John Mueller on the Overblown ISIS Threat

John Mueller has a good essay on how the ISIS threat is overblown.

Posted on August 3, 2015 at 5:31 AM • 33 Comments

Comments

WinterAugust 3, 2015 6:44 AM

Osama is dead, so what else could they do? Make global poverty a threat? Or Climate Change? You cannot bomb these.

CuriousAugust 3, 2015 9:21 AM

I am reading today that NATO Turkey is believed to keep bombing the Kurds in northern Iraq, after that NATO had/let Turkey bomb ISIS a little in Syria a week ago, or whoever ends up being on the receiving end.

WinterAugust 3, 2015 9:29 AM

@Curious
"I am reading today that NATO Turkey is believed to keep bombing the Kurds in northern Iraq, "

That is simple. Erdogan wants a majority in the parliament to make him Khalif for life. The Kurdish party prevented that, so he now wants to start a civil war against the Kurds to oust them from parliament.

This is a variation of what Putin did to Chechnya and the Russian Duma when his party did not have a majority.

The InfidelAugust 3, 2015 10:02 AM

Just curious...

Has there ever been in the history of the world an organization that abducts children and teaches them to behead?

The children had all been shown videos of beheadings and told by their trainers with the Islamic State group that they would perform one someday. First, they had to practice technique. The more than 120 boys were each given a doll and a sword and told, cut off its head.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/isis-training-children-beheading-in-under-islamic-state-children-trained-to-behead-at-early-age_55ac2795e4b0d2ded39f45e9

Another open question to open-minded infidels:

If ISIS had a way of marrying the genome of small pox with ebola and disseminating it to the western world, do you think they would?

b110August 3, 2015 11:36 AM

@The Infidel 10.02 AM

Yes, of course organizations like that have existed historically. As to your movie-plot-bullshit-scenario question, why is it interesting to speculate on that?

Real Friends Dont Let Friends Use WindowsAugust 3, 2015 11:37 AM

@ The Infidel

The CIA and Pentagon have decades in arming and training terrorists as US-controlled proxy forces all over the world, the US has assisted in countless coups/illegal wars ("We have always been at war with Eurasia"), killed and maimed innumerable innocents in maintaining the petro-dollar and their global hegemony etc... so, I'm curious how the Arabs are the greatest threat to anyone one right now?

Any risk that is faced by the US is the result of direct foreign policy and military adventurism.

Yes, apparently if you let your government arm, fund and train the mujahadeen, who become the Taliban, who then splinter into other extremist groups e.g. Al(CIA)AEDA, Al-Nusra et al. -> you end up with state-sanctioned propaganda on Fox News (or other approved outlets) highlighting the alleged risks to the homeland.

This is all done as a show to continue feeding the perpetual war machine and the intelligence community. The statistics show any risk is absolutely remote (less than being killed by lightning).

'The Infidel' should perhaps look closer in his backyard at the homegrown naked neo-colonial aggression before getting too excited about imperialist-approved churnalism.

While "ISIS makes super-virus" is great for CSI:Cyber or whatever dross is brainwashing the public right now, it is the stuff of fantasy. You are 1000 times more likely to be shot by your local para-military SWAT-cop than be killed by some disaffected Moslem.

This is despite their legitimate grievances over US war crimes and the sheltering of war criminals (just ask the CIA torturers-cum-murderers who fear to travel to the EU right now for good reason).

Start your education at Wikileaks and get back to us. The Afghain War Diaries is a nice place to start - you know, where you can see your military purposefully blows up civilian innocents on video tape. "Light em up!" etc.


DanielAugust 3, 2015 12:55 PM

@Winter (first comment)

See, this is why I still read the comments even if there is a lot of nonsense posted.

Your comment was precise, concise, and best of all correct.

SkepticalAugust 3, 2015 1:25 PM


I'd say that it's very difficult to assess ISIL as a terrorist threat in countries like the US without having certain key data available.

Suppose that ISIL can cause terrorist attacks either by (i) directly contacting and recruiting persons in the target society (the US, France, etc.), and then by directing (either loosely or tightly) that person to commit terrorist actions, or by (ii) indirectly "inspiring" terrorist actions by virtue of one-way propaganda that is received by a person in the target society who then, without additional prompting, takes terrorist actions.

The success of either approach depends on factors outside of ISIL's control. Leaving aside the second, one-way propaganda approach, and focusing on the first, two-way contact-recruit-direct approach, we might want to know the following:

(1) Conversion Rate - What percentage of visitors to ISIL's propaganda outlets engage ISIL in additional conversation? What percentage of those "clicks" result in the potential operatives becoming actual operatives?

(2) Explanations - Which theories, if any, best explain and predict which visitors click, and which clicks result in "purchases" (i.e. result in an actual operative)? How can those theories be further tested? What strategies do such theories yield, i.e. what do they tell us about the vulnerabilities of ISIL's ability to "sell"?

(3) Capability Assessments - Of known actual operatives produced by ISIL's marketing, what types of operations have they attempted, and what types of operations are they capable of executing?

(4) Risk Assessments - What are the magnitudes, types, and probability distributions of the damages caused by the various types of operations that would be attempted by ISIL operatives? Include the secondary effects of such operations, such as the political and economic effects.

Anyway, that's off the top of my head, but I'd think we would (roughly) want to know such things in assessing ISIL as a threat.

But some of those things may be quite difficult to know, and we may need to fill in some of the blanks with an educated imagination. If we are beginning our days by looking at threat reporting, by examining vulnerability reporting, those blanks will be filled in very differently than if we are beginning our days by thinking about other things.

In a significant sense, this is really a social science problem, but one for which we have limited data, untested theories with lots of missing details, and which needs to be addressed in a highly political and very complex environment with a certain degree of urgency.

As such, the best response likely incorporates measures that would be effective for a variety of competing theories, that would have very limited harmful side-effects, that would disturb as minimally as possible other national strategic objectives and plans (or still better, advance them), and that would not foreclose opportunities to utilize better understandings of the problem as more information or more analysis becomes available, or as the situation develops.

And from my perspective of great distance and with little information, that seems to be precisely the type of response undertaken by the US and other governments.

All this with the caveat that the above roughly and superficially addresses ISIL only as a potential cause of terrorist actions in nations like the US. A broader evaluation of ISIL as a problem would incorporate the various other ways in which interests and values might be threatened by ISIL as well.

EchoParalaxAugust 3, 2015 1:57 PM

@ real friends

I want you to know that I agree with everything you've written. There's a reason the retired Pope doesn't leave Vatican City and the old President/Vice doesn't leave the U.S.

Why is the question. Why doth thine civilized countries sow such discord? Taking a cold, hard look at the world: Limited resources and unlimited people. Either increase resource production, i.e. invade Iraq, or decrease population. Or both.

Our entire lives are nothing but lies. We have great freedom, until we step too far, question too much, dare to count the money and inspect the scales. Sudden rule of law changes, ever convienient to the powerful, this is not democracy.

This is one of the smartest blogs on the planet, full of professionals and the retired. The discourse here is above par on all accounts. But even in this hallowed place, all we do is shake our heads at the illlogic, the spin, and do nothing. (this was the most important sentence of this post that you probably skipped over anyway)

Enjoy the enteirtainment/news. Install FREE Win X. Watch Trump's hair in the breeze. Try not to gag on the smell of burning bridges. You can never go back.

What gets YOU up in the morning?August 3, 2015 2:32 PM

Wow even our host is trolling skeptical now.

If we are beginning our days by looking at threat reporting, by examining vulnerability reporting, blah blah blah blah, blah blah blah blah, blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah, again I say, blah blah blah blah blah

On the other hand, if we are beginning our days by looking at probative evidence of US crimes of aggression and coercive interference in manifest breach of the UN Charter, then we can knock off at 11 AM, cuz here ya go:

"DEVELOPMENT OF THE CURRENT EVENTS INTO PROXY WAR: ... OPPOSITION FORCES ARE TRYING TO CONTROL THE EASTERN AREAS (HASAKA AND DER ZOR), ADJACENT TO THE WESTERN IRAQI PROVINCES (MOSUL AND ANBAR), IN ADDITION TO NEIGHBORING TURKISH BORDERS. WESTERN COUNTRIES, THE GULF STATES AND TURKEY ARE SUPPORTING THESE EFFORTS. THIS HYPOTHESIS IS MOST LIKELY IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE DATA FROM RECENT EVENTS, WHICH WILL HELP PREPARE SAFE HAVENS UNDER INTERNATIONAL SHELTERING, SIMILAR TO WHAT TRANSPIRED IN LIBYA WHEN BENGHAZI WAS CHOSEN AS THE COMMAND CENTER OF THE REVOLUTIONARY GOVERNMENT."

https://www.judicialwatch.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/Pg.-291-Pgs.-287-293-JW-v-DOD-and-State-14-812-DOD-Release-2015-04-10-final-version11.pdf

Except of course when you're beginning your day beltway-style.

ZackAugust 3, 2015 6:43 PM

Some high brow analysis of the problem.

http://www.cracked.com/blog/4-reasons-we-need-to-start-making-fun-terrorists/

@The Infidel

"If ISIS had a way of marrying the genome of small pox with ebola and disseminating it to the western world, do you think they would?"

Or, they could start a strain which causes vampirism to run rampant over New York City. Or, they could introduce a gene to change the way animals think, so they become supersmart, conscious, and with no longer having fear of humankind. Or, they could create synths, get everyone to buy them, then having trojaned coded in a "consciousness" trigger, watch as the synthetics, the androids, take over the planet. ("The Strain", "Zoo", "Humans".)

(Can't add in other currently running Doomsday shows which are current now. Age of Ultron was one. Fantastic Four is coming up. Mission Impossible has some 'very strong annoyance' group with superpowers and capabilities, in their latest. "The Messengers", "Whispers", are two others.)

This is just what is current. Still in theaters or currently in a season.

It is fiction.


I am probably missing some.

This is Hollywood. It is not real.

You are severely disassociated from reality to make such an assessment.


Dirk PraetAugust 3, 2015 7:28 PM

@ Skeptical

Anyway, that's off the top of my head, but I'd think we would (roughly) want to know such things in assessing ISIL as a threat.

Excellent analysis, actually. Another essential element in assessing the operational strength of Da'esh (IS) is a full financial audit. They control approximately 60% of Syria’s oil, and seven major oil-producing assets in Iraq, allegedly producing 45,000 barrels of oil a day, raking in as much as $3 million a day in cash by selling the oil at well below market prices. (Source here) The questions that need to be answered here are who are they selling to, who is enabling this, which oil companies are involved and how to make it stop.

The main question however is why the general public still hasn't seen any such informed threat analysis. It's not like Da'esh came out of nowhere. Unless the combined intelligence communities of the US and other nations with a vested interest in the situation are utterly incompetent, it is highly unlikely that such reports don't already exist. IMHO, the USG and their partners know exactly what kind of beast they're dealing with and what kind of threat they truly represent both at home and abroad.

Keeping that information behind closed doors and leaving the public debate to paranoid TLA figureheads and political straw men on the payroll of the military-industrial complex - neither of which come with any real information - to me is a deliberate attempt to keep the fear alive that over the last decade for certain groups has proven such a fertile ground to further their own political and financial interests.

In absence of any such authoritative and credible information, the elephant in the room here is that the rampant racism in some parts of the US police force statistically is a much bigger threat to the US public than the neanderthal ideology behind IS-inspired terrorist attacks. It's just less convenient and marketable to capitalize on, which is the exact point @Winter so correctly made too.

@The Infidel

If ISIS had a way of marrying the genome of small pox with ebola and disseminating it to the western world, do you think they would?"

You've been watching too much "24" and "Strike Back". Anybody with a basic understanding of advanced biological warfare is well-aware that you will most probably be wiping yourself out in the process too.

SkepticalAugust 3, 2015 7:38 PM


@YetAnotherPseudonym:

I noted the difficulty in assessing ISIL as a threat, and described the information one might like to have in doing so, along with an appropriate response to ISIL given certain assumptions. My comment doesn't subscribe to exaggerations of ISIL as a threat, but is focused simply on what would enable intelligent assessment of ISIL as a threat.

I'm not sure what your response is intended to convey, other than your personal dissatisfaction with US/French/British/German/Saudi Arabian/Jordanian/Qatari/et al "violation" of the current, nominal Syrian regime's rights as a sovereign (long since forfeited in any case). Back in the real world, some of us like to consider actual outcomes and not rely on a simplistically static understanding of int'l law.

@Zack: It's fiction for now, and based on everything I've read ISIL isn't near achieving any capabilities along those lines, but the thought ties in to a long-term trend - that of individuals and non-state actors acquiring the ability to cause destruction on increasing orders of magnitude.

ZackAugust 3, 2015 8:58 PM

@Skeptical

@Zack: It's fiction for now, and based on everything I've read ISIL isn't near achieving any capabilities along those lines, but the thought ties in to a long-term trend - that of individuals and non-state actors acquiring the ability to cause destruction on increasing orders of magnitude.

Ah, of course. "Individuals" and "non-state actors".

Anything but 'state based' actors?

It is a diversion, and one I am sure all 'state based' actors are eager for the US to engage in.


From the original article:

More recently, the focus of fear has shifted from potential returnees to potential homegrown terrorists who might be inspired by ISIS's propaganda or example. However, ISIS could continue to be an inspiration even if it was weakened or destroyed. And, as terrorism specialist Max Abrahms notes, "lone wolves have carried out just two of the 1,900 most deadly terrorist incidents over the last four decades."

That quote, from this article:

http://articles.baltimoresun.com/2011-01-05/news/bs-ed-lone-wolf-20110105_1_lone-wolf-terrorist-group-lone-wolves


The fantasy is propped up by television and the movies, by history books, and the depictions of society, in general. People are not like as others present them. They are all too human. Weak and fallible.

The idea, the fantasy, makes them out to be superhuman.

But even the highest achieving real people are nothing like this. They are human. These are just stories people believe.

Really, as people believe in their real heroes and heroines? Not so far off from the fictions of Hollywood, so unrealistic is their viewpoint.

So, why create fiction out of real people? They have their mental superheroes, maybe they need their mental supervillains, too?


Or, in some situations, maybe they need their enemies to have their imaginary supervillains. So they can be diverted in their focus and waste their time and resources in their efforts.

Z.

WinterAugust 4, 2015 1:41 AM

@Dirk
"Anybody with a basic understanding of advanced biological warfare is well-aware that you will most probably be wiping yourself out in the process too. "

Indeed, the Russian had a party with antrax:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sverdlovsk_anthrax_leak

We only just prevented a new smallpox outbreak from military research:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aral_smallpox_incident

Moreover, the same technology that allows the creation of such plagues also allows the plagues to be contained. Unless, of course, you are living in a poverty hell hole war zone. Which is what these "terrorists" are living in. So indeed, terrorists might be able to wipe out the poor part of the Middle East and North Africa, or Pakistan and Afghanistan, but Europe and the US will survive.

That is not exactly their plan, we assume. But hey, someone might indeed be mad enough. Aum Shinrikyo was:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aum_Shinrikyo

But even he was unable to do real damage.

And Aum Shinrikyo is not even exceptional:

Millions of Evangelical Christians Want to Start WWIII to Speed the “Second Coming”
http://www.washingtonsblog.com/2012/02/evangelical-christians-want-to-start-wwiii-to-speed-the-second-coming-and-atheist-neocons-are-using-religion-to-rile-them-up-to-justify-war-against-iran.html

Clive RobinsonAugust 4, 2015 2:11 AM

@ Dirk Praet,

Another essential element in assessing the operational strength of Da'esh (IS) is a full financial audit. They control approximately 60% of Syria’s oil, and seven major oil-producing assets in Iraq, allegedly producing 45,000 barrels of oil a day, raking in as much as $3 million a day in cash by selling the oil at well below market prices.

I'm sure the US amongst others know exactly who is buying it.

Between the US inspired first Gulf war by Bush Senior and the US inspired invasion of Iraq by Bush Junior, the US had major sanctions against Iraqi oil exports. Well Iraq set up a smuggling operation to sell oil, those people are still around as was some of their equipment.

Well "the word on the ground" from those in the oil industry is that China has supplied lots of new equipment and now buys over 50% of the increased oil exports that leaves Iraq.

This oil gets to China via the south China Seas, which China has been making lotsof noise about and has taken action designed to evict US pacific fleet from the area.

So it's more than likely that the IS oil is keeping the smog over China, and to prop up it's slowing economy. The question thus arises are China complicit in the reverse smuggling via their equipment supplies etc, turning a blind eye to it, or genuinely unknowledged about it. As China have a promenent position within the UN you can be sure little will happen there.

I'll let you decide, but we are not talking about a handfull of tanker trucks etc, thus satellite observation would provide a lot of information.

Further if drones with hellfire and other significant weaponry can be targetted against various terrorist leaders in individual vehicals etc, the question must arise why the movment of such quantities of oil have not attracted attention, or caused the US to be scared / unwilling / etc to take action against the movment of the oil.

Journalists are already making sideways comments about IS becoming a recognised autonomous state against which action will not be sanctioned or permitted...

tyrAugust 4, 2015 4:17 AM


If you believe humans take actions based on some limited
rationality and self interest the whole ISIS/ISIL is easy
to understand. After a western coalition busts up the
regions governance and trashes the place what does the
ordinary person want ? He wants stable governance so he
can get on with ordinary life. He's not about to trust
the group that made the mess and he's not about to trust
any of the adjoining ethnics even if they were good
neighbors under the previous government clown act. So
they get together and try to re-establish some imaginary
golden age which comes from the areas history. The west
starts pounding on them because they might someday get
enough of the mess sorted out to think about revenge.
I'm sure some of them might fantasize about revenge but
until they get a few things like a functional structure
for ordinary life they are going to forgo such irrational
behaviors. Most of the atrocities are commonplace in the
region the Saudis being prime candidates as an example
to follow. Now this flies in the face of all the media
rhetoric about ISIS is coming to eat your babies next
week but that only works to explain irrational nutters
not someone whose stated aim is a polity called a
Caliphate.

I hear we are going to bomb Assads people to help the
anti-Assad forces. Given the nature of the area it seems
we are going to fly air cover for ISIS. Maybe if the
UN would report a refugee shortage we'd get rational
policies for a change.

What happens if Assad falls, the power vacuum of trashing
Iraq created ISIS and they will exploit his fall. Now
you have NATO right next door to the shiny new Caliphate
who dislikes any other variety of ideology. It also puts
them right next door to the wunderkind led by the mad
vision of Greater Israel. Maybe the new vision is to do
a re-enactment of World War 1 but using Nukes and biowar
instead of HE and poison gas.

WinterAugust 4, 2015 4:45 AM

@tyr
"He wants stable governance so he can get on with ordinary life."

Actually, it is often even more mundane. ISIL pays well, so local young men sign up for a job there. Not that there is much choice for employment. IT is mostly a choice what army you enlist in.

Clive RobinsonAugust 4, 2015 6:19 AM

@ Dirk Praet, Winter,

That is not exactly their plan, we assume. But hey, someone might indeed be mad enough. Aum Shinrikyo was, but even he was unable to do real damage.

As you both probably know, the problem with "biological weapons" is similar to "chemical weapons",

1, Making them sufficiently stable to be weaponisable.
2, Making a reliable delivery system.
3, Ensuring that your own forces and citizens are not harmed.

But it gets worse, we've not had much success with "directed energy" weapons either, no death rays or destructor / disrupter guns etc. After atleast six thousand years we are still working with kinetic weapons, whereby the rapid release of stored energy is applied to a projectile of some form, from sinues via the lever of an arm or throwing stick to a stone or spear, through the bow and arrow, through cannon, gun to unguided rockets. With all our "smarts" our improvments have only extended range, accuracy and size of payload...

Maybe, just maybe, if the circumstances demand it we might get improvments in biological and chemical weapons to the point they become marginaly effective compared to kinetic weapons in two hundred to a thousand years...

WinterAugust 4, 2015 7:02 AM

@Clive
"Maybe, just maybe, if the circumstances demand it we might get improvments in biological and chemical weapons to the point they become marginaly effective compared to kinetic weapons in two hundred to a thousand years..."

But we do not have to wait that long for the MOVIE!

There are wonderful new movie threat ideas appearing:

CRISPR germline engineering
http://www.bio-itworld.com/2015/6/10/outpouring-commentary-crispr-germline-editing.html

http://www.nature.com/nbt/journal/v33/n5/full/nbt.3227.html

Wait for the moment that the Terrorist Threat Of The Day will be suspected of trying to change the very DNA of all the good and hard-working people (i.e., us)!

Meanwhile, cigarets and alcohol kill more Westerners than all the enemies of the West combined. And that is even more true in the non-Western world. Yes, the tobacco lobby is the real enemy of the human race.

The Carlton Williams Meritorious Service AwardAugust 4, 2015 7:10 AM

Yes, we appreciate your proactive admission of ignorance. The next baby step is to give up when you've failed and let grown-up countries fix what you you fucked up.

We know how you love to blow shit up, but do it at home. There's another Boston Marathon next year.

The return of The InfidelAugust 4, 2015 7:48 AM


If ISIS had a way of marrying the genome of small pox with ebola and disseminating it to the western world, do you think they would?

Since the echo chamber feels compelled to take on a straw man rather than the actual question allow me to answer my own question:

Yes. ISIS is a sick collection of the world's worst right-wing conservatives. And if they could, they would destroy the permissive western world in a NY minute.

The claim that one should worry more about being struck by lightening is beyond dopey. And goes a long way to explaining why we will probably never have a liberal US President. If you think that way, you can't be taken seriously...

Here's a thought experiment: Back in the early 1930s if Hitler had been strapping bombs to Jewish children and remotely blowing them up in crowds would you be equally willing to poo-poo the threat away as "over blown" (no pun intended) ?

Please get real. ISIS represents the nastiness form of human madness in our lifetimes.


Side notes on the real threat of a metastasizing ISIS:

1) Boko Haram (basically now an ISIS affilitate) in Africa's most popululated country:

Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein told a special session of the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva that his office had received reports of Boko Haram using children as its first line of attack, as "expendable cannon fodder".

"Bodies of children around 12 years old have been found strewn across such battlefields," Zeid said. Boko Haram has been attacking towns and villages in northern Nigeria and border regions of neighboring Cameroon, Chad and Niger.

http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/04/01/us-nigeria-boko-haram-abuses-un-idUSKBN0MS53220150401

2)

FBI agents took one look at Benitez’s Facebook page — with postings such as “We are the islamic state. We are isis Muslims” — and directed an undercover operation that would lead to Monday’s arrest of a 23-year-old Key West man whose real name is Harlem Suarez.

Suarez, aka “Almlak Benitez,” was charged with trying to use a backpack bomb in a planned explosion on a public beach in Key West, but he also allegedly discussed carrying out a terrorist-style attack in Marathon or Miami Beach on the Fourth of July, according to the FBI.

http://www.miamiherald.com/news/local/community/florida-keys/article29166250.html

Hat tip to the FBI: Nicely done folks!

Moshe YAugust 4, 2015 7:57 AM

The American Revolution was a failure, according to this author, because the clever British conceded territory to the revolutionaries and therefore compelled them to defend it.

The cognitive dissonance of defenders of the Obama administration is truly something to behold.

WinterAugust 4, 2015 7:58 AM

@The return of The Infidel
"Please get real. ISIS represents the nastiness form of human madness in our lifetimes."

Sorry, but I would rather propose Charles Taylor for this role:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_Taylor_%28Liberian_politician%29

HE almost invented the use of drugged children in war.

Or Idi Amin? Jean-Bedel Bokassa?
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jean-B%C3%A9del_Bokassa

Or the Duvaliers from Haiti?

Or Pol Pot?

ISIS is just the last of a very long pedigree of psychopathological regimes that defy understanding by normal humans.

@The etc
"The claim that one should worry more about being struck by lightening is beyond dopey."

No, that is hard statistics. Very hard statistics.

Dirk PraetAugust 4, 2015 8:32 AM

@ Clive

I'll let you decide, but we are not talking about a handful of tanker trucks etc, thus satellite observation would provide a lot of information.

The source I referenced seems to be partially based on a paper called ISIS Export Gateway to Global Crude Oil Markets by two researchers from the University of Greenwich, London. They point at the Turkish port and oil terminal of Ceyhan as one of the the most likely gateways for IS oil exports. The crude apparently gets there by convoys of tanker trucks that just like the oil wells themselves - but contrary to basic processing facilities - are not being targeted by US/NATO air raids. Other sources mention an alternative route through Jordan.

It would seem that Kurdish traders are the prime facilitators for the export, and from where the oil disappears further into Turkey and Iran. Although the authors of aforementioned paper have no proof for collusion with Turkish and KRG authorities, it's obvious that both are well-aware of what's happening and that at least at the lowest level corrupt Peshmerga commanders as well as border officials are getting paid to let transports through.

As you say, it is highly implausible that satellite observation has not already provided detailed information of convoy routes. And some decent SIGINT/HUMINT which parties exactly are behind the trade. As usual, it would seem that oil-related national and commercial interests of certain parties trump any other considerations. Stopping IS begins with bleeding their oil income dry, not by backdooring encryption. And unlike the latter, the former is perfectly feasible, and without any drawbacks for the population at large, except to those engaged in this illicite trade. It just takes the political will to do so.

Erich SchmidtAugust 4, 2015 8:52 AM

What has struck me is the common reaction to beheadings as if they are a radical muslim creation, seemingly barbaric beyond belief. But I'm listening to a podcast about the French Revolution currently. Barbarism exists throughout history.

Clive RobinsonAugust 4, 2015 9:30 AM

@ The return of The Infidel,

Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein told a special session of the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva that his office had received reports of Boko Haram using children as its first line of attack, as "expendable cannon fodder".

This is far from new, during the Iran Iraq war, it was known that Iranian religious leaders were giving plastic toy keys to children as young as six, telling them that it was a key to heaven and using them not as cannon fodder but to cause the Iraqi soldiers to feal self disgust and loathing of their superiors who were ordering them to shoot he children.

Were the Iraqi leaders correct to order the shooting, well on balance yes. The reason as shown in Vietnam is that you do not know in advance if the child has some kind of bomb with a lit fuse on them. If they had refrained from firing it would give the Iranian's good reason to carry on using children to press home attacks.

Whilst it is inhuman and sick in human terms in an all out war it has a logic behind it that demands you be inhuman in return, not just for your own defence, but to reduce the likelyhood of more children being sent against you.

Whilst I can see the logic from both sides, it appalls and sickens me to see so many examples of this logic being applied in warfare, worse still not as a last resort but a first resort. Likewise the kidnaping of children as hostages or to be sold into all forms of slavery, spreading well into first world nations. For the likes of the sex trade, black magic ritualistic murder and organ harvesting, even some forms of cannibalism.

Clive RobinsonAugust 4, 2015 9:43 AM

@ Dirk Praet,

The source I referenced seems to be partially based on a paper called ISIS Export Gateway to Global Crude Oil Markets by two researchers from the University of Greenwich, London

It's funny you should mention them and their paper, I'm currently sitting less than fifty meters from one of their offices...

What may not have been clear is that only six countries were alowed to buy Iranian oil (another smuggling outlet) Turkey and China being two. Turkey is also an international exporter of it's own oil, of which China is an importer, which would provide an effective cover for the smuggling.

One thing to note is the UK is involved in more ways than one, have a look at the misuse of "Limited Liability Partnerships", that now have the reputation as the number one vehicle for high level money laundering.

Dirk PraetAugust 4, 2015 12:29 PM

@ The return of The Infidel

ISIS is a sick collection of the world's worst right-wing conservatives.

I don't see what the GOP has to do with anything. But seriously: Da'esh (IS) is just a more evolved version of a movement based on radical Islam. They are different from AQ in the sense that they have a competent leadership with clear goals and strategies which they are also capable of executing on. Thanks to their significant oil revenues, they are self-sufficient and able to attract both mindless foot soldiers and more skilled people like experienced military commanders, sales folk and marketing experts.

Like many similar groups in the past, they resort to asymmetric warfare, terror and downright barbarism to instigate fear into their enemies and further their goal of an Islamic Caliphate in the Middle East and beyond.

And if they could, they would destroy the permissive western world in a NY minute.

Point in fact is that they can't. However gruesome their execution videos, neither do I see a smoking gun of either direct or indirect evidence that they currently have a working strategy in place to hit western targets. Which was entirely different with AQ, both before and after 9/11. And yes, there are the usual "calls to arms" in their propaganda, but so far, there seems to have been very little material support for.

Suarez, aka “Almlak Benitez,” was charged with trying to use a backpack bomb in a planned explosion on a public beach in Key West

The Suarez story is pretty hilarious. He drew the FBI's attention by posting Da'esh statements and videos on his FB page, and subsequently got contacted by the feds to supply him with an explosive device for an attack in Marathon, Florida, or in Miami Beach on the 4th of July. Which he weaseled out of. Questioning his faith and allegiance to the cause, they contacted him again at which time he accepted from them what he believed to be a backpack bomb.

To cut a long story short: this was a typical FBI sting operation. Suarez was never in contact with Da'esh. His co-workers even called him "a bit slow". This is not a story of a die-hard lion mujahid, but of an all-American idiot who was even too stupid to correctly fill out the paper work needed for the AK-47 he had failed to purchase.

GOPmidEastAugust 5, 2015 12:19 PM

@dirk

The Grand Ol' Party has quite the investment into the middle east, some not so above-board:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/October_Surprise_conspiracy_theory

"Nevertheless, several individuals—most notably former Iranian President Abulhassan Banisadr,[2] former Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir, former Naval intelligence officer and National Security Council member Gary Sick; and former Reagan/Bush campaign and White House staffer Barbara Honegger—have stood by the allegation. There have been allegations that the 1980 Camarate air crash which killed the Portuguese Prime Minister, Francisco de Sá Carneiro, was in fact an assassination of the Defence Minister, Adelino Amaro da Costa, who had said that he had documents concerning the October surprise conspiracy theory and was planning on taking them to the United Nations General Assembly."

http://www.rumormillnews.com/HARRY_MARTIN_OCTOBER_SURPRISE.htm

This one states that george bush sr himself was there, and that he flew back on a sr-71. The fact that he was there is not absurd to moi, but the sr-71 claim sounds sketcy.

https://consortiumnews.com/2011/09/09/bushs-october-surprise-file-in-dispute/

This link shows how secret service records are still sealed.

www.larouchepub.com/eiw/public/1990/eirv17n21-19900518/eirv17n21-19900518_066-jury_refuses_to_buy_bushs_iran_c.pdf

This pdf has some excerpts from the testimony of secrect service agents. For the life of me, I cannot find the full court transcript which I used to possess somewhere.

https://books.google.com/books?id=uAxN_G8YmGMC&pg=PA114&lpg=PA114&dq=secret+service+testimony+bush+in+paris&source=bl&ots=TjBb2x2PUW&sig=6TOrMqzGGzHCLOUZ7wyN40nKt_g&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0CDMQ6AEwBmoVChMIlv_h27iSxwIVTCYeCh2BvQrS#v=onepage&q=secret%20service%20testimony%20bush%20in%20paris&f=false

This is a short page regarding just what and was not testified to.

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