Does ISIS really stand a chance in the long run?

The group that exists today is probably doomed, but the ideas that they have propagated and evolved will live on, as will most of the individuals who are taking part in the atrocities.

The ideas that the Islamic State are building themselves around are not new. By some interpretations they can be sourced to Islamic leaders in the mid 1700’s in Saudi Arabia, but more recently in the contributions to these philosophies by others in from the Egypt, Kashmere, and others since the 1920’s. These ideas have spread throughout the Islamic world and are the root cause of Islamic Jihadism today. Until these ideas are segregated from the greater Islamic philosophy, villainized properly for the barbarity they eventually lead to, and purged by Muslims from their own practices, these ideas will continue to grow, prosper, spread, and evolve in places like Iraq and Syria (ISIS) , Afghanistan (Taliban), Mali, Nigeria, and Chad (Boko Haram), and Somalia (Al-Shabaab). Even if ISIS were to be completely routed and destroyed, (magic wand thinking), the ideology behind what brought it into existence will continue to grow even if the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant no longer exists.

Second, the people who fight for ISIS will continue to exist, as well. Most of the people who fight in jihadist wars don’t come from the land where they are fighting. Instead, they follow an international call to arms against a myriad of supposed threats. Below is an estimated map of where most of the international recruits to ISIS come from. The vast majority of are from Middle Eastern and North African nations. Still, a disturbing amount are coming from Islamic communities within Western Europe.

There are several problems with this beyond the sheer terror that it invokes. First that I will mention, is that if the core of ISIS were magically destroyed, all of these individuals would return home to their native countries. In places like France, this phenomenon has directly caused at least one massacre, as well as others in Spain and London, not to mention the rest of the Middle East. The fear that many international security agencies have had is that these individuals will go back home and bring terror with him, once again, independent of what is going on in actual war zones like Syria and Iraq. Charlie Hebdo provided proof of concept in this concern, dubbed “islamophobic” only a month ago.

Moving on from this is the international conflict it invokes. What happens if we were to be able to just capture all these individuals, not kill them, but not let them go back home? Well, they are still citizens of those foreign governments and now they are under US (or whoever’s) control. How would the Russian community respond to hearing of Russians being held by Western forces indefinitely for actions that took place overseas? What about the Chinese, or the French, or the Saudis? The United States doesn’t even understand the rationality behind it and will fight the very act of detaining known terrorists, so I have to ask about the strain this sort of event would have on international relations. Probably, in at least a few cases, important bonds would break down and geopolitical stability would be damaged.

Third, even if ISIS were to disappear, the Jihadi Wars will continue. As I have said, the land may be deprived of the jihadists, but their ideas will not go away, nor will the individuals disappear. They will continue to go on and spread their ideals and attempt to reform their home mosques to their own version of Islam. If we were to even hope to track all these people, it would require the creation of perhaps another separate CIA or an international intelligence task force with the sole purpose of tracking these individuals. It’s an almost impossible problem, let alone the philosophical and legal burdens that implies. This means that keeping track of them is a pipe dream. They will also take with them the connections: financing, weapons dealers, fanatical religious leaders, the media. These relationships will be able to grow, as well. So too will their will their tactics and the ideas which form the pillar of their fundamentalist agenda. All this will be happening as they reintegrate into their native homelands, unaware of the jihadist’s past.

Eventually, the call to arms will move somewhere else. It may be that the fight is called for Somalia, or West Africa. Perhaps it will be in the Kashmere region. It may just as easily move to places like Chechnya, Kazakhstan, Serbia, or even in Southwestern China or France. When that happens, the same mujahid fighting today will flock to the region, this time with their sons and their friends who they have converted to their perverted view of Islam. The rest of the world won’t make the connection between say, Chechnya in 2020 and ISIS today, but by the same connection, no one was tracing the link to Al Qaeda and the Islamic State, or between them and the Mujahideen of Afghanistan in the 1980’s or between all of them and some Saudi cleric three hundred years ago.

If we ever want to truly see the forces which caused the rise of the Islamic State to fail, we are going to have to support Muslim’s effort to purge the jihadists’ ideology from their own belief system. Their media outlets and outreach need to be secured and silenced and as many of them as possible need to be killed right now, before they go on to pollute the rest of Islam with their fanatical belief system.


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Review of American Sniper from Marine Iraq War Veteran

So far, I haven’t seen very many reviews of American Sniper from anyone who was present in Iraq during the time Kyle was there. My first base, Al Taqaddum was about thirty minutes from Fallujah , the location of much of the story. Some of the times we were there coincided, so I feel like I have a different view of the story than most movie goers or professional reviewers.

I really don’t like seeing war movies about Iraq because, like “The Hurt Locker” and “Brothers”, they are critically acclaimed by millions who never took part in the wars, but create ridiculously stereotypical caricatures of real people who deserve more respect, and are abysmal failures of research into the actual military methodology that deserves more understanding. To me, movies like these are just riding waves of war curiosity and civilian guilt while telling their over-sensationalized story, rather than any semblance of a real story – essentially, an insult to anyone who actually took part in the conflict while making millions for people who didn’t. I fully expected American Sniper to be much of the same, so I was probably just going to wait and rent the DVD. It wasn’t until my sixth grade students, some of which still in diapers when I went to war, started asking questions about what it is was like for me after seeing they saw the movie that I decided to watch so that I could give an answer based on their new context, rather than mine.

When I sat down for the movie I fully expecting all the nonsense and war porn that was The Hurt Locker. My only hope was that Clint Eastwood, whose work I have enjoyed in the past, would do better. The lights went down and the opening began to the Islamic call to prayer. Before even the first frame of actual film footage, I was shocked that I was immediately taken back to that other time and place. What the Adhan means, to me, is an immediate sense of anxiety and foreboding. I know that for billions of people, that is not the case, but when the first place you hear it is over hundreds of loudspeakers echoing from the village of Haditha below your base, it is more reminiscent of the people living there lobbing rockets at you every week than of any religion of peace. Eastwood starting the movie with that, I feel was intended as a spiritual call to arms for Iraq veterans and for me at least, it landed. What the opening first scene actually ended up being, locked me in for the rest of the movie.

Where this film shines, in my opinion, was in the degree of accuracy it had in its presentation. As I said before, movies like The Hurt Locker turned me off for military flicks for years. This one got details right that I have no idea how they could have known. I have no idea how they thought to even ask. My case in point, which no one reading this noticed, was a water bottle used to automatically close the wooden door in their plywood shelter on the first deployment. It is an almost meaningless detail of that war that we walked past every day, but that you would never think to see in a movie because it is just so mundane and inglorious. But there it was. It meant a lot to me that that detail made it in, among countless others which will go unheralded. Honestly, the whole living area was done perfectly. It felt exactly like what I would have expected to see in Iraq. In fact, it was too perfect. There was no dust and everything was at right angles so shelves didn’t look like they were made by a cross-eyed Lance Corporal who lost his glasses. But besides being too perfect, it was perfect. To be clear, this was a very researched and well done military movie. There were times where troops wore the wrong gear and other things, but overall, very well done in most regards.

Second, was the actual portrayal of military deployments. Every war movie I have ever seen shows you and your war buddies gearing up for “The Big One” and going off to war. Those who miraculously survive come home to ticker tape and beautiful women, the war forever just a memory. What the regular people don’t get is that we go to war, once, twice, four times, eight times… I commented to Jay Wacker‘s review to his point that, “The film dragged a little in the 3rd tour, which began to feel a bit same-same…” which shows a great deal of how good movies run counter to real life. There’s a reason that the film drug during the third tour. By the third 6-to-10 month combat tour, life is same-sameish. That said, the fact that Eastwood showed the transition – civilian home, killing insurgents, having a baby, seeing a child murdered, playing with the dog, seeing your friend killed, going to the mall, nearly dying, as a realistic sequence of events does far more to display life for those of us who really deployed and our families. Living in that perpetual state of transition was a a mind numbing experience, delivered of course, by the film’s leading actor, Bradley Cooper.

Cooper got it right in so many ways I can’t even describe how much I now respect this Hangover alumni. It wasn’t his general badassness in battle. Every war movie tries to make their hero a superhero. Whatever, boring. I’ve seen that before over, and over, and over… So to those who see this as just a real-life Iron Man or Captain America”, you missed so, so much.

The scene that meant the most to me when thinking about Cooper’s acting ability was one that most people were probably bored by, but for veterans, really drives the point home that they got it right. I’ll throw a spoiler because the plot point really doesn’t matter. It was the scene where Kyle and his family are having the tire on their car changed. A Marine recognizes Kyle and comes up to thank him with all the “You saved me in, blah, blah, blah…” and “A lot of guys didn’t come back, blah, blah, blah…” tropes that are in every war movie. What you probably didn’t notice about that scene was Cooper. To moviegoers he was boring, but what I saw was something I don’t understand how he got right.

In that scene, Cooper displays classic signs of a veteran who doesn’t enjoy being thanked. He immediately deeply retreats upon being recognized and becomes politely evasive. His speech breaks down into monosyllabic chirps of general acknowledgement, while not maintaining eye contact and attempting to not carry the conversation further. While I’ve never saved anybody, I’ve had this experience dozens of times when random strangers thank me for my service. You really can’t describe the feeling that follows, but last Veterans’ Day when my boss made a big deal about thanking me in front of all my students, a motive I am deeply appreciative of, I was overwhelmed with a feeling I can only describe as a profound and sudden sense of humiliation which I can’t begin to quite understand. I had to ask her to stop. Like seriously. All I can say is Cooper’s portrayal of this feeling was something I saw in his short chirps and expressionless awkward glances that communicated a level of detailed research, coaching, and acting, to say the least of getting to know real veterans that needs to be known and acknowledged.

What I didn’t like most was the wife, played by Sienna Miller. The character was too one-dimensional. The acting was fine, but the role was built to serve as a person who represented the state-side life of deployed military personnel and nothing else. For that reason, regardless of the real Taya Kyle’s persona, the character came off as deeply unsupportive and against the war or at least her husband’s participation in it. It lends to the idea that “normal” people wouldn’t be all right doing what he does. The only time you actually see her mention that she is proud of her husband’s achievements was when he retired from service, which left a very ambiguous taste in my mouth. What exactly was she proud of? This felt very unrealistic as the SEALs are pretty much the most gung-ho, hyper military individuals that Hollywood often paints them to be, but their families are just as gung-ho proud as they are. They suffer the deployments, sure, but “My husbands a SEAL, dammit!” In my experience, you don’t find successful military people who have a home life with someone that unsupportive of their efforts “over there”, particularly when they were in service prior to their romantic life. I can easily dismiss this because this character, in the movie, is a symbol meant to showcase the torn nature of Kyle’s character, and rounding her out would have taken away from the plot while adding time to an already very long movie, but it just didn’t land home with me. The brother’s extremely short feature in the late story also seemed remarkably unrealistic and more Hollywood than real life. I get that he may not have liked the war (who does?) but the day you go home is the happiest day of your life. You’re happy. Act happy.

There were other plot problems, as well. Specifically, on his first deployment he is pretty much looked at as some sort of key leadership role, which isn’t realistic. He’s a SEAL, not a God of Warfare. What it seemed to me to happened was that several key leaders, namely SEAL officers, were merged with Kyle’s character for story telling convenience. By his third or fourth tour he would have been an actual Chief (Chief Petty Officer) and had a leadership role, but not by the first deployment. Abandoning overwatch to go house to house was also a bit unforgivable, because I said so. “Let me show you a few things,” to the Marines, which were filmed as almost incompetent, was a bit annoying. Getting a phone call in the middle of a mission? Umm… no. The whole climax scene was also really over the top and highly fictionalized for the movie from several different events in the book at once.

The last thing I didn’t really enjoy seeing; all the PTSD and blown up troops. Honestly, the next time you see it, attempt to find me one single veteran who left the military and was not very much traumatized or horrifically maimed. If movies like this were the only evidence you had to go on, everyone would believe that all 2.5 million of us who went would to Iraq or Afghanistan are sporting a titanium leg. I’ve seen a dozen different reviews that speak about how they did a great job of showing what it’s like for returning troops mentally speaking, but they really didn’t. Don’t get me wrong, they did better than any other, but you don’t feel what having cancer is like by watching an actor play a person with cancer. You just feel sad for the character. You don’t understand it, though. I appreciate how very, very hard they obviously worked on showcasing the issue respectfully, but honestly I’m concerned that the fact that since every war movie must show returning veterans as irreparably broken and destroyed individuals, (Brothers anyone?) is just perpetuating the idea that we are creatures to be pitied in the best case scenario; that is, pitied but kept safely away from friends, children, dogs, your workplaces, or guns because we will probably murder you in a fit of PTSD rage. We have enough problems without dealing with the stereotypes that films about the war continually reinforce in a population that has no first hand experience with its actual military veterans.

These few major points and the numerous small inaccuracies were why it isn’t a five star movie for me. That said, I can dismiss these because I get that we need certain things in a movie to take place and be entertaining to movie-going audiences. Enough of the details and story were preserved and given their proper respect that I can deal with the hyped up sensationalization of much of the movie. I do want to end on a positive note.

Many have spoken to the fact no one says a word when the movie ends. It was the same for us. The ending was extremely powerful and brought to the surface many emotions that you just can’t go back to the real world immediately from. For my wife and I, it remained silent for most of the twenty minute car ride home, as well. I dealt with a lot of personal feelings that the movie dug up. I’m usually livid after movies like that, talking about how this was wrong, or that was wrong, but Eastwood’s film just reached me in a way that others who want to tie themselves to the trials of military personnel couldn’t. The film respectfully and as accurately as I could imagine, tells the story of one American warrior’s struggle in making terrible choices, fighting against terrible people, separated from his family and doing it again and again for something he believed was important. To many of us who were there, the story also helps in a small way to communicate parts of ourselves we simply failed to communicate before. I honestly don’t know if there will ever be an Iraq War movie that I would give five stars to, but I am deeply appreciative to the work that Clint Eastwood, Bradley Cooper, and the team that brought American Sniper have done to bring this story to the big screen.

In summary: Must See.


unnamedJon Davis is a US Marine Corps veteran writer, focusing on the topics of US veterans and international defense. His work has been featured in Newsweek, Forbes, Gizmodo and elsewhere. He is also a writer of military science fiction with his first book, The Next War, due out early this year. You can follow Jon Davis via his personal blog Jon’s Deep Thoughts, and can support his writing via the web donation service, Patreon.

A Look at the Tactics of Charlie Hebdo by a Military Veteran

We’ve had very well planned assaults happening for a very long time now. People just haven’t been paying attention.

 


Historical Context

Consider all the way back to 9/11. You had 19 men who were all deep agents of Al Qaeda. That means that many served as troops with the Islamic Mujahideen of Afghanistan against the Soviets and were elite warfighters of that force. They were all extremely vetted, meaning that they either served directly with the core of Al Qaeda’s founders or were family. Furthermore, these were not just poor and ignorant farmers. They were all highly literate, highly educated men of connected backgrounds. For example, Mohamed Atta, one of the ringleaders of the operation, was an architect trained in Cairo and Hamburg. Others also held professional degrees. Logistics were an important factor, as well. For the operation to be a success, the 19 had to all be brought into the United States and housed for several months. They had to be trained, each in their various roles for the operations. They were organized into cells. There was no way they would be left in one 19 man house for fear of detection. So they had to be split up. That would also mean that there needed to be an overwatch for them to make sure that they didn’t back out or blow the operation. This meant communication lines had to be created and a bureaucracy of agents supporting the would be suicide bombers. All this, the planning, the coordination, the admin, logistics, and the leadership, required a vast network of handlers and overseers for the operation. It went far beyond 19 men, themselves qualifying easily as special forces, operating for months, implementing a plan years in the making.

This had the masterful effect of pulling the Americans into a prolonged war in the Middle East, unsettling the US, but more importantly, throwing the entire region into turmoil and disarray. By bringing in Western intervention, through the manipulation of American sentimentality and reactionary mentality, they destabilized longstanding semi-secular governments of the Middle East, making way for the caliphate that was always their real primary goal.

Skip to a while later and you see Madrid. In 2004 Spain was in active support of the American presence in Iraq. On the morning of 11 March 2004 – three days before the general elections in Spain, a series of nearly simultaneous, coordinated bombings against the Cercanías commuter train system of Madrid took place. The explosions killed 191 people and wounded 1,800. This also involved a massive and sophisticated planning method where Madrid’s security system had to have been compromised completely for months. The result was the nation’s complete turnaround in the elections, pulling favor away from the Iraq War and isolating the United States from European support.

Al Qaeda is not, in the least, unsophisticated in their attacks. Every major operation they make is implemented by the best and most vetted troops able to be recruited from among various jihadi forces. Their attacks are planned and coordinated with the intent to manipulate Western sentiments to their favor toward destabilizing the Middle East. They further increase their leverage by using this propaganda to build a death cult of fanatics willing to sacrifice themselves in the realization of a grand dream of the new Caliphate, as the “heroes” of 9/11 did.


The Raid on Charlie Hebdo

One eye witness account, that of Corinne Rey, a designer known as Coco, has told L’Humanité said that she was forced to let the attackers into the Charlie Hebdo building. She said:

I had gone to pick up my daughter from daycare. Arriving at the door of the newspaper building, two hooded and armed men brutally threatened us.

They wanted to enter, go up. I typed the code. They shot Wolinski, Cabu … it lasted five minutes … I had taken refuge under a desk …
They spoke French perfectly … claiming to be Al-Qaida.

Other reports have stated that the men knew the individuals whom they were targeting precisely. In one account I’ve seen, attackers called for the editors and cartoonists by name, recognized them and shot them on the spot while ignoring many others. The fact that they did this doesn’t mean it was an inside job by any means, but means that they most likely had very large intelligence profiles on these men. These files were no doubt collected and groomed prior to the operation and delivered to the two. This also indicates a larger network of administrators and intelligence gatherers, perhaps even utilizing known connections with intelligence services of many Islamic nations, a practice seen in the past. I say it wasn’t inside because of a few mistakes made, namely the two first went into the wrong building, two buildings down from Charlie Hebdo. They demanded from a local delivery person direction to the right building, where they encountered Corinne Rey, who they needed to open the door.

In a video of the incident taken by an onlooker in the wrong place at the right time, shared by the Guardian, two gunmen are seen exiting a car presumably near the Charlie Hebdo building. This can be speculated because a news van is seen near where the shooters brutally gunned down a police officer, himself a fellow Muslim.

From what we can see plainly, the two shooters are well armed, both carrying what appear to be AK-47’s, as well as well armored with additional gear. He is wearing what appears to be either some form of load bearing vest, which the military uses to carry additional ammunition, or a bullet proof vest of desert coloring. The truth is, probably both. At the very least, he has lots of ammunition easily available.

More concerning than his equipment, which could be bought and given to any suicidal maniac, is his tactical carry and use of the weapon. The shooter nearest the camera concerns me. As a former US Marine Corps marksmanship instructor I see many things that speak of advanced military style tactical discipline. Both shooters seem to wield the Russian made AK-47 adeptly. These weapons are readily available by many avenues, and abundant in the Middle Eastern conflict, but the ability to fire it well is in less supply. The weapon is capable of automatic fire and fires a larger round than the US made M-16. This means that the weapon has extremely deadly potential, but also requires greater skill to use well in delivering accurate fire. The two assassins demonstrate a knowledge of the weapon’s use, obvious by the casualty count, but also displayed in their carry. Note how the nearer shooter holds his weapon with elbows inward pressed against his body. He also has his body firmly behind the weapon to absorb recoil and raises the weapon to eye level as he is sighted-in while searching around corners for his victim. This shows some degree of military style training and discipline in weapons use.

In reading a profile of the two suspects put together by CNN, this is exactly the type of attack they would have been prepared for.

 

Both brothers [Cherif Kouachi and Said Kouachi] were in the U.S. database of known or suspected international terrorists, known as TIDE, and also had been on the no-fly list for years, a U.S. law enforcement official said.  BFMTV reported that like his brother [Cherif], Said Kouachi was born in Paris and was known to police.

The younger of the two brothers [Said] has spent time in jail for links to terrorism. He was arrested in January 2005, at age 22, when he and another man were about to set off for Syria en route to Iraq. He was sentenced to three years in prison in 2008 for being part of a jihadist recruitment ring in Paris that sent fighters to join the conflict in Iraq. Kouachi didn’t actually go to prison after the trial because half his three-year sentence was suspended and he had already spent enough time in pretrial detention, Bloomberg reported. He was released from custody before the trial. In 2010, Kouachi was charged in connection with a foiled plot to aid the escape of Smain Ait Ali Belkacem, an Algerian Islamist imprisoned for bombing a Paris commuter rail station in 1995. But public prosecutors later dropped the charges, according to Le Monde.

Of the older brother, Cherif, little is known. He kept a much lower profile than his younger brother.

A U.S. official says the United States was given information from the French intelligence agency that Said Kouachi traveled to Yemen as late as 2011 on behalf of the al Qaeda affiliate there. Once in Yemen, the older brother received a variety of weapons training from al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) — the affiliate in Yemen — the official said, including on how to fire weapons.

Mohammed Benali, who runs the mosque in Gennevilliers, the suburb where Cherif Kouachi’s apartment is, said the two brothers used to come to Friday prayers there “not assiduously but regularly.” He told Le Figaro that he knew Said Kouachi better, but that he hadn’t seen either of the brothers at the mosque in at least two years.

Charlie Hebdo shooting: Who are the suspects? – CNN.com

The question remains, though now seems obvious, about the location of the two during the last two years. Various reports differ on speculating between one or both of the brothers recently visited Yemen. A French source close to the French security services told CNN that investigators have evidence to suggest one of the brothers — it is unclear which — traveled to Syria sometime in the past year. USA Today reported that they both returned from Syria in the summer. I say obvious, because wherever these two men were, they were very close to terrorist networks which provided them with ample ability to transform from none-to-special ordinary Parisians to fantasized jihadists.

Other images also showcase the extent of their capabilities.

In shooting circles a “tight group” refers to a shooter’s ability to place a collection of rounds near to the same central aiming point. As shown by the damage to this police vehicle, the shooter was able to deliver two very good groups with only a few strays. This is impressive shooting for shoulder fired, automatic weapons with such large calibers.

Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, their plan was so complete, they have yet to be caught. The fact that so much time has gone by, probably means that the men are already safe and sound in the Middle East. The gunmen were seen escaping into a black vehicle and going to the Paris suburbs where they abandoned their car and jumped into another. Tactically speaking, the whole event exists to spell out a very clear message to many: Islamic terrorists have the power to create an extremely complex and sophisticated raid and assassination against any Western soft targets, in any cities they want and they could do it again without suffering harm.

 


The Raid on Charlie Hebdo

The big question, at least the big question to me, is “Why?” I understand the obvious answer, they wanted to avenge the blasphemous portrayal of their prophet. Having two homegrown Parisian jihadists just arrive on the scene may have simply been too good of an opportunity to let go. Perhaps, all they really did want was to send a message to the West, as well as their own people. Disrespect of their prophet or their organization won’t be tolerated, and retribution will be too grand not to be showcased. Perhaps they wanted to raise tensions in France, the nation with the largest Islamic population in Europe. France has a full 10% Muslim population which, if properly motivated by revenge and retribution attacks by overzealous Frenchmen, could produce many new converts for jihad. Observe what was done with two. Imagine twenty.

Al Qaeda, though, doesn’t ever just do something for the “obvious” reason. They are very nuanced and their planning is many layers deep. As with 9/11 being used to generate rage in Americans to destabilize the entire Middle East, and Madrid being used to encourage Spain to vote against a government which would support the Iraq war, Al Qaeda has shown that they have mastered the art of manipulating Western mentalities to greater, yet less obvious purposes. What I wonder is, what are these purposes?

I’m free to speculate, as it is asked by the OP. Charles Stuart Forstall also brings to the table a theory that is very valid so I will start there.

You have to keep in mind that the primary audience for the terrorists is on their home turf and they are seeking whatever advantage they can gain with those whom they might woo either to their cause or to their support. I am of the mind, though I know this is a somewhat contentious idea, that the attack was meant to provide the terrorists with western provided media items, memes, that they can use to grow their support base.

Westerners outside of France seem to have a hard enough time grasping the proper context of the cartoons and I think that this is also part of the strategy. The images will circulate in places where people don’t have access to the internet or to “fact checking” methods like we do. In the end all that matters will be the image and not the unintelligible speech bubbles.

Another theory, lending itself to Charles’, is that the attacks may have been used to encourage additional funding and support from Arab patrons, the long time financiers of global Islamic terrorism. In recent months we have seen drastic changes in the Arabian Peninsula in two forms; one the reduction of the price of oil has upset many of the economies in the oil dependent region and frozen expendable funds for terrorist donations, and two being that these donations have finally been outlawed by the Saudi Arabian monarch. I haven’t done the research to see how successful that initiative has been, but the fact of the matter is that the two mean dangerous times for jihadists abroad if they don’t adapt soon.

Lastly, there is one more motive I would like to pose. From its inception the group known in the West as ISIS has been a force for great destruction and havoc in the region of Iraq and Syria. It was actually born of Al Qaeda in Iraq before breaking off to take part in the Syrian Civil War where it evolved. During that time they reinvented themselves as the “Islamic States” a modern day Caliphate. Al Qaeda, Arabic for “the base” disagreed with this. They felt that the creation of a true Islamic State was premature and should be held off. At that point, the two were at odds with one another. Recently, however, there has been news that the two groups have reconciled. In another answer I said that it should be noted that the attack took place seemingly in response to the unexpected boldness of French bombing offensives in Syria and Iraq over the last few months. There, the allied bombing campaign has had tremendous effect in breaking key points of the battlespace and opening the way for advances by Kurdish Peshmerga and the Iraqi Army. For the French to decide to back off, would very much relieve front line fighters in Syria and Iraq. All I’m saying is that we haven’t heard a great deal from Al Qaeda in quite a while, so why such a bold move? Why now? Why France?

As I have said, everything is speculation at this point. What Western readers need to understand, though, is that this raid on Charlie Hebdo was not just some rogue terrorists who got lucky. It was not the act of some “lone gunmen”. It was an advanced and well planned, well supported military raid. Not only this, but it isn’t the first. It is the continuation of a very long history of these raids. What might be scary though, as many have feared, insurgents trained and blooded in combat in Syria and Iraq are returning home to Europe and the West. This probably won’t be the last time we see a story like this. This time though, they are good enough to get away, rather than just blowing themselves to pieces.


unnamedJon Davis is a US Marine Corps veteran writer, focusing on the topics of US veterans and international defense. His work has been featured in Newsweek, Forbes, Gizmodo and elsewhere. He is also a writer of military science fiction with his first book, The Next War, due out early this year. You can follow Jon Davis via his personal blog Jon’s Deep Thoughts, and can support his writing via the web donation service, Patreon.

Islamists attack French Newspaper Charlie Hebdo – 16 casualties

The French Paper Charlie Hebdo was attacked this morning, at about 1PM Paris time by gunmen. The two, possibly three gunmen, it has been reported, were shouting, “Allah Akbar”, the battle cry for Islamic fundamentalists worldwide when they attacked the Paris based newspaper.

The newspaper is familiar with terrorism, though not on this scale. In response to their 2011 November “Charia Hebdo” (a reference to Sharia law) issue, which featured a “guest-edit” by Muhammad the Prophet of Islam, and decried world wide by Islamist for its blasphemous images, the offices were firebombed and the website hacked.

So far, it appears that 12 people have been killed and four people wounded in the assassinations and shooting attacks. Included in this number are believed to be at least five members contributors to the paper, four of its founding cartoonists and an economist. At least one of the cartoonists was cited as being on Al-Qaeda’s most wanted list for his role as one of the editors of the “Charia Hebdo” issue of 2011. Also counted are two police officers who died in the line duty attempting to stop the attack.

One eye witness account, that of Corinne Rey, a designer known as Coco, has told L’Humanité said that she was forced to let the attackers into the Charlie Hebdo building. She said:

I had gone to pick up my daughter from daycare. Arriving at the door of the newspaper building, two hooded and armed men brutally threatened us.

They wanted to enter, go up. I typed the code. They shot Wolinski, Cabu … it lasted five minutes … I had taken refuge under a desk …
They spoke French perfectly … claiming to be Al-Qaida.

In a video of the incident, being shared on the Guardian two gunmen can be seen exiting a car presumably near the Charlie Hebdo building, as a news van can be seen near where the shooters brutally gunned down an unarmed bystander.

From what we can see plainly, the two shooters are well armed, both carrying what appear to be AK-47’s, as well as well armored with additional gear. The shooter nearest the camera concerns me, as a former Marine Corps marksmanship instructor, the most. He is wearing what appears to be either some form of load bearing vest, which the military uses to carry additional ammunition, or a bullet proof vest of desert coloring. The truth is, probably both.

More concerning than this is his tactical carry of the weapon. Both shooters seem to wield the Russian made AK-47 adeptly. These weapons are readily available by many avenues, and abundant in the Middle Eastern conflict, but the ability to fire it well is in less supply. The weapon is capable of automatic fire and fires a larger round than the US made M-16. This means that the weapon has extremely deadly potential, but also requires greater skill to use well in delivering accurate fire. The two assassins demonstrate a knowledge of the weapon’s use, obvious by the casualty count, but also displayed in their carry. Note how the nearer shooter holds his weapon with elbows inward pressed against his body. He also has his body firmly behind the weapon to absorb recoil and raises the weapon to eye level as he is sighted-in while searching around corners for his victim. This shows some degree of military style training and discipline in weapons use.

Moving on to speculation, it should be obvious that this attack shows a level of sophistication which was unmatched in recent “lone wolf” attacks such as the Australian hostage crisis last month. From the evidence we’ve seen so far, two, maybe more, shooters were able to carry out an orchestrated attack against specific predetermined targets, while leaving others so that they could gain entry into the facilities. Two have identified themselves, according to a witness, as Al-Qaeda operatives and have shown the ability to amass military style weapons, armament and training. Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, their plan was so complete, they have yet to be caught. The gunmen were seen escaping into a black vehicle and going the Paris suburbs where they abandoned their car and jumped into another. The whole event exists to spell out a very clear message to many: Islamic terrorists have the power to make an attack against Western and they could do it again.

The West should not be fooled into an apathetic naivety over the ramifications of this event. This was not the work of crazed gunmen. This event took time to plan including target profiles and escape routes, logistical supplies to be managed, and probably involved intelligence and administrative coordination with many others in the Islamic terrorist networks. It should also be noted that the attack takes place, seemingly in response to the unexpected boldness of French bombing offensives in Syria and Iraq over the last few months. It spells yet another dark day in the continuing battle against Islamic terrorism, one which almost will almost surely repeat itself again.

This attack also comes just days after German demonstrators in four cities, protesting against Islamic radicalism and its increasing roles in the West were shut down by local officials. The demonstrators have been called “radicals and racists” to the point that and counter demonstrators have compared the groups to Nazis of the past. During the largest of their gatherings this week, power was cut to demonstration areas, disrupting those who gathered. Cologne Cathedral provost Norbert Felfhoff has been said that the shutting down of the lights was an attempt to make the group’s demonstrators “think twice” about their protest. When various news outlets aren’t even mentioning that today’s attacks against a French news and satire outlet were the work of Islamic fundamentalists, but peaceful demonstrators are shut down for being “xenophobic” I have to honestly wonder who in the European community needs to be thinking twice.

As for myself and others, I can only say that Americans truly empathize with the pain felt by the French and my heart goes out to my French friends on Quora and elsewhere. We’ve both lost many people to the senseless violence that is brought by jihadists. We lament your losses dearly. Today, we all bleed red, white, and blue, or to be more precise, blue, white, and red.


unnamedJon Davis is a US Marine Corps veteran writer, focusing on the topics of US veterans and international defense. His work has been featured in Newsweek, Forbes, Gizmodo and elsewhere. He is also a writer of military science fiction with his first book, The Next War, due out early this year. You can follow Jon Davis via his personal blog Jon’s Deep Thoughts, and can support his writing via the web donation service, Patreon.

Kurdistan’s new secret weapon against ISIS jihadists – Humiliation

The Kurdish military is employing a new weapon in their fight against Islamic State jihadists in Iraq. The Kurdish forces, the Peshmerga, those who allied with the Americans during the War in Iraq in the hopes of finally receiving a homeland to call their own, have been fighting tooth and nail to ensure that their home stays their own. They have been literally on the front line of this war since Islamists poured over the border last summer and have since, constantly dueled for control of Northern Iraq and Syria. Their villages and cities face regular raids and bombings and the ISIS lines have even pushed to within an hour of the capital city of Kurdistan. They have more to fear from ISIS than any of us.

The Kurds, however, haven’t just taken this abuse idly. They have been the force most responsible for the direct losses against ISIS Insurgents in Iraq and Syria, filling the voids created by US and Allied bombs. In recent months, the Kurds have mounted a heroic comeback from a bleak outlook in the early fall. The Peshmerga successfully pushed back insurmountable odds in the Syrian city of Kobane, and are repelling a horde of Islamic warriors with aid from coalition bombings in Iraq. They’ve even managed to achieve this all on shoestring budgets that don’t even equal the transportation budget of many US states. Now, they are unleashing a new weapon, which, for this type of war, might be the most powerful yet.

Humiliation.

In perhaps the best display of propaganda since “Loose Lips Sink Ships”, Kurdish television networks have put out a video openly mocking fanatical jihadists. It’s worth a watch. The video made me, a political blogger and military writer, with time served in the contested regions of Iraq with the United States Marine Corps in 2005 and 2007, start thinking.

That the Kurds have become so strong in the endeavor to combat a massive force of fanatics, who themselves have the backing of ex-Saddam military officers, funding from wealthy oil barons of the Saudi Arabian peninsula, and a recruiting pool of virtually every hardened Islamic fundamentalist from the 1.2 billion people of the Islamic world, is a story unto itself. This is especially true, given that only a month ago, few would have imagined Kobane being a successful battle against ISIS. It was, however, and the Islamists know it. There is legitimacy to the Kurds mocking the terrorist regime because, deep down, the Islamic State knows that they have lost that battlefield, along with many others. They also know that every day that they fight there, they send more and more people to their doom.

More so than the fact that Kurds are able to broadcast this piece (free from ISIS or Allah having any ability to stop them) the humiliation campaign marks a quintessential attack on the jihadist’s theory. The message itself, mocks not just the individuals who participate in ISIS, but also attacks the very core beliefs around why many of the Islamic State fighters set off to join the Jihad in the first place. Why is a video like this, with its catchy melody, whimsical lyrics, and low budget possibly the single greatest strategy that the Kurds could be using right now? Answer this question honestly and see if you can figure it out:

“How could someone fight for a religious ideal around a God who would allow them to be humiliated so greatly? Why would God will for his warriors to lose this bad?


The Kurds are showing us how to fight wars against a determined jihadist enemy. Humiliate and demoralize them completely. Shatter their belief in the legitimacy of their cause. The recent military losses and, as much, the complete fearlessness of the Kurds’ belittlement of the Islamic State forces sends an international message of their impotence. Reports are coming in of ISIS troops surrendering on all fronts. Many, such as a group from England, wishing to flee back home and abandon their jihad ideal in Syria, are being executed for it. The constant stream of bombings from the US and European allies is withering them and stretching their lines thin. When followed by Kurdish Peshmerga assaults, their backs are broken for good. Finally, when all of this happens, with absolutely no divine intervention to stop it, and to face the additional slap in the face that is the Kurdish secret propaganda weapon, we see the ISIS worldview collapse. When that happens, their most valuable assets are diminished. First, the inflow of millions of dollars sponsored by Jihadist international backers wanting results is suddenly questioned. Second, thousands of zealous fanatics are no willing to join their ranks once they see the “glory” that awaits them in Iraq and Syria. Quite honestly, this may be the most important film no one is talking about.

I can’t say for sure when the threat of fanatical Jihadists like those operating in Iraq today will disappear forever, but what I can say is that this new weapon will be a vital part to bringing it down. When your enemy depends on their own sense of self-righteous, unquestionable perfection, poisoning the well may well be more powerful an assault than to die immediate to American bombs, but suffer the utterly demoralizing truth of realizing, “What if God really isn’t on our side?”


unnamedJon Davis is a US Marine Corps veteran writer, focusing on the topics of US veterans and international defense. His work has been featured in Newsweek, Forbes, Gizmodo and elsewhere. He is also a writer of military science fiction with his first book, The Next War, due out early this year. You can follow Jon Davis via his personal blog Jon’s Deep Thoughts, and can support his writing via the web donation service, Patreon.

Citizens of the Free World – In the Name of Freedom, Demand to See “The Interview”!

In a rare moment for me, I am getting into the entertainment industry. That’s because Seth Rogen and James Franco have created an unprecedented international incident by making a movie about killing the dictator of North Korea, Kim Jong-un.

I personally was looking forward to it, but it seems that is going to be much harder to do now. That is because of a string of events that began with what I imagine to be a very plump crew-cut dictator throwing the mother of all tantrums, and I now can’t see my movie.

Why this is important: The movie centers on the exploits of Rogen, who plays a journalist and his celebrity friend (Franko) being invited in a rare opportunity to North Korea. This mirrors some actual events such as the much publicized visits to the RPK by basketball superstar Dennis Rodman beginning in early 2013. Where it differs, is that this time, the hapless duo are tasked by the CIA to kill Mr. Jong-un.

Well that sounds hilarious, but what happened next wasn’t. Apparently, Sony Pictures was hacked by what now appears to be a group backed by the North Koreans (which reads more clearly as “Just Plain The North Koreans”.) These hackers have been rumored to have leaked the scripts to several movies yet to be released such as the new James Bond film, among others. That was kind of a dick move, but then they went so far as to threaten terrorist actions against Sony Pictures and various movie theaters if they went ahead with filming.

Well now that’s just rude. Actually, it is an international crime, but we’re splitting hairs. What we have is a direct threat by foreign agents to cause “terrorism”, which we can only assume means intentional acts intended to cause grievous harm to Americans and American property if demands are not met. This act has caused Sony Pictures to cancel their premiere of “The Interview” and Carmike Theaters, a company with over 200 theaters in the United States, has opted not to showcase the movie at all.

For that reason, more so than just threats, grievous harm has already been made against Americans. American companies now are being terrorized into capitulating to the whims of some impossibly immature, maniacal dictator. Forget for a moment that actual American lives were threatened and focus on the concrete damage that has been done. The North Koreans, (you’ll note I’m intentionally no longer still pretending it was some random hacker group who just so happens to absolutely adore Kim Jong-un) deliberately stole industry sensitive information that cost one American company, Sony Pictures, headquartered in California, perhaps hundreds of millions of dollars. It destroyed the premiere of one Hollywood picture and devalued many others. Thousands of people connected to the films industry are going to suffer because of this. If I haven’t been clear, this was a deliberate act of economic warfare, terrorism rather, from one sovereign nation to the United States.

And now those who regularly follow me see why I am interested. This attack demonstrates particular failures in the United States national defense strategy that must be addressed. The attack demonstrates the power that nationally backed hacking programs have to disrupt and damage American and allied country’s economic spheres. Showcasing the vulnerabilities of individual companies and individuals, the North Korean attack on Sony Pictures clearly demonstrates the ineffectiveness of the United States government’s response to attacks on its economic sector. Obviously, it is providing an inefficient level of defense for companies housed in the United States, because, as it seems, threats like the attack on Sony Pictures aren’t actually considered a threat to national security.

In case you think I going overboard, this isn’t even the first time Americans have been targeted like this, either. It has long been known that the Chinese have used commercial intelligence and espionage to silently break into the networks of American companies, steal their patented trade secrets and deliver them to Chinese owned corporations. Other nations even have entire departments and special third party agencies (like the one in question) dedicated to the endeavor of cyber-espionage and signal based attacks. Have you ever heard of Syrian Electronic Army? They are a group who does nothing but commit acts of cyber terrorism and espionage in the name of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Iran and the United States, among others have even been trading blows in a cyber pseudo-war for years. Lest we not forget my favorite subject, the group known throughout the world as ISIS. Their exploitation of social media has been used to target American Veterans and active service members at their homes, encouraging Islamic radicals to target them and their families.

The point here is that there is a major threat to American interests. Individual lives as well as the economic security and strategic corporate advantages of thousands of companies, the very lifeblood of United States national security itself, have been compromised. I am not someone who agrees with others that Sony failed by giving into the terrorists. If people were somehow attacked at a theater, it would be those executives blamed for the deaths, along with the North Koreans. Furthermore, a company, any company, like Sony Pictures have absolutely no defense against the ongoing threat of future revenge attacks like this, leaking all of their sensitive trade information, the secrets like unreleased scripts they need to keep their company going for years to come, given the enemy they are defending themselves is North Korea.

Do I honestly think that the RPK is going to bomb some movie theater because of a stupid movie, possibly starting a war that they will definitely lose? No, I don’t, but I do think that Sony Pictures Entertainment faces an existential threat by way of North Korea. Are we supposed to blame Sony Pictures because they can’t defend against a whole country? Switching gears, imagine if Providence Health and Services, a major healthcare company with hundreds of hospitals under its umbrella, were to face a similar cyber attack. Tens of thousands of people could have their sensitive health data, valuable information in itself, made public. Are we really going to blame Providence when the perpetrator of the attack was Iran? If all the lights went off in Santa Maria (just outside Vandenberg Air Force Base) is the city of just over one-hundred thousand people at fault, when the attack originated from inside Russia? No. How could every single company, agency, state, city, and individual in the United States be expected to protect itself, and by extension be responsible for the combined security of everyone else in the United States, against entire nations set to steal their valuable information, damage their property, or worse, end their lives?

What we need, in the lowly opinion of this former United States Marine Corps tactical data and networking communication specialist, is a deeper look into our signal defense architecture. More projects and agencies which specialize in SIGDEF need to be given priority in the coming years. Far more if even movie companies are more afraid of a dictator 5,600 miles away than they were of our own President. Frankly, the future of warfare is going to look very similar to events like the attack on Sony Pictures. Weak points in very large systems are going to be exploited with the few things that they are vulnerable to. Each time they are, the gears of industry are grind down just a little bit slower.

In the case of Sony Pictures, this attack was a direct hit on two fronts. The first is money. By threatening the movie maker, they lost the company millions, perhaps hundreds of millions of dollars. More so, many millions, perhaps billions more may have been lost now that valuable scripts have been made public. I don’t fault Sony Pictures though, for making the decision to pull the premiere. They showed their values there. They believed the threat of terrorism on American movie goers was true and for that reason, they chose not to risk lives of people at the cost of many millions of dollars. That decision, from my point of view, is admirable and the commitment to protecting innocent people over making money, should be recognized and commended. Perhaps they did it just because so many of the movie theaters decided to pull the movie too. I can’t honestly say for sure. All I know, is that I don’t blame them for the decision they finally were forced to make.

As for Americans though, I’d like for us to make it clear that we don’t give credence or credibility to the tyrannical tirades of any post-pubescent dictator. This isn’t something we need to call in the military, or spin up the missile batteries, though we have been at peace now for about two weeks, so it’s about that time again. All kidding aside, letting North Korea know simply how impotent we view them militarily by not putting our own troops in the front is the way to go. I mean honestly, what is the NPK going to do? Start a war over a friggin movie? Do you really think China would back you after bombing an American movie theater over something this petty? This whole scenario doesn’t even make sense. If they were though, I’m reminded of the line from 300 delivered ever so eloquently by  Gerald Butler:

No, the right move for Americans right now isn’t to force our military to take action. It isn’t to scold Hollywood either, for doing what they thought was the right thing to do to keep people safe.

For Americans, and the rest of the free world for that matter, the right thing to do is to march up to the box office and demand to see something that some North Korean dicktator threatened you not to see. We need to stand up in the roar of many voices and let it be known that we the people, will not capitulate, cower, or suffer the whims of tyrannical brats. We the people won’t be pressured, bullied, threatened, or crossed. We’re Americans dammit and we don’t get told what to do. We are Leviathan.

Thank you Sony Pictures for your concern, but I for one, am willing to risk the potential attack on US soil and would like to see your movie, if for nothing else than to give a big and hearty American one fingered salute to our friends over in Pyongyang.

(That’s not the salute I’m talking about, BTW.)


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“Be wary around your enemy once, and your friend a thousand times.”

Support takes on many forms. If one were to ask if Turkey is providing assistance to the Islamic State in the form of weapons, training, and financing, I’ve seen no evidence to validate that. There is, however, much more to the point that seems to imply that yes, Turkey is supporting ISIL through inaction and as a roadblock, preventing anti-ISIL Kurdish forces in taking part in the fighting of North central Syria. Even more dangerous, there may be a few very good reasons why the Turks would want to see ISIL forces succeed, in as far as it reaches their own borders.

Ian Traynor with The Guardian recently posted an article on the growing dissent brewing in Turkey as government officials remain aloof towards towards the siege “a stones throw from their borders”.

To understand the conflict you’re going to need to understand the strategic importance of Kobane, a significant location to Kurds throughout the region. Kobane is an important point on the map because it represents the northernmost town in central Syria, literally on the border between Syria and Turkey.

Recently, the city has represented a vital choke point for fleeing refugees to Turkey. In late September, a key bridge from the Euphrates was taken which allowed ISIL forces to encircle the region. Within days, at least 50 villages were taken which sent tens of thousands of fleeing villagers on a mass exodus to Turkey. The brunt of these flowed through Kobane.

Second, as the map shows, it is a valuable Kurdish town in that it is the centermost Syrian Kurdish city. It would be, and has been an effective staging point for People’s Protection Units (Kurdish militia) forces to attack from to assault ISIL near a central region. Without it, central Syria is effectively lost to the People’s Protection Units and ISIL forces would have free reign. This also isolates the far Western cities of Efrin and Cindires for the Kurdish militias in the East far more than they were so before. Along with this, losing Kobane means that many of the logistical networks holding up Kurdish fighters in the major Syrian city of Aleppo would be lost. If Kobane falls, Kurds will have no logistical supply location between East and West Syria except when they travel through Turkey. They must go deep through Turkish lands to be able to supply and help protect their other cities, which now are surrounded by ISIL forces.

Lastly, shoring up resistance in Kobane will free up ISIL fighters as their central region will be much more solidified with one less town to fight against. You can see this illustrated clearly in the map below. The purple region in the north central part of Syria just went from, “ISIL is attacking this” to “This is no longer a problem for ISIL”. This means they have a relatively secured path from Aleppo to Mosul all the way to Fallujah in the central part of Iraq. This Sunni Triangle will now be a massive and much more secured region for the insurgency forces, if Kobane is lost. By some reports, there have been as many as 9,000 jihadist forces involved of the siege. Once these forces are no longer involved in the fighting of Kobane, they will be free to augment forces and carry out operations elsewhere.

Now the city is embattled on the edge of Syrian Turkish border. The battle has been declining for Kurdish and FSA against ISIL militants Outnumbered, by most estimates 6:1 the Kurdish defense forces are in a losing battle for the future of Kobane, even with coalition air raids. The tide only seems to be turning a major corner after weeks of desperate and heroic fighting by the defenders and countless American and coalition air strikes. This being the case, many are asking, why the Turks are literally sitting sidelined for this fight, only a mile outside the battlezone of Kobane, where they have the potential to prevent a possible massacre as well as deliver a major defeat against the ISIL insurgency.

Traynor’s Guardian article displays some disturbing truths about the precarious stance of the Turkish government.

What’s important to know is that, while Kurdish forces are gaining great notoriety for their ability to maintain Northern Iraq and Syria, they have not been well liked throughout the region and primarily in Turkey.

If you look at the region many would consider Kurdistan, the region populated mostly by those of Kurdish ancestry, you’ll see that a massive block of Turkey is actually populated predominantly by Kurds. Kurds also comprise between 10% and 25% of the population and have been subjected to official repression for decades. Over the past three decades, Kurdish nationals in Turkey have been fighting for independence and equality with the rest of their fellow Turkish citizens. One group above all others, has been leading the fight toward independence in the form of an actual insurrection against the Turkish government.

The Kurdistan Workers’ Party, commonly referred to by its Kurdish acronym, PKK, is a Kurdish militant organization which from 1984 to 2013 fought an armed struggle against the Turkish state for cultural and political rights and self-determination for the Kurds in Turkey. The PKK’s ideology was originally a fusion of revolutionary socialism and Kurdish nationalism, seeking the foundation of an independent, Marxist–Leninist state in the region known as Kurdistan. The name ‘PKK’ is usually used interchangeably for the name of its armed wing, the People’s Defence Force (HPG), which was formerly called the Kurdistan National Liberty Army (ARGK). The PKK is listed as a terrorist organization internationally by several states and organizations, including the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO), the United States, and the European Union.

For that reason, Turkish views of many Kurdish fighters are less than admirable. This is personified most by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan when he equated the Kurds of Kobani and their defenders with the islamic jihadist insurgents.

“It is wrong to view them differently, we need to deal with them jointly.”

Yet more concerning is that the ISIL Crisis is uncovering what appears to be signs that the fanatical jihadists aren’t being viewed with such vehement scorn as they are viewed from the West.

“A significant part of the Turkish public believes the Sunnis of Syria and the Middle East are fellow victims of injustice and that Isis represents a legitimate Sunni grievance,” the International Crisis Group said this week in a report from Ankara.

Expert on Islam, Sam Harris, recently explained why this may happen by describing some very troubling patterns that modern liberal tolerances haven’t yet come to deal with about the religion. He stated that when we try to truly study and understand muslims, we see the fundamentalist leanings are much larger a percentage of the total population than at first we wanted to believe. His view is that, while most muslims by a wide margin are not fanatical terrorists, the number of those sympathetic to the jihadist’s call may be higher than many believed. It’s important to remember that not all muslims are like those we experience in the West, those who are well educated and well socialized to American and Western values. The values that much of conservative Islam hold are not congruent with life in much of the rest of the world. For that reason, many of us have come to the belief that muslims across the world are like the muslims we know in our cities and that we know as friends. When you change locations however, you see a culture which is much different, and where values we hold are viewed as intolerable. He describes running throughout much of the Middle East a deep inner circle of Islam, one which “wakes up every day wanting to kill apostates and hoping to die if they don’t” as the jihadists. Outside of this group are the islamists. They as convinced of the idea of martyrdom, but aren’t willing to to kill themselves to see others brought down. They are willing to fight and want to see an end to democracy and the instillment of an Islamic theocracy. They’re just not going to blow up a bus to do it. Harris fears that between these two groups, you have a section that represents as much as 20% of the Islamic population. Outside of this population you will see the conservative branch of Islam. These groups completely don’t agree with the acts and atrocities of groups like ISIL, but in much larger numbers than we have led ourselves to believe, still have extremely intolerant views “towards women’s rights, toward homosexuals that are deeply troubling… and they keep women and homosexuals immiserated.”

An International Crisis Group added that private polling within Erdoğan’s religion-based Sunni Muslim AK party revealed sympathy for Isis. With his constituency seeing the Islamic State as anything other than a murderous jihadist horde, “This makes it hard for a Turkish government to directly attack Isis.” reported the International Crisis Group.

The New York Times also recently reported that as many as 1,000 Turks have joined ISIS, according to Turkish news media reports and government officials there. Recruits cite the group’s ideological appeal to disaffected youths as well as the money it pays fighters from its flush coffers. Turkish fighters recruited by ISIS say they identify more with the extreme form of Islamic governance practiced by ISIS than with the rule of the Turkish governing party, which has its roots in a more moderate form of Islam.

In response to numerous factors, Turkey has gone to great lengths to secure their Southern border. This, only after, thousands of Turkish recruits made their way through, along with perhaps thousands more international travelers. Regardless, now military forces are no longer allowing passage into Syria. This has the effect, however, of essentially blockading Kobane from the rest of their Kurdish allies.

Looking back at the map of the Middle East which focuses on levels of high Kurdish population, you’ll see that Kobane indeed rest on a very narrow “peninsula” of Kurdish population stretching from their main population center in Turkey to Syria. Also present in Syria is a very strong region of Syrian Kurds protected by the People’s Protection Units, and further to the East, the Kurdistan Regional Government, Iraqi Kurds who have a long history of support against fanatical islamists. These two groups, along with the PPK in Turkey all wish to take part in aiding the stranded fighters in Kobane. To do this, however, they must either go through the extremely occupied region of central Syria or through Turkey. The Turkish blockade of northern Syria, however, is in effect, a second siege preventing potentially thousands of willing supporters for the Kobane defense effort.

While I can see the Turkish stance as being, perhaps, logical from their point of view, the facts of the matter are that it has outraged many thousands of Kurds living in Turkey presently. Over the past few weeks, thousands have gone into the streets across to protest Kurdish inaction and what they view as preferential treatment for the fanatical islamist regime. In actions across Turkey, at least 30 people were killed and hundreds more injured as protests turned to riots.

The last week has meant much for the future of the Middle East. A small town on the Syrian border has made present yet another ethnic divide ripping the region apart. Instability has spread to showcase a future for Turkey where militant collapse in their Eastern half, the same type of collapse which saw ISIL go from a backwater terrorist faction, to the modern State of Terror. In a report by the AP, the situation has just gone from isolated protesting in the streets to an all out conflict, reminiscent of beginnings of civil wars from Libya, and now most notably, Syria.

ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — In a sign of further turbulence for the U.S. led-coalition against the Islamic State group, Turkish warplanes have struck suspected Kurdish rebel positions in southeastern Turkey, media reports said Tuesday.

It was the first major airstrikes against the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, since peace talks began two years ago to end a 30-year insurgency in Turkey. It added to tensions between the key U.S. coalition partner and PKK, a militant group listed as a terrorist organization by the U.S. that is also among the fiercest opponents of the Islamic State group.

The return to violence between the two parties suggests that Turkey’s focus may not be on the Islamic State group, even as it negotiates its role with the U.S. and NATO allies fighting the extremists. Turkey has provoked frustration among allies, by saying it won’t join the fight against the Islamic State militants unless the U.S.-led coalition also targets Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime.

The article mentions Turkey negotiating its role with the U.S. and NATO over how it will be engaged in the war against ISIL. The Turkish government agreed on Monday to let US and coalition forces use its bases, including a key installation within 100 miles of the Syrian border, for operations against Islamic State militants in Syria and Iraq. Apparently, there was even a promise by Ankara to train several thousand Syrian moderate rebels in the fight, as well. Many hailed this as good news, seeing another major regional player now joining the battle against ISIL. I have to wonder.

Given the apathy and resentment shown by Turkish officials to the plight of foreign Kurdish fighters, even to the point of allowing jihadi fundamentalists to occupy a key region a stone’s throw away from their own border, along with their complete inability to take direct action against the terrorist organizations, along with signs that a major segment of their population may be sympathetic to the goals of the islamists, I have to wonder what motivations are behind any actions to allow American or any other Western intervention in the conflict.

To pose my own pessimistic view, one which I hope others will consider given the information I have shared, I think it is because Turkey may want an American security blanket against it’s own insurgency which looms around the corner. The rise of Kurdish prestige and victories over the last year has galvanized their spirit and the renewed call for Kurdish nationalism. As I have said before in this post, the nation with the largest single stake in the future of the Kurds is Turkey. Kurdish autonomy has spread throughout the region, giving rise to the Kurdish Regional Government in Iraq and another like it in North Eastern Syria. This zeal is going to invite more Kurds to carry on the torch of autonomy and independence which has no one to hurt than Turkey. In the political environment that is the Middle East, one of ever growing chaos, reorganization and upheaval, I have to wonder if Turks true focus is ISIL at all. I truly wonder if really, the recent allowance to allow coalition forces to use Turkish military bases and train Syrian defense forces was really only an effort to ensure their assistance in the event of a future Kurdish uprising. Turkey has long been a friend of the United States amidst much less moderate neighbors. Now, however, it seems that conservative Islamic factions within Turkey have grown tired of their Western friendly policies and are now acting in accord with ISIL forces, even if indirectly. This won’t sit well with the Kurds of the region who, until only yesterday, enjoyed a brief two year lull in a 30 year feud with the nation. Now, it seems, they are hedging on the possibility of Kurdish uprising with the presence of US and NATO allies to keep Turkish lands within the sovereign control of Ankara.

The Enemy of My Enemy

There is a Arabic saying that translates “The enemy of my enemy is my friend”. The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant has unanimously gained no friends across the world. No nations and no allies have come out to show support for the fanatical regime, even among fellow Islamic terrorist organizations. In the case of Turkey, however, there hasn’t really been much done to show that they actually do view them as enemies. Instead, they seem to be looking at others as potential risks within their own borders. They’ve seen a problem which has existed for decades, namely the Kurdish population within Turkey and seen its sudden rise to popularity in the world’s stage, as well as its rise to power in military and political efficacy. This can only mean bad things for the future of Turkey. For all these reasons, one has to wonder if the Turks really see ISIL as their enemy or merely as the enemy of their longstanding enemy, the Kurds. If we view it in that light, we can see how it shouldn’t surprise anyone how much help Turkey has provided, if by nothing else than timely inaction, to the Sunni jihadists. Perhaps it is simpler than this. Perhaps, in light of President Erdoğan’s statement that, “It is wrong to view them differently, we need to deal with them jointly,” exactly that is being done; allow the two enemies of Turkey to fight each other to their mutual oblivion.

To be clear, Turkey has never aided ISIL through troop support, nor is there any evidence that they have provided weapons, financing or aid of any kind, but their policy of preventing the success of Kurdish forces, primarily in the battle for Kobane, as well as their inability to prevent the same sort of assistance being given to Islamic State fighter, they have given more indirect assistance than one could have imagined possible in keeping these terrorist’s alive. For those of us watching this conflict in the future, I am reminded of yet another Arabic saying, oddly fitting this time:

“Be wary around your enemy once, and your friend a thousand times.”


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