November 25, 2015

“Remaining and Expanding?”

An F-16 Falcon being refueled after an airstrike on Islamic State (IS or ISIS) targets in Syria

Will the Paris bombing galvanize a new strategy to destroy the ‘Islamic State’? The Islamic State (IS) is a murderous enterprise, based on an insane ideology.  It nevertheless desires its own survival and expansion. In October 2015, prior to the downing of the Russian jet over Sinai and the attacks this week in Paris, no serious threat to its continued existence was apparent.  The US-led coalition bombing campaign was half-hearted, and Western support for Kurdish and Arab elements … [Read more...]

The Paris Attacks Reflect Intelligence Failure — Not a Change in ISIS Strategy

Fighters from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) marching in Raqqa, Syria.

The recent attacks in Paris carried out by the Islamic State have led to widespread speculation about a possible shift in strategy on the part of ISIS. Taken in conjunction with the downing of a Russian passenger plane over the Sinai and the bombings in the predominantly Shia Dahiyeh suburbs of Beirut, it is argued that ISIS is lashing out at the "far enemy" as it comes under pressure on the home fronts in Iraq and Syria, such as its recent loss of control of Sinjar, a town that formed part of … [Read more...]

Has Assad’s New Offensive Changed Syria’s Front Lines?

Saraya al-Khorasani announcing via Facebook its involvement in operations to break the sieges of Nubl and Zahara. Interestingly, this post was subsequently removed from the group's Facebook pages.

Backed by heavy Russian airstrikes, government forces and allied militias fighting to support Bashar al-Assad have launched a series of coordinated ground offensives across northwestern Syria since the beginning of October. The hope is to regain territory lost to rebels over the past year and to shore up areas vital to Assad's survival. But while state-run Syrian and Russian media highlight success after success, the results may not be as promising as Assad and his backers would have liked. The … [Read more...]

A Murder in October

View from the Armon Hanatziv promenade in Jerusalem.

On October 13, 2015, two young Palestinian men affiliated with the Hamas movement, Baha Alian and Bilal Ranem, boarded the 78 bus in Jerusalem’s Armon Hanatziv neighborhood. The two were residents of Jabel Mukaber, an adjoining Arab village. Alian was armed with a concealed firearm, Ranem with a knife. The two intended to carry out a terror attack within the framework of the spate of murders of Israeli Jews by Palestinian Arab Muslims, inspired by false claims that Israel was planning to … [Read more...]

Is It Iran’s Middle East Now?

Iran's Middle East for Fathom

The Middle East is currently in the midst of widespread instability, civil strife and the collapse or contraction of state authority. Syria, Iraq, Libya, Yemen, Turkey, the West Bank and Gaza Strip, Tunisia and Egypt have all experienced major instability over the last half decade. The first four of these areas have effectively ceased to exist as unitary states, and are now partitioned de facto between warring entities, organised according to ethnic, sectarian or tribal loyalty. The Palestinian … [Read more...]

Syrian Bluff

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry sits with Defense Secretary-Designate Ashton Carter before the two Massachusetts residents hold a one-on-one meeting on January 7, 2015, in the Secretary's Outer Office at the U.S. Department of State in Washington, D.C. [State Department photo/ Public Domain]

The West has conceded the continued existence of both Assad and Islamic State, despite attempts to create a different impression. Talks in Vienna last Friday intended to relaunch the diplomatic process on Syria produced predictably little.  Meanwhile, the latest announcement from the US of its intention to send a small number of special forces operators to north east Syria represents an undoubted improvement on the previous disastrous and now abandoned ‘train and equip’ program. But … [Read more...]

Melanie Phillips on Rubin and Schwanitz’s Book Nazis, Islamists, and the Making of the Modern Middle East: "As I See It: Netanyahu’s Mufti Firestorm"

Haj Amin al-Husseini meeting with Adolf Hitler (December 1941).

By Melanie PhillipsJerusalem Post, October 29, 2015When Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke about the role played in the Holocaust by the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin al-Husseini, he cannot have imagined the reaction he would detonate.What he said was this: “He [Husseini] flew to Berlin. Hitler didn’t want to exterminate the Jews at the time; he wanted to expel the Jews. And Haj Amin al-Husseini went to Hitler and said, ‘If you expel them, they’ll all come here.’ ‘So … [Read more...]

“Be with God”- New Nasheed from the Islamic State

Islamic State nashid

As always, translation below. Suggestions for revisions welcome. To listen to the original, see here. Be with God, pure, and worry not. Everything is heading to disappearance. Live modestly in content, submitting, Free from every grave matter [chorus]. Indeed the rope of God, oh, this is strong, Reinforced of fibres and of the strongest cords. If you reach it, it is arrival for the servant. So seize the opportunity and have the fortune of that union. [chorus] If you desire glory … [Read more...]

Israel Avoids the Abyss – For Now

A view of Jerusalem and the Temple Mount

First indications that the violence in Israel and the West Bank is Being Contained For the past four weeks, Israel and the West Bank have been hit by a wave of stabbing attacks by Palestinian Muslims on Israeli Jews, and by demonstrations and protests in the West Bank.  Palestinian fury derives from claims that Israel planned to change the ‘status quo’ banning Jewish prayer on the Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif area. The 37-acre area of the Temple Mount constitutes in many ways the … [Read more...]

The Archivist: “Go Forth, Lightly and Heavily Armed”: New Mobilization Calls By the Islamic State in Aleppo Province

Islamic State Aleppo mobilization

Introduction: Context and Analysis With the intensification of Russia's overt intervention inside Syria, regime forces and allied militias have launched multiple offensives in the north of Syria. One of these offensives is taking place in Aleppo province and has three primary aims: to expand the line of control to the southwest of Aleppo city, to attempt (again) to complete the encirclement of Aleppo city and break the rebel sieges of the Shi'a villages of Nubl and Zahara' to the northwest of … [Read more...]