Switching Places: New Threats from the Islamic State and Nusra Front

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Over the past few weeks, the insurgent threat from al-Nusra Front, al-Qaeda’s (AQ) affiliate in Syria has grown, even as actions by the Iraqi government, Kurdish forces, and tribal fighters have significantly reduced the territory controlled by the Islamic State (IS) in Iraq. The result is that the two fighting groups seem to be changing places in the size and scope of the military threat they present to the region. Meanwhile, the announcement by IS members that the group has built a “dirty bomb” and smuggled it into Europe creates the possibility that IS now presents as great a terrorist danger as the “imminent threat” posed by AQ’s Khorasan Group.

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Luke Somers and the Transformed Business of Hostage-Taking

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On December 3, 2014, SITE Intelligence Group released a video from al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), showing a hostage identifying as a British-American citizen named Luke Somers, calmly but sincerely pleading for his life. Before Somers’s plea, AQAP official Nasser bin Ali al-Ansi discusses American foreign policy in Muslim countries, including Yemen, and claims that Somers will suffer an “inevitable fate” if the U.S. does not meet the group’s demands (not specified in the video) in three days.

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What Makes Today’s Terrorists Tick?

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"The only way to achieve results," a Japanese leftwing terrorist explained in 1972, "is to shock the world right down to its socks." More than four decades later, with the beheading of three Americans in a matter of months, there can be little doubt that the Islamic State (IS) has indeed achieved that result.

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A Contrarian View: Has the Islamic State Peaked?

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Having spent several posts discussing the threat offered by the Islamic State (IS), it seems appropriate to balance these views with a look at the signs that suggest the group is facing difficulties in its attempts to expand further.

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U.S. Strategy against the Islamic State and Nusra Front: A Reconsideration

 

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The decision by the U.S. government to double the number of American forces in Iraq suggests that the current strategy against the extremists is not working.  The U.S. has carried out numerous airstrikes and is lending support to the Kurds, moderate Syrian rebels, the Iraqi government, and anti-Islamic State (IS) tribal forces, but this has not stopped IS or al-Qaeda’s (AQ) affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra (JN or al-Nusra Front), helped the situation in Syria or Iraq, or ended the threat to the homeland. The persistence of these challenges in the face of U.S. action might require a reconsideration of the level of effort necessary to prevent further atrocities and stop the extremists.

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