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Global War Against Terror
17-11-2015, 06:49 AM.
Post: #1
Global War Against Terror

  •  Nov 15 2015 at 10:56 AM 
Paris attacks: In France the enemy, to a significant extent, is within
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Paris attacks: Photographer captures gunfight
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by Tony Walker
France's embattled President Francois Hollande has vowed a "merciless" response to the worst terrorist carnage to afflict his country since World War II, describing bloodshed on the streets of Paris as "war".
Hollande is right to characterise the killing of more than 120 people in a well-co-ordinated series of terrorist attacks in five locations in the French capital as a new and bloody phase in the conflict between the West and militant Islam.
What is much less clear is what remedies might be at the disposal of vulnerable Western countries to deal with the sort of terrorist mayhem that engulfed the French capital in a few short hours over the weekend.
Group of 20 leaders meeting over the next several days in the Turkish resort of Antalya will be consumed by next steps in the war with Islamic State, which has claimed responsibility for the Paris attacks.
[img=620x0][/img]What is striking about the Paris attacks is they were carried out in a co-ordinated manner without being detected. Bloomberg
They will debate remedies for the worst terrorist violence to confront the West since the September 11, 2001, al-Qaeda attacks on New York and Washington.
Among their preoccupations will be how to stabilise Syria and staunch the outwards flow of refugees from that civil war-torn country.
In 2001 the United States and its allies embarked on a course of action that ended with the invasion of Iraq and the subsequent destabilisation of much of the Middle East, including Iraq and Syria.
They will not wish to repeat this folly with all its unintended consequences.
[img=620x0][/img]French police guard Boulevard Voltaire near the Bataclan theatre. Andrew Meares

What is required on this occasion is a measured, purposeful, co-ordinated response to a new form of Islamic terrorism driven partly by social media and incubated among disaffected Muslim youth in France and elsewhere, but particularly in France.
What is strikingly different between now and 2001 is that in the case of the attacks on the Twin Towers and the Pentagon, these were carried out by terrorists from outside the United States.
In France the enemy, to a significant extent, is within, and therein lies the enormous challenge for French security which is required to monitor hundreds, if not thousands, of radicalised young Muslims in its midst.
A smattering of these would-be jihadists – among France's Muslim population of more than 5 million –have had training in IS or al-Qaeda terrorist camps in Syria, or in Yemen.
[img=620x0][/img]The interior of the Casa Nostra Cafe after yesterday's terror attack. Christopher Furlong
In June of this year, Hollande's top security adviser told me it was only a matter of time before France endured another high-profile terrorist attack following the assault on the Charlie Hebdo newspaper offices earlier in the year in which 12 died. This official was not being defeatist. He was simply stating a fact.
His foreboding has come to pass in a way that even he – with all the information at his disposal – could not have predicted. Indeed, his greatest fear then was that al-Qaeda would seek to pull off a spectacular act of terror to assert itself in competition with IS.
Not least of challenges for Western intelligence is that IS and al Qaeda are, to an extent, competing franchises.
[img=620x0][/img]French Consul Nicolas Croizer attends a vigil for the victims of the Paris terror incident in Martin Place. Dominic Lorrimer
In discussions with top French officials back in June, all expressed disappointment over what was perceived to be President Barack Obama's failure to follow through on his "red line" threat to make Syrian President Hafez al-Assad accountable for the use of chemical weapons against his own people.
Obama backed away from that threat some two years ago. The consequence has been the further destabilisation of Syria and neighbouring Iraq, the deaths of tens of thousands of people in a raging Syrian civil war, and an outflow of millions of refugees. At that stage IS had barely emerged as a potent force.
"We think that if he [Obama] had made an intervention in Syria, things would have been totally different," Hollande's adviser told The Australian Financial Review.
In Antalya, Obama will come under enormous pressure from fellow world leaders to exhibit the sort of leadership many feel – fairly or not – he has not displayed over the Syrian crisis whose overflow is destabilising not just surrounding countries but Europe as well.
The US President needs to take the lead in fashioning a response to what is, by any standards, an existential threat to European security, and thus to an American-led Western alliance.
Obama would be unwise to cede ground to Russia's Vladimir Putin, who would like nothing more than opportunities provided by an American power vacuum to continue to assert himself on a world stage, ruthlessly and single-mindedly.
It is not in anyone's interests for Russia to be seen to be making the running on a response to IS activities in the Middle East, and violence perpetrated in its name on the streets of Paris.
The US and its allies are reaching for a co-ordinated strategy to deal with IS, including a consensus on what to do about Syria's Bashar al-Assad, who is widely regarded as an impediment to the stabilisation of his country.
Washington wants Assad to be removed. Russia supports his continuation in office. Both are working towards a compromise that would enable elections to be held under United Nations supervision to decide on the country's future – with or without Assad.
In Vienna over the weekend, US Secretary of State John Kerry and his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov, along with representatives from countries such as Iran and Saudi Arabia, have been formulating a plan that would set a January 1 deadline for negotiations between Assad and opposition groups.
These negotiations would aim, within six months, to establish a "credible, inclusive and non-sectarian" transitional government that would set a schedule for drafting a new constitution and holding a free and fair UN-supervised election within 18 months, according to a statement released by the UN on behalf of 19 parties to the talks.
The virtue of this approach – in which the US and Russia appear to have reached some sort of an understanding – is that a plan has emerged that may provide some prospect of a reasonable outcome. However, you would need to be a considerable optimist to believe that a fractured Syria can be put back together again.
On the eve of the G20, noises from Moscow have not been encouraging – if one of the aims is consensus about what to do about Assad. In an interview with Russian media, Putin said other nations had "no right" to demand that Assad leave office or to fashion a political solution from the outside.
"Only those who believe in their exceptionality allow themselves to act in such a sh***less manner and impose their will on others," he said.
On the other hand, Obama's national security adviser Susan Rice remains adamant that Assad could not be part of a long-term solution.
"Our strong view is that Assad has lost all legitimacy. The fact that he has been directly responsible for the deaths of so many of his own people means that a transition ultimately will have to result in a legitimate government coming to power. And it's very hard to envision how that could be accomplished with Assad still in power," she said.
In the meantime, the challenge for Obama and countries such as Australia is how to stabilise Syria without committing troops on the ground, beyond the deployment of special forces to assist in operations against IS leaders.
Given recent experience in Iraq, the US and its allies would be extremely reluctant to redeploy "boots on the ground", but a conundrum will present itself: how is Syria to be stabilised to enable UN-supervised election if a semblance of order has not been restored?
At a press conference in Antalya, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull deflected a question about a recommitment of Australian ground forces by observing that it was up to the Syrians themselves to restore order.
This might be regarded as a faint hope.
Most immediately, concerns in a jittery Europe will be focused on how to ensure that further jihadist attacks do not tear at the continent's fabric. This presents a huge challenge for European leaders and their security services.
What is striking about the Paris attacks is they were carried out in a co-ordinated manner without French intelligence detecting something of those dimensions was about to occur. It seems Western surveillance did not register any of the "chatter" that precedes such attacks.
This is extremely ominous and invites the conclusion that IS and its affiliates are in a position to cause mayhem, more or less at will.
Then there is the political dimension to all of this, and it cannot be overstated.
The Paris mayhem is a disaster for incumbent governments from the centre left to the centre right, such as those of Hollande and Angela Merkel.
Politicians of the right in France and Germany might have maintained relative silence in deference to those who have died.
But this will not last. Indeed, Merkel is already under pressure from anti-refugee spokespeople to strengthen Germany's oversight of people entering the country.
Germany reimposed stricter border controls on September 13.
Those calls, in Germany and elsewhere, will become more insistent. In France, an immediate beneficiary will be Marine Le Pen of the National Front party. Elsewhere, anti-refugee sentiment will be fuelled.
Europe's porous borders and lack of restrictions on internal movement will be questioned more strenuously.
Valiantly, Merkel described the terror in Paris as an "attack on freedom … aimed against us all" and added: "We know our free life is stronger than terror."
She may be right, but for the moment fear and ugliness will drive the debate in Europe and its responses.
Tony Walker is The Australia Financial Review's international editor.

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22-11-2015, 01:44 PM.
Post: #2
RE: Global War Against Terror
  • Nov 21 2015 at 12:15 AM 
After Paris attacks, the plague of global terrorism shows no sign of ending
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There is no end in sight to the spread of violence driven by a millenarian cult.
[img=620x0][/img]Spectators flee the Stade de France stadium after the international friendly soccer match between France and Germany. Christophe Ena
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by Tony Walker
News junkies will not need reminding that the world has become a much more dangerous place after the carnage on the streets of Paris this week, but confirmation that a destabilised Middle East is contributing to a spike in global terrorism comes with publication of the Global Terrorism Index 2015.
Much of the surge in terrorist deaths is directly related to the rise of Islamic State, adding to pressures on the West to expand its military campaign against IS in its strongholds in Syria and Iraq.
In Nigeria, Boko Haram, the African equivalent of IS, is leaving a trail of carnage in its wake, and in turn exerting enormous pressure on the government in Abuja.
Boko Haram has been joined in the latest global terrorism index as one of the principal perpetrators of terrorist violence by the hitherto little-noticed Fulani militant group, which is active across Nigeria and the Central African Republic.
In other words, Islamic terrorism, inspired by IS, is metastasising beyond the confines of the Middle East.
Compiled by the Institute for Economies and Peace, the index reflects an international environment that is extremely unstable, with no obvious solution for the causes of instability in Africa, the Middle East and South Asia.
All this is feeding into geopolitical perceptions the world has entered a period of unusual instability and uncertainty.
The year 2014 was the worst year on record with an 80 per cent increase in terrorist deaths, or a total of 32,600 people. The point is that the bombings and shootings in Paris are part of a much broader trend that is feeding on itself.

Iraq, Syria, Nigeria, Afghanistan and Pakistan accounted for 78 per cent of terrorist-related fatalities in 2014: what has really fuelled a surge in terrorism is the rise of IS in both Iraq and Syria.
IS emerged as a potent force in 2013 two years after the beginning of the Syrian Civil War. Since then it has spread its tentacles across Syria and Iraq, and this is reflected in the numbers.
What is surprising about IS is the speed with which it has aggregated territory under its control – and, as we've seen this month, launched operations in Europe itself and, so it claims, against a Russian airliner over the Sinai Peninsula in Egypt.
This has all happened, seemingly, in the blink of an eye.

Iraq was hit hardest by terrorist violence in 2014. This corresponded with a murderous IS rampage across western and northern Iraq, in which thousands died as the organisation tightened its grip on towns like Mosul in the north of Iraq and Ramadi, west of Baghdad.
In all, nearly 10,000 people succumbed to terrorism in Iraq last year, 30 per cent of all such deaths. These are shocking numbers and attest to the destructiveness of an IS campaign.
What is certain is that we'll see a jump in Syrian terrorism-related deaths in 2015, up from numbers in 2014. In the Global Index Syria accounted for about 5 per cent of such deaths in 2014.

This bleak outlook invites the question as to what might be done to stop the carnage and how best to understand the IS phenomenon.
Jessica Stern of Boston University's School of Global Studies and co-author of ISIS: The State of Terror, describes IS as a "threat unlike any other the West has faced in the contemporary era".
"The problem is," Stern writes, "as the Paris killings and the French counterattack indicate, the Islamic State is partly a totalitarian state and partly a transnational terrorist organisation."
"As a state it can be attacked and defeated, at least temporarily. And yet, paradoxically, the more we in the West attack the state, the more its appeal as a terrorist organisation will grow among those who see the West as an enemy."
Anthony Cordesman, of the Washington-based Centre for Strategic and International Studies, has written extensively on how best to counter IS. His conclusion is that the West needs to resign itself to a long war.
In a paper published this week – Paris, IS, and the Rush to "War" – he cautions against precipitate action.
"It is all too easy to call for dramatic new military action, and draconian new security measures as part of a natural human reaction to the horrifying vents in Paris," Cordesman writes. "There is, however, good reason for caution, for careful planning and analysis, for taking the time to build on previous efforts and ongoing improvements in counter-terrorism, and not leaping into massive military escalation."
The Australian government's own cautious approach was reflected in remarks this week by Defence Minister Marise Payne, when she was asked about Malcolm Turnbull's suggestion Australia might consider sending peacekeepers to Syria as part of an attempt to police a ceasefire.
"Obviously these matters have to be considered very, very seriously in the cold harsh light of day," Payne told the ABC. "We're making the second largest contribution [to the US-led coalition in Iraq and Syria] at the moment … and if we are to enhance that or to change that in any way that will be a considered step-by-step by the Australian government."
Turnbull himself addressed the issue in a press conference in Manila when he speculated about the possible shape of a ceasefire in Syria in which some sort of power-sharing arrangement might emerge.
"Where Syria, in an ideal world, would end up is with a regime or a form of government that involved power-sharing between the various groups," he said. "Obviously, the example of Lebanon is one that springs to mind given its proximity – where there is representation for people of various religious groups."
What is relevant – Turnbull and his advisers need to understand this – is that there is a world of difference between the situation in Syria, and in Lebanon following the 1946 expiry of the French League of Nations mandate.
In Lebanon, France was able to impose a power-sharing arrangement on various confessional groups in which Christians and Muslims divided power.
These arrangements have been bloodied by years of civil war, including the Lebanese Civil War (1975-1990), in which thousands were killed in a decade and a half of conflict that destroyed parts of Beirut and divided the city between Muslim and Christian enclaves.
Lebanon is hardly an oasis of calm today, buffeted as it is by a spillover from Syria. In theory, it might provide a model for a Syrian settlement but the essential difference is that, back in 1946, France was able to impose a power-sharing system.
In the midst of a raging civil war in which Syria's ruler Bashar al-Assad only survives courtesy of Russian and Iranian support, it is hard to envisage a scenario in which a settlement can be imposed by outside powers.
In the meantime, the world will hear a lot more about a millenarian cult with global terrorist ambitions, as Jessica Stern puts it. Wearing IS down will take a lot of persistence. The Paris attacks are not the end of the story.
Tony Walker is The Australian Financial Review's international editor and a former Middle East correspondent for the Financial Times. 

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28-11-2015, 03:12 PM.
Post: #3
RE: Global War Against Terror
  • Nov 28 2015 at 12:15 AM 
The real wives of IS - caught in the crossfire
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Photos on their phones are all that remain of three young women's lives before Islamic State took over their city - and their way of life.
[img=620x0][/img]Aws, which is not her real name, is pictured in the small city in southern Turkey where she now lives, after fleeing the clutches of Islamic State. Tara Todras-Whitehill
by Azadeh Moaveni
Dua had been working for only two months with the Khansaa Brigade, the all-female morality police of the Islamic State, when her friends were brought to the station to be whipped.
The police had hauled in two women she had known since childhood, a mother and her teenage daughter, both distraught. Their abayas, flowing black robes, had been deemed too form-fitting.
When the mother saw Dua, she rushed over and begged her to intercede. The room felt stuffy as Dua weighed what to do.
"Their abayas really were very tight. I told her it was their own fault; they had come out wearing the wrong thing," she said. "They were unhappy with that."
[img=620x0][/img]Raqqa, in northern Syria, became the de facto capital of the Islamic State after the militants seized it in late 2013. Those who resisted, or whose family or friends had the wrong connections, were detained, tortured or killed. New York Times
Dua sat back down and watched as the other officers took the women into a back room to be whipped. When they removed their face-concealing niqabs, her friends were also found to be wearing make-up. It was 20 lashes for the abaya offence, five for the make-up, and another five for not being meek enough when detained.
Their cries began ringing out, and Dua stared hard at the ceiling, a lump building in her throat.
In the short time since she had joined the Khansaa Brigade in her hometown, Raqqa, in northern Syria, the morality force had grown more harsh. Mandatory abayas and niqabs were still new for many women in the weeks after the jihadists of Islamic State had purged the city of competing militants and taken over. At first, the brigade was told to give the community a chance to adapt, and clothing offences brought small fines.
[img=620x0][/img]IS fighters march through Raqqa, the capital of their self-declared caliphate. But the city in which Aws, Dua and Asma grew up was very different: all three belonged to a generation of Syrian women who had been leading independent lives. AP

After too many young women became repeat offenders, however, paying the fines without changing their behaviour, the soft approach was out. Now it was whipping and now it was her friends being punished.
The mother and daughter came to Dua's parents' house afterward, furious with her and venting their anger at the Islamic State.
"They said they hated it and wished it had never come to Raqqa," Dua said. She pleaded with them, explaining that as a young and new member of the Khansaa Brigade, there was nothing she could have done.
But a lifelong friendship, with shared holiday gatherings and birthday parties, was suddenly broken. "After that day, they hated me, too," she said. "They never came to our house again."
[img=620x0][/img]In her former life, 25-year-old Aws had studied English literature at a branch of Euphrates University. She was a fan of the novels of Agatha Christie and Dan Brown, among others. TARA TODRAS-WHITEHILL
Dua's second cousin Aws also worked for the brigade. Not long after Dua's friends were whipped, Aws saw fighters brutally lashing a man in Muhammad Square. The man, about 70, frail and with white hair, had been heard cursing God. As a crowd gathered, the fighters dragged him into the public square and whipped him after he fell to his knees.
"He cried the whole time," Aws said. "It was lucky for him that he had cursed Allah, because Allah shows mercy. If he'd cursed the Prophet, they would have killed him."
Today, Aws, 25, and Dua, 20, are living in a small city in southern Turkey after fleeing Raqqa and its jihadist rulers. They met up here with Asma, 22, another defector from the Khansaa Brigade, and found shelter in the city's large community of Syrian refugees.

Raqqa is widely known now as the capital of the Islamic State's self-declared caliphate and as the focus of heavy airstrikes by a growing number of countries seeking revenge for the group's recent terrorist attacks. But the city in which the three women came to adulthood used to be quite different. Identified here by nicknames, the women spoke for many hours over the course of two visits this northern autumn, recalling their experiences under Islamic State rule and how the jihadists had utterly changed life in Raqqa.
All three described themselves as fairly typical young women of Raqqa. Aws was more into Hollywood, Dua into Bollywood. Aws' family was middle class, and she studied English literature at a branch of Euphrates University, a three-hour bus ride away in Hasaka. She devoured novels: some by Agatha Christie, and especially Dan Brown books. Digital Fortress is her favourite.
Dua's father is a farmer, and money was tighter. But her social life was closely intertwined with Aws', and the cousins loved their charming city. There were long walks to Qalat Jabr, the 11th-century fort on Lake Assad; coffee at Al Rasheed Park; and Raqqa Bridge, where you could see the city lights at night. In the gardens and amusement park in the town centre, there was ice-cream and communal shisha pipes to gather around.
"In the summer, everyone went out at night and stayed out late, because it was so hot during the day," Dua said.
The women keep pictures of their old lives in Raqqa on their mobile phones, scenes from parties and countryside outings. Aws' gallery includes days on the lake shore, her friends in bathing suits, dancing in the water.
Asma, with a bright gaze, was another outward-looking young woman, studying business at Euphrates University. Her mother was a native of Damascus, the capital, and Asma spent some of her teenage years there seeing friends, swimming at pool parties, going to cafes. She is also an avid reader, fond of Ernest Hemingway and Victor Hugo, and she speaks some English.
All three belonged to a generation of Syrian women who were leading more independent lives than ever before. They mixed freely with young men, socialising and studying together in a religiously diverse city with relatively relaxed mores.
Many young women dressed in what they called sport style, baring their knees and arms in the summer and wearing make-up. And while Raqqa's more conservative residents wore abayas and veils, women were going to college in greater numbers and getting married later. Most men and women chose their own spouses.
When the uprising against the government of President Bashar al-Assad began rippling across Syria in 2011, it seemed distant from Raqqa. As news of fighting and massacres started filtering in, it was mostly from faraway cities in the country's west, such as Homs. Even as displaced people began appearing in Raqqa and the city's young men started to sign up with anti-Assad groups in the area, including the Nusra Front and what is now the Islamic State, the fabric of life seemed intact.
At the start of 2014, everything changed. The Islamic State wrested full control of Raqqa and made the city its command centre, violently consolidating its authority. Those who resisted, or whose family or friends had the wrong connections, were detained, tortured or killed.
The Islamic State has come to be known around the world by names such as IS, ISIS and ISIL. But in Raqqa, residents began calling it Al Tanzeem: The Organisation. And it quickly became clear that every spot in the social order, and any chance for a family to survive, was utterly dependent on the group.
Not only had Raqqa residents become subjects of The Organisation's mostly Iraqi leadership, but their place in society fell even further overnight. As foreign fighters and other volunteers began streaming into town, answering the call to jihad, they became the leading lights of the shaken-up community. In Raqqa, the Syrians had become second-class citizens – at best.
Dua, Aws and Asma were among the lucky: the choice to join was available to them. And each chose to barter her life, through work and marriage, to The Organisation.
None of them subscribed to its extreme ideology and, even after fleeing their homes and going into hiding, they still struggle to explain how they changed from modern young women into Islamic State morality enforcers.
In the moment, each choice seemed like the right one, a way to keep life tolerable: marrying fighters to assuage The Organisation and keep their families in favour; joining the Khansaa Brigade to win some freedom of movement and an income in a city where women had been stripped of self-determination.
But every concession turned to horror before long, and the women came to deplore how they were pitted against their neighbours, part of a force tearing apart the community they loved. Only months in, widowed and abandoned and forced to marry strangers again, would they see how they were being used as temporary salves to foreign fighters whose only dedication was to violence and an unrecognisable God.
Each of them was driven to the conviction that escape was a last chance at life. And each joined the flow of Syrians abandoning their country, leaving a void to be filled by the foreigners who held nothing of Syria in their hearts.
The day Abu Muhammad, a Turkish fighter for the Islamic State, walked through Aws' front door to seek marriage, she made her first concession to The Organisation.
Her father and grandfather met with Abu Muhammad in the living room, telling Aws that she could see him at a second meeting if he offered a suitable dowry. But Aws was too much of a romantic, and had seen too many Leonardo DiCaprio films, to agree to marry a man whose face she had not seen.
When she knelt down behind the living room door to leave the thimbles of coffee she had prepared, she peered in for a moment and caught a glimpse of him. He had winged eyebrows, light eyes and a deep voice. As she waited for the discussion to conclude, she tried to imagine what their life together might be like. By the time her father called her in, she had already nervously decided to say yes, for her family's sake.
After their wedding, she was surprised to find that the marriage felt real, even affectionate. Abu Muhammad liked to trace the two moles that made a constellation on her left cheek; he gently teased her about her accent when she tried to pronounce Turkish words.
But he often did not come home at night, and was sometimes gone for three- or four-day stretches to fight for the Islamic State. Aws hated being left alone and would pout about it when he finally came home; he answered with silly jokes, cajoling her into forgiveness.
She tried to keep busy by socialising with other fighters' wives. Among them, she felt fortunate. Some were married to men who were abusive.
Everyone had heard of Fatima, who had killed herself by slitting her wrists after being forced to marry a fighter, and there was the Tunisian girl next door who burst into tears every time someone mentioned her husband's name. And even they were considered luckier than the captured women from the Yazidi minority, who were being smuggled into town as slaves for other fighters.
Mostly, though, Aws' days became an intolerable void. Sociable and lively, with long, curly black hair and a gamine face, she was bored and thoroughly unhappy. She finished her housework quickly, but there was nowhere to go. New books were nearly impossible to find after the jihadists banned almost all fiction, purging the bookshops and local cultural centre.
The Organisation also cast a long shadow over her marriage. Though Aws had always wanted a baby, Abu Muhammad asked her to take birth control pills, still available at Raqqa's pharmacies. When she pressed him, he said his commanders had advised fighters to avoid getting their wives pregnant. New fathers would be less inclined to volunteer to carry out suicide missions.
This was one of the early, devastating moments when Aws saw that there would be no normalcy or choice; the Islamic State was a third partner in her marriage, there in the bedroom. "At first, I used to keep bringing it up, but it really upset him, so I stopped," she said.
For Dua's family, money had always been an issue. Her father was still farming, but many lawyers and doctors who had lost their jobs when the jihadists took over had also started selling fruits and vegetables to get by, creating new competition. The Organisation imposed taxes, which cut further into the family's income. When a Saudi fighter came to ask to marry Dua, in February 2014, her father pushed her to accept.
The Saudi, Abu Soheil Jizrawi, came from a wealthy construction family in Riyadh and promised to transform Dua's life. She deliberated and eventually agreed. She met him for the first time on their wedding day, when he arrived bearing gold for her family. She liked what she saw: Abu Soheil was light-skinned with a soft black beard, tall and lanky, with charisma and an easy way of making her laugh.
He set her up in a spacious apartment with new European kitchen appliances and airconditioning units in each room, almost unheard-of in Raqqa. She eagerly showed off her new home to friends and relatives. Her kitchen became the place where the other fighter's wife in the building, a Syrian who, like Aws, had married a Turkish recruit, stopped in for coffee. Each morning, Abu Soheil's servant shopped for them and left bags of meat and produce outside the door.
In the evenings, the couple lingered over dinner, and he complimented her cooking, especially when she made his favourite kabsa, a spiced rice dish with meat and eggplant. Abu Soheil did not even mind the little rose tattoo on her hand, though permanent tattoos are forbidden in strict interpretations of Islam.
"He changed my life completely," Dua said. "He persuaded me to love him."
While a little light, at least, had come into the lives of Aws and Dua, Asma's living room in Raqqa was perpetually dark and stifling. She kept the curtains drawn and windows closed so that no one would know she had her television on inside. Television, music, the radio – everything was kept at the lowest volume she could hear.
Even that escape was becoming scarce for Asma as electricity in Raqqa dwindled to two, sometimes four, hours a day. She certainly could no longer go to the salon to fill the time.
The Organisation decreed that the internet could be used only for critical work, like that of the painstaking recruiters who went online to woo new fighters and foreign women to Syria. Asma, who had previously been on her laptop a few hours each day, found herself disconnected from the world.
"But it was OK for them, contacting all those girls to bring them in," Aws recalled later, as the three women sat together here in Turkey. They all rolled their eyes. "That was work."
In February 2014, two months into her marriage and unable to persuade Abu Muhammad to let her get pregnant, Aws decided to join the Khansaa Brigade. Dua joined around the same time, and they started their compulsory military and religious training together.
The cousins had their misgivings about joining. But they had married fighters, choosing to survive the occupation of Raqqa by aligning with The Organisation. Working with the brigade was a chance to do more than just subsist, and it paralleled their husbands' work. The full extent of the brigade's oppressiveness would emerge only with time.
A number of Asma's relatives had already started working for the Islamic State in various ways, and she considered carefully before joining in January 2014. With her family already enmeshed with The Organisation, it seemed the most logical choice.
"For me, it was about power and money, mostly power," Asma said, switching to English to describe those motivations. "Since my relatives had all joined, it didn't change a great deal to join. I just had more authority."
Though the women tried to rationalise their enlistment, there was no way to avoid seeing The Organisation as the wanton killing machine it was. But all of Syria, it seemed, had become about death.
At night, Aws and Dua heard attempts at self-justification from the husbands they had waited up for and would go to bed with. They had to be savage when taking a town to minimise casualties later, the men insisted. Assad's forces were targeting civilians, sweeping into homes in the middle of the night and brutalising men in front of their wives; the fighters had no choice but to respond with equal brutality, they said.
All three women attended the training required for those joining the Khansaa Brigade. Roughly 50 women took the 15-day weapons course at once; during eight-hour days, they learned how to load, clean and fire pistols. But the foreign women who had come to Syria to join the Islamic State were rumoured to be training on "russis", slang for Kalashnikov assault rifles.
Religion classes, taught mainly by Moroccans and Algerians, focused on the laws and principles of Islam. Dua, for one, was pleased; she felt she had not known enough about Islam before The Organisation took over.
By March 2014, Aws and Dua were out every day on the brigade's street patrols, moving about the city in small gray Kia vans with "Al Khansaa" on the sides. There were women from across the world in the brigade: British, Tunisian, Saudi, French.
But both within their unit and more broadly across Raqqa, The Organisation had issued a strict decree: no mingling between natives and foreigners. The occupiers thought gossip was dangerous. Salaries and accommodations might be compared, hypocrisies exposed.
Status within Raqqa – how it was derived and how it was expressed – was becoming a grievance. Dua explained openly, with a modest but satisfied expression, that she had enjoyed more status than most because of her wealthy Saudi husband, who was said to be high up in The Organisation.
"As women, our status depended on his status," Aws said, referring to husbands in general. Among the male fighters, this had been clear from the beginning: salaries, cars, suburbs and housing were allocated in large part by nationality.
It soon became clear that the foreign women had more freedom of movement, more disposable income and small perks: jumping to the front of the bread line, not having to pay at the hospital. Some seemed to have unfettered internet access, including multiple Twitter profiles.
"The foreign women got to do whatever they wanted," Asma complained. "They could go wherever they wanted."
"They were spoiled," Aws said. "Even the ones that were younger than us had more power."
"Maybe it's because they had to leave their countries to come here – it was felt they should be treated more specially," Dua said, as usual more reluctant to criticise.
"We couldn't even say anything," Aws said. "We couldn't even question why."
The Organisation had no outlet for grievances. It seemed to operate by stealth, and being married to its fighters offered no real information about its operations and ambitions. Senior figures such as the caliph himself, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, were never seen in public. Even within Raqqa, he remained a shadow, the women said.
Asma's role in the Khansaa Brigade involved meeting foreign women at the border with Turkey, 50 miles (80 kilometres) north, and accompanying them into Raqqa at night. With her smattering of English and cosmopolitan air, she was well suited to the task. She would receive a slip of paper with names, and the crew – two or three brigade women, an interpreter and a driver – would start up the highway.
Many women were arriving from Europe. One spring night this year, Asma and her crew received three British girls, dressed in Western clothes but with their hair covered. "They were so young, tiny, and so happy to have arrived, laughing and smiling," she recalled.
She accompanied them to a hostel and helped them get settled. As with most of the foreigners she escorted, she did not see them again. It was only later that she saw their faces plastered across the internet, identified as schoolgirls from Bethnal Green in London, migrating by choice to join the Islamic State.
Asma was bewildered by their decision to so cheerfully embrace a life that was sapping her every single day.
Before, Asma had a boyfriend from college. Their relationship was complicated: he had urged her to start wearing a head scarf and to dress more conservatively even before the Islamic State took control of Raqqa, but she refused to have her worth judged by the amount of skin she had covered. After the takeover, he moved to Jordan to finish his studies.
Now, she wore her hijab all day and enforced it for other women. But at night, she listened to the rock group Evanescence on her phone and mourned.
One spring day in 2014, the women in Dua's police unit went to one of the city's main squares to watch the stoning of two local women, supposedly for adultery. Dua refused to go. She did not like how the militants prized spectacle over correct implementation of Shariah law. "In Islam, you need four witnesses to the act to carry out such a punishment," she said.
Within hours, word spread that one of the women had not been involved with a man at all. She was said to have shown up outside the city's Police Headquarters holding a sign that read, "Tasqoot al-Tanzeem". Down With The Organisation.
By the time the trees blossomed that spring, it was common to see the heads of captured soldiers and people accused of treason hanging in the main square near the clock tower. But most who had stayed in Raqqa were either too afraid to rebel or had no desire to.
Horrified, the cousins kept trying to cope, soothing themselves with the thought that, though they had joined The Organisation, at least they were not personally killing anyone.
"We saw many heads being cut off," Dua recalled.
"You saw the heads – it was just the heads you saw," Aws corrected her.
"Well, it is forbidden in Islam to mutilate bodies."
"I saw bodies that lay in the street for a whole week."
Asma, unsettled at the turn in the conversation, tuned out and started looking at Facebook on her phone. Of the three women, she was the only one who read Western news coverage online: she knew the world considered the Islamic State grotesque, and she was haunted by how she had tainted herself at the very outset of her adult life.
Within the brigade, women had started using their authority to settle petty quarrels or exact revenge. "Girls who were fighting would go to The Organisation and accuse their enemies of some infraction," Aws recalled. "Even if they had done nothing wrong, they would be brought into headquarters."
Their job, inflicting fear on their neighbours, was agony. That everyone was probably two-faced was the only reliable assumption.
"Many times, I saw women I knew smiling at me when they saw I'd joined," Aws said. "But I knew inside they felt differently. I knew because before I joined myself, when I saw a girl I knew had started working with IS, I resented it."
As with Aws' husband, Dua's, Abu Soheil, did not want children. But Dua was not in a rush, and she did not press him.
One week in July 2014, Abu Soheil did not return for three nights. On the fourth day, a group of fighters knocked on Dua's door. They told her that Abu Soheil had blown himself up in a battle against the Syrian army at Tal Abyad, on the border with Turkey.
Dua was devastated, especially when the commander told her Abu Soheil had requested a suicide mission. He had never told her about such a plan, and she broke down, shaking and sobbing, at the men's feet.
She tried to console herself with the thought that it was honorable to be a martyr's wife. But days later, she learned a fact that made things even harder to bear: Abu Soheil had killed himself in an operation not against the hated Syrian army, but against a competing rebel group that the Islamic State was trying to wipe out.
"I cried for days," she said. "He died fighting other Muslims."
Just 10 days later, another man from her husband's unit came to the house. He told Dua she could not stay home alone and would need to marry again, immediately.
The Organisation was twisting Islamic law to its own desires. Under nearly universal interpretations of Islam, a woman must wait three months before remarrying, mainly to establish the paternity of any child that might have been conceived. The waiting period, called idaa, is not only required but is a woman's right, to allow her to grieve. But even in the realm of divine law, the Islamic State was reformulating everything.
"I told him that I still couldn't stop crying," Dua said. "I said: 'I'm heartbroken. I want to wait the whole three months.'" But the commander told her she was different from a normal widow. "You shouldn't be mourning and sad," he said. "He asked for martyrdom himself, and you are the wife of a martyr. You should be happy."
That was the moment that broke her.
The Organisation had made her a widow and wanted to do so again and again, turning her into a perpetual temporary distraction for suicidal fighters. There was no choice left, no dignity, just the service demanded by the Islamic State's need to feed men to its front lines.
"I had a good marriage to a good man, and I didn't want to end up in a bad one," Dua said. "I knew it would be painful for me to marry someone only to lose him when he goes on a martyrdom mission. It's only natural to have feelings and grow attached."
She knew she had to escape, even though it would mean leaving the house that should have been her inheritance.
The news came for Aws not long after it did for Dua. Abu Muhammad had also killed himself in a suicide operation. There was no funeral to attend and no in-laws to grieve with. She was devastated.
She had no time to recover before The Organisation came knocking. "They told me that he was a martyr now, obviously he didn't need a wife anymore, but that there was another fighter who did," Aws said. "They said this fighter had been my husband's friend, and wanted to protect and take care of me on his behalf."
She agreed reluctantly, despite being one month short of her three-month waiting period. But things did not click with this new husband, an Egyptian who turned up at home even less than Abu Muhammad had. Everything about him – his personality, his looks, their sexual relations – she shrugged off with a sour expression and a single word: "aadi". Regular.
When he ran off with his salary two months later, without even a goodbye, Aws was left abandoned, denied even the status of widow. Back at her parents' house, she wandered from room to room, grieving for the life she had had before and stunned by how far away it seemed from where she had fallen.
To the outside world, the territory controlled by the Islamic State might seem to be a hermetically sealed land governed by the harshest laws of the seventh century. But until relatively recently, the routes into and out of Raqqa were open, for the most part. Traders would come and go, supplying The Organisation's needs and wants – including cigarettes, which some fighters smoked despite the fact that they were banned for Raqqa residents.
Dua, unable to bear another forced marriage, left first. Her brother made calls to Syrian friends in southern Turkey who could meet her on the other side, and the siblings boarded a small minibus for the two-hour ride to the Tal Abyad crossing early this year. The flow of refugees into Turkey was still heavy then, and the two passed through without being stopped.
When Aws decided to leave four months later, it was harder to cross the border because Turkey had started tightening security. She contacted Dua and was put in touch with the man who had helped Dua get out.
The man is part of a network in southern Turkey that has made a cottage industry of extricating people from Islamic State territory. When Aws got to the border crossing, one of the man's colleagues was waiting with a fake identity card that showed her to be his sister if she should be questioned.
Her heart was in her throat, but when the moment of crossing came, the men at the checkpoint never asked her to show identification, much less to remove her veil.
By early in the spring, Asma was agonising about whether to flee as well.
Raqqa had been transformed. Before, she would see someone she knew every 20 paces; the city felt small. But those who could afford to had fled. On the job in public, she was surrounded by strange faces and foreign accents.
The Organisation disapproved of young women's remaining unmarried, and Asma's situation had grown complicated. She became deeply depressed, her days stretching before her aridly.
"You couldn't go to the doctor without your father or brother. You couldn't go out to just take a walk," she said. "I just couldn't bear it anymore."
She felt her identity was being extinguished. "Before, I was like you," she told a reporter, waving her arms up and down. "I had a boyfriend, I went to the beach, I wore a bikini. Even in Syria, we wore short skirts and tank tops, and all of this was normal. Even my brothers didn't care – I had no trouble from anyone."
When she and a cousin plotted their escape, they told no one, not even their families, and took nothing but their handbags. A friend inside The Organisation agreed to get them out, and fear for him made the night journey even more terrifying. The friend guided them through three checkpoints, and finally, just after 1am, they arrived at the border crossing. They showed their ID cards and murmured goodbye.
"The guy at the checkpoint, I was convinced he knew we were trying to escape. I was so nervous and scared," Asma recalled. "But then I realised it only looked suspicious in my head, because I was so scared."
The car meeting them on the other side looked gray in the moonlight. They got in and drove away from the Islamic State, from what was left of Syria.
The Turkish city the three women now live in sits on a dry grass plain, its outskirts dotted with almond and plum groves, pine and olive trees. Low-slung apartment blocks were put up during a housing boom a few years ago, providing the cheap accommodation that has made it possible for many Syrian refugees to rebuild lives here.
There are scruffy Syrian children begging and selling tissues in the street, just as in Istanbul or Beirut. But there are opportunities for work, and the rent for a two-bedroom apartment is not staggeringly out of reach.
There are, by now, enough Syrians that the city centre has its own Syrian restaurants and baklava shops. The merchants in the bazaar are now practised in saying, in Arabic, "This price is just for your sake".
But not all of the city's Syrians were Islamic State collaborators, and Aws, Dua and Asma tightly guard their secret. They are stateless and dislocated, hiding pasts that could hurt them.
All three are taking English and Turkish classes, hoping that will someday help them chart a future elsewhere, perhaps in a more cosmopolitan part of Turkey. They live with Syrian families who are more established, whom they know from home or who had connections there. The families cover much of their living costs, and what they brought from home is enough for their language courses and daily expenses.
Aws wakes up and listens to the Lebanese singer Fayrouz as she makes her morning coffee. She is cagey about her social life, but she shows part of a new cellphone gallery that seems to echo her old life in Raqqa, before The Organisation took over: handsome friends, endless shisha cafes. She speaks with her family by voice chat a couple of times a month over WhatsApp.
She wants to find a way to finish her university studies, and to feel normal. "But here, walking on the street, they never let you forget that you've had to leave your country," she said. "Once, someone told a friend of mine, 'If you were a real man, you wouldn't have left your country'. It killed me when I heard this."
Asma is more fearful and rarely goes out within the town. She has severed contact with her family, worried that the militants will punish them for her escape. Once a week, she emails and calls a friend in Raqqa to complain that her family has spurned her. It is untrue, but she hopes that if she says it often enough, it will spread and perhaps even be heard by Islamic State intelligence, and that she will protect her family from any consequences of her departure.
After years of shame and disappointment, none of the three said they could imagine ever going back, even if the Islamic State falls. The Raqqa that was their home only exists in their memories.
"Who knows when the fighting will stop?" Asma said. "Syria will become like Palestine; every year, people think: 'Next year, it will end. We will be free.' And decades pass. Syria is a jungle now."
"Even if one day things are all right, I will never return to Raqqa," Aws said. "Too much blood has been spilled on all sides – I'm not talking just about IS, but among everyone."

The New York Times

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30-11-2015, 01:14 PM.
Post: #4
RE: Global War Against Terror
Islamic State entrenches in Libyan stronghold of Sirte


  • NOVEMBER 30, 2015 1:07PM
Islamic State fighters approach a power plant in the Libyan city of Sirte.

Even as foreign powers step up pressure against Islamic State in Syria and Iraq, the militant group has expanded in Libya and established a new base close to Europe where it can generate oil revenue and plot terror attacks.

Since announcing its presence in February in Sirte, the city on Libya’s Mediterranean coast has become the first that the militant group governs outside of Syria and Iraq. Its presence there has grown over the past year from 200 eager fighters to a roughly 5000-strong contingent which includes administrators and financiers, according to estimates by Libyan intelligence officials, residents and activists in the area.
The group has exploited the deep divisions in Libya, which has two rival governments, to create this new stronghold of violent religious extremism just across the Mediterranean Sea from Italy. Along the way, they scored a string of victories — defeating one of the strongest fighting forces in the country and swiftly crushing a local popular revolt.
Libya’s neighbours have become increasingly alarmed.
Tunisia closed its border with Libya for 15 days on Wednesday, the day after Islamic State claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing on a bus in the capital Tunis that killed 12 presidential guards.
Tunisia is also building a security wall along a third of that border to stem the flow of extremists between the countries. Two previous attacks in Tunisia this year that killed dozens of tourists were carried out by gunmen the government said were trained by Islamic State in Libya, which has recruited hundreds of Tunisians to its ranks.
This burgeoning operation in Libya shows how Islamic State is able to grow and adapt even as it is targeted by Russian, French and US-led air strikes in Syria as well as Kurdish and Iraqi ground assaults in Iraq.
On Thursday, nearly two weeks after Islamic State’s attacks on Paris, French President François Hollande and Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi met in the French capital where both said Europe must turn its attention to the militants’ rise in Libya. Mr. Renzi said Libya risks becoming the “next emergency” if it is not given priority.
In Libya, Islamic State has fended off challenges from government-aligned militias and called for recruits who have the technical know-how to put nearby oil facilities into operation. Libyan officials said they are worried it is only a matter of time before the radical fighters attempt to take over more oilfields and refineries near Sirte to boost their revenues — money that could fund attacks in the Middle East and Europe.
Sirte is a gateway to several major oilfields and refineries farther east on the same coast and Islamic State has targeted those installations in the past year.
“They have made their intentions clear,” said Ismail Shoukry, head of military intelligence for the region that includes Sirte. “They want to take their fight to Rome.”
Islamic State is benefiting from a conflict that has further weakened government control in Libya. For nearly a year, the US and European powers have pointed to the Islamic State threat to press the rival governments to come to a power-sharing agreement. Despite a United Nations-brokered draft agreement for peace announced in October, neither side has taken steps to implement it.
A new UN envoy, Martin Kobler, was appointed this month to break the stalemate, part of efforts to find a political solution to counter the extremists’ expansion.
“We don’t have a real state. We have a fragmented government,” said Fathi Ali Bashaagha, a politician from the city of Misrata who participated in the UN-led negotiations. “Every day we delay on a political deal, it is a golden opportunity for Islamic State to grow.”
Since early 2014, two rival factions have ruled Libya, effectively dividing the country. In the east, an internationally recognised government based in the town of Tobruk has won the backing of regional powers Egypt and the United Arab Emirates. In the west, an Islamist-leaning government based in Tripoli has relied on Misrata fighting forces for political legitimacy.
Islamic State militants have successfully taken on and defeated myriad Libyan armed factions, including the powerful militias from Misrata which were the driving force behind the revolt that unseated longtime dictator Muammar al-Gaddafi in 2011. Misrata, 150 miles west of Sirte, has recently come under sporadic Islamic State attacks.
Members of Misrata’s militias, who are loosely under the control of the western government in Tripoli, say they lack the support to mount an offensive against Islamic State. Earlier this month, the Tripoli government forced the Misrata militias into a humiliating prisoner swap with Islamic State.
“There will be no meaningful action without a political agreement,” said Abdullah al-Najjar, a field commander with the Brigade 166, an elite Misrata militia that engaged in a protracted fight with Islamic State on the outskirts of Sirte earlier this year. “You have to know you’re going to war with a government that is going to back you.”
This month, the US launched an air strike against Islamic State in Libya, its first against the group outside of Syria and Iraq. Officials said they believe the strike killed one of the top deputies of Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. The deputy, Abu Nabil al-Anbari, had been sent to Libya last year to establish the group’s presence there.
In recent weeks, a flood of foreign recruits and their families have arrived in Sirte — another indication the group is becoming increasingly comfortable in its North African base, according to residents and activists from Sirte and Libyan military officials.
Islamic State has called on recruits to travel to Libya instead of trying to enter Syria, while commanders have repatriated Libyan fighters from Syria and Iraq, Libyan intelligence officials said.
“Sirte will be no less than Raqqa,” is a mantra often repeated by Islamic State leaders in the Libyan city during sermons and radio broadcasts, several residents and an activist from the city said. Raqqa is the group’s self-declared capital in Syria.
Like its mother organisation in Syria, Islamic State has appointed foreign “emirs” in Sirte to administer its brutal brand of social control. Music, smoking and cellphone networks have been banned while women are only allowed to walk the streets in full cover. Morality police patrol in vehicles marked with Islamic State’s logo and courts administering Islamic law, or Shariah, as well as prisons have been set up.
With a population of about 700,000, Sirte was long known for being Gadhafi’s hometown and a stronghold of his supporters.
Soon after Libya’s uprising ended more than four decades of Gadhafi’s rule, he was killed in Sirte by fighters from Misrata.
Earlier this month, Islamic State reopened schools in the city, segregating students by gender and strictly enforcing an Islamic State approved curriculum. On Fridays, the traditional day of communal prayer, the group organises public lectures and residents are often herded into public squares to witness executions and lashings of those who run afoul of the strict rules.
The seeds of Islamic State’s growth in Libya were planted after Gadhafi’s ouster. In the almost exclusively Sunni Muslim Libya, the Sunni extremist group exploited tribal and political rifts that lingered after the strongman’s death, particularly around Sirte.
Islamic State lured extremists from other groups under the Islamic State umbrella.
By June, Brigade 166, one of western Libya’s strongest armed brigades, abandoned a monthslong battle with the militants on Sirte’s outskirts. In August, Islamic State cemented their grip on the city, bringing the last holdout district under their control, officials and residents said.
Islamic State crushed an armed uprising in August in three days. It was sparked by local residents angered over the group’s killing of a young cleric who opposed the radicals. Militants publicly crucified several people who participated in the revolt and confiscated homes.
The brutality moved the internationally recognised government in eastern Libya to plead for military intervention by Arab nations and a lifting of a UN arms embargo on Libya in effect since 2011. But the support never came.
Unlike in Syria, the group has struggled to provide basic services. Gas stations are dry and residents are expected to smuggle in their own fuel — as long as it is not confiscated by Islamic State.
Hospitals have been abandoned after Islamic State ordered male and female staffers be segregated. The ill must travels miles to other cities for treatment, a trip that is often accompanied by difficult questioning and searches at Islamic State checkpoints.
“No services, just punishment,” said Omar, a 33-year-old civil engineer who fled Sirte after taking part in the failed uprising against Islamic State. “Sirte has gone dark.”
Despite the challenges, Islamic State has big plans for Sirte. A recent edition of their propaganda magazine, Dabiq, featured an interview with Abu Mughirah al-Qahtani, who was described as “the delegated leader” for Islamic State in Libya. He vowed to use Libya’s geographic position — and its oil reserves — to disrupt Europe’s security and economy.
About 85 per cent of Libya’s crude oil production in 2014 went to Europe, with Italy being the largest recipient. About half its natural gas production is exported to Italy.
“The control of Islamic State over this region will lead to economic breakdowns,” the leader of the Libyan operation said, “especially for Italy and the rest of the European states.”
The Wall Street Journal

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