Bennis, Understanding ISIS and the New Global War on Terror

by Chris Toensing
published in MER277

Phyllis Bennis, Understanding ISIS and the New Global War on Terror: A Primer (Northampton, MA: Olive Branch Press, 2015).

The amalgamation of Iraqi ex-Baathists, Iraqi and Syrian jihadis, disgruntled locals and outside recruits known as the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, continues to cast a long shadow over the Middle East and the world. The grip of the would-be caliphate upon its “home” territory in Iraq and Syria is slipping, but groups raising the ISIS banner are winning battles in Afghanistan and Libya. Meanwhile, the mass shooting in San Bernardino, California on December 2, 2015 has kept the specter of ISIS-inspired attacks hovering over political debate in the West.

Leadership Gone Awry

Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Two Turkish Elections

by Ümit Cizre
published in MER276

In representative democracies, elections allow the peaceful replacement of leaders, infuse government with new blood, legitimize both winners and losers, and restore public faith in democracy. More importantly, “the people’s voice” is cast as the ultimate check on national leaders whose power has grown too strong. In practice, there are a number of problems with this ideal—“the people’s voice” is identified with the majority, perhaps at the expense of minorities; it is inarticulate; and often it actually channels rather than challenges the wishes of rulers. [1] Do the twin general elections held in Turkey over the course of five months in 2015 confirm or rebut these key assumptions about representative democracy?

The Invisible Alienation of Tunisian Youth

by Benoît Challand
published in MER276

The mood in Tunisia was tense after Ramadan, a month after 38 tourists were killed in the beach resort of Sousse at the end of June. Key buildings on the capital’s main boulevard, Habib Bourguiba Avenue, including the Ministry of Interior, were surrounded with barbed wire and conspicuous police protection. Parliament had just passed a counter-terrorism law criticized by local and international human rights associations for granting extraordinary powers to security agencies.

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“ISIS Is One Piece of the Puzzle”

Sheltering Women and Girls in Iraq and Syria

by Jillian Schwedler
published in MER276

Yifat Susskind is executive director of MADRE, an international women’s human rights organization based in New York. Jillian Schwedler spoke with her on October 28, 2015, the week after Yanar Mohammed, head of MADRE’s partner group the Organization of Women’s Freedom in Iraq (OWFI), testified before the UN Security Council about women’s vital role in sustainable peacebuilding and about the task of sheltering women fleeing sexual violence, including from areas controlled by ISIS.

What are the basic challenges for your work in Iraq, where the state does not fully function?

Regional Responses to the Rise of ISIS

by Curtis Ryan
published in MER276

Regional responses to the rise of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, have varied depending on regime perceptions of threat, not only from ISIS itself, but also from other potential rivals, challengers or enemies. Despite the jihadi group’s extensive use of violence in Syria and Iraq and its claims of responsibility for bombings and attacks in Egypt, Kuwait, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, Turkey and Yemen—as well as France in mid-November—it was not necessarily the top security priority for any of these states.

A Jihadism Anti-Primer

by Darryl Li
published in MER276

The US national security state has for the past quarter-century been preoccupied with something it has called “jihadism.” From the aftermath of the Soviet defeat in Afghanistan through the September 11, 2001 attacks to the rise of the self-declared Islamic State in Syria and Iraq, or ISIS, the specter of mobile Muslim multitudes wreaking global havoc has given rise to an equally vast body of commentary.

On ISIS

by The Editors
published in MER276

In early June 2014 the world was shocked by news of the fall of Mosul, the third largest city in Iraq, to jihadi militants loyal to something called the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, or ISIS. The conquest was rapid—soldiers of the Iraqi army dropped their weapons and fled rather than resist the ISIS advance. It was alarming—the jihadis captured tanks, artillery and other heavy weaponry supplied to the Iraqis by the United States. And it was unmistakably consequential—it sounded a clarion call that the conquerors not only aspired to build the “state” under whose banner they fought but also were executing a plan for doing so.