Iraqi military has reported that they foiled six terrorist attempts by ISIS in various parts of the country, including Baghdad and areas in Kurdistan.
On the 28 July version of al-arabiyya TV’s “Panorama” show, Iraqi interviewees revealed that ISIS has formed a “belt” around Iraq’s capital city of Baghdad with some 2,000 fighters. They also have sleeper cells heavily ensconced in Kurdistan, in provinces such as Salah ad-Din. This is in addition to their usual stronghold of Anbar province, which is the primary Sunni district, and is located west of Baghad and extending westward to the Syrian and Turkish borders. “Many, many sleeper cells” throughout the country, they complained.
These ISIS cells are getting “regional cooperation and international cooperation.” The international cooperation comes from their many cells and franchises around the world which provide aid in terms of fighters, cash donations, technical expertise, and intelligence. The regional cooperation comes not only from individuals making cash donations, and cells in neighboring countries providing support, but from unnamed state supporters. (These could only be Turkey and Qatar).
The interviewees (including one who was Shi’a) also complained about the Iranian presence in the eastern parts of the country, including Kurdistan. The Shi’a interviewee said that in some towns, signs in Farsi outnumber those in Arabic. He attributed the Iranian presence, and the “popular mobilization units” (which are composed of Iraqi Shi’a, and armed and supported by Iran) as a key ingredient feeding dissatisfaction, and fear, among the Sunnis, which only helps ISIS.
Another of the interviewees said that throughout the Sunni portion of the country, the books of Hasan al-Banna and Sayyid Qutb are by far the biggest sellers. They are much more popular than any other books even those by Iraqi moderates.
He also confirmed that ISIS is active in Libya and Egypt’s Sinai, as we’ve been reporting for months. But, the most disturbing bit of information is that “seniors” (meaning grandfathers and grandmothers) who are not active jihadis are teaching the children in their towns and villages, the ISIS ideology.
This coincides with an apparent new genre of video propaganda that ISIS is now pushing. Suddenly, on the internet are appearing ISIS videos of women, covered head to toe in burqas, exposing ISIS propaganda. This includes at least one video where they promise to never backslide on what ISIS stood for, and that their job is to raise the next generation.
What this means is that while ISIS has failed in its recent attempt at establishing the Caliphate for the Last Days, they have by no means given up. They have reason to believe that time is on their side, so the strategy now is to simply operate as active and inactive sleeper cells, keep chipping away at the morale and security of their target countries, all the while raising that next generation of jihadis who will succeed where this generation has not.
When surgery is performed for cancer, you have cut out every last cell out of the organ you are operating on. Eliminating 99.9% of it doesn’t work, because if you leave only one tiny cell, that cell will begin multiplying ten times, a hundred times, faster than before. It will quickly overwhelm its original host organ, and metastasize into neighboring organs, and eventually, the entire body until it kills its host.
The Real Islam that is ISIS works the same way. By surgically removing 99% of it from Iraq and Syria, all we’ve done is made it angry, and that vestige of cancer that survived the surgeon’s scalpel has metastasized not only into its neighboring countries, but to virtually all Sunni Islamic countries, and even into Europe and America. This will help them raise that next generation of jihadis which will be much more numerous and much more dangerous than was the original ISIS generation.
Yet another reason why they have reason for optimism about the future is actually three-fold: The reason that books of Muslim Brotherhood ideologues Hasan al-Banna and Sayyid Qutb are so popular among Sunnis, is that the ideology, belief system, and practices that they outline are based entirely on the Qur’an. It is the “Real Islam,” instead of the “Disneyland” Islam practiced by politicians, businesspeople, and entertainers in the Arab world. And, the ideology and practices of ISIS, including the beheadings and sex slavery, etc., are also based on basic Islamic doctrine found in the Qur’an, the ahadeeth, and Muhammad’s biography.
But, most of all, the reason ISIS has sound hope for the future is that the phenomenon of “Real Islam” has been rapidly replacing “Disneyland Islam” all throughout the Arab world since the end of the colonial age, and actually because the colonial age came to an end and the Europeans pulled out (as explained in Confessions of an (ex) NSA spy: Why America and its Allies are Losing the War on Terror, pp. 233-533). In other words, the “Disneyland Islam” (which our naïve leaders in the west think is the “Real Islam”) was made possibly only by the occupation of these Islamic countries by the Europeans, and it (“Disneyland Islam,” or “moderate Islam”) was nothing more than a process of Muslims aping the practices and beliefs of their European occupiers. Remove that occupation, and the reverse takes place: Real Islam replaces “Disneyland Islam.” That’s what we are seeing today.
Now, what our policy makers need to understand is that this replacement of “Disneyland Islam” by “Real Islam” does not follow a linear progression. No, if follows the “Law of Accelerating Returns” (as defined by futurologist Ray Kurzweil in his The Age of Spiritual Machines p. 33 and throughout). However, Kurzweil’s technological Utopia will never become a reality unless we solve, and derail, the accelerating popularity of Real Islam, and its ugly sister the rising Leftist totalitarianism in the west.
Not only has ISIS resurfaced in Iraq, but also in Syria. While they have cells in and around Damascus, and other parts of the country, they are most active in one of the last remaining strongholds before the Caliphate fell. And, this is the town of Deir az-Zor, in the eastern part of the country on the banks of the Euphrates river, and near to the Iraqi border.
In fact, Deir az-Zor is so dangerous due to the ISIS activity, that all media have been banned from entering the town. However, an enterprising female correspondent contracted by Saudi Arabia’s al-arabiyya TV channel managed to wrangle a visit to the town accompanied by heavy security. On 29 July, with the cameras rolling she interviewed some of the inhabitants who all claimed that there are killings and explosions in the town everyday. And, this is because of the ISIS “sleeper” cell in the town.
In the early morning of 30 July the same female correspondent accompanied a unit of the Syrian Democratic Forces in an alleged raid of a suspected ISIS cell. This confirms that the Kurdish YPG is still active in the region. During the operation they communicated with unnamed Americans, indicating that American forces are still in the region (though in smaller numbers), and still offering air support, intelligence, and acting as advisors.
The re-activation of ISIS in Syria (as well as Iraq) was easy to predict, as yours truly did the moment I learned that Trump had invited Erdogan to enter Syria to “clean out the ISIS remnants” so that he (Trump) could pull the American troops out (even though he ended up doing only a partial pull-out). Inviting Erdogan into Syria to “clean out ISIS” from a region inhabited by Kurds, Christians, and Yazidis, would be like inviting Adolph Hitler into Poland in 1939 to “clean out NAZI activity in Warsaw’s Jewish Quarter.”
There were some who thought that Trump’s having Turkish troops replace American troops in Syria was a brilliant move by Trump so as to drive a wedge between Turkey and Russia. How did that work out?
Turkey just purchased Russia’s latest anti-aircraft missile system, and is planning other purchases, including advanced Russian fighter jets. And, of course, for the Kurds, Christians, and Yazidis in N.W. Syria, it meant genocide and expulsion, much like the fate of the Jews in Warsaw’s Ghetto.
The morale to all of this, is that as long as we have an intelligence, political, educational, and media universe that remains incapable of seeing in Islam anything other than this quaint “peaceful” religion that got hijacked by only “a few” bad guys, our political leaders will continue making huge blunders vis-à-vis Islam and the Middle East. The failure to recognize the above-mentioned “Law of Accelerating Returns” as it relates to Islam and terrorism is part and parcel of this institutional inability to identify the enemy.
It also plays a role in out leaders’ inability to recognize that certain “allies” of ours, such as Turkey and Qatar, are supporting this rise in terrorism in the M.E. region, and around the world.
This issue is yet another reason why a comprehensive reform of our intelligence agencies is so badly needed.
Barry Webb had a 25-year career as an Arabist for the NSA, holds two MA degrees in related subject matter, and has read the Qur’an front to back dozens of times. He his currently a senior fellow at Americans for Intelligence Reform, website www.intelreform.org. Mr. Webb is also the author of Confessions of an (ex) NSA spy: Why America and its Allies are Losing the War on Terror. His website is: www.barrywebbauthor.com