ISIS Targets City that Inspired Washington, D.C. for Destruction

Palmyra (wikipedia)

Palmyra (wikipedia)

Frontpage, May 22, 2015 by Daniel Greenfield:

The great columns and pediments of Washington, D.C. that give it a Roman and Greek air have their origins in a lost city in the Syrian desert. After Robert Wood and James Dawkins visited the ruins of Palmyra in the eighteenth century, the illustrations of the bare columns and broken arches helped inspire neoclassical architecture. Now the city that helped inspire Washington is occupied by ISIS.

It is a historical irony that the classical architecture of our national capital where Islamic terrorists are appeased owes a good deal to a forgotten Christian outpost that surrendered to the armies of Islam.

Some would even say that history is repeating itself.

Palmyra fell when it was besieged by the savage horde of Khalid ibn al-Walid; the Sword of Allah. The Sword of Allah was known for numerous atrocities. One particularly gruesome account describes how he murdered the Arab poet and chieftain Malik ibn Nuweira for returning taxes demanded by Mohammed to his people, telling them, “Your wealth is now your own.” The Islamic IRS was even nastier than ours.

The Sword of Allah cut off Malik’s head and used it to cook dinner before raping his wife. Through such atrocities, that helped inspire the modern crimes of ISIS, the Sword of Allah was able to keep Mohammed’s conquests together after his death. When he came to Palmyra, the Sword swore by Allah that he would conquer it even if it were in heaven and capture its sons and daughters.

Hoping to save their lives, the people of Palmyra surrendered and became dhimmis. Arabic replaced Aramaic, Islam replaced Christianity and the city once founded by King Solomon mostly vanished from history. Those inhabitants who survived the terrible centuries of Islamic occupation, lost their identity, their religion and any knowledge that they were of a nobler kind than their brutal conquerors.

Palmyra falls again with its capture by ISIS. This fall may be its final one. If ISIS has its way, the ruins of the city that helped inspire the rebirth of classical architecture in England and America will be destroyed.

Like the old armies of Islam that destroyed the Library of Alexandria because its books were a threat to the totalitarian writ of the Koran, ISIS destroys the remains of the civilizations that predated Islam. It is not alone in seeking to destroy the histories of more civilized times so that none of the peoples under its rule can ever seek to better themselves by reaching for something higher and better than the Koran.

America found inspiration in ancient civilizations to reach higher. ISIS wants a world where no one can ever know that there were better men than Mohammed and the Sword of Allah, so that its followers will aspire to be nothing better than murderers and rapists, destroying the past to kill the future.

While the archeological mass destruction practiced by ISIS and the Taliban is well known, “moderate” Muslim kingdoms like Saudi Arabia engage in the same practice. Wahhabism began with the destruction of relics. While Europeans were marveling over Palmyra, the House of Saud was massacring thousands and destroying historical artifacts across Iraq and Syria in a manner indistinguishable from ISIS.

The Islamic State’s Caliph has vowed that “After Ramadi, will come Baghdad and Karbala.” ISIS is retracing the path of the House of Saud, which had declared, “We took Karbala and slaughtered and took its people (as slaves), then praise be to Allah… and we do not apologize for that and say: ‘And to the unbelievers: the same treatment.’”

That horrid event took place in the same year that Washington D.C. was incorporated as a city and the Library of Congress was founded. There could hardly be a better contrast between Islam and America.

That is what we are up against, not only in the fight against ISIS, but in the Clash of Civilizations.

Islamists in Libya and Timbuktu, after Obama’s illegal regime change destabilized the region, were left free to destroy mausoleums and shrines. When UNESCO protested, the Jihadists of Ansar Dine, the Defenders of Islam, responded by mocking the helpless international organization, “We are all Muslims. UNESCO is what? [We are acting] in the name of Allah.”

Now UNESCO is appealing to protect Palmyra from the modern Swords of Allah, but it’s equally helpless to do so. The Swords of Allah and Defenders of Islam are savages who thrive on terror. They destroy everything that reminds them of their own cultural inferiority. They cannot be reasoned with.

UNESCO chief Irina Bokova calls the potential destruction of Palmyra, a UNESCO world heritage site, “an enormous loss to humanity.” But we cannot save the ruins of Palmyra until we recognize that the forces threatening it today are the same as those that left it a forgotten ruin in the desert.

The enormous loss to humanity started when the warlords of Islam began the destruction of thousands of years of civilization. ISIS is only finishing what the armies of Mohammed began.

When it burns manuscripts in the Mosul Library, ISIS is following up Caliph Omar’s destruction of the Library of Alexandria. When the Jihad conquered Persia and found “innumerable quantity of books and scientific treatises”, Omar commanded, “Throw them into the water.”

Until we recognize that ISIS is the extension of the Islamic imperative of cultural mass destruction, we will continue losing cultural heritage sites, not only in the Middle East, but in Europe as well, where churches are being turned into mosques, Georg Engelhard Schröder’s Juno is covered up in the Swedish Legislature to avoid offending Muslims and a Mozart opera is shut down in Berlin.

Palmyra is likely to meet the same fate as Aleppo and Nimrud. As have Hatra and Khorsabad.

The ruins of Nimrud were bulldozed and blown up. In Mosul, ISIS savages rampaged through the museum smashing artifacts. Dabiq, the ISIS magazine, explained that, “The kuffar (non-Muslims) had unearthed these statues and ruins in recent generations and attempted to portray them as part of a cultural heritage and identity that the Muslims of Iraq should embrace and be proud of.”

ISIS, like the armies of Islam dating back to Mohammed, has as its core mission the destruction of the pre-Islamic cultures that might inspire people living under Islam to better themselves, to look beyond the black veil of Islam to the past and the future. There is nothing savages hate more than civilization.

What is at stake in the Clash of Civilizations is the destruction of civilization. The ruins of Palmyra inspired our civilization. Their threatened destruction should inspire us to protect our own civilization from the Swords of Allah before all that remains of our cities is the ruins of a lost greatness.

***

Also see:

Report: Syria Conflict Makes World Bloodiest in Decades

ISIS-Video-Yemen-640x480Breitbart, by Oliver Lane, May 20, 205:

The “spectacular brutality” of the Islamic State and raging conflict in the Levant is making the world less settled and more dangerous than it has been for decades.

A report by a globally-respected think tank has revealed that despite the number of individual conflicts raging across the world falling dramatically since 2008, conflict deaths have actually tripled in just seven years. The International Institute for Strategic Studies’ (IISS) Armed Conflict Survey, released today, tracks the changing nature and scope of war across the globe. Its findings should set alarm bells ringing for strategic planners in the Western world.

Of more immediate concern for European nations struggling to deal with the weight of refugees arriving on their doorsteps, this wave of people appears to be just the beginning. The increased brutality of conflicts means 2013 was a record year for refugees – it was the first time since 1945-6, at the end of the Second World War, that more than 50 million people were on the move because of conflict, and the trend is deepening with ever passing year.

The conflict in Syria, and the rise of ISIS, has much to do with the deteriorating world security picture. Speaking at today’s launch, IISS director and former MI6 director Nigel Inkster noted ISIS’s “spectacular brutality”, while a colleague said the past year has been a watershed moment in developing global jihad, changing it from comparatively primitive terrorism into a “state building exercise” which is “fundamentally new”.

Alia Brahimi of the IISS said of the Islamic State: “The aim of imposing vision of society radically changes the jihad enterprise”, and that the seizure this week of the regional capital Ramadi from the Iraqi government by ISIS forces shows “evidence of sophisticated tactics” that are “of high order” which were able to “overmatch Iraq’s forces”.

Remarkably, more people were killed in the Syria conflict in 2014 than in the Iraqi, South Sudanese, Mexican, and all Central American wars combined:

Syrian war graph

Which in part has accounted for the shocking rise of conflict fatalities worldwide. Although the number of active wars being fought fell from 62 to 42 from 2008 to 2014, the number killed tripled, to 180,000 worldwide.

IISS News tweet

The Islamic State has only been matched in its brutality in its apparent appeal to would-be Jihadists around the globe since it declared a new Caliphate, replacing the defunct Ottoman empire which collapsed at the end of the Great War, last year. Cadet branches of the Islamic State have emerged in Africa and the Arabian Peninsula, with bloodthirty Boko Haram in Nigeria even pledging allegiance to the new Caliphate.

The Islamic State has repeatedly made claims on territory in Europe, reclaiming areas lost since Christian civilisation pushed back against Muslim conquests which took lands in the Iberian Peninsula, Apennine Peninsula, the Balklands, and even laid siege to Vienna, now the capital of Austria. As reported by Breitbart this week, the Islamic State has been posting images of its supporters living undercover in Europe, holding up ISIS signs near prominent landmarks, including the Coliseum in Rome.

The propagandistic images came only days after European leaders were warned by a regional government in Libya that ISIS fighters were disguising themselves as refugees to sneak into Europe undetected in migrant boats. Last month, Breitbart London published an exclusive interview with retired Royal Navy Admiral and Ministry of Defence strategic planner Chris Parry, who warned ISIS would not be content with just sneaking fighters into Europe by boat, but would inevitably launch marine-style speedboat raids on Southern European coastal towns, as terrorists had in the Mumbai attack in 2008.

RAdm. Parry told Breitbart: “If you look at the maps put out by the Islamic State, it is pretty clear what they want back. Italy, Spain. They want back what they once had. Islam is a very territorial religion.

“If there isn’t the political will or military ability to face down threats off the North African littoral, be it migration, criminality, or terrorism, then we will get progressive erosion. We will get raids on coasts, we will get yachts intercepted at sea, we will get merchant ships subject to terrorist, pirate, or criminal attack.

“The Western world needs to have more self belief in its own values, it has to hold its nerve, and we have to rediscover a lot of self-reliance”.

Also see:

FOX Report Today: Documents Reveal Benghazi Libya Weapons (Provided by U.S. and NATO) Shipped To Syria

benghazi4-e1351495805540 (3)

The Last Refuge, May 18, 2-15:

Today Fox News is reporting confirmation that weapons from Benghazi were shipped to Syria. This affirms one of the essential elements outlined in our Benghazi Brief.

The “Benghazi Brief” remains the most controversial research report we have ever produced. The brief contains over two years of research and hundreds of very specific citations supporting it.

The Brief has also been challenged and with extensive vetting factually withstood all scrutiny. The report, while exhaustive in detail, remains the strongest summary of events surrounding the two years leading up to the Benghazi Libya attack on 9/11/12.

We have repeatedly stated The Benghazi Brief, and ALL of the cited information contained therein, is available for use by anyone who has a goal of communicating the truth surrounding the controversial events.

The Power Point version is AVAILABLE HERE

Read the full report HERE

Read Catherine Herridge’s report:

Read Judicial Watch’s report:

US Army’s Delta Force Kills ISIS Oil Financier in Syria Raid


May 16, 2015 / ISIS Study Group

Abu Sayyaf was a midlevel financier that oversaw oil revenues for the Islamic State in Deir al-Zour. The raid was said to be authorized by President Obama after being briefed on the intelligence that had been collected. The US military and intelligence community had been working for weeks to build a pattern of life on Abu Sayyaf using human sources, electronic surveillance and aerial reconnaissance of the particular areas of interest.

site of raidThe raid to capture or kill Abu Sayyaf was carried out by approximately 24 members of the US Army’s Delta Force in the vicinity of Amr within Deir al-Zour Province in eastern Syria. The infiltration for the raid was conducted using Blackhawk helicopters and V-22 Ospreys. The raid is the first successful raid against an Islamic State target since the military campaign against the terrorist army began after the beheading of James Foley. A previous raid in the summer of last year attempted to free James Foley and other hostages, but was not successful due to the hostages having been moved or the intelligence being incorrect.

Abu Sayyaf was killed during the raid after he attempted to engage members of Delta Force as they approached the room he had tried to hide in with his wife. As the operators entered the room Abu Sayyaf was said to have opened fire on them resulting in his death from return fire. None of the Delta Force members were injured in the raid and up to a dozen Islamic State fighters were said to have been killed in the raid.

Abu Sayyaf’s wife Umm Sayyaf is reportedly involved in the human trafficking operations of the Islamic State in the area. She was captured and the operators also rescued an 18 year old Yazidi girl. The Islamic State has been capturing and selling female captives throughout Syria and Iraq where they have been able to seize terrain. The sexual slavery of female captives has been well established from the interviews with those that have escaped the Islamic State.

There were no civilian casualties during the raid as the highly trained operators were able to distinguish between combatants and noncombatants on the objective. The raid demonstrates the United States has the capability to reach out and strike the Islamic State at will if it so chooses with minimal dangers to its forces. The successful collection on a midlevel target also shows the US is gaining influence on the ground with sources and that it is likely growing that network rapidly to begin identifying and locating higher priority targets.

While this is a significant event, it still has not done serious damage to the Islamic State. The death of Abu Sayyaf will not hamper the terrorist organization dramatically as he will likely be easily replaced. It does however send the message that the US will come after targets that it deems worthy of the risk. This means the higher priority targets in the hierarchy of the group are definitely being developed as this is being written. It is too early to say if this is a turning point in the Obama strategy which thus far has been tepid at best as the Islamic State has expanded outside the primary areas of Syria and Iraq. Without significant military operations against the group it will continue to develop its tactics, techniques and procedures. The raid is little more than a pin prick against an ever growing beast.

Sources:

ISIS Official Killed in US Raid in Syria, Pentagon Says

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/05/17/world/middleeast/abu-sayyaf-isis-commander-killed-by-us-forces-pentagon-says.html?_r=0

Army’s Elite Delta Forces Kills Top ISIS Official, Abu Sayyaff, in Rare Syrian Raid

http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2015/05/16/us-conducts-raid-on-isis-in-syria-kills-top-official/

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CIA-Backed, ‘Vetted Moderate’ Syrians … Now Openly Working with Al-Qaeda

640x392_25455_221535 (1)PJ Media, By Patrick Poole, On May 8, 2015:

As I have reported extensively here at PJ Media over the past year, a growing mountain of evidence confirms that the “vetted moderate” Sunni groups that the U.S. has backed in Syria — backing which includes CIA-provided heavy weaponry – have always been working with the very same jihadist groups that the Obama administration and the Washington, D.C. foreign policy “smart set” have consistently claimed they would counter.

Now, a new report establishes that even more CIA-backed “vetted moderate” groups are collaborating with groups designated by the U.S. as terrorist organizations. Specifically, they are collaborating with al-Qaeda’s official affiliate in Syria, Jabhat al-Nusra, though at times they have also operated jointly with the Islamic State.

Reuters reported last Thursday that two Free Syrian Army (FSA) units — Division 13 and Fursan al-Haq — are fighting side-by-side with the Nusra Front in northern Syria:

Hardline Islamists fighting side-by-side with groups backed by the United States have made gains in northern Syria in recent weeks while showing rare unity, which some fear may be short-lived.

An Islamist alliance calling itself Army of Fatah, a reference to the conquests that spread Islam across the Middle East from the seventh century, has seized northwestern towns including the provincial capital Idlib from government forces.

The alliance, which includes al-Qaeda’s wing in Syria, known as the Nusra Front, and another hardline militant group, the Ahrar al-Sham movement, is edging closer to the coastal province of Latakia, President Bashar al-Assad’s stronghold.

Fighting alongside them, although excluded from a joint command center, are groups which reject the jihadists’ anti-Western aims and say they receive covert support from the CIA. Two of these are called Division 13 and Fursan al-Haq.

While the Islamist groups appear to be stronger than their Western-backed allies, it is a rare example of cooperation, just weeks after Nusra Front fighters crushed a previous U.S. backed rebel force in a blow to Washington’s Syria strategy.

Remarkably, Reuters (as well as many other establishment media outlets) continues to present this level of cooperation between U.S.-backed groups in Syria and terrorist organizations as “rare.”

This is categorically false.

In an effort to preserve that narrative, Reuters added this howler:

Abu Hamoud, a commander from Division 13, said his group coordinated with Nusra Front, which the United States considers a terrorist organization, but this does not mean it is aligned to it.

As if “coordinating” with al-Qaeda is functionally different from “aligning” with al-Qaeda.

In service of this narrative, establishment media have attempted to create distinctions between Nusra and other U.S.-backed groups. Reports have noted that the Nusra Front had recently taken out two of the major Syrian rebel groups, Harakat al-Hazm (in March) and the Syrian Revolutionaries Front (in November), and that both had been trained and received heavy weapons from the United States. However, both groups had been openly cooperating with Nusra before their demise.

Both Hazm and SRF had their “vetted moderate” credentials provided by the D.C. foreign policy establishment, which deemed Hazm as “rebels worth supporting” and SRF as “the West’s best fighting chance against Syria’s Islamist armies.”

Last year, just as SRF was in line to receive CIA-provided anti-tank missiles, SRF commander Jamal Maroof told Western media that he had no intention of fighting al-Qaeda.

A few weeks later, the Wall Street Journal reported that SRF had been fighting alongside the Nusra Front in the Golan Heights of southern Syria. In September, Agence France Presse reported that SRF had struck a truce with the Islamic State, thus ending any notion that they ever had a chance “against Syria’s Islamist armies.”

When Liz Sly of the Washington Post interviewed the commander of Hazm in April 2014 just as they were beginning to receive heavy weapons shipments from the U.S., the commander gave a double-sided response about Nusra:

LS: You have already participated in the fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. What are your relations with Jabhat al-Nusra?

AA: Jabhat al-Nusra is a military formation, a fighting battalion that exists on the ground like any other. We have no strong or meaningful relationship with them. They fight on their fronts, and we fight on ours.

LS: What do you think of them?

AA: They hold responsibility for bringing ISIS fighters to Syria from across the world. This was a mistake committed against the Syrian people. I think of them as a group of people fighting to topple the regime, but if they change their ideology to resemble that of ISIS or bring death and destruction upon the Syrian people, then we won’t allow it.

In September, an article in the LA Times reporting from the frontlines in Syria recorded an exchange with two Hazm fighters armed and trained by the U.S. The fighters admitted that they liked Nusra and fought in coordination with them.

Just a few weeks later, as U.S. warplanes began to target the Islamic State in northern SyriaHazm issued an official statement condemning the strikes as “an attack on the revolution” Of the U.S., they demanded “unconditional arming” of the Syrian rebels.

Both groups also released contradictory statements to Western media, attempting to conceal their duplicity and to keep the U.S. weapons spigot open.

When the SRF got caught fighting alongside the Nusra Front, Syrian opposition officials rushed to deny the report. They were in Washington, D.C. at that exact time, lobbying for more weapons:

The president of Syria’s main political opposition group, Ahmed Jarba, is in Washington this week and slated to meet President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry. He has been trying to assure the administration that the FSA is best placed to fight al-Qaeda rebels on the ground in Syria.

While word of the cooperation between the FSA and the al Qaeda-linked Nusra Front came from within the Western-backed group, a member of Mr. Jarba’s delegation in Washington denied it. The conflicting claims were an embarrassing sign of disarray within the group just as it was trying to lobby Washington.

Again, when multiple media reports emerged about SRF’s truce with the Islamic State, the group rushed out a statement – in English, for Western audiences — denying the deal.

Hazm played this game as well. Last July, they signed a statement with eight other groups rejecting “all forms of cooperation and coordination” with the Nusra Front. At the same time, they were cooperating and coordinating with Nusra in Aleppo:

In July, eight West-backed rebel brigades — all recipients of military aid — released a statement of “rejection of all forms of cooperation and coordination” with Al Nusra Front. Harakat Hazm was one of the signatories, even as it fought on the same front lines with the group in Aleppo, battling both Islamic State militants in the north and government forces seeking to retake the city.

In fact, they had signed a statement of alliance with Nusra to prevent the Assad regime from pushing into Aleppo, a copy of which I published here at PJ Media.

The statement rejecting the Nusra Front was for Western consumption. The statement of alliance with Nusra was the reality. The media, the Obama administration, and their supporters in Congress pushing to provide more weapons to the “rebels” ignored the statement of alliance.

The media’s underreporting of the coordination between the “vetted moderates” and designated terrorist groups is one of the biggest scandals of the coverage of the Syrian war. But while they have buried the lede, that’s not to say it hasn’t gone unreported, making the continuation of the narrative all the more inexcusable. Here’s a sample over the past year:

May 7: Wall Street Journal reports SRF joins with Al-Qaeda to help take hilltops in Golan Heights

July 9: Al Jazeera quotes ISIS leader saying that they purchase U.S. weapons from and maintain good relations with the FSA

Aug 3: New York Times cites FSA commander saying joint FSA, Nusra Front, and ISIS force attack a border post with Lebanon

Aug 18: Islamic State commander openly brags about defections by U.S.-trained and armed FSA fighters

Aug 28: Washington Post says Nusra Front aided by Western-backed rebels capture UN Quneitra border crossing with Israel, abducting 43 Fijian peacekeepers

Sept 7: LA Times notes Hazm fighting alongside Al-Qaeda in Aleppo, quoting fighters admitting the relationship

Sept 8: Daily Star (Lebanon) quotes FSA brigade commander saying his forces were working with Islamic State and Nusra Front near Syria/Lebanon border

Sept 13: The Hill reports that SRF had declared a truce with the Islamic State

Sept 24: LA Times notes Hazm condemnation of U.S. airstrikes targeting ISIS in northern Syria

Nov 1: Reuters says that SRF elements defected to the Nusra Front

Nov 3: International Business Times observes that U.S.-backed rebel groups pledge allegiance, surrender weapons to Nusra Front

Nov 23: The Guardian states that FSA units develop alliances with, even defect to, the Islamic State while condemning U.S. airstrikes

Nov. 28: Associated Press reports close collaboration of U.S.-backed rebels and Al-Qaeda in southern Syria

Dec 24: German journalist who embedded with Islamic State tells France 24 that ISIS is obtaining weapons from Western governments purchased from FSA

Dec 28: New York Times admits that FSA is under effective control of Nusra Front

Feb 18: McClatchy reports that former Obama frontman for Syria, Robert Ford, no longer trusts Syrian rebel groups because they collaborate with jihadist groups

Apr 30: Reuters notes U.S.-armed FSA units in northern Syria allied with Nusra Front

Despite these reports appearing in their own publications, virtually all of these same outlets otherwise continue to characterize — as Reuters did just a few days ago — the collaboration between U.S.-backed groups and terrorist organizations as a “rare” event. Certainly, none of them have made this coordination a recurring theme in their reporting, at best sprinkling these facts in other stories.

Below are my prior articles debunking the “vetted moderate” Syrian rebel narrative:

July 7: U.S. ‘Vetted Moderate’ Free Syrian Army Brigades Surrender Weapons, Pledge Allegiance to Islamic State

Sept 3: U.S.-Backed Free Syrian Army Operating Openly with ISIS, Al-Qaeda’s Jabhat al-Nusra

Sept 9: Fighter With ‘Vetted Moderate’ Syrian Rebels Tells L.A. Times They Fight Alongside Al-Qaeda

Sept 10: ‘Vetted Moderate’ Free Syrian Army Commander Admits Alliance with ISIS, Confirms PJ Media Reporting

Sept 13: Yet Another U.S.-Backed Syrian Rebel Group Makes Peace with ISIS

Sept 24: U.S.-Backed Syrian Group Harakat al-Hazm Condemns U.S. Strikes on ISIS as ‘Attack on the Revolution’

Nov 2: U.S.-Armed ‘Vetted Moderate’ Syrian Rebel Groups Surrender, Defect to Al-Qaeda

Nov 3: How Obama Walked Boehner and GOP Leadership Off the Syrian Rebel Cliff

Nov 24: More Defections of ‘Vetted Moderate’ Free Syrian Army Rebels to ISIS

Dec 2: US-Backed Syrian Rebels Ally with al-Qaeda in South, Surrender CIA-Supplied Weapons in the North

Dec 14: Report: Al-Qaeda Using CIA-Supplied TOW Anti-Tank Missiles in Northern Syria

Dec 28: NY Times Admits: U.S.-Backed Free Syrian Army Under Effective al-Qaeda Control

March 3: U.S.-Backed Syrian Rebel Group Collapses, U.S.-Supplied Weapons End Up in Al-Qaeda Hands

March 24: Video Shows Al-Qaeda’s Jabhat al-Nusra Using U.S.-Provided TOW Anti-Tank Missiles in Syria

April 16: U.S. Analyst Admits ‘Moderate’ Syrian Rebels Have Been Working with Al-Qaeda All Along

As our own government has backed these groups with American weaponry, it is imperative that the “vetted moderate” narrative be held to account. Hundreds of thousands are dead and millions are displaced in Syria. The terror groups that our leaders said we would confront have instead metastasized, partially due to our “inside-the-Beltway” incompetence.

US Needs a Strategy for the Collapse of the Assad Regime

Bashar Assad. (photo credit:REUTERS)

Bashar Assad. (photo credit:REUTERS)

CSP, by Fred Fleitz, May 1, 2015:

Adding to the complexity of the current chaos in Syria and Iraq, the Jerusalem Post reported this week that Syria’s Assad regime may be on the brink of collapse.

Syria has faced four years of civil war and 200,000 deaths. Multiple rebel offenses have taken key cities such as Idlib. There is a concerted rebel effort making its way towards Damascus in the South.

Danielle Pletka, Senior Vice President for Foreign and Defense Policy Studies of the American Enterprise Institute, gave a dire outlook for Syria when she wrote this week that

“The facts are straightforward: rebel forces have been advancing on government/Hezbollah/Iranian-held towns with growing success. Led by al Qaeda ally Jabhat al Nusra (JN) in coordination with a mishmash of other Islamist groups, Assad’s opponents appear to be consolidating their hold over Idlib province, and are making gains elsewhere around the country. And, as multiple analysts have noted, at the same time that JN et al appear to be coordinating more effectively (while shutting out ISIS and its allies), Assad’s own forces seem to have lost the will to fight.”

The Syrian military has dropped by half due to high rates of casualties and desertions. As a result, it is increasingly relying on foreign fighters, many trained and armed by Iran.

The collapse of the Assad government would make Syria a greater threat to regional security than it is today since there is a strong possibility it would be taken over by Isis and Al Qaeda and become a terrorist safe haven..

The Obama administration’s strategy for Syria has been incoherent. It needs to come up with contingency plans in case the Assad government collapses so the country does not become another Iran or Libya.

Ohio Arrest Shows Threat to U.S. from Al-Qaeda in Syria

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What now for the U.S.’ relationship with Al-Nusra after an American goes to Syria for jihadist training and returns to commit terrorism?

Clarion Project, by Ryan Mauro, April 19, 2015:

Al-Nusrah American citizen Abdirahman Sheik Mohamud was indicted after a cleric associated with Jabhat al-Nusra (Al-Qaeda in Syria) ordered him to carry out an attack here, the Justice Department announced. His plot to attack a military base in Texas was thwarted. The involvement of Al-Nusra will make it difficult for the U.S. to keep looking the other way as it gains territory in Syria.

Originally from Somalia, Mohamud grew up in the U.S. He lives in Columbus, Ohio and Islamist radicalism seems to be a family affair in this case. His brother died fighting for Al-Qaeda in Syria and was apparently a major influence in Mohamud’s radicalization.

Their younger brother, Abdiqani Aden, was arrested earlier this month during a visit to Mohamud because he made a gun symbol with his hands and pointed towards the sheriff’s deputies. He was speaking in a foreign language at the time. This is especially threatening because Mohamud’s second-choice target was a prison.

The government’s monitoring of communication between the two older brothers shows their motivations were not frustration with U.S. foreign policy or personal trials. They were inspired by a glorification of those who die in violent jihad and a belief that such “martyrs” are guaranteed entry into heaven.

His brother left the U.S. in May 2013 and went to Syria to link up with Jabhat al-Nusra, Al-Qaeda’s Syrian wing. Mohamud’s travel arrangements involved Al-Nusra members and that is presumably the group he joined, but his online postings showed his loyalty was with ISIS. Al-Nusra facilitators appear to have been surprisingly unconcerned by this.

This may indicate the rift between the leadership of ISIS and Al-Qaeda isn’t necessarily trickling down to most of the membership. The attacks in Paris are another example where Al-Qaeda and ISIS supporters worked together despite the quarrels of their leaders.

His brother was killed in June 2014 and he returned home afterwards. Mohamud told a close associate that he completed his training with an unidentified terrorist group in Syria and a cleric told him to return to the U.S. to carry out an attack. The indictment charges Mohamud with providing material support to Al-Nusra, so it appears that he never joined ISIS.

Mohamud began plotting but two unidentified individuals close to him reported their dialogues to the FBI and likely recorded them. One was a friend of his for three years and all indications point to one or both of these informants being Muslim. This is another example of why the demonization of informants by groups like the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) is so dangerous.

Mohamud decided his preference was to attack a military site with a prison as a backup option. He chose a base in Texas and hoped to execute three or four U.S. soldiers before achieving “martyrdom.” The FBI arrested him before he could start putting the details together.

The cleric’s involvement is an important detail because it threatens to unravel the Obama Administration’s façade that Al-Nusra isn’t a direct threat to America. It also indicates the group is putting an increased emphasis on hitting us at home.

The U.S. realized in September the air campaign against ISIS needed to include a unit within Al-Nusra named the Khorasan Group that was orchestrating terror plots against the West. The problem is that Al-Nusra is much more popular than ISIS and works closely with other Syrian rebels, including ones the U.S. supported and anticipated relying upon to fight ISIS on the ground.

The desire to avoid alienating Al-Qaeda-allied Syrian rebels and their supporters led the Obama Administration to begin promoting a myththat the Khorasan Group is an independent entity that is somehow illogically linked to Al-Qaeda but not Al-Nusra. The New York Timesrepeated it in its coverage of this case.

The myth is harmful to U.S. interests and anti-Islamist Syrians because it distances Al-Nusra from Al-Qaeda, thereby giving it a higher ceiling of public support. A Zogby poll in November found the population of Turkey favors Al-Nusra above all other participants in the Syrian civil war. A whopping 40% of Turks support Al-Nusra the most.

The indications are that Mohamud’s Syrian cleric is from Al-Nusra but it’s still significant he’s in ISIS because that would mean it is now dispatching operatives from the region to America. That would be a shift from relying on so-called “lone wolves” inside the U.S. who plan terrorism because they’ve determined that traveling to the Caliphateis unlikely to succeed.

It is true that Mohamud’s case is important because it’s the first publicly-acknowledged case of an American going to Syria for jihadist training and returning home to commit terrorism, but there’s a bigger point to be made. The U.S. is at war with Jabhat al-Nusra because it is at war with Al-Qaeda. If a Syrian rebel partner doesn’t approve of the U.S. recognizing that unavoidable fact, then that’s not a partner worth having.

Benghazi suspect designated by UN, State Department

Screen-Shot-2015-04-15-at-7

LWJ, BY THOMAS JOSCELYN | April 15, 2015:

The State Department added Ali Ouni Harzi to the US government’s list of specially designated global terrorists yesterday. Harzi, who is based in Syria, “joined Ansar al-Sharia in Tunisia (AAS-T) in 2011 and was a high-profile member known for recruiting volunteers, facilitating the travel of AAS-T fighters to Syria, and for smuggling weapons and explosives into Tunisia,” according to State.

Curiously, the State Department’s designation page does not mention Harzi’s role in the Sept. 11, 2012 terrorist attacks.

Days earlier, the United Nations (UN) added Harzi to the Security Council’s al Qaeda sanctions list. The UN’s designation page for Harzi reads: “Planned and perpetrated the attack against the Consulate of the United States in Benghazi, Libya on 11 Sep. 2012.”

Indeed, Harzi was one of the first suspects in the Benghazi attack to be publicly identified. The Daily Beast first reported that Harzi’s involvement in the assault on the US Mission and Annex were discovered after US officials learned that he had “posted an update on social media about the fighting shortly after it had begun.” This was “[o]ne of the first clues the intelligence community had about the perpetrators” in Benghazi.

Harzi was apprehended in Turkey in October 2012 at the behest of US officials. He was making his way to Syria at the time.

After being deported to Tunisia, Harzi was held for weeks. In December 2012, FBI agents questioned him about the Benghazi attack. Ansar al Sharia Tunisia, an al Qaeda-linked terrorist organization, stalked the agents. The group posted their pictures online while condemning the Tunisian government for allowing the FBI to interview Harzi. That same month Ansar al Sharia Tunisia released a video discussing Harzi’s case and confirming the FBI’s role in his questioning.

In early January 2013, despite his suspected role in the death of four Americans, Harzi was released. Ansar al Sharia posted a video celebrating Harzi’s release. Harzi made some brief comments in the video, which showed him being congratulated by his fellow jihadists.

US officials, including then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and John Brennan, who became the CIA director, were asked about Harzi’s release during congressional hearings.

In late January 2013, Clinton told senators that the Tunisians had “assured” the United States that Harzi was “under the monitoring of the court.” In February, during his confirmation process to become CIA director, Brennan claimed that the US government “didn’t have anything on” Harzi and, therefore, his release was not worrisome.

As the UN’s designation shows, however, there has long been evidence that Harzi was directly involved in the Benghazi attack. And Tunisian authorities clearly failed to keep tabs on Harzi.

On February 6, 2013, a left-wing Tunisian politician named Chokri Belaid was assassinated. Then, on July 25, another popular politician, Mohamed Brahmi, was killed. The following day Tunisian authorities claimed that Harzi was involved in both assassinations. However, neither the UN nor the State Department designations mention this allegation. Another Ansar al Sharia Tunisia member who went on to join the Islamic State has boasted of his role in planning the murders.

In March of this year, the Tunisian National Guard issued an arrest warrant for Harzi.

In addition to Ali Ouni Harzi (whose name is often spelled Ali Ani al Harzi in the press), the UN designated Tarak Ouni Harzi, Ali’s brother. Tarak was a known facilitator for al Qaeda in Iraq. Tarak was a “dangerous and active member of Al Qaida in Iraq” as of 2004, according to the UN and “also active in facilitating and hosting members of Ansar al Sharia in Tunisia…in Syria.” Tarak was sentenced, “in absentia, on 30 October 2007, to 24 years imprisonment for terrorist activities by the Appeals Court of Tunis.”

Despite being wanted by international authorities, both of the Harzi brothers remain at large. It is not clear if they are working for the Islamic State, the Al Nusrah Front, or some other jihadist groups in Syria.

The leader of Ansar al Sharia Tunisia, Abu Iyad al Tunisi, remains free as well. Al Tunisi is a longtime al Qaeda operative who helped orchestrate the assault on the US Embassy in Tunis on Sept. 14, 2012, just three days after the Benghazi attack. The State Department has also designated Abu Iyad as an al Qaeda-affiliated terrorist and noted his role in the Sept. 14 assault.

Both Ansar al Sharia Libya, which was one of the al Qaeda groups responsible for the Benghazi attack, and Ansar al Sharia Tunisia have operated as part of al Qaeda’s network in North Africa.

Brit David Miliband (BFF George Soros): US should take 65,000 Syrians by end of 2016! You need to act!

Refugee Resettlement Watch, by Ann Corcoran on April 10, 2015:

Here he goes again!  The former British Foreign Secretary and CEO of the refugee resettlement contractor, theInternational Rescue Committee, is demanding that the US resettle the mostly Muslim Syrians that the FBI has already said cannot be properly screened for security because frankly there are no records on the hundreds of thousands who have been pouring out of Syria!

Raise the ceiling, says Miliband!

David Miliband (center) with Jonathan and George Soros. http://www.crainsnewyork.com/gallery/201311

David Miliband (center) with Jonathan and George Soros. http://www.crainsnewyork.com/gallery/201311

Raising the ceiling is the only way to bring in that many Syrians since the total refugee resettlement projection for all refugees from across the globe this year, and likely 2016, is 70,000.We told you here recently that Miliband wants Obama to raise the ceiling on the total refugee numbers to be admitted to the US, something Obama can legally do in CONSULTATION with Congress!

Do we have any hope that this Congress would even pay attention if Obama tried to pull that off?

And, is this why the resettlement contractors are out scouting (in secrecy) new potential sites to ‘seed’ with refugees?

For new readers, when Miliband arrived in New York to head the giant IRC*** he was feted by non-other than Bill Clinton, George Soros and Samantha Power which tells you all you need to know about him, here in 2013.

From AP at the Huffington Post:

BEIRUT (AP) — An international aid group on Thursday called on the United States to resettle 65,000 Syrians before the end of 2016, highlighting Washington’s slow response to the massive refugee crisis generated by the civil war.

David Miliband, the President and CEO of the International Rescue Committee, told The Associated Press in Beirut that the whole international community shares responsibility for the consequences of the Syrian civil war. [Why is that?—ed]

[….]

Miliband, a former U.K. Foreign Secretary, said the U.S. has traditionally taken half the world’s registered refugees who resettle in third countries and that the United Nations says it wants 130,000 refugees from Syria resettled in the wealthier countries of the world by the end of 2016.

Half of that number would be 65,000. To date, the U.S. has resettled just 648 Syrians, less than 1 percent of that figure.

“We are calling for scale and speed in response to this crisis. The Syria crisis shows no signs of abating,” he said.

***Doing well by doing good!

We just checked the most recent Form 990 available for the IRC (one of nine major federal resettlement contractors) and see that the giant ‘non-profit’ took in 451,017,146 that year and $305,481,609 came out of your wallets!  Government grant amount is on page 9.

Miliband’s salary does not yet appear in a Form 990 because he is so new, but his predecessor George Rupp took home a whopping $485,321 in salary and benefits, so we can assume Miliband must be in that same salary range.

Astoundingly, this approximately 68% funded-by-you NGO paid two other top staffers in the $300,000 range and another eight got over $200,000.  Imagine how many real poor people could be helped with that kind of money!   Salaries are on page 175 of the 218 page return.

Please call your elected representatives in Washington and tell them NO Syrian Muslims for your towns and cities!

Go here to see a list of approximately 190 cities and towns where resettlement contractors are already working and remember if you live within a hundred miles of their offices you could be next to receive refugees gratis these fat cats!   (By the way the list is somewhat alphabetically out of order, so look carefully for your state.)

See also:

Sunni Jihadists Gain Ground in Syria

Syrians in the city of Idlib on Wednesday lined up to receive bread. The city was seized last weekend by the Qaeda-affiliated Nusra Front, which said it would not try to monopolize power there. Credit Mohamad Bayoush/Reuters

Syrians in the city of Idlib on Wednesday lined up to receive bread. The city was seized last weekend by the Qaeda-affiliated Nusra Front, which said it would not try to monopolize power there. Credit Mohamad Bayoush/Reuters

CSP, by Aaron Kliegman, April 1, 2015:

The al-Qaeda-affiliated al-Nusra Front seized the provincial capital of Idlib in northwestern Syria this past weekend. Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad’s forces withdrew after five days of intense fighting with a primarily al-Nusra-dominated coalition of rebels, all of whom are part of the multi-faceted Syrian opposition.

According to the “Army of Conquest”, the name of the coalition, 70 rebels were killed in the decisive battle. Beyond al-Nusra, other Islamist militias helped in the effort including Ahrar al-Sham, Jund al-Aqsa, Liwa al-Haqq, and Failaq al-Sham, and some smaller groups played a lesser role.

Al-Nusra said today that it will rule Idlib with sharia law, with the group’s leader Abu Mohamad al-Golani stating, “We salute the people of Idlib and their stand with their sons … God willing they will enjoy the justice of sharia, which will preserve their religion and their blood.” While the jihadists were battling the regime and now are trying to setup Islamic governance, hundreds of thousands of residents have reportedly fled the city.

Idlib has strategic significance for multiple reasons, including that it is 20 miles from the Turkish border, and one Syrian military source accused Turkey of helping the rebels take Idlib. Furthermore, Idlib is only the second provincial capital that Assad has lost, the first one being Raqqa. The Sunni jihadists are gaining ground and can consolidate their power in Idlib to move onto other strategic targets. Idlib is important for exerting control northeast toward Aleppo city, and the rebels are better suited to move towards Hama city and its military airfield or into the regime’s heartland.

As al-Nusra is imposing sharia law on Idlib, its main rival jihadist group, Islamic State (ISIS), seized most of the Yarmouk Palestinian refugee camp on the outskirts of Damascus, Syria’s capital. Al-Nusra members who defected to ISIS helped in the fight against Assad regime forces. According to the U.N., before the onset of the Syrian civil war in 2011, Yarmouk was home to about 200,000 people; now, that number is down to 18,000.

ISIS has been attempting to push into western Syria, far way from its main strongholds, for months. The group is trying to establish sleeper cells in the areas around Damascus and maintain a firm presence there. While the regime has strong checkpoints to repel attackers from Damascus, ISIS’s presence so near to the capital indicates that they are getting closer.

While these two developments are occurring, Syrian rebels, including Jabhat al-Nusra, were fighting Wednesday with regime forces along the Jordanian border. The rebels attacked the main border crossing between the two countries on the Syrian side, known as the Nasib post, causing Jordan to close the area. According to Conflict News, al-Nusra militants captured the border crossing on the same day. If true, Jordan will rightfully be concerned about the fighting’s proximity to its border, especially while it has been dealing with an influx of Syrian refugees throughout the civil war.

All of these stories show the increasingly chaotic situation in Syria. While ISIS is adding territory to its self-declared caliphate, the al-Nusra front is also quietly gaining territory. Both groups’ success will only increase their propaganda and bring in more recruits. With Sunni jihadists groups on the move and the Assad regime trying to hold onto as much of the country as possible, there seems to be no good foreseeable outcome. The conflict will only get more complicated as the fighting gets closer to Turkish and Jordanian territory and Islamist rebels get closer to Damascus.

Also see:

The Kobani Precedent

U.S. Service members stand by a Patriot missile battery in Gaziantep, Turkey, Feb. 4, 2013, during a visit from U.S. Deputy Secretary of Defense Ashton B. Carter, not shown. U.S. and NATO Patriot missile batteries and personnel deployed to Turkey in support of NATO’s commitment to defending Turkey’s security during a period of regional instability. (DoD photo by Glenn Fawcett)

U.S. Service members stand by a Patriot missile battery in Gaziantep, Turkey, Feb. 4, 2013, during a visit from U.S. Deputy Secretary of Defense Ashton B. Carter, not shown. U.S. and NATO Patriot missile batteries and personnel deployed to Turkey in support of NATO’s commitment to defending Turkey’s security during a period of regional instability. (DoD photo by Glenn Fawcett)

Rubin Center, by Jonathan Spyer, March 25, 2015:

Recently,  I attempted to undertake a reporting trip into the Kurdish Kobani enclave in northern Syria.  It would not have been my first visit, neither to Syria nor to Kobani.  For the first time, however, I found myself unable to enter.  Instead, I spent a frustrating but, as it turns out, instructive four days waiting in the border town of Suruc in south-east Turkey before running out of time and going home.

The episode was instructive because of what it indicated regarding the extent to which Kurdish control in the enclaves established in mid 2012 is now a fact acknowledged by all neighboring players, including the enemies of the Kurds.  This in itself has larger lessons regarding US and western policy in Syria and Iraq.

But I am getting ahead of myself.  First, let me complete the account of the episode on the border.    My intention had been to enter Kobani ‘illegally’ with the help of the Kurdish YPG and local smugglers.  This sounds more exciting than it is.    I have entered Syria in a similar way half a dozen times over the last two years, to the extent that it has become a not very pleasant but mundane procedure. This time, however, something was different.  I was placed in a local center with a number of other westerners waiting to make the trip. Then, it seemed, we were forgotten.

The westerners themselves were  an interesting bunch, whose varied presence was an indication of the curious pattern by which the Syrian Kurdish cause has entered public awareness in the west.

There was a group of European radical leftists, mainly Italians, who had come after being inspired by stories of the ‘Rojava revolution.’  A little noted element of the control by the Syrian franchise of the PKK of de facto sovereign areas of Syria has been the interest that this has generated in the circles of the western radical left.  These circles are ever on the lookout for something which allows their politics to encounter reality, in a way that does not bring immediate and obvious disaster.  As of now, ‘Rojava,’ given the leftist credentials of the PKK, is playing this role.  So the Europeans in question  wanted to ‘contribute’ to what they called the ‘revolution.’

Unfortunately, their preferred mode of support was leading to a situation of complete mutual bewilderment between themselves and the local Kurds.   Offered military training by their hosts, the radical leftists demurred.  They would not hold a gun for Rojava before they had seen it and been persuaded that it did indeed represent the peoples’ revolution that they hoped for.

Instead, they had a plan for the rebuilding of Kobani along sustainable and environmentally friendly lines, using natural materials  In addition, the health crisis and shortage of medicines in the devastated enclave led the radicals to believe that this might offer an appropriate context for popularizing various items of alternative and naturopathic medicine about which they themselves were enthusiastic.  (I’m not making any of this up).

All this had elicited the predictable reaction from the Kurds, who were trying to manage a humanitarian disaster and a determined attempt by murderous jihadis to destroy  them.  ‘Perhaps you could do the military training first and then we could talk about the other stuff?’ suggested Fawzia, the nice and helpful representative of the PYD who was responsible for us.  This led to further impassioned and theatrical responses from the Italians.

***

Why is the YPG the chosen partner of the Americans in northern Syria, just as the Kurdish Pesh Merga further east is one of the preferred partners on the ground in Iraq?

The answer to this is clear, but not encouraging.  It is because in both countries, the only reliable, pro-western and militarily effective element on the ground is that of the Kurds.

Consider:  in northern Syria, other than the forces of the Islamic State, there are three other elements of real military and political import.  These are the forces of the Assad regime, the al-Qaeda affiliated Jabhat al-Nusra and the YPG.

In addition, there are a bewildering variety of disparate rebel battalions, with loyalties ranging from Salafi Islamism to Muslim Brotherhood style Islamism, to non-political opposition to the Assad regime.  Some of these groups operate independently.  Others are gathered in local alliances such as the Aleppo based Jabhat al-Shamiya (Levant Front), or the Syria-wide Islamic Front, which unites Salafi factions.

Despite the reported existence of a US staffed military operations room in Turkey, the latter two movements are either too weak, or too politically suspect (because of their Islamist nature), to form a potential partner for the US in northern Syria.

Nusra is for obvious reasons not a potential partner for the US in the fight against the Islamic State.  And the US continues to hold to its stated  goal that Bashar Assad should step down.  So the prospect of an overt alliance between the regime and the US against the Islamic State is not on the cards (despite the de facto American alliance with Assad’s  Iran-supported Shia Islamist allies in Iraq).

This leaves the Kurds, and only the Kurds, to work with.  And the un-stated alliance is sufficiently tight for it to begin to have effects also on Turkish-Kurdish relations in Syria, as seen in the Suleiman Shah operation.

But what are the broader implications of this absence of any other coherent partner on the ground?

The stark clarity of the northern Syria situation is replicated in all essentials in Iraq, though a more determined attempt by the US to deny this reality is under way in that country.

In Iraq, there is a clear and stated enemy of the US (the Islamic State), a clear and stated Kurdish ally of the west (the Kurdish Regional Government and its Pesh Merga) and an Iran-supported government which controls the capital and part of the territory of the country.

Unlike in Syria, however, in Iraq the US relates to the official government, mistakenly, as an ally.  This is leading to a potentially disastrous situation  whereby US air power is currently partnering with Iran-supported Shia militias against the Islamic State.

The most powerful of these militias have a presence in the government of Iraq. But they do not act under the orders of the elected Baghdad government, but rather in coordination with their sponsors in the Qods Force of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps.

It is possible that the current partnering with Shia Islamist forces in Iraq is the result of a general US attempt now under way to achieve a historic rapprochement with Iran, as suggested by Michael Doran in a recent essay.  Or it may be that this reality has emerged as a result of poor analysis of the realities of the Levant and Iraq, resulting in a confused and flailing policy.  But either way, the result is an astonishing mess.

In northern Syria, the obvious absence of any partners other than the Kurds has produced a momentary tactical clarity.  But as the larger example of Iraq shows, this clarity is buried in a much larger strategic confusion.

This confusion, at root, derives from a failure to grasp what is taking place in Syria and in Iraq.

In both countries, the removal or weakening of powerful dictatorships has resulted in the emergence of conflict based on older, sub-state ethnic and sectarian identities.  The strength and persistence of these identities is testimony to the profound failure of the states of Syria and Iraq to develop anything resembling a sustainable national identity.  In both Syria and Iraq, the resultant conflict is essentially three-sided.  Sunni Arabs, Shia/Alawi Arabs and Kurds are fighting over the ruins of the state.

Because of the lamentable nature of Arab politics at the present time, the form that both Arab sides are taking is that of political Islam.   On the Shia side, the powerful Iranian structures dedicated to the creation and sponsorship of proxy movements are closely engaged with the clients in both countries (and in neighboring Lebanon.)

On the Sunni Arab side, a bewildering tangle of support from different regional and western states to various militias has emerged.  But two main formations may be discerned. These are the Islamic State, which has no overt state sponsor, and Jabhat al-Nusra, which has close links to Qatar.

In southern Syria, a western attempt to maintain armed forces linked to conservative and western-aligned Arab states (Jordan, Saudi Arabia) has proved somewhat more successful because of the close physical proximity of Jordan and the differing tribal and clan structures in this area when compared with the north.  Even here, however, Nusra is a powerful presence, and Islamic State itself recently appeared in the south Damascus area.

The Kurds, because of the existence among them of a secular, pro-western nationalist politics with real popular appeal, have unsurprisingly emerged as the only reliable partner.    On both the Shia and the Sunni sides, the strongest and prevailing forces are anti-western.

This reality is denied  both by advocates for rapprochement with Iran, and by wishful-thinking supporters of the Syrian rebellion.  But it remains so.  What are its implications for western policy?

Firstly, if the goal is to degrade the Islamic State, reduce it, split it, impoverish it, this can probably be achieved through the alliance of US air power and Kurdish ground forces.  But if the desire, genuinely, is to destroy the Islamic State, this can only be achieved through the employment of western boots on the ground.  This is the choice which is presented by reality.

Secondly, the desire to avoid this choice is leading to the disastrous partnering with Iraqi Shia forces loyal to Iran.  The winner from all this will be, unsurprisingly,  Iran. Neither Teheran nor its Shia militias are the moral superiors to Islamic State. The partnering with them is absurd both from a political and an ethical point of view.

Thirdly, the determination to maintain the territorial integrity of ‘Syria’ and ‘Iraq’ is one of the midwives of the current confusion.  Were it to be acknowledged that Humpty cannot be put back together again, it would then be possible to accurately ascertain which local players the west can partner with, and which it can not.

As of now, the determination to consider these areas as coherent states is leading to absurdities including the failure by the US to directly arm the pro-US Pesh Merga because the pro-Iranians in Baghdad object to this, the failure to revive relations with and directly supply Iraqi Sunni tribal elements in IS controlled areas for the same reason,  and the insistence on relating to all forces ostensibly acting on behalf of Baghdad as legitimate.

Ultimately, the mess in the former Syria and Iraq derives from a very western form of wishful thinking that is common to various sides of the debate in the west.  This is the refusal to accept that political Islam, of both Shia and Sunni varieties, has an unparalleled power of political mobilization among Arab populations in the Middle East at the present time, and that political Islam is a genuinely anti-western force, with genuinely murderous intentions.

For as long as that stark reality is denied, western policy will resemble our Italian leftist friends on the border, baffled and bewildered as they go about proposing ideas and notions utterly alien to and irrelevant to the local situation.

The reality of this situation means that the available partners for the west are minority nationalist projects  such as that of the Kurds (or the Jews,) and traditional, non-ideological conservative elites – such as the Egyptian military, the Hashemite monarchs, and in a more partial and problematic way, the Gulf monarchs.  Attempts to move beyond this limited but considerable array of potential allies will result in the strengthening of destructive, anti-western Islamist forces in the region, of either Sunni or Shia coloration.

As for the Syrian Kurds, they deserve their partnership with US air power, and the greater security it is bringing them.

The American Baptist volunteer, to conclude the story, made it across the border and is now training with the YPG.  He, at least, has a clear sense of who is who in the Middle East.  Hopefully, this sense will eventually percolate up to the policymaking community too.

Read it all

Nusra Front quietly rises in Syria as Islamic State targeted

Protesters hold the Jabhat al-Nusra flag during a demonstration against Syrian President Bashar Assad in Idlib province, northern Syria, in March 2013. The Nusra Front, Syria's al-Qaida affiliate, is consolidating power in territory stretching from the Turkish border to central and southern Syria, crushing moderate opponents and forcibly converting minorities using tactics akin to its ultraconservative rival, the Islamic State group. HUSSEIN MALLA, FILE/AP

Protesters hold the Jabhat al-Nusra flag during a demonstration against Syrian President Bashar Assad in Idlib province, northern Syria, in March 2013. The Nusra Front, Syria’s al-Qaida affiliate, is consolidating power in territory stretching from the Turkish border to central and southern Syria, crushing moderate opponents and forcibly converting minorities using tactics akin to its ultraconservative rival, the Islamic State group.
HUSSEIN MALLA, FILE/AP

Stars and Stripes, by BASSEM MROUE The Associated Press, March 24, 2015:

BEIRUT — The Nusra Front, Syria’s al-Qaida affiliate, is consolidating power in territory stretching from the Turkish border to central and southern Syria, crushing moderate opponents and forcibly converting minorities using tactics akin to its ultraconservative rival, the Islamic State group.

But while the Islamic State group gets most of the attention largely because its penchant for gruesome propaganda, the Nusra Front quietly has become one of the key players in the four-year civil war, compromising other rebel groups the West may try to work with while increasingly enforcing its own brutal version of Islamic law.

Its scope of influence now abuts the Golan Heights bordering Israel, and its membership largely composed of Syrian nationals refuse any negotiations with the government of embattled President Bashar Assad, further complicating the brutal conflict.

“The Nusra Front will most likely outlast ISIS in Syria, and will represent a severe and existential threat to the aspirations of the Syrian people in terms of a pluralistic, democratic society,” said Fawaz A. Gerges, director of the Middle East Center at the London School of Economics, using an alternate acronym for the extremist group.

The Islamic State group helped create the Nusra Front, providing financing, manpower and military hardware in 2012. But the group and its patron eventually had a falling out in 2013 for ideological as well as strategic reasons. The Nusra Front, while loyal to al-Qaida, has cooperated with other Syrian rebel factions in the fight to oust Assad.

In recent months, the group has overrun rebel strongholds in Syria’s Idlib province, trouncing two prominent, U.S.-backed rebel factions, Harakat Hazm and the Syria Revolutionaries Front. Following the deadly clashes, SRF leader Jamal Maarouf fled to Turkey and Hazm announced it was dissolving.

A Middle East-based Western diplomat said the Nusra Front began its attacks on moderate, U.S.-backed rebel factions after the American-led coalition began airstrikes in September targeting both the Islamic State group and the Khorasan group, which Washington says is a special cell within Nusra plotting attacks against Western interests. U.S. officials last week said airstrikes have hit as many as 17 separate targets connected to the Khorasan group.

The Nusra Front responded with a series of spectacular attacks targeting moderate rebel groups and forces loyal to Assad in northwestern Syria, the diplomat said.

It “has now created coherent control of a strategic area between Idlib and Hama (provinces) in northwestern and central Syria,” said the diplomat, who spoke on condition of anonymity as he wasn’t authorized to brief journalists.

At the same time, the group has become increasingly aggressive toward local populations. In January, members of the group reportedly shot a woman dead in front of a crowd in Idlib after they accused her of being a prostitute. The group also has carried out public lashings, crucifixions and kidnappings — though it has not publicized the atrocities like the Islamic State group.

Activists in southern Syria say the Nusra Front was behind the January bombing that destroyed the shrine of a 13th century Muslim scholar. The Nusra Front issued a statement denying it was involved but activists say its members were seen placing the bombs.

“They’re trying to come across as rational, moderate, more dynamic,” Gerges said. “They don’t celebrate savagery in the same way like the Islamic State group.”

Residents say among the group’s most worrisome action so far is forcing members of the minority Druze sect living in Idlib’s Jabal al-Summaq region to convert to Sunni Islam.

The Druze, a 10th century offshoot of Shiite Islam, made up about 5 percent of Syria’s prewar population of 23 million people. In addition to Syria, Lebanon and Israel have large Druze communities.

“The Druze in Idlib are being subjected today to religious persecution. The Nusra Front carried out shameful acts. They have dug graves and damaged shrines,” said former Lebanese Cabinet minister Wiam Wahhab, a Druze politician with close ties to the community in Syria.

Activists estimate several hundred Druze have been forced to convert. A purported Nusra Front document, posted online and dated Feb. 1, outlined an agreement that saw Druze in 14 villages in Idlib convert. Under the deal, the Druze will implement Islamic laws, destroy tombs, impose Islamic dress on women and stop having mixed-sex schools. Idlib-based activist Asaad Kanjo said many Druze there have fled.

“You are likely to see this sort of behavior from Nusra in Idlib province because they are increasingly the dominant party in this part of Syria, and are in the midst of a concerted effort to eliminate rivals there,” said Faysal Itani, a resident fellow at the Atlantic Council. “Nusra ultimately wants to rule Syria.”

An opposition activist in Kafranbel, a town in Idlib, said the group has established an elaborate network of social services and Shariah courts and rules uncontested. Remaining rebel groups in the province operate only with Nusra’s approval, he said.

However, the group’s increasingly belligerent approach toward other rebel groups is starting to alienate former allies, said the activist, who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals.

The main Western-backed Syrian group, the Syrian National Coalition, which in the past has been wary not to criticize Nusra, has changed its tune.

“We are concerned over Al Nusra’s latest actions and abuses against civilians and (Free Syrian Army) fighters,” said spokesman Salem al-Meslet, adding that the abuses were akin to the Islamic State group and Syrian government forces’ “criminal behavior.”

The criticism has led the Nusra Front to issue a rare statement defending itself, saying its target are only those proven to have committed “crimes” against Muslims and fighters.

“It was not our intention on any day to spread influence and expand and control the worshippers and the country,” the statement from its Al-Manara Al-Bayda media arm said. “Rather, our goal and aim is to lift injustice from the oppressed, and push away every enemy that attacks the honor, religion, and sanctities of the Muslims.”

Associated Press writer Zeina Karam contributed to this report.

Follow Bassem Mroue on Twitter at www.twitter.com/bmroue.

Also see:

ISIS Digs-in For Battle of Tikrit as Sunni Populace is Targeted by Iran’s Proxies

March 14, 2015 / /

In an update to our piece “The Tikrit Front: Not So Rosy as Claimed by Obama Administration,” the Islamic State (IS) has been conducting steady operations to delay the IRGC-Qods Force-led assault force’s advance towards Tikrit. This is being done by executing a series of IED and VIBED attacks all along the major avenue of approach, which has been narrowed into a single entry point into the city after the destruction of the Tikrit highway bridge that effectively blocked the advance. The move has pushed the assault force into repositioning itself north and south of the city. Currently, the joint-force is prepping to launch the main push into the city, which we assess will occur within the next 3-5 days. We are aware of two IA BDEs have already moved to positions 40 km north of Tikrit and have remained stationary, likely waiting for follow-on forces to arrive.

Iraqi offensive to dislodge Islamic State from Tikrit appears to stall

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/world/iraqi-offensive-to-dislodge-islamic-state-from-tikrit-appears-to-stall/article23444248/

Iraqi forces pause in battle to drive Islamic State from Tikrit

http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/03/13/us-mideast-iraq-idUSKBN0M91DR20150313

Shi'ite fighters known as Hashid Shaabi look at smoke from an explosives-laden military vehicle driven by an Islamic State suicide bomber which exploded during an attack on the southern edge of Tikrit

A Shia militia column forced to halt their advance after the detonation of a VBIED
Source: Reuters

The move to destroy the Tikrit highway bridge was done to force the advancing Qods Force/Shia Militia/IA units into a “fatal funnel” where they will face even more intense opposition in the form of complex attacks. Setting the nearby oil fields ablaze was likely done to mask the movements of IS units from the view of ISR assets – both American and Iranian – that are attempting to identify for target development. This is indicative of IS commanders possessing formal military experience, no doubt a reflection of Baghdadi’s efforts to recruit members of the Saddam-era military. On the flip side, we fully expect the Qods Force and their Shia proxies to intensify their operations by increasing the brutality of their treatment of the Sunni civilian population in order to “make an example” out of them. In fact, our sources in the country have reported to us that Qods Force commanding general GEN Suleimani – who is the overall commander of this campaign – has passed guidance to the Shia militias involved in the offensive that Ayatollah Khameini issued a fatwa authorizing the “total destruction” of Tikrit and the civilian population – who the Iranian regime views as “heretics that need to be purged from Iraq.” Indeed, there are those in the American intelligence community (IC) who continue with the erroneous thinking that the Iranian involvement in active ground combat operations in Iraq is a “positive thing” (looking at you GEN Dempsey). We submit to them the following video and corresponding reporting that highlights what we’ve been saying throughout the last few weeks (in case they don’t want to take our word for it):

Video shows burning village near Tikrit : “Shiite militias wanted revenge”

http://observers.france24.com/content/20150311-video-shiite-militias-sunni-village-tikrit

 

CNN and the rest of the American media has been reporting that the Qods Force and its proxies are trying to “win the hearts and minds” of the Sunni populace in a bid to put the most positive spin possible for the Obama administration -but they couldn’t be more wrong. Yes, they point to pro-government Sunni tribal forces participating in this joint-endeavor, but what they either fail to understand or willfully leave out of their reporting is the rather nasty fact that the Qods Force is using them as mere “canon fodder.” They’ve also been diverting ammo and other supplies meant for those tribal forces to their Shia proxies instead. So really, just how hard is GEN Suleimani trying to win those hearts and minds there? Keep in mind that a few days before the start of the Tikrit offensive, IS had abducted over 100 of those pro-GOI tribal fighters and the Qods Force didn’t seem to be very concerned nor did they try to save them. In a way the people on the Beltway are correct that Iran wants “stability” in Iraq – they just fail to realize that the Iranian regime views “stability” as an Iraq purged of all “unmanageable” influences. In other words, “all Sunnnis” are viewed as “terrorists.”

Iraq militia leader hails Iran’s ‘unconditional’ support

http://news.yahoo.com/iraqs-top-shiite-cleric-urges-help-militias-battling-105335552.html

Iraqi, allied forces try to win back Tikrit, win over hearts and minds of residents

http://www.cnn.com/2015/03/13/middleeast/iraq-isis/

Qods Force-Led Assault Force Meets Heavy Resistance in Tikrit

http://isisstudygroup.com/?p=5352

11 MAR

The main fight for Tikrit will be a long, hard slog
Source: Reuters

The Long War Journal put out a great piece two days ago that echoes our sentiments that we’ve been voicing since last summer, pointing out that not only will the Qods Force-led campaign will result in a worsened sectarian crisis, but that the regime is angling to use their involvement in Iraq as another bargaining chip to dupe the Obama administration into giving up even more concessions in the already one-sided nuclear deal that’s being negotiated. Their piece is a damning indictment of the rudderless Obama foreign policy that has led to the rise of IS and further entrenchment of the Iranian regime inside Iraq.

Analysis: Iran is No Partner in the Fight Against the Islamic State

http://www.longwarjournal.org/archives/2015/03/analysis-iran-is-no-partner-in-the-fight-against-the-islamic-state.php

longwar

GEN Suleimani on the front-lines in the Tikrit-area
Source: Long War Journal

If you want to see just what the Iranian regime is all about, check out the following:

Inside Iran’s Middle East: the Kurdish Insurgency

http://isisstudygroup.com/?p=4068

Inside Iran’s Middle East: the Southeast Insurgency

http://isisstudygroup.com/?p=2689

Inside Iran’s Middle East: the Charm Offensive

http://isisstudygroup.com/?p=2676

Inside Iran’s Middle East: the “Reformers”

http://isisstudygroup.com/?p=2635

Inside Iran’s Middle East: the Nuclear Weapons Program

http://isisstudygroup.com/?p=2640

The IA will be depending on the Shia militias to hold the terrain they’ve seized and secure the lines of communication (LOCs) while the main force attempts to push deeper into Tikrit itself. The problem with this is that IS has already been receiving reinforcements from Mosul and the Lake Thar Thar-area to begin hitting those LOCs. This dependency on the militias will only increase as it becomes painfully obvious that those “5 new IA BDEs” US advisors are training hasn’t been going as well as advertised. Worse, we have the Sunni civilians – most of whom have no love for IS – not only caught in the cross-hairs of the fighting, but actually being targeted by the very people claiming to be their “liberators.” Apologists claiming that the current foreign policy being implemented by the Obama administration is “the only reasonable plan” are dangerously naive in thinking that the Iranian regime’s involvement is “a good thing.” This is a regime that is brutal to its own people and to the Sunni population in Syria – so what makes them think that Iran is somehow going to be “different” in Iraq? The Qods Force and their Shia proxies are engaging in the same sectarian violence as IS – and the Obama administration just hitched itself to their wagon. Is this the “reasonable plan” the Obama administration’s supporters within the media have been referring to?

Other Related Articles:

ISIS Shaping Operations Against IA Blunts Mosul OP Before it Starts

http://isisstudygroup.com/?p=5171

IA Struggling to Avoid Collapse on Multiple Fronts -Mosul OP in Danger of Failing

http://isisstudygroup.com/?p=5008

GOI Has Big Plans to Retake the Country From ISIS – But Can They Pull it Off???

http://isisstudygroup.com/?p=4565

Tikrit Update as of 22 JUL 14

http://isisstudygroup.com/?p=138

State of the Iraqi Air Force and Special Operations Forces

http://isisstudygroup.com/?p=69

ISIS: Regained the Initiative in Northern Iraq

http://isisstudygroup.com/?p=3794

UNHCR has 10,000 Syrian refugees in the pipeline for America, but material support of terrorism bar blocking the way

Refugee Resettlement Watch, by Ann Corcoran, March 12, 2015:

Well, what do you know, some international criticism building because the US has not opened its arms (yet!) to mass numbers of Syrian refugees.

But, as I have pointed out on many occasions, Obama’s name is never linked with the criticism as Bush’s was always linked in media blasts every month for probably a year before the Bush Administration opened the spigot for Iraqi refugees (that are now coming in at a rate of over 20,000 a year!).

We have also been pointing out that the refugee resettlement contractors*** have been demanding 12,000-15,000 Syrians a year be admitted. They were getting geared up—finding new towns in which to resettle them—and then a few weeks ago the boom dropped when the FBI testified in the House Homeland Security Committee that there is no way they can properly screen the Syrians.  Of course, there is no way to properly screen the over 800 Somalis entering the US every month now either!

Anne Richard Asst. Secretary of State with UNHCR Antonio Guterres: partners in deciding what third-worlders are coming to your town!

This is interesting news, despite the lifting of the ban on material support, the Obama Administration has yet to apply the lesser screening requirements to Syrians.

By the way, if you saw the record-breaking post on Spartanburg, SC you know that one group World Relief would like to settle in South Carolina is Syrians.

We have resettled around 500 Syrians so far.  Approximately 87% are Muslims.  See where they have been placed in the US in the first three months of FY2015, here.

There is one way to get around this worry over screening Muslims, don’t bring Muslims! 

We could join Canada and say only Christians and other minorities are permitted entry into the US!

By continuing to select Syrians for America, the UN is putting political pressure on our Homeland Security Department to step it up.  There will be much wailing that we couldn’t possibly be so mean as to leave all these people waiting in line!

From The Guardian (emphasis below is mine):

The US is preparing to permanently resettle thousands of the millions of Syrians forced to flee their homes during the country’s four-year civil war. But as the lengthy resettlement process speeds up, some human rights advocates are concerned that certain refugees are being unfairly excluded.  [Once the pipeline is open, and even if the civil war comes to an end, the flow of permanent refugees from Syria will continue for years.—ed]

So far, the US has accepted only tiny numbers of Syrians: 105 in the year to October 2014 and just 36 in the year before that, although it has stepped up admissions with 350 refugees in the past four months.

Last year officials eased the “material support” rule under US immigration law that was designed to prevent terrorist sympathisers from entering the US but instead acted as a dragnet, ensnaring Syrians with no real connection to terrorism.More than a year later, however, advocates say they still have not seen the exemptions applied to Syrian refugee cases.

“What this means is that a lot of people who need protections and who might fall under those ‘material support’ inclusions – by no fault of their own – aren’t getting protection in the US,” said Noah Gottschalk, senior humanitarian policy adviser for Oxfam America. “And that means that a number of people who are among the most vulnerable in the world are being denied protections that they very much need.”

Representatives from a handful of refugee aid groups said they were still waiting for the the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to release guidelines on how to apply the rule change. Until then, they said, Syrian refugees applying for residence in the US were at risk of being denied entry for an act as small as selling sandwiches to rebel fighters.  [This is a straw man argument, what refugee in his right mind is going to report on an application for admission to the US that he/she gave sandwiches to rebels?—ed]

“Our main concern at this stage is the absence of that guidance,” said Anna Greene, the policy and advocacy director for US programmes at the International Rescue Committee (IRC).  [The IRC is a contractor looking for more paying “clients” to resettle.—ed]

For those who don’t believe it, here it is again.  The UN is picking our refugees!

The US State Department has received more than 11,000 resettlement applications from Syrian refugees in recent months, the vast majority of which are referrals from the UN high commissioner for refugees (UNHCR).

Quick!  US taxpayers, hide your wallets!

Don’t worry, terrorist men won’t get in because we are only planning to bring economically needy women, children, senior citizens and sick and disabled people!

Richard (Anne Richard, Asst. Secretary of State for PRM) said the US intended to accept thousands of Syrian refugees in 2015 and 2016. She said she did not anticipate security being an issue with the Syrians the UNHCR was referring to the US, as the majority were widows, women and children, elderly people and people with debilitating medical conditions.

Read it all.

*** The federal refugee contractors have been lobbying for up to 15,000 Syrians a year for the US.

***

Great 8/31/2014 interview of Ann Corcoran with Ginni Thomas at Daily Caller:

***

South_Carolina_NSAS

Ann Corcoran will be participating in the Border Insecurity and Illegal Immigration Panel at The South Carolina National Security Action Summit this Saturday, March 14

photo2-150x150Ann Corcoran was educated at Rutgers and Yale Universities and is a conservative grassroots activist who was busy raising children and rescuing senior horses on her farm in Western Maryland in 2007, when she learned that the Virginia Council of Churches had been quietly dropping off Muslim refugees from Russia (among others) in Hagerstown, the county seat of Washington County, Maryland. To help keep track of what she learned and to help others around the country with the same concerns, she began writing the Refugee Resettlement Watch blog, which has now become the go-to place on the internet for anyone wishing to understand the UN-federal government initiative to “change” cities large and small across 49 states. This is a legal immigration program that is in desperate need of reform.  Mrs. Corcoran also reports on refugee and asylum seeker problems world-wide with a special concern for what is happening to Europe as migrants from the Middle East and Africa flood European countries. Soon to be released by the Center for Security Policy: ‘FEDERAL IMMIGRATION POLICY, REFUGEE RESETTLEMENT AND THE HIJRA TO AMERICA.’  By Ann Corcoran 

ISIS Crosses River in New Attacks on Assyrian Villages in Syria

20150307144423AINA News, March 7, 2015:

Hasaka, Syria (AINA) — ISIS crossed to the northern side of the Khabur river in the Hasaka province of Syria At 2 A.M. this morning and launched fierce attacks on several villages. ISIS fighters crossed through the village of Tel Maghas and Tel Nasri and began fighting with Kurdish and Assyrian fighters near the Arab village of Rgouba, which is near Tel Maghas, where Kurdish fighters maintain a checkpoint.

Heavy weapons and troops are streaming from the ISIS stronghold at Mount Abdul Aziz for a major assault on the entire area. The Syriac Military Council has asked for international aid.

ISIS appears to be pushing to take control of Tel Tamar, a strategic town in the area.

The villages of Rgouba Tel Maghas and Tel Nasri briefly fell under ISIS control but were recaptured by Kurdish and Assyrian fighters after Syrian regime planes bombed bombed ISIS positions in Tel Shamiran, Oja and other locations.

There is intense street fighting in Tel Nasri. 17 Assyrian fighters are reportedly surrounded in Tel Maghas.

ISIS heavily shelled the towns of Tel Tamar, Tel Nasri, Tel Hafian, and Tel Maghas.

News of the release of the Assyrian prisoners appears to be false and may have been disinformation put out buy ISIS in advance of these attacks.

The fighting continues.

Also see: