Yemen isn’t on Verge of Civil War, It Already is – And Saudi Arabia Will Get Involved

March 21, 2015: Members of a militia group loyal to Yemen's President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, known as the Popular Committees, chew qat as they sit next to their tank, guarding a major intersection in Aden, Yemen. (AP)

March 21, 2015: Members of a militia group loyal to Yemen’s President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, known as the Popular Committees, chew qat as they sit next to their tank, guarding a major intersection in Aden, Yemen. (AP)

March 25, 2015 / /

Once again the American media is a day late and a dollar short in covering foreign policy matters. Now every major media outlet in the country is openly asking the question of whether or not Yemen is “on the edge of a civil war.” The problem with that is they’re still behind the power curve. Why? Because Yemen already is in a civil war and it has been going on for the last several months, only you wouldn’t guess from American media outlets since they were focused on more important things like Bruce Jenner’s transition into “womanhood” – but we digress. Follow-on forces continue to be flown into Taiz for the main Houthi push to take Aden, which we assess can begin within days. This will be a multi-pronged offensive, as we’re already seeing with forces elsewhere moving to isolate pro-Hadi forces in other areas. Hadi’s forces were able to temporarily halt the Houthi advance – although this will change as Hadi’s forces continue to get worn down. Those areas weren’t even one of the major objectives. If anything the forces currently advancing have the port of al-Mukha as one of their primary objectives prior to the main push for Aden being initiated.

What Yemen’s Coming Apart at the Seams Means to Arabian Peninsula

http://isisstudygroup.com/?p=5737

Forces Loyal to President Hadi Halt Houthi Push Towards Yemen’s Aden

http://www.nbcnews.com/news/mideast/hadi-forces-check-houthi-push-towards-yemens-aden-n329681

hadi faction

Pro-Hadi forces manning a checkpoint in Aden
Source: al-Jazeera

The Gulf nations led by Saudi Arabia are reported to have agreed to a possible deployment of ground troops to support Hadi’s faction and confront the growing Iranian influence on the Arabian Peninsula. The Gulf nations had previously sent a multi-nation ground force to support the Bahraini government against Iranian proxies a few years ago, so there’s a precedence for this sort of thing. Also, Saudi Arabia has waged limited air campaigns along the Yemeni border off and on in the past for lesser reasons. The current buildup of Saudi ground forces suggests that they may be planning a proactive defense of the border region to keep the Houthis on their side of the border, but will likely initiate a ground campaign if Aden is perceived to be on the verge of falling – which might happen in the coming days. We assess that the violence will exceed anything the Saudis dealt with in previous operations that they conducted against the Houthis in 2009 and 2010. If it comes to that (and let’s be honest, does anybody truly think “negotiations” with Iran and its proxies will succeed?), we expect the initial ground deployments to consist of SOF personnel to perform an advise and assist role. That ground presence will likely grow in both role and numbers as the violence continues to escalate. Currently, the Saudis are providing financial support to Hadi’s faction and may be looking to provide lethal aid to keep the loyal military units in Aden propped up.

Saudis Vow “Necessary Measures” in Yemen if Peace Talks Fail

http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/0/8b9fa25a-d17f-11e4-86c8-00144feab7de.html#axzz3VMsKd8Ml

Exclusive: Saudi Arabia building up military near Yemen border – U.S. officials

http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/03/24/us-yemen-security-usa-saudi-idUSKBN0MK2S120150324

Gulf states send forces to Bahrain following protests

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-12729786

Analysis: What is behind Saudi offensive in Yemen

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/saudi-arabia/091114/saudi-arabia-offensive-yemen-houthis

Saudi Forces Bomb Yemeni Rebels on Southern Border

http://www.wsj.com/articles/SB125746088928732009

KSA capable of deterring attackers: Saudi King

http://www.alarabiya.net/articles/2009/11/08/90588.html

Saudi jets bomb Yemeni Houthis

http://www.aljazeera.com/news/middleeast/2009/11/20091151323886933.html

Screen Shot 2015-03-24 at 6.28.06 PM

The Saudi Army: Ready to rock and roll
Source: thefewgoodmen.com

Saudi Arabia’s actions are hardly surprising given the clear and present threat the Iranian regime and its proxies pose to the region. Houthi fighters are reportedly serving in the ranks of the Iranian regime’s “Foreign Legion” known as the Liwa Abu Fadl al-Abbas (LAFA) in Syria against anti-Assad forces. Those Houthi fighters reportedly received pre-deployment training at Hezbollah camps in Lebanon much like Iraqi proxies such as Kitab Hezbollah (KH) and Kataib Sayyid al-Shuhada (KSS). Should the Saudis get involved militarily, and we think its only a matter of time before they do, we could very well see the Houthis applying what they learned from that Hezbollah training. We’ll also likely see more from the IRGC-Qods Force and its proxies like what we saw in 2009 with Hezbollah operatives shot down a Yemeni fighter jet in 2009. Its been a few years since that incident and the Iranian regime now has firm control of Sanaa’s international airport with regular flights coming and going between there and Tehran – meaning more weapons (and Qods Force personnel) are being brought into the fight.

Iranian Regime Consolidates Houthi Gains, Begins Work Forming Houthi Intel Proxy

http://isisstudygroup.com/?p=5580

Yemen’s Houthi Rebels: The Hand of Iran?

http://isisstudygroup.com/?p=1992

Shia Proxy Threat to US ISIS Strategy in Saudi Arabia

http://isisstudygroup.com/?p=1837

Yemeni Fighter Planes Shot down by Hezbollah’s Elements

http://www.yemenpost.net/Detail123456789.aspx?ID=3&SubID=1391

Syrian Army Takes Advantage of US Airstrikes in Counter-Offensive

http://isisstudygroup.com/?p=2788

hezbollah_24 mar

Hezbollah has been operating in Yemen for several years now – and their OP-Tempo is steadily increasing
Source: al-akhbar.com

As of this writing Hadi has the support of roughly 5,000 Yemeni Army personnel against a Houthi force numbering from 13,000-15,000 men. Those pro-Hadi Army personnel suffer from a lack of ammo, equipment and poor morale, so its debatable just how long they can hold out with no external support – which is a big reason why we assess the Saudis will become more involved. Here, air support will be key for both sides and the Saudis and UAE will be the most likely participants of any Gulf-led air campaign. However, the Saudis are not as capable as their UAE counterparts in terms of conducting sustained external operations.

Forming the bulk of Hadi’s supporters are the “Popular Committees” led by Abdul-Latif al-Sayid al-Bafqeeh. His faction had been working closely with the military in combatting AQAP in the Abyan-area when the Houthis launched their offensive to take Sanaa. Hadi didn’t order his security forces to combat the Houthis when they stormed Sanaa because he couldn’t trust his own men and didn’t know how strong his support was in the capital – which ultimately led to his and several Arab nations’ diplomatic missions being relocated to Aden. Bafqeeh is considered a local hero in the South for his opposition to AQAP and the Houthis. Although his estimated 6,700-man force adds much-needed bodies to Hadi’s beleaguered loyalist Army force, they’re not as well-trained as former President Saleh’s forces or even the Houthis. These Popular Committees were able to keep the Houthis from seizing Aden’s airport and are currently engaged in several battles north of the city – but they’re plagued by the same ammo and equipment shortage as the pro-Hadi Army units. There’s also some questions regarding Bafqeeh’s true allegiances, as he’s previously worked with AQAP when Saleh was in power. He claims to have left the group due to the leadership refusing to provide sufficient financial support. He also had this rather interesting comment when describing his reasons for his previous AQAP associations:

“when the regime was oppressive and brutal … People then joined al-Qaida to avenge themselves against the government. I and my men pulled out before we got involved with them.”

This pretty much cuts to the heart of what we’ve been saying about AQAP and the Islamic State (IS) being viewed more favorably by a local populace who feel threatened by the Iranian regime – which is every bit as bad as the two Sunni jihadist organizations. The problem with Bafqeeh is that he’s already shown that his allegiances are subject to change – so what will happen should IS offer him cash incentives to pledge allegiance to Baghdadi like they have with others? Something to think about as the Saudis ramp up their lethal aid to the Pro-Hadi crew. This will become a bigger factor later on as IS continues to gain more momentum in follow-on attacks to last week’s Sanaa Mosque bombings, especially if Hadi’s faction becomes even more weakened than it is. They have everybody’s attention now, and are fashioning themselves as the “protectors of the Sunni populace” against the Iranian regime. In the end people are people and like everybody else, the Yemeni Sunnis want to be part of a “winner.” Unfortunately, the factions they view as being the “strongest” just might be AQAP and IS.

abdul

Abdul-Latif al-Sayid al-Bafqeeh
Source: Associated Press

This great news for Iran’s strategic campaign to dominate the Middle East as it allows the Qods Force’s objective of forcing Saudi Arabia and the terror financiers residing there to divert resources from the anti-Assad war effort in Syria back closer to home. Control of key Yemeni real estate also allows the Iranian regime to have more options in disrupting international shipping if they so desire. Using Sanaa as a major support hub, the Qods Force and Hezbollah will be able to provide greater levels of material support to cells operating inside Saudi Arabia to destabilize the new King’s government while targeting IS support nodes throughout the country. With all the fighting taking place in the country, if this isn’t a civil war already, then what is it? Now think about this – President Obama’s “Yemen Success Story” being touted as the “model for future operations in the War Against Terror” has seen millions of dollars in equipment “disappearing,” Hadi being run out of the capital, parliament dissolved, US embassy evacuated and the last of our troops pulled out of the country. The cherry on top is that IS now has a foothold in the country and Iran emerged as the big winner by supporting terrorism and fomenting regional unrest. What we’re seeing in Yemen is Iran exporting their “Islamic Revolution” to the Arabian Peninsula by implementing the “Lebanon Model.” We were also told during the 2008 US Presidential election that he was going to “fundamentally transform America – and the world.” Is this the “fundamental transformation” he was talking about?

A veteran militia leader in southern Yemen emerges as key ally of president against rebels

http://www.usnews.com/news/world/articles/2015/03/24/in-south-yemen-a-militia-leader-is-presidents-top-ally?page=2

BRIEF CLASHES IN ADEN AS POPULAR COMMITTEES SET UP CHECKPOINTS

http://www.yementimes.com/en/1861/news/4902/Brief-clashes-in-Aden-as-popular-committees-set-up-checkpoints.htm

YEMEN’S USE OF MILITIAS TO MAINTAIN STABILITY IN ABYAN PROVINCE

https://www.ctc.usma.edu/posts/yemens-use-of-militias-to-maintain-stability-in-abyan-province

Millions in U.S. military equipment lost as Yemen heads down Syria’s path

http://blogs.reuters.com/great-debate/2015/03/24/millions-in-u-s-military-equipment-lost-as-yemen-heads-down-syrias-path/

UPDATE – Reporting that just broke a little while ago suggests that Hadi fled his Aden-based residence. No word yet on his current whereabouts, but if he leaves the country, he could be making a mad dash for either Saudi Arabia or UAE. Should that happen, it would signal the Saudis to initiate the first phase of their military intervention. Oh, and the airfield our troops were stationed at has fallen to the Houthis now. More to follow…

Officials tell AP: Yemen president flees Aden home

http://bigstory.ap.org/article/c55bb2a7eabe4311b2eb40ba1c3f2abd/report-rebels-seize-yemen-air-base-used-al-qaida-fight

Other Related Articles:

Poised to Fill Yemen’s Power Vacuum – Iran Tightens Grip on the Peninsula

http://isisstudygroup.com/?p=4517

The Islamic State’s Arabian Peninsula Campaign

http://isisstudygroup.com/?p=4558

President Obama’s Yemen “Success” Story

http://isisstudygroup.com/?p=4751

IRGC-Qods Force: The Arabian Peninsula Campaign and the Failure of Obama’s Foreign Policy

http://isisstudygroup.com/?p=4478

Dead Argentine prosecutor was zeroing in on a terror threat to the entire Western Hemisphere

Alberto Nisman

Alberto Nisman

Business Insider, by LINETTE LOPEZ, March 20, 2015:

Iran and its proxies are well positioned in several Middle Eastern countries.

As days go by, the mystery surrounding the death of Argentine prosecutor Alberto Nisman – who was found shot in the head in his locked apartment two months ago – becomes murkier.

But we’re learning a lot more about the explosive findings of his decade-long investigation.

Testimony from journalists and government officials suggest that in addition to describing Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner’s hand in protecting the perpetrators of a 1994 Buenos Aires terrorist attack, Nisman was also working to blow the lid off the workings of Iran’s terrorist organization in Latin America.

Nisman’s decade of work on the subject pointed to Iran.

And according to the testimonies, it appears Nisman was working to blow the lid off the entire workings of Iran’s terrorist organization in Latin America.

‘Export Iran’s Islamic Revolution’

In a written statement on Wednesday, Brazilian investigative journalist Leonardo Coutinho walked members of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs through the findings of his years of work looking into Iran’s penetration of Brazil.

In a statement titled “Brazil as an operational hub for Iran and Islamic Terrorism,” Coutinho discusses not only his findings while working for Brazil’s Veja magazine, but also Nisman’s tireless work.

“Official investigations carried out by Argentine, American, and Brazilian authorities have revealed how Brazil figures into the intricate network set up to ‘export Iran’s Islamic Revolution’ to the West, by both establishing legitimacy and regional support while simultaneously organizing and planning terrorist attacks,” Coutinho said (emphasis ours).

“Despite the fact that Brazil has never been the target of one of these terrorist attacks, the country plays the role of a safe haven for Islamic extremist groups, as explained below.”

He went on to note that Nisman’s 502-page dictum on the 1994 Buenos Aires terrorist attack “not only describes the operations of the network responsible for this terrorist attack, it also names those who carried it out. Consequently, the document lists twelve people in Brazil with ties to [Iran’s Lebanese proxy] Hezbollah, who reside or resided in Brazil. Seven of these operatives had either direct or indirect participation in the AMIA bombing.”

To put these astounding assertions into perspective, consider that Iranian military mastermind Qassem Suleimani recently said, “We are witnessing the export of the Islamic Revolution throughout the region. From Bahrain and Iraq to Syria, Yemen and North Africa.”

Tony Badran, a research fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, explains what Suleimani, head of the foreign arm of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps, meant by this:

“When he talks about exporting the Islamic Revolution, Suleimani is referring to a very specific template.

“It’s the template that the Khomeinist revolutionaries first set up in Lebanon 36 years ago by cloning the various instruments that were burgeoning in Iran as the Islamic revolutionary regime consolidated its power.”

And now, according to reporting from Veja and Nisman, Iran and Hezbollah have been attempting the same in Latin America.

Nisman dug deep

Nisman had been working on Iran’s involvement in Latin America since 2005, when Nestor Kirchner, then Argentina’s president, asked him to investigate a 1994 terrorist attack on a Buenos Aires Jewish Center, AMIA. The attack killed 85 people.

Around the same time, according to reports, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, who died in 2013, had allegedly ensured that Iranian and Hezbollah agents were furnished with passports and flights that would allow them to move freely around South America and to Iran.

From there, it was a matter of fund-raising for Iran’s agents – co-opting drug cartels, and sometimes hiding in remote, lawless parts of Brazil, Peru, Venezuela, and other countries that lack the infrastructural, legal, and economic resources to root out Iran’s agents of terror.

“Iran and Hezbollah, two forces hostile to US interests, have made significant inroads in Peru, almost without detection, in part because of our weak institutions, prevalent criminal enterprise, and various stateless areas,” Peru’s former vice interior minister told Wednesday’s House hearing, noting that Peru was not hostile to the US. “These elements are particularly weak in the southern mountainous region of my country.”

AMIA bombing argentina

Remains of the AMIA after the 1994 bombing in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Wikipedia

Nisman’s findings alleged that Hezbollah and top government officials in Iran orchestrated the AMIA attack. Nisman’s investigation was lauded by international parties – current President (and Nestor’s widow) Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner has said so herself.

But things changed after Nestor left office in 2007. Argentina’s prolonged ostracization from international markets made it a cash-strapped nation, and the popularity of the Kirchners domestically waned below ecstatic.

That meant Fernandez would have to fight to hold on to power, and that fight would take money. According to Coutinho’s work, that’s when things changed. He interviewed three defected officials of Chavez’s regime who said they witnessed a conversation between the Venezuelan president and his then-Iranian counterpart, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, in January 2007.

Ahmadinejad and Chavez reportedly planned to coerce Argentina into sharing nuclear technology with Iran – which Argentina had done in the 1980s and again in the early 1990s after the AMIA bombing – and stopping the hunt for the perpetrators of the AMIA bombing in exchange for cash, some of it to finance Fernandez’s political aims. It’s unclear whether Fernandez knew where this money was coming from, according to Coutinho.

In any case, The New York Times recently reported that intercepted conversations between Argentine and Iranian officials “point to a long pattern of secret negotiations to reach a deal in which Argentina would receive oil in exchange for shielding Iranian officials” from being formally accused of orchestrating the terror attack.

If genuine, The Times noted, the conversation transcripts show “a concerted effort by representatives of President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner’s government to shift suspicions away from Iran in order to gain access to Iranian markets and to ease Argentina’s energy troubles.”

Hugo Chavez, Nestor Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner

Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner with her husband, Nestor, right, and, Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez in Buenos Aires in 2007. Reuters

After that, analysts at the US-based think tank Strategy Center note that there was a significant shift in Argentina’s policy toward Iran:

Later in 2012, Ahmadinejad made a speech at the UN, and for the first time in years the Argentine delegation did not walk out. The Argentine administration eventually cast Nisman’s findings on AMIA, Iran, and Hezbollah aside.

AMIA suspects

Moshen Rabbani and another original suspect in the AMIA bombing, Ahmad Reza Ashgari, from a 2006 handout released by an Argentine court. Reuters

Through all of this, Nisman continued digging. He tried to track the network of Mohsen Rabbani, who he believed led Iran’s cell in Latin America and was an architect of the AMIA attack.

>Brazilian authorities tried and failed to arrest Rabbani, whose main contact in Brazil at the time of the attacks, according to Nisman, was a cleric named Taleb Hussein al-Khazraji.

And that connection shows how Iran’s “intricate network set up to ‘export Iran’s Islamic Revolution’ to the West” touched the United States.

Both al-Khazraji and Rabbani were in contact with Abdul Kadir, a former politician from the South American country of Guyana who is now serving a sentence of life in prison in the US for plotting to attack New York’s John F. Kennedy Airport in 2007.

The FBI said Kadir was caught trying to board a plane in Trinidad bound for Venezuela and eventually to Tehran.

Kadir was prosecuted, with some assistance from Nisman, by none other than US attorney general nominee Loretta Lynch.

U.S. Attorney Loretta Lynch

US Attorney Loretta Lynch. Reuters

“The sentence imposed on Abdul Kadir sends a powerful and clear message,” Lynch said in a statement at the time. “We will bring to justice those who plot to attack the United States of America.”

All of this suggests Alberto Nisman was a marked man for years. But for years he managed to do extraordinary work uncovering Iran’s terrorist network in Latin America.

It’s no wonder that confusion about what happened, who did it, and why has taken over Argentina’s news cycle. Reports have little to say or do with Nisman’s part in fighting international terrorism in Latin America.

Michael B. Kelley contributed to this report.

Also see:

Obama Whitewashes Iranian Terrorism

Hezbollah-Fighters-300x214Frontpage, March 18, 2015 by Joseph Klein:

The Obama administration is shamelessly whitewashing the Iranian regime’s state sponsorship of global terrorism, no doubt to help soften Iran’s image in preparation for trying to foist a bad nuclear deal on the American people. It also did the same thing for Iran’s jihadist proxy terrorist group, Hezbollah.

The administration’s most recent unclassified version of the Worldwide Threat Assessment of the US Intelligence Community report published on February 26, 2015, delivered to the US Senate by National Intelligence director James Clapper, conspicuously omitted any reference to the ongoing terrorist threat posed by Iran and Hezbollah. While acknowledging that Iran remains “an ongoing threat to US national interests,” the report noted Iran’s “intentions to dampen sectarianism, build responsive partners, and deescalate tensions with Saudi Arabia.” The report also noted Iran‘s commitment of more resources to the fight against the Sunni extremists of the Islamic State.

In the small section devoted to Yemen, the report made no mention of Iranian support for the Huthi rebels. It simply portrayed Iran as a beneficiary of the Huthis’ rise to power: “Huthi ascendency in Yemen has increased Iran’s influence as well.”

By contrast, in the previous Worldwide Threat Assessment of the US Intelligence Community report dated January 29, 2014, Iran and Hezbollah figured prominently under a section entitled “Terrorist Activities Overseas.”

In addition to mentioning the large role played by Iran and Hezbollah in propping up the Assad regime in Syria, which they view as “a key partner in the ‘axis of resistance’ against Israel, the earlier intelligence report said that “Iran and Lebanese Hizballah continue to directly threaten the interests of US allies. Hizballah has increased its global terrorist activity in recent years to a level that we have not seen since the 1990s.”

In the specific section of the January 29, 2014 report devoted to Iran, the report stated: “In the

broader Middle East, Iran will continue to provide arms and other aid to Palestinian groups, Huthi rebels in Yemen, and Shia militants in Bahrain to expand Iranian influence and to counter perceived foreign threats.”

What happened between 2014 and 2015 to merit deleting any association of Iran and Hezbollah with continued global terrorist activity in the most recent intelligence assessment report? Did Iran’s leaders suddenly decide to forswear terrorism and join the family of civilized nations? Obviously not. For example, as Middle East and national security expert Daniel Byman testified on February 11, 2015 before the House Subcommittee on Terrorism, Nonproliferation, and Trade, Iran’s proxy Hezbollah continued its terrorist operations in 2014 in far-flung locations:

Iran, often working with Hizballah, has repeatedly tried to use terrorism against an array of Israeli and Western targets and interests, and this pattern has continued in recent years. Recent plots reportedly range from plots against an Israeli shipping company and USAID offices in Nigeria in 2013 to reconnoitering the Israeli embassy in Baku, Azerbaijan, for a possible attack. Hizballah operatives planned an attack in 2014 against Israeli tourists in Bangkok and in October 2014 Hizballah operatives were arrested in Peru for planning attacks against Israeli and Jewish targets there.

With respect to Yemen, Iran’s increased influence in the country was not just a by-product of the “Huthi ascendency,” as the February 2015 intelligence assessment report intimated. Iran’s intervention on behalf of its Shiite allies with arms, training and funding made the Huthi takeover of the Yemen government possible. With Iran also heavily involved in Iraq, the proclamation of an emerging Iranian empire by Ali Younusi, an adviser to Iranian Supreme Leader Khamenei, rings true, at least as to Iran’s hegemonic intentions. “Iran is an empire once again at last, and its capital is Baghdad,” he declared.

However, the Obama administration is willing to fudge the truth to induce Iran to stay at the negotiating table and make some sort of nuclear arms deal that President Obama can trumpet as a major diplomatic achievement. Anyway, in the Obama administration’s calculations, Iran can’t be all that bad since it now helping to fight those truly evil Islamic State terrorists in Iraq and Syria whom we too are fighting.

Max Abrahms, professor of political science at Northeastern University and member at the Council of Foreign Relations, postulated a “quid pro quo” arrangement. “Iran helps us with counter-terrorism and we facilitate their nuclear ambitions and cut down on our labelling of them as terrorists,” he was quoted by Newsweek as saying.

The February 2015 intelligence assessment report does not limit its whitewashing of Iran’s malevolent intentions to the subject of terrorism. It turned a blind eye to Iran’s unwillingness to come clean with international inspectors with regard to the military dimensions of its nuclear program.

The February 2015 intelligence assessment report claimed that the temporary agreement in place with Iran, known as the Joint Plan of Action, has “enhanced the transparency of Iran’s nuclear activities, mainly through improved International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) access.”  It ignored the International Atomic Energy Agency’s repeated warnings that Iran has not been cooperating with the IAEA’s inquiry into allegations of Iran’s past nuclear-related military development work.

One would think that unfettered inspections to verify compliance with the terms of any final agreement would be absolutely non-negotiable, especially given Iran’s past record of cheating and defying international inspectors. However, according to a report in the New York Times on March 17th, unnamed officials have indicated that “provisions for extensive verification” are still being negotiated. The other issue where there is reportedly a gap is the timetable for removal of the United Nations sanctions and other sanctions.

The February 2015 intelligence assessment report conceded that Iran has “the ability to build missile-deliverable nuclear weapons, if it chooses to do so,” but refused to take a position on Iran’s probable intentions. “We do not know whether Iran will eventually decide to build nuclear weapons,” the report stated. “Tehran would choose ballistic missiles as its preferred method of delivering nuclear weapons, if it builds them,” the report added.

Iran has remained free to develop or acquire ballistic missiles and the technology to miniaturize nuclear weapons for delivery by Iran’s “preferred method.”  That apparently won’t change with a final deal, since Iran has refused to allow its missile program to be a part of the negotiations. Thus, while the Obama administration is negotiating everything –  the scope of inspections, the number of centrifuges that Iran will be able to keep spinning from the get-go, the timing of sanctions relief and the sunset date after which any significant nuclear restrictions will go away – it is being outmaneuvered by the Iranian negotiators who stick resolutely to their red lines. And, in the process, the Obama administration is providing Iran and its proxy Hezbollah a measure of respectability in the eyes of the world by whitewashing their terrorism records in an official U.S. intelligence assessment document.

***

Dropping Iran and Hezbollah from Threat Assessment a Strategic Error (centerforsecuritypolicy.org)

It is surprising that Iran and Hezbollah were notably omitted from the list of terror threats inthis year’s Worldwide Threat Assessment. The reason for doing so is likely political, tied to negotiation over the Iranian nuclear program and in due to the Obama Administration’s view that Iran has a constructive role to play in the fight against Islamic State. However, both ideas are unsound; Iran can not be trusted, either to surrender its nuclear program nor as an ally against Islamic State.

Many have warned about further Iranian influence in Iraq, and General Petraeus noted to then-Defense Secretary Robert Gates in 2007 that Iran was seeking to expand influence over Iraq and challenge American power in the region. Such fears are not unfounded with the fact that Iran is backing most Shia militias in Iraq and the propensity for said militias to engage in brutal acts on Sunni Iraqis for the crime of simply being Sunni. Iranian support for anti-Islamic State actions in Iraq has been considerable, as seen in the retaking of Tikrit. No US support was requested in the operation, and two-thirds of the troops involved in the offensive to retake Tikrit were from Iranian-backed Shia militias. The head of Iran’s elite Quds Force, Major General Qasem Soleimani, is personally overseeing operations in Tikrit.

It is quite possible that Iran may itself be encouraging sectarian conflict in Iraq to drive the Iraqi Shia population to support an alliance with Iran to protect them from the Islamic State fundamentalist Sunni threat. This was done during the second Iraq War, when Iran gave weapons and funding to Al Qaeda in Iraq, Islamic State’s predecessor.

Now, recent reports suggest that terrorist organization Hezbollah will send 800 fighters toIraq in order to participate in a future counterattack against Islamic State in Mosul. Iran has already sent military forces to aid in the battle for Tikrit. Hezbollah’s entry in lieu of further direct Iranian military involvement are concerns from Sunni Arab Iraqis over having further Persian troops in country, and due to the similarity between the terrain of Lebanon with that of northern Iraq. Hezbollah previously had advisors in Iraq, but withdrew them after the Israeli military conducted a strike on a Hezbollah position in the Golan Heights this January.

While ignoring Iranian activity with terrorism, the Worldwide Threat Assessment Report did note that Iran’s nuclear and cyberwarfare programs had become quite advanced, citing the 2012-13 DDOS attacks on the financial sector and noting their recent attempts to develop ICBMs:

We continue to assess that Iran’s overarching strategic goals of enhancing its security, prestige, and regional influence have led it to pursue capabilities to meet its civilian goals and give it the ability to build missile – deliverable nuclear weapons, if it chooses to do so…We judge that Tehran would choose ballistic missiles as its preferred method of delivering nuclear weapons, if it builds them. Iran’s ballistic missiles are inherently capable of delivering WMD, and Tehran already has the largest inventory of ballistic missiles in the Middle East. Iran’s progress on space launch vehicles — along with its desire to deter the United States and its allies — provides Tehran with the means and motivation to develop longer – range missiles, including intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs).

The inclusion of Iran’s nuclear and cyber capabilities, while ignoring their regional strategy of using Islamist proxies and terrorists to advance their interests, which has played so successfully in Syria, Iraq, and Yemen, misses the forest for the trees, and provides additional evidence that the Obama administration does not understand the nature of the regime in Tehran.

Qods Force-Led Offensive Hits Wall in Tikrit as IA Gets Overrun in Thar Thar

tikritMarch 18, 2015 / /

As we’ve predicted, the IRGC-Qods Force-led offensive to retake Tikrit has stalled due to the mounting casualties the joint force has experienced during the operation – and they haven’t even entered the city yet. In our last piece on the Tikrit offensive (ISIS Digs-in For Battle of Tikrit as Sunni Populace is Targeted by Iran’s Proxies) we discussed how the Islamic State (IS) were implementing a similar defense strategy to what we encountered during the Second Battle of Fallujah and the USMC’s Operation Steel Curtain. In each instance we saw AQI (what IS was known as back then) lining the avenues of approach with IEDs and VBIEDs, with choke points created by destroying bridges and blocking streets in order to force the US Marines down specific routes. We’re seeing the same playbook being used here, only US Marines aren’t the ones conducting the operation – its the IRGC-Qods Force, their proxies and ISOF.

ISIS Digs-in For Battle of Tikrit as Sunni Populace is Targeted by Iran’s Proxies
http://isisstudygroup.com/?p=5559

The Tikrit Front: “Not so Rosy” as Claimed by Obama Administration
http://isisstudygroup.com/?p=5440

Qods Force-Led Assault Force Meets Heavy Resistance in Tikrit
http://isisstudygroup.com/?p=5352

Iraqi offensive for Tikrit stalls as casualties mount
http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/middle_east/iraqi-offensive-for-tikrit-stalls-as-islamic-state-inflicts-casualties/2015/03/16/258a6dec-cb58-11e4-8730-4f473416e759_story.html

Iraq halts Tikrit operation to limit losses of ‘heroic forces’
http://www.middleeasteye.net/news/iraq-halts-tikrit-operation-limit-losses-heroic-forces-861959426

reuters

Source: Associated Free Press

The assault force consists of over 25,000 that are broken down into the following: 19,850 Shia militia personnel, an estimated 150 IRGC-Qods Force operators and 2,000 pro-government tribal forces (which have lost over 20% of their personnel already). This leaves a small brigade-sized IA element of around 3,000 that consists of both ISOF and regular troops. This highlights the following issues that makes the success of the GOI’s long-term objectives unlikely:

1. The ISOF ranks are severely depleted from the high-rate of casualties they’ve experienced over the past year. ISOF personnel are highly-trained troops that can’t be quickly replaced like their regular IA counterparts, who receive a few weeks of the basics and might be able to properly fire and care for their weapon by the time they graduate. Another reason why ISOF are so important is that they usually don’t drop their weapons and flee for their lives. Due to the degradation of ISOF’s capabilities and manpower, a great deal of their tasks now fall on the Shia militias.

ISOF Commandos’ Admiration of their IRGC-Qods Force Embeds
http://isisstudygroup.com/?p=122

State of the Iraqi Air Force and Special Operations Forces
http://isisstudygroup.com/?p=69

The ones that are still alive openly display their admiration of their Qods Force “advisors” like the trooper in the pic below:

ISOF and ramazan

Source: The ISIS Study Group

2. The increasing reliance on the Shia militias is a red flag of ISOF’s degraded capabilities and the regular IA being effectively “tapped out” on personnel who are available to conduct offensive operations, with most IA units being dedicated to the static defense of Baghdad. Another issue that makes the IA achieving its goal of driving out IS from Tikrit, Bayji, the Zaab Triangle, Ramadi, Fallujah and Mosul is the fact that these Shia militias regularly target the Sunni civilian population – despite the fact that most are caught in the cross-hairs and not IS fighters themselves. The presence of Asaib al-Haq (AAH), Badr Corps and Kataib Sayyid al-Shuhada (KSS) means we can expect to see more villages burned into the ground and fighting-age males taken from their homes and tortured to death. In addition to GEN Suleimani being on the ground, so is AAH leader Qais al-Khazali:

BTW the video posted above shows that Khazali’s men were the ones that found the mass grave of the IA troops that were executed by IS, which also suggests that his men were the ones who burned down the village where the grave was found. Khazali’s presence is of particular concern due to this individual’s history of personally torturing Sunnis. If you want to know more about the Shia militias operating in the country, then check out the following articles:

The Hezbollah Presence in Iraq
http://isisstudygroup.com/?p=358

Iran’s Go-To Proxy Group in Iraq
http://isisstudygroup.com/?p=1480

qais

Qais al-Khazali
Source: voanews.com

3. IS had been fortifying Tikrit and the Zaab Triangle in anticipation of an offensive to retake Mosul. The reason is simple – IS can effectively launch attacks from Zaab, Tikrit and Bayji targeting the lines of communication (LOC) supplying the offensive and quite possibly even cut-off and isolate the force sent to retake Mosul from any reinforcements. This was the primary reason for GEN Suleimani launching the current offensive to retake Tikrit. That said, What happens in Tikrit will be a glimpse into what the future holds for the IA in the subsequent offensives that will have occur before anybody can even think of retaking Mosul. Even if Suleimani’s assault force manages to retake Tikrit, the losses they’ve sustained thus far and have yet to experience would lead to the Shia militias experience a degradation in capabilities and manpower that’s currently plaguing ISOF. Reporting from the ground are putting the casualty numbers at around 40-60 dead per day, with most of the fallen fighters coming from the pro-government tribal forces and Shia militias themselves. That doesn’t bode well for Team Iraq.

Screen Shot 2015-03-17 at 8.53.33 PM

GEN Suleimani: Willing to fight to the last man
Source: The ISIS Study Group

Further South in the Thar Thar-area, the IA’s 26th BDE HQ was overrun by IS late last week. The Thar Thar area is of great strategic importance to both the IA and IS as control of this location would enable the Salafists to launch attacks against government forces traveling between Baghdad, Samarra, Dujail, Taji and Balad. More importantly, this appears to be an attempt at cutting off the forces engaged in Tikrit from any resupply coming by ground from Baghdad or Samarra. Its also worth noting that IS had also recently executed 13 suicide attacks in Ramadi in order to blunt the clearing operations that are currently underway to relieve the pressure being exerted on al-Asad Airbase. Both attacks on the 26th BDE and inside Ramadi saw heavy foreign fighter involvement – some of which came from Australia.

Islamic State Overruns Iraqi Army Brigade Headquarters North of Fallujah
http://www.longwarjournal.org/archives/2015/03/islamic-state-overruns-iraqi-army-brigade-headquarters-north-of-fallujah.php

Foreign Suicide Bombers Launch Assault on Ramadi
http://www.longwarjournal.org/archives/2015/03/foreign-suicide-bombers-launch-assault-on-ramadi.php

Iraqi forces push into Tikrit, bombers hit Ramadi
http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/03/11/us-mideast-crisis-iraq-tirkit-idUSKBN0M713X20150311

Shia Militias Sent to Reinforce al-Asad Airbase – IA on Verge of Collapse
http://isisstudygroup.com/?p=2758

The Continuing Flow of Foreign Fighters From Australia
http://isisstudygroup.com/?p=2889

The Increasing Role of Aussie Jihadists in ISIS Efforts to Expand into Southeast Asia and Strike the West
http://isisstudygroup.com/?p=5388

australi

Abu Abdullah al-Australi, who has been identified as Australian citizen Jake Bilardi
Source: Long War Journal

In keeping with Ayatollah Khameini’s fatwa authorizing the total destruction of Tikrit, Saddam’s tomb has been destroyed and there are multiple reports of the surrounding villages being set ablaze. This will only galvanize the anti-Shia sentiments of the Sunni community (there are a lot of former Baathists who live in the area that were among the “elite” in the days of the former regime), with many of the “fence-sitters” likely choosing to side with anybody who defends them against the Qods Force and their proxies – even if it means being aligned with IS. The fact that the pro-government tribal forces are being used as little more than canon fodder for the Shia militias gives the Sunni populace even more reason to distrust the GOI. Worse, its abundantly clear that no matter how much makeup GEN Suleimani puts on this pig – its still a pig. What we mean by that is the IA simply isn’t ready for “prime time” and it probably never will be. Tikrit serves as a gauge to test the viability of an offensive to retake Mosul. Thus far, the Iraq front has proven to be every bit the war of attrition that we assessed it would be – which goes against the overly-optimistic views of the Obama administration.

GEN Suleimani has every intention to completely destroy Tikrit in order to “make an example” out of the population center in much the same way that the late-Hafiz al-Assad did with Hama when he snuffed out the Muslim Brotherhood in what became known in that part of the world as “Hama Rules.” The current pause in the operation possibly means heavier weapons will be brought in, such as Iranian-made Zelzal-3 missiles to shell the city. With losses mounting in this campaign before government forces even enter Tikrit and the KRG Peshmerga making the decision to fortify Kirkuk instead of continuing to clear the Zaab Triangle, we assess that any planned operation to retake Mosul would end in failure. Furthermore, resistance against the IA advance will only stiffen in the aftermath of this offensive, regardless of whether or not Suleimani’s forces can seize Tikrit. Only a few weeks ago GEN Dempsey said that it would “be a good thing” for Iran to take on a greater role in the Iraq front. Well, they are, and those words are coming back to haunt him…

Saddam Hussein’s tomb destroyed, but Babylon is safe as ISIS targets antiquity
http://www.cnn.com/2015/03/16/middleeast/iraq-isis-babylon-safe/

Links to Other Related Articles:

ISIS Shaping Operations Against IA Blunts Mosul OP Before it Starts

Incoherent Strategy Delays Mosul Offensive, Administration Touts Hashtag Victory

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

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

ISIS: Regained the Initiative in Northern Iraq

IRAN ASCENDANT

 RezaShrine

Philos Project, by Andrew Harrod, March 17, 2015:

Iran is now the rising power of the Middle East.

That’s what Hudson Institute scholar Michael Doran had to say on a February 20 panel commemorating a decade since the 2005 assassination of Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. While Sunni atrocities at the hands of ISIS have captured the world’s attention, Doran and his fellow panelists argued that the Iranian-led Shiite alliance now expanding in the region is actually a far greater threat.

Doran’s colleague Lee Smith opened the panel by noting that Hariri’s Hezbollah “murderers still walk free” while the Obama administration cooperates with the Hezbollah’s patron, the Islamic Republic of Iran.  He noted that Persian Iran currently dominates four Arab capitals in Lebanon, Iraq, Syria, and Yemen. Obama’s heavy focus on countering Sunni extremism “left the door open” to Iranian regional domination, Doran observed.

How is Iran making such tremendous gains? Doran described Iran’s “winning formula” of projecting its revolutionary power around the region through its Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), an organization that specializes in a mix of special operations, intelligence gathering, and aid distribution.  While the United States had difficulty channeling America’s “awesome power” during the 2006 Iraq war surge, the IRGC has successfully mounted similar operations all around the region. Doran pointed out that the Iranians “are just smarter than we are” in the Middle East, and are more willing “to kick you in the groin.” Meanwhile, Lebanese journalist Hussain Abdul Hussain recalled that the United States has “always been willing to bail” on allies, especially in his country.

What is the IRGC doing exactly? Foundation for the Defense of Democracies analyst Tony Badran explained that Iran’s export of revolution entails not so much the creation of a wider Islamic republic but the creation of a “militia movement…parallel to the state.”  This movement becomes an interlocutor with the outside world while also infiltrating existing state institutions. Take Hezbollah for example. Mythology notwithstanding, Hezbollah now effectively controls the Lebanese armed forces, once dominated by the country’s Christian population, and ensures that only an Iran-based policy will succeed in the country. The real power in Lebanon, Doran concurred, lies in militias like Hezbollah.

Badran explained how Iran wields Hezbollah, the “crown jewel” of the IRGC, as an “expeditionary force” around the region. Hussain elaborated that in this “Iranian era,” when states are collapsing everywhere, Syria’s dictator Bashir al-Assad has become an “Iranian viceroy” who is “totally dependent” upon Hezbollah.  Doran noted that the security sector in Iraq is now totally under the thumb of the Iranians, making that country’s elected officials almost irrelevant.

But Iran’s growing influence doesn’t stop at the borders of the Middle East. Doran also analyzed how Iranian influence prevented Obama from pursuing regime change in Syria despite consistent urgings from his National Security Council (NSC).  Overthrowing Assad could prompt Iranian-backed Shiite militias in Iraq to turn from fighting ISIS to fighting the Americans.  Iran might also cancel its nuclear nonproliferation agreement with the United States. Thus, it is Iranian red lines, not American ones, that are dictating America’s activity (or non-activity) in Syria.

The view from Israel is a complex one. Badran noted that Israeli policymakers are divided over whether ISIS or the Iranian coalition is the greater threat in Syria.  Therefore, the Israelis have refrained from attempting to shift Syria’s internal power balance. But if the Israelis did ultimately move against Assad, Doran felt “almost certain” that they would find themselves at loggerheads with the Obama administration.

Doran saw “only one choice” of American policy towards Iran — opposition and not accommodation — but worried about finding regional allies who would prove up to the task.  Who would stand against Iran? ISIS?  Talking about confronting Iran, Badran said, means “you really are talking about Israel” since the Gulf States are still too weak and disorganized to be taken seriously.

All hope is not lost, however. Doran emphasized that Americans “are a great power,” even though “we may not feel like it.” At any rate, we’re a “hell of a lot stronger” than Iran. Hussain considered “far-fetched” the prospect of two million Alawites under Assad in Syria and one million Shiites in Lebanon, only one-third the population, controlling these two countries as minorities.  Hezbollah, Badran observed, is “very small” with only about 5,000 fighters, 1,000 of whom are now dead after fighting in Syria.

Hussain considered the 2006 Iraq surge a “brilliant model” that could be applicable to Lebanon and Syria.  Aided by the US, Sunni tribes in these countries, as well as Shiite tribes in Lebanon opposed to Hezbollah, could confront Iranian alliance together. In the meantime, Hussain found Obama’s NSC so incompetent that he advocated abolishing it.

The Hudson Institute panel demonstrated once again that the West has many foes and few friends in the Middle East.  While the  Sunni jihadists of ISIS transfix the world with decapitations, an even more powerful Iranian-led Shiite alliance endangers the delicate balance of the region.  Trying to counter both of these threats at the same time presents numerous dilemmas, and inexperienced outsiders must beware the Middle East’s shifting political sands.

Also see:

Obama Removes Iran from Terror List, Praises it for Fighting Terrorism

obama-iran-450x286Frontpage, March 16, 2015 by Daniel Greenfield:

The mask is coming off faster than ever.

You know the country responsible for killing hundreds of marines, which provided sanctuary to Al Qaeda and whose terrorist proxies helped give Al Qaeda the skills to carry out 9/11?

They’re no longer terrorists. Sure their terrorist groups currently control parts of Lebanon and Yemen, but they’re not terrorists. Because if Iran was a state sponsor of terror, then Obama letting them have the bomb might look bad. This way it’s fine.

An annual report delivered recently to the US Senate by James Clapper, the director of National Intelligence, removed Iran and Hezbollah from its list of terrorism threats, after years in which they featured in similar reports

In describing Iran’s regional role, the report noted the Islamic Republic’s “intentions to dampen sectarianism, build responsive partners, and deescalate tensions with Saudi Arabia,” but cautioned that “Iranian leaders—particularly within the security services—are pursuing policies with negative secondary consequences for regional stability and potentially for Iran.

The only time the report mentions Hezbollah is when describing it as a victim of attacks.

Lebanon faces growing threats from terrorist groups, including the al-Nusrah Front and ISIL. Sunni extremists are trying to establish networks in Lebanon and have increased attacks against Lebanese army and Hizballah positions along the Lebanese-Syrian border. Lebanon potentially faces a protracted conflict in northern and eastern parts of the country from extremist groups seeking to seize Lebanese territory, supplies, and hostages.

That clarifies that Obama no longer considers Hezbollah an enemy (not that he ever did). Instead it’s an ally that is classed together with Lebanon, rather than a threat to it.

Here’s what Obama chose to turn his back on.

“The worst part for me is that nobody remembers,” Mark Nevells said last year on the anniversary of the Hezbollah bombing of the Marine barracks in Beirut.

A Marine had thrown his body in front of the truck to try stop the vehicle and afterward for five days, Nevells and other Marines had dug through the rubble for the bodies of the men they had served with.

One of the first Marines on the scene heard voices coming from underneath the rubble. “Get us out. Don’t leave us.”

The Marines lost more people that day than at any time since Iwo Jima and the number of Americans murdered that day by a terrorist group was a record that would stand until September 11.

And more of it still.

The Marines who died in the bombing were lucky. Another Marine did not die as quickly.

Colonel William R. Higgins was captured by Hezbollah, the terrorist group acting as Iran’s hand in Lebanon, and tortured for months until his body was dumped near a mosque.

An autopsy report found that he had been starved and had suffered multiple lethal injuries that could have caused his death.  The skin on his face had been partially removed along with his tongue and he had also been castrated.

Fred Hof, a diplomat who had been a friend of the murdered man, said, “I am one of a small handful of Americans who knows the exact manner of Rich’s death. If I were to describe it to you now – which I will not – I can guarantee that a significant number of people in this room would become physically ill.”

Like Higgins, William Francis Buckley, the CIA station chief, was also captured and tortured for months. On video tapes released by his Hezbollah captors, he was incoherent and his mind had been broken by the horrors inflicted on his ravaged body and his soul.

“They had done more than ruin his body,” CIA Director William Casey said. “His eyes made it clear his mind had been played with. It was horrific, medieval and barbarous”

Robert Stethem, a Navy diver, was brutally murdered when Hezbollah terrorists took over TWA flight 847. The Iranian-backed terrorists, one of whom was Imad Mughniyah, beat and kicked him to death.

“They were jumping in the air and landing full force on his body. He must have had all his ribs broken,” Uli Derickson, the stewardess, described. “I was sitting only 15 feet away. I couldn’t listen to it. I put my fingers in my ears. I will never forget. I could still hear. They put the mike up to his face so his screams could be heard by the outside world.”

Obama wants you to believe that the 47 Senators who stood up to him on Iran are traitors. The truth is he’s the traitor.

Also see:

What Are You Really Willing to Do to Stop Terrorists From Entering the U.S.?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFrontpage, March 5, 2015 by Michael Cutler:

The question that serves as the title of my commentary today is the question every American, irrespective of political affiliation, must ask their elected senators and congressional representatives.

For all too many of our leaders, while they claim that they would stop at nothing to protect America and Americans, the reality is far different. Despite their claims to the contrary, they will not do anything to truly secure our borders or instill real integrity to the immigration system or the process by which applications for visas or immigration benefits are adjudicated.

This is the dire reality our nation and our citizens face today.

My article today will provide crystal clear evidence that our immigration system has no integrity and that this lack of integrity threatens the survival of our nation and our citizens and that nothing being proposed under the aegis of Comprehensive Immigration Reform will address these deadly vulnerabilities.

The importance of the question about what would our leaders be willing to do to prevent the entry and embedding of terrorists and the issue of terrorism came into sharp focus during the stirring and powerful speech given by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on March 3, 2015 when he addressed a joint session of the U.S. Congress to voice his extreme concerns about what the sponsorship of terrorism by Iran not only means for Israel but for the United States as well. Indeed, during his remarks the Prime Minister referred to the unsuccessful attempts, over three years ago, by Iranian-backed terrorists to bomb the Saudi Embassy in Washington, DC and kill the Saudi ambassador. The Israeli embassy in our Capitol was also a potential bombing target for those terrorists.

On March 21, 2012 the House Committee on Homeland Security that was then chaired by New York Congressman Peter King conducted a hearing into these planned operations. The topic of the hearing was, “Iran, Hezbollah, and the Threat to the Homeland.”

The same day as that hearing, the Huffington Post published a report about that hearing, “Peter King: Iran May Have ‘Hundreds’ Of Hezbollah Agents In U.S.”

Here is an excerpt from that news report:

“As Iran moves closer to nuclear weapons and there is increasing concern over war between Iran and Israel, we must also focus on Iran’s secret operatives and their number one terrorist proxy force, Hezbollah, which we know is in America,” said New York Rep. Peter King at a Wednesday hearing of his committee.

The hearing, which featured former government officials and the director of intelligence analysis for the New York Police Department, follows afoiled plot to assassinate the Saudi ambassador in Washington, D.C., and testimony by Director of National Intelligence James Clapper in late January that Iran’s leaders are “more willing to conduct an attack inside the United States in response to real or perceived U.S. actions that threaten the regime.”

On April 21, 2010 the Washington Times published a disturbing report, “Iran boosts Qods shock troops in Venezuela,” predicated on a Pentagon report to Congress on Iran’s military operations in Latin America. Here is an excerpt:

The report gives no details on the activities of the Iranians in Venezuela and Latin America. Iranian-backed terrorists have conducted few attacks in the region. However, U.S. intelligence officials say Qods operatives are developing networks of terrorists in the region who could be called to attack the United States in the event of a conflict over Iran’s nuclear program.

On May 30, 2013 UPI posted a report, “Immigrant allegedly failed to reveal Hezbollah membership.”

Here is an excerpt from this report:

Wissam Allouche, 44, who became a citizen in 2009, was arrested last week by the FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force, the San Antonio Express-News reported Thursday. He has also been charged with failing to reveal membership in Hezbollah, the Lebanese militant group classified as terrorist by the U.S. government, when he sought a security clearance.

A federal judge ordered Allouche held without bail after a hearing Wednesday.

Allouche has lived in the United States for more than a decade. His attorney, Cynthia Orr, said he owned a gas station at one point.

Allouche formerly worked for L3 Communications, a military contractor that supplies interpreters and translators. He spent several months with the company in Iraq.

It is inconceivable that any politician would not want to prevent terrorists from entering the United States and launching deadly terrorist attacks. However, the failures of our immigration system undeniably enable international terrorists to enter the United States and, indeed, facilitates their ability to hide in plain sight and embed themselves in communities across our nation as they go about their deadly preparations to launch an attack.

There is nothing in any proposed legislation that addresses or remedies these critical failures in the immigration system.

Read more 

The U.S. Anti-ISIS Strategy’s True Cost

 

Rubin CenterMARCH 2, 2015 BY AYMENN JAWAD AL-TAMIMI:

On Monday the Iraqi military launched its largest operation to date against the self-declared Islamic State (IS), also called ISIS, to retake control of the city of Tikrit. Alongside the Iraqi military the coalition fighting IS in Tikrit includes Kurdish and Sunni tribal forces, but it leans heavily on Iranian backed Shia militias and reportedly includes a contingent from Iran’s revolutionary guard. The urgent question now as the battle against IS intensifies is whether any US policy to defeat IS in Iraq can achieve its aim without ceding the country as a base for Iranian expansionism.

Critics who regard President Obama’s regional policy as aiming for a grand détente with Iran have frequently argued that the current approach undermines attempts to counter IS. The bargain for making a deal with Iran, these critics say, has allowed Iran a free hand to assert dominance in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Yemen.

Exhibit A for this line of thinking is Iran’s cultivation of proxy militias in Iraq, principally in the Badr Organization, Kata’ib Hezbollah and Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq, These militias have not just been active on the frontlines in Iraq but also have arguably played the leading role in all major offensives to retake territory from IS, with Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corp figure Qassem Suleimani helping to direct operations.

The Badr Organization in particular, with its control of the Interior Ministry, seems poised to become Iraq’s version of Hezbollah. Last fall, the group launched ‘Operation Ashura‘ to clear out Jurf al-Sakhr to the south of Baghdad. Under Suleimani’s guidance, the operation employed a successful strategy of amassing vast militia manpower operating under cover of U.S. airpower.

A virtually identical tactic is now being implemented in the offensive to capture Tikrit except this time with Iraqi fighter jets taking the place of U.S. airpower.

Since these proxy militias frequently engage in ethnic cleansing against Sunnis and answer directly to Iran, they bolster IS’ narrative that it is defending Sunnis against a sectarian government, arguably undermining any attempt to roll back IS. Besides, reflecting Iran’s own anti-American ideology, they also promote a narrative that the U.S. is behind the IS phenomenon, further undermining U.S. influence in Iraq to the benefit of Iranian expansionism.

There is much to be said in favour of these arguments. Since the fall of Mosul to IS in June 2014 and the call to arms issued by Iraq’s most senior Shi’a cleric Ayatollah Sistani, militias that are ideologically aligned with Iran (‘Khomeinist’) if not actual proxies have proliferated most, with many new brands emerging beyond the three mentioned above. A considerable degree of overlap exists between these new groups. For instance, one commander I interviewed is simultaneously involved with two recognizably Khomeinist militias: Kata’ib al-Imam al-Gha’ib (a ‘Hezbollah’ brand) and the Mujahideen of Iraq Brigade, the ‘military wing’ of the Nasrallah Islamic Movement (named after Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah).

Beyond the question of Iranian influence, those who defend the ‘Popular Mobilization’ trend as a military necessity tend to downplay the more general negative consequences of militiafication. There is little reason to accept former U.S. defence official Douglas Ollivant’s contention that the militias “will either return home or be regularized by the central government in some way” once the IS threat is dealt with. Militias also create an atmosphere of lawlessness and criminality regardless of the sectarian issue. Indeed, some of the militias themselves have acknowledged the problem of kidnappings and stealing in their name, including a Khomeinist militia known as Kata’ib Ruh Allah.

The complaints about Iran’s expanding influence in Iraq are valid but they raise an important question that has yet to be answered. How exactly do you curb Iranian influence at this stage when its forces dominate in Iraq? The usual line here is to say that the U.S. needs to stop abetting the Iranian proxies through airstrikes and arms provisions to the Iraqi government. But going back even conditionally on these measures simply creates a bigger military vacuum for Iran to fill. At the same time, Iranian proxies are undoubtedly spearheading most new offensives by government forces against IS and at least some of the new weapons shipments intended for Iraqi security forces are likely to end up in the hands of Iranian proxies.

One also hears calls for new U.S. engagement in Iraq, but there is no honesty about the scale of commitment that would be required. If the goal is to rebuild Iraq’s conventional security forces as an alternative to the militias, then the reality is that there will have to be tens of thousands of ground troops, deployed for a number of years and not only willing to train these new forces but coordinating with them in combat missions. Yet even such a massive commitment—tried once before in recent memory—has no guarantee of success. Such an approach is also politically unfeasible due to American war weariness and scepticism of any mission with shifting goalposts. Further, a large-scale American ground presence risks fuelling further support for IS, the possibility of infiltration of rebuilt army brigades by the Iranian proxies, and open warfare between the proxies and U.S. troops.

Notions that the U.S. should focus only on cultivating Kurdish and Sunni allies are also unrealistic. Kurdish forces alone are unable to dislodge IS from its main strongholds, and Sunni locals have good reason for concerns about treatment at the hands of Kurdish forces.

The strategy employed during the last US war in Iraq, employing Sunni tribal groups to lead the fight against IS, has its own problems.

With supposed Sunni allies, the biggest question remains of who is out there for the U.S. to approach.

Sunni insurgent actors like the Ba’athist Naqshbandi Army find themselves severely weakened, having lost out to IS in all major towns and cities outside of government control. Local Sunni forces that are actively pushing back against IS in Iraq’s Anbar province are in fact already working with the Iraqi government and the militias but have been unable to dislodge the group.

On the political axis, Sunni politicians are more lacking in credibility among their constituents than ever.

Simply put, there are no viable ‘third-way’ Sunni actors who reject both the government and IS.

Concern has been expressed that the U.S. ‘risks’ losing Iraq to Iran in the fight against IS, but it is probably more accurate to say the U.S. has already lost Iraq to Iran. No good options seem to exist, and the expansion of Iran’s sphere of influence may well have to be accepted as an inevitable consequence of the original decision to invade Iraq and remove Saddam’s regime from power.

(Update: Provision of U.S. airpower in Tikrit offensive denied by Pentagon. Re. ‘Kurdish forces’ in piece above: symbolic representation via ISOF contingent).

Also see:

****

They say that the Arab world moves with the “politics of the wind”. I think we can see which way that hot wind is blowing:

Iraqi Shiite Militia Leader: Give Me a Month, and I Will Make ISIS Terrorists Wear Women’s Clothing

World View: Reports Indicate Egypt, Italy, Russia Planning Military Action in Libya

Reuters

Reuters

Breitbart, by JOHN J. XENAKIS, March 1, 2015:

This morning’s key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

  • Reports indicate Egypt, Italy, Russia planning military action in Libya
  • Egypt court declares Hamas to be a terrorist organization
  • Egypt and Turkey may try to create a ‘Sunni front’ with Saudi Arabia

Reports indicate Egypt, Italy, Russia planning military action in Libya

Russian warships in the Mediterranean (Russia Today)
Russian warships in the Mediterranean (Russia Today)

Various unconfirmed reports are emerging indicating that there may be joint international action planned in Libya as early as next week.

Egypt is already conducting air strikes against ISIS-linked targets in Derna, close to where Egyptian Coptics were massacred recently, as displayed in a gruesome video. Debka reports that Egypt’s president Abdel al-Fattah al-Sisi is planning further action in Libya, including more air strikes and possible ground troops, within a few days. According to the report, Egyptian commando and marine forces are preparing for sea landings to seize Derna and destroy the terrorist elements there. If this attack is actually launched, it will be the first time in modern times that an Arab country has sent ground forces into another Arab country.

Al-Jazeera television reports that the Italian navy is getting ready to carry off sophisticated military drills off the coast of Libya as early as Monday. Although Italy claims that it will be a regular exercise, there are many more vessels taking part in this year’s exercise than have in the past, which Italy explains by saying that they are testing out sophisticated new technologies.

There are several reasons why Italy is pursuing this show of force:

  • Italy considers the flood of migrants from Libya into Italy to be an existential threat to Italy itself, because there may be ISIS-trained terrorists smuggled in, along with the other migrants. Italy may be planning some kind of military action in Libya in conjunction with Egypt’s air strikes and other operations.
  • The GreenStream pipeline is a gas pipeline running underneath the Mediterranan Sea from Libya to Sicily. The pipeline is vital to economic relations between Italy and Libya. In recent months, there have been attacks by gunmen on oil installations in Libya, forcing some ports to shut down. The new show of naval force may be related to threats of attack or sabotage on the pipeline.
  • For over a year, Italy ran a search and rescue program called “Mare Nostrum” (“Our Sea”) that saved the lives of thousands of migrants attempting to travel from Libya to Italy. This program required Italian naval vessels near the Libyan coast. In November, the program ended and an EU program called Triton replaced it, but Triton restricts its operations to only 30 miles off the Italian coast. Triton has been considered unsatisfactory because many more migrants are drowning. Italy’s new show of naval force may be an attempt to restore a portion of the Mare Nostrum program.
  • Related to the last point, on Saturday there were large demonstrations in Rome by Italy’s anti-immigrant Northern League party for the government to do more to keep immigrants out. The naval show of force may help to mollify the protestors.

Some reports indicate that Russia has hinted at a willingness to participate in a naval blockade of Libya to prevent arm supplies from leaving Libya for other countries. Russia could play a role in this because it already has a naval fleet in the Mediterranean.

These are all unconfirmed reports of possible military action in Libya by Egypt, Italy and Russia. There are no reports of possible participation by Nato or the United States. Debkaand Cairo Post

Egypt court declares Hamas to be a terrorist organization

Egypt on Saturday became the first Arab country to name Hamas as a terrorist organization. The U.S. and the European Union have named Hamas as a terror group. An EU court took Hamas off the list in December 2014, ruling that the designation was not based on solid legal evidence, but the EU is appealing the court’s decision.

According to a decision on Saturday from the Cairo Court for Urgent Matters:

It has been proven without any doubt that the movement has committed acts of sabotage, assassinations and the killing of innocent civilians and members of the armed forces and police in Egypt.

It has been also ascertained with documents that [Hamas] has carried out bombings that have taken lives and destroyed institutions and targeted civilians and the armed forces personnel. It has also been ascertained that this movement works for the interests of the terrorist Brotherhood organization [which Egypt has already declared to be a terrorist organization].

About a month ago, the same court declared Hamas’s military wing, Al-Qassam Brigades, to be a terrorist organization. Saturday’s ruling makes the political wing a terrorist organization as well.

A Hamas spokesman denied all the charges and said that the ruling was “dangerous”:

History has recorded Egypt’s support to national liberty movements in the Arab world and Africa, particularly in Palestine. … This ruling serves the Israeli occupation. It’s a politicized decision that constitutes the beginning of Egypt evading its role toward the Palestinian cause. This is a coup against history and an Egyptian abuse of the Palestinian cause and resistance, which fights on behalf of the Arab nation. We call on Egypt to reconsider this dangerous decision.

Al Jazeera and Al Ahram (Cairo) and CS Monitor and Al Resalah (Palestine)

Egypt and Turkey may try to create a ‘Sunni front’ with Saudi Arabia

By coincidence or by planning, the presidents of both Egypt and Turkey will be in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, this week. Egypt’s Abdel al-Fattah al-Sisi and Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan will both be visiting King Salman bin Abdulaziz al Saud, the new king of Saudi Arabia, who has replaced King Abdullah, who died last month.

It is not known whether Erdogan will ever be in the same room as al-Sisi. The two have been bitter enemies ever since a coup by al-Sisi ousted Egypt’s elected president Mohamed Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood government in 2013, and later declared MB to be a terrorist organization. Erdogan’s own political party, the AKP, is an Islamist party like the Muslim Brotherhood, and they had good relations while Morsi was in power.

There has been some speculation that King Salman is going to completely reverse King Abdullah’s policy on the Muslim Brotherhood. Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates (UAE) had branded MB as a terrorist organization, but some are wondering if Salman is going to shift from that policy. The Saudi foreign minister recently said that his government has “no problem with the Muslim Brotherhood; our problem is with a small group affiliated to the organization,” suggesting that shift is in the works.

Other problems make an Egypt-Turkey rapprochement unlikely: Erdogan vitriolicly hates Israel and supports Hamas. Al-Sisi vitriolicly hates Hamas and works closely with Israel on military matters, especially in North Sinai. It does n0t seem likely that any meeting, if one even occurs, will be pleasant.

If King Salman is able to pull off a miracle and mediate a new relationship between Egypt and Turkey, then it would appear to be the establishment of a new “Sunni front” in the Mideast, to oppose Iran, Hezbollah and the regime of Bashar al-Assad in Syria. Al Arabiya and Kurdistan and Arab Times

Iran’s Expansive Role In The Middle East And Latin America, And The Nuclear Negotiations

333893762CSP, by Nancy Menges Luis Fleischman, Feb. 26, 2015:

As negotiations move forward on a nuclear arms agreement with the Islamic Republic of Iran, the United States along with the P5+1 appears to be oblivious to activities of Iran in the Western Hemisphere and other regions of the world.

In the Middle East, Iran has most recently supported insurgencies in both Bahrain and Yemen. The pro-Iranian Houthis just overthrew the American backed government in Yemen which we were working with on terrorism related issues.

In Syria, Iran and its proxy, Hezbollah, continue to support the Bashar Al Assad regime with Hezbollah fighting together with Assad’s forces. So far 200,000 people have been killed in Syria with millions dispersed in refugee camps in Jordan and Turkey. Hezbollah now has a perfect excuse to be involved in supporting Assad by invoking the need to defeat the bloody Islamic State. Hezbollah may think that this card could play well in the West which is trying to avoid direct intervention to defeat ISIS and would prefer that local forces to do the fighting.

In Iraq, hundreds of thousands of young Shiites are fighting as part of Iranian-backed militias, with a Shiite sectarian orientation likely to aggravate the sectarian strife prevailing in the country. These militias outnumber the Iraqi security forces, and in addition members of the Iranian revolutionary guards, the pro-Iranian Badr organization, and the pro-Iran Katain Hezbollah are heavily involved, mostly operating outside of Iraqi government control.

In Latin America ever since the election of the late Hugo Chavez to the presidency of Venezuela in 1998, Iran has become more embedded in the region in an effort to spread its influence. Several episodes and activities are illustrative of this point.

A few years ago the late Argentinean prosecutor, Alberto Nisman reported in a 500 page document the presence of Iranian and Hezbollah cells in twelve countries in South America.

For at least ten years if not longer, there have been direct airline flights from Caracas to Tehran. Though these are commercial airlines no passengers are allowed and no one seems to know the cargo they carry but it is believed that weapons and members of Hezbollah or the Iranian Revolutionary Guards might be on those flights. Hezbollah has reportedly trained Venezuelan and other guerillas and has strengthened relations with a number of revolutionary regimes in the region. Likewise, tunnels built across the Mexican-American border are akin to those built by Hezbollah along the Israeli/Lebanese border.

In 2011, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder accused the Iranian Quds Force of plotting to assassinate the Saudi Ambassador to the United States. Though Iran vehemently denied complicity, the American government pointed to high officials in the Iranian hierarchy with having approved the plan.

Another Iranian activity that goes largely unnoticed is Iran’s outreach to several small Caribbean nations. In return for financial assistance, these nations have issued passports to Iranian citizens who wish to enter the United States but could not do so using their Iranian passports. Venezuela and a number of other countries connected directly or indirectly to ALBA countries are providing passports to Iranians. One of those holding such a passport is Moshen Rabbani, the man believed to be behind the terrorist attacks against the Argentinean Jewish Community Center (AMIA) in 1994.

Iran has also been the recipient of uranium from Venezuela.

Most recently the government of Uruguay confirmed that an Iranian diplomat left the country after Uruguayan security suspected him of collecting intelligence about the Israeli embassy in Montevideo.

The diplomat was thought to have placed an explosive device near the Israeli embassy early in January. The device was not particularly powerful but investigations carried out by Uruguayan intelligence indicated the possibility of Iran’s involvement in this serious incident. It was not clear to the authorities whether the device was intended to do harm or was just testing their ability to respond.

But what is astonishing about this story is that two months earlier another incident occurred which was intentionally kept out of the public eye by the Uruguayan government. Indeed, on November 24, somebody placed a suitcase near the building that belonged to the old Israeli embassy in Montevideo. Although the suitcase was empty, cameras located a car belonging to the Iranian embassy nearby. Inside there was a man that the police could not identify immediately but it was assumed he was an Iranian diplomat. The police concluded that the empty suitcase was aimed at testing Uruguayan security forces’ ability to respond.

The Uruguayan government apparently decided to expel the diplomat, who himself, is an appointee of the former Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. That appointee was a vocal anti-Semite, a Holocaust denier and apparently served as a translator in the conversations between Ahmadinejad and the late Venezuelan president, Hugo Chavez. Furthermore, the man was reportedly working in Uruguay with Muslim converts that have been activists in a radical left wing party. These individuals could well have been potential candidates for terrorist recruitment; an activity Iran has been systematically performing.

Interestingly enough, Uruguay has been and is a friendly country towards Iran (without being a close ally like Venezuela and the other ALBA countries). Uruguay’s outgoing president, Jose Mujica, declared in the past that his country would pursue relations with Iran because it is good and convenient for the country. The Uruguayan foreign minister Luis Almagro was a commercial attaché in Teheran for about five years and under his watch commercial relations between the two countries flourished. Likewise, a Uruguayan parliamentary delegation visited Teheran to strengthen relations and Almagro himself defined Uruguay and Iran as “two countries that fight against injustice and oppression”. (Almagro is the most likely candidate to be the next Secretary General of the Organization of American States).

The incident in Uruguay is another instance where Iran once again displays its nature as a terrorist entity that does not hesitate in using its embassies and the good faith of the host countries to apply its lethal methods. This is what Iran did in Argentina previous to the two deadly terrorist attacks against the Israeli Embassy and the Jewish community center.

Why shouldn’t Iran be doing so if there is no demand for Iran to stop supporting and encouraging terrorism? After all, a year ago Argentina signed a memorandum with Iran where representatives from that country would be part of the investigation into a terrorist attack where Iran remains the main suspect. By the same token, the chief investigator of the terrorist attack, Mr. Nisman, is dead because he dared to investigate a suspected cover up by the Argentinean government-a government that allegedly wanted to exonerate Iran.

Furthermore, the Argentinean foreign minister Hector Timerman summoned the American and Israeli Ambassadors and asked that these two countries stop meddling in Argentinean internal affairs and stop bringing Middle East conflicts to Argentina. The irony of this statement is that Iran chose Argentina as the target of its’ own intense hatred and violence.

Iranians probably laugh at these events where they are being given a pass over and over again. So, the fact that Iranians may have considered an attack on the Israeli Embassy in a country that is friendly to them such as Uruguay shows the ruthless nature of the regime and how little relations or agreements mean to them.

The negotiations between Iran and the P 5 +1 are mainly focused on Iran’s nuclear program. Thus, Iran is treated as a partner in a negotiation over a specific issue but Iran’s terrorist and treacherous nature is not a factor being considered in this equation.

At this point the U.S. strategy could well be to try to reach an agreement with Iran where the latter would be allowed to enrich uranium at a low level. However, there could be a possibility that if Iran decides to develop nuclear weapons, it could take the Iranians a short time to develop them from the moment they make the decision to do so.

The examples of Iran’s activities show several negative signs. First, if Iran can betray friendly countries like Uruguay, why wouldn’t it betray the P5+1? Likewise, what makes us think that we can live with a terrorist subversive Iran that not only has good chances of having a dominant role in a post-ISIS Syria and Iraq but also expands its influence and activities beyond the Middle East including regions as far as Latin America (from where Iran can strike the U.S. via a terrorist attack or by placing missiles in friendly countries such as Venezuela or Nicaragua)?

Iran presents a very complex challenge. Iran’s non –nuclear, threat is not being discussed, nor considered. This possible nuclear arms agreement should not be treated, as if it were something comparable to a commercial transaction. After all, as a nation state, Iran for the last thirty five years has been the foremost exporter of terrorism.. As the United States along with the P5+1 continues with its negotiations with Iran, they might question whether as a non-nuclear power, Iran presents a threat to world peace and stability and if so how will that play out once they were to become a nuclear power.

Muslim Leader Who Called Israel a ‘Suspect’ After 9/11 Meets with Biden at White House

Vice President Joe Biden at the White House's Countering Violent Extremism summit / AP

Vice President Joe Biden at the White House’s Countering Violent Extremism summit / AP

Washington Free Beacon, by Adam Kredo, Feb. 18, 2015:

A controversial U.S. Muslim leader who has been highly critical of Israel and said that the Jewish state should be on the “suspect list” in the wake of the 9/11 terror attacks participated on Tuesday in a White House summit on Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) that featured Vice President Joe Biden.

Salam Al-Marayati, founder of the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC), tweeted out a photo of himself at the White House with Biden and bragged, “We joined VP @JoeBiden for a discussion at the @WhiteHouse #CVESummit which kicked off today.”

Al-Marayati has been viewed as a controversial figure due to past statements characterized by his critics as anti-Israel and soft on terrorism.

The White House CVE Summit, a three-day forum focused on countering radical extremism, comes in the wake of multiple anti-Semitic attacks across the globe and pressure for an increased military campaign against the Islamic State (IS) terror group.

The Investigative Project on Terrorism (IPT) released a detailed fact sheet that contained scores of controversial statements attributed to al-Marayati.

One of his more controversial proclamations came in the wake of 9/11, when al-Marayati pointed a finger at Israel.

“If we’re going to look at suspects [for 9/11], we should look to the groups that benefit the most from these kinds of incidents, and I think we should put the state of Israel on the suspect list because I think this diverts attention from what’s happening in the Palestinian territories so that they can go on with their aggression and occupation and apartheid policies,” he said in a radio interview shortly after the attacks in 2001, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Al-Marayati also caused controversy in 2012, when he was selected by the Obama administration to represent the United States government at a human rights conference sponsored by the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE).

Despite his past rhetoric, the State Department defended the selection of al-Marayati when contacted by the Free Beacon at the time.

Al-Marayati also has accused Israel of using the Holocaust to justify its security measures against the Palestinians.

“We’re against Holocaust denial, but we’re also against people who exploit that as a way of shoving this kind of war propaganda and dehumanization of the Arab peoples and the Muslim peoples as if they have to pay the price for what Nazi Germany did to the Jews back in the 20th century,” he said in a 2006 radio interview cited by the IPT in its fact sheet.

Following the deadly 2001 attack on a pizza shop in Jerusalem that killed 15 Israelis and wounded many others, al-Marayati’s MPAC group released a statement claiming that the act of terrorism was “the expected bitter result of the reckless policy of Israeli assassination that did not spare children and political figures.”

In 2012, he accused the United States of doing “dirty work” on Israel’s behalf, according to IPT.

“The other point here, which is very important historically, the United States has done a lot of dirty work that has served the interests of Israel,” al-Marayati said during a debate on the Russian-government controlled RT. “It destroyed Iraq. It supported the destruction and crippling of Egypt. It has crippled the Gulf.

“And now, it is looking to Iran as the next target for crippling and destroying,” he continued. “I think this is madness. Who is driving our foreign policy? President Obama or Prime Minister Netanyahu?”

He also has described attacks by the U.S.-designated terror group Hezbollah as a form of legitimate resistance.

“If the Lebanese people are resisting Israeli intransigence on Lebanese soil, then that is the right of resistance and they have the right to target Israeli soldiers in this conflict,” al-Marayati said during a 1999 interview on PBS. “That is not terrorism. That is a legitimate resistance.”

“That could be called liberation movement [sic], that could be called anything, but it’s not terrorism,” he added.

Al-Marayati’s group, MPAC, has been condemned by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) for spreading blood libels about Israel harvesting the organs of Palestinians, according to past statements.

Spokesmen for the White House’s National Security Council (NSC) did not immediately respond to requests for comment on al-Marayati and why he was included in the CVE Summit.

“Al-Marayati’s presence at the Countering Violent Extremism Summit tells us everything we need to know about the failure of the Obama Administration to devise an effective counter-terrorism strategy,” said Kyle Shideler, director of The Threat Information Office (TIO) at the Center for Security Policy “Here’s a man who just days after 9/11 said we ought to be investigating whether the attack was carried out by Israel, and has a history of apologizing for terror.”

“If this is the kind of outreach partner that President Obama believes cities nationwide should be seeking out, then we’re better off not doing outreach at all, and returning to good old fashion police and intelligence work,” Shideler said.

When contacted for comment about MPAC’s participation in the summit, al-Marayati dismissed his critics and said they are harping on statements from more than a decade ago.

“That was 15 years ago,” he said by email. “Our [MPAC’s] track record is strong on anti terrorism. I work with local Jewish leaders including Rabbi Abraham Cooper of the Simon Wiesenthal Center. It’s time to move on and work together to counter ISIS.”

Al-Marayati and MPAC were asked to participate in the summit due to its work with a CVE initiative called Safe Spaces, “which has been lauded by local law enforcement in LA,” he said.

“LAPD first told me and asked that I attend because of the local work in LA,” he said. “I’m also working on preventing young people from becoming foreign fighters on a task force with the Homeland Security Advisory Council.”

Other al-Marayati critics, such as Patrick Poole, a national security reporter and terrorism expert, said that his presence at the summit “speaks to how much of a farce” it is.

“This is exactly why he [al-Marayati] was thrown off the Gore Terrorism Commission back in the late 1990s,” Poole said. “It speaks to how much a farce this White House summit is that in the face of an escalating global jihadist threat they rehabilitate a character like Marayati.”

President Obama’s Yemen “Success” Story

February 13, 2015 / /

True to form, we have yet another Obama “foreign policy success story” end in total failure. Yes, Yemen has been a failure for some time, but the recent closure of the US, UK and French embassies is the exclamation point. There are also some reports of the US Embassy security detail turning over their heavy weapons (they were able to keep personal weapons) to the Houthis, although we’ve also heard that they actually destroyed the crew-served weaponry instead of actually turning them over to the Iranian proxies. AQAP has dramatically increased their activity in Sanaa. In the southern part of the country, the Islamic state (IS) effort to establish a permanent foothold in the southern part of the country is fully underway. Several southern factions have begun aligning themselves with AQAP or IS.

U.S., UK and France pull embassy staffers out of Yemen

http://edition.cnn.com/2015/02/10/middleeast/yemen-unrest/index.html

Marines provide new details about Yemen evacuation

http://www.marinecorpstimes.com/story/military/pentagon/2015/02/12/marines-new-details-yemen-evacuation/23281977/

Yemen in Chaos: Portrait of an Obama “Success Story”

http://nation.foxnews.com/2015/02/12/yemen-chaos-portrait-obama-success-story

The Islamic State’s Arabian Peninsula Campaign

http://isisstudygroup.com/?p=4558

AQAP Steps Up Attacks in Yemen

http://isisstudygroup.com/?p=3771

AQAP vs. Shia Proxy Fighting Intensifies

http://isisstudygroup.com/?p=2972

Screen Shot 2015-02-12 at 7.46.33 PM

One of those Houthi checkpoints we’ve talked about in previous articles.
Source: CNN

Sunnis in Southern Yemen are more likely to secede now than at any other time since the civil war of the 1990s. As a whole, the Yemeni Army also has factions supporting the Houthis and former President Salih. When the real battle is initiated (and it will happen), we expect the fight will result in a stalemate. Defense Minister Mahmoud al-Subayhi remains trapped in the capital, but maintains the loyalty of most Southern military units. We assess that at least two brigades and several independent battalions are in the Aden-area. However, these southern forces will likely run into severe logistical problems (which were never good to begin with across the board) due to the Defense Ministry’s centralized control of ammo, fuel and money in Houthi-occupied Sanaa. The Saudis will likely to provide financial, political and possibly military assistance to these factions. AQAP has taken advantage of today’s chaos to seize control of the Yemen Army’s 19th BDE in the Southeastern Province of Shabwa.

Al-Qaida fighters capture headquarters of Yemeni Army brigade

http://www.i24news.tv/en/news/international/middle-east/60896-150212-al-qaeda-fighters-capture-headquarters-of-yemeni-army-brigade

AQAP Claims Responsibility For Attack on Iran’s Ambassador to Yemen

http://isisstudygroup.com/?p=3476

houthi44

Source: Albawaba News

Our sources informed us that the IRGC-Qods Force has also stepped up their presence in the country with additional Proxies being brought in. These personnel are reported to be Hezbollah personnel, but they may be Kataib Sayyid al-Shuhada (KSS) and/or Kitab Hezbollah (KH). We are also aware of efforts underway to bring in additional weapons shipments from Iraq via sea and air routes. The Saudis will be watching Sanaa International Airport for sophisticated weaponry being unloaded. Additional reporting from the country indicates that wounded Houthi fighters are being flown to Iran for more advanced medical care, although this remains unconfirmed. One thing is for sure, the Iranians clearly feel that Yemen is a much more permissive operating environment and that they hope to expand their presence by cementing their relationship with the Houthis.

Poised to Fill Yemen’s Power Vacuum: Iran Tightens Grip on The Peninsula

http://isisstudygroup.com/?p=4517

IRGC-Qods Force: The Arabian Peninsula Campaign and Failure of Obama’s Foreign Policy

http://isisstudygroup.com/?p=4478

It seems as if it was just yesterday that the Obama administration was bragging about how al-Qaida was “on the run,” IS was nothing more than a “JV team,” Iraq was “stable” and the Arab Spring was a “good thing.” The reality is al-Qaida remains a viable threat and IS owns a huge chunk of land spanning across Syria and Iraq while establishing a presence in the AF/PAK region, Yemen and Southeast Asia. The White House claims that it has made a “significant” impact on the War on Terror. Well, they have – we lost an embassy in Libya and one in Yemen. Just keep all this firmly lodged in the back of your mind as the Obama administration pushes on with other schizophrenic policies on the world stage, such as its insistence that Iran is a “friend.”

US Embassy in Tripoli”Secured” by Islamist Militias of the “Dawn of Libya”

http://isisstudygroup.com/?p=1462

Other Related Articles:

Yemen’s Houthi Rebels: The Hand of Iran?

http://isisstudygroup.com/?p=1992

American and South African Hostage Killed in Yemen During Rescue Attempt

http://isisstudygroup.com/?p=3564

Shia Proxy Threat to US ISIS Strategy in Saudi Arabia

http://isisstudygroup.com/?p=1837

Why the CIA Killed Imad Mughniyeh

It was paying back a generation-old blood debt.

The CIA doesn’t assassinate often anymore, so when it does the agency picks its targets carefully. The story uncovered last weekend by the Washington Post and Newsweek the CIA’s reported role in the February 2008 assassination of Hezbollah master terrorist Imad Mughniyeh is the stuff of a Hollywood spy thriller. A team of CIA spotters in Damascus tracking a Hezbollah terrorist wanted for decades; a custom-made explosive shaped to kill only the target and placed in the spare tire of an SUV parked along the target’s route home; intelligence gathered by Israelis, paired with a bomb built and tested in North Carolina, taking out a man responsible for the deaths of more Americans than anyone else until 9/11.

And yet, while the ‘what,’ ‘where,’ ‘when’ and ‘how’ of the story shock and amaze, the ‘who’ should not. Most people—including Hezbollah—assumed it was the Israelis, acting alone, who killed Mughniyeh. The Israelis certainly had the motive, given Mughniyeh’s role in acts of terrorist targeting Israelis and Jews around the world, from infiltrating operatives into Israel and shooting rockets into Northern Israel, to terror attacks targeting Israeli diplomats and local Jewish communities in places like Buenos Aires. Speaking by video teleconference at Mughniyeh’s funeral in 2008, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah quickly threatened Israel with “open war” for the killing of Hajj Radwan (aka Mughniyeh).

But the CIA had motive too, and for the many within the agency—indeed, as a matter of institutional memory—the hunt for Imad Mughniyeh was personal. Mughniyeh was behind the 1983 bombing of the US embassy in Beirut, which took out the entire CIA station there as well as the visiting head of the agency’s Middle East analysis branch. (In fact, word of the CIA’s role in Mugniyeh’s killing first leaked in a biography of that officer, Robert Ames, by Kai Bird, published last year.) Mughniyeh reportedly planned the 1984 bombing of the U.S. Marine barracks and watched the attack unfold through binoculars from the top of a nearby building. His hand touched Hezbollah plots from Germany to Kuwait and from Argentina to Thailand.

This bloody history alone would have placed Mughniyeh in a league of his own, but there was something else that made the hunt for Mughniyeh a deeply personal vendetta. There was a reason more than one CIA operative reportedly refused reassignments and passed up on promotions to remain on the Hezbollah account. His name was Bill Buckley.

Long before ISIL’s current kidnapping and hostage spree has swept up a media frenzy, Hezbollah originated the high-profile Middle East hostage crisis. Hezbollah’s kidnapping spree in Lebanon lasted almost a decade, and it was not always a straightforward business. Some kidnappings were carried out by Hezbollah factions or clans—each with its own alias—in an opportunistic fashion to secure, for example, the release of a jailed relative. Others involved poorly trained muscle to grab people off the streets; several people were kidnapped because they were mistaken for American or French citizens. Captors assigned to guard the Western prisoners were often “unsophisticated but fanatic Muslims,” as one captive put it. In contrast, the March 1984 abduction of CIA station chief William Buckley indicated careful target selection and operational surveillance, likely supported by Iranian intelligence. According to one account, some of the intelligence Hezbollah used to identify Buckley as the local CIA chief was provided by Iran based on materials seized during the US embassy takeover in Iran in 1979.

As for Buckley, he was sent to Beirut in 1983 to set up a new CIA station after the previous one had been decimated in the April US embassy bombing. His kidnapping was a devastating blow to the CIA. “Bill Buckley being taken basically closed down CIA intelligence activities in the country,” commented one senior CIA official. But the CIA had adequate sources to determine within six months that Hezbollah was holding Buckley. For CIA director William Casey, finding Buckley was an absolute priority, the CIA official added. “It drove him almost to the ends of the earth to find ways of getting Buckley back, to deal with anyone in any form, in any shape, in any way, to get Buckley back. He failed at that, but it was a driving motivation in Iran-Contra,” the official said. “We even dealt with the devil . . . the Iranians, who sponsored Hezbollah, who sponsored the kidnapping and eventual murder of Bill Buckley.”

Frustrated with its inability to achieve its goals through hijackings and kidnappings, Hezbollah sent pictures of six hostages to several Beirut newspapers in May 1985. “All of the hostages in the photographs looked fairly healthy,” the CIA noted, “except U.S. embassy political officer Buckley who has been held longer than any of the others.”

Read more

Iran and Nuclear Terrorism

1049 (1)By Justin O. Smith:

Feckless negotiating with Iran over the past decade, especially these past two years, have burned an image of a miserable Chamberlain-style failure in the minds of the American people, as President Obama and Secretary Kerry have allowed the greatest threat in the 21st century to become our reality. For all intents and practical purposes, Iran is now essentially a nuclear armed missile state, and rather than pursue more negotiations, the at risk nations, such as the United States, Britain, Germany, France and much of Europe and Israel, must seriously consider a preemptive strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities, before its weaponry can be perfected and mass produced. And even then, small nukes handed to Iran’s proxies, Hamas and Hezbollah, will remain a threat, as long as the Ayatollahs hold their iron grip on Iran.

All the political analysts have been speaking in terms of “if” Iran achieves a nuclear weapons program, when all the evidence suggests that Iran already has one. Long held Shahab-4 missiles with a 2500 mile range and the February 2, 2009 orbit of the Safir-2 Omid _ “Hope” exhibits that Iran has an intercontinental delivery system. Iran also has received an A.Q. Khan warhead design from North Korea, as well as a Chinese warhead design, and it has a currently undetermined amount of near weapons grade uranium, due to its maintenance of a number of secret facilities.

Iran has acknowledged the existence of 19,000 centrifuges, with 9,000 currently operating. These 9,000 centrifuges can produce enough weapons grade plutonium to produce approximately three nuclear missiles in a year. If Iran reduces this number to 7,000 and keeps much of its uranium enriching technology, as John Kerry and others have suggested, experts warn that any reduction in centrifuge efficiency is reversible more quickly than a straight decrease in the number of centrifuges.

While Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani claimed in his February 4th speech that Iran “neither covets nor aspires to acquire nuclear weapons”, there remain many within the Ayatollah hierarchy who would refute this. Rouhani’s opposition states fairly correctly that Sipah-e-Sahaba, an intensely anti-Shiite Islamofascist group, has close ties to Pakistan’s military and intelligence establishment, which stokes Iranian fears of a nuclear first strike by Pakistan. They are also concerned that Riyadh has invested heavily in the Pakistan nuclear program and can get a nuclear weapon at will, which plays a large part in Iran’s nuclear quest.

And, as an unrepentant sponsor of terrorism for thirty-five years, Tehran has made no secret of its desire to wipe Israel/ “Little Satan” and America/ “Big Satan” off the face of the earth, while it has systemized terror as a primary mechanism for accomplishing it goals and exporting its worldview and Islamist ideology. In this context, despite any security issues Iran may have with Sunni nations like Saudi Arabia, the United States must not allow Iran to build an arsenal of nuclear weapons, under any circumstances.

Over the past year the world has seen Iran use its Quds Force and Revolutionary Guard in Iraq and Hezbollah in Syria. We witnessed Iran trade arms and munitions for black-market oil with the Islamic State. And then, Iran threatened to send millions of jihadists to Gaza to fight in the “struggle” against Israel. The news from Iran is never good.

Since Iran already views itself as advancing the Islamic hegemon in the region, just think of the influence Iran will exert throughout the entire Middle East, once it is prepared to fully unveil its real nuclear capabilities. It is already exerting great influence through its finances and military, and in the aftermath of the Iranian backed Shiite Houthis taking control of Sana’a, Yemen, the Arabic media now refers to Beirut, Damascus, Baghdad and Sana’a as “the four capitals of Iran”, which Iranian media calls a “victory for the [Islamic] revolution.”

Does anyone believe that the Ayatollahs will not find a way to detonate a nuclear weapon in New York or Chicago, especially with the U.S’s current porous border situation? __ or Tel Aviv?

Although Iran has previously launched several satellites on a south to north trajectory, in an attempt to elude U.S. Ballistic Early Warning Radar, Iran will seek “plausible deniability”. As I wrote on November 30, 2013:

“Utilizing numerous deceptions, such as tramp steamers off the U.S. and European coasts or physically crossing porous borders, it would not be too difficult for Iran to target 29 critical sites in America and the West, identified numerous times by successive Iranian presidents.”

As Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) spoke with Greta Van Sustern (Fox News) on January 27th, he observed:

“If we continue on the path we are with the Iranians, they’ll wind up with a nuclear capability … and one day have a [nuclear] bomb. He’s about to make the biggest mistake of this presidency.”

While Obama has previously stated that a nuclear armed Iran represents a “profound” national security threat to the U.S., his Chamberlain-style appeasement tactics have greatly alarmed opponents of Iran’s nuclear program, especially considering that Olli Heinonen, former IAEA Deputy Director General, warned (Jan. 20, 2014) that Iran could build a nuclear weapon within two to three weeks. They see Iran on the cusp of a rapid nuclear break-out, while Obama gives Iran more time to stockpile more uranium, time that the world can ill-afford to give a rogue regime with so much blood on its hands.

With Iran’s Ayatollahs stalling for time and possibly stockpiling an untold number of nuclear warheads (scores?) and Obama and Kerry legitimizing major pieces of Iran’s nuclear program, this U.S. administration and world leaders are failing at a critical juncture of history that demands decisive action, not an unacceptable bad deal that leaves nuclear capabilities in Iran’s hands. Decisive action is needed to stop a defiant Iran, protect U.S. interests and halt a rising Islamic dawn and an era of nuclear terrorism.

Islamic Ideology: Identifying the Enemy

Shariah-4-UKBreitbart, by  ADMIRAL JAMES A. “ACE” LYONS, Feb. 3, 2015:

While America continues to face an expanding national security threat, President Obama has great difficulty in identifying the enemy that has been at war with the United States for over 35 years.

Using terms such as “violent extremism” and “workplace violence” does an enormous injustice to our military forces, as well as to all law enforcement agencies that must be prepared to confront the Islamic jihadis on a daily basis.  For example, the Obama administration directed all of our training manuals, that accurately portrayed the Islamic threat, to be purged by removing anything that didn’t portray Islam as a religion of peace.

Probably, the worst six words President George W. Bush ever uttered were “Islam is a religion of peace.”  He most likely was urged to make such a statement by his Muslim Brotherhood advisors who had already penetrated our government agencies during the Clinton administration.  Regrettably, those words are repeated by a number of Western leaders under the guise of political correctness and should be discarded.  Furthermore, the Obama administration’s embrace of the Muslim Brotherhood must cease.  They must be removed from all government agencies and those front groups, e.g., CAIR and ISNA, shut down.

The leading state sponsor of terrorism, Iran, has been at war with the United States since the November 1979 takeover of our Tehran U.S. embassy.  Since then, Iran has directed numerous “acts of war” against us, either using proxies (Hezbollah), or their own forces – acts of war that every administration, Republican and Democrat, has failed to find the political courage to respond.  Consequently, the surge of Islamic Fundamentalism, as espoused by the Ayatollah Khomeini’s evil regime, has continued to expand.

Iran has encouraged Islamic supremacists, both Shi’ite and Sunni, to take ever bolder action– as evidenced by the atrocities being committed by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria today, the recent Islamic terrorist attacks in Paris, Canada, and Australia as well as the incessant HAMAS and Hezbollah attacks against Israel.  While President Obama tries to make the case that these atrocities are not part of the Islamic religion, Chapter 2 verse 106 (on abrogation) of the Quran makes it very clear that the later, violent verses take precedence over the early, less violent verses.

The most dramatic action by the Islamic supremacists was the 9/11 hi-jacker terrorist attack, which was the most serious attack on the United States since the 7 December, 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor.  It resulted in the loss of almost 3,000 innocent American lives who were doing nothing more than going to work.  It should never be forgotten that this attack could not have been successfully carried out without the material and training support of the evil Iranian regime that succeeded its founder Ayatollah Khomeini.

To understand the threat we face today, we must be clear in the terms we use.  It is not violent extremism or even radical Islam: it is Islam itself, which has remained unchanged for over 1,300 years.  The former Turkish Prime Minister and current President Recep Tayyip Erdogan stated it best when he declared “Islam is Islam.  There are no modifiers,” e.g., Islamic Extremism.

Clearly, any thinking individual understands that Islam is a totalitarian ideology that is bent on world domination under one religion and ruled by the draconian Shariah.  It is totally incompatible with the Western world’s concept of freedom and democracy, and our Constitution.  Furthermore, until it is understood that Islam is a political movement (similar to communism) masquerading as a religion, we will not be successful in combating the enemy.

As the Dutch politician Geert Wilders stated, the more Islam penetrates your society, the less freedom you have.  Therefore, our current unregulated Muslim immigration and asylum policies make no sense.  They must be revised along with effective measures to secure our open borders.

The real question is, can Islam be reformed to co-exist peacefully in the 21st century?  The problem is how to modify Shariah, which has not been done in over 1,300 years.  Clearly, it would have to be done cautiously, and by Sunni clerics as well as Shi’a.  Recently, President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, in a New Year’s Day speech to the leading Sunni clerics, challenged them to reform Islam.  The atrocities being committed in the cause of advancing Islam are, in his view, giving Islam a bad image.  More importantly, such an initiative would be consistent with Egyptians reclaiming their rich heritage by thinking of themselves first as being Egyptians.

We should encourage President al-Sisi to follow up his challenge to the leading Sunni clerics by proposing that they form an Islamic Forum of leading Sunni clerics to address the reformation of Islam for the 21st century.  Unless such an effort is made, the alternative will be a consistent state of war (Dar al-Harb) against the infidels as mandated in the Quran.

James A. Lyons, U.S. Navy retired Admiral, was commander-in-chief of the U.S. Pacific Fleet and senior U.S. military representative to the United Nations.