Wednesday, March 30, 2016

ISIL As Factory Workshop

"This didn't all of a sudden pop up in the last six months. They have been contemplating external attacks ever since the group moved into Syria in 2012."
Michael Flynn, retired U.S. Army lieutenant general

"It's a factory over there. They are doing everything possible to strike France, or else Europe."
Reda Hame, 29, French computer technician, ISIL inductee

With his French passport and his experience in information technology he was a prized catch for the Islamist jihadis dedicating themselves to terrorizing Europe. His introduction to jihadi-style training techniques, once he had successfully reached Syria from Paris through Turkey, seemed fairly abrupt, basically how to fire an assault rifle, given a grenade and told to practise tossing it at an improvised human silhouette.

That brief course in guerrilla warfare was his introduction to becoming a successful inductee in inspired terrorism. His Islamic State handler drove him back to the Turkish border with advice to be selective so he could target as many civilians in one fell swoop as possible, on his way to becoming a shaheed. No doubt their parting was unsentimental but optimistic; something along the lines of 'bye for now, see you in Paradise'. A wink and a thumbs-up and off they went, their separate ways.

Reda Hame was game, and he wasn't the only one dispatched at that time. It seems that ISIL was thinking ahead, testing the waters, as it were before full commitment to carry off terror on a more grand scale. First it meant to test the awareness and capability of European intelligence in weighing their response to isolated, randomized small events before embarking on the serious fireworks. A string of foreigners who had been invested with terror tactics were spirited back into Europe.

When Reda Hame's venture into martyrdom went awry and he was instead arrested, his interrogation resulted in some fairly interesting background facts. Back in the early days of 2014 there were indeed random events occurring of jihad attacks in Europe, all of them testing the focus of intelligence agencies. Who reacted by discounting each plot with the educated opinion that they all were what they appeared to be; random, isolated and unlinked to any group action.

In retrospect, the man who ran the Defense Intelligence Agency from 2012 to 2014 now sees the linkage. Reda Hame represented one of an estimated 21 operatives who returned with their abbreviated training back to Europe. They were to embark on a spree of killing. And once the official reaction to what they were engaged in was assessed the serious action was to ensue with the intention of killing hundreds of people in Paris, Brussels and onward - precisely what occurred.

Associated Press
They were among the many pawns that Abaaoud was positioning across the Continent.

Too late, European officials discovered that Mr. Hame's handler was Abdelhamid Abaaoud who specialized in selecting and training fighters to bring off plots in Europe, and who later catered the Paris attack. On January 3, 2014, Greek police stopped a taxi in a town close to the Turkish border where Ibrahim Boudina, a 32-year-old French citizen was returning from Syria. His luggage was fascinating; a French document titled How to Make Artisanal Bombs in the Name of Allah, and a cache of 1,400 euros.

Since no warrant existed for his arrest in Europe he was free to go. But he was on France's watch list as part of a 22-man cell radicalized at a mosque in Cannes. His friends were wiretapped along with his relatives by French officials at this point. And the police managed to arrest him in February of 2014. In the building housing the family's apartment near Cannes, a utility closet held Red Bull soda cans brimming with triacetone triperoxide explosive.

Pascal Le Segretain / Getty Images
The police set up a perimeter around the family’s apartment near Cannes, arresting Boudina on Feb. 11, 2014.

Eventually the Syria-trained ISIL operatives, mostly French and Belgian citizens, were arrested in Italy, Spain, Belgium, France, Greece, Turkey and Lebanon. Their plans were to attack Jewish businesses, police stations and other crowded venues. Attempts were made to open fire on packed train cars and church congregations and most failed. But as the arrests were made, the connection with ISIL was not.

One of the more notorious events was that of Mehdi Nemmouche, returning from Syria via Frankfurt, making his way to Brussels. And there on May 4, 2014, he opened fire at the Jewish Museum of Belgium, killing four people. Police discovered a video where he claimed responsibility for the attack. A flag bearing the words "Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant" appeared on the video. Leading Belgium's deputy prosecutor to dismiss an connections.

"He probably acted alone", Ine Van Wymersch, assuredly informed reporters, at the time.

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Tuesday, March 29, 2016

 Belgian Thoroughness

"The evidence that had led to the arrest of the man named Faycal C. was not confirmed by the evolution of the ongoing investigation."
"Consequently, he has been freed by the investigative judge."
Thierry Werts, spokesman, Belgian federal prosecutor

Airport CCTV shows the three suspects; Faycal Cheffou was initially thought to be the man on the right (Belgian Federal Police)

According to the Belgian health minister, 96 people were still hospitalized after the Brussels attacks. The official death toll had risen to 35 after four victims died in hospital. Among the dead were Belgians, Americans, Dutch, Swedes, Germans, French, Italians, Chinese and Brits. The crisis center stated that three families still await formal identification of their loved ones. The Brussels airport and train station attacks stunned and traumatized the city, the country, the continent and the globe.

No one can predict whether this represents a harbinger of increased-volume terrorist events yet to come. What is undisputed, however, is that the jihadist breeding ground of Molenbeek was largely responsible for the November 2015 Paris attack, just as it is responsible for this more recent attack. The question is, where else in Europe are there cells on the cusp of announcing their allegiance to fanatical Islamism prepared to sacrifice themselves in the greater purpose of slaughtering non-Muslims to convince the world that Islam reigns supreme?

Belgium has much to answer for. Not only is that open festering cesspool breeding jihadis in volume who have decamped to fight alongside Islamic State terrorists then returned whence they came to teach their newfound skills to others; a threat to the wider geography. It is a threat that emitted ample signals but which intelligence and other government agencies failed to take seriously. And it has become clear that it is not only Belgium that shrugged its shoulders at the presence of this threat.

Intelligence gatherers, jealous of their resources and their findings made little effort to reach out to one another, to consolidate their data, to ensure that adequate alerts were promulgated, to mount effective solutions to the problems that arose before the violence erupted. Belgian authorities and police have gained an unfortunate reputation of ineptness. In the follow-up to the Brussels attacks they did their utmost to restore confidence.

A flood of military fanned out all over the city, and crisis teams entered Molenbeek and other Muslim suburban communities in an effort to weed out the threats and identify those who are known to represent potential threats in the near future. In the process, much self-congratulations went the rounds when the 'man in the dark hat and white coat' seen in the security camera image from the airport alongside the two identified bombers was arrested and named.

Only to have to backtrack a day later because of lack of evidence, freeing the accused from custody and resuming the search for the suspect, appealing to the public for assistance in identifying and discovering his whereabouts. DNA evidence was analyzed to determine whether the suspect, Facal Cheffou really was who the prosecutor  and mayor of Brussels said he was; the third bomber. Seen alongside Ibrahim el-Bakraoui and Najim Laachraoui who blew themselves up last Tuesday.

Evidently not. But there are those happy enough to testify that the man who had been erroneously charged with terrorism and murder was not a very nice man. Although the taxi driver who had driven the three suicide bombers to the airport identified Mr. Cheffou as the third man in his cab out of a police photo lineup, it was evidently a mistaken identification.

Cheffou seems chiefly known as a troublemaker, repeatedly disrupting a camp of refugees near the Gare du Nord railway station, haranguing volunteers from NGOs, for not being Muslims. The indignity of Muslim refugees being serviced by non-Muslims caused the man to urge migrants who were being cared for by the municipal NGOs  to rebel. "He tried to get the refugees to turn against NGOs because they were 'Non-believers'," explained Yvan Mayeur, Brussels mayor.

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Monday, March 28, 2016

Pakistan, Failed State

"We are in a warlike situation and there is always a general threat but no specific threat alert was received for this place [Lahore's Gulshan-e-Iqbal park]."
Lahore Police Chief Haider Ashraf

"Our goal is not only to eliminate terror infrastructure but also the extremist mind-set, which is a threat to our way of life."
"We must take this war to the doors of [these] terrorist groups. God willing, we will wipe out them out."
Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif 
Women try to comfort a mother who lost her son in bomb attack in Lahore, Pakistan. The death toll from a massive suicide bombing targeting Christians gathered on Easter in the eastern Pakistani city of Lahore rose as the country started observing a three-day mourning period following the attack.
K.M. Chaudary / AP   Women try to comfort a mother who lost her son in bomb attack in Lahore, Pakistan. The death toll from a massive suicide bombing targeting Christians gathered on Easter in the eastern Pakistani city of Lahore rose as the country started observing a three-day mourning period following the attack.

Pakistan has a long way to go before any kind of stability can exist, in the presence of large demographics of fanatical Islamist hill tribes in its Northwest Frontier provinces which the central government traditionally has had little-to-no authority over. For years a general amnesty prevailed where the tribal Islamists agreed to keep their brand of Islam among themselves as long as the government kept its military out of the provinces. Even so, police and military outposts were often attacked.

When the fundamentalist Islamists of the Red Mosque in the middle of Islamabad finally wore out the government's patience over its ongoing attacks on shopkeepers in the capital whom they accused of defiling Islam with Western ways, a siege took place until the insurgents were neutralized, and that event appears to have been the catalyst that set off a permanent standoff between government and jihadi groups. The jihadi infiltration of the military and the Pakistani intelligence service was well known to support the Afghan Taliban.

And then, out of Pakistan was born the Pakistan Taliban, sharing all the fundamentals of al-Qaeda. The Mumbai attacks by the Pakistani jihadi group Lashkar-e-Taiba operatives and supported by Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence gave ample evidence that Pakistan is a time-bomb of a Muslim country complete with nuclear arsenal, a country that arrested one of its citizens for complicity with the CIA in identifying the Abbottabad compound of Osama bin Laden.

Christians in Pakistan represent barely one percent of the population, and they have reason to live in fear of oppression. Christians have often been charged with blasphemy against Islam which can result in capital punishment. Even Christian children have been targeted by malevolent Muslims accusing them of blasphemy, of destroying Korans, or speaking ill of the Prophet Mohammad. Little wonder then, in the prevailing atmosphere of Christians being under threat throughout the Islamic world that an atrocity of the dimensions of the Lahore bombing took place.

An estimated 70 people killed, 300 wounded at a seasonal Easter family outing that gripped both Muslim and Christian communities in the path of Islamist violence turned tragic. Many of the wounded remain in critical condition and the Punjab government is calling for residents to donate blood. According to authorities who denied Christians were targeted more Muslims than Christians were killed and injured. They cite 14 Christians and 44 Muslims and 9 unidentified among the dead. Among the dead were 29 children.

The I.D. card of the suicide bomber was found in the debris, identifying the man as Muhammad Yousaf Farid, born in 1988. Over half of the wounded 300 were taken to Jinnah Hospital where 67 remain hospitalized some with serious burns and shrapnel wounds. Two small children, their beds with signs "unknown", since the adult members of their family died in the blast and links with other relatives have not yet been made.

This dreadful event comes days after thousands of Pakistani Muslims demonstrated to protest the execution of the trusted bodyguard of Punjab's governor Salmon Taseer who was assassinated by that bodyguard, Mumtaz Qadri, in 2011. Pakistan's deadly discriminatory and antiquated laws on blasphemy were questioned by Governor Taseer. The governor's very public support of a young Christian woman, Asia Bibi, who had been accused of blasphemy against the Prophet Mohammad and imprisoned, as well as his support for women's rights in Pakistan gained him many enemies.

After Mumtaz Qadri was arrested for the murder of Salmon Taseer, he was popularly acclaimed as a hero. He had popular support among fundamentalist Pakistanis who deplored the governor's support of Asia Bibi, a Christian, and accused Mr. Taseer of being un-Muslim. After Governor Taseer's death, 500 Pakistani clerics supported his assassination, and they placed a fatwa on attendance for his funeral by the faithful.

Salman Taseer    Asia Bibi with Salman Taseer  Photo: AP
The military was deployed to protect government buildings after the protesters rampaged across the city, damaging property and setting buildings on fire.

Supporters of Mumtaz Qadri hold an effigy of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif during a protest against Qadri's execution in Karachi. Qadri, a police officer, was convicted for killing a governor who had proposed modifying a law against insulting Muhammad. (Asif Hassan/AFP/Getty Images)

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Sunday, March 27, 2016

Belgian Nuclear Sensitivities

"[Fears revolve around] an accident in which someone explodes a bomb inside the plant."
"The other danger is that they fly something into the plant from outside ... that could stop the cooling process of the used fuel."
Sebastien Berg, spokesman, Belgian nuclear energy agency
In the past two years, several of Belgium's seven reactors have been shut down repeatedly because of fires, oil and water leaks, one unresolved case of sabotage and the discovery of thousands of cracks in reactor vessels. Critics are fighting to have the aging reactors taken offline permanently. (Associated Press)
Photo by: Virginia Mayo  In the past two years, several of Belgium's seven reactors have been shut down repeatedly because of fires, oil and water leaks, one unresolved case of sabotage and the discovery of thousands of cracks in reactor vessels. Critics are fighting to have the aging reactors taken offline permanently. (Associated Press)

Belgium appears to have had a laissez-faire attitude to security altogether, and that would appear to include its nuclear facilities. When police searched a flat where Mohammed Bakkali's girlfriend lived they discovered camera footage of a senior nuclear employee. Mohamed Bakkali is considered a vital figure involved in both the Brussels and Paris suicide bombings. A hidden camera was placed at a vantage point opposite the home of an executive from the Centre for the Study of Nuclear Energy in the town of Mol.

Extrapolating from that it would appear that a plot was being formulated to abduct the man, and use his entry to nuclear installations to assist jihadis in obtaining radioactive material. Belgium authorities had no sense of urgency respecting the confluence of active terror cells wreaking havoc and a need to cordon off nuclear plants from possible entry. But two days following the Brussels airport and subway attacks, a security guard employed at a nuclear facility was found shot to death while walking his dog in the same area as the safe house for the Paris terrorists.

Too many coincidences for comfort, even if at this point speculation is of the obviously educated variety. The dead nuclear security guard's pass was missing, and action was taken to immediately deactivate it. Since then, a number of nuclear workers are no longer in possession of authorized passes. Seven workers from the Tihange nuclear power station and an additional four have had their passes cancelled in the wake of a safety review conducted by a committee comprised of intelligence and security agencies.

Precautions were further taken, given the tense situation and the unknowables tensely concentrated in Brussels, to order all non-essential employees out of several nuclear plants. British defence secretary Michael Fallon spoke of the possible danger of Daesh coming into possession of a nuclear weapon as "a new and emerging threat". At the very least, it seems feasible that radioactive waste falling into the hands of the terrorists could be used in the manufacture of a dirty bomb.

There is a background record of safety breaches at Belgium's nuclear facilities. Enough of an international concern exists that Belgian authorities have received warnings from Washington as well as other foreign capitals. One episode saw the country's nuclear agency's computer system hacked into and briefly shut down. Several years earlier, two people scaled the fence at Belgium's research reactor in Mol, breaking into a laboratory and making off with equipment.

Two employees at the city of Doel nuclear plant had left their employment in 2012 to join Syrian jihadists. In time they joined Daesh, where both fought in a Belgian-recruits-heavy brigade, among whom was Abdelhamid Abaaoud, the mastermind of the Paris attacks. It is entirely conceivable that these two former employees of the Doel nuclear plant shared their insider knowledge with their Daesh comrades.

That same plant saw an unidentified person gain entrance to the No.4 reactor in 2014 where he turned a valve draining 65,000 litres of oil lubricating the turbines. Friction almost caused the machinery to overheat. The reactor was shut down but damage was sufficiently severe that the reactor could not be operated for a period of five months. Breaching Belgian nuclear plant security systems does not appear to have constituted too strenuous efforts.

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Saturday, March 26, 2016

Convoluted and Deadly

The links and tentacles that jihad creates are transnational and far-reaching. The West is now alert to the problem it has inherited through its generosity in proffering citizenship to a religious class of people known as the Islamic ummah, ushering Muslims into societies where classical Islamic ideation is alien. The destabilizing effect of democratic non-Muslim societies welcoming great numbers of worshippers of Islam has been evident for decades as vocal Islamic group leaderships agitate for Sharia law to be legalized alongside the indigenous system of justice.

The pathology of tribal hatreds, sectarian suspicion and violence, and traditionally-viewed enemies upon whom slanderous accusations are heaped in an effort to delegitimize their presence where Muslims live, are introduced into indigenous welcoming societies wherever Muslim communities grow in strength and isolation from the prevailing social and religious culture. Being forewarned is not necessary translated into becoming forearmed, as can be seen in Paris of November 2015 and Brussels of 2016, let alone the United States, Spain, Russia, and the United Kingdom.

In the most recent atrocities visited upon the central authority of Europe, located in Brussels, the spirit of welcome and equality has been stretched to its limits with the increasingly prevailing sense of foreboding and terror now clouding the public atmosphere. Belgians, born and raised in the country, of Moroccan descent, have distinguished themselves of late as venomous plot-hatchers who have thrown in their lot with Islamic State jihadis. In the space of three months, hundreds of Europeans have been slaughtered.

In IS's de facto capital Raqa in northern Syria, the group's top religious figure in the city, Abu Ali al-Sharii, led the Friday prayer with a pledge to commit more violence in the West
In IS's de facto capital Raqa in northern Syria, the group's top religious figure in the city, Abu Ali al-Sharii, led the Friday prayer with a pledge to commit more violence in the West (AFP Photo/Patrik Stollarz)

Interestingly, the man credited with a kind of genius for constructing extremely effective explosive devices which emulate in a sense the barrel bombs that explode with deadly lethal projectiles to make them more lethally effective so beloved of Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad and used to kill thousands of his own citizens, has perfected explosive devices packed with nails to achieve a similar effect. The difference being, of course, that bomb maker Najim Laachraoui, 24, targeted other Belgians to signal that Islam is seriously on the move toward universal conquest.

But there is also good news in this dismal message since his zeal to slaughter kuffars included a similar zeal to become himself a martyr to reap his rewards as a loyal Islamist pledged to the advance of Islam, in Paradise. He has now definitely been identified as one of the two bombers who set off explosives in the Belgian attacks. This is a man whose DNA has been widely identified; in an apartment in the Schaerbeek section of Brussels where his bomb-making lab was discovered, and on the suicide vests of the Paris attackers. He had produced his last bomb.

He had made his jihadist pilgrimage to Syria in 2013 and returned to Belgium two years later, well steeped in the fundamentals of Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant techniques of death-deliverance. He had obviously been an excellent pupil in learning beyond the basics of bomb-making. And that experience made of him a central figure linking the Paris and Brussels attacks which have now been discovered to have links in Germany as well, where German authorities have arrested two Germans Muslims with ties to Islamist extremists.

Another link to Laachraoui has been found in the search for Naim al-Hamed, a 28-year-old Syrian with ties to the bomb-maker and to Khalid El Bakraoui, one of the Paris bombers, whose brother Ibrahim El Bakraoui had been, along with Laachraoui, the two suicide bombers who blew themselves up in Brussels. These demented psychopaths, glorying in performing the work of jihad are crawling out of the dank, dark places where they hide, until they feel -- as independent jihadi cells instructed to wreak havoc in the West -- that the time is right for action.

With the capture and arrest of Salah Abdeslam a week earlier in Belgium, safely ensconced for over four months in his home ghetto of Molenbeek, eluding detection among the hundred-thousand-strong Muslim residents of the Brussels suburb, Najim Laachraoui, good friend of Abdeslam, decided the time was right. Three days after Abdeslam had been captured, authorities asked around in the area for assistance to help find Laachraoui. And the following day he blew himself up at Brussels Airport.

And now, Europe is waiting with bated breath, to see what venue will next be selected as the recipient of Islam's wrath.

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The Indigestible Lessons of Islamophobia

Western democracies have designed their own death threats. Logically it is well enough understood that irrespective of where immigrants emanate from around the world, if they are Muslim the chances that they will integrate into a non-Muslim welcoming society are dim. Those who worship Islam are, simply put, just not adaptable to another system, a way of life that excludes total submission to a theocratic belief that is by its very nature totalitarian. Islam is a totalitarian ideology because it demands of its faithful the admission that every facet of their lives is to be dictated by Islamic decrees. In Islam the package is total; it is a religion, a political movement, a social contract, a system of justice whose essence is law from the perspective of Islamic ideals.
Nusrat Djahan Mosque
Copenhagen, Denmark

In the West, human rights top the agenda and a dedication to promoting human rights, to ensure that under existing laws equality and justice and freedom reign supreme. In Islam there is no such notion as equality, there is Islam and there is everything else, one is dominant the other is slated to be destroyed or to exist unequally under Islamic dominating rule as conquered societies. Justice is what is meted out by Sharia law reflecting Islamic principles which do not by any measure meet the metrics of human rights. In Islam Muslims do not have the freedom to alter their allegiance from Islam to another faith; to do so is to consign oneself to capital punishment as an apostate, the height of criminal offence meriting death under Islam.

London Central Mosque, or Regent's Park Mosque
London, U.K.

Yet, because the West's collective conscience agitates against the very notion of discrimination based on ethnicity, culture, heritage, politics or religion, as an unforgivable intolerance, the reality of non-integration leading to social, political and religious conflict is deliberately unrecognized as a potential threat which numbers will in due time, exacerbate. And, in setting aside the logic of those concerns, immigration procedures and refugee acceptance are carried out in an open spirit of global congeniality. While ethnic and religious minorities are persecuted, their security and rights violated in Muslim-majority countries, Europe and North America permit entrance to the very demographics that will repeat violations of human rights in their own countries.

It takes quite a while for the targets to see themselves as being under threat, but eventually the message does penetrate. But even as it does, the West congratulates itself that it marches to a different drummer, that those who threaten their culture, their societies, their values and their laws are wrong, and their ideas and actions will be spurned. And that the governments of the West will not submit to treating their foreign-sourced elements of citizenship in the same manner. Courtesy and acceptance will most surely turn those who view Western values as degraded -- insisting that Islam be respected in all matters concerning not only Muslims, but non-Muslims as well -- away from their unsettling course.

Baitun Nur
Calgary, Alberta, Canada

And then, violence erupts and terrorism disrupts and it becomes evident that an invasion has occurred, one which is difficult to pin down precisely for among the raging psychopaths dedicated to Islamist fundamentalism to destroy Western democracies there are the mild-mannered Muslims of humble demeanor and expectations whose human rights must be protected even though they live alongside the vociferous groups and the criminal accomplices who are in silent support of terrorism as a tool by which militant Islam can succeed in ushering into a reluctant society sternly complacent Islam which has achieved its goal of conquest and dominance.

The episodic but increasingly frequent incidents of Muslims born and bred in Europe and North America violently turning against the countries that have accepted their families and expected that any differences existing between people born of tribal cultures and an ideologically problematic religion whose faithful offer a contrasting picture of peace on one hand and conflict on the other tell the story of Islam's fundamental precepts. That Islamic lands are viewed as lands of peace, while non-Islamic countries are viewed as lands of conflict, and that jihad is a requirement to turn those lands of conflict to lands of peace, where peace is achieved by a transformation to Islamic rule.

Cologne Central Mosque
Cologne, Germany

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Russia, on the Troubled Home Front

"I don't think Uralvagonzavod will vote for Putin again -- we saw what that led to. This is the opinion of a lot of workers, but a lot of them are afraid to say it. We just don't understand why they are firing people."
"They say they have orders, but they also cut our salaries."
Yevgeny M. Shukhin, labour protester, Nizhny Tagil, Russia
Nizhny Tagil's skyline
Industrial pollution in Nizhby Tagil, BBC News

In Nizhby Tagil there are two industrial plants, one of which produces steel and the other, Uralvagonzavod which turns out train cars and tanks. Both are pivotal industries. Both have announced worker layoffs. Since that initial announcement, however, Uralvagonzavod has stated that within its workforce of about 30,000, "optimization" will be of a voluntary nature.

The agony of these Russian workers is inextricably wound up with Russian President Vladimir Putin's extravagance in military spending, given the parlous nature of the Russian economy, stuttering since the fall in oil prices and struggling under the sanctions regime. But his dedication appears to be heavily in favour of continuing that military spending; there remains prestige and the promise of power in that direction.

The workers will have to fend for themselves. And they're doing that by angry protests. Uralvagonzavod is not yet fully feeling the pain, however. Workers on the train-car portion of the factory are now on two-thirds salary amounting to about $260 monthly, while the tank assembly lines are going full blast, and those workers are paid in full measure.

Russia's economic slump has seen real wages, adjusted for inflation, drop 6.3 percent in January. New car sales are down 50 percent. Labour unrest is stirring throughout Russia. The days of flush $100-a-barrel oil prices fuelling the economy are past. Once viewed as the champion of factory towns, the troubled industrial centers no longer view Mr. Putin as their knight carrying bailout funding.

As many workers as are out protesting, their presence is overwhelmed by more numerous police officers on Machinists Square. Those workers who did turn out were extremely aware of the presence of the uniformed and plain-clothes police. A local activist pulled a red banner printed with "For Workers' Rights!" across the pedestal holding a statue of Lenin.

Back in 2012 during the presidency campaign, Vladimir Putin showed up in Nizhny Tagil in the northern Ural Mountains where a shift foreman at the factory had boasted on television that his "boys" from the factory were prepared to travel to Moscow to beat up the urban protesters. "You showed who the Russian people are, who the Russian working man is", Mr. Putin said to the foreman, Igor R. Kholmanskikh.

"For more than a year, people go to work but do nothing", said Ilya Korovin. He grumbled that the assembly lines were idled while workers' pay was cut and grocery prices were going through the roof. And the factory management had no response, no direction, not the merest bit of alternative action, let alone response to the workers' crisis of confidence.

While back in Moscow, Ilya V. Yashin, a leader of the opposition movement that Mr. Kholmanskikh had threatened with his "boys" from the factory, empathized with the workers: "Dear Workers of Uralvagonzavod! In the end, the workers who not so long ago threatened to scatter the protesters were themselves forced to go to protest against layoffs and violations of their labour rights. Time put everything in its place."

A retired shift boss at Uralvagonzavod, Mikhail G. Scherbakov, has a pension of $175 monthly, after 43 years of his working life on the assembly line. "They either have no conscience, or they have no money", he noted glumly, prepared to give them the benefit of the doubt.

Overviews of EVRAZ NTMK plant in Nizhniy Tagil - one of the biggest russian steel mills. Together with UVZ (machine building plant which produces railroad carriages and tanks) and some smaller factories, this huge combine covers almost half of the town’s territory.
Currently only two blast furnaces are running at the site and two more are under demolition. Also there are two coking plants, BOF shop, numerous rolling mills, continous casters and mechanical shops.
Pictures taken in October 2014 from the roof of brand new coal injector.
Overviews of EVRAZ NTMK plant in Nizhniy Tagil - one of the biggest Russian steel mills. Together with UVZ (machine building plant which produces railroad carriages and tanks) and some smaller factories, this huge combine covers almost half of the town’s territory. Currently only two blast furnaces are running at the site and two more are under demolition. Also there are two coking plants, BOF shop, numerous rolling mills, continuous casters and mechanical shops.

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Friday, March 25, 2016

Defeating a Religious Ideology

"I've got a lot of things on my plate, but my top priority is to defeat ISIL and to eliminate the scourge of this barbaric terrorism that's been taking place around the world."
"There's no more important item on my agenda than going after them and defeating them."
U.S. President Barack Obama
This file photo shows masked Takfiri ISIL militants shooting seven in Syria.
This file photo shows masked Takfiri ISIL militants shooting seven in Syria.

Conventional wars can be fought, and they can be won or lost. Such conflicts see opposing armies meeting on fields of battle. One side or the other wins, or there is a draw and a consequent withdrawal until the succeeding battle ensues. Eventually there will be a resolution. The chaotic wars roiling parts of the world today don't, however, fall into conventional categories. There are the cold wars that are being resumed and they are generally stand-offs, not active combat situations.

In tribal geographic areas there are wars of decidedly irregular rules where both national troops and insurgents run amok among the civilian population, looting, ransacking, raping. And then there are deployments of peacekeepers via the United Nations and they too appear to become irregular in their behaviours since all too many stand accused of preying on the vulnerable they are sent to defend. It's hard not to be cynical about the state of world affairs and its petty war-mongering.

The war of which President Obama speaks is not a war but a conflict of ideological dimensions relating to religious fundamentalism of a religion that has swept across the globe since its seventh-century inception, through conquest, not gentle persuasion and peaceful kindliness, since the most elemental of its precepts is jihad. Those who speak in support of a peaceful Islam speak of jihad as an intellectual struggle to refine oneself and become closer to the motivating spirit of Islam.

Those who have experienced the dread menace of jihad know it for a violent pathology of hatred and vengeance which just incidentally either slaughters any who are not sufficiently attuned to hard-core Islam, or willing to convert themselves to complete surrender to the worship of Islam, body and soul. It is the ideation of Islam as the preserve of the faithful to Allah willing to entirely subjugate themselves and their futures to his worshipful command at its most fundamental, as a creature in bondage that must be defeated, and that is a tall order.

Faith is immune to reason, to intelligent discourse, to moderation. Once the basic tenets of a faith have been absorbed and become the motivating force of life for a spiritual lifetime they become fixed and the faithful fixated by them, for total acceptance is the only option within Islam. And now, the West is faced with the inexorable advance of a deadly pathology that venerates martyrdom and celebrates mass murder as a divine accomplishment aided by the faithful.

It seems now universally agreed that one terrorist group among all others poses as the most threatening to global stability, with a territorial base of its own, though it is within it a moving target as it both advances and recedes as the tides of conflict take it. But it has, to the present trained an estimated 400 representative jihadis with the specific order and capabilities to target Europe in waves of death-deliverance by a number of interlocking terror cells similar to those which attacked Paris and Brussels.

Theirs is the choosing of the time and the place of attack; their only goal to be successful in spreading the horror of never knowing where and when such an attack will take lace, with its gruesomely deadly consequences. Europe is in the learning stages, Israel has had the experience. These somewhat autonomous cell networks exemplify the appeal of ISIL's mandate to destroy and sow fear in the West, by the level of the threat they pose.

They are far more sophisticated in the planning and the execution of their deadly raids than their cruder counterparts like al Shabaab and Boko Haram, and just as effectively barbaric in their bloody assaults. Training camps in Syria, Iraq and elsewhere -- Afghanistan comes to mind -- are the training grounds to teach best practice  techniques in bomb-building and attack strategies.

The ringleader of the November 13 Paris attacks boasted that his entry into Europe had been with a multinational group of 90 fighters, scattered "more or less everywhere", biding time, planning.

The Paris attacks

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