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Raqqa to the world: a letter

How might a young British adherent of ISIS, now in Syria, see the intensifying war? The latest letter in a series imagined by Paul Rogers.                       

Paul Rogers author pic
Paul Rogers
28 July 2016
Raqqa. Flickr/Beshr Abdulhadi. Some rights reserved.

Raqqa. Flickr/Beshr Abdulhadi. Some rights reserved.

Dear Brother,

Thank you for your letter and I am pleased to hear you were nowhere near central Baghdad when the bomb went off. I know we have had our differences, but do believe me when I say that war has consequences which even those involved can regret.

I must apologise for taking nearly six months since my last letter but things have been very hectic here as the air strikes – Russian as well as American – have come closer to the city. 

At least I have now been fitted with a prosthetic arm and have been learning how to manage with it. Since I lost my arm in that American raid several years ago, I had got used to managing without, so the new arm is taking some getting used to. It was amazing to get it though, given the pressures that our hospitals are under, and while it is hardly state of the art it is certainly making a difference.

You ask again after my brother. I have some really surprising news of him. You will remember that back in February I had just heard from him in Libya, even though I knew he had been there for some months. Well I have just heard through a friend that he is now in Bangladesh! Not only that but he is part of the small team that has been involved in the rapid development of our organisation there, including the action against the foreigners a couple of weeks ago.

I understand that the operation did not go quite according to plan as they had expected to find more Americans there rather than Italians, but the effect on Bangladeshi politics has still been considerable. It has also demonstrated categorically that ISIS has 'reach'. It also coincides with our action in Kabul, which gives the lie to Ghani’s claim that ISIS in Afghanistan is finished.

You ask about my own work. It has mainly been about continuing to analyse and assess the US presidential election for our SOBRA intelligence centre. But I also still continue with my watching brief on the UK. You will remember that this was my main role around last year’s election there, and that we had been concerned that Miliband might win and bring in a less antagonistic attitude towards us. That was not, of course, what we wanted. The more the Crusaders attack us the more support we can generate.

In the event the result was fine for us. We had this dream of a weak Conservative/UKIP coalition with Farage as Cameron’s home secretary, but we knew full well that it was unlikely. We were happy to settle for a rather unstable Conservative majority.  Corbyn coming in for Labour was, as I said in an earlier letter, a bit of a worry since the last thing we wanted in UK politics was an out-and-out peacenik, but we had few concerns that he would ever get there given the quintessentially right-wing nature of the British press.

Where Cameron turned out to be an utter gift for us was his need to assuage his right-wing with a referendum on the EU. You can imagine our utter delight at the outcome – roll on Brexit and all the upheaval! All we want now is Marine Le Pen winning the French presidency next spring, followed by an even messier Frexit and the break-up of the whole Crusader edifice! But more of that later.

As I said, my current job is with the US election and I note that my last letter to you mentioned rather wistfully the possibility of Donald Trump getting the Republican ticket. It seemed frankly unlikely back in February, but just look at what has happened since! Not only has he got it but he looks like he is levelling with Hillary Clinton as polling day approaches. Our senior planners are currently working hard to decide how we might intervene to improve his chances and I am pretty sure there will be some interesting developments there.

What our leaders want is a convincing win for Trump and the enacting of his harder-line policies on immigration, religious freedom and the like, coupled with a reversal of his current rather curious brand of isolationism. Expect some anti-American spectaculars both before the election and even more so afterwards if he does make it to the White House. These will be designed to ensure a renewed onslaught on us by the Americans and their European Crusader allies.

You ask me to be frank with you about the current state of the war and I will oblige. You may be surprised to hear how optimistic I remain in spite of the intensity of the war being waged against us. It is true that we have lost many thousands of our young fighters as well as hundreds of women and children, and the recent acceleration in the intensity of the air raids has taken its toll. We have also lost valuable territory in Iraq, especially the fall of Fallujah. So you might think it reasonable to ask why I remain optimistic.

Look at it through other eyes, though. In Iraq the apostate government continues to favour the Shi’a and marginalises our natural supporters. Some of the behaviour is grotesque, as with the abandoning of tens of thousands of refugees from Fallujah even though they were refugees only because of the government assault on their city. Then there is the overwhelming presence of the Shi’a militias without which the government could not maintain control.

Put these together and are you surprised that support for our cause is rising in Iraq at the very time that our prospects are apparently so dim? Furthermore, our military planners are already preparing and positioning for a long-lasting insurgency against the Americans, Iranians, Shi’a militias and the Iraqi government. In doing so they are sure of plenty of support from many wealthy backers in the Gulf who are horrified at the rise of Iran and see the Shi’a crescent from the Mediterranean to the Arabian Sea as evolving before their eyes.

I also suspect that western analysts have no idea about the impact of our round-the-clock social media reporting of the Crusader air war and of the families torn apart by the bombing and drone strikes. These reports lead to palpable anger across the world and serve most effectively to aid our recruiting base.

There is a further element, however, which helps explain my positive outlook. Let me explain. If we go back two years, just after the startling successes in Iraq, all our emphasis was about the actual achievement of a new Caliphate out of what was previously northern Iraq and northern Syria. That was lauded as the way forward, in marked contrast to the failed policies of al-Qaida a decade earlier. But our top planners were already looking beyond this.

They correctly saw that the Crusaders would come at us with massive force and might eventually cause us huge problems, even to the extent of taking parts of the new Caliphate away from us. In these circumstances they reasoned that even the temporary existence of the Caliphate would be of huge symbolic importance, and its crushing by the Crusaders would be a call to arms in the coming years.

But they went further, in determining to take the war to the Crusaders. By the start of last year we were developing a range of capabilities. Some of these were under our direct control, others subject to strong influence and some technical support, and still others were no more than inspired by our work. A few of the recent attacks were completely unrelated, even if we moved quickly to claim them.

The effect of all of this, especially in France and Germany, has been to increase the sense of insecurity, accelerate the rise of anti-Muslim bigotry and increased support for extreme right-wing parties. We are most interested in Germany and France, but work is also under way to enhance our support-base in several other countries, including the Netherlands, Austria and Britain.

Even so, our main target has to be France and we are growing increasingly confident of influencing next spring’s presidential election in favour of Marine Le Pen. We may not have got Farage into the British government but Trump in the White House and Marine Le Pen as president of France will make us very happy indeed.

I have to say that even though I worked for three years in the United States and studied for a year in London, I am still amazed that senior policy people and analysts in both countries seem so unable to understand ISIS and its aims. Even after 15 years of war, the Crusader states are no more secure than they were. Yet they do not even try to learn why. For the sake of our mission, let us hope they never do.

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