Focal Points Blog

The Islamic State’s Biggest Crime May Be Its Braggadocio

Just like the Islamic State, the United States uses fire as a weapon of war. Pictured: Hellfire missile mounted on a Predator drone. (Photo: Scott Reed, USAF / Wikimedia Commons)

Just like the Islamic State, the United States uses fire as a weapon of war. Pictured: Hellfire missile mounted on a Predator drone. (Photo: Scott Reed, USAF / Wikimedia Commons)

With the burning alive of Jordanian pilot Moaz al-Kasasbeh, the Islamic State has gone beyond turning slasher movies into reality shows with its beheadings to pushing the envelope of torture porn. But as, at Glenn Greenwald reminds us at the Intercept, it’s not the only armed force in recent times to use immolation as a weapon. In fact, in the tradition of its use of napalm in the Vietnam War, the United States rains hellfire down on suspected terrorists, in the form of Hellfire missiles launched from drones, which gives new life to the cliché “burnt to a crisp.”
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The Confederalists: A Kurdish Movement Bolsters Women and Bashes the West

Female Kurdish freedom fighters. (Photo: Democracy Chronicles / Flickr Commons)

Female Kurdish freedom fighters. (Photo: Democracy Chronicles / Flickr Commons)

Cross-posted from The New Context.

“While the world is discussing what to do with ISIS, Kurdish women are doing it,” Dilar Dirik cried in a September 2014 speech about theories of statelessness at a European conference. Dirik, a PhD candidate at Cambridge, used the speech to give a voice to the embattled Kurds and remarkable Kurdish women, and denounce the Western nation-state. During the last week of January 2015, armed Kurdish groups declared victory over the Islamic State in Kobani, on the Syria-Turkey border. But Dirik spoke back when the city of Kobani was under siege by IS and Western powers were not yet engaged in the fight.
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The Islamic State Singled Out Jordanian Pilot as Symbol of Air War Against It

Portrait of Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al Baghdadi. (Photo: Thierry Ehrmann / Flickr Commons)

Portrait of Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al Baghdadi. (Photo: Thierry Ehrmann / Flickr Commons)

At Global Guerillas, John Robb, author of the outstanding book Brave New War, explains exactly what he thinks the Islamic State was doing by burning alive Jordanian pilot Moaz al-Kasasbeh. First, he writes, it was a three-part presentation: an interview al-Kasasbeh, footage of Western airstrikes on the Islamic State, and the burning of al-Kasasbeh.
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Burning Alive of Jordanian Fighter Pilot More Evidence Islamic State Refuses to Grow Up

Islamic state de facto capital Raqqa. (Photo: Beshr / Flickr Commons)

Islamic state de facto capital Raqqa. (Photo: Beshr / Flickr Commons)

It’s well known that revolutionary movements and/or terrorist organizations generally moderate the extreme violence that may have brought them to power. The Islamic State, however, which fancies itself even more than a state — a caliphate spanning existing states — seems intent on overturning the conventional wisdom.

In fact, is the Islamic State’s leadership channeling Satan? By burning Jordanian fighter pilot Moaz al-Kasasbeh to death in the most torturous manner possible, its members are apparently making another payment in the deal they seem to have signed with the devil (known as Shaytan in Islam).
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Ukraine Government: “No Russian Troops Are Fighting Against Us”

Thee sanctions against Russia are based on the likely fiction that Ukraine is fighting against regular units of the Russian army. Pictured: Ukraine army helicopters flying over Kiev. (Photo Oleg V. Belyakov / Wikimedia Commons)

Thee sanctions against Russia are based on the likely fiction that Ukraine is fighting against regular units of the Russian army. Pictured: Ukraine army helicopters flying over Kiev. (Photo Oleg V. Belyakov / Wikimedia Commons)

Cross-posted from Global Research.

Ukraine’s top general is contradicting allegations by the Obama Administration and by his own Ukrainian Government, by saying that no Russian troops are fighting against the Ukrainian Government’s forces in the formerly Ukrainian, but now separatist, area, where the Ukrainian civil war is being waged. (View and hear that statement here.)

The Chief of Staff of Ukraine’s Armed Forces, General Viktor Muzhenko, is saying, in that news-report, which is dated on Thursday January 29th, that the only Russian citizens who are fighting in the contested region, are residents in that region, or of Ukraine, and also some Russian citizens (and this does not deny that perhaps some of other countries’ citizens are fighting there, inasmuch as American mercenaries have already been noted to have been participating on the Ukrainian Government’s side), who “are members of illegal armed groups,” meaning fighters who are not paid by any government, but instead are just “individual citizens” (as opposed to foreign-government-paid ones). General Muzhenko also says, emphatically, that the “Ukrainian army is not fighting with the regular units of the Russian army.”
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It’s Official: Netanyahu Has Given up on Obama and the Democrats

Netanyahu may come to rue the day he abandoned pursuit of bi-partisan support in the United States. (Photo: IsraelinUSA / Flickr Commons)

Netanyahu may come to rue the day he abandoned pursuit of bi-partisan support in the United States. (Photo: IsraelinUSA / Flickr Commons)

During the administration of President George W. Bush, when it came to Israel, all you ever heard was how much influence Israel had on U.S. foreign policy, especially toward Iran. Even if it were disinclined not to act in lockstep with Israel (not that the Bush administration was) the power that AIPAC exerted over the Senate and House, the narrative went, was too great for the president to override.

But, in the years since, the heavy hand that Israel has wielded in dealing with Palestinians has created cover under which the next U.S. president, Barack Obama, could peel off the tentacles of Israel and AIPAC. On Jan. 30, in the New York Times, Peter Baker and Jodi Rudoren write of the rift between he and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
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How Good Is the Islamic State at Governing?

Government building in Islamic State de facto capital Raqqa pictured. (Photo: Beshr O / Flickr Commons )

Government building in Islamic State de facto capital Raqqa pictured. (Photo: Beshr O / Flickr Commons )

I’m sure many of us have had the thought: Why not just let the Islamic State keep the land it conquered? (Who knew conquering was still a thing? Or a caliphate, for that matter?) After all, thus far, unlike Al Qaeda, it’s shown it’s ready and willing to govern on a local as well as pan-national level.

The answer, of course, is that besides beheading captives, the Islamic State metes out a form of justice to those it rules that harkens back to a time when disorder and threats to the state ran rampant. I didn’t want to say it because it’s become a cliché, but, yeah, the 1300s. Of course, that can’t be allowed to stand.
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Catching up With the State of Human Rights in Poland

Adam Bodnar of the Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights describes the most important human rights problem in Poland: “the intersection of the deprivation of the right to liberty, the right to defend yourself, the right to a lawyer and legal aid, plus the right to court and effective trial.”

Adam Bodnar of the Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights describes the most important human rights problem in Poland: “the intersection of the deprivation of the right to liberty, the right to defend yourself, the right to a lawyer and legal aid, plus the right to court and effective trial.”

Cross-posted from JohnFeffer.com.

It can be a nightmare to become entangled in the Polish legal system. You could be charged with a crime, for instance, and thrown into pre-trial detention. This detention could even last two or three years. One person was even held for nearly eight years.

Abuses in the court system, lawyer Adam Bodnar with the Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights told me, constitute the most important human rights problem in Poland: “the intersection of the deprivation of the right to liberty, the right to defend yourself, the right to a lawyer and legal aid, plus the right to court and effective trial.”
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Saudi Arabia and the Islamic State’s Legal Codes Too Close for Comfort

Both Saudi Arabia and the Islamic State fall within the spectrum of Wahhabism. Pictured: General Court in Riyadh. (Photo: AFP)

Both Saudi Arabia and the Islamic State fall within the spectrum of Wahhabism. Pictured: General Court in Riyadh. (Photo: AFP)

Yesterday we posted about how an ideological affinity makes it difficult for Saudi Arabia to distance itself from the Islamic State, just as it did with Al Qaeda before that. Perhaps, though, where they’re most symmetrical is in the forms and degrees of punishment, as Mary Atkinson and Rori Donaghy demonstrate at the Middle East Eye. “The Islamic State (IS) and Saudi Arabia prescribe near-identical punishments for a host of crimes, according to documents circulated by the militant group,” they begin.

For example, comparing them side by side in an infographic, they show that both IS and SA intend to punish blasphemy and homosexuality as severely as treason and murder: by death. The punishments for adultery, separately for married and unmarried partners, are also parallel: Death by stoning and 100 lashes, respectively. (I’ve never actually understood how someone can survive that many lashes.)
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Like Al Qaeda, Islamic State a Threat to Saudi Arabia Despite Similar Worldview

New Saudi King Salman Bin Abdulaziz inherits the Islamic State threat. (Photo:  EPA/Jose Huesca)

New Saudi King Salman Bin Abdulaziz inherits the Islamic State threat. (Photo: EPA/Jose Huesca)

“The Saudi authorities have condemned Islamic State, but they fear the destabilising effects of any detailed examination of their shared principles,” writes Brian Whitaker in an article as insightful as it is and valuable that was published and posted January 6 by the Guardian. He begins by describing a raid likely conducted by the Islamic State on a Saudi post on its border with Iraq that killed, along with two other soldiers, the commander of Saudi Arabia’s northern border forces. Whitaker writes:

This might be viewed simply as a reprisal for Saudi participation in the US-led bombing campaign against Isis, but Isis has also been seeking to extend the current conflict in Syria and Iraq into Saudi territory.

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