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20 November 2015


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alba etie

Col Lang
You mentioned that the Republic of Turkey but down the last Caliphate ninety years ago. Would you please refer us regulars here to where we might go to get a better understanding of the Caliphate ninety years ago - and how it was put down .I can only assume that the Attaturk Republic that destroyed Caliphate ninety years ago is no more ?


alba etie

The Ottoman Sultan was the Caliph of Sunni Islam. The Ottoman state had lasted for 400 years or more but Turkish nationalists called the Young Turks took over the government before the first world war. Defeat as allies of Germany and Austria/Hungary led to the Kemalist revolution after war. the Kemalist constitution still runs Turkey. It is that which Erdogan wants to change. Look at the bibliography in the wiki on Turkey. pl


dear sir,
well I think now there is better contender for the title "army of rome" in Syria. The article was written about seven months ago when Russians haven't yet started their bombing campaign.

BTW Russians also claim for the title "third rome" (along with Ottoman Turkey), whose population is mostly christian and has currently deployed large numbers in Syria compared to any other western country.

Johnny Reims

"But Cerantonio makes a case that Rome meant the Eastern Roman empire, which had its capital in what is now Istanbul."

Like aka, apparently, I couldn't help but think of the Third Rome. But I imagine any "infidel" would do on the fields of Dabiq.

According to the Shia tradition, at least as I understand it, Jesus plays a role in the last days. Didn't know Christ had standing with this crowd.


OT... but why now?

Israeli spy Pollard freed after 30 years in U.S. prison http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/11/20/us-israel-usa-pollard-idUSKCN0T910O20151120

Pollard's lawyers say they'll appeal 'unreasonable, unlawful' parole terms http://www.jpost.com/Israel-News/Pollards-lawyers-say-theyll-appeal-terms-of-parole-434802

Babak Makkinejad


A view from Israel:


Reminds me of the days of the Great King; during the Peloponnesian War, when the Great King played Sparta & Athens against each. Backed one side for a while and then switched, keeping the war going and devastating and weakening both.

Later the Great King reprised the same role during the Corinthian War between Sparta & Corinth; regaining the Ionian Greek territories in western Turkey, and making himself the Arbitrator in Greek inter-city relations.


The Eastern Roman Empire was the Second Rome - Byzantium - which stood largely alone against Islam for centuries. The Russians have a saying, "Russia is the Third Rome. There will not be a Fourth," based on the fall of Byzantium and the movement of the center of the Orthodox Church to Kievan Rus and then to Muscovy. I wonder how the movement of Russian forces into opposition to ISIS-Daesh looks from a prophetic standpoint to them.


And "Tsar" naturally means "Ceasar" and was adopted by Great Princes of Moscow only after fall of Constantinople. Ever since 10th century idea was that could be only one Tsar, secular leader of Orthodox Christians. Ideology of Third Rome was pretty much developed to support this claim, although idea appeared a bit earlier than title was adopted.

David Habakkuk


I found Graeme Wood's article fascinating, and most illuminating. However, I was taken aback by one argument:

'Centuries have passed since the wars of religion ceased in Europe, and since men stopped dying in large numbers because of arcane theological disputes. Hence, perhaps, the incredulity and denial with which Westerners have greeted news of the theology and practices of the Islamic State. Many refuse to believe that this group is as devout as it claims to be, or as backward-looking or apocalyptic as its actions and statements suggest.'

This is true if, and only if, one can regards 'religion' in a narrowly literalist sense.

The notion of a 'thousand year Reich', to be initiated by the destruction of the forces of Antichrist (the notion of the Jew-Antichrist has long roots) is very clearly a secularised version of millenarian strands in Christianity.

So also is the Marxist vision of the coming of communism after the final destruction of 'bourgeois' civilisation. And very many people did indeed die, in the former Soviet Union and beyond, because of 'arcane theological disputes' about the meaning of the creed. Indeed, as Soviet policy in the Spanish Civil War showed, Stalin's hatred of Trotskyists was far stronger than of fascists.

And if one thinks that civilised British or Americans are somehow immune from these enthusiasms, the Spanish Civil War provides another interesting case study. The son of a Cambridge professor, and a great-grandson of Charles Darwin, at the time he went to Spain John Cornford had just graduated with a starred First from Cambridge. He died on the Cordoba Front, after fighting in the battles for Madrid and Boadilla, either on or shortly after his twenty-first birthday.

His lyric, 'Heart of the heartless world', written from Spain to his fellow-communist girlfriend Margot Heinemann, is to my mind one of the most beautiful love poems written in English in the last century. But he would have been quite prepared to machine-gun you, had he felt you were getting in the way of the realisation of the communist millennium.

(For the poem, see http://www.theguardian.com/books/booksblog/2010/oct/25/poem-of-the-week-john-cornford .)

And indeed, what is the notion of the 'end of history', as popularised by Fukuyama, but another imperfectly secularised version of Christian millenarianism.

People persist in believing that they live in a 'modern' world which has simply 'sloughed off' religion, when the empirical facts simply do not support the judgement.


Roman and Greek are used for the Anatolian and European Christians
the motivational address of Tariq in Spain after burning the ships:

""Remember that if you suffer a few moments in patience, you will afterward enjoy supreme delight. Do not imagine that your fate can be separated from mine, and rest assured that if you fall, I shall perish with you, or avenge you. You have heard that in this country there are a large number of ravishingly beautiful Greek maidens, their graceful forms are draped in sumptuous gowns on which gleam pearls, coral, and purest gold, and they live in the palaces of royal kings. The Commander of True Believers, Alwalid, son of Abdalmelik, has chosen you for this attack from among all his Arab warriors; and he promises that you shall become his comrades and shall hold the rank of kings in this country. Such is his confidence in your intrepidity. The one fruit which he desires to obtain from your bravery is that the word of God shall be exalted in this country, and that the true religion shall be established here. The spoils will belong to yourselves."


the companion of the prophet Suhayb ar-Rumi


With regards to interpreting Da'Ish, this seem thorough:

With regards to the Islamic territorial maximallists, how do they differ from the Hive in DC?


I don't know what to make of an article that leads with statements like "the group already rules an area larger than the United Kingdom."

Technically true, but only because "already rules an unpopulated desert larger than the United Kingdom" doesn't sound nearly as flagrant. Also, the accompanying map directly contradicts it, suggesting that IS "controls only a few small cities and highways, and the remainder of the area is simply land where IS "operates freely." I can operate freely in France, but that doesn't mean I rule France.

Every side, every vantage point, finds its propagandists, those willing to vastly inflate (essentially to lie about) whatever it is they're trying to make most prominent.



I was unaware that in addition to being an acronym, daish is also a word. My bad. as for your point about the Borg and the jihadis, if you can't tell the difference between religious fanatics and poly sci Ph.D.s I probably cant help you. pl



IMO the Russians are doing good work, but US forces are much heavier and would make short work of an enemy who would want to hold ground... Well, this would be entertaining. In any event it is the US that IS wants, not Russia. pl


Col: "The Prophetic narration that foretells the Dabiq battle refers to the enemy as Rome." Correct me where I am wrong, but I believe that in Arabic, that is simply الرُّومُ, which refers chiefly to what Americans and Western Europeans are inclined to call "the Eastern Roman Empire," or "Byzantium." In the Western European tradition and scholarship to which the US is heir, the role of Byzantium as the chief opponent of expanding Islam and as الرُّومُ in the eyes of Islam generally, and in the Islamic prophetic tradition can be overlooked for various reasons. What we call Byzantium called itself Rome, and was the seat of the Roman Empire after Constantine moved it there formally in 330 owing to the chaotic and untenable situation in the Italian Peninsula. This Rome - the Second Rome - was one in which, after the conversion of Constantine to Christianity, the Roman State and the Christian Church - what is now known as the Greek Orthodox Church - were very closely wedded. References to "Crusaders" and the like as the enemy confound the issue somewhat. Byzantium - Rome - did not need to mount a Crusade to fight the Muslims. They were their chief adversaries for centuries, and the staging area for a number of Crusades. Whether or not Russia as the seat of Eastern Orthodoxy qualifies thereby as the Third Rome - or simply "Rome" - today or in Islamic prophesy is beyond my ken.


Mr Bahzad wrote an enlightening review of the piece by Woods on this blog last spring:

IMO it is important to separate the myths cultivated around IS(that they themselves propagate for obvious reasons of propaganda/strategy)from the actual facts on the ground... Woods' oft cited piece is more drivel.IS is the new incarnation of Arab Nationalism risen as a Wahabbite-jetfueled pheonix from the ashes of the Cold War era, the issue will not abate until an independent Sunni Arab state exists in the Greater Levant or the sources of Wahhabism themselves are utterly destroyed in their palaces and the Sunni Arabs of the Levant scattered to the far winds like the Jews of Europe. Ill leave it to the reader to decide which is more likely



You are being a pedant. There is no Byzantium. America is the new Byzantium and they want us as opponents. pl


Sancho Panza

I could not disagree more. IMO you are sadly mistaken. Arab nationalism is dead and will not return. pl

William R. Cumming

And America's rentier class may well equate to that of Byzantium IMO!


Johnny Reims

"In the Quran, the second coming of Jesus is heralded in surah Az-Zukhruf as a sign of the day of judgement.

And (Jesus) shall be a Sign (for the coming of) the Hour (of Judgment): therefore have no doubt about the (Hour), but follow ye Me: this is a Straight Way. 43:61[45]

In his famous interpretation of the Qur'an or Tafsir al-Qur'an al-Azim, Ibn kathir also uses this verse as proof of Jesus' second coming in the Qur'an. [46]

There are also Hadiths that clearly foretell of Jesus' future return such as:[47] Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 3, Book 43: Kitab-ul-`Ilm (Book of Knowledge), Hâdith Number 656:

The Hour will not be established until the son of Mary (i.e. Jesus) descends amongst you as a just ruler, he will break the cross, kill the pigs, and abolish the Jizya tax. Money will be in abundance so that nobody will accept it (as charitable gifts).

According to Islamic tradition, Jesus' descent will be in the midst of wars fought by the Mahdi" wiki on "Jesus in Islam" pl

Babak Makkinejad

You wrote:

"People persist in believing that they live in a 'modern' world which has simply 'sloughed off' religion, when the empirical facts simply do not support the judgement."

That is indeed what I have been saying all along...

Ishmael Zechariah

Mr. Habakkuk,

re: "People persist in believing that they live in a 'modern' world which has simply 'sloughed off' religion, when the empirical facts simply do not support the judgement."
Another bit of empirical evidence which supports your position was the depiction of Iran as Amalek by Mileikowsky the younger before the wind changed direction. One could also consider the biblical justification used for the creation of the state of Israel as another bit of evidence.

Ishmael Zechariah


Just like the violent rise of Safavid twelver shiism ran on the undercurrent of generations of aborted attempts at Persian nationalism; the two cases are historically analogous. A powerful example to my thesis is that of the 7000-10,000 tunisians that have fought and died for jihad since 2011, tripling the next biggest contributor on the list(Saudi) and dwarfing any other examples at per capita contributions.

Tunisia is not a wahabbi country by any stretch of the word, such an ideology being supressed and seen as politically dangerous by the political elite for generations,and the country is as irreligious as they come when it comes to Sunni Arab nations. The thousands of men flocking to jihad was a manifestation of Arab Nationalism at the (initially organic) domino effect caused by the toppling of their dictator in 10-11'


Killing the jihadis cell by cell after they've executed their ops will be an eternal war. If they want to dance at Dabiq, let's strike up the band. Put a viable force on the ground & hope that jihadis worldwide will come to the dance. Hell, offer them free airfare from anywhere in the world to attend the dance. Maybe a big well lit Crusader cross would draw them like moths. Have a revival of that flag from Ft. Morris & the Battle of Gonzalas - "Come & Take It".

If they refuse to come out of their holes, at least they've lost face & can't use that bit of bravado in their propaganda.

Ah, but this is too crude & simple for the brilliant academics inside the Beltway.


Most cultures have a collection of beliefs and aspirations that, under the right circumstances, can be mobilized into an expansionist/imperialist program. Market societies can appear to be about people freely trading with each other, and often looks like that, or they can morph into Free Markets Uber Alles and blasting Open Doors. What has become, across the entirety of the media, an endless sifting through Islamic texts and culture to see if Muslims are somehow unusually prone to expansion is not quite pointless. But it is usually conducted in a way that is so free of reference to activating political and economic contexts it devolves into a doggedly ideological exercise, an ideological study of ideology, that really doesn't help us understand current or past behavior.

What's the news from NW Syria? Have the sources that this site so usefully brings together gone silent?

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