Around Kobane, the Kurdish-majority Syrian city near the Turkish border besieged by ISIS ("Islamic State", Daesh), US airstrikes have significantly increased.
Kurdish forces (Iraqi-Kurdish peshmerga, and the Syrian-Kurdish YPG, linked to the Turkish-Kurdish PKK) have now begun to retake territory.
1,200 people have now been killed in the siege.
Fuad Hussein, chief of staff to the KRG (Iraq-Kurdish) president Massoud Barzani, says that the CIA’s figuree of 31,000 ISIS fighters is a big underestimate, and the Iraqi government National Security Adviser concurs.
ISIS continues to recruit internationally. It showed fighters from a number of different nations, unmasked, in its latest video showing the killing of US hostage Abdul Rahman Kassig.
There seems to be an increasing number of ISIS recruits from Europe, often young men who unlike the Chechen or Indonesian recruits have no previous experience of jihadist warfare.
In the Guardian, Jon Henley has reported on a programme run by police in Aarhus, Denmark, to engage, integrate, and de-radicalise returning fighters and to convince others not to follow them to Syria or Iraq.
The programme seeks to provide basic life skills, help in applying for jobs, and continuing education, as well as discussion and debate about religion and politics.
The initiative is very limited and will not cut the roots of ISIS ideology; but it is vastly more useful than that put across by London mayor Boris Johnson, Tory MP David Davis, and former Archbishop of Canterbury George Carey.
They have called for passports to be seized, and a screening process to select who can return and when. And never mind that the UN bans nations from making their citizens stateless. Never mind that this is heavy punishment without charge or trial.
David Cameron has not gone that far, but is sympathetic. The Quilliam Foundation think-tank said in response to his speech in Canberra:
“The majority of the… suggestions will only tackle the symptom of the problem and not its cause. We should not develop legislation that assumes individuals are guilty until proven innocent… [The Government should] avoid placing too much emphasis on counter-terrorism legislation, which many will interpret as undemocratic.”
Home Secretary Theresa May says that a new counter terrorism bill will be pushed through Parliament and come into effect by February. It will include further powers to restrict online material that may serve as recruitment propaganda.
Proving criminal activity in such cases is difficult. In Aarhus no one has been prosecuted successfully.
A British Muslim doctor, Qanta Ahmed, quoted in the Guardian, has said that too many people fail to tackle Islamist politics for fear of being labelled "Islamophobic", and that not enough is done to help critical voices among Muslims and people from immigrant populations speak out against medievalist, misogynistic and violent interpretations of Islam and in favour of secularism and other values.
The $400 a month offered by ISIS may be attractive in Iraq and Syria, but westerners who join ISIS are not likely to be in it for the money.
Only by taking on the ideas of clerical fascism and defeating them, rather than by suppressing civil rights or banning access to literature, websites, or debate, can the ideologues of ISIS be exposed and defeated.