Monthly Archives: August 2016

The Fall of the Islamic State’s Terrorism Director

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on August 31, 2016

Taha Falaha (Abu Muhammad al-Adnani) in al-Naba

Taha Falaha (Abu Muhammad al-Adnani) in al-Naba

The Islamic State confirmed yesterday, via their “news” agency Amaq, that Taha Subhi Falaha had been killed in Aleppo. Falaha had gained global notoriety under his kunya, Abu Muhammad al-Adnani, after his September 2014 speech calling on Muslims in the West to “kill any disbeliever” in range, and to at least “spit in his face” if one was unable to find a knife or a car or a rock to do murder with.

Falaha was often referred to as the spokesman of IS, and so he was—the voice of the organization since 2011. He was also from the first generation of the organization, recruited before the invasion of Iraq, one of the few within the organization of that stature. But, as I explained recently in a paper for the Henry Jackson Society that compiled what is known of IS’s leadership, Falaha was much more than a figurehead.

Falaha was the governor of IS-held areas in Syria and the man who oversaw the external terrorist attacks. By now he was the caliph’s effective deputy. Heretofore, IS’s impressive bureaucracy has managed to replace individuals with minimal perturbation. IS will experience few perturbations quite like this.
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The Islamic State’s Relationship With Al-Qaeda

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on August 30, 2016

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Since al-Qaeda broke ties with the Islamic State (IS), then the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), in 2014 there has been an ongoing war of narratives about what happened. Below is an attempt to work through this murky situation. Continue reading

One Man’s Terrorist …

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on August 30, 2016

Polat Can, 2014, head of the YPG's information centre (source)

Polat Can, 2014, head of the YPG’s information centre (source)

Over the last twenty-four hours, as fighting has escalated between Turkey and the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), the armed wing of the Democratic Union Party (PYD), in northern Syria, an YPG/PYD operative has taken to Twitter to protest. Polat Can is the YPG’s representative to the American-led international coalition ranged against the Islamic State (IS), and his missives have sought to inform the coalition who and what terrorism is, which can be broadly summarized as: the Turkish government. Can himself, however, might easily be considered a terrorist since he is an allegedly-former member of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), a registered terrorist organization by the United States, European Union, and Turkey. Continue reading

Looking At the Islamic State’s Past, Seeing its Future

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on August 27, 2016

Michael Ware

Michael Ware

Only the Dead documents the experience of Michael Ware, an Australian journalist who arrived in Iraq in early 2003 and spent eleven months-per-year there for seven years. Ware made contact soon after the fall of Saddam Hussein with those resisting the new order, at a time when the Americans were struggling to map such forces.

Ware established communication with the more nationalist-Islamist forces. Once in that milieu, the globalist jihadists, who were working in the shadows, a small, foreign-dominated force towards which even many insurgents were guarded, found him. The leader of the jihadists, Ahmad al-Khalayleh, became something of an obsession for Ware as he stepped onto the world stage with his gruesome tactics as Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. Zarqawi, the “Shaykh of the Slaughters,” would found an organization that became a movement and then burst Iraq’s frontiers, known to us now as the Islamic State (IS).

In tracking Zarqawi and his men, Ware presents some incredible footage and gives some snapshots from the fascinating days, whose effects we are all still feeling, when the Iraqi insurgency was taking root. Continue reading

Bashar al-Assad Normalized the Use of Chemical Weapons in Syria—And We Rewarded Him

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on August 25, 2016

Originally published at The International Business Times

This week, the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) confirmed what everyone already suspected: the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad had lied repeatedly about its adherence to a deal worked out in 2013, under which it would surrender its chemical weapons of mass destruction (CWMD). Continue reading

Turkey’s Intervention in Syria Improves the Prospects for Peace

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on August 25, 2016

Picture put out by Faylaq al-Sham of Jarabulus soon after the Islamic State was expelled (Telegram, 24 August 2016)

Picture put out by Faylaq al-Sham of Jarabulus soon after the Islamic State was expelled (Telegram, 24 August 2016)

After a horrific suicide bombing by IS at a Kurdish wedding in eastern Turkey had slaughtered more than fifty people on Saturday, Turkey moved to expel the Islamic State (IS) from Jarabulus in eastern Aleppo Province at about 4 AM on Wednesday morning. IS was swept from this last major border town in Syria, a key gateway for resources to the outside world, around ten hours later.

Operation EUPHRATES SHIELD saw Turkey put troops and tanks over the border publicly for the first time, and allow the Free Syrian Army (FSA)-branded and other mainstream Syrian rebels who have been battling IS for years to use Turkish territory to launch the assault. It was supported by airstrikes from the international anti-IS coalition.

For Turkey, this is a strong indication of a change in her threat-perception vis-à-vis IS, but it is also about a (correctly) perceived threat of what was to follow IS. Continue reading

The Islamic State Guided the Normandy Church Attack

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on August 22, 2016

Normandy church killers, Adel Kermiche and Abdelmalik Petitjean, swear allegiance to the Islamic State [video, 27 July 2016]

Normandy church killers, Adel Kermiche and Abdelmalik Petitjean, swear allegiance to the Islamic State [video, 27 July 2016]

In Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray, south of Rouen in Normandy, northern France, on 26 June 2016, two men wielding knives took five hostages in a church around 10:00 local time (just a bit before).[1] Initially there were six hostages consisting of a priest, three nuns, and two worshippers, but one nun managed to escape and alerted the authorities, who surrounded the church.[2] The attackers murdered the priest, Jacques Hamel, 85 (born 30 November 1930[3]), making him kneel on the alter and slitting his throat while preaching in Arabic.[4] One of the nuns present said that while the two killers were initially nervous and aggressive, by the time of the murder they seemed content: one of them gave “a soft smile, that of someone who is happy”.[5] An elderly male worshipper was handed a mobile telephone and made to film the attackers slaughtering the priest, and was himself then slashed and grievously wounded.[6] That footage has not been released, but almost certainly will be at some point. “The two men had cried Allahu Akbar (God is Great) as they left the church with three of the hostages. One man had a fake suicide belt made of aluminium and three knives; the other was carrying a backpack made to look like a bomb and a kitchen timer.” The two attackers were shot dead by police.[7] Continue reading