November 15, 2015


The West's fatal misunderstanding of Islamic State (Rasha Elass, November 15, 2015, Reuters)

[W]e cannot forget that Islamic State came to the world stage barely over a year ago, when it took Mosul and subsequently one third of Iraq as well as one third of Syria in a matter of weeks. Some of the terror group's major advances on the ground took mere hours, advances that Obama later said will take years to roll back.

I remember covering the war at that time from Damascus, Syria, and later from Beirut, where I kept in constant communication via the Internet with the Syrian rebels and civilians who had suddenly found themselves under Islamic State rule in the eastern Syrian province of Deir al Zor. During those first few days, many went underground, not sure what to do about their new, brutal occupier, who proceeded to slaughter more than 700 men from the Arab Sunni Muslim tribe of Shueitat because the tribe did not pledge allegiance to Islamic State. The militant group commanded all men of fighting age in Deir Al Zor to report to Islamic State checkpoints, surrender weapons, and either pledge allegiance to Islamic State or leave the territory immediately.

"We never thought the West would allow a group like ISIS to expand, but now I know that we have been played. We have been extremely stupid," one anti-Islamic State rebel told me on condition of anonymity to protect his family. He sounded embittered by what he called a shocking and swift victory for the group, and he spoke to me from his car, which he said he had parked just outside an Internet cafe to piggy-back on the Wi-Fi signal without anyone hearing our conversation. He said Islamic State had setup checkpoints everywhere.

"The only thing that makes sense to us is that the world wants to dump all its trash here," he said, referring to the Islamic State jihadists, whom he said were mainly non-Syrian, but other Arab nationals, Chechens, and Westerners. "And then the West will come and bomb them all. This must be the strategy because nothing else makes any sense."

Conspiracy theories aside, there is some truth to the idea that some countries, as naive and misguided as they have been, privately sighed relief to see their own Islamist nationals travel to Islamist territory to meet their fate.

"It's better than having them stay in our country," one Western diplomat told me on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the matter. "Statistically, a newly arrived jihadist to ISIS territory is killed within weeks, so good riddance."

The more refugees we can get out the less collateral damage we risk.

Posted by at November 15, 2015 10:03 AM