For the night of 11 September 2014
Iraq: A chain of car bomb explosions claimed the lives of at least 19 people in Baghdad. Iraqi security officials said the serial blasts occurred minutes apart in a Shia neighborhood in southeastern Baghdad on Wednesday. More than 30 people were wounded.
Comment: The efforts by the Islamist extremists to terrorize Shiite neighborhoods and probe for weaknesses in Iraqi security continue. They are impervious to the announced US campaign because the bombers mingle among the civilian population. Suicide and other bombings will continue.
Reaction to the US President's speech. The so-called moderate Syrian Islamists announced that they are allied to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). That destroys any expectations that moderate Muslims would work with the US effort.
Turkey announced that the US cannot use any of its bases or resources in fighting ISIL Turkey also will permit no US soldiers in Turkey for the purpose of fighting ISIL.
CIA announced that the upper limit of ISIL fighting strength is 31,500. This number is significantly higher than the number used earlier in the week. The nature of the fight continues to escalate.
UN-Fiji: Al Nusra Front fighters released all 45 Fijian peacekeepers unharmed. Fighters from the Front captured the Fijians on 28 August on the Golan Heights after their UN superiors ordered them to lay down their weapons.
Comment: The UN peacekeeping mission on the Golan Heights serves no purpose if it cannot keep the peace. It has never had any significant value as an on-site eyewitness resource. It runs away or surrenders rather than interposes itself to keep the peace between adversaries. It is time to end this farce.
Ukraine: A senior official in Kyiv said, "If Donbas is not cleared peacefully, we will have no alternative to clear it of invaders by imposing martial law and mobilizing all of the resources of the country.
Comment: The threat of martial law is most likely a bluff. Ukraine already has used every resource readily available, but has failed to suppress the rebellion. If the regime decided to order conscription in western Ukraine to support national mobilization, for example, the Kyiv regime might face another popular uprising to overthrow it. It lacks the funds for such a surge and western Ukrainians do not seem to perceive the eastern situation as so dire.
Special comment on the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant's (ISIL) threat against the US homeland.
This week senior US officials provided contradictory information about the threat to the US from ISIL.
The Secretary for Homeland Security, Jeh Johnson, told a Manhattan audience yesterday, "At present, we have no credible information that ISIL is planning to attack the homeland of the United States."
The same day, the Department of Homeland Security's Undersecretary for intelligence Taylor told the media that ISIL has posted statements on the Web about its intention to enter the US via Mexico to conduct suicide and roadside bombings.
Readers would be justified in wondering what the ISIL threat is. Is there a way to evaluate the information to draw your own conclusions? The good news there is.
Stephen B. Withey wrote about this in his essay, Reaction to Uncertain Threat. He provided a 5 point checklist for evaluating threats of natural disasters.
1. Probability of occurrence of the threatened event.
2. Qualitative nature of the threat-physical pain, loss of loved
3. Estimated magnitude of deprivation in the mode(s) of threat.
4. Timing-imminence and duration.
5. Possibility of escape or adaptation.
We have expanded that list. Of course, the actor is an essential addition to the checklist. So also is direction of the threat and duration of the threat.
One working definition of threat is the perception of actual harm based on credible evidence, but it has not yet occurred. Another definition is the perception that needs and wants will not be satisfied. The key concepts for our purposes are a present perception of physical and psychological harm in the future. The harm is actual, not hypothetical.
Threats may be general or specific, depending on the quality of the evidence that responds to the five criteria listed above.
Applying these simple rules, we can create a useful matrix, drawing on information in the public domain.
ISIL said it will meet us in New York; small numbers of agents/operatives
Moderate: stated intent; limited capability to attack.
Local damage. ISIL said attacks will include IEDS and suicide bombings in US cities
Limited; some casualties
Undersecretary Taylor said ISIL agents intend to enter the US via Mexico
As long as ISIL exists
ISIL will determine the time and the opportunity
Survival and damage limitation options
US Border defense; increased vigilance
Seal the border; some agents are almost certainly in the US. Conduct intensive intelligence research. Be prepared with rapid responses, as in Boston after the Tsarnaev bombs.
The matrix shows that ISIL poses a general, low level threat to the US. It has the intention and motive to attack the US homeland. It has the capability to execute suicide and roadside bombing attacks in Iraq, Syria and in Belgium. It has the know-how, but it has not shown that it has transferred that know-how to operatives already inside the US. It shows no signs of a large organization or movement.
Thus, there is credible information about an ISIL threat. The open source evidence does not indicate the threat is immediate or imminent. It does expose the direction from which an attack force might enter the US. It also justifies increased vigilance and diligent intelligence research on potential American agents of ISIL.
Prudence commends that law enforcement agencies assume that some ISIL operatives already have entered the US via Mexico.
ISIL operatives can execute the kinds of attacks they have threatened. However, the attacks ISIL has mentioned pose a threat to local law and order. Their terror effect would be limited and localized. The backlash would be much worse than the consequences of their attacks.
End of NightWatch for 11 September.
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