Come the F*ck On: al Qaeda Is Not Our Ally!

Khalil Ashawi/Reuters

Khalil Ashawi/Reuters

Daily Beast, by Robin Simcox, July 24, 2015:
A new argument among jihad analysts has it that the makers of 9/11 are now a handy bulwark against ISIS. Um, no.
Enemies becoming friends is seemingly all the rage these days. First Cuba. Then Iran. Now, there are those arguing that al Qaeda must also be brought into the fold. That’s right: the same group which fly planes into our buildings, blows up our tube networks, embassies and longs for the return of the Caliphate.

The argument seems to be catching on. The journalist Ahmed Rashid has recently taken to the pages of the New York Review of Books (“Why we need al Qaeda”) and the front cover of The Spectator (“Al Qaeda to the rescue”) to question whether al Qaeda “might be the best option left in the Middle East for the US and its allies.” The argument goes that the U.S., regional Arab powers and Turkey have a shared enemy in Bashar al-Assad, Iran and its proxies. Al Qaeda not only shares these enemies, it is at the frontline of this fight in Syria and Yemen.

Rashid also says that al Qaeda is going through “dramatic changes” and are now taking a “soft line” on certain issues. Charles Lister from Brookings has also explored potential al Qaeda moderation—with the headline used in his May article for the Huffington Post, “An Internal Struggle: Al Qaeda’s Syrian Affiliate is Grappling with its Identity,” making the group sound more like a 16 year-old goth from Portland than a murderous terrorist organization.

Other, less savory figures have spoken out on other ways in which al Qaeda may be useful. Moazzam Begg—the former Guantanamo Bay detainee—cites Rashidwhile arguing that “the most credible voices against IS have been Islamic clerics traditionally associated with al Qaeda”: Abu Qatada and Abu Muhammad al-Maqdisi. These two jihadist theologians’ fatwas have been used to justify barbaric violence for decades. Yet Begg laments the UK government’s reluctance to reach out to such figures, arguing that it would help avert a repeat of the massacre of British tourists that just occurred in Tunisia.

This is largely unsurprising coming from Begg, who has long argued the Islamist cause. Yet as others view al Qaeda as a potentially constructive partner, it is worth exploring this thesis on its merits.

The examples of moderation cited by the likes of Rashid are anything but. A statement from Abu Mohammed al-Joulani, the head of al Qaeda’s Syrian affiliate, saying that he was under instructions not to use Syria “as a base to launch attacks on the West or Europe” is highlighted as a sign of progress. However, even this concession—as deeply generous as it is—is not because of a lack of desire to kill more Westerners; it is “so as not to muddy the current war” in Syria. A change in tactics should not be confused for a change in strategy.

The al-Nusra Front also remains proud of al Qaeda’s past successes when it comes to mass murder. A propaganda video they just released is heavy on video footage from 9/11—an attack described in the video as “the most effective solution”—and speeches by Osama bin Laden.

Rashid also mischaracterizes the nature of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula’s behavior in Yemen. He describes AQAP’s capture of territory in Hadhramaut, southeast Yemen, as “remarkably tame,” arguing that they “inflicted little damage, executed nobody, declined to run the local government and instead installed a council of elders to govern.” The residents of Hadhramaut—especially those in Mukalla—seem to remember things differently. Last month, they saw two Saudis murdered in public by the group and then strung up from a bridge, accused of being ‘spies’. There has also been recent reports from those living under AQAP rule in Mukalla that they have burned down markets; intimidated local residents and blown up local mausoleums.

Step outside the Middle East and there are a host of other examples demonstrating that al Qaeda is as brutal as it ever was. Look at the intensity of al-Shabaab’s attacks in Somalia, or the six UN peacekeepers killed by al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb in Mali earlier this month. The families of the “blasphemers” murdered by al Qaeda’s newest branch in the Indian Subcontinent also probably do not see much evidence of the group’s supposed “soft line”.

After the wars we have waged against the group over the past fourteen years and the blood that has been shed across the world by al Qaeda, it is remarkable to have to argue that they are not a constructive partner in anything the U.S. would ever want to achieve in the Middle East. Then again, we live in strange times. Who would have thought that the U.S. would be willing to militarily partner with the very same Iranian militias in Iraq that were killing their soldiers in the same theater ten years ago?

Something similar cannot be allowed to happen again. Al Qaeda is not our ally. It remains as committed as ever to our destruction and we should never forget it.

U.S.-Funded Free Syrian Army Unit Shows Off Its Kidnapping Skills in New Training Video

PJ Media, by Patrick Poole, July 23, 2015:

A training video released today by Liwa Fursan al-Haqq (Knights of Justice Brigade) of the “vetted moderate” Free Syrian Army (FSA) opens with the group’s special forces practicing their abduction and kidnapping skills. And yet FSA units, funded, supported and armed by the U.S., have been repeatedly implicated in the abduction and kidnapping of U.S. citizens in Syria.

Here you can see them putting their U.S.-funded training to practice:

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Also shown are critical military skills, such as standing on the back of a motorcycle while shooting two U.S.-funded AK-47s one-handed:

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Of course no jihadist training video would be complete without the requisite traversing of the monkey bars:

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Or the “Fiery Ring of Death”:

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Delta Force and the Navy SEALs have nothing on Liwa Fursan al-Haqq. Yet all three elite units are funded by U.S. taxpayer dollars!

You can watch the whole 10 minute video in all of its glory:

What makes the video of U.S.-funded FSA units being trained in kidnapping and abduction so important to note is that FSA units have repeatedly been implicated in the abduction of American citizens who were later traded to Jabhat al-Nusra, Al-Qaeda’s official affiliate in Syria, as well as the Islamic State.

That would include American journalist James Foley, beheaded by the Islamic State last year in its first such grisly video, who reportedly came into ISIS custody when the FSA-aligned Dawud Brigade that kidnapped and held Foley pledged allegiance to ISIS and delivered him to ISIS as a token of their submission.

That, however, is not the only such documented incident of FSA units abducting Americans.

In late October, American journalist Theo Padnos — who was captured by the U.S.-backed Free Syrian Army (FSA) and then given over to Jabhat al-Nusra — told the story of his two-year captivity in the New York Times Magazine.

At one point, Padnos says he escaped from his Al-Qaeda captors and found himself back in the hands of the FSA, who then, again, promptly turned him back over to the terror group.

Padnos also relates this exchange with some U.S.-trained FSA fighters that exposes the glaring weaknesses of the CIA’s vetting system:

I returned to the FSA troops. One told me that his unit had recently traveled to Jordan to receive training from American forces in fighting groups like the Nusra Front.

“Really?” I said. “The Americans? I hope it was good training.”

“Certainly, very,” he replied.

The fighters stared at me. I stared at them.

After a few moments, I asked, “About this business of fighting Jebhat al Nusra?”

“Oh, that,” one said. “We lied to the Americans about that.”

An NBC News crew taken captive in Syria in December 2012, and who later repeatedly claimed they had been held by an Assad regime militia, later admitted – following a New York Times investigation – that they were in fact held by an FSA criminal network.

Also, there is evidence that NBC News executives knew from the time of the crew’s capture that they were held by U.S. allies, but allowed the blame to fall on Assad since that didn’t conflict with the Obama administration’s position at the time.

The chief Washington D.C. cheerleader for the Syrian rebels, Charles Lister of the Brookings Institution, happily announced the Liwa Fursan Al-Qaqq video release earlier today:

Lister tweet

As I noted back in April here at PJ Media, Lister finally admitted what he and most of the other Western supporters of the Syrian rebels have well known for a long time — that vast majority of Syrian rebel groups have been associated with Jabhat al-Nusra, a fact mostly concealed by the D.C. “smart set”:

This latter alliance with Jabhat al-Nusra has been a consistent facet of insurgent dynamics in Syria, but not only in terms of conservative Salafist groups like Ahrar al-Sham. In fact, while rarely acknowledged explicitly in public, the vast majority of the Syrian insurgency has coordinated closely with Al-Qaeda since mid-2012 – and to great effect on the battlefield. But while this pragmatic management of relationships may have secured opposition military victories against the regime, it has also come at an extraordinary cost. The assimilation of Al-Qaeda into the broader insurgency has discouraged the U.S. and its European allies from more definitively backing the ‘moderate’ opposition. That, by extension, has encouraged the intractability of the conflict we see today and the rise of jihadist factions like Jabhat al-Nusra, IS, and many others.

In fact, it was just a year ago yesterday that Liwa Fursan Al-Haqq announced they were separating from Jabhat al-Nusra. Nusra had been designated a terrorist organization by the U.S. in December 2012.

As a result of that separation, that gave the U.S. the go-ahead to begin supplying them with heavy weaponry, such as TOW anti-tank missiles, which you can see them using in the video below:

So the next time that an American citizen finds himself kidnapped by a FSA unit, possibly ending up starring in the Islamic State’s latest beheading video, he can take comfort that his captors have received the best training and received the most advanced weaponry courtesy of his own country’s support.

Your U.S. taxpayer dollars hard at work!

Iran Is Working with al Qaeda

‘FOREIGN MINISTER ZARIF, IS YOUR GOVERNMENT STILL HARBORING AL QAEDA OPERATIVES?’

‘FOREIGN MINISTER ZARIF, IS YOUR GOVERNMENT STILL HARBORING AL QAEDA OPERATIVES?’

So why are we working with Iran?

Weekly Standard, by Thomas Joscelyn, August 3, 2015:

On July 21, the Pentagon announced that Muhsin al-Fadhli, an al Qaeda operative who had been wanted for more than a decade, was killed in an airstrike in Syria earlier in the month. Fadhli has been dead at least once before. In September 2014, the United States launched airstrikes against his so-called Khorasan Group (a cadre of al Qaeda veterans plotting attacks against the West), and some officials told the press that Fadhli had perished. That wasn’t true. Still, Defense Department officials are confident they got their man on July 8. The DoD doesn’t usually issue formal press releases for this sort of thing unless there is significant intelligence backing up its claims. The department wasn’t fully forthcoming, however. Its short biography of Fadhli was missing a key word: Iran.

Before relocating to Syria, Fadhli led al Qaeda’s network in Iran. The Treasury Department revealed this fact in a terrorist designation issued October 18, 2012. Fadhli, Treasury reported, “began working with al Qaeda’s Iran-based facilitation network in 2009 and was later arrested by the Iranians.” But he was “released by the Iranians in 2011 and went on to assume the leadership of the facilitation network.”

“In addition to providing funding for al Qaeda activities in Afghanistan and Pakistan,” Treasury said, Fadhli’s network was “working to move fighters and money through Turkey to support al Qaeda-affiliated elements in Syria.” Fadhli leveraged “his extensive network of Kuwaiti jihadist donors to send money to Syria via Turkey.”

Iran didn’t simply turn a blind eye to Fadhli’s activities. The Treasury Department explained that a deal requires al Qaeda’s men to report to the regime. “Under the terms of the agreement between al Qaeda and Iran, al Qaeda must refrain from conducting any operations within Iranian territory and recruiting operatives inside Iran while keeping Iranian authorities informed of their activities.” Al Qaeda benefits from this relationship. “In return” for accepting Iran’s terms, Treasury continued, “the Government of Iran gave the Iran-based al Qaeda network freedom of operation and uninhibited ability to travel for extremists and their families.” Iranian authorities enforce these terms, which were negotiated “with the knowledge” of Osama bin Laden’s right-hand man, by detaining al Qaeda members who do not comply.

There has been surprisingly little discussion of this during the debate over President Obama’s nuclear accord with Iran, even though al Qaeda’s presence on Iranian soil greatly complicates Obama’s vision of a post-deal world.

It is no secret that the president believes the deal with Iran could open the door to a better relationship between the regime and its “Great Satan,” America. “Iran may change,” Obama told the New York Times’s Tom Friedman in an interview published in April, though he tried to tone down his optimism by “emphasizing that the nuclear deal that we’ve put together is not based on the idea that somehow the regime changes.” Still, Obama said Iran could be “an extremely successful regional power” and a “responsible international player,” as long as “it did not engage in aggressive rhetoric against its neighbors,” “didn’t express anti-Israeli and anti-Jewish sentiment,” and “maintained a military that was sufficient to protect itself, but was not engaging in a whole bunch of proxy wars around the region.” Of course, a “responsible” Iran wouldn’t support al Qaeda either.

President Obama and his advisers like to pretend that critics of their Iran deal are warmongers who don’t want a diplomatic resolution or have otherwise been compromised by “lobbying.” But opponents of the deal are rightly concerned about Iran’s clear record of illicit nuclear activities and its decades of anti-Americanism (including killing U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan), antisemitism, and revolutionary fervor, which the regime zealously exports throughout the region. (Iran has actually increased its support for proxy wars during Obama’s tenure in office.)

Iran’s agreement with al Qaeda—exposed by Obama’s own administration, not critics of the Iran deal—puts these concerns into stark relief. It is the administration, after all, that declared Muhsin al-Fadhli a threat to Americans who needed to be killed.

Since 2011, Obama’s Treasury and State Departments have repeatedly said that Iran works with al Qaeda. On July 28, 2011, Treasury unmasked “Iran’s secret deal with al-Qaeda,” saying it allows al Qaeda “to funnel funds and operatives through [Iranian] territory” and is “another aspect of Iran’s unmatched support for terrorism.” Yasin al-Suri, the head of the Iran-based network at the time, and several of his al Qaeda colleagues were designated terrorists. On December 22, 2011, the State Department offered a $10 million reward for information leading to Suri’s capture—one of the richest rewards offered for any terrorist. “Iranian authorities maintain a relationship with al-Suri and have permitted him to operate within Iran’s borders since 2005,” State said.

On February 16, 2012, the Treasury Department designated Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence and Security (MOIS) for its support of al Qaeda and Al Qaeda in Iraq. According to Treasury, the “MOIS has facilitated the movement of al Qaeda operatives in Iran and provided them with documents, identification cards, and passports.” In addition, it “provided money and weapons to al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) .  .  . and negotiated prisoner releases of AQI operatives.” (AQI evolved into the Islamic State, the al Qaeda offshoot that controls significant territory in Iraq and Syria.)

As the Obama administration continued to shed light on al Qaeda’s operations inside Iran, Suri was sidelined. The Iranians placed him under some form of arrest in late 2011. At this point, as Treasury explained in the aforementioned October 18, 2012, designation, Fadhli took over.

Suri wasn’t in Iranian custody for long, however. In January 2014, State and Treasury Department officials interviewed by Al Jazeera warned that Suri was back on the street and “more active than ever.” Curiously, according to these officials, Iran allowed Suri to funnel cash and fighters to the Nusra Front, an official branch of al Qaeda that is engaged in a vicious fight against Iran’s proxies in Syria; it is not clear why. On February 6, 2014, Treasury officially confirmed that Suri had “resumed leadership of al Qaeda’s Iran-based network after being temporarily detained there in late 2011.” Treasury also designated one of Suri’s subordinates inside Iran.

Then, on August 22, 2014, the Treasury Department designated yet another al Qaeda leader who had operated in Iran, a Saudi known as Sanafi al-Nasr. Treasury said that Nasr served as the “chief of al Qaeda’s Iran-based extremist and financial facilitation network” in early 2013. (This was just after Fadhli left for Syria and before Suri resumed his leadership position.) Like Fadhli, Nasr relocated to Syria, where he became a senior member of the Nusra Front. He is also part of the Khorasan Group.

It is likely that Iran had the power to stop terrorists such as Fadhli from leaving Iranian soil. He had been imprisoned in Iran before and could have been again. The regime chose not to, for whatever reason.

Obama’s State Department has repeatedly pointed to this collusion in its annual Country Reports on Terrorism. Previous editions, such as the one published last year, referred to al Qaeda’s network inside Iran as a “core facilitation pipeline” that enables al Qaeda “to move funds and fighters to South Asia and also to Syria.” However, State’s most recent report, published earlier this year, says that Iran “previously allowed” al Qaeda to maintain this network. The implication is that Iran’s deal with al Qaeda is a thing of the past, although the department did not explicitly state this.

Has Iran changed its policy with respect to al Qaeda? There is no clear indication it has, despite the fact the two are at loggerheads in countries such as Syria and Yemen. Iran’s ally, the Assad regime, certainly wants al Qaeda terrorists like Fadhli taken out. And CNN reported last year that Syrian forces had captured Fadhli’s bodyguard, who supposedly offered up intelligence on his boss’s anti-Western plotting. But U.S. intelligence officials contacted by The Weekly Standard in recent months say they think the Iranians continue to allow al Qaeda jihadists to operate inside their country. If the Obama administration has evidence the situation has changed, they should present it.

In the meantime, congressmen and senators worried that the influx of cash Iran will receive under the nuclear deal will make it easier for the regime to sponsor terrorism should be asking some pointed questions. Do Iran and al Qaeda still have a deal in place? Is Yasin al-Suri still facilitating al Qaeda’s operations from inside Iran, as the administration itself warned just last year? Why should we trust the Iranian regime to abide by the terms of the nuclear deal if it is working with al Qaeda terrorists who threaten us?

Thomas Joscelyn is a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.

Brookings Goes to Bat for Al Qaeda-linked Group…Again

1720491514 (1)Center for Security Policy, by Kyle Shideler, July 15, 2015:

Fresh off their annual U.S.-Islamic World Forum that proved to be a who’s who meeting of Muslim Brotherhood affiliates, The Qatari-funded Brookings Institute is once again going to bat for an Al Qaeda-linked group of militants known as Ahrar Al Sham. Author Charles Lister takes the occasion of the publication of an Op-Ed in the Washington Post by Ahrar Al-Sham’s “head of foreign political relations” Labib  al-Nahhas to laud recent Ahrar Al Sham statements of “moderation”:

While clearly being sharply critical of current U.S. policy, Nahhas’ most powerful message was a genuine call for political engagement—“we remain committed to dialogue,” he said. Coming from an armed Islamist group that came close to being designated and whose facilities have been targeted by U.S. aircraft at least once, this call does show an extent of political pragmatism. Ahrar al-Sham has not called for American support one key Ahrar al-Sham decision-maker told me, but instead desires “the chance for a new start, in which we acknowledge the mistakes of the past and make it clear that a political track is possible, but with the right players and the right principles.”

Such engagement in any form does not have to be a prerequisite for the provision of support, but can be merely of value in and of itself. In the case of Ahrar al-Sham specifically, such engagement would not come without its inherent risks, but it may also prove practical in ensuring at the very least that al-Qaida does not come out on top in Syria.

For this reason and others, Ahrar al-Sham’s senior leadership has been managing a gradual process of external political moderation—or some might say maturity—for at least the last 18 months.

That Ahrar Al-Sham is some how moderating, maturing, or distancing itself from Al Qaeda is a bag of goods that Brookings authors have been attempting to sell for some time. In January of last year, Brookings authors Michael Doran and William McCants, together with co-author Clint Watts, published an article calling Ahrar al Sham the “Al Qaeda-linked Group Worth Befriending”.

Lister denigrates evidence that Ahrar Al-Sham was led by an Al Qaeda leader and confidante of Ayman Al-Zawahiri as “a popular claim”, and attempts to pass along the claim by Ahrar Al Sham and other Islamist groups that they only fight alongside the Al Qaeda linked group in order to provide a “subtle counterbalance”.

Lister also quotes one local Syrian rebel describing Ahrar Al Sham  as “too “intellectually close” to the Muslim Brotherhood”, a description which ironically seems to fit Brookings Institute just as well.

Yet even while reminding us that “actions speak louder than words,” Lister doesn’t find fit to mention that Ahrar Al Sham has recently joined yet another coalition together with Al Qaeda affiliate Jabhat Al Nusra and other AQ-linked outfits in Syria in order to form Ansar Al Sharia, coincidentally (or not) the same cover name used by Al Qaeda in Tunisia, Libya and Yemen.

Perhaps the last word on whether or not to take Ahrar Al Sham’s statements of moderation seriously comes from the Al-Qaeda linked group themselves. The group’s military commander Abu Saleh Tahhan recently tweeted in reference to their association with Al Nusra,

“Anyone who thinks we would sell out those close to us in exchange for the approval of strangers is an idiot, anyone who imagines that we would privilege a neighbor over someone from our own home is a fool…”

Why ISIS May Be More Dangerous Than al-Qaeda Ever Was

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Daily Signal, by Chelsea Scism, July 13, 2015:

It’s been only two years since the Islamic State began to claim territory in the Middle East, and the organization, also known as ISIS, already has become more successful and much more dangerous than al-Qaeda ever was in its 20 years of operations.

It controls more territory, has acquired more money and has recruited more people than al-Qaeda ever did. That was the conclusion of a panel of experts who gathered last week at The Heritage Foundation to discuss ISIS and what America needs to do to defeat the terrorist group.

The experts outlined four primary reasons ISIS is a more serious threat than al-Qaeda.

First, ISIS is a “self-generated, fully-fledged, transnational insurgency,” which is much more than a mere terrorist group, said Dr. Sebastian Gorka, chair of military theory at Marine Corps University. Because it views its mission as re-establishing a caliphate, it seeks to hold territory, which al-Qaeda did not. It now holds a swath of Iraq and Syria that is larger than the United Kingdom.

Second is the wealth. Gorka said ISIS raided the Iraqi National Bank a second time recently and netted an additional $823 million in cash, making it the “richest non-state threat group in modern human history.”

Considering the 9/11 attacks cost al-Qaeda just $500,000, this means ISIS is capable of more.

Members of al-Qaeda’s Nusra Front walk along a street in the northwestern city of Ariha, after a coalition of insurgent groups seized the area in Idlib province May 29, 2015. (Photo: STRINGER/REUTERS/Newscom)

Members of al-Qaeda’s Nusra Front walk along a street in the northwestern city of Ariha, after a coalition of insurgent groups seized the area in Idlib province May 29, 2015. (Photo: STRINGER/REUTERS/Newscom)

Third is the raw numbers. ISIS has recruited between 16,000 and 20,000 fighters from 90 different countries in the past nine months, numbers that al-Qaeda could only have dreamed about. It recruited 6,000 in just the month of Ramadan, according to Sara Carter, a senior reporter at the American Media Institute who has embedded with troops on the Afghanistan-Pakistan border and says the organization is “working day and night” to bolster its numbers.

Finally, there is the caliphate, re-established by ISIS after a 90-year absence. Gorka called this the “pinnacle of extremist Islamist threat.”

Katherine Zimmerman, a research fellow and lead analyst on al-Qaeda at the American Enterprise Institute, put the development in starker terms.

“ISIS sees itself as uniting the jihad,” she said.

And unlike al-Qaeda, whose mission is to “break the West,” Zimmerman said ISIS’ more comprehensive plan aims to break Muslim states too in order to build its own vision of the caliphate.

What should the U.S. do about this looming threat? Much more than it is doing now, the panel agreed.

“It’s not something that you can win with drone strikes alone,” Carter said.

Gorka said the U.S. also must take the fight to the ideological domain. He suggested the Pentagon learn more about Islam and work strategically against ISIS propaganda.

“You can’t defeat an ideology unless you’re able to exploit it,” Carter said in support.

Additionally, the experts agreed ISIS must be challenged on the ground by local troops under the guidance of embedded American troops as advisors.

“And it isn’t just, of course, a reality thousands of miles away,” Gorka said. “With Garland, Texas, and with all the current cases that the FBI director has admitted we are investigating in America, this is very much a threat to the United States as well.”

Chelsea Scism is a reporting intern for The Daily Signal and member of the Young Leaders Program at The Heritage Foundation.

You can also see the C-Span recording of the event which is very nice and includes links to various segments.

Also see:

 

The Jihadist Blowback Against the Islamic State

cbc5c365-6298-4aa0-b2be-a6264acb6d49_16x9_600x338Stratfor, by Scott Stewart, July 9, 2015:

Last Ramadan saw the proclamation of the caliphate as a triumphant Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi appeared in Mosul’s Great Mosque to declare himself the leader of all Muslims worldwide. This Ramadan, things have changed dramatically for the organization. Al-Baghdadi is keeping an extremely low profile because of the coalition bombing campaign over Iraq and Syria, while the Islamic State is on the strategic defensive, struggling financially and to hold the territories it conquered.

Although many often refer to the Islamic State as the wealthiest terrorist group ever, they fail to understand that the organization is really an insurgency rather than a terrorist group — and that fighting a war on several fronts and governing territory, especially large cities such as Mosul, Raqqa and Ramadi, requires an incredible amount of money, resources and manpower. The Islamic State’s resource burn rate is magnitudes larger than that of a true terrorist group or even a small insurgency. Coalition airstrikes against oil collection points, oil tankers and mobile refineries have put a serious dent in the Islamic State’s economy. Though the group does earn considerable revenue from taxation, extortion and smuggling, these revenue sources — which are obtained mostly from the people the group rules — are limited and will breed increased resentment against the group as they are ramped up.

This Ramadan also brought a new challenge to the Islamic State when the al Qaeda pole of the transnational jihadist movement launched a widespread ideological campaign to undercut the Islamic State’s support base. These ideological efforts have been impressive, at least to this middle-aged American analyst. It remains to be seen, however, if they will have the desired impact on wealthy jihadist donors and young recruits.

Resurgence

The first ideological salvo fired this Ramadan was the second issue of al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent’s Resurgence Magazine. The 92-page publication was a “special issue” containing a lengthy interview that the publisher, Hassaan Yusuf, had conducted with Adam Gadahn, aka “Azzam the American,” an English-language spokesman for the al Qaeda core group who was killed by a U.S. airstrike in Pakistan in January.

While the interview was ostensibly a biography of Gadahn, Yusuf was able to cleverly shape it into a hit piece on the Islamic State. For example, Yusuf quoted Gadahn talking about al Qaeda’s interactions with Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. While Gadahn discussed al Qaeda’s conflicts with al-Zarqawi, it emphasized that he was a strong proponent of jihadist unity and that he should not be held responsible for the “deviation” of those who claim to follow him today. The interview contained many scathing indictments of the Islamic State, such as:

  • Declaring Muslims to be outside the fold of Islam is not a trivial matter or something to be taken lightly.
  • Spilling the blood, taking the wealth and violating the rights of Muslims is not a trivial matter or something to be taken lightly.
  • When you declare yourselves to be “the” Islamic State, you are responsible if your actions and behavior distort the image of the Islamic system of government in the eyes of the Ummah and the world.
  • Ignorance of Sharia and misinterpretation of Islamic texts.

Interestingly, many of the arguments directed against the Islamic State used language that was not typical for Gadahn: specifically, terms that were beyond his educational level and normal lexicon. This likely indicates that these sections were later inserted by Yusuf, who is quite erudite, eloquent and apparently very well educated. Yusuf’s writing uses advanced American idiomatic English, and it would be unsurprising to learn that he had earned an advanced degree from an American university, perhaps even an Ivy League school. Gadahn, by contrast, never attended university, and while he often sought to sound sophisticated in public statements, his efforts were transparent and his usage came across as unnatural.

Resurgence shows that in Yusuf, al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent has an articulate propagandist who likely retains contacts in the United States. He is certainly a much deeper thinker than figures like Gadahn or Inspire magazine editor Samir Khan ever were. Yusuf accordingly will be an important figure to note and track.

Al Risalah Magazine

The second major ideological assault against the Islamic State was launched with the introduction of Al Risalah, a new English-language magazine by Jabhat al-Nusra. Risalah, which means “letter” in Arabic, has the stated purpose of dispelling “from the minds of
 the Muslims some of
 the mistaken notions
 and doubts promoted by the kuffar, hypocrites and deviant groups present amongst our midst, who aim to distort and destroy the clear and pure message of Islam and Jihad in the way of Allah.”

The “hypocrites and deviants” the magazine focuses most intently upon hail from the Islamic State, which the magazine refers to as the Dawlat al-Baghdadi, or state of al-Baghdadi. The publication repeatedly criticizes the Islamic State for spreading dissension and attacking Jabhat al-Nusra/al Qaeda in Syria, when the latter are genuine jihadists. It also castigates the Islamic State for dividing and attacking fellow jihadists in Yemen, the Caucasus, Afghanistan and Libya. “They have made their khilafa a sword, which splits the Ummah, and not a khilafa, which gathers the Ummah together.”

Being produced by Jabhat al-Nusra in Syria, Al Risalah naturally contains several articles authored by senior al-Nusra leaders, such as a eulogy for former al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula leader Nasir al-Wahayshi written by al-Nusra leader Abu Mohammed al-Golani. The magazine also features articles from a number of other interesting figures, including a female jihadist who immigrated to Syria from the United Kingdom and an American jihadist named Abu Hudaifa al-Amreeki. Another article was written by Qaari Ikram, a senior Taliban religious authority.

The magazine devotes a great deal of space to refuting the ideology and actions of the Islamic State and argues that the Islamic State cannot be the legitimate caliphate since al-Baghdadi did not consult with the leaders of the global jihadist movement before proclaiming himself caliph. An article entitled “Khilafa One Year On” specifically noted that the caliphate had not been restored and quoted a Hadith from Sahih Bukhari that says “if any person gives the pledge of allegiance to somebody (to become a caliph) without consulting the other Muslims, then the one he has selected should not be granted allegiance, lest both of them should be killed.” The article also criticizes young Islamic State supporters for believing things posted on social media over the opinions of respected jihadist clerics, such as Abu Qatada and Abu Muhammad al-Maqdisi, and even of treating such scholars with contempt and disrespect.

This theme of disrespecting elder jihadists and even cursing at them was made in other articles, including an interview with Chechen jihadist Muslim Shishani and an article by Qaari Ikram titled “This is al Qaeda or Have They Forgotten.”

Ikram was particularly pointed in countering the argument repeatedly made by Islamic State figures that Ayman al-Zawahiri and the present al Qaeda leadership have strayed from the path charted by Osama bin Laden. Ikram notes that unlike the Islamic State leaders, he knew bin Laden — as well as other al Qaeda leaders — and observed his methods and beliefs in favorable conditions and under pressure. Based upon this firsthand knowledge, Ikram asserts that bin Laden and the other al Qaeda leaders would have condemned the Islamic State for attacking other jihadists, for the indiscriminate killing of non-Muslim women and children, and for the killing of Muslim women and children. He also berated them for being bloodthirsty, deceitful and divisive and for being excessive in declaring takfir (declaring a Muslim to be an unbeliever).

An article called “Halab Under Fire” by Abu Hudaifa al Amreeki specifically charged the Islamic State with helping the administration of Syrian President Bashar al Assad by attacking Jabhat al-Nusra and other jihadist groups north of Aleppo (Halab is an ancient name for Aleppo). This forced other jihadists to divert forces away from their attack on loyalists in Aleppo to counter the Islamic State attack.

Turning the Tables on the Islamic State

Members and sympathizers of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula have begun to use social media more aggressively. They launched a campaign on Twitter this week to criticize Abu Belal al-Harbi, the leader of the Islamic State in Yemen, accusing him of treason. Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb also issued a statement this week criticizing the Islamic State’s actions in Libya. Whether such efforts will make much headway against the Islamic State’s powerful social media juggernaut, however, is not clear.

I found some compelling arguments against the Islamic State’s ideology and practices while reading these materials. But whether potential jihadist recruits and wealthy jihadist donors will take the time to read them and be swayed — or whether they will continue to feed off the Islamic State’s dramatic videos and short social media posts — remains to be seen.

Perhaps some of the more mature jihadists and foreign financiers will in fact take time to read these magazines and the reasoned arguments put forth in them. But for many of the younger recruits, the lure of bloody mayhem and Yazidi sex slaves may prove too strong for al Qaeda’s arguments to overcome.

The Life of Adam Gadahn, an American Al Qaeda Spokesman

661092076Center for Security Policy, by Jennifer Keltz, June 29, 2015:

Last week, Al Qaeda confirmed the death of Adam Gadahn, an Al Qaeda member who was killed in an airstike this past January. He was also known as Adam Pearlman or by his nom de guerre Azzam the American. Throughout his time in Al Qaeda, Gadahn maintained a high profile, appearing regularly in videos and calling for Americans to conduct attacks within the United States. The White House confirmed his death back in April.

Adam Gadhan was born on September 1, 1978 in Oregon to Philip and Jennifer Gadahn, and he died in January 2015. He was married to a Muslim woman from Afghanistan, with whom he had at least one child. He spent much of his own childhood on a goat farm in Winchester, California with his parents, who had a number of religious influences and avoided modern technology. He was homeschooled and received a strict upbringing. His father sold meat slaughtered under strict Islamic dietary rules.

At the age of 18, Gadahn moved to Orange County to live with his grandparents, who wereJewish. He began attending services at the Islamic Society of Orange County, where he fell under the influence of Khalil Deek and Hisham Diab. In 1995, Gadhan converted to Islam and became involved in Deek and Diab’s charity organization, Charity Without Borders. At the time of his conversion, he posted a testimonial on the internet explaining why he converted, citing a tense relationship with his parents and a rejection of Christianity. The witness for his conversion was the mosque chairman, Haitham Bundakji. Two years later, Gadahn was kicked out of the mosque for hitting Bundakji, to which he plead guilty to misdemeanor assault and battery. He was sentenced to two days in jail and 40 hours of community service.

Gadahn travelled to Pakistan in 1998 and ended up at a terrorist training camp. The last time that he contacted his parents was in 2002, and on May 26, 2004, his name was released by the FBI as being a part of a terror cell planning to disrupt the 2004 US election. In 2004 and 2005, he appeared disguised in a number of videos where he received praise from Osama Bin Laden and threatened attacks against the US and Australia, and he began to appear undisguised in 2006. Also in 2006, he was charged with treason and providing material support for terrorism; a $1 million award was announced for information leading to his capture. Throughout the rest of his life, he appeared in many more Al Qaeda videos, where he renounced his US citizenship, discussed his Jewish ancestry, praised terrorist attacks, and encouraged Muslims in the West to carry out their own attacks at home.

Gadahn never exhibited indications as a child that he would one-day become such a notorious figure, and part of his desire to join the Islamic community in Orange County likely came from his unhappiness with his parents. However, had he never attended the mosque or fallen into the wrong hands while there, he may not have become the violent terrorist that he was at the time of his death.

The Islamic Society of Orange County was founded in 1976, and is the largest Muslim community center in Southern California, serving over 10,000 Muslims. It was founded by Mahboob Khan, a senior Muslim Brotherhood official in the US until the time of his death who had invited Al Qaeda’s Ayman al-Zawahiri to speak at another Californian mosque that he ran, the An-Noor Mosque in Santa Clara. His son, Suhail Khan, advocates for the implementation of Sharia in America.

The current religious director of the Islamic Society of Orange County is Muzammil Siddiqi, who is involved with the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), the Fiqh Council of North America (FCNA), and the North American Islamic Trust (NAIT). Both the ISNA and NAIT were listed as unindicted co-conspirators in the Holy Land Foundation trial, which found the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development guilty of providing support to Hamas. The ISNA and NAIT are also listed as friends of the Muslim Brotherhood in the US in its Explanatory Memorandum, which outlines its goals to wage “civilization jihad” against Americans. The FCNA also has ties to Islamist terrorism through its leadership, which has been involved directly and indirectly in terrorist activity. Siddiqi himself served as a chairman of the Department of Religious Affairs at the Muslim World League Office of the UN, an office created by the Saudi royal family to spread Wahhabi Islam, from 1976 to 1980. In 2000, he said that Jerusalem belonged to the Muslims, and he has expressed interest in the implementation of Sharia law and advocated for jihad. Siddiqi has been the director at the Islamic Society of Orange County since 1981, eclipsing Gadahn’s time there.

Gadahn’s attendance at the terror-tied mosque laid the groundwork for the violent indoctrination that was to come later through Khalil Deek and Hisham Diab. The two were neighbors in the Little Gaza section of Anaheim and were important Al Qaeda figures. They ran a sleeper cell operation in Orange County and hosted top Al Qaeda officials when they visited the US, including Sheikh Omar Abdel-Rahman (who is currently serving a life sentence at the Supermax penitentiary in Colorado for numerous terrorism-related convictions). With Siddiqi as translator, Abdel-Rahman gave a lecture at the mosque in December 1992, months before he was indicted for his participation in the 1993 World Trade Center Bombing. Should Gadahn have not become involved with Diab and Deek, he still would have been exposed to jihadist ideology at the mosque itself.

With the help of Diab’s wife, the Diab and Deek formed Charity Without Borders, which received tax-exempt status as a religious organization and a $75,000 state grant to distribute fliers about recycling, as a front to be used to funnel money to terrorist groups overseas. Gadahn was listed as a crew member in the Charity’s records in 1998, the same year that he went to Pakistan to go to a terrorist training camp. Charity Without Borders was shut down following 9/11.

Adam Gadahn provides a case study into the effects that violent ideology can have on marginalized youth. Growing up, he had very little access to the internet, so he did not become indoctrinated until he was able to begin attending a mosque that was under Muslim Brotherhood control. However, his descent into the world of Al Qaeda and terror is becoming a more common occurrence as more people have access to terrorist-run websites and then fall into the networks that terrorist organizations like the Muslim Brotherhood have created. The fact that Siddiqi, Diab, and Deek all ended up in Orange County together is no coincidence. As shown very clearly in the Muslim Brotherhood’s Explanatory Memorandum, these Islamist organizations are creating grids of interconnected groups all espousing the same jihadist propaganda. Countries must expand their counterterrorism efforts to attack these networks, many of which are run by the Muslim Brotherhood, that are at the root of the spread of jihadist ideology in Western society today.

Jewish Politicos Spend Ramadan With Anti-Gay Imam at Al-Qaeda-Linked Mosque

mosque (1)Frontpage, by Joe Kaufman, July 1, 2015:

Ramadan makes for the strangest of bedfellows, but for politicians who are hungry for votes, a radical mosque headed by an anti-homosexual imam is not such a bad place for a photo op. That is just what happened earlier this month, when Florida State Representative Rick Stark and Vice Mayor of Pembroke Pines, Florida Jay Schwartz joined imam Maulana Shafayat Mohamed and others for a Ramadan meal at Darul Uloom, a South Florida mosque where at least five al-Qaeda operatives have passed through.

On June 22, 2015, an iftar (break-the-fast) dinner was held at the Darul Uloom mosque in Pembroke Pines. The event was sponsored by Emerge USA, a group that attempts to dupe politicians into attending its functions by seducing them with a “Muslim vote.” In reality, though, regardless of the group’s patriotic-sounding name, Emerge is nothing more than a front for anti-American and anti-Israel Islamists.

A founder and co-chair of Emerge, Khurrum Wahid, is a South Florida attorney who has become known for representing various high profile terrorists, including members of al-Qaeda. Wahid previously served as a legal advisor for the national office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR). CAIR has been linked to Hamas leadership and has been cited by the U.S. government for its involvement with Hamas financing. CAIR was also recently named to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) list of international terrorist organizations.

Co-founder and trustee of Emerge, Saif Ishoof, is a former organizer and contact for the extreme anti-Israel group, March for Justice. While with March for Justice, Ishoof organized an event at the University of Miami, in October 2002, which labeled then-Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon “the world’s longest standing terrorist” and Israel an “illegitimate state.” Ishoof said he was “outraged” that his former university would host then-senior advisor to Sharon, Raanan Gissin, referring to Gissin as “a mouthpiece of state sponsored terrorism.”

Acting on its sinister mission, Emerge invited a number of local politicians to speak at at an event hosted by the Darul Uloom mosque, an Islamic center with ties to terrorist-related and viciously anti-Semitic individuals. The group had takers, including at least two with Jewish backgrounds.

One of the politicians was Florida State Representative Rick Stark. Another was Vice Mayor of Pembroke Pines Jay Schwartz. And yet another was Judicial Candidate Andrea Gunderson, who in a woeful act of self-debasement, wrapped her head in a big purple scarf to emulate a Muslim woman’s hijab (head covering). Each addressed the crowd in front of a large Emerge USA backdrop.

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Birthday for A Caliphate

Reuters

Reuters

Breitbart, by Dr. Sebastian Gorka, June 29, 2015:

After Friday’s deadly jihadist attacks in France, Tunisia and Kuwait, Prime Mister David Cameron has stated that ISIS is an existential threat to the West. Today’s anniversary of the re-establishment of the Caliphate give us good cause to assess the threat to America in this, the first part of a two part piece by Dr. Sebastian Gorka.

One year ago, a man unknown to most of the world achieved a feat that has eluded Islamic extremists for the previous 90 years.

On June 29, 2015 Abu Bakr al Baghdadi, after almost a century of absence, formally reestablished the theocratic empire of Islam in a sermon from the pulpit of the Grand Mosque in Mosul. In the last year, his terror group, ISIS, which today we should call by its new name of the Islamic State, has grown to become the most dangerous insurgency of the modern era.

On September 10th, 2001 it would have been impossible to imagine that humans would soon be crucifying each other again, or that there would be an anti-American terrorist group able to capture and hold territory in multiple nations of the Middle East without Washington or her allies and partners being able to stunt its growth. We are now living in such a world. A world where innocent prisoners are burnt or drowned alive, or unbelievably decapitated with the use of detonating cord. A world in which hundreds of thousands have been killed in a civil war in Syria and an insurgency in Iraq, both together driving millions of survivors into refugees camps or into the hands of human traffickers.

The Islamic State that is at the center of this tragedy is a unique threat for four reasons:

  • Firstly, it is the richest group of its kind in modern history. No other sub-state actor has the resources available to IS. Since capturing city after city in Iraq it has netted close to a billion dollars from state coffers, augmenting this stupendous sum with illicit oil salesransoms, and the sale of plundered antiquities. This income will allow IS to continue operations for years to come, and not just in Iraq and Syria. (Note: according to the official 9/11 commission report, that stupendous attack only cost Al Qaeda $500,000).
  • Second, it is the first ever transnational insurgency. In the modern era of guerrilla warfare, the insurgent force was defined by its desire to defeat an incumbent government and replace it. This was true of Mao Tse Tung in China, or the FARC of Colombia, and all the other insurgencies of the 20th century. The Islamic State is an international insurgency recruiting as it does from Muslim communities all around the world and enjoying the sponsorship of more than one foreign government. However, it is also a transnational insurgency. Not only does it hold territory in both Iraq and Syria, with the intent of displacing both the Assad government and the government in Baghdad, it has the goal of destroying all regimes that it deems to be un-Islamic. The fact that Nigeria’s Boko Haram was recently accepted into IS and subsequently changed its name to The West Africa Province of the Islamic State means that Abu Bakr is now technically the Caliph or emperor of not only all IS land in the Middle East, but also former Boko Haram territory in Africa.
  • Third, in its ability to recruit jihadi fighters, the Islamic State has out surpassed Al Qaeda in every measure. Exact figures are impossible, but the best estimates are that, in the space of less than a year, the Islamic State has drawn 20,000 foreign fighters from around the globe, including Western Europe, Australia and North America. Al Qaeda, the original jihadi group responsible for the 9/11 attacks, did manage to attract foreign recruits, but never in the tens of thousands.
  • Lastly, and most problematically for any hope we may have for defeating IS, the Islamic State has built a global Social Media-based propaganda platform that is very sophisticated and effective and that the nations its wishes to destroy – America included – have been impotent to combat.

Alone, these four attributes would make any irregular threat like IS/ISIS a formidable enemy. Where it is located makes it a strategically deadly one.

Just like Judaism and Christianity, Islam has a very deep eschatology. The Sunna, or traditions of Islam, go into great detail about how the world will end and how all humans will be finally judged on the final day by Allah. Before that end comes, the religion is explicit that there will be a great final holy war, or Jihad, in the land of Al Shaam, the Arabic word for Greater Syria and the Levant, or the territory in which Abu Bakr has successfully established his new Caliphate. In fact, between its origins as Al Qaeda in Iraq and its current name of the Islamic State, the group specifically referred to itself as The Islamic State of Iraq and Al Sham. As a result, Abu Bakr, the leader of the new Caliphate, has the eschatology of a faith followed by over 1 billion Muslims on his side. He knows that, by being successful on the ground that all Muslims know is the site of the last holy war before judgement day, he can rely on a steady stream of recruits for as long as there is no opposing ground force set against him in Al Sham.

Plainly put, in the last 12 months since he declared the new Caliphate, Abu Bakr has achieved more than Al Qaeda did in the preceding 13 years. Also, instead of being the “JV team” to Ayman al Zawahiri’s professional team, it is America that has presented itself as the amateur foe.

After Abu Bakr and his Al Qaeda in Iraq franchise was kicked out of the original terror group by Zawahiri for disobeying his orders, he took his small terrorist force in Syria from Iraq and used the civil war there to train and expand his force. As the bloodshed mounted both there and in an Iraq increasingly divided by the corruption and brutality of the Maliki regime, hundreds of thousands of local residents fell victim to the depredations of the competing fighting forces. Yet America decided not to respond. Having pulled our forces out of Iraq in 2011, we were unready and unable to respond to the growing threat. At the same time, President Obama made repeated statements about “red lines” that President Assad was not to cross. The lines were crossed but without triggering a US response. Not until thousands of Yazidis were hounded by ISIS up to the top of Mount Sinjar did the President decide to act by deploying air assets to target ISIS units on the ground.

The delay in an American response has cost America’s reputation in the Gulf dearly, perhaps more dearly than anything done by the administration of George W. Bush. As it was recently explained to me by a very senior U.S. General with responsibilities in the region: “Our Sunni allies just don’t trust us anymore. The region already runs on conspiracy theories, but after the Sunni see more than 200,000 of their people murdered in the last three years and we do nothing until a minority sect is attacked, they draw the conclusion that we are on the side of the mullahs and the Shia revival.”

If one agrees with the summary by Prime Minister Netanyahu that the violence on the Middle East and North Africa cannot be understood unless seen as “a game of thrones” for the crown of the caliphate between the Shia and Sunni extremists, then it is obvious that giving the impression that we have already chosen sides will only feed the flames of war. Especially when this impression is apparently confirmed by every additional concession made by the White House to Tehran in the hopes of closing a nuclear deal with the Revolutionary Republic.

Nor can these threats any longer be relegated to events happening far away. As the targeting of Pamela Geller’s free speech event in Garland, Texas by two armed jihadis demonstrates, those who wish to impose a puritanical and violent version of Islam upon America and her citizens are already here. And Garland is not a one-off. The FBI has confirmed that the Bureau already has ongoing IS-related investigations underway in every state of the Republic. Recently, the first IS recruiter was arrested in New Jersey. And in preparation for this article I had a research assistant simply collect all open-source reports of IS arrests and plots uncovered in the US in the last 24 months. We found 56!

When will America take the threat of a hyper-violent organization with tens of thousands of adherents who wish to destroy America seriously? When did we take Al Qaeda seriously? On September 12th, 2001. At the moment, short of a mass-casualty attack occurring on US soil in a way that links the perpetrators directly to the Islamic State, it seems highly unlikely that the Obama administration will truly take the fight to IS. Of the 400+ troops the White House has decided to deploy to Iraq to help train the trainers, less than 150 will in fact work on that mission, with the rest providing security to the trainers. The Islamic State has more than 30,000 active jihadis, more than half of whom were recruited from abroad. And the most powerful nation in the world can only spare an extra 150 trainers? As another senior officer recently commented in front of a meeting of US generals: “Every day that ISIS still exists and the most powerful nation in the world does nothing, we can chalk another propaganda victory up to the jihadis.”

Consequently, it seems unavoidable that IS will continue to grow and spread its barbarity until a new Commander-in-Chief is sworn in. The good news is that in an election campaign that is already underway and which almost each day sees the cornucopia of at least the Republic candidates increase, national security is at last back on the front burner, or rather both front burners. As a result we may have a chance after November 2016 to engage our newest enemy in the way the jihadists deserve.

The details of a possible strategy that could be used to measure the candidates will follow in Part Two.

Sebastian Gorka Ph.D. is the Major General Matthew C. Horner Chair of Military Theory at the Marine Corps University. You can see his briefing from the Global Counterterrorism Summit on Why ISIS is Much More Dangerous than Al Qaeda here and follow him on Twitter at: @SebGorka.

Morell: July 4th Terror Warnings Are ‘Not Routine,’ Wouldn’t Be Surprised if U.S. is Attacked

terror-threat_58536

Washington Free Beacon, by David Rutz, June 29, 2015:

Former CIA Deputy Director Michael Morell said Monday on CBS This Morning there was “nothing routine” about July 4 terrorist attack warnings by the FBI and Department of Homeland Security, adding that he would not be surprised if “we’re sitting here a week from today talking about an attack.”

Federal authorities issued warnings across the U.S. of potential terroristic targeting of Independence Day celebrations, USA Today reported:

While there was no specific or credible threat of attack, the official said the intelligence bulletin prepared by the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI alerted local colleagues to the ongoing threats posed by the Islamic State and other homegrown extremists. The official was not authorized to comment publicly.

The bulletins are frequently issued in advance of major U.S. holidays out of an abundance of caution and concern that operatives may exploit the timing to generate greater attention.

“This one really resonates with me for two reasons,” Morell said. “One is there’s been about 50 people in the last 12 months who have been arrested in the United States for being radicalized by ISIS, wanting to go fight there, or wanting to conduct an attack here, so there’s a lot of people out there who are seeing themselves as aligned with ISIS. Number two, you have this ISIS call to arms during Ramadan. We are right in the middle of Ramadan, call to arms, conduct attacks against our enemies, so I’m worried about this one.”

Co-host Norah O’Donnell asked what that meant for Americans over the 4th of July weekend.

“I don’t want to tell Americans what to do or what not to do, but Norah, I wouldn’t be surprised if we’re sitting here a week from today talking about an attack over the weekend in the United States,” he said. “That’s how serious this is.”

***

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And don’t forget the threat of Al Qaeda:

ISIS Declares Governorate in Russia’s North Caucasus Region

ISW mapISW, by Harleen Gambhir, Jun 23, 2015:

ISW assessed in early June 2015 that one of ISIS’s most likely courses of action during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan would be to declare a governorate in Russia’s North Caucasus. ISIS indeed announced the creation of a new governorate, called Wilayat Qawqaz (Caucasus) in the region on June 23, 2015, after several senior militants in the area pledged allegiance to ISIS. The announcement pits ISIS against the Islamic Emirate of the Caucasus, an official al-Qaeda affiliate that has operated in the mountainous region of southwestern Russia since 2007. ISIS has been setting conditions to establish this governorate in support of its regional expansion campaign since at least January 2015. ISIS’s statements and actions over the next few weeks will indicate whether the organization intends to launch operations through its new Caucasus affiliate, or whether it simply intends to use the pledge as an opportunity to assert its global vitality and reach.

ISIS’s spokesman Abu Muhammad al-Adnani declared the creation of a new wilayat, or governorate, in the North Caucasus region of Russia on June 23, 2015. Al-Adnani named “Abu Mohammad al-Qadari” the leader of the group, and congratulated “the soldiers of the Islamic State” in the Caucasus. Adnani’s statement followed the circulation of a Russian-language audio statement on Twitter on June 21, in which supporters of ISIS in the regions of “Dagestan, Chechnya, Ingushetia, and KBK (Kabarda, Balkaria and Karachay)” pledged allegiance to ISIS’s leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. These areas represent four of the six subdivisions that constitute the al-Qaeda-affiliated Islamic Emirate of the Caucasus (IEC) militant group. Militants in these four most frequently conducted domestic attacks in support of the IEC’s stated goals of establishing a Caucasus emirate under sharia law and waging global jihad. The two IEC subdivisions where supporters have not formally pledged to ISIS are Cherkessia and Nogay steppe, which have claimed few attacks since the IEC’s founding.

ISIS’s announcement is especially damaging in light of the IEC’s current leadership vacuum. Russian security forces killed the IEC’s leader, Aliaskhab Kebekov, in April 2015 and it is unclear whether Kebekov’s rumored successor, Magomed Suleymanov, retains popular support within the Caucasus. ISIS’s declaration may catalyze the disintegration of the IEC, giving ISIS new opportunities to launch operations in the region.

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ISIS Is Following a Plan Laid Out Ten Years Ago by Al-Qaeda, and It’s All Working

-, -:  (FILES) -- A TV grab from the Qatar-based Al-Jazeera news channel dated 17 June 2005 shows Al-Qaeda number two Ayman al-Zawahiri delivering a speech at an undisclosed location with a machine gun next to him. Al-Zawahiri, in a video posted on the Internet 29 September 2006, called US President George W Bush a liar who had "failed in his war against Al-Qaeda", Al-Jazeera television reported. The previous day, Islamist websites on the Internet had said there would be a new video message posted by Zawahiri entitled " Bush, the pope, Darfur and the Crusades."  AFP PHOTO/AL-JAZEERA  -- QATAR OUT & INTERNET OUT --  (Photo credit should read -/AFP/Getty Images)

-, -: (FILES) — A TV grab from the Qatar-based Al-Jazeera news channel dated 17 June 2005 shows Al-Qaeda number two Ayman al-Zawahiri delivering a speech at an undisclosed location with a machine gun next to him. Al-Zawahiri, in a video posted on the Internet 29 September 2006, called US President George W Bush a liar who had “failed in his war against Al-Qaeda”, Al-Jazeera television reported. The previous day, Islamist websites on the Internet had said there would be a new video message posted by Zawahiri entitled ” Bush, the pope, Darfur and the Crusades.” AFP PHOTO/AL-JAZEERA — QATAR OUT & INTERNET OUT — (Photo credit should read -/AFP/Getty Images)

PJ Media, by Robert Spencer, June 19, 2015:

It has been almost a year since June 29, 2014, when the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Shams (ISIS) declared the formation of a new caliphate and dropped the second half of its name, rebranding itself as simply the Islamic State. It has survived nine months since Barack Obama vowed to “degrade and ultimately destroy” it.

It has survived, and has continued to attract Muslims from all over the world, even after virtually every major world leader and Islamic group has condemned it as un-Islamic. And it shows no sign of going anywhere anytime soon.

All this is well-known. What is less known is that the plan for the restoration of the caliphate was sketched out ten years ago by al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri, and has been followed out more or less exactly by the Islamic State.

The claim to reconstitute the caliphate is the key to the Islamic State’s success — the importance of this cannot be overstated.

The revival of the caliphate is, in the eyes of those who support it and have longed for it all these years, a return to the form of government of the glory days of Islam. From Muhammad’s death through Islam’s Golden Age up until the breakup of the Ottoman Empire after the end of World War I, Muslims were ruled by a caliph, the successor to Muhammad as spiritual and political leader of Islam.

And the declaration of the caliphate, and its placement in and around Syria and Iraq, was not an invention of the Islamic State, or incidental to what it perceived as its mission from the beginning. In reality, a new caliphate had long been an aspiration dear to the hearts of many jihadi terrorists, including al-Qaeda.

Bin Laden’s lieutenant Ayman al-Zawahiri wrote to the leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq (which ultimately became the Islamic State), Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, on July 9, 2005:

It has always been my belief that the victory of Islam will never take place until a Muslim state is established in the manner of the Prophet in the heart of the Islamic world, specifically in the Levant, Egypt, and the neighboring states of the Peninsula and Iraq; however, the center would be in the Levant and Egypt.

Zawahiri also heaped praise on Zarqawi for helping bring that state — the revived caliphate — closer to reality:

If our intended goal in this age is the establishment of a caliphate in the manner of the Prophet and if we expect to establish its state predominantly — according to how it appears to us — in the heart of the Islamic world, then your efforts and sacrifices — God permitting — are a large step directly towards that goal.

Zawahiri then offered Zarqawi his “humble opinion that the Jihad in Iraq requires several incremental goals,” the first of which was to “expel the Americans from Iraq.” The second stage, wrote Zarqawi, would be exactly what the Islamic State ended up doing nine years later:

The second stage: Establish an Islamic authority or amirate, then develop it and support it until it achieves the level of a caliphate — over as much territory as you can to spread its power in Iraq, i.e., in Sunni areas, is in order to fill the void stemming from the departure of the Americans, immediately upon their exit and before un-Islamic forces attempt to fill this void, whether those whom the Americans will leave behind them, or those among the un-Islamic forces who will try to jump at taking power.

Following the establishment of this state, the third stage would be to “extend the jihad wave to the secular countries neighboring Iraq,” followed by the fourth stage, which “may coincide with what came before: the clash with Israel, because Israel was established only to challenge any new Islamic entity.”

Zawahiri wrote in an extremely deferential manner to Zarqawi, repeatedly assuring the Iraq commander that his analysis was not “infallible.” Nonetheless, he did not hesitate to give him direction, emphasizing that:

The mujahedeen must not have their mission end with the expulsion of the Americans from Iraq, and then lay down their weapons, and silence the fighting zeal.

If they did that:

We will return to having the secularists and traitors holding sway over us. Instead, their ongoing mission is to establish an Islamic state, and defend it, and for every generation to hand over the banner to the one after it until the Hour of Resurrection.

Zawihiri summed up the “two short-term goals” as “removing the Americans and establishing an Islamic amirate in Iraq, or a caliphate if possible.” Attaining them, he wrote, would ensure possession of “the strongest weapon which the mujahedeen enjoy — after the help and granting of success by God,” which was “popular support from the Muslim masses in Iraq, and the surrounding Muslim countries.”

But al-Qaeda itself hesitated to declare a caliphate for fear that the Americans would nip it in the bud. A letter from Osama bin Laden, found in the trove of documents at the Abbottabad compound and declassified in May 2015, explained:

We should stress on the importance of timing in establishing the Islamic State. We should be aware that planning for the establishment of the state begins with exhausting the main influential power that enforced the siege on the Hamas government, and that overthrew the Islamic Emirate in Afghanistan and Iraq despite the fact this power was depleted. We should keep in mind that this main power still has the capacity to lay siege on any Islamic State, and that such a siege might force the people to overthrow their duly elected governments. We have to continue with exhausting and depleting them till they become so weak that they can’t overthrow any State that we establish. That will be the time to commence with forming the Islamic state.

Bin Laden saw the restoration of the caliphate as the ultimate goal of al-Qaeda’s activities:

[T]he result that we deployed for … to reinstate the wise Caliphate and eliminate the disgrace and humiliation that our nation is suffering from.

But he argued against “insisting on the formation of an Islamic State at the time being” — and instead wanted his followers:

… to work on breaking the power of our main enemy by attacking the American embassies in the African countries, such as Sierra Leone, Togo, and mainly to attack the American oil companies.

Bin Laden was overcautious. The Islamic State established itself as the new caliphate and has thrived, and no one seems to have the will to do what is necessary to “degrade and destroy” it in any real sense. And so its first anniversary is unlikely to be its last.

State Department: Terror Attacks Increased 35% Between 2013 and 2014

French riot police officers run past a burning truck in Paris suburb, Aulnay-sous-Bois, early Thursday, Nov. 3, 2005. Britain's struggle to contain Muslim extremism points up a chilling trend across Europe: the rise of radical Islam, and with it, a willingness among a small but dangerous minority of young people to answer the call to jihad. From the squalid suburbs north of Paris to the gritty streets of Sarajevo, young disaffected Muslims are increasingly receptive to hard-liners looking to recruit foot soldiers for holy war, European counterterrorism officials and religious leaders warn. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena)

French riot police officers run past a burning truck in Paris suburb, Aulnay-sous-Bois, early Thursday, Nov. 3, 2005. Britain’s struggle to contain Muslim extremism points up a chilling trend across Europe: the rise of radical Islam, and with it, a willingness among a small but dangerous minority of young people to answer the call to jihad. From the squalid suburbs north of Paris to the gritty streets of Sarajevo, young disaffected Muslims are increasingly receptive to hard-liners looking to recruit foot soldiers for holy war, European counterterrorism officials and religious leaders warn. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena)

Washington Free Beacon, by Blake Seitz, June 19, 2015:

The Associated Press reported Friday that terror attacks have increased 35 percent between 2013 and 2014. Deaths due to terrorist attacks have spiked by 81 percent.

The news comes from the State Department’s annual Country Reports on Terrorism, which will be officially released later on Friday.

Terror attacks in 2014 were “exceptionally lethal,” with 20 attacks claiming more than 100 victims.

The AP reports that “increased terror activity has been observed in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Nigeria,” with the highest number of attacks occurring in Iraq, where the Islamic State has capitalized on the power vacuum created by U.S. withdrawal in 2011.

CNN reports that the publication singles out Islamic State and Boko Haram as terrorist groups gaining momentum, stealing recruits from traditional terror groups like Al Qaeda.

The report claims that the four-year-old Syrian civil war, which has claimed over 200,000 lives and displaced 40 percent of the country’s population, was a catalyst for terror and unrest elsewhere in the Middle East.

According to the report, more than 16,000 foreign fighters entered Syria in 2014, most of whom went to fight for IS.

The report claims that this number “exceeded the rate of foreign fighters who traveled to Afghanistan and Pakistan, Iraq, Yemen or Somalia at any point in the last 20 years.”

The Islamic State’s strength is a matter of much debate, but some analysts estimate the group has more than 50,000 fighters—enough to replace battlefield casualties it has sustained from intense fighting in Syria and Iraq.

While much of the increased terrorist activity has occurred in the disorderly Middle East, Americans traveling abroad were not safe from harm. Twenty-four Americans were killed by terror attacks in 2014.

Also see:

New AQAP Leader Named – What to Expect

Wuhayshi Source: Associated Press

Wuhayshi
Source: Associated Press

June 18, 2015 /

al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) Emir Nasir al-Wuhayshi aka “Abu Basir” was confirmed to have been killed in Mukalla sometime around 09 JUN. AQAP had initially hid the news of Wuhayshi’s death because they’re concerned about intelligence assets operating in the area – especially since they were rounding up people they suspected of being “spies” prior to his death. When the airstrike occurred, they began to panic and suspect that someone was still on the ground directing the Saudi-led coalition – which led to even more people being executed. Wuhayshi is respected by the leadership of both AQ and the Islamic State (IS), and had actually served as a bit of a calming voice of reason in Yemen who advocated a truce so that they can target their primary threats: Iran and their Houthi proxies.

Yemen al-Qaeda chief al-Wuhayshi killed in US strike
http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-33143259

AQAP excutes “spies” blamed for leaders’ deaths
http://www.longwarjournal.org/archives/2015/06/aqap-executes-alleged-spies-blamed-for-leaders-deaths.php

His successor has been identified as Qasim al-Raymi, who is one of the last surviving original members of AQAP. Raymi is one of the primary planners for external operations targeting the West (United States, France etc). He’s also a known “risk-taker” – more so than Wuhayshi ever was. This is no doubt a reflection of Raymi’s past experience in Afghanistan – where he first met Wuhayshi and Osama bin Laden. If the French don’t know who this guy is, he’s the individual who planned the attack on Charlie Hebdo Magazine. Here’s some of his other highlights:

– DEC 2014 attack targeting the Iranian Ambassador to Yemen.

– 05 DEC 2013 attack on the Yemeni Defense Ministry. He actually apologized for that one. Really.

– Tried to blow up an American airliner on 25 DEC 2009 (the infamous “underwear bomber incident”).

– Was the point-man in a 2007 attack in Marib that killed 8 Spanish tourists (we have no idea why anybody would vacation in Yemen but hey, whatever floats your boat).

– Several attempts to target the US Ambassador to Yemen.

New AQAP chief Rimi a veteran Al Qaeda fighter and recruiter
http://www.thenational.ae/world/middle-east/new-aqap-chief-rimi-a-veteran-al-qaeda-fighter-and-recruiter

AQAP Claims Responsibility For Attack on Iran’s Ambassador to Yemen
http://isisstudygroup.com/?p=3476

Did Abdulmutallab Talk to Radical Cleric?
http://www.cbsnews.com/news/did-abdulmutallab-talk-to-radical-cleric/

Deadly attacks hit Yemen defence ministry in Sanaa
http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-25228729

rimi

Qasim al-Raymi
Source: The ISIS Study Group

Perhaps the most important thing about Raymi replacing Wuhayshi is that he doesn’t share his late-superior’s sentiments about a truce with IS. In fact, Raymi has serious beef with Yemeni IS Emir Abu Abdullah al-Harbi in recent weeks. The issues between the two stem from Harbi accusing Raymi of being an informant who has been feeding the Saudi-led coalition intelligence to coordinate their airstrikes – which is rather interesting considering AQAP’s sudden sense of urgency in trying to identify where the leaks are occurring within the organization. We suspect this is partly retaliation for Raymi accusing Harbi of “headhunting” his best guys after experiencing a wave of defections last month.

Despite the loss of Wuhayshi and other leaders, AQAP still retains the capability to conduct attacks outside of Yemen – the United States and Europe in particular. Raymi also brings the necessary continuity for launching such attacks. However, we assess that Raymi will instead choose to increase AQAP’s OP-tempo on the Arabian Peninsula (Yemen and Saudi Arabia) instead, at least for the near-term. Even before Wuhayshi’s death, Raymi has been successful in overseeing AQAP’s expansion in the country. With Wuhayshi gone, that expansion will accelerate. We suspect that he may decide halt the IS expansion into Yemen militarily by declaring war on Team Baghdadi before they become a bigger threat. Should Raymi be sent to meet Allah, we assess that either Abu Hamza al-Jarjubari or Khalid Batarfi will replace him.

Screen Shot 2015-06-17 at 8.40.42 PM

Khalid Batarfi: Possible replacement for Raymi
Source: The ISIS Study Group

Other Related Articles:

Houthis w/IRGC Technicians Fired Missile into Saudi Arabia, AQAP Expansion Continues
http://isisstudygroup.com/?p=7081

AQAP and Qods Force Make Their Moves in Yemen as Saudis Struggle to Maintain Coalition
http://isisstudygroup.com/?p=6078

GCC SOF Teams Alerted For Deployment, AQAP Gains Strength and Iran Preps For Attacks Against Saudi Arabia
http://isisstudygroup.com/?p=6056

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FDD Senior Fellow Bill Roggio discusses the death of the AQAP emir and the significance moving forward. – The Arlene Bynon Show (Sirius XM) – June 16, 2015

***

Also see:

The Extreme View that IS and Al Qaeda Can Become Moderate

1569667742CSP, by Jennifer Keltz, June 15, 2015:

Last week, articles suggesting the US should ally itself with Al Qaeda and should consider the Islamic State (IS) as a legitimate power were published by the prominent news sources The Wall Street Journal and Foreign Policy. These articles are part of a growing trend, demonstrated by an earlier 2014 Foreign Affairs article, calling for greater US complacency in regards to violent jihadist groups.

The recent pieces present different, equally dangerous ideas, and should be addressed individually.

Yaroslav Trofimov, of the Wall Street Journal, reports influential policy thinkers and U.S. Allies are discussing the possibility of a US alliance with the Syrian Al Qaeda affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra (Nusra). They say that many secular, Western-backed militants fighting in Syria already work closely with Nusra on the battlefield. They also point to Middle Eastern governments, such as Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and Qatar, that work closely with Nusra to help topple IS and the Assad regime, which has a horrible human-rights record. This perspective fails to recognize that these are Sunni states and their backing of Nusra has more to do with their desire to weaken Shia Iran and Syria than to help Syrian civilians.

The report presents Nusra as the lesser of two evils: in comparison to IS, its religious views are “certainly radical” but “aren’t nearly as extreme.”

The policy-makers in question lack a greater perspective of the Syrian conflict and of Nusra and Al Qaeda. Its Al Qaeda affiliation demonstrates that, while it may have local goals now, it ultimately wants to install Islamic regimes all over the world, and indeed has the same end goal as IS.

The only reason why Nusra is not attacking the West is because Al Qaeda Central ordered it to refrain from doing so. That does not mean that it is not planning to attack in the future. Any group that must be ordered to not attack the US is not a group with which the US should be aligned.

In an unrelated op-ed in Foreign Policy, Stephen M. Walt, a Harvard professor, asks his audience to consider what the US should do if IS “wins.” He believes IS is likely to establish itself and retain power, similarly to how the USSR and People’s Republic of China started as revolutionary movements before establishing themselves as states.

Walt believes the US should treat IS and its worldview in the way that it treated the USSR and communism throughout the twentieth century – with containment. He ignores history: the Soviets never abandoned efforts to violently spread their ideology, from the 1919 invasion of Poland to the 1989 retreat from Afghanistan.

Walt states that IS is not powerful on a global scale, and its foreign recruitment of 25,000 from a world population of 7 billion is not that large. In fact, he says he would rather see all of the people that desire to join IS actually join it because this would put them all in one place, where they can be isolated from the rest of society. Unfortunately, he only considers IS’s foreign recruitment. Size estimates of the organization range from the tens- to hundreds-of-thousands.

Walt ignores IS’s calls for its international followers to attack Western people and civilizations, and that its followers are listening. A quick Google search shows that it inspired attacks in Texas, New York (where one woman “couldn’t understand why U.S. citizens like herself were traveling overseas to wage jihad when they could simply ‘make history’ at home by unleashing terrorist attacks”), Australia, Canada, and elsewhere.

Though its ranks may be small in comparison to the world population, with its strategic use of the internet and media it has permeated through Western society. The US is not as far away from IS’s violence as Walt wants to think. The widespread use of the Internet means that containment can never truly happen and its ideas will still spread, leading more people to want to join. Additionally, recognizing IS as a state would legitimize it, leading to increased recruitment.

He states IS has few resources, and can now no longer surprise its enemies. However, it brings in millions of dollars daily from oil alone, and it has other sources of income. It is also much larger and better-resourced than Al Qaeda was at the time of the 9/11 attacks, which had a core membership between 500-1000 people. IS is therefore expected to have capabilities far beyond those of Al Qaeda in the early 2000s.

Walt’s argument that IS would self-moderate if it became an actual country is important to his argument for containment. He explains it would need to self-moderate in order to gain legitimacy amongst other nations and to be welcomed into international politics and the world economy. This argument lacks an understanding of the IS worldview.

Cole Bunzel, in “From State to Caliphate: The Ideology of the Islamic State,” describes it as “the view that the region’s Shi’a are conspiring with the United States and secular Arab rulers to limit Sunni power in the Middle East.” In IS’s declaration of return of the caliphate, “This is the Promise of Allah,” they laid out its founding principles and described it in verse:

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

Fundamental to IS’s beliefs is that they cannot be compromised because they are mandated by Allah.  Founded upon religious beliefs, which do not appeal to logic but instead to faith, IS cannot and will not become more moderate. Its members view the western concept of “moderation” as the antithesis of what their divinely-conceived worldview requires. It already operates as a pseudo-state anyway; international recognition is irrelevant to its purpose for existence.

The points of view expressed in the two op-ed pieces mentioned are dangerous if left unaddressed. They display a shallow and dangerous understanding of the nature of the Jihadist organizations, their methods, and their goals.