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.
“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.”
On October 15 the Islamic State released a video featuring several foreign fighters, including a British national named Abu Abdullah. The men say coalition airstrikes against IS are considered cowardly by the jihadists because they avoid face-to-face confrontation. Yes, it is so more manly cutting the throat of a journalist or aid worker or enslaving a woman who doesn’t share your religion.
The mornings start off quietly, but by lunchtime a crescendo builds of furious small-arms fire and airstrikes only to subside.
Then the battle resumes in early evening as the sun begins to fall – the nights are full of fury, explosions and intense gunfire.
This week Islamic State militants tried to bomb their way through Kurdish defenses by using suicide bombers. There have been nearly a dozen efforts.
In low-lying Turkish villages and hills along a 15-kilometer stretch of the border facing Kobani, refugees from the town and local Kurds have been watching the raging battle unfold with a mixture of feelings.
They cheer when an airstrike sends black plumes of smoke into the sky and crane to see where the ordnance struck. They seesaw between hope and despair, expressing one moment confidence the town won’t fall and then conceding they don’t know how the outgunned and outnumbered defenders can hold out.”
My Daily Beast piece yesterday on President Erdogan’s remarkable rant against T.E. Lawrence and the Sykes-Picot Agreement. The Turkish leader appears oblivious to the fact that Lawrence did all he could to sabotage the Anglo-French deal and kill it at birth.
According to The Hill newspaper, the White House says its war on ISIS is succeeding: hate to see what failing would look like.
Let’s do a quick rundown: ISIS is advancing in Iraq’s Anbar province, they are close to taking Baghdad airport or at least are in range to bomb it; they are launching suicide bombing runs on the capital; for all the favorable Western press the Pesh (and Iraqis) have made no serious advances since the Mosul Dam; the Iraqi army (which we spent a fortune on) remains in disarray; Kobani is holding on by dint of an extraordinary stand by YPG fighters; the Turkish-Kurdish peace process is on the brink of collapse; Assad is taking advantage; the Syrian rebels are demoralized and ignored; the Syrians feel they are being sacrificed, which they are. Did I leave anything out?
SURUÇ, Turkey—He gazes at the photograph of his daughter Evan on his cellphone as he offers to let me look. She is 18 years old with long dark wavy hair. It isn’t a snapshot but a more formally posed picture. The girl has lively eyes, a pleasant smile. It was taken shortly before she left a note for her parents telling them she was crossing the border into Syria to join the Kurdish defense militia, the YPG. That was six months ago and last week she contacted him and explained she was fighting the militants of the Islamic State in the besieged town of Kobani.
My latest piece for the Daily Beast can be read here.
American and Western officials are scrambling to understand the mindsets of the Westerners joining the jihadist Islamic State. In an article today for the Daily Beast I explore the challenges they are facing.
“Identifying who already has gone to join ISIS, who might go, and why is an urgent priority, and the FBI’s psychological analysts at Quantico have been enlisted in the effort to chart the pattern of radicalization and to try to get into the heads of these young men and women.”
There is still much not understood and decades of de-radicalization programs supply only a few answers. A former senior bureau profiler, Mary Ellen O’Toole, talked me through some of the problems when putting Western jihadists on the couch, saying it is as hard as pinpointing potential serial killers in the general population.
“You can look at second or third-generation immigrant men and say they are more vulnerable but one variable doesn’t make a mass murderer,” she told me. Real-world profilers have to be cautious and avoid falling back on facile ethnic, racial or religious “profiling.”
But she had no doubts that the British jihadists involved in the killings of American reporters James Foley and Steve Sotloff and British aid worker David Haines are psychopaths.