Posts Tagged ‘Jihadists’

More spying, less intelligence?

June 13, 2014

The level of blanket spying by the US agencies (aided and abetted by so-called intelligence agencies of friendly countries), apparently on anyone and everything, as revealed by Edward Snowden, was amazing but not particularly shocking. It is not just enemies abroad who have been monitored. Even US citizens and organisations  have been subject to eavesdropping, hacking, entrapment and plain theft. The NSA has even targeted the conversations of heads of friendly countries in their insatiable quest for information. The volume of information gathered and still being collected is truly staggering. All kinds of information is collected across every conceivable field. It covers law enforcement interests, foreign policy and industrial espionage. It ranges from financial matters related to tax evasion or money laundering, to the plans of terrorist groups, to the criminal activities of international gangs to industrial espionage of benefit to US corporations.

Of course converting information into intelligence takes much analysis which requires the application of mind. Then converting intelligence into actions requires the will and the ability to act upon the intelligence. In spite of the huge amount of information that has been gathered, I have a clear perception that both the conversion of raw information into intelligence and the translation of intelligence into actions have been conspicuous by their absence.

The events in Iraq over the last week are just one of a long line of instances where either the intelligence services have been caught napping or there is an extraordinary sequence of political failures to act upon available intelligence. Probably it is a combination of both.

By the nature of spying, cases of successful intelligence analysis may never be known. But the number of apparent failures gives no confidence that the extensive spying is leading to any better intelligence. The massive gathering of information has certainly not managed to anticipate or prevent a very large number of unpleasant happenings – both domestically in the US and abroad.

  • 74 school shootings in the US since the start of 2013
  • bank scandals in the last 10 years where raw information was around but was not properly analysed
  • the Boston marathon bombing
  • the Arab Spring and especially the revolution in Egypt and the return of the military more recently
  • the premeditated attack on the US Embassy in Benghazi
  • the consequence of supporting the rebels in Syria and the rise of the jihadists (including ISIS),
  • the return of the Taliban in Afghanstan
  • the rise of ISIS in Iraq and the collapse of the regular, US-trained, Iraqi troops

Of course some of the failures to act may well have been due to a lack of political action rather than a failure of intelligence. Barack Obama is so risk-averse that he generally overthinks every issue and then always chooses the “do nothing” option. In Iraq now, all that was ever supposedly gained during the war there is threatened and crumbling. Even so, in the face of this “urgent emergency” (is there any other kind?) he stated cautiously yesterday that all options were still on the table and that he is considering every option. But he may not actually order anything beyond a few drone strikes in support of  Nouri al-Maliki. And once again – as in the case of Syria – he may find that the US has helped create a monster for the future. And he may find himself reluctantly allied with Iran.


The possibility of coming to Iraq’s rescue raises a host of thorny questions for Mr. Obama, who has steadfastly resisted being drawn into sectarian strife in Iraq or its neighbor, Syria. Republican lawmakers accused him of being caught flat-footed by the crisis and of hastening this outcome by not leaving an adequate American force behind after 2011.

Reports that Iran has sent its paramilitary Quds Force to help the struggling Iraqi Army battle the militant group, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, raised the awkward possibility that the United States could find itself allied with Iran in shoring up an unpopular Shiite government in Baghdad. The White House said it was aware of the reports, but did not confirm them.

Mr. Obama insisted he had been monitoring the threat from Sunni militant groups for several months. The United States, he said, had supplied Iraq with military equipment and intelligence. 

The Washington Post writes that “despite years of training and billions of dollars in U.S. time and equipment, Iraq’s military is still a “checkpoint Army,” more interested in manning roadblocks than developing intelligence and engaging in counterinsurgency missions”.

Saddam Hussain was no doubt one of the “bad guys”. But under his regime no mad jihadist leader or an ISIS army would have been allowed to establish itself, grow and then expand as Nouri al-Maliki’s government with US military support has permitted.

Preventing extremism: Why stop European jihadists from going to Syria?

June 8, 2014

The Financial Times (paywalled) reports that “Western intelligence agencies have handed Turkish authorities the names of nearly 5,000 people they fear are attempting to travel to Syria to join al-Qaeda linked groups, in a stark illustration of the escalating terror threat posed by homegrown jihadis”.

Turkey has already deported between 1,000 and 2,000 “jihadists” back to their home countries in Europe where they then become a virulent threat.

DailyBeast: It is a scenario that counter-terrorism experts have been warning about for the past two years: a European citizen who travelled to Syria in order to join up with jihadist groups returns to Europe in order to carry out a terrorist attack. It is something we all knew eventually would become a reality and, more worryingly, knew we could not prevent.

“Moderate Islam” in European countries is conspicuous by its complete absence in holding back the extremists and the idiot fanatics. I have no doubt that most Muslims are moderate. But they have been too passive for far too long against their own extremists.  In Europe, in Africa and even in China. They have – for example – allowed the extremists to take over parts of the school system in Birmingham in the UK. But it is not just “moderate Islam” which has abdicated its responsibilities. The political establishment in Europe (mainly) has to take its share of the blame. Political correctness in Europe involves allowing all fanatics and extremists – whether from the neo-Nazis as in Ukraine or Greece or from the religious Islamic fanatics in France and the UK or from the ecofascism of the hard-left green activists – to flourish unchecked.

But I wonder why the intelligence agencies don’t just let these jihadists reach Syria? Why warn Turkey and then have them all deported back to carry out their mayhem? If the US could revoke Snowden’s passport while he was travelling, surely it would be most effective for the US and EU countries to merely revoke those of the 5,000 known to be on their way to Syria? And concentrate on preventing their return? Like it or not, in the current situation Bashar al-Assad could be best equipped to handle these fanatics.

In the long run of course the alienated youth who are then radicalised have to be addressed at home. And the best bet is if “moderate Islam” is encouraged to defuse and neutralise their idiot fanatics. The position of the political centre defines the extremes. A passive centre allows the political spectrum to be skewed towards one extreme or the other or even to reach a bifurcation. The way to prevent unacceptable extremism lies then, I think, not in trying to prevent the extreme views from forming (which is futile) but in having a sufficiently pro-active centre which effectively starves the extremists of recruits.

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