(JNi.media) For the first time in several years, when Secretary of State John Kerry arrives in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office this week, it won’t be to push the two-state solution or to project calm over the Iran nuclear deal. There’s a different, bigger concern on American and Western minds: what to do about Da’esh, an Arabic acronym that stands for al-Dula al-Islamia fi al-Araq wa-al-Sham, Islamic State of Iraq and Syria/Levant. News reports this weekend suggest two disheartening things about the ability of the West to correctly appraise the capacity and the success of ISIS:
1. US reports about the astonishing spread of ISIS in Iraq have been diminished or deleted, because they conflicted with the overall narrative of an independent Iraq that was ready to carry its own weight.
2. The flood of millions of migrants into Europe has created an intelligence void, making it impossible for the West to assess the scope of the ISIS threat on European soil.
At this point, the only Western intelligence service which is in possession of vast, current, reliable information on ISIS is in Israel. And Israel is just as worried as anyone else.
“The ISIS activity is getting close to Israel,” a senior Israeli official told NRG following the events of recent weeks. “The organization posted a video in Hebrew, then in the span of two weeks it brought down a plane in the Sinai, detonated suicide bombers in Beirut and carried out the attack in Paris. It shows its abilities and its aspirations.” In addition, the Israeli source cited the proliferation of ISIS cells which are now being discovered in Israel’s Arab sector, which indicate the strategic intent of the Islamic caliphate to harm Israel. “The situation is very dangerous,” said the senior official.
The official added that Israel maintains close cooperation with intelligence agencies in Europe to assist them in the early detection of foreign fighters — European passport holders who have participated in the fighting in Syria or Iraq and returned to the continent to establish terrorist cells. He noted, however, that the waves of refugees that flooded Europe through its open borders created enormous challenges to intelligence services.
He explained that when it was only a few hundreds of known foreign fighters who entered and left through recognized border crossings, it was possible to keep track of their movements and follow their activities. But the flood of millions of refugees who come in using unconventional and unsupervised means have created an intelligence void which intelligence agencies are struggling to fill. The second problem is that even when there is intelligence information, the freedom of movement between EU members and the vast distances make it very difficult to thwart an attack that is already underway.
“We learned this lesson on our own flesh in the second intifada, that in order to stop an ongoing attack, the alert has to reach the soldier at the checkpoint,” the official told NRG. “Because if the perpetrator has passed the checkpoint, we would never get to him. The Europeans have no checkpoints and certainly no soldiers, so even when there is specific information it is not sufficient to stop the attack in time.”
Meanwhile, the NY Times reported Saturday that “when Islamic State fighters overran a string of Iraqi cities last year, analysts at United States Central Command wrote classified assessments for military intelligence officials and policy makers that documented the humiliating retreat of the Iraqi Army. But before the assessments were final, former intelligence officials said, the analysts’ superiors made significant changes.” And “in the revised documents, the Iraqi Army had not retreated at all. The soldiers had simply ‘redeployed.’”