Experts: American Adversaries Work Together Despite Differences

Fighters from the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) / Reuters

Fighters from the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) / Reuters

BY: :

American adversaries in the Middle East continue to work together across sectarian and religious divides to harm U.S. interests and security, requiring a more nuanced response from U.S. officials to address the turmoil in the region, experts say.

The Obama administration has claimed in recent weeks that the United States and Iran—a traditional U.S. enemy since its Islamic revolution 35 years ago—have a shared interest in pushing back the advances of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL or ISIS), an al Qaeda offshoot, in Iraq. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said last month that the United States and Iran have “some history here of sharing common interests,” citing early cooperation on the Afghanistan war against al Qaeda and the Taliban.

Iran, led by a Shiite government, is typically viewed as opposing hardline Sunni groups such as the Taliban and al Qaeda as part of an intra-religious dispute among Muslims.

However, Iran has a long history of harboring and supporting al Qaeda. European intelligence reports indicate that Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, founder of the group al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) that eventually morphed into ISIL, operated from Iran after the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan in 2001. Zarqawi used protection from the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) to rebuild the terrorist group’s network and prepare for its expansion into Iraq.

The U.S. Treasury Department has called Iran “a critical transit point for funding to support al Qaeda’s activities in Afghanistan and Pakistan.” The department in February sanctioned three IRGC officers for allegedly providing support to the Taliban as well as to a senior member of al Qaeda who allegedly used Iran to move Sunni fighters into Syria.

“Iran has a long history of fomenting violent conflict and inflaming sectarian divides throughout the Middle East including in Lebanon, Syria and Iraq,” said the group United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI) in recent press release.

“Depictions of Iran as a source of stability are therefore erroneous and short-sighted, as are assertions that increased Iranian involvement in Iraq will serve American and Iraqi interests,” UANI added.

Michael Rubin, resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) and a former Pentagon adviser on Iran and Iraq for the George W. Bush administration, said in an email that U.S. diplomats often only view the Middle East through “a sectarian lens.”

“Sunnis and Shi’ites show no compunction working together to screw over America, which their respective extremists consider a bigger threat,” he said. “Heck, sometimes it seems that the State Department never bothered to read the 9/11 report which suggested that the attacks might not have happened had Iran not facilitated the travel to training camps of the 9/11 hijackers.”

“Sure, at first glance, Secretary of State John Kerry may believe that the U.S. and Iran share an interest in Iraq,” he added. “But just because firefighters and arsonists share an interest in fire doesn’t mean they are on the same side.”

In Iraq, ISIL partnered last month with former Baathist generals under Saddam Hussein’s regime to seize the key northern city of Mosul. Religious extremist groups such as al Qaeda have traditionally sought to overthrow secular Middle East regimes such as Hussein’s Baathists.

Top U.S. officials have recently expressed grave concerns about the potential for foreign fighters in ISIL to commit terrorist attacks in the United States.

The secular-religious rift in the Middle East also did not stop Hussein from supporting jihadist groups when it suited the former Iraqi dictator’s interests. Hussein reportedly provided safe haven, training, and arms to these groups as long as they agreed to attack countries he wanted to pressure.

Hundreds of thousands of documents obtained in Iraq since 2003, compiled in a report by the Institute for Defense Analyses, further confirmed Hussein’s links to terrorist groups.

Read more at Free Beacon

Analysis: Al Qaeda attempts to undermine new Islamic State with old video of Osama bin Laden

By 

On July 13, Al Qaeda’s As Sahab posted this video of Osama bin Laden from the summer of 2001 on its Twitter feed.

 

On July 13, al Qaeda’s propaganda arm, As Sahab, tweeted a link to an old video of Osama bin Laden. Judging by markers in the video, including bin Laden’s reference to the USS Cole bombing taking place “nine months ago” (al Qaeda attacked the Cole on Oct. 12, 2000), it appears the video was recorded in the middle of 2001.

The first part of bin Laden’s lecture focuses on standard al Qaeda themes, including the war against America. In all likelihood, that is not why al Qaeda posted this particular video of bin Laden now. Instead, al Qaeda is attempting to use the video to counter the Islamic State, which has been disowned by al Qaeda’s senior leadership, and its newly announced caliphate.

“Today, with the grace of Allah, we are redrawing the map of the Islamic world to become one state under the banner of the caliphate,” bin Laden says.

The deceased al Qaeda leader goes on to explain that the Prophet Mohammed found that certain “pillars” were required to build a “strong Islamic State.”

As Sahab is advertising the video of bin Laden with this banner. A similar banner is being featured on a number of jihadist sites, including at the top of the Shumukh al Islam forum.

As Sahab is advertising the video of bin Laden with this banner. A similar banner is being featured on a number of jihadist sites, including at the top of the Shumukh al Islam forum.

“The Prophet spent 13 years in Mecca searching for these pillars: a strong group, obedience and respect, immigration, and jihad,” bin Laden says, according to a translation obtained by The Long War Journal. Mohammed “was on a quest to find these four things,” bin Laden continues. “He wanted to find a strong group that is willing to carry our jihad — those two demands are complementary — and be obedient and respectful. He found these four pillars after 13 years.”

A few sentences later, bin Laden adds: “Those who move from east to west, claiming that they want to establish God’s sharia but do not want to establish the prerequisites and pillars and do not want to tolerate the suffering of finding a group, obeying their leaders, migrating, and carrying out jihad are ignorant and unaware of the Prophet’s doctrine.”

The implied critique of the Islamic State and its announced caliphate, which covers parts of Syria and Iraq, is obvious. When viewed through bin Laden’s testimony, the Islamic State has not built the “pillars” necessary for a caliphate, especially when it comes to “obeying their leaders.”

Indeed, bin Laden’s successor, Ayman al Zawahiri, has covered this issue in his messages addressing the Islamic State’s history. As Sahab released two messages from Zawahiri concerning the Islamic State in May. “Listen to and obey your emir once again,” Zawahiri says when addressing Baghdadi in the first message. “Come back to what your sheikhs, emirs, and those who preceded you on the path and immigration of jihad have worked hard for.” In both of his messages in May, Zawahiri builds a case against Baghdadi, showing that the Islamic State’s self-appointed “caliph” was once Zawahiri’s subordinate. Therefore, by accusing Baghdadi of being disobedient towards his leader, Zawahiri was also accusing him of ignoring one of the “pillars” necessary for building a true Islamic State.

Al Qaeda’s charge against Abu Bakr al Baghdadi’s group could extend further, given that one of the pillars mentioned by bin Laden requires a jihadist group to be “obedient and respectful.” Other jihadist groups and ideologues whose beliefs are not all that different from the Islamic State’s have repeatedly accused Baghdadi’s group of being disrespectful towards anyone who disagrees with its attempted power grab. The disagreements have even led to vicious infighting between jihadists in Syria.

Bin Laden goes on to recount, in brief, the history of al Qaeda’s relations with the Taliban. The Taliban “allowed us to establish training camps on their land, regardless of all the international pressure against them,” bin Laden says. “They are also helping us in our preparations and training although they know that we are preparing to strike the United States of America.” This statement is interesting because there has long been a debate over how the Taliban viewed such attacks. And this is further evidence that bin Laden was loose-lipped prior to the 9/11 attacks, upsetting some of his co-conspirators who wanted to maintain the utmost secrecy.

An audience member asks bin Laden about his bayat (oath of allegiance) to Mullah Omar, the Taliban’s emir. And bin Laden’s response likely has bearing on Abu Bakr al Baghdadi’s claim to be the rightful caliph.

“My pledge of allegiance to the Emir of the Believers [Mullah Omar] is the great pledge of allegiance, which is mentioned in the chapters of the Koran and the stories of the Sunnah,” bin Laden says. “Every Muslim should set his mind and heart and pledge allegiance to the Emir of the Believers Mullah Muhammad Omar for this is the great pledge.”

The Islamic State’s announced caliphate attempts to usurp the power and authority of all other jihadist groups, including the Taliban, by demanding that they swear bayat to the new caliph. This has drawn criticism from highly influential jihadist ideologues such as Abu Muhammad al Maqdisi, as well as al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM).

Bin Laden argues that Mullah Omar was deserving of such a pledge, and the implication of his testimony is that Abu Bakr al Baghdadi is not.

Bin Laden cites Muhammad Bin Abd al Wahhab, the 18th century Islamic leader, as saying: ”When a man is in charge of a country and the scholars in this country accept his ruling, then his ruling as an emir of the believers is legitimate.” Bin Laden says that Mullah Omar has satisfied this requirement, claiming that “more than 1,500 scholars [have] pledged” their allegiance to Omar. Therefore, bin Laden argues, “it is the duty of everyone to pledge allegiance to him.”

Read more at Long War Journal

Jihadist groups across globe vying for terror spotlight

January 2, 2014: Fighters of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria carry their weapons during a parade in the Syrian town of Tel Abyad, near the border with Turkey.(Reuters)

January 2, 2014: Fighters of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria carry their weapons during a parade in the Syrian town of Tel Abyad, near the border with Turkey.(Reuters)

By Perry Chiaramonte:

With every new act of stunning savagery in the name of Islam that takes place in some corner of the world, a new terrorist group seems to step into the spotlight.

From Al Qaeda’s sudden ascendance in the 1990s, to the recent rise of Boko Haram in Nigeria and ISIS in Iraq, new factions are springing up throughout the world, spreading the twisted message of violence and hate in the name of Allah. Most trace their roots to the terror group founded by Usama bin Laden, but have spun off, and fanned out around the world putting their own stamps on the indiscriminate brutality that is the trademark of terrorism.

“The trend is one of decentralization — smaller Al Qaeda affiliates charting their own courses,” said Ryan Mauro, national security analyst for the research institute The Clarion Project. “If groups like ISIS are seen as more successful, the aspiring jihadists will view them as being blessed by Allah and rally to them. Success is seen as evidence of Allah’s approval, and defeat is seen as Allah’s distancing, or even judgment.”

For now, ISIS, with a huge swath of conquered territory, hundreds of millions of dollars looted from Iraqi banks and a leader — Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi — who has pronounced himself the “Caliph” of Muslims around the world, is in position to challenge Al Qaeda for status as the most powerful terror group on the planet. That makes it a magnet for new recruits and donations, said Mauro. One chilling act could cement its role.

“If ISIS wants to overtake Al Qaeda to become the leading Salafist terror group, then it must replicate Al Qaeda’s greatest achievement: Striking the U.S,” Mauro said. “Once that happens, Al Qaeda supporters will switch to ISIS in droves unless the two reconcile.”

Boko Haram was founded in in 2002 in Nigeria’s Borno State, where it campaigned, mostly peacefully, for a Shariah state. But in 2009, after founder Mohammed Yusef was executed in Nigeria, Boko Haram took a violent turn, embracing terrorism, forcing conversions of Christians, and orchestrating kidnappings and bombings. In recent years, Boko Haram has emerged as one of the world’s most dangerous and violent Islamic terrorist sects, culminating in April’s kidnapping of nearly 300 Christian schoolgirls.

Here are some other Islamic terrorist groups operating around the world and waiting to fill any void that should be left by their more high-profile counterparts.

Read more at Fox News

Out of Control Border – Open Invitation to Terrorists

8df0455e-efb9-40e1-b03c-1d342d7d8037Does Obama Believe in Terrorism? by Kevin McCullough at Town Hall, Jul 13, 2014:

I’ve been caught asking myself the same question many times this week.

“Does our President believe in terrorism?”
No, I’m not asking if he personally believes in the use of terrorism, or the ideology of terrorism, or the effectiveness of the weapon of terrorism. Some of my critics are already condemning me for not asking that question from the start. And as well intentioned as some are who would hold those positions, I feel a need to break things down into even more succinct pieces.
Does President Obama believe in terrorism’s existence and imminence in the days we live this very minute?
Normally it would be easy to laugh off such a question from an opinion writer, but these aren’t normal days. The middle easy is burning down. Terrorists are shooting missiles at our best ally. We just turned five of the world’s worst terrorists loose in exchange for a man who got brainwashed to believe the terrorists. And then came this past week…
A source at the border patrol has informed me going back to the days of 9.11.2001, that on any given month (then) we’d have a dozen persons of middle eastern origin attempt to penetrate our southern border each month. In 2014 my source tells me that number is now regularly above a hundred. These persons look very much like all the others crossing the border, most have even learned some spanish, and like all the others they are blending in with, they climb the ladder, jump the fence, and wait for border patrol to pick them up.
This is important to understand given that in the past week–only due to diligent reporting–have we had it revealed that the executive branch of the federal government has authorized free rides for illegals to destinations of choice in the mainland of America. 300,000 “free” rides by our executive branch to people who “tell us” who they are–most days without any form of corroborating identification.
Which would be bad enough, until we learned from the stories coming out of the border that the Islamic State (formerly ISIS, an Al Qaeda faction) has made direct contact with Mexican drug cartels, and then pledged publicly to exploit our southern border. (Come to think of it, I’m pretty certain al-Baghdaddi wasn’t talking about taking a tour when he told his former captors in Iraq that he would “see them in New York.”)
So… to review we’ve got Al Qaeda ready to penetrate our southern border (if they haven’t already). They’re intent on killing us. And we may be giving them rides to anywhere in the lower 48 states.
Then came the information from the National Border Patrol Council, documenting that the same Transportation and Security Administration (TSA) that feels you up, or looks at you on naked machines at airports has been ordered to allow these aliens to fly on commercial jet-liners (no doubt at partial tax-payer expense) with nothing more than their “Notice to Appear” paper from their initial hearing when they arrive in the USA. And as long as they have these easily forged papers TSA can not ask them any further questions about identity. They are then using that form of identification to fly anywhere they wish in the country.
This loosely enforced “security” could put active members of Al Qaeda or any number of other Muslim Brotherhood groups into the heart of New York, DC, or other prime target rich environments. Almost over night, and almost undetected to the good people of America.
The President isn’t stopping the border crossings where nearly 100 for every 4000 that are coming across (and that’s the per day average) turn out to be people of middle eastern origins. The President isn’t requiring the illegal visitors to face the law and it’s Biblically acceptable enforcement. In some cases the crossers are making their initial appearances by SKYPE to a desk operation four states over. The President has instructed the border patrol to play nice and not get into confrontational situations. The President has ordered more than a quarter of a million personal rides to those who wish to meet up with relatives, friend’s, and just people that they know. And the President has not reversed the silly edict allowing anyone in the USA to fly without an ID.
In other words he’s acting as though he firmly doubts that America is being readied for another major-bigger-than-the-previous-record-setting terror attack.
But beyond that he’s actively doing as much as possible to get us as close to that possible reality.
Well he then must believe that Al Qaeda is less of a threat now than it has been in the past. He must believe that there is nothing of significance happening in the Middle East. And his 72% approval rating amongst the world’s muslim population must be because they believe “hope and change” are coming.
For if he believed that a caliphate being established was a dangerous thing, if he believed that evil people exist and are seeking our demise as we read this, and if he believed that these border policies are providing enormous holes in our security for the bad people to do what they want to do…
Then surely he’d ignore his pro-Muslim-brotherhood advisers and do what was best for the welfare of the people he swore an oath to protect.
Right?

*************

DML on terror threat at the border:

 

Jeanine Pirro accuses Obama of implementing a “Trojan Horse” strategy:

 

Frank Gaffney speaks with Judge Jeanine Pirro about the possibility that ISIS will use the current border crisis to entering the United States:

 

Perry: Securing the border is ‘one of the highest priorities for this country from a national security standpoint’

 

Also see:

The Watchman: Jihadists on the March

Published on Jul 8, 2014 by The Christian Broadcasting Network

On this week’s edition of The Watchman, we sit down with Middle East experts Raymond Ibrahim and Tawfik Hamid to discuss the latest developments with the Muslim Brotherhood, ISIS, Al Qaeda, and Iran and what can be done to counter the jihadist.

WHY ISIS IS MORE DANGEROUS THAN AL QAEDA AND WHAT AMERICA MUST DO ABOUT IT

ISIS-heavy-weapons-reutersby :

In the space of just a few weeks, the jihadi threat group ISIS has accomplished more than al Qaeda did in the the thirteen years since the September 11 attacks. It will continue to grow in power and come to pose a direct threat to the United States unless America guides a regional response. Now.
On a sunny Tuesday morning in September of 2001, al Qaeda entered the history books as the deadliest terrorist group in modern history. In under a few hours it murdered more people in New York, Washington, and Pennsylvania than other terrorist groups like the IRA or the Baader-Meinhof Gang had killed over a period of decades.
Since that dreadful day, the original Al Qaeda, what the administration refers to now as ‘Core AQ’, has executed or inspired other attacks to include those of Richard Reid the infamous Shoebomber, Major Nidal Hassan the Fort Hood killer, and Faisal Shazad, the Times Square bomber. At the same time it has recruited foreign fighters to wage guerrilla war inside Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen, Somalia, as well as for other jihadi theaters.
Additionally, it has waged a propaganda campaign to spread its message of holy war against the infidel with publications such as the periodical Inspire, the e-magazine that included a recipe for pressure-cooker IEDs, a recipe that would be used by the Boston bombers.
Despite all of the above, the threat posed by Al Qaeda pales by comparison to the achievements of its off-shoot the Islamic State of Iraq and al Sham which recently declared the establishment of a new Caliphate, or empire of Islam, and has, as a result, changed its name to The Islamic State.
How do we know that ISIS / The Islamic State is a greater threat today than Al Qaeda?
Here are just 6 reasons:
  • While Al Qaeda attracted foreign fighters to wage jihad in Afghanistan and Iraq, its recruitment figures never came close to the thousands that have been so rapidly drawn to fight in Syria and Iraq. The problem is so severe that Attorney General Eric Holder just yesterday had to publicly request his European counterparts do something to stem the flow of fighters.
  • Al Qaeda was predominantly successful in bringing Arab Muslims from the Middle East to fight in wars in their own region or in South Asia. But unclassified reports, and ISIS’ own videos, confirm that it is having an unprecedented success in attracting Muslim men from the West to go fight Jihad. Young men who – if they survive the current fight – will likely return back home to America, the UK, or elsewhere in the West, as hardened jihadis skilled in infantry tactics and in employing improvised explosive devices.
  • Although Al Qaeda was sheltered by the fundamentalist Taleban government in Afghanistan – with bin Laden strategically ensuring that his commanders’ daughter married into Taleban families – as an organization Al Qaeda never controlled a whole country. With the Blitzkrieg assault of ISIS fighters capturing city after city in Iraq in recent weeks and then declaring a new Caliphate, ISIS is on the cusp of functioning as a de facto country, a Jihadi Nation. Al Qadea almost always acted like a terrorist group and less like an insurgency, the important distinction being that insurgencies hold territory in daylight. ISIS, however, is a fully fledged insurgency that has captured city after city and is functioning as a quasi state.
  • With other regional jihadi commanders, such as the former head of the Al Nusrah front, swearing bayat (loyalty) to ISIS we see the open confirmation of the reality that Al Qaeda’s brand has been overtaken. This is the kind of international operational recognition Al Qaeda always wanted and tried desperately to obtain but never managed too. And ISIS has succeeded to become a multinational jihadi authority in a matter of weeks as opposed to years.
  • Bin Laden, and the current leader of Al Qaeda, Ayman al Zawahiri, always understood the importance of propaganda and information warfare, especially after the American jihadi Anwar al Awlaki took over editorship of Inspire magazine. But they never came close to the sophistication and media savvy of ISIS with is whirlwind establishment of a Social Media presence. Not only is ISIS filming and distributing the standard jihadi footage of its vicious attacks but also video of the mass murders of its prisoners. More importantly it is also disseminating more subtle and softer narratives via Twitter and other channels in ways that Al Qaeda never did.
  • ISIS has capabilities that exceed even the wildest dreams of the original founders of Al Qaeda. After capturing the city of Mosul and the raiding the local government coffers, it now has over $400 million at its disposal. The 9/11 attacks only cost Al Qaeda $500,000. ISIS has funds now adequate to at least 800 9/11 attacks. Add to that all the latest US military hardware it has captured and the older Syrian Scud missile it also paraded openly for all the world to see last week , and it is clear ISIS and Al Qaeda are in totally different leagues.
For all these reasons, and many more, ISIS poses a significantly bigger threat than Al Qaeda ever did. A threat not only to Shia-controlled states like Iraq or Syria. ISIS has made its plan clear . It is reestablishing the theocratic empire of Islam, the Caliphate, that was dissolved after WWI, in 1924, by the secularizing President of the new Republic of Turkey, Kemal Ataturk. They are driven by an ideology that is absolutist and global. After taking out the “Near Enemy” in Syria and Iraq, they wish to kill other apostates, others they deem to be false Muslims, be it King Abdullahh II of Jordan, or the new president of Egypt, retired General Sisi who has vowed to destroy the Muslim Brotherhood, the ideological cousins of ISIS and Al Qaeda.
Read more at Breitbart
Sebastian Gorka, Ph.D. is the Major General Matthew C. Horner Distinguished Chair of Military Theory at the Marine Corps University and the national security and foreign affairs editor of the Breitbart News Network.

Don’t Call It A Caliphate, Yet: ISIS May Run Afoul of Islamic Law

802499242CSP, By Kyle Shideler:

The news over the weekend that the Islamic State of Iraq and Al-Sham (ISIS) had declared as Caliph of the universal Muslim Ummah its leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi has shaken the Middle East (and the wider Muslim world).

In classic ISIS form, the jihadist insurgent army issued a communiqué, in multiple languages, including English, to explain their decision to make the announcement that Al-Baghdadi was now Caliph Ibrahim, and ISIS was now simply, “The Islamic State.”

According to the communiqué, Al-Baghdadi was invested with the position of Caliph through the oath of loyalty sworn to him by ISIS’s people of authority (ahl al-hall wa al-‘aqd). The communiqué notes:

…the Islamic State – represented by ahlul-hall-wal-‘aqd (its people of authority), consisting of its senior figures, leaders, and the shura council – resolved to announce the establishment of the Islamic khilafah, the appointment of a khalifah for the Muslims, and the pledge of allegiance to the shaykh (sheikh), the mujahid, the scholar who practices what he preaches, the worshipper, the leader, the warrior, the reviver, descendent from the family of the Prophet, the slave of Allah, Ibrahim Ibn ‘Awwad Ibn Ibrahim Ibn ‘Ali Ibn Muhammad al-Badri al-Hashimi al-Husayni al-Qurashi by lineage, as-Samurra’i by birth and upbringing, al-Baghdadi by residence and scholarship. And he has accepted the bayat (pledge of allegiance). Thus, he is the imam and khalifah for the Muslims everywhere.

Compare to Minhaj al-talibin written by Imam Nawawi, a shafi’i jurist of the 13th century, as cited in the Reliance of the Traveller (Book O. Justice, O.25.4):

The Caliphate may be legally effected by an oath of fealty, which, according to the soundest positions, is the oath of those with discretionary power to enact or dissolve a pact (ahl al-hall wa al-‘aqd) of the scholars, leaders and notables able to attend.

Other legal options for investiture as a Caliph would be appointment as a successor by the previous Caliph, or to seize the position of Caliph by force of arms, but both would seem to require a pre-existing caliph from whom to take power.

So the question of whether, under Islamic law as understood, Al-Baghdadi may be legitimately recognized as Caliph rests on whether or not the ISIS “people of authority” meet the legitimate definition for that position.

While there is a range of opinion of exactly what constitutes the “ahl al-hall wa al-‘aqd,” for this purpose, the commentary on Minhaj al-talibin included in Reliance notes that while the ruling is expected to be made by all people of authority able to attend, there is no such thing as a “quorum” and the presence or lack of any particular number of individuals is irrelevant.

A commentary by Muhammed Shirbini Khatib explains,

“…if the discretionary power to enact or dissolve a pact exists in a single individual, who is obeyed, his oath of fealty is sufficient.”

It’s unclear whether ISIS has at its disposal such a worthy dignitary. The quality of scholars supporting ISIS has always been a problem for the otherwise meteoric rise of the group once referred to as Al Qaeda in Iraq. While eminent Jihadi scholar Abu Muhammad al-Maqdisi wasonce a major supporter of founder Al-Zarqawi, the most notable scholars, including al-Maqdisi, sided against ISIS, in its dispute with Al Qaeda emir Ayman Al Zawahiri. If the “people of authority” are deemed to be those scholars most esteemed within the jihadi world, then ISIS’s appointment of a Caliphate lacks authenticity and legal backing. And that does not even consider the wider world of Shariah authorities, whether operating from within the Muslim Brotherhood’s orbit such as Yusuf Al Qaradawi’s International Union of Muslim Scholars (which has formally denounced the declaration), or in traditional venues like Al-Azhar University.

Despite a dearth of scholarship, ISIS can count on the fact that nothing succeeds like success. Two things are necessary for ISIS to win it’s gambit in declaring the Caliphate reestablished. The first is that it must continue to win. Continued territorial expansion fulfills its argument that ISIS is the implementer of the Shariah law over the largest and most historically relevant real estate.

Second, ISIS must succeed in winning the oath of loyalty of key elements of the global jihad. While ISIS has succeeded in gaining popular support among online jihadi communities, individual young mujahids are of no real consequence, except in as much as they serve as recruits to further conquest. What ISIS needs, ideologically, is the support of the emirs of major jihadi groups or the support of prominent scholars. So far this has not happened, although individual members have supported the call. Victory on the battlefield may lead to such oaths, as other jihadi groups look to take advantage of the boost in recruiting and fundraising that ISIS is receiving.

Still, it would be strategically useful to avoid unwittingly consecrating Al-Baghdadi’s claim to the position of Caliph while that issue remains open to (possibly bloody) debate in jihadist circles. ISIS is exceedingly conscious of media and particularly western media, and carefully formulates its message in terms most likely to terrorize, and appeal to media coverage (the logic of distributing both mass executions and crucifixion videos, and a jihad fighters holding cats Twitter account for example). They respond quickly to exploit opportunities that seem to affirm their caliphate status, as when ISIS supporters began to retweet a statement by DHS senior advisor Mohammed Elibiary that the Caliphate was “inevitable,” following ISIS’ success in Iraq. ISIS has capitalized on media coverage about their exploits, and claim in their communiqué that even the west recognizes their new status,

“They [referring to those Muslim groups with whom ISIS disputes] never recognized the Islamic State to begin with, although America, Britain and France acknowledge its existence.”

Given that ISIS is looking for legitimacy where it can find it, let’s not present ISIS’ declaration of Caliphate as a fait accompli. Instead to the degree the facts permit it, it would be advantageous to continue to point out that even within the legal context of shariah, ISIS is on shaky ground, that they are a relative newcomer, that in the grand scheme of the Islamic world they hold limited territory, and that they do not have the respect of key scholars or jihadi emirs. At the same time, we shouldn’t delude ourselves into thinking that these things may not change, especially if ISIS continues its winning streak. But for the meantime, ISIS is not a Caliphate… yet.

Originally appeared at Breitbart.com 

If We Want to Beat Al Qaeda, We Have to Stop Arming It

23by Daniel Greenfield:

Obama’s call for $500 million to arm and train Syrian Jihadist fighters couldn’t have possibly come at a more inappropriate time as Al Qaeda in Iraq menaces both countries.

It wasn’t the Iraq War that made the Al Qaeda affiliate so dangerous. In 2008 it specialized in suicide bombings. It wasn’t marching on Baghdad with an army behind it.

The Arab Spring destabilized the region while money, weapons and recruits poured into Libya and Syria. Obama’s regime change war in Libya led not only to the takeover of entire Libyan cities by Al Qaeda, culminating in the murder of four Americans in Benghazi, but to an Al Qaeda affiliate seizing much of neighboring Mali. Libyan terror training camps also led to an attack on the Amenas gas plant in Algeria.

Three Americans were killed in that attack bringing the US death toll from Obama’s Libyan War up to seven.

But that was last year. This year it’s the Syrian Civil War that turned its local Al Qaeda affiliates into breakout Jihadi stars seizing entire cities and terrorizing the region.

Obama’s solution is to direct money intended for counterterrorism partnerships to terrorists in Syria.

This may be one of the worst ideas that he has ever come up with. Attempts to control the flow of weapons likely played a role in the Benghazi attacks. NATO forces enforcing an arms embargo on Libya had been told to ignore Qatari weapons shipments that were meant for “moderates”.

Instead they went to Al Qaeda.

Obama and Kerry, not to mention Graham and McCain, believe that weapons can be directed to “moderate” Syrian groups and that by arming the “good” terrorists, we’ll stop the “bad” terrorists.

But there are no “good” terrorists. Promises of delivering weapons only to “pre-vetted” groups are worth as much as Obama’s assurances that Al Qaeda was on the run and that ISIS is only a jayvee team.

Kerry met with Ahmad al-Jarba, the President of the Syrian National Coalition. Al-Jarba said that $500 million wouldn’t be enough and demanded more weapons. Meanwhile Al-Jarba was feuding with Ahmad Tohme, the Prime Minister of the SNC’s fictional government. Tohme had attempted to disband the Supreme Military Council over corruption charges while firing the head of the Free Syrian Army.

None of this really matters because the SNC is a puppet regime with many puppet masters and no puppets. The Syrian front men for the Saudis, Qataris, the Muslim Brotherhood, Turkey and other factions are constantly firing each other. Their Free Syrian Army is a label stamped on a bunch of Islamist militias, many of whom openly support Al Qaeda.

Four out of five of the FSA’s front commanders had demanded to work with Al Qaeda last year. Parts of the FSA joined the Islamic Front and seized the FSA’s weapons warehouses taking anti-aircraft and anti-tank weapons. The FSA fighters fled. Earlier ISIS had seized USAID items intended for the FSA.

After these embarrassments Obama was forced to temporarily suspend aid to the Free Syrian Army.

A senior Al Qaeda terrorist who answered to Ayman Al-Zawahiri was a leading figure in the Islamic Front through Ahrar al Sham, which operated alongside the FSA, until he was killed in an attack by ISIS. Ahrar al Sham had a powerful role in the Supreme Military Council through Deputy Chief of Staff Abdel-basset Tawil.

The FSA, to the extent that it exists, consists of bearded Salafist fighters and commanders in the field and “moderate” leaders in suits in Qatar and Turkey who usually never set foot in Syria. They obtain weapons and money from the West for Jihadists who are much less camera friendly.

Groups such as Liwa al Ummah choose to affiliate with the FSA even while they continue fighting alongside the Al Nusra Front. Experts label some Syrian Jihadist groups as moderate and others as extremist, but the “moderates” and “extremists” fly the black flag of Jihad and fight for an Islamic state.

Pre-vetting the groups means nothing because names like the Free Syrian Army or the Supreme Military Council are only fronts for outside interests. Even the names of the individual militias are often meaningless because new groups and new umbrella groups are constantly being created and dissolved.  Fighters and commanders move from one group to another taking their weapons with them.

Keeping track of the various pseudonyms used by the commanders is already a full time job. It is often impossible to tell whether two Jihadist commanders with the same pseudonym are even the same person. Figuring out the relationship between various groups means depending on intelligence from those groups and various activists on the ground who all have their own alliances and agendas.

No meaningful vetting is possible under these circumstances and supplying weapons to “pre-vetted” groups is as good as supplying them to Al Qaeda. Supplying weapons to pre-vetted groups only  means that it will take longer for those weapons to reach Al Qaeda through barter, alliance or capture.

And even if the weapons don’t end up with Al Qaeda, they will go to Salafist groups that share its goals. The difference is that those have not yet officially declared war on us. That same false sense of security led to the murder of four Americans in Benghazi.

Read more at Front Page

ISIS Declares Caliphate & Demands Loyalty From All Muslims

Screenshot from the Islamic State propaganda video 'Breaking the Borders'

Screenshot from the Islamic State propaganda video ‘Breaking the Borders’

“We took it forcibly at the point of a blade.
We brought it back conquered and compelled.
We established it in defiance of many.
And the people’s necks were violently struck,
With bombings, explosions, and destruction,
And soldiers that do not see hardship as being difficult,”

And lions that are thirsty in battle,
Having greedily drunk the blood of kufr (infidel).

Our khilāfah has indeed returned with certainty” – From the declaration of the Caliphate entitled “This is the Promise of Allah” delivered by the Islamic State spokesman al-Adnani.

On Sunday the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) declared itself a caliphate. It dropped ‘Iraq and Syria from its name and now wishes to be known as the Islamic State. The announcement was made to coincide with the first day of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. They have also changed their flag.

The last caliphate was abolished by the Turks in 1924, bringing an end to the Ottoman Empire, the last of the great empires which ruled the Muslim world. The caliphate that ISIS seeks to recreate, however, is based on the original caliphates of the successors to the Muslim Prophet Muhammad, rather than what they would regard as the weak and corrupted caliphates of later times. The ruler, a caliph, is a religious, political and military position akin to a divinely sanctioned monarchy.

A caliphate is regarded by Sunni Islamic extremists as the only legitimate form of government. Re-establishing it has consistently remained a key goal of groups ranging from the Muslim Brotherhood to Al Qaeda.

Abu Bakr Baghdadi, the leader of the Islamic State (formerly ISIS, the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria) as the caliph and “the leader of Muslims everywhere.” In declaring himself thus, Baghdadi is attempting to seize legitimacy as the leader of the jihadi movement in particular and the Muslim world in general. He was capitalizing on recent sweeping gains made by the group in its capture of Mosul. He will now take on the name and title “Caliph Ibrahim.

One of the primary duties of the caliph is to wage jihad against the kuffar (infidel). In Islamic terms, only a caliph has the authority to declare jihad, immediately marking the Islamic State, in its own eyes, as the only legitimate jihadi organization.

This puts the new caliphate directly at war with Al Qaeda and potentially at war with other jihadi organizations should they refuse to accept the authority of the new caliphate. Professor Peter Neumann of the International Centre for the Study of Radicalization regards the announcement as a “declaration of war against the West and al Qaida.”

Read  more at Clarion Project

 

 

 

ISIS’ Next Targets: Jordan and Saudi Arabia

An image from a propaganda video by ISIS showing their expansion plans from Iraq into Jordan and Saudi Arabia.

An image from a propaganda video by ISIS showing their expansion plans from Iraq into Jordan and Saudi Arabia.

The onslaught has already begun on social media, where ISIS is maintaining a slick, professional propaganda presence.

By Ryan Mauro:

The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), the former Al-Qaeda affiliate that has seized over one-third of Iraq, is open about its desire to establish a new caliphate with Baghdad as its capital. ISIS supporters are distributing propaganda on social media indicating its next targets towards that goal are Jordan and Saudi Arabia.

The image (above) shows territory in Iraq and Syria currently held by ISIS with arrows indicating future expansion into Jordan and Saudi Arabia. Interestingly, there are no arrows pointing into the Shiite-majority southern Iraq:

ISIS-Expansion-1

ISIS supporters are also spreading a graphic that purportedly shows its five-year plan to reestablish a caliphate that stretches from western Africa to Indonesia, conquering Israel, Iran and India. It was first spotted by NBC News foreign correspondent Ayman Mohyeldin. The picture lacks the professionalism of other ISIS-issued propaganda, perhaps indicating it reflects the aspiration of a supporter than a plan drawn up by the ISIS leadership.

ISIS and its supporters have proven to be masters of social media. Much of its online propaganda is in English and involves sarcasm and dark humor. One pro-ISIS account retweeted a joke about the national bird of Yemen and Pakistan being the drone. Supporters in Indonesia are also selling pro-ISIS clothing online. The group’s social media strength is so great that the Iraqi government is blocking Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and Google.

Clarion Project national security analyst Ryan Mauro appeared on Fox & Friends on June 22 (see clip below) to discuss the use of ISIS by social media through Photoshop, a Twitter application for Android cell phones and well-produced videos.

Read more at Clarion Project

The Threat Is Blowback

iraq-isisfighter-450x341by Caroline Glick:

Watching the undoing, in a week, of victories that US forces won in Iraq at great cost over many years, Americans are asking themselves what, if anything, should be done.

What can prevent the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) – the al-Qaida offshoot that President Barack Obama derided just months ago as a bunch of amateurs – from taking over Iraq? And what is at stake for America – other than national pride – if it does? Muddying the waters is the fact that the main actor that seems interested in fighting ISIS on the ground in Iraq is Iran. Following ISIS’s takeover of Mosul and Tikrit last week, the Iranian regime deployed elite troops in Iraq from the Quds Force, its foreign operations division.

The Obama administration, along with Republican Sen. Lindsay Graham, views Iran’s deployment of forces in Iraq as an opportunity for the US. The US, they argue should work with Iran to defeat ISIS.

The idea is that since the US and Iran both oppose al-Qaida, Iranian gains against it will redound to the US’s benefit.

There are two basic, fundamental problems with this idea.

First, there is a mountain of evidence that Iran has no beef with al-Qaida and is happy to work with it.

According to the 9/11 Commission’s report, between eight and 10 of the September 11 hijackers traveled through Iran before going to the US. And this was apparently no coincidence.

According to the report, Iran had been providing military training and logistical support for al-Qaida since at least the early 1990s.

After the battle of Tora Bora in December 2001, al-Qaida’s leadership scattered. Many senior commanders – including bin Laden’s son Said, al-Qaida’s chief strategist Saif al-Adel and Suleiman Abu Ghaith – decamped to Iran, where they set up a command center.

From Iran, these men directed the operations of al-Qaida forces in Iraq led by Abu Musab Zarqawi. Zarqawi entered Iraq from Iran and returned to Iran several times during the years he led al-Qaida operations in Iraq.

Iran’s cooperation with al-Qaida continues today in Syria.

According to The Wall Street Journal, in directing the defense of Bashar Assad’s regime in Syria, Iran has opted to leave ISIS and its al-Qaida brethren in the Nusra Front alone. That is why they have been able to expand their power in northern Syria.

Iran and its allies have concentrated their attacks against the more moderate Free Syrian Army, which they view as a threat.

Given Iran’s 20-year record of cooperation with al-Qaida, it is reasonable to assume that it is deploying forces into Iraq to tighten its control over Shi’ite areas, not to fight al-Qaida. The record shows that Iran doesn’t believe that its victories and al-Qaida’s victories are mutually exclusive.

Read more at Front Page

Apprehension of Jihadist Suspect in Benghazi Massacre

akNational Review, By Andrew C. McCarthy:

I’m out on the Left Coast to talk about Faithless Execution again today. But at the Benghazi Accountability Coalition, which I chair, we’re closely following the apprehension of Ahmed Abu Khatallah. Here is my statement on it:

When it comes to the Benghazi Massacre, what the American people want is accountability. The long overdue apprehension of Ahmed Abu Khatallah, who is believed to be one of the jihadist ringleaders responsible for murdering four Americans and wounding many others, is a step in the right direction — albeit a modest one.

It is curious that it took so long to capture Khatallah, who thumbed his nose at our country while meeting with journalists out in the open over the past 21 months. Indeed the curiosity is heightened by the remarkable statement yesterday by former Secretary of State Clinton, one of the chief proponents of the “Blame the Video” meme, that Khatallah — a terrorist operative — had been seen as a culprit by our government since the night of the terrorist attack.

Obviously, a ringleader needs his ring to do the kind of damage our enemies did on September 11, 2012. It is therefore alarming that, although Khatallah is an enemy combatant who killed Americans in an act of war, the Obama administration appears to be treating him as an ordinary criminal defendant. Administration officials have refused to say whether he has been given Mirandawarnings. Reports indicate he is on a navy ship headed to the United States, where it appears he may immediately be consigned to the criminal-justice system for a civilian trial with all the due-process protections given to American citizens.

If Khatallah’s  interrogation is curtailed because our national security needs are subordinated to the Obama administration’s haste to treat terrorism as a law enforcement matter, critical intelligence about Khatallah’s confederates in the Benghazi Massacre will likely be lost.

At present, there is no reason to reopen the long debate over whether enemy-combatant detainees should be tried by military commission or in civilian trials. There is a five-year statute of limitations on most federal crimes. Moreover, if, as one would assume, Khatallah is regarded as a member of an ongoing terrorism conspiracy against the United States, that conspiracy is ongoing; therefore, the statute of limitations has not even started to run on it yet. The point is: even ifKhatallah were to be treated as a criminal defendant, there is no reason that has to happen immediately.

Khatallah should be detained as what he is: an enemy combatant who has committed acts of war against the United States. Under the laws of war, he may be detained indefinitely so that a competent interrogation can be done, one that is not limited by civilian due process rules that call for the assignment of counsel and that severely limit interrogations.

Whether he is detained on a navy ship, at Guantanamo Bay, or some similar appropriate detention facility for enemy prisoners outside the United States, he should be held outside the criminal-justice system for however long it takes to exploit any useful intelligence he can provide. Intelligence sources often continue to provide useful information for years, as interrogators return to them repeatedly—not just for intelligence about ongoing plots, but for help identifying photographs and voices of terrorists not yet known to the government, and for help interpreting terrorist conversations and documents that are intercepted and seized over time.

There is no reason to rush Khatallah’s interrogation. It would be a travesty if, at a time when our intelligence officials could be acquiring vital information from this enemy combatant by interrogating him about other jihadists who murdered American officials, we are instead treating Khatallah as a civilian defendant and providing him with discovery of our intelligence files — giving him our information instead of getting his, and paying for a lawyer to help him exploit it against us.

Also see:

US captures Benghazi suspect, but most attackers remain free

benghazi_fire_gunBy 

Ahmed Abu Khattalah, who is suspected of taking direct part in the Sept. 11, 2012 terrorist attack in Benghazi, Libya, has been detained by the US. Abu Khattalah was the most conspicuous of the alleged attackers. He even granted interviews to journalists from multiple media outlets since the attack.

Abu Khattalah’s accomplices have been less ostentatious, however, preferring to operate in the shadows. Dozens of terrorists who helped overrun the US Mission and Annex in Benghazi, killing four Americans, remain free.

In January, the State Department added Abu Khattalah to the US government’s list of specially designated global terrorists, describing him as a “senior leader” of Ansar al Sharia in Benghazi. Two other jihadists were designated at the same time: Abu Iyad al Tunisi, who heads Ansar al Sharia Tunisia, and Sufian Ben Qumu, who leads Ansar al Sharia in Derna, Libya.

The State Department also added the Ansar al Sharia chapters in Benghazi, Derna, and Tunisia to the list of foreign terrorist organizations. (Ansar al Sharia in Benghazi and Derna operate under the same banner, as simply Ansar al Sharia Libya.)

Ansar al Sharia in Benghazi and Derna were both “involved” in the Sept. 11, 2012 “attacks against the US Special Mission and Annex in Benghazi, Libya,” according to State. Ansar al Sharia Tunisia was responsible for the assault on the US Embassy in Tunis three days later, on Sept. 14, 2012.

Ben Qumu is an ex-Guantanamo detainee and was previously identified by US military and intelligence officials as an al Qaeda operative. According to a leaked Joint Task Force Guantanamo (JTF-GTMO) file, Ben Qumu’s alias was found on the laptop of an al Qaeda operative responsible for overseeing the finances for the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. The information on the laptop indicated that Ben Qumu was an al Qaeda “member receiving family support.”

Some of Ben Qumu’s men from Ansar al Sharia in Derna were among the Benghazi attackers, according to US intelligence officials. Neither Ben Qumu, nor his fighters, have been detained.

Like Ben Qumu, Abu Iyad al Tunisi (whose real name is Seifallah Ben Hassine) has a lengthy al Qaeda-linked pedigree that stretches back to pre-9/11 Afghanistan.

Multiple al Qaeda-affiliated parties involved in Benghazi attack and still at-large

In addition to Ansar al Sharia in Benghazi and Derna, jihadists from at least three other al Qaeda-affiliated terrorist groups participated in the Sept. 11 assault in Benghazi.

On Jan. 15, the US Senate Select Committee on Intelligence released its report on the terrorist attack. “Individuals affiliated with terrorist groups, including AQIM, Ansar al Sharia, AQAP, and the Mohammad Jamal Network, participated in the September 11, 2012, attacks,” the report reads.

AQAP, AQIM, and the Mohammad Jamal Network all established training camps in eastern Libya after the rebellion against Muammar el Qaddafi began in 2011.

Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) are both official branches of al Qaeda and have sworn allegiance to Ayman al Zawahiri, al Qaeda’s emir. The head of AQAP, Nasir al Wuhayshi, was also appointed the general manager of al Qaeda’s network in August 2013.

Read more at Long War Journal

ISIS-Not “Mafia Tactics”- Jihad

article-2656905-1EB8EF4200000578-71_964x532CSP, By Kyle Shideler:

An article in yesterday’s Foreign Policy discusses the self-funding tactics of the ISIS, as it continues to wage its brutal assault in Iraq. Author Yochi Dreazen begins his piece by stating:

When fighters from the Islamic State of Syria and al-Sham (ISIS) stole tens of millions of dollars from a bank in Mosul earlier this year, it wasn’t simply a startling symbol of the collapse of Baghdad’s control over Iraq’s second-largest city. The brazen theft was instead a stark illustration of one of the most alarming aspects of ISIS’s rise: the group’s growing ability to fund its own operations through bank heists, extortion, kidnappings, and other tactics more commonly associated with the mob than with violent Islamist extremists.

Unfortunately, far from being unassociated with “Islamic extremists”, the “mafia” practices of ISIS can be construed as in line with Shariah adherent practices regarding Jihad.

There is ample jurisprudence regarding the disposition of the spoils of war. For example,Reliance of the Traveller by Ahmad ibn Naqib Al-Misri, which includes legal rulings for both the personal booty of fighters who have slain an enemy and may take what he possessed for themselves (Book O. Justice, O.10.2) and for the collective use of spoils of war in order to pay for items of importance for the cause of the Islamic state such as, “fortify[ing] defense on the frontiers, salaries for Islamic judges, muezzins, and the like:” (Book 0. Justice 0.10.3)

Likewise, the apparent surprise shown by some experts of “violent extremism” when ISIS does indeed spend substantial money and manpower on just these sorts of governance projects is a result of the general failure to comprehend how jihadist groups abide by Shariah obligations.

Returning to “Mafia” tactics, is kidnapping for ransom is absolutely permitted under the Shariah during jihad. Al-Misri notes (Book 0 Justice O.9.14),

“When an adult male is taken captive, the caliph considers the interests and decides between the prisoner’s death, slavery, release without paying anything or ransoming himself in exchange for money or for a Muslim captive held by the enemy.” (Emphasis added.)

There are likewise legal rulings that would support what could be viewed as the extortion of money, especially from Non-Muslims in the form of the mandatory jizya tax. Even extortion of funds from Muslims may be justified by ISIS, since money to support fighters of Jihad is a legitimate allocation for Zakat (mandatory tithing). Given that ISIS purports to be the legitimate Islamic rulers of the territory they hold, their collecting these funds would reasonably be expected. Obviously, for those who do not uphold ISIS’s status as a legitimate Islamic state, these demands would be seen as little more then theft.

Nor is extortion from other Muslims  to fund terrorist activities rare, or limited solely to Sunni Islamists. Hezbollah is well known for engaging in extortion of Lebanese Shia abroad in order to finance its efforts.

Far from being divorced from the belief system which ISIS seeks to impose, such acts as bank robbery, kidnapping and extortion can be legal justified in the furtherance of their jihad.

ISIS in the Homeland

pic_giant_061614_SM_ISIS-in-the-HomelandBy Andrew G. Doran:

For a 500-mile stretch of territory that winds, more or less, along the Euphrates from Iraq to Syria, a regime of masked, sociopathic murderers reign in terror under the black flag of jihad.

This territory is not represented on any map of nation-states – a concept that little reflects realities in Iraq and Syria.  It is land claimed by the disciples of terrorist Abu Al Zarqawi. On June 10, the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) seized the city of Mosul in the Nineveh Province, capturing “arms and ammunition from the fleeing security forces” — arms and ammunition supplied by the American government, which will now be used to impose terror on defenseless civilians. The offensive coincides with a successful campaign by ISIS in eastern Syria. Perhaps there will be new detention centers of torture and murder; perhaps there will be more tweets proudly displaying crucifixions.

Like Zarqawi and bin Laden, these terrorists will not be satisfied to reign in the Hell of their own making in the Middle East, or with the toppling of insufficiently Islamic regimes, or even with winning the Sunni-Shia civil war that now rages. Their ultimate target will be the United States. They are coming this way. Perhaps as many as a dozen are already here – or, to be more precise, already back.

As Eli Lake recently reported in the Daily Beast, thousands of foreigners have gone to Syria to take up arms against the regime of Bashar Assad, serving with various rebel factions, most of which fall somewhere on the Islamist spectrum.

Thousands of these fighters are citizens of Western countries that have visa waivers for entry into the United States – in other words, they can travel here without any hassle at all. An intelligence source conveyed to Lake concerns that the NSA could not “track thousands of bad guys,” adding that “on the human-intelligence front, this is even more difficult.” These veterans of al-Qaeda and its affiliates constitute a fundamentally different threat than that which America faced in 2001: They are Western (at least in nationality); they are seasoned combat veterans; they are known, but perhaps too numerous to track.

After more than a decade of war in Afghanistan, Iraq, and elsewhere, the fatigue of the American people is palpable, which has prompted many to welcome President Obama’s winding down of the global War on Terror. Despite the president’s repeated claims on the campaign trail two years ago, the evidence suggests that al-Qaeda is not “on the path to defeat” or “on the run.” It is, rather, “morphing” and “franchising,” according to the director of national intelligence, James Clapper.

Yet in Syria, America’s commitment, however anemic, is to the overthrow of Assad, a contemptible and ruthless secular dictator but one whose regime is fighting al-Qaeda and its affiliates among the rebels. This paradox is apparently lost on those most keen on his overthrow. Competing objectives in Syria have caused America to lose focus on the principal enemy and principal threat: al-Qaeda and its affiliates.

If these Islamist veterans of the Syrian conflict succeed in pulling off a terrorist attack against the United States, the problem with  America’s policy in Syria will come into focus immediately. One can well imagine the hearings on Capitol Hill: “We knew these people were coming. Why was more not done to stop them? Why wasn’t the intelligence community given the resources it needed to track these terrorists? Why were we sending arms to overthrow the dictator who was trying to kill these terrorists who later killed Americans?” The foreign-policy priorities of the present will instantly be regarded as an unworthy distraction and forgotten. It is, of course, easy enough to ask these questions retrospectively; it is another thing altogether to ask them in advance — which prompts one to take notice when someone on the Hill does.

Read more at National Review