Know Your Enemy: A Primer on Islamic Jihad

how-to-fight-isisNational Review, by Steve King, July 25, 2015:

Islamic jihad has declared war on the United States and all of Western civilization. ISIS has announced its intention to dominate the world and fly its black flag from the White House in continuation of a 1,400-year-old war against us “infidels.”

In the first 100 years after the death of Mohammed (a.d. 632)`, Islamic jihad conquered most of the known world except Western Europe. Christian forces blocked the first century of Islamic conquest at the very bloody Battle of Tours on October 10, 732. Islamic jihad continued to threaten the very existence of Christianity throughout the next millennium. October 7, 1571, marked the destruction of Islamic jihad’s massive fleet by the Holy League fleet in the Aegean Sea.

More than a century later, Islamic jihad, having conquered the Middle East and most of Eastern Europe, had surrounded and besieged the crown jewel of Western Christendom, Vienna. If Vienna fell to Islam, all of Western Europe would be likely to follow. After a two-month siege of Vienna, relief forces from Poland and Germany arrived.

The battle for relief of Vienna began on September 11, 1683, and ended with the rout of the Islamic forces the following day. On September 11, 1697, Prince Eugene caught and routed a large Islamic army and delivered a decisive blow at the Battle of Zenta.

In keeping with the September 11 theme, the British established a mandate for Palestine on September 11, 1922, and at the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich, eleven Israeli athletes were killed on September 11. Millions of Islamists remember the humiliations of September and seek to humiliate the “Great Satan,” the United States. Thus the attacks on the World Trade Towers and the Pentagon on September 11, 2001, and on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi on September 11, 2012.

Islamic jihad can be defeated, and it can be done in less time than it took to defeat the USSR in the Cold War. Our strategy, however, must be tailored to the times and circumstances.

Islamic jihad is our enemy. It has declared war on us and will kill us anywhere it can. No American is safe anywhere in the world until this suicidal ideology is defeated. It is not impossible to defeat an ideology. Within a span of half a century, Western civilization has defeated at least four ideologies. Nazism, Italian Fascism, and Japanese imperialism all went down literally in flames in the face of a superior culture. Next in line was the far more stubborn Russian Communism, which struggled through 45 years of cold war before succumbing to liberty and free enterprise. Islamic jihad can be defeated, and it can be done in less time than it took to defeat the USSR in the Cold War. Our strategy, however, must be tailored to the times and circumstances.

CYBER WARFARE: Islamists are not innovative but do have a history of borrowing technology and deploying it against their enemies. ISIS, for example, is using the Internet to inspire, recruit, and direct terrorists around the world. We have the capabilities to scramble their communications and cause them to doubt the sources of instructions. It’s time to launch cyber warfare against them both offensively and defensively and to do so worldwide. They will stop using the Internet only when they no longer trust the communications network. With a smart cyber-warfare system, we can watch them close down their most important recruiting tool.

FINANCIAL WARFARE: If all its resources could be shut off, ISIS would atrophy. The U.S. has a powerful global financial reach, giving us the capability of cutting off almost all funds flowing to ISIS. We need to shut off the flow of exported oil from the ISIS regions and shut off payments going to them. Banks that deal in transactions with Islamic jihad or with their suppliers can be singled out to be the target of special disincentives that raise the transaction costs well above the financial benefit of doing business with jihadists.

EDUCATION: The next and most difficult task is to shut down the elements of their educational system that teach Islamic jihad. Millions of young boys are indoctrinated daily with the ideology of Islamic jihad. The madrassas are a breeding ground for violent jihad and serve to identify and recruit the most zealous. Countering this indoctrination will require a worldwide effort and may well be endless, but it is necessary to make the attempt, because reduction in the teaching of intergenerational hatred is the foundation for a peaceful future.

HUMINT: Human intelligence remains limited in the Islamic world. The Western world had not engaged fully with the Middle East to the extent that our intelligence sources were ready-made or fully developed. Our humint began to change after September 11, 2001, as Americans saw the need to expand our network. We are still making progress, but this administration has demonstrated an unwillingness to gather strategic information. If we are to have success in defeating Islamic jihad, our intelligence community must expand significantly. It is essential to the principle of nosce hostem(know your enemy), which will require time, resources, commitment, and, most of all, leadership.

STRATEGIC ALLIANCES: Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia all have demonstrated a willingness to fight Islamic jihad. Our relationships with these countries have been badly damaged. The U.S. foreign-policy establishment clumsily found a way to be on the wrong side of each Arab Spring event, demonstrating an astonishingly dogmatic fidelity to the Muslim Brotherhood. Our credibility in the region has been badly damaged. Nonetheless, these countries are poised to take on a good share of the fight. First, our relationship with each will need to be restored. Then a strategy will need to be developed with them at the table.

EGYPT: Egypt is key to ultimate global success against Islamic jihad. Al-Azhar University in Cairo is the world’s premier center of Islamic theology. It is where Obama gave his speech to the Muslim world in 2009, and where Egyptian president al-Sisi delivered his own address to the Muslim world. Sisi made clear his opposition to the Muslim Brotherhood, to the imposition of sharia law, and to Islamic jihad. Sisi is positioned to become the modern-day Ataturk, someone who will bridge the gap between East and West. The United States needs to embrace Sisi and coordinate a strategy of diplomacy coupled with the right balance of kinetic activity.

KURDISTAN: The Kurds are loyal allies. At our encouragement, they rose up against Saddam Hussein after Desert Storm. They are likely the largest ethnic group in the world without a country. Millions of Kurds live in Iraq, Syria, Turkey, and Iran. They have for years demonstrated their willingness to defend themselves. We should directly arm the Kurds with all the weapons and supplies they can use and send our special forces to them on the ground. The Kurds will not go into Baghdad or Damascus because they have no civilian population base there to support them. They will push ISIS out of Iraq, with the help of many Sunni Iraqis, and they will provide one jaw of the vise that will crush ISIS. An independent Kurdistan is likely to be the result. A perpetual ally replacing the ISIS caliphate would be strategically priceless.

SYRIA: Assad must go. Syria’s terror-fomenting alliance with Iran will breed ever more violence in the Mideast until a pro-Western government replaces the regime. However, Assad has a certain utility until ISIS is destroyed in Syria. He becomes the other jaw of the vise that, with the Kurds as the other, will crush ISIS. When that day comes, the U.S. may have a commander-in-chief who thinks strategically.

We are dealing with the complexities of a long and difficult history of conflict. Religious friction has been at the heart of conflicts in this region since the time of Mohammed. The conflict between Shia and Sunni is complex enough without the overlay of the history of conflict with Christianity.

Russian-sponsored regimes must be defeated. The wealth of and need for oil fuels the fight. Anti-Semitism, with notable exceptions, dominates the region of the Middle East. We are in an increasingly global conflict as jihadists use Western technology and exploit cultural vulnerabilities to invade through peaceful migration, recruit through the Internet, indoctrinate through their mosques and madrassas, and radicalize and direct Islamic jihad.

We can defeat this ideology because we are a superior civilization. We have the ability to reason, develop new technology, grow our economy, and control the events described above. Islamic jihad has no real capacity to compete. History is on our side. Culture is on our side. Economics are on our side. Military capability is on our side. We lack only a strategy and the will.

— Steve King, of Iowa’s fourth congressional district, is a member of the U.S. House of Representatives.

Report: Chattanooga Victims May Not Be Eligible for Purple Hearts

072715_purpleheartFox News Insider, July 27, 2015:

Four Marines and one sailor who were killed in the Chattanooga shooting reportedly will only be eligible to receive Purple Heart awards if the FBI declares the shooter had ties to a terror organization.

The FBI has only referred to Mohammad Youssuf Abdulazeez as a “homegrown violent extremist.”

“Determination of eligibility will have to wait until all the facts are gathered and the FBI investigation is complete,” Marine Corps public affairs officer Maj. Clark Carpenter told the Marine Corps Times.

Marines Lance Cpl. Squire “Skip” Wells, Gunnery Sgt. Thomas Sullivan, Sgt. Carson Holmquist and Staff Sgt. David Wyatt were all killed in the July 16 attack. Navy Petty Officer Randall Smith was also killed.

On “The Kelly File” tonight, Lt. Col. Tony Shaffer (Ret.) said that it’s clear that Abdulazeez was a terrorist, and the FBI and the Obama administration are intentionally trying to “disconnect the dots.”

“There is absolutely no doubt by any thinking person, anyone who’s rational, that this was a terror attack,” Shaffer said. “If you don’t find a direct link between ISIS or Al Qaeda, it doesn’t matter. It meets the criteria.”

Megyn Kelly pointed out that the families of these deceased service members stand to lose Purple Heart benefits if the awards are not approved.

“It’s a substantive loss to them,” she explained.

“This is totally insane,” Shaffer said. “It goes against the factual evidence, and it’s just the wrong thing.”

DHS: Calling Islamic Terrorism ‘Islamic’ Offends Muslims

sddefaultInvestors Business Daily, July 27, 2015:

PC: After a Muslim terrorist gunned down unarmed Marines in Tennessee, the head of Homeland Security revealed a policy to downplay any Islamic role in such terror. The feds are now blindfolding each other on the threat.

Homeland Security chief Jeh Johnson refuses to call Islamic terror “Islamic,” arguing it’s “critical” to refrain from the label in order to “build trust” among Muslims.

In jaw-dropping remarks Friday at Aspen Institute’s annual security forum, Johnson said the government will call such attacks “violent extremism” over “Islamic terrorism” out of respect for the Muslim community.

The policy explains why the U.S. prosecutor and lead FBI investigator in the Chattanooga case still insist on calling Mohammad Abdulazeez a “homegrown violent extremist,” though he blogged about his religious motivations for the attack, and he and his family attended a local mosque controlled by a terror-tied Islamic trust.

Johnson says that dismissing the religious dimension of the widening homegrown Islamic terror threat is part of a strategy to gain the “cooperation” of the Muslim community. He says that if officials called Islamic terrorism “Islamic,” they’d “get nowhere.”

Even the moderator was dumbfounded: “Isn’t government denying the fundamental religious component of this kind of extremism by not using the word Islamic?” “I could not disagree more,” Johnson retorted, arguing that Islam “is about peace.”

Earth to Johnson: You already are “nowhere.” The FBI director warns that he can’t keep up with all the homegrown Muslim terrorism cases cropping up now in all 50 states. Chattanooga is just the latest tragic example of the FBI and DHS missing plots in the pipeline.

And what fruit has pandering to local Muslim leaders produced? U.S. Attorney Bill Killian helped dedicate Abdulazeez’s mosque at its grand opening in 2012, even befriended its leader. Did Islamic Society of Greater Chattanooga president Bassam Issa tip him off about Abdulazeez’s radicalization? Did he stop him from driving down the street and opening fire on two military sites?

An internal PowerPoint document shows that mosque leaders were busy invoking the names of radical Muslim Brotherhood leaders to raise money for the mosque, leaders like Sheikh Qaradawi, who once issued a fatwa calling on Muslims to kill U.S. soldiers.

Instead of investigating the mosque and its leaders, the feds have stepped up their groveling.

The notion that Muslim leaders are helping us is totally bogus. In one Islamic State hot spot, Minneapolis, the local Muslim leaders are “cooperating” by demanding that the FBI release jailed IS terrorist suspects. In Boston, congregants of a mosque attended by the Boston marathon bombers are “cooperating” by holding fundraisers and rallies for convicted al-Qaida- and IS-tied terrorists.

Johnson, like his boss, are delusional: Their strategy of “winning hearts and minds” already has failed. So now it’s up to state and local authorities to take this fight from the feds and put down this growing insurgency themselves. They can start by passing a law that allows authorities to press legal action not just against terrorists but also any of their supporters in the Muslim community.

A Tennessee senator frustrated over the slow pace of the federal investigation in Chattanooga introduced a bill that passed implementing Andy’s Law, named after Pvt. Andrew Long, the Little Rock Army recruiter murdered by terrorist Abdulhakim Muhammad.

Arkansas, Louisiana and Kansas have also passed the anti-terror law, and North Carolina is on the verge of doing so. Letting victims of terrorism seek damages from individuals and organizations that provide material support to terrorists will go a long way to filling the investigative void left by PC-paralyzed Washington.

The Islamic State’s Propaganda War: Advertisers and Marketers Weigh in on the World’s Angriest Ad Campaign

Screengrab via freethepresscanada.or

Screengrab via freethepresscanada.or

Vice News, by Landon Shroder, July 14, 2015:

Healing the Chests of the Believing People is a July 4th summer blockbuster offering by the Islamic State (IS). The 10 minute video chronicles the fate of 25 Syrian soldiers as they are led from Tadmur Prison to the ancient Palmyra Amphitheater where, in front of the black flag of IS, they are executed by what appears to be a group of teen-age soldiers.

IS knows that this video, along with other recent death cult recruiting video classics like:Punish Them Severely to Disperse Those Who Are Behind Them, A Message Signed with Blood To the Nation of the Cross, and Healing the Souls with the Slaughtering of the Spy (Part 2, no less) will inspire people to join their cause of revolutionary social change (of the bloody jihad variety) — just like thousands of other Westerners already have.

Videos like these represent just one piece of IS’s global marketing campaign, which also consists of monthly magazines, documentaries, and nasheeds http://messages, as well as online forums, blogs, postings on the ever-ubiquitous social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, and even their own short-lived Arab-language app, The Dawn of Glad Tidings, that, once downloaded, automatically posted tweets by IS to a user’s personal Twitter account.

Welcome to the propaganda war with IS — a war that is central to their defeat, and a war that the US isn’t winning.

But how does IS sell their message? How does it get people from comfortable backgrounds in the US and Europe to give up everything and join a movement so infused with violence and brutality?

The answer ultimately resides with the kinds of marketing strategies used by advertising agencies all over the world. In the most basic terms, IS is selling an idea the very same way a company would sell a product.

According to the last National Counterterrorism Center estimate released in February, almost 3,400 Westerners have traveled to Iraq and Syria to fight alongside IS. While some of these people would have found their way to the fight no matter what, it would be incorrect to assume that most have joined IS simply to satiate some kind of religious blood lust.

“Today people buy based on social conversation,” Brett Landry, creative director for DarkHorse Marketing, told VICE News. “Brands find success by placing themselves within the social conversation in meaningful or fun or shocking ways.”

Nowhere has this strategy been more successfully executed than in the horrifying media campaign run by IS’s publicity wing, al-Hayat Media Center.

The videos and images of beheadings, burnings, crucifixions, and mass executions have simultaneously revolted and enticed viewers, becoming a core component of their marketing strategy. Those who are attracted to these kinds of graphic media are initially drawn in by the production value, which is extraordinarily high compared to Al-Qaeda and other jihadist-produced propaganda of the past.

In contrast to al Qaeda’s videos, which were shot on shaky handheld cameras, IS uses sound design, special effects, rehearsed sequences, and multiple-angle scenes, as well as high-tech 5D cameras and professional editing teams.

The sensational videos take the viewer directly inside the war being waged by IS, much in the same way a video game or action movie would. This has allowed IS to situate themselves at the center of a worldwide conversation on religion, politics, and war, in a way that is entirely unencumbered by traditional communication strategies — particularly those that would rely exclusively on mainstream media to spread their message.

“The burnings, beheadings, and torture are really hard to look at, but we’re not the [target] audience,” Jason Smith, creative director for Magnetry, an advertising agency in Phoenix, told VICE News. “The brutality works in their favor because it proves their effectiveness. The darker the images, the more obvious the void or lack of someone preventing them.”

Marketing these atrocities has a two-fold propaganda value: IS is not only defining exactly who they are, but who they are not, as well, which resonates with a select group of people who equate extreme violence with power. More importantly, the brutality automatically narrows down the viewing audience, allowing the message to specifically target those who might be susceptible to radicalization.

Additionally, IS propaganda is produced in a way that allows it to be packaged for broadcast media and online video forums like YouTube, LiveLeak, and Vimeo. This ensures that at least some of the content will be replayed on mainstream news outlets, regardless of the subject matter.

Because of this, IS has developed a very effective and low-cost type of advertising campaign reliant on something called “earned media.” Earned media is about generating buzz — getting other people to talk about and push your agenda and story. This kind of marketing strategy fundamentally relies on the viral tendencies surrounding online “word of mouth” and comes in the form of mentions, shares, reposts, views, and third-party broadcasts, and acts as a force multiplier for any IS media project.

“The sole focus of an earned media campaign is to reach the maximum amount of viewers with the minimum amount of effort,” Landry told VICE News. “The US and world media are feeding on the content, and that’s huge earned media for ISIS…The more it’s talked about, the more free advertising they get.”

Using social media sites like Twitter contributes to the earned media campaign of IS by providing platforms to spread videos, documentaries, audio messages, and other propaganda products, and allowing users to interact and engage with those products instantly and continuously.

While there are no exact numbers available with regard to internet penetration by IS, according to the ISIS Twitter Census, released by the Brookings Institution in March 2015, at any one time, there are between 46,000 and 90,000 active IS Twitter accounts, each having an average of 1,004 followers who produce approximately 2,219 tweets during the account’s lifetime.

These accounts not only further disseminate IS propaganda, but allows recruiters to connect with potential volunteers in near real time, which has helped the IS brand reach a diverse global audience.

“There are units of specialized recruiters operating around the clock from internet cafes in Iraq and Syria, interacting on an individual level with prospective recruits,” Henry Tuck, program coordinator for Extreme Dialogue at the Institute for Strategic Dialogue, told VICE News. “Content is expertly tailored to specific audiences in multiple languages, with propaganda aimed at women, converts to Islam, and even certain professions.”

Read more

Also see:

Islamic State recruitment document seeks to provoke ‘end of the world’

A video grab released by the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) on July 11, 2015, shows Hafiz Saeed, the Islamic State leader of the Khorasan State, at an undisclosed location along the Pakistani-Afghan border. (Photo: TTP/EPA)

A video grab released by the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) on July 11, 2015, shows Hafiz Saeed, the Islamic State leader of the Khorasan State, at an undisclosed location along the Pakistani-Afghan border.
(Photo: TTP/EPA)

USA Today, by Sara A. Carter, July 28, 2015:

An apparent Islamic State recruitment document found in Pakistan’s lawless tribal lands reveals that the extremist group has grand ambitions of building a new terrorist army in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and triggering a war in India to provoke an Armageddon-like “end of the world.”

The 32-page Urdu-language document obtained by American Media Institute (AMI) and reviewed by USA TODAY details a plot to attack U.S. soldiers as they withdraw from Afghanistan and target American diplomats and Pakistani officials.

AMI obtained the document from a Pakistani citizen with connections inside the Pakistani Taliban and had it independently translated from Urdu by Harvard researcher and translator Mustafa Samdani. The Pakistani’s identity was shared with USA TODAY, which has agreed not to identify him publicly because of concerns for his safety.

The document was reviewed by three U.S. intelligence officials, who said they believe the document is authentic based on its unique markings and the fact that language used to describe leaders, the writing style and religious wording match other documents from the Islamic State, also known as ISIL and ISIS. They asked to remain anonymous because they are not authorized to discuss the matter publicly.

The undated document, titled “A Brief History of the Islamic State Caliphate (ISC), The Caliphate According to the Prophet,” seeks to unite dozens of factions of the Pakistani and Afghan Taliban into a single army of terror.  It includes a never-before-seen history of the Islamic State, details chilling future battle plans, urges al-Qaeda to join the group and says the Islamic State’s leader should be recognized as the sole ruler of the world’s 1 billion Muslims under a religious empire called a “caliphate.”

“Accept the fact that this caliphate will survive and prosper until it takes over the entire world and beheads every last person that rebels against Allah,” it proclaims. “This is the bitter truth, swallow it.”

Retired Defense Intelligence Agency Director Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, who also reviewed the document, said it “represents the Islamic State’s campaign plan and is something, as an intelligence officer, I would not only want to capture, but fully exploit. It lays out their intent, their goals and objectives, a red flag to which we must pay attention.”

Alistair Baskey, deputy spokesman for the White House’s National Security Council, told AMI, “we are aware of the presence of ISIL-affiliated militants in Afghanistan, and we are monitoring closely to see whether their emergence will have a meaningful impact on the threat environment in the region.”

The Taliban is another radical Islamic group that ruled Afghanistan until ousted during the U.S. invasion in 2001. It continues fighting the current Afghan government and also trying to thwart the Islamic State’s expansion into Afghanistan.

The document warns that “preparations” for an attack in India are underway and predicts that an attack will provoke an apocalyptic confrontation with America: “Even if the U.S tries to attack with all its allies, which undoubtedly it will, the ummah will be united, resulting in the final battle.” The word “ummah” refers to the entire global community of Muslims.

Striking in India would magnify the Islamic State’s stature and threaten the stability of the region, said Bruce Riedel, a senior fellow with the Brookings Institution who served more than 30 years in the CIA. “Attacking in India is the Holy Grail of South Asian jihadists.”

Pakistan Foreign Secretary Aizaz Chaudhry said the Islamic State threat in Pakistan was discussed with White House, State Department and Pentagon officials in June. He told reporters at the Pakistani Embassy in June that successful allied military operations have scattered the Pakistani Taliban.

Chaudhry denied there is an Islamic State presence in Pakistan. It could be “a potential threat for the whole world, for our region too, for our country too,” he said. “We believe that all countries need to cooperate, and Pakistan, yes.”

Unlike al-Qaeda, which has targeted terror attacks on the United States and other western nations, the document said Islamic State leaders believe that’s the wrong strategic goal. “Instead of wasting energy in a direct confrontation with the U.S., we should focus on an armed uprising in the Arab world for the establishment of the caliphate,” the document said.

So far, the U.S. strategy has been limited to fighting the militant group in Iraq and Syria, ordering limited airstrikes and deploying trainers to strengthen Iraqi security forces.

Meanwhile, the Islamic State has recruited tens of thousands of fighters and sympathizers from around the world.

The failure to target the radical Islamic ideas behind the group has given its fighters the opportunity to spread, Flynn said. “If I were in their shoes, I would say,’We are winning, we are achieving our objectives,’” Flynn said. “They have demonstrated an incredible level of resiliency and they will not be defeated by military means alone.”

Richard Miniter contributed to this story.

You can reach Richard Miniter @RichMiniter

You can reach Sara A. Carter @SaraCarterDC 

American Media Institute is an independent investigative journalism organization.  USA TODAY assisted in the editing of this story. 

The Guantanamo Non-Answer That Says a Whole Lot

gitmo2Center for Security Policy, by Ben Lerner, July 28, 2015:

Over the weekend, Lisa Monaco, Special Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism, announced some details of the plan that the White House is presently crafting to shut down detainee/interrogation operations at Guantanamo Bay.

The Hill reports:

…There are currently 116 detainees at the facility, and under the new plan some of them would be moved to the U.S.

Monaco said the plan was to transport the 52 detainees deemed eligible for transfer to countries with appropriate security arrangements.

According to Monaco, those who are deemed “too dangerous to release” would be subject to periodic review boards for transfer eligibility. In 10 instances, 13 review boards have already resulted in individuals being moved to the so-called “transfer bucket.”

“So we are going to whittle down this group to what I refer to as the ‘irreducible minimum’ who would have to be brought here,” Monaco said.

“That group, who either can’t be prosecuted, or are too dangerous to release, we are going to continue to evaluate their status.”

Under the law of war, Monaco said, those remaining after review would be transferred to U.S. military prisons or supermax security prisons, and be subjected either to prosecution in military commissions or Article III courts…

The White House is crafting this plan ostensibly in response to Sen. John McCain’s inclusion of provisions in the Senate version of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that require the Obama administration to submit a Gitmo closure plan to Congress for approval.  By contrast, the House does not open the door for Gitmo’s closure as the Senate does, and instead tightens existing restrictions on the transfer of Gitmo detainees.  The NDAA is presently undergoing conference negotiations, and it remains unclear whether McCain’s provisions on this subject will survive that process.

But the fate of these provisions in Congress may not matter.

The Hill observes further:

…When asked if the president would take executive action to transfer detainees to the U.S. if Congress did not work with the administration, Monaco twice avoided a direct answer, drawing a stir from the crowd…

It’s easy to see why Monaco is ducking such questions.  Look at the Obama administration’s record when it comes to working with Congress, and acting within the parameters of our constitutional system, on national security matters.

The Obama administration already previously cut Congress out of the loop in a high-profile Gitmo detainee release — there were no consultations with Congress regarding the transfer of five senior Taliban detainees held there in exchange for Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, despite a clear statutory requirement that Congress receive thirty days notice of such transfers.  More recently, the administration took its ill-conceived Iran deal to the United Nations Security Council for a vote, before Congress has a chance to review it and vote to approve or disapprove, per the agreement hammered out in the Corker-Cardin legislation that Obama himself signed into law.

And who could forget Obama’s amnesty end-run around Congress and immigration laws in November of 2014, showing total disregard for Congress’s fundamental role in determining who gets admitted to the United States?

Make no mistake, President Obama is in full legacy mode – and one piece of his legacy may well be that he ran over Congress, the Constitution, and the will of the American people on his way to facilitating the release of some of the world’s most dangerous terrorists.

Exit question: If 52 of these remaining detainees are perfectly good-to-go for transfer to other countries, why aren’t other countries jumping at the chance to take them in and help President Obama put that nasty George W. Bush-era stain of Gitmo to bed?  Could it be because of stuff like what happened in Belgium just last Friday?:

Belgium has arrested two former detainees of Guantanamo prison on charges of terrorism, saying the men are suspected of seeking recruits to fight in Syria, the federal prosecutor’s office said on Friday.

“The two men, who were held at the Guantanamo Bay U.S. Naval base in Cuba between 2001 and 2005, were under police surveillance and were arrested in the early hours of Thursday in the Belgian city of Antwerp along with three others.

“”They were in a car, we believe waiting to commit a robbery,” said Jean-Pascal Thoreau, a spokesman for Belgium’s federal prosecutor…

How Turkey Border Zone Could Help Syrian Rebels Obtain Weapons, Cash To Fight Assad

A Free Syrian Army soldier gestures atop a tank after capturing the Assad regime's Brigade 52 base in Daraa, southern Syria, June 9, 2015. Reuters/Alaa Al-Faqir

A Free Syrian Army soldier gestures atop a tank after capturing the Assad regime’s Brigade 52 base in Daraa, southern Syria, June 9, 2015. Reuters/Alaa Al-Faqir

IB Times, By Erin Banco, July 28 2015:

Rebels in Syria are counting their stockpiles of ammunition, weapons and tanks in the northern city of Aleppo, the country’s second-largest city and one of the largest battlegrounds in the fight against the Islamic State group and President Bashar Assad’s forces. As usual, the rebels are running low this month on supplies needed to defeat their enemies. Even for some of the strongest and best-connected units in northern Syria, finding and obtaining simple resources like bullets and Kalashnikovs can take weeks.

That could all change in the coming days when the United States and its NATO allies move forward with a proposed offensive to create a “safe zone” aimed at pushing back Islamic State group militants from the Syrian-Turkish border. For rebel groups, the promised campaign represents an unprecedented opportunity to obtain much needed-cash and weapons. But for the U.S. and Turkey, the countries spearheading the operation, there is a risk that the weapons they supply will end up in the hands of rebels who have a different goal — fighting Assad first, not ISIS.

Under the plan, Turkish troops and Syrian rebel fighters are to clear a 60-mile strip of land along the border to create a haven for Syrian refugees, who have flooded Turkey’s borders during the four-year civil war. The U.S. and Turkey will rely on rebels on the ground to secure the buffer zone. The rebels are supposed to get regular shipments of ammunition and heavy weaponry to ensure that the Sunni militants known as ISIS stay out of the area.

tank

That process, though, could go awry quickly. The rebels receiving the arms for securing the buffer zone will undergo no formal training and will not be bound to any official or binding agreement with the U.S. and Turkey. Rebels in Aleppo say that while they are willing to join the buffer zone monitoring force, they fully intend on using the weapons they receive from the U.S. and Turkey for their fight against Assad first and foremost, before the fight against ISIS.

“This is what we have been asking for for years. This is what we wanted,” a member of one of the largest rebel umbrella organizations in the country said on condition of anonymity. “We have been asking for weapons for years, and we finally have a good chance of getting them.”

Taking out Assad is not an immediate concern for the U.S. It wants to defeat ISIS first. Turkey, on the other hand, supports the rebel groups that see Assad as the real enemy.

In recent years, Turkey has funded groups like Ahrar al-Sham, a Sunni Muslim extremist group with ties to al Qaeda, and has pushed for the ousting of Assad before ISIS. The Turkish government has also taken part in the shipment of arms to rebels in Syria, Reuters reported earlier this year.

In contrast, the U.S. has rejected cooperation with Ahrar al-Sham and other extremists, instead preferring to work with so-called “moderate rebels.” The U.S. has also promoted an ISIS-first strategy, which has angered some rebels who argue that Assad is the true enemy and must be taken out of power before the Islamic State can be toppled.

Rebel groups in Syria, especially in the north, are split in their allegiances to Turkey and the U.S., and finding a rebel force with a common ideology and strategy to carry out the monitoring of the buffer zone will be difficult, rebels in Aleppo told International Business Times Monday. The weapons, they said, will end up falling into the hands of groups that have different ideologies and ultimate goals.

While many rebel leaders used to fall under one umbrella group, the Free Syrian Army, they have recently split and are now duking it out for land and power. There are the hardline Islamist fighters with known battlefield strength, but an extremist Muslim ideology. Then there’s the more moderate groups known for their popularity among the people of Aleppo, who while still devoutly Muslim, do not want the implementation of Shariah law in the post-war era.

In an effort to get the U.S. weapons for the buffer zone mission, extremist fighters who make up Ahrar al-Sham, one of the main Islamist rebel groups, say they have tried to promote themselves as a more moderate organization, one willing to work with other groups toward a peace process. But in the end, they say, the weapons they receive will be used for one goal.

“Ahrar al-Sham wants to see the end to Assad’s reign,” wrote Labib Al Nahhas, foreign affairs director for Ahrar al-Sham, in the Telegraph this week. “Assad and his cabal of murderous generals must go.”

Al Nahhas also warned the U.S. against attempting to bring Western values to Syria. “Political systems and models of government cannot be imported into the Middle East and expected to flourish where historical experiences, political cultures and social structures are so radically different. There needs to be a major role for religion and local custom in any political arrangement that emerges,” he said.

Syrian President Bashar Assad admitted during a speech in Damascus that the Syrian Army no longer has enough troops to defend the entire country.  Reuters/Sana Sana

Syrian President Bashar Assad admitted during a speech in Damascus that the Syrian Army no longer has enough troops to defend the entire country. Reuters/Sana Sana

Other rebel leaders, including some who were once trained and given weapons under a CIA covert operation against Assad in 2013, have called the safe zone operation a “sham.” In the spring of 2013, the U.S. selected groups within the Free Syrian Army for a program that allowed for the transfer of U.S.-made weapons to Turkey via other countries’ aircraft.

One senior rebel leader in Idlib, a major rebel stronghold in the southwest of Aleppo, insisted the West had failed them before and “will fail us again.” The United States is “sitting on its heels” in seriously attacking Assad because it does not want to engage in armed conflict with the dictator’s allies, Iran and Russia, he added.

Still, the appeal of helping the United States and Turkey fight ISIS is clear to many rebel leaders, who expect the offensive to bring in loads of cash and weapons, resources they have needed desperately amid a four-year battle to unseat Assad.

“We think that President Obama threw the Syrian opposition under the bus,” Mohammed Ghanem, a senior political adviser in Washington at the Syrian American Council, a grassroots organization based in Chicago, told IBTimes in November. “Given how abysmal the situation is in Syria, that seems like a bad joke.”

Also see:

The Islamic State Genocide of Christians and other Minorities

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Center for Security Policy, by Caitlin Anglemier, July 27, 2015:

On Friday, the human rights group the 21st Century Wilberforce Initiative issued a report entitled “Edge of Extinction: The Eradication of Religious and Ethnic Minorities in Iraq”. This report discusses the terrible situations that religious and ethnic minorities such as the Christians and Yezidis now face in Iraq because of the Islamic State’s action.

In late January, a delegation from the 21st Century Wilberforce Initiative traveled to northern Iraq to document evidence of the ethnic and religious cleansing taking place by the hands of the Islamic State. The team met with local individuals, interviewed internally displaced Christians and Yezidis, met with senior Kurdistan Regional Government officials, received briefings from human rights organizations, and toured a frontline military location.

During their time in Iraq, the team learned that following the IS overtook Mosul in June, Islamic State expanded into the greater Nineveh Plain around early August. A particular village located about 20 miles from Mosul called Qaraqosh had a population of 50,000 and was Iraq’s largest Christian village. On August 6, 2014, a “night of terror” ensued. The village that had previously been promised protection by Kurdistan Regional Government forces (the Peshmerga) saw their “protectors” abandon them and flee as Islamic State militants approached. The residents, mostly Christian, had no choice but to flee from their village as well. “Thousands were displaced in a matter of hours in a modern-day Exodus”. Most who were fleeing had no choice but to leave behind food, extra clothing, cars, and other personal items. Those who stayed behind were forced to convert to Islam under threat of death.

Simultaneously, the Yezidi communities in Mosul and near the Sinjar Mountain were facing an equally as horrible situation.  Yezidi women were held captive, separated from their families and communities, and often transported to parts of Syria, forced to marry IS members or sold into sexual slavery. Additionally, Yezidi students were no longer able to attend the University of Mosul unless they converted to Islam.

As of April 2015, the estimated Islamic State civilian death toll is 15,000 men, women and children.

The Islamic State is not only destroying human lives and families, they are also destroying historic sites of religious and cultural heritage that have existed for hundreds of years. The gradual desecration and elimination of these religious and cultural aspects only further expedites the destruction of the peoples and their histories entirely.

In the Edge of Extinction report, 21 Wilberforce proposes six different recommendations to aid these persecuted people.

The first of these recommendations is to support the establishment of a Nineveh Plains Province uniquely designed for besieged minorities. The establishment of this province would allow for minority groups to represent a political majority. As in the Kurdistan Regional Government, a Nineveh Plains Province should receive a measure of autonomy from the Federal Iraqi government in order to govern their own affairs.

The second recommendation is to support the fledgling Nineveh Protection Units as  a genuine national guard capable of defending a Nineveh Plains Province. In order to enjoy security and protection, minority groups must be able to rely on their own defense forces. The US government should support directly arming this protection unit to ensure that arms aide is going directly where it ought to be. The US should also directly arm the Nineveh Protection Units and Kurdish Peshmerga, which has been the leading force in pushing back the Islamic State.

The third and fourth recommendations are to place pressure on Iraqi central government and Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) to help return properties to their rightful owners after areas are liberated from IS as well as support and strengthen the KRG’s efforts to protect human rights. If, as mentioned above, the US does indeed show meaningful support of the Kurds and their forces, it would most likely be easier for the US to place pressure to see the KRG fulfill human rights concerns.

The fifth and sixth recommendations are to support the bodies and organizations working to deliver immediate humanitarian aid and assistance especially in the areas of education and healthcare and “investigate, document, and prosecute the IS…for crimes against humanity, war crimes, and should it be determined-genocide”. While these are fairly straight forward and simple-sounding suggestions, they are equally as important as the others.

With so many displaced people and destroyed homes, food, water, medicine, and other daily necessities have become a dire need. And by formally declaring the behaviors of the Islamic State a “genocide”, this would require that official action be taken to properly address and punish those committed of the crime.

Former Congressman Frank R. Wolf recently sent a letter to President Obama and United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon questioning the hesitation to declare the actions IS has taken as genocide. In his letter he writes,

“Genocidal intent can clearly be seen in Islamic State’s ideology and mission which is directed towards the creation of a global caliphate that has been purged of every man, woman, and child deemed to be an ‘unbeliever’ through either forced conversion or death”.

Islamic State has engaged in what it considers a religious mandated mission is to eliminate millions of non-Muslims. This is clearly and unquestionably genocidal intent. As mentioned in 21 Wilberforce’s factsheet, international law dictates that a group accused of genocide must demonstrate the “intent to commit genocide”, that is to say the group must have a recognizable intent to destroy a certain group of people.

This criterion has already been met. Islamic State isn’t shy about its desire to kill Christians and other religious minorities viewed as believers.

Despite the horrendous human suffering, many residents of Nineveh believe they must return to their historical home. One woman who chose to remain anonymous told the Wilberforce team,

“Our heritage is back in the Nineveh Plains, where we have some places from the fourth century. So we need to go back to that place because that is our heritage”.

Hopefully soon, the US will help make that possible for these persecuted people to one day return home.

The Iran Deal and the ‘Problem of Conjecture’

Iranian Maj. Gen. Qasem Soleimani on March 8 in the Salahuddin province of Iraq, where he is leading Shiite militias against Islamic State; President Obama at a White House news conference, July 15; Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei in Tehran, June 4. PHOTO: REUTERS/ASSOCIATED PRESS/GETTY IMAGES

Iranian Maj. Gen. Qasem Soleimani on March 8 in the Salahuddin province of Iraq, where he is leading Shiite militias against Islamic State; President Obama at a White House news conference, July 15; Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei in Tehran, June 4. PHOTO: REUTERS/ASSOCIATED PRESS/GETTY IMAGES

WSJ, By Niall Ferguson, July 24, 2015:

In making the case for his nuclear-arms-control deal with the Islamic Republic of Iran, President Obama has confronted Congress with a stark choice. “There really are only two alternatives here,” he declared at last week’s press conference. “Either the issue of Iran obtaining a nuclear weapon is resolved diplomatically through a negotiation or it’s resolved through force, through war.”

This binary argument is so central to his administration’s case that the president provided a second formulation: Without the deal, he said, “we risk even more war in the Middle East, and other countries in the region would feel compelled to pursue their own nuclear programs, threatening a nuclear arms race in the most volatile region in the world.”

The president insists that the Iran deal is tightly focused on “making sure” that the Iranians “don’t have a bomb.” It is not, he says, “contingent on Iran changing its behavior” in any other respect—notably the funding of proxy armies and terrorist organizations throughout the Middle East. “The incremental additional money that they’ve got to try to destabilize the region,” according to Mr. Obama, is not “more important than preventing Iran from getting a nuclear weapon.”

Listening to all this, I am reminded of what Henry Kissinger once called the “problem of conjecture.” Writing in 1963, before anyone had devised a way to slow down a Soviet nuclear-arms program vastly bigger than any Iran will ever have, Mr. Kissinger summed up the dilemma that faces any strategic decision maker: “the choice between making the assessment which requires the least effort or making an assessment which requires more effort.” The problem of conjecture is that if a statesman “acts on the basis of a guess, he will never be able to prove that his effort was necessary, but he may save himself a great deal of grief later on. . . . If he waits, he may be lucky or he may be unlucky.”

The key point of the problem of conjecture is that the payoffs are asymmetrical. A successful pre-emptive action is never rewarded in proportion to its benefits because “posterity forgets how easily things might have been otherwise.” Indeed, the statesman who acts pre-emptively is more likely to be condemned for the upfront costs of pre-emption than to be praised for its benefits in the form of averted calamities. By contrast, playing for time is not absolutely certain to lead to disaster. Something may turn up.

To illustrate his point, Mr. Kissinger cited the classic example of the policy of appeasement, which was designed to slow down, not to halt or reverse, the rearmament and expansion of Nazi Germany. If the democracies had moved earlier to contain Germany, Mr. Kissinger argued, “we wouldn’t know today whether Hitler was a misunderstood nationalist, whether he had only limited objectives, or whether he was in fact a maniac. The democracies learned that he was in fact a maniac. They had certainty but they had to pay for that with a few million lives.”

The analogy with 1930s Europe is as overused as it is rarely applicable. But in one respect it is relevant here. Like President Obama today, Britain’s Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain was playing for time in 1938, reasoning that a conflict at that point would be worse than a conflict in the future. The conjecture, then as now, was that buying time would improve the relative strategic position.

Whatever Mr. Obama may say, the point of this nuclear deal isn’t just to postpone the Iranian acquisition of nuclear weapons by 10 years. For it to be more than a mere deferral, it also must improve the relative strategic position of the U.S. and its allies so that by 2025 they will be in a stronger position to stop Iran from entering the club of nuclear-armed powers. How might the U.S. achieve this?

As the president put it, his “hope is that building on this deal, we can continue to have conversations with Iran that incentivize them to behave differently in the region, to be less aggressive, less hostile, more cooperative . . . in resolving issues like Syria or what’s happening in Iraq, to stop encouraging Houthis in Yemen.” His goal by the time he “turn[s] over the keys to . . . the next president, is that we are on track to defeat ISIL . . . that we have jumpstarted a process to resolve the civil war in Syria, [and] that in Iraq . . . we’ve also created an environment in which Sunni, Shia and Kurd are starting to operate and function more effectively together.”

This echoes Mr. Obama’s illuminating account of his strategy for the Middle East to the New Yorker magazine in January 2014. “It would be profoundly in the interest of citizens throughout the [Middle East] if Sunnis and Shias weren’t intent on killing each other,” he mused. And “if we were able to get Iran to operate in a responsible fashion—not funding terrorist organizations, not trying to stir up sectarian discontent in other countries, and not developing a nuclear weapon—you could see an equilibrium developing between Sunni, or predominantly Sunni, Gulf states and Iran.”

In short, for all the high-flown rhetoric of the president’s speeches, his goal is the classic realist objective of a balance of power in the region. The technicalities of the Iran deal—the number of centrifuges, the size of the enriched-uranium stockpile, the rigor of the inspections regime—need not detain us here. The key question is whether or not slowing down Iran’s nuclear program will increase regional stability. Critics of the deal should acknowledge that it might, for in the realm of conjecture there are no certainties. But the president and his advisers should admit that the probability is very, very low.

“The really important question,” Mr. Obama told the Atlantic magazine in May, is “how do we find effective partners—not just in Iraq, but in Syria, and in Yemen, and in Libya—that we can work with, and how do we create the international coalition and atmosphere in which people across sectarian lines are willing to compromise and are willing to work together in order to provide the next generation a fighting chance for a better future?” The answer: Not this way.

Why should Iran suddenly mend its ways? In return for merely slowing down its pursuit of nuclear weapons, it is being handed up to $150 billion in previously frozen assets, a commercial bonanza as sanctions are lifted, and the prospect of an end to conventional arms and ballistic-missile embargoes after, respectively, five and eight years. All Iran has to do is keep the International Atomic Energy Agency happy that it is sticking to its nuclear commitments. There will be no “snap back” of sanctions if Tehran opts to use its new resources to double or quadruple its support for Hezbollah and Hamas, the Assad regime in Syria, and the Houthi rebellion in Yemen.

Now ask yourself: How are Iran’s rivals likely to respond to this timeline of Iranian rearmament: increased support for proxies this year, upgraded conventional weapons in 2020, ballistic missiles in 2023, and nukes in 2025? The president’s conjecture is that by buying time he also gets closer to a regional balance. The alternative and much more likely scenario is that he gets an arms race and escalating conflict.

Historical analogies must be used with care. Last week the president boldly likened his deal with Iran to Richard Nixon’s opening to China and Ronald Reagan’s strategic-arms-reduction treaty with the Soviet Union. These analogies are misleading. Mao Zedong andMikhail Gorbachev did their deals with the U.S. from positions of weakness. In the early 1970s, the Chinese Communists were threatened externally by the Soviets and internally by their own crazy Cultural Revolution. In the 1980s the Soviets were losing the Cold War not only economically but ideologically. By contrast, though under intense economic pressure because of the U.S.-led sanctions campaign, the Iran regime has been gaining strategically since the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003 and domestically since the crushing of the Green Revolution in 2009.

In the Cold War, communism posed a twofold challenge: the Leninist and the Maoist. The U.S. had some success containing the Soviet version in Europe and the Middle East, but struggled to contain the Maoist version in Korea, risked Armageddon to keep Soviet missiles out of Cuba, and failed miserably to save South Vietnam. The Kissingerian solution was to be closer to the two Communist powers than they were to each other.

The U.S. used a mix of détente and containment on the Soviets, and engagement with the Chinese. But Washington also built very strong alliances in Europe and Asia. And the U.S. overtly resisted the ideological challenge posed by both brands of Marxism.

What, by contrast, is the strategy today? Faced with two forms of Islamic extremism, Shiite and Sunni, we are tilting toward Iran, the principal sponsor of the former. We are alienating our allies, moderate Sunnis as well as Israelis. In doing so, I fear, we are stoking the flames of sectarian conflict at all levels, from the local to the national to the regional. And all the while President Obama repeats the hollow mantra that “Islam is a religion of peace.”

To repeat: No one can say for sure what will come of the president’s strategy. It may magically produce equilibrium in the Middle East, as he hopes. But all the evidence points the other way: toward a continuing escalation of violence in the region, and indeed throughout the Islamic world.

According to the International Institute of Strategic Studies’ Armed Conflict Database, total fatalities due to armed conflict increased world-wide by a factor of roughly four between 2010 and 2014. The Middle East and North Africa accounted for more than 70% of the increase.

According to the statistics on terrorism gathered by the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism, the number of terrorist incidents world-wide quadrupled between 2006 and 2013, while the number of fatalities rose by 130%. In that period, the percentage of fatalities attributable to Muslim groups rose to 92% from 75%.

President Obama’s conjecture is that his nuclear-arms deal with Iran will somehow break these trends. My conjecture is that the effect will be exactly the opposite. Even before he hands over the White House keys to his successor, we shall see that there was no simple, binary choice between peace and war. We bought time. We postponed Iran’s nuclear breakout. But we also stoked the flames of a conflict that doesn’t need nukes to get a lot more lethal than it already is.

Mr. Ferguson’s first volume of a biography of Henry Kissinger will be published by Penguin Press in September.

The Lost Pilgrims of the Islamic State

A youth uses binoculars to look at Turkish army tanks holding positions, near the border with Syria, in the outskirts of the village of Elbeyi, east of the town of Kilis, in southeastern Turkey, Thursday, July 23, 2015.

A youth uses binoculars to look at Turkish army tanks holding positions, near the border with Syria, in the outskirts of the village of Elbeyi, east of the town of Kilis, in southeastern Turkey, Thursday, July 23, 2015.

Defense One, by Simon Cottee, July 26, 2015:

Like past pilgrimages to China and the Soviet Union, the migration of Westerners to the Islamic State group points to the tragic intersection of estrangement and utopian hope.

In Political Pilgrims, the sociologist Paul Hollander exposes and excoriates the mentality of a certain kind of Western intellectual, who, such is the depth of his estrangement or alienation from his own society, is predisposed to extend sympathy to virtually any opposing political system.

The book is about the travels of 20th-century Western intellectuals to the Soviet Union, China, and Cuba, and how these political travelers were able to find in such repressive countries a model of “the good society” in which they could invest their brightest hopes. Hollander documents in relentless and mortifying detail how this utopian impulse, driven by a deep discontent with their own societies, led them to deny or excuse the myriad moral defects of the places they visited.

But the significance of Political Pilgrims extends far beyond its immediate subject matter, and its insights may help to illuminate the mentality of that most recent and disconcerting set of pilgrims: namely, the Western migrants to the Islamic State, whose estrangement from their own societies can prime them to idealize the so-called Islamic State and overlook or justify its terrible human-rights abuses.

It is estimated that around 4,000 people have left their homes in the West to migrate to ISIS. Many have become jihadist fighters in the apparent hope of achieving martyrdom. A significant number—over 550 women—seem to have gone to become mothers and raise the next generation of jihadist “lions.” Some have left to put their medical expertise to use, and others to help in whatever capacity they can. Their motives are as mixed as their backgrounds. Indeed, the striking fact about these new pilgrims is that they don’t fit any single profile. They represent a broad spectrum of humanity, from former rappers and gangbangers to grandparents and gifted students.

On the face of it, they share little in common with the rarefied intellectuals ofPolitical Pilgrims. Yet their estrangement from Western society and the force of their belief in an alternative system far superior to it, evidenced in interviews they have given and other forms of personal testimony, suggest that they share certain discontents and susceptibilities with the subjects of Hollander’s study.

Among the countless examples of folly cited by Hollander is Sidney and Beatrice Webb’s tome Soviet Communism: A New Civilization?, in which the Soviet penal system is praised for—wait for it—its progressive spirit. The second edition of this book, from which, as the historian Robert Conquest noted, “the question mark was triumphantly removed,” was published in 1937—“at precisely the time,” Conquest observed, that “the regime was in its worst phase of gloomy, all-embracing terror.”

How could the Webbs and others like them have gotten it so wrong? They were clearly foolish, but they were not stupid. Indeed, writes Hollander, many of the intellectuals in his survey were widely revered for their fierce intelligence and lively skepticism. Hollander contends instead that they wanted to be deceived about the failures and depredations of the societies they visited. And this, he theorizes, was in turn because, psychologically, they needed to believe in the existence of a perfect social system that not only exemplified their deepest ideals but also gave voice to their deepest misgivings about their own societies.

“Wishful thinking,” the sociologist Karl Mannheim wrote, “has always figured in human affairs. When the imagination finds no satisfaction in existing reality, it seeks refuge in wishfully constructed places and periods.” Hollander approvingly reproduces this quote in his introduction to Political Pilgrims, and one of the great merits of his book is the clarity and force with which it shows how desire can supersede and subvert critical thinking.

The recent migrations to ISIS, just like the political pilgrimages before them, are yet further testimony to the power of wishful thinking and how desire can trump reason.

Earlier this month, it was reported that a family of 12 from Luton, England—including, according to the BBC, “a baby and two grandparents”—had made the journey to Syria. It was the second family believed to have left the United Kingdom for the Islamic State since May. Was the family coerced or, as one relative has suggested, manipulated into going to Syria? Were they the victims of some collective psychosis? Not a chance, if a press release purportedly from the family is to be credited. The BBC acquired the statement from an individual claiming to be an Islamic State fighter, though the media organization could not verify its authenticity.

“None of us were forced against our will,” it said, describing a land “free from the corruption and oppression of man-made law … in which a Muslim doesn’t feel oppression when practicing their religion. In which a parent doesn’t feel the worry of losing their child to the immorality of society. In which the sick and elderly do not wait in agony, tolerating the partiality of race or social class.” It also derisively alluded to the “so-called freedom and democracy” of Western states.

The statement, as the scholar Shiraz Maher pointed out, clearly serves a propagandistic purpose, and it could well be a fabrication. But it also accurately reflects the sentiments expressed by other Western migrants who have made the journey to Syria, and who in their social-media postings have mocked the notion that they have been “brainwashed” into joining ISIS. Furthermore, it distills two intimately connected themes that are essential for understanding the mentality of the Western migrants: estrangement and utopian hope.

[I]SIS’s caliphate project, because it offers a bracing utopian alternative to Western secular society, speaks directly to those who feel their lives are worthless, spiritually corrupted, empty, boring, or devoid of purpose and significance, and who see no value in their own societies. It promises, in short, salvation and ultimate meaning through total commitment to a sacred cause. “I don’t think there’s anything better than living in the land of Khilafah,” or caliphate, said one British jihadist in a video, “Eid Greetings from the Land of the Khilafah,” released last summer by ISIS’s media arm. “You’re not living under oppression. … You’re not living under kuffar [unbelievers]. … We don’t need any democracy. … All we need is shariah.”

Similar themes come out strongly in a recent report on female Western migrants. Based on the social-media postings of self-identified migrants apparently within ISIS-controlled territory, the authors found that estrangement from Western society and anger at perceived injustices against Muslims worldwide, together with a strong sense of religious calling and an unwavering faith in the rectitude of the newly emerging caliphate, form the basis for why these women journey to ISIS.

From this, it is clear that their departures owe as much to perceived corruption and oppression at home as to a desire to see in the Islamic State a utopian society free of any such secular perversions. This may also explain how, despite all the evidence, Western migrants to the caliphate can ignore or discount the mountain of incriminating evidence against ISIS, and risk everything to join it.

In Britain, where Prime Minister David Cameron just this week introduced a counterterrorism strategy as part of what he called “the struggle of our generation,” debate over ISIS and its recruitment methods has become unhelpfully polarized. On the one side are those, including British officials, who portrayISIS recruits as “vulnerable” or impressionable youth who, despite their murderous intentions or actions, are actually victimsOn the other side are those, often academics and human-rights activists, who similarly argue thatISIS recruits are victims, but of oppressive government policies and actions rather than sinister jihadist groomers. The problem with both lines of argument is that they deny the agency of those who join ISIS, and obscure the religious idealism that motivates them.

One of the biggest challenges associated with countermessaging efforts against ISIS is how to prompt would-be migrants to rethink their favorable perceptions about the group and its self-proclaimed state. This is less a problem of finding the “right” narrative than of reconfiguring individual human desire, because it is possible that, at some deep psychological level, would-be migrants to ISIS want to be deceived about its widely reported depredations. As Christina Nemr, a former U.S. counterterrorism advisor, recently observed, people “push ‘threatening information’ away in favor of information that confirms their own beliefs.”

It is hard enough to sway those who have yet to make up their minds about ISIS— the so-called “fence-sitters.” But it is monumentally harder to sway those who, because of their idealism and estrangement from their own societies, want or need to see the best in ISIS

Simon Cottee is a senior lecturer in criminology at the University of Kent. He is the author of the forthcoming book The Apostates: When Muslims Leave Islam.

Also see:

LEAVING ISLAM: THE STORY OF AN EX-MUSLIM

Muslim-Prayer1Philos Project, by ZUBAIR SIMONSON, July 22, 2015:

I am a Christian. Catholic, to be specific. But that has not always been the case.

While walking through Times Square in the spring of 2006, I happened to glance at the headlines streaming by on the ticker. Al-Qaeda had bombed Iraq’s Al-Askari Shrine, one of the holiest sites in Shi’a Islam.

The news made me nauseous. I had read plenty of news articles reporting sectarian violence, especially after the Sept. 11 attacks. But this particular story was the last straw: I vowed to never call myself a Muslim again.

After that day, I began to consider all religions poisonous. I saw them as just another excuse to divide humanity into “us” vs. “them.” Religion was for stupid people; it was just a means to control them. Little did I know that I would be baptized in a Christian church just one short year later.

Although I formally disavowed Islam after the Al-Askari bombing, I could hardly have called myself a practicing Muslim during the months leading up to that event. In fact, my faith had been waning for a number of years. There were many moments in which I could feel my beliefs eroding, but one in particular stands out.

The setting itself was rather mundane: I was in the passenger seat of a car. Someone very close to me, a bookish type and a Muslim, had mentioned the Banu Qurayza in passing. He went on to explain that the Banu Qurayza was a Jewish tribe in Medina that had fallen victim to a wholesale massacre under Muhammad’s direct orders. As a child, I had been indoctrinated to revere Muhammad. But in this otherwise ordinary moment, I wondered for the first time how a spiritual genius could act so ruthlessly. I tried to explain it away by considering the circumstances, but that only spawned more questions. Why would a perfect person’s actions need to be justified?

As I was only 16 or 17 at the time, I kept my questions to myself. After all, I could get in trouble for doubting Muhammad’s integrity. But the deed had been done. Those unsettling seeds of doubt had been planted.

Only in retrospect did I realize that I had been surrounded by the legacy of the Banu Qurayza Massacre throughout my entire childhood. The mosque my family attended in North Carolina was heavily influenced by the Salafi Movement (an extremist undertaking that passes for official doctrine in Saudi Arabia), as are countless mosques across the United States. My own family was moderate, but there were very few alternative places of worship for Muslims in Raleigh. Khutbas (the equivalent of a sermon or homily) during the Friday prayer service were often obsessed with politics. The tone was typically anti-American – even venomously so. In 2005, during the last khutba I ever attended at that Raleigh mosque, the speaker publicly criticized the American government for preventing young Muslims from serving jihad in Iraq.

But there was one country that we hated above all: Israel. The Jews were the penultimate “them.”

As a child, I was taught that Israel’s founding could be summarized as the Jews’ migrating en masse after the Second World War, expelling the Palestinians from their homes and wreaking havoc on every neighboring nation. I frequently heard calls for justice against Israel. Many in the Muslim community, especially those in leadership, were migrants who probably never met a Jew before they moved to America. But that did not deter them from painting an ugly picture for us, the Muslim youth, of sadistic Israeli soldiers in the West Bank; of Baruch Goldstein; of the Israel Defense Forces viciously attacking neighboring nations without warrant or regard for collateral damage.

We were often told about how the Jewish-controlled media lied to the public and of how Jewish lobbyists bribed and manipulated our government. Our family friends often shared wild conspiracy theories. One of my favorites was that the Jews (which make up approximately 15 million people worldwide) were in the planning stages of genocide against Muslims (a billion and a half people). One Pakistani man actually told me that he admired Adolf Hitler for having killed so many Jews.

We impressionable young people heard these sentiments everywhere: from our Sunday school teachers to our family friends; at the mosque and in our close friends’ homes. They were ubiquitous, and we believed them.

Bigoted statements from the mouths of fellow Muslims were just as commonplace in Michigan, where I went to college, as they were back home. I myself even once joked, “Come on. Don’t be a Jew!” to a fellow Muslim student when he left a rather miniscule tip at a restaurant (my jab worked: he ended up leaving a much better tip). My prejudice resonated with him.

I believe that what saved me was the fact that I always felt more affinity for my country than for my family’s faith. When I was 6, I cried and cried when my mother broke the news to me that the Russians had beaten the United States in the race to outer space. The demonizing of our country during Sunday school and the Friday khutbas – with the thinly veiled message that I could not be both patriotic and pious – went a long way toward the undoing of my faith. My country – the United States of America – made it clear that I could practice any faith, but my faith demanded that I hate my country. In the end, it was an easy choice.

It was not until I was in my early 20s that I bothered to learn the other side of the story: that Jews had been migrating to Israel for several decades (without much controversy) prior to Israel’s founding (and raising the standard of living for everyone in the region). About the 1947 United Nations Partition Plan that Israel accepted and that Arab states rejected. About how many of Israel’s Arab neighbors had exacerbated the Palestinian issue during their failed 1948 invasion. That the Six-Day War was a legitimate, preemptive strike. About the wild contrast between citizens’ rights under the Israeli government and in the PLO-administered regions. About the very generous concessions the Israeli government had been willing to make in exchange for recognition. That Israel had served as a haven for Jews across the world, particularly the Soviet-controlled states. About how Yasser Arafat and the PLO had repeatedly stalled the peace process. About the great lengths the IDF went to protect the Christian community in Lebanon. That some Muslims actually served in the IDF.

The fact that Israel was a stable democracy surrounded on all sides by tyrants bent on its destruction made me begin to feel something very foreign for this tiny state that did everything it could to survive: sympathy.

It is difficult to gauge how far such intolerant attitudes against Israel and the United States permeate the Muslim community, both here and abroad. After all, who in Islam will honestly answer a survey on anti-Semitic attitudes? I am certain that such venomous attitudes are alarmingly high, and may very well be in the majority among Muslims.

For that reason, my support for Israel relies more heavily on subjectivity than objectivity. It took me years to realize what all of the “demands for justice” really were: hatred parading itself as justice. It is very important to respect other people’s faith – but never their hatred.

Only one nation in the entire Middle East provides its citizens with a true democratic government. Although anti-Semitism is very much alive today, only one nation welcomes all of those who suffer because of it.

The very existence of Israel raises important questions: Are we willing to stand up for the beliefs in basic human dignity that we hold dear? Do we truly seek to transcend one of the most ancient, and most virulent, historical prejudices of our collective history? And if the answer to these questions is “yes,” our support for Israel is paramount.

***

 

Muslim Moderates Rally Against Terror in Ireland – All Fifty of Them

300x213xislam-peace-300x213.jpg.pagespeed.ic_.f7kjkwah12Frontpage, by Robert Spencer, July 28, 2015:

Everyone has been waiting for this for years, and at last it has happened. The historic happening took place in Ireland, a nation hitherto not distinguished for standing in the cultural vanguard, but all that will change now, thanks to a rally hosted by a group calling itself the Irish Muslim Peace and Integration Council, which has finally delivered to the world the desire of the ages: Muslims rallying against terrorism!

Surely tens of thousands of Muslims attended, right? You know, that vast majority of Muslims who abhor and reject terrorism? Those moderates upon whom the leaders of Western countries are betting the very futures of their nations turned out in droves, didn’t they?

Well, not exactly. RTE News reported this on Sunday about the blessed event: “Up to 50 people took part in a rally organised by the Irish Muslim Peace and Integration Council to protest over the actions of the so-called Islamic State.”

That’s right. I’m afraid the turnout was, uh, fifty people. Not fifty thousand. Fifty. And not only that, but according to the Irish Examiner, the Irish Muslim Peace and Integration Council “faced resistance from a few members of the Islamic community, while promoting the event.” Not just verbal resistance, either: “Organisers said that a member of the council was assaulted by someone at a mosque who claimed to support ‘ISIS’, while he was handing out leaflets to promote today’s protest against terrorism.”

So not only did the vast majority of moderate Muslims fail to show up, but the group protesting against jihad terror faced active resistance from other Muslims. When have we heard about a Muslim who wanted to join the Islamic State facing active resistance, even to the point of assault, from moderate Muslims? We have seen Muslims express bewilderment that they went, and anger at the government (whether of the U.S. or Britain) for not stopping them from going, but we have not generally seen Muslims doing anything themselves to prevent them from going.

What’s more, this is not the first time that attendance at a Muslim rally against terrorism has been decidedly underwhelming. In October 2014 in Houston, a rally against the Islamic State organized by the Hamas-linked Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) drew the grand total of ten people. In August 2013 in Boston, about 25 Muslims rallied against “misperceptions” that Islam was violent. About the same number showed up in June 2013 at a progressive Muslim rally in Toronto to claim that their religion had been “hijacked.”

And back in 2005, a group called the Free Muslims Coalition held what it dubbed a “Free Muslims March Against Terror,” intending to “send a message to the terrorists and extremists that their days are numbered … and to send a message to the people of the Middle East, the Muslim world and all people who seek freedom, democracy and peaceful coexistence that we support them.” In the run-up to the event it got enthusiastic national and international publicity, but it ended up drawing about twenty-five people.

Contrast those paltry showings to the thousands of Muslims who have turned out for rallies against cartoons of Muhammad or against Israel. Here are some headlines from the aftermath of the Charlie Hebdo jihad massacre of Muhammad cartoonists in January 2015:

Chechnya: 800,000 Muslims protest Muhammad cartoons; protests also in Iran, Pakistan, Ingushetia, elsewhere

Pakistan: 10,000 Muslims protest against Charlie Hebdo’s Muhammad cartoons

Australia: 1,000 Muslims rally against Charlie Hebdo and the freedom of speech

Kyrgyztsan: 1,000 Muslims rally: “I am not Charlie, I love my Prophet.”

But given a chance to show how Muslims overwhelmingly reject “extremism,” only a handful show up.

This is just the opposite of what the situation should be if the mainstream narrative about Islam and jihad were true. We should be seeing pro-jihad terror Muslims opposed strenuously within their own community. Instead, those who oppose jihad terror are the real “tiny minority of extremists,” hounded and opposed by their fellow Muslims.

You’d think that some of the non-Muslim analysts who have been confidently telling us that moderate Muslims will any day now rise up against their “extremist” brethren and take back their religion from those who have “hijacked” it would get a clue from all this, and realize that the moderates have had almost fourteen years now since 9/11 to rein in the “extremists,” and have not done so, and are not going to do so.

But they won’t. They will be out there with their pom-poms again to cheerlead for the next “moderate Muslim rally against terror” – and they’ll not have to strain their pocketbook all that much to buy a nice halal dinner for everyone who shows up.

U.S. State Dept. Blocks Christians from Testifying about Islamist Persecution

Middle East Forum Blog, by Raymond Ibrahim  •  Jul 27, 2015
Cross-posted from The Gatestone Institute

Excerpt from Raymond Ibrahim’s monthly roundup of Muslim persecution of Christians around the world.

The State Department initially refused to give a visa to Sister Diana Momeka of Iraq when she planned a visit to Washington earlier this year to advocate on behalf of Iraqi Christians.

The State Department initially refused to give a visa to Sister Diana Momeka of Iraq when she planned a visit to Washington earlier this year to advocate on behalf of Iraqi Christians.

Sister Diana Momeka, an influential Iraqi Christian leader, who was scheduled to visit the U.S. to advocate for persecuted Christians in the Mideast, was denied a visa by the U.S. State Department even though she had visited the U.S. before, most recently in 2012.During the height of one of the most brutal months of Muslim persecution of Christians, the U.S. State Department exposed its double standards against persecuted Christian minorities.

She was to be one of a delegation of religious leaders from Iraq — including Sunni, Shia and Yazidi, among others — to visit Washington, D.C., to describe the situation of their people. Every religious leader from this delegation to Washington D.C. was granted a visa — except for the only Christian representative, Sister Diana.

After this refusal became public, many Americans protested, some writing to their congressmen. Discussing the nun’s visa denial, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich said:

This is an administration which never seems to find a good enough excuse to help Christians, but always finds an excuse to apologize for terrorists … I hope that as it gets attention that Secretary Kerry will reverse it. If he doesn’t, Congress has to investigate, and the person who made this decision ought to be fired.

The State Department eventually granted Sister Diana a visa.

This is not the first time the U.S. State Department has not granted a visa to a Christian leader coming from a Muslim region. Last year, after the United States Institute for Peace brought together the governors of Nigeria’s mostly Muslim northern states for a conference in the U.S., the State Department blocked the visa of the region’s only Christian governor, Jonah David Jang.

According to a Nigerian human rights lawyer based in Washington D.C., Emmanuel Ogebe, the Christian governor’s “visa problems” were due to anti-Christian bias in the U.S. government:

The U.S. insists that Muslims are the primary victims of Boko Haram. It also claims that Christians discriminate against Muslims in Plateau, which is one of the few Christian majority states in the north. After the [Christian governor] told them [U.S. authorities] that they were ignoring the 12 Shariah states who institutionalized persecution … he suddenly developed visa problems…. The question remains — why is the U.S. downplaying or denying the attacks against Christians?

The testimony of another nun, Sister Hatune Dogan, also made in May, indicates why the State Department may not want to hear such testimonials: they go against the paradigm that “Islam is peace.” According to Sister Hatune:

What is going on there [Islamic State territories], what I was hearing, is the highest barbarism on earth in the history until today… The mission of Baghdadi, of ISIS, is to convert the world completely to the Islamic religion and bring them to Dar Al Salaam, as they call it. And Islam is not peace, please. Whoever says ISIS has no connection to Islam or something like this is, he’s a liar. ISIS is Islam; Islam is ISIS… We know that in Islam, there is no democracy. Islam and democracy are opposite, like black and white. And I hope America will understand. America today has the power that they can stop this disaster on the earth, with other Western countries.

For the rest of Ibrahim’s monthly roundup of Muslim persecution of Christians around the world, click here.

Raymond Ibrahim is a Judith Friedman Rosen Fellow at the Middle East Forum

Authorities ignore US mosques at center of Islamic terror attacks

From left, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, Hani Hanjour, and Chattanooga shooter Mohammed Abdulazeez. Photo: AP; AP; Getty Images

From left, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, Hani Hanjour, and Chattanooga shooter Mohammed Abdulazeez.
Photo: AP; AP; Getty Images

New York Post, by Paul Sperry, July 26, 2015:

Property records show the mosque attended by the terrorist who killed US soldiers at a base in Chattanooga, Tenn., is affiliated with the same Islamic group as the mosques patronized by the Boston marathon bombers and the 9/11 hijackers who attacked the Pentagon.

Yet federal investigators have dismissed any possibility that the Tennessee mosque was a source of radicalization or support for the terrorist, Mohammad Youssef Abdulazeez.

The trustee of the Islamic Society of Greater Chattanooga, like the Boston and Virginia mosques attended by other terrorists, is the North American Islamic Trust.

In 2007, the Justice Department designated NAIT as an unindicted co-conspirator in the largest terrorist financing case in America history, US v. Holy Land Land Foundation, which resulted in convictions and imprisonment of several US-based Hamas terrorist leaders. Current NAIT chairman Gaddoor Saidi also appears on the government’s co-conspirator list.

Court records detail money flowing through NAIT financial accounts to Hamas. In the same exhibits from the trial, the Justice Department lists NAIT and Saidi among “members of the US Muslim Brotherhood,” alongside NAIT’s parent the Islamic Society of North America — from which the Islamic Society of Greater Chattanooga derives its name.

While NAIT maintains its innocence, its repeated appeals to the government to expunge its name from the co-conspirators list have failed. A federal judge ruled there is “ample evidence” tying NAIT to Hamas and the Brotherhood.

The Muslim Brotherhood is a worldwide jihadist movement whose credo is “Jihad is our way, and death for the glory of Allah is our greatest ambition.”

The ethnic-Palestinian Abdulazeez expressed similar ambitions in his Internet writings, in which he dreamed of fighting and dying in “jihad for the sake of Allah.”

In 2009, when Islamic Society leaders were raising money from Chattanooga Muslims for construction of their new mosque, they invoked the names of major Muslim Brotherhood figures — including the group’s spiritual leader Yusuf al-Qaradawi, who once issued a fatwa calling on Muslims to kill US soldiers in Iraq.

Qaradawi’s name shows up in a mosque PowerPoint presentation exhorting Muslim faithful to donate “in the cause of Allah.”

Abdulazeez and his family were longtime members of the Islamic Society, which forces women to pray separately from men and wear head coverings.

Contradicting recent claims they had “minimal interactions” with the 24-year-old jihadist, Facebook postings show mosque leaders once held a well-attended graduation celebration for him.

Friends say Abdulazeez regularly prayed at the Islamic Society in the months leading up to his attack on two US military sites.

The current mosque leadership is directly connected to NAIT.

The Islamic Society of Greater Chattanooga grew out of a small mosque founded by NAIT in 1997, the original deed reveals.

“NAIT bought the property in August of 1997 from St. John United Methodist,” said Sheldon Wright, deputy clerk for the Hamilton County, Tenn., register of deeds.

In 2007, the land for the new mosque was purchased by the “Islamic Society of Greater Chattanooga Inc.,” which lists an address for NAIT agent Arif Shafi. Shafi that same year filed the articles of incorporation for the Islamic Society of Greater Chattanooga. The state charter lists Shafi as both the “registered agent” for the mosque and one of its “incorporators.”

Then, in 2013, NAIT sold the old mosque, Masjid Annour, moving it to the new Islamic Society site. Shafi is represented in the transaction as “the authorized agent of the North American Islamic Trust.”

Attempts to reach Shafi for comment were unsuccessful. Other Islamic Society officials have asserted the mosque preaches peace and that they saw no signs that Abdulazeez was involved in “extremism.”

This is a familiar refrain. Americans have heard the same line from leaders of other mosques controlled by NAIT after their members, too, carried out acts of terrorism. Among them:

  • Islamic Society of Boston, where a dozen terrorists have worshipped, including the marathon bombers Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and Tamerlan Tsarnaev and most recently the ISIS-inspired terrorist who plotted to behead Boston cops.
  • Islamic Community Center of Phoenix, where worshippers included two ISIS terrorists who attacked a Dallas-area event and planned to shoot up the Super Bowl.
  • Dar al-Hijrah Islamic Center, where some of the 9/11 hijackers worshipped and got help obtaining IDs and housing, following on the heels of the Fort Hood shooter and several other terrorists who have attended the mosque just outside Washington.

More interested in outreach, authorities overlooked these disturbing patterns.

After 9/11, the Pentagon even invited the Dar al-Hijrah cleric, who ministered to the very hijackers who torpedoed the military headquarters, to an interfaith luncheon. That same cleric, Anwar al-Awlaki, would go on to head al Qaeda’s operations in Yemen before a drone-fired missile finally caught up to him.

Muslim Brotherhood archives uncovered last decade in an FBI raid of a terrorist suspect’s basement in a Washington suburb list NAIT as one of the movement’s key fronts in the US. They also describe its Islamic centers as “bases” from which to train and deploy its “battalions” in jihad.

NAIT holds title to more than 300 mosques and has helped finance more than 500 Islamic centers in America. Imams insist that none of them preach hate. But is it enough for law enforcement to just take their word for it?

We can’t let political correctness spare these mosques due scrutiny.

Paul Sperry, Hoover Institution media fellow, is author of “Infiltration: How Muslim Spies and Subversives Have Penetrated Washington.”

Obama’s secret Iran deals exposed

Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) (Danny Johnston/Associated Press)

Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) (Danny Johnston/Associated Press)

Washington Post, b July 27, 2015:

President Obama promised that his nuclear deal with Iran would not be “based on trust” but rather “unprecedented verification.” Now it turns out Obama’s verification regime is based on trust after all — trust in two secret side agreements negotiated exclusively between Iran and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) that apparently no one (including the Obama administration) has seen.

Worse, Obama didn’t even reveal the existence of these secret side deals to Congress when he transmitted the nuclear accord to Capitol Hill. The agreements were uncovered, completely by chance, by two members of Congress — Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-Kan.) and Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) — who were in Vienna meeting with the U.N.-releated agency.

In an interview, Pompeo told me that he and Cotton were meeting with the deputy director of the IAEA and the agency’s two top Iran negotiators just days after the nuclear accord was announced, when they asked how the agency will carry out verification at the Iranian military complex at Parchin. IAEA officials told them, quite casually, that the details were all covered in agreements negotiated between the IAEA and the Iranian government. It was the first they had heard of the side deals.

Pompeo says they asked whether they could see those agreements. He says IAEA officials replied, “ ‘Oh no, of course not, no, you’re not going to get to see those.’ And so everybody on our side of the table asked, ‘Has Secretary Kerry seen these?’ ‘No, Secretary Kerry hasn’t seen them. No American is ever going to get to see them.’ ”

It turns out that only the two parties — the IAEA and Iran — get to see the actual agreements (though you can see a picture of Iranian and IAEA officials holding up what appear to be the secret accords here).

In other words, Obama is gambling our national security and handing over $150 billion in sanctions relief to Iran, based on secret agreements negotiated between the IAEA and Iran that no U.S. official has seen.

“We need to see these documents in order to evaluate whether or not verification is ample to make such a big concession to the Iranians,” Pompeo says. “No member of Congress should be asked to vote on an agreement of this historic importance absent knowing what the terms of the verification process are.”

In fact, the Obama administration’s failure to transmit these side deals to Congress is a violation of the law. The Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act, which Obama signed into law, explicitly states that the president must transmit the nuclear agreement along with “all related materials and annexes.” That clearly covers any side agreements covering the verification of Iran’s compliance.

Susan Rice told reporters the administration “provided Congress with all of the documents that we drafted or were part of drafting and all documents shared with us by the IAEA.” Sorry, that’s not what the law requires.

But the administration cannot hand over what it apparently does not have. For Pompeo, that raises even more troubling questions. “Why on earth is the president letting the negotiations [on verification] be negotiated by someone other than us?” he asks. How can it be that the administration would “do a deal with the world’s largest state sponsor of terror, that’s spent its entire existence cheating, and we would sign off on a deal with them whose core provisions are completely unknown to our side? It’s remarkable.”

What is in the secret side deals? According to Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), one of the side deals governing inspections of the Parchin military complex allows Iran to collect its own soil samples, instead of IAEA inspectors. That is like letting Lance Armstrong collect his own blood samples for a doping investigation. “I suspect if we’re able to actually go over [these agreements], you find half a dozen that you would stare at and realize we really didn’t get verification,” Pompeo says.

Congress should insist on seeing the side deals before it votes on the Iran accord. The only way to stop the agreement is for Congress to override the president’s veto through a resolution of disapproval with a two-thirds vote in both houses. That would require 13 Senate Democrats and 45 House Democrats to vote no — which would have been highly unlikely until the revelation of these secret deals.

It remains to be seen whether the revelation of the secret side deals will make it impossible for Democrats to vote in favor of the Iran agreement. How, Pompeo asks, can they explain to their constituents that they voted for a nuclear deal with Iran without knowing how it will be verified?

“My mission in the next 45 days is to convince 45 House Democrats to override the veto,” Pompeo says. “It’s a long climb, but this is important.”

Read more from Marc Thiessen’s archive, follow him on Twitter or subscribe to his updates on Facebook.

Also see:

EMP threat

Sen. Johnson asked the energy secretary if he was aware of the 2008 congressional commission report that concluded an electromagnetic pulse, or EMP, attack would kill up to 90 percent of the U.S. population within a year, by knocking out the U.S electric grid with the explosion of just a single nuclear bomb over the American heartland.

To the senator’s amazement, Moniz replied he had not.

Johnson asked if Moniz was aware that Iran had practiced EMP attacks with simple scud missiles.

He was not.

Johnson said that alarmed him, especially in light of the details of the Iran deal, because in the seven years since the congressional report, “we have done nothing to protect ourselves” against the EMP threat.

“We better start now,” the senator concluded.