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Saturday, September 6, 2014

Oh Mighty ISIS ~ We Might Just Be Bombing You

blue bomb (2)
(US Gov, 1945)

Is This Our Fight?
After policy geeking around practically 24/7, crowdsourcing, tweeting, and reading, we begin with this premise. The Entire World needs to stop the group most people are referring to as ISIS. They just have to be stopped.

As Americans, we stand for religions freedoms, we stand for women’s rights. As humans we stand against torture. As hippies we stand against war, and as progressives we work to evolve our ideals.

As legislators and negotiators we have pointed at torture and called it illegal, worldwide. We sign treaties. We make friends. We attempt to put barbaric history behind us.

Every human on earth, regardless of ideology or religion, should be able to look at the short films posted worldwide that have been produced by the Islamic State In Iraq (aka al-Qaeda In Iraq) and see the same thing. If you don’t find yourself cringing, you might just be one of the bad guys.

If no attempt is made to stop ISIS, the world, the entire world, will be saying that death by rape, death by beheading, death by torture, death because of religious choice, and the subsequent mass massacres are just part of what should be expected when you live on earth in 2014. So not doing anything is not an option.

(nedayeazadi.net, 2014)

The Bad Guys
What do these guys want? Let's start with what they have said on camera. After changing their name from al-Qaeda In Iraq to Islamic State In Iraq, finally settling on Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, ISIS militants outlined a chilling five-year plan for global domination and declared the formation of a caliphate. They take orders from their current leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who they say now has authority over all Muslims. They also demand Muslims around the world swear allegiance to the caliphate.
"O Muslims everywhere, glad tidings to you and expect good. Raise your head high, for today – by Allah's grace – you have a state and khilafah, which will return your dignity, might, rights, and leadership." Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, July 20, 2014
Even though this guy goes by the stage name of al-Baghdadi, which just means a guy from Baghdad, his call actually has reached sympathetic ears around the world. For some Muslims, the announcement of a Muslim caliphate by al-Baghdadi was a dream come true, and for these people, the restoration of the caliphate is their ultimate goal. There has been a longing to have a Muslim world united, and that desire has been ignited by these ultra violent militants calling themselves Islamic State. If only one Muslim/Caliph could unite the muslim world under one banner, one caliphate, that would be perfect. They could conquer the world.

ISIS has between 20,000 and 31,000 people (depending on who you ask) in tanks, or just wielding weapons, in the name of Caliphate building. They want to craft a new Islamic center, building out of the ruins of a great battle. They are calling out to the world of warriors to come out and play, and they want America back in the battle zone, in full throttle, fighting them for the holy land.

What's a Caliphate? 
A caliphate is an Islamic state. It's led by a caliph, who is the political and religious leader, and who is a considered by his followers to be a successor to the Islamic prophet Muhammad. Many mistake a caliph for a pope-in-chief of the islamic world, but he is actually the guy, the top political guy, the voice of God on earth, someone who is appointed by Allah himself. His power and authority are considered absolute. But he is only a place holder. Should anything happen to him, almost any Muslim extremist can claim authority, and replace the Caliph. The word Caliph means substitute. The replacement just has to be someone the people will follow, a commander of the faithful. And there is a never-ending stream of radical clerics willing and able to take his seat and keep it warm. Between 633 and 700 AD a huge Islamic community was built across the Middle East, wielding power and control over vasts lands. Ever since then, there has been a core group of islamic believers, waiting to be led through a holy war, by a Caliph who is appointed by God himself, leading to the reestablishment of that Islamic State.

Of course, "from the very beginning, right after Muhammed's death, there was a massive split between Sunni and Shiites.' says Middle East expert, Moshe Sharon. It was like herding cats, except with alot more death. But the myth of a united dream persists, that there will be a world power led by a political and military leader who unites his people, throws out the jews from the holy land, placing Islam in charge of earth. "This Caliph would declare a holy war against Christians as well", so that under this Caliphate, there would be no tolerance for any other religion, or any other interpretation of the Koran. Every real Muslim dreams about the reinstitution of the caliphate," concludes Moshe Sharon.

According to a Pew Research study, there are 1.6 billion muslims worldwide (some arabic websites cite as low as .7 billion all the way to 2.8 billion). Islam is the world’s second-largest religious tradition after Christianity. Muslims make up a majority of the population in 49 countries around the world.  The Global Religion Landscape Report states there are vast differences in religious beliefs and practices amongst muslims around the world, each culture and region with their own views of religion, politics and society, even citing vast differences in their use of the internet.

Chart Showing Regional Distribution of Muslims

“Their (ISIS) use of the internet is unlike anything we have seen before.” Charlie Cooper of the Quilliam Foundation continues, “Social media applications like Facebook and Twitter act as a facilitator to connect young radicalized Britons with jihadists in Syria and Iraq.” Islamic State has so far run a very successful campaign also using public forums such as YouTube, whilst avoiding detection by authorities.

Obviously, of course, obviously, not all of the estimated 1.6 billion muslims in the world feel the same way about the caliphate that Islamic State does. Let's say less than 1/100 of 1% did. That's 160,00 people. Just sayin. Right now it's around 20,000 that are fighting. And they are actively and successfully recruiting, worldwide.

ISIS has strong support from some of their neighbors in the area. Despite the fact that ISIS wants to take over all the gulf's autocracies, bring down the Saudi government, and take over the mecca in Medina, reportedly, 4000 Saudis so far have crossed borders to join them.

How We React To Terrorism
As Rachel Maddow of MSNBC schools us,"Terrorism is provocation. It is designed to provoke action by those who are terrorized, so that a fight can then happen between the terrorist group and the opponents of their own choosing, on the terrorist group's own terms, and on their own time frame." 

Maddow continues, "when terrorist groups launch spectacular attacks, when terrorists groups do things that get the world's attention, it can unite previously disparate allies against them. When everyone has that sort of collective experience, it unifies the world in horror. Sometimes, this kind of mayhem can also break logjams, or settle internal disputes, in countries that had been thinking about taking action against said terrorist group, but had not yet been able to decide to do that. That is what President Obama is doing now. Herding cats. Building a coalition of the horrified. He's in Europe. He's on it.

Once we build this coalition, or stitch it together, the next step will be deciding how everybody wants to respond to this terrorist group that keeps killing Americans on video tape. What is the most effective approach to targeting this group? Because, what we want to do, and what we are capable of doing, are not always the same thing. Sure we can kill Bin Laden, and some other guys over here and some other guys over there, but it doesn't wash away the ideology, or the attraction ISIS has to an angry, confused, myopic group of religious zealots, many of whom are being cheered on by less violent, but just as religious, zealots all over earth.

The concept of terrorism can’t be defeated with an invading army; however, Obama has a proven track record of terrorist neutralization. His methods have worked in the past, and there is no reason to believe that they won’t be effective in dealing with ISIS.

Generally, as war weary as our country is these days, we mostly focus on the top leaders and kill them. Unfortunately, we have learned that that does not seem to work. The terrorism doesn’t stop. It just spreads like cancer. It’s a horrible, horrible comparison, but it’s apt.

Case in point, we tried to attack the al-Shabab leadership with Navy Seals, and we were turned back. The commando raid was organized after the disastrous mall shootings and several day siege at the Westgate Mall in Somalia. There was nothing about that terrible terrorist assault that made it more likely we would be successful in attacking al-Shabab. Our Navy Seals can do amazing things; however, they are not perfect. We dropped our guys in, and they were sent back before the fight could even really get started. They were spotted, shot at, and out, in a very short period of time, leaving behind bullets, grenades, a GPS, and some night goggles. The siege of the mall horrified us so much, we reached a tipping point, and we were willing to attack, to send the best, to get the bad guys. Willing is not the same as able.

How Did ISIS Rise To Power?
Under Bush Jr., we invaded Iraq on what appears now to have been a false premise. When we invaded, we destroyed every civic and humane resource along the way. Once we created a lawless vacuum in the region, an area that previously had no al-Qaeda presence, became a holiday vacation spot for terrorists calling themselves al-Qaeda In Iraq. The Caliph, who at that time was Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, enjoyed using a multitude of attack and suicide tactics in Iraq to keep the delicate levels of reconstruction, barely in place, as fragile as possible.

When Syrian demonstrations led to Syrian violence, and finally the decay of the fabric of Syrian civilization, more extremists with guns from every corner of the world flew in to join the action. Al-Qaeda In Iraq, bloated with soldiers from previously disparate groups, continued upping the ante on deprivation to satiate the needs of these increasingly barbaric militant recruits. Al-Qaeda In Iraq renamed themselves al-Qaeda In Iraq & Syria.

Funny enough, the new franchise was considered too publicly violent, leading al-Qaeda Central to think that al-Qaeda in Iraq & Syria was going to taint their brand of Caliphate building. So they cut ties. And they did it on YouTube. Mistake, big mistake. Al-Qaeda In Iraq & Syria starting calling themselves Islamic State, aka IS, which the American media calls ISIS (mostly because its easier to say it on TV), and the White House calls ISIL. Once the break between the terrorist groups was finalized, ISIS became the big dog in town. With the printing of new flags, and a fancy new logo, ISIS was ready to go Hollywood.

ISIS videos started to spread the word of Jihad, blasting out the call. They use music and graphics, and their stuff looks slick. Apparently, "Islamic States militants’ recruitment campaign has overtaken al-Qaeda in its effectiveness online, targeting primarily young muslims." ~~ Quilliam Foundation. As of the writing of this article, ISIS is made up of people from everywhere, taking orders from several levels of middle management, and somehow holding onto two previously sovereign countries, Iraq and Syria.

How Are They Paying For This?
In addition to the large cash stockpiles that ISIS has already looted directly from banks as they've traveled east into Iraq, and the weapons and tanks they've acquired from the surrender of thousands of Iraqi troops, CNN reports that ISIS controls Syria's largest oil field. In total, ISIS is extracting crude at a rate of 30,000 barrels a day in Iraq and another 50,000 barrels a day in Syria. Assuming $40 a barrel is the going rate on black market oil, they make $1.2 million dollars a day from Iraq and another $2 million dollars a day in Syria. The local economies are benefiting from the low market prices in oil, but not for long, as ISIS is now burning fields behind them as they go. ISIS can't keep up this rate of production long-term because ongoing use of the oil field equipment requires maintenance. Although with that kind of funding, it would be hard to imagine that they couldn't find people to do just that.

Islamic State has lured followers from:

France, including a 16-year-old French girl who was arrested Saturday at the airport in Nice as she tried to board a plane to Turkey. Officials say the teen intended to travel to Syria to join the Islamic State. Several hours before the teen's arrest, a 20-year-old man was arrested for recruiting the girl and purchasing her plane ticket. Allegedly, the girl's parents were unaware of her plans. French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve now urges parents to call a toll-free hotline if they observe "a disturbing trend of violent radicalisation" in their children. The International Center for the Study of Radicalisation at King's College London reported that about 700 French citizens have defected and joined the extremist Muslim terrorist group in Iraq and Syria.

EnglandKhalid Mahmood, the MP for Perry Barr in Birmingham, estimates that at least 1,500 young British Muslims have been recruited by extremists fighting in Iraq and Syria in the last three years. UK-based radical Islamic preacher Anjem Choudary, a vocal supporter of establishing a Caliphate under islamic sharia law, told digital radio's Fubar Radio that “it’s not important if it’s a British person carrying out the execution (of the journalist on the video), because you’re Muslim first, and British second."

Germany, 300 Germans have reportedly left the country to join the fight with ISIS. They also refer to them as IS. Same thing.

Australians, 150 Australians have made their way to Syria. At least 15 Australians died fighting alongside Islamic State (IS) in Iraq and Syria, Australian Intelligence (ASIO) chief David Irvine said on Wednesday.

Americans, A few dozen Americans are believed to be fighting with ISIS in Syria, totaling a little over a hundred Americans when you count the ones fighting for ISIS in Iraq.

These recruits hold valued passports from westernized countries, making it extremely easy to export their plans.

ISIS Called Out Japan
August, 2014 ~~ Japanese entertainment giant Sony says its online music and gaming sites have come under attack by a hacker group that also claimed there were explosives on a plane carrying a senior company executive. The company said that a US commercial aircraft carrying the president of Sony Online Entertainment had to be diverted after a warning online about the explosives.

“The PlayStation Network and Sony Entertainment Network have been impacted by an attempt to overwhelm our network with artificially high traffic,” the company said on its PlayStation blog, adding that “no personal information has been accessed.” A spokeswoman for Sony in Tokyo said a person or group using the Twitter name @LizardSquad had claimed responsibility for the attack.  “Today we planted the ISIS flag on @Sony’s servers,” tweeted the man who attached a photo of someone carrying the Islamic State flag.

Jealous, Al-Qaeda Calls On India, Myanmar, Bangladesh, Kashmir etc.
In a recently released video, al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri blasted out HIS call to arms. He called for "rescue" from "injustice, oppression, persecution, and suffering" in India and Pakistan, adding their purpose is to "wage jihad against Islam's enemies, to liberate Islamic land, to restore Islamic sovereignty, and to revive its Caliphate." Al-Zawahiri also said he seeks to gain support "for the vulnerable" in Myanmar and Bangladesh; in the Indian states of Assam and Gujarat; and in Kashmir, the disputed region between India and Pakistan. CNN's Peter Bergen reports,"It's al-Zawahiri's obvious way of getting some of the limelight back," he said, "as ISIS has moved front and center."

"They (al-Qaeda) are losing a lot of constituents to the Islamic State," Bergen said. "They're trying to show their global reach as an organization, but I'm not sure of exactly what sign they are trying to send." If ISIS undermines al-Qaeda, "it's going to affect funding," said Ajit Singh, senior fellow at South Asia Terrorism Portal in New Delhi, adding the radicalized Muslims are more likely to fund ISIS. "That's why al-Qaeda is trying to increase its influence," he said. Turns out, it's not al-Qaeda's first time trying to gain a foothold in India.

On Sept. 5, 2014, Obama admitted, "Given the nature of these organizations, are there potentially remnants of an al-Qaeda organization that are still running around and hiding and still potentially plotting? Absolutely. And we will continue to hunt them down the same way we’re doing with remnants of al-Qaeda in the FATA, or elements of al-Shabaab in Somalia, or terrorists who operate anywhere around the world."

A Caliphate For Who?
The violence in Iraq has killed more than 5,500 civilians over the first six months of the year, according to a report by the United Nations that documents the massive humanitarian toll of the Sunni militant offensive.

At the time of the writing of this article, the Caliphs have killed a whole bunch of muslims while claiming to defend and protect them. No one knows exactly how many muslims have been killed, or the number of total dead at this point. 600 - 700 massacred over here, 1000 - 1500 beheaded over there. We just don't know.

Glass Houses
To turn a particularly jarring spotlight on a sickening truth, our country, that we love so much, has invaded, overthrown, massacred, enslaved, jailed, slave wagered, and yes, even tortured, in just the 200+ years of us being a country. Some we've done just in the last decade. And there is just no excuse for it. We are evolving quickly on everything from The War On Drugs to LGBT rights; however, we still don't have equal pay, nor can we get the ERA signed...really...still. There was no al-Qaeda in Iraq before we invaded Iraq.

"That being said, 9/11 did not usher in an age of terrorism, with al-Qaeda going from strength to more strength. Why? Because countries cooperated in fighting them and other terror groups, with considerable success. When we can come together, when we cooperate, when we put aside petty differences, the results are astounding." ~~ CNN

War Money, War Problems
For those who say we could have stopped these guys in Syria, not so fast. These soldiers who are now called ISIS were not united, it was impossible to know who to back. The photo below has been widely reported as McCain being duped into meeting the bad guys, ISIS, when he went to Syria. The photo below has also been reported, by one source, as McCain meeting with Free Syrian Army (FSA) members who were later murdered by ISIS.

What’s the difference? The FSA says they are a group unified to defend against the brutality of the dictator Assad; however, since ISIS wants to topple every leader in the area, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that, in some skirmishes, FSA joined up with ISIS and fought together. So who do you back? Who were we supposed to be fighting with if we had invaded Syria? It is in no way clear that American money and American weapons would have made the situation better had we thrown them at Syria a year ago.

ISIS posts PR Photos of John McCain (CNN)
Our Response
As Karen Finny, DNC Communications Director, points out, "The people voted in 2008 and 2012 to say we do not want war. We voted for a not-war President. We don't want cowboy diplomacy."

Although Vice President Biden was heard saying, "We'll follow Islamic State (ISIS) to the gates of hell!", White House spokesperson Josh Earnest states "the responsibility of what happens in Syria will not sit on the shoulders of the United States alone." Nonetheless, we are about to, and seriously we are about to, go to war. We might be the good guys this time, but we are in the beginning stages of a kill-all-the-bad-guys kind of war. I guess we'll just aim at anybody wearing a mask.

Moderate Islamic clerics worldwide state, "these are not Muslims in the true sense of the word. Saudis, Kuwaitis, Palestinians all say these are not Muslims. This is way above any Sharia law. And they control the message. They put anything they want out into the world, and it sticks. They plan to take over Israel, Iraq, Syria, Gaza, the whole region, and make it one big country." That's exactly what their plan for that part of the world entails. Just the way it is. The growing of this group may be someone's fault, but that is no longer the point. ISIS wants America in the fight. They want more of our weapons, and they can recruit better if we show up for the fight.

Sept. 5, 2014 ~ President Obama takes a detour
from his anti-ISIS coalition building to walk
and think, at Stonehenge (CNN Pool)

Calm Before The Storm
On August 28, 2014, White House spokesperon Josh Earnest explains exactly what "We Have No Plan" means. Of course, it does not actually mean we have no plan. (See video) He laid out the following TO DO list. 1. Iraq's political leaders need to unite the country of Iraq to confront ISIS." Earnest adds, "The stakes here have never been higher for Iraq. It has never been more in the interest of Iraq's political leaders to put down their sectarian differences and focus on the common enemy of ISIL (aka ISIS). This is not an easy solution, but it's the most important one. 2. We've put people in there to protect American assets, and we've dispatched air strikes to protect personnel in Iraq as well as to 'infrastructure' like the Mosul Dam." Writer's note: there is also an oil refinery just south of Mosul.

In a morning press conference on September 3rd, Obama announced, "Whatever these murderers think they can achieve by killing an innocent journalist like Steven (Sotloff), they have already failed. They've failed because, like people around the world, Americans are repulsed by their barbarism. We will not be intimidated. Their horrific acts only unite us as a country and stiffen our resolve to take this fight against the terrorists. We will not forget, our reach is long, justice will be served."

On September 5th, Obama pointed out, "You can’t contain an organization that is running roughshod through that much territory, causing that much havoc, displacing that many people, killing that many innocents, enslaving that many women. The goal has to be to dismantle them. And if you look at what happened with al-Qaeda in the FATA, where their primary base was, you initially push them back. You systematically degrade their capabilities. You narrow their scope of action. You slowly shrink the space, the territory that they may control. You take out their leadership. And over time, they are not able to conduct the same kinds of terrorist attacks as they once could."

POTUS continues, "What we can accomplish is to dismantle this network, this force that has claimed to control this much territory, so that they can’t do us harm. And that’s going to be our objective. I’m pleased to see that there’s unanimity among our friends and allies, and they are prepared to work with us in accomplishing this worthy goal."

Today, President Obama emerged from talks in Wales to announce the formation of a 10 nation alliance dedicated to combat Islamic State (ISIS). The avengers consist of, well, us, and UK, France, Denmark, Poland, Italy, Turkey, Canada, Australia, and Germany. Sec. of State John Kerry and Sec. of Defense John Hagel secured the agreement. Obama signed off saying, "There is a consensus that a sustained coalition effort is needed to degrade and destroy ISIL."

As reported by Luke Russert, "It is expected that Arab states and Sunni majority states like Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emerits, Qatar, and Jordan, would join us actively in the fight as they also reject these extremist islamic views."

The rest of this year is going to be very interesting. It will be intriguing to see what the coalition comes up with to take these guys on. We know who they are.

The most important question moving forward is how can we reach their hearts and minds in order to put this period of barbaric terrorism behind us, back in the history books, where it belongs.

The Policy Geek

1 comment:

  1. Impressive article.

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