John Bolton: Countries That Once ‘Hailed’ Obama as a ‘New Messiah’ Now Realize His Policies ‘Endangered’ Them

Barack-Obama-Berlin-Germany-AP-640x480Breitbart, by John Hayward, April 21, 2016:

Former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton, who has formed a Super PAC to support candidates committed to American economic and national security, joined SiriusXM host and Breitbart News Executive Chairman Stephen K. Bannon on Breitbart News Daily.

Bannon asked if President Obama’s current world travels amounted to “the road trip from Hell,” given his unpopularity everywhere from Europe to the Middle East — a mirror image of the rock-star reception he received in those quarters as a presidential candidate, eight long years ago.

“Back in the 2008 election, he went and made a very big campaign speech in Berlin, and the Europeans and others around the world were so eager to see the back of George W. Bush, they hailed him as almost a new messiah,” Bolton recalled of Obama’s early popularity.  “He won the Nobel Peace Prize within eight or ten months of being in office.  He was going to change the United States in ways that would make everything better.”

“But, in fact, they see — I think people all around the world, in the countries of Europe, where he’s visiting Saudi Arabia, in Israel in particular, but really all around the world — that his policies have now endangered what minimal order and stability there is in the world,” Bolton continued.  “The kind of United States that Obama’s created, the kinds of policies he’s followed, have left not only America less stable, but our friends around the world less stable, too.”

Bolton was not surprised that Obama’s trip to Saudi Arabia included a few of what Bannon called “uncomfortable silences.”

“By agreeing to this nuclear deal with Iran, he has legitimized Iran’s path to deliverable nuclear weapons,” Bolton said.  “Now it’s really only a matter of time.  The Iranian ayatollahs never had any intention of giving up their nuclear weapons program.  What they wanted was their assets unfrozen and the sanctions lifted.  They’ve now got that.  And they’ve now actually provoked an arms race, to the least.”

“So when Obama says, as he did just a couple of days ago, in an interview before leaving on this trip, ‘You know, the Saudis and others have to learn to live with Iran in the region,’ it’s like telling Poland, ‘Look, you’ve got to learn to live with Nazi Germany; you’ve got to learn to live with the Soviet Union.’  They’re engaged in a struggle for hegemony, and Obama’s acting like it’s a playground dispute,” Bolton marveled.  “The oil-producing monarchies on the Arabian peninsula, they think Obama’s basically lost his mind.”

Bolton argued that the rift between the Saudi alliance and Iranian axis goes beyond the Sunni-Shiite religions schism, reflecting “historical animosities,” such as the Iranian view of the Kingdom of Bahrain as a province of Iran.

“It has the resonance as Saddam Hussein and Iraq thinking that Kuwait was a province of Iraq, right before they invaded them back in 1990,” Bolton explained.  “These struggles have long historical roots, and they can change.  When the Shah was in charge of Iran, we had good relations with Iran and his government.  We had good relations with the Saudis.”

“But underneath is, what we’re seeing now is, a fundamental struggle that the United States has helped adjust in our interests — in our interests, not in anybody else’s,” he insisted.  “And when we withdraw from that struggle, our interests suffer, as do the people that we’ve tried to prevent from being dominated — in this case, by the religious fanatics who run the government of Iran.”

Breitbart News Daily airs on SiriusXM Patriot 125 weekdays from 6:00AM to 9:00AM EST.

You can listen to the full interview with John Bolton below:

Also see:

US special forces captured ISIS chemical weapons chief in Iraq, official reveals

shFox News, March 9, 2016:

U.S. special forces captured the head of the Islamic State terror group’s unit trying to develop chemical weapons in a raid last month in northern Iraq, a defense official tells Fox News.

“We are using information we have learned for operations,” one official said. The captured operative was identified as Sleiman Daoud al-Afari.

He told U.S. interrogators ISIS had converted banned mustard gas into powdered form to launch in artillery shells, The New York Times adds.

Just yesterday, defense officials said U.S. warplanes in Syria targeted and likely killed an ISIS leader who served essentially as the terror group’s secretary of defense.

The Iraq raid marks one of the first known major success of Washington’s more aggressive policy of pursuing jihadis on the ground. The Obama administration launched the new strategy in December, deploying a commando force to Iraq that it said would be dedicated to capturing and killing ISIS leaders in clandestine operations, as well as generating intelligence leading to more raids.

U.S. officials said last week the Delta Force team had captured an Islamic State leader but had refused to identify him, saying only that he had been held for two or three weeks and was being questioned.

Iraqi officials said al-Afari worked for Saddam Hussein’s now-dissolved Military Industrialization Authority where he specialized in chemical and biological weapons. They said al-Afari, who is about 50 years old, heads the Islamic State group’s recently established branch for the research and development of chemical weapons.

He was captured in a raid near the northern Iraqi town of Tal Afar, the officials told The Associated Press. They would not give further details.

The weaponized mustard gas that ISIS has developed would not be concentrated enough to kill, but could badly wound its victims, a defense official told The Times.

An initial assessment of the U.S. airstrike conducted in Syria last week showed that it likely killed commander Omar al-Shishani, also known as Omar the Chechen, along with 12 additional ISIS fighters, officials added.

Beyond intelligence value, the capture in Iraq could strike a blow to what Iraqi and American officials have described as a determined effort by the Islamic State group to develop chemical weapons.

A Mideast watchdog released photos in 2014 suggesting the terror network seized chemical weapons from Saddam Hussein’s old stockpiles and deployed them on ethnic Kurds in neighboring Syria. The Kurds apparently were killed by “mustard gas or some kind of blistering agent,” the Middle East Review of International Affairs told Fox News at the time.

ISIS was believed to have set up a special unit dedicated to chemical weapons research, made up of Iraqi scientists from the Saddam-era weapons program as well as foreign experts who joined the group. Iraqi officials expressed particular worry over the campaign because ISIS gained so much room to operate and hide chemical laboratories after overrunning around a third of the country in the summer of 2014, joined with territory they controlled in Syria.

Iraqi officials say the group has ambitions to develop more dangerous agents like nerve gas, though the U.S. has said it appears still far from that goal. Tests confirmed mustard gas was used in a town in Syria when ISIS was launching attacks there in August 2015.

The United States has been leading a coalition waging airstrikes against ISIS in Iraq and Syria for more than a year. The campaign has been key to backing Iraqi and Kurdish forces that have slowly retaken significant parts of the territory the militants had seized.

But after coming under pressure at home for greater action against the militants, the Obama administration moved to the tactic of stepped up commando operations on the ground.

Last year, U.S. special forces killed a key ISIS leader and captured his wife in a raid in Syria, but the new force in Iraq was intended as a more dedicated deployment. American officials have been deeply secretive about the operation. Its size is unknown, thought it may be fewer than 100 troops.

“This is a no-kidding force that will be doing important things,” was about all Defense Secretary Ash Carter would say about the force in testimony to the Senate Armed Services Committee in December.

***

Also see:

Iraq: The Real Story

iraq-war-myths-b

National Review, by Victor Davis Hanson, February 23, 2016:

Donald Trump constantly brings up Iraq to remind voters that Jeb Bush supported his brother’s war, while Trump, alone of the Republican candidates, supposedly opposed it well before it started.

That is a flat-out lie. There is no evidence that Trump opposed the war before the March 20, 2003 invasion. Like most Americans, he supported the invasion and said just that very clearly in interviews. And like most Americans, Trump quickly turned on a once popular intervention — but only when the postwar occupation was beginning to cost too much in blood and treasure. Trump’s serial invocations of the war are good reminders of just how mythical Iraq has now become.

We need to recall a few facts. Bill Clinton bombed Iraq (Operation Desert Fox) on December 16 to 19, 1998, without prior congressional or U.N. approval. As Clinton put it at the time, our armed forces wanted “to attack Iraq’s nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons programs and its military capacity to threaten its neighbors. Their purpose is to protect the national interest of the United States, and indeed the interests of people throughout the Middle East and around the world. Saddam Hussein must not be allowed to threaten his neighbors or the world with nuclear arms, poison gas, or biological weapons.” At the time of Clinton’s warning about Iraq’s WMD capability, George W. Bush was a relatively obscure Texas governor.

Just weeks earlier, Clinton had signed the Iraq Liberation Act into law, after the legislation passed Congress on a House vote of 360 to 38 and the Senate unanimously. The act formally called for the removal of Saddam Hussein, a transition to democracy for Iraq, and a forced end to Saddam’s WMD program. As President Clinton had also warned when signing the act — long before the left-wing construction of neo-con bogeymen and “Bush lied, thousands died” sloganeering — without such an act, Saddam Hussein “will then conclude that he can go right on and do more to rebuild an arsenal of devastating destruction. And some day, some way, I guarantee you he’ll use the arsenal.” Clinton’s secretary of state, Madeleine Albright, often voiced warnings about Saddam’s aggression and his possession of deadly stocks of WMD (e.g., “Iraq is a long way from [here], but what happens there matters a great deal here. For the risks that the leaders of a rogue state will use nuclear, chemical, or biological weapons against us or our allies is the greatest security threat we face”). Indeed, most felt that the U.S. had been too lax in allowing Saddam to gas the Kurds when it might have prevented such mass murdering.

In October 2002, President Bush asked for the consent of Congress — unlike the Clinton resort to force in the Balkans and the later Obama bombing in Libya, both by executive action — before using arms to reify existing American policy. Both the Senate (with a majority of Democrats voting in favor) and the House overwhelmingly approved 23 writs calling for Saddam’s forced removal. The causes of action included Iraq’s violation of well over a dozen U.N. resolutions, Saddam’s harboring of international terrorists (including those who had tried and failed to blow up the World Trade Center in 1993), his plot to murder former president George H. W. Bush, his violations of no-fly zones, his bounties to suicide bombers on the West Bank, his genocidal policies against the Kurds and Marsh Arabs, and a host of other transgressions. Only a few of the causes of action were directly related to weapons of mass destruction.

Go back and review speeches on the floor of Congress in support of the Bush administration’s using force. Some of the most muscular were the arguments of Joe Biden, Hillary Clinton, John Kerry, Harry Reid, and Chuck Schumer. Pundits as diverse as Al Franken, Thomas Friedman, Nicholas Kristof, David Remnick, Andrew Sullivan, Matthew Yglesias, and Fareed Zakaria all wrote or spoke passionately about the need to remove the genocidal Saddam Hussein. All voiced their humanitarian concerns about finally stopping Saddam’s genocidal wars against the helpless. The New York Times estimated that 1 million had died violently because of Saddam’s governance. And all would soon damn those with whom they once agreed.

No liberal supporters of the war ever alleged that the Bush administration had concocted WMD evidence ex nihilo in Iraq — and for four understandable reasons: one, the Clinton administration and the United Nations had already made the case about Saddam Hussein’s dangerous possession of WMD stockpiles; two, the CIA had briefed congressional leaders in September and October 2002 on WMD independently and autonomously from its White House briefings (a “slam-dunk case”), as CIA Director George Tenet, a Clinton appointee, later reiterated; three, WMD were only a small concern, at least in the congressional authorization for war, which for the most part dealt with Iraq’s support for terrorism in the post–9/11 climate, violation of the U.N. mandates, and serial genocidal violence directed at Iraq’s own people and neighboring countries; and, four, the invasion was initially successful and its results seemed to have justified it.

The WMD issue was largely a postbellum mechanism of blaming conspiracies rather than anyone’s own judgment when violence flared. Did the disappearance of WMD stocks really nullify all 23 congressional writs?

Support for the invasion reached its apex not before the war but directly at its conclusion, when polls in April 2003 revealed approval ratings between 70 and 90 percent, owing to Saddam’s sudden downfall, the relatively rapid end to the fighting, and the avoidance of catastrophic American casualties.

In late April 2003, initial worry about the absence of WMD stockpiles was soon noted — after all, the 2004 presidential primaries were less than a year away — but largely dismissed, given that Congress had sanctioned the war on a variety of grounds that had nothing to do with WMD, and it was not clear where or how known stockpiles had mysteriously disappeared, after their prior demonstrable use by Saddam. (Did Clinton get them all in his 1998 Desert Fox campaign? Did Saddam himself stealthily destroy them? Did he send out false intelligence about them to create deterrence? Or were they moved to Syria — where WMD turned up later during the Obama “red-line” controversy?)

Only as the postwar violence spiked in June and July 2003 did the fallback position arise of having been cajoled by “bogus” intelligence and thus having been “misled” into going along with the “Bush and Cheney” agenda. Had the occupation gone as well as the initial war, missing WMD would have been noted in the context of there having been roughly 20 other writs for going into Iraq.

Read more

Also see:

Donald Trump: Saddam Hussein Was A ‘Bad Guy … But He Killed Terrorists’

Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Breitbart, by Jordan Schachtel, Feb. 15,2016:

CHARLESTON, SOUTH CAROLINA— Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump praised Saddam Hussein Monday afternoon in a press conference, calling the late Iraqi dictator a “bad guy, but the one thing about him: he killed terrorists.”

Hussein committed two separate genocides against his own countrymen, creating 6-digit casualty figures against men, women, and children in northern and southern Iraq.

“Saddam Hussein was a bad guy, but the one thing about him: he killed terrorists,” Trump said Monday.

“Now Iraq is Harvard for terrorism. You want to become a terrorist? You go to Iraq,” he added.

“Saddam Hussein understood and he killed terrorists,” Trump said.

He continued:

Bad guy, but if the president and other people, and frankly, Obama is no better, because the way he got us out is a disaster. Look what’s happened since then. A disaster. Shouldn’t have been there. Shouldn’t have gotten out the way we got out. But if the president [George W. Bush] went to the beach, we would have been better off, believe me.

Human rights groups report that Saddam Hussein butchered between 250,000-500,000 people, mostly Kurds and Shias.

And the Iraqi dictator did not discriminate between men, women, and young children.

In his 1988 slaughter campaign against the Kurds of Northern Iraq, Hussein killed thousands through the use of chemical weapons and nerve agents. His forces then proceeded to demolish the Kurds’ infrastructure and starve the people living in the region.

In 1991, after failing to take over Kuwait, his forces committed massacres against Kurds in the country’s north, and Shiites in the south of Iraq. Human rights groups estimate that between 80,000-230,000 were killed by Saddam’s forces during a one-year time period.

Under Hussein, Ba’athist Iraq was one of the worst state-sponsors of terrorism in the world. The September 11 Commission Report found that Saddam Hussein provided a safe-haven and training ground for radical jihadi groups, and “used foreign terrorist groups as an instrument of foreign policy.”

***

MUST-SEE: Vets Clash Over Trump’s Comments About Bush & Iraq

Also see:

ISIS Chemical Warfare Attack on Kurds in Iraq Raises Questions

kurd

Kurdish dead from Saddam Hussein Gas attack, Halabja, Iraq March 1988

New English Review, by Jerry Gordon, August 14, 2015:

The reports about prohibited mustard gas attacks by ISIS against Kurdish peshmerga near Erbil in the Kurdish region of northern Iraq indicate that ISIS has acquired the capabilities either from caches of the Assad regime in Syria or in Iraq. They are similar to reports of similar chemical attacks on Syrian YPG  forces  during the Kobani siege in  2014 and eerily familiar to Iraqi Kurds given the thousands killed in Saddam Hussein gas attacks in March 1988 at Halabja.  The Wall Street Journal reported in today’s edition on the significance of what American  military believe that the efforts by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons  (OPCW)  had not secured these unconventional weapons during operations in 2013, “US Believes ISIS Used Chemical Weapons on Kurds:”

Islamic State fighters likely used mustard agent against Kurdish forces in Iraq this week, senior U.S. officials said Thursday, in the first indication the militant group has obtained banned chemicals.

The officials said Islamic State could have obtained the mustard agent in Syria, whose government admitted to having large quantities in 2013 when it agreed to give up its chemical-weapons arsenal.

The use of mustard agent would mark an upgrade in Islamic State’s battlefield capabilities, and a worrisome one given U.S. intelligence fears about hidden caches of chemical weapons in Syria, where Islamic State controls wide swaths of territory.

It raises new questions about the evolving threat posed by Islamic State and the ability of U.S. allies on the ground to combat it. Frontline Kurdish, Iraqi and moderate Syrian forces say they aren’t getting enough U.S. support now to counter Islamic State’s conventional capabilities.

Officials say these forces may need specialized equipment and training to help protect them against unconventional weapons if they become a fixture on the battlefield.

[…]

The attack in question took place late Wednesday, about 40 miles southwest of Erbil in northern Iraq. A German Defense Ministry spokesman said about 60 Peshmerga fighters, who help protect Kurdish areas in northern Iraq, were reported to have suffered injuries to their throats consistent with a chemical attack while fighting Islamic State.

map 3Not all suspected sites in Assad’s Syria were cleared by the OPCW and chemical weapons may have been transferred to Iraq:

“These were apparently chemical weapons. What it was exactly we don’t know,” the German ministry spokesman said, adding that experts were on their way to the scene to conduct a fuller analysis. He said German personnel weren’t present at the scene of the attack.

The possibility that Islamic State obtained the agent in Syria “makes the most sense,” said one senior U.S. official. It is also possible that Islamic State obtained the mustard agent in Iraq, officials said, possibly from old stockpiles that belonged to Saddam Hussein and weren’t destroyed.

U.S. intelligence agencies are still investigating the source and how it could have been delivered this week on the battlefield, officials said.

Islamic State has taken control of territory in Syria close to where President Bashar al-Assad’s forces stored chemical weapons, including mustard agent. The regime said in 2013 that all of its mustard stockpiles had been destroyed, either by Syrian forces themselves or by international inspectors.

Inspectors, however, have subsequently said they weren’t able to verify claims by the Syrian government that it had burned hundreds of tons of mustard agent in earthen pits. U.S. intelligence agencies now say they believe Damascus hid some caches of deadly chemicals from the West, possibly including mustard.

Intelligence officials and chemical-weapons experts have expressed concerns in recent months that some of those banned chemicals could fall into the hands of Islamic State or other extremist groups.

U.S. intelligence agencies have also warned the White House that the Assad regime could use chemical agents it still has to defend its remaining strongholds if they come under siege.

In addition to mustard, the Assad regime admitted to having deadlier nerve agents, such as sarin and VX. But officials said U.S. intelligence agencies don’t have any evidence to suggest Islamic State has either sarin or VX, which would be far more lethal on the battlefield.

ypg kurdish

 

Dead YPG Kurdish woman fighter in Avdiko, Syria July 2014

Source: MERIA

For Kurds, whether in Iraq or Syria, chemical warfare by ISIS has bitter memories of lethal gas attacks by Saddam Hussein’s regime at Halabja, Iraq in 1988 and in July 2014 at Kobani, Syria.  We wrote about these in an October 2014 NER/Iconoclast post on a MERIA investigation by Jonathan Spyer.

The MERIA special report contradicts the observations of Ms. Psaki and other military experts. Clearly, ISIS has former Hussein Ba’athist commanders who knew about Al Muthanna and what it contained. These same commanders may have even been involved in the infamous genocidal CW attack that killed 5,000 Kurds in Halabja, Iraq in March 16, 1988 in the final year of the Iran-Iraq War.  In a September 2013 Iconoclast post about a previous Spyer essay advocating establishment of an independent Kurdistan, we wrote:

Fast forward to the mid-1970’s when the Iraqi Kurds were a pawn in an unsuccessful covert war for autonomy against Iraqi strongman Saddam Hussein which ended in 1975 when the late Shah of Iran inked a treaty with Hussein in Algiers. Effectively the Kurds were abandoned and covert Israeli military and technical assistance to Kurdish leader Mustafa Barzani was shut down at the request of Dr. Kissinger as national security advisor to President Ford. That set the stage for retaliation by Saddam Hussein, when he undertook punitive action against the Kurds who had joined up with the Islamic Republic in Tehran. In 1985, Saddam Hussein launched chemical warfare attacks against Kurdish villages in northwestern Iraq, the ancient Kurdish homeland. An estimated 5,000 Kurds were killed in the village of Halabja. This was part of the genocidal 1988 Al-Anfal Campaign that slaughtered in excess of 50,000 Iraqi Kurds.

Spyer notes the circumstances behind this latest CW attack on Kurdish fighters in the vicinity of Kobani in July2014:

Prior to the current campaign, the most serious (but unsuccessful) attempt to conquer Kobani came in July 2014; shortly following the dramatic IS advance into Iraq.

It was during this assault on Kobani that evidence emerged which appeared to point to the use by the Islamic State on at least one occasion of some kind of chemical agent against the Kurdish fighters of the YPG (Peoples’ Protection Units).

The July offensive commenced on July 2nd.  According to Kurdish activists, the use of the chemical agent took place on July 12th, in the village of Avdiko, in the eastern part of the Kobani enclave (now in IS hands.)

Nisan Ahmed, health minister of the Kurdish authority in Kobani, established a medical team to examine the incident.  According to Ahmed, the bodies of three Kurdish fighters showed no signs of damage from bullets.  Rather “burns and white spots on the bodies of the dead indicated the use of chemicals, which led to death without any visible wounds or external bleeding.”

According to expert Israeli sources who have seen the pictures, they appear to indicate the use of some form of chemical agent, probably mustard (blister agent), but it is not possible to conclusively confirm this without further investigation.

***

 

Saddam’s Former Loyalists Are Leading ISIS — as True Believers

isis-run-by-true-believers-rNational Review, by Kyle Orton, July 20, 2015:

After long neglect, the media has finally recognized the role of the FREs — former (Saddam) regime elements — within the Islamic State (ISIS). But the pendulum has now swung too far: Some reports are now claiming that the FREs have transformed the leader of the terror army, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, into nothing more than a front man for the Baathists.

These suppositions are mistaken. Most FREs within ISIS have not been ideologically Baathists for a long time.

Let’s consider some specifics.

First, the ISIS-as-front-for-Baathists storyline relies on a misreading of ISIS’s revival after the 2007 Surge. It is true that after ISIS’s former leader was killed in April 2010, ISIS intensified its “Iraqization” process. (This began with Abu Musab al-Zarqawi’s effort in 2006 to reverse ISIS’s negative image as a foreign imposition on Iraqi Sunnis.) Within three months between April and June 2010, Iraqi and American forces picked off 34 of 42 senior ISIS operatives in the region. But the rise to predominance of the FREs was an internal shift in ISIS — not an external coup. It came about because ISIS — at its nadir and with a decreased flow of foreign-fighters — turned to its most militarily skilled members.

Second, the ISIS-as-front-for-Baathists storyline has a very serious timeline problem. One of the infamous FREs within ISIS was Haji Bakr (real name: Samir Abd Muhammad al-Khlifawi), a former colonel in Saddam’s army, who masterminded ISIS’s expansion into Syria; he was killed by Syrian rebels when they rose against ISIS in January 2014. What is noteworthy is that al-Khlifawi had joined ISIS in 2003 when it was a foreign-led organization with Zarqawi — the patron saint of the takfiriyeen (those who regard only Salafi-purists as Muslims) — as its emir. A “socialist infidel” — as ISIS refers to Baathists — was not going to pass muster in ISIS at that time.

Abu Abdulrahman al-Bilawi (real name: Adnan Ismail Najem al-Bilawi), a former captain in Saddam’s army and until his death in June 2014 the head of ISIS’s military council (believed to be the most important ISIS military institution), also joined ISIS in 2003. Abu Ali al-Anbari, the overseer of ISIS-held territory in Syria, joined ISIS in 2003 as well.

It’s no surprise that al-Khlifawi, al-Bilawi, and al-Anbari were already Islamic militants in 2003. From the mid 1980s, and with added intensity after the formal onset of Saddam’s “Faith Campaign” in June 1993, Saddam’s regime Islamized. This was “most likely a cynical step” on the part of Saddam, wrote Amatzia Baram, an expert on Iraqi Islam with the University of Haifa, but it gave Iraq “an extra push in the direction of an authentic Islamization process.” In other words, it took on a life of its own.

Saddam feared the Muslim Brotherhood, so he chose Salafism as a counterweight. With significant resources devoted to producing this regime-loyal Saddamist-Salafism, the Faith Campaign produced a more sectarian, Salafized population, with its focal points on clerics and mosques. Without this campaign, Zarqawi’s project could never have gotten off the ground in Iraq.

“[Zarqawi] thought that the Sunni in Iraq . . . had been ruined by Saddam and that a long period of dawa (proselytization) would be needed,” Craig Whiteside, a professor at the Naval War College who has worked extensively with internal ISIS documents, told me. “He was pleasantly surprised instead by the underground Salafist movement that existed in Iraq and produced so many early local Iraqi supporters.” Whiteside added: “[Saddam’s] regime was really tottering at the end, and people were looking for more successful ideologies.”

Many of ​Saddam’​s officers who encountered Salafi teachings became more loyal to Salafism than to Saddam.

Indeed, the Faith Campaign worked almost too well. Saddam sent military and intelligence members of the Baath Party to mosques with the dual task of religious instruction and keeping tabs. “Most of the officers who were sent to the mosques were not deeply committed to Baathism by that point,” writes Joel Rayburn, a former U.S. military intelligence analyst in Iraq, inIraq After America: Strongmen, Sectarians, Resistance. “And as they encountered Salafi teachings, many became more loyal to Salafism than to Saddam.” The empowerment of long-standing anti-regime “pure” Salafists, alongside the Baathist-Salafists the regime wanted, led to some acts of terrorism, for which some Salafists were executed by Saddam. But the Faith Campaign went on, not least because the dictator himself had a kind of “born-again” experience.

Additionally, Saddam had instrumentalized the Islamists in his foreign policy from as early as 1983 — and, as with the Faith Campaign, stuck with it despite significant internal opposition from the party. A most significant connection was with a Salafi-jihadist group, formed by Zarqawi loyalists with al-Qaeda seed money, in northern Iraq between 1998 and early 2000 that became Ansar al-Islam in late 2001. Ansar al-Islam received money and weapons from Saddam, and it seems that the actual decision-maker in the group was an agent of Saddam’s intelligence. Ansar, by then led directly by Zarqawi, fled to Iran during the invasion and then returned to Iraq with the help of the senior members of Saddam’s regime. Ansar is now formally part of ISIS.

The Faith Campaign was implemented by Izzat Ibrahim ad-Douri, Saddam’s deputy. Douri was tasked with setting up what was effectively an organized-crime network whose goal was to evade the sanctions by smuggling across Iraq’s borders, and to provide for an internal patronage network that would give the regime some pillars of support. Patronage went especially to the Sunni tribes of western Iraq, and the removal of this income after the U.S.-led invasion was chief among the many reasons the tribes tactically sided with the Zarqawi’ists in an attempt to restore Sunni hegemony. Not just among the tribes, these networks largely passed to ISIS. This began early: In 2003, for instance, the stolen cars Douri imported through Jordan were put at the service of ISIS’s suicide bombers.

It is also notable that ISIS’s Syria strategy was not made up on the fly after the uprising began in March 2011. Haji Bakr was appointed to oversee operations in Aleppo in late 2010, and ISIS’s presence in Syria dates from 2002 and 2003 when Assad invited them in to wage war against the Americans and the constitutional government in Iraq. ISIS already had deeply embedded logistics networks in Syria that were easily “flipped” when ISIS wanted to move from Iraq into Syria, and ISIS already saw the potential of Syria, having run a low-level insurgency against Assad between 2007 and 2010. ISIS did send further agents into Syria in the summer of 2011 to form Jabhat an-Nusra, which would split from ISIS in April 2013 when ISIS tried to bring its covert subordinates under its command. By that time, however, ISIS had established itself well enough to weather the Nusra defection.

The FREs matter because they highlight the hybrid nature of ISIS — its fusion of elements of Baathism with Salafism — and also how difficult ISIS will be defeat. The REs are the products of a military-intelligence service trained by the KGB. They have brought to ISIS unique military and counterintelligence skills, directly in battle and in propaganda. Their skills are aiding ISIS’s military effort, bringing in fanatical foreigners to use as shock troops, and helping ISIS restructure the identities of local populations who have joined ISIS only out of necessity or convenience (as a means to restore order or against Iran’s proxies, for example).

The Iraqi nativism some detect within ISIS is probably a confusion borne of the fact that ISIS is also a hybrid of a locally and internationally focused organization. ISIS has more depth in Iraq because it has been there for decades in one way or another, and it has more popularity there because it is the vanguard of an attempt to restore Sunni dominion.

Even if ISIS was led by cynics, it has taken on a life of its own now, just like the Faith Campaign; there are too many true believers for the cynics to sideline. But, precisely because of the Faith Campaign, there is every reason to think that ISIS’s leaders mean what they say.

Kyle Orton is a Middle East analyst. Follow him on Twitter @KyleWOrton. 

ISLAMIC STATE: Big Explosions, Sex Slaves And Female Operatives

150528165043-women-of-isis-zaynab-sharrouf-1-exlarge-169

U.S. considers whether ISIS wives playing key role in operations  (cnn.com)

Washington (CNN)The U.S. is now looking at the possibility that wives of ISIS figures may play a greater role in operations and communications than previously thought because the terror group believes U.S. intelligence pays less attention to them.

Last month, an Army Delta Force raid in eastern Syria killed Abu Sayyaf, a senior ISIS leader involved in finance and other operations, and also led to the capture of his wife. The raid yielded significant intelligence that U.S. officials said adds to their understanding of ISIS’s structure and communications.

Several officials cautioned, however, that all of the intelligence gathered and information gained from the interrogation of the captured wife must be vetted and confirmed.

READ: Carter: ISIS raid a ‘significant blow’ to terror group

As CNN has previously reported, a U.S. official said the raid netted terabytes worth of data in external hard drives and hard copy, a higher volume than had originally been anticipated. The U.S. is reviewing it all to determine if it leads to anything that can be acted upon.

A second official said one U.S. airstrike in eastern Syria just a few days ago that killed a local ISIS emir was conducted on the basis of information gained from the raid.

Read more

***

REUTERS/KHALIL ASHAWI

REUTERS/KHALIL ASHAWI

Pentagon: ISIS Using Tunnels to Bomb Targets in Iraq, Syria (breitbart.com)

The Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL) in Iraq and rebels in Syria are using tunnel bombs as a potent new weapon, an upgrade to an ancient tactic, according to a Pentagon organization.

“Updating an ancient tactic, Islamic State militants — as well as rebels in Syria — are digging virtually undetectable tunnels, then planting bombs to blow up buildings and other targets,” reports Defense One, quoting JIEDDO (Joint IED Defeat Organization), the Pentagon arm focused on defeating the use of improvised explosive devices (IEDs) as a weapon.

Defense One learned from Pentagon officials and documents that several dozen tunnel bombs have been used by rebels in Syria while ISIS detonated them last week to capture Ramadi, the capital of Anbar, Iraq’s largest province.

The concept behind detonating a tunnel bomb is reportedly quite simple: dig long enough to reach your intended target, plant explosives, and hit the detonator.

“This below the surface attack is particularly destructive to buildings and is appearing increasingly in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria,” said JIEDDO at a recent briefing, according to Defense One.

“The use of tunnels for IEDs and other purposes will continue to provide a low risk strategic advantage to extremist organizations and therefore requires continued development efforts and fielding of effective mitigation techniques,” it added.

Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad has designated all groups attempting to topple him, which include ISIS and al-Qaeda affiliate Nusra Front, as rebels.

ISIS in Iraq and rebels in Syria have detonated at least 45 tunnel bombs in the past two years, JIEDDO said.

Although most have been in Syria, U.S. officials told Defense One that ISIS is building a network of tunnels, as well as bunkers and trenches, in Iraq.

“In Syria, rebels have used tunnels bombs to attack government forces under the control of Bashar al-Assad,” reports Defense One. “Many of these tunnels were dug with hand tools to avoid detection.”

“In Iraq, ISIS used tunnel attacks to devastating effect in their assault on Ramadi. On March 11, ISIS forces detonated a tunnel bomb under an Iraqi army headquarters, killing an estimated 22 people,” it adds. “The blast consumed seven tons of explosives in an 800-foot long tunnel that took two months to dig, according to the JIEDDO briefing. On March 15, a second tunnel bomb was used to attack Iraqi Security Forces. The city fell two months later.”

During the briefing, JIEDDO noted that ISIS frequently disseminates videos on social media showing the use of tunnel bombs on its targets.

“As part of an information operations campaign, these attacks are documented and widely proliferated via social media which increases the likelihood of migration to other conflict areas or adoption by other extremist organizations on a worldwide basis,” reportedly said JIEDDO.

The Pentagon organization revealed that tunnel bombs are being used to target military checkpoints, buildings, and other protected establishments.

It can take less than 30 days to dig a short tunnel, while longer ones (no more than 1 mile in length) can take up to nine months to complete, said JIEDDO.

Defense One notes that tunnels have been weaponized by Iran proxy Hezbollah and Hamas in Gaza as a means to smuggle weapons and attack Israel.

“Now their use is spreading, and extending to direct attacks,” explains the article.

“Beyond bombs, ISIS is believed to be using tunnels to move weapons and avoid detection by American and ally fighter jets and drones. (ISIS may even be exploiting Saddam Hussein’s own tunnel network, which is thought to stretch for 60 miles between palaces, military strongholds, and houses,” it adds. “During the U.S. invasion in 2003, Saddam’s forces used these tunnels to move weapons and as hideouts.)”

***

Zainab Bangura, UN secretary general’s special representative on sexual violence in conflict, speaks at the G8 Foreign Ministers meeting in London on April 11, 2013. (PHOTO: WIKIMEDIA COMMONS)

Zainab Bangura, UN secretary general’s special representative on sexual violence in conflict, speaks at the G8 Foreign Ministers meeting in London on April 11, 2013.
(PHOTO: WIKIMEDIA COMMONS)

ISIS Sells Sex Slave Girls for ‘as Little as a Pack of Cigarettes’ to Attract Foreign Jihadis With ‘New Girls,’ UN Envoy Warns (christianpost.com)

In continuing to display how little the Islamic State values life and women, ISIS militants are buying and selling sexually enslaved girls and women for as cheap as a pack of cigarettes in hopes of attracting more men to the group, a United Nations envoy declared on Monday.

Zainab Bangura, the United Nations special representative on sexual violence in conflict, told AFP that in order for ISIS to recruit more foreign fighters to join its military ranks, the caliphate continues to capture more girls and women in each new territory it conquers and then sells them at low prices.

“This is how they attract young men — ‘we have women waiting [for] you, virgins that you can marry,'” Bangura said. “The foreign fighters are the backbone of the fighting.”

Bangura, who recently toured through five Middle East countries and interviewed numerous women who were victimized by ISIS but managed to escape, explained that ISIS’ jihad is fueled by the enslavement of women.

“They [ISIS militants] kidnap and abduct women when they take areas so they have — I don’t want to call it a fresh supply, but they have new girls,” Bangura, a native of Sierra Leone, asserted. “This is a war that is being fought on the bodies of women.”

According to April’s estimates, ISIS has approximately 25,000 foreign fighters. But not only does ISIS have “new girls” for foreign fighters to acquire once they reach the caliphate, ISIS’ sex slaves are affordable and priced to meet even the poorest militant’s budget.

Bangura said that captured women and girls are often forced to strip naked and are judged by ISIS militants who gauge how much they are to be sold for. The fighters price some girls as high as a few thousand dollars, while selling others for “as little as a pack of cigarettes,” she stated.

“Some [females] were taken, locked up in a room — over 100 of them in a small house — stripped naked and washed,” Bangura said. “They were then made to stand in front of a group of men who decided ‘what you are worth.'”

After a girl is sold to an ISIS fighter, she is usually beaten, raped against her will and often sold or given away to another militant when the fighter is done abusing her. Should a sex slave refuse to give into her militant’s brutal and abnormal sexual fantasies, she is beaten or sometimes tortured.

In May, Bangura explained that a 20-year-old sex slave was burned alive after she refused to perform an “extreme sex act.”

“We heard one case of a 20-year-old girl who was burned alive because she refused to perform an extreme sex act,” Bangura said. “We learned of many other sadistic sexual acts. We struggled to understand the mentality of people who commit such crimes.”

Bangura also said that ISIS forces some captured women and girls into prostitution.

In a press briefing in early May, Bangura explained that one sex slave, who was sold to 20 different ISIS fighters before she escaped, was forced to undergo virginity repair surgery each time she was sold and raped by the next ISIS fighter.

“ISIL have institutionalized sexual violence and the brutalization of women as a central aspect of their ideology and operations, using it as a tactic of terrorism to advance their strategic objectives,” Bangura said.

Bangura told AFP that ISIS wants to “build a society that reflects the 13th century,” through its systemic sexual abuse of women, which she labeled as a “medieval” practice.

“Sexual violence by ISIL and other extremist groups arises from discrimination and dehumanization based on gender, sexual orientation, ethnic, political or religious identity, in particular the subordination of women and girls,” Bangura wrote in an email to Women eNews. “Indeed, the same ideology and objectives that motivate Boko Haram to abduct women and girls in Nigeria, also spur ISIL to enslave women and girls in Syria and Iraq.”

“Such violence has led to a number of harmful or negative coping mechanisms, such as the early marriage of girls by families that have no other means of protecting them, an increase in polygamy and “survival sex” by those with no economic alternatives, as well as the withdrawal and isolation of women and girls from education and public life,” she added.