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Author Topic: Articulating our cause/strategy against Islamic Fascism  (Read 10519 times)
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« Reply #50 on: April 20, 2010, 04:15:34 PM »
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« Reply #51 on: August 25, 2010, 01:34:23 PM »


Andrew C. McCarthy

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August 24, 2010 4:00 A.M.

Inventing Moderate Islam
It can’t be done without confronting mainstream Islam and its sharia agenda.

‘Secularism can never enjoy a general acceptance in an Islamic society.” The writer was not one of those sulfurous Islamophobes decried by CAIR and the professional Left. Quite the opposite: It was Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, the Muslim Brotherhood’s spiritual guide and a favorite of the Saudi royal family. He made this assertion in his book, How the Imported Solutions Disastrously Affected Our Ummah, an excerpt of which was published by the Saudi Gazette just a couple of months ago.

This was Qaradawi the “progressive” Muslim intellectual, much loved by Georgetown University’s burgeoning Islamic-studies programs. Like Harvard, Georgetown has been purchased into submission by tens of millions of Saudi petrodollars. In its resulting ardor to put Americans at ease about Islam, the university somehow manages to look beyond Qaradawi’s fatwas calling for the killing of American troops in Iraq and for suicide bombings in Israel. Qaradawi, they tell us, is a “moderate.” In fact, as Robert Spencer quips, if you were to say Islam and secularism cannot co-exist, John Esposito, Georgetown’s apologist-in-chief, would call you an Islamophobe; but when Qaradawi says it, no problem — according to Esposito, he’s a “reformist.”

And he’s not just any reformist. Another Qaradawi fan, Feisal Rauf, the similarly “moderate” imam behind the Ground Zero mosque project, tells us Qaradawi is also “the most well-known legal authority in the whole Muslim world today.”

Rauf is undoubtedly right about that. So it is worth letting it sink in that this most influential of Islam’s voices, this promoter of the Islamic enclaves the Brotherhood is forging throughout the West, is convinced that Islamic societies can never accept secularism. After all, secularism is nothing less than the framework by which the West defends religious freedom but denies legal and political authority to religious creeds.

It is also worth understanding why Qaradawi says Islam and secularism cannot co-exist. The excerpt from his book continues:

As Islam is a comprehensive system of worship (Ibadah) and legislation (Shari’ah), the acceptance of secularism means abandonment of Shari’ah, a denial of the divine guidance and a rejection of Allah’s injunctions. It is indeed a false claim that Shari’ah is not proper to the requirements of the present age. The acceptance of a legislation formulated by humans means a preference of the humans’ limited knowledge and experiences to the divine guidance: “Say! Do you know better than Allah?” (Qur’an, 2:140) For this reason, the call for secularism among Muslims is atheism and a rejection of Islam. Its acceptance as a basis for rule in place of Shari’ah is downright apostasy.

Apostasy is an explosive accusation. On another occasion, Sheikh Qaradawi explained that “Muslim jurists are unanimous that apostates must be punished.” He further acknowledged that the consensus view of these jurists, including the principal schools of both Sunni and Shiite jurisprudence, is “that apostates must be executed.”

Qaradawi’s own view is more nuanced, as he explained to the Egyptian press in 2005. This, I suppose, is where his vaunted reformist streak comes in. For private apostasy, in which a Muslim makes a secret, personal decision to renounce tenets of Islam and quietly goes his separate way without causing a stir, the sheikh believes ostracism by the Islamic community is a sufficient penalty, with the understanding that Allah will condemn the apostate to eternal damnation at the time of his choosing. For public apostasy, however, Qaradawi stands with the overwhelming weight of Islamic authority: “The punishment . . .  is execution.”

The sad fact, the fact no one wants to deal with but which the Ground Zero mosque debate has forced to the fore, is that Qaradawi is a moderate. So is Feisal Rauf, who endorses the Qaradawi position — the mainstream Islamic position — that sharia is a nonnegotiable requirement. Rauf wins the coveted “moderate” designation because he strains, at least when speaking for Western consumption, to paper over the incompatibility between sharia societies and Western societies.

Qaradawi and Rauf are “moderates” because we’ve abandoned reason. Our opinion elites are happy to paper over the gulf between “reformist” Islam and the “reformist” approval of mass-murder attacks. That’s why it matters not a whit to them that Imam Rauf refuses to renounce Hamas: If you’re going to give a pass to Qaradawi, the guy who actively promotes Hamas terrorists, how can you complain about a guy who merely refuses to condemn the terrorists?

When we are rational, we have confidence in our own frame of reference. We judge what is moderate based on a detached, commonsense understanding of what “moderate” means. We’re not rigging the outcome; we just want to know where we stand.

If we were in that objective frame of mind, we would easily see that a freedom culture requires separation of the spiritual from the secular. We would also see that sharia — with dictates that contradict liberty and equality while sanctioning cruel punishments and holy war — is not moderate. Consequently, no one who advocates sharia can be a moderate, no matter how well-meaning he may be, no matter how heartfelt may be his conviction that this is God’s will, and no matter how much higher on the food chain he may be than Osama bin Laden.

Instead, abandoning reason, we have deep-sixed our own frame of reference and substituted mainstream Islam’s. If that backward compass is to be our guide, then sure, Qaradawi and Rauf are moderates. But know this: When you capitulate to the authority and influence of Qaradawi and Rauf, you kill meaningful Islamic reform.

There is no moderate Islam in the mainstream of Muslim life, not in the doctrinal sense. There are millions of moderate Muslims who crave reform. Yet the fact that they seek real reform, rather than what Georgetown is content to call reform, means they are trying to invent something that does not currently exist.

Real reform can also be found in some Muslim sects. The Ahmadi, for example, hold some unorthodox views and reject violent jihad. Witness what happens: They are brutally persecuted by Muslims in Pakistan, as well as in Indonesia and other purported hubs of moderation.

Meanwhile, individual Muslim reformers are branded apostates, meaning not only that they are discredited, but that their lives are threatened as well. The signal to other Muslims is clear: Follow the reformers and experience the same fury. As Qaradawi put it in the 2005 interview, public apostates are “the gravest danger” to Islamic society; therefore, Muslims must snuff them out, lest their reforms “spread like wildfire in a field of thorns.”

Today, “moderate Islam” is an illusion. There is hardly a spark, much less a wildfire. Making moderation real will take more than wishing upon a star. It calls for a gut check, a willingness to face down not just al-Qaeda but the Qaradawis and their sharia campaign. It means saying: Not here.

— Andrew C. McCarthy, a senior fellow at the National Review Institute, is the author, most recently, of The Grand Jihad: How Islam and the Left Sabotage America.
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« Reply #52 on: August 25, 2010, 02:15:48 PM »

Moderate muslim= One that hasn't finished taking his flying lessons/building the device.  evil
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« Reply #53 on: September 08, 2010, 06:43:07 AM »

9/11 and the 9-Year War
September 8, 2010

By George Friedman

It has now been nine years since al Qaeda attacked the United States. It has been nine years in which the primary focus of the United States has been on the Islamic world. In addition to a massive investment in homeland security, the United States has engaged in two multi-year, multi-divisional wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, inserted forces in other countries in smaller operations and conducted a global covert campaign against al Qaeda and other radical jihadist groups.

In order to understand the last nine years you must understand the first 24 hours of the war — and recall your own feelings in those 24 hours. First, the attack was a shock, its audaciousness frightening. Second, we did not know what was coming next. The attack had destroyed the right to complacent assumptions. Were there other cells standing by in the United States? Did they have capabilities even more substantial than what they showed on Sept. 11? Could they be detected and stopped? Any American not frightened on Sept. 12 was not in touch with reality. Many who are now claiming that the United States overreacted are forgetting their own sense of panic. We are all calm and collected nine years after.

At the root of all of this was a profound lack of understanding of al Qaeda, particularly its capabilities and intentions. Since we did not know what was possible, our only prudent course was to prepare for the worst. That is what the Bush administration did. Nothing symbolized this more than the fear that al Qaeda had acquired nuclear weapons and that they would use them against the United States. The evidence was minimal, but the consequences would be overwhelming. Bush crafted a strategy based on the worst-case scenario.

Bush was the victim of a decade of failure in the intelligence community to understand what al Qaeda was and wasn’t. I am not merely talking about the failure to predict the 9/11 attack. Regardless of assertions afterwards, the intelligence community provided only vague warnings that lacked the kind of specificity that makes for actionable intelligence. To a certain degree, this is understandable. Al Qaeda learned from Soviet, Saudi, Pakistani and American intelligence during the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan and knew how to launch attacks without tipping off the target. The greatest failure of American intelligence was not the lack of a clear warning about 9/11 but the lack, on Sept. 12, of a clear picture of al Qaeda’s global structure, capabilities, weaknesses and intentions. Without such information, implementing U.S. policy was like piloting an airplane with faulty instruments in a snowstorm at night.

The president had to do three things: First, he had to assure the public that he knew what he was doing. Second, he had to do something that appeared decisive. Third, he had to gear up an intelligence and security apparatus to tell him what the threats actually were and what he ought to do. American policy became ready, fire, aim.

In looking back at the past nine years, two conclusions can be drawn: There were no more large-scale attacks on the United States by militant Islamists, and the United States was left with the legacy of responses that took place in the first two years after 9/11. This legacy is no longer useful, if it ever was, to the primary mission of defeating al Qaeda, and it represents an effort that is retrospectively out of proportion to the threat.

If I had been told on Sept.12, 2001, that the attack the day before would be the last major attack for at least nine years, I would not have believed it. In looking at the complexity of the security and execution of the 9/11 attack, I would have assumed that an organization capable of acting once in such a way could act again even more effectively. My assumption was wrong. Al Qaeda did not have the resources to mount other operations, and the U.S. response, in many ways clumsy and misguided and in other ways clever and targeted, disrupted any preparations in which al Qaeda might have been engaged to conduct follow-on attacks.

Knowing that about al Qaeda in 2001 was impossible. Knowing which operations were helpful in the effort to block them was impossible, in the context of what Americans knew in the first years after the war began. Therefore, Washington wound up in the contradictory situation in which American military and covert operations surged while new attacks failed to materialize. This created a massive political problem. Rather than appearing to be the cause for the lack of attacks, U.S. military operations were perceived by many as being unnecessary or actually increasing the threat of attack. Even in hindsight, aligning U.S. actions with the apparent outcome is difficult and controversial. But still we know two things: It has been nine years since Sept. 11, 2001, and the war goes on.

What happened was that an act of terrorism was allowed to redefine U.S. grand strategy. The United States operates with a grand strategy derived from the British strategy in Europe — maintaining the balance of power. For the United Kingdom, maintaining the balance of power in Europe protected any one power from emerging that could unite Europe and build a fleet to invade the United Kingdom or block its access to its empire. British strategy was to help create coalitions to block emerging hegemons such as Spain, France or Germany. Using overt and covert means, the United Kingdom aimed to ensure that no hegemonic power could emerge.

The Americans inherited that grand strategy from the British but elevated it to a global rather than regional level. Having blocked the Soviet Union from hegemony over Europe and Asia, the United States proceeded with a strategy whose goal, like that of the United Kingdom, was to nip potential regional hegemons in the bud. The U.S. war with Iraq in 1990-91 and the war with Serbia/Yugoslavia in 1999 were examples of this strategy. It involved coalition warfare, shifting America’s weight from side to side and using minimal force to disrupt the plans of regional aspirants to gain power. This U.S. strategy also was cloaked in the ideology of global liberalism and human rights.

The key to this strategy was its global nature. The emergence of a hegemonic contender that could challenge the United States globally, as the Soviet Union had done, was the worst-case scenario. Therefore, the containment of emerging powers wherever they might emerge was the centerpiece of American balance-of-power strategy.

The most significant effect of 9/11 was that it knocked the United States off its strategy. Rather than adapting its standing global strategy to better address the counterterrorism issue, the United States became obsessed with a single region, the area between the Mediterranean and the Hindu Kush. Within that region, the United States operated with a balance-of-power strategy. It played off all of the nations in the region against each other. It did the same with ethnic and religious groups throughout the region and particularly within Iraq and Afghanistan, the main theaters of the war. In both cases, the United States sought to take advantage of internal divisions, shifting its support in various directions to create a balance of power. That, in the end, was what the surge strategy was all about.

The American obsession with this region in the wake of 9/11 is understandable. Nine years later, with no clear end in sight, the question is whether this continued focus is strategically rational for the United States. Given the uncertainties of the first few years, obsession and uncertainty are understandable, but as a long-term U.S. strategy — the long war that the U.S. Department of Defense is preparing for — it leaves the rest of the world uncovered.

Consider that the Russians have used the American absorption in this region as a window of opportunity to work to reconstruct their geopolitical position. When Russia went to war with Georgia in 2008, an American ally, the United States did not have the forces with which to make a prudent intervention. Similarly, the Chinese have had a degree of freedom of action they could not have expected to enjoy prior to 9/11. The single most important result of 9/11 was that it shifted the United States from a global stance to a regional one, allowing other powers to take advantage of this focus to create significant potential challenges to the United States.

One can make the case, as I have, that whatever the origin of the Iraq war, remaining in Iraq to contain Iran is necessary. It is difficult to make a similar case for Afghanistan. Its strategic interest to the United States is minimal. The only justification for the war is that al Qaeda launched its attacks on the United States from Afghanistan. But that justification is no longer valid. Al Qaeda can launch attacks from Yemen or other countries. The fact that Afghanistan was the base from which the attacks were launched does not mean that al Qaeda depends on Afghanistan to launch attacks. And given that the apex leadership of al Qaeda has not launched attacks in a while, the question is whether al Qaeda is capable of launching such attacks any longer. In any case, managing al Qaeda today does not require nation building in Afghanistan.

But let me state a more radical thesis: The threat of terrorism cannot become the singular focus of the United States. Let me push it further: The United States cannot subordinate its grand strategy to simply fighting terrorism even if there will be occasional terrorist attacks on the United States. Three thousand people died in the 9/11 attack. That is a tragedy, but in a nation of over 300 million, 3,000 deaths cannot be permitted to define the totality of national strategy. Certainly, resources must be devoted to combating the threat and, to the extent possible, disrupting it. But it must also be recognized that terrorism cannot always be blocked, that terrorist attacks will occur and that the world’s only global power cannot be captive to this single threat.

The initial response was understandable and necessary. The United States must continue its intelligence gathering and covert operations against militant Islamists throughout the world. The intelligence failures of the 1990s must not be repeated. But waging a multi-divisional war in Afghanistan makes no strategic sense. The balance-of-power strategy must be used. Pakistan will intervene and discover the Russians and Iranians. The great game will continue. As for Iran, regional counters must be supported at limited cost to the United States. The United States should not be patrolling the far reaches of the region. It should be supporting a balance of power among the native powers of the region.

The United States is a global power and, as such, it must have a global view. It has interests and challenges beyond this region and certainly beyond Afghanistan. The issue there is not whether the United States can or can’t win, however that is defined. The issue is whether it is worth the effort considering what is going on in the rest of the world. Gen. David Petraeus cast the war in terms of whether the United States can win it. That’s reasonable; he’s the commander. But American strategy has to ask another question: What does the United States lose elsewhere while it focuses on the future of Kandahar?

The 9/11 attack shocked the United States and made counterterrorism the centerpiece of American foreign policy. That is too narrow a basis on which to base U.S. foreign policy. It is certainly an important strand of that policy, and it must be addressed, but it should be addressed through the regional balance of power. It is the good fortune of the United States that the Islamic world is torn by internal rivalries.

This is not dismissing the threat of terror. It is recognizing that the United States has done well in suppressing it over the past nine years but at a cost in other regions, a cost that can’t be sustained indefinitely and a cost that could well result in challenges more threatening than a rising Islamist militancy. The United States must now settle into a long-term strategy of managing terrorism as best as it can while not neglecting the rest of its interests.

After nine years, the issue is not what to do in Afghanistan but how the global power can return to managing all of its global interests, along with the war on al Qaeda.

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« Reply #54 on: October 12, 2010, 06:39:43 PM »

AQ beginner's primer on how to kill Americans

is endorsed by Muslim Brotherhood in Arabic, not English.  This writer thinks this a very significant development.
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« Reply #55 on: November 05, 2010, 07:36:40 AM »

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« Reply #56 on: October 28, 2011, 09:13:39 PM »
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« Reply #57 on: November 01, 2011, 10:35:07 AM »

This is not an Islamic Revolution."

So opined Olivier Roy, arguably Europe's foremost authority on political Islam, in an essay published days after Hosni Mubarak was forced from power in February. "Look at those involved in the uprisings, and it is clear that we are dealing with a post-Islamist generation," he wrote. "This is not to say that the demonstrators are secular; but they are operating in a secular political space, and they do not see in Islam an ideology capable of creating a better world."

Mr. Roy wasn't alone in the sangfroid department. "I am not in the least bit worried about the Muslim Brotherhoods in Jordan or Egypt hijacking the future," confided New York Times columnist Tom Friedman, with the caveat that their secular opponents would need some time to organize. Added his colleague Nicholas Kristof in a dispatch from Cairo: "I agree that the Muslim Brotherhood would not be a good ruler of Egypt, but that point of view also seems to be shared by most Egyptians."

What reassurance. Nine months on, the Islamist Nahda party has swept to victory in Tunisia, the one Arab state in which secularist values were said to be irreversibly fixed. Libya's new interim leader, Mustafa Abdel-Jalil, came to office promising "the Islamic religion as the core of our new government"; as a first order of business, he promises to revoke the Gadhafi regime's ban on polygamy since "the law is contrary to Shariah and must be stopped." Later this month, Islamist candidates—some of them Muslim Brothers, others even more religiously extreme—will likely sweep Egypt's parliamentary elections.

It doesn't stop there. Hezbollah has effectively ruled Lebanon since it forced the collapse of a pro-Western government in January. Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey's Islamist prime minister, cruised to a third term in parliamentary elections in June. Hamas, winner in the last vote held by the Palestinian Authority in 2006, would almost certainly win again if Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas dared put his government to an electoral test.

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When secular politics fail, Islamism is the last big idea standing.
.Why have Islamists been the main beneficiaries of Muslim democracy? None of the usual explanations really suffices. Islamists are said to be the unintended beneficiaries of the repression they endured under autocratic secular regimes. True up to a point. But why then have their secular opponents in places like Egypt been steadily losing ground since the Mubarak regime fell by the wayside? Alternatively, we are told that secular values never had the chance to sink deep roots in Muslim-majority countries. Also true up to a point. But how then Tunisia or Turkey—to say nothing of the Palestinians, who until the early 1990s were often described as the most secularized Arab society?

Closer to the mark is Mideast scholar Bernard Lewis, who noted in an April interview with the Journal that "freedom" is fairly novel as a political concept in the Arab world. "In the Muslim tradition," Mr. Lewis noted, "justice is the standard" of good government—and the very thing the ancien regimes in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya so flagrantly traduced. Little wonder, then, that Mr. Erdogan's AK party stands for "Justice and Development," the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood's new party is "Freedom and Justice" and, further afield, the leading Islamist party in Indonesia calls itself "Prosperous Justice."

Still, the Islamists' claim to "justice" goes only so far to account for their electoral successes. There is also the comprehensive failure of the Muslim world's secular movements to provide a better form of politics.

The national-socialist brew imported from Europe in the 1940s by Michel Aflaq became the Baathist tyrannies of present-day Syria and Saddam Hussein's Iraq. Pan-Arabism's appeal faded well before the death of its principal champion, Gamal Abdel Nasser.

Socialism failed Algeria; Gadhafi's "Third Universal Theory" failed Libya. French-style laïcité descended into kleptocracy in Tunisia and quasi-military control in Turkey. Periodic attempts at market liberalization yielded dividends in places like Bahrain and Dubai but were never joined by political liberalization and were often shot through with cronyism.

That sour history leaves Islamism as the last big idea standing—and standing at a moment when tens of millions of young Muslims find themselves undereducated, semi- or unemployed, and uniquely receptive to a world view with deep historic roots and heroic ambitions.

What does its future hold?

Optimists say it need not be a reprise of Iran; that it could look more like Turkey; that the term "moderate Islamist" isn't an oxymoron, at least in a relative sense. Then again, Turkey's domestic and foreign policies inspire little confidence that moderate Islamism will be anything other than moderately repressive and moderately radical. As for Iran, signs of its own long-awaited turn toward moderation are as fleeting as the Yeti's footsteps in drifting snow.

The good news is that after 31 years most Iranians have grown sick of Islam always being the answer, and the collapse of the regime awaits only the next ripe opportunity. The bad news is that a similar time-frame may be in store for the rest of the Muslim world, until it too becomes disenchanted with Islamist promises. Get ready for a long winter.

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« Reply #58 on: February 08, 2013, 12:09:06 PM »


Europe's Hezbollah Hesitation
Brussels is still reluctant to call the Shiite terror outfit what it is..
Surprising no one, Bulgarian investigators said Tuesday that two of the perpetrators of last year's bombing in a Bulgarian resort city were members of Hezbollah. But don't think the news has changed many minds on the Continent about calling the Shiite terror outfit what it is.

Catherine Ashton, the European Union's foreign-policy chief, said she emphasizes "the need for a reflection over the outcome of the investigation." How large-minded. "There is no automatic listing just because you have been behind a terrorist attack," EU counterterrorism coordinator Gilles de Kerchove told the EUObserver online newspaper last week that "It's not only the legal requirement that you have to take into consideration, it's also a political assessment of the context and the timing."

There's also Sylke Tempel, editor of the German magazine Internationale Politik, who told the New York Times: "There's the overall fear if we're too noisy about this, Hezbollah might strike again, and it might not be Israeli tourists this time." So the EU can't designate Hezbollah as a terrorist organization because Hezbollah might respond by committing terrorism. The July bombing killed a Bulgarian bus driver in addition to five Israeli tourists.

Brussels has resisted blacklisting Hezbollah on the excuse that the group has military and civilian wings, and that clamping down on the former would cripple the latter and thus destabilize the Hezbollah-dominated government of Lebanon. Yet Hamas also has terrorist and civilian wings and runs part of a government, and the EU has designated it as a terrorist group for a decade.

A spokeswoman for Ms. Ashton told reporters on Wednesday that adding Hezbollah to the terror list is one of "several options" the EU is considering. We'll believe it when we see it. Meantime, Europe's failure to designate Hezbollah means the group continues to operate on the Continent, using it as a base for money-laundering and fundraising. Some of it is even tax-deductible.

At least Israel is still taking the fight against Hezbollah seriously. Israeli defense minister Ehud Barak acknowledged this week that Jerusalem was responsible for a recent jet attack in Syria that destroyed a weapons convoy en route to Lebanon. Israeli officials have long warned that they will act militarily to stop Syria's armory from falling into Hezbollah's hands after the Assad regime falls.

The mark of a serious foreign policy is the ability to acknowledge reality, even when it's politically inconvenient. The EU's Hezbollah hesitation does not suggest a serious policy.
Power User
Posts: 11489

« Reply #59 on: February 08, 2013, 12:14:49 PM »

Wow, who could have foreseen dhimmi europeans groveling before their jihadist masters?


Europe's Hezbollah Hesitation
Brussels is still reluctant to call the Shiite terror outfit what it is..
Surprising no one, Bulgarian investigators said Tuesday that two of the perpetrators of last year's bombing in a Bulgarian resort city were members of Hezbollah. But don't think the news has changed many minds on the Continent about calling the Shiite terror outfit what it is.

Catherine Ashton, the European Union's foreign-policy chief, said she emphasizes "the need for a reflection over the outcome of the investigation." How large-minded. "There is no automatic listing just because you have been behind a terrorist attack," EU counterterrorism coordinator Gilles de Kerchove told the EUObserver online newspaper last week that "It's not only the legal requirement that you have to take into consideration, it's also a political assessment of the context and the timing."

There's also Sylke Tempel, editor of the German magazine Internationale Politik, who told the New York Times: "There's the overall fear if we're too noisy about this, Hezbollah might strike again, and it might not be Israeli tourists this time." So the EU can't designate Hezbollah as a terrorist organization because Hezbollah might respond by committing terrorism. The July bombing killed a Bulgarian bus driver in addition to five Israeli tourists.

Brussels has resisted blacklisting Hezbollah on the excuse that the group has military and civilian wings, and that clamping down on the former would cripple the latter and thus destabilize the Hezbollah-dominated government of Lebanon. Yet Hamas also has terrorist and civilian wings and runs part of a government, and the EU has designated it as a terrorist group for a decade.

A spokeswoman for Ms. Ashton told reporters on Wednesday that adding Hezbollah to the terror list is one of "several options" the EU is considering. We'll believe it when we see it. Meantime, Europe's failure to designate Hezbollah means the group continues to operate on the Continent, using it as a base for money-laundering and fundraising. Some of it is even tax-deductible.

At least Israel is still taking the fight against Hezbollah seriously. Israeli defense minister Ehud Barak acknowledged this week that Jerusalem was responsible for a recent jet attack in Syria that destroyed a weapons convoy en route to Lebanon. Israeli officials have long warned that they will act militarily to stop Syria's armory from falling into Hezbollah's hands after the Assad regime falls.

The mark of a serious foreign policy is the ability to acknowledge reality, even when it's politically inconvenient. The EU's Hezbollah hesitation does not suggest a serious policy.

Power User
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« Reply #60 on: February 08, 2013, 04:01:11 PM »

The Europeans are masters of appeasement. Remember Munich?

Denny Schlesinger
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« Reply #61 on: May 26, 2013, 09:23:04 AM »

Six of the ten current headlines (Huffington Post May 25 2013) relate one way or another to terrorism or the problem of Islamic jihad.  One of them sticks out like the proverbial sore thumb.  - Steven Hayward, Powerline

Soldier stabbed
London attack
Suicide bomber
Sectarian violence
Beheaded soldier
Obama sees terror threat reduced
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« Reply #62 on: August 08, 2013, 08:46:59 AM »

Ali Soufan: How Al Qaeda Made Its Comeback
The U.S. regarded the terrorist group's affiliates as local problems—instead of fighting their potent Islamist ideology.


Al Qaeda is a group that prizes symmetry and symbolism. When I interrogated Osama bin Laden's personal propagandist and secretary, Ali al Bahlul, at Guantanamo Bay in 2002, he confessed that they take great care with timing to ensure maximum publicity. So it comes as no surprise that U.S. intelligence recently intercepted communications among senior al Qaeda operatives suggesting that they are planning attacks this month on embassies and other Western targets.

August is full of symbolic importance for al Qaeda. This week is the anniversary of the Aug. 7, 1998, twin bombings of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania—al Qaeda's first overt and successful attack against the U.S. August is also significant because during the last few days of Ramadan falls Laylat al-Qadr, or the Night of Destiny, which is when the Prophet Muhammad is said to have received the first of his divine revelations.

The reasons why this period is auspicious for al Qaeda are clear. What should be questioned is why, more than a decade after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, al Qaeda is still deemed to have high enough capability to force the U.S. to close its embassies and consulates. This seems to be at odds with America's military and counterterrorism successes, and with the declarations of U.S. officials, including President Obama, that al Qaeda has been nearly destroyed.

The disconnect lies in our failure to appreciate that while al Qaeda central has been badly weakened by U.S. counterterrorism efforts, the group was never close to being extinguished. It adapted. It gave greater power to semi-independent affiliates, such as al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, or AQAP, and to more loosely connected groups, like Boko Haram in Nigeria.

The West made the mistake of failing to effectively tackle these affiliates and their propaganda, dismissing them as local problems irrelevant to the war against al Qaeda. While groups like AQAP and Boko Haram initially did focus their violence locally, terrorists who endorse Osama bin Laden's jihadist message inevitably move on to the global war against the West. That's a key lesson that I and my colleagues in law-enforcement and intelligence learned by tracking al Qaeda in the 1990s.

Bin Laden himself started out by focusing on a local issue: U.S. troops in Saudi Arabia, his homeland. Initially the FBI and others in the intelligence community had to battle higher-ups eager to ignore him. He was "just a Saudi financier," we were told.

Over the past seven years, AQAP has very effectively pursued a populist course in Yemen. The group has focused on populations in the south and east of the country long ignored by the ruling elite of the north, providing them with social services, such as teachers, and much-needed water. This has proved a savvy method for recruiting new members eager to attack Western targets. AQAP is at the center of increased threats against U.S. interests: On Wednesday, the Yemeni government, aided by U.S. drone attacks, reportedly foiled AQAP plots to take over strategic ports and to attack oil pipelines.

Because the connection between al Qaeda and its affiliates was neglected by the West, these terror groups have thrived. So despite all the successes in the war on terror, al Qaeda has maintained a steady stream of new recruits, replacing the members that have been killed or captured by the U.S.

Al Qaeda has also been greatly helped by the Internet and social media, which enables recruitment to take place in chat rooms rather than just in underground guesthouses. The narratives used by al Qaeda and its affiliates all follow the same pattern: Recruiters prey on local grievances, young men's lack of purpose, and their feelings of anger, humiliation, and resentment. The recruiters combine this with distorted religious edicts, along with conspiratorial messages that blame the U.S. and the West for their problems. With these seemingly clear explanations for their problems, recruits feel empowered and embrace the jihadist mission.

The al Qaeda ideology—blaming the West for the Muslim world's problems, rejecting anyone who doesn't follow al Qaeda's specific beliefs and claiming that terrorism is the only way to deal with opponents—was previously found mainly in the Persian Gulf and Afghanistan. Now it has spread, from West Africa to Southeast Asia. Combating the group's ideology in an effective manner has been the weak link in the West's counterterrorism strategy.
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Editorial page editor Paul Gigot on the State Department’s decision to close 19 embassies, and the evolving war on terror. Photo: Getty Images

How to combat al Qaeda's recruiters? Give vulnerable communities the proper tools to stand up against the group and its affiliates. This means not only military and intelligence aid from the U.S., but also targeted educational tools to rebut false religious messages. The West also needs to provide political and economic support, tailored to counter the power vacuums that terrorists exploit.

Last week, according to press reports, al Qaeda leader Ayman al Zawahiri promoted Nasser al Wahishi—a one-time bodyguard for bin Laden and later head of AQAP—to be al Qaeda's general manager. Al Wahishi had been arrested by the Yemenis in 2003 as part of a U.S. offensive to disrupt an al Qaeda plot to bomb the U.S. Embassy in Sanaa and to assassinate the American ambassador.

In February 2006, al Wahishi and 22 other prisoners escaped from a maximum-security Yemeni jail by digging a 140-foot tunnel to the women's bathroom of a nearby mosque. Among the escapees was Jamal al Badawi, who is on the FBI's most-wanted list for his role in the October 2000 bombing of the USS Cole, which killed 17 American sailors. That 2006 escape was a turning point for the group. Al Wahishi and AQAP have been responsible for several attacks in Yemen, including one in 2008 on the U.S. Embassy in Sanaa, killing 19 people.

To top it all off, al Qaeda's ranks have also been bolstered in recent weeks by brazen, large-scale prison breaks linked to the group in Iraq, Libya and Pakistan. Reports estimate that as many as 500 inmates escaped in Iraq, 1,000 in Libya and 248 in Pakistan.

The U.S. and others governments have been right in recent days to declare a high terror alert and to close embassies. But it shouldn't have come to this. Until the U.S. starts combating the narratives that allow al Qaeda and its affiliates to continually recruit and retain members, these types of shutdowns and panics will become more routine.

Mr. Soufan, an FBI supervisory special agent from 1997 to 2005, is chairman of the Soufan Group, a strategic intelligence consultancy. He is the author of "The Black Banners: The Inside Story of 9/11 and the War Against al Qaeda" (Norton, 2011).
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« Reply #63 on: August 12, 2013, 03:20:37 PM »
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Guest Column: Bombing Into Unintended Consequences in Syria
by Abigail R. Esman
Special to IPT News
August 30, 2013

In the Netherlands these days, politicians discuss revoking the passports of citizens who join the opposition to Bashar al-Assad's government in Syria. In Belgium, the government threatens to revoke benefits for Belgian nationals who do the same. And in America, the New York Times reported only a month ago on the growing threat to the West as Western Muslims rush into the fight against Assad. In fact, only this past August 20, the Washington Free Beacon reported that "ignificant numbers of American and European jihadists are traveling to Syria to join Islamist rebels, prompting new fears of a future wave of al Qaeda terror attacks in the United States and Europe, according to U.S. officials."

Among those known to U.S. counterterrorism forces and the FBI: Eric Harroun, 30, a former Army soldier from Phoenix, who was indicted this past June on charges of conspiring to assist a terrorist organization fighting alongside al Nusrah, described by the government as "an al Qaeda-affiliated terrorist group in Syria"; and Nicole Lynn Mansfield, 33, a Muslim convert from Flint, Mich., reportedly "slain by Syrian government forces while fighting alongside rebels" in July.

Now, in response to the alleged chemical weapon attacks by Assad's government on Syrian civilians, American and European governments have begun strategizing for likely retaliatory strikes. The problem is that anything that hurts Assad, however inadvertently, benefits those same Islamist radicals we've all been worried about. It is tantamount to defending the very same forces that French Interior Minister Manuel Valls describes as "a ticking time bomb" for the launching of terrorist attacks in Europe and the United States.

Equally incredible is the fact that, in taking military action in Syria, America would effectively be standing on the same side as al-Qaeda affiliate groups who also support them. As counterterrorism consultants Flashpoint Partners recently reported, "the lion's share of foreign fighters who are dying in Syria are fighting with the most hardline organization involved in the uprising: Jabhat al-Nusra. The leader of Jabhat al-Nusra, Abu Mohammed al-Joulani, has recently publicly sworn allegiance to al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri and the group has been blacklisted as a branch of Al Qaeda in Iraq by the United States Government."

Even worse, just days ago, Al Nusra announced its own plans to "dispatch up to 1,000 rockets against Alawite villages in Syria," according to the Free Beacon. Would involving ourselves in Syria mean calling them our allies? Or would America find itself taking on a third position in what is already an impossible and unresolvable conflict? And if so, what position could that possibly be?

True, it is a proud and longstanding facet of the American psyche to intervene in the face of human suffering, to protect the citizens of the world from the abuses of their leaders. But the question Washington needs to consider as well is not just whether we can afford another war with a still-struggling economy and a military exhausted by two others. Nor is it simply whether we should be involving ourselves in a war against a country that has brought no direct threat to the U.S. The bigger question is whether, in Syria, we are ultimately aiding those who seek our destruction. Speaking to reporters for The Hill recently, former Congressman Dennis Kucinich put it in the clearest possible terms: "So what," he asked rhetorically, "we're about to become Al-Qaeda's air force now?"

U.S. Rep. Frank Wolf, R-Va., has also expressed reservations, based in large part on his own visit to Syria in February. "There were a number of people who came out of Damascus to meet with me," he told me, "and conditions have only gotten worse since then. You have brutal people involved – and what if they got our weapons? How would we control it all?"

The window of opportunity for safe involvement in Syria, he feels, closed about a year ago. "Maybe two years ago we knew who the Free Syrian Army was," he noted, "but now we don't. Maybe the CIA does, but I certainly don't." That uncertainty, for Wolf, is just a part of what makes the stakes so high. "It takes just two hours to drive from Jerusalem to Damascus," he said. "Now Jordan is in trouble. There are bombings in Lebanon. Egypt is in crisis. Syria is falling apart. What a war we'd be facing."

Abigail R. Esman, the author, most recently, of Radical State: How Jihad Is Winning Over Democracy in the West (Praeger, 2010), is a freelance writer based in New York and the Netherlands.
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« Reply #65 on: September 09, 2013, 11:55:33 AM »
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« Reply #67 on: September 30, 2013, 06:36:02 PM »

When Islam Breaks Down
Theodore Dalrymple

My first contact with Islam was in Afghanistan. I had been through Iran overland to get there, but it was in the days of the Shah’s White Revolution, which had given rights to women and had secularized society (with the aid of a little detention, without trial, and torture). In my naive, historicist way, I assumed that secularization was an irreversible process, like the breaking of eggs: that once people had seen the glory of life without compulsory obeisance to the men of God, they would never turn back to them as the sole guides to their lives and politics.

Afghanistan was different, quite clearly a pre-modern society. The vast, barren landscapes in the crystalline air were impossibly romantic, and the people (that is to say the men, for women were not much in evidence) had a wild dignity and nobility. Their mien was aristocratic. Even their hospitality was fierce. They carried more weapons in daily life than the average British commando in wartime. You knew that they would defend you to the death, if necessary—or cut your throat like a chicken’s, if necessary. Honor among them was all.

On the whole I was favorably impressed. I thought that they were freer than we. I thought nothing of such matters as the clash of civilizations, and experienced no desire, and felt no duty, to redeem them from their way of life in the name of any of my own civilization’s ideals. Impressed by the aesthetics of Afghanistan and unaware of any fundamental opposition or tension between the modern and the pre-modern, I saw no reason why the West and Afghanistan should not rub along pretty well together, each in its own little world, provided only that each respected the other.

I was with a group of students, and our appearance in the middle of a country then seldom visited was almost a national event. At any rate, we put on extracts of Romeo and Juliet in the desert, in which I had a small part, and the crown prince of Afghanistan (then still a kingdom) attended.
He arrived in Afghanistan’s one modern appurtenance: a silver convertible Mercedes sports car—I was much impressed by that. Little did I think then that lines from the play—those of Juliet’s plea to her mother to abrogate an unwanted marriage to Paris, arranged and forced on her by her father, Capulet—would so uncannily capture the predicament of some of my Muslim patients in Britain more than a third of a century after my visit to Afghanistan, and four centuries after they were written:

Is there no pity sitting in the clouds That sees into the bottom of my grief? O sweet my mother, cast me not away! Delay this marriage for a month, a week, Or if you do not, make the bridal bed In that dim monument where Tybalt lies. How often have I been consulted by young Muslim women patients, driven to despair by enforced marriages to close relatives (usually first cousins) back “home” in India and Pakistan, who have made such an unavailing appeal to their mothers, followed by an attempt at suicide!

Capulet’s attitude to his refractory daughter is precisely that of my Muslim patients’ fathers:

Look to’t, think on’t, I do not use to jest. Thursday is near, lay hand on heart, advise: And you be mine, I’ll give you to my friend; And you be not, hang, beg, starve, die in the streets, For by my soul, I’ll ne’er acknowledge thee, Nor what is mine shall ever do thee good. In fact the situation of Muslim girls in my city is even worse than Juliet’s. Every Muslim girl in my city has heard of the killing of such as she back in Pakistan, on refusal to marry her first cousin, betrothed to her by her father, all unknown to her, in the earliest years of her childhood. The girl is killed because she has impugned family honor by breaking her father’s word, and any halfhearted official inquiry into the death by the Pakistani authorities is easily and cheaply bought off. And even if she is not killed, she is expelled from the household—O sweet my mother, cast me not away!—and regarded by her “community” as virtually a prostitute, fair game for any man who wants her.

This pattern of betrothal causes suffering as intense as any I know of. It has terrible consequences. One father prevented his daughter, highly intelligent and ambitious to be a journalist, from attending school, precisely to ensure her lack of Westernization and economic independence.
He then took her, aged 16, to Pakistan for the traditional forced marriage (silence, or a lack of open objection, amounts to consent in these circumstances, according to Islamic law) to a first cousin whom she disliked from the first and who forced his attentions on her. Granted a visa to come to Britain, as if the marriage were a bona fide one—the British authorities having turned a cowardly blind eye to the real nature of such marriages in order to avoid the charge of racial discrimination—he was violent toward her.

She had two children in quick succession, both of whom were so severely handicapped that they would be bedridden for the rest of their short lives and would require nursing 24 hours a day. (For fear of giving offense, the press almost never alludes to the extremely high rate of genetic illnesses among the offspring of consanguineous marriages.) Her husband, deciding that the blame for the illnesses was entirely hers, and not wishing to devote himself to looking after such useless creatures, left her, divorcing her after Islamic custom. Her family ostracized her, having concluded that a woman whose husband had left her must have been to blame and was the next thing to a whore. She threw herself off a cliff, but was saved by a ledge.

I’ve heard a hundred variations of her emblematic story. Here, for once, are instances of unadulterated female victimhood, yet the silence of the feminists is deafening. Where two pieties—feminism and multiculturalism—come into conflict, the only way of preserving both is an indecent silence.

Certainly such experiences have moderated the historicism I took to Afghanistan—the naive belief that monotheistic religions have but a single, “natural,” path of evolution, which they all eventually follow. By the time Christianity was Islam’s present age, I might once have thought, it had still undergone no Reformation, the absence of which is sometimes offered as an explanation for Islam’s intolerance and rigidity. Give it time, I would have said, and it will evolve, as Christianity has, to a private confession that acknowledges the legal supremacy of the secular state—at which point Islam will become one creed among many.

That Shakespeare’s words express the despair that oppressed Muslim girls feel in a British city in the twenty-first century with much greater force, short of poisoning themselves, than that with which they can themselves express it, that Shakespeare evokes so vividly their fathers’
sentiments as well (though condemning rather than endorsing them), suggests—does it not?—that such oppressive treatment of women is not historically unique to Islam, and that it is a stage that Muslims will leave behind. Islam will even outgrow its religious intolerance, as Christian Europe did so long ago, after centuries in which the Thirty Years’ War, for example, resulted in the death of a third of Germany’s population, or when Philip II of Spain averred, “I would rather sacrifice the lives of a hundred thousand people than cease my persecution of heretics.”

My historicist optimism has waned. After all, I soon enough learned that the Shah’s revolution from above was reversible—at least in the short term, that is to say the term in which we all live, and certainly long enough to ruin the only lives that contemporary Iranians have. Moreover, even if there were no relevant differences between Christianity and Islam as doctrines and civilizations in their ability to accommodate modernity, a vital difference in the historical situations of the two religions also tempers my historicist optimism. Devout Muslims can see (as Luther, Calvin, and others could not) the long-term consequences of the Reformation and its consequent secularism: a marginalization of the Word of God, except as an increasingly distant cultural echo—as the “melancholy, long, withdrawing roar” of the once full “Sea of faith,” in Matthew Arnold’s precisely diagnostic words.

And there is enough truth in the devout Muslim’s criticism of the less attractive aspects of Western secular culture to lend plausibility to his call for a return to purity as the answer to the Muslim world’s woes. He sees in the West’s freedom nothing but promiscuity and license, which is certainly there; but he does not see in freedom, especially freedom of inquiry, a spiritual virtue as well as an ultimate source of strength.
This narrow, beleaguered consciousness no doubt accounts for the strand of reactionary revolt in contemporary Islam. The devout Muslim fears, and not without good reason, that to give an inch is sooner or later to concede the whole territory.

This fear must be all the more acute among the large and growing Muslim population in cities like mine. Except for a small, highly educated middle class, who live de facto as if Islam were a private religious confession like any other in the West, the Muslims congregate in neighborhoods that they have made their own, where the life of the Punjab continues amid the architecture of the Industrial Revolution. The halal butcher’s corner shop rubs shoulders with the terra-cotta municipal library, built by the Victorian city fathers to improve the cultural level of a largely vanished industrial working class.

The Muslim immigrants to these areas were not seeking a new way of life when they arrived; they expected to continue their old lives, but more prosperously. They neither anticipated, nor wanted, the inevitable cultural tensions of translocation, and they certainly never suspected that in the long run they could not maintain their culture and their religion intact. The older generation is only now realizing that even outward conformity to traditional codes of dress and behavior by the young is no longer a guarantee of inner acceptance (a perception that makes their vigilantism all the more pronounced and desperate). Recently I stood at the taxi stand outside my hospital, beside two young women in full black costume, with only a slit for the eyes. One said to the other, “Give us a light for a fag, love; I’m gasping.” Release the social pressure on the girls, and they would abandon their costume in an instant.

Anyone who lives in a city like mine and interests himself in the fate of the world cannot help wondering whether, deeper than this immediate cultural desperation, there is anything intrinsic to Islam—beyond the devout Muslim’s instinctive understanding that secularization, once it starts, is like an unstoppable chain reaction—that renders it unable to adapt itself comfortably to the modern world. Is there an essential element that condemns the Dar al-Islam to permanent backwardness with regard to the Dar al-Harb, a backwardness that is felt as a deep humiliation, and is exemplified, though not proved, by the fact that the whole of the Arab world, minus its oil, matters less to the rest of the world economically than the Nokia telephone company of Finland?

I think the answer is yes, and that the problem begins with Islam’s failure to make a distinction between church and state. Unlike Christianity, which had to spend its first centuries developing institutions clandestinely and so from the outset clearly had to separate church from state, Islam was from its inception both church and state, one and indivisible, with no possible distinction between temporal and religious authority. Muhammad’s power was seamlessly spiritual and secular (although the latter grew ultimately out of the former), and he bequeathed this model to his followers. Since he was, by Islamic definition, the last prophet of God upon earth, his was a political model whose perfection could not be challenged or questioned without the total abandonment of the pretensions of the entire religion.

But his model left Islam with two intractable problems. One was political.
Muhammad unfortunately bequeathed no institutional arrangements by which his successors in the role of omnicompetent ruler could be chosen (and, of course, a schism occurred immediately after the Prophet’s death, with some—today’s Sunnites—following his father-in-law, and some—today’s Shi’ites—his son-in-law). Compounding this difficulty, the legitimacy of temporal power could always be challenged by those who, citing Muhammad’s spiritual role, claimed greater religious purity or authority; the fanatic in Islam is always at a moral advantage vis-à-vis the moderate. Moreover, Islam—in which the mosque is a meetinghouse, not an institutional church—has no established, anointed ecclesiastical hierarchy to decide such claims authoritatively. With political power constantly liable to challenge from the pious, or the allegedly pious, tyranny becomes the only guarantor of stability, and assassination the only means of reform. Hence the Saudi time bomb: sooner or later, religious revolt will depose a dynasty founded upon its supposed piety but long since corrupted by the ways of the world.

The second problem is intellectual. In the West, the Renaissance, the Reformation, and the Enlightenment, acting upon the space that had always existed, at least potentially, in Christianity between church and state, liberated individual men to think for themselves, and thus set in motion an unprecedented and still unstoppable material advancement. Islam, with no separate, secular sphere where inquiry could flourish free from the claims of religion, if only for technical purposes, was hopelessly left
behind: as, several centuries later, it still is.

The indivisibility of any aspect of life from any other in Islam is a source of strength, but also of fragility and weakness, for individuals as well as for polities. Where all conduct, all custom, has a religious sanction and justification, any change is a threat to the whole system of belief. Certainty that their way of life is the right one thus coexists with fear that the whole edifice—intellectual and political—will come tumbling down if it is tampered with in any way. Intransigence is a defense against doubt and makes living on terms of true equality with others who do not share the creed impossible.

Not coincidentally, the punishment for apostasy in Islam is death:
apostates are regarded as far worse than infidels, and punished far more rigorously. In every Islamic society, and indeed among Britain’s Muslim immigrants, there are people who take this idea quite literally, as their rage against Salman Rushdie testified.

The Islamic doctrine of apostasy is hardly favorable to free inquiry or frank discussion, to say the least, and surely it explains why no Muslim, or former Muslim, in an Islamic society would dare to suggest that the Qu’ran was not divinely dictated through the mouth of the Prophet but rather was a compilation of a charismatic man’s words made many years after his death, and incorporating, with no very great originality, Judaic, Christian, and Zoroastrian elements. In my experience, devout Muslims expect and demand a freedom to criticize, often with perspicacity, the doctrines and customs of others, while demanding an exaggerated degree of respect and freedom from criticism for their own doctrines and customs.
I recall, for example, staying with a Pakistani Muslim in East Africa, a very decent and devout man, who nevertheless spent several evenings with me deriding the absurdities of Christianity: the paradoxes of the Trinity, the impossibility of Resurrection, and so forth. Though no Christian myself, had I replied in kind, alluding to the pagan absurdities of the pilgrimage to Mecca, or to the gross, ignorant, and primitive superstitions of the Prophet with regard to jinn, I doubt that our friendship would have lasted long.

The unassailable status of the Qu’ran in Islamic education, thought, and society is ultimately Islam’s greatest disadvantage in the modern world.
Such unassailability does not debar a society from great artistic achievement or charms of its own: great and marvelous civilizations have flourished without the slightest intellectual freedom. I myself prefer a souk to a supermarket any day, as a more human, if less economically efficient, institution. But until Muslims (or former Muslims, as they would then be) are free in their own countries to denounce the Qu’ran as an inferior hodgepodge of contradictory injunctions, without intellectual unity (whether it is so or not)—until they are free to say with Carlyle that the Qu’ran is “a wearisome confused jumble” with “endless iterations, longwindedness, entanglement”—until they are free to remake and modernize the Qu’ran by creative interpretation, they will have to reconcile themselves to being, if not helots, at least in the rearguard of humanity, as far as power and technical advance are concerned.

A piece of pulp fiction by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, first published in 1898, when followers of the charismatic fundamentalist leader Muhammad al-Mahdi tried to establish a theocracy in Sudan by revolting against Anglo-Egyptian control, makes precisely this point and captures the contradiction at the heart of contemporary Islam. Called The Tragedy of the Korosko, the book is the story of a small tourist party to Upper Egypt, who are kidnapped and held to ransom by some Mahdists, and then rescued by the Egyptian Camel Corps. (I hesitate, as a Francophile, to point out to American readers that there is a French character in the book, who, until he is himself captured by the Mahdists, believes that they are but a figment of the British imagination, to give perfidious Albion a pretext to interfere in Sudanese affairs.) A mullah among the Mahdists who capture the tourists attempts to convert the Europeans and Americans to Islam, deriding as unimportant and insignificant their technically superior civilization: “ ‘As to the [scientific] learning of which you speak . . . ’ said the Moolah . . . ‘I have myself studied at the University of Al Azhar at Cairo, and I know that to which you allude.
But the learning of the faithful is not as the learning of the unbeliever, and it is not fitting that we pry too deeply into the ways of Allah. Some stars have tails . . . and some have not; but what does it profit us to know which are which? For God made them all, and they are very safe in His hands. Therefore . . . be not puffed up by the foolish learning of the West, and understand that there is only one wisdom, which consists in following the will of Allah as His chosen prophet has laid it down for us in this book.’ ”

This is by no means a despicable argument. One of the reasons that we can appreciate the art and literature of the past, and sometimes of the very distant past, is that the fundamental conditions of human existence remain the same, however much we advance in the technical sense: I have myself argued in these pages that human self-understanding, except in purely technical matters, reached its apogee with Shakespeare. In a sense, the mullah is right.

But if we made a fetish of Shakespeare (much richer and more profound than the Qu’ran, in my view), if we made him the sole object of our study and the sole guide of our lives, we would soon enough fall into backwardness and stagnation. And the problem is that so many Muslims want both stagnation and power: they want a return to the perfection of the seventh century and to dominate the twenty-first, as they believe is the birthright of their doctrine, the last testament of God to man. If they were content to exist in a seventh-century backwater, secure in a quietist philosophy, there would be no problem for them or us; their problem, and ours, is that they want the power that free inquiry confers, without either the free inquiry or the philosophy and institutions that guarantee that free inquiry. They are faced with a dilemma: either they abandon their cherished religion, or they remain forever in the rear of human technical advance. Neither alternative is very appealing; and the tension between their desire for power and success in the modern world on the one hand, and their desire not to abandon their religion on the other, is resolvable for some only by exploding themselves as bombs.

People grow angry when faced with an intractable dilemma; they lash out.
Whenever I have described in print the cruelties my young Muslim patients endure, I receive angry replies: I am either denounced outright as a liar, or the writer acknowledges that such cruelties take place but are attributable to a local culture, in this case Punjabi, not to Islam, and that I am ignorant not to know it.

But Punjabi Sikhs also arrange marriages: they do not, however, force consanguineous marriages of the kind that take place from Madras to Morocco. Moreover—and not, I believe, coincidentally—Sikh immigrants from the Punjab, of no higher original social status than their Muslim confrères from the same provinces, integrate far better into the local society once they have immigrated. Precisely because their religion is a more modest one, with fewer universalist pretensions, they find the duality of their new identity more easily navigable. On the 50th anniversary of Queen Elizabeth’s reign, for example, the Sikh temples were festooned with perfectly genuine protestations of congratulations and loyalty. No such protestations on the part of Muslims would be thinkable.

But the anger of Muslims, their demand that their sensibilities should be accorded a more than normal respect, is a sign not of the strength but of the weakness—or rather, the brittleness—of Islam in the modern world, the desperation its adherents feel that it could so easily fall to pieces. The control that Islam has over its populations in an era of globalization reminds me of the hold that the Ceausescus appeared to have over the
Rumanians: an absolute hold, until Ceausescu appeared one day on the balcony and was jeered by the crowd that had lost its fear. The game was over, as far as Ceausescu was concerned, even if there had been no preexisting conspiracy to oust him.

One sign of the increasing weakness of Islam’s hold over its nominal adherents in Britain—of which militancy is itself but another sign—is the throng of young Muslim men in prison. They will soon overtake the young men of Jamaican origin in their numbers and in the extent of their criminality. By contrast, young Sikhs and Hindus are almost completely absent from prison, so racism is not the explanation for such Muslim overrepresentation.

Confounding expectations, these prisoners display no interest in Islam whatsoever; they are entirely secularized. True, they still adhere to Muslim marriage customs, but only for the obvious personal advantage of having a domestic slave at home. Many of them also dot the city with their concubines—sluttish white working-class girls or exploitable young Muslims who have fled forced marriages and do not know that their young men are married. This is not religion, but having one’s cake and eating it.

The young Muslim men in prison do not pray; they do not demand halal meat.
They do not read the Qu’ran. They do not ask to see the visiting imam.
They wear no visible signs of piety: their main badge of allegiance is a gold front tooth, which proclaims them members of the city’s criminal subculture—a badge (of honor, they think) that they share with young Jamaicans, though their relations with the Jamaicans are otherwise fraught with hostility. The young Muslim men want wives at home to cook and clean for them, concubines elsewhere, and drugs and rock ‘n’ roll. As for Muslim proselytism in the prison—and Muslim literature has been insinuated into nooks and crannies there far more thoroughly than any Christian literature—it is directed mainly at the Jamaican prisoners. It answers their need for an excuse to go straight, while not at the same time surrendering to the morality of a society they believe has wronged them deeply. Indeed, conversion to Islam is their revenge upon that society, for they sense that their newfound religion is fundamentally opposed to it. By conversion, therefore, they kill two birds with one stone.

But Islam has no improving or inhibiting effect upon the behavior of my city’s young Muslim men, who, in astonishing numbers, have taken to heroin, a habit almost unknown among their Sikh and Hindu contemporaries.
The young Muslims not only take heroin but deal in it, and have adopted all the criminality attendant on the trade.

What I think these young Muslim prisoners demonstrate is that the rigidity of the traditional code by which their parents live, with its universalist pretensions and emphasis on outward conformity to them, is all or nothing; when it dissolves, it dissolves completely and leaves nothing in its place. The young Muslims then have little defense against the egotistical licentiousness they see about them and that they all too understandably take to be the summum bonum of Western life.

Observing this, of course, there are among Muslim youth a tiny minority who reject this absorption into the white lumpenproletariat and turn militant or fundamentalist. It is their perhaps natural, or at least understandable, reaction to the failure of our society, kowtowing to absurd and dishonest multiculturalist pieties, to induct them into the best of Western culture: into that spirit of free inquiry and personal freedom that has so transformed the life chances of every person in the world, whether he knows it or not.

Islam in the modern world is weak and brittle, not strong: that accounts for its so frequent shrillness. The Shah will, sooner or later, triumph over the Ayatollah in Iran, because human nature decrees it, though meanwhile millions of lives will have been ruined and impoverished. The Iranian refugees who have flooded into the West are fleeing Islam, not seeking to extend its dominion, as I know from speaking to many in my city. To be sure, fundamentalist Islam will be very dangerous for some time to come, and all of us, after all, live only in the short term; but ultimately the fate of the Church of England awaits it. Its melancholy, withdrawing roar may well (unlike that of the Church of England) be not just long but bloody, but withdraw it will. The fanatics and the bombers do not represent a resurgence of unreformed, fundamentalist Islam, but its death rattle.
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« Reply #68 on: October 02, 2013, 04:04:57 PM »

Guest Column: Jihad Tourism
by Anat Berko
Special to IPT News
October 2, 2013

For 20 years I studied and interviewed Islamist mujahedeen (jihad fighters) imprisoned in Israeli jails, examining their inner worlds and discovering the obsessive thoughts leading them to carry out terrorist attacks. They were addicted to fantasizing about an alternative reality, describing their compulsions in metaphors similar to those used by obsessive gamblers and drug addicts. They likened them to "worms" (duda in Arabic) burrowing into their brains and driving them to seek not another game of cards or a fix, but dead Israelis, Americans, Europeans, or anyone else they considered infidels. They did not try to resist their compulsions or consider that their actions might be wrong, because they felt completely controlled and manipulated by the concept of jihad, which dictated their behavior in every sphere of life.

The findings of my research indicated that the jihadists' obsessions created what are known as "overvalued ideas," that is, false or exaggerated beliefs sustained beyond reason or logic. One often repeated, was the vision of what awaited the shaheed (a martyr for the sake of Allah) in the Islamic paradise after death. The sensations of the release of tension and relaxation come only after the terrorist act, when the perpetrator looks at the people he murdered. Even suicide bombers whose explosive belts failed to detonate or who were arrested before they could carry out their missions described a transcendent sensation, a smile as they approached their targets.
They spoke of their inability to control their impulsive behavior, harmful to themselves and others.

They described the mujahed's [the jihad fighter's] search for meaning in his life, how he turns his back on civilization and everything it represents. Many of them felt rejected by their immediate surroundings, either because of feelings of inferiority, marginality or guilt for things they had done (or not done) that brought dishonor to their families, or simply because they could not integrate into society as productive, contributing citizens. Those who had been exposed to Western society had strong feelings of inferiority, jealousy and rejection, especially because of differences in life styles, sex roles, confidence and other personal attributes. Some of them noted unbridgeable gaps between culture and science. One dispatcher of suicide bombers spoke of the great differences in capabilities, culture and economic condition between Christian and Muslim Arabs. For the mujahedeen, people are either good or bad, and that conceptual polarity directs their course.

Terrorists are also frustrated and alienated by those who rejected them, leading them to announce that as mujahedeen they "reject the rejecters." A similar sensation has been noted in criminological studies as a criminal behavioral dynamic, and because the criminal is rejected by a normative society and cannot integrate into it, he declares war on it. Generally speaking, there is no psychopathology among Muslim terrorists. That is, none of them can be diagnosed as having a recognizable mental illness, even those who attempted to carry out suicide bombing attacks. What remains to be examined is whether or not there is a collective pathology, and if it is a question of a society, many of whose members find it difficult to suppress violence and control their urges and anger.

Jihad, a holy war against the infidel, is the personal duty of every Muslim, and if he does not wage it, he will die as a religious hypocrite, someone who only outwardly practices Islam but does not truly believe, and be damned for all eternity. The terrorists I interviewed told me that waging jihad is, for the mujahed, the way to partake of Allah's mercy for themselves and the members of their families, and to go directly to paradise without the Islamic "tortures of the grave" and without undergoing a painful examination by angels before they are allowed to enter.

Exhilaration and ecstasy accompany jihad fighters in their search for arenas of excitement around the globe. They look for places where they can rape and kill with impunity and fight the infidel in the name of Allah, reaching the pinnacle of masculinity and honor reserved for the shaheed. Superficially, they may seem to be fighting for an ideal, but in reality, even in suicide bombing attacks, there is an element of desire for reward, both in this world and the next. The overwhelming desire of many Muslim adolescent boys, even those educated in the West or who are converts to Islam, especially those living in countries where there is no real governance, is excitement. To that end they stream into confrontation zones like Afghanistan, Pakistan, Chechnya, Libya, Iraq, Africa (such as the recent terrorist attack in Kenya), and Syria to experience the mission, the excitement and promise of being a shaheed as the ultimate in self-realization.

Frustration, alienation and a sense of inferiority accompany the increase in the pace of modern life, and the gap between East and West continually grows. The deprivation, restrictions and solutions imposed by Islamism lead people to seek a group to which they can belong and which will help them channel their negative feelings for the other, the different, the "infidel," feelings which are common to all. In addition, the need for adventure and excitement has helped create a kind of "jihad tourism" especially but not exclusively relevant for young Muslim men, including those born in the West. Today in Syria there are jihadist fighters from 60 countries, among them converts to Islam, who star in videos and help the jihadists recruit supporters and spread propaganda. Jihad tourism is a subculture of fun and excitement, a festival of violence, similar to the Western criminal and gang subcultures. The jihadist lifestyle allows them to shake off the confines of the disintegrating patriarchal family. As opposed to ordinary criminals, whose social status is lowered when they are classified as felons, the Islamic terrorists feel they are performing good deeds for the sake of Allah, raising their status. They act on violent impulses, are unrestrained in their aggression and try to impress those around them by taking risks, hoping for admiration and praise. They butcher people of all ages, use both sarin gas and hatchets, behead, rape and mutilate their "enemies" with no regard for the fact that until recently the enemy was a neighbor, or at least shared their language and culture.

In their "extreme jihad journeys" they become accustomed to violence and atrocities, or as one of the men I interviewed said, "we find the smell of blood natural; even as young children we saw sheep being slaughtered in our yards." In addition, they receive religious justification from various fatwas, religious edicts issued by sheikhs such as Yusuf al-Qaradawi, the Muslim Brotherhood's religious authority. The jihad tourists live like wandering adventurers, generally finding it difficult to integrate into the mainstream of modern life. Instead they choose a path of murder and violence while embracing simplicity and even primitiveness. Having different aspirations, they do not have to compete with the West, seeking instead to destroy it while hoping to recreate the past in preference to joining the future. Before he was killed by the Americans, the terrorists I interviewed often praised Osama bin Laden and the simple life he lived in the caves of Tora Bora – an illusion, because bin Laden lived a life of relative comfort in Pakistan.

The waves of jihad tourism and terrorism targeting mainly Christians and Jews in the West have spun out of control and are not susceptible to the restraints of family, culture, religion or society. Violent jihad tourists are now overwhelming entire countries: Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Yemen, Libya, Tunisia, Egypt and Syria. The atrocities currently being committed in Syria would not embarrass any legendary serial killer, and there are thousands of such jihad tourists there, Sunni and Shi'ite, and even Western converts to Islam, who torture and kill innocent civilians.

It is the high season for jihad tourism, and while the mujahedeen continue their activities in Iraq, the trendy watering hole is currently Syria, where Bashar al-Assad's friends and foes alike indiscriminately slaughter innocents of all ages and sexes. They surf on waves of blood, and the operatives of the Al-Nusra Front, a group affiliated with Al-Qaeda, slaughter both members of the Assad regime and of secular rebel organizations who fighting the same regime.

The goal of Western educational systems is to provide the tools necessary for functioning in society. In the Islamic countries, however, children are taught from infancy that the family and clan are the foundations of their lives and dictate their behavior. Islamic society binds its members in chains, and the individual has no choice but to submit to group pressure. Drowning in blood and violence, his only justification is seeking the death of a shaheed.

And recent conflicts show that the West provides plenty of jihad tourists despite our education and opportunities. For some, especially converts to Islam, waging jihad in foreign lands can be exciting and revolutionary and a chance to prove the depth of their new devotion.

With all of this in mind, I would like to propose calling murder for the sake of Allah "shahadamania," which might make it easier for the West to understand and fight the syndrome. It refers to the obsession for istishhad [martyrdom for the sake of Allah] and includes feelings of transcendence and euphoria after killing the infidel, the capitulation to instinct, the inability to function in daily life, and jihad as a good and even altruistic deed in this world to qualify for a hedonistic afterlife.

Dr. Anat Berko, PhD, is a Lt Col (Res) in the Israel Defense Forces, conducts research for the National Security Council and is a research fellow at the International Policy Institute for Counterterrorism at the Interdisciplinary Center in Israel. A criminologist, she was a visiting professor at George Washington University and has written two books about suicide bombers, "The Path to Paradise," and the recently released "The Smarter Bomb: Women and Children as Suicide Bombers" (Rowman & Littlefield)
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« Reply #69 on: November 15, 2013, 09:06:07 PM »

 Gauging the Jihadist Movement, Part 1: The Goals of the Jihadists
Security Weekly
Thursday, November 14, 2013 - 04:03 Print Text Size
Gauging the Jihadist Movement
By Scott Stewart
Editor's Note: The following is the first installment of a series examining the global jihadist movement.

Quite often when I am doing speaking engagements, client briefings or press interviews, I am asked questions like: “Given the events in Syria and Libya, is the jihadist movement stronger than ever?” It is a good question, but it is also one that is not easily answered in a five-second sound bite or a succinct quote for print media -- it really requires some detailed explanation. Because of this, I’ve decided to take some time to provide a more thorough treatment of the subject in written form for Stratfor readers. As I thought through the various aspects of the topic, I came to believe that adequately covering it requires more than one Security Weekly, so I will dedicate a series of articles to it.

When gauging the current state of the jihadist movement, I believe it is useful to use two different standards. The first is to take jihadists' goals and objectives and measure their progress toward achieving them. The second is to take a look at insurgent theory and terrorism models to see what they can tell us about the state of jihadist militant networks and their efforts. This week we will discuss the first standard: the jihadists’ goals and objectives. Next week we will discuss insurgency and terrorism theories, and then once we have established these two benchmarks we can use them to see how the various elements of the jihadist movement measure up.
Jihadist Goals and Objectives

There is a widely held narrative that jihadists are merely crazy people who employ violence for the sake of violence. This is clearly false. While there are unquestionably some psychotic and sociopathic personalities within the movement, taken as a whole, jihadists' use of violence -- both terrorism and insurgency -- is quite rational.

It is also worth remembering that terrorism is not associated with just one group of people; it is a tactic that has been employed by a wide array of actors. There is no single creed, ethnicity, political persuasion or nationality with a monopoly on terrorism. Jihadists employ terrorism as they do insurgency -- as one of many tools they can use to achieve their objectives.

Arguably, the objectives the jihadists are pursuing through the employment of violence are delusional. Although we can question whether or not they will be able to achieve them through violent means, we simply cannot dispute that they are employing violence intentionally and in a rational manner with a view to achieving their stated goals. With that in mind, we will take a deeper look at those objectives.

It is very important to understand that jihadists are theologically motivated. In fact, in their ideology there is no real distinction between religion, politics and culture. They believe that it is their religious duty to propagate their own strain of Islam along with the government, legal system and cultural norms that go with it. They also believe that in order to properly spread their strain of Islam they must strictly follow the example of the Prophet Mohammed and his early believers. While all Muslims believe they must follow the Quran and the Sunnah, the jihadists allow very little space for extra-religious ideas and severely limit the use of reason to interpret the divine texts.

Historically, after leaving Mecca, Mohammed moved to Medina, where he established the world’s first Islamic polity. He and his followers then launched military operations to raid the caravans of their opponents. Mohammed’s army eventually conquered Mecca and a large portion of the Arabian Peninsula before the Prophet’s death. Within a century of Mohammed’s passing, his followers had forged a vast empire that crossed North Africa and most of Spain to the west, reaching to the borders of China and India in the east. Just as Mohammed and his followers had conquered much of the known world, the jihadists seek to reconquer this empire and then expand it to encompass the earth.

The jihadists’ plan is to first establish a state called an emirate that they can rule under jihadist principles, and then use that state as a launching pad for further conquests, creating a larger empire they refer to as the caliphate. Many jihadist ideologues believe that the caliphate should be a transnational entity that includes all Muslim lands, stretching from Spain (Al-Andalus) in the west to the Philippines in the east. The caliphate would then be extended globally, bringing the entire world into submission.     

Now, that said, it is important to remember that the jihadist movement is not monolithic and that there are varying degrees of ideological difference -- including goals and objectives -- between some of the various actors and groups. For example, some jihadists are far more nationalistic in philosophy and less transnational. They are focused on the overthrow of the regime in their country and the establishment of an emirate under Shariah. They are not concerned about using that emirate as a launching pad for the re-establishment of a wider caliphate. This nationalist vs. transnationalist tension was readily apparent in Somalia between the various factions of al Shabaab. Some jihadists also believe that there cannot be one global caliphate due to differences among Muslims, and instead seek to establish a series of smaller states that would span the same territory.

Jihadist ideologues and leaders have openly stated these intentions, but they are not just rhetorical goals for public consumption. A review of the private writings of jihadist leaders as well as the actions taken by jihadist operatives in the field clearly demonstrate the strong intent to achieve their aims.
Writings and Deeds

One of the most insightful looks into al Qaeda's strategy came in the form of a letter released by the U.S. government in 2005 from the organization's then-deputy leader (and current emir) Ayman al-Zawahiri to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. Al-Zarqawi was the leader of al-Tawhid wal-Jihad, a jihadist group operating in Iraq that had pledged allegiance to al Qaeda and changed its name to al Qaeda in Iraq. The group later turned into an umbrella organization comprising several jihadist groups and was renamed the Islamic State of Iraq. More recently, due to its efforts in Syria, the group has changed its name to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. 

Al-Zawahiri’s letter to al-Zarqawi was remarkable for a number of reasons, one of which was its elucidation of al Qaeda's goals. In the letter, al-Zawahiri wrote: "It has always been my belief that the victory of Islam will never take place until a Muslim state is established in the manner of the Prophet in the heart of the Islamic world." He also noted that the first step in such a plan was to expel the Americans from Iraq. The second stage was to establish an emirate and expand it into a larger caliphate. The third stage was then to attack the secular countries surrounding Iraq (Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Syria and Jordan) and bring them into the caliphate. The fourth step was to use the power of the combined caliphate to attack Israel.

The strategy laid out by al-Zawahiri clearly resonated with the Iraqi jihadists, and their subsequent actions demonstrate that they have embraced it. Even their name, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (in which they emphasize the state), reflects their desire to establish a jihadist polity. In addition, the civil war in Syria has provided the Islamic State of Iraq with the opportunity to push into the neighboring secular country, where it has made a concerted effort to seize, hold and govern territory.

The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant is not the only jihadist group to attempt to establish an emirate. Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula made a concerted effort to seize, hold and govern territory in southern Yemen as a result of the Yemeni revolution in 2011, briefly controlling a substantial swath of territory there. Al Shabaab has controlled and governed parts of Somalia for several years now (though recently the group lost significant portions of it). Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb temporarily established an emirate in northern Mali in 2012, and the Nigerian jihadist group Boko Haram has attempted to establish control over areas in Nigeria’s north. At present, jihadist groups such as Ansar al-Shariah are seeking to establish control over territory amid the chaos in Libya.

This goal of establishing an emirate was also clearly articulated in two letters The Associated Press discovered in Timbuktu, Mali. They were written by Nasir al-Wahayshi, the leader of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, and sent to Abdelmalek Droukdel (also known as Abu Musab Abd al-Wadoud), the leader of al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb. In the letters, al-Wahayshi detailed some of the lessons and mistakes his organization had made while it was attempting to establish its emirate in Yemen. He clearly sought to share those lessons with al-Wadoud so that al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb’s emirate in Mali would be more successful.

In one of the letters, al-Wahayshi also explained that his group purposefully did not proclaim an emirate in southern Yemen. "As soon as we took control of the areas, we were advised by the General Command here not to declare the establishment of an Islamic principality, or state, for a number of reasons: We wouldn't be able to treat people on the basis of a state since we would not be able to provide for all their needs, mainly because our state is vulnerable. Second: Fear of failure, in the event that the world conspires against us. If this were to happen, people may start to despair and believe that jihad is fruitless."

Evidently al-Wahayshi’s advice went unheeded. Shortly after the jihadists declared an Islamic state called Azawad in northern Mali in April 2012, the French invasion pushed the jihadists out of the territory they had conquered, ending the short-lived state of Azawad. Letters found in Mali also reflected that Droukdel was found to have written to his commanders in Mali calling for them to refrain from fundamentalist and excessively brutal behavior that would jeopardize their objectives. We have also seen recent communications from al-Zawahiri criticizing al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb for the errors in Mali that led to its defeat.

These events show that establishing an emirate as a base from which to launch further expansion is at the heart of the jihadist strategy, remaining an important goal for the jihadist movement.

Read more: Gauging the Jihadist Movement, Part 1: The Goals of the Jihadists | Stratfor

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« Reply #70 on: November 27, 2013, 12:11:02 PM »

Editor's Note: The following is the second installment of a series examining the global jihadist movement. Click here for Part 1.

Last week's Security Weekly was the first in a series of analyses intended to gauge the current status of the jihadist movement. The introduction to the first part discussed the two standards that will be used to assess the jihadist movement. The first scale is the goals and objectives of the movement itself and the second gauge is insurgent and terrorist theory. An analysis of the jihadists' goals noted that almost all jihadists -- whether they are transnational or nationalist in ideology -- seek to establish an Islamic polity along the lines of a medieval emirate. This goal is not only a matter of rhetoric, but action -- several jihadist groups have attempted to establish emirates. Once established, the emirate would be ruled under an extremely austere interpretation of Sharia, as seen in Afghanistan under the Taliban, which was the first jihadist emirate. Transnational jihadists also seek to expand beyond the creation of an emirate to re-establish the caliphate.

Insurgency is armed rebellion, and militant organizations waging insurgencies will often utilize terrorism as a tool in that rebellion. There are many conflicting definitions of terrorism, but for our purposes we will loosely define it as politically motivated violence against noncombatants. By definition, all insurgencies employ violence, but not all of them employ terrorism. Therefore, while the two concepts are often complementary, they are not synonymous. In the specific case of the jihadist movement, we have seen them utilize terrorism as an element of their various insurgent campaigns. However, in order to fully understand them, we must approach these two complementary concepts -- and the theory behind them -- separately.

This week's security weekly will examine insurgent theory and terrorism theory to see how they can be used to measure the jihadist movement.
Insurgency, the Long War

Insurgency, sometimes called guerrilla warfare or irregular warfare, has been practiced for centuries in a variety of different regions and by a number of actors from different cultures. One of these historical examples was the Prophet Mohammed, who is seen by the jihadists as a model for their military campaigns. After Mohammed left Mecca and established the first Islamic polity in Medina, his forces began to conduct asymmetrical military operations against their stronger Meccan foes, attacking their commercial caravans and conducting hit-and-run attacks until they were able to amass the power necessary to conquer Mecca and expand the Islamic state to include a large section of the Arabian Peninsula.

In the 20th century, insurgent theory was codified by leaders such as Russia's Vladimir Lenin, China's Mao Zedong, Vietnam's General Vo Nguyen Giap and Latin America's Che Guevara. But at its core, the theory is based on the historic concepts of declining battle when the enemy has superior forces and attacking at a time and place where the insurgents can mass sufficient forces to strike where the enemy is weak. The insurgents take a long view of the armed struggle and seek to survive and fight another day rather than allowing themselves to be fixed and destroyed by their enemy. They may lose some battles, but if they cause losses for their enemy, forcing them to expend men and resources disproportionately while remaining alive themselves to continue the insurgency, it is a victory for them. Time is on the side of the insurgent in an asymmetrical style of battle, and they hope that a long war will serve to exhaust and demoralize their enemy.

There are varying conceptual differences between figures such as Mao, Lenin and Guevara regarding how to best advance a given political situation in order to strengthen an insurgent's position and recruit forces. For example, Mao believed in extensive political preparation among the peasant citizenry before launching an armed struggle. In contrast, Guevara believed that a small vanguard (or foco) of guerrillas could begin to conduct attacks without extensive political priming and that the armed struggle itself could shape public opinion and raise popular support for the cause. These differences are largely based upon what worked in a specific insurgency situation. However, looking at the bigger picture, all insurgent theorists promote the concept of insurgent leaders working to build their military forces so that they can engage in progressively larger military engagements while simultaneously degrading their enemy's capabilities. Starting with small-scale attacks (sometimes utilizing terrorism), they want to move up from hit-and-run raids to conventional combat, eventually seeking to achieve military parity and then superiority with the enemy so that they can conquer and hold territory.

In the case of an insurgency against a foreign occupier, it is not always necessary to follow this progression and achieve military parity with them. Local insurgents invariably have superior intelligence as well as the advantage of fundamental interest. Put another way, a foreign occupier nearly always has less interest in a particular piece of territory than the locals who call it home. If the insurgents resist long enough and cause enough expenditure of blood and treasure, often the occupier can be forced to leave, even if the insurgents are taking disproportionately heavier casualties.

As noted above, the jihadists seek to emulate what they believe to be the pattern of the Prophet Mohammed and his followers, who progressed from caravan raids, to irregular warfare, to the capture of Mecca and eventually the formation of a vast empire conquered and realized by conventional military forces.

Given insurgent theory and the example of Mohammed, we are in a position to look at the various jihadist groups and gauge their current status -- and more important, their trajectory -- based upon their stage of insurgency. Has the group progressed from small-scale attacks to irregular warfare? Have they regressed? Have they conquered and held territory? Have they lost it?
Terrorist Theory

Terrorism tends to be a tool of the weak. It is often used as a way to conduct armed conflict against a militarily stronger enemy when the organization launching the armed struggle is not yet at a stage where insurgent or conventional warfare is viable. Marxist, Maoist and Focoist groups often seek to use terrorism as the first step in an armed struggle. In some ways, al Qaeda also followed a type of Focoist vanguard strategy by using terrorism to shape public opinion and raise popular support for their cause. Terrorism can also be used to supplement insurgency or conventional warfare when it is employed to keep the enemy off balance and distracted, principally by conducting strikes against vulnerable targets in the enemy's rear. The Afghan Taliban employ terrorism in this manner. Such attacks against "soft" targets require a disproportionate allocation of resources to defend against. While costly in terms of materiel and manpower, such an allocation is absolutely necessary if the security forces wish to prevent the targeted population from feeling terrorized.

Used as a tool by any organization conducting an armed struggle -- whether that organization is Marxist, Maoist or jihadist -- terrorist attacks are most effective when employed in a manner that is guided by an overarching strategy, one that seeks to achieve the organization's military (and ultimately political) objectives. Because of this, a hierarchical organizational structure, with direct lines of command and control, is the best model for terrorists to use in a perfect world -- as it is for any military organization for that matter. However, conditions on the ground often prohibit the use of a hierarchical organization, the most significant inhibitor in the field being the aggressiveness of security forces.

In a location where the security forces are weak and disorganized, it is quite possible for terror groups to utilize a hierarchical command model. But in places where the security forces are competent and aggressive, the terrorists' job is harder. A proficient security force can become quite successful at collecting intelligence on a militant organization, perhaps even to the extent of penetrating the organization with agents, or developing informants from within. Such intelligence operations permit the security forces to quickly identify and round up members of the group, using their own established hierarchy as a targeting framework.

Practicing good operational security can help a militant organization protect itself from the intelligence collection efforts of the security forces, but those measures can only go so far. If the security forces are capable and aggressive, they can still find ways to infiltrate the organization. One way militant groups have countered such aggressive intelligence efforts is to move away from a hierarchical configuration and toward a cellular structure in which small teams or cells work independently and do not have links to each other.

In some organizations, the cells can be totally independent and self-contained operationally, conducting all their activities internally based on direction received from their central command. Other organizations will employ functional cells that conduct the different sorts of tasks required for a terrorist operation. In such an operational model, there might be finance and logistics cells, command cells, bomb-making cells, propaganda cells, recruitment cells, surveillance cells, assault cells and so on. The idea is that if one cell is compromised, the damage will be contained and will not allow the authorities to identify the entire organization. But still, these various cells are linked by a common command element and directed in their operations.

However, even cellular organizations are vulnerable to intelligence penetration. Because of this fact, some terrorist theorists have proposed an operational model called leaderless resistance, in which independent cells and individuals conduct attacks without direction from a central command.

The concept of leaderless resistance is really quite old, but its modern form was perhaps best articulated and documented by a series of American white supremacist leaders following the 1988 Fort Smith Sedition Trial. While the 13 white supremacist leaders charged in the Fort Smith case were eventually acquitted, testimony and evidence from that trial demonstrated that the white supremacist movement had been heavily infiltrated by American law enforcement agencies. Some of the leaders of those penetrated groups began to advocate leaderless resistance as a way to avoid heavy government intelligence activity.

In 1989, William Luther Pierce, the leader of a neo-Nazi group called the National Alliance and one of the Fort Smith defendants, published a fictional book under the pseudonym Andrew Macdonald titled Hunter, which dealt with the exploits of a fictional lone wolf named Oscar Yeager. Pierce dedicated the book to convicted serial killer Joseph Paul Franklin and he clearly intended it to serve as an inspiration and model for lone-wolf operatives. Pierce's earlier book, The Turner Diaries, was based on a militant operational theory involving a clandestine organization, while Hunter represented a distinct break from that approach. (Coincidentally, Franklin was executed by the state of Missouri as this article was being written.)

In 1990, Richard Kelly Hoskins, an influential "Christian Identity" ideologue, published a book titled Vigilantes of Christendom in which he introduced the concept of the "Phineas Priesthood." According to Hoskins, a Phineas Priest is a lone-wolf militant chosen by God and set apart to be God's "agent of vengeance" upon the earth. Phineas Priests also believe their attacks will serve to ignite a wider "racial holy war" that will ultimately lead to the salvation of the white race.

In 1992, another of the Fort Smith defendants, former Ku Klux Klan leader Louis Beam, published an essay in his magazine The Seditionist that provided a detailed roadmap for moving the white hate movement toward the leaderless resistance model. Beam's roadmap called for lone wolves and small "phantom" cells to engage in violent action to protect themselves from detection.

The leaderless resistance model was advocated not only by the American far right though. Influenced by their anarchist roots, left-wing extremists also moved in the phantom direction and movements such as the Earth Liberation Front and Animal Liberation Front adopted operational models that were very similar to the leaderless-resistance doctrine prescribed by Beam.

Upon seeing the success the United States and its allies were having against the al Qaeda core and the wider jihadist network following 9/11, jihadist military theoretician Abu Musab al-Suri began to promote a leaderless resistance model for jihadists in late 2004. This was based on the jihadist concept of individual jihad. As if to prove his own point about the dangers of maintaining a high profile and communicating with other jihadists, al-Suri was reportedly captured in November 2005 in Pakistan. It is believed that he was released from prison in Syria in late 2011 or early 2012.

Al-Suri's concept of leaderless resistance was embraced by al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, the al Qaeda franchise group in Yemen, in 2009. Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula called for this type of strategy in both its Arabic-language media and its English-language magazine, Inspire, which published long excerpts of al-Suri's theories pertaining to individual jihad. The magazine also endeavored to equip aspiring do-it-yourself jihadists with practical material, such as bomb-making instructions. Inspire's bomb-making directions have been used in a number of plots, including the Boston Marathon Bombing.

In 2010, the al Qaeda core also embraced the idea, with U.S.-born spokesman Adam Gadahn echoing the call for Muslims to adopt the leaderless resistance model.

However, in the jihadist realm, as in the white-supremacist realm before it, the shift to leaderless resistance is an admission of weakness rather than a sign of strength. Jihadists recognized that they have been extremely limited in their ability to successfully attack the West. And while jihadist groups openly welcomed recruits in the past, they are now telling them it is too dangerous to travel because of the steps taken by the United States and its allies to combat the transnational terrorist threat. The advice is that they should instead conduct attacks in the Western countries where they live.

The net result is that we can use terrorist theory as a way to measure the status of a particular jihadist group. Are they able to operate as a hierarchical organization, or do they have to work in a cellular structure? Can they project their power by conducting attacks across transnational boundaries, or is their reach confined to a specific city, country or region?

Next week we will apply these measures of insurgent and terrorism theory to a variety of jihadist groups. By also incorporating the objectives of the jihadist movement (as examined in part one of this series) as a benchmark, we will be able to see exactly where these groups stand in relation to each other and interrogate their relative condition and status.

Read more: Gauging the Jihadist Movement, Part 2: Insurgent and Terrorist Theory | Stratfor

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« Reply #71 on: December 09, 2013, 06:09:15 PM »

Editor's Note: The following is the third installment of a series examining the global jihadist movement. Click here for Part 1 and here for Part 2.

The first two parts of this series established the benchmarks we would use to assess the current state of the jihadist movement. This week, we will define the movement and begin to evaluate its various elements.

Defining the Jihadist Movement

The jihadist movement is often portrayed in the press as a monolithic entity, with the entire movement frequently referred to as "al Qaeda" or "al Qaeda-linked militants." In reality the jihadist movement is far more complex. This is why we have titled this series "Gauging the Jihadist Movement" and not simply "Gauging al Qaeda."

As previously discussed, there are a number of jihadist actors and groups, and many of them hold to different religious doctrines and operational tenets. For example, some groups tend to be more nationalistic in nature, such as the Afghan Taliban, while others are more transnational, such as the al Qaeda core. And there is a range of groups with beliefs that fall between these two extremes. Even al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, the jihadist franchise group most closely aligned with the al Qaeda core, has conducted terrorist attacks against local and regional targets in addition to transnational targets.

But target selection and the types of attacks employed are not the only differences. Some groups believe in the practice of takfir, or declaring another Muslim to be an unbeliever, while other groups refute takfir as un-Islamic. Some jihadist groups actively attack Shiite and Sufi Muslims while other groups will cooperate with Shiite, Sufi or even secular militant groups fighting for the same cause. There are also differences between groups regarding how Sharia should be administered in areas conquered by jihadist groups. 

We refer to these regional groups that have sworn loyalty to al Qaeda as "franchise groups" because, while they do use the widely recognized transnational brand name, they are very much locally owned and operated. But even among the declared al Qaeda franchise groups, there can be differences in operational doctrine.

In Syria, we have seen these differences among jihadist franchise groups erupt into contention and even armed conflict. This situation has also resulted in open defiance to directives from the al Qaeda core leadership. One al Qaeda franchise group, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, has continued attempts to subsume another Syrian al Qaeda franchise group, Jabhat al-Nusra, even after al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri ordered the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant to confine its efforts to Iraq and allow Jabhat al-Nusra to maintain responsibility for Syria.

In Algeria, the differences between different factions within the franchise group have caused members of the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat to defect to the government and Mokhtar Belmokhtar to break off and form his own separate jihadist group, the Mouthalimeen (Arabic for "masked") Brigade.

Additionally, not all jihadists are members of hierarchical groups. They may sympathize or associate with a group, attend a training camp and perhaps even fight with a group but not be formal members of the group. For many years there have been such "free radicals" orbiting within and around the jihadist movement. At Stratfor, we refer to such individuals as grassroots jihadists.

As noted last week, there has also been an effort in recent years to encourage such grassroots jihadists living in the West to adopt a leaderless resistance model and operate as lone wolves or form phantom cells with no overt connection to a jihadist group. However, true lone wolf or phantom cell operations require a uniquely disciplined and driven individual, and most individuals considered lone wolves are later found to have some degree of contact with a jihadist group.

Such contact can range from email discussions and financial support provided to a jihadist group in such cases as that of Fort Hood shooter Maj. Nidal Hasan to some level of training as in the case of Little Rock shooter Abdulhakim Mujahid Muhammad to training and funding from a jihadist group such as that received by Times Square bomber Faisal Shahzad. Sometimes groups will consider grassroots operatives as expendable drones they can manipulate, equip and send on a suicide mission, like would-be Christmas bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab.

So when we are seeking to assess the status of the jihadist movement, we need to consider three distinct levels of actors: the transnational al Qaeda core; regional jihadist groups (many of which are al Qaeda franchise groups); and the grassroots jihadists. As discussed over the past two weeks, we will be analyzing the current state of these elements of the jihadist movement using their objectives and insurgent and terrorist theory as our benchmarks.

As we have discussed for many years now, despite repeated (and ultimately impotent) threats from al Qaeda leaders of impending attacks that would surpass 9/11, the main threat from the jihadist movement has shifted from one emanating from the core group to one arising primarily from the franchise groups and grassroots. Indeed, as early as January 2006 we noted that al Qaeda had lost its ability to pose a strategic threat to the United States, and in July 2007 we strongly disagreed with a National Intelligence Estimate that assessed al Qaeda as having regenerated to a point of being stronger than ever, countering with our assessment that the al Qaeda core had been significantly weakened and did not pose a strategic threat to the U.S. homeland.

When we look at the al Qaeda core in relation to its goals and objectives of establishing emirates and eventually re-establishing the caliphate, the al Qaeda core has clearly failed. Indeed, the 9/11 al Qaeda attacks caused the United States to invade Afghanistan and overthrow the one existing jihadist emirate, so following 25 years of armed struggle, al Qaeda is no closer to achieving its objectives than when it began.

In terms of insurgent theory, the al Qaeda core leadership held a focoist view that they could act as a global vanguard and employ violence to establish the conditions necessary for a global uprising in the Muslim world. Again, however, while some groups and individuals have heeded al Qaeda's call to battle, it has been far from a global uprising. Indeed, most of the groups we refer to as al Qaeda franchises were pre-existing Islamist or jihadist organizations that have assumed al Qaeda's name. For example, the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat assumed the name al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb in September 2006.

Despite decades of effort, jihadist insurgents have not had much success in overthrowing existing regimes in the Muslim world. While there were jihadist elements involved in the string of so-called Arab Spring revolutions that ran from Tunisia to Syria, the jihadists were never really responsible for launching the revolutions. Even in places where they have benefited from a revolution and the subsequent vacuum of state authority, such as in Syria and Libya, it was more a case of their taking advantage of the situation than being the driving factor in the uprising. The same can be said for the civil war in Yemen, the coup in Mali and the decades of chaos wracking Somalia, which have provided jihadist militants with anarchic and permissive environments to thrive in.

Indeed, due to their inability to overthrow regimes in the Muslim world, jihadist groups have focused much of their insurgent efforts on such chaotic environments, hoping to repeat the success of the Taliban amid the mayhem and lawlessness in Afghanistan after the Soviet withdrawal. Yet even in tumultuous locations such as Yemen, northern Mali and Somalia, the jihadists have not been able to achieve significant and lasting success in holding territory and establishing emirates.

The U.S. government and its allies have focused on denying the jihadists the ability to establish a sanctuary with the resources of an entire state, and the lack of success in the jihadist movement's insurgent operations is directly due to these efforts. In places like Yemen, Mali and Somalia, when jihadists have made some progress toward establishing a state, Western militaries have become more actively, if not directly, involved in operations that have countered that progress.

On the terrorism front, we have seen the jihadist movement devolve into early al Qaeda or even pre-al Qaeda operational models. They have not been able to send highly trained facilitators to mobilize and equip local cells, as we saw in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing and the 1998 East Africa embassy bombings, or deploy professional teams of skilled operators like those seen in the 9/11 attacks. Instead, the al Qaeda core has been reduced to little more than a propaganda organization operating in the ideological battlefield while franchise groups have taken the lead in the physical struggle.

The regional groups have been able to adopt hierarchical structures in their areas of operation but have been unable to extend these organizations to project power very far outside their core areas. Furthermore, many of the franchise groups have not sought to conduct transnational attacks either due to lack of capability or lack of interest. Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb initially adopted a targeting philosophy similar to that of the al Qaeda core, but its large suicide bombings inside Algeria provoked a backlash from the more nationalist elements of the organization, and it soon reverted to attacks and targets more like those it had previously conducted as the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat.

Even a group like al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, which has sought to conduct regional attacks like the assassination attempt against Prince Mohammed bin Nayef and transnational attacks such as the Christmas Day 2009 underwear bomb attack, has been forced to conduct such attacks by dispatching bombers from its own base of operations in Yemen rather than by sending operatives to Saudi Arabia and the West to plan and execute attacks.

This is not only because they lack the ability to dispatch well-trained operatives in the face of the increased intelligence and security programs in the post-9/11 world. Before 9/11, al Qaeda and the jihadists were a priority for the U.S. government, but they were merely one of many priorities. After 9/11 they quickly became the primary target for all facets of American counterterrorism efforts -- military, intelligence, law enforcement, diplomacy and finance. These counterterrorism efforts have resulted in the deaths and arrests of many jihadists and have also greatly impacted their training, communication, travel and fundraising networks.

All of the franchise groups possess the capability to conduct insurgent and terrorist attacks in their core areas of operation, but very few possess the capability to project military power beyond these areas. It has been more than three years since a franchise group has attempted a significant attack in the West. Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula's printer bomb attempt was in October 2010, and the failed Times Square bombing attempt, which was linked to the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan, was in May 2010 -- and both of those plots failed. This long-term lack of success in attacking the West has resulted in some within the jihadist movement calling for grassroots jihadists to adopt a leaderless resistance model.

Although badly damaged, al Qaeda has thus far managed to survive the focused and prolonged assault against it. The violent ideology it promotes has also survived. If pressure on the al Qaeda core were eased, it is possible that it could recover some of its pre-9/11 power, but there are now other challenges that it will have to deal with. First, through the Arab Spring, democratic forces in the Muslim world have shown that they can produce the mass uprisings necessary to overthrow oppressive regimes. Jihadism is no longer seen as the only response to oppression -- there are other, more effective solutions to create change. Second, there are other leaders in the jihadist realm who have arguably grown more powerful and influential than the al Qaeda leadership. These two factors, plus attacks by Muslim religious leaders against the theology of jihadism, may ultimately prove more dangerous to the al Qaeda core than the U.S.-led campaign against the group.

The next installment of this series will assess the current status of the most significant regional or franchise jihadist groups and the grassroots movement.

Read more: Gauging the Jihadist Movement, Part 3: Where We Stand | Stratfor

By Scott Stewart

Editor's Note: The following is the fourth in a series examining the global jihadist movement. Read Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3.

In last week's Security Weekly, which was the third segment of our Gauging the Jihadist Movement series, we began our assessment by defining the movement, looking at the relationships among the various actors and taking a detailed look at the current status of the al Qaeda core.

In part four of the series, we turn our attention to the major groups involved in the movement and assess the grassroots jihadist phenomenon. There is obviously not sufficient space in one Security Weekly to provide an exhaustive analysis of every jihadist group on the globe, but there is certainly enough room to address the most significant groups.

Regional and Franchise Groups

Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula

One of the most influential groups in the jihadist movement is al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. Jihadist activity in Yemen has been cyclical. Yemen was the location of the first jihadist attacks against U.S. interests in December 1992, and it was the site of one of the first Predator strikes against jihadists in November 2002. The U.S. and Yemeni campaign against jihadists in Yemen was initially considered one of the successes in the "Global War on Terrorism," but a February 2006 jailbreak from a high-security prison outside Sanaa and political chaos in Yemen allowed the jihadist movement there to re-energize.

In January 2009, a video was released on the Internet announcing the formation of a new al Qaeda franchise group comprised of an amalgamation of Yemeni jihadist groups and the remnants of the Saudi al Qaeda franchise, which had been decimated and was forced to seek refuge in Yemen. The group called itself al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.

As noted last week, it rose to become the most active transnational jihadist group, launching failed attacks against the Saudi government and the United States. With its Internet magazines -- the Arabic-language Sada al-Malahim and the English-language Inspire -- it also became very influential on the ideological battlefield.

Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula took advantage of the 2011 civil war in Yemen to seize control of large portions of southern Yemen. However, in response to this aggressiveness, the Yemeni military and its American allies launched a major counteroffensive against the group in mid-2012 that forced it to pull back from the areas it had conquered and return to its hideouts in Yemen's rugged, remote interior.

Part 1 of this series discussed two letters discovered in Timbuktu, Mali, written by Nasir al-Wahayshi, the leader of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, and sent to Abdelmalek Droukdel (also known as Abu Musab Abd al-Wadoud), the leader of al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb. In those letters, al-Wahayshi discussed not only why his group did not declare an emirate in southern Yemen, but also the terrible loss of men and weapons his group had suffered in Yemeni military assaults and U.S. airstrikes.

The letters also told us that although al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula had conquered a large area, it had refrained from declaring an emirate because its control was tenuous and it lacked the ability to provide services for the people. The group retains the ability to conduct hit-and-run strikes against the Yemeni military and energy infrastructure. It has also launched an extensive assassination campaign directed against government security force leaders and kidnapping operations against foreigners to raise the money required to sustain its operations. However, it has suffered serious setbacks over the past 18 months and has lost most of its gains. It is currently attempting to regroup while under pressure from the Yemeni military and U.S. drone strikes. However, there is no indication that the planners and bombmakers behind its imaginative transnational attacks have been killed, so it appears the group retains that capability.
Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant

The Islamic Sate of Iraq and the Levant has had a history of ups and downs similar to that of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. Jihadists in Iraq experienced a great deal of success after the 2003 U.S. invasion of the country. In 2004, one of the largest of these groups -- Jamaat al-Tawhid and Jihad, led by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi -- became an al Qaeda franchise group and renamed itself al Qaeda in the Land of the Two Rivers (Iraq). In 2006, this franchise group formed the nucleus of a coalition of jihadist groups called the Islamic State of Iraq. The group remained an al Qaeda franchise and was placed under an Iraqi leader, both to give the group an Iraqi face and to attempt to overcome some of the hard feelings toward the group that its foreign leaders, such as al-Zarqawi, had created among Iraqi citizens.

The Anbar Awakening in 2006-2007, coupled with the 2007 surge of U.S. troops in Iraq, severely damaged the organization, as did the U.S. operation that resulted in the deaths of the group's top two leaders in April 2010. However, following the drawdown and eventual withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq, the group was able to recover, becoming one of the largest jihadist groups in the world.

The civil war in Syria has proved to be a boon for the group. Initially, it provided support to Syrian jihadist groups such as Jabhat al-Nusra, but eventually it became directly involved in the fighting and is now perhaps the strongest jihadist group operating in Syria. Indeed, its forays into Syria have caused it to change its name to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. Not only has it fought the Syrian regime and Syrian Kurds in northern Syria, it has also established control over Syrian cities, towns and oil production facilities.

The group has attempted to subsume other Syrian jihadist groups, including the Syrian al Qaeda franchise group Jabhat al-Nusra. This led Jabhat al-Nusra leader Abu Mohammad al-Golani to appeal to al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri, who ordered the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant to confine its efforts to Iraq and allow Jabhat al-Nusra to maintain responsibility for Syria. But Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi has ignored al-Zawahiri's order. This dismissal of al-Zawahiri reflects not only the group's strength but also the weakness of the al Qaeda core.

In addition to its activities in Syria, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant continues to conduct terrorist attacks in Iraq and has developed a cadre of sophisticated terrorist operatives who have demonstrated the ability to plan and conduct terrorist attacks against multiple targets in Iraq. The group also has operatives who possess advanced bombmaking capabilities. In terms of terrorist tradecraft, insurgent forces and control of territory and revenue from oil production, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant is growing in power; if left unchecked, it has the potential to be the next jihadist group to establish an emirate. While the organization has not yet demonstrated an interest in attacking beyond its core territory, the group's rising power will undoubtedly attract the attention of the Unites States and its allies, who do not want to permit the emergence of a jihadist emirate in the heart of the Middle East.
Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb

Over the past several years, Algerian security forces have applied immense pressure to al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb's units in the mountain hideouts of Algeria's north. The jihadists' units in Algeria's south have fared somewhat better, and the group has focused much of its finance and logistics efforts in that region. These southern units have been able to range far and wide across the Sahel region to kidnap Westerners for ransom, smuggle contraband and engage in occasional terrorist attacks.

Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb also seized the opportunity presented by the chaos in northern Mali in 2012 to work with its allies in other groups, such as the Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa, to take control of several towns there and declare an emirate in northern Mali. However, the group has been split by internal divisions and struggles for power. In October 2012, one of the southern al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb units led by Mokhtar Belmokhtar split off to become an independent organization. The French invasion of northern Mali in January 2013 quickly ended the jihadist emirate there, and as in Yemen, the jihadists suffered substantial losses of men and weapons.

Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, the Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa and Belmokhtar's group still pose a threat of kidnappings or attacks against soft targets in the Sahel region, like Belmokhtar's January 2013 attack on the Tigantourine natural gas facility near Ain Amenas, Algeria. But these groups have suffered heavy losses over the past year, including the deaths of many operatives during the Tigantourine operation. It will take them some time to recover from these setbacks. Despite threats and concerns that al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb would set its sights on France in retaliation for the invasion of Mali, al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb and its associated groups have not demonstrated the intent to conduct attacks in France or other places outside its core areas of operation.

Other jihadist groups in North Africa, such as Ansar al-Shariah in Tunisia and Ansar al-Shariah in Libya, maintain contact with al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb and other elements of the larger jihadist movement, but it is unclear how close those relationships are. The Ansar al-Shariah branches in Libya and Tunisia are closely tied to the local and national militant structures in their respective countries, and they are both attempting to take advantage of the post-Arab Spring chaos that remains in their countries. Because of this, they tend to be more nationalistic than al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, which seeks to create an emirate across northern Africa. The Ansar al-Shariah groups in Libya and Tunisia have both shown the ability to conduct insurgent attacks, assassinations and bombings, but they have not yet displayed any indication of advanced terrorist tradecraft or the intent or capability to engage in attacks outside their core areas of operation.
Boko Haram

While the Nigerian jihadist franchise Boko Haram appeared to be on an upward trajectory in 2011, when it quickly progressed from employing small, crude devices on its home turf to large vehicle bombs in Abuja, the Nigerian military's campaign against the group (and the separate but related jihadist group Ansaru) has whittled down the group's capabilities. The military's offensive has also reduced the size of the area Boko Haram controls in northern Nigeria, although it has not been able to prevent Boko Haram from conducting attacks in Nigeria's northeast. The group remains focused on survival, and the pressure the group is under has prevented it from conducting attacks outside its core area in Nigeria and just over the border into Cameroon. The group has not demonstrated the intent or capability to conduct transnational attacks, and it likely does not have the time or resources to plot them, even if it desired to do so.
Al Shabaab

The world's attention was drawn to al Shabaab after the armed assault it launched in September against the Westgate Mall in Nairobi, Kenya, and its botched attack in Addis Ababa in October. However, the group has suffered some significant setbacks in the past 18 months as African Union troops have evicted al Shabaab from its lucrative former strongholds, such as the port of Kismayo and large sections of the capital, Mogadishu.

Internal fighting has also wracked the group in recent months. This might be coming to a close, however, since al Shabaab leader Ahmad Abdi Godane (also known as Abu Zubayr) appears to have killed or vanquished most of those opposed to his leadership.

While currently on the defensive, al Shabaab has shown an ability to conduct complex attacks inside Somalia using both insurgent and terrorist tactics. Its terrorist attacks in Somalia have involved the successful deployment of suicide bombers and large vehicle bombs. To date, however, al Shabaab has yet to demonstrate the ability to conduct anything more than rudimentary attacks outside Somalia.

Before the group can pose a transnational threat, it must develop the capability to dispatch operatives trained in advanced terrorist tradecraft to conduct missions in hostile environments, and of course it must possess the intent to conduct such attacks. While Godane is more of a transnationalist than some other al Shabaab leaders -- who tend to be more nationalistic and concerned about the struggle inside Somalia -- it does not appear that the group has the ability or the resources to conduct transnational attacks even if Godane so desired. Thus, at present the group will continue to pose a regional threat, albeit deadly, rather than a truly transnational one.

The Afghan Taliban have employed a classic insurgent long-war campaign since the 2001 U.S. invasion of Afghanistan, and with the pending U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, the group's patient strategy thus far appears to have been successful. It remains to be seen if it can regain power in Afghanistan -- or at least in the Pashtun portions of the country -- since it never controlled all of Afghanistan and was engaged in a civil war with the Northern Alliance at the time of the U.S. invasion.

The Afghan Taliban is a nationalist jihadist organization, and it has never demonstrated the intent to conduct transnational terrorist attacks. Even some of the members of the Quetta Shura who have demonstrated more sophisticated terrorist tradecraft (such as the Haqqani network) have not conducted attacks outside the Afghanistan-Pakistan region. Due to the support the Taliban still enjoy from the government of Pakistan, it is quite likely they will become an even more powerful force in Afghanistan after the U.S. withdrawal, either through some sort of political settlement or with the force of arms.

The unrelated Pakistani Taliban (Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan) not only declared war on the government and non-Sunni Muslims in Pakistan but also trained would-be Times Square bomber Faisal Shahzad and helped finance his botched attack. While the group has not been involved in any transnational attack since 2010, it still possesses the capability to train and dispatch grassroots operatives like Shahzad.
Grassroots Jihadists

As noted in Part 2 of this series, jihadist ideologues have called for grassroots jihadists to rise up and conduct attacks in the West for several years now. Yet despite the clearly articulated grassroots jihadist theory, this has not generated many grassroots operatives, and many of those who have answered the call have sought to conduct huge, spectacular attacks -- attacks outside their capabilities. This has meant that they have had to search for help to conduct their plans. And that search for help has often resulted in their arrests, just as Adam Gadahn warned would happen in a May 2010 message advocating simple, lone wolf attacks. This means that to date, the grassroots approach has largely been a failure, and it certainly has not generated the steady wave of deadly attacks in the West that its creators intended. The April 2013 Boston Marathon bombing has clearly demonstrated how following the simple "build a bomb in the kitchen of your mom" attack model can effectively kill people and create a prolonged period of terrorist theater in the global media.

It is quite possible that the success of the Boston bombing will help jihadist ideologues finally convince grassroots operatives to get past their grandiose plans and begin to follow the simple attack model in earnest. If this happens, it will not only prove deadly but also have a big impact on law enforcement and intelligence officials, who have developed very effective programs of identifying grassroots operatives and drawing them into sting operations. If grassroots operatives adopt the simple attack philosophy in earnest, security agencies will obviously have to adjust their operations.

While grassroots actors do not have the capability of professional terrorist operatives and do not pose as severe a threat, they do pose a much broader, amorphous threat that will persist and could perhaps even intensify in the immediate future.

Next week, we will examine what the current state of the jihadist movement means for law enforcement and intelligence agencies in the West.

Read more: Gauging the Jihadist Movement, Part 4: Franchises and Grassroots | Stratfor
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