We now know a fair amount about ISIS’s elaborate recruiting network and the militant group’s success courting an estimated 20,000 to 30,000 fighters from around the world to join its brutal campaign in Syria and Iraq.
But what about size and geographical makeup of the foreigners flocking to the Middle East to fight against ISIS? A new report finally sheds some light on the scope of that effort. At least 108 Americans have traveled to Iraq and Syria to fight against ISIS, the report says. It’s not just the U.S.—private citizens from at least 21 other countries have also joined rebel groups that are waging war against ISIS. Those include US-allies like the UK, Australia, and South Korea, as well as sometime-rivals like Iran and Russia. They are typically joining Kurdish forces or Christian militias.
The report, The Other Foreign Fighters, written by the investigative media outlet Bellingcat, found that Americans fight against ISIS for a variety of reasons, including a desire for adventure, a sense of moral outrage, and their religious beliefs, which are overwhelmingly Christian. (Ironically, ISIS recruits often cite religion and adventure as reasons for wanting to join the Islamic State.) Many are male U.S. military veterans, between the ages of 20 and 29.
How do the Saudis promote their religious views?
By investing heavily in building mosques, madrasas, schools, and Sunni cultural centers across the Muslim world. Indian intelligence says that in India alone, from 2011 to 2013, some 25,000 Saudi clerics arrived bearing more than $250 million to build mosques and universities and hold seminars. “We are talking about thousands and thousands of activist organizations and preachers who are in the Saudi sphere of influence,” said Usama Hasan, a researcher in Islamic studies. These institutions and clerics preach the specifically Saudi version of Sunni Islam, the extreme fundamentalist strain known as Wahhabism or Salafism…
…The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria sees itself as purer than the Saudi regime, but its fundamentalist Sunni doctrine has its roots in Wahhabism. Bob Graham, a former Democratic senator from Florida who has called for declassification of the portion of the 9/11 Commission report dealing with Saudi Arabian links to the hijackers, says ISIS “is a product of Saudi ideals, Saudi money, and Saudi organizational support.” In effect, Graham says, ISIS represents a form of Wahhabi ideology that the Saudis can’t control — a cancer that now threatens the kingdom. “Who serves as fuel for ISIS? Our own youth,” said Saudi dissident writer Turki Al-Hamad this year. “In order to stop ISIS, you must first dry up this ideology at the source.”
On arrival at Queen Mary in 2010 to study medicine he found little evidence of his extremism being mirrored at the Whitechapel campus.
“I was the most radical guy there in probably the entire medical school,” he said.
But when he transferred to study physics at the university’s main campus in Mile End in 2012 he experienced a sea-change.
“That’s where the proper radicalism was,” he says, “I wasn’t alone anymore. There were lots of people like myself who agreed with my mode of thinking.”
This thinking included discussion about jihad, fighting the ‘kuffar’, and establishing a caliphate.
Mr Ahmed, who has since left Islam and come out as being gay, has grave concerns about the influence of Queen Mary’s Islamic Society, of which he was a member.
“If I were in charge I would most definitely break up the Islamic Society,” he said.
“Right now, everyone that runs the Islamic Society, they’re all Salafis, radicals, that’s not in question. I’d either completely get rid of the society or put people that are less radical in charge.”
But he says the problem has grown from a wider failure to engage with and tackle the threat from radical Islamism.
“When I was in school no one was radical,” he said. “People used to look down on me, I was ostracised. But over the years that I’ve been at university everyone was radicalised like me.
“That didn’t happen in a vacuum. That happened slowly with the innovation of Saudi Wahhabi literature backed by the influx of Saudi preachers. All of that stuff hasn’t happened by itself.”
Via Arutz Sheva:
Analysts at the believed that the Saudi strategy was to “starve” the American shale oil industry, which has emerged as a major competitor to OPEC oil. Thanks to shale production and new oil well discoveries, the U.S. this year became the world’s leading oil producer.
However, shale oil, the Saudis believed, could not be produced profitably at rates below $60-$70 a barrel – and if oil were to be maintained at prices like that, they believed, the U.S. shale producers would shut down, leaving OPEC once again the “kings” of the international oil market, and its prices.
But Riyadh was wrong, said Pritchard. “If the aim was to choke the US shale industry, the Saudis have misjudged badly, just as they misjudged the growing shale threat at every stage for eight years,” he wrote. “The problem for the Saudis is that US shale frackers are not high-cost. They are mostly mid-cost. Advanced pad drilling techniques allow frackers to launch five or ten wells in different directions from the same site. Smart drill-bits with computer chips can seek out cracks in the rock. New dissolvable plugs promise to save $300,000 a well.”
Pritchard quoted a Saudi oil expert as admitting that the policy has failed. “The policy hasn’t worked and it will never work,” the expert said – but according to Pritchard, it’s too late to change things. “OPEC now faces a permanent headwind. Each rise in price will be capped by a surge in US output. Saudi Arabia is effectively beached. It relies on oil for 90pc of its budget revenues. There is no other industry to speak of, a full fifty years after the oil bonanza began.”
The implications of this situation will be profound, he wrote. “The government can slash investment spending for a while – as it did in the mid-1980s – but in the end it must face draconian austerity. It cannot afford to prop up Egypt and maintain an exorbitant political patronage machine across the Sunni world.
“Social spending is the glue that holds together a medieval Wahhabi regime at a time of fermenting unrest among the Shia minority of the Eastern Province, pin-prick terrorist attacks from ISIS, and blowback from the invasion of Yemen. Diplomatic spending is what underpins the Saudi sphere of influence caught in a Middle East version of Europe’s Thirty Year War, and still reeling from the after-shocks of a crushed democratic revolt.”
– In August 2014 Islamic State militants slaughtered hundreds of Yazidi men in northern Iraq and enslaved Yazidi women. Tens of thousands of Yazidi refugees fled to the Sinjar mountains. Knowing the terrible conditions her people were enduring, Vian Dakhil, a member of the Iraqi Council of Representatives and a Yazidi, made an emotional plea on the parliament floor. Her speech was widely credited with leading to a full-scale international attack on ISIS. She recently reflected on the events.
Shepard Smith on Fox News: Former Senator Bob Graham alleges that the government of Saudi Arabia knowingly financed the 9/11 terror attacks. Graham was the Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee at the time of the 9/11 attacks. Judge Andrew Napolitano discusses Graham’s allegations.
Smith notes that if the government of Saudi Arabia, not people, but the government, aided and financed the terrorists of 9/11, then it was an act of war. “If what Senator Graham is alleging is true, that’s an act of war … they killed over 3,000 of our people,” Smith said.
“He’s also alleging the flip side of this, which is the American government knows about it and is covering it up,” said Napolitano.
The king and his 1,000 person entourage cut a planned three-week stay short after 150,000 sign petition over beach closure.
Via the Irish Times:
The planned three-week visit by the new king and his inner circle at the family’s seafront villa in Vallauris, where US actress Rita Hayworth celebrated her wedding to Prince Aly Khan of Pakistan in 1949, was expected to be a boon for the local economy.
But the closure of the public beach for privacy and security reasons stirred up a local storm. The king’s installation of an elevator from the beach to the villa, approved for temporary use by local government, also provoked anger among some residents who objected to allowing him this privilege…
…France has been nurturing new links with Saudi Arabia and other Gulf Arab countries over the last three years due to its tough stance on Iran and similar positions on conflicts across the Middle East. It is beginning to see commercial rewards in terms of contracts for companies in the energy and defence sectors.
Government leaders profit from Saudi largesse, so they will always pander to them. But the French aren’t putting up with it anymore.
The Economist on Middle East “Proxies and Paranoia”
Accusing Iran of fuelling unrest among Shias across the region, including among the kingdom’s own 10% Shia minority, Saudi rulers have for decades given free rein, as well as funding around the globe, to Sunni preachers spewing venom against the rival, smaller branch of the faith. A recent trove of Saudi diplomatic documents revealed by the whistle-blowing group WikiLeaks exposes a near-obsessive fear of Shia influence. In one cable, the kingdom’s embassy in the Egyptian capital, Cairo, warns that the change of a green-coloured shroud for a black one to cover a Sufi saint’s tomb reflects a creeping Shia tide.
The fears are mutual. Iranian officials mutter that Islamic State (IS) and other Sunni jihadist groups are Saudi pawns. Nuri al-Maliki, the Iran-backed former Iraqi prime minister whose antipathy to Sunnis is widely seen as having paved the way for IS’s rise, suggested, absurdly, that Saudi Arabia be annexed by the UN because it had “lost control” of Wahhabism, the root cause of terrorism.
That’s not all that ‘absurd’, but this is the Economist, the British version of Qorvis.
Sunni leaders and Shia leaders have worked together in the past, competing to support Hamas. It seems odd that the Saudi publicity machine would claim that they have always been at war with the Shia.
The leaders of Iran, Saudi Arabia and Qatar fear their own people more than they fear each other. They’re using the Shia/Sunni conflict in the same way they used the Israeli/Palestinian issue, to distract their unfortunate citizens from government mismanagement and kleptocracy.
The Daily Beast tells us The Real Reason Obama Did the Iran Deal
And Slate knows the ‘real reason’ why Israel, Saudi Arabia and ‘Neocons’ hate the Iran Deal.
The right and the left are taking their sides, but it is hard to find a ‘real’ reason to take Iran or Saudi Arabia’s side in any issue. Both are enemy states, both support terrorist militias, both are, basically, enemies of humanity.
The Saudi regime and the Iranian regime are both more afraid of their own people than they are of each other. Most of the regimes in the Middle East are run by kleptocrats who used Israel and the ‘Palestinian cause’ to keep a lid on their peoples’ justifiable outrage for decades. In 2011, when kleptocratic, authoritarian mismanagement became too much to bear, they lost control and got the ‘Arab Spring’.
The war that Iran and Saudi Arabia are ginning up between Shia and Sunni is their last chance to avoid meeting Gaddafi’s fate. America and Israel also want to maintain the status quo, but if they don’t address the issues that caused the Arab spring, if they can’t stop relying on horrifically incompetent and genuinely evil leaders to keep order in the region, the whole mess will fall apart no matter what we do. We can’t expect people in the Middle East to put up with being ruled by monsters just because we prefer the devil we know.
It shouldn’t be part of our future
New York, NY (Tuesday, June 23, 2015) – Today marks the 40th day of Simon Aban Deng’s hunger strike for South Sudan. Though Mr. Deng—a former child-slave turned competitive swimming champion, currently a human rights activist & New York City lifeguard supervisor—is growing weaker by the day, he remains resolute. Until President Obama and his administration signal an immediate shift in U.S. policy toward South Sudan, Simon will continue his fast.
“If I must die on the steps of the White House, then so be it,” Simon said last month in Washington, D.C. In order to be closer to his family at this stage of his prolonged fast, Mr. Deng is now primarily protesting in New York City. Supporters & members of the media can find him each day between 9am and 12pm outside the UN, near the Sharansky Steps at 43rd Street & 1st Avenue.
“The world is a better place today thanks to people throughout history standing up for what they believe,” says Mr. Deng. “The war and destruction in South Sudan has become a slow-motion genocide, and we people of conscience must stand up if we are ever going to stop it. My hunger strike must be just one part of a larger movement. Together we must pursue all possible avenues to achieve peace. We must never stop working toward peace.”
In Sudan, political violence, starvation and mass deaths
Over the past year of violence in South Sudan—which only became an independent from Sudan in July 2011—some 70,000 people have been killed, some 2 million have been driven from their homes, and over 4 million are currently at risk of starvation, all due to the internecine conflict between South Sudanese rulers (and former allies) President Salva Kiir and former Vice President Riek Machar.
In an open letter to President Obama sent on May 15th, the first day of the fast, Mr. Deng likened South Sudan to an infant, brought into existence with the U.S. as midwife, but then abandoned to fend for itself. “We brought freedom to South Sudan,” Mr. Deng writes. “It is our baby. We cannot allow it the freedom to fail.”
Mr. Deng addressed President Obama directly: “I call on you today to prove your commitment to the people of South Sudan. You alone can force a peaceful end to this insanity. It will not require ‘US boots on the ground,’ but it will require consistent engagement, seriousness of purpose, and a willingness to both make threats and follow through on them. In short, it will require your leadership.”
Mr. Deng’s hunger strike has made news in Juba and across South Sudan, but has been largely ignored by U.S. media. High-profile supporters—including comedian/activist Dick Gregory, radio host Joe Madison, and Enough Project Co-Founder John Prendergast—were frequent visitors while Mr. Deng was in Washington, DC, yet few in the public even know that South Sudan exists—let alone that it is being destroyed by a senseless civil war. Mr. Deng remains optimistic that his action will bring much-needed public attention to the plight of his people, and that US policy could completely change the situation on the ground.
“I will be starving myself until the U.S. makes perfectly clear that the war in South Sudan is unacceptable—and we will not stand for it.” -Simon Deng
Simon Aban Deng grew up in Malakal, South Sudan, then a part of Sudan. At the age of nine he was captured into slavery and taken to northern Sudan. After fortuitously escaping his life as a slave at the age of 12, he returned home a free person and was reunited with his family, but eventually returned to the north where he overcame intense discrimination and persecution to become long-distance swimming champion of Sudan.
In 1990, he moved as a refugee to the United States. For many years, he didn’t discuss his former life, but after reading an article detailing how slaves could still be bought for $10, Simon committed himself to telling his story and advocating for justice in his homeland. In March 2006, he launched the Sudan Freedom Walk, a 300-mile trek from United Nations headquarters in New York City to the U.S. Capitol in Washington, DC, calling for an end to slavery and genocide in Sudan. The walk culminated with a rally featuring speeches from a bipartisan group of lawmakers including then-Senators Hillary Clinton (D-NY) and Sam Brownback (R-KS), and was followed up with meetings at the White House with President George W. Bush, on Capitol Hill with then-Senator Barack Obama, and in Geneva with the UN Human Rights Commission.
Simon has led subsequent Sudan Freedom Walks, including one from Brussels to The Hague, and has returned many times to the land of his birth. He is a well-known and revered figure in South Sudan, and is personally acquainted with the leaders of both of the warring parties (President Salva Kiir and former Vice President Riek Machar), whom he has repeatedly called on to end the senseless cycle of violence. When he’s not working to save his people, Simon helps to save New York residents and visitors as a lifeguard working for the city. He lives in the Bronx with his wife Monica and their beautiful baby Hope.