U.S.: Strategic Objectives in the Middle East

Gatestone Institute, by Peter Huessy, June 22, 2017:

  • The new “test” of our alliance will be whether the assembled nations will join in removing the hateful parts of such a doctrine from their communities.
  • What still has to be considered is the U.S. approach to stopping Iran from filling the vacuum created by ridding the region of the Islamic State (ISIS), as well as Iran’s push for extending its path straight through to the Mediterranean.

The tectonic plates in the Middle East have shifted markedly with President Trump’s trip to Saudi Arabia and Israel, and his announced new regional policy.

The trip represented the beginning of a major but necessary shift in US security policy.

For much of the last nearly half-century, American Middle East policy has been centered on the “peace process” and how to bring Israel and the Palestinians to agreement on a “two-state” solution for two peoples — a phrase that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas refuses to say.

First was shuttle diplomacy during 1973-74 in the Nixon administration; then second, in 1978, the Camp David agreement and the recognition of Israel by Egypt, made palatable by $7 billion in new annual US assistance to the two nations; third, the anti-Hizballah doctrine, recently accurately described by National Security Advisor General H.R. McMaster, as Iran, since 1983, started spreading its terror to Lebanon and elsewhere in the region. This last effort was often excused by many American and European analysts as a result somehow, of supposed American bad faith. Fourth, came the birth, in 1992, of the “Oslo Accords” where some Israelis and Palestinians imagined that a two-state solution was just another round of negotiations away.

Ironically, during the decade after Oslo, little peace was achieved; instead, terror expanded dramatically. The Palestinians launched three wars, “Intifadas,” against Israel; Al Qaeda launched its terror attacks on U.S. Embassies in Africa; and Iran, Hizballah, and Al Qaeda together carried out the forerunner attacks against America of 9/11/2001.

Since 9/11, despite wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, terrorism has not only failed to recede; on the contrary, it has expanded. Iran has become the world’s biggest state sponsor of terrorism, and the Islamic State (ISIS) has tried to establish a transnational “Islamic caliphate.” Literally tens of thousands of terror attacks have been carried out since 9/11 by those claiming an Islamic duty to do so. These assaults on Western civilization have taken place on bridges, cafes, night clubs, offices, military recruitment centers, theaters, markets, and sporting events — not only across the West but also in countries where Muslims have often been the primary victims.

Particularly condemnable have been the improvised explosive device (IED) attacks against U.S. soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan, perpetrated to a great extent by Iran, according to U.S. military testimony before Congress.

All the while, we in the West keep trying to convince ourselves that, as a former American president thought, if there were a peace deal between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, most of the terrorist attacks we see in Europe and the United States “would disappear.”

No matter how hard we may rhetorically push the “peace process”, there is no arc of history that bends naturally in that direction. Rather, nations such as the United States together with its allies must create those alliances best able to meet the challenges to peace and especially defeat the totalitarian elements at the core of Islamist ideology.

If anything, the so-called Middle East “peace process” has undercut chances of achieving a sound U.S. security policy. While the search for a solution to the Israel-Palestinian “problem” dominated American thinking about Middle East peace for so many decades, other far more serious threats materialized but were often ignored, not the least of which was the rise of Iran as the world’s most aggressive terrorist.

The United States has now moved in a markedly more promising and thoughtful direction.

The new American administration has put together an emerging coalition of nations led by the United States that seeks five objectives:

(1) the defeat of Islamic State;

(2) the formation of a coalition of the major Arab nations, especially Egypt and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, to clean up in their own back yards financing terrorism and providing terrorists with sanctuary. As Elliott Abrams, an adviser to former U.S. President George W. Bush, cautions us, however, this will not be an easy effort: “Partnerships with repressive regimes may in some cases exacerbate rather than solve the problem for us” but, Abrams says, “gradual reform is exactly the right approach…”;

3) “driving out” sharia-inspired violence and human rights abuses from the region’s mosques and madrassas;

(4) a joint partnership with Israel as part of an emerging anti-Iran coalition — without letting relations with the Palestinian authority derail United States and Israeli security interests; and

(5) the adoption of a strategy directly to challenge Iran’s quest for regional and Islamic hegemony, while ending its role in terrorism.

Defeating Islamic State

Defeating ISIS began with an accelerated military campaign and a new American-led strategy to destroy the organization rather than to seek its containment. According to the new U.S. Secretary of Defense, James Mattis, “Our intention is that the foreign fighters do not survive the fight to return home to North Africa, to Europe, to America, to Asia. We’re going to stop them there and take apart the caliphate.”

Secretary of Defense James Mattis. (Dept. of Defense/Brigitte N. Brantley)

So far, the United States coalition has driven ISIS from 55,000 square kilometers of territory in Iraq and Syria.

A New Coalition

Apart from a strategy to counter ISIS, the Trump administration also called on our allies in the Middle East to put together a new joint multi-state effort to stop financing terrorism. Leading the multi-state effort will be the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the United States, which together will supposedly open a new center dedicated to the elimination of terrorist financing. Positive results are not guaranteed, but it is a step in the right direction.

According to Abdul Hadi Habtoor, the center will exchange information about financing networks, adopt means to cut off funding from terrorist groups, and hopefully blacklist Iran’s jihadist army, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). These measures in turn will help eliminate the sanctuaries from which terrorists plot and plan.

This move also places emphasis on the responsibility of states to eliminate terrorism. As President Trump said, each country — where it is sovereign — has to “carry the weight of their own self-defense“, be “pro-active” and responsible for “eradicating terrorism”, and “to deny all territory to the foot soldiers of evil”.

This determination was underscored by many Arab countries breaking diplomatic relations with Qatar for its support of Iran, the Muslim Brotherhood and ISIS. Most of Qatar’s Arab neighbors, including the Saudis, Egypt, and the UAE did so, while the US, although denouncing Qatar’s support of terrorism, continues to maintain access to, and use of, its critical military base there.

In short, the U.S. is playing good-cop, bad-cop in the region, while U.S. allies are putting together what Josh Rogin of the Washington Post described as “a regional security architecture encompassing countries on the periphery of Iran.”

Such an approach is not without risk: Turkey, allied with Iran and Qatar, has already has pledged to help Qatar defy the Gulf States’ trade cut-off. If Turkey, for example, seeks to move its promised aid shipments to Qatar through the Suez Canal, the ships could possibly be blocked by Egypt or attacked on the high seas. Does the U.S. then come to the assistance of a NATO member — Turkey — against an ally in the strategic coalition?

Drive Hateful Ideology Out

A companion challenge by the new American President underscored this new security effort. President Trump said to the assembled nations of the Islamic conference that they have to expel the ugly Islamist ideology from the mosques and madrassas that recruit terrorists and justify their actions.

Trump said: “Drive them out of your places of worship”. Such words had never been spoken so clearly by an American president, especially to the collection of nearly all the Islamic-majority countries (minus the Shi’ite bloc) gathered together.

The president’s audience doubtless understood that he was speaking of the doctrine of sharia (Islamic law). The new “test” of our alliance will be whether the assembled nations will join in removing the hateful parts of the doctrine from their communities. It was a sharp but critical departure from the previous American administration’s message in Cairo in 2009, and placed the Islamic doctrine that seeks to establish the sharia throughout the world in a contained context.

New Israeli Partnership

With Israel, the administration has cemented the next part of its strategy. Here the Trump administration successfully improved our political and military relations with Israel. Markedly so. One part of that effort was enhanced missile-defense cooperation called for in the FY18 United States defense budget, specifically to deal with Iranian and Iranian-allied missile threats.

On relations with the Palestinian Authority, the administration has moved to improve matters but has not moved to advocate a two-state solution — for which there is no contemplated security framework sufficient to protect Israel.

Challenge and Roll Back Iran

The final part of the administration’s strategy starts with a thorough review of our Iran strategy and the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), or “nuclear deal”, with Iran. As Max Singer recently wrote, even if we discount what secretive nuclear capability Iran may now have, the Iranian regime will at the very least be much closer to producing nuclear weapons down the road than when the JCPOA was agreed to.

As Ambassador John Bolton has warned the nuclear deal with Iran did nothing to restrain Iranian harmful behavior: “Defiant missile launches… support for the genocidal Assad regime… backing of then Houthi insurgency in Yemen… worldwide support for terrorism… and commitment to the annihilation of Israel” continue.

In addition, uranium enrichment, heavy water production, the concealed military dimensions of warhead development and joint missile and nuclear work with North Korea all lend a critical urgency to countering Iran’s lethal efforts. The United States did not make these counter-efforts any easier by providing to Tehran $100 billion in escrowed Iranian funds, equivalent to nearly one quarter of the Islamic Republic’s annual GDP.

The United States’ and Europe’s easing of sanctions on Iran has helped reintegrate Iran into global markets via mechanisms such as the electronic payment system run by the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunications (SWIFT). That, in turn, has helped Iran expand dramatically its military modernization budget by 33%, including deals worth tens of billions of dollars in military hardware with China and Russia.

Added to that is Iranian financial- and weapons-support for foreign fighters in Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Lebanon and Afghanistan. Iran’s significant support to the Houthi rebels in Yemen includes weaponry, financing and logistical support, including advanced offensive missiles. The Houthis regularly attempt to carry out missile attacks against Saudi oil facilities.

Such Iran activity is described by the Commander of U.S. Central Command, General Joseph Votel, as “the most significant threat to the Central Region and to our national interests and the interest of our partners and allies”.

As such, it can only be challenged through exactly the kind of military, political, and economic coalition the Trump administration is seeking to band together, which would include the Gulf Arab nations, especially Saudi Arabia, as well as Egypt, Jordan, and Israel.

The administration’s five-step strategy has a chance to work. It creates a policy to destroy ISIS; oppose Islamic terrorism and specifically the imposition of sharia; adopt measures to go after the financing of such terrorism; implement improvements in Gulf allies’ military capabilities — including missile defenses — parallel with pushing NATO members to meet their military spending obligations; put back into place a sound and cooperative relationship with Israel; and specifically contain and roll back Iranian hegemonic ambitions and its terror-master ways.

What still has to be considered, however, is the U.S. approach to stopping Iran from filling the vacuum created by ridding the region of ISIS, as well as Iran’s push for extending its path straight through to the Mediterranean.

If successful, some modicum of peace may be brought to the Middle East. And the arc of history will have finally been shaped toward America’s interests and those of its allies, rather than — however inadvertently — toward its mortal enemies.

Dr. Peter Huessy is President of GeoStrategic Analysis, a defense consulting firm he founded in 1981, and was the senior defense consultant at the National Defense University Foundation for more than 20 years.

Saudi Game of Thrones: King Appoints Son Crown Prince After Power Struggle

Saudi Interior Ministry via AP

Breitbart, by John Hayward, June 22, 2017:

Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz made a surprise announcement on Wednesday morning that his son Mohammed bin Salman, 31, would become the new crown prince of the kingdom.

As it happens, Saudi Arabia already had a Crown Prince, Mohammed bin Nayef. Nayef is over 25 years senior to Mohammed bin Salman and was also the deputy prime minister and interior minister of Saudi Arabia. He was stripped of all these positions at once.

He appeared to handle his demotion quite well, having no doubt seen the writing on the wall ever since Salman became deputy crown prince. “I am content,” said Nayef to his replacement, as quoted by Al Jazeera. “I am going to rest now. May God help you.”

To the dismay of the Western world, Nayef was considered one of the most pro-American of the Saudi royal family. He received counterterrorism training from the FBI and Scotland Yard in the eighties, maintained good relations with U.S. officials, and was instrumental as both an operational leader and spokesman in the Saudi war against al-Qaeda after 9/11.

His commitment to fighting the terrorist group did not waver after a 2009 suicide bomb attack against him. The CIA was sufficiently impressed with his work to give him a counterterrorism medal in February, personally awarded by CIA Director Mike Pompeo.

The new Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has been nicknamed “Mr. Everything” because he has been put in charge of just about everything in Saudi Arabia. He was the chief architect of the “Saudi Vision 2030” plan intended to make his country less dependent on oil money, a plan regarded as the biggest change to the Saudi economy in the country’s history.

Nayef, on the other hand, has been nicknamed “The Prince of Darkness” because of his role in Saudi intelligence. Saudi dissidents find nothing whimsical about the nickname, as they blame Nayef for using the al-Qaeda crackdown as a pretext for imprisoning the politically inconvenient.

The Saudi Vision 2030 plan put Mr. Everything at the helm of some $2 trillion in overseas investments on the reasonable proposition that breaking the country’s dependence on oil would involve buying a tremendous amount of stock in companies that do not sell oil and are not headquartered in Saudi Arabia. Among his many duties, Salman is the chairman of the national oil company, Saudi Aramco – the first member of the royal family to have such a direct role in managing the all-important corporation.

Mohammed bin Salman was popular when the reform program was launched, and he remains popular today. The UK Daily Mail notes that Saudi Arabia’s enormous youth population sees him as a rock star, a symbol of hope and prosperity for the future.

The Daily Mail floats rumors that Salman and Nayef were engaged in a fairly bitter power struggle behind the scenes, and it might not be over yet, even after the king moved to resolve it in Salman’s favor before his death. The deciding factor might simply have been that the king likes Salman better, and is impressed by his charisma, erudition, and 16-hour-day work ethic.

Another advantage to Salman is that his youth and energy suggest a certain stability for Saudi Arabia for decades to come. The previous king, Abdullah, was the world’s oldest monarch at the time of his death in early 2015 at age 90; King Salman is currently 81. Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman puts a younger face on the monarchy and might well end up occupying the throne for five decades.

Middle East Eye cites analysts who say the king wanted to reassure Western governments, regional allies, and business partners there would be “continuity in foreign and economic policies.” There was evidently very little confidence that Nayef would have offered such continuity.

Also, Middle East Eye observes that Nayef had a testy relationship with a crucial Saudi ally, Abu Dhabi’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed, while Salman and Zayed have become close friends.

Most intriguingly, a Saudi citizen told MEE that President Donald Trump’s visit to Saudi Arabia played a role in reshaping the monarchy, as King Salman took the occasion to convince Trump the new crown prince is “the right horse to back” despite Nayef’s favorable reputation in Washington.

The monarchy moved quickly to secure Salman in his new position, announcing that 31 of 34 royals supporting his ascension and arranging a meeting in Mecca for them to formally pledge allegiance within a matter of hours. The senior Islamic council swiftly endorsed the decision, followed by welcomes from the leaders of Saudi Arabia’s Sunni Muslim allies. The Saudi stock market added its congratulations by climbing over five and a half percent.

Some other Middle Eastern powers were less enthusiastic about the shift in Saudi leadership. Iranian state media grumbled that Crown Prince Salman’s ascension was a “soft coup” in which the “son becomes the successor of the father,” which would seem to betray a fundamental Iranian misunderstanding of how hereditary monarchy works.

Reuters suggests Iran correctly sees Salman’s ascension as a sign of more aggressive Saudi policy toward Tehran and its projects, such as the Houthi rebellion in Yemen and whatever the Qatari royal family has been up to for the past decade. Nayef’s focus was on al-Qaeda, while Salman has been an outspoken enemy of Iran, supporter of Saudi intervention in Yemen, and critic of Qatar. In fact, he is seen as one of the prime movers behind Saudi Arabia’s decision to isolate Qatar.

The Saudis will probably let Iran’s criticism roll off their backs, but Turkey is more problematic. The government of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is fairly close to Nayef but still working on building a relationship with Salman. It is not going terribly well, as Salman has refused every Turkish invitation to visit Ankara since he was named deputy crown prince.

Erdogan has expressed support for Qatar, putting it at odds with one of Salman’s major policy initiatives, and he disagrees with Salman’s dim view of the Muslim Brotherhood.

Middle East Eye cites Turkey-watchers who foresee a potentially serious conflict between Erdogan and Salman over Turkey’s least favorite Middle Eastern faction, the Kurds. Either as a power play, or because he sincerely favors their cause, Salman may support the Kurds in Syria – which would inflame Turkish fears of the Kurds carving out chunks of Turkey, Syria, and Iraq to form an independent state. Turkish media is reportedly speculating that Salman will threaten to put Saudi Arabia’s chips on the Kurds unless Erdogan backs away from supporting Qatar.

CNN notes that if Salman does succeed his father, he will be the first Saudi king who is not the son of national founder Ibn Saud, who became King Abdul Aziz al-Saud. Naming Mohammed bin Salman as his heir allowed King Salman to reshape the line of succession for decades, and perhaps centuries, to come.

It also puts Saudi Arabia more firmly under the guidance of the most liberal leader it has ever had, with respect to everything from women’s rights to representative government. Granted, that’s a fairly low bar to clear in one of the world’s most repressive countries, but it’s good to see a future king trying to clear it at a moment when the United States is realigning Middle East policy back toward Saudi Arabia and its allies

UTT Throwback Thursday: No Wider Plot?

Understanding the Threat, by John Guandolo, June 22, 2017:

If a Special Forces soldier was captured in a foreign land with which America was at war, would our enemy consider him a “lone wolf” disconnected from any “wider plot” or larger army?

On March 11, 2004, 10 bombs were detonated on four trains by Islamic jihadis in Madrid, Spain killing 191 people and injuring nearly 2000 others.  In analyzing the attacks, American academic Scott Atran, who investigated numerous Islamic jihadi attacks, said, “We’ve been looking at it closely for years and we’ve been briefed by everybody under the sun and … nothing connects them.”  Apparently, this was an “isolated” event conducted by “self-radicalized lone wolves.”

On November 5, 2009, muslim Army Major Nidal Malik Hasan stood on a table on base at Fort Hood, Texas, shouted “Allah u akbar,” and began shooting anyone he could.  When it was over, 14 were dead and over 40 people were wounded/injured.  Before the FBI even reached Fort Hood they publicly stated this was not an act of terrorism.  The extensive DoD after action report entitled “Protecting the Force” was chaired by VA Secretary Togo West and Admiral Vernon Clark (USN, ret) and made no mention of Islam, jihad, sharia, or anything which Major Hasan said were the reasons he did what he did.  The DoD assessed this was a case of  “workplace violence” with no wider plot connected to anyone else.  Apparently, Hasan was a “lone wolf.”

Soldiers at Fort Hood, Texas treat their fellow soldiers wounded by jihadi Major Nidal Hasan

On June 13, 2013, muslim Omar Mir Seddique Mateen killed 49 people and wounded over 50 others in a nightclub in Orlando, Florida.  As the attack was unfolding, Mateen let officials know he was associating himself with ISIS.  Mateen’s father was involved in Muslim Brotherhood/Hamas organizations in the United States and declared his support for the Taliban.  FBI Special Agent Ron Hopper stated the FBI interviewed Mateen three times beginning in 2013.  An investigation was opened, but was closed after the FBI was unable to tie Mateen to a wider plot. Apparently, Mateen was a “self-radicalized lone wolf.”

On Wednesday June 21, 2017, Canadian-muslim Amor Ftouhi yelled “Allah u akbar” and stabbed a police officer in the neck.  FBI Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Detroit office, David Gelios, said there is “nothing to suggest a wider plot.”

And so it goes.  Nearly 16 years after 9/11 and with all of America’s technology and bloated federal intelligence and law enforcement resources, there is not one ounce of logic nor an understanding of the threat.

In fact, the individuals who perpetrated these acts were not “lone wolves” who “self-radicalized.”  Like the Special Forces soldier mentioned in the opening sentence of this article, these men are a part of a large army, guided by doctrine, supported by nation-states, and dedicated to their focused singular objective.

Our enemy identifies itself as the “Global Islamic Movement” and tells us they are “muslims waging jihad in the cause of Allah to establish an Islamic State under sharia.”  All the jihadi organizations on the planet from ISIS to the Muslim Brotherhood say it.  100% of authoritative Islamic doctrine and the highest authorities in Islam, like Al Azhar University, say it.

Their paths to the objective may differ, but they all have the same objective.

There is a WIDER PLOT.  It is called the Global Islamic Movement.

It is the same Islam the West had to deal with at the Battle of Tours in 732 AD.

It is the same Islam from 1095 when the Crusades were launched in answer to over 450 years of muslim violence and incursion into Western lands.

It is the same Islam defeated at the miraculous Christian victory at the Battle of Lepanto in 1571.

It is the same Islam pushed back at the Gates of Vienna on September 11, 1683.

It is the same Islam America fought in our first war after the Revolution – the war against the muslims of the Barbary (Islamic) States.

Lieutenant Presley O’Bannon at Derna.

American is at war with this adversary again.  All of these muslim jihadis are not “lone wolves” but soldiers for Allah.

They are part of the wider plot called Islam.

ISIS Setting Up Support Networks to Move Terrorists to Europe, Asia

A member of the Syrian pro-government forces holds an Islamic State (IS) group flag after they entered the village of Dibsiafnan on the western outskirts of the Islamist’s Syrian bastion of Raqqa / Getty Images

Washington Free Beacon, by Bill Gertz, June 21, 2017:

The Islamic State is setting up networks to support the systematic movement of terrorists from the Middle East to Europe and Asia, according to U.S. defense officials.

“ISIS has several facilitators in place that assist the flow of fighters to Europe,” said one official who noted the group is exploiting travel networks used for large-scale human trafficking in the region. The networks include an organizational structure that has been discovered by U.S. and allied intelligence agencies to be using specific groups to help terrorists reach European soil. ISIS has assigned support personnel to the networks to facilitate the process.

No specific numbers were provided by the officials on ISIS fighters moving from strongholds in Syria and Iraq to Europe and Asia.

Many of the fighters, however, are returning nationals who joined ISIS several years ago where they received training and experience during Middle East conflicts. The fighters are regarded as hardened jihadists who will seek to infiltrate society and prepare for future attacks.

A second official said the use of human trafficking networks and refugees by ISIS has increased the danger that similar tactics will be used by the group to send fighters into the United States.

“Refugees from the Middle East could be exploited by ISIS to target the United States,” this official said.

The Trump administration is currently battling U.S. courts over President Trump’s executive order restricting travelers from entering the United States from six majority Muslim nations.

“There is always a possibility that a foreign fighter from a visa waiver country that has not been detected could return home to fly to the U.S. and conduct an attack,” the first official said.

“Our foreign fighter databases are good and information sharing is constantly improving but this scenario is plausible,” the official said. “Let’s not forget we have plenty of U.S. citizens that went to the so-called caliphate and the caliphate has over 100 nationalities on its bench.”

The threat was highlighted in Brussels Tuesday, where military security guards shot and killed a suspected terrorist who set off a small explosive device at a train station.

ISIS fighters also are moving in increasing numbers to Asia but it does not appear that ISIS is shifting its focus to Asia, the officials said.

“ISIS’s business model is to set up affiliates around the world they can leverage for worldwide attacks,” the first official said. “I think instead of shifting I would say attempting to expand with varying results.”

Asked about the overall ISIS threat to the United States and Europe, the officials said vehicle ramming attacks are increasing.

“The new tactic of renting or stealing large vehicles to ram in to crowded areas and ISIS’ own endorsement of these tactics present daunting challenges to intelligence and law enforcement officials,” the first official said. “We must work together to mitigate evolving threats.”

A report by the State Department’s Overseas Security Advisory Council noted that in the past six months, Islamic terrorists have conducted seven attacks in Germany, France, Sweden, and the United Kingdom, causing more than 50 deaths.

The danger is increasing, according to the June 7 report.

“The elevated Islamic extremist terrorist threat in Western Europe is expected to persist in 2017,” the report said.

“Some authorities assess that as ISIS continues to lose ground in Iraq and Syria, the group will focus on conducting attacks against the West in an attempt to maintain legitimacy among supporters,” the report added. “Operations and plotting may increase during times the group may consider symbolic or more permissive, such as holidays and busy travel months.”

The report said authorities in Europe have prevented a number of attacks since the beginning of the year. “The frequency and reach of terrorist activity affirms that the threat persists throughout the region,” it states.

The Islamic terror group is facing intense pressure from intelligence and law enforcement forces, according to the two officials with access to intelligence reports of the activities.

“The southeastern European region has been the gateway to Europe for foreign fighters wishing to travel west,” the first official said, adding that U.S. and allied nations are working hard to disrupt the logistics and support networks.

“This is especially reflected in ISIS’ rhetoric and propaganda—they are openly encouraging people to stay home and conduct knife and truck attacks,” the official added.

According to Interpol, over 4,000 human traffickers are operating in Europe and human trafficking within the continent is increasing.

Because of the ease of travel in Europe, “ISIS can leverage affordable modes of transportation to transverse Europe if they have documentation that will pass the scrutiny of border guards,” the official said.

A lack of coordination among European security services and porous borders that require minimal identification has boosted travel by ISIS fighters.

Army Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti, commander of the European Command, said in a speech last April that the battle against terrorism is difficult.

“This fight against terror and violent extremists will not be easy, nor will it be fast,” he said. “It is not a war of choice. It will take resources, determination, and resolve to see the end of terror in Europe.”

The European Command said the ISIS infiltration threat is a concern.

“To the south, we see a much more multi-faceted challenge of ungoverned spaces and unresponsive governments resulting in migrant flows of criminality, terrorism and foreign fighters in and out of these areas,” the command said in a statement.

“We are putting pressure on ISIL in many avenues,” the command said. “This is a long-term effort and not just a short-term challenge that we need to be thinking about. It will take a dedicated effort, not only from the air, but also on the ground to counter transnational threats.”

A key focus of the command is assessing threats to American forces and securing service members, civilians, family members, and facilities.

Meanwhile, the Pentagon announced on Tuesday that a key Islamic terror leader, Turki al Bin’ali, was killed in an airstrike in Syria May 31.

“Al Bin’ali had a central role in recruiting foreign terrorist fighters and provoking terrorist attacks around the world,” the Pentagon said in a statement.

“As chief cleric to ISIS since 2014, he provided propaganda to incite murder and other atrocities, attempted to legitimize the creation of the ‘caliphate,’ and was a close confidant of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.”

A Bahraini national, Bin’ali, 32, also used his propaganda writings and recorded lectures to attempt to “justify and encouraging the slaughter of innocents.”

The terrorist leader was active in recruiting ISIS fighters from Persian Gulf states to join the terror group in Syria. He also was involved in funding operations and giving propaganda lectures in Syria. He also sought to recruit rival al Qaeda terrorist leaders to join ISIS.

Islamic State destroys mosque where Baghdadi delivered first speech as ‘caliph’

Abu Bakr al Baghdadi delivering his first speech as “Caliph Ibrahim” at the Al-Nuri Mosque in Mosul in July 2014.

Long War Journal, by Thomas Joscelyn, June 21, 2017:

The Iraqi government announced today that the Great Mosque of Al-Nuri in Mosul has been destroyed. US Central Command (CENTCOM) subsequently released a statement accusing the Islamic State of demolishing the holy site.

The demolition of Al-Nuri is a milestone in the war against Abu Bakr al Baghdadi’s so-called caliphate. Baghdadi delivered his first sermon as “Caliph Ibrahim” from the pulpit at Al-Nuri on July 4, 2014. Just days earlier, Baghdadi’s spokesman, Abu Muhammad al Adnani, had declared that the group ruled over a caliphate stretching throughout large parts of Iraq and Syria.

“As our Iraqi Security Force partners closed in on the Al-Nuri mosque, ISIS destroyed one of Mosul and Iraq’s great treasures,” Maj. Gen. Joseph Martin, Commanding General of Combined Joint Forces Land Component Command-Operation Inherent Resolve, said in a statement. “This is a crime against the people of Mosul and all of Iraq, and is an example of why this brutal organization must be annihilated.”

“The responsibility of this devastation is laid firmly at the doorstep of ISIS,” Martin said, “and we continue to support our Iraqi partners as they bring these terrorists to justice.” Martin warned that the “battle for the liberation of Mosul is not yet complete, and we remain focused on supporting the ISF [Iraqi Security Forces] with that objective in mind.”

Via its Amaq News Agency, the Islamic State tried to blame coalition airstrikes for the mosque’s destruction. The statement, seen below, was released online earlier today.

However, there is no evidence indicating that the US-led coalition bombed the mosque, which was built centuries ago. Its iconic minaret, nicknamed “the hunchback,” famously leaned to one side.

Iraqi government sources have circulated images from the moments after the Islamic State detonated its explosives in the mosque.

Baghdadi’s speech at Al-Nuri was a seminal moment in the history of his group. He used the pulpit to call on Muslims around the world to join the new state.

“So let the world know that we are living today in a new era,” Baghdadi said. “Therefore, rush O Muslims to your state,” he argued later in the speech. “Yes, it is your state. Rush, because Syria is not for the Syrians, and Iraq is not for the Iraqis.”

“The State is a state for all Muslims,” Baghdadi continued. “The land is for the Muslims, all the Muslims. O Muslims everywhere, whoever is capable of performing hijrah [emigration] to the Islamic State, then let him do so, because hijrah to the land of Islam is obligatory.”

The Islamic State leader made a “special” plea for assistance from scholars, judges, doctors, engineers, military personnel, as well as those with “administrative and service expertise” and “all different specializations.” He wanted all of these types of skilled individuals to emigrate to the lands of his caliphate.

During his sermon at Al-Nuri, Baghdadi also emphasized his organization’s uncompromising jihad against everyone else. He argued that the world “has been divided into two camps and two trenches…[t]he camp of Islam and faith, and the camp of kufr (disbelief) and hypocrisy.” The former is supposedly “the camp of the Muslims and the mujahidin everywhere,” while the latter is “the camp of the Jews, the Crusaders, their allies, and with them the rest of the nations and religions of kufr, all being led by America and Russia, and being mobilized by the Jews.”

The Islamic State’s early motto was “remaining and expanding.” It was intended to convey a sense of indefinite territorial expansion and permanence. But the group’s propagandists quietly began to de-emphasize this idea as the jihadists lost ground in Iraq and Syria.

The demolition of Al-Nuri underscores the fact that Baghdadi’s loyalists are not holding their turf. Instead, they have proven their willingness to burn to the ground even holy sites rather than let their enemies capture them intact.

The destruction of Al-Nuri prevents the Iraqi government from issuing its own statement from the mosque. Baghdadi’s foes could have broadcast his caliphate’s loss of the important site. While no such message can now be made from Al-Nuri, the Islamic State’s violation of the mosque presents the coalition with another opportunity, as it can highlight the jihadists’ lack of respect for a holy location they themselves once portrayed as being at the center of a history-changing event.

Al Qaeda and its allies have chosen not to pursue the Islamic State’s all or nothing approach to holding territory. For example, Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) avoided a fight for Mukallah in southern Yemen last year, arguing that a battle with Arab-led forces would leave the port city in shambles.

A coalition led by Al Nusrah Front, which was openly part of al Qaeda at the time, also overran the Syrian province of Idlib in early 2015. The jihadists and Islamists have held Idlib for more than two years since, often debating how to make sure they don’t lose it. They are trying to avoid the mistakes made by Baghdadi’s men, who are in the process of losing their two capitals in Iraq and Syria. While an international coalition was assembled to dislodge the Islamic State, no such force has been formed to uproot the jihadists deeply embedded in Idlib and elsewhere in Syria. The jihadists in northwestern Syria have sought to sow confusion when it comes to their own proto-Taliban state.

Baghdadi took the opposite course, calling on the whole world to recognize his Islamic State.

“O Muslims everywhere, glad tidings to you and expect good,” Baghdadi said during his sermon at Al-Nuri in July 2014. “Raise your head high, for today – by Allah’s grace – you have a state and Khilafah, which will return your dignity, might, rights, and leadership.”

Nearly three years later, Baghdadi’s followers leveled Al-Nuri to the ground.

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

Al Quds Day: Deadly Conflagration of Religion and Politics

Jihad Watch, by Brian Thomas, June 20, 2017:

Wikipedia on Al Quds Day:

Quds Day (Jerusalem Day; Quds is the Arabic name for Jerusalem), officially called International Quds Day (Persian: روز جهانی قدس‎‎), is an annual event held on the last Friday of Ramadan that was initiated by the Islamic Republic of Iran in 1979 to express support for the Palestinians and oppose Zionism and Israel’s existence,[1] as well as Israel’s control of Jerusalem. Nominally, it exists in opposition to the Jerusalem Day (Yom Yerushalayim) celebration instituted by Israel in May 1968, and which Knesset law changed into a national holiday in 1998.[2] In Iran, the government sponsors and organizes the day’s rallies, and its celebration in that country has had, down to at least 2012, a decade-long tradition of voicing anti-Semitic attacks.[3] Quds Day is also held in several other countries, mainly in the Arab and Muslim world, with protests against Israel’s occupation of East Jerusalem.[4][5][6] Rallies are held in verious cities by both Muslim and non-Muslim communities around the world.[7]

I’m quoting Wikipedia because it is never a pro-Israel or pro-Jewish source, so if this has remained up there, it must reflect a version of history that can’t be deemed “Zionist”.

Here is the statement of Ruhollah Khomeini that established it:

I invite Muslims all over the globe to consecrate the last Friday of the holy month of Ramadan as Al-Quds Day and to proclaim the international solidarity of Muslims in support of the legitimate rights of the Muslim people of Palestine. For many years, I have been notifying the Muslims of the danger posed by the usurper Israel which today has intensified its savage attacks against the Palestinian brothers and sisters, and which, in the south of Lebanon in particular, is continually bombing Palestinian homes in the hope of crushing the Palestinian struggle. I ask all the Muslims of the world and the Muslim governments to join together to sever the hand of this usurper and its supporters. I call on all the Muslims of the world to select as Al-Quds Day the last Friday in the holy month of Ramadan—which is itself a determining period and can also be the determiner of the Palestinian people’s fate—and through a ceremony demonstrating the solidarity of Muslims world-wide, announce their support for the legitimate rights of the Muslim people. I ask God Almighty for the victory of the Muslims over the infidels.

— Ruhollah Khomeini[11]

Let’s review:

  • Started by Iran AFTER the Islamic revolution;
  • Marked on the Islamic religious calendar as the last Friday of the “Holy Month” of Ramadan (an overtly religious festival);
  • It’s creation was targeted at all Muslims worldwide (across the great Sunni Shia divide) strictly on account of their following of Islam;
  • It invokes the god of Islam directly to grant victory and supremacy for the Muslims over the infidels.

Al Quds day is fundamentally religious. Holding what the west would consider to be a political rally, based on this, shows the inextricable link between Islamic theology and the Islamic political desire to conquer and rule the world as commanded by their god and their prophet.

There is no separation of “church and state” with this event. There is no way to separate the relentless violent Jihad against the Jews and Israel from the commandments of their god.

When this march takes place in London or elsewhere, they are using the hard won political protections of freedom of speech and assembly that grew from the Judaeo-Christian traditions in the West and perverting them with a religious call to murder in the name of god. There is no question that the event is entirely grounded in what we protect as a religion, yet it is a religion of blood and war that is utterly inverse to Judaeo-Christian religion. It is also at odds with just about every other religion.

Until we recognise that our Western tolerance has been abused, we are powerless to resist this invasion. London will fall, just as Constantinople and Jerusalem once fell.

How long will it take the British to recover their capital when it has fallen?

How CAIR Shaped San Diego’s Public Schools

Islamist Watch, by Susan Ouellette
California Political Review
June 15, 2017

In April 2017, the San Diego Unified School District (SDUSD) School Board approved a plan to address anti-Muslim bullying in schools. Beginning this fall, students will “learn more about [Islam] in social studies….Schools…will review and vet materials related to Muslim culture and history…and provide resources and material for teachers…and…promote a more positive image of Islam.” The driving force behind the plan, however, is the Council on American-Islamic Relations – San Diego (CAIR-SD), which has a history of ties to radical Islamists.

CAIR-SD and the SDUSD School Board have a long-standing relationship. In November 2015, the Board commended CAIR-SD for “ten years of teaching students to accept and honor religious and cultural differences,” as well as its partnership with “the District’s Office of Race/Human Relations and Advocacy,” and its involvement “in mediating situations…that involve discrimination.”

In July 2016, Hanif Mohebi, CAIR-SD’s Executive Director, lobbied the School Board to adopt an official anti-Muslim bullying plan. Over the past six months, Mohebi has lectured students and teachers on “Islamophobia” at more than a dozen District schools. At these sessions, Mohebi has distributed a pamphlet offering to help Muslim students “file a complaint” against school administrators and to provide students with “resources about your faith…(to)… share with administrators and teachers.” But should Mohebi and CAIR-SD be teaching students their particular brand of Islam?

On social media, Mohebi has encouraged his Facebook followers to support the “cause” of Khalifah al-Akili, a prominent Taliban sympathizer imprisoned for felony possession of a firearm. To “FBI snitches” who “frame our community members unjustly,” he warns, “KNOW that we are watching you.”

In addition, he has circulated videos attacking homosexuality, written an article comparing ISIS to Israel, and published a number of posts attacking “Jewish colonial settlers.”

Other CAIR-SD leaders have posted inflammatory rhetoric on social media. CAIR-SD official Lallia Allali has lamented the deportation of Sami Al-Araian, a leader of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad in North America.

CAIR-SD has a history of promulgating Islamist ideology and giving platforms to extremist clerics, including Yasir Qadhi, who has said “…this is a part of our religion to stone the adulterer and to chop the head off of the sorcerer and so many other things, and to kill, by the way, the homosexual – this is also our religion.”

CAIR-SD’s tireless lobbying against “Islamophobia” has facilitated its inroads into SDUSD schools. CAIR officials, particularly Mohebi, whose ties to the Board date back at least seven years, appear to enjoy excellent working relationships with Board members and school officials. SDUSD School Board members Kevin Beiser and Sharon Whitehurst-Payne have spearheaded efforts to create a District-wide anti-Muslim bullying plan. Beiser has endorsed the Forum on Religious Freedom, a CAIR-SD organization designed “to support the Muslim Community against Bigotry and Islamophobia.” At a 2016 SDUSD-sponsored diversity event, Nawabi published photos of him with Beiser, SDUSD Superintendent Cindy Marten, and School Board members Whitehurst-Payne and Michael McQuarry.

Beyond its ties with the School Board, CAIR-SD has relationships with at least two other District employees. Kamal Boulazreg, an SDUSD psychologist, and Agin Shaheed, SDUSD’s Race/Human Relations Manager, spoke at a 2014 “Stop Bullying” event sponsored by CAIR-SD and the Islamic Center of San Diego, a mosque with ties to two 9/11 hijackers. In fact, CAIR-SD and Shaheed have an official working relationship, and CAIR-SD’s website features a lengthy, hagiographic profile of him.

In light of CAIR’s extremism, in May, the Freedom of Conscience Defense Fund, on behalf of a group of District parents, filed a federal lawsuit to halt the implementation of CAIR’s program. The lawsuit itself may not cool the warm relationship between SDUSD and CAIR-SD, an organization that is not the benign, tolerant, civil rights group it claims to be.

After all, SDUSD does not seem to fazed by CAIR’s notorious designation by federal prosecutors as an unindicted co-conspirator during the Holy Land Foundation federal terrorism case, nor CAIR-SD’s history of promoting hate speech. As such, and barring a court ruling against the School District, CAIR-SD’s agenda has become the District’s.

Susan Ouellette is a contributor to Islamist Watch, a project of the Middle East Forum.