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Thread: Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham - ISIS - GRAPHIC PG. 15

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    Default Re: Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham - ISIS - GRAPHIC PG. 15

    I blame Obama for the rise of ISIS.

    Obama is a Muslim.

    Proof is in the pictures.

    February 18, 2015
    Obama and the Muslim Gang Sign

    By F. W. Burleigh

    Is President Obama a Muslim? A lot has been written about this, but if photographs speak louder than words, then a photo taken at last August’s U.S.-African Leaders’ Summit in Washington D.C. might shed considerable light.
    It shows Barack Hussein Obama flashing the one-finger affirmation of Islamic faith to dozens of African delegates.

    Barack Hussein Obama flashes the Muslim shahada to delegates of the US-African Leaders Conference in Washington DC in August 2014.
    The Associated Press took this astonishing photo as the African dignitaries joined Obama, who hosted the event, in a State Department auditorium for a group photograph. It was published in an article in Britain’s Daily Mail, and it was the only use ever of the photo.
    The one-finger display is the distinctive Muslim gang sign: The index finger points straight up while the thumb wraps underneath and presses against the digital phalange of the middle finger. The remaining fingers are squeezed against the palm in order to highlight the extended forefinger. The extended finger is symbolic of the one-God concept of Muhammad and is understood by all believers to be a symbolic shahada, the Muslim affirmation of faith: There is but one God and Muhammad is his messenger.
    Thus when believers stick their index finger in the air, they demonstrate they are partisans of Muhammad’s God concept. And they also affirm their belief in Muhammad’s claim he was the interface between God and man. They also demonstrate they are part of the umma, the exclusive transtribal supertribe of believers that Muhammad started 1,400 years ago.
    With his forefinger in the air, Obama affirmed his membership in this tribe.
    ISIS fighter displays the gang sign. To Muslims, the extended forefinger is symbolic of the fundamental belief of Islam: There is but one God and Muhammad is his messenger.
    The Daily Mail editors did not understand what they were looking at. They captioned it “finger wagging” by Obama. But the African dignitaries understood, and a range of reactions can be detected among the ones who observed the gesture: amusement, surprise, curiosity, disapproval, contempt. Note the reactions of Abdelilah Berkirane, the prime minister of Morroco pictured just behind Obama’s left shoulder, and Ibrahim Boubacas Keita, the president of Mali in white garb and hat. They are Muslims through and through, and they are all smiles. They knew what Obama’s upright forefinger meant.
    The reaction of Togo president Faure Gnassingbe, at the top row second to the left, is less approving. Through his face you can read the mind of this Sorbonne- and George Washington University educated leader. His mind is screaming, “You gotta be kidding!”
    Gnassingbe’s country is squeezed between Benin and the Ivory Coast and is not far from Nigeria and its Boko Haram plague -- perhaps a two-hour flight in a slow Cessna from Togo’s capital to the Nigerian capital, less than an hour in something faster. At the time of the Washington conference, Boko Haram’s leader Abubakar Shekau had just declared Borno State in northeastern Nigeria as the seat of his caliphate. Massacres of entire villages were taking place; only a few months earlier nearly three hundred girls were abducted from a Borno secondary school.
    Togo has seven million people, 50 percent animists, 30 percent Christian. The remainder are Muslims, part of the umma. Gnassingbe and all other non-Muslims of Togo have reason to worry about radicalization of some of these members of the transtribal supertribe of Muhammad who reside among them. And so his look of disdain. “You gotta be kidding.”
    Maybe it was Obama’s idea of a joke, but that is unlikely. The finger in the air was a position statement brazenly stated. His entire administration has been a promotion of Islam at home and abroad, and just cataloging the evidence would fill a book. He has made this country cozy for Islam, from ordering NASA to make Muslims feel good about themselves to calling ISIS beheading victim Peter Kassig by the Muslim name that he had adopted in the vain hope of saving his life.
    If only Obama’s coziness were limited to such gestures, but from the very beginning of his administration, he labored to topple the strongman governments that had kept a lid on Islamic extremism: Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Yemen. Overthrowing the Syrian government was also part the program, not yet achieved but still possible. The methodology of each was a tactic from old-school radicalism: stir up domestic trouble that triggers a crackdown, then use the reaction to discredit the government and as a pretext for stirring up greater cycles of trouble until the targeted regime is replaced.
    Obama is comfortable with Islam’s extreme. He arms such people throughout the Middle East. He has let them into our government. He supported the Muslim Brotherhood’s Muhammad Morsi as the replacement for Hosni Mubarak, a staunch US ally and enemy of the Muslim Brotherhood, and threatened and bullied Egypt when a massive revolt replaced Morsi with a religious moderate.
    The thread of all of these efforts was the reestablishment of the Islamic caliphate, the line of successors of Muhammad that ended nearly a century ago with the collapse of the Ottoman Empire. This has always been a Muslim Brotherhood objective. In their grandiose plans, the reestablished caliphate would stretch across the Middle East with Jerusalem as its capital. The glory of Islam resurrected! These people aspire to world domination, and the caliphate would serve as the base for an ever-expanding war on the world until domination is achieved. That was always the goal of their role model. Muhammad ordered his followers to make Islam the only religion -- to create a universal umma. As with Obama, they are just following orders.
    The caliphate was resurrected last year, only it is not in the hands of the Muslim Brotherhood -- not yet anyway. However it came about, the caliphate was Obama’s creation, and he has only half-heartedly pushed back against it. Now he has asked the U.S. Congress for authorization for use of military force against what he created. What is Obama up to with this? In everything he does, mischief is the purpose. What mischief does he intend now?
    There is nothing in Obama’s head that is American. He is an antithetical American, a polar opposite of its values that he is routinely undermining. He is an unabashed member of the transtribal supertribe that Muhammad created 1,400 years ago; he is of the umma, not of America. His finger in the air at the African Leaders’ Conference is unambiguous evidence.
    And it is evidence that you have been had America. God, have you ever been had.
    F. W. Burleigh is author of It's All About Muhammad, a Biography of the World's Most Notorious Prophet. The author blogs at www.itsallaboutmuhammad.com
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    Default Re: Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham - ISIS - GRAPHIC PG. 15











    CAUTION... Some of these images will be disturbing to younger people.

    Why did Barack Hussein Obama make the famous ‘One-Finger ISIS’ salute at the African Leaders’ Summit in Washington D.C.?


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    A photo taken at last August’s U.S.-African Leaders’ Summit in Washington D.C. might shed considerable light. It shows Barack Hussein Obama flashing the one-finger affirmation of the Islamic State to dozens of African delegates.
    American Thinker The Associated Press took this astonishing photo as the African dignitaries joined Obama, who hosted the event, in a State Department auditorium for a group photograph. It was published in an article in Britain’s Daily Mail, and it was the only use ever of the photo.

    The one-finger display is the distinctive Muslim gang sign (most notably the sign of ISIS): The index finger points straight up while the thumb wraps underneath and presses against the digital phalange of the middle finger. The remaining fingers are squeezed against the palm in order to highlight the extended forefinger.


    The extended finger is symbolic of the one-God concept of Muhammad and is understood by all believers to be a symbolic shahada, the Muslim affirmation of faith: There is but one God and Muhammad is his messenger.

    Thus when believers stick their index finger in the air, they demonstrate they are partisans of Muhammad’s God concept. And they also affirm their belief in Muhammad’s claim he was the interface between God and man. They also demonstrate they are part of the umma, the exclusive transtribal supertribe of believers that Muhammad started 1,400 years ago.

    With his forefinger in the air, Obama affirmed his membership in this tribe.

    African dignitaries understood, and a range of reactions can be detected among the ones who observed the gesture: amusement, surprise, curiosity, disapproval, contempt.

    Note the reactions of Abdelilah Berkirane, the prime minister of Morroco pictured just behind Obama’s left shoulder, and Ibrahim Boubacas Keita, the president of Mali in white garb and hat. They are Muslims through and through, and they are all smiles. They knew what Obama’s upright forefinger meant.

    The reaction of Togo president Faure Gnassingbe, at the top row second to the left, is less approving. Through his face you can read the mind of this Sorbonne- and George Washington University educated leader. His mind is screaming, “You gotta be kidding!”

    Gnassingbe’s country is squeezed between Benin and the Ivory Coast and is not far from Nigeria and its Boko Haram plague — perhaps a two-hour flight in a slow Cessna from Togo’s capital to the Nigerian capital, less than an hour in something faster.

    At the time of the Washington conference, Boko Haram’s leader Abubakar Shekau had just declared Borno State in northeastern Nigeria as the seat of his caliphate. Massacres of entire villages were taking place; only a few months earlier nearly three hundred girls were abducted from a Borno secondary school.


    Togo has seven million people, 50 percent animists, 30 percent Christian. The remainder are Muslims, part of the umma. Gnassingbe and all other non-Muslims of Togo have reason to worry about radicalization of some of these members of the transtribal supertribe of Muhammad who reside among them. And so his look of disdain. “You gotta be kidding.”

    Maybe it was Obama’s idea of a joke, but that is unlikely. The finger in the air was a position statement brazenly stated. His entire administration has been a promotion of Islam at home and abroad, and just cataloging the evidence would fill a book. He has made this country cozy for Islam, from ordering NASA to make Muslims feel good about themselves to calling ISIS beheading victim Peter Kassig by the Muslim name that he had adopted in the vain hope of saving his life.


    If only Obama’s coziness were limited to such gestures, but from the very beginning of his administration, he labored to topple the strongman governments that had kept a lid on Islamic extremism: Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Yemen. Overthrowing the Syrian government was also part the program, not yet achieved but still possible.


    The methodology of each was a tactic from old-school radicalism: stir up domestic trouble that triggers a crackdown, then use the reaction to discredit the government and as a pretext for stirring up greater cycles of trouble until the targeted regime is replaced.


    Obama is comfortable with Islam’s extreme. He arms such people throughout the Middle East. He has let them into our government. He supported the Muslim Brotherhood’s Muhammad Morsi as the replacement for Hosni Mubarak, a staunch US ally and enemy of the Muslim Brotherhood, and threatened and bullied Egypt when a massive revolt replaced Morsi with a religious moderate.


    The thread of all of these efforts was the reestablishment of the Islamic caliphate, the line of successors of Muhammad that ended nearly a century ago with the collapse of the Ottoman Empire. This has always been a Muslim Brotherhood objective. In their grandiose plans, the reestablished caliphate would stretch across the Middle East with Jerusalem as its capital.

    The glory of Islam resurrected! These people aspire to world domination, and the caliphate would serve as the base for an ever-expanding war on the world until domination is achieved. That was always the goal of their role model. Muhammad ordered his followers to make Islam the only religion — to create a universal umma. As with Obama, they are just following orders.


    There is nothing in Obama’s head that is American. He is an antithetical American, a polar opposite of its values that he is routinely undermining. He is an unabashed member of the transtribal supertribe that Muhammad created 1,400 years ago; he is of the umma, not of America. His finger in the air at the African Leaders’ Conference is unambiguous evidence.

    BareNakedIlsam
    Libertatem Prius!


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    Default Re: Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham - ISIS - GRAPHIC PG. 15

    What Kind of Portrait of America Does Obama Paint?


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    by Jim Geraghty
    Here’s the comment that has so many Obama fans furious with former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani:


    “I do not believe, and I know this is a horrible thing to say, but I do not believe that the president loves America,” Giuliani said during the dinner at the 21 Club, a former Prohibition-era speakeasy in midtown Manhattan. “He doesn’t love you. And he doesn’t love me. He wasn’t brought up the way you were brought up and I was brought up through love of this country.”

    Does Barack Obama not love Rudy Giuliani, the attendees of that dinner, or ‘this country’?


    Let’s look at Obama’s four most recent public remarks.


    Today, in his second address to the White House Summit on ‘Violent Extremism,’ the president suggested most Americans don’t personally know a Muslim and thus perceive them as dangerous and threatening:


    I’d like to close by speaking very directly to a painful truth that’s part of the challenge that brings us here today. In some of our countries, including the United States, Muslim communities are still small, relative to the entire population, and as a result, many people in our countries don’t always know personally of somebody who is Muslim. So the image they get of Muslims or Islam is in the news. And given the existing news cycle, that can give a very distorted impression.


    Yesterday, in a separate address to the summit, Obama suggested that U.S. law enforcement is abusing the Muslim community, that they unfairly target Muslim Americans, and that past outreach efforts by law enforcement have been in bad faith:
    I know some Muslim Americans have concerns about working with government, particularly law enforcement. And their reluctance is rooted in the objection to certain practices where Muslim Americans feel they’ve been unfairly targeted.
    So, in our work, we have to make sure that abuses stop, are not repeated, that we do not stigmatize entire communities. Nobody should be profiled or put under a cloud of suspicion simply because of their faith. (Applause.) Engagement with communities can’t be a cover for surveillance.
    On February 17, Obama suggested that critics of his immigration executive order are opposing those who are ‘American by any other name except for their legal papers’ and want to stop them from serving their country.
    As we saw with the executive action that I took for DREAMers, people who have come here as young children and are American by any other name except for their legal papers, who want to serve this country, oftentimes want to go into the military or start businesses or in other ways contribute — I think the American people overwhelmingly recognize that to pretend like we are going to ship them off is unrealistic and not who we are.
    On February 14, in his weekly address, Obama contended that the Republican Congress wants to deny American children a quality education – and for that matter, quality health care and child care:
    At a time when we have to give every child, everywhere, a fair shot – this Congress would actually allow states to make even deeper cuts into school districts that need the most support, send even more money to some of the wealthiest school districts in America, and turn back the clock to a time when too many students were left behind in failing schools.
    Denying a quality education to the children of working families is as wrong as denying health care or child care to working families. We are better than this.
    Every Obama speech has a villain, and that villain is often other Americans who disagree with the president. He doesn’t hesitate to paint a very dark picture of the country he leads: citizens who are xenophobic and paranoid about Muslims, abusive police forces unfairly focusing on Muslim communities, a public eager to forcibly deport good Americans who just want to serve their country, and lawmakers determined to deny good education to children.
    Maybe Giuliani’s language is a bit overwrought or hyperbolic, but is it really that much overwrought or hyperbolic than Obama’s description of Americans who disagree with his policies? And if Obama consistently describes so many Americans as so prejudiced and mean-spirited… is Guiliani’s conclusion really that outlandish?
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    Default Re: Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham - ISIS - GRAPHIC PG. 15

    So the image they get of Muslims or Islam is in the news. And given the existing news cycle, that can give a very distorted impression.
    So let me make another point.

    First the "distorted impression" is that which comes from Obama's mouth.

    IF the media is showing Muslims and/or Islam in the news, and they are continually showing evil inflicted by Muslims and/or Islam then doesn't it stand to reason that apparently Muslims and/or Islam are the ones who are EVIL?

    Yes, yes it does.

    Obama, instead of telling us to get off our "high horses", get OFF YOURS and start telling the truth. The LITERAL TRUTH, not manufactured truth, but actual, literal, verifiable, un-made-up, factual TRUTH.

    The TRUTH IS there are Muslims and/or Islamists murdering, beheading, burning and otherwise maiming Westerners and their OWN PEOPLE. There is EVIL among the Muslims and/or Islam people doing this.

    It is time for the Muslims and/or Islamists to STAND UP AGAINST the murdering, beheading, burning and otherwise maiming of Westerners and their OWN PEOPLE.

    If the Muslims and/or Islamists do NOT stand AGAINST those doing the murdering, beheading, burning and otherwise maiming, then THEY TOO ARE TERRORISTS.

    This is not fucking Rocket Surgery. Asshole.
    Last edited by American Patriot; February 20th, 2015 at 14:57.
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    Default Re: Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham - ISIS - GRAPHIC PG. 15

    Pay attention to this guy in coming weeks.

    'What ISIS Really Wants': The Response

    A survey of reactions to The Atlantic's cover story—from think tanks to jihadist Twitter
    Graeme Wood


    Reuters/The Atlantic
    My cover story in The Atlantic’s March issue asked, as simply as possible, What does ISIS believe, and what are its ideological roots? I read every ISIS statement I could find, including fatwas and tweets and road signs, and I front-loaded my mornings with execution videos in hopes that by bedtime I’d have forgotten enough of the imagery to sleep without nightmares. I picked through every spoken or written word in search of signals of what ISIS cares about and how its members justify their violence. I also asked a small group of its most doctrinaire overseas supporters for guidance, and they obliged.
    At the time, the dominant cliché about ISIS was that it was a thrill-kill group that had hijacked Islam for its own ends, and that these ends were cynical, pathological, and secular. The investigation yielded something like the opposite conclusion: ISIS had hijacked secular sources of power and grievance, and was using them for religious ends—ends that are, at least among some supporters, sincere and carefully thought through. They include a belief in the imminent fulfillment of prophecy, with the group in a key role.
    I am grateful for thoughtful reaction from many sources. (I’ll examine separately the pushback to my claim that ISIS is within the Islamic tradition.) Shadi Hamid of the Brookings Institution emphasized that ideology is deeply embedded in social and political facts, and that ignoring those facts is at least as dangerous as ignoring the ideology. I agree completely: ISIS achieved its successes in a hellish setting where all authority was predatory and nothing was safe; it offered certainty, sincerity, and the promise of reliability; it did this in ways that were antithetical to traditional interpretations of Islam (though not quite as antithetical as some believe).
    I suggested that religious ideology was underrated as an explanatory lens—indeed, barely understood as one—but didn’t specify the relative importance of it versus other factors, specifically “the bad governance, the shifting social mores, the humiliation of living in lands valued only for their oil.” If I could specify that relative importance, I would; I find the confidence of others in this regard fascinating. But as I wrote in the original essay: “Without acknowledgment of these factors, no explanation of the rise of the Islamic State could be complete.” I set out to write an essay about this group’s ideology, which heretofore has gone underacknowledged, so I don’t apologize for doing just that, though I take to heart Hamid’s counsel to see these elements as less separable than they appear.
    J.M. Berger, also of Brookings, argued that the religiosity of the group matters less than its importance as an identity movement, an aggressive form of defining membership in a group. I’d add that the type of religious ideology ISIS espouses is remarkably well-adapted for brutal enforcement of group membership. This type of jihadi-Salafism, unapologetically aimed at purifying Islam through killing, was obsessively policing its adherents well before the rise of the Islamic State. Understanding that sect is a way to understand its associated identity.
    Andrew Anderson, who studies jihadists, wrote this fine reflection on the context of the Islamic State's views of warfare, which he places in the medieval period rather than in the early Islamic conquests to which ISIS considers its project the rightful heir. He and my colleague Frank Griffel at Yale both point out how ISIS, which is so keen to emphasize its early-Islamic cred, differs from early Islam in important and substantive ways.
    For an Islamist perspective, I’d refer you to http://justpaste.it/jhxc, a quick reply by a Twitter user who rebuked me gently (thanks) for missteps and ended with a proposal I dearly hope comes to pass. “What is really needed,” he wrote, “is a delegation from an ‘Islamist’ background to visit Islamic State territory and engage with their leadership and ideologues as well as their common fighters.” He doubted that the specific ideologues I met are the best representatives of the group’s ideology. “Until that happens it is hard to truly fathom what this movement is about and what it truly wants.”
    As for the reaction from the Islamic State: I noticed my article tweeted out multiple times by ISIS supporters, at least once by a fan of the group who noted nervously that the guy who wrote it must be spying on their tweets. Those whose comments I saw were delighted that I had taken their ideology seriously and concluded that ISIS is an Islamic group. Their delight pleases me only because my intention was to describe the group in terms it recognized and considered fair. I suppose at least some supporters thought I succeeded, or at least came closer than the last infidel who tried.
    Anjem Choudary, the notorious London blowhard who patiently explained the version of jihadism he supports, tweeted the story out, pleased that he and his minions got their airtime. Musa Cerantonio, a more soft-spoken and scholarly young Australian who did the same, sent a long and thoughtful email with a few points of correction and clarification. He stressed that execution for wearing Western clothes and shaving is not an Islamic State practice. I think he’s right. ISIS certainly forbids shaving, but merely to commit a sin is not grounds for excommunication or killing. (To excommunicate over matters of sin would put the Islamic State in line with the Kharijites, an early sect to which ISIS’s Muslim enemies often compare the group.) He added that dying without pledging allegiance to a valid caliph, which I correctly quoted him as saying is “a death of disbelief,” is not to die as an infidel. He said that the quote as printed misleadingly left open the interpretation that he was calling Muslims infidels. To do so would jeopardize his own status as a Muslim.
    But the most interesting comments concerned my story’s popularity among ISIS supporters (referred to below with the shorthand "Muslims"). I was unsurprised to see it shared online by Islamic State fans, at least somewhat positively, but of course I was still uncomfortable about being praised by avowed génocidaires. One ISIS supporter wrote to me to note the peculiarity in all this. The piece, he said,
    is grounded in realism, and argues that not understanding what is happening is very dangerous, especially if fighting a war, one must fight the war that is real, not the invented one that one wishes to fight. Perhaps ironically, your [writings] ... are most dangerous to the Muslims (not that it is necessarily meant to be so on your behalf), yet they are celebrated by Muslims who see them as pieces that speak the truth that so many try to deny, but also because [Muslims] know that deep down the idealists of the world will still ignore them.
    What stands out to me that others don't seem to discuss much, is how the Islamic State, Osama [bin Laden] and others are operating as if they are reading from a script that was written 1,400 years ago. They not only follow these prophecies, but plan ahead based upon them. One would therefore assume that the enemies of Islam would note this and prepare adequately, but [it’s] almost as if they feel that playing along would mean that they believe in the prophecies too, and so they ignore them and go about things their own way. ... [The] enemies of the Muslims may be aware of what the Muslims are planning, but it won't benefit them at all as they prefer to either keep their heads in the sand, or to fight their imaginary war based upon rational freedom-loving democrats vs. irrational evil terrorist madmen. With this in mind, maybe you can understand to some degree one of the reasons why many Muslims will share your piece. It’s not because we don't understand what it is saying in terms of how to defeat the Muslims, rather it’s because we know that those in charge will ignore it and screw things up anyway.
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    Default Re: Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham - ISIS - GRAPHIC PG. 15

    And the antipodal.....





    Graeme Wood's “What ISIS Really Wants,” published in the March 2015 edition of The Atlantic, has quickly become the most widely read article on the militant group. Indeed, it is becoming the most read article ever published by The Atlantic.
    Popular as it is, Wood's essay is deeply flawed and alarmingly tone-deaf – dangerously so. What is so objectionable about Wood's essay is encapsulated in his statement: “The reality is that the Islamic State is Islamic. Very Islamic.” While Wood acknowledges that “nearly all” Muslims of the world reject ISIS, ultimately his thesis is that the atrocities committed by the group have a theological basis in Islam. In support of his thesis, Wood cites Princeton academic, Bernard Haykel, who not only agrees that ISIS is “very Islamic,” but even goes so far as to say that those Muslims who denounce ISIS as un-Islamic are either ignorant about Islam or are simply being politically expedient by deliberately whitewashing the legal and historical dimensions of their religion. By characterizing ISIS as Islamic, Wood and Haykel in effect, if not intent, attribute cruel beheadings, wanton massacre, and all other manner of savagery to Islam. In their minds, such an attribution is neither factually incorrect nor particularly damaging to “nearly all” Muslims who reject ISIS. But are Wood and Haykel too naïve to understand that by making such attributions to Islam, they ipso facto implicate and foment suspicion about all those who subscribe to Islam? Of course, their attributions are factually incorrect and conceptually confused as we will discuss below. But their mistakes are especially egregious given the current climate of anti-Muslim bigotry. In light of the recent hate crimes directed towards the American and European Muslim communities, Wood's piece is tantamount to shouting “Fire!” in a crowded theatre and, therefore, deserves a thorough rebuttal, if nothing else. Below are twenty-one points that not only critique Wood's essay and ISIS's ideology but also take stock of the larger discourse surrounding Muslims, the War on Terror, and the intersection of government policy and the study of Islam in Western academia. 1. The Banality

    By now, the McCarthyist script should be mind-numbingly familiar. Group A argues that Muslim crazies – in this case ISIS – are acting in accordance with the tenets of Islam, i.e., they're “very Islamic.” Group B – in this case Muslims along with non-Muslim specialists – denies this, marshaling all manner of theological, historical, and sociological evidence. Group A, without skipping a beat, accuses Group B of being apologists for extremism and demands that Group B denounce the crazies (ignoring the copious denunciations Group B has already made in the past). 2. The Witch-Hunt

    This is the back and forth playing out over and over again ad nauseum since 9/11, and, much like the McCarthyism of the past, its primary purpose is to restrict dissent and silence political criticism of government authorities. Few realize that an integral strategic component of the “Global War on Terror” and the invasion and occupation of countries like Iraq and Afghanistan by Western powers is the Islamophobic witch-hunt at home, which stigmatizes and prosecutes actual and would-be opponents to such foreign policy and shores up public support for more war against the “Muslim enemy.” That was the raison d'être of McCarthyism during the Cold War, and now American Muslims are the new communists in our midst. 3. The Profiling

    Even as President Obama solemnly declares that ISIS and terrorism have nothing to do with Islam and the Muslim community at large, his administration still oversees a “Countering Violent Extremism” summit that primarily focuses on the American Muslim community. Despite the fact that only a tiny fraction of the extremist violence in the US is perpetrated by Muslims, the Obama administration and other federal and local agencies have made it crystal clear that it is primarily the average American Muslim who is the object of their spying, surveillance, entrapment, etc. And for some, this is still not enough. 4. The Diversion

    Speaking of President Obama, remember how just a couple of weeks ago he sparked controversy by drawing parallels between ISIS and historical Christian violence, e.g., the Crusades, Jim Crow, etc.? How convenient for the President to highlight Christian violence in previous eras while ignoring all the more recent, salient examples of violence, death, and destruction wrought by, among other things, his drone program. By focusing on the crimes of others and the threat from without, the administration is able to maintain a façade of innocence in the face of all the injustice rocking the nation, e.g., the burgeoning prison population, an increasingly brutal and militarized police force, the slow death of the American middle class, the widening wealth gap in the face of Wall Street lawlessness, the increasing influence of money in elections and public policy, and a host of other injustices eating away at our country. But pay no attention, people. There is a grave threat over yonder! 5. The Racism

    At some point in American history we, as a society, decided it was unseemly, hateful, and downright false to attribute the bad actions of a few to an entire minority race or demographic. Though some have yet to get the memo, it is ludicrous to try to understand, for example, disproportionately high black incarceration rates by arguing that black culture has a violent strain, and, even though “nearly all” blacks denounce criminal activity, nonetheless muggings, gang violence, drug dealing, etc., is “very black.” No one in academia, media, or elsewhere would make such attributions in the case of African Americans vis-a-vis blackness or Jews vis-a-vis Judaism, but, in the case of Muslims vis-a-vis Islam it is, apparently, still open season. 6. The Fear

    Segregation Cells, Abu Ghraib, Iraq. Photo Credit: Richard Ross

    Going back to The Atlantic piece, it is hard to tell how Wood's argument differs substantively from those of bona fide anti-Muslim bigots like Pamela Geller or Steve Emerson, who profit handsomely from their crass fear-mongering. Of course, Wood is savvy enough to package his conclusions in the veneer of objective reporting – quoting heavily from a single Princeton scholar as well as interviewing a handful of colorful would-be jihadists “in the field,” i.e., coffee shops in London and Melbourne. But for all the gravity Wood tries to muster, references to Orwell and Hitler notwithstanding, the takeaway in the end is still essentially “Islam is the problem.” Is it any wonder that the biggest Islam and Muslim haters of the world have been tripping over themselves to gush over Wood and his “unparalleled expertise”? 7. The Sowing

    Wood insists that ISIS's apocalyptic theology is pivotal in understanding the origins and behavior of the militant group. But, beliefs don't arise in a vacuum. Isn't it just a little bit relevant to consider the hellish conditions the US, UK, and other Western powers created in the region in the last thirty years, by way of the First Gulf War, the years of economic sanctions on Iraq, the 2003 invasion, and subsequent military occupation? Isn't it slightly pertinent that many ISIS militants were captives in US detention centers, like Abu Ghraib, experiencing all kinds of lurid humiliation, abject torture, and vile sexual abuse at the hands of their “liberators”? Isn't it at least somewhat germane that many eventual ISIS militants witnessed their communities decimated, their family members raped and massacred, and their newborns disfigured with nightmare-inducing birth defects caused by the US military's use of depleted uranium weapons against civilians? And beyond Iraq, isn't the proxy war in Syria that has resulted in the brutal massacre of hundreds of thousands of civilians apropos to the spread and support of ISIS in that region? 8. The Reaping

    In short, ought it be surprising that if we rain down a veritable apocalypse upon a people, they just might start adopting apocalyptic views? A simple question: Why has a group like ISIS come to power in lands that have been subjected to continual political strife, civil war, and bloodshed? All else being equal theologically, had the US not pummeled that region for decades, would ISIS have ever arisen? Normally, there would be nothing inherently objectionable about Wood focusing on ISIS's religious beliefs in lieu of these historical and sociological considerations. But, in this case and given the political climate, Wood's omission purely serves the interests of power and effectively exonerates US war-mongering at the expense of its victims, namely Muslims at home and abroad. 9. The Deflection


    Along those lines, it is not surprising that the same Washington punditry and policy analysts that cheered on the 2003 Iraq invasion would now, in 2015, much prefer us to think of the rise of ISIS as having everything to do with archaic religious interpretations and nothing to do with the grossly incompetent, highly immoral foreign “intervention” they supported that tilled the soil for the seeds of ISIS's extremism to take root. 10. The Coffee Shops

    Wood can't be bothered with that wider context. What interests him is chatting theology with armchair militants over lattes. Isn't it notable that Wood couldn't find ISIS supporters in the US, but had to travel across the world to meet them in the UK and Australia? Isn't it notable that, for someone who is so interested in theology, Wood couldn't be bothered to meet with a single mainstream Muslim theologian of repute? Isn't it notable that Wood conducted his interviews in coffee shops and not mosques? Maybe it is because self-taught, fringe cartoon characters like Anjem Choudary and Musa Cerantonio don't have mosques or any kind of institutional presence, let alone authority, in the Muslim community. Not that that is what Fox News wants you to think, as it parades these agent provocateurs on national media instead of allowing them to asphyxiate into anonymity. 11. The Sophomore

    Wood ultimately admits, “[ISIS supporters] lectured me garrulously and, if one accepts their premises, convincingly. To call them un-Islamic appears, to me, to invite them into an argument that they would win.” Perhaps Wood does not have the humility to recognize that it really doesn't say much that he, personally, can't win an argument with ISIS fanboys about the Islamic-ness of ISIS. Perhaps Wood should leave such arguments to people in the know. One would expect the fact that not a single Muslim scholar of repute, from across the theological schools of Islam and spanning the entirety of the Muslim world, has ever issued a fatwa sanctioning ISIS should carry weight in determining legitimate application of the word “Islamic.” 12. The Academic

    Wood quotes Princeton academic, Bernard Haykel: “People want to absolve Islam,” [Haykel] said. “It's this 'Islam is a religion of peace' mantra. As if there is such a thing as 'Islam'! It's what Muslims do and how they interpret their texts.” Wood could have saved everyone a lot of time by starting his essay with this. If Islam is nothing above and beyond what particular Muslims do and the idiosyncrasies of how they interpret religious texts, then, by that definition, it is trivially true that ISIS is Islamic. If the Queen of England became Muslim and somehow interpreted the Qur'an as telling her to record a rap album, would we then consider the release of “Royal Hustling LP” an Islamic act? 13. The Bait and Switch

    To make matters worse, there is a central conceptual inconsistency in the essay that undermines Wood's entire thesis. The problem is Wood and Haykel equivocate on the word “Islamic.” Wood uses “Islamic” in an explanatory sense – by characterizing ISIS as “Islamic,” Wood means that studying Islam and its “intellectual genealogy” will explain ISIS's origins and behavior in a way that can inform policy decisions and military strategy. This is because, in his view, ISIS's theology, in some sense, proceeds from the broader Islamic paradigm, so by understanding the latter, one gains insight into the former. Haykel, in contrast, uses “Islamic” in a descriptive sense. For Haykel, ISIS being “Islamic” merely amounts to: “They are Muslims and they have an interpretation of Islamic texts.” But, this vanishingly thin descriptive notion of Islam says nothing about whether ISIS's theology proceeds from or is even connected to a broader Islamic paradigm. In fact, Haykel explicitly denies that such a broader paradigm even exists. So that explanatory dimension upon which Wood's entire essay is based disappears. By equivocating on these two senses of the word “Islamic,” Wood attempts to gain academic legitimacy from Haykel while also positioning his essay as politically and strategically significant – in essence, having his cake and eating it too. 14. The Goatee

    The Bernard Lewis Plan for the Middle East.

    By the way, what a colorful picture Wood paints of Haykel, with his “unplaceable foreign accent,” his “Mephistophelian goatee,” standing there in front of an array of Arabic tomes, gazing into the abyss with all the solemnity of a man who knows too much. Coincidentally, Haykel is not the first “Bernard” to come out of Princeton with his fingers on the pulse of Muslim fanaticism. While Bernard Lewis did a fine job advising Bush in all the success that was the Iraq War, maybe Haykel can curry enough favor to win an advisory role in America's next great excursion. 15. The Sacred Way

    The present debate about the Islamic-ness of ISIS is premised on a fundamental confusion about the nature of Islamic Law. Islamic Law is not enshrined in one particular text or the opinions of one particular medieval scholar. In fact, rather than characterizing Sacred Law as textual — akin to codified law on aged parchment or commandments on stone tablets sent from on high —it is far more accurate to understand it as a methodology that synthesizes a variety of textual and non-textual indicants. While a text is stagnant, a methodology is dynamic. By emphasizing Islamic Law as methodology, several things are accomplished: 16. The Literal

    First, we avoid the cliched “literal vs. non-literal” dichotomy used to reductively and inaccurately characterize “extremists” and “moderates.” To understand how useless this distinction is, consider this. What does it mean to be a “literalist” about the 1st Amendment of the US Constitution? Should America maintain its “literalism” about the 2nd Amendment given that the US has one of the highest rates of gun violence out of all developed nations? Or, is North Korea being “literal” or “figurative” in its interpretation of the UN Declaration of Human Rights, and which interpretation is most consistent with enlightenment? 17. The Medieval

    Second, we also avoid the confusion about “medieval vs. modern.” As a methodology, Islamic Law is inherently (and, in certain cases, necessarily) sensitive to a variety of contemporary local and global variables. Certain juristic legal opinions (fatwas), for example, are invalidated if present day conditions differ from the cultural context in which the opinions were originally issued. In this way, Islamic Law as a methodology is inexorably contemporaneous. (Of course, all legal systems are inexorably contemporaneous in that they have to keep up with social developments and accommodate novel legal scenarios that continually arise. It's no different for Islamic Law.) 18. The Inconsistency

    ISIS's biggest victim is Islam.

    Third, if Islamic Law is a methodology, with well-defined principles and a consistent internal logic, then it becomes clear who is objectively Islamic and who is not. For Wood and Haykel, all it takes for a Muslim group to be “very Islamic” is that they use the language of the Qur'an and hadiths in articulating their interpretation of Islam. But consider this analogy. Countries like Saudi Arabia, Liberia, the UAE, China, Syria, and Iran have signed and ratified many international human rights treaties. Their political leaders also wax poetic about the importance of freedom and democracy with a fervor that would make Thomas Jefferson himself blush. But does the use of such liberal democratic language make these political regimes, in actuality, liberal or democratic? Of course no one would agree with this, but using the logic of Haykel and his cohorts in the academy, who's to say otherwise? The underlying bias is that religions, like Islam, have no objective existence above and beyond the beliefs and actions of individual adherents, whereas Western normative systems, like secular liberalism, do have objective content that is not open to limitless interpretation. This is the bald-faced double standard that allows the ivory tower to remain coyly noncommittal about the un-Islamic-ness of ISIS. 19. The Methodology

    Finally, then, how is ISIS decidedly not Islamic? Well, what characterizes ISIS's approach to Islamic Law is a glaring lack of methodology beyond textual cherry-picking. They cite broadly, scanning classical Muslim texts for whatever expediently fits their agenda. But this post hoc scrapbooking is the exact reverse of legitimate juristic methodology. The proper derivation of Islamic legal opinions, as practiced for centuries by Muslim jurists, begins from general methodological principles (usul al-fiqh), takes into account the relevant scriptural and extra-scriptural indicants, and then arrives at specific rulings. ISIS, of course, has no usul al-fiqh, no consistent methodology, and, hence, no connection to Islamic Law. And this is precisely what Muslim scholars around the world have been saying in denouncing and debunking ISIS's “McSharia.” A casual observer, like Wood, may be impressed with all the citations ISIS propagandists have up their sleeves, but anyone with a basic understanding of the way Islamic Law works will know better. 20. The Point

    Finally, before anyone accuses us of “missing the point” of Wood's expose, let us clarify something. As Professor Haykel intimated, and we agree, Islamic Law as a comprehensive legal system is not going to perfectly align with all dictates of liberal secularism. And why should it? Islam may be illiberal in certain respects, but so is classical Confucianism, historical Jainism, traditional Catholicism, Orthodox Judaism, Eastern Orthodox Christianity, Sub-Saharan Fulani Tribal code, and countless other moral and legal systems that don't share the idiosyncrasies of one particular philosophical outlook developed by a handful of seventeenth-century British and French thinkers.
    That doesn't mean Muslims or Catholics or Orthodox Jews cannot live peacefully in secular liberal democracies. Even so, some take it as a given that to be even slightly illiberal is to be a barbarian. This, of course, smacks of ethnocentrism and dehumanization of the “other,” things we would think card-carrying liberals would elide. Nonetheless, we should understand that, as a point of fact, there is a vast and categorical distance between those certain illiberal areas of Islam and the atrocities of ISIS, and no amount of hermeneutical gymnastics can bridge that gap. 21. The End

    American Sniper

    As much as commentators want to portray ISIS as authentically Islamic, the facts tell a different story. Instead of insight, The Atlantic peddles the same stereotypes of the “Muslim savage” and Islamic Law while pretending to do serious journalism. The Christian conservative mob was just recently riled up by the feature film of a certain Mr. Eastwood. Now, thanks to another Wood, the other side of the socio-political spectrum can join the madness.





    Daniel Haqiqatjou was born in Houston, Texas. He attended Harvard University where he majored in Physics and minored in Philosophy. He completed a Masters degree in Philosophy at Tufts University. Haqiqatjou also studies traditional Islamic sciences part-time. He writes and lectures on contemporary issues surrounding Muslims and Modernity.
    Dr. Yasir Qadhi has a Bachelors in Hadith and a Masters in Theology from Islamic University of Madinah, and a PhD in Islamic Studies from Yale University. He is an instructor and Dean of Academic Affairs at AlMaghrib, and the Resident Scholar of the Memphis Islamic Center.
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    Default Re: Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham - ISIS - GRAPHIC PG. 15

    My take?

    ISIS is exactly what Wood says it is. And unless Muslims FALL IN LINE with what ISIS wants they will be considered infidels as well.

    And that, my friends is the problem with Islam. They WILL fall in line, they WILL lie about it, they will PRETEND to be something they aren't until it's too late.

    Time to shut these assholes down permanently.
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    Default Re: Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham - ISIS - GRAPHIC PG. 15

    This guy says ISIS is reaching out and killing local to them Muslims, for a reason. To "purify" the land. Eventually, when they do this, all there will be left there are those with them.

    Those without will either fall in line and help, or die.

    They WILL fall in line.
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    Default Re: Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham - ISIS - GRAPHIC PG. 15

    And of course, Liberal bullshit rag Salon says:


    The Atlantic's big Islam lie: What Muslims really believe ...
    http://www.salon.com/.../the_atlanti..._muslims_reall...
    Salon
    6 days ago - That's what Graeme Wood's recent Atlantic essay, “What ISIS Really Wants,” really wants us to believe. That a movement that has earned the ...
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    Default Re: Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham - ISIS - GRAPHIC PG. 15

    What ISIS Really Wants

    The Islamic State is no mere collection of psychopaths. It is a religious group with carefully considered beliefs, among them that it is a key agent of the coming apocalypse. Here’s what that means for its strategy—and for how to stop it.


    What is the Islamic State?



    Where did it come from, and what are its intentions? The simplicity of these questions can be deceiving, and few Western leaders seem to know the answers. In December, The New York Times published confidential comments by Major General Michael K. Nagata, the Special Operations commander for the United States in the Middle East, admitting that he had hardly begun figuring out the Islamic State’s appeal. “We have not defeated the idea,” he said. “We do not even understand the idea.” In the past year, President Obama has referred to the Islamic State, variously, as “not Islamic” and as al-Qaeda’s “jayvee team,” statements that reflected confusion about the group, and may have contributed to significant strategic errors.
    The group seized Mosul, Iraq, last June, and already rules an area larger than the United Kingdom. Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi has been its leader since May 2010, but until last summer, his most recent known appearance on film was a grainy mug shot from a stay in U.S. captivity at Camp Bucca during the occupation of Iraq. Then, on July 5 of last year, he stepped into the pulpit of the Great Mosque of al-Nuri in Mosul, to deliver a Ramadan sermon as the first caliph in generations—upgrading his resolution from grainy to high-definition, and his position from hunted guerrilla to commander of all Muslims. The inflow of jihadists that followed, from around the world, was unprecedented in its pace and volume, and is continuing.
    Our ignorance of the Islamic State is in some ways understandable: It is a hermit kingdom; few have gone there and returned. Baghdadi has spoken on camera only once. But his address, and the Islamic State’s countless other propaganda videos and encyclicals, are online, and the caliphate’s supporters have toiled mightily to make their project knowable. We can gather that their state rejects peace as a matter of principle; that it hungers for genocide; that its religious views make it constitutionally incapable of certain types of change, even if that change might ensure its survival; and that it considers itself a harbinger of—and headline player in—the imminent end of the world.
    The Islamic State, also known as the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), follows a distinctive variety of Islam whose beliefs about the path to the Day of Judgment matter to its strategy, and can help the West know its enemy and predict its behavior. Its rise to power is less like the triumph of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt (a group whose leaders the Islamic State considers apostates) than like the realization of a dystopian alternate reality in which David Koresh or Jim Jones survived to wield absolute power over not just a few hundred people, but some 8 million.
    We have misunderstood the nature of the Islamic State in at least two ways. First, we tend to see jihadism as monolithic, and to apply the logic of al‑Qaeda to an organization that has decisively eclipsed it. The Islamic State supporters I spoke with still refer to Osama bin Laden as “Sheikh Osama,” a title of honor. But jihadism has evolved since al-Qaeda’s heyday, from about 1998 to 2003, and many jihadists disdain the group’s priorities and current leadership.
    Bin Laden viewed his terrorism as a prologue to a caliphate he did not expect to see in his lifetime. His organization was flexible, operating as a geographically diffuse network of autonomous cells. The Islamic State, by contrast, requires territory to remain legitimate, and a top-down structure to rule it. (Its bureaucracy is divided into civil and military arms, and its territory into provinces.)
    We are misled in a second way, by a well-intentioned but dishonest campaign to deny the Islamic State’s medieval religious nature. Peter Bergen, who produced the first interview with bin Laden in 1997, titled his first book Holy War, Inc. in part to acknowledge bin Laden as a creature of the modern secular world. Bin Laden corporatized terror and franchised it out. He requested specific political concessions, such as the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Saudi Arabia. His foot soldiers navigated the modern world confidently. On Mohammad Atta’s last full day of life, he shopped at Walmart and ate dinner at Pizza Hut.
    Nearly all the Islamic State’s decisions adhere to what it calls, on its billboards, license plates, and coins, “the Prophetic methodology.”
    There is a temptation to rehearse this observation—that jihadists are modern secular people, with modern political concerns, wearing medieval religious disguise—and make it fit the Islamic State. In fact, much of what the group does looks nonsensical except in light of a sincere, carefully considered commitment to returning civilization to a seventh-century legal environment, and ultimately to bringing about the apocalypse.
    The most-articulate spokesmen for that position are the Islamic State’s officials and supporters themselves. They refer derisively to “moderns.” In conversation, they insist that they will not—cannot—waver from governing precepts that were embedded in Islam by the Prophet Muhammad and his earliest followers. They often speak in codes and allusions that sound odd or old-fashioned to non-Muslims, but refer to specific traditions and texts of early Islam.
    To take one example: In September, Sheikh Abu Muhammad al-Adnani, the Islamic State’s chief spokesman, called on Muslims in Western countries such as France and Canada to find an infidel and “smash his head with a rock,” poison him, run him over with a car, or “destroy his crops.” To Western ears, the biblical-sounding punishments—the stoning and crop destruction—juxtaposed strangely with his more modern-sounding call to vehicular homicide. (As if to show that he could terrorize by imagery alone, Adnani also referred to Secretary of State John Kerry as an “uncircumcised geezer.”)
    But Adnani was not merely talking trash. His speech was laced with theological and legal discussion, and his exhortation to attack crops directly echoed orders from Muhammad to leave well water and crops alone—unless the armies of Islam were in a defensive position, in which case Muslims in the lands of kuffar, or infidels, should be unmerciful, and poison away.
    The reality is that the Islamic State is Islamic. Very Islamic. Yes, it has attracted psychopaths and adventure seekers, drawn largely from the disaffected populations of the Middle East and Europe. But the religion preached by its most ardent followers derives from coherent and even learned interpretations of Islam.
    Virtually every major decision and law promulgated by the Islamic State adheres to what it calls, in its press and pronouncements, and on its billboards, license plates, stationery, and coins, “the Prophetic methodology,” which means following the prophecy and example of Muhammad, in punctilious detail. Muslims can reject the Islamic State; nearly all do. But pretending that it isn’t actually a religious, millenarian group, with theology that must be understood to be combatted, has already led the United States to underestimate it and back foolish schemes to counter it. We’ll need to get acquainted with the Islamic State’s intellectual genealogy if we are to react in a way that will not strengthen it, but instead help it self-immolate in its own excessive zeal.
    Control of territory is an essential precondition for the Islamic State’s authority in the eyes of its supporters. This map, adapted from the work of the Institute for the Study of War, shows the territory under the caliphate’s control as of January 15, along with areas it has attacked. Where it holds power, the state collects taxes, regulates prices, operates courts, and administers services ranging from health care and education to telecommunications.
    I. Devotion

    In November, the Islamic State released an infomercial-like video tracing its origins to bin Laden. It acknowledged Abu Musa’b al Zarqawi, the brutal head of al‑Qaeda in Iraq from roughly 2003 until his killing in 2006, as a more immediate progenitor, followed sequentially by two other guerrilla leaders before Baghdadi, the caliph. Notably unmentioned: bin Laden’s successor, Ayman al Zawahiri, the owlish Egyptian eye surgeon who currently heads al‑Qaeda. Zawahiri has not pledged allegiance to Baghdadi, and he is increasingly hated by his fellow jihadists. His isolation is not helped by his lack of charisma; in videos he comes across as squinty and annoyed. But the split between al-Qaeda and the Islamic State has been long in the making, and begins to explain, at least in part, the outsize bloodlust of the latter.
    Zawahiri’s companion in isolation is a Jordanian cleric named Abu Muhammad al Maqdisi, 55, who has a fair claim to being al-Qaeda’s intellectual architect and the most important jihadist unknown to the average American newspaper reader. On most matters of doctrine, Maqdisi and the Islamic State agree. Both are closely identified with the jihadist wing of a branch of Sunnism called Salafism, after the Arabic al salaf al salih, the “pious forefathers.” These forefathers are the Prophet himself and his earliest adherents, whom Salafis honor and emulate as the models for all behavior, including warfare, couture, family life, even dentistry.
    The Islamic State awaits the army of “Rome,” whose defeat at Dabiq, Syria, will initiate the countdown to the apocalypse.
    Maqdisi taught Zarqawi, who went to war in Iraq with the older man’s advice in mind. In time, though, Zarqawi surpassed his mentor in fanaticism, and eventually earned his rebuke. At issue was Zarqawi’s penchant for bloody spectacle—and, as a matter of doctrine, his hatred of other Muslims, to the point of excommunicating and killing them. In Islam, the practice of takfir, or excommunication, is theologically perilous. “If a man says to his brother, ‘You are an infidel,’ ” the Prophet said, “then one of them is right.” If the accuser is wrong, he himself has committed apostasy by making a false accusation. The punishment for apostasy is death. And yet Zarqawi heedlessly expanded the range of behavior that could make Muslims infidels.
    Maqdisi wrote to his former pupil that he needed to exercise caution and “not issue sweeping proclamations of takfir” or “proclaim people to be apostates because of their sins.” The distinction between apostate and sinner may appear subtle, but it is a key point of contention between al-Qaeda and the Islamic State.
    Denying the holiness of the Koran or the prophecies of Muhammad is straightforward apostasy. But Zarqawi and the state he spawned take the position that many other acts can remove a Muslim from Islam. These include, in certain cases, selling alcohol or drugs, wearing Western clothes or shaving one’s beard, voting in an election—even for a Muslim candidate—and being lax about calling other people apostates. Being a Shiite, as most Iraqi Arabs are, meets the standard as well, because the Islamic State regards Shiism as innovation, and to innovate on the Koran is to deny its initial perfection. (The Islamic State claims that common Shiite practices, such as worship at the graves of imams and public self-flagellation, have no basis in the Koran or in the example of the Prophet.) That means roughly 200 million Shia are marked for death. So too are the heads of state of every Muslim country, who have elevated man-made law above Sharia by running for office or enforcing laws not made by God.
    Following takfiri doctrine, the Islamic State is committed to purifying the world by killing vast numbers of people. The lack of objective reporting from its territory makes the true extent of the slaughter unknowable, but social-media posts from the region suggest that individual executions happen more or less continually, and mass executions every few weeks. Muslim “apostates” are the most common victims. Exempted from automatic execution, it appears, are Christians who do not resist their new government. Baghdadi permits them to live, as long as they pay a special tax, known as the jizya, and acknowledge their subjugation. The Koranic authority for this practice is not in dispute.
    Musa Cerantonio, an Australian preacher reported to be one of the Islamic State’s most influential recruiters, believes it is foretold that the caliphate will sack Istanbul before it is beaten back by an army led by the anti-Messiah, whose eventual death— when just a few thousand jihadists remain—will usher in the apocalypse. (Paul Jeffers/Fairfax Media)
    Centuries have passed since the wars of religion ceased in Europe, and since men stopped dying in large numbers because of arcane theological disputes. Hence, perhaps, the incredulity and denial with which Westerners have greeted news of the theology and practices of the Islamic State. Many refuse to believe that this group is as devout as it claims to be, or as backward-looking or apocalyptic as its actions and statements suggest.
    Their skepticism is comprehensible. In the past, Westerners who accused Muslims of blindly following ancient scriptures came to deserved grief from academics—notably the late Edward Said—who pointed out that calling Muslims “ancient” was usually just another way to denigrate them. Look instead, these scholars urged, to the conditions in which these ideologies arose—the bad governance, the shifting social mores, the humiliation of living in lands valued only for their oil.
    Without acknowledgment of these factors, no explanation of the rise of the Islamic State could be complete. But focusing on them to the exclusion of ideology reflects another kind of Western bias: that if religious ideology doesn’t matter much in Washington or Berlin, surely it must be equally irrelevant in Raqqa or Mosul. When a masked executioner says Allahu akbar while beheading an apostate, sometimes he’s doing so for religious reasons.
    Many mainstream Muslim organizations have gone so far as to say the Islamic State is, in fact, un-Islamic. It is, of course, reassuring to know that the vast majority of Muslims have zero interest in replacing Hollywood movies with public executions as evening entertainment. But Muslims who call the Islamic State un-Islamic are typically, as the Princeton scholar Bernard Haykel, the leading expert on the group’s theology, told me, “embarrassed and politically correct, with a cotton-candy view of their own religion” that neglects “what their religion has historically and legally required.” Many denials of the Islamic State’s religious nature, he said, are rooted in an “interfaith-Christian-nonsense tradition.”
    Every academic I asked about the Islamic State’s ideology sent me to Haykel. Of partial Lebanese descent, Haykel grew up in Lebanon and the United States, and when he talks through his Mephistophelian goatee, there is a hint of an unplaceable foreign accent.
    According to Haykel, the ranks of the Islamic State are deeply infused with religious vigor. Koranic quotations are ubiquitous. “Even the foot soldiers spout this stuff constantly,” Haykel said. “They mug for their cameras and repeat their basic doctrines in formulaic fashion, and they do it all the time.” He regards the claim that the Islamic State has distorted the texts of Islam as preposterous, sustainable only through willful ignorance. “People want to absolve Islam,” he said. “It’s this ‘Islam is a religion of peace’ mantra. As if there is such a thing as ‘Islam’! It’s what Muslims do, and how they interpret their texts.” Those texts are shared by all Sunni Muslims, not just the Islamic State. “And these guys have just as much legitimacy as anyone else.”
    All Muslims acknowledge that Muhammad’s earliest conquests were not tidy affairs, and that the laws of war passed down in the Koran and in the narrations of the Prophet’s rule were calibrated to fit a turbulent and violent time. In Haykel’s estimation, the fighters of the Islamic State are authentic throwbacks to early Islam and are faithfully reproducing its norms of war. This behavior includes a number of practices that modern Muslims tend to prefer not to acknowledge as integral to their sacred texts. “Slavery, crucifixion, and beheadings are not something that freakish [jihadists] are cherry-picking from the medieval tradition,” Haykel said. Islamic State fighters “are smack in the middle of the medieval tradition and are bringing it wholesale into the present day.”
    The Koran specifies crucifixion as one of the only punishments permitted for enemies of Islam. The tax on Christians finds clear endorsement in the Surah Al-Tawba, the Koran’s ninth chapter, which instructs Muslims to fight Christians and Jews “until they pay the jizya with willing submission, and feel themselves subdued.” The Prophet, whom all Muslims consider exemplary, imposed these rules and owned slaves.
    Leaders of the Islamic State have taken emulation of Muhammad as strict duty, and have revived traditions that have been dormant for hundreds of years. “What’s striking about them is not just the literalism, but also the seriousness with which they read these texts,” Haykel said. “There is an assiduous, obsessive seriousness that Muslims don’t normally have.”
    Before the rise of the Islamic State, no group in the past few centuries had attempted more-radical fidelity to the Prophetic model than the Wahhabis of 18th‑century Arabia. They conquered most of what is now Saudi Arabia, and their strict practices survive in a diluted version of Sharia there. Haykel sees an important distinction between the groups, though: “The Wahhabis were not wanton in their violence.” They were surrounded by Muslims, and they conquered lands that were already Islamic; this stayed their hand. “ISIS, by contrast, is really reliving the early period.” Early Muslims were surrounded by non-Muslims, and the Islamic State, because of its takfiri tendencies, considers itself to be in the same situation.
    If al-Qaeda wanted to revive slavery, it never said so. And why would it? Silence on slavery probably reflected strategic thinking, with public sympathies in mind: when the Islamic State began enslaving people, even some of its supporters balked. Nonetheless, the caliphate has continued to embrace slavery and crucifixion without apology. “We will conquer your Rome, break your crosses, and enslave your women,” Adnani, the spokesman, promised in one of his periodic valentines to the West. “If we do not reach that time, then our children and grandchildren will reach it, and they will sell your sons as slaves at the slave market.”
    In October, Dabiq, the magazine of the Islamic State, published “The Revival of Slavery Before the Hour,” an article that took up the question of whether Yazidis (the members of an ancient Kurdish sect that borrows elements of Islam, and had come under attack from Islamic State forces in northern Iraq) are lapsed Muslims, and therefore marked for death, or merely pagans and therefore fair game for enslavement. A study group of Islamic State scholars had convened, on government orders, to resolve this issue. If they are pagans, the article’s anonymous author wrote,
    Yazidi women and children [are to be] divided according to the Shariah amongst the fighters of the Islamic State who participated in the Sinjar operations [in northern Iraq] … Enslaving the families of the kuffar [infidels] and taking their women as concubines is a firmly established aspect of the Shariah that if one were to deny or mock, he would be denying or mocking the verses of the Koran and the narrations of the Prophet … and thereby apostatizing from Islam.
    II. Territory

    Tens of thousands of foreign Muslims are thought to have immigrated to the Islamic State. Recruits hail from France, the United Kingdom, Belgium, Germany, Holland, Australia, Indonesia, the United States, and many other places. Many have come to fight, and many intend to die.
    Peter R. Neumann, a professor at King’s College London, told me that online voices have been essential to spreading propaganda and ensuring that newcomers know what to believe. Online recruitment has also widened the demographics of the jihadist community, by allowing conservative Muslim women—physically isolated in their homes—to reach out to recruiters, radicalize, and arrange passage to Syria. Through its appeals to both genders, the Islamic State hopes to build a complete society.
    In November, I traveled to Australia to meet Musa Cerantonio, a 30-year-old man whom Neumann and other researchers had identified as one of the two most important “new spiritual authorities” guiding foreigners to join the Islamic State. For three years he was a televangelist on Iqraa TV in Cairo, but he left after the station objected to his frequent calls to establish a caliphate. Now he preaches on Facebook and Twitter.
    Cerantonio—a big, friendly man with a bookish demeanor—told me he blanches at beheading videos. He hates seeing the violence, even though supporters of the Islamic State are required to endorse it. (He speaks out, controversially among jihadists, against suicide bombing, on the grounds that God forbids suicide; he differs from the Islamic State on a few other points as well.) He has the kind of unkempt facial hair one sees on certain overgrown fans of The Lord of the Rings, and his obsession with Islamic apocalypticism felt familiar. He seemed to be living out a drama that looks, from an outsider’s perspective, like a medieval fantasy novel, only with real blood.
    Last June, Cerantonio and his wife tried to emigrate—he wouldn’t say to where (“It’s illegal to go to Syria,” he said cagily)—but they were caught en route, in the Philippines, and he was deported back to Australia for overstaying his visa. Australia has criminalized attempts to join or travel to the Islamic State, and has confiscated Cerantonio’s passport. He is stuck in Melbourne, where he is well known to the local constabulary. If Cerantonio were caught facilitating the movement of individuals to the Islamic State, he would be imprisoned. So far, though, he is free—a technically unaffiliated ideologue who nonetheless speaks with what other jihadists have taken to be a reliable voice on matters of the Islamic State’s doctrine.
    We met for lunch in Footscray, a dense, multicultural Melbourne suburb that’s home to Lonely Planet, the travel-guide publisher. Cerantonio grew up there in a half-Irish, half-Calabrian family. On a typical street one can find African restaurants, Vietnamese shops, and young Arabs walking around in the Salafi uniform of scraggly beard, long shirt, and trousers ending halfway down the calves.
    Cerantonio explained the joy he felt when Baghdadi was declared the caliph on June 29—and the sudden, magnetic attraction that Mesopotamia began to exert on him and his friends. “I was in a hotel [in the Philippines], and I saw the declaration on television,” he told me. “And I was just amazed, and I’m like, Why am I stuck here in this bloody room?
    The last caliphate was the Ottoman empire, which reached its peak in the 16th century and then experienced a long decline, until the founder of the Republic of Turkey, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, euthanized it in 1924. But Cerantonio, like many supporters of the Islamic State, doesn’t acknowledge that caliphate as legitimate, because it didn’t fully enforce Islamic law, which requires stonings and slavery and amputations, and because its caliphs were not descended from the tribe of the Prophet, the Quraysh.
    Baghdadi spoke at length of the importance of the caliphate in his Mosul sermon. He said that to revive the institution of the caliphate—which had not functioned except in name for about 1,000 years—was a communal obligation. He and his loyalists had “hastened to declare the caliphate and place an imam” at its head, he said. “This is a duty upon the Muslims—a duty that has been lost for centuries … The Muslims sin by losing it, and they must always seek to establish it.” Like bin Laden before him, Baghdadi spoke floridly, with frequent scriptural allusion and command of classical rhetoric. Unlike bin Laden, and unlike those false caliphs of the Ottoman empire, he is Qurayshi.
    The caliphate, Cerantonio told me, is not just a political entity but also a vehicle for salvation. Islamic State propaganda regularly reports the pledges of baya’a (allegiance) rolling in from jihadist groups across the Muslim world. Cerantonio quoted a Prophetic saying, that to die without pledging allegiance is to die jahil (ignorant) and therefore die a “death of disbelief.” Consider how Muslims (or, for that matter, Christians) imagine God deals with the souls of people who die without learning about the one true religion. They are neither obviously saved nor definitively condemned. Similarly, Cerantonio said, the Muslim who acknowledges one omnipotent god and prays, but who dies without pledging himself to a valid caliph and incurring the obligations of that oath, has failed to live a fully Islamic life. I pointed out that this means the vast majority of Muslims in history, and all who passed away between 1924 and 2014, died a death of disbelief. Cerantonio nodded gravely. “I would go so far as to say that Islam has been reestablished” by the caliphate.
    I asked him about his own baya’a, and he quickly corrected me: “I didn’t say that I’d pledged allegiance.” Under Australian law, he reminded me, giving baya’a to the Islamic State was illegal. “But I agree that [Baghdadi] fulfills the requirements,” he continued. “I’m just going to wink at you, and you take that to mean whatever you want.”
    To be the caliph, one must meet conditions outlined in Sunni law—being a Muslim adult man of Quraysh descent; exhibiting moral probity and physical and mental integrity; and having ’amr, or authority. This last criterion, Cerantonio said, is the hardest to fulfill, and requires that the caliph have territory in which he can enforce Islamic law. Baghdadi’s Islamic State achieved that long before June 29, Cerantonio said, and as soon as it did, a Western convert within the group’s ranks—Cerantonio described him as “something of a leader”—began murmuring about the religious obligation to declare a caliphate. He and others spoke quietly to those in power and told them that further delay would be sinful.
    Cerantonio said a faction arose that was prepared to make war on Baghdadi’s group if it delayed any further. They prepared a letter to various powerful members of ISIS, airing their displeasure at the failure to appoint a caliph, but were pacified by Adnani, the spokesman, who let them in on a secret—that a caliphate had already been declared, long before the public announcement. They had their legitimate caliph, and at that point there was only one option. “If he’s legitimate,” Cerantonio said, “you must give him the baya’a.”
    After Baghdadi’s July sermon, a stream of jihadists began flowing daily into Syria with renewed motivation. Jürgen Todenhöfer, a German author and former politician who visited the Islamic State in December, reported the arrival of 100 fighters at one Turkish-border recruitment station in just two days. His report, among others, suggests a still-steady inflow of foreigners, ready to give up everything at home for a shot at paradise in the worst place on Earth.
    Bernard Haykel, the foremost secular authority on the Islamic State’s ideology, believes the group is trying to re-create the earliest days of Islam and is faithfully reproducing its norms of war. “There is an assiduous, obsessive seriousness” about the group’s dedication to the text of the Koran, he says. (Peter Murphy)
    In London, a week before my meal with Cerantonio, I met with three ex-members of a banned Islamist group called Al Muhajiroun (The Emigrants): Anjem Choudary, Abu Baraa, and Abdul Muhid. They all expressed desire to emigrate to the Islamic State, as many of their colleagues already had, but the authorities had confiscated their passports. Like Cerantonio, they regarded the caliphate as the only righteous government on Earth, though none would confess having pledged allegiance. Their principal goal in meeting me was to explain what the Islamic State stands for, and how its policies reflect God’s law.
    Choudary, 48, is the group’s former leader. He frequently appears on cable news, as one of the few people producers can book who will defend the Islamic State vociferously, until his mike is cut. He has a reputation in the United Kingdom as a loathsome blowhard, but he and his disciples sincerely believe in the Islamic State and, on matters of doctrine, speak in its voice. Choudary and the others feature prominently in the Twitter feeds of Islamic State residents, and Abu Baraa maintains a YouTube channel to answer questions about Sharia.
    Since September, authorities have been investigating the three men on suspicion of supporting terrorism. Because of this investigation, they had to meet me separately: communication among them would have violated the terms of their bail. But speaking with them felt like speaking with the same person wearing different masks. Choudary met me in a candy shop in the East London suburb of Ilford. He was dressed smartly, in a crisp blue tunic reaching nearly to his ankles, and sipped a Red Bull while we talked.
    Before the caliphate, “maybe 85 percent of the Sharia was absent from our lives,” Choudary told me. “These laws are in abeyance until we have khilafa”—a caliphate—“and now we have one.” Without a caliphate, for example, individual vigilantes are not obliged to amputate the hands of thieves they catch in the act. But create a caliphate, and this law, along with a huge body of other jurisprudence, suddenly awakens. In theory, all Muslims are obliged to immigrate to the territory where the caliph is applying these laws. One of Choudary’s prize students, a convert from Hinduism named Abu Rumaysah, evaded police to bring his family of five from London to Syria in November. On the day I met Choudary, Abu Rumaysah tweeted out a picture of himself with a Kalashnikov in one arm and his newborn son in the other. Hashtag: #GenerationKhilafah.
    The caliph is required to implement Sharia. Any deviation will compel those who have pledged allegiance to inform the caliph in private of his error and, in extreme cases, to excommunicate and replace him if he persists. (“I have been plagued with this great matter, plagued with this responsibility, and it is a heavy responsibility,” Baghdadi said in his sermon.) In return, the caliph commands obedience—and those who persist in supporting non-Muslim governments, after being duly warned and educated about their sin, are considered apostates.
    Choudary said Sharia has been misunderstood because of its incomplete application by regimes such as Saudi Arabia, which does behead murderers and cut off thieves’ hands. “The problem,” he explained, “is that when places like Saudi Arabia just implement the penal code, and don’t provide the social and economic justice of the Sharia—the whole package—they simply engender hatred toward the Sharia.” That whole package, he said, would include free housing, food, and clothing for all, though of course anyone who wished to enrich himself with work could do so.
    Abdul Muhid, 32, continued along these lines. He was dressed in mujahideen chic when I met him at a local restaurant: scruffy beard, Afghan cap, and a wallet outside of his clothes, attached with what looked like a shoulder holster. When we sat down, he was eager to discuss welfare. The Islamic State may have medieval-style punishments for moral crimes (lashes for boozing or fornication, stoning for adultery), but its social-welfare program is, at least in some aspects, progressive to a degree that would please an MSNBC pundit. Health care, he said, is free. (“Isn’t it free in Britain, too?,” I asked. “Not really,” he said. “Some procedures aren’t covered, such as vision.”) This provision of social welfare was not, he said, a policy choice of the Islamic State, but a policy obligation inherent in God’s law.
    Anjem Choudary, London’s most notorious defender of the Islamic State, says crucifixion and beheading are sacred requirements. (Tal Cohen/Reuters)
    III. The Apocalypse

    All Muslims acknowledge that God is the only one who knows the future. But they also agree that he has offered us a peek at it, in the Koran and in narrations of the Prophet. The Islamic State differs from nearly every other current jihadist movement in believing that it is written into God’s script as a central character. It is in this casting that the Islamic State is most boldly distinctive from its predecessors, and clearest in the religious nature of its mission.
    In broad strokes, al-Qaeda acts like an underground political movement, with worldly goals in sight at all times—the expulsion of non-Muslims from the Arabian peninsula, the abolishment of the state of Israel, the end of support for dictatorships in Muslim lands. The Islamic State has its share of worldly concerns (including, in the places it controls, collecting garbage and keeping the water running), but the End of Days is a leitmotif of its propaganda. Bin Laden rarely mentioned the apocalypse, and when he did, he seemed to presume that he would be long dead when the glorious moment of divine comeuppance finally arrived. “Bin Laden and Zawahiri are from elite Sunni families who look down on this kind of speculation and think it’s something the masses engage in,” says Will McCants of the Brookings Institution, who is writing a book about the Islamic State’s apocalyptic thought.
    During the last years of the U.S. occupation of Iraq, the Islamic State’s immediate founding fathers, by contrast, saw signs of the end times everywhere. They were anticipating, within a year, the arrival of the Mahdi—a messianic figure destined to lead the Muslims to victory before the end of the world. McCants says a prominent Islamist in Iraq approached bin Laden in 2008 to warn him that the group was being led by millenarians who were “talking all the time about the Mahdi and making strategic decisions” based on when they thought the Mahdi was going to arrive. “Al-Qaeda had to write to [these leaders] to say ‘Cut it out.’ ”
    For certain true believers—the kind who long for epic good-versus-evil battles—visions of apocalyptic bloodbaths fulfill a deep psychological need. Of the Islamic State supporters I met, Musa Cerantonio, the Australian, expressed the deepest interest in the apocalypse and how the remaining days of the Islamic State—and the world—might look. Parts of that prediction are original to him, and do not yet have the status of doctrine. But other parts are based on mainstream Sunni sources and appear all over the Islamic State’s propaganda. These include the belief that there will be only 12 legitimate caliphs, and Baghdadi is the eighth; that the armies of Rome will mass to meet the armies of Islam in northern Syria; and that Islam’s final showdown with an anti-Messiah will occur in Jerusalem after a period of renewed Islamic conquest.
    The Islamic State has attached great importance to the Syrian city of Dabiq, near Aleppo. It named its propaganda magazine after the town, and celebrated madly when (at great cost) it conquered Dabiq’s strategically unimportant plains. It is here, the Prophet reportedly said, that the armies of Rome will set up their camp. The armies of Islam will meet them, and Dabiq will be Rome’s Waterloo or its Antietam.
    “Dabiq is basically all farmland,” one Islamic State supporter recently tweeted. “You could imagine large battles taking place there.” The Islamic State’s propagandists drool with anticipation of this event, and constantly imply that it will come soon. The state’s magazine quotes Zarqawi as saying, “The spark has been lit here in Iraq, and its heat will continue to intensify … until it burns the crusader armies in Dabiq.” A recent propaganda video shows clips from Hollywood war movies set in medieval times—perhaps because many of the prophecies specify that the armies will be on horseback or carrying ancient weapons.
    Now that it has taken Dabiq, the Islamic State awaits the arrival of an enemy army there, whose defeat will initiate the countdown to the apocalypse. Western media frequently miss references to Dabiq in the Islamic State’s videos, and focus instead on lurid scenes of beheading. “Here we are, burying the first American crusader in Dabiq, eagerly waiting for the remainder of your armies to arrive,” said a masked executioner in a November video, showing the severed head of Peter (Abdul Rahman) Kassig, the aid worker who’d been held captive for more than a year. During fighting in Iraq in December, after mujahideen (perhaps inaccurately) reported having seen American soldiers in battle, Islamic State Twitter accounts erupted in spasms of pleasure, like overenthusiastic hosts or hostesses upon the arrival of the first guests at a party.
    The Prophetic narration that foretells the Dabiq battle refers to the enemy as Rome. Who “Rome” is, now that the pope has no army, remains a matter of debate. But Cerantonio makes a case that Rome meant the Eastern Roman empire, which had its capital in what is now Istanbul. We should think of Rome as the Republic of Turkey—the same republic that ended the last self-identified caliphate, 90 years ago. Other Islamic State sources suggest that Rome might mean any infidel army, and the Americans will do nicely.
    After its battle in Dabiq, Cerantonio said, the caliphate will expand and sack Istanbul. Some believe it will then cover the entire Earth, but Cerantonio suggested its tide may never reach beyond the Bosporus. An anti-Messiah, known in Muslim apocalyptic literature as Dajjal, will come from the Khorasan region of eastern Iran and kill a vast number of the caliphate’s fighters, until just 5,000 remain, cornered in Jerusalem. Just as Dajjal prepares to finish them off, Jesus—the second-most-revered prophet in Islam—will return to Earth, spear Dajjal, and lead the Muslims to victory.
    “Only God knows” whether the Islamic State’s armies are the ones foretold, Cerantonio said. But he is hopeful. “The Prophet said that one sign of the imminent arrival of the End of Days is that people will for a long while stop talking about the End of Days,” he said. “If you go to the mosques now, you’ll find the preachers are silent about this subject.” On this theory, even setbacks dealt to the Islamic State mean nothing, since God has preordained the near-destruction of his people anyway. The Islamic State has its best and worst days ahead of it.
    Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was declared caliph by his followers last summer. The establishment of a caliphate awakened large sections of Koranic law that had lain dormant, and required those Muslims who recognized the caliphate to immigrate. (Associated Press)
    IV. The Fight

    The ideological purity of the Islamic State has one compensating virtue: it allows us to predict some of the group’s actions. Osama bin Laden was seldom predictable. He ended his first television interview cryptically. CNN’s Peter Arnett asked him, “What are your future plans?” Bin Laden replied, “You’ll see them and hear about them in the media, God willing.” By contrast, the Islamic State boasts openly about its plans—not all of them, but enough so that by listening carefully, we can deduce how it intends to govern and expand.
    In London, Choudary and his students provided detailed descriptions of how the Islamic State must conduct its foreign policy, now that it is a caliphate. It has already taken up what Islamic law refers to as “offensive jihad,” the forcible expansion into countries that are ruled by non-Muslims. “Hitherto, we were just defending ourselves,” Choudary said; without a caliphate, offensive jihad is an inapplicable concept. But the waging of war to expand the caliphate is an essential duty of the caliph.
    Choudary took pains to present the laws of war under which the Islamic State operates as policies of mercy rather than of brutality. He told me the state has an obligation to terrorize its enemies—a holy order to scare the shit out of them with beheadings and crucifixions and enslavement of women and children, because doing so hastens victory and avoids prolonged conflict.
    Choudary’s colleague Abu Baraa explained that Islamic law permits only temporary peace treaties, lasting no longer than a decade. Similarly, accepting any border is anathema, as stated by the Prophet and echoed in the Islamic State’s propaganda videos. If the caliph consents to a longer-term peace or permanent border, he will be in error. Temporary peace treaties are renewable, but may not be applied to all enemies at once: the caliph must wage jihad at least once a year. He may not rest, or he will fall into a state of sin.
    One comparison to the Islamic State is the Khmer Rouge, which killed about a third of the population of Cambodia. But the Khmer Rouge occupied Cambodia’s seat at the United Nations. “This is not permitted,” Abu Baraa said. “To send an ambassador to the UN is to recognize an authority other than God’s.” This form of diplomacy is shirk, or polytheism, he argued, and would be immediate cause to hereticize and replace Baghdadi. Even to hasten the arrival of a caliphate by democratic means—for example by voting for political candidates who favor a caliphate—is shirk.
    It’s hard to overstate how hamstrung the Islamic State will be by its radicalism. The modern international system, born of the 1648 Peace of Westphalia, relies on each state’s willingness to recognize borders, however grudgingly. For the Islamic State, that recognition is ideological suicide. Other Islamist groups, such as the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas, have succumbed to the blandishments of democracy and the potential for an invitation to the community of nations, complete with a UN seat. Negotiation and accommodation have worked, at times, for the Taliban as well. (Under Taliban rule, Afghanistan exchanged ambassadors with Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, and the United Arab Emirates, an act that invalidated the Taliban’s authority in the Islamic State’s eyes.) To the Islamic State these are not options, but acts of apostasy.
    The United States and its allies have reacted to the Islamic State belatedly and in an apparent daze. The group’s ambitions and rough strategic blueprints were evident in its pronouncements and in social-media chatter as far back as 2011, when it was just one of many terrorist groups in Syria and Iraq and hadn’t yet committed mass atrocities. Adnani, the spokesman, told followers then that the group’s ambition was to “restore the Islamic caliphate,” and he evoked the apocalypse, saying, “There are but a few days left.” Baghdadi had already styled himself “commander of the faithful,” a title ordinarily reserved for caliphs, in 2011. In April 2013, Adnani declared the movement “ready to redraw the world upon the Prophetic methodology of the caliphate.” In August 2013, he said, “Our goal is to establish an Islamic state that doesn’t recognize borders, on the Prophetic methodology.” By then, the group had taken Raqqa, a Syrian provincial capital of perhaps 500,000 people, and was drawing in substantial numbers of foreign fighters who’d heard its message.
    If we had identified the Islamic State’s intentions early, and realized that the vacuum in Syria and Iraq would give it ample space to carry them out, we might, at a minimum, have pushed Iraq to harden its border with Syria and preemptively make deals with its Sunnis. That would at least have avoided the electrifying propaganda effect created by the declaration of a caliphate just after the conquest of Iraq’s third-largest city. Yet, just over a year ago, Obama told The New Yorker that he considered ISIS to be al-Qaeda’s weaker partner. “If a jayvee team puts on Lakers uniforms that doesn’t make them Kobe Bryant,” the president said.
    Our failure to appreciate the split between the Islamic State and al-Qaeda, and the essential differences between the two, has led to dangerous decisions. Last fall, to take one example, the U.S. government consented to a desperate plan to save Peter Kassig’s life. The plan facilitated—indeed, required—the interaction of some of the founding figures of the Islamic State and al-Qaeda, and could hardly have looked more hastily improvised.
    It entailed the enlistment of Abu Muhammad al Maqdisi, the Zarqawi mentor and al-Qaeda grandee, to approach Turki al-Binali, the Islamic State’s chief ideologue and a former student of Maqdisi’s, even though the two men had fallen out due to Maqdisi’s criticism of the Islamic State. Maqdisi had already called for the state to extend mercy to Alan Henning, the British cabbie who had entered Syria to deliver aid to children. In December, The Guardian reported that the U.S. government, through an intermediary, had asked Maqdisi to intercede with the Islamic State on Kassig’s behalf.
    Maqdisi was living freely in Jordan, but had been banned from communicating with terrorists abroad, and was being monitored closely. After Jordan granted the United States permission to reintroduce Maqdisi to Binali, Maqdisi bought a phone with American money and was allowed to correspond merrily with his former student for a few days, before the Jordanian government stopped the chats and used them as a pretext to jail Maqdisi. Kassig’s severed head appeared in the Dabiq video a few days later.
    Maqdisi gets mocked roundly on Twitter by the Islamic State’s fans, and al‑Qaeda is held in great contempt for refusing to acknowledge the caliphate. Cole Bunzel, a scholar who studies Islamic State ideology, read Maqdisi’s opinion on Henning’s status and thought it would hasten his and other captives’ death. “If I were held captive by the Islamic State and Maqdisi said I shouldn’t be killed,” he told me, “I’d kiss my ass goodbye.”
    Kassig’s death was a tragedy, but the plan’s success would have been a bigger one. A reconciliation between Maqdisi and Binali would have begun to heal the main rift between the world’s two largest jihadist organizations. It’s possible that the government wanted only to draw out Binali for intelligence purposes or assassination. (Multiple attempts to elicit comment from the FBI were unsuccessful.) Regardless, the decision to play matchmaker for America’s two main terrorist antagonists reveals astonishingly poor judgment.
    Chastened by our earlier indifference, we are now meeting the Islamic State via Kurdish and Iraqi proxy on the battlefield, and with regular air assaults. Those strategies haven’t dislodged the Islamic State from any of its major territorial possessions, although they’ve kept it from directly assaulting Baghdad and Erbil and slaughtering Shia and Kurds there.
    Some observers have called for escalation, including several predictable voices from the interventionist right (Max Boot, Frederick Kagan), who have urged the deployment of tens of thousands of American soldiers. These calls should not be dismissed too quickly: an avowedly genocidal organization is on its potential victims’ front lawn, and it is committing daily atrocities in the territory it already controls.
    One way to un-cast the Islamic State’s spell over its adherents would be to overpower it militarily and occupy the parts of Syria and Iraq now under caliphate rule. Al‑Qaeda is ineradicable because it can survive, cockroach-like, by going underground. The Islamic State cannot. If it loses its grip on its territory in Syria and Iraq, it will cease to be a caliphate. Caliphates cannot exist as underground movements, because territorial authority is a requirement: take away its command of territory, and all those oaths of allegiance are no longer binding. Former pledges could of course continue to attack the West and behead their enemies, as freelancers. But the propaganda value of the caliphate would disappear, and with it the supposed religious duty to immigrate and serve it. If the United States were to invade, the Islamic State’s obsession with battle at Dabiq suggests that it might send vast resources there, as if in a conventional battle. If the state musters at Dabiq in full force, only to be routed, it might never recover.
    Abu Baraa, who maintains a YouTube channel about Islamic law, says the caliph, Baghdadi, cannot negotiate or recognize borders, and must continually make war, or he will remove himself from Islam.
    And yet the risks of escalation are enormous. The biggest proponent of an American invasion is the Islamic State itself. The provocative videos, in which a black-hooded executioner addresses President Obama by name, are clearly made to draw America into the fight. An invasion would be a huge propaganda victory for jihadists worldwide: irrespective of whether they have given baya’a to the caliph, they all believe that the United States wants to embark on a modern-day Crusade and kill Muslims. Yet another invasion and occupation would confirm that suspicion, and bolster recruitment. Add the incompetence of our previous efforts as occupiers, and we have reason for reluctance. The rise of ISIS, after all, happened only because our previous occupation created space for Zarqawi and his followers. Who knows the consequences of another botched job?
    Given everything we know about the Islamic State, continuing to slowly bleed it, through air strikes and proxy warfare, appears the best of bad military options. Neither the Kurds nor the Shia will ever subdue and control the whole Sunni heartland of Syria and Iraq—they are hated there, and have no appetite for such an adventure anyway. But they can keep the Islamic State from fulfilling its duty to expand. And with every month that it fails to expand, it resembles less the conquering state of the Prophet Muhammad than yet another Middle Eastern government failing to bring prosperity to its people.
    The humanitarian cost of the Islamic State’s existence is high. But its threat to the United States is smaller than its all too frequent conflation with al-Qaeda would suggest. Al-Qaeda’s core is rare among jihadist groups for its focus on the “far enemy” (the West); most jihadist groups’ main concerns lie closer to home. That’s especially true of the Islamic State, precisely because of its ideology. It sees enemies everywhere around it, and while its leadership wishes ill on the United States, the application of Sharia in the caliphate and the expansion to contiguous lands are paramount. Baghdadi has said as much directly: in November he told his Saudi agents to “deal with the rafida [Shia] first … then al-Sulul [Sunni supporters of the Saudi monarchy] … before the crusaders and their bases.”
    The foreign fighters (and their wives and children) have been traveling to the caliphate on one-way tickets: they want to live under true Sharia, and many want martyrdom. Doctrine, recall, requires believers to reside in the caliphate if it is at all possible for them to do so. One of the Islamic State’s less bloody videos shows a group of jihadists burning their French, British, and Australian passports. This would be an eccentric act for someone intending to return to blow himself up in line at the Louvre or to hold another chocolate shop hostage in Sydney.
    A few “lone wolf” supporters of the Islamic State have attacked Western targets, and more attacks will come. But most of the attackers have been frustrated amateurs, unable to immigrate to the caliphate because of confiscated passports or other problems. Even if the Islamic State cheers these attacks—and it does in its propaganda—it hasn’t yet planned and financed one. (The Charlie Hebdo attack in Paris in January was principally an al‑Qaeda operation.) During his visit to Mosul in December, Jürgen Todenhöfer interviewed a portly German jihadist and asked whether any of his comrades had returned to Europe to carry out attacks. The jihadist seemed to regard returnees not as soldiers but as dropouts. “The fact is that the returnees from the Islamic State should repent from their return,” he said. “I hope they review their religion.”
    Properly contained, the Islamic State is likely to be its own undoing. No country is its ally, and its ideology ensures that this will remain the case. The land it controls, while expansive, is mostly uninhabited and poor. As it stagnates or slowly shrinks, its claim that it is the engine of God’s will and the agent of apocalypse will weaken, and fewer believers will arrive. And as more reports of misery within it leak out, radical Islamist movements elsewhere will be discredited: No one has tried harder to implement strict Sharia by violence. This is what it looks like.
    Even so, the death of the Islamic State is unlikely to be quick, and things could still go badly wrong: if the Islamic State obtained the allegiance of al‑Qaeda—increasing, in one swoop, the unity of its base—it could wax into a worse foe than we’ve yet seen. The rift between the Islamic State and al-Qaeda has, if anything, grown in the past few months; the December issue of Dabiq featured a long account of an al‑Qaeda defector who described his old group as corrupt and ineffectual, and Zawahiri as a distant and unfit leader. But we should watch carefully for a rapprochement.
    Without a catastrophe such as this, however, or perhaps the threat of the Islamic State’s storming Erbil, a vast ground invasion would certainly make the situation worse.
    V. Dissuasion

    It would be facile, even exculpatory, to call the problem of the Islamic State “a problem with Islam.” The religion allows many interpretations, and Islamic State supporters are morally on the hook for the one they choose. And yet simply denouncing the Islamic State as un-Islamic can be counterproductive, especially if those who hear the message have read the holy texts and seen the endorsement of many of the caliphate’s practices written plainly within them.
    Muslims can say that slavery is not legitimate now, and that crucifixion is wrong at this historical juncture. Many say precisely this. But they cannot condemn slavery or crucifixion outright without contradicting the Koran and the example of the Prophet. “The only principled ground that the Islamic State’s opponents could take is to say that certain core texts and traditional teachings of Islam are no longer valid,” Bernard Haykel says. That really would be an act of apostasy.
    The Islamic State’s ideology exerts powerful sway over a certain subset of the population. Life’s hypocrisies and inconsistencies vanish in its face. Musa Cerantonio and the Salafis I met in London are unstumpable: no question I posed left them stuttering. They lectured me garrulously and, if one accepts their premises, convincingly. To call them un-Islamic appears, to me, to invite them into an argument that they would win. If they had been froth-spewing maniacs, I might be able to predict that their movement would burn out as the psychopaths detonated themselves or became drone-splats, one by one. But these men spoke with an academic precision that put me in mind of a good graduate seminar. I even enjoyed their company, and that frightened me as much as anything else.
    Non-muslims cannot tell Muslims how to practice their religion properly. But Muslims have long since begun this debate within their own ranks. “You have to have standards,” Anjem Choudary told me. “Somebody could claim to be a Muslim, but if he believes in homosexuality or drinking alcohol, then he is not a Muslim. There is no such thing as a nonpracticing vegetarian.”
    There is, however, another strand of Islam that offers a hard-line alternative to the Islamic State—just as uncompromising, but with opposite conclusions. This strand has proved appealing to many Muslims cursed or blessed with a psychological longing to see every jot and tittle of the holy texts implemented as they were in the earliest days of Islam. Islamic State supporters know how to react to Muslims who ignore parts of the Koran: with takfir and ridicule. But they also know that some other Muslims read the Koran as assiduously as they do, and pose a real ideological threat.
    Baghdadi is Salafi. The term Salafi has been villainized, in part because authentic villains have ridden into battle waving the Salafi banner. But most Salafis are not jihadists, and most adhere to sects that reject the Islamic State. They are, as Haykel notes, committed to expanding Dar al-Islam, the land of Islam, even, perhaps, with the implementation of monstrous practices such as slavery and amputation—but at some future point. Their first priority is personal purification and religious observance, and they believe anything that thwarts those goals—such as causing war or unrest that would disrupt lives and prayer and scholarship—is forbidden.
    They live among us. Last fall, I visited the Philadelphia mosque of Breton Pocius, 28, a Salafi imam who goes by the name Abdullah. His mosque is on the border between the crime-ridden Northern Liberties neighborhood and a gentrifying area that one might call Dar al-Hipster; his beard allows him to pass in the latter zone almost unnoticed.
    Pocius converted 15 years ago after a Polish Catholic upbringing in Chicago. Like Cerantonio, he talks like an old soul, exhibiting deep familiarity with ancient texts, and a commitment to them motivated by curiosity and scholarship, and by a conviction that they are the only way to escape hellfire. When I met him at a local coffee shop, he carried a work of Koranic scholarship in Arabic and a book for teaching himself Japanese. He was preparing a sermon on the obligations of fatherhood for the 150 or so worshipers in his Friday congregation.
    Pocius said his main goal is to encourage a halal life for worshipers in his mosque. But the rise of the Islamic State has forced him to consider political questions that are usually very far from the minds of Salafis. “Most of what they’ll say about how to pray and how to dress is exactly what I’ll say in my masjid [mosque]. But when they get to questions about social upheaval, they sound like Che Guevara.”
    When Baghdadi showed up, Pocius adopted the slogan “Not my khalifa.” “The times of the Prophet were a time of great bloodshed,” he told me, “and he knew that the worst possible condition for all people was chaos, especially within the umma [Muslim community].” Accordingly, Pocius said, the correct attitude for Salafis is not to sow discord by factionalizing and declaring fellow Muslims apostates.
    Instead, Pocius—like a majority of Salafis—believes that Muslims should remove themselves from politics. These quietist Salafis, as they are known, agree with the Islamic State that God’s law is the only law, and they eschew practices like voting and the creation of political parties. But they interpret the Koran’s hatred of discord and chaos as requiring them to fall into line with just about any leader, including some manifestly sinful ones. “The Prophet said: as long as the ruler does not enter into clear kufr [disbelief], give him general obedience,” Pocius told me, and the classic “books of creed” all warn against causing social upheaval. Quietist Salafis are strictly forbidden from dividing Muslims from one another—for example, by mass excommunication. Living without baya’a, Pocius said, does indeed make one ignorant, or benighted. But baya’a need not mean direct allegiance to a caliph, and certainly not to Abu Bakr al‑Baghdadi. It can mean, more broadly, allegiance to a religious social contract and commitment to a society of Muslims, whether ruled by a caliph or not.
    Quietist Salafis believe that Muslims should direct their energies toward perfecting their personal life, including prayer, ritual, and hygiene. Much in the same way ultra-Orthodox Jews debate whether it’s kosher to tear off squares of toilet paper on the Sabbath (does that count as “rending cloth”?), they spend an inordinate amount of time ensuring that their trousers are not too long, that their beards are trimmed in some areas and shaggy in others. Through this fastidious observance, they believe, God will favor them with strength and numbers, and perhaps a caliphate will arise. At that moment, Muslims will take vengeance and, yes, achieve glorious victory at Dabiq. But Pocius cites a slew of modern Salafi theologians who argue that a caliphate cannot come into being in a righteous way except through the unmistakable will of God.
    The Islamic State, of course, would agree, and say that God has anointed Baghdadi. Pocius’s retort amounts to a call to humility. He cites Abdullah Ibn Abbas, one of the Prophet’s companions, who sat down with dissenters and asked them how they had the gall, as a minority, to tell the majority that it was wrong. Dissent itself, to the point of bloodshed or splitting the umma, was forbidden. Even the manner of the establishment of Baghdadi’s caliphate runs contrary to expectation, he said. “The khilafa is something that Allah is going to establish,” he told me, “and it will involve a consensus of scholars from Mecca and Medina. That is not what happened. ISIS came out of nowhere.”
    The Islamic State loathes this talk, and its fanboys tweet derisively about quietist Salafis. They mock them as “Salafis of menstruation,” for their obscure judgments about when women are and aren’t clean, and other low-priority aspects of life. “What we need now is fatwa about how it’s haram [forbidden] to ride a bike on Jupiter,” one tweeted drily. “That’s what scholars should focus on. More pressing than state of Ummah.” Anjem Choudary, for his part, says that no sin merits more vigorous opposition than the usurpation of God’s law, and that extremism in defense of monotheism is no vice.
    Pocius doesn’t court any kind of official support from the United States, as a counterweight to jihadism. Indeed, official support would tend to discredit him, and in any case he is bitter toward America for treating him, in his words, as “less than a citizen.” (He alleges that the government paid spies to infiltrate his mosque and harassed his mother at work with questions about his being a potential terrorist.)
    Still, his quietist Salafism offers an Islamic antidote to Baghdadi-style jihadism. The people who arrive at the faith spoiling for a fight cannot all be stopped from jihadism, but those whose main motivation is to find an ultraconservative, uncompromising version of Islam have an alternative here. It is not moderate Islam; most Muslims would consider it extreme. It is, however, a form of Islam that the literal-minded would not instantly find hypocritical, or blasphemously purged of its inconveniences. Hypocrisy is not a sin that ideologically minded young men tolerate well.
    Western officials would probably do best to refrain from weighing in on matters of Islamic theological debate altogether. Barack Obama himself drifted into takfiri waters when he claimed that the Islamic State was “not Islamic”—the irony being that he, as the non-Muslim son of a Muslim, may himself be classified as an apostate, and yet is now practicing takfir against Muslims. Non-Muslims’ practicing takfir elicits chuckles from jihadists (“Like a pig covered in feces giving hygiene advice to others,” one tweeted).
    I suspect that most Muslims appreciated Obama’s sentiment: the president was standing with them against both Baghdadi and non-Muslim chauvinists trying to implicate them in crimes. But most Muslims aren’t susceptible to joining jihad. The ones who are susceptible will only have had their suspicions confirmed: the United States lies about religion to serve its purposes.
    Within the narrow bounds of its theology, the Islamic State hums with energy, even creativity. Outside those bounds, it could hardly be more arid and silent: a vision of life as obedience, order, and destiny. Musa Cerantonio and Anjem Choudary could mentally shift from contemplating mass death and eternal torture to discussing the virtues of Vietnamese coffee or treacly pastry, with apparent delight in each, yet to me it seemed that to embrace their views would be to see all the flavors of this world grow insipid compared with the vivid grotesqueries of the hereafter.
    I could enjoy their company, as a guilty intellectual exercise, up to a point. In reviewing Mein Kampf in March 1940, George Orwell confessed that he had “never been able to dislike Hitler”; something about the man projected an underdog quality, even when his goals were cowardly or loathsome. “If he were killing a mouse he would know how to make it seem like a dragon.” The Islamic State’s partisans have much the same allure. They believe that they are personally involved in struggles beyond their own lives, and that merely to be swept up in the drama, on the side of righteousness, is a privilege and a pleasure—especially when it is also a burden.
    Fascism, Orwell continued, is
    psychologically far sounder than any hedonistic conception of life … Whereas Socialism, and even capitalism in a more grudging way, have said to people “I offer you a good time,” Hitler has said to them, “I offer you struggle, danger, and death,” and as a result a whole nation flings itself at his feet … We ought not to underrate its emotional appeal.
    Nor, in the case of the Islamic State, its religious or intellectual appeal. That the Islamic State holds the imminent fulfillment of prophecy as a matter of dogma at least tells us the mettle of our opponent. It is ready to cheer its own near-obliteration, and to remain confident, even when surrounded, that it will receive divine succor if it stays true to the Prophetic model. Ideological tools may convince some potential converts that the group’s message is false, and military tools can limit its horrors. But for an organization as impervious to persuasion as the Islamic State, few measures short of these will matter, and the war may be a long one, even if it doesn’t last until the end of time.
    Libertatem Prius!


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    Default Re: Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham - ISIS - GRAPHIC PG. 15

    3 arrested in New York City for allegedly conspiring to support ISIS

    By Edmund DeMarche
    FoxNews.com




    Three New York City residents -- two with Uzbekistan citizenship, and one a citizen of Kazakhstan -- plotted to travel to Syria to join ISIS militants and 'wage jihad,' the Justice Department announced on Wednesday.
    One of the defendants also offered to kill the president of the United States if ordered to do so, the criminal complaint alleged.
    The men were identified in the complaint as Abdurasul Hasanovich Juraboev, 24, a resident of Brooklyn and a citizen of Uzbekistan; Akhror Saidakhmetov, 19, a resident of Brooklyn and a citizen of Kazakhstan; and Abror Habibov, 30, a resident of Brooklyn and a citizen of Uzbekistan.
    Federal prosecutors say two of the men came to the attention of law enforcement last summer after they expressed online support for the groups. Hilofatnews.com was an Uzbek-language website that called for readers to join the terror group, the complaint said. Authorities were able to link Juraboev to the post, the complaint said.
    In August, federal agents met with Juraboev and he spoke of his hopes of fighting with the terror group in Iraq or Syria, the complaint said. He also allegedly mentioned to the agents that he hoped to harm President Obama because of 'Allah.'
    Saidakhmetov was arrested early Wednesday at John F. Kennedy International Airport as he tried to board a plane headed to Istanbul, authorities said. Juraboev had plane tickets for March 29 and Habibov helped fund Saidakhmetov's trip, the complaint said.
    Authorities have a recorded conversation where Saidakhmetov expressed interest in joining the U.S. military, the complaint said. He allegedly said he could offer information to Islamic militants or open fire on American troops to kill as many as possible.
    According to the complaint, Saidakhmetov was recorded in January saying, "I will just go and buy a machine gun, AK-47, go out and shoot all police."
    The two had hopes of joining the terror group and--if their travel plans were dashed-- had intentions to commit terror in the U.S., the complaint said. Saidakhmetov--if prevented from joining the terror group-- wanted to purchase a machine gun and shoot law enforcement, the complaint said.
    Saidakhmetov allegedly said, "It is legal in America to carry a gun. We will go and purchase one handgun...then go and shoot one police officer...Boom...Then we will take his gun, bullets and a bulletproof vest...then we will do the same with a couple others. Then we will go to the FBI headquarters, kill the FBI people..."
    They were officially charged with conspiracy to provide material support to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). If convicted, each defendant faces a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison.
    The three are expected to appear in court today.
    "We will vigorously prosecute those who attempt to travel to Syria to wage violent jihad on behalf of ISIL and those who support them," U.S. Attorney Loretta E. Lynch said in a statement. "Anyone who threatens our citizens and our allies, here or abroad, will face the full force of American justice."
    Reuters reported that there are ISIS-related investigations in all 50 states.
    Libertatem Prius!


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    Default Re: Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham - ISIS - GRAPHIC PG. 15

    Americans are being warned in Amman, Jordon.

    Watch out. ISIS is planning to kill Americans there in malls and other locations.
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    Default Re: Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham - ISIS - GRAPHIC PG. 15

    Prediction....

    Iraq will invade the area in the Spring.
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    Default Re: Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham - ISIS - GRAPHIC PG. 15

    From Muhammad to ISIS: Iraq’s Full Story

    By Tim Urban



    If you’re not sure what Odd Things in Odd Places is and why I’m in Iraq by myself, here’s why.
    _______________
    On the morning of Saturday, August 2nd, I got in a taxi in Erbil, the regional capital of Kurdish Iraq, and asked the driver to take me to the Khazir refugee camp.
    This was a scary-ish thing to do.
    The “scary” part is a result of the fact that the Khazir camp is outside of the borders of the somewhat autonomous Kurdish region, one of the only secure parts of the country.
    The “ish”part comes from the fact that the Khazir camp, though outside of Kurdish borders, is still in an area currently controlled by the Peshmerga—the Kurdish army.
    Iraq has been a scary place for a while now, for a number of reasons, but it’s currently scary in italics because of the terrorist group we’ve all gotten to know about in the past three months—ISIS.

    So, the cab driver, myself, and our two constricted assholes headed west towards Khazir.
    After about 45 minutes, we crossed the checkpoint that meant we were leaving the Kurdish region, and a few minutes later, right when my phone’s blue dot was starting to get just close enough to Mosul for my liking, I looked out the car’s right window and saw the camp:



    We pulled in, spent a bunch of time convincing the camp officials and ourselves that I was a journalist, and eventually I was allowed in.
    I didn’t have a plan, exactly, so I started walking through the long lines of tents, noting that the 118°F (48°C) temperature I had been suffering through all week must be almost lethal here, where the only escape was in a tent.



    After a few minutes, I met a man named Kamil who spoke some English, and he invited me into his family’s tent. After talking with him a bit, I learned that it was actually a few families’ tent, and that there were 12 people living in it—five adults and seven children. There was electricity enough for a TV and a fan, and most of the mattresses were stacked on the side.



    He told me that 12 people to a tent was common at the camp, and mentioned that his tent was actually about to move to 13, gesturing toward one of the women living there who was thoroughly pregnant.
    Kamil was from Mosul, like everyone at the camp. Mosul is Iraq’s second largest city, only 30 miles west of the camp—and as of June 9th, an ISIS stronghold. After taking over, one of the first orders of business for ISIS was rounding up government workers for execution. Kamil, a police officer, was lucky to get out with his family before they got to him. When I asked him if he thought he’d return to Mosul at some point, he shook his head and said, “Fuck Mosul.”
    As soon as he learned that I was going to be writing about my time in Iraq, he led me out of the tent to join him on a special Oh Okay Then I Want to Show You Exactly How Upsetting Everything Here Is So You Can Write About It and Tell Everyone Tour.
    He walked me past the communal tap for drinking water, and said people used that water to clean themselves too, having not seen a shower since they arrived.



    He showed me multiple babies that had been born at the camp.



    We popped into a bunch of different tents, one whose fan had been stolen (remember that it’s 118°), and another that had 15 people living in it. He showed me where the shared toilets drain out into a system that flows openly through the camp. He told me that a lot of the families didn’t have enough food and that people were getting sick more and more often and remaining untreated. And these were all people who two months earlier were living their normal lives in their normal homes. Remember the time I complained about anything? That was dumb.
    When Kamil introduced me to a man whose two brothers had been executed by ISIS, I assumed that had to be the tour’s horrifying grand finale, but he wasn’t done yet. He brought me into another tent where he introduced me to a woman living there, explaining to her that I was his new writer friend. Without missing a beat, she handed me these:



    Whatever I was holding, it was something bad, and I didn’t want to ask what it was. I asked. He pointed across the tent to a little boy and explained that I was holding part of his skull.
    The boy was an eight-year-old named Mohammad. Their family’s house had been bombed in the middle of the night during the first days of the ISIS takeover and subsequent Iraqi government airstrikes. I never learned why or if they were specifically targeted. But the end result was that this healthy little eight-year-old—



    —was now this brain-damaged, partially deaf, blind in one eye eight-year-old with digestive difficulties:



    The goal of this post will be to understand why this sickening thing happened to this little boy—to really understand what’s going on in that country—better than you do now.
    And if we really want to wrap our head around things, we have to start way, way back—in 570 AD.
    _______________
    Ingredient 1: An Ancient Schism
    In 570, a long-named baby was born to a prominent family in Mecca, a city on the west coast of what is currently Saudi Arabia—Abū al-Qāsim Muḥammad ibn ʿAbd Allāh ibn ʿAbd al-Muṭṭalib ibn Hāshim. Today he’s just known as Muhammad.1 ← click this
    Muhammad never had a father—his father died six months before his birth—and his mother died when he was six years old.2 ← again again
    After the death of his mother, Muhammad lived with his grandfather, and when he died two years later, Muhammad was transferred to his uncle, a merchant. With his uncle as his mentor, Muhammad became a merchant himself. Not too much is known about Muhammad’s young adult years, but one thing we’re pretty sure of is that he married a 40-year-old widow named Khadijah when he was 25 (he’d have multiple more wives later in his life). They would go on to have four daughters and two sons, only one of whom survived into full adulthood—his daughter Fatimah.
    It wasn’t until Muhammad was 40 that his life started getting strange. He had gotten into the habit of going up to a mountain every year for a couple weeks to be alone, meditate, and pray. It was on one of these solo retreats in 610 AD that Muhammad was for the first time visited by the angel Gabriel.3 As the story goes, Gabriel recited messages to Muhammad that were directly from God, which Muhammad memorized. Over the years, Gabriel would continue to visit Muhammad with messages, Muhammad continued to commit them to memory, and later, he would recite the memories to his followers, who would then write them down, and that became the Quran.
    Three years after the first visit from Gabriel, in 613, Muhammad began preaching the messages to the public, in his hometown of Mecca. This did not go well. At the time, Mecca was largely made up of polytheistic tribes who worshipped nature-related gods and goddesses, and one of Muhammad’s main messages was that there was one god and any idols to other gods should be destroyed, which was awkward for everybody. People started reacting violently to Muhammad’s growing influence, killing some of his followers, and they may have killed Muhammad too had he not belonged to a fancy family. But in 622, when Muhammad learned of an assassination plot against him, he and his followers decided to bail on Mecca and head to the nearby city of Medina. This journey is called the Hijra in Muslim tradition and it’s celebrated on the first day of the Muslim year.
    Muhammad and his followers would spend the next eight years fighting off attempts to destroy them from Mecca and other places, and often being ruthless themselves with those who posed a threat to Islam or refused to convert. The thing a lot of people don’t know is that in addition to being a spiritual leader, Muhammad was, in essence, the general of an army of followers and a tremendously effective strategist in growing and holding on to his leadership position in the face of lots of hostile competition.
    Things came to a head in 625 when the Meccans, who were increasingly losing prestige and support as Muhammad’s following continued to grow, launched an attack on Medina and defeated the Muslims. But five years later, Muhammad and a 10,000 man army marched into Mecca and conquered it for good. By the time Muhammad died in 632, Islam had spread through the whole Arabian Peninsula.
    The Muslim World Splits
    The new Muslim world enjoyed 20 years of internal unity until Muhammad died, and then that was the end of that, forever.
    The problem is that Muhammad didn’t appoint a successor before he died, or if he did, he didn’t get the word out to everyone. And because he had no living sons, there was no obvious answer. Here’s what happened:
    Group A thought that Muhammad wanted the elite members of the Muslim community to choose a fitting leader, or caliph, and whenever that caliph died, the elite would choose the next leader, and so on. And Group A decided a great first caliph to succeed Muhammad would be the father of one of Muhammad’s wives, Abu Bakr (we’ll call him Abu).
    Group B disagreed. They thought Muhammad would have told them that only God can choose the successor to lead the Muslim world, and that could only happen by keeping things in the family. To them, all signs pointed to Muhammad’s cousin and the husband of his daughter Fatimah, Ali ibn Abi Talib (Ali).
    Group A was bigger and it won.
    So father-in-law Abu took over as Caliph, while son-in-law Ali watched from the sidelines and Group B seethed.
    When Abu died of illness two years after taking over, another friend of Muhammad’s, Umar, took over, having been appointed by Abu before his death. Umar ruled for ten years before he was assassinated by the Persians he had just conquered. Abu had also appointed Umar’s successor, Uthman, who ruled for 12 years before he was assassinated. All the while, Group B is helpless and frustrated.
    But then, the elite decided the next and fourth caliph should be Ali—Group B’s original guy—and for two seconds, everyone was happy.
    Five years later, Ali was assassinated, and when his eldest son Hassan became the fifth caliph, he was quickly overpowered by an aggressive rebel force led by Muawiyah, who coerced Hassan out of power and became the sixth caliph—and Group A and Group B would never reconcile again. While Muawiyah was the first of a long dynasty of caliphs, Group B tells a different story. To them, the leaders are more special than merely elected caliphs—they’re divinely chosen imams, and the way they see it, after an annoying three-caliph delay, their first imam was finally in power when Ali got the job. His eldest son Hassan was their second imam, and when Muawiyah kicked him out, Group B threw their support behind Ali’s younger son, Husayn—their third imam.
    Husayn, Group B’s third imam, ended up being beheaded by Yazid, Group A’s seventh caliph (Muawiyah’s successor), and so Group B moved onto Husayn’s son as their fourth imam, while Group A continued to ignore Group B and support their caliphs.
    This was over 1300 years ago, and yet today’s Muslim world is still completely divided over it, and so much of today’s Middle East strife is centered around this ancient split.
    Group A are Sunnis and Group B are Shias.
    Today’s Sunni-Shia tensions are about a lot of things, but at their very core is what happened in the 7th century. Sunni Muslims believe in their line of caliphs, and don’t believe them to be chosen by God, and Shia Muslims reject the first three caliphs and instead believe in the line of divinely-chosen imams starting with Ali, revering in particular Ali4 and his son and the third imam, Husayn. Both sects agree that Muhammad is the final prophet, both follow the Five Pillars of Islam, and both view the Quran as the holy book—but Shia are less unquestionably accepting of the Quran in its entirety, because they believe certain parts were recounted by people other than the imams.
    Here’s a chart to help clear up all of this confusion:
    None of this stopped the early caliphs from conquering an insane amount of the world—by 750, just 140 years after Muhammad’s first revelation, the Muslim world had expanded its reach to a large portion of where it exists today.56



    But as Islam swept the Earth, this early schism only deepened—it was here to stay.
    Ingredient 2: Straight Lines
    The land of Iraq has the coolest nickname of any land anywhere—The Cradle of Civilization—and for good reason. Ancient Iraqi history is as impressive as it gets. In particular, the fertile strip of Iraq in between the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers known as Mesopotamia is often credited with the birth of writing (cuneiform), the invention of the wheel, some of the earliest sailboats, calendars, maps, schools, and the origin of the 60-minute hour and 60-second minute.7 3,000 years later, when Alexander the Great conquered half the world, he chose that land to be his capital, selecting Babylon in particular for its treasures and its critical location between Europe and Asia. 1,000 years after that, the head of the great Abbasid Muslim dynasty built Baghdad on the same land to be the capital of the vast Muslim world, and for the next 500 years (until the Mongols stomped on it), Baghdad reigned as a world hub of learning and commerce and for a time, was the world’s largest city. There may be nowhere in the world with a history as rich as the land of Iraq.
    The nation of Iraq, on the other hand, was created by two dicks with a pencil and ruler, and its history is mostly unpleasant.
    By the beginning of the 20th century, the land of Iraq had been part of the Ottoman Empire for 400 years.8 There were several ethnic and religious groups on the land, left mostly free to keep to themselves and separate from the others. But when Germany and Co. took on France, Britain, and Russia in World War I, the Ottoman Empire elected to be part of the “and Co.”, which left them ultimately on the losing side. Bye bye Ottoman Empire.
    During the war, Mark Sykes of Britain and François Georges-Picot of France got together with a pencil, a ruler, and a bottle of whiskey, and took to the map, carving the Ottoman Empire into nations and determining where their two nations and Russia would get to have spheres of influence after the war if they won.9
    Regarding the whole “several ethnic and religious groups” thing and the natural boundaries of separation that had developed between them over centuries, George-Picot famously remarked, “Whatevs,” and with pencil in hand, Sykes is quoted as saying, “I should like to draw a line from the e in Acre to the last k in Kirkuk.”10 Here’s what they came up with:11


    The thing about creating borders using a map, pencil, and ruler, is that it’s a terrible way to create borders. If you look at organically-created borders around the world—those that were formed over time by the local populations, based usually on ethnic and religious divisions, and often demarcated by mountains, rivers, or other natural barriers—they’re squiggly and messy. What’s a clear and satisfying straight-line-on-a-map border for imperial powers trying to keep things clean and simple for themselves is a complete disaster on the ground across the world where the actual place is.
    When borders are drawn this way, two bad things happen: 1) Single ethnic or religious groups are sliced apart into separate countries, and 2) Different and often unfriendly groups are shoved into a nation together and told to share resources, get along, and bond together over national pride for a just-made-up nation—which inevitably leads to one group taking power and oppressing the others, resulting in bloody rebellions, coups, and sectarian violence. This isn’t that complicated.12
    But since it wasn’t really their problem, Sykes and George-Picot just went ahead with it, and over the next few years, precise new borders were drawn, giving birth to modern day Iraq, Turkey, Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, and Kuwait. Here was Iraq’s new situation:



    Can’t see why there’d be any issue here.
    A Tight Lid
    For any of you readers considering creating a new, tense nation of ethnic and religious groups who don’t like each other, I’ve been researching this shit all month and I have advice for you:
    Your new nation is like a bubbling soup inside a pressure cooker and it’s gonna spew itself all over the kitchen unless you have one critical thing that can keep things in order: a tight lid.
    The nation version of a tight lid can be either a strong western occupying power or an iron fist dictator with a scary military machine at his whim—without one of these, your nation will fall apart.13 Email me if you have any questions.14
    The new nation of Iraq combined Ingredient 1 (Sunni and Shia Arabs living in the same area) with Ingredient 2 (a border that forces them into a nation together, along with a large group of Kurds) to create a tense pressure cooker.
    Things were hot from the beginning, when the new Iraqis revolted against the British occupation in 1920. The British acted as a lid and crushed the revolt. After Iraq achieved independence and the British lid left, a series of military commanders took over the lid duties, stomping a number of revolts and killing each other in coups from time to time. In 1968, the Sunni Ba’ath Party took over, under the leadership of new president Ahmed Hassan al-Bakr and his ambitious vice president and general, Saddam Hussein.
    By 1979, Saddam’s influence had grown to the point where he was kind of running the show, and finally he went to al-Bakr and was like, “You know what two cool things are? Murder and retirement. Ya know? I thought maybe you’d want one of those? And you could choose?” and al-Bakr stepped down, bringing Saddam Hussein, the tightest lid of them all, to power.
    A lot of things sucked about the 24 year rule of Saddam. He started off in typical dictator fashion, calling together all the senior ranking members of government, and then reading out the names of those who were thought to be disloyal, 22 of whom were later taken out back and shot. He all but legalized “honor killings”—i.e. the tradition sometimes found in places run by Sharia Law whereby a man may kill a female relative if she dishonors her family, often without facing criminal charges. And he gave the world Uday Hussein.15
    But Saddam’s worst crimes happened during the wars he started and their aftermath.
    Worried that the 1979 Islamic revolution in Iran would inspire rebellion in Iraq’s large Shia majority, Saddam launched into the eight-year Iran-Iraq War, which killed over 100,000 Iraqis.16 Iraq’s Kurds, who have never wanted to be a part of Iraq, seized the opportunity in the chaos to try to form their own autonomous country, at times receiving support from the Iranians. The attempt failed, and toward the end of the war, Saddam embarked on the al-Anfal Campaign, a systematic genocide of the Kurdish north. One of the worst moments came in 1988, just as the war was winding down, when residents of the city Halabja were overcome by the smell of sweet apples after war planes flew by overhead, and then people and animals started dropping dead all over the city from gas poisoning. The gassing caused more deaths than 9/11. The entire al-Anfal campaign killed between 50,000 and 180,000 Kurds.
    While we’re here, let’s pause for a second and talk about the Kurds.
    The Iraqi Kurdistan Blue Box
    This whole post was supposed to be about Iraqi Kurdistan, the Kurdish region in northeastern Iraq. But when I decided to go another direction, Kurdistan got left out. As a consolation, Kurdistan is being featured in Wait But Why’s first ever blue “aside” box (if you don’t see a blue box, try clearing your cache). Here are some things about Kurdistan:

    • Let’s start by clearing one thing up: The Kurds are an ethnic group, like the Arabs. Kurds are a number of religions, but most of them are Sunni Muslims. So when people talk about Iraq’s groups and they say “Sunni, Shia, and Kurds,” what they mean is “Arab Sunni, Arab Shia, and Kurdish Sunni.”
    • Kurds speak Kurdish, though many also speak Arabic as a second language.
    • Almost no ethnic group is a bigger victim of imperial ruler-pencil border drawing than the Kurds. Check out this map of the Kurdish population (in red) and how horribly it’s been cut apart by borders:



    • The end result of the artificial borders is that despite being the fourth largest ethnic group in the Middle East (after Arabs, Persians, and Turks), Kurds are now minority populations in four countries, making up roughly 20% of Turkey and Iraq, 15% of Syria, and 10% of Iran.17 Kurds are one of the world’s largest ethnic groups without a state.
    • Iraqi Kurds were granted semi-autonomy in 1970, and today, Kurdistan has its own government, army (the Peshmerga), and (highly disputed) borders. But it also plays a role in the Iraq government and is part of Iraq. It’s confusing.
    • If Iraqi Kurdistan were its own nation, it would be about the size of Switzerland.
    • Kurdistan is on the liberal, moderate side of the Islamic world and is generally pro-West.
    • Kurdistan is normally totally safe to visit (right now might be an exception), and its tourism industry was on the rise—in the first half of 2014 alone, they received over one million tourists—but the industry has seen a sharp decline of late, for obvious reasons.

    Some notes from my visit:

    • The people are outlandishly nice and sweet and friendly. One example: On no fewer than five occasions, I went up to a street stand or store to buy something small like a bottle of water, and the person working there would see I was a foreigner and ask me where I was from and how I liked Kurdistan. After we talked, I’d take my money out to buy the thing I came for, and they would adamantly refuse to accept it and tell me it was their gift, even after protests from me.
    • This wasn’t a surprise. Iraq is the 14th Muslim country I’ve been to,18 and I’ve gotten used to a very specific kind of Muslim hospitality and generosity in those countries that I haven’t experienced as consistently in other places.
    • There are a lot of serious-looking men sipping on tiny glasses of tea, which I enjoyed.
    • They have cool candy.
    • Erbil, the capital, is pretty modern—I would sometimes be in a fancy mall or a German-run bar and I’d have to remind myself, “I’m in Iraq right now.”
    • I talked to a lot of people there, and something that everyone badly wants is an independent Kurdistan. They’ve wanted this for a century, and it seems like it could really happen sometime not that far away.
    • The people I spoke to were generally pro-US, but they’re not thrilled with Obama. This is mainly because the US in general has not been supportive of Kurdish independence—I’ve read about why, and it seems to be a combination of a few geopolitical reasons, one of which is that an Iraq without the Kurdish part is much more likely to become a Shia-dominated Iranian ally and pawn.


    Anyway, back to Saddam, who barely had time to take a shit after the Iran-Iraq War before starting the Persian Gulf War by invading Kuwait for its delicious oil reserves. This, as I learned from my third grade teacher, did not go well for Saddam, and again, Iraq’s oppressed groups, the Shia and the Kurds, tried to take advantage of the situation by attempting to overthrow Saddam. Saddam responded by tightening the lid and crushing the uprisings, killing 80,000 – 230,000 people in the process.19
    Saddam was a brutal ruler, but for the most part, under his iron fist, Iraq was a stable country. We all know what happens next.
    2003: Off Comes the Lid
    Say what you want about the Bush Administration and their decision to invade Iraq and overthrow Saddam, but one thing is for sure: They were very, very wrong when they thought it would be a quick and easy war.
    They knew they were removing a lid, but they seemed to think it was off a tupperware container of cookies, not a pressure cooker. And their plan to replace the wrought iron lid with a fresh sheet of democracy cellophane would have worked fine if it were a tupperware container of cookies. Just not if it were a pressure cooker.
    So there’s the US, suddenly mired in hell and chaos for eight years, trying to fix a situation they weren’t prepared to fix, and which would ultimately be the Iraqi people’s problem, not theirs. Speaking of the Iraqi people, it’s time for another blue box.
    The Life in Baghdad Blue Box
    The people I got to know the best during my time in Kurdistan were three brothers from Baghdad who were visiting Kurdistan. They were born and raised in Baghdad, had lived there through the whole war, and spoke near-perfect English. I was ecstatic to find them, and spent two consecutive nights talking to them and asking them questions. Here are some things I learned:

    • Living under Saddam was, unsurprisingly, horrible. You never dared say anything bad about Saddam or the government, even in private. You were careful who you crossed—if you insulted a kid in class who turned out to have parents in the Ba’ath party, your parents could end up in jail, or worse. “Voting” meant “vote for Saddam or die.” No one could travel. It sounds a lot like modern day North Korea.
    • So it makes sense that they told me everyone was happy when the US invaded and ousted the Husseins. People mock the Bush Administration’s claim that they’d be greeted as liberators, but it seems that that was the case, at least for everyone these guys knew.
    • They continued to be happy about the war until about 2006, the peak of the violent civil war, when they said it had been unbearably scary to live there. These days, things are almost as terrible, and when I asked them if they wished that Saddam had never been overthrown, they couldn’t really answer. Two awful options. They don’t feel at all optimistic that things will improve in the future.
    • That said, outsiders imagine that living in Baghdad was a sea of constant death over the last ten years, while in fact, none of the three of them knew anyone who had died. It was a horrific decade to be there, but most people there have lived their lives unharmed.
    • Living in Baghdad, they hear a bomb go off almost every day—it’s gotten so common that when one goes off, people don’t even break in their conversation. They said the bombs are Sunni extremists bombing Shia people, or the other way around, and it’s a constant cycle of action and retaliation. Even though it’s unlikely that they’ll get caught in the line of fire, they never know if a bomb will strike where they are.
    • They’re required to carry around their ID card, which has a bunch of personal information on it, including the name of their religion and the name of their father and grandfather.
    • One thing that’s gotten more extreme since the Saddam era is a prevailing conservative ideology. Homosexuality is often punished by death by stoning, and police, they said, will turn their heads the other way when this happens. People have even been stoned to death for having emo clothes or haircuts. This wasn’t as bad during the Saddam era, they said, and is now a result of the empowerment of ultra-conservative Shia militia.
    • Oddly, given the above point, I noticed a lot of pairs of men holding hands or being cuddly together. Same story in Nigeria, where homosexuality is punishable by 14 years in prison. The reverse of American culture on both sides of things.
    • Here’s how dating works in Iraq: You meet a girl you like, you wait a bunch of years, and then you tell her you love her one day. She will evaluate and either decide to marry you or not. Once you’re married you can be alone together for the first time. Unslutty.
    • I asked about nightlife, and it sounds pretty grim. There are nightclubs, they said, but no one normal can enter them. You have to “know someone,” they said—and apparently, a lot of the people inside are bad men discussing violent plots.
    • For all the hardships in their lives, a lot of things are normal. They have smartphones, fast internet, cars, and they’re all in university or already graduated.
    • A lot of people they know have emigrated to Michigan, which apparently has a sizable Iraqi population. Random.
    • These three brothers, along with a few others, have started something called World Peace Day in Iraq with celebrations every September 21st. They were the first in the country to have the guts to do this (their celebrations are a target), but it’s caught on, and now the annual gatherings, which include people of many faiths and ethnicities, happen in five Iraqi cities and involve hundreds of people. Brave dudes.


    Anyway, as unfortunate as the bloody years of US occupation were for everyone involved, by being there, the US was acting as a lid of some kind. While the US was there, nothing really bad could happen. Then, in 2011, the US left.
    A Perfect Storm
    Instability is the fertile soil that bad, scary things grow out of, and when the US left, Iraq had a new prime minister, a new government, a new and unfamiliar constitution, and an amateur, recently-trained army—not a stable situation.
    The power pendulum had also just swung for the first time in decades. Iraq’s population is 55% Arab Shia, 18% Arab Sunni, and 21% Kurd (with others making up 6%). And despite being the smallest group of the three, Iraq’s Arab Sunnis have been in power over the other groups for almost the country’s whole history. For any living Iraqis, a Sunni government and suppressed Shia majority is all they know. Suddenly, in 2006, Iraq had a new government, led by a hard-line Shia, Nouri al-Maliki. A logical observer of history would probably suggest that it would be a wise move for al-Maliki to be inclusive of Sunnis, regardless of the past, since, as noted above, the country was not in a stable situation. Al-Maliki did just the opposite, arresting Sunni leaders, discriminating against Sunni civilians, and targeting Sunnis disproportionately for torture and violence. All of this exacerbated the instability by making the government less unified and competent, creating rage in the Sunni populous,20 and weakening the loyalty of a military, part of which hates its own government. The anti-al-Maliki feelings are so strong that many normally-peaceful Sunnis find themselves sympathizing or even supporting violent anti-government terrorists.
    The power switch from Sunni to Shia has broader implications. If you look at the whole world of Islam, it’s clear that Sunni Islam is the vast majority (around 90%) and Shia Islam (around 10%) is just a small side branch:



    But when you look at the heart of the Middle East more closely, you can see why things are so complicated.
    Here’s what the Middle East looked like when Saddam was in power versus when al-Maliki took over:21

    Suddenly, Shias are in charge of countries all the way from Iran to the Mediterranean, creating a kind of Shia Axis. This is a great thing for the world’s largest Shia nation, Iran, and it scares the shit out of the region’s most powerful Sunni nation, Saudi Arabia. And what’s been happening is Saudi Arabia and Iran engaging in what is essentially a Cold War, vying for broader power, with conflicts like the Syrian Civil War and the current mess in Iraq serving as proxy wars that can tip the balance in the larger struggle. This is why Iran wants ISIS (a Sunni group) to disappear and why you keep hearing that the US and Iran might actually agree on something (though for different reasons). This is also why the Saudis have been rumored to have funded Sunni resistance movements in both Syria and Iraq, even possibly directing funds to groups like ISIS.22
    Yet another factor playing into the trouble is the simultaneous instability of adjacent Iraq and Syria—this creates an unstable border, as well as a situation where the terrorist-fighting front is disjointed and without a shared national narrative to fight for. It also allows a terrorist group to hide in one country from trouble in the other.
    Finally, western powers often provide a lid from afar when things erupt somewhere—but in this case, those powers have been gun shy since they just got out of a hideous war in the area and really really want to avoid getting involved. Up until Obama’s Mid-September speech, the US has done everything possible to avoid getting involved.
    When you add this all together—an unstable and divided new government with an amateur, questionably-loyal army and an angry minority population who feels sympathy for anyone who will resist the government; the interests of a giant neighbor, Saudi Arabia, aligned with a government overthrow; a civil war next door; and a group of western powers who have been determined to stay out—you have the perfect storm for the fiercest of terrorist groups to emerge from the fringe and conquer.
    ISIS
    The beginnings of ISIS23—a Sunni jihadist group—can be traced back to 1999, when Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, a Jordanian jihadist, started the group because he was pissed off about a lot of things. After Zarqawi swore allegiance to al-Qaeda in 2004, this evolved into what became known as “al-Qaeda in Iraq,” and was one of those shadowy insurgent groups you kept reading about the US fighting during the war. When insurgent activity died down after the US troop surge in 2007, ISIS seemed on the decline and disappeared from relevance for a bit.
    Al-Baghdadi

    In 2010, after ISIS’s second leader was assassinated, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi—a former scholar of Islamic studies24 and a US war prisoner back in 200425—took over and got the group back on track. He replenished their partially-killed-off leadership with dozens of Saddam’s old Ba’athist military personnel, who brought key experience to the group. Then in 2011, when the Syrian Civil War broke out, ISIS joined in as a rebel force26—which helped to train and battle-harden the group. ISIS’s behavior in Syria was so brutal and severe that they even started creeping out the other bad guy groups, including al-Qaeda, who finally had a tantrum in early 2014 and cut all ties with ISIS.
    Up until early June 2014, only those who were carefully following the news knew about ISIS. But that’s when everything changed.
    On June 5th, just hours after I purchased my non-refundable flight to Iraq, ISIS stormed into the country, taking control of the border, and started systematically conquering towns in the western part of the nation. And suddenly, everyone had heard of ISIS.
    Two things were especially shocking about ISIS’s advance into Iraq. First, the horrifying, Genghis Khan-style way they conducted business—i.e. immediately round up and execute all men of authority, in this case anyone who was ever on the government payroll, and then execute anyone else who resisted their takeover.27 Second, the fact that in city after city ISIS attacked, the Iraqi military would flee the scene. This was partially because they were horrified of ISIS and partially because, as mentioned above, the Sunni members of the army weren’t that into fighting against a Sunni group to defend a government they hated. So western Iraq was folding quickly to ISIS, and by June 9th, they had captured Mosul, Iraq’s second biggest city.
    The area of Syria and Iraq they had conquered (and are still in control of) is the size of Belgium. Al-Qaeda never conquered anything—they just killed people. So how did ISIS do it? In addition to the perfect storm of factors discussed above, including far more tacit support from masses of civilians than al-Qaeda ever had, ISIS has three qualities that make them so effective:
    1) They’re brutal. No regard for human life is a helpful quality when trying to conquer a nation. This Amnesty International report details real accounts of ISIS brutality so scary it doesn’t seem real. An example of an excerpt in the report:
    A witness to one such mass killing in Solagh, a village south-east of Sinjar city, told Amnesty International that on the morning of 3 August, as he was trying to flee towards Mount Sinjar, he saw vehicles with IS fighters in them approaching, and managed to conceal himself. From his hiding place he saw them take some civilians from a house in the western outskirts of Solagh:
    “A white Toyota pick-up stopped by the house of my neighbour, Salah Mrad Noura, who raised a white flag to indicate they were peaceful civilians. The pick-up had some 14 IS men on the back. They took out some 30 people from my neighbour’s house: men, women and children. They put the women and children, some 20 of them, on the back of another vehicle which had come, a large white Kia, and marched the men, about nine of them, to the nearby wadi [dry river bed]. There they made them kneel and shot them in the back. They were all killed; I watched from my hiding place for a long time and none of them moved. I know two of those killed: my neighbour Salah Mrad Noura, who was about 80 years old, and his son Kheiro, aged about 45 or 50.”
    ISIS has officially been the deadliest terrorist group in history. This tool maps out the activity of the world’s most prominent terrorist groups, and when you filter by “Most Victims,” ISIS comes up first, despite being around for less than a decade (their death count is more than double al-Qaeda’s lifetime total). The below screenshot of the tool shows terrorist groups ranked from most total killings (on the top left) to least (on the bottom right). Each mini-chart shows activity over time, with the red and yellow bars representing deaths and wounded, respectively:



    2) They’re sophisticated. ISIS functions like a well-run company—it knows how to recruit (ISIS forces are supposedly up to 50,000 in Syria and 30,000 in Iraq), it knows how to fundraise, and it’s incredibly organized. ISIS produces a thorough and professional annual report that details its killings and conquests in the same way a company would report on its revenue and gross margin. Here’s a chilling graphic from their 2013 report breaking down their various methods for the year’s 7,681 attacks:



    They’re also pros at social media. Aaron Zelin, an expert on jihadis at the Washington Institute, said that when it comes to social media, ISIS is “probably more sophisticated than most US companies.”
    3) They’re incredibly rich. According to Iraqi intelligence, ISIS has assets worth $2 billion, making it by far the richest terrorist group in the world. Most of this money was seized after the capture of Mosul, including hundreds of millions of US dollars from Mosul’s central bank. On top of that, they’ve taken oil fields and are reportedly making $3 million per day selling oil on the black market, with even more money coming in through donations, extortions, and ransom. ISIS has also gotten ahold of an upsetting amount of high-caliber, US-made weapons and tanks that were for the use of the Iraqi army but left behind when the army fled. They’ve even gotten their hands on nuclear material that they found at Mosul University.
    On June 29th, ISIS just fully went for it and proclaimed itself a caliphate—i.e. a global Islamic state—and commanded all the world’s Muslims to obey Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the grand caliph. Those living in ISIS-captured cities are getting a taste of what life in the new caliphate is like:

    • Women have about as many rights as a goldfish, barely allowed to leave the house and forbidden from showing their faces in public.
    • No smoking ever, and also no tampering with or disabling the smoke detector in the airplane lavatory.
    • If they’re not just rounded up and executed on the spot, Christians and other non-Muslims are forced to convert to Islam, pay a hefty non-Muslim tax, become a refugee, or die. The doors of Christian houses are marked with a ن, a symbol that signifies that they’re Christian. Nazi-esque.
    • Some reports say a fatwa (an Islamic law ruling by an authority) was issued declaring that all women between the ages of 11 and 46 would undergo genital mutilation, a tradition meant to suppress a woman’s sexual desire in order to discourage “immoral behavior.”28

    As for future goals, the short term goal is to establish an Islamic nation in the areas it currently controls, with some expansion of the boundaries. In the medium term, al-Baghdadi has declared that “this blessed advance will not stop until we hit the last nail in the coffin of the Sykes–Picot conspiracy”—i.e. until those pencil and ruler lines drawn after WWI are gone and all the nations are part of the new caliphate. In the long run, ISIS wants to expand its caliphate to the reaches of the first Muslim dynasty in 750 AD, and beyond:



    Some people have argued that this map wasn’t made by ISIS, but rather by their supporters. Even if that’s so, al-Baghdadi’s ambitions certainly seem to match, and exceed, those on that map. In July, al-Baghdadi put out a message to Muslims that assured them that ISIS “will conquer Rome and own the world.”
    Over the past three months, as ISIS has marched through Iraq, 1.2 million Iraqis have become refugees. 700,000 of them are hiding under the protection of Kurdistan’s Peshmerga army. One of those 700,000 refugees is eight-year-old and now badly-damaged Mohammad, who was living a normal life in Mosul when ISIS attacked.
    _______________
    Five days after my visit to Khazir refugee camp, ISIS made an aggressive push forward into the scary-ish territory and captured the Khazir camp. The Peshmerga army retreated, instantly converting the area into scary-in-italics territory. That night, a black ISIS flag rose up over the camp where the Kurdish flag had been. Luckily, this happened after a few days of ISIS-Peshmerga fighting, and the refugees had time to run before ISIS arrived. But now, where do they go? People like Kamil, a police officer, cannot go back to Mosul—his name was on the government payroll, and he would be executed upon arrival. But without significant money, many refugees are not allowed into Kurdistan either. Some simply camped out on the road in the searing heat.
    A few days later, with the help of US airstrikes, the Kurds recaptured the Khazir camp and a number of other areas ISIS had taken from them.
    Since my visit, two new developments offer some hope that things could possibly turn around. The first is that the polarizing Nouri al-Maliki is no longer the Prime Minister. He has been forced out and replaced by another Shia leader, Haider al-Abadi. We’ll see if al-Abadi can cool off some of the Sunni rage al-Maliki’s administration ignited.
    The second development happened on September 10th, when President Obama announced that the US would engage in a new campaign of airstrikes, both in Syria and Iraq, to try to defeat ISIS. Airstrikes are sure to slow ISIS down, but to take down and dismantle a group as shadowy, relentless, and fearless as ISIS, I doubt airstrikes will suffice. It’s going to be a lot harder than that.

    _______________
    Other stops: Russia, Japan, Nigeria, Greenland.
    And North Korea.

    Sources
    William Montgomery Watt – Muhammad: Prophet and Statesman
    William Montgomery Watt – Muhammad at Mecca
    William Montgomery Watt – Muhammad at Medina
    Majid Ali Khan – Muhammad, the Final Messenger
    Bernard Lewis – Islam in History: Ideas, People, and Events in the Middle East
    Muhammad Husayn Haykal – The Life of Muhammad
    Richard C. Martin – Encyclopedia of Islam & the Muslim World
    NPR – Chronology of the Shiite-Sunni Split
    Pew Research – The Future of the Global Muslim Population
    The Christian Science Monitor – Cause of Iraq’s Chaos: Bad Borders
    The Guardian – First world war: 15 legacies still with us today
    CIA World Factbook – Iraq
    The World Bank – GINI Index
    Time – The Sum of Two Evils
    Sons of Saddam
    Liam Anderson; Gareth Stansfield – The Future of Iraq: Dictatorship, Democracy, Or Division?
    Al Jazeera – Islamic State ‘has 50,000 fighters in Syria’
    Wall Street Journal – Refugee Numbers Grow as Civilians Flock to Iraqi Camps
    Periscopic.com – A World of Terror
    Amnesty International – Ethnic Cleansing on a Historic Scale: Islamic State’s Systematic Targeting of Minorities in Northern Iraq
    New York Times – Sunni Extremists in Iraq Seize 3 Towns From Kurds and Threaten Major Dam
    Libertatem Prius!


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    Default Re: Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham - ISIS - GRAPHIC PG. 15

    ISIS Burns 8000 Rare Books and Manuscripts in Mosul



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    By Riyadh Mohammed,


    The Fiscal TimesFebruary 23, 2015


    While the world was watching the Academy Awards ceremony, the people of Mosul were watching a different show. They were horrified to see ISIS members burn the Mosul public library. Among the many thousands of books it housed, more than 8,000 rare old books and manuscripts were burned.
    “ISIS militants bombed the Mosul Public Library. They used improvised explosive devices,” said Ghanim al-Ta'an, the director of the library. Notables in Mosul tried to persuade ISIS members to spare the library, but they failed.
    Related: Kurds Are Close to Retaking Mosul from ISIS
    The former assistant director of the library Qusai All Faraj said that the Mosul Public Library was established in 1921, the same year that saw the birth of the modern Iraq. Among its lost collections were manuscripts from the eighteenth century, Syriac books printed in Iraq's first printing house in the nineteenth century, books from the Ottoman era, Iraqi newspapers from the early twentieth century and some old antiques like an astrolabe and sand glass used by ancient Arabs. The library had hosted the personal libraries of more than 100 notable families from Mosul over the last century.
    During the US led invasion of Iraq in 2003, the library was looted and destroyed by mobs. However, the people living nearby managed to save most of its collections and rich families bought back the stolen books and they were returned to the library, All Faraj added.
    Related: 9 ISIS Weapons That Will Shock You
    “900 years ago, the books of the Arab philosopher Averroes were collected before his eyes...and burned. One of his students started crying while witnessing the burning. Averroes told him... the ideas have wings...but I cry today over our situation,” said Rayan al-Hadidi, an activist and a blogger from Mosul. Al-Hadidi said that a state of anger and sorrow are dominating Mosul now. Even the library's website was suspended.
    “What a pity! We used to go to the library in the 1970s. It was one of the greatest landmarks of Mosul. I still remember the special pieces of paper where the books’ names were listed alphabetically,” said Akil Kata who left Mosul to exile years ago.
    On the same day the library was destroyed, ISIS abolished another old church in Mosul: the church of Mary the Virgin. The Mosul University Theater was burned as well, according to eyewitnesses. In al-Anbar province, Western Iraq, the ISIS campaign of burning books has managed to destroy 100,000 titles, according to local officials. Last December, ISIS burned Mosul University’s central library.
    Related: The Perverted, Powerful Logic Behind ISIS’s Burned Pilot
    Iraq, the cradle of civilization, the birthplace of agriculture and writing and the home of the Sumerian, Akkadian, Assyrian, Babylonian and Arab civilizations had never witnessed such an assault on its rich cultural heritage since the Mongol era in the Middle Ages.
    Last week, a debate in Washington and Baghdad became heated over when, how and who will liberate Mosul. A plan was announced to liberate the city in April or May by more than 20,000 US trained Iraqi soldiers. Either way, and supposing everything will go well and ISIS will be defeated easily which is never the case in reality, that means the people of Mosul will still have to wait for another two to three months.

    Until then, Mosul will probably have not a single sign of its rich history left standing.
    Top Reads from The Fiscal Times:










    Riyadh Mohammed
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    An Iraqi multimedia investigative journalist who covered the Iraq war, corruption and ISIS for The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, and Mashable, he also served as a communication coordinator for the Iraqi Ministry of Justice.












    - See more at: http://www.thefiscaltimes.com/2015/0....YAojnb9e.dpuf
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    Default Re: Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham - ISIS - GRAPHIC PG. 15



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    Default Re: Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham - ISIS - GRAPHIC PG. 15

    Islamic State Militant Known as ‘Jihadi John’ Identified

    Masked militant who appears in several execution videos identified as British man Mohammed Emwazi

    Jihadi John, the masked Islamic State militant who has appeared in several execution videos, has been identified as British citizen Mohammed Emwazi. WSJ's Yaroslav Trofimov reports. Photo: Zuma



    By Jenny Gross and
    Margaret Coker

    154 COMMENTS

    LONDON—The masked Islamic State militant known as Jihadi John, who has appeared in several execution videos, has been identified as British citizen Mohammed Emwazi, Western officials said.
    Mr. Emwazi, who is in his mid-to-late 20s and was born in Kuwait, grew up in London and attended university here, according to officials and a person familiar with the situation. He appears to have been on the radar of British officials since at least 2009, when they believed he was trying to travel to Somalia to get training from Islamic extremists, according to correspondence between Mr. Emwazi and a civil-rights group with which he interacted.
    Western officials said Mr. Emwazi traveled to Syria in 2012, later joining Islamic State, and is believed to be moving around the region.
    He sprang to notoriety after he appeared in a video released by Islamic State last August, in which he purportedly killed American journalist James Foley. He wore what was to become his signature black robe and black balaclava covering all but his eyes and the bridge of his nose, concealing his identity, although he spoke with a British accent. British media quickly dubbed him “Jihadi John.”
    He also appears to have played a role in the videos of the beheadings of U.S. journalist Steven Sotloff, British aid worker David Haines, British taxi driver Alan Henning and American aid worker Abdul-Rahman Kassig, also known as Peter.
    Officials said they believe there are other hostages still being held by Islamic State, including British photojournalist John Cantlie, who was abducted in 2012 and has appeared in a series of videos released by the group.
    Counterterrorism police in London said there was an ongoing investigation, without confirming Jihadi John’s identity. His identity was first reported by the Washington Post.
    British security services said over the summer that they were confident they had identified Jihadi John but didn’t disclose the name. In September, the head of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, James Comey, said U.S. authorities also believed they had identified him.
    Asim Qureshi, the research director for CAGE, a British-based rights organization, said there were “striking similarities” between Mr. Emwazi and the man in the Islamic State beheading videos, but that he had no independent confirmation of the terrorist’s identity.
    Mr. Emwazi was born in Kuwait in 1988 and moved to the U.K. at age 6, according to CAGE. His family live in West London in a red brick house in a complex where neighbors say they have been based for at least a few years. No one came to the door on Thursday.
    Neighbors had mixed accounts of the family, with one describing it as a quiet and “very good family,” while another said it was “a strange family” that kept to itself.
    Mr. Emwazi attended public high school in the British capital along with students from all backgrounds, and later attended the University of Westminster in central London.
    “If these allegations are true, we are shocked and sickened by the news,” the university said in a statement. “Our thoughts are with the victims and their families.” The university said Mr. Emwazi left in 2009.
    That summer, he appears to have come into contact with British intelligence agencies because they suspected he was trying to travel to Somalia, which he denied, according to CAGE.
    Mr. Emwazi interacted with CAGE over a period of about two years from 2009. Mr. Emwazi reached out to the organization, which focuses on issues related to war and terrorism, because of what he perceived as unlawful and undue surveillance against him by the British intelligence services. Mr. Qureshi interacted extensively with Mr. Emwazi as the group tried to assist him in his legal issues
    In correspondence with CAGE, Mr. Emwazi said he visited Tanzania in the summer of 2009 as a break between university and his planned marriage to a woman in Kuwait.
    He and two friends he was traveling with were detained upon arrival by Tanzanian border control officials, according to CAGE. A day later, they were put on a plane to Amsterdam, where a British intelligence officer and a Dutch intelligence officer interrogated him and his friends, according to the correspondence.
    Tanzania’s deputy home affairs minister said authorities never deported any suspects to Europe in 2009, but it wasn't immediately clear whether they had been detained.
    British intelligence accused him of trying to travel to Somalia to get training from the al Qaeda affiliate there known as Al Shabab, which Mr. Emwazi denied, according to the CAGE correspondence. The intelligence officer then tried to recruit him as an informer and Mr. Emwazi refused, the correspondence alleges.
    The U.K. government declined to comment on the account painted by the CAGE.
    Concerned for his safety, Mr. Emwazi’s family told him to go live in Kuwait, according to the CAGE correspondence. He stayed there for eight months working for a computer company there.
    On at least two trips in 2010 back to the U.K., he was stopped on arrival, and in one instance was detained and told he was being interrogated under counterterrorism laws, according to the CAGE account.
    Mr. Emwazi told CAGE that during this interrogation, the British officials took samples of his DNA and told him he would be denied entry into Kuwait and must stay in the U.K.
    Mr. Emwazi, his father and his lawyer, spent the next two years trying to get his name cleared with British and Kuwaiti authorities so he could travel back to the country of his birth, CAGE said. The family asked for help from the Kuwaiti Embassy in London, which said the matter was out of their hands, according to correspondence between Mr. Emwazi and CAGE.
    The Kuwaiti embassy didn't respond to calls for comment.
    “Unfortunately for Mohammed, the secretive nature by which he was being sanctioned resulted in him not being able to find any options at all,” said Mr. Qureshi of CAGE.
    Western officials said Mr. Emwazi traveled to Syria in 2012, later joining Islamic State. In 2013, his family reported Mr. Emwazi as missing to the police, according to CAGE.
    Four months afterward, the family received a visit from the police telling them that they believed Mr. Emwazi had traveled to Syria, according to CAGE.
    British Prime Minister David Cameron has said the U.K. government will find those responsible for the beheadings and take action.
    “You should be in no doubt that I want Jihadi John to face justice for the appalling acts that have been carried out in Syria,” Mr. Cameron said in November.
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    Default Re: Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham - ISIS - GRAPHIC PG. 15

    Clapper and Kerry.... OMG. They don't speak?

    Clapper says the world is a mess and we've had more attacks in the past year than the last five (words to that effect).

    Kerry says we've never been safer!


    Damn....


    Idiots.
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    Default Re: Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham - ISIS - GRAPHIC PG. 15

    Obama's ISIS Strategy Empowers Iran

    10:00 AM, Mar 3, 2015 • By DEREK HARVEY

    The Obama Administration’s defacto anti-ISIS partnership with Tehran is helping Iran’s Quds Force Commander Qassem Soleimeni and Ayatollah Khamenei “Finlandize” Iraq. Not only does this damage U.S. interests in sustaining an independent and sovereign Iraq, but the Obama Administration’s apparent acquiescence to Iran’s regional hegemonic ambitions undermines U.S. strategic interests and threatens our partners in Jerusalem, Ankara, Riyadh, and elsewhere in the Gulf.

    It would be one thing if Tehran’s behavior had moderated. It hasn’t. Iran’s ambition, malign behavior, and strategic endgame remain inimical to broader American interests. Tehran has stoked the flames while benefiting from the disorder in both Iraq and Syria. Iran’s dominance over Beirut, Damascus, and Baghdad has only increased through its strategy of fomenting upheaval, disorder, and violence -- and then coming to the “rescue.” And now Tehran’s strategy is having success with the Iranian-sponsored Shia Houthis taking over parts of Yemen.

    From 2003 to 2011, Tehran played a duplicitous, complex, and cunning game, working through Shia proxies and at times enabling Sunni extremists to destroy the U.S. effort in Iraq. Tehran’s strategy in Syria has been to destroy the moderate opposition as a viable alternative, while ignoring -- and at times supporting -- the growth of Jubat al Nusra and ISIS. Even today, Tehran supports Sunni Islamic extremists by orchestrating the Syrian military response to attack moderate opposition and avoid fights against ISIS.

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    Meanwhile, U.S. policymakers rationalize that their options are constrained by Iranian “red lines” in Syria, because Tehran has made it clear that Iraq-based U.S. Forces are in effect hostage. Today, Tehran threatens U.S. deployed personnel with impunity as they have clearly learned from past experience in directing their proxies to kill Americans in Iraq that the U.S. will not strike back.

    Tehran's influence and power in Iraq has gained dramatically while the U.S. is increasingly seen as a hesitant and peripheral player --a willing accomplice to enhancing Tehran’s sphere of influence. Tehran has the natural advantages of proximity, deep knowledge of the players and environment, and a committed, ruthless leadership. All of the players understand that Iran will always be there.

    The U.S. has capability but no political will to seriously take on the fight against ISIS. Therefore, partnering with Tehran on counter-terrorism has been suggested by NSS staffers as the “smart” and practical short-term solution to the regional ISIS challenge. This strategy only avoids hard choices about the future of President Assad and limits serious engagement in Iraq. The result of an insufficient military operation is political theater designed primarily for domestic political purposes, rather than rolling back ISIS or supporting regional partners and containing Iranian expansion. The most recent U.S. declaration about an upcoming Mosul offensive, later recanted, was a maladroit effort to create an impression about upcoming actions against ISIS. It was plainly designed to blunt criticism of the Administration’s weak response to ISIS.

    The Administration’s ISIS strategy is almost certainly only a cover to obfuscate larger objectives of broader Iranian rapprochement and the political prize of a Washington-Tehran nuclear deal. Tehran’s terror network and web of proxy Shia warriors extends from Lebanon to Afghanistan to Yemen -- with Shia militia and now Iraqi Shia Popular Mobilization Units (PMUs) declaring their mission to be the liberation of the Shia in the Gulf. Unfortunately, the current U.S. policy feeds the ISIS narrative that the U.S. is not only fighting Sunni Islam, but also that the West is in alliance with Tehran.

    Furthermore, the regional perception of a U.S.-Tehran anti-ISIS compact alienates and increases insecurity in Tel Aviv, Ankara, Amman, Cairo and Riyadh. This can only create the prudent response of frayed alliances and security partnerships, and when Iran moves closer to nuclear threshold status, expect regional nuclear proliferation.

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    Default Re: Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham - ISIS - GRAPHIC PG. 15

    well, here goes the first strike on the oil prices.

    UPDATE 1-Islamic State torches oil field near Tikrit as militia advance

    Thu Mar 5, 2015 7:16pm IST


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    * Oil field produced 25,000 bpd before Islamic State seizure
    * Shi'ite militia figure killed south of Tikrit
    * Ten killed in bombs, mortar fire in Baghdad (Adds senior militia figure killed, Baghdad bombs)
    By Saif Hameed and Dominic Evans
    BAGHDAD, March 5 (Reuters) - Islamic State militants have set fire to oil wells northeast of the city of Tikrit, a witness said, to obstruct an assault by Shi'ite militia fighters and Iraqi soldiers trying to drive them from the Sunni Muslim city and surrounding towns.
    The witness and a military source said Islamic State fighters ignited the fire at the Ajil oil field to shield themselves from attack by Iraqi military helicopters.
    The offensive is the biggest Iraqi forces have yet mounted against IS, which has declared an Islamic caliphate on captured territory in Iraq and Syria and spread fear across the region by slaughtering Arab and Western hostages and killing or kidnapping members of religious minorities like Yazidis and Christians.
    Black smoke could be seen rising from the oil field since Wednesday afternoon, said the witness, who accompanied Iraqi militia and soldiers as they advanced on Tikrit from the east.
    Control of oil fields has played an important part in funding Islamic State, even if it lacks the technical expertise to run them at full capacity.
    Before it took over Ajil last June, the field produced 25,000 barrels per day of crude that were shipped to the Kirkuk refinery to the north-east, as well as 150 million cubic feet of gas per day piped to the government-controlled Kirkuk power station.
    An engineer at the site, about 35 km (20 miles) northeast of Tikrit, told Reuters last July that Islamic State fighters were pumping lower volumes of oil from Ajil, fearing that their primitive extraction techniques could ignite the gas.
    Bombing in August damaged the Ajil field's control room, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
    The outcome of the battle for Tikrit, best known as the home town of executed Sunni president Saddam Hussein, will determine whether and how fast the Iraqi forces can advance further north and attempt to win back Mosul, the biggest city under Islamic State rule.
    The army, backed by Shi'ite militia and Kurdish Peshmerga fighters, has yet to reconquer and secure any city held by Islamic State, despite seven months of air strikes by a U.S.-led coalition, as well as weapons supplies and strategic support from neighbouring Iran.
    Tehran, not Washington, has been the key player in the current offensive, with Iranian Revolutionary Guard general Qassem Soleimani seen directing operations on the eastern flank, and Iranian-backed militia fighters leading much of the operation.
    MILITIA LEADER KILLED
    Soldiers and militia are also advancing along the Tigris river from the north and south of Tikrit, preparing for a joint offensive which is expected in coming days. They are likely to attack first the towns of al-Dour and al-Alam to the south and north of Tikrit.
    Their approach has been slowed by roadside bombs, snipers and suicide bomb attacks.
    An Islamic State suicide bomber drove an explosives-laden tanker on Wednesday night into a camp on the eastern edge of al-Dour, killing a leader of the Iranian-backed Asaib Ahl al-Haq, Madi al-Kinani, and four others, a military source said.
    Al-Ahd, the militia's television channel, confirmed Kinani's death on Thursday, when he was buried in the Shi'ite holy city of Najaf, south of the capital Baghdad.
    A police source in Salahuddin province, where Tikrit is located, said an eight-vehicle convoy of Islamic State insurgents attacked Iraqi forces at dawn on Thursday in al-Muaibidi, east of al-Alam. The source said the army returned fire, killing four militants and burning two of their cars.
    An online video published early on Thursday purported to show Islamic State militants in Tikrit and al-Alam, taunting their attackers.
    "Here we stand in central Tikrit, that's the mosque of the martyrs behind us... You claimed, as usual that you raided the Sunnis and their homes and have claimed al-Dour, al-Jalam, al-Alam, Tikrit and others. By God, you have lied," a fighter said.
    In Baghdad, 10 people were killed on Thursday in a series of bomb attacks and mortar fire, police and medical sources said.
    The deadliest incidents were in the southeastern, Sunni neighbourhood of Nahrawan where three people were killed by a bomb in a market, and the northern district of Rashidiya where three soldiers were killed by two roadside bombs. (Additional reporting by Mostafa Hashem in Cairo; Editing by Mark Trevelyan)
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