17 November 2015


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



Thanks for the informative post. This should scare the crap out of our rulers. But, it won’t. If they recognized the danger; they would have to make some very unpleasant decisions and deal with reality. First they’d have to recognize the importance of sovereign nations and secure borders, treat their subjects with respect and tell them the truth. Make peace with Iran, Russia and China and write off the Greek and the peripheral states’ debt. Tax the rich to pay for the wars. Build people’s armies to defend and secure their homelands.

The only question is how bad the blowback will be. At a minimum; the West, Israel and Gulf Oil money have triggered a Sunni Shiite Muslim Holy War that is engulfing the Middle East. The cut off the flow of oil from the Middle East could be just one of the unintended consequences that is being ignored.

Patrick Bahzad

Maybe there's been a translation mistake, in French the term equivalent to"the strange war" which isn't shnonym to phony. We going to have to shoot the translator I'm afraid ! Good news for you though ;-)

David Habakkuk

Patrick Bahzad,

It appears that one of the suicide bombers used at Ramadi came from my part of the world – West London. Indeed, I think I may recognise the block of flats in which he used to live, and he went to a well known comprehensive school in the area.

The ITV report on his history is interesting.

(See http://www.itv.com/news/2015-05-22/revealed-the-british-schoolboy-who-became-an-islamic-state-suicide-bomber/ .)

I think this may illustrate the ways in which the invasion of Iraq has created threats to which we find it difficult to respond, in part because they are inherently intractable, and in part because they are threats many of us seem peculiarly ill-equipped to understand.

Incidents like this are liable to produce a degenerative dynamic, whereby a small number of cases of young hotheads joining the jihadists awakens latent anti-Muslim feeling in the host community, which makes young hotheads more likely to joint the jihadists, and so on and so forth.

It is not difficult to generate a widespread perception that Muslims as a whole are unassimilable and a threat.


Thank you for this great analysis. What, do you feel, are the chances for ISIS doing an end-run around Baghdad and going after the tasty prize of Kuwait in the next eight months?

William R. Cumming

I am curious or ignorant of what Germany's Trading with China was about?


Thank you for your excellent analysis PB. Regarding suicide bombers, at least one has been a radicalised Australian teenager. According to one article (unlinked) allegedly the new starry eyed recruits are screened by ISIS on arrival. Those with useful skill sets or former military training are noted. Those with no skills, judged malleable enough, are earmarked immediately for suicide bombing operations and trained accordingly.

Indications from the Australian Government are that "about 250" Australians have been denied boarding or pulled off aircraft out of apprehension they were going to join ISIS in Syria. - The usual red flags, one way ticket, no funds, no tourist itinerary, no job, no family connections, Facebook entries, parental permission or awareness, etc. etc.

The question now exercising the Government is what to do about potential returnees, including denying them reentry to Australia and/or stripping them of citizenship.

William R. Cumming

Wow! I never knew that number but did know many including RAF and French pilots to the Lufftwaffe. Thanks!

William R. Cumming

Agree and wondering if the past 1500 years filled with Shia/Sunni conflicts in the Islamic World?


The conversation that no leading political figure wants to engage is the distinction between the home culture that gives rist to suicidal religious fanatics, and the religion itself. For example, Muslims who have lived here in the U.S. for a few or many generations let their girls wear skirts and no fellow, similar, religionists are going to hassle them about it. There are extremely limited, if any, suiciders coming from U.S. Muslim culture. But in more traditional Muslim cultures, they have strong problems with Western modernity. This is especially true even in Europe, which has done a nasty job of assimilating its Muslim immigrants: many of them live in segregated neighborhoods and townships, where limited economic opportunities exacerbate the differences between their local (viz, segregated by European vs. non-European) traditional Muslim culture and modern Western culture. There, you see a hotbed of rejection of the West, and hence some suicidal fanatics coming out of the segregated places. Muslims in general resent this conversation because it implies to them (wrongly, but nonetheless) that the West believes their culture writ large is barbaric and unenlightened. Europeans dislike it because it implies they are racist. Americans are confused by it because we tend to believe all people will embrace our version of freedom if it is offered. Americans do not get nuance. Yet this is a conversation that must occur in order to save lives across the globe.

ex-PFC Chuck

It's my understanding that the term "Phony War" referred to the period between the fall of Poland in September, 1939, and the beginning of the German attack on France and the Low Countries in May, 1939.

FB Ali

I think the main reason for the difference in attitudes (and assimilation) of Muslims in the US and Europe (including Britain) is the 'class' these communities hail from. In Europe the Muslim immigrants are mostly from rural areas and working class backgrounds. These classes are very conservative 'back home'.

Muslim immigrants to the US largely come from the well-off, educated class. Their open-minded attitudes make assimilation much easier.

FB Ali

Broadly - No!

Patrick Bahzad

Yes sure but it was never called phony in French. The correct term is "drole de guerre" in the sense of weird or strange, phony is a mistranslation, as it suggests something fake or deceptive. Poor translation really if that is indeed how it is called in English.

Medicine Man

FB Ali: Would you say Canada's situation is similar to the US in this case? I ask because we seem to have had our share of problems regarding this of late, including 10 young men who were kept from leaving a Montreal airport very recently.

Patrick Bahzad

I agree with FB Ali. I also think it's dangerous to indulge in self-congratulation in the US about how well Muslims fit in this country as opposed to Europe where they suffer allegedly from widespread rejection. If it were that clear cut you would have street fights and murder on a daily basis in most of Western Europe.
I also recommend caution with regard to danger of radicalization from people with no muslim background or secularized muslim families. There's no obvious correlation other than purely statistical.

Patrick Bahzad

De nada, muchas fajitas !



Another great piece of work. No Armor or Air Defense branch? what is basically depicted is a kind of swarm that assembles and forms kampfgruppe as needed. The Wehrmacht had fixed orbatts but continuously re-organized these into mission demanded battle groups (kampfgruppe). This is a sophisticated form of organization that is seldom successfully attempted. the rigidity of fixed orbatts is needed by most armies. The US Army first attempted it in the WW2 Armored Divisions, then in the ROAD divisions of the '60s. now it has adopted a brigade based modular structure but these attempt have always lapsed into habitual attachment of the building blocks to the same C2 headquarters modules. Is IS different? pl

FB Ali


Thank you for this enlightening post. Very informative.

Not quite germane to your subject, but the IS has a powerful pull beyond the Middle East. In fact, throughout the Muslim world. Its adoption of the Caliphate meme, and its transformation of it into not only a tangible state with territory but also one with a powerful 'conquering' army, has deep resonance throughout a Muslim world that emerged from the dark night of colonialism with high hopes, all of which have been dashed, leaving it once again trailing behind, faced with a myriad of internal and external problems.

The Caliphate is a siren song of past success and glory. Muslims, especially young ones, respond to it; it strikes a chord specially among those living in the West, who are neither accepted by their host societies, nor find much in common with their own communities except religion.

The IS's pull has resulted in many Jihadi outfits in different parts of the world affiliating themselves to it. More will join, until finally even al Qaeda will have no alternative but to also do so.

The problem IS poses for the West is far deeper than just an anti-terrorist or military one.



A war baby, I was raised the term “phony war” to denote the period from 1939 to 1940. To me it has the connotation that suddenly with the loss of France the real war came to the English people. In the USA from 1939 to 1940 the war stimulus ended the Great Depression but with the shocking fall of France, the question became how and when the USA would get into World War II. Pearl Harbor ended that.


Patrick Bahzad


Indeed no air defense, as they know they would get blown to bits, as soon as they start tracking us or coalition aircraft. Regarding armour, they have more than they can actually use, because of lack of tank crews. Most of their armour is stored away in hangars, so the eye in the sky can't see it, or it's rotting away in the sun ... Problem with armour is that it would be easy to detect if driven over longer distances. So far they haven't used any of it.
The concept is as you describe extremely modular and adaptable and allows for group leaders for maximum autonomy. Information is also more compartmentalized thx through this system of very limited "need to know". When forces are assembled, fighters move in small groups, blending in with locals and are hard to detect before any attack.
IS is probably different in the sense they don't have bases and training facilities of battalion size ... Everything is small enough so it looks like another hadji farmhouse and the shooting range like a pasture for goats.
Your bee swarm description is very much to the point ! That's exactly their idea ... Best way to survive against enemy that rules the skies

FB Ali

I think Canada's case is in-between those of the US and Europe. The earlier immigrants were mostly from among the well-off and educated, but later ones were different.

Canada is perhaps a special case. Pierre Trudeau's policy of multiculturalism encouraged immigrant communities to maintain their original culture while slowly becoming part of the Canadian mosaic. This enabled a much better, less stressful assimilation of these communities over two or three generations.

The recent cases of a few young men wanting to answer the jihadi siren call has to do with two factors IMO. One is the lack of economic opportunity (an area where there has not been much assimilation and opportunity). The other is the influx of Wahhabi preaching (sponsored by the Saudis and Gulfies) that has had some resonance among otherwise disenchanted or rootless young people.

Babak Makkinejad

No you guys just do not get it; largely it is young men that become violent extremists; in Germany, in UK, in France, and I suppose in Canada.

Too much testosterone is partly to blame for it.

It is not just social class.

Patrick Bahzad

Thx for enlighting me ! I'll pass on the message ... We probably wouldn't be able to work out the causes for radicalization in our country without you !

I could give you about a dozen examples rigt away that totally contradict your theory. But then I don't have theories, I look at what's happening and try to find out why, not the other way round !


Patrick Bahzad

Thanks for the excellent analysis. To your point about snipers I noted in the recent Tikrit fight a number of militia leaders were sniper shot and photos of militia and army vehicles showed numerous well place rounds into the front passenger windshields.

Does IS have any combat engineering capabilities? If bridges were blown to contain IS advances would that be effective?

Or if the electrical dams, transformer stations or oil processing infrastructure were destroyed on a large scale by air could they be replaced? In short what happens if we turn the lights out? Could IS turn them back on?

Patrick Bahzad

Regarding combat engineers, that depends on whether you consider suicide bombers driving a truck or bulldozer full of explosives to be combat engineers or not.
Blowing up bridges would harm government troops ability to move more than it would ISIS.
As for turning lights out, it's not been tried yet, as US and Baghdad are afraid it would antagonize the civilians under ISIS control against the central government. Refineries have been blown to pieces and revenues from oil smuggling have gone down significantly but the IS still has refinery equipment bought from the Chinese which allows for refining crude oil in reasonable amounts, for now.
The fact they attacked oil facilities recently may be an indication they identified the provision of crude and refined oil as potentially problematic in long run though.

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