Iran: Unafraid and Undeterred

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

Originally published by the Jerusalem Post

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Middle East Terror: Iran’s influence grows after Yemen’s political collapse

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CSP, by Fred Fleitz, Jan. 30, 2015:

The international community is starting to realize the seriousness of the political chaos in Yemen, which has expanded Iranian influence in the region, bolstered Al Qaeda and could lead to the secession of the southern part of the country. This situation may also result in a political realignment that puts the family of the former autocratic president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, back in power in an alliance with the Iranian-backed Houthis, a Shiite insurgent group in northern Yemen that forced President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi and his cabinet to resign last week.

The political deterioration in Yemen might have been prevented if the United States had fully backed Hadi and not gone along with a transition plan that removed Saleh from power in 2012 but did not force him from Yemen’s political scene.

Saleh used his influence to undermine the Hadi government through army units and tribes loyal to him. While Hadi closely cooperated with U.S. counterterror operations against Al Qaeda, the Obama administration did nothing to prop him up. Unaware of the how fragile the Hadi government was, the Obama administration as recently as last September claimed Yemen was a success story for U.S. Middle East policy.

On Sept. 10, President Obama said in a speech, “This strategy of taking out terrorists who threaten us, while supporting partners on the front lines, is one that we have successfully pursued in Yemen and Somalia for years.” Two weeks later, the United States recommended U.S. citizens leave Yemen after Houthi rebels occupied Sanaa, the capital, and Al Qaeda fired a rocket at the U.S. embassy.

Massive Arab Spring protests in 2011 led to Saleh’s resignation in February 2012 after more than 33 years in power. Having been granted immunity from prosecution in a deal that handed power to Hadi, Saleh’s main objective since he left office reportedly has been to propel his son, Ahmed Ali Saleh, to the Yemeni presidency.

Even though his government persecuted the Houthis and they were part of the Arab Spring demonstrations that drove him from office, Saleh struck an alliance with Houthi leaders that allowed them to occupy Sanaa last September. Because of recent demonstrations in Sanaa by its Sunni majority against the resignation of the Hadi government and the occupation of the city by the Shiite Houthis, Houthi leaders may be considering restoring the corrupt Saleh family to power or installing a Saleh family ally. According to Yemeni law, Parliament Speaker Yahia al-Rai, a close ally of Saleh, is next in line to assume the presidency.

The return of the Saleh family to power would be a step backward for Yemen and could pose significant security implications for the region and the United States. If the Saleh family or a Saleh ally assumes the presidency, the new government probably would abandon Hadi’s power-sharing and political reform efforts, most of which were opposed by the Houthis. Such a transition would bring back the corruption and probably the oppression of the Saleh regime.

A new Yemeni government, whether it is headed by the Saleh family or not, will be controlled by the Iran-backed Houthis. This deeply worries the Saudis, who regard the Houthis as an Iranian proxy and last year declared them a terrorist organization. Although the U.S. might be able to buy off a new Yemeni government to get it to continue to participate in counterterrorism efforts, the Iran angle, the Houthis’ hatred of the United States and Saleh’s possible anger over being removed from power could make this difficult to achieve.

Meanwhile, Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), the world’s most dangerous Al Qaeda franchise, and the separatist Southern Movement, which wants southern Yemen to secede, are poised to exploit Yemen’s political chaos and may be collaborating. AQAP has tried to take advantage of the chaos of the last few months by staging suicide attacks in Sanaa.

Further complicating this situation, ISIS reportedly has entered the scene in Yemen and is competing with AQAP for recruits. Saudi leaders also are worried about Islah, a growing Muslim Brotherhood party in Yemen.

Although the Houthis are enemies of the Southern Movement and AQAP, they are looking for autonomy for their area in the north and probably have no plans to invade the south to battle these groups. This could lead to the secession of parts of southern Yemen (which had been a separate state until 1990) and a stronger, more consolidated AQAP.

The Obama administration needs to work with regional states, Europe and the United Nations to come up with a comprehensive strategy to promote stability, power sharing among regional groups and a new constitution in Yemen. Though there are currently many unknowns as to how the political crisis there will play out, given the country’s reliance on Saudi financial aid to run the government — aid that Riyadh cut off in December — and the Houthis’ hostility toward AQAP, an agreement between the international community and the Houthis to implement such a strategy may eventually be possible.

But even if such an agreement is reached, Iran’s increased influence in Yemen through the Houthis is unlikely to be reversed and will pose new security concerns for Saudi Arabia, the United States and the region.

Death of Saudi King & Coup in Yemen: Signs in Iranian Prophecy

Foreground: Iranian Revolutionary Guards, banner in background: the late Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini

Foreground: Iranian Revolutionary Guards, banner in background: the late Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini

By Ryan Mauro:

The coup in Yemen by Iranian proxies and the death of Saudi King Abdullah must be seen through the eyes of Iranian regime elements focused on the “end-of-times” prophecies. These huge developments are seen not only as strategic opportunities by the Iranian regime; they are seen as fulfillments of prophecy signaling the imminent appearance of the Mahdi to bring final victory over the enemies of Islam.

THE END-OF-TIMES WORLDVIEW

The Iranian regime’s view of the world is centered around the appearance of the Mahdi, also known as the Hidden 12th Imam in Shia Islam. It also explains its strategy in the context of prophecies surrounding the Mahdi’s arrival on the scene, including issues related to Yemen, Saudi Arabia and other countries.

Former President Ahmadinejad famously displayed his belief that the Mahdi’s return is very near to the point that other regime elements derided him and his clique as “deviant” for believing that the Mahdi is directly guiding them.

Ahmadinejad was not doing this for domestic political reasons. If anything, it hurt him politically. He’s continued the rhetoric even after leaving the office. In April, he said the Iranian regime will “provide the setting for the Hidden Imam’s world revolution” and it’s the “prime goal” to facilitate the “beginnings of the emergence of the Hidden Imam.”

Supreme Leader Khamenei’s beliefs are not different. He likewise preaches that the 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran is the fulfillment of prophecy to set the stage for the Mahdi to defeat Iran’s enemies.

Like Ahamdinejad, Khamenei believes Iran has a responsibility to consciously fulfill prophecy in order to trigger this event. His representative in the Revolutionary Guards said in June that Iran needs to shape the necessary “regional preparedness” for it to happen.

In July 2010, a senior Iranian cleric said that Khamenei told his inner circle that he had met with the Mahdi, who promised to “reappear” during his lifetime. A sermon by a top cleric in Qom and shown on state television claimed that Khamenei said “May Ali protect you” the second he was born.

The most vivid explanation of the end-of-times prophecy in the Iranian regime’s calculations came in 2011 when a terrifying videowas leaked titled, “The Coming is Upon Us.” It was obtained by Reza Kahlili, a former CIA spy within the Iranian Revolutionary Guards. The Iranian regime did not contest its authenticity.

The basis of the video was that the Iranian regime is fulfilling specific prophecies to trigger the appearance of the Hidden 12th Imam. Supreme Leader Khamenei, President Ahmadinejad and Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah are depicted as the incarnations of figures foretold in prophecy.

Kahlili said the production of the film was overseen by President Ahmadinejad’s chief of staff and it ends with a list of endorsements from clerics. A portion was shown on the regime-controlled media.

The blowback was fierce even from within the regime. A major seminary in Qom even condemned the comparison of Ahmadinejad to the military commander who will lead the final war. Significantly, it did not condemn the comparison of Khamenei to the political leader who will ally with the Mahdi known as “Seyed Khorasani.”

The regime tried to distance itself from the video, but the filmmakers said it was shown to Khamenei and Ahmadinejad for approval. They also pointed out that prominent clerics and Revolutionary Guards commanders call him “Seyed Khorasani” to his face. Khamenei’s representative in the Guards told a state newspaper on April 12, 2011 that ayatollahs agreed that Khamenei is Khorasani.

The Iranian regime’s foreign policy is based on a fusion of these strategic and ideological goals. It rationally pursues these extremist objectives. The mistake that many Western analysts make is conflating the two. The regime appears Soviet-like in its strategic calculations, but they are made for a highly ideological end.

DEATH OF SAUDI KING & COUP IN YEMEN

The full significance of the death of Saudi King Abdullah can only be understood through the Iranian prophetic framework.

Read more at Clarion Project

New York Times Discovers Yemen’s ‘Death to America’ Houthi Rebels are Moderates and Possible U.S. Partners

PJ Media, By Patrick Poole On January 26, 2015

The New York Times launched some weapons-grade stupidity on Sunday with an article by Rod Nordland and Eric Schmitt citing “experts” claiming that the Iranian-backed Houthi militias in Yemen that have swept though critical parts of the country, including the capital Sanaa, are not just moderates, but possible U.S. counter-terrorism partners.

Because of the ongoing Houthi offensive, Yemen’s information minister admitted last week that the government had lost effective control of the country.

Amanpour tweet

Thankfully, the Times is here to assure us that when the Houthis shout “Death to America” they really don’t mean it:

At first glance the official slogan and emblem of the Houthis, who are now the dominant force in Yemen, does not offer much hope to American policy makers.

It includes the words “Death to America, death to Israel, damnation to the Jews.” Houthis shout it when they march, wear it on arm patches, paint it on buildings and stick it onto their car windows. When pictured, those words are rendered in red, framed by “God is great” and “Victory to Islam” in green, on a white background.

Sometimes the red words are shown dripping blood.

But for all their harsh sloganeering, the Houthis may be a lot more moderate than it suggests, according to many diplomats and analysts who have followed them closely. They say it would be premature to dismiss them as Yemen’s Hezbollah, despite their alliance with Iran.

For reference purposes, here’s the slogan in question:

Houthi logo

Houthis tweet

Ah, but we have nothing to fear, because they fight Al-Qaeda says the Pentagon:

On Wednesday, Michael G. Vickers, the Pentagon’s top intelligence policy official, noted that the Houthis’ dominance had been growing over the past several months as they expanded their control since last September, but he said that has not interfered with American missions. “The Houthis are anti-Al Qaeda, and we’ve been able to continue some of our counterterrorism operations against Al Qaeda in the past couple months,” Mr. Vickers said.

And they’re nothing like yet another Iranian proxy, Hezbollah, say the “experts”:

“The Houthis are not Hezbollah,” said Charles Schmitz, an expert on the group and a professor at Towson University, referring to the Iranian-supported group that dominates Lebanon and is actively fighting on behalf of President Bashar al-Assad in Syria. “They are domestic, homegrown, and have very deep roots in Yemen, going back thousands of years.”

In fact, they could be U.S. counter-terrorism partners if they only dropped their “Death to America” sloganeering (!!) the “experts” continue:

April Alley, a senior analyst for the International Crisis Group in Sana, said: “Theoretically there is quite a bit of common ground in Yemen between the Houthis and the U.S., particularly when it comes to security issues and Al Qaeda. But so far it’s not been enough to overcome the obstacles. The Houthis have their own limits in which they can engage the Americans given the political narrative they have propagated.”

It should be noted that last week a U.S. Embassy vehicle carrying U.S. personnel was shot up at a Houthi checkpoint.

And a Houthi checkpoint featuring the “Death to America” signs has been operating right outside the U.S. Embassy in Sanaa since September:

Yemen photo

 

Houthi checkpoint tweets

 

One curious omission in the Times article, however, is that Obama hailed Yemen as one of his administration’s counter-terrorism successes back in September:

t4

 

So with Iran or Iranian proxies in charge of another Arab capital (Baghdad, Beirut, Damascus, Sanaa) we have nothing to fear, the New York Times is here to tell us.

And the Houthis take their place as acclaimed moderates in the U.S. foreign policy narrative bubble, along with the “largely secular” Muslim Brotherhood, the“vetted moderate” Syrian rebels, the “moderate elements” of Hezbollah (as cited by CIA Director John Brennan), and even “moderate” Al-Qaeda.

Are we toast? Saudi king is dead; ISIS expands; we’re abandoning Yemen and Iran has a missile launcher

ImageSat-Internationals-satellite-image-show-missile-release-facility-in-Iran-300x180By Allen West, Jan. 23, 2015:

On Tuesday evening President Obama stated, “the shadow of crisis has passed and the state of the union is strong” — and of course the blind followers cheered.

Obama also hinted that we had “turned the page” on our fight against terrorism. Remember his unilateral declaration at the National War College that the war on terror had ended — and of course he has commanded that combat operations end in two theaters of operation; Iraq and Afghanistan.

But nothing could shine the light on President Obama’s naiveté (or approval?) more than the fact that just 48 hours after he dismissed the “shadow of crisis,” we are evacuating yet another U.S. Embassy — this time in Yemen.

It’s the same Yemen that just last fall, Obama referred to as the model of his success — just like Vice President Joe Biden once chimed that Iraq would be one of Obama’s greatest successes. When Obama said the shadow of crisis has passed, we had three U.S. Naval warships off the coast of Yemen ready to evacuate the embassy.

Also see:

Yemen in chaos as U.S. warships move into position to evacuate embassy

American Thinker, by Rick Moran, Jan. 21, 2015:

Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen, who overran the capital Saana three months ago, have now taken possession of the presidential residence and hold the enfeebled leader, Abd-Rabbu Mansour, a virtual hostage.

We welcome another Shia state to the Middle East, courtesy of American policy (or, in this case, a lack thereof).

Yemen?  You know, the country harboring al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.  If that organization sounds vaguely familiar, could be because they were the terrorists who have claimed responsibility for the Charlie Hebdo attack in Paris.

And now, with Yemen a failed state in all but name, AQAP will be left relatively alone – with the exception of a U.S. drone strike now and again – to carry out whatever deadly plans they’ve made to attack the west.

The situation is so bad that the U.S. has moved warships closer to Yemen in order to evacuate embassy personnel should the need arise:

So far, there has been no decision to evacuate the embassy. The USS Iwo Jima and the USS Fort McHenry were moved “because they will be in the best position if asked,” by the State Department to evacuate the embassy, a U.S. official with direct knowledge of the planning tells CNN. So far there has been decision to evacuate the embassy, and no request from the State Department for military assistance.

If an evacuation is ordered, the first option would be to have embassy personnel drive to the commercial airport in Sanaa and fly out, the official said. But in the wake of an embassy car being fired Tuesday, the safety of the roads in the capital is now being constantly evaluated, the official said. If embassy workers did drive to the airport it is likely some sort of air cover would be provided, under the current plan.

Other detailed military planning for various options has been finalized, the official said. Those options would be used if a request for military assistance were made.

What do the Houthis want?  The minority tribe wants power – and lots of it:

After clashes at the president’s office and home on Tuesday, the Houthis’ leader threatened in a speech overnight to take further “measures” unless Hadi bows to his demand for constitutional changes that would increase Houthi power.

By early morning on Wednesday, Houthi fighters, accompanied by an armored vehicle, had replaced the guards at the president’s residence. Presidential guard sentry posts were initially empty, however a few guards later appeared and were permitted to take up positions.

“President Hadi is still in his home. There is no problem, he can leave,” Mohammed al-Bukhaiti, a member of the Houthi politburo, told Reuters.

Yemeni military sources said the Houthis also seized the military aviation college located close to Hadi’s home, and the main missile base in Sanaa, without a fight.

In the south of the country, Hadi’s home region, local officials denounced what they called a coup against him and shut the air and sea ports of the south’s main city, Aden.

Yemen, an impoverished nation of 25 million, has been plagued by Islamist insurgency, separatist conflict, sectarian strife and economic crisis for years. An “Arab Spring” popular uprising in 2011 led to the downfall of long-ruling President Ali Abdullah Saleh, bringing more chaos.

The Houthis, rebels from the north drawn from a large Shi’ite minority that ruled a 1,000-year kingdom in Yemen until 1962, stormed into the capital in September but had mostly held back from directly challenging Hadi until last week, when they detained his chief of staff.

They accuse the president of seeking to bypass a power-sharing deal signed when they seized Sanaa in September, and say they are also working to protect state institutions from corrupt civil servants and officers trying to plunder state property.

The president couldn’t find the time in his State of the Union speech to mention Yemen – or just about any other foreign crisis precipitated by his incompetent leadership.  The liberal Guardian noticed the absence of foreign policy references, too:

Despite punishing US-led economic retaliation that Obama said left Moscow’s economy “in tatters”, Russia remains in Ukraine. Domestic opposition to closing the Guantánamo Bay detention facility is growing. Congress is eager to destroy any nuclear deal Obama might reach with Iran, though a deal continues to be elusive, and Obama rejoinders with a vow to veto new sanctions. Just hours before the speech, Houthi rebels in Yemen assaulted the compound of one of Obama’s most critical counter-terrorism clients, Yemen president Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, even as Obama has called Yemen a counter-terrorism model to export. Bashar al-Assad remains the dictator of Syria, though confusion reigns over whether his ouster remains US policy, and Obama’s policy of “supporting a moderate opposition” in Syria is barely off the ground. Obama barely referenced al-Qaida, even as his global counter-terrorism strikes persist. Libya, the scene of his claimed 2011 triumph, is a shambles. Notably, his speech did not unveil any new foreign initiatives.

Obama thinks that by ignoring foreign crises, people will forget how badly he’s botched things up.  There’s probably some truth to that; Americans are notoriously insular and care about foreign policy only when we have soldiers in harm’s way.

But we are likely to wake up sometime in the near future and realize that the threat against Americans is at our doorstep, and the president has done precious little to prevent that.

Also see:

Uprising in Yemen Fans U.S. Concerns

 

By MARIA ABI-HABIB and HAKIM ALMASMARI

SAN’A, Yemen—A militia group demanding a greater say over Yemen’s new constitution took over the presidential palace here Tuesday, sparking fresh concerns about a country that has become a cornerstone of U.S. counterterrorism strategy.

The offensive in San’a by the Houthis—a group that represents the country’s Zaidi sect, an offshoot of Shiite Islam—followed its capture hours earlier of the nearby headquarters of Yemen’s presidential guard. In September, it forced the government to resign after occupying the capital.

The whereabouts of President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi were unknown, as was the number of casualties. The U.S. has depended upon Mr. Hadi in its efforts to keep al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, or AQAP, in check. While the Houthis are also battling AQAP, the instability of an increasingly important counterterror ally is stoking U.S. worries.

The Houthis’ takeover of the key government installations comes as a cease fire and talks between the government and the group over a power-sharing deal broke down on Tuesday.

The rebels took dozens of hostages among the country’s U.S.-trained special forces and seized heavy artillery and Russian-made tanks, government officials said.

WO-AV193_YEMENm_16U_20150120112114By Tuesday night, militia leader Abdel Malek al-Houthi addressed the nation in a televised speech, listing four demands that would give the Houthis more of a political voice. He also chided the U.S.-backed national security forces for their inability to counter the al Qaeda forces that are spreading across Yemen, listing as his final demand that the military step up its fight against the AQAP.

In his speech, Mr. Houthi assured the country that a coup wasn’t immediately in the works.

“Our movement is not going to uproot any political powers. We are here to serve the country and not target the Yemeni people,” Mr. Houthi said. “Our escalation will go slow if they start implementing the [unapproved] deal. If not, all options are open.…We move in studied steps. We do not want the country to collapse.”

The U.S. has provided Yemen with nearly $1 billion in economic, military and humanitarian aid since 2011, and the country has played an important role in U.S. counterterror strategy. Dozens of American airstrikes have targeted the leadership and training camps of AQAP since 2009.

Despite some early success by the U.S. campaign, Yemen-based AQAP has remained resilient and even enjoyed a resurgence across Yemen last year. Even though they are fierce enemies of AQAP’s Sunni extremists, the Houthis oppose the U.S. military program.

AQAP claimed responsibility for the attacks on Charlie Hebdo magazine in Paris this month. It is considered to be the al Qaeda arm that is most capable of launching global attacks, U.S. officials say.

U.S. intelligence and other government officials on Tuesday expressed grave concern about the unfolding situation. The U.S. military is preparing for a possible evacuation of Americans from Yemen if asked by the State Department.

The U.S. has urged calm and criticized the gradual Houthi takeover of the capital. But it has also benefited from the militia’s appetite to battle AQAP. Last fall, the militia uprooted AQAP from its longtime stronghold in the southern city of Rada, in Baydah province.

The Obama administration’s primary policy in Yemen is to stabilize Mr. Hadi’s government. But there is a growing fear in Washington that his government might not be salvageable and that the U.S. could face one of two stark realities: a Houthi government closely aligned with Iran or al Qaeda gaining strength in Yemen.

Read more at WSJ

Why Paris attacks signal collaboration not competition between Al Qaeda groups

parissuspectsCSP, by Fred Fleitz, Jan. 15, 2025:

Some experts interpreted initial reports that the attacks last week by jihadi gunmen in Paris were conducted on behalf of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) as a sign of competition between officially sanctioned Al Qaeda groups and a break-away Al Qaeda franchise, the Islamic State (also known as ISIS and ISIL).  A video released Wednesday, by the head of AQAP, claiming that it ordered, planned and funded the attack will be interpreted by these experts as consistent with this assessment.

However other information suggests the Paris attacks may actually represent a new and dangerous collaboration between radical Islamist groups.

Two of the gunmen were heard saying said they attacked the Charlie Hebdo magazine on behalf of AQAP.  One gunman, Cherif Kouachi, told a French news network that Yemeni-American AQAP official Anwar al-Awlaki, who was killed by a U.S. drone strike in 2011, sent him to France and financed his trip.  An AQAP official also made this claim in a video released overnight.

According to CNN, Said Kouachi, another gunman and Cherif’s brother, spent several months in Yemen in 2011 receiving training from AQAP.

The link to Awlaki is significant since he influenced or directed at least a dozen terrorist attacks and plots, including the 2009 Fort Hood shooting, the 2010 printer cartridge bomb plot, and the Boston Marathon bombing.

Awlaki recruited and trained terrorist operatives, including Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the “underwear bomber” who attempted to blow up a civilian airliner over Detroit on Christmas Day 2009.  According to the Wall Street Journal, Said Kouachi befriended Abdulmutallab in Yemen and the two lived in the same dormitory.

The links between AQAP and the attack on the Charlie Hebdo office has led some experts to conclude that the Paris attacks were an attempt by Al Qaeda to reclaim the international spotlight from the Islamic State and could reflect a continuing feud between these terrorist groups.  One terrorism analyst said the Paris attacks were a sort of “jihadist olympics” in which Al Qaeda was attempting a “comeback tour” to regain recognition as the world’s radical Islamist “top dog.”

This story became more complicated late last week when one of the Paris gunmen, Amedy Coulilbaly, claimed in a video released after he was killed that he acted on behalf of the Islamic State.  Reports have also surfaced that Cherif and Said Kouachi visited Syria last summer.  Coulilbaly’s wife, Hayat Boumeddiene, who is a suspect in the Paris shootings, fled to Syria early this month.

I believe the conflicting information on the Paris assailants’ terrorist group ties confirms reports of growing collaboration between Al Qaeda groups and the Islamic State and strongly suggests the Paris attacks were not evidence of competition between these groups.

The feud that caused a break between the Islamic State and Al Qaeda began in the spring of 2013 when the al-Nusra Front (the official Al Qaeda franchise in Syria) and Al Qaeda leaders in Pakistan opposed an attempt by the Islamic State to merge its organization with al-Nusra.  Some experts believe this was because Al Qaeda and al-Nusra leaders objected to the Islamic State’s brutal tactics.  There appears to be some truth to this explanation since the al-Nusra Front at the time was working closely with and trying to co-opt non-Islamist Syrian rebel fighters.  Moreover, an AQAP leader condemned Islamic State beheadings as un-Islamic.

However, the Islamic State/Al Qaeda split was also driven by personality differences and a struggle for power since Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi refused to take orders from Al Qaeda leaders in Pakistan.

Despite their differences, the Associated Press reported that the al-Nusra Front and the Islamic State agreed during a meeting in November to stop fighting each other and work together against common enemies in Syria.  Jund al-Aqsa, an Islamic State affiliate and the Khorosan Group, an Al Qaeda affiliate, also attended the meeting.  There were some reports that the cooperation agreement was in response to U.S. airstrikes in northern Syria.

Al-Nusra attacks on moderate rebels in northern Syria last November may have been a sign of shifting alliances due to this reported Al Qaeda/Islamic State rapprochement.

I believe collaboration between the Islamic State and Al Qaeda affiliated groups probably has been growing over the last year as the Islamic State became known as the world’s most effective and best funded radical Islamist group. There have been reports of Islamist groups in Syria, north Africa, Libya and other areas swearing allegiance to the Islamic State over the last year as well as probable Islamist State-inspired terrorist plots in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia, Algeria, Lebanon, and other countries.

So if there is cooperation between Al Qaeda and the Islamic State to attack Western targets, why would AQAP claim sole responsibility for the Paris attacks?  The most likely reasons are to appeal to Gulf state donors and because Al Qaeda still has a difficult relationship with the Islamic State.

I believe this adds up to a more dangerous threat than rival radical Islamist groups striving to make headlines by staging competing terrorist attacks.  By cooperating, Al Qaeda and the Islamic State can more effectively prepare Islamist terrorists for attacks against Western targets by utilizing multiple training sites, sources of weapons and funding.  Such a wide terrorist support structure may produce better trained terrorists who will be harder to detect Western security services.

The likelihood that the Paris attacks indicate collaboration, not competition, between the Islamic State, Al Qaeda, Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and possibly other radical Islamist groups requires an urgent and coordinated response by the United States and its allies. This response must start with President Obama acknowledging that radical Islam is at war with the West and has redoubled its efforts to use violence to impose its violent Sharia ideology worldwide.

The Obama Administration Just Released 5 Yemeni Detainees Out Of Guantánamo

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The Department of Defense transferred five Yemeni detainees from the U.S. prison camps in southeast Cuba to resettlement in Oman and Estonia Wednesday, Jan. 14, 2015. Neither country had taken in cleared captives before.

By Walid Shoebat, Jan. 15, 2015:

While having mercy is a Christian virtue, releasing Muslim terrorists is a Muslim virtue and Obama is excercizing it by releasing more terrorists from Guantanamo Bay. Obama happens to have justreleased five more Yemeni detainees from the prison camps in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, on Wednesday to far-flung locations — four to the Arabian Sea nation of Oman, and a fifth to Estonia in Northern Europe — in continuing transfers that have stirred protest from Congress. The five,  possible Osama bin Laden bodyguard and another was captured during a raid that swept up a prized CIA captive called Abu Zubaydah who was marked for death by Jordanian officials in February 2000 over his suspected role in the foiled bombings of an American hotel and several tourist sites in Jordan in December 1999. The others were arrested for being spotted with the type of Casio watches used for detonaton of bombs.

A day earlier leading Republicans, notified in advance of the transfers, called a Capitol Hill news conference to seek more restrictions on the release of detainees at the U.S. Navy base in Cuba, which as of Wednesday numbered 122 prisoners.

“The decision to transfer a detainee is made only after detailed, specific conversations with the receiving country about the potential threat a detainee may pose after transfer,” said Paul Lewis, the Pentagon’s special envoy for Guantánamo prison closure, in announcing the latest release.

All five freed detainees got to Guantánamo in the prison camps’ early days. None was ever charged with a crime and all had been cleared for transfer for years. But, as Yemenis, they could not go home because U.S. officials feared they would be lured to al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, the terror group that Wednesday claimed responsibility for last week’s attack on the French satire newspaper Charlie Hebdo.

Estonia had publicly said it would take one prisoner, and it did — Ahmed Abdul Qader, 31, among the youngest of Guantánamo’s detainees.

But the announcement that four other long-held Yemeni captives in their 30s and 40s had gone to Oman came as a surprise. The nation shares a border with both Yemen and Saudi Arabia.

But it’s a stable, steadfast U.S. ally that has been so far spared militant Muslim violence, and lately emerged as a pivotal partner in U.S. diplomacy with Iran. It hosted high-level nuclear talks between the U.S. and Iran late last year.

This week’s transfer left 54 cleared captives among the prison’s 122 detainees, 47 them Yemeni. The other remaining captives include 10 men with war crimes cases, one of them already convicted; 35 so-called “forever prisoners” deemed too dangerous to release; and 23 men once considered candidates for trial who are on a list to plead their case for release before a U.S. national security parole board.

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Those released Wednesday were identified as:

Khadr al Yafi, 44, held as detainee 034. He got to Guantánamo on Jan. 16, 2002 and, like many Yemenis there was considered at one point to be a possible Osama bin Laden bodyguard. But by April 2007, a prison camp assessment approved his release.

Abd al Rahman Abdullah Abu Shabati, 32, held as detainee 224. He got to Guantanamo Feb. 9, 2002. The detention center recommended the Defense Department release him by January 2007

Fadil Husayn Salih Hintif, in his 30s or 40s, was held as detainee 259. He was approved for release by January 2007. He got to Guantánamo on April 26, 2002 where, according to prison records, military intelligence considered him a potential threat because the model of Casio watch he wore was used in improvised explosive devices.

Mohammed al Khatib, 34, held as detainee 689, was approved for release in 2009 by an Obama administration national security task force. He got to Guantánamo June 19, 2002 and also wore a Casio watch. Pakistani security forces captured him in Faisalabad, Pakistan, according to his prisoner profile, in a raid that swept up a prized CIA captive called Abu Zubaydah. Guantánamo intelligence analysts at one point considered capture that day a threat indicator, too, although many of the men sent to Guantánamo from the Faisalabad raid have since been freed.

Qader, 31, held as prisoner 690 went to Estonia. Among the youngest of Guantánamo’s detainees, he arrived at age 18 on June 19, 2002 and was likewise captured in the Faisalabad raids, according to his prison profile provided to McClatchy newspapers from the anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks.

Wednesday’s transfers were the first since the U.S. sent five captives to Kazakhstan for resettlement on Dec. 30, a trip that was delayed by a day because a U.S. Air Force C-17’s mechanical problems.

That trip cost $1,646,500, said Air Force Col. Linda Pepin, chief of public affairs at the U.S. Transportation Command. The figure included $110,500 to scramble a second C-17 from an air base in Charleston, S.C., to complete the mission, aerial fueling, contractor support and maintenance, she added.

The Obama administration, last year Obama in May secured Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl’s release in exchange for releasing five senior Taliban detainees from the Guantanamo Bay detention facility, a swap that sparked anger on Capitol Hill from both Democrats and Republicans.

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President Barack Obama is moving aggressively to shrink the Muslim terrorist prison population at Guantánamo, whittling the number of detainees nearly in half since he took office, which in reality is a Muslim, not a Christian virtue of a convert from Islam to Christianity as he claims to be.

Guantanamo Bay Facility Continues To Serve As Detention Center For War Detainees

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 General Jack Keane on dangers of closing Gitmo

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via Gateway Pundit – More Lies… Obama White House Says Only 6.8% of Gitmo Detainees Have Returned to Terrorism:

According to a 2010 report, at least 150 former Gitmo detainees have returned to terror after their release.

A report released by the House Armed Services subcommittee in 2012 revealed that 27% of Gitmo detainees return to a life of terror after their release.

This week the Obama administration insisted that only 6.8% of released detainees have returned to terrorism or “wrongdoing.”
Roll Call reported:

Sloan said the number of released detainees who have “subsequently engaged in wrongdoing” is about 6.8 percent.

“That means well over 90 percent of those who have been transferred in this administration after going through that process, not only are not confirmed to have engaged in wrongdoing, they’re not even suspected of engaging in any wrongdoing. It’s a very thorough process,” he said.

Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, meanwhile, reiterated his support for closing the detention facility, though he acknowledged that some of the remaining prisoners are too dangerous to release.

“I’ve been in the group that believes that it’s in our national interests to quote — to close Guantánamo,” Dempsey said on “Fox News Sunday.”

“It does create a psychological scar on our national values, Whether it should or not, it does,” he added. “What I’ve also said quite clearly is there are some of these detainees, in particular, this kind of conflict over a protracted period, that simply should not be released. We’re going to come to a point, though, where we’ve got dozens of these individuals who just have to be detained. And we’ve got to figure that out.”

When pressed for what should be done with those prisoners, Dempsey said he would defer to political leaders.

Previously On Released Gitmo Detainees:
** Gitmo Detainees Re-Arrested in Russia
** Former Gitmo Prisoner Arrested for Terrorism in Moscow
** Three Former Gitmo Detainees Held in Morocco
** Former Gitmo Inmate Involved in Russian Terror Attack on Nalchik
** Former Gitmo Detainee Re-Arrested in Pakistan
** Seven Percent of Gitmo Detainees Return to Battlefield.
** Former Club Gitmo Detainee Carries Out Suicide Mission in Iraq
** Pentagon: 61 Gitmo Grads Returned to Terror
** Former “Rehabilitated” Gitmo Detainee Becomes Al-Qaeda Chief
** 2 Former “Rehabilitated” Gitmo Grads Appear in Al-Qaeda Movie
** 11 Former “Rehabilitated” Gitmo Grads Back On Saudi Most Wanted List
** American Teenager Murdered By Former Gitmo Detainee
** Breaking: Taliban’s Top Officer in Southern Afghanistan Is Former Gitmo Detainee
** Former Gitmo Detainee Leads Fight Against US Troops
** Another Former “Rehabilitated” Gitmo Detainee Killed in Shootout
** Former Gitmo Detainee Now Al Qaeda “Spiritual Leader”
** Former Gitmo Detainees Lead Yemeni Al-Qaeda Group Linked to Detroit Bomber
** Former Gitmo Detainee Leads Insurgency in Southern Afghanistan
** Thanks Barack… Another Gitmo Detainee Returns to the Fold
** 25 Former Gitmo Detainees From Saudi Arabia Return to Life of Terror

Al Qaeda in Yemen Claims Responsibility for Charlie Hebdo Attack

BEIRUT—A senior leader of al Qaeda’s Yemen branch claimed responsibility for last week’s attacks on French weekly Charlie Hebdo in a video statement Wednesday, saying the organization financed and planned the operation.

Nasser bin Ali al-Ansi claimed al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula planned the attacks with brothers Chérif and Said Kouachi.

AQAP’s leadership had targeted Charlie Hebdo’s top editor for the magazine’s satirical cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad, publishing his name and photograph.

The leadership of AQAP “chose the target, laid the plan and financed the operation,” Mr. Ansi said in the 11-minute video, adding that AQAP “claim responsibility for this operation as a vengeance for the Messenger of Allah,” referring to the Prophet Muhammad.”

Former neighbors and Yemeni officials say Said, the older of the two Kouachi brothers,spent close to two years in Yemen. His younger brother Chérif also spent time in Yemen in 2011, according to U.S. and French officials.

In Yemen, Said befriended Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab , who was convicted in the U.S. on terrorism offenses after trying to detonate explosives given to him by AQAP and hidden in his underwear on a Detroit-bound aircraft on Christmas Day of 2009.

The AQAP statement praised the attacks on Charlie Hebdo for coinciding with a separate operation by Amedy Coulibaly that killed a policewoman and four civilians at a kosher grocery store in Paris. AQAP didn’t take responsibility for Mr. Coulibaly’s attacks.

A video circulated Sunday appeared to show Mr. Coulibaly pledging allegiance to Islamic State and its self-proclaimed caliph, Abu Bakr al-Bahdadi. Islamic State and al Qaeda arelocked in a battle for supremacy in the jihadist movement.

In the video, the man who appears to be Mr. Coulibaly describes Chérif Kouachi as part of the same team, and said he had lent him a few thousand euros to attack the magazine.

Last week’s attack has turned Charlie Hebdo into a world symbol of freedom of expression. Distributors said Wednesday they are expanding the print run of the first issue since the attacks to as many as 5 million copies following heavy demand.

The issue puts a caricature of Muhammad on the cover, holding a sign saying “Je suis Charlie,” or “I am Charlie,” the slogan of solidarity that has spread around the world.

Write to Maria Abi-Habib at maria.habib@wsj.com

34-year-old Paris suspect directly linked to Al Qaeda training camp in Yemen

Brothers Cherif Kouachi, (l.), and Said Kouachi, (r.), are suspects in the deadly attack on a French satirical magazine in Paris. (AP) (Judicial Police of Paris)

Brothers Cherif Kouachi, (l.), and Said Kouachi, (r.), are suspects in the deadly attack on a French satirical magazine in Paris. (AP) (Judicial Police of Paris)

Fox News, by Catherine Herridge, Jan.8, 2015:

One of the two brothers suspected of gunning down 12 people in an attack on a Paris-based satirical magazine traveled to Yemen in 2011 and had direct contact with an Al Qaeda training camp, according to U.S. government sources.

Fox News is told the investigators have made it a priority to determine whether he had contact with Al Qaeda in Yemen’s leadership, including a bomb maker and a former Guantanamo Bay detainee.

Both Said Kouachi, 34, who is known to have gone to Yemen, and his brother, Cherif Kouachi, who served time in France on a terrorism conviction, were on a U.S. no-fly list, sources confirmed. The new information shows both suspects, who were still being hunted Thursday night, had ties to Al Qaeda affiliates, one in Yemen and the other in Iraq.

“AQAP (Al Qaeda’s Arabian Peninsula affiliate) has been the real force within Al Qaeda that’s always been focused on external operations against the West and the United States – the most committed to doing this,” Rep. Mike McCaul of Texas, chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, told Fox News. McCaul has been getting regular briefings about the Paris attack.

“This would be one of the more real successes that they’ve have had if it turns out to be true.”

While there has been no credible claim of responsibility for the attack, Fox News was told that the evidence increasingly points to the likely involvement of a foreign terrorist organization — either inspiring or directing the attack. Less than an hour after the attack, a series of tweets accompanied by images of three Al Qaeda members – Ayman al Zawahiri, the leader of Al Qaeda in Pakistan, and two American members of AQAP who were both killed in U.S. drone strikes, Samir Khan and Anwar al-Awlaki – went out, raising more suspicions the attack was a possible Al Qaeda plot.

The Twitter account is well known in counter-terrorism circles and linked to AQAP.

Even as French authorities focused an intense manhunt on a vast forest north of Paris, other details about the Kouachis were trickling out, painting a picture of alienated brothers, sons of Algerian immigrants who later died. Experts who viewed cellphone video of their escape from Wednesday’s rampage told FoxNews.com it was apparent they’d had training, citing such examples as the way the laid down cover fire for each other and their commando-style flight in a getaway car.

Here’s what is known about Cherif and Said Kouachi:

— They were born in Paris’ 10th Arrondissement (district) to parents of Algerian origin, but reportedly grew up in a secular home.

— They are believed to have lost their parents, and grew up as orphans, with Cherif bouncing around foster homes in the city of Rennes, in the Brittany region of western France.

— Cherif trained to be a fitness instructor, and eventually both brothers returned to Paris as adults.

Catherine Herridge is an award-winning Chief Intelligence correspondent for FOX News Channel (FNC) based in Washington, D.C. She covers intelligence, the Justice Department and the Department of Homeland Security. Herridge joined FNC in 1996 as a London-based correspondent.

Also see:

BBC Asia interviews a Hamas leader on their ties with Iran and ambitions

By Vlad Tepes:

This is a significant interview and while it was supposed to be available in English by request, no request was answered by those who asked. Please download and spread this video by any and all means in case it is removed. It must be seen and understood. While it isn’t a ‘sexy’ video of psychos screaming, it is an extremely powerful person calmly discussing geopolitically significant matters such as nuclear weapons, genocide, strategic alliances and enmity as well as ambitions as well as the implementation of sharia in Gaza. Add to this recent demonstrations of Hamas’ alliance with Turkey and we see what could be a game changer in the region.

Judge Pirro interviews Emerson on hostage taking, Administration rescue efforts and Al Qaeda-ISIS competition

 

IPT, by Steven Emerson
December 6, 2014

Judge Jeanine: American hostage Luke Somers, a freelance photographer ,was killed late Friday during a rescue attempt by US special forces. Somers was abducted last year and was being held by al Qaeda in Yemen. The murder raises new questions about how the US military will be able to respond to a spike in overseas kidnappings by terrorists. With me now, the founder of the Investigative Project Steve Emerson, and former CIA covert operation officer Mike Baker. All right, Mike. We’ve got two rescues attempts, the American hostage dead. Is there some truth to what the White House says about our intel not being as good as it should be?

Mike Baker: Well, you know, it’s an odd thing to say if they are in fact pushing and saying it wasn’t us. Part of it is they were concerned that they were getting some flack for not approving the initial unsuccessful raid quick enough. You could argue that, look, you control very little in a hostage rescue situation. Intel is never perfect in any of these things. We tend to be conditioned by feature films and beach books to think this is just a pretty simple thing, you find your target, go and rescue them. We have had a very good success rate. But things go wrong and you can never guarantee success when you’re talking about an operation like this.

Judge Jeanine: Alright Steve, same question. Is it good to say that we couldn’t find the guy twice?

Steve Emerson: Well it’s not good to say it, but on the other hand I will give them credit for actually trying to carry out the operations, especially for a president that has eschewed extra judicial operations. I’m glad they’re doing it but the reality is, as Mike pointed out, you’re relying on local intelligence initially, and that local intelligence is going to shift and it’s not going to stay stagnant. It’s going to shift and you’re not going to be able to rely on it when you’re on the ground immediately. However, the reality is it does put us in a position where we’re seen as a paper tiger now. Number two, they’re going to take precautions now to make it almost impossible now to rescue other hostages.

Judge Jeanine: That was my point, Steve and Mike. I’m sure you would agree with me. There’s in point in saying we tried but didn’t get them other than to tell the enemy, you know what we’re coming after our guys. But Steve I want to ask you a question, then Mike I’m gonna go back to you. The group behind this, Steve, is al Qaeda. We’re not talking ISIS now. We’re not talking Syria and Iraq. How were these guys different from ISIS?

Steve Emerson: Well they’re not different from ISIS. Actually they’re in competition and what they realized is that ISIS enriched itself by the tune of tens of millions of dollars by taking hostages and getting them to be paid by ransom money. This is exactly what was going on with this set of hostages. They were going to get paid ransom money, had a set of demands. And al Qaeda realized ISIS was getting a lot of fame and recruitment. So now they [are] in competition [with ISIS….and its] now it’s open season on Americans around the world. So al Qaeda now is in rivalry with ISIS in the same type of tactics, and you can be sure that al Qaeda is going to be killing Americans no matter where they are. Not necessarily directed by al Qaeda core but by al Qaeda- inspired people like in Abu Dhabi as we saw just last week, a woman who was killed. And Americans killed in the Sinai like the Israelis have been killed around the world.

Judge Jeanine: And Mike it seems as Steve is saying that Americans are going to be more at risk of being taken hostage. What can we do about this?

Mike Baker: Well, Americans and our allies, Westerners all over. But we do what we continue to do. It’s a little unusual to say, also, that, you know, well, this unsuccessful raid makes us a paper tiger. It doesn’t make us a paper tiger. It’s just the reality of it. Again, every operation, every hostage rescue attempt presents its own difficulties. And we have the best trained personnel in the world in trying to conduct these operations. But I think we’ve gotten to this place in our lives where the administration and everyone else wants a zero risk world. But it doesn’t work that way.

Judge Jeanine: I understand, Mike, that you want to take that side. But I think when you tell the world that we tried and we lost twice, there’s no point in it. (crosstalk). Hillary Clinton thinks we need to empathize with our enemies. What do you think, Steve? Real fast, we’re coming up against a hard break.

Steve Emerson: I think we should empathize with our friends first.

Judge Jeanine: Mike?

Mike Baker: It’s ridiculous. It’s absolutely ridiculous.

Judge Jeanine: I couldn’t agree more. Steve and Mike, thanks for being with us.

Also see:

FAULTY INTELLIGENCE?

The raid was the third failed rescue attempt of an American hostage in five months and followed a Nov. 25 mission that was unsuccessful because Somers had been moved before U.S. commandos arrived.

In that raid, U.S. commandos and Yemeni troops swooped before dawn into a cave in the eastern province of Hadramout and freed eight people.

Seven of the eight turned out to be al Qaeda members who had been held captive by the militants on suspicion of being government spies, two senior Yemeni officials told Reuters. The eighth was a Yemeni computer specialist, they said.

Al-Ahmadi, Chief of Yemen National Security Bureau, said after the seven were freed they told Yemen authorities they were members of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), the militant network’s arm in the country, and that they had been accused by their own organization of spying for the government.

Thet were detained by AQAP “not as hostages but as suspects,” a senior Yemini security official said.

Reuters could not independently confirm his description of those being detained. American officials declined to address the question. Officials at the White House and Pentagon did not respond to requests by Reuters for comment.

The seven — five Yemenis, a Saudi and an Ethiopian – are now being held by Yemen’s government, the officials said. It is unclear if the United States was aware that al Qaeda members suspected of being government informants were among the people rescued in that raid.

The raid, along with Saturday’s mission and a failed attempt to rescue American journalist James Foley in July, have raised questions over the quality of intelligence used by Washington in attempts to free American hostages.

 

American and South African Hostage Killed in Yemen during Rescue Attempt

ISIS Study Group:

Luke Somers

Luke Somers

The United States military conducted a raid using Special Operations Forces to try and free US hostage Luke Sommers from AQAP (Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula) affiliates in Yemen. The raid was conducted in conjunction with the Yemeni military. Pierre Korkie a South African was also killed during the raid. It is unclear if the hostages were executed just

Pierre Korkie

Pierre Korkie

prior to the raid or during the raid. However, it is likely that they were killed during the rescue attempt because negotiations had been underway by the Gift of the Givers organization to free Pierre. According to the Gift of the Givers organization Pierre was to be set free on Sunday. Pierre’s wife had earlier been a captive and the organization had negotiated her release. The US had attempted to the rescue due to the recent video released by AQAP that it would kill Sommers on Saturday if the US did not meet AQAP’s demands which were not included in the video released statement.

The US had made a previous attempt to secure the release of Sommers near the Saudi Arabia border in another raid that freed a total of 8 captives which included Yemenis, a Saudi national and one Ethiopian national. Somers and five others were not found at that site. Sommers had been kidnapped in September 2013 while leaving a supermarket in the capital city of Sanaa. Somers had worked as a free lance photographer for the National Yemen news agency since the 2011 uprising in the country.

The US had also conducted a drone strike earlier in the morning in prior to the Special Operations raid to free Luke Somers. It is estimated that the drone strike killed up to 10 militants. The drone strikes in Yemen are disliked because in addition to killing militants there are said to be high casualty rates among civilians. The raid may have taken place in the Shabwa Province in the vicinity of Wadi Abdan where helicopters were said to have been seen flying shortly after the drone strike.

Links to Related Stories:

American hostage ‘murdered’ during failed rescue attempt in Yemen

http://www.foxnews.com/world/2014/12/06/us-hostage-in-yemen-died-in-failed-rescue-attempt-sister-says/

American Hostage Luke Somers Killed in US Rescue Attempt

http://abcnews.go.com/International/american-hostage-luke-somers-killed-us-rescue-attempt/story?id=27397528

AQAP threatens to execute American hostage

 

LWJ, By

In a new video released by its media wing, al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) threatened to kill American hostage Luke Somers if the US government does not meet its demands. The latest video features senior AQAP leader Nasser bin Ali al Ansi, who delineates what he calls American “crimes” throughout the Muslim world, and then includes a clip of Somers giving a statement.

Al Ansi begins his anti-American diatribe by citing alleged American “crimes against the Islamic world.” He notes US support for the “Zionist occupiers,” as well as “massacres and crimes” in a host of Muslim countries including Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, and Somalia. Al Ansi also mentions the “Crusader campaign … relying on aircraft,” a reference to the covert US drone program that has intensified in Yemen since 2012.

Al Ansi then turns to the US-led raid on a cave in the Hajr as-Say’ar district of Hadramout province that sought to free a number of hostages held by AQAP during the night between Nov. 24 and Nov. 25. Eight hostages were rescued in that operation, which was reportedly carried out by US Special Forces, including members of the Navy’s SEAL Team Six, and Yemeni counterterrorism agents.

Last week Yemeni officials confirmed that an unnamed American, Briton, and South African were said to be among the hostages and were moved prior to the operation. The Yemeni Defense Ministry’s website quoted a Yemeni soldier who clarified that intelligence information indicated that AQAP had been holding 11 hostages. The remaining American hostage in question is apparently Luke Somers, who is featured in the latest AQAP video. Somers, a British-born American photojournalist, has been held by AQAP since his abduction in Sana’a in September 2013.

After condemning the American raid that sought to free Somers as “this latest foolish action” which killed an “elite group of mujahideen,” al Ansi gives the American government an ultimatum: meet AQAP’s demands within a timeframe of three days or Somers will “meet his inevitable fate.” Although al Ansi does not specify AQAP’s demands, he claims that the American officials “are aware” of them.

Al Ansi concludes his statement by personally warning President Barack Obama and the American government “of the consequences of proceeding in any other foolish action.”

Following al Ansi’s preface, Somers is shown providing a brief statement in which he pleads for his life. Somers states: “It’s now been well over a year since I’ve been kidnapped in Sana’a. Basically. I’m looking for any help that can get me out of this situation. I am certain my life is in danger. So as I sit here now, I ask, if anything can be done, please let it be done.”

Although some analysts may interpret the latest AQAP video as a reaction to or imitation of the Islamic State’s hostage execution tactics, such analysis ignores recent developments in Yemen. AQAP’s threat to execute Somers is a clear response to the recent US-led raid in Hadramout that freed eight hostages.

Mindful that the US is currently searching for the remaining hostages, AQAP is trying to use Somers as a negotiating card in an effort to extract concessions from the US administration. The video also is an attempt to show that there is a price to pay for US raids to free hostages held by AQAP.

Also see: