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Who is ISIS and How Much of a Threat are They Really?

This article, based on an interview with the first western journalist allowed to spend time with ISIS without being killed, paints a much different picture of the group than what we get from the US media.

Upon reading through it, I don’t get the sense that they are the huge threat they have been portrayed as. Sure, they’re capable of disgusting small scale attacks that create big headlines and they’re taking control of areas of the desert where there isn't much resistance. But, there is already dissension in their ranks and their army is jaded by the failed promises by those who recruited them. Their strategy relies on defending themselves with guerrilla warfare tactics as they do all they can to incite US/Allies to send ground troops into their territories so they can go out in a blaze of glory.

They are an army of suicidal outcasts trapped by a few extremist leaders. A cult with guns, more or less. Here are some other interesting highlights including the author's informed opinion of what strategy might ultimately defeat them:
• Islamists had killed or driven off all the Shias and Christians, so the only people hanging w/ ISIS are Sunnis

• The Muslims who joined ISIS used to be completely unimportant in their countries, were not accepted there and were considered second-class citizens. “Those young people who were completely unimportant in their countries will be very important [here]. And for the first time in their life, somebody is telling them that they are important,” the journalist said. “They played all those video games where killers are the stars. And they believe they are going to be stars now.”

• “They are brainwashed, of course, it’s a very successful combination of fanaticism and a very clever military drill they get from Saddam Hussein’s former officers,” Todenhofer said, adding: “They think that they are in a big story now and they are playing a very important role.”

• For those European youth who come to Islamic State, the way back is effectively closed, because those who want to return home are considered traitors who have to be killed.

• “They are realizing that the story they were told is completely wrong. They don’t live in luxury like they were told in Germany, [instead] they live a very simple life, they don’t have food every day, not even water, it is cold in cheap apartments where they live, so life is completely different – and they have to kill Muslims. This is not what they were promised,”

• “…they would like to fight against the Russian ground troops, because they have this story that they have to be a hero and fight against the champions, while the Muslims they have killed up until now were not champions and they want to fight powerful people,” he said

• Islamic State is still getting money and weapons from Gulf monarchies such as Saudi Arabia

• “They told me,’ Most of our ammunition we get from the Free Syrian Army.’” This is the ammunition that Americans supplied to the FSA that the FSA has sold to ISIS

• “I cannot judge the Russian army but I can judge the Western armies. The American Marines and special forces have no chance in a fight against guerilla fighters, because these fighters are ready to die, and Americans Marines do not want to die,” Todenhofer said.

• Islamists had killed or driven off all the Shias and Christians, so the only people hanging w/ ISIS are Sunnis
• The Muslims who joined ISIS used to be completely unimportant in their countries, were not accepted there and were considered second-class citizens. “Those young people who were completely unimportant in their countries will be very important [here]. And for the first time in their life, somebody is telling them that they are important,” the journalist said. “They played all those video games where killers are the stars. And they believe they are going to be stars now.”
• “They are brainwashed, of course, it’s a very successful combination of fanaticism and a very clever military drill they get from Saddam Hussein’s former officers,” Todenhofer said, adding: “They think that they are in a big story now and they are playing a very important role.”
• For those European youth who come to Islamic State, the way back is effectively closed, because those who want to return home are considered traitors who have to be killed.
• “They are realizing that the story they were told is completely wrong. They don’t live in luxury like they were told in Germany, [instead] they live a very simple life, they don’t have food every day, not even water, it is cold in cheap apartments where they live, so life is completely different – and they have to kill Muslims. This is not what they were promised,”
• “…they would like to fight against the Russian ground troops, because they have this story that they have to be a hero and fight against the champions, while the Muslims they have killed up until now were not champions and they want to fight powerful people,” he said
• Islamic State is still getting money and weapons from Gulf monarchies such as Saudi Arabia
• “They told me,’ Most of our ammunition we get from the Free Syrian Army.’” This is the ammunition that Americans supplied to the FSA that the FSA has sold to ISIS
• “I cannot judge the Russian army but I can judge the Western armies. The American Marines and special forces have no chance in a fight against guerilla fighters, because these fighters are ready to die, and Americans Marines do not want to die,” Todenhofer said.
• To create real problems for ISIS, the West should do several things:
o stop the delivery of weapons, ammunition and money from the Gulf monarchies
o close the Turkish border used to transit new fighters to ISIS, Todenhofer said, recalling how easy it was to cross the Syrian-Turkish border
o promote reconciliation between Shia and Sunnis in Iraq, Syria and Turkey, because ISIS finds support among those dissatisfied with the governments and existing state of things
• To create real problems for ISIS, the West should do several things:
1) stop the delivery of weapons, ammunition and money from the Gulf monarchies
2) close the Turkish border used to transit new fighters to ISIS, Todenhofer said, recalling how easy it was to cross the Syrian-Turkish border
3) promote reconciliation between Shia and Sunnis in Iraq, Syria and Turkey, because ISIS finds support among those dissatisfied with the governments and existing state of things

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