Tuesday, October 14, 2014

From Berlin to Kobani - and Ebola

There is no direct link between the two stories in this week’s headlines, but they share the fact that a year ago, most people had never heard of either, thanks to the media’s reluctance to cover the big picture. Even when ‘stories’ (sic) grow exponen-tially in prominence, this does not result in any significant background information. Journalists take for granted that events appear out of the blue, to be dropped when the next ‘big thing’ grabs the public’s attention. Last week marked the twenty-fifth anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall and I was only reminded of it when James Baker remarked on a talk show that he and Henry Kissinger had been to Berlin for the celebration. By globally failing to acknowledge that momentous event, the media shows that it has no more concept of history than of the big picture. That’s part of the reason why we’re facing the threat of a third world war - if not in Europe, then in the Middle East - not to mention a deadly virus out of Africa!
 What is scary about Ebola is that although it was first identified in 1976, until last year only 1,716 cases had been reported, while this year to date four thousand people have died from the disease. The sudden rise to prominence of an illness that kills an average of 50% of those it strikes can be compared to the rise in severe weather incidents resulting from climate change: nothing can be done about either. Recently on RT’s Keiser Report, Alec Baldwin mentioned that he had campaigned for Mayor De Blasio, but after seeing the hardships Hurricane Sandy’s blackouts caused New Yorkers, he realized that government is totally unprepared to confront similar challenges. We can assume that when American pubic health officials claim there will be no Ebola rampage here, they are keeping their fingers crossed, for the staggering amount of global air travel almost guarantees that temperature checks of passengers from West Africa will be like paper against swords.
Speaking of swords, the latest news about ISIS is that it admits and defends the practice of slavery http://www.joshualandis.com/blog/islamic-state-officially-admits-to-enslaving-yazidi-women/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+Syriacomment+%28Syria+Comment%29.  While  the fall of the Syrian Kurdish city of Kobani seems inevitable, I believe that by publishing a defense of slavery, ISIS has sealed its fate.  Defenders of fundamentalist Islam can rightly point out that beheading is no more criminal than drone strikes, but they will find it difficult to defend slavery by quoting the Prophet, who lived fourteen hundred years ago.
The women who are being taken as ‘concubines’ by ISIS fighters belong to a group that was heretofore known only to Middle Eastern specialists, the Yazidis, who made their appearance in headlines a couple of months ago when they were besieged in Syria. While the Yazidis had probably never been in the news, the Kurds, today’s headline group, have been in the news off and on since 1916. Although this ancient Iranian people is the fourth largest ethnicity in Western Asia after Arabs, Persians, and Turks, they were passed over in the Sykes-Picot Agreements between France and Great Britain that planned the creation of sovereign Middle Eastern States once the Ottoman Empire would be dissolved. In that carve up and the drawing of national borders, the Kurds, who inhabit contiguous areas belonging to what became Syria, Turkey, Iraq and Iran, were left out, and none of their host countries is willing to see their Kurdish areas become part of an independent Kurdish nation. 
Although Saddam Hussein was not far behind, Turkey has had the most violent relationship with its Kurdish minority, which comprises between 15% and 25% of its population. In 1984, the PKK, or Kurdistan Workers’ Party, formed the Peshmerga, a military organization, to struggle for cultural and political rights and self-determination. After failed Kurdish rebellions in the 1920’s Kemalist Turkey, thousands had fled across the border to northern Syria, where they were granted citizenship by the French mandate authorities. After independence in 1962, the Syrian government used the fact that the Kurds came from Turkey to justify discriminatory policies. Today they comprise 10 to 15 percent of the Syrian population and are the country’s largest ethnic minority.  
Meanwhile, after twenty years of fighting for self-determina-tion in Turkey, in 2013, the PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan, who is serving a life sentence for terrorism, endorsed a peaceful resolution of the conflict. That process is now threatened by Turkey’s refusal to allow its Kurds to join the Syrian Kurds’ fight against ISIS. 
In an interview with France 24 yesterday, the Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlot Cavusoglu justified this refusal by putting the PKK and ISIS on an equal footing. This is perhaps the first time that a high-ranking government official anywhere has declared specific freedom fighters and a specific aggressive force to both be terrorists. (The ideological difference between the Peshmerga and ISIS alone justifies not seeing them as equals: far from the Salafists, the Kurds, though Sunnis, appear to be closer to the Lebanese and Syrian Shi’a in their social attitudes: their women are soldiers AND are allowed to wear make-up…..)
Turkey’s often emotional President Erdogan appears to have a steely Foreign Minister who speaks excellent English, as he walks a tightrope between containing Turkey’s Kurds and fending off the Islamic State. You can see the contrast between Cavusoglu’s cool determination and the violent demonstrations in Turkey’s Kurdish-majority southeast on France’s English language channel or on-line. According to Cavusoglu, Turkey is ready to send ground troops to Syria on condition that the goal is to destroy both the Assad regime and ISIS - while keeping the Kurds on both sides down. As the remaining Kurds in Kobani face slaughter, Turkey not only prevents its own Kurds from coming to their aid, it refuses entry to new refugees, claiming they already number more than a hundred thousand. In ghoulish defiance of international opinion, Turkish tanks have been massed for weeks on a barren plane like so many giant insects.
 You have to go digging on the internet to discover that in 2006, as they sought political autonomy within a democratic federal state - if not outright independence as part of a Kurdish state - the Kurdistan National Assembly of Syria held two major conferences, one at the US Senate and the other at the EU parliament in Brussels http://kurdmedia.com/article.aspx?id=1287. In 2012, after the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) and the Kurdish National Council (KNC) signed a cooperation agreement that created the Kurdish Supreme Committee as the governing body of all Kurdish controlled areas in Syria, protests evolved into armed clashes, leading to the creation of the Popular Protection Units (YPG) - otherwise known as the - Syrian - Peshmerga) that are currently in the headlines.
No more than it provides details about the Kurds, does the MSM tell us that the fight for Kobani is part of a larger campaign.  In July of this year, the YPG captured the towns of Kobanê (Ayn al-Arab), Amûdê and Efrîn in the north, and the KNC and PYD formed a joint leadership council to run them. By the end of July, the Syrian Kurdish cities of Dêrika Hemko (Al-Malikiyah), Serê Kaniyê (Ra's al-'Ayn), Dirbêsî (Al-Darbasiyah) and Girkê Legê (Al-Ma'bada) came under the control of the Popular Protection Units and were declared parts of autonomous Syrian Kurdistan, the only major Kurdish cities remaining under government control being Hasaka and Qamishli. So Kobani is part of a large swathe of Syrian territory that has now fallen from the hands of the Syrian Kurdish YPG into those of ISIS, and the battle for Kobani is part of an on-going struggle for control of the Turkish/Syria border. For details about the several year long war in Syrian Kurdistan, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Syrian_Kurdistan_campaign_(2012–present)
President Obama’s National Security Advisor, Susan Rice yesterday assured Meet the Press that Washington, with almost sixty allies, has everything under control in the Middle East.  She failed to mention that as a result of Turkey’s brutal Kurdish policy, the Turkish PKK has called its fighters back from Iraqi Kurdistan, where they had agreed to retreat as part of the peace effort, threatening renewed attacks against the Turkish government. In a fascinating discussion with RT’s crack interviewer, Oxana Boyko, Fadi Hakura, head of Chatham House’s Turkey Project, confirmed Erdogan’s anti-Kurdish stance. Hakura and Boyko agreed that the Turkish President appears to be taking a page from Vladimir Putin’s playbook in terms of reorganizing the Presidency and the Constitution, however when it comes to foreign affairs, he seems to be playing hara kiri rather than chess: while America’s Neo-cons are eager to divide the world into manageable small states, Erdogan insists on playing a colonial game vis a vis the Kurds. (Time will tell whether, in one of his signature non-sequiturs, Obama agrees that the Kurds should remain without a state of their own, notwithstanding their fighting skills…) 

For a detailed and highly readable primer on the Kurds, who together with Ebola will increasingly be in the news, see Dexter Filkins’ report in the September 19th New Yorker: http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2014/09/29/fight-lives.  

For more about ISIS, based on research that does not appear in the MSM, see my next article.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Baghdadi's Pitch

The American Sunday talk shows alternate between discussing ISIS and the ebola epidemic, however none of those I caught mentioned the latest news about ISIS, which is that the Pakistani Taliban have pledged allegiance to it.
During this past week much of the ISIS focus has been on the fear of jihadis returning to their Western countries of origin to kill people. And although American TV channels have mentioned Vice-President Biden’s criticism of the Saudi and other Gulf monarchies’ role in the training and financing of jihadi groups.
Biden also mentioned the madrassas that blanket the Middle East. Their existence has of course long been known, but after the initial reaction to 9/11, surprisingly little has been made of them, so Biden was right to bring them back to our attention. The Vice-President’s quiet outburst probably has three functions: as a message from the administration to ISIS’s Gulf backers, as well as to the jihadi leadership, and as a message from the White House to Senator McCain and his followers who have been intimately involved in securing US weapons for what were presented as anti-Assad fighters but were in reality jihadis. 
As yet, however, no major figure that I have seen has tackled the question of what to us is astonishing support for the Islamic State across the Islamic world. The Pakistani pledge makes that an urgent task. In my previous post I presented evidence of support by individuals and groups across the Arab world gathered by a researcher on hte Middle East, but the pledge of a major entity has different implications.
I see it first of all as a response to what, to many Muslims,  is an exciting idea, that of, the revival of a border-erasing state that really did exist - and persist - for centuries, and which some Muslims will undoubtedly see as having been, in its time, much more significant than U.S. global dominance today. Just the simple idea that ‘yes we can’ do this, that our disparate bands of warriors can, with the right support, and under inspiring leadership, impose an ancient morality on populations that are not only deprived of their potential wealth, but degraded by Western mores, is likely to bring new groups into Baghdadi’s fold with each passing day.
It looks as though Baghdadi’s pitch has two basic strands: the intensely personal element that stresses the degradation of human dignity inherent in the West’s ‘cultural’ message, and which has been shown to attract highly educated people across Europe and the United States, and the political element that addresses the West’s seemingly unstoppable momentum toward global domination based on profit and consumerism.
Once again, the daily headlines show how intertwined events are: today in France major demonstrations are taking place against the government’s recent recognition of same sex marriage, while in the U.S. the Supreme Court is deciding whether it will take up the same issue in the coming year’s judicial calendar.
It would be a mistake to take these events for mere coincidences. However trite the expression may be, they are ‘a sign of the times’. We can no longer see events in different countries as self-contained: the continued resistance in the West to legislation endorsing same sex marriage - and, in the case of France, violent opposition to the legality of assisted reproduction for the benefit of same sex couples - rejoins the opposition among Muslim populations to the relaxation of Western sexual mores, which in part fuels enthusiasm for ISIS’s  goal of recreating the Caliphate.

I would venture to say that today’s Jihadis see their mission in terms very similar to those that brought American - or rather English - Pilgrims to the New World to found a ‘City Upon a Hill’, where extreme puritanism would reign under what was, in fact, a theocratic government. Puritanism’s legacy is still alive and well among large swathes of the American population, and one has to wonder what the opinion of Born-Again and other fundamentalist Christian groups would be to Baghdadi’s moral pitch - if they knew about it.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Ships Passing in the Night

The latest street campaign for democracy is taking place in Hong Kong, which is a unique case. Here are some excerpts from the Wikipedia article to set the stage:
  (This Chinese peninsula) became a colony of the British Empire after the First Opium War (1839–42). As a result of the negotiations and the 1984 agreement between China and Britain, Hong Kong was handed over to the People's Republic of China and became its first Special Administrative Region on 1 July 1997, under the principle of "one country, two systems”. The educational system followed the British English model until 2009, and Hong Kong's independent judiciary functions under the common law framework.[15][16] The constitutional document drafted by the Chinese side before the handover based on the terms enshrined in the Joint Declaration,[17] governs its political system, and stipulates that Hong Kong shall have a high degree of autonomy in all matters except foreign relations and military defense.[18][19] Although it has a multi-party system, a minority controls 30 out of 70 seats of its legislature. Hong Kong has one of the highest per capita incomes in the world but also the highest income inequality among advanced economies.[5]
A mainly youthful and educated elite linked to Hong Kong’s position as an international financial hub wants China to no longer have veto power over its electoral candidates, but, as Jeff Brown has written http://www.opednews.com/articles/The-Skinny-on-Hong-Kong-s-by-Jeff-J-Brown-Assassination_CIA_Capitalism_Chaos-141001-157.html:
<blockquote>China signed a UN witnessed treaty that after Hong Kong reverted to the Mainland in 1997 it would not change the Territory's way of life for the next 50 years -- until 2047. ….While [the Chinese government] would find it next to impossible to influence Hong Kong's billionaire class's investments in the Territory, all of them have billions in investments on the Mainland. If Occupy Central drags on, and it undoubtedly will, with the CIA's NGOs putting money in the protesters' pockets to maintain the vigil, a haircut north of the border” (meaning Hong Kong’s Chinese investments) “might be in order to get Hong Kong's Princes of Power to share more of the Territory's wealth, passing laws to funnel money to the working and poor classes.</blockquote>.
The difference here with ‘Western’ capitalism is that our rulers have neither the power nor the inclination to pressure the 1% to do right by the 99%.  And they are ever ready to foment revolutions in other parts of the world, to the extent that upheavals serve their interest.
Like most color or other named revolutions (Hong Kong’s is the ‘umbrella’ revolution), the one on mainland China’s doorstep is a Monkey See, Monkey Do affair. The media falls far short worldwide of its obligation to inform objectively, but luckily, the mere fact of reporting on social movements - and if it didn’t it would be out of business - has finally brought confidence in their rights to people the world over. Seeing revolutions happening in other countries, they think ‘Why not us?’ What the protesters don’t realize, is that as soon as they begin to stir, they will be supported and encouraged by the CIA and a plethora of other american institutions.  As Jeff Brown notes, all we need to know is that “Hong Kong is gladly letting CIA front NGO the National Endowment for Democracy operate on its soil.” (Jeff’s post includes a list of US organizations operating around the world to make it ‘safe for democracy’ (scratch that: ‘safe for business’).
‘The right of people to choose their leaders’ as the BBC says in its report about the Hong Kong revolt against Chinese overlordship, sounds hollow to those who have lived under so-called ‘democratic’ regimes for generations, whether in Europe or the United States. For although the press does a good job of pretending that democracy works, people are coming to the realization that it too hides a multitude of sins that grow over time. (Churchill famously claimed that “democracy is the worst form of government except all the others that have been tried”, an awkward sentence that rules out future systems such as participatory democracy, which the Occupy movement and its offshoots endeavor to prefigure.)

It’s as though we were in an amusement park hall of mirrors in which two demonstrations parade by, one for ‘democracy’, the other against, like ships passing in the night.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

The Great White Lie

I must have been six or seven years old when I first heard the words ‘white lie’. My mother explained that it was ok to tell a lie to spare someone’s feelings. At present a gigantic white lie is being perpetrated on the American people. The government warns that the war against Islamic terrorism will go on for years, but fails to tell us why. That white lie spares us the feeling of despair we would experience if we knew that we’re not only fighting ISIS and its acolytes in Syria and Iraq, but eventually like-minded groups that stretch across entire swathes of the world.
As long as the public is only aware of ISIS and Al Queda, it can resign itself to the idea of the Untied States having ‘one more enemy’ in the long list of enemies it has faced  Were people aware of the fact that the convictions that motivate ISIS and AQ are shared by ever rising numbers of Muslims around the world, they would be so distraught that they might actually begin to wonder what those convictions are, so that perhaps an open-ended war could be averted.
I’ve always disputed Huntington’s ‘Clash of Civilizations’ because it implies that Western civilization is superior to all others. Now it’s precisely that conviction that is being challenged ever more forcefully and ever more broadly by Muslims, at a time when many Westerners have arrived at the same con-clusion.
There are two strands to Muslim opposition to the West: the one we hear about is religious, focusing on sexual freedom and attitudes toward women, however, the Muslim world counts a growing cohort of secular young people. As we saw with the Tamarod movement against President Mubarak, many of these youth are attracted to neo-liberal ‘democracy’, with its accent on ‘progress’ and ‘making it’. But there is another group, epitomized by the young Turks who demonstrated for weeks in Istanbul’s beloved Gezi Park to prevent it from being razed to build a shopping mall. This group rejoins a growing number of Westerners who see consumerism as detrimental both to the planet and the soul.
Now just imagine that the religious majority of the world’s Muslim population of 1.6 billion (23% of the world’s population), is affected by the spread of Islamist groups. That is what is being hidden from Western publics, as governments gear up for another round of war.
Aymenn Jawad Al Tamimi, a graduate of Oxford University and a Shillman-Ginsburg Fellow at the Middle East Forum, has analyzed support for radical Islamist leaders, including Baghdadi, in countries across the Middle East, Africa and the Pacific.
The first part of his analysis was published last August by Jihadology http://jihadology.net/2013/08/22/musings-of-an-iraqi-brasenostril-on-jihad-bayah-to-baghdadi-foreign-support-for-sheikh-abu-bakr-al-baghdadi-and-the-islamic-state-of-iraq-and-ash-sham/. It leaves out Malaysia and China, as well as the ‘Stans’ on Russia’s Southern border, but it is sufficiently broad to command attention. Here are some excerpts from his country-by-country analysis:
"Gestures of support from Saudi Arabia primarily take the form of anonymous individuals holding placards declaring admiration for ISIS. The ideological inclinations of the placard-holders are made clear by calling Saudi Arabia ‘Bilad al-Haramain’ (‘Land of the Two Sanctuaries’- referencing Mecca and Medina).
A photo taken near the Kaaba in late July, 2013, celebrates the successful prison breaks orchestrated by ISIS at Abu Ghraib and Taji in Baghdad that resulted in the release of hundreds of detainees, including muhajireen who had been imprisoned since 2006/7. The placard reads: ‘Greetings from Bilad al-Haramain to the lions of the two rivers [Tigris and Euphrates] for the liberation of Taji and Abu Ghraib prison; for the Islamic State of Iraq and ash-Sham’.
In a photo released on a jihadi forum a young Saudi girl holds a placard with ISIS insignia. The first and relevant part of the placard reads: ‘How excellent you are, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and your heroic soldiers! Verily you have caused pain to the Safavids.’ In this context, the term ‘Safavids’ is a derogatory reference to the Shi’a.
I would suggest that by conveying these gestures of support from Saudi individuals to ISIS, jihadi circles are implying that ISIS is receiving significant funding from private Saudi citizens who support ISIS.
Somalia, home to the official al-Qa’ida affiliate Harakat Shabaab al-Mujahideen (HSM), has also seen gestures of support for ISIS and Sheikh Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, as illustrated by images released by the pro-ISIS media channel ash-Sham, which is based in Raqqa, Syria. There have of course been rumors and anecdotes of Somali fighters in Syria. Somalia itself has also seen small demonstrations in support of the uprising in Syria.
Despite Sheikh Ẓawahiri’s indication of the need to dissolve ISIS, not only are al-Qa’ida affiliates elsewhere acknowledging ISIS and Sheikh Baghdadi as the leader of the jihad in Bilad ash-Sham, but also official jihadi forums like Shamūkh Islām no longer appear to be deleting posts put out in ISIS’ name.
Tripoli, Lebanon
Tripoli, marked by sectarian tensions between Sunnis and Alawites, has long been known as an area of greater Sunni religiosity than other parts of Lebanon. For years, observers on the ground (e.g. my friend and colleague Phillip Smyth), have noted the regular appearance of the black flag of jihad at rallies.In a similar vein, Facebook pages dedicated to the Sunni community in Tripoli feature the ISIS banner to indicate ideological affiliation. Noteworthy are the thousands of likes these pages have received.
While it may be the case, as Diana Rudha ash-Shammary suggests, that many of these likes come from fake accounts or duplicates, the numbers must reflect in some way a significant support base for ISIS in Tripoli, especially when corroborated with other evidence.
Referring to the recently failed Latakia offensive into Alawite territory that was launched by ISIS, Jabhat al-Nusra and Salafi groups, the second FB page featured a statement from ‘our lord Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi (may God protect him): We are striving for there to be Eid prayers in al-Qardaḥa.’
This statement should illustrate what the ultimate purpose behind the Latakia offensive was. Far from being an area of vital strategic importance, the aim was instead to score a symbolic and psychological victory against the regime by aiming to capture the Alawite heartland and Assad’s ancestral village in particular.
In addition to this online material, videos have emerged recently from Tripoli showing the ISIS banner.  For example, on 9 August, a video was posted on Facebook of a demonstration in Tripoli for Islamist inmates imprisoned at Roumieh prison in Lebanon - an issue that has been around for quite some time. In the video, entitled ‘Victory march of the oppressed in Roumieh,’ demonstra-tors can be seen holding ISIS banners. It is quite possible that the inspiration for this demonstration came from the ISIS jailbreaks in Baghdad the previous month.
This year’s Eid celebrations also saw the ISIS banner on display in Tripoli’s Sunni areas.
As for the Sinai, support for ISIS is limited to an image doing the rounds on pro-ISIS social media pages, purporting to show jihadists in the Sinai pledging allegiance to ISIS.  In the grand scheme of the wider jihad in the Sinai since the coup that deposed Morsi, this photo and the purported explanation for it mean very little. Yet depending on ISIS’ long-term success, it would not be all that implausible if some ISIS muhajireen in particular eventually decide to bring armed struggle to Egypt beyond the Sinai with support from Sheikh Baghdadi."
In the second part of his analysis, published this August on Syria Comment file:///Users/deen/Documents/Support%20for%20bagdadi%20Part%202.webarchive, Tamimi states: 
"IS, it should be recalled, has a Gazan contingent known as the Sheikh Abu al-Nur al-Maqdisi Battalion. Thus it would be fair to characterize Jamaat Ansar al-Dawla al-Islamiya fi Bayt al-Maqdis as an IS network in the Gaza-Sinai area.
More recently, a statement was put out on jihadi forums with the announcement of a “Jund al-Khilafa bi Ard al-Kenana” (“Soldiers of the Caliphate in Egypt”), declaring a pledge of allegiance to IS. Pointing to the actions of the “dogs of the Rafidites- the agents of the Majus from the filthy Safavids, and the disbelieving Nusayris [Alawites]” against Sunnis in Iraq and al-Sham, and attacking the “dog of the Jews - the disbelieving tyrant of Egypt” Sisi, the purported new group pledged its allegiance to “the commander of the believers, the Caliph of the Muslims - Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi al-Husseini (may God protect him).” A threat was also issued to the “enemies of Islam from among the Americans and the Cross-Worshippers,” making clear that their bases and embassies are legitimate targets.
Ansar al-Shari’a Tunisia was known for its staunchly pro-ISIS stance last year, as one of its leading members had written a lengthy tract concluding that it was obligatory on members of Jabhat al-Nusra to switch allegiance to ISIS. The group has found the notion of IS as the Caliphate more difficult to accept, however rank-and-file ground members are aligning with IS and heading off to Iraq-Syria to become fighters for IS.
Like Ansar al-Shari’a Tunisia, many of Ansar al-Shari’a Libya’s rank-and-file members have undoubtedly had IS leanings, translating to a Libyan fighting division within IS:
Maghreb Area
Of note here is a pro-IS break-off from AQIM known as “Jund al-Khilafa fi Ard al-Jaza’ir” (‘The Soldiers of the Caliphate in the land of Algeria’), which released a statement this month affirming a ‘renewal’ of allegiance to the Islamic State, criticizing the “corruption” of the “manhaj [program] of al-Qa’ida."
(Recently, a French tourist was captured in a mountainous region of Algeria by a local Islamist group and, when France refused to pay a ransom, beheaded.)
" Philippines
There have been some indications of support for IS (and its prior incarnation ISIS) from some members of the jihadi group Abu Sayyaf: the most notable case being a bay’ah to IS by a senior Abu Sayyaf leader called Isnilon Hapilon, who emerged with a group of followers in a video pledging allegiance to the ‘Caliph’ Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi
Last year, I noted that the main place to watch for pro-ISIS sentiment in Lebanon was the city of Tripoli. This trend of support - extending into the period since the Caliphate’s announcement - has endured. Online, it is represented by an outlet calling itself “News of Tarabulus [Tripoli] of Sham” (reflecting the fact that Lebanon is considered a part of al-Sham).
More recently, in the wake of U.S.-led coalition airstrikes on IS, combined with IS and Jabhat al-Nusra playing on sectarian tensions and local animosity in Arsal against Hezbollah, there was a pro-IS demonstration in Arsal after Friday prayers this week, featuring the slogan: “The people want the Islamic State."
Much of Al Tamimi’s research centers on the competition between Al Qaeda and ISIS, and he concludes this report by saying that examples of support shown for IS, though by no means insignificant, fail to show that ‘IS has eclipsed al-Qa’ida.
In a final remark that Americans are likely to find chilling: 
<blockquote>I do not quite buy the notion that al-Qa’ida needs to carry out a large-scale attack on the West in the near-term to fend off competition for support from IS.
That said, projections into the future need to take account of current developments and possible scenarios. First, it still remains true that the majority of foreign Sunni jihadis who head to the Syria-Iraq arena join IS, primarily because it is easier to join than Jabhat al-Nusra and places emphasis on the Islamic state-building enterprise and its ultimately global scope: how the Arab world jihadis who end up returning to their home countries will affect local jihadi group dynamics needs to be considered. 
Further, in my view both IS and al-Qa’ida Central are vulnerable to loss of stature if the leader is taken out: IS has invested so heavily in Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s image as a caliph - particularly with the lineage claims and his accomplishments - that it seems doubtful IS has a contingency plan for succession to the Caliphate in the event of his death. Meanwhile, in the Afghanistan-Pakistan area, one can legitimately ask if there is anyone in al-Qa’ida Central to replace Zawahiri in the event of his death."
These disparate excerpts from two much longer documents should suffice to convey the fact that the American government is perpetrating a gigantic white lie, by not painting a clear picture of the ‘civilizational’ phenomenon that it is gearing up to confront militarily. It's clear that widespread grassroots support for ISIS is motivated first of all by pride in an indigenous movement that aims to restore the Arab world across boundaries to prominence.  On a more sophisticated level, and in terms of many Western fighters, it's about affirming traditional values that dovetail with anti-consumerism.  Efforts to roll back this multi-faceted phenomenon will not only be open-ended, to succeed it would have to be more massive than anything seen heretofore.