C.I.A. Arms for Syrian Rebels Supplied Black Market, Officials Say

The funeral in Rimoun, Jordan, for Anwar Abu Zaid, a police captain who was killed after he attacked a police training center in November. American and Jordanian officials said they believed that the weapons he used had been meant for a program to train Syrian rebels. CreditNasser Nasser/Associated Press

The funeral in Rimoun, Jordan, for Anwar Abu Zaid, a police captain who was killed after he attacked a police training center in November. American and Jordanian officials said they believed that the weapons he used had been meant for a program to train Syrian rebels. CreditNasser Nasser/Associated Press

 

NYT, by MARK MAZZETTI and ALI YOUNES, JUNE 26, 2016

AMMAN, Jordan — Weapons shipped into Jordan by the Central Intelligence Agency and Saudi Arabia intended for Syrian rebels have been systematically stolen by Jordanian intelligence operatives and sold to arms merchants on the black market, according to American and Jordanian officials.

Some of the stolen weapons were used in a shooting in November that killed two Americans and three others at a police training facility in Amman, F.B.I. officials believe after months of investigating the attack, according to people familiar with the investigation.

The existence of the weapons theft, which ended only months ago after complaints by the American and Saudi governments, is being reported for the first time after a joint investigation by The New York Times and Al Jazeera. The theft, involving millions of dollars of weapons, highlights the messy, unplanned consequences of programs to arm and train rebels — the kind of program the C.I.A. and Pentagon have conducted for decades — even after the Obama administration had hoped to keep the training program in Jordan under tight control.

The Jordanian officers who were part of the scheme reaped a windfall from the weapons sales, using the money to buy expensive SUVs, iPhones and other luxury items, Jordanian officials said.

The theft and resale of the arms — including Kalashnikov assault rifles, mortars and rocket-propelled grenades — have led to a flood of new weapons available on the black arms market. Investigators do not know what became of most of them, but a disparate collection of groups, including criminal networks and rural Jordanian tribes, use the arms bazaars to build their arsenals. Weapons smugglers also buy weapons in the arms bazaars to ship outside the country.

The F.B.I. investigation into the Amman shooting, run by the bureau’s Washington field office, is continuing. But American and Jordanian officials said the investigators believed that the weapons a Jordanian police captain, Anwar Abu Zaid, used to gun down two American contractors, two Jordanians and one South African had originally arrived in Jordan intended for the Syrian rebel-training program.

The officials said this finding had come from tracing the serial numbers of the weapons.

Mohammad H. al-Momani, Jordan’s minister of state for media affairs, said allegations that Jordanian intelligence officers had been involved in any weapons thefts were “absolutely incorrect.”

“Weapons of our security institutions are concretely tracked, with the highest discipline,” he said. He called the powerful Jordanian intelligence service, known as the General Intelligence Directorate, or G.I.D., “a world-class, reputable institution known for its professional conduct and high degree of cooperation among security agencies.” In Jordan, the head of the G.I.D. is considered the second most important man after the king.

Representatives of the C.I.A. and F.B.I. declined to comment.

The State Department did not address the allegations directly, but a spokesman said America’s relationship with Jordan remained solid.

“The United States deeply values the long history of cooperation and friendship with Jordan,” said John Kirby, the spokesman. “We are committed to the security of Jordan and to partnering closely with Jordan to meet common security challenges.”

The training program, which in 2013 began directly arming the rebels under the code name Timber Sycamore, is run by the C.I.A. and several Arab intelligence services and aimed at building up forces opposing President Bashar al-Assad of Syria. The United States and Saudi Arabia are the biggest contributors, with the Saudis contributing both weapons and large sums of money, and with C.I.A. paramilitary operatives taking the lead in training the rebels to use Kalashnikovs, mortars, antitank guided missiles and other weapons.

The existence of the program is classified, as are all details about its budget. American officials say that the C.I.A. has trained thousands of rebels in the past three years, and that the fighters made substantial advances on the battlefield against Syrian government forces until Russian military forces — launched last year in support of Mr. Assad — compelled them to retreat.

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Jordanian Intelligence Officers Killed in Terror Attack

Such attacks on security forces in Jordan are rare

Such attacks on security forces in Jordan are rare

Center for Security Policy, by Daniel Brennan, June 6, 2016:

Five Jordanians were killed in what the state called a “terror attack” on Monday June 6th. The attack occurred around 7:00 a.m. local time in the Palestinian refugee camp in Baqa’a, where around 100,000 refugees are sheltered.

Mohammed Momani, a government spokesperson, stated that the attack targeted Jordan’s intelligence agency office, housed along the main street of the camp. Three of the five Jordanians killed were listed as intelligence officers, while a telephone operator and a guard also died in the attack.

Al Rai newspaper reported that a single assailant armed with an automatic weapon drove towards the office and then began an assault on the camp’s intelligence compound. Reports suggest that the gunman is still at large.

The Baqa’a camp was founded in the late 1960s as a result of the Arab-Israeli war. Though originally sheltered in tents and scrap materials, the Palestinian refugees transitioned the shantytown into a sort of de-facto city for Palestinian refugees by using concrete materials and UN provided prefabricated shelters.

Alongside Palestinian refugees, Jordan also hosts refugees from the Syrian civil conflict, caring for over 600,000 displaced Syrians. Jordan’s second largest refugee camp, Zaatari, hosts around 80,000 and is located less than 20 miles from the Baqa’a camp, about an hour drive.

Still, no announcements have been made as to the identity of the individual who carried out the attack or his/her motive. In a statement to the press, Mr. Momani called the actions “cowardly,” and outlined that it was carried out by “people who are outside of our religion.”

Jordan is currently ruled by King Abdullah II, a Sunni Muslim, whose family has ruled Jordan since the early 1920’s. Despite being one of the United States key allies in the fight against Islamic State and other terrorist groups, Jordan rarely faces attacks against its government forces. Additionally, the General Intelligence Directorate of Jordan (GID) has had longstanding cooperation with the Central Intelligence Agency.

Efforts to combat terrorist activities in Jordan are ongoing. Most recently, in March, the GID foiled planned attacks by an Islamic State cell when Jordanian military operatives raided a residential building in Irbid, in which they killed seven suspected jihadist insurgents. At the scene, officials found weapons, ammunition, explosives, and detonators as well as plans to attack civilian and military sites.

The Wall Street Journal stated that officials in Amman, the capital of Jordan, indicated the refugee attack was conducted by Islamic State, considering the group’s recent declaration urging supporters to conduct operations during the month of Ramadan.

Jordan has long been a target of jihadist attacks, specifically from Al Qaeda in Iraq (the predecessor to Islamic State), led by Jordanian leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.  Zarqawi was the driving force behind the infamous 2005 hotel bombings that killed dozens and injured hundreds staying in and aroung western resorts in Amman.

Al-Qaeda continues to seek support and influence in the region by tapping into the Syrian conflict.

In May, al-Qaeda leader, Ayman al-Zawahri, announced plans to extend recruitment to areas in and around Syria. Among the Al Qaeda officials believed to be conducting operations are Jordanian operatives Abul Qassam and Sari Shibab.

While Islamic State remains the most obvious culprit, the source of the attack in Baqa’a could also stem from ongoing struggle between the Jordanian government and the opposition led by the Muslim Brotherhood. The Brotherhood has long been known to drawn support from refugee Palestinians.  In recent months, the group has been pushing their political wing, Islamic Action Front, to boycott elections, among other protests, in an aim to topple the current regime. In recent years Jordanian security forces have accused Jordanian Muslim Brothers of cooperating with Hamas in weapons smuggling and training for attacks. Such tensions boiled over in April leading Jordanian officials to close down Muslim Brotherhood operations in the country.

Further complicating the attack are reports from Israeli intelligence of cooperation between Hamas and Islamic State “Sinai Province”. The cooperation between the two groups represents Hamas’ desire to target Egyptian security forces and destabilize Egyptian government after the military ousted the Muslim Brotherhood from power in 2013. Such an alliance could prove extremely destabilizing to the region, particularly if cooperation extends beyond Sinai and into Jordan.

As described by reports the assault on the intelligence office bears some resemblance to the operations of all three major terrorist groups: Islamic State, al-Qaeda, and Hamas.

It likewise remains a possibility that the gunman was unaffiliated with any specific group. If so, further determination of the perpetrator’s motivations will require a successful capture and interrogation by Jordanian security forces.

Also see:

Jordan Shuts down Muslim Brotherhood HQ

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By Counter Jihad, April 13, 2016:

In a surprise move, Jordanian police have raided and shut down the headquarters of the Muslim Brotherhood in that country.  No explanation was given by authorities for the move.

A likely explanation is that the Brotherhood was involved in a plot against the King of Jordan.  This would merely be in line with the Brotherhood’s charter.  The Muslim Brotherhood is a declared terrorist organization in Egypt because in 2012 it attempted to overthrow the constitution and replace it with sharia law.  Nor was this the first time.  Since its founding in 1928, the Brotherhood has attempted to overthrow the government of Egypt to establish a caliphate every time it has had the strength.  It began its violent attempts before the Second World War.  During that war it aligned with the Nazis, hoping to gain control of Egypt as a Nazi ally.  Following the defeat of the Nazis it converted from using military battalions to terrorist tactics.  It waged war on the royalist government, finally helping to overthrow that government in a military coup.  It then took up arms against the military government led by Nasser.  Once Nasser drove them out, they went to Germany and began spreading across Europe.  Their charter continues to bind them to the overthrow of secular governments, and the creation of a global Islamic caliphate under sharia law.

For these reasons, Congress should follow through on passing the Muslim Brotherhood Terrorist Designation Act sponsored by Senator Ted Cruz.  The Muslim Brotherhood should also be a declared terrorist organization within the United States because it has acted to infiltrate and subvert our government in dangerous ways.  In 1996 its chief American agent, Abdurahman Alamoudi, enjoyed significant access to the Clinton White House as the founder of the American Muslim Council. In that role, he was able to appoint Islamic chaplains to the US military and to recruit converts in Federal prison.  Now, he is serving a 23-year prison sentence on Federal terrorism charges.  The subversion has not stopped.  The Brotherhood now appoints Islamic chaplains through another of its allied organizations, the Islamic Society of North America.

The Muslim Brotherhood should likewise be a declared terrorist organization within the United States because our Justice Department has proven its connections to Hamas and al Qaeda.  Its affiliates conduct military training for their members in enclaves in the United States where sharia law is enforced with the whip.

America should follow Jordan’s lead in this matter.  It’s time to shut down the Brotherhood and its affiliates.

***

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Jordanian police shut Muslim Brotherhood headquarters: senior Brotherhood figure

A boy stands near the main entrance of the Muslim Brotherhood's office in Amman, after it was shut by the police acting on orders of the Amman governor April 13, 2016. REUTERS/Muhammad Hamed

A boy stands near the main entrance of the Muslim Brotherhood’s office in Amman, after it was shut by the police acting on orders of the Amman governor April 13, 2016. REUTERS/Muhammad Hamed

Reuters, 

Police in Jordan sealed the headquarters of the Muslim Brotherhood in Amman on Wednesday, a senior figure in the Islamist movement said, as the authorities clamp down further on the kingdom’s most vocal opposition group.

The Brotherhood, which is close in ideology to its Egyptian namesake and has strong ties with the Palestinian movement Hamas, wants sweeping political reforms but stops short of calling for the overthrow of the monarchy.

Jordan’s authorities suppressed Arab Spring pro-democracy protests, and human rights groups say that since then the kingdom has strongly curbed dissent.

Police acting on orders of the Amman governor evacuated staff and closed off the building, giving no reason for their actions, said the Brotherhood senior member, Jamil Abu Bakr.

Government spokespeople and police were not immediately available for comment.

The Brotherhood has operated legally in Jordan for decades and has substantial grass-roots support in major urban centers.

Its political arm, the Islamic Action Front, is the kingdom’s largest opposition party and represents many disenfranchised Jordanians of Palestinian origin, who are in the majority in the population of seven million.

Grossly underrepresented in parliament and government posts that are dominated by native Jordanians, many of the Brotherhood’s poor Palestinian supporters in the major cities see them as defending their interests.

“We are not a group that is rebellious or operating outside the law. This is not an appropriate means to deal with us … deploying heavy-handed security measures against us rather than reaching understandings,” Abu Bakr told Reuters.

In keeping with a regional crackdown on political Islam and public freedoms, Jordan has been tightening restrictions on the Brotherhood in the last two years, forbidding their public rallies and arresting vocal government dissenters.

The authorities have also encouraged a splinter group to legally challenge the main movement’s license to operate, which goes back to 1946 when Jordan’s monarchy had in Muslim Brotherhood leaders a strong political allies.

Earlier this year, the movement’s deputy leader Zaki Bani Rusheid was released after serving an 18-month jail sentence for criticizing on social media the United Arab Emirates for its crackdown on Islamists.

His detention was the first of a major political opposition figure in Jordan in recent years.

In contrast, Gulf Arab countries have banned Islamist groups and jailed its members, and in Egypt thousands of Islamists have been jailed and sentenced to death in mass trials decried by human rights groups.

(Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky)

ISIS launches its winter terror offensive with first 274 deaths

ISIS-Global-Conquest-Map2

Debka File, Nov/ 13, 2015:

The US drone strike Thursday night, Nov. 11, targeting the Islamic State’s infamous executioner known as “Jihad John” in the northern Syrian town of Raqqa may or may not have hit the mark – the Pentagon says it is too soon to say. The hooded, masked terrorist with the British accent has been identified as a British Muslim born in Kuwait called Mohamed Emwazi. He appeared on videos worldwide showing the cold-blooded murders of US, British, Japanese and other hostages.
The drone attack occurred shortly after the latest ISIS atrocity: Thursday night, two or three suicide bombers blew themselves up, killing 43 people and injuring at least 240 in the Hizballah stronghold of southern Beirut opposite Burj Barajneh.

Ten days earlier, the Islamic State brought down the Russian Metrojet airliner over Sinai killing all 224 people aboard. This spectacular act of terror was apparently the first strike of the jihadist group’s winter offensive. It achieved its objectives of multiple murder; mortal damage to Egypt’s tourism industry and a blow to the prestige of its president Abdel-Fatteh El-Sisi.
The attack also punished President Vladimir Putin for bringing the Russian military into the center of the Syrian conflict.

The next Islamic State assault was aimed to undermine the credibility of Jordan’s King Abdullah and his security services: On Nov. 8,  a Jordanian police captain opened fire at a high-security US training facility outside Amman, killing two American trainers, a South African and two Jordanians. The number of US personnel injured in the attack was not released. This attack was timed to coincide with the 10th anniversary of the massive al Qaeda assault on Amman’s leading hotels, all American owned, which left 61 dead.
In northern Sinai, the murder of a family of 9 Egyptians at El Arish Thursday morning raised the total of ISIS murders in less than a month to 274.
DEBKAfile’s counterterrorism sources discern three objectives in the attack Thursday night in Beirut

1. A lesson for Tehran and Hizballah’s leader Hassan Nasrallah to show them that the Islamic State is able to reach them on their home ground, no matter how many troops they deploy to fight the jihadis in Syria (Iran and Hizballah together field an estimated 13,000 soldiers in Syria). ISIS was capable of inflicting terrible casualties both on the battlefield and in their homeland, first in Beirut and eventually in Tehran.

2.  The day before, Wednesday, Nov. 11, in a speech marking the “Day of the Shahid,” Nasrallah gloated over Hizballah’s triumph in a battle outside Aleppo. He also boasted that his domestic security shield in Lebanon presented an impenetrable barrier against ISIS or Nusra Front terrorist intrusions.

The Islamic State’s tacticians determined to blow up both claims in Nasrallah’s face. He and Iran were to be shown that they could not stop ISIS or prevent the Syrian war’s spillover into Lebanon.

3.  By blowing up the Russian airliner over Sinai, the Islamists sought to underscore this point for Moscow too. Russia might send a powerful military force to Syria, but the Islamists would hit Putin from the rear at a location of its choosing anywhere in the Middle East. Moscow may have opted to defend Bashar Assad, but what can it do to protect Hizballah and its other allies?.

DEBKAfile’s counterterrorism sources note that US and Russia have taken lead roles in the broad military effort to defeat ISIS – often by means of pinpointed operations. At the same time, under their noses, the Islamist terrorists have launched their winter campaign, striking with extreme ferocity and agility in unexpected places that are outside the regular battle fronts in which the big powers are engaged.

***

Also see:

Two Americans Among Dead at Jordanian Training Facility for Palestinian Police

abdullahvisitPJ Media, by Bridget Johnson, Nov. 9, 2015:

Two American contractors were among five killed today at a police training facility in Jordan in what appeared to be at first blush a green-on-blue attack in an unlikely country.

The attack was 10 years to the day after a trio of coordinated hotel bombings orchestrated by al-Qaeda in Iraq killed 60 people across Amman, including at a wedding.

The shooter, Capt. Anwar Abu Zaid, 28, of the northern Jerash province, was killed by security forces at the U.S.-funded Jordan International Police Training Center southeast of Amman.

State Department press secretary John Kirby said the training at the center “is predominantly arranged for Palestinian security forces to teach them basic police and security skills.”

It’s been there since 2008 and it is “coordinated and run and funded” by the State Department in partnership with Jordan, who owns the facility.

Zaid reportedly opened fire while people were eating lunch.

In addition to the two Americans, one South African trainer and two Jordanians were also killed. Two Americans, a Lebanese and four Jordanians were wounded. King Abdullah visited wounded patients today at King Hussein Medical City.

“Obviously, a full investigation is taking place,” President Obama said in the Oval Office this morning with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. “We take this very seriously, and we’ll be working closely with the Jordanians to determine exactly what happened.  But at this stage, I want to just let everyone know that this is something we’re paying close attention to.”

“We’re with each other in more ways than one,” Netanyahu said while expressing condolences for the murdered Americans.

The Jordan Times reported that residents of Zaid’s home village described him as “a very kind person, who was religious but moderate.” He graduated from the military branch of Mutah University and was married with two children. One report said that he had asked to be decommissioned last month.

His brother, Fadi Abu Zaid, told the Associated Press that he’d been working at the training center for “several months” and “had given notice recently because he had received a job offer from a Gulf country.”

Zaid was the nephew of a former parliamentarian, Suleiman Saed.

The U.S. Embassy in Amman issued a security message to U.S. citizens in Jordan detailing the incident but stressing “it is premature to speculate on motive at this point.”

“We strongly condemn this incident and we deeply appreciate the cooperation and support received from our Jordanian partners. The Embassy has not changed its security posture.”

Kirby said the two that were killed “were what we call monitors; they were contractors contracted through the State Department as trainer monitors for this curriculum.”

Both worked for DynCorp, which said in a statement today that “the company extends its thoughts and prayers to all involved and to their families and loved ones,” but “out of respect for their privacy, we will not be providing additional information at this time.”

“I would not even begin to speculate on motive here, in terms of what happened,” Kirby said. “I think we need to let the investigators do their jobs.”

Also See:

The New Cold War: The Russia-Shia Alliance VS the Islamic State

Russia’s President Vladimir Putin (2nd R) meets with Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani (2nd L) on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York, September 28, 2015. REUTERS/Mikhail Klimentyev.

Russia’s President Vladimir Putin (2nd R) meets with Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani (2nd L) on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York, September 28, 2015. REUTERS/Mikhail Klimentyev.

By Brian Fairchild, October 31, 2015

The New Cold War:

In late-September 2015 Russia and Iran launched a clandestine strategic military campaign to support Syria’s Bashar al-Assad.  Russia’s bold move took the West by surprise and changed the balance of power in the Middle East in Russia’s favor.  It will go down in history as the milestone depicting Russia’s first aggressive military action outside of its own sphere of influence since the fall of the Soviet Union, and, when viewed from a global strategic perspective, will be remembered as the first clear sign that a New Cold War had erupted between the US and Russia.

Russia’s Middle Eastern campaign is formed around the new “quadrilateral alliance”, which has divided the region into two sectarian blocs:  the Russian-led Shia Muslim alliance, which forms a powerful “Shia Crescent” stretching from Iraq, through Iran and Syria, to Lebanon, and the Sunni Arab bloc led by Saudi Arabia with minimal backing by the United States.

Thus far, Russia’s campaign has been executed seamlessly. Upon entering Syria clandestinely, Russian forces immediately deployed sophisticated surface to air missile defense batteries as well as top-of the-line jet fighters to protect Russian and Syrian forces from the US coalition.  Once air defenses were in place, Moscow began a barrage of airstrikes targeting anti-Assad rebels in order to re-establish and consolidate Assad’s power.  The airstrikes were subsequently integrated with ground operations carried-out by Syrian military units, Iranian Quds forces, Shia militia from Syria and Iraq, and Hezbollah fighters.  There are also credible news reports that Cuban Special Forces have joined the fray for the first time since Cuba’s proxy wars in Angola and central Africa in the 1970’s on behalf of the Soviet Union.

The Russia-Shia Alliance and its Effect on Iraq, Jordan, and the Kurds:

Iraq:

In tandem with its military campaign, Russia launched a diplomatic campaign that has been just as effective.  Iraq is the geographical base for US coalition operations against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, but American influence in Iraq has steadily diminished over the past year.

In early October 2015, Iraq secretly established a new Russia-Iran-Syria-Iraq intelligence center in the middle of Baghdad that surprised and angered American military commanders.  Worse, after Russia’s increasingly effective Syrian air campaign, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi called for Russia to begin unilateral airstrikes against the Islamic State in Iraq.  The Pentagon became so alarmed by the possibility that Russia might get a strategic foothold in Iraq that on October 21, 2015, it dispatched Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Joseph Dunford to Baghdad to deliver an ultimatum to the Iraqi leadership.  Dunford told the Iraqi Prime Minister and Defense Minister that Iraq had to choose between cooperating with Russia or the US.  Upon his departure from Baghdad, General Dunford told the media that he received assurances that Iraq would not seek Russian assistance, but just three days later, Iraq officially authorized Russian airstrikes in-country.

Jordan:

On that same day, another of America’s most dependable allies, the Kingdom of Jordan, announced its agreement to create a new Russian-Jordanian military coordination center to target the Islamic State and that this center would go well beyond just a formal information exchange.  According to Jordan’s Ambassador to Russia:

  • “This time, we are talking about a specific form of cooperation — a center for military coordination between two countries. Now we will cooperate on a higher level. It will not be just in a format of information exchange: we see a necessity ‘to be on the ground’ as Jordan has a border with Syria”

The Kurds:

Moscow is attempting to undermine US relations with the Kurds.  Since the rise of the Islamic State, the US has sought to provide anti-Islamic State military support to the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) in northern Iraq via the Iraqi central government, but the Iraqi government has no desire to see the KRG gain additional power in the north so this mission has been largely ineffective.  The US has had a measure of success providing limited support to the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), but has balked at providing full support because any support whatsoever angers Turkey due to contacts between the YPG and the Kurdish Worker’s Party (PKK), a separatist organization, that seeks to overthrow the Turkish government.  On October 29, 2015, Turkish president Erdogan demonstrated this anger when he vehemently criticized US support for the YPG and stated that Turkey would attack the YPG on the Iraqi side of the border if it attempts to create a separatist Kurdish administrative zone.  Because Turkey is a NATO ally, Turkish threats cause the US significant political and diplomatic problems, but they will not deter Putin from moving to organize and utilize Kurdish forces in pursuit of his goals; in early October, he went out of his way to show disdain for Turkey and NATO by allowing his Syrian-based jets to illegally invade Turkish airspace.

No Kurdish group is happy with the current situation of getting limited support from the United States to fight the Islamic State, but all of them have expressed interest in cooperating with Russia.  Significantly, Sergey Ivanov, the head of the Kremlin administration, specifically urged cooperation between the Syrian Kurdish militia and the US-backed YPG.

The Russia-Shia Alliance and the Islamic State:

The Shia composition of the quadrilateral alliance is extremely significant because it plays directly into the Islamic State narrative.  The Islamic State and the majority of the world’s Muslims are Sunni, but in the heart of the Middle East, the Shia governments of Iran, Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon, with Russian support, dominate, and these countries surround the Islamic State’s new “caliphate” on three sides.  Understanding this strategic disadvantage, the Islamic State knows that it must muster as much international Sunni support as possible to survive, so it carries-out a relentless policy to polarize the international Sunni population against the Shia.

The chance to remove Bashar al-Assad, who represents the Shia Alawite sect, was the primary reason the Islamic State moved to Syria from Iraq, and removing al-Assad from power served as its initial rallying cry to the global Sunni community.  It was this rallying cry that created the dangerous “foreign fighter” phenomenon that subsequently brought more than 30,000 radical Sunni Muslims from around the world to the new caliphate.

The Islamic State repeatedly emphasizes in its official publications and statements its contention that Shia Muslims are not true Muslims and must be eradicated, and, in these communications, it refers to Shia Muslims as “Rafidah” (rejecters).  But of all the Shias in the world, the Islamic State has a particular hatred for the Shia Iranians, who are Persian rather than Arab, and who ruled Islam during the ancient Safavid (Persian) empire, which the Islamic State regards as religiously illegitimate.  It therefore refers to Iranians as the “Safavid Rafidah”.

Moreover, the Islamic State accuses the US and Russia of being modern day “crusaders” who have joined forces with the Iranians to destroy Sunni Islam, a contention made clear on March 12, 2015, when its spokesman Abu Mohamed al-Adnani stated:

  • The Safavid Rāfidah (Shia Iranians) today have entered a new stage in their war against the Sunnis. They have begun to believe that it is within their power to take areas of the Sunnis and control them completely. They no longer want a single Muslim from the Sunnis living in the empire they desire…O Sunnis…if the Islamic State is broken…then there will be no Mecca for you thereafter nor Medina…Sunnis! The Crusader-Safavid (Christian-Iranian) alliance is clear today.  Here is Iran with its Great Satan America dividing the regions and roles amongst each other in the war against Islam and the Sunnis…We warned you before and continue to warn you that the war is a Crusader-Safavid was against Islam, and war against the Sunnis…”

The Shia Alliance and the Saudis:

Saudi Arabia considers itself to be the leader of the world’s Sunni population and the custodian of Islam’s two most holy places:  the mosques of Mecca and Medina where the prophet Muhammad received Allah’s revelations.  Because Iran is the Kingdom’s religious and regional nemesis the Islamic State’s anti-Shia narrative resonates greatly among many Saudis who are increasingly alarmed at Iran’s growing military influence and power.  In a letter signed by 53 Saudi Islamic scholars in early October 2015, the clerics lashed out at Iran, Syria and Russia and echoed the main points made by the Islamic State:

  • “The holy warriors of Syria are defending the whole Islamic nation. Trust them and support them … because if they are defeated, God forbid, it will be the turn of one Sunni country after another”

Saudi King Salman was willing to allow this unofficial letter to be published because it permitted the Saudi government an indirect manner to issue a warning to Iran, but as the Russian-Iran alliance continued to make military gains throughout October, the Kingdom’s anxiety was such that it decided to allow its Foreign Minister to issue the following direct warning to Iran:

  • “We wish that Iran would change its policies and stop meddling in the affairs of other countries in the region, in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Yemen…We will make sure that we confront Iran’s actions and shall use all our political, economic and military powers to defend our territory and people…”

Conclusion:

The New Cold War:

Just one month ago, the US was the only major military player in the Middle East, but that has all changed.  Russia’s aggressive and well-planned military campaign in Syria has tilted the balance of power in the region away from the US and toward Russia and its new Shia-dominated quadrilateral alliance.  As a result, the US plan to effect regime change in Syria is now impossible, but more importantly, US influence in Iraq is steadily diminishing, and thus, the number of options available to American military commanders to degrade the Islamic State are also diminishing.

Five days after Iraq rejected General Dunford’s ultimatum and authorized Russian airstrikes in Iraq, Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter ignored this fact in his testimony before the Senate’s Armed Forces Committee when he stated that the United States plans to increase the number of airstrikes in Iraq as well as direct action raids by US special operations forces in Iraq.

Unfortunately, such an increase in US military actions require Iraqi permission, and for the second time in a week, Iraq rejected the United States.  On October 28, 2015, Prime Minister al-Abadi’s spokesman told the media that Iraq has no intention of allowing increased American participation because:

  • “This is an Iraqi affair and the government did not ask the U.S. Department of Defense to be involved in direct operations…”

If Iraq enforces this restriction, and limits the US to only training and arming Iraqi forces while allowing Russia to conduct aggressive operations in-country, the situation could become untenable for the United States, further reducing America’s ability to degrade the Islamic State.

The Islamic State:

Once Russia consolidates Assad rule in Syria, Putin will undoubtedly use the new Russia-Shia alliance to move against the Islamic State.  Because the alliance dominates the geographical terrain on three sides of the “caliphate” and has demonstrated a willingness to engage in unified military air and ground operations, it is likely that Russian airpower and Shia ground forces will succeed in dismantling many Islamic State elements in Syria and Iraq.

Such success by the Russia-Shia alliance, especially if it forces the evacuation of the capital of the Islamic State’s “caliphate” in Raqqa, Syria, will further polarize and enrage radical Sunnis and likely increase the number of foreign fighters from Europe and the Middle East.  It will also likely result in more domestic lone jihad attacks in the US and Russia, a call the Islamic State has already made in its October 13, 2015 statement:

  • “…the Islamic State is stronger today than yesterday, while at the same time America is getting weaker and weaker…America today is not just weakened, it has become powerless, forced to ally with Russia and Iran…Islamic youth everywhere, ignite jihad against the Russians and the Americans in their crusaders’ war against Muslims.”

If the Islamic State experiences set-backs and defeats in Syria and Iraq such defeats would likely motivate it to launch mass casualty attacks in the United States and Europe in order to prove to its followers that it remains relevant. Mass casualty attacks in tandem with increased lone jihad attacks would make an already bad domestic security situation, grave.

On October 23, 2015, FBI Director Comey revealed that the FBI is pursuing approximately 900 active cases against Islamic State extremists in the United States and that this number continues to expand.  Comey added that should the number of cases continue to increase, it won’t be long before the FBI lacks the adequate resources to “keep up”.   Europe, too, faces grave security challenges.  A few days after Comey’s revelations, the head of MI5, Britain’s domestic intelligence service, stated that the terror threat in the United Kingdom from the Islamic State and al Qaeda is the highest he has “ever seen”.

Brian Fairchild was a career officer in CIA’s Clandestine Service.  He has served in Asia, Southeast Asia, Europe, the Arabian Peninsula, and Afghanistan.  Mr. Fairchild writes periodic intelligence analyses on topics of strategic importance.

Obama surrenders the Middle East to Russia, and it matters

20150928_obamaputinmiddleeast_Family Security Matters, by Dr. Robin McFee, Sep. 29, 2015:

Putin asserts it is difficult to defeat ISIS without the current Syrian government. Whether that government is a puppet of Iran and Russia, is currently irrelevant. Putin is correct. Syria could act as a magnet to draw in ISIS fighters, and a kill box within which to defeat them, or at least eliminate a not insignificant number of their fighters.

Putin has doubled down on Syria in recent days. No news there. He has had bases in that beleaguered nation for years. He is in a good position to weaken ISIS in the process – to a far greater degree than the US has been willing to do.

Speaking of which, Obama, not having learned anything from his many foreign policy misadventures in the region, has decided to invest in Syrian “rebels” who somehow have become virtuous patriots – instead of merely another assemblage of Jihadists, former mujahideen, current members of the various Al Qaeda franchises, and to be clear, NOT friends of democracy or freedom fighters. Obama just doesn’t get it. There are no freedom fighters or prodemocracy plays in that region. It is a war of the roses based upon religion, anti-West sensibilities, adherence to Sharia, tribal power skirmishes, and territorial control. The old saw ‘the enemy of my enemy is my friend’ is both tired, misrepresentative of the landscape, and a dangerous game for amateurs to play.

Syria is an important place – geographically and geopolitically. Putin knows this. More importantly, Assad is his ally. Putin – spy master, politician, businessman, diplomat, quasi-dictator, martial artist, energy expert, possible assassin, and global force to be reckoned with – recognizes the importance of supporting your allies. We could learn something from him, as we continue to abandon our friends, and give benefits to our enemies. Reputations matter. Consider this….If you had to select a second for a street fight, would you pick Putin or Obama? A sad reality, but who does the world trust more? Not who does the world use more, or misuse more, or abuse more, but trust or fear more.

Like Assad or not, he has created a vortex within which ISIS is being drawn in. Al Qaeda is in play there as well. We ought to think of it as an opportunity to let savages kill each other, and their teams become severely degraded. Instead we are arming, at ridiculous expense, a handful (think meaningless) of jokers to represent our interests over there.

Yes Assad is an unsavory fellow, using chemical weapons. He isn’t alone. And to his credit – even bad guys have their good points – he has protected Christians far more than any other dictator in the region.  Putin is supporting Assad. And?

As an aside, think Christians have had any political patronage in Iraq lately? Or Iran? How are Christians faring in other Moslem nations with few exceptions, like Morocco? A bit closer to home, how are Christians treated in the US? While Obama is yammering about human rights, and taking in refugees from the Middle East (let us not forget much of this mess is his fault), he is about to deport Christian refugees, and has been hesitant to allow Christians under siege in Iraq to enter the US. Double standard anyone?

Like it or not, the world is one big Stratego ® or Risk ® game board. It is winner take all. The good guys can choose to be benevolent victors, and good trade partners, even good neighbors, but at the end of the day it is all about which team controls the natural resources, the transit routes, influences decisions, trade deals, and leads globally with manufacturing and distribution infrastructure that wins the game.

We are losing the game, and badly. This is not to be gloom and doom, but to remind that our future, and that of our children depends upon the economic and security future we create and pass along. The two are inextricably intertwined. One cannot separate the economy, energy, immigration, and security issues. Within that construct, the Middle East matters to our economy and security – unfortunately.

We blew Iraq – which has been and remains an extremely important nation in the history of the Arab and Middle Eastern world. Located in a strategic crossroads, and a former ally we misread (thank you Barack Obama), and abandoned a vital piece of real estate. Not to mention our feckless behavior has emboldened the behaviors of radical Islamists, including ISIS.

As for ISIS or Assad or Libya or…There are no consequences that our enemies face when doing barbaric acts against Americans or our interests. Obama’s laughable lines in the sand, and threats aimed at ISIS, ISIL, Russia, Assad or fill in the blanks, they are as fragile as a sand castle near the ocean during a tropical storm.  And as meaningless!

Could you, would you trust Obama if your life depended on it? Ask Pastor Saeed, who languishes in Iran, when he and 3 other Americans could easily have been ransomed for, say $150 billion dollars?! That is what BHO is giving Iran. Ask the Iraqis who risked their lives to provide intelligence to our military, and are now isolated, hunted, alone. Ask the Christians who are being butchered by ISIS and other Islamists in the region. Where is Obama? Where is the United States? Russia has provided more moral clarity on the issue than we have. Wow, the world is upside down, when that can be said!

The vacuum created when Obama placed politics over patriotism and popularity over leadership by removing our military from Iraq, and then added stupidity to idiocy, by reaching out to Iran to help us fight ISIS (tacitly giving Tehran the political cover to enter, and likely capture much of Iraq), and capped it off with a moronic two year diplomacy play that has been a major financial and political coup for Tehran, and completed the process of colossal foreign policy failures by mishandling Syria, betraying Israel, ignoring Egypt as well as Morocco, the Kurds, and screwing up North Africa, has set the stage for a new sheriff to emerge…Putin.

All small entities need a big brother. Whether it is Israel, or Bahrain, or the Kurds (Putin supports), Libya or Syria or the Falklands, most countries recognize it is a dangerous world with unsavory neighbors. Even the vaunted Israeli military recognizes it cannot control the region alone. It needs an ally. It used to be the United States without question. Now Israel has to play Oliver asking for more soup every time it needs something from Obama’s United States. Putin recognizes this, and has reached out to most of the countries in the Middle East, and starting with North Africa, establishing or reestablishing affiliations and alliances. Consider for a moment how Putin treats Netanyahu and Israel with more concern, and respect than POTUS; a deft, radical departure from prior Russian/Soviet strategy. And Vladimir has, in at least small ways, used his powerful influence to stem some of the attacks from Iran’s proxies.

Make no mistake about it – Iran, Syria, Turkey are all critical to Russia’s energy, security, and geopolitical strategy. Poking the US in the eye in the process is just a bonus for Putin. Israel offers potential for Russia, too. Keep a watch on that.

Obama has surrendered leadership of the Middle East to Russia. Pure and simple!  And we should not blame Putin for that. He is doing what the leader of Russia is supposed to do – look out for the interests of his nation.

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World View: The Arab World is Disintegrating into War

ISIS video

ISIS video

Breitbart, by JOHN J. XENAKIS, July 19, 2015:

Behind the scenes in the Iran nuclear deal

President Barack Obama and Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei (AFP)

President Barack Obama and Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei (AFP)

I like to reference Debka’s newsletter because it contains valuable insights into what’s going on, but it is written from Israel’s point of view, and sometimes gets things wrong. This week’s subscriber-only newsletter (sent to me by a subscriber) contains an analysis of the behind the scenes activities that led to the Iran nuclear deal:

  • Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei has been talking about developing nuclear technology, but it really is a bluff, designed to get the US to negotiate the nuclear deal and remove sanctions. Iran has no intention of developing a nuclear weapon while Obama is in office, since the relationship with Obama is more important. — This is plausible, and probably true
  • The Shah of Iran was overthrown by Ayatollah Ruhallah Khomeini in 1979 with the support of President Jimmy Carter and his national security advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski. The Shah was double-crossed. — This is plausible, but I have no idea whether it’s true.
  • Brzezinski and his long-time associate Brent Scrowcroft were influential in the new Iran-US deal. — This is plausible.
  • Obama now expects Iran, perhaps naively, to shoulder most of the burden of fighting the Islamic State (IS or ISIS or ISIL or Daesh) in Iraq and Syria. — It’s plausible that Obama believes this.
  • Many Sunni Arab leaders, including Saudi’s new king Salman bin Abdulaziz al Saud, believe that Obama helped bring about the “Arab Spring” in order to help Iran’s rise. — It’s plausible that Arab leaders believe this, but it’s not possible for Obama or any politician to have caused or prevented the Arab Spring. For that matter, Carter and Brzezinski could not have caused or prevented Iran’s Great Islamic Revolution. These great events were caused by enormous generational changes that could not have been stopped any more than a tsunami can be stopped.
  • Obama turned his back on the Sunni Arab nations because he sees the Arab world as disintegrating into bloody, hopeless wars.
  • The continuing rhetorical fury of Israel’s prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu over the Iran agreement has outlived its usefulness, according to some Israeli officials, who feel he should moderate his statements and instead focus on a new strategy to deal with the new world following the agreement.

Generally, the Debka view is consistent with my article “15-Jul-15 World View — Arab views of Iran nuclear deal,” including the fact that Iran is becoming America’s ally, and the Sunni Arabs will be America’s enemy. Debka

The Arab world is disintegrating into war

The same Debka newsletter points out that the number of conflicts in the Arab world is larger than the number of Arab nations involved in the conflicts:

  • Libya has fallen apart and is mired in tribal warfare and war with ISIS.
  • Egypt is plagued by frequent terrorist attacks by both ISIS (as “Sinai Province”) and the Muslim Brotherhood.
  • Syria is mired in an endless war pitting Bashar al-Assad’s army plus Hezbollah plus Iran plus Shia militias from Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan versus ISIS plus other jihadists and the Free Syrian Army (FSA).
  • Iraq is in full-scale war with ISIS.
  • Lebanon is poised on a knife’s edge from the spillover of the Syrian war.
  • Jordan is ostensibly stable, but Bedouin tribes’ traditional loyalty to the crown is being undermined, and Iran, Syria, Hezbollah and ISIS are each poised to move in on Amman.
  • Yemen is in a civil war, in which Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) nations are fighting the Iran-backed Houthis. The battle is being exploited by al-Qaeda of the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and ISIS to seize large swathes of land.
  • Saudi Arabia is caught up in three wars — Yemen, Iraq and Syria — with grave domestic challenges from the Shias in the east and from the 16-19 year old Sunni youths, nearly a third of whom are without jobs and have set up clandestine cells across the kingdom dedicated to toppling the House of Saud.

On the other hand, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Oman have lined up behind the Iran nuclear deal and have maintained good relations with Iran. In particular, the UAE expects to gain from the Iran’s post-sanctions import and export trade by having Dubai become the biggest free port in the Gulf.

Debka says that the Arab governments are, like Israel, in a state of disarray after being swept aside by the Iran deal, and in a state of gloom over all the wars going on. The Arab nations need to focus on creating a new Arab regional structure to replace the outdated Arab League.

As we have been saying for many years, the Mideast is headed for a major regional ethnic and sectarian war with 100% certainty, and events seem to bring that war closer every week. This is particularly true of last week’s major event, the Iran nuclear deal.

It is impossible to predict the sequence of political events that will lead to this regional war, but the concept of “a new Arab regional structure” suggests one possibility. My expectation is that, sooner or later, the Arab states will unite with ISIS to fight Iran, Syria and Hezbollah, and this new Arab regional structure may be the political mechanism that brings all these Sunni and Arab elements together to fight Iran. Debka

Saudi Arabia conducts major anti-terrorism sweep against ISIS

In a major anti-terrorism sweep across the country, Saudi Arabia has arrested 431 people believed to belong to ISIS cells, “as part of a scheme managed from troubled areas abroad and aimed at inciting sectarian strife and chaos.” According to the Saudi statement statement:

The number of arrested to date was 431 … detainees, most of them citizens, as well as participants holding other nationalities including Yemeni, Egyptian, Syrian, Jordanian, Algerian, Nigerian, Chadian, and unidentified others.

What combines these cells (which were subjected to security restrictions by not making direct contacts among themselves) is the belonging to the terrorist ISIS organization in terms of the adoption of thought, takfir of society and bloodshed, and then exchanging roles to implement the plans and objectives dictated from abroad.

There have been several terrorist attacks on Shia mosques in eastern Saudi Arabia, and the purpose of the announcement in part was to make it clear to the Shias in the east that the government is doing something. The Saudis claim that they have thwarted six additional planned attacks on Shia mosques.

The fact that over 400 people have been arrested gives an idea of the scale of threat that the Saudis face in ISIS. Saudi Press Agency and AP and Arab News

Massive bomb attack in Iraq market kills over 130

ISIS has claimed responsibility for a massive bomb attack in a crowded open-air market in Khan Bani Saad, a mostly Shia town 20 miles northeast of Baghdad. The death toll is 130 and climbing, making it the biggest ISIS civilian terror attack in the country.

A man in a truck pulled up to the marketplace in the extreme summer heat and said he was selling ice at a discount to celebrate the end of Ramadan. He lured over 100 people to the truck, and the detonated at least one ton of explosives.

Khan Bani Saad is in Diyala province, which borders Iran. It’s the only province in Iraq where Iranian jets are known to have conducted airstrikes against ISIS earlier this year.CNN and AP

Abdulazeez was the third Jordanian-Palestinian to attack US military personnel in six years

BREAKING NEWS – Chattanooga terror attack claims FIFTH victim

Tennessee terrorist Muhammad Abdulazeez

Tennessee terrorist Muhammad Abdulazeez

DEBKAfile Exclusive Analysis July 18, 2015:

Mohammed Youssuf Abdulazeez, 24, who Thursday, July 16, murdered four US Marines in Chattanooga, Tennessee, and wounded three people, was the third Muslim of Jordanian-Palestinian descent to perpetrate a massacre of American military or intelligence personnel in six years
DEBKAfile’s intelligence and counter-terrorist experts point out that these acts of terror were the price that US army and intelligence agencies paid for relying on Jordan’s General Intelligence Directorate (Dairat al-Mukhabarat al-Amman) as a source of penetration agents for fighting Al Qaeda, the Islamic State and other radical Islamist organizations.
US investigators reported Saturday that Abdulazeez had visited Jordan four times in the last 10 years, and during one of those visits traveled to Yemen. There is no chance that the killer – a naturalized American citizen whose real name may be Mohammed Youssuf Said – could have traveled to Yemen on a Jordanian passport “under the radar” of Jordanian intelligence, which may also have succeeded in recruiting him. And there is no way that Jordan’s GID would not have tipped off US intelligence and counter-terrorist authorities.

It is obvious that US law enforcement agencies, who claim to have found “no evidence that he had any contact with militants or militant groups,” know a lot more about the killer’s background than they admit and are feeding out tidbits slowly.
This goes far to explain the unusual aspects of the Chattanooga attack. Within minutes of the shooting, hundreds of agents of the FBI and other agencies dealing with the war on terror were spread out at the scenes of the crime – the Navy recruiting center and the Navy reserve center 12 km away. On the scene with exceptional speed too was the Tennessee US Attorney who said at once that the attacks were being treated as an “act of domestic terrorism.”

But it is hard to understand how a Muslim, who wrote this message on his blog: “Life is short and bitter. And the opportunity to submit to Allah may pass you by “- managed to acquire an arsenal of deadly weapons, including at least two AK-47 automatic rifles and a handgun, which he used on his murderous rampage in Chattanooga. More weapons were found at his home.

It appears likely to DEBKAfile’s intelligence experts that Abdulazeez or Said, whatever his name, exploited a “dead spot” in the cooperation between US and Jordanian intelligence services to coolly and thoroughly prepare his act of terror in Chattanooga. This opportunity and its timing, on the last day of Ramadan, may have been engineered by his handlers, whether a clandestine Islamic State operative in Jordan, or Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula-AQAP in Yemen.

His methods recalled the modus operandi employed by Al Qaeda in 2009, when Humam Khalil al-Balawi, a Jordanian physician, was recruited by the GID for a US Central Intelligence operation, which was to use his medical qualifications to penetrate Ayman Zawahiri’s close circle. Dr. Balawi succeeded in gaining the Al Qaeda leader’s confidence. But Zawahiri also managed to turn him round.
On Dec. 30, 2009, he arrived at the covert US base of Camp Chapman in southeast Afghanistan to deliver his report on the Al Qaeda leader’s plans, which was eagerly was awaited and destined to reach the desk of President Barack Obama.
Instead of handing over his report, the Jordanian doctor detonated the bomb vest strapped around his chest, killing himself and nine of the CIA agents standing around him.
A month earlier, on Nov. 9, 2009, Army psychiatrist Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, with whom the Tennessee killer shared the same Jordanian-Palestinian background, shot dead 13 American soldiers and injured 32 in a sudden attack at the US base of Fort Hood in Texas.
Abdulazeez clearly followed in the footsteps of both these forerunners.

Also see:

Ramadi’s fall opens ISIS road to Baghdad. Jordan warns US air strikes won’t stop the terrorists’ advance

DEBKAfile, May 18, 2015:

Mideast-Jordan-King-A_Horo-e1363781864263Jordan’s King Abdullah has warned the Obama administration in an urgent message that US air strikes alone won’t stop the Islamic State’s advances in Iraq and Syria and, what is more, they leave his kingdom next door exposed to the Islamist peril. ISIS would at present have no difficulty in invading southern Jordan, where the army is thin on the ground, and seizing local towns and villages whose inhabitants are already sympathetic to the extremist group. The bulk of the Jordanian army is concentrated in the north on the Syrian border. Even a limited Islamist incursion in the south would also pose a threat to northern Saudi Arabia, the king pointed out.

Abdullah offered the view that the US Delta Special Forces operation in eastern Syria Saturday was designed less to be an effective assault on ISIS’s core strength and more as a pallliative to minimize the Islamist peril facing Saudi Arabia, Jordan and the Gulf emirates.

DEBKAfile’s Washington sources report that US officials refused to heed Abdullah’s warning and tried to play it down, in the same way as Secretary John Kerry tried Monday, May 18, to de-emphasize to the ISIS conquest of Ramadi, the capital of Iraq’s largest province.

At a news conference in Seoul, Kerry dismissed the Islamists’ feat as a “target of opportunity” and expressed confidence that, in the coming days, the loss “can be reversed.”

The Secretary of State’s words were unlikely to scare the Islamists, who had caused more than 500 deaths in the battle for the town and witnessed panicky Iraqi soldiers fleeing Ramadi in Humvees and tanks.

Baghdad, only 110 km southeast of Ramadi, has more reason to be frightened, in the absence of any sizeable Iraqi military strength in the area for standing in the enemy’s path to the capital.

The Baghdad government tried announcing that substantial military reinforcements had been ordered to set out and halt the Islamists’ advance. This was just whistling in the dark. In the last two days, the remnants of the Iraqi army have gone to pieces – just like in the early days of the ISIS offensive, when the troops fled Mosul and Falujah. They are running away from any possible engagement with the Islamist enemy.

The Baghdad-sourced reports that Shiite paramilitaries were preparing to deploy to Iraq’s western province of Anbar after Islamic State militants overran Ramadi were likewise no more than an attempt to boost morale. Sending armed Shiites into the Ramadi area of Anbar would make no sense, because its overwhelmingly Sunni population would line up behind fellow-Sunni Islamist State conquerors rather than help the Shiite militias to fight them.

Iran’s Defense Minister Hossein Dehghan, who arrived precipitately in Baghdad Monday, shortly after Ramadi’s fall, faces this difficulty. Our military sources expect him to focus on a desperate effort to deploy Shiite militias as an obstacle in ISIS’s path to Baghdad, now that the road is clear of defenders all the way from Ramadi.
In Amman, King Abdullah Sunday made a clean sweep of senior security officials, firing the Minister of Interior, the head of internal security (Muhabarat) and a number of high police officers. They were accused officially of using excessive violence to disperse demonstrations in the southern town of Maan.

The real reason for their dismissal, DEBKAfile’s counter-terror sources disclose, is the decline of these officials’ authority in the Maan district,  in the face of the rising influence of extremist groups identified with Al Qaeda and ISIS, in particular.

Also see:

King Abdullah II: Jordan Is at War With ‘Outlaws of Islam’

041315_jordanFox News, Aprl 13, 2015:

Bret Baier sat down with Jordanian King Abdullah II, who told the “Special Report” host that Jordan is at war with the “outlaws of Islam.”

Abdullah explained that ISIS is somewhat of a “franchise.” He said that the terror group is an international problem, which means that the international community must deal with it as such.

The king of Jordan stepped up the country’s efforts against ISIS big time after the killing of a Jordanian air force pilot. Abdullah said that Jordan is the only Arab country operating in Syria alongside the U.S., and it’s the only Arab country working alongside the coalition forces in Iraq.

Abdullah said that the relationship between the U.S. and Jordan is “very strong,” but remarked that his country’s relationship with the West has changed. He said he had a wake-up call that made him realize Jordan must stand more on its own two feet and be more “bullish and straightforward” with the West.

“At the end of the day, I think I know what’s best for my country and for the region, and I think a blunt and honest discussion with friends is always much better than being wishy-washy,” he told Baier.

Abdullah said Syria, Jordan’s neighbor to the north, continues to fall apart. He explained that Syria is fighting two wars: one against ISIS on the east and another against the regime on the west.

Further, he explained that Iran is active in Syria, and he said Jordan has seen Iranians not too far from its border, an issue that Abdullah said Jordan has discussed with Iran.

According to Abdullah, the biggest challenge that Jordan faces is the economy. This is due to 1.5 million Syrian refugees, who comprise about 20 percent of Jordan’s population, Abdullah said.

He added that only 28-29 percent of the refugee budget is being covered by the international community – the rest falls on Jordan.

Abdullah told Baier that the supply of weapons from the United States has improved dramatically in recent weeks. He noted that there is still much to be done to fight ISIS in Iraq and Syria.

 

Also see:

Sunni Jihadists Gain Ground in Syria

Syrians in the city of Idlib on Wednesday lined up to receive bread. The city was seized last weekend by the Qaeda-affiliated Nusra Front, which said it would not try to monopolize power there. Credit Mohamad Bayoush/Reuters

Syrians in the city of Idlib on Wednesday lined up to receive bread. The city was seized last weekend by the Qaeda-affiliated Nusra Front, which said it would not try to monopolize power there. Credit Mohamad Bayoush/Reuters

CSP, by Aaron Kliegman, April 1, 2015:

The al-Qaeda-affiliated al-Nusra Front seized the provincial capital of Idlib in northwestern Syria this past weekend. Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad’s forces withdrew after five days of intense fighting with a primarily al-Nusra-dominated coalition of rebels, all of whom are part of the multi-faceted Syrian opposition.

According to the “Army of Conquest”, the name of the coalition, 70 rebels were killed in the decisive battle. Beyond al-Nusra, other Islamist militias helped in the effort including Ahrar al-Sham, Jund al-Aqsa, Liwa al-Haqq, and Failaq al-Sham, and some smaller groups played a lesser role.

Al-Nusra said today that it will rule Idlib with sharia law, with the group’s leader Abu Mohamad al-Golani stating, “We salute the people of Idlib and their stand with their sons … God willing they will enjoy the justice of sharia, which will preserve their religion and their blood.” While the jihadists were battling the regime and now are trying to setup Islamic governance, hundreds of thousands of residents have reportedly fled the city.

Idlib has strategic significance for multiple reasons, including that it is 20 miles from the Turkish border, and one Syrian military source accused Turkey of helping the rebels take Idlib. Furthermore, Idlib is only the second provincial capital that Assad has lost, the first one being Raqqa. The Sunni jihadists are gaining ground and can consolidate their power in Idlib to move onto other strategic targets. Idlib is important for exerting control northeast toward Aleppo city, and the rebels are better suited to move towards Hama city and its military airfield or into the regime’s heartland.

As al-Nusra is imposing sharia law on Idlib, its main rival jihadist group, Islamic State (ISIS), seized most of the Yarmouk Palestinian refugee camp on the outskirts of Damascus, Syria’s capital. Al-Nusra members who defected to ISIS helped in the fight against Assad regime forces. According to the U.N., before the onset of the Syrian civil war in 2011, Yarmouk was home to about 200,000 people; now, that number is down to 18,000.

ISIS has been attempting to push into western Syria, far way from its main strongholds, for months. The group is trying to establish sleeper cells in the areas around Damascus and maintain a firm presence there. While the regime has strong checkpoints to repel attackers from Damascus, ISIS’s presence so near to the capital indicates that they are getting closer.

While these two developments are occurring, Syrian rebels, including Jabhat al-Nusra, were fighting Wednesday with regime forces along the Jordanian border. The rebels attacked the main border crossing between the two countries on the Syrian side, known as the Nasib post, causing Jordan to close the area. According to Conflict News, al-Nusra militants captured the border crossing on the same day. If true, Jordan will rightfully be concerned about the fighting’s proximity to its border, especially while it has been dealing with an influx of Syrian refugees throughout the civil war.

All of these stories show the increasingly chaotic situation in Syria. While ISIS is adding territory to its self-declared caliphate, the al-Nusra front is also quietly gaining territory. Both groups’ success will only increase their propaganda and bring in more recruits. With Sunni jihadists groups on the move and the Assad regime trying to hold onto as much of the country as possible, there seems to be no good foreseeable outcome. The conflict will only get more complicated as the fighting gets closer to Turkish and Jordanian territory and Islamist rebels get closer to Damascus.

Also see:

Syria’s Civil War Could Stabilize Its Region

by Daniel Pipes
The Washington Times
February 26, 2015

Population shifts resulting from Syria’s four-year long civil war have profoundly changed Syria and its three Arabic-speaking neighbors: Iraq, Lebanon, and Jordan. (Turkey and Israel have changed too, but less so.) Ironically, amid tragedy and horror, as populations adapt to the brutal imperatives of modern nationalism, all four countries are becoming a bit more stable. That’s because the fighting has pushed peoples to move from ethnic minority status to ethnic majority status, encouraging like to live with like.

Before looking at each country, some background:

First, along with the Balkans, the Middle East contains the most complex and unsettled ethnic, religious, linguistic, and national mix in the world. It’s a place where cross-border alliances deeply complicate local politics. If the Balkans set off World War I, the Middle East might well spark World War III.

Second, historic tensions between the two main Muslim sects, Sunni and Shi’i, had largely subsided before Ayatollah Khomeini’s rise to power in 1979. Driven by Tehran’s aggression, they have since flared anew.

 

The brutal 8-year war, 1980-88 between Iran and Iraq did much to exacerbate Sunni-Shi’i hostility.

Third, the imperialist European powers nearly ignored the identity of the peoples living in the Middle East as they defined most of the region’s borders. Instead, they focused on rivers, ports, and other resources that served their economic interests. Today’s jumble of somewhat randomly-defined countries (e.g., Jordan) is the result.

Finally, Kurds were the major losers a century ago; lacking intellectuals to make their case, they found themselves divided among four different states and persecuted in them all. Today, they are organized for independence.

Returning to Syria and its Arab neighbors (and drawing on Pinhas Inbari’s “Demographic Upheaval: How the Syrian War is Reshaping the Region“):

Syria and Iraq have undergone strikingly similar developments. After the demise of monstrous dictators in 2000 and 2003, each has broken into the same three ethnic units – Shi’i Arab, Sunni Arab, and Kurd. Tehran dominates both Shi’i-oriented regimes, while several Sunni-majority states (Turkey, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Qatar) back the Sunni rebels. The Kurds have withdrawn from the Arab civil wars to build their own autonomous areas. Once-ambitious dictatorships barely sustain functioning foreign policies. Also, the century-old boundary separating Syria and Iraq has largely vanished.

Syria: The part of Syria still ruled by Bashar al-Assad is becoming more Shi’i. An estimated half of the pre-war Syrian population of 22 million has been driven from its homes; of them, the 3 million refugees, mostly Sunni, who fled the country are unlikely to return both because of the continuing civil war and the Assad regime’s revocation of their citizenship. The regime appears also to have intentionally reduced its control over the area near the border with Jordan to encourage Sunnis to flee Syria. In another ploy to increase the Shi’i population, reports indicate it has welcomed and re-settled about 500,000 Iraqi Shi’is, conferring Syrian citizenship on some.

 

Bashar al-Assad must have been a better ophthalmologist than dictator.

Iraq: The Syrian civil war provided the Islamic State (or ISIS/ISIL) with an opportunity to move into Iraq, seizing such cities as Fallujah and Mosul, leading to an exodus of non-Sunnis (especially Shi’is and Yazidis), and remaking Iraq along ethnic lines. Given the country’s intermingled population, especially in the Baghdad area, it will be years – perhaps decades – before the sides sort themselves out. But the process appears inexorable.

Lebanon: Sunnis are growing more powerful, beating back the Iranian influence. The million new Sunni refugees from Syria now constitute 20 percent of the country’s population, roughly doubling the Sunni community. Also, Hizbullah, the dominant Shi’i organization in Lebanon, is neglecting its own constituency and losing influence domestically by fighting on behalf of the Assad regime in Syria.

 

Hizbullah militiamen in Syria reduces the group’s influence in its home country, Lebanon.

Jordan: The recent influx of Syrian refugees follows an earlier wave of approximately one million Iraqi refugees. Together, the two groups have lowered the percentage of Palestinians in Jordan to the point that the latter probably no longer constitute a majority of the country’s population, a shift with major political implications. For one, it reduces the potential Palestinian threat to the Hashemite monarchy; for another, it undermines the Jordan-is-Palestine argument championed by some Israelis.

In brief, Iraq and Syria are devolving into their constituent religious and ethnic parts, Lebanon is becoming more Sunni, and Jordan less Palestinian. However gruesome the human cost of the Syrian civil war, its long-term impact potentially renders the Middle East a less combustible place, one less likely to trigger World War III.

Haftar – Sisi Alliance: The Road Block to ISIS bridge Into The Maghreb

February 21, 2015 / /

Our sources have reported that the Egyptian Special Forces Unit 999 executed a joint-raid with the forces of Libyan GEN Khalifah Haftar after the start of airstrikes against Islamic State (IS) positions inside Libya. Unit 999 and GEN Haftar’s forces conducted a raid on a camp located in the Dernah-area (variant: Darna) resulting in the total destruction of the camp. This particular camp is said to have a heavy-foreign fighter presence consisting of Tunisian, Egyptian and Algerian fighters. This particular camp appears to be part of the facilitation ratlines sending weapons and fighters to Syria through Egypt and Gaza, which is probably why the Sisi regime chose to target this location. IS responded by targeting the GEN Haftar stronghold of Quba in a series of bombings.

Libya: Egyptian troops launch ground attack in Isis-held Derna ‘capturing 55 militants’
http://www.ibtimes.co.uk/libya-egyptian-troops-launch-ground-attack-isis-held-derna-capturing-55-militants-1488522

ISIL claims responsibility for deadly Libya blasts
http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2015/02/isil-claims-responsibility-deadly-libya-blasts-150220235037650.html

Egypt Strikes ISIS Positions in Libya: Moderate Muslims Rise Up Against Terror
http://isisstudygroup.com/?p=4889

Screen Shot 2015-02-21 at 10.03.48 AM

Unit 999 conducting training
Source: The ISIS Study Group

The ratlines coming out of Libya are also fueling IS-affiliate Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis (ABM) to continue moving forward in their campaign to secure the Sinai Peninsula to use as the gateway to Gaza, Jordan and Syria. If you suspect there’s a great sense of urgency on the part of Egypt to eradicate the IS presence in Libya and the Sinai, you would be correct. The reason for the increased operations in both areas has everything to do with ABM attempting to reach out to other jihadist groups in the country to bolster their ranks and create a “unified” command. Unconfirmed reporting has come out over the past few weeks about ABM allegedly reaching out to the Cairo-based group Ajnad Masr for the purpose of conducting joint-operations against the regime. This is significant since Ajnad Masr splintered from ABM in 2013 over their pro-IS leanings and regional agenda as opposed to just targeting the Egyptian government. If confirmed, then ABM will have an effective action-arm for conducting operations inside Cairo itself (ABM’s Cairo operations had been disrupted over the last 4 months due to security sweeps). Adding weight to this possibility are the reports that Ajnad Masr may be looking to target western embassies in the capital.

Jordan Steps Up Airstrikes Against ISIS, Egypt Launches New Sinai Offensive
http://isisstudygroup.com/?p=4669

Egypt and UAE Launch Airstrikes in Libya – US Kept in the Dark
http://isisstudygroup.com/?p=1302

Is Egypt Planning Military Intervention in Libya?
http://isisstudygroup.com/?p=584

ABM video

ABM in their 2014 video pledging allegiance to IS
Source: Breitbart

The Libyan-affiliate of IS has been expanding rather quickly in the country and initiated the targeting of westerners, as demonstrated in the late-JAN attack on the Corinthia Hotel in Tripoli and early-FEB attack on an oil field near Sirt. Regarding the oil field attack, IS was looking for westerners but ended up killing one US citizen, a French citizen and three Filipino overseas foreign workers (OFWs) taken hostage. As we’ve seen in Syria and Iraq, a key part of increasing the group’s capabilities revolves around seizing critical infrastructure such as power plants, oil fields and refineries, and its no different here in Libya. We fully expect IS will continue to target Libyan oil infrastructure in order to target western workers, generate revenue and pressure the governments of other target countries – to include EU members.

Eight killed, including five foreigners, in ISIS-linked attack on Libya hotel
http://www.haaretz.com/news/world/1.639305

3 Filipino Oil Workers Kidnapped in Libya
http://manilastandardtoday.com/2015/02/06/3-filipino-oil-workers-kidnapped-in-libya/

corinthia hotel

The Corinthia Hotel Attack
Source: Harretz

We assess that GEN Haftar’s faction and the Sisi regime will continue planning for additional joint-operations similar to the Dernah camp raid. The UAE has been sending additional military equipment and weapons/ammo in support of these operations and has apparently signaled that they intend to increase their air campaign on IS targets in the country. Libya is of great importance as it gives IS a main hub from which to support expansion efforts throughout North Africa while providing additional logistical support to the war effort in Syria. The effort is deemed so important by IS leadership that they sent a “support package” consisting of cadre who fought US forces in Iraq to the country to assist in setting up the official affiliate. Furthermore, we assess that six months after IS sends such a group to an area that an affiliate is able to become fully operational. These personnel are a combination of structural IS fighters and personalities native to the target area. Regarding Libya, such personnel aren’t in short supply as the country was a major contributor of foreign fighters for the IS forerunner AQI during the OIF-era (its worth noting many of these personnel came from Benghazi). As such, what we’re seeing in Libya will likely be what we’ll see in the AF/PAK region six months from now. We also see indications that these same type of cadre were sent to Nigeria to assist Boko Haram 12 to 18 months ago. They have also sent similar cadre packages to other Maghreb states in North Africa, particularly those with active insurgencies.

The Strategic Importance of Egypt to ISIS
http://isisstudygroup.com/?p=1392

The ISIS Expansion into North Africa
http://isisstudygroup.com/?p=3257

Its also worth noting that both GENs Haftar and Sisi have not been receiving adequate US military support. More damning is that the Obama administration has even supported “moderate elements” of the Arab Spring that were not hardly at all moderate – such as the Muslim Brotherhood (MB -which is the father of the modern Sunni terrorist) for instance. The result was a MB-dominated Egyptian government that became increasingly pro-jihadist and a Libya that became far less stable than it ever was when the Qaddafi regime was in power. The result was our Cairo Embassy being overrun, Libya mission being closed and our ambassador to that country being killed by the very same “moderates” that the Obama administration supported. Once GEN Sisi seized power he took note of what happened to his mentor Hosni Mubarak and has grown closer to Russia. In fact, US influence throughout the Middle East – and globally – has been on significant decline for the past 6 yrs, which began to accelerate at the start of the Arab Spring. If you were wondering why we’re seeing Jordan, Egypt, the UAE and France are now “in the lead” in the fight against ISIS, that’s why – and that isn’t a good thing. The United States is not “more respected” as the Obama administration claimed we would be nor are we feared. The decisions of the American voter in the last two presidential elections won’t fully manifest itself for another 1-2 yrs – but when it does, there will be a lot of blood spilled.

Egypt Atmospherics
http://isisstudygroup.com/?p=614

Links to Other Related Articles:

Egyptian Army and IDF Take on ISIS Supporters in Sinai

Egyptian Army Hits Back at ISIS in Sinai

US Embassy in Tripoli “Secured” by Islamist by Islamist Militias of the Dawn of Libya

Violence In Tripoli and Benghazi Continues to Rise

Libyan Violence Causes US Embassy to Close in Tripoli, Also Attack on Egyptian Border Control Point

Tunisia, After Igniting Arab Spring, Sends the Most Fighters to Islamic State in Syria – The Washington Post

Tunisia Closes Border With Libya as Thousands Have Been Fleeing the Violence in Libya

ISIS in Gaza Update

Islamic State’s Presence in Gaza