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:

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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.

Concerns Deepen that U.S. Allowing Iranian Takeover of Iraq

[Photo: CBS This Morning / YouTube ]

[Photo: CBS This Morning / YouTube ]

An Iran-backed militia has emerged as the primary Iraqi military force fighting the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), according to a report Tuesday by Bloomberg View’s Eli Lake.

In an interview this week, Hadi al-Amiri, the founder and leader of Iraq’s oldest and most powerful Shiite militia, the Badr Organization, told me the U.S. ambassador recently offered air strikes to support the Iraqi army and militia ground forces under his command. This has placed the U.S. in the strange position of deepening an alliance with the Islamic Republic of Iran for its war against Islamic extremists.

Late last year, the U.S. formally committed to train and equip three divisions of the Iraqi army. While some senior U.S. officials have had positive words for Iran’s role in the fight against Islamic State warriors, official U.S. policy is to support the integration of Iraq’s sectarian militias into the Iraqi Security Forces.

In Diyala Province northeast of Baghdad, however, it’s the other way around. On a tour of areas recently liberated from Islamic State control, General Ali Wazir Shamary told me that ultimately his orders came through a chain of command that originated with Amiri. In other words, the Iraqi army is integrating into Amiri’s Badr Organization in Diyala as opposed to integrating the militias into the army.

Lake writes that Amiri confirmed Shamary’s description of the chain of command. Amiri also told Lake that he meets regularly with Gen. Qassem Soleimani, the commander of the elite Qods Force of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.

Michael Flynn, a retired American general and former head of the Defense Intelligence Agency, warned:

“Members of the Badr Corps are responsible for killing many American Soldiers and they will likely do it again if given the chance. … We built an Iraqi military to defeat all the enemies of Iraq and groups like the Badr Corps represent enemies of a stable, secure, and inclusive Iraq. As soon as we get done helping them with ISIS, they will very likely turn on us.”

The Badr Corps (or, as it is sometimes called, Badr Brigades) also have a troubling record of documented human rights abuses, including “kidnapping and killing [people], driving them from their homes, setting homes on fire.”

In addition to his work with Iraqi militias, Soleimani is reported to have taken control of the Syrian army at the behest of Tehran in 2013.

In a recent article for Mosaic Magazine, Michael Doran, a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute, outlined the negative implications allowing Iran such great control has for American policy.

With American acquiescence, Iran is steadily taking control of the security sector of the Iraqi state. Soon it will dominate the energy sector as well, giving it effective control over the fifth largest oil reserves in the world. When the announced goal of the United States is to build up a moderate Sunni bloc capable of driving a wedge between Islamic State and the Sunni communities, aligning with Iran is politically self-defeating. In both Iraq and Syria, Iran projects its power through sectarian militias that slaughter Sunni Muslims with abandon. Are there any Sunni powers in the region that see American outreach to Tehran as a good thing? Are there any military-aged Sunni men in Iraq and Syria who now see the United States as a friendly power? There are none.

In theory, one might argue that although an association with Iran is politically toxic and militarily dangerous, the capabilities it brings to the fight against the Islamic State more than compensate. But they don’t. Over the last three years, Obama has given Iran a free hand in Syria and Iraq, on the simplistic assumption that Tehran would combat al-Qaeda and like-minded groups in a manner serving American interests. The result, in both countries, has been the near-total alienation of all Sunnis and the development of an extremist safe haven that now stretches from the outskirts of Baghdad all the way to Damascus. America is now applying to the disease a larger dose of the snake oil that helped cause the malady in the first place.

In How Iraq Became a Proxy of the Islamic Republic of Iran, which was published in the December 2014 issue of The Tower Magazine, Jonathan Spyer and Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi document that it was Soleimani who crafted Iraq’s response to ISIS beginning last summer.

Almost immediately, Qassem Suleimani, commander of the Quds Force of the IRGC—the agency tasked with the creation and use of proxy political and military forces—was sent to Baghdad. Very clearly, his task was to coordinate the Iraqi response.

His influence appears to have been decisive in shaping the Iraqi response. Predictably, it involves the use of militias and Shia sectarianism along the lines pioneered in other countries. As an Iraqi official quoted by The Guardian put it, “Who do you think is running the war? Those three senior generals who ran away? Qassem Suleimani is in charge. And reporting directly to him are the militias.” Since then, Suleimani has guided much of the fighting against the I.S., and has even been physically present at a number of key engagements.

Alongside the Quds Force leaders, there are reliable reports of dozens of IRGC and Lebanese Hezbollah advisers on the ground in Iraq. In addition, Iraqi paramilitaries deployed in Syria have been returned to Iraq in order to join the fight.

So, what is happening in Iraq today is directly analogous to what happened in Syria. The Iran-aligned, Shia-dominated government in Baghdad is being protected from Sunni insurgents through the efforts and methods of the IRGC’s Quds Force, the most effective instrument of Iran’s regional policy. This, of course, has major implications for Western policy, which at the current time is acting as the air wing for this campaign.

How Iran Is Making It Impossible for the US to Beat ISIS

Ahmed Saad/Reuters

Washington needs to quit pretending it can work with Iran to defeat the Islamic State. Tehran’s real objective is to defeat Washington.
By Michael Weiss and Michael Pregent:
It was August 2007, and General David Petraeus, the top commander of U.S. forces in Iraq, was angry.  In his weekly report to then-Defense Secretary Robert Gates, Petraeus wrote:  “I am considering telling the President that I believe Iran is, in fact, waging war on the U.S. in Iraq, with all of the U.S. public and governmental responses that could come from that revelation. … I do believe that Iran has gone beyond merely striving for influence in Iraq and could be creating proxies to actively fight us, thinking that they can keep us distracted while they try to build WMD and set up [the Mahdi Army] to act like Lebanese Hezbollah in Iraq.”
There was no question there and then on the ground in Iraq that Iran was a very dangerous enemy. There should not be any question about that now, either. And the failure of the Obama administration to come to grips with that reality is making the task of defeating the so-called Islamic State more difficult—indeed, more likely to be impossible—every day.

There are lessons to be learned from the experience of the last decade, and of the last fortnight, but what is far from clear is whether Washington, or the American public, is likely to accept them because they imply much greater American re-engagement in the theater of battle. As a result, what we’ve seen is behavior like the proverbial ostrich burying its head in the desert sand, pretending this disaster just isn’t happening. But at a minimum we should be clear about the basic facts. In Iraq and Syria, as we square off against ISIS, the enemy of our enemy is not our friend, he is our enemy, too.

In 2007, there were 180,000 American troops in Iraq. Under Petraeus’s oversight, U.S. Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC), the elite forces responsible for hunting terrorists around the world, was divided into two task forces. Task Force 16 went after al Qaeda in Iraq, the group that eventually would spawn ISIS, while Task Force 17 was dedicated to “countering Iranian influence,” chiefly by killing or capturing members of Iraq’s Shia militias—though in some cases, it even arrested operatives of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps-Quds Force (IRGC-QF) who were arming and supervising those militias’ guerrilla warfare against coalition troops.

At one point, in the summer of 2007, Petraeus concluded that the Mahdi Army, headed by the Shiite demagogue Muqtada al-Sadr, posed a greater “hindrance to long-term security in Iraq” than al Qaeda did. As recounted in The Endgame, Michael Gordon and Bernard E. Trainor’s magisterial history of the Second Iraq War, two-thirds of all American casualties in Iraq in July 2007 were incurred by Shiite militias.  Weapons known as explosively formed penetrators, or EFPs, were especially effective against the U.S. forces. They were Iranian designed and constructed roadside bombs that, when detonated, became molten copper projectiles able to cut through the armor on tanks and other vehicles, maiming or killing the soldiers inside.

So it came as a surprise to many veterans of the war when Secretary of State John Kerry, asked in December what he made of the news that Iran was conducting airstrikes against ISIS in Iraq, suggested “the net effect is positive.” Similarly, Chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey—formerly the commander of the 1st Armored Division in Baghdad—told reporters last month, “As long as the Iraqi government remains committed to inclusivity of all the various groups inside the country, then I think Iranian influence will be positive.”

Whatever the Iraqi government says it is committed to, “inclusiveness” is not what’s happening on the ground.

Iran’s influence in Iraq since ISIS sacked Mosul last June has resulted in a wave of sectarian bloodletting and dispossession against the country’s Sunni minority population, usually at the hands of Iranian-backed Shia militia groups, but sometimes with the active collusion of the Iraq’s internal security forces. Indeed, just as news was breaking last week that ISIS’s five-month siege on the Syrian-Turkish border town Kobane finally had been broken, Reuters reported that in Iraq’s Diyala province at least 72 “unarmed Iraqis” —all Sunnis—were “taken from their homes by men in uniform; heads down and linked together, then led in small groups to a field, made to kneel, and selected to be shot one by one.”

Stories such as these out of Iraq have been frequent albeit under-publicized and reluctantly acknowledged (if at all) by Washington both before and after Operation Inherent Resolve got underway against ISIS.

For instance, 255 Sunni prisoners were executed by Shia militias and their confederates in the government’s internal security forces between June 9 and mid-July, according to Human Rights Watch. Eight of the victims were boys below the age of 18.  “Sunnis are a minority in Baghdad, but they’re the majority in our morgue,” a doctor working at Iraq’s Health Ministry, told HRW at the end of July. Three forensic pathologists found that most of the victims in Baghdad were shot clean through the head, their bodies often left casually where they were killed. “The numbers have only increased since Mosul,” one doctor said.

On August 22, 2014, the Musab Bin Omair mosque in Diyala—the same province where last week’s alleged executions occurred—was raided by officers of the security forces and militants of Asaib Ahl al-Haq (the League of the Righteous), which slaughtered 34 people, according to HRW.  Marie Harf, the U.S. State Department spokeswoman, said at the time: “This senseless attack underscores the urgent need for Iraqi leaders from across the political spectrum to take the necessary steps that will help unify the country against all violent extremist groups.”

Since then, however,  U.S. warplanes have provided indirect air support to Asaib Ahl al-Haq and Kataib Hezbollah, a U.S.-designated terrorist entity, both of which were at the vanguard of the troops that ended ISIS’s months-long siege of Amerli, a Shia Turkomen town of about 15,000, in November 2014.  These militias have also been seen and photographed or videoed operating U.S. Abrams tanks and armored vehicles intended for Iraq’s regular army, which means that there are now two terrorist organization, Sunni ISIS and Kataib Hezbollah, armed with heavy-duty American weapons of war.

The Hezbollah-ization of Iraq’s military and security forces has been overseen by the IRGC-QF, another U.S.-designated terrorist entity, which is headed by Maj. Gen. Qassem Suleimani, a man personally sanctioned by the Treasury Department for his role in propping up Bashar al Assad’s mass murderous regime in Syria.

Read more at The Daily Beast

African Nations to Send 7,500 Troops to Combat Boko Haram – Why is Iran so Interested?

The African Union (AU) has agreed to send a multi-nation force of 7,500 troops to Nigeria to assist the Nigerian military in combating Boko Haram. Interestingly enough, the Iranian regime has offered their “services” to assist this multi-nation force. Apparently Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian has been involved with African nations affected by Boko Haram to provide assistance. Specifically, the regime informed the AU that they’re willing to share their experiences and intelligence gained over the years in Iraq, Lebanon, Syria, and Africa – Nigeria and Somalia in particular. Its also worth noting that Iran had representatives at the two-day summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia that the announcement of the troop deployment was made. They were there as “observers.”

7,500 troops to fight Boko Haram

http://www.thecourier.co.uk/news/international/7-500-troops-to-fight-boko-haram-1.818195?utm_content=buffer2aada&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter.com&utm_campaign=buffer

Iran Offers to Help Fight Boko Haram

http://www.nigerianeye.com/2015/02/iran-offers-to-help-fight-boko-haram.html

So why is Iran so interested in Africa? Well, the IRG-Qods Force and Hezbollah have both been very active on the continent over the past decade, so this isn’t a new phenomenon at all (remember, the IRGC has arms production factories in Sudan). Their expansion into the continent began to really expand when the first indicators of foreign fighters were making their way into Syria in the early days of the “Arab Spring.” Since then their objectives have been the following:

1. Keep tabs on the foreign fighter networks providing personnel and weapons to anti-Shia efforts in Syria, Iraq and Lebanon.

2. Eliminate the key personnel in those foreign fighter networks.

3. Conduct target development for when (and it will happen) the Qods Force and Hezbollah cells in Africa receive the green light to begin attacking American, Israeli and British diplomatic facilities, military personnel and civilians.

IRGC-Qods Force Insignia Source: iranwatch.org

IRGC-Qods Force Insignia
Source: iranwatch.org

The 2011-2013 time period saw a sharp increase in Qods Force and Hezbollah activity in Nigeria with Nigerian security forces having made several arrests of individuals associated with both organizations on terrorism charges. Nigeria is an anomaly, as other African nations have kept their mouths shut on the expansion of the Qods Force/Hezbollah networks in the western and eastern parts of the continent. Much of this has to do with Iran’s increased involvement in the economic, political and cultural fields, thus creating a co-dependent relationship (as the regime has been looking for ways to circumvent sanctions, although this may well be moot now that the Obama administration is on the job). However, there was one incident in JUN 12 where two Iranian nationals – identified as Ahmed Abolfathi Muhammad and Sayid Mansur Mousavi – who were arrested in Nairobi, Kenya for possessing explosive material. Apparently they had a lot more that was shipped into the country that Kenyan security forces weren’t able to find. The two individuals were suspected of plotting to conduct attacks targeting the Israeli, US, British and Saudi diplomatic missions. They received life sentences.

Out of Iran, into Africa: Hezbollah’s scramble for Africa

http://www.haaretz.com/news/features/.premium-1.530327

Nigeria has long been known for being a major hotbed of Qods Force and Hezbollah activity, going as far back as 2004 when an Iranian diplomat was arrested of casing the Israeli embassy in Abuja. In FEB 13, Nigerian security forces arrested Abdullahi Mustapha Berende and two other Nigerians for attempting to establish a proxy group that was reportedly trained in Iran. They were said to have been planning to attack American targets in Lagos. Berende himself allegedly first traveled to Iran in 2006, where he received his Islamic education and returned again in 2011 for weapons and explosives training. His Qods Force handlers tasked him with collecting intelligence on hotels and public places frequented by Americans and Israelis to identify potential targets for future attacks. Berende himself admitted that he worked with the Iranians and had received $30,000 USD to carry out the operations. A few months later, his associate Iranian national Azim Aghajani and another Nigerian accomplice were sentenced to five years for their involvement to smuggle a shipment of weapons into West Africa. The case was opened on them when Nigerian security forces opened 13 containers at Apapa Port in OCT 10 and found the weapons to include 107mm rockets, among other things. The shipment was bound for Gambia. The US government has linked Aghajani to the Qods Forces’ Department 400 External OPs Division. In keeping with the usual Qods Force TTPs, Aghajani was moving the weapons throughout Africa with the use of front companies such as Behineh Trading Co.

Read more at The ISIS Study Group

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2743059668Iran in Africa: A Tutorial Overview (centerforsecuritypolicy.org)

Iran’s activity in Africa is a model of their strategic conduct that allows them an asymmetric advantage over the United States in terms of diplomacy and statecraft. This pattern of behavior is adaptable and observable in Latin America as well as in Africa. Where there are weak governing institutions and fertile soil for anti-American sentiment of any form, the Iranian regime will seek global allies, revenue streams, resources, and capabilities that serve them well on the world stage.

This is an introductory overview meant to give a broad picture of behavior and intention. The open source record of Iranian, Hezbollah, and Quds Force activity in Africa is extensive.

Click here to download pdf of complete overview. See video presentation.

Iran: Unafraid and Undeterred

New-Iranian-President-Hassan-Rouhani-encouraged-by-Obamas-positive-tone-NBC-News-645x325-450x318rontpage, by Caroline Glick, Jan. 30, 2015:

Originally published by the Jerusalem Post

Israel’s reported strike January 18 on a joint Iranian-Hezbollah convoy driving on the Syrian Golan Heights was one of the most strategically significant events to have occurred in Israel’s neighborhood in recent months. Its significance lies both in what it accomplished operationally and what it exposed.

From what been published to date about the identities of those killed in the strike, it is clear that in one fell swoop the air force decapitated the Iranian and Hezbollah operational command in Syria.

The head of Hezbollah’s operations in Syria, the head of its liaison with Iran, and Jihad Mughniyeh, the son of Hezbollah’s longtime operational commander Imad Mughniyeh who was killed by Israel in Damascus in 2008, were killed. The younger Mughniyeh reportedly served as commander of Hezbollah forces along the Syrian-Israeli border.

According to a report by Brig.-Gen. (res.) Shimon Shapira, a Hezbollah expert from the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, the Iranian losses included three generals. Brig.- Gen. Mohammed Alladadi was the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps liaison officer to Hezbollah and to Syrian intelligence. He was also in charge of weapons shipments from Iran to Hezbollah. Gen. Ali Tabatabai was the IRGC commander in the Golan Heights and, according to Shapira, an additional general, known only as Assadi, “was, in all likelihood, the commander of Iranian expeditionary forces in Lebanon.”

The fact that the men were willing to risk exposure by traveling together along the border with Israel indicates how critical the front is for the regime in Tehran. It also indicates that in all likelihood, they were planning an imminent attack against Israel.

According to Ehud Yaari, Channel 2’s Arab Affairs commentator, Iran and Hezbollah seek to widen Hezbollah’s front against Israel from Lebanon to Syria. They wish to establish missile bases on the northern Hermon, and are expanding Hezbollah’s strategic depth from Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley to the outskirts of Damascus.

On Wednesday night, Yaari reported that the Syrian military has ceased to function south of Damascus. In areas not held by the al-Qaida-aligned Nusra Front and other regime opponents, the IRGC and Hezbollah have taken control, using the Syrian militia they have trained since the start of the Syrian civil war in 2011.

The effectiveness of Hezbollah’s control of its expanded front was on display on Wednesday morning. Almost at the same time that Hezbollah forces shot at least five advanced Kornet antitank missiles at an IDF convoy along Mount Dov, killing two soldiers and wounding seven, Hezbollah forces on the Golan shot off mortars at the Hermon area.

While these forces are effective, they are also vulnerable. Yaari noted that today, three-quarters of Hezbollah’s total forces are fighting in Syria. Their twofold task is to defend the Assad regime and to build the Iranian-controlled front against Israel along the Golan Heights. Most of the forces are in known, unfortified, above ground positions, vulnerable to Israeli air strikes.

THE IDENTITIES of the Iranian and Lebanese personnel killed in the Israeli strike indicate the high value Iran and Hezbollah place on developing a new front against Israel in Syria.

The fact that they are in control over large swathes of the border area and are willing to risk exposure in order to ready the front for operations exposes Iran’s strategic goal of encircling Israel on the ground and the risks it is willing to take to achieve that goal.

But Iran’s willingness to expose its forces and Hezbollah forces also indicates something else. It indicates that they believe that there is a force deterring Israel from attacking them.

And this brings us to another strategic revelation exposed by the January 18 operation.

Earlier this week, Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdolahian told Iran’s IRNA news agency that the regime had told its American interlocutors to tell Israel that it intended to strike Israel in retribution for the attack. The State Department did not deny that Iran had communicated the message, although it claims that it never relayed the message.

While the Obama administration did perhaps refuse to serve as Iran’s messenger, it has worked to deter Israel from striking Hezbollah and Iranian targets in Syria. Whereas Israel has a policy of never acknowledging responsibility for its military operations in Syria, in order to give President Bashar Assad an excuse to not retaliate, the US administration has repeatedly informed the media of Israeli attacks and so increased the risk that such Israeli operations will lead to counterattacks against Israel.

The US has also refused to acknowledge Iran’s control over the Syrian regime, and so denied the basic fact that through its proxies, Iran is developing a conventional threat against Israel. For instance, earlier this month, Der Spiegel reported that Iran has been building a secret nuclear facility in Syria. When questioned about the report, State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf sought to downplay its significance. When a reporter asked if the administration would raise the report in its nuclear negotiations with Iran, Harf replied, “No, the upcoming talks are about the Iranian nuclear program.”

Until this month, the White House continued to pay lip service to the strategic goal of removing Assad – and by inference Iran, which controls and protects him – from power in Syria. Lip service aside, it has been clear at least since September 2013, when President Barack Obama refused to enforce his own redline and take action against the Assad regime after it used chemical weapons against its opponents, that he had no intention of forcing Assad from power. But this month the administration crossed a new Rubicon when Secretary of State John Kerry failed to call for Assad to be removed to power in talks with the UN envoy in Syria Staffan de Mistura. Right before he met with his Iranian counterpart, Mohammad Javad Zarif, Kerry told Mistura, “It is time for President Assad, the Assad regime, to put their people first and to think about the consequences of their actions, which are attracting more and more terrorists to Syria, basically because of their efforts to remove Assad.”

IRAN’S PRESENCE on the Golan Heights is of course just one of the many strategic advances it has made in expanding its territorial reach. Over the past two weeks, Iranian-controlled Houthi militias have consolidated their control over Yemen, with their overthrow of the US-allied government of President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi.

Rather than defend the elected government that has fought side-by-side with US special forces in their Yemen-based operations against al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, the administration is pretending that little has changed. It pretends it will still be able to gather the intelligence necessary to carry out drone strikes against al-Qaida terrorists even though its allies have now lost power.

The post-Houthi-conquest goal of the administration’s policy in Yemen is to seek a national dialogue that will include everyone from Iran’s proxy government to al-Qaida.

The idea is that everyone will work together to write a new constitution. It is impossible to understate the delusion at the heart of this plan.

With the conquest of Yemen, Iran now controls the Gulf of Aden. Together with the Straits of Hormuz, Iran now controls the region’s two maritime outlets to the open sea.

Far beyond the region, Iran expands its capacity to destabilize foreign countries and so advance its interests. Last week, Lee Smith raised the reasonable prospect that it was Iran that assassinated Argentinean prosecutor Alberto Nisman two weeks ago. Nisman was murdered the night before he was scheduled to make public the findings of his 10-year investigation into the 1994 bombing of the AMIA Jewish Center and the 1992 bombing of the Israeli Embassy in Buenos Aires. According to Smith, Nisman had proof that Iran had carried out the terrorist attacks to retaliate against Argentina for abrogating its nuclear cooperation with Tehran.

From the Golan Heights to Gaza, from Yemen and Iraq to Latin America to Nantanz and Arak, Iran is boldly advancing its nuclear and imperialist agenda. As Charles Krauthammer noted last Friday, the nations of the Middle East allied with the US are sounding the alarm.

Earlier this week, during Obama’s visit with the new Saudi King Salman, he got an earful from the monarch regarding the need to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. But it seemed to have no impact on his nuclear diplomacy with Teheran. The administration believes that Iran and Saudi Arabia will be able to kiss and make up and bury a thousand- year rivalry between Sunni and Shi’ite Islam because they both oppose the Islamic State. This too is utter fantasy.

Israel’s January 18 strike on Iranian and Hezbollah commanders in Syria showed Israel’s strategy wisdom and independent capacity.

Israel can and will take measures to defend its critical security interests. It has the intelligence gathering capacity to identify and strike at targets in real time.

But it also showed the constraints Israel is forced to operate under in its increasingly complex and dangerous strategic environment.

Due to the US administration’s commitment to turning a blind eye to Iran’s advances and the destabilizing role it plays everywhere it gains power, Israel can do little more than carry out precision attacks against high value targets. The flipside of the administration’s refusal to see the dangers, and so enable Iran’s territorial expansion and its nuclear progress, is its determination to ensure that Israel does nothing to prevent those dangers from growing – whether along its borders or at Iran’s nuclear facilities.

CIA and Mossad killed senior Hezbollah figure in car bombing

MughniyahWashington Post,  January 30, 2015:

On Feb. 12, 2008, Imad Mughniyah, Hezbollah’s international operations chief, walked on a quiet nighttime street in Damascus after dinner at a nearby restaurant. Not far away, a team of CIA spotters in the Syrian capital was tracking his movements.

As Mughniyah approached a parked SUV, a bomb planted in a spare tire on the back of the vehicle exploded, sending a burst of shrapnel across a tight radius. He was killed instantly.

The device was triggered remotely from Tel Aviv by agents with Mossad, the Israeli foreign intelligence service, who were in communication with the operatives on the ground in Damascus. “The way it was set up, the U.S. could object and call it off, but it could not execute,” said a former U.S. intelligence official.

The United States helped build the bomb, the former official said, and tested it repeatedly at a CIA facility in North Carolina to ensure the potential blast area was contained and would not result in collateral damage.

[Read: Who was Imad Mughniyah?]

“We probably blew up 25 bombs to make sure we got it right,” the former official said.

The extraordinarily close cooperation between the U.S. and Israeli intelligence services suggested the importance of the target — a man who over the years had been implicated in some of Hezbollah’s most spectacular terrorist attacks, including those against the U.S. Embassy in Beirut and the Israeli Embassy in Argentina.

The United States has never acknowledged participation in the killing of Mughniyah, which Hezbollah blamed on Israel. Until now, there has been little detail about the joint operation by the CIA and Mossad to kill him, how the car bombing was planned or the exact U.S. role. With the exception of the 2011 killing of Osama bin Laden, the mission marked one of the most high-risk covert actions by the United States in recent years.

U.S. involvement in the killing, which was confirmed by five former U.S. intelligence officials, also pushed American legal boundaries.

Mughniyah was targeted in a country where the United States was not at war. Moreover, he was killed in a car bombing, a technique that some legal scholars see as a violation of international laws that proscribe “killing by perfidy” — using treacherous means to kill or wound an enemy.

“It is a killing method used by terrorists and gangsters,” said Mary Ellen O’Connell, a professor of international law at the University of Notre Dame. “It violates one of the oldest battlefield rules.”

Former U.S. officials, all of whom spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the operation, asserted that Mughniyah, although based in Syria, was directly connected to the arming and training of Shiite militias in Iraq that were targeting U.S. forces. There was little debate inside the Bush administration over the use of a car bomb instead of other means.

“Remember, they were carrying out suicide bombings and IED attacks,” said one official, referring to Hezbollah operations in Iraq.

The authority to kill Mughniyah required a presidential finding by President George W. Bush. The attorney general, the director of national intelligence, the national security adviser and the Office of Legal Counsel at the Justice Department all signed off on the operation, one former intelligence official said.

The former official said getting the authority to kill Mughniyah was a “rigorous and tedious” process. “What we had to show was he was a continuing threat to Americans,” the official said, noting that Mughniyah had a long history of targeting Americans dating back to his role in planning the 1983 bombing of the U.S. Embassy in Beirut.

“The decision was we had to have absolute confirmation that it was self-defense,” the official said.

There has long been suspicion about U.S. involvement in the killing of Mughniyah. In “The Good Spy,” a book about longtime CIA officer Robert Ames, author Kai Bird cites one former intelligence official as saying the operation was “primarily controlled by Langley” and it was “a CIA ‘black-ops’ team that carried out the assassination.”

In a new book, “The Perfect Kill: 21 Laws for Assassins,” former CIA officer Robert B. Baer writes how he had considered assassinating Mughniyah but apparently never got the opportunity. He notes, however, that CIA “censors” — the agency’s Publications Review Board — screened his book and “I’ve unfortunately been unable to write about the true set-piece plot against” Mughniyah.

The CIA declined to comment.

“We have nothing to add at this time,” said Mark Regev, chief spokesman for the prime minister of Israel.

A theory of self-defense

The operation in Damascus highlighted a philosophical evolution within the American intelligence services that followed the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. Before then, the U.S. government often took a dim view of Israeli assassination operations, highlighted by the American condemnation of Israel’s botched attempt in 1997 to poison the leader of Hamas, Khaled Meshal, in Amman, Jordan. The episode ended with Mossad agents captured and the Clinton administration forcing Israel to provide the antidote that saved Meshal’s life.

The Mughniyah killing, carried out more than a decade later, suggested such American hesi­ta­tion had faded as the CIA stretched its lethal reach well beyond defined war zones and the ungoverned spaces of Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia, where the agency or the military have deployed drones against al-Qaeda and its allies.

A former U.S. official said the Bush administration relied on a theory of national self-defense to kill Mughniyah, claiming he was a lawful target because he was actively plotting against the United States or its forces in Iraq, making him a continued and imminent threat who could not be captured. Such a legal rationale would have allowed the CIA to avoid violating the 1981 blanket ban on assassinations in Executive Order 12333. The order does not define assassination.

In sanctioning a 2011 operation to kill Anwar al-Awlaki, a U.S. citizen andan influential propaganda leader for al-Qaeda’s affiliate in Yemen, the Justice Department made a similar argument. Noting that al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula had targeted U.S. commercial aircraft and asserting that Awlaki had an operational role in the group, government lawyers said he was a continued and imminent threat and could not feasibly be captured.

“It’s fairly clear that the government has at least some authority to use lethal force in self-defense even outside the context of ongoing armed conflict,” said Stephen I. Vladeck, a professor of law at American University’s Washington College of Law. “The million-dollar question is whether the facts actually support a determination that such force was necessary and appropriate in each case.”

The CIA and Mossad worked together to monitor Mughniyah in Damascus for months prior to the killing and to determine where the bomb should be planted, according to the former officials.

In the leadup to the operation, U.S. intelligence officials had assured lawmakers in a classified briefing that there would be no collateral damage, former officials said.

Mughniyah 2

 

Implicated in multiple cases

At the time of his death, Mughniyah had been implicated in the killing of hundreds of Americans, stretching back to the embassy bombing in Beirut that killed 63 people, including eight CIA officers. Hezbollah, supported by Iran, was involved in a long-running shadow war with Israel and its principal backer, the United States.

The embassy bombing placed Hezbollah squarely in the sights of the CIA, a focus that, in some respects, foreshadowed the targeting of Mughniyah. In his 1987 book “Veil,” Washington Post journalist Bob Woodward reported that CIA Director William Casey encouraged the Saudis to sponsor an attempt to kill a Hezbollah leader. The 1985 attempt on the life of Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah with a car bomb failed, but killed 80 people, and he fled to Iran. Mughniyah’s brother was among those killed.

Former agency officials said Mughniyah was involved in the 1984 kidnapping and torture of the CIA’s station chief in Lebanon, William F. Buckley. The officials said Mughniyah arranged for videotapes of the brutal interrogation sessions of Buckley to be sent to the agency. Buckley was later killed.

Mughniyah was indicted in U.S. federal court in the 1985 hijacking of TWA Flight 847 shortly after it took off from Athens and the slaying of U.S. Navy diver Robert Stethem, a passenger on the plane. Mughniyah was placed on the FBI’s Most Wanted Terrorists list with a $5 million reward offered for information leading to his arrest and conviction.

He was also suspected of involvement by U.S. intelligence and law enforcement officials in the planning of the 1996 Khobar Towers bombing in Saudi Arabia that killed 19 U.S. servicemen.

For the Israelis, among numerous attacks, he was involved in the 1992 suicide bombing of the Israeli Embassy in Buenos Aires that killed four Israeli civilians and 25 Argentinians, and the 1994 attack on a Jewish community center in the city that killed 85 people.

“Mughniyah and his group were responsible for the deaths of many Americans,” said James Bernazzani, who was chief of the FBI’s Hezbollah unit in the late 1990s and later the deputy director for law enforcement at the CIA’s Counterterrorism Center.

The Bush administration regarded Hezbollah — Mughniyah, in particular — as a threat to the United States. In 2008, several months after he was killed, Michael Chertoff, then secretary of homeland security, said Hezbollah was a threat to national security. “To be honest, they make al-Qaeda look like a minor league team,” he said.

Beginning in 2003, Hezbollah, with the assistance of Iran, began to train and arm Shiite militant groups in Iraq, which later began attacking coalition forces, according to Matthew Levitt, who recently wrote a book about Hezbollah and is director of the Washington Institute’s Stein Program on Counterterrorism and Intelligence.

The Hezbollah-trained militias proved to be a deadly enemy, wounding or killing hundreds of American troops. As the situation in Iraq deteriorated and coalition casualties spiked in 2006, the United States decided it had to stanch the losses.

The Bush administration issued orders to kill or capture Iranian operatives targeting American troops and attempting to destabilize Iraq. It also approved a list of operations directed at Hezbollah, officials said. The mandate applied directly to the group’s notorious international operations chief.

“There was an open license to find, fix and finish Mughniyah and anybody affiliated with him,” said a former U.S. official who served in Baghdad.

In January 2007, Bush, in an address to the nation, singled out Iran and Syria, two countries with the closest ties to Hezbollah.

“These two regimes are allowing terrorists and insurgents to use their territory to move in and out of Iraq,” Bush said. “Iran is providing material support for attacks on American troops. We will disrupt the attacks on our forces. We will interrupt the flow of support from Iran and Syria. And we will seek out and destroy the networks providing advanced weaponry and training to our enemies in Iraq.”

Read more with details of the operation

Mughniyah's death

Adam Goldman reports on terrorism and national security for The Washington Post.

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Hezbollah commanders killed in suspected Israeli airstrike 

Hezbollah announced the death of six of its commanders and fighters, including the son of its slain former military chief Imad Mughniyah, in what is believed to be an Israeli airstrike in southern Syria.

The Lebanon-based Iranian proxy claimed “the martyrdom of a number of Mujahideen by the Zionist bombing in Quneitra, Syria,” on Al Manar, the group’s official news outlet. The Hezbollah fighters “came under rocket fire from helicopters” of “the Israeli enemy,” the Hezbollah propaganda outlet noted.

B8sElQ9CEAARE38Among the six Hezbollah operatives killed in the airstrike was Jihad Imad Mughniyah, the son of Imad, who was one of the founders of Hezbollah who served as the group’s military and intelligence commander up until he was killed in a car bombing in Damascus in 2008. Imad, who masterminded some of the most deadly terror attacks against the US, Israel, France, Argentina and Iraq, is believed to have been assassinated by Israeli intelligence.

Jihad Mughniyah is said to have been leading a group of Hezbollah fighters in a reconnaissance operation in Quneitra. The Al Nusrah Front, al Qaeda’s official branch in Syria, the Islamic Front, and allied Free Syria Army units are currently operating in and around Quneitra. The jihadist groups have controlled the Quneitra border crossing.

Al Manar identified the other five Hezbollah commanders and operatives as Mohamed Ahmed Issa (he was identified as a “leader”), Abbas Ibrahim Hijazi, Muhammad Ali Hassan, Ghazi Ali Dhaoui, and Ali Hassan Ibrahim.

The Israeli government and military have not commented on the reported airstrike in southern Syria. But the Israeli Air Force has launched several airstrikes against the Syrian regime and Hezbollah’s network inside Syria since the civil war broke out in 2011. The Israelis have targeted weapons systems that were being transferred to Hezbollah as well as weapons facilities in Damascus, Latakia, and Jamraya [See LWJ report, US officials: Israel struck targets near Damascus and Latakia.]

Senior Iranian and Hezbollah commanders have been killed during the fighting in Syria. In February 2013, Hassan Shateri, a top commander in Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps who is also said to have served on Hezbollah’s advisory council, was killed in an ambush while traveling from Damascus to Beirut. A senior Iranian official eulogized Shateri, who was listed by the US as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist, as “no less than [Imad] Mughniyah.”

Hezbollah’s Stealth Invasion Of A Christian Heartland

20150129_hezbollahinvadechristianFamily Security Matters, by Walid Phares, Jan. 29, 2015:

Christmas greetings from Hezbollah? That what some, including the Daily Star of Beirut, would have us believe about a series of visits by the Shia terrorist group to the heartland of the Christian Mount Lebanon during the holiday season. Hezbollah, armed and funded by Iran and part of Bashar al-Assad’s genocidal arsenal in the Syrian civil war – do not have peace and goodwill in mind, even as they pass out handshakes, smiles and holiday greetings to Christians. Slowly but surely, Hezbollah members are normalizing their physical presence in the “Christian wilaya” in what amounts to a soft invasion of an area crucial to dominating the whole of Lebanon.

Even though Hezbollah is fighting today in Iraqi and Syrian battlefields, its eyes are focused on every inch of land in Lebanon. Hezbollah was formed in early 1982 as part of the Iranian regime’s expansion in Lebanon. Its leaders were followers of Iran’s radical fundamentalist leader Ayatollah Khomeini, and its forces were trained and organized by a contingent of 1,500 Iranian Revolutionary Guards that arrived from Iran with permission from the Syrian government. Iran remains Hezbollah’s key backer and spiritual guide, pouring billions of dollars and increasingly sophisticated weaponry into the group, which the U.S. Institute of Peace rightly calls “the most successful example of the theocracy’s campaign to export its revolutionary ideals.”

According to the National Counterterrorism Center, “Hezbollah has been involved in numerous anti-US terrorist attacks, including the suicide truck bombings of the U.S. Embassy in Beirut in April 1983, the U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut in October 1983, and the U.S. Embassy annex in Beirut in September 1984, as well as the hijacking of TWA 847 in 1985 and the Khobar Towers attack in Saudi Arabia in 1996.”

If that doesn’t make you feel warm and fuzzy, neither should the group’s holiday well-wishes in the Christian enclaves of Jbeil and Kesrwan. According to civil society groups’ reports, armed Hezbollah patrols are roaming these same Lebanese villages by night.

Christian Mount Lebanon is crucial to Hezbollah – and to Iran. It is among the last holdouts in their domination of Lebanon, giving them a way not only to challenge and threaten Israel, but to create a line of defense against Sunni extremists like ISIS.

Hezbollah has had a very successful “clear and hold” strategy of its own in Lebanon. They walked behind the Syrian tanks into Baabda in 1990, subdued the south in 2000, and marched into West Beirut in 2008. The last territory to be secured is northern Mount Lebanon. Overtaking the towns of Kesrwan and Jbeil, together with neighboring Batroun, would allow Hezbollah to control the vital coastal road from Dahiye to Tripoli, which includes two key ports that link Lebanon to the outside world, as well as the road from the sea to the summits overlooking the Bekaa. The problem is that this part of Mount Lebanon – and others as well – has a majority of Christian Lebanese who maintain an historical grievance with the Iranian-Assad-Hezbollah troika. They will fight to the last if it comes to it.

The Christians of Mount Lebanon are increasingly isolated and slowly but unmistakably besieged by forces from without and within. ISIS is a real threat to Lebanon, as it is to the whole of the region. But Hezbollah is already there, walking among them, smiling and plotting. Regardless of ISIS, the people of Mount Lebanon will rise against Hezbollah. Indeed, the million citizens who drove or walked from the towns and villages of Mount Lebanon to Martyrs Square in Beirut in 2005 came to demonstrate against the Assad-Iran axis in Lebanese affairs.

Hezbollah’s strategists are savvy and they know how to maneuver, particularly in Lebanon. They benefit from a large and effective propaganda machine, one that includes, sadly, apologists within the Christian community whose political wounds from an intra-community civil war a quarter of a century ago have never healed. But their deft holiday campaign is nonetheless cynical and very dangerous. They have cleverly concealed an invasion in holiday wrapping. A Trojan horse for an endangered Christian community. We must assure this sacred land does not turn into the Ayatollah’s next battlefield.

A version of this piece previously appeared on The Daily Caller.

Dr Walid Phares is an advisor to the US Congress on Counter Terrorism, and the author of ten books including Future Jihad: Terrorist Strategies against America and The Coming Revolution: Struggle for Freedom in the Middle East. Dr Phares appears on national, international and Arab media. He teaches at several universities and briefs US Government agencies on Terrorism and the Middle East.

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