“May have been the losing side. Still not convinced it was the wrong one.”

"This report is maybe 12-years-old. Parliament buried it, and it stayed buried till River dug it up. This is what they feared she knew. And they were right to fear because there's a whole universe of folk who are gonna know it, too. They're gonna see it. Somebody has to speak for these people. You all got on this boat for different reasons, but you all come to the same place. So now I'm asking more of you than I have before. Maybe all. Sure as I know anything I know this, they will try again. Maybe on another world, maybe on this very ground swept clean. A year from now, 10, they'll swing back to the belief that they can make people . . . better. And I do not hold to that. So no more running. I aim to misbehave." ~ Captain Malcom Reynolds

Monday, January 19, 2015

In lieu of my own work

Fighting the death crud this weekend, which has led to some great sleep but not much else in terms of productivity or lucid thoughts.

So I want to provide some brief analysis regarding recent Islamic State actions in the Middle East:

Saudi general killed by ISIS.

ISIS Has Killed an Iranian General in Iraq.

John Robb has some initial analysis regarding the Saudi implications of the attack, most of which I agree with. The end goal of ISIS in terms of their Caliphate will certainly include the acquisition and control of sites such as Mecca should it become possible - not only for the legitimacy it grants their rule, but in terms of satisfying their own internal religious justifications. As to the current strength of the Saudi military and internal regime it is a tough call - they are certainly no paper tiger, however the regime has a significant internal weakness in both military and political standing, as has been demonstrated by numerous attacks over the years. However I am not sure this extends to the point of large-scale desertions in case of an invasion or other external threat. Also, I find the linkage to the Paris attacks one much more of coincidence than strategy.

Similarly, the Iranian implications are far from surprising. ISIS is Sunni-based, and has extensively persecuted Shia Muslims throughout their conquests. Meanwhile, Iran has a long history of promoting Shia interests and growth - so the two groups coming into conflict is rather inevitable. In this situation there are important elements on either side. To ISIS's strength the Shia are generally a minority in the regions they control, and there is a long history of Sunni persecution. Additionally it provides a local output to direct members anger and urges towards, and thus more immediate results than a nebulous Western target. On the other hand Iran has forty years of growing influence in the Lebanese and western Syrian Shia communities, which potentially puts ISIS pinned between two fronts in terms of open conflict.

The most important shared element of these two events is that it shows ISIS has grown beyond a simple insurgency confined to one region of Iraq and Syria. Rather, they have developed an intelligence collection and analysis ability (as demonstrated by the successful assassination missions), the ability to operate beyond the areas under their control, and long term planning. Many violent conflicts stall or fail when they become mired in localized goals and actions, in the desire to strike at any foe anywhere as opposed to strategic endeavors which support a more significant overall plan.

Similarly, this shows that at some level ISIS has a core leadership and functioning planning group - these acts are not typical of organizations led through a single cult of personality figure, but rather reflect the ability to direct resources and plan for the future. This is similarly reflected in the skill of the media marketing and information dissemination of the group.

All in all this reflects the growing strength of ISIS in the region, and that the group will continue to pose a threat unless significant military action is brought to bear upon them - an event which is both politically and logistically unlikely in the near future.

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