Three days ago Vlad Tepes posted photos of an Islamic State convoy in the town of Sirte on the Libyan coast. A smaller version of one of the images is below; see Vlad’s place for the rest.
To highlight the new political order in Sirte, the following story was published the next day by Breitbart:
Italy Prepares for Potential ISIS Air Attack
According to recent reports, the Italian Secret Service fears an air attack by ISIS, compounding the already existent danger of terrorist infiltration among with throngs of immigrants coming to Italy by boat from neighboring Libya.
Several days ago, the air defense system went into high alert after the secret service sent a notice.
The notice spoke of aircraft prepared to take off from Sirte and able to strike the Italian peninsula. Though this has not yet occurred, tensions remain high because of the strong risk of an attack carried out by “lone wolves” as occurred in Paris and in Copenhagen.
The recent ISIS beheading video was reportedly shot somewhere in the vicinity of Derna, far to the east of Sirte, near Benghazi — which is also said to be largely under the control of the Islamic State. The eastern part of Libya is now an ISIS stronghold, but according to former Libyan Prime Minister Ali Zeidan, groups affiliated with the Islamic State are present in most major cities in Libya.
On February 13 the Italian foreign ministry said that ISIS affiliates were staging attacks in Tripoli, the Libyan capital, and had captured radio and TV stations in Sirte. There have also been reports of ISIS groups in Misrata.
More recently, the prime minister of the rump Libyan government based in Tobruk said that the Islamic State “continues to spread and take more terrain” and “their flags can be seen in Tripoli, Sabratha, Sirte and Ben Jawad”.
Looking across the western border of Libya into Tunisia, we learn that radical Islamic groups are attacking security forces in the Kasserine region. Those Tunisian mujahideen are not specifically identified as ISIS affiliates. However, since one of the groups is named “Ansar al-Sharia”, we may assume it is only a matter of time before they declare their allegiance to Caliph Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, as so many other jihad groups in the region have already done.
So what is all this ISIS activity leading up to?
Well, if we pay attention to what the Islamic State itself says, its strategic goals are fairly clear. It has promised that it will send 500,000 jihad fighters across the Mediterranean, specifically to Italy. And it has created a Twitter hashtag, #We_Are_Coming_O_Rome.
In other words, the new Caliphate intends to accomplish what previous Caliphs never managed to achieve: the conquest of Rome.
Let’s pull all these bits and pieces together on a map so we can see them more clearly:
The portion of North Africa in which the Islamic State is converging is roughly equivalent to the eastern half of the Barbary Coast — that is, the eastern Islamic Maghreb which for centuries preyed upon European shipping and terrorized European travelers.
The Barbary Pirates — who were finally dealt with on “the shores of Tripoli” in the early 19th century by the U.S. Marines — were the last gasp of the nautical raiders who had ravaged the Mediterranean coastal areas in the name of Islam for more than a thousand years. In their heyday, Arab corsairs would launch razzias, or raids, against Cyprus, Greece, Dalmatia, Italy, Malta, Sicily, Sardinia, Corsica, France, and Spain. Before the Ottoman conquest of Anatolia they raided the coast of Asia Minor. They pillaged, burned, raped and destroyed wherever they went. Hundreds of thousands of Christian women and children were carried off to be sold as slaves in the bazaars of Araby.
At the beginning of the 19th century the hosts of Mohammed had become too weak to mount any extensive campaigns against the infidel countries on the northern shores of the Mediterranean. They were reduced to attacking shipping, taking cargoes as booty and crews and passengers as slaves. By the middle of the century the Barbary Coast had been pacified and colonized by the European powers, bringing to an end more than a millennium of Islamic predation.
Now it seems the jihad warriors of the Islamic State are poised to resume where their predecessors left off two hundred years ago. Yet the planned invasion will not take the form of traditional razzias, nor will it be a conventional military campaign.
As ISIS consolidates its hold on the coastline of Libya (and perhaps eventually in Tunisia), it will gain control of those ports from which the people-smugglers ply their lucrative trade in “refugees” bound for Italy and Malta aboard decrepit fishing boats. Using a combination of threats and bribery, the Islamic State should easily be able to place as many mujahideen as it wants in those rusty scows, disguised as impoverished Maghrebian peasants. It’s not a stretch to think that other boats could drop off caches of weaponry at pre-selected locations in rocky coves along the Italian mainland.
They will have to do without their trademark technicals, of course — at least until they can carjack sufficient Italian trucks and mount weapons on the back of them. But maybe they can call in close air support from those airborne “lone wolves” flying over from Sirte to expedite their goals.
From there, it’s on to Rome, with Pope Francis as Target #1. It’s hard to tell whether the His Holiness is oblivious, stupid, ill-informed, or some combination of all three: on February 17 the pope met with representatives of the Italian coast guard and praised them for their courage and dedication in saving so many thousands of refugees who might otherwise have perished making the perilous crossing from Libya in their leaky boats. Does he not realize that among those thousands are an untold number of jihad operatives whose express mission is to storm the Vatican and behead him? Is he really that much of a communist fool?
The commander of the Swiss Guard says he and the men under his command are ready to defend Pope Francis against anything ISIS might throw at him. Will it come down to halberds and cuirasses against RPGs and AK47s in St. Peter’s Square? That should make for some interesting video. I wonder if VICE News will be embedded with the mujahideen?
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Back when ISIS was confined to eastern Syria and western Iraq, news commentators on both sides of the Atlantic pooh-poohed the idea that it might soon break out of the sandbox and pose a wider threat. In those days — which seem part of the distant past, but were really only six or eight months ago — the Islamic State was bragging about its achievements and promising to reconquer al-Andalus for the Caliphate.
“Ridiculous!” snorted the talking heads on CNN. “That’s 2,500 miles from where they are now! It will take decades for them to get there!”
In the past six months they’ve made it to Sirte, which is more than 1,300 miles from Raqqa. Do you still want to take bets on “decades”?
ISIS doesn’t annex territory the way, say, Alexander the Great did. The mujahideen of the Caliphate don’t raise armies, acquire weapons and provisions, and then set off to conquer their neighbors.
Their armies are already in place, wherever Muslims reside. After all, as Turkish President Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan famously said: “The mosques are our barracks, the domes our helmets, the minarets our bayonets and the faithful our soldiers.”
The Islamic State forms like ice on a pond. One part of the pond doesn’t freeze first, and then “conquer” the rest. When the temperature drops below freezing, all parts of the pond freeze at more or less the same time.
The temperature in the Maghreb has dropped below 0°C. Syria and Iraq are already iced over. Libya is freezing fast.
How cold is it in Tunis? Algiers? Marrakesh?
How about Cordoba?