Mark Collins – Jihadi Foreign Fighters, UK, Canadian and US Update

Further to this post and “Comments”,

Poisons, or, Caliphate Update: Brits, Saudis…and Assad

your Friday Islamist headlines:

1) Isil terrorists ‘highly likely’ to attack UK, warns David Cameron, as threat level is raised to severe: David Cameron warns country is facing a decades-long battle against terror threat from Syria and Iraq as he announces tough new measures

2) Gregory and Collin Gordon, Calgary brothers, join ranks of Canadians fighting for ISIS: Abdul Malik and Khalid, born Gregory and Collin Gordon, disappeared in late 2012, sources say

3) U.S. Identifies Citizens Joining Rebels in Syria, Including ISIS

Mark Collins, a prolific Ottawa blogger, is a Fellow at the Canadian Defence & Foreign Affairs Institute; he tweets @Mark3Ds


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Mark Collins – No Turkish Delight (plus Saudis)

Further to this post,

ErdoVlad? Plus Turkey and the Caliphate

today’s headline:

New Turkish cabinet spells little policy shift, Erdogan stays dominant

Let us now look at the new (subservient) prime minister.  First a Turkish view:

Turkey’s Imperial Fantasy

…Mr. Davutoglu is not a “neo-Ottomanist” — a label often applied to him. He is a pan-Islamist. The movement known as Ottomanism emerged in the 1830s as the empire’s elites decided to replace existing Islamic institutions with modern European-style ones, in fields from education to politics. By contrast, Mr. Davutoglu believes that Turkey should look to the past and embrace Islamic values and institutions.

But, ironically, he bases his pan-Islamist vision on the political theories that were used to legitimize Western imperial expansion prior to 1945. While purporting to offer Turkey a new foreign policy for the 21st century, his magnum opus draws on the outdated concepts of geopolitical thinkers like the American Alfred Thayer Mahan, the Briton Halford Mackinder and the German Karl Haushofer, who popularized the term “Lebensraum,” or living space, a phrase most famously employed by Germany during the 1920s and 1930s to emphasize the need to expand its borders.


According to Mr. Davutoglu, the nation states established after the breakup of the Ottoman Empire are artificial creations and Turkey must now carve out its own Lebensraum — a phrase he uses unapologetically. Doing so would bring about the cultural and economic integration of the Islamic world, which Turkey would eventually lead. Turkey must either establish economic hegemony over the Caucasus, the Balkans and the Middle East, or remain a conflict-riven nation-state that risks falling apart.

As foreign minister, Mr. Davutoglu fervently believed that the Arab Spring had finally provided Turkey with a historic opportunity to put these ideas into practice. He predicted that the overthrown dictatorships would be replaced with Islamic regimes, thus creating a regional “Muslim Brotherhood belt” under Turkey’s leadership.

He sought Western support by packaging his project as a “democratic transformation” of the Middle East. Yet today, instead of the democratic regimes promised three years ago, Turkey shares a border with ISIS’s self-proclaimed caliphate. Two months ago, its fighters raided the Turkish consulate in the Iraqi city of Mosul, and is still holding 49 Turkish diplomats hostage. Mr. Davutoglu, who has argued that Turkey should create an Islamic Union by abolishing borders, seems to have no idea how to deal with the jihadis in Syria and Iraq, who have made Turkey’s own borders as porous as Swiss cheese…

Behlul Ozkan is an assistant professor at Marmara University and the author of “From the Abode of Islam to the Turkish Vatan: The Making of a National Homeland in Turkey [more here].”

Then an American one:

Talking Turkey with an Islamist academician

In June 2005, when Mr. Davutoglu served as chief foreign policy adviser to Mr. Erdogan, I spoke with him for an hour in Ankara…… I asked him about the goals of Turkish foreign policy in the Middle East in the era of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) that had begun in 2002, noting Ankara’s new ambitions in a region it had long disdained. He conceded this change, then took me on a quick tour d’horizon from Afghanistan to Morocco, noting Turkey’s special ties with many countries. These included the presence of Turkic-speakers (e.g., in Iraq), the legacy of Ottoman rule (Lebanon), economic symbiosis (Syria), Islamic ties (Saudi Arabia), and diplomatic mediation (Iran)…

While Mr. Davutoglu has done remarkably well for himself in the intervening years, he did so exclusively as consigliere to his sole patron, Mr. Erdogan. His record, by contrast, has been one of inconsistent policy and consistent failure, a failure so abject it borders on fiasco. Under Mr. Davutoglu’s stewardship, Ankara’s relations with Western countries have almost universally soured, while those with Iran, Iraq, Syria, Israel, Egypt and Libya, among other Middle Eastern states, have plummeted.

Symbolically, Turkey is slipping away from the NATO alliance…

Daniel Pipes ( is president of the Middle East Forum.


Nice.  And somehow Turkey is going to have to be a–if not the–major player in the regional, Sunni, coalition that President Obama considers essential to defeating the Caliphate:

“Rooting out a cancer like [ISIS] will not be quick and will not be easy,” he said [oncology again].

Obama said he has also asked Secretary of State John Kerry to travel to the Middle East to build a coalition against the militant group.

Such a coalition will need to include regional players, namely Sunni leaders [that lets out Iran I guess]. He said he is encouraged that surrounding countries recognize the threat ISIS poses…

On verra.  And here’s a really good question about the other key country, from the well-sourced David Ignatius:

Can Saudi Arabia help combat the Islamic State?

Mark Collins, a prolific Ottawa blogger, is a Fellow at the Canadian Defence & Foreign Affairs Institute; he tweets @Mark3Ds

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Mark Collins – President Obama and Syria, Iraq, Sunnis and Others: Equal Opportunity or Something

Further to this post and the “Comments”,

The Caliphate and Obamablather: The Oncology Presidency?

the president gave a statement on television (yet again) and news conference, August 28.  It would appear the community organizer and college professor manqué still does nor realize he’s not dealing with Illinois, nor even Capitol Hill, anymore.  His big picture:

…part of the goal here is to make sure that Sunnis, both in Syria and in Iraq, feel as if they’ve got an investment in a government that actually functions. A government that can protect them. A government that makes sure that their families are safe from the barbaric acts that we’ve seen in ISIl. And right now, those structures [emphasis added] are not in place. And that’s why the issue with respect to Syria is not simply a military issue. It’s also a political issue [it's all about constitutions or something?]…

Then his, er, specifics:

1)  Syria:

…I don’t see any scenario in which Assad somehow is able to bring peace and stability to a region that is majority Sunni and has not so far, you know, shown any willingness to share power with them or in any kind of significant way deal with the longstanding grievances that they have there…

2) Iraq:

If we can get a government in place that provides Sunnis some hope that a national government serves their interests, if they can regain some confidence and trust that it will follow through on commitments that were made way back in 2006, in 2007, in 2008 and earlier about how you arrive at, for example, you know, de-Baathification laws and give people opportunities so they’re not locked out of government positions…

So.  In Syria the minority Alawites, Christians and others are simply effectively to concede a Sunni government, of one sort or other, and then hope for the best after all that has happened.  Whilst in Iraq the minority Sunnis are simply effectively to concede a Shia government, of one sort or other, and then hope for the best after all that has happened.

And minorities in both countries will have “opportunities so they’re not locked out of government positions”.  One is gobsmackedly incredulous that President Obama seems to think it’s all sort of about equal opportunity government employment.  Folks.


Mark Collins, a prolific Ottawa blogger, is a Fellow at the Canadian Defence & Foreign Affairs Institute; he tweets @Mark3Ds


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Mark Collins – Caliphate: Black Gold, and More, For Black Flag–Plus Good Management

ISIS seems quite the organizational octopus, good reporting from the Wall St. Journal and NY Times:

1) Islamic State Fills Coffers From Illicit Economy in Syria, Iraq

Group Pirates Oil, Exacts Tribute From Locals, Making It Among World’s Richest in Terror

The Islamic State runs a self-sustaining economy across territory it controls in Syria and Iraq, pirating oil while exacting tribute from a population of at least eight million, Arab and Western officials said, making it one of the world’s richest terror groups and an unprecedented threat.

That illicit economy presents a new picture of Islamic State’s financial underpinnings. The group was once thought to depend on funding from Arab Gulf donors and donations from the broader Muslim world. Now, Islamic State—the former branch of al Qaeda that has swallowed parts of Iraq and Syria—is a largely self-financed organization…

At least eight million Syrians and Iraqis live under full or partial Islamic State control, according to estimates by the Syrian opposition and local Iraqi officials…

In Syria, the insurgents control eight oil and gas fields in the provinces of Raqqa and Deir Ezzor, according to Syrian rebels who once controlled the fields.

Again, from these fields, they trade with people from the very countries that are fighting them. They sell heavy oil at an average of $26 to $35 a barrel to local merchants, to merchants across the border in Iraq, or to upstart refineries financed by Turkish, Lebanese and Iraqi businessmen, said Syrians and Lebanese involved in the oil trade…

Trade beyond Syrian and Iraqi borders is buoyed by a network of business people. Kurdish merchants transport oil into Iraqi Kurdistan and sell it either to Turkish or Iranian traders. Those traders smuggle it into their countries and sell it at a discount over local prices, or sell it back to the Syrian government, said Syrians and Iraqis involved in the oil trade.

Turkey’s foreign ministry said the amount of oil authorities have seized along the Turkey-Syria border has surged by 300% since the start of the Syrian uprising in 2011. “We are trying to see how we can stop this,” a senior Turkish foreign ministry official said, “but the border is very difficult to police.”..

2) Military Skill and Terrorist Technique Fuel Success of ISIS

As fighters for the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria continue to seize territory, the group has quietly built an effective management structure of mostly middle-aged Iraqis overseeing departments of finance, arms, local governance, military operations and recruitment.

At the top the organization is the self-declared leader of all Muslims,Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, a radical chief executive officer of sorts, who handpicked many of his deputies from among the men he met while a prisoner in American custody at the Camp Bucca detention center a decade ago.

He had a preference for military men, and so his leadership team includes many officers from Saddam Hussein’s long-disbanded army…

Mr. Baghdadi’s deputies include 12 walis, or local rulers; a three-man war cabinet; and eight others who manage portfolios like finance, prisoners and recruitment.

Its operations are carried out by a network of regional commanders who have their own subordinates and a degree of autonomy, but they have set “drop times” when they open a shared network to coordinate…


The Iraq-ISIS Conflict in Maps, Photos and Video

A visual guide to the crisis in Iraq and Syria. 



The New Caliphate’s Campaign Brief

Mark Collins, a prolific Ottawa blogger, is a Fellow at the Canadian Defence & Foreign Affairs Institute; he tweets @Mark3Ds

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Mark Collins – Who’s in Charge in Pakistan?

Further to this post,

Asian Military Cockpit, Indo-Pak Update

if things develop along these lines the Indians will not be very happy:

Pakistani Leader Sharif Nears Pact With Military
Army Presses Sharif to Relinquish Control of Security Affairs, Foreign Policy

The Pakistani military is close to an agreement with the government in which the prime minister would relinquish control of security affairs and strategic foreign policy, government officials said, amid antigovernment protests that have paralyzed the capital.

A nearly two-week confrontation between the administration and demonstrators, which the government believes are backed by the military, has put Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif under pressure.

Government aides said the military has seized on Mr. Sharif’s weakened status during the political crisis to strike a deal in which he would leave strategic policy areas—including relations with the U.S., Afghanistan and India—to be controlled by the armed forces.

The military is now seeking guarantees from the prime minister that he will follow through on the agreement, the aides said. Spokesmen for Mr. Sharif and several government ministries didn’t return calls seeking comment. A Pakistani military spokesman didn’t respond to requests to comment…

bit of context:


Skirmishes Put Feeling of Wartime on India-Pakistan Border

The crisis comes at a moment of shifting policy in each of the nuclear-armed neighbors. India’s new prime minister, Narendra Modi, this month abruptly canceled talks with Pakistan to protest its contact with separatists in Indian-administered Kashmir, and his national security adviser is a counterterrorism specialist well known for his hawkish stance. The United States’ pullout from Afghanistan looms in the months ahead, a shift that some Indian analysts fear will swing militants’ focus toward India.

Meanwhile, Pakistan’s prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, has squabbled with Pakistani military leaders over policy toward India. Mr. Sharif wants to build business ties between the two countries to stimulate Pakistan’s ailing economy. But the generals, who have a long history of wrecking civilian-led peace initiatives, have resisted — a possible factor, analysts say, in the increased shelling…

And further context for poor Pakistan:

Hard-Line Splinter Group, Galvanized by ISIS, Emerges From Pakistani Taliban

The Pakistani Taliban has suffered its second major split in three months, with militant leaders this week confirming the emergence of a hard-line splinter group inspired by the success of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.

The new group, known as Jamaat-e-Ahrar, is composed of disaffected Taliban factions from four of the seven tribal districts along Pakistan’s border with Afghanistan, according to a video released by the group. Counterterrorism experts said the group was effectively controlled by Omar Khalid Khorasani, an ambitious Taliban commander with strong ties to Al Qaeda.

Mr. Khorasani’s faction, which is based in the Mohmand tribal agency near Peshawar, had emerged as one of the most active Taliban elements this year. It is believed to have carried out a bombing in Islamabad that sought to derail peace talks between the Taliban and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s government…

Some three years ago:

“The most dangerous country in the world?”

Mark Collins, a prolific Ottawa blogger, is a Fellow at the Canadian Defence & Foreign Affairs Institute; he tweets @Mark3Ds


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Mark Collins – Foreign Investment in Canada and National Security: Pretty Secret Review

Our government’s middle name is “Opaque”–but at least doing something:

Secret security panel said to vet foreign investment in Canada

The Canadian government has established a secret committee of senior officials that reviews foreign investment for national-security risks, according to three people familiar with the matter.

The chairman of the committee is Public Safety Deputy Minister Francois Guimont, and it includes the heads of Canada’s two spy agencies as well as Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s National Security Adviser Stephen Rigby, according to one of the people, who asked not to be identified because the information is confidential.

The existence of the shadow panel shows the Harper government’s growing preoccupation with national-security concerns, adding complexity to a foreign-investment review process that investors have complained is already too opaque. The government amended its foreign-takeover law in 2009 to add national security to the list of issues that can trigger a review, and while it has outlined some steps in the process, it hasn’t revealed the committee or described how it weighs risks…

Canada cited security concerns in October in rejecting Manitoba Telecom Services Inc.’s $520 million ($477 million) sale of its Allstream unit to an investment firm co-founded by Egyptian billionaire Naguib Sawiris [more here]. The panel was set up after the rejection, one of the people said…

The Canadian Security Intelligence Service warned in 2012 that some foreign state-owned enterprises may represent a threat to national security. Later that year, Canada banned state-owned enterprises from acquiring businesses in the nation’s oilsands outside of “exceptional circumstances,” after approving Beijing-based Cnooc Ltd.’s purchase of Nexen Inc. of Calgary. At the time, the government said it would also “carefully monitor” transactions involving foreign state-owned firms throughout the economy.

The Canadian committee contrasts with the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, which is headed by Treasury Secretary Jacob J. Lew and discloses the government agencies that are represented on it [website here]. CFIUS also publishes an annual report that provides details including the number of cases in which investors agreed to measure to mitigate security concerns. CFIUS doesn’t disclose information on specific cases, because it’s prevented by law from doing so, according to Treasury spokeswoman Holly Shulman.

One of the people familiar with the Canadian committee’s operations said that while Canada is using CFIUS as a model, the government wants to retain discretion to accept or reject each case, limiting the amount of information it is willing to disclose…


Cyber Security: Canada to Crack Down on Huawei? Plus US Congress

Canadian Wireless Spectrum Auction…and National Security Earlier Concern?

Chicoms=Canadian Cabinet Splittism?

Huawei Targets Canada–Hoo-hah Needed?

Mark Collins, a prolific Ottawa blogger, is a Fellowat the Canadian Defence & Foreign Affairs Institute; he tweets @Mark3Ds

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Mark Collins – Yes, Вирджиния, There is Still a Bit of Free Press in Russia

A story in the Moscow Times:

Donetsk Is Neither Grozny Nor Stalingrad

Via Spotlight on Military News and International Affairs–Grozny (brief background here):


Rebels enter southeastern town as battle for Ukraine’s strategic coastline heats up

Mark Collins, a prolific Ottawa blogger, is a Fellow at the Canadian Defence & Foreign Affairs Institute; he tweets @Mark3Ds

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Mark Collins – Not Perhaps Why You Might Think: Syria, or, “Why I Decided War Reporting Was No Longer Worth the Risk”

The closing of the American mind (a relevant review of the reference here, and a counterpoint here)–are Canadians any better?

Covering wars for a polarized nation has destroyed the civic mission I once found in journalism. Why risk it all to get the facts for people who increasingly seem only to seek out the information they want and brand the stories and facts that don’t conform to their opinions as biased or inaccurate?..

I met Jim Foley [more here] once or twice working in the Middle East, but knew him mostly by his reputation: A friendly, laidback guy who could make people laugh even in the most dire situations. Now that he’s gone, I wish I could believe that such an extraordinary person died striving to inform an American public yearning to know the truth. It’s harder to accept what really happened, which is that he died while people eagerly formed opinions on his profession and the topics he covered without bothering to read the stories he put in front of them.

Tom A. Peter is a freelance journalist who covered the Middle East and Afghanistan for seven years. He currently writes about border security and immigration as a Robert Novak Journalism fellow.

Video of  a CNN interview:


Mark Collins, a prolific Ottawa blogger, is a Fellow at the Canadian Defence & Foreign Affairs Institute; he tweets @Mark3Ds

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Mark Collins – US Going After ISIS: The World Needs More Canada?

Looks as if the Obama administration does not expect anything very active, certainly not kinetic, from us:

U.S. Mobilizes Allies to Widen Assault on ISIS

The United States has begun to mobilize a broad coalition of allies behind potential American military action in Syria and is moving toward expanded airstrikes in northern Iraq, administration officials said on Tuesday [Aug. 26]…

As Mr. Obama considered new strikes, the White House began its diplomatic campaign to enlist allies and neighbors in the region to increase their support for Syria’s moderate opposition and, in some cases, to provide support for possible American military operations. The countries likely to be enlisted include Australia, Britain, Jordan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates, officials said.

The officials, who asked not to be named discussing sensitive internal deliberations, said they expected that Britain and Australia would be willing to join the United States in an air campaign [emphasis added]. The officials said they also wanted help from Turkey, which has military bases that could be used to support an effort in Syria.

Turkey is a transit route for foreign fighters, including those from the United States and Europe who have traveled to Syria to join ISIS. Administration officials said they are now asking officials in Ankara to help tighten the border [earlier: "The Caliphate: “Isis consolidates” (and that Saudi and Turkish help)"]. The administration is also seeking intelligence and surveillance help from Jordan as well as financial help from Saudi Arabia, which bankrolls groups in Syria that are fighting President Bashar al-Assad…

As for Canada:

On Tuesday, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said in a statement that seven Western countries had pledged to provide weapons and ammunition to Kurdish forces who are fighting ISIS in northern Iraq.

Albania, Canada, Croatia, Denmark, France, Italy and Britain have committed to sending arms and equipment to the Kurds, Mr. Hagel said, adding that operations would “accelerate in coming days with more nations also expected to contribute [Canadian airlift was announced almost two weeks ago--there appears, typically, to have been no further official news since this Aug. 15 statement by the prime minister].” ..


And the broader view of this government’s approach to using the forces:

J.L. Granatstein: No Canadian boots on the ground

In any event it is not at all clear if there could be any terribly useful Canadian military contribution to the administration’s herky-jerky–to be kind–responses.

Mark Collins, a prolific Ottawa blogger, is a Fellow at the Canadian Defence & Foreign Affairs Institute; he tweets @Mark3Ds


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Mark Collins – Canadian Arctic Adventures, or, Bear Market for Russkie Relations

Rather too much word-mongering on both sides (plus some verbalprovokatsiya by the Russians)–at



Then the prime minister himself (with video):

Stephen Harper raises spectre of Russian threat in Arctic speech to troops

Somewhat related:

The Prime Minister, the Canadian Arctic, the Franklin Expedition–and “Arctic Sovereignty”

What our government never mentions is that Canada is not alone facing the Bear.  The US would never tolerate any Russian nastiness up north that threatened continental security; moreover the US is bound to us by NATO obligations–as in fact are the other alliance members–and by NORAD.  So let’s chill our heroic  jets a bit.

And keep this in mind (though pre-Ukraine):

Guess What? Russian Arctic Military Emphasis Home Political Play Too! (Plus US “strategy”)

Mark Collins, a prolific Ottawa blogger, is a Fellow at the Canadian Defence & Foreign Affairs Institute; he tweets @Mark3Ds


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