ISIS #2 Reported Dead

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A veteran of the Iraq war meets his end near Aleppo, according to ISIS’s own martyr reporting.

CounterJihad, Aug. 31, 2016:

Taha Subhi Falaha, known mostly as Abu Mohammed al-Adnani, is reportedly dead from a Coalition airstrike near Aleppo.  The Islamic State (ISIS) reported his ‘martyrdom’ following the strike, which the Pentagon says represents a major blow if true.

In a statement, the ISIS propaganda agency Amaq said he was “martyred while surveying the operations to repel the military campaigns in Aleppo,” in Syria.

 The Pentagon is being cautious, or perhaps a little coy. A senior defense official said “coalition forces conducted an airstrike in al-Bab, Syria,” and the target was al-Adnani. Although it is “still assessing the results of the strike… Al-Adnani’s removal from the battlefield would mark another significant blow to” the terror franchise, Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook said in a statement this evening.

To understand why his death is significant, it must be recognized how long was his service in this war.  Adnani was a veteran of the Iraq War, old enough to have fought alongside Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.  Zarqawi came to Iraq to fight Americans, having led his own terrorist organization abroad before joining the Iraq War.  He brought with him a few hard core killers, including Adnani, when he arrived in 2002.  Zarqawi quickly managed to pull together a number of Sunni opposition forces into a group that he branded as “Al Qaeda in Iraq,” seeking out the leadership of core al Qaeda to approve his campaign.  Zarqawi was killed in a similar airstrike ten years ago, one from which the guntape footage was released to the public.

By the time of Zarqawi’s death, Adnani was in American custody in Camp Bucca.  Due to an unfortunate error in judgment, the leadership at Bucca housed Islamist radicals in the same units as Saddam’s own former military professionals.  As a result, these groups were able to meet and talk in peace and safety.  The Ba’athists were mostly secular at the time of Saddam’s fall, although Saddam had been moving in an increasingly Islamist direction as a means of trying to keep control over the Sunni minority on which his rule depended.  Nevertheless, the Ba’athists and al Qaeda in Iraq had been enemies competing for Sunni tribal loyalty on the battlefield.  They could not sit down together and talk in the wild.  In the safety provided by American guards, however, they were able to get together and come to terms.  ISIS, far more dangerous than al Qaeda in Iraq ever was, is the product of this union of Islamist radicalism with military and intelligence professionalism.

Adnani was thus present at the creation of both al Qaeda in Iraq and also ISIS.  At the time of his death he was reportedly running ISIS’s operations throughout Syria.  His death represents a major loss of institutional knowledge for the organization, which should convince even those who doubt the effectiveness of killing insurgent leaders as a general mode of war.  Doubtless the organization has someone with a similar spirit and ruthlessness, but it cannot have many who were the living embodiment of knowledge stretching all the way back to the beginning.

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George Washington University hires Muslim convicted of soliciting jihad murder

Jihad Watch, by Robert Spencer, Aug. 30, 2016:

Seamus Hughes, deputy director of the Program on Extremism at George Washington University’s Center for Cyber & Homeland Security, says: “I trust him. We did our due diligence.” How did they do that? It may be that Jesse Morton is as reformed and repentant as the day is long, but when George Washington University’s Center for Cyber & Homeland Security has a “Program on Extremism” and not a “Program on Jihad,” how diligent could they be in vetting Morton for adherence to an ideology they don’t even admit exists?

What’s more, Morton was convicted of soliciting the jihad murder of “blasphemers.” Would George Washington University hire anyone of any other belief system if he had been convicted of soliciting the murder of those who offended against his belief system? This hire indicates how compromised the universities are: they are so anti-American and so far Left that jihadis are fashionable. Muslims are never a threat, even when they’re plotting violence and murder; they’re protected, privileged victims.

A reminder: “Leader of Revolution Muslim Pleads Guilty to Using Internet to Solicit Murder and Encourage Violent Extremism,” U.S. Attorney’s Office, February 9, 2012:

ALEXANDRIA, VA—Jesse Curtis Morton, aka Younus Abdullah Muhammed, 33, of New York City, pleaded guilty today to using his position as a leader of Revolution Muslim Organization’s Internet sites to conspire to solicit murder, make threatening communications, and use the Internet to place others in fear….

Morton faces a maximum penalty five years in prison for each of the three charges when he is sentenced on May 18, 2012.

That’s fifteen years, and he has served four, because he is “reformed.”

“Jesse Morton operated Revolution Muslim to radicalize those who saw and heard his materials online and to incite them to engage in violence against those they believed to be enemies of Islam,” said U.S. Attorney MacBride. “We may never know all of those who were inspired to engage in terrorism because of Revolution Muslim, but the string of recent terrorism cases with ties to Morton’s organization demonstrates the threat it posed to our national security. We’re grateful to the FBI, NYPD, and their law enforcement partners throughout the world who made today’s conviction possible.”

“Individuals such as Morton who encourage violence and create fear over the Internet are a danger to our society and to the freedoms we enjoy as citizens,” said Assistant Director in Charge McJunkin. “Today’s plea, and other recent cases of those associated with Morton’s organization, demonstrate the widespread nature of this danger. Together with our partner law enforcement agencies, and with the assistance of the community, the FBI will continue to pursue those who promulgate violent extremism and promote the radicalization of others.”…

According to a statement of facts filed with his plea agreement, Morton founded Revolution Muslim in December 2007 and created various online forums that contained postings and information supportive of violent extremism. Morton and his associates used the organization’s websites to encourage Muslims to engage in violence against those they believed to be enemies of Islam and to support Osama bin Laden, Anwar Al-Awlaki, al Qaeda, the Taliban, and others espousing violence. They posted messages in support of the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, the November 2009 killings at Ft. Hood and attacks and future threats against Jewish organizations, among others.

Through his online forums, Morton conspired with Zachary Chesser, of Fairfax County, Va., and others to solicit the murder of an artist tied to the “Everybody Draw Mohammed Day” movement in May 2010, including posting online a magazine that included the artist in a hit list for violent extremists to take out and a message from Anwar Al-Awlaki that explicitly called for the artist’s assassination. In justifying these actions, Morton posted online a speech of his asserting that “Islam’s position is that those that insult the Prophet may be killed” and exhorting his listeners to fight the “disbelievers near you.”

In addition, Morton admitted through his statement of facts that he aided Chesser in taking repeated steps in April 2010 to encourage violent extremists to attack the writers of South Park for an episode that featured Muhammad in a bear suit, including highlighting their residence and urging online readers to “pay them a visit.” Among the steps they took were posting on multiple occasions speeches by Anwar Al-Awlaki, which explained the Islamic justification for killing those who insult or defame Muhammad. Morton worked with Chesser to draft a message for the website regarding the South Park threats, including a quote from Osama bin Laden that “If there is no check in the freedom of your words, then let your hearts be open to the freedom of our actions.” Morton and Chesser posted the final version of this statement on various extremist online forums, and Chesser told Morton that he expected the statement would “scare the kuffar.” Kuffar is an Arabic term, referring to an unbeliever, or disbeliever, in Islam….

Now Morton is no longer in the business of trying to “scare the kuffar.” Instead, he is soothing the kuffar to sleep validating the kuffar’s fantasies about “deradicalization.” This absurd idea is based on the assumption that Islam is a Religion of Peace, and that jihad terrorists are misunderstanding and misinterpreting it. So all that needs to be done is teach them the true, peaceful Islam, and all will be well, right?

Well, let’s see. De-radicalization programs have been implemented elsewhere, notably in Indonesia and Saudi Arabia. Let’s look at how they fared. From the Jihad Watch archives:

11 ex-Gitmo prisoners flee the Saudi “rehabilitation program” and join up with terrorist groups

Jaw-dropper: 25 former Gitmo detainees “return to militancy” despite Saudi rehab program!

Graduate from Saudi jihadi rehab program killed in Syrian jihad: “killed a large number of Christians before his acceptance by God”

Flight 253 jihadist wasn’t cured by Saudi anti-jihad art therapy

Former Guantanamo detainee now top al-Qaeda ideologue — “He was transferred to Saudi Arabia in 2006 where he was placed in a national rehabilitation project.”

Indonesian government admits that its jihadist rehab program is a failure

Counterterror expert: “deradicalization” is “practically impossible”

Australia: Muslim teen arrested for jihad plot was in “deradicalization” program

‘Deradicalized’ Islamic State jihadists producing terror propaganda videos in Germany

But Jesse Morton has the magic key to “deradicalization” that no one else has been able to find? Color me skeptical.

Jesse-Morton

“GW hires former Islamic extremist,” by Elizabeth Cohen, CNN, August 30, 2016:

George Washington University has hired a former Islamic extremist to work at its center on homeland security — a man who once denounced the United States and made threats against the creators of the TV series “South Park” for depicting the Prophet Muhammad in a bear suit.

While reformed extremists have worked at universities in Europe to help fight terrorism, this is believed to be a first in the United States.

Jesse Morton, who was known as Younus Abdullah Muhammad when he was a recruiter for the al-Qaeda, brings a “unique perspective” to counter-terrorism work, said Seamus Hughes, deputy director of the Program on Extremism at George Washington University’s Center for Cyber & Homeland Security….

During his days as an extremist, Morton earned a master’s degree in international affairs from Columbia University.

Hughes said before making the hiring decision, he discussed Morton with the FBI, leaders in the security community and the lawyers that prosecuted Morton.

He said he’s sure Morton is completely reformed from the days he served time in federal prison after inciting people to join a terrorist organization.

“I trust him,” he said. “We did our due diligence.”

Nadia Oweidat, a fellow at the think tank New America who’s interviewed dozens of former extremists, said she doesn’t doubt Morton’s sincerity.

“People go through phases. They evolve and are finally able to see the light,” she said.

She doesn’t think Morton made up his de-radicalization to get a shorter prison sentence.

“When an extremist defects, they risk being completely targeted by their community — it’s like saying you’re gay publicly,” she said. “There are life-altering consequences and you don’t approach it lightly.”

She said other organizations should also recruit former extremists in the hopes of preventing future massacres such as the San Bernardino shooting or the November terror attack in Paris, both committed by radicalized Islamists.

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Spanish Jihadist chatter on the rise say experts, with sights set on Spain

A masked man with an ISIS flag in the background.  REUTERS

A masked man with an ISIS flag in the background. REUTERS

El Pais, by Patricia Ortega Dolz, Aug. 29, 2016: (h/t Blazing Cat Fur)

Spanish counter-terrorism authorities have issued an alert about “the increase in mentions of our country” in recent propaganda material produced by the so-called Islamic State (ISIS), including text documents, videos and graphs.

Jihadists are now writing in Spanish, and even analyzing the political situation in Spain through written reviews of election results.

This is raising Spain’s profile on ISIS’ communication networks. “The progressive increase of texts and releases translated into Spanish is giving our country growing relevance from a propaganda point of view, and increasing the possibility of action by an autonomous terrorist working on our territory,” terrorism experts say.

Potential targets include crowded areas, police officers, Christians, Jews and homosexuals.

“…In any place that you consider a valid target to punish criminal Spaniards… through any available means,” reads a document dated July 18 and released by the Wafa Media Foundation, which supports ISIS. The foundation’s spokesman has encouraged citizens of the Maghreb region, which encompasses Morocco, Tunisia, Mauritania and Libya, to attack Spanish individuals.

Following the Spanish general election of June 26, a media group called Ifriqiya Media, which is the official mouthpiece of Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, wrote the following analysis: “26-J: Everyone has lost, except for Morocco.” The document went on to examine the Spanish election from the viewpoint of its impact on Morocco’s prolonged conflict in Western Sahara.

Recent attacks across the world – Orlando on June 13, Nice on July 14 and Normandy on July 26 – have underscored how one of ISIS’s main tools is its propaganda machine, now that it is losing part of its physical territory. The July 2015 issue of Dar al Islam magazine explicitly encouraged readers to attack Christians as a priority target.

Spanish counter-terrorism experts say that propaganda videos with Spanish subtitles have been cropping up regularly since the beginning of this year. One such video, produced by a jihadist channel from Anbar, a district of the Islamic State located in Iraq, was titled “The predators’ incursions” and had Spanish subtitles.

Another 14-minute video titled “The path of the just fathers” and aimed at attracting new recruits also has Spanish subtitles. All these messages are being disseminated from wilayas, or districts of the Islamic State, “which entails action by various individuals following specific guidelines from a central organization,” say Spanish experts.

The Spanish flag has also been seen in an image headlined “One religion, one caliphate” and showing an individual with a black ISIS flag in his hands and 12 other flags, including the Spanish one, at his feet.

A graph made by Amaq Agency, ISIS’ official production company, shows 100 suicide attacks perpetrated by its followers in the month of June. All text included in the chart is written in Spanish.

In fact, the Spanish is so good that experts suspect that some of the copy is being written by native Spaniards, with the goal of encouraging action by “homegrown terrorists who are frustrated at their inability to travel to Syria and Iraq to fight side by side with the jihadists, and instead may choose to carry out attacks in their own country of birth or residence.”

186 Spaniards have traveled to conflict zones

Since 2004 (the year of the jihadist-inspired attacks against commuter trains in Madrid), counter-terrorism authorities have launched 181 operations against Islamist terrorists, resulting in 692 arrests. In recent years, the police and the judiciary have ramped up their efforts, detaining growing numbers of suspects with each passing year: eight in 2012, 20 in 2013 and 36 in 2014.

Most arrests are tied to recruiting activities in Spain, including the practice of sending individuals to conflict zones in Syria and Iraq. Many of the raids have been carried out in the northeastern region of Catalonia.

So far this year, there have been 15 operations in Spain and one joint action with Morocco. Spanish secret services have identified 186 Spaniards or residents in Spain who have traveled to Syria or other conflict zones, of whom at least 31 may have died there. Authorities are also aware of 25 who have returned to Spain, 15 of whom are in prison and the remaining 10 walking free.

Report: US Spends One Trillion Dollars, Gets Terrorist Safe Haven In Return

August-28-AFG-Partial-Threat-Assessment_4-1Daily Caller, by Saagar Enjeti, Aug. 29, 2016:

After spending a trillion dollars and deploying hundreds of thousands of U.S. troops, Jihadi groups are likely to find safe haven in Afghanistan, a new report from the Institute for the Study of War (ISW) warns.

The entire purpose of the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, was to topple the Taliban government and destroy the safe havens al-Qaida used to attack the U.S. on 9/11. Since President Barack Obama ended the U.S. combat mission in Afghanistan in 2014, the Taliban have made historic battlefield gains throughout the country. The U.S. backed Afghan government has shown itself rife with corruption, and faces a pending political leadership crisis in September.

Noting these facts, ISW warns, “If Afghanistan remains on this course, global extremist organizations will reconstitute their sanctuaries in Afghanistan’s ungoverned spaces and pose enduring threats to U.S. national security.”

Taliban affiliated terrorists from the Haqqani Network seized Saturday a town on the Pakistani border. A local Afghan official told The New York Times the Haqqani Network had hundreds of fighters, and managed to seize dozens of vehicles and weapons. The vehicles and weapons are almost certainly provided or paid for by the U.S. government.

The Haqqani Network is responsible for a large share of U.S. casualties in Afghanistan, and provides the infrastructure for massive suicide attacks throughout the country. The group maintains a tacit alliance with al-Qaida, and has deep roots in the tribal territories in Pakistan.

The U.S. also dispatched 100 soldiers to the capital city of Helmand province on Tuesday. Helmand province is important strategic territory for the Taliban, and reports indicate they now control almost every major city in the province except for the capital. The Afghan defense forces have proven inept at battling back the Taliban in Helmand, despite dedicating almost their entire military arsenal to the effort.

The Taliban has also surrounded the major city of Kunduz, which it briefly seized in September 2015. Kunduz’s seizure in 2015, marked the first time the Taliban controlled a major city since 2001. ISW notes that the Taliban controls 98% of four key districts that surround Kunduz, which it used to launch its first offensive on the city a year ago.

Al-Qaida has capitalized on Taliban gains throughout Afghanistan, by reestablishing major training camps for the first time since before 9/11. In October 2015, the U.S. launched an operation against a massive al-Qaida training camp in Kandahar province on the Pakistani border. The commanding U.S> general at the time called it “probably the largest” al-Qaida camp the U.S. had seen in its 14 year tenure in Afghanistan.

al-Qaida’s affiliates, and leaders remain committed to launching major operations against U.S. allies and the U.S. homeland.

Follow Saagar Enjeti on Twitter

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Rebranding Terror

 (Photo: Representational Image/AFP)

(Photo: Representational Image/AFP)

Foreign Affairs, By Daveed Gartenstein-Ross and Thomas Jocelyn, Aug. 29, 2016:

July 28, Abu Muhammad al-Julani, heretofore the emir of al Qaeda’s Syrian affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra, delivered what seemed to be a major announcement. Although Julani lavished praise on both al Qaeda emir Ayman al-Zawahiri and his predecessor Osama bin Laden, he noted two apparent organizational changes. The first was that Jabhat al-Nusra was no more: Julani’s organization would henceforth be known as Jabhat Fatah al-Sham (JFS, or, in English, Conquest of the Levant Front). Second, Julani said that the renamed organization would have “no affiliation to any external entity.”

Arab and Western media buzzed with news that Julani had announced his organization’s “split” or “break” from al Qaeda. Yet Julani never actually said that such a break was occurring, and a careful reading of his statement reveals numerous problems with this interpretation (though some JFS figures have more definitively affirmed a split in interviews). More significantly, this reading ignores what we know of al Qaeda’s long-standing strategy. In fact, al Qaeda produced its own analysis of Julani’s message to the world—in al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula’s (AQAP) Arabic-language newsletter Al-Masra.

Taken together, the evidence is clear: Nusra’s rebranding as JFS does not represent a genuine split from al Qaeda. Instead, it signals a return to al Qaeda’s original game plan for Syria.

RETURNING TO SQUARE ONE

To understand Nusra’s recent moves, it is important to recognize that al Qaeda never wanted to tell the world about its role in Syria’s civil war. The group’s leadership judged that accomplishing their long-term goal—replacing Bashar al-Assad’s regime with an Islamist emirate—would require strategic patience. During the first two years of the war, therefore, al Qaeda sought to minimize international scrutiny by embedding senior operatives in the ranks of Nusra and other jihadist organizations. Zawahiri and his lieutenants wanted to clandestinely guide these groups and foster their alliances with other rebels, without officially announcing al Qaeda’s involvement. Growing such alliances, Zawahiri and his cohorts believed, would be more difficult if al Qaeda had an official presence in Syria.

It was only the rise of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s Islamic State (ISIS) that led Nusra’s leader, Julani, to announce his fealty to Zawahiri. Previously—and despite Nusra’s 2012 designation by the State Department as an “alias” for Baghdadi’s organization—Julani’s group had succeeded in making itself appear to Syrians to be an organic part of their struggle. Following the State Department’s designation, for instance, TheNew York Times reported that demonstrators in various Syrian cities hefted banners with slogans such as “No to American intervention, for we are all Jabhat al-Nusra.” Put simply, Nusra had gained the respect of Syrians due to its ability to take the fight to Assad.

But on April 8, 2013, Baghdadi released an audio message demanding that the name Jabhat al-Nusra be abolished, because Nusra was “but an extension of the Islamic State of Iraq” (as his group was then known). Baghdadi said that Julani was merely “one of our soldiers,” and that Nusra owed its very existence to Baghdadi’s men and financial support. From that day forward, Baghdadi decreed, the Islamic State of Iraq and Jabhat al-Nusra would be a single entity known as the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham.

Two days later, on April 10, Julani refused Baghdadi’s order. In an audio message of his own, Julani said that Nusra would continue to fight under its own banner. More important, Julani explained that he and his men owed their fealty directly to Zawahiri, thereby bypassing Baghdadi in the chain of command. “This is a pledge of allegiance from the sons of Jabhat al-Nusra and their supervisor general that we renew to the Sheikh of Jihad, Sheikh Ayman al-Zawahiri, may Allah preserve him,” Julani said, indicating by his use of the word “renew” that he had already privately pledged his bayat (oath of allegiance) to Zawahiri. This was Nusra’s first public acknowledgement that it was a part of al Qaeda. In the months that followed, it became clear that al Qaeda had sent some of its most seasoned operatives, including veteran jihadists such as Abu Firas al-Suri, to Syria to lead Nusra.

A few weeks later, Zawahiri ruled on the dispute between Baghdadi and Julani in a letter dated May 23, 2013, and subsequently posted online by Al Jazeera. Zawahiri held that ISIS should be “dissolved” and that Baghdadi’s men should return to Iraq, where they would again operate as the Islamic State of Iraq. Jabhat al-Nusra was to be “an independent entity,” meaning its own regional branch of al Qaeda in Syria, and would answer to al Qaeda’s general command. Though Zawahiri’s decision was mainly a rebuke of Baghdadi, he also chastised Julani for “showing his links to al Qaeda without having our permission or advice, even without notifying us.” That is, Julani was not supposed to reveal his relationship to al Qaeda.

Baghdadi, of course, disobeyed Zawahiri’s order, and ISIS seized control of Raqqa from Nusra and other rebel groups in the summer of 2013. This led to the greatest jihadi rivalry in history, as ISIS went on to conquer territory in Iraq and Syria and win adherents elsewhere around the globe. For al Qaeda, ISIS’ success caused problems everywhere from West Africa to South Asia, as the self-proclaimed caliphate wooed fighters, and occasionally whole affiliates, away from its erstwhile parent organization. But the worst damage to al Qaeda’s strategic interests was arguably in Syria. Instead of covert influence, al Qaeda now had an official branch—Nusra—as well as a rogue jihadist rival in ISIS that was committed to al Qaeda’s destruction. This was the opposite of what Zawahiri and his fellow strategists had wanted.

Nusra fighters release prisoners in Lebanon, December 2015.  Stringer/Reuters

Nusra fighters release prisoners in Lebanon, December 2015. Stringer/Reuters

PART OF THE PLAN

Al Qaeda’s strategy, then, has long been to maintain public distance from Nusra when possible. That this strategy is behind Nusra’s rebrand is further suggested by a recent article in Al-Masra, a weekly newsletter published by AQAP that is a key source for understanding the group’s thinking. The August 9 edition of Al-Masra includes a lengthy article entitled “A Letter Regarding Jabhat al-Nusra Disassociating From al Qaeda.” The piece’s author is identified as Osama bin Saleh (likely a pseudonym), who uses statements made by al Qaeda’s senior leaders, as well as al Qaeda documents, to explain the group’s designs on Syria.

In a section of his letter aptly titled “Not Standing Out,” Saleh reiterates that al Qaeda never wanted a formal entity in Syria. He includes a passage from a May 2014 video in which Zawahiri said that the “general leadership’s direction is that we should not declare any open presence” in Syria, and that this “matter was agreed upon even with the brothers in Iraq,” meaning Baghdadi’s group. “We were surprised,” Zawahiri continued, “by the declaration that gave the Syrian regime and the United States an opportunity they were hoping for.” The declaration he is referring to is Baghdadi’s formation of ISIS, which Zawahiri claimed made Syrians wonder: “Why is al Qaeda bringing disasters upon us? Isn’t Bashar enough? They also want to bring in America against us?”

Bin Saleh also points to an August 2010 letter (previously released by the U.S. government) from bin Laden to Ahmed Godane, the emir of the Somali jihadist group al Shabab. Bin Laden told Godane that Shabab’s “unity” with al Qaeda “should be carried out … through unannounced secret messaging.” Godane and his men could spread the news of Shabab’s unification with al Qaeda “among the people of Somalia,” but they should not make “any official declaration” of their allegiance. If asked about their “relationship with al Qaeda,” Shabab’s leaders were to say it was “simply a brotherly Islamic connection and nothing more, which would neither deny nor prove” the connection.

As the letter to Godane made clear, Shabab was already part of al Qaeda at the time. But bin Laden believed ambiguity was a strategic advantage. Saleh quotes at length from bin Laden’s letter to Godane to illustrate why. “If the matter becomes declared and out in the open, it would have the enemies escalate their anger and mobilize against you,” bin Laden wrote. Although bin Laden conceded that “enemies will find out inevitably” because “this matter cannot be hidden,” he argued that “an official declaration remains to be the master of all proof,” and it would be easier for “Muslims in the region” to support Shabab without it.

Shabab and al Qaeda did not announce their formal union until 18 months later, in February 2012—after bin Laden had been killed. But al Qaeda’s secretive handling of its arm in East Africa set a clear precedent for how it would groom its newer branch in the Levant. Bin Saleh underlines the point: “Notice that the leadership of the organization [al Qaeda] was not passionate about declaring their relationship with other factions, in order to avoid confrontation with the enemies and … denying them excuses.”

Nusra’s relaunch as JFS should be viewed in this light. Al Qaeda does not expect the U.S. government to remove JFS from its terrorism list or to stop bombing its members. Rather, the rebranding is intended to eliminate America’s “excuse” for bombing the group by removing its formal link to al Qaeda. This message is aimed primarily at Syrians, and secondarily at the broader Middle East. According to bin Saleh, Nusra’s “disassociation” will further unification and cooperation between militants in Syria, as other groups will no longer have the excuse that they do not want be seen as supportive of all of al Qaeda’s actions.

Bin Saleh’s letter provides other insights into al Qaeda’s thinking as well. He suggests Julani’s move was stage-managed by al Qaeda’s senior leaders, writing that the group’s “leadership paved the way before Nusra declared disassociation.” He also points to the message Nusra released from Zawahiri’s deputy, a veteran jihadist known as Abu Khayr al-Masri, just hours before announcing the relaunch. Masri gave his blessing to Nusra “to proceed with that which safeguards the interests of Islam and Muslims, and protects the jihad of the people of the Levant.” JFS’ goals are no different from Jabhat al-Nusra’s, which were no different from al Qaeda’s.

Perhaps most important, Saleh stresses that JFS’ goals are no different from Jabhat al-Nusra’s, which were no different from al Qaeda’s. As Julani himself said at a press conference last year, “we, whether we are with al Qaeda or not, will not abandon our principles and stances. We will continue to say that we want to establish the sharia and … continue in jihad.”

EYES WIDE SHUT

It is vital for Western governments, especially the United States, to expose al Qaeda’s strategy. This, however, is unlikely to happen—the United States has, for years, been exceedingly slow to recognize al Qaeda’s intentions, let alone respond to them. In the past, the U.S. government overlooked al Qaeda’s maneuvering because it believed the organization was on the verge of “strategic defeat”; today, the perception that al Qaeda does not threaten the West has led to a more generalized disinterest.

Yet the danger is growing. In addition to the additional leverage al Qaeda could gain over other militant groups in Syria, JFS may be positioned to receive even more outside support. Before renaming itself, Nusra had received support from Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey, despite its open affiliation with al Qaeda. (Among other concerns, these Sunni countries are all eager to unseat Bashar al-Assad, a staunch ally of their Shiite rival Iran.) Now that JFS has shed the al Qaeda label, these states may begin to scale up support for the group with little objection from Western governments.

Most important, Nusra’s rebranding should be understood in light of al Qaeda’s history of trying to obscure its role in Syria. The group’s senior leaders are now attempting to return to their original Syria strategy. If the West and its allies do not actively oppose them, they may get away with it.

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Zawahiri says jihadists should prepare for guerrilla war in Iraq

Long War Journal, by Thomas Joscelyn,  August 26, 2016

ZawahiriAs Sahab, al Qaeda’s propaganda arm, released the third episode of Ayman al Zawahiri’s “Brief Messages to a Victorious Ummah” series on Aug. 25. The latest installment is subtitled “Fear Allah in Iraq.” The al Qaeda leader clearly expects the Islamic State to continue to lose ground, arguing that the Sunnis of Iraq should “reorganize themselves” for a “protracted guerrilla war to defeat the neo-Safavid [Iranian]-Crusader occupation of their regions as they did before.”

Zawahiri critiques the Islamic State’s approach to waging jihad in Iraq in his brief message, which is just over four minutes long. His arguments further highlight how al Qaeda and the Islamic State have evolved very different strategies for waging jihad. Whereas al Qaeda wants to be viewed as a popular revolutionary force, serving the interests of Muslims, the Islamic State deliberately markets itself as a top-down authoritarian regime that seeks to overtly impose its will on the populace. Al Qaeda and the Islamic State share the same long-term goal, as they both want to resurrect an Islamic caliphate. But they diverge on the steps that should be taken to achieve this goal.

Al Qaeda’s senior leaders think that the Islamic State’s methodology for waging jihad alienates the Muslim population and therefore makes it easier for the Sunni jihadists’ enemies to defeat them.

Zawahiri lays out a way forward for the jihadists in Iraq should the Islamic State’s caliphate continue to crumble.

Zawahiri says the jihadists in Iraq “must review their prior experiences to save them from the mistakes that led to their separation” from the Muslim community. These mistakes caused the jihadists to fall into “the abyss of extremism” and “takfir” (the practice of declaring other Muslims to be nonbelievers). They are also guilty of the “spilling forbidden [Muslim] blood,” Zawahiri says, and this path only serves the “proxies of America.”

In a telling passage, Zawahiri calls on “our brethren, the heroes of Islam, the mujahideen of the Levant” to assist “their brethren in Iraq in reorganizing themselves.”

Zawahiri famously sought to keep Al Nusrah Front in Syria, which was recently rebranded as Jabhat Fath al Sham (JFS, or Conquest of the Levant Front), separate from Baghdadi’s Islamic State. Zawahiri ruled that Baghdadi’s organization should be confined to Iraq, but the Islamic State refused to comply with his order.

Zawahiri now says the “battle is one,” with the Levant being “an extension of Iraq” and Iraq serving as “the depth of the Levant.”

That is, Zawahiri wants the jihadists in Iraq to follow the same strategy employed by al Qaeda in Syria. Under Zawahiri’s guidance, the group formerly known as Al Nusrah deeply embedded itself within the anti-Assad opposition and cultivated roots within the Syrian society.

Al Qaeda’s senior leadership publicly approved of Al Nusrah Front’s recent rebranding as JFS. This rebranding was spun as a clear “break” between Al Nusrah and al Qaeda. But Zawahiri’s own deputy, Abu Khayr al Masri, blessed the move shortly beforehand.

There is no hint in Zawahiri’s message that he feels betrayed by the jihadists in Syria. On the contrary, he wants the jihadists in Iraq to follow their model. When Zawahiri asks the “mujahideen of the Levant” to help their “brethren” in Iraq, he is clearly referring to JFS and others who have been following al Qaeda’s strategy.

The al Qaeda master further connects the jihad in Iraq to Syria by pointing out that Iranian-backed “militias and mercenaries” fight in both countries. Zawahiri says this is because Iran and its allies seek to annihilate Sunnis across the Middle East. He claims that Sunnis are being tortured and slaughtered in Iraq under the “pretext” of fighting Baghdadi’s Islamic State, but the supposed real reason for this can be found in the Iran’s expansionist goals. Zawahiri claims that the Iranians and the Americans have reached an “accord” that will allow a Crusader-Iranian-Alawite coalition (meaning an alliance of Western, Iranian and Assad regime forces) to swallow the whole region.

Even as Zawahiri rails against Iran, however, some of al Qaeda’s most senior leaders are stationed inside the country today.

All three episodes of Zawahiri’s “Brief Messages to a Victorious Ummah” series have been released this month. As Sahab has suffered production delays over the past two years, but the current pace of releases indicates that the official media shop for al Qaeda’s senior leadership is able to regularly churn out content once again. In the first episode of the new series, Zawahiri blasted the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood. In the second, he called on Muslims to support the Afghan Taliban and reject the Islamic State’s upstart presence in Afghanistan.

Thomas Joscelyn is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Senior Editor for The Long War Journal.

Confirmed: Islam, Not ‘Grievances,’ Fuels Muslim Hate for the West

isis (3)ISIS settles the debate—but will Western leaders still disseminate lies?

Front Page Magazine, by Raymond Ibrahim, Aug. 19, 2016:

An old (and tiresome) debate appears to have been settled by those best positioned to settle it.  According to Andrew Gripp, a former political science professor:

Since 9/11, one of the defining fault lines in American and Western politics has concerned whether jihadist groups such as al-Qaeda and ISIS are motivated by their religion or by politics – or more specifically, by grievances against Western foreign policy. Some insist that Islamic doctrine is the basis of their violence, while others insist that such groups are not truly Islamic, but are instead using the guise of religion to lash out against Western influence and intervention.

After indicating how “jihadist groups’ political behavior is consistently traceable to their beliefs about what the Quran, hadith, and respected commentaries say they have a divine injunction to do,” Gripp writes:

For years, however, making this case has been a challenge. This is in part because al-Qaeda was intentionally speaking to both sides in this debate. As the scholar Raymond Ibrahim demonstrates in The Al Qaeda Reader, the terrorist group would regularly frame its grievances in political terms when broadcasting its message to the West (so as to insinuate that once the West withdrew, peace would come). Yet when speaking to the Muslim world, the group would make highly sophisticated religious arguments, explaining why its actions, however reprehensible on their face, were in fact justified by a close reading of the holy texts.

This was indeed the main reason I sought to translate and publish al-Qaeda’s internal communiques to fellow Muslims side-by-side with al-Qaeda’s communiques to the West: to show the stark differences in tone and purpose.  As I wrote in the book’s preface ten years ago:

This volume of translations [The Al Qaeda Reader], taken as a whole, proves once and for all that, despite the propaganda of al-Qaeda and its sympathizers, radical Islam’s war with the West is not finite and limited to political grievances—real or imagined—but is existential, transcending time and space and deeply rooted in faith.

Now, however, the world need not rely on my translations and can get it straight from the horse’s mouth:  In a recent article titled “Why We Hate You & Why We Fight You,” the Islamic State gives six reasons.   Reason number one says it all:

We hate you, first and foremost, because you are disbelievers; you reject the oneness of Allah – whether you realize it or not – by making partners for Him in worship, you blaspheme against Him, claiming that He has a son [Christ], you fabricate lies against His prophets and messengers, and you indulge in all manner of devilish practices. It is for this reason that we were commanded to openly declare our hatred for you and our enmity towards you. “There has already been for you an excellent example in Abraham and those with him, when they said to their people, ‘Indeed, we are disassociated from you and from whatever you worship other than Allah. We have rejected you, and there has arisen, between us and you, enmity and hatred forever until you believe in Allah alone’” (Al-Mumtahanah 4 [i.e., Koran 60:4]). Furthermore, just as your disbelief is the primary reason we hate you, your disbelief is the primary reason we fight you, as we have been commanded to fight the disbelievers until they submit to the authority of Islam, either by becoming Muslims, or by paying jizyah – for those afforded this option [“People of the Book”] – and living in humiliation under the rule of the Muslims [per Koran 9:29].

This is as plain as it gets, not to mention wholly grounded in Islam’s traditional worldview.  As has been repeatedly pointed out, if Muslims are persecuting their fellow country men and women—people who share their nationality, ethnicity, culture, and language—on the simple basis that they are Christians, why should there be any surprise, or excuses of “grievances,” when Muslims terrorize the “infidels” of the West?

Reasons two and three of why ISIS hates and fights the West are essentially the same as reason one: Western secularists and atheists are hated and attacked for disbelieving in and living against Allah.  Although reason four cites “crimes against Islam,” this is a reference to the “crime” of refusing to submit to Islam’s authority and sensibilities, also known as “Islam’s How Dare You?!” phenomenon.

It is only in reasons five and six that ISIS finally mentions “grievances” against Western foreign policies—only to quickly explain:

What’s important to understand here is that although some might argue that your foreign policies are the extent of what drives our hatred, this particular reason for hating you is secondary, hence the reason we addressed it at the end of the above list. […]  The fact is, even if you were to stop bombing us, imprisoning us, torturing us, vilifying us, and usurping our lands, we would continue to hate you because our primary reason for hating you will not cease to exist until you embrace Islam. Even if you were to pay jizyah and live under the authority of Islam in humiliation, we would continue to hate you [emphasis added].

It is this unrelenting hatred that Westerners cannot comprehend; a hate that compels Muslim husbands to hate their non-Muslim wives, and compels America’s great “friends and allies” Saudi Arabia and Qatar to publish government sanctioned decrees proclaiming their hate for America.

And it was always this hate that fueled al-Qaeda’s jihad—not grievances.  All of the Koran verses that call for hate against non-Muslims have been repeatedly cited by al-Qaeda in its Arabic writings to Muslims.  (Ayman Zawahiri, al-Qaeda’s current leader, wrote a 60 page treatise devoted to delineating how Islam commands Muslims to hate non-Muslims, see “Loyalty and Enmity,” The Al Qaeda Readerp. 63-115.)

Osama bin Laden once wrote

As to the relationship between Muslims and infidels, this is summarized by the Most High’s Word: “We renounce you. Enmity and hate shall forever reign between us—till you believe in Allah alone” [Qur’an 60:4 referenced above in ISIS’s recent publication]. So there is an enmity, evidenced by fierce hostility from the heart. And this fierce hostility—that is, battle—ceases only if the infidel submits to the authority of Islam, or if his blood is forbidden from being shed [i.e., a dhimmi], or if Muslims are at that point in time weak and incapable [in which case, bin Laden later clarifies, they should dissemble (taqiyya) before the infidels by, say, insisting the conflict is about “foreign policy,” nothing more]. But if the hate at any time extinguishes from the heart, this is great apostasy!… Such, then, is the basis and foundation of the relationship between the infidel and the Muslim. Battle, animosity, and hatred—directed from the Muslim to the infidel—is the foundation of our religion.  (The Al Qaeda Reader, p. 43).

Yet, in every communique he issued to the West, bin Laden stressed that al-Qaeda’s war was entirely based on Western foreign policies detrimental to Islam: eliminate these and terrorism would cease.  This rhetoric was accepted at face value by many so-called “experts” (such as ex-CIA agent Michael Scheuer, author of Imperial Hubris) and became the default answer to the tired question, “why do they hate us?”  As late as 2014 U.S. President Obama invoked the “grievance” meme concerning ISIS.

Of course, it was one thing for Western leaders to accept and disseminate al-Qaeda’s lies concerning “grievances,” and another thing for them to continue doing so now, in light of ISIS’ recent and open confessions concerning the true nature of the jihad.  Any Western leader, analyst, or “expert” who at this late hour continues peddling the “grievance” narrative falls within the ever growing ranks of fools and liars.

Also see:

Meet Aleppo’s ‘Moderate,’ ‘Secular’ ‘Rebels’: Al-Qaeda and the Muslim Brotherhood

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Let’s support moderate Muslims. But that means figuring out which ones are the real deal.

National Review, by Andrew C. McCarthy, Aug. 19, 2016:

As the invaluable David Pryce-Jones notes, Syria’s second-most important city, Aleppo, is the locus of heavy combat, pitting Russia and Iran, the forces propping up theBashar Assad, against anti-regime fighters, also known as the “rebels.” David refers to reports that, as he summarizes them, “secular rebels appear to have liberated most of [Aleppo], maybe all of it.” Meanwhile, the estimable Charles Krauthammer observes that Russia is operating out of an air base in Iran (probably yet another violation of Obama’s disastrous nuclear deal with the mullahs). And who does Charles say Vladimir Putin’s air force is targeting? “It’s hitting a lot of the moderate rebels . . . in Aleppo.”

I have been arguing for years (and as recently as last weekend) that there are simply not enough moderate, secular rebels in Syria to overthrow the regime, much less to defeat both Assad and ISIS simultaneously. Suggestions to the contrary are wishful thinking. More important, such suggestions are counterproductive: The illusion of a vibrant secular, pro-Western opposition in Syria is the basis for urging that America throw its weight behind the “rebels,” on the theory that we would be undermining radical Islam.

In truth, we’d simply be empowering one set of anti-American Islamists against another.

At The Long War Journal, Tom Joscelyn, who for my money does the best job in America of analyzing the factions involved in the global jihad, takes a careful look at who is fighting against Assad in Syria. To what should be no one’s surprise — but will apparently be very surprising to many — the bulk of the opposition consists of Islamists.

As Tom explains, two coalitions are spearheading the campaign that has enjoyed recent success against the regime in Aleppo. The first is headed up by al-Qaeda and goes by the name Jaysh al-Fath (Army of Conquest). The al-Qaeda franchise in Syria, until recently known as al-Nusrah, has rebranded itself as Jabhat Fath al-Sham (JFS). It has a close alliance with a group called Ahrar al-Sham (Ahrar), which includes many al-Qaeda veterans and (as Tom notes) models itself after the Taliban (al-Qaeda’s close ally in Afghanistan). JFS and Ahrar run the Jaysh al-Fath coalition, which includes sundry other jihadist militias long affiliated with the al-Qaeda terror network.

Al-Qaeda is well aware of the West’s myopic focus on ISIS (the Islamic State — the al-Qaeda splinter group that began as al-Qaeda in Iraq). This myopia has the U.S. government and much of the commentariat turning a blind eye to other anti-American Islamists, even absurdly labeling them “moderates,” as long as they are not part of ISIS. The leaders of al-Qaeda realize that a great deal of financial and materiel support is to be had in the “moderate rebel” business but that the al-Qaeda brand could be problematic in maintaining the façade. So they have encouraged their franchises to obscure and soft-peddle their al-Qaeda connections — particularly by not brandishing “al-Qaeda” in their names.

It’s working.

To their credit, the Wall Street Journal’s editors concede that “the Army of Conquest coalition . . . includes al Qaeda’s Syrian affiliate.” Yet this is still an understatement, just as the Journal’s follow-up observation — that this al-Qaeda affiliate “fights alongside more moderate and secular forces” — overstates the case. In reality, al-Qaeda is the Army of Conquest; and the forces they are fighting alongside are a different coalition — and one whose moderation and secularity are exaggerated.

As Tom Joscelyn elaborates, the other coalition in Aleppo is known as Fatah Halab (“Aleppo Conquest”). To be sure, it has some secular, moderate elements; but it also features deep Islamist ties.

The “secular, moderate” veneer is built on the fiction, heavily promoted in the U.S. from the first stages of the uprising, that the Free Syrian Army (FSA) is a gaggle of secular factions seeking to replace Assad with a Western-style democracy. In reality, the FSA has long been coopted by the Muslim Brotherhood — as has the Syrian National Council, which was set up early on to pose as the overarching framework of the opposition.

As I have pointed out any number of times over the past several years, enthusiasts for American intervention in the civil wars of Muslim-majority countries bend over backward to avoid mentioning the Muslim Brotherhood. They say “moderate” and “rebel,” hoping no one will try to pin them down about who these “moderate rebels” are. But way too many of them are members of the international sharia-supremacist organization whose motto remains: “Allah is our objective. The Prophet is our leader. The Koran is our law. Jihad is our way. Dying in the way of Allah is our highest hope. Allahu Akbar! Allahu Akbar!”

The Brotherhood has been designated a terrorist organization in recent years by Egypt (which ousted a government led by the Brotherhood), and by its former allies, the governments of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. (See Daniel Pipes’s 2014 piece in National Review on how perceptions of the Brotherhood have changed.) In the U.S., legislation to designate the Brotherhood as a terrorist organization has been proposed by Senator Ted Cruz (R., Texas) and was approved by the House Judiciary Committee earlier this year. Nevertheless, it remains progressive Beltway wisdom that the Brotherhood is better thought of as a moderate Islamist organization — even a “firewall against violent extremism,” as Marc Lynch of George Washington University put it in a Washington Post opinion piece in March.

But the Brotherhood, which has a history of violence and boasts as its Palestinian branch the Hamas terrorist organization, is hardly opposed to “violent extremism” (the Washington euphemism for “jihadist terror”). It is true that its methods differ from those of al-Qaeda and ISIS. For the Brothers, jihad has its place but is just one form of aggression in a broad arsenal that includes political activism, vexatious lawsuits, media propaganda, etc. Nevertheless, the Brothers’ objective is exactly the same as that of the more brutal jihadist networks: the imposition of the totalitarian sharia system of governance. And given the geography of the conflict in Syria, it is worth emphasizing that the Brothers have no more coveted short-term objective than the destruction of Israel.

Just as the al-Qaeda affiliates pretend to be “moderates” by stressing their opposition to ISIS, the Brotherhood affiliates pose as “secularists” — with no small amount of help from the Obama administration — by stressing their differentiation from al-Qaeda. This pose is also helped along by the fact that al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri has taken to mocking the Brotherhood as overly cozy with secular regimes and insufficiently zealous for transition to sharia. (See Tom Joscelyn’s report, here.) Consistent with this strategy, the Fatah Halab coalition in Aleppo made a point of claiming that al-Qaeda groups would be excluded. But this, again, is mainly a feint to project the illusion of secular moderation, which triggers Western and other support. In reality, as Tom documents, key Fatah Halab constituents have been working with al-Qaeda affiliates all along.

Don’t get me wrong. This is not to belittle the magnitude of the Russia–Iran alliance. Not only is Putin leveraging his increasingly close relations with the mullahs to project power; Tehran reportedly has dispatched hundreds (perhaps thousands) more fighters to bolster Assad’s forces in Aleppo (to say nothing of the 80,000 to 100,000 militia fighters whom Iran controls in Iraq). My point is that we need a strategy that recognizes all of our enemies for what they are, not one that imagines enemies into potential allies for no better reason than that other enemies seem worse.

I am far from an isolationist, but I strenuously opposed foolish interventions. I am not unsympathetic to the cause of supporting secularists and moderate Muslims — meaningnon-Islamists. But that means figuring out which ones are the real deal. We should be analyzing “rebels” in the exacting way Tom Joscelyn does, so that we can grasp what realistically can be accomplished. In Syria, that may be no more than creating safe space for refugees, promoting pro-Western groups, attacking jihadist hubs, and awaiting an American president who understands that both Iran and the Muslim Brotherhood are our enemies, not our prospective “regional partners.”

Until then, the lesson of Libya ought to teach us that it is no advancement of American interests if al-Qaeda and the Muslim Brotherhood win in Aleppo, even if that means that Assad, Iran, and Russia lose.

Andrew C. McCarthy is a senior policy fellow at National Review Institute and a contributing editor of National Review.

Tom Joscelyn discusses Trump’s ISIS speech on Happening Now

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FDD senior fellow Tom Joscelyn discusses the facts behind Trump’s ISIS speech – Happening Now (Fox News) – August 16, 2016

McCarthy: Obama’s Iraq Policy Did Not Create ISIS

isis militants in RaqqaOur challenge in the Middle East is that sharia supremacism fills all vacuums.

National Review, by Andrew C. McCarthy, Au. 13, 2016:

The early Cold War wisdom that “we must stop politics at the water’s edge” has never been entirely true. In endeavors as human as politics, no such altruistic aspiration ever will be. But Senator Arthur Vandenberg’s adage does reflect a principle critical to effective national security: The United States is imperiled when partisan politics distorts our understanding of the world and the threats it presents.

We’ve been imperiled for a long time now. The most salient reason for that has been the bipartisan, politically correct refusal to acknowledge and confront the Islamic roots of the threat to the West. It has prevented us from grasping not only why jihadists attack us but also that jihadists are merely the militant front line of the broader civilizational challenge posed by sharia supremacism.

Inevitably, when there is a profound threat and an overarching strategic failure to apprehend it, disasters abound; and rather than becoming occasions for reassessment of the flawed bipartisan strategy, those disasters become grist for partisan attacks. From 2004 through 2008, the specious claim was that President Bush’s ouster of Saddam Hussein created terrorism in Iraq. Now it is that President Obama is the “founder of ISIS,” as Donald Trump put it this week.

The point here is not to bash Trump. He is hardly the first to posit some variation of the storyline that Obama’s premature withdrawal of American forces from Iraq led to the “vacuum” in which, we are to believe, the Islamic State spontaneously generated. Indeed, this narrative is repeated on Fox News every ten minutes or so.

The point is to try to understand what we are actually dealing with, how we got to this place, and what the security implications are. There is no denying that American missteps have exacerbated a dangerous threat environment in the Middle East to some degree. It is spurious, though, to suggest that any of these errors, or all of them collectively, caused the catastrophe that has unfolded.

The problem for the United States in this region is Islam — specifically, the revolutionary sharia-supremacist version to which the major players adhere. There is no vacuum. There never has been a vacuum. What we have is a bubbling cauldron of aggressive political Islam with its always attendant jihadist legions.

The question is always: How to contain the innate aggression? The fantasy answers are: (a) let’s convert them to Western democracy, and (b) let’s support the secular democrats. In reality, the region does not want Western democracy — it wants sharia (Islamic law), even if there is disagreement about how much sharia and how quickly it should be imposed. And while there are some secular democrats, there are far, far too few of them to compete with either the sharia-supremacist factions or the dictatorial regimes — they can only fight the latter by aligning with the former. At best, the secularists provide hope for an eventual evolution away from totalitarian sharia culture; for now, however, it is absurd for Beltway Republicans to contend that ISIS emerged because Obama failed to back these “moderates” in Iraq and Syria.

The fact that top Republicans use the term “moderate” rather than “secular democrat” should tell us all we need to know. They realize there are not enough secularists to fight either Bashar Assad or ISIS, much less both of them. For all their justifiable ridiculing of Obama’s lexicon, Republicans invoke “moderates” for the same reason Obama uses terms like “workplace violence” — to obscure unpleasant truths about radical Islam. In this instance, the truth is that the “moderates” they claim Obama should have backed include the Muslim Brotherhood and other anti-Western Islamist factions, including al-Qaeda. Of course, if they told you that, there wouldn’t be much bite in their critique of Obama’s infatuation with the Muslim Brotherhood . . . and you might even start remembering that, during the Bush years, the GOP couldn’t do enough “outreach” to “moderate Islamists.”

The Middle East is aflame because of sharia supremacism and the jihadism that ideology always produces. That was the problem long before there was an ISIS. The Baathist regimes in Iraq and Syria, like other Middle Eastern dictatorships, kept sharia supremacism in check by alternatively persecuting Islamist insurgents, turning them against each other, or using them to harass Israel and the West. In Iran, to the contrary, the shah was overthrown by a revolutionary Shiite jihadist movement that he failed to keep in check.

Bush, with what started out as bipartisan support, ousted the Iraqi regime without any discernible plan for dealing with Iran, Syria, and the wider war — delusionally calculating that Iran might actually be helpful because of its supposedly keen interest in Iraqi stability. Iran, of course, went about the business of fueling the terrorist insurgency against American troops. Saddam’s fall unleashed the competing Islamist forces that continue to tear Iraq apart. The thought that we could democratize the culture was fantasy; far from taming sharia supremacism, the government we birthed in Baghdad was converted by the Iran-backed Shiite parties into a mechanism for abusing Sunnis. Naturally, the Sunnis turned to their own sharia supremacists for their defense.

It is fair enough to argue that Obama should not have pulled U.S. forces out of Iraq just as the security situation was badly deteriorating in 2011. But a big part of the reason that Democrats thrashed Republicans in the 2006 midterms, and that Obama was elected in 2008, was mounting American opposition to maintaining our troops there. Critics, moreover, conveniently omit to mention that (a) the agreement with the Iraqi government to withdraw our troops on a timeline unrelated to conditions on the ground was made by Bush, not Obama, and that (b) Bush reluctantly made that agreement precisely because Iraqis were demanding that Americans get out of their country.

The war became unpopular in the United States because it seemed unconnected to U.S. security interests: so much sacrifice on behalf of ingrates, while Iran exploited the mayhem to muscle in. There was no public appetite for a long-range U.S. military presence. What would be the point, when Bush had given the increasingly hostile Iraqi government the power to veto U.S. military operations to which it objected, and had agreed that our forces would not use Iraqi territory as a base of operations against Iran, Syria, or any other country? (See 2008 Status of Forces Agreement, articles 4 and 27.) This was not post-war Europe or Japan, where the enemy had been vanquished. Most Americans did not see the point of further risking American lives in order to stop anti-American Shiites and anti-American Sunnis from having at each other, as they’ve been doing to great lethal effect for 14 centuries.

ISIS (now, the Islamic State) got its start as al-Qaeda in Iraq, the primary culprit (along with Iran) in the Iraqi civil war. ISIS thus long predates Obama’s presidency. Furthermore, the oft-repeated GOP talking-point that al-Qaeda in Iraq was defeated by the Bush troop surge is a gross exaggeration. Our jihadist enemies could not be defeated in Iraq, because Iraq was never their sole base of operations. Since we’ve never had a strategy to defeat them globally, we were never going to do more than temporarily tamp them down in Iraq. They were always going to wait us out. They were always going to reemerge, in Iraq and elsewhere.

One of the places in which they regrouped was Syria. That made perfect sense, because Syria — the client of al-Qaeda’s long-time supporter, Iran — was always a waystation for jihadists seeking to fight American and Western forces in Iraq. Meanwhile, there was an internal Syrian uprising against the Assad regime. To be sure, the revolt had some secular components; but it was thoroughly coopted by the Muslim Brotherhood (as analyst Hassan Hassan comprehensively outlined in Foreign Affairs in early 2013).

Notwithstanding the Republicans’ ISIS myopia, it was not the only jihadist presence in Syria — not even close. Al-Qaeda still had a franchise there (al-Nusrah), along with several other tentacles. Importantly, in its rivalry with breakaway ISIS, al-Qaeda has adopted the Muslim Brotherhood approach of ground-up revolution — the antithesis of the Islamic State’s top-down strategy of forcibly expanding its declared caliphate and implementing sharia full-scale.

As Tom Joscelyn perceptively explained in 2015 congressional testimony, al-Qaeda is attempting to spark jihadist uprisings in Muslim-majority countries while appealing to local populations with fundamentalist education initiatives. Like the Brotherhood, al-Qaeda leaders now preach a gradualist implementation of sharia, which is more appealing to most Middle Eastern Muslims than ISIS’s inflexibility and emphasis on sharia’s barbaric hudud penalties (mutilation, stoning, scourging, etc.). Understand: Al-Qaeda is just as anti-American as it has ever been. In Syria, however, its shrewd approach has enabled the network to insinuate itself deeply into the forces that oppose both Assad and ISIS. So has the Brotherhood.

These forces are the “moderates” that Republicans, apparently including Trump, claim Obama failed to support, creating the purported “vacuum” out of which ISIS emerged. The charge is doubly specious because Obama actually did provide these “moderates” with plenty of support. The GOP rap on Obama is that he failed to jump with both feet into the Syria civil war and take the side of “moderates.” But jumping in with both feet, at the urging of Beltway Republicans, is exactly what Obama did on behalf of the “moderates” in Libya. How’d that work out?

Our challenge in the Middle East is that sharia supremacism fills all vacuums. It was this ideology that created ISIS long before President Obama came along. And if ISIS were to disappear tomorrow, sharia supremacism would still be our challenge. It is critical to be an effective political opposition to the Obama Left. But being effective means not letting the political part warp our judgment, especially where national security is concerned.

— Andrew C. McCarthy is as senior policy fellow at the National Review Institute and a contributing editor of National Review.

Here is another good opposing view:

Fact Check: Were Obama and Hillary Founders of ISIS? You Bet

AFP

AFP

Breitbart, by Kenneth R. Timmerman, Aug. 12, 2016:

Even the left-stream media is now acknowledging that Donald Trump “has a point” when he blasts Hilary and Obama for creating ISIS.

“Hillary Clinton is vulnerable. ISIS did gain strength during her time as Secretary of State,” said ABC News correspondent Martha Raddatz.

Conservative talk show host Hugh Hewitt tried to give Mr. Trump an out. “I know what you meant,” he suggested. “You meant that he [Obama] created the vacuum, he lost the peace.”

“No,” Trump replied. “I meant, he’s the founder of ISIS. I do. He was the most valuable player. I give him the most valuable player award. I give her, too, by the way, Hillary Clinton.”

Trump is correct – and quite literally, so.

First, a document. Then some history.

Thanks to Judicial Watch, we now have an August 2012 defense intelligence report on the civil war in Syria and the situation in Iraq that openly states that the policy of the United States and its allies was to support the Salafist opposition to Syrian president Bashar al-Assad.

That opposition, at the time spearheaded by Al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) and the Islamic State of Iraq (ISI), soon morphed into the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham, ISIS.

The report appears to have originated from U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) in Iraq, well before their intelligence product was tarnished by political interference from top commanders in 2014 aimed at diminishing the threat from ISIS.

Here’s what the report, originally stamped SECRET, actually says:

 AQI, through the spokesman of the Islamic State of Iraq (ISI), Abu Muhammad al- Adnani… is calling on the Sunnis in Iraq, especially the tribes in the border regions (between Iraq and Syria), to wage war against the Syrian regime…

Opposition forces are trying to control the eastern areas (Hasaka and Der Zor) adjacent to the Western Iraqi provinces (Mosul and Anbar), in addition to neighboring Turkish borders. Western countries, the Gulf States and Turkey are supporting these efforts… [emphasis mine]

There is the possibility of establishing a declared or undeclared Salafist principality in Eastern Syria (Hasak and Der Zor), and this is exactly what the supporting powers to the opposition want…

It is no secret that the United States was supporting the Syrian opposition in 2012 and even until very recently. In December 2012, thanks in large measure to the active lobbying of Mrs. Clinton and U.S. Ambassador to Syria Robert Ford, Obama declared that the United States considered the opposition as “the legitimate representative of the Syrian people.”

What was secret until the release of this August 2012 defense intelligence report is that the United States knew that the Syrian opposition was dominated by al Qaeda in Iraq and the Islamic State of Iraq, groups that merged and morphed into what today we call ISIS.

So Donald Trump is literally correct. Obama and Hillary created ISIS. They figure among the founding fathers of the world’s most brutal terrorist organization. They deserve ISIS Most Valuable Player awards for their efforts.

Some of America’s enemies, such as Ayatollah Khamenei of Iran, have also accused the United States of creating ISIS – but as a tool for encroaching on Iran’s efforts to dominate the Muslim world. In fact, Obama and Hillary’s policies have simultaneously favored Iran and its rise to regional dominance, standing aside as Iran filled the vacuum in Iraq with its own militias and allowing Iranian troops and weapons to flow onto battlefields in Yemen, Syria, Lebanon, Libya and beyond.

Other documents obtained by Judicial Watch show that the United States was also complicit with arms shipments from Benghazi to the jihadi rebel groups in Syria.

These particular shipments were distinct from the more publicized case of al Entisar, a Libyan fishing vessel that arrived in Iskanderiyah, Turkey, crammed with weapons in late August 2012.

The shipments described in this recently declassified document were sent directly to small Syrian ports under rebel control and included RPG grenade-launchers, sniper rifles, and ammunition for 125mm and 155mm howitzers.

As I revealed two years ago, the U.S. backed arms shipments to ISIS and its allies in Syria appear to have been run out of the White House by then-counterterrorism advisor (and current CIA director) John Brennan. Running the clandestine arms shipments outside official channels allowed Obama and his allies – including Mrs. Clinton, who supported the arms shipments – to withhold that information from Congress.

Deflecting attention from these arms shipments is precisely why Obama and Hillary hatched their “blame-it-on-a-YouTube-video” narrative as the cause of the Benghazi attacks. It was a deliberate deception to trick the American people and cover-up their misdeeds.

Obama’s disastrous withdrawal of U.S. combat forces from Iraq in December 2011 clearly enhanced the ability of AQI and ISI to seize control of large portions of Iraqi territory and certainly contributed to the birth of ISIS. It also opened the door for Iran to fill the vacuum.

But as the August 2012 defense intelligence report states, that was the plan all along. Obama and Hillary wanted to create an ISIS-controlled enclave in Syria, “in order to isolate the Syrian regime, which is considered the strategic depth of the Shia expansion (Iraq and Iran).”

Donald Trump was right. Again.

Kenneth R. Timmerman is the author of Deception: the Making of the YouTube Video Hillary and Obama Blamed for Benghazi, released on July 19 and is now in its 4thprinting.

Also see:

ISIS Intel Was Cooked, House Panel Finds

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A leading U.S. general pressured his intelligence analysts into playing down the ISIS and al Qaeda threats, according to a Congressional task force.

Daily Beast, by Nancy Youssef, Aug. 9, 2016:

A House Republican task force has found that officials from the U.S. military’s Central Command altered intelligence reports to portray the U.S. fight against ISIS and al Qaeda in a more positive light than lower-level analysts believed was warranted by the facts on the ground, three officials familiar with the task force’s findings told The Daily Beast.

A roughly 10-page report on the controversy is expected to be released by the end of next week, two officials said. While it contains no definitive evidence that senior Obama administration officials ordered the reports to be doctored, the five-month investigation did corroborate earlier reports that analysts felt the leaders of CENTCOM’s intelligence directorate pressured them to conclude that the threat from ISIS was not as ominous as the analysts believed, the officials said.

“The investigation is ongoing but the report substantiates the claims” that intelligence reports were altered, one official familiar with the report explained to The Daily Beast. Another official said that the investigation could remain open even after report is released.

The task force, led by members of the House Armed Services and Intelligence committees and the  Defense Appropriations subcommittee, was created after The Daily Beast first reported that more than 50 analysts had filed a formal complaint alleging their reports on ISIS and al Qaeda’s branch in Syria were being inappropriately altered by senior officials. Some told to The Daily Beast they felt they were working in a hostile, toxic office where they felt “bullied” to draw conclusions not supported by the facts.

Some of the intelligence made its way into briefings presented to President Obama. However, administration officials have consistently said that they have confidence in CENTCOM’s reports and that they don’t believe White House policy was guided by false or misleading analysis.

The House committee cannot directly punish officials found to have acted inappropriately. But the fact that the appropriations committee was part of the investigation implies that if the military doesn’t respond to the findings, lawmakers could punish CENTCOM by curtailing funds.

CENTCOM officials told The Daily Beast they cannot comment on the report as they have yet to receive it. There also is separate Department of Defense Inspector General investigation into the claims which is ongoing and could release its findings as early as this fall, one official said. The DoD IG report could make recommendations that CENTCOM must act on.

But some of CENTCOM’s intelligence analysts already are concerned that the DoD IG report will not have as much teeth as the House Republican task force report. These military analysts told The Beast that the head of CENTCOM’s intelligence directorate, Maj. Gen. Steven Grove, and his civilian deputy, Gregory Ryckman, had deleted emails and files from computer systems before the inspector general could examine them.

Even the House Republican investigation faced obstacles to its work. Analysts told The Daily Beast, that CENTCOM officials were, at times, in the room while they spoke to House investigators, making some feel they could not speak candidly.

What remains unclear is what led CENTCOM to call for more positive conclusions. Was it a decision by Grove or Ryckman or did come from higher up?

As part of a normal deployment rotation, Grove left CENTCOM’s intelligence directorate this summer and now is stationed at the Pentagon as director of the Army Quadrennial Defense Review Office. He has been replaced by Maj. Gen. Mark R. Quantock. Ryckman remains in the same position.

After the analysts’ complaints emerged publicly, President Obama, Secretary of Defense Ash Carter and current CENTCOM commander Army Gen. Joseph Votel have called for what Carter described as “unvarnished intelligence.”

Ex-CIA spook who whitewashed Benghazi endorses Hillary

Hillary Clinton Photo: Reuters

Hillary Clinton Photo: Reuters

New York Post, by Kenneth R.  Timmerman, Aug. 5, 2016:

Hillary has become a spook’s candidate. Former deputy CIA Director Michael Morell, who so conveniently covered her tracks in Benghazi, has now confirmed it.

In a glowing endorsement his friends at The New York Times prominently featured Friday, Morell gave his full-throated support to Clinton, while insisting that he was no partisan and had even voted Republican in the past.

Like an obedient party hack vying for a new job, Morell spouted the party line that Donald Trump was “not only unqualified for the job, but he may well pose a threat to our national security.”

Those are strong words, especially coming from someone who we are led to believe is an unimpeachable source. But is he?

The “non-partisan” Morell was caught “mis-speaking” to Congress about his role in sanitizing the infamous CIA talking points prepared for US Ambassador Susan Rice to deliver on the Sunday talk shows after the Benghazi attacks. And when he was caught out, like a faithful soldier, he fell on his sword.

Here’s how it happened: After Susan Rice’s outlandish claims on the Sunday talk shows that the Benghazi attacks began as a spontaneous protest over a “hateful” YouTube video, Congress began asking where she had gotten that information. This is how lawmakers discovered that the intelligence community had drafted her talking points, with input from the White House and Hillary Clinton’s staff.

Early drafts of the talking points included a mention of al Qaeda. But that reference was removed in the final drafts. Sen. Lindsay Graham explained to me what happened next.

“On Nov. 27, 2012, Morell and Susan Rice came into my office,” he told me. “I asked Morell who changed [the talking points]. He said, the FBI deleted the reference to al Qaeda because of an ongoing criminal investigation. So I called the FBI. They said, no, they didn’t change the talking points. They were furious.”

Apparently, that was an understatement: Someone at a senior level at FBI called the CIA to protest directly. Graham continued the story: “At 4 p.m. that day, CIA called me and said Morell ‘mis-spoke’ in his meeting with me, and that CIA deleted [the reference to al Qaeda], but they couldn’t give a reason why.”

Graham thought the reason was obvious: “If the truth had been known that al Qaeda killed four Americans seven weeks before an election, it would have been a different political story.”

Remember what Obama and his surrogates were saying? “Osama is dead, GM is alive.” That was their campaign mantra.

In fact, it was Morell himself who made those changes.

Morell subsequently testified before the House Select Committee on Intelligence, and eventually before the Benghazi Select Committee, twisting himself into a pretzel to explain why he removed any mention of the al Qaeda involvement in the attacks.

He ultimately claimed he believed news reports calling the Benghazi attacks a protest gone wild were more credible than repeated e-mails and cables from his own station chief in Libya insisting there had never been a protest.

It was an admission of gross incompetence — or partisanship. But that was the party line Clinton was putting out.

Morell was rewarded after the 2012 election. When he retired from CIA, Morell took a position with Beacon Global Strategies, a company cofounded by Andrew Shapiro and Philippe Reines, members of Hillary Clinton’s inner circle at the State Department.

In his Times op-ed, Morell claims Donald Trump is an “unwitting agent” of Russia because he makes friendly remarks toward Putin. But Trump has never taken a dime from Putin. As we now know, Clinton and her husband have both profited handsomely from their relations to Russian state-owned banks and corporations — and actually helped Russia get its hands on a company with rights to a fifth of US uranium. Does that make her a “witting agent” of Russia?

This former spook’s willingness to skewer the truth on behalf of a political patron should suffice to make any thinking person reject his judgment.

As for the truth about Hillary, well, we’ve seen her selling political favors to foreign countries and companies while secretary of state through the Clinton Foundation. And lying to the public incessantly — about Benghazi, her e-mails, you name it. Just imagine what she’ll do if elected president.

Kenneth R. Timmerman’s latest book, Deception: the Making of the YouTube Video Hillary and Obama Blamed for Benghazi, was released two weeks ago and is already in its 4th printing.

Syria’s Nusra Front Breaks from Al-Qaeda

AFP

AFP

Breitbart, by John Hayward, July 29, 2016:

The Nusra Front, formally known as Jabhat al-Nusra, has been al-Qaeda’s franchise in Syria since late 2011. The Syrian group’s leader has announced it will now cut its ties with al-Qaeda and become independent, with al-Qaeda’s blessing.

The announcement came from Nusra Front leader Abu Mohammed al-Julani in his first video statement. As the BBC reports, Julani announced that his group would be renamed Jabhat Fateh al-Sham, which translates to “Front for the Conquest of Syria/the Levant,” and will have “no affiliation to any external entity.”

The reason for the split, and the reason al-Qaeda endorsed it, was to “remove the pretext used by powers, including the U.S. and Russia, to bomb Syrians.” In other words, Julani thinks his group has been unfairly targeted because it was linked to al-Qaeda, and now that it has been formally rebranded as an independent entity, foreign powers will no longer have an excuse to bomb them.

Al-Qaeda second-in-command Ahmed Hassan Abu al-Khayr said Nusra’s leadership had been instructed to “go ahead with what protects the interests of Islam and Muslims and what protects jihad.”

“The brotherhood of Islam is stronger than any organisational links that change and go away,” declared al-Qaeda’s number one, Ayman al-Zawahiri.

The Russians do not need much of a pretext to bomb enemies of the Assad regime, and the U.S. clearly is not buying this “rebranding” strategy.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest, not even troubling himself to use the Nusra Front’s new name, said:

The United States continues to assess that Nusra Front leaders maintain the intent to conduct eventual attacks in and against the West and there continues to be increasing concern about Nusra Front’s growing capacity for external operations that could threaten both the United States and Europe.

In fact, a report earlier this year from the Institute for the Study of War, and American Enterprise Institute, portrayed the Nusra Front as “much more dangerous to the U.S. than the ISIS model in the long run.”

“We judge any organization, including this one, much more by its actions, its ideology, its goals,” added State Department spokesman John Kirby. “Thus far, there’s no change to our views about this particular group. We certainly see no reasons to believe that their actions or their objectives are any different. And they are still considered a foreign terrorist organization.”

Perhaps it would have been more crafty for the al-Qaeda bosses to avoid admitting they ordered the “breakaway” as a propaganda ploy to “protect jihad.” Also, they are making the charade much less convincing by actively seeking closer ties with other Islamist groups in Syria.

CNN notes that just two weeks ago, the United States announced closer cooperation with Russia against the Nusra Front to “restore the cessation of hostilities, significantly reduce the violence and help create the space for a genuine and credible political transition” in Syria. Nusra is one of the groups excluded from the cessation of hostilities agreement, along with ISIS.

Of course, it is unlikely that anyone in the Nusra Front or al-Qaeda expected the Western world to accept this “rebranding” effort and let them go on their merry way. The goal is to create propaganda opportunities with other Islamist groups, who can be nudged into the al-Qaeda umbrella by Nusra leaders who are supposedly no longer al-Qaeda operatives, but share their “core ideology.” There will be much caterwauling about how the Americans and Russians are still unfairly bombing “Jabhat Fateh al-Sham.”

CNN quoted analysts who also made an interesting case that the Nusra “rebranding” and the involvement of al-Qaeda second-in-command Masri are an indication Masri – supposedly “under arrest” in Iran, with the details rather murky, until recently – is actually in Syria, and may be preparing to take charge of al-Qaeda from Zawahiri.

This would enable Masri to continue Zawahiri’s strategy of spreading jihadi ideology without explicit connections to al-Qaeda at present, with an eye toward reasserting al-Qaeda as the Wal-Mart of jihad once ISIS has been defeated.

The report by the Institute for the Study of War/AEI, mentioned above, made the case that Nusra was “quietly entwining itself with the Syrian population and Syrian opposition,” and was “waiting in the wings to pick up the mantle of global jihad once ISIS falls,” as ISW president Kim Kagan put it.

This would make Nusra much more difficult to target than ISIS, which is not exactly easy to target, once it sinks roots into urban conquests, lines up human shields, and positions them to keep Syria in a state of war for years to come, no matter what political deals might be struck with other insurgent factions. From that constant turmoil, they could supply al-Qaeda with weapons and trained fighters to strike targets across the world.

Speaking in January, Kagan observed that the Nusra Front chose not to overtly attack the West “because the al-Qaeda leadership’s priority is preserving success in Syria and avoiding being targeted by the U.S.” This “rebranding” maneuver fits neatly into the strategy she described.

Also see:

Al Qaeda in Iran

(Credit: Newscom)

(Credit: Newscom)

Weekly Standard, by Stephan F. Hayes and Thomas Joscelyn, THE MAGAZINE: From the August 1 Issue:

Last week, President Barack Obama’s administration dismissed reports of Iranian support for al Qaeda as the product of fevered minds. Claims of collaboration between the Islamic regime and the terrorist organization are little more than “baseless conspiracy theories,” an Obama administration official told The Weekly Standard. “Anyone who thinks Iran was or is in bed with al Qaeda doesn’t know much about either.”

That group of ignoramuses apparently includes the Obama administration’s top official on terror financing. Adam J. Szubin, the Treasury Department’s acting undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, this week designated three senior al Qaeda officials operating in Iran. A statement explaining the designations says Treasury “took action to disrupt the operations, fundraising, and support networks that help al-Qaida move money and operatives from South Asia and across the Middle East by imposing sanctions on three al-Qaida senior members located in Iran.”

One of the three operatives is part of a “new generation” of al Qaeda leaders, replenishing the ranks of those who have been killed by the United States and its allies. Treasury identifies that man, Faisal Jassim Mohammed al-Amri al-Khalidi, as the chief of al Qaeda’s Military Commission and a key operative in al Qaeda’s global network, responsible for weapons acquisition and a liaison between al Qaeda leaders and associated groups.

This is not the first time the Obama administration has targeted the Iran-al Qaeda relationship. The Treasury and State Departments publicly accused the Iranian regime of allowing al Qaeda to operate inside Iran at least 10 times between July 2011 and August 2014. Testifying before Congress in February 2012, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper described the relationship as a “marriage of convenience.”

There is considerably more evidence of Iran’s support for al Qaeda in the collection of documents captured during the raid of Osama bin Laden’s compound on Abbottabad, Pakistan, in 2011. Senior U.S. intelligence officials have told The Weekly Standard that the document collection includes letters describing the nature of the relationship between Iran and al Qaeda and specific ways in which Iran has aided al Qaeda’s network and operations. The Obama administration has refused to release the documents to the public and fought to keep them hidden during the negotiations over the Iran nuclear deal.

The Weekly Standard contacted the Obama administration official who last week dismissed Iran-al Qaeda cooperation to see if the new designations changed his view that claims of Iranian support for al Qaeda are “baseless conspiracy theories.” He replied: “Al Qaeda has long used Iran as a transit and facilitation point between South Asia and the Middle East, sometimes with the knowledge of some Iranian authorities. At the same time, the Iranian government has imprisoned some al Qaeda operatives, and we believe today’s action provides another opportunity for Iran to take action against al Qaeda.”

Think about that for a moment. The Obama administration accuses Iran of harboring senior al Qaeda operatives and sanctions those operatives in an effort to prevent them from hurting America and its interests. But rather than scold Iran for continuing to provide safe haven to terrorists devoted to killing Americans, the administration spins the move as an “opportunity” for Iran.

An opportunity? Why would the Iranian regime need the U.S. government to provide an “opportunity” to take action against the very terrorists it has been supporting for more than a decade? This is illogical, insulting, and dangerous. But it is consistent with the kind of irresponsible whitewashing of the radical regime that has become a trademark of the Obama administration’s approach to Iran.

The Obama administration provided Iran with billions of dollars through the nuclear deal despite having evidence in its possession that the country was providing safe haven to senior al Qaeda terrorists and despite acknowledging, publicly, that some of those funds would be used for terror. The administration kept secret crucial details of the agreement from Congress, concessions that the Iranians are now citing, convincingly, as evidence that they fleeced the United States and its partners. The administration withheld from the public and from Congress documents from the bin Laden raid that make clear the extent of the support Iran has provided al Qaeda over the years.

And now the Obama administration pretends that another public accusation of Iran’s complicity in al Qaeda’s terror is just an “opportunity” for the terror-sponsoring regime to stop doing what it is committed to doing?

Iran’s support for al Qaeda is not a “baseless conspiracy theory.” It’s a dangerous reality.