Preventing Jihadist Insurgencies from Gaining Ground

The United States can no longer afford to “react to threats after they have emerged,” argues Emily Estelle in a new report on the dangers posed by the violent strains of Salafism, the fundamentalist Islamic ideology espoused by Islamic State. Noting the growing power vacuum in the Middle East and the pressing challenges posed by Russia and China, Estelle outlines a path for the U.S. to “avert rather than mitigate [the] risk” of global Salafi-jihadist terror. Failure to do so, she contends, will exacerbate domestic tensions while accelerating wide-ranging threats to national security.

A new jihadist wave is the last thing Western policymakers want to recognize or prepare for. But Americans face a more serious terror threat than they realize. The global Salafi-jihadist movement, led by al-Qaeda and Islamic State, has not faded into irrelevancy but has grown greatly in manpower, wealth, capability, and geographical extent and is stronger by some measures than it has ever been.

The movement’s flashiest endeavors—spectacular terror attacks and a border-crossing caliphate—are in a lull that the largely temporary effects of counterterrorism pressure only partly explain. Deliberate adaptation is also at play; Salafi-jihadist leaders have learned to eschew direct attacks on the U.S. and European homelands, on the whole, to avoid drawing attention to their successes in putting down deep roots in many countries. But they have not given up their aim—toppling and replacing states across the Muslim world—or their willingness to use terror attacks to achieve their ends.

Over the past two decades, the U.S. government has disaggregated threats and sought to manage them sequentially: small or lone-wolf attacks in the United States; resurgent Salafi-jihadist groups across Africa, the Middle East, and South Asia; government collapse in these regions; and mass-migration refugee crises driven by conflict and climate change. These problems range from manageable to inconsequential in the establishment worldview. But this approach fails to recognize the cumulative weight of these interconnected developments and the major threat they represent in combination.

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Read more at American Enterprise Institute

More about: Islamism, Jihadism, U.S. Foreign policy, War on Terror

Gaza’s Quiet Dissenters

Last year, the Dubai-based television channel Al-Arabiya, the Times of Israel, and several other media organizations worked together to conduct numerous interviews with residents of the Gaza Strip, taking great pains to protect their identities. The result is a video series titled Whispers in Gaza, which presents a picture of life under Hamas’s tyranny unlike anything that can be found in the press. Jeff Jacoby writes:

Through official intimidation or social pressure, Gazans may face intense pressure to show support for Hamas and its murderous policies. So when Hamas organizes gaudy street revels to celebrate a terrorist attack—like the fireworks and sweets it arranged after a gunman murdered seven Israelis outside a Jerusalem synagogue Friday night—it can be a challenge to remember that there are many Palestinians who don’t rejoice at the murder of innocent Jews.

In one [interview], “Fatima” describes the persecution endured by her brother, a humble vegetable seller, after he refused to pay protection money to Hamas. The police arrested him on a trumped-up drug charge and locked him in prison. “They beat him repeatedly to make him confess to things he had nothing to do with,” she says. Then they threatened to kill him. Eventually he fled the country, leaving behind a family devastated by his absence.

For those of us who detest Hamas no less than for those who defend it, it is powerful to hear the voices of Palestinians like “Layla,” who is sickened by the constant exaltation of war and “resistance” in the Palestinian media. “If you’re a Gazan citizen who opposes war and says, ‘I don’t want war,’ you’re branded a traitor,” she tells her interviewer. “It’s forbidden to say you don’t want war.” So people keep quiet, she explains, for fear of being tarred as disloyal.

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Read more at Boston Globe

More about: Gaza Strip, Hamas, Palestinian dissidents, Palestinian public opinion