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30 June 2015

Islamic State? This death cult is not a state and it’s certainly not Islamic by Boris Johnson

We must settle on a name for our enemies that doesn’t smear all Muslims but does reflect reality

21 Egyptian Christians, who were seized by Isis fighters while working in Libya, killed in a videoreleased on February 15, 2015
If we are going to defeat our enemies we have to know who they are. We have to know what to call them. We must at least settle on a name – a terminology – with which we can all agree. And the trouble with the fight against Islamic terror is that we are increasingly grappling with language, and with what it is permissible or sensible to say.

• Horrifying footage emerges of fleeing killer - Live

When a man sprays bullets at innocent tourists on a beach, or when a man decapitates his boss and sticks his head on the railings, or when a man blows himself up in a mosque in Kuwait – and when all three atrocities are instantly “claimed” by the same disgusting organisation – it is surely obvious that we are dealing with the same specific form of evil. This is terrorism.

But what are the objectives of this terrorism? Is it religious? Is it political? Is it a toxic mixture of the two? And what exactly is its relationship with Islam? Many thoughtful Muslims are now attempting – understandably – to decouple their religion from any association with violence of this kind.

The excellent Rehman Chishti, MP for Gillingham, has launched a campaign to change the way we all talk about “Isil”. He points out that the very use of the term “Islamic State” is in itself a capitulation to these sadistic and loathsome murderers. They are not running a state, and their gangster organisation is not Islamic – it is a narcissistic death cult.

Rehman’s point is that if you call it Islamic State you are playing their game; you are dignifying their criminal and barbaric behaviour; you are giving them a propaganda boost that they don’t deserve, especially in the eyes of some impressionable young Muslims. He wants us all to drop the terms, in favour of more derogatory names such as “Daesh” or “Faesh”, and his point deserves a wider hearing.

But then there are others who would go much further, and strip out any reference to the words “Muslim” or “Islam” in the discussion of this kind of terrorism – and here I am afraid I disagree. I can well understand why so many Muslims feel this way. Whatever we may think of the “truth” of any religion, there are billions of people for whom faith is a wonderful thing: a consolation, an inspiration – part of their identity.

There are hundreds of millions of Muslims for whom the word “Islamic” is a term of the highest praise. They resent the constant association of “Islam” with “terrorism”, as though the one was always fated to give birth to the other. They dislike even the concept of “Islamic extremism”, since it seems to imply a seamless continuum of Muslim belief and behaviour: from liberal to tolerant to conservative to reactionary to terrorist.

Their point is that terrorist violence is alien from Islam, and that is why they argue so strenuously that we should drop all references to “Muslim terrorists” or “Islamic terrorists”. They say that any use of the word Islam or Muslim in such a context is actually offensive and derogatory, and helps to alienate the very people we need to win over.

As one Muslim friend put it to me, “you wouldn’t talk about Christian terrorists would you?” And there is some truth in that. We don’t talk about “Christian terrorism” even in the context of the sectarian violence between Catholics and Protestants in Northern Ireland. Why do we seem to taint a whole religion by association with a violent minority?

Well, I am afraid there are two broad reasons why some such association is inevitable. The first is a simple point of language, and the need to use terms that everyone can readily grasp. It is very difficult to bleach out all reference to Islam or Muslim from discussion of this kind of terror, because we have to pinpoint what we are actually talking about. It turns out that there is virtually no word to describe an Islamically-inspired terrorist that is not in some way prejudicial, at least to Muslim ears.

You can’t say “salafist”, because there are many law-abiding and peaceful salafists. You can’t say jihadi, because jihad – the idea of struggle – is a central concept of Islam, and doesn’t necessarily involve violence; indeed, you can be engaged in a jihad against your own moral weakness. The only word that seems to carry general support among Muslim leaders is Kharijite – which means a heretic – and which is not, to put it mildly, a word in general use among the British public.

We can’t just call it “terrorism”, as some have suggested, because we need to distinguish it from any other type of terrorism – whether animal rights terrorists or Sendero Luminoso Marxists. We need to speak plainly, to call a spade a spade. We can’t censor the use of “Muslim” or “Islamic”.

That just lets too many people off the hook. If we deny any connection between terrorism and religion, then we are saying there is no problem in any of the mosques; that there is nothing in the religious texts that is capable of being twisted or misunderstood; that there are no religious leaders whipping up hatred of the west, no perverting of religious belief for political ends.

If we purge our vocabulary of any reference to the specifically religious associations of the problem, then we are not only ignoring the claims of the terrorists themselves (which might be reasonable), but the giant fact that there is a struggle going on now for the future of Islam, and how it can adapt to the 21st century. The terrorism we are seeing across the Muslim world is partly a function of that struggle, and of the chronic failure of much Islamic thinking to distinguish between politics and religion.

The struggle is really about power, of course, rather than spirituality – but that does not mean we can ignore the potency of the religious dimension. It doesn’t much matter which word we agree on, with Muslim communities, to describe this ideology of terror – Islamism? Islamo-fascism? – but we need to settle on it fast, and then join together to stamp out the phenomenon. If we are going to beat them, we must all at least know their name.

Islamic State? This death cult is not a state and it’s certainly not Islamic
by Boris Johnson,

18 June 2015

2015 Global Peace Index

The 2015 Global Peace Index shows that the world is becoming increasingly divided with some countries enjoying unprecedented levels of peace and prosperity while others spiral further into violence and conflict.

The Global Peace Index measures the state of peace in 162 countries according to 23 indicators that gauge the absence of violence or the fear of violence. It is produced annually by the Institute for Economics and Peace.  
This year the results show that globally, levels of peace remained stable over the last year, however are still lower than in 2008.


  • Since last year, 81 countries have become more peaceful, while 78 have deteriorated.
  • Many countries in Europe, the world’s most peaceful region, have reached historically high levels of peace. 15 of the 20 most peaceful countries are in Europe.
  • Due to an increase in civil unrest and terrorist activity, the Middle East and North Africa is now the world’s least peaceful region for the first time since the Index began.
  • Globally the intensity of internal armed conflict has increased dramatically, with the number of people killed in conflicts rising over 3.5 times from 49,000 in 2010 to 180,000 in 2014.
  • The economic impact of violence reached a total of US$14.3 trillion or 13.4% of global GDP last year.


The most peaceful countries are Iceland, Denmark and Austria. The countries that made the biggest improvements in peace over the last year, generally benefited from the ending of wars with neighbours and involvement in external conflict. The biggest improvers were: Guinea-Bissau, Cote d’Ivoire, Egypt and Benin.
Syria remains the world’s least peaceful country, followed by Iraq and Afghanistan. The country that suffered the most severe deterioration in peace was Libya, which now ranks 149th of 162 countries. Ukraine suffered the second largest deterioration: following a popular revolution which brought down the administration of Viktor Yanukovych, Russia moved to destabilise the country, meaning it scored poorly on organised conflict indicators.
2014 was marked by contradictory trends: on the one hand many countries in the OECD achieved historically high levels of peace, while on the other, strife-torn nations, especially in the Middle East, became more violent. This is a real concern as these conflict become even more intractable they spread terrorism to other states.
Steve Killelea, Founder and Executive Chairman, Institute for Economics and Peace


The world is less peaceful today than it was in 2008. The indicators that have deteriorated the most are the number of refugees and IDPs, the number of deaths from internal conflict and the impact of terrorism. Last year alone it is estimated that 20,000 people were killed in terrorist attacks up from an average of 2,000 a year only 10 years ago.
Only two indicators have markedly improved since 2008: UN peacekeeping funding and external conflicts fought. The number of deaths from external conflict has fallen from 1,982 to 410 over the last eight years.


Peace is more than just the absence of conflict. Positive peace can be understood as the attitudes, structures and institutions that underpin peaceful societies. The research shows that in countries with higher levels of Positive Peace, resistance movements are less likely to become violent and are more likely to successfully achieve concessions from the state.


The total economic impact of violence last year reached US$14.3 trillion, or 13.4% of global GDP. That’s equivalent to the combined economies of Canada, France, Germany, Spain and the UK.


The Global Peace Index is a composite index comprised of 23 qualitative and quantitative indicators that gauge the level of peace in 162 countries. These indicators can be grouped into three broad themes: the level of safety and security in a society, the number of international and domestic conflicts and the degree of militarisation.
The only statistical measure of its kind, the Global Peace Index allows us to understand what makes societies peaceful and what we need to do in order to mitigate violence in the future.


The Global Peace Index interactive map allows you to explore how your country scores on the Index, compare two or more countries, see changes in peace over time and discover how the world fares according to each of the 23 indicators of peace.
A detailed analysis of the state of global peace and the full Global Peace Index methodology can be found in the 2015 Global Peace Index Report.

12 June 2015

Five Questions That The Indian Operation in Myanmar Raises

GUWAHATI: Khaplang faction of National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN-K) on Wednesday termed the reports of it suffering massive casualties in and around Myanmar as "baseless". The outfit has challenged the Indian Army to display the bodies of cadres killed in the attack Read <<more>>>

1. Why is Myanmar denying that the operation took place within its territory?
This is confusing. According to the Indian account, the Indian army struck militants at bases within Myanmar’s territory. Myanmar, on Wednesday, denied this claim. In a Facebook post, Zaw Htay, director of Myanmar’s presidential office, said, “According to the information sent by Tatmadaw (Myanmar army) battalions on the ground, we have learned that the military operation was performed on the Indian side at India-Myanmar border.” “Myanmar will not accept any foreigner who attacks neighbouring countries in the back and creates problems by using our own territory,” he added.
Given that India and Myanmar have a long standing agreement, even authorising the two armies to cross the border to combat terrorism, why is Myanmar denying the Indian government’s very categorical claim? Is it embarrassed and worried about the major publicity India seems to be giving to the ‘hot pursuit’ by the special forces, or is there more to it?
2. Why is the NSCN-K denying that any of its members were killed?
The Indian account states that the NSCN-K -- The National Socialist Council of Nagaland – Khaplang, the group behind the Manipur attack were targeted. The NSCN-K, however, denies this. In fact, the group has outrightly denied that it even has camps in the area that the Indian army says the operation took place.
“There were no NSCN-K camps in areas claimed by the Indian army,” the rebels reportedly said. The militants added that the attack was "completely false" and said the reports were efforts by the Indian army "to save their reputation". The release further challenged the army to show the bodies of cadres who were supposedly killed in the attack.
Further, the rebel group said areas shown by television channels as camp locations were "non-existent" in the borders areas. "The topography shown on TVs are all non-existent. We do not have a well-maintained footpath or the pine garden that were shown," the NSCN (K) added.
The answer to the question regarding why the NSCN-K is denying the Indian army’s claims is fairly straightforward, as it does not want to demoralise its cadres. But the denial does raise the question.
3. Who were the people killed?
Combat, whether national or cross-border, is governed by standard operating procedures aimed to prevent human rights violations and civilian casualties. However, given the secrecy surrounding the Myanmar operation (for good reason and not-so-good reason), there is a lot of ambiguity regarding the number (and nature) of people killed. Was it between 20 and 50? Was it 100? Further, who were these people? Were they all military aged males? Were they all armed? How did the Indian army ensure only “militants” were killed?
4. What about China?
The operation fails to address one of the most crucial factors governing militancy in India’s northeast: China.
Rahul Bedi wrote in The Citizen: “Intelligence sources said Chinese arms began trickling into the region around 2005 via Bangladesh and reports on last week’s ambush indicate that sophisticated weaponry, including grenade launchers, was employed in the attack.
The Chinese are believed to have established an armaments factory in Myanmar, which reportedly is supplying arms to militant groups operating in the northeast.
If it is indeed, confirmed that rebel weaponry was sourced from China it would seriously embarrass the Modi government, unctuously cosying up to Beijing.
It would also present a dilemma for Modi with the possibility of the relatively dormant insurgencies re-igniting. There is enough local resentment for the varied militant groups, especially in Manipur, to tap into that could well turn the region into a violent tinder box.”
If the Myanmar Operation served as a “lesson” to India’s neighbours who aid and shelter terrorists, then it is indeed worth exploring what the Modi government has to say on China’s role in fostering militancy in India’s northeast, whilst the Prime Minister cosies up to Xi Jinping.
5. And now what?
From 2001 to March 2015, the NSCN(K) had a ceasefire with the Indian government. Although the talks achieved little, every year, the ceasefire was extended. Does India’s decided course of action mean that any prospect of negotiations are off the table?
Most importantly, the above question demonstrates the core of the Naga problem. It relates to the larger question of the roots of the militancy in Nagaland, where a number of rebel groups are fighting for a unified Nagaland. Addressing militancy in any region usually relates to root causes -- social, economic, political, and cultural.
The only solution to militancy is through an understanding of the root causes. This can only be made possible through negotiations (made possible in turn by a ceasefire). While a military operation may achieve short-term gains, it will accentuate long-term costs by increasing alienation amongst an already disenchanted population. This is not to say that a military operation holds no validity, but rather, to ensure transparency as well as addressing questions relating to a future course of action.
Instead of vocalising patriotism through the facade of military action and retribution, it is perhaps worth asking: now what? What are the implications of the breakdown of the ceasefire and the Indian government’s choice of action on the ethnic conflict in Nagaland? This is the most crucial question that demands an answer.

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  • 11 June 2015

    What Should We Do if the Islamic State Wins?

    It’s time to ponder a troubling possibility: What should we do if the Islamic State wins? By “wins,” I don’t mean it spreads like wildfire throughout the Muslim world, eventually establishing a caliphate from Baghdad to Rabat and beyond. That’s what its leaders say they are going to do, but revolutionary ambitions are not reality and that possibility is particularly far-fetched. Rather, an Islamic State victory would mean that the group retained power in the areas it now controls and successfully defied outside efforts to “degrade and destroy” it. So the question is: What do we do if the Islamic State becomes a real state and demonstrates real staying power?

    That possibility is looking more likely these days, given Baghdad’s inability to mount a successful counteroffensive. If MIT’s Barry Posen is correct (and he usually is), the Iraqi Army no longer exists as a meaningful fighting force. Not only does this reveal the bankruptcy of the U.S. effort to train Iraqi forces (and the collective failure of all the commanders who led this effort and kept offering upbeat assessments of progress), but it also means that only a large-scale foreign intervention is likely to roll back and ultimately eliminate the Islamic State. This will not happen unless a coalition of Arab states agrees to commit thousands of their own troops to the battle, because the United States will not and should not do the fighting for states whose stake in the outcome exceeds its own.

    Don’t get me wrong — I’d be as pleased as anyone if the Islamic State were decisively defeated and its violent message utterly discredited. But one needs to plan not just for what one would like to see happen, but also for the very real possibility that we can’t actually achieve what we want — or at least not at a cost that we consider acceptable.

    So what do we do if the Islamic State succeeds in holding on to its territory and becoming a real state? Posen says that the United States (as well as others) should deal with the Islamic State the same way it has dealt with other revolutionary state-building movements: with a policy of containment. I agree.

    Despite its bloodthirsty and gruesome tactics, the Islamic State is not, in fact, a powerful global actor. Its message attracts recruits among marginalized youth in other countries, but attracting perhaps 25,000 ill-trained followers from a global population of more than 7 billion is not that significant. It may even be a net gain if these people leave their countries of origin and then get to experience the harsh realities of jihadi rule. Some of them will realize that the Islamic State is brutal and unjust and a recipe for disaster; the rest will be isolated and contained in one spot instead of stirring up trouble at home.

    More importantly, the relative handful of foreigners flocking to fight under the Islamic State’s banner are only a tiny fraction of the world’s Muslims, and the fanatical jihadi message shows little sign of winning significant support in this large and diverse population.

    I’m not being naive. Islamic State fellow travelers will no doubt conduct terrorist acts and cause other forms of trouble in various places. But that is a far cry from the Islamic State’s being able to spread willy-nilly across the Islamic world. The group clearly has the potential to cause trouble outside the stretch of desert that it currently controls, but it hasn’t yet demonstrated a significant capacity to expand beyond the alienated Sunni populations of western Iraq and eastern Syria.

    Moreover, the Islamic State’s territory has few resources and little industrial power. Its military forces, though capably led, are not those of a great power (or even a regional power). The Islamic State faces strong resistance whenever it tries to move outside Sunni areas (e.g., into Kurdistan or Shiite-dominated Baghdad), where it cannot exploit local resentment against Baghdad or Damascus.

    The Islamic State faces another important obstacle: It no longer enjoys the advantage of surprise. It emerged unexpectedly from the chaos of post-invasion Iraq and the Syrian civil war, and it featured the unlikely marriage of an extremist strand of Islam and some prominent former Baathist officials who knew how to run a police state. The combination has been surprisingly effective, just as the Iraqi Army has been (unsurprisingly) corrupt and unreliable. But the Islamic State’s potential to cause trouble is now clear, and Arab states, from the Persian Gulf to Egypt and beyond, will now go to considerable lengths to make sure the Islamic State model does not take root in their own societies. (Libya is another matter, after the foolhardy Western intervention there, but the emergence of an Islamic State clone there is also a containable problem.)

    Now take an imaginative leap. Assume the Islamic State is contained but not overthrown and that it eventually creates durable governing institutions. As befits a group built in part on the former Baathist thugocracy, it is already creating the administrative structures of statehood: levying taxes, monitoring its borders, building armed forces, co-opting local groups, etc. Some of its neighbors are tacitly acknowledging this reality by turning a blind eye to the smuggling that keeps the Islamic State in business. Should this continue, how long will it be before other countries begin to recognize the “Islamic State” as a legitimate government?

    The Western powers refused to recognize the Soviet Union for some years after the 1917 Bolshevik revolution, and the United States did not do so until 1933. Similarly, the United States did not establish full diplomatic relations with the government of the world’s most populous country — the People’s Republic of China — until 1979, a full 30 years after the PRC was founded. Given these (and other) precedents, can we be certain that the Islamic State might not one day become a legitimate member of the international community, with a seat at the United Nations?

    Perhaps, you’ll say, the Islamic State’s barbaric behavior — enslaving women, torturing civilians, beheading hostages — will forever exclude it from the community of civilized nations. Isn’t it more likely that its leaders will end up in the dock at the International Criminal Court than addressing the U.N. General Assembly? It would be nice to think so, but history suggests a more cynical lesson.

    Those oh-so-posh and civilized Brits we enjoy watching on Downton Abbey? Their ancestors created the United Kingdom through violent and brutal acts of coercion and conquest (as any knowledgeable Welshman or Scot could tell you). Those heroic Americans who expanded the “Empire of Liberty” across North America? They massacred, raped, and starved Native Americans to get there — and collected plenty of scalps along the way. The Bolsheviks and Maoists who created the USSR and People’s Republic of China? They didn’t consolidate power via gentle persuasion, and neither did the Wahhabis under Ibn Saud or the Zionists who founded Israel. As the now-deceased Charles Tilly made abundantly clear in his landmark Coercion, Capital, and European States, state-building has been a brutal enterprise for centuries, and the movements that built new states in the past did many things that we would now condemn as utterly barbaric. (And let’s not pretend that today’s “advanced” societies are uniformly genteel or moral either. An innocent blown up by an ill-aimed drone strike is just as much a victim as someone brutally beheaded by the Islamic State.)

    The norms of “acceptable” state conduct have changed dramatically over the past century, which is why we rightly regard the Islamic State’s behavior as especially abhorrent today. Pointing out that other state-builders acted badly in the past neither excuses nor justifies what the jihadis are doing today in Iraq and Syria. But this long history does remind us that movements that were once beyond the pale sometimes end up accepted and legitimized, if they manage to hang onto power long enough.

    To be accepted into the community of nations, however, radical or revolutionary movements eventually have to abandon some (if not all) of their most ferocious practices. As Kenneth Waltz pointed out more than 30 years ago, eventually all radical states become “socialized into the system.” Over time, they learn that their grandiose ideological ambitions are not going to be realized and that uncompromising fidelity to their original revolutionary aims is costly, counterproductive, and maybe even threatening to their long-term survival. Within the movement, voices arise that call for compromise, or at least a more pragmatic approach to the outside world. Instead of “world revolution,” it becomes time to build “socialism in one country.” Instead of spreading the “Islamic Republic,” it becomes time to cut deals with both Great and Lesser Satans. The new state gradually adapts to prevailing international norms and practices, and it eventually moves from pariah to partner, especially when its interests start to coincide with those of other states. It may still be a troublesome presence in world politics, but it is no longer ostracized. If the Islamic State survives and consolidates, that is what I’d expect to happen to it as well.

    But make no mistake: This process of “socialization” does not happen automatically. Radical states don’t learn that beastly behavior is costly unless other states join forces to impose the necessary penalties. If the Islamic State manages to cling to power, consolidate its position, and create a genuine de facto state in what was previously part of Iraq and Syria, then other states will need to work together to teach it the facts of life in the international system. And because the Islamic State is not in fact that powerful, preventing it from expanding or increasing its power and imposing costs for its abhorrent behavior should not be all that hard.

    The chief task for American statecraft, therefore, should be to coordinate and back up an international campaign of containment in which local actors such as Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Turkey, and Iran — which have the most at stake — take the lead role. It also means helping others counter the Islamic State’s efforts to spread its message, convincing other states to do more to limit its sources of revenue, and patiently waiting for its excesses to undermine it from within.

    What Should We Do if the Islamic State Wins?   by Stephen M. WaltStephen,