Sunday, September 21, 2014

Bombing ISIS Only Feeds "Parasite of War"

Antiwar notes:
"US airstrikes against ISIS in Iraq, far from 'degrading' the organization, are actually giving ISIS a huge shot in the arm, according to FBI Director James Comey, who testified today before Congress.

The US operation seems to be playing directly into ISIS’ hands in many ways, with President Obama’s high-profile speech last Wednesday, promising to escalate the war on ISIS into neighboring Syria, paying off for ISIS in recruitment as well."
And see this.
Reuters reports:
"Islamic State has won new recruits in Syria since President Barack Obama signaled last week that air strikes against the group will be expanded from Iraq to its strongholds in northern and eastern Syria, a group monitoring the war said on Wednesday.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said 162 people had joined Islamic State training camps in Aleppo province since Sept 10, when Obama said he would not hesitate to strike Islamic State in Syria.
The new recruits do not represent a big increase in the size of IS, which is estimated by intelligence agencies at 20,000 to 30,000 fighters in Syria and Iraq. But they do illustrate the risk that U.S.-led efforts to crush Islamic State will end up winning it more followers."
Daniel Ellsberg notes:
"ISIS wants us to attack — it helps recruitment; makes parallel to Vietnam War."
If this sounds na├»ve, remember that Islamic terrorists weren’t even in Iraq until the U.S. invaded that country.

Former Washington Post and HuffPost writer – now with the Intercept – Dan Froomkin explains:
"… experts in the field believe that the recent beheadings of two American journalists and a British aid worker were deliberate acts of provocation, and that ISIS is not just hoping for an American overreaction, but depending on it — perhaps even for its own survival."
Ali Soufan, the former FBI agent who was one of the few heroes of modern American counter-terrorism, tells Mehdi Hasan of the Huffington Post UK:
"They are trying to suck the West into the war with them…. Then they’ll be not only the regional bad boy, but also the bad boy for the global jihadi movement. They can then claim they are in an international war – a modern day Crusade – against all the countries coming to fight them."
What good would that do? According to Soufan:
"[The Islamic State is] fearful of Islamists within [their movement] turning against them... They want to fight the British and the Americans… to unify the extremists within and diminish any kind of meaningful threat within their support base. They are not fearful of secular or moderate people."
Journalist and author Steve Weissman writes for Reader Supported News that Obama is giving ISIS just what it wants:
"… the more jihadis Obama kills, the more Sunnis that Obama recruits to their ranks. Not a winning strategy."
An editorial in the Guardian on Sunday lays out the case for self-control in the immediate aftermath of the third ISIS beheading last week, of British aid worker David Haines:
"The killing of Mr Haines was not an act of revenge. It was an act of provocation. Like the two murders of the American journalists, it was designed to frighten and to inflame. It seems nothing would please ISIS more than for these killings to provoke an intemperate and thoughtless violent reaction from those at whom they are aimed. Such a reaction might, in ISIS' crude and perverse logic, give them public legitimacy as victims rather than as killers. Such things have happened all too often in history. This in itself is a good enough reason for western leaders to have cool reactions."
Matthew Hoh, a former State Department official who resigned in protest in 2009 over U.S. strategy in Afghanistan, responded to ISIS provocation with a provocative headline in his Huffington Post essay: “The Beheadings Are Bait.” He sees a repeat of the invasion of Iraq in 2003, which achieved the goals of radical extremists vastly more than it achieved those of the U.S.:
"… The Islamic State is a parasite of war. Its members and its narrative need war for their personal, organizational and ideological validation and success. That is why the only way to defeat the Islamic State is to take the war away from them."
A few members of Congress have raised concerns about playing into the Islamic State’s hands. Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Wisc.) recently spoke from the House floor, saying:
"We have got to be sure that we are not falling into doing something that could be counterproductive because, clearly, ISIS did that to provoke a reaction, and I think that needs to be a part of the debate we have."
And Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), a member of the House Intelligence Committee, told CNN last month:
"We shouldn’t allow this horrible act to provoke us into doing things that are counterproductive.
There’s nothing that ISIS would like more than having us reintroduce ground troops in Iraq, for example. So we have to be careful not to let this, the horror of this act provoke us to doing things that don’t make sense for us to do and that’s very difficult, but I think it’s extraordinarily important we keep our focus on what we can achieve."
Whether a military response would be exactly what the Islamic State wants was the first question that former CIA Middle East expert Paul Pillar raised when asked earlier this month what sort of questions the press should be pursuing instead of banging the drums for war.

And Juan Cole, the University of Michigan professor and authoritative Middle East blogger, writes that journalists are also getting played, by giving the beheadings too much free media:
"These acts of public brutality against a helpless individual are intended in part to announce that despite their military superiority, Westerners are not 10 feet tall and can be cut down to size. They announce leadership and encourage angry young men to join ISIS rather than one of its many rivals. They also push Western publics to demand reprisals. Reprisals in turn can be used by the radical group as proof to its followers that it really is being unjustly targeted by the big bad superpower. It is a passive aggressive form of terrorism. It seems to me that editors should refuse to play along with this sick game."
Liberals and conservatives agree: Bin Laden won because the West overreacted and indiscriminately bombed and changed regimes all over the Middle East… turning the Arab population against the U.S., and spending trillions in the process.

We’re about to do the same thing in overreacting to ISIS.

Courtesy of Washington's Blog

Saturday, September 20, 2014

The Man Behind the Caliphate

When ISIS was disenfranchised by Al-Qaeda, many pundits predicted that the group would become a shadow of its former self. What many of those pundits failed to consider was: the charismatic power wielded by the mysterious figure behind the world's most powerful terrorist army.

While Osama Bin Laden was a charismatic orator, his successor Ayman al-Zawahiri is more of a theologian, and does not posses overly motivating oratory skills. Moreover, Osama languished in obscurity, existing in the mind of his followers as merely a media personality that would periodically deliver video, and during his last years audio tapes; Zawahiri has followed in the detached, distant mold of his predecessor. Both men are, after all, top targets of the world's last superpower, so it only stands to reason that they would want to remain as isolated from the action as possible.

Not so with Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, a man who was imprisoned at the height of the US occupation of Iraq. At the time of his incarceration at Camp Bucca, Caliph Ibrahim -- as al-Baghdadi is now referred to by his followers -- was deemed to be merely a low-level operative, someone that the US didn't particularly need to keep under tight "surveillance." The public doesn't exactly know what happened to Caliph Ibrahim while he was incarcerated, but it is clear that he made lots of friends, plenty of them former members of Saddam Hussein's Ba'ath Party, and who now form the core of his military power -- many are colonels and lieutenants.

In the same way that California's prisons segregate individuals by ethnic group or by gang affiliation, so did America's prisons in Iraq segregate prisoners by ideology and ethnicity. In the end, America's prisons serve as academies for terrorists and criminals, where they go to become more dangerous and radicalized. America's prisons have a recidivism rate of over 70% when it concerns violent crime, yet we decided to implement the same policies in the land we had just invaded.

Mosul, Iraq
Caliph Ibrahim is the star recidivist, proof that the brutality of our prisons has done good for the world. The Caliph doesn't follow in the mold of Bin Laden and Zawahiri, the man joins the fight according to his followers. After the takeover of Mosul, Iraq this past summer, the Caliph made his first appearance.

Al-Qaeda has never been able to project enough power to the Muslim world at the level that Caliph Ibrahim can; appearing in a city of two million and delivering a sermon in its biggest mosque.

The speech begins at around 12:20
A 21-minute video released by the Islamic State is proof of how firmly the group has established its control over Mosul.  The video begins with the Caliph slowly climbing the stairs to the pulpit. Once he reaches the top he greets everyone and sits down. An Islamic song goes on for three minutes, building anticipation for the sermon. The song praises the basic tenets of Islam while the figure in black cleans his teeth and lips with a miswak, a traditional Islamic alternative to the toothbrush.

Machine gun ready
The camera pans around the mosque, and regular worshipers are visible. Next to a column there is a man in black holding a machine gun, his face is not visible and he appears ready to start firing his weapon at any moment. He is to the right of the Caliph, and appears to be responsible for the last line of protection.

Shifty eyes
On the other side of the column is a man in a headscarf, and he is the only one besides the bodyguard in black who appears to be armed. His face is visible, he seems to be a trusted member of the Caliph's inner circle.

The Caliph then rises and begins exulting Islam, he says that the most dangerous things are "newly invented matters" and that the greatness of fasting and Ramadan would enable all true followers to cleanse themselves of their sins... a month which "brings the opening of the doors of eternal paradise and the shutting of the doors of hellfire and the jailing of devils."

Throughout the speech, his left hand remains at his side, while his right hand moves in an almost methodical manner starting 5 minutes into the speech.

The man in the headscarf scans the room
The figure in black spends the first 7 minutes of his speech exalting the Koran, and how it urges its followers to fight in defense of Allah and for the glory of the religion; only then bringing the issue of his jihad and caliphate into the speech: "I've been tested by Allah in my election as caliph. It's a heavy burden. I'm no better than you," he says.

He then quotes the Koran: "He will surely substitute for them, after their fear, security, for they worship Me... So do not weaken and do not grieve, and you will be superior if you are true believers... Believe in Allah and His Messenger and strive in the cause of Allah with your wealth and your lives... He will forgive for you your sins and admit you to gardens beneath which rivers flow and pleasantness dwells in gardens of perpetual essence . That is the great attainment."

16 minutes into the video, the sermon ends and the Caliph descends to lead prayers. As he passes through the entrance to the pulpit, an IS guard waits to his left, following him when he turns to the right.

The video then cuts to outside shots of the mosque, before cutting to the Caliph leading prayers. It appears that to stand behind the Caliph, one must be a trusted member of a highly secretive circle; the faces of all the men praying behind the Caliph are blurred.

Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi has come a long way: from an American prison in Iraq to
leading a bona fide proto-state. Although previous insurgent Islamists have preferred to keep a low profile, Caliph Ibrahim has a different management style.

He travels well protected -- cell phone networks went down in Mosul during his visit. His speaking style is often emotionless, at times energetic, and he preaches flawlessly and at length in a single breath. No Western politician could get behind a podium and speak with the energy and speed that Caliph Ibrahim commands, lest a comparison be drawn to Hitler.  

And indeed, I do not understand Arabic nor German, but when I watch a speech by Hitler, I get the sense of a man who has mastered the art of transferring emotions and ideas. Caliph Ibrahim appears to have mastered the same art.

Friday, September 19, 2014

What Has Israel Been Up To Since the "Ceasefire?"

Bombardment of Gaza. RT
On August 26, a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas was agreed, bringing a fragile end to a war that killed 2,150 Palestinians (mostly civilians) and 73 Israelis (mostly soldiers.) Since then, Hamas has not fired a single rocket, attacked an Israeli target, or done anything to break the terms of the ceasefire*.

Israel has done the following:

1. Annexed another 1500 acres of West Bank land
2. Seized $56 million of PA tax revenue
3. Not lifted the illegal blockade (as required by the ceasefire)
4. Broken the ceasefire by firing at fishermen on four separate occasions
5. Detained six fishermen
6. Killed a 22-year-old, Issa al Qatari, a week before his wedding
7. Killed 16-year-old Mohammed Sinokrot with a rubber bullet to the head
8. Tortured a prisoner to the point of hospitalization
9. Refused 13 members of the European Parliament entry into Gaza
10. Detained at least 127 people across the West Bank, including a seven-year-old boy in Hebron and two children, aged seven and eight, taken from the courtyard of their house in Silwad; and tear-gassed their mother
11. Continued to hold 33 members of the Palestinian Legislative Council in prison
12. Continued to hold 500 prisoners in administrative detention without charge or trial
13. Destroyed Bedouin homes in Khan al Ahmar, near Jerusalem, leaving 14 people homeless, and unveiled a plan to forcibly move thousands of Bedouin away from Jerusalem into two purpose-built townships
14. Destroyed a dairy factory in Hebron whose profits supported an orphanage
15. Destroyed a family home in Silwan, making five children homeless
16. Destroyed a house in Jerusalem where aid supplies en route to Gaza were being stored
17. Destroyed a well near Hebron
18. Set fire to an olive grove near Hebron
19. Raided a health center and a nursery school in Nablus, causing extensive damage
20. Destroyed a swathe of farmland in Rafah by driving tanks over it
21. Ordered the dismantling of a small monument in Jerusalem to Mohamed Abu Khdeir, murdered in July by an Israeli lynch mob
22. Continued building a vast tunnel network under Jerusalem
23. Stormed the al Aqsa mosque compound with a group of far right settlers
24. Assisted hundreds of settlers in storming Joseph’s Tomb in Nablus
25. Prevented students from entering al Quds University, firing stun grenades and rubber bullets at those who tried to go in
26. Earned unknown millions on reconstruction materials for Gaza, where 100,000 people need their destroyed homes rebuilt. The total bill is estimated at $7.8 billion

Compiled by Omar Robert Hamilton, from the London Review of Books

*On Tuesday, mortar shell fired from Gaza struck Eshkol, southern Israel, causing no injuries or damage. Hamas would later arrest the ones responsible for trying to break the ceasefire.