In Indonesia, Moderate Islam Is under Attack

On May 13, coordinated suicide bombings struck three churches in the Indonesian city of Surabaya; a fourth bombing occurred at the local police station the next day. Islamic State (IS) claimed responsibility for the attacks. To Ilan Berman and James Clad, the incident is indicative of a growing threat to the overwhelmingly Muslim country:

Indonesian Islam has long contained important cultural and ideological barriers to intolerance. . . . Despite variations within the 3,000-mile archipelago, Indonesia’s bedrock culture, especially in Java, reflects and reinforces coexistence among faiths, as well as tolerance for differing worldviews. Since the late 1990s, Indonesia’s democratic institutions have flourished in a diverse milieu in which self-described “Islamic” parties are free to contend. . . .

But is this delicate balance eroding? . . . The past couple of years have indeed offered worrying signs that Islamist groups and ideologies have gained influence. This includes, notably, the rise of Hizb-ut Tahrir Indonesia, a radical group complicit in the political ferment that surrounded last year’s hotly contested gubernatorial elections in Jakarta. The group is now formally banned by President Joko Widodo’s national government. . . .

[A]s of last fall some 700 Indonesians were estimated to have joined the ranks of Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. Those radicalized elements are now returning home, with devastating effect—all of the perpetrators of the Surabaya attacks were “alumni” of IS’s Middle Eastern caliphate. . . .

These trends make Indonesia an inviting target for Islamic State. With its decline in the Middle East, the terrorist group has made Southeast Asia a target of opportunity. Last fall, Islamic militants affiliated with IS waged a pitched but ultimately unsuccessful battle for the southern Philippine city of Marawi. As May’s bloody events in Surabaya make plain, similar radicals have now set their sights on Indonesia as well. Their goals are clear: to undermine the country’s religious moderation and exploit its shifting domestic scene in order to promote their own extreme worldview. And, like elsewhere, their successes will be measured by pluralism’s failure.

Read more at Weekly Standard

More about: Indonesia, ISIS, Moderate Islam, Politics & Current Affairs

Iran’s Options for Revenge on Israel

On April 1, an Israeli airstrike on Damascus killed three Iranian generals, one of whom was the seniormost Iranian commander in the region. The IDF has been targeting Iranian personnel and weaponry in Syria for over a decade, but the killing of such a high-ranking figure raises the stakes significantly. In the past several days, Israelis have received a number of warnings both from the press and from the home-front command to ready themselves for retaliatory attacks. Jonathan Spyer considers what shape that attack might take:

Tehran has essentially four broad options. It could hit an Israeli or Jewish facility overseas using either Iranian state forces (option one), or proxies (option two). . . . Then there’s the third option: Tehran could also direct its proxies to strike Israel directly. . . . Finally, Iran could strike Israeli soil directly (option four). It is the riskiest option for Tehran, and would be likely to precipitate open war between the regime and Israel.

Tehran will consider all four options carefully. It has failed to retaliate in kind for a number of high-profile assassinations of its operatives in recent years. . . . A failure to respond, or staging too small a response, risks conveying a message of weakness. Iran usually favors using proxies over staging direct attacks. In an unkind formulation common in Israel, Tehran is prepared to “fight to the last Arab.”

Read more at Spectator

More about: Iran, Israeli Security, Syria