Podcast: The Paris Attacks and Europe’s Security Challenges

William Tucker joins me again for a high level look at the Paris attacks and the impact that instability, chiefly in Syria, will have on the region. Failing states and the mass migration of refugees will continue to put immense pressure on dozens of governments. There is no framework, or level of response, that will allow intervening parties to resolve this problem anytime soon. So how do we cope with a security challenge that may persist for a decade – or multiple decades? This is the reality that we must face. The conflict in Syria and Iraq is not a crisis that can be “managed.” It is going to demand more of us, and our governments, than we would like. But as the saying goes – the enemy gets a vote.

Again, if you like what you’re hearing on Covert Contact please let me, and others, know. Your reviews and ratings help!

You can follow William J. Tucker on Twitter and read his guest posts on Blogs of War:

Everybody Spies – and for Good Reason
Hawaii a Priority Target for Foreign Espionage
Would the U.S. Really Kill Edward Snowden?
Snowden’s Snowjob?

Other Covert Contact Episodes Featuring William:
Episode 20: Government Email Problems, Wikileaks, Russia, Drone Leaks, NASA Security and Other Counterintelligence Nightmares
Episode 15: Hillary Clinton’s Email Server: Dissecting the Risks with William Tucker
Episode 12: Counterintelligence: William J. Tucker Breaks Down the Challenges

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The Return of the Gold Dinar: What is ISIS Up To?

ISIS Video: The Return of the Gold Dinar

ISIS is extremely proud of their latest video but, trust me, it’s a bit of a snorefest. But, it’s also very different. The horrific violence they’re known for is there but only in comparatively small doses. Instead they’ve opted to take a lot of fringe financial theory (the kind you might have heard already if you pay attention to Ron Paul or Glenn Beck ) and wrap it The Mummy Returns production values. Then, just like a college freshmen who has taken one economics class and read a dozen conspiracy theory websites, they drone on and on and on. It’s weird – just not weird enough to be interesting.

Of course, what we really need to know is why they’re going to all of this trouble. I’m still processing this but from their perspective:

  1. The production values project authority and capability. Their internal and external audiences both need reassurance.
  2. The pseudo-intellectual financial theory will not impress economists but it will resonate with people who view alternative financial systems as a rejection of current political systems. There are large numbers of people in the Middle East – and the United States who share this view.
  3. It checks the theology box by claiming to be a model that is more inline with Islamic principals.
  4. Money is central to statehood so this reinforces that claim.
  5. At the end of the day the ISIS wants to be seen as a viable alternative to existing powers. Videos like this (and the factors mentioned above) help support that case – at least in the eyes of potential recruits and supporters.

The alignment with the non-Islamic conspiracy thought in the West is the most intriguing aspect of this communication. Is this convergence intentional or is it a coincidence arising out of the fact that these ideas on the financial fringe have been circulating for a long time? I can’t make a call on that at the moment but it is certainly a question worth considering.

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Letters from Operation Desert Shield


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Iraq’s Ambassador to the United States, Lukman Faily, Updates Blogs of War on the ISIL Threat

Ambassador Lukman FailyThe Ambassador was kind enough to take some additional questions. I originally submitted these questions to him the day before there were widespread reports of, if not a coup, at least a difficult political transition in Baghdad. That situation has since stabilized somewhat but the environment remains challenging.

John Little: How would you describe the security situation in and around Baghdad at his time? Has the Iraqi government made progress in its preparations for a possible ISIL assault?

Ambassador Faily: The situation in Baghdad itself is stable, however there are pockets in the outskirts of the city where ISIL has launched attacks. These attacks have been pushed back by the Iraqi security forces as we’ve stepped up our defenses to protect the capital against potential attacks.

John Little: Has your government’s relationship with the Kurdistan Regional Government changed in any significant way since the start of the ISIL offensive?

Ambassador Faily: The central government and the Kurdistan regional government have been cooperating on military, humanitarian and political matters to confront the serious threat of ISIL. Joint operations centers have been established to coordinate these efforts. As an example, the Iraqi Air Force has been supporting Kurdish peshmerga forces in the Sinjar area as part of our joint efforts to alleviate the suffering of the Yazidi community who have been trapped on Mount Sinjar.

John Little: At the start of this crisis U.S. support for Iraq seemed uncertain. There has obviously been some progress but, from the outside looking in, it seems that there is still a fair amount of uncertainty. Do you feel like your government has reasonable assurances of support from the Obama administration? What immediate action would you like to see?

Ambassador Faily: We are in constant talks with the US Administration regarding military and humanitarian cooperation.We appreciate President Obama’s courageous decision to conduct airstrikes in response to ISIL’s attempt to commit genocide against minorities in Iraq. This is a brutal terrorist organization that has even been denounced by Al-Qaeda. Many of its members hold Western passports, and it is clear that their ambitions extend far beyond the Middle East. Therefore, drastic and immediate actions are required to counter this imminent threat from ISIL. Given the unfolding humanitarian crisis in Iraq, broader and more intensive airstrikes and additional humanitarian assistance would help mitigate against further atrocities.

John Little: The United States and others can blunt the ISIL threat and buy the Iraqi government some time but ultimately it has to be responsible for its own security and stability. Many are worried that the Iraqi government is countering extremism with extremism through its reliance on government-aligned militias. Is a truly inclusive Iraqi government and society possible?

Ambassador Faily: Yes. We have seen significant progress over the past 6 weeks as Iraq’s political leaders have come together to elect the Speaker and President. Recently, a prime minister designate was named. All three positions were chosen through broad agreement among Iraq’s political leaders, who stand united against the common threat of ISIL, and we are likely to see the formation of an inclusive government within a month that will lead the charge against these brutal terrorists.

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