Early in his new book, Your Sons Are At Your Service: Tunisia’s Missionaries of Jihad, The Washington Institute’s Aaron Zelin quotes a pair of sociologists who note that ‘where theories are plentiful … ideas are vacuous’. The book is in many ways the antithesis of this approach. It is not without theoretical content; where social movement theory arises as a means of understanding jihadism, say, the author gives an overview of the literature to contextualise it for the reader. But the general approach is historical, empirical, and detail-rich, so that by the time Zelin summarises his findings in the various sections there can be no doubt about the evidentiary basis. Continue reading
Published at The Telegraph
In Paris last night a gunman parked his car, stepped out, and opened fire on a police van outside a Marks & Spencer’s on the Champs Élysées. One policeman was murdered; two were wounded. A female tourist was also injured. The attacker was killed by police as he tried to flee and continue his rampage. Within two hours, the Islamic State (ISIL) had claimed the attack via its Amaq News Agency, and, rather unusually, had named the killer: “Abu Yusuf al-Baljiki”.
It has been widely reported that “Abu Yusuf the Belgian” is really Karim Cheurfi the Frenchman, a 39-year-old imprisoned for fifteen years after being convicted for three counts of attempted murder in 2001. Notably, two of his intended victims were police officers. French media has reported that Cheurfi was briefly arrested on 23 February after expressing an intent to kill law-enforcement officials, but released due to lack of evidence; the Interior Ministry refused to comment. Continue reading
Yesterday, Algeria’s elderly president, Abdelaziz Bouteflika, removed from office Mohamed Mediène (a.k.a. Toufik), the head of DRS (Le Département du Renseignement et de la Sécurité), the spy agency that is the real power behind the throne in Algeria. There is some suggestion this is Bouteflika trying to prepare the way for a civilian government as his time in office—and on the planet—draws to a close. There is little reason to believe, however, that Algeria’s government will be much reformed by Toufik’s departure.
In 2010, Farzad Farhangian, an Iranian diplomat based in Belgium, defected to Norway. Farhangian has now emerged with the extraordinary accusation that the Islamic Republic of Iran is controlling the Islamic State (ISIS) and using it as part of Tehran’s war against the Gulf States, especially Saudi Arabia. Farhangian’s accusations are lurid and (literally) incredible, but the question of Iran’s role in ISIS’ creation and growth, and Iran’s manipulation of ISIS to further its own ends, is one well worth asking. Continue reading
Last week, Lee Smith wrote of the reasons that it was likely that there was a foreign hand, quite probably that of a State, in the attack on Charlie Hebdo and the Jewish deli in Paris. Smith noted that the French believe that the funding and weapons for the attacks came from abroad. Smith pointed to the historical record, in which terrorism in Paris is typically not carried out because of religion—or not directly: it might come from States that see themselves as god’s representatives on earth—or community grievances, but “because you’re getting paid to stage an operation on behalf of a particular cause or regime.” Smith gave three cases, and they seemed worth expanding on. Continue reading
Sam Dagher at the Wall Street Journal has identified the July 18, 2012, bombing, which killed four senior Assad regime officials, most seriously Assef Shawkat, as the turning point in Syria, reversing the rebellion’s momentum, bringing the scale of the killing above where it had been before, closing the ranks of the minorities around the regime, and opening the country up to Iran.
Dagher certainly has the timing correct. It was the late summer, and most noticeably the fall of 2012, when the death toll in Syria markedly increased. 5,000 people had been killed in all of 2011, and another 5,000 by May 2012. By September 2012, 30,000 people were dead, the kill-rate now reaching 5,000-per-month. By January 2013, 60,000 people were dead, a kill-rate of 10,000-per-month. Nobody really knows what the total, let alone the rate, is now, but this was when it spiked. This period is also concurrent with the massive operation mounted by Clerical Iran to rescue the Bashar dictatorship.
Given how beneficial this bombing was to the regime, there have long been rumours it was an inside job. A recent report by Naame Shaam said exactly this, that this was an Iranian-orchestrated counter-intelligence operation to snuff-out the softliners within the regime who were trying to reach a deal with the protesters and rebels inside the country and their Gulf Arab patrons, which would have involved some concessions from the regime on its absolute control. Continue reading
This Arab regime claims to be a one-party system but in reality a small Mafia-like cabal of military and intelligence officers have dispensed power for decades. Finally a democratic challenge erupts; people take to the streets demanding first reforms and, when the regime responds with pseudo-reforms and lethal violence, the fall of the government. Eventually the people fight back and an armed struggle breaks out. The regime builds its strategy around provocation, arresting and killing the liberals and democrats, infiltrating the insurgent groups and having the extremists attack the moderates, directing infiltrated groups to commit atrocities that discredit the whole insurgency, and using Iran’s international terrorist networks to lure Salafi-jihadists into the country who can help discredit the opposition’s cause in the eyes of the world. By presenting a binary picture—the regime or a terrorist takeover—the state tries to secure at least tacit support, if not direct intervention, from the West to defeat the insurgency.
No I’m not talking about Syria. This is Algeria. Continue reading
Middle East Monitor Online (MEMO) has published an article by Yvonne Ridley that consists of an interview with Hassan Abboud just a few hours before he and most of the Ahrar a-Sham leadership were killed on September 9. The accusations Ridley records Abboud levelling against the Islamic State (I.S.) are deeply upsetting to the conventional view of the Syrian conflict. Continue reading