Archive for the ‘ISIL’ Tag

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During a tense exchange with (Secretary of State John) Kerry at a Senate Foreign Relations committee on Wednesday, (Florida Republican Senator Marco) Rubio confronted the former Massachusetts senator. “I believe that much of our strategy with regards to ISIS is being driven by a desire not to upset Iran so they don’t walk away from the negotiating table on the deal that you’re working on,” the potential GOP presidential candidate declared. “Tell me why I’m wrong.”

“They would welcome our bombing of ISIS, actually, they want us to destroy ISIS, ISIS is a threat to them, it’s a threat to the region and I think you’re misreading it if you think there is a mutual interest with respect to Daesh [the Arabic name for ISIS] from every country in the region,” Kerry responded.

Watch the exchange here.

http://thinkprogress.org/world/2015/03/11/3632393/john-kerry-obliterates-marco-rubios-conspiracy-theory-iran/

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FAREED ZAKARIA, CNN HOST: President Obama stands accused of political correctness for his unwillingness to accuse groups like ISIS of Islamic extremism, choosing a more generic term, violent extremism. His critics say you cannot fight an enemy that you will not name. Even his supporters feel that his approach is to professorial.

But far from being a scholar concerned with describing the phenomenon accurately, the president is actually deliberately choosing not to emphasize ISIS’ religious dimension for political and strategic reasons. After all, what would the practical consequences be of describing ISIS as Islamic? Would the West drop more bombs on it? No.

But it would make many Muslims feel that their religion had been unfairly maligned and it would dishearten Muslim leaders who have continually denounced ISIS as a group that does not represent Islam.

But Graeme Wood writes in a much discussed cover-essay in the “Atlantic” this month, “The Islamic State is Islamic — very Islamic.” Wood’s essays is an intelligent and detailed account of the ideology that animates the Islamic State. These are not secular people with rational goals, he argues, they really do believe in their religious ideology.

But Wood’s essay reminds me of some of the breathless tracks written during the Cold War that pointed out that the communists really, really believed in communism. Of course, many ISIS leaders do believe their ideology. The real question is, why has this ideology sprung up at this moment and why is it attractive to a group, a tiny group of Muslim men these days?

Wood describes ISIS as having revived traditions that have been dormant for hundreds of years. Exactly. ISIS has rediscovered, even reinvented, a version of Islam for its own purposes today.

Wood is much taken by the Princeton academic, Bernard Haykel, who claims that people want to turn a blind eye to the ideology of ISIS for political reasons.

Quote, “People want to absolve Islam,” Wood quote Haykel as saying. “It’s this Islam is a religion of peace mantra, as if there is such a thing as Islam,” he says. “It is what Muslims do,” end quote.

Right, there are 1.6 billion Muslims in the world and perhaps 30,000 members of ISIS. And yet Haykel feels that it is what 0.0019 percent of what Muslims do that defines the religion.

Who is being political, I wonder.

“An Ideology succeeds when it replaces some other set of ideas that has failed,” says Professor Sheri Berman at Barnard College.

And across the Middle East, the ideas that have failed are Pan Arabism, Republicanism, nascent efforts at democracy, economic liberalism and secularism. The regimes espousing these principles have morphed into dictatorships producing economic stagnation and social backwardness. In some cases the nation itself has collapsed as a project. It is in the face of this failure that groups like ISIS can say Islam is the answer.

This battle of ideologies can be seen vividly in the life of one man, Islam Yaken, profiled brilliantly by the “New York Times'” Mona El- Naggar. Yaken, a middle class fitness trainer from Cairo who’s interested mostly in making money and meeting girls. “But his dreams began to crash into Egypt’s depressed economy and political turmoil,” the article notes. He couldn’t get a good job and began dreaming about leaving Egypt.

Questioning his life choices Yaken became drawn to a very different ideology, a version of Islam that is rigorous and militant. Yaken, now 22, fights for the Islamic State in Syria. During the last Ramadan season, he tweeted a photograph of a decapitated corpse. His post read, “Surely the holiday wouldn’t be complete without a picture with one of the dog’s corpses.”

Islam Yaken is now a true believer. But the question surely is, how did he get here and what were the forces that helped carry him along? Calling him Islamic doesn’t really help you understand any of that.

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Bill Maher “New rule, when it comes to being baited into going to war, America has to try a little harder to not be so bleeping easy!  Just a few months ago, polls showed Americans were sick of war.  They’d had enough.  They were anxious to stay out of the Middle-East.  Then they saw two beheadings and overnight they were like, oh war, we can’t stay mad at you.  You know, conservatives love to vilify anyone who doesn’t want to immediately throw down as appeasers, but when you’re dealing with terrorists who’s aim is to bait us into overreaction, and you oblige them, aren’t you the appeaser?”

 

 

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Jon Stewart “13 years ago, when Al Qaeda was our top terrorist enemy, we knew Al Qaeda wanted to attack America.  They’d already bombed the world trade center in 1993, and two, we got a memo that said they wanted to do that.  Kind of a giveaway.  Is ISIS the same kind of threat to America?”

Reporter September 9, 2014 “We’ve heard repeatedly, of course, that intelligence officials don’t believe that ISIS, right now, poses a threat to the US home land.”

Stewart “Or, to put that in a different way.”

Sen Lindsey Graham (R-SC) September 14, 2014 “This is not Somalia.  This is not Yemen.  This is a turning point in the war on terror.  Our strategy will fail yet again.  This President needs to rise to the occasion before we all get killed back here at home.”

Stewart “Here’s my impression of everyone who crawled out of bed hung over Sunday morning and turned on the TV to see Lindsey Graham.  Really?  All of us?”

 

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FAREED ZAKARIA, HOST: But first here’s my take. Watching the gruesome ISIS execution videos I felt some of the same emotions I did after 9/11. Barbarism after all is designed to provoke anger, and it’s succeeded. But in September 2001 it also made me ask a question, why do they hate us?

I tried to answer it in an almost 7,000-word essay for “Newsweek” that struck a chord with the readers. I reread the essay this week to see how it might need updating in the 13 years since I wrote it. I began the piece by noting that Islamic terror is not the isolated behavior of a handful of nihilists. There is a broader culture that has been complicit in it or at least unwilling to combat it.

Now things have changed on this front but not nearly enough. I also pointed out that we face not an Islam problem but an Arab problem. For example, in 2001 and 2002 Indonesia was on the top of people’s worries because of a series of terror attacks there soon after 9/11, but over the last decade jihad and even Islamic fundamentalism has not done well in Indonesia, which is the largest Muslim country in the world, larger than Iraq, Syria, Egypt, and Libya and all the Gulf states put together.

Well, look at India which is right next door to Ayman Zawahiri’s headquarters and yet very few of India’s more than 150 million Muslims are known members of al Qaeda. Zawahiri has announced a bold effort to recruit Indian Muslims, but I suspect it will not do too well. The central point of the essay was that the reason the Arab world produces fanaticism and jihad is that it is a place of complete political stagnation. By 2001 when I was writing almost every part of the world had seen significant political progress. Eastern Europe was freed, Asia, Latin America and even Africa had held many free and fair elections but the Arab world remained a desert. In 2001 most Arabs had fewer freedoms, political, economic, social than they did in 1951.

The one aspect of life that Arab dictators could not ban, however, was religion. So Islam had become the language of political opposition to these secular regimes. The Arab world was then left with secular dictatorships on the one hand and deeply illiberal religious groups on the other. Hosni Mubarak and al Qaeda. The more extreme the regime the more violent was the opposition.

This cancer was deeper and more destructive than I realized. Despite the removal of Saddam Hussein in Iraq, and despite the Arab spring, the dynamic between dictators and jihadists has not broken. Look at Syria where until recently Bashar al-Assad was actually helping ISIS. How? By buying oil and gas from it and by shelling its opponents, the Free Syrian Army, when the two were in battle against each other.

You see, Assad was playing the old Arab dictator’s game, giving his people a stark choice. It’s either me or ISIS, he was saying, and many Syrians, the Christian minority, for example, have chosen him.

The greatest setback has been in Egypt where a nonviolent Islamist movement took power and then squandered its chance by overreaching. But not content to let the Muslim Brotherhood fare the polls, the military then displaced it by force, has moved back into power and Egypt is now a more brutal police state than it was under Hosni Mubarak. The Muslim Brotherhood has been banned, its members killed and jailed, the rest driven underground.

Let’s just hope that 10 years from now we do not find ourselves discussing the causes of the rise of an ISIS in Egypt.

 

http://transcripts.cnn.com/TRANSCRIPTS/1409/07/fzgps.01.html

 

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FAREED ZAKARIA, HOST: What are the strengths of the Islamic State? I posed this question to two deeply knowledgeable observers, a European diplomat and a foreign official, and the picture they painted is worrying, although not hopeless. Defeating the group would require a large and sustained strategic effort from the Obama administration but it could be done without significant numbers of U.S. ground troops.

The European diplomats stationed in the Middle East travels in and out of Syria and has access to regime and opposition sources. Both sources agreed to speak only if their identities were not revealed. This European official agrees with the consensus that the Islamic State has gained considerable economic and military strength in recent months. He estimates that it is making $1 million a day in Syria and Iraq each by selling oil and gas, although U.S. experts believe the number is too high in Iraq.

The Islamic State’s military strategy is brutal but also smart. The group’s annual reports — yes, it has issued annual reports since 2012 — detail its military methods and successes to try to impress its backers and funders. The videos posted online of executions are barbaric but strategic. They are designed to sow terror in the minds of opponents who when facing Islamic State fighters on the battlefield now reportedly flee rather than fight.

But the most dangerous aspect of the Islamic State this diplomat believes is its ideological appeal. It has recruited marginalized disaffected Sunni youth in Syria and Iraq who believe that they have been ruled by apostate regimes.

How to handle this challenge? The American, a former senior administration figure, counsels against pessimism. The Islamic State could be defeated, he says, but it would take a comprehensive and sustained strategy much like the one that under girded the surge in Iraq. The first task is political, he said. Supporting the Obama administration’s efforts to press the Iraqi government to become more inclusive.

“We have more leverage now than at any time in recent years and the administration is using it,” he said.

If this continues, the next step would be to create the most powerful and effective ground force that could take on the Islamic State, which would not be American troops, would not be the Free Syrian Army, but, rather, a reconstituted Iraqi army. Remember, that force was built, trained, and equipped by the United States.

The former American official says it’s actually got some very effective units. The Iraqi special forces were trained in Jordan and are extremely impressive,” unquote. Pointing out that it was those forces that recaptured the Mosul dam recently. It’s underperformed recently because then Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki had transformed it over the past two years into a sectarian and loyalist force.

The two observers agreed on one central danger, the temptation to gain immediate military victories over the Islamic State could mean that the United States would end up tacitly partnering with Bashar al- Assad’s regime in Syria. This would produce a short-term military gain against the Islamic State but it would be a long-term political disaster. It would feed the idea that the Sunnis in Iraq and Syria are embattled, that a crusader Christian Shiite alliance is persecuting them and that all Sunnis must resist this alien invasion the European diplomat said.

The key is that Sunnis must be in the lead against IS. They must be in front of the battlefield, he said.

So the strategy that could work against the Islamic State is nothing less than a second Sunni awakening like the one during the Iraqi surge. It’s a huge challenge but it appears to be the only option with a plausible chance of success.

http://transcripts.cnn.com/TRANSCRIPTS/1408/31/fzgps.01.html

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President Obama August 7, 2014

First, I said in June — as the terrorist group ISIL began an advance across Iraq — that the United States would be prepared to take targeted military action in Iraq if and when we determined that the situation required it.  In recent days, these terrorists have continued to move across Iraq, and have neared the city of Erbil, where American diplomats and civilians serve at our consulate and American military personnel advise Iraqi forces.

To stop the advance on Erbil, I’ve directed our military to take targeted strikes against ISIL terrorist convoys should they move toward the city.  We intend to stay vigilant, and take action if these terrorist forces threaten our personnel or facilities anywhere in Iraq, including our consulate in Erbil and our embassy in Baghdad.  We’re also providing urgent assistance to Iraqi government and Kurdish forces so they can more effectively wage the fight against ISIL.

Second, at the request of the Iraqi government — we’ve begun operations to help save Iraqi civilians stranded on the mountain.  As ISIL has marched across Iraq, it has waged a ruthless campaign against innocent Iraqis.  And these terrorists have been especially barbaric towards religious minorities, including Christian and Yezidis, a small and ancient religious sect.  Countless Iraqis have been displaced.  And chilling reports describe ISIL militants rounding up families, conducting mass executions, and enslaving Yezidi women.

In recent days, Yezidi women, men and children from the area of Sinjar have fled for their lives.  And thousands — perhaps tens of thousands — are now hiding high up on the mountain, with little but the clothes on their backs.  They’re without food, they’re without water.  People are starving.  And children are dying of thirst.  Meanwhile, ISIL forces below have called for the systematic destruction of the entire Yezidi people, which would constitute genocide.  So these innocent families are faced with a horrible choice:  descend the mountain and be slaughtered, or stay and slowly die of thirst and hunger.

When we face a situation like we do on that mountain — with innocent people facing the prospect of violence on a horrific scale, when we have a mandate to help — in this case, a request from the Iraqi government — and when we have the unique capabilities to help avert a massacre, then I believe the United States of America cannot turn a blind eye.  We can act, carefully and responsibly, to prevent a potential act of genocide.  That’s what we’re doing on that mountain.

I’ve, therefore, authorized targeted airstrikes, if necessary, to help forces in Iraq as they fight to break the siege of Mount Sinjar and protect the civilians trapped there.  Already, American aircraft have begun conducting humanitarian airdrops of food and water to help these desperate men, women and children survive.  Earlier this week, one Iraqi in the area cried to the world, “There is no one coming to help.”  Well today, America is coming to help.  We’re also consulting with other countries — and the United Nations — who have called for action to address this humanitarian crisis.

http://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2014/08/07/president-obama-makes-statement-iraq