Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

September 10, 2014

Preparing to listen to the President

Filed under: Radicalization,Terrorist Threats & Attacks — by Philip J. Palin on September 10, 2014

Raqqa_Rump Map

At 9PM Eastern tonight — Wednesday, September 10 — the President is scheduled to outline plans to engage a radical religiously-inspired insurgency sometimes known as Islamic State (IS) or Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) or the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).

The confusing labels reflect a fractured reality.  I am inclined to call it the Raqqa Rump.  The wanna-be capital of the self-styled caliphate is at Raqqa (Syria).  As you know, I have a weakness for alliteration.  And the phrase signals my own view of their fundamental character.

To better hear what is being said — and not said — by the President, following is some background.

The BBC provides an overview of the group.

The Telegraph provides another summary.

Back in June START generated a fact-sheet that situates my Raqqa Rump among other terrorists, insurgents, freedom-fighters, violent extemists… whatever.

On August 27 the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point published an analysis of the current military-political context in Syria and Northern Iraq.

On Saturday (September 6) a Chatham House middle east expert published a thoughtful commentary in The Guardian.

Some further analysis and commentary from the Rand Corporation.

British Prime Minister Cameron has warned that ISIL, especially potential British returnees from the fighting along the Euphrates, are a direct threat to British and European security.  In a mid-August commentary, the Prime Minister painted a rather nightmarish picture:

We are in the middle of a generational struggle against a poisonous and extremist ideology, which I believe we will be fighting for the rest of my political lifetime. We face in Isil a new threat that is single-minded, determined and unflinching in pursuit of its objectives. Already it controls not just thousands of minds, but thousands of square miles of territory, sweeping aside much of the boundary between Iraq and Syria to carve out its so-called caliphate. It makes no secret of its expansionist aims. Even today it has the ancient city of Aleppo firmly within its sights. And it boasts of its designs on Jordan and Lebanon, and right up to the Turkish border. If it succeeds, we would be facing a terrorist state on the shores of the Mediterranean and bordering a Nato member. This is a clear danger to Europe and to our security. It is a daunting challenge.

The immediate implications for the United States posed by those claiming Raqqa as home are a bit more ambivalent.  Obviously they are a deadly threat to any Americans they encounter in Syria or Iraq.  There has also been talk of attacks on the United States.  Some number of Americans have made a pilgrimage — horribly misguided summer break? — to Raqqa.  The numbers are estimated at between a dozen and hundreds.

There is an intent to hit the US.  There is some level of capability.  The so-called caliphate’s extra-regional capacity is, however, not thought by most informed observers to be significant — at least not yet.  Strong action now is intended to be effectively preemptive.

But whatever the reality in and around Raqqa, an opinion survey conducted last weekend found a significant majority of Americans perceive a clear and present danger.  “Seventy-one (71) percent of respondents said that members of the militant group ISIL have the capability and resources to carry out terrorists plots in the U.S. The same poll found that 53 percent of those interviewed are “very concerned” about the threat ISIL poses to national security, while 34 percent are “somewhat concerned.””

As noted in a previous HLSWatch post, the President has recently determined to “degrade and destroy” the current threat of “systemic and broad-based aggression” by the group.  The US delegation left last week’s NATO summit with several commitments to support such an effort. Later today we should hear more about why and how.

Prime Minister Cameron is not alone among European leaders in his concern.  Tuesday the editor-in-chief of Deutsche Weld argued:

The “Islamic State” (IS) does not have to be contained. It has to be destroyed: militarily at first, but then politically, by breaking the allure of jihadism and drying up the sympathy for it. Foremost, the IS terror militia has to be fought. As if of their own accord, expectant eyes have turned to the United States for that task – and then to the entire West. NATO has, in any case, established a ten-party coalition of the willing to combat IS forces.

(Approximately 400 Germans are estimated to currently be fighting in Syria and potentially in Northern Iraq.)

On Sunday during a Meet The Press interview President Obama emphasized that the mission against the Raqqa Rump would depend on ground forces from the region — principally Iraqi military, Kurdish peshmerga and perhaps the Free Syrian Army — supported by an international coalition including Anglo-American air power.

The tactical/operational implications of Sunday’s decision by the Arab League to confront ISIS are not clear, at least to me.  A Thursday summit scheduled for Jeddah may be clarifying.

SecDef Hagel has been in Turkey for consultations.  Other than Iraqi Shias and Kurds, the Turks are probably the most important regional partner in the anti-Raqqa coalition.  So far Turkey’s involvement sounds rather restrained. (More)

It is not at all clear how Iraqi or other Sunnis will respond to this international intervention.  Ultimately it is their response that is likely to determine if this is all just another tactical clash or something more strategically significant: positive or negative.

Secretary Kerry has arrived in Baghdad.  It is not clear the new — still incomplete — Iraqi government can earn any credibility with Sunnis (or even the Kurds).  Much may depend on the radicals from Raqqa becoming so offensive as to generate (temporary) common-cause among various Iraqi factions. This is, after all, the same group that AQ-core considers crazy.

But what should be very clear is that neither the tactical nor strategic horizon is clear at all.

Homeland security will be a leading justification for expanded operations in Iraq and presumably Syria.  The immediate threat to the United States will probably, if anything, be slightly increased by more robust US engagement.  Our renewed military operations along the Euphrates and Tigris will increase the desire of some to directly target the United States.

Longer-term disruption and deterrence of attacks on Western targets depends a great deal on how the military operation and its consequences are perceived by a wildly incoherent — and so-far really rather small — cross-section of disaffected, often casually religious, volatile, violently-inclined young men in the region, in Europe, and here in the United States.

Late afternoon Tuesday the President met with Congressional leadership at the White House to discuss US military options.  According to The Hill, “None of the four leaders present in the meeting mentioned the need for congressional action following the meeting, nor did they offer many clues as to what new strategy elements Obama might announce.”

It is also worth noting that while we are — necessarily — focusing a great deal of attention on Raqqa and related, the situation in Afghanistan, Libya, and possibly in Yemen seems to be reaching a critical juncture.

Some analysis of this context — and the President’s message — here on Thursday morning… I’m not promising by when.

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Comment by Christopher Tingus

September 10, 2014 @ 6:07 am

Map: The Islamic State’s Claimed Caliphate http://bit.ly/1k9WElF

ISIS Declaration of Caliphate: Strategy or Blunder?
July 3, 2014 • From theTrumpet.com

ISIS appears to be picking a fight in the wrong neighborhood.

While ISIS’s declaration and power play might impress some jihadists like al Nusra, with which it allied to share control of the Iraq-Syria border on June 25, other militants and militant nations will not be impressed.

Essentially, as the Daily Beast’s J. M. Berger wrote, ISIS has risked everything to declare a caliphate. “It is an all-or-nothing gambit,” Berger wrote. “ISIS has meaningfully put its existence on the line with [the] pronouncement. It is playing the lottery, and while the odds are stacked against it, sometimes people win the lottery.”

The problem for ISIS is that the Middle East has some powerful entities that rig geopolitical “lotteries.” The Islamic Republic of Iran cannot and will not sit idly by while a pariah terrorist group claims kingship of the Middle East. Iran might have actually supported and funded ISIS in the past, as some reports have indicated, but it appears that ISIS and Iran have crossed paths. Iran will use its clout in Iraq, its rising international legitimacy (thanks in no small measure to its apparent pragmatism in nuclear negotiations) and ISIS’s global marginalization to defeat or severely cripple the newly established Islamic State and assert its prophesied role as the end-time “king of the south” (Daniel 11:40).

Thanks to ISIS’s brazenness, the West, particularly the United States, will, to a significant extent, allow Iran’s rise and regional dominance.


Com’on fellas, this eight year resident of the WH without an experienced CV to secure even a senior position at a local corporate entity was voted in by the slight majority of voters and as a Chicago community organizer and a Civil Rights activist, the pigment of skin seemed back in ’08 and in a second term to dominate the hearts of American voters. Long ago, more than a year ago now, a small band of degenerates who have never heeded the warnings of God never to – cross the boundary – as I state the facts and w/both US, European and Israeli intel having these thugs in their sights, just as in the 30’s, all turned their cheeks and allowed a caravan of these brutal animals to cross the sands in full view and Barry and the infamous Ms. Hillary as they did at the “Benghazi Massacre” could have taken action, but heck no, self-serving agenda first, not their oath in pledge to do their job and now a Congress on both sides of the aisle, on vacation/holiday? Really?

Here on “Main Street USA” despite the westerners joining these brutal slayers who portray such terrible acts upon another of God’s children, well, to this well funded, well organized (IS), you have created your own destiny by such defiance of God’s law, your own apocalypse! Whether the “Brutes of Tehran” and the Rev Wright stating quite clearly and Barry Obama and Michelle Obama listening attentively to the Rev Wright for twenty years w/o getting up and leaving as the Rev Wright stated that Tehran has right to WMD as long as the “Zionists” have such in hand and let this failed US WH administration begin and the real demise of America and its ignorant people who choose to vote the pigment of skin and some party affiliation, rather than standing tough and to the values of a Judeo-Christian based nation who until recently had been protected by the hand of God….

The weakening of our US military, this ambulance chasing to Cambridge (MA) and Ferguson (MO) and so on, local police matters and just another opportunity to seek divisiveness as a policy w/the kids killing one another in Chicago and New York weekend after weekend and no jobs and hopelessness among Black youth dismissing anything this eight year resident of the WH has to say as they are far more insightful as they are on the streets and see none of the promised jobs and an administration who touts late term abortion rather than family values….

It is Not ISIS and this short lived (IS) which disturbs us as much as the failure of this administration and Congress itself for is self-serving mannerisms and the forgetfulness that in (Genesis 1:26), we are reminded that God created us in the likeness of God!

By this repeated failure and not accepting the Father as the Head of the family, the satanic deceptions, the perverse and biased ways of Barry Obama continues to destroy the teachings of the Gospel, God and family and in the worst deception, as we see more and more clearly as those in history before us in the 1930’s, light is turned into the blackest darkness and we see such brutality, such ways of Satan and to ISIS, we here on “Main Street USA” do not care much about what Barry Obama says for his pledge has been with Hussein Obama and his anti-Christian, anti-colonialist Kenyan pals and his anti-American pals at Harvard and beyond….

Humanity continues to fail in listening to the spirit of prophecy and with such inattentiveness and the failure of the real American spirit which is not divisive and did elect a supposed (half-white/Black) man in office despite the efforts of this failed administration to tell a different story and have no real allegiance to ‘ol Glory and our proud American history, well folks, if You do not understand the Book of Revelation and the message conveyed by Jesus Christ, well, then of course Congress and our nation is in such peril!

Wake up! What do you mean that ISIS is to challenge the real might of the United States of America, the leader of freedom for all mankind! Really?

Muster the troops and the might and raise your sword as the enemy does and behead those who choose to dismiss human Life so handily!

….and to Congress, you are on vacation? Really?

Get back to work and begin to close our borders and order our US Marines to walk over the border and get our brave warrior out of a Mexican prison for making a u-turn while all these others as illegals, disrespecting the laws of this nation as Barry Obama and his illustrious Ag do and take back our Marine, we do NOt leave our men behind despite Barry and Ms. Hillary standing in blatant lie shoulder to shoulder….

Christopher Tingus
“Main Street USA”
Harwich (Cape Codz), MA 02645

Comment by Christopher Tingus

September 10, 2014 @ 7:22 am

Really? A year or more later….give us a break will ya! Why don’t you continue to tell your pals, the enemy what You won’t do so they can continue to carry on such middle age brutality for this is the way of some of the more radical Muslim, yet it seems for we hear little from the Muslim community in general whether here in America or afar as to these atrocities and calamity besmirching Islam and its real teachings….There is an old saying in the Middle East among Arabs, keep the oven hot for that will be the only way the bread bakes….well, it is time that Muslims and the Islamic community join the 21st century and clearly understand that Christianity and your fellow Hebrew brethren have been here and will continue to be very much part of humanity and instead of raising sword w/your temperment, get educated and take the rocks of these old generational stonewalls and toss them for your obvious lust for battle will only cause You much embarrassment as in history for we are all to Respect one another, not necessarily embrace one another, but certainly Respect Life as all are children of God!

Further, it is time for the Muslim leaders to stop manipulating Islamic teachings and let’s see you step up to the plate and put an end to such cruelty and it is time for you to withdraw some of your oil drenched bank accounts and tell Hamas to take a hike and rebuild Palestine and educate Palestinian youth instead of using them like a pawn and stop this crusade to destroy Israel for fellas, it is plainly written, God will not allow anyone to destroy Israel! It is so written….

….and to your appeasement towards your pals, the Muslim Brotherhood and to bow and kiss the ring of another sovereign (Middle East) nation who tells us that we are to expect a terrorist attack and the same will not rally their billions in German supplied armaments and expect you to do their dirty work…really? I (we) thought Ms. Hillary and Barry that terrorism was on the run and AQ decimated, really? Again, you both should be held by House arrest for suspicion in breach of trust at the “Benghazi Massacre” as you both put self-serving political interests and party interests before the best interests of this nation! You lied and willing stood together shoulder to shoulder and no one is above the law and this nonsense must stop now!

Comment by Christopher Tingus

September 10, 2014 @ 7:29 am

…and here in the history of mankind enters Karl Theodor zu Guttenberg! Kindly reference, (Daniel 11:21)

God Bless America!

Comment by Quin

September 10, 2014 @ 8:05 am

Before we go (back) to war tonight, or more accurately come to terms with what started several days ago, interesting chart from the Economist. A 90 percentile cyclone/hurricane is more devastating to a nation’s economy than anything but a banking/fiscal crisis. Even a 1 standard deviation hurricane/cyclone is worse than a civil war.

So I have a two part plan. (1) all future hurricanes will be named after men.


(2) All hurricanes that start off the coast of Africa or in the Atlantic will be publicly linked to Boko Haram. All hurricanes that originate in the Caribbean or the Gulf of Mexico will be linked to members of ISIS trying to sneak across the border.

I can’t wait for the first CIA drone to fly through the eye of a hurricane looking for Zawahiri.

Comment by Quin

September 10, 2014 @ 8:31 am

Oops, the link I forgot to add: http://www.economist.com/blogs/freeexchange/2014/09/economics-disasters?fsrc=scn/tw/te/bl/ed/countingcatastrophescosts

To save people time, below are the money excerpts for the TL;DR crowd:
(1) the ideas of “Creative destruction” “build back better” are false, instead the economy resets at a lower level parallel to previous economic growth
(2) the impact on GDP emerges gradually (kind of like the idea of compound interest you [should have] learned in grade school
(3) post-disaster efforts like borrowing and insurance generate nothing but pre-disaster risk reduction efforts do help.

On #3 its pretty much completely opposite of what US policy is. Skimp on mitigation dollars but throw tons of cash AFTER a disaster. Maybe someone who can actually do something about this might read it….


“Here, we have constructed a novel global dataset
of exogenous natural disasters and are the first to demonstrate that permanent losses to national income
are large, frequent and generalizable to populations around the globe, regardless of their income
level, geography or the scale of the disaster. Permanent changes in consumption, investment, trade
and international aid all reflect the observed changes in national income, corroborating this result.
Furthermore, our result is supported by global patterns of income losses, which match theoretical predictions for the structure of climate-based adaptations, and two prior studies that produce similarly sized estimates using different data. Collectively, these findings lead us to reject the “creative destruction,” the “build back better,” and the “recovery to trend” hypotheses for post-disaster impacts leading us to embrace the “no recovery” hypothesis as the best description of the data.”

“The estimated impact of cyclones on long-run growth emerges gradually, rendering it virtually
undetectable to a casual observer, but it persists for more than a decade, generating strikingly large
cumulative losses that have dramatic implications for economic development. Within the 58% of
countries that are affected by cyclones, a one standard deviation event reduces long-run GDP by 3.6
percentage points, and a “one-in-ten” country-year event reduces long-run GDP by 7.4% twenty years
later. For countries that are frequently or persistently exposed to cyclones, these permanent losses accumulate, causing annual average growth rates to be 1-7.5 percentage points lower than simulations of “cyclone-free” counterfactuals. Across the global sample of affected countries, simulations suggest that the 2.0% average annual growth rate that we observe in the real world is depressed relative to the 3.8% growth that we would observe in a counterfactual world that had no tropical cyclones50. Taken together, these results suggest that the global tropical cyclone climate is likely to play an important role in determining the global distribution of countries’ growth rates as well as the global rate of economic growth.”

“Implications for disaster risk management policies In general, natural disaster policies have two prongs: pre-disaster risk reduction and post-disaster income-smoothing. The latter is often the focus of actual policy, however the former has received substantial recent attention as researchers demonstrate that it is sometimes highly cost-effective (Healy and Malhotra (2009), Deryugina (2011), UNISDR (2011)). The discussion of these two policy-instruments often assumes that they are substitutes for one another, in terms of raising social welfare, and that the efficient allocation of public funds should be based on their cost-efficacy. However, our results suggest that while both instruments may have positive net-present value, they are not substitutes in the long-run. Post-disaster income smoothing is achieved through borrowing, transfers and insurance mechanisms. These measures may be effective at reducing welfare losses in the short run, but they may generate no net income. Thus, if incomes decline in the long-run, then the primary welfare gains from smoothing will arise from simply delaying consumption losses. We observe that long-run income loses unfold gradually over the course of fifteen years, suggesting that some income smoothing measures are probably slowing the decline in national income. However, despite access to these instruments, we do not observe that populations “catch up” with their pre-disaster trajectory, suggesting that these instruments may have limited longrun impact. In contrast, pre-disaster investments that reduce risk, such as infrastructure hardening and early-warning systems, are likely to influence long-run outcomes after disaster. Many risk reduction measures are similar or identical to adaptive investments, and the results in Figure 19 suggest that adaptive behaviors are probably effective at lowering the marginal long-run effect of cyclones.

Tropical cyclone exposure effectively displaces
a country’s GDP trajectory in time – following cyclone exposure, a country’s income does not recover to its pre-disaster trajectory but instead settles on a new trajectory that is parallel but below the original trajectory.”

Comment by William R. Cumming

September 10, 2014 @ 12:52 pm

Okay! So let’s go back in time to 1950–who lost Iraq?

Comment by Christopher Tingus

September 10, 2014 @ 9:29 pm

The concern now w/an increased utilization of airpower, we must be prepared with offshore naval vessels to come to the immediate assistance of a down aviator so fellas, let’s not have another “Benghazi Massacre” – God Bless us as it was the “bug out” which caused all this peril as well as what we again saw tonight when this eight year WH executive chose to again surpass Congress and act for the Democrats did not want to go on record so again politics versus our national interests and the circumvention of the Constitution which is illegal!

Comment by William R. Cumming

September 11, 2014 @ 2:39 am

Quinn! Thanks for the useful discussion and links. It was only in the early 90’s that the World Bank started its now growing involvement in disaster policy. Why so long? Economists could NOT agree on the economic issues raised by disasters with some arguing that tax expenditure of government funds post-disaster acted to st9mulate locally impacted disaster areas.

The leading US economist on disaster outlays–Dr. Howard Kunreuther, PhD, has written often and somewhat repetitively on his views from Wharton’s Center on Risk and Insurance.

When touring foreign nationals would visit FEMA in my time I would brief on legal and legal policy issues for OGC. I often stated that like health care US disaster aid was largely a very rich country’s wasteful policy and effort.

Comment by William R. Cumming

September 11, 2014 @ 2:41 am

As to the President’s speech welcome back to the CRUSADES!

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