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Syria air strikes: How we got to this point – BBC Newsbeat

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This is what Syria looks like now.

Source: Syria air strikes: How we got to this point – BBC Newsbeat

More than 250,000 Syrians have been killed, including nearly 12,000 children, according to the United Nations.

More than half of the county’s population have had to leave their homes.

Four million are living as refugees in other countries.

Others soldier on…

Isis Inc: how oil fuels the jihadi terrorists – FT.com

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“This is the land of Isis, the jihadi organisation in control of swaths of Syrian and Iraqi territory. The trade in oil has been declared a prime target by the international military coalition fighting the group. And yet it goes on, undisturbed.

Oil is the black gold that funds Isis’ black flag — it fuels its war machine, provides electricity and gives the fanatical jihadis critical leverage against their neighbours.

But more than a year after US President Barack Obama launched an international coalition to fight Isis, the bustling trade at al-Omar and at least eight other fields has come to symbolise the dilemma the campaign faces: how to bring down the “caliphate” without destabilising the life of the estimated 10m civilians in areas under Isis control, and punishing the west’s allies?

The resilience of Isis, and the weakness of the US-led campaign, have given Russia a pretext to launch its own, bold intervention in Syria.

Despite all these efforts, dozens of interviews with Syrian traders and oil engineers as well as western intelligence officials and oil experts reveal a sprawling operation almost akin to a state oil company that has grown in size and expertise despite international attempts to destroy it…”

Source: Isis Inc: how oil fuels the jihadi terrorists – FT.com

When Women Become Terrorists – NYTimes.com

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When Women Become Terrorists – NYTimes.com.

SINCE the terror attacks in Paris two weeks ago, the French police have been on the hunt for Hayat Boumeddiene, the partner of Amedy Coulibaly, one of the slain gunmen. She is now suspected to be in Syria. Some news reports speculate that Ms. Boumeddiene, 26, may have been “the more radical of the two.” Yet one of the first questions that French authorities intend to ask her is, they say, “if she did this under influence, if she did it by ideology, if she did it to aid and abet.”

While much will be made in the coming months of France’s intelligence failures, the West’s inability to appreciate the role that women play in terror should come under the highest scrutiny. Take the role of women in the Islamic State group, also known as ISIS or ISIL. While the group oppresses many women, many also flock to its ranks. Roughly 10 percent of its Western recruits are female, often lured by their peers through social media and instant messaging. The percentage is much higher in France: An estimated 63 of the 350 French nationals believed to be with the group are women, or just under 20 percent.

This story is both a new one and an old one. Women have long been involved in terror of all stripes, from female neo-Nazis in Europe to Chechen “black widow” suicide bombers…

The Ultimate Fatal Attraction: 5 Reasons People Join ISIS-Carnegie Middle East Center

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The Ultimate Fatal Attraction: 5 Reasons People Join ISIS-Carnegie Middle East Center.

The Ultimate Fatal Attraction: 5 Reasons People Join ISIS-Carnegie Middle East Center

The appeal of the Islamic State to Arab and Muslim youth is hard to understand. Many assume religion or social media is the main draw for the increasing numbers who are uprooting their lives to join the militants in Iraq and Syria. But this is not the full story.

Five distinct trends—not including theology or technology—explain the fatal attraction to the Islamic State. And understanding these trends is vital for winning the war against extremist ideologies.

First, Arab education systems have failed. Instead of vital analytical skills or civic values, schools emphasized rote learning and the uncritical acceptance of authority. 

History curricula and religious education fostered an us-versus-them mentality along ethnic, ideological, and sectarian lines, making youth vulnerable to external influence. This helped transform the cultural landscape of Arab countries, facilitating the spread of militant ideologies and the early indoctrination of younger populations…

 

A Deadly Legacy in Iraq – NYTimes.com

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A Deadly Legacy in Iraq – NYTimes.com.

Another chapter has been added to the dismal legacy of America’s involvement in Iraq. An investigation by C.J. Chivers, published in The Times on Wednesday, found that American and American-trained Iraqi troops discovered thousands of abandoned and highly dangerous chemical weapons left over from the rule of Saddam Hussein. These weapons, found from 2004 to 2011, wounded troops from both armies. There are now fears that some could fall into the hands of fighters for the Islamic State, which now controls much of the territory where the weapons were found.

These weapons are not the chemical and biological weapons of mass destruction that the George W. Bush administration claimed as the excuse for embarking on the Iraq war and that, it turned out, did not exist. Instead, they are aged remnants left over from an earlier chemical weapons program in the late-1970s and 1980s that was shut down in 1991. Mr. Hussein used the weapons against Iran in a war from 1980-88

I.S. = Invasive Species – NYTimes.com

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I.S. = Invasive Species – NYTimes.com.

I can’t think of a better way to understand ISIS. It is a coalition. One part consists of Sunni Muslim jihadist fighters from all over the world: Chechnya, Libya, Britain, France, Australia and especially Saudi Arabia. They spread so far, so fast, despite their relatively small numbers, because the disturbed Iraqi and Syrian societies enabled these foreign jihadists to forge alliances with secular, native-born, Iraqi and Syrian Sunni tribesmen and former Baathist army officers, whose grievances were less religious and more about how Iraq and Syria were governed.

Today, ISIS — the foreigners and locals together — is putting pressure on all of Iraq’s and Syria’s native species with the avowed goal of reducing the diversity of these once polycultural societies and turning them into bleak, dark, jihadist, Sunni fundamentalist monocultures.

It is easy to see how ISIS spread. Think about the life of a 50-year-old Iraqi Sunni male from Mosul. He first got drafted to fight in the eight-year Iran-Iraq war that ended in 1988. Then he had to fight in the Persian Gulf war I after Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait. Then he lived under a decade of U.N. sanctions that broke Iraq’s middle class. Then he had to endure the years of chaos that followed the U.S. invasion, which ended with a corrupt, brutal, pro-Iranian Shiite regime in Baghdad led by Nuri Kamal al-Maliki that did all it could to keep Sunnis poor and powerless. This was the fractured political ecosystem in which ISIS found fertile ground…

What ISIS Could Teach the West – NYTimes.com

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What ISIS Could Teach the West – NYTimes.com.

 

“…the extremists recognized a basic truth: Their greatest strategic threat comes not from a drone but from a girl with a book. We need to recognize, and act on, that truth as well.

 

For similar reasons, the financiers of extremism have invested heavily in fundamentalist indoctrination. They have built Wahhabi madrassas in poor Muslim countries like Pakistan, Niger and Mali, offering free meals, as well as scholarships for the best students to study in the gulf.

 

Shouldn’t we try to compete?

 

Shouldn’t we use weapons in the short run, but try to gain strategic advantage by focusing on education and on empowering women to build stable societies less vulnerable to extremist manipulation?… Girls’ education seems to have more impact than boys’ education, partly because educated women have markedly fewer children. The result is lower birthrates and less of a youth bulge in the population, which highly correlates to civil conflict.

 

I support judicious airstrikes in the short term against the Islamic State, but that should be only one part of a policy combating extremism. And a starting point should be to ensure that the three million Syrian refugees mostly in Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon — especially girls — can get schooling…”

 

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