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Thread: Beyond the frontline: watching ISIS

  1. #61
    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default The Hybrid Ideology of the Islamic State

    An interesting, pessimistic assessment of the two component parts of ISIS from The Soufan Group:http://soufangroup.com/tsg-intelbrie...islamic-state/

    IS is now a chimera of Ba’athist and takfiri ideologies, with the organizational skills of the former helping channel the motivational fervor of the latter. The result is an extremist group unlike any other. It’s the merging of Usama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein, with the strengths of one helping negate the weaknesses of the other.
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  2. #62
    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default Zealots for the apocalypse

    Will McCants (Brookings) explains the motivation of both Sunni and Shi‘a fighters drawn to the Levant battlefield by a common apocalyptic belief:
    They fight in the vanguard of the Mahdi, the Muslim savior whom the Prophet Muhammad prophesied would appear in the Levant (the coastal Mediterranean region that includes Syria and Lebanon) at the End of Days to wage a final great battle against the infidels’ armies.

    (Later) With the entry of the United States into the field, jihadis anticipate that the ultimate showdown in Dabiq is drawing ever closer. One might expect that the recent entry of infidel armies into Iraq and Syria would lessen the internecine tone of the prophesying and focus attention on the Mahdi’s battle with the infidels. But it has only heightened the sectarian apocalyptic fervor as each sect vies to destroy the other for the privilege of destroying the infidels.
    Link:http://www.lawfareblog.com/2014/10/t...an-apocalypse/

    I have heard Muslims explain this, but Will's explanation is best.
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    The Quran has little or nothing to say about the end times (it has a lot to say about the day of judgement and the events of that day, but no details about the times preceding that final day), so Muslim versions of the last days and the battles between the Mahdi and the anti-Christ are based almost entirely on hadith literature, written 200 plus years after the advent of Islam and obviously drawing heavily on Christian sources. While the final confrontations are all in the Levant, the advent of the Mahdi is said (in some hadiths) to be in Khorasan.
    http://dailyhadith.adaptivesolutions...%E2%80%99s.htm
    Because of this, the Taliban and various Pakistani sponsored Jihadist groups like to believe they are the warriors who will break out of the mountain passes from Khorasan (Central Asia/North-eastern Iran) with the Mahdi among them.
    Cynics suspect that the Khorasan hadiths were mostly concocted by the Abbassids to give religious legitimacy to their (central Asian led) revolt against the Ummayad Caliphate (and of course, Abu Muslim and his Central Asian armies carried black banners).
    Cynics have a lot of fun things to say about the whole topic

  4. #64
    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default Interview with an Islamic State Recruiter

    Judge for yourself this Q&A on Der Spiegel:http://www.spiegel.de/international/...-international
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    Default IFII and IFIS are more appropriate terms than ISIS

    Mindset often determines a choice of words. For example pseudo progressives and fellow travellers are especially fond of referring to peoples parties and to liberation.

    Rational humans are expected to use less colourful names and terminology but sometimes fail to do so. That is aggravated by the would-be popular media which invariably includes some who will jump on any bandwagon. One result today is the fairly commonplace use of the term ISIS. More appropriate would be IF for Islamic Fascists or interchangeably Islamist Fascism, and IS referring to in Syria.

    Hence IFIS in Syria but IFII in Iraq. IFII sounds appropriate even though some might suppose it refers to Yemen. And IFII seems doubly appropriate because swarming as a form of auftragtaktik is unlikely to succeed at the operational level of conflict.

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    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Just landed here is a sixty page Soufan Group report on ISIS, the chief author being ex-SIS & UN official Richard Barrett:http://soufangroup.com/wp-content/up...tate-Nov14.pdf
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  7. #67
    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default Worth watching

    Watched an excellent, disturbing PBS Frontline documentary today 'The Rise of ISIS', a curious mix of American and Iraqi "talking heads" alongside film footage:http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/rise-of-isis/

    At one point Ali Soufan comments that killing comes before religion for ISIS.

    Note the documentary does not comment on how to respond to ISIS.
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    Now that I know you can see these Britain I may post more of the Frontline and Nova specials, they're very well done. I watched this one a couple of nights ago (made the time).

    Despite being well done it presented little new for those who followed the situation. It did a great job of pointing out how extensively Maliki and his cronies abused the Sunnis. This started when we there, and after we left it apparently got worse. He dug his own grave, and unfortunately many of our nations have one foot in that grave also. We have an amazing talent for backing the wrong guy over and over again.

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    The frontline documentary was good, but there were a couple of blind spots. For example, at some points they seemed to imply that if the US had "done more for the FSA", things would have been different. That seems a wildly exaggerated or mistaken view of things. The US decision to try and bring down the murderous and thuggish Assad regime was a terrible decision and adding a few piddling billions to it could not possibly have made any difference. Vast areas of Syria were abandoned early on by the Assad regime. There was no significant Assad military threat there. With or without US weapons, what stopped FSA from effectively establishing a government there? Is there ANY place where the FSA has set up a statelet that is NOT infested with Islamic militants and that can effectively maintain monopoly of violence? None as far as a distant observer can see.
    The real problem is not whether weapons were given or not. The real problem is the penetration of superficial and mistaken assumptions in the highest echelons of the US govt. And Obama is NOT the one who is most crazy. At least he seems to have the vague notion that people had better do their own part before asking for vast US armies to step in and do the fighting for them.
    Absence of the state is the worst of many bad options. But states can be held responsible for their foreign actions and for hosting terrorist groups. Less so for domestic oppression. Unfortunately.
    First, do no harm...

  10. #70
    Council Member CrowBat's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by omarali50 View Post
    The frontline documentary was good, but there were a couple of blind spots. For example, at some points they seemed to imply that if the US had "done more for the FSA", things would have been different. That seems a wildly exaggerated or mistaken view of things. The US decision to try and bring down the murderous and thuggish Assad regime was a terrible decision and adding a few piddling billions to it could not possibly have made any difference. Vast areas of Syria were abandoned early on by the Assad regime. There was no significant Assad military threat there. With or without US weapons, what stopped FSA from effectively establishing a government there?
    Lack of money and arms.

    Is there ANY place where the FSA has set up a statelet that is NOT infested with Islamic militants and that can effectively maintain monopoly of violence? None as far as a distant observer can see.
    Then ask the JAN why is it presently assaulting SRF-controlled areas of Idlib province?

    Alternativelly, check who is holding all of insurgent-controlled parts of Aleppo.

    The real problem is not whether weapons were given or not. The real problem is the penetration of superficial and mistaken assumptions in the highest echelons of the US govt. And Obama is NOT the one who is most crazy. At least he seems to have the vague notion that people had better do their own part...
    And who was protesting all over Syria through 2011 and first half of 2012? Who did the fighting ever since?

    Hand at heart: don't you find it absurd to state something as silly as 'Syrians are not doing their own part', while their insurgents are not only fighting the regime - which is superior in fire-power - plus the IRGC, Hezbollah and 'few other foreign militias', plus the Daesh, and all of this at the same time (and that since three years, meanwhile)...?

    ...before asking for vast US armies to step in and do the fighting for them.
    Nobody has ever asked for 'vast US armies'.

    Absence of the state is the worst of many bad options.
    Nobody demanded destruction of the state of Syria. Just an end of Assadist dictatorship.

    But states can be held responsible for their foreign actions and for hosting terrorist groups.
    What kind of problem is then preventing the USA (and West) from holding a terrorist-supporting regime of Assadists for accountable for surviving with help of terror of its own thugs and terrorist organizations like the IRGC, Hezbollah, PFLP etc., etc., etc.?

  11. #71
    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default Choosing a word for them

    Quote Originally Posted by Compost View Post
    Mindset often determines a choice of words. For example pseudo progressives and fellow travellers are especially fond of referring to peoples parties and to liberation.

    Rational humans are expected to use less colourful names and terminology but sometimes fail to do so. That is aggravated by the would-be popular media which invariably includes some who will jump on any bandwagon. One result today is the fairly commonplace use of the term ISIS. More appropriate would be IF for Islamic Fascists or interchangeably Islamist Fascism, and IS referring to in Syria.

    Hence IFIS in Syria but IFII in Iraq. IFII sounds appropriate even though some might suppose it refers to Yemen. And IFII seems doubly appropriate because swarming as a form of auftragtaktik is unlikely to succeed at the operational level of conflict.
    The answer:
    The term “Daesh” is strategically a better choice because it is still accurate in that it spells out the acronym of the group’s full Arabic name, al-Dawla al-Islamiya fi al-Iraq wa al-Sham. Yet, at the same time, “Daesh” can also be understood as a play on words — and an insult. Depending on how it is conjugated in Arabic, it can mean anything from “to trample down and crush” to “a bigot who imposes his view on others.”
    Longer explanation:http://www.bostonglobe.com/opinion/2...MUP/story.html
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    Quote Originally Posted by davidbfpo View Post
    Daesh could be preferred. However it would continue the use of an opponent’s terminology. Also it would not be readily understood by its intended english-speaking audience unless alternatively expanded as ‘ death and extremist shock horror ’ or suchlike.

    Continuing my form of bigotry, perhaps IRIS and IRII for Islamic Radicals etc.

  13. #73
    Council Member CrowBat's Avatar
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    IF, IRIS, IRII etc. - all of these are or would be Western creations.

    These idiots consider 'Daesh' - which is the way most of Syrians and Iraqis call them - for an insult, and that's perfectly fine with me.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Crowbat
    Nobody demanded destruction of the state of Syria. Just an end of Assadist dictatorship.
    This is a good point. American discourse seems to assume that 'state-building' first requires state-destroying.
    When I am weaker than you, I ask you for freedom because that is according to your principles; when I am stronger than you, I take away your freedom because that is according to my principles. - Louis Veuillot

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    Quote Originally Posted by AmericanPride View Post
    This is a good point. American discourse seems to assume that 'state-building' first requires state-destroying.
    Do you mean de-Bathistication? Dor you mean replacing their former of government? Rewriting their constitution? Rewickering their economic system? Would we really do any of these things?

  16. #76
    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default ISIS’ fighting doctrine: Sorting fact from fiction

    An Arab website has this interesting analysis, it is in English:

    Starts with:
    A careful and specialized examination of the strengths and weaknesses of the fighting doctrine and the military performance of suicidal salafi jihadi groups, such as the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), is yet to be done. Such a study has not been carried out by official military authorities in countries directly affected, such as Iraq and Syria, or by scholars specialized in studying these groups. Nevertheless, it is possible to review some of the information on the issue found in different publications.
    Note the emphasis on "technicals" and the aggressive use of snipers.

    Citing Justin Bronk, a RUSI analyst:
    A particular speciality is outflanking defensive positions and then mopping up defenders who attempt to retreat. The tactic is as much psychological as it is kinetic, and is greatly magnified by the horrendous and public brutality ISIS has systematically exhibited wherever it has gained control.
    Link:http://english.al-akhbar.com/content...g-fact-fiction

    Link to the article by Justin Bronk, written two weeks ago:http://edition.cnn.com/2014/10/17/op...las/index.html
    Last edited by davidbfpo; 11-02-2014 at 06:13 PM. Reason: Add last line and link
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  17. #77
    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default Why the Islamic State is Winning.

    A pithy commentary by John Schindler of the US strategy and approach to countering Daesh / ISIS. Try this:
    To be blunt, we kill very effectively but we have precious little understanding of how to transform Muslim societies by force.
    Link:http://20committee.com/2014/11/14/wh...te-is-winning/

    Here are some tasters:
    The U.S. military is quite capable of defeating almost any adversary on the battlefield, even Da’ish, though that is not the same thing as producing lasting political outcomes that Americans will like. This is particularly true in the Greater Middle East, where the politico-cultural barriers to Westernization delivered by the barrel of a gun are steep and strong.

    It is now time, indeed long overdue, to dispense with magical thinking about what the application of American military power might achieve in any lasting strategic or political sense in the Middle East.
    I'd forgotten the Italian pacification of Libya (1928-1932):http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pacification_of_Libya

    Which today is not an option for the USA or its allies.

    Yes there is a thread 'Watching ISIS' into which this will be merged one day. It is worth a thread to alert readers and perhaps respond.

    Finally:
    A necessary first step is having a genuine debate about what our military can — and cannot — achieve in Iraq and Syria.
    davidbfpo

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    Quote Originally Posted by davidbfpo View Post
    A pithy commentary by John Schindler of the US strategy and approach to countering Daesh / ISIS. Try this
    Link:http://20committee.com/2014/11/14/wh...te-is-winning/

    The “COIN” agenda proved effective at promoting the careers and fortunes of some U.S. Army officers and their think-tank hangers-on, yet quite ineffective at producing strategic victory. It is now time, indeed long overdue, to dispense with magical thinking about what the application of American military power might achieve in any lasting strategic or political sense in the Middle East.
    Many of us concur with the author's assessment above. Those of us who tend to agree, also tend to believe that doing COIN for another 10 years wouldn't produce results that are more sustainable than we have today. Doing COIN for another 10 years would do the following: tie our forces down for 10 years, bleed us out economically, and cause us to forfeit higher priority strategic objectives around the globe. That doesn't mean we throw out hard learned lessons about COIN over the past decade, because we will certainly need those lessons in the future. There are elements in our COIN doctrine worth retaining, but our strategic approach to COIN needs a serious relook. The key is to develop realistic policy objectives that advance our interests, and not develop objectives that are beyond our capabilities to achieve.

    To be blunt, we kill very effectively but we have precious little understanding of how to transform Muslim societies by force. Indeed, our efforts in that direction usually produce opposite outcomes, which should be easily predictable were we not besotted by lies about how others view us and what we seek to achieve.
    In Iraq and Afghanistan our desired goals were to ultimately transform their societies. Obviously we didn't want to put another Saddam or Taliban government back in charge. However, that doesn't mean we had to pursue the neocon view of the world, which is that everyone desires to be like us. We just have to remove the evil forces that are preventing them from doing so. It is clear many people in Iraq and Afghanistan desired something different/better than Saddam and the Taliban, and the more educated may have even desired to move closer to a Western model, but they didn't speak for the masses. We took transformation to the extreme and tried to impose democracy by force. On top of that, we tried to do it on the cheap. The democracy we imposed was little more than mob rule, resulting in continued instability that created the conditions for extremism to grow in Iraq, and return in Afghanistan.

    Realizing we over reached is insufficient if we're going to be successful in the future. There must be more salient lessons that we should take from these gallant efforts for the future. Clearly our opposite approach of hands off in Libya didn't fare so well, so is there a middle path that is feasible? In hindsight, what would have been reasonable goals in Afghanistan that would have advanced our interests in the region?

    I believe we still think big and pursue grand visions, but we need to slow our roll and accept change takes time, and it will manifest differently in each country. Sustainable change must come from within, it can't be imposed by outsiders. We have this throughout history when Western colonies fought for their freedom, and Eastern European countries were freed from the grasp of the USSR, etc. Imposed change does not endure.

    The first feasible step after the fighting is over is to establish order, and that doesn't mean imposing a foreign form of governance, especially a complex democratic government. Putting a strong man in charge is more humane than years of continual factional bloodshed. Then help government and society evolve over time by developing their human capital and other forms of development. Let them see what we and others do, then they'll pick and choose what they want to adapt as their way over time.

    Simply put, we have no ability to change Muslim societies unless we are willing to stay the long haul and are eager to kill staggering numbers of people, many of them civilians, in horrible ways.
    It is extremely arrogant of us to assume that Muslims would us to transform them anymore than we want Muslims to transform our society. Do we think the only way to achieve our ends is transforming their society? It is time for a complete relook of our approach. Until we develop a strategy that advances our interests, we should become comfortable with the unpleasant fact hat killing those who intend to harm us is a pragmatic course of action. It is not one we should shy away from, but also remaining cognizant that there may be a better way and we should continue to work on determining what that may be.
    Last edited by davidbfpo; 11-27-2014 at 09:08 PM. Reason: fix quote

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    A useful BBC summary 'How serious is the IS threat to the UK?' and covers the apparent media success enjoyed by Daesh (ISIS):http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-30080004

    Well illustrated by this picture, which I assumed it adapted from the popular video game:
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    A long 80 pg report by the Israeli NGO, the Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center, on ISIS; which I have quickly skimmed in part:http://www.terrorism-info.org.il/Dat..._163836165.pdf
    davidbfpo

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