Iran’s Spymaster Claims Pro-Regime Agents Operating in D.C., London, Canada

Iranian intelligence minister Mahmoud Alavi / Getty Images

Washington Free Beacon, by Adam Kredo, March 23, 2017:

Iran maintains a network of spies and lobbyists who clandestinely push the Islamic regime’s agenda in Washington, D.C., and elsewhere, according to the head of Iran’s ministry of intelligence, who touted the pro-Iran network’s ability to spread its ideology to the West.

Mahmoud Alavi, Iran’s intelligence minister, in recent remarks independently translated by the Washington Free Beacon, bragged about the Islamic Republic’s ability to operate an unnamed “lobby group” in D.C. that helps to push the regime’s hardline agenda.

Alavi disclosed that Iranians with dual citizenship in the United States, Canada, and England, remain devoted to the “Islamic revolution” and are working to promote this agenda in their adopted homelands.

In D.C., Alavi claimed, a “lobby group for the Islamic Republic of Iran” is working to bolster the regime’s international status and help legitimize its nuclear endeavors.

“They have a lobby group for the Islamic Republic of Iran which does not cost us money,” Alavi said, without naming the specific organization. “We should not accuse them and say things that discourage them about the ancestral homeland, this is not good, and losing this capital is not good for the regime.”

Iranian dual nationals living in the West remain devoted to the Islamic Republic, he added.

“It is wrong to say that all dual nationals are traitors, spies, or foreign agents; many of dual nationals love Iran, are a capital for Iran,” Alavi said. “Many who live in Canada, London, or the United States [are devoted] to the [Islamic] revolution and the supreme leader … In those places some attend religious ceremonies. [Those people] love the [Islamic] Revolution.”

While the Iranian official did not name the lobby group in question, the Free Beacon has reported during the past several months that dissident organizations are pushing for a formal investigation into the National Iranian American Council, or NIAC, which has long fought against charges that it lobbies on the regime’s behalf.

A group of nearly 100 prominent Iranian dissidents working to undermine the regime petitioned Congress in February to investigate NIAC’s ties to the Iranian regime and determine if it is actively helping to push a pro-mullah agenda.

“We write to request a congressional hearing on the efforts of Tehran’s theocratic regime to influence U.S. policy and public diplomacy toward Iran,” the dissidents wrote to Sen. Bob Corker (R., Tenn.) and Rep. Ed Royce (R., Calif.), the heads of Congress’ foreign affair committees, according to copies of the letter first reported by the Free Beacon.

NIAC’s actions in favor of the Iran nuclear deal and increased diplomacy with Tehran also raised concerns in January, when the Free Beacon first reported that two high-level Iranian government backers, including a former Islamic Republic official and another accused of lobbying on Tehran’s behalf, had been hosted at the Obama White House for more than 30 meetings with top officials.

The meetings came at key points in the Obama administration’s outreach to Iran and efforts to push the nuclear deal.

Michael Rubin, a former Pentagon adviser and expert on rogue regimes, raised concerns about Alavi’s recent remarks. He noted that organizations pushing Iran’s agenda in Washington are obligated to disclose their work under the Foreign Agents Registration Act, or FARA, even if no money is exchanging hands as part of the relationship.

“The question to ask is whether there is daylight between the foreign policy positions of the Islamic Republic and those of groups of which the Iranian intelligence minister refers,” Rubin said.

“At the very least, it is worth asking whether any individual who is making a couple dozen meetings to the White House and even more to the State Department is acting as what the Iranian intelligence minister might consider a lobbyist,” Rubin added, referring to the former administration’s outreach to pro-Iran interests in the United States. “It’s not a witch-hunt, it’s a matter of law.”

Given Alavi’s recent disclosures, U.S. officials would be wise to “ask the motivations of those fundraising for any group that seems more interested in defending Iran’s ballistic missile work than in human rights and cultural freedom,” Rubin said.

Saeed Ghasseminejad, an Iranian dissident and associate fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, told the Free Beacon that several years ago Iran implemented a formal plan to “strengthen its ties with anti-war and pro-regime lobby groups.”

This included bolstering ties with Iranian dual nationals in the West and certain organizations in Europe and the United States to help “change the unfriendly governments’ policies and actions regarding the regime,” according to Ghasseminejad.

This network is tasked with discrediting Tehran’s opponents and stopping efforts to foster regime change in Iran, Ghasseminejad said.

“They are specifically concerned about any prospect of regime-change and cooperation between the U.S government and Iranian opposition groups,” he said.

Iran also wants these organizations to promote policies that benefit Iran and will help it garner international legitimacy, according to Ghasseminejad.

Also see:

A leftist State Department official is publicly attacking President Trump on social media

Kambiz Hosseini | Wikimedia Commons

Conservative Review, by Jordan Schachtel, March 20, 2017:

Alan Eyre, a high-ranking State Department official known for his pro-Tehran, anti-Israel biases — and a key component of the Iran nuclear deal’s negotiating team— has been using his verified Twitter account to repost articles attacking President Trump, the man who he ultimately answers to.

The postings, shared below, are only a small snapshot of what Eyre has tweeted out over the past month and shared with his 100,000-plus followers. Some mock the president and question his intelligence and integrity (again, Eyre’s boss). Another post calls President Trump’s decisions “senseless” and “heartless.”

Eyre now works at the State Department’s Bureau of Energy Resources, within its Middle East/Asia department, according to his bio.

Under the Obama administration, Alan Eyre served as the State Department’s Persian language spokesperson. According to reports, he played a critical role in advancing the Iran nuclear deal, which resulted in a cash windfall for the terrorist regime in Tehran.

This is not the first time Eyre has been noticed engaging in controversial social media activities. In 2015, the Washington Free Beacon exposed that he had been promoting anti-Israel conspiracy theories.

From his personal Facebook page, Eyre published stories by anti-Semitic authors and fringe websites that “demonize American Jewish groups and Israel,” the report said. But that was at least from his personal page. His current stream of anti-Trump postings are being distributed from his verified public Twitter account.

As an Obama official, Eyre twice keynoted the annual conference of the National Iranian American Council (NIAC), a group that many Iranian dissidents and freedom fighters consider to be a front for the regime in Tehran. NIAC is led by Trita Parsi, an Iranian-Swedish national who reportedly acts as a the point of contact for top officials in Iran.

NIAC became very cozy with the Obama administration (Parsi visited the White House 33 times), and coordinated with it to sell Iran deal lies to the American people. In its hell-bent quest to push the deal, NIAC painted opponents of the agreement as “warmongers” and challenged the loyalties of American Jews to the country and president.

Eyre is not the only State Department official who has pushed for policies that directly contradict President Trump’s platform.

Chris Backemeyer currently serves as deputy assistant secretary for Iranian affairs under Secretary Rex Tillerson. He was intimately involved in pushing for the Iran deal and misled the American people about where billions of dollars for the Tehran regime had gone.

Sahar Nowrouzzadeh, an essential advocate for Obama’s Iran deal, is currently in charge of Iran and the Persian Gulf on Secretary Tillerson’s policy planning staff.

And Michael Ratney, who oversaw a group that campaigned to oust Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, was one of John Kerry’s closest confidants. He’s now in charge of the Israeli-Palestinian portfolio at the Department of State.

Jordan Schachtel is the national security correspondent for CR. Follow him on Twitter @JordanSchachtel. 

Muslim Brotherhood (NAIT) Directly Confronts President of the United States

Understanding the Threat, by John Guandolo, March  20, 2017:

In response to President Trump’s second Executive Order designed to keep individuals from hostile nations from entering the United States, the Attorney General of Hawaii announced he will file suit against the Trump administration.  The plaintiff listed in Hawaii’s lawsuit is Dr. Ismail Elshikh, the Imam of the Muslim Association of Hawaii.

The Muslim Association of Hawaii is a Muslim Brotherhood organization, which means the Muslim Brotherhood is directly confronting the President of the United States and challenging his authority.

The address of the Muslim Association of Hawaii is 1935 Aleo Place, Honolulu, Hawaii.  The property records for Honolulu reveal this property is owned by the North American Islamic Trust (NAIT) – the bank for the Muslim Brotherhood in North America.  You can search the address HERE for yourself.

NAIT was created in 1973 by the Muslim Brotherhood’s Muslim Students Association per their own website.

A declassified document from the FBI’s Indianapolis office dated December 15, 1987 states:

“The North American Islamic Trust (NAIT) was organized by the leaders of the Muslim Students Association of the United States and Canada (MSA) in 1973 as the parent organization of various Muslim groups in the U.S. and Canada.  The leadership of NAIT, MSA and other Muslim groups are inter-related with many leaders and members of NAIT having been identified as supporters of the Islamic Revolution as advocated by the Government of Iran (GOI).  Their support of JIHAD (a holy war) in the U.S. has been evidenced by the financial and organizational support provided through NAIT from Middle East countries to Muslims residing in the U.S. and Canada.”

A declassified FBI confidential informant (CI) report dated 8/17/1988, details the Muslim Brotherhood’s activities in the United States at the time and states: “(CI) advised that in addition to the internal political structure and organization of NAIT as controlled by the IIIT leadership that as members of the IKHWAN they are involved in organizing external political support which involves influencing both public opinion in the United States as well as the United States Government.  (CI) has advised that the Ikhwan is a secret Muslim organization that has unlimited funds and is extremely well organized in the United States to the point where it has set up political action front groups with no traceable ties to the IIIT or its various Muslim groups. They also have claimed success in infiltrating the United States government…the IIIT leadership has indicated that in this phase their organization needs to peacefully get inside the United States Government and also American universities. (CI) noted that the ultimate goal of the Islamic Revolution is the overthrow of all non-Islamic governments and that violence is a tool…”

Evidence entered in the largest terrorism financing and Hamas trial ever successfully prosecuted in American history (US v Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development, Dallas, 2008) – 15 year FBI investigation – identified the North American Islamic Trust (NAIT) as a member of the U.S. Muslim Brotherhood which directly funded Hamas (TERRORISTS) leaders and organizations.

On the last page of the U.S. Muslim Brotherhood’s strategic document (An Explanatory Memorandum), the MB identifies NAIT as one of their organizations.

The stated objective of the Muslim Brotherhood in the United States is to wage civilization jihad “by OUR hands” to overthrow our government and replace it with an Islamic government ruled by sharia – Islamic law.  See “An Explanatory Memorandum” page 7 of 18.

The US v HLF evidence revealed that all of the prominent Islamic organizations in America are a part of the Muslim Brotherhood’s Movement here, including NAIT.

NAIT’s financial records – entered into evidence at the HLF trial – reveal NAIT directly funds Hamas leaders and Hamas, a designated terrorist organization.  See the records here and here.

Children trained by Hamas. NAIT directly funded Hamas and Hamas leaders.

Because of the massive evidence revealing NAIT is a Muslim Brotherhood organization which directly funds terrorism, the U.S. Department of Justice lists NAIT as an Unindicted Co-Conspirator in the largest terrorism financing and Hamas trial ever successfully prosecuted in American history (US v HLF).  See the Unindicted Co-Conspirator list here.  NAIT is listed on Page 8, paragraph VII.

Being named an “Unindicted Co-Conspirator” means the government has enough evidence to indict but decides not to at that time.  In fact, after the HLF trial ended in November of 2008, the Department of Justice moved forward to prosecute the founder of the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) and CAIR itself, but after approximately six months, that effort was shut down by Attorney General Eric Holder and since that time none of the hundreds of unindicted co-conspirators have been prosecuted by the Department of Justice.

In response to NAIT’s request to the court to have its name removed from the unindicted co-conspirator list, the Department of Justice filed a memorandum in which it states (page 13):

“ISNA and NAIT, in fact, shared more with the HLF than just a parent organization.  They were intimately connected with the HLF and its assigned task of providing financial support to Hamas.”

The “parent organization” to which the U.S. government is referring is the Muslim Brotherhood.

In ruling on the matter, Federal Judge Jorge Solis listed key evidence, and ruled:

“The Government has produced ample evidence to establish the associations of CAIR, ISNA and NAIT with the HLF, the Islamic Association of Palestine (IAP), and with Hamas.”

HLF and IAP were Hamas (TERRORIST) organizations.  This ruling declares NAIT is directly associated with the terrorist organization Hamas headquarters overseas and its front organizations in the United States.

It should be noted, Hamas is an inherent part of the Muslim Brotherhood.

The Muslim Association of Hawaii is a NAIT property.  The leader of this organization, Dr. Ismail Elshikh, has led several other Muslim Brotherhood organizations and would not hold those positions if he himself were not a Muslim Brother.

The Department of Justice should indict NAIT and the affiliated Muslim Brotherhood Islamic Centers, mosques and other organizations, arrest all Muslim Brotherhood leaders in the United States, legally seize all NAIT and Muslim Brotherhood property, and utterly dismantle their jihadi network.

If this offensive assault by the Muslim Brotherhood against the President of the United States and his effort to secure our nation and keep our enemies out is not met with significant force by the U.S. government, the Muslim Brotherhood will view this as more weakness and push harder and more violently in the coming months.

Iran deal architect is now running Tehran policy at the State Department

Conservative Review, by Jordan Schachtel, March 14, 2017:

A trusted Obama aide who once worked for an alleged Iranian regime lobbying group is one of the individuals in charge of Iran policy planning at the State Department under Secretary Rex Tillerson.

Sahar Nowrouzzadeh, the Iran director for former President Obama’s National Security Council (NSC), has burrowed into the government under President Trump. She’s now in charge of Iran and the Persian Gulf region on the policy planning staff at the State Department.

To make matters worse, Nowrouzzadeh is a former employee of the National Iranian-American Council (NIAC), a non-profit that is accused of being a lobbying group for the Iranian regime. NIAC’s current president, Trita Parsi, has long held close relationships with top officials in the Tehran dictatorship. In February, a group of over 100 prominent Iranian dissidents called for Congress to investigate NIAC’s ties to the Iranian regime.

One of Nowrouzzadeh’s primary duties under President Obama was to promote initiatives that pushed the Iran deal. As President Obama’s NSC director for Iran, Nowrouzzadeh sat in on high-level briefings along with President Obama, former VP Joe Biden, and former Secretary of State John Kerry, as top White House staff crafted false narratives on the Iran deal to sell to the American public.

According to the head of a state-run Iranian newspaper, Nowrouzzadeh was an essential element to pushing through the Iran deal. Editor-in-Chief Emad Abshenass said that she opened up a direct line of communication with the Iranian president’s brother. “She helped clear a number of contradictions and allowed the entire endeavor to succeed,” Abshenass said of her efforts.

Nowrouzzadeh’s advocacy for President Obama’s directives resulted in an agreement that has done enormous damage to the security interests of the United States and its allies. Iran, the world’s top sponsor of international terrorism, was gifted $150 billion dollars for agreeing to the deal. The deal will not restrict Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. In fact, the regime in Tehran may now have the operational capacity to deploy nuclear warheads within the next decade, according to expert estimates.

Towards the end of President Obama’s tenure, Nowrouzzadeh was embedded into the State Department and for a brief time served as its Persian language spokesperson.

In addition to Nowrouzzadeh, several other prominent Obama officials currently serve under Sec Tillerson at the State Department. A former John Kerry apprentice, Michael Ratney, occupies the Israeli-Palestinian portfolio there. Another trusted Obama aide, Yael Lempert, also serves under Tillerson on the same platform.

Why Secretary Tillerson has decided to keep on a chief Obama policy official remains unclear. The State Department did not return multiple requests for comment seeking additional information on Nowrouzzadeh’s role at the government agency.

Resolving the Conflict in Yemen: U.S. Interests, Risks, and Policy

Long War Journal, by Thomas Joscelyn, March 10, 2017

Editor’s note: On March 9, Thomas Joscelyn testified before the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations. The hearing, “Resolving the Conflict in Yemen: U.S. Interests, Risks, and Policy,” was called to explore the political dynamics of the ongoing war in Yemen, as well as the roles played by foreign actors and al Qaeda. His written testimony can be read below. A version of Mr. Joscelyn’s testimony with footnotes can be found here.

Senator Corker and other members of the committee, thank you for inviting me here today to discuss the ongoing war in Yemen. Unfortunately, I do not see a way that this conflict can be resolved any time soon. Yemen is rife with internal divisions, which are exacerbated by the proxy war being waged by several actors. Arab states, Iran, and others see Yemen as a key battleground in their contest for regional power. In addition, al Qaeda has taken advantage of the crisis to pursue its chief objective, which is seizing territory and building an emirate inside the country.

I discuss these various actors in my written testimony below and look forward to answering your questions.

The Iranian-backed Houthi offensive has significantly undermined U.S. counterterrorism efforts.

Governance in Yemen has been a longstanding problem. But the Houthi offensive in late 2014 knocked President Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi from power at a time when the U.S. was counting on his government to act as a vital counterterrorism partner.

There is a debate over how close the Houthis and Iran really are. Some have argued that the Houthis should not be thought of as an Iranian terror proxy, such as Hezbollah. While this accurate – the Houthis have their own culture and traditions – there is no question that Iran and the Houthis are allies. And it is in Iran’s interest to work with the Houthis against Saudi-backed forces in Yemen, while also encouraging Houthi incursions into the Saudi kingdom.

The U.S. government has long recognized Iran as one of the Houthis’ two key backers. (The other being former President Ali Abdullah Saleh and his network, which is discussed below.) In its Country Reports on Terrorism 2012, the State Department noted:

Iran actively supported members of the Houthi tribe in northern Yemen, including activities intended to build military capabilities, which could pose a greater threat to security and stability in Yemen and the surrounding region. In July 2012, the Yemeni Interior Ministry arrested members of an alleged Iranian spy ring, headed by a former member of the IRGC.

That warning proved to be accurate, as the Houthis made significant gains just over two years later. The U.S. and its allies have intercepted multiple Iranian arms shipments reportedly intended for the Houthis. And senior U.S. officials have repeatedly referenced Iran’s ongoing assistance. Late last year, Reuters reported that “Iran has stepped up weapons transfers to the Houthis,” including “missiles and small arms.”

In September 2015, then-Secretary of Defense Ash Carter listed America’s “core interests in the region.” Among them, according to Carter, was “supporting Saudi Arabia in protecting its territory and people from Houthi attacks, and supporting international efforts to prevent Iranian shipments of lethal equipment from reaching Houthi and Saleh-affiliated forces in Yemen.” The Houthis have responded by launching missiles at American ships, as well as ships operated by other countries.

Former President Ali Abdullah Saleh and his supporters have worked to undermine President Hadi’s’s government.

Former President Saleh and his son have allied with the Houthis to thwart any chance of having a stable political process inside Yemen. The U.S. Treasury Department sanctioned Saleh and two Houthi military commanders in 2014, describing them as “political spoilers.” Saleh became “one of the primary supporters of violence perpetrated by” the Houthis as of the fall of 2012, and has provided them with “funds and political support.” Then, in April 2015, Treasury sanctioned Saleh’s son, Ahmed Ali Saleh. The junior Saleh was commander of Yemen’s Republican Guard, but was removed from that post by Hadi. Still, Ahmed Ali Saleh “retained significant influence within the Yemeni military, even after he was removed from command.” And he has “played a key role in facilitating the Houthi military expansion.”

Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) is attempting to build an Islamic state in Yemen.

Al Qaeda is working to build Islamic emirates in several countries and regions, including Afghanistan, North and West Africa, Somalia, Syria, and Yemen. Unlike its rivals in the Islamic State (or ISIS), al Qaeda has adopted a long-term approach for state-building. While AQAP has begun to implement its version of sharia law in Yemen, it has not advertised the most gruesome aspects of its draconian code for fear of alienating the population. Still, AQAP controlled much of southern Yemen from April 2015 to April 2016, including the port city of Mukallah, where it reportedly earned substantial revenues via taxes. AQAP’s forces simply melted away when the Arab-led coalition entered Mukallah and other areas. By doing so, AQAP presented itself as a protector of the local population and lived to fight another day. The group is capable of seizing more territory at any time.

AQAP isn’t just an “affiliate” of al Qaeda; it is al Qaeda.

In addition to being a regional branch of al Qaeda’s international organization, AQAP has housed senior al Qaeda managers who are tasked with responsibilities far outside of Yemen. For example, Nasir al Wuhayshi (who was killed in 2015) served as both AQAP’s emir and as al Qaeda’s general manager. At the time of his death, Wuhayshi was the deputy emir of al Qaeda’s global operations.

Beginning in 2014, the Islamic State (or ISIS), mushroomed in size after declaring the establishment of its so-called caliphate across a large part of Iraq and Syria. Some predicted, erroneously, that AQAP would defect to Abu Bakr al Baghdadi’s cause in the event that Wuhayshi was killed. That prediction was based on a stunning ignorance of AQAP’s organization and implicitly assumed that AQAP’s loyalty to al Qaeda was embodied in a single man. Wuhayshi’s successor, Qasim al Raymi, quickly reaffirmed his and AQAP’s allegiance to Ayman al Zawahiri. Al Qaeda veterans and loyalists from a new generation of jihadists are peppered throughout AQAP’s ranks.

The U.S. has killed a number of top AQAP leaders, but the group has effectively replaced them and likely retains a bench of capable fill-ins.

Wuhayshi was one of several senior AQAP leaders killed in the drone campaign in 2015. Others have perished since. But AQAP has quickly filled their positions with other al Qaeda veterans, including Raymi, Ibrahim al Qosi (a former Guantanamo detainee), Ibrahim al Banna (discussed below), and others. Most of AQAP’s insurgency organization, including its middle management, has not been systematically targeted. Therefore, the organization as a whole has not been systematically degraded. AQAP still threatens the West, but most of its resources are devoted to waging the insurgency and building a state inside Yemen. Recently, the U.S. has stepped up its air campaign, launching 40 or more airstrikes against AQAP this month. Those airstrikes are intended, in part, to weaken AQAP’s guerrilla army. But it will require more than bombings to do that. Without an effective government representing most of the Sunni tribes and people, AQAP will continue to position itself as the legitimate ruler in many areas of Yemen.

Al Qaeda has deep roots inside Yemen.

Osama bin Laden’s and Ayman al Zawahiri’s men first began to lay the groundwork for al Qaeda’s organization inside Yemen in the early 1990s, if not earlier. Zawahiri himself spent time in Yemen alongside his comrades in the Egyptian Islamic Jihad (EIJ), which effectively merged with bin Laden’s operation in the 1990s. Zawahiri, his brother, and their fellow EIJ jihadists established a base of operations in Yemen. One of these EIJ veterans, Ibrahim al Banna, was designated as a senior AQAP leader by the U.S. government late last year. In 1992 or 1993, Zawahiri ordered al Banna to oversee “the administration” of al Qaeda’s “affairs” in Yemen, “opening public relationships with all the students of knowledge and the notables and the tribal sheikhs.” That was more than a quarter of a century ago. Yet al Banna, a co-founder of AQAP, continues to command jihadists inside the country to this day.

Al Qaeda has suffered multiple setbacks inside Yemen since al Banna was first dispatched to the country in the early 1990s. But the jihadists’ patient approach has clearly borne fruit. An unnamed U.S. military official recently explained that AQAP has “skillfully exploited the disorder in Yemen to build its strength and reinvigorate its membership and training.” This same official estimated that AQAP’s total group strength is in the “low thousands,” but warned that because many of its members are Yemeni “they can blend in with the tribes there.”

This assessment of AQAP’s overall strength may or may not be accurate with respect to the total number of deployed fighters. But the U.S. has underestimated the size of jihadist organizations in the past, including the Islamic State (ISIS) and al Qaeda in Afghanistan. AQAP maintains a deep support network within Yemeni society that allows it to regenerate its forces and continue waging jihad despite fighting on multiple fronts for many years.

The U.S. Treasury Department has outlined parts of AQAP’s fundraising apparatus in a series of terrorist designations. Treasury’s work has highlighted the mix of tribal politics, Gulf fundraising, and local banking that has helped fuel AQAP’s war in Yemen.

Files recovered in Osama bin Laden’s compound reveal that al Qaeda has sought to maintain friendly tribal relations and avoid the mistakes made in Iraq, where the predecessor to the current Islamic State alienated tribal leaders. It is difficult to gauge the extent of ideological support for AQAP’s cause within Yemen’s tribes, but the jihadists do not need key tribes to be completely committed to their cause. While there have been tensions at times, AQAP benefits from the tribes’ frequent unwillingness to back government forces against the jihadists.

Some tribal leaders are closely allied with AQAP, so much so that they have been integrated into the organization’s infrastructure. This has led to an awkward situation in which some of AQAP’s leaders are also partnered with Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Hadi’s government in the war against the Houthis. For instance, during a raid against AQAP in January, U.S. forces killed a prominent tribal leader named Sheikh Abdel-Raouf al-Dhahab. The Associated Press (AP), citing “military officials, tribal figures and relatives,” reported that Dhahab met “with the military chief of staff in Hadi’s government” shortly “before the raid.” Fahd al-Qasi, Dhahab’s “top aide,” accompanied Dhahab to the meeting and subsequently confirmed that it took place. “During five days of talks with the military, al-Dhahab — who commands a force of some 800 tribal fighters — was given around 15 million Yemeni riyals ($60,000) to pay his men in the fight against the rebels, al-Qasi and the two officials said,” according to the AP. Al-Qasi “distributed the money to the fighters” just hours before the raid.

AQAP has also benefitted from its longstanding relationship with Shaykh Abd-al-Majid al-Zindani and his network. The U.S. Treasury Department first designated Zindani as a terrorist in 2004, describing him as a “loyalist to Usama bin Laden and supporter of al-Qaeda.” In 2013, Treasury said that Zindani was providing “religious guidance” for AQAP’s operations. Zindani has been a prominent leader in Islah, which is a Yemeni political party affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood. Saudi Arabia and Islah have a lengthy history of relations, which had cooled in the not-so-distant past. However, as a result of the Houthis’ successful push across Yemen, Saudi Arabia has embraced Islah once again. Zindani himself has maintained friendly relations with the Saudis.

Zindani is the founder of Al-Iman University, which has served as a jihadist recruiting hub. Some al Qaeda leaders have not always been happy with the elderly ideologue. But one letter recovered in bin Laden’s Abbottabad compound demonstrates why al Qaeda would not publicly criticize him. “To be fair, a significant number of al-Mujahidin who reach the jihadi arena here were instructed or prepared by him, especially the new Russian converts to Islam who moved from Russia to Yemen and stayed for a while at al-Iman University and then moved with their families to the field of Jihad,” a senior al Qaeda leader wrote in March 2008. Whatever disagreements al Qaeda may have had with Zindani at times, he and his broad network have provided valuable support for AQAP’s operations.

The preceding paragraphs above give a brief overview of AQAP’s deep network inside Yemen, demonstrating why it remains a potent force. The Islamic State has also established a much smaller presence inside Yemen. The Islamic State’s men are capable of carrying out large attacks, particularly against soft targets such as funerals and markets. AQAP avoids such operations, seeing them as detrimental to its cause, which is based on building more popular support for the jihadist group.

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

***

Watch the Senate hearing, “Resolving the Conflict in Yemen: U.S. Interests, Risks, and Policy”

Also see:

The Truth Behind Media’s New Favorite Euphemism: ‘Muslim-Majority Countries’

Breitbart, by John Hayward, March 9, 2017:

Both versions of President Trump’s executive order have been caricatured as a “Muslim ban,” even though they applied to only six or seven specific countries, leaving 90 percent of the world’s population out of the mix.

The fallback euphemism is to say that Trump is “banning” immigration (they never say it is conditional and temporary) from several “Muslim-majority” countries. This is also misleading because those countries are not merely inhabited by a majority of Muslims. They are Muslim countries, period. They all have some form of Islamic law written into their legal codes.

With Iraq removed from the equation, the remaining nations affected by the order are Iran, Libya, Syria, Sudan, Yemen, and Somalia. The original executive order did not list the affected nations; it merely referred to Obama-era legislation that named them as nations of particular concern. The revised version of the order does name the affected nations because it explains why each of them is on the list.

The first version of the order did not mention Islam at all. The revised version does, but only to explain why the first order did not because this is not a “Muslim ban”:

Executive Order 13769 did not provide a basis for discriminating for or against members of any particular religion. While that order allowed for prioritization of refugee claims from members of persecuted religious minority groups, that priority applied to refugees from every nation, including those in which Islam is a minority religion, and it applied to minority sects within a religion. That order was not motivated by animus toward any religion, but was instead intended to protect the ability of religious minorities — whoever they are and wherever they reside — to avail themselves of the USRAP in light of their particular challenges and circumstances.

Islam is not a “minority religion” in any of the six countries named by the order. In fact, all six of them officially incorporate Islamic sharia law into their legal codes.

Of the six, Iran is an outright Islamic theocracy. Its Supreme Leader is the Ayatollah, a top-ranking Muslim cleric. Iran’s legal code is explicitly based on sharia, with a smattering of civil ordinances thrown in. Iranian courts have been known to invoke sharia for such judgments as requiring a woman to be blinded in retribution for throwing acid in a victim’s face.

Iranian law nominally has some protections for religious minorities, but the absolute supremacy of Islam is not questioned. Observers have reported that religious freedom is growing steadily worse in the theocracy.

Libya is the most complex of the six nations to classify, because it does not have a functioning central government at all, following Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton’s disastrous intervention – a fact the mainstream media prefers not to dwell on. “Libya’s post-revolution legal system is in flux and driven by state and non-state entities,” as the CIA World Factbook tactfully puts it.

The capital city of Tripoli was seized by an Islamist coalition, with the Muslim Brotherhood a major player. Another is Ansar al-Sharia, a Salafist Islamic militia. The presence of “sharia” in its name is not a coincidence; they declared Libya an Islamic “caliphate” in 2014.

There has been success in the battle against Libyan ISIS, but al-Qaeda is still a major player. U.N.-backed unity governments tend to include a lot of people from the more extreme wings of Libyan politics. They have to because Islamists are a powerful political force in the country.

Another major force in chaotic Libya is widely described as a “secularist,” General Khalifa Haftar. Some observers wonder just how “secularist” he really is, especially if he gains control of the country and has to make deals with the powerful Islamist elements he is currently fighting.

Haftar is an old Qaddafi hand, and while the late dictator is remembered as a brutal and mercurial secularist loathed by hardline Islamists in Libya, he was sometimes given to Islamist sentiments of his own. For instance, Qaddafi once declared Islam was the only universal human religion and said, “all those believers who do not follow Islam are losers.” He named his son and once-presumed successor Saif al-Islam.

Libya’s future is a question mark, but it is highly disingenuous to describe even its present state as merely “Muslim-majority.” The interim Libyan constitution of 2011 begins with the invocation of “Allah, the Merciful, the Compassionate,” states that Islam is the official religion of the country, and declares “sharia shall be the main source of legislation.” Until and unless a different constitution is put into effect by an internationally-recognized national government, Libya is a Muslim nation.

Somalia officially imposed sharia law through its Cabinet in 2009. “Islamic Sharia is the only option to get solutions for the problems in this country,” one minister declared. Less than 0.1% of the population follows a religion other than Islam.

The Somali government banned Christmas celebrations in December 2015, because “having Muslims celebrate Christmas is not the right thing,” as a top official put it. He likened Christmas celebrations to apostasy and said they are “not in any way related to Islam.” Foreigners were graciously allowed to celebrate Christmas in their homes, but even hotels were instructed to prevent guests from holding celebrations.

The al-Shabaab terrorist organization thinks the central government is not Islamist enough and imposes an even harsher sharia code on the sizable portions of the country it effectively controls. Many of the people living under al-Shabaab control have told interviewers they support its legal code.

Sudan is officially an Islamic state with a sharia legal code. Even the leaders of breakaway South Sudan, which want to return to a common-law system on the British model, have been struggling to purge sharia from the legal system.

Sudan, like Somalia, is not “majority Muslim” – it is about 96% Muslim, and the 3% Christian minority is brutally persecuted, despite some nominal legal protection for other religions. World Atlas notes that “some interpretations of the Muslim Law in the country fail to recognize or accept apostasy and marriages to non-Muslims,” and concludes that “Sudan leads the world as the most difficult country for Christians since freedom of religion or belief is systematically ignored.”

Syria is an uncomfortable case, as some religious minorities say they fared much better under the Assad dictatorship. Some Syrian Christians bluntly refer to Bashar Assad as their “protector” and have similar hopes for the intervening Russians. Of course, critics of the brutal Syrian regime argue that Assad’s alliance with Christians is purely cynical, and even accuse him of inflaming the Christian fear of Muslims for political gain.

Assad’s government is nominally secular, while even most of the “good guy” rebels supported by Western powers practice Islamic law through sharia courts. Syrians in contested areas complain that different sharia courts loyal to various factions, from “moderates” to hardcore al-Qaeda Islamists, issue conflicting verdicts.

At the height of the rebellion, many Syrians expressed a desire to replace the Syrian Arab Republic with an Islamic state. Then they found themselves saddled with the Islamic State, which may have led some of them to reconsider. However, there are still calls to impose sharia across Syria, portraying it as an instrument of peace and justice.

Having said that, the constitution of the “secular” Syrian Arab Republic explicitly requires the president to be a Muslim, and requires that “Islamic jurisprudence shall be a major source of legislation.” This was true of both the older constitution and the revised document prepared in 2012.

The same article declares “the State shall respect all religions, and ensure the freedom to perform all the rituals that do not prejudice public order,” but there is no question: Syria is a Muslim nation, not a “Muslim-majority nation.” Islam enjoys a privileged position in its legal code that Western liberals would not tolerate without comment from any other religion.

Yemen practices a mixture of sharia law and common law in what passes for its central government – which, of course, was overthrown by the Houthis, a Shiite Muslim insurgency supported by the Iranian theocracy. The internationally recognized Yemeni government has said the Houthis want to transform Yemen into a caliphate ruled by lineal descendants of Mohammed.

Even Houthi spokesmen who strongly disagree with that characterization have said they think “sharia should be one of the main sources of the law in Yemen, not the only source.”

The large portions of Yemen controlled by al-Qaeda are noted for the strict rule of Islamic law, including the oppression of women. Al-Qaeda regards the failure to strictly obey sharia as “debauchery.”

The Constitution of the Republic of Yemen explicitly declares it to be an Islamic state, and stipulates “sharia is the source of all legislation.” Islam is unambiguously named as the official state religion. Denouncing Islam is a crime punishable by death. Over 99% of the population is Muslim.

Iraq: Even though it is no longer listed in Trump’s executive order, it should be noted that Iraq is an explicitly Islamic nation, according to its 2005 constitution. “Islam is the official religion of the State and is a fundamental source of legislation,” Article 2 declares. “No law that contradicts the established provisions of Islam may be established.”

Religious freedom is nominally protected, as long as the supremacy of Islam is acknowledged by all: “This Constitution guarantees the Islamic identity of the majority of the Iraqi people and guarantees the full religious rights of all individuals to freedom of religious belief and practice such as Christians, Yazedis, and Mandi Sabeans.”

Some Iraqi clerics agitate for stricter adherence to sharia law, which introduces the dangerous question of whether Sunni or Shiite law should reign supreme.

The incorporation of Sharia law into the legal codes of these countries occurs to a degree that would revolt the American Left, if any religion except Islam was involved. Rest assured that no one in today’s mainstream media would describe, say, 15th-century Spain as a “majority Catholic” nation.

For that matter, they do not seem inclined to describe Israel as “majority Jewish”; they simply refer to it as a “Jewish state.” Israel is, in fact, only about 75% Jewish. A recent effort supported by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party to formally define Israel as a Jewish state failed, in part due to concerns that it could lead to discriminatory policies against the Arab population.

Its legal code includes extensive protection for religious minorities, and there are Muslim and Druze members of its parliament. Last November, one of them staged the Muslim call to prayer during a parliamentary session to protest a bill that would prevent all places of worship from using loudspeakers to summon their worshipers, because it was seen as unfairly targeting mosques.

Equivalent stunts are unwise for members of religious minorities in “Muslim-majority nations,” including the six listed in President Trump’s executive order.

In conclusion: all of the nations mentioned in both versions of President Trump’s executive order are Muslim countries, period. Every single one of them has Islam as the state religion and bases its legal code on sharia. Not a single one of these countries is a “Muslim-majority” nation that practices full and complete religious pluralism under a secular government.

Hizballah’s Ongoing Threat to U.S. National Security

by IPT News  •  Mar 7, 2017

Most analyses of Hizballah focus on the terrorist group’s intervention in Syria or its threat to Israel. But the Iranian-backed organization maintains a significant presence in and near the United States, threatening national security. Current American proposals to strengthen borders and immigration measures may be limited to address this important, yet poorly understood, threat.

A recent Al-Arabiya article examines Hizballah’s North American threat.

It has the expertise to build advanced tunnels on the southern U.S. border, enabling Hizballah terrorists and Mexican cartel operatives to infiltrate the United States. Relations between Iranian-backed proxies, including Hizballah, and Latin American drug cartels are well established. Mexican gang members learn from Hizballah’s combat experience and use of advanced weaponry. Hizballah, in turn, derives a significant portion of its finances from the drug trade and other illicit activities.

In recent years, security officials in southwestern states noticed a rise in tattoos featuring Hizballah’s insignia among imprisoned drug cartel operatives. This surprising trend indicates a strengthened relationship between the terrorist group and Mexican gang members. In line with its foreign policy, Iranian operatives infiltrating Latin America seek to convert individuals to adopt its extremist Shi’ite ideology. Over the years, pro Iranian websites have proliferated across Latin America, in an attempt to cultivate support for the Islamic Republic.

Powerful Latin American politicians also help Iran and Hizballah penetrate the region and threaten the United States. In February, CNN received a 2013 secret intelligence document from several Latin American countries demonstrating ties between Venezuelan Vice President Tarreck El Aissami and 173 Venezuelan identification cards and passports issued to people from the Middle East, including Hizballah operatives. El Aissami “took charge of issuing, granting visas and nationalizing citizens from different countries, especially Syrians, Lebanese, Jordanians, Iranians, and Iraqis,” the report shows.

Iranian and Hizballah operatives have cultivated and consolidated operating bases in South America, especially in the tri-border area (TBA) of Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay. With a large Muslim population featuring significant numbers of Hizballah sympathizers, the region is ripe for recruitment, arms smuggling and drug trafficking. Hizballah continues to exploit other Lebanese Shi’ite diaspora communities, including in the United States, to strengthen its presence worldwide.

In 2011, the United States disrupted a plot led by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) in cooperation with a Mexican drug cartel to assassinate Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to Washington.

The problematic nexus between Iranian-backed operatives, including Hizballah, and Mexican drug cartels allows terrorists to earn big money to fuel their violent operations. These connections also enable Hizballah to make inroads into the United States through its porous border with Mexico.

American intelligence reports show that Hizballah maintains a significant network of sleeper cells in the United States. Though Hizballah has not conducted a major attack on U.S. soil, the group could decide to strike key American sites should U.S.-Iran relations deteriorate substantially. Preparations to combat Islamist terrorism broadly should strongly consider the nuanced and growing Hizballah threat to U.S. national security.

Video Clip Shows IRGC Support For Terror Against America

CNS News, By Patrick Goodenough | February 28, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

Iranian Resistance Exposes Iranian Terror Training Camp

Published on Feb 14, 2017 BY NCRI US

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The future of counterterrorism: Addressing the evolving threat to domestic security

joscelynLONG WAR JOURNAL, BY THOMAS JOSCELYN | February 28, 2017 | tjoscelyn@gmail.com | @thomasjoscelyn

Editor’s note: Below is Thomas Joscelyn’s testimony to the House Committee on Homeland Security, Subcommittee Counterterrorism and Intelligence, on the future of counterterrorism and addressing the evolving threat to domestic security.

Chairman King, Ranking Member Rice, and other members of the committee, thank you for inviting me to testify today. The terrorist threat has evolved greatly since the September 11, 2001 hijackings. The U.S. arguably faces a more diverse set of threats today than ever. In my written and oral testimony, I intend to highlight both the scope of these threats, as well as some of what I think are the underappreciated risks.

My key points are as follows:

– The U.S. military and intelligence services have waged a prolific counterterrorism campaign to suppress threats to America. It is often argued that because no large-scale plot has been successful in the U.S. since 9/11 that the risk of such an attack is overblown. This argument ignores the fact that numerous plots, in various stages of development, have been thwarted since 2001. Meanwhile, Europe has been hit with larger-scale operations. In addition, the U.S. and its allies frequently target jihadists who are suspected of plotting against the West. America’s counterterrorism strategy is mainly intended to disrupt potentially significant operations that are in the pipeline.

-Over the past several years, the U.S. military and intelligence agencies claim to have struck numerous Islamic State (or ISIS) and al Qaeda “external operatives” in countries such as Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Pakistan, Syria, Yemen, and elsewhere. These so-called “external operatives” are involved in anti-Western plotting. Had they not been targeted, it is likely that at least some of their plans would have come to fruition. Importantly, it is likely that many “external operatives” remain in the game, and are still laying the groundwork for attacks in the U.S. and the West.

-In addition, the Islamic State and al Qaeda continue to adapt new messages in an attempt to inspire attacks abroad. U.S. law enforcement has been forced to spend significant resources to stop “inspired” plots. As we all know, some of them have not been thwarted. The Islamic State’s caliphate declaration in 2014 heightened the threat of inspired attacks, as would-be jihadists were lured to the false promises of Abu Bakr al Baghdadi’s cause.

-The Islamic State also developed a system for “remote-controlling” attacks in the West and elsewhere. This system relies on digital operatives who connect with aspiring jihadis via social media applications. The Islamic State has had more success with these types of small-scale operations in Europe. But as I explain in my written testimony, the FBI has uncovered a string of plots inside the U.S. involving these same virtual planners.

-The refugee crisis is predominately a humanitarian concern. The Islamic State has used migrant and refugee flows to infiltrate terrorists into Europe. Both the Islamic State and al Qaeda could seek to do the same with respect to the U.S., however, they have other means for sneaking jihadists into the country as well. While some terrorists have slipped into the West alongside refugees, the U.S. should remain focused on identifying specific threats.

-More than 15 years after 9/11, al Qaeda remains poorly understood. Most of al Qaeda’s resources are devoted to waging insurgencies in several countries. But as al Qaeda’s insurgency footprint has spread, so has the organization’s capacity for plotting against the West. On 9/11, al Qaeda’s anti-Western plotting was primarily confined to Afghanistan, with logistical support networks in Pakistan, Iran, and other countries. Testifying before the Senate in February 2016, Director of National Intelligence (DNI) James Clapper warned that the al Qaeda threat to the West now emanates from multiple countries. Clapper testified that al Qaeda “nodes in Syria, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Turkey” are “dedicating resources to planning attacks.” To this list we can add Yemen. And jihadists from Africa have been involved in anti-Western plotting as well. Incredibly, al Qaeda is still plotting against the U.S. from Afghanistan.

Both the Islamic State and al Qaeda continue to seek ways to inspire terrorism inside the U.S. and they are using both new and old messages in pursuit of this goal.

The jihadists have long sought to inspire individuals or small groups of people to commit acts of terrorism for their cause. Individual terrorists are often described as “lone wolves,” but that term is misleading. If a person is acting in the name of a global, ideological cause, then he or she cannot be considered a “lone wolf,” even if the individual in question has zero contact with others. In fact, single attackers often express their support for the jihadists’ cause in ways that show the clear influence of propaganda.

Indeed, al Qaeda and al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) first began to aggressively market the idea of “individual” or “lone” operations years ago. AQAP’s Inspire magazine is intended to provide would-be jihadists with everything they could need to commit an attack without professional training or contact. Anwar al Awlaki, an AQAP ideologue who was fluent in English, was an especially effective advocate for these types of plots. Despite the fact that Awlaki was killed in a U.S. airstrike in September 2011, his teachings remain widely available on the internet.

The Islamic State capitalized on the groundwork laid by Awlaki and AQAP. In fact, Abu Bakr al Baghdadi’s operation took these ideas and aggressively marketed them with an added incentive. Al Qaeda has told its followers that it wants to eventually resurrect an Islamic caliphate. Beginning in mid-2014, the Islamic State began to tell its followers that it had already done so in Iraq, Syria, and elsewhere. Baghdadi’s so-called caliphate has also instructed followers that it would be better for them to strike inside their home countries in the West, rather than migrate abroad for jihad. The Islamic State has consistently marketed this message.

In May 2016, for instance, Islamic State spokesman Abu Muhammad al Adnani told followers that if foreign governments “have shut the door of hijrah [migration] in your faces,” then they should “open the door of jihad in theirs,” meaning in the West. “Make your deed a source of their regret,” Adnani continued. “Truly, the smallest act you do in their lands is more beloved to us than the biggest act done here; it is more effective for us and more harmful to them.”

“If one of you wishes and strives to reach the lands of the Islamic State,” Adnani told his audience, “then each of us wishes to be in your place to make examples of the crusaders, day and night, scaring them and terrorizing them, until every neighbor fears his neighbor.” Adnani told jihadists that they should “not make light of throwing a stone at a crusader in his land,” nor should they “underestimate any deed, as its consequences are great for the mujahidin and its effect is noxious to the disbelievers.”

The Islamic State continued to push this message after Adnani’s death in August 2016.

In at least several cases, we have seen individual jihadists who were first influenced by Awlaki and AQAP gravitate to the Islamic State’s cause. Syed Rizwan Farook and his wife were responsible for the December 2, 2015 San Bernardino massacre. They pledged allegiance to Baghdadi on social media, but Farook had drawn inspiration from Awlaki and AQAP’s Inspire years earlier.

Omar Mateen swore allegiance to Baghdadi repeatedly on the night of his assault on a LGBT nightclub in Orlando, Florida. However, a Muslim who knew Mateen previously reported to the FBI that Mateen was going down the extremist path. He told the FBI in 2014 that Mateen was watching Awlaki’s videos. It was not until approximately two years later, in early June 2016, that Mateen killed 49 people and wounded dozens more in the name of the supposed caliphate.

Ahmad Khan Rahami, the man who allegedly planted bombs throughout New York and New Jersey in September 2016, left behind a notebook. In it, Rahami mentioned Osama bin Laden, “guidance” from Awlaki, an also referenced Islamic State spokesman Adnani. Federal prosecutors wrote in the complaint that Rahami specifically wrote about “the instructions of terrorist leaders that, if travel is infeasible, to attack nonbelievers where they live.” This was Adnani’s key message, and remains a theme in Islamic State propaganda.

The Department of Justice (DOJ) has alleged that other individuals who sought to support the Islamic State were first exposed to Awlaki’s teachings as well.

These cases demonstrate that the jihadis have developed a well of ideas from which individual adherents can draw, but it may take years for them to act on these beliefs, if they ever act on them at all. There is no question that the Islamic State has had greater success of late in influencing people to act in its name. But al Qaeda continues to produce recruiting materials and to experiment with new concepts for individual attacks as well.

Al Qaeda and its branches have recently called for revenge for Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman, who died in a U.S. prison earlier this month. Rahman was convicted by a U.S. court for his involvement in plots against New York City landmarks in the mid-1990s. Since then, al Qaeda has used Rahman’s “will” to prophesize his death and to proactively blame the U.S. for it. Approximately 20 years after al Qaeda first started pushing this theme, Rahman finally died. Al Qaeda’s continued use of Rahman’s prediction, which is really just jihadist propaganda, demonstrates how these groups can use the same concepts for years, whether or not the facts are consistent with their messaging. Al Qaeda also recently published a kidnapping guide based on old lectures by Saif al Adel, a senior figure in the group. Al Adel may or may not be currently in Syria. Al Qaeda is using his lectures on kidnappings and hostage operations as a way to potentially teach others how to carry them out. The guide was published in both Arabic and English, meaning that al Qaeda seeks an audience in the West for al Adel’s designs.

Both the Islamic State and AQAP also continue to produce English-language magazines for online audiences. The 15th issue of Inspire, which was released last year, provided instructions for carrying out “professional assassinations.” AQAP has been creating lists of high-profile targets in the U.S. and elsewhere that they hope supporters will use in selecting potential victims. AQAP’s idea is to maximize the impact of “lone” attacks by focusing on wealthy businessmen or other well-known individuals. AQAP has advocated for, and praised, indiscriminate attacks as well. But the group has critiqued some attacks (such as the Orlando massacre at a LGBT nightclub) for supposedly muddying the jihadists’ message. AQAP is trying to lay the groundwork for more targeted operations. For example, the January 2015 assault on Charlie Hebdo’s offices in Paris was set in motion by al Qaeda and AQAP. Inspire even specifically identified the intended victims beforehand. Al Qaeda would like individual actors, with no foreign ties, to emulate such precise hits.

Meanwhile, the Islamic State has lowered the bar for what is considered a successful attack, pushing people to use cars, knives, or whatever weapons they can get in their hands. The Islamic State claimed that both the September 2016 mall stabbings in Minnesota and the vehicular assault at Ohio State University in November 2016 were the work of its “soldiers.” It may be the case that there were no digital ties between these attackers and the Islamic State. However, there is often more to the story of how the Islamic State guides such small-scale operations.

The Islamic State has sought to carry out attacks inside the U.S. via “remote-controlled” terrorists.

A series of attacks in Europe and elsewhere around the globe have been carried out by jihadists who were in contact, via social media applications, with Islamic State handlers in Syria and Iraq. The so-called caliphate’s members have been able to remotely guide willing recruits through small-scale plots that did not require much sophistication. These plots targeted victims in France, Germany, Russia, and other countries. In some cases, terrorists have received virtual support right up until the moment of their attack. The Islamic State has had more success orchestrating “remote-controlled” plots in Europe, but the jihadist group has also tried to carry out similar plots inside the U.S.

Read more

***

Homeland Security Committee:

Multiple terrorist networks actively plot attacks against the United States, and American interests, or encourage adherents to conduct inspired attacks inside the U.S Homeland without specific direction. Though significant progress has been made in improving American counterterrorism efforts since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, challenges persist. Over the last several years, the Subcommittee on Counterterrorism and Intelligence (CT&I) has continually worked to identify and address these weaknesses and improve U.S. domestic security. This hearing provides an opportunity to examine the continued evolution of the terrorist threat and review recommendations for improvement from national security experts.

OPENING STATEMENTS

Rep. Pete King (R-NY), Subcommittee Chairman
Opening Statement

WITNESSES

Mr. Edward F. Davis
Chief Executive Officer
Edward Davis, LLC
Witness Testimony

Mr. Thomas Joscelyn
Senior Fellow
The Foundation for the Defense of Democracy
Witness Testimony

Mr. Robin Simcox
Margaret Thatcher Fellow
Margaret Thatcher Center for Freedom
Davis Institute for National Security and Foreign Policy
The Heritage Foundation
Witness Testimony

Mr. Peter Bergen
Vice President, Director
International Security and Fellows Programs
New American
Witness Testimony

Arrogant filmmaker snags Oscar, rips America from inside brutal Iranian theocracy

Flickr

Flickr

Conservative Review, by Jordan Schachtel, Feb. 27, 2017:

Asghar Farhadi, the Iranian director of “The Salesman,” ripped into America after receiving the Oscar for best foreign language film Sunday night. In effect, he provided propaganda for — and covered up the atrocities committed by — the regime controlling his country.

Farhadi decided to boycott the 89th Academy Awards in protest of President Donald Trump’s recent travel ban on seven terror-tied countries. Instead of attending, he had female Iranian-American Anousheh Ansari — who would have been forced to wear a head covering while delivering the speech in Iran (or jailed and/or beaten for disobeying Iran’s Islamic penal code for women) — read his anti-American screed.

“I’m sorry I’m not with you tonight. My absence is out of respect for the people of my country and those from other six nations who have been disrespected by the inhumane law that bans entry of immigrants to the U.S.,” Farhadi’s statement said. “Dividing the world into ‘the us’ and ‘our enemies’ categories creates fear, a deceitful justification for aggression and war.”

A curious statement to make, since Asghar Farhadi’s homeland happens to be the world’s foremost state sponsor of terrorism. The theocratic regime ruling his country aids and arms several international terrorist organizations, and has helped attempt the overthrow of sovereign countries. And speaking of “dividing the world,” hardliners in Farhadi’s Iran have declared the United States “the Great Satan.” Moreover, Iranian officials lead weekly “Death to America” chants after Friday prayers.

Despite the director’s outrage over President Trump, noticeably absent in his statement was a critique or recognition of his own government’s continuous violations of basic human rights. “These wars prevent democracy in human rights in countries which have themselves been the victims of aggression,” Farhadi said in his lecture to America.

With respect to “preventing democracy,” Iran has provided critical support in propping up the brutal Assad regime in Syria, which has been responsible for the vast majority of the hundreds of thousands of deaths in the Syrian civil war. The Iranian regime also provides support for the Houthi Shiite jihadists in Yemen, who have been responsible for untold deaths.

“Filmmakers can turn their cameras to capture shared human qualities and break stereotypes of various nationalities and religions. They create empathy between us and others. An empathy which we need today more than ever,” the Oscar statement concludes.

Actually, in Iran, filmmakers cannot simply “turn their cameras” wherever they want. There is zero free media in the country and all outlets are subject to government censorship.

The Iranian filmmaker put his arrogance and hypocrisy on display for the world to see Sunday night. In doing so, he indirectly propped up a truly evil regime that has the fundamental goal of exporting Islamic totalitarianism worldwide.

If Asghar Farhadi really wants to see real change and prevent human atrocity, he should look inward at the gross and endless atrocities committed by the Iranian regime that he lives under.

Ex-Guantanamo detainee carried out suicide attack near Mosul, Iraq

17-02-21-ronald-fiddler-isis-suicide-bomber-near-mosulLong War Journal, by Thomas Joscelyn, Feb. 22, 2017:

The British press buzzed yesterday with news that a former Guantanamo detainee known as Jamal al Harith (formerly Ronald Fiddler) had blown himself up in a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device (VBIED) in Iraq. Al Harith reportedly took part in the Islamic State’s defensive suicide attacks around Mosul, which is one of the organization’s de facto capitals. The so-called caliphate claims to have launched scores of suicide VBIEDs in defense of the city.

On the same day al Harith executed his attack (Feb. 20), the Islamic State’s Amaq News Agency released a short video of three SUVs being deployed as bombs. All three vehicles had armor added to the front. One of the three was presumably driven by al Harith. The Islamic State released a photo al Harith (seen above), identifying him by the alias Abu Zakariya al Britani. The group also issued a claim of responsibility for his bombing.

Al Harith’s death brings to an end one of the strangest stories in the history of the detention facility at Guantanamo. Along with four others, Al Harith was transferred to American custody in early 2002 after being found in the Taliban-controlled Sarposa prison.

According to leaked Joint Task Force-Guantanamo (JTF-GTMO) threat assessments, jihadis in Afghanistan accused all five men of being spies for foreign powers looking to infiltrate the Taliban’s and al Qaeda’s ranks. Sarposa (spelled “Sarpooza” and “Sarpuza” in JTF-GTMO’s files) was overrun by the Northern Alliance in late 2001 and the men (subsequently dubbed the Sarposa Five) were handed over to the Americans and then transferred to Guantanamo.

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The Latest Rundown on the Mike Flynn Deep State Hit Job

mike-flynn_-hit_-job_-run_-down_-sized-770x415xc-1PJ MEDIA, BY PATRICK POOLE, FEBRUARY 15, 2017:

Obama officials and the establishment media continue to wave the scalp of resigned National Security Adviser Michael Flynn and trying to squeeze every last drop of anti-Trump controversy out of the matter.

As I had said privately, Flynn was not long for remaining as NSA. It’s not because he’s a bad guy, and accusations that he was compromised by Russian intelligence are absurd as the Trump dossier Buzzfeed published last month. It’s just that Flynn wasn’t ready for prime time. Hopefully his replacement will be.

So here’s the latest.

The New York Times published a report last night claiming “Trump associates” had repeated contacts with Russian intelligence, which the media in turn breathlessly hyped.

Trying to spin this as definitive proof that Trump was involved in “hacking the election,” they failed to recognize the NYT report proved no such thing:

American law enforcement and intelligence agencies intercepted the communications around the same time they were discovering evidence that Russia was trying to disrupt the presidential election by hacking into the Democratic National Committee, three of the officials said. The intelligence agencies then sought to learn whether the Trump campaign was colluding with the Russians on the hacking or other efforts to influence the election.

The officials interviewed in recent weeks said that, so far, they had seen no evidence of such cooperation.

OK, there goes that theory.

The other big story last night from Adam Kredo at the Washington Free Beacon was that the hit job on Flynn was driven by former Obama officials concerned about protecting the disastrous Iran deal:

A third source who serves as a congressional adviser and was involved in the 2015 fight over the Iran deal told the Free Beacon that the Obama administration feared that Flynn would expose the secret agreements with Iran.

“The Obama administration knew that Flynn was going to release the secret documents around the Iran deal, which would blow up their myth that it was a good deal that rolled back Iran,” the source said. “So in December the Obama NSC started going to work with their favorite reporters, selectively leaking damaging and incomplete information about Flynn.”

“After Trump was inaugurated some of those people stayed in and some began working from the outside, and they cooperated to keep undermining Trump,” the source said, detailing a series of leaks from within the White House in the past weeks targeting Flynn. “Last night’s resignation was their first major win, but unless the Trump people get serious about cleaning house, it won’t be the last.”

It’s curious then that the architects of the Iran deal are enthusiastic about the front runner to replace Flynn, former Vice Admiral Robert Harward, including former Obama NSC spox Tommy Vietor:

And the Iran deal must be preserved at all costs:

Our former PJ Media colleague Richard Pollock had the last interview with Flynn before his resignation reporting on what was actually discussed during that phone call with the Russian ambassador:

Flynn insisted that he crossed no lines in his telephone conversation with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak: “If I did, believe me, the FBI would be down my throat, my clearances would be pulled. There were no lines crossed.”

Flynn said there was a brief discussion of the 35 Russian diplomats who were being expelled by Obama in retaliation for Moscow’s alleged interference in the 2016 campaign.

“It wasn’t about sanctions. It was about the 35 guys who were thrown out,” Flynn said. “So that’s what it turned out to be. It was basically, ‘Look, I know this happened. We’ll review everything.’ I never said anything such as, ‘We’re going to review sanctions,’ or anything like that.”

It’s important to recall what Flynn was accused of doing:

There has yet to be any evidence that anything in Flynn’s discussion with the Russian ambassador was illegal.

The heavy breathing by the media about supposed Logan Act violations is totally overwrought, as there has never been a successful Logan Act prosecution in two centuries.

But it bears recalling that in 2008 as the Bush admin was trying to negotiate on the Iran nuclear program, those efforts were scuttled by the Obama campaign without any complaint from the media or calls for Logan Act prosecutions.

As our own Michael Ledeen reported here at PJ Media back in 2014:

During his first presidential campaign in 2008, Mr. Obama used a secret back channel to Tehran to assure the mullahs that he was a friend of the Islamic Republic, and that they would be very happy with his policies. The secret channel was Ambassador William G. Miller, who served in Iran during the shah’s rule, as chief of staff for the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, and as ambassador to Ukraine. Ambassador Miller has confirmed to me his conversations with Iranian leaders during the 2008 campaign.

It is remarkable that invocations of the Logan Act (e.g. the letter from 47 Senate Republicans to the Iranian leader in 2015) only occurs when it is targeting Republicans.

Another issue coming out of the Flynn affair is the politicization of intelligence.

House Intel Committee Chairman Devin Nunes is demanding to know what Flynn’s conversations were being wiretapped. As one of the congressional “Big 8” if there were a covert program targeting Flynn, he would be one of the few to know.

“Any intelligence agency cannot listen to Americans’ phone calls,” Nunes told reporters Tuesday night. “If there’s inadvertent collection that you know is overseas there’s a whole process in place for that.”

He explained, “It’s pretty clear that’s not the case, so then they could have been listening to someone else and inadvertently picked up an American. If that happens, there’s a whole process in place to where they have to immediately get rid of the information unless it’s like high level national security issue and then someone would have to unmask the name — someone at the highest levels.”

“So in this case it would be General Flynn and then how did that happen. Then if they did that, then how does all that get out to the public which is another leak of classified information,” Nunes added. “I’m pretty sure the FBI didn’t have a warrant on Michael Flynn.”

Former House Homeland Security Chairman Rep. Peter King says the intelligence disclosures to the press were clearly illegal.

No wonder then that many in the media are warning about the implications of former Obama officials leaking highly classified signals intelligence intercepts involving U.S. persons.

Eli Lake at Bloomberg:

There is another component to this story as well — as Trump himself just tweeted. It’s very rare that reporters are ever told about government-monitored communications of U.S. citizens, let alone senior U.S. officials. The last story like this to hit Washington was in 2009 when Jeff Stein, then of CQ, reported on intercepted phone calls between a senior Aipac lobbyist and Jane Harman, who at the time was a Democratic member of Congress.

Normally intercepts of U.S. officials and citizens are some of the most tightly held government secrets. This is for good reason. Selectively disclosing details of private conversations monitored by the FBI or NSA gives the permanent state the power to destroy reputations from the cloak of anonymity. This is what police states do.

In the past it was considered scandalous for senior U.S. officials to even request the identities of U.S. officials incidentally monitored by the government (normally they are redacted from intelligence reports). John Bolton’s nomination to be U.S. ambassador to the United Nations was derailed in 2006 after the NSA confirmed he had made 10 such requests when he was Undersecretary of State for Arms Control in George W. Bush’s first term. The fact that the intercepts of Flynn’s conversations with Kislyak appear to have been widely distributed inside the government is a red flag.

Damon Linker at The Week:

Unelected intelligence analysts work for the president, not the other way around. Far too many Trump critics appear not to care that these intelligence agents leaked highly sensitive information to the press — mostly because Trump critics are pleased with the result. “Finally,” they say, “someone took a stand to expose collusion between the Russians and a senior aide to the president!” It is indeed important that someone took such a stand. But it matters greatly who that someone is and how they take their stand. Members of the unelected, unaccountable intelligence community are not the right someone, especially when they target a senior aide to the president by leaking anonymously to newspapers the content of classified phone intercepts, where the unverified, unsubstantiated information can inflict politically fatal damage almost instantaneously.

And John Podheretz at the New York Post:

This information might have come because the US intelligence community has an active interest in the Russian official to whom he talked.

Or it could have come because the FBI had been pursuing some sort of secret investigation and had received authorization to monitor and track his calls and discussions.

If this was intelligence, the revelation of the Flynn meeting just revealed something to the Russians we shouldn’t want revealed — which is that we were listening in on them and doing so effectively.

And if it was an FBI investigation, then the iron principle of law enforcement — that evidence gathered in the course of an investigation must be kept secret to protect the rights of the American being investigated — was just put through a shredder.

Keeping our intelligence-gathering assets hidden from those upon whom we are spying is a key element of our national security.

And as for playing fast and loose with confidential information on American citizens: No joke, people — if they can do it to Mike Flynn, they can do it to you.

But still, there are some who are loving them some deep state totalitarian tactics:

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Report: Obama Loyalists, Led by Ben Rhodes, Orchestrated Flynn Ouster

 

Iran growing network to train foreign terrorists, dissident group says

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Beyond the Middle East

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Center for Security Policy, January 17, 2017:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

US-Russian steps vs Iran await new NSC chief

flynnout_eng
DEBKAfile, February 14, 2016

Michael Flynn’s abrupt resignation as National Security Adviser Monday night, Feb. 13, was a crippling blow to Donald Trump’s foreign policy strategy, less than a month after he entered the White House. Flynn was the architect and prime mover of the president’s plans for close cooperation with Russian President Vladimir Putin. He was brought down by misinforming Vice President Mike Pence – and very likely the president too – on the content of the conversation he held with the Russian ambassador before Trump’s inauguration.

Although retired Lt. Gen. Keith Kellogg takes over as acting NSA, the White House is urgently considering a permanent replacement to fill Flynn’s large shoes. Former CIA Director David Petraeus’ name has come up, but his indiscretions over state secrets still count against him. Vice Admiral Robert Harward, a former Navy SEAL, is a strong contender, although more may emerge.

Even before picking his next national security adviser, Trump will need to determine how to proceed with his détente with Putin, the highly sensitive details of which were managed personally and confidentially by Mike Flynn as the centerpiece of the new administration’s foreign policy.

His contacts with Moscow were under heavy fire from the president’s friends and foes alike, both before and after the November election. It was defended stalwartly by Trump himself, Pence and Flynn. However, neither the president nor the vice president can tell exactly what Flynn promised the Russians and to what deals he committed them. Therefore, his successor will be required to start building Washington’s ties with Moscow from scratch.

While Flynn’s departure has caused havoc in the Trump administration, it is a catastrophe for the Middle East, because a core objective of the US-Russian partnership, which he shaped as a model for other regions, was to have been to clip Iran’s wings and cut down its standing down as premier Middle East power conferred by Barack Obama.

(How the Flynn mechanism was to work plus detailed analysis of the fallout from his departure will be covered exclusively in the coming issue of DEBKA Weekly out next Friday).

Flynn alone was privy to arrangements concluded with Saudi King Salman in Riyadh, Jordan’s King Abdullah in Amman, President Putin in Moscow, Tayyip Erdogan in Ankara, Abdel-Fatteh El-Sisis in Cairo and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem.

Some of his output began taking shape on the day he stepped down, when Syrian rebel groups led by Jordanian special operations officers attacked Syrian army positions in the southern town of Daraa. This was the start of an operation to drive Syrian government forces and their Iranian and Hizballah allies from the lands bordering on Jordan and Israel.

In Cairo, too, President Michel Aoun of Lebanon and his host, El-Sisi were hashing out a plan for the Egyptian army and Gulf forces to go into action against Hizballah in Syria and Lebanon.
Wednesday, Feb. 15, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is to visit the White House for his first meeting with Trump as president. They too were scheduled to discuss US operations against Hizballah and the role Israel would play.

In the coming hours, Trump will have to decide whether to go ahead with these initiatives in the absence of Flynn and his detailed knowledge of how they should go forward, or simply put them on hold until his successor is in place and has time for a full study of their complicated ins and outs. At the same time, a different national security adviser in the White house might have different plans to those laid out by his predecessor.