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Ed Webb

A Brief History Of Extremism - Is It Worse Than Ever? - History Extra - 0 views

  • extremists believe the ‘other’ must always be opposed, controlled or destroyed because its intrinsic nature and existence is inimical to the success of the extremists’ own group
  • examples of extremist behaviour can be found almost as far back as our written histories extend
  • Rome razed Carthage to the ground in 146 BC after an extended siege, killing an estimated 150,000 residents and selling the survivors into slavery, in what Yale scholar Ben Kiernan calls “the first genocide”.
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  • a Jewish group known as the Sicarii, who violently opposed Roman rule and killed fellow Jews they saw as collaborators. They were reputed to have committed mass suicide under siege at the mountain redoubt of Masada in 73 CE
  • In 657 CE, the new religion of Islam experienced its first outbreak of extremism, a sect known as the Kharijites, who are remembered for their zealous beliefs and brutal violence against Muslims who they believed had strayed from the true path
  • Christianity was not immune to these dynamics either, at times launching crusades and inquisitions to violently root out sectarians and unbelievers they viewed as “infidels”. One of these, the Albigensian Crusade of the 13th century, wiped out a deviant Christian sect in France known as the Cathars. Legend (possibly apocryphal) holds that the commander of the Roman Catholic forces uttered a Latin phrase that is remembered today, somewhat altered in translation, as “Kill them all and let God sort them out”. Whether the words were said or not, the massacre of Beziers in 1209 killed 20,000 Cathars, and by the end of the Crusade the entire sect had been slaughtered.
  • As some Spaniards expressed horror at the enslavement and extermination of indigenous people in the Americas, intellectuals of the day crafted racial and ideological arguments to excuse and even justify these horrors, arguing that the natural superiority of Spaniards justified the enslavement of the continent’s indigenous residents, “in whom you will scarcely find any vestiges of humanness”. These justifications were understood by 19th-century thinkers as one link in the chain that led to the American adoption of racial slavery – one of history’s most egregious and shameful extremist practices, which victimised millions of people of African descent over the course of hundreds of years.
  • The Nazis killed six million Jewish people during their time in power, and millions of others, including disabled people, LGBTQ people and Soviet, Serbian, Roma and Polish civilians. Although the Nazis were defeated, their legacy lives on today in the form of (at least) dozens of neo-Nazi groups around the world
  • The 1980s gave rise to modern jihadist extremism: the mobile, transnational movement significantly spearheaded by al Qaeda which raised the issue of violent extremism to a global priority in 2001 on September 11; it was elevated still further by the rise of ISIS in the 2010s. Today, thousands of jihadist extremists take part in violent activities all over the globe, from terrorism to insurgency. The same period has seen a resurgence of white nationalism and white supremacy in the United States and Europe, many of whom focus on Muslims as their chief enemy, pointing to the depravities of jihadism as part of their justification for their hate. But it’s not only white extremists who are targeting Muslims. In Myanmar, a new breed of Buddhist extremists seeks to exterminate Muslim Rohingya communities. In China, ethnic Uighurs who practice Islam are being incarcerated and ‘re-educated’ in concentration camps, a fact that too rarely features in discussions of extremism.
  • We don’t always frame our collective memory as a history of extremism; maybe if we did, it would place current events in context
  • Despite the pervasive role extremism has played in history, some elements of modern life can fairly be understood as making things uniquely worse. Chief among these is the rise of globally interconnected social media networks.
  • Technologies that turbo-charge the transmission of ideology have a disproportionate effect on the spread of extremist ideas
  • In addition to helping the supply-side of extremism, social media and other online technologies also empower demand. Before the internet, it was harder for curious people and potential recruits to find information about extremist groups and make contact with their members. Now, anyone with a keyboard can quickly seek out extremist texts and even make contact with extremist recruiters
  • Extremist movements eventually fall, even if it takes hundreds of years.
  • We may never banish extremism from the human experience, but we can save lives and preserve societies by managing and understanding it.
Ed Webb

IntelBrief: The Transnational Nature of Violent White Supremacy Extremism - The Soufan ... - 0 views

  • White supremacy extremism (WSE) is a transnational challenge, with tentacles stretching from Canada to Australia, and the United States to Ukraine; it has evolved at a different pace in different parts of the world. The rapid expanse of social media facilitates radicalization and recruitment within the white supremacy extremist domain. There are a number of important similarities between jihadist and white supremacists and particular ways these groups feed off each other, including: use of the internet; propaganda; recruitment; financing; the transnational nature of the networks, and utility of violence. To make serious progress, the United States should consider building upon Canadian and British leadership and begin sanctioning transnational WSE groups as foreign terrorist organizations.
  • white supremacist extremists pose a clear terrorist threat to the United States. Following the August attack by a white supremacist extremist in El Paso, TX, white supremacist terrorism became responsible for more deaths on U.S. soil than jihadist terrorism since 9/11. The Anti-Defamation League reports that over the past decade, white supremacy extremists were responsible for three times as many deaths in the United States as were Islamists. In May 2019, a senior FBI official testified to Congress that the bureau is pursuing about 850 domestic terrorism investigations, a ‘significant majority’ of which are related to white supremacist extremists.
  • Recruitment and radicalization goals within white supremacy extremism remain consistent over time despite traditional methods of spreading propaganda diverging from more modern ones
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  • While there are crucial differences between jihadis and white supremacy extremists, there are also important similarities, including: the utility and cycle of violence; use of the internet; propaganda; recruitment; financing; and especially, the transnational nature of the networks. 17,000 foreigners from 50 countries, including the U.S., have gone to fight in Ukraine, including with the Azov Battalion. Two of the most prominent U.S.-based white supremacy extremist groups, Atomwaffen Division and the Rise Above Movement (R.A.M.) count Afghan and Iraq veterans as members. R.A.M. members have traveled overseas to Germany, Ukraine, and Italy to celebrate Adolf Hitler’s birthday and forge stronger organizational links with white supremacy extremists based in Europe. White supremacists are forming global networks, much as jihadis did prior to 9/11, and are learning from jihadi tactics. Supremacists warn of a ‘great replacement’ of whites, while jihadis talk of a ‘war against Islam’; jihadis make martyrdom videos, WSEs post online manifestos. In describing their mission, white supremacists have used the term ‘white jihad’ and one neo-Nazi group recently adopted the name ‘the Base,’ which translated into Arabic  is ‘al-Qaeda.’ Moreover, both groups recruit followers and reinforce their message through social media, with a focus on purification through violence.
  • To make serious progress, the United States should consider building upon Canadian and British leadership and begin sanctioning transnational WSE groups as foreign terrorist organizations. Departments of State and Treasury terrorist designations could hinder the travel of terrorists into the U.S.; criminalize support to designated individuals and groups; block the movement of assets to those designated; and allow for the Department of Justice (DOJ) to prosecute individuals for providing material support to designated groups.  
Ed Webb

The myth of the 'lone wolf' terrorist | News | The Guardian - 0 views

  • The modern concept of lone-wolf terrorism was developed by rightwing extremists in the US. In 1983, at a time when far-right organisations were coming under immense pressure from the FBI, a white nationalist named Louis Beam published a manifesto that called for “leaderless resistance” to the US government. Beam, who was a member of both the Ku Klux Klan and the Aryan Nations group, was not the first extremist to elaborate the strategy, but he is one of the best known. He told his followers that only a movement based on “very small or even one-man cells of resistance … could combat the most powerful government on earth”.
  • the New York Times published a long article on the new threat headlined “New Face of Terror Crimes: ‘Lone Wolf’ Weaned on Hate”. This seems to have been the moment when the idea of terrorist “lone wolves” began to migrate from rightwing extremist circles, and the law enforcement officials monitoring them, to the mainstream. In court on charges of hate crimes in 2000, Curtis was described by prosecutors as an advocate of lone-wolf terrorism.
  • Although 9/11 was far from a typical terrorist attack, it quickly came to dominate thinking about the threat from Islamic militants. Security services built up organograms of terrorist groups. Analysts focused on individual terrorists only insofar as they were connected to bigger entities. Personal relations – particularly friendships based on shared ambitions and battlefield experiences, as well as tribal or familial links – were mistaken for institutional ones, formally connecting individuals to organisations and placing them under a chain of command.
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  • For prosecutors, who were working with outdated legislation, proving membership of a terrorist group was often the only way to secure convictions of individuals planning violence. For a number of governments around the world – Uzbekistan, Pakistan, Egypt – linking attacks on their soil to “al-Qaida” became a way to shift attention away from their own brutality, corruption and incompetence, and to gain diplomatic or material benefits from Washington. For some officials in Washington, linking terrorist attacks to “state-sponsored” groups became a convenient way to justify policies, such as the continuing isolation of Iran, or military interventions such as the invasion of Iraq. For many analysts and policymakers, who were heavily influenced by the conventional wisdom on terrorism inherited from the cold war, thinking in terms of hierarchical groups and state sponsors was comfortably familiar.
  • the threat from Islamic militancy was evolving into something different, something closer to the “leaderless resistance” promoted by white supremacists two decades earlier
  • Having identified this new threat, security officials, journalists and policymakers needed a new vocabulary to describe it. The rise of the term lone wolf wasn’t wholly unprecedented. In the aftermath of 9/11, the US had passed anti-terror legislation that included a so-called “lone wolf provision”. This made it possible to pursue terrorists who were members of groups based abroad but who were acting alone in the US. Yet this provision conformed to the prevailing idea that all terrorists belonged to bigger groups and acted on orders from their superiors. The stereotype of the lone wolf terrorist that dominates today’s media landscape was not yet fully formed.
  • Before the rise of the lone wolf, security officials used phrases – all equally flawed – such as “homegrowns”, “cleanskins”, “freelancers” or simply “unaffiliated”.
  • Lone wolves are now apparently everywhere, stalking our streets, schools and airports. Yet, as with the tendency to attribute all terrorist attacks to al-Qaida a decade earlier, this is a dangerous simplification.
  • many of the attacks that have been confidently identified as lone-wolf operations have turned out to be nothing of the sort. Very often, terrorists who are initially labelled lone wolves, have active links to established groups such as Islamic State and al-Qaida
  • we may be more likely to find lone wolves among far-right extremists than among their jihadi counterparts
  • Very often, what appear to be the clearest lone-wolf cases are revealed to be more complex. Even the strange case of the man who killed 86 people with a truck in Nice in July 2016 – with his background of alcohol abuse, casual sex and lack of apparent interest in religion or radical ideologies – may not be a true lone wolf. Eight of his friends and associates have been arrested and police are investigating his potential links to a broader network.
  • murder of the Labour MP Jo Cox, days before the EU referendum, by a 52-year-old called Thomas Mair, was the culmination of a steady intensification of rightwing extremist violence in the UK that had been largely ignored by the media and policymakers. According to police, on several occasions attackers came close to causing more casualties in a single operation than jihadis had ever inflicted. The closest call came in 2013 when Pavlo Lapshyn, a Ukrainian PhD student in the UK, planted a bomb outside a mosque in Tipton, West Midlands. Fortunately, Lapshyn had got his timings wrong and the congregation had yet to gather when the device exploded. Embedded in the trunks of trees surrounding the building, police found some of the 100 nails Lapshyn had added to the bomb to make it more lethal.
  • Thomas Mair, who was also widely described as a lone wolf, does appear to have been an authentic loner, yet his involvement in rightwing extremism goes back decades. In May 1999, the National Alliance, a white-supremacist organisation in West Virginia, sent Mair manuals that explained how to construct bombs and assemble homemade pistols. Seventeen years later, when police raided his home after the murder, they found stacks of far-right literature, Nazi memorabilia and cuttings on Anders Breivik, the Norwegian terrorist who murdered 77 people in 2011.
  • Even Breivik himself, who has been called “the deadliest lone-wolf attacker in [Europe’s] history”, was not a true lone wolf. Prior to his arrest, Breivik had long been in contact with far-right organisations. A member of the English Defence League told the Telegraph that Breivik had been in regular contact with its members via Facebook, and had a “hypnotic” effect on them.
  • very few violent extremists act without letting others know what they may be planning
  • Any terrorist, however socially or physically isolated, is still part of a broader movement
  • the idea that terrorists operate alone allows us to break the link between an act of violence and its ideological hinterland. It implies that the responsibility for an individual’s violent extremism lies solely with the individual themselves
  • Terrorism is not something you do by yourself, it is highly social. People become interested in ideas, ideologies and activities, even appalling ones, because other people are interested in them
rklingerman18

Syrian Refugee Tripped in Hungary Denies Extremist Ties - 2 views

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    A Syrian refugee who was tripped by a Hungarian journalist while carrying his young son this month, prompting an outpouring of sympathy and an offer of employment in Spain, dismissed claims by supporters of President Bashar al-Assad that he has ties to Islamic extremists.
Morgan Mintz

Forces of Fortune - Council on Foreign Relations - 0 views

  • He reveals that there is a vital but unseen rising force in the Islamic world—a new business-minded middle class—that is building a vibrant new Muslim world economy and that holds the key to winning the cold war against Iran and extremists.
  • he offers a powerful reassessment of why both extremism and anti-Americanism took hold in the region—not because of an inevitable "clash of cultures" or the nature of Islam, but because of the failure of this kind of authentic middle class to develop in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries
    • Morgan Mintz
       
      He seems to be in direct disagreement with Huntington's "clash of civilizations" argument here. I wouldn't call this an extension of Amartya Sen's argument though either, but rather a completely new way of framing the discussion around economic causes.
  • Nasr takes us behind the news, so dominated by the struggle against extremists and the Taliban, to introduce a Muslim world we've not seen; a Muslim world in which the balance of power is being reshaped by an upwardly mobile middle class of entrepreneurs, investors, professionals, and avid consumers—who can tip the scales away from extremist belligerence.
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    This is a review of a newly published book by Vali Nasr, a renowned scholar on the Middle East and recently hired adviser to Richard Holbrooke (representative to Afghanistan and Pakistan).
Ed Webb

How the coup in Niger could expand the reach of Islamic extremism, and Wagner, in West ... - 0 views

  • Niger, which until Wednesday’s coup by mutinous soldiers had avoided the military takeovers that destabilized West African neighbors in recent years.
  • a Francophone region where anti-French sentiment had opened the way for the Russian private military group Wagner.
  • Signaling Niger’s importance in the region where Wagner also operates, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken visited in March to strengthen ties and announce $150 million in direct assistance, calling the country “a model of democracy.”Now a critical question is whether Niger might pivot and engage Wagner as a counterterrorism partner like its neighbors Mali and Burkina Faso, which have kicked out French forces. France shifted more than 1,000 personnel to Niger after pulling out of Mali last year.
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  • Niger has been a base of international military operations for years as Islamic extremists have greatly expanded their reach in the Sahel. Those include Boko Haram in neighboring Nigeria and Chad, but the more immediate threat comes from growing activity in Niger’s border areas with Mali and Burkina Faso from the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara and the al-Qaida affiliate Jama’at Nusrat al-Islam wal-Muslimin, known as JNIM.
  • Mali’s military junta last month ordered the 15,000-strong United Nations peacekeeping mission to leave, claiming they had failed in their mission. However, Wagner forces remain there, accused by watchdogs of human rights atrocities.
  • The United States in early 2021 said it had provided Niger with more than $500 million in military assistance and training programs since 2012, one of the largest such support programs in sub-Saharan Africa. The European Union earlier this year launched a 27 million-euro ($30 million) military training mission in Niger.
  • The U.S. has operated drones out of a base it constructed in Niger’s remote north as part of counterterrorism efforts in the vast Sahel. The fate of that base and other U.S. operational sites in the country after this week’s coup isn’t immediately known.
  • West Africa’s Sahel region has become one of the world’s deadliest regions for extremism. West Africa recorded over 1,800 extremist attacks in the first six months of this year, resulting in nearly 4,600 deaths, a top regional official told the United Nations Security Council this week.
  • Niger is one of the world’s poorest countries, struggling with climate change along with migrants from across West Africa trying to make their way across the Sahara en route toward Europe. It has received millions of euros of investment from the EU in its efforts to curb migration via smugglers.
Ed Webb

Trump's Syria Strategy Would Be a Disaster | Foreign Policy - 1 views

  • A brief history lesson should suffice to demonstrate the Assad regime’s lack of counterterrorism qualifications. This is the government whose intelligence apparatus methodically built al Qaeda in Iraq, and then the Islamic State in Iraq, into a formidable terrorist force to fight U.S. troops in that country from 2003 to 2010
  • Trump’s suggestion to partner with Russia in “smashing” the Islamic State is little more than a non sequitur, given Russia’s near-consistent focus on everything but the jihadi group
  • contrary to an increasingly popular narrative, fighters in these vetted groups are not, with very few exceptions, handing over U.S. weapons to jihadis, nor are they wandering off to join the extremists themselves. The cornerstone of the CIA effort has been to supply rebel groups with U.S.-manufactured BGM-71 TOW anti-tank guided missiles, which have ensured that the moderate opposition has remained a relevant actor in the conflict. Thus far, according to publicly available information, at least 1,073 TOW missiles have been sent to Syria and used in combat, only 12 of which have changed hands and been used by nonvetted groups — amounting to an impressively low proliferation rate of 1.1 percent
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  • the Kremlin’s focus has unequivocally and consistently been on fighting Syria’s mainstream opposition, not the Islamic State. Much of its targeting has been against U.S.-linked members of Syria’s opposition
  • Regional states may also feel justified in breaking a long U.S. taboo in sending anti-aircraft weapons like MANPADS to their closest proxies on the ground in Syria. To a certain extent, this illicit flow of anti-aircraft weaponry has already begun in response to perceptions of insufficient U.S. “muscle” in preventing the brutal assault on the besieged eastern districts of Aleppo. According to well-placed opposition sources, at least three small shipments of MANPADS have entered northern Syria since late 2015.
  • he risks exacerbating six major threats to U.S. domestic and international security
  • The widespread perception that Washington is indifferent to the suffering of Syrian civilians has led ever more members of the Syrian opposition to consider al Qaeda a more willing and more effective protector of their lives and interests than the United States, the supposed “leader of the free world.” Trump’s proposed abandonment of the Syrian opposition would permanently cement that perception and make Syria a pre-9/11 Afghanistan on steroids. This should be deeply troubling to anyone concerned about international security, given Syria’s proximity to Europe.
  • Removing that U.S. role risks re-creating the chaos and infighting that ruled the early days of the Syrian crisis, but this time in a context where extremists are poised to swiftly take advantage.
  • it would not be altogether surprising to see Qatar or Turkey — for example — switching the bulk of their support to Jabhat Fateh al-Sham and similar groups were the United States to cease supporting the opposition
  • Trump appears to be indicating a preference for combating the symptoms of a crisis — that is, terrorism — while strengthening their principal cause: Assad’s dictatorship and his refusal to negotiate
  • Although a U.S.-Russian alliance would likely increase the threat to the Islamic State’s territorial holdings in Syria, at least in the short term, such a partnership would be an invaluable long-term boon to the group’s propaganda. Were Russia to employ the same carpet-bombing tactics it has used in its attempt to crush the Syrian opposition, the consequences of such “victories” would ensure that the Islamic State has a ready-made narrative to attempt a determined resurgence with some level of popular acceptance or even support.
  • a potential U.S.-Russian partnership in Syria could also further energize the Islamic State’s calls for attacks against targets in the West, particularly in the United States
  • Paired with the possibility that Trump may introduce newly oppressive domestic policies on immigration and other issues relating to race and religion, this scenario portends greater threats, not a safer America
  • As a staunch opponent of the Iran nuclear deal, it is surprising that Trump appears to be proposing Syria policies that would save Iran from a geopolitically crippling defeat and strengthen its regional influence
  • Were President-elect Trump to drop America’s insistence that Assad has lost his legitimacy and must be removed through transition, not only would Iran gain immeasurably, but the greatest immediate terrorist threat to Israel would be free to point its formidable weapons array toward America’s most valued regional ally
  • Putin seeks to secure a Russian rise at the expense of American power and influence, not in equal partnership with them.
  • A combination of all or some of the above-mentioned scenarios would produce dynamics that would undoubtedly further exacerbate Syria’s refugee crisis, leaving as many as 5 million Syrians permanently outside their country’s borders. With Assad remaining in power and his various backers secure in his defense, a quarter of Syria’s entire prewar population would be highly unlikely to ever return to their homes, meaning that neighboring states would be left to shoulder the unsustainable costs of housing them while many refugees would embrace desperate attempts to get to Europe.
  • Although it remains possible that President-elect Trump will do away with his perilously simplistic reading of the Syrian crisis, the dangers of pursuing a policy based on his limited understanding should be well-understood. As five years of failed policy under President Barack Obama has shown, treating the symptoms of the crisis rather than its root cause — Assad’s dictatorship — will only lead to further displacement and ruin.
Ed Webb

Libyans march against militias after attack - 0 views

  • Some 30,000 people filled a broad boulevard as they marched along a lake in central Benghazi on Friday to the gates of the headquarters of Ansar al-Shariah. "No, no, to militias," the crowd chanted, filling a broad boulevard. They carried banners and signs demanding that militias disband and that the government build up police to take their place in keeping security.
  • Residents of another main eastern city, Darna, have also begun to stand up against Ansar al-Shariah and other militias. The anti-militia fervor in Darna is notable because the city, in the mountains along the Mediterranean coast north of Benghazi, has long had a reputation as a stronghold for Islamic extremists. During the Gadhafi era, it was the hotbed of a deadly Islamist insurgency against his regime. A significant number of the Libyan jihadists who travelled to Afghanistan and Iraq during recent wars came from Darna. During the revolt against him last year, Gadhafi's regime warned that Darna would declare itself an Islamic Emirate and ally itself with al-Qaida. But now, the residents are lashing out against Ansar al-Shariah, the main Islamic extremist group in the city. "The killing of the ambassador blew up the situation. It was disastrous," said Ayoub al-Shedwi, a young bearded Muslim preacher in Darna who says he has received multiple death threats because has spoken out against militias on a radio show he hosts. "We felt that the revolution is going in vain."
  • Tribal leaders in Benghazi and Darna announced this week that members of their tribes who are militiamen will no longer have their protection in the face of anti-militia protests. That means the tribe will not avenge them if they are killed.
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  • Militiamen have been blamed for a range of violence in Darna. On the same day Stevens killed in Benghazi, a number of elderly Catholic nuns and a priest who have lived in Darna for decades providing free medical services, were attacked, reportedly beaten or stabbed. There have been 32 killings over the past few months, including the city security chief and assassinations of former officers from Gadhafi's military.
  • "We don't want the flag of al-Qaida raised over heads," he added, referring to Ansar al-Shariah's black banner.
  • "We will talk to them peacefully. We will tell them you are from us and you fought for us" during the civil war against Gadahfi. But "if you say no (to integrating into the) police and army, we will storm your place. It's over."
Ed Webb

US-Russia confrontation could drift to Mideast - Al-Monitor: the Pulse of the Middle East - 1 views

  • The Middle East offers many opportunities for Putin to combine business with pleasure in challenging the United States. Consider its tumultuous strategic environment: a civil war in Syria, a potential civil war in Libya, ongoing political instability in Egypt and Iraq, simmering violence in Yemen, and political uncertainty almost everywhere else. Saudi Arabia and Qatar are deeply engaged in Syria’s war, as are Iran and Hezbollah. Saudi Arabia and Egypt (among others) are frustrated with the United States — the former over Syria and the latter over America’s intervention in its complex politics, where Washington seems to have been on almost every side at one point or another and has consequently alienated almost all sides. Uncertainty about Iran’s intentions further complicates all of this, as does a weakened relationship between the United States and Israel (where Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman appears to be one of Putin’s closer personal contacts among foreign officials). Meanwhile, China has surpassed the United States as the largest buyer of Middle East oil even as broader China-Middle East trade soars. Expanded Russian arms sales — or new Russian nuclear power plants — may only further destabilize the region.
  • Saudi Arabia and Syria are Russia’s principal security concerns in the Middle East; Moscow’s pre-eminent security interest is in minimizing its own domestic terrorism problem, which means supporting a strong Syrian government that can crack down on extremists and discouraging Saudi and other financial support, whether official or otherwise, for al-Qaeda-connected opposition groups in Syria and extremists in the former Soviet Union. Russia has long viewed Saudi Arabia and Qatar as key sources of support for Chechen militia groups and two Russian operatives were convicted in Qatar in 2004 for assassinating former Chechen leader Zelimkhan Yandarbiev to cut short his fund-raising activity there.
  • The Kremlin’s position as a veto-wielding permanent member of the United Nations Security Council, and its resulting place at the table in the P5+1 process, have been an enduring source of international visibility and influence only recently surpassed by Russia’s Syria role. Moscow also appreciates Iran’s restraint in the former Soviet region and, as a result, sees it as a valuable partner in managing Saudi Arabia. Fundamentally, however, some Russian officials have a conflicted attitude toward Iran, in that they welcome diplomacy as an alternative to US-led war or regime change, but are not especially eager for a US-Iran rapprochement that could undermine Tehran’s interest in their relationship.
Ed Webb

BBC NEWS | Middle East | Iraq and Syria recall ambassadors - 0 views

  • Iraq and Syria have both recalled their ambassadors in a deepening rift over claims Damascus was harbouring militants who bombed Baghdad.
  • The two Arab neighbours only revived diplomatic links in 2006, after more than 20 years of mutual hostility.
  • In a separate development that appeared to run counter to the confession, a statement from an extremist Islamist militant group, that is violently opposed to the secular Baathists, has claimed responsibility for the attacks. The Islamic State of Iraq, known to be an al-Qaeda umbrella group, said it had carried out the bombings to "wreck the bastions of infidelity" in Baghdad. The statement was posted on Tuesday morning on a website commonly used by extremist militant groups.
Ed Webb

RJ Eskow: A Short Vocabulary Lesson for Sen. Lieberman (With Some History Thrown In At ... - 1 views

  • Had Dr. Hasan become "an Islamist extremist"? It sure looks that way. But was the horrific slaughter he carried out intended to "intimidate or coerce" anyone? We've heard no evidence to that effect. These terrible killings may have just been an expression of inchoate rage. And if we don't know whether coercion or intimidation was the goal, than we certainly don't know if it was done "for political purposes."
  • If we learn that Malik Hasan left a note saying "anybody who serves in the US Armed Forces must know they will face retribution," we'll know that he is a terrorist. He will have committed his murders in order to intimidate or coerce. But right now we don't have any evidence that suggests Hasan is any different than the civilian who killed 23 people at a cafeteria right down the road from Ft. Hood, shouting "This is what Central Texas did to me!"
  • Christian extremist Scott Roeder's act of murder was terrorism, too, because he wants doctors to stop performing abortions. (He and others like him have nearly achieved their goal, too, which makes it pretty effective terror.)
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  • The Irgun's bombing of the King David Hotel in Jerusalem, which killed 91 people in 1946, was also an indisputable act of terrorism, designed to intimidate occupying British personnel and encourage their withdrawal from Palestine. The Irgun's behavior provoked the World Zionist Congress to condemn "the shedding of innocent blood as a means of political warfare," much as mainstream Muslim groups have repeatedly condemned Al Qaeda.
  • As Robert Pape's data analysis showed in Dying to Win: The Strategic Logic of Suicide Terrorism, even suicide bombers are more likely to be driven by powerlessness than religion.
  • If we had applied Lieberman-like logic after the Knoxville shooting we would have started profiling anybody carrying a book by Hannity or O'Reilly. (I can hear some of you saying "Good idea!" Knock it off, guys - this is America.)
  • The Lieberman definition of terrorism would have us squander our investigative resources by pursuing a lot of Muslims rather than a lot of potential terrorists.
  • I don't object to the Joe Liebermans of the world because they're conservative. I object to them because they don't know what the hell they're talking about. Their goal is indiscriminate military aggression toward the Muslim world, not effective security for the United States. They seem to believe that comments like these build a case for that agenda and prove that they can keep us safer than those now in power.
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    Discussion of nature of terrorism.
Ed Webb

Monsters of Our Own Imaginings | Foreign Policy - 1 views

  • Terrorist attacks have occurred in Europe, America, Russia, China, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and many other places, and no level of surveillance, police presence, border controls, drone strikes, targeted killings, or enhanced interrogation is going to prevent every one of them. Even if we could provide absolutely air-tight protection around one type of target, others targets would remain exposed
  • the belief that we could eliminate the danger entirely is no more realistic than thinking better health care will grant you eternal life. For this reason, condemning politicians for failing to prevent every single attack is counterproductive — and possibly dangerous — because it encourages leaders to go overboard in the pursuit of perfect security and to waste time and money that could be better spent on other things. Even worse, the fear of being blamed for “not doing enough” will lead some leaders to take steps that make the problem worse — like bombing distant countries — merely to look and sound tough and resolute.
  • there is no magic key to stopping terrorism because the motivations for it are so varied. Sometimes it stems from anger and opposition to foreign occupation or perceived foreign interference — as with the Tamil Tigers, Irish Republican Army, al Qaeda, Hezbollah, or Hamas. In other cases, it arises from opposition to a corrupt and despised ruling elite. Or it could be both: Osama bin Laden was equally angry at “crusader” nations for interfering in the Muslim world and at the Arab governments he believed were in cahoots with them. In the West, homegrown terrorists such as Anders Breivik or Timothy McVeigh are driven to mass murder by misguided anger at political systems they (falsely) believe are betraying their nation’s core values. Sometimes terrorism arises from perverted religious beliefs; at other times the motivating ideology is wholly secular. Because so many different grievances can lead individuals or groups to employ terrorist methods, there is no single policy response that could make the problem disappear forever.
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  • Compared with other risks to human life and well-being, contemporary international terrorism remains a minor problem
  • The Islamic State wouldn’t have to use terrorism if it were strong enough to advance its cause through normal means or if its message were attractive enough to command the loyalty of more than a miniscule fraction of the world’s population (or the world’s Muslims, for that matter). Because it lacks abundant resources and its message is toxic to most people, the Islamic State has to rely on suicide attacks, beheadings, and violent videos to try to scare us into doing something stupid. The Islamic State cannot conquer Europe and impose its weird version of Islam on the more than 500 million people who live there; the most it can hope for is to get European countries to do self-destructive things to themselves in response. Similarly, neither al Qaeda, the Islamic State, nor other extremists could destroy the U.S. economy, undermine the U.S. military, or weaken American resolve directly; but they did achieve some of their goals when they provoked us into invading Iraq and when they convinced two presidents to pour hundreds of billions of dollars into the bottomless pit in Afghanistan.
  • the same toxic blend of media and politics that brought us Donald Trump’s candidacy makes it nearly impossible to have a rational assessment of terrorism
  • Newspapers, radio, cable news channels, and assorted websites all live for events like this, and they know that hyping the danger will keep people reading, listening, and watching. The Islamic State and its partners really couldn’t ask for a better ally, because overheated media coverage makes weak groups seem more powerful than they really are and helps convince the public they are at greater risk than is in fact the case. As long as media coverage continues to provide the Islamic State et al. with such free and effective publicity, why should these groups ever abandon such tactics?
  • The Islamic State killed 31 people in Brussels on Tuesday, but more than half a billion people in Europe were just fine on that day. So when the British government raised the “threat level” and told its citizens to avoid “all but essential travel” to Belgium following Tuesday’s attacks, it is demonstrating a decidedly non-Churchillian panic. Needless to say, that is precisely what groups like the Islamic State want to provoke.
  • Terrorism is not really the problem; the problem is how we respond to it
  • At the moment, the challenge of contemporary terrorism seems to be bringing out not the best in the West — but the worst. Instead of resolution and grit, we get bluster and hyperbole. Instead of measured threat assessments, patient and careful strategizing, and a realistic sense of what can and cannot be achieved, we get symbolic gestures, the abandonment of our own principles, and political posturing.
  • how would a grown-up like Marshall or Dwight D. Eisenhower respond to this danger? No doubt they’d see it as a serious problem, but anyone who had witnessed the carnage of a world war would not be cowed by intermittent acts of extremist violence, no matter how shocking they are to our sensibilities. They’d use the bully pulpit to shame the fearmongers on Fox and CNN, and they’d never miss an opportunity to remind us that the danger is not, in fact, that great and that we should not, and cannot, live our lives in fear of every shadow and in thrall to monsters of our own imaginings. They would encourage us to live our daily lives as we always have, confident that our societies possess a strength and resilience that will easily outlast the weak and timorous groups that are trying to disrupt us. And then, this summer, they’d take a European vacation.
Ed Webb

The Fight Against Terror Needs Better Data - Foreign Policy - 0 views

  • Using a leaked database from 2016 on Islamic State recruits, we were able to geographically locate where almost 600 recruits originated from in Tunisia—one of the highest exporters of foreign fighters to Syria. We then used socio-economic data from Tunisian delegations (the equivalent of a district or a county—the smallest geographic unit that could be measured) to try to find what was driving foreign fighters to go to Syria. Surprisingly, our research suggests that absolute indicators of well-being, which are intuitively linked to terrorism by many policymakers, are not related to a higher probability of joining a violent extremist group.
  • higher rates of radicalization seem to be linked to relative deprivation—the perception of being disadvantaged or not achieving the expectations one feels entitled to. This builds on previous research including Ted Robert Gurr’s seminal book, Why Men Rebel, and supports the conclusions of recent work such as Kartika Bhatia and Hafez Ghanem’s study on the linkage between economic development and violent extremism across the Middle East
  • districts with high levels of unemployment among university-educated men produced higher numbers of men joining violent extremist groups
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  • districts with high inflows of domestic migrants in search of better living conditions exported more foreign fighters
  • the problem is not one of poverty or unemployment per se but rather the unmet expectations of highly educated youth who feel the country’s social contract has failed them
  • even policies that advance the right agenda items—such as increasing employment for well-educated youths—may not make any impact in addressing radicalization if they are too broadly based or target districts with low numbers of foreign fighters
Ed Webb

New Satirical Film's Absurd FBI Stings Draw From Real Cases - 0 views

  • To date, more than 300 defendants have been prosecuted following FBI terrorism stings. These stings are often preposterous when examined closely. Derrick Shareef was arrested after buying grenades from an undercover agent; since Shareef didn’t have any money and was living with the government’s informant, the FBI set it up so that the undercover agent, posing as an arms dealer, would accept ratty old stereo speakers as payment. Emanuel L. Lutchman, a mentally ill and broke homeless man, planned to attack a New Year’s Eve celebration with a machete — a weapon he was able to buy only because the FBI gave him $40. The absurdities go on and on and on. Human Rights Watch criticized these types of FBI stings in a 2014 report for having “created terrorists out of law-abiding individuals by conducting sting operations that facilitated or invented the target’s willingness to act.”
  • For “The Day Shall Come,” Morris spent years researching FBI stings and talking to terrorism defendants, federal prosecutors, and FBI agents
  • Looming over Miami in “The Day Shall Come” is the real-life FBI office building, which is actually in Miramar, just north of Miami. A $194 million structure that opened in 2015, the enormous glass building with sharp lines and curved walls houses the FBI’s South Florida office. Simultaneously assuring and foreboding, the building looks like a police headquarters in a dystopian comic book. Morris delights in using the building as a way of showing how the FBI has benefited financially from, and been changed by, the endless search for terrorists since 9/11.
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  • “You know, bin Laden got you this. You should put a big picture of him on the building, like the Colonel Sanders logo.” That’s the joke underpinning “The Day Shall Come”: Far from being enemies, the FBI has benefited from its biggest bogeymen, developing a symbiotic relationship with Islamist extremists while pursuing hundreds of targets who never posed much of a threat at all.
Ed Webb

IS extremists step up as Iraq, Syria, grapple with virus - 0 views

  • a resurgence of attacks by the Islamic State group in northern Iraq
  • In neighboring Syria, IS attacks on security forces, oil fields and civilian sites have also intensified.
  • the militant group is taking advantage of governments absorbed in tackling the coronavirus pandemic and the ensuing slide into economic chaos.
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  • In Iraq, militants also exploit security gaps at a time of an ongoing territorial dispute and a U.S. troop drawdown.
  • IS was benefiting from a “gap” between Kurdish forces and federal armed forces caused by political infighting.
  • In northeast Syria, Kurdish-dominated police have become a more visible target for IS as they patrol the streets to implement anti-virus measures,
  • IS fighters in late March launched a campaign of attacks in government-held parts of Syria, from the central province of Homs all the way to Deir el-Zour to the east, bordering Iraq. Some 500 fighters, including some who had escaped from prison, recently slipped from Syria into Iraq, helping fuel the surge in violence there, Iraqi intelligence officials said.
  • more IED attacks, shootings and ambushes of police and military
  • The number of Iraqi military personnel on duty has dropped 50% because of virus prevention measures
  • territorial disputes between Baghdad and authorities from the northern Kurdish autonomy zone have left parts of three provinces without law enforcement
  • “Before the emergence of the virus and before the American withdrawal, the operations were negligible, numbering only one operation per week,” said a senior intelligence official. Now, he said, security forces are seeing an average of 20 operations a month.
  • Iraqi military officials believe the improved, organized nature of the attacks serves to cement the influence of new IS leader Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Quraishi, who was named after his predecessor was killed in a U.S. raid late last year. One military official said more operations are expected during Ramadan to demonstrate the new leader’s strength.
  • because of the security situation in the desert several gas wells in the fields of Shaer and Hayan were damaged, leading to a 30% drop in electricity production.
Ed Webb

Hamas Disavows FBI Sting Against Right-Wing Boogaloo Boys - 0 views

  • Hamas, the group FBI agents were pretending to represent, is publicly denouncing the prosecution and its supposed connection to the two Boogaloo members. “When we read about this, it was really shocking to connect our movement with such extremists,”
  • the first time that a designated terrorist group that the FBI pretended to be has come out publicly to denounce a sting case
  • “First of all, Hamas is a Palestinian national movement, and we have limited our struggle for freedom and independence within the boundaries of Palestine, and we have nothing to do outside these geographical territories,” Naim said. “The second thing, we have nothing planned and we are not intending to plan anything against the United States.”
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  • Since the September 11 attacks, the FBI has arrested more than 340 defendants who were caught up in counterterrorism stings in which they believed they were supporting the Islamic State, Al Qaeda, or another foreign terrorist organization
  • in the Boojahideen case, the FBI linked up domestic extremists with a foreign terror group. Under the Justice Department’s normal modus operandi — using something of a double standard — right-wing domestic terrorists do not face terrorism charges
  • Human Rights Watch has critized these stings for often targeting “those with intellectual and mental disabilities and the indigent.”
  • “I fear that the bureau is throwing a lot of effort into resource-intensive sting operations that target only the most gullible individuals in the movement,” German said, “rather than investigating the multiple examples of far-right violence that are happening in plain sight.”
  • Solomon told the FBI’s witness that he was with Boojahideen, and he was there to protect others from the police, white supremacists, and looters. Solomon and Teeter told the witness that their group’s goal was to overthrow the government and the police.
  • Boogaloo movement’s aims are difficult to pin down, since its ideology can vary greatly from adherent to adherent and group to group. Some are white supremacists who view the current unrest as a prelude to a race war. Others, like Solomon and Teeter, do not appear to be racist but are virulently pro-gun and anti-police
  • Solomon and Teeter apparently had big plans. They wanted to raise money to purchase a compound where Boogaloo and Boojahideen members could train. They saw Hamas as a possible solution, and the pair allegedly suggested to the FBI informant that they could become mercenaries for the Palestinian organization, earning money from the group by blowing up government monuments and courthouses.
  • One of the many problems with the fantasy that the FBI constructed for Solomon and Teeter is that Hamas says it’s not interested in any such plots. “Maybe this is for internal domestic reasons — to create such connections and to attract more voters from the right and the Zionist lobbyist to support the current administration,” Naim, the Hamas member, said. “But this should not come at the expense of our just struggle against oppression, apartheid, and occupation.”
Ed Webb

Homeland Security Is Quietly Tying Antifa to Foreign Powers | The Nation - 0 views

  • intelligence officials are targeting activists it considers “antifa” and attempting to tie them to a foreign power, according to a DHS intelligence report obtained exclusively by The Nation.
  • The intelligence report, titled “The Syrian Conflict and its Nexus to the U.S.-based Antifascist Movement,” mentions several Americans, including a left-wing podcast host who traveled to Syria to fight ISIS. The report includes a readout of these individuals’ personal information, including their social security numbers, home addresses, and social media accounts, much of the data generated by DHS’s Tactical Terrorism Response Teams. As the intelligence report states, “ANTIFA is being analyzed under the 2019 DHS Strategic Framework for Countering Terrorism (CT) and Targeted Violence.”
  • “They targeted Americans like they’re Al-Qaeda” a former senior DHS intelligence officer with knowledge of the operations told The Nation. The officer, who served for years in DHS’s Office of Intelligence & Analysis (I&A), compared the operations to the illegal surveillance of activists during the civil rights era. “They essentially were violating people’s rights like this was the 60’s…the type of shit the Church and Pike committee[s] had to address.”
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  • “Designating someone as foreign-sponsored can make a huge legal and practical difference in the government’s ability to pursue them,” explained Steven Aftergood, who heads the Project on Government Secrecy at the Federation of American Scientists
  • Once someone (or some group) is identified as an agent of a foreign power, they are subject to warrantless search and surveillance in a way that would be illegal and unconstitutional for any other US person
  • Last week, DHS reassigned its intelligence chief after The Washington Post revealed that the agency had been compiling intelligence reports on American journalists and activists in Portland.
  • The intelligence report describes over half a dozen people who traveled to Syria in order to fight alongside Kurdish factions—usually the YPG, but also other Kurdish groups like the PKK and the Peshmerga. Some of the individuals described have denied membership in antifa, but variously identified with far-left causes. DHS appears to define antifa broadly, containing within it various left-wing tendencies: “antifa is driven by a mixed range of far-left political ideologies, including anti-capitalism, communism, socialism, and anarchism.”
  • “I am not now nor have I ever been a member of any antifa organization,” he told The Nation. “The US government has been spying on and smearing communists for 100 years but they usually have the decency not to call a Red an anarchist!”
  • “There appears to be a clear connection…between ANTIFA ideology and Kurdish democratic federalism teachings and ideology,” the intelligence report states.
  • On May 31, Trump vowed to designate antifa a “terrorist organization.” While antifa groups have engaged in acts of property destruction, antifa has not been linked to a single murder in the United States, according to data compiled in the past 25 years by the Center for Strategic and International Studies. By contrast, the same data found that far-right extremist groups had killed 329 people.
Ed Webb

Obama officials' spin on Benghazi attack mirrors Bin Laden raid untruths | Glenn Greenw... - 0 views

  • The Obama White House's interest in spreading this falsehood is multi-fold and obvious:For one, the claim that this attack was just about anger over an anti-Muhammad video completely absolves the US government of any responsibility or even role in provoking the anti-American rage driving it. After all, if the violence that erupted in that region is driven only by anger over some independent film about Muhammad, then no rational person would blame the US government for it, and there could be no suggestion that its actions in the region – things like this, and this, and this, and this – had any role to play.
  • it's deeply satisfying to point over there at those Muslims and scorn their primitive religious violence, while ignoring the massive amounts of violence to which one's own country continuously subjects them. It's much more fun and self-affirming to scoff: "can you believe those Muslims are so primitive that they killed our ambassador over a film?" than it is to acknowledge: "our country and its allies have continually bombed, killed, invaded, and occupied their countries and supported their tyrants."
  • the self-loving mindset that enables the New York Times to write an entire editorial today purporting to analyze Muslim rage without once mentioning the numerous acts of American violence aimed at them
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  • Critics of the war in Libya warned that the US was siding with (and arming and empowering) violent extremists, including al-Qaida elements, that would eventually cause the US to claim it had to return to Libya to fight against them – just as its funding and arming of Saddam in Iraq and the mujahideen in Afghanistan subsequently justified new wars against those one-time allies
  • The falsehood told by the White House – this was just a spontaneous attack prompted by this video that we could not have anticipated and had nothing to do with – fixed all of those problems. Critical attention was thus directed to Muslims (what kind of people kill an ambassador over a film?) and away from the White House and its policies.
  • the number one rule of good journalism, even of good citizenship, is to remember that "all governments lie." Yet, no matter how many times we see this axiom proven true, over and over, there is still a tendency, a desire, to believe that the US government's claims are truthful and reliable.
Ed Webb

Foreign Secretary statement to Parliament on Syria - Oral statements to Parliament - In... - 1 views

  • The conflict is therefore creating opportunities for extremist groups. Syria is now the number one destination for jihadists anywhere in the world today, including approximately 70 to 100 individuals connected with the United Kingdom
  • The UN assesses that by the end of this year, on these trends, over 3.5 million, or 15 per cent of Syria’s total population, will have become refugees in other countries. And the Foreign Minister of Jordan has warned that Syrian refugees are likely to make up 40 per cent of his country’s population by the middle of next year, with similar numbers predicted for Lebanon
  • We have supported human rights investigation teams to collect documentary, photographic and interview evidence of abuses, and trained medical staff to gather forensic evidence of torture and sexual violence. This material is being made available to the UN Commission of Inquiry and other international investigative bodies so that those involved in human rights violations can be held to account.
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  • the conference, which should be held as soon as possible, should be focussed on agreeing a transitional governing body, with full executive powers and formed by mutual consent
  • we are stepping up our efforts to support the opposition and increase pressure on the regime, in order to create the conditions for a political transition
  • We are increasing the support we are providing to Syria’s neighbours, including providing equipment to the Jordanian Armed Forces to help them deal with the immediate needs of Syrian refugees at the border and transport them safely to international humanitarian organisations. We have provided funding to the Lebanese Armed Forces for four border observation towers, to help reduce cross-border violence in key areas and to protect and reassure local communities. And we are also working with the Syrian National Coalition and key international supporters to develop plans for transition and Syria’s post-conflict needs, building on the conference we held at Wilton Park in January
  • There is no purely military victory available to either side without even greater loss of life, the growth of international terrorism and grave threats to neighbouring countries
  • We have not sent arms to any side during the conflicts of the Arab Spring. No decision has been made to go down this route, and if we were to pursue this, it would be under the following conditions: in coordination with other nations, in carefully controlled circumstances, and in accordance with our obligations under national and international law. The United Kingdom and France are both strongly of the view that changes to the embargo are not separate from the diplomatic work, but essential to it. We must make clear that if the regime does not negotiate seriously at the Geneva conference, no option is off the table
  • Our assessment is that chemical weapons use in Syria is very likely to have been by the regime. We have no evidence to date of opposition use. We welcome the UN investigation, which in our view must cover all credible allegations and have access to all relevant sites in Syria
  • The United Kingdom holds the Presidency of the UN Security Council next month, and we remain in favour of the Security Council putting its full weight behind a transition plan if it can be agreed
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