5 excellent articles on Trump Adm. & Middle East security issues I read this week

See links below with my commentary.

(1)  Defeating ISIS Will Strengthen IS

An article by Phil Walter, founder of an innovative new website called Divergent Options. What’s unique about Divergent Options is that all articles are structured to provide practical analysis that can be read in less than five minutes.

Walter makes a hugely important point in this piece: the geographic ISIS state in Syria and Iraq is going to lose. That’s a good thing, sure.

However, this does not mean that the setback in Syria/Iraq in any way equals an end game for radical Islamism and Jihadism. It is only the beginning of a new, and potentially even more bloody chapter:

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As President Trump has accurately called Syria and Iraq, it has become the Harvard of Terrorism.  Thousands of alumni of the Syrian Jihad, now equipped with PhD level terrorism skills, are or will be headed home to instigate local Jihads.

Tunisia will be a big target. So will Egypt, Jordan, Algeria etc.

On this note, I have an upcoming piece at Divergent Options in mid-January with some ideas about how to make recruiting harder for these Syria Alumni. My prescriptions are related to the 21st century Marshall Plan idea being pushed by senior Trump advisor Tom Barrack Jr.

(2)  Ayman Al-Tamimi’s Review of Charles Lister’s book “The Syrian Jihad: Al-Qaeda, The Islamic State, and the Evolution of an Insurgency.” 

Far too often these days it seems as if the majority of reviews seem to be written with an unstated hope that “what goes around comes around” and one day the person reviewing the book will get a favorable review of their book in return.

This is why Tamimi’s frank review was so refreshing and is highly recommended.

(3) The Human Nature of Jihadism – an interview with al-Maqalat

A fascinating interview conducted by investigative journalist Tam Hussein with a Jihadist intelectual. This point about the “overrated” nature of individual Jihadist clerics is very very important from a Trump administration perspective.

An assumption of some of the writers at websites like Jihadica seems to be that these Jihads started because X cleric was sitting around one day and just happened to read a passage of the Quran in a certain way. This overlooks the fact that radical interpretations of the scriptures and most importantly, a degree of public support for them, happen in the context of surrounding socio-economic and (and hence, political) problems.

Here’s a thought experiment:

If any 5 of the 10 most read Jihadi clerics never existed and all of their work was removed from the internet, would anything happening in the Middle East be any different than it is now?

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The only way to dent the appeal of Jihadism is to radically alter the socio-economic dynamics that lead people to find Jihadism appealing in the first place, along the lines of what close Trump advisor Mr. Barrack has been saying.

(4)  Prison Radicalization: Dealing with Muslim Inmates With Terror Convictions. 

An exceptionally good article, also by Tam Hussein.

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Again, this gets to the same point above in Link #3 above. Do people just “radicalize” in a vacuum? Or is it a reflection of broader socio-economic circumstances?

There is an ongoing reluctance by Western scholars to accept that the appeal of Jihadism is a rationale consequence of socio-economic structural problems. One area where this affects CT policy analysis is in debates about Prison radicalization.

The Dominant “P.C.”  Narrative: 

X person who ended up joining a terrorist group radicalized in jail. That is the beginning and the end of the story. To stop this from happening again in the future, CT efforts should focus on reforming Jails.

More Accurate and Productive CT Narrative:

Those who end up in jail are coming from the lower end of the socio-economic spectrum in 99.9% of the cases.They do things that lead to them being in jail, because of that upbringing, socio-class and what it teaches or conditions them to do. Once they get into jail, a certain amount are going to radicalize and there is very little way to avoid that. Therefore, the way to solve the prison radicalization problem is to address the issues that are leading people to get arrested in the first place.

Ending up in jail in inself is a merely a reflection of socio-economic problems. The solution from a  Trump administration CT perspective is not to focus on “reforming jails.” Instead it’s to focus on economic reform in the Middle East so that people don’t radicalize in Arab jails, or don’t feel so tempted to emigrate to Europe, where some percentage will end up in jail, and radicalized.

(5)  Letter’s from Cairo: Egypt’s Failed Revolution

Peter Hessler writing at the New Yorker has a well-researched article looking at Egyptian politics.

Egypt is a demographic ticking time bomb. The good news is that President-Elect Trump has an enormous amount of political capital with the Sisi government. If he uses it to coax General Sisi towards different and more productive views on economic reform, it can make a big impact:

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Do you know others who might find these articles interesting?  Feel free to share with them on relevant social media feeds.

4 thoughts on “5 excellent articles on Trump Adm. & Middle East security issues I read this week

  1. JP

    Thank you posting this review of Lister’s book. Not knowing Arabic should be considered a decisive obstacle to writing a quality book on Syria. How anybody could think otherwise is beyond me.


    1. Nathan

      99% of the sources used by Syrian rebels would be in Arabic. Just from casually flipping through Al-Jazeera maybe once per week there are always interesting Syria related interviews, lots and lots of good content on what’s going on there. If you can’t read them one is it a severe disadvantage. I am glad to see Tamimi call him out for this. Especially since the author of the book is constantly making bold declarations about what the US MUST/SHOULD do in Syria.


  2. Pingback: Ayman Al-Zawahiri in 2017 onwards is irrelevant to the US effort to solve the Jihadist Terrorism problem – Real World Arabic

  3. Pingback: Ayman Zawahiri in 2017 onwards is irrelevant to the US effort to solve the Jihadist Terrorism problem – Real World Arabic

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