Geopolitics

ISIS, The Caliphate Of Madmen Starts To Crumble

The ISIS terror group believes that if it is Allah's will, the organization will take over much of the world. But at the moment, Allah doesn't seem to be on their side.

Turkish troops on the outskirts of Kobani
Turkish troops on the outskirts of Kobani
Alfred Hackensberger

-Analysis-

BERLIN — According to the ISIS terror group's five-year plan, the entire northern half of Africa, and large parts of Europe and Asia, should be conquered by 2019. Then comes the rest of the world. It's a ludicrous plan, but it nevertheless remains a firm foundation of ISIS ideology.

"Conquer, stay, expand" is the slogan of the Stone Age Islamists.

It's time to restore Muslim honor, says ISIS chief Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. "With Allah's permission, Muslims will once again be the masters of the world and kings of the earth."

But at the moment it doesn't look as if Allah has any intention of making Mr. Baghdadi master of the world.

Since Aug. 8 and Sept. 23, respectively, ISIS in Iraq and Syria have been repeatedly bombed. The militia has lost at least 1,000 men and seven leaders, among them some who were very close to Baghdadi. What's more, several hundred vehicles were destroyed, as were innumerable artillery positions, weapons depots and other military installations belonging to the group.

"Of course, ISIS has been weakened," says Iraqi Salafist expert Hisham al-Hashimi in Bagdad. "The destruction aside, they've lost their freedom of movement. They can only use small vehicles to get around. What's more, they have to limit communication to an extreme minimum in order not to be located."

Hashimi believes it's just a question of time before the terror groups collapses. "Since the U.S. bombed the oil fields they controlled, they've been losing a million dollars a day."

Bye-bye oil revenues

According to a United Nations report, ISIS had been raking in between 682,000 and 1,328,000 euros per day. Oil exports were one of their chief sources of revenue. In the future, tanker trucks traveling out of jihadist areas to neighboring countries will be confiscated. But the worst blow for the Islamist oil business was losing the battle of Baiji.

That city of 60,000 residents is the largest Iraqi location to have been won back from ISIS. It is the site of Iraq's most important oil refinery. If Baghdadi's men had gotten a firm grip on that, they would have become real players on the commodities market. But as things stand, they have to keep on flogging unrefined oil via shadowy channels.

No less under pressure are the Islamists in the autonomous northern Iraqi region of Kurdistan. They've lost several locations there. Since last week, the Kurdish Peshmerga troops have launched a major new offensive around Sadia and Kirkuk.

And Kobani? ISIS sent thousands of fighters to battle for the Syrian-Kurdish city on the border with Turkey. The world awaited their defeat breathlessly, but that was weeks ago.

"But now they are withdrawing," says Ismet Sheik Hassan, the self-appointed minister of defense for the autonomous region of Kobani. "They held nearly half the city. Now it's probably some 10% to 20%." ISIS troops soon will have been chased out of the city proper. "Their morale is very low because they're constantly walking into traps." The extremists are a permanent target for American fighter planes.

Losing Kobani

"For ISIS, Kobani is a bitter defeat," says the defense minister. "It has a symbolic effect on everybody fighting the terrorists." ISIS, he says, has lost its mystique. "Most of them aren't even good fighters," Hassan claims. "Only a few of the leaders understand the trade. The rest are a bunch of chickens." The Kurdish fighters ought to know. For over a year, they have repelling ISIS attacks aimed at conquering the north of the country.

The image of an unbeatable ISIS militia was the result of the group's successful blitzkrieg in Iraq. They made it all the way to the outskirts of Baghdad. It looked as if the Islamic militia would be unstoppable. It became the region's specter, almost a force of nature whose brutal power could not be quelled.

But what really happened? The invasion of the extremists was anything but a military master coup. They succeeded only when their opponents gave up. In Mosul and other cities, soldiers from the Iraqi army ran from action. Even the Kurdish Peshmerga troops legged it. They called it "tactical withdrawal," but they left the Christian city of Qaraqosh and Sinjar, home mainly to Yazidi Kurds, open to massacres, a wave of refugees, and the enslavement of thousands of Yazidi women.

Delusions of grandeur

But the situation has changed. In Iraq, Shia militias trained by Iran are at the front. The Peshmerga have weapons from Germany and other Western countries whose experts are also helping them with strategy. And then there are the U.S.-led coalition's airstrikes, which have had fatal results for ISIS troops.

"ISIS wanted to present itself as the power that could confront the West," says Aiman al-Tamimi from the American think tank Forum Middle East. "That was the core of their image." Baghdadi promised across-the-board victory, but there can be no talk of that now. "At the end of the day, this religious ideology leads to delusions of grandeur," Tamimi says.

U.S. bombings of an ISIS-controlled oil refinery in Syria — Photo: U.S. military

But the jihad specialist doesn't believe ISIS is going away anytime soon. "To use a historical analogy, the case of ISIS could slowly play out like the breakdown of Nazi Germany," Tamimi explains. There are parallels in the aggressive expansion policies of both ISIS and the Nazis. "In terms of time frame," Tamimi continues, "with ISIS we are today about where the Allies stood in 1941." Which is to say, the beginning of the end.

But is it a full four years until the ISIS extremists break down? We don't have to wait that long. If Syrian and Iraqi Kurds get the heavy weaponry they have long been clamoring for, they could further undermine the weakened militia. The Western coalition would also have to use the full capacity of their air forces. That would be a way to get rid of them faster. Which is not to say that Iraq and Syria would then become jihadist-free zones.

Scattered ISIS members would be welcomed with open arms by similar militias, namely Jabhat al-Nusra and Ahrar al-Sham, the two al-Qaeda affiliates in Syria. The other hardcore boys who still believe in ISIS ideology could join one of the groups in Algeria, Egypt, Libya and Yemen that recently took an oath of allegiance to Baghdadi.

But the golden show in the spotlight of the world is now over. New ISIS followers make up splinter groups that are very far from playing an important role. There can no longer be any talk of an international network that creates chaos in North Africa and the Gulf States. The only people who want to do that are ISIS propaganda strategists. They are former masters of disseminating messages that generate fear.

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New Delhi, India: Fumigation Against Dengue Fever In New Delhi

Anne-Sophie Goninet, Jane Herbelin and Bertrand Hauger

👋 வணக்கம்*

Welcome to Thursday, where America's top general reacts to China's test of a hypersonic weapon system, Russia is forced to reimpose lockdown measures and Venice's historic gondola race is hit by a doping scandal. French daily Les Echos also offers a cautionary tale of fraud in the crypto economy.

[*Vaṇakkam, Tamil - India, Sri Lanka, Singapore]

💡  SPOTLIGHT

A dove from Hiroshima: Is Fumio Kishida tough enough to lead Japan?

Japan's new prime minister is facing the twin challenges of COVID-19 and regional tensions, and some wonder whether he can even last as long as his predecessor, who was forced out after barely one year.

When Fumio Kishida, Japan's new prime minister. introduced himself earlier this month, he announced that the three major projects of his premiership will be the control of the ongoing pandemic; a new type of capitalism; and national security.

Kishida also pledged to deal with China "as its neighbor, biggest trade partner and an important nation which Japan should continue to dialogue with."

Nothing too surprising. Still, it was a rapid turn of events that brought him to the top job, taking over for highly unpopular predecessor, Yoshihide Suga, who had suddenly announced his resignation from office.

After a fierce race, Kishida defeated Taro Kono to become the president of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), and pave the way for the prime minister's job.

A key reason for Kishida's victory is the improving health situation, following Japan's fifth wave of the COVID pandemic that coincided with this summer's Olympic Games in Tokyo.

The best way to describe Kishida is to compare him to a sponge: not the most interesting item in a kitchen, yet it can absorb problems and clean up muck. His slogan ("Leaders exist to make other people shine") reflects well his political philosophy.

Kishida was born into a political family: His grandfather and father were both parliament members. Between the ages of six to nine, he studied in New York because of his father's work at the time. He attended the most prestigious private secondary school — the Kaisei Academy, of which about half of its graduates go to the University of Tokyo.

However, after failing three times the entrance exam, Kishida finally settled for Waseda University. Coming from a family where virtually all the men went to UTokyo, this was Kishida's first great failure in life.

After he graduated from college, Kishida worked for five years in a bank before serving as secretary for his father, Fumitake Kishida. In 1992, his father suddenly died at the age of 65. The following year, Kishida inherited his father's legacy to be elected as a member of the House of Representatives for the Hiroshima constituency. Since then, he has been elected successfully nine straight times, and served as Shinzo Abe's foreign minister for four years, beginning in December 2012. A former subordinate of his from that time commented on Kishida:

"If we are to sum him up in one sentence, he is an excellent actor. Whenever he was meeting his peers from other countries, we would remind him what should be emphasized, or when a firm, unyielding 'No' was necessary, and so on ... At the meetings, he would then put on his best show, just like an actor."

According to some insiders, during this period as foreign minister, his toughest stance was on nuclear weapons. This is due to the fact that his family hails from Hiroshima.

In 2016, following his suggestion, the G7 Ise-Shima Summit was held in Hiroshima, which meant that President Barack Obama visited the city — the first visit by a U.S. president to Hiroshima, where 118,661 lives were annihilated by the U.S. atomic bomb.

In September 2020 when Shinzo Abe stepped down as prime minister, Kishida put out his candidacy for the first time for LDP's presidency. He didn't even get close. This was his second great failure.

But reading his biography, Kishida Vision, I must say that besides the two aforementioned hiccups, Kishida's life has been smooth sailing over the past 64 years.

When one has had a happy and easy life, one tends to think that human nature is fundamentally good. Yet, the world doesn't work like that. And Japanese tend to believe that "human nature is vice," and have always felt a bit uneasy with the dovish Kishida diplomacy when he was foreign minister.

Hiroshima has always been a city with a leftist political tradition. Kishida's character, coupled with the fact that he belongs to the moderate Kochikai faction within the LDP, inevitably means that he won't be a right-wing prime minister.

Kishida would never have the courage to be engaged in any military action alongside Japan's ally, the United States, nor will he set off to rewrite the country's constitution.

So after barely a year of Yoshihide Suga in office, how long will a Fumio Kishida government last? If Japan can maintain its relatively stable health situation for some time, it could be a while. But if COVID comes roaring back, and the winter brings a sixth wave of the pandemic as virtually all Japanese experts in infectious diseases have predicted, then Kishida may just end up like Suga. No sponge can clean up that mess.

Daisuke Kondo / Economic Observer

🌎  7 THINGS TO KNOW RIGHT NOW

Top U.S. general says Chinese weapon nearly a "Sputnik moment": China recently conducted a "very concerning" test of a hypersonic weapon system as part of its push to expand space and military technologies, Gen. Mark Milley, the U.S. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told Bloomberg News. America's top military officer said that this was akin to the Soviet Union's stunning launch of the world's first satellite, Sputnik, 1957, which sparked the Cold War space race. Milley also called the test of the weapon "a very significant technological event" that is just one element of China's military capabilities.

Brexit: France seizes British trawler: A British trawler has been seized by France while fishing in French waters without a license, amid escalating conflict over post-Brexit fishing rights. France's Minister for Europe said it will adopt a zero-tolerance attitude towards Britain and block access to virtually all of its boats until it awards licenses to French fishermen.

COVID update: Russia confirmed a new record of coronavirus deaths, forcing officials to reimpose some lockdown measures, including a nationwide workplace shutdown in the first week of November. Germany also saw its numbers spike, with more than 28,000 new infections yesterday, adding to worries about restrictions this winter there and elsewhere in Europe. Singapore, meanwhile, reported the biggest surge in the city-state since the coronavirus pandemic began. Positive news on the vaccine front, as U.S. pharmaceutical giant Merck granted royalty-free license for a COVID-19 antiviral pill to help protect people in the developing world.

Iran nuclear talks to resume: Iran's top nuclear negotiator said multilateral talks in Vienna with world powers about its nuclear development program will resume before the end of November. The announcement comes after the U.S. warned efforts to revive the deal were in "critical phase."

First U.S. passport with "X" gender marker: The U.S. State Department has issued its first American passport with an "X" gender marker. It is designed to give nonbinary, intersex and gender-nonconforming people a marker other than male or female on their travel document. Several other countries, including Canada, Argentina and Nepal, already offer the same option.

China limits construction of super skyscrapers: China has restricted smaller cities in the country from building extremely tall skyscrapers, as part of a larger bid to crack down on wasteful vanity projects by local governments. Earlier this year the country issued a ban on "ugly architecture."

Doping scandal hits Venice's gondola race: For the first time in the history of the Venice Historical Regatta, a participant has tested positive to marijuana in a doping test: Gondolier Renato Busetto, who finished the race in second place, will be suspended for 13 months.

🗞️  FRONT PAGE

"End of the ice age," titles German-language Luxembourgish daily Luxemburger Wort, writing about how the ice melting in the Arctic opens up new economic opportunities with a new passage for countries like Russia and China but with potentially devastating effects for the environment. The issue of the Arctic is one of the topics that will be discussed at the COP26 Climate Change Conference which kicks off in Glasgow on Sunday.


#️⃣  BY THE NUMBERS

$87 billion

A new United Nations report found that extreme weather events such as tropical cyclones, floods and droughts have caused India an average annual loss of about $87 billion in 2020. India is among the countries which suffered the most from weather hazards this year along with China and Japan.

📰  STORY OF THE DAY

Air Next: How a crypto scam collapsed on a single spelling mistake

It is today a proven fraud, nailed by the French stock market watchdog: Air Next resorted to a full range of dubious practices to raise money for a blockchain-powered e-commerce app. But the simplest of errors exposed the scam and limited the damage to investors. A cautionary tale for the crypto economy from Laurence Boisseau in Paris-based daily Les Echos.

📲 The story began last February, when Air Next registered with the Paris Commercial Court. The new company stated it was developing an application that would allow the purchase of airline tickets by using cryptocurrency, at unbeatable prices and with an automatic guarantee in case of cancellation or delay, via a "smart contract" system. Last summer, Air Next started recruiting. The company also wanted to raise money to have the assets on hand to allow passenger compensation.

📝 On Sept. 30, the AMF issued an alert, by way of a press release, on the risks of fraud associated with the ICO, as it suspected some documents to be forgeries. For employees of the new company, it was a brutal wake-up call. They quickly understood that they had been duped, that they'd bet on the proverbial house of cards. Challenged by one of his employees on Telegram, the CEO admitted that "many documents provided were false", that "an error cost the life of this project."

⚠️ What was the "error" he was referring to? A typo in the name of the would-be bank backing the startup. A very small one, at the bottom of the page of the false bank certificate, where the name "Edmond de Rothschild" is misspelled "Edemond". Before the AMF's public alert, websites specializing in crypto-assets had already noted certain inconsistencies. The company had declared a share capital of 1 billion euros, which is an enormous amount. Air Next's CEO also boasted about having discovered bitcoin at a time when only a few geeks knew about cryptocurrency.


➡️ Read more on Worldcrunch.com


📣 VERBATIM

"A weapon was handed to Mr. Baldwin. The weapon is functional, and fired a live round."


— Following the Oct. 21 on-set shooting death of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins, Sante Fe County Sheriff Adan Mendoza told a press conference that the "facts are clear" about the final moments before Hutchins was shot. The investigation continues to determine what led up to that moment, and any possible criminal responsibility related to how the "prop" gun that actor Alec Baldwin fired was loaded.

📸  PHOTO DU JOUR

Fumigation is used as a precautionary measure against the spread of dengue disease in New Delhi, India, where more than 1,000 cases have been reported — Photo: Naveen Sharma/SOPA Images/ZUMA

✍️ Newsletter by Anne-Sophie Goninet, Jane Herbelin and Bertrand Hauger

Share with us your favorite gondola memories or worst crypto scams — and let us know what the news looks like from your corner of the world! - info@worldcrunch.com

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