Posts Tagged ‘Daesh’

Terrorists: Publish Their Photos or Not?

July 29, 2016

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Christopher Lee

29July London

A terrorist slits the throat of a French priest. Newspapers and broadcasters throughout the world publish and show high definition photographs of the murderer and his partner. We know what they look like, their names, ages, something of their history and a nice quote from the knifeman’s mother who says that at heart he was a good boy.

The leading French daily Le Monde has announced (after the Nice terrorism)  that it will not give terrorists publicity and so will not publish their photographs.  The murder of Father Jaques in Normandy confirms that decision according to Le Monde.

The argument at Le Monde is that by publishing photographs the paper is in some way glorifying the terrorism. The terrorist becomes a celebrity.

By taking such a decision Le Monde’s editors have stepped aside from the code of so-called journalistic impartiality. Most societies regard the hounding, capture and even the destruction of terrorism as a role for the military, the intelligence agencies, the policy and the elected politicians.

By banning pictures – in theory starving terrorism of the oxygen of publicity – Le Monde has joined the fight against terrorism or at the very least changed editorial policy in the hope of helping to capture those who killed Father Jaques.

Le Monde’s editor Jerome Fenoglio says “We have to do this for all victims of the criminal organisation known as the ‘Islamic State’.”

The decision of an admired newspaper to publish or not sets it aside from other papers in democratic society. The Turkish government has this past week ordered the shut down three news agencies, 16 television channels, 23 radio stations, 45 daily newspapers, 15 magazines and 29 publishing houses. It is not uncommon for a government to restrict the media in a crisis.  It is very uncommon for a newspaper to impose self-censorship.  Moreover, the Le Monde decision is not a one-off.  There could be more to come because the editorial board recognise IS and other groups are not passing ideologies.

As Fenoglio puts it, “After the Nice Attack, we are publishing no more images of terrorists, perpetrator of killings and massacres, to avoid potential posthumous glorification. Other debates about our practices [as a newspaper] are ongoing.”

What about other news outlets?  Le Monde has not been followed. Le Figaro says it shall wait and see. British papers will publish everything it can other than the act of killing.  Equally, the head of the Quilliam Foundation (a think tank of radicalisation analysts) says it has been a great decision.It reduces the propaganda value of the terrorist.

So what are the practical ambitions and consequences?

It is a purpose of IS to gain publicity from an act of violence. Publicity tells a global audience that IS can do something and is willing to do something and that no one is safe from such acts.  This induces a varying stage of terror – a large part of any terrorist ambition.

Secondly, by running pictures, names and backgrounds of the perpetrators the news outlet may spread among readers further disgust about what had happened but identity of the terrorist suggests a cause rather than an anonymous event of violence.

Withdrawing names etc reduces any possibility of a neutral public understanding of why as opposed to what has happened. In a bizarre sense, no picture no name removes an imagined chance of hero worship.

Yet all this is an argument of times past.

Le Monde’s decision is taken in an internet age where all is revealed and where there are few rules of what is right and wrong to publish.  The importance of the decision of Fenoglio and his editorial board is that a great newspaper is attempting to take part in what is a state venture – the prevention and eventually the destruction of terrorism.  It is not enough to rant in a newspaper editorial. Le Monde in its honourable way is being counted. Very few in these times will have the moral debate with themselves.

 

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US bombing ISIS banks could flush out Daesh leader

April 27, 2016

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Christopher Lee

28 April 2009, London

ISIS is losing $millions to US Intelligence and airstrikes.  US Intelligence agencies plus electronic and human gathered intelligence (HUMINT) on the ground in Syria and Iraq have been so good at locating terrorist strong boxes that within the past twelve months perhaps up to $800 million dollars of ISIS cash has been destroyed.

For the man in charge of targeting the asset stripping operation against ISIS strongrooms, US Major General Peter Gerstner the Operations and Intelligence deputy commander in Iraq reckons that all this has been done using good information and fewer than 20 airstrikes – one of them on the ISIS banknote depot in Mosul.

Some of this explains recent Intelligence briefings in Washington that ISIS the most organised and superrich terrorist organisation on the streets until last year – assets then in excess of $2bn – is pushed for funds and partly as a consequence of that is losing support.

There are three aspects here that US strategists think they may be getting ahead of ISIS:

US bombing of ISIS controlled oil fields has reduced income and, given the price of oil, this is something of a double-whammy

Secondly, with fewer funds the volunteer flow that was as high as 2,000 a month this time last year has trickled to 200 a month.  Terrorists are mostly for hire than inspired by ideology. ISIS numbers maybe dropped by as many as 15%

Thirdly, ISIS has not been able to cope with success inasmuch that it has found it hard to administer and command expansion. The move into Afghanistan has a different leadership and may not feel any of these pressures- but they are felt throughout ISIS Middle East.

These examples of US success if they are checked out may be one reason why the Italian led coalition that includes France and the UK want to get in to Libya.  They think that if ISIS is not getting the big wages as once they did then demoralisation should be hammered as soon as possible.

The ISIS contingent in Libya is concentrated on perhaps two coastal towns, Sirte being one of them.  There is a school advising the Foreign Office in London that this is not a well organised group and the time is to hit them.

It could be sound advice.  It is true also that British hit and run policy means that it is relatively simple for the ISIS to regroup if the Libyan mission cannot take over the vacated territory.

What has all this to do with the bombing of a dozen or so ISIS cashpoints?

The real success story of the US led forces against ISIS during the past 12 months has been assassination operations against terrorist leaders plus commercial fields such as oil and bankrolls.  In other words, reduce resources and constantly harass leadership, demoralises manpower; any commander knows that this the temporary but easily actable upon state he needs his enemy in before he sends in the strategic solution.

Could be the battlefield circumstances are changing and the word is that the assassination top target that will pull this together is the head of ISIS, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.  Talk to General Gerstner and he says that the Intelligence people are not sure where he is.

But talk to the people debriefing special forces and the until recently frustrated electronic Intelligence (ELINT) desks and some say that if what is going on here gets better for them and worse for ISIS then al-Baghdadi will break cover – which may just turn out to be the long term success story in the news from General Gerstner’s office.

 

 

 

 

Terrorism & War – Looking Good says Colonel Steve

February 26, 2016

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Christopher Lee

27 February 2016. London.

The colonel from the Pentagon looked the part.  Cleaner cut than a saint, with more medal ribbons than a pantomime hero.  He landed in the UK this past week with a word perfect mission.

He had come to to every newspaper and broadcaster that the war on IS (he uses Daesh) is right on schedule and IS/Daesh is taking a beating. He says the US-led coalition is killing terrorists leaders most days. Their bases are taking big hits, the armoured vehicles are been wasted.

Colonel Steve Warren was here to tell us that Daesh was beginning to lose. “We see them in a defensive crouch” he told us. No journalist mentioned that a panther springs from a crouch.

The fact that IS is on a killing high hit and having nauseating fun using beheaded cadavers as road blocks is a side issue for the colonel with a message.  He says we’ve got it wrong.

Who sent the colonel?  Answer: the people who believe that too many media reports from Syria, Iraq, Turkey and Libya are telling a different story.  They are undermining the reports, especially those relayed in Washington, that it is not long now before IS collapses.

About five or six months ago the same US sources were briefing British and French TV and newspaper hacks that ISIS was a second rate bunch of no-hopers that given political guts could be wiped out inside the Christian winter holiday.  The message is dulled. Hence the colonel’s visit. A regional scan shows why. From the Bosphorus to Tripoli via the Gulf there is a tragedy that just a few years back would not have got off the staring block.

The Turks are hitting the Kurds, the Kurds are hitting the Turks.  Sunni and Shia states and peoples are at war face to face or by proxy. The coalition is hymning the Syria ceasefire but the two main teams – IS and Bashar al-Assad are not signatories. IS does not care about a ceasefire.  Assad is bombing rebel backyards and is ready to go the extra 100 meters with I Told You So banners when the ceasefire crumbles. The Russians are happy to help them out.

Across the almost non-existent border in Iraq on Friday about 20 people were killed in a bombing of a Shia mosque (the government is Shia seeking revenge).  Who did it? Surely not IS who is on the run according to the colonel.  Yup.  The very same IS.  Ask the mourners at the Rasul al-Zam mosque.

In Lebanon, Hezbollah are training Houthi rebels to fight in Yemen and the Saudi are looking at target planning into Hezbollah.  Imagine the death toll.  Imagine the knock-on.  Meanwhile the Saudi bombing in Yemen appears as casual as cruelty can be in warfare.   Hitting civilian targets is good terrorist bombing.  It causes confusion and terror.

Before we leave that bit of the dusty world, two pipe bombs were found in Jerusalem at Herod’s Gate. Lots of shooting.  Lots of dying. Also Friday, a prediction that Gaza will be a death bed scene by 2020.  Next door in Egypt, President Sisi is telling his people, do not listen to others.  Just do as I say.

And in Libya, there is a meeting Monday to see if Libya may be split into three. The West recognises one group, detests and will fight the other while everyone will be hit by the third. It is a simple example of bloodbath created when the British, the French and the colonel’s employers go into something blazing saddles without guaranteeing the result they claim to be promising. Other examples? Viet Nam, Iraq and Afghanistan with the dankness of Syrian dead joining the tragic tapestry of failure.

So best the colonel goes home. Best someone who writes the propaganda tours gets to understand that what we call the Middle East is seeking a new identity that is different from the one the West created for it in the 1920s. IS emerged because the Western-led coalition got it wrong.

And, let us hope and those who do these things, let them pray that the crouching IS not about to leap with another Paris.  When a well turned out colonel tells them they are losing, they may just have to prove they are not in the crudest manner.

 

 

 

Five Years On & Hope Became Terror

January 13, 2016

christopher_lee180-11

13 January 2016

London

Five years ago this week the Arab Spring began in earnest. On 14 January 2011 President Ben Ali of Tunisia resigned. The social media went into fast thumb tap and click. The Middle East began to throw off its identity and took to the streets demanding change.

The freedom squares were full of protest within days. Egypt. Lebanon. Yemen.Bahrain. Jordan. Libya. Morocco. Iraq. Less than a month from the going of Ben Ali Hosni Mubarak was gone as President of Egypt.  On 6 March the first shots were fired in Syria. A week on and the Saudi sent in troops to rescue the Bahrainian leadership in case the anger spread to Riyadh.

In that same March NATO went into Libya  not to support their recent ally Gaddafi but to join the rebels against him. By the summer Yemen was in full fire and President Ali Abdullah Saleh fled for his life.  Five months later, October 2011 a cringing Mummer Gaddafi was assassinated.

The change was all to see and just as predictable.  Libya spilled its blood in political anger and still bleeds. Egypt elected Mohamed Morsi as president in June 2012 and then the army  overthrew him the following year and returned to virtual military rule and in 2014 elected former general Abdel Fattah al-Sisi. There was worse, to come

Out of this political and zealous carnage on 9 May 2013 ISIS, IS, ISIL ,Daesh – call this Jahadi as you will – was formed, declared a caliphate and the world quickly witness barbarism that could never have been imagined at the start of the Arab Spring. James Foley was Daesh’s first beheading.

By the autumn of 2014 a token coalition of forces but mainly American went after Daesh with a series of airstrikes into Syria.  The war there had been joined with ‘Western’ nations declaring for the rebellion and calling for the downfall of President Assad.

They are still bombing. Assad is still there.  In 2015 Russia joined in the hopeless of it all and said it was bombing ISIS in Syria but was truly bombing (and not very accurately) anti-Assad rebel positions.

Russia had signed up with Iran to defend Assad and equally to defend his constitutional and international right to rule as an elected leader. Iran, a Shia nation saw the fight for Assad (an Alewife and therefore a branch of Shia) as chance of a proxy war against Saudi Arabia and its Sunni royalty.

As to show this conflict could never be held tight in the Middle East, gunmen attacked the offices of Charlie Hebdo the satirical French magazine and then in November of last year other gunmen and bombers killed 130 in Paris.The rest of Europe waits to see who is next.

Where has all this got us? Syria is in ruins beyond its capital. Iraq remains a failed Shia led state with Daesh in its strongholds and moving freely between Iraq and its “capital” Raqqa in Syria. There is hardly a state not spilling over with refugees.

If there is a deep anxiety than this in the region it is in Riyadh.  The ruling royal family, itself born beneath the green flag of Wahhabism and the ruthless of Abdul Aziz ibn Saud, now fears for its own survival. So it should.

There is not a government from Washington to Brussels to the whole of the Middle East that does not fear the collapse of the Saudis.  The manner of its going would be a stage in the Arab Spring totally unthinkable five years ago. The consequences unpredictable and unwanted even among its harshest critics. The ruling family is now unstable in the sense that it is unlikely to be able to defend itself.

Here then the rub of the lamp that whips up the ghoul and not the friendly genie.

If Saudi Arabia starts to go then the United States will have to launch a major defence.  The advanced operation of US military forces are already in Saudi Arabia and the Gulf but not enough to defend the unthinkable. The British are having built (with Saudi money) a new base in the region. London would have to reinforce it if things go the way they so easily could.

Five years ago there was candle lit and iPhone glowing hope in the Middle East especially among the young and the educated longing for new times to come that would give them back their dignity of national identities instead of impossible dictatorships.

Five years ago and Ben Ali went quietly. Five years later no one can go quietly. Before this year is out the US and her allies including the United Kingdom and France could be heading for the biggest firefight since Viet Nam. Hope is done for. Terror has the next move.

 

 

Iraq, Chilcot, IS – Why Blair Is Still On The Run

October 25, 2015

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26 October 2015

London

If Iraq had not happened I wonder how Tony Blair would have rated today? But it did happen and now Mr Blair is having to explain his case all over again – this time on a CNN TV show.

He says to go into Iraq after Saddam Hussein was the toughest decision he had to make. Wrong Mr Blair.

The then US President George W Bush was already going into Iraq.  Mr Blair went along for the ride to glory being overwhelmed by the aura surrounding true power. He would have enjoyed being a US President.

He says he was sorry that the Intelligence that swung his decision to go get Saddam was not so good.  Wrong Mr Blair.

The Intelligence at all levels was enough to tell us that the military threat was non-existent.  Weapons of Mass Disappearance.

He says if they had not gone after Saddam then Iraq would have become the same as Syria is today. Wrong Mr Blair.

Syrians started the Damascus demos because the Arab Spring was running and Syria joined in and Assad had a second rate security operation.

There was no revolution brewing in the Middle East in 2003 and Saddam ran the tightest Sunni security operation anyone had seen.  Only a dead man walking would have tried a demo in Saddam’s Iraq that year.

He says that just maybe IS or Daesh or ISIS may have emerged because of the war in Iraq.  Wrong Mr Blair.

IS emerged not because there was a war but because the coalition pulled out far too soon leaving a state convulsed by revenge politics and no military and security apparatus capable of identifying extremism.  Above all, IS started in Syria, not Iraq.

So what is this all about? It is about the forthcoming preliminary publication of the Chilcot inquiry set up to  look at the who did what and why of the Iraq war. Mr Blair gave evidence and did a good job.  Others who also gave evidence – but contradicted Mr Blair.  That they gave their evidence in a way to protect there own skins is neither here nor there now. Mr Blair is an easy and not much a moving target.

The point is that Mr Blair has already read the Chilcot paragraphs about himself.  He knows the criticisms and by having his people go through the transcripts (the evidence text is on line for anyone to read) he also knows that the general public impression is that the war was bad news and his part in it is condemned by his own people.  That is not Chilcot’s fault.  Most people believed that anyway.

So Mr Blair is going public with his defence anticipating reaction to Chilcot.  Simple as that. It matters not what Chilcot says. In fact most people will never read it. Anyone left who cares wants the Blair Guilty headlines.  We have had them so many times that except for insiders, Chilcot matters not.

You may think Mr Blair is cutting a sad enough figure; then again you may be among those who say he has become a multi millionaire so what’s the problem.  The truth is somewhat deeper.

It is hard to remember sometimes that Mr Blair was not just Iraq.  For example he made his Party electable and since he left office it has never again been so. Tony Blair’s supreme achievement was not teaming up with George W Bush but being a main figure in bringing about a peace settlement in Northern Ireland. There was a string of successes for PM Blair and but for one thing he could today even be on some one’s list of a future Prime Minister returning to rescue a Party that has descended to almost nothing without him. A grand old man of politics. A world statesman.

Instead? Forever in British eyes: Tony Blair is on the run.

UK Defence Strategy – Time To Get It Right

September 21, 2015

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21 September 2015. London.

Tomorrow the British Defence Secretary, Michael Fallon will set out his government’s view of the “strategic context” of the most important UK defence plan since the post Falklands War 1980s.  It will be the basis of a new Defence Review – the document that will say how Britain sees the world and in it the potential threats to the United Kingdom.

Today there are close on 40 wars around the globe. In each of a third of those conflicts as many as 10,000 are killed each year. British troops are deployed in 80 countries, most in peaceful roles but each with a security background.

It is very possible that a new deployment will be announced before this month is out; the UK has a request to supply a blue beret United Nations peace keeping force into Southern Sudan.  It is not a mission the British want but may have to take up.

Mr Fallon’s speech to the Royal United Services Institute, the London think tank on Tuesday will reflect the fact that three trigger words have to be in his thinking as never before on such a scale of importance: cyber, Daesh (IS) and refugee.

Cyber security is now so complex that the best Intelligence agencies in the world cannot cope with the way terrorist organisations are using this technology as part of attacking planning.  But cyber security threat is not all laptop terrorism.  Hacking units in China can get into the Pentagon and the British Defence Ministry the bastions of military opposition to state to state threats as well as the more complicated planning needed for asymmetric warfare.

Daesh can be disrupted but its true threat is that thus far there is little sign that regional governments can counter its ambitions without major military intervention from a coalition of Western forces. Few governments are willing to get directly involved at a level of eyeball to eyeball ground operations necessary to squash IS – a deceptively sophisticated enemy.

Perhaps of particular importance in Mr Fallon’s understanding of IS is that it constantly attracts men and women who see it as more than a cause.  Many of its recruits are young, educated and at odds with their own societies. In the UK for example, an IS recruit is typically the radicalised son or grandson of a family of sometime immigrants.  The radicalised generation says that the father, grandfather syndrome may live in the UK thankful for the shelter given by the British, but the young man – often with few long term prospects – has no deep identity and one who feels an alien and not willing to continue in that uneasy state as does his parent’s line. For Mr Fallon and his advisers here is a reminder of the threat of the enemy within. A mega buck defence budget cannot plan for that.  But it has to plan for the consequences of disaffection and radicalisation – the hardest aspect of his security diagram.

Refugees are not a direct military problem but they are destabilising. This phenomenon is not just about people escaping from war zones that Western governments have helped create either by commission or omission. It is not even about opportunism.  The greater and destabilising factor of mass movement of peoples is a reflection that most countries from whence they come simply do not work.  They come from corruptly governed states with individual high level corruption at an unprecedented level.  The refugee is in a mass movement that is already causing a long term schism in what was once a community of hope, the EU.

Here then the conundrum: at one time the British defence budget was simple.  The UK military had a nuclear deterrent system and then a traditionally balanced conventional tri-service that could honour post-colonial obligations and be part of that great coalition of the willing, NATO.  It may not have worked that well, but then it was not required to.

Today the British defence analysis  sees a world with uncertainty in Europe and not all the doing of President Putin of Russia.  It has to anticipate the consequences of a threat that it little understands – climate change and the imbalances of natural resources and changing societies.  Refugees are but one aspect of climate change. The Fallon plan has to look at the possibilities of conflict that are as yet quite unclear, for example, the grab for resources in the Arctic.  All this and more and not even mentioning the long term emergence of a Middle East and sub Saharan Africa with re-drawn boundaries.

In short there is hardly a spot on the globe that does not demand Mr Fallon’s attention. Hence his review. Hence his speech. The job of Britain is finally to decided how it sees its part in the world for the coming two decades and then to see if it has the military capability to support that vision.  Mr Fallon’s is an unenviable task.