Best Articles on the Middle East and ISIS in the News

It's easy to find evidence of the Middle East and ISIS in the news. The difficulty comes in discerning the worthwhile and reliable information from the useless and redundant. This page is dedicated to providing links to the best articles on these popular subjects. It's designed to save the reader time and effort (not to mention eye strain).

Every few days as I scan the internet for the most pertinent information available on the Islamic State and other topics relating to the Middle East I will share the articles I find most insightful and relevant. If you only have time for one or two key articles on this topic, this is the place to look. The page will be updated regularly, so check back often.

Entries are divided into three categories. The ISIS in the News section contains articles about the Islamic State and their impact on the region and the world. The section titled 'Narrative Articles' includes links to some fascinating articles on such topics as the future of warfare and the use of narrative. Lastly, the Middle East in the News section has articles about the Middle East which are not specifically related to ISIS. Be sure to scroll all the way to the bottom in order to see all the topics. In addition, sections with more than 8-10 articles have a separate link which leads to older (but still worthwhile) posts. 

For a comprehensive list of articles and information on ISIS and the Middle East download my Comprehensive Bibliography.

ISIS in the News

Recently Added

Posted 19 January 2018:

Baghdad Must Seize the Chance to Work with Iraq's Tribes -- Written by Osama Gharizi and Haidar Al Ibrahimi, War on the Rocks.

The article includes important information on Iraqi tribes in both construct, role, and history.

Is evil a disease? ISIS and the neuroscience of brutality -- Written by Laura Spinney, New Scientist.

This is an old article that I missed when it was first published.  I found the summary of neuroscience with respect to extreme behavior to be important to informing the discussion now as well as when it was written.

Anatomy of terror: What makes normal people become extremists? -- Written by Peter Byrne, New Scientist.

This article is really great!  I do not know how I did not read it when it was first published, but this needs to be read.  It is about 5,000 words and intellectually more challenging than most products, but the author does a great job of making his material accessible and he connects the academic with the practical.

Posted 9 January 2017:

Wanted Dead or Alive: The Frustrating, Failing Hunt for ISIS Leader Baghdadi -- Written by Anne Speckhard and Adrian Shajkovci, The Daily Beast.

This is a fabulous article providing a good summary of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s life and significance to ISIS.  The article raises several key issues including the importance of the caliph, the strength of the ideological utopian vision, the resiliency of ISIS, and the problem with coalition mathematics.  With regard to the last point, the standard number for ISIS fighters seems to have been 30,000.  That number has been pretty consistent throughout the fighting regardless of reported inflicted casualties.  In this article, the authors say that 6,000-20,000 ISIS fighters having melted into the Iraqi and Syrian populations.  The spread and the shear size of the numbers communicate the ignorance that we still have with respect to this fight.

Posted 18 December 2017: 

U.S. Army Study Finds Flaws With Military's Pivotal Assault on Mosul -- Written by Michael R. Gordon, The Wall Street Journal

Excellent information on the challenges associated with fighting ISIS in Mosul.

Posted 17 December 2017:

I read two articles on the same topic today – the Islamic State weapons manufacturing system.  Both articles explain yet another way in which ISIS was and is different from other terrorist or extremist groups.

How ISIS Produced Its Cruel Arsenal on an Industrial Scale -- Written by John Ismay, Thomas Gibbons-Neff, and C.J. Chivers; The New York Times.

Exclusive: Tracing ISIS Weapons Supply Chain - Back to the U.S. -- Written by Brian Castner, Wired.

Posted 12 December 2017:

After Fall of ISIS, Iraq's Second-Largest City Picks Up Pieces -- Written by Margaret Coker, The New York Times.

This is a feel-good story about the willingness of the residents to solve their own problems and get about a better life.  One can only hope that this will continue to be the predominant spirit in the city.

Posted 28 November 2017:

The jihadist plan to use women to launch the next incarnation of ISIS -- Written by Souad Mekhennet and Joby Warrick, The Washington Post.

This article provides excellent context for a deeper and more contextually appropriate conversation about ISIS and their ilk.  In discussions of the future of ISIS, the comments can sometimes vary from the extremes of the group being destroyed to ISIS being populated by dedicated masterminds who are only feigning defeat to come back again once the resolve of its opponents has weakened.  Obviously, both extreme positions are wrong.  It is important to appreciate that there is a generational component to this conflict.  The key to the next generation is the mothers.  Understanding and shaping the narrative space is essential to working with the mothers to teach their children in such a way that we can all live on the same planet in peace.

Click here for older recommended articles on ISIS.

Narrative Articles

Posted 11 January 2018:

Understanding Information as a Weapon: The Sand Table Model of Information Conflict -- Jon Herrmann and By Brian L. Steed, Military Review.

This article describes the benefits and calls for the creation of a virtual sand table – a graphic depiction and visualization of narrative space.

Posted 20 December 2017:

What Putin Really Wants -- Written by Julia Ioffe, Defense One. 

An excellent read that explains the contingent and fragile nature of the Putin regime.

Posted 16 November 2017:

We're Losing Our Chance to Regulate Killer Robots -- Written by Paul Scharre, Defense One

Robots killing humans should be avoided.  One can make both a utilitarian and ethical argument for this statement.  I would suggest that if a society believes that a given conflict is not worth risking the lives of their sons and daughters then that conflict should not be waged.  War is being made too easy and with too few consequences for technologically advanced countries.  War or conflict should cause deep and difficult conversations.  The state sponsored taking of human life must force painful reflection and legal and moral judgments.  Otherwise we will become like the Skynet security system in the Terminator movie franchise – a killing machine fulfilling basic logic calculations and exacting the coldly analyzed and reasoned solutions.

Posted 3 November 2017:

I Want 'Allahu Akbar' Back -- Written by Wajahat Ali, The New York Times.

Narratives are delivered through stories and those stories are sometimes promulgated or attacked through messages and memes which can be made up of specific words and phrases.  Allahu Akbar is one such phrase that has become a powerful meme in both promoting and combatting terrorism.  This brief opinion piece expresses what this phrase means to Muslims around the world – a benign reference to the power and greatness of God.  For us to understand the power of narrative we also need to understand the means of transmitting, magnifying, and transforming narratives through memes, messages, and stories.  In the case of Allahu Akbar, the meaning of the meme, message, story, and narrative seems clear to many who report and comment on the news – it is a declaration of Islamic terrorism.  This simplistic reading of a deeply influential and powerful phrase in a global religion with more than a billion adherents requires more depth and greater appreciation if we are to win through maneuver in the narrative space.  We need to build our own positive narrative with supporting stories, messages, and memes that promotes who we are and what we want to accomplish rather than focusing solely on countering the poisonous narrative of the opponent.  Countering the poison is important, but it is not the whole, nor even, the most important part of this fight.

Posted on 14 October 2017:

America Won't Win the War on Terror Until it Understands the Enemy -- Written by Katherine Zimmerman, National Review.

Absolutely agree.  The key is not simply understanding this as a movement, but also understanding the narrative space on which this movement actually operates. 

Posted on 4 October 2017:

What Went Wrong With France's Deradicalization Program? -- Written by Maddy Crowell, Defense One.

Can a secular nation “deradicalize” those who have committed themselves to a path of religious extremism?  This article looks at a French attempt to accomplish such an effort.  The program ended, but the report suggests there may have been progress.  One of the primary characters in this narrative “deprogrammed” himself while in prison and reading material from the Enlightenment.  The questions raised by this article are serious and need consideration and deep thought.

Posted on 13 September 2017:

In Interview, Top Indonesian Muslim Scholar Says Stop Pretending That Orthodox Islam and Violence Aren't Linked -- Written by Marco Stahlhut, Time.

One rarely reads such a candid assessment of the connection of the traditional/fundamental interpretations of the Islamic faith to the current level of violence from an Islamic leader/scholar.  I have interacted with the Nahdlatul Ulama and their representatives and find that they are serious about gaining control of the narrative space of Islam from the violent extremists who have driven the debate since 9/11 (at least).  The Nahdlatul Ulama seek to redefine the relationship between Muslims and their respective states and the minority or majority non-Muslim populations with whom they live.  I wish Yahya Cholil Staquf and his organization all the success possible in this effort.

Click here for older recommended articles on this topic.

Middle East in the News

Recently Added

4 January 2018:

Countering Iran Requires a Political Strategy -- Written by Samuel Tadros, The Caravan.

Probably one of the best single article critiques of Iran and the broader actions of that regime in the region and recommendations for responses to those actions.

18 December 2017:

The Secret backstory of how Obama let Hezbollah off the hook -- Written by Josh Meyer, Politico.

Great information.  This is a long article with great information on Hezbollah’s connections to drugs and used cars.  The headline does not really communicate the value of the piece for people interested in Middle East dynamics.

Posted 16 November 2017:

Al-Qaeda Has Rebuilt Itself - With Iran's Help -- Written by Adrian Levy and Cathy Scott-Clark, Defense One. 

This is a short and yet excellent discussion on some of the connections between Iran and al-Qaeda.  This is also one of the first references I have seen to the author of The Management of Savagery, Abu Musab al-Suri, as a real person.

Posted on 9 November 2017:

Rebuilding 'Hell Square' in Syria's Raqqa -- Written by Heather Murdock, Voice of America News. 

This article explains through a few anecdotes the problems with killing a hydra.  How does one heal the wounds?  The wounds present in Raqqa are enormous and will take years to heal.  The patient assistance and re-education needed is daunting.  It is also necessary.  If there is no healing, then as with the mythical hydra, two more heads will grow back to take the place of the ISIS head so recently removed from these various villages, towns, and cities.

Posted on 3 November 2017:

Analysis: CIA Releases Massive Trove of Osama Bin Laden's Files -- Written by Thomas Joscelyn and Bill Roggio, Long War Journal.

This is a brief summary and highlights of the release of the documents captured during the Abbottabad raid of 2011.  Nearly 470,000 documents are released and they include video, audio, photos, and text files.  This is the fourth release of the documents.  The statement from the CIA can be found at

Four New Questions for Trump on Syria -- Written by Gayle Tzemach Lemmon, Defense One.

Good food for thought.  These are not really new questions, but continuations of the discussion on what are the U.S. interests in Syria.  The questions are: 1) How long will Washington back Syrian rebel fighters? 2) What’s Trump’s plan if Russia/Assad advances? 3) What is the roadmap to peace and who is in charge of it? 4) Where are the Saudis and Gulf states?

Click here for older recommended articles
on the Middle East.

For a comprehensive list of articles and information on ISIS and the Middle East download my Comprehensive Bibliography.

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