The Islamic State (IS) captured Raqqa city, its first provincial capital, in January 2014. Six months later, IS declared its caliphate and Raqqa became its de facto capital. Last Tuesday, the partner force of the US-led anti-IS Coalition, the “Syrian Democratic Forces” (SDF), entered the city centre in Raqqa. A deal had evacuated most of the remaining jihadists over the prior weekend, though a determined core remained and still held about 10 per cent of the city. The caliphate is crumbling and the Coalition says IS has 6,500 fighters left. According to the Coalition, this puts IS “on the verge of a devastating defeat”. Unfortunately, there is no reason to believe this is true. To the contrary, IS is more powerful at this point, in theatre, even after the military reverses inflicted on it by the Coalition, than in the period after the “defeat” of 2008, and the outlook is more favourable now to IS. Moreover, IS now has an international reach, physically and ideologically, it did not previously possess. Continue reading
Last week it was reported by The Daily Beast that United States defence and political leaders believe they can at least begin the operation to remove the Islamic State (IS) from its Iraqi capital, Mosul, before President Barack Obama leaves office on 20 January 2017. This seems unlikely. More to the point, if it is true it is highly dangerous, both in the short-term and especially over the long-term. Continue reading
Only the Dead documents the experience of Michael Ware, an Australian journalist who arrived in Iraq in early 2003 and spent eleven months-per-year there for seven years. Ware made contact soon after the fall of Saddam Hussein with those resisting the new order, at a time when the Americans were struggling to map such forces.
Ware established communication with the more nationalist-Islamist forces. Once in that milieu, the globalist jihadists, who were working in the shadows, a small, foreign-dominated force towards which even many insurgents were guarded, found him. The leader of the jihadists, Ahmad al-Khalayleh, became something of an obsession for Ware as he stepped onto the world stage with his gruesome tactics as Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. Zarqawi, the “Shaykh of the Slaughters,” would found an organization that became a movement and then burst Iraq’s frontiers, known to us now as the Islamic State (IS).
In tracking Zarqawi and his men, Ware presents some incredible footage and gives some snapshots from the fascinating days, whose effects we are all still feeling, when the Iraqi insurgency was taking root. Continue reading