Islamic State’s Master Plan Revolves around a Long War with the West

April 21 2017

In The Master Plan, Brian Fishman traces the history of Islamic State (IS) from its origins as al-Qaeda’s Iraqi branch through to the present. In many ways, Fishman argues, IS has remained loyal to a seven-stage plan drawn up by one of Osama bin Laden’s deputies shortly after the fall of the Taliban in 2001. Kyle Orton writes in his review:

Al-Qaeda held that while the “near enemy” (local Arab regimes) had the support of the “far enemy” (the West, led by the U.S.), it could not be toppled. The master plan identified two exceptions—Iraq and Syria—where the regimes could be brought down without a need to sever them from the West first. Indeed, at the time the plan was being written, Saddam Hussein was clearly on borrowed time, courtesy of the [imminent] U.S. invasion. . . .

Abu Musab al-Zarqawi [the founder of IS] was in Baghdad by May 2002 and found throughout Iraq large, powerful Salafist networks that allowed the IS movement to find a foothold quickly. The regime had allowed [these] networks to grow, partly due to Hussein’s increasing Islamization of the country, but also because a mortally weakened regime was unable to restrain them. . . .

Fishman’s book punctures a number of myths about the history of IS. It is often said that IS turned to international attacks when its “caliphate” started to contract. [But] IS was always focused on the West; it just had the West on its doorstep between 2003 and 2011 [in the form of American and allied forces in Iraq]. . . .

While Gulf donors and the Saudi government are [frequently accused of] assisting IS, the reality is that, to the extent states have assisted the rise of IS, the real villains are Iran, [which sheltered important figures during the movement’s formative years], and the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad. Assad provided IS a hinterland that helped it ride out defeat in Iraq and facilitated its recruitment of foreign fighters during the entire period of the U.S. military presence in Iraq. Once this terrorist network turned on his regime, the support did not end.

Read more at Fathom

More about: Al Qaeda, Iraq, ISIS, Osama bin Laden, Politics & Current Affairs, Saddam Hussein

Famous Novelists “Confront the Occupation” in the West Bank—and Celebrate Themselves

June 27 2017

To produce the collection Kingdom of Olives and Ash, the writers Michael Chabon and Ayelet Waldman gathered a group of novelists, arranged for them to be shown around Israel for a few days by anti-Israel activists, and had each of them write an essay about the experience. Matti Friedman surveys the results:

Chabon and Waldman tell us on the very first page of a visit to Israel in 1992, which they remember vividly as a time of optimism, when the “Oslo Accords were fresh and untested.” But their memory must be playing tricks, because the Oslo Accords happened in the fall of 1993. Chabon and Waldman, who live in Berkeley, CA, are accomplished writers, but the reader needs a few words about what they’re up to here. Do they have special expertise to offer? Israel is probably the biggest international news story over the past 50 years, so is there a reason they decided the world needs to know more about it and not, say, Kandahar, Guantanamo, Congo, or Baltimore?

The essays vary in tone and quality, but experienced journalists covering the Israel/Palestine story will recognize the usual impressions of reporters fresh from the airport. Cute Palestinian kids touched my hair! Beautiful tea glasses! I saw a gun! I lost my luggage, and that seems symbolic! Arabs do hip-hop! The soldiers are so young and rude!

The writers interview the same people who are always interviewed in the West Bank, thinking it’s all new, and believe what they’re told. . . . Everything is described with a gravitas suggesting that the writers haven’t spent much time outside the world’s safer corners. [Dave] Eggers devotes two whole pages to an incident on the Gaza border, where one Israeli guard said he couldn’t pass and then a different one came and let him through. Dave, if you’re reading this, I hope you’re okay. . . .

What [this book is] really about is the writers. Most of the essays aren’t journalism but a kind of selfie in which the author poses in front of the symbolic moral issue of the time: here I am at an Israeli checkpoint! Here I am with a shepherd! That’s why the very first page of the book finds Chabon and Waldman talking not about the occupation, but about Chabon and Waldman. After a while I felt trapped in a wordy kind of Kardashian Instagram feed, without the self-awareness.

Read more at Washington Post

More about: Anti-Zionism, Idiocy, Israel & Zionism, Journalism, West Bank