The true soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him, but because he loves what is behind him. G.K. Chesterton
“A court of occupiers by definition cannot be just. Don’t take it personally, your honor!” From a speech at trial in Rostov-on-Don on 19 August 2015 by Oleg Sentsov
“What is happening today, the direct bloody war between the Orthodox crusaders – Russia and Ukraine – is but one example of God’s punishment for them, as described in the Qu’ran. “Whether long or short, this Russian-Ukrainian war is but the beginning of the next wars between the Crusader countries, and the images of destruction and death we see are but a small scene of the situation in which the great wars begin.” al-Naba ISIS digital newsletter
“do not humiliate anyone which you are not sure to destroy”. Niccolò Macchiavelli
What an awkward title! By now you have probably figured out that my field of specialty is rather specific. I write from time to time on global security matters in general, but what really interests me is Islamist Jihadism. I am not one to see a terrorist behind every bush and under every rock. I am, however, an intelligence practitioner who looks really hard at the outsized impact of terrorism on the global landscape.
Our mainstream media seems to only publish articles on terrorism when something rather audacious and heinous strikes us close to home. Then they flood the airwaves, cyber-world, and newsstands with ridiculously melodramatic stories until they have bled every drop of blood out of their reader’s interest level. Little by way of corroborating research goes into publishing their narratives. They understand that the general populace is not as interested in the truth as they are in entertainment. A journalistic fabrication can be tolerated as long as it holds their interest and imagination.
Let me write a short aside here. Lately, I have been writing somewhat openly about my disdain toward what can only be described as misinformation/disinformation by the mainstream media. I do not want to impugn the entire industry. But it is not isolated. It is a rampant and pervasive trend. This is why you will see at the bottom of every article that I write a list of references and resources. Those, and about 30 years of living and working among these people, are what I use to formulate my conclusions. I will make mistakes as well, and if I do I am happy to be engaged and challenged on my conclusions. There is a feedback link on every article as well.
This week I want to see if we can weave together a general geopolitical global security tapestry in Ukraine and somehow accurately tie it to the global Islamist Jihadist movement. I would propose that this war in Ukraine as initiated by Russia is a huge boost for terrorism in the world. There can be few better things for them than to have the most sophisticated intelligence agencies in the world’s eyes distracted from them and pointed in another direction.
Right now, The US, NATO, China, and Russia are all looking deep within the heartland of Ukraine and Russia, leaving a proverbial back door open, at best protected by little more than a screen door. Believe me, this war in Ukraine is a gift that groups like ISIS, al Qaeda, and others are viewing with great glee. For them, it is a punishment by Allah. They are amused by what they are calling ‘crusader against crusader’ warfare.
This week we will look at that position by the leaders of Jihadism and how they might entertain some bold moves against Western targets as our eyes are distracted, for the time being, on one another. One thing we will discover is that there is far more than meets the eye in all that is happening among the whispers in shadowy alleys and in the furtive passing of operational planning being handed under the tables in cheap dark cafes in Europe and the Middle East.
The title of this week’s More than Meets the Eye just about says it all. Last week, in a full-page article of al Naba, the ISIS equivalent of Popular Mechanics magazine, the nameless author (who is also the communications liaison to the leadership of ISIS) mocked the “Christian against Christian” war instigated by Russia in Ukraine. He labeled this as a ‘crusader against crusader’ war and jokingly said that it was “divine punishment” for the West, which he hopes will result in the destruction of the “enemies of Islam.”
The editorial said: “What is happening today, the direct bloody war between the Orthodox crusaders – Russia and Ukraine – is but one example of God’s punishment for them, as described in the Qu’ran.” He fails to mention the Surah (chapter) and the Ayah (verse) to substantiate his claim, but he speaks with quite a bit of confidence. “Whether long or short, this Russian-Ukrainian war is but the beginning of the next wars between the Crusader countries, and the images of destruction and death we see are but a small scene of the situation in which the great wars begin.”
The writer of the al-Naba article stated clearly what the Muslim’s position should be on this war. The command for all Muslims is to stand by the side and watch with amusement as the crusaders destroy one another, if for no other reason than Putin forming an alliance with Bashar al-Assad against ISIS in the Syrian civil war, Volodymyr Zelensky being Jewish, and Ukraine being a member of the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS. There were few words minced in this declaration.
What can be expected from terrorists as a result of this war in Ukraine? Let us consider several realities that can be directly connected to the war in Georgia in 2008 and in Crimea in 2014.
- There is a strong relationship between terrorism and conflict, with 97 percent of all terrorist deaths recorded in a conflict zone.
- Terrorism deaths in Ukraine are expected to increase substantially in the coming months and will rise proportionally with the intensity of the conflict.
- This is despite that terrorism in Russia and Ukraine had been improving – in Russia since 2012 and Ukraine since 2015.
- Terrorist attacks in Russia had been declining since 2012 when 213 attacks were recorded. In 2021 there was only one.
- Terrorist attacks in Ukraine peaked in 2015 with 58 attacks, while in 2021 there were none.
- Terrorist deaths in Ukraine peaked during the 2014 conflict with Russia.
- Terrorism peaked in the Russia and Eurasia region in 2010 in the wake of the Russian-Georgia conflict with 339 attacks and 318 deaths recorded.
- The period in between the conflict with Georgia and the annexation of Crimea accounted for the most terrorism in Russia over the last two decades with 87 percent of attacks and fatalities occurring between 2008 and 2014.
Why are the Islamist Jihadists laughing?
Many do not fully understand the real war that is taking place amidst Muslim communities. Yes, it is often more religious in nature, and it is also often a struggle between different sects of Islam such as the Sunni and the Shi’ites. But most of the time the Islamist Jihadist struggle is between the secular ruling powerful families and the Islamists, or extremist Salafists or violent Islamist extremists. Osama bin Laden referred to the local ruling elite as the “near” enemy. The near enemy is their primary foe. So why all the violence against the US and the West. Yes, it is partly due to the rejection of major world religions, i.e. Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism, and Judaism.
But more importantly, it is these countries, homes to these religions, which are supporting their near enemy, the local tribal families. They are what Osama bin Laden referred to as the “far” enemy. Bin Laden was convinced, as are many of his former followers, that the near enemy could not be defeated unless the far enemy was defeated as well. This is a key component that many politicians do not understand and it leads them to ask the wrong questions about how to defeat violent extremism. One thing is for certain: if you ask the wrong question, you will get the wrong answer–every time.
What is the populist view?
Mounting sectarianism, deepening authoritarianism, state fragility, even other ideologies’ dwindling appeal do not mean jihadists’ tenets will soon inspire mass appeal. Polls consistently show much of what they promote resonates broadly: opposition to corrupt local regimes, U.S. policy in the Muslim world, Israel and its treatment of Palestinians and Western influence, and a greater role for Islam in public life. But the strands distinguishing violent jihadists from political Islamists inspire much less support. Their social vision tends to be too austere. Even for those to whom a caliphate might on some level be alluring, violent transnational revolt or drawing the West into an apocalyptic war to establish it is considerably less so. Killing Muslim civilians is deeply unpopular without the kind of hatred only sustained conflict generates. The revulsion of jihadists’ extreme bloodshed inspired in the past, notably in Algeria and Iraq, partly explains previous waves’ reversal – though the widening Sunni-Shia fault line and images of the Syrian carnage on local media across the Muslim world risk inuring many to violence.
Islamist Jihadists and I might suggest even the general populations of the Islamic world are amused by the sense of relief that the world’s attention is not on them right now. They are amused that the bombings, the refugees, the killing, and the political machinations have come home to roost back in the West. It feels sinister to say, but they are amused that the misery of life is getting passed around and finally it is coming back on those who have been the progenitors of all the pain and suffering in the world; the West.
What most of us will do at this point is sit in bewilderment asking ourselves, “what in the world are they thinking? Ukraine and Russia are not part of the West and are not Christian nations.” To the Islamic mind, they are. If you are from the West and you are not a Muslim, you are a Christian. All Christians do is eat pork, drink alcohol, and have sex with one another. If Christians would turn to Islam, they could have an abundant life of living for Allah. This is the Muslim narrative.
Like I said above, the social vision of strict Islamic life tends to be too austere and even Muslims wonder about its value. Meanwhile, the average Muslim will continue to blindly follow their narrative and find their amusement in the destruction of their perceived enemies as much as they can. To be fair, many who perceive themselves to be Christian will mindlessly follow their narrative, giving neither thought nor care to what is happening in Islamic lands, all at the cost of denying the central message of the Bible, to love your neighbor as yourself and care enough to at least tell them of the promises of God.
The US and its allies need to not lose focus of the headway they have made towards tracking and isolating Islamist Jihadist groups. It has been a while, and it is easy to think that they just got bored and went home, but billions of resources have been spent investigating and curtailing Islamist violence.
Rest assured that the reason we have not seen another 9/11 is due to the attention that has been paid to the groups that were involved in the attacks as well as their spin-offs. Terrorist groups do not have the luxury of simply rebranding by changing their name from Google to Alphabet or FaceBook to Meta. Their egregious acts tend to stick to them. Plus, Google and Meta might be kidding themselves. Many of their former actions are sticking to them like a tick on a hound dog.
Another really good action at this point might be to review the counter-extremist Jihadist strategy. A kinetic, centered strategy has not proven to yield many benefits either for the West or for the Islamic world. Having lived in the Islamic world for well over 25 years, I can speak with certainty that most Muslims just want to be left alone to live their lives in peace and tranquility. As in most cases, it is the radical few who continuously stir the pot and radicalize youth to the point of violence.
Knowing the condition of the world, it is unlikely that a non-kinetic response is all that will be needed, but it needs to be paired with a response of mutually beneficial partnership and respect. The struggle in Ukraine today could be a new starting point for a much better world order, beneficial to both the Islamic world and to the West.
Here is an excellent long-read article on the crisis in Ukraine today… Exploiting Disorder: al-Qaeda and the Islamic State… https://www.crisisgroup.org/global/exploiting-disorder-al-qaeda-and-islamic-state
U.S. AND EUROPE TRY TO WEAN OFF RUSSIAN ENERGY… https://mailchi.mp/thesoufancenter/us-and-europe-try-to-wean-off-russian-energy?e=47e9e33bef
For your comments or questions about any of our digests please feel free to write to me at: firstname.lastname@example.org