Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Abu Mazen's Last Stand?

Following Israel’s July 16 decision to install metal detectors at the entrance to the Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif, the Palestinian leadership announced the suspension of security coordination with Israel. The detectors have since been removed, but coordination has not been reinstated.



“The decisions to freeze or to resume security coordination between the Palestinian Authority [PA] and Israel have been expropriated from the Palestinian leadership,” an Israeli security source speaking on the condition of anonymity told Al-Monitor. “Those decisions are now in the hands of the Palestinian street.” Now more than ever, according to the source, it appears that the Palestinian public controls the leadership, not the other way around.


Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas had withstood a barrage of criticism leveled at him over the past two years by opponents accusing him of collaborating with Israel, but he caved during the events last month on the Temple Mount sparked by the July 14 killing of two Israeli policemen at the site and Israel’s subsequent installation of the metal detectors. Now he no longer seems able to muster the great courage required to retake the high road. 

The crisis over the Temple Mount is over, Israel has removed the metal detectors and cameras, and the Palestinians have declared victory in the volatile struggle over Al-Aqsa Mosque. The anti-Israel climate on the Palestinian street, however, has worsened, and the “victory” has awakened an appetite for more of the same by putting pressure on Israel — for example, by freezing security coordination.


When the PA informed Israel that it was severing ties in response to what it described as Israel's “violation” of Al-Aqsa, Islam’s third holiest site, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman said dismissively, “It's a Palestinian need first and foremost. If they want it, they'll continue [coordination]; if not, they won't. We don't intend to chase after them over it or force the issue. We’ll manage either way.” He emphasized that Abbas needs the coordination more than Israel does.

Seemingly punitive Israeli actions taken over the past week appear to signal that Israeli security professionals disagree with Liberman’s attempts to minimize the importance of security ties with the PA.

Actually, in recent days, US officials have told the head of Palestinian intelligence, Majid Faraj, that security cooperation must be resumed immediately, warning that the PA was playing with fire. It is unclear whether the American demand followed an Israeli request, but the fact is that joint efforts are underway to renew coordination — the Americans through diplomacy, the Israelis with threats.


On Aug. 2, Israeli soldiers raided the office of the Palestinian security forces in Hebron that deals mostly with civilian and crime-related issues among the city’s Palestinian residents. At the same time, Israel removed the checkpoint at the exit from Ramallah (near the Beit El settlement) that provided top PA officials with convenient, coordinated passage out of PA-controlled territory.


The Israeli security source confirmed that Israel had indeed adopted some measures against the PA, calling them “adjustments” to changing circumstances, such as the absence of formal coordination, rather than sanctions. A Palestinian security force member, however, told Al-Monitor on the condition of anonymity that Israel is clearly punishing the PA.

He warned that it was “making a serious mistake that would make renewal of coordination even harder’’ and added that despite the excellent coordination previously, Israel had implicated the PA time and again, when its troops entered West Bank Area A (under full Palestinian control according to the Oslo Accord) and carried out arrests. “We were perceived as having opened the door to them and even telling them, ‘Go ahead, arrest [so and so],’” he said.


Abbas has provoked great anger, especially in the Dheisheh, Jalazone, Qalandia and Balata refugee camps. The almost regular raids by Israeli soldiers on those camps to conduct arrests have led to a breakdown of trust between the local populations and the PA in general, and its security forces in particular. Residents of the camps consider Abbas an enemy and his security forces traitors to their people.


Abbas withstood pressure for months to halt security coordination with Israel; at the height of the “individual intifada” in November 2015, he called security coordination with Israel “sacred.” During those stormy months, Abbas met at least twice with the then-Shin Bet chief, Yoram Cohen, with the understanding that chaos might harm the PA and that therefore security coordination was also in the interest of the Palestinians. That is likely what Liberman meant when he claimed that the PA needs coordination more than Israel.


The Temple Mount crisis, which caused Abbas to cut short a visit to China and rush back to Ramallah, changed Abbas’ priorities. To restore some measure of public support, he was “forced” to set aside the sanctity of coordination with Israel for the sanctity of Al-Aqsa. Turning back the clock now seems almost impossible.


“The Israelis chose to undermine the Palestinian VIPs' status,” the Palestinian source told Al-Monitor. Top PA officials carry a card issued by Israel that enables them passage through specific checkpoints into Israel or into Jordan and from there to the rest of the world, virtually without undergoing security checks. Now, he argues, Israel is making it difficult for these officials to exit the West Bank “to make their lives miserable.” He explained, “Israel thinks they will put pressure on Abbas to restore the security coordination and with it their pampered existence. But it’s not that simple.”


Restoring security coordination will require careful preparation of Palestinian public opinion to dispel the perception of Abbas as a leader who does Israel’s bidding. The Palestinians will be seeking “revisions” to security ties with Israel to present them as achievements.


The PA's first demand, to appease refugee camp residents, will be an express promise from Israel to avoid surprise raids into Area A. The second demand will be to ease the passage of all Palestinians through Israeli roadblocks and to allow the presence of Palestinian police at the Allenby Bridge crossing into Jordan, where Palestinian are required to go through Israeli metal detectors. The issue of metal detectors has become very sensitive following the Temple Mount crisis.


Can Israel accede to these demands? The Israeli source told Al-Monitor that the Palestinians are going out on a limb, and there is no chance of them getting such concessions from Israel. The conclusion, therefore, must be that the resumption of security coordination is nowhere on the horizon.


Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Options On Iran

In the Middle East, the Administration has signaled its preference to strengthen relationships with the Sunni Gulf states by way of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.  By strengthening relationships with the Sunni Gulf states, as well as announcing an arms deal with Saudi Arabia, the United States appears willing to continue isolating Iran.  

This has the potential to exacerbate tensions with Iran, which if one views it through an international relations theory lens, Iran will attempt to counteract actual or perceived Saudi (read: Sunni) influence gains to maintain balance in the region, as well as prevent loss of Iranian influence.

Iran has a variety of proxies, as well branches of its armed services serving in countries throughout the Middle East.  This is illustrated through the Iranian-backed Hezbollah in southern Lebanon, as well as deployment of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) in Syria and Yemen.  This does not include the activities of the IRGC in other countries that include Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Jordan[1].  Iran’s military adventurism throughout the Middle East serves to advance the foreign policy agenda of its Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.  

Put succinctly, the foreign policy agenda of the Supreme Leader is the expansion of Iranian (read: Shia) influence throughout the Middle East to serve as an ideological counterweight against the expansion of Saudi/Wahhabi ideology.

Recently, on May 20, 2017, Iran held a presidential election.  The incumbent, President Hassan Rouhani, won re-election by receiving 57% of the vote.  Mr. Rouhani is seen as a reformer in Iran, and he is expected to attempt most of his proposed reforms now that he is in his second term.  How many reforms will actually take place is anyone’s guess, as is the influence Mr. Rouhani will have on IGRC policy, but it will be a factor that should be considered when considering the United States’ approach to great power interactions.

Significance:  The Middle East will continue to be a region that perplexes United States policymakers.  United States’ Allies will continue to be confused as to policy direction in the Middle East until more fidelity is provided from Washington.  Iranian meddling will continue in sovereign nations until it is addressed, whether diplomatically or militarily.  Furthermore, Iranian meddling in the region, and interference in the affairs of sovereign nations, will continue to destabilize the Middle East and exacerbate tensions in areas where conflict is occurring, such as Syria and Yemen.  A complete withdrawal of the United States’ presence in the region would likely create a stronger vacuum potentially filled by an adversary.  As such, the United States must choose the option that will provide the strongest amount of leverage and be amicable to all parties involved in the decision.

Option #1:  Maintain the status quo – the United States continues to strengthen Sunni states and isolate Iran.  Through maintaining the status quo, the United States will signal to its allies and partners in the Middle East that they will continue to enjoy their relationship with the United States as it exists in current form.  45’s recent trip to Saudi Arabia signals this intent through proposed arms sales, announcing the establishment of a center to combat extremism, and the use of negative language towards Iran.

Risk:  The risk inherent in pursuing Option #1 is that the window of opportunity on having a moderate, reform-minded person as President of Iran will eventually close.  Through isolating Iran, it is likely they will not be keen on attempting to make overtures to the United States to reconsider the relationship between the two countries.  Since the United States is not going to pursue a relationship with Iran, other countries will seek to do so.  The risk of missed economic opportunities with an Iran that is an emerging market also has the possibility of closing the window for the United States to be involved in another area where it can exert its influence to change Iranian behavior.

Gain:  Through maintaining the status quo that exists in the Middle East, the United States can be sure that pending any diplomatic, political, or international incidents, it can maintain its presence there.  The United States can continue to nurture the preexisting relationships and attempt to maintain the upper hand in its interactions with Iran.  The United States will also remain the dominant player in the great power interactions with other countries in the Middle East.

Option #2:  The United States strengthens its relationship with Iran through moderate reformers and building relationships with moderates in Sunni states to provide shared interests and commonalities.  Given the propensity of nation-states to expand their power and influence, whether through political or military means, it is likely inevitable that conflict between Iran and the Sunni states will take place in the near future.  If a relationship can be built with moderates in the Iranian government as well as Sunni states, it is possible that commonalities will overlap and reduce tensions between the different powers.

Risk:  The risk exists that neither rival will want to have the United States attempting to influence matters that may be viewed as neighborly business.  The possibility also exists that neither nation would want to build a relationship with the other, likely originating from the religious leaders of Iran or Saudi Arabia.  Finally, the worst-case scenario would be that any type of relationship-building would be undercut through actions from independent and/or non-state actors (i.e. terrorist groups, minority religious leaders, familial rivals from ruling families).  These undercutting actions would destroy trust in the process and likely devolve into reprisals from both sides towards the other.

Gain:  Through interacting with Iran, the United States and other powers can establish relationships which could eventually allow the opportunity to address grievances towards existing policies that serve to inflame tensions.  It is also likely that by having a partner in Iran, instability in the Middle East can be addressed in a more effective manner than is currently being done right now

Monday, August 7, 2017

Russian Navy Day

On July 30, the Russian Federation celebrated Navy Day with some 100 vessels across its ports in St. Petersburg; Vladivostok; Novorossiysk; Baltiysk, Kaliningrad; Tartus, Syria; and illegally-occupied Sevastopol, Crimea, Ukraine. Admiral Aleksandr Vitko, commander of the Black Sea Fleet, announced plans to continue developing the Russian naval forces with a frigate, two large diesel submarines, small missile ships, patrol ships, and communications ships. The navy also recently introduced two new frigates, four diesel submarines, anti-sabotage ships, and several smaller vessels. Official photos from the events display an array of air and naval equipment.

St. Petersburg hosted the main naval parade off of Kronshtadt, an island near the city, with around 40 vessels including the Admiral Grigorovich-class frigate Admiral Makarov (pennant no. 799), the Kirov-class heavy missile battlecruiser Pyotr Velikiy (“Peter the Great,” pennant no. 099), the Slava-class cruiser Marshal Ustinov (pennant no. 055), the Udaloy-class destroyer Vice Admiral Kulakov (pennant no. 626), and the Kuznetsov-class heavy aircraft carrier Admiral Flota Sovetskogo Soyuza Kuznetsov (“Admiral of the Fleet of the Soviet Union Kuznetsov,” pennant no. 063).

Three Chinese warships — the Type-052D destroyer Hefei (NATO reporting name “Luyang III-class” or “Kunming class” and pennant no. 174), the Type-054A frigate Yuncheng (NATO reporting name “Jiangkai II” and pennant no. 571), and the supply ship Luoma Lake (pennant no. 964) — participated in the main naval parade in St. Petersburg. As @DFRLab previously reported, the three Chinese warships were just in Russia’s western port in Baltiysk, Kaliningrad, participating in the “Maritime Cooperation-2017” bilateral naval exercises in the Baltic Sea.

As with most Russian military celebrations, Navy Day was primarily a platform to display Russia’s military prowess. Notable developments compared to prior celebrations include holding festivities in Syria, the participation of Chinese warships in the main parade, and new frigates and submarines.

Several of the Russian Baltic Sea Fleet vessels that participated in the parade in St. Petersburg will return to their permanent base in Baltiysk, Kaliningrad. En route to Baltiysk, they will participate in joint training exercises with vessels from Russia’s Northern Fleet.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Navy Railguns

The Navy’s much-hyped electromagnetic railgun has come a long way. Ever since the futuristic cannon enjoyed a public debut at the Naval Surface Warfare Center, Dahlgren Division in Virginia in November 2016, the Office of Naval Research has been working diligently alongside defense contractors to bring the decade-long program closer to battlefield effectiveness.

Based on new video published by the Department of Defense, the railgun has successfully moved from single-shot to repeated firing rate operations — a major stepping stone on the path to the battlefield.

The ONR video shows the railgun conducting its first multi-shot salvos powered by repeated pulses in energy over a short period with minimal cooldown time, a critical system for efficient applications downrage. While the prototype unveiled in November can currently launch single high-density projectiles at velocities reaching Mach 6, or 4,500 mph, the Navy clearly wants more rapid firepower. The original request for information published by Naval Sea Systems Command in 2013 called for prototypes that could fire 10 shells a minute and store up to 650 shells; this is a weapon designed with repeat fire in mind.

Engineering a power source that can provide that fire — by repeatedly generating fluctuating electromagnetic fields over short periods of time — has been a priority for ONR. In June, Electromagnetic Railgun Program chief Tom Boucher told National Defense magazine that contractors BAE and General Atomics were testing new barrel designs and devastating pulsed-power systems capable of firing five shells in a single missile, raising the cannon’s rate of fire and increasing its destructive potential.

The newly released footage reveals that the program has met its goal — sort of. The railgun manages to build to full power and send a projectile down Dahlgren’s 25-mile Potomac River test range twice in 25 seconds, a firing rate of 4.8 shells a minute — just under the goal Boucher laid out in June. It’s mightily impressive, regardless, especially given the Navy’s intent to equip guided-missile destroyers and cruisers with the railguns — if only for defensive purposes.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Persian Hegemon


Those of us above the age of consent may very well remember eons back when anyone chatting about the "Shia Crescent" were laughed out of the room.

Except of course, nobody's laughing now...

Iran has been at odds with the West since 1979, when Islamic radicals overthrew the pro-US shah, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, and established the country as a theocracy. Over the last decade Iran’s nuclear program has caused panic in Washington, DC, as successive administrations have struggled to work out how to deal with their regional bogeyman. This culminated in the controversial 2015 nuclear deal signed by 44 — which 45 now appears to have in his sights.

Officials in Tehran are busying themselves with the facts on the ground in the Middle East. Ever since the US invasion of Iraq in 2003, Iran — a Shiite state — has had its eyes on its Shiite-majority neighbor, intent on taking over the levers of power, commerce, and the military.

But this is just one part of Iran’s wider goal: to establish territorial dominance from the Gulf of Aden to the shores of the Mediterranean.

Since the start of the Arab Spring, Iran has drawn tens of thousands of Iraqi, Lebanese and Afghan fighters to fight in the war for Syria. Ely Karmon, at the Interdisciplinary Center at Herzliya, Israel, estimates there are 5,000 to 7,000 Hezbollah fighters in Syria at any given time.

The Fatemiyoun Brigade, a unit of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, an elite branch of the armed forces, is comprised of Afghan fighters, and numbers up to 17,000 fighters. Hisham Hashemi, an Iraqi security expert, estimates around 65,000 Iraqi militia fighters have received training, weapons, or funding from Iran.

US and Israeli officials have voiced grave concerns about what appears be an emerging land bridge of fighting groups loyal to Tehran stretching from Iran’s Zagros Mountains all the way to the borders of Israel — but seem powerless in their attempts to stop it. Iran appears to be using these men in ever more creative ways, in an ongoing sectarian and geopolitical war that pits pro-Iranian Shiite countries and organizations against a Saudi-led bloc of conservative Sunni governments backed by the US.


The Iranian training of militia fighters seems to be accelerating, with fresh recruits and veterans of past training missions planning trips to Iran this year, according to the fighters themselves. Recent recruits described being trained in the use of explosively formed penetrators (EFPs), which can pierce the armor of military vehicles and were used extensively against US forces during the occupation of Iraq a decade ago.

Iran’s reach extends beyond Syria and its neighbors. US and other officials suspect that Iranian training of fighters in Yemen — where Tehran’s Houthi allies control the capital — is behind recent attacks on ships off the coast of Yemen that some worry could cripple crucial sea lanes.
Fighting loosely organized and diverse armed groups of men who blend easily into civilian populations also presents a significant challenge to the US and its allies, one for which conventional tools of warfare rarely suffice.

Iran’s ruling elite is opaque at the best of times, and figures within Tehran’s security apparatus have rarely disclosed details about the training program. No one outside Iran's circle of security leaders knows what it is called — one Iranian national security insider told BuzzFeed News that it doesn’t even have an official title. In the media, Iranian officials describe the fighters as “Defenders of the Holy Shrines,” in reference to their role in protecting Shiite religious sites. In rare moments when Iranian officials do talk about the program, they describe it in grand terms, linking its aims to the establishment of a just world order that will come about with the return of the Mahdi, the disappeared 12th Imam in Shiite theology, whose reappearance they say will herald a new age.

It’s also a battle Tehran sees as a direct assault on US influence in the Middle East.

The main goals of Iran’s militia program are to maintain Iran’s security by weakening or eliminating radical Sunni groups; strengthening Iran’s strategic objectives by expanding the capabilities of its allies; keeping a balance of power favorable to Iran in the Middle East; and countering rivals such as the US and Israel. 



Monday, July 31, 2017

Ploesti


On (almost) this day in 1943, Operation Tidal Wave begins! Nearly 180 Consolidated B-24 Liberator bombers embark on a lengthy mission to destroy oil refineries in Ploesti, Romania. The mission has been called the “longest, bloodiest, most heroic bombing mission in history.”

The day would come to be known as Black Sunday. Five men would receive Medals of Honor for their bravery that day.

Americans had been planning to hit the oil refineries in Ploesti for months. The refineries were an important source of energy for the Germans! Taking out Ploesti would seriously hamper the Nazi effort.

Naturally, that would be no easy task. Ploesti was located deep in enemy territory. The attack would have to be launched from more than 1,000 miles away, in Benghazi. The raid would be a low-level attack: The bombers would fly low, sometimes only a few hundred feet off the ground. Navigation would be difficult, and the bombers might be more vulnerable. But they’d avoid detection by radar.

The bombers left Benghazi at daybreak on August 1, 1943. Was it an omen when one plane lost an engine and crashed during takeoff? There would be many more such problems that day.

As the bombers flew past Greece, one of the planes suddenly crashed into the sea for unknown reasons. Worse, the Germans apparently figured out that Americans were headed toward Ploesti. The American bomb groups became separated and never reconnected because of the strict requirement for radio silence. Perhaps worst of all, Americans never realized how strong the Ploesti defenses were until they arrived.

The scene that followed bordered on chaos.

Those bomb groups that had been separated from the rest finally arrived on the scene. Their targets had become more difficult! Colonels John Kane and Leon Johnson were leading their respective bomb groups. They continued toward their targets, despite the “thoroughly warned defenses, the intensive antiaircraft fire, enemy fighter airplanes, extreme hazards on a low-level attack of exploding delayed action bombs from the previous element, of oil fires and explosions and dense smoke over the target area.”

The American bombers had an equally difficult time returning to Benghazi. They were low on fuel, and they encountered attacks along the way. Not every plane that left Ploesti made it back to a friendly airfield.
The attack had been horrific. At least 500 Americans were killed, wounded or captured. Roughly 1/3 of the B-24s were lost.

A grateful nation responded by making an unprecedented move: Every participant in the raid was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Landmark!


The fall of the primary ISIS stronghold in Mosul in Iraq represents a turning point strategically, politically, ideologically and even religiously in the Muslim world. Mosul has been the largest symbolic center of the ISIS “Caliphate” over which the ISIS “Caliph” ‘Abd-al-Rahman al-Baghdadi presided.

The fall of the ISIS “capital” of Raqqa in Syria will not be far behind. That puts an end to ISIS’ claim that it had begun the physical elimination of all colonial borders starting with that between Iraq and Syria. In short, It will mark the end of the territoriality of ISIS, perhaps the “Caliphate’s” most striking claim-to-fame.

The institution of the Caliphate has been one of the important historical and symbolic features of Muslim history, embodying the ideal of a universal Islamic state—even though such a thing has never quite fully existed. The Caliphate is roughly the equivalent of the Papacy—once a major territorial concept, and still today a concept of the living religious community of Catholicism. Both Caliphate and Papacy symbolize a vision—the religiously-founded state as an ideal.

Unlike its caricatured image in the West, in the eyes of most Muslims the concept of the Caliphate is quite positive—a symbol of  the Muslim world’s historic power, culture, civilization, and geographical reach. Today, however, few Muslims believe that a Caliphate could ever again be practically reconstituted. Yet the idea of having a single seat of religious authority makes just as much sense for Islam as it does for other religions. But today an effort to recreate a meaningful and responsible Caliphate raises near-insoluble questions: where would it be located, who would the Caliph be, how would he be elected, what qualifications would be required, what would his authorities be, what political power he would exercise if any, and what issues could he address authoritatively. And finally, how binding would his pronouncements be. (The  Pope still faces some similar problems).

Contemporary schemes for the reestablishment of a modern-day Caliphate go back to the abolition of the office of Caliphate by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk in Turkey in 1924. (Turkey had a right to expel the Caliph but not to abolish the office, any more than an Italian prime minister can decide to abolish the Papacy; it is an issue for global Catholics to decide).

The unique feature of ISIS was not so much that it declared a contemporary Caliphate but that it provided  it territoriality—the closest thing in a century to establishing a meaningful Caliphate possessed of political, administrative and military power. Tragically it was established by individuals brutally intolerant in their vision, violent and cruel in their administration, and willing to employ terrorism against opponents. Yet all these ugly features did not necessarily have to come with the turf—any more than all Popes necessarily had to be brutal. But unspeakable acts became the hallmark of the ISIS brand—and its primary victims were overwhelmingly Muslim—both Shi’a and Sunni.

Equally baleful was the ISIS practice of takfir, declaring individuals—even Muslims—to be non-Muslims or “infidel.” For ISIS the penalty was usually death. But the Wahhabis of Saudi Arabia also practice theological takfir, as do many other Salafis or ultra-traditonalist Islamists, even if not necessarily calling for the death penalty. Indeed, Saudi Wahhabism is not directly terrorist —but indirectly its preachings and massive financing have led to the propagation of large numbers of intolerant and extreme movements and individuals around the world, many of whom are indeed violent or even terrorist.

For most Muslims, as well as for the West, the fall of ISIS will be welcome. Yet we should not believe that terrorism conducted in the name of Islam will automatically come to an end. Such terrorism is widely recognized by specialists as basically stemming not from theology—but rather the product of politics, sociology, disadvantaged minorities, or even troubled individuals seeking ideological justification to express the rage of their personal pathology.

But a sober reality remains: the virtually non-stop wars promulgated primarily by the US in the last two decades across large parts of the Middle East, have decimated the region, with upwards of one million Muslims being killed in the wars and resulting anarchy. Vast  material devastation and social and psychological dislocation have occurred whose effects are far from over; they still arise daily in Yemen, Somalia, Afghanistan and Syria among other places. Such violent conditions are hotbeds for the emergence of rage, hatred, despair and psychological derangement. If American soldiers suffer in large numbers post-stress traumatic disorder—leading to high suicide rates—why should the PSTD among Muslims not be one hundred times greater?

Thus as long as radical conditions exist the conditions for further terrorism will also continue to exist. Even in the West there will always be a handful of psychologically and socially alienated Muslim youths ripe for recruitment into acts of terrorism. In most cases it comes down to cases of abnormal psychology then dressed up and dignified as a religious act. One wonders how such cases will ever completely cease. Nor is psychotic violence limited to Muslims in the West by any means.

But the destruction of ISIS in Iraq and Syria is still of major importance. The once dramatic claim to have established a Caliphate on physical territory is no longer there to dazzle and tempt many. For most the bloom is off the rose. Revelations about the brutality of life in ISIS territories are well known in the Muslim world and the overwhelming majority of Muslims are horrified by it. They do not condemn the concept of a Caliphate in Islamic history, but they certainly condemn this vicious expression of it.

Thus today, if some aspiring Muslim radical says “I have a great historical vision, how about creating a Caliphate?” there will likely to be very few takers willing to resuscitate such conditions of violence. By now most Muslims have “been there and done that.” The idea of a Caliphate as a shining new idea ready to attract angry, adventuristic, or idealistic youth has lost its gloss. Others may yet try to proclaim some ramshackle Caliphate in one remote area or another, but it will likely have little attraction except through brute force.

Parallels in the communist movement are instructive. The theoretical foundation of communism—a high degree of state socialism—will never die. But the experiment with communism in the Soviet Union created a fairly miserable society that even Russia’s admirers could no longer accept. Many doctrinaire leftists will still make the case that Russia simply carried out the communist experiment exceptionally badly, that it did not have to be like that, and that the Swedish model of society and governance is closer to the communist ideal.

Still, the present iteration of ISIS as “Caliphate” is now drawing to a close. There will inevitably be some who will try to exploit the power of the idea again—as with authoritarian state socialism— but it becomes mostly an exercise in brutal imposition of power, not an exercise in Islamic political thought. The US can help by sharply curtailing its campaigns of military destruction in the region; they gave birth to ISIS in the first place and remain a key wellspring of radicalization.