Concerns Raised Over US Co-existence with Iranian-Backed Militias in Iraq

Iraqi fighters of the Shiite group Asaib Ahl al-Haq (The League of the Righteous) gesture upon their return to the southern city of Basra, on June 14, 2015. The group is fighting alongside Iraqi security forces against the Islamic State (IS) jihadist group in an attempt to try to retake the strategic northern town of Baiji. At least 11 members of the Iraqi security forces were killed the previous day near the town of Baiji in a series of suicide attacks claimed by IS jihadists. AFP PHOTO / HAIDAR MOHAMMED ALI

Iraqi fighters of the Shiite group Asaib Ahl al-Haq (The League of the Righteous) gesture upon their return to the southern city of Basra, on June 14, 2015. The group is fighting alongside Iraqi security forces against the Islamic State (IS) jihadist group in an attempt to try to retake the strategic northern town of Baiji. At least 11 members of the Iraqi security forces were killed the previous day near the town of Baiji in a series of suicide attacks claimed by IS jihadists. AFP PHOTO / HAIDAR MOHAMMED ALI

Center for Security Policy, by Jennifer Keltz June 30, 2015:

Last week, news reports surfaced that US troops in Iraq have been sharing the Taqqadum military base with Iranian-backed Shia militias, some of which have killed US troops in the past. The Pentagon said that US forces are separated from the militias, which are operating on a different part of the base, though liaisons that are members of the militias have been working with the US and Iraq.

Iran has been a key contributor to the Iraqi fight against the Islamic State (IS), and this fact has been acknowledged by Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi. In recent a conversation with Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, Abadi told Khamenei that Iran’s support of Shia militias fighting IS is essential to defeating the organization.

Iraq has also greatly benefited from US involvement in the fight against IS, as the US has been providing training and supplies to Iraqi and Kurdish forces. In March, the US officially began to provide more concrete support, beyond simply training Iraqi troops, for the offensive against IS in Tikrit. The US began providing intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance at the request of the Iraqi government.

Throughout the fight against IS, the US has maintained a military presence of 3,100 troops in Iraq. After the fall of Ramadi, the US decided to deploy approximately 400 more troops, signifying its investment in staying involved in the fight. Along with these additional troops to supplement those already in Iraq, senior members of the military have advised expanding the operational capacities of the US troops to allow them to conduct on-the-ground missions.

An escalation of US involvement in Iraq, coinciding with increased coexistence and cooperation between US and Iranian-backed Shia militias, raises some questions.

The first issue that must be addressed is that of the safety of US forces sharing space with the Shia militias. According to the Pentagon, Shia militias left the base before the US troops arrived. However, they are actually staying in a different area on the base, though the base is reportedly very large (larger than Vienna, VA, a town in the Washington, D.C. suburbs). Senator Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), an Iraq War veteran, is apprehensive of the arrangement because many Americans were killed in Iraq as a result of bombs supplied by Iran. Adding to this concern, the militias are headed by the leader of Hezbollah in Iraq, Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, and include the League of the Righteous, which still boasts about a roadside execution of five US soldiers near Karbala in 2007. US troops have not clashed with the militias in the 11 months that US special operations forces will be in Iraq, but a senior administration official said that “there’s no real command and control from the central government. Even if these guys don’t attack us … Iran is ushering in a new Hezbollah era in Iraq, and we will have aided and abetted it.”

The second issue regards the potential for an armed offensive jointly led by US, Iraqi, and Iranian-backed forces. The US gives weapons to the Iraqi government only, but knows that many end up being used by the Shia militias. Additionally, some militia commanders have been allowed to be present at US military and intelligence briefings for the Iraqi government-controlled Iraqi Security Forces. As previously stated, the Shia militias have a history of violence toward US troops, which could prove disastrous if they turn on the US on the battlefield.

Additionally, the US is still engaged in nuclear negotiations with Iran. A short-term military alliance between the US and Iranian-backed forces in Iraq could lead to US officials developing a false sense of security over the veracity of Iran’s commitment to peace.

In reality, Iran will almost certainly use the nuclear capabilities it will gain in the deal with the US for military purposes while continuing to spread weapons to Hamas and Hezbollah, terrorizing the Middle East and the world. Iran views itself as a lostempire and the leader of a global Islamic revolution. The Iranian regime seeks to seize territories formerly controlled by the Persian empire, including Iraq and the rest of the Middle East. Iran recently trumpeted its control of four Arab capitals, including Baghdad, San’aa, Damascus and Beirut.

A battlefield alliance with US forces gives an unacceptable appearance of legitimacy to all of Iran’s military and foreign policy goals. The United States must find a strategy to advance its efforts against the Islamic State without empowering Iran’s Islamic revolution.

Also see:

Birthday for A Caliphate

Reuters

Reuters

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

House Subcommittee Hearing on “Intelligence Void” involved in admitting Syrian Refugees

3927540564CSP, by Alessandra Gennarelli, June 24, 2015:

Wednesday, June 24th, the House Subcommittee on Homeland Security held a hearing titled “Admitting Syrian refugees: The Intelligence Void and the Emerging Homeland Security Threat.” This hearing addressed the issue of the FBI’s inability to vet incoming Syrian and Iraqi refugees that could have terrorist ties.

Chairman Representative Peter King (R-NY) started by stating that “Americans opening doors to those who flee violence is a part of who we are” giving examples to past refugee success stories such as Albert Einstein, before summarizing the security threat in Iraq and Syria and the “vulnerabilities in the screening process.”

Rep. King went on to highlight the threat of “refugees who take advantage of the safe haven,” stating that the “savagery of ISIS” has caused the “worlds biggest refugee crisis.” He stated that the area has a “lack of stable foreign governments” and the “information and intelligence we are able to acquire is limited and often times unverifiable.”

Rep. King ended his opening statement by saying that while America “should not close [it’s] doors” it should be “thoughtful and intuitive with the most assurance that we are not importing terrorists” and that the panel testifying should “solicit recommendations on additional measures that should be taken.”

In his opening statement, Dr. Seth Jones, the director of the International Security and Defense Policy Center at the RAND Corporation, warned that a “growing number of attacks in the US are linked back to this region” and that there are “4 million refugees based in the Syrian province.” He went on to say that Syria has the “highest number of foreign fighters, several [terrorist] groups in the region have planned to put operatives in the west including Europe, and the US intelligence understanding [in the area] is worse.” He summarized by saying that the “US does have a long standing tradition of offering asylum … however an integral part is insuring that those refugees including those in jihadist battlefields do not present a risk to safety and security in the west.”

Thomas Fuentes, former FBI Assistant Director, followed by stating that the International Police Cooperation or Interpol, is “essential in everything we do” and that lack of working partners in Syria, specifically the lack of police and government in the region, is a large reason the FBI does not have the capabilities to vet incoming refugees from the area. Thomas Fuentes stated that he has served as a member of the Executive Committee of Interpol and opened an FBI office in Baghdad, which was a crucial resource for intelligence on the area. He continued to state that a lack of government in Syria deeply affects America’s ability to gain information concerning refugees in the area.

Daveed Gartenstein- Ross, senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense Democracies, began his opening statement discussing the interest the country should have in “alleviating the situation in Syria.” He added that if a terrorist group should decide to pose a terrorist as a refugee they would have to “land in a refugee camp and get picked up in the lottery process by the UN” to be chosen to come here. He continued in saying that the radicalization process of those already in the United States is the bigger problem. He gave the example of someone in the United States who has an interest in Syria and looks at the terrorist group al- Nusra as cooperative as having an alleviated risk of radicalization than imported refugees. He also stated that the declining domestic product causes a risk in handling these problems, and that a reevaluation of the US migration policy is in order. He ended by stating that the US has a bad reputation of “not standing by those who help us” and that we need to “focus on our obligation to Iraqis and Afghans who assisted U.S. efforts in these countries.”

Rep. King then asked the panel whether Jordan could be relied upon to help in the vetting process. Fuentes answered by stating that the United States has an excellent relationship with the Jordanians and their intelligence is excellent. Dr. Jones agreed in saying that Jordan does have the best handle on the problem but that there should be a layered system in which our intelligence program follows the Jordanian vetting process, and that we should not rely on anyone else to do this process for us.

Congressman Lou Barletta (R- PA) asked, “How would you access the intelligence communities to properly vet refugees for admission?” Dr. Jones commented that Syria has far fewer human collectors, intelligence capabilities and has a much weaker ability to collect information useful for the vetting process.”

Fuentes then went on to point out that since “refugees are enemies of the state, we cannot rely on that state to vet them properly.”

The witnesses were then asked about helping these refugees in ways other than bringing them into the country. Daveed answered saying that the American public has a strong duty and that “actually addressing the situation over there is important.” He commented that we could “improve the situation in camps and provide job and educational opportunities.” He supported thinking about helping the issue in the area of origin and that it would be “the best use of money.” Fuentes agreed with providing resources “that would make camps more livable” but warned that the length of time that this aid would be provided would determine the timing of terrorism, because these groups would wait until the program ends to send their men through refugee camps.

Rep. Keating (D- MA) asked about the internal intelligence found on the ground with limited people there. Dr. Jones answered that while “capabilities are better today than a few years ago … better doesn’t mean good.”

Chairman King asked about maintaining surveillance on those entering the United States as Syrian refugees. Fuentes quickly answered saying the FBI cannot track these people “unless there is a predication or indication that the person is involved in criminal activity” and that tracking a large population such as all Syrian refugees is not plausible as the amount observed has to be narrowed down before it can be initiated. Daveed followed by saying that the US vetting system is “very antiquated.”

Chairman King concluded the hearing by saying there is currently “no real answer” to the problem, and “there is still going to be risks there no matter what process we follow.” However, it is “in our national interest that something be done and we are going to have to find a way to do it…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

If they did that:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Also see:

A new strategy for Iraq and Syria

Iraq forcesWashington Post, by Charles Krauthammer, June 18, 2015:

It’s time to rethink Iraq and Syria. It begins by admitting that the old borders are gone, that a unified Syria or Iraq will never be reconstituted, that the Sykes-Picot map is defunct.

We may not want to enunciate that policy officially. After all, it does contradict the principle that colonial borders be maintained no matter how insanely drawn, the alternative being almost universally worse. Nonetheless, in Mesopotamia, balkanization is the only way to go.

Because it has already happened and will not be reversed. In Iraq, for example, we are reaping one disaster after another by pretending that the Baghdad government — deeply sectarian, divisive and beholden to Iran — should be the center of our policy and the conduit for all military aid.

Look at Fallujah, Mosul, Ramadi. The Iraqi army is a farce. It sees the enemy and flees, leaving its weapons behind. “The ISF was not driven out of Ramadi. They drove out of Ramadi,” said the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Our own secretary of defense admitted that “the Iraqi forces just showed no will to fight.”

We can train them forever. The problem is one of will. They don’t want to fight. And why should they? They are led by commanders who are corrupt, sectarian and incompetent.

What to do? Redirect our efforts to friendly forces deeply committed to the fight, beginning with the Kurds, who have the will, the skill and have demonstrated considerable success. This year alone, they have taken back more than 500 Christian and Kurdish towns from the Islamic State. Unlike the Iraqi army, however, they are starved for weapons because, absurdly, we send them through Baghdad, which sends along only a trickle.

This week, more Kurdish success. With U.S. air support, Syrian Kurds captured the strategic town of Tal Abyad from the Islamic State. Which is important for two reasons. Tal Abyad controls the road connecting the terror group’s capital of Raqqa to Turkey, from which it receives fighters, weapons and supplies. Tal Abyad is “a lung through which [the Islamic State] breathed and connected to the outside world,” said Kurdish commander Haqi Kobane.

Moreover, Tal Abyad helps link isolated Kurdish areas in the Syrian north into a contiguous territory, like Iraqi Kurdistan. Which suggests that this territory could function as precisely the kind of long-advocated Syrian “safe zone” from which to operate against both the Islamic State and the Bashar al-Assad regime.

More good news comes from another battle line. Last week, the Free Syrian Army’s Southern Front, backed by and trained in Jordan, drove the Syrian government out of its last major base in eastern Daraa province, less than 60 miles from Damascus.

These successes suggest a new U.S. strategy. Abandon our anachronistic fealty to the central Iraqi government (now largely under Iran’s sway anyway) and begin supplying the Iraqi Kurds in a direct, 24-hour, Berlin-style airlift. And in Syria, intensify our training, equipping and air support for the now-developing Kurdish safe zone. Similarly, through Jordan, for the Free Syrian Army’s Southern Front. Such a serious and relentless strategy would not only roll back Islamic State territorial gains, it would puncture the myth of Islamic State invincibility.

In theory, we should also be giving direct aid to friendly Sunni tribesmen in Iraq whose Anbar Awakening, brilliantly joined by Gen. David Petraeus’ surge, utterly defeated the Islamic State progenitor, al-Qaeda in Iraq, in 2006-2007. The problem is, having been abandoned by us once, when President Obama liquidated our presence in 2011, why should the Sunnis ever trust us again?

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A Plan to Defeat ISIS

Published on Jun 18, 2015 by securefreedom

Center for Security Policy Exec. VP Jim Hanson announced CSP’s plan to topple that Caliphate and Defeat ISIS at the National Security Luncheon held at the Capitol Visitor’s Center 17 July 2015

Also see:

Inside Islamic State group’s rule: Creating a nation of fear

Jun. 18, 2015:

ESKI MOSUL, Iraq (AP) — Inside the Islamic State’s realm, the paper testifying that you have “repented” from your heretical past must be carried at all times. Many people laminate it just to be safe. It can mean the difference between life and death.

Bilal Abdullah learned that not long after the extremists took over his Iraqi village, Eski Mosul, a year ago. As he walked down the street, an Islamic State fighter in a pickup truck asked directions to a local mosque. When Abdullah didn’t recognize the mosque’s name, the fighter became suspicious.

“He told me my faith is weak and asked, ‘Do you pray?'” Abdullah recalled. Then the fighter asked to see his “repentance card.” Abdullah had been a policeman until the IS takeover, and policemen and soldiers are required to have one. So are many other former government loyalists or employees — even former English teachers, since they once taught a “forbidden” language and tailors of women’s clothes because they once designed styles deemed un-Islamic.

Abdullah had left his card at home. Terrified, he sent his son running to get it.

“They are brutal people,” he told The Associated Press. “They can consider you an infidel for the simplest thing.”

The Islamic State’s “caliphate,” declared a year ago, stretches across northern Syria through much of northern and western Iraq. Untold numbers have been killed because they were deemed dangerous to the IS, or insufficiently pious; 5-8 million endure a regime that has swiftly turned their world upside down, extending its control into every corner of life to enforce its own radical interpretation of Islamic law, or Shariah.

The Islamic State’s domain is a place where men douse themselves with cologne to hide the odor of forbidden cigarettes; where taxi drivers or motorists usually play the IS radio station, since music can get a driver 10 lashes; where women must be entirely covered, in black, and in flat-soled shoes; where people are thrown to their deaths off buildings on suspicion of homosexuality; where shops must close during Muslim prayers, and everyone found outdoors must attend.

There is no safe way out. People vanish— their disappearance explained by a video of their beheading, an uninformative death certificate, or nothing at all.

“People hate them, but they’ve despaired, and they don’t see anyone supporting them if they rise up,” said a 28-year-old Syrian who asked to be identified only by the nickname he uses in political activism, Adnan, in order to protect his family still living under IS rule. “People feel that nobody is with them.”

The AP interviewed more than 20 Iraqis and Syrians who survived life under the group’s rule. One AP team travelled to several towns in northern Iraq, including Eski Mosul, north of Mosul, where residents are just emerging from nearly seven months under IS rule. Another AP team travelled to Turkish cities along the border, where Syrians who have fled IS territory have taken refuge.

What follows is based on their accounts, many of which were verified by multiple people, as well as on IS social media and broadcast operations and documents obtained by the AP, including copies of repentance cards, weapons inventories, leaflets detailing rules of women’s dress and permission forms to travel outside IS territory — all emblazoned with the IS black banner and logo, “Caliphate in the path of the prophet.”

The picture they paint suggests the Islamic State’s territory, now an area roughly the size of Switzerland, has evolved into an entrenched pseudo-state, one based on a bureaucracy of terror.

Read more

Iraq’s PM introduces US-designated terrorist to Iran’s President

Abu Mahdi al Muhandis (left) shakes hands with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani. Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar al Abadi’s hand is also extended.

Abu Mahdi al Muhandis (left) shakes hands with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani. Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar al Abadi’s hand is also extended.

LWJ, BY BILL ROGGIO | June 18th, 2015:

During yesterday’s meeting in Tehran between Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar al Abadi and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, the former introduced the latter to Abu Mahdi al Muhandis, the operations chief for the Iranian-backed Popular Mobilization Committee and a US-listed Specially Designated Global Terrorist.

Muhandis, who the US government has described as “an advisor to” Qassem Soleimani, the commander of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps’s Qods Force, was photographed with Abadi earlier this month. And he also has been photographed with Soleimani in Baghdad just last month.

Muhandis’ prominence in the top circles of power demonstrates just how much the Iraqi government has relied on the Popular Mobilization Committee to fight its battles after Iraqi security forces all but collapsed in the face of the Islamic State’s advance last summer.

The paramilitary Popular Mobilization Committee is dominated by Shiite militias such as Hezbollah Brigades (directed by Muhandis), Asaib al Haq (the League of the Righteous, led by Qais Qazali, who was in US custody for his role in murdering five American soldiers), Saraya al Salam (Muqtada al Sadr’s Peace Brigades), Harakat Nujaba (led by Akram Abbas al Kabi, a SDGT), Saraya Khorasani (Khorasan Brigades), the Imam Ali Brigades (directed by Muhandis), and the Badr Organization. Hezbollah Brigades is listed by the US as a Foreign Terrorist Organization while top leaders of Asaib al Haq, the Imam Ali Brigade, and Harakat Nujaba are listed as Specially Designated Global Terrorists. All of these groups remain hostile towards the US. Two of them, Harakat Nujaba and Saraya al Salam, have threatened to attack US interests as recently as this spring.

Despite the Popular Mobilization Committee’s deep ties to Soleimani and Qods Force, as well as known key leaders being listed as Specially Designated Global Terrorists, the US government has embraced the group as a moderating force in Iraq, and one worth backing. [See Threat Matrix report, US support for Iranian-backed Shiite militias ‘should not alarm us,’ General Allen says.]

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Also see:

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FDD Senior Fellows Bill Roggio & Thomas Joscelyn speak on the conflicts in the Middle East:

Green Berets’ efforts to take down ISIS undermined by shoddy U.S. intelligence

U.S. Special Forces (USSF) soldiers scan the ground below for threats while flying on a MH-60 Black Hawk during a Fast Rope Insertion Extraction System training exercise. USSF fast roped onto a specific target during the Special Forces Advanced Reconnaissance, Target Analysis, and Exploitation Techniques Course, John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School on Fort Bragg, N.C., Aug. 28, 2012. (U.S. Army Photo by Sgt. Justin P. Morelli)

U.S. Special Forces (USSF) soldiers scan the ground below for threats while flying on a MH-60 Black Hawk during a Fast Rope Insertion Extraction System training exercise. USSF fast roped onto a specific target during the Special Forces Advanced Reconnaissance, Target Analysis, and Exploitation Techniques Course, John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School on Fort Bragg, N.C., Aug. 28, 2012. (U.S. Army Photo by Sgt. Justin P. Morelli)

The Washington Times – Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Army Green Berets planned for a wide range of actions in Iraq this year but bemoaned the sorry state of U.S. intelligence assets in the country to help the local security forces find and kill Islamic State terrorist targets, an internal Army memo says.

The memo, a copy of which was obtained by The Washington Times, states that when U.S. forces exited Iraq in December 2011, “all theater-level enterprise databases were terminated.”

This was forcing U.S. special operations forces in Iraq to track a wide range of intelligence reports “on individual service member laptops and share drives,” the memo says.

The memo was written in December by the commander of 1st Special Forces Group, a Tacoma, Washington-based command of about 1,400 Green Berets and support personnel, as it prepared to deploy some commandos to Iraq. The commander is now the top U.S. special operations officer in Iraq.

The commander asked Army headquarters to provide an intelligence architecture called Palantir. Its network specializes in storing and sorting all sorts of intelligence data that can be mined to create links between individuals and terrorist cells, such as the ones controlling parts of Iraq and Syria.

“This is proving to be a repeat of past mistakes from Iraq and Afghanistan where critical information at the early onset of a conflict is lost, and operational opportunities are missed throughout the remainder of the convict,” said the commander. “The lack of an enterprise-level intelligence infrastructure degrades [special operations forces’] ability to collaborate across formations and echelons, and reduces our ability to target ISIL.”

ISIL and ISIS are other names for the Islamic State.

The seven-page memo is, in a sense, an indictment of the ability to deploy U.S. war theater intelligence capabilities nearly 14 years after the declaration of the war on terrorism.

A military source said the Army has granted the commander’s request for Palantir and that other special operations units have the same pending requests.

Rep. Duncan Hunter, California Republican, has pressed Army Gen. Joseph Votel, who heads U.S. Special Operations Command, to improve intelligence for commandos sent back to Iraq.

Mr. Hunter says the Army’s own intelligence network, the Distributed Common Ground System, is plagued with numerous flaws. He has pushed the Army to provide proven commercially available networks to the troops. SOCOM is operating its version of the common ground system.

In a letter sent to Gen. Votel on Monday, Mr. Hunter, a former Marine officer, took issue with the four-star general’s upbeat report to him on how well the common ground system is working.

He accused Gen. Votel’s staff of “discouraging commanders from requesting alternative solutions, and spending money duplicating capabilities that exist on the commercial market. In my oversight role, my objective is to help USSOCOM field tools that work right now.”

Mr. Hunter took issue with the general’s contention that requests for Palantir did not reflect a lack of capability by the common ground system. “The requested capability does not exist in the Army inventory and is not provided by the DCGS-SOF system,” he said.

The congressman said the Army plans to rush some common ground components to special operations forces who have told superiors that the system does not meet their needs.

In a March 26 letter to Gen. Votel, the congressman said SOCOM’s handling of the common ground system “appears to be following the failed path taken by the Army.”

The special operations version, Gen. Votel responded, “is USSOCOM’s overarching umbrella program to deliver world-class intelligence support to our deployed forces.”

He said “one of the strengths of the DCGS-SOF program” is “its open architecture and integration of commercial technology.”

Army Col. Thomas A. Davis, a SOCOM spokesman, told The Times, “Gen. Votel welcomes the opportunity to meet with Rep. Hunter to address any and all concerns he has regarding the Distributed Common Ground/Surface System — Special Operations Forces (DCGS-SOF) program. It would be premature to discuss any specifics related to this matter until after the two leaders have had the opportunity to meet.”

The 1st Special Group commander’s memo frequently used the word “no” to describe intelligence assets awaiting Green Berets in Iraq. They, like conventional U.S. troops, are there to perform the “advise and assist” role to organize Iraqi Security Forces into units that are capable of fighting the Islamic State.

“No common operating picture exists for USSOF partnered tactical operations centers,” the commander wrote. “No real time information collection capability exists for Iraqi soldier sensors. No capability exists for automated bilingual data sharing.”

The U.S. left the Iraqi army equipment to store ground intelligence data, but “No U.S. repository exists for this information and the information resides in Arabic only,” the memo says.

The commander then expressed effusive praise of Palantir and called it “the only solution that meets several” special operations goals and provides a network that lets analysts in the U.S. look at the same information.

Palantir virtually synchronizes personnel and capabilities regardless of location,” the commander said. “It is the only platform that bridges the critical seams of SOF conventional and SOF interagency data sharing to effectively contribute to unified action.”

The plan, the commander said, is to install a Palantir mobile tactical command and collection center and then link it to Iraq’s commercial communications infrastructure.

Though Obama administration policy prohibits the Green Berets from taking part in combat, the memo shows they planned to operate throughout Iraq in “remote outstages” and “team houses.”

“In the current operational environment, USSOF is not permitted to provide direct side-by-side advise-and-assist support to Iraqi tactical informations,” the memo says. “This operational constraint inhibits the rapid and accurate sharing of tactical information with troops on mission.”

The 1st Special Forces Group is not the first combat unit to ask higher-ups to let it deploy with Palantir, a system built by Palantir Technologies Inc. in Palo Alto, California, and now used by law enforcement as well as the military.

A stream of memos obtained by The Washington Times in recent years shows Army and special operations forces clamoring for Palantir and knocking the Distributed Common Ground System as too slow and prone to crashes.

Some memos showed that Army headquarters tried to block emergency requests for Palantir, a move Mr. Hunter said was an attempt by the Army’s top brass to protect congressional funding for the Distributed Common Ground System.

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Pete Hoekstra: Obama Hung Iraqi Soldiers ‘Out to Dry’ With Pullout – Newsmax, by Tod Beamon, June 17, 2015:

The United States “hung” Iraqi soldiers “out to dry” when President Barack Obama pulled troops out of Baghdad in 2011 — and that will hamper any major effort to defeat the Islamic State (ISIS), former House Intelligence Committee Chairman Pete Hoekstra told Newsmax TV on Wednesday.

“We had an integrated system that really gave us ground truth in real time for our troops,” Hoekstra, the former Michigan Republican who headed the panel from 2004 to 2007, told “Newsmax Prime” host J.D. Hayworth.

“When we pulled out, we pulled out the signals’ intelligence, we pulled out the overhead — but most importantly, we left our human intelligence.

“Those Iraqis that were partnering with us; we hung them out to dry,” he added. “As we now go back in and try to re-establish with the Iraqis, the people who we need in the ground to tell us what’s actually happening, they’re not going to partner with us.

“They saw what we did to the last folks that put their lives on the line,” Hoekstra added.

“They’re not going to take that risk again.

“It’s absolutely outrageous what we did in Iraq. We took great intelligence and we totally destroyed it — and now, we’ve got to try to recreate it.”

National defense expert Clare Lopez noted that U.S. intelligence has suffered greatly because of the lack of troops in in Iraq.

“It’s tough when you don’t have a presence on the ground in the person of troops, of Special Forces, or other intelligence operatives,” she told Hayworth. “When that goes away and when our troops are withdrawn, so do the intelligence-collection capabilities.

“The other part about that is we can operate out of different places, but it’s difficult when you don’t have the same amount of presence on the ground that we had back then,” Lopez said.

Hoekstra added that the charges filed Wednesday against a 20-year-old New York college student arrested over the weekend for allegedly plotting to set off a pressure-cooker bomb to support ISIS proved that Islamic jihadism is rapidly growing in the United States.

“The threat is alive and well in the United States, and congratulations to our law enforcement for continuing to catch these folks — but they’re not going to be able catch them all,” he said.

“The threat is real and it’s here in the homeland.”

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Is Obama Supporting a Shiite ISIS?

Asaib-ahl-alhaq_logo-450x300Frontpage, by Daniel Greenfield, June 12, 2015:

Staff Sgt. Ahmed Altaie was the last American soldier to come home from Iraq. His body was turned over by Asaib Ahl al-Haq or The League of the Righteous; a Shiite terrorist group funded and trained by Iran.

Altaie had been kidnapped, held for ransom and then killed.

It was not Asaib Ahl al-Haq’s only kidnapping and murder of an American soldier. A year after Altaie’s kidnapping, its terrorists disguised themselves as Americans and abducted five of our soldiers in Karbala. The soldiers were murdered by their Shiite captors after sustained pursuit by American forces made them realize that they wouldn’t be able to escape with their hostages.

Asaib Ahl al-Haq’s obsession with American hostages was a typically Iranian fixation. Iran’s leaders see the roots of their international influence in the Iran hostage crisis. Its terrorist groups in Lebanon had abducted and horrifically tortured Colonel William R. Higgins and William Francis Buckley.

Higgins had been skinned alive.

Most Americans have never heard of Asaib Ahl al-Haq, sometimes referred to as the Khazali Network after its leader, even though it has claimed credit for over 6,000 attacks on Americans. Its deadliest attacks came when the Democrats and their media allies were desperately scrambling to stop Bush from taking out Iran’s nuclear program. Asaib Ahl al-Haq’s ties to Iran were so blatant that the media could not allow it to receive the kind of coverage that Al Qaeda did for fear that it might hurt Iran.

Obama had campaigned vocally against the Kyl-Lieberman Amendment which designated Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, the hidden force behind Asaib Ahl al-Haq and much of the Shiite terrorist infrastructure, a terrorist organization. He had accused its sponsors of “foolish saber rattling”.

Nancy Pelosi joined the Democratic Party’s pro-Iranian turn, rejected a vote on the amendment and sneered that if the kidnapping and murder of American soldiers was “a problem to us and our troops in Iraq, they should deal with it in Iraq.” Earlier that year, she had visited Syria’s Assad to stand with him against President Bush even while Assad was aiding the terrorists massacring American soldiers.

Once Obama took power, coverage of the war was scaled down so that Americans wouldn’t realize that the rising power of ISIS and Asaib Ahl al-Haq were already making a mockery of his withdrawal plans.

But Asaib Ahl al-Haq was not merely an anti-American terrorist group; it was an arm of the Shiite theocracy. As a Shiite counterpart to what would become ISIS, it had most of the same Islamic goals.

While Obama was patting himself on the back for the end of the Iraq War and gay rights, Asaib Ahl al-Haq was throwing those men and women it suspected of being gay from the tops of buildings.

When buildings weren’t available, it beat them to death with concrete blocks or beheaded them.

Its other targets included shelters for battered women, which the Islamist group deemed brothels, men who had long hair or dressed in dark clothing. And even while its Brigades of Wrath were perpetrating these atrocities, Obama and the Shiite Iraqi government embraced the murderous terrorist group.

Qais al-Khazali, the leader of Asaib Ahl al-Haq, and his brother Laith al-Khazali along with a hundred other members of the terror group were freed during Obama’s first year in office. (But to provide equal aid and comfort to the other side, Obama also freed the future Caliph of ISIS in that same year.)

“We let a very dangerous man go, a man whose hands are stained with US and Iraqi blood. We are going to pay for this in the future,” an unnamed American officer was quoted as saying. “This was a deal signed and sealed in British and American blood.”

“We freed all of their leaders and operatives; they executed their hostages and sent them back in body bags.”

The releases were part of Obama’s grand strategy of reconciliation for Iraq. The miserable reality behind the upbeat language was that Obama was handing over Iraq to ISIS, Iran and its Shiite militias.

Read more

ISIS’s Next Target: Baghdad

2348070765Secure Freedom Radio, June 11, 2015:

With Michael Pregent, Bing West, Michael Auslin, Max Abrahms

MICHAEL PREGENT, Senior Middle East Strategic Analyst and Consultant, Visiting Fellow at the National Defense University:

  • President Obama’s plan for fighting ISIS
  • The sectarian divide in Iraq
  • Thoughts on the U.S. training of Iraqi military and Sunni tribes
  • ISIS’s threat to Baghdad

BING WEST, Former Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs:

  • Effects that American troops can have assisting Iraqi security forces
  • What must the United States do to defeat ISIS?
  • The spread of Iranian militias in the Middle East

MICHAEL AUSLIN, Director of Japan Studies at AEI:

  • What makes China’s hack of OPM unique, and how much might the U.S. retaliate?
  • How American taxpayers are inadvertently subsidizing the growth of the Chinese military
  • Japan’s burgeoning leadership role in Asia
  • Finding an “Asia Policy,” and not merely a “China Policy”

MAX ABRAHMS, Asst. Professor of Political Science at Northeastern University:

  • The Administration’s reasoning for the deployment of troops to train Iraqi security forces
  • Risks behind arming a Sunni force in Iraq
  • Prospects of a partitioned Iraq

ISLAMIC STATE: Big Explosions, Sex Slaves And Female Operatives

150528165043-women-of-isis-zaynab-sharrouf-1-exlarge-169

U.S. considers whether ISIS wives playing key role in operations  (cnn.com)

Washington (CNN)The U.S. is now looking at the possibility that wives of ISIS figures may play a greater role in operations and communications than previously thought because the terror group believes U.S. intelligence pays less attention to them.

Last month, an Army Delta Force raid in eastern Syria killed Abu Sayyaf, a senior ISIS leader involved in finance and other operations, and also led to the capture of his wife. The raid yielded significant intelligence that U.S. officials said adds to their understanding of ISIS’s structure and communications.

Several officials cautioned, however, that all of the intelligence gathered and information gained from the interrogation of the captured wife must be vetted and confirmed.

READ: Carter: ISIS raid a ‘significant blow’ to terror group

As CNN has previously reported, a U.S. official said the raid netted terabytes worth of data in external hard drives and hard copy, a higher volume than had originally been anticipated. The U.S. is reviewing it all to determine if it leads to anything that can be acted upon.

A second official said one U.S. airstrike in eastern Syria just a few days ago that killed a local ISIS emir was conducted on the basis of information gained from the raid.

Read more

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REUTERS/KHALIL ASHAWI

REUTERS/KHALIL ASHAWI

Pentagon: ISIS Using Tunnels to Bomb Targets in Iraq, Syria (breitbart.com)

The Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL) in Iraq and rebels in Syria are using tunnel bombs as a potent new weapon, an upgrade to an ancient tactic, according to a Pentagon organization.

“Updating an ancient tactic, Islamic State militants — as well as rebels in Syria — are digging virtually undetectable tunnels, then planting bombs to blow up buildings and other targets,” reports Defense One, quoting JIEDDO (Joint IED Defeat Organization), the Pentagon arm focused on defeating the use of improvised explosive devices (IEDs) as a weapon.

Defense One learned from Pentagon officials and documents that several dozen tunnel bombs have been used by rebels in Syria while ISIS detonated them last week to capture Ramadi, the capital of Anbar, Iraq’s largest province.

The concept behind detonating a tunnel bomb is reportedly quite simple: dig long enough to reach your intended target, plant explosives, and hit the detonator.

“This below the surface attack is particularly destructive to buildings and is appearing increasingly in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria,” said JIEDDO at a recent briefing, according to Defense One.

“The use of tunnels for IEDs and other purposes will continue to provide a low risk strategic advantage to extremist organizations and therefore requires continued development efforts and fielding of effective mitigation techniques,” it added.

Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad has designated all groups attempting to topple him, which include ISIS and al-Qaeda affiliate Nusra Front, as rebels.

ISIS in Iraq and rebels in Syria have detonated at least 45 tunnel bombs in the past two years, JIEDDO said.

Although most have been in Syria, U.S. officials told Defense One that ISIS is building a network of tunnels, as well as bunkers and trenches, in Iraq.

“In Syria, rebels have used tunnels bombs to attack government forces under the control of Bashar al-Assad,” reports Defense One. “Many of these tunnels were dug with hand tools to avoid detection.”

“In Iraq, ISIS used tunnel attacks to devastating effect in their assault on Ramadi. On March 11, ISIS forces detonated a tunnel bomb under an Iraqi army headquarters, killing an estimated 22 people,” it adds. “The blast consumed seven tons of explosives in an 800-foot long tunnel that took two months to dig, according to the JIEDDO briefing. On March 15, a second tunnel bomb was used to attack Iraqi Security Forces. The city fell two months later.”

During the briefing, JIEDDO noted that ISIS frequently disseminates videos on social media showing the use of tunnel bombs on its targets.

“As part of an information operations campaign, these attacks are documented and widely proliferated via social media which increases the likelihood of migration to other conflict areas or adoption by other extremist organizations on a worldwide basis,” reportedly said JIEDDO.

The Pentagon organization revealed that tunnel bombs are being used to target military checkpoints, buildings, and other protected establishments.

It can take less than 30 days to dig a short tunnel, while longer ones (no more than 1 mile in length) can take up to nine months to complete, said JIEDDO.

Defense One notes that tunnels have been weaponized by Iran proxy Hezbollah and Hamas in Gaza as a means to smuggle weapons and attack Israel.

“Now their use is spreading, and extending to direct attacks,” explains the article.

“Beyond bombs, ISIS is believed to be using tunnels to move weapons and avoid detection by American and ally fighter jets and drones. (ISIS may even be exploiting Saddam Hussein’s own tunnel network, which is thought to stretch for 60 miles between palaces, military strongholds, and houses,” it adds. “During the U.S. invasion in 2003, Saddam’s forces used these tunnels to move weapons and as hideouts.)”

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Zainab Bangura, UN secretary general’s special representative on sexual violence in conflict, speaks at the G8 Foreign Ministers meeting in London on April 11, 2013. (PHOTO: WIKIMEDIA COMMONS)

Zainab Bangura, UN secretary general’s special representative on sexual violence in conflict, speaks at the G8 Foreign Ministers meeting in London on April 11, 2013.
(PHOTO: WIKIMEDIA COMMONS)

ISIS Sells Sex Slave Girls for ‘as Little as a Pack of Cigarettes’ to Attract Foreign Jihadis With ‘New Girls,’ UN Envoy Warns (christianpost.com)

In continuing to display how little the Islamic State values life and women, ISIS militants are buying and selling sexually enslaved girls and women for as cheap as a pack of cigarettes in hopes of attracting more men to the group, a United Nations envoy declared on Monday.

Zainab Bangura, the United Nations special representative on sexual violence in conflict, told AFP that in order for ISIS to recruit more foreign fighters to join its military ranks, the caliphate continues to capture more girls and women in each new territory it conquers and then sells them at low prices.

“This is how they attract young men — ‘we have women waiting [for] you, virgins that you can marry,'” Bangura said. “The foreign fighters are the backbone of the fighting.”

Bangura, who recently toured through five Middle East countries and interviewed numerous women who were victimized by ISIS but managed to escape, explained that ISIS’ jihad is fueled by the enslavement of women.

“They [ISIS militants] kidnap and abduct women when they take areas so they have — I don’t want to call it a fresh supply, but they have new girls,” Bangura, a native of Sierra Leone, asserted. “This is a war that is being fought on the bodies of women.”

According to April’s estimates, ISIS has approximately 25,000 foreign fighters. But not only does ISIS have “new girls” for foreign fighters to acquire once they reach the caliphate, ISIS’ sex slaves are affordable and priced to meet even the poorest militant’s budget.

Bangura said that captured women and girls are often forced to strip naked and are judged by ISIS militants who gauge how much they are to be sold for. The fighters price some girls as high as a few thousand dollars, while selling others for “as little as a pack of cigarettes,” she stated.

“Some [females] were taken, locked up in a room — over 100 of them in a small house — stripped naked and washed,” Bangura said. “They were then made to stand in front of a group of men who decided ‘what you are worth.'”

After a girl is sold to an ISIS fighter, she is usually beaten, raped against her will and often sold or given away to another militant when the fighter is done abusing her. Should a sex slave refuse to give into her militant’s brutal and abnormal sexual fantasies, she is beaten or sometimes tortured.

In May, Bangura explained that a 20-year-old sex slave was burned alive after she refused to perform an “extreme sex act.”

“We heard one case of a 20-year-old girl who was burned alive because she refused to perform an extreme sex act,” Bangura said. “We learned of many other sadistic sexual acts. We struggled to understand the mentality of people who commit such crimes.”

Bangura also said that ISIS forces some captured women and girls into prostitution.

In a press briefing in early May, Bangura explained that one sex slave, who was sold to 20 different ISIS fighters before she escaped, was forced to undergo virginity repair surgery each time she was sold and raped by the next ISIS fighter.

“ISIL have institutionalized sexual violence and the brutalization of women as a central aspect of their ideology and operations, using it as a tactic of terrorism to advance their strategic objectives,” Bangura said.

Bangura told AFP that ISIS wants to “build a society that reflects the 13th century,” through its systemic sexual abuse of women, which she labeled as a “medieval” practice.

“Sexual violence by ISIL and other extremist groups arises from discrimination and dehumanization based on gender, sexual orientation, ethnic, political or religious identity, in particular the subordination of women and girls,” Bangura wrote in an email to Women eNews. “Indeed, the same ideology and objectives that motivate Boko Haram to abduct women and girls in Nigeria, also spur ISIL to enslave women and girls in Syria and Iraq.”

“Such violence has led to a number of harmful or negative coping mechanisms, such as the early marriage of girls by families that have no other means of protecting them, an increase in polygamy and “survival sex” by those with no economic alternatives, as well as the withdrawal and isolation of women and girls from education and public life,” she added.

U.S. prepares plans for more troops, new base in Iraq: officials

General Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, arrives to deliver a statement after a welcoming ceremony in Tel Aviv June 9, 2015. REUTERS/Baz Ratner

General Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, arrives to deliver a statement after a welcoming ceremony in Tel Aviv June 9, 2015. REUTERS/Baz Ratner

Reuters, Jun 10, 2015:

The United States is expected to announce on Wednesday plans for a new military base in Iraq’s Anbar province and the deployment of around 400 additional U.S. trainers to help Iraqi forces in the fight against Islamic State, a U.S. official said.

The plan would expand the 3,100-strong U.S. contingent of trainers and advisers in Iraqand would mark an adjustment in strategy for President Barack Obama, who is facing mounting criticism for not being tougher in combating Islamic State.

U.S. officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, expressed hope that even a modestly strengthened U.S. presence could help Iraqi forces plan and carry out a counter-attack to retake Anbar’s capital Ramadi, which insurgents seized last month.

However, Obama was expected to stick to his stance against sending U.S. troops into combat or even close to the front lines, officials said.

Obama said on Monday the United States did not yet have a complete strategy for trainingIraqi security forces to regain land lost to Islamic State fighters, who have seized a third ofIraq over the past year in a campaign marked by mass killings and beheadings.

The fall of Ramadi last month drew harsh U.S. criticism of the weak Iraqi military performance and Washington has begun to speed up supplies of weapons to the government forces and examine ways to improve the training program.

The expected troop announcement was unlikely to silence Obama’s critics, who say the modest contingent of U.S. forces is far from enough to turn the tide of battle.

The U.S. deployment would likely entail around 400 trainers, one U.S. official said, adding an announcement was expected on Wednesday. Two other officials also confirmed an expected troop increase of hundreds of troops.

NEW U.S. TRAINING BASE

U.S. forces have already conducted training at the al-Asad military base in western Anbar but U.S. officials said planning was underway for a new installation near the town of Habbaniya, the site of an Iraqi army base.

A new site would allow U.S. trainers to provide greater support for Sunni tribal fighters, who have yet to receive all of the backing and arms promised by the Shi’ite-led government in Baghdad.

“We are considering a range of options to accelerate the training and equipping of Iraqi security forces in order to support them in taking the fight to ISIL. Those options include sending additional trainers to Iraq,” said Alistair Baskey, a spokesman for the White House National Security Council.

General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, made clear during a visit to Jerusalem that there were no plans to fundamentally alter Obama’s military strategy.

Speaking to reporters traveling with him, Dempsey did not say how many extra U.S. troops may be involved in the effort to accelerate the training of Iraqis.

As of last Thursday, 8,920 Iraqi troops had received training at four different sites and another 2,601 were currently in some stage of training, he said.

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Thousands of US paratroops head for Iraq. Tehran braces for onset of ISIS terror attacks on cities (debka.com)

The United States this week began transferring to Iraq and Gulf bases elite units of the US 82nd Airborne Division. DEBKAfile’s military sources report that the first batch of 500 officers and men will be deployed in Baghdad and the Kurdish republic’s capital of Irbil, followed by another 500 in July and 250 in December. Altogether, by the end of 2015, the US will have posted another 1,250 officers and men to augment the American force already present at a base ner Habbaniya in the western Iraqi Anbar province. This force, roughly the same size as the incoming contingents, came from the US 3rd Division’s Combat Team which set up the base six months ago to train Iraqi troops to fight the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant – ISIS.
By the end of the year, therefore, the number of US troops on the ground in Iraq will rise to several thousand. Our military sources define their mission as being to intensify raids on ISIS commanders, command centers and bases and striking columns on the move. Their operations will draw on the successful attack mounted by SEAL commandos on May 16 in the heart of the Islamist stronghold in eastern Syria. The group’s chief of finances was killed in that raid and, according to American sources, the troops carried off a rich intelligence trove of digital and telephone data on the Islamist State’s tactics and structure.
The 82nd division has abundant experience of combat in the Iraqi arena. Between the 2003 US invasion and up until 2009, its members fought in critical engagements, especially in Anbar province, which ISIS has made the its main depot for large military concentrations and a launching pad for attacks across Iraq.

The figure of 3,000 American soldiers in Iraq understates the case by far. A much larger pool of combat forces is available close at hand for inserting into the cycle of war on ISIS.
Posted in Jordan just across the border from Anbar is a sizeable number of US special operations forces, and air units of F-16 fighter bombes and UH-60 Black Hawk assault helicopters. Their numbers have never been released.  Another several thousand troops are stationed in Kuwait. The Pentagon therefore has a reserve force present and available for a directive to go into action, oncef a decision for the US military to step into combat against the Islamists in Iraq and Syria is confirmed by President Barack Obama.

All these units are geared to fighting in the two arenas in the framework of the 82nd Airborne Division.

This week, too, the Pentagon started pumping new weapons to the Iraqi army under the US commitment of $1.6 billion from the Iraq Train and Equip Fund – ITEF – to equip its units with appropriate arms for combating ISIS.

Tuesday, June 9, ISIS appeared unfazed by the United States inching ever closer to a direct confrontation.  Iranian cities included Tehran were placed on terror alert, DEBKAfile’s intelligence and counter-terror sources report, after intelligence discovered that the Islamic State had started sending squads of terrorists and lone suicide bombers to execute Baghdad-style terrorist attacks on urban areas in Iran.
ISIS tacticians were said to be so encouraged by their success in blowing up two Shiite mosques in Saudi Arabia’s Eastern Province in recent weeks that they decided to have a go at Iranian cities too.
Also Tuesday, ISIS claimed in a new video that it had come up with a new strategy for taking Baghdad, not to conquer, but to “liberate” the Iraqi capital.

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Shoshana Bryen: The Kurds – A Guide for U.S. Policymakers

Shoshana Bryen, Senior Director, Jewish Policy Center; Former Senior Director for Security Policy, Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs (JINSA)

Shoshana Bryen, Senior Director, Jewish Policy Center; Former Senior Director for Security Policy, Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs (JINSA)

Center for Security Policy, by Rachel Silverman, June 8, 2015:

On Sunday, June 7th Turkish voters delivered a dramatic blow to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. In a historic first, a party dominated by ethnic Kurds surged into the Grand National Assembly in Ankara, marking a new moment in the evolution of Turkey’s democracy. According to Akin Unver, a professor of international relations at Kadir Has University in Istanbul, it’s now “impossible to sideline Kurdish politics. Despite the civil war of the 1990s, Kurds have evolved politically and established a lasting legacy” on the Turkish national stage.

Professor Unver, is not the only one who believes that the Kurds should be recognized politically. On June 4th, during the Center for Security Policy’s National Security Group Lunch on Capitol Hill, Shoshana Bryen who is the Senior Director of the Jewish Policy Center offered three practical steps that the U.S. can do to help assist the Kurds and advance U.S. interests in the region.

Bryen says that the first step, which coincides with Professor Unver, “is for the U.S. to recognize the Kurds politically, as an ally, as a partner in the fight against ISIS.” She mentions that there was a meeting in Paris last week between coalition members to discuss Iraq and Syria and the Kurds were not invited, despite the fact that there are 160,000 or so Kurdish fighters on the ground doing the job.

The second step, according to Bryen, is for the U.S. to talk to the Kurds directly and not through Baghdad:

“Right now all the aid that we give them, which is not a whole lot, goes through Baghdad. The Kurds probably get about 25 or 35 percent of that, which means we need to talk to them directly instead. The U.S. needs to figure out how to give them military equipment directly. The Turks, Iraqis, and Iranians will not like it, but if the Germans and the French can supply the Kurds directly which is what they do now, then the U.S. ought to as well.”

Bryen’s third step is that the U.S. needs to figure out how to get the Kurds to the United States to talk. Bryen stresses that “the Kurdish voices are not being heard around the United States and they need to be. They need invitations, they need to be invited to testify on Capitol Hill, and they need to be invited to conferences.”

Bryen also stresses that U.S. interests actually lie with the minority communities in the Middle East, which includes Israel and the Kurds. She says that “we have allies in the region and we need to lean on them instead of trying to pretend that our enemies are our allies.” Bryen ends with saying that if we follow these three crucial steps, then that is “the beginning of wisdom for the United States.”

Becoming allies with the Kurds would offer the United States tremendous strategic advantages that would help defeat the Islamic State, especially now after the Turkish election results. Unlike several of the countries from which the U.S. flies their aircrafts or bases their ships, the Kurdish leaders and people are pro-American, its ruling regime is not a monarchy ripe for Arab-Spring-style overthrow, and it does not sponsor Islamist terrorism. It is clearly time for America to form an alliance with the Kurds.

Iraqi Sunni Sheikhs In Anbar Pledge Allegiance To ISIS, Aid Militant Group

Sunni tribal fighters stand guard against attacks from Islamic State militants in Ramadi, Iraq, May 15, 2015. Reuters

Sunni tribal fighters stand guard against attacks from Islamic State militants in Ramadi, Iraq, May 15, 2015. Reuters

IB Times, By Erin Banco, June 04 2015:

Some of the most prominent Sunni tribal leaders in Iraq have pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group, raising questions about the ability of the Iraqi military to retake the city of Ramadi that was recently lost to ISIS. The pledge of allegiance from the Sunni sheikhs in Anbar province marks the first time since the rise of the Islamic State group in Iraq, one year ago, that a Sunni tribe formally declared its alliance. It also comes as the Baghdad government scrambles for a strategy to defeat the extremist group in the country’s Sunni heartland.

The sheikhs and tribal leaders made the pledge in a statement read out by Sheikh Ahmed Dara al-Jumaili, after meeting in Fallujah on Wednesday, Al Jazeera reported. The al-Julaimi tribe is the richest and most powerful tribe in Anbar province, which covers a large area of western Iraq.

The announcement comes one week after International Business Times exclusively learned that tribes in Anbar had provided cash, weapons and intelligence to the Islamic State group, or ISIS, during the battle for Ramadi, giving their fellow Sunni Muslims the upper hand against the Iraqi security forces.

After taking Ramadi, ISIS now holds a huge swath of Iraq stretching from the Syrian border east to the outskirts of Baghdad and north to Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city.

The fall of Ramadi and the tribes’ declaration of allegiance confirm what Sunni tribal fighters in Anbar have been saying about ISIS, which they warn will not easily be defeated in the province. ISIS has found a haven, as well as money and weapons that will help it to stave off attacks by the Iraqi military.

As this reality grows clearer in Baghdad, the Iraqi Defense Ministry and its U.S. advisers are trying to put together a new plan to fight ISIS in Anbar. Sunni fighters, armed with American weapons and fresh from training by U.S. and Iraqi military advisers, are being deployed near Ramadi. But they will not be able to count on help from the only Iraqi fighters with a credible record of defeating ISIS, the Shiite militias that spearheaded the drive to get ISIS out of the northern city of Tikrit earlier this year.

Those militias aren’t welcome in Sunni-majority Anbar, and therefore are largely absent from the fight against ISIS there. The Islamic State group is Sunni extremist and considers the Shiite Muslims who dominate the Iraqi government to be heretics. Fielding an all-Sunni fighting force equipped with American weapons in Anbar is also intended to avoid trust and communication issues with the Shiite volunteer forces — but with the defection of the biggest name in Sunni politics in the province, the fight against ISIS has just become more complicated.