless and tactless, and will probably incite far more antagonism toward Israel than it will attract allies.
posted by Sys Rq at 11:15 AM on August 22 [2 favorites]


twitter @mollycrabapple: I drew James Foley cause I'm home with my paints and can't stop thinking about him. Rest in peace, hero
posted by Golden Eternity at 11:29 AM on August 22 [1 favorite]


It also occurs to me that if we'd listened to the neocons and liberal interventionists and sent heavy weapons to Assad's opposition and bombed the hell out of his military when he used the chemical weapons we'd really be up shit creek since ISIS would now have all of that equipment as well as the stuff we gave Iraq.
posted by Justinian at 11:44 AM on August 22 [2 favorites]


Bloomberg: U.S. President Barack Obama’s effort to have Arabs take the lead in combating Islamic State suffered a setback when Sunni lawmakers quit talks on forming a new Iraqi government after Shiite gunmen killed scores of worshipers at a Sunni mosque.

The killings in Diyala province derailed at least temporarily attempts to form an Iraqi government with bigger roles for Sunni Arabs and Kurds that would strengthen the fight against the terrorist group. Ben Rhodes, the deputy White House national security adviser, said yesterday that the U.S. will consider airstrikes in Syria if needed to combat Islamic State
posted by rosswald at 4:19 AM on August 23


The Hills of Raqqa – Geolocating the James Foley Video

Israel Does About-Face Over Hamas-ISIS Tweet
Over the course of the six-week battle, both Hamas and Israel have taken to social media to promote their narratives of the conflict. Friday, Hamas official Izzat Risheq slammed the Israeli tweet on his Facebook account, calling it "low and cheap…without any sanctity for the dead." Hamas also rejected Israel's comparison to ISIS, calling themselves a "national liberation movement."
posted by Golden Eternity at 10:42 AM on August 23


Obama’s budding Cambodia Policy in Syria
posted by homunculus at 11:11 AM on August 23


The Men Who Killed James Foley
Waraabe, a politician in the Justice and Welfare Party, from Somaliland. He is a candidate in next year’s Presidential elections. As a younger man, he was a socialist and a devotee of Che Guevara. Last year, he lost his twenty-two-year-old son Sayid, who was born and raised in Finland, to the dark enticements of ISIS. His son had also persuaded his young, new wife to join him, and the two now live, according to his father, near the town of Raqqa, ISIS’s main urban stronghold in Syria. Faisal showed me a recent video of his son, posted on an ISIS Web site, on his smartphone; it shows a black-turbaned young man mounted on a horse, talking in heavily accented Finnish, and smiling into the camera. Calling himself Abu Shuaib al Somali, Sayid says, “The rule of Sharia will even come to Finland, and if you get called then, alhamdulillah, you’ll enter Jannah”—paradise—“inshallah and Allah will take care of the ones you’ve left behind.” I asked Faisal what he thought of ISIS, and about what his son is doing. He shook his head sadly, raised his hands helplessly in the air, and said, “They are the new barbarians."
posted by Golden Eternity at 11:29 AM on August 23


Kicked Off Twitter for Beheading Video, ISIS Regroups

Blocked On Twitter And YouTube, ISIS Turns To Diaspora And VKontakte To Disseminate Message
posted by Golden Eternity at 1:51 PM on August 23


Blocked On Twitter And YouTube, ISIS Turns To Diaspora And VKontakte To Disseminate Message

Now THIS is an unexpected aspect of the dominant dystopian model...
posted by mikelieman at 2:14 PM on August 23 [1 favorite]


So, uh, the guy who beheaded Foley is apparently a failed London rapper that went by the name "L Jinny". Wha....?
posted by Justinian at 8:30 PM on August 23


'Chillin' with my homie or what's left of him': British rapper turned ISIS jihadist poses with severed head as they seize more key towns close to Syrian border with Turkey
posted by Golden Eternity at 8:48 PM on August 23


Maybe 50 or Snoop can compose a dis song for our soldiers. Sort of a modern John Browns Body.
posted by humanfont at 8:57 PM on August 23


@NegarMortazavi: Kidnapped US journalist freed in #Syria after 2 yrs with Qatari mediation, was handed over to UN.
posted by Golden Eternity at 11:02 AM on August 24


Journalist Peter Curtis has just been released by his captors in Syria. I assume his family ponied up his ransom.
posted by Justinian at 11:02 AM on August 24


Tabqa Airbase Captured by the Islamic State
posted by Golden Eternity at 11:21 AM on August 24


@KenRoth: Nusra distinguishes itself from ISIS by releasing journalist Peter Curtis. Still tortured him.

So Curtis was held by Jabhat al-Nusra not ISIS?
posted by Golden Eternity at 11:36 AM on August 24


They barter captives with other groups and trade them around. So the group which ends up with a captive isn't necessarily the one which captured him or her, nor necessarily the one which held the prisoner most of the time.

And what Ken Roth says is only true if al-Nusra released Curtis without ransom being paid. If ransom was paid they're no different; ISIS would have been happy to release Foley if his ransom had been paid. Maybe al-Nusra did release Curtis out of the goodness of their hearts but I wouldn't bet on it!
posted by Justinian at 11:50 AM on August 24


(It does sound like he was originally captured by Nusra though.)
posted by Justinian at 11:51 AM on August 24


One Big Question Surrounds The Murder Of US Journalist James Foley By ISIS
In the words of Mic politics editor Stefan Becket: "The prevailing assumption was that Foley was being held by pro-Assad forces, or by the regime itself. How did he get from there to ISIS?"
Rukmini Callimachi on Fresh Air: Kidnapping Is A Lucrative Business For Al-Qaida, Documents Show
posted by Golden Eternity at 12:11 PM on August 24 [1 favorite]


ISIS: Made in Washington, Riyadh – and Tel Aviv
posted by bukvich at 7:52 AM on August 25 [1 favorite]


Boko Haram declares 'Islamic state' in northern Nigeria
posted by rosswald at 10:47 AM on August 25


ISIS: Made in Washington, Riyadh – and Tel Aviv

While I do agree that there is a definite drumbeat towards war, I think this is an illogical thing to say:

Let’s put aside the FBI statement that, while Americans abroad may be in some unspecified degree of danger, ISIS represents "no credible threat" to the continental United States.

I've read that ISIS chose Foley's "executioner" (it seems that the tape, which I have not watched, was edited, and that Foley's execution occurred later, off-camera) was chosen in order to provoke both the UK and the US. ISIS, according to the analysis I read, wants the US and the UK to bring it on. It doesn't seem to be outside of the realm of possibility that people who sympathize with ISIS - and there are a lot of these people - could strike the US.

The situation is fast and fluid, and is changing daily. ISIS are said to be vulnerable to air power (much like the German armoured divisions were in Normandy following D-Day).

If ISIS were attacked and defeated by air, it seems reasonable they would be try to pursue their politics "by other means."

What I would like to know more about is why young men from the UK, from the Netherlands, from Finland, from Sweden, and from Canada are travelling to the Levant by way of Turkey to join a very violent, very brutal, and truly barbaric movement.

Is it for the same reason why young men in Metro Vancouver join extremely violent drug gangs? For money, fame, power, and a sense of belonging?

I would really like to know why.
posted by Nevin at 12:00 PM on August 25


They hate our freedom Nevin. Didn't you read the memo?

Seriously the ideology is summarized in Sayyid Qutb Reader, 46 bucks and in stock at Amazon. Although if your watchlist score is close to the red zone you might want to go to Barnes and Noble and buy it with cash.
posted by bukvich at 1:23 PM on August 25


Anyone who wants to understand what militant Muslims think has to understand what they read—and they read Sayyid Qutb, the intellectual father of Islamic fundamentalism. Qutb, an Egyptian literary critic and philosopher who was appalled by American decadence, gained prominence in the Muslim Brotherhood, was imprisoned by Nasser, and hanged in 1966.

So it's not a post-colonial narrative, but a question of austerity?
posted by Nevin at 2:19 PM on August 25


It's a whole lot of things: Qutb was a post-colonialist, but he was also a theocratic reactionary. We may be in the era of post-post-colonialism by now: I don't think it makes sense to call someone a post-colonialist when they're talking about creating an empire. As for the people joining today, at least some of them seem to be in it for shits and giggles, like the rapper. They're certainly not in it for the austerity: I've seen lots of reports that militia recruiters attract wannabe-fighters by describing it as "5-star jihad". Whether that's actually the case on the ground (I doubt it) is a different matter.
posted by Joe in Australia at 7:30 PM on August 25


War On the Rocks: DON’T BS THE AMERICAN PEOPLE ABOUT IRAQ, SYRIA, AND ISIL

Brookings Institute: Five Myths about the Islamic State
posted by Golden Eternity at 1:25 PM on August 26 [1 favorite]


I had the rare experience of sitting in a doctor's office for an hour this afternoon with CNN. They stated at least 20 times that ISIS was "very well funded." Not a single one of those fucktwits on the box asked the question "Who is funding these guys?"
posted by bukvich at 2:18 PM on August 26


They sell $10M of oil a day. Much of it was going to Assad. Not sure if that's the case anymore.
posted by Golden Eternity at 2:35 PM on August 26 [1 favorite]


I suppose that at present they're enjoying the advantageous side of asymmetrical warfare: they can support themselves by "taxing" the countryside they occupy, and low-level violence is relatively cheap. It's only big things like confrontation with other groups that use large quantities of expensive munitions. I don't think any serious force would have difficulty dislodging them from a strategically important place for a while, but how do you stop ISIS returning once your operation is over? The fundamental problem is that they they enjoy local support, and they're willing to kill or expel anyone opposed to them.

Old joke, updated:
Assad rings up his military advisors in Moscow and asks for help. His contact says "Announce that the heroes on the front lines will enjoy plentiful bonuses and bountiful leave." Assad says "I tried that, and they laugh at me."

"Well, then," his contact says, "bomb the crap out of any place that has fallen to the enemy." Assad says "I tried that, but it just increases their resolve."

"OK," his advisor says, "I have one tactic left. It's our best one and it never fails." "Wonderful!" Assad cheers, "Please, what is it?" "Draw the enemy deep, deep into your territory," says the Russian. "Already done," says Assad, "And then what do I do?"

"Wait for winter."
posted by Joe in Australia at 3:04 PM on August 26


Haaretz: World powers see Assad as bulwark against Islamic State
After three years of war and the deaths of more than 170,000 people, Syrian President Bashar Assad is starting to sense a change not just on the Syrian front but in the international arena as well. Last week U.S. President Barack Obama referred to the liquidation of chemical weapons stockpiles as an important achievement, adding that “we are pressuring Assad to desist from committing atrocities against Syria’s population.” This formulation is interesting, in that it doesn’t include a demand for regime change.
---

Bloomberg: Islamic State Now Resembles the Taliban With Oil Fields
The Islamic State, which now controls an area of Iraq and Syria larger than the U.K., may be raising more than $2 million a day in revenue from oil sales, extortion, taxes and smuggling, according to U.S. intelligence officials and anti-terrorism finance experts.
posted by rosswald at 3:38 PM on August 26


Rosswald, that article quotes someone who says that ISIS is earning $2,000,000 daily from oil sales alone, sold for between $25 to $65 per barrel. I'm presuming they aren't using a pipeline, which would be easy to intercept.

Let's take an intermediate price of $50/barrel for their sales. Daily income of $2,000,000 means 40,000 barrels/day, or about 6,400,000 liters. Wikipedia says a fuel tanker truck can take up to around 44,000 liters, so a day's sales amounts to 145 or so trucks - more if they're smaller.

I guess that's possible, but it implies an awfully large and vulnerable fleet - and the evidence of smuggling would be really obvious. If this is going on at these levels, you can bet that every government in the region (as well as the UK, USA and so forth) knows exactly what's going on.
posted by Joe in Australia at 3:57 PM on August 26


ISIS Panic
posted by homunculus at 3:59 PM on August 27


Clare Morgana Gillis, VICE: Our Jim: A Fellow Journalist Remembers James Foley
Freelance journalism is a competitive habitat, peopled mostly by short-tempered anarchists. Yet reporters in conflict zones instinctively team up, gravitating towards colleagues whom we like and trust and eventually love. Jim would be on anyone's team, contributing his signature mix of wit, generosity, compassion, and dedication. He forced those of us who didn't get along — due to some mixture of ego, misunderstandings, and people just being assholes sometimes — to do so. "You don't know what he's been through," he would remark upon hearing the postgame at the bar, where journalists occasionally sniped about each other's behaviors and motivations. Jim saw that everybody had a story, and that even monstrous things come from somewhere human.

Identity, we are told, is a shifting construct — we act one way with family, another at work, differently with lovers and friends and strangers. Jim's unique characteristic is that every story his friends tell makes the rest of us laugh and shake our heads about how we all knew exactly the same man.
Evan Hill, The Atlantic: Corresponding With James Foley

.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 9:01 PM on August 27


Syrian rebel groups have reportedly captured the Quneitra crossing into Israel, and kidnapped the UN peacekeepers stationed there. It's a big problem for everybody, not least the local Syrians. I presume the Syrians receiving clandestine medical treatment in Israel pass through Quneitra; that safety valve may now be closed. Bad times.
posted by Joe in Australia at 6:06 AM on August 28


Another group of UN peacekeepers has escaped into Israel from their position near the border with Israel. It's genuinely not their fault; their equipment and training and (most significantly) their orders constrained their ability to defend themselves. They're peace keepers, not peace makers, and their job is really to separate and calm two somewhat-hostile sides. None the less, I think this demolishes the argument that a UN peacekeeping force stationed between Israel and Gaza would prevent future hostilities: it couldn't; they're not set up for it.
posted by Joe in Australia at 6:34 PM on August 30


I don't want that. I want Israel to take responsibility and use their intelligence services to feed information to the State Police to arrest this criminal gang then give 'em as much due process as they can stand, and if they're found guilty of capital crimes, hang them.

One Nation, With Liberty and JUSTICE FOR ALL.
posted by mikelieman at 7:58 PM on August 30


Caricature of jihad: ISIS becomes target of Arab satire
posted by Joe in Australia at 7:39 PM on September 1


@AnupKaphle: The Islamic State has released a video saying they have beheaded Steven Sotloff.

I'm not seeing this confirmed anywhere, though.
posted by Golden Eternity at 10:06 AM on September 2 [1 favorite]


@140elect: Don't share #ISIS's beheading video, that's what they want. #ISISmediaBlackout RIP Steven Sotloff.
posted by Golden Eternity at 10:58 AM on September 2 [5 favorites]


It's hit the networks now.

I'm not watching it.

They were journalists, not fighters.

.
posted by mochapickle at 11:06 AM on September 2 [1 favorite]


Why I Decided War Reporting Was No Longer Worth the Riskm (Tom A. Peter)
Never before have Americans disliked journalists as much as they do now. Political coverage, which tends to be most contentious—and also to most influence perceptions of the press in general, thanks to its prominence—remains relentlessly even-handed, as a meta analysis of decades of presidential campaign reporting by University of Connecticut professor David D'Alessio has shown. Yet readers believe the opposite. In a 2011 Pew Research Center survey, two-thirds of respondents said that news stories are often inaccurate. About a third said the news media is “not professional.” Forty-two percent described the news media as immoral, with only 38 percent judging the profession as moral.

I met Jim Foley once or twice working in the Middle East, but knew him mostly by his reputation: A friendly, laidback guy who could make people laugh even in the most dire situations. Now that he’s gone, I wish I could believe that such an extraordinary person died striving to inform an American public yearning to know the truth. It’s harder to accept what really happened, which is that he died while people eagerly formed opinions on his profession and the topics he covered without bothering to read the stories he put in front of them.
NPR - Here and Now: After Foley’s Death, Former War Reporter Says It’s Not Worth The Risk
posted by Golden Eternity at 12:36 PM on September 2


In a 2011 Pew Research Center survey, two-thirds of respondents said that news stories are often inaccurate.

Do you or anyone else here disagree with that? Fox News is practically a joke here on Metafilter, and I bet other broadcasters are similarly impugned in other forums. Whenever I've had personal knowledge of newsworthy events I've seen that the reports were either inaccurate or slanted: the reporters came to it with a preconceived story and shot footage to fit it. That doesn't mean that they're fools and scoundrels; they're preparing a product, like the rest of us, and they get paid because they can produce a sufficient quantity of reporting that will attract a sufficiently-large audience.
posted by Joe in Australia at 2:34 PM on September 2 [1 favorite]


I think he is right that most good reporters, for legit news sources - not FOX "News" or other tabloids or whatever, are just trying to get the truth out. Of course they have their own biases, but the anti-media hysteria in the US has almost become like anti-vaccination or anti-GMO agriculture. People don't even look at the data or read the stories; they've already made up their minds and aren't going to change them. If you read a relatively wide range or sources, I think you get a good picture of what is known about something. Of course there still are very large biases. There are journalists I respect highly who are hysterically anti-Obama, or who complain about over-reporting of Gaza and under reporting elsewhere, but who themselves ignore Gaza *completely*. There is also the significant obstacle that in general most people are just full of shit and don't know it. A good journalist is full of shit but knows it, so just focuses on getting the facts out more than anything.
posted by Golden Eternity at 3:03 PM on September 2


Once upon a time, the public had a lot more respect for journalists, because many assumed an objectivity and quality of work that was never ever true. There was no golden period. It's just that today people have become aware of the problems, but don't have the means of judging what is an overreaction and what is legitimate skepticism.

Forget about straight up propaganda from Fox News (I wouldn't dignify calling them journalists). Take your well-meaning reporter who risks life and limb reporting from some region, such as the ME. What are the chances that they're really getting the story, and are not filtering it through their own misinformed perceptions? You say, well, of course, a U.S. born and bred reporter is unlikely to have the kind of background knowledge of a distant region to make accurate judgments about what they're seeing and reporting.

So maybe the solution is something like Al-Jazeera for the ME, local reporters who know the region. Except that doesn't really work either - because we've seen appalling reporting from mainstream U.S. news reporters in the case of Ferguson. We've had the amazing spectacle of independent sources, just ordinary people or participants recording video and doing live minute by minute eyewitness accounts, and then you see mainstream reporting and it's just amazing how often the mainstream reporting is just really bad - wrong information given, misinterpretation, taking the word of the police etc., etc., etc.. And these are American reporters reporting on a city in the U.S.. They still - in great numbers - do a very bad job indeed, so bad it calls into question the worth of following such news. Now you propose to take the same guys and drop them onto another continent into another culture covering complicated events and hope you'll get something that resembles the "truth"? Good luck.

Today we have a variety of media that's accessible to the man in the street, and reporting that can be done by people right there. What are the effects of that? You look at the case of Ferguson, and you lose faith in mainstream reporting. Well, that's accurate to a degree, but an overreaction. Because the grim truth is that 90% of reporters - just as in any walk of life - are incompetent. That still leaves the 10% that's thrown out with the bathwater. It's like the experience I'm sure all of us had: you trust the "expert" in a given field, but if for some reason you become knowledgeable about that field, you realize that the expert often is anything but. This applies to all fields, whether doctors, lawyers, plumbers, car mechanics, IT people, bakers. You trust "car mechanics" until for whatever reason you need to study some aspect of car repair and you realize that that car mechanic you always went to is actually incompetent. And so it's true for everything. When I read AskMefi, I generally nod my head and read with good-natured acceptance - because it deals with something I have no expertise in. But then I read answers in areas I have genuine expertise and I see a ton of very, very bad advice from purported "experts" - and you start to wonder why it is that your trust in experts is in proportion to how much or little you know. It is easy to become cynical - which is what happened in the case of journos and the public. But the truth is that there is always that rare (10%) car mechanic, lawyer, doctor, plumber who is a real gem, and a genuine competent. You treasure those, and discard the rest. But unless you know something about the field, how can you tell them apart? That's the dilemma.

And so it is with journalists. The vast majority are incompetent. They do no research. The research they do they are bad at. There is precious little good investigative work - it probably doesn't pay, and it's easier to just regurgitate whatever you're told, and that's how you get reports from "embedded" journos passing on whatever blather the military or police or whatever the institution wants. People see this, and reject them all. It's an overreaction, but an understandable one.

We need good journalists and reporters. We cannot survive just on local twitter users and new media done by random people. But how do you know you're getting good work from a professional journalist, or getting incompetents?
posted by VikingSword at 4:17 PM on September 2


Islamic State Releases Video Requesting Prisoner Swap With Syrian Government
posted by Golden Eternity at 6:26 PM on September 2


Human sacrafices on holy sand. I look and listen. Where is God? I only see Devil.
posted by humanfont at 6:31 PM on September 2


Meanwhile, everyone is in an uproar over some naked women. Gah, I just don't understand the world anymore.

I am sad for these men and for their families.
posted by jenh526 at 8:05 PM on September 2


Jihadists appear caught offguard by release of Steven Sotloff video - Analyst for US private intelligence firm SITE discovered the video apparently before Islamic State was prepared to release it
posted by Golden Eternity at 11:25 PM on September 2 [1 favorite]


I am sick at heart. These are non-combatants and their deaths are, I say again, obscenities.

They both appear to have been hard working and conscientious journalists (and nice guys too) but even if they were Geraldo Rivera style hacks, their murders are an atrocity.

.
posted by bearwife at 1:05 PM on September 3 [1 favorite]


Islamic State Is Selling Yazidi Women as "Brides" to Fighters
posted by homunculus at 1:19 PM on September 3 [1 favorite]


Here's one reason why people don't trust and often hate journalists:

THE CIA’S MOP-UP MAN: L.A. TIMES REPORTER CLEARED STORIES WITH AGENCY BEFORE PUBLICATION

"“I’m working on a story about congressional oversight of drone strikes that can present a good opportunity for you guys,” Dilanian wrote in one email to a CIA press officer, explaining that what he intended to report would be “reassuring to the public” about CIA drone strikes. In another, after a series of back-and-forth emails about a pending story on CIA operations in Yemen, he sent a full draft of an unpublished report along with the subject line, “does this look better?” "

How many of these scumbags are out there? We are rightly outraged that apparently good cops don't bother exposing bad cops and we all talk about the bad apple that spoils the bunch. Bad journalists give good journalists a bad name - the public unfortunately is not in a position to police them all, so this is the result: a bad reputation for all.

I have never forgotten the constant war mongering during the runup to the Iraq invasion, in so many newspapers, including the supposedly more objective ones like the NYTimes. Today the same thing is happening again wrt. the ME. It makes it very easy to throw out the baby with the bathwater, but, well, there are a lot bad journos out there. It's always been that way (Hearst!), the yellow journalism, jingoism and warmongering, but today we have more tools to see just how craven these people are. Hence the reputational consequences.
posted by VikingSword at 11:17 AM on September 8 [1 favorite]


Fox News is practically a joke here on Metafilter, and I bet other broadcasters are similarly impugned in other forums. Whenever I've had personal knowledge of newsworthy events I've seen that the reports were either inaccurate or slanted: the reporters came to it with a preconceived story and shot footage to fit it. That doesn't mean that they're fools and scoundrels; they're preparing a product, like the rest of us, and they get paid because they can produce a sufficient quantity of reporting that will attract a sufficiently-large audience.

So just scoundrels then?
posted by Sys Rq at 11:36 AM on September 8


Under the cover of #ISIS, #Saudi engages in beheading spree, killing one person each day, including 17 year old girl
posted by jeffburdges at 12:00 PM on September 10


James Foley's mother 'appalled' by U.S. government handling of case
posted by homunculus at 5:21 PM on September 11


Apparently, the U.S. threatened to charge family members with terrorism if they paid the ransom, not sure if that bothers me actually, but worse they gave the impression that freeing him was not in the U.S. strategic interest.
posted by jeffburdges at 2:10 PM on September 12


More on that here: Government Threatened Foley Family Over Ransom Payments, Mother of Slain Journalist Says
posted by homunculus at 2:36 PM on September 12


You know, I'm not sure that this is a bad policy. Leaving aside the fact that ISIS didn't issue a serious ransom demand, or perhaps any demand at all, paying ransoms inevitably increases the market for kidnapping. There's a reason the USA fought a war against the Barbary Pirates rather than acquiescing to their demands.
posted by Joe in Australia at 3:16 AM on September 13


France pays ransoms and as a result there are claims that French citizens are targeted.

It's a PR disaster though, not turning a blind eye to his family privately trying to ransom him.
posted by viggorlijah at 7:29 AM on September 13


Cockburn Impossible War
posted by bukvich at 7:56 AM on September 13


Amusingly, restless_nomad deleted an FPP on the government threatening Foley's mother because "there isn't much to talk about other than to be outraged", which sounds crazy. First, there isn't much outrage per se because we'd mostly support punishing ransom payers. Second, there are legal nuances in that his family obviously should not be guilty of terrorism for paying a ransom because well they aren't committing terrorism. Any real "outrage" is about how our legal system is built on intimidation and fucked up interpretations. And how terrorism shouldn't mean "just whatever the U.S. government doesn't like".

Imho, the best case scenario would've been to expose the government's threat and exploit outrage over the government's thread to publicly crowd source the ransom, likely forcing the DoJ to prosecute them, and then beat the DoJ in court. Way too many ifs there to actually pursue that source however. Anyways, I'd likely favor a law making it a crime to pay, or attempt to pay, a ransom, but you're not committing terrorism when you pay a terrorist ransom, and the fact that the DoJ ever considered it so is fucked up.
posted by jeffburdges at 9:08 AM on September 13


Multinational corporations pay ransoms to privateer kidnappers all the damn time. AIG offers insurance policies for it. If Foley had been an Exxon manager he would have been ransomed.
posted by bukvich at 9:27 AM on September 13 [4 favorites]


A British aid worker is said to have been the latest hostage killed by ISIS.
posted by lalex at 4:00 PM on September 13


David Haines.

.

He was in Syria helping refugees and had been an aid worker for fifteen years. He has two daughters.
posted by mochapickle at 4:07 PM on September 13 [2 favorites]


I find this news depressing.
posted by humanfont at 5:56 PM on September 13


The Committee to Protect Journalists weighs in with an article about the heightened dangers of reporting from Syria, especially as a freelancer.
posted by swerve at 10:28 AM on September 16


This is more conspiratorial than I usually enjoy, but about a year ago people were seriously talking about bombing Iran to delay its nuclear weapons program. Nobody's talking about that any more, and in fact the USA is making advances to it in hopes of winning cooperation in the fight against ISIS. A fight that is largely necessary because of the collapse of the Iraqi army, commanded by officers appointed by an Iran-friendly government; a collapse that was apparently caused by the flight of those officers; and a collapse that allegedly led to the capture of huge amounts of cash and materiel. Things have worked out amazingly well for Iran in every way; you can't even say that it is directly threatened by ISIS itself, because it has Iraq as a buffer and is assured of a free hand in dealing with any attacks, should they eventuate. We may have all been played for suckers.
posted by Joe in Australia at 6:05 PM on September 16


Wow, that's seriously tin-foil hat territory, Joe. Keep in mind several things, the first and foremost being that Iran is fighting a proxy war in Syria, to defend Assad's dictatorship that's threatened by the rebels, foremost among them ISIS. Iran is expending serious energy and resources in that war. ISIS is absolutely the biggest target there for Iran. Second, Iran is expending serious energy and resources in fighting a proxy war against ISIS in Iraq too - I linked to an article about just that, in another thread: Iran fills key role in battling Islamic State in Iraq. Finally a nail in the coffin of that entire conspiracy idea: ISIS wasn't even in existence when Iran started supporting Assad in that civil war, and Iran wasn't involved in that war until Assad started having trouble. The implausibilities in your scenario are really endless: Iran in a very long game of wanting to get the U.S. off its back in the nuclear confrontation would have had to been behind the Syrian rebels arising in the first place, otherwise where is the Sunni uprising coming from - and if that's true then why did they spend so much effort fighting that very Sunni uprising in defending Assad??? - then they'd have to anticipate that a powerful ISIS would arise, then they'd have to anticipate that the war would spill inevitably into Iraq, and in order for this elaborate dastardly plan to work, they'd have had to, years earlier, have degraded Iraqi military for this plan to work and then orchestrated the defeat of this weak army and anticipated ISIS prowess and, and and it's utter, complete and astonishing madness. This is something so out of this world, it's not even in our galaxy or our universe.

Never mind Occams razor - the simple truth is history is full of unanticipated events that nobody can control or foresee. Nowhere is that more true than in the ME. Counterproductive and contradictory policies are yanking us around and we have no sensible overarching strategy for dealing with the ME - all you need is to see it in action in the form of Obama's pathetic 'strategy' against ISIS as he outlined it. This hopeless bumbling is quite inconsistent with the kind of diabolical precision Iran is supposed to have in regard to anticipating the exact way in which the U.S. is going to flail next. No such thing, my friend. It is the West, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States that are responsible for the rise of ISIS (and on some level Assad too, for being a vicious dictator), so no, we don't get to saddle Iran with the responsibility of creating or nurturing the Syrian rebels including ISIS. The fact that it's taking away from our focus on Iran is not Iran's doing - that's entirely 100% our fault and our incompetence. Incidentally, destroying Iraq strengthened Iran immensely. Do we get to blame Iran for having the diabolical ability to have lured GWB into launching a supremely stupid war against Iraq? That makes about as much sense as your suggestion. It is, not to put too fine a point on it - insane.
posted by VikingSword at 10:15 PM on September 16


Wow, that's seriously tin-foil hat territory, Joe.

Heh :-) Yeah, I said it was a bit conspiratorial. I'm not suggesting that it was a finely-focused strategy on Iran's part: all it would have taken was the observation that the chaos in Syria diverted attention from Iran, and that more chaos would probably divert more attention. So if that was all the strategy amounted to, it was enough. But here's a hypothetical longer-term plan:

Let's suppose that Iran's objective is to dominate a continuous Shiite crescent that reaches to the Mediterranean. They already have a huge amount of influence in Lebanon, although mainly in its South; they have a lot of regional influence in Iraq although (as we have seen) it's quite spotty; their influence in Syria is mostly based on a quid-pro-quo deal with Assad that makes them look bad and which might actually disappear if Assad won his war and obtained a substantial amount of other (e.g., Russian) support.

So one strategy is: pour support into the Shiite-friendly Iraqi government, pour support into Assad's government, hope for a direct win in both cases, and hope that Assad doesn't get powerful enough to renege. At that point they're basically where they were four years ago, and the rest of the world is still breathing down their necks about their nuclear weapons.

Or. Let Syria and Iraq fall to pieces (which is basically what's happening) and plan to dominate a contiguous arc of mostly-Shiite successor states. And the thing is, this strategy is really cheap! It practically amounts to doing nothing! It is the equivalent of getting Napoleon to attack during winter: you let Assad continue to fail; you tell "your" officers in Iraq to fall back; you let the Sunni rebels overextend themselves. At that point Jordan is threatened (Israel has said it will defend Jordan); Turkey is threatened (NATO will defend Turkey); everybody is scared about the big bad Sunni rebels. The rebels won't be allowed to continue expansion; they can't, in any event, control swathes of non-Sunni territory indefinitely.

So either Iran is now on the side of the good guys, or at some point things are so chaotic that Iran can step in to openly help its friends in Iraq and its friends in Syria establish breakaway territories. And then it will have a swathe of territories reaching from the Caspian Sea to the Persian Gulf to the Mediterranean and absolutely everybody will want to be Iran's BFFs.
posted by Joe in Australia at 11:16 PM on September 16


A fight that is largely necessary because of the collapse of the Iraqi army,

L. Paul Bremer fucked that up during the first round.
posted by mikelieman at 12:36 AM on September 17


And Maliki re-fucked it up in the last round. Frontline recently did an excellent job of tracing the whole series of fuckups: Losing Iraq.
posted by homunculus at 11:44 AM on September 17


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