General: Raqqa Op Needed ASAP as ISIS Plotting ‘Significant External Operations’

(ISIS photo)

(ISIS photo)

PJ Media, by Bridget Johnson, October 26, 2016:

ARLINGTON, Va. — The commander for U.S. operations in Iraq and Syria said that, with Iraqi forces still yet to plunge inside Mosul, the coalition is moving forward with urgency on taking the battle to the Islamic State’s capital in Syria — particularly as “an external plot” for a terror attack is being fomented in Raqqa.

Speaking with reporters via video from Baghdad today, Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend stressed that Syria is a “complicated battle space” as “our Syrian partners in Turkey continue advancing and push ISIL farther from Turkey’s border.”

“We’re working with our allies, our partners, coalition members to refine the military plan for the isolation and eventual liberation of Raqqa. While that planning effort is ongoing, we will continue conducting precision strikes to reduce the enemy’s freedom of movement, attack their leaders and command and control,” Townsend said.

Seeing greater willingness from local populations to rise up against ISIS after having endured their brutal rule, he said, “gives us confidence that ISIL will also be driven from Raqqa.”

One of the challenges with Raqqa will be using “a partnered force rather than the partner being a nation-state’s armed forces like the Iraqi armed forces” and will be “done with a lot lighter coalition footprint.”

“We’ll have fewer coalition troops there, less combat capability there. We’ll have to apply coalition combat support in a different way than we’re doing here in Iraq,” Townsend said. “…There are a lot of regional security concerns that are in competition there. And the Syrian regime’s involved, the Russians are involved, Turkey’s involved, it’s hard. And there’s — oh by the way, there’s a civil war going on right next door.”

“So it’s gonna be a tough — very tough political environment and a security environment, I think, for our effort there.”

Raqqa is a smaller city than Mosul, but because of the complicating factors Townsend guessed “the ultimate liberation of Raqqa will probably take longer than Mosul.”

“I believe that there are sufficient local forces already available for that operation. However, we have a plan to… recruit and equip and train more local forces for that operation. So that’s part of our campaign plan, to generate additional combat power for that future operation,” he said.

The Raqqa effort will rely heavily on the Syrian Democratic Forces, or SDF. “They have an Arab wing which we refer to as the Syrian Arab Corp. That force is fairly robust, over 30,000. And a good portion of them are Kurdish forces, Syrian Kurds. But also, another part of that force is — a significant part of that force is Arabs and other ethnic groups that are from that region,” the general explained.

“So we will train the forces that we need. And specifically, we’re going to try to recruit and train a force that’s from the local area of Raqqa. So that’s what’s made our — one of the factors that’s made our efforts in Northern Syria successful to date, is we have recruited, in each case — and Manbij is a good example of this — we’ve recruited forces from the local area that were part of the assault force to liberate that area. And they form the core of the whole force that will stay.”

Townsend clarified that “most the recruiting will be done not by us, but it will be done by our local partners,” and noted “we haven’t found a shortage of volunteers who want to go fight ISIL or Daesh, as we refer to them.”

“There’s no shortage of folks who want to do that, especially if they’re going back to liberate their own hometown,” he said.

U.S. forces may assist “with specialty courses, weapons, leadership courses, those kind of things — and I don’t think that training will be done in the vicinity of Raqqa.”

Townsend said “there’s an imperative to get isolation in place around Raqqa because our intelligence feeds tell us that there is significant external operations attacks planning going on, emanating central in — centralized in Raqqa.”

“So, we think it’s very important to get isolation in place around Raqqa to start controlling that environment on a pretty short timeline. So, we’re gonna take the force that we have and it will — we will go to Raqqa soon with that force. And I think that the Syrian Democratic Forces, to include the Kurdish YPG and the Arab — Syrian Arab Corps, will all be part of that force to go and place isolation at Raqqa,” he said.

Pressed on what that external threat could entail, Townsend said he didn’t want to discuss specific intelligence but “we actually aren’t sure how pressing it is, and that’s what’s worrying us.”

“So we’re not sure, we know they’re up to something. And it’s an external plot, we don’t know exactly where, we don’t know exactly when. You can understand this because you’ve been following these kinds of terrorist plots for a number of years, and we’re gonna try to hit if off,” he continued.

“So what we’re doing right now is a pretty much continuous watch and strikes in the Raqqa area when targets emerge that we can strike. And so we’re gonna do those kinds of suppressive fires until we’re ready.”

After the city of Manbij was liberated from ISIS, “we found links to individuals and plot streams to France, the United States, other European countries.”

“So we know that this is going on in Raqqa, as well. And so I think that’s why its necessary to get down there to Raqqa. We know that it’s a focal point of ISIL external operations, planning, plotting.”

On the prospects of the Turks and the Kurds both wanting to join the fight, Townsend said, “We’re willing to march south with anybody — to Raqqa — with anybody who’s willing to join the coalition, follow the direction that the coalition’s taking and to go defeat Daesh in Raqqa and start that pretty soon.”

The general said that the U.S. plan has been “to pressure Mosul and Raqqa simultaneously, or nearly so.”

“We want to pressure Raqqa so that the enemy doesn’t have a convenient place to go,” he said. “He’s got other places to go but he’s gotta make some choices that maybe weren’t his first or second choices.”

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The Battle of Mosul

7fb89ca7-549c-4fff-a20f-b1551b8a4554Townhall, by Cliff May, Oct 26, 2016:

Ayman al-Zawahiri was correct. Believed to be ensconced in the tribal lands of Pakistan, the leader of what’s sometimes called al Qaeda Central has dedicated his life to a jihad that he hopes and prays will lead to the founding of a new and mighty Islamic empire. But he understands the value of strategic patience.

In particular, he recognized that establishing a caliphate before conditions were favorable for its survival and expansion could only be unhelpful, causing Muslims to doubt whether spreading Islamic domination in the 21st century is a divinely blessed mission.

By contrast, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, 45, has been a young man in a hurry. As leader of al Qaeda in Iraq, he chafed at taking orders from the 65-year-old successor to Osama bin Laden. In 2014, he broke with al Qaeda, declared a caliphate, the Islamic State, with himself as caliph. And now he and his fledgling empire are in peril.

A coalition of forces is closing in on Mosul, the only major Sunni-majority city in Iraq still under Islamic State control. It is probably only a matter of time — and blood — before Mosul is liberated, a term that should be used advisedly in the Middle East.

The Islamic State is believed to have fewer than 7,000 fighters in Mosul. How many will seek martyrdom (after using human shields for as long as possible) and how many will run from the more than 30,000 coalition troops — troops much better equipped and supported by American air power? Hard to say.

Those who flee may head for towns along the Tigris and Euphrates rivers that remain Islamic State strongholds. Others will try to reach Syria, especially Raqqa, the caliphate’s de facto capital, northeast of Damascus.

An offensive against Raqqa is being contemplated. But who will lead that effort? And who will govern Raqqa after the Islamic State is gone? These are difficult questions that ought to be answered within a broader strategic framework.

Imagine that the Battle of Mosul is followed by a Battle of Raqqa and that the Islamic State ends up with little or no territory still under its control. What do its surviving fighters do then? Perhaps some will slink back to wherever they came from, defeated and disillusioned. Others may become guerrillas, perpetrating acts of terrorism within the region and plotting a comeback. Still others could decide to put their skills and experience to use in a more distant land, perhaps one that mistakes them for refugees.

We don’t know how much destruction will be visited on Mosul over the days ahead, but it’s likely that hundreds of thousands of people will be displaced. The agencies charged with caring for them are already burdened to the breaking point.

Mosul and the nearby Nineveh Plain are the historic homeland of the Assyrian Christians. The U.S. Congress, the Obama administration and the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom have all recognized that these and other Christian communities of the Middle East, as well as Yazidis and other religious minorities, are facing genocide. Such recognition should guarantee that saving Christians and their communities is a high priority. That does not appear to be the case at present. It’s easy to champion diversity for Washington, Toronto and Berlin. To do so for Muslim-majority lands is more challenging.

Though the forces assembled for the Battle of Mosul view the Islamic State as their common enemy, their alliance remains tenuous. The Peshmerga, the army of Iraqi Kurdistan, is constituted of tough fighters whose most important mission is consolidating and defending historically Kurdish lands. Elements of the Iraqi military are reportedly flying Shia flags, a sight not reassuring to Mosul’s Sunnis. Also joining the coalition are Popular Mobilization Forces, Shia militias, the most powerful of which are controlled by Iran. Just a few years ago, they were killing American troops, using such weapons as EFPs, explosively formed penetrators — highly lethal bombs supplied by Iran’s ruling mullahs.

If the Battle of Mosul goes as expected, the Islamic State’s loss, while significant, also will be al Qaeda’s gain. Dr. Zawahiri (he was a physician before he was a revolutionary) should have an easier time attracting recruits and funds once it becomes indisputable that the rival founded by Dr. Baghdadi (he was a theologian before he was a revolutionary) has not lived up to its promise.

Also benefiting from the decline of the Islamic State will be the Islamic Republic of Iran, which aims to establish a new Persian empire, albeit one based on religious allegiance. Most immediately, the clerical regime is attempting to construct what has been called a “Shia crescent” including Iraq, where its influence has only grown since the 2011 withdrawal of American troops, and Syria, where it is defending the dictatorship of its client, Bashar Assad (with significant Russian assistance). Beyond Syria is Lebanon, where Hezbollah, Iran’s foreign legion, is more powerful than the national armed forces and is preparing for a future showdown with Israel. In addition, Iran provides support to Houthis fighting a civil war in Yemen, and to Hamas in Gaza.

So while the Battle of Mosul is likely to be a military victory for the alliance President Obama supports, it would be unwise for him to claim — once again — that “the tide of war is receding.” The free peoples of the world, as well as those who might like to be, are in for an extended conflict, one that will have to be fought on multiple battlefields against a list of jihadi groups and regimes. Perhaps the next American administration will develop a serious strategy to defeat our enemies. I’m not suggesting that’s probable, only that it’s not impossible.



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MOSUL: Iraqi Military Displays Shi’ite Flags In Advance on Sunni Region

jihad-flagThe flags belie the Baghdad government’s promise that it will repair sectarian relations if it regains control of the Sunni regions of Iraq. Iran’s Shi’a militias are set to join the fray, which can only deepen the rift.

CounterJihad, October 24, 2016:

Here are CounterJihad we have been warning for some time about the growing influence of Shi’a militias within Iraq, as they proclaim that their first loyalty is to Iran and its clerical leadership.  The power that these sectarian militas are exercising within Iraq makes it difficult to believe that the government in Baghdad will be able to remain independent from Iran, as the militias are a dagger pressed at Baghdad’s throat.

This story is worse than that.  This story is about the flying of sectarian flags by Baghdad’s own official state military.

Iraqi soldiers fighting to retake the largely Sunni city of Mosul from Islamic State are mounting Shiite flags on their vehicles and raising them atop buildings, stoking the sectarian divisions that Iraq’s government has vowed to repair….  Flying on tanks or over government checkpoints and homes in recently reclaimed Sunni villages, they often dwarf Iraqi flags next to them.

The flags are rankling Sunnis as well as Kurdish Peshmerga fighters taking part in the assault. Sunnis said the display undermines the message of national unity against Islamic State and reinforces their long-held impression that they don’t belong in Iraq’s state and security structure.

Further testing the alliance, Iraqi Shiite militias said Friday they were set to join the battle to dislodge Islamic State from Mosul.

This development underlines just how we got to a caliphate in western Iraq to begin with.  The Sunni forces fighting against the Baghdad government were brought to the peace table out of an outrage with al Qaeda in Iraq’s brutality against them.  They agreed to support the Baghdad government in return for fair treatment, instead of being suppressed as an ethnic minority.

The US military, which in those days had multiple divisions within Iraq, conducted patient negotiation with militants formerly aligned with al Qaeda in Iraq.  The agreements the US military negotiated for the Sunnis were designed to effect a reconciliation between the government and the tribes.  Agreements included promises of jobs, assistance for communities recovering from the war, and many other things that the government agreed to provide in return for the support of these former enemies.  The United States helped to negotiate all these agreements, and promised to see that they would be kept faithfully.

Instead, our Secretary of State — one Hillary Clinton — failed to produce either a new Status of Forces agreement that would permit US troops to remain in Iraq, or an agreement that would allow State Department personnel to move about the country safely to observe whether agreements were being kept.  In the wake of the precipitous withdrawal of US forces, Prime Minister Maliki moved to arrest Sunni leaders in government, and broke all his promises to the tribes.

The result was that the western part of Iraq once again became fertile ground for an Islamist insurgency.

The Baghdad government is responsible for the actions that undermined Sunni faith in the system it represented.  It compounded the problem by allowing these Iranian-backed Shi’a militias to conduct punitive war crimes against Sunni villages that had supported Saddam’s regime.  At least the militias were plausibly acting on their own, however, rather than as agents of the state.

Shi’a flags above Iraq’s army as it proceeds into Mosul means that no peace is possible regardless of the outcome of the fight against the Islamic State (ISIS).  This is the endorsement of a sectarian war by the official arm of the Baghdad government.  Even if ISIS loses, the Sunnis will have to fight on in order to avoid being subjugated by a central government that has become their actual enemy.

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Dr. Sebastian Gorka: Hillary Clinton’s Disclosure of Nuclear Response Times During Debate Was ‘Unconscionable’

hc-640x480Breitbart, by John Hayward, October 21, 2016:

On Friday’s Breitbart News Daily, Breitbart News National Security editor Dr. Sebastian Gorka, author of the best-selling book Defeating Jihad: The Winnable War, talked about Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton’s clash over Russia at the third presidential debate.

“As I’ve said repeatedly, if there is anybody who’s been in the pocket of Vladimir Putin, it is Hillary Clinton. Everybody needs to have out there, the millennials that they know, their nephews, their nieces, just watch Clinton Cash on YouTube,” Gorka said. “The fact that 20 percent of our uranium was sold to Kremlin front companies, in a deal that was signed off by Hillary Clinton as secretary of state, means if there’s anybody who can be bought by the Kremlin, it’s Hillary Clinton.”

“That happened when her husband was receiving $120 million speaking fee from the same companies that bought the uranium,” Gorka noted.

“I have to give great credit to your callers,” he told SiriusXM host Alex Marlow. “Your show is really about the callers. They see through this. They understand that there’s the mainstream media spin, and most often, it is 180 degrees out of phase with reality. If Trump were some kind of puppet for Moscow, wouldn’t this man have casinos in Kaliningrad? Wouldn’t he have giant Trump Towers in Moscow? He doesn’t. That tells you everything you need to know. Reality is completely the reverse of what anybody else inside the mainstream media would have you believe.”

One of those callers joined the conversation at that point to observe that audiences for mainstream media outlets like CNN were given a very different perspective on the debate than people who watched it without such a media filter.

“I think that the real story will be that there is, perhaps, a majority of people out there who simply have had enough,” said Gorka. “Look at the viewing figures for stations like CNN. I think it tells you everything. Look at the figures for Breitbart, the viewers and clicks. I think that’s the hidden story of this election – that the mainstream media believes they still dominate, but I think in two weeks’ time, two-and-a-half weeks’ time, there’s going to be potentially a very big surprise for those people who think they still speak for America and can control what America sees, whether it’s the debates, whether it’s any kind of reporting on any issue, whether it’s the border, or the economy.”

“Just the polls themselves – look at the poll figures, and then look at the Trump rallies,” he suggested. “Again, spin versus reality. Look at the fact that Hillary seems to be leading everywhere, if you listen to the polls, and then just watch the turnout for her campaign events. I think that tells you everything you need to know.”

Gorka was pleased that national security has been such an important theme in the 2016 presidential debates, pausing to issue a disclaimer that he has provided national security advice to Donald Trump in the past, “long before anybody took him seriously.”

“I’m not part of his campaign, but I’ve spoken to this man on more than one occasion about the big issues, such as ISIS, North Korea, Russia, and Iran,” he clarified.

With that disclosure made, Gorka faulted Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, and theiradvisers for clumsy handling of major foreign policy issues, agreeing with Donald Trump’s criticism that Clinton and Obama constantly telegraph their moves to the enemy.

“It’s not just Hillary. It’s her coterie. It is the liberal elite. The Obama administration has done exactly the same,” he noted. “Every major deployment in Iraq, every major operation, has been announced in advance, which is anathema to just the most basic principles of warfare. And it’s fascinating. This isn’t a new thing. Her husband did exactlythe same thing, during the Balkan wars. Your callers may not recall, but he actually announced before our engagement in the Balkans, he said, ‘I refuse, and I will never put boots on the ground in Yugoslavia.’ Doesn’t that sound familiar? Haven’t you heard somebody else say that, in this current presidential campaign?”

“Telegraphing in advance what you’re going to do is dynamite for the opposition, for your enemy, because then they will prepare to exploit that against you,” Gorka explained. “Look, even after the WikiLeaks became more and more uncomfortable for Hillary, what did we have the vice president do on national television? Announce that, well, they’ve decided Russia is behind all of this, and we’re going to launch a cyber-attack against them, at a time of our choosing. If you read that in a Tom Clancy novel, you’d say, ‘Has Tom lost it?’ Nobody does this.”

“Mr. Trump’s point that he understands we are at war – I can assure your listeners, he knows we are at war, and he wants to win this war, but he’s not going to tell the enemy what we’re going to do. It’s a very, very, valid point,” he said.

Marlow brought up an overlooked moment from the third debate, when Clinton inadvertently revealed some sensitive information about U.S. response times to nuclear attack. Gorka said he wanted to address this issue “in a certain way, if you’ll permit me, as somebody who actually cares for the security of the Republic and who lives in the national security arena.”

From that perspective, he declined to comment on “the veracity, or lack thereof, of what she said.”

“Just one thing has to be drawn, one conclusion has to be drawn: the whole platform of the Hillary campaign, that Mr. Trump is not fit to serve as commander-in-chief, he’s not stable, he can’t be trusted – all of that applies to her, and solely to her,” Gorka said. “Anybody who puts Top Secret/SCI super-classified information on a private homebrew server, and then talks about our nuclear reaction times on live television, in front of tens of millions of people – that woman should not be allowed – I know this is a line Mr. Trump has borrowed from me, but I have to use it – that individual should not be allowed to run for local dog catcher, let alone the most powerful person in the world. It is unconscionablewhat she did on national television, and the fact the liberal media is giving her heat on that tells you everything you need to know.”

Gorka turned to the chaos currently engulfing two key cities in the Middle East, Iraq’s Mosul and Syria’s Aleppo.

“What we have is this group of – a very heterogenous military force has deployed to Mosul. Again, this was announced weeks in advance by the current administration. We have the Sunni elements of the standing Iraqi army. We have elements of the Kurdish Peshmerga. And, on top of that – this is perhaps the most problematic – we have so-called ‘mobilization forces,’ which are made up Shia former militias, working together, hopefully, to take Mosul with our brave men, and some of our women, as well, as advisers providing training, providing intelligence, and also bombing capabilities for those forces,” Gorka explained.

“The idea is to recapture the second-biggest city in Iraq, which isn’t just important for the size of the city, but because this is the location where, in June 2014, the head of ISIS, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, declared formally the re-establishment of the Caliphate, the new empire of Islam,” he noted. “So Mosul is very, very important. The problem with this operation is the very mixed nature of who’s fighting. They have very, very different interests in terms of the future of Iraq.”

“And the biggest problem of all: you can launch an attack to capture a city – but what happens if you capture it?” he asked. “Are you going to stay there? Are the local Sunnis going to allow Shia or Kurds to stay in the region? And what happens when the fighters come back? It’s like squeezing a balloon. You can push the fighters out, but sooner or later, if you haven’t killed all of them, they will be back.”

As for Aleppo, Gorka called it a “tragedy,” saying that “the last five years in Syria are truly a humanitarian disaster.”

“Here again, we have reality, and we have spin,” he said. “The idea that somehow, we’re going to have a cooperative Russia assist us in stopping the killing and bring stability to that nation is a fantasy. The whole Obama administration’s policy is based on an article of faith that is, again, just phantasmagorical – the idea that Assad must go.”

“Whatever the desperate situation in Aleppo, Assad is not going anywhere,” Gorka noted regretfully. “As long as that man enjoys the support not only of Russia, but Iran and even China, this is a head of state that isn’t going anywhere – unless, of course, America wishes to go to war with Russia, China, and Iran, which is not advisable right now.”

“So we have to stabilize the region. We have to realize that only a political resolution is realistic. And unfortunately, the current powers-that-be in Washington simply do not understand that,” he said.

Dr. Gorka’s parting thought was to “reinforce that November the 8th is primarily about one issue, as far as I’m concerned, and I think most Americans agree with me: it’s about which person do you think is going to keep you and your family safe.”

“So when you’re going to the polling booth, and please bring as many people with you as you can, remember it’s a choice between Hillary – Servergate, Benghazi, nuclear launch times – and a man who believes we are at war with the jihadists and wishes to win. It really is quite that simple, Alex,” he said.



Top 5 Clinton scandals you’re missing due to media bias



Warning: rough language:

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A ‘lasting defeat’ of the Islamic State will be elusive

islamic-state-convoy-anbar-e1440694626820-1023x312LONG WAR JOURNAL, BY BILL ROGGIO, October 18, 2016:

As the Iraqi government and Coalition forces launched the offensive to retake Mosul, the US military has optimistically said that the campaign will deal a “lasting defeat” to the Islamic State. But, if the recent history of the fight against jihadist groups in the Middle East, Africa, and South Asia is any indicator, a lasting defeat of the Islamic State will remain elusive.

On Oct. 16, the US military made the claim that the Mosul operation will “deliver ISIL [Islamic State] a lasting defeat” [emphasis mine]:

Tonight Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi announced the start of Iraqi operations to liberate Mosul from ISIL. This is a decisive moment in the campaign to deliver ISIL a lasting defeat. The United States and the rest of the international coalition stand ready to support Iraqi Security Forces, Peshmerga fighters and the people of Iraq in the difficult fight ahead. We are confident our Iraqi partners will prevail against our common enemy and free Mosul and the rest of Iraq from ISIL’s hatred and brutality.

Keep in mind that many analysts were quick to pronounce the Islamic State’s predecessor, al Qaeda’s Islamic State of Iraq, as defeated after the US surge that began in 2007 rooted out the jihadists from its sanctuaries across Iraq. By 2010, Iraqi and US forces killed the Islamic State of Iraq’s emir, Abu Omar al Baghdadi, and War Minister Abu Ayyub al Masri a.k.a. Abu Hamza al Muhajir, and the group was driven underground. But these setbacks did not deter the Islamic State of Iraq. Its new leader, Abu Bakr al Baghdadi rallied the Islamic State of Iraq’s remaining forces and reconstituted the organization. In Syria, the Islamic State of Iraq took advantage of the Syrian civil war to rebuild its strength. By 2012, it created the Al Nusrah Front, its branch in Syria, and was launching large scale raids inside Iraq, such as the one in Haditha in March 2012, that presaged the events of 2014, which saw Iraqi forces defeated in Anbar, Salahaddin, Ninewa, and Diyala.

The Islamic State is not alone in its phoenix-like rebirth after losing ground to local forces backed by the US. Al Qaeda branches in Somalia, Yemen, and Mali, have experienced major setbacks and lost ground it held, only to regroup and retake territory. The same is true with Boko Haram in Nigeria and Taliban branches in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Each of these countries have been in a state of perpetual war for well over a decade due to jihadist insurgencies.

In Iraq, the political and security situation is ripe for an eventual Islamic State (or whatever jihadist entity may follow it) comeback. There are large rural areas in Iraq still under Islamic State control today, and it is highly unlikely that Iraqi forces will root out the Islamic State from all of these areas. Syria remains a security nightmare, and even with recent Islamic State losses, it still controls large areas. Iraq remains a fractured state divided between the Shia-led government, which is under pressure from Iran, the marginalized Sunnis that make up the recruiting base for the Islamic State, and the Kurds, who seek independence. The Islamic State has deftly taken advantage of Iraq’s political and sectarian fault lines to stoke the fires of conflict. Iran’s machinations in Iraq and its Shia militias provide the Islamic State all of the recruiting fodder it needs to convince Sunnis to join the fight.

The fight in Iraq, as in other jihadist theaters, ebbs and flows. For the Islamic State, it is currently retreating from many of the cities and towns in Iraq and Syria that it once held. But do not expect a lasting defeat of the Islamic State. The Islamic State has survived the full might of the US surge, and was able to regroup, wage a terrorist insurgency, and build an army that overran large areas of Iraq and Syria, all over the course of four years.

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

Islamic State Braces as Iraq Prepares Mosul Offensive

An Iraqi soldier flashed a victory sign on Saturday ahead of an expected offensive to retake the city of Mosul from Islamic State. PHOTO: ADAM SCHRECK/ASSOCIATED PRESS

An Iraqi soldier flashed a victory sign on Saturday ahead of an expected offensive to retake the city of Mosul from Islamic State. PHOTO: ADAM SCHRECK/ASSOCIATED PRESS

Update: The siege of Mosul begins

The long-anticipated attack could begin this week, and will aim to recapture Iraq’s second-largest city from the militant group.


“Do you want to be humiliated again by the army, and do you not appreciate the dignity we gave you?” the imam said, according to a resident who was there. “Do you want to be treated badly by the army as they used to treat you before we liberated you?”

The unusual sermon underscored what Mosul residents and Iraqi intelligence officials describe as disarray in the ranks of Islamic State on the eve of a military operation to dislodge the group from its Iraqi stronghold.

The offensive could begin as early as this week, with the aim of depriving Islamic State of its last major territorial holding in the country.

Islamic State has suffered a string of losses lately in its self-declared caliphate. The latest came Sunday when Syrian rebels backed by Turkey and the U.S. drove the militants from the Syrian town of Dabiq. Officials with the U.S.-led coalition fighting Islamic State have said the offensives in Syria and Iraq aren’t coordinated.

Mass defections, internal rivalries and an increasingly restive local population have contributed to a sense of confidence inside Iraq’s military that the time is ripe to mount an attack to recapture Iraq’s second-largest city, according to Iraqi military officials.

“All the people I talk to are ready to rebel against them with the first gunshot of the operation,” another Mosul resident said. He said new defenses set up by fighters in the city appear amateurish. Main streets have been outfitted with concrete blast walls on a platform attached to a rope, with the intention of pulling the rope to drop the walls on incoming military vehicles.

“To me this is so funny and stupid,” said the resident.

Iraqi and U.S. military officials said they see Islamic State as significantly weakened, in large part because of a dedicated psychological warfare unit that has negotiated guarantees from local elders and former Saddam Hussein loyalists to abandon the militants.

For nearly a year, a multiethnic unit inside Iraq’s military that includes academics specializing in sociology, psychology and communication have used covert methods to secure agreements with people of influence in some 16 districts in Mosul, according to several Iraqi officials. These people have helped rally their communities to work with Iraqi security forces, the officials said.

In some cases, the unit has entered Mosul and provided arms to local residents to use against Islamic State once the official operation to reclaim the city begins, one intelligence official said.

“This unit gave people in Mosul hope for survival, determination to resist and a sense that someone is helping them,” said Saeed al-Jayashi, a member of Iraq’s National Security Advisory. “This is exactly what makes you win the battle.”

A ranking officer involved in the unit said the agreements with local leaders are a sign that the psychological warfare campaign has vexed Islamic State—something the unit failed to do in previous battles. This has in part influenced the timing of the planned ground assault.

“The psychological operations are not new, but we know the huge effort in Mosul has been fruitful,” the officer said. “The work done by this group has managed to change the views of many people in favor of the Iraqi security forces.”

A mid-ranking Islamic State commander said in an interview over Facebook that the group has made a tactical decision to partially abandon Mosul, recalling their “human resources” to Syria where they hope to strengthen their foothold.

“There will be no big great epic battle in Mosul,” the commander said. “The tactic now is hit-and-run.”

Islamic State was able to conquer Mosul in 2014 in large part because a local Sunni majority was disillusioned with the Shiite-dominated central government and military fashioned by American policies after the 2003 invasion of Iraq. The Mosul political and security administrations collapsed when the militants arrived.

But more than two years of harsh Islamic State rule, which residents said has led to food and gasoline shortages as well as arbitrary violence and punishment, has weakened support for the group.

Iraqi and American officials preparing the military assault expect a tough fight, with a specific concern that a desperate group of fighters will attempt to use the city’s 1.2 million residents as human shields. Aid agencies and the United Nations are bracing for an expected exodus once the offensive has launched.

Pentagon officials have said there are pockets within Mosul that may be easier to recapture than others. Iraqi forces will begin to tighten a “noose” around Mosul once operations begin, one senior U.S. military official said recently.

U.S. military officials said they are not sure exactly what they will find inside Mosul. Many fighters will disappear into the populace; others will fight to the end. The effectiveness of suicide bombers, roadside bombs and other Islamic State tactics and weapons will determine how well Iraqi forces fight, they said.

Iraq and neighboring Turkey have also clashed over the makeup of the force that will attack Mosul, which is near the Turkish border. But U.S. officials said that will not delay the operation.

Iraqi intelligence officials have attempted to encourage local rebellions against Islamic State in Mosul while instructing residents to remain in their homes and raise white flags once the Iraqi military and its allied Sunni militias push into the city.

The officer said one tactic which has worked to unsettle the militants has been the so-called “M Group.” Secretly directed by Iraq’s military, the group inside the city marks the homes and offices of Islamic State fighters and administrators with the Arabic letter M—the first letter of moqawamma, which means resistance.

The officer said the tag isn’t necessarily for tactical reasons but appears to have frightened militants who he said have fled in droves in recent weeks. Local residents also said they have seen the militants fleeing.

Local cellphone networks, which haven’t worked for more than a year, are increasingly being restored in the towns and villages surrounding Mosul as Iraqi forces have advanced.

One of the Mosul residents, reached by phone, said Islamic State’s visibility in the city has been reduced dramatically. Foreign fighters who patrolled the streets or haunted internet cafes monitoring activity have largely disappeared, the resident said.

Pickup trucks piled with furniture and other belongings of fleeing fighters have replaced similar trucks mounted with high-caliber machine guns, another resident said.

Islamic State has also been beset in Mosul by internal rivalries, Iraqi military officials said.

“There are disputes between local and foreign Daesh militants,” said Sabah al-Noman, a spokesman for Iraq’s counterterrorism forces, which are expected to lead the ground assault on the city. “These disputes have led to executions on a daily basis.” Daesh is the Arabic acronym for Islamic State.

“Daesh now in the city is not Daesh that invaded the city two years ago,” said one of the Mosul residents.


Also see:

Turkey’s New Territorial Claims Threaten NATO

turkey-islamic-2Will Russia help give a new birth to a resurgent Ottoman Empire? It’s a tricky bit of diplomacy, but their recent successes suggest they could do so — and thereby destroy the major international alliance controlling Russian aggression.

CounterJihad, October 13, 2016:

A significant claim is being pushed by the Turkish government, one that could redraw the lines of the old Ottoman Empire:

Тhe spat erupted after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan took the country and the region by surprise last month by calling into question the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne, which defined modern Turkey’s borders.  He declared Turkey had been blackmailed by foreign powers into giving up vast swaths of territory that were once part of the Ottoman Empire….

[A]ccording to visiting Carnegie Europe scholar Sinan Ulgen[:]  “The message should be seen more of a signal in relation to Turkish polices towards the south, Syria and Iraq. I read it as a backdrop to a policy that tries to build domestic support for a more long-term presence, particularly in Syria, by pointing out, at allegedly past historical mistakes,” Ulgen said.

Turkish forces are currently in Syria and Iraq. But the Turkish presence at the Bashiqa base, close to the Iraqi city of Mosul, has become the center of a deepening dispute with Baghdad. The base is ostensibly tor training Sunni militia to fight Islamic State.

On Tuesday, Erdogan dismissed Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi’s calls to withdraw Turkish troops, telling him “he should know his place.”

Ulgen went on to point out that Turkey has historical claims not only to Mosul, currently contested in the fight against the Islamic State (ISIS).   Both Mosul and oil-rich Kirkuk were part of the original design of the modern-day Turkey.  The Turks’ traditionalists and nationalists view the treaty that gave them away as having been forced on them at the end of World War I.

If Russian diplomacy can broker a deal that allows Turkey to expand into Iraq and Syria, it could cement Turkey’s move into Russia’s sphere.  Until recently, that looked unlikely at best.  Last year, Turkmen fighters shot down a Russian jet over repeated incursions by the Russian air force.  At that time, relations between the two nations became quite tense.  Russia is backing Iran’s play in the region, apparently in the hope that a powerful Shi’a Iran will create a buffer zone between Russia and the Sunni jihadist forces that have acted to inflame Muslim minorities in Central Asia.  Likewise, the war in the Middle East draws attention away from Russia’s strategic moves in Eastern Europe, such as last week’s deployment of nuclear missileson the very borders of Poland and the Baltic States.

Turkey’s latest move appears likely to inflame Iraq’s government, and Russia’s ally Iran intends to control Iraq at the end of this conflict.  Surrendering territory, especially oil-rich territory, may be a difficult negotiation.  On the other hand, Kirkuk is also disputed with the Kurds, and whichever government formally holds it after the war is going to have to fight to keep it.  Iran may be willing to be persuaded to concede the fight to Turkey in return for a more firmly-controlled corridor between Tehran and the Levant.

That will require some subtle diplomacy to negotiate, but right now Russia is having significant success in its diplomatic moves.  In the wake of a new energy deal between Turkey and Russia, the Russian diplomatic corps seems to have a lot of momentum on its side.  Turkey was already looking away from NATO and Europe in the wake of its Islamist purge following an alleged attempted coup.  Should Russia be able to get a process of negotiation going between Turkey, Iraq and Iran on the issue of Turkish territorial expansion, Russia would assume the leadership role in the region.  Should it actually resolve the negotiations successfully, it could expect Turkey to become part of the Russian sphere of influence.  That would potentially derail NATO, as NATO’s decisions must be taken by a unanimous vote.  If Turkey becomes as strong a Russian ally as China, NATO could become as useless an organ for opposing Russian ambition as the United Nations Security Council (on which Russia has a veto).

American diplomacy is meanwhile spinning its wheels.  The United States broke off talks with Russia, and then called for war crimes investigations into Russia and Assad for their campaign in Syria.  American Secretary of State John F. Kerry also accused Russia of interfering with America’s elections.  However, it appears that Kerry now wants a new push for a cease-fire in Aleppo, which would require Syria and Russia to sign on.

American diplomatic weakness is partially a function of American military weakness in the region.  Russian diplomatic success is partially likewise a function of its deployment of air and naval-gunnery forces, as well as its so-far successful alliance with Iran.  Better American leadership might help, but for now, the situation is rapidly sliding away from America and towards the Russians.

Hillary raises eyebrows with Muslim claim


Trump defends policies on vetting, investigating immigrants from dangerous countries

WND, October 10, 2016:

Were Muslims partially responsible for American independence?

Hillary Clinton raised eyebrows with a questionable claim during Sunday’s fiery presidential debate by stating Islam was always part of American history – even since the Revolutionary War.

After recycling the Khizir Khan controversy, the Democrat nominee claimed “we’ve had Muslims in America since George Washington.”

Several conservatives found humor in this seemingly overlooked part of colonial American history.

But Clinton’s pronouncement was designed to put Donald Trump on the defensive because of his earlier proposed shutdown of Muslim immigration. Paying tribute to American Muslims, Clinton mourned, “We just lost a particular well-known one with Muhammad Ali.”

She accused Trump of being “short-sighted” and “dangerous,” even putting American security at risk.

The former Secretary of State intoned:

What do YOU think? Who won 2nd debate between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton? Sound off in the WND Poll!

“We need American Muslims to be part of our eyes and ears on our front lines. I’ve worked with a lot of different Muslim groups around America. I’ve met with a lot of them and heard how important it is for them to feel they are wanted and included and part of our country, part of our homeland security. And that’s what I want to see.

“It’s also important to know I intend to defeat ISIS as part of a coalition with majority Muslim nations. Right now a lot of those nations are hearing what Donald says and wondering, ‘Why should we cooperate with the Americans?’ And this is a gift to ISIS and the terrorists. Violent jihadist terrorists. We are not at war with Islam. And it is a mistake and it plays into the hands of the terrorists to act as though we are.”

However, Trump did not back down. He called the late Capt. Khan an “American hero” but quickly pivoted to the question of the Iraq War, saying Khan would still be alive if he had been in command because Trump opposed the invasion.

Trump accused Clinton of having “voted for the war without knowing what she was doing” and called it a “disaster.” He also said American Muslims need to report suspicious activities to law enforcement in order to prevent attacks like those which occurred in San Bernadino.

Trump did not defend a Muslim ban in explicit terms, but explained he favored “extreme vetting.”

He slammed Hillary Clinton for favoring a 550 percent increase in the Syrian refugee program beyond what the Obama administration has authorized.

Trump warned of dire consequences unless American security was prioritized.

“People are coming into our country and we have no idea who they are,” he said. “Where they are from, what their feeling about our country is. And she wants 550 percent more. This is going to be the great Trojan Horse of all time.”

Trump slammed the moderate Muslim nations Hillary Clinton praised as American allies for not doing more to solve the refugee crisis.

“I believe in building safe zones, in having other people for them,” Trump said. “As an example, the Gulf States who are not carrying their weight but have nothing but money.”

For her part, Clinton claimed she would “not let anyone into our country that I think poses a risk to us.”

However, the former secretary of state claimed sad pictures of Syrian refugees moved her to welcome more migrants. She also pinned the blame on Russia for the Syrian crisis.

“There are a lot of refugees, women and children,” Clinton said. “Think of that picture we all saw of that 4-year-old boy with the blood on his forehead because he had been bombed by the Russian and Syrian air forces. There are children suffering in this catastrophic war. Largely I believe because of Russian aggression. And we need to do our part. We are by no means carrying anywhere near the load that Europe and others are.”

Pete Hoekstra: Obama-Clinton Foreign Policy ‘Not Only Engaging with Radical Jihadist Groups Overseas,’ but Allowing Them to ‘Spread Their Doctrine Around the United States’

T.J. Kirkpatrick-Pool/Getty Images

T.J. Kirkpatrick-Pool/Getty Images

Breitbart, by John Hayward, Oct. 4, 2016:

Pete Hoekstra, former chairman of the U.S. House Intelligence Committee, appeared on Breitbart News Daily Tuesday morning to discuss his Washington Examiner op-ed, “Obama Rolls Dice on Foreign Policy in Secretive Presidential Decree.”

Hoekstra told SiriusXM host Alex Marlow that a presidential directive is “developed by an inter-agency group within the executive branch, usually headed by the State Department, and it then outlines U.S. foreign policy in whatever area it was tasked to study.”

“In this case, back in 2009 and 2010, this group got together, and they articulated a new policy for the United States government towards the Middle East, especially toward various Muslim groups in the Middle East,” Hoekstra continued. “This directive, we believe, specifically directed U.S. government agencies – State Department employees, ambassadors, and those types of things – to begin engaging with radical jihadist groups, believing that if we would engage with radical jihadist groups, they would change their behavior toward the United States.”

“It led to the overthrow of Mubarak in Egypt. It led to the overthrow of Qaddafi in Libya. Libya obviously ended up with catastrophic results, and we almost lost Egypt at the same time,” he recalled.

Marlow found it remarkable that so little was being made of Hillary Clinton’s role in crafting Obama’s disastrous foreign policy in the current election cycle.

“You’re absolutely right,” said Hoekstra, elaborating:

Take a look. When President Obama – we completed this study at the Investigative Project on Terrorism, where I now spend my time – in 2008, 2009, when this President and Hillary Clinton took over the government, there were roughly 3,300 people per year who were losing their lives as a result of radical jihadism. Today, that number is approaching almost 30,000 people per year. Iraq is a failed state. Syria is a failed state. Yemen is a failed state. Libya is a failed state. And Afghanistan is a failed state.

“The media doesn’t want to talk about it,” he observed. “Obviously, Hillary Clinton doesn’t want to talk about it because their role in national security has destabilized the Middle East and northern Africa. It has led to increasing deaths in massive refugee flows throughout the Middle East, Europe, and again Northern Africa.”

When Marlow observed that regime-change philosophy under both Bush and Obama has been criticized by some conservatives, Hoekstra noted there were some important differences between the two administrations:

Under the Bush administration, at least we removed dictators who were hostile to the United States – Afghanistan and Iraq.

Egypt and Libya, we actually removed a President Mubarak who for – what, 20 or 25 years? – had done everything the United States had asked him to do to maintain stability in the Middle East.

In Libya, we had a wonderful experience where Qaddafi actually flipped sides, turned over his nuclear weapons, paid reparations, and joined us in the fight against radical jihadists. And after eight years of doing everything America asked him to do, Hillary Clinton declared that he needed to go. The United States, along with NATO, we removed Qaddafi, and it has now been a failed state.

The other thing is, which you’ll see on this, is not only are we engaging with radical jihadist groups overseas, in this regime change, we’re also allowing some of these same people to come into the United States, providing them access to the White House, providing them access to the State Department, and allowing them to go around the country and make speeches, and spread their doctrine around the United States.

So this PSD-11 had nothing to do with national security. There’s no sources or methods. It’s just a strategy. But obviously, this is something that we think the Obama administration ought to make public, and I doubt that they will make it public because the results of this policy have not been very good.

Hoekstra suspected this dramatic change in U.S. foreign policy was “probably a creation of Ben Rhodes, the person who worked for the President as an assistant national security adviser”:

This was the whole spin back in 2009, 2010, that there’s this Arab Spring moving through the Middle East, the forces for democracy and reform, free markets, and those types of things.

As David Ignatius – a liberal columnist – wrote, this is really a gamble, a roll of the dice as he described it, by the Obama administration, embracing these forces of change in the Middle East with the expectation that positive things would happen.

Well, if they would have peeled back the layers on these groups at all, they would have recognized it was not a roll of the dice; it was a high-risk, high-gamble, and it didn’t pay off. So the Obama administration, Hillary Clinton, decided to throw out 30 years of foreign policy that brought some stability to the Middle East, and the result was, they failed. And the results have been horrendous.

Concerning the seven major Obama foreign interventions Hoekstra covered in his Washington Examiner piece, he said, “The only one that has any tentative success, you could argue, would be Tunisia – but even there, Tunisia is close to the tipping point, in terms of going in the wrong direction.”


Brutal ISIS Executions, Military Weakness, and A New Refugee Crisis


America’s policy in Syria and Iraq has been “cool, rational, and wrong.” Is it already too late to fix it?

CounterJihad, Oct. 4, 2016:

The Islamic State (ISIS) has delivered a new propaganda video showing another gruesome mass execution of fellow Muslims.  The group proclaims that the video should serve as a warning to any Muslims thinking of coming to join any of the rebel armies fighting against them in the conflict.  Amid Nazi salutes, ISIS soldiers clad in stolen American-made 3 color DCU uniforms promised to fight the “apostates” whom they painted as being on the same side as the Americans.

Yet the Americans have done but little to support any allies in the region.  As the Economist notes, US President Barack Obama has kept American forces largely out of the conflict except in an advisory role.  This is because, they explain, he views an American intervention as likely to cause more harm than good.  His policy has been throughout “cool,” “rational,” and “wrong.”

As America has pulled back, others have stepped in—geopolitics abhors a vacuum. Islamic State (IS) has taken over swathes of Syria and Iraq. A new generation of jihadists has been inspired to fight in Syria or attack the West. Turkey, rocked by Kurdish and jihadist violence (and a failed coup), has joined the fight in Syria. Jordan and Lebanon, bursting with refugees, fear they will be sucked in. The exodus of Syrians strengthens Europe’s xenophobic populists and endangers the European Union. A belligerent Russia feels emboldened….

None of this is in America’s interest. Being cool and calculating is not much use if everybody else thinks you are being weak. Even if America cannot fix Syria, it could have helped limit the damage, alleviate suffering and reduce the appeal of jihadism…. Mr Obama says that Mr Assad eventually must go, but has never willed the means to achieve that end. (Some rebel groups receive CIA weapons, but that is about it.)… [J]ihadism is fed by war and state failure: without a broader power-sharing agreement in Syria and Iraq any victory against IS will be short-lived; other jihadists will take its place.

Russia has been building pressure on the Obama administration in other ways.  Since the suspending of talks between the US and Russia, the Putin administration has announced major nuclear war games that will move tens of millions of people to civil defense shelters on very short notice.  They have suspended nuclear arms deals with the United States involving plutonium cleanup, suggesting that they fear the US will cheat.  The Russians have also deployed one of their advanced missile systems outside of their homeland for the first time.  The deployment was made without comment, but as one American official noted wryly, ““Nusra doesn’t have an air force do they?”  Al Nusra Front is an al Qaeda linked organization that has been sometimes allied with, but more often at war with, the Islamic State.

All of this means that America’s window to take a more aggressive approach may be closing, if it has not already closed.  Increasingly Russia and their Iranian allies are looking likely to dominate the northern Middle East from Afghanistan to the Levant.  This President has been badly outmaneuvered.  The next President will have to decide how much he or she is willing to risk in order to try to deal with the feeding of “jihadism… by war and state failure.”

The threat is very real, as estimates are that the assault on Mosul might produce another million refugees headed for Europe and America, or perhaps half again that many.  The failure to take a more aggressive approach may end up bringing a flood tide of human suffering and terror.

After Islamic State, Fears of a ‘Shiite Crescent’ in Mideast

Members of Shiite militias, known as Popular Mobilization Forces, parading in Baghdad in July. These groups have emerged as the most powerful military force in Iraq and exercise control over many “liberated” Sunni areas. PHOTO: HADI MIZBAN/ASSOCIATED PRESS

Members of Shiite militias, known as Popular Mobilization Forces, parading in Baghdad in July. These groups have emerged as the most powerful military force in Iraq and exercise control over many “liberated” Sunni areas. PHOTO: HADI MIZBAN/ASSOCIATED PRESS

The mullahs’ regime in Tehran is no less brutal, no less jihadi than the Islamic State – so why on earth should we of the West have anything to do w/propping up Tehran’s puppet regimes in Baghdad, Beirut or Damascus? Besides, bomb Raqqa into the ground tomorrow (not a bad idea!) & the global jihad would hardly skip a beat – that’s because jihad is wherever there is a cell, a community, or a network of faithful, devout Muslims obedient to shariah – and that means, already living among us. Jihad is upon us where we live now, not just ‘over there.’ – Clare Lopez

WSJ, by YAROSLAV TROFIMOV, Sept. 29, 2016:

From the point of view of Sunni Arab regimes anxious about Iran’s regional ambitions, Islamic State—as repellent as it is—provides a silver lining. The extremist group’s firewall blocks territorial contiguity between Iran and its Arab proxies in Syria and Lebanon.

This means that now, as Islamic State is losing more and more land to Iranian allies, these Sunni countries—particularly Saudi Arabia—face a potentially more dangerous challenge: a land corridor from Tehran to Beirut that would reinforce a more capable and no less implacable enemy.

Pro-Iranian Shiite militias such as Lebanon’s Hezbollah and Iraq’s Badr and Asaib Ahl al-Haq are filling the void left by Islamic State in Syria and Iraq, and they are much better equipped and trained than the Sunni extremist group. They are also just as hostile to the Saudi regime, openly talking about dismantling the kingdom and freeing Islam’s holy places from the House of Saud.

That rhetoric only intensified after January’s breakup in diplomatic ties between Riyadh and Tehran.

Many Western officials see these Shiite militias—which currently refrain from attacking Western targets—as an undoubtedly preferable alternative to Islamic State’s murderous rule, and some of the groups operating in Iraq indirectly coordinate with U.S. air power. But that isn’t how those militias are viewed in Riyadh and other Gulf capitals.

Abuses committed by Iranian proxies in Sunni areas are just as bad as those of Islamic State, argued Prince Turki al-Faisal, the former head of Saudi intelligence and a nephew of the current king.

“They are equally threatening, and one feeds off the other,” Prince Turki said in an interview. “Both of them are equally vicious, equally treacherous, and equally destructive.”

The West, he added, fundamentally misunderstood Iranian intentions in the region. “It’s wishful thinking that, if we try to embrace them, they may tango with us. That’s an illusion,” he said.

Fears over a “Shiite crescent” of Iranian influence in the Middle East aren’t new. They were first aired by Jordan’s King Abdullah a year after the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq brought pro-Iranian politicians to power in Baghdad.

In the following years, the huge U.S. military presence in Iraq and the Sunni insurgency there kept Iranian power in check. Then, just as the U.S. withdrawal and the taming of the insurgency seemed to herald a new era of Iranian prominence in the region, the 2011 upheaval of the Arab Spring unleashed the Syrian civil war.

The dramatic rise of Islamic State that followed created a Britain-sized Sunni statelet in Syria and Iraq—and severed all land communications in the middle of that “Shiite crescent.”

“Prior to 2011, Iran already had overwhelming influence in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon. So Iran has not significantly expanded its influence in the region, but rather it has been forced to provide military protection to pivotal allies it risked losing,” said Ali Vaez, Iran expert at the International Crisis Group. “If this has caused panic in Riyadh, it’s mainly because the Arab world is in a state of disarray.”

In both Syria and Iraq, however, Shiite militias controlled by Iran now play a far greater role than in 2011. Last month, Iraq ended the brief tenure of the first Saudi ambassador to the country since 2003, expelling him over his criticism of the Shiite militias. These groups, known as the Popular Mobilization Forces, have emerged as the most powerful military force in Iraq, and exercise control over many “liberated” Sunni areas.

In Syria, too, the survival of President Bashar al-Assad—allied with Iran but autonomous in many of his policies before 2011—has become impossible without the support of Hezbollah, an Iranian proxy that has grown into a regional military force. Other Shiite militias in Syria are staffed by Iranian, Afghan and Pakistani recruits.

“Iran’s power has spread further afield than before in terms of direct military power. We have never had so many Shiite militias operating in so many different areas, and fighting in traditional Sunni strongholds,” said Andrew Tabler, a fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

With Islamic State also under attack by U.S. airstrikes, Kurdish forces and a Turkish offensive, it’s possible that these Iranian proxies and allies would link up along the Iraq-Syrian border in coming months. The question is whether they would be able to hold that land and rule over the remaining Sunni populations without a degree of power-sharing—something that neither Baghdad nor Damascus seem ready for.

Absent that, it is likely that a new insurgency would bubble up soon in those areas—likely fomented by Sunni Arab states eager to break up the region’s “Shiite crescent” once again.

Saleh al-Mutlaq, a leading Sunni Iraqi politician and the country’s former deputy prime minister, warned that keeping the Sunnis disenfranchised would lead to precisely such an outcome.

“Unless you start thinking about the conditions that created ISIS in the first place and try to overcome these conditions,” he said in an interview, “there will be a new ISIS again, maybe of a different kind.”

Also see:

FBI Director: ‘Terrorist Diaspora’ Like ‘Never Before’ May Follow Islamic State Defeat

The Associated Press

The Associated Press

Breitbart, by Edwin Mora, Sept. 28, 2016:

Defeating the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL) could lead to an increase in terrorist attacks in Western countries rather than a reduction, declared FBI Director James Comey.

“At some point there is going to be a terrorist diaspora out of Syria like we’ve never seen before. Not all of the Islamic State killers are going to die on the battlefield,” he said during a cybersecurity conference at Fordham University Wednesday.

The FBI chief predicted that the U.S.-led coalition would eventually decimate ISIS but added that “through the fingers of that crush are going to come hundreds of really dangerous people and they are going to flow primarily to Western Europe.”

However, he also said that some of those potential terrorists could end up in the United States.

The New York Times (NYT) reports:

He drew a parallel between this scenario and the formation of Al Qaeda more than a quarter-century ago, which drew from fighters who had been radicalized fighting in Afghanistan in the 1980s and early 1990s.

“This is 10 times that or more. This is an order of magnitude greater than anything we’ve seen before,” said Comey, later adding, “We saw the future of this threat in Brussels and in Paris [terrorist attacks earlier this year].”

CNN points out, “And just not in the West. There have recently been stepped up ISIS attacks worldwide, including in countries near its home base territory that has been shrinking due to military losses in Iraq and Syria.”

In May, the FBI director told reporters that the number of Americans traveling overseas to engage in jihad on behalf of ISIS has dropped dramatically to an average of one person per month.

Nevertheless, he noted that there are “north of 1,000” cases in which FBI agents are in the process of evaluating a subject’s level of radicalization and potential for violence, of which an estimated 80 percent are linked to ISIS.

He said:

There’s still a presence online, and troubled people are still turning to this and at least being interested in it. But they’ve lost their ability to attract people to their caliphate from the United States in a material way…

There’s no doubt that something has happened that is lasting, in terms of the attractiveness of the nightmare which is the Islamic State to people from the United States.

Various Obama administration officials have predicted that ISIS is on the road to defeat in Iraq and Syria. Some American and Iraqi officials argue that the increase in attacks by the jihadist group are a sign of desperation.

“The FBI director’s warning that the collapse of the caliphate will mean increased attacks in Western Europe and the United States mirrors a consensus among intelligence officials,” reports CNN.

Emmanuel Khoshaba Youkhana, commander of the Christian Assyrian Army known as Dwekh Nawsha, recently told Breitbart News that ISIS “is losing” in Iraq and will “soon be vanquished.”

Nonetheless, he added that their ideology will remain alive and kicking, noting that there is no strategy to defeat the ideals that motivate members of the terrorist group.

The commander’s Christian forces have managed to hold territory in northern Iraq’s Nineveh plains, despite repeated attacks by ISIS.

CNN notes that Abu Mohammed al Adnani, the terrorist group’s chief spokesman and ideologue, tried to reframe how ISIS defines victory in an audio message released at the end of May.

Defeat would not result from losing control of territory but from “losing the will and the desire to fight,” he declared.

One Western counterterrorism official predicted “a metastasis of terror as it becomes increasingly difficult for ISIL to hold on to core territories,” reports the news network.


Gorka: Director Comey correct about ‘terrorist diaspora’

Also see:

US military kills Islamic State’s ‘Minister of Information’


Long War Journal, by Bill Roggio, Sept. 16, 2016:

The US military announced today that it killed the Islamic State’s “Minister of Information” and central shura member in an airstrike near Raqqah, the jihadist group’s capital in Syria, ten days ago. Wa’il Adil Hasan Salman al-Fayad, the information minister who was also known as Dr. Wa’il, is the second top Islamic State leader killed by the US in the last three weeks.

Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook announced Dr. Wa’il’s death in a statement released by the Department of Defense . Wa’il was the target of “a precision strike.” The Islamic State has not officially announced the death of Wa’il.

“He operated as the Minister of Information for the terror organization and was a prominent member of its Senior Shura Council – ISIL’s leadership group,” Cook stated, using the outdated acronym ISIL to describe the Islamic State.

As information minister, “Wa’il oversaw ISIL’s production of terrorist propaganda videos showing torture and executions.” The Islamic State’s brutal execution videos, which include beheadings, burning people alive, drownings and crucifixions, have played a key role in recruiting violent fighters across the globe.

Wa’il was also a “close associate” of Abu Muhammad al Adnani, the Islamic State’s top spokesman who also served as the group’s external operations chief and a senior recruiter.

Adnani was killed just nine days before Wa’il. Adnani was one of the Islamic State’s most prominent leaders. He announced the establishment of the caliphate and formation of the Islamic State in 2014, and has been at the forefront in calling for sectarian attacks inside of Iraq and Syria as well as attacks against the West.

The Islamic State announced Adnani’s death on Aug. 30, and said he was killed along with other fighters while directing military operations in the Syrian town of Al Bab. The US military confirmed Adnani’s death 14 days after the Islamic State announced he was killed. [See LWJ reports, Islamic State says senior official killed in Aleppo province and US confirms it killed Islamic State’s spokesman and external operations chief.]

The US military has targeted and killed several key Islamic State leaders over the past several months as the jihadist group has lost key terrain in both Iraq and Syria. Abu Omar al Shishani is one of the most important Islamic State commanders who have been killed by the US since it began launching airstrikes in Iraq and Syria in the summer of 2014. He was an ethnic Chechen from Georgia whom the US claimed was the group’s overall military commander. The US killed Shishani in an airstrike near Mosul in July 2016.

Another important Islamic State leader who was killed by the US was Abu Wahib, the notorious military commander who was responsible for overrunning much of Anbar province in 2014. Abu Wahib waged jihad with al Qaeda during the US occupation and escaped from an Iraqi prison in 2012 to rejoin the fight. The US killed him in an airstrike in May 2016.

The US military has also scored successful kills against the Islamic State’s leadership outside of Iraq and Syria. The most prominent leader killed by the US outside of Iraq and Syria was Hafiz Saeed Khan, the Islamic State’s emir for Khorasan province, or Afghanistan and Pakistan. A former mid-level commander in the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan, Khan was killed in a US airstrike in Afghanistan’s eastern province of Nangarhar in July 2016.

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

Tehran Visit Showcases Role of Iranian-Backed Militias in Iraq

ali-akbar-velayati-and-kabi-in-tehranSheikh Akram al Kabi just completed a high-profile visit to Iran, in which he pledged loyalty not to his native Iraq but to Supreme Leader Khamenei.

CounterJihad, Sept. 9, 2016:

The Long War Journal has an excellent piece on the recent visit to Tehran of Iraqi militia leader Akram al Kabi, of the Harakat al Nujaba militia.

Militia officials frequently travel to Iran, but the publicity surrounding Kabi’s visit is unprecedented. This indicates the rising clout of the Iraqi cleric among the political elite in Tehran.

Kabi boldly proclaimed his allegiance to Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei, as well as the concept of velayat-e faqih, or guardianship of the jurist, which is the political and theological basis of the Islamic Republic as established by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. Kabi echoed Tehran’s propaganda claims, and boasted about targeting American forces during the Second Gulf War. He reiterated his commitment to the “Axis of Resistance,” an alliance of state and non-state actors led by Iran. Kabi vowed that the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF), the umbrella organization of Iraqi paramilitary groups that includes Iranian-backed groups such as Nujaba, would participate in the anticipated operation to lay siege to Mosul, which has been held by the Islamic State since 2014. Following Mosul, Kabi called for Iraqi militias to shift resources to Syria and chase the Islamic State into the strongholds of Deir ez-Zour and Raqqah. He also threatened to target Turkish forces stationed near Mosul.

The role of velayat-e faqih in Iran’s control of regional militia forces cannot be overstated.  The core theory of the Iranian revolution, it holds that only a specialized class of Shi’ite clerics can properly manage human affairs through government.  Loyalty is thus not properly given to either the elected officials of the semi-modern states of the region, nor to the tribal leaders who are often the real powers in much of the Middle East.  Rather, both the state and the tribe should be subordinated to properly trained religious leaders.  What constitutes a “properly trained” religious leader?  One trained in Iran’s elite schools, of course, preferably holding at least the rank of Ayatollah.

This does not bar the existence of elected governments, to be sure.  Iran has one itself.  However, every aspect of the elected government is placed under the “guardianship” of some cleric or body of clerics.  Iran’s “Guardian Council,” made up of such clerics, determined who was even allowed to stand for office in the last round of elections.  They dismissed 99% of the proposed candidates from the moderate and reformist parties, requiring that those parties recruit cleric-approved hardliner candidates even to participate in the elections.  Thus, while there was still an election, and the ‘moderate and reformist’ parties did fairly well, actual power became even more concentrated among those hand-picked by the clerical leadership.

Kabi, a US-designated foreign terrorist, will be participating in the attack on Islamic State (ISIS) positions near Mosul.  The United States is deploying nearly five thousand troops in the same assault.  Kurdish forces will also be participating.  The aftermath of the battle against ISIS in Mosul will thus be nearly as contentious as the actual battle itself, as Iran, the Kurds, the Turks, and the United States all scramble to try to sort out what the final disposition of the highly-contested and strategic city happens to be.  As the Long War Journal points out, Kabi is vociferously opposed to the United States’ interests, and describes his militia (here labeled “PMF,” an acronym that means “popular mobilization forces”) as a counterweight to American ambitions in Iraq:

During the meeting with Rezai, Kabi claimed that the PMF’s participation in the Mosul operation would foil a U.S. plan to build permanent military bases there. He claimed that the U.S. opposes PMF participation in Mosul because it intends to build such a base. Kabi touted the Iraqi Prime Minister’s decision to deploy PMF forces to Mosul.

Iran clearly intends to use these forces to limit America’s ability to shape the final outcome.  Khamenei’s loyalists are not in any sense swayed to rethink their relationship to the United States, neither by the so-called “Iran deal” nor by the fact that the Obama administration’s policies are supporting Iran’s own ambitions in Iraq and Syria.  They still regard the United States as the enemy, and are acting accordingly.

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Newt Gingrich: 9/11 anniversary — 15 years of strategic defeat, dishonesty and humiliation


Fox News, by Newt Gingrich, Sept. 9, 2016:

“I will begin by saying what everybody would like to ignore or forget but which must nevertheless be stated, namely, that we have sustained a total and unmitigated defeat.” — That was Winston Churchill’s description of Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain’s surrender to Hitler in the Munich Agreement of 1938.

Yet Churchill’s words also apply to where the United States is today.

Our men and women in uniform have been heroic.

Many have signed up to serve again even after being wounded.

Our tactical units remain the best in the world.

Our intelligence officers and diplomats have risked their lives in service to the country.

The problem is not with the sincerity, the courage, the energy or the effort of individual Americans.

The problem has been the approach of a bipartisan Washington political elite that has squandered 15 years, thousands of lives, many thousands wounded, and trillions of dollars with no coherent strategy, no honest assessment of the challenge, and no willingness to learn from failure and develop new strategies and new institutions.

Since September 11, 2001, we have moved from righteous anger and clarity of purpose against the forces of terrorism in the immediate aftermath of the attacks to now sending $1,700,000,000 in cash to the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism.

We have watched our efforts in Iraq collapse while our efforts in Afghanistan decay.

We have seen the Middle East grow more violent, more chaotic, and more ungovernable despite 15 years of American and allied effort.

Fifteen years ago this week, terrorists killed 2,977 Americans in the worst surprise attack on our homeland since Pearl Harbor, 70 years earlier. In fact, 574 more Americans were killed on 9/11 than on December 7, 1941.

It was a huge, tragic, and deeply emotional shock. And yet the 9/11 attack was not the beginning of our war with Islamic supremacism.

By 2001, we had been at war with the Iranian dictatorship (still to this day listed by the State Department as the leading state sponsor of terrorism) for 32 years, when Iranians seized the American embassy in Tehran. Mark Bowden described the event appropriately in the title of his book, “Guests of the Ayatollah: The First Battle in America’s War with Militant Islam.”

From an American perspective, that war had continued in Lebanon in the 1980s and in Saudi Arabia, East Africa and Yemen in the 1990s.

In 2001, the terrorist war came to American soil with shocking results.

American anger was vivid and deep. President Bush reacted with powerful, clear, morally defining words.

In his address to the Joint Session of Congress, just nine days after the 9/11 attack, President Bush asserted “on September 11th, enemies of freedom committed an act of war against our country.”

President Bush described a huge goal. “Our war on terror begins with Al Qaeda, but it does not end there. It will not end until every terrorist group of global reach has been found, stopped, and defeated,” he said.

President Bush described the scale of the challenge, saying, “Americans are asking: How will we fight and win this war? We will direct every resource at our command–every means of diplomacy, every tool of intelligence, every instrument of law enforcement, every financial influence, and every necessary weapon of war– to the disruption and to the defeat of the global terror network.”

Bush went on to warn that “Americans should not expect one battle, but a lengthy campaign, unlike any other we have seen. …Every nation, in every region, now has a decision to make. Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists. From this day forward, any nation that continues to harbor or support terrorism will be regarded by the United States as a hostile regime.”

President Bush wisely warned that “the only way to defeat terrorism as a threat to our way of life is to stop it, eliminate it, and destroy it where it grows.”

Four months later, in his 2002 State of the Union Address, President Bush described North Korea, Iran and Iraq as an “Axis of Evil”.

Bush warned that “the United States of America will not permit the world’s most dangerous regimes to threaten us with the world’s most destructive weapons.” The Congress applauded.

And that was the high water mark of the response to 9/11.

Just this week, North Korea had its fifth nuclear test. Last week North Korea launched three missiles in direct violation of United Nations Resolutions.

We now know that while deceiving the Congress and the American people, the Obama Administration has sent $1,700,000,000 to what even the State Department says is the world’s leading sponsor of terrorism, the Iranian dictatorship.

Iraq, at great cost in American lives, wounds and money, has degenerated into a mess dominated by Iran and by ISIS.

How did we go from brave words to defeat, dishonesty, and humiliation?

Tragically, after heroic leadership in the immediate aftermath of 9/11 (who can forget President Bush in New York standing next to the fireman and promising that the people who attacked New York would hear from all of us?) and after delivering exactly the right words to Congress, the Bush administration failed to plan for how big, how hard, and how long the fight with Islamic supremacists would be.

Almost immediately, the lawyers began imposing rules and regulations.

It was decided not to declare war even though President Bush had described 9/11 “as an act of war” in his congressional address.

The State Department began pushing back against an honest, clear statement of who was attacking us.

The Defense Department was very cautious about distorting the military establishment with an aggressive focus on learning how to defeat Islamic supremacists.

The initial Afghanistan campaign was brilliant, lean, decisive, and gave us an exaggerated sense of how powerful we were and how weak our enemies were. However, the campaign was understaffed and under resourced. We did not invest the military power to completely destroy the Taliban.

President Bush had warned that “you are with us or you are against us,” but the State Department rapidly began to offer an alternative in which you could be a little with us and a little against us.

Pakistan was with us in providing a logistics system to sustain our forces in Afghanistan. However, Pakistan was against us in providing an enormous sanctuary for the Taliban in the northwest region. Instead of thinking through the cost of a campaign to wipe out the Taliban sanctuary, we limped along in exactly the kind of indecisive guerrilla war we had waged in Vietnam. Today the Taliban has regained momentum and, the minute we leave, Afghanistan is likely to fall back into Islamist dictatorship.

Our efforts to create a modern Afghanistan were crippled by a State Department bureaucracy that was clearly unwilling to cut through red tape and learn to be effective. This pattern of systemic incompetence would be repeated in Iraq because the Bush Administration was simply unwilling to reform the State Department. Failure abroad was more acceptable than a bitter bureaucratic fight in Washington.

Once the Iraq campaign began, resources were drained from Afghanistan and the military was stretched almost to the breaking point. The unwillingness to build a genuine wartime military began to cost us lives and wounded warriors as we found ourselves unable to field and sustain the combat power that was needed. Jake Tapper’s book “The Outpost” details the tragic costs of an American military which is overextended and tries to accomplish more than it is resourced to achieve.

The Iraq campaign might have been a brilliant success if Ambassador Bremer had not changed the mission in mid-war.

The American military knew it could defeat Saddam Hussein very rapidly but it also knew that it then had to rebuild the Iraqi system and let Iraqis run their own country. It would have taken four times as many troops to actually occupy and police Iraq.

Bremer seemed to think he was supposed to profoundly change Iraq and he set about to do so with little coordination with the American military and little understanding of how deep the internal hatred and potential violence among Iraqis was.

Instead of a brief campaign Americans have been sucked into endless conflict.

As an example of the dishonesty in the title of this paper, it is simply a lie to say we don’t have boots on the ground in Iraq. At last count there were more than 4,400 American troops in Iraq, not counting temporary forces rotating in and out.

Both the Bush and Obama administrations have failed to define the scale of the threat, the determination of our enemies, and the very real dangers we face.

Since the bipartisan establishment can’t even define the threat, it certainly can’t define a strategy for success.

As our enemies grow stronger and smarter, we slide from defeat to humiliation.

As our enemies watch us accept humiliation, they grow bolder and more daring.

There is a remarkable parallelism to Iranian ships crowding our navy and Russian planes crowding our air force.

None of this is a surprise.

I have posted here a paper from 2002 and 2003 warning that we had lost our way.

We have eight weeks before an historic election.

We need a robust, courageous, and honest debate about where we are and what we need to do — 15 years after 9/11.

Newt Gingrich, a Republican, was speaker of the United States House of Representatives from 1995 to 1999. He is the author of the new novel “Duplicity” and co-author, with his wife Callista Gingrich, of “Rediscovering God in America: Reflections on the Role of Faith in Our Nation’s History and Future” (Center Street, May 17, 2016).

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