Watching Coalition Successes Against ISIL for Alerts to the Public Here

Jan 4, 2016

By Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC)

Is there a connection between the Paris and San Bernardino attacks on the one hand, and the increasing success of the US-Coalition strategy in the Middle East on the other?  The attacks in the West occurred as the Coalition was beginning to make in-roads that culminated against the Islamic State with the raising of the Iraqi flag again in Ramadi.  If ISIL’s point was to draw attention away from setbacks that began last fall, it succeeded.  The Coalition’s victories were all but eclipsed by the worldwide coverage of Paris and San Bernardino.  Now, Shiite militias have also recaptured the Baiji oil refinery near Baghdad and the Kurds have retaken Sinjar, a town that had been a key link for supplies to Raqqa, Syria, ISIL’s capital, and Mosul, Iraq, its largest population center.

There is no evidence that the Paris and San Bernardino attacks were plotted but held until they could be maximized, or whether they were spontaneous and would have occurred without being energized by ISIL’s losses.  The San Bernardino couple went to extraordinary lengths to destroy their computers and cellphones.  We have no intelligence on the ground and know so little of ISIL, however, that we cannot afford to ignore inferences.

Today, we have no reliable clues that can enable alerts about “credible threats.”  Or do we?  In the absence of evidence, we cannot afford to ignore the hypothesis that Coalition successes, which we must continue to seek, can trigger or signal their opposite – attacks on Western targets.  If so, we may have our first clues about when to warn the public to be extra alert and careful.