March 2, 2015 / /
As the Obama administration continues to live in their fantasy world of the Islamic State (IS) being “defeated” by the “Coalition of the Reluctantly Willing” and a ill-conceived Twitter campaign, IS has been busy replenishing its ranks. They’ve been doing this and weakening their enemies by recruiting defectors from the other Syrian opposition factions (such as al-Nusra/Khorasan Group). A big driver for this is the directive Baghdadi put out for the terror organization to build local ties and form alliance in advance of future operations. One such example of al-Nusra/KG losing people to the other side is increased IS presence along the Lebanese-Syrian border. Other reports coming in describe entire opposition units in Halab, Hama, Homs, Idlib and dawr al-Zawr. The reasons for this are obvious:
– IS offers bigger cash incentives for joining its ranks. Money talks.
– The other factions view IS as being the strongest faction in the regional war that will ultimately “crush” all opposition and the best chance to seriously challenge the Asad regime. In other words, everybody wants to be part of a “winner.”
Indeed, IS – or anybody for that matter – will enjoy a huge surge in recruitment when they’re doing well on the battlefield, which gets amplified by an effective IO campaign. This is also a great gauge to see how well the Obama administration’s IS strategy has been working out thus far. So how are they doing? Well for starters we’re hearing that the Gaza-based Mujahidin Shura Council (MSC) has pretty much been “disbanded” and absorbed into IS’ North African affiliates such as the Egypt-based Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis (ABM). The MSC had been working to become a legitimate al-Qaida affiliate and had formed in 2012 (some reports will say as early as 2011) when three Gaza-based Salafi groups merged in response to guidance received from the al-Qaida (AQ) senior leadership. The MSC was very similar to the MSC that was set up in Iraq prior to the formation of the “Islamic State of Iraq” now known simply as the “Islamic State” (Long War Journal did a great piece on this in 2012 that remains applicable to the current situation).
Although primarily based in Gaza, the organization also had a presence in Egypt’s Sinai region and Libya. However, the effort fell through due to unknown reasons, but it may have to do with internal problems the entity had. In fact, by NOV 14 we had began to see elements of the MSC’s branch in Sinai had already defected to ABM. The terror group also made in-roads elsewhere by forming an alliance with its splinter group Ajnad Masr for increased joint-operations in the Cairo-area as discussed in our piece titled “Haftar-Sisi Alliance: The Roadblock to ISIS Bridge Into the Maghreb.” We assess that the addition of MSC personnel into ABM’s ranks will bolster the Sinai group’s capabilities with knowledge of alternative smuggling routes at the local-level coming into play to avoid the Sisi regime’s crackdown on IS affiliates.
Islamic State’s Presence in Gaza
ISIS in Gaza Update
Haftar-Sisi Alliance: The Roadblock to ISIS Bridge Into the Maghreb
Salafi-Jihadists in Gaza Continue to Efforts to Establish Islamic Emirate
Terrorism: What Is The Mujahideen Shura Council in the Environs of Jerusalem?
Haifa man named as victim of terrorist attack on Egypt border
The infamous Abu Wahib (variant-Waheeb) shown in IS propaganda circulating throughout Gaza
Source: al-Battar Media Foundation
The act of absorbing one’s enemies is not a new phenomenon and is actually part of the long history of the Islamic religion itself. As we’ve seen throughout the Middle East’s extremely violent history of conquest after conquest, the 21st regrettably isn’t any different. ABM itself formed in 2011 as a by-product of the so-called “Arab Spring” that the Obama administration supported that led to installing the Muslim Brotherhood as the new regime in Egypt. The terror group mainly targeted the Jewish population in the Sinai and throughout Israel itself, although this all changed when GEN Sisi came to power and began systematically targeting all jihadist elements in the country that was allowed to flourish under the Morsi regime. Since aligning itself with IS, the group has adopted some – but not all – of Baghdadi’s ideology. The act of beheading enemies (especially those deemed to be “traitors”) is now a recurring theme for the organization after pledging allegiance to Baghdadi’s “Caliphate.”
Egypt attack: Profile of Sinai Province militant group
Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis/Wilayat Sinai
Gaza jihadist group praises Ansar Jerusalem fighters, calls for more attacks
The Resurgence of Militant Islamists in Egypt
ABM: The ISIS Cancer spreading throughout the body of North Africa and Gaza
As of this writing ABM has been focused on expanding IS’ influence in Gaza, the Sinai and Libya in order to secure smuggling routes that are supporting the overall effort in Syria against the Assad regime. Central to this is ABM’s Sinai campaign to secure the gateway to Gaza and by extension Syria – the increased presence along the Lebanese-Syrian border is part of this greater strategic vision the senior IS leadership has for the region. A great deal of weapons and foreign fighters coming from Tunisia and Libya are going through Egypt, Gaza and Northern Lebanon to get to Syria (both straight into Syria or through Turkey). Of the Libyan weapons being sent to facilitate the anti-Assad war effort, the majority of them are coming from weapons depots in Misrata and Benghazi. On 29 AUG 14 we stated in “The Strategic Importance of Egypt to ISIS” that the terror group had not yet firmly entrenched itself inside Egypt, but was getting close as the result of ABM aligning itself with Baghdadi. Today, we can say that ABM has made great strides since then despite being targeted by the Sisi regime – and they’re going to become a much greater threat with absorbing the MSC into its ranks.
The Strategic Importance of Egypt to ISIS
Egypt and UAE Launch Airstrikes in Libya: US Kept in the Dark
Is Egypt Planning Military Intervention in Libya?
The borders of terror
Sisi regime declared “open season” for hunting down IS and its affiliates
Source: ISIS Study Group
Economic warfare against members of the “Coalition of the Reluctantly Willing” has also steadily increased in both Egypt and Libya, with oil pipelines being regular targets in IED attacks aiming to disrupt the economies of not just Egypt and Libya, but also that of Jordan and European nations such as Italy. Another reason is that they they can gain access to fuel sources to sell on the black market and supply their forces. This is indicative of the cross-border coordination one can expect from multiple groups that have united under a common umbrella – in this case the Black Flag of IS. Below are a few examples of alleged IEDs emplaced targeting Libyan oil pipeline between Sarir Field and Hergia Port that we received from our in-country sources:
Source: The ISIS Study Group
Source: The ISIS Study Group
The alliance between the Sisi regime and Libyan GEN Khalifah Haftar may have struck IS strongholds inside Libya, but the jihadist organization has answered back with a series of bombings targeting the joint-Egyptian/Haftar faction command center in Quba. They didn’t stop there – they also launched an attack against the Iranian embassy in Tripoli last week. The attack served two purposes:
– To target a major hub for coordinating IRGC-Qods Force and Ministry of Intelligence and Security (MOIS) intelligence operations in the country. The Iranian regime will typically coordinate intelligence operations inside of a target country from their embassies and consulates. In fact, cultural centers set up by Iranian diplomatic missions are staffed with MOIS and Qods Force personnel to provide cover.
– Sending a message to Iran and the West that IS has firmly entrenched itself inside Libya. The Iranian Ambassador was not present at the compound when it was attacked, suggesting the target was symbolic in nature.
ISIL-linked group claims Iran embassy attack in Libya
The aftermath of the Iranian embassy attack
In addition to being an avenue from which to target Western economies, Libya is also a potential launching pad for jihadists looking to travel to Europe under the guise of “refugees” to facilitate the execution of attacks on the continent. This will also affect the US due to the naive policy of the Obama administration to admit thousands of refugees from places like Libya, Yemen, Syria and Iraq. Refugees who obtain citizenship to a European nation will also be able to circumvent the largely nonexistent enforcement of US border security laws to enter the country under the guise of “tourists” or “students” – with DHS completely oblivious of their usage of this status to further a much more insidious agenda.
Cultural Suicide: Why Allowing Syrian War Refugees to Enter Western Countries is a Pandora’s Box to More Attacks
The Jews: Europe’s Canary in the Mine on the Growing Jihadist Threat
Attack in Paris, France Kills 12
Islamic State: The French Connection
ISIS Attack Plot Thwarted in Belgium – A Sign of Things to Come?
Jihadist Infestation: Terrorism Results in Copenhagen Chaos
As 2014 was the year that put IS on “the map,” 2015 will be the year that we see greater expansion into North Africa going into Gaza and the border-area with Lebanon. This will also be the year that we will see IS begin reaching out “to touch” Europe and the US with attacks conducted by well-organized cells with extensive experience in Syria and Iraq as opposed to the home-grown jihadist cells we’ve seen in Denmark, French and Belgium attacks. It will also become painfully obvious to those still in denial that the Obama administration has a strong strategy against IS – which it doesn’t. In a time where the world needs a Churchill, Patton and Montgomery we’re getting it – its just coming from GEN Sisi, GEN Haftar, King Abdullah and Bibi Netanyahu instead of the US government. However, these great men have limits in what they can do. They will need much greater US military assistance – far greater than what’s currently being given. The Libyan people have been taking to the streets demanding that GEN Haftar take command of the Army as they view him as the best shot they have at eradicating the IS threat. We should be supporting GEN Haftar and GEN Sisi in their efforts. Considering the fact that the Obama administration still thinks IS fighters are just bored young men looking for jobs while downplaying the significance of Islamic fundamentalism.
Libyan parliament proposes Haftar, a divisive figure, as head of army
Libyan General Khalifa Haftar
The ISIS Expansion into North Africa
Obama’s ISIS Strategy: Failed Before it Started
Another Reason Obama’s ISIS Strategy Has Already Failed
The Sad state of the US government’s IS strategy has become butt of frequent jokes on Twitter and Facebook
Source: The ISIS Study Group
Links to Other Related Articles:
Egyptian Army Hits Back at ISIS in Sinai
ISIS Efforts to Open up an Egyptian Front
Egyptian Army and IDF Take on ISIS Supporters in Sinai
US Embassy in Tripoli “Secured” by Islamist Militias of the Dawn of Libya