The Gray Zone Attacked in Jakarta – Updated for Clarity (4:15 PM)


The Islamic State attack in Jakarta earlier today is part of the same campaign as the Paris attack last November. While the Jakarta attack was no where near as successful in terms of casualties, including those killed, the objectives of the attack was the same as of last November’s in Paris. Islamic State has two objectives for their attacks – both related. The first is to attack the Gray Zone; the social and civil space** that Muslims live in. It is an attempt to force Muslims, whether in the US or Britain or France or Indonesia or Jordan or anywhere else, to chose sides. To define themselves not only as Muslims, but as Muslim in such a way that sets them apart from their fellow citizens. It is both a figurative and literal attempt to collapse the public realm/sphere into the private one. The Islamic State hopes that by doing so they can then achieve their objectives of recruiting Muslims to relocate to the Caliphate – the only place where actual Islam is being practiced or to stay in place and use their local knowledge to attack targets that further weaken the Gray Zone. So the first objective is to set the conditions for recruiting by attacking the Gray Zone.

The second of the Islamic State’s objective with the Jakarta attack, just as it was with the Paris attack last November, is to get the US, its allies and its partners to provide the ways and means that the Islamic State does not have to achieve IS’s ends. This is terrorism as Psychological Operations (PSYOPS). While Indonesia still has its socio-political problems, they’ve come a long way from the Suharto and Sukarno regimes. This is summed up in what has become the Indonesian national motto: bhinneka tunggal ika, which means unity in diversity. The attacks earlier today are intended to shatter, if not reverse, Indonesia’s attempts to achieve unity in diversity. IS hopes that the Indonesian response, a crackdown on Muslim Indonesians, will destroy the Gray Zone, providing the Islamic State with new recruits and a justification for further attacks, which will then lead to greater crackdowns, as well as the imposition of security protocols that erode the Indonesian political, social, and economic reforms of the past eighteen years. Moreover, they hope that attacks in Indonesia will lead other states and societies to react out of fear and panic, eroding their Gray Zones and putting a truth to the lie that ideals of liberty and freedom and diversity are just a facade. The Islamic State cannot achieve these ends themselves. They are hoping we will be so scared as to do it for them.


The Islamic State’s goal with these attacks, in terms of trying to destroy the Gray Zone in Indonesia, which is a Muslim majority country, is for Indonesia t0 crack down on those Indonesian Muslims that it identifies as supporting the Islamic State. As I’ve written about in past posts, the Islamic State’s doctrine/theology is that real Islam is rooted in Abd al-Wahhab’s radical understanding of tawheed*** (the unity of the Deity) combined with Abd al-Wahhab’s calls to eliminate innovation, apostasy, and unbelief. Since the Islamic State asserts that Muslims that adhere to Islamic State’s doctrine/theology are the true Muslims, Muslims that crack down on Islamic State or Islamic State supporters can and will be labeled apostates. This allows IS to renew and/or reinforce their call that the Muslims involved in running Indonesia or supporting the governments efforts are unbelievers or apostates. Such assertions contribute to the attempted destruction of the Gray Zone by allowing the Islamic State to reinforce their central tenet of radical tawheed. This provides the justification for future attacks against the unbelievers and/or apostates, including what they’ll claim are innovative Indonesian Muslim practices. The intent is to drive both recruitment and crackdown, then use that for more attacks to drive more recruitment and crackdown.

* Image taken from here. It was originally part of an IS publication.

** The Gray Zone is not just the social and civil public space in which Muslims live. Everyone lives in it when not in private. We can see it under attack by Ammon Bundy and his followers in Harney County, Oregon among white, Christian Americans just as it is under attack in Paris and Jakarta and other places by the Islamic State.

*** All Muslims accept tawheed, but not all Muslims accept the radical understanding of tawheed as taught by Abd al-Wahhab.

Updated – Late Evening Breaking News: Bombings in Jakarta and Sydney in Lockdown

MikeJ in the comments to the previous thread has alerted us that there are some serious events occurring in Indonesia and Australia.

There are reports of at least one, and possibly multiple explosions in Jakarta and a running gun battle there as well.

In Australia the Sydney Opera House and Manly Wharf have been evacuated as security personnel seem to be conducting a precautionary search of those facilities, as well as ships in the port area.

As is always the case these are developing events and the details are likely to change several times before we actually know what is going on.

——-UPDATE 12:10 AM——-

Thanks to FlyingToaster in the comments we can now update that the Sydney police operation has concluded. There was, apparently, a bomb threat on one of the ferries. So that’s good news. The reports from Jakarta are still evolving, here is a link to The Guardian’s live feed/update page.

Join the Navy, See Iran… Wait, What?

Earlier today two small US Naval vessels were stopped by the Iranians near Farsi Island. Apparently one of the two craft had experienced mechanical difficulties. The Iranians fairly quickly let it be known that the Sailors would be released to go back on their way in short order. Secretary of State Kerry immediately made contact with Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif to deal with this. Zarif, reportedly, indicated they would be released immediately and that is expected to be some time today.

The Sailors, five per Riverine type of craft, were on a brown water training mission between Kuwait and Bahrain. It is unclear if they drifted into Iranian territorial waters, but given the narrowness of the waterway where they were training, it is possible. At this point everything seems to be working the way it is supposed to. Vessels were in distress, there was a response by one of the state’s in the area, everyone recognizes that there was no intentional incursion, and the Sailors are supposed to be back underway shortly. Provided this is how it actually plays out, then there’s really no major issues here.

Except for whatever hay can be made in the news media and political sphere. I was at the gym when I saw CNN on one of the overhead TVs breaking this story and interviewing members of Congress about it. Since I actually watch cartoons on my iPad while doing cardio, I checked the BBC news site to see what was actually going on. At that point the Beeb’s coverage was a one paragraph run down that the one of the two craft had mechanical problems, the Iranians had responded, the Sailors had been brought to Farsi Island, and the Iranians had announced they’d be back underway later today. So we’ll have to see how this gets spun by both the news media and politicians as we head into the State of the Union tonight. So far even Fox News, at least on their website, is playing this as straight reporting.

Now We’re in the Kimche! Updated at 10:45

Hat tip to commenter “the Conster” for giving us a heads up about reports of a possible North Korean nuclear test. According to the BBC a 5.1 magnitude earthquake has been reported near sites in North Korea that had previously been used for nuclear weapons testing. This was about 30 miles from Punggye-ri, the site of previous nuclear tests and the US Geological Survey is reporting the quake at a depth of 10 kilometers. USGS is also, on the basis of Ambassador Rice’s remarks at the UN earlier this evening, reclassifying it from natural earthquake to man made nuclear event.

Needless to say this will be a fast moving and fluid story, so accounts are likely to change.


The Guardian is reporting that the North Korean government has confirmed its fourth nuclear test conducted earlier today. The justification is its legal right to conduct such tests and an assertion that if the US doesn’t threaten North Korean sovereignty, then North Korea will not need to use nuclear weapons. The hat tip again goes to the Conster.

If Not the Best, Then Certainly the Most Pleasurable Response to the November Terrorist Attacks in Paris

The Guardian has reported that when Brussels went into lockdown immediately after the Paris terrorist attacks the Belgian security response was, shall we say, innovative. A number of soldiers and police working out of a station in Ganshoren had an orgy! This gives new meaning to both the concept of a full body search and security theater, if you know what I mean… This seems to be a far superior response than to freak out on cable news 24/7, but your mileage may vary.