Blog Archives







CHAPTER 41 – The Glamourous Life of an Author

Amongst the many reasons why the ISIS crisis became so confusing, the tragedy of Syria ranks high on the list. At this moment, the ceasefire brokered by the United States and Russia continues and if all of the opposing groups respect the agreement, the break will allow aid groups to assist the people caught in the middle of the fighting.

Since March 2011, rebels have been fighting the government of President Bashar Al-Assad, and Al-Assad has been fighting back. In the same year, U.S. President Barack Obama made no secret of his desire to see Al-Assad leave the Presidential office, but then quietly backed off his determination when the ISIS crisis broke.

Russia at first paid little attention since its primary focus was the Ukraine crisis but then President Vladimir Putin seemingly became worried about the loss of military sales and access to the Mediterranean provided by Syria and decided to intervene. Russia and Iran back Al-Assad while the United States backs some of the rebels attempting to remove him from office.

The rebels fighting Al-Assad have limited faith in the ceasefire but endorsed the flow of humanitarian aid while expressing their doubts.

One perhaps unintended result is that Al-Assad’s position has improved, thanks to that support from Russia and Iran and he has vowed to restore Syria to its pre-war territory, perhaps an unlikely goal. Russia wants to exert its political muscle in the region and the United States wants or more united effort against ISIS.

The rebels say the deal benefits Assad, whose military position has improved since the last truce brokered by Washington and Moscow collapsed earlier this year although no one seems to have gotten ISIS’s agreement to the ceasefire.

Can the bloodletting stop here? It’s going to be difficult. Beginning in March 2011, long before most of us had heard of ISIS, and up to the present, the hostilities in Syria have cost 296,097 lives with millions left homeless.

Following nearly two years of research, Al Emid’s fifth book entitled What You Need to Know About ISIS – Terror, Religion, War and the Caliphate is being released this month. It goes behind the news about ISIS and examines what might lie ahead.



ISIS Cover Final 2,pdf-page-001

By Al Emid Author Journalist Broadcaster
Chapter 40
The Glamorous Life of an Author

During this past weekend when much network attention focused on the record snowfalls in the United States, at least one incident illustrated both the severity of the terrorist threats and the severity of hoaxes and ruses. Even when something looks like a prank or ruse, authorities know that they have to treat it seriously.

Not surprisingly, Turkish Airlines has suffered several hoaxes in recent months. Most recently, a flight from Houston, Texas, diverted to Shannon, Ireland, on Sunday when a piece of paper with just the word ‘bomb’ written on it was found in the toilet, according to a Reuters report.

Airline staff and investigators found no explosive devices on board and the airplane flew on to Istanbul. At time of writing the Irish police have started an investigation.

According to Reuters, Turkish Airlines has been targeted with a series of hoax bomb warnings over the last year. Last November one of its airplanes diverted to Halifax while en route to Istanbul after a phony bomb threat.

The weekend hoax renews two questions, both of them serious.

How many such incidents are the work of pranksters of limited conscience and mental acuity who delight in seeing their work cause problems, costs and anguish and splashed across the headlines? I am reminded of the report in January 2015 in the Orange County Register. A hacker group identifying itself as Team System DZ hacked the site of a local non-profit group called Giving Children Hope whose mandate involved shipping food and medicines to children in Syria, Lebanon and Jordan. At the time of the hacking it erected its own screen proclaiming ‘i Love ISIS’, including the faulty typography.

It appears doubtful that ISIS would bother hacking the web site of a non-threatening charitable organization in a small town in California.

One has to wonder about the mental balance of individuals who would invoke the name of ISIS as part of a prank.

Alternatively, is this another ruse, to check vigilance and reaction of authorities?

We may never know the answers to these two questions but we do know that these incidents increase both the emotional and financial cost of terrorism and when they involve airlines cause many to reconsider travel plans.

Following almost a year of research, Al Emid’s fifth book entitled What You Need to Know About ISIS – Terror, Religion, War and the Caliphate and set for release by Quidne Press in Spring goes behind the news about ISIS and examines what might lie ahead.


By Al Emid Author Journalist Broadcaster
Chapter 39
The Glamorous Life of an Author

Those who have sat — with greater or lesser degrees of attention — in university lectures on history –and confirmed history buffs — know that a historical event can have several perspectives. The simplest of these focuses on the facts: What happened? When did it happen? 

However, an examination of the bigger picture will often bring conclusions that go a long way to explaining why the event happened and what may come next.

The ISIS crisis has no shortage of examples. Last October, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s decision to begin airstrikes in Syria appeared rooted in the current situation but the path to that decision actually started several decades earlier. Syrian President Bashir al Assad styled the move as a kind of international gesture of friendship but in fact intelligence specialists to whom I spoke argue that Putin had several big picture goals including Russia’s markets, its access to the Syrian port and staking a claim to getting back onto the world stage from which Russia had been largely excluded as a result of sanctions due to the Ukraine crisis.

The same principle applies to the tragedies that have already taken place in the Middle East in recent weeks and we have only seen two weeks of the New Year.

Last Friday night, gunmen stormed the Splendid Hotel in Ouagadougou, the capital of Burkina Faso, an African country which until then had certainly had coups and counter-coups but little outright jihadist terrorist activity.

At time of writing, reports say that the attack left 28 dead, including six Canadians and an American as well as 56 or more injured. The Al Qaeda affiliate in the region – sometimes known as Al Qaeda in the Maghreb — claimed responsibility for the attack. The group posted a statement designating the attack at revenge on France and the ‘disbelieving West’. As is often the case with the targets of the terrorist attackers, the hotel and café are popular with Western visitors.

The Burkina Faso attack followed several other assaults.

On January 07, a suicide bomber in Libya drove a truck into a police college in Zliten killing at least 46 and wounding at last 200 people.

Last Tuesday, a suicide bomber linked to ISIS killed 10 people and injured at least 15 others in a blast in Istanbul seen as targeting German tourists.

On Thursday, a deadly attack in Jakarta Indonesia left at least seven dead (including five attackers) and at least 24 wounded. ISIS claimed responsibility for that attack as well – marking its first known assault in Southeast Asia. Indonesia has a history of homegrown terrorist incidents often aimed at police authorities.

Last Monday the suicide bombings in Baghdad resumed when an attack on a shopping mall left at least 17 dead and 40 people injured.

And as I write this article on Sunday, reports have come in saying that three American contractors working in Iraq have been declared missing by their company. At time of writing, authorities have not suggested whether ISIS, a Shiite militia or other non-state actor carried out the kidnapping, likely aimed at garnering a large ransom. The fact that it occurred in Baghdad at least points to ISIS.

Several conclusions seem reasonable in the big picture.

Notwithstanding some of its recent losses, ISIS remains as aggressive as it has ever been and has now added Indonesia to its list of war theaters. Moreover, the Indonesia attack represents its first known operation in that country.

Meanwhile in Africa, Al Qaeda’s assault in Burkina Faso suggests a re-start of the ongoing competition between ISIS and Al Qaeda, its former parent with whom it split a little less than two years ago. As well as its many Middle East war theaters ISIS had already exerted influence in Africa, much of it through the Nigerian terrorist group Boko Haram, which has very publicly and very strongly pledged allegiance and uses ISIS’s methods as a template for its own strategies.

Al Qaeda in the Maghreb had regrouped with some of its allies in December. Put simply, Al Qaeda and its allies and ISIS and its allies are choosing up sides in Africa.

The stakes in the competition are huge: the favor of patrons, the right to claim supremacy in the jihadist movement, domination of the world stage and attraction of recruits.

At least two of the attacks – in Zliten and Jakarta — could be viewed as attempts to intimidate police forces. And most of the attacks occurred in tourist areas, with irreparable harm to the local and national economies. Moreover, the Libya attack has the hallmark ISIS strategy of attacking countries with weak governments. Libya in fact has two competing governments, each one claiming national legitimacy.

Following almost a year of research, Al Emid’s fifth book entitled What You Need to Know About ISIS – Terror, Religion, War and the Caliphate and set for release by Quidne Press in Spring goes behind the news about ISIS and examines what might lie ahead.


ISIS Cover Final 2,pdf-page-001

By Al Emid Author Journalist Broadcaster
Chapter 37
The Glamourous Life of an Author

The outlook for terrorism in the Middle East and more specifically the outlook for the ISIS crisis will not bring much New Year’s optimism to those who hopefully predict the end of ISIS and the Islamic State. The jihadist group has suffered some losses but it has also stretched its influence into several countries and reportedly has allies even in Bosnia-Herzegovina.

A report released yesterday by London England-based risk consultancy Verisk Maplecroft says that 2016 will bring ‘…. little respite from the political instability, civil unrest, economic volatility, security crises and geopolitical rivalries that defined the last 12 months, and that the global turbulence of 2015 looks set to continue.’

The report surveys risks and crises around the world but in the region often termed the MENA – the Middle East and North Africa — it highlights the rising tensions between Iran and Saudi Arabia and the international threat posed by ISIS as the foremost geopolitical risks for 2016.

At time of writing, Saudi Arabia and Iran have become locked in a battle of words, protests and diplomatic gun slinging, ostensibly resulting from Saudi Arabia s execution on January 02 of a Shi’ite cleric who had called for the overthrow of the ruling Saudi family. It can be reasonably suggested that Saudi Arabia authorities did not contemplate the full implications of the execution or might have reconsidered the decision.

In Tehran, demonstrators torched the Saudi embassy and Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, invoked the wrath of Allah by declaring ‘God’s hand of retaliation will grip the neck of Saudi leaders.”

The day after the execution, Saudi Arabia had cut off diplomatic relations with Iran and several of the kingdom’s allies followed suit.

In the larger historic picture, the two countries have long fought a geopolitical war of rival religious beliefs, proxies and political alliances. It heated up in July when the United States and five other nations agreed to lift international sanctions in return for Iran’s agreement to limit its nuclear program. The deal also provides that Iran will have access to the global financial system, can retrieve an estimated US$ 100 billion in frozen assets and can ramp up its oil exports.

The stakes in this Islamic Cold War are many: regional supremacy and the right to claim leadership of Islam. Moreover, achieving peace in Syria and Yemen appears unlikely without some rapprochement between Iran and Saudi Arabia and that apperas unlkely in the short-to-medum term.

That Cold War is certainly serious but not surprisingly, the Verisk Maplecroft report points to the Islamic State as the chief security risk in the MENA. Excluding Iraq and Syria ISIS killed 1269 people in 2015.

Though it has lost territory recently the Islamic State’s reach will continue to extend across the region, according to the report. ISIS has established allegiances with groups in northern Sinai and Libya, the latter reflecting its modus operandi of tackling countries with weak central governments. The MO had certainly worked in Syria and Iraq and at least partially accounted for their early sweep of victories. Libya’s government is not just weak but split:  it has actually had two competing ‘governments’ since the overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.

Although various nations have committed in various ways to military actions against ISIS, a strategy that would lead to the defeat of ISIS appears elusive in the assessment of the report’s authors.

And notwithstanding efforts to staunch ISIS’s income sources the report estimates that the Islamic State grossed up to US$ 600 million from taxation, extortion and confiscations in 2015, a total that it says underscores the limitations of the coalition’s heavy reliance on airstrikes.

Following almost a year of research, Al Emid’s fifth book entitled What You Need to Know About ISIS – Terror, Religion, War and the Caliphate and set for release by Quidne Press in Spring goes behind the news about ISIS and examines what might lie ahead.


ISIS Cover Final 2,pdf-page-001

By Al Emid Author Journalist Broadcaster
Chapter 35
The Glamourous Life of an Author

The recent downing of a Russian warplane by Turkish jets serves as a reminder of the complexity of the various conflicts currently underway in Syria: a civil war, two conventional wars and some more local skirmishes. Both Russia and Turkey say that Turkish F-16s shot down the Russian SU-24, an all-weather attack aircraft, in the Turkey-Syria border area on November 24.

Part of the complexity flows from the incredible number of opposing forces and conflicts and so in this post I will list many of them.

While many hesitated to use the phrase at the time, the Syrian civil war actually started in 2011 when rebel forces took up arms against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad as a reaction to his crimes. According to some analyses, up to 1000 separate rebel groups opposed Assad at one time but later many of the groups merged.

Later, both ISIS and to a lesser extent Al-Qaeda have challenged the Syrian government after the civil war started.

The so-called ‘moderate rebels’ – in the way that observers often use the phrase – applies to those rebels fighting Assad or ISIS or both.

In August 2011, American President Barack Obama had openly called for Assad’s ouster, but hostilities in Syria have certainly given him a reprieve of indeterminate length. At this time, Assad shows no signs of leaving the scene and the United States and Russia disagree both on the future of Syria and the fate of Assad. Indeed, his fate appears to be one of the biggest choking points preventing a true alliance between the American-led anti-ISIS coalition and Russia.

Russia needs Assad to stay in the Presidential palace because it needs Syria for strategic reasons and could lose them in the event of a radical change in government, as would likely follow a forced departure by Assad. It also stands to leverage its participation as a way out of the isolation that followed the Ukraine adventure.

Moreover, Russia also fears jihadists from within its own territory who have become trained and radicalized by ISIS and might return home to cause trouble there.

Iran supports Syria and Assad and his government and to an extent opposes ISIS. However, Saudi Arabia opposes Assad and is nervous of Iran’s looming ascendancy in the region as a result of the recent nuclear treaty.

Saudi Arabia supports Syrian rebels while Iran supports Hezbollah fighters attempting to strengthen Assad’s very tenuous grip on power. Saudi Arabia categorically opposes any Russian effort to keep Assad in power and plans to boost aid to Syrian rebels if Assad does not soon head for the door and that appears an unlikely development at time of writing. It has participated in air strikes with the American-led coalition but currently has a greater concern about the mess in Yemen.

Britain opposes Assad, ISIS and Al Qaeda and backs moderate rebel groups and British Prime Minister David Cameron hopes to overcome Parliamentary opposition to increased involvement in Syria. As a part of the fallout from the Paris tragedies he stands likely to get that support next week.

France also backs moderate rebel forces and opposes both Assad and ISIS and has increased its bombing of ISIS targets as a result of the Paris tragedies

Qatar finances and equips anti-Assad groups and allows the coalition air forces to use its bases.

Turkey participates in the U.S.-led coalition, opposes ISIS and backs rebel forces in Syria. It allows the coalition to use its air bases and has permitted supply routes across its territory. It opposes and is opposed by some Kurdish factions who can be expected to demand autonomy when the time comes to work out a peace settlement.

The Turkmen who killed one of the two Russian pilots who ejected from the airplane (the other one escaped) are rebels from Syria’s ethnic Turkmen community, whose villages Turkey said had been bombed by Russian aircraft in recent weeks. Not surprisingly, the Turkmen opened fire at the crew as they tried to parachute to safety from the doomed warplane. Turkey has hotly and repeatedly protested Russia’s bombing of the Turkmen villages in Syria and complained that the Russian operations have complicated the possibility of creating a safe zone in northern Syria to protect civilians, as well as moderate rebels fighting Assad.

The killing of the Russian pilot by the Turkmen appears an act of revenge for Russia’s bombing of their territory.

Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan have little in common except for acceptance of refugees and a fear of the total number of them.

The complexity of these overlapping hostilities suggests that real true peace will be a long time in coming and that whenever the warring parties manage to find some accommodation, the peace time negotiations will be equally as complex as the sorting out the various forces in wartime.

Following almost a year of research, Al Emid’s fifth book entitled What You Need to Know About ISIS – Terror, Religion, War and the Caliphate and set for release by Quidne Press in early 2016 goes behind the news about ISIS and examines what might lie ahead. He has begun developing a follow-up book tentatively set for release later in 2016.


ISIS Cover Final 2,pdf-page-001


By Al Emid Author Journalist Broadcaster
Chapter 34
The Glamourous Life of an Author

Four people died in northern Cameroon on Saturday in a suicide bomb assault by militants suspected of belonging to Boko Haram, a Nigeria-based terrorist group. As well, three female attackers and one man blew themselves up in the attack, security officials said.

That followed the attack and siege at the Radisson Hotel in Bamako, Mali which cost 20 or more lives and for which an Al Qaeda-linked group claimed responsibility. The group, known as Al-Mourabitoun said that it was behind the siege and that it was done in cooperation with al Qaeda in the Maghreb according to reports by NBC and other news operations. At time of writing Mali remains in a state of emergency and the hunt continues for several of the assailants. Also at time of writing, ISIS has no apparent connection to this attack.

Whether by coincidence or by design, this attack marks a change in the approach of terrorists in Mali. According to the Global Terrorism Database, between 1990 and 2014, Mali had 199 terrorist attacks resulting in the deaths of 725 people including 178 apparent assailants. Additionally, in the first six months of 2015, the country suffered 77 terrorist attacks with 154 deaths, including 48 assailants.

However, until the attack on the hotel this Saturday, assailants rarely targeted business but often focussed on military and diplomatic targets. With one exception, the Saturday attack marked its first assault on a business target.

By comparison, the Cameroon operation bore the hallmarks of Boko Haram, according to African correspondent Samuel Okocha. The use of female suicide bombers suggests Boko Haram, and the attack on vulnerable and defenseless individuals also suggests the modus operandi of Boko Haram, Okocha reports. Boko Haram makes no secret of its admiration for ISIS, has pledged allegiance to it and uses ISIS’s methods as a template for its own attacks.

These attacks appear to provide a distraction from its losses. Boko Haram has been losing claimed territories to the Nigerian military, but that has not stopped its hit and run attacks, showing the group can still wreak havoc. The attack in Cameroon shows it still can also launch cross border attacks, Okocha explains.

The Cameroon attack appears to indicate a solidarity with ISIS. Since Boko Haram already sees ISIS as an ally of sorts, the recent Cameroon attack might amount to a show its strength as an affiliate in the region. This makes Boko Haram an asset to ISIS in its campaign to spread its influence.

Meanwhile, Brussels remains on curfew, following recent raids there and police remain on high alert in both Brussels and in Paris following the tragedies there last week.

The closeness of the Mali and Cameroon attacks to the Paris tragedy suggests – but does not conclusively prove — the possibility of co-ordination between terrorist groups. ISIS and the core Al Qaeda have a mutual hatred of each other, rooted in their bitter break-up last year. Still, the kind of planning and groundwork necessary for the Mali and Cameroon attacks at least leaves open the possibility of some co-ordination. What seems clear is that ISIS, directly and through its affiliates, has expanded its plans well outside Iraq and Syria.

Meanwhile, even if no further attacks occur, the cost to date has become enormous as Paris, Brussels, Washington, New York and other major centers remain tense and Paris has begun trying to heal. Even Dearborn Michigan with its Muslim population subjected to online threats remains on edge.

Amongst the men and women currently vying to move into the White House in January 2017, Democratic Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton has made one of the least vague, most specific proposals for defeating ISIS over time. Speaking at the Council of Foreign Relations on Thursday, she said that only an overwhelming push by its fellow Sunnis could remove ISIS, a pointed proposal, since ISIS largely consists of disaffected Sunnis and suggesting that they overthrow ISIS seems a difficult proposition.

That seems unlikely as long as Bashar al Assad and his regime remain in power in Syria since some of those disaffected Sunnis regard ISIS as something of a shield against Assad and his murderous regime.

Following almost a year of research, Al Emid’s fifth book entitled What You Need to Know About ISIS – Terror, Religion, War and the Caliphate and set for release by Quidne Press in early 2016 goes behind the news about ISIS and examines what might lie ahead. He has begun developing a follow-up book tentatively set for release later in 2016.