Tag Archives: secularism

Tunisia and Jihadism

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 26 May 2020

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

The Shah, the Cold War, and the Islamists

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 20 March 2019

Abbas Milani’s The Shah gives a portrait of Iran’s last monarch, Muhammad Reza Pahlavi, and the impact that his downfall forty years ago continues to have in the Middle East, notably the emboldening of the Islamist movement. Continue reading

Islamic State Urges Defiance as the Caliphate Collapses, Attacks Other Islamists

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 9 March 2019

Al-Naba 172 front page

The Islamic State (IS) released the 172nd edition of Al-Naba, its newsletter, on 7 March 2019. Continue reading

The Fall of the Shah and the Rise of Islamism

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 17 January 2019

Forty years ago yesterday, Muhammad Reza Pahlavi, the Shah (King) of Iran, left his country for the last time as a year-long revolution crested. A month later, the remnants of the Imperial Government collapsed and Grand Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini was swept to power after his long exile, establishing the first Islamist regime. Andrew Scott Cooper’s 2016 book, The Fall of Heaven: The Pahlavis and the Final Days of Imperial Iran, charts how this happened. Continue reading

Al-Qaeda Leader Says America is the Main Enemy

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 11 September 2018

Al-Qaeda’s emir, Ayman al-Zawahiri, released a half-hour video speech today, entitled, “How to Confront America”. Al-Zawahiri’s speech mentions in passing the move of the U.S. Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, but this—and the increasing relations of the Gulf states with the Jewish state—are held to be mere examples of the rot spread by America. Despite the lessening of Christian belief in the West, says Al-Zawahiri, the inhabitants of what was once called Christendom remain “Crusaders” at heart, with a fierce hatred for Islam and Muslims. Perhaps worse than any physical attack on the jihadists, however, is the ideological challenge of America’s secularism, Al-Zawahiri adds. An English transcript of the speech was released by As-Sahab Media and is reprinted below. Continue reading

Egypt: Between Dictatorship and Islamism

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 4 July 2018

Egyptian soldiers in the Sinai (image source)

Five years on from the military coup d’etat in Egypt that brought to power Abdel Fattah el Sisi, the problems of the country—political, economic, demographic, security—remain as intractable as ever. Indeed, in many cases, the problems are worse than before. Among the problems that are noticeably worse now than in 2013 is security, specifically the Islamic State (Daesh) insurgency in the Sinai. Continue reading

The Islamic State Responds to America Moving its Israeli Embassy to Jerusalem

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 9 December 2017

Al-Naba 109, 8 December 2017

The Islamic State responded to President Donald Trump’s announcement, on 6 December 2017, that the United States would move its Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, with an editorial on page 3 of the 109th edition of Al-Naba on 8 December 2017. Below is a very rough translation. Continue reading

Russia’s Unreliable Claims About the Islamic State

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 1 October 2017

Gulmurod Khalimov

The Islamic State’s (IS) caliph, Ibrahim al-Badri (Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi), appeared on Thursday to deliver his first speech in nearly a year. Other than the contents of the speech, al-Badri’s re-appearance was confirmation that the claim by the Russian government, on 16 June, to have killed al-Badri and 330 other IS jihadists in a 28 May airstrike in Syria, was false.[1] This is far from the first mendacious claim Moscow has made on this topic.

On 8 September, the Russian Ministry of Defence claimed it had killed “four influential field commanders”, one of whom was Tarad al-Jarba (Abu Muhammad al-Shimali), and forty other IS jihadists, in an airstrike near Deir Ezzor city. Later in the day, the Russians claimed day that another of the four commanders was Gulmurod Khalimov (Abu Umar al-Tajiki), named by the U.S.-led coalition as IS’s War Minister. In fact, it is likely that Khalimov was already dead and that al-Jarba is still alive. Continue reading

The Islamic State Explains Why It Hates The West

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on August 1, 2016

dabiq-15-3

The Islamic State (IS) published its fifteenth edition of ‘Dabiq,’ its English-language magazine, on 31 July 2016. The magazine was entitled, “Break the Cross”. The magazine contained two important articles outlining why IS hates and fights against the West. The most important article, an unsigned piece by an IS operative, simply titled, “Why We Hate You and Why We Fight You”. The second, “How I Came to Islam,” was written by Umm Khalid al-Finlandiyyah, a female Finnish foreign fighter who has joined IS. Those articles are reproduced below with some editions to transliteration and some interesting sections highlighted in bold. Continue reading

Response to Response: Yes, Saddam Laid the Groundwork for the Islamic State

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on January 12, 2016

Iraqi army MIA1 Abrams tanks march under the victory Arch landmark during a parade to mark the 91st Army Day in Baghdad on January 6, 2012, weeks after US troops completed their pullout. The Armed Forces Day display by the fledgling 280,000-strong security force completely reformed after the US-led invasion of 2003. AFP PHOTO/ALI AL-SAADI (Photo credit should read ALI AL-SAADI/AFP/Getty Images)

The “Victory Arch,” which Saddam built after the war with Iran. (January 2012)

About three weeks ago I wrote a piece for The New York Times explaining the evolution of Saddam Hussein’s regime away from the hard-secularism of its Ba’athist origins, and how this had prepared the ground for the Islamic State (IS). I received much positive feedback, but the social media reaction was inevitable: little thought and much anger, particularly from people who view Iraqi history through a political prism and felt I was trying to exculpate George W. Bush. With rare exceptions, the critique could hardly be called thoughtful. So it is nice to finally have such a critique to deal with, from Samuel Helfont and Michael Brill in today’s Foreign Affairs. Continue reading