After months of negotiations with the militants on internet telephony provider Skype, German journalist Jürgen Todenhöfer, 74, began his journey to ISIS-held territory through Turkey to the Iraq's second largest city of Mosul, which ISIS conquered in June.The rest here.
Todenhöfer - who is planning to publish a summary entitled “10 days in the Islamic State” on Monday - claimed that the group is “much stronger and much more dangerous” than the West realizes.
During his time spent in ISIS-held territory, Todenhofer described to German news website Der Tz an atmosphere of “almost ecstatic enthusiasm that I have never encountered in any other warzone,” with “hundreds of willing [foreign] fighters” arriving every day.
Todenhöfer believes airstrikes are pretty much useless in defeating a very strong, determined and dangerous enemy of the Western world.
From his Facebook Page - after his 10 day visit to Mosul, Iraq and Raqqa, Syria, he came away with 7 troubling impressions (google translated from German and liberally edited, with comments, by yours truly).
1) the West has dramatically UNDERESTIMATED the risk and threat of ISIS. IS fighters are much smarter and far more dangerous than our leaders give them credit for. In the 'Islamic State', there is an almost noise-like enthusiasm and confidence in victory as I have yet to experience in war zones. The IS fighters are convinced they can move mountains with their totalitarian beliefs and demonstrative brutality. In Mosul, less than 400 IS fighters fought 25,000 highly equipped Iraqi soldiers and militia. The IS has conquered in a few months, a territory that is larger than Great Britain. In comparison Al- Qaeda is a dwarf.
2.) THE INFLUX OF NEW FIGHTERS TO ISIS IS GROWING EVERY DAY. I spent two days in an IS training camp close to the Turkish border. On both days, each time, about 50 fighters from all over the world arrived. Not just young men, who had failed in their home countries. Many successful, enthusiastic young people from the United States, England, Sweden, Russia, France, Germany, etc. One had just passed his State exam a few weeks before and had been admitted to practice law in court. But he would rather fight in the 'Islamic State'.
3.) THE 'ISLAMIC STATE' SEEMS - AS FAR AS I CAN TELL AFTER 10 DAYS ASSESSMENT- LIKE OTHER TOTALITARIAN STATE FUNCTIONING COUNTRIES OF THE REGION. This is especially true in the area of internal security and the social welfare sector- even if it doesn't meet our Western standards, and certainly not mine. The Sunni population in the Iraqi part of the 'Islamic State' now seems unopposed to the new State. Because they prefer it to the previously prevailing discrimination and oppression by the Maliki regime in Baghdad. However, only the Sunnis living in Mosul after the escape of all Christians, Shiites and Yazidis, and countless executions.
4.) THE GOAL OF ISIS IS NOT ONLY THE CONQUEST OF THE MIDDLE EAST AND EVENTUALLY THE REST OF THE WORLD, BUT THE LARGEST 'RELIGIOUS CLEANSING' IN THE HISTORY OF MANKIND. The IS wants- with the exception of the so-called religions of 'the book' (the "IS Islam", Judaism and Christianity) - to kill all non-believers and apostates and to enslave their women and children. All Shiites, Yazidi, Hindus, atheists and polytheists should die. Hundreds of millions of people are to be eliminated in the course of this religious 'cleaning'.
Also all moderate Muslims who believe in democracy, should be killed. Because they follow human laws over the laws of God from the standpoint of the IS. This also applies to - after a successful conquest - the democratically-minded Muslims in the Western world.
The only chance for 'infidels', to escape the death, is voluntary repentance and voluntary conversion to 'True Islam'. Represented by IS only. And only as long as their countries are not captured.
Jews and Christians are tolerated, but must pay a fixed tax of protection [jizya] of several hundred dollars per year. Muslims have to pay the Zakatsteuer [no translation for that], which may be lower for poor Muslims.
I don't need to stress that there was any agreement between me and the IS in any of these points. And that I have made that very clear countless times. [Not sure what he means by that]
5.) FROM MY PERSPECTIVE, ISIS IS A 1 PERCENT MOVEMENT WITH THE EFFECT OF A NUCLEAR TSUNAMI. The Islam IS is preaching, 99 percent of our world's 1.6 billion Muslims reject. As a Christian who has read the Quran several times, it does not make sense to me, what ISIS is teaching about Islam. I got to know above all a merciful Islam while reading the Koran. 113 of 114 Suras begin with the words: "In the name of Allah, the most gracious and most merciful". I felt none of this mercy with the IS.
6) BOMBS AND MISSILES WILL NOT DEFEAT IS. The city of Mosul, for example, is dominated by IS with about 5,000 fighters. To succeed, you would have to bomb the whole of Mosul and reduce it to rubble, which would kill tens of thousands of civilians. Bombings were and always are terrorist breeding programs in the Middle East. See IS! Also IS is the child of George W. Bush's international illegal Iraq war. [Right, blame Bush]
Only the moderate SUNNI Arabs can stop IS, not the West. They have done it once before in 2007. At the time they destroyed the 'Islamic State in the Iraq (ISI), the predecessor organization of the IS. But the former ISI was much weaker than the current IS. [Good luck getting the Arabs to take control]
The moderate Iraqi Sunnis would oppose the IS but only if they were fully reintegrated into Iraqi society, after they were expelled by the US and Shiite Iraqis in 2003 during the war in Iraq. After that, it does not look at the time. [not sure what that means] Nevertheless, this is the only feasible solution to stop the IS.
In Syria, there are solutions. However, the West would have to correct its totally unrealistic assessment of the situation. It has quite simply gone too far in Syria.He's lucky he returned home safe and sound with his head intact.
7.) IN THE WEST THERE IS SPECULATION ABOUT TERROR THREATS BY RETURNEE IS FIGHTERS. I can not and will never exclude this risk. Within the 'Islamic State', however, returnees are considered losers "who have not made life in the 'Islamic State'". Therefore, they're probably not the main threat, even though there was a plot by a returnee in Brussels. A greater danger could come from IS sympathizers who have not yet travelled.
No one should down play terrorist threats in Germany. But one should not exaggerate either. After all, in Germany there has never been a German who was killed by Islamists. [not sure if that's true or not] But many German Muslims have been killed by German right-wing extremists. [not sure about that either] Groups such as Pegida provide the facts. The IS, is interested in an escalation between Muslims and non-Muslims in Germany. The IS has confirmed to me several times.
From my point of view this is the biggest threat to world peace since the cold war. [And here's more blam George Bush] We now pay the price for the attack on Iraq by George W. Bush on Iraq, folly barely to none.