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Sunday, November 22, 2015

INTELWIRE Weekly Brief, 11/23/15: ISIS Book Roundup, Paris, Mali and More


With ISIS now at the forefront of our national security discussion, people are seeking more information, and many are turning to the bewildering number of books available on the subject. There are several strong entries in the field, but each has its own particular focus. As first drafts of history, no single book is able to encompass the entirety of ISIS, a complicated organization and social movement with many moving parts.

Here's a look at a few of the top books on ISIS. The focus discussed here reflects the elements in each book that distinguish it from the others; all five books include some degree of overview of the history and development of ISIS. In an ideal world, you would probably read all of them. The books are listed here alphabetically, by the name of the lead author.

The Syrian Jihad: Al-Qaeda, the Islamic State and the Evolution of an Insurgency
Charles Lister
Focus on the complex scope of the Syrian civil war, and its crucial impact on ISIS and al Qaeda, informed by extensive face-to-face interviews with participants.

The ISIS Apocalypse
William McCants
Focus on ISIS's development from the point of view of jihadist insiders, and ISIS's ideology, including its apocalyptic bent and call to religion.

ISIS: The State of Terror
Jessica Stern and J.M. Berger
Focus on ISIS's terrorist/extremist component, recruitment, propaganda and social media, psychological warfare, and competition with al Qaeda.

Black Flags: The Rise of ISIS
Joby Warrick
Focus on the rise of ISIS from its predecessor, al Qaeda in Iraq, and the life of that group's founder, Abu Musab al Zarqawi.

ISIS: Inside the Army of Terror
Michael Weiss and Hassan Hassan
Focus on the rise of ISIS as a regional political phenomenon, with a wealth of on-the-ground reporting.

-- J.M. Berger


ISIS Women and Enforcers in Syria Recount Collaboration, Anguish and Escape
Aws, 25, a former resident of Raqqa, Syria, used to be a member of the Khansaa Brigade, the Islamic State's female morality police. Her first husband was a jihadist, and when he died in a suicide operation she reluctantly agreed to marry another fighter.

Inside the surreal world of the Islamic State’s propaganda machine
The assignments arrive on slips of paper, each bearing the black flag of the Islamic State, the seal of the terrorist group’s media emir, and the site of that day’s shoot. Sometimes the job was to film prayers at a mosque, or militants exchanging fire. But, inevitably, a slip would come with the coordinates to an unfolding bloodbath.

The French female extremist’s curious path to Islamist violence
The story of Hasna Aitboulahcen is filled with jolting plot turns. Fast forward to Wednesday, and the story ends abruptly — in a nondescript apartment building with a slanted shingled roof, surrounded by police officers undertaking an anti-terrorism raid in the Parisian suburb of Saint-Denis.

IS group says it has killed Norwegian, Chinese captives
The Islamic State group said Wednesday that it has killed Norwegian and Chinese captives after earlier demanding ransoms for the two men.

An ISIS Militant From Belgium Whose Own Family Wanted Him Dead
When the family of Abdelhamid Abaaoud received word from Syria last fall that he had been killed fighting for the Islamic State, it rejoiced at what it took to be excellent news about a wayward son it had come to despise. He has since been linked to a string of terrorist operations that culminated with Friday’s attacks in Paris.

Frenchman identified in Islamic State audio claim of Paris attacks
The voice of a jihadist claiming Islamic State's responsibility for last week's attacks in Paris has been identified as a 36 year-old Frenchmen authorities believe is now in Syria, a source close to the investigation said on Tuesday.

New York teen accused of supporting Islamic State to be tried as adult
A New York teenager charged with conspiring to support Islamic State should be tried as an adult, despite having been only 17 at the time he allegedly committed the crime, a federal judge ruled.

Militants may have spent as little as $7,500 on Paris attacks
The militants who killed 130 people in Paris, triggering waves of air strikes on Syria and security alerts around the world, may have spent as little as around 7,000 euros ($7,500) to stage their attacks.

Dozens in U.S. monitored after Paris for fear of copycat
Following the terror attacks in Paris, the FBI is very closely monitoring dozens of people they think pose the highest threat of attempting to carry out a copycat attack in the U.S., according to FBI Director James Comey and Attorney General Loretta Lynch.

U.S. Investigators Struggle to Track Homegrown ISIS Suspects
At least three dozen people in the United States suspected of ties to the Islamic State were under heavy electronic or physical surveillance even before the Paris attacks, senior American officials say. But unlike the attackers in France, the officials say, the majority of those under investigation here never traveled to Syria to fight alongside the Islamic State or receive training from it.

Jihadi John associate on his way to Europe was arrested in Turkey
Aine Lesley Davis was arrested after Turkish intelligence worked with British MI6 to monitor the movements of a messenger linked to Jihadi John inside the Syrian city of Raqqa and received information on Davis' plans.

ISIS’ Extortion and ‘Taxation’ Are Lucrative and Hard to Suppress
A great deal has been written about the oil resources that are supposedly ISIS' principal source of revenue, although some reports suggest that estimates of $1.5 million in daily oil income may be wildly exaggerated. But what has often been ignored is ISIS’ less conspicuous and potentially superior capacity to raise funds through a complex and tightly controlled system of "taxes" within its claimed "Caliphate."

The Islamic State Paradox
The Islamic State is partly a totalitarian state and partly a transnational terrorist organization. As a state it can be attacked and defeated, at least temporarily. And yet, paradoxically, the more we in the West attack the state, the more its appeal as a terrorist organization will grow among those who see the West as an enemy.


Armed protesters gather outside Islamic Center of Irving
About a dozen protesters -- most carrying long guns, some masked and one with his mother -- lined up outside an Irving mosque on Saturday. They had come from as far away as Hunt County to the green-domed complex. To "Stop the Islamization of America," as the mother's hand-drawn sign urged.

Deadly hotel attack underscores Mali's worsening security situation
Since France’s military intervention in January 2013 to halt the southward movement of a coalition of armed groups who controlled much of the country’s north, the security situation has remained precarious. And in some ways, it has gotten even worse.

Hotel Attack in Mali Reverses Gains in Fight Against Extremism
The terrifying attack on the Radisson Blu here in Mali’s capital was a strike on this nation’s fragile efforts to restore peace after years of fighting. But here, as in Paris, the same fundamental question applies: How does a democratic society protect itself from a few determined extremists who can upend an entire nation with a single devastating strike?

Lebanon security forces make arrests, seize explosives after Beirut bombs
Lebanese security forces carried out a series of arrests overnight, security sources said on Friday, as part of a crackdown launched after twin suicide bomb attacks killed 44 people in Beirut last week.

Sarajevo gunman commits suicide after killing two soldiers
A gunman who shot and killed two Bosnian soldiers and wounded another committed suicide on Wednesday after police surrounded his house on the outskirts of Sarajevo, authorities said.

Explosive device goes off near Bosnian army chief's car, no one hurt
An explosive device went off in a tunnel just before an approaching vehicle carrying the Bosnian army's chief of staff but nobody was hurt, the Defence Ministry said on Saturday.

The plague of global terrorism
Last year 32,700 people were killed in attacks worldwide, nearly twice as many as in 2013.


On the Media: The Language of Terror
Amid the emotion, fear, and confusion following an attack, a Breaking News Consumer's Handbook for the coverage of terrorism. Plus, the semantics surrounding acts of war and terror, and a look back at lessons learned, and forgotten, in the years since 9/11.


The Consequences of the Internet for Politics
Political scientists are only now beginning to come to terms with the importance of the Internet to politics. By Henry Farrell.

Buy the new book ISIS: The State of Terror by Jessica Stern and J.M. Berger.

Buy J.M. Berger's seminal book on American jihadists, Jihad Joe: Americans Who Go to War in the Name of Islam


Views expressed on INTELWIRE are those of the author alone.



Tweets referencing this post:



", granular analysis..."

ISIS: The State of Terror
"Jessica Stern and J.M. Berger's new book, "ISIS," should be required reading for every politician and policymaker... Their smart, granular analysis is a bracing antidote to both facile dismissals and wild exaggerations... a nuanced and readable account of the ideological and organizational origins of the group." -- Washington Post

More on ISIS: The State of Terror

"...a timely warning..."

Jihad Joe: Americans Who Go to War in the Name of Islam:
"At a time when some politicians and pundits blur the line between Islam and terrorism, Berger, who knows this subject far better than the demagogues, sharply cautions against vilifying Muslim Americans. ... It is a timely warning from an expert who has not lost his perspective." -- New York Times

More on Jihad Joe


INTELWIRE is a web site edited by J.M. Berger. a researcher, analyst and consultant covering extremism, with a special focus on extremist activities in the U.S. and extremist use of social media. He is a non-resident fellow with the Brookings Institution, Project on U.S. Relations with the Islamic World, and author of the critically acclaimed Jihad Joe: Americans Who Go to War in the Name of Islam, the only definitive history of the U.S. jihadist movement, and co-author of ISIS: The State of Terror with Jessica Stern.


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