Category Archives: Iraq

Declassified JCS report shows U.S. invaded Iraq based on flimsy evidence of Iraqi WMDs

The Iraq War was a protracted armed conflict that began with the invasion of Iraq on March 20, 2003, 1½ years after the traumatic 9/11 attacks, by a U.S.-led coalition.

The invasion began with a “shock and awe” bombing campaign. Iraqi forces were quickly overwhelmed as U.S. forces swept through the country. The invasion led to the collapse of the Ba’athist government of Saddam Hussein, who was captured in December 2003 and executed by a military court three years later.

But the war continued for much of the next decade as an insurgency emerged to oppose the occupying forces and the post-invasion Iraqi government. Worse still, Saddam’s former military officers morphed into ISIS, which became the Islamic State. (See Blowback: ISIS leaders are former officers of Saddam Hussein’s army”) After officially withdrawing from Iraq in 2011, the United States became re-involved in 2014 as the Iraqi government proved itself unable to cope with ISIS.

The George W. Bush administration based its rationale for war principally on the assertion that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) — yellow-cake uranium poison gas, biological weapons — and that Saddam’s government posed an immediate threat to the United States and its coalition allies. Saddam was also accused of of harboring and supporting al-Qaeda, the terrorist group identified as the instigator of 9/11.

The rationale for the Iraq War has since been discredited. But a newly-declassified report to the then-Joint Chiefs of Staff provides even more evidence that the Bush administration went to war with, at best, flimsy evidence of Iraq’s WMDs.

Donald Rumsfeld, Secretary of Defense 2001-2006John Walcott, adjunct professor in the Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University, reports for Politico, Jan. 24, 2016, that on September 9, 2002, as the Bush administration began its public-opinion campaign for an invasion of Iraq, a classified report from Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld landed on the desk of the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS), Air Force General Richard Myers.

The report began with these words:

“Please take a look at this material as to what we don’t know about WMD. It is big.”

The report was an inventory of what U.S. intelligence didn’t know about Iraqi weapons of mass destruction. The report admitted that what the U.S. didn’t know about Iraq’s WMD program ranged from 0% to about 75%While the threat posed by a nuclear-armed Iraq was at the heart of the administration’s case for war, the JCS report conceded that:

“Our knowledge of the Iraqi (nuclear) weapons program is based largely—perhaps 90%—on analysis of imprecise intelligence.”

Myers already knew about the report because the Joint Staff’s director for intelligence had prepared it. Clearly, Rumsfeld’s urgent tone conveyed how seriously he viewed the report’s potential to undermine the Bush administration’s case for war.

But neither Rumsfeld nor Myers shared the 8-page report with key members of the administration such as then-Secretary of State Colin Powell or top officials at the CIA, according to multiple sources at the State Department, White House and CIA who agreed to speak on condition of anonymity. Instead, the report disappeared, and with it a potentially powerful counter-narrative to the administration’s argument that Saddam Hussein’s nuclear, chemical and biological weapons posed a grave threat to the U.S. and its allies, which was beginning to gain traction in major news outlets, led by the New York Times.

A month after Rumsfeld’s note to Myers, on October 7, 2002, Bush appeared at a VFW hall in Cincinnati, where he declared without reservation: Iraq “possesses and produces chemical and biological weapons. It is seeking nuclear weapons.” In February 2003, Powell appeared before the UN General Assembly to make the administration’s case, with CIA Director George Tenet sitting behind him:

“My colleagues, every statement I make today is backed up by sources, solid sources. These are not assertions. What were giving you are facts and conclusions based on solid intelligence.

Below are screenshots of the 8-page report, preceded by Rumsfeld’s memo to Myers, and Director for Intelligence Major Gen. Glen Shaffer’s memo to the JCS (source: Politico). I supplied the red-color emphasis.

Iraq report Rumsfeld memo to MyersIraq report Rumsfeld memo to Myers1Iraq WMD1Iraq WMD2Iraq WMD3Iraq WMD4Iraq WMD5Iraq WMD6Iraq WMD7Iraq WMD8Altogether, the Iraq War exacted a toll of hundreds of thousands in casualties:

  • An estimated 151,000 to 600,000 Iraqis were killed in the first 3–4 years of conflict.
  • 6,045 Americans were killed: 4,491 soldiers; 1,554 contractors. Additionally, 76,106 Americans were wounded: 32,226 soldiers; 43,880 contractors.

The Iraq War cost the U.S. government more than $845 billion — $720 million a day, if one takes into account the long-term health care for veterans, interest on debt and replacement of military hardware, according to Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph E. Stiglitz and Harvard public finance professor Linda Bilmes.

The Bush administration justified the invasion of Iraq on the basis that Saddam’s Iraq posed a clear and present threat to the security of the United States because they had Weapons of Mass Destruction. But it turns out that both the U.S. Defense Secretary and the Joint Chiefs of Staff knew U.S. intelligence did not support that claim in that there was no hard evidence of Iraqi WMDs.

Meanwhile, Senate Republicans are fast-tracking a resolution to give Obama unlimited war-making powers — unrestricted in time or geography.

See also:

-StMA

Islamic State says Muslims can cannibalize and harvest organs from live non-Muslims

First, an imam named Yasir Qadhi,who also is a college professor in Tennessee, says Muslims can take the property of Christians and Jews.

Note: An imam is an Islamic leadership position. For Shia or Shi’ite Muslims, imams are infallible.

Now, the Islamic State (aka ISIS or ISIL) proclaims that, to save the life of a Muslim, Islamic law permits cannibalizing and taking the organs of “apostates,” who include non-Muslims.

The source of this revolting news is a January 31, 2015 memorandum issued by the ISIL Committee of Research and Fatwas, which was captured by U.S. special forces in Syria in May 2015. The committee reports directly to Islamic State leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

A fatwa is a legal opinion given by a qualified Islamic jurist or mufti on issues pertaining to the Islamic law or sharia. The fatwa in question is Fatwa No. 68.

The news agency Reuters reports on Dec. 25, 2015, that U.S. officials say the document was among a trove of data and other information obtained by U.S. special forces in a raid in eastern Syria in May. The memo does not define “apostate,” though the Islamic State has killed or imprisoned non-Muslims, such as Christians, as well as Muslims who don’t follow Islamic State’s extremist views.

Below is the U.S. government’s translation of the memorandum in its entirety (words in bold are the memo’s; I supplied the dark red color for certain phrases). You can also read the memo for yourself in PDF here.

ISIL COMMITTEE OF RESEARCH AND FATWAS
FATWAS NO. 61, 62, and 64-68

[Page 7 of 9]

The Islamic State
The Research and Fatwa Committee
In the Name of Allah the Most Merciful, the Most Compassionate
Fatwa Number: 68
Date: 31 JAN 2015

Question: Is it permissible to take the captured apostate’s body organs and give them to Muslims who are in need of them?

There is no doubt that the Muslim hospitals are overwhelmed with diseases that are incurable by doctors and harsh on the patients, such as heart and renal diseases and other fatal or degenerative diseases.

Allah Almighty knows best what is right and what is wrong and there is evidence from texts and Islamic principles and laws supporting the notion that transplanting healthy organs from an apostate’s body into a Muslim’s body in order to save the latter’s life or replace a damaged organ with it is permissible.

Allah Almighty said [TC: Verse 5:32 from the Koran] {if anyone saved a life, it would be as if he saved the life of the whole people}. One notices that the context of this verse is general and covers all scenarios of saving the lives of believers including transplanting organs. Saving a Muslim from death or deterioration is an Islamic legal duty that should be performed with every legitimate way or financial means.

The jurists of the Shafi’i and Hanbali schools and others permitted, when necessary, the killing of the infidel combatant or the apostate should one need to consume their flesh for the purpose of saving his own life. [TC: the author cites texts written by the Imam al-Nawawi, an Islamic scholar, on the legitimacy of killing the infidel fighters and apostates and eating them.]

If the jurists had permitted, when necessary, the consumption of human flesh as a means counter to death or harm, then it is even more appropriate to transplant of organs from the apostate to the Muslim to save the life of the latter. This is especially the case since it was ruled that the apostate’s life and organs are not protected. On the contrary, the apostate’s life and organs don’t have to be respected and may be taken with impunity. Based on aforementioned, the categories of the apostate’s organs are broken down into the following cases:
1-The rule is applicable to organs that could be put to use in both cases–pre and post-mortem.
2-The organs that can only be used pre-mortem, and those are divided into two groups:
a- Organs the removal of which would not be fatal: It is not prohibited to remove this type of organs from a living body as death would defeat the purpose.
b- Organs that end the captive’s life if removed: The removal of that type is also not prohibited, even if it is fatal for the captive. A group of Islamic scholars have permitted, if necessary, one to kill the apostate in order to eat his flesh which is part of benefitting from his body. This encompasses everything that is needed to be taken from the apostate’s body.

The permission to transplant an apostate’s organs into a Muslim’s body facilitates, alleviates, and removes the difficulties endured by Muslims is corroborated by a reason strongly rooted in the pure Sharia. Allah Almighty says [TC: Verses follow from the Koran] {Allah intends every facility for you; He does not want to put to difficulties}. He says: {Allah doth wish to lighten your (difficulties): For man was created Weak (in flesh)}. He says: {Allah doth not wish to place you in a difficulty}. He says: {has imposed no difficulties on you in religion}. Allah Almighty knows best.

Stamp:

stamp of ISIL Committee of Research & Fatwas

The Islamic State
The Caliphate State
The Research and Fatwa Committee

(End of translation)

Reuters claims that although the memo is “raising concerns that the violent extremist group may be trafficking in body parts,” there is no evidence to support the notion that it has already done so.

However, Iraq has accused Islamic State of harvesting human organs and trafficking them for profit. Iraq’s ambassador to the UN, Mohamed Ali Alhakim, told Reuters the documents should be examined by the U.N. Security Council as evidence that Islamic State could be trafficking in organs to raise cash.

According to Brett McGurk, Special Presidential Envoy for the Global Coalition to Counter ISIL, the Special Ops raid in May, which resulted in the death of Islamic State top financial official Abu Sayyaf and the capture of his wife, also netted 7 terabytes of data in the form of computer hard drives, thumb drives, CDs, DVDs and papers. 

See also:

Israel aids Muslim jihadists in Syria with weapons, air strikes, and medical care for the wounded

5 years ago, on December 18, 2010, a popular uprising in Tunisia began a wave of protests, demonstrations, riots and civil wars in the Arab world which the West enthusiastically praised and romanticized by calling the convulsions “Arab Spring.

By the end of February 2012, rulers had been forced from power in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, and Yemen; civil uprisings had erupted in Bahrain and Syria; major protests had broken out in Algeria, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Morocco, and Sudan; and minor protests had occurred in Mauritania, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Djibouti, Western Sahara, and Palestine.

Instead of the West’s expectation that the convulsions heralded a springtime for democracy in the Arab world, what resulted was the electoral success of Islamist parties, most notably the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. All of which led some to characterize the convulsions as an Islamist Winter.

The on-going civil war in Syria between so-called “Syrian rebels” and the duly elected Ba’athist government of Bashar al-Assad had begun as “Arab Spring” civil uprisings in the spring of 2011.

In 2013, the Obama administration, together with Senate Republicans like John McCain, had agitated for a war to topple Assad. (See “Pulitzer-award journalist says Obama admin made up intelligence for war on Syria“)

Since then, the United States has continued to provide aid in training and weapons to the “Syrian rebels” hellbent on overthrowing the Assad government — the main opponent of ISIS or Islamic State in Syria. (See “CIA expands Obama-approved training of Syrian militants”)

The Obama administration insists that only “moderate” rebels are aided, but it is a known fact that those insurgents include al-Qaeda and ISIS. If Assad is overthrown, the overwhelming likelihood is that Syria will descend into chaos, with the apocalyptic and brutal Islamic State eventually seizing political power. (See “Despite months of U.S. air strikes, ISIS now controls a third of Syria“)

And now, with the Russian and Chinese military aiding Assad, the stakes are raised even higher, transforming Syria into an arena for a WWIII between superpowers.

None of that is in the interests of the United States, or so a rational person would think.

A little-reported and little-publicized fact is that Israel is exacerbating the descent of Syria into chaos by providing so-called Syrian “rebels” with:

1. free medical care to wounded “rebels”

Foreign Policy reports that according to a United Nations report, Syrian “rebels” have transported scores of wounded Syrians across a cease-fire line that has separated Israel from Syria since 1974. Once in Israel, they receive medical treatment in a field clinic before being sent back to Syria to continue their civil war against Assad. 

Daily Mail journalists embedded with Israeli troops report:

Almost every night, Israeli troops run secret missions to save the lives of Syrian fighters, all of whom are sworn enemies of the Jewish state…. Analysts suggest the Jewish state has in fact struck a deadly ‘deal with the devil’ – offering support to the Sunni militants who fight the Syrian ruler Assad in the hope of containing its arch enemies Hezbollah and Iran…. Many of the casualties rescued by Israel belong to Salafist groups …. Some may be members of Jabhat al-Nusra, a Syrian group affiliated to Al Qaeda that has kidnapped scores of UN peacekeeping troops in this area, and has massacred Christians deeper in Syria…. In the three years that Israel has been running these operations, it has saved the lives of more than 2,000 Syrians – at least 80 per cent of whom are male and of fighting age – at a cost of 50 million shekels (£8.7 million)…. 

2. Weapons

Israel is also providing weapons to those Syrian “rebels”.

The Times of Israel reports that Sharif As-Safouri, the commander of the Free Syrian Army’s Al-Haramein Battalion, who was arrested on July 22 by the al-Qaeda-affiliated Al-Nusra Front near the Israeli border, told his captors he collaborated with Israel in return for medical and military support.

Safouri can be seen in the video above admitting to having entered Israel five times to meet with Israeli officers who later provided him with Soviet anti-tank weapons and light arms:

“The [opposition] factions would receive support and send the injured in [to Israel] on condition that the Israeli fence area is secured. No person was allowed to come near the fence without prior coordination with Israel authorities.”

Safouri said that at first he met with an Israeli officer named Ashraf at the border and was given an Israeli cellular phone. He later met with another officer named Younis and with the two men’s commander, Abu Daoud. In total, Safouri said he entered Israel five times for meetings that took place in Tiberias. Following the meetings, Israel began providing Safouri and his men with “basic medical support and clothes” as well as weapons, which included 30 Russian [rifles], 10 RPG launchers with 47 rockets, and 48,000 5.56 millimeter bullets.

3. Bombing Syria

The Guardian reports that the Syrian government claimed that, on Dec. 7, 2015, Israeli jets bombed two installations in Syria, one near the capital, Damascus, and the second in a town near the Lebanese border.

The report by Syrian state television described the attack as “an aggression”. The state news agency Sana said: “The Israeli enemy attacked Syria by targeting two safe areas in Damascus province, namely the Dimas area and the area of Damascus international airport.”

No casualties were reported and there was no immediate comment from Israeli officials.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a UK-based group that monitors the country’s civil war through a network of activists on the ground, said the strike near the Damascus airport hit a warehouse, and it was unclear what was in the building. The target of the strikes might have been advanced Russian-made S300 surface-to-air missiles.

The December 7 bombings are not the first Israeli air strikes in Syria. Israel has carried out several air strikes in Syria since the revolt against the Assad government began in March 2011. In June 2015, Israel struck targets inside Syria, including a military installation, following a cross-border attack that killed an Israeli teenager. Israel said at the time that it had struck nine military targets inside Syria and had confirmed “direct hits”.

Why

George Washington writes for ZeroHedge, Dec. 14, 2015, that although Israel claims to be in a mortal struggle with Islamic terrorists, apparently some Islamic terrorists — Sunnis — are better than others.

Michael Stephens, Research Fellow for Middle East Studies at the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI), explains:

“Above all, Israel wants to prevent Hezbollah from gaining control on the other side of the border. The Sunni militants are fighting Hezbollah, so for now they share the same objectives as Israel. That’s why we’re seeing this odd cooperation between people who would be enemies under any other circumstances.”

Indeed, an Israeli spokesman confirmed that no medical support has been provided to any militants from the Shia (or Shi’ite) alliance.

Kamal Alam, research analyst at RUSI and an expert in Syrian affairs, said:

“From an Israeli viewpoint, it’s a case of my enemy’s enemy is my friend. There is no one they can trust in the Syrian quagmire, but if you get rid of Hezbollah, that’s the end of Iran in the region. Israel’s main aim has to be to eliminate Hezbollah – and whoever takes on Hezbollah is an uneasy but necessary ally. [But in] giving medical support to these fighters, Israel has done a deal with the devil.

In fact, Israel has made no secret of the fact that it prefers ISIS and Al Qaeda to the Iranian backed terrorist groups Hamas and Hezbollah. In September 2013, outgoing Israeli Ambassador to the United States Michael Oren, then a close adviser to Prime Minister Netanyahu, told The Jerusalem Post in an interview:

“The greatest danger to Israel is by the strategic arc that extends from Tehran, to Damascus to Beirut. And we saw the Assad regime as the keystone in that arc.… We always wanted Bashar Assad to go, we always preferred the bad guys who weren’t backed by Iran to the bad guys who were backed by Iran.

He said this was the case even if the “bad guys” were affiliated with Al-Qaeda.

In June 2014, speaking at an Aspen Institute conference, Oren extended Israel’s preference to include the apocalyptic Islamic State or ISIS. He said: “From Israel’s perspective, if there’s got to be an evil that’s got to prevail, let the Sunni evil prevail.”

Washington’s Blog points out that Israel’s support for al-Qaeda and Islamic State isn’t just about Iran or Shia Muslims. Israel decided long ago to break up Syria and Iraq into numerous mini-states, in part because a compliant government in Syria would allow Israel’s pipelines to win out over competing pipelines.

All of which would explain why, as Reuters puts it, “Israel loses no sleep over Islamic State”. Reuters’ Dimi Reider writes:

At first sight, it seems that Israel is just as preoccupied with the rise of Islamic State as anyone else….

Still, Israel remains the least concerned and least directly threatened country in a region increasingly rocked by Islamic State’s advance. It certainly does not see the group as an external threat. Shocking though the events in Syria and Iraq are, Israel is far beyond the range of even the most sophisticated of Islamic State’s weapons. The group’s immediate territorial interests do not extend to anywhere near Israeli borders, and its support in areas adjacent to Israel is still negligible.  What’s more, unlike many militant groups and states in the region, Islamic State has declared itself emphatically disinterested in intervening in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, preferring instead to draw its support from Sunni revanchism and introducing a semblance of order into war-torn regions of Iraq.

Islamic State also does not yet pose an internal threat to Israel. Unlike most countries bordering Syria, Israel has not been politically or demographically unsettled by the civil war there….

Even attempts by Israeli centrists and the U.S. to tie progress in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process to the fight against Islamic State have left Israel unmoved…. Israel has been able to extract some short-term gains from unfolding catastrophe. With the West again mobilizing against a radical Islamist group, Netanyahu find himself on the familiar turf of the “war on terror.” He is capitalizing on this by trying to equate Palestinian nationalism — especially the religious wing of it — with Islamic State at every conceivable opportunity….

More shockingly, there are some who say ISIS, which became the Islamic State, was a creation of Israel:

The 97-year-old wire service Jewish Telegraphic Agency reported on Aug. 13, 2014:

A senior employee of the Dutch Justice Ministry said the jihadist group ISIS was created by Zionists seeking to give Islam a bad reputation.

Yasmina Haifi, a project leader at the ministry’s National Cyber Security Center, made the assertion Wednesday on Twitter, the De Telegraaf daily reported.

“ISIS has nothing to do with Islam. It’s part of a plan by Zionists who are deliberately trying to blacken Islam’s name,” wrote Haifi, who described herself on the social network LinkedIn as an activist for the Dutch Labor Party, or PvdA.

Haifi later removed her original message, explaining, “I realize the political sensitivity in connection with my work. That was not my intention.”

Blogger George Washington of ZeroHedge asks: “Perhaps that’s why ISIS, Al Nusra and the other Islamic terrorists in Syria haven’t tried to lay a glove on Israel?” He points out the following disturbing facts:

Writing for Consortiumnews.com, Robert Parry warns:

The Saudi-Israeli alliance has gone on the offensive, ramping up a “regime change” war in Syria and, in effect, promoting a military victory for Al-Qaeda or its spinoff, the Islamic State. But the consequences of that victory could toll the final bell for the American Republic….

As much fun as the “who lost Syria” finger-pointing would be, it would soon give way to the horror of what would likely unfold in Syria with either Al-Qaeda’s Nusra Front or the spin-off Islamic State in charge – or possibly a coalition of the two with Al-Qaeda using its new base to plot terror attacks on the West while the Islamic State engaged in its favorite pastime, those YouTube decapitations of infidels….

Such a spectacle would be hard for the world to watch and there would be demands on President Obama or his successor to “do something.” But realistic options would be few, with a shattered and scattered Syrian army no longer a viable force capable of driving the terrorists from power.

The remaining option would be to send in the American military, perhaps with some European allies, to try to dislodge Al-Qaeda and/or the Islamic State. But the prospects for success would be slim. The goal of conquering Syria – and possibly re-conquering much of Iraq as well – would be costly, bloody and almost certainly futile.

The further diversion of resources and manpower from America’s domestic needs also would fuel the growing social discontent in major U.S. cities…. A new war in the Middle East would accelerate America’s descent into bankruptcy and a dystopian police state.

The last embers of the American Republic would fade. In its place would be endless war and a single-minded devotion to security. The National Security Agency already has in place the surveillance capabilities to ensure that any civil resistance could be thwarted.

See also:

-StMA

50+ U.S. intelligence analysts accuse Pentagon of altering their reports to present distorted rosy view of war against ISIS

Gen. Lloyd J. Austin III, commander of Centcom

Shane Harris and Nancy Youssef report for The Daily Beast, Sept 9, 2015, that more than 50 intelligence analysts of the U.S. military’s Central Command (Centcom) formally complained that their reports on ISIS/Islamic State and al Qaeda’s branch in Syria were being altered by senior officials to present the terrorist groups as weaker than the analysts had portrayed.

The analysts are paid to give their honest assessment, based on facts, and not to be influenced by national-level policy. Assigned to work at Centcom and the U.S. military’s command for the Middle East and Central Asia, they are officially employed by the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA). Ironically, the DIA was created to be immune from the pressures and biases of the officers leading the war, but the agency is supervised by officers at Centcom.

The analysts’ complaints prompted the Pentagon’s inspector general to open an investigation into the alleged manipulation of intelligence.

The fact that so many people complained suggests there are deep-rooted, systemic problems in how the U.S. military command, charged with the war against the Islamic State, assesses intelligence. One defense official called it a “cancer…within the senior level of the intelligence command.”

In July 2015, two senior analysts at Centcom signed a written complaint to the Defense Department inspector general alleging that the reports, some of which were briefed to President Obama, portrayed the terror groups as weaker than the analysts believe they are. The reports were changed by Centcom higher-ups to adhere to the Obama administration’s public line that the U.S. is winning the battle against ISIS and al Nusra, al Qaeda’s branch in Syria, the analysts claim.

In recent months, members of the Obama administration have sought to paint the fight against ISIS in rosy hues—despite the latter’s seizure of major cities like Mosul and Fallujah. As examples:

  • In March, Secretary of State John Kerry said, “I am confident that over time, we will beat, we will, indeed, degrade and ultimately destroy ISIL,” the Obama administration’s preferred acronym for the group.
  • Obama said in May, “No, I don’t think we’re losing.”
  • In July, John Allen, the retired Marine general charged with coordinating the ISIS campaign, outright declared, “ISIS is losing.”

The written complaint was supported by 50 other analysts, who are willing and able to back up the substance of the allegations with concrete examples. Some of the analysts had complained about politicizing of intelligence reports for months. That’s according to 11 individuals who are knowledgeable about the details of the report and who spoke to The Daily Beast on condition of anonymity.

The allegations echoed previous charges that political appointees and senior officials cherry-picked intelligence about Iraq’s supposed weapons program in 2002 and 2003.

Some of those CENTCOM analysts described the sizeable cadre of protesting analysts as a “revolt” by intelligence professionals. The analysts accused senior-level leaders, including the director of intelligence and his deputy in CENTCOM, of changing their analyses to be more in line with the Obama administration’s public contention that the fight against ISIS and al Qaeda is making progress. The analysts take a more pessimistic view about how military efforts to destroy the groups are going.

The complaints allege that in some cases key elements of intelligence reports were removed, resulting in a document that didn’t accurately capture the analysts’ conclusions. The complaints also accuse some senior leaders at CENTCOM of creating a “Stalinist” unprofessional work environment. Many described a climate in which analysts felt they could not give a candid assessment of the situation in Iraq and Syria. Some felt it was a product of commanders protecting their career advancement by putting the best spin on the war.

Reports by analysts which were too negative in their assessment of the war were sent back down the chain of the command or not shared up the chain. Others, aware of “the climate around them,” censored themselves so that their reports affirmed already-held beliefs.

Two of the officials who spoke to The Daily Beast said that analysts began airing their complaints last October in an effort to address the issue internally and only went to the inspector general when that effort failed. Some of those who complained were urged to retire; some agreed to leave.

Yet a growing group of intelligence analysts persisted with their complaints. For some, who have served at CENTCOM for more than a decade, scars remained from the run-up to the 2003 war in Iraq, when poorly written intelligence reports suggesting Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, when it did not, formed the basis of the George W. Bush administration’s case for war.

According to a report by the New York Times on Sept. 15, 2015, it is highly unusual that an investigation would be opened about the intelligence conclusions in an ongoing war.

The Pentagon’s inspector general is focusing on senior intelligence officials who supervise dozens of military and civilian analysts at Centcom, which oversees American military operations against ISIS. Bridget Serchak, a spokeswoman for the Pentagon’s inspector general, said in an email, “The investigation will address whether there was any falsification, distortion, delay, suppression or improper modification of intelligence information,” as well as examine any “personal accountability for any misconduct or failure to follow established processes.”

Obama to let in 10,000 Syrian refugees despite no way of identifying terrorists

Obama’s policy and conduct in the Middle East are nothing but a disaster.

The disaster began with his celebration of the so-called Arab Spring that brought the radical Muslim Brotherhood (MB) into power in Egypt and replaced the Khadaffi regime with chaos in Libya.

Then the premature withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq brought instead a new lethal threat of ISIS that now, as the Islamic State, controls a broad swath across Iraq and Syria. (See Blowback: ISIS leaders are former officers of Saddam Hussein’s army”)

Meanwhile, Obama is determined to do the same to Syria by arming and training so-called rebels who are every bit as extreme as the MB and ISIS, to topple the Assad government, under which Syrian Christians and Muslims had lived in peace. See:

The latest: Russia has entered the fray, with Russian troops reportedly in Syria to help the Assad regime.

Syria’s civil war, now in its 5th year, and ISIS are major contributors to the present “refugee migrant crisis” in Europe, the biggest since the second world war, as tens of thousands of Muslims pour across the borders of the Arabic Middle East and North Africa to overwhelm European countries.

The Guardian quotes an UN figure of 38% of “migrants” as coming from Syria. “The American decision to accept more refugees reflects how swiftly the Syrian war has morphed into the most pressing humanitarian crisis in recent years,” says the New York Times.

Mideast-Iraq-Syrian-Rrfugees2015 refugee crisis - asylum applications of European countriesKatie Pavlich reports for Townhall that yesterday (Sept. 10) afternoon, the Obama White House announced plans to bring 10,000 Syrian refugees to the United States.

White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said during the daily briefing:

“The United States, at the direction of the United States, [sic] has played a leading role in addressing the dire humanitarian crisis in the Middle East and North Africa. One thing that the United States can do is to begin to let more Syrian refugees into the United States. This year, this fiscal year that will end this month, the United States is on track to take in about 1500 Syrian refugees. The president has directed his team to scale up that number next [fiscal] year [beginning October 2015] and he’s informed his team he would like them to accept, at least make preparations, for 10,000 refugees.

There is no word yet on what the vetting process will be for refugees or how the White House plans to assure Americans the process will prevent ISIS terrorists from making their way into the United States.

Earlier this week in an interview with Fox News, House Homeland Security Chairman Michael McCaul expressed serious concern about national security and the acceptance of refugees from Syria:

“We’re a compassionate nation and this is a tragic situation but I also have to be concerned as Chairman of Homeland Security about the safety of Americans in this country and the concern that I have and that the FBI testified to is that we don’t really have the proper databases on these individuals to vet them passed and to assure we’re not allowing terrorists to come into this country and until I have that assurance, I cannot support a program that could potentially bring jihadists into the United States. We don’t know who these people are and I think that’s the bottom line here and until we know who they are, we cannot responsibly bring them into the United States. Both the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI have told me privately that they don’t support bringing in Syrian refugees because of the threat they pose to Americans.

In an article for Clash Daily, U.S. Infantry veteran Sgt. Omar Avila maintains that “Syrian operatives have claimed that more than 4,000 covert ISIS gunmen have been smuggled into Western nations – hidden amongst innocent refugees. The operative said the undercover infiltration was the beginning of a larger plot to carry out revenge attacks on the West in retaliation for the US-led coalition airstrikes.”

-StMA

Former CIA director Gen. David Petraeus wants U.S. to arm Al-Qaeda

Members of al Qaeda’s branch in Syria, the same al Qaeda that was headed by Osama bin Laden and still identified as a terrorist organization, have a surprising advocate in the corridors of American power — David Petraeus, retired U.S. Army general and former CIA Director and former commander of U.S. forces in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Petraeus has been quietly urging U.S. officials to consider using so-called moderate members of al Qaeda’s Nusra Front to fight ISIS in Syria, according to information from four sources familiar with the conversations, including one person who spoke to Petraeus directly.

Shane Harris and Nancy A. Youssef report for The Daily Beast, Aug. 31, 2015:

The heart of the idea stems from Petraeus’s experience in Iraq in 2007, when as part of a broader strategy to defeat an Islamist insurgency the U.S. persuaded Sunni militias to stop fighting with al Qaeda and to work with the American military.

The tactic worked, at least temporarily. But al Qaeda in Iraq was later reborn as ISIS, and has become the sworn enemy of its parent organization. Now, Petraeus is returning to his old play, advocating a strategy of co-opting rank-and-file members of al Nusra, particularly those who don’t necessarily share all of core al Qaeda’s Islamist philosophy.

However, Petraeus’s play, if executed, could be enormously controversial. The American war on terror began with an al Qaeda attack on 9/11, of course. The idea that the U.S. would, 14 years later, work with elements of al Qaeda’s Syrian branch was an irony too tough to stomach for most U.S. officials interviewed by The Daily Beast. They found Petraeus’s notion politically toxic, near-impossible to execute, and strategically risky.

It would also face enormous legal and security obstacles. In 2012, the Obama administration designated al Nusra a foreign terrorist organization. And last year, the president ordered airstrikes on al Nusra positions housing members of the Khorasan Group, an al Qaeda cadre that was trying to recruit jihadists with Western passports to smuggle bombs onto civilian airliners.

Yet Petraeus and his plan cannot be written off. He still wields considerable influence with current officials, U.S. lawmakers, and foreign leaders. The fact that he feels comfortable recruiting defectors from an organization that has declared war on the United States underscores the tenuous nature of the Obama administration’s strategy to fight ISIS, which numerous observers have said is floundering in search of a viable ground force.

Read the rest of the Daily Beast article here.

George Washington of ZeroHedge observes that Petraeus is not alone:

As we’ve previously shown, other mainstream American figures support arming Al Qaeda … and ISIS.

The U.S. actually did knowingly support Al Qaeda in Libya. And also in Syria.

And we actually ARE supporting ISIS to some extent.

David Petraeus and Paula BroadwellA highly-decorated four-star general who had served over 37 years in the U.S. Army, David Petraeus had been Commander of the International Security Assistance Force; Commander of U.S. Forces Afghanistan; 10th Commander, U.S. Central Command; and Commanding General of Multi-National Force – Iraq who oversaw all coalition forces in Iraq.

On September 6, 2011, Obama recruited Petraeus to be CIA Director. A week before, in anticipation of that appointment, Petraeus had retired from the U.S. Army.

Petraeus lasted a little over a year as CIA director. On November 9, 2012, he resigned from the CIA, citing his extramarital affair with Paula Broadwell, a married woman who is the principal author of Petraeus’ biography, All In: The Education of General David Petraeus. Petraeus claimed that the affair had begun in late 2011 when he was no longer an active duty military officer, and ended in the summer of 2012. The affair reportedly was discovered in the course of an FBI investigation into harassing emails that Broadwell had been sending to Jill Kelley, a Tampa socialite and a longstanding family friend of the Petraeuses whom Broadwell perceived to be a romantic rival.

~StMA

CIA director John Brennan is a Muslim convert?

Before John Owen Brennan became Director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) on March 8, 2013, he had spent 25 years with the CIA in a succession of positions, including as a Near East and South Asia analyst, station chief in Saudi Arabia, chief of staff to CIA director George Tenet, and director of the National Counterterrorism Center. After leaving government service in 2005, Brennan was CEO of The Analysis Corporation, a security consulting business. He returned to government service with the Obama administration as Homeland Security Advisor on January 20, 2009.

Barack Obama (l) and John Brennan (r) Photo by Joshua Roberts/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Barack Obama (l) and John Brennan (r)
Photo by Joshua Roberts/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Peter Baker and Mark Mazzetti write for The New York Times that “in the 67 years since the C.I.A. was founded, few presidents have had as close a bond with their intelligence chiefs as Mr. Obama has forged with Mr. Brennan. It is a relationship that has shaped the policy and politics of the debate over the nation’s war with terrorist organizations, as well as the agency’s own struggle to balance security and liberty.”

Given Obama’s special bond with Brennan, if the latter is a Muslim convert, there are troubling national security implications.

Brennan’s questionable loyalty dates back to the terrorist attacks on 9/11.

On September 18, 2014, on the Ground Zero radio program, a whistle blower named Greg Ford of the 223rd Military Intelligence Battalion claimed that Brennan, as chief of the CIA station in Jeda, overrode concerns and ordered that the visas of the 19 plane-hijackers be stamped. At 1:32:47 into the interview, Ford talked about ISIS and how it was created. Someone called in with a question about 9/11. Ford said:

“All 19 high jackers? Where did they get their visas stamped before they came to this country to launch 9/11? They got their visas stamped in the CIA station in Jeda. And the second in command said ‘No way, absolutely we are not going to stamp those visas.’ And the fellow who was in charge, his name was John Brennan. He was the person who overrode those concerns and cautions and ordered those visas stamped in Jeda.”

There have long been rumors that John Owen Brennan is a Muslim convert. A member of this Confortium, John Molloy, Chairman of the National Vietnam & Gulf War Veterans Coalition, has heard of those rumors from his military sources. Now, we have published confirmation from a credible journalist.

Wayne Madsen is a Washington, DC-based investigative journalist, author and columnist. As a U.S. Naval Officer, he managed one of the first computer security programs for the U.S. Navy. He subsequently worked for the National Security Agency.  (See his extended bio here.) 

In a for-subscribers-only article for his news site, Wayne Madsen Report, on August 11, 2015, Madsen maintains there is “growing evidence that CIA’s John Brennan is a Wahhabist convert.”

Madsen begins by noting that Obama had wanted to appoint Brennan CIA director in 2009, but there was internal CIA and congressional opposition to his nomination, ostensibly because of Brennan’s involvement in “enhanced interrogation” techniques used against detainees after 9/11, but the actual reasons for the initial opposition remains unclear to this day.

When the Senate eventually voted to confirm Brennan in 2013, 34 senators voted no, including Rand Paul (R-KY), who attempted to filibuster the confirmation vote; Ted Cruz (R-TX); Charles Grassley (R-IA); Patrick Leahy (D-VT); Mike Lee (R-UT); Jeff Merkley (D-OR); Bernie Sanders (D-VT); and Richard Shelby (R-AL). Barbara Boxer (D-CA) did not vote. Madsen asks, “What did these senators actually know about Brennan, especially the Democrats, who decided Brennan was not for for the job?

Madsen lists the following tell-tale signs of Brennan’s conversion to Islam:

  • When Brennan, then Obama’s deputy national security adviser, was sworn in to head the CIA, “the Jesuit-educated former CIA officer opted to take the oath on a copy of the U.S. Constitution, not on the bible as every past CIA director, Christian and Jewish, had done.”
  • Brennan is the highest-ranking U.S. official to have ever visited the Islamic holy city of Mecca, a privilege reserved only for pious Muslims and special guests of the Saudi King, who is the “Guardian of the Two Shrines of Mecca and Medina.” 
  • At the National Security Council and at the CIA, Brennan has forbidden the use of the term “jihadist” to describe Islamist terrorists, preferring instead the word “extremists.”

Madsen then presents the following “ample evidence” that Brennan is not just a Muslim convert, but a convert to Wahhabist Islam — the same sect as Osama bin Laden’s — who considers himself a “jihadist,” or “holy warrior”:

1.“The recent revelation by retired Lieutenant General Michael Flynn, the former head of the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), that the Obama administration, including Brennan at the CIA, ignored the threat of the rise of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), provides yet further proof that a Saudi and Wahhabist ‘Manchurian Candidate’ now occupies the director’s chair on the seventh floor of the CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia. Flynn said that the White House and supporters of the Syrian rebellion against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, ignored the DIA’s SECRET report from August 2012 on the rise of the Islamist caliphate in Syria and Iraq and did nothing to stop it.” Flynn also asserted that the Obama administration funneled arms to Salafists, the Muslim Brotherhood, and Al Qaeda in Iraq. 

2. Brennan has shuttled frequently between Langley, Jerusalem, and Riyadh to coordinate arms transfers and other logistical support to ISIL and their allied fighters in Syria and Iraq. Witnesses in Syria, the Golan Heights, Iraq’s Anbar province, and Iraqi Kurdistan to have seen CIA and Israeli Mossad commandos transferring weapons to ISIL and affiliated forces.

3. A few weeks before the Senate voted to confirm Brennan as CIA director, former FBI agent John Guandolo revealed that Brennan had, indeed, converted to Wahhabist Islam while he was CIA station chief in Riyadh. Guandalo quoted Brennan as having said that he “marveled at the majesty of the Hajj,” the Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca that is reserved only for devout Muslims. Guandalo was quoted as telling a radio interviewer, “Mr. Brennan did convert to Islam when he served in an official capacity on  the behalf of the United States in Saudi Arabia.”

According to Madsen, there are other CIA converts to Muslim, including:

    • The chief of the CIA’s Counter-Terrorism Center under Brennan, who is known only as “Roger,” is a convert to Sunni Islam — a fact that was reported by The Washington Post. Roger’s career at the CIA started about the same time that Brennan joined the agency. Roger, whose real name is Michael A. D’Andrea or “Mike”, joined in 1979, Brennan in 1980. Both became fluent in Arabic. D’Andrea’s CIA nickname was “The Wolf.”
    • Muhammad Abdel Karim Grimm, a chief CIA operative at the Munich Islamic Center (MIC), is a German Christian convert to Salafist Islam. The MIC was funded by the CIA during the Cold War as a Muslim Brotherhood operating cell in Munich which recruited Turkish Muslim CIA operatives from Germany’s Turkish “guest worker” community.
    • Andrew Warren, who speaks six Arabic dialects and Persian, is another convert to Islam who rose in the ranks of the CIA. In 2008, Warren, the CIA’s station chief in Algiers, was ordered home by the ambassador after he was charged with drugging two Algerian Muslim women, having non-consensual sex with them, and filming the alleged rapes. Warren left the CIA and took a job with Citigroup in New York but quickly returned to the CIA after the 9/11 attack. In 2010, Warren received a 65-month prison sentence for “abusive sexual conduct” while in Algeirs and unlawful use of cocaine while possessing a firearm in  Norfolk. He pleaded guilty to the two charges but prosecutors decided not to charge Warren with rape, which would have carried a life sentence. Madsen claims that according to “a well-placed U.S. intelligence source,” Rolling Stone journalist Michael Hastings was working on a story about Warren and Brennan before he died in a suspicious fiery auto crash in Beverly Hills, California in June 2013, a little over three months after Brennan became CIA director.

~StMA

Blowback: ISIS leaders are former officers of Saddam Hussein’s army

Here’s an unintended consequence of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq which overthrew Saddam Hussein and his Baath party from power:

Most of the senior leaders of the murderous Islamic State (aka ISIS or ISIL) are former members of Hussein’s army.

Islamic State leadersLiz Sly writes for The Washington Post, April 4, 2015, that even with the influx of thousands of foreign fighters, almost all of the leaders of the Islamic State are former Iraqi military officers, including the members of its shadowy military and security committees, and the majority of its emirs and princes, according to Iraqis, Syrians and analysts who study the group.

They have brought to the organization the military expertise and some of the agendas of the former Baathists, as well as the smuggling networks developed to avoid sanctions in the 1990s and which now facilitate the Islamic State’s illicit oil trading.

Abu Hamza (not his real name), who had fled to Turkey last summer after growing disillusioned with the Islamic State, said, “All the decision makers are Iraqi, and most of them are former Iraqi officers. The Iraqi officers are in command, and they make the tactics and the battle plans. But the Iraqis themselves don’t fight. They put the foreign fighters on the front lines.”

Islamic State's senior leadersHassan Hassan, a Dubai-based analyst and co-author of the book ISIS: Inside the Army of Terror, said the raw cruelty of Hussein’s Baathist regime, the disbandment of the Iraqi army after the U.S.-led invasion in 2003, the subsequent insurgency and the marginalization of Sunni Iraqis by the Shiite-dominated government all are intertwined with the Islamic State’s ascent. “A lot of people think of the Islamic State as a terrorist group, and it’s not useful,” Hassan said. “It is a terrorist group, but it is more than that. It is a homegrown Iraqi insurgency, and it is organic to Iraq.”

The de-Baathification law promulgated by L.­ Paul Bremer, Iraq’s American ruler in 2003, has long been identified as one of the contributors to the original insurgency. At a stroke, 400,000 members of the defeated Iraqi army were barred from government employment, denied pensions — but also allowed to keep their guns.

National Defense University senior fellow Col. Joel Rayburn, who served as an adviser to top generals in Iraq and describes the links between Baathists and the Islamic State in his book, Iraq After America, said the U.S. military failed in the early years to recognize the role the disbanded Baathist officers would eventually come to play in the Islamic State, eclipsing the foreign fighters whom American officials preferred to blame. while the U.S. military always knew that the former Baathist officers had joined other insurgent groups and were giving tactical support to the Al Qaeda in Iraq affiliate, the precursor to the Islamic State, American officials didn’t anticipate that they would become not only adjuncts to al-Qaeda, but core members of the jihadist group. “We might have been able to come up with ways to head off the fusion, the completion of the Iraqization process,” Rayburn said. The former officers were probably not reconcilable, “but it was the labeling of them as irrelevant that was the mistake.

Under the leadership of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the Islamic State’s self-proclaimed caliph, the former officers became more than relevant. They were instrumental in the group’s rebirth from the defeats inflicted on insurgents by the U.S. military, which is now back in Iraq bombing many of the same men it had already fought twice before.

Bremer’s de-Baathification was further exacerbated by a new round of de-Baathification launched after U.S. troops left in 2011 by then Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, who set about firing even those officers who had been rehabilitated by the U.S. military.

Among them was Brig. Gen. Hassan Dulaimi, a former intelligence officer in the old Iraqi army who was recruited back into service by U.S. troops in 2006, as a police commander in Ramadi, the capital of the long restive province of Anbar. Within months of the American departure, however, Dulaimi was dismissed, losing his salary and his pension, along with 124 other officers who had served alongside the Americans.

The crisis of ISIS didn’t happen by chance,” Dulaimi said in an interview in Baghdad. “It was the result of an accumulation of problems created by the Americans and the [Iraqi] government.

Dulaimi cited the case of a close friend, a former intelligence officer in Baghdad who was fired in 2003 and struggled for many years to make a living. He now serves as the Islamic State’s wali, or leader, in the Anbar town of Hit. Dulaimi recalls: “I last saw him in 2009. He complained that he was very poor. He is an old friend, so I gave him some money. He was fixable. If someone had given him a job and a salary, he wouldn’t have joined the Islamic State. There are hundreds, thousands like him. The people in charge of military operations in the Islamic State were the best officers in the former Iraqi army, and that is why the Islamic State beats us in intelligence and on the battlefield.

Islamic State's notable officialsThe Islamic State’s seizure of territory was also smoothed by the Maliki government’s broader persecution of the Sunni minority, which intensified after U.S. troops withdrew and left many ordinary Sunnis willing to welcome the extremists as an alternative to the often brutal Iraqi security forces.

But it was the influx of Baathist officers into the ranks of the Islamic State itself that propelled its fresh military victories. By 2013, Baghdadi had surrounded himself with former officers, who oversaw the Islamic State’s expansion in Syria and drove the offensives in Iraq.

See also:

~StMA

Turkish military enters Syria against ISIS

A reason why the US-led “coalition” against the Islamic State, which depends on air strikes, hasn’t seen much success in routing the fundamentalist apocalyptic jihadists, is the absence from the coalition of two major powers in the Middle East — Egypt and Turkey.

With the recent ISIS beheading of 21 Egyptian Coptic Christians in Libya, the government of Egypt is now aroused. Now, Turkey too has entered the fray against ISIS, albeit to rescue besieged troops guarding a tomb.

Turkish tanks at an army parade

Turkish tanks at an army parade

Suzan Fraser reports from Ankara, Turkey, for the AP that yesterday, Feb. 21, 2015, hundreds of Turkish troops backed by tanks took part in an overnight operation into neighboring Syria to evacuate dozens of besieged soldiers stuck for months guarding the tomb of the grandfather of the founder of the Ottoman Empire, as well as remove the remains from the tomb amid fears the shrine was threatened by Islamic State militants.

The mission was the first such major military incursion by Turkey since the Syrian conflict began in March 2011.

The tomb housed the remains of Suleyman Shah, the grandfather of Osman I, founder of the Ottoman Empire. The site along the Euphrates River is revered by Turkey, a strongly nationalist country whose rights there stem from a 1921 treaty with France, then the colonial power in Syria. The Ottoman Empire collapsed in the early 20th century after World War I.

Shah, a Turkic leader, is believed to have drowned in the Euphrates in the 13th century. His followers headed north into what is today Turkey, where they established the Ottoman Empire. Some historians question official accounts about Shah’s tomb, saying they might have been retrospectively concocted to enrich an imperial identity for Turks.

In the 1970s, Turkey moved Shah’s mausoleum to its last location because the old site at a castle further south in Syria was to be inundated by the waters of a new dam.

Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said nearly 600 Turkish soldiers on some 100 tanks and armored personnel carriers crossed into Syria near the border town of Kobani late Saturday, as drones and airplanes flew reconnaissance missions overhead.

One group traveled to the tomb, some 35 kilometers (22 miles) from Turkey on the banks of the Euphrates River in Syria’s embattled Aleppo province. Another group seized an area only 200 meters (yards) from the Turkish border in Syria’s Ashma region to be the new home for the tomb, according to a statement from President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s office.

Syria & TurkeyOne soldier was killed in an “accident” during the operation, Turkey’s military said.

Davutoglu said troops destroyed the complex once housing the tomb. Turkish media later showed nationalistic images of three Turkish soldiers raising the country’s flag at the new site.

The U.S.-led coalition forces were informed of the Turkish operation after its launch to prevent any casualties, Davutoglu said.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, while in London, spoke by telephone Sunday with Turkey’s foreign minister and expressed condolences over the Turkish soldier killed during the operation. The State Department said the U.S. and Turkey were in close and continuing coordination on developments in Syria, including intelligence sharing.

In a statement carried by the state news agency, Syria’s Foreign Ministry denounced the Turkish operation, calling it a “flagrant aggression” and that the mission demonstrated “the depth of ties” between Turkey and the Islamic State group. Syria routinely accuses Turkey of supporting the extremist group.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said Ankara had notified Syria before the operation that it was vacating the tomb temporarily, and that it would return to the area when it is “ready” to do so. “We got permission from no one, we conducted it with our own initiative,” he said.

Iran’s deputy foreign minister, Hossein Amir Abdollahian, said there is no justification for Turkey’s military action. Tehran is a close ally of Syria.

Rumors had swirled for months that the soldiers stationed at the tomb had been besieged by militants from the Islamic State group, which hold a third of Syria and neighboring Iraq in their self-declared caliphate. Some 40 Turkish soldiers once guarded the tomb, making them a target for IS and other militant groups in Syria’s long-running civil war, though the overnight operation apparently saw no fighting.

Turkey has wanted Syrian President Bashar Assad overthrown and has backed some rebels fighting against him. Earlier this week, Turkey signed an agreement with the U.S. to train and arm Syrian rebels fighting the Islamic State group.

With its 1,200-kilometer (750-mile) border with Syria, Turkey could be a major player in the fight against the Islamic State group. But negotiations with the U.S. over what to do about the militants have been fraught with disagreement – with Turkey insisting that the coalition needs to also target the Assad government.

Turkey also has had concerns over some of the Kurdish fighters battling the Islamic State group in Kobani. It views the Kurds fighting in Syria as an extension of the Kurdistan Worker’s Party, which has waged a 30-year insurgency against the Turkish government and is designated as a terrorist group by the U.S. and NATO.

See also:

~StMA

Major U.S. magazine breaks with Obama admin by calling ISIS Islamic and apocalyptic

In his bestseller book, People of the Lie, the late psychiatrist M. Scott Peck, M.D., wrote that just as physicians must first properly diagnose and name a disease in order to cure it, we must first name a problem in order to combat it.

NY-Post-Frontpage-Obama-Islam-2-19-2015Although ISIS/ISIL calls itself the Islamic State, President Barack Obama refuses to identify the group that now controls a third of Syria as either Islamic or a state. Instead, in his speech of Sept. 10, 2014 and since, he calls the Muslim jihadists — who have been slaughtering Christians in Iraq, Syria, and most recently beheading 21 Egyptian Coptic Christians in Libya — generic “terrorists.”

Incredibly, U.S. State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf recently proclaimed that America can’t win against the Islamic State “by killing them” and ought instead to focus on addressing the root problem of their poor economy by helping the murderous jihadists get jobs.

Taking their cue from Obama, U.S. media like NBC News also call ISIS “terrorists,” absent any qualifying adjective. And although he denounced the beheading of the Coptic Christians and called them “martyrs,” Pope Francis similarly refuses to identify their killers as Islamic.

The tide is now beginning to turn against this refusal, prompted either by misplaced politically-correct politesse or willful blindness or just plain cowardice, on the part of world leaders to call a spade a spade.

Yesterday, Feb. 19, 2015, former CIA director James Woolsey effectively called Obama a coward when he told a CNN audience that the Commander In Chief of the most powerful military in the world “looks as if he’s afraid of using the adjective ‘Islamic’ to describe the terrorists from ISIS, al-Qaeda and other international terror groups bent on mass-murder and global destruction.”

Now, a major U.S. magazine is confronting the problem head-on.

The Atlantic, a magazine on foreign affairs, politics, the economy and cultural trends, was founded in 1857. Based in Washington, D.C., the magazine has a national reputation as a high-quality review with a moderate worldview, having won more National Magazine Awards than any other monthly magazine. It is primarily aimed at a target audience of serious readers and “thought leaders.”

The AtlanticIn the cover story by Graeme Wood for its March 2015 issue, “What ISIS Really Wants,” The Atlantic points a finger at the Obama administration — that its refusal to call ISIS “Islamic” reflects “confusion about the group, and may have contributed to significant strategic errors” in U.S. policy.

The author, Graeme Wood, speaks Russian and Arabic. He is a Canadian journalist and a contributing editor to The Atlantic who has written for The New Yorker, The American Scholar, The New Republic, Bloomberg Businessweek, The Wall Street Journal and the International Herald Tribune 

Below are excerpts from Wood’s article, which though long, is important and deserves your attention. The article consists of an introduction and the following five parts:

  1. Devotion
  2. Territory
  3. The Apocalypse
  4. The Fight
  5. Dissuasion

What ISIS Really Wants

The Islamic State is no mere collection of psychopaths. It is a religious group with carefully considered beliefs, among them that it is a key agent of the coming apocalypse. Here’s what that means for its strategy—and for how to stop it.

Graeme Wood
March 2015

What is the Islamic State?

Where did it come from, and what are its intentions? The simplicity of these questions can be deceiving, and few Western leaders seem to know the answers. In December, The New York Times published confidential comments by Major General Michael K. Nagata, the Special Operations commander for the United States in the Middle East, admitting that he had hardly begun figuring out the Islamic State’s appeal. “We have not defeated the idea,” he said. “We do not even understand the idea.” In the past year, President Obama has referred to the Islamic State, variously, as “not Islamic” and as al-Qaeda’s “jayvee team,” statements that reflected confusion about the group, and may have contributed to significant strategic errors.

Islamic State's caliph: Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi

Islamic State’s caliph: Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi

The group seized Mosul, Iraq, last June, and already rules an area larger than the United Kingdom. Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi has been its leader since May 2010, but until last summer, his most recent known appearance on film was a grainy mug shot from a stay in U.S. captivity at Camp Bucca during the occupation of Iraq. Then, on July 5 of last year, he stepped into the pulpit of the Great Mosque of al-Nuri in Mosul, to deliver a Ramadan sermon as the first caliph in generations—upgrading his resolution from grainy to high-definition, and his position from hunted guerrilla to commander of all Muslims. The inflow of jihadists that followed, from around the world, was unprecedented in its pace and volume, and is continuing.

Our ignorance of the Islamic State is in some ways understandable: It is a hermit kingdom; few have gone there and returned. Baghdadi has spoken on camera only once. But his address, and the Islamic State’s countless other propaganda videos and encyclicals, are online, and the caliphate’s supporters have toiled mightily to make their project knowable. We can gather that their state rejects peace as a matter of principle; that it hungers for genocide; that its religious views make it constitutionally incapable of certain types of change, even if that change might ensure its survival; and that it considers itself a harbinger of—and headline player in—the imminent end of the world.

The Islamic State, also known as the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), follows a distinctive variety of Islam whose beliefs about the path to the Day of Judgment matter to its strategy, and can help the West know its enemy and predict its behavior. Its rise to power is less like the triumph of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt (a group whose leaders the Islamic State considers apostates) than like the realization of a dystopian alternate reality in which David Koresh or Jim Jones survived to wield absolute power over not just a few hundred people, but some 8 million.

We have misunderstood the nature of the Islamic State in at least two ways. First, we tend to see jihadism as monolithic, and to apply the logic of al‑Qaeda to an organization that has decisively eclipsed it. The Islamic State supporters I spoke with still refer to Osama bin Laden as “Sheikh Osama,” a title of honor. But jihadism has evolved since al-Qaeda’s heyday, from about 1998 to 2003, and many jihadists disdain the group’s priorities and current leadership.

Bin Laden viewed his terrorism as a prologue to a caliphate he did not expect to see in his lifetime. His organization was flexible, operating as a geographically diffuse network of autonomous cells. The Islamic State, by contrast, requires territory to remain legitimate, and a top-down structure to rule it. (Its bureaucracy is divided into civil and military arms, and its territory into provinces.)

We are misled in a second way, by a well-intentioned but dishonest campaign to deny the Islamic State’s medieval religious nature. […] In fact, much of what the group does looks nonsensical except in light of a sincere, carefully considered commitment to returning civilization to a seventh-century legal environment, and ultimately to bringing about the apocalypse.

The most-articulate spokesmen for that position are the Islamic State’s officials and supporters themselves. They refer derisively to “moderns.” In conversation, they insist that they will not—cannot—waver from governing precepts that were embedded in Islam by the Prophet Muhammad and his earliest followers. They often speak in codes and allusions that sound odd or old-fashioned to non-Muslims, but refer to specific traditions and texts of early Islam. […]

The reality is that the Islamic State is Islamic. Very Islamic. Yes, it has attracted psychopaths and adventure seekers, drawn largely from the disaffected populations of the Middle East and Europe. But the religion preached by its most ardent followers derives from coherent and even learned interpretations of Islam.

Virtually every major decision and law promulgated by the Islamic State adheres to […] the prophecy and example of Muhammad, in punctilious detail. Muslims can reject the Islamic State; nearly all do. But pretending that it isn’t actually a religious, millenarian group, with theology that must be understood to be combatted, has already led the United States to underestimate it and back foolish schemes to counter it. We’ll need to get acquainted with the Islamic State’s intellectual genealogy if we are to react in a way that will not strengthen it, but instead help it self-immolate in its own excessive zeal.

I. Devotion

In November, the Islamic State released an infomercial-like video tracing its origins to bin Laden. […] Notably unmentioned: bin Laden’s successor, Ayman al Zawahiri, the owlish Egyptian eye surgeon who currently heads al‑Qaeda. Zawahiri has not pledged allegiance to Baghdadi […] But the split between al-Qaeda and the Islamic State has been long in the making, and begins to explain, at least in part, the outsize bloodlust of the latter.

Zawahiri’s companion in isolation is a Jordanian cleric named Abu Muhammad al Maqdisi, 55, who has a fair claim to being al-Qaeda’s intellectual architect and the most important jihadist unknown to the average American newspaper reader. On most matters of doctrine, Maqdisi and the Islamic State agree. Both are closely identified with the jihadist wing of a branch of Sunnism called Salafism, after the Arabic al salaf al salih, the “pious forefathers.” These forefathers are the Prophet himself and his earliest adherents, whom Salafis honor and emulate as the models for all behavior, including warfare, couture, family life, even dentistry.

Maqdisi taught Zarqawi, who went to war in Iraq with the older man’s advice in mind. In time, though, Zarqawi surpassed his mentor in fanaticism, and eventually earned his rebuke. At issue was Zarqawi’s penchant for bloody spectacle—and, as a matter of doctrine, his hatred of other Muslims, to the point of excommunicating and killing them. […]

Denying the holiness of the Koran or the prophecies of Muhammad is straightforward apostasy. But Zarqawi and the state he spawned take the position that many other acts can remove a Muslim from Islam. These include, in certain cases, selling alcohol or drugs, wearing Western clothes or shaving one’s beard, voting in an election—even for a Muslim candidate—and being lax about calling other people apostates. Being a Shiite, as most Iraqi Arabs are, meets the standard as well, because the Islamic State regards Shiism as innovation, and to innovate on the Koran is to deny its initial perfection. […] That means roughly 200 million Shia are marked for death. So too are the heads of state of every Muslim country, who have elevated man-made law above Sharia by running for office or enforcing laws not made by God.

Following takfiri doctrine, the Islamic State is committed to purifying the world by killing vast numbers of people. The lack of objective reporting from its territory makes the true extent of the slaughter unknowable, but social-media posts from the region suggest that individual executions happen more or less continually, and mass executions every few weeks. Muslim “apostates” are the most common victims. Exempted from automatic execution, it appears, are Christians who do not resist their new government. Baghdadi permits them to live, as long as they pay a special tax, known as the jizya, and acknowledge their subjugation. The Koranic authority for this practice is not in dispute.

Centuries have passed since the wars of religion ceased in Europe, and since men stopped dying in large numbers because of arcane theological disputes. Hence, perhaps, the incredulity and denial with which Westerners have greeted news of the theology and practices of the Islamic State. Many refuse to believe that this group is as devout as it claims to be, or as backward-looking or apocalyptic as its actions and statements suggest.

[…] the exclusion of ideology reflects another kind of Western bias: that if religious ideology doesn’t matter much in Washington or Berlin, surely it must be equally irrelevant in Raqqa or Mosul. When a masked executioner says Allahu akbar while beheading an apostate, sometimes he’s doing so for religious reasons.

Many mainstream Muslim organizations have gone so far as to say the Islamic State is, in fact, un-Islamic. […] But Muslims who call the Islamic State un-Islamic are typically, as the Princeton scholar Bernard Haykel, the leading expert on the group’s theology, told me, “embarrassed and politically correct, with a cotton-candy view of their own religion” that neglects “what their religion has historically and legally required.” Many denials of the Islamic State’s religious nature, he said, are rooted in an “interfaith-Christian-nonsense tradition.”

Every academic I asked about the Islamic State’s ideology sent me to Haykel. Of partial Lebanese descent, Haykel grew up in Lebanon and the United States […] According to Haykel, the ranks of the Islamic State are deeply infused with religious vigor. Koranic quotations are ubiquitous. “Even the foot soldiers spout this stuff constantly,” Haykel said. […] He regards the claim that the Islamic State has distorted the texts of Islam as preposterous, sustainable only through willful ignorance. “People want to absolve Islam,” he said. “It’s this ‘Islam is a religion of peace’ mantra. As if there is such a thing as ‘Islam’! It’s what Muslims do, and how they interpret their texts.” Those texts are shared by all Sunni Muslims, not just the Islamic State. […]

In Haykel’s estimation, the fighters of the Islamic State are authentic throwbacks to early Islam and are faithfully reproducing its norms of war. This behavior includes a number of practices that modern Muslims tend to prefer not to acknowledge as integral to their sacred texts. “Slavery, crucifixion, and beheadings are not something that freakish [jihadists] are cherry-picking from the medieval tradition,” Haykel said. Islamic State fighters “are smack in the middle of the medieval tradition and are bringing it wholesale into the present day.”

The Koran specifies crucifixion as one of the only punishments permitted for enemies of Islam. The tax on Christians finds clear endorsement in the Surah Al-Tawba, the Koran’s ninth chapter, which instructs Muslims to fight Christians and Jews “until they pay the jizya with willing submission, and feel themselves subdued.” The Prophet, whom all Muslims consider exemplary, imposed these rules and owned slaves.

Leaders of the Islamic State have taken emulation of Muhammad as strict duty, and have revived traditions that have been dormant for hundreds of years. “What’s striking about them is not just the literalism, but also the seriousness with which they read these texts,” Haykel said. “There is an assiduous, obsessive seriousness that Muslims don’t normally have.” […]

“We will conquer your Rome, break your crosses, and enslave your women,” Adnani, the spokesman, promised in one of his periodic valentines to the West. “If we do not reach that time, then our children and grandchildren will reach it, and they will sell your sons as slaves at the slave market.”

II. Territory

Tens of thousands of foreign Muslims are thought to have immigrated to the Islamic State. Recruits hail from France, the United Kingdom, Belgium, Germany, Holland, Australia, Indonesia, the United States, and many other places. Many have come to fight, and many intend to die. […]

The caliphate […] is not just a political entity but also a vehicle for salvation. Islamic State propaganda regularly reports the pledges of baya’a (allegiance) rolling in from jihadist groups across the Muslim world. […]

To be the caliph, one must meet conditions outlined in Sunni law—being a Muslim adult man of Quraysh descent; exhibiting moral probity and physical and mental integrity; and having ’amr, or authority. This last criterion […] is the hardest to fulfill, and requires that the caliph have territory in which he can enforce Islamic law. Baghdadi’s Islamic State achieved that long before June 29 […] and as soon as it did, a Western convert within the group’s ranks …who was] “something of a leader”—began murmuring about the religious obligation to declare a caliphate […] further delay would be sinful. […]

After Baghdadi’s July sermon, a stream of jihadists began flowing daily into Syria with renewed motivation. Jürgen Todenhöfer, a German author and former politician who visited the Islamic State in December, reported the arrival of 100 fighters at one Turkish-border recruitment station in just two days. His report, among others, suggests a still-steady inflow of foreigners, ready to give up everything at home for a shot at paradise in the worst place on Earth. […]

The caliph is required to implement Sharia. Any deviation will compel those who have pledged allegiance to inform the caliph in private of his error and, in extreme cases, to excommunicate and replace him if he persists. […] In return, the caliph commands obedience—and those who persist in supporting non-Muslim governments, after being duly warned and educated about their sin, are considered apostates. […]

III. The Apocalypse

All Muslims acknowledge that God is the only one who knows the future. But they also agree that he has offered us a peek at it, in the Koran and in narrations of the Prophet. The Islamic State differs from nearly every other current jihadist movement in believing that it is written into God’s script as a central character. It is in this casting that the Islamic State is most boldly distinctive from its predecessors, and clearest in the religious nature of its mission.

In broad strokes, al-Qaeda acts like an underground political movement, with worldly goals in sight at all times—the expulsion of non-Muslims from the Arabian peninsula, the abolishment of the state of Israel, the end of support for dictatorships in Muslim lands. The Islamic State has its share of worldly concerns (including, in the places it controls, collecting garbage and keeping the water running), but the End of Days is a leitmotif of its propaganda. Bin Laden rarely mentioned the apocalypse, and when he did, he seemed to presume that he would be long dead when the glorious moment of divine comeuppance finally arrived. […]

During the last years of the U.S. occupation of Iraq, the Islamic State’s immediate founding fathers, by contrast, saw signs of the end times everywhere. They were anticipating, within a year, the arrival of the Mahdi—a messianic figure destined to lead the Muslims to victory before the end of the world.  […]

[Beliefs] based on mainstream Sunni sources […] appear all over the Islamic State’s propaganda. These include the belief that there will be only 12 legitimate caliphs, and Baghdadi is the eighth; that the armies of Rome will mass to meet the armies of Islam in northern Syria; and that Islam’s final showdown with an anti-Messiah will occur in Jerusalem after a period of renewed Islamic conquest.

The Islamic State has attached great importance to the Syrian city of Dabiq, near Aleppo. It named its propaganda magazine after the town, and celebrated madly when (at great cost) it conquered Dabiq’s strategically unimportant plains. It is here, the Prophet reportedly said, that the armies of Rome will set up their camp. The armies of Islam will meet them, and Dabiq will be Rome’s Waterloo or its Antietam. […]

Now that it has taken Dabiq, the Islamic State awaits the arrival of an enemy army there, whose defeat will initiate the countdown to the apocalypse. Western media frequently miss references to Dabiq in the Islamic State’s videos, and focus instead on lurid scenes of beheading. […] During fighting in Iraq in December, after mujahideen (perhaps inaccurately) reported having seen American soldiers in battle, Islamic State Twitter accounts erupted in spasms of pleasure […]

The Prophetic narration that foretells the Dabiq battle refers to the enemy as Rome. Who “Rome” is, now that the pope has no army, remains a matter of debate. But Cerantonio makes a case that Rome meant the Eastern Roman empire, which had its capital in what is now Istanbul. We should think of Rome as the Republic of Turkey—the same republic that ended the last self-identified caliphate, 90 years ago. Other Islamic State sources suggest that Rome might mean any infidel army, and the Americans will do nicely.

After its battle in Dabiq […] the caliphate will expand and sack Istanbul. Some believe it will then cover the entire Earth […] An anti-Messiah, known in Muslim apocalyptic literature as Dajjal, will come from the Khorasan region of eastern Iran and kill a vast number of the caliphate’s fighters, until just 5,000 remain, cornered in Jerusalem. Just as Dajjal prepares to finish them off, Jesus—the second-most-revered prophet in Islam—will return to Earth, spear Dajjal, and lead the Muslims to victory. […]

IV. The Fight

The ideological purity of the Islamic State has one compensating virtue: it allows us to predict some of the group’s actions. Osama bin Laden was seldom predictable. […] By contrast, the Islamic State boasts openly about its plans—not all of them, but enough so that by listening carefully, we can deduce how it intends to govern and expand.

[…] detailed descriptions of how the Islamic State must conduct its foreign policy, now that it is a caliphate. It has already taken up what Islamic law refers to as “offensive jihad,” the forcible expansion into countries that are ruled by non-Muslims […]  the waging of war to expand the caliphate is an essential duty of the caliph. […] the state has an obligation to terrorize its enemies—a holy order to scare the shit out of them with beheadings and crucifixions and enslavement of women and children, because doing so hastens victory and avoids prolonged conflict.

[…] Islamic law permits only temporary peace treaties, lasting no longer than a decade. Similarly, accepting any border is anathema, as stated by the Prophet and echoed in the Islamic State’s propaganda videos. If the caliph consents to a longer-term peace or permanent border, he will be in error. Temporary peace treaties are renewable, but may not be applied to all enemies at once: the caliph must wage jihad at least once a year. He may not rest, or he will fall into a state of sin. […]

The modern international system, born of the 1648 Peace of Westphalia, relies on each state’s willingness to recognize borders, however grudgingly. For the Islamic State, that recognition is ideological suicide. Other Islamist groups, such as the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas, have succumbed to the blandishments of democracy and the potential for an invitation to the community of nations, complete with a UN seat. Negotiation and accommodation have worked, at times, for the Taliban as well. […] To the Islamic State these are not options, but acts of apostasy.

The United States and its allies have reacted to the Islamic State belatedly and in an apparent daze. The group’s ambitions and rough strategic blueprints were evident in its pronouncements and in social-media chatter as far back as 2011, when it was just one of many terrorist groups in Syria and Iraq and hadn’t yet committed mass atrocities. Adnani, the spokesman, told followers then that the group’s ambition was to “restore the Islamic caliphate,” and he evoked the apocalypse, saying, “There are but a few days left.” Baghdadi had already styled himself “commander of the faithful,” a title ordinarily reserved for caliphs, in 2011. […]

If we had identified the Islamic State’s intentions early, and realized that the vacuum in Syria and Iraq would give it ample space to carry them out, we might, at a minimum, have pushed Iraq to harden its border with Syria and preemptively make deals with its Sunnis. That would at least have avoided the electrifying propaganda effect created by the declaration of a caliphate just after the conquest of Iraq’s third-largest city. Yet, just over a year ago, Obama told The New Yorker that he considered ISIS to be al-Qaeda’s weaker partner. “If a jayvee team puts on Lakers uniforms that doesn’t make them Kobe Bryant,” the president said.

Our failure to appreciate the split between the Islamic State and al-Qaeda, and the essential differences between the two, has led to dangerous decisions. Last fall, to take one example, the U.S. government consented to a desperate plan to save Peter Kassig’s life. The plan facilitated—indeed, required—the interaction of some of the founding figures of the Islamic State and al-Qaeda, and could hardly have looked more hastily improvised.

It entailed the enlistment of Abu Muhammad al Maqdisi, the Zarqawi mentor and al-Qaeda grandee, to approach Turki al-Binali, the Islamic State’s chief ideologue and a former student of Maqdisi’s, even though the two men had fallen out due to Maqdisi’s criticism of the Islamic State.[…] the decision to play matchmaker for America’s two main terrorist antagonists reveals astonishingly poor judgment.

Chastened by our earlier indifference, we are now meeting the Islamic State via Kurdish and Iraqi proxy on the battlefield, and with regular air assaults. Those strategies haven’t dislodged the Islamic State from any of its major territorial possessions, although they’ve kept it from directly assaulting Baghdad and Erbil and slaughtering Shia and Kurds there.

Some observers have called for escalation, including several predictable voices from the interventionist right (Max Boot, Frederick Kagan), who have urged the deployment of tens of thousands of American soldiers. These calls should not be dismissed too quickly: an avowedly genocidal organization is on its potential victims’ front lawn, and it is committing daily atrocities in the territory it already controls.

One way to un-cast the Islamic State’s spell over its adherents would be to overpower it militarily and occupy the parts of Syria and Iraq now under caliphate rule. Al‑Qaeda is ineradicable because it can survive, cockroach-like, by going underground. The Islamic State cannot. If it loses its grip on its territory in Syria and Iraq, it will cease to be a caliphate. Caliphates cannot exist as underground movements, because territorial authority is a requirement: take away its command of territory, and all those oaths of allegiance are no longer binding. Former pledges could of course continue to attack the West and behead their enemies, as freelancers. But the propaganda value of the caliphate would disappear, and with it the supposed religious duty to immigrate and serve it. If the United States were to invade, the Islamic State’s obsession with battle at Dabiq suggests that it might send vast resources there, as if in a conventional battle. If the state musters at Dabiq in full force, only to be routed, it might never recover.

And yet the risks of escalation are enormous. The biggest proponent of an American invasion is the Islamic State itself. The provocative videos, in which a black-hooded executioner addresses President Obama by name, are clearly made to draw America into the fight. An invasion would be a huge propaganda victory for jihadists worldwide: irrespective of whether they have given baya’a to the caliph, they all believe that the United States wants to embark on a modern-day Crusade and kill Muslims. Yet another invasion and occupation would confirm that suspicion, and bolster recruitment. Add the incompetence of our previous efforts as occupiers, and we have reason for reluctance. The rise of ISIS, after all, happened only because our previous occupation created space for Zarqawi and his followers. Who knows the consequences of another botched job?

Given everything we know about the Islamic State, continuing to slowly bleed it, through air strikes and proxy warfare, appears the best of bad military options. Neither the Kurds nor the Shia will ever subdue and control the whole Sunni heartland of Syria and Iraq—they are hated there, and have no appetite for such an adventure anyway. But they can keep the Islamic State from fulfilling its duty to expand. And with every month that it fails to expand, it resembles less the conquering state of the Prophet Muhammad than yet another Middle Eastern government failing to bring prosperity to its people.

The humanitarian cost of the Islamic State’s existence is high. But its threat to the United States is smaller than its all too frequent conflation with al-Qaeda would suggest. Al-Qaeda’s core is rare among jihadist groups for its focus on the “far enemy” (the West); most jihadist groups’ main concerns lie closer to home. That’s especially true of the Islamic State, precisely because of its ideology. It sees enemies everywhere around it, and while its leadership wishes ill on the United States, the application of Sharia in the caliphate and the expansion to contiguous lands are paramount. Baghdadi has said as much directly: in November he told his Saudi agents to “deal with the rafida [Shia] first … then al-Sulul [Sunni supporters of the Saudi monarchy] … before the crusaders and their bases.” […]

A few “lone wolf” supporters of the Islamic State have attacked Western targets, and more attacks will come. But most of the attackers have been frustrated amateurs, unable to immigrate to the caliphate because of confiscated passports or other problems. Even if the Islamic State cheers these attacks—and it does in its propaganda—it hasn’t yet planned and financed one. (The Charlie Hebdo attack in Paris in January was principally an al‑Qaeda operation.) […]

Properly contained, the Islamic State is likely to be its own undoing. No country is its ally, and its ideology ensures that this will remain the case. The land it controls, while expansive, is mostly uninhabited and poor. As it stagnates or slowly shrinks, its claim that it is the engine of God’s will and the agent of apocalypse will weaken, and fewer believers will arrive. And as more reports of misery within it leak out, radical Islamist movements elsewhere will be discredited: No one has tried harder to implement strict Sharia by violence. This is what it looks like.

Even so, the death of the Islamic State is unlikely to be quick, and things could still go badly wrong: if the Islamic State obtained the allegiance of al‑Qaeda—increasing, in one swoop, the unity of its base—it could wax into a worse foe than we’ve yet seen. The rift between the Islamic State and al-Qaeda has, if anything, grown in the past few months; the December issue of Dabiq featured a long account of an al‑Qaeda defector who described his old group as corrupt and ineffectual, and Zawahiri as a distant and unfit leader. But we should watch carefully for a rapprochement.

Without a catastrophe such as this, however, or perhaps the threat of the Islamic State’s storming Erbil, a vast ground invasion would certainly make the situation worse.

V. Dissuasion

It would be facile, even exculpatory, to call the problem of the Islamic State “a problem with Islam.” The religion allows many interpretations, and Islamic State supporters are morally on the hook for the one they choose. And yet simply denouncing the Islamic State as un-Islamic can be counterproductive, especially if those who hear the message have read the holy texts and seen the endorsement of many of the caliphate’s practices written plainly within them. […]

That the Islamic State holds the imminent fulfillment of prophecy as a matter of dogma at least tells us the mettle of our opponent. It is ready to cheer its own near-obliteration, and to remain confident, even when surrounded, that it will receive divine succor if it stays true to the Prophetic model. Ideological tools may convince some potential converts that the group’s message is false, and military tools can limit its horrors. But for an organization as impervious to persuasion as the Islamic State, few measures short of these will matter, and the war may be a long one, even if it doesn’t last until the end of time.

~StMA