« Haviland Smith on ISIS | Main | The Russians are Coming! - TTG »

28 August 2014


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.


Also relevant in a general sense, this interesting article in the New Yorker:


I believe Col Lang might be sympathetic to the piece's main points. Example: "The historical question to which ISIS is the answer is: What could possibly be worse than Saddam Hussein?"


Also, the BBC is suggesting that we are supporting the "wrong" Kurds. Apparently the Syrian Kurdish groups (aligned with the PKK) have been much more effective in fighting ISIS than the Peshmerga of Iraqi Kurdistan.



IMO the toppling of Assad remains priority one. IS will be dealt with once Assad is gone.

I find the timing of Syrian civil war and Ukraine crisis rather interesting. What is more important to the Russians? What is the West's goal?


You are correct that ISIS is a potential problem in Syria, (not Iraq) as Assad's traditional protectors, (Russia and Iran) are too far away to help much.

For ISIS to take Damascus would be a disaster for US policy in the Levant. But Eastern Syria is sparsely populated. I do believe that Assad's forces will put up a big time fight as ISIS approaches major population centers.

We shall see. But it is very much in the US interest to take Assad's back. Let's see how it plays out.


What will they do next? In editing their videos they've begun to think politically. I think they will consolidate their gains. If they straighten up and fly right they may be granted the territory they've taken. Playtime is over once the American bombing begins.

mistah charley, ph.d.

In reply to The Beaver

The Hertog Advanced Institute certainly has prominent professors. And I cannot deny that I would like "to influence the intellectual, civic, and political life of the U.S.", although of course I could never hope to be as consequential as Wolfowitz or Scooter Libby. Thank you for bringing this opportunity to my attention.


Yes Albayim, the exposure to air is primarily what makes tanks a burden for IS, otherwise the older versions of T series can be very useful in that kind of checkpoint/strong point type of warfare.


Installation? That struck me, too. SA isn't exactly negotiating from a position of strength here. I don't think the Lebanese parliament will cotton to this notion. I'm not up on their current political landscape, but they've been through a lot to get their various factions accommodated.

Babak Makkinejad

I am sticking with my conspiracy theory.

2 weeks ago General Dempsey said that ISIS will not be defeated unless its sanctuary in Syria is destroyed.

This week - 4 days ago - he said that if ISIS does not attack US, US will not attack ISIS in Syria.

And why is there no application of the same financial instruments that were so successfully applied against Iran and Syria to the financiers of ISIS?

So, what am I supposed to make of this?

Is ISIS an acceptable organization to US as long as it attacks allies of Iran - the Shia in Iraq and the SAR in Syria?

Why is US equivocating?

Why are Sunni Arab states equivocating; e.g. why is Jordan not organizing to fight ISIS?

Take a look at this please:

“IS clearly got the US message: the Kurdistan Region is a US red line that IS cannot cross. Therefore, immediately after the US Air Force strikes, IS headed toward the Iranian border and took over the town of Jalawla, 115 kilometers (roughly 71 miles) northeast of Baghdad, moving toward Khanaqin, which is only 20 kilometers (roughly 12 miles) from the Iranian border.”


An analogous situation had obtained in Lebanon in that the Sunni Arabs there too at the behest of Saudi Arabia had been supporting these Wahabi elements to “scare” the Shias into making concessions.

They soon found that they were unable to control those groups and had instead managed to create a headache for themselves.

Still they are reluctant to abandon them fully because they still think that those extremists offers them an effective lever against the Shias.

All of this has one consequence locally: Pan-Arabism is going to die and with it also Iraq and Syria in their current forms - to be replaced by confessional systems.

Potentially, Turkey will also change in conformity to a confessional system. But, I have no sympathy for them either; they brought this on.

Seamus Padraig

Ha, ha! Looks like Mr Neo-Ottoman has just been upstaged.

Seamus Padraig

There's another possible explanation: some of these executions may well be fake. I definitely had that feeling when I watched that PG-13 (non-)beheading video of Foley.


Seamus Padraig

That could be. I didn't see a lot of blood on the ground after the Tabqa executions and in a way the way they are doing this without a chance to "repent" doesn't make a lot of sense from a salafist point of view. pl



I didn't see the Foley video, just a series of stills before even most of those were removed. It's odd to me that the "PG-13" video was so quickly banned and there were claims that the UK threatened to make viewing it illegal. ?

In addition, some skeptics proceeded to break it down showing evidence of editing and claiming that the execution was done by a different party with a different knife.

Charles Lister, a Brookings fellow closely studying/following the global jihadis, tweeted this yesterday;

"There were rumours that the IS Shura Council ordered for the act of beheadings to be concealed - as to exactly why, I don’t know."

I remember thinking that the Foley video was a game changer sure to get American blood up and resistance to action against ISIS fading away.



I thought the notion of Hariri as president was far-fetched given the current realities facing Lebanon. Would he be president-in-absentia? Beirut being much too dangerous for him to actually live in the Baada Palace.

But hey, one never knows. After all, it is Lebanon we're talking about here....

I was most struck by the revelation that Israel was included in these discussions:

"Assad is increasingly perceived as a vital component in the struggle against the Islamic State. This conceptual change was discussed in recent talks between Saudi Arabia, Russia, Egypt, the United States and Israel."

Why shouldn't Israel be involved in operations to neuter the emerging threat on their border? The fact is that a substantial portion of their security professionals have always preferred the devil they know.


I read a few years ago IIRC that Egypt, SA, and Jordan were giving thought to being under Israel's umbrella vis-a-vis Iran. There are historical precedents for this, considering that Sadat was assassinated for recognizing Israel, and Jordan was in secret talks with them up until the Six-Day War.


@ Col,

Extermination of the Alawites and the rest of the Shiite Ghulat is as central to the ideological core of ISIS (and Nusra) as the final solution was to Nazism. The Shiites have now replaced Americans and Jews as the most hated enemy of Sunni jihadists and Islamists across the region and the world. Untold petrodollars are flowing both to the killers and the sectarian propagandists from our allies in the GCC who would rather see Jihadists killing Shiites than overthrowing Sunni monarchies.


Who knows what this translates to as far as action on the ground.

"Stifled by the Islamic State (IS) militants in their own areas, Iraqi Sunni rebels who took up arms against the Shia-dominated government of Nouri Maliki are signalling for the first time that they are ready to turn against IS if Sunni rights are enshrined in a reformed political order in Baghdad...."


Just passing it along.

Babak Makkinejad

More than 30 percent of Kuwait's population is Shia.

Reliable statistics do not exist for other Southern Persian Gulf states.


It feels like there is an unofficial Obama Doctrine to dissolve once and for all the Sykes-Picot agreement and allow Sunnis and Shiites to figure things out for themselves. When no SOFA agreement by the Iraq parliament materialized, Obama said so long. Apparently Maliki and other Shiites were short-sighted as to the implications of shutting out the Sunni.

Were I Obama, I would look the other way while Iran supported Baghdad. And as with the Kurdistan, I would red line a Damascus cosmopolitan state (I assume the barbarians would be at the gate before Assad would step down) and all of Lebanon. This terrifies me:

"Hezbollah’s military predictions, according to internal Hezbollah sources who wish to remain anonymous, indicate two areas in Lebanon likely to be the next battlefields of the expected war with the Islamic State (IS).

The first is in the northern Bekaa Valley and includes a vast area of barren land with rugged tracts, extending from the desolate area of the Lebanese Sunni town of Arsal, running south to the arid lands around the Shiite city of Baalbek and back into Syrian territory. On a parallel line to the area, there are seven Shiite towns — al-Nabi Othman, Al-Ain, Labwe, Nahla, Younnine, Maqneh and Nabi Chit, the most prominent of which is the village of Labwe, neighboring Arsal.

The second expected battlefield is also in north Lebanon, which includes Tripoli and its surrounding cities, as well as the Bekaa Valley.

It's possible that the first flame of this war in Lebanon might break out when IS fighters leave their positions. At the exit of the Bekaa Valley, there is an area suitable for IS’ potential project: the Lebanese Shiite city of Hermel, one of Hezbollah’s strongholds, and the north Lebanese regions of Akkar and Donnieh. These areas have a high density of poor Sunni communities where conditions are favorable as an incubator for IS.

IS’ potential objective in attacking this area would be to set up an emirate in north Lebanon within the Sunni population. Moreover, the port area in the capital of north Lebanon, Tripoli, which opens onto the Mediterranean Sea, will have the same function for IS as the city of Misrata for Ansar al-Sharia in Libya — to smuggle and receive weapons for radical Islamist groups. Misrata became a weapons store for many extremist groups.

...The Hezbollah source said, “The same issue that has faced the Alawites in Syria, with the start of the internal war, is now facing Hezbollah in Lebanon. It says that in parallel to the significant human reservoir that provides IS with fighters from all over the world, Hezbollah’s ability to provide martyrs to face [these fighters] remains limited.

Lebanon’s Shiites, which represent the party’s main human support, are ultimately a minority of limited numbers compared to the large number of Sunnis. While Hezbollah cannot supply the fighting, which may go on for months and probably years, with martyrs on a daily basis, radical groups are able to compensate for the death toll among their ranks no matter how long the war drags on. Starting from now, Hezbollah is seeking to resolve this dilemma through many means, including creating what looks like a resistance that consists of several denominations against IS.""


The beaver


Foreign fighters in Syria:

"Over 12,000 fighters from at least 81 countries have joined the civil war in Syria, and the numbers continue to grow.
Around 2,500 are from Western countries, including most
1members of the European Union, the United States, Canada, Australia,and New Zealand.
There are also several hundred from Russia. But the great majority are from the Arab World.
Most are fighting with rebel groups, and increasingly with the most extreme among them; but many are also fighting with the Government, or with ethnic or faith communities that are trying to protect themselves from both sides. A lot are young, often teenagers, and a fair percentage of those arriving from non-Muslim majority countries are converts to Islam.
These and others who share their faith commonly express their motivation as a religious obligation to protect fellow Muslims from attack. This sense of duty is captured by their loose use of the word ‘jihad’."

From the Economist:

Check the break-down on the same page


The rest of the story:

"BEIRUT: Friday’s shipment of rocket launchers and assault rifles from the United States to the Lebanese Army will be followed by unspecified heavy weaponry, U.S. Ambassador to Lebanon David Hale pledged at a ceremony.

The 1,500 M16s and more than 450 anti-tank rocket launchers delivered by the U.S. military this week have been financed by American tax dollars, Hale said in a speech made at Rafik Hariri International Airport.

“This weaponry and ordnance is paid for by the American people,” he said. "Over the coming weeks, more ammunition and more heavy weaponry will be delivered from the United States to the Army."

Future shipments of heavy weapons, which have not yet been detailed publically, will also be underwritten by the United States, an embassy source confirmed.

Additional weaponry will be delivered by the U.S. army as part of the $1 billion Saudi grant coordinated by former Prime Minister Saad Hariri."



Add to this:
Why is Belgium allowing it's citizen (living an hour to a day's walking distance from NATO headwater) to keep their unemployment benefit and SSN/SSI equivalents (even when they are literally not present in the population register of their counties.

The whole business of recruiting would-be martyrs and paying for one way tickets of these Takfiris, from Brussels to Turkey, has been PUBLIC knowledge in Belgium for at least 2 years.

Colonel said a couple of weeks ago that I am conspiratorial, as most M.E. people are. It is hard to believe that Jihadis are requited next to the NATO headquarters (literally in Schaarbeek, Saint-Gilles, St-Josse, Sint-Jans-Molenbeek …) and transported via E.U. airports to another NATO member (Turkey) without anyone noticing, let alone acting to prohibit it.

This is willful ignorance at the very least but more likely intentional maleficence.

People even make PhD thesis about this:


Indian POV:


Interesting perspective but Mr. Chellaney, it appears, needs to reread "The Clash of Civilizations" with less of a biased mindset and focus on the larger arena.

"...U.S.-led policies toward the Islamic world have prevented a clash between civilisations by fostering a clash within a civilisation, but at serious cost to regional and international security."

Regional and global "security" has been a joke for several generations as evidenced by "history" (always written by the "winners" in past eras). The petroleum has been used well to raise the human situation to the next level and now it seems to be time for necessary "rearrangements".

These clashes needed to happen and will continue for a while. All those young males gotta do something with all that raw energy and the older ones understand how to "manage" such. We peons and our "security" are of little concern in their plans within plans within plans etc.

The Dragon, for one, continues to smile.


Syria and Lebanon are the last major strongholds in the Arab world of the communities of Shiites referred to pejoratively as Ghulat (heretics). The main denominations are the Nusayri-Alawites of the Assads, the Nizari-Ismailis, and the Druze, all of whom share a common origin in the Sevener branch of Shiism that broke away from the main body that we now call the Twelvers in a dispute over the Imams. Together with other Shia, religious minorities and secular Sunnis, they make up the top cadre of the Assad regime and its core base of popular support.

Assad's sect of the Alawites was previously known as the Nusayris after the founder, Ibn Nusayr. The west first encountered them in 1097, when the Crusaders invaded Syria. We mainly remember the Ismailis, who were in their great era then, as our first conflict with the Ghulat so terrorized us that we still tell the black legend of the terrible Assassins. (Most of that legend is fantasy, but it was well earned.)

There are many other smaller heterodox sects who also call themselves Alawites, but who are not of the same sect as the Assads, although their culture and religious traditions are similar. The Alevi are Turkish Alawites of this type. “Alawite” is also commonly used by mainstream Shia meaning merely 'partisan of Ali'. So be suspicious of analysts and commentators who throw "Alawite" around without being specific when talking about Syrian politics or the Assad regime.

The Shiite Ghulat has always been considered heretical by mainstream Islam just as Christian Heretics were by the Church, and the same accusations of sorcery, incest, nocturnal orgies, baby killing, Manichaeism and blasphemy are recorded against them, although the Islamic heresiologists fail to report the "foul kiss" that so obsessed our own Inquisition. Sunni Islam also has its own black legends of the terrible Sevener heresy that make our Assassins legends look quaint. Once again they are mostly made up, but by no means unearned, as the Sevener explosion shook Arab Islam to its core, much as the Islamic Revolution and Hezbollah have more recently.

In previous eras the Nusayris openly declared their hatred of Muslims and presented themselves to western missionaries as crypto-Christians living under Muslim oppression. They refused to use mosques, believed in reincarnation, used wine as a holy sacrament, and worshiped both Jesus and Ali as incarnations of God. They also celebrated a number of Christian feasts and had a Trinity. So the historical accusations of heresy were not exactly unfounded.

This was all before the march into Bathism and the massive Assad era "Sunnification" campaign. After a half century of it the Nusayris are now almost indistinguishable from other Arab Shiites in their practice of Islam. It is not clear what more the Nusayris could actually do to "convert" to Islam from an old religion that there been no visible evidence of in generations. At most they can be accused today of being secular Shiites who drink alcohol, believe in religious freedom, and support secular nationalism against Islamism.

None of this matters to the death squads because the Alawites particularly and Shiites generally have been assigned a starring role in the ideology, propaganda and eschatology of the Islamic State as the personification of cosmic evil. This is a common feature of Messianic and Millennialist movements, and of modern genocidal ideologies.

One of the Islamic State's main historical influences is Ibn Taymiyyah, a 13th century Syrian Islamic scholar who incited and led an Islamic resistance movement against Mongol domination.

Ibn Taymiyyah considered the Nusayris to be both collaborators with the Mongols and the worst kind of heretics, and he authored a fatwa against them that is a warrant for genocide.


ISIS is carrying it out, and they have made no secret of this. Patrick Cockburn has correctly called them the Khmer Rouge of Jihadism. Those who continue to accuse the Assad regime of supporting ISIS deserve to be put on the same shelf with the Holocaust deniers who blame the Jews for Nazism.

The west has a long history of our own of religious wars, heresies, schisms, and Messianic revolts. That history may serve us better as a guide to the new dark ages and the men who make war in it than our experience as secular moderns.

As we desperately cling to our obsolete myth of the death of God, one of the most spectacular religious wars in history is unfolding before our eyes.

The best english language resource on the Ghulat is:

Extremist Shiites: The Ghulat Sects
By Matti Moosa


The comments to this entry are closed.

My Photo

February 2021

Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat
  1 2 3 4 5 6
7 8 9 10 11 12 13
14 15 16 17 18 19 20
21 22 23 24 25 26 27
Blog powered by Typepad