Showing posts with label ISIS slaughter. Show all posts
Showing posts with label ISIS slaughter. Show all posts

October 19, 2017

UN Peacekeepers Ready to Go Into Raqqa in Syria

 A UN official in Damascus told the BBC access to the area was the main priority while warning that some 300,000 people who had fled the city had "enormous" needs in nearby camps.
Aid workers have said it may take years before they can return to their homes.
A US-backed alliance of Syrian fighters says it has full control of the city.
Operations were under way to uncover jihadist sleeper cells and remove landmines from the last areas of Raqqa, Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) spokesman Mustefa Bali said.
The four-month assault against IS destroyed Raqqa's civilian infrastructure and homes, humanitarian agencies say.  
Linda Tom, a UN official in the Syrian capital Damascus, said no civilians were believed to be in the city and the end of the battle for Raqqa was a "big change" for humanitarian workers.
"If we're now in a better position to get to people who need assistance, we're ready to do it and we're ready to increase our assistance," she said.

Before and after IS: Raqqa's clock tower roundabout

Pictures from 2014 and 2017 show the destruction of Raqqa's clock tower roundaboutImage copyrightDIGITAL GLOBE

She added that aid groups were struggling to assist the thousands of civilians who were in dozens of displaced camps around Raqqa, and who were in urgent need of water, food, and medicine.
World Food Program Middle East Director Muhannad Hadi told AP news agencythe defeat of IS in Raqqa was a "game-changer" for the work of humanitarian agencies.
On Tuesday, aid group Save the Children warned the humanitarian crisis in north-eastern Syria was "rapidly escalating", with camps "bursting at the seams".
"Most families have little or nothing to return home to and will likely be stuck in camps for months or years to come," the charity said in a statement.

Before and after IS: Raqqa's stadium

Pictures from 2014 and 2017 show the destruction of Raqqa's stadiumImage copyrightDIGITAL GLOBE

The SDF said on Tuesday it had taken Raqqa, a city where IS made the headquarters of its self-styled "caliphate" in early 2014, implementing an extreme interpretation of Islamic law and using beheadings, crucifixions, and torture to terrorize residents who opposed its rule.

No One is Suggesting ISIS is totally defeated. They still have thousands of miles of Territory in Iraq and Northern Syria. They are in Africa and Afghanistan, they fight for a religious idea in which they don't wait for nonbelievers to die to be punished but they do it while people are alive and kicking and the younger the better if they can't be persuaded to join.
The city also became home to thousands of jihadists from around the world who heeded a call to migrate there by IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

Map shows control over Raqqa

The jihadist group still has a number of footholds, the largest of which runs along the Euphrates river valley in the south-eastern province of Deir al-Zour.
However, the SDF and Syrian government forces have launched separate offensives in the province with the aim of taking control of a key crossing on the border with Iraq.
IS has also suffered a series of defeats in recent months to Iraqi government forces, who are advancing along the Euphrates on the other side of the border.
The US-led coalition said on Tuesday that forces it supported had reclaimed 93,790 sq km (36,200 sq miles) of Iraqi and Syrian territory seized by IS in 2014, and freed 6.6 million people from jihadist control. 
From BBC 

Map showing control of Iraq and Syria on 18 October 2017

October 18, 2017

End of ISIS (DASH) in Raqqa At The Stadium of Macabre Torment

A member of the Syrian Democratic Forces walks on a building near Raqqa's stadium Monday, as they cleared the last positions on the front line in the fight against ISIS.
Bulent Kilic/AFP/Getty Images
I have been waiting for so long to publish this news! I have seen so many pictures of heads rolling on that stadium. Hopefully, that ends the territory grab of ISIS and brings so many misaligned people who became dead people while they took some innocent children, women, men lives. There are other places for this killing org but this is a blow for them in this area. The memories of those killed in IRAQ and Syria can rest now that the killers also died. This by no means indicates the killings have stopped or will stop. But Not Mosul and Raqqa, No more Caliphate as long as the people in those areas don't allow it and don't run at the site of them. Mistreating people because of their ethnicity opened the doors to people with no feelings for anyone.
(Updated at 11:40 a.m. tues. 17, and 11:59 p.m. 2017 ET)  by  on

The U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces are in the process of kicking ISIS out of Raqqa, the extremist group's self-declared capital where it has terrorized civilians and plotted attacks against targets linked to the U.S. and its allies. Now ISIS fighters are reportedly bottled up in a stadium complex in the Syrian city.
As of Tuesday local time, the SDF controlled "more than 90 percent" of Raqqa, according to U.S. Army Col. Ryan Dillon, spokesman for Operation Inherent Resolve.
The gains have left ISIS "on the verge of a devastating defeat," Dillon said in an update delivered Tuesday shortly before noon, ET. In the past few days, he said, "about 350 fighters" have surrendered.
Celebrations began to break out among the SDF in Raqqa on Tuesday, as the end of the four-month offensive seemed near. But Dillon tells NPR's Ruth Sherlock that fighting could continue as ISIS fighters hold out in booby-trapped buildings.
Rigged explosives present a peril of their own. The commander of the Raqqa Internal Security Forces — who was to help secure the city after ISIS was defeated there — died on Monday, Dillon said, "when he was walking through Raqqa and triggered an IED, and he had two of his colleagues that were with him." The near-total takeover of Raqqa is being marked three years after the Operation Inherent Resolve task force was officially established by the Department of Defense.

The task force says it has liberated "over 6.6 million Iraqi and Syrian from Daesh control" and taken back nearly 94,000 square kilometers of land — nearly 90 percent of the territory claimed by the extremist group in 2014.
As for how many fighters ISIS currently has at its disposal, the task force said its estimates range from 3,000 to 7,000 who are continuing to fight in Iraq and Syria. The group also says it has degraded ISIS' ability to fund its operations, by shutting down 90 percent of its oil revenues.
The Raqqa landmarks that were wrested from ISIS control, Dillon notes, include the Al-Naim traffic circle, once used by ISIS to carry out executions and acts of depraved violence.
The precise number of ISIS fighters who remain at large in the city isn't known. Over the weekend, word emerged that at least 100 ISIS fighters had surrendered. From Monday into Tuesday, the extremist militants were isolated in two areas: a hospital and at the municipal stadium, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. The stadium had been used as a prison.
After fighters at the hospital reportedly surrendered, that left the stadium — and when negotiations for more surrenders became drawn out, the Observatory says, the SDF launched an assault Tuesday, backed by U.S. special forces.
Made up of Arab and Kurdish fighters, the SDF began a push to take Raqqa in early June. They were backed by airstrikes from the U.S.-led coalition — strikes targeting ISIS that have been blamed for causing civilian deaths.
From Beirut, Ruth reports:
"Raqqa is where ISIS first imposed the strict laws that it hoped would one day govern a caliphate that took land across Iraq and Syria. After they took the city in 2014, women were not allowed out in public alone. Young men — even children — were trained to fight. Non-Muslims were persecuted. Those who broke laws were executed publicly. ...
"But the imminent victory comes at a huge costs. The fight on the ground, and airstrikes by the U.S. and Russia have left Raqqa all but destroyed. Many civilians have been killed. Most of the population fled, and now they don't know if they'll have a home when they return."
What could be the final push to rid Raqqa of ISIS fighters comes days after a convoy of vehicles left the city under a deal that set up by the Raqqa Civil Council and local Arab tribal elders. The exodus prompted concern that ISIS fighters might slip through the front lines, and the U.S. Operation Inherent Resolve said that anyone leaving Raqqa under the arrangement would be subject to search and screening by Syrian Democratic Forces.
"We do not condone any arrangement that allows Daesh terrorists to escape Raqqa without facing justice, only to resurface somewhere else," said Brig. Gen. Jonathan Braga, the coalition director of operations. "Daesh terrorists have been hiding behind women and children for three years, and we are against any arrangement that lets them continue to do so."
In Raqqa, the U.S. and its allies are liberating a city that will require years to recover from the violence and destruction. And once it is secured, the fight against ISIS moves elsewhere.
Here is how NPR's Tom Bowman described what could be a lengthy military process when the offensive began this summer:
"Even after Raqqa falls, U.S. officials say they have to clear an area south of Raqqa along the Iraq border. It's some 150 miles. And the trouble is, you have Syrian regime forces there, as well. So the question is, how does the U.S. deal with the Syrians. You know, the answer they're saying is to work with the Russians to what they call de-conflict military operations with the Russian ally Syria."
On another front in the war against ISIS, the U.S. carried out a strike on two training camps in Yemen, which the U.S. Central Command said will disrupt the extremist group's ability to train new fighters.
The strike hit the relatively remote Al Bayda governorate, an arid inland region where Centcom says that "ISIS used the camps to train militants to conduct terror attacks using AK-47s, machine guns, rocket-propelled grenade launchers and endurance training."
The Centcom added that U.S. forces have been working "in coordination with the government of Yemen" to carry out counterterrorism operations there.

December 5, 2016

Bangladesh LGBT Remain Hiding After Dash Attacked 7 Moths Ago

Rezaul Karim Siddique, 58, an English professor at Rajshahi University, was found hacked to death near his home on Saturday, April 23 in Rajshahi, a northern district of Bangladesh. His death is the second targeted killing purportedly at the hands of Islamist militants this month.

 {BANGKOK} Seven months after al Qaeda-linked militants hacked Bangladesh’s most prominent gay activist to death, the South Asian country’s LGBT community remains in hiding, while more than a dozen LGBT people have fled abroad.

"The whole community has been sent back to the closet," a gay activist in exile told the Thomson Reuters Foundation on condition of anonymity because he fears for his safety.

"Any kind of work - whatever we had been doing - it has been completely shut down. There is no movement, no visibility, no work. It is a horrible situation. We have never imagined the situation would be like this."

Bangladesh's lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community was already marginalized, with gay sex being illegal, punishable by a maximum of life in prison.

Then there was a coming out of sorts with the 2014 launch of the country's first LGBT-themed magazine, Roopbaan, which became a subject of interest in the media and on social media, prompting a backlash and threats.

The community suffered escalating threats and then on April 25, Xulhaz Mannan, the founder and publisher of Roopbaan, and gay actor Mahbub Rabbi Tonoy were hacked to death at Mannan's home in Dhaka.

The attack, claimed by the regional arm of al Qaeda, was the first of its kind to target the LGBT community, although it followed more than 30 killings since early 2015 of academics, bloggers and atheists who published views critical of Islam.

"We had been very visible over past two years. A huge number of young people came up and volunteered for our work. After this one incident... the whole community collapsed," the activist told the Thomson Reuters Foundation on the sidelines of an international LGBT conference in Bangkok last week.

"This one incident broke the sense of security. More than 15 people left the country. More than 10 want to leave. People in Bangladesh don't want to talk to us. The whole community is so scattered and scared."

Those who have fled abroad are slowly reconnecting and trying to organize a meeting to assess the situation, but those remaining in Bangladesh still are not ready, he said.

The activist asked to conceal his identity because he fears being killed, yet feels he is has been given a "second life" and wants to speak out because many people around the world know about discrimination LGBT people face in Uganda, Indonesia and Malaysia, but few know about Bangladesh.

"People talk about many other countries - but Bangladesh never comes up," he said. "What happened is brutal - they martyred the whole movement. I feel sad, but I also feel furious, more determined. We have to do something to challenge this brutality."

But now, having left the country just days before Mannan was killed, he is just trying to stay alive.

"This is maybe my second life. I have some responsibility. I won't stop. I won't die. I hope one day, I will see the community we created - maybe after five years, maybe after 10 years, but I don't want to die before that."

More than 700 LGBT people from around the world convened in Bangkok last week for a conference organized by the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA).

Founded in 1978 and based in Geneva, ILGA is a federation of 1,200 member organization from 125 countries campaigning for lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and intersex rights.

(Reporting by Alisa Tang @alisatang, editing by Ros Russell. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women’s rights, corruption and climate change. Visit to see more stories)

(Thomson Reuters Foundation) 

Read the original article on Reuters. Copyright 2016. Follow Reuters on Twitter.

April 26, 2016

ISIS Hacks to Death Gay Academic,Activist in Bangladesh

A portrait of Bangladeshi academic Rezaul Karim Siddique.
Islamic State has claimed responsibility for the murder of a university professor who was hacked to death in Bangladesh, adding to a grisly death toll linked to religious intolerance in the country.
Rezaul Karim Siddique, 58, a professor of English at the University of Rajshahi in northwest Bangladesh, was waiting for a bus near his house on Saturday when two men approached on a motorbike and attacked him.
“We don’t even know why Professor Siddique has been killed,” journalist and author Afsan Chowdhury told The Australian yesterday.
“I’ve been talking to Rajshahi University teachers and students. Some could not even recognise Professor Siddique — he was ­almost an invisible person on campus.”
The SITE Intelligence Groupthat monitors jihadist networks says Islamic State claimed to have killed Professor Siddique for “calling to atheism”.
The government of Bangladesh has denied Islamic State has a presence in the country.
The Muslim-majority nation of 160 million has seen a surge in violent attacks in which members of minority Muslim sects and other religious groups have been targeted. Five secular bloggers and a publisher have been hacked to death in Bangladesh since ­February last year.
Islamic State has also claimed responsibility for the killings of two foreigners, and attacks on mosques and Christian priests in Bangladesh since September, but police said that local militant group the ­Jamaat-ul-Mujaheddin was behind those attacks. At least five militants have been killed in shootouts since November as ­security forces have stepped up a crackdown on Islamist militants looking to establish a sharia-based Muslim state.
Badiul Alam Majumdar, the director of the Hunger Project in Bangladesh and founder of Citizens for Good Government, said while the government of Bangladesh claimed Islamic State did not exist, “the government has a credibility gap”.
The police had failed to make any credible arrests relating to ­numerous attacks and, while “we would like to believe the government, when they say there is no Islamic State here we are in the dark as to who the real perpetrators are”.
“I am not one to mince my words and have been prepared to speak out,” he told The Australian. “And, yes, I am frightened of what may happen as a result of that.”
He said Professor Siddique had apparently been a quiet, deeply religious Muslim who had wanted to promote traditional Bengali culture and music.
He had founded a music school and edited a literary magazine and his family have said he was not an atheist.
Police said he may have been targeted by extremists because he was involved in cultural activities, particularly music.
Dr Majumdar said if he was targeted for those reasons, “then nobody is safe”.
He said the government did not appear to have any effective strategy to deal with rising Islamist fundamentalism.
“We have lost confidence in the police,” said journalist Afsan Chowdhury. “It’s much more a failure of the police. There are now several murder cases that have never been resolved.”

March 22, 2016

Brussels Attacks [Live updating timeline]

January 8, 2016

Isis Kills 15 Yr Old Spares His Partner( or rapist) for being a fighter and a Top

 Believed to be Abu Zaid al-Jazrawi who gets away with having sex with a 15 yr old boy.
Boy is thrown from building

At least 25 people have been murdered in Syria by the so-called Islamic State for being gay, a UK-based monitoring group has told the Independent.

Amid reports of a 15-year-old boy being thrown from the rooftop of a high-rise building in the Syrian city of Deir ez-Zor - seemingly the latest victim of the Islamist group's brutal crackdown - the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights told The Independent that dozens of men had been killed by Isis jihadists.

Six have been stoned to death, three killed from direct shooting to the head and 16 thrown from high-rise buildings. Those that survived the fall, the group added, were then stoned on the streets below by scores of bystanders. Two of those killed were under 18.

Witness to the execution of 15 yr. year old and responsible for this shot:


Bottom thrown from building the top gets transferred to the front. I will imagine they did not want to get rid of a fighter but the younger 15 yr old was spendable, he was a bottom and therefore not fighting material 

It is alleged that the man who raped the 15-year-old, a senior Isis officer called Abu Zaid al-Jazrawi, was spared execution. Actually they were having a relationship and the way the ISIS man was spared os because he said he was doing the inserting to the 15 yr old. He((Zaid) was lashed and transferred to the front of the fighting.

Instead, he faced a demotion and was forced to leave Syria and join the fighting fronts in north-western Iraq.  
“The horrific execution took place in front of large crowd,” said Sarai al-Din, a local media activist who witnessed the murder, told Syrian news agency ARA. 

Speaking to the news agency, civil rights activist Rawd Ahmed, said: “Daesh (another name for Isis) accuses people of being gay only on the basis of some superficial information without any investigation. Although the Islamic law bans homosexuality, the brutal punishment by Daesh has never been witnessed throughout history.” 

Footage of terrified men in blindfolds being escorted to the rooftops of high-rise buildings and then being thrown to their death has become commonplace. It has led human rights groups to become increasingly concerned that this extreme violence is inspiring other militias in the war-torn region to attack men they suspect of being gay. 

Jessica Stern, the executive director of the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, told the United Nations in August 2015 that the so-called Islamic State had established courts in Syria and Iraq that were sentencing men convicted of sodomy.

Mrs Stern told the UN, at the time, that the terrorist organisation had murdered 30 men based on their sexuality but the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says this includes those in Iraq as well as Syria. 

During the same meeting at the UN security council ambassadors heard chilling details of the treatment of gay men who had fled the war-torn region. One, who hid his identity, said: "In my society, being gay means death."

A second man added: “At the executions, hundreds of townspeople, including children, cheered jubilantly as at a wedding. If a victim did not die after being hurled off a building, the townspeople stoned him to death.” Another said the terrorist Isis militants used mobile phones and social media to hunt down those they suspect of being gay. 

Mrs Stern stressed that persecution of LGBT people in Iraq and Syria began long before the emergence of Isis, and called for UN action to relocate LGBT persons most in need and to bring the gay community into broader human rights and humanitarian initiatives.

November 25, 2015

ISIS is as Crazy as the Cat that ate the Bird and Putin Finds Out No Meant No

 If you switch that billion dollar fighter with any small bomber in WWII there would be no difference below

In killing 130 civilians in Paris—the worst such attack in France since World War II—ISIS has forced us to contend, once again, with the question of the “rationality” of self-professed ideologues. Since it wrested the world’s attention with its capture of Iraq’s second-largest city in June 2014, the extremist group has prioritized state-building over fighting far enemies abroad. This is what distinguished ISIS: It wasn’t just, or even primarily, a terrorist organization. It had an unusually pronounced interest in governance. As Yale University’s Andrew March and Mara Revkin lay out in considerable detail, the group focused its energy on developing fairly elaborate institutional structures in the territory it controlled within Iraq and Syria. ISIS wasn’t simply making things up as it went along. It may have been mad, but there was a method to the madness.

Shadi Hamid is a fellow at the Project on U.S. Relations with the Islamic World at the Brookings Institution's Saban Center, and the author of Temptations of Power: Islamists and Illiberal Democracy in a New Middle East. Hamid's research focuses on democratization and the role of Islamist movements ... Full Bio
But why, then, attack France—one of the more militarily aggressive Western powers—and potentially provoke a massive retaliatory response that would threaten the very “caliphate” it had spent so much time building? Care is needed in drawing conclusions from this apparent shift in targeting. ISIS has always had international ambitions; it was more a question of when, not if. Part of the challenge is in divining why exactly ISIS chose to stage these attacks at this particular time. And this raises a difficult set of questions: To what extent, in the wake of the Paris attacks, should ISIS be thought of as rational, and how, in turn, should that inform efforts to understand the group and develop a strategy to counter it?

The attack on France may very well prove to be ISIS’s first obvious, huge mistake, at least from a caliphate-building perspective. That said, while many outside observers might think ISIS made a major miscalculation, the group—or whatever part of it directed the attack—probably doesn’t agree. Otherwise, why would they have done it?

* * *

For a remarkably brutal, absolutist, and apocalyptic organization, ISIS had pursued a strategy that was deliberate, insistent, and ultimately successful. It was able to carry out, as Charles Lister writes, “a very methodical and multi-staged strategy of recovery, growth, expansion, and consolidation.” Yet, it was also fond of its apocalyptic fantasies, which featured prominently in the group’s propaganda and even seemed to affect specific battlefield decisions. ISIS’s state-building and messianism coexisted in uneasy tension. There was little to suggest this was sustainable in the long run (although, as ever, that raises the question of how long the long run is). As Will McCants, author of The ISIS Apocalypse, put it to me recently: “The caliphate may require caution but the apocalypse requires abandon.” Can an individual—or, for that matter, an entire organization—be, at once, both cautious and in the throes of reckless abandon?

The question of why ISIS would want to goad the West is a challenging one for precisely this reason. We don’t know exactly how rational ISIS is, particularly in the absence of real insight into the group’s internal deliberations. And, in any case, “rationality” may take on a different meaning for those who believe not just in the imminence of the end times (which is fairly common in the Middle East), but also that the day of reckoning can be hastened.

These caveats notwithstanding, let’s try to imagine ourselves in the position of the terrorists. Oddly enough—in what was perhaps a first for a U.S. president—this is exactly what Barack Obama did just a month after the beheading of the American journalist James Foley.

Can an individual—or, for that matter, an entire organization—be, at once, both cautious and in the throes of reckless abandon? 

Obama hypothesized that if he were “an advisor to ISIS,” he would have released rather than killed hostages like Foley, with notes pinned to their chests no less, saying “stay out of here.” It is a self-evident banality that very few American politicians take seriously: Understand your enemy in order to defeat him. Obama should be lauded for being both able and willing to imagine himself in diverse political contexts, but the statement was remarkably naive, suggesting a readiness to apply a straightforward “rational actor” lens that doesn’t necessarily apply in the fog of jihadist war. This role as analyst in chief is one the president has warmed to. He regularly insists, for example, that world leaders are acting against their own rational self-interests, whether it be Vladimir Putin, with his “reckless” interventions in Ukraine and Syria, or the Israelis, for failing to support an Iranian nuclear deal that Obama thinks will make them safer. As for the Iranians, once the nuclear deal was struck, the hope, sometimes explicit but always somewhere underneath the surface, was that Iran would “moderate” and be induced to become a constructive partner in the resolution of regional conflict. Being “constructive” was in their interest, after all, just as it was in America’s, and just as it was in Russia’s.

Any assessment of “instrumental rationality”—the idea that individuals carefully weigh costs and benefits in seeking maximum political utility—is about means rather than ends. In other words, once we know what the actors’ goals are, we can then work backwards and see to what extent they’re “rationally” acting in the service of those goals. So even if we assume ISIS is reasonably rational, it still leaves open the question of what they’re trying to achieve in the first place. In his ISIS-advisor mode of 2014, Obama assumed that ISIS wanted America out; it’s also possible that the group wanted America in. This was al-Qaeda’s wager after the September 11 attacks: that any large-scale Western invasion of Arab lands would redound to its benefit. The United States, so the logic went, would be drawn into a war it couldn’t hope to win—one that would drain U.S. resources, rally Muslims against foreign intruders, and puncture the perception of American military superiority; ultimately, the United States—with its supposedly low tolerance for casualties—would grow exhausted and withdraw. Which raises an interesting counterfactual: If Americans had known this about al-Qaeda’s designs—much of which only became clearer well after 9/11—would that have altered the thinking of at least some policymakers in the march to war in Iraq in 2003?

In some tension with this “bog them down” theory of jihadist warfare is the notion of “paying the price,” which features prominently in jihadist political theory, including in Abu Bakr Naji’s influential Bush-era treatise The Management of Savagery. The idea here is to punish countries to deter them from future military action. Perhaps this is what ISIS hoped to do in Paris. Such an approach, however, would suggest a major flaw in the group’s ability to anticipate how targets will respond to their provocations. After all, a mass-casualty attack on France would presumably make the French more, not less, likely to support greater military action against ISIS. At the same time, there is at least one prominent recent case—the 2004 terrorist attacks in Madrid—where “punishment,” just three days before a hotly contested election, may have contributed to the victory of socialist Prime Minister Jose Luis Zapatero, who soon pulled Spain’s forces from Iraq, making good on a pre-election promise.

What all this resembles is a kind of two-player game where each side acts either in response to or in anticipation of the other’s moves—the catch being that neither side has full information about or insight into the decision-making process or even the operating assumptions of its adversary. It’s a situation ripe for miscalculation. While many jihadist theoreticians are “astute observers” of U.S. counterterrorism policy, this doesn’t necessarily lead to the correct conclusions. After all, even Americans who obsessively follow the twists and turns of U.S. policy have repeatedly either overestimated or underestimated Obama’s willingness to intervene in various Middle Eastern theaters.

Another possibility is that Western military responses to ISIS are “inelastic,” meaning that regardless of what ISIS does or doesn’t do, U.S.-led international efforts will not change significantly, considering the profound reluctance, at least under the Obama administration, to do much more than the United States is already doing. The scholar of jihadist movements Cole Bunzel has colorfully referred to this as ISIS’s “Donald Trump-like immunity to the consequences of the awful things it does.”

If this debate has a dreamlike quality to it, that’s because we’ve had it before. After ISIS beheaded Foley and another American journalist, Steven Sotloff, in August and September 2014, many of us wondered why the group would risk provoking a superpower, which up until then had done little to prioritize the fight against ISIS. Months later, ISIS burned a Jordanian pilot to death, prompting the Jordanian government to vow an “earth-shaking” response and “blood vengeance.” “The gloves have come off,” said King Abdullah. Yet, after an initial surge of military force, including air strikes, Jordan receded to its previous levels of engagement in the struggle with ISIS. General John Allen, Obama’s special envoy for the counter-ISIS coalition, declared that the murder of the pilot would “be one of these moments that created a unity of purpose and a unity of effort among the nations [of the world].” It wasn’t. None of these incidents were.

Cole Bunzel has colorfully referred to ISIS’s “Donald Trump-like immunity to the consequences of the awful things it does.”

Presumably there is some “red line” that would trigger a massive retaliatory response on the part of the United States and its allies, but it may very well be the case that such a line doesn’t, for better or worse, exist. In the aftermath of the Paris attacks, it appears that the U.S. will simply double down on its current strategy with an intensification of air strikes and perhaps a marginal increase in special-operations forces and advisors in Syria and Iraq. As for ground forces, Obama ruled them out just three days after ISIS struck France. The president had rather quickly made up his mind. “We have the right strategy and we’re going to see it through,” he said. “There will be an intensification of the strategy we have put forward, but the strategy we have put forward is the strategy that will ultimately work.” This, to use the jihadists’ own terminology, indicates that ISIS may not pay that much of a price for its crimes.

* * *

In the months leading up to the Paris attacks, ISIS may have reached its peak as a proto-state, having already captured and held as much territory as it could ever hope to in its base of Syria and Iraq. In fact, ISIS was beginning to lose significant swathes of territory, including key border towns, and found itself encircled around the Sunni city of Ramadi in Iraq, its most important territorial acquisition of 2015. Recruitment of foreign fighters was slowing. As Mara Revkin writes, even governance—one of ISIS’s stronger suits (at least compared to the competition)—had increasingly become a liability. Various accounts paint a picture of mismanagement, declining morale, turf wars, and infighting within the ranks. Even if these claims are overstated, all was evidently not well in the caliphate. At best, ISIS could hope to regain some of its recently lost territory. At worst, they would suffer more battlefield losses, including in Ramadi. For a group whose slogan was “remaining and expanding,” these scenarios weren’t particularly promising.

Just as it was losing momentum in its Iraqi and Syrian strongholds in the second half of 2015, ISIS was making gains elsewhere, with an increasingly sophisticated insurgency in the Sinai, a pledge of allegiance from Africa’s most feared terrorist group, Boko Haram, and a growing presence in Afghanistan and Yemen. On October 31, it scored a major propaganda victory with the downing of a Russian airliner—one of the worst mass-casualty terrorist attacks of the past decade. ISIS was announcing its arrival as not just a proto-state with tax collection and a budget, but also as the world’s most effective terrorist organization, outflanking its rivals in al-Qaeda. ISIS’s shift in targeting served any number of other purposes: distracting from battlefield losses, boosting morale among its foot soldiers, and, of course, capturing the headlines. These, though hard to measure, are real and relevant “momentum” gains. Perhaps, then, from ISIS’s standpoint, the price of somewhat more intensified Western military intervention was a price worth paying.

If and when ISIS loses territory, it may decide to compensate. Its apocalyptic fantasies might become more lurid, not less. 

In this next phase of conflict, ISIS will likely lose more territory. The costs of endless war abroad will compromise the quality of governance at home, further undercutting local Sunni support. This may be grounds for optimism, but it’s not quite that simple. As the terrorism expert Clint Watts reminds us: “If an extremist group that has seized territory starts to lose it, it will be highly incentivized to turn to terrorist operations that allow for maximizing effects at a lower cost.” Advances for the international coalition may actually heighten the risk of more terrorism in the short run. The relationship between loss of territory and launching attacks abroad is non-linear—it may actually look more like a bell curve—and therefore hard to predict. It is fair to assume, though, that if and when ISIS loses significant territory, it may decide to compensate in an effort to underscore its relevance and create the illusion of momentum, if not the substance. Its apocalyptic fantasies might become more lurid, not less.

* * *

Why people—and organizations—do what they do is one of the most fascinating (and sometimes frightening) questions considered by political scientists. There are elaborate, formal models of rational-choice theory, in which human behavior is consistent, predictable, and straightforward, yet we know, from our own lives, that we constantly act against our own interests. Oftentimes, we know we’re acting against our own interests but plod along anyway, oblivious to the costs or perhaps taking pleasure in that feeling of weightlessness and abandon that often accompanies irrational decisions.

Considering all of the variables discussed here, the United States and its allies run the risk of gaming the scenarios and adjusting their response to fit the opposite of whatever they think ISIS wants them to do. There’s a hint of this in the rhetoric of Barack Obama and French officials—that ISIS wants the West to go all in because that would feed the group’s narrative, and that Western powers obviously can’t give ISIS what it wants. But ISIS isn’t al-Qaeda. Holding fixed territory inevitably changes the calculations of even hardened ideologues, particularly when territorial control is a core element of the ideology itself.

A claim to a caliphate—even one with diminished territory—is central to the group’s claims of Islamic-ness. The caliphate, ISIS leaders argue, is an obligation upon the Muslim community. It is the foundation upon which everything else is built, and, without it, Islamic law cannot be properly or legitimately implemented. If the U.S. deployed ground troops, it could clear ISIS from its strongholds of Raqqa and Mosul at least temporarily, as even Obama admits. This would be a severe blow to ISIS—undermining its entire raison d’être–in a way that it never was with al-Qaeda. This doesn’t mean that the United States should deploy ground troops, but it does mean that officials should be careful about presuming to know what ISIS wants.

Perhaps their apocalypticism emboldens them to take risks. Even if their gambit backfires, they still believe they have heaven to hope for.

Regardless of what the U.S. and its allies do, ISIS will prove an unusually challenging foe. And this is where religion and particularly apocalyptic religion matter. Take, for example, the ISIS leader Abu Muhammad al-Adnani’s September 2014 statement, in which he addresses the West directly, saying, “being killed … is a victory. This is where the secret lies. You fight a people who can never be defeated. They either gain victory or are killed. And O crusaders, you are losers in both outcomes.” These two goals—gaining victory (in a temporal sense) and getting killed in the process of seeking that victory—are mutually exclusive objectives. Yet it is altogether possible that Adnani and other ISIS true believers are more than comfortable with either outcome, if it comes to that. They would of course prefer to hold territory and entrench their caliphate. They may have judged (seemingly correctly) that the Paris attacks would not lead to a shift in U.S. strategy, and that they could withstand something short of a full ground offensive. Either way, though, brazenly targeting the West is a very risky endeavor. Perhaps their apocalypticism emboldens them to take such risks. Even if their gambit backfires, after all, they still believe they have heaven to hope for. They may welcome the prospect of dying while triggering a regional conflagration with the United States at its center.

Still, it is clear that ISIS has preferences, all other things being equal, even if we don’t quite know how those preferences play out in practice. It can be tempting to use ISIS’s apocalyptic fervor as a kind of analytical deus ex machina—something that I gravitated toward immediately after the attacks. This was the only way I could make sense of the decision to attack Paris. It seemed so, well, irrational. I assumed that such horrifying attacks in the heart of Europe would provoke a shift in U.S. strategy. I was wrong. They haven’t. Perhaps there wasn’t a red line. Perhaps the tolerance for Middle Eastern chaos, which is increasingly our chaos in the West, was greater than I thought. It dawned on me that maybe I had made a different kind of mistake: Instead of misjudging ISIS’s rationality, I had misjudged our own.

Featured Posts

Thai Cabinet Backs Allowing Same Sex Unions

                Patpicha Tanakasempipat BANGKOK (Reuters) - Thailand’s cabinet approved a civil partnership bill ...