Iraq’s Jihad: Past as Prologue

plus ça change…

American Thinker, By Andrew G. Bostom, June 8, 2005: 

We are now in the middle of a full—blown Jihad, that is to say we have against us the fiercest prejudices of a people in a primeval state of civilization.

Gertrude Bell, Baghdad, Iraq, September 5, 1920

Gertrude Bell (Wikipedia)

Gertrude Bell (Wikipedia)

 

The carnage in Iraq continues——much as Bell described 85 years ago——despite Saddam Hussein’s removal, and capture, along with many of his former high ranking administrators.  And this bloody contemporary “insurgency” is also a jihad—waged by jihadists of two ilks: Al Qaeda types (like Zarqawi) united with so—called “secular” Baathist jihadists. This is hardly surprising as Baathist Arabism is deeply rooted in Islam, and bears no resemblance to Western conceptions of secularism. (Other than perhaps Saddam Hussein’s expensive ‘secular’ wardrobe—as Fouad Ajami once uttered on live television, doing his best Saddam impersonation, to a stunned Dan Rather: ‘You wear pants…I wear pants!’).

Indeed, the very founder of the Baath Party, Michel Aflaq, was a Greek Orthodox Christian who converted to Islam, and declared emphatically, ‘Islam is to Arabism what bones are to the flesh.’ (For an enlightening discussion of the Baathism is secularism canard, see this blog by Professor Frank Salameh  , Monday May, 9, 2005, ‘The Myth of Arab Nationalism’). The Baathists just added another incendiary element to Iraq’s long brewing cauldron of sectarian strife, which was so apparent during the British attempt at statecraft during the 1920s, through early 1930s.

It is edifying to review that experience through the writings, and unfulfilled hopes of the British diplomat, Gertrude Bell. One wishes that a careful reading and thoughtful discussion of Bell’s detailed analyses were a required exercise for all our policymaking elites and chattering classes. Regardless, Bell’s narrative sounds eerily familiar as the cast of characters—from the 1920s, versus the present—seems quite literally frozen in time: Shi’ites led by the very same Sadr family; irredentist Sunnis educated in the Wahhabi tradition; Kurdish ‘separatists'; and the indigenous, pre—Islamic community of Assyrian Christians, soon to be preyed upon, primarily by their traditional Kurdish Muslim enemies, joined by the other Muslim communities.

Fond Foolishness Redux — Iraq Through Gertrude Bell’s Prism

Gertrude Bell (1868—1926) was a brilliant archaeologist and explorer, who traveled extensively in the Middle East, later becoming a British intelligence officer and diplomat in Egypt and Mesopotamia. Due to her unparalleled knowledge of the Middle East, Bell was made part of the delegation to the Paris Conference of 1919, and worked subsequently with British officials attempting to create the modern state of Iraq from three disparate ethnic and religious vilayets (i.e., Mosul, Baghdad, and Basra) of the collapsed Ottoman Empire.

Bell, perhaps the most important female Civil Servant in the entire British Empire during this period, also persuaded Winston Churchill to appoint Faisal, the recently deposed King of Syria, as the first King of Iraq. Her letters written from Baghdad, excerpted below, were originally published in a compilation, ‘The Letters of Gertrude Bell’, [Volume II, New York, 1927]. Bell’s brief, worried comments about the Assyrians foreshadowed their terrible plight, within seven years of her death.

In the last years of her life, Gertrude Bell created, and was the first Director of the Baghdad Archaeological Museum; she died in 1926, and may have committed suicide. Bell’s utopian dreams for Iraq, what the historian Elie Kedourie termed her ‘…fond foolishness…thinking to stand godmother to a new Abbasid Empire…’,  went unfulfilled. Indeed, one of her worst fears was realized: Muslim violence directed against the Assyrian Christian minority.

Read more at American Thinker

Iraqi Sunnis who fought al-Qaeda not keen to quell ISIS

Tribal fighters carrying their weapons pose for photographs during an intensive security deployment to fight against ISIS in the town of Haditha, northwest of Baghdad. (File photo: Reuters)

Tribal fighters carrying their weapons pose for photographs during an intensive security deployment to fight against ISIS in the town of Haditha, northwest of Baghdad. (File photo: Reuters)

By Dina al-Shibeeb, Al Arabiya News, Aug. 29, 2014:

While Iraqi Sunni tribes were crucial in defeating al-Qaeda in 2005, they have not shown the same determination in battling the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) despite reports of them fighting the militant group.

Political observers say this is due to the disfranchisement of the Sunni population by outgoing Shiite Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.

“Malki’s government and its Iranian allies suppressed the Iraqi Sunnis so much that ISIS was able to sweep through Sunni areas without much resistance at first because of resentment toward the premier,” Walid Phares, an advisor to the U.S. Congress on the Middle East, told Al Arabiya News.

“ISIS is taking advantage and seizing more land, power, and eliminating Arab Sunni moderates in Iraq,” Phares said.

Michael Pregent, an adjunct lecturer at the National Defense University in Washington, said the central government broke its promise to integrate 90,000 Sunnis who fought al-Qaeda into the security apparatus, and provide them with jobs.

“They helped get rid of al-Qaeda, but the government fired all of them and put a lot of their leaders in jail,” Pregent, a former U.S. Army officer who was embedded with Iraqi Kurdish forces, told Al Arabiya News.

“The problem is that the government viewed them as a threat” because of the number of Sunni fighters, he added.

Phares said: “ISIS knows that the only possible threat against them, short of an all-out international ground campaign, is an uprising by [Sunni] tribes.”

Sheikh Ali al-Hatem, head of the Dulaim tribe, on Saturday urged Sunni leaders to withdraw from talks to form a new government, despite designated Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi being considered more moderate than Maliki.

Hatem also called on Sunni authorities to fight Shiite militias.

Similarly, on Aug. 17 the Revolutionary Tribal Council called for the formation of regional guards to protect Anbar province.

It called on the international community to label “crimes by Shiite militias as terrorism,” and to “confront” them “the same way they are confronting ISIS in Kurdistan and Mosul.”

However, Sunni leader Ahmed Abu Risha has vowed to take revenge on ISIS for killing his nephew Mohammed Khamis.

Abu Risha said fighting ISIS was a “duty,” taking a similar stance to that of the central government in Baghdad.

Abu Risha met with the head of the Shiite National Iraqi Alliance, Ibrahim al-Jafaari, on Thursday, and both confirmed the importance of forming a government.

Analysts predict that Sunnis will turn on ISIS.

“Soon, ISIS will start oppressing [Sunnis] as well,” Phares said. “Sunni moderates will rise, but chances are that ISIS will meet them with extreme violence.”

The unlikely alliance between ISIS and remnants of late President Saddam Hussein’s regime seems to be unravelling.

On July 14, Reuters reported clashes between ISIS and the Naqshbandi Army, led by Saddam loyalists, which killed at least 12.

“ISIS is now targeting the Naqashbandis, and is trying to disarm them. ISIS is acting strategically. They’re pre-empting,” said Phares.

Pregent said ISIS “relies on intimidation, fear, services, rewards and punishments, and tacit support from the disenfranchised Sunni population to thrive. I believe ISIS sheds as many supporters as it gains when it moves into new areas.”

Phares said: “Despite its power, ISIS is still small in size compared to the large mass of Arab Sunni tribes.

“What is needed at this point is for a Sunni area to be liberated from ISIS but not taken by Baghdad’s forces. This could become the basis of a possible liberation later.”

The militant group is already showing some “cracks,” said Pregent.

“ISIS is no longer travelling from town to town with their convoys. They’re losing their propaganda war… there is no footage since the start of U.S. airstrikes of ISIS rolling into Sunni towns in victory parades – those days are gone.”

In Search of a Strategy

U.S. President Obama addresses reporters ahead of national security council meeting at the White House in WashingtonNational Review, By Andrew C. McCarthy, Aug.30, 2014:

Is it better to have no strategy or a delusional strategy?

The question arises, of course, after President Obama’s startling confession on Thursday that he has not yet developed a strategy for confronting the Islamic State, the al-Qaeda-rooted terrorist organization still often called by its former name, ISIS – an acronym for the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham. Al-Sham refers to Greater Syria.

You may have noticed that President Obama calls the group ISIL, preferring the acronym that refers to the Levant to the one referring to al-Sham. After all, anything that invokes Syria might remind you of red lines that turned out not to be red lines and the administration’s facilitation of the arming of “moderate rebels” who turned out to include, well, ISIS. The fact is that the president has never had a Syria strategy, either — careening from Assad the Reformer, to Assad the Iranian puppet who must be toppled, to Assad who maybe we should consider aligning with against ISIS — ISIS being the “rebels” we used to support in Syria . . . unless they crossed into Iraq, in which case they were no longer rebels but terrorists . . . to be “rebels” again, they’d have to cross back into Syria or cruise east to Libya, where they used to be enemy jihadists spied on by our ally Qaddafi until they became “McCain’s heroes” overthrowing our enemy Qaddafi.

Got it?

No? Well, congratulations, you may have caught mental health, a condition to be envied even if it would disqualify you from serving as a foreign-policy and national-security expert in Washington. In either party.

The Islamic State’s recent beheading of American journalist James Foley is not the only thing that captured Washington’s attention of late. The Beltway was also left aghast at the jihadist’ rounding up of over 150 Syrian soldiers, forcing them to strip down to their underpants for a march through the desert, and then mass-killing them execution style.

Shocking, sure, but isn’t that what the GOP’s foreign-policy gurus were telling us they wanted up until about five minutes ago? Not the cruel method but the mass killing of Assad’s forces. Nothing oh nothing, we were told, could possibly be worse than the barbaric Assad regime. As naysayers — like your faithful correspondent— urged the government to refrain from backing “rebels” who teem with rabidly anti-American Islamic-supremacist savages, top Republicans scoffed. It was paramount that we arm the rebels in order to oust Assad, even though “we understand [that means] some people are going to get arms that should not be getting arms,” insisted Bob Corker (R., Tenn.), ranking member on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Turns out that quite a lot of people who shouldn’t have gotten arms have gotten quite a lot of arms. And that is because Syria is not the only place as to which Republicans urged Obama to ignore federal laws against arming and otherwise supporting terrorists. They did it in Libya, too.

We have several times documented here that influential Republicans led by Senator John McCain were champions of Moammar Qaddafi before they suddenly switched sides — along with President Obama — in campaigning to oust the Libyan regime they had only recently treated (and funded) as a key American counterterrorism ally. The resulting (and utterly foreseeable) empowerment of Islamic supremacists in eastern Libya directly contributed to the Benghazi Massacre of four Americans on September 11, 2012; to the rise of the Islamic State and the expansion of al-Qaeda franchises in Africa, all of which were substantially strengthened by the jihadist capture of much of Qaddafi’s arsenal; and to what has become the collapse of Libya into a virulently anti-American no-man’s land of competing militias in which jihadists now have the upper hand.

The disastrous flip-flop was no surprise. When Mubarak fell in Egypt, Senator McCain stressed that the Brotherhood must be kept out of any replacement government because the Brothers are anti-democratic supporters of repressive sharia and terrorism. He was right on both scores . . . but he soon reversed himself, deciding that the Brotherhood was an outfit Americans could work with after all — even support with sophisticated American weaponry and billions in taxpayer dollars. The Brothers were in power because, in the interim, McCain’s good friend Secretary Clinton pressured Egypt’s transitional military government to step down so the elected “Islamic democracy” could flourish. When the Brothers took the reins, they promptly installed a sharia constitution, demanded that the U.S. release the Blind Sheikh (convicted of running a New York–based terror cell in the 1990s), rolled out the red carpet for Hamas (the terror organization that is the Brotherhood’s Palestinian branch), and gave free reign to terrorist leaders — including the brother of al-Qaeda’s leader and members of the Blind Sheikh’s Egyptian jihadist organization — who proceeded to foment the violent rioting at the U.S. embassy in Cairo the same day as the Benghazi Massacre.

I could go on, but you get the point. While ripping Obama for having no Islamic State strategy, Republicans are now reviving the inane strategy of supporting the illusory “moderate Syrian opposition.” Those would be the same forces they wanted to support against Assad. The only problem was that there aren’t enough real moderates in Syria to mount a meaningful challenge to the regime. The backbone of the opposition to Assad has always been the Muslim Brotherhood, and the most effective fighters against the regime have always been the jihadists. So we’re back to where we started from: Let’s pretend that there is a viable, moderate, democratic Syrian opposition and that we have sufficient intelligence — in a place where we have sparse intelligence — to vet them so we arm only the good guys; and then let’s arm them, knowing that they have seamlessly allied for years with the anti-American terrorists we are delegating them to fight on our behalf. Perfect.

There is no excuse for a president of the United States to have no strategy against an obvious threat to the United States. But at least with Obama, it is understandable. He is hemmed in by his own ideology and demagoguery. The main challenge in the Middle East is not the Islamic State; it is the fact that the Islamic State and its al-Qaeda forebears have been fueled by Iran, which supports both Sunni and Shiite terrorism as long as it is directed at the United States. There cannot be a coherent strategy against Islamic supremacism unless the state sponsors of terrorism are accounted for, but Obama insists on seeing Iran as a potential ally rather than an incorrigible enemy.

Moreover, the combined jihadist threat is not a regional one merely seeking to capture territory in the Middle East; it is a global one that regards the United States as its primary enemy and that can be defeated only by America and its real allies. This is not a problem we can delegate to the basket-case governments of Iraq and Afghanistan, or to the “moderate” Syrian “rebels.” Yet the Obama Left’s relentless indictment of American self-defensive action in the Middle East has sapped the domestic political support necessary for vigorous military action against our enemies — action that will eventually have to include aggressive American combat operations on the ground.

But the GOP should take note: The jihad is not a problem we can delegate to the Muslim Brotherhood, either. We will not defeat our enemies until we finally recognize who they are — all of them.

— Andrew C. McCarthy is a policy fellow at the National Review Institute. His latest book, Faithless Execution: Building the Political Case for Obama’s Impeachment, was released by Encounter Books on June 3.

 

 

 

Partnering with Syria’s Assad Against ISIL Will Preserve His Rule

Bashar AssadBy Daniel Wiser:

An alliance between U.S. forces and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to eliminate Islamic militants would play right into the hands of the brutal authoritarian leader, experts say.

Reports indicate that Assad helped facilitate the rise of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL or ISIS), the jihadist group that now controls large swaths of Iraq and Syria and recently beheaded American journalist James Foley.

The International Business Times reported over the weekend that U.S. intelligence agencies have provided Assad’s forces with information—using the German intelligence service as an intermediary—that would help them target ISIL leaders in airstrikes. Agence France Presse (AFP) then reportedon Tuesday that the United States was offering intelligence to Syria through Iraqi and Russian agents.

Foreign drones conducted surveillance over eastern Syria on Monday, according to a Syrian human rights group, while Syrian warplanes targeted ISIL in the same region on Tuesday.

Both White House and State Department officials have vigorously denied the reports.

“As a matter of U.S. policy, we have not recognized” Assad as the leader of Syria, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest told reporters aboard Air Force One. “There are no plans to change that policy and there are no plans to coordinate with the Assad regime.”

State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf also tweeted: “Claim in this story that US is sharing intel with the Assad regime is false.”

While U.S. officials publicly deny that they are partnering with Assad against ISIL, some foreign policy experts are pushing the Obama administration to do so. The terrorist group has attracted thousands of foreign fighters who could return to Europe or the United States and launch attacks, U.S. intelligence officials say.

Other experts warn that allying with Assad would preserve his grip on power despite the administration’s long-stated goal of urging him to step down.

Frederic Hof, a resident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council and former adviser on Syria for the Obama administration, wrote recently that Assad appears to have formed a tacit alliance with ISIL to defeat more moderate rebels also battling his government.

“By reportedly conducting airstrikes on ISIS positions in eastern Syria, the Assad regime is begging for readmission to polite society by attacking the very forces whose existence it has facilitated over the years,” Hof said. “Yet it is doing so in a selective way that preserves its de facto collaboration with ISIS in western Syria against the nationalist Syrian opposition.”

The Free Syrian Army (FSA) rebels say their opposition movement is now on the verge of collapseas both Assad’s forces and ISIL militants converge on one of their last strongholds in the northwestern city of Aleppo.

That appears to have been Assad’s strategy all along, according to a recent report by the Wall Street Journal.

Syrian intelligence assisted militants in al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI)—the precursor to ISIL—with travel across the Syrian border into Iraq as long as they pledged to only attack U.S. troops during the Iraq War, according to the Journal. Assad’s regime also released several high-level terrorist detainees in May 2011 that would later lead to jihadist groups, including ISIL.

Additionally, ISIL sold crude to Assad’s government as militants seized oil-rich provinces in northern and eastern Syria, according to a January report in the New York Times. Both Syrian forces and ISIL have also cooperated in the fight against nationalist rebels in Aleppo.

“When the Syrian army is not fighting the Islamic State, this makes the group stronger,” Izzat Shahbandar, a former Iraqi lawmaker and ally of Assad who met with him in Damascus, told the Journal. “And sometimes, the army gives them a safe path to allow the Islamic State to attack the FSA and seize their weapons.”

“It’s a strategy to eliminate the FSA and have the two main players face each other in Syria: Assad and the Islamic State,” Shahbandar added. “And now [Damascus] is asking the world to help, and the world can’t say no.”

read more at Washington Free Beacon

Also see:

Kurdish Female Warriors On The Front Lines Fighting ISIS in Iraq and Syria

kurdish-womenjpgBreitbart, by DEBRA HEINE, Aug. 24,2014:

A  notoriously fierce segment of the Kurdish security forces are striking terror into the hearts of ISIS terrorists – female fighters. The Jihadists have no problem slaughtering defenseless women but they don’t like facing armed female warriors in battle — because they don’t believe they’ll go to heaven if they’re killed by one of them.

The first official female unit was formed in 1996 when women began combat training in opposition to Saddam Hussein’s regime. They’ve earned a  reputation for bravery and skill in the battlefield – so much so Peshmerga women are sometimes compared to Amazons.  You could call them the Kurdish Peshmerga’s First Cavalry Amazon Battalion.

Via PBS News, the all female unit’s commander, Col. Nahida Ahmed Rashid, said “more women are enlisting today to defend Iraq’s Kurdish region from Islamic State extremists.”

And these soldiers don’t only swell the fighting ranks; they’ve recently become a part of front-line strategy.

“The jihadists don’t like fighting women, because if they’re killed by a female, they think they won’t go to heaven,” one female soldier said.

Women are also involved in Kurdish resistance to the Islamic State’s advances in Syria. Some 30 percent of the armed wing of the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) there, which also fights against Jabhat al-Nusra, al-Qaeda’s Syrian branch, are female.

Such soldiers join up not simply to defend their cities from invading armies, said the commander of the first all-woman PYD brigade, but from the extremist ideas they would carry with them.

“I believe in a greater cause, which is protecting our families and our cities from the extremists’ brutality and dark ideas,” she said. “They don’t accept having women in leadership positions. They want us to cover ourselves and become housewives to attend to their needs only. They think we have no right to talk and control our lives.”

Kurdish female partners

Here is a documentary of the women fighters of Kurdistan:

How Iraq’s black market in oil funds ISIS

ISIS sells $3M of black-market oil daily

ISIS sells $3M of black-market oil daily

By Luay al-Khatteeb:

London (CNN) — Luay al-Khatteeb spoke to CNN about the impact of ISIS’ march through northern Iraq, and the militant group’s control of some oil fields. He explained how they used the oil fields to raise funds, and how it could impact global prices. This is an edited version of the conversation.

How much of Iraq’s oil market do ISIS control?

ISIS control just a few marginal fields in Iraq’s north, but they are enough to fund the terrorist group’s self-sufficiency.

A month ago, the ISIS–controlled oil market in Iraq was reported to be worth $1 million a day. Now, with expansion, further control of oil fields and smuggling routes, the market is believed to be raising at least $2 million a day.

This could fetch them more than $730 million a year, enough to sustain the operation beyond Iraq.

ISIS have been battling over Baiji and the refinery is still under siege. However, if ISIS succeed in capturing it, the refinery would be very difficult to operate without capable and technical staff.

One important factor for the stability of global markets: ISIS is not yet in the south of Iraq, where the country’s true oil bounty lies. Capturing the southern assets of the country would be mission impossible for the group.

The territory is far from fault lines, and is dominated by Shia, which makes dominating the region difficult for the Sunni militant group.

What do ISIS do with the oil they get?

ISIS smuggle the crude oil and trade it for cash and refined products, at a reduced price. They also have their own small and rudimentary refineries in Syria.

Refined oil is returned to ISIS for selling locally, in Iraq and Syria. ISIS also use the oil in their own warfare.

ISIS controls smuggling routes and the crude transported by tankers to Jordan via Anbar province, to Iran via Kurdistan, to Turkey via Mosul, to Syria’s local market and to the Kurdistan region of Iraq, where most of it gets refined locally.

Turkey has turned a blind eye to this and may continue to do so until they come under pressure from the West to close down oil black markets in the country’s south.

ISIS’ oil will remain limited to these black markets, and the group will have no chance to establish a sophisticated pipeline network. Fixed distribution networks are complex, require investment and can become targets by the Iraqi Army and Kurdish Peshmerga.

What is ISIS’ ultimate aim and how does oil wealth play into it?

At present, ISIS are trying to establish a self-sufficient state and a capital in what is known as the “Sunni triangle” (west and north Iraq), and oil production will be part of this.

They want to be self-sufficient, expand their territorial control, recruit more jihadists — with focus on extremists with foreign passports — and extend their operations, to eventually launch attacks on Western countries.

ISIS declared its Caliphate by turning Iraq and Syria into a hub to attract extremists. They are aiming to take over the Arabian Peninsula as their epicenter to launch attacks globally.

If this happens, they will be in control of a region that holds 60% of world’s conventional energy reserves and produces 40% of global oil and gas production.

And the only way to do it is by attracting the masses of jihadists and extremists from all over the world to eventually outnumber the locals, which will endanger global security and economies.

Read more at CNN

Luay al-Khatteeb is visiting fellow at the Brookings Doha Center, focusing on the geopolitics and political economy of the GCC and Iraq. He is the founder and director of the Iraq Energy Institute and serves as senior adviser to the federal parliament of Iraq for energy policy and economic reform.

Taking the US fight against IS into Syria would consolidate Assad and his Iranian-Hizballah allies

Raqqa_IS-20.8.14Debka:

British and German intelligence sources reported Saturday, Aug. 23, that US intelligence aid to the Assad regime, channeled through German BND intelligence, had enabled the Syrian air force to more precisely target al Qaeda units. These reports tie in with proliferating accounts from Washington that President Barack Obama is on the point of a decision to extend military strikes into Syria for targeting the Islamic State’s terrorist base. He has been warned by some top US generals that IS poses a threat to the United States and cannot be seriously engaged without dealing with the group’s Syrian stronghold. “We’re not going to be restricted by borders,” said Ben Rhodes, Obama’s deputy national security adviser, in a comment Thursday.
DEBKAfile’s military and intelligence sources report that there is no confirmation from the ground in Syria that Washington is indeed passing intelligence to Syria through Berlin to help the Syrian air force reach IS targets. The fact is that Syria is falling well short of arresting the IS advance on two critical fronts:

1. Aleppo. The Islamist threat looms grimly over an approaching Syrian-Hizballah military victory, under Iranian commanders, in Aleppo, Syria’s largest city. They have come close to dislodging rebel forces from their last footholds, only to be faced with a new enemy. In the last fortnight, al Qaeda forces armed with American weapons taken booty in Iraq have surged out of their northern Syrian stronghold of Raqqa to capture dozens of villages around the city. Syrian and Hizballah forces, after completing their takeover of Aleppo, will find themselves encircled by Islamist units.
2. Tabqa Air Base.  IS forces have pinned down some 1,000 Syrian air force and military personnel in the Tabqa air base southwest of Raqqa. They are locked in fierce combat. Every attempt by the Syrian army in the last two weeks to break the siege has been repelled by the Islamists. The latest attempt by the new Syrian Republican Guard’s 124th Brigade to reverse the battle has not so far broken the extremists’ stranglehold.

The fall of Tabqa air base would represent the Islamic State’s next major victory after the capture of Iraq’s second city of Mosul in July. It would open the road to Hama, 480 km to the west, and the main highways to Syria’s most important ports and naval bases in Latakia and Tartus in the Assad clan’s heartland.

In a word, by taking Tabqa, IS would virtually roll back a year of advances made by the Hizballah-backed Syrian military against the insurgency, and replace the former threat to the Assad regime with a new one from the Islamic State.
So in any decision to extend US military action from Iraq to Syria, President Obama must take into consideration its likely collateral effect – if successful, which would be to rescue Assad’s rule in Damascus from the Islamist peril and relieve his Hizballah and Iranian allies of this pressure.

After declaring for nearly four years that Bashar Assad must go, the US president may end up sending a US aircraft carrier to save him.
This decision by the US president would bear heavily on the security of two of Syria’s neighbors, Israel and Jordan. DEBKAfile’s military and intelligence sources add that, in view of Egyptian president Abdel Fatteh El-Sisi’s recent clandestine contacts with President Assad, an American decision to strike al Qaeda in Syria may also influence El-Sisi’s calculations about hosting diplomacy for an accommodation of the Gaza conflict.

‘They’re fighting off death': Fears of another Mount Sinjar grow after ISIS surrounds 18,000 Shi’ite Muslims in Iraqi town of Amerli

article-2731777-20B60B0000000578-803_634x380

 

  • Senior Iraqi cleric expresses grave concern for Shi’ite Turkmen community
  • Town faces starvation after food, water and medical supplies are cut off
  • Doctor: ‘It’s a disaster. Children are eating only once every three days’
  • Victims plead for West to intervene like it did to save Yazidis on Mt Sinjar
  • One said: ‘How much suffering must we see? We have been forgotten’
  • ISIS suicide bomber kills 46 at mosque 75 miles northeast of Baghdad
  • Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond says ‘UK may send support to besieged town’ but added we ‘do not need Assad’s permission for intervention’

 

By SIMON TOMLINSON FOR MAILONLINE and DAVID WILLIAMS FOR THE DAILY MAIL

Fears are growing for thousands of Muslim Iraqis who have been surrounded by Islamic State militants in a chilling repeat of the siege of Mount Sinjar.

Iraq’s most influential cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, today expressed grave concern for 18,000 Shi’ites in the town of Amerli after their food, water and medical supplies were cut off.

The Shi’ite Turkmen community say they have been living under siege for the last two months after the Sunni jihadists captured the surrounding towns and villages.

Dr Ali Albayati, who lives in Amerli, said: ‘It is a humanitarian disaster – 20,000 people in Amerli are fighting off death.

‘There are children who are only eating once every three days.’

British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond revealed that Britain was closely monitoring the situation and would be willing ‘in principle’ to join an international effort to send support to the besieged town.

But he revealed Britain will not work with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to combat Islamic State fighters in the country – and his permission would not be needed for any military intervention.

Hammond also said Britain had no plans to arm moderate fighters in Syria’s civil war, and insisted that Western troops on the ground in Iraq would only make the situation worse.

His comments came as a militant suicide bomber targeted a Sunni mosque in town 75 miles north-east of Baghdad, killing at least 46 people and wounding 50 others.

Read more at Daily Mail

 

White House Changing Its Tune On ISIS – The Kelly File

Published on Aug 23, 2014 by UNIVERSAL

 

ISIS Communicating With Mexican Cartel – Islamic Extremism On The Rise:

 

Also see:

Eric Holder Launches Criminal Probe Into Foley Beheading

Fox News:

Attorney General Eric Holder said Thursday that his Justice Department is opening a criminal investigation into the brutal execution by Islamic State militants of American journalist James Foley, in the latest move by the administration to use the criminal justice system to pursue terrorists.

The announcement comes as the Obama administration steps up its airstrike campaign against the same militant organization — and mulls additional American boots on the ground in Iraq.

Holder, during remarks in Washington, confirmed the “open criminal investigation” into Foley’s beheading, which was recorded and posted online this week.

“Those who would perpetrate such acts need to understand something — this Justice Department, this Department of Defense, this nation, we have long memories and our reach is very wide,” Holder said. “We will not forget what happened, and people will be held accountable, one way or the other.”

The remarks seemed to leave open the possibility of military action to seek justice in Foley’s killing. The pursuit of a criminal probe, though, immediately raises questions about how investigators will be able to operate.

“This is more nonsense,” Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., an Iraq war veteran, said in a statement to FoxNews.com. “What’s most aggravating is that either in Foley’s situation, or the other Americans in captivity, the Defense Department is being forced to take a backseat to the FBI and DOJ.”

The administration also faced Republican criticism from some corners for pursuing a criminal investigation into the Benghazi terror attack in 2012. One suspect in that probe, Ahmed Abu Khatallah, was captured by U.S. forces in June and brought to the U.S. for a civilian court prosecution.

Holder has stood by the use of the American criminal justice system as a vehicle to try terrorists, pointing to past convictions in both the Bush and Obama administrations.

But U.S. investigators reportedly had trouble with access in the Libya probe — an issue not likely to improve if they attempt to enter Syria, which is an active warzone, or even Iraq where large swaths of territory across the country’s north are controlled by militants. Intelligence officials have said privately, before the Foley execution, that operating in both countries was extremely difficult.

Hunter said the U.S. military has a “deep network” that can “exceed whatever the FBI or DOJ can do.”

FBI Director James Comey, though, reportedly said the “full force” of the government would be brought to the case.

“I’m very, very, sorry to say that these savages have turned it into a homicide investigation,” Comey reportedly said in Denver.

Fox News’ Catherine Herridge and FoxNews.com’s Judson Berger contributed to this report. 

****

Retired Intel Officer: Foley Rescue Attempt Failed Because Obama ‘Dragged His Feet’

 

Iran links Iraq role to lifting of sanctions

Iran is ready to join international action against militants in Iraq provided the West lifts crippling sanctions, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said on Thursday.

His comments followed a call by French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius on Wednesday for all countries in the region, including Iran, to join the fight against Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) fighters who have seized swathes of Iraq as well as neighboring Syria.

“If we agree to do something in Iraq, the other side of the negotiations should do something in return,” the official IRNA news agency quoted Zarif as saying.

“All the sanctions that are related to Iran’s nuclear program should be lifted,” he said.

It is the first time that Iran has explicitly linked its readiness to work with the West in Iraq with a lifting of the crippling EU and U.S. sanctions imposed over its nuclear program.

Those sanctions are the subject of ongoing talks between Tehran and the major powers that are due to resume before the opening of the U.N. General Assembly next month.

In return for lifting the sanctions, the Western powers are demanding that Iran sharply rein in its nuclear program to ally international concerns about its ambitions as part of a comprehensive deal they are seeking to strike by November.

The Iranian foreign ministry confirmed on Wednesday that discussions were under way with several European governments about the possibility of joint action against ISIS in Iraq.

Zarif said tough negotiations were still under way over what role Iran might play in Iraq and what the reward might be for its cooperation.

“It is still not clear what we have to do in Iraq and what they have to do in return,” the Mehr news agency quoted the Iranian foreign minister as saying.

“And that’s exactly the difficult part.”

Iranian and U.S. officials discussed the jihadists’ lightning offensive in Iraq in June on the sidelines of nuclear talks with the major powers but both sides ruled out joint military action at the time.

Tehran and Washington have had no diplomatic relations since the aftermath of the Islamic Revolution of 1979, although they have had contacts over Afghanistan as well as Iraq.

What is ISIS, Where did it Come From, and When Did the US Know it was There?

by Shoshana Bryen and Michael Johnson
Jewish Policy Center
August 20, 2014

The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), also known as the Islamic State in the Levant (ISIL), currently controls about one-third of Iraq. It is a combination of:

  • A non-al-Qaeda revival of the al-Qaeda-sponsored Islamic State of Iraq (ISI) organization that tried to take over western Iraq 2003—2006, and
  • Sunni Syrian rebel groups including the Nusra Front (Jabhat al Nusra), which also has ties to al Qaeda.

Turkey, Qatar, and – indirectly – the United States supported the Nusra Front early in its existence in the Syrian civil war, although it is on the U.S. list of terrorist organizations. In 2011/12, the U.S. was supplying arms from Libya to Turkey for distribution to Syrian rebels, and both Turkey and Qatar provided them to their preferred radical jihadist groups, not the so-called “moderate” Syrian rebels at least politically favored by the U.S. The Nusra Front was a recipient of both arms and money. The CIA was working in the area at the time, ostensibly helping the Turks “vet” the opposition groups and providing them “non-lethal” aid.

Current ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi (as the self-styled Caliph of the Islamic State, he is now known as Amir al-Mu’minin Caliph Ibrahim) was an early follower of Abu Musab al Zarkawi, a Bin Laden loyalist. In 2003, al Zarkawi’s “Group for Monotheism and Holy War “(JTJ) bombed the UN Headquarters in Baghdad, killing 34 people. In 2006, after al Zarkawi was killed, the group became the Islamic State of Iraq (ISI) under the control of Abu Abdullah al-Rashid al-Baghdadi and Abu Ayyub al-Masri, an Egyptian. The American “surge” in Iraq pushed ISI across the border to Syria in 2006/7.

After both al-Masri and al-Baghdadi were killed in 2010, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi assumed leadership of ISIS.

IS gunman in Syria.

IS gunman in Syria.

ISIS has enormous financial reserves. When Iraqi forced killed the ISIS commander of Mosul in June 2014, they retrieved 160 computer flash drives – which the CIA, among others, has been combing for information. According to The Guardian newspaper, the drives contained “noms de guerre of all foreign fighters, senior leaders and their code words, initials of sources inside ministries and full accounts of the group’s finances.” A British official told the newspaper, “Before Mosul, their total cash and assets were $875 million. Afterwards, with the money they robbed from banks and the value of the military supplies they looted, they could add another $1.5 billion to that.”In April 2013, ISIS announced that the Nusra Front in Syria was affiliated with al Qaeda and the two would work together in Syria and Iraq. There were reports that ISIS had waned in influence early in 2014 and in February, al Qaeda separated itself from ISIS. This may have accounted President Obama’s comment that the group was “the jayvee team” – a reference to the apparent rise of the still AQ-affiliated Nusra Front at the expense of ISIS. But in June 2014, the Nusra Front was reported to have merged into ISIS, providing it with an additional 15,000 soldiers for its latest push across western Iraq.

ISIS, then, was not unknown to American, British, Iraqi or other intelligence services before it began its streak across the Syrian-Iraqi border and the acquisition of territory in which it has declared its caliphate.

Background & Resource Material

The group has changed from an insurgency in Iraq to a jihadist group primarily in Syria, to an army largely in Iraq. Following the past of least resistance, the group moved from Iraq to Syria, then Iraq again and today is in control of parts of both countries.

  • Abu Mus’ab al-Zarqawi established al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) in April 2004 and swore allegiance to Osama Bin Laden. [i]
  • The Islamic State in Iraq (ISI) fought multiple battles with U.S. and kidnapped American soldiers.[ii] It also carried out IED and suicide attacks against Iraqi and U.S. forces.
  • Following the 2006-07 surge, many of the group’s members, including al-Zarqawi, were killed by Iraqi or U.S. forces; some remained in hiding. As of 2010, the U.S. considered the group to be dislodged from central AQ leadership. [iii]
  • Abu Ayyub al-Masri and Abu Omar al-Baghdadi – ISI leaders – were killed in a joint U.S.-Iraqi mission in April 2010, leaving the leadership of ISI to Abu Bakr.[iv]
  • In 2011, all U.S. combat troops had left Iraq, but ISI predominated on the Syria-Iraq border. Had Syria not collapsed, ISI would have had a harder time gaining territory and funds.
  • By late 2012, much of the group’s reformed leadership was already targeted by the U.S. treasury. [v]
  • The Islamic State of Iraq in the Levant (ISIL), another name for the same group, started operations in Northern Syria following large demonstrations against Assad.[vi]
  • ISIL officially declared its governance over the Levant in April 2013
  • In August 2013, U.S. officials said ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was operating from Syria, but directing suicide attacks in central Iraq[vii]
  • The group refocused efforts on Iraq-Syria border after fighting began with other rebel groups and Assad in late 2013 early 2014 [viii]
  • AQ Central and ISIS split due to differences over methodology and fighting in early 2014 [ix]
  • ISIS pushed deeper into Iraq, capturing Fallujah in Jan 2014[x] and Mosul in June.

Early Funding

Early funding of ISI (later ISIS) included many rich and religiously connected Gulf donors. One of the most notable is Nayef al-Ajmi, Kuwait’s former Minister of Justice and Islamic Affairs and Endowments. The U.S. Government later sanctioned al-Ajmi for sending money to Syrian Jihadists. [xi] The whole al-Ajmi family appears to have been involved in financing jihadists. Sheikh Hajjaj al-Ajmi used his 250,000 Twitter followers and some of his own wealth to fund various radical Sunni groups in Syria, sending over $1 million. Syrian rebels even sent him “thank you” videos on Youtube.[xii]

The former Head of British MI6 says the Saudi government probably not sending money, but overlooking when citizens do [xiii] Qatar appears to be the only country openly funding jihadist groups in Syria, but the money tail appears to include a number of rich families in the Gulf.

Ad hoc funding included bank robberies and the looting of antiquities. [xiv]

Later Funding

  • Raiding oil fields and processing facilities in Iraq. Oil cannot be shipped out of the country – ISIS doesn’t have the transportation capacity and no one on the outside will buy it, but there are ways to make it profitable internally.

– Traders sell both refined and crude oil to nearby groups including Kurdish smugglers.[xv]

– Iraq’s Anbar Province, the ISIS stronghold, doesn’t have much oil, but Northern Nineveh and areas around Kirkuk do.[xvi]

– ISIS has taken control of Baiji, the site of a large refinery that supplies oil to much of Iraq

  • In June, ISIS looted the central bank in Mosul, taking away an estimated $429 million

– With that, it is estimated that “ISIS could pay 60,000 fighters $600 a month for a whole year.”

  • Money is also made from business and personal “protection” taxes extorted from residents of areas captured by ISIS.

Footnotes:

Islam’s dilemma over the Islamic State

Cooperation over confronting the threat is missing
 August 18, 2014:

The jihadist forces of the Islamic State are strewing a path of atrocities, destruction and conquest across the heartland of the Middle East. They thrust down into Iraq from Syrian battlefields in June 2014, sweeping all before them, including thousands of Iraqi army troops who abandoned uniforms and top-of-the-line U.S. weaponry as they fled south to Baghdad.

Who stands between the Islamic State and its dream of a global caliphate? The Kurds are doing their best with a Peshmerga spirit but outdated weaponry. The United States and some European allies have begun to intervene militarily. Saudi King Abdullah gave a couple of speeches imploring his fellow Muslims to do something. Iran reportedly sent Gen. Qassem Suleimani and some Qods Force advisers to buck up its tottering puppet regime in Baghdad. The question is, where are the rest of the region’s Muslims, those supposedly so threatened by what the Islamic State represents? The silence from the Organization of Islamic Cooperation has been positively deafening. Above all, Gen. Suleimani and the Qods Force notwithstanding, what is Iran really doing to take the fight to the Islamic State and roll back its advances?

A directionless U.S. national security leadership helps explain why the United States can’t seem to figure out who’s the enemy (this week) or what to do about it all. As long as the Islamic State was still the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), fighting (at least occasionally) against the Iranian-backed regime of Bashar Assad in Syria, the U.S. along with assorted companions of dubious pedigree — Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, al Qaeda and the Muslim Brotherhood — channeled aid, intelligence, training and weapons to Syrian rebels, some of whom were of likewise dubious pedigree. But now that ISIS has morphed into the far more ambitious and dangerous Islamic State (or simply, the Caliphate), it seems to be another story. In between rounds of golf, even President Obama has expressed something akin to alarm.

The problem, as Cliff May of the Foundation for Defense of Democracy pointed out recently, is that the United States has no “overarching strategy.” What Mr. May and others term (the politically correct) “jihadism,” in fact is nothing other than the purest expression of Islamic doctrine, law and scripture that has been waging wars of conquest against the non-Muslim world for more than 1,300 years. Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, after all, earned a doctorate in Islamic studies from a Baghdad university. Like Osama bin Laden, Ayman al-Zawahri and others before him, he cites with specificity Islamic law and scripture to underscore the justification of his jihad. However, thanks to massive penetration of the top levels of U.S. national security leadership, which collaborated with affiliates of the Muslim Brotherhood to effect a governmentwide purge of training materials about such topics, the American ability to name the enemy and take the offense to confront and defeat his threat doctrine has been neutralized. So we see the Obama administration jerking from response to response, sending Libyan weapons and training future ISIS recruits in Jordan one day, bombing the Islamic State positions inside Iraq the next, too tongue-tied to identify the Islamic ideology at the root of the whole mess.

Andrew Bostom nailed it in an Aug. 17 tweet in which he asked, “Whither the Muslim-led coalition to crush ‘un-Islamic [Islamic State] drawn from vast, modern-equipped militaries of Turkey, Egypt, Pakistan, et al?” Yousef al-Qaradawi, senior jurist of the Muslim Brotherhood, bleated something about how al-Baghdadi’s declaration of a caliphate was “void,” according to Islamic law. No call to arms here, though, and certainly nothing at the level of his thundering fatwas endorsing suicide bombings against American troops in Iraq or Israelis. Even when the Islamic State calls the Shia “rafidah,” meaning deviants (from the “true Islam”), and jihadis flock from all over the world to volunteer for suicide missions to blow up Shia shrines, the most Iran seems to be doing is helping defend the ones that are left and making sure the Islamic State doesn’t capture Baghdad.

That leads to the nagging concern at the back of all this: What if the reason neither the ostensibly petrified Arab Muslim regimes nor the supposedly directly targeted Shia have called an emergency session of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation to denounce the “un-Islamic” Islamic State is because it really isn’t all that “un-Islamic” to want to re-establish the caliphate or enforce Islamic law (Shariah)? None of them wants to lose his throne — or his head — to the bloodthirsty thugs, but how to condemn something that Muhammad and the Four Rightly Guided Caliphs who followed him did on a much grander scale?

Read more at The Washington Times

Clare M. Lopez is the vice president for research and analysis at the Center for Security Policy.

 

WATCH: ANTI-ISIS PROTESTS IN LONDON POPULATED BY KURDS, COMMUNISTS, AND PKK SUPPORTERS

PIC_0263Breitbart London:

LONDON, United Kingdom – Anti-ISIS protests in London this weekend saw hundreds of people march from the BBC’s Broadcasting House to the American Embassy then down to Marble Arch.

The march followed the Gaza protests staged in London over recent weeks, and there were originally concerns that the demonstration would be met by London’s pro-ISIS campaigners who were spotted on Oxford Street, moments away from where the march is due to start and end, earlier this week.

But all passed peacefully, with the only animosity being directed at the Breitbart Londonteam itself after tough questions were asked about the support for the PKK, and the communist flags being waved at the event. At one point, Breitbart London’s correspondents were surrounded by hostile protesters shouting, “You are ISIS!” at us.

The PKK, or Kurdistan Worker’s Party, is listed as a terrorist organisation by NATO members included the United Kingdom and the USA, as well as Australia, Iran, the Netherlands, Turkey, Spain, and more.

But by and large the protests focused on the atrocities being committed by ISIS in the northern part of Iraq. Campaigners cited the massacres of Yazidis, though some, including speaking Dr Mary Davis, seeked to blame the Western powers rather than deal with the issue itself.

Breitbart London was there, with interesting results.

WATCH: