2016 Half-Time Report: Bloody Season for ISIS and the Loss of Elie Wiesel

July 6, 2016
Phil Johnson, Ph.D.

Here we are, just barely past the half-way mark of the year and the figures for ISIS terror attacks is astounding. In the first half of 2016, there have been 1208 jihad-inspired attacks in 50 countries, in which 11,076 people were killed and 13,356 were injured. You can check out all of the details here.

“11,076 jihad-inspired murders in 50 countries”

The US Administration says that this increase in terror activity is evidence of ISIS feeling under pressure as they lose territory from their Caliphate. And the attacks are not exclusive to one group.  Christians, Jews and Muslims have all been murdered. Anyone who is not like ISIS – anyone who doesn’t believe what they believe is a target. Some of most recent attacks have been in Israel, the U.S., Turkey, Iraq, Bangladesh, and Saudi Arabia.

As bad as all of that sounds, it’s only the tip of the iceberg of problems centering around the Middle East. I was told a number of months ago when I was working in Iraq that the next worry, after ISIS executes its final act of horror, will be Iran’s Shia militias – who are already fighting in Syria. There have been reports since January that Russia is teaching Hezbollah (an Iranian proxy terror organization operating in Lebanon – and fighting in Syria) some pretty terrifying new tricks. This will only make them more effective soldiers, not only in Syria, but ultimately to Israel when (not if) Israel and Lebanon come to war again. Currently, there are at least 8000 Hezbollah fighters in Syria – about twice the number that were available to fight Israel back in 2006. (The time of their last conflict).

“There are at least 8000 Hezbollah fighters in Syria – twice the number available to fight Israel back in 2006.” 

Last night, a source of mine inside Afghanistan confirmed to me that Shiite Muslims from Afghanistan are being aggressively recruited by Iran to fight in Syria. They are mostly of Hazara decent (the third largest ethnic group in Afghanistan). According to the source, individuals are being paid about $800 per month, given visas from the Iranian embassy, transferred to Iran, trained as soldiers and then sent to Syria – at the rate of about 100 soldiers per day. Who are they fighting for? Intuitively you would assume they are fighting against ISIS and on behalf of Assad’s regime. But again, there are conflicting reports about this as well. The complexity in the region grows as the players, funders and geopolitical interests grow, cross, compete and conflict. It’s getting harder and harder to tell who is on whose side.

“Iran is aggressively recruiting Afghan Shiites to come and fight in Syria.” 

So as we review the violence and confusion that has already marked the half-way point of 2016, it seems especially meaningful – in the saddest possible way, that Elie Wiesel passed away on July 2nd. Elie was a survivor of the Holocaust and the author of the poignant memoir Night – his first-person account of surviving the Holocaust and giving witness of the atrocities that mankind is capable of. It was his wisdom that allowed this Nobel Peace Prize winner to share truths like, “We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.” 

According to NBC News, ”Elie once remarked: “This is what we must do: not to sleep well when people suffer anywhere in the world, not to sleep well when someone is persecuted, not to sleep well when people are hungry all over here or there, not to sleep well when there are people sick and nobody is there to help them, not to sleep well when anyone somewhere needs you.”

“With Elie Wiesel’s passing, we will all have to work a little harder…to remind us of what happens when the world is indifferent to evil…” 

Ronald S. Lauder, president of the World Jewish Congress, remarked, “We have lost the most articulate witness to history’s greatest crime… With his passing, we will all have to work a little harder because we will no longer have Elie to remind us of what happens when the world is silent and indifferent to evil. It is now our job, and that of our children and grandchildren, to pick up the baton and to relay Elie’s message of hope and peace to the world.”

I can add nothing better, but I can ask you my favorite question – “What’s better because of you?” For me, I don’t want to be a silent witness to the crimes and tragedies of the world – I don’t want to be an ostrich with my head in the sand. What about you? Who are you going to be in this complicated world? 2016 is only half over…

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