Concerns Raised Over US Co-existence with Iranian-Backed Militias in Iraq

Iraqi fighters of the Shiite group Asaib Ahl al-Haq (The League of the Righteous) gesture upon their return to the southern city of Basra, on June 14, 2015. The group is fighting alongside Iraqi security forces against the Islamic State (IS) jihadist group in an attempt to try to retake the strategic northern town of Baiji. At least 11 members of the Iraqi security forces were killed the previous day near the town of Baiji in a series of suicide attacks claimed by IS jihadists. AFP PHOTO / HAIDAR MOHAMMED ALI

Iraqi fighters of the Shiite group Asaib Ahl al-Haq (The League of the Righteous) gesture upon their return to the southern city of Basra, on June 14, 2015. The group is fighting alongside Iraqi security forces against the Islamic State (IS) jihadist group in an attempt to try to retake the strategic northern town of Baiji. At least 11 members of the Iraqi security forces were killed the previous day near the town of Baiji in a series of suicide attacks claimed by IS jihadists. AFP PHOTO / HAIDAR MOHAMMED ALI

Center for Security Policy, by Jennifer Keltz June 30, 2015:

Last week, news reports surfaced that US troops in Iraq have been sharing the Taqqadum military base with Iranian-backed Shia militias, some of which have killed US troops in the past. The Pentagon said that US forces are separated from the militias, which are operating on a different part of the base, though liaisons that are members of the militias have been working with the US and Iraq.

Iran has been a key contributor to the Iraqi fight against the Islamic State (IS), and this fact has been acknowledged by Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi. In recent a conversation with Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, Abadi told Khamenei that Iran’s support of Shia militias fighting IS is essential to defeating the organization.

Iraq has also greatly benefited from US involvement in the fight against IS, as the US has been providing training and supplies to Iraqi and Kurdish forces. In March, the US officially began to provide more concrete support, beyond simply training Iraqi troops, for the offensive against IS in Tikrit. The US began providing intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance at the request of the Iraqi government.

Throughout the fight against IS, the US has maintained a military presence of 3,100 troops in Iraq. After the fall of Ramadi, the US decided to deploy approximately 400 more troops, signifying its investment in staying involved in the fight. Along with these additional troops to supplement those already in Iraq, senior members of the military have advised expanding the operational capacities of the US troops to allow them to conduct on-the-ground missions.

An escalation of US involvement in Iraq, coinciding with increased coexistence and cooperation between US and Iranian-backed Shia militias, raises some questions.

The first issue that must be addressed is that of the safety of US forces sharing space with the Shia militias. According to the Pentagon, Shia militias left the base before the US troops arrived. However, they are actually staying in a different area on the base, though the base is reportedly very large (larger than Vienna, VA, a town in the Washington, D.C. suburbs). Senator Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), an Iraq War veteran, is apprehensive of the arrangement because many Americans were killed in Iraq as a result of bombs supplied by Iran. Adding to this concern, the militias are headed by the leader of Hezbollah in Iraq, Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, and include the League of the Righteous, which still boasts about a roadside execution of five US soldiers near Karbala in 2007. US troops have not clashed with the militias in the 11 months that US special operations forces will be in Iraq, but a senior administration official said that “there’s no real command and control from the central government. Even if these guys don’t attack us … Iran is ushering in a new Hezbollah era in Iraq, and we will have aided and abetted it.”

The second issue regards the potential for an armed offensive jointly led by US, Iraqi, and Iranian-backed forces. The US gives weapons to the Iraqi government only, but knows that many end up being used by the Shia militias. Additionally, some militia commanders have been allowed to be present at US military and intelligence briefings for the Iraqi government-controlled Iraqi Security Forces. As previously stated, the Shia militias have a history of violence toward US troops, which could prove disastrous if they turn on the US on the battlefield.

Additionally, the US is still engaged in nuclear negotiations with Iran. A short-term military alliance between the US and Iranian-backed forces in Iraq could lead to US officials developing a false sense of security over the veracity of Iran’s commitment to peace.

In reality, Iran will almost certainly use the nuclear capabilities it will gain in the deal with the US for military purposes while continuing to spread weapons to Hamas and Hezbollah, terrorizing the Middle East and the world. Iran views itself as a lostempire and the leader of a global Islamic revolution. The Iranian regime seeks to seize territories formerly controlled by the Persian empire, including Iraq and the rest of the Middle East. Iran recently trumpeted its control of four Arab capitals, including Baghdad, San’aa, Damascus and Beirut.

A battlefield alliance with US forces gives an unacceptable appearance of legitimacy to all of Iran’s military and foreign policy goals. The United States must find a strategy to advance its efforts against the Islamic State without empowering Iran’s Islamic revolution.

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Is Kurdistan Rising?

The State of the Kurds  WSJ 6-20-15

NER, by Jerry Gordon, June 21, 2015:

In the Wall Street Journal Weekend edition, June 20-21, 2015, Yaroslav Trofimov writes of the possible rise of an independent Kurdistan, “The State of The Kurds”.  An independent Kurdistan was promised by the WWI Allies in the Treaty of Sevres that ended the Ottoman Empire in 1920. That commitment was dashed by the rise of Turkish Republic under the secularist Kemal Atatürk confirmed in the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne denying an independent Kurdistan in what is now Eastern Turkey. Combined a future Kurdistan encompassing eastern Turkey, Northern Syria, northwest Iran and northern Iraq might comprise a landlocked republic of 30 million with significant energy and agricultural resources.  The rise of Kurdistan is reflected in these comments in the Trofimov WSJ review article:

Selahattin Demirtas, Chairman of the HDP party in Turkey:

The Kurds’ existence was not recognized; they were hidden behind a veil. But now, after being invisible for a century, they are taking their place on the international stage. Today, international powers can no longer resolve any issue in the Middle East without taking into account the interests of the Kurds.

Tahir Elçi, a prominent Kurdish lawyer and chairman of the bar in Diyarbakir, Turkey:

In the past, when the Kurds sought self-rule, the Turks, the Persians and the Arabs were all united against it. Today that’s not true anymore—it’s not possible for the Shiite government in Iraq and Shiite Iran to work together against the Kurds with the Sunni Turkey and the Sunni ISIS. In this environment, the Kurds have become a political and a military power in the Middle East.

Elçi, amplifies a concern that Sherkoh Abbas, leader of the Kurdish National Syria Assembly (KURDNAS) has expressed in several NER interviews an articles with him:

The PKK has made important steps to adopt more democratic ways. But you cannot find the same climate of political diversity in [Kurdish] Syria as you find in [northern Iraq], and this is because of PKK’s authoritarian and Marxist background. This is a big problem.

As effective as the KRG government and peshmerga have been in pushing back at ISIS forces threatening the capital of Erbil, the real problem is the divisiveness in the political leadership. That is reflected in the comment of  Erbil province’s governor, Nawaf Hadi cited by Trofimov:

For 80 years, the Arab Sunni people led Iraq—and they destroyed Kurdistan. Now we’ve been for 10 years with the Shiite people [dominant in Baghdad], and they’ve cut the funding and the salaries—how can we count on them as our partner in Iraq?” All the facts on the ground encourage the Kurds to be independent.

That renewed prospect reflects the constellation of  events in Turkey, Syria and Iraq.

Supporters cheer Selahattin Demirtas, co-chair of the pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party, HDP, in Istanbul, Turkey, in May, 2015. Source: Emrah Gurel/AP

Supporters cheer Selahattin Demirtas, co-chair of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party, HDP, in Istanbul, Turkey, in May, 2015. Source: Emrah Gurel/AP

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A new strategy for Iraq and Syria

Iraq forcesWashington Post, by Charles Krauthammer, June 18, 2015:

It’s time to rethink Iraq and Syria. It begins by admitting that the old borders are gone, that a unified Syria or Iraq will never be reconstituted, that the Sykes-Picot map is defunct.

We may not want to enunciate that policy officially. After all, it does contradict the principle that colonial borders be maintained no matter how insanely drawn, the alternative being almost universally worse. Nonetheless, in Mesopotamia, balkanization is the only way to go.

Because it has already happened and will not be reversed. In Iraq, for example, we are reaping one disaster after another by pretending that the Baghdad government — deeply sectarian, divisive and beholden to Iran — should be the center of our policy and the conduit for all military aid.

Look at Fallujah, Mosul, Ramadi. The Iraqi army is a farce. It sees the enemy and flees, leaving its weapons behind. “The ISF was not driven out of Ramadi. They drove out of Ramadi,” said the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Our own secretary of defense admitted that “the Iraqi forces just showed no will to fight.”

We can train them forever. The problem is one of will. They don’t want to fight. And why should they? They are led by commanders who are corrupt, sectarian and incompetent.

What to do? Redirect our efforts to friendly forces deeply committed to the fight, beginning with the Kurds, who have the will, the skill and have demonstrated considerable success. This year alone, they have taken back more than 500 Christian and Kurdish towns from the Islamic State. Unlike the Iraqi army, however, they are starved for weapons because, absurdly, we send them through Baghdad, which sends along only a trickle.

This week, more Kurdish success. With U.S. air support, Syrian Kurds captured the strategic town of Tal Abyad from the Islamic State. Which is important for two reasons. Tal Abyad controls the road connecting the terror group’s capital of Raqqa to Turkey, from which it receives fighters, weapons and supplies. Tal Abyad is “a lung through which [the Islamic State] breathed and connected to the outside world,” said Kurdish commander Haqi Kobane.

Moreover, Tal Abyad helps link isolated Kurdish areas in the Syrian north into a contiguous territory, like Iraqi Kurdistan. Which suggests that this territory could function as precisely the kind of long-advocated Syrian “safe zone” from which to operate against both the Islamic State and the Bashar al-Assad regime.

More good news comes from another battle line. Last week, the Free Syrian Army’s Southern Front, backed by and trained in Jordan, drove the Syrian government out of its last major base in eastern Daraa province, less than 60 miles from Damascus.

These successes suggest a new U.S. strategy. Abandon our anachronistic fealty to the central Iraqi government (now largely under Iran’s sway anyway) and begin supplying the Iraqi Kurds in a direct, 24-hour, Berlin-style airlift. And in Syria, intensify our training, equipping and air support for the now-developing Kurdish safe zone. Similarly, through Jordan, for the Free Syrian Army’s Southern Front. Such a serious and relentless strategy would not only roll back Islamic State territorial gains, it would puncture the myth of Islamic State invincibility.

In theory, we should also be giving direct aid to friendly Sunni tribesmen in Iraq whose Anbar Awakening, brilliantly joined by Gen. David Petraeus’ surge, utterly defeated the Islamic State progenitor, al-Qaeda in Iraq, in 2006-2007. The problem is, having been abandoned by us once, when President Obama liquidated our presence in 2011, why should the Sunnis ever trust us again?

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A Plan to Defeat ISIS

Published on Jun 18, 2015 by securefreedom

Center for Security Policy Exec. VP Jim Hanson announced CSP’s plan to topple that Caliphate and Defeat ISIS at the National Security Luncheon held at the Capitol Visitor’s Center 17 July 2015

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Inside Islamic State group’s rule: Creating a nation of fear

Jun. 18, 2015:

ESKI MOSUL, Iraq (AP) — Inside the Islamic State’s realm, the paper testifying that you have “repented” from your heretical past must be carried at all times. Many people laminate it just to be safe. It can mean the difference between life and death.

Bilal Abdullah learned that not long after the extremists took over his Iraqi village, Eski Mosul, a year ago. As he walked down the street, an Islamic State fighter in a pickup truck asked directions to a local mosque. When Abdullah didn’t recognize the mosque’s name, the fighter became suspicious.

“He told me my faith is weak and asked, ‘Do you pray?'” Abdullah recalled. Then the fighter asked to see his “repentance card.” Abdullah had been a policeman until the IS takeover, and policemen and soldiers are required to have one. So are many other former government loyalists or employees — even former English teachers, since they once taught a “forbidden” language and tailors of women’s clothes because they once designed styles deemed un-Islamic.

Abdullah had left his card at home. Terrified, he sent his son running to get it.

“They are brutal people,” he told The Associated Press. “They can consider you an infidel for the simplest thing.”

The Islamic State’s “caliphate,” declared a year ago, stretches across northern Syria through much of northern and western Iraq. Untold numbers have been killed because they were deemed dangerous to the IS, or insufficiently pious; 5-8 million endure a regime that has swiftly turned their world upside down, extending its control into every corner of life to enforce its own radical interpretation of Islamic law, or Shariah.

The Islamic State’s domain is a place where men douse themselves with cologne to hide the odor of forbidden cigarettes; where taxi drivers or motorists usually play the IS radio station, since music can get a driver 10 lashes; where women must be entirely covered, in black, and in flat-soled shoes; where people are thrown to their deaths off buildings on suspicion of homosexuality; where shops must close during Muslim prayers, and everyone found outdoors must attend.

There is no safe way out. People vanish— their disappearance explained by a video of their beheading, an uninformative death certificate, or nothing at all.

“People hate them, but they’ve despaired, and they don’t see anyone supporting them if they rise up,” said a 28-year-old Syrian who asked to be identified only by the nickname he uses in political activism, Adnan, in order to protect his family still living under IS rule. “People feel that nobody is with them.”

The AP interviewed more than 20 Iraqis and Syrians who survived life under the group’s rule. One AP team travelled to several towns in northern Iraq, including Eski Mosul, north of Mosul, where residents are just emerging from nearly seven months under IS rule. Another AP team travelled to Turkish cities along the border, where Syrians who have fled IS territory have taken refuge.

What follows is based on their accounts, many of which were verified by multiple people, as well as on IS social media and broadcast operations and documents obtained by the AP, including copies of repentance cards, weapons inventories, leaflets detailing rules of women’s dress and permission forms to travel outside IS territory — all emblazoned with the IS black banner and logo, “Caliphate in the path of the prophet.”

The picture they paint suggests the Islamic State’s territory, now an area roughly the size of Switzerland, has evolved into an entrenched pseudo-state, one based on a bureaucracy of terror.

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Iraq’s PM introduces US-designated terrorist to Iran’s President

Abu Mahdi al Muhandis (left) shakes hands with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani. Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar al Abadi’s hand is also extended.

Abu Mahdi al Muhandis (left) shakes hands with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani. Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar al Abadi’s hand is also extended.

LWJ, BY BILL ROGGIO | June 18th, 2015:

During yesterday’s meeting in Tehran between Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar al Abadi and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, the former introduced the latter to Abu Mahdi al Muhandis, the operations chief for the Iranian-backed Popular Mobilization Committee and a US-listed Specially Designated Global Terrorist.

Muhandis, who the US government has described as “an advisor to” Qassem Soleimani, the commander of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps’s Qods Force, was photographed with Abadi earlier this month. And he also has been photographed with Soleimani in Baghdad just last month.

Muhandis’ prominence in the top circles of power demonstrates just how much the Iraqi government has relied on the Popular Mobilization Committee to fight its battles after Iraqi security forces all but collapsed in the face of the Islamic State’s advance last summer.

The paramilitary Popular Mobilization Committee is dominated by Shiite militias such as Hezbollah Brigades (directed by Muhandis), Asaib al Haq (the League of the Righteous, led by Qais Qazali, who was in US custody for his role in murdering five American soldiers), Saraya al Salam (Muqtada al Sadr’s Peace Brigades), Harakat Nujaba (led by Akram Abbas al Kabi, a SDGT), Saraya Khorasani (Khorasan Brigades), the Imam Ali Brigades (directed by Muhandis), and the Badr Organization. Hezbollah Brigades is listed by the US as a Foreign Terrorist Organization while top leaders of Asaib al Haq, the Imam Ali Brigade, and Harakat Nujaba are listed as Specially Designated Global Terrorists. All of these groups remain hostile towards the US. Two of them, Harakat Nujaba and Saraya al Salam, have threatened to attack US interests as recently as this spring.

Despite the Popular Mobilization Committee’s deep ties to Soleimani and Qods Force, as well as known key leaders being listed as Specially Designated Global Terrorists, the US government has embraced the group as a moderating force in Iraq, and one worth backing. [See Threat Matrix report, US support for Iranian-backed Shiite militias ‘should not alarm us,’ General Allen says.]

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FDD Senior Fellows Bill Roggio & Thomas Joscelyn speak on the conflicts in the Middle East:

Green Berets’ efforts to take down ISIS undermined by shoddy U.S. intelligence

U.S. Special Forces (USSF) soldiers scan the ground below for threats while flying on a MH-60 Black Hawk during a Fast Rope Insertion Extraction System training exercise. USSF fast roped onto a specific target during the Special Forces Advanced Reconnaissance, Target Analysis, and Exploitation Techniques Course, John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School on Fort Bragg, N.C., Aug. 28, 2012. (U.S. Army Photo by Sgt. Justin P. Morelli)

U.S. Special Forces (USSF) soldiers scan the ground below for threats while flying on a MH-60 Black Hawk during a Fast Rope Insertion Extraction System training exercise. USSF fast roped onto a specific target during the Special Forces Advanced Reconnaissance, Target Analysis, and Exploitation Techniques Course, John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School on Fort Bragg, N.C., Aug. 28, 2012. (U.S. Army Photo by Sgt. Justin P. Morelli)

The Washington Times – Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Army Green Berets planned for a wide range of actions in Iraq this year but bemoaned the sorry state of U.S. intelligence assets in the country to help the local security forces find and kill Islamic State terrorist targets, an internal Army memo says.

The memo, a copy of which was obtained by The Washington Times, states that when U.S. forces exited Iraq in December 2011, “all theater-level enterprise databases were terminated.”

This was forcing U.S. special operations forces in Iraq to track a wide range of intelligence reports “on individual service member laptops and share drives,” the memo says.

The memo was written in December by the commander of 1st Special Forces Group, a Tacoma, Washington-based command of about 1,400 Green Berets and support personnel, as it prepared to deploy some commandos to Iraq. The commander is now the top U.S. special operations officer in Iraq.

The commander asked Army headquarters to provide an intelligence architecture called Palantir. Its network specializes in storing and sorting all sorts of intelligence data that can be mined to create links between individuals and terrorist cells, such as the ones controlling parts of Iraq and Syria.

“This is proving to be a repeat of past mistakes from Iraq and Afghanistan where critical information at the early onset of a conflict is lost, and operational opportunities are missed throughout the remainder of the convict,” said the commander. “The lack of an enterprise-level intelligence infrastructure degrades [special operations forces’] ability to collaborate across formations and echelons, and reduces our ability to target ISIL.”

ISIL and ISIS are other names for the Islamic State.

The seven-page memo is, in a sense, an indictment of the ability to deploy U.S. war theater intelligence capabilities nearly 14 years after the declaration of the war on terrorism.

A military source said the Army has granted the commander’s request for Palantir and that other special operations units have the same pending requests.

Rep. Duncan Hunter, California Republican, has pressed Army Gen. Joseph Votel, who heads U.S. Special Operations Command, to improve intelligence for commandos sent back to Iraq.

Mr. Hunter says the Army’s own intelligence network, the Distributed Common Ground System, is plagued with numerous flaws. He has pushed the Army to provide proven commercially available networks to the troops. SOCOM is operating its version of the common ground system.

In a letter sent to Gen. Votel on Monday, Mr. Hunter, a former Marine officer, took issue with the four-star general’s upbeat report to him on how well the common ground system is working.

He accused Gen. Votel’s staff of “discouraging commanders from requesting alternative solutions, and spending money duplicating capabilities that exist on the commercial market. In my oversight role, my objective is to help USSOCOM field tools that work right now.”

Mr. Hunter took issue with the general’s contention that requests for Palantir did not reflect a lack of capability by the common ground system. “The requested capability does not exist in the Army inventory and is not provided by the DCGS-SOF system,” he said.

The congressman said the Army plans to rush some common ground components to special operations forces who have told superiors that the system does not meet their needs.

In a March 26 letter to Gen. Votel, the congressman said SOCOM’s handling of the common ground system “appears to be following the failed path taken by the Army.”

The special operations version, Gen. Votel responded, “is USSOCOM’s overarching umbrella program to deliver world-class intelligence support to our deployed forces.”

He said “one of the strengths of the DCGS-SOF program” is “its open architecture and integration of commercial technology.”

Army Col. Thomas A. Davis, a SOCOM spokesman, told The Times, “Gen. Votel welcomes the opportunity to meet with Rep. Hunter to address any and all concerns he has regarding the Distributed Common Ground/Surface System — Special Operations Forces (DCGS-SOF) program. It would be premature to discuss any specifics related to this matter until after the two leaders have had the opportunity to meet.”

The 1st Special Group commander’s memo frequently used the word “no” to describe intelligence assets awaiting Green Berets in Iraq. They, like conventional U.S. troops, are there to perform the “advise and assist” role to organize Iraqi Security Forces into units that are capable of fighting the Islamic State.

“No common operating picture exists for USSOF partnered tactical operations centers,” the commander wrote. “No real time information collection capability exists for Iraqi soldier sensors. No capability exists for automated bilingual data sharing.”

The U.S. left the Iraqi army equipment to store ground intelligence data, but “No U.S. repository exists for this information and the information resides in Arabic only,” the memo says.

The commander then expressed effusive praise of Palantir and called it “the only solution that meets several” special operations goals and provides a network that lets analysts in the U.S. look at the same information.

Palantir virtually synchronizes personnel and capabilities regardless of location,” the commander said. “It is the only platform that bridges the critical seams of SOF conventional and SOF interagency data sharing to effectively contribute to unified action.”

The plan, the commander said, is to install a Palantir mobile tactical command and collection center and then link it to Iraq’s commercial communications infrastructure.

Though Obama administration policy prohibits the Green Berets from taking part in combat, the memo shows they planned to operate throughout Iraq in “remote outstages” and “team houses.”

“In the current operational environment, USSOF is not permitted to provide direct side-by-side advise-and-assist support to Iraqi tactical informations,” the memo says. “This operational constraint inhibits the rapid and accurate sharing of tactical information with troops on mission.”

The 1st Special Forces Group is not the first combat unit to ask higher-ups to let it deploy with Palantir, a system built by Palantir Technologies Inc. in Palo Alto, California, and now used by law enforcement as well as the military.

A stream of memos obtained by The Washington Times in recent years shows Army and special operations forces clamoring for Palantir and knocking the Distributed Common Ground System as too slow and prone to crashes.

Some memos showed that Army headquarters tried to block emergency requests for Palantir, a move Mr. Hunter said was an attempt by the Army’s top brass to protect congressional funding for the Distributed Common Ground System.

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Pete Hoekstra: Obama Hung Iraqi Soldiers ‘Out to Dry’ With Pullout – Newsmax, by Tod Beamon, June 17, 2015:

The United States “hung” Iraqi soldiers “out to dry” when President Barack Obama pulled troops out of Baghdad in 2011 — and that will hamper any major effort to defeat the Islamic State (ISIS), former House Intelligence Committee Chairman Pete Hoekstra told Newsmax TV on Wednesday.

“We had an integrated system that really gave us ground truth in real time for our troops,” Hoekstra, the former Michigan Republican who headed the panel from 2004 to 2007, told “Newsmax Prime” host J.D. Hayworth.

“When we pulled out, we pulled out the signals’ intelligence, we pulled out the overhead — but most importantly, we left our human intelligence.

“Those Iraqis that were partnering with us; we hung them out to dry,” he added. “As we now go back in and try to re-establish with the Iraqis, the people who we need in the ground to tell us what’s actually happening, they’re not going to partner with us.

“They saw what we did to the last folks that put their lives on the line,” Hoekstra added.

“They’re not going to take that risk again.

“It’s absolutely outrageous what we did in Iraq. We took great intelligence and we totally destroyed it — and now, we’ve got to try to recreate it.”

National defense expert Clare Lopez noted that U.S. intelligence has suffered greatly because of the lack of troops in in Iraq.

“It’s tough when you don’t have a presence on the ground in the person of troops, of Special Forces, or other intelligence operatives,” she told Hayworth. “When that goes away and when our troops are withdrawn, so do the intelligence-collection capabilities.

“The other part about that is we can operate out of different places, but it’s difficult when you don’t have the same amount of presence on the ground that we had back then,” Lopez said.

Hoekstra added that the charges filed Wednesday against a 20-year-old New York college student arrested over the weekend for allegedly plotting to set off a pressure-cooker bomb to support ISIS proved that Islamic jihadism is rapidly growing in the United States.

“The threat is alive and well in the United States, and congratulations to our law enforcement for continuing to catch these folks — but they’re not going to be able catch them all,” he said.

“The threat is real and it’s here in the homeland.”

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Is Obama Supporting a Shiite ISIS?

Asaib-ahl-alhaq_logo-450x300Frontpage, by Daniel Greenfield, June 12, 2015:

Staff Sgt. Ahmed Altaie was the last American soldier to come home from Iraq. His body was turned over by Asaib Ahl al-Haq or The League of the Righteous; a Shiite terrorist group funded and trained by Iran.

Altaie had been kidnapped, held for ransom and then killed.

It was not Asaib Ahl al-Haq’s only kidnapping and murder of an American soldier. A year after Altaie’s kidnapping, its terrorists disguised themselves as Americans and abducted five of our soldiers in Karbala. The soldiers were murdered by their Shiite captors after sustained pursuit by American forces made them realize that they wouldn’t be able to escape with their hostages.

Asaib Ahl al-Haq’s obsession with American hostages was a typically Iranian fixation. Iran’s leaders see the roots of their international influence in the Iran hostage crisis. Its terrorist groups in Lebanon had abducted and horrifically tortured Colonel William R. Higgins and William Francis Buckley.

Higgins had been skinned alive.

Most Americans have never heard of Asaib Ahl al-Haq, sometimes referred to as the Khazali Network after its leader, even though it has claimed credit for over 6,000 attacks on Americans. Its deadliest attacks came when the Democrats and their media allies were desperately scrambling to stop Bush from taking out Iran’s nuclear program. Asaib Ahl al-Haq’s ties to Iran were so blatant that the media could not allow it to receive the kind of coverage that Al Qaeda did for fear that it might hurt Iran.

Obama had campaigned vocally against the Kyl-Lieberman Amendment which designated Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, the hidden force behind Asaib Ahl al-Haq and much of the Shiite terrorist infrastructure, a terrorist organization. He had accused its sponsors of “foolish saber rattling”.

Nancy Pelosi joined the Democratic Party’s pro-Iranian turn, rejected a vote on the amendment and sneered that if the kidnapping and murder of American soldiers was “a problem to us and our troops in Iraq, they should deal with it in Iraq.” Earlier that year, she had visited Syria’s Assad to stand with him against President Bush even while Assad was aiding the terrorists massacring American soldiers.

Once Obama took power, coverage of the war was scaled down so that Americans wouldn’t realize that the rising power of ISIS and Asaib Ahl al-Haq were already making a mockery of his withdrawal plans.

But Asaib Ahl al-Haq was not merely an anti-American terrorist group; it was an arm of the Shiite theocracy. As a Shiite counterpart to what would become ISIS, it had most of the same Islamic goals.

While Obama was patting himself on the back for the end of the Iraq War and gay rights, Asaib Ahl al-Haq was throwing those men and women it suspected of being gay from the tops of buildings.

When buildings weren’t available, it beat them to death with concrete blocks or beheaded them.

Its other targets included shelters for battered women, which the Islamist group deemed brothels, men who had long hair or dressed in dark clothing. And even while its Brigades of Wrath were perpetrating these atrocities, Obama and the Shiite Iraqi government embraced the murderous terrorist group.

Qais al-Khazali, the leader of Asaib Ahl al-Haq, and his brother Laith al-Khazali along with a hundred other members of the terror group were freed during Obama’s first year in office. (But to provide equal aid and comfort to the other side, Obama also freed the future Caliph of ISIS in that same year.)

“We let a very dangerous man go, a man whose hands are stained with US and Iraqi blood. We are going to pay for this in the future,” an unnamed American officer was quoted as saying. “This was a deal signed and sealed in British and American blood.”

“We freed all of their leaders and operatives; they executed their hostages and sent them back in body bags.”

The releases were part of Obama’s grand strategy of reconciliation for Iraq. The miserable reality behind the upbeat language was that Obama was handing over Iraq to ISIS, Iran and its Shiite militias.

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ISIS’s Next Target: Baghdad

2348070765Secure Freedom Radio, June 11, 2015:

With Michael Pregent, Bing West, Michael Auslin, Max Abrahms

MICHAEL PREGENT, Senior Middle East Strategic Analyst and Consultant, Visiting Fellow at the National Defense University:

  • President Obama’s plan for fighting ISIS
  • The sectarian divide in Iraq
  • Thoughts on the U.S. training of Iraqi military and Sunni tribes
  • ISIS’s threat to Baghdad

BING WEST, Former Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs:

  • Effects that American troops can have assisting Iraqi security forces
  • What must the United States do to defeat ISIS?
  • The spread of Iranian militias in the Middle East

MICHAEL AUSLIN, Director of Japan Studies at AEI:

  • What makes China’s hack of OPM unique, and how much might the U.S. retaliate?
  • How American taxpayers are inadvertently subsidizing the growth of the Chinese military
  • Japan’s burgeoning leadership role in Asia
  • Finding an “Asia Policy,” and not merely a “China Policy”

MAX ABRAHMS, Asst. Professor of Political Science at Northeastern University:

  • The Administration’s reasoning for the deployment of troops to train Iraqi security forces
  • Risks behind arming a Sunni force in Iraq
  • Prospects of a partitioned Iraq

U.S. prepares plans for more troops, new base in Iraq: officials

General Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, arrives to deliver a statement after a welcoming ceremony in Tel Aviv June 9, 2015. REUTERS/Baz Ratner

General Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, arrives to deliver a statement after a welcoming ceremony in Tel Aviv June 9, 2015. REUTERS/Baz Ratner

Reuters, Jun 10, 2015:

The United States is expected to announce on Wednesday plans for a new military base in Iraq’s Anbar province and the deployment of around 400 additional U.S. trainers to help Iraqi forces in the fight against Islamic State, a U.S. official said.

The plan would expand the 3,100-strong U.S. contingent of trainers and advisers in Iraqand would mark an adjustment in strategy for President Barack Obama, who is facing mounting criticism for not being tougher in combating Islamic State.

U.S. officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, expressed hope that even a modestly strengthened U.S. presence could help Iraqi forces plan and carry out a counter-attack to retake Anbar’s capital Ramadi, which insurgents seized last month.

However, Obama was expected to stick to his stance against sending U.S. troops into combat or even close to the front lines, officials said.

Obama said on Monday the United States did not yet have a complete strategy for trainingIraqi security forces to regain land lost to Islamic State fighters, who have seized a third ofIraq over the past year in a campaign marked by mass killings and beheadings.

The fall of Ramadi last month drew harsh U.S. criticism of the weak Iraqi military performance and Washington has begun to speed up supplies of weapons to the government forces and examine ways to improve the training program.

The expected troop announcement was unlikely to silence Obama’s critics, who say the modest contingent of U.S. forces is far from enough to turn the tide of battle.

The U.S. deployment would likely entail around 400 trainers, one U.S. official said, adding an announcement was expected on Wednesday. Two other officials also confirmed an expected troop increase of hundreds of troops.

NEW U.S. TRAINING BASE

U.S. forces have already conducted training at the al-Asad military base in western Anbar but U.S. officials said planning was underway for a new installation near the town of Habbaniya, the site of an Iraqi army base.

A new site would allow U.S. trainers to provide greater support for Sunni tribal fighters, who have yet to receive all of the backing and arms promised by the Shi’ite-led government in Baghdad.

“We are considering a range of options to accelerate the training and equipping of Iraqi security forces in order to support them in taking the fight to ISIL. Those options include sending additional trainers to Iraq,” said Alistair Baskey, a spokesman for the White House National Security Council.

General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, made clear during a visit to Jerusalem that there were no plans to fundamentally alter Obama’s military strategy.

Speaking to reporters traveling with him, Dempsey did not say how many extra U.S. troops may be involved in the effort to accelerate the training of Iraqis.

As of last Thursday, 8,920 Iraqi troops had received training at four different sites and another 2,601 were currently in some stage of training, he said.

***

Thousands of US paratroops head for Iraq. Tehran braces for onset of ISIS terror attacks on cities (debka.com)

The United States this week began transferring to Iraq and Gulf bases elite units of the US 82nd Airborne Division. DEBKAfile’s military sources report that the first batch of 500 officers and men will be deployed in Baghdad and the Kurdish republic’s capital of Irbil, followed by another 500 in July and 250 in December. Altogether, by the end of 2015, the US will have posted another 1,250 officers and men to augment the American force already present at a base ner Habbaniya in the western Iraqi Anbar province. This force, roughly the same size as the incoming contingents, came from the US 3rd Division’s Combat Team which set up the base six months ago to train Iraqi troops to fight the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant – ISIS.
By the end of the year, therefore, the number of US troops on the ground in Iraq will rise to several thousand. Our military sources define their mission as being to intensify raids on ISIS commanders, command centers and bases and striking columns on the move. Their operations will draw on the successful attack mounted by SEAL commandos on May 16 in the heart of the Islamist stronghold in eastern Syria. The group’s chief of finances was killed in that raid and, according to American sources, the troops carried off a rich intelligence trove of digital and telephone data on the Islamist State’s tactics and structure.
The 82nd division has abundant experience of combat in the Iraqi arena. Between the 2003 US invasion and up until 2009, its members fought in critical engagements, especially in Anbar province, which ISIS has made the its main depot for large military concentrations and a launching pad for attacks across Iraq.

The figure of 3,000 American soldiers in Iraq understates the case by far. A much larger pool of combat forces is available close at hand for inserting into the cycle of war on ISIS.
Posted in Jordan just across the border from Anbar is a sizeable number of US special operations forces, and air units of F-16 fighter bombes and UH-60 Black Hawk assault helicopters. Their numbers have never been released.  Another several thousand troops are stationed in Kuwait. The Pentagon therefore has a reserve force present and available for a directive to go into action, oncef a decision for the US military to step into combat against the Islamists in Iraq and Syria is confirmed by President Barack Obama.

All these units are geared to fighting in the two arenas in the framework of the 82nd Airborne Division.

This week, too, the Pentagon started pumping new weapons to the Iraqi army under the US commitment of $1.6 billion from the Iraq Train and Equip Fund – ITEF – to equip its units with appropriate arms for combating ISIS.

Tuesday, June 9, ISIS appeared unfazed by the United States inching ever closer to a direct confrontation.  Iranian cities included Tehran were placed on terror alert, DEBKAfile’s intelligence and counter-terror sources report, after intelligence discovered that the Islamic State had started sending squads of terrorists and lone suicide bombers to execute Baghdad-style terrorist attacks on urban areas in Iran.
ISIS tacticians were said to be so encouraged by their success in blowing up two Shiite mosques in Saudi Arabia’s Eastern Province in recent weeks that they decided to have a go at Iranian cities too.
Also Tuesday, ISIS claimed in a new video that it had come up with a new strategy for taking Baghdad, not to conquer, but to “liberate” the Iraqi capital.

***

Shoshana Bryen: The Kurds – A Guide for U.S. Policymakers

Shoshana Bryen, Senior Director, Jewish Policy Center; Former Senior Director for Security Policy, Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs (JINSA)

Shoshana Bryen, Senior Director, Jewish Policy Center; Former Senior Director for Security Policy, Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs (JINSA)

Center for Security Policy, by Rachel Silverman, June 8, 2015:

On Sunday, June 7th Turkish voters delivered a dramatic blow to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. In a historic first, a party dominated by ethnic Kurds surged into the Grand National Assembly in Ankara, marking a new moment in the evolution of Turkey’s democracy. According to Akin Unver, a professor of international relations at Kadir Has University in Istanbul, it’s now “impossible to sideline Kurdish politics. Despite the civil war of the 1990s, Kurds have evolved politically and established a lasting legacy” on the Turkish national stage.

Professor Unver, is not the only one who believes that the Kurds should be recognized politically. On June 4th, during the Center for Security Policy’s National Security Group Lunch on Capitol Hill, Shoshana Bryen who is the Senior Director of the Jewish Policy Center offered three practical steps that the U.S. can do to help assist the Kurds and advance U.S. interests in the region.

Bryen says that the first step, which coincides with Professor Unver, “is for the U.S. to recognize the Kurds politically, as an ally, as a partner in the fight against ISIS.” She mentions that there was a meeting in Paris last week between coalition members to discuss Iraq and Syria and the Kurds were not invited, despite the fact that there are 160,000 or so Kurdish fighters on the ground doing the job.

The second step, according to Bryen, is for the U.S. to talk to the Kurds directly and not through Baghdad:

“Right now all the aid that we give them, which is not a whole lot, goes through Baghdad. The Kurds probably get about 25 or 35 percent of that, which means we need to talk to them directly instead. The U.S. needs to figure out how to give them military equipment directly. The Turks, Iraqis, and Iranians will not like it, but if the Germans and the French can supply the Kurds directly which is what they do now, then the U.S. ought to as well.”

Bryen’s third step is that the U.S. needs to figure out how to get the Kurds to the United States to talk. Bryen stresses that “the Kurdish voices are not being heard around the United States and they need to be. They need invitations, they need to be invited to testify on Capitol Hill, and they need to be invited to conferences.”

Bryen also stresses that U.S. interests actually lie with the minority communities in the Middle East, which includes Israel and the Kurds. She says that “we have allies in the region and we need to lean on them instead of trying to pretend that our enemies are our allies.” Bryen ends with saying that if we follow these three crucial steps, then that is “the beginning of wisdom for the United States.”

Becoming allies with the Kurds would offer the United States tremendous strategic advantages that would help defeat the Islamic State, especially now after the Turkish election results. Unlike several of the countries from which the U.S. flies their aircrafts or bases their ships, the Kurdish leaders and people are pro-American, its ruling regime is not a monarchy ripe for Arab-Spring-style overthrow, and it does not sponsor Islamist terrorism. It is clearly time for America to form an alliance with the Kurds.

Obama Administration Rules of Engagement Stymie Air War against ISIS

Refueling F-22 Raptor in mid-flight in air war against ISIS Source:  US Air Force

Refueling F-22 Raptor in mid-flight in air war against ISIS
Source: US Air Force

NER, by Jerry Gordon, June 1, 2015:

Without boots on the ground providing intelligence feed, the US led coalition air war is failing to “deter, let alone degrade” ISIS.  How else can you explain 7,000 sorties over Syria and Iraq with less than 25% having ‘bomb releases”?   That was the key disturbing finding in a Washington Times (WT) article, U.S. bombers hold fire on Islamic State targets amid ground intel blackout.”

The U.S. conducted 7,319 sorties over Iraq and Syria as part of Operation Inherent Resolve in the first four months of 2015. Of those, only 1,859 flights — 25.4 percent — had at least one “weapons release,” according to data provided by United States Air Force Central Command. That means that only about one in every four flights dropped a bomb on an Islamic State target.

There have been reports of frustration by US Air Force, Navy and Marine pilots engaged in the ISIS air campaign who have acquired targets and yet been commanded to stand down from attacking them. That has led to criticism of the Administration ISIS air war from Members of Congress, most notably, Sen. John McCain who heads the Senate Armed Services Committee cited in the WT report:

The Arizona Republican said at a hearing this year that missions that don’t drop bombs needlessly put American pilots in danger and that U.S. boots on the ground would produce better intelligence that could lead to more effective bombing missions.

The level of air sorties in the US-led coalition air war is far below those of Gulf Wars I and II and even the Balkan Air campaigns during the Clinton era.  The question is what is causing this?  Many believe it is the restrictive rules of engagement to spare civilian lives, when ISIS fighters move among columns of civilians, effectively using them as human shields.  Further, some analysts ironically believe that these strict rules of engagement actually contribute to civilian casualties by to ISIS. Perhaps this also reflects the misguided Obama Administration obsession in both avoiding collateral damage and avoiding putting special teams on the ground to provide better target intelligence.

Israel Air Force Commander Maj. Gen. Amir Eshel Source: Times of Israel

Israel Air Force Commander Maj. Gen. Amir Eshel
Source: Times of Israel

Perhaps, the Central Command planners and air war commanders might best heed Israeli Air Force Commander Major General Eshel who was cited in a Defense News article saying:

“We have an offensive capability that is unprecedented and extremely significant which we’ve been developing over years and are now able to implement.

“In small wars, it’s a very significant challenge for us to reduce collateral damage on the other side when the enemy is using all he has to elevate the damage we’re forced to inflict on him,” Eshel said.

“First of all, it’s a moral challenge. … It sounds like a slogan, but we are constantly thinking, planning and operating with this challenge in mind.”

The demonstration of that approach was what  occurred in Operation Defensive Edge against the Hamas rocket and terror tunnel war threatening Israel when the IAF F-16’s flew missions in attacks against urban targets with precision guided 1 ton bombs within 250 meters of IDF troops.  The key is precision strikes based on precise intelligence.

Note these debates about the Pentagon handling of the ISIS air war campaign in the WT article:

Former US Navy Helicopter Pilot, Cmdr. Harmer:

Without ground forces, argues Cmdr. Christopher Harmer, a retired Navy helicopter pilot, U.S. airmen are essentially flying half-blind and, as a result, are returning to base with their bombs still in the bay.
“As long as the body politic or president or whoever is making decisions absolutely refuses to put American air controllers on ground, essentially pilots are flying with one eye closed,” Cmdr. Harmer said. “It’s almost impossible for pilots to designate between [Islamic State] fighters and coalition fighters.”

Cmdr. Harmer, who now serves as a senior naval analyst with the Middle East Security Project at the Institute for the Study for War, said airstrikes can hit big, static targets such as bridges, runways and tanks without on-the-ground guidance. But to be effective in hitting moving targets such as enemy troops in a firefight, U.S. pilots need American joint terminal attack controllers to give specific directions from the ground to guide their missiles precisely.

Fewer targets of opportunity says CENTCOM:

Col. Pat Ryder, spokesman for U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM), told reporters Friday that while pilots can often place bombs on targets “within minutes,” it’s very important to be very precise and exercise tactical discipline to protect civilian populations.

“We’re dealing with a hybrid adversary who often hides among the population,” he said. “It’s more important for us to accurately target the enemy with a high degree of precision in order to minimize civilian casualties than it is to strike with such speed or force that would risk disenfranchising the very population we’re there to protect.”

Richard Brennan of RAND Corporation has a more pragmatic assessment:

But to make things work without a ground force and employing only air power, the rules of engagement must change, argues Richard Brennan, a senior political scientist at RAND Corp.

Mr. Brennan said the Islamic State, in adapting and responding to U.S. airstrikes, has started to intermingle its fighters with civilians to frustrate U.S. attacks from the air.

In an effort to protect civilian lives, the strict rules of engagement are doing the opposite by giving the Islamic State, also known as ISIS, the opportunity to kill civilians, he said.

“Even though the United States isn’t doing the killing, by its inability to use force in all but the cases where they’re sure of not having collateral damage, we’re ceding the advantage to ISIS in many situations,” Mr. Brennan said.

Looks to us that CENTCOM needs to whistle up a session with IAF General Eshel to understand how the Israelis do precision hits against Hamas in heavily urbanized Gaza City and Hezbollah Syrian missile and weapons transfers.  Both Cmdr. Harmer of the Institute for the Study of War and Brennan of the RAND Corporation are correct about the stringent rules for engagement in the air war against. They are generating more collateral civilian casualties.  Something that didn’t dawn on the Metternichean Munchkins in the Obama National Security Council who call the shots over Pentagon objections.

***

Iraq’s refusal to take refugees leaves America in questionable position

3183166746CSP, by Alessandra Gennarelli, June, 1, 2015:

The number of refugees fleeing from their homes in Iraq is rising at an alarmingly high rate, estimated to be as high as 14 million people in April, as the Syrian civil war continues and ISIS maintains hold of highly populated Iraqi cities.

85% of Iraqis on the run are Sunnis. Most refugees who are fleeing within their borders attempt to cross into Baghdad, where Shiite militants on strict orders to hold the border do not let them cross. The Northern Kurdish Region, which has been “long a haven for civilians fleeing Iraq’s turmoil,” is still welcoming Christian refugees but are becoming hesitant when accepting Sunni Arabs. The security measures that are beginning to be put into place, according to the Iraqi government, are based on legitimate concerns.

These concerns stem from the country’s inability to vet the unmanageable amount of people crossing the borders between cities. The Iraqi government acknowledges that the “Islamic State is entrenched in Anbar and counts on some support from local citizens”, essentially saying that terrorists are likely to enter under the guise of a refugee. The large displacement of people, lack of housing and personal information for each citizen makes attempting to vet each citizen for entry unsustainable.

Funding is another issue as Aid agencies worry that soon they will be unequipped to help the increasing refugee flow, as they are now not only coming from Syria but other ISIS embedded towns like Ramadi in Iraq. The United Nations controls the refugee replacement program in Iraq and is struggling with monetary flow.

The New York Times reports that the “$500 million donation to the United Nations by Saudi Arabia ran out in March and other funds are quickly dwindling.” Another $500 million dollars is requested from the United Nations, the organizations biggest appeal in history, in order to successfully handle the quickly deteriorating situation in Iraq. The Senior United Nations official in charge of humanitarian efforts Lisa Grande said of the situation, “We are tapped out of money.”

Abuse of the refugee sponsorship program is another pressing issue within Iraq’s borders. The New York Times reports that in order to get to Baghdad, Anbar civilians must secure a sponsor in the capital who can escort them into the city. However, some residents are charging as much as $700 to incoming refugees according to the International Rescue Committee. Mark Schnellbaecher, the IRC’s regional crisis response director said of the issue, “Not only does paying for sponsorship undermine its security credentials, it also forces an unacceptable financial burden on displaced Iraqis who will need their savings to provide for their families.”

While Iraq is openly admitting their struggle and hesitancy with admitting Arab refugees in large numbers, the U.S. Government is urgently seeking to relocate these men, women and children to the The United States. The Center For Security Policy released an article May 26 discussing the letter Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) as well as fourteen other senators wrote asking President Obama to consider planning on 65,000 Syrian refugees to be on our border by the end of 2016. Refugee Resettlement and the Hijra to America explains in a broader sense the lack of communication that needs to be reformed in order to fix the immigration process of America.

America is receiving a large amount of refugees as tensions in Iraq and Syria rise. As of 2012, Texas is receiving the most refugees out of any state followed by California, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Georgia. According to critically acclaimed author and columnist Paul Sperry, Obama has “averaged 100,000 new immigrants from Muslim nations a year … It’s more than we’re importing both from Central America and Mexico combined.”

Detroit, Michigan is, as The National Journal states, “A Dream Come True for Iraqi Refugees.” In places like this, Muslim immigrants are able to infuse into society, and are often provided with “food stamps, subsidized housing, health care, educational costs for children and the costs associated with the criminal justice system” all at the expense of the US taxpayer. The National Journal goes on to explain “Detroit’s suburbs have absorbed tens of thousands of Iraqi refugees in recent years in the wake of the war.” Muslim communities often begin to form in these cities as more are placed in the same designated areas. A similar view was offered by a New York Times Op-Ed writer.

However, three dire issues arise with these transitions.

Firstly, the concerns of national security and the failures of the US immigration officials vetting process are causing a magnitude of problems. The book Refugee Resettlement and the Hijra to America explains that “as entire regions of the Middle East … descend into chaos, the ability of immigration officials to conduct proper vetting of applicants by verifying places of origin, political orientation, criminal records or even basic identity, is all too often non-existent.” Sperry says of the same process, “The FBI officials who are in charge of that type of vetting process for terrorists coming in under visas and refugee programs … admit, under oath, that they have no idea who these people are, and they can’t find out.” The assistant director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation Michael Stench even commented on the lack of information the FBI is experiencing.

Secondly, the financial ability of America to host these refugees is quickly fading. Ann Corcoran’s book explains that in the fiscal year 2014, total available funding dedicated to the Refugee program stood at $1,143,000,000. The fiscal year 2015 shows the funding falling to $1,059,000,000. As stated above, the US taxpayer remains responsible for providing the money, but left out of the conversation on what happens to it.

Lastly, Refugee Resettlement watchers such as Ann Corcoran, a citizen turned expert on this topic, are raising awareness about the failure of transparency that the government continues to have with it’s citizens on the topic.

Essentially, Iraq’s struggle with its immigration vetting process is effecting not only it’s own country, but countries worldwide, as not only the United States but places like the UK, Germany and Canada are receiving refugees from this area of conflict as well.

The Islamic State now controls both Syria and Iraq, currently the main sources of most Muslim immigrants to America. As Paul Sperry said, “We have no idea if they’re going to come into this country to escape terrorism or to carry out terrorism. We have no idea.”

Also see:

Iranian Regime Gives Green Light to Qods Force, Proxies to Initiate Plans Against US and its Allies

The Middle East roach infestation has originated from Iran – so who will turn on the light to make them scatter? Source: www.ibdeditorials.com/cartoons

The Middle East roach infestation has originated from Iran – so who will turn on the light to make them scatter?
Source: http://www.ibdeditorials.com/cartoons

June 1, 2015 / / 1 Comment

In Yesterday’s article titled “Arabian Pensinsula Violence Escalates After Second IS Bombing in Saudi Arabia,” we stated that our sources in the region have been reporting back that movement appears to be underway towards targeting westerners – mainly Americans. Specifically, we’ve been informed that the Qods Force may have directed Hezbollah, Kitaib Hezbollah (KH) and the Houthis to begin making plans for conducting William Buckley-style abductions Americans in Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Yemen. Furthermore, reporting from various media outlets have already begun covering the Americans taken hostage by the Houthis and a Hezbollah plot disrupted in Cyprus. None of these are a “coincidence.” Its all by design and timed with the nuclear weapons negotiations. Why do this if the Obama administration is prepared to give them everything without having to sacrifice anything on their end? It all comes down to the fact that the Iranian regime views the US government is weak – and they will be able to be much more “assertive” by escalating their belligerence. Thus far the Obama administration has done nothing to prove otherwise.

Arabian Pensinsula Violence Escalates After Second IS Bombing in Saudi Arabia
http://isisstudygroup.com/?p=6853

We’ve been warning about the Qods Force working to expand their influence in Yemen and model the Houthis after Lebanese Hezbollah. In “Iranian Regime Consolidates Yemeni Gains, Begins Work on Forming Houthi Intel Proxy” we laid out how such work has already been underway. Furthermore, a consistent theme we’ve been touching on in our Arabian Peninsula reporting has been how intelligence collection against US State Department (DoS) personnel and American citizens in the country had dramatically increased with the influx of Hezbollah and Iranian military personnel into the country – so none of this is “new,” although the Obama administration would like to make you think it is, and that the Qods Force doesn’t exercise any control over the Houthis. The inconvenient truth is that they do, and the man calling the shots in the country is Qods Force External Operations Division (Department 400) BG Aboldreza Shahlai.

Read more

Also see:

US support for Iranian-backed Shiite militias ‘should not alarm us,’ General Allen says

257F2B8600000578-0-image-a-2_1423463608406LWJ, BY BILL ROGGIO | May 29th, 2015:

In an interview with CBS News, General (retired) John Allen, the Special Presidential Envoy for the Global Coalition To Counter ISIL, or the Islamic State, attempted to assure Americans that they should not be concerned with the US providing military and other support for Shiite militias, many of which are backed by Iran. Allen attempts to separate the “extremist elements” from the Popular Mobilization Force (or Committee), when the distinction is practically meaningless. From the interview, which was published on the US State Department’s website (emphasis is mine):

With regard to militias, it’s really important to understand that the militias are not just a single monolithic entity. There are the militias that you and I are used to hearing that have close alignments with Iran. Those are the extremist elements, and we don’t have anything to do with that. But there are elements of the Shia militias that volunteered last year to try to defend Iraq from the onslaught of Daesh [Islamic State] who were called to arms by Grand Ayatollah Sistani, and those elements, or the Popular Mobilization Force, as they are known, have been subordinated to the Iraqi higher military campaign or command.And they will provide maneuver capacity and additional firepower to the Iraqi Security Forces as we continue to build them out, as we continue to build the professionalization of the Iraqi forces.

So the fact that militias are involved and tribes are involved in this part of the campaign, this part of the implementation of supporting Iraq ultimately to recover the country, should not alarm us. We just need to ensure that we manage the outcome of this. Prime Minister Abadi’s been clear that these organizations within the Popular Mobilization Force, the Shia volunteers, will eventually either transition into the security forces themselves or go home. That’s the solution that he intends and I think that that’s a supportable outcome. So for now – this goes back to the point that you made about urgency – urgency is an important factor here in helping us to focus on supporting the Iraqis, the tribes, and the Popular Mobilization Force to take those actions necessary to defeat Daesh locally.

The “extremist elements” referred to by Allen include the Hezbollah Brigades, which has been designated by the US government as a Foreign Terrorist Organization, Saraya Khorasani, the Badr Organization, Asaib al Haq (League of the Righteous), Kata’ib Imam Ali (Imam Ali Brigade), Sayyed al Shuhada Brigade, and Harakat Nujaba. Top leaders of the last four groups are listed by the US as specially designated global terrorists.

The problem with Allen’s comments is that these so-called “extremist elements” are indeed the largest part of the Popular Mobilization Committee. In fact, when the Iraqi press and government refer to deploying the Popular Mobilization Committee, one or more of these groups are in the lead.

And the Popular Mobilization Committee itself is directed by Abu Mahdi al Muhandis, a former commander in the Badr Organization who was listed by the US government as a specially designated global terrorist in July 2009. The US government described Muhandis, whose real name is Jamal Jaafar Mohammed, as “an advisor to Qassem Soleimani,” the commander of the Qods Force, which is the external operations wing of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC).

The US military has supported these “extremist elements” in past operations, and continues to do so today. We’ve documented this multiple times here at The Long War Journal.

The US support of Iranian-backed Shiite militias began at Amerli in the northern Salahaddin province in late August 2014. Kata’ib Hezbollah, Asiab al Haq, Saraya Khorasani, and the Badr Organization all took part in the fighting. Human Rights Watch detailed how the militias rampaged after the completion of the operation.

At the end of October 2014, the US launched airstrikes in Jurf al Sakhar in support of the League of the Righteous, the Hezbollah Brigades, and the Badr Brigade. The Islamic State was driven from Jurf al Sakhar.

The Tikrit operation, which took place in March 2015, was led by the Kata’ib Imam Ali, Badr Organization, the League of the Righteous, and Hezbollah Brigades. At the start of the operation, General Martin Dempsey said that Iran’s involvement in Tikrit could be a “good thing.” The US halted airstrikes once Iran’s involvement became too difficult to hide, then restarted once the militias purportedly backed off. But the militias participated, with the help of US airstrikes.

Today, in Ramadi, Hezbollah Brigades is taking the lead in the fight to liberate the city from the Islamic State.

Allen is playing an all-too-familiar game with respect to the Iranian-backed Shiite militias. At the end of March, US Central Command leader General Lloyd Austin justified US airstrikes in Tikrit, claiming that Iranian-backed Shiite militias had withdrawn from the fighting there.

“I will not — and I hope we will never — coordinate or cooperate with Shiite militias,” Austin told the Senate Armed Services Committee at the time.

“These forces obviously were not being controlled by the government of Iraq,” he continued.

But the militias did in fact participate in the final push for Tikrit. This was proven when Asaib al Haq’s flag was raised over central Tikrit.

Also see:

Rand Paul Has a Point about Republicans and ISIS

pic_giant_053015_SM_Surge-Troops-GNRO by Andrew C. McCarthy, May 30, 2015:

Seems like Rand Paul always goes too far.

He could have made a perfectly respectable argument that the NSA’s metadata program is illegal because it exceeds the Patriot Act’s authority. Instead he speciously insists that the Patriot Act shreds the Fourth Amendment and the program is akin to Nixon-era “domestic spying.”

He could also have made a perfectly respectable — I would say, irrefutable — argument that there was strong bipartisan support for some reckless policies that significantly contributed to the rise of the Islamic State — the jihadist organization that now controls much of Iraq and Syria. Instead, the Kentucky Republican speciously claims that “hawks” in his own party “created” ISIS.

ISIS is a creation of Islamic-supremacist ideology, which is drawn directly from Muslim scripture. Part of the reason that Senator Paul is no improvement over the Republicans he often derides is that he is just as wrong as they are about the threat we face.

In their infatuation with Muslim engagement, Beltway Republicans imagine a monolithic, smiley-face Islam — a “religion of peace” that seamlessly accommodates Western liberalism . . . except where it has been “hijacked” by “violent extremists.” Indeed, long before President Obama came along, it was the Bush administration that endeavored to purge terms like “jihadism” from our lexicon, even assuring us: “The fact is that Islam and secular democracy are fully compatible — in fact, they can make each other stronger.”

Thankfully, Senator Paul does not seem to have gulped that Kool-Aid. Yet, his anti-government populism leads him to maintain — just as his father did in less guarded rhetoric — that it is American policy, not Islamic-supremacist ideology, that induces jihadists to attack the United States.

It’s undeniable that Republican policy contributed to the Islamist bedlam now exploding across the Middle East.

Paul appears to grasp that jihadism is evil, rooted in Islamic doctrine, and anti-American. The conclusion he draws from this premise, however, is that it should be given a wide berth rather than confronted and defeated. This is not materially different from the “blame America first” cast of mind that Jeanne Kirkpatrick diagnosed and Barack Obama instantiates. Nor is it far from the mindset that blames Pamela Geller or Charlie Hebdowhen Islamists respond to mere taunts with lethal violence — as if sharia gives Muslims a special mayhem dispensation that American law must accommodate.

All that said, if Paul’s point was that Republican policy contributed to the Islamist bedlam now exploding across the Middle East and northern Africa, that ought to be undeniable.

Because the senator hyperbolically claimed that the GOP “created” ISIS, the indignant rebukes raining down on him from Republican leaders and sympathizers focus on Iraq. It was there that the organization was born as al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI), eventually rebranding as ISIS upon breaking away from the mother ship and declaring its caliphate.

Selectively mining facts, the Republican establishment claims that, thanks to the 2007 troop surge, President Bush annihilated AQI before there ever was an ISIS. The latter arose, so the story goes, because Obama reversed Bush’s policies and refused to keep a residual force in Iraq after 2011. In point of fact, the GOP fingerprints on the sweeping Middle East disaster transcend Iraq. But even if we just stick to Iraq, the Republican story is woefully incomplete.

Having been created by Islamic supremacism, AQI/ISIS was nurtured by Iran. Notwithstanding the internecine bloodletting that now pits Sunnis against Shiites across the region, Shiite Iran has been the key supporter of both Shiite and Sunni jihadist groups since its revolutionary incarnation as “the Islamic Republic” in 1979. It has backed Sunni al-Qaeda and Hamas, as well as Shiite Hezbollah and a network of Shiite terror cells in Iraq. Its only requirement has been that jihadists of whatever stripe advance Iran’s interests by taking the fight to the U.S. and Israel.

In that vein, Iran harbored al-Qaeda operatives after the 9/11 attacks and facilitated the anti-American insurgencies in Afghanistan and Iraq. This involved collaboration with Abu Musab Zarqawi, the formative figure of AQI who was eventually killed by U.S. forces in Iraq after he had fomented civil war there.

Iran helped Zarqawi even though AQI’s strategy involved killing Shiites. Of course, the regime in Tehran kills plenty of Iranians, so it has no qualms about killing Shiites. It helped Zarqawi kill them in Iraq because its interests were advanced by chaos in Iraq, which enabled the mullahs to spread their influence and their Shiite terror network.

Although this was obvious, as was the fact that Iran was behind the killing of thousands of American troops, the Bush administration treated Iran as if it had an interest in Iraqi stability. The Republican administration ignored Iran’s fueling of the jihad; negotiated with Iran (ostensibly through intermediaries) on its nuclear-weapons program; and disaggregated the nuke negotiations from Iran’s terror promotion — just as Obama has done — despite the fact that the United States was Iran’s top terror target. Bush even backed as Iraqi prime minister Nouri al-Maliki, a pro-Iranian Shiite Islamist who, predictably, drew Baghdad ever closer to Tehran while exacerbating the rift with Iraqi Sunnis. This increased an already teeming recruiting pool for AQI and, later, ISIS.

It is a gross exaggeration to claim, as Republicans do, that the surge “won” the war in Iraq.

The surge did indeed tamp down on the violence and inflict withering losses on AQI. Still, it is a gross exaggeration to claim, as Republicans do, that the surge “won” the war in Iraq. If we judge matters by Bush’s stated objective — a stable, democratic Iraq that would be a reliable Americancounterterrorism ally — Iraq was already a failure by 2007. The surge killed many jihadists and gave the warring Iraqi factions yet another opportunity to reconcile. But it was always known that (a) our jihadist enemies backed by Iran were a regional (in fact, a global) threat, so the war could not be won in Iraq alone; and (b) the surge was a temporary measure, not a permanent solution.

The latter problem was exacerbated by the status-of-forces agreement (SOFA) to which Bush reluctantly agreed. In lashing out against Paul, Republicans and their apologists emphasize that Obama changed Bush’s policies. This is true, but it conveniently omits mentioning that Bush’s policies were first changed by . . . Bush.

For years, President Bush envisioned that all our sacrifice on Iraq’s behalf would yield a permanent working alliance with a sizable post-war American presence that would help us project power and protect our interests in the region. But, despite the administration’s smiley-face-Islam depiction of the Iraqis, they in fact despise infidel Americans and wanted our forces out of their country — to the point that the free Iraqi elections our government liked to brag about became contests over which candidate could spew the most venom about the United States. With the clock running out on the U.N. use-of-force mandate, Bush agreed with the Iranian-controlled Maliki to a SOFA that called for all American troops to leave the country by the end of 2011.

By that point, it was already clear that Barack Obama would be the next president. There is no doubt that, in driving a hard bargain with Bush, Maliki leveraged Obama’s strident opposition to the Iraq war and his vow to pull Americans out. Bush may have hoped that Obama would grow into the job, be guided by America’s interests instead of his ideological leanings, and strike a new deal with the Iraqis before the 2011 deadline based on whatever conditions on the ground were at the time. But hope is not a strategy.

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Republicans are now claiming that it was blindingly obvious in 2011 that pulling out troops was a blunder that guaranteed the resurgence of jihadists in Iraq. If that is the case — and it surely is the case — then it was also blindingly obvious in late 2008 that the terms of the SOFA to which Bush agreed would, if complied with, guarantee the resurgence of jihadists in Iraq.

This is not to excuse the unmitigated mess Obama made of things. So determined was he to be done with Iraq, so dismissive was he of all America had sacrificed to drive our Sunni enemies from Iraq, that he was heedless of conditions on the ground as he drew our forces down. By 2011, after a steady draw-down, things were so much worse that Obama could have pressured Maliki to renegotiate the withdrawal deadline; a sizable presence of American forces would likely have prevented the advance of ISIS. Obama resisted this because he was determined to pull out at any cost, and because he calculated that abandoning Iraq would appease Iran, with which he was (and remains) desperate to negotiate a nuclear deal.

Nevertheless, the road was paved for Obama because of Bush’s withdrawal agreement. It is disingenuous for Republicans to contend that remaining in Iraq was the “Bush policy” when the president assented to a SOFA that unambiguously reads: “All United States Forces shall withdraw from all Iraqi territory no later than December 31, 2011.”

As already noted above, Iraq is not the half of the problem for the GOP. Why is it, do you suppose, that we do not know by now why our government had personnel stationed in Benghazi, Libya, one of the most dangerous places in the world for Americans, when four of them — including the U.S. ambassador — were massacred on September 11, 2012? After all, the Obama policy of empowering Islamists to overthrow the Qaddafi regime was spearheaded by Hillary Clinton, the then–secretary of state who is the Democrats’ presumptive 2016 presidential nominee. The Republicans presumably want to beat Mrs. Clinton, so why isn’t the Congress they control exploiting what, on the surface, seems like a powerful political argument against her competence?

Because influential Beltway Republicans were enthusiastic proponents of this disastrous policy from the start. On Libya, they are joined at the hip with Clinton and Obama.

Beltway Republicans were enthusiastic proponents of our disastrous Libya policy from the start.

The State Department had observed in 2009, when GOP senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham were about to lead a congressional delegation to Tripoli for meetings with Qaddafi, that “Libya has acted as a critical ally in U.S. counterterrorism efforts, and Libya is considered one of our primary partners in combating the flow of foreign fighters.” Yet no one was more ardent than McCain and Graham in calling for Qaddafi’s overthrow and for accomplishing that end by arming “rebels” who were known to be rife with top al-Qaeda figures.

The policy has rendered Libya a failed state in which jihadists control swaths of territory, a situation ISIS has now exploited, building a growing presence. The policy also led to an arms windfall for Libyan jihadists. It is now clear that some of those arms made their way to jihadists in Syria. What remains murky is whether the United States government facilitated that arms traffic. The State Department, the CIA, and administration spokesmen have been cagey about what our government did, and senior Republican lawmakers have thwarted efforts to probe the issue at at least one public hearing. But at the very least, American officials knew about arms transfers from Libyan jihadists to Syrian jihadists.

Of course, back in the first Obama term, before ISIS became a juggernaut, senior Republicans were keen to arm the Syrian “rebels” in order to overthrow the Assad regime. In essence, they wanted a redux of the Libya strategy that they and Hillary Clinton were proud to take credit for . . . right up until the Benghazi massacre and the disintegration of Libya into a failed state. But you don’t hear them speak much about overthrowing Assad anymore, just like you no longer hear much bragging about Qaddafi’s ouster. That is because it is now clear that the Syrian “rebels,” like the Libyan “rebels,” prominently included jihadists from al-Qaeda, ISIS, and the Muslim Brotherhood. When Republicans were calling for these anti-Assad “rebels” to be armed and trained (mainly through Islamist governments), that is where much of the arming and training was going.

It was no surprise. After all, when the rabidly anti-American Muslim Brotherhood took over the Egyptian government, Republicans supportedObama in providing arms and aid for them, too — an initiative that Senator Paul vigorously but unsuccessfully opposed.

Toward the conclusion of the 2012 presidential campaign, there was a candidate debate on foreign policy. It was Mitt Romney’s chance, in the wake of the Benghazi terrorist attack, to separate himself from the catastrophic, pro-Islamist policies of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. Instead, Romney permitted little or no daylight between himself and the president — to the point that it sometimes seemed he was poised to endorse Obama.

It is fair to say that Romney was simply following a flawed strategy to narrow the election to a referendum on the economy, on which he figured Obama was most vulnerable. But Romney was able to follow the strategy with ease because, on foreign policy, there really wasn’t much daylight between Beltway Republicans and a president who makes Jimmy Carter look like Winston Churchill.

If that was what Rand Paul was trying to say, he has a point.

— Andrew C. McCarthy is a policy fellow at the National Review Institute. His latest book is Faithless Execution: Building the Political Case for Obama’s Impeachment.