Oh ISIS. The latest existential enemy that we are supposed to relinquish all of our civil liberties in order to battle. The terror group that has everyone so afraid, yet no one asks where they came from, and why their ranks continue to grow.
Here at Liberty Blitzkrieg, we have asked those questions, and the clear answer is that ISIS arose out of the chaotic power vacuum created by the U.S. government’s unprovoked war in Iraq. But it’s worse than that. Far worse. Some of the biggest funders of ISIS from the very beginning, were represented by America’s Middle East “allies.” This is something I highlighted last year in the post: America’s Disastrous Foreign Policy – My Thoughts on Iraq. Here’s an excerpt:
But in the years they were getting started, a key component of ISIS’s support came from wealthy individuals in the Arab Gulf States of Kuwait, Qatar and Saudi Arabia. Sometimes the support came with the tacit nod of approval from those regimes; often, it took advantage of poor money laundering protections in those states, according to officials, experts, and leaders of the Syrian opposition, which is fighting ISIS as well as the regime.
“Everybody knows the money is going through Kuwait and that it’s coming from the Arab Gulf,” said Andrew Tabler, senior fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Studies. “Kuwait’s banking system and its money changers have long been a huge problem because they are a major conduit for money to extremist groups in Syria and now Iraq.”
Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has been publicly accusing Saudi Arabia and Qatar of funding ISIS for months. Several reports have detailed how private Gulf funding to various Syrian rebel groups has splintered the Syrian opposition and paved the way for the rise of groups like ISIS and others.
Today, I bring you the latest example of America’s dangerously inept and inhumane foreign policy. In this case, I want to highlight the excellent article in Foreign Affairs, titled: Sisi’s Regime Is a Gift to the Islamic State. Of course, Sisi is Egypt’s latest brutal dictator who came to power during a coup in 2013. Naturally, he is a close ally of the U.S. government.
Here are some excepts from the article, outlining how his repressive policies have led to a surge in ISIS recruitment:
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi came to power on a classic strongman platform. He was no liberal or democrat — and didn’t claim to be — but promised stability and security at a time when most Egyptians had grown exhausted from the uncertainties of the Arab Spring.
Sisi’s raison d’être of security and stability, however, has been undermined with each passing month. By any measurable standard, Egypt is more vulnerable to violence and insurgency today than it had been before. On July 1, as many as 64 soldiers were killed in coordinated attacks by Egypt’s Islamic State affiliate, which calls itself the Province of Sinai. It was the worst death toll in decades, and came just days after the country’s chief prosecutor, Hisham Barakat, was assassinated.
If this is what a “stability-first” approach looks like, Egypt’s future is dark indeed. Of course, it shouldn’t be surprising that the country is growing less secure: Since the overthrow of the Muslim Brotherhood’s Mohamed Morsi on July 3, 2013, Egypt has seen shocking levels of repression. On Aug. 14, 2013, it witnessed the worst mass killing in its modern history, with at least 800 killed in mere hours when security forces violently dispersed two pro-Morsi sit-ins in Cairo. WikiThawra, a project of the Egyptian Center for Economic and Social Rights, estimates that nearly 36,500 people were arrested or detained from the day of the coup through May 15, 2014 — one can only imagine how high that figure has grown a year later.
Naturally, this hasn’t stopped the U.S. government from sending Sisi a battalion of weapons and then bragging about it on Twitter. See: U.S. Government Enthusiastically Tweets About Arm Sales to the Brutal and Autocratic Egyptian Regime.
Yet, the repression has merely resulted in a massive surge in terrorist attacks….
There’s no denying that violence surged following the coup. According to the Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy, the month of the coup, July 2013, saw a massive uptick in violence, from 13 attacks the month before to 95 attacks. The number of attacks dipped in subsequent months — to 69 in August and 56 in September — but remained significantly higher than before the coup. The pre- and post-coup discrepancy becomes even more obvious when we zoom out further: From July 2013 to May 2015, there were a total of 1,223 attacks over 23 months, an average of 53.2 attacks per month. In the 23 months prior to June 2013, there were a mere 78 attacks, an average of 3.4 attacks per month.
That leaves us with the coup and what it wrought — namely the Sisi regime’s increasingly repressive measures — as the key event that helped spark the wave of violence. How many people, who otherwise wouldn’t have taken up arms, took up arms because of the coup and the subsequent crackdown? Obviously, there is no way to know for sure. The strength of Ansar Beit al-Maqdis, the group that eventually pledged allegiance to the Islamic State and renamed itself Province of Sinai, is estimated to be in the thousands, so even a tiny increase of, say, 500 militants — representing 0.00055 percent of Egypt’s overall population — would have an outsized effect. Recruitment, however, takes time, so it is unlikely this would have mattered in the days immediately after the coup.
This is not to say that the creation of a buffer zone transformed people into ideological hard-liners in a matter of weeks, but, rather, that groups like the Islamic State seek to exploit local grievances and depend on local sympathy to stage successful attacks. Zack Gold, a researcher who specializes on the Sinai, wrote that due to the army’s scorched-earth tactics, “whole swaths of North Sinai civilization no longer exist.” One resident of the border town of Rafah, after learning his home would be destroyed, said: “I won’t lie. I’m more afraid of the army than the jihadis. When you’re oppressed, anyone who fights your oppression gets your sympathy.” Another Sinai resident, according to journalist Mohannad Sabry, said that after 90 percent of his village was destroyed in a security campaign, around 40 people took up arms, where through 2013, he knew of only five Ansar Beit al-Maqdis members in the village.
It might be hard to imagine why the Egyptian army would appear so intent on alienating the very citizens whose help it needs to defeat the insurgency. Yet, this appears to be Sisi’s approach to conflict resolution across the country — more state power, more control, and more repression. As the saying goes, when all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail. Because authoritarian regimes are forged and sustained by force, they are perhaps the worst candidates to develop a nuanced, holistic counterinsurgency strategy.
Then again, Egypt starts from a different set of assumptions than the United States does. At the most basic level, the Egyptian government fails the first test of counterterrorism, which requires correctly identifying who the actual terrorists are. It continues to act as if the Islamic State and the Muslim Brotherhood are interchangeable — something that no Western intelligence agency takes seriously. As a result, Egypt has made itself a burden. The Egyptian regime is not — and, more importantly, cannot be — a reliable counterterrorism partner. This is no accident of circumstance. Hoping and claiming to fight terrorism, Egypt, however unwittingly, is fueling an insurgency.
U.S. government officials couldn’t be more inept if they tried.
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