No, the Islamic State Will Not Be Defeated — and if It Is, We Still Lose

GettyImages-497044984-640x480Breitbart, by Ben Shapiro, Nov. 24, 2015:

Barack Obama has now created an unwinnable war.

While all of the 2016 candidates declare their strategies for victory against ISIS, President Obama’s leading from behind has now entered the Middle East and the West into a free-for-all that cannot end any way but poorly.

The best way to understand the situation in Syria is to look at the situation and motivation of the various players. All of them have varying agendas; all of them have different preferred outcomes. Few of them are on anything approaching the same page. And Barack Obama’s failure of leadership means that there is no global power around which to center.

ISIS. ISIS has gained tremendous strength since Barack Obama’s entry to power and pullout from Iraq. They currently control northern Syria, bordering Turkey, as well as large portions of northern Iraq. Their goal: to consolidate their territorial stranglehold, and to demonstrate to their followers that they, and not other competing terrorist groups like Al Qaeda, represent the new Islamic wave. They have little interest in toppling Syrian dictator Bashar Assad for the moment. They do serve as a regional counterweight to the increasingly powerful Iranians – increasingly powerful because of President Obama’s big nuclear deal, as well as his complete abdication of responsibility in Iraq.

Iran. Iran wants to maximize its regional power. The rise of ISIS has allowed it to masquerade as a benevolent force in Iraq and Syria, even as it supports Assad’s now-routine use of chemical weapons against his adversaries, including the remnants of the Free Syrian Army (FSA). Iran has already expanded its horizons beyond Iraq and Syria and Lebanon; now it wants to make moves into heretofore non-friendly regions like Afghanistan. Their goal in Syria: keep Bashar Assad in power. Their goal in Iraq: pushing ISIS out of any resource-rich territories, but not finishing ISIS off, because that would then get rid of the global villain against which they fight.

Assad. The growth of ISIS has allowed Assad to play the wronged victim. While the FSA could provide a possible replacement for him, ISIS can’t credibly do so on the international stage. Assad knows that, and thus has little interest in completely ousting them. His main interest is in continuing to devastate the remaining FSA while pretending to fight ISIS.

Egypt/Saudi Arabia/Jordan. As you can see, ISIS, Iran, and Assad all have one shared interest: the continued existence of ISIS. The same is not true with regard to Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Jordan, all of whom fear the rise of radical Sunni terrorist groups in their home countries. They are stuck between a rock and a hard place, however, because openly destroying ISIS on behalf of Alaouite Assad, they embolden the Shia, their enemies. Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Jordan would all join an anti-ISIS coalition in the same way they did against Saddam Hussein in 1991, but just like Hussein in 1991, they won’t do it if there are no Sunni alternatives available. Tunisia, Saudi Arabia, and Jordan are the top three sources of foreign fighters for ISIS.

Turkey. The Turks have several goals: to stop the Syrian exodus across their borders, to prevent the rise of the Iranians, and to stop the rise of the Kurds. None of these goals involves the destruction of ISIS. Turkey is Sunni; so is ISIS. ISIS provides a regional counterweight against Iran, so long as it remains viable. It also keeps the Kurds occupied in northern Iraq, preventing any threat of Kurdish consolidation across the Iraq-Turkey border. They will accept Syrian refugees so long as those other two goals remain primary – and they’ll certainly do it if they can ship a hefty portion of those refugees into Europe and off their hands.

Russia. Russia wants to consolidate its power in the Middle East. It has done so by wooing all the players to fight against one another. Russia’s involvement in the Middle East now looks a good deal like American involvement circa the Iran-Iraq War: they’re playing both sides. Russia is building nuclear reactors in Egypt, Jordan, Turkey and Iran. They’re Bashar Assad’s air force against both the FSA and ISIS. Russia’s Vladimir Putin doesn’t have a problem with destroying ISIS so long as doing so achieves his other goal: putting everyone else in his debt. He has a secondary goal he thought he could chiefly pursue in Eastern Europe, and attempted with Ukraine: he wants to split apart the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, which he rightly sees as a counterbalance to check Russian aggression. Thanks to today’s Turkish attack on a Russian plane, and thanks to the West’s hands-off policy with regard to the conflict, Putin could theoretically use his war against ISIS as cover to bombard Turkish military targets, daring the West to get involved against him. Were he to do so, he’d set the precedent that NATO is no longer functional. Two birds, one war.

Israel. Israel’s position is the same it has always been: Israel is surrounded by radical Islamic enemies on every side. Whether Iranian-backed Hezbollah or Sunni Hamas and ISIS, Israel is the focus of hate for all of these groups. Ironically, the rise of Iran has unified Israel with its neighbors in Jordan, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia. All three of those countries, however, can’t stand firmly against ISIS.

All of which means that the only country capable of filling the vacuum would be the United States. Just as in 1991, a major Sunni power is on the move against American interests – but unlike in 1991, no viable option existed for leaving the current regime in power. And the US’ insistence upon the help of ground allies is far too vague. Who should those allies be, occupying ISIS-free ISISland?

The Kurds have no interest in a Syrian incursion. Turkish troops movements into ISIS-land will prompt Iranian intervention. Iranian intervention into ISIS-land would prompt higher levels of support for Sunni resistance. ISIS-land without ISIS is like Iraq without Saddam Hussein: in the absence of solidifying force, chaos breaks out. From that chaos, the most organized force takes power. Russia hopes that should it destroy ISIS, Assad will simply retain power; that may be the simplest solution, although it certainly will not end the war within the country. There are no good answers.

Barack Obama’s dithering for years led to this. Had he lent his support in any strong way to one side, a solution might be possible. Now, it’s not.

Ben Shapiro is Senior Editor-At-Large of Breitbart News, Editor-in-Chief of, and The New York Times bestselling author, most recently, of the book, The People vs. Barack Obama: The Criminal Case Against The Obama Administration (Threshold Editions, June 10, 2014). Follow Ben Shapiro on Twitter @benshapiro.

‘ISIS Delenda Est’—What the Romans Knew About Winning a War

Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Breitbart, by James P. Pinkerton, Nov. 21, 2015:

I. The Roman Way

In writing about the Paris massacre in The Wall Street Journal, Peggy Noonan was blunt:

These primitive, ferocious young men will not stop until we stop them.  The question is how.  That’s the only discussion.

Okay, let’s take up Noonan’s challenge: How do we stop ISIS? Once and for all?

Let’s stipulate that President Obama, who has been waging a phony war against ISIS for over a year, is not the man for the job.  And let’s stipulate, also, that Islam is not “peace,” as George W. Bush so famously suggested back in 2001.

Islam is something different. Not all Muslims are terrorists, not by a long shot, but in its current form, Islam provides safe harbor for way-y-y too many Salafi jihadists, aka, terrorists.  Here at Breitbart, Pamela Geller provides a handy itemization; her list of Islamic terrorist groups runs a full 27 lines.

As the late Samuel Huntington wrote in his landmark 1998 book, The Clash of Civilizationsa work approvingly cited by Sen. Marco Rubio earlier this month—Islam has “bloody borders.”

History tells us that no attitude is permanent.  Yet for now, extremist elements within Muslim societies make it impossible for many Muslim states to get along with their neighbors, either near, in Eurasia, or far, in America.

So what should we do in the face of a relentless, and remorseless, enemy?  The Roman Empire had a good answer.  Yes, 2,000 years before Ronald Reagan summed up his Cold War strategy as, “We win, they lose,” the Romans had the same idea.

Rome’s dogged determination to prevail is perhaps best exemplified by its long struggle against the rival empire of Carthage, in what’s now Tunisia.

The Rome-Carthage conflict—the so-called Punic Wars, of which there were three—raged all over the Mediterranean littoral and lasted, on land and sea, for over a century, from 264 BC to 146 BC.  Interestingly, the single best general on either side was the Carthaginian, Hannibal.  His smashing pincer-movement victory over the Romans atCannae in 216 BC is still studied at West Point and other military academies.

And yet the Romans were more organized and resourceful, as well as determined, and, over time, those qualities gave them the edge. For literally decades, the Roman senator Cato the Elder closed every speech to his colleagues with the ringing words, Carthago delenda est—“Carthage must be destroyed.”  And yet Cato, who died in 149 BC, didn’t actually live to see the final victory, which came three years later, when the Roman legionnaires besieged and and conquered the city of Carthage itself.

Appian of Alexandria described the final victory in his Historia Romana, written in the second century AD.  Here’s Appian describing Rome’s final military operations against Carthage; as we can see, under the leadership of General Scipio Africanus, the Roman legionarii were not nice:

Now Scipio hastened to the attack [on] the strongest part of the city, where the greater part of the inhabitants had taken refuge… All places were filled with groans, shrieks, shouts, and every kind of agony. Some were stabbed, others were hurled alive from the roofs to the pavement, some of them alighting on the heads of spears or other pointed weapons, or swords. . . . Then came new scenes of horror.  As the fire spread and carried everything down, the soldiers did not wait to destroy the buildings little by little, but all in a heap. So the crashing grew louder, and many corpses fell with the stones into the midst.  Others were seen still living, especially old men, women, and young children who had hidden in the inmost nooks of the houses, some of them wounded, some more or less burned, and uttering piteous cries.  Still others, thrust out and falling from such a height with the stones, timbers, and fire, were torn asunder in all shapes of horror, crushed and mangled.

You get the idea. Tough stuff, to be sure, but after Scipio’s triumph, Carthage was never again a problem for Rome.  In fact, the Romans not only razed the city but, for good measure, plowed the ground with salt to make sure that nothing would ever grow there.

The Roman historian Tacitus quoted a barbarian enemy to make an approving point about the Roman strategic approach: “And where they make a desert, they call it peace.”  Yes, when the Romans wanted to make a point—they made a point.  We might note that the Roman Empire endured for another 622 years after the fall of Carthage, all the way to 476 AD.

Of course, Americans would never do anything like obliterating Carthage, even if the few German survivors of the 1945 firebombing of Dresden, or the even fewer Japanese survivors of Hiroshima, later that same year, might beg to differ.  Still, we might pause to note that both Germany and Japan—two countries once both full of fight—haven’t so much as raised their fist at us even once in the last 70 years.

II. The Challenge in Our Time

Today, there’s an echo of the old Roman resolve in the voice of many Republicans.  As Sen. Ted Cruz, who frequently quotes Reagan’s we-win-they-lose maxim, declared the other day, “In a Cruz administration, we will say to militants, if you wage war against America, you are signing your death warrant.”

Needless to say, Cruz doesn’t speak for the intellectually fashionable, who preach a kind of defeatist sophistry.  Among the smart set, it is often said that we shouldn’t attack ISIS because that’s just what they want.   CNN’s Fareed Zakaria, for example, writing of possible US retaliation in the wake of the Paris raid, assures us that ISIS “wants all of this.”  And Sally Kohn, also of CNN, adds her voice: “Bombing terrorists feeds their ideology.”

And we have this dire headline from the lefties at Salon:

We’re already caving to ISIS: Bloodthirsty jingoism is precisely what the terrorists want: The chief goal of these terrorists is to launch a “cosmic war.” Bigotry and calls for invasion provide exactly that.

Well, maybe the leftists are correct: Maybe it would be a mistake for us if we defeated ISIS—but maybe not.  Indeed, it sure seems that Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of ISIS, is doing his best to survive.  To be sure, he says he’s ready for martyrdom, but he’s not seeking it out.  If he really wanted to be dead, he already would be.

Yes, there’s something to be said for winning, not losing—for living, not dying.  As Osama bin Laden himself observed, “When people see a strong horse and a weak horse, by nature, they will like the strong horse.” And of course, it’s no accident that Al Qaeda went into eclipse after bin Laden was killed by US forces in 2011, to be replaced, alas, by ISIS.

To put the matter starkly, being killed suggests that maybe God is not on your side.  It’s perhaps glorious to die for a winning cause, but not so glorious to die for a losing cause.

So let’s hereby resolve that we will be on the winning side.  And let’s get right down to it, and name—yes, name—the central challenge of our time: Defeating the Salafi terrorists once and for all.

Michael Vickers, a counter-terrorism subcabinet official in the Obama and Bush administrations—and an operative with a record going back to the CIA campaign against the Soviets in Afghanistan—is flatly declarative about what must be done; we must defeat ISIS, or ISIL, by depriving it of its territory.  By any name, they—including the remnants of Al Qaeda—need to be defeated and their home-base destroyed:

ISIL, as its name implies, is a de facto state. It holds territory, controls population, and funds its operations from resources that it exploits on territory it controls. If there’s one thing the American military knows how to do it is defeating an opposing force trying to hold ground.

So yes, we must defeat ISIS.  ISIS delenda est.  But yet there are more variables to consider: Unless we plan to do to the Jihadi Zone exactly what the Romans did to the Carthaginians—that is, kill them all—we need a plan for not only pacifying the area, but also for keeping it pacified.

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Vladimir Putin’s massive, triple-decker war room revealed

war roomWashington Post, by Andrew Roth, Nov. 21, 2015:

MOSCOW — “Gentlemen. You can’t fight in here. This is the war room!”

It could have been a scene straight out of “Dr. Strangelove” when President Vladimir V. Putin stepped into the Russian Ministry of Defense’s brand new, three-tiered, multibillion-dollar control center this week, for a war briefing that had its fair share of movie-like pageantry.

The fortified National Control Defense Center was Putin’s first stop after officials confirmed that the Russian charter jet crash that claimed 224 lives last month was the result of an act of terror.

On movie-theater-size screens, live broadcasts showed long-range strategic bombers taking off from Russian air bases to fly sorties over Syria. Putin instructed commanders in Syria to “make contact with the French and work with them as allies” as Russia seeks a central role in a proposed anti-terrorist coalition.

But the real star of the show may have been the building itself, which is designed to be a new nerve center for the Russian military that will coordinate military action around the world, including ballistic missile launches and strategic nuclear deployments.

putin war rm

The building is roughly the equivalent of the U.S. National Military Command Center used by the Pentagon, but as one Russian state news agency noted in abreathless headline this week, “Russian Defense Data Center Outperforms US Facility Threefold: Official.”

The center, which is fortified and said to sit on top of a maze of underground tunnels, is on the Frunze Naberezhnaya on the left bank of the Moscow river, a little over two miles from Red Square.


Russia’s army, which has cost hundreds of billions of dollars, but has also produced noted improvements, from the expertise of Russian troops deployed during the Crimea operation to the recent cruise missile strikes launched from the Caspian Sea.

The new national defense center also includes a helicopter pad that was deployed on the Moscow River late last year and can accommodate Russia’s Mi-8 transport helicopter. In case of a war, it would be the country’s premier communications center, and one Russian commander compared it to the military headquarters of the Soviet Union during World War II.

Minister of Defense Sergei Shoigu said that the center is a step toward “forming a single information space for solving tasks in the interests of the country’s defense.”

As Worldviews noted during Russia’s International Army Games in August, Russia’s military has sought to raise its public profile through savvy media branding.

At the briefing, army personnel sat in color-coded rows with matching headsets and water bottles bearing the Russian army brand (their flagship store recently opened on Tverskaya Street here, Moscow’s equivalent of Fifth Avenue). The briefing was covered on Russian national television from at least four distinct camera angles.

Andrei Kolesnikov, a reporter who has covered Putin for the past 15 years and is known for his lyrical, fawning reports of the Russian president, waxed introspective as he covered the briefing Tuesday.

“When this building and this room were opened a year ago, I was somewhat perplexed: Yes, it all looks very persuasive, and the Pentagon might even only dream of something like this, if only in a nightmare. But why? Who will need these screens the size of small soccer fields with grandstands for viewers?


“And here was the answer. Every spot was filled. Russia’s entire high army command were the viewers. Or was it like the warming bench, and at any moment everyone was ready to go on the field …”

Later in the piece, he added: “My soul of course was not filled with delight and trembling at the hellish power of this armada. But I was perturbed, yes, I was.”

Andrew Roth is a reporter in The Post’s Moscow bureau.

Compare and contrast:

U.S. Pilots Confirm: Obama Admin Blocks 75 Percent of Islamic State Strikes (

Attkisson: Obama Is Selectively Reading Intel Reports [VIDEO] (

Famous Russian chess champion: ‘Bring down Putin’

President Putin and President Obama

President Putin and President Obama

WND, by Greg Corombos, Nov. 1, 2015:

Russian President Vladimir Putin will do anything to accumulate and preserve power, and the world will descend into greater and greater chaos unless the United States and other free nations stand up to him, according to legendary chess champion and Russian democracy advocate Garry Kasparov.

Kasparov has been fighting for greater freedoms in his native Russia for decades. After 20 years as the top-ranked chess player in the world, he retired in 2005 to devote his full energies to be a leading voice against Putin and his assault on liberty. Kasparov’s new book is “Winter is Coming: Why Vladimir Putin and the Enemies of the Free World Must Be Stopped.”

In the book, Kasparov chronicles the stunning swiftness with which Russia embraced freedom, only to begin handing it back to Putin by the end of the 1990s. In the intervening 15 years, Kasparov said Putin has not revealed any grand goals or overarching principles.

In our subsequent interview, he said Putin’s modus operandi is actually quite simple.

“Putin’s strategy, if you may call it a strategy, in fact is the tactics of survival,” Kasparov said. “He must stay in power in Russia, and, to stay in the Kremlin, he must come up with a good rationale for the Russian public.”

He said that gets tougher for Putin given the current state of Russia.

“The economy is in terrible shape and nobody expects it to get better, especially with oil prices around 50 (dollars per barrel) and unlikely to rise dramatically in the near future. Of course, that’s one of Putin’s goals, to create mass chaos and wars in the Middle East in expectation that could effect oil prices the way he wants it,” Kasparov explained.

As Putin feels the heat economically, Kasparov believes the plan is to rally the Russian people around his response to manufactured threats.

“When you run out of enemies in Russia, as with every dictator, he has been looking for enemies elsewhere,” Kasparov said. “His image as a strong leader who could defy the United States, who could send Russian troops abroad, who can annex territories of the neighboring countries; this is what he sells the Russian public.”

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Also see:

The New Cold War: The Russia-Shia Alliance VS the Islamic State

Russia’s President Vladimir Putin (2nd R) meets with Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani (2nd L) on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York, September 28, 2015. REUTERS/Mikhail Klimentyev.

Russia’s President Vladimir Putin (2nd R) meets with Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani (2nd L) on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York, September 28, 2015. REUTERS/Mikhail Klimentyev.

By Brian Fairchild, October 31, 2015

The New Cold War:

In late-September 2015 Russia and Iran launched a clandestine strategic military campaign to support Syria’s Bashar al-Assad.  Russia’s bold move took the West by surprise and changed the balance of power in the Middle East in Russia’s favor.  It will go down in history as the milestone depicting Russia’s first aggressive military action outside of its own sphere of influence since the fall of the Soviet Union, and, when viewed from a global strategic perspective, will be remembered as the first clear sign that a New Cold War had erupted between the US and Russia.

Russia’s Middle Eastern campaign is formed around the new “quadrilateral alliance”, which has divided the region into two sectarian blocs:  the Russian-led Shia Muslim alliance, which forms a powerful “Shia Crescent” stretching from Iraq, through Iran and Syria, to Lebanon, and the Sunni Arab bloc led by Saudi Arabia with minimal backing by the United States.

Thus far, Russia’s campaign has been executed seamlessly. Upon entering Syria clandestinely, Russian forces immediately deployed sophisticated surface to air missile defense batteries as well as top-of the-line jet fighters to protect Russian and Syrian forces from the US coalition.  Once air defenses were in place, Moscow began a barrage of airstrikes targeting anti-Assad rebels in order to re-establish and consolidate Assad’s power.  The airstrikes were subsequently integrated with ground operations carried-out by Syrian military units, Iranian Quds forces, Shia militia from Syria and Iraq, and Hezbollah fighters.  There are also credible news reports that Cuban Special Forces have joined the fray for the first time since Cuba’s proxy wars in Angola and central Africa in the 1970’s on behalf of the Soviet Union.

The Russia-Shia Alliance and its Effect on Iraq, Jordan, and the Kurds:


In tandem with its military campaign, Russia launched a diplomatic campaign that has been just as effective.  Iraq is the geographical base for US coalition operations against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, but American influence in Iraq has steadily diminished over the past year.

In early October 2015, Iraq secretly established a new Russia-Iran-Syria-Iraq intelligence center in the middle of Baghdad that surprised and angered American military commanders.  Worse, after Russia’s increasingly effective Syrian air campaign, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi called for Russia to begin unilateral airstrikes against the Islamic State in Iraq.  The Pentagon became so alarmed by the possibility that Russia might get a strategic foothold in Iraq that on October 21, 2015, it dispatched Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Joseph Dunford to Baghdad to deliver an ultimatum to the Iraqi leadership.  Dunford told the Iraqi Prime Minister and Defense Minister that Iraq had to choose between cooperating with Russia or the US.  Upon his departure from Baghdad, General Dunford told the media that he received assurances that Iraq would not seek Russian assistance, but just three days later, Iraq officially authorized Russian airstrikes in-country.


On that same day, another of America’s most dependable allies, the Kingdom of Jordan, announced its agreement to create a new Russian-Jordanian military coordination center to target the Islamic State and that this center would go well beyond just a formal information exchange.  According to Jordan’s Ambassador to Russia:

  • “This time, we are talking about a specific form of cooperation — a center for military coordination between two countries. Now we will cooperate on a higher level. It will not be just in a format of information exchange: we see a necessity ‘to be on the ground’ as Jordan has a border with Syria”

The Kurds:

Moscow is attempting to undermine US relations with the Kurds.  Since the rise of the Islamic State, the US has sought to provide anti-Islamic State military support to the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) in northern Iraq via the Iraqi central government, but the Iraqi government has no desire to see the KRG gain additional power in the north so this mission has been largely ineffective.  The US has had a measure of success providing limited support to the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), but has balked at providing full support because any support whatsoever angers Turkey due to contacts between the YPG and the Kurdish Worker’s Party (PKK), a separatist organization, that seeks to overthrow the Turkish government.  On October 29, 2015, Turkish president Erdogan demonstrated this anger when he vehemently criticized US support for the YPG and stated that Turkey would attack the YPG on the Iraqi side of the border if it attempts to create a separatist Kurdish administrative zone.  Because Turkey is a NATO ally, Turkish threats cause the US significant political and diplomatic problems, but they will not deter Putin from moving to organize and utilize Kurdish forces in pursuit of his goals; in early October, he went out of his way to show disdain for Turkey and NATO by allowing his Syrian-based jets to illegally invade Turkish airspace.

No Kurdish group is happy with the current situation of getting limited support from the United States to fight the Islamic State, but all of them have expressed interest in cooperating with Russia.  Significantly, Sergey Ivanov, the head of the Kremlin administration, specifically urged cooperation between the Syrian Kurdish militia and the US-backed YPG.

The Russia-Shia Alliance and the Islamic State:

The Shia composition of the quadrilateral alliance is extremely significant because it plays directly into the Islamic State narrative.  The Islamic State and the majority of the world’s Muslims are Sunni, but in the heart of the Middle East, the Shia governments of Iran, Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon, with Russian support, dominate, and these countries surround the Islamic State’s new “caliphate” on three sides.  Understanding this strategic disadvantage, the Islamic State knows that it must muster as much international Sunni support as possible to survive, so it carries-out a relentless policy to polarize the international Sunni population against the Shia.

The chance to remove Bashar al-Assad, who represents the Shia Alawite sect, was the primary reason the Islamic State moved to Syria from Iraq, and removing al-Assad from power served as its initial rallying cry to the global Sunni community.  It was this rallying cry that created the dangerous “foreign fighter” phenomenon that subsequently brought more than 30,000 radical Sunni Muslims from around the world to the new caliphate.

The Islamic State repeatedly emphasizes in its official publications and statements its contention that Shia Muslims are not true Muslims and must be eradicated, and, in these communications, it refers to Shia Muslims as “Rafidah” (rejecters).  But of all the Shias in the world, the Islamic State has a particular hatred for the Shia Iranians, who are Persian rather than Arab, and who ruled Islam during the ancient Safavid (Persian) empire, which the Islamic State regards as religiously illegitimate.  It therefore refers to Iranians as the “Safavid Rafidah”.

Moreover, the Islamic State accuses the US and Russia of being modern day “crusaders” who have joined forces with the Iranians to destroy Sunni Islam, a contention made clear on March 12, 2015, when its spokesman Abu Mohamed al-Adnani stated:

  • The Safavid Rāfidah (Shia Iranians) today have entered a new stage in their war against the Sunnis. They have begun to believe that it is within their power to take areas of the Sunnis and control them completely. They no longer want a single Muslim from the Sunnis living in the empire they desire…O Sunnis…if the Islamic State is broken…then there will be no Mecca for you thereafter nor Medina…Sunnis! The Crusader-Safavid (Christian-Iranian) alliance is clear today.  Here is Iran with its Great Satan America dividing the regions and roles amongst each other in the war against Islam and the Sunnis…We warned you before and continue to warn you that the war is a Crusader-Safavid was against Islam, and war against the Sunnis…”

The Shia Alliance and the Saudis:

Saudi Arabia considers itself to be the leader of the world’s Sunni population and the custodian of Islam’s two most holy places:  the mosques of Mecca and Medina where the prophet Muhammad received Allah’s revelations.  Because Iran is the Kingdom’s religious and regional nemesis the Islamic State’s anti-Shia narrative resonates greatly among many Saudis who are increasingly alarmed at Iran’s growing military influence and power.  In a letter signed by 53 Saudi Islamic scholars in early October 2015, the clerics lashed out at Iran, Syria and Russia and echoed the main points made by the Islamic State:

  • “The holy warriors of Syria are defending the whole Islamic nation. Trust them and support them … because if they are defeated, God forbid, it will be the turn of one Sunni country after another”

Saudi King Salman was willing to allow this unofficial letter to be published because it permitted the Saudi government an indirect manner to issue a warning to Iran, but as the Russian-Iran alliance continued to make military gains throughout October, the Kingdom’s anxiety was such that it decided to allow its Foreign Minister to issue the following direct warning to Iran:

  • “We wish that Iran would change its policies and stop meddling in the affairs of other countries in the region, in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Yemen…We will make sure that we confront Iran’s actions and shall use all our political, economic and military powers to defend our territory and people…”


The New Cold War:

Just one month ago, the US was the only major military player in the Middle East, but that has all changed.  Russia’s aggressive and well-planned military campaign in Syria has tilted the balance of power in the region away from the US and toward Russia and its new Shia-dominated quadrilateral alliance.  As a result, the US plan to effect regime change in Syria is now impossible, but more importantly, US influence in Iraq is steadily diminishing, and thus, the number of options available to American military commanders to degrade the Islamic State are also diminishing.

Five days after Iraq rejected General Dunford’s ultimatum and authorized Russian airstrikes in Iraq, Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter ignored this fact in his testimony before the Senate’s Armed Forces Committee when he stated that the United States plans to increase the number of airstrikes in Iraq as well as direct action raids by US special operations forces in Iraq.

Unfortunately, such an increase in US military actions require Iraqi permission, and for the second time in a week, Iraq rejected the United States.  On October 28, 2015, Prime Minister al-Abadi’s spokesman told the media that Iraq has no intention of allowing increased American participation because:

  • “This is an Iraqi affair and the government did not ask the U.S. Department of Defense to be involved in direct operations…”

If Iraq enforces this restriction, and limits the US to only training and arming Iraqi forces while allowing Russia to conduct aggressive operations in-country, the situation could become untenable for the United States, further reducing America’s ability to degrade the Islamic State.

The Islamic State:

Once Russia consolidates Assad rule in Syria, Putin will undoubtedly use the new Russia-Shia alliance to move against the Islamic State.  Because the alliance dominates the geographical terrain on three sides of the “caliphate” and has demonstrated a willingness to engage in unified military air and ground operations, it is likely that Russian airpower and Shia ground forces will succeed in dismantling many Islamic State elements in Syria and Iraq.

Such success by the Russia-Shia alliance, especially if it forces the evacuation of the capital of the Islamic State’s “caliphate” in Raqqa, Syria, will further polarize and enrage radical Sunnis and likely increase the number of foreign fighters from Europe and the Middle East.  It will also likely result in more domestic lone jihad attacks in the US and Russia, a call the Islamic State has already made in its October 13, 2015 statement:

  • “…the Islamic State is stronger today than yesterday, while at the same time America is getting weaker and weaker…America today is not just weakened, it has become powerless, forced to ally with Russia and Iran…Islamic youth everywhere, ignite jihad against the Russians and the Americans in their crusaders’ war against Muslims.”

If the Islamic State experiences set-backs and defeats in Syria and Iraq such defeats would likely motivate it to launch mass casualty attacks in the United States and Europe in order to prove to its followers that it remains relevant. Mass casualty attacks in tandem with increased lone jihad attacks would make an already bad domestic security situation, grave.

On October 23, 2015, FBI Director Comey revealed that the FBI is pursuing approximately 900 active cases against Islamic State extremists in the United States and that this number continues to expand.  Comey added that should the number of cases continue to increase, it won’t be long before the FBI lacks the adequate resources to “keep up”.   Europe, too, faces grave security challenges.  A few days after Comey’s revelations, the head of MI5, Britain’s domestic intelligence service, stated that the terror threat in the United Kingdom from the Islamic State and al Qaeda is the highest he has “ever seen”.

Brian Fairchild was a career officer in CIA’s Clandestine Service.  He has served in Asia, Southeast Asia, Europe, the Arabian Peninsula, and Afghanistan.  Mr. Fairchild writes periodic intelligence analyses on topics of strategic importance.

Vladimir Putin’s real target: The world’s oil supply

The Washington Times – October 14, 2015:

It’s the oil, stupid.

That’s what Russian President Vladimir Putin is really up to in Syria.

In the early 1970s, President Richard Nixon succeeded in pushing the Russians out of the Middle East. Today they’re back with a vengeance, thanks to President Obama’s policy of precipitous withdrawal from the region and overall neutering of American power.

Since Mr. Putin began his significant military deployment to Syria, observers have tried to get a handle on his motives — from propping up his ally, Syrian President Bashar Assad, to using the intervention as a distraction from his Ukrainian intervention, to weakening NATO to satisfying the goals of the Russian Orthodox Church, to re-establishing a long-term strategic foothold in the Middle East.

All of these motives may be true. But they miss his far bigger gambit: seizing control of the majority of the world’s oil.

Some, including Mr. Obama, have dismissed Mr. Putin’s moves as ill-conceived and a sign of weakness. But Mr. Putin has never been naive or aimless. He coldly pursues Russia’s national interests, and right now, its overriding interest is in reviving the Russian economy, which has been gutted by economic sanctions and cheap oil, and positioning Russia to be the globe’s oil overlord.

Cheap oil has most irritated Mr. Putin, which is why his Syrian adventure is really about directly threatening the nation doing Moscow the most harm — Saudi Arabia — by encircling it with the new Russian-led alliance of Iran, Iraq and Syria, and gaining control over the natural gas pipeline that originates in Iran and runs through all three countries.

This explains Mr. Putin’s new “intelligence-sharing” alliance with Tehran, Baghdad and Damascus, ostensibly to track the Islamic State, or ISIS, but really directed against Riyadh and the competing Saudi-Qatar-Turkey pipeline. Mr. Putin has long held the European gas market hostage to Russia’s reserves. Rather than permit the Iran-Iraq-Syria pipeline to threaten that control, he intends to grab effective control over it, thereby suffocating Saudi oil interests and seizing an even fiercer stranglehold over the European energy market.

He is going to decimate the Mother of all Oil Producers.

In the face of a glut a year ago, the Saudis raised output by 1 million barrels a day, well above their quota, to create an even bigger surfeit — partly to undermine U.S. shale producers.

The subsequent low oil prices have sent the Russian economy into a death spiral. The oil and gas sector accounts for 70 percent of total Russian exports, 52 percent of federal budget revenues and 16 percent of its gross national product. The Russian economy contracted by 2.2 percent in the first quarter of 2015, and by a devastating 4.6 percent in the second quarter. The value of the ruble has dropped by a staggering 50 percent.

As energy investor Gary Siegler puts it, “The Russians experience this as an economic war” — which to Mr. Putin is indistinct from a military one, so he has now joined both battles.

Under the pretext of defeating ISIS, Mr. Putin has sent Russian special forces into Syria and Iraq and is preparing to introduce up to 150,000 ground troops. The elite troops are not there to simply provide security but to call in airstrikes and carry out covert missions against the western-backed, anti-Assad rebels, so that eventually Mr. Putin can argue accurately that the choice in Syria is between Mr. Assad and ISIS. Pick one.

The Russian campaign against ISIS also puts the lie to Mr. Obama’s fairytale claim that he’s fighting the terrorists aggressively; Moscow is accomplishing in a few weeks what Mr. Obama hasn’t been willing to accomplish in over a year.

Further, Russia’s air defense missiles are in Syria for a purpose other than the mere protection of the Assad regime. When Washington was given less than an hour’s warning that the Kremlin was imposing, in effect, a no-fly zone in Syriaand Mr. Obama had no response, Mr. Putin pressed on, ordering Russian warships in the Caspian Sea to fire long-range cruise missiles. These are warning shots to his deeper target, Riyadh.

Russia is surrounding Saudi Arabia with weapons, combat troops and alliances, including with Egypt and Israel, designed to make Riyadh an offer it can’t refuse: cut production so prices rise or else.

After all, once those 150,000 Russian combat troops are on the ground inSyria and northern Iraq, they’ll be there to stay. They’ll secure the Iraqi oil fields — which produce 4 million barrels a day — and the pipeline territory for Russia, thereby gaining even greater leverage over oil production and prices.

(Incidentally: Donald Trump was derided for arguing that the United States should have seized Iraq’s oil as repayment for its liberation. How ironic if Russia ends up controlling that oil.)

The Saudis know they can’t count on Mr. Obama. They watched as he betrayed America’s longstanding ally, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, and believes Mr. Obama has already betrayed them by legitimizing Iran as a threshold nuclear power.

The Saudis now see Russia on their doorstep, perhaps preparing to carve up Iraq with Iran, destabilize them and the oil supply, or even to join Tehran in prosecuting a hot war against Riyadh in order to allow the vast eastern Saudi oil fields to come under Iranian and Russian control.

Russia’s power play is working, as oil prices have ticked up recently. But Mr. Putin will not be satisfied with small victories. He’s in this for all the marbles.

Control the oil, control the global economy. And right now, Russia is poised to do both.

Monica Crowley is online opinion editor at The Washington Times.


Putin’s Challenge – Russia’s not on defense

Also see:

Obama and Putin Agreed To Screw Erdogan?

!cid_image006_jpg@01D103C7Moon of Alabama, Oct. 13, 2015: h/t @pulpark

It’s official! The New York Times finally admits that the “CIA rebels” in Syria who received tons of TOW anti-tank missiles are working under the field command of al-Qaeda/Jabhat al Nusra:

Rebel commanders scoffed when asked about reports of the delivery of 500 TOWs from Saudi Arabia, saying it was an insignificant number compared with what is available. Saudi Arabia in 2013 ordered more than 13,000 of them. Given that American weapons contracts require disclosure of the “end user,” insurgents said they were being delivered with Washington’s approval.

But, be assured, because these “CIA rebels” feel bad about it, they are still “moderate” or somewhat “relative moderate”.

Advancing alongside the Islamist groups, and sometimes aiding them, have been several of the relatively secular groups, like the Free Syrian Army, which have gained new prominence and status because of their access to the TOWs.

It is a tactical alliance that Free Syrian Army commanders describe as an uncomfortable marriage of necessity, because they cannot operate without the consent of the larger and stronger Nusra Front. But Mr. Assad and his allies cite the arrangement as proof that there is little difference between insurgent groups, calling them all terrorists that are legitimate targets.

That these “relative secular” al-Qaeda auxiliaries are threatening suicide attacks against Russians only confirms their secularism. Judging from the reader comments to that NYT piece the U.S. people are pretty aghast about this now openly admitted cooperation. They, and a realist op-ed in the NYT, call for cooperation with Russia and the Syrian government.

There may already be more cooperation between Russia and the U.S. than we can see. At least that is what the Turkish President Erdogan perceives.

Yesterday the U.S. dropped 50 tons of small weapons and munition to Kurdish fighters in north east Syria. According the U.S. justification for this those Kurds along with some Arab Syrian tribals are supposed to attack the Islamic State in Raqqa. (Those Arab tribals are by the way just a bunch of worthless thieves. This according to the Voice of America(!).) But the Kurds do not seem to know about those Raqqa plans anyway. They have different aims:

U.S. officials hope the YPG will now turn its attention to Raqqa, the Syrian city that is the defacto capital of the Islamic State, which lies just 60 miles south of Tal Abyad, a border town the YPG seized from the Islamic State in June, with U.S. help.

But PYD spokesman Can said the Kurdish group’s first priority is to link the Kurdish enclave of Afrin, northwest of the Syrian city of Aleppo, with Kobani, the Kurdish enclave northeast of Aleppo. That would mean clearing the Islamic State from villages along 60 miles of the Turkey-Syria border, in particular the border town of Jarablus.“Our prime and most important goal is to liberate Jarablus and to connect Kobani with Afrin,” Can told McClatchy. Capturing Raqqa, a mostly Arab city, is “not really” a PYD objective, he said. “Not for now,” he said.

That is just as I suspected the Kurds to react. But why did the U.S. officials claim that these Kurds and the collection of thieves would attack Raqqa? Did they not coordinate with them or was that Raqqa story a ruse?

The Turks seem to assume such and they accuse the U.S. as well as Russia of coordinating with the Kurds to seal the border with Turkey: Turkey warns U.S., Russia against backing Kurdish militia in Syria

Turkey has warned the United States and Russia it will not tolerate Kurdish territorial gains by Kurdish militia close to its frontiers in north-western Syria, two senior officials said.”This is clear cut for us and there is no joking about it,” one official said of the possibility of Syrian Kurdish militia crossing the Euphrates to extend control along Turkish borders from Iraq’s Kurdistan region towards the Mediterranean coast.

The PYD has been getting closer with both the United States and Russia of late. We view the PYD as a terrorist group and we want all countries to consider the consequences of their cooperation,” one of the Turkish officials said.

Turkey suspects Russia, which launched air strikes in Syria two weeks ago, has also been lending support to the YPG and PYD.

“With support from Russia, the PYD is trying to capture land between Jarablus and Azaz, going west of the Euphrates. We will never accept this,” the official said.

Is there now really coordination between Russia and the U.S. to seal the Syrian-Turkish border witch would cut off the Islamic State but also the al-Qaeda “CIA rebels” from their supplies? This would destroy all Turkish plans for Syria: a “safe zone” in Syria under Turkman control, a Sunni ruled pipeline corridor from Qatar to Europe, the Turkish-Ottoman annexation of Aleppo. Turkey would be pushed back into a secondary role.

Do Russia and the U.S. now really make common cause and decided to screw Erdogan? This would make sense if the destruction of the Islamic State and all other terrorists in Syria is the common aim. That would be a change in the Obama administration’s policy. Up to now it only helped the “salafist principality” to grow and never seriously attacked it.

And if there is such cooperation why does the U.S still deliver thousands of TOWs to al-Qaeda which only kill more Syrians and prolong the fighting?

Also see:

How America can counter Putin’s moves in Syria

Russian President Vladimir Putin. (Alexei Nikolsky/AP)

Russian President Vladimir Putin. (Alexei Nikolsky/AP)

Washington Post, by Condoleezza Rice and  October 8, 2015:

Condoleezza Rice was secretary of state from 2005 to 2009. Robert M. Gates was defense secretary from 2006 to 2011.

One can hear the disbelief in capitals from Washington to London to Berlin to Ankara and beyond. How can Vladimir Putin, with a sinking economy and a second-rate military, continually dictate the course of geopolitical events? Whether it’s in Ukraine or Syria, the Russian president seems always to have the upper hand.

Sometimes the reaction is derision: This is a sign of weakness. Or smugness: He will regret the decision to intervene. Russia cannot possibly succeed. Or alarm: This will make an already bad situation worse. And, finally, resignation: Perhaps the Russians can be brought along to help stabilize the situation, and we could use help fighting the Islamic State.

The fact is that Putin is playing a weak hand extraordinarily well because he knows exactly what he wants to do. He is not stabilizing the situation according to our definition of stability. He is defending Russia’s interests by keeping Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in power. This is not about the Islamic State. Any insurgent group that opposes Russian interests is a terrorist organization to Moscow. We saw this behavior in Ukraine, and now we’re seeing it even more aggressively — with bombing runs and cruise missile strikes — in Syria.

Putin is not a sentimental man, and if Assad becomes a liability, Putin will gladly move on to a substitute acceptable to Moscow. But for now, the Russians believe that they (and the Iranians) can save Assad. President Obama and Secretary of State John F. Kerry say that there is no military solution to the Syrian crisis. That is true, but Moscow understands that diplomacy follows the facts on the ground, not the other way around. Russia and Iran are creating favorable facts. Once this military intervention has run its course, expect a peace proposal from Moscow that reflects its interests, including securing the Russian military base at Tartus.

We should not forget that Moscow’s definition of success is not the same as ours. The Russians have shown a willingness to accept and even encourage the creation of so-called failed states and frozen conflicts from Georgia to Moldova to Ukraine. Why should Syria be any different? If Moscow’s “people” can govern only a part of the state but make it impossible for anyone else to govern the rest of it — so be it.

And the well-being of the population is not the issue either. The Russian definition of success contains no element of concern for the dismal situation of the Syrian people. Refugees — that’s Europe’s problem. Greater sectarianism — well, it’s the Middle East! Populations attacked with barrel bombs and Assad’s chemicals, supposedly banned in the deal that Moscow itself negotiated — too bad!

Putin’s move into Syria is old-fashioned great-power politics. (Yes, people do that in the 21st century.) There is a domestic benefit to him, but he is not externalizing his problems at home. Russian domestic and international policies have always been inextricably linked. Russia feels strong at home when it is strong abroad — this is Putin’s plea to his propagandized population — and the Russian people buy it, at least for now. Russia is a great power and derives its self-worth from that. What else is there? When is the last time you bought a Russian product that wasn’t petroleum? Moscow matters again in international politics, and Russian armed forces are on the move.

Let us also realize that hectoring Putin about the bad choice he has made sounds weak. The last time the Russians regretted a foreign adventure was Afghanistan. But that didn’t happen until Ronald Reagan armed the Afghan mujahideen with Stinger missiles that started blowing Russian warplanes and helicopters out of the sky. Only then did an exhausted Soviet Union led by Mikhail Gorbachev, anxious to make accommodation with the West, decide that the Afghan adventure wasn’t worth it.

So what can we do?

First, we must reject the argument that Putin is simply reacting to world disorder. Putin, this argument would suggest, is just trying to hold together the Middle East state system in response to the chaos engendered by U.S. overreach in Iraq, Libya and beyond.

Putin is indeed reacting to circumstances in the Middle East. He sees a vacuum created by our hesitancy to fully engage in places such as Libya and to stay the course in Iraq. But Putin as the defender of international stability? Don’t go there.

Second, we have to create our own facts on the ground. No-fly zones and safe harbors for populations are not “half-baked” ideas. They worked before (protecting the Kurds for 12 years under Saddam Hussein’s reign of terror) and warrant serious consideration. We will continue to have refugees until people are safe. Moreover, providing robust support for Kurdish forces, Sunni tribes and what’s left of the Iraqi special forces is not “mumbo-jumbo.” It might just salvage our current, failing strategy. A serious commitment to these steps would also solidify our relationship with Turkey, which is reeling from the implications of Moscow’s intervention. In short, we must create a better military balance of power on the ground if we are to seek a political solution acceptable to us and to our allies.

Third, we must “de-conflict” our military activities with those of the Russians. This is distasteful, and we should never have gotten to a place where the Russians are warning us to stay out of their way. But we must do all that we can to prevent an incident between us. Presumably, even Putin shares this concern.

Finally, we need to see Putin for who he is. Stop saying that we want to better understand Russian motives. The Russians know their objective very well: Secure their interests in the Middle East by any means necessary. What’s not clear about that?


Also see:

Russia’s endgame in Syria: Follow the Money

3300795117Center for Security Policy, by John Cordero, Oct. 6, 2015:

As Vladimir Putin orders airstrikes against rebels of all stripes fighting Bashar al-Assad’s regime, there are important strategic economic goals behind Russia’s actions in Syria.  The short term goal is easy to discern: prevent Assad’s collapse as no alternative suitable to Russian interests exists, preserve Russia’s only naval base in the Middle East at Tartus, and promote Russia both at home and abroad as a world power that counterbalances American hegemony.

Much of the media has focused on Putin as a personal driver of Russian behavior.  While forays into Georgia and Ukraine have accomplished the tactical goals of preventing increased European Union presence in Russia’s sphere of influence, these have come at a high cost both politically and economically in the form of isolation and sanctions. Putin seems to have concluded that intervening in Syria in the name of fighting terrorism can only help repair Russia’s battered image.

It is important to at least try to understand Putin’s motivation without delving too much into psychoanalysis.  He is on record as lamenting the collapse of the Soviet Union as “the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the 20th century.”  In power since 2000, the former KGB officer is an ardent Russian nationalist, a promoter of a personality cult concerned with his country’s standing and perception in the world.  With his career spent in the service of the state, he is not one to take a background role in world affairs. Putin has effectively used Russia’s alliance with Iran as an effective tool to undermine the US, both regionally in the Gulf and globally with the nuclear deal.

The current buildup at Tartus and Latakia is nothing new: since Hafez al-Assad’s rise to power in 1970, the Former Soviet Union and then Russia was and is a stalwart ally, long attempting to position Syria as a counterbalance to American and Israeli military superiority in the Middle East.

Russia’s actions are also a message to the world: unlike the US, which abandoned long-time ally Hosni Mubarak during his time of need in Egypt, Russia is prepared to intervene, militarily if necessary, to preserve a friendly regime in danger.  Therefore, it pays for autocrats to court Moscow, especially if they possess valuable resources or are in prime strategic locations.

While Vladimir Putin ostensibly espouses the acceptable goal of a global alliance against IS, the strategic context is that he has entered into a sectarian alliance with Shia Iran, Iraq, Syria, and the proxy army Hezbollah (The P4+1) against the American-backed Sunni alliance of Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Jordan, and the UAE, all of whom insist that Assad has no future in Syria.

Through its airstrikes, Russia continues to advance the prior Syrian strategy of focusing efforts against pro-Western rebels, with the recognition that, while dangerous, the Islamic State is the one party in the conflict the West will never support.

The Islamic State will take advantage of both the respite, and the propaganda value of being the recognized number one enemy of the infidel coalition, which it uses to rally supporters simply by pointing out that its enemies are gathering to destroy the renewed Caliphate.

The one strategic motivation for Russia that has been widely ignored is the economic one.  Qatar, the richest country in the world per capita and also owner of the world’s largest natural gas field, proposed in 2009 to jointly construct a gas pipeline running through Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Syria, Turkey, and into Europe.  Assad, not wanting to provoke Moscow, refused to sign on.  Instead, he floated an alternative: an Iran-Iraq-Syria and possibly Lebanon pipeline, to then follow under the Mediterranean to Europe. The Qatar-Turkey pipeline would run through majority Sunni countries with the exception of Syria’s Alawite regime. Assad’s counter proposal follows the Shia crescent.

Russia, not wanting to lose its primary market in Europe, is adamantly opposed to a prospective Qatari project.  A military presence in Syria will guarantee that even if Assad is removed from power, the pipeline will not be built.  It will look on favorably to the Iranian proposal, provided Gazprom and other state-owned companies get their share of the pie.

Pipeline politics in the region have a long and varied history of Russian involvement.  TheBaku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline was built only after Moscow’s demand for an alternative pipeline for Azeri oil to Russia was met.  During the 2008 Russia-Georgia war, US intelligence officials determined that an explosion on the pipeline near the Turkish-Georgian border was carried out via Russian government cyber warfare.  Days after the explosion, Russian fighter jets bombed positions in Georgia close to the pipeline. Although the BTC pipeline was built precisely to avoid Russian interference, the Kremlin has never let that stop them.

Turkey and Azerbaijan have also begun construction on a joint natural gas pipeline, theTANAP. This project’s stated goal is to reduce the EU’s dependence on Russian natural gas, a prospect that cannot please Moscow.   Both the BTC and TANAP bypass Armenia, a Russian ally and wary of its neighbors in the Caucasus.

As the endpoint for the Qatari project, Turkey is adamant in calling for Assad to step down or be removed, which dovetails with the proposed Sunni pipeline.  By clearing the way through Syria, Qatar and Saudi Arabia can receive a handsome return on their investment in backing jihadis fighting Assad.  On the other hand, Iran will not sit idly by and leave potential billions of dollars in the hands of its ideological and regional enemies.

Russian intervention in Syria is just beginning. There is every possibility that it will expand as more targets are found, perhaps those that are in the way of the proposed Iranian pipeline, directly threatening Damascus and by extension, the Russian monopoly of gas exports to Europe.  For the time being, Putin has the world’s attention.


EXCLUSIVE: Russian jets ‘intercept’ US predator drones over Syria, officials say

Also see:

What now? How to deal with the utter collapse of Obama’s Syria-Iraq strategy


Center for Security Policy, by Fred Fleitz, Oct 1, 2015:

A year ago, in response to the growing strength of ISIS and outrage over internet videos of ISIS beheadings, President Obama announced a strategy on Sept. 10, 2014 to “degrade and destroy” ISIS in Iraq and Syria.

The president’s four-step plan included: a systemic campaign of airstrikes in Iraq and Syria; increased support to forces fighting ISIS on the ground in Iraq and Syria, including training and arming moderate Syrian rebels; expanded counterterrorism efforts to weaken ISIS and cut off its resources; and continued support to humanitarian assistance to civilians displaced by ISIS.

Twelve months later this strategy is in ruins. Russia has sent troops into Syria and began bombing ISIS targets Wednesday.  [Author’s note: There are some reports that Russia actually bombed non-ISIS Syrian rebels, including some rebels backed by the U.S.]

Also on Wednesday, the Russian government told the United States to stay out of Syrian airspace and remove American warplanes.

Iran has increased its presence in Iraq; Moscow has strengthened its relationship with the Iraqi government.

On Sept. 27, Russian officials announced a new anti-ISIS pact between Russia, Iraq, Iran and Syrian that will include intelligence sharing.

President Obama’s Iraq-Syria strategy collapsed so quickly because, as I wrote here for Fox News Opinion last May, it was really a non-strategy to do as little as possible about this crisis for the rest of his presidency so he can hand this mess to a future president.

Pinprick airstrikes in Syria under Obama’s policy did not stop ISIS from making gains on the ground.

In Iraq, ISIS took the city of Ramadi last May despite being outnumbered 10-1 by the Iraqi army.  Iraqi officials said they would retake the city “in days.”

Four months later, there is little prospect of this or an assault to retake Mosul which was supposed to occur last spring. This is due to the weakness of Iraq’s army and President Obama’s refusal to allow U.S. military advisers or special forces leave their bases and accompany Iraqi forces into the field.

The Obama administration recently admitted its $500 million plan to train and equip moderate Syrian rebels has been a disaster.  The program spent $42 million to train its first group of 54 recruits who entered Syria from Turkey last July.  The recruits were quickly attacked by the al-Nusra Front (the al-Qaeda franchise in Syria) and forced to surrender trucks and ammunition to this terrorist group.  Most of these rebels returned to Turkey; a U.S. general told Congress only “four or five” are still fighting in Syria despite a goal of training 5,400 per year.

The fighting in Syria has caused a huge flood of refugees to seek refuge in Europe.  At the same time, more than 7,000 foreign fighters – including 250 Americans – joined ISIS in Syria and Iraq over the last year according to a new bipartisan congressional report.

Obama officials responded to the rapid collapse of its Syria-Iraq strategy with spin to exaggerate the effectiveness of the president’s policy and dismissing ISIS gains.  50 Department of Defense intelligence analysts recently filed complaints with the Pentagon IG that their work was doctored to support the Obama administration’s claim that its anti-ISIS strategy is succeeding.

The failure of President Obama’s Iraq-Syria policy is now so obvious that his advisers can no longer spin it away.

Mr. Obama’s policy created a power vacuum in the Middle East that Russian President Vladimir Putin has filled.  By seizing the initiative in the fight against IS, Putin is trying to create a new Russian-led regional axis that will counter American influence and portray Russia as a more reliable partner.  This gambit could have major benefits for Putin, including possibly by convincing Europe to drop its sanctions against Russia due to its intervention in Ukraine by promising to stop the flow of refugees to Europe from Syria.

The Obama administration is scrambling to respond to these developments.  Obama chided Putin’s Syria moves in his speech to the UN General Assembly this week, called for the removal of Syrian President Assad but also expressed willingness to work with Putin in the battle against ISIS.  Putin dismissed Obama’s demands by blaming the United States for the civil war in Syria, called for working with the Assad regime and criticized America’s efforts to train and equip Syrian rebels.

The president’s Iraq-Syria policy continues to be incoherent and dangerous.  There’s no chance of removing Syrian president Assad due to Russia’s increased support.  In his UN General Assembly speech, President Obama expressed his willingness to work with Iran to fight ISIS and end the civil war in Syria even though increasing Iran’s role in Iraq and Syria will expand Iranian influence and exacerbate Sunni-Shia tensions in Iraq.

Given that this situation is the result of seven years of incompetent policy by this administration and the president’s continuing refusal to take decisive action in Iraq or Syria, it is hard to see what the Obama administration can do to reverse it.  But there are several guidelines Mr. Obama should consider employing to dig out of the hole his policy has created:

  • Recognize that Russia and Iran are the problem, not the solution.  The United States needs to maintain dialogue with Russia but stop talking about working with Russia and Iran to fight ISIS since their goals are counter to American interests and regional security. Mr Obama needs to realize that an expanded and entrenched Russian/Iranian presence in the Middle East will have dire long term consequences for America and the region.
  • Work with our European and regional states to form a better military alliance to combat ISIS and to counter Russian and Iranian influence.  This should include creating a safe haven protected zone in northern Syria and intensified air strikes against ISIS targets.  The refugee crisis probably has made Europe more willing to participate in such an alliance.  France conducted its firs airstrikes in Syria last week.
  • End the limitations on fighting ISIS in Iraq.  Let U.S. troops leave their bases so they can operate behind the lines in Iraq and support Iraqi security forces.  Provide better weapons to the Iraqi Kurds or let our allies arm them.  Incredibly, the Obama administration blocked Gulf states from sending heavy weapons to the Iraqi Kurds in July.
  • President Obama must stop making demands he has no intention of enforcing.  The world correctly sees Mr Obama’s demands that Assad leave office and Russia stop its military aid to the Assad government as idle threats.  Every time the president makes such demands, he further undermines American credibility and emboldens U.S. enemies and adversaries.  The word of the leader of the world’s superpower must be enough to change international events and not viewed as chatter that can be safely ignored.

Given his record to date, I doubt President Obama will adopt any of these guidelines.  I expect his administration will continue its non-policy policy to leave this crisis for the next administration to solve.  As a result, American interests and regional security are likely to suffer for the rest of this presidency as Russia and Iran increase their influence.

The presidential candidates need to watch this situation closely since the Middle East disaster they will inherit from Mr. Obama likely will be much worse than the current crisis


Also see:


GettyImages-490448488-11-640x480Breitbart, by John Hayward, Sep. 30, 2015:

Fox News is exclusively reporting that Russia has demanded American warplanes exit Syrian airspace immediately, as Russia begins its bombing campaign on behalf of Bashar Assad.

The news came from a senior U.S. official, who said there was “nothing to indicate” the U.S. was complying with Russia’s demand.

Another defense official said, “We have had every indication in recent weeks that (the Russians) were going to do something given the build-up.”  That’s an interesting claim, because just a few days ago, Secretary of State John Kerry was saying Russia’s long-term intentions were unclear, and he thought their buildup of air power in Syria was merely for “force protection.”

The inventory of aircraft and weapons Russia moved into Syria includes advanced air supremacy fighters and surface-to-air missiles, which would have no conceivable use against the Islamic State, al-Qaeda, or any other Syrian rebel group, as none of them have an air force.  The planes were slipped into Syria using clever subterfuge designed to defeat satellite surveillance, which is something else no element of the Syrian rebellion has.

“The Russian demand also mirrors one made by Turkey this past July, when Ankara asked U.S. planes to fly only in airspace south of Mosul, Iraq. In that case, 24 Turkish jets bombed Kurdish positions, catching the U.S. off guard,” Fox News writes.

Also on Wednesday, the Russian parliament unanimously voted to give President Vladimir Putin war-fighting authority in Syria.  Putin’s chief of staff, Sergey Ivanov, said only a “time-limited” air campaign is envisioned.

Russian bombs are already falling on Syria according to some sources, and the first targets reported include a rebel group vetted and supplied by the United States:

green lemon tweet

Update, 10:30 AM EST: According to CNN, the Russians sent an official to the U.S. embassy in Baghdad to announce the Russian strikes, and “request” the removal of American planes from Syrian airspace, with only an hour or two of warning before the Russian strikes began.

The CNN report also notes that the Russians have given “no geographical information” about where they planned to strike.  That’s a remarkable gesture of contempt, an incredibly reckless and dangerous approach, and possibly an indication that the Russians are planning to blow up some people they think the United States would have warned.

Update, 11:00 AM EST: Further testimony that Russia isn’t primarily interested in bombing ISIS positions, and has caused significant civilian casualties with its first wave of bombings:

conflict news tweet


Russians Conduct Airstrikes in Syrian City of Homs, Where Anti-Assad Forces Are Concentrated

New Cold War

Click the image above for audio
The Gorka Briefing, SEBASTIAN GORKA, PHD on 28 September 2015:


ISIS-beheading-Christians-Libya-ap-640x480Breitbart, by John Hayward, Sep. 28, 2015:

President Obama’s address to the U.N. General Assembly on Monday morning was a rambling journey through a fantasy world where his foreign policy hasn’t been an unmitigated disaster.

Perhaps the most bizarre moment came when he tried to tout his Libyan adventure as asuccess.

There was plenty of tough-guy posturing that intimidated absolutely no one.  The Russian and Iranian delegations were especially good at looking bored and unimpressed when he called upon them to do this-or-that because The World supposedly demanded it. Obama hasn’t figured out he’s the only leader at the U.N. eager to sacrifice his nation’s interests to please The World.

Obama made the weird decision to vaguely threaten Russia over its invasion of Ukraine by claiming that The World would not stand idly by and allow it… when that’s exactly what The World, and especially First Citizen of the World Barack Obama, has been doing.  He essentially pleaded with Iran to stop supporting terrorist proxies and pursuing its aggressive regional ambitions, and focus on their economy instead.  (Of course, in Obama’s vigorous imagination, the U.S. has been enjoying an economic boom under his stewardship, instead of an endless grinding non-recovery and limp, sporadic growth, after Obama’s spending doubled the national debt in a single presidency.)

It was bad enough that the President talked about American troops coming home from Iraq and Afghanistan as the triumphant conclusion of an effective policy, rather than the hideous blunder that allowed ISIS to create a terror state, al-Qaeda to rise from the ashes, and the Taliban to begin planning its return to power.  At the same moment Obama was speaking, the Taliban was conducting a major offensive in Afghanistan, on par with the importance of ISIS taking Mosul in Iraq.  Obama’s pitifully small “New Syrian Force” of U.S.-backed rebels just handed a good deal of its American equipment over to al-Qaeda, and no one really knows what became of the unit itself.  Their predecessors were destroyed by al-Qaeda’s Nusra Front in Syria, with less than half a dozen survivors still on the field.

When Obama boasted of the Libyan operation as the successful removal of a tyrant, jaws must have hit the floor around the room.  Libya is an unholy disaster, a wasteland of warlords fighting to keep ISIS off their turf.  It’s a key gateway for the incredible migratory tide blasting out of Africa and the Middle East and now surging across Europe.  And yet, Obama portrays it as laudable example of tyrant removal… while modestly admitting that “our coalition could have, and should have, done more to fill a vacuum left behind.”

Of course he blamed everyone else in the “coalition” for the disaster in Libya.  He’s Barack Obama.  The day may come when he takes responsibility for something, but today is not that day, and tomorrow isn’t looking good either.

The scary thing about Obama is that he believes so completely in the power of his own rhetoric.

He thinks he can reshape reality with his words.  When he scolds the Iranians for their “Death to America!” rhetoric by saying bloodthirsty chants don’t create jobs, he’s asking Iran to live up to the silly talking points he foisted off on the American people to cover the Iranian nuclear deal.  He’s commanding Iran to act like the enlightened, responsible nation-state he gambled the future of Israel, America, and much of the Western world on.

The Iranians, on the other hand, see no reason to knock off the “Death to America!” chants, disband their theocracy, and begin spending their days arguing about stimulus bills.  Belligerence has gotten them everything so far.  They’ve been rewarded for it… by Barack Obama.  They’ve got $150 billion in sanctions relief coming their way.  They can afford to send a few guys to sit in the U.N. General Assembly with pissy expressions on their faces while Obama rambles on about how geo-political crime does not pay.  They know for a fact it pays, quite handsomely.  The Iranians are already using their Obama loot to reinforce terror proxies like Hamas and Hezbollah, and secure Bashar Assad in power.

Ah, yes, Bashar Assad… the dictator Obama still blathers on about removing from power, even as his own diplomatic apparatus gets used to the idea Assad is not going anywhere.  The only really good part of Obama’s speech was when he spent five seconds glaring at the Syrian ambassador before launching into his denunciation of barrel bombs and chemical weapons.  But you know what?  That Syrian ambassador gets paid enough to take a few seconds of hairy eyeball from the ineffectual American president.  The Russians are smoothly replacing American influence across the Middle East, in partnership with Iran.  The new order is taking shape.  Obama isn’t going to reverse that process by telling aggressive, bare-knuckle conquerors they should be ashamed of themselves.

The other dangerous thing about this delusional President is his belief in the “judgment of history.”

He’s constantly hitting on the idea that all of the world’s villains are on the wrong side of history, and will find themselves buried in the sands of time any day now.  It’s a dodge, a way of Obama evading responsibility.  Bashar Assad is going to remerge from the Wrong Side of History in pretty good shape.  ISIS is very comfortable there, as is Iran.  Qaddafi didn’t assume room temperature because History caught up with him. Vladimir Putin has a lovely view of Crimea from the wrong side of history.  The history of Europe is being reshaped by the tramping of a million “refugee” feet.

In every example, Obama clings to the idea that he can change the world by talking and scoring debate points, while his adversaries seize territory and control the course of events.  It’s not as though Obama has some deep-seated reluctance to use deadly force – there have been a lot of deaths by drone strike since he won that Nobel Peace Prize.  What Obama lacks is commitment.  His foreign policy is all about gestures and distractions.  He cooks up half-baked plans that will blow up a terrorist here and there, so he can’t be accused of doing “nothing,” but he won’t do anything that could cost him political capital at home.  Even Libya was half-hearted and calculated for minimum risk, which is why the place went to an even deeper Hell after Qaddafi was overthrown.

Obama talks as if he’s taken action against numerous crises, but all he ever did was talk about them.  The men of action are stacking up bodies, and raising flags over conquered cities, while this President is writing speeches and trying to win applause from editorial boards.  The men of action know that Obama’s promises all have expiration dates, his vows of action always have escape clauses, and no matter how he loves to boast that he heads up the most powerful military the world has ever seen, he’s done everything he can to make it weaker.

President Obama is still clinging to a romantic vision of the “Arab Spring” as a flourishing of democracy, despite all evidence to the contrary.  He’s giving the same foreign policy speeches he gave in 2009 because he can’t bear to live in the world he made.  He talks about filling vacuums and voids… but those voids are already filled, by hard characters with plans to make the most of the extraordinary opportunity Barack Obama afforded them.



How to Lose Friends and Empower Radicals: The Peace Prize President’s More Dangerous World



Breitbart, by Sebastian Gorka, Jan. 29, 2015:

Since 2008, the world has become a significantly more dangerous place. In every region, new threats have emerged or old ones have reasserted them. The scorecard is clear: the bad guys are winning and America’s interests are being undermined daily.

As a nation, America has yet to recover from the experience of September 11th, 2001. Public opinion on our national response to the attacks against the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and Flight 93 is today divided. On one side we have the “Bush lied, People Died!” crowd who portray President George W. Bush’s response in terms of a conspiracy, despite the fact that we now know Saddam Hussein indeed possessed thousands of WMD warheads (and had used them in the past).

On the other, we have conservatives who are themselves split between the unsophisticated isolationists/non-interventionists who believe that an American withdrawal from the world will make us safe, and the quietly resurgent neoconservatives who see in the rise of ISIS/The Islamic State a justification for more foreign engagements.

For a moment, let us put Operations Enduring Freedom (Afghanistan), and Operations Iraqi Freedom (OIF), to one side. Instead, let us take an unemotional snap-shot of the global geostrategic situation to see whether the administration whose head was awarded a Nobel Peace Prize during his first year in office has indeed make the world a safer and more peaceful place.

Europe: During most of the last century, American security was tied directly to the continent of Europe. Whether it was the generational genocide of World War One, the racial genocide of WWII, or the class-based totalitarianism of the Cold War, Europe was the source of strategic, and at times existential, threats to America.

During the first Obama Administration, Secretary of State Hilary Clinton declared a “Pivot to Asia” which would deemphasize Europe’s importance and see Washington focus more on our Pacific partners than on old Atlantic Allies.

Since that announcement, an emboldened Vladimir Putin has seen fit to break an almost 70-year-old international taboo by using force to redraw national borders with his annexation of Crimea. This includes, incredibly, the shooting down of a civilian jet-liner by forces armed by Moscow.

At the same time, we have seen the European Union become evermore centralizing and undemocratic as untenable economic and fiscal policies are propped up by a Brussels bureaucracy in the name of “broader and deeper union.” This has naturally led to two types of responses: the unprecedented success of a paleo-conservative backlash, best typified by the insurgent victories of UKIP in Great Britain, as well the reverse: Utopian socialist populists such as the victorious Syriza party of Greece.

Then there are Europe’s ties to the Global Jihadist Movement. The recent slaughter in Paris, the beheading of a British serviceman on the streets of the UK, and Spanish and Belgian terror-related arrests all attest to the failure of the current international campaign against Islamist terrorism.

The flawed immigration policies of many EU nations have also facilitated the establishment of literally hundreds of ethnic and religious enclaves across the continent where integration is seen as a bad thing and where radical talentspotters for groups such as Al Qaeda and ISIS/IS identify, indoctrinate and recruit murderers such as the Charlie Hebdo killers, as well as thousands of fighters for The Islamic State.

This has led to a grass-roots response from Europeans afraid of the future survival of their countries embodied in the ever-broadening PEGIDA movement that Breitbart London has covered in great detail. The failure of multiculturalist immigration policies has not only encouraged the enclave phenomenon, but is also clearly linked to the disturbing rise of anti-Semitism on the continent which has led to unprecedented numbers of European jews deciding to leave the nations of their birth for good.

If we include Turkey in our European snapshot, the situation is even worse, as we have seen the one viable example of a secular Muslim state slip even deeper into the corruption-ridden maelstrom of Islamic fundamentalism under the Erdogan government which is either incapable or unwilling to prevent Turkey becoming a pre-deployment site for jihadist fighters traveling into Syria and Iraq. All this from a formal NATO ally of the US.

Asia: The much-vaunted Pivot to Asia has clearly not worked. China has, over the last several years, openly challenged the post-Cold War peace in the region with a commitment to its own military build-up coupled with a concerted campaign of intimidation against its smaller and weaker neighbors.

While challenging and intimidating our regional partners, China has continued to grow economically at such a rate that the nation which was once universally ridiculed as the maker of plastic toys for McDonalds Happy Meals has now surpassed the US economy in terms of gross output.  At the same time, China is waging a covert war against America in the cyber domain, stealing not only state secrets for use in developing its new weapons systems, but also billions of dollars worth of intellectual property and commercial secrets from American businesses. See the remarkable report from Mandiant on scale of the threat.

North Korea has also used the internet to assault American interests as the Sony hacking attack attests, while Washington has proven totally ineffective in undermining the world’s last truly fully-fledged Stalinist regime, or its regionally destabilizing nuclear weapons capabilities.

Africa: A giant continent, with threats as bad as they were in 2008, or in several cases much worse. The Global Jihadist Movement continues to consolidate its control in Nigeria through the horrific attacks of Boko Haram, the group made famous for the kidnapping of the girls from Chibok, an attack which is just one part of a vast campaign targeting Christians and anyone who does not want to live under a theocratically run system based upon sharia and 7th century interpretation of the Koran.

In addition to the insurgent-like threat of Boko Haram, we have also witnessed horrific hit and run terrorist tactics used by other African jihadists, as in the Westgate Mall attack in Nairobi by Al Shabaab. At the same time, China proceeds to build its vast network of economic interests in the continent in ways that far outstrip American geostrategic investment in Africa.

Australasia: Of course, the Pivot to Asia should have pleased our Antipodean allies. But the concrete consequences of the declarations and speeches by Secretary Clinton and the White House have amounted to little more than the deployment of a handful of US Marines from Camp Pendleton to Australia. Instead of the security situation improving, Australia faced its own Jihadist attack just before Christmas last year as a self-styled imam took hostages and brought the violent jihad so familiar to New York, London, Madrid, and Paris, to the streets of Sydney.

The Americas: Canada likewise became a direct victim of the Global Jihadist Movement after a spate of attacks against its armed forces and even its parliament which was only stopped when a brave sergeant-at-arms applied deadly force in the face of a rampaging jihadi.

Those who like illicit quality cigars may be celebrating the White House’s “normalization” of relations with Communist Cuba, but if statements by the Castro regime are to be credited as expressing Havana’s true intentions, then the deal was good for the dictatorship and bad for America. And despite the US government’s historic decision, conditions inside Cuba have remained the same, or in many case deteriorated, with last year seeing record-breaking numbers of political arrests on the island nation. And Cuba’s anti-democratic influence is a problem for the region, not just its wretched population, with Raul Castro’s secret police providing aid and expertise in the oppression of dissidentsto the government of Venezuela.

The Middle East and North Africa: Leaving the worst for last we have, of course, the Middle East, and North Africa. The highs hopes for the Arab Spring turned very rapidly into a “Christian Winter” and a victory for the fundamentalist and anti-Democratic forces of the Muslim Brotherhood. One after another, one-man authoritarian regimes fell to Islamist MB governments, or collapsed into deadly civil wars which are still being fought in places like Syria and Libya. Throughout the region, proto-democrats and vulnerable minorities, especially ancient Christian communities, have been targeted for death or persecution, or have been forced to flee.

The one ray of hope, the people’s revolt in Egypt against the Brotherhood government of Mohammad Morsi, which led to his being ousted by a secular military, was rejected by the US administration as a coup, despite the fact that General, now President, Sisi, has been fighting his own war against Jihadi fundamentalists since he was the Chief of the Egyptian Armed Forces.

And now Yemen, which was lauded just a few months ago by President Obama as the poster-child of his successful counterterrorism strategy, has collapsed under insurgent attacks and the resignation of the government in Sanaa.

Then there is Iran, which, much like Cuba, has squeezed concession after concession out of the administration without either stopping its acquisition of nuclear weapons capability, or curtailing its support of Shiite terrorist fighters in either Iraq or Syria.

I said I would leave Afghanistan and Iraq of our the equation, but nevertheless, it is important to recognize that this is a new jihadist threat that is even more dangerous than Al Qaeda. ISIS, the Islamic State, is today a full-fledged insurgency, one that in four dimensions is much more of a threat that Al Qaeda ever was.

The Islamic State is more than a terrorist group, it now functions as a quasi-state and controls territory equivalent to the size of the UK. It is the richest non-state threat group in human history. It has an incredibly sophisticated understanding of information warfare and how to use social media as a propaganda platform, and lastly – and relatedly – it has recruited ten of thousands of young Muslim men from around the world, including Europe and the US, to fight for the new Caliphate of Abu Bakr al Baghdadi. Bin Laden dreamt of being this powerful. The Islamic State has turned his dream into a horrific reality.

There is not one area of the world of import to America in which we have either not lost friends, or failed to help our allies to defend themselves against the common enemies that threaten us all. Whatever your politics, or whomever you favor for the next Commander-in-Chief of the United States, one thing is certain: without resolute American leadership the world can become, and now is, a much more dangerous place.

Sebastian Gorka PhD. is the Major General Matthew C. Horner Distinguished Chair of Military Theory at the Marine Corps University and Associate Fellow at the Joint Special Operations University, USSOCOM. Follow him at @SebGorka.


snowden-monitor-AFPBreitbart, by BRETT M. DECKER AND VAN D. HIPP JR.

President Obama said Sunday that U.S. intelligence underestimated ISIS’s strength on the ground in Syria and Iraq. National-security officials counter that the president has been receiving precise briefings on the rise of the terrorist group for over two years, but Obama ignored the threat. While politicos point fingers, the danger is escalating rapidly as ISIS acts on insight into U.S. vulnerabilities it is getting from Russia.

Chris Inglis, former deputy director of the National Security Agency, stated that ISIS has “clearly” studied leaked classified NSA material to evade U.S. detection of its activities. More than oceans of indecipherable metadata and email correspondence, as it often is portrayed, the treasure trove divulged by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden details U.S. cyber defenses, military operations and proficiencies, codes, partnerships, alliances, cooperative foreign nationals, special-collection capabilities, and domestic defense systems. This intel gives Islamists enhanced capability to bring war to the American homeland.

It is not an accident that the point man for the damaging disclosure of so much Top Secret information enjoys asylum in Russia and that the intelligence is ending up in the hands of Islamic extremists. “It is reasonable to assume that Vladimir Putin is giving information obtained via Snowden to ISIS or al Qaeda so they can damage U.S. infrastructure as his proxy,” former NSA executive Charlie Speight explained to us. “Without getting his hands dirty or spending a single ruble, Putin can bring us down and elevate Russia.”

The Putin-Snowden collaboration makes sense in the context of the Russian leader’s background in the trade-craft of international espionage. A former colonel in the KGB, Putin initially served in counter-intelligence before spending the bulk of his career in the directorate responsible for training and management of covert agents and the collection of political, scientific, and technical intelligence. “It is becoming increasingly apparent that Snowden is actually a Russian agent who went into his NSA contractor job with the instructed intent to steal as much information as possible,” says Speight, a 35-year veteran of the NSA. “The dots connect that he already was a Russian spy before going to work for U.S. intelligence.”

One strategic asset put at greater risk from the Snowden leaks is America’s under-defended electronic infrastructure. In July, John Carlin, assistant attorney general for national security, warned that major cyber attacks are being planned on a 9/11 scale, and that Islamic radicals are a threat on that front in addition to state actors such as China and Russia. “It’s clear that the terrorists want to use cyber-enabled means to cause the maximum amount of destruction to our infrastructure,” he said. “American companies’ most-sensitive patented technologies and intellectual property, U.S. universities’ research and development, and the nation’s defense capabilities and critical infrastructure, are all under cyber attack.”

What Putin gets out of this terror threesome is simple. Without leaving a trace to Moscow, a terrorist proxy could use knowledge divulged by Snowden to take out key functions of the U.S. economy such as the power grid, air-traffic controls, and banking institutions that would catapult a superpower backwards into the Third World with the push of some buttons. Although terrorist organizations are growing in sophistication, it is more likely they could pull off such a blow with the help of a major power whose global status would benefit as a result of U.S. weakness.

All of the dangers facing the West are heightened by operational compromises resulting from Snowden’s espionage. Central to this precarious posture is the neutralization of U.S. intelligence superiority by the sidelining of important combat-support structures such as the NSA. When the next terror attack occurs, the perpetrators’ jobs will be easier because of the ISIS-Putin-Snowden threesome.

Brett M. Decker is consulting director at the White House Writers Group and former senior vice president at the Export-Import Bank. Van D. Hipp Jr. is chairman of American Defense International and a former deputy assistant secretary of mobilization for the Army.