This is a valuable account of life among jihadis by Theo Padnos, American would-be journalist and student of Arabic and Islam, for 20 months a prisoner of the Al Nusra front, fighting ISIS on the ground. The realities of a 'normal' brutality, of expectation of martyrdom among young men who will preach or bully and then ask about meeting single European women.
While there is evidently no oeganisational link between this world and the tragic figure who took hostages in a Sydney cafe this week (variously described straightforwardly here, by New Matilda's Chris Graham here and incisively critically by Russell Brand here), his mind would seem cut from the same cloth as the jihadis described by Padnos.
We do well to step away from our conventional perspectives if we are to understand what this whole jihadi business is. Noting that too much of our perspectives in the west are from the remoteness of satellites, drones, fighter aircraft and wishful thinking and amateur ideological assertions of political leaders seeking to simplify and prance... or just fall into line. I commend Russell Brand for his lively interpretation of the way the issues are perverted and made more difficult by much government and media action and interpretation.
(Also see Russell Brand in this video on poverty and the virtue of spending money currently used for bombing the Middle East on building better societies)
Clint Watts, writing in Eurasia Review, offers interpretation of Padnos's story, in particular that given the fluidity of loyalty among jihadis, the bombing of one or the training of one to fight another has only destructive effects, especially in the absence of any plan of dealing with the Assad regime in Damascus. We stand, by current western policies, to inherit only wider and more dangerous jihadism, more savvy in attacking the west, better armed and skilled.
Again in Eurasia Review, this article by Nicola Nasser, an Arab journalist on the Palestine West Bank, describes or asserts Israeli support and sanctuary for Al Nusra and collaboration in attacks on the Syrian government. Israel's interest being in weakening and diverting the strength of its Syrian enemy away from Israel. I am reminded that several years ago in Sydney a Lebanese Moslem man asserted to me that Israel now pursued a policy of encouraging war between Moslems. There is more news of Israeli air strikes accessible with this search,... and about Israel and al Nusra here. See Haaretz for an Israeli perspective.