ISIS View of Airstrikes and the Politics of Fear

There is still no official response by ISIS to the U.S. Airstrikes. But, via Reuters:

A fighter told Reuters by telephone the U.S. air strikes would have "no impact on us".

"The planes attack positions they think are strategic, but this is not how we operate. We are trained for guerrilla street war," he said. "God is with us and our promise is heaven. When we are promised heaven, do you think death will stop us?"

Do ISIS fighters (as opposed to supporters) really talk to the media by phone? Who knows, but I do think the response is in line with what ISIS will say when it does respond.

Related: Matthew Barber, a scholar at the University of Chicago, has been in Sinjar and Shariya (another Yazidi town near Dohuk) with the Yazidis and the Kurds all week. He has a very informative, interesting first person account of events. [More...]

Shariya was created by Saddam Hussein in the 1970's when he targeted the Yazedis.

Saddam bulldozed countless Yazidi towns until there was nothing left but gravel, and then forcibly moved their former inhabitants into collectives situated in locations that served his strategic interests. Shariya lies in the center of a valley ringed by hills, along the bases of which were originally a number of Yazidi villages. Saddam destroyed all of these villages (fearing that their proximity to the mountains would facilitate the harboring of Peshmerga fighters) and huddled all the villagers together in the center of the open plain between the mountains, where they would be much easier to keep an eye on.

He doesn't use the word "pogram" but that's what came to my mind. Anyway, back to the present:

Shariya had a population of 17,000 until Sunday’s crisis in Sinjar began compelling families to flee for the Dohuk governorate. By Wednesday, Shariya had a population of over 80,000 people.

When I visited the community on Monday, it was already bursting at the seams, and it wasn’t even close to the peak it reached on Wednesday.

An intense aid effort ensued which was pretty successful for the 86,000. Here's a photo he took of how crowded it was.

Barber returned a day later, Thursday, and Shariya was a ghost town. Everyone had fled, fearing ISIS would attack them there. Here's his photo.

Here's a photo of the water bottles left behind. But, where would they go? Thousands had gone to Turkey, but Turkey has now closed its border when the number of refugees grew too large for it to accommodate.

The Yazidi rationale was: We need to get out now before something bad happens and people storm the border, prompting the Turks to close it. These fears were justified: the Turks have allegedly closed the border crossing near Zakho at 8:00 pm last night after receiving a huge influx of fleeing people.

The result:

When the people were concentrated in one place, it was possible to coordinate relief efforts. Now that people are spreading across the governorate and beyond in panic, it will be even more difficult to meet the humanitarian need.

Yesterday morning (Friday), with no place to escape to, the Yazidis began streaming back to Shariya.

Beginning this morning, the same refugees that fled Shariya yesterday have started to stream back in. What we’re seeing now is the frantic movement of people from one place to the next, running in circles like a panicked hiker lost in the woods.

Barber says:

I’ve followed terrorism-related issues for years, but this environment has schooled me anew in the realities of terror. The local contagion of fear demonstrates what a potent weapon terror is, when instrumentalized by an entity like IS.

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  • Display: Sort:
    The more things change... (none / 0) (#1)
    by unitron on Sat Aug 09, 2014 at 01:52:44 AM EST
    ...the more it still seems to be oil at the bottom of it.

    Courtesy of a pointer from C. P. Pierce on his way out of town, here's a theory on why the Peshmerga seem not to have lived up to their billing:

    Iraq crisis: Why were the Kurds left unprotected?

    Take especial note of the part near the end about the tanker off the shore of Texas.

    Brilliant Article (none / 0) (#3)
    by Jack203 on Sat Aug 09, 2014 at 10:41:46 AM EST
    A ruse by the Kurds to force Obama's hand would make a lot of sense.  I hope thats the case and the Peshmerga really have everything under control.

    Pretty smart move by the Kurds if they did this. It will be yet another example of how foreigners, especially from the ME, seem to be pretty good at manipulating the American population and even presidents.

    I's a lot better than the alternative that ISIS really is about to beat the Kurds.  The Kurds have always been a staunch ally, if they ask our help, and have evidence of fleeing refugees and panic, there is little doubt we would come to help.


    it really doesn't much matter what ISIS thinks, (none / 0) (#2)
    by cpinva on Sat Aug 09, 2014 at 09:38:01 AM EST
    what matters is the ability of the fighter pilots to suppress the ISIS fighters on the ground. whether or not those ISIS fighters enter heaven is kind of irrelevant. I understand that the kurds, with the air support, have been able to open a path on the ground, that might make it easier to move humanitarian aid, at greater volume, to the refugees.

    ISIS seems to have taken all the bad lessons learned from terrorists, over the past 50 years, and decided the most efficient means of gaining control over an area is to just kill everyone in it. as this reality becomes clearer, to the surrounding countries, they might just see themselves as a potential target. for self-preservation alone, it may prompt them to act, together, to squash these guys.

    Obama is starting to change his tune (none / 0) (#4)
    by Green26 on Sat Aug 09, 2014 at 10:56:47 AM EST
    He said this morning that the US will  deny a safe haven to ISIS, this won't be a short-term project, and securing a stable Iraq is going to be a long-term project. I assume there will be stories all over the internet shortly.

    Input on Jeralyn's question about planning time (none / 0) (#5)
    by Green26 on Sat Aug 09, 2014 at 12:13:43 PM EST
    for US airstrikes. My son said the military planning could be done in hours, as the US had "advisors" on the ground already and the aircraft carrier was in position. Analyzing Obama's legal authority, etc. and planning and doing the diplomatic aspects would take longer than the military planning. While my son had not been following activities in Iraq in recent days, he said that the US probably used F-18s from a carrier and 500 lb laser guided bombs--which was what the US has done. He said these missions would be simple, like going to the store to buy milk. Said he once had concern about timing when he learned that needed air support would have to come from a carrier, and was told it would take 7 minutes for the jets to arrive. I read that the chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff rode with Obama in his limo on Wed. evening from a meeting to the White House, and then a one-hour meeting occurred. Airstrikes began about 36 hours laster.

    He had 2 deployments in Iraq as a Ranger (none / 0) (#7)
    by Green26 on Sat Aug 09, 2014 at 12:37:26 PM EST
    Called in air cover all the time. Forgive me, but you may be the incompetent thinker. Let's hear about all of your expertise on the subject.

    I deleted that comment (none / 0) (#8)
    by Jeralyn on Sat Aug 09, 2014 at 01:52:51 PM EST
    for being a personal insult to you and your son. Please ignore it, I'm glad you are posting this information.

    Thanks, but I took no offense (none / 0) (#9)
    by Green26 on Sat Aug 09, 2014 at 05:21:58 PM EST
    I merely took the liberty of throwing his comment back at him. This site is very calm and polite, and policed, especially compared to an athletic message board that I look at. Like you, Jeralyn, I just can't stop reading about ISIS and a few related things. Very interesting. I appreciate all of the information, quotes and links you are feeding us.