Why There Is So Little Attention for the Islamic State’s Defeat

Baghdad Iraq
The Al-Rahman mosque in Baghdad, Iraq, October 23, 2003 (James Gordon)

David French wonders why the defeat of the self-proclaimed Islamic State (or ISIS) isn’t a bigger story.

Remember how debates about ISIS dominated the presidential primaries? Remember how Donald Trump and Ted Cruz ratcheted up their rhetoric until they both seemed to promise that they’d commit warcrimes, like carpet bombing and torture, to defeat the deadly threat? ISIS was often the most important and most prominent story in the world.

Now that the wannabe caliphate lies in ruins, though, Americans no longer care. Read more “Why There Is So Little Attention for the Islamic State’s Defeat”

Dark Side to Coalition’s Success Against Islamic State

Police in Mainz, Germany, November 21, 2015
Police in Mainz, Germany, November 21, 2015 (Franz Ferdinand Photography)

The Western-backed effort to drive the Islamic State out of Iraq is making headway. The self-proclaimed caliphate has lost two-thirds of its territory. The battle for Mosul, Iraq’s second city, is well underway.

But there is a dark side to the coalition’s success in Iraq. We’ve seen it in the streets of Paris, Nice and London: The more the Islamic State is cornered, the more of its sympathizers commit terrorist attacks in the West. Read more “Dark Side to Coalition’s Success Against Islamic State”

Trump Gave a Surprisingly Intelligent Speech to Muslim Leaders

Donald Trump
Businessman Donald Trump makes a speech in Derry, New Hampshire, August 19, 2015 (Michael Vadon)

This could have gone a lot worse. The speech Donald Trump gave on Islam and terror in Riyadh on Sunday was surprisingly intelligent.

According to his prepared remarks, the president rejected the clash-of-civilizations paradigm some of his fanatical underlings, like Steve Bannon, have promoted.

“This is not a battle between different faiths, different sects or different civilizations,” Trump told an assembly of Muslim leaders.

This is a battle between barbaric criminals who seek to obliterate human life and decent people of all religions who seek to protect it.

That is quite right — and a reversal from Trump’s previous rhetoric. Read more “Trump Gave a Surprisingly Intelligent Speech to Muslim Leaders”

Defeat in Mosul Will Not Eliminate the Islamic State

As David Downing reported here on Sunday, Mosul could make a quick economic recovery once it is entirely liberated from the self-declared Islamic State by Iraqi government forces.

Not only is the city, once Iraq’s second largest, a hub for northern Iraqi industry and trade; it’s also situated close to major oil and natural gas reserves. The potential for further economic expansion could be close at hand.

The battle will not be over quickly, though. It has been estimated it will take another three to five months to rout the Islamic State from eastern Mosul.

Once the militants are defeated, internal and sectarian divisions could resurface. A Shia-Sunni divide seems inevitable. Mosul being a Sunni majority town doesn’t help the cause for peaceful settlement. Friction between religious groups can hurt reconstruction efforts, especially with the involvement of Iraqi prime minister Haider al-Abadi’s sanctioned Shia fighters. We are looking at a “game of thrones” mentality where a balance of factions in this enclave becomes quite a task. Read more “Defeat in Mosul Will Not Eliminate the Islamic State”

Germans Refuse to Panic After Berlin Terrorist Attack

German chancellor Angela Merkel delivers a news conference in Berlin, November 9
German chancellor Angela Merkel delivers a news conference in Berlin, November 9 (Bundesregierung)

Last week’s terrorist attack in Berlin does not appear to have had a major political impact in Germany. Few blame Angela Merkel and her immigration policy, even though it was a Tunisian man who killed twelve people by driving his truck into a Christmas market.

A Forsa survey conducted for the magazine Stern found that only 28 percent of Germans believe there is a connection between the attack and Merkel’s decision in 2015 to allow in more than one million asylum seekers from the Middle East and North Africa. Read more “Germans Refuse to Panic After Berlin Terrorist Attack”

The World Is Much Better Off Than It Feels

The sun sets over the San Francisco Bay in California, September 29, 2015
The sun sets over the San Francisco Bay in California, September 29, 2015 (Thomas Hawk)

There will be few who will miss 2016; perhaps fewer still that will miss 2017. Americans despair their electoral choices (choosing cancer or a heart attack, to some). Brits have quit the European Union. Turkey, post-coup, is also mid-purge. Islamic State’s lone wolves butcher and bomb. Even the pope is using the “w” word to describe the state of planetary affairs.

Yet if we step back, draw our heads out of the bleeding and leading trenches of 24/7 news and glance upon the supposedly pock-marked battlefield of our world, we see not vast burned out cities or massed firestorms sweeping upon us. The picture is much better than they say.

Here’s why. Read more “The World Is Much Better Off Than It Feels”

Islam, Sex and Masculinity: What Motivated Omar Mateen?

A lot has been written about Omar Mateen this week, the man who killed 49 people in an Orlando, Florida gay club on Sunday morning. Let me share two pieces that I’ve found the most illuminating.

The first is by Adam Garfinkle, the editor of The American Interest and one of the best-informed analysts of Middle Eastern affairs and Islam that I know, who makes several points. Read more “Islam, Sex and Masculinity: What Motivated Omar Mateen?”

Staying Rational in the Wake of Orlando

A highly individualistic culture like the United States lends itself quite readily to bursts of emotion; citizens feel compelled, rightly or wrongly, to show that they feel as much as anyone else, if not more.

In the wake of the massacre in Orlando, this pattern reasserts itself once again in America.

But succumbing to anger or depression or any extreme emotion while trying to decide on policy is always a mistake. Here’s how to stay rational — and support good geopolitical decisions — in the wake of murder. Read more “Staying Rational in the Wake of Orlando”

While Trump Talks, Obama Routs Islamic State

Barack Obama
American president Barack Obama waits backstage before participating in a panel discussion in Atlanta, Georgia, March 29 (White House/Pete Souza)

While Donald Trump was hectoring the man he hopes to succeed next year for supposedly falling short in the fight against Islamic terrorism, President Barack Obama reminded Americans on Tuesday that his administration is gradually eradicating the self-declared Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.

It’s unclear to what extent the group was involved in the shooting at a Florida gay nightclub this weekend that killed nearly fifty people. It rather looks like the shooter, Omar Mateen, an American citizen of Afghan descent, was motivated by anti-gay bigotry more than anything else and only professed his allegiance to the Islamic State at the last minute.

Whatever the Islamic State’s role, Obama is determined to root it out. But — and this is what separates him from many Republicans, including Trump — he is not losing his mind and pretending that a ragtag band of jihadists in the desert of the Middle East poses an existential threat to the United States. Read more “While Trump Talks, Obama Routs Islamic State”

Looking for Solutions After the Orlando Shooting

Fifty people were killed this weekend at a gay club in Orlando, Florida. Fifty people, who were partying and socializing in a place that is supposed to be safe for LGBTs. Who were no threat to anyone. Who were targeted because of who and where they were.

We don’t need to speculate about the killer’s motives to understand what this was. Whether Omar Mateen was motivated by religious fanaticism or anti-gay bigotry; this was a hate crime.

Events like these inspire fear and anger. We’re afraid it might happen to us next. We’re angry that it could happen in the first place. We are emotional and we all want to make sure it never happens again.

Some will argue now is not a time for politics. But what’s the point if we don’t learn from the massacre of fifty innocent people to reduce the chances of more people being killed? Read more “Looking for Solutions After the Orlando Shooting”