London Parliament attack was straight out of the ISIS playbook

A man is treated by British officials following the attack outside the House of Parliament in London. Getty Images

New York Post, by  Paul Sperry, March 26, 2017:

Using vehicles to mow down pedestrians, as horrified Londoners witnessed Wednesday, is a terrorist tactic right out of the ISIS playbook. Instead of driving heavy trucks, the terror group’s followers are now using smaller vehicles with similar devastating effect — making it even harder to detect and foil such brutal attacks.

The terror group, which took credit for the London attack, has specifically called on followers to weaponize vehicles and kill “infidels” gathered in outdoor spaces throughout the West.

In November, it instructed such terrorists to drive at “a high speed into a large congregation of kufar (infidel), smashing their bodies with the vehicle’s strong outer frame, while advancing forward – crushing their heads, torsos and limbs under the vehicle’s wheels and chassis – and leaving behind a trail of carnage.”

Sickeningly, the order, which added gruesome detail to a similar 2013 exhortation, encouraged drivers to use “a gun or a knife” to increase “the kill count.”

Allegedly following such orders, ISIS-claimed “soldier” Khalid Masood rented a small Hyundai SUV and ran down tourists walking along London’s Westminster Bridge, killing four and hospitalizing 29, before storming Parliament and stabbing a police officer to death.

Such vehicle-mounted terrorist attacks are effective — and increasingly popular — because they defeat Western security systems, which are designed to screen for bombs and guns. Unlike conventional weapons, motor vehicles are cheap and easy to obtain, and require little training to use.

And there’s no shortage of vulnerable targets. ISIS advises hitting “large outdoor conventions and celebrations, pedestrian-congested streets, outdoor markets, festivals, parades (and) political rallies.” Times Square, the Coney Island boardwalk and the Thanksgiving Day Parade all fall within that target list. (So, for that matter, do candlelight vigils to mourn the victims of such attacks.)

Al-Qaeda has also urged jihadists to plow vehicles into large crowds of innocent bystanders, going so far as to suggest wielding steel blades on bumpers to “achieve maximum carnage,” according to a 2010 article in its propaganda rag.

It’s plain from recent attacks that vehicles have become the jihadists’ weapon of choice. The London assault, which was followed the next day by a copycat strike in Brussels foiled by police, was the third deadly car attack in Europe in less than a year. They follow a pattern of similar incidents:

  • January: An ISIS-inspired Palestinian terrorist driving a large truck jumped a curb and killed four Israeli soldiers; and earlier that month, German police arrested an ISIS-tied Syrian immigrant for plotting to use police cars to ram into New Year’s Eve crowds.
  • December 2016: A Tunisian immigrant hijacked a truck and killed 12 shoppers in a Berlin Christmas market.
  • July 2016: An Islamic terrorist in Nice, France, rented a 19-ton cargo truck and plowed into a Bastille Day crowd, killing 86 and injuring 484.
  • 2014: A driver shouting “Allah Akbar!” crashed his car into pedestrians in Nantes, France, killing one and wounding nine.
  • 2014: An ISIS follower in Quebec struck two Canadian soldiers with a car, killing one and injuring the other.
  • 2014: A Palestinian terrorist swerved off the road and slammed into a crowd in Jerusalem, killing an American baby girl and another tourist.

Could it happen here? It already has. In fact, an Iranian-American student may have started the trend in 2006, when he rammed a rented Jeep into a crowd at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, injuring nine. Mohammed Reza Taheri-azar said he was taking revenge for “the deaths of Muslims worldwide.”

Last November, another Muslim student at Ohio State University rammed a car into a crowd and stabbed several people. ISIS called Abdul Razak Ali Artan, who said on Facebook he was protesting “the killing of the Muslims in Burma,” a “soldier.”

What can be done to foil such attacks? Adding barriers between streets and walkways with heavy foot traffic — as they have done in Times Square — for starters. Masood was able to mount the payment along the Westminster Bridge because there are no bollards between the street and sidewalk; and he was able to build speeds in excess of 70 mph because there are no obstacles, such as concrete flower pots, on the sidewalk itself. The large pots, reinforced with steel bars, are commonly used as security barricades.

“Blocker trucks” can also be deployed. After Berlin, NYPD used hundreds of dump trucks to protect pedestrians celebrating New Year’s Eve at Times Square and the Coney boardwalk. Sanitation trucks were also stationed along last year’s Thanksgiving parade.

During last month’s Mardi Gras, New Orleans police deployed portable steel walls that were raised electronically at night to protect Bourbon Street crowds from car attacks.

London authorities, in contrast, reportedly opted for a “lower-key” approach to protecting the tourist area around Parliament in reaction to Nice and Berlin.

Since many of the vehicles used in recent attacks have been rentals, NYPD and other police have been checking with auto rental agencies, especially large truck rental locations, for suspicious renters. Red flags include: SUV or truck rentals, no previous history of rentals, and customers with Arabic surnames, religious head coverings or beards and behaving nervously at the counter.

Reporting to authorities signs of surveillance, casing and targeting by suspicious individuals can also help thwart car attacks. ISIS advises would-be terrorists to survey the route of attack they’ve mapped out — including on the day of attack — for “obstacles, such as posts, signs, barriers, humps, bus stops, dumpsters, etc., which is important for sidewalk-mounted attacks.”

Sperry, former Hoover Institution media fellow, is author of several books on terrorism including the bestseller “Infiltration.”

U.S. Raid in Yemen Led to Laptop Ban on Flights, Officials Say

PHOTO ILLUSTRATION BY THE DAILY BEAST

Intel sources fear Al Qaeda can make bombs as small as computer batteries, provoking the ban on carry-on electronics at sensitive foreign airports.

Daily Beast, by JANA WINTER and CLIVE IRVING, March 21, 2017:

Three intelligence sources told The Daily Beast that the ban on carry-on electronics aboard U.S.-bound flights from 10 airports in North Africa and the Middle East was the result of information seized during a U.S. raid on Al Qaeda in Yemen in January. The United Kingdom joined the U.S. ban Tuesday.

Information from the raid shows al Qaeda’s successful development of compact, battery bombs that fit inside laptops or other devices believed to be strong enough to bring down an aircraft, the sources said. The battery bombs would need to be manually triggered, a source explained, which is why the electronics ban is only for the aircraft cabin not checked luggage.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security publicly cited two attacks on flights in the last two years, the downing of a Russian jet over the Egyptian Sinai in October 2015 and an attempt that nearly succeeded in bringing down a jet that had taken off from Mogadishu, Somalia last year and made an emergency landing after an explosion ripped open its cabin. The insurgent group Al-Shababb claimed credit for getting a laptop onboard the flight that had been rigged as a bomb.

“Since they weren’t high enough, the explosion wasn’t catastrophic to the plane and they were able to land,” one source told The Daily Beast. “The bomber got sucked out of the hole, but it was proof of concept.”

The chief bomb maker for Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, Ibrahim al-Asiri, has been working on packing even smaller devices, the source added.

“You might recall they brought down UPS Flight 6 in 2010 with a bomb hidden inside a copier cartridge,” the source said.

The problem with this theory is that it implies that the security screening of electronic devices at the 10 airports is no better than at the airport in a failed state like Somalia. The pilot of the Airbus A320 involved in that incident said of that airport: “the security is zero.” Airport employees had conspired with the bomber to get the laptop through security.

One source said the foreign countries included in the ban were selected because of their exposure to al Qaeda groups and members who might try to bring a battery bomb on a plane heading for the U.S.

Egyptian intelligence officials were briefed over the weekend, according to one source, and have long been concerned about another plane departing from Cairo being brought down like the Metrojet plane in Oct. 2015. And there is another disaster, EgyptAir Flight 804, from Paris Charles De Gaulle airport to Cairo in May that crashed into the eastern Mediterranean and killed 66 people.

The crash has subsequently been shrouded in mystery. In December the Egyptian authorities announced that a criminal investigation had been opened. They had had six months in which to analyze data from the airplane’s two flight recorders recovered from the wreck. But there was a dispute between the Egyptian and French about the cause. The French air crash investigators said that it was not possible at that stage to draw conclusions about the origin of the accident.

It is known from data transmitted from the Airbus A320 as it spiraled down from its cruise height of 37,000 feet that it suffered a rapid cascade of failures, beginning with an electrical problem in the cockpit. This escalated into a fire in the electronics bay below the cockpit that effectively fried the computers controlling the flight.

There were indications that the disastrous sequence started with some kind of explosion in the passenger toilet immediately above the electronics bay and behind the cockpit. Video taken of the wreck showed heat damage beneath the cockpit.

Before leaving Paris the airplane had flown from Asmara in Eritrea, to Cairo and then onward to Tunis and Paris. That means that investigators would be looking at the possibility of an explosive device being placed on the airplane at any of those airports.

In early March, a Russian passenger on a Turkish Airways flight from Alexandria to Istanbul was arrested after an improvised explosive was found in his luggage, according to a DHS alert in early March citing Egyptian media.

The gravity of the move had been underscored by the political response to it. Representative Adam Schiff, Californian Democrat and ranking member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, said in a statement:

“Over the weekend I received an additional briefing by the Department of Homeland Security and I fully support the new security precautions. These steps are both necessary and proportional to the threat.”

The most consequential impact of the new measures will be on the three airlines operating out of the Persian Gulf states: Emirates, Etihad and Qatar Airways. In the last decade there has been a major transformation of the connections between inter-continental airline routes. Led by Emirates from their hub in Dubai this has put the three airlines in a dominant position to connect flights from Asia, Africa, the Middle East and Europe and, significantly, to directly fly passengers from those regions to the United States.

Moreover, these airlines have set new standards of service, particularly for business class passengers. Anyone flying business class with these carriers finds the cabins glowing with the glare from many laptops as workaholic executives and managers use their flight time to catch up on work.

The three major U.S. international carriers, Delta, American and United, have found themselves left with fleets of older airplanes that can’t match the quality of cabin amenities of the Gulf airlines, who use latest generation jets like the Airbus A380 super jumbo and the Airbus A350. Over the last few years those airlines have pushed into major U.S. business centers like New York, Dallas, Houston, Chicago, Los Angeles, Boston and Seattle – scooping up, for example, major players in the energy and tech industries.

Craig Jenks, President of a New York base consultancy, Airline/Aircraft projects, pointed out that the ban’s effects reach far beyond the named airports.

In particular, Emirates, Etihad and Qatar Airways all have a high volume of passengers originating in Indian cities. Among these are many in high tech industries flying on from hubs in the Gulf directly to U.S. tech business centers like San Francisco, Seattle, Boston and New York.

“Now, all of a sudden, you arrive at a Gulf airport headed for San Francisco with your light carry-on and you discover, no laptop on board nor even while in transit at the hub. Intentionally or not, this is a negative for the Gulf carriers,” Jenkins said.

Now that the ban has been joined by the UK, which has said that passengers on 14 airlines would not be able to carry laptops into the cabin of direct flights to London from Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt, Tunisia and Saudi Arabia, the disruption to business travelers has become even more widespread.

Air travel remains a priority target for terrorists. And, once more, the mere threat of terror attacks has proved itself as costly, at least in economic impact, as the act of terror.

For example, one recent casualty has been Turkish Airlines. In 2015 it was following the Gulf airlines’ model to exploit the strategic location of Istanbul as a hub for the Middle East and Africa. In that year it made a profit of $872 million. Last year that became a loss of $463 million. Two events, a terror attack on Istanbul airport and the failed coup in July, as well as fear of new terror attacks, have put the airline into a financial crisis. Istanbul is on both the U.S. and U.K. list of airports covered by the new ban.

Electronic Devices to be Banned in Cabin on Certain U.S.-Bound Flights

A Qatari passenger walks to the check-in area inside Hamad International Airport in Doha, Qatar, on May 27, 2014. (AP Photo/Osama Faisal)

PJ Media, by Bridget Johnson, March 21, 2017:

Two affected airlines leaked the news Monday that the United States will announce a ban on electronic devices other than a cell phone in cabins of U.S.-bound flights from several Middle Eastern and African countries.

Royal Jordanian tweeted that all such devices, including laptops, handheld video games, cameras and tablets, would have to be put in checked baggage starting today. The airline then deleted the message, subsequently tweeting, “Further updates will be announced soon regarding #electronicsban.” Saudi Airlines also posted an announcement with the new guidelines, adding Kindles to the banned list, and the kingdom’s official news agency reported on it as well.

Citing an unnamed U.S. official, the Associated Press reported that the indefinite ban will apply to nonstop flights from international airports in Cairo, Amman, Kuwait City, Casablanca, Doha, Riyadh, Jeddah, Istanbul, Abu Dhabi and Dubai. The rules won’t apply to U.S. airlines coming from the Middle East, but only foreign carriers coming from affected countries.

The Transportation Security Administration reportedly was in charge of disseminating the new rules. There was reportedly early confusion about whether flight crews are affected under the ban as well.

A federal official, who said the ban was in response to an unspecified threat assessment, told NBC News that Royal Jordanian leaked the news too early, and may not have relayed the details correctly.

The Department of Homeland Security had not issued any release on the guidelines; a spokesman told the Guardian that “we have no comment on potential security precautions, but will provide any update as appropriate.” An official announcement is now expected today, the same day the rules go into effect.

Rep. Mike Turner (R-Ohio), a member of the House Intelligence Committee, told CNN on Monday evening that his panel had not been briefed on the ban or reason behind it, but “the Department of Homeland Security is looking at this issue.”

“We do all know from other news reports of not just about this, that there has been some concern for some time about electronic items being used to hide explosive devices and their threats to airline traffic,” Turner said.

The congressman added, “When you look at, you know, how, you know, those who seek to do us home have progressed, everything from the shoe bomber forward, you know, this is all about getting the intelligence we need, applying it to, you know, the type of protections and interventions that we can do, and then trying to lessen that threat and this certainly sounds like it can be part of that.”

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U.S. Bans Laptops, Tablets from Cabins on Flights from Middle East – Breitbart

Washington (AFP) – The United States warned Tuesday that extremists plan to target passenger jets with bombs hidden in electronic devices, and banned carrying them onto flights from 10 Middle East airports.

Senior US officials told reporters that nine airlines from eight countries had been given 96 hours, beginning at 3:00 am (0700 GMT), to ban devices bigger than a cellphone or smartphone from the cabin.

Laptops, tablets and portable game consoles are affected by the ban — which applies to direct flights to the United States — but they may still be stowed in the hold in checked baggage.

Passengers on approximately 50 flights per day from some of the busiest hubs in the Middle East, Turkey and North Africa will be obliged to follow the new emergency ruling.

“The restrictions are in place due to evaluated intelligence and we think it’s the right thing to do and the right places to do it to secure the safety of the traveling public,” one US official said.

The officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, refused to discuss the “intelligence information” that led the Transportation Security Administration to issue the order.

But one said that concerns had been “heightened by several successful events and attacks on passenger lanes and airports over the last years.”

– No end date –

The official would not go into detail about which attacks had raised fears, but did cite an incident from February of last year in which suspected Somali Islamists blew a hole in the side of Daallo Airlines passenger jet with a small device. Only the bomber was killed and the plane landed safely.

CNN quoted a US official as saying the ban was believed to be related to a threat posed by Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, known as AQAP.

“Evaluated intelligence indicates that terrorist groups continue to target commercial aviation and are aggressively pursuing innovative methods to undertake their attacks, to include smuggling explosive devices in various consumer items,” an official said.

The airports touched by the ban are Queen Alia International in Amman, Jordan; Cairo International in Egypt; Ataturk in Istanbul, Turkey; King Abdulaziz International in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia; King Khalid International in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia; Kuwait International; Mohammed V International in Casablanca, Morocco; Hamad International in Doha, Qatar; and the Dubai and Abu Dhabi airports in the United Arab Emirates.

No US carriers make direct flights from these airports, so they are unaffected by the ban, which will hit Royal Jordanian, EgyptAir, Turkish Airlines, Saudi Airlines, Kuwait Airways, Royal Air Maroc, Qatar Airways, Emirates and Etihad Airways.

The airlines and their host governments have already been informed of the order by US officials, and some of them have begun informing passengers about the restriction.

Airlines will be responsible for policing the cabin ban, and if they fail to do so could lose their rights to operate US routes.

No end date has been put on the order, and officials would not say whether the restriction might spread to other airports.

Congress Considers Bill to “Stop Arming Terrorists”

The New American, by Alex Newman, March 14, 2017:

A bipartisan bill to prohibit U.S. taxpayer funding and arming of terrorist groups and their associates is making progress in Congress, most recently having a companion bill introduced in the Senate by popular liberty-minded U.S. Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky.). The legislation, originally sponsored in the House by Democrat Representative Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii, takes aim at lawless U.S. government “regime change” schemes overseas that often involve providing money, weapons, training, and other support to savage terror organizations. High-profile voices on both sides of the aisle have joined forces to get the bill passed into law. Of course, aiding designated terror groups is already a serious crime, but for whatever reasons, the laws have not been enforced against federal officials.

In particular, the new legislation, known as H.R. 608 in the House, bans the provision of any assistance by the federal government to al-Qaeda, Jabhat Fateh al-Sham, and the Islamic State, sometimes known as ISIS, ISIL, or Daesh. The “Stop Arming Terrorists Act,” as it is being dubbed, would also prohibit official U.S. aid to any individual or group affiliated with, associated with, or cooperating with any of the proscribed terror organizations. Finally, the legislation bans any funds to state sponsors of those groups, which would ensnare a number of ostensible U.S. government “allies.” The director of national intelligence would be in charge of making the determinations, in consultation with the appropriate congressional committees. Providing anything from cash and weapons to training and intelligence would be prohibited under the bill.

Senator Paul, a leading constitutionalist and non-interventionist in Congress, introduced the “Stop Arming Terrorists Act” last week in the Senate as S. 532. “One of the unintended consequences of nation-building and open-ended intervention is American funds and weapons benefiting those who hate us,” Senator Paul said in a statement announcing that the companion legislation to the House measure had been filed. “This legislation will strengthen our foreign policy, enhance our national security, and safeguard our resources.” Like his father, retired Congressman and GOP presidential candidate Ron Paul, Senator Paul has been a longtime critic of the U.S. government’s illegal policies arming terrorist groups such as al-Qaeda.

At this point the evidence of U.S. government support for terrorists is overwhelming, with President Trump going so far as to call Obama and Hillary Clinton co-founders of ISIS. As The New American has documented extensively, official U.S. intelligence documents show that multiple Western and Islamic governments allied with Washington, D.C., have also supported ISIS, al-Qaeda, and other terror groups in Syria. In fact, the Obama administration was exposed in Pentagon documents supporting jihadist terrorists in Syria from the beginning. A 2012 Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) report revealed that the Obama administration knew al-Qaeda was leading the rebellion in Syria, supported it anyway, and that one of the goals of supporting the terrorist-led “revolution” was to create a “salafist principality,” today known as the Islamic State, in Eastern Syria.

“The West, Gulf countries [the Islamic regimes ruling Saudi Arabia, Qatar, United Arab Emirates, etc.], and Turkey support the Syrian opposition,” explains the Pentagon report, adding that “al-Qaeda” and other terrorists are the “major forces driving the insurgency” against Syrian despot Bashar al-Assad. “There is the possibility of establishing a declared or undeclared Salafist [fundamentalist Islam] principality in Eastern Syria (Hasaka and Der Zor), and this is exactly what the supporting powers to the opposition want, in order to isolate the Syrian regime.” Of course, that is exactly what happened when ISIS declared the establishment of its “caliphate” in Eastern Syria and parts of Iraq.

Top U.S. intelligence officials later confirmed publicly that, despite being advised not to by military officials, Obama deliberately aided terrorists under the guise of helping “moderate” jihadists overthrow Assad. Former DIA chief Michael Flynn, who led the military-intelligence agency at the time, told Al Jazeera that Obama and other top officials knew exactly what they were doing. “I don’t know that they turned a blind eye, I think it was a decision,” said Flynn, who went on to serve for a short period as Trump’s national security advisor. “I think it was a willful decision.” The interviewer, Mehdi Hasan, sounded shocked at the frankness and the enormity of the revelation that Obama was willfully aiding terrorists. But Flynn stood firm.

The Republican and Democrat lawmakers behind the bill stop arming terrorists seem to recognize those facts, too. “For years, the U.S. government has been supporting armed militant groups working directly with and often under the command of terrorist groups like ISIS and al-Qaeda in their fight to overthrow the Syrian government,” Representative Gabbard, the chief sponsor of the bill, said in a statement. “Rather than spending trillions of dollars on regime change wars in the Middle East, we should be focused on defeating terrorist groups like ISIS and al-Qaeda, and using our resources to invest in rebuilding our communities here at home.”

Gabbard, who traveled to Syria on a fact-finding mission this year and met with government, religious, and opposition leaders, has been very outspoken about the the U.S. government’s lawless and disastrous intervention in that conflict on behalf of terror groups. “Their message to the American people was powerful and consistent: There is no difference between ‘moderate’ rebels and al-Qaeda (al-Nusra) or ISIS  —  they are all the same,” Gabbard said, adding that the conflict in Syria is basically “a war between terrorists under the command of groups like ISIS and al-Qaeda and the Syrian government.”

Ironically, then-Vice President Joe Biden and other top U.S. officials admitted the same thing, even while their boss was sending weapons and money to designated terror groups. When asked in Senate testimony whether any “major” U.S. allies supported ISIS, for example, then-U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Martin Dempsey noted that it is even worse than that. “I know major Arab allies who fund them,” he said. Under the proposed legislation, any of those “Arab allies,” mostly Sunni Islamic dictatorships, would be cut off from U.S. taxpayer assistance, and especially military assistance.

Speaking at Harvard, meanwhile, Biden admitted that “there was no moderate middle” among the Syrian “rebels,” flatly contradicting Obama. Biden also explained that the “anti-ISIS” coalition armed and created ISIS. “What my constant cry was that our biggest problem was our allies…. What were they doing? They were so determined to take down Assad and have a proxy Sunni-Shia war, what did they do? They poured hundreds of millions of dollars and tens, thousands, of tons of weapons into anyone who would fight,” Biden said. “Except that the people who were being supplied were al-Nusra and al-Qaeda and extremist elements of jihadis coming from other parts of the world.” Those terrorists went on to become ISIS, Biden said.

For Representative Gabbard and the group of bipartisan lawmakers joining her effort to end U.S. taxpayer support for terror groups, it is time to ensure that no more American wealth goes to support the savagery of terrorists wreaking havoc across the Middle East. “The fact that American taxpayer dollars are being used to strengthen the very terrorist groups we should be focused on defeating should alarm every Member of Congress and every American,” she said. “We call on our colleagues and the Administration to join us in passing this legislation.” So far, a solid group of lawmakers including constitutionalists such as Representative Thomas Massie of Kentucky and Ted Yoho of Florida, along with a number of progressives, have joined forces with Gabbard to support the legislation.

The aunt of dead Syrian boy who washed up on a beach and whose picture was circulated worldwide has also announced her support for the legislation. Speaking at a press conference alongside Gabbard, she said arming terrorists was only making matters worse. “[Representative] Tulsi understands that arming the so-called rebels in Syria has only led to more bloodshed, more suffering, and created more refugees,” Tima Kurdi, the aunt, said in a widely quoted statement. “A military solution in Syria is not the answer. I hope that President Trump will stop arming terrorists and commit to a political solution in Syria — it is the only way to restore peace.”

While the legislation is admirable, it should be common sense that American tax money should not be flowing to savage terrorist groups, dictatorships, or terror affiliates. In fact, providing material support to designated terror organizations is already a serious crime under federal law, and there are no exceptions provided in the relevant statutes for government officials. That means a significant number of senior officials across multiple U.S. administrations could be subject to prosecution, if existing law were to be enforced. The American people must demand that Congress and the entire U.S. government obey the Constitution and follow the noninterventionist advice of America’s Founders.

Alex Newman, a foreign correspondent for The New American, is normally based in Europe. Follow him on Twitter@ALEXNEWMAN_JOU. He can be reached at anewman@thenewamerican.com.

Video Clip Shows IRGC Support For Terror Against America

CNS News, By Patrick Goodenough | February 28, 2017

(CNSNews.com) – As Iran’s government claimed that the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) is widely known to be fighting terrorism in neighboring countries, a newly-emerged video clip purportedly shows an IRGC strategist threatening to unleash terror cells in the U.S., targeting nuclear missile launch facilities, among other things.

At a time when the Trump administration is considering listing the IRGC as a foreign terrorist organization, Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif said at the weekend U.S. efforts to sanction the organization have never benefited the U.S.

Zarif said the world at large agrees that the IRGC has extended the utmost support for neighboring countries in their fight against terrorism.

Iran is supporting Shi’a militias fighting alongside the Iraqi military against Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS/ISIL) jihadists. The IRGC is also heavily involved, in conjunction with Tehran’s Hezbollah allies and other Shi’a fighters, in supporting the Assad regime in the Syrian civil war, where combatants include Sunni nationalists, Kurds, Salafists, and ISIS and al-Qaeda affiliated jihadists.

The exiled Iranian opposition group National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) called Zarif’s claim that the IRGC fights terrorism “ridiculous.”

“The IRGC is the most powerful military-security organization that represses internal clashes and exports warmongering plans in the region,” it said Monday. “This organization is almost involved in all key industries and businesses in Iran.”

The NCRI added that Iran’s widely-criticized missile tests are also carried out by the IRGC.

U.S. lawmakers and others pressing for foreign terrorist organization designation for the IRGC point to a long history of involvement in perpetrating and sponsoring terrorism abroad – especially through its Qods Force foreign operations wing.

The State Department says Iran remains the world’s “foremost state sponsor of terrorism.”

A newly-emerged – although undated – video clip purports to show Hassan Abbasi, an IRGC strategist and theoretician associated with the IRGC think tank, “Center for Borderless Security Doctrinal Analysis,” threatening to unleash terror in the United States.

Abbasi says in the poor-quality clip that a small number of Saudi terrorists were able to carry out the 9/11 attacks, and he asks how much more an Iranian “guerilla army” could do, noting that large numbers of Iranians live in the U.S.

“If only 11 [sic] people carried out 9/11, do you realize that the possibility exists for us to execute [what we want]? We don’t need nuclear weapons.”

“You [Americans] possess 6,000 nuclear warheads in your land,” he continued. “These 6,000 nuclear warheads are targets of our plans for our guerilla movements to destroy them right there.”

“It won’t even be an Iranian-only guerilla movement, but from all Islamic countries,” Abbasi said. “You can deport all the Muslims, but we are involving and working on Mexicans as well, and Argentinians too. We will organize anyone who has problems with the United States.”

Abbasi went on to threaten to direct “global guerilla organizations” to target U.S. military and vulnerable targets.

Queries sent to Abbasi by email and via his official website brought no response by press time.

Excerpts of Abbasi’s video clip comments (The translation was reviewed by two first-language Farsi speakers):

“I’ll be brief with you. We have two million Iranians there [in the United States.]  Be assured that I will raise a guerilla army from among them against you. You are fully aware of this.”

“Look how vulnerable you were on 9/11, when four [sic] Arabs from Saudi Arabia who don’t pose the spirit of fighting, managed to endanger your foundations. Yet with us [Iran] you face a nation that is even more deeply rooted.”

“Don’t forget we have 7,000 PhD holders in the United States. If only 11 [sic] people carried out 9/11, do you realize that the possibility exists for us to execute [what we want]?”

“We don’t need nuclear weapons. You possess 6,000 nuclear warheads in your land. These 6,000 nuclear warheads are targets of our plans for our guerilla movements to destroy them right there.”

“It won’t even be an Iranian-only guerilla movement, but from all Islamic countries. You can deport all the Muslims, but we are involving and working on Mexicans as well, and Argentinians too. We will organize anyone who has problems with the United States.”

“… We have identified all of the U.S. Achilles heel: We have all their ground, naval, air, technological, and their other vulnerabilities.  We will let the global guerilla organizations target them.”

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Iranian Resistance Exposes Iranian Terror Training Camp

Published on Feb 14, 2017 BY NCRI US

On February 14, 2017, the Washington office of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI-US) held a press conference to share details of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps’ (IRGC) terrorist training bases.

Alireza Jafarzadeh, Deputy Director of NCRI-US, explained that the intelligence had come from the NCRI’s main constituent group, the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (MEK), which had previously exposed key information about Iran’s nuclear weapon program.

The unearthed information concerning the training facilities indicates a rise of recruitment of foreign nationals, an expansion that has been explicitly endorsed by Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.

Currently, the Quds Force, an operation division of the IRGC, is designated by the US Government under executive order 13224 as an entity engaged in terrorism, but the IRGC itself is not. The NCRI pointed out that there is no distinction between the IRGC and the Quds Force, either in the Iranian constitution or national budget.

Jafarzadeh showed maps and details of 14 terrorist training centers in Iran. The main headquarter, known as Imam Ali Garrison, is where terrorist training is provided to foreign nationals. He also included specifics on the types of training given to the mercenaries from around the world.

The conference emphasized the IRGC’s deep involvement in each of the “three pillars” upon which the regime’s power rests: the suppression of dissent inside Iran, the export of its Islamic revolution through terrorism and regional military operations, and the amplification of the Iranian military threat through the pursuit of WMDs.

IRGC’s connection to the international terrorist network was also discussed. Trainees were “dispatched to various countries in the Persian Gulf area, Asia, Africa, and Latin America.”

The NCRI said measures like designating the IRGC as a terrorist organization would decrease the likelihood of similar incidents in the West, and would strike a blow against the Iranian theocracy.

In his written statement, Jafarzadeh concluded: “If the day comes when the Tehran regime stops its export of terrorism and religious fascism; and if it reins in the Revolutionary Guards Corps, mandating it only to protect Iran from within Iran’s borders; and if it lets go of its hostility towards the United States and drops its ‘anti-imperialist’ slogans, that day the mullahs’ regime will collapse.”

How Pakistani Law Enshrines Extremism and Weakens Counter-Terror Efforts

pakistanby Ammar Anwer
Special to IPT News
February 24, 2017

Pakistani extremists have killed nearly 50,000 people since 9/11. But government ineffectiveness has stymied efforts to contain terrorist violence. The government and military often are not on the same page, or have chosen a narrow and selective approach towards extremism, fighting one outfit and at the same time supporting the other.

For instance, former President Pervez Musharraf acknowledged that Pakistan cultivated and possessed a soft spot for the Afghan Taliban. In addition, Pakistan has failed to take a firm stand against Lashkar-e-Tayyiba, a radical outfit famous for its hateful rhetoric against India. The U.S. designated the organization as a Foreign Terrorist Organization in 2001, and the United Nations designated it as a terrorist outfit in 2005.

Lately, signs of hope have started to emerge. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Army Chief of Staff General Raheel Sharif seem to agree about extremism and also seem to lack the selective approach that their predecessors had often adopted. As evidence, more than 250 people have been arrested for propagating hate speech, and a ban has been imposed on loudspeakers, which were often used to promote sectarian violence.

In addition, Pakistan launched a host of military operations against militants, including 2014’s Operation Zarb-e-Azb, which targeted militant groups including the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and the Haqqani Network. As a result, most of North Waziristan is now controlled by the military.

The Global Terrorism Index (GTI) 2015, complied by the international research group the Institute for Economics and Peace, analyzes the impact of terrorism on the global community. The report conceded success of Zarb-e-Azb and stated, “Pakistan was the only country in the ten most impacted countries that saw a decline in deaths” but still ranked third in the world.

Pakistan still has a long way to go to eradicate Islamist extremism.

Pakistani law remains an obstacle to accomplishing this goal. Its constitution paves the way for religious intolerance as the following examples show:

Declaration of Ahmadis as non-Muslims

Discrimination against Ahmadis began shortly after Pakistan’s inception in 1947. In 1953, a series of violent attacks was instigated against the Ahmadiyya community in Lahore. The Lahore riots resulted in the deaths of hundreds of Ahmadi Muslims.

In 1974, due to the strong pressure from fundamentalists, Ahmadis were officially declared non-Muslims in Pakistan. To this day Ahmadis suffer religious discrimination and persecution while the state shows no inclination toward amending the law or eradicating the discrimination.

Ehtaram-e-Ramadan Ordinance

The Ehtaram-e-Ramadan ordinance was passed in 1981 during the tenure of General Zia-Ul-Haq, and is part of the constitution. It prohibits public eating during Ramadan’s fasting hours. It is a blatant violation of religious freedom for non-Muslims and secular Muslims. The ordinance requires that restaurants remain closed during fasting hours. Violations are punishable by up to three months in prison or a fine.

But vigilantes often take this law into their own hands. During the last Ramadan, an elderly Hindu man was badly beaten for eating publicly.

Pakistan’s contentious blasphemy law

Blasphemy is the act of insulting, showing contempt or a lack of reverence for God or that which is considered sacred. The blasphemy laws are now enshrined in section 295 A, B and C of the Penal Code, with their focus to protect Islam.

Pakistan uses this controversial law at a level unparalleled in any other country. The law has had a disproportionate impact on minority communities. Minorities, which comprise just 4 percent of Pakistan’s population, are targeted in more than half of the 702 total blasphemy law cases. The laws routinely are used to target religious minorities like Hindus or Christians for personal or political motives.

This action contradicts Pakistan’s constitution which guarantees the right to profess religion, equality of citizens and protection of minorities.

The law perpetuates an environment of intolerance and discrimination. To guarantee equal treatment and fundamental rights, the blasphemy laws must be eliminated or dramatically changed. Without this improvement, the state will never be able to achieve peace, tolerance and equal human rights.

Conclusion

The facts are before us, though they might be difficult to face. However, as Aldous Huxley said, “Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored.”

We in Pakistan cannot claim that we are fighting a war against extremism if there are extremist tenets within our constitution. Until we change those laws, the fight can never be won.

Ammar Anwer is an ex-Islamist who writes for The Nation, Pakistan Today and other media outlets. He believes in secularism and democracy and aspires to see Pakistan become a pluralistic state.

Sanction Pakistan As State Sponsor Of Terror

hqdefault_0Forbes, by Anders Corr, Feb 23, 2017:

In the past two weeks, Pakistan has closed border crossings with Afghanistan, and attacked Afghan soil with airstrikes and heavy artillery, causing 200 families to flee. Pakistan claims that these measures counter cross-border terrorists. But in so doing, Pakistan punishes Afghanistan economically and obfuscates the primary source of South and Central Asian terrorism: Pakistan itself. Pakistan is a supporter of the Taliban, Haqqani, Islamic State, and Al Qaeda. To convince Pakistan to cease supporting terrorism, influential nations must label Pakistan a state sponsor of terrorism, and impose economic sanctions.

Pakistan seeks to turn Afghanistan into its backyard and put the government under its sphere of influence. It seeks “strategic depth” in Afghanistan for Pakistan’s competition with India. It seeks to influence, through political, military, and economic measures, the government of Afghanistan in order to limit Iranian influence in the country. Pakistan is doing this with military strikes, state-sponsored terrorism, economic inducements, and economic punishments such as border closings.

Afghanistan is a landlocked country, but it is nobody’s backyard. It is a sovereign and exceedingly fragile democracy of 30 million people under siege by terrorists. The democratically-elected government of Afghanistan needs the support of Pakistan in its fight against terrorism. Afghanistan’s struggle to provide peace and development to its citizens deserves that support.

Pakistan must honor its commitments in the 2016 Quadrilateral road map negotiated with Afghanistan, the U.S., and China, as Afghanistan plead for on Saturday. The government of Afghanistan invited the Taliban to talks, but the Taliban refused. Now, Pakistan must take action against cross-border Taliban terrorists in Pakistan. That will be politically impossible within Pakistan until the U.S. and E.U. take very tough economic and diplomatic measures. It is time to label Pakistan a state sponsor of terrorism, and support targeted sanctions against select military- and intelligence-linked Pakistani companies.

 Anders Corr is the Principal of Corr Analytics Inc, providing international political risk analysis to government and commercial clients. Twitter – @anderscorr, email – corr@canalyt.com.

KLEIN – New York Times in Full Panic Mode Over Reports Trump May Designate Muslim Brotherhood a Terrorist Organization

AWAD AWAD/AFP/Getty Images

AWAD AWAD/AFP/Getty Images

Breitbart, by Aaron Klein, Feb. 23, 2017:

TEL AVIV – The New York Times this week continued its month-long campaign against designating the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organization amid reports the Trump administration is debating the possibility of issuing an executive order making such a designation.

Declaring the Brotherhood a terrorist organization would add the U.S. to the growing list of nations to do so, including Muslim countries like Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

The Times’ crusade culminated in the newspaper’s publication on Wednesday of an oped written from Egyptian prison by Gehad el-Haddad, the official spokesman for the Muslim Brotherhood.  The oped was splashed on the cover of Thursday’s international edition of the newspaper.

In the piece, Haddad whitewashed the Brotherhood as inspired by an “understanding of Islam that emphasizes the values of social justice, equality and the rule of law.”

“We remain committed to our ideals of community development, social justice and nonviolence,” wrote Haddad.

While many Brotherhood wings indeed reject the use of violence as a strategic tactic, preferring instead a sophisticated gradualist strategy to achieve their aims, Haddad failed to mention that the Brotherhood has spawned terrorist organizations – most notably Hamas – that adhere to its philosophy of a world order based on Islam.

Al-Qaeda was founded in part on Brotherhood ideology. The Brotherhood was also a central player in the so-called Arab Spring, revolutions punctuated by violence across the Arab world.

Haddad’s claim that the Brotherhood espouses an understanding of Islam that pushes for “equality and the rule of law” is contradicted by the very nature of the Brotherhood itself, which is openly committed to the establishment of a worldwide Islamic caliphate based on Sharia law.

Sharia does not propagate “equality and the rule of law.” Sharia is explicitly anti-democratic and advocates Islamic supremacy over non-Muslims. For example, under Sharia non-Muslims cannot rule over Muslims; a woman inherits half that of a man; non-Muslims cannot inherit from Muslims or marry Muslim women; and churches and synagogues cannot be built taller than mosques.

These Islamic dictates were scrubbed from Haddad’s airy descriptions of the Brotherhood in the Times oped:

We are a morally conservative, socially aware grassroots movement that has dedicated its resources to public service for the past nine decades. Our idea is very simple: We believe that faith must translate into action. That the test of faith is the good you want to do in the lives of others, and that people working together is the only way to develop a nation, meet the aspirations of its youth and engage the world constructively. We believe that our faith is inherently pluralistic and comprehensive and that no one has a divine mandate or the right to impose a single vision on society. …

We remain committed to our ideals of community development, social justice and nonviolence.

Haddad’s propaganda piece was preceded on Monday by a Times article reporting on the alleged dangers of the Trump administration labeling the Brotherhood a terrorist organization.

That article, titled, “Trump Talk of Terror Listing for Muslim Brotherhood Alarms Some Arab Allies,” warned that “of all the initiatives of the Trump administration that have set the Arab world on edge, none has as much potential to disrupt the internal politics of American partners in the region as the proposal to criminalize the Muslim Brotherhood, the preeminent Islamist movement with millions of followers.”

The piece continued:

In Morocco, it would tip a delicate political balance. In Jordan, it could prevent American diplomats from meeting with opposition leaders. In Tunisia, it could make criminals of a political party seen as a model of democracy after the Arab Spring.

The Times article quoted Issandr El Amrani, an analyst at the International Crisis Group, warning that designating the Brotherhood a terrorist organization “could destabilize countries where anti-Islamist forces would be encouraged to double down. It would increase polarization.”

The International Crisis Group is funded by billionaire George Soros and his son, Alexander Soros. Both George and Alexander Soros sit on the group’s board of trustees.

Toward the end of the piece, Times reporter Delcan Walsh briefly mentions the Brotherhood’s ties to violence.

He writes:

By nature secretive, the Brotherhood takes different forms around the world. In some places, its members have condoned or committed violent acts. Its Palestinian offshoot, Hamas, carries out suicide bombings; in Egypt, angry young supporters have been accused of attacking Mr. Sisi’s security forces.

However, that paragraph was followed by the following disclaimer: “But that does not make terrorists of the many millions of people who support the Brotherhood’s political ideology across many countries.”

The Times advocacy this week on behalf of the Brotherhood is part of a larger lobbying effort that has in recent weeks included numerous pro-Brotherhood articles and an editorial board piece published earlier this month, “All of Islam Isn’t the Enemy.”

In the editorial, the newspaper warned designating the Brotherhood as a terrorist organization “would be seen by many Muslims as another attempt to vilify adherents of Islam.”  The paper claimed that the possible designation “appears to be part of a mission by the president and his closest advisers to heighten fears by promoting a dangerously exaggerated vision of an America under siege by what they call radical Islam.”

A February 7 article warned, “Officially designating the Brotherhood as a terrorist organization would roil American relations in the Middle East. The leaders of some American allies — like Egypt, where the military forced the Brotherhood from power in 2013, and the United Arab Emirates — have pressed Mr. Trump to do so to quash internal enemies, but the group remains a pillar of society in parts of the region.”

“Critics said they feared that Mr. Trump’s team wanted to create a legal justification to crack down on Muslim charities, mosques and other groups in the United States,” added the Times. “A terrorist designation would freeze assets, block visas and ban financial interactions.”

A Times article on February 1 was titled, “Trump Pushes Dark View of Islam to Center of U.S. Policy-Making.”

The article lamented a worldview that “conflates terrorist groups like Al Qaeda and the Islamic State with largely nonviolent groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood and its offshoots and, at times, with the 1.7 billion Muslims around the world.”

A January 26 editorial titled “‘I Think Islam Hates Us’” informed readers the Trump administration “reportedly is considering designating the Muslim Brotherhood, which is involved in Muslim politics in a number of countries, as a terrorist organization. Some experts see the move as a chance for the Trump administration to limit Muslim political activity in the United States.”

The Times’ advocacy for the Brotherhood is particularly noteworthy since it separately posted a full Arabic document from 1991 in which an Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood member set forth a strategy for “eliminating and destroying the Western civilization from within,” with emphasis on operations inside the U.S.

Addressing the Brotherhood’s support for the electoral process and purportedly becoming a political organization, an extensive report on the Brotherhood by the Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center at Israel’s Center for Special Studies explained the group’s use of some tools of democracy to advance the aim of achieving a world ruled by Sharia law, which is by definition anti-democratic.

Drawing from founding Brotherhood documents and original literature by Brotherhood leaders, the Center explained:

Unlike the militant factions of other Islamist movements, which completely rule out democracy on the basis of it being a Western, pagan, and ignorant idea, the Muslim Brotherhood does use the term “democracy.” In its view, however, it has two main connotations: a tactical, instrumental means of taking over countries through the use of the democratic process, and an “Islamic democracy” based on Sharia law (i.e., Islamic religious law) and a model of internal consultation within the leadership.

[Brotherhood Founder Sheikh Hassan] Al-Banna listed seven stages to achieve these objectives, each to be carried out in a gradual fashion. The stages are divided into social and political: the first three are based on educating the individual, the family, and the entire society of the Muslim world to implement Sharia laws in every aspect of daily life. The next four stages are political in nature, and include assuming power through elections, shaping a Sharia state, liberating Islamic countries from the burden of (physical and ideological) foreign occupation, uniting them into one Islamic entity (“new caliphate”), and spreading Islamic values throughout the world.

The defining works of Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood leader, ideologue and theorist Sayyid Qutb, considered the Brotherhood’s intellectual godfather, greatly influenced Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda doctrine.

An extensive March 23, 2003, article in the New York Times magazine by Paul Berman dissected Qutb’s writings as they relate to terrorist ideology.

In the article titled “The Philosopher of Islamic Terror,” Berman documented the centrality of Qutb’s influence on al-Qaeda:

The organization (al-Qaeda) was created in the late 1980’s by an affiliation of three armed factions – bin Laden’s circle of ”Afghan” Arabs, together with two factions from Egypt, the Islamic Group and Egyptian Islamic Jihad, the latter led by Dr. Ayman al-Zawahiri, Al Qaeda’s top theoretician. The Egyptian factions emerged from an older current, a school of thought from within Egypt’s fundamentalist movement, the Muslim Brotherhood, in the 1950’s and 60’s. And at the heart of that single school of thought stood, until his execution in 1966, a philosopher named Sayyid Qutb – the intellectual hero of every one of the groups that eventually went into Al Qaeda, their Karl Marx (to put it that way), their guide.

 Aaron Klein is Breitbart’s Jerusalem bureau chief and senior investigative reporter. He is a New York Times bestselling author and hosts the popular weekend talk radio program, “Aaron Klein Investigative Radio.” Follow him on Twitter @AaronKleinShow. Follow him on Facebook.

With additional research by Joshua Klein.

Iran growing network to train foreign terrorists, dissident group says

Photo by: Hadi Mizban Members of the People's Mujahedeen of Iran boast an extensive spy network, including the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and its special forces wing, the Quds force, and has a track record of exposing clandestine parts of the Iranian security apparatus. (Associated Press)

Photo by: Hadi Mizban
Members of the People’s Mujahedeen of Iran boast an extensive spy network, including the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and its special forces wing, the Quds force, and has a track record of exposing clandestine parts of the Iranian security apparatus. (Associated Press)

The Washington Times, by Rowan Scarborough, February 14, 2017:

Iran’s hard-line Islamic regime has escalated its overseas terrorist operations, establishing a network of over a dozen internal training camps for foreign fighters, the regime’s largest resistance group said at a press conference on Tuesday in Washington.

The National Council of Resistance of Iran issued its intelligence report specifying the camps’ locations and the countries represented.

The council’s largest member is the People’s Mujahedeen of Iran (MEK). It boasts an extensive spy network inside the mullah-run government, including the all-powerful Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and its special forces wing, the Quds force, and has a track record of exposing clandestine parts of the Iranian national security apparatus.

The Quds force played a significant role in the Iraq War by training Iraqi Shiites on how to make bombs that killed scores of American troops. The Quds force is now directing thousands of Iraqi Shiite militia members in Iraq, some of whom have gone to Syria to fight for the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad.

The U.S. calls Iran the world’s No. 1 state sponsor of terrorism. However, neither the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps nor the Quds force is on the State Department’s list of designated terrorist organizations. The Treasury Department in 2007 designated the Quds force as a material supporter of terrorism, but National Council of Resistance of Iran officials say the U.S. government should go much further.

“The Iranian resistance has emphasized on countless occasions that the source and the epicenter of terrorism, fundamentalism and regional meddling is the fundamentalist regime ruling Iran,” said Alireza Jafarzadeh, deputy director of the council’s Washington office.

The council said Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has approved a directorate inside the Quds force “in order to expand its training of foreign mercenaries as part of the regime’s strategy to step up its meddling abroad, including in Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Bahrain, Afghanistan and elsewhere.”

“The camps have been divided based on the nationality of the trainees and the type of training,” the council said. “Both terrorist training and also military training for militias are provided, enabling them to better infiltrate and advance the regime’s regional objectives.”

“Every month, hundreds of forces from Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Afghanistan and Lebanon — countries where the regime is involved in front-line combat — receive military training and are subsequently dispatched to wage terrorism and war,” the statement said.

In Lebanon, Iran supports, arms and finances Hezbollah, a U.S.-designated terrorist group that is also fighting for Mr. Assad in Syria.

Beyond the Middle East

Some Quds graduates have shown up outside the region and on the U.S. doorstep in Latin America.

Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly testified before Congress, when he commanded U.S. Southern Command as a Marine Corps general, that Hezbollah operatives had arrived in South America and that Iran had opened scores of Islamic centers there.

Critics of the Obama administration’s negotiated nuclear deal with Iran, which freed up billions of dollars in frozen assets, say the concessions have failed to temper Tehran’s bellicosity or its desire to exert hegemony over the Persian Gulf region.

The council’s report says the Quds force oversees 14 training bases from operation headquarters at the sprawling Imam Ali air base. The commander reports directly to the Quds commander, Gen. Qassem Soleimani, who has been directing operations in Iraq and in Syria.

The largest number of enlistees at Imam Ali are from Syria. They learn how to fire heavy weapons and missiles and to operate drones.

The council listed what it said were the locations and secret code numbers for other camps that conduct training in urban warfare, such as riding motorcycles in terrorist attacks. The council’s report, using satellite imagery, locates each camp on a map of Iran.

The Shahriar Garrison in southwest Tehran, for example, specializes in training Afghan mercenaries, who are then sent to Syria.

At the press briefing, Mr. Jafarzadeh, the council official, called on the Trump administration to add the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and its Quds force to the State Department’s terrorist list.

“The IRGC is the backbone of the apparatus established to preserve the dictatorship, which itself rests on three pillars,” he said. “The first is suppression within Iran. The second is export of terrorism and fundamentalism beyond Iran’s borders. And the third is the program to manufacture a nuclear bomb and nuclear-capable missiles to threaten other countries.”

MEK was once on the State Department’s terrorist list, for attacks it was accused of carrying out in the 1970s and 1980s, first against the government of the shah of Iran and later against the clerics who overthrew him and now dominate the regime in Tehran. The group fought a long, battle to get the designation lifted, and the Obama administration delisted MEK in 2012 after attesting that it had not been involved in terrorism for over a decade.

Venezuela’s new Vice-President and Iranian influence in Latin America

elaissami-vicepresidente-980-520x245Although El-Aissami was sanctioned yesterday for narcotics trafficking, there is more to the story.

Center for Security Policy, January 17, 2017:

Venezuelan dictator Nicolas Maduro recently appointed Tareck El-Aissami to be his Vice-President. El-Aissami is suspected by the U.S. intelligence community to have ties with drug-traffickers, Iran, and Hezbollah. Iran is a sponsor of Islamic terrorism while Hezbollah is one of the terrorist organizations Tehran supports.

The new Venezuelan VP has many business dealings with Iran. Joseph Humire, founder of the Center for a Secure Free Society, testified before Congress that El-Aissami owns a network of 40 front companies. These shells have bank accounts set up in 36 countries, including the U.S. His network has been integrated with the Ayman Joumaa money laundering network that launders hundreds of millions of dollars and ships cocaine for Mexican and Colombian drug cartels as well as Hezbollah. So El-Aissami’s “companies” are probably responsible for hiding terrorist drug money and helping cocaine get into the U.S.

El-Aissami’s ties with terrorists do not end there. Between 2007 and 2010 as the country’s Interior Minister he participated in “Aeroterror,” which were flights between Caracas and Tehran with a stop-over in Damascus. According to Congressional testimony these flights carried drugs, arms, cash, and terrorists. All of these are worrying, but especially the last one since El-Aissami took part in a clandestine operation to provide fake Venezuelan passports to Islamic terrorists in Damascus. This could mean that he transported terrorists into Venezuela and then provided them with documentation that would allow them to move freely through Latin America.

This has been made possible partly thanks to Cuba. Tehran and Havana have been allies for decades. When Chavez took power in Venezuela he sought close ties with the Castro. In exchange for oil Cuba provided Venezuela with 200,000 workers, most of whom are intelligence officers. Along with Cubans also came Iranians who turned the country into a terrorist outpost.

Given El-Aissami’s strong ties with Iran and Hezbollah his appointment as Venezuela’s VP probably signals an increase of Iranian influence in the country and through the region. If the country opposition is actually able to recall President Nicolas Maduro effectively removing him from power, as unlikely as it is, El-Aissami would take charge.

This would most likely mean an Iranian and Hezbollah ally in control of a country that is in America’s backyard. Even if El-Aissami does not become President he might end up unofficially running Venezuela. If Maduro becomes bogged down fighting recall attempts, Al-Aissami might have more say in running the country. Also, since President Maduro has shown himself to be incompetent it is likely that he might depend on a seasoned politician like El-Aissami to be his chief decision-maker.

With El-Aissami as VP the Iranian mullahs could use their connections with him and the country’s desperate economic situation to get more Islamic terrorists into Venezuela. Given that Venezuela is strapped for cash and basic resources, it is possible that El-Aissami might agree to let in more terrorists in exchange for Iranian cash, not to mention increase drug-trafficking to make up for the missing revenue.

Iran could also use its ties to Venezuela to ship more terrorist to Maduro friendly countries like Cuba and Nicaragua. This would allow Iran and its ally Hezbollah to export Islamic terror into the Caribbean and Central America. From there these terrorists could try to make their way into the U.S using fake Venezuelan passports.

The long established threat capability of Iran in Caribbean and Latin America will only increase. This is an important factor to calculate in U.S.-Iranian relations.

Why the US Should Target Iran’s Revolutionary Guards

Members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps. Photo: Wikipedia.

Members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps. Photo: Wikipedia.

The Algemeiner, by Heshmat Alavi, February 13, 2017:

The possibility of the Trump White House blacklisting Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) as a foreign terrorist organization (FTO) is causing enormous tension in Tehran, as the regime understands the political, economic — and, perhaps most importantly — geopolitical consequences of such a move.

An Iranian opposition group has scheduled a Tuesday press conference to provide new information about the IRGC Quds Force “command headquarters for terrorist training of foreign mercenaries and a number of overt and covert training centers” across Iran, according to the online statement.

The IRGC was established supposedly to safeguard the “Islamic Revolution.” The FTO designation of this enormously important Tehran entity would further toughen US President Donald Trump’s push on Iran.

The IRGC is in full control of the mullahs’ cherished ballistic missile program, used especially to lift morale within the regime’s dwindling and highly fragile social base.

Washington has considered Tehran a state sponsor of terrorism since 1984, as the regime has continuously armed, trained and financed a conglomerate of terrorist groups in the Middle East — mainly Hezbollah in Lebanon, Shiite militias in Syria and Iraq and the Houthis in Yemen.

Designating the IRGC, an official armed force, rather than another militia group, would be unprecedented. It would send a signal to Iran that the new US administration is targeting the very core of its apparatus — one that also enjoys significant leverage over its economy.

The IRGC is the leading force behind Iran’s nuclear programballistic missile driveinvolvement in Syria and other states and atrocious domestic human rights violations. The FTO designation would ban any economic transactions and relations with IRGC-affiliated companies, thereby significantly curbing its access to the revenue needed to pursue all the above-mentioned ambitions.

There are already signs of increasing concerns in this regard having a considerable effect.

The France-based international oil and gas French company Total has hinged its plans for a $2 billion project in Iran in the summer on US sanctions waivers, which now seem unlikely, to say the least, with the Trump administration imposing a major policy overhaul.

Companies across the world are already described as wary about doing business with Iran. The FTO designation would bring an end to all the leeway provided for foreign businesses to enjoy working with entities that may be connected with the IRGC.

And while some argue that an FTO designation for the IRGC would result in Iran’s abandoning ship on the nuclear deal reached with the P5+1 in July 2015, they are absolutely wrong. Tehran needs the accord more than any other party, as crippling international sanctions were taking their toll on its economy. And rest assured that Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei would never have blessed such a pact were better options available.

The Iranian opposition has a history of shedding important light on the IRGC’s destructive roles, and calling for necessary action in this regard.

Iran’s “nuclear and missile program is against the Iranian people’s interest and must be stopped,” Maryam Rajavi, president of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRIsaid recently.

The NCRI has welcomed the Trump administration’s recent round of sanctions against Tehran and earlier proposed measures aimed at “banning all deals and trade with IRGC-affiliated companies.”

The Trump administration is now facing a very important opportunity to deliver the message that the mullahs deserve to hear. In so doing, it will be on the right side of history where supporting the Iranian people’s struggle for freedom and democracy through peaceful regime change is concerned.

CIA Awards Saudi Crown Prince Counter-Terrorism Medal

Saudi air force personnel at the King Salman air base. (Photo: © Fayez Nureldine/AFP/Getty Images)

Saudi air force personnel at the King Salman air base. (Photo: © Fayez Nureldine/AFP/Getty Images)

Saudi Arabia’s state sponsorship of the hardline Wahhabi ideology exacerbates global extremism, medal or not.

Clarion Project, by Elliot Friedland, February 12, 2017:

The CIA awarded Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef bin Abdulaziz al-Saud, deputy prime minister and minister of Interior, with a medal for his services to “counter-terrorism.”

CIA Director Michael Pompeo presented the George Tenet medal to Prince bin Nayef during a trip to Riyadh in the presence of other senior members of the Saudi government.

Accepting the medal, bin Nayef told media that religion was completely separate from the actions of extremist groups, who misuse religion for their own purposes.

“We, God willing, continue to confront terrorism and extremism everywhere, and with thanks to God we have managed to thwart many terrorist plots from occurring,” he said. Bin Nayef and Pompeo also discussed many issues of mutual concern to the United States and Saudi Arabia, including but not limited to the fight against terrorism.

Clarion Project cannot comment on the specifics of this award to Prince bin Nayef, since we are not privy to the details of security cooperation against terrorism between Saudi Arabia and the United States.

However, Saudi Arabia has certainly been instrumental in spreading an ideology which gives rise to Islamist terrorism.

Here are three things you need to know.

1. The State Sponsored Religion of Saudi Arabia Is Very Similar to the Creed of ISIS

Saudi Arabia as described by Algerian writer Kamel Daoud in The New York Times as “an ISIS that has made it.”

The Gulf kingdom is a theocratic absolute monarchy governed in accordance with the puritanical version of Islam known as Wahhabism. This arrangement has been in place since 1744, before the creation of the state, when the Muhammed ibn Saud, the progenitor of the House of Saud, made a deal with the founder of Wahhabism, Muhammed ibn abd al-Wahhab, that the descendants of Ibn Saud would rule the political sphere, while the descendants of al-Wahhab would control theology. That deal remains in place today, with the Ash-Shaikh family controlling Saudi theology. The two families are closely intermarried.

This state sponsored form of Islam mandates the death penalty for blasphemy, homosexuality, sorcery and several other crimes. It prohibits women from going outside unless covered head to toe, prohibits women from driving, as well as a host of other activities such as working or getting a passport without permission from their male guardian. It also mandates the brutal hudud punishments, which include chopping off hands for stealing and lashes for crimes such as adultery.

Wahhabism preaches loyalty to the Saudi state. Jihadists differ in that they regard the Saudi state as a corrupt Western stooge. They adopt the puritanical ideology of Wahhabism, but merge it with a political revolutionary bent.

This synthesis is identified by scholars as salafi-jihadism. Groups like al-Qaeda and ISIS share this ideology.

2. Saudi Arabia Has Spent Billions Exporting Wahhabism Globally

Last year, German Vice-Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel warned Saudi Arabia was funding mosques in Germany linked to extremism.

Since the 1960s, Saudi Arabia has spent an estimated $100 billion on exporting the ideology of Wahhabism. It has funded mosques, madrassas and academic fellowships and chairs in universities across the world.

These include grants of $10 million to top American universities such as Harvard and Yale.

This money has been used to smother local pluralistic forms of Islam and has fueled a global upswing in religious puritanism and conservatism. This money has created and continues to create the milieu in which extremism can thrive and grow.

3. Saudi Arabia’s Regional Power Struggle With Iran Is Fueling Terrorism

Sunni jihadi groups in Syria and Iraq refer to Shia Muslims (among other pejorative terms) as “safawi,” referring to the Iranian Safavid dynasty which once ruled the region. The confluence of Sunni-Shia sectarianism with a geopolitical struggle between Saudi Arabia and Iran has seen both countries fund opposing sides in wars throughout the region.

Saudi Arabia has been engaged in a war in Yemen against the Shiite Houthi rebels in support of a Sunni president. Although the war is more complicated than that, it is being used by Saudi Arabia and Iran as an opportunity to fight against each other’s’ interests.

Saudi Arabia also supported Sunni Islamist rebel groups against Iranian-backed President Bashar al-Assad in Syria.

This power struggle is fueling armed conflict across the region which creates a fertile breeding ground for more, rather than less, terrorism and empowers extremist groups.

In the light of these three things, whatever the personal and strategic merits of Prince bin Nayef, Saudi Arabia’s long-term commitment to countering Islamist terrorism should be questioned.

Also see:

The Brotherhood must not be seen as moderates

yusuf

The National, by Hassan Hassan and Ola Salem, February 12, 2017

For many people, Yusuf Al Qaradawi epitomises moderate Islam. From banning female circumcision to allowing coeducation, the Qatar-based Egyptian cleric’s bold and progressive edicts have challenged conservative views for decades. But he often comes under fire for his views in favour of suicide bombing.

In April 2001, Dr Al Qaradawi said it was permissible for Palestinians to carry out suicide operations targeting Israelis, and described the tactic as “one of the greatest forms of jihad”. He was responding to a counter fatwa by Saudi Arabia’s grand mufti, Abdelaziz Al Sheikh. When Al Jazeera reported on the issue, it concluded: “Such a fatwa is specifically common among Palestinians fighting against the Israeli occupation.”

But the fatwa created a slippery slope. In 2014, Dr Al Qaradawi expanded the remit of his fatwa to civil wars in the Middle East. He said that it was acceptable for Syrians to blow themselves up, as long as the bomber acts as “part of a group”. Individuals cannot do it, he emphasised.

These attacks spare no one, including Muslim worshippers inside mosques. During Ramadan last year, for example, suicide attacks hit Turkey, Bangladesh, Iraq and Saudi Arabia, and killed nearly 350 people. A suicide attacker struck near the burial site of the Prophet Mohammed, killing four security guards.

After the attack in Saudi Arabia, Ibrahim Munir, the deputy leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, asked clerics to rethink their opinion on suicide operations. “Killing innocent civilians has become common because suicide bombers rely on these fatwas to blow themselves up,” he said.

Suicide bombing is rejected by traditional clergy because suicide is explicitly prohibited in the Quran. Islamist clerics, such as Dr Al Qaradawi, who have a mainstream following legitimise views long perceived to be fringe and extremist. Also, these clerics sometimes preside over councils or are close to religious institutions that operate in the West. Dr Al Qaradawi is chairman of the European Council for Fatwa and Research.

When he was criticised for his views on suicide bombing after the Medina attack, countless supporters expressed solidarity with him. Some pointed out that other clerics have also sanctioned suicide bombing.

What many of those who defended Dr Al Qaradawi’s view on suicide bombing do not realise, though, is that their cleric walked back on his edict in the summer.

“The Palestinian brothers were in need of the [tactic] to instal terror told in the hearts of Israelis,” he said in July. “They told me they no longer need it, so I told them I no longer approve of it.”

The way he disavowed the fatwa is telling – as though he prescribed medicine to a patient. The prescription was stopped because the patient no longer needed it. He failed to disapprove of the practice in general. He made no mention of his approval of the tactic in Syria. The genie is out of the bottle and the side effects are too damaging.

The story of Dr Al Qaradawi and the fatwa he issued more than 15 years ago should be part of the continuing debate over whether the new United States administration should designate the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organisation. The arguments raised by supposed experts tend to be ignorant of the insidious aspects of Islamism.

A key problem with the current debate is that opposition to the designation has led to outright apologism. Even if one argues that the US government should not label the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organisation, a mechanism to address the contribution of such groups to the jihadist world view should be in place. The opposite is happening: academics and so-called experts often call for engaging Islamists as representatives of Muslim communities, as the previous American administrations effectively did.

Suicide operations have become an accepted political tactic against opponents everywhere, not only by ISIL but also by groups that subscribe to less extremist ideologies. Should policymakers continue to ignore the fact that it is Islamist clerics such as Dr Al Qaradawi who approve of such tactics, in stark contrast to traditional clergy?

Designating the Brotherhood as a terroist group might not help, but something needs to be done to counter these views. How do the US and other countries determine that clerics such as Dr Al Qaradawi should be stopped from promoting violence in their communities or online? The Muslim Brotherhood affirm peaceful political engagement yet their television channels and writings promote extremism.

Experts who oppose the idea of designating the Brotherhood a terrorist group tend to gloss over such issues. Recognition of the troubling discourse and views that often help groom youngsters for jihadism is critical, if the world is to properly deal with the issue of terrorism.

Hassan Hassan is a senior fellow at the Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy. Ola Salem is a journalist in Virginia, the United States

Trump’s Travel Ban Is Not Recruiting More Terrorists

donald_trump_29093637770-868x579Bloomberg, by Eli Lake February 10, 2017:

Since President Donald Trump last month issued an executive order banning travel from seven Muslim majority nations, we’ve heard a lot about how it will aid jihadists.

Leading Democrats, counterterrorism experts and even Iran’s foreign minister have all asserted that Trump’s travel ban will end up being used by the Islamic State to recruit new terrorists. Senator Chris Murphy, a Democrat from Connecticut, made this point forcefully on Jan. 30, when he told MSNBC that Trump’s executive order “ultimately is going to get Americans killed.”

The argument goes like this: Jihadists believe there is a Manichaean struggle between Islam and the West. An alleged “Muslim ban” plays directly into this worldview, telling Muslims that they are not safe in the un-Islamic world. No wonder they are calling the executive order a “blessed ban” on Islamic State web forums.

This is a familiar line to anyone who has followed the national security debate since 9/11. Democrats in particular have argued that the Iraq War, the Guantanamo Bay prison and anti-Muslim web videos help to radicalize otherwise peaceful Muslims to murder us at random. Hence Trump’s travel ban is now a “recruitment tool.”

If only jihadi recruitment were so easily disrupted. Sadly it’s much more complicated.

To start, the process by which an individual gets sucked into the death cults of al Qaeda or the Islamic State cannot be reduced to a single cause. Alexander Meleagrou-Hitchens, the research director for the Program on Extremism at George Washington University, put it like this: “The argument that the Trump policy will radicalize people is predicated on the flawed premise that people radicalize as a response to government policy. The reality is it’s a highly complex process that involves religious and personal factors. A government policy may play a role, but it’s one of many factors.”

Meleagrou-Hitchens’s program released an invaluable report last year that studied motivations of Americans who had declared allegiance to the Islamic State. It found that the motivations ranged from sympathy for the plight of Syrians suffering under their dictator’s war to a sense of religious obligation to join a new utopian Islamic caliphate.

Another problem with this argument is that it fails to account for the significant rise in radical Islamic terror under President Barack Obama. He went out of his way to counter the jihadist worldview. He began his presidency by delivering a speech to the Islamic world from Cairo, in which he stressed his own administration’s respect for Islam. He promised, and ultimately failed to, close Guantanamo; he withdrew U.S. troops from Iraq in 2011, and he scrubbed terms like “radical Islam” and “war on terror” from the government’s lexicon.

And yet despite his efforts, the FBI arrested more Americans for joining Islamic terrorist groups during his presidency than during that of George W. Bush. And while Obama decimated al Qaeda’s central leadership following the raid that killed Osama bin Laden, al Qaeda’s franchises in Yemen, Somalia and Libya grew stronger. Meanwhile, the Islamic State broke away from al Qaeda during Obama’s presidency and managed to gain territory in Syria and Iraq. Only now has the military campaign to liberate Mosul shown some success.

It’s true that Obama also did many things jihadists did not like during his presidency. For example, he used drone strikes against more of them than his predecessor did. And when the U.S. Supreme Court recognized the legal right to gay marriage, Twitter accounts affiliated with the Islamic State posted video of gay men being thrown to their deaths off of high buildings in Raqqa, with the hashtag #lovewins. The Islamic State didn’t like the Iran nuclear deal, either. After all, Shiites like the Iran regime are seen as apostates, and in the battle for Syria, the Iranians are on the side of the oppressors.

This gets to the most important point. The fanatics who seek to recreate an eighth-century caliphate have an endless supply of grievances about our open society. If we succumb to the fallacy that we can counter their propaganda by not doing things they could exploit for propaganda purposes, we are giving them too much power.

A far better argument against Trump’s executive order is that it undermines our own recruitment efforts to counter the jihadists. At first the travel ban applied to translators who helped the U.S. military in Iraq, not to mention leading advocates for the Islamic State’s victims like the Yazidi-Iraqi legislator Vian Dakhil. Fortunately the Trump administration has reversed these elements of the travel ban in the last week. But the perception that America would close its doors to the people who helped us makes it harder to recruit allies against the Islamic State going forward.

Critics of Trump’s travel ban are not inclined to make that argument. After all, Democrats were silent when Obama abandoned the Iraqi sheiks who helped to temporarily drive al Qaeda out of the Anbar province between 2007 and 2009. At the time, they were too busy insisting the Iraq War helped create more terrorists.

Also see:

House Report: ‘Unprecedented Spike’ in Homegrown Terror Threat

Homeland Security Committee

Homeland Security Committee

Breitbart, by  Edwin Mora, February 9, 2017:

The 2017 terrorism forecast for the United States and the rate at which Americans are being radicalized at home is “alarming,” according to a monthly assessment by the House Homeland Security Committee.

Citing an “unprecedented spike in the homegrown terror threat, primarily driven by the rise of” the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL), the House panel’s Terror Threat Snapshot for February warns that, “at this rate, the forecast for 2017 looks alarming.”

“Authorities continue to track a high number of homegrown terror plots in the United States, and the number of cases since 9/11 is nearing a historic milestone: There have been nearly 200 total homegrown jihadist cases in the United States since 9/11 (the figure currently stands at 193), a majority having taken place in just the past few years,” points out the House report.

The monthly assessment attributes the alarming rise in the terror threat to the pressure ISIS is facing “in its key safe havens,” noting that the jihadist organization’s “external operations plotting appears undiminished.”

According to the report, there have been at least 39 homegrown jihadist plots or attacks across 19 U.S. states since the beginning of 2016.

In July 2016, FBI Director James Comey predicted that, as ISIS came close to defeat in its home turf of Iraq and Syria, the number of terrorist attacks against the U.S. and other Western countries would increase.

Echoing Comey, Michael McCaul (R-TX), chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, said in a statement:

I am very encouraged that the Trump Administration is preparing to put greater pressure on jihadists in their safe havens throughout the world. But as they do, we can expect to see militants returning to the West to build new networks and to plot more deadly operations. I look forward to working with the new Administration on shutting down terror pathways in America. We must also remain vigilant here at home, because Americans are being radicalized at an alarming rate.

The Terror Threat Snapshot notes that the jihadist threat against Europe has also increased dramatically.

“European nations are moving forward with counterterrorism reforms designed to cope with the surging terror threat,” points out the assessment. “Yet despite improvements, the continent still suffers from major security weaknesses that make European countries more vulnerable to attack and put U.S. interests overseas at risk.”

Since 2014, there have been at least 166 ISIS-linked plots or attacks against Western targets, including 69 in Europe, 36 in the U.S., and 61 targeting Westerners outside those two regions.

The U.S.-led war against ISIS began in 2014, soon after the group announced the establishment of its now shrinking caliphate.

In the assessment, the House panel also notes that al-Qaeda and its ally the Taliban remain dangerous after more than 15 years of U.S.-led war against the terrorist groups.

“The Taliban threat has proven resilient and powerful in Afghanistan. According to an Afghan Defense Ministry official, the group is responsible for nearly 19,000 attacks throughout the country in just the past 10 months,” states the assessment. “Throughout that time, however, Afghan National Security Forces only carried out approximately 700 counter-insurgency operations.”

U.S. Gen. John Nicholson, the top commander of American and NATO forces in Afghanistan, told the Senate Armed Services Committee on Thursday that a few thousand more U.S. troops would help break the current “stalemate” with the Taliban.

“We remain very focused on the defeat of al-Qaeda and its associates, as well as the defeat of Islamic State Khorasan Province, which is the ISIL affiliate in Afghanistan,” he added. The U.S. declared war against al-Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan in October 2001.