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The Jan. 29 Senate testimony by intelligence community leaders highlighted a number of crisis areas that were of little surprise to most followers of the news: U.S. troops and advisers are engaged around the globe working with allies and others to address critical issues in Syria and Iraq, and managing threats from Russia, China, North Korea, Iran and elsewhere.
The Department of Justice has released a 2014 Office of Legal Counsel opinion approving airstrikes against the Islamic State under the president's Article II authority as commander-in-chief. The memo is available below.
Over the past week, Global News Canada has released a series of reports from Syria detailing the detention of Muhammed Ali (aka Abu Turaab Al-Kanadi), a high-profile Canadian Islamic State (ISIS) member, by Kurdish forces inside the country. Journalist Stewart Bell and researcher Amarnath Amarasingam travelled to Syria where they interviewed Ali and several other Canadians held in a makeshift detention center in the northeastern part of the state.
Editor’s Note: The call to take down terrorist-linked content on the Internet is both sensible and limited in its effectiveness. Terrorists use many different aspects of the Internet for many different purposes, and taking down propaganda and hostile accounts is not enough to stop the effectiveness of their strategies. Audrey Alexander and Bill Braniff, of GWU and Maryland respectively, call for a different approach. They argue for going after more portions of the terrorists' online ecosystem, expanding the campaign, and thinking more broadly about the problem.
Around this time last year, we rang in 2017 with a review of the year that was in the Middle East and a series of questions:
Last week, a Bangladeshi man set off a pipe bomb in the New York subway in an attempted terrorist attack inspired by the Islamic State. C. Christine Fair, a professor in Georgetown University’s Peace and Security Studies Program, joined Benjamin Wittes to contextualize the incident. They discussed modern Bangladeshi terrorism, the country’s history and governance, and the significance (or lack thereof) of the attack.
Editor’s Note: As the Caliphate collapses, many of its foreign volunteers are fleeing Iraq and Syria. A lot of ink has been spilled (some by me, in fact) on the problem of foreign fighters returning home. However, some of these fighters end up in a third country—not in the Caliphate, but not home either—that is not prepared for the problem. Kim Cragin of the National Defense University examines this huge hole in our thinking. She finds a large problem that demands international action.
Editor’s Note: This piece originally appeared on Markaz.
Now that ISIS’s rule in Raqqa is over, both locals and wary external observers are wondering what comes next. The United States government appears intent on avoiding another costly, lengthy, and possibly ineffective Middle East reconstruction mission. Yet it must also consider the consequences of underinvestment and too swift a disengagement.
[Update: Several people reached out after I posted last night, drawing attention to the fact that al-Mourabitoun (also spelled al Murabitun) apparently reunited with AQIM after its initial separation from the group. On the other hand, others reached out to point to indications that the particular leader at the center of the current storm—al Sahraoui—may still lead a splinter faction that resisted/resists the return to the AQIM fold.