Debkafile, Feb. 1, 2015:
Saturday night, January 31, the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant capped a month of atrocities by beheading its second Japanese hostage, Kenjo Goto, a 47-year old journalist. Jordan vows to do everything its power to save the Jordanian pilot Lt. Moaz al-Kasasbeh, but it may be too late.
In January alone, the Islamists are known to have killed at least 70 people in 10 targeted European and Middle East countries. This is a modest estimate since exact figures are not available everywhere – like in Saudi Arabia and Egypt. ISIS terrorists trailed their horror that month through France, Spain, Belgium, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Jordan, Egypt and Libya.
US President Barack Obama, who heads a 20-state coalition fighting ISIS in Iraq, strongly condemned the Goto murder. Secretary of State John Kerry, trying to sound positive, commended the recovery of the Syrian town of Kobani by Kurdish forces as “a big deal.”
ISIS was indeed forced to concede defeat in battle under US air strikes. But Kerry forgot to mention that the battle is far from over: the Islamists pulled back from Kobani’s districts, but are still pressing hard on the walls of the town and heavy fighting for its control continues.
If Kobani is the only military gain achieved by US-backed forces in months of coalition effort, who will be able to stop the brutal ISIS offensive going forward in Europe, North Africa and the Middle East?
The British government keeps on warning that an Islamist attack is coming soon. Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said Sunday that this was a “generational struggle that must be fought in other parts of the world in addition to the Middle East.”
It was obvious from these lame comments that the West is totally at a loss for ways to pre-empt the thrusting danger.
Some Western intelligence agencies have sought cold comfort by pointing to the Islamists’ willingness to negotiate the release of the Jordanian pilot held hostage since his capture in Syria in December as a symptom of weakness, signaling its readiness to part with its murderous image. Others judged the latest video clips unprofessional and a sign that ISIS leadership was in disarray.
Neither of these judgments is supported by the facts.
DEBKAfile’s counter-terrorism and intelligence sources report that the high command of the Islamic State functions at present with machinelike efficiency in pursuit of its goals. The name of Abu Baqr al-Baghdadi has been circulated widely as ruler of the Islamic “caliphate” he founded in parts of Syria and Iraq. But behind the scenes, he is assisted by a tight inner group of 12-15 former high officers from the Baath army which served the Saddam Hussein up until the 2003 US invasion of Iraq. Members of this group ranged in rank from lieutenant-colonel to general.
Ex-Maj. Gen. Abu Ali al-Anbari, its outstanding figure, acts as Al Baghdadi senior lieutenant.
He also appears to be the brain that has charted ISIS’s current military strategy which, our sources learn, focuses on three major thrusts: the activation of sleeper cells in Europe for coordinated terrorist operations: multiple, synchronized attacks in the Middle East along a line running from Tripoli, Libya, through Egyptian Suez Canal cities and encompassing the Sinai Peninsula; and the full-dress Iraqi-Syrian warfront, with the accent currently on the major offensive launched Thursday, March 29, to capture the big Iraq oil town of Kirkuk.
DEBKAfile was first to report the arrival in Sinai during the first week of December of a group of ISIS officers from Iraq to take command of their latest convert, Ansar Beit Al-Miqdas.
Another former Iraqi army officer was entrusted with coordinating ISIS operations between the East Libyan Islamist contingent and the Sinai movement. Their mission is to topple the rule of President Abdel-Fatteh El-Sisi.
The imported Iraqi command made its presence felt in Libya Tuesday, Jan. 27 with the seizure of the luxury Corinthia Hotel in Tripoli and execution of the foreigners taken there, including an American and a British man. Two days later, ISIS terrorists fanned out across Sinai for their most devastating attack ever on Egyptian military and security forces. They launched simultaneous attacks in five towns, Rafah on the border of the Gaza Strip, El Arish and Sheikh Suweid in the north and the Suez Canal cities of Port Said and Suez to the west – killing some 50 Egyptian personnel and injuring more than double that figure.
ISIS strategists, not content with these “successes,” are still in full thrust and believed to be planning to expand their operations and hit Israel – whether from the south or the north.