American Oil Worker Dead as Egyptian Jihadists Turn to ISIS

“Formerly known as Ansar Beit Al-Maqdis (roughly, Champions of Jerusalem), the group now calling itself Sinai Province announced the slaying on a Twitter account and posted images of oil worker William Henderson’s passport and identification cards. It did not say how the slaying was carried out….

The Sinai-based jihadi group claiming responsibility for the oil worker’s murder has grown increasingly proficient carrying out attacks and sophisticated selecting targets based on their “strategic value.” It has conducted scores of attacks since the July 2013 ouster by the Egyptian armed forces of Islamist President Mohammed Morsi, and with each blast or shooting the group has been expanding its theater of operations. Originally it was a low-level insurgency mainly confined to the Sinai Peninsula . but recently it has been hitting at high-profile targets and foreigners elsewhere in the country—including right in the heart of Cairo.”

You can read my full report here at the Daily Beast

G20: The Art of Understatement

Kyiv

Would have been great to have been a fly on the one for this encounter at the G20:
As the Globe and Mail tells it: “Stephen Harper told Russian President Vladimir Putin flatly that he needs ‘to get out of Ukraine,’ when the two met at a Group of 20 summit of major economies in Brisbane.
A spokesman for the Canadian Prime Minister relayed the details of the encounter and, according to director of communications Jason MacDonald, ‘Mr. Putin did not respond positively.'”

What the Followers of Islam Have Allowed to Happen

“Where are your great men? Who is your Mandela, your Gandhi, your Aung San Suu Kyi?” asks French Muslim philosopher Abdennour Bidar in a moving open letter to the Muslim world published on October 3 in the French newspaper Marianne.

He continues: “Where are your great thinkers whose books should be read worldwide, as they were when Arab or Persian mathematicians and philosophers were referred to from India to Spain? You are actually so weakened behind the self-assuredness that you always display… You have no idea who you are or where you want to go, and it makes you as unhappy as you are aggressive… You persist in not listening to those who call on you to change by finally freeing yourself from the dominion over all of life that you have granted to religion.”

He says this: “I see you in a state of misery and suffering that saddens me infinitely, but that makes my philosopher’s judgment even harsher. Because I see you in the process of birthing a monster that presumes to call itself the Islamic State, and which some prefer to call by a demon’s name – Da’esh. But worst of all is that I see that you are losing yourself, losing your time and your honor, in your refusal to recognize that this monster is born of you, of your irresoluteness, of your contradictions, of your being torn between past and present, of your perpetual inability to find your place in human civilization.”

Worth reading in its entirety and you can here. It has nuances that Bill Maher would do well to take on board but at the same time it is an unrelenting critique of what the followers of Islam have allowed to happen to their religion and rejects utterly excuses for the rise of the jihadists saying the West is not to blame.

 

The Unraveling of Obama Syria Policy

“Only two days ago, President Barack Obama’s envoy to the Syrian rebels, retired Marine Gen. John Allen, explained confidently that the U.S. would help to train and equip Western-backed fighters to become a credible force that would compel the Assad regime to negotiate a political deal and end the four-year-long civil war.

Yeah. Right. The Obama administration’s plans have little or nothing to do with what is unfolding all too rapidly on the ground: Rebel brigades are demoralized, disintegrating, and fighting among themselves.”

Read full dispatch here at the Daily Beast

Enduring Assad’s Prisons

GAZIANTEP, Turkey — “She wrestles with demons. The memories of her nine-month imprisonment and the beatings and abuse she suffered at the hands of a Syrian interrogator still burn inside her. Now that she’s in southern Turkey. She works as a journalist under an assumed name. And she prefers living with other women who understand the humiliation she went through. Others, as she knows only too well, suffered worse than she did the harsh regime of Bashar al-Assad’s prisons and secret detention centers…

Rowaida Yousef, as she calls herself, used to be a math teacher and citizen journalist in Damascus…

In Adraa prison Yousef had the opportunity to hear the stories of more than a hundred women. “I heard many accounts of women being raped in Damascus by Shabiha after they had been picked up at checkpoints or at buildings they controlled, and before they were handed over to the security branches,” says Yousef. “But I didn’t hear accounts of rapes in the official security detention centers in Damascus.” The picture is different in Homs and Aleppo, she says.”

You can read my dispatch for the Daily Beast here.

Terror-Bonding or Cynical Manipulation?

My take last night on a new twist in the cynical media operations of the so-called caliphate with a hostage ‘reporting’ from the embattled town of Kobani on Syria’s border.

“British hostage John Cantlie, who was abducted by jihadists alongside American journalist James Foley, was featured in a new propaganda video posted Monday night reporting from inside the besieged town of Kobani. He scornfully rejects Western media coverage of the battle for the Syrian border town, saying the militants of the Islamic State are not on the retreat and are now just mopping up…

The video then homes in on a healthy-looking Cantlie, who is dressed in black—like an ISIS fighter—in contrast to the orange jumpsuit of a prisoner he was seen wearing in five episodes of jihadist propaganda films called ‘Lend Me Your Ears.’ His hair has grown out and his skin color is less pale, suggesting that the previous videos were shot several weeks ago, around the time ISIS beheaded Foley and another American reporter, Steven Sotloff.

In the “Lend Me Your Ears” series, the British freelance photojournalist emphasizes that he is a prisoner of the Islamic State, widely known as ISIS or ISIL, and doesn’t know whether he will live or die. But in Monday night’s five-and-a-half minute clip, titled “Inside Ayn al-Islam” (the Arabic name for Kobani is Ayn al-Arab), the 43-year-old Cantlie makes no reference to his captivity, raising questions about whether he has crossed the line and is now a willing propagandist for the jihadists behind the camera.”

You can read the full article here.

I quote also a British security official saying: “The video is troubling. Was this filmed under duress? Volunteered and suggested? Is this Stockholm Syndrome? Does it cross a line? Is he playing them?”

Old Cold War Stuff

The Guardian’s Martin Kettle writes about the public release of official files (heavily redacted) of British intelligence’s surveillance of historians Christopher Hill, AJP Taylor and Eric Hobsbawm saying the monitoring of the academics shows how deeply penetrated academia was by the Cold War.

The penetration wasn’t all one way. He surely should have noted why Communist Party-linked Oxbridge academics prompted the concern (rightly) of the prosaic minds of MI5: and it can be summed up in four names, Philby, Burgess, Maclean and Blunt. Also, my own expose a decade ago with David Rose of the HVA Stasi’s recruitment targeting of UK academics provides some more context. Although it does strike me as a bit mad to target the three for so long.

On a side note: I remember literary scholar Q.D. Leavis hurling the door open to me for a tutorial at a her home in Cambridge the day after art historian Anthony Blunt was exposed as the “fourth man” and waving The Times in my face angrily and saying: “Of course, he was the fourth man. Look at his weak chin — a chin of a traitor.”

Bring Back UK Sedition Law

Listening to a recent posted video of the crude Anjem Choudary calling for the forceful overthrow of the established political order in the UK it is hard not to conclude that the 2010 abolition of the old sedition laws rather than their updating was foolish.

 

 

And Aleppo?

From my Daily Beast dispatch this weekend:

“A battle is taking shape that could decide the fate of the Obama administration’s strategy for defeating ISIS, and it’s not around the Kurdish town of Kobani. It’s for the future of the second biggest city in Syria, ancient Aleppo, besieged on three sides by the forces of the tyrant Bashar Assad and the murderous zealots of the so-called Islamic State holding part of the other side.

For the relatively moderate Syrian militias to whom the Obama administration already is funneling arms, the neighborhoods of Aleppo where they still hold ground are a last redoubt inside the country. And in the next few hours or days their last supply line to the outside very likely will be cut.”

You can read the full report here.