The likelihood that the Russian Metrojet Flight 7K9268 was downed by an Islamic State (ISIS) bomb planted on board demonstrates anew that the free world’s response to the self-styled caliphate so far remains woefully inadequate to meet the challenges that this jihad terror entity presents.
The first problem that this plane crash reveals is that analysts are still underestimating ISIS. Barack Obama famously dubbed it “the JV team” back in January 2014. One would think that after the Islamic State declared itself the new caliphate on June 29, 2014, seized and continues to hold a territory larger than Great Britain in Iraq and Syria, gained the allegiance of older jihad groups in the Philippines, Nigeria, Libya, Yemen and elsewhere, and attracted 30,000 foreign jihadis to join it from all over the world, that this estimation would have been revised upward.
No such luck. James Clapper, the Director of National Intelligence, said Monday that he thought it “unlikely” that the Islamic State brought down the plane, although he wouldn’t rule out the possibility altogether. An Egyptian airport security official, meanwhile, dismissed the possibility of ISIS involvement altogether, saying it was incapable of mounting such an attack. “Such groups take advantage of such incidents to prove they are powerful on the ground,” he said. Referring to the Islamic State’s claims to have downed the airliner, he added: “Assuming they are right, why have they not targeted Egyptian or military flights during battle fights with Egyptian military? As far as I am aware, such a group has no weapons to reach an aircraft flying over 9,000 metres.”
Maybe not. ISIS had other ways of getting the job done: “There is a definite feeling it was an explosive device planted in luggage or somewhere on the plane,” said a U.S. official.
The persistence of the underestimation of ISIS only gives the group room to maneuver, and to carry out without hindrance operations that those who have vowed to stop it don’t think it is capable of pulling off.
Another principal problem that the downing of the Russian airliner reveals is that current air security measures are completely ineffective. Who planted the explosive device in luggage or somewhere on the plane? Since a passenger would have had to get the explosive materials through security screening, it was likely an Islamic State operative who was an employee of the airport or airline and was thus able to pass through security with lessened suspicion, avoiding undue scrutiny.
At Sharm el-Sheikh Airport in Egypt, there could be any number of such people, but American TSA officials should not consider themselves immune to this problem. There are numerous Muslims working in sensitive positions in airports in the U.S., and no one would dream of doing something so “Islamophobic” as to question them about their loyalties.
Maybe a little such “Islamophobia” is called for: Harlem Suarez, a Florida convert to Islam implicated in an Islamic State WMD plot, worked in secure areas at Key West International Airport. Another airport worker, Tairod Nathan Webster Pugh, according to Heavy.com, “converted to Islam in 1998 while living in Texas and became radical in his beliefs, according to ABC News. In 2001, while Pugh was a mechanic for American Airlines, a coworker reported to the FBI that Pugh said he sympathized with Osama bin Laden and was expressing anti-American sentiment” Abdirahmaan Muhumed, a Muslim from Minnesota who was killed while waging jihad with the Islamic State, worked for Delta Airlines at the Minneapolis Airport. For its part, the TSA failed to identify 73 workers who were “linked to terrorism.”
A plane could easily be down in a similar way here. Both the U.S. and Russia have vowed to destroy the Islamic State, and even before that, the ISIS caliph Ibrahim, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, identified those two nations as the caliphate’s main enemies: “O ummah of Islam,” he said in his inaugural message on being named caliph, “indeed the world today has been divided into two camps and two trenches, with no third camp present: The camp of Islam and faith, and the camp of kufr (disbelief) and hypocrisy—the camp of the Muslims and the mujahidin everywhere, and the camp of the jews, the crusaders, their allies, and with them the rest of the nations and religions of kufr, all being led by America and Russia, and being mobilized by the jews.” (Al-Baghdadi, or his typographer, made the decision not to capitalize “Jews.”)
America and Russia. Both have now tasted the jihadis’ ability to use passenger airliners as weapons of war against the countries from which they originated. Given the inadequacy of the U.S. response to ISIS, America at least, if not Russia, is likely to see much more of this.
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