Center East Views by Rick Francona: Miniseries Evaluation: “Caliphate” (Netflix

The Netflix sequence Caliphate is centered round an operation by the Swedish Safety Service (Säkerhetspolisen, SÄPO) to uncover and hopefully disrupt a coordinated terrorist assault being deliberate by members of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). The targets are in Sweden; the planning is being finished principally in al-Raqqah, Syria.

Clearly set in both 2016 or 2017 earlier than the anti-ISIS coalition assault on ISIS’s self-proclaimed capital, the story tends to validate U.S. and most coalition companion fears that assaults in opposition to the West have been actively being deliberate in al-Raqqah. It was this evaluation that drove the timeline for the coalition’s choice to make use of the Syrian Democratic Forces to guide the assault on al-Raqqah over strident (to not point out unhelpful, pointless, and counterproductive) Turkish objections over utilizing the SDF to liberate al-Raqqah.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan objected to the mere existence of the SDF as a result of its key element was the Syrian Kurdish Folks’s Safety Items, recognized extra generally by the initials YPG. The Turks regard the YPG as nothing greater than an extension of the Turkish Kurdish separatist group Folks’s Staff’ Social gathering, or PKK.

The USA and a few of its allies have designated the PKK as a Overseas Terrorist Group (FTO), principally as a courtesy to a fellow, albeit nominal, NATO ally. I’ve been vocal in my criticism of Turkey and Erdoğan and their disastrous insurance policies in Syria and half-hearted struggle in opposition to ISIS. See my newest on this topic, Syria and Turkey – the NATO realities.

Within the sequence, the 2 lead characters are a SÄPO case officer (they use the time period handler) named Fatima Zukić in Stockholm and a Turkish-Swede ISIS bride named Pervin trapped in al-Raqqah. Fatima is herself a Bosnian-born Muslim, though that side of her character is barely marginally explored.

The story is in regards to the assault plot and Fatima’s dealing with of Pervin, nevertheless it additionally touches on the stress between Sweden’s ethnic Scandinavians and the Muslims who’ve resettled there from Iraq, Syria, Bosnia, and so forth. There’s additionally a large Kurdish inhabitants within the nation – all this due to Sweden’s coverage of permitting massive numbers of refugees into the nation.

As soon as getting her palms on a contraband cellphone in al-Raqqah, Pervin contacts a former instructor in Stockholm. The instructor contacts Fatima, hoping that the Swedish service can help the trapped spouse and her daughter return to Sweden. As soon as Fatima and Pervin are involved, Pervin gives data that her husband’s ISIS cell is actively planning a spectacular assault in Sweden. In fact, that units in movement an intelligence-driven counter-terrorism operation to uncover and cease the assault.

As a case officer, I used to be intrigued on the considered operating an intelligence operation by telephone. Working an asset requires belief and the power to evaluate and vet the topic – each are troublesome over a telephone. Pervin was mainly the digital equal of a “stroll in,” somebody who volunteers to turn into an asset, often in return for one thing.

On this case, Pervin wished to get herself and her daughter out of Syria and again to Sweden. My case officer thoughts instantly thought – she could also be making this up (it is known as “fabrication” within the vernacular) to get what she desires. I felt vindicated when Fatima’s supervisor mentioned the very same factor. Stroll ins might be the true factor, however principally they aren’t.

In overlaying Pervin’s story of coming from Sweden to Syria so her husband may be part of the struggle as a member of ISIS, the sequence uncovers the deceit, radicalization, and treachery concerned within the recruiting of not solely fighters for ISIS, but additionally younger ladies to turn into ISIS brides.

We do observe the motion of a gaggle of younger ladies to Syria by way of the Turkish metropolis of Gaziantep. I’ve pushed nearly all the Syrian-Turkish border (on each side). It is a couple of seven-hour drive from Ankara to Gaziantep, which is a reasonably good metropolis – good meals, nice sights. From Gaziantep, the most important hub for shifting ISIS fighters and brides into Syria, there are a number of methods to go, relying on who controls what elements of northern Syria. I would in all probability go additional east, then two hours south to the border, then one other 5 hours to al-Raqqah.

It’s an arduous journey. As I mentioned, I have been on each side of that border. I might not try to cross it going both path until I had “employed a information.” It is closely guarded, fortified, and in locations, mined. I nonetheless consider that there was some collusion between ISIS (and different Islamist teams in Syria) and the Turkish authorities to let the crossings occur, if not truly facilitating them – that’s simply my opinion.

With out spoiling the story, there have been some aspects that strained the mandatory “suspension of disbelief” required in most fictional accounts. In some locations, there may be an excessive amount of coincidence, and naturally, because it’s fiction, all the things falls properly into place. In the true world of intelligence, it often would not work that approach. There’s much more guesswork and estimation – we prefer to name it “evaluation.”

There was one phrase that sticks with me. One of many ISIS recruiters described al-Raqqah to potential recruits as “a magical place.” I have been to al-Raqqah – it was okay earlier than the battle, proper on the Euphrates River, however I’ve by no means heard it described as magical. Think about it beneath ISIS rule.

Watch it, take pleasure in it. It’s nicely written and nicely produced. With just a few minor glitches within the Arabic translations, it is stable leisure.

There’s to be a Season 2, to be launched in early 2021. You can watch Season 1 here.

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