Tag Archives: media

The Darker Side of the Western Enthusiasm for “The Kurds”

A version of this article was published in The Arab Weekly

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 24 November 2019

Solider from the Syrian regime holds up a portrait of Bashar al-Asad and a Syrian national flag, another stands by the Kurdish YPG/PKK flag, in Kobani, 18 October 2019. (AFP)

Mustafa Bali, head of the press office for the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), the coalition partner against the Islamic State (ISIS) in Syria, sent a tweet on November 14 showing Turkey’s Arab proxies engaged in “ISIS chants.” By this, he meant the takbir, “God is Great,” an expression used by Muslims every day. When criticised, Bali doubled down and blocked many critics. This was a microcosm of one of the darker threads in an SDF messaging strategy that is among the most effective propaganda campaigns on record. Continue reading

Trump’s Middle East Failure Was Made By Obama

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 19 November 2019

President Barack Obama meeting President-elect Donald Trump, 10 November 2016 [image source]

October 2019 may well remain in the popular memory as the inflection point marking the collapse of America’s — and by extension, the West’s — position in at least the northern Middle East. Having been thwarted twice before in efforts to leave Syria, in March and December 2018, President Donald Trump made one more try. For many, ‘Trump betrayed the Kurds’ will be the summary of the events that followed as Turkey made a swift move into the vacuum. The reality is a lot more complicated, and in truth the amount of blame that Trump can take for the events of the last month is rather limited. This catastrophe was baked into the policy of Barack Obama, and Trump’s main fault is to have followed the policy track laid down by his predecessor. Continue reading

The Reappearance of the Caliph

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 10 May 2019

The leader of the Islamic State, Ibrahim al-Badri (Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi) appearing in an Islamic State propaganda video, “In the Hospitality of Amir al-Mu’mineen, 29 April 2019

The leader of the Islamic State (IS), Ibrahim al-Badri (Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi), appeared in an eighteen-minute video on 29 April, the first time Al-Ibrahim has appeared since 4 July 2014 when he gave the Friday prayer at the Nuri Mosque in Mosul, days after IS had announced the restoration of the caliphate. Al-Ibrahim has given semi-regular speeches over the years, but with these two exceptions they have been audio addresses. The video was released by IS’s premier media outlet, Al-Furqan Media Foundation, which is also the group’s oldest media platform. An English translation was released by IS’s Halummu outlet and is republished below with some interesting and/or important sections, plus names of IS operatives, highlighted in bold. Continue reading

Islamic State Profiles the Leadership

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 6 April 2019

Islamic State flag in front of the main gate of Saddam Husayn’s palace in Tikrit, 5 April 2015 // AFP PHOTO / MOHAMMED SAWAF

A lengthy document—roughly sixty pages and 12,000 words—was published online on 21 February 2019 containing biographies of twenty-seven senior Islamic State (IS) officials, past and more recent. Those bios that are dated were written between October 2018 and the time of publication, with one exception that was written in the summer of 2018. The author claims to be an IS veteran. While longevity is difficult to prove, the fact that the author provides heretofore unseen images of some of the IS leaders suggests that at a minimum he is an IS operative. Continue reading

Why The Obama Doctrine Failed

Film review of The Final Year (2018)

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 31 January 2018

The Final Year, a new documentary film directed by Greg Barker, tracks the closing stages of the administration of President Barack Obama in 2016. Senior officials are followed and interviewed, and the White House is watched as it tries to react to daily events. Much of the substance contained in the film was knowable in real time, but it is very useful to have these officials on record—on video, no less—explaining the assumptions and thought processes they were operating with as they made decisions that led to a series of such intense disasters around the world. This is especially interesting since the ripple effects from these catastrophes ultimately set the conditions for the election of Donald Trump and dismantling of much of the Obama legacy. Continue reading

The Coalition Targets Islamic State Propagandists and External Terrorists

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 29 July 2017

Baraa Kadek (Riyan Meshal) [image source]

The United States announced on 27 July that it had killed seven “senior ISIS propagandists and facilitators in Iraq and Syria” since late March. The removal of these terrorists takes from the Islamic State “extensive experience and training, and degrades ISIS’s ability to plan and conduct attacks on civilian targets in Iraq and Syria, as well throughout the region and in the West,” U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) said. The geographical pattern of the strikes that killed these men allow some conclusions about IS’s current situation on the ground, and the information provided by CENTCOM underlines IS’s will and capacity, even as it loses its caliphate, to conduct external operations. Continue reading

Book Review: The Muslim Discovery of Europe (1982) by Bernard Lewis

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on May 7, 2015

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With the triumph of relativism and the current economic woes of the West, the sense that Western civilization is unique and in some respects—to use an old-fashioned word—better than the alternatives, and worth defending and exporting, is waning. But Bernard Lewis’ The Muslim Discovery of Europe suggests a longer view in which Europe, while containing all the faults of previous civilizations, has been one of the few to begin the process of correcting those faults, and has corrected many more than any other civilization.

One feature of European civilization that stands out as unique is curiosity. Continue reading

From Kessab to Cannibals: Syria’s Media War

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on January 5, 2015

Mother Agnes Mariam on RT. An agent of the regime, she dismissed Syria's rebels as a foreign conspiracy.

Mother Agnes Mariam on RT. An agent of the regime, she dismissed Syria’s rebels as a foreign conspiracy.

Fouad Ajami once said Syria was the “first YouTube war“. An academic study called Syria “the most socially mediated civil conflict in history“. From the start of the Syrian war, the media and propaganda dimension has been of immense importance, impacting the course of the war on the ground and affecting the policy of foreign States who could make a decisive difference in the conflict. Continue reading

HAMAS Is Responsible For The War In Gaza But Israel Has Blundered With This Invasion

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on July 28, 2014

Rocket damage doesn't only happen in Gaza: Home demolished in Eshkol Regional Council, southern Israel

Rocket damage doesn’t only happen in Gaza: Home demolished in Eshkol Regional Council, southern Israel

To clear a few things up. Whether or not HAMAS’ central command ordered the kidnapping and murder of the three Israeli teens is largely irrelevant: the real trigger for this round of fighting was the escalation in HAMAS’ rocket attacks—more than 450 since January and nearly 100 on the day before Operation PROTECTIVE EDGE began—and HAMAS’ construction of tunnels into Israel designed to enable further atrocities against her civilians.

All rhetoric about the cruel, arbitrary Israeli blockade that would not even allow in cement to the people of Gaza who needed it to create jobs and to reconstruct their schoolrooms and homes is now overthrown and we see the truth: what little cement did get into Gaza was siphoned off by a tyrannical and aggressive elite to build tunnels to murder civilians and bunkers to protect themselves and their weapons. More than that, they used child labour that killed 160 children to construct these tunnels. HAMAS might well have miscalculated, as some have said—it might have intended only for a minor set of Israeli strikes to rally the “resistance”—but that only underlines the recklessness and wickedness of the organization. HAMAS knows it cannot win this war so they intend to get as many Gazans as possible killed to mobilize global political pressure against Jerusalem for concessions on the blockade—that HAMAS can then use to reequip for another war in its never-ending quest to destroy the Jewish State.

The key aspect of this war that has gotten nothing like the attention it deserves is Clerical Iran. Continue reading

The Jihadists’ Information War in Syria and Iraq

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on July 22, 2014

In April, the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation produced a report, ‘Measuring Importance and Influence in Syrian Foreign Fighter Networks,’ which examined the use of social media in recruiting people to the jihadist groups, referring almost solely to Syria at that time, but which applies equally to Iraq. I have now gotten around to reading it and its findings are extremely interesting.  Continue reading