Overblown Fears of Foreign Fighters

In a NY Times Oped, two scholars in Arab Studies, Chams Eddine Zaougui and Pieter Van Ostaeyen, debunk the myth that ISIS is coming after the West. They say homegrown terrorists are a bigger threat than foreign fighters returning from Syria.

...Contrary to what many counterterrorism experts believe, however, ISIS has so far shown no interest in Western targets. The group’s overarching objective is to consolidate its dominion in the Levant, a place of great religious significance.

What could change this dynamic?

The one thing that might change the attitude of foreign fighters is the United States’ launching military action against them.


Airing tonight on PBS's Frontline: Losing Iraq.

In a special developing report, FRONTLINE examines the unfolding chaos in Iraq and how the U.S. is being pulled back into the conflict. Drawing on interviews with policymakers and military leaders, the investigative team behind The Lost Year in Iraq, The Torture Question, Endgame and Bush’s War traces the U.S. role from the 2003 invasion to the current violence — exploring how Iraq itself is coming undone, how we got here, what went wrong and what happens next.

ISIS, meanwhile, is not slacking off. Today it took down a bridge between Tikrit and Samarra. Samarra is just 70 miles north of Baghdad.

The destruction of the bridge, just south of the city of Samarra, cuts a vital supply line for the Iraqi army and will further dampen its hopes of retaking the city of Tikrit, further north.

ISIS claims it has captured the towns of Al-Awja and Owaynat, between Tikrit and Samarra.

Also today, ISIS released a gruesome video of a new massacre of about 100 soldiers. And, of course, a lot of photos of ISIS giving out toys to children.

The U.S. doesn't want to give up on Iraq. The State Dept. has signed off on a $700 million deal for the Pentagon to send the largest shipment yet of hellfire missiles to Iraq to help the Iraqi army.

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  • This is a terrible time (5.00 / 2) (#22)
    by jondee on Thu Jul 31, 2014 at 09:32:05 AM EST
    for the U.S to have overly-adversarial relations with Russia and China. If the murderous hysteria of fundamentalism is to be nuetralized, the world needs those two countries one hundred percent cooperative and fully onboard. The hell with the Ukraine, it was part of Russia for literally hundreds  of  years. There are much bigger fish to fry right now than winning petty, American-politics-as-usual pissing contests over who can stand up to Putin.

    I suspect Putin thinks (none / 0) (#24)
    by CaptHowdy on Thu Jul 31, 2014 at 09:40:07 AM EST
    Many will agree with you.  Not ever sure I disagree with you.  Putin is not a bumbling politician.

    He can play 11 demenional chess with Obama or anyone else


    They've always been good at chess (5.00 / 1) (#27)
    by jondee on Thu Jul 31, 2014 at 11:38:25 AM EST
    over there..

    So many people here want to make Putin The Great Satan. A world of Angels and Demons is so easy for pundits who otherwise would have nothing else to say to talk about..

    Meanwhile people like Kissinger and the investment bankers of '07 walk around free as larks here.



    The only way Putin comes out (none / 0) (#25)
    by Mordiggian 88 on Thu Jul 31, 2014 at 11:30:32 AM EST
    looking good is if the weapon that downed the airliner doesn't get traced back to him or his administration.

    Anyone want to give me what the odds of that happening are?


    He's never looked god (5.00 / 2) (#28)
    by jondee on Thu Jul 31, 2014 at 11:51:20 AM EST
    so what?

    Who in this country can confidently point out a major American leader of the last decade who looks good under the microscope?

    Hillary everyone's fave here, went along with killing a hundred thousand Iraqis and four thousand Americans for revenge for 9/11. Please.


    good.. (none / 0) (#29)
    by jondee on Thu Jul 31, 2014 at 11:51:35 AM EST
    and she's firmly clamped (5.00 / 1) (#30)
    by jondee on Thu Jul 31, 2014 at 11:55:53 AM EST
    on the Goldman Sachs teat besides. And I'm supposed to be all excited about her and obsessed with tracking down the evil Professor Moriarty Putin.  

    Admit to being interested (none / 0) (#31)
    by CaptHowdy on Thu Jul 31, 2014 at 12:01:52 PM EST
    In how they interact.  I don't think he will be as, looking for the right word, dismissive? Of Hillary.

    He has on occasion been pretty rude to Obama.


    I don't think he cares much (none / 0) (#26)
    by CaptHowdy on Thu Jul 31, 2014 at 11:32:49 AM EST
    About looking good. For a lot of reasons not the least of which you responded to.

    Oh, I understand that appealing to the (5.00 / 0) (#32)
    by Mordiggian 88 on Thu Jul 31, 2014 at 12:47:19 PM EST
    nationalists isn't where 'getting along with others' is an important value, but Putin is perhaps staking everything on the European/Ukrainian need for their natural gas when that's a move that is just as likely to increase their exploitation of solar, wind, and other green, renewable resources instead.  

    I understand that there is even talk that with the latest sanctions there will be an opportunity for Russian manufacturing to fill in the gap. Doesn't mean it's going to happen.

    Every rational gambler recognizes that a winning streak must come to an end.  Does Putin?


    I made a comment the other day about (none / 0) (#1)
    by CaptHowdy on Tue Jul 29, 2014 at 05:52:33 PM EST
    ISIS not having a reason to exist without attacking us.  

    What I meant by that is exactly this-

    What could change this dynamic?

    The one thing that might change the attitude of foreign fighters is the United States' launching military action against them.

    Does any one think we won't launch some kind of military action against them?
    I hope we don't.  I don't think we should.  But we will.

    It's very possible we won't attack ISIS directly (none / 0) (#2)
    by Jack203 on Tue Jul 29, 2014 at 06:10:42 PM EST
    We seem content with the current policy of shipping arms to the Iraqi government.  I don't foresee that changing.

    I, unfortunately, think it will probably get worse before it gets better for the Iraqis.


    Hope you're right (none / 0) (#3)
    by CaptHowdy on Tue Jul 29, 2014 at 06:20:13 PM EST
    I do.  "Directly" seems sort of an operative word.

    I love those qualifiers... (none / 0) (#4)
    by jimakaPPJ on Tue Jul 29, 2014 at 08:48:33 PM EST
    ISIS has so far

    When was that accurate the last time??

    If I were you (5.00 / 4) (#5)
    by Mordiggian 88 on Tue Jul 29, 2014 at 09:36:03 PM EST
    I'd start looking for ISIS fighters under my bed before going to sleep, starting tonight.

    What a typical inept attempt (none / 0) (#10)
    by jimakaPPJ on Wed Jul 30, 2014 at 08:07:11 AM EST
    to minimize my point that saying ISIS won't spread is beyond belief.

    It's like saying cancer won't spread.  

    I urge you to study some history. Look at the people and treasure that could have been saved had France and England been paying attention and nipped Hitler in the bud.

    Think about the US soldiers who could have been saved had Eisenhower helped the French in South Vietnam.

    Read and understand what bin Ladin, the prophet of al Qaeda, said in this interview with Peter Arnett in 3/97, then with CNN.

    REPORTER: Mr. Bin Ladin, will the end of the United States' presence in Saudi Arabia, their withdrawal, will that end your call for jihad against the United States and against the US ?

    BIN LADIN: .....So, the driving-away jihad against the US does not stop with its withdrawal from the Arabian peninsula, but rather it must desist from aggressive intervention against Muslims in the whole world.


    That's plain. The whole world. And nothing has changed. These people are religious fanatics. Their actions are about religion. They cannot be reformed. They must be eliminated.


    Not (5.00 / 2) (#11)
    by Ga6thDem on Wed Jul 30, 2014 at 08:31:55 AM EST
    the Hitler analogy again. Are you guys ever going to stop talking about him? As a matter of fact the irony is that the tea party is currently using his model of going to the past to create a false narrative about the history of this country. They are creating this false narrative that we were formed as a theocracy not a democracy leaving out the influence of the ancient Greeks and Romans.

    People are sick of people like you using fear. You know, you only can use fear for so long and after George W. Bush and all his lying, who would believe anything the GOP says about foreign policy? I thought Sadaam Hussein was Hitler? That was what the GOP said but when that did not come true, it seems that they have to find another "Hitler" to use fear to manipulate people like you.


    Think about the soldiers who could have been saved (5.00 / 0) (#12)
    by unitron on Wed Jul 30, 2014 at 08:35:16 AM EST
    ...if Truman had helped Ho Chi Minh gain independence for the entire country right after WWII, so that he would never have needed anything from China or Russia.

    When the ISIS (5.00 / 1) (#13)
    by Mordiggian 88 on Wed Jul 30, 2014 at 08:50:49 AM EST
    has access to weapons and technology comparable to what we have, then we can talk.

    As for inept attempts, you're are risible as well as inept when you fly low and resort to insults in the place of reasoning and facts.

    Speaking of facts and the ISIS

    Right now they're a small bunch of fanatics without overt state support, a 'cancer' only to states that are weak and/or failed, like Iraq and Syria.

    You remind me of what H.L. Mencken wrote about America at the time of the Spanish-American War:

    Who remembers that, during the
    Spanish War, the whole Atlantic Coast trembled in fear of the Spaniards' feeble fleet that all New England had hysterics every time a strange coal-barge was sighted on the sky-line, that the safe-deposit boxes of Boston were emptied and their contents transferred to Worcester, and that the Navy had to organize a patrol to save the coast towns from depopulation?

    Isn't bin Laden dead? (5.00 / 2) (#14)
    by Militarytracy on Wed Jul 30, 2014 at 08:54:39 AM EST
    Finding 2 foreign scholars/journalists (none / 0) (#6)
    by Green26 on Tue Jul 29, 2014 at 11:54:05 PM EST
    with a different view is not exactly debunking a myth, in my view. The 2 authors have no access to the intelligence of the West. Talking to some foreign fighters is not enough research or intelligence for me--especially to base one's national security decisions. I will put my faith in the governments of the West over the opinion of 1 foreign scholar and 1 foreign journalist.

    ISIS is obviously armed, dangerous, organized and well-funded . The West is paying significant attention to ISIS, and should be, in my view.

    I guess I missed the part where the Arab (5.00 / 2) (#9)
    by Militarytracy on Wed Jul 30, 2014 at 07:54:28 AM EST
    Scholars said we shouldn't be paying attention to ISIS.  I got a very different read from their article.  What I got from their article is ground your concerns in facts, not something is under my bed childhood based terrors.

    Nope, they invited us to understand that in the future the West could become a target though it is not at this time.  And they invited us to understand how that could come about based on existing facts and the history as we understand it of such groups.


    Here's a countervailing view (none / 0) (#7)
    by Green26 on Wed Jul 30, 2014 at 12:08:07 AM EST
    from a former NATO commander and the current dean of Tufts University's Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, James Stavridis. He wrote an op-ed for the Atlantic Council in early June. Hopefully, my attempt to do a link will work. If not, it's easy to find online.

    Not really countervailing (5.00 / 0) (#8)
    by Militarytracy on Wed Jul 30, 2014 at 07:45:44 AM EST
    Both Stavridis and the Arab scholars agree that at this time ISIS is not targeting Western nations.  All three agree that could change in the future....everything could change in the future.

    Stavridis wants the US intelligence gathering there and ready.  Gee, I can't imagine what a Joint Special Operations unit is doing in Iraq.  He wants NATO involved.  Gee, I would have thought Stavridis knew that NATO does work hand in glove with Joint Special Operations to prevent terrorists attacks.

    The Starvridis op-ed does not say that none of the things he thinks needs to happened aren't happening, and in fact, because of his past security clearance he can't really give any indications of what IS happening...what actions the Obama administration is taking.

    So no, not a countervailing opinion AT ALL.


    So you think the cited recent NY Times op-ed (2.00 / 0) (#15)
    by Green26 on Wed Jul 30, 2014 at 03:16:25 PM EST
    supports these statements (from the June 30 Stavridis Atlantic Council op-ed?

    "As ISIS consolidates its position across the Syrian and Iraqi divide, NATO must realize that it is only a matter of time before a wave of EU-passport-bearing jihadists will be headed back home to wreak havoc. Those AK-toting fundamentalists are a bit busy at the moment destroying two Shiite/Alawite regimes in Iraq and Syria, respectively, but the eye of Sunni extremism will inevitably turn its attention to the capitals of Europe. This means NATO must begin now to do all it can to undermine this potential future threat, and the key will be along the Turkish border. . . ."

    "Simply "ruling out" NATO operations in both Syria and Iraq is not in the best interest of the alliance. This region of the world is spinning rapidly out of control, with dangerous implications for both Europe and the United States. The alliance has enormous capability, but does it have the political will to lean into this dangerous situation? ... because what's emerging now is a clear and present danger along the southern flank of the alliance."

    I thought this thread and linked op-ed was saying almost the opposite.


    Why are you under the impression NATO (none / 0) (#16)
    by Militarytracy on Wed Jul 30, 2014 at 06:27:36 PM EST
    Is out of this?  They are anything but.  Where Joint Special Operation is, so is NATO.

    The quotes are from the former commander (none / 0) (#17)
    by Green26 on Wed Jul 30, 2014 at 07:34:38 PM EST
    of NATO. What are you talking about? Feel free to direct your questions to the former commander of NATO who used the words that you are apparently taking issue with. Other to say this guy was the former commander of NATO, I have said absolutely nothing about NATO.

    The former NATO commander (5.00 / 1) (#18)
    by Militarytracy on Wed Jul 30, 2014 at 08:09:52 PM EST
    Suggests that NATO be involved, but he doesn't bring up that Joint Special Operations is in Iraq.  And as a past NATO Commander he knows that Joint Special Operations has an extreme liaison/working relationship with highly classified NATO special operations.

    So let me guess, this guy is either a retired wingnut stepping out of the shadows now that he is OUT of uniform and free to fully bear nuts in public, or he is attempting to make himself relevant to the political conversation for some reason at this time. There is absolutely no reason to assume NATO is asleep at any switch or out of any loop where ISIS is concerned...zero


    So you are suggesting that Tufts (none / 0) (#19)
    by Green26 on Wed Jul 30, 2014 at 08:57:44 PM EST
    hired a wingnut as its current dean of Tufts University's Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, which is his current position? Now, that's pretty funny. Why is it that people like seem to think most everyone who doesn't agree with you is a wingnut, gets their info from Fox News, and is a Bush supporter?

    The former NATO commander also said this in his op-ed (referred to above):

    "[T]he relatively new NATO Special Forces Command, headquartered in Mons, Belgium, could supplement the U.S. mission to Iraq. If 300 U.S. Special Forces are going to Iraq, why are there not at least another hundred or so special forces from around the alliance with them?"

    More recently, Michael Leiter, NBC News' counter-terrorism and national security analyst, says, in speaking about ISIS and foreign fighters:

    "For the United States and Western Europe, this is a very significant threat -- probably as significant and complex a threat as we have faced since 9/11," Leiter said. "The numbers involved are vastly higher than in previous conflicts such as Afghanistan and Somalia or Yemen. ISIS advances in Iraq brings the problem of more Western recruits and access to resources in captured areas such as money and military-grade equipment." See today's NBC News website. Terrific article (not in agreement with this thread). Quotes from several experts.


    This guy....Mr Tufts.....IS OUT (5.00 / 2) (#20)
    by Militarytracy on Wed Jul 30, 2014 at 09:45:47 PM EST
    That is what happens when you are a part of Joint Special Operations, you are either in and current and bound by all the laws pertaining to classified information and operations, or you are not.  There is no middle ground in this area of national security.

    So what a past NATO commander who is retired knows about what Joint Special Operations and NATO Special Forces Command are doing together is a big fat ZERO.  But he is putting bizarre op-eds out there attempting to gain relevance why?  I don't exactly know....it is his circus

    You expect me to believe that this current President who....whether you like it or not...is a proven American CIC killer of REAL terrorists, alongside a NATO special forces command that has never had an equal in history when preventing terrorists acts...you expect me to believe these people and their supporting organizations are asleep at the ISIS switch?  You are willfully delusional.


    Your last paragraph (5.00 / 1) (#21)
    by CaptHowdy on Thu Jul 31, 2014 at 08:28:06 AM EST
    Reminds me elections have consequences.  I am very glad Bush or McCain and their ilk are not in charge.
    We would have already waded in.  
    Which, as discussed, is the one thing certain to get us attacked.

    I think I also share your faith in the current management.


    I hope going into the next Presidential (5.00 / 1) (#23)
    by Militarytracy on Thu Jul 31, 2014 at 09:35:25 AM EST
    Election, voters fully grasp what a knee jerk reactionary President could do to this nation's sanity. There are all sorts of justifications to just freak the hell out out there.  Most of the Republican candidates if made President IMO will be arguing for a draft once in office.

    The war profiteers at this point can hardly believe they aren't raking in billions over the ISIS tweets alone!  


    I hope going into this fall's elections... (5.00 / 1) (#33)
    by unitron on Thu Jul 31, 2014 at 08:11:20 PM EST
    ...voters realize how important it is to get it right to set the stage for the 2016 winner to be able to actually get something done.

    IMO the best we can hope (none / 0) (#34)
    by CaptHowdy on Thu Jul 31, 2014 at 08:33:12 PM EST
    For in the next two years is nothing.  2016 is going to be a very different kind of election year not just because it's a presidential year but dems will be in a much better place in the senate as far as seats up.

    Fear mongering at its worst (none / 0) (#35)
    by Jack203 on Fri Aug 01, 2014 at 08:56:38 AM EST
    First off, ISIS is not defeating Assad or the Iraq Shiite areas.  So right there I guess we don't have to worry.

    Second, even if I'm wrong.  It is far from "inevitable" that ISIS will then turn to European capitals.  I mean what kind of hockeyed BS is that?

    The only thing that concerns me about ISIS is if they gain popularity with the SUNNI controlled areas of the Middle East, and somehow overthrow their governments (ex. Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Egypt).  Saudi Arabia falling would certainly be hurtful to our economy (especially Europes).  Not that the US especially needs their oil, but the west's economy is so intertwined with them, there would be a huge fallout.

    I'm assuming that's not going to happen.


    Has ISIS Claimed .. (none / 0) (#36)
    by RickyJim on Fri Aug 01, 2014 at 05:21:18 PM EST
    that they will change any current OPEC policies?  I am awaiting for evidence that they plan to interfere with the flow of oil to the west.