ISIS Losing the Battle but Winning the War

The Islamic State is crumbling — if too slowly. More than two years have passed since French President François Hollande promised, “We will bomb Raqqa“. Sooner or later, ISIS will probably be reduced to a small enclave with no territorial continuity, and its chief, Abu Bakr al Baghdadi, will be eliminated. It would, nevertheless, be most dangerous to dismiss these three years as a short parenthesis: Nazism did not last as long: “just” 12 years in power and five at war with the rest of Europe. The physical and cultural consequences of the Nazi tyranny are, unfortunately, still visible in Europe. The same will be said of the Islamic State. Three years of terror and conquests are not bad in for a war between the Caliphate vs. everyone else.

ISIS will leave behind an unprecedented terrorist infrastructure (277 Europeans killed on European soil in two years). If ISIS is retreating in Mosul, it is rapidly advancing in Manchester. The Caliphate is winning its war in Europe. Six months ago in the Britain, the rise of Jeremy Corbyn, the ultra-pacifist Labour party leader who blamed the “war on terror” for the recent attacks in Manchester and London, would have been unthinkable. His success is clearly linked to the recent bloodshed in British streets.

In the West, ISIS has assailed parliaments in Ottawa, cafés in Copenhagen, beaches in Nice, social centers in San Bernardino, metros and airports in Brussels, music festivals in Manchester, theaters, sports stadiums, restaurants and kosher markets in Paris, churches in Rouen, Christmas markets in Berlin, malls in Stockholm. Not bad for a “JV team“, as Barack Obama called the Caliphate.

ISIS has been an unparalleled attraction for the umma, the world community of the Islamic faithful: about 30,000 Muslims around the world — 6,000 from Europe — have left their homes to fight under the deadly black flag of the Caliph. ISIS was able to build a global network of terror. Jihadist groups such as Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis in Egypt, Abu Sayyaf in the Philippines, Ansar al-Sharia in Libya, Boko Haram in Nigeria, the Caucasus Emirate in Russia, and the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, along with others, have all pledged allegiance to ISIS. The Caliphate has also become the wealthiest terror group in history. Sebastian Gorka, a White House advisor on radical Islam, said: “The attacks of September 11, 2001, cost barely $500,000. ISIS makes that in six hours! Do you feel safe?”

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Air Force Vet Sentenced to 35 Years for Attempting to Join ISIS

A former member of the U.S. Air Force was sentenced to 35 years in prison for trying to provide material support to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). Tairod Nathan Webster Pugh was an Air Force avionics instrument system specialist from 1986-1990 and worked as an airplane mechanic for companies in the U.S. and the Middle East.

U.S. District Judge Nicholas G. Garaufis reportedly applauded Pugh’s military service while meting out the long sentence, but noted it was “a long time ago” and that Pugh’s decision to join ISIS is “a very sad thing.”

Court records trace Pugh’s radicalization to 2013, when he was working with Kalitta Air, an air transportation company in Dubai. A co-worker saw Pugh watching jihadi content online, including images accompanied by messages such as, “If fighting for my religious freedom makes me a terrorist, I am a terrorist.”

In late 2014, he made several comments supporting ISIS to his co-workers while working with a charter airline company in Kuwait City. He told a co-worker about an ISIS advertisement “looking for pilots and mechanics, and they are paying big salaries.”

Computer records show Pugh started extensively viewing and downloading ISIS propaganda videos in late 2014 and early 2015, searching for ways to travel to Syria to join ISIS. A search of Pugh’s laptop revealed searches for “borders controlled by Islamic state,” ISIS propaganda videos such as “Flames of War” and “Virtues of Seeking Martyrdom” and execution videos.

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Can ISIS Survive the Caliphate’s Collapse?

The Arabic word baqiya (“remaining”) is one of the most common adjectives associated with the Islamic State (aka ISIS), dating back to its earliest incarnation that claimed to be a state: namely, the Islamic State of Iraq (ISI). Once ISI officially expanded into Syria under the name of the Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) and began seriously controlling and administering territory, the additional claim of “expanding” was soon tagged on to the organisation’s unofficial slogan, thus baqiya wa tatamaddad. Indeed, with the capture of Mosul and other major towns and cities in Iraq and Syria, the claim to be remaining and expanding was not without merit, especially following the declaration of the Caliphate and spread of the Islamic State franchise into multiple other countries throughout the region.

Today, we no longer speak of the Islamic State as expanding, but rather debate whether it will survive as it comes under increasing pressure on the main fronts in Iraq and Syria but also abroad: thus, in Libya, which was often assumed to be the “fallback” option for the Islamic State, the organisation’s affiliates no longer control any towns in the country.

Given that the Islamic State is now contracting, will any of it ultimately remain? Some of the Islamic State’s messaging has been devoted to this very topic, and predictably argues against the idea that loss of territory means the end of the Caliphate project.

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Does Islamic State Engage in Organ Trading out of Turkey?

Charges that Islamic State (IS) engages in organ trading — taking body parts from their victims in Iraq and Syria and selling them to traffickers in Turkey — have surfaced again.

The Iranian news network Alalam reported on October 6 that IS has set up a market in Turkey where it sells human organs stolen from innocent people. Alalam also posted a photograph of a person whose organ was taken.

The Iraqi News also reported that IS has kidnapped and sold many children in Syria to Turkish organ traffickers in order to finance its operations.

Turkey’s government-funded news service, Anadolu Agency, reported months ago that ISIS opened a “medical school” in Northern Syria.

Wayne Madsen, an American investigative reporter and a former intelligence analyst at the US National Security Agency (NSA), told Gatestone that IS has been, and is, involved in organ trading. “The Uyghur battalions of ISIS are heavily engaged in this. They are also known to be involved in organ harvesting in China.”

“We… have no reason to doubt them given other similar atrocities that have been documented and other heinous crimes for which ISIL has proudly taken credit,” the U.S. State Department said in response to charges of IS’s organ harvesting. In December, the U.S. government revealed that it had obtained an ISIS document during a raid by Special Forces in Syria. “The apostate’s life and organs do not have to be respected and may be taken with impunity,” the document said.

Anne Speckhard wrote that ISIS is involved in organ smuggling and earns profits from it. “Former prisoner Abo Rida stated that surgeons for IS terror group removed kidneys and corneas from prisoners. He said that they were told that jihadists were more deserving of organs,” she added.

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ISIS Terrorists Tapping Organized Crime to Infiltrate Europe

With the help of organized criminal elements, Islamic State terrorists reportedly are buying legitimate British passports that can evade security detection from security authorities, the Daily Beast reports.

An Italian intelligence investigation into the Camorra mafia discovered an advertisement on the deep web that linked to a Naples firm capable of producing sophisticated biometric passports.

“We are selling original UK Passports made with your info/picture. Also, your info will get entered into the official passport database,” the advertisement reads. “So its (sic) possible to travel with our passports. How do we do it? Trade secret! Information on how to send us your info and picture will be given after purchase! You can even enter the UK/EU with our passports, we can just add a stamp for the country you are in.”

Other investigations also shed light onto the broader ties between terrorists and European criminal organizations, including in the smuggling of weapons and forged documents.

Last year Italian authorities arrested an Iraqi man in Naples for facilitating weapons and document transfers to the Islamic State.

“Naples has been, for many years, a central logistics base for the Middle East,” prosecutor Franco Roberti told the Daily Beast last year, adding that “the Camorra (mafia) is also active in the world of jihadist terrorism that passes through Naples.”

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Beyond ISIS: Europe’s Salafists Nurturing Jihad

Before there was the Islamic State, before YouTube videos that seduce Europe’s Muslims to join in the jihad, before Twitter and Tumblr and the many tools of recruitment on the Internet, there was the local mosque.

There still is.

With all the emphasis now on ISIS and its various affiliates, and on the dangers they pose against the West, we have largely forgotten the forces that were radicalizing Muslim youth in Europe long before ISIS came along. Worse, we have failed to notice they still do. And yet these largely Saudi-backed, Salafist institutions – mosques and schools and Islamic community centers – arguably pose the greatest threat to Western culture, both in terms of their potential for inspiring terrorism and the sociopolitical influence they exert.

Concerns about Salafist groups and their unwavering impact in Europe have reemerged of late, the result of numerous investigations into ties between European mosques and terror financing organizations. Added to this is a growing unrest within the European Muslim community as it struggles with its own identity and future. In the process, counterterrorism experts and government officials have increasingly been forced to acknowledge that “bombing the hell out of ISIS,” as the U.S. president-elect has sworn to do, won’t be enough to solve the problem.

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