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26 August 2015


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It's hard to properly govern when CENTCOM is lying to the President:

Johnny Reims

True or False: one of the best way for the governments of Western countries to reduce the risk of terrorist attacks against its citizens is to end US lead military campaigns in the Middle East. In other words, end long term occupations in the Middle East that don’t appear to promote US national security interests.

That “strategic option”, if you will, does not appear as viable in Northern Ireland. Ulster Protestants call Northern Ireland home.

Patrick Bahzad

Maybe the President should commission SST to draft "opinion" reports about the ongoing campaign against ISIS :-)

I had a good laugh when I heard we had killed 10 000 ISIS fighters in the last twelve months. If we're getting into the same "body bag" metrics as in VN, I see this as an ominous sign.

Patrick Bahzad


True and False. The US may have created a climate with its operations in Afghanistan and especially with the invasion of Iraq (what a blunder !), but what US long term occupation is there to end today ?

Besides, you are restricting the problem to the correlation between US intervention in the ME and Islamic terrorism in general. The Jihadis however have an agenda in which this is only used as circumstantial evidence justifying attacks.

Take that away, and they will come up with other reasons: the 'Charlie Hebdo' massacre, did it have anything to do with invasion or occupation ? No ! The attacks in Copenhagen against the Danish cartoonist ? No !

US strategy and foreign policy may be instrumental to the Jihadi propaganda machine, but it is far from being the main reason for justifying attacks. Whether or not the US should nonetheless exit those regions is a different question, but don't read too much into the relation between US action and Jihadi reaction. We are way past the point where there was a close link between those two things.

In that sense, I can't agree with your statement about the "strategic option" in Northern Ireland either, for a simple additional reason: European Muslims are at home in Europe too. Some might not consider it home, just as Catholics in Northern Ireland didn't consider the State to represent them, but they have no intention of going anywhere.

The comparison is quite telling I think, and certainly works on several levels. The limits are the possibility of a political settlement, because the Catholics advocated mainly for equality, then unification with the South and finally the possibility of an electoral process potentially ending in unification.

What room is there for a settlement with the Jihadis ? What do they want that we could give them without compromising what we stand for ?

Babak Makkinejad

The English could have ethnically cleansed Ulster - a true and tested method in history - and expelled all Catholics to the South.

That would have ended their problems there permanently - in as much as any human action is permanent.

Before them, the victors of World War II did the same in Central Europe, NAZIs did it during World War II, USSR during her existence, Turkey and Greece in 1921 and so on and so forth.

The comparison with Northern Ireland is not apt in my opinion because the issue there was one caused by the recession of the imperial boundary of Great Britain.

The Irish Catholics were living in their own ancestral places, only the boundary of the states had moved.

Like the Duran line, the borders between Iran and Azerbaijan or Iran and Afghanistan.

The Muslim communities in Europe are labor immigrants - like Turks in Germany - or imperial detritus like those in UK and France - or economic refugees across Europe.

Their existence is an inconvenient fact - much like that of the Iranian Jews - to all doctrinaire Muslims who cannot accept that a Muslim is better off living Europe (or anywhere in North America) than any Muslim country that you care to mention.

The Jihadists, however, are willing to do something about this unpleasant fact (to them) - evidently.

I think the sentiment that the United States (and I suppose by now the Diocletian States) as well as Israel are out to destroy Islam had been there for decades but confined to a very small minority of Muslims.

[I should know, I spoke with Arabs and Pakistanis - to name a few.]

In my opinion, what has changed is that this fringe opinion became more popular, specially perhaps after the US-Iraq War in 1991.

I was struck by an opinion expressed on a US Television station in 1997, by a Kenyan Muslim, after the Al Qaeda attacks on US embassies in East Africa: "Osama bin Ladin is fighting for Islam."

At that time, I concluded that US was in real trouble with respect to the world of Sunni Islam.

The subsequent US-Iraq War of 2003 and George Bush's conflation of enemies of Israel with those of US, in my opinion, only aggravated an existing problem but did not cause it.

Patrick Bahzad


Some of what you say makes sense, especially regarding how the US (and the West) is perceived in parts of the Muslim world and by a small but determined and increasing number of Muslims, including in the West.

Your Northern Ireland narrative is very debatable as a counter-factual. I'm rather inclined to believe it would have played right into the hands of the IRA, because it would have extended the conflict may more into the Republic of Ireland and would have made sure those Catholics that didn't support the IRA definitely would have.

Also , defining the "troubles" in Northern Ireland as linked to the recession of imperial boundaries is ludicrous !

In that sense, I think you are fundamentally mistaken about the nature of the comparison. NI seems perfectly apt to me as a benchmark for a possible "worst case" scenario, at least regarding tactical and operational aspects I mentioned.

Johnny Reims

Ok. Thanks for the reply (as well as Babak's comment). I see now. You are arguing that NI is a worst case scenario.

I have always viewed the Northern Ireland analogy more apropos to the "troubles" between Israel and the Palestinians, contra West in general and Islamic jihadists.

Ulster Protestants, if memory serves, rely on the Star of David to make the point that Northern Ireland is their land – their religious homeland --and of course they have always sought support from Great Britain and the SAS. GB’s support, in turn, did lead to some horrific IRA sponsored terrorist attacks in GB that I am not sure would have occurred on “that land” otherwise, although that is open to speculation.

My bloodlines include (but not limited to) both Catholic Irish and Ulster Protestant for the record. But both groups seem to claim that Northern Ireland is their land.
I don’t know if Muslims in Europe (particularly West of the Diocletian line!) make the same claim but they may indeed.

Based on Blowback theory and additionally, placing the Northern Ireland analogy in the above context, it seems to me that jihadists of various persuasions, whether connected to reality or delusions, may have a greater incentive to sneak across the Rio Grande these days, just like the IRA crossing the Irish channel at night.

Regardless, it does seem to me that the US should protect their borders and ports to a greater degree.

Abu Sinan

Interesting you use the north of Ireland to compare this to. PIRA invested a lot of time and energy in looking for what were called "lilly whites" to carry out actions. Lilly white meaning they had no association with the IRA or Republican circles. AQ has done the same with reports surfacing for years of attemps by AQ to recruit white westerners who could be used as operatives that could work underneath the radar.

As to no go areas and these sort of tactics, the IRA did this well. Areas of South Armagh were so dangerous to British troops that at times they had to helicopter their trash in and out of places like Crossmaglen.

I think things could move in this direction eventually, but it would require a drastic improvement in training and coordination. It would also require networks and a move beyond the lone wolf model. With many jihadis coming back from wars in the Middle East, it is entirely likely. Years down the road will the US be seeing attacks like the "Warren Point" attack? Worst case scenario indeed, and I am not at all confident that Americans will deal with things as the Brits did.

The issues in Ireland far pre-date the British Empire as it later became. Irish Republicans talk about the issue going back to Norman invasion of Ireland with songs about Strongbow and his role in the invasion.

One looks at the north of Ireland with Sinn Fein in power and an agreement that has a mechanism for an electoral based unification of Ireland and relative peace. The jihadis have no end game that ends with them in government and a mechanism for peace. Tiocfaidh ár lá, as the mural above says, is indeed on its way if you talk to main stream Republicans.

The Norman invasion of Ireland started in 1169. Now that is a long war.

David Habakkuk

Patrick Bahzad,

I hope to have something useful to contribute to the fascinating ongoing discussions your invaluable posts are provoking when the nose is not as close to the grindstone as at present.

However, I cannot resist one 'sour grapes' remark.

At least if the jihadists attempt to assassinate David Cameron, and narrowly fail, so that those killed and crippled are relatively insignificant people, we won't have to ask ourselves:

'What is it this time? Semtex from Gaddafi, funding from Boston – or both?'

More seriously, there is a major problem of political leadership. It is symptomatic that Tony Blair managed at one and the same time to have a messianic enthusiasm for making Britain 'multicultural' by facilitating open-door immigration, and also to dragoon a reluctant party and country into collaborating in a messianic project to turn Iraq into a U.S. and Israel-friendly democracy. In the end, ironically, this helped do for his party.

I knew some quite significant 'New Labour' figures reasonably well. Commonly, some of the reasons why they could not understand the kind of catastrophe an invasion of Iraq was liable to precipitate had to do with their ignorance of foreign cultures, and inability to grasp that if you don't have any knowledge of other societies, you should take the trouble to listen to those who do.

However, many of these people find it intensely difficult to get to grips with what actually happens in places like Rotherham – or indeed a wider world beyond the confines of a largely metropolitan elite. Life as lived in much of Britain is not quite as different from less fortunate countries as people want to believe.

As to David Cameron, a relevant point is that he apparently greatly admires Tony Blair.

William R. Cumming

Patrick! IMO this is one of your most brilliant and thoughtful posts [and comments]!

What most Americans will never admit is that aid to the IRA by American-Irish was both generous and necessary to keep the IRA from destruction. This safe-haven and funding assistance not unlike other current assistance to various Islamic radicals. But since 9/11/01 funding from the US for terrorism has largely dried up [N.B. there was major funding center for MENA terrorism in Norther Virginia]. And the numbers of radicalized American citizens has remained far less than 24,000 IMO.

Thanks for your hard work on this blog.

Babak Makkinejad

The Irish are part of the same civilization; not so Arabs and Israelis.

There the situation resembles that of Hindus and Muslims in India; 2 civilizations in one state.

Which, in my opinion, will not last - just look at USSR.

Babak Makkinejad

Done usually under the rubric of fund-raising for the Fraternal Order of Firefighters or some such.

Did any UK PM ever complain to a US President about that?

Do you know?

Babak Makkinejad

The worst case scenario for EU states is what is transpiring within Israel and within Kashmir at the present time.

Northern Ireland would be a comparative paradise.



I reiterate my humble suggestion that you should submit your excellent work to French-language venues.

Johnny Reims

Here is what I am trying to determine. In your analysis based upon the NI scenario, are you arguing that US military and financial support of Israel – particularly the policies of Likud Zionism that are aimed at creating a Greater Israel – increases or does not increase the risk of Jihadist terrorist attacks against US civilians?

I have always assumed – perhaps mistakenly – that Great Britain’s military support of Ulster Protestants increased the likelihood of IRA terrorist attacks against civilians of GB, across the Irish Sea. And, moreover, George Mitchell’s plan, once implemented, decreased the risk of IRA attacks against civilians of GB.

Unfortunately, George Mitchell could not achieve the same result in ME.

And, admittedly, my analysis is based upon analogizing NI to the “troubles” in Israel and not as an analogy to West vs. Jihad more generally, particularly in Europe. And in both scenarios – Ulster and Israel -- those making claims to the land have sought protection from an Imperial Power.

Regardless, I understand much better now the "worst case" analysis about which you write and, like others, appreciate very much your contributions and look forward to more of the same.

David Habakkuk

Johnny Reims,

To refer to 'Great Britain's military support of Ulster Protestants' is perhaps just a tad oversimplistic.

The television current affairs department where I worked in the late Seventies and early Eighties was rather closely involved in making programmes about the Northern Irish situation. Our principal consultant was a leading nationalist journalist, Mary Holland. A colleague of mine, Sean McPhilemy, was a Northern Irish Catholic married to a Northern Irish Protestant.

Later, he would be involved in prolonged legal battles relating to a programme he made, and a book he wrote, making allegations – I think correct – about a 'shoot to kill' policy directed against the IRA.

However, I vividly recall asking him and his wife at dinner one night what would happen if the British Army left.

His view was that the Protestants would decide what areas they could realistically expect to hold, and use familiar methods. Stage I, gentle warning, Stage 2, kill a few, and then if people don't take the hint ...

When I asked what the Southern Irish would do about it, he didn't appear greatly impressed by their prospects against the Protestant militias.

different clue

Johnny Reims,

Even if we accept that the NI troubles had very different cultural and political features and implications than the current Jihadi upsurge, could we also and separately accept that the Jihadis could be using the NI troubles and the IRA actions therein as a source of tactical and strategic advice and inspiration? Thereby making a study of the methods used by the various NI players useful to anticipating Jihadi methods and crafting counter-methods and pre-emptive underminement over the long run?

William R. Cumming

Is my understanding correct that the LIKUD is dominated by those raised mainly in the USA?

Patrick Bahzad


What you describe in relation to New Labour, Tony aka "puddle" Blair and events in Rotterham is commonly refered to in the dictionary as "schyzophrenic" ... I guess that is also the best comprehensive description of most our countries foreign policy.

Johnny Reims

I think I am supporting your view but, from what I can tell or at least am trying to determine, I may have changed, and actually enlarged, the parameters of the NI analogy that PB presented. I am factoring in the relationship between Ulster and Great Britain as it may “rhyme” with the relationship between Israel and US. IRA tactics against GB – pre Mitchell plan -- may suggest tactics that will be used against US or at least suggest that the US mainland indeed is a target, as GB was an IRA target pre Mitchell.

By enlarging the parameters of the NI analogy – if I have done so – then I am suggesting that there, indeed, is a correlation between US FP in ME – particularly its support of Likud -- and attendant risks to US civilians (and military for that matter) in US and around the world. If you want to extrapolate, the greater the overt support for Likud’s Greater Israel policies, then the greater the risk of blowback.

This conclusion relates back to my first question to PB written above.

Patrick Bahzad

Kashmir is an interesting example, you're right.

Regarding Israel however, I'm afraid we're looking more and more towards an South African development.

Patrick Bahzad


I added some explanations to my piece, following this comment of yours.

What transpires from your post is - I think - a misconception of what we're dealing with: Islamic radicalism and terrorism is not a foreigne threat anymore in most our countries. It has morphed into a domestic threat, spread by domestic terrorists, i.e. citizens of the country they are attacking.

Herein resides a fundamental difference to what we knew just about 10 years ago, and thus the analogy to NI seems all the more relevant if you list the common features between the period prior to the "Troubles" and the pre-insurrectional state some areas are known for today.

Patrick Bahzad


I tried answering the questions you raise in your comment by adding a few lines at the end of the piece. Hope that explains what I mean.

Bryn P

Is it the same in the US as in Britain where we appear to have happily agreed to the building of mosques funded by Saudi Arabia? And do not these places therefore proseletyse the very version of Islam which we should NOT be encouraging?


bryn P

I am quite familiar with the UK. IMO the US imposes far more police surveillance on such mosque communities while it is at the same time a lot more accepting of Muslims. The British do not seem to consider anyone other than themselves to be white. That is not the case here. Arabs I worked with in the UK often told me that the English did not consider them to be White. pl

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