The US drone strike Thursday night, Nov. 11, targeting the Islamic State’s infamous executioner known as “Jihad John” in the northern Syrian town of Raqqa may or may not have hit the mark – the Pentagon says it is too soon to say. The hooded, masked terrorist with the British accent has been identified as a British Muslim born in Kuwait called Mohamed Emwazi. He appeared on videos worldwide showing the cold-blooded murders of US, British, Japanese and other hostages.
The drone attack occurred shortly after the latest ISIS atrocity: Thursday night, two or three suicide bombers blew themselves up, killing 43 people and injuring at least 240 in the Hizballah stronghold of southern Beirut opposite Burj Barajneh.
Ten days earlier, the Islamic State brought down the Russian Metrojet airliner over Sinai killing all 224 people aboard. This spectacular act of terror was apparently the first strike of the jihadist group’s winter offensive. It achieved its objectives of multiple murder; mortal damage to Egypt’s tourism industry and a blow to the prestige of its president Abdel-Fatteh El-Sisi.
The attack also punished President Vladimir Putin for bringing the Russian military into the center of the Syrian conflict.
The next Islamic State assault was aimed to undermine the credibility of Jordan’s King Abdullah and his security services: On Nov. 8, a Jordanian police captain opened fire at a high-security US training facility outside Amman, killing two American trainers, a South African and two Jordanians. The number of US personnel injured in the attack was not released. This attack was timed to coincide with the 10th anniversary of the massive al Qaeda assault on Amman’s leading hotels, all American owned, which left 61 dead.
In northern Sinai, the murder of a family of 9 Egyptians at El Arish Thursday morning raised the total of ISIS murders in less than a month to 274.
debkafile’s counterterrorism sources discern three objectives in the attack Thursday night in Beirut
1. A lesson for Tehran and Hizballah’s leader Hassan Nasrallah to show them that the Islamic State is able to reach them on their home ground, no matter how many troops they deploy to fight the jihadis in Syria (Iran and Hizballah together field an estimated 13,000 soldiers in Syria). ISIS was capable of inflicting terrible casualties both on the battlefield and in their homeland, first in Beirut and eventually in Tehran.
2. The day before, Wednesday, Nov. 11, in a speech marking the “Day of the Shahid,” Nasrallah gloated over Hizballah’s triumph in a battle outside Aleppo. He also boasted that his domestic security shield in Lebanon presented an impenetrable barrier against ISIS or Nusra Front terrorist intrusions.
The Islamic State’s tacticians determined to blow up both claims in Nasrallah’s face. He and Iran were to be shown that they could not stop ISIS or prevent the Syrian war’s spillover into Lebanon.
3. By blowing up the Russian airliner over Sinai, the Islamists sought to underscore this point for Moscow too. Russia might send a powerful military force to Syria, but the Islamists would hit Putin from the rear at a location of its choosing anywhere in the Middle East. Moscow may have opted to defend Bashar Assad, but what can it do to protect Hizballah and its other allies?.
debkafile’s counterterrorism sources note that US and Russia have taken lead roles in the broad military effort to defeat ISIS – often by means of pinpointed operations. At the same time, under their noses, the Islamist terrorists have launched their winter campaign, striking with extreme ferocity and agility in unexpected places that are outside the regular battle fronts in which the big powers are engaged.