ISIS, ISIL, Daesh
September 16, 2015 10:31 AM   Subscribe

The Mystery of ISIS
The problem, however, lies not in chronicling the successes of the movement, but in explaining how something so improbable became possible. The explanations so often given for its rise—the anger of Sunni communities, the logistical support provided by other states and groups, the movement’s social media campaigns, its leadership, its tactics, its governance, its revenue streams, and its ability to attract tens of thousands of foreign fighters—fall far short of a convincing theory of the movement’s success.

for clarity and continuity, I will continue to refer to the group as ISIS throughout this post, instead of one of many other names. And be careful when you read the news.

A provocative article says the Islamic State is a mystery. Here’s why that’s wrong.
While this piece may reflect the prevailing mood among former diplomats, political scientists are far less baffled. Many scholars have already stressed the importance of studying the Islamic State in comparative perspective and have shown that the group is far less unique among insurgent organizations in terms of brutality and state-like governance activities in territories it controls than commonly thought. The systematic study of political violence further illuminates three key elements of the perceived “mystery” of the Islamic State: its treatment of civilians, battlefield tactics and broad strategy.
How to think about Islamic State
Returning to Russia from Europe in 1862, Dostoevsky first began to explore at length the very modern torment of ressentiment that the misogynists of Twitter today manifest as much as the dupes of Isis. Russian writers from Pushkin onwards had already probed the peculiar psychology of the “superfluous” man in a semi-westernised society: educated into a sense of hope and entitlement, but rendered adrift by his limited circumstances, and exposed to feelings of weakness, inferiority and envy. Russia, trying to catch up with the west, produced many such spiritually unmoored young men who had a quasi-Byronic conception of freedom, further inflated by German idealism, but the most unpromising conditions in which to realise them.
So who are they recruiting, and Why join Islamic State?
The Lost Pilgrims of the Islamic State
But the significance of Political Pilgrims extends far beyond its immediate subject matter, and its insights may help to illuminate the mentality of that most recent and disconcerting set of pilgrims: namely, the Western migrants to the Islamic State, whose estrangement from their own societies can prime them to idealize the so-called Islamic State and overlook or justify its terrible human-rights abuses.
How One Young Woman Went From Fundamentalist Christian To ISIS Bride

THe Mothers of ISIS
These women are just four of thousands who have lost a child to the Islamic State, also known as ISIS. Since the Syrian civil war began four years ago, some 20,000 foreign nationals have made their way to Syria and Iraq to fight for various radical Islamist factions. Over 3,000 are from Western countries. While some go with their families’ blessing, most leave in secret, taking all sense of normalcy with them. After they’ve gone, their parents are left with a form of grief that is surreal in its specificity. It is sorrow at the loss of a child, it is guilt at what he or she may have done, it is shame in the face of hostility from friends and neighbors, and it is doubt about all the things they realize they did not know about the person whom they brought into the world. Over the last year, dozens of these mothers from around the world have found each other, weaving a strange alliance from their loss. What they want, more than anything, is to make sense of the senselessness of what happened to their children—and, perhaps, for something meaningful to come from their deaths.
One motivating factor for young men to join is The Sex Factor and How ISIS Enshrines A Theology Of Rape and uses it to recruit. Is another that "Muslims [in the West] are being asked to do three mutually incompatible things."? Throw in revenge in source of an outlet.

A young man's journey from a middle-class Cairo neighborhood to the ISIS killing fields in Syria.

So now What Happens To Former ISIS Fighters?
In the last few years, more than four thousand Europeans have abandoned their home countries for the jihadi battlefields of Syria and Iraq, and close to a thousand have quietly returned. Many are questioned by police and intelligence services, but the number of prosecutions among the European Union’s twenty-eight member states remains shockingly low. A memo penned by Gilles de Kerchove, the E.U. Counterterrorism Coördinator, says that, as of December, there had been “around ten convictions” of foreign fighters with European citizenship or residency. “The judicial response,” he noted dryly, “does not reflect the scale of the problem.”
How do they stay funded?
One way is through the sale of archaeological relics, one of the reasons why ISIS is blowing up history. They are also capturing arms, armor and materiel from Iraqi and Syrian depots.Interdicting and Destroying The ISIS Financial Network

How can we understand the political organization of ISIS? Because it's not a terrorist group.
Contesting the Caliphate
While there have been many thoughtful and productive contributions to that debate, the overall discussion was somewhat frustrating. How would we know whether the Islamic State’s ideology resonated with Muslim publics or was authentically Islamic? How would we know whether such resonance mattered? What kind of evidence could (even in principle) prove or disprove such arguments? The participants in the public debate often seem to be talking past one another, with no clear distinction between causal arguments, policy recommendations and normative assertions. It is not simply that observers disagreed about the evidence; it was that they did not agree about what should count as evidence or even whether evidence was needed.
Is ISIS Islamic? How would we know?

'I'm Not a Butcher': An Interview with Islamic State's Architect of Death

And What is the past and future of ISIS?

What is going on now?
Islamic State in Yemen
The Washington Post argues Congress should authorize war against the Islamic State since Obama's plan of limited airstrikes and support for local proxies is not working (except for the Kurds, who have their own struggles with with Turkey)
U.S. Envoy Allen: ‘Remarkable Progress’ Made Against Islamic State, but maybe don't think too much about the 50 intelligence analysts who say their work has been altered to talk up the US' successes. Maybe we should Use Al Qaeda Fighters to Beat ISIS? or One of the five already failed Iraq tactics?


Is the U.S. Ready for an Endless War Against the Islamic State?
The exchange, which came in July during what is likely to be Dempsey’s final visit to Iraq before he steps down in October, captured what top Pentagon brass view as a “generational conflict” against the Islamic State. Despite optimistic assessments from the White House, the generals believe the war will extend far into the future, long after President Barack Obama leaves office.

In an interview with Foreign Policy in July, shortly before stepping down as vice chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Sandy Winnefeld likened the campaign against the Islamic State to the Cold War.

“I do think it’s going to be a generational struggle,” Winnefeld said.

The Army’s outgoing chief of staff, Gen. Ray Odierno, meanwhile, told reporters that “in my mind, ISIS is a 10- to 20-year problem; it’s not a two years problem.”
Thinking About ISIS in Strategic Terms
It is not too late to address this problem, but to simply “defeat” ISIS only removes ISIS governance from the emergent de facto Sunni-Arab state and turns this back into a fragmented mess of competing revolutionary groups; does nothing to address the underlying political driver of revolution; and does much to restore AQs credibility and legitimacy in the region. To get to stability the US must first be willing to abandon our original solution for the region, and frame a new solution that offers a tangible, viable political alternative to Sunni-Arabs that they can actually trust. No small task. But all of that is a bold leap from conventional wisdom, so let me back up a bit and lay some foundation:
The Challenge Of The Islamic State (via Omnivore, more, and more )
This analysis probes the threats and the challenges the Islamic State, which has conquered and currently controls vast swathes across the Iraq-Syria borders, poses to the West and its Middle Eastern allies and examines why the challenges warranted a military response spearheaded by the US. It argues that the Islamic State poses formidable ideational challenges to the West, beyond its military threats to the Middle Eastern states, that question the very base and organizing principles of Western political order and the West’s dominance over the Middle East, what is better dubbed ‘Eurocentrism’ – a concept that articulates and sustains Western claim to universalism. Unless coerced into submission or at least militarily weakened, the IS holds the potential to successfully challenge eurocentric ideas with its own version of Islamic universalism.
posted by the man of twists and turns (63 comments total) 133 users marked this as a favorite
 
Is the U.S. Ready for an Endless War Against-

Hell yeah!
posted by colie at 10:40 AM on September 16, 2015 [14 favorites]


A supposedly non-political comic strip co-written by a Washington Post columnist and his son has oddly come up with the best brief explanation I've found.
posted by oneswellfoop at 10:42 AM on September 16, 2015 [5 favorites]


They used to be called contras.
posted by gorbweaver at 10:42 AM on September 16, 2015 [2 favorites]


In 2003, I heard a number of left commenters speculate that destabilizing the Mideast in a fundamental way, both to serve the interests of Israel and the US MIC, and to create a black hole to shovel vast quantities of tax dollars into, was the true goal of the invasion of Iraq. 12 years out, that only seems more credible.
posted by ryanshepard at 11:10 AM on September 16, 2015 [30 favorites]


Two week out of high school, for reasons personal, I joined the army. There were many many members of the army, and thus a substantial number of reasons that this or that guy joined.
What made ISIS so good militarily early on>? The officers were all from Sadam's army, which America under Bush had disbanded. Nothing like a bunch of military guys losing their jobs to get them together and working again.
As for those who join up from other nations, I assume there are any number of reasons rather than merely one that explains it .
posted by Postroad at 11:12 AM on September 16, 2015 [3 favorites]


If you want to read another huge pile of links, start here.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 11:12 AM on September 16, 2015


Impressive collection of links, IMOTAT, even above your usual standard. Thanks.
posted by benito.strauss at 11:17 AM on September 16, 2015 [3 favorites]


They used to be called contras.

U.S. training helped mold top Islamic State military commander
posted by the man of twists and turns at 11:32 AM on September 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


Great post. Seems like these guys are way more horrible than Hamas or Al Queda precisely because they aren't a political movement--their raison d'etre is a hardline interpretation of the Koran that targets other Muslims way more than it does Topeka Kansas. They are an ideological cancer that needs to be be destroyed. And it will, presumably by its neighbors, eventually, once it stops being useful to the heads of nearby states.

Is that right basically? It seems like "keep bombing the shit out them but don't send a bunch of troops" rarely works but in this case might be the best course of action.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 11:57 AM on September 16, 2015 [2 favorites]


We could just ship them some clocks.
posted by infini at 12:14 PM on September 16, 2015 [4 favorites]


Amazing post which will take hours to appreciate.
In the meantime, I would like to point to Barbara Tuchman's A Distant Mirror, about the middle ages. One of her points is that the leadership - and just about everyone - at the time were very young. She didn't write it, but I thought "Lord of the Flies". This fits very well with the situation right now in the middle east, and with the people who are joining islamist groups world wide.
Young people are not always rational or open for rational argument.
There is nothing at all wrong about youth - often including the opinions of youth in nation building would be immensely effective. But what is going on is the opposite: because the established regimes are ignoring the young, where the population is majority young, they are creating an obvious opposition, who have ISIS as their best alternative.

That said, I had a talk with an Asian student today, and she reminded me of social injustice: in the Middle East countries, the income gap is huge. All of the Islamist groups across the region provide welfare, which is just not available otherwise.

Could we persuade our politically moderate friends to provide basic welfare services, they would be far more succesfull, but from Morocco to Indonesia, politically moderate people have a hard time convincing that welfare is an important part of the social contract. Because they are privileged and will not let go of even an inch of that privilige.
posted by mumimor at 12:26 PM on September 16, 2015 [10 favorites]


its forces finally withdrew after losing an estimated one thousand fighters thanks to some seven hundred US airstrikes

So you send three F-16's in to drop thirty bombs and fire off eighteen air to surface missiles and you knock off 1.4 combatants with all that? And then you repeat 699 more times? I wish the pentagon management was writing my performance reviews. (except for the minor detail that my job would be killing people who never did anything to me of course)

Great post, by the way!
posted by bukvich at 12:37 PM on September 16, 2015 [3 favorites]


It seems like "keep bombing the shit out them but don't send a bunch of troops" rarely works but in this case might be the best course of action.

I have a nagging thought that the deep, current U.S. strategy for the entire region of Iraq/Syria/Kurdistan right now is to maintain a chaotic status quo by bombing and degrading any group that gets too powerful. Keep them fighting each other and they'll stay weak, and won't have the resources to come after us. It has the added advantage of keeping that sweet defense contractor cash flowing.

But perhaps I am too cynical.
posted by vibrotronica at 12:43 PM on September 16, 2015 [2 favorites]


Was that not the entire gist of the PNAC report? Undermine and destabilize as much of the Middle East as possible, rinse and repeat (and don't forget to get the oil).
posted by briank at 1:09 PM on September 16, 2015 [4 favorites]


The article about the Belgian ISIS fighters is fascinating. It sounds like a drop-in war: Head down to Syria for a few months, kidnap and kill, post to Facebook, head back to Belgium.

I'm trying to relate it to any other war I know about, and the only thing that comes to mind as a vague parallel are the roving international bands of routiers in France during the darkest parts of the Hundred Years' War. It's a void of authority into which violent young men swirl... and then sometimes they swirl back out, and go back to their pedestrian existence in the boring leviathans of functioning nation-states.
posted by clawsoon at 1:15 PM on September 16, 2015 [6 favorites]


So you send three F-16's in to drop thirty bombs and fire off eighteen air to surface missiles and you knock off 1.4 combatants with all that? And then you repeat 699 more times? I wish the pentagon management was writing my performance reviews. (except for the minor detail that my job would be killing people who never did anything to me of course)


It's pretty telling when the US military is among the least efficient American government departments at killing people.
posted by srboisvert at 1:16 PM on September 16, 2015 [3 favorites]


they aren't winning anything. they are having some success. a lot different than winning.
posted by Ironmouth at 1:36 PM on September 16, 2015 [2 favorites]


from Morocco to Indonesia, politically moderate people have a hard time convincing that welfare is an important part of the social contract.

Pretty ironic given that helping the poor is one of the five pillars.
posted by IndigoJones at 2:47 PM on September 16, 2015


The articles on sex slavery in ISIS make me think of an earlier Metafilter post on Angeles City in the Philippines. A couple of the articles on ISIS are arguing that the chance to have religiously-sanctioned sex with slaves has been a significant part of the appeal for both international recruits and local fighters, in contrast to the ascetic aesthetic of Al-Qaeda.

For Western men visiting Angeles City, sex with the powerless and under-aged is a routine "benefit" of being part of the world's most powerful imperial system. ISIS, it seems, is attempting to build a proper local empire, with proper imperial sex slavery.
posted by clawsoon at 3:03 PM on September 16, 2015 [5 favorites]


The problem, however, lies not in chronicling the successes of the movement, but in explaining how something so improbable became possible.

If the standard form of cognitive dissonance is spreading a message as absolutely true after the message has been exposed as false, then it can be argued that another form of cognitive dissonance is trying to show that one's religion remains all powerful after it has been exposed as culturally irrelevant in a modern context.
posted by Brian B. at 3:17 PM on September 16, 2015


ISIS has an interesting collection of Military equipment including air power and items are also being brought in through NATO Territory.
Islamists captured some 2,300 armored Humvees—worth over one billion dollars—when it routed Iraqi security forces in Mosul nearly a year ago.
Peter Van Buren, a former US State Department official in Iraq, reported that, in addition, at least 40 M1A2 main battle tanks as well as vast quantities of “small arms and ammunition, including 74,000 machine guns, and as many as 52 M198 howitzer moil gun systems” fell into the hands of the Islamist militia.
Your US tax dollars working for ?
posted by adamvasco at 3:32 PM on September 16, 2015 [5 favorites]


Two thoughts:

1. ISIS seems in many ways to be Al Queda 2.0. It grew out of that organization, and apparently has the same general goals. But while Al Queda tries to be at least somewhat top-down (and open to all Muslims), with a central organization giving orders to affiliates, ISIS seems to be a "whatever works" group. Maybe their tremendous earlier losses in Iraq forced them to rapidly evolve, with the surviving leaders adapting to circumstances by focusing on what they could still achieve. It's that ability to keep going no matter what (long after everyone else wants to stop), not think about the bigger picture, and do whatever it takes to win the next battle that helps them survive.

2. The idea of a caliphate uniting the Middle East that's based upon religious rather than secular law seems to be very powerful and attractive to young Muslims in many nations. It appeals on both a religious and a cultural level as a natural "next step" for Islam, throwing off the vestiges of colonialism and reuniting an empire that was historically one. It's something they're willing to die for, and I think it's going to keep popping up for a long time, even after ISIS is eventually destroyed.
posted by Kevin Street at 3:37 PM on September 16, 2015 [2 favorites]


All of the Islamist groups across the region provide welfare, which is just not available otherwise.

That's true, but that's because they're deliberately creating the conditions in which welfare is needed and then hijacking donations from non-Islamist sources. The only way relief groups can access these places is with the support of government or local militia, which means that those authorities can control the way these supplies are distributed. Sometimes it's explicit: they're forced to leave the supplies with those authorities or pay a "tax". Sometimes it's merely implicit; the relief group distributes the goods themselves, but in an area and to a population that's under the control of an armed group. In every case, though, the donations strengthen their control.

It's been this way from the start of the current international regime, incidentally: I once worked out that in 1950 Jordan got ten percent of its foreign income from relief distributions to refugees. The descendants of those refugees are still receiving foreign aid ...
posted by Joe in Australia at 3:44 PM on September 16, 2015 [4 favorites]


They robbed an iraqi bank that netted them 450mil in US cash.
That alone will put any wannabe fringe group on the radar as every arms merchant in business beats a path to your door.
posted by Fupped Duck at 4:14 PM on September 16, 2015


I think the fundamental problem with defeating ISIS is finding a moderate Sunni force willing to give their lives to take back and hold ISIS territory. Unfortunately this just doesn't really exist in most places, which is understandable. Mosul will probably remain in ISIS hands for a very long time.

Syrians explain why business is booming under ISIS

The ISIS Economy: Crushing Taxes and High Unemployment
posted by Golden Eternity at 4:52 PM on September 16, 2015


God and Mammon: Does Poverty Cause Militant Islam?.
The answer is not what many may think.
posted by adamvasco at 4:54 PM on September 16, 2015 [3 favorites]


Once the US can flood a region with 1,000,000 hummingbird size drones, all equipped with enough firepower to destroy their targets, things will finally "improve" in the ME. Of course, then the government can sick the drones on their own citizenry, so it's a wash, I suppose.

I see no future that I want to be a part of. Perhaps that's how older people rationalize their mortality?
posted by Beholder at 4:55 PM on September 16, 2015 [2 favorites]


That said, I had a talk with an Asian student today, and she reminded me of social injustice: in the Middle East countries, the income gap is huge. All of the Islamist groups across the region provide welfare, which is just not available otherwise.

This is by no means universally true, and in particular the first (income gap) is not connected to the second. Certainly in war-torn states like Yemen, Iraq, etc there is no state welfare, but many if not most of the wealthy gulf states actually have excellent welfare for citizens, and state subsidies on a level that would make Trotsky weep.
posted by smoke at 6:05 PM on September 16, 2015 [2 favorites]


They also tend to be the places without broadly-based social movements or political parties, Islamist or otherwise.
posted by Joe in Australia at 6:16 PM on September 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


One of her points is that the leadership - and just about everyone - at the time were very young

Tuchman also noted (and I think this is equally important) that the leadership of that period also lived in a world where you weren't likely to get old, and where hesitating in the face of threats did not improve your chances. War zones aren't just full of angry young men, they're full of angry young men who don't have a future, and who know it. They can't just walk away and get a job and join mainstream society - although tens of thousands are trying and dying to get just that chance in leaky boats in the Mediterranean, of course. So they're stuck where they are, more or less.

Some find the ISIS package attractive (sexual slavery, mutual help and social recognition, a heroic ideology that matches up at least vaguely with the background environment they grew up in), I imagine many more don't have a whole lot of other options - join a different (less powerful, less well armed) mob, cower in a refugee camp, try to get over a border and into some state where you will be a more or less hated alien and the target of paranoid security services. And of course even those who join up out of necessity eventually find it useful or attractive to just let loose and assimilate.

And of course ISIS actively works to exacerbate this situation - where they are not already the "only game in town", they put forth considerable effort to annihilate other options.
posted by AdamCSnider at 6:24 PM on September 16, 2015 [3 favorites]


many if not most of the wealthy gulf states actually have excellent welfare for citizens, and state subsidies on a level that would make Trotsky weep.
Yeah, if you're considered a person in that state. They also have tremendous numbers of foreign "guest workers" who toil under nightmarish conditions and with little or no protection under the law, who have no eligibility whatsoever for the benefits you describe.
posted by Nerd of the North at 6:53 PM on September 16, 2015 [4 favorites]


The article about the Belgian ISIS fighters is fascinating. It sounds like a drop-in war: Head down to Syria for a few months, kidnap and kill, post to Facebook, head back to Belgium.

I'm trying to relate it to any other war I know about, and the only thing that comes to mind as a vague parallel are the roving international bands of routiers in France during the darkest parts of the Hundred Years' War.


Even more recently, we can look to the Spanish Civil War of 1936-39, where many sides in this conflict are concerned, in particular at the Syria-Turkey border.
posted by Aya Hirano on the Astral Plane at 7:53 PM on September 16, 2015 [4 favorites]


another (part of the) 'solution' perhaps: welcome refugees;* all the normal moderate people over here, all the crazy fundamentalists over there...
posted by kliuless at 10:06 PM on September 16, 2015


Let it be know that revolutionary Iran supported the Contras.
For a while.
posted by clavdivs at 12:34 AM on September 17, 2015 [1 favorite]


The idea of a caliphate uniting the Middle East that's based upon religious rather than secular law seems to be very powerful and attractive to young Muslims in many nations.

Except, in fact, it's not. The number of people, whether you're taking in Morocco or in Malaysia, who think al-Baghdadi has any legitimate claim to the Caliphate are an absolute shrivelled minority.
posted by Jimbob at 1:59 AM on September 17, 2015 [4 favorites]


Thank you very, very, much for this post.
posted by Alex404 at 3:12 AM on September 17, 2015


I'm still working my way through all the links, but yes, thank you very much for this post.
posted by skybluepink at 3:25 AM on September 17, 2015


Even more recently, we can look to the Spanish Civil War of 1936-39...

I was drifting off to sleep last night, and the Spanish Civil War crossed my mind as a great example of a conflict that produced a lot of "war tourism", like this one seems to be doing. So maybe it's much more common than I was thinking in my earlier comment. (I guess we'll see whether this conflict produces its own Hemingway.)

It's interesting that the Spanish Civil War involved young idealists flocking to a clash of brand-new ideas - Communism! Fascism! Anarchism! Liberal Democracy! - while this conflict involves young idealists flocking to both both sides of ideas a millenia or two old.
posted by clawsoon at 7:29 AM on September 17, 2015 [1 favorite]


Except, in fact, it's not. The number of people, whether you're taking in Morocco or in Malaysia, who think al-Baghdadi has any legitimate claim to the Caliphate are an absolute shrivelled minority.

What does legitimacy matter if he's actually doing it? (Or even appears to be doing it in a limited way.) Success at taking and holding territory is what brings in new recruits.
posted by Kevin Street at 11:53 AM on September 17, 2015


Why ISIS Fights
All of these men believed that by travelling to fight for the caliphate, they were standard-bearers of their faith. They also felt sure they were acting to restore Islam to its lost glories – and had a sense of privilege and pride that their generation was the one that had been chosen to right the wrongs of the past. These sentiments are shared by many others I have met: two senior Isis members who have been captured by Iraqi forces and are now facing death sentences; a Syria-based Tunisian fighter who believes his duty is to obey the orders of his superiors with unswerving servility; and even one former member of a mainstream rebel militia, who joined the ranks of his jihadi foes when he realised the battle was turning in their favour.

But they also had myriad other reasons for joining the terror group that had little to do with their understanding of Islamic scripture or any sense of holy war. Some saw themselves as victims of oppression, others as sons of dispossessed families. Another thought of himself as a cultural warrior, not a holy warrior: he argued that joining the jihad was an entirely practical obligation, necessary to restore the caliphate and bring on the prophecy of the end times.

Few were untouched by a yearning for the collective memory of the early centuries of Islam, alongside contemporary grievances about a humiliating loss of power at the hands of the west in recent years. By late 2014, they were all fighting under the banner of the most radical and dangerous jihadi group to have formed in the past 30 years. And Dabiq was now ground zero for their struggle.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 2:43 PM on September 17, 2015 [2 favorites]


Chiming in late to add the following few articles from Gwynne Dyer, who I learned about from a recent thread. He is a journalist who has been covering the Middle East for years, and has some of the best analysis I've come across.

Why ISIS could benefit from al Qaeda lies about Mullah Omar
Turkey joins the war on the Islamic State—sort of
Islamic State massacres aren't really about the West

Those are just the recent articles, there's more here. Not to be missed by anyone who is interested in learning more about this stuff. This passage in particular really changed my perspective on it all:
In fact, it’s not really about the West at all. The European victims on the beach in Sousse were killed in order to destroy the tourism that provides almost 15 percent of Tunisia’s national income, and thereby destabilize the only fully democratic country in the Arab world. The extremists’ real goal is to seize power in Tunisia; the Western victims were just a means to that end.

The bombing of a Shia mosque in Kuwait was intended to increase tensions between the Sunni majority and the large Shia minority in that country, with the ultimate goal of unleashing a Sunni-Shia civil war in which Islamist extremists could take over the Sunni side as they have already done in Syria and Iraq.

Only the lone-wolf attack in France could be conceivably be seen as directed at the “West”—although that might also have been just a personal grievance wrapped up in an Islamist justification.

The rest of the killing was about who controls the Muslim countries, particularly in the Middle East, as it has been from the start. Even 9/11 was about that, designed not to “bring America to its knees” but to lure it into an invasion of Afghanistan that Osama bin Laden believed would stimulate Islamist revolutions in Muslim countries. The Islamists do “hate Western values”, but they have bigger fish to fry at home.

Islamic State and the various incarnations of Al Qaeda (the Nusra Front in Syria, Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, et cetera) pose an existential threat to the non-Sunni Muslim minorities of the Middle East, and even to Sunni Muslims whose beliefs diverge significantly from those of the Islamists. The West should help governments in the region that protect their minorities, and of course it should try to protect its own people.

But this is not the “struggle of our generation” for the West. It should be nowhere near the top of its own list of priorities.
posted by Acey at 2:47 PM on September 17, 2015 [5 favorites]


Acey I think a lot of non americans who had some insight into Bin Laden and his cohorts realized that destabilisation of Muslim states was their big picture game plan. Bin Laden cleverly realized that America would take any attack on its home ground very personally and totally overreact which it dutifully did. The extra bonus of the Iraq invasion must have been better than a wet dream for him.
posted by adamvasco at 5:45 PM on September 17, 2015 [4 favorites]


ISIL Is Winning
posted by the man of twists and turns at 8:47 PM on September 17, 2015 [1 favorite]


the man of twists and turns: “ISIL Is Winning
That's a good article, but I'm curious as to how exactly Hoffman proposes to "defeat ISIL militarily." They may have captured three divisions/ten brigades worth of equipment, but they're unlikely to to form up into brigades and fight.
posted by ob1quixote at 12:16 AM on September 18, 2015


"defeat ISIL militarily."
Bombing probably isn´t going to help and that is the favorite at the moment.
posted by adamvasco at 5:29 AM on September 18, 2015




bukvich
I think this is the link you meant.
One day someone will write the book about how American meddling and greed bought upon this seemingly inevitable cataclysm in another area of the world far far away from Kansas. First S.E Asia and now the Middle East. I am not quite sure when the blow back will happen but it's not going to be pretty.
posted by adamvasco at 6:48 AM on September 19, 2015 [1 favorite]


Thanks adamvasco. I actually did a preview click on that goober.
posted by bukvich at 8:16 AM on September 19, 2015


Wikileaks doc appears to show us plans to destabilize Syria back in 2006.
posted by adamvasco at 5:59 PM on September 19, 2015


That Wikileaks document doesn't really meet expectations. The "plans to destabilize Syria" are pretty weak stuff, mostly giving publicity to critics of the Syrian regime. The only thing that isn't squeaky-clean is
ENCOURAGE RUMORS AND SIGNALS OF EXTERNAL PLOTTING
The regime is intensely sensitive to rumors about coup-plotting and restlessness in the security services and military. Regional allies like Egypt and Saudi Arabia should be encouraged to meet with figures like Khaddam and Rif,at Asad as a way of sending such signals, with appropriate leaking of the meetings afterwards. This again touches on this insular regime,s paranoia and increases the possibility of a self-defeating over-reaction.
This is hardly invasion-of-Grenada territory.
posted by Joe in Australia at 7:46 PM on September 19, 2015






From that article: The defector said he had paid a smuggler to take him to Turkey, where he had to hide from Islamic State informants who prowled towns along the border.

It's not the first time I've heard of ISIS troops operating within Turkey. I have no idea what Erdogan's long game is.
posted by Joe in Australia at 2:19 AM on September 21, 2015 [1 favorite]


Turkey and Qatar had big plans to impose the Muslim Brotherhood throughout the Arab World. I think they saw supporting ISIS to ouster Assad and PYD as a means to that end. Note the Syrian National Coalition is mainly Muslim Brotherhood so they have seemingly succeeded to some extent. A lot of these plans were developed by Davutoglu: Early writings reveal the real Davutoglu

They see secular democracy as foreign to the Arab world and ultimately doomed to fail, and Islamist hegemony as the natural state that the Middle East will ultimately return to. This is a really good discussion of it: Qatar and Turkey: How did it go so wrong so fast?

Supposedly Turkey is cracking down on ISIS and Jabhat al-Nusra in Turkey somewhat now, but it's so hard to tell.
posted by Golden Eternity at 11:30 PM on September 21, 2015 [2 favorites]


At War in the Garden of Eden - "Christian fighters, ISIS invaders, and the fight for Iraq’s Nineveh Plains."
posted by the man of twists and turns at 4:34 PM on September 23, 2015


The Rise of ISIS and the Logic of Fanaticism references Black Flags: The Rise of ISIS
DEXTER FILKINS: Suddenly, you have a complete breakdown of the state in Syria. You have this vast, open space between the two countries. And so these guys, they’re suddenly able to find life.

ALI SOUFAN, FBI Special Agent, 1997-2005: ISIS didn’t become the group that it is today until they went to Syria. Syria is what made ISIS ISIS.

KEN POLLACK: We don’t know how many Al Qaeda in Iraq guys move from Iraq to Syria in the 2011-2012 timeframe. But once they move into Syria, all of a sudden, they’re able to operate once again. All of a sudden, they’re able to recruit once again. Their message gains traction with the Sunnis of Syria, who are looking to wage a civil war against the Shia government.

How ISIS Got Its Flag
Before the group declared itself the caliphate reborn that summer, it had been ambiguous about the flag’s meaning and the cause it represented. Was it the flag of an Islamic state, or the flag of the Islamic state—the caliphate that had once ruled land from Spain to Iran and whose prophesied return would herald the end of the world? The Islamic State encouraged the second interpretation but let the global community of jihadists read into the flag and the “state” what they would. The group’s cause proved so compelling among jihadists that in 2014 the organization supplanted its former master, al-Qaeda. The spread of the flag, then, traces the spread of an idea and chronicles a major changing of the guard in the global jihadist movement.<>
posted by the man of twists and turns at 9:05 AM on September 28, 2015 [2 favorites]


Meet the American Vigilantes Who Are Fighting ISIS
Why were the foreigners there? Some were escaping life back home. Others were old soldiers, trying to fill a void. A few just had delusions of grandeur. They came for the feeling of solidarity, or adventurism, or they came to fulfill a childhood fantasy, to act out some violent adolescent emotion. The youngest fighter was 19, and the oldest, I was told, was 66, a former English teacher from Canada named Peter Douglas. The veterans hoped to kill ISIS fighters and train the locals as they had been trained in the Marines or the Army. The civilians, among them a surf instructor and a philosophy student from the University of Manchester, wanted to learn what they could. They hoped their stamina was enough.
Fighting ISIS Online
“The ISIS social-media campaign is a fundamental game changer in terms of mobilizing people to an extremist cause,” says Amarnath ­Amarasingam, a researcher at the University of Waterloo who is co-directing a study of Western fighters in Syria. “You are seeing foreign fighters from 80 or 90 countries. In terms of numbers and diversity, it has been quite stunning.” As Google’s policy director, ­Victoria Grand, told a conference in Europe in June: “ISIS is having a viral moment on social media, and the countervailing viewpoints are nowhere near strong enough to oppose them.”
posted by the man of twists and turns at 10:46 AM on September 30, 2015 [2 favorites]






In its choice of allies in the battle against IS, the U.S. is showing that defeating the jihadists might in fact not be its number one priority.
posted by adamvasco at 4:43 PM on October 9, 2015 [1 favorite]




ISIS & the psycho-nightmare of US Middle East “policy”.
Where on the spectrum of reality does ISIS belong? That multi-million dollar oil-exporting & antiquity-smuggling “Caliphate”. With $2 billion dollars in bank accounts the CIA can analyse but not freeze. ISIS with a convoy of oil trucks 2km long the US air force can’t bomb. ISIS with the “slick and sophisticated media department” that turns out high quality, professional, recruitment vids and films of real or not so real violence. ISIS, “gaming Twitter” with their official app, available through Google Play store for three months, until public outrage closed it down. ISIS, the designer terrorists, with their brand-saturation logo, and their endless stream of slick promo pics, often in matching trucks. ISIS, taking time out to Photoshop Twitter pix even in the midst of “battlefield setbacks” in their “desert strongholds”.
posted by adamvasco at 5:20 AM on October 10, 2015


Q & A with the “Mosul Eye” Historian
How has life in the city changed?

Everything has changed. Gender segregation is imposed everywhere; women are forced to veil their faces, and men must wear long beards. There is a wave of radicalization among young children, which parents are unable to do anything against. Young people are learning a radical ideology even more extremist than that of the current example. Still amid this rise of radicalism, there is a hidden countervailing rise in atheism. People have started to ask questions like “Is God happy with all this killing?” or “Is Islam a problem?” Some have concluded that atheism is the only way to liberate the city.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 10:51 PM on October 14, 2015


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