Police Work, Politics and World Affairs, Football and the ongoing search for great Scotch Whiskey!

Monday, August 3, 2015

First Superman doens't fight for the American way....

And now he fights the cops.

The Big Lie was developed by one of the greatest leftist of all time, Adolph Hitler. You tell an unbelievable story enough times and it gets harder to deny and finally accepted as truth. Now the Big Lie has hit a classic American comic character, Superman.

In this new magazine the protesters are all innocent people with strong families, jobs, etc. and all they want is peace. And they are going to use non-violent means to accomplish something. What that something is is left to the imagination. You only have peaceful demonstrators being attacked by storm trooper police with tear gas.

The writers are apparently trying to present an image tied to the recent riots in Ferguson, Baltimore and New York. But in reality we know the real riots were not about protesting a perceived wrong but to loot and the leadership of the crowds were not the locals but the "rent-a-mobs" bussed in. Some questions I would ask many of the protestors (read looters) if I were a "journalist":

1. What do you do for a living?

2. If this is your neighborhood, what are you setting houses and businesses on fire?

3. What do the ten boxes of Michael Jordan shoes you just took from the store have to do with "police oppression"?

4. After you destroy everything here, where will you shop?

5. And do you think these businesses will reopen after the owner has seen his hard work destroyed when he had nothing to do with the "issues" of the masses?

No, we won't get those questions answered. Now for the new magazine.


Action Comics turns police into villains in new comic

Action Comics stirred up some controversy recently as their latest comic seemed very similar to the recent riots in Ferguson.

The comic featured Superman stripped of his normal cape and “S” costume. He is in jeans and t-shirt among a large crowd.

In the comic, Superman is in a town that is afraid of him. While he does have many supporters in the town, those supporters don’t include the police department.

The town is celebrating Superman’s return, but the police are there to break up the party. Soon thereafter, a riot ensues and the police are seen angrily screaming at the crowd.

A sample of the comic in Business Insider shows images of police in full SWAT and shield gear. They are shooting tear gas into the crowd. The crowd is seen trying to reason with police, but to no avail. Superman becomes frustrated and positions himself in between the crowd and police to stop the struggle....
Sorry, the crowd in Fergerson was not trying to reason with authorites. And in Baltimore the idiot mayor let them tear the city down. 
Cops starting the riot,not the rioters.

Damned he looks like Doctor Evil. I wonder if that was on purpose? 
...The police continue, causing Superman to punch the police officer in the face. This is where the strip ends...

I wasn't going to buy a comic book anyway but this is another sign of the decline of America in the last seven years. Damned January 2017 cannot come too soon.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Mrs. Bill Clinton again thinks she is above the law

What difference does it make!

I can hear Mrs. Bill Clinton screeching that if she was actually brought forward to a court like she should be. Any federal employee with access to classified information must sign a SF-312 and that requires them to secure it. And sorry, any classified (Confidential, Secret, Top Secret, etc) must be handled by government owned systems, not by a private server. If her name wasn't Clinton she would already be in front of a grand jury.

Clinton email account had classified data, investigators say

BY MICHAEL S. SCHMIDT AND MATT APUZZO NEW YORK TIMES

WASHINGTON — Government investigators said Friday that they had discovered classified information on the private email account that Hillary Rodham Clinton used while secretary of state, stating unequivocally that those secrets never should have been stored outside of secure government computer systems.

Clinton has said for months that she kept no classified information on the private server that she set up in her house so she would not have to carry both a personal phone and a work phone. Her campaign said Friday that any government secrets found on the server had been classified after the fact.

But the inspector generals of the State Department and the nation’s intelligence agencies said the information they found was classified when it was sent and remains so now. Information is considered classified if its disclosure would likely harm national security, and such information can be sent or stored only on computer networks with special safeguards.

“This classified information never should have been transmitted via an unclassified personal system,” Steve A. Linick, the State Department inspector general, said in a statement signed by him and I. Charles McCullough III, the inspector general for the intelligence community.

The findings by the two inspector generals raise new questions about Clinton’s use of her personal email at the State Department...."
Now I find this interesting, this article if from the New York Puke, err Times, the main propaganda arm of the militant left in this country. And they are deliberately doing something that is harming the presumed Democratic nominee for next year. I have to wonder if they are realizing she is a very weak candidate and want to push her out while there is time to recover. But looking at the bench for the Democrats, they can only hope the Republicans screw it up again.

Using the business model to go after drug dealers...

I saw this on a friend's FaceBook page and it was interesting. Telling the local "businessman" that the cops can eliminate your competition. Awesome!

Thursday, July 30, 2015

TSA at the Cinemark. Great....

Last week's attack in a theater in Lafayette LA is bringing out more idiot ideas. Here we go again.
Shooting renews movie security issue
Will industry put in costly system for its patrons?

LOS ANGELES — Melissa Holt took in “Minions” at the ArcLight Cinemas in Hollywood on Friday with little worry about her safety.

But the day after the deadly shootings at a movie theater in Lafayette, La., Holt said she’d be OK with additional security measures at theaters.

“If that’s something they need to keep people safe, they should do it,” said Holt, 42, a cinematographer. “I could see how you could sneak in with guns.”...

John Russell Houser, a 59-year-old drifter, opened fire at Lafayette’s Grand Theatre on Thursday night, killing two people and injuring nine before turning killing hiself, according to authorities.

The shootings renewed the debate on security that began three years ago when a gunman killed 12 people and wounded 70 in a movie theater in Aurora, Colo.

Increasing security at the nation’s 5,000 theaters would be expensive. Walk-through metal detectors, for example, can cost about $5,000. In addition to the price of such devices, security systems require training personnel and paying their wages.

Maintaining a strong security installation at a multiplex could cost between $250,000 and $1 million a year, according to security consultant Michael Dorn. Such a system would include metal detectors, X-ray machines, workers to operate those devices and additional armed security.

“There’s a difference between having a metal detector at the door and actually having effective screening,” said Dorn, executive director of Safe Havens International, a nonprofit that consults schools and other facilities about security. “My fear is that we may see theaters throw in metal detectors without proper utilization...”

First Ms Holt, if you are so scared of going to a theater I suggest not going to ArcLight. You need to get back home under your bed. Hate to tell you this but this won't stop anyone. I could just walk in, shoot the TSA wanna be at the x-ray machine and then start shooting up the rest of the assembled minions in the line. The problem is not the gun, it's the people who uses the gun.

But I'm recalling the works of B Hussein Obama and his love for crisis, "There is great opportunity in times of great crisis." Remember how the airline industry suffered in the time after 9/11 and again they have not fully recovered from the federal "help" of the TSA, etc. This has not made flying safer, just more inconvenient and expensive. If you think differently, please tell me when the TSA has stopped a terrorist event. Or what will TSA do if an active shooter shows up at the airport. Like most people, they will run away from the threat and the cops will move forward.

If anything this shows again the disaster of "Gun Free Zones". What they are is showing a target rich environment but I guess reality is not in vogue right now. Guys, again, the only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.

If this happens, the theater industry is doomed. People are already deciding to go to other forms of entertainment as a movie is not worth the aggravation and cost anymore. If one has to go through a TSA like pat down to pay 25 bucks for a bad movie with overprices cokes and popcorn, I think not. I'll watch my Married with Children videos.

Sorry Tommy, cops are not the fire department...

I saw this on Fans of Best of the Web, an internet service from the Wall Street Journal. But Mr. Mullen is suggesting we do away with having police on the street and just let them sit in a patrol station and wait until we get called.

Now as a street supervisor Tom, it's bad enough getting some of my officers to run calls, they practically do set up "stations" at parking lots, etc. But his premise is we should not have proactive policing and the Constitution basically outlaws it. Strange theme, but here we go.
A Practical Solution: Run Police Departments Like Fire Departments

Do you lie awake at night in constant fear a fire will break out and nothing will be done to put it out?

For the 99% of the population not suffering from pyrophobia or a similar neurosis, the answer to that question is "no," even though firefighters aren't patrolling the streets in their big red trucks. They still manage to arrive at the scene of a fire within minutes of an emergency call.

Why can't police departments be run the same way?

If they were, Walter Scott, Freddie Gray, and Sandra Bland would be alive today. All three encountered police doing what would be considered outlandish for any other institution charged with public safety: roaming the streets, looking for trouble.

No one had called 911 asking for protection from Scott, Gray or Bland. No judges had issued warrants for their arrests. All three were, at least at the time of their arrests, just walking or driving down the street, minding their own business. They were detained in what are generally considered "routine" but are in reality wholly unnecessary encounters with police...

No, Scott and Bland were driving on the public streets and committed a traffic offense. I don't question a traffic offense is not a capital crime but it is still a crime. You drive on the public street you have agreed with the state to do so according to set law. BTY, I can somewhat agree with the point on Gray, but you may want to ask the New York City Council to repeal the law on selling loose cigarettes. Or maybe cut the taxes so there will no longer be a market for loosies.
...I'm going to suggest a solution that will sound radical, even in a country that styles itself "the land of free." Let's get cops off the streets, unless responding to a 911 call or serving a warrant issued by a judge. Everyone would be freer and safer, including the police officers themselves.

This is by no means an anti-cop argument. The problem isn't how they do their jobs; it's the job we ask them to do. A free society shouldn't be asking armed agents of the state to patrol the streets, keeping its citizens under 24/7 surveillance.

I haven't seen any surveys, but I have a feeling that if you asked cops at random why they joined the force, very few would say it was to protect the public from broken tail lights or untaxed cigarettes. The men and women we want on this job join to protect the public from real crimes, like murder, assault, rape and robbery.
And Tom, hate to give you a bit of insight, traffic is a way we do get murderers, rapes, and robbers. I have pulled over two people in my career with murder warrants and other multiple felonies. I have two cops who daily catch suspects with narcotics and the reasonable suspicious for their investigations that gives us PCP and heroin is a traffic stop. Now you may want to discuss the wisdom of banking narcotics because it is a "victimless crime" (I would argue that, I've seen what this stuff does to humans) but this shows your point of surveillance as false.
...Here's the catch: you can't have a free society where this "protection" occurs in advance. The federal and every state constitution assumes the government can't and shouldn't do anything to prevent a crime. The Fourth and Fifth amendments were written to keep the government from even trying. They assume the government is powerless until a crime has already occurred, the Fourth in particular providing further restraint on how the government investigates after the fact.

Defending oneself while a crime is occurring is left to the citizen. It's not a responsibility of the police. Even the Supreme Court agrees. Protecting oneself is what the Second Amendment is all about.

Yes we can. Tell me something Tom, if you are standing on a sidewalk and Mike Brown walks up and starts "asking" for money in an intimidating manner. Do you think he might think otherwise if Mikey sees a cop walking a beat or a police car twenty feet away. The bad guys don't like it when a cop is sitting on the street, watching. While they are there, it deters the bad guys from acting illegally. That is why you have proactive law enforcement.
The job we ask police to do today annihilates the principle of the Fourth Amendment. Regardless of statutes and Supreme Court rulings, police surveilling all of society all of the time is as unreasonable a search as there ever was. Only decades of becoming accustomed to the idea allows us to see it any other way.

Well, what does the 4th Amendment say?
Amendment IV

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

Tom, hate to shock you but you have no reasonable expatiation of privacy on the public street. I cannot kick a door in without a warrant (with certain exceptions) but I can look around. Do you think you have a right to privacy on the public street? Why don't you walk down the street naked and tell me how that works out. You are in the public and the public and people can look. Cops are people too.
It hasn't always been this way. The modern police department as we know it is a product of the 20th century. Prior to that, peace officers were generally dispatched in response to a complaint by the victim of a real crime, usually with a warrant. Contrary to legend, this did not lead to chaos, even in the inappropriately named "Wild West."...

Yes Tom, law enforcement wasn't too proactive in the 19th Century. However, back then you didn't have a society crumbling like we have right now, we had many more capital crimes (rape, horse theft, etc) and the general public had more respect for the public. People didn't steal or commit murder to the degree we do now. Back then (even earlier in the 20th Century) murder was a serious event for the suspect. Now it's an initiation for many gangs.

Get the point Tom? This is not the 19th Century.
...Would life under these circumstances be significantly less safe? No. The laws that might go unenforced are largely those that shouldn't exist anyway. Yes, more people might "get away with" driving 66 mph in a 55, but people would be free to call the police if a reckless driver were truly threatening public safety. The same goes for thousands of other victimless "crimes" currently enforced by police...

True Tom, people going 66 in a 55 generally is not an issue. How about someone going in a family neighborhood doing 65 in a 30? I would call that risky and I've stopped someone doing that. And Tom, we nightly get calls on "reckless drivers" on the highway and maybe one out of ten we catch. One, the caller doesn't have eyes on him and two we can't get a unit there in time. And your idea would not do well for DWI enforcement, but I'll go out on a limb and say you're not happy with DWI enforcement.

Oh Tom, a lot of city's have "proactive fire". In Houston we have pumpers and ambulances on "patrol" because they have medics onboard and can be at a location sooner than a unit dispatched from a fixed sit. Sorry Tom, you are way off base on this. Next time you hear someone breaking into your house, call the fire department.

Stairway to Heaven....

I am not attuned to popular culture much. Put another way, there is not much on TV I want to see and the Kennedy Center Honors is not one on my DVR schedule. But my brother Bobby put this on Facebook this morning and it was incredible. Heart does Stairway to Heaven and the members of Led Zeppelin are having the time of their life. Enjoy.

The Eagles won a Kennedy Center honor this year. I gotta set the DVR for that. You know they will play Hotel California but who will do it?

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Security Weekly: Protecting Your Family from Tiger Kidnapping, July 16, 2015


By Scott Stewart

Tanner Harris' typical Tuesday morning routine was violently interrupted July 7, when two armed men invaded his home, blindfolding and handcuffing him and his wife, Abbey. But the incident was not a simple home invasion robbery. Though the family's home was in a nice neighborhood, the assailants were not interested in the home's occupants or their possessions. Instead, they wanted to use Tanner Harris to gain access to something else: his place of work. Harris, a first vice president at SmartBank, had become the victim of a tiger kidnapping, and his captors were going to use him to gain access to the bank's vault and cash.

The gunmen loaded Harris, Abbey and their five-month-old baby into the family's car and drove to the bank. Harris was ordered to obtain a specified amount of money while the gunmen waited in the car with his family. After he got the money and brought it back, the gunmen sped off with Abbey and the baby. They later abandoned them and the family vehicle unharmed on a remote dirt road near the interstate, which provided the criminals with a high-speed escape route.

The tiger kidnapping of the Harris family was the second in the Knoxville area in recent months. On April 28 (also a Tuesday), Mark Ziegler, the CEO of the Y-12 Federal Credit Union, and his family were also taken captive in their home by armed assailants. In the Ziegler case, a woman accompanied the two men involved in the crime, and the Ziegler family was detained in their home while Mark Ziegler was sent to retrieve the cash, rather than being taken to the bank.

Tiger kidnapping, or taking a family hostage and forcing a member to retrieve money or other goods of value from his place of business, derives its unique name from the extensive surveillance it requires, essentially stalking the victims like tigers stalk their prey. The tactic has long been used in places such as Ireland, where, in addition to robbery, the Provisional Irish Republican Army used tiger kidnappings to force men to deliver bombs to targets. Tiger kidnappings have also made it to the big screen in movies such as the 2001 "Bandits," starring Bruce Willis and Billy Bob Thornton.

Though tiger kidnappings often catch their victims by surprise, like other crimes, they do not spontaneously emerge from a vacuum. They follow a discernable planning process that can be detected. There are also security measures banks and other businesses can implement to help guard against them.

Preparing for the Hunt

The planning process for a tiger kidnapping follows the same general preparatory cycle as that of any other crime. However, it requires far more effort than a straight bank robbery, a home invasion robbery, or even a conventional kidnapping for ransom, because it involves elements of all three. First, the criminals need to conduct surveillance on the bank to determine its procedures and to identify their target, who is often the first person into the office each morning. They then need to conduct surveillance on the targeted employee or employees to determine his home address behavioral patterns. Next, to plan for the home invasion and kidnapping portion of the crime, the criminals have to surveil the employee's residence, including the neighborhood, and the security measures employed there.


The Criminal Planning Cycle
The large amount of surveillance also means that the criminals planning it are vulnerable to detection for a longer period than are the criminals planning most crimes. Although the April 28 and July 7 tiger kidnappings in Knoxville were separated by several weeks, it is likely that the criminal group responsible for them (if it is indeed the same group) was not dormant for long, but that planning its next job simply took that long.

During those phases of the criminal planning cycle that require surveillance, criminals are vulnerable to detection. This vulnerability is magnified by the fact that most criminals are simply not very good at conducting surveillance, something I know first hand. Countersurveillance teams I've worked on have identified many criminals who weren't even targeting our protectees but whose surveillance tradecraft was so bad that we had little problem spotting them and alerting the local police.

The ability to display the appropriate demeanor for a situation is essential to mastering the art of surveillance. But this is far more difficult than it sounds; displaying good demeanor is not intuitive. In fact, maintaining good demeanor while conducting surveillance frequently runs counter to human nature. Because of this, intelligence, law enforcement and security professionals assigned to work surveillance operations receive extensive training that includes many hours of heavily critiqued practical exercises, often followed by field training with a team of experienced surveillance professionals. This training teaches and reinforces good demeanor. Criminals simply do not receive this type of training, and it shows: They tend to lurk and look out of place.

Criminals are able to get by with such a poor level of surveillance tradecraft — especially bad demeanor — because most victims of tiger kidnappings and other crimes simply are not looking for potential threats. During my career, I have spent thousands of hours on the street conducting surveillance on criminals and countersurveillance to protect people and facilities. This means that I have spent significant amounts of time watching people's behavior in residential neighborhoods, commercial districts and diplomatic enclaves. During this time, I was honestly surprised that few people ever paid any attention to me as I was watching them. The truth is most people simply don't have much consciousness of what is happening around them.

This lack of awareness is often caused by, or in some cases compounded by, the wrong mindset. I have interviewed a large number of crime victims who noticed criminals before they were attacked, but for some reason they chose not to take action that could have kept them safe. They either ignored what they were seeing because they did not trust their senses, they were too busy to make the effort to check out the anomaly or to avoid a potential problem, or they mistakenly thought they couldn't or wouldn't be targeted.

Adopting a sound security mindset, one that recognizes that threats do exist and that accepts responsibility for one's own security, and then maintaining an appropriate level of situational awareness are the most important steps that people can take to avoid becoming victims of a tiger kidnapping.

In addition to becoming an alert target who is hard to surveil, at-risk employees can also employ good residential security measures and procedures to help persuade criminals to select another, more vulnerable target.

Defense Mechanisms

In addition to urging employees to practice good situational awareness, there are also some procedural measures that banks and businesses can implement to help reduce the threat of falling victim to a tiger kidnapping, or to mitigate the harm should one occur.

First, businesses should attempt to minimize the amount of cash or valuables that can be accessed to the smallest amount required to operate. They should also consider compartmentalizing valuables into smaller quantities and limiting an individual's access to different compartments. Instituting such a policy and making it known will help shield a business against tiger kidnappers who will divert to more lucrative targets.

Speaking of making things known, sensitive information regarding business procedures and operations should be strictly limited to those who must be informed to do their jobs effectively. This will help make it more difficult for tiger kidnappers to get the intelligence they need on personnel and procedures.

Businesses can also establish a system whereby two people must work in tandem in order to open sensitive areas such as bank vaults and cash boxes. This prevents any single individual from being able to turn the valuables over to the kidnappers and would require tiger kidnappers to either simultaneously carry out two separate operations, or choose another target. Off-site control for opening critical locks or access to large quantities of cash or other valuables can also be helpful.

Companies can also plan for tiger kidnappings by establishing special tiger kidnapping alarms and alarm procedures intended to protect the employee and his family. Such a program should contain verbal and non-verbal duress codes. Obviously, such a program would require thoughtful planning and training for employees and would vary by business.

Companies are ultimately the targets of tiger kidnappers, and most tiger kidnappings begin with the criminals conducting surveillance at the company's location. Companies can therefore employ surveillance detection or countersurveillance teams at their office, focusing on those times, such as opening and closing, when criminals would be working to determine operational procedures and working to identify which specific employee to target.

Banks and bank employees in the Knoxville area may now increase their situational awareness in the wake of the two tiger kidnappings in their city, but it is important to recognize that tiger kidnappers just don't target bank employees. They can also target people with access to jewelry stores, gun shops, warehouses, armored car companies and other places that contain items of value. Furthermore, criminals tend to copy tactics that are successful, and this could lead to other criminal gangs copying the tactics used by the tiger kidnapper in Knoxville. If locations in Knoxville become too difficult to target, the group behind these robberies could also change their area of operation and move to Gatlinburg, Ashville, Chattanooga or any other city, so the need for awareness of tiger kidnappings goes beyond Knoxville, and beyond banks.

Geopolitical Weekly: An Empire Strikes Back: Germany and the Greek Crisis, July 14, 2015

By George Friedman

A desperate battle was fought last week. It pitted Germany and Greece against each other. Each country had everything at stake. Based on the deal that was agreed to, Germany forced a Greek capitulation. But it is far from clear that Greece can allow the agreement reached to be implemented, or that it has the national political will to do so. It is also not clear what its options are, especially given that the Greek people had backed Germany into a corner, where its only choice was to risk everything. It was not a good place for Greece to put the Germans. They struck back with vengeance.

The key event was the Greek referendum on the European Union's demand for further austerity in exchange for infusions of cash to save the Greek banking system. The Syriza party had called the vote to strengthen its hand in dealing with the European demands. The Greek government's view was that the European terms would save Greece from immediate disaster but at the cost of impoverishing the country in the long term. The austerity measures demanded would, in their view, make any sort of recovery impossible. Facing a choice between a short-term catastrophe in the banking system and long-term misery, the Greeks saw themselves in an impossible position.

In chess, when your position is hopeless, one solution is to knock over the chessboard. That is what the Greeks tried to do with the referendum. If the vote was lost, then the government could capitulate to German demands and claim it was the will of the people. But if the vote went the way it did, the Greek leaders could go to the European Union and argue that broad relaxation of austerity was not merely the position of the government, but also the sovereign will of the Greek people.

The European Union is founded on the dual principles of an irrevocable community of nations that have joined together but have retained their national sovereignty. The Greeks were demonstrating the national will, which the government thought would create a new chess game. Instead, the Germans chose to directly demand a cession of a significant portion of Greece's sovereignty by creating a cadre of European bureaucrats who would oversee the implementation of the agreement and take control of Greek national assets for sale to raise money. The specifics are less important than the fact that Greece invoked its sovereign right, and Germany responded by enforcing an agreement that compelled the Greeks to cede those rights.

Germany's Motivations

I've discussed the German fear extensively. Germany is a massive exporting power that depends on the European free trade zone to purchase a substantial part of its output. The Germans had a record positive balance of trade last month, of which its trade both in the eurozone as well as in the rest of the European Union was an indispensible part. For Germany, the unraveling of the European Union would directly threaten its national interest. The Greek position — particularly in the face of the Greek vote — could, in the not too distant future, result in that unraveling.

There were two sides of the Greek position that frightened the Germans. The first was that Athens was trying to use its national sovereignty to compel the European Union to allow Greece to avoid the pain of austerity. This would, in effect, shift the burden of the Greek debt from the Greeks to the European Union, which meant Germany. For the Germans, the bloc was an instrument of economic growth. If Germany accepted the principle that it had to assume responsibility for national financial problems, the European Union — which has more than a few countries with national financial problems — could drain German resources and undermine a core reason for the bloc, at least from the German point of view. If Greece demonstrated it could compel Germany to assume responsibility for the debt in the long term, it is not clear where it would have ended — and that is precisely what the Greek vote intended.

On the other hand, if the Greeks left the European Union, it would have created a precedent that would in the end shatter the bloc. If the European Union was an elective affinity, in Goethe's words, something you could enter and then leave, then the long-term viability of the bloc was in serious doubt. And there was no reason those doubts couldn't be extended to the free trade zone. If nations could withdraw from the European Union and create trade barriers, then Germany would be living in a world of tariffs, European and other. And that was the nightmare scenario for Germany.

The vote backed the Germans into a corner, as I said last week. Germany could not accept the Greek demand. It could not risk a Greek exit from the European Union. It could not appear to be frightened by an exit, and it could not be flexible. During the week, the Germans floated the idea of a temporary Greek exit from the euro. Greece owes a huge debt and needs to build its economy. What all this has to do with being in the euro or using the drachma is not clear. It is certainly not clear how it would have helped Europe or solved the immediate banking problem. The Greeks are broke, and don't have the euros to pay back loans or liquefy the banking system. The same would have been true if they left the European Union. Suggesting a temporary Grexit was a fairly meaningless act — a bravura performance by the Germans. When you desperately fear something in a negotiation, there is no better strategy than to demand that it happen.

The Resurrection of German Primacy

I have deliberately used Germany rather than the European Union as the negotiating partner with the Greeks. The Germans have long been visible as the controlling entity of the European Union. This time, they made no bones about it. Nor did they make any bones about their ferocity. In effect they raised the banner of German primacy, German national interest, and German willingness to crush the opposition. The French and the Italians, among others, questioned the German position publicly. In the end, it didn't matter. The Germans consulted with these other governments, but Berlin decided the negotiating position, because in the end it was Germany that would be most exposed by French or Italian moderation. This negotiation was in the context of the European Union, but it was a German negotiation.

And with this, the Germans did something they never wanted to do: resurrect fairly unambiguously the idea that Germany is the sovereign and dominant nation-state in Europe, and that it has the power and the will to unilaterally impose its will on another nation. Certainly the niceties of votes by finance ministers and prime ministers were adhered to, but it was the Germans who conducted the real negotiations and who imposed their will on Greece.

Germany's historical position was that it was one nation among many in the European Union. One of the prime purposes of European integration was to embed Germany in a multinational European entity so that it could develop economically but not play the role in Europe that it did between 1871 and 1945. The key to this was making certain that Germany and France were completely aligned. The fear was that German economic growth would create a unilateral German political power, and the assumption was that a multilateral organization in which France and Germany were intimately bound together would enable German growth without risking German unilateral power.

No one wanted this solution to work more than the Germans, and many of Germany's maneuvers were to save the multilateral entity. But in making these moves, Germany crossed two lines. The lesser line was that France and Germany were not linked on dealing with Greece, though they were not so far apart as to be even close to a breach. The second, and more serious, line was that the final negotiation was an exercise of unilateral German power. Several nations supported the German position from the beginning — particularly the Eastern European nations that, in addition to opposing Greece soaking up European money, do not trust Greece's relationship with Russia. Germany had allies. But it also had major powers as opponents, and these were brushed aside.

These powerful opponents were brushed aside particularly on two issues. One was any temporary infusion of cash into Greek banks. The other was the German demand, in a more extreme way than ever before, that the Greeks cede fundamental sovereignty over their national economy and, in effect, over Greece itself. Germany demanded that Greece place itself under the supervision of a foreign EU monitoring force that, as Germany demonstrated in these negotiations, ultimately would be under German control.

The Germans did not want to do this, but what a nation wants to do and what it will do are two different things. What Germany wanted was Greek submission to greater austerity in return for support for its banking system. It was not the government's position that troubled Germany the most, but the Greek referendum. If Germany forced the Greek government to capitulate, it was a conventional international negotiation. If it forced the government to capitulate in the face of the electoral mandate of the Greek public, it was in many ways an attack on national sovereignty, forcing a settlement not in opposition to the government but a direct confrontation with the electorate. The Germans could not accommodate the vote. They had to respond by demanding concessions on Greek sovereignty.

This is not over, of course. It is now up to the Greek government to implement its agreements, and it does so in the face of the Greek referendum. The situation in Greece is desperate because of the condition of the banking system. It was the pressure point that the Germans used to force Greek capitulation. But Greece is now facing not only austerity, but also foreign governance. The Germans' position is they do not trust the Greeks. They do not mean the government now, but the Greek electorate. Therefore, they want monitoring and controls. This is reasonable from the German point of view, but it will be explosive to the Greeks.

The Potential for Continental Unease

In World War II, the Germans occupied Greece. As in much of the rest of Europe, the memory of that occupation is now in the country's DNA. This will be seen as the return of German occupation, and opponents of the deal will certainly use that argument. The manner in which the deal was made and extended by the Germans to provide outside control will resurrect historical memories of German occupation. It has already started. The aggressive inflexibility of the Germans can be understood as an attitude motivated by German fears, but then Germany has always been a frightened country responding with bravado and self-confidence.

The point of the matter is not going away, and not only because the Greek response is unpredictable; poverty versus sovereignty is a heady issue, especially when the Greeks will both remain poor and lose some sovereignty. The Germans made an example of Cyprus and now Greece. The leading power of Europe will not underwrite defaulting debtors. It will demand political submission for what help is given. This is not a message that will be lost in Europe, whatever the anti-Greek feeling is now.

This is as far from what Germany wanted as can be imagined. But Greece could not live with German demands, and Germany could not live with Greek demands. In the end, the banking crisis gave Germany an irresistible tool. Now the circumstances demand that the Greeks accept austerity and transfer key elements of sovereignty to institutions under the control or heavy influence of the Germans.

What else could Germany do? What else could Greece do? The tragedy of geopolitical reality is that what will happen has little to do with what statesmen wanted when they started out.

An Empire Strikes Back: Germany and the Greek Crisis is republished with permission of Stratfor.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Security Weekly: The Jihadist Blowback Against the Islamic State, July 9, 2015

By Scott Stewart

Last Ramadan saw the proclamation of the caliphate as a triumphant Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi appeared in Mosul's Great Mosque to declare himself the leader of all Muslims worldwide. This Ramadan, things have changed dramatically for the organization. Al-Baghdadi is keeping an extremely low profile because of the coalition bombing campaign over Iraq and Syria, while the Islamic State is on the strategic defensive, struggling financially and to hold the territories it conquered.

Although many often refer to the Islamic State as the wealthiest terrorist group ever, they fail to understand that the organization is really an insurgency rather than a terrorist group — and that fighting a war on several fronts and governing territory, especially large cities such as Mosul, Raqqa and Ramadi, requires an incredible amount of money, resources and manpower. The Islamic State's resource burn rate is magnitudes larger than that of a true terrorist group or even a small insurgency. Coalition airstrikes against oil collection points, oil tankers and mobile refineries have put a serious dent in the Islamic State's economy. Though the group does earn considerable revenue from taxation, extortion and smuggling, these revenue sources — which are obtained mostly from the people the group rules — are limited and will breed increased resentment against the group as they are ramped up.

This Ramadan also brought a new challenge to the Islamic State when the al Qaeda pole of the transnational jihadist movement launched a widespread ideological campaign to undercut the Islamic State's support base. These ideological efforts have been impressive, at least to this middle-aged American analyst. It remains to be seen, however, if they will have the desired impact on wealthy jihadist donors and young recruits.

Resurgence

The first ideological salvo fired this Ramadan was the second issue of al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent's Resurgence Magazine. The 92-page publication was a "special issue" containing a lengthy interview that the publisher, Hassaan Yusuf, had conducted with Adam Gadahn, aka "Azzam the American," an English-language spokesman for the al Qaeda core group who was killed by a U.S. airstrike in Pakistan in January.

While the interview was ostensibly a biography of Gadahn, Yusuf was able to cleverly shape it into a hit piece on the Islamic State. For example, Yusuf quoted Gadahn talking about al Qaeda's interactions with Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. While Gadahn discussed al Qaeda's conflicts with al-Zarqawi, it emphasized that he was a strong proponent of jihadist unity and that he should not be held responsible for the "deviation" of those who claim to follow him today. The interview contained many scathing indictments of the Islamic State, such as:

Declaring Muslims to be outside the fold of Islam is not a trivial matter or something to be taken lightly.
Spilling the blood, taking the wealth and violating the rights of Muslims is not a trivial matter or something to be taken lightly.
When you declare yourselves to be "the" Islamic State, you are responsible if your actions and behavior distort the image of the Islamic system of government in the eyes of the Ummah and the world.
Ignorance of Sharia and misinterpretation of Islamic texts.
Interestingly, many of the arguments directed against the Islamic State used language that was not typical for Gadahn: specifically, terms that were beyond his educational level and normal lexicon. This likely indicates that these sections were later inserted by Yusuf, who is quite erudite, eloquent and apparently very well educated. Yusuf's writing uses advanced American idiomatic English, and it would be unsurprising to learn that he had earned an advanced degree from an American university, perhaps even an Ivy League school. Gadahn, by contrast, never attended university, and while he often sought to sound sophisticated in public statements, his efforts were transparent and his usage came across as unnatural.

Resurgence shows that in Yusuf, al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent has an articulate propagandist who likely retains contacts in the United States. He is certainly a much deeper thinker than figures like Gadahn or Inspire magazine editor Samir Khan ever were. Yusuf accordingly will be an important figure to note and track.

Al Risalah Magazine

The second major ideological assault against the Islamic State was launched with the introduction of Al Risalah, a new English-language magazine by Jabhat al-Nusra. Risalah, which means "letter" in Arabic, has the stated purpose of dispelling "from the minds of
 the Muslims some of
 the mistaken notions
 and doubts promoted by the kuffar, hypocrites and deviant groups present amongst our midst, who aim to distort and destroy the clear and pure message of Islam and Jihad in the way of Allah."

The "hypocrites and deviants" the magazine focuses most intently upon hail from the Islamic State, which the magazine refers to as the Dawlat al-Baghdadi, or state of al-Baghdadi. The publication repeatedly criticizes the Islamic State for spreading dissension and attacking Jabhat al-Nusra/al Qaeda in Syria, when the latter are genuine jihadists. It also castigates the Islamic State for dividing and attacking fellow jihadists in Yemen, the Caucasus, Afghanistan and Libya. "They have made their khilafa a sword, which splits the Ummah, and not a khilafa, which gathers the Ummah together."

Being produced by Jabhat al-Nusra in Syria, Al Risalah naturally contains several articles authored by senior al-Nusra leaders, such as a eulogy for former al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula leader Nasir al-Wahayshi written by al-Nusra leader Abu Mohammed al-Golani. The magazine also features articles from a number of other interesting figures, including a female jihadist who immigrated to Syria from the United Kingdom and an American jihadist named Abu Hudaifa al-Amreeki. Another article was written by Qaari Ikram, a senior Taliban religious authority.

The magazine devotes a great deal of space to refuting the ideology and actions of the Islamic State and argues that the Islamic State cannot be the legitimate caliphate since al-Baghdadi did not consult with the leaders of the global jihadist movement before proclaiming himself caliph. An article entitled "Khilafa One Year On" specifically noted that the caliphate had not been restored and quoted a Hadith from Sahih Bukhari that says "if any person gives the pledge of allegiance to somebody (to become a caliph) without consulting the other Muslims, then the one he has selected should not be granted allegiance, lest both of them should be killed." The article also criticizes young Islamic State supporters for believing things posted on social media over the opinions of respected jihadist clerics, such as Abu Qatada and Abu Muhammad al-Maqdisi, and even of treating such scholars with contempt and disrespect.

This theme of disrespecting elder jihadists and even cursing at them was made in other articles, including an interview with Chechen jihadist Muslim Shishani and an article by Qaari Ikram titled "This is al Qaeda or Have They Forgotten."

Ikram was particularly pointed in countering the argument repeatedly made by Islamic State figures that Ayman al-Zawahiri and the present al Qaeda leadership have strayed from the path charted by Osama bin Laden. Ikram notes that unlike the Islamic State leaders, he knew bin Laden — as well as other al Qaeda leaders — and observed his methods and beliefs in favorable conditions and under pressure. Based upon this firsthand knowledge, Ikram asserts that bin Laden and the other al Qaeda leaders would have condemned the Islamic State for attacking other jihadists, for the indiscriminate killing of non-Muslim women and children, and for the killing of Muslim women and children. He also berated them for being bloodthirsty, deceitful and divisive and for being excessive in declaring takfir (declaring a Muslim to be an unbeliever).

An article called "Halab Under Fire" by Abu Hudaifa al Amreeki specifically charged the Islamic State with helping the administration of Syrian President Bashar al Assad by attacking Jabhat al-Nusra and other jihadist groups north of Aleppo (Halab is an ancient name for Aleppo). This forced other jihadists to divert forces away from their attack on loyalists in Aleppo to counter the Islamic State attack.

Turning the Tables on the Islamic State

Members and sympathizers of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula have begun to use social media more aggressively. They launched a campaign on Twitter this week to criticize Abu Belal al-Harbi, the leader of the Islamic State in Yemen, accusing him of treason. Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb also issued a statement this week criticizing the Islamic State's actions in Libya. Whether such efforts will make much headway against the Islamic State's powerful social media juggernaut, however, is not clear.

I found some compelling arguments against the Islamic State's ideology and practices while reading these materials. But whether potential jihadist recruits and wealthy jihadist donors will take the time to read them and be swayed — or whether they will continue to feed off the Islamic State's dramatic videos and short social media posts — remains to be seen.

Perhaps some of the more mature jihadists and foreign financiers will in fact take time to read these magazines and the reasoned arguments put forth in them. But for many of the younger recruits, the lure of bloody mayhem and Yazidi sex slaves may prove too strong for al Qaeda's arguments to overcome.

COPYRIGHT: STRATFOR.COM

Geopolitical Weekly: The Greek Vote and the EU Miscalculation, July 7, 2015

By George Friedman

In a result that should surprise no one, the Greeks voted to reject European demands for additional austerity measures as the price for providing funds to allow Greek banks to operate. There are three reasons this should have been no surprise. First, the ruling Coalition of the Radical Left, or Syriza party, is ruling because it has an understanding of the Greek mood. Second, the constant scorn and contempt that the European leadership heaped on the prime minister and finance minister convinced the Greeks not only that the scorn was meant for them as well but also that anyone so despised by the European leadership wasn't all bad. Finally, and most important, the European leadership put the Greek voters in a position in which they had nothing to lose. The Greeks were left to choose between two forms of devastation — one that was immediate but possible to recover from, and one that was a longer-term strangulation with no exit.

The Europeans' Mistaken Reasoning

As the International Monetary Fund noted (while maintaining a very hard line on Greece), the Greeks cannot repay their loans or escape from their economic nightmare without a substantial restructuring of the Greek debt, including significant debt forgiveness and a willingness to create a multidecade solution. The IMF also made clear that increased austerity, apart from posing an impossible burden for the Greeks, will actually retard either a Greek recovery or debt repayment.

The Greeks knew this as well. What was obvious is that austerity without radical restructuring would inevitably lead to default, if not now, then somewhere not too far down the line. Focusing on pensions made the Europeans appear tough but was actually quite foolish. All of the austerity measures demanded would not have provided nearly enough money to repay debts without restructuring. In due course, Greece would default, or the debt would be restructured.

Since Europe's leaders are not stupid, it is important to understand the game they were playing. They knew perfectly well the austerity measures were between irrelevant and damaging to debt repayment. They insisted on this battle at this time because they thought they would win it, and it was important for them to get Greece to capitulate for broader reasons.

No other EU country is in a condition as bad as Greece's. However, a number of EU countries, particularly in Southern Europe, carry a debt burden they would like to renegotiate. They are doing better than Greece this year, but with persistent high unemployment — for example, 22.5 percent in Spain as of May — two things are not clear: first, what shape these countries will be in next year or the year after that, and second, what governments would come into office, and what the new governments' positions would be. Greece accounts for less than 2 percent of the European Union's gross domestic product. Italy and Spain are far more important. The problem of restructuring debt is once it is done for one country, others will want to restructure as well. The European Union did not want to set any precedents for future crises or anti-EU governments.

In Greece, Europe's leaders had a crisis and a hostile government. It was the perfect place to take a stand, they thought. They became inflexible on debt restructuring, demanding prior increased austerity measures in a country where unemployment exceeded 25 percent and youth unemployment was over 50 percent. The EU strategy in the past had been psychological: spreading fear about what default might mean, spreading fear of the consequences of leaving the eurozone and arguing that it was the European Union that lacked the ability to make concessions. In the past, the EU strategy had been to make agreements that it never thought the Greeks would be able to keep in order to kick the problem down the road. Europe's leaders demanded austerity measures but tied them to postponing repayments. They expected Greece to continue playing the game. They did not realize, for some reason, that Syriza came to power on a pledge to end the game. They thought that under pressure, the party would fold.

But Syriza couldn't fold, and not just for political reasons. If Syriza betrayed its election pledge, as the European leadership was sure it would, the party would split and a new anti-European party would form in Greece. But on a deeper level, the Greeks simply could not give any more. With their economy in shambles and Europe insisting that the solution was not stimulus but austerity — an increasingly dubious claim — the Greeks were at the point where default, and the short-term wrenching crisis that would ensue, would be worth the price.

The European leaders miscalculated. They thought Greece could be more flexible, and they wanted to demonstrate to any other country or party that might consider a similar maneuver in the future just what the cost would be. The Europeans feared the moral risk of compromising with the Greeks. They created a more dangerous situation for themselves.

New Threats to the European Union

First, in its treatment of Greece, the European Union has driven home — particularly to rising Euroskeptic parties — that it is merely a treaty organization and in no way a confederation, let alone a federation. Europe was a union so long as a member didn't get into trouble. As I have said, the Greeks were irresponsible borrowing money. But the rest of Europe was irresponsible in lending it. Indeed, the banks that lent the money knew perfectly well the condition Greece was in. The idea that the Greeks pulled the wool over the bankers' eyes is nonsense. The bankers wanted to make the loans because they made money off of transactions. Plus, European institutions that bought the loans from them bailed out those that made the loans. The people who made the loans sold them to third parties, and the third parties sold them to EU institutions. As for the Greeks, it was not the current government or the public that borrowed the money. And so the tale will help parties like Podemos in Spain and UKIP in the United Kingdom make the case against the European Union. The European Union appears both protective of banks and predatory to those who didn't actually borrow.

Second, having played hardball, the Europeans must either continue the game, incurring the criticism discussed above, or offer a compromise they wouldn't offer prior to the Greek vote. One would lead to a view of the European Union as a potential enemy of nations that fall on hard times, while the latter would cost the bloc credibility in showdowns to come. It is likely that the Europeans will continue discussions with Greece, but they will be playing with a much weaker hand. The Greek voters have, in effect, called their bluff.

It is interesting how the European leaders maneuvered themselves into this position. Part of it was that they could not imagine the Greek government not yielding to the European Union, Germany and the rest. Part of it was that they could not imagine the Greeks not understanding what default would mean to them.

The European leaders did not take the Greeks' considerations seriously. For the Greeks, there were two issues. The first issue was how they would be more likely to get the deal they needed. It was not by begging but by convincing the Europeans they were ready to walk — a tactic anyone who has bargained in the eastern Mediterranean knows. Second, as any good bargainer knows, it is necessary to be prepared to walk and not simply bluff it. Syriza campaigned on the idea that Greece would not leave the eurozone but that the government would use a "no" vote on the referendum to negotiate a better deal with EU leaders. However, all political campaigns are subject to geopolitical realities, and Syriza needed all options on the table.

The EU leadership was convinced that the Greeks were bluffing, while the Greeks knew that with the stakes this high, they could not afford to bluff. But the Greeks also knew, from watching other countries, that while default would create a massive short-term liquidity crisis in Greece, with currency controls and a new currency under the control of the Greek government, it would be possible to move beyond the crisis before the sense of embattlement dissolves. Many countries do better in short, intense crises than they do in ordinary times. The Greeks repelled an Italian invasion in October 1940, and the Germans didn't complete their conquest until May 1941. I have no idea what Greece's short-term ability to rally is today, but Syriza is willing to bet on it.

Greece's Options in Case of a Grexit

If Greece withdraws from the European Union, its impact on the euro will be trivial. There are those who claim that it would be catastrophic to the euro, but I don't see why. What might be extremely dangerous is leaving the euro and surviving, if not flourishing. The Greeks are currently fixated on the European Union as a source of money, and there is an assumption that they will be forced out of the global financial markets if they default. But that isn't obvious.

Greece has three alternative sources of money. The first is Russia. The Greeks and the Russians have had a relationship going back to at least the 1970s. It was quite irritating for the United States and Europe. It was quite real. Now the Russians are looking for leverage to use against the Europeans and Americans. The Russians are having hard times but not as hard as a couple of months ago, and Greece is a strategic prize. The Greeks and the Russians have talked and the results of the talks are murky. The BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) summit began July 6 in Russia, and the Greeks are sitting in as observers — and possibly angling for some sort of deal. Publicly, Russia has said it will not give a direct loan to Greece but will take advantage of the crisis to acquire hard assets in Greece and a commitment on the Turkish Stream pipeline project. However, bailing out Greece would give Russia a golden opportunity to put a spoke in NATO operations and reassert itself somewhere other than Ukraine. In Central Europe, the view is that Russia and Greece have had an understanding for several months about a bailout, which could be why the Greeks have acted with such bravado.

Another, though less likely, source of funds for Greece is China and some of its partners. The Chinese are trying to position themselves as a genuine global power, without a global military and with a weakening economy. Working alone or with others to help the Greeks would not be a foolish move on their part, given that it would certainly create regional influence at a relative low cost — mere tens of billions. However, it could come with the political cost of alienating a large portion of the European Union, making Chinese assistance a slight possibility.

Finally, there are American hedge funds and private equity firms. They are cash-rich because of European, Chinese and Middle Eastern money searching for safety and are facing near-zero percent interest rates. Many of them have taken wilder risks than this. The U.S. government might not discourage them, either, because it would be far more concerned about Russian or Chinese influence — and navies — in the eastern Mediterranean.

Having shed its debt to Europe and weathered the genuinely difficult months after default, Greece might be an interesting investment opportunity. We know from Argentina that when a country defaults, a wall is not created around it. Greece has value and, absent the debt, it is a high-risk but attractive investment.

The European leaders have therefore backed themselves into the corner they didn't want. If they hold their position, then they open the door to the idea that there is life after the European Union, and that is the one thought the EU leaders do not want validated. Therefore, it is likely that the Europeans, having discovered that Syriza is not prepared to submit to European diktat, will now negotiate a deal Greece can accept. But then that is another precedent the European Union didn't want to set.

Behind all this, the Germans are considering the future of the European Union. They are less concerned about the euro or Greek debt than they are about the free trade zone that absorbs part of their massive exports. With credit controls and default, Greece is one tiny market they lose. The last thing they want is for this to spread, or for Germany to be forced to pay for the privilege of saving it. In many ways, therefore, our eyes should shift from Greece to Germany. It is at the heart of the EU leadership, and it is going to be calling the next shot — not for the good of the bloc, but for the good of Germany, which is backed into the same corner as the rest of the European Union.

The Greek Vote and the EU Miscalculation is republished with permission of Stratfor.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Security Weekly: Protective Intelligence Lessons From the Barakat Assassination, July 2, 2015

By Scott Stewart

A typical Monday morning rush hour in Cairo's Heliopolis district, with commuters from the wealthy area struggling through the heavy traffic to get to work, was suddenly fractured at 9:30 when a large car bomb detonated at the intersection of Suleiman al-Farsi and Mostafa Mokhtar streets. The explosion ripped through cars at the intersection, heavily damaging several of them and setting them on fire. The blast also broke windows, damaged building facades and blew leaves from the trees. First responders rushed to the scene to extinguish the leaping flames from the white-hot car fires, treat the wounded and transport them to the hospital.

As the smoke began to clear, it was learned that the bomb had detonated just as the motorcade of Egyptian Prosecutor General Hisham Barakat was making a right turn off Suleiman al-Farsi on to Mostafa Mokhtar. It appears the bomb was remotely detonated, not activated by a suicide operative sitting inside the vehicle. The prosecutor general and some of his bodyguards were among those transported to the hospital. Barakat would later be declared dead, apparently from internal injuries he suffered as the blast wave ripped through his armored vehicle. Because of the terrorist threat in Egypt, including the capital, Cairo, Barakat had been provided with a protective detail and an armored limousine. But those security measures did not protect him from the well-planned and well-executed attack that claimed his life.

The past week saw several terrorist attacks, including quite deadly incidents in Kuwait City and Tunisia. It is important to recognize, however, that from a tactical perspective, these other incidents were all simple attacks directed against vulnerable targets. They did not require much in the way of terrorist tradecraft to plan and execute. The Barakat assassination stands in stark contrast: It was a precisely targeted attack directed against a hard target. Because of this, the attack has far more significance for security practitioners and other potential targets.

Lesson One: Constraints of Place

Operating in a congested residential and commercial area like Heliopolis presents many challenges to a protective security detail. The streets are narrow and often clogged with traffic and parked cars. Street vendors, motorcyclists, bicyclists and pedestrians all pose potential threats to a motorcade stopped in gridlocked traffic. One-way streets also limit route selection, as in the case of intersections allowing only right or left turns instead of offering a choice of turns in either direction. All these factors can work together to create choke points, or areas that a person or motorcade must pass through to get from point A to point B.

Having limited route options that result in choke points is bad when a protective detail is making just a one-off or even an occasional stop, but it is downright dangerous when it is part of a daily routine involving a known location associated with the protectee, such as a residence or an office. Choke points that present conditions conducive for an attack, or potential attack sites, are especially dangerous.

The mantra of protective details is that you need to vary your routes and times. But quite honestly, depending on the location and traffic patterns, it can be impossible to vary some portions of a route. This is particularly true close to the residence if it is in a gated community, where there may be only one entrance and exit, or in an urban area where you can go only one direction after picking the protectee up at the curb. (It is impossible to turn large armored vehicles around on some narrow urban streets.)

It appears that the protective detail that picked Barakat up at his home encountered this situation. It attempted to exit the residential area using Mostafa Mokhtar to get to the larger Ammar Ibn Yasser Boulevard, which is two lanes each way. One can turn right only on Mostafa Mokhtar from Suleiman al-Farsi, meaning that the intersection where the attack occurred was a choke point. Media reports indicate that Barakat's motorcade passed through that intersection every morning.

A map of the area and a look at the neighborhood on Google Earth indicates that even if Barakat lived on Suleiman al-Farsi Street, there were still other routes out of the neighborhood. While there may have been road construction or other factors that forced it to use Suleiman al-Farsi to Mostafa Mokhtar every day, the protective detail might have settled into a predictable routine for the morning home-to-office trip rather than varying its times and routes.

If you cannot alter a route and must pass through one or more potential attack sites every day, varying the time becomes even more important. A protective detail, however, can be constrained from doing this by the protectee. Without the protectee's buy-in, it is hard to alter the motorcade's patterns. In many cases, the protectee will simply refuse to alter his schedule so that movement times can be varied or longer alternate routes taken. When the protectee steps out of his door late and needs to be at an important meeting in short time, the protective detail has little choice but to take the quickest route to the destination. Protection agents have little ability to force a powerful protectee like a government minister or corporate CEO to follow their security advice.

Lesson Two: Armored Vehicles Are Not Attack-Proof

There are many things that can lead a protective detail or a person afforded protection to become complacent, including denial ("It can't happen to me"), alert fatigue and years of operation with no incidents or attacks. Another thing that can lead to complacency is a sense of overconfidence in security measures. In recent months in Egypt, most terrorist attacks have involved either small-arms fire — like the June 3 drive-by shooting that killed two tourist police officers in Giza, just outside Cairo — or the small pipe bomb explosive devices frequently used in attacks by Ajnad Misr in the Cairo area. An armored vehicle can be quite effective in protecting against such attacks, a fact that Barakat's assassins took into consideration while planning their attack. Instead of deploying a gunman at the intersection or a pipe bomb, they chose a large vehicle bomb capable of defeating the vehicle's armor. As Stratfor has noted for many years, armored vehicles are not attack-proof, and in some cases they can even be detrimental to security by causing protective details and protectees to develop a false sense of security.

It is also important to remember that the Barakat attack is not unprecedented. There have been several well-executed attacks against high-profile targets in Cairo in the past two years. In January 2014, Gen. Mohammed Said, an aide to the Egyptian interior minister, was gunned down during his commute to work. Said's assassination came four days after a large vehicle bomb attack against the Cairo Security Directorate. In September 2014, Egyptian Interior Minister Mohamed Ibrahim was nearly assassinated in an operation that was eerily similar to the Barakat assassination: A vehicle bomb was deployed on a corner at a choke point in a residential area near the minister's residence. In the Ibrahim case, it appeared the attack failed because either the attackers did not use sufficient explosives in their device to defeat the vehicle's armor, or they were slightly off on their timing and the device was not detonated at the optimal time. Barakat's assassins did not make the same error; their bomb was large enough and was detonated precisely and with deadly effect.

Lesson Three: Surveillance Must Be Countered

The hard reality in executive protection is that if a proficient attacker is permitted to conduct pre-operational surveillance at will, he will be able to assess security measures, observe travel patterns, note choke points and potential attack sites, and identify ways to attack the target at vulnerable times, either because of gaps in security coverage or by launching an attack powerful enough to defeat the security measures in place. This is what happened in the Barakat assassination (and in the Said and Ibrahim cases, for that matter). The attackers were obviously able to plan and execute their attack without being detected or pressured. Clearly, surveillants must not be given free rein to observe security measures and plan attacks.

As noted above, place constrains security details, but it also constrains would-be attackers. They must go into certain identifiable locations to observe the activities of protective details as they attempt to assess security operations and patterns. As hostile surveillants enter these predictable locations to observe a known place such as a residence or office, or a choke point or potential attack site, they make themselves vulnerable to detection — if someone is looking for them.

In addition to the pre-operational surveillance required to plan an attack, the attack team in the Barakat assassination also needed to secure the specific parking space to place the bomb vehicle and then deploy the vehicle containing the bomb to the attack site. Some reports are suggesting that the vehicle bomb had been parked and was remotely activated. If this is correct, it means that there was probably someone watching the residence to notify the triggerman that the target had left the residence and was approaching the attack site. The triggerman also needed to have a clear view of the intersection to activate the bomb at the right moment. This is a lot of operational activity, and each of the actors deployed during the operation was vulnerable to detection before the attack.

The best way to detect surveillance directed against a protective detail is to deploy a dedicated countersurveillance team that can watch for watchers. They can also monitor for hostile surveillance outside known locations, publicized events, choke points and potential attack sites along routes that are frequently taken. But aside from professional countersurveillance teams, security forces can also make surveillants uncomfortable by "heating up" potential surveillance sites using police officers, security guards or obvious closed-circuit television camera coverage.

Lesson Four: Lingering Danger in Cairo

It is believed that members of Ansar Beit al-Maqdis were behind the assassination of Said and the failed attack on Ibrahim. As seen in those cases, these militants are capable and deadly. It was also believed that many of the Ansar Beit al-Maqdis cadre in Cairo had been killed or arrested, but those beliefs may have been mistaken and some of the planners behind the previous attacks could still be operating in Cairo. It is also possible that Ansar Beit al-Maqdis did not conduct the previous assassination operations, or that Ansar Beit al-Maqdis did the previous attacks and another group assassinated Barakat. The operational similarities between the failed Ibrahim attack and the Barakat assassination, however, are striking, as are the similarity in complexity and target set, suggesting a common author.

The terrorist tradecraft employed in the Barakat case also stands in contrast with the hybrid/guerrilla warfare tactics used by the Islamic State's Wilayat Sinai in the Sinai Peninsula, such as the large-scale attacks in Sheikh Zuweid on July 1, and Ajnad Misr's tactics of using smaller bombs against police targets. Three Ajnad Misr militants were killed while transporting smaller bombs in a car in Cairo's October 6 City on July 1; it is believed they were en route to target a police station.

Ansar Beit al-Maqdis elements in the Sinai Peninsula have broken from the al Qaeda orbit to declare fealty to the Islamic State, but it is not clear that the Ansar Beit al-Maqdis elements that claimed responsibility for the past attacks in Cairo followed suit. The Cairo-based Ansar Beit al-Maqdis elements are thought to have been closely aligned with the Mohammed Jamal Network, a group named after a former Egyptian Islamic Jihad leader arrested in 2012 who was close to current al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri. It is also interesting to note that Wilayat Sinai quickly claimed responsibility for the Sheikh Zuwaid attack but has not yet claimed the Barakat assassination.

Whoever was responsible, the Barakat assassination proves that there is still a sophisticated terrorist actor in Cairo capable of planning and executing complex terrorist attacks against hard targets. Judging from the bomb deployed in this case, the group is not lacking for explosives (which is not surprising considering the amount of military-grade high-explosive material sitting around in anti-tank mines scattered all over the Sinai Peninsula, or available from al Qaeda and Islamic State militants in Libya). Such an actor is far more dangerous to potential high-profile targets in Cairo like government officials, diplomats and corporate executives than an actor conducting guerrilla warfare operations in the Sinai Peninsula or shooting random cops or tourists.

COPYRIGHT: STRATFOR.COM

Another sign of how screwed up things are today

 Ian McKellen as Mr. Holmes
I didn't even know there was another Sherlock Holmes movie coming out till last Wednesday and unlike many of the perversions of Author Conan-Doyle I've seen recently, this seemed like an interesting concept. Holmes trying one last case while he is in his 90s and retired.

Now here is a quote from the review and I don't put much into reviews from papers these days. One, the reviewers are idiots and for the second point an opinion is like certain body parts, everyone has one.

... Like those predecessors, “Mr. Holmes” takes place in the middle of the 20th century and is smart, sedate and well-acted.

Based on Mitch Cullin’s novel “A Slight Trick of the Mind,” “Mr. Holmes” imagines the old age of Sherlock Holmes, the fictional detective created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. It’s 1947, the war is over, and Holmes is residing in the countryside. He has a housekeeper (Laura Linney) and, aside from his beekeeping hobby and his memories, she and her little boy (Milo Parker) are his world.

It helps going in to know that Holmes is supposed to be 93; otherwise, you may see Ian McKellen and think the poor man is aging terribly...

Now I find this interesting. At the bottom there is some quick info on the movie:

‘Mr. Holmes’

Rated PG: for thematic elements, some disturbing images and incidental smoking

Running time: 105 minutes xxxx

OK, from what I've seen this is a "modern" movie and I would not be shocked if it didn't have a gratuitous sex scene or profanity that was not common in Britain in the 1940s ("thematic elements"). But one of the things that makes it a PG movie is "incidentally smoking". Anyone who has any knowledge of Sherlock Holmes knows he smoked a pipe (and cigarettes) and smoking was very common till the 1980s. But I should not be surprised, history is something to be covered up.

Geopolitical Weekly: Beyond the Greek Impasse, June 30, 2015

By George Friedman

The Greek situation — having perhaps outlived the term "crisis," now that it has taken so long to unfold — appears to have finally reached its terminal point. This is, of course, an illusion: It has been at its terminal point for a long time.

The terminal point is the juncture where neither the Greeks nor the Germans can make any more concessions. In Greece itself, the terminal point is long past. Unemployment is at 26 percent, and more than 50 percent of youths under 25 are unemployed. Slashed wages, particularly in the state sector, affecting professions including physicians and engineers, have led to massive underemployment. Meanwhile, most new economic activity is occurring in the untaxable illegal markets. The Greeks owe money to EU institutions and the International Monetary Fund, all of which acquired bad Greek debts from banks that initially lent funds to Greece in order to stabilize its banking sector. No one ever really thought the Greeks could pay back these loans.

The European creditors — specifically, the Germans, who have really been the ones controlling European negotiations with the Greeks — reached their own terminal point more recently. The Germans are powerful but fragile. They export about a quarter of their gross domestic product to the European free trade zone, and anything that threatens this trade threatens Germany's economy and social stability. Their goal has been to keep intact not only the euro, but also the free trade zone and Brussels' power over the European economy.

Germany has so far avoided an extreme crisis point by coming to an endless series of agreements with Greece that the Greeks couldn't keep and that no one expected them to keep, but which allowed Berlin to claim that the Greeks were capitulating to German demands for austerity. This alleged capitulation helped Germany keep other indebted European countries in line, as financially vulnerable nations witnessed the apparent folly of contemplating default, demanding debt restructuring and confronting rather than accommodating the European Union.

Greece and the Cypriot Situation

For the Germans, Greece represented a dam. What was behind the dam was unknown, and the Germans couldn't tolerate the risk of it breaking. A Greek default would come with capital controls such as those seen in Cyprus, probably trade barriers designed to protect the Greek economy, and a radical reorientation of Greece in a new strategic direction. If that didn't lead to economic and social catastrophe, then other European countries might also choose to exercise the Greek option. Germany's first choice to avoid the default was to create the illusion of Greek compliance. Its second option was to demonstrate the painful consequences of Greece's refusal to keep playing the first game.

This was the point of the Cyprus affair. Cyprus had reached the point that it simply could not live up to the terms of its debt repayment agreements. The pro-EU government agreed under pressure to seize money in bank accounts holding more than 100,000 euros (around $112,000) and use that money to make good on at least some of the payments due. But assigning a minimum account balance hardly served to lessen the blow or insulate ordinary Cypriots. A retiree, after all, may easily have more than 100,000 euros in savings. And hotels or energy service companies (which are critical to the Cypriot economy) certainly have that much in their accounts. The Germans may have claimed the Cypriot banking system contained primarily Russian money, but — although it undoubtedly contained plenty of Russian funds — most of the money in the system actually represented wealth saved and used by Cypriots in the course of their lives and business. The result of raiding those accounts was chaos. Cypriot companies couldn't pay wages or rent, and the economy basically froze until the regulations were eventually eased — though they have never been fully repealed.

The Germans were walking a fine line in advocating this solution. Rather than play the pretend game they had played in Greece, they chose to show a European audience the consequences of genuine default. But those consequences rested on a dubious political foundation. Obviously the Cypriot public was devastated and appalled by their political leaders' decision to comply with Germany's demands. But even more significant, the message received by the rest of Europe was that the consequences of resistance would be catastrophic only if a country's political leadership capitulated to EU demands. Seizing a large portion of Cypriot private assets to pay public debts set an example, but not the example the Germans wanted. It showed that compliance with debt repayments could be disastrous in the short run, but only if the indebted country's politicians let it happen. And with that came another, unambiguous lesson: The punishment for non-compliance, however painful, was also survivable — and far preferable to the alternatives.

The Rise of Syriza

Enter the Coalition of the Radical Left party, known as Syriza, one of the numerous Euroskeptic parties that have emerged in recent years. Many forces combined to drive pro-EU factions out of power, but certainly one of them was the memory of the behavior of pro-EU politicians in Cyprus. The Greek public was well aware Athens would not be able to repay outstanding debt on anything even vaguely resembling the terms set by the pro-EU politicians. Cognizant of the Cypriot example, they voted their own EU-friendly leaders out, making room for a Euroskeptic administration.

Syriza ran on a platform basically committing to ease austerity in Greece, maintain critical social programs, and radically restructure the country's debt obligations, insisting that creditors share more of the debt burden. EU-friendly parties and individuals — and the Germans in particular — tended to dismiss Syriza. They were used to dealing with pro-EU parties in debtor countries that would adopt a resistant posture for their public audience while still accepting the basic premise put forth by Germany and the European Union — that in the end, the responsibility to repay debts was the borrower's. Regardless of their public platform, these parties therefore accepted austerity and the associated social costs.

Syriza, however, did not. A moral argument was underway, and the Germans were tone deaf to it. The German position on debt was that the borrower was morally responsible for it. Syriza countered that, in effect, the lender and the borrower actually shared moral responsibility. The borrower may be obligated to avoid incurring debts that he could not repay, but the lender, they argued, was also obligated to practice due diligence in not lending money to those who were unable to repay. Therefore, though the Greeks had been irresponsible for carelessly borrowing money, the European banks that originally funded Greece's borrowing spree had also been irresponsible in allowing their greed to overwhelm their due diligence. And if, as the Germans have quietly claimed, Greek borrowers misled them, the Germans still deserved what happened to them, because they did not practice more rigorous oversight — they saw only euro signs, just as the bankers did when they signed off on loans to Greece rather than restraining themselves.

The story of Greece is a tale of irresponsible borrowing and irresponsible lending. Bankruptcy law in European and American culture is a system of dualities, where expectations for prudent behavior are placed on both the debtor and creditor. The debtor is expected to pay everything he can under the law, and when that is ability is expended, the creditor is effectively held morally responsible for his decision to lend. In other words, when the debtor goes bankrupt, the creditor loses his bet on the debtor, and the loan is extinguished.

But there are no bankruptcy laws for nation-states, because there is no sovereign power to administer them. Thus, there is no disinterested third party to adjudicate national bankruptcy. There are no sovereign laws dictating the point where a nation is unable to repay its debt, no overarching power that can grant them the freedom to restructure debts according to law. Nor are there any circumstances where the creditor is simply deemed out of luck.

Without these factors, something like the Greek situation emerges. The creditors ruthlessly pursue the debtor, demanding repayment as a first priority. Any restructuring of the debt is at the agreement of creditor and debtor. In the case of Cyprus, the government was prepared to protect the creditors' interests. But in Greece's case, Syriza is not prepared to do so. Nor is it prepared, if we believe what the party says, to simply continue crafting interim lies with the country's creditors. Greece needs to move on from this situation, and another meaningless postponement only postpones the day of reckoning — and postpones recovery.

The Logic and Repercussions of a Grexit

A Greek withdrawal from the eurozone would make sense. It would create havoc in Greece for a while, but it would allow the Greeks to negotiate with Europe on equal terms. They would pay Europe back in drachmas priced at what the Greek Central Bank determines, and they could unilaterally determine the payments. The financial markets would be closed to them, but the Greeks would have the power to enact currency controls as well as trade regulations, turning their attention from selling to Europe, for example, to buying from and selling to Russia or the Middle East. This is not a promising future, but neither is the one Greece is heading toward now.

Many have made a claim that a Greek exit could lead the euro to collapse. This claim seems baffling at first. After all, Greece is a small country, and there is no reason why its actions would have such far-reaching effects on the shared currency. But then we remember Germany's primordial fear: that Greece could set a precedent for the rest of Europe. This would be impossible if the rest of Europe was doing well, but it is not. Spain, for example, has unemployment figures almost as terrible as Greece's. Some have pointed out that Spain is now one of the fastest-growing countries in Europe, which would be impressive if growth rates in the rest of Europe weren't paralyzed. Similarly, Spain's unemployment rate has fallen — to a mere 23 percent. Those who are still enthused about the European Union take such trivial improvements as proof of a radical shift. I see them as background noise in an ongoing train wreck.

The pain of a Greek default and a withdrawal from the eurozone would be severe. But if others see Greece as a forerunner of events, rather than an exception, they may calculate that the pain of unilateral debt restructuring makes sense and gives Greeks a currency that they can at last manage themselves. The fear is that Greece may depart from the euro, not because of any institutional collapse, but because of a keen awareness that sovereign currencies can benefit nations in pain — which many of Europe's countries are.

I do appreciate that the European Union was meant to be more than an arena for debtors and creditors. It was to be a moral arena in which the historical agony of European warfare was abolished. But while the idea that European peace depends on prosperity may be true, that prosperity has been lost. Economies rise and fall, and Europe's have done neither in tandem. Some are big winners, like Germany, and many are losers, to a greater or lesser degree. If the creation of a peaceful European civilization rests on prosperity, as the founding EU document claims, Europe is in trouble.

The problem is simple. The core institutions of the European Union have functioned not as adjudicators but as collection agents, and the Greeks have learned how ruthless those agents can be when aided by collaborative governments like Cyprus. The rest of the Europeans have also realized as much, which is why Euroskeptic parties are on the rise across the union. Germany, the country most threatened by growing anti-EU sentiment, wants to make clear that debtors face a high price for defiance. And if resistance is confined to Greece, the Germans will have succeeded. But if, as I think it will, resistance spreads to other countries, the revolt of the debtor states against the union will cause major problems for Germany, threatening the economic powerhouse's relationship with the rest of Europe.

Beyond the Greek Impasse is republished with permission of Stratfor.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Security Weekly: The Jihadist Trap of Here and Now, June 25, 2015

By Scott Stewart

In recent weeks, I have found myself spending a lot of time thinking about the jihadist strategy of al Qaeda and how it compares to that of the Islamic State. Earlier this month, I wrote about the possibility that the al Qaeda brand of jihadism could outlast that of the Islamic State. Last week, I wrote about how ideologies are harder to kill than individuals, focusing on the effect that the death of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula leader Nasir al-Wahayshi will have on the group and the wider global jihadist movement.

But beyond the impact of leaders like al-Wahayshi, there are other facets of strategy that will influence the war for the soul of jihadism. Specifically, I am talking about time and place. Both al Qaeda and the Islamic State seek to establish a global caliphate, but both differ quite starkly in how to accomplish this task and how soon it can be achieved.

Al Qaeda argues that the caliphate can be established only after the United States and its European allies have been defeated, to the extent that they can no longer interfere in Muslim lands — either because of a lack of ability or a lack of desire. The organization pursues a long-war approach that emphasizes the need to attack the United States, "the far enemy," before focusing on overthrowing local governments. The Islamic State takes the opposite tack. It has adopted a more urgent "why wait?" approach and concentrates its efforts on immediately taking, holding and governing territory. This strategy banks on being able to use any conquered territory and resources for the purposes of continued expansion. The direct approach explains the Islamic State's decision to quickly proclaim a caliphate at the beginning of Ramadan last year, after it had captured a large portion of Iraq and Syria. The group's message to the Muslim world is that the caliphate is here and now, and there is nothing the world can do to stop its inexorable expansion.

Since the fall of the Taliban's emirate in Afghanistan, several jihadist organizations have attempted to create Islamist polities, with the current attempt by the Islamic State (the organization's second try) being the most recent. So far, each of these attempts has ended in a spectacular failure and in each case, including the Taliban's emirate, western military intervention has played a key role in the downfall of the jihadist polity — and it will do so again in the case of the Islamic State's so-called caliphate.

Recent Jihadist Polities

In 2006, an array of jihadist groups led by al Qaeda in Iraq announced that they were forming an Islamic state in Iraq. They even began to refer to themselves as the Islamic State in Iraq. While the group initially eclipsed the al Qaeda core in terms of attracting foreign fighters, outside funding and publicity, the U.S. surge in Iraq and the Anbar Awakening greatly weakened the group. By 2010, when a U.S. airstrike killed Abu Omar al-Baghdadi and Abu Ayyub al-Masri — the group's top two leaders — the organization had become only a shadow of its former self. The 2011 U.S. withdrawal from Iraq and the sectarian policies of former Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's government allowed the group to survive, and the civil war in Syria helped the organization recover its strength and grow into what it is today.

In 2011, as Yemen was struggling through a crisis that pitted elements of the military against each other, al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula seized the opportunity afforded by the chaos to grab large quantities of weapons, while also extending its influence over large areas of territory in Yemen's south. However, by mid-2012, Yemeni forces aided by U.S. intelligence and training (and some air support) were able to recapture most of the territory taken by al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.

A unique window into the thoughts of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula during this period was revealed with the discovery of letters sent by al-Wahayshi to Abu Musab Abdel al-Wadoud, the leader of al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb. In the letters, which journalist Rukmini Callimachi discovered in the Malian city of Timbuktu, al-Wahayshi shared some of the lessons he learned — and mistakes his organization had made — so that al-Wadoud and al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb would not repeat them.

According to one of al-Wahayshi's letters, his group suffered significant losses of men, materiel and money in 2012, far surpassing what they had gained in 2011. The group's higher profile and level of operational activity also resulted in al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula losing a number of important members to U.S. airstrikes, including Anwar al-Awlaki and Samir Khan.

In another of the letters, al-Wahayshi explained why his group purposefully did not proclaim an emirate in southern Yemen: "As soon as we took control of the areas, we were advised by the General Command here not to declare the establishment of an Islamic principality, or state, for a number of reasons: We wouldn't be able to treat people on the basis of a state since we would not be able to provide for all their needs, mainly because our state is vulnerable. Second: Fear of failure, in the event that the world conspires against us. If this were to happen, people may start to despair and believe that jihad is fruitless."

He encouraged al-Wadoud to also refrain from proclaiming an Islamic polity, but his advice went unheeded. Shortly after receiving the letter from al Wahayshi, jihadists aligned with al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb declared an Islamic state called Azawad in northern Mali in April 2012. But the French intervention in Mali in January 2013 rapidly pushed the jihadists out of the territory they had conquered, ending the short-lived jihadist state of Azawad.

Past attempts to create an Islamic polity in Somalia were also thwarted by an international coalition. And in recent months Boko Haram, which now calls itself Wilayat al Sudan al Gharbi after pledging allegiance to the Islamic State, lost most of the territory the group had previously seized in northern Nigeria.

Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula made another land grab in 2015 as the country fell into chaos. In April, the group took control of Mukalla, Yemen's fifth largest city and the capital of Hadramawt province. Meanwhile, jihadist groups in Libya, such as Ansar al-Sharia, the Mujahideen Shura Council and the Islamic State's three Libyan Wilayats (or provinces) are all fighting with secular, nationalist and tribal forces for control of the country.

And of course, the Islamic State took control of large portions of Iraq and Syria last year and declared the re-establishment of the caliphate there. The group's theatrical, genocidal violence resulted in the formation of the coalition that began an air campaign against it in September 2014. Since then, the group has lost much of its strategic momentum, as well as a great deal of its economic infrastructure and many weapons and personnel. The Islamic State also lost control of a good deal of territory in Iraq and Syria, including places such as Tikrit, Kobani and, most recently, Tal Abyad. Still, the Islamic State has taken control of the cities of Ramadi in Iraq and Palmyra in Syria, though the group is under attack from the international air campaign, as well as local ground forces.

Bin Laden's Strategy

The United States and the West played a critical role in the downfall of recent jihadist polities in Iraq, Yemen, Mali and Somalia. This fact would certainly not surprise Osama bin Laden, who lived to witness such events. From the beginning of his public campaign to establish the caliphate, and in his 1996 "Declaration of War against the Americans Occupying the Land of the Two Holy Places," bin Laden warned that the United States had to be driven out of the region before progress could be made. Bin Laden noted the way that Hezbollah's activities in Lebanon had driven U.S. and French forces out of the Levant, which gave the group space to become a powerful player in the region. He sought to replicate that success elsewhere.

It was a strategic vision bin Laden held until his death. In a letter written to his assistant, Atiyah Abd al-Rahman — likely around March or April 2011, based upon the events commented on — he asked al-Rahman to dispatch a letter to al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb asking it to focus on attacking U.S. embassies and oil companies, rather than local security forces. Bin Laden also wanted to warn the franchise about the dangers of prematurely proclaiming a caliphate:
We should stress on the importance of timing in establishing the Islamic state. We should be aware that planning for the establishment of the state begins with exhausting the main influential power that enforced the siege on the Hamas government, and that overthrew the Islamic emirate in Afghanistan and Iraq despite the fact this power was depleted. We should keep in mind that this main power still has the capacity to lay siege on any Islamic state, and that such a siege might force the people to overthrow their duly elected governments.

We have to continue with exhausting and depleting them until they become so weak that they can't overthrow any state that we establish. That will be the time to commence with forming the Islamic state.
Bin Laden understood that while the United States struggles with ephemeral, ambiguous entities, it is very good at attacking a well-defined enemy that it can identify and locate. Declaring an Islamic polity and attempting to hold and govern territory automatically makes an organization a fixed target on which the United States and its allies can focus their formidable power.

Yet, even knowing this fact, al Qaeda has not been immune to the trap of place. The al Qaeda core has always needed a sanctuary to operate effectively, like Sudan or the Taliban's Afghanistan. Lacking a suitable sanctuary, the group's operations since the invasion of Afghanistan have been limited. There are reports that the al Qaeda core sent a group of operatives from the Afghanistan-Pakistan border area to Syria to attempt to establish a base there — the so-called Khorasan group. That group was struck by some of the first U.S. airstrikes in Syria in September 2014. Evidently, having an address has its downside.

It is also not entirely surprising that al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula has lost three senior leaders in Mukalla since the group conquered the city in April. After the loss of two of his lieutenants, al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula leader al-Wahayshi still visited the city for some unknown reason — and it must have been an important reason to override security concerns. In the aforementioned letter to al-Rahman, bin Laden asked him to "send a letter to the brothers in Yemen to have them implement security measures, avoid moving about except for dire need."

Bin Laden knew that controlling territory is a dangerous trap, unless the United States and its allies are vanquished from a given region. But there are times when even groups affiliated with al Qaeda need to run the risk of exposing themselves in contested territory.

The Eventual Progression

When the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant broke from al Qaeda and declared a caliphate in a specific location, the organization once again made itself a fixed target. Its ideology and claims also serve to tie the group to a specific piece of terrain. It suffered major losses the last time it was so bold, surviving only by abandoning territory, reducing the group's overall profile and returning to a low-level insurgency and terrorism campaign. Of course, the group's survival was also greatly aided by Sunni sheikhs in Iraq who did not trust the government of former Iraqi President Nouri al-Maliki government and thus sought to maintain some sort of jihadist presence as a tool to wield against Shiite sectarianism. Allowing the Islamic Sate to survive in Iraq is something those sheikhs surely regret now.

Despite the criticism that U.S. President Barack Obama has received over his administration's policy toward the Islamic State, the organization's expansion has been stopped and is beginning to be rolled back. There are some who would claim that the organization has not been contained, as demonstrated by the proliferation of existing jihadist groups and factions that have declared allegiance to the Islamic State. But make no mistake, these franchises clearly lack the resources and leadership of the Islamic State core, and they have not gained any capacity previously lacking. They are essentially the same groups with the same capabilities. Only their names have changed, as well as perhaps a little bit of their operational and media philosophies.

It may take some time, but eventually U.S. air power paired with local ground forces will drive the Islamic State from its perch in the same manner as the Taliban and the Islamic State in Iraq. It took seven years to cripple the group last time with U.S. forces on the ground. It will likely take years this time — especially without the presence of a reliable allied ground force in Syria. But there is little doubt that the group will slowly be strangled on the ground as it is repeatedly pummeled by precision airstrikes.

The Islamic State, consequently, will eventually follow the same strategy as the Taliban, al Shabaab, al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb. The group will abandon its territorial gains to return to an amorphous, low-level insurgency and terrorism campaign. It is, of course, the same strategic shift the group made in 2010. If it had not done so, it would not be here today. If the Islamic State does not abandon its here and now attitude, deciding to stand its ground and defend its caliphate to the end, it will be destroyed.

The Jihadist Trap of Here and Now is republished with permission of Stratfor.