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Letter from London: Why ISIS rejoices in Trump, Netanyahu and Brexit

A young follower explains why the caliphate is succeeding despite its physical defeat, in the latest of a series imagined by Paul Rogers.

Paul Rogers author pic
Paul Rogers
12 April 2019
Banner of Benjamin Netanyahu and Donald Trump seen on the head quarter building of the Likud party, 9 April 2019
A recruiting poster?
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Bruno Thevenin/SOPA Images/Sipa USA/PA Images. All rights reserved.

I was very sorry to hear of the death of your friend in custody. It must have been a terrible shock for you and your family but I am sorry to say that we hear of many deaths through the Baghdad regime’s utter determination to keep control.

It was very kind of you to ask after my brother in the circumstances and I have to say that I am really worried about him. As I mentioned in my last letter he went a few months ago to help expand our work in the southern Philippines and I have heard nothing since then. As you know, the Marawi operation in 2017 was just the start of our long-term plans for the region and I am hoping that he has just gone underground to further our aims. Given his huge experience in Bangladesh, Egypt and elsewhere it would not be surprising if that was the case, but it is still a constant worry.

I know that you want me to say a little bit more about why I am so positive about our prospects given that our physical caliphate is no more, but let me first bring you up to date on what I am doing. When I wrote in November I had just started work with a security company in London that provides intelligence for banks, oil companies and the like, not to mention more private work for governments across the Middle East. This was following my postgraduate course and I now see why my superiors were so keen to embed me in an organisation like that since it gives them a real insight into the thinking of the far enemy. While I would much prefer to return to my country I have to admit that I can probably do far more for the movement here than I thought possible, so I will be here for many months if not years. Also, it helps a lot that my new arm is working so well, making my work very much easier.

The more I work for this group the more I realise that they really do have very little idea of what’s going on in our movement and how deeply embedded we and other groups are right across the Sahel, the Horn of Africa, the Middle East and south-east Asia. Interestingly it is some of the more independent non-commercial groups that seem better able to think outside the box and have a clearer idea of the extent of our activities.

American and Israeli friends

I’m not sure that any of this will surprise you given our previous discussions, but I did want to say something about a different dimension of our success, even if it is building on wider changes within the far enemy.

Let me start with Trump. He is now well into his third year in the White House and he continues to help us in all kinds of ways. Take just two examples, Israel and Iran. It does now look like Netanyahu and his extremist friends, especially the ’religious‘ parties, will succeed in forming a new government and this will enable them to build on Trump’s support, not least for moving the embassy and annexing the Golan Heights.

The news this week that Netanyahu intends to embark on the progressive annexation of the many new Zionist settlements in occupied Palestine is seen right across the Middle East and beyond as the final nail in the coffin of a Palestinian state. It will have a far greater impact in gaining support for our movement than almost anyone over here realises.

Iraq’s strange allies

Then we have Iran, where Trump has declared the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps a terrorist organisation. As you know we have no time for Iran’s apostate regime but we still see this as a gift to our work on two counts. One, of course, is the consternation this is causing among Trump’s European allies, especially the Germans and the French, who remain desperate to engage with Tehran and to preserve the nuclear agreement, but the other relates to where you are in Baghdad.

You will know even better than me how deeply engaged the Revolutionary Guards are in Iraq and how badly Trump’s move will go down with the Iraqi government. This was made worse by the decision to announce the new policy hurriedly to help Netanyahu in his election bid, so much so that US officials in Baghdad had no time to work out how they might handle the Iraqis.

Just two years ago the Americans and their coalition were aiming to destroy our caliphate, but with an Iraqi army so weakened that the ground troops were hugely backed up by Shi’a militias trained by the Revolutionary Guards. Now the very group that helped the Americans and made their success possible is declared a hotbed of terrorism. Who will ever trust the perfidious Americans again? You really couldn’t make it up, could you?

The gift of Brexit

If Trump’s America is helping us in multiple ways, then just look at Brexit and Europe! Although my day job is working for this security company my superiors still require me to report on UK politics and this I do gladly. For us in our movement, as far as Britain is concerned Brexit is the gift to end all gifts. It is difficult to think of any period in British politics in the last half century when there are greater divisions, anger and uncertainty.

Moreover all of this is at a time of growing Islamophobia, which consistently aids our cause. I know from my contacts that, though it will not admit in in public, the government is really worried about the rise of the extreme right. At the last count there were at least 12,000 police and security agency people working on counter-terror investigations and the word is that at least a fifth of them are spending all their time on investigating the extreme right.

Yet this is part of a much wider problem across Europe with the rise of the extreme right anti-Islamic parties, some of them now in government, as in Hungary and Italy, and others gaining more and more power. Who would have thought that ‘Scandi-liberal’ countries such as Sweden and Denmark would be part of this change, or that the EU political leaders should be so worried about the forthcoming elections to the European Parliament and how seriously right-wing neo-fascist parties might end up in a substantial bloc? As I say, it is also one big gift to us, and there is every sign that it will continue to grow.

A legacy of bitterness

Add to this what is happening in our own lands, where repression rules, but our movement embeds itself still further as highly effective insurgents. As predicted, the tens of thousands of our people killed by the American-led airstrikes, including so many women and children, have left behind a legacy of bitterness, anger and determination to carry on the fight. Look at it this way: for every one of our people killed there will be scores and scores of their extended family and friends determined to avenge their death

Look, also, at Libya, where General Haftar’s forces are determined to create a highly repressive regime that will aim to destroy any sign of dissent. It is not surprising that they are backed by Sisi’s Egypt and the UAE, with both of those regimes recognising the threat we pose. From our perspective, we have seen Egypt under Sisi as one of our key areas for expansion, but we now seeing it being joined by Libya. Our prospects from Tunisia, Libya and into Egypt are full of potential and we look forward to our expansion with great optimism.

I will admit there are some problems. Last week it looked as if Netanyahu might narrowly lose the Israeli election and, though Gantz would not have been very different, he might have been a little less close to Trump. Happily, though, the signs now look good for us, though we will be happier when Netanyahu has finally formed a stable government.

Strangely, our other current worry is actually the UK, in spite of all the political chaos here. My superiors are actually quite worried that the current mess might end up, almost by accident, in a general election. My own analysis following the shock outcome of the 2017 election is that in the course of a five or six-week campaign we would be likely to get a repeat of the Corbyn surge of last time, leading to Labour at least able to form a minority government if not more.

As I’ve said many times in the past, that really would be bad news for us – to have Britain headed by someone who supports the Palestinians and can see why economic marginalisation helps our cause is, from our perspective, just too dangerous. Indeed, if I try and stand back from all of this, a Corbyn success would be a real worry to us but also to Netanyahu – one reason why the Israelis are so active in trying to damage him. It really is a funny old world, isn’t it?

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