Who’s Behind the Islamic State?

As the investigation into the Paris attacks progresses, and the identities of the perpetrators are revealed, some curious patterns emerge.

To begin with, the alleged mastermind, 28-year-old Belgium-born Abdel Hamid Abaaoud, seems to have led a charmed life. A high-profile jihadi, commander of the Islamic State forces at Deir-al-Zor, and their major European recruiter, he has been involved in several terrorist operations in Europe, including the incident on a train bound for Paris foiled by three Americans, as well as an attack on a church in a Parisian suburb, both earlier this year. He is the star of several Islamic State videos, including one that shows him dragging corpses tied to the back of a truck. He even did an interview with Dabiq, the official Islamic State magazine, in which Abaaoud boasted that he returned to Belgium right under the noses of the authorities::

“A brother had taken video footage of some of us before a battle, but his camera got lost and was later sold by a murtadd to a Western journalist. I suddenly saw my picture all over the media, but alhamdulillāh, the kuffār were blinded by Allah. I was even stopped by an officer who contemplated me so as to compare me to the picture, but he let me go, as he did not see the resemblance! This was nothing but a gift from Allah.”

Yes, Allah has indeed been generous with his gifts to the terrorist cell led by Abaaoud. Two brothers he recruited – Brahim and Salah Abdeslam – took part in the cafe and restaurant attacks in Paris: the former blew himself up, while Salah, 26, escaped. He was briefly detained on the Belgian border, but – inexplicably – they let him go.

More “gifts” from Allah.

Abaaoud’s earlier plot to behead a magistrate or policeman in the Belgian city of Verviers was foiled when police raided the terrorists’ safe house, killing two of his recruits. Abaaoud was said to have been directing the action from Greece, or perhaps Turkey. A cache of arms, including a police radio and uniforms, was uncovered. A few days after the raid, Athens authorities claimed to have captured and arrested Abaaoud, but, as the Daily Mail reports, “he had given them the slip.”

Allah was sure being generous to Abaaoud – and it wasn’t even Christmas!

“After the raid on the safe house,” he told Dabiq, “they figured out that I had been with the brothers and that we had been planning operations together. So they gathered intelligence agents from all over the world – from Europe and America – in order to detain me. I was able to leave and come to Syria despite being chased after by so many intelligence agencies. All this proves that a Muslim should not fear the bloated image of the crusader intelligence.”

Incompetence on the part of the “crusaders”– or does Abaaoud have a guardian angel sitting on his shoulder?

The failure to nab Abaaoud in Greece, in spire of the tremendous resources utilized to that end, is something of a mystery. As the Guardian reported:

“Asked if the suspected leader remained on the run after two people were arrested in Athens on Saturday in connection with the Belgian investigation, Koen Geens, the justice minister, told VRT television: ‘That is indeed the case. Last night’s arrests did not succeed in nabbing the right person. We are still actively looking for him and I presume we will succeed,’ he added.”

Or, as Abaaoud put it to Dabiq:

“Allah blinded their vision…. My name and picture were all over the news yet I was able to stay in their homeland, plan operations against them, and leave safely when doing so became necessary.”

Something or somebody blinded their vision, although I’m willing to bet it wasn’t Allah.

I think, at this point, the possibility that the terrorists may have had state support has to be considered. The near simultaneous attacks on multiple targets, the timing and planning involved, and at least circumstantial evidence that Abaaoud has been shielded in some way – perhaps by supporting players – all point to a level of tradecraft a bit higher than what is achievable by former Ba’athist officers in Saddam Hussein’s intelligence service.

The “Islamic State” didn’t spring up all by itself out of nowhere. Yes, sure, it was empowered by the US invasion of Iraq and the subsequent break up of that state, and surely the Americans bear a lot of the responsibility, and yet some outside force had to fund what was to become the self-proclaimed “Caliphate,” and turn it into the wealthiest terrorist group in the world. Someone had to succor it, shield it, and provide the ideological and strategic guidance that culminated in such a high level of organization and demonstrated success.

The funding sources are well known: the contributions of rich Saudis, Kuwaitis, and Qataris to the “holy war” in Syria have been fueling the Syrian rebel cause since the beginning of that bloody insurrection. And the Islamic State isn’t the only recipient of their largesse.

The overthrow of Syrian strongman Bashar al-Assad has been a longtime goal of the Gulf states, and with the religious war between the Sunnis and the Shi’ites reaching a fever pitch, taking out Iran’s major ally in the region motivated the massive investment in ISIS, soon to morph into the Islamic State.

The Gulf potentates and the Islamic State all share the same strategic perspective: Assad’s ouster. The Israelis, for their part – who haven’t lifted a finger against the Islamic State – look forward to the presence of American and European boots on the ground to enforce stability: the Saudis and the Gulf emirs would also welcome such a move by Washington. After Assad is gone, who else is going to clean up their mess?

In the end, everybody’s happy – and Uncle Sam is stuck with the bill.

Special Announcement: I will be giving keynote address at the Students for Liberty Northern California Conference, this coming Saturday, November 21, at 7 pm, at DeAnza College, 1250 Stevens Creek Blvd, Cupertino, in the Fireside Room in the Hinson Campus Center. Here is a map of the campus. Admission is free. You may register here, and there’s some information on the all-day event at that link. Lots of exciting speakers, but if you just want to come to my talk that’s fine.

The subject of my talk, "Confessions of a Libertarian Agitator," I think you’ll find interesting, if you’ve been following me in this space at all.

Speaking of agitation: Yes, our fundraising campaign is still going, and do I really have to impress on you the vital importance of Antiwar.com at this crucial juncture? We are back in the post-9/11 war hysteria, with war propaganda filling the media 24/7 – and very little in the way of resistance, either from the politicians or the "mainstream" media.

Have these people learned nothing from the history of our failed interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan?

The political class is unreachable, and unteachable – but the American people are neither. The last time the cry went up to invade Syria, they rose up and said "No way!" And the politicians backed down!

Yes, the War Party lost that round, but they aren’t done with us yet – not by a long shot. Which means we must raise the money to keep going and keep fighting – but we can’t do it without you.


You can check out my Twitter feed by going here. But please note that my tweets are sometimes deliberately provocative, often made in jest, and largely consist of me thinking out loud.

I’ve written a couple of books, which you might want to peruse. Here is the link for buying the second edition of my 1993 book, Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement, with an Introduction by Prof. George W. Carey, a Foreword by Patrick J. Buchanan, and critical essays by Scott Richert and David Gordon (ISI Books, 2008).

You can buy An Enemy of the State: The Life of Murray N. Rothbard (Prometheus Books, 2000), my biography of the great libertarian thinker, here.

Author: Justin Raimondo

Justin Raimondo passed away on June 27, 2019. He was the co-founder and editorial director of Antiwar.com, and was a senior fellow at the Randolph Bourne Institute. He was a contributing editor at The American Conservative, and wrote a monthly column for Chronicles. He was the author of Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement [Center for Libertarian Studies, 1993; Intercollegiate Studies Institute, 2000], and An Enemy of the State: The Life of Murray N. Rothbard [Prometheus Books, 2000].