How much of a threat is ISIS to the West?

How much of a threat does ISIS pose to the Western world and the United States?  They’ve murdered an American hostage on video, delivering what amounts to a declaration of war, complete with promises of more American deaths to come.  But are they in a position to make good on that threat, with the anniversary of 9/11 only a few weeks away?

No, says the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, as reported by Fox News:

Gen. Martin Dempsey, speaking to reporters on board a military plane traveling to Afghanistan, said Sunday that he believes the Sunni insurgent group formerly known as ISIS is more of a regional threat and is not currently plotting or planning attacks against the U.S. or Europe.

ISIS has repeatedly made threats to attack the U.S. through social and conventional media. Earlier this month, in a Vice News documentary, a spokesman for the group vowed to “raise the flag of Allah in the White House.” The group took over Iraq’s second largest city, Mosul, in June, and has since declared an Islamic state, or caliphate, in a swath of territory covering northeastern Syria and northern and western Iraq. U.S. airstrikes and a new policy of direct military aid to Kurdish Peshmerga fighters have served as a check on a threatened ISIS advance toward Kurdish territory in northern Iraq.

On Sunday, Dempsey contrasted ISIS to the Yemen-based Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, which has plotted and attempted attacks against the U.S. and Europe. As a result, the U.S. has conducted counterterrorism strikes against the group within Yemen.

Dempsey said that so far, there is no sign that the Islamic State militants are engaged in “active plotting against the homeland, so it’s different than that which we see in Yemen.”

“I can tell you with great clarity and certainty that if that threat existed inside of Syria that it would certainly be my strong recommendation that we would deal with it,” said Dempsey. “I have every confidence that the president of the United States would deal with it.”

Yes, says the chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, Rep. Michael McCaul (R-TX), who appeared on ABC’s “This Week” to warn, “Don’t kid yourself for a second that they aren’t intent on hitting the West,” adding that he believes “external operations” are already under way.

McCaul noted that ISIS recently announced a new partnership with the branch of al-Qaeda that haunts Yemen, giving them access to “the premier al-Qaeda bomb maker,” and it’s got a massive number of foreign fighters with international travel papers ready to deploy.  The Islamic State is also very aggressive at using social media to gather recruits, not all of which have climbed onto airplanes and headed to Caliphate HQ.  McCaul said that some general “be on the lookout” advisories have been issued from the Department of Homeland Security to local law enforcement in the United States.

The United Kingdom seems to have gone on elevated alert for homegrown terror operatives as well.  The prime suspect for the masked terrorist who appeared in the James Foley beheading video is none other than Abdel-Majed Abdel Bary, a 23-year-old UK rap singer who gained international notoriety a few weeks ago by posing for photos with a severed human head in Syria.  (“Chillin with my other homie, or what’s left of him,” he cheerfully captioned the photo.)

As the UK Daily Mail reports, Bary’s father, who he has praised in the rap music that somehow didn’t tip anyone off that he might be a budding terrorist himself, is currently working his way through the American criminal justice system for his role in the 1998 Kenyan and Tanzanian embassy bombings.  The elder Bary also served as head of Islamic Jihad in London, appointed to the position by al-Qaeda honcho Ayman al-Zawahiri.  His duties included running what his UK indictments called “bin Laden’s media information office,” purchasing terrorist equipment, and recruiting new members for the organization.  The Brits are obviously worried about how many of those recruits might still be hanging around London, awaiting orders.

The list of other top suspects for “Jihad John” related by the New York Post isn’t exactly comforting evidence of British social unity:

Also on the list is Razul Islam, 21, the paper says.

In 2012, Islam???s two older brothers ??? including Dr. Shajul Islam, a suspended physician with England???s National Health Service ??? were charged with kidnapping two Western war correspondents near the Syrian border with Turkey.

But the brothers were released last year after neither British journalist John Cantile nor Dutch photographer Jeroen Oerlmans appeared to testify against them.

Another suspect is Aine Davis, 30, a former drug dealer and gang member who The Telegraph said converted to Islam and flew to Syria to wage jihad.

As if his father’s resume wasn’t enough, the younger Bary is also said to have been radicalized by Anjem Choudary, Britain’s welfare-queen fire-breathing jihadi imam.  (He has explained to his followers that welfare checks from western governments should be seen as a form of jizya, the special tax infidels should be made to pay their Muslim conquerors.  He coined the memorable phrase “Jihad Seeker’s Allowance” to describe the money extracted from taxpaying chumps by layabout terrorism enthusiasts.)

The United States is graced by a similar figure, Ahmad Jebril of Dearborn, Michigan, who is currently more than a little behind in paying off over $250,000 in court-ordered restitution after he and his father were convicted on 42 counts of mail fraud, bank fraud, failure to pay income tax, and money laundering, along with what the Detroit Free Press describes as a scheme to “deliberately deface rental properties in order to collect insurance money,” and a game effort to bribe one of the jurors in their trial by offering to pay for her wedding.  Jebril is very popular with the head-chopping set:

The Centre for the Study of Radicalisation and Political Violencereleased a report in April that said Jebril was the most popular inspirational figure for Western fighters flocking to the Middle East to join ISIS. Jebril???s ???popularity is particularly strong among groups like ISIS,??? the report said. Among the militants the center surveyed, more than half of those who liked Jebril on his Facebook page and followed him on Twitter were with ISIS.

???A number of British ISIS fighters have told us that they watched his (Jebril???s) lecture series …before embarking on jihad,??? the report said, which was written by three security experts for a center affiliated with five universities.

Jebril often interacts on Twitter with fighters associated with ISIS and other groups, the report said.

[…] Jebril also is popular with Jabhat al-Nusra, another extremist group that operates in Syria. Jebril???s Facebook page was the most popular among the fighters surveyed, according to the report.

It would seem fair to say both the British and American governments have reason to worry about the success of ISIS recruiting efforts within the homeland.  And then there’s the little matter of our wide-open southern border, across which ISIS could easily move entire platoons.  Texas governor Rick Perry stirred up some controversy last Thursday by musing “it’s a very real possibility” that “individuals from ISIS or other terrorist states” could be taking advantage of border chaos, but that’s the simplest and most common-sense observation imaginable.  Of course they can walk operatives right across the border; the security measures necessary to stop it would also block the illegal immigration America’s Ruling Class finds politically desirable.  There is no system imaginable under which “dreamers” who violate the border as an “act of love” can cross by the tens of thousands, but mean, nasty old terrorists cannot.

A former CIA officer told radio host Laura Ingraham that ISIS and other terror groups have been reaching out to Mexican cartels; the massive new terror state in Iraq has plenty of money to pay for the smuggling services of top-shelf coyotes.  Former CIA director Mike Morell noted last week that it wouldn’t take a lot of sophisticated equipment for terrorist operatives to rack up an impressive body count in urban or suburban America: “If an ISIS member showed up at a mall in the United States tomorrow with an AK-47 and killed a number of Americans, I would not be surprised.”

There’s also the disturbing question of the intellectual contagion represented by ISIS.  That’s why President Obama’s offhanded attempts to dismiss them as tiny group of irrelevant troublemakers, soon to be blown out of the Twenty-First Century by the stiff breeze of history, are so dangerously wrongheaded.  The Islamic State has a great deal of what Osama bin Laden described as “strong-horse” appeal.  They look like winners, whereas bin Laden’s crew was yelling about jihad from caves in Afghanistan.  The “caliphate” is a real place, with borders that were relentlessly expanding until American air power was deployed to stiffen Kurdish and Iraqi resistance.  It has a fat treasury, and plenty of captured military hardware – possibly including an air force now, as they captured a major military air base in Syria over the weekend.  The “caliphate” idea has enough viral appeal to inspire the Boko Haram savages in Nigeria to declare their own, complete with an inaugural massacre of prisoners.

Morale and willpower are the alpha and omega of war.  ISIS claims the balance of morale is on its side, and it can show its devotees plenty of evidence to back up that claim, including dim-witted editorials in major American newspapers lecturing the Western world on the “moral hazard” of referring to ISIS as “evil,” because George Bush created them by calling them nasty names.  When a terrorist reads crap like this, he’s got every reason to think a good massacre in suburbia is all it will take to bring a significant fraction of the American liberal establishment to its knees, sobbing Bush’s name and gargling about “outreach” while they staple white handkerchiefs to pool cues.  Also, since ISIS thrives on its barbaric prestige, it has defensive reasons to pull off some kind of atrocity on 9/11; it will appear weakened to its followers if it doesn’t prove it can draw blood from the West.  The occasional murder of a Western hostage won’t be good enough to keep those fires of jihad burning.

With all of that in mind – aggressive recruiting by ISIS with a track record of success in Western nations, adept use of social media, weak American border security, plenty of soft targets to exploit, plus a weak and confused White House headed by a disconnected President and the anniversary of 9/11 hard upon us – which of the threat assessments I mentioned at the beginning of this article sounds more plausible: the chairman of the Joint Chiefs portraying the Islamic State as primarily being a threat to its immediate neighbors, or the chair of the House Homeland Security Committee worrying that “external operations” might already be under way?