The barbaric murder of American journalist James Foley sadly continues the orgy of extremist violence in the Middle East that started in June with the kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teenagers, continued with tragedy in the Gaza in July, and the massacre of minority Yazidi's in August.
The conflict provoked by Islamic extremists in Gaza at the start of the this year's Muslim holiday of Ramadan cynically kicked off the annual fundraising and recruiting telethon for a shadowy affiliation of extremist Islamist interests described months prior to 9-11 by the New York Times as "Jihad Inc." As long as there is profit in human suffering, those who lack a moral compass will seek to profit from that suffering, and Jihad Inc and their investors are having a record-breaking year.
Few understand the evolution of violence that periodically rages through this region like a wildfire. Violence is not endemic to Islam, the religion President George W. Bush's described as a "Noble Faith." Violence that has plagued the Middle East and North Africa for over two decades now has roots in the Sunni-Salafist branch of Islam and their "ideology that exploits Islam for political ends." This brand of Salafism, effectively marketed by Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda, is a nihilistic belief that "violence and terrorism are justified" to realize political objectives."
But German military theorist Carl von Clausewitz teaches that use of violence is merely the extension of Politik - a German word incorporating both Policy and Politics. Various interests who profit from violence form a shadowy unseen hand that sustains conflict in the region.
With the bombing of US Embassies in Africa in 1998, the corporate leadership of Jihad Inc, also known by the brand name "al Qaeda," recognized that a spectacular event boosted recruiting and fundraising. In an FBI interview during the investigation of the October 2000 bombing of the USS Cole, al Qaeda insider Abu Jandal, revealed a trade secret. "Can you imagine how many joined bin Laden after the embassy bombings? Hundreds came and asked to be martyrs," he told Special Agent Ali Soufan.
Jandal also explained another 'trade secret' of Jihad Inc - that the low-cost weapon known as the 'martyr' or suicide bomber provided a huge return on investment.
Veteran Muslim counter-terrorism officials in Afghanistan described suicide bombers to this author in Kabul in 2009 as the Islamist equivalent of cruise missiles. The crude and low-tech suicide bomber as a "weapon" they explained, are carefully crafted with a precision not unlike the manufacture of their more expensive high-tech equivalents.
When launched on the direction of senior terrorist leaders, like Jihad Inc. corporate executive Ayman Zwahiri, the targeting of these weapons employs the use of precise intelligence to support pin-point targeting that also characterizes the higher-tech cruise missile.
Afghan intelligence officials cited the precision attack which killed India's defense attaché in downtown Kabul in 2008 to illustrate their point. The dozens of Afghans civilians killed and wounded in that 2008 attack were not collateral damage, but a carefully crafted political "message" warning the sovereign Afghan of the risk of relations with an India that Pakistan considered an enemy. This aptly illustrated the dictum of German military theorist Carl von Clausewitz that violence delivered by military force merely extends political policy and discourse by "other means."
Few understand or appreciate that Yassar Arafat's oft-quoted strategy of using the womb as a weapon, adapted from Algerian President Houari Boumedienne's 1974 pronouncement to the United Nations that, "The wombs of our women will give us victory," sprang from more pragmatic ambitions than Boumedienne's anti-colonialist warning. When the life which springs from the womb is seen not as a precious gift, but as Arafat espoused, military hardware, the ghastly and perverted logic of sacrificing children to be used as props in "political" messaging becomes all too clear.
Nazis, who like Hamas reject the precept that human life is a gift from God, also saw the womb as a production line belonging not to women, but a tool for the State and their political interests, a policy which they called "lebensborn." Al Qaeda's shadowy Salafist leadership, like Hitler's nazis, see children and others as tools of the state.
Using new recruits wittingly or unwittingly inspired by the free advertizing provided to Jihad Inc. by the tragedy in Gaza and other Jihadist recruiting initiatives has bolstered the strength of Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS). Though outgoing Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, Lieutenant General Michael Flynn warned that ISIS has "metastacized," others in the Intelligence Community are reluctant to attribute connections or affiliations between Jihadist groups.
Despite the religious and political "marketing" of Jihad and martyrdom by al Qaeda, like any good organized crime syndicate, ISIS leadership and sponsors recognize violence as a profitable tool to advance their interests. Entrepreneurial Iraqi military officers, thrown out of work in the disbanding of the Iraqi Army in 2003, by 2005 had turned to organized crime in Mosul as an al Qaeda-inspired franchise. With several years of experience, and revenue generated from extortion, kidnapping, and other criminal enterprise, a core-team of military officers evolved into ISIS in 2011.
ISIS Middle management, often former regular army military officers, receive salaries from $300 per month to $2000 per month. But new recruits to ISIS are not like the more experienced and salaried veterans and experienced jihadists who lead ISIS, but are more like militia.
ISIS insiders do not want to share the lucrative profits from oil and arms sales with their militia, but instead hold out the promise of plunder from the Kurds as an enticement to joint their movement. Paying militias with plunder is not new to this region, or unique to ISIS.
This summer's appointment of an experienced fighter from combat in Chechnya, Omar al-Shishani, as a new ISIS commander signaled that their next move would be against Kurdish areas in concert with the Caucasus Emirate to provide additional plunder or tribute to expand their ranks, before the consider tackling Shi'ite militias in Baghdad.
Action authorized by President Barack Obama may force ISIS to put these plans on hold, at least for now. But the end of the Salafist Summer may not come anytime soon.