Tag Archives: Islamic State

Security Chief: Europe Must Brace for New Extremist Attacks

By Alastair Macdonald
December, 2016

A general view of the scene that shows rescue services personnel working near the covered bodies outside a restaurant following a shooting incident in Paris, France, November 13, 2015. REUTERS/Philippe Wojazer

A general view of the scene that shows rescue services personnel working near the covered bodies outside a restaurant following a shooting incident in Paris, France, November 13, 2015. REUTERS/Philippe Wojazer

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – Islamic State will attack Europe again, security chiefs warned Dec. 2, and may add car bombs, cyber and chemical warfare to its local arsenal as European militants drift home after reverses in Syria and Iraq.

Gilles de Kerchove, the European Union’s Counter-Terrorism Coordinator, said it was impossible to know for sure how many militants were already in Europe plotting. A report on Friday by the EU’s Europol policy agency referred to dozens.

Some 2,500 Europeans may still be fighting in the Middle East, de Kerchove estimated in an interview with Reuters. But as they face setbacks in Mosul, Aleppo and elsewhere, Europe must track them if it is to contain a diaspora of trained militants like that which followed the 1989 Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan.

“We have to be prepared because some of them will come to Europe,” said de Kerchove, a veteran EU official whose Brussels office is packed with books and souvenirs from nine years of intensive travel and talking with Europe’s troubled neighbours.

“They may try to come back home and we don’t want to repeat the mistake we made in the late 80s when the Russians left Afghanistan and we left these mujahideen … in the wild.”

Many of those fought in Algeria’s bloody 1990s and went on to operate in conflicts from Chechnya and Kosovo to Yemen.

Some Europeans, among them also wives and children of fighters, may choose to stay in the Middle East even if IS loses its territorial grip. Others may go further afield, with lawless Libya already looking like a new base for European militants and the movement likely to go on recruiting over the Internet.

“The physical caliphate … is collapsing but we still have the virtual caliphate and this allows the organisation to direct attacks,” de Kerchove said.

In his post since 2007, the Belgian lawyer said the past two years have seen an “impressive” leap forward in intelligence cooperation among EU states and a tightening of law and practice on Europe’s borders in response to the variety of IS attacks that have included mass killings in Paris, Brussels and Nice.

“We have nearly fixed most of the loopholes,” he said of what Europe could do internally to combat the Islamist militants who pose by far the bulk of violent threats.

European Union's Counter-Terrorism Coordinator Gilles de Kerchove is seen during an interview with Reuters in his office in Brussels, Belgium December 2, 2016. REUTERS/Alastair Macdonald

European Union’s Counter-Terrorism Coordinator Gilles de Kerchove is seen during an interview with Reuters in his office in Brussels, Belgium December 2, 2016. REUTERS/Alastair Macdonald

NEW THREATS

The tougher part is now, de Kerchove said, to address root grievances for militants, whether among alienated people at home or angry Sunni Muslims in Iraq and Syria.

“The way the fight is developing in Aleppo will have an impact,” he said. “The way we will try to address the grievances of the Sunni population both in Iraq and in Syria will have an impact.”

Inside Europe, he said, “we are doing a lot better”.

Europol identified immediate threats as similar to recent attacks: groups using automatic rifles and suicide vests packed with home-made TATP explosive, or loners with knives or trucks. IS was also infiltrating Syrian refugee communities in Europe in a bid to inflame hostility to immigrants in places like Germany.

De Kerchove stressed also a new risk of IS bringing car bomb tactics, common in Syria and Iraq, into Europe. Agencies were, he said, also preparing to counter more complex tactics in years to come, such as cyber attacks and biological weapons.

For now, he said, the Internet was a weapon mainly of recruitment and radicalisation of individuals — something the EU was working on countering in alliance with network companies.

“So far the terrorist organisations have not used the Internet as a weapon, to mount an attack through the Internet,” he said, citing the risk of disrupting nuclear power stations, dams, electricity grids or even air traffic control systems.

“It has not happened so far … but I don’t exclude that before five years we will be confronted by this,” de Kerchove said, noting IS had the funds to hire seasoned criminal hackers.

The EU was, he said, “actively working” to counter chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear threats but did not see an “acute risk”, despite evidence of militants dabbling with germs or using poison gas in Syria. “We need to be prepared,” he said.

International cooperation is a priority and de Kerchove spends much of his time building relationships with Arab countries, Turkey and other neighbours.

Ties with the United States had become very close under President Barack Obama and de Kerchove voiced a hope they would remain so under Donald Trump. Working with Britain, a leader in counter-terrorism in Europe, should not be greatly affected by its decision this year to leave the EU.

Noting Britain’s decision to opt in to closer ties with Europol, he said: “Intelligence sharing is developing outside the EU framework so … Brexit will not have any impact.”

Copyright Reuters 2016

(Editing by Mark Trevelyan)

Related on F&O:

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  • F&O’s CONTENTS page is updated each Saturday. Sign up for emailed announcements of new work on our free FRONTLINES blog; find evidence-based reporting in Reports; commentary, analysis and creative non-fiction in OPINION-FEATURES; and image galleries in PHOTO-ESSAYS. If you value journalism please support F&O, and tell others about us.

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Massacre at US nightclub

Friends and family members embrace outside the Orlando Police Headquarters during the investigation of a shooting at the Pulse nightclub, where people were killed by a gunman, in Orlando, Florida, U.S June 12, 2016. REUTERS/Steve Nesius

Friends and family members embrace outside the Orlando Police Headquarters during the investigation of a shooting at the Pulse nightclub, where people were killed by a gunman, in Orlando, Florida, U.S June 12, 2016. REUTERS/Steve Nesius

Massacre at U.S. nightclub, ISIS claims responsibility, by Reuters

 A man armed with an assault rifle killed 50 people at a packed gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida on Sunday in the worst mass shooting in U.S. history, which President Barack Obama described as an act of terror and hate.

Police killed the shooter, who was identified as Omar Mateen, 29, a Florida resident and U.S. citizen who was the son of immigrants from Afghanistan.

Islamic State claimed responsibility, but U.S. officials said they had seen no immediate evidence linking the militant group to the massacre …. read more.

Recommended elsewhere: Frederic Lemieux, a criminologist at George Washington University, writes about the six things Americans should know about mass shootings.

Related on F&O: analysis from our archives:

America’s gun cult, Switzerland’s firearms culture, by Jonathan Manthorpe, International Affairs columnist

In the ranks of “barbaric cultural practices,” the United States’ addiction to firearms is among the most deadly. The results of gun violence in the U.S. are in the same order of magnitude as the fruits of terrorism in the entire world. But the epidemic of gun slaughter in the U.S. is not entirely down to the simple availability of firearms in, it seems, almost every home. The Swiss also have firearms readily available, but they do not massacre each other at nearly the same rate as the Americans.

Why ISIS is winning, with America’s help, by Tom Regan, Summoning Orenda columnist

The attacks in Paris were as much a sign of ISIS’s weaknesses, as a demonstration of its ability to strike. If Western governments had grasped the opportunity to turn this horrible tragedy against ISIS, we might have pulled off a small but important victory against these murderers. Instead, we played the hand that ISIS dealt us like a bunch of hillbilly rubes at a blackjack table in Las Vegas.

Waiting for America’s next mass murder, by Tom Regan, Summoning Orenda columnist

We won’t have to wait long. He’s out there right now. We don’t know his name, or where it will happen, but he will do it. We’ll know his name within the next week or so. It will be a he. Very few mass murders are committed by shes. It’s hard to even think of any. He’s likely early, maybe mid-20s.

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Facts and Opinions is a boutique journal of reporting and analysis in words and images, without borders. Independent, non-partisan and employee-owned, F&O is funded by our readers. It is ad-free and spam-free, and does not solicit donations from partisan organizations. To continue we require a minimum payment of .27 for one story, or a sustaining donation. Details here; donate below. Thanks for your interest and support.

F&O’s CONTENTS page is updated each Saturday. Sign up for emailed announcements of new work on our free FRONTLINES blog; find evidence-based reporting in Reports; commentary, analysis and creative non-fiction in OPINION-FEATURES; and image galleries in PHOTO-ESSAYS. If you value journalism please support F&O, and tell others about us.

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Massacre at U.S. nightclub, ISIS claims responsibility

Friends and family members embrace outside the Orlando Police Headquarters during the investigation of a shooting at the Pulse night club,in Orlando, Florida, June 12, 2016. REUTERS/Steve Nesius

Friends and family members embrace outside the Orlando Police Headquarters during the investigation of a shooting at the Pulse night club,in Orlando, Florida, June 12, 2016. REUTERS/Steve Nesius

By Barbara Liston
June 12, 2016

Police cars and fire trucks are seen outside the Pulse night club where police said a suspected gunman left multiple people dead and injured in Orlando, Florida, June 12, 2016. Orlando Police Department/Handout via REUTERS

Police cars and fire trucks are seen outside the Pulse night club where police said a suspected gunman left multiple people dead and injured in Orlando, Florida, June 12, 2016. Orlando Police Department/Handout via REUTERS

ORLANDO, Fla. (Reuters) – A man armed with an assault rifle killed 50 people at a packed gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida on Sunday in the worst mass shooting in U.S. history, which President Barack Obama described as an act of terror and hate.

Police killed the shooter, who was identified as Omar Mateen, 29, a Florida resident and U.S. citizen who was the son of immigrants from Afghanistan.

Mateen called 911 on Sunday morning and made comments saying he supported the Islamic State militant group, officials said.

“It has been reported that Mateen made calls to 911 this morning in which he stated his allegiance to the leader of the Islamic State,” said Ronald Hopper, the FBI’s assistant special agent in charge on the case.

(Related story below: Islamic State claims responsibility for Orlando shooting)

U.S. officials cautioned, however, that they had no conclusive evidence of any direct connection with Islamic State or any other foreign extremist group.

“We know enough to say this was an act of terror, an act of hate,” Obama said in a speech from the White House. “As Americans, we are united in grief, in outrage and in resolve to defend our people.”

U.S. officials have reached no definitive judgment on the killer’s precise motives, Obama added.

“We must spare no effort to determine what, if any, inspiration or association this killer may have had with terrorist groups,” he said.

Fifty-three people were wounded in the rampage. It was the deadliest single U.S. mass shooting incident, eclipsing the 2007 massacre of 32 people at Virginia Tech university.

Pulse was crowded with some 350 revellers at a Latin music night when the attack happened.

Clubgoer Joshua McGill described in a posting on Facebook how he fled the attack.

“I hid under a car and found one of the victims that was shot,” McGill said, describing trying to bandage the victim with his shirt and quietly dragging him to a nearby police officer. “Words cannot and will not describe the feeling of that. Being covered in blood. Trying to save a guy’s life.”

A hostage situation developed, and three hours later a team of SWAT officers used armoured cars to storm the club before shooting dead the gunman. It was unclear when the victims were killed.

The number of dead shocked local officials, who had initially put the death toll at 20.

“Today we’re dealing with something that we never imagined and is unimaginable,” Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer said. He said 39 people died inside the club, two outside, and nine others died after being rushed to hospital.

Orlando Regional Medical Center Hospital said it had admitted 44 victims, including nine who died, and had carried out 26 operations on victims.

Officers arrive at the Orlando Police Headquarters during the investigation of a shooting at the Pulse nightclub, where people were killed by a gunman, in Orlando, Florida, U.S June 12, 2016. REUTERS/Steve Nesius

Officers arrive at the Orlando Police Headquarters during the investigation of a shooting at the Pulse nightclub, where people were killed by a gunman, in Orlando, Florida, U.S June 12, 2016. REUTERS/Steve Nesius

PRIOR FBI INTERVIEWS

Orlando gay nightclub mass shooting suspect Omar Mateen, 29 is shown in this undated photo. Orlando Police Department/Handout via Reuter

Orlando gay nightclub mass shooting suspect Omar Mateen, 29 is shown in this undated photo. Orlando Police Department/Handout via Reuter

Mateen had twice been interviewed by FBI agents, in 2013 and 2014, after making comments to co-workers indicating he supported militant groups, but neither interview lead to evidence of criminal activity, the FBI’s Hopper said.

As police tried to determine what motivated Mateen’s rampage, about a dozen unmarked police cars had gathered around a Port Saint Lucie house that appeared to be linked to the gunman. Police on the scene declined to comment, and neighbours said they didn’t  much activity in or around the white stucco home

“I’ve never seen anyone come in or out,” said Aryne Rackley, who has lived three doors away for the past three years. “Nobody is ever in the backyard.”

U.S. Representative Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on a congressional intelligence committee, said there were indications of “an ISIS-inspired act of terrorism,” referring to Islamic State.

Likely Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, who has called for a temporary ban on Muslims entering the United States, said he was “right on radical Islamic terrorism.”

He called in a tweet on Sunday for “toughness and vigilance.” Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton tweeted a brief statement after the attacks, but did not speculate on the motives of the gunman.

Florida Governor Rick Scott called for Americans to hold a moment of silence at 6 p.m. ET (2200 GMT) to commemorate the dead. World leaders including Pope Francis, Britain’s Queen Elizabeth and the leaders of Canada and Afghanistan condemned the attack.

Mateen was born in New York of parents who were immigrants from Afghanistan, according to a federal official who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

If confirmed as an act of terrorism, it would be the deadliest such attack on U.S. soil since Sept. 11, 2001, when al Qaeda-trained hijackers crashed jetliners into New York’s World Trade Center, the Pentagon and a field in Pennsylvania, killing some 3,000 people.

Mateen also referenced the ethnic Chechen brothers who killed three people in a bombing attack at the Boston Marathon in 2013, according to law enforcement officials.

The Orlando attacker was carrying an AR-15 style assault rifle and a handgun, Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings said. He also had an unidentified “device”, said Orlando Police Chief John Mina.

The choice of target was especially heart-wrenching for members of the U.S. lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community, said LGBT advocacy group Equality Florida.

“Gay clubs hold a significant place in LGBTQ history. They were often the only safe gathering place and this horrific act strikes directly at our sense of safety,” the group said in a statement. “We will await the details in tears of sadness and anger.”

Orlando has a population of more than 270,000 and is the home of the Disney World amusement park and many other tourist attractions that drew 62 million visitors in 2014.

Also on Sunday, a man was arrested in California with assault weapons and possible explosives and told authorities he was in the Los Angeles area for the gay pride festival, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Copyright Reuters 2016

(Additional reporting by Letitia Stein in Tampa, Zachary Fagenson in Port Saint Luice, Fla., Colleen Jenkins in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, Mark Hosenball in Washington and Chris Michaud in New York; Writing by Scott Malone and Daniel Wallis; Editing by Mary Milliken and Alistair Bell)

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Facts and Opinions is a boutique journal of reporting and analysis in words and images, without borders. Independent, non-partisan and employee-owned, F&O is funded by our readers. It is ad-free and spam-free, and does not solicit donations from partisan organizations. To continue we require a minimum payment of .27 for one story, or a sustaining donation. Details here. Thanks for your interest and support.

Islamic State claims responsibility for Orlando shooting

By Jonathan Landay and Mark Hosenball

A handout photograph posted by the Orlando Police Department on Twitter with the words, "Pulse shooting: In hail of gunfire in which suspect was killed, OPD officer was hit. Kevlar helmet saved his life", in reference to the operation against a gun man inside Pulse night club in Orlando, Florida, June 12, 2016. Orlando Police Department/Handout via REUTERS

A handout photograph posted by the Orlando Police Department on Twitter with the words, “Pulse shooting: In hail of gunfire in which suspect was killed, OPD officer was hit. Kevlar helmet saved his life”, in reference to the operation against a gun man inside Pulse night club in Orlando, Florida, June 12, 2016. Orlando Police Department/Handout via REUTERS

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Islamic State claimed responsibility on Sunday for the worst mass shooting in U.S. history, but U.S. officials said they had seen no immediate evidence linking the militant group to the massacre in Orlando, Florida.

Islamic State’s claim was carried by Amaq, the organization’s news agency.

“The armed attack that targeted a gay night club in the city of Orlando in American state of Florida which left over 100 people dead or injured was carried out by an Islamic State fighter,” said the Amaq statement.

At least 50 people were killed and 53 others were wounded in the Pulse nightclub before the suspected gunman was shot to death by police.

The suspected shooter was identified by authorities as Omar Mateen, a Florida resident who a senior FBI official said might have had leanings toward Islamic State.

The FBI official cautioned, however, that proving the suspected link to radical Islamism required further investigation.

Two U.S. officials familiar with the investigation into the massacre said that no evidence had yet been found showing a direct link between the massacre and Islamic State or any other militant group.

The officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, also said they had yet to see any direct contacts between any extremist group and the suspect.

Speaking at the White House, U.S. President Barack Obama called the attack “an act of terror” and an “act of hate,” and said the FBI would “spare no effort” to determine whether the suspect had been inspired by any extremist group.

The two officials familiar with the investigation said a leading theory was that the suspect somehow was inspired by Islamic militants.

One official said early information, the nature of which he did not disclose, indicated that the shooter was motivated by a mixture of “hate” and religion.

Federal authorities believe the shooter was Mateen, the U.S.-born son of Afghan immigrants, he said.

U.S. President Barack Obama speaks about the worst mass shooting in U.S. history that took place in Orlando, Florida, at the White House in Washington, U.S., June 12, 2016. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

U.S. President Barack Obama speaks about the worst mass shooting in U.S. history that took place in Orlando, Florida, at the White House in Washington, U.S., June 12, 2016. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

‘ACT OF TERRORISM’

U.S. Representative Adam Schiff of California, the senior Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, said in a statement issued after a briefing on the massacre that several factors indicated the attack was an Islamic State-inspired “act of terrorism.”

He noted that the incident occurred during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, that Islamic State had called for attacks during that period, the target was an LGBT nightclub and it was hit during Gay Pride weekend.

Moreover, he said, that if accurate, “according to local law enforcement the shooter declared his allegiance to ISIS (Islamic State).”

An audio message purportedly issued last month by the spokesman of Islamic State called on followers to launch attacks in the United States and Europe during Ramadan, which began on June 5 in the United States.

“Ramadan, the month of conquest and jihad. Get prepared, be ready … to make it a month of calamity everywhere for the non-believers … especially for the fighters and supporters of the caliphate in Europe and America,” said the statement allegedly made by Abu Muhammad al-Adnani and distributed over Twitter accounts usually associated with Islamic State.

“The smallest action you do in their heartland is better and more enduring to us than what you would if you were with us. If one of you hoped to reach the Islamic State, we wish we were in your place to punish the Crusaders day and night,” said the audio clip, the authenticity of which could not be verified.

Copyright Reuters 2016

(Reporting by Jonathan Landay and Mark Hosenball; Editing by Meredith Mazzilli and Peter Cooney)

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Facts and Opinions is a boutique journal of reporting and analysis in words and images, without borders. Independent, non-partisan and employee-owned, F&O is funded by our readers. It is ad-free and spam-free, and does not solicit donations from partisan organizations. To continue we require a minimum payment of .27 for one story, or a sustaining donation. Details here; donate below. Thanks for your interest and support.

F&O’s CONTENTS page is updated each Saturday. Sign up for emailed announcements of new work on our free FRONTLINES blog; find evidence-based reporting in Reports; commentary, analysis and creative non-fiction in OPINION-FEATURES; and image galleries in PHOTO-ESSAYS. If you value journalism please support F&O, and tell others about us.

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The Collapse of the Caliphate

Iraqi security forces sit in a military vehicle near Falluja, Iraq, May 31, 2016. REUTERS/Alaa Al-Marjani

Iraqi security forces sit in a military vehicle near Falluja, Iraq, May 31, 2016. REUTERS/Alaa Al-Marjani

JIM MCNIVEN: THOUGHTLINES
April, 2016

A long time ago, I was involved in a number of studies about declining communities in eastern Canada, a topic that is ‘coming round again’. One of the observations I took away from this experience was that communities, like people, do not normally die by inches. It cannot be represented as a straight-line decline, angling down to zero but instead is a gradually-sloping line until some inflection point is reached, followed by a precipitous crash. My feeling as a distant observer of events, is that this inflection point has been passed in the fight against the self-proclaimed Islamic Caliphate. I want to distinguish between the ideology of ISIS and its territory; it is the latter we are talking about here.

Once the airstrikes against the Caliphate began, it was only a matter of time until we would reach this moment. The question I often put to people who were concerned about the power of this organization was to tell me how many planes had the Caliphate shot down. Clearly, if there were wreckage, it would have been publicized. The answer, so far, is ‘none’. This is a testament to their mismatch of ambitions and capabilities.

Iraqi security forces and Shi'ite fighters sit in military vehicles near Falluja, Iraq, May 31, 2016. REUTERS/Alaa Al-Marjani

Iraqi security forces and Shi’ite fighters sit in military vehicles near Falluja, Iraq, May 31, 2016. REUTERS/Alaa Al-Marjani

Further, and unlike the Vietnam War, the territory controlled by the Caliphate at its zenith was all in dry to desert lands, offering no cover to movements. Transportation was degraded, supplies and facilities destroyed and the leadership group disrupted by assassination. This last is important, as the British discovered in the Irish Nationalist campaign of the late 1900s; the second rank of leaders often proved less politically adept and more brutal, thus alienating local supporters.

Today, the Caliphate has been reduced to three major urban areas, Raqqa, Mosul and Falluja. None of them have dependable resupply routes for either military goods or civilian needs. Short of their opponents falling into disarray and not pressing on, an unlikely hope this close to the end, things for ISIS can unravel simply by waiting. Sieges are a question of will on both sides and it appears from reports that ISIS is beginning to have to use its famously brutal methods on its own subjects to keep them in line. Further, the Mesopotamian summer has already begun, so even the elements are arraigned badly for ISIS.

So, what comes after the Caliphate? It is clear that the poisonous Wahhabi doctrine that underlies the Saudi state has produced something in Al Qaeda and ISIS that has awakened both the ‘West’ and the farther, more moderate reaches of the world of Islam. The reaction over the next few years will likely go beyond just preventing Saudi subsidization of mosques around the world, but will lead to more pressure on them to back away from the religious-political deal reached a century ago.

The Jihadist ideology does not present an existential threat to anyone outside of those areas distant from urban civilization, such as the Sahara and the northwest Indian Ocean. The Paris, Brussels and California incidents caused intense political reactions, but no country is going to collapse from such isolated tragedies. In America, the San Bernardino shootings in one way were the 350-somethingth mass murder incident in that country in the year 2015. It had the added ingredient of ISIS, but the victims were no more or less dead than in all the rest of the incidents perpetrated by over-angry, mentally disturbed or isolated people and the like.

The Arab East is wracked with virulently conflicting factions of nations, ethnicity and Islamic sectarianism. Neighbors such as Iran, Turkey and Israel all have different interests in the Arab heartland. Easy oil revenues add a layer of corruption to this stew. Then add in the outside players in Europe and North America and it is clear that the mess will not be going away soon, but will take on some different characteristic.

Perhaps the greatest problem arising out of the Caliphate has to be that which came out of a similar mess in the Balkans in the early 1900s, when one country, Austria-Hungary, decided it was futile to deal with that region in concert with the other major powers. Their unilateral decision to ‘solve’ the Serbian problem led to World War I, whose aftermath led to more war and destruction all over the world. It is to the credit of the outside protagonists in the Syrian civil war and the war on the Caliphate that they have not become so involved and stiff-necked as to bring this mess into big power relationships so far.

This whole mess is therefore not over. The proponents of Jihad have tried four tactics so far, with some initial success, but ultimate failure. These have been covert international operations, such as 9/11, tribal uprisings, such as the Taliban, armed assaults against weak states, as in Africa on the desert fringes, and the Caliphate, a proto-state based on a medieval model coupled with 21st Century technology. We do not know what is next; all we know is that there will be a ‘next’. America may be tired of this 20-year arm-wrestling with the Jihadists, but it went through the 45-year Cold War and came out the stronger for it. I expect this one will last as long and will end satisfactorily as well.

 Copyright Jim McNiven 2016

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Jim McNiven

James McNiven has a PhD from the University of Michigan. He has written widely on public policy and economic development issues and is the co-author of three books. His most recent research has been about the relationship of demographic changes to Canadian regional economic development. He also has an interest in American business history and continues to teach at Dalhousie on a part-time basis.

 

 

 

 

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Facts and Opinions is a boutique journal of reporting and analysis in words and images, without borders. Independent, non-partisan and employee-owned, F&O is funded by you, our readers. We are ad-free and spam-free, and do not solicit donations from partisan organizations. Real journalism has value. Thank you for your support. Please tell others about us, and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

F&O’s CONTENTS page is updated each Saturday. Sign up for emailed announcements of new work on our free FRONTLINES blog; find evidence-based reporting in Reports; commentary, analysis and creative non-fiction in OPINION-FEATURES; and image galleries in PHOTO-ESSAYS. If you value journalism please support F&O, and tell others about us.

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Fresh: Facts, and Opinions, this week

An actor performs during William Shakespeare's theatre play "Hamlet" at the Jerusalem Centre for the Performing Arts in this file photograph dated December 11, 2008. REUTERS/ Eliana Aponte/files

Scan of Shakespeare’s Grave Suggests Skull Missing, reports Reuters. Above, an actor performs during William Shakespeare’s theatre play “Hamlet” at the Jerusalem Centre for the Performing Arts in this file photograph dated December 11, 2008. REUTERS/ Eliana Aponte/files

 

A still image taken from security camera footage shows people running for safety as shots are fired at the beach resort in Grand Bassam, Ivory Coast March 13, 2016. REUTERS/Etoile du Sud Hotel via Reuters TV ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS PICTURE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. REUTERS IS UNABLE TO INDEPENDENTLY VERIFY THE AUTHENTICITY, CONTENT, LOCATION OR DATE OF THIS IMAGE. FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS. THIS PICTURE IS DISTRIBUTED EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY REUTERS, AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS.

People running for safety as shots are fired at the beach resort in Grand Bassam, Ivory Coast March 13, 2016. REUTERS/Etoile du Sud Hotel via Reuters TV 

The West’s racist response to terrorism, by Tom Regan. Column

It was a horrible attack. The terrorist gunmen walked up and down the beach, slaughtering men, women and children with each step they took. In one case, a small child begged for his life only to be murdered by the gunmen. A deaf child in the water, who others tried to warn of the danger, was also gunned down.  In the end at least 20 people lay dead, including two soldiers from a group who had arrived to confront the al-Qaeda terrorists. But I’m guessing you don’t know about this attack. That’s because it happened in the Cote d’Ivoire.

 

“Feeling the Bern”,  by Rod Mickleburgh  Column

The 74-year old, white-haired politician advanced to the podium, and the roof nearly came off the Hudson’s Bay High School gymnasium. No wonder. For nearly four hours, thousands of us had been standing in line, braving a cold, miserable rain, without even knowing whether we would be among the 5,000 or so lucky enough to make it inside. As the cheers continued to cascade down from the packed, rickety benches of the high school gym, Bernie Sanders leaned forward and shouted in his hoarse, Brooklynese. “All I can say is: WHOA!”

Party dissent in China as time for a new mandate for Xi nears, by Jonathan Manthorpe, International Affairs  Column

China’s leader Xi Jinping is facing serious criticism from within the ruling Communist Party as the time approaches when he must be reconfirmed as party boss and the country’s president. Since being selected by the party at the end of 2012 for China’s two top posts, Xi has raised hackles by using an anti-corruption drive to remove his political rivals, fostering an unseemly cult of personality, ramping up censorship and suppressing of dissent, and grasping more personal power than any leader since Mao Zedong.

Reuters

Reuters

UN Court Finds  Karadžić Guilty in Bosnia Genocide Trial. By Thomas Escritt and Toby Sterling  Report

Former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic, the most senior political figure to be convicted by the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia in The Hague, was sentenced to 40 years in jail by U.N judges who found him guilty of genocide for the 1995 Srebrenica massacre and of nine other war crimes charges.

How aspirin does more than kill pain. By Emma Young   Report

Inflammation in our bodies is being linked with more diseases. Can a simple anti-inflammatory drug like aspirin really help keep us healthier?

Scan of Shakespeare’s Grave Suggests Skull Missing. By Reuters Arts report

Shakespeare’s skull is likely missing from his grave, an archaeologist has concluded, confirming rumors which have swirled for years about grave-robbers and adding to the mystery surrounding the Bard’s remains.

Brussels Attacks: 30 Killed, Islamic State Claims Responsibility. By Philip Blenkinsop and Francesco Guarascio

Islamic State claimed responsibility for suicide bomb attacks on Brussels airport and a rush-hour metro train in the Belgian capital March 22, 2016, which killed at least 30 people, with police hunting a suspect who fled the air terminal.

Brussels Attacks: Deadly Circles of Terror. By Sebastian Rotella

Over the past several months, Belgian counterterror officials told me they were working nonstop to prevent an attack and that the danger had never been so high. Today, March 22, 2016, their worst fears came true when coordinated bombings struck the airport and a subway stop in Brussels.

In Case You Missed It, stories earlier this month:

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F&O’s CONTENTS page is updated each Saturday. Sign up for emailed announcements of new work on our free FRONTLINES blog; find evidence-based reporting in Reports; commentary, analysis and creative non-fiction in OPINION-FEATURES; and image galleries in PHOTO-ESSAYS. If you value journalism please support F&O, and tell others about us.

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Insight: The road to Aleppo – how the West misread Putin

 

By Tom Perry, Laila Bassam, Jonathan Landay and Maria Tsvetkova
February, 2016

BEIRUT/WASHINGTON/MOSCOW (Reuters) – Last July, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad seemed to be losing his battle against rebel forces. Speaking to supporters in Damascus, he acknowledged his army’s heavy losses.

Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) shakes hands with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad during a meeting at the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia, in this October 20, 2015 file photo. REUTERS/Alexei Druzhinin/RIA Novosti/Kremlin/ Files

Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) shakes hands with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad during a meeting at the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia, in this October 20, 2015 file photo. REUTERS/Alexei Druzhinin/RIA Novosti/Kremlin/ Files

Western officials said the Syrian leader’s days were numbered and predicted he would soon be forced to the negotiating table.

It did not turn out that way. Secret preparations were already underway for a major deployment of Russian and Iranian forces in support of Assad.

The military intervention, taking many in the West by surprise, would roll back rebel gains. It would also accelerate two shifts in U.S. diplomacy: Washington would welcome Iran to the negotiating table over Syria, and it would no longer insist that Assad step down immediately.

“That involved swallowing some pride, to be honest, in acknowledging that this process would go nowhere unless you got Russia and Iran at the table,” a U.S. official said.

At the heart of the diplomacy shift – which essentially brought Washington closer to Moscow’s position – was a slow-footed realization of the Russian military build-up in Syria and, ultimately, a refusal to intervene militarily.

Russia, Iran and Syria struck their agreement to deploy military forces in June, several weeks before Assad’s July 26 speech, according to a senior official in the Middle East who was familiar with the details.

And Russian sources say large amounts of equipment, and hundreds of troops, were being dispatched over a series of weeks, making it hard to hide the pending operation.

Yet a senior U.S. administration official said it took until mid-September for Western powers to fully recognise Russia’s intentions. One of the final pieces of the puzzle was when Moscow deployed aircraft flown only by the Russian military, eliminating the possibility they were intended for Assad, the official said.

An earlier understanding of Russia’s military plans is unlikely to have changed U.S. military policy. President Barack Obama had made clear early on that he did not want Washington embroiled in a proxy war with Russia. And when the West did wake up to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s intentions, it was short of ideas about how to respond.

As in Ukraine in 2014, the West seemed helpless.

French President Francois Hollande summed up the mood among America’s European allies: “I would prefer the United States to be more active. But since the United States has stepped back, who should take over, who should act?”

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Russian warplanes fly in the sky over the Mediterranean coastal city of Latakia, Syria, in this January 28, 2016 file photo. REUTERS/Omar Sanadiki /Files

Russian warplanes fly in the sky over the Mediterranean coastal city of Latakia, Syria, in this January 28, 2016 file photo. REUTERS/Omar Sanadiki /Files

SIGNPOSTS

In July last year, one of Iran’s top generals, Qassem Soleimani, went to Moscow on a visit that was widely reported. The senior Middle Eastern official told Reuters that Soleimani had also met Putin twice several weeks before that.

“They defined zero hour for the Russian planes and equipment, and the Russian and Iranian crews,” he said.

Russia began sending supply ships through the Bosphorus in August, Reuters reported at the time. There was no attempt to hide the voyages and on Sept. 9 Reuters reported that Moscow had begun participating in military operations in Syria.

A Russian Air Force colonel, who took part in preparations and provided fresh details of the build-up, said hundreds of Russian pilots and ground staff were selected for the Syria mission in mid-August.

Warplanes sent to Syria included the Sukhoi-25 and Sukhoi-24 offensive aircraft, U.S. officials said. In all, according to U.S. officials, Russia by Sept. 21 had 28 fixed-wing aircraft, 16 helicopters, advanced T-90 tanks and other armoured vehicles, artillery, anti-aircraft batteries and hundreds of marines at its base near Latakia.

Despite this public build-up, the West either played down the risks or failed to recognise them.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said on Sept. 22 that Russian aircraft were in Syria to defend the Russians’ base – “force protection” in the view of U.S. military experts.

At the United Nations General Assembly on Sept. 28, the French announced their own first air strikes in Syria.

“The international community is hitting Daesh (Islamic State). France is hitting Daesh. The Russians, for now, are not doing anything,” Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius Fabius said at the time.

The next day Russia announced its strikes in Syria.

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Souvenir plates depicting Syria's President Bashar al-Assad and Russia's President Vladimir Putin are seen among other items for sale in old Damascus, Syria, February 8, 2016. REUTERS/Omar Sanadiki

Souvenir plates depicting Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad and Russia’s President Vladimir Putin are seen among other items for sale in old Damascus, Syria, February 8, 2016. REUTERS/Omar Sanadiki

WARNINGS

One former U.S. official, who was in government at the time, told Reuters that some U.S. officials had begun voicing concern that Russia would intervene militarily in Syria two weeks before the bombing began.

Their concerns, however, were disregarded by officials in the White House and those dealing with the Middle East because of a lack of hard intelligence, the former U.S. official said.

“There was this tendency to say, ‘We don’t know. Let’s see,'” recounted the former U.S. official.

Yet between October and December, American perceptions shifted, as reported by Reuters at the time.

By December, U.S. officials had concluded that Russia had achieved its main goal of stabilizing Assad’s government and could maintain its operations in Syria for years.

“I think it’s indisputable that the Assad regime, with Russian military support, is probably in a safer position than it was,” a senior administration official said.

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Souvenir plates depicting Syria's President Bashar al-Assad and Russia's President Vladimir Putin are seen among other items for sale in old Damascus, Syria, February 8, 2016. REUTERS/Omar Sanadiki

Souvenir plates depicting Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad and Russia’s President Vladimir Putin are seen among other items for sale in old Damascus, Syria, February 8, 2016. REUTERS/Omar Sanadiki

DIPLOMATIC U-TURN

At that point, the U.S. pivoted to the negotiating table with Russia and Iran. Officials say they had few other options with Obama unwilling to commit American ground troops to Syria, aside from small deployments of Special Operations forces, or provide U.S.-backed opposition fighters with anti-aircraft missiles.

In Munich on Feb 12, Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov announced an agreement for humanitarian access and a “cessation of hostilities” in Syria, far short of a ceasefire.

“Putin has taken the measure of the West… He has basically concluded, I can push and push and push and push and I am never going to hit steel anywhere,” said Fred Hof, a former State Department and Pentagon Syria expert now at the Atlantic Council think tank.

Today, U.S. officials sound a far different note than in the early days of the uprising against Assad when they said his exit must be immediate. Now, with the war entering its sixth year, they say they must push the diplomatic possibilities as far as possible and insist Kerry is fully aware of what Russia is doing to change facts on the ground.

In congressional testimony on Wednesday, Kerry acknowledged there was no guarantee the “cessation of hostilities” would work, adding: “But I know this: If it doesn’t work, the potential is there that Syria will be utterly destroyed. The fact is that we need to make certain that we are exploring and exhausting every option of diplomatic resolution.”

For the rebels, the reality is bleak.

Government forces have closed in on the city of Aleppo, a major symbol of the uprising. Their supply routes from Turkey cut, rebels in the Aleppo area now say it may only be a matter of time before they are crushed altogether.

“We are heading towards being liquidated I think,” said a former official in a rebel group from the city.

Other fighters remain determinedly upbeat, saying Assad is only gaining ground because of Russian air power and he will not be able to sustain the advances.

For Syrians living under government rule in Damascus, Moscow’s intervention has inspired a degree of confidence. They credit one of the calmest periods since the start of the war to the death of rebel leader Zahran Alloush, killed in a Russian air strike on Christmas Day.

There are few foreign visitors these days. Bashar al-Seyala, who owns a souvenir shop in the Old City, said most of his foreign customers are Russians. His shop had just sold out of mugs printed with Putin’s face.

Copyright Reuters 2016

(Additional reporting by John Irish, Arshad Mohammed, Lesley Wroughton, Warren Strobel, Lou Charbonneau and Mark Hosenball; Writing by Giles Elgood; editing by Janet McBride)

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Facts and Opinions is a boutique journal of reporting and analysis in words and images, without borders. Independent, non-partisan and employee-owned, F&O is funded by our readers. It is ad-free and spam-free, and does not solicit donations from partisan organizations. To continue we require a minimum payment of .27 for one story, or a sustaining donation. Details here; donate below. Thanks for your interest and support.

F&O’s CONTENTS page is updated each Saturday. Sign up for emailed announcements of new work on our free FRONTLINES blog; find evidence-based reporting in Reports; commentary, analysis and creative non-fiction in OPINION-FEATURES; and image galleries in PHOTO-ESSAYS. If you value journalism please support F&O, and tell others about us.

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Nothing is simple about Canada’s support for Kurdish fighters

Kurdish PKK fighters Photo: Kurdishstruggle/Flickr/Creative Commons

Kurdish PKK fighters Photo: Kurdishstruggle/Flickr/Creative Commons

JONATHAN MANTHORPE: International Affairs
February 18, 2016

There is a generation of British soldiers, civil servants and planters, now mostly dead, who swear bloodcurdling oaths at the mention of the name of Canada.

They were posted to the then-British colony of Malaya after the Second World War, and they blame Canada for training and arming the ethnic Chinese communists who waged guerrilla war against the colonial power from 1948 until 1960. About 12,000 people were killed, including nearly 3,000 civilians.

There is some justice in the British accusation against Canada, though not much. Canada’s purpose in Malaya in the 1940s was to arm and train the communist guerrillas to fight the occupying Japanese. Many of those involved were Chinese Canadians, who volunteered to fight in the expectation Ottawa would no longer be able to deny them full citizenship after the war. Chinese Canadians were given the vote in 1947.

Once parachuted into occupied Malaya and Burma, the Canadian commandos linked up with local fellow ethnic Chinese, who they trained in sabotage, ambushes, and all the dark arts of guerrilla warfare, and then led in attacks on the Japanese. When the Canadians left, the Chinese Malays remembered the lessons, hid their weapons and bided their time.

Today the Malay Emergency – the British had far too much experience of these things to be so foolish as to declare a “war on terrorism” – is remembered as one of the few textbook examples of how to defeat a guerrilla insurgency. And in what is now Malaysia, there is a pact that allows the minority ethnic Chinese to make money so long as they don’t challenge the majority Malays for political power.

Now Canada is doing something similar with the Kurds in Iraq as it did with the Chinese Malays in the 1940s. The government of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has announced the end of Canada’s deployment of CF-18 fighter-bomber aircraft, which with other coalition airforces have been bombing territory occupied by the Islamic State terror group. Instead, Canada will triple, to about 150, the number of special forces soldiers it will send to train and advise Kurdish fighters in northern Iraq, known as Peshmerga. Ottawa will also be supplying the Peshmerga with small arms.

The reason for backing the Peshmerga is that they are killing more Islamic State fighters and reclaiming more territory than any other soldiers in the region. The Iraqi army is a disgrace, despite years of training by the United States. In Syria, Islamic State holds large swathes of territory and has its capital, Raqqa. The army of President Bashar al Assad, and the militaries of his allies Russia and Iran, are intent on trying to destroy the so-called moderate rebels, and are leaving IS largely untouched.

There are good tactical reasons to back the Kurdish Peshmerga. But, unlike in Malaya in the 1940s, the probable consequences of supporting the Kurds are clear. The Kurds hope to emerge from the current upheaval and civil war with an independent state of Kurdistan covering their traditional homelands in northern Iraq and Syria, which they already largely control. That, they hope, will be a stepping stone toward adding their homelands in eastern Turkey and north-western Iran.

There are about 32 million Kurds, the world’s largest distinct ethnic group without their own nation state. There are good arguments to be made that they deserve their own country. However, Canada’s NATO ally Turkey, home to about 15 million Kurds and about 18 per cent of Turkey’s total population, has been violently opposed to Kurdish independence, since the Kurds started a separatist movement in 1984.

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Kurdish occupied lands. Wikipedia/Creative Commons

Kurdish occupied lands. Wikipedia/Creative Commons

Many Canadians may support aiding the Kurds in creating Kurdistan. But Canada should be clear that that is the probable end result of Canada’s military policy in the war against Islamic State. Canada should have no illusions it will be a clean, cut-and-dried affair. We are, after all, trying in Iraq and Syria — to which one could add Lebanon, Jordan, Israel and Palestine — to clean up mistakes made a century ago at the end of the First World War. Then the collapsed Ottoman Empire was shared out as spheres of influence among European powers, principally Britain and France. From that emerged the modern states of Turkey, Iran, Iraq and Syria, with the Kurds living in the mountains where the four boundaries meet. The Kurds have pursued the quest for Kurdistan with persistence and determination in the century since the end of the First World War. They even managed to briefly establish independent governments in their homelands in Turkey, Iran and Iraq. But these nascent Kurdistans were swiftly destroyed by the central governments.

It was the Americans who set the Kurds on their modern course to create an independent state. After the First Gulf War in 1991 United States forces withdrew without deposing Iraqi President Saddam Hussein. But Washington realised it had left Iraqis, and especially Kurds in the north, vulnerable to revenge attacks by Saddam’s forces. The U.S. and its allies therefore established a no-fly zone over the Kurdish areas of northern Iraq. This created a de facto independent Kurdish state, which continues to exist as a self-governing region in post-Saddam Iraq. In November, Iraqi Kurdish President Masoud Barzani called for a referendum to measure support for de jure independence from Baghdad. He has said outright in the last few weeks he considers the Anglo-French Sykes-Pigott agreement, which carved up the Middle East 100 years ago, to be a dead document. The map of the region needs to be redrawn in line with ethnic, political and religious realities, he has said, and the creation of Kurdistan should be part of the new dispensation.

But after a century of separation into four different countries, the Kurds are no longer a homogenous group, if they ever were. Barzani himself is a good example of the complexities that will cloud the creation of a broad Kurdistan.

Barzani is a vehement Kurdish nationalist, but he is also very close to the Turkish government of President Recep Erdogan, who is in the midst of a renewed military campaign against the Turkish Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) after the breakdown of a cease-fire last year.

The relationship between Barzani and Erdogan is crudely practical. The Iraqi Kurds seized control of the major oil fields around Kirkuk in July 2014. This has given Barzani’s Kurdistan Regional Government control of about 40 per cent of Iraq’s oil reserves, which it is exporting at a rate of up to 600,000 barrels a day through a new pipeline to Turkey and earning an average of $US600 million a month.

In return for being able to use Turkey for oil exports, Barzani raises little outrage when Erdogan’s forces attack Turkish PKK camps in northern Iraq.

Barzani has been a fixture as the president of the Iraqi Kurds for more than a decade. His last elected term ended in 2013, and he now refuses to step down. This has spawned a significant opposition movement. In October last year, supporters of the main opposition party in the Kurdistan parliament, Gorran, attacked offices of Barzani’s Kurdistan Democratic Party and five people were killed. In retaliation, Barzani expelled four Gorran ministers from the Kurdistan government.

Turkey is watching the political infighting in Irai Kurdistan with some anxiety. If Gorran or some other opposition party were to come to power, it would likely be far more sympathetic to the Turkish Kurds PKK and far less willing to allow Turkish forces to attack PKK bases in Iraq.

The political context of emergent Kurdish independence in Syria is just as fraught. There are about 1.5 million Kurds living in Syria, mostly along the country’s northern border with Turkey. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his regime never regarded the Kurds as a natural enemy or threat the way he regards the Sunni Muslim Arabs. As the Sunni insurgency mounted in 2011 and 2012, Assad withdrew his forces from the Kurdish areas, leaving the Syrian Kurdish group, the Democratic Union Party (PYD) free to operate self-government in three prefectures: Efrin close to the Mediterranean coast, Kobani on the central border region with Turkey, and Jazirah in the northeast. Over the course of the five-year civil war, the Syrian Kurds and their militia, the People’s Defence Units (YPG) have extended their territory so that they now control over half the nearly 900-kilometre-long border with Turkey. The main gap is a stretch between Azaz and Jarabulus, which is a battle ground between moderate Syrian rebels and hardline jihadists of the Islamic State and the al-Qaida-linked Jabhat al-Nusra. It is through this corridor that supplies from Turkey have been reaching Aleppo, Syria’s largest city, which is held by moderate Syrian rebels. But on February 3 Assad’s forces, supported by Russia’s air force, veteran Hezbollah fighters from Lebanon, and under the direction of officers of the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, captured the territory north of Aleppo and cut the city off from its life-line to Turkey.

This may well give the Kurdish YPG forces an opportunity to take the land between Efrin and Kobani, and complete their aim of a contiguous Kurdish free state along the Turkish border.

This campaign would require air support from the U.S. and allies, especially the capture of the city of Jarabulus, and it is by no means certain the YPG will get it. Erdogan and the Turkish government are deeply suspicious of the YPG and the Syrian Kurds’ political wing, the PYD. Ankara sees the PYD as heavily influenced by Abdullah Ocalan, the founder of the Turkish Kurds’ PKK, who is now in prison serving a life sentence after being abducted from Kenya by the Turkish National Intelligence Agency in 1999. Thus if the Syrian Kurds are able to keep an independent state based on Ocalan’s political philosophy, Ankara fears this will become a long-term encouragement to Turkish Kurds and the PKK to ramp up their campaign for independence.

Ankara has already made it clear it would regard the capture of Jarabulus by the YPG as a red line requiring stern military action. It is to try to forestall this eventuality that the Erdogan government keeps calling on NATO and other allies opposed to the Assad regime to enforce creation of a safe zone for Syrian refugees in the border region between Jarabulus and Azaz. For Ankara, the zone would be to foil the Syrian Kurds as much as to save the refugees.

Because Turkey is a member of NATO, the extent to which other NATO members, such as Canada and the U.S., should encourage the creation of a wider Kurdistan is a significant question. In a world of harsh pragmatic politics, is the creation of Kurdistan, however much it is justified, worth the potential fracturing of NATO? That question has special potency when Turkey has the second largest NATO military after the U.S., and is a major element in containing Vladimir Putin’s rampant Russia.

On the other hand, Turkey’s Erdogan seems far more interested in making his country a power broker in the Middle East rather than looking west and, for example, pressing to join the Europen Union. Erdogan is also boosting Islamism in Turkey and seriously undermining democracy. He is trying to diminish the role of parliament and create an executive presidency with himself at the helm.

As I said at the beginning, the major reason for Canada and other allies to support and arm the Peshmerga Iraqi Kurdish fighters is that they are the best foot soldiers available and are killing more Islamic State fanatics than anyone else. But the fall out from such a decision can last a long time and have untold implications.

In 1943 the British were sending arms to royalist partisans fighting German occupying forces in Yugoslavia. But Prime Minister Winston Churchill was not persuaded the royalists had their hearts in the fight. Churchill called in a young veteran of the Long Range Desert Patrols, forerunner of the Special Air Service, in North Africa. Fitzroy Maclean later wrote that his mission was “simply to find out who was killing the most Germans and suggest means by which we could help them to kill more.”

Maclean got into Yugoslavia and made his way to the headquarters of the communist partisans led by Josip Broz Tito. Maclean had no illusions about with whom he was dealing. Before the war he had been a British diplomat in Moscow and knew all about Stalinism. His accounts of Joseph Stalin’s purges and show trials are riveting. But Maclean came to the conclusion the royalist Chetniks were at best half-hearted and at worst collaborating with the German occupying forces. Only Tito and the communist partisans were an effective force, Maclean told Churchill. They were killing Germans and should be supported.

And so it happened, with the inevitable result that both Maclean and Churchill had foreseen. Tito took power in Yugoslavia after the war, and held it until his death in 1980.

Tito’s regime was not as repressive as the Soviet Union satellite states in Eastern Europe, but it was no holiday camp either. After Tito’s death the unresolved ethnic and political complexities of Yugoslavia began to unravel into conflict. By the mid-1990s what had been Tito’s Yugoslavia had shattered into fighting between Serbs, Bosnians, Croats, Montenegrans, Kosovans and Albanians.

The United Nations dived in to separate the combatants, the Canadians, ever willing to don blue helmets with them. And then in May 1995 came a moment that should have been the end of innocence for Canada.

Canadian Capt. Patrick Rechner, an unarmed UN military observer, was captured by Bosnian Serb soldiers at Pale and chained to a lightning rod outside a warehouse holding mortar bombs. The aim of the Serb fighters was to stop NATO aircraft bombing their positions, and distressing pictures of Capt. Rechner were broadcast world wide. Capt. Rechner was held for 24 days, and the pictures became a clear statement that the age of classic UN peacekeeping was over.

Anyone overcome by nostalgia, who hopes that the rededication of the new government of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to the UN will mean Canada again being able to wrap itself in the cosy blanket of classic peacekeeping, is dreaming in Technicolor.

And the greatest irony is that the Bosian Serb fighters who captured and held Capt. Rechner were commanded by Nicholas Ribic, a Canadian who travelled to Serbia in 1992 because he “wanted to fight Muslims.”

In years to come there will undoubtedly come a time when people will ask how wise it was to train and arm the Kurds simply because they were killing more Islamic Group fighters than anyone else.

Copyright Jonathan Manthorpe 2016

Facts and Opinions is employee-owned and relies on the honour system: enjoy one free story. If you value independent, no-spam, no-ads,expert journalism, support us with a minimum of .27 per story, a $1 day site pass, or $20 per year. Donate below. Please respect our copyright. Details here.

Jonathan Manthorpe is the author of “Forbidden Nation: A History of Taiwan.”

Contact: jonathan.manthorpe@gmail.com. Please address queries about syndication/republishing this column to jonathan.manthorpe@gmail.com

Related:

War on Islamic State caliphate boosts the birth of Kurdistan. Jonathan Manthorpe, October, 2014

Before going to war it is always a good idea to have a clear purpose and outcome in mind.  Yet six Royal Canadian Airforce CF-18s are set for bombing missions in the Middle East without any clear vision of what victory will look like. The whole thing is depressingly reminiscent of the Libyan campaign in 2011 when allied warplanes enabled rebels to oust and kill dictator Moammar Gaddhafi. But then they all declared “mission accomplished,” packed up their kit and headed home. Meanwhile Libya has turned into bloody chaos and a killing ground for rival Islamic factions, tribal fighters and would-be new dictators. There are many days when Gaddhafi, for all his evil, looks a lot better than what Libyans have got now. … read more 
Related: Nation of Kurdistan springs from Arab chaos. Jonathan Manthorpe July 4, 2014

REUTERS/Umit Bektas/Files

REUTERS/Umit Bektas

Ethnic groups flee as Syrian Kurds advance against Islamic State. By Humeyra Pamuk

 Cemal Dede fled his home in a remote Turkmen village in Syria after warplanes from the U.S.-led coalition against Islamic State bombed the house next door. He had no idea he wouldn’t be coming back. Dede says the Kurdish YPG militia did not let his family of seven return to Dedeler near the Turkish border, telling him it was now Kurdish territory and Turkmens like him had no place there.

Who are the Yazidis? By Christine Allison

In 1918, the Yazidis of Sinjar mountain received an ultimatum from Ottoman forces – to hand over their weaponry and the Christian refugees they were sheltering, or face the consequences. They tore it up and sent the messengers back naked. The Sinjaris are the “Highlanders” of the Iraqi Yazidis – tough and proud. After suffering terrible casualties and appealing to the allied forces for help they were able to survive the subsequent attack and live out the war in their mountain homeland.

Facts and Opinions is employee-owned and relies on the honour system: enjoy one free story. If you value independent, no-spam, no-ads,expert journalism, support us with a minimum of .27 per story, a $1 day site pass, or $20 per year. Donate below. Details here.

 

Manthorpe B&WJonathan Manthorpe is a founding columnist with Facts and Opinions and is the author of the journal’s International Affairs column. Manthorpe has been a foreign correspondent and international affairs columnist for nearly 40 years. Manthorpe’s  nomadic career began in the late 1970s as European Bureau Chief for The Toronto Star, the job that took Ernest Hemingway to Europe in the 1920s. In the mid-1980s Manthorpe became European Correspondent for Southam News. In the following years Manthorpe was sent by Southam News, the internal news agency for Canada’s largest group of metropolitan daily newspapers, to be the correspondent in Africa and then Asia. Between postings Manthorpe spent a few years based in Ottawa focusing on intelligence and military affairs, and the United Nations. Since 1998 Manthorpe has been based in Vancouver, but has travelled frequently on assignment to Asia, Europe and Latin America.

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F&O’s CONTENTS page is updated each Saturday. Sign up for emailed announcements of new work on our free FRONTLINES blog; find evidence-based reporting in Reports; commentary, analysis and creative non-fiction in OPINION-FEATURES; and image galleries in PHOTO-ESSAYS. If you value journalism please support F&O, and tell others about us.

 

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Facts, and Opinions, that matter: from Zika to America’s “Arab Spring”

The World Health Organization declared the Zika virus “a Public Health Emergency of International Concern” today.

The WHO cited a suspected, though not yet scientifically proven, link between infection during pregnancy and microcephaly, the way the disease is spreading to vulnerable people, and the lack of vaccines and tests were also given as reasons.

Zika is spread by common mosquitoes, and is thought to have arrived in the Americas two years ago from areas of Africa where it’s endemic. It’s suspected to be the culprit behind  3,700 babies reportedly born with abnormally small heads —  microcephaly — in Brazil, the country hardest  hit in the Americas.

Said WHO, “A coordinated international response is needed to improve surveillance, the detection of infections, congenital malformations, and neurological complications, to intensify the control of mosquito populations, and to expedite the development of diagnostic tests and vaccines to protect people at risk, especially during pregnancy.

The first priority is control of mosquito populations and preventing mosquito bites in people at risk, especially pregnant women, said the organization.

Read three pieces on F&O that put the Zika emergency in context:

Did health agencies fumble Zika response? By Paulo Prada

It took months for Brazil’s health ministry to recognize the Zika virus had arrived. And so far, the World Health Organization’s hesitant response to the  outbreak –which has created the worst global health scare since Ebola –says much about the difficulties that the WHO and other health authorities face in combating unexpected public health threats. … go to the story

Love in the time of Zika

Where did Zika virus come from, and why is it in Brazil? By Amy Y Vittor

Urbanization, changing climate, air travel and transportation, and waxing and waning control efforts that are at the mercy of economic and political factors have led to these mosquitoes spreading to new areas and coming back in areas where they had previously been eradicated.  … go to the story.

Love in the time of Zika. By Beverley Paterson

Love, sex and babies are the foundation of human existence. Without them the human race ceases to exist. Zika, a virus that few people had heard of a month ago, has suddenly disrupted this normal course of events.  …go to the story.

F&O’s new works this week also include:

Dawn at the scientific base of Ny-Alesund, Svalbard, Norway October 14, 2015. A Norwegian chain of islands just 1,200 km (750 miles) from the North Pole is trying to promote new technologies, tourism and scientific research in a shift from high-polluting coal mining that has been a backbone of the remote economy for decades. Norway suspended most coal mining on the Svalbard archipelago last year because of the high costs, and is looking for alternative jobs for about 2,200 inhabitants on islands where polar bears roam. Part of the answer may be to boost science: in Ny-Alesund, the world's most northerly permanent non-military settlement, scientists from 11 nations including Norway, Germany, France, Britain, India and South Korea study issues such as climate change. The presence of Norway, a NATO member, also gives the alliance a strategic foothold in the far north, of increasing importance after neighbouring Russia annexed Ukraine's Crimea region in 2014. REUTERS/Anna FilipovaPICTURE 03 OF 19 - SEARCH "SVALBARD FILIPOVA" FOR ALL IMAGES


REUTERS/Anna Filipova

Snow, science, solitude: Ny-Alesund, Norway
ANNA FILIPOVA & ALISTER DOYLE Photo-Essay

The Islamic State is a mere shadow of the Assassins’ Caliphate
JONATHAN MANTHORPE, International Affairs Column

America’s ‘Arab Spring’
JIM MCNIVEN, Thoughtlines column

Newspapers their own worst enemy in battle to survive
TOM REGAN, Summoning Orenda Column

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Suicide Bombing: history’s least successful military tactic

A general view of the scene that shows rescue services near the covered bodies outside a restaurant following a shooting incident in Paris, France, November 13, 2015.   REUTERS/Philippe Wojazer

A general view of the scene that shows rescue services near the covered bodies outside a restaurant following a shooting incident in Paris, France, November 13, 2015. REUTERS/Philippe Wojazer

JONATHAN MANTHORPE: International Affairs 
November 20, 2015

It is cold comfort, certainly, with the horrors of Paris and Beirut still fresh, but the terrorist tactics adopted by the Islamic State show clearly the group is heading down a path of political irrelevance and self-destruction.

The adoption by Islamic State (IS) of suicide attacks as its terrorist brand is a sure sign this is a doomed, nihilist group. Its destruction is only a matter of time.

Suicide attacks have been used throughout the history of warfare — and they have an unrivalled record of total failure. They have never worked either as a last-ditch defence or as an offensive tactic aimed at overwhelming the opponent.

In the midst of last week’s attacks in Paris there was a compelling picture of the stupidity and futility of suicide attacks. One of the would-be suicide bombers was foiled by security guards from getting into the Stade de France, packed for a soccer match between the national team and Germany. So the bomber wandered off about 500 meters down a dead-end street and blew himself up, killing or injuring no one else. What a lonely and pointless “martyrdom operation,” IS’s preferred description of suicide attacks.

Suicide attacks have always been pointless. In the 1980s Tamil Tiger separatists in Sri Lanka started using suicide bombers in an effort to force the Colombo government to give them independence. They failed utterly.

More recently, various Palestinian terror groups used suicide attacks – first with bombs and now knives – with the aim of conclusively demoralizing the state of Israel. That has not happened and there is no sign it will happen.

In September 2011, al-Qaida launched suicide attacks on New York and Washington with the purpose of terrorising the United States into abandoning its Arab allies. Osama bin Laden believed al-Qaida could take over Saudi Arabia with the U.S. out of the equation. His entire strategy was wrong.

IS is going down the same well-trodden and entirely misconceived route. It seems to think that its suicide attacks in Paris, Beirut and elsewhere will terrorize its opponents into abandoning their campaigns to drive IS out of the territory it holds in Syria and Iraq.

Wrong yet again. Not only have France’s allies rallied around the Paris government as it steps up its efforts in the anti-IS campaign in Syria/Iraq, the threat of a widening terror campaign is creating an extraordinary alliance of necessity among the group’s enemies. The U.S., Russia and Iran are not about to make a formal pact to fight together against IS, but there is clearly a degree of co-ordination of their campaigns being managed.

The task for European, North American and other leaders of the anti-IS coalition is how to help facilitate the group’s self-immolation with as little collateral damage as possible.

French President Francois Hollande speaks at the Elysee Palace in Paris, France, the day after a series of deadly attacks in the French capital, November 14, 2015.   REUTERS/Stephane de Sakutin/Pool

French President Francois Hollande speaks at the Elysee Palace in Paris, France, the day after a series of deadly attacks in the French capital, November 14, 2015. REUTERS/Stephane de Sakutin/Pool

Sadly, the announcement by French President Francois Hollande, that in the wake of last weekend’s attacks on Paris his country is “at war” with IS, is the wrong strategy. It is an entirely understandable political response in the face of the Paris outrage, but it gives IS a stature and appeal among the world-wide reservoir of young, naïve and impressionable recruits on which it depends to survive.

It is the same mistake President George W. Bush made when he declared “war on terror” a few days after the 2001 attacks on New York and Washington. We are still dealing with the backlash of Bush’s ignorant stupidity. Indeed, the rise of IS in the Syrian and Iraqi civil wars and its occupation of large tracts of territory in the border region is a direct result of Bush’s 2001 mistake.

If Hollande persuades France’s allies to re-commit to an outright “war” against IS, the long-term results will be just the same. It will give IS an appearance it does not deserve, of being a major enemy of the West, equal in stature and potency to its opponents. That is the most powerful recruiting poster IS can hope for.

A far more effective strategy would be to treat IS as the gang of thugs that it is. IS should be contained, constrained and constricted without fanfare. The campaign should be more a police and civilian security action than a military one. IS’s ability to draw recruits from the West via poisonous, jihadist Internet sites should be targeted ever more vigorously, as should the venom spread by radical Muslim mullahs, many of them financed from Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States.

(One of the best arguments I know for investment in renewable and alternative energy sources is that it will empty Saudi and Gulf State coffers, and limit their ability to spread their murderous religious and political doctrines. It will also liberate Western governments from oil supply blackmail and allow them to deal with the Arab oil tsars with the contempt they deserve.)

And when IS does present a target, it should be destroyed methodically, quickly and conclusively. IS depends for its survival on seeming to have momentum; appearing to be an ever-victorious, ever-expanding movement. Without that image it will quickly shrink into irrelevance as the supply of brainwashable recruits dries up. This is what is happening to al-Qaida, which has atrophied as IS has grown.

No doubt a new brand of vermin will emerge as IS withers and dies. This destructive, wack-a-mole cycle will continue until the people of the Middle East stop continuously blaming other people for their misfortunes, recognize they are to a large extent the authors of their own anguish, and take their futures into their own hands.

And part of that self-assertion should be that suicide attacks never won anybody anything.

Military history has plenty of examples of what are described as suicide squads. But it is often difficult to make a clear distinction between those who went into battle with the clear intention of dying and those prepared to fight to the death through fanaticism or simple military discipline.

One of the most clear modern examples of an attack by a suicide squad was the 2008 attack on the Indian commercial centre of Mumbai by 10 Pakistani-trained jihadis. They killed 164 people in four days of roving murder and mayhem. Only one of the attackers, Adjmal Kasab, was captured. He was tried, convicted and hanged.

Last week’s attacks in Paris, using both the machinegunning of crowds and suicide bombs to spread death and terror, appears to owe much to the Mumbai example.

The first clearly distinct suicide bombing was on March 31, 1881, outside the Russian Winter Palace in St. Petersburg. After left wing assassins had failed to penetrate the armoured coach of Tsar Alexander II with their bombs, one of the attackers, Ignaty Grinevitsky, waited until the Tsar arrived at his destination and disembarked. Then Grinevitsky rushed up to the Tsar and detonated his bomb, killing both of them.

The most blatant military use of suicide bombers came towards the end of the Second World War. The Japanese deployed Tokkotai – Special Attack Units – more popularly known as Kamikaze, to try to halt the allied advance on Japan. These were simple, bomb-armed aircraft piloted by young men with minimal training. Their task was to crash their planes into oncoming American, British and other allied warships. The young pilots were ostensibly volunteers, but in a military culture that scorned and forbade any form of surrender, it was a moot point.

There were about 3,000 Kamikaze attacks on the advancing allies, including some in small boats converted into floating bombs. They sank about 50 allied ships, most effectively the 30 that were sunk by Kamikaze at the Battle of Okinawa.

These attacks had a distinct psychological effect on the allied soldiers and sailors, however. The Kamakaze created a strong mood of foreboding among the allies about the intensity of the defence that awaited them as they approached the Japanese heartland. It was, of course, to avoid what was shaping up to be a merciless bloodbath that the allies justified using the two atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki to force Japan to surrender.

Thus the argument can be made that the use of the Kamakaze led directly to the first and so far only use of nuclear weapons in war.

Since then, the use of suicide bombers has been almost exclusively by Islamic terrorists and mostly in Muslim countries, according to a study by the University of Chicago.

The first major modern use of a suicide bomb was on October 23, 1983, when militants linked to what is now Hezbollah, the Lebanese Shia group sustained by Iran, attacked two targets in Beirut. In the first attack a truck loaded with 2,000 pounds of explosive was driven into a U.S. Marine base, killing 241 soldiers. A few moments later another bomb truck crashed into a French paratroopers’ barracks, killing 58 people.

These attacks are among the very few where suicide bombings can be argued to have been strategically successful. As a result of the attacks, the Multinational Force withdrew from attempting to moderate the Lebanese civil war, with the result that Hezbollah was able to emerge as the dominant force within the country that it is today.

An irony is that with Iran’s backing, Hezbollah fighters are now deeply involved in Syria fighting IS. Now, Hezbollah are not allied with the U.S. in fighting IS, they just happen to be on the same battlefield with the same enemy. The IS suicide bomb attack on a Shia district of Beirut a few days before the Paris attacks had, of course, the similar intention of trying to terrorize Hezbollah to quit the Syria conflict.

Among the people in Hezbollah training camps in Lebanon in 1983 were several members of the Tamil Tigers from northern Sri Lanka, led by Velupillai Prabhakaran. He was much impressed by the effect of the suicide truck bombs, the withdrawal of international forces and the rising power of Hezbollah. The Tamil Tigers became the only non-Muslim terrorist group to extensively adopt suicide bombing in their drive for independence for their region of northern Sri Lanka. In July, 1987, the Tamil Tigers mimicked the Beirut attacks with the truck bombing of a Sri Lankan Army baracks in which 55 soldiers were killed.

Among the dubious achievements of the Tamil Tigers was the invention of the suicide belt, a vest with pockets into which explosives and detonation devices are packed. And while the Tamil Tigers became in the 1990s the world’s most successful terrorists, their forte, with the aid of their suicide belts, became the murder of prominent politicians. In 1993 they killed Sri Lankan Prime Minister Rangasinghe Premadasa and, even more spectacularly in May, 1991, the former Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi during an election campaign. The Tigers used suicide bombers to kill another five Sri Lankan cabinet ministers during the 1990s.

But it was all to no end. Attempts at a negotiated settlement got nowhere, in large part because of the intransigence of Tigers’ leader Prabhakaran. In 2009 the Sri Lankan Army made a determined and concerted push into Tiger-controlled areas of northern Sri Lanka. The 30-year civil war ended with tens of thousands of Tamil Tigers, their families, and supporters, being slaughtered in their last stronghold in the jungles of the Jaffna Peninsular.

Palestinians from groups like Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad began using suicide bombers in the 1990s, and purposefully targeting Israeli civilians. The aim was to demoralize Israelis and to make them feel uncertain and unsafe in their homes. The hope, of course, was that Israelis would either accede to Palestinian territorial demands or even give up on the idea of sustaining a Jewish homeland. “The Israelis will fall to their knees,” said the leader of Hamas, Sheikh Ahmad Yassin, in 2001. “You can sense the fear in Israel already; they are worried about where and when the next attacks will come. Ultimately, Hamas will win.”

Well, not yet and probably never. After thousands of suicide bomb attacks and even more thousands of deaths and injuries, Israel is still going strong. It has adapted its security procedures as the efforts of the terrorists demand. As it has become more and more difficult for Hamas and the others to get suicide bombers into Israeli communities, they have gone low tech. The latest Hamas suicide killers are young men with knives. On Thursday five civilians were killed in Israel in knife attacks. So were the two killers.

A definition of madness is doing the same thing repeatedly and expecting a different outcome every time. Well by that description, after over 20 years of using suicide killer attacks on Israel without any strategic effect, Hamas and the other jihadist Palestinian organization are clearly demented and deserve to be treated as such.

The same goes for IS too if it continues to look at the evidence of history and still believe using suicide squads to slaughter civilians in Europe, the Middle East or elsewhere is going to hasten the creation of an Islamic earthly paradise.

Copyright Jonathan Manthorpe 2015

Contact: jonathan.manthorpe@gmail.com

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Manthorpe B&WJonathan Manthorpe is a founding columnist with Facts and Opinions and is the author of the journal’s International Affairs column. Manthorpe has been a foreign correspondent and international affairs columnist for nearly 40 years. Manthorpe’s  nomadic career began in the late 1970s as European Bureau Chief for The Toronto Star, the job that took Ernest Hemingway to Europe in the 1920s. In the mid-1980s Manthorpe became European Correspondent for Southam News. In the following years Manthorpe was sent by Southam News, the internal news agency for Canada’s largest group of metropolitan daily newspapers, to be the correspondent in Africa and then Asia. Between postings Manthorpe spent a few years based in Ottawa focusing on intelligence and military affairs, and the United Nations. Since 1998 Manthorpe has been based in Vancouver, but has travelled frequently on assignment to Asia, Europe and Latin America.

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Our selective grief: Paris, Beirut, Ankara, and Syria

 

TOM REGAN: SUMMONING ORENDA
November, 2015

Regan

Let me tell you about my last couple of weeks at work.

When I’m not penning thought bubbles for FactsandOpinions, I’m an editor on two websites that cover the Middle East and Southeast Asia.

One story I edited recently was about a Lebanese family, tired of living near the fighting on the Lebanon-Syria border, who tried to cross the Mediterranean from Turkey to Greece in order to join the influx of refugees searching for safety and a better life in Europe. Six of the eight family members drowned after their flimsy raft started to take on water at 2 a.m. in the morning. One of the survivors, a father in his late 20s, spoke of how he tried to keep his wife alive throughout the night until she died of hypothermia in his arms. This was after he was unable to keep his children next to him, and watched them drift away to their deaths. Every time I try to think of the terror and the confusion of those hours, I have to go for a walk to deal with my emotions.

Yesterday, before Paris, I had started to talk to our assignment editor about doing a story on the bombing of the market in Beirut, where 49 mostly women and children were cut down. The first bomb targeted the women and children inside the market. When local residents rushed to see if they could help, the second explosion cut them down. And I remember wondering, how do you kill people who were coming to save others? What part of your humanity has become so twisted and lost that you don’t look at these first responders with amazement and awe at their courage, but with hatred? What part of you believes you’ll go to heaven faster if you kill kids?

A few weeks ago, I looked over photos of the ISIS bombing in Ankara where 100 people died in the same modus operandi as the later Beirut bombing – one suicide bomber explodes himself in the middle of the crowd, and when others rush in to help survivors of the first attack, the second suicide bomber detonates himself.

Do you want to know why so many Syrians are trying to escape to Europe? Let me give you some idea.

When ISIS fighters take over an area, one of the first things that they do is round up all the people they think would oppose them and kill them, often in a very public spectacle, with many of the local community residents forced to watch as they either shoot or behead their captives. ISIS will then often go from house to house and take away young girls who will be forced to “marry” ISIS fighters. Often these girls are no older than 13 or 14. ISIS will then impose its barbaric medieval code of behaviour on these communities. Anyone caught disobeying the rules can be flayed, if lucky. Sometimes they are crucified, once again in a public square as local residents are forced to watch.

So tell me, how long would you remain with your family in that kind of a situation? If you had an opportunity to escape, do you mean to tell me that you would just sit there and do nothing? Or, as in the fantasy of many right-wing conservatives in the United States, you would get out your semi-automatic Bushmaster and take a few of them down with you, a la Rambo or the Rock? And then what would happen to your family? Would they keep you alive long enough to watch them slaughter your loved ones before they finished you off?

I have many days like this. I’ve read stories and seen pictures of beheadings and crucifixions and unspeakable horrors. And I’ve been doing this for the past six years, and for many years before that, in a different way but covering the same area, at the Christian Science Monitor.

Which brings me to Paris, and what happened on the night of November 13. As in London, or in Madrid, the death toll was staggering. Once again the terrorists hit soft spots, particularly so in this case. And it is the fact that they choose these soft spots that makes the event so particularly terrifying. Which of course, is exactly what they wanted.

I find myself trying to contain a surge of anger. That anger is directed at two groups in particular: ISIS, the 21st century version of the Nazis who need to be dealt with in the same way; and those of us in the West who only seem to be able to generate emotion about these horrible events when the victims happen to people who look like us.

Because let’s face it folks, we didn’t have this kind of a reaction when the exact same thing happened in Mumbai, India. Although we were horrified for a couple of days, we didn’t change the avatars we use on Facebook to reflect solidarity with India. And a week later it was all behind us.

And if the horrible events of last night in Paris had happened in Amman or Cairo or Manama or Jakarta or Dakar, we would have barely noticed. Once again, we would’ve watched coverage on cable news for a day, maybe two and then we would’ve gotten on with our lives.

We are hypocrites in our grief. We scoff at other nations for their tribal instincts, and yet when the chips are down, we just become another tribe ourselves.

Here’s the reality of the situation.

ISIS is not going to go down easy. Even if we beat them back in Iraq and Syria, which is increasingly the case, we will be dealing with their disaffected and frustrated acolytes for years to come. We will not, however, be able to truly defeat them until the death of 100 people in Ankara, or 49 people in a market in Beirut, means the same to us as the death of 127 people in Paris. We have to move beyond the tribe.

And we won’t be able to stop the flood of refugees into Europe, and maybe into North America as well, until we give people a reason to stay in Syria, which means ending the evil of ISIS once and for all. Even if that means boots on the ground.

The choice is ours. To quote Benjamin Franklin, we either hang together or we hang separately.

Copyright Tom Regan 2015

Contact Tom Regan:  motnager@gmail.com

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Militant Islamist fighters hold the flag of Islamic State (IS) while taking part in a military parade along the streets of northern Raqqa province in this June 30, 2014 file photo. REUTERS/Stringer

Militant Islamist fighters hold the flag of Islamic State (IS) while taking part in a military parade along the streets of northern Raqqa province in this June 30, 2014 file photo. REUTERS/Stringer

Related on F&O:

Focus on Paris:

On migrants:

 

Tom Regan Tom Regan has worked for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and with the National Film Board in Canada, and in the United States for the Christian Science Monitor, Boston Globe, and National Public Radio. A former executive director of the Online News Association, he was a Nieman fellow at Harvard in 1991-92.

 

 

 

 

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