The Great Debate

Joining Islamic State is about ‘sex and aggression,’ not religion

By Arie W. Kruglanski
October 16, 2014

Militant Islamist fighter waving a flag, cheers as he takes part in a military parade along the streets of Syria's northern Raqqa province

It is easy to look to religion for an explanation of why young men — and some women — become radicalized. But it is psychology, not theology, that offers the best tools for understanding radicalization — and how best to undo it.

Why Iran, U.S. aren’t on quite the same side in fight against Islamic State

By Davoud Hermidas Bavand
October 8, 2014

Iraqi women walk past a poster depicting images of Shi'ite Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei at al-Firdous Square in Baghdad

It might seem counter-intuitive to think that attacking the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL, would damage Iran or Shi’ite interests in the Middle East. After all, Iran shares the West’s concerns about the radical Sunni group and is in a tacit alliance with the United States when it comes to defeating their common enemy. And yet, Iran fears it might end up being the loser in this battle.

Revoking passports isn’t the way to stop American jihadists from returning home

By Patrick Weil
October 7, 2014

Undated handout picture of a passport of a man identified as Ramy Zamzam

As the Western world confronts the threat posed by the Islamic State, many officials are pushing for stricter measures to be put in place to protect the United States from home-bound jihadists carrying U.S. passports.

from Hugo Dixon:

Whatever help the West offers to fight Islamic State, it should have conditions.

By Hugo Dixon
October 2, 2014

A pair of U.S. Air Force F-15E Strike Eagles fly over northern Iraq

What should the West’s military policy be toward Islamic State?

Most observers fall into two camps. Some point to the sorry history of Western intervention in the Middle East and argue the job of combating the Islamic State should be left to local powers.

We all know about jihadists, but what about those waging an ‘anti-jihad’?

By Karima Bennoune
October 1, 2014

Human rights activist holds a placard during an anti-Talibanisation protest in LahoreAs the UN Security Council tackles the entity claiming to be “Islamic State,” and President Barack Obama invokes global Muslim responsibility, many ask whether people of Muslim heritage do enough to counter extremism.

from Jack Shafer:

War without end: The U.S. may still be fighting in Syria in 2024, 2034, 2044 . . .

By Jack Shafer
September 24, 2014

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This must be what perpetual war looks like.

In a Pentagon briefing yesterday, Army Lieutenant General Bill Mayville called the cruise missiles and bombs flung at targets in Syria "the beginning of a credible and sustainable persistent campaign." How long will the campaign last? "I would think of it in terms of years," Mayville responded.

Air strikes won’t disrupt Islamic State’s real safe haven: social media

By Rita Katz
September 24, 2014
jihad tweet President Barack Obama has pledged to destroy Islamic State and ensure fighters “find no safe haven.” But even as U.S.-led airstrikes are underway in Iraq and Syria, it is clear that bombs alone will not do the job. For Islamic State hides out in the most perfect haven: the World Wide Web.

In June 2014, the militant group that Obama refers to as Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, or ISIL, grabbed the world’s attention after it took over much of northern Iraq in roughly four days. Islamic State accomplished this by building a massive, sophisticated virtual network of fighters in addition to those on the ground. Indeed, its expansion online has been as swift as its territorial gains. It is this virtual power grab that will be most difficult to combat.

You never know who you’re going to meet on Turkey’s ‘jihadi highway’

By Yuko Narushima
September 23, 2014

Smugglers carrying blue jerry cans on horses ride back to Syria along the wire fences after ferrying fuel smuggled into Turkey from over the border in Syria, in Hatay province

Turkey’s border with Syria, like all borders, allows passage both ways – at least for the right price.

A NATO ally stays on sidelines of fight against Islamic State

By Andrew Finkel
September 18, 2014

U.S. President Barack Obama listens as he hosts a bilateral meeting with Turkey's President Tayyip Erdogan during the NATO Summit at the Celtic Manor Resort in Newport, Wales, in the United Kingdom

Few countries are in a better position than Turkey to help the United States fight Islamic State. The moderate Islamic country shares a 750 mile border with Syria, is a NATO member and a long-time ally of America. But don’t hold your breath for Turkey’s support.

What’s between the covers of al Qaeda’s ‘Inspire’ magazine

By Peter Van Buren
September 3, 2014

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Inspire is an English-language online magazine published since 2010 by al Qaeda. I just read the latest issue and found a lot of what I expected, and some things I didn’t.