Focal Points Blog

How the Islamic State Makes Terror Palatable to Those It Rules

Apparently, the Islamic State is almost completely devoid of corruption. Pictured: Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al Baghdadi. (Photo: Thierry Ehrmann / Flickr Commons)

Apparently, the Islamic State is almost completely devoid of corruption. Pictured: Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al Baghdadi. (Photo: Thierry Ehrmann / Flickr Commons)

Is there an upside to being a subject of the Islamic State? In the New York Times, Tim Arango explains:

The Islamic State uses terror to force obedience and frighten enemies. It has seized territory, destroyed antiquities, slaughtered minorities, forced women into sexual slavery and turned children into killers.

But its officials are apparently resistant to bribes, and in that way, at least, it has outdone the corrupt Syrian and Iraqi governments it routed, residents and experts say.

“You can travel from Raqqa to Mosul and no one will dare to stop you even if you carry $1 million,” said [a man] who lives in Raqqa, the Islamic State’s de facto capital in Syria, and insisted out of fear on [sic] being identified only by his first name. “No one would dare to take even one dollar.”

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Will the Nuclear Deal Induce Iran to Help Stop the Islamic State?

Iran may only wish to contain the Islamic State, not defeat it. Pictured: Government building in Islamic State de facto capital Raqqa, Syria. (Photo: Beshr / Flickr Commons)

Iran may only wish to contain the Islamic State, not defeat it. Pictured: Government building in Islamic State de facto capital Raqqa, Syria. (Photo: Beshr / Flickr Commons)

In a National Interest piece titled Sorry, America: Iran Won’t Defeat ISIS for You, Andrew J. Bowen and J. Matthew McInnis write that, especially with the Iran nuclear deal negotiated, “Iran has been touted in Washington in some policy circles as the best partner in fighting ISIS.”

Potential common interests between Washington and Tehran—as well as Iran’s military capabilities—could make Tehran an effective ally in rolling back ISIS at a time when the United States is wary to commit to another ground war in the Middle East.

But, caution Bowen and McInnis, don’t get your hopes up. Iran may not be as committed to rolling back the Islamic State as the United States (professes to be, anyway). They write:

… Tehran’s strategy in Syria and Iraq has been focused more on containing and managing ISIS than defeating it. … In Syria, ISIS is seen as an effective tool in both weakening the U.S.- and [Gulf Cooperation Council]-backed opposition militias and buttressing the argument that President Assad is a most amenable alternative in Syria. Iraq, on the other hand, presents a difficult balancing act.

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Argentine Prosecutor Dies Before Pinning 1992 Argentine Jewish Center Bombing on Iran

Did Argentine President Cristina Kirchner attempt to derail the investigation of the Asociación Mutual Israelita Argentina bombing? (Photo: Pro.Cre.Ar / Flickr Commons)

Did Argentine President Cristina Kirchner attempt to derail the investigation of the Asociación Mutual Israelita Argentina bombing? (Photo: Pro.Cre.Ar / Flickr Commons)

In the New Yorker, Dexter Filkins piece on the suspicious death of Argentine prosecutor Albert Nisman, whose mission in life was to investigate and prosecute Iran. He believed its operatives plotted and carried out the 1994 suicide bombing of a Jewish organization, the Asociación Mutual Israelita Argentina, which killed 85 and wounded than 300. Filkins writes:

In 2006, [Nisman] indicted seven officials from the government of Iran, including its former President and Foreign Minister, whom he accused of planning and directing the attack, along with a senior leader of the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah. Months later, Nisman secured international arrest warrants for five officials, effectively preventing them from leaving Iran.

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Does the Islamic State Seek to Turn Gaza Into Another of Its ‘Fiefdoms’?

Militants professing allegiance to the Islamic State have also launched rockets at Israel during a ceasefire. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

Militants professing allegiance to the Islamic State have also launched rockets at Israel during a ceasefire. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

From Reuters:

Explosions destroyed six cars belonging to members of the Hamas and Islamic Jihad militant groups in Gaza City on Sunday, witnesses said, injuring no one but drawing threats of a response.

… The targeted groups issued a joint statement condemning the attackers as “traitors” – suggesting they thought the perpetrators were fellow Palestinians – and promising that they would be “found and punished”.

No one claimed responsibility, but Hamas, which dominates the coastal enclave, has in recent months faced violent challenges from Palestinians sympathetic to Islamic State or al Qaeda, and who seek stringent religious rule in Gaza and open war with Israel.

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Iran Nuclear Deal Redraws Middle East Map

Similar to the dissolution of Yugoslavia in the 1990s, ethno-sectarian fights will inevitably remold the Middle East and reshape the boundaries for new nation-states. Pictured: the Middle East in the 1600s. (Photo: Paolo Porsia / Flickr Commons)

Similar to the dissolution of Yugoslavia in the 1990s, ethno-sectarian fights will inevitably remold the Middle East and reshape the boundaries for new nation-states. Pictured: the Middle East in the 1600s. (Photo: Paolo Porsia / Flickr Commons)

Take a look at the map of the Middle East and North Africa. You can see many straight lines labeled as the ‘national’ boundaries of countries like Yemen, Oman, Iraq, Syria, Egypt, Sudan and so on. These unnatural political borders which were arbitrarily sliced by several men during the de-colonization era had foretold you that that the flesh and blood peoples living there would, once sufficiently armed, endeavor to reset the fences for their clans after having suffered from all kinds of ethnic-sectarian clashes with their neighbors. What has been more frustrating is that, Afghanistan, Iraq and Egypt under the American ‘administration’ have failed to exemplify that democratic elections, no matter how genuine they are, can resolve the sectarian conflicts inside these state. In Iraq, for instance, since the Sunnis as a forever minority have no opportunity of winning this head-count game to gain the mandate at Baghdad, so why not join the jihadists to establish a new state of their own?
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If Ralph Nader Had Been Elected President, the Iraq War Would Have Been a War Unfought

Ralph Nader has often been unfairly blamed for the election of George W. Bush. (Photo: Troy Page / Truthout / Flickr Commons)

Ralph Nader has often been unfairly blamed for the election of George W. Bush. (Photo: Troy Page / Truthout / Flickr Commons)

Ralph Nader has caught a lot of heat for his presidential campaign in 2000 being a key factor leading to the election of George W. Bush. Or, more accurately, to better position Bush for the Supreme Court to hand him the election.

As Politico magazine reports, Ralph Nader has just published a book titled Return to Sender: Unanswered Letters to the President, 2001-2015. Among those sent to George W. Bush is one from 2006 that, between well-deserved insults, contains some trenchant advice in the wake of Israel bombing Lebanon.
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The Sins of Poland’s Solidarity Came Back to Haunt It

The Gdansk shipyards, where the Solidarity trade union began. (Photo: Trojan Llama / Flickr Commons)

The Gdansk shipyards, where the Solidarity trade union began. (Photo: Trojan Llama / Flickr Commons)

Start with a failing economy. Throw in a team of inexperienced politicians, people in fact who had spent their careers deliberately avoiding official politics. Add a population with the highest possible expectations. And, as a wild card, introduce an international community that was not offering very much in the way of financial assistance.

This was the situation in Poland in September 1989 when Tadeusz Mazowiecki became the first non-Communist prime minister in the region in more than 40 years. Considering the odds against Poland at that time, it’s remarkable that the country survived and, eventually, prospered.
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The 7 Most Incisive Comments About the Iran Nuclear Deal

The Iran nuclear deal not only opened the door to improved relations with Iran, but to an outpouring of keen observations. Pictured: Chief nuclear negotiators U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Iran Foreign Minister Javad Zarif. (Photo: Yahoo News)

The Iran nuclear deal not only opened the door to improved relations with Iran, but to an outpouring of keen observations. Pictured: Chief nuclear negotiators U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Iran Foreign Minister Javad Zarif. (Photo: Yahoo News)

We shall start with a headline which, for me, sums up all the excruciating years of accusations, pre-negotiations, and negotiations, as well as the deal itself (which, as I observed yesterday, has no name, but which, I’ve since learned, goes by the singularly undistinctive name Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action).

Iran Won the Vienna Accords By Agreeing to Stop What It Never Was Doing

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Do Saudi Citizens Prefer the Islamic State to the House of Saud?

Saudi citizens may be questioning whether the House of Saud is qualified to be the guardian of holy cities Mecca and Medina. Pictured: King Saud Mosque in Jeddah. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

Saudi citizens may be questioning whether the House of Saud is qualified to be the guardian of holy cities Mecca and Medina. Pictured: King Saud Mosque in Jeddah. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

In a New York Review of Books review of an illuminating new book, Islamic State: The Digital Caliphate, by Abdel Bari Atwan, Malise Ruthven cites a poll that seems to show that Saudi citizens might prefer to be ruled by the Islamic State instead of the House of Saud.

In an online poll conducted in July 2014, a formidable 92 percent of Saudi citizens agreed that ISIS “conforms to the values of Islam and Islamic law.”

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Iran Nuclear Deal an “Act of Appeasement,” Raves Representative Republican

Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, Iran’s lead nuclear negotiator, has something to celebrate. (Photo: Samuel Kubani / AFP / Flickr Commons)

Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, Iran’s lead nuclear negotiator, has something to celebrate. (Photo: Samuel Kubani / AFP / Flickr Commons)

A part of me thinks that the Iran nuclear deal, finally concluded last night, is much ado about nothing. After all, Iran doesn’t have a nuclear-weapons program and doesn’t seem to have done any research toward that end since 2003 as nuclear powers the United States, Russia, and China continue to upgrade their systems. While the fear of Iran developing nuclear weapons was hyped, nevertheless the deal is important because it begins the process of relieving Iran of sanctions. With regards to which, reports the Guardian:

Once the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has verified that Iran has taken steps to shrink its programme, UN, US and EU sanctions will be lifted.

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