A slippery slope in Iraq and Syria

Unanswered Questions in the Mideast Conflicts Illustration by Greg Groesch/The Washington Times

The Washington Times, by Shoshana Bryen, March 21, 2017:

The good news is various forces are attacking ISIS (the Islamic State) and its control of territory is weakening. But as it does, historical adversaries are converging on the battlefield and American troops are standing between them in ever-increasing numbers. What began as limited airstrikes has become an American ground presence. Changes begun in the previous administration continue in the current one.

This is not Vietnam. But as the numbers increase, it is worth noting that GIs are in Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Libya, Somalia and Afghanistan without the United States being at war with any of these countries or necessarily supporting any of their governments. But neither President Obama nor President Trump has talked to the American people about three essential things here: America’s allies, America’s adversaries, and American military and political goals.

Five thousand American troops are near Mosul, along with Kurds, Iraqi troops, Shiite Iraqi militias and up to 80,000 Iranian-sponsored Shiite militiamen under the control of Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani. Gen. Soleimani, banned by the United Nations from international travel for his terrorism ties, is still moving.

With him come allies. One, Iraqi cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, has called on Shiite troops to kill Americans. The Institute for the Study of War reported that another has been responsible for more than 6,000 attacks against U.S. forces in Iraq since 2006. Asa’ib Ahl Al-Haq (“Band of the Righteous”) considers Americans an occupying army and continues to fight them.

The war President Obama claimed to have ended in 2011 did not stop for these people. Now we are back in their space, working toward the same goal in Mosul, but with incompatible longer-term aims.

The latest American troop increase is in Syria, where the war against ISIS has moved to recapturing territory in Manbij and soon Raqqa, the Syrian capital of the self-proclaimed Islamic State “caliphate.” Along with airstrikes, the most recent report says that hundreds of U.S. Marines with heavy artillery have been deployed near Raqqa, adding to several hundred Americans already there. Another group of approximately 1,000 American soldiers is planned for Kuwait to “provide options” for commanders in Syria.

Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, met last week in Kazakhstan with his Russian and Turkish counterparts to solidify deconfliction plans. But the potential for miscalculation or malicious attack rises exponentially as American, Iranian and Iranian-sponsored multinational Shiite militias, Kurdish, Syrian government, Syrian rebel, Turkish, Hezbollah (“Party of God”) and Russian air and a few ground forces converge.

Manbij, a city of Arabs, Yazidis and Kurds about 70 miles from Raqqa, is a flash point. In mid-August, the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) routed ISIS gunmen and claimed the city. In late August, Turkish forces entered Syria and announced their own liberation of Manbij — from the SDF. Turkish planes bombed Kurdish forces before pulling back.

The secular SDF, opposed to Syrian dictator Bashar Assad as well as ISIS, is primarily Kurdish with other Sunni Arab elements; the SDF’s primary Kurdish element is the People’s Protection Units (YPG), an ally of the United States and of Turkey’s nemesis, the People’s Workers Party (the Kurdish PKK). So SDF through YPG is an enemy of America’s NATO ally, Turkey. A U.S. Army spokesman told reporters that after Manbij’s liberation, U.S. Special Forces continued to assist the SDF-organized Manbij Military Council forces.

A few weeks ago, Turkey indicated that it would re-enter Manbij to eliminate “terrorist forces” in the city — meaning Kurds the Turks believe are associated with the PKK. Washington objected. “We have made visible actions in deploying U.S. forces as a part of the coalition in and around Manbij to reassure and deter,” said a Defense Department spokesman. “That’s to deter parties from attacking any other parties other than ISIS itself.”

When did U.S. forces receive the mission of keeping historic enemies from killing each other?

The SDF claims to have sufficient forces, with American support, to liberate Raqqa, 70 miles away. This has caused the Turks again to protest loudly. The Russians have thrown their political support behind the Kurds, aligning American interests with Russia against Turkey.

Has the United States decided to oppose Turkey, which controls access to the NATO air base at Incirlik, with its American contingent and nuclear weapons? Has the United States decided to side with Russia, which is the chief supporter of war criminal Mr. Assad, against Turkey? Side with the Russians who, themselves, have bombed aid convoys headed for rebel Syrian cities? Is it possible to support our allies, the Kurds, without doing both other things?

America’s allies and adversaries — and most of all, our troops — need to some answers as we appear to travel a well-worn and slippery slope.

• Shoshana Bryen is senior director of the Washington-based Jewish Policy Center.

The US May Get Drawn Into War With Syria, And ISIS Has Nothing To Do With It

Four UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters provide air support for Soldiers conducting an air assault exercise as part of the Full Spectrum Training Event in Hohenfels, Germany, Oct. 14, 2011. The UH-60 crews are assigned to the 12th Combat Aviation Brigade-Europe. U.S. Army photo by Richard Bumgardner

Daily Caller, by Saagar Enjeti, March 22, 2017:

Tensions between U.S. ally Israel and the Syrian regime are flaring up after a series of military confrontations, which could escalate into a larger military surge in the already crowded war zone.

Tensions reached their highest level Friday when Syria launched a series of anti-aircraft missiles intended for Israeli jets engaging Hezbollah supply lines. One of the Syrian missiles was destroyed by Israel’s Arrow missile defense system. The incident marked the first known time Syria has fired on Israeli aircraft since the Syrian civil war began in 2011, and prompted a fierce Israeli response.

Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman declared to Israeli media “The next time the Syrians use their air defense systems against our planes we will destroy them without the slightest hesitation.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu added Friday, “When we identify attempts to transfer advanced weapons to Hezbollah and we have intelligence and it is operationally feasible, we act to prevent it.”

Russia, the Syrian regime’s main sponsor, also summoned the Israeli Ambassador Friday for an explanation of the strike.

Russia’s concern underscores the interwoven role of multiple global powers in Syria. Other countries involved directly in Syria include the U.S., Turkey, Iran, Russia, multiple rebel groups, al-Qaida, and the Islamic State. Many of these rebel groups have international sponsors including Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and other gulf countries.

Any military confrontation between Damascus and Jerusalem would almost certainly draw U.S. support, which could in turn endanger U.S. troops inside Syria. Military confrontation could threaten conventional escalation between Israel and Syria, the U.S. and Moscow, the U.S. and Iran, and deepen the already ongoing conflict.

Israel defiantly followed up on Netanyahu and Lieberman’s pledges when it carried out a series of airstrikes against Hezbollah and the Syrian regime Sunday and Monday. The Sunday strike, carried out by an Israeli drone, killed a pro-regime soldier with reported deep ties to Assad.

Israel appears likely to continue its air campaign and Assad increasingly appears emboldened after his victory in the city of Aleppo. This stance could put the two, and their global allies at war.

Follow Saagar Enjeti on Twitter

The ISIS Endgame

A convoy of U.S. armored vehicles near the northern Syrian city of Manbij / Getty Images

Washington Free Beacon, by Matthew Continetti, March 10, 2017:

The Islamic Caliphate announced in 2014 by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the head of ISIS, is approaching the end of its short and terrible life. Iraqi forces, supported by Americans, have reclaimed the eastern half of Mosul and are retaking the western one. Kurdish militias in Syria, also backed by the United States, are homing in on the ISIS capital of Raqqa. Word came this week that a contingent of Marines has been deployed in Syria to position heavy artillery for the fight ahead. “We expect that within a few weeks there will be a siege of the city,” a militia spokesman tells Reuters.

ISIS doesn’t have a chance. American air and ground forces, working with local proxies, are about to terminate its existence as a state. “Crushed,” to paraphrase President Trump. A just—and popular—cause.

But that won’t be the end. Recent events suggest that the military defeat of ISIS is just the beginning of a renewed American involvement in Iraq and Syria. And whether the American public and president are prepared for or willing to accept the probable costs of such involvement is unknown. That is reason for concern.

To glimpse the future, look at the city of Manbij in northeast Syria. Humvees and Strykers flying the American flag have appeared there in recent days. The mission? Not to defeat ISIS. Our proxies kicked them out last year. What we are doing in Manbij is something altogether different from a military assault: a “deterrence and reassurance” operation meant to dissuade rival factions from massacring one another. If you can’t remember when President Obama or President Trump called for such an operation, that’s because they never did.

And there’s a twist. One of the factions we are trying to intimidate is none other than the army of Turkey, a NATO member and purported ally. Turkey moved in on Manbij not because of ISIS but because of the Kurds. Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the Turkish autocrat, opposes one of our Kurdish proxies. He says the YPG is the Syrian affiliate of the Kurdistan Worker’s Party, which has conducted an insurgency against his government for decades. Yet the YPG is also the most effective indigenous anti-ISIS force on the ground. We need it to take Raqqa.

Things get even more complicated. Also in Manbij are the Russians, who are helping units of the Syrian army police a group of villages. The Kurds invited them, too, presumably as a separate hedge against Turkey. To keep score: The Americans, the Russians, the Turks, the Kurds, and the Syrians are all converging on an impoverished city in the middle of nowhere that has no strategic importance to the United States.

One needn’t have read The Guns of August to fret about the risks of miscalculation and misinterpretation. Which is why, on Tuesday, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Gen. Joseph Dunford, met with his Russian and Turkish counterparts. “One American official described the situation around Manbij as a potential tinderbox,” reports the New York Times. As if we didn’t have enough to worry about.

U.S. intervention in Syria is following a pattern that has ended in regret. Having entered the conflict to pursue the narrow aim of destroying ISIS, we are likely to assume much more abstract and open-ended responsibilities once our immediate goal has been achieved. Similar vague and unspecific policies led to Americans being killed in Lebanon in 1983 and in Somalia a decade later. Where peacekeeping has been successful, as in Bosnia and Herzegovina, the mission was clear from the beginning, authorized by all parties by treaty, and adequately resourced—tens of thousands of troops, most of them American. None of these conditions apply today.

It is one thing to maintain a presence in Iraq, a country whose fate seems to be entangled with our own. It is another to expand our involvement in Syria with little public rationale or debate. At the very least Congress deserves an opportunity to take up the issue. But don’t get your hopes up. The GOP Congress resisted taking ownership of the war in Syria when the president was a Democrat. There is little reason to think it will do so now when the president is a Republican.

What happens the day after Raqqa falls? Should American troops remain in Syria once ISIS has been defeated, and if so for what purpose? Will there be clear lines of authority between CENTCOM and SOCOM? Just what is America’s position on the Kurds—are we for an independent Kurdistan, and if so are we prepared to resist Turkish and Iraqi attempts to quash it? Who is making key military and diplomatic decisions: the president, the secretary of defense, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, or the combatant commanders?

The president is charged with answering such questions. And he must be ready to defend his answers. To do otherwise risks complacency and drift. This is an unstable and murky situation. And it could end, as so often happens, in lost lives, reduced credibility, and an even wider conflict.

A contributor to The Weekly Standard likes to tell the following story: Covering the Lebanese civil war in 1983, he visited an outpost of U.S. Marines. They came under sniper fire from one militia. Then another militia started shooting. Then the Syrians joined in. At which point a lance corporal turned to him and said, “Sir, never get involved in a five-sided argument.”

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

Breitbart, by John Hayward, March 9, 2017:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Trump’s Plan For ISIS Poised To Put Marines 20 Miles From ISIS Capital

Daily Caller, by Saajar Enjetti, March 8, 2017:

U.S. Marines arrived in Syria Wednesday to begin the first phase of President Donald Trump’s plan to expel the Islamic State from its capital of Raqqa, The Washington Post reports.

The Marines will provide artillery support to the Syrian Democratic Forces, and accompanying U.S. special operators in the assault on the city. The type of artillery base must be within 20 miles of its intended target to be effective, the WaPo notes. Some infantry Marines accompanied the unit to provide force protection on the mission.

Trump, along with Secretary of Defense James Mattis, will also likely lift the current cap on U.S. special operators embedded with local forces in tandem with the deployment. The U.S. has approximately 500 special operators in the country currently. Their proposal would also include the use of U.S. attack helicopters, U.S. artillery, and increased arms sales to U.S.-backed forces.

The main recipient of U.S. aid and artillery support will likely be the Syrian Democratic Forces, an anti-ISIS force largely composed of Syrian Kurdish fighters. American reliance on Syrian Kurds will likely spark major tensions between the U.S. and Turkey, who regard the Kurdish forces as an existential threat on par with ISIS. The Kurdish forces have proven the only reliable, large-scale U.S.-backed force capable of fighting the terrorist group effectively.

New strategic plans for Raqqa are likely just a small facet of a new overall strategy to eradicate ISIS. Trump ordered a 30-day review of U.S. strategy, along with options to increase operations tempo, which the Pentagon delivered to the White House Monday.

“This plan is a political-military plan,” Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Joseph Dunford told a think tank audience in late February. “The grievances of the [Syrian] civil war have to be addressed, the safety and humanitarian assistance that needs to be provided to people have to be addressed, and the multiple divergent stakeholders’ views need to be addressed.”

Also see:

Trump’s Plan To Eradicate ISIS Caught Between Warring Allies

Fighters from the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) carry the coffins of their fellow fighters, who were killed when Islamic State militants attacked the town of Tel Abyad on the Turkish border at the weekend, during their funeral procession at Ras al-Ain city, in Hasakah province, Syria March 2, 2016. REUTERS/Rodi Said TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY - RTS90VM

Fighters from the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) carry the coffins of their fellow fighters, who were killed when Islamic State militants attacked the town of Tel Abyad on the Turkish border at the weekend, during their funeral procession at Ras al-Ain city, in Hasakah province, Syria March 2, 2016. REUTERS/Rodi Said TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY – RTS90VM

Daily Caller, by Saagar Enjetti, March 1, 2017:

Turkey, U.S. ally and member of NATO, is likely to launch an all-out assault on the main anti-Islamic State U.S. proxy force, the Institute for the Study of War warns in a new assessment.

Current U.S. strategy against ISIS relies on the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a Syrian rebel group largely composed of Kurdish militias. The problem is, Turkey regards these groups as existential threats to its existence, and believes they are deeply tied to the PKK. The U.S. has special operators embedded within the SDF’s ranks, and believes it is the only group capable of retaking the ISIS-held capital of Raqqa in Syria.

Turkey attacked SDF-controlled villages Wednesday, according to SDF spokesmen. Turkey’s operations appear geared towards taking the SDF controlled city of Manbij, which is right along its border. “The fight for Manbij will derail the U.S.-backed campaign against ISIS and create opportunities for al Qaeda to expand further in Syria,” ISW’s assessment declares.

The SDF is likely to play a key role in President Donald Trump’s plan to defeat ISIS. The Pentagon delivered several options to Trump earlier this week, all of which will likely bolster U.S. support to ground forces capable of taking on ISIS.

Trump and U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis have already quietly escalated the U.S. ground war against ISIS, which includes additional assistance to the SDF. “There are signs of full support from the new American leadership — more than before — for our forces,” an SDF spokesman told Reuters Feb. 1.  Trump also indicated in July he was a “big fan” of the Kurdish forces, and wanted to balance his strategy with Turkey. “It would be really wonderful if we could put them somehow both together,” he told The New York Times.

“Further escalation between Turkey and the Syrian Kurds would severely jeopardize – and likely halt indefinitely – the campaign against ISIS in Ar-Raqqa City,” ISW declares.
Also see:

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

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

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

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

My key points are as follows:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read more

***

Homeland Security Committee:

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

OPENING STATEMENTS

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

WITNESSES

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

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

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

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

Syrian ‘Moderate’ Rebels Flocking to Al-Qaeda After CIA Halts Weapons Pipeline

jihadists-cheer-pentagon-counter-narrative-failure-1-sized-770x415xtPJ MEDIA, BY PATRICK POOLE, FEBRUARY 23, 2017:

A few of us have been predicting for several years now that the so-called “moderate” rebels in Syria backed by the CIA would inevitably collapse into the surging camp of Sunni extremists.

And now that is exactly what has happened, thus signaling the beginning of the end of any pretension of a “moderate opposition” to back in Syria.

In September 2013, the belief that the “moderates” vastly outnumbered the extremists of the Islamic State and Jabhat al-Nusra was taken as gospel by the Obama administration, both Democrats and Republicans in Congress, and the D.C. foreign policy establishment. Those of us challenging that conventional wisdom were a pretty small circle.

Now, the so-called “vetted moderates” are flocking to the banner of the rebranded al-Qaeda affiliate in Syria, as the CIA halts their weapons pipeline while the smaller “moderate” groups fall willingly or unwillingly into the extremist camp.

So much for all that “vetting” by the CIA.

Reuters reported earlier this week:

CIA-coordinated military aid for rebels in northwest Syria has been frozen since they came under major Islamist attack last month, rebel sources said, raising doubts about foreign support key to their war against President Bashar al-Assad.

Rebel officials said that no official explanation had been given for the move this month following the jihadist assault, though several said they believed the main objective was to prevent arms and cash falling into Islamist militant hands. But they said they expected the aid freeze to be temporary.

The halt in assistance, which has included salaries, training, ammunition and in some cases guided anti-tank missiles, is a response to jihadist attacks and has nothing to do with U.S. President Donald Trump replacing Barack Obama in January, two U.S. officials familiar with the CIA-led program said.

As I have reported extensively here at PJ Media for several years, the “vetted moderates” have always played a double-game with jihadists groups. And now the Washington Post reports today that it has finally caught up with them.

The biggest surviving rebel stronghold in northern Syria is falling under the control of al-Qaeda-linked extremists amid a surge of rebel infighting that threatens to vanquish what is left of the moderate rebellion.

The ascent of the extremists in the northwestern province of Idlib coincides with a suspension of aid to moderate rebel groups by their international allies.

The commanders of five of the groups say they were told earlier this month by representatives of the United States, Saudi Arabia and Turkey that they would receive no further arms or ammunition until they unite to form a coherent front against the jihadists, a goal that has eluded the fractious rebels throughout the six years of fighting.

The freeze on supplies is unrelated to the change of power in Washington, where the Trump administration is engaged in a review of U.S. policy on Syria, U.S. officials say. It also does not signal a complete rupture of support for the rebels, who are continuing to receive salaries, say diplomats and rebel commanders.

Rather, the goal is to ensure supplies do not fall into extremist hands, by putting pressure on the rebels to form a more efficient force, the rebel commanders say they have been told.

Instead it is the extremists who have closed ranks and turned against the U.S.-backed rebels, putting the al-Qaeda-linked groups with whom the moderates once uneasily coexisted effectively in charge of key swaths of territory in Idlib, the most important stronghold from which the rebels could have hoped to sustain a challenge to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Concerns about U.S.-supplied weapons falling into the hands of jihadist groups are grounded in a long history of defections of U.S.-backed “moderates,” longstanding cooperation between “moderates” and extremists, and losses to extremist groups on the battlefield.

Read more

Corruption, Terrorism, and Genocide: The 7 Nations Covered by Trump Executive Order

AP/Various

AP/Various

Breitbart, by John Hayward, January 31, 2017:

The media is misrepresenting President Donald Trump’s executive order on immigration and refugee admission as a “Muslim ban” – or, more cleverly, a ban on immigration from “Muslim-majority countries.”

In truth, the ban applies to everyone from seven specific countries. In fact, one of the first families caught at the airport when the executive order went into effect was a Christian family from Syria.

These seven nations were not chosen at random. They were all singled out as exceptional security risks in the Terrorist Prevention Act of 2015 and its 2016 extension. In fact, President Trump’s order does not even name the seven countries. It merely refers to the sections of U.S. Code that were changed by the Terrorist Prevention Act:

I hereby proclaim that the immigrant and nonimmigrant entry into the United States of aliens from countries referred to in section 217(a)(12) of the INA, 8 U.S.C. 1187(a)(12), would be detrimental to the interests of the United States, and I hereby suspend entry into the United States, as immigrants and nonimmigrants, of such persons for 90 days from the date of this order.

A different section of the executive order does refer to Syria specifically, because it calls for the indefinite suspension of Syrian refugee admissions, until such time as the President believes security concerns have been adequately addressed.

The list of seven nations affected by Trump’s executive order was, therefore, compiled by President Barack Obama’s Department of Homeland Security, in a series of judgments that actually goes back to Obama’s first term, circa 2011. Barack Obama made this list, not Donald Trump, and there was very little resistance from congressional Democrats at any step in the process of arriving at the final list of Iraq, Iran, Syria, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, and Yemen.

Nor should there have been congressional resistance, because that list is eminently sensible. Several of these countries are disasters because of Obama foreign policy, while others were security nightmares long before he took office. Here is a review of current conditions in those nations:

Iraq: Of course, Iraq is currently fighting the Islamic State for control of Mosul and other captured territories. This is creating a flow of both retreating ISIS fighters and refugees from contested areas.

ABC News notes that while some Iraqi soldiers fighting in Mosul “feel a little bad” about Trump’s exec order, as one of them put it, others understand his reasoning. “We don’t want our doctors and professors to keep going to another country and make it greater than our own,” said one Iraqi soldier, who punctuated his comment by exclaiming, “Honestly, I love Trump!”

Many of the Iraqi refugees have been mistreated by local forces, which could easily make them targets for radicalization. The UK Guardian reported on Sunday that human rights groups are processing complaints about the outright torture of children suspected of connections to the Islamic State, which in turn has an extensive program for radicalizing children and turning them into brainwashed jihadi killers.

Shiite militia groups backed by Iran, some of which were murdering U.S. soldiers just a few years ago, are heavily involved in the fighting. There are concerns these emboldened, battle-tested, heavily armed militias will move into Syria and cause a new sectarian crisis. Many of these groups are units of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, for all intents and purposes, and would become shock troops for Syrian dictator Bashar Assad as he finishes off the last elements of the rebellion against him.

The Iraqi government, it must be said, does not have the most sterling record for honesty and efficiency. Transparency International recently rated Iraq’s government as one of the most corrupt in the entire world. The Iraqi parliament reflexively responded to Trump’s executive order with an ill-considered “reciprocity ban” that will do significant damage to the Iraqi nation if enacted, at the very moment it is fighting a desperate battle to drive out ISIS. That is not the kind of government that can be readily trusted to provide the data needed for “enhanced vetting.”

Iran: Contrary to the fictions peddled by the Obama Administration, Iran is still very much an enemy of the United States. Its government is actively involved in subversive efforts across the Middle East, and around the world.

Even in the last months of the Obama administration, long after Obama’s huge economic concessions and cash payments to Tehran, the State Department continues to classify Iran as the world’s top state sponsor of terrorism. The State Department remains concerned about “a wide range of Iranian activities to destabilize the region.”

The Iranians are still taking hostages, including U.S. citizens. They put their hostages through sham “legal proceedings” involving secret courts and lawyers who are not always permitted to speak with their clients. They store their hostages in hideous prisons that would pass inspection in no civilized country.

On Sunday, Iran continued its defiance of Barack Obama’s nuclear deal with yet another secret test of a banned ballistic missile.

Syria: It is astonishing that anyone thinks “vetting” is possible for many refugees from war-torn Syria, whose sinister central government still does not control many parts of the country.

ISIS, of course, is headquartered in Syria, and al-Qaeda is one of the strongest military forces in the rebellion. Syrian resistance groups are so difficult to screen that the Obama administration could only find tiny handfuls of reliable “moderate” fighters to arm and train; they were promptly kidnapped, killed, or co-opted by terrorist groups after Obama deployed them. The “white hat rebel” program ended as a laughingstock across the Middle East.

Terrorist groups are still hunting down and destroying “moderate” rebel units to this very day, even during the “ceasefire” brokered by Russia, Turkey, and Iran. Worse, Syria has become a pressure-cooker for jihad, with groups once regarded as moderate becoming unmistakably radical over the past five years.

ISIS militants fleeing the battlefields of Iraq have been falling back into Syria, while Syrian ISIS fighters have been fleeing from their own battlefield reversals. The return of Islamic State militants, and other battle-hardened jihadis, from Syria to Western nations has long been seen as a major security concern.

The Syrian civil war is universally regarded as one of the worst humanitarian crises in history. Every party to the conflict has been blamed for causing civilian casualties, while some of them deliberately target civilians. The Assad regime has used indiscriminate conventional weapons, and weapons of mass destruction, against rebel-held districts. Civilians have been deprived of food, power, sanitation, and medicine in besieged areas for months, sometimes for years. This will create a huge population that is susceptible to radicalization by terrorists who blame Western powers for either inflicting horror upon civilians, or failing to prevent it.

Libya: Due to the U.S. media’s poor reporting on the continuing disaster of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton’s war in Libya, most Americans probably do not realize Libya still lacks a functioning central government. The brief spate of coverage after the rise of Libyan ISIS ended with reports that a “Government of National Accord” had been installed, but in truth it only controls a portion of the country, and some observers believe it is on the verge of collapse. A Qaddafi-era general named Khalifa Haftar is working to seize power, and the Russians have been cozying up to him. The end result of Obama policy in Libya could very well be another Russian client state in the Middle East.

Haftar currently controls the government that used to be recognized by the international community as Libya’s legitimate administration. That government was chased out of the national capital, Tripoli, by a coalition of Islamist militias, widely known as Libya Dawn. They are still a force to be reckoned with, and constitute the third major Libyan government.

ISIS is still a serious problem in Libya, as demonstrated by U.S. air raids against Islamic State positions on President Obama’s very last day in office. “They have been largely marginalized but I am hesitant to say they’ve been completely eliminated in Libya,” a U.S. defense official said at the time.

Somalia: Somalia has been fighting a vicious insurgency from an Islamist terror organization called al-Shabaab, whose name means “The Youth.” It aggressively recruits young Muslims, including young Somalis living in the United States.

The group has links to both al-Qaeda and ISIS. The primary leadership decided not to swear fealty to the Islamic State, leading to something of a schism between different factions of al-Shabaab.

Al-Shabaab is not just a gang of furtive terrorists lurking in the shadows – it effectively controls large portions of rural Somalia, and has been waging war against neighboring Kenya. An attack launched just this weekend killed dozens of Kenyan troops, according to al-Shabaab claims disputed by the Kenyan government.

Al-Shabaab is one of the most savage Islamist terror organizations in the world, responsible for horrific massacres like the slaughter of 150 students at Garissa University College in April 2015, and 67 murdered at the Westgate shopping center in the Kenyan capital. An attack on the Dayah hotel in Mogadishu killed eight people just last week.

Al-Shabaab killers are notorious for asking potential victims to prove they are devout Muslims in order to spare their lives.

Somalia’s government was ranked the most corrupt in the world by Transparency International, in the same study that named Iraq one of the worst. That is not exactly news, because Somalia’s government has been listed as the most corrupt on Earth for ten years straight. For the sake of comparison, the Number Two and Three worst governments on Transparency International’s list are South Sudan and North Korea.

Somalia’s most recent elections were an absurd carnival of bribes and voter intimidation, even with U.N. oversight. The BBC declared the country “has not had a functional national government since the ousting of its former leader Mohamed Siad Barre in 1991.”

Sudan: As mentioned above, the Sudanese government is a corrupt disaster. The country actually split in half in 2011. Over 1.5 million people have been killed in the Sudanese civil war, while 2 million refugees have been displaced from the Darfur region.

The president of the Republic of Sudan is an iron-fisted Islamist dictator named Omar Hassan al-Bashir, who has been in power for over 25 years, after seizing power in a 1989 coup that came after two decades of civil war.

Bashir is wanted for genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity by the International Criminal Court. Those charges have been pending since 2009. There are actually three counts of genocide against him. He is supposedly under an international travel ban, but he travels anyway, occasionally cutting his trips short when he thinks he might be arrested.

The Sudanese government imposed sharia law on its provinces in the Nineties. Bashir has been linked to Janjaweed militias, which serve as his own personal storm troopers, noted for their scorched-earth tactics and indiscriminate use of mass-casualty weapons against civilians. Some observers fear the Janjaweed will eventually ship Bashir’s leash and overthrow the government in Khartoum.

Sudan is listed as a state sponsor of terrorism and, until recently, it was politically aligned with Iran. Sudan has proven to be friendly terrain for all sorts of gangsters and terrorists, although its political realignment over the past few years reportedly included more cooperation on counter-terrorism, in a bid to get off the American list of terrorist sponsors. Even after that realignment, Hamas terrorists seemed to have little trouble traveling through Sudan, or raising money there.

Yemen: Yemen is a horrifying bloodbath of civil war and terrorist insurrection, which ties many of the other nations on this list together. Sudan, for example, has been part of Saudi Arabia’s coalition in Yemen, ever since it turned away from Iranian patronage.

Iran and Saudi Arabia are fighting a proxy war in Yemen, where there have been over 10,000 civilian casualties. The U.S. has been providing weapons to Saudi Arabia, whose coalition is blamed for many of the civilian deaths, so Yemeni resentment of the United States is a very real factor to consider when estimating the dangers of radicalization.

The U.S. blocked an arms sale to the Saudis in December 2016 after a Saudi coalition airstrike hit a funeral in the capital of Sana’a, leading to 140 deaths. The Saudi coalition has also been criticized for bombing Doctors Without Borders hospitals.

The internationally-recognized government of President Abd Rabbuh Mansour Hadi was displaced by an Iran-backed Shiite insurgency from the Houthi minority, aided by forces loyal to the previous president, Ali Abdullah Saleh. Describing the state of Yemeni government as “chaotic” would be a vast understatement. Major cities like Sana’a have been subjected to violent takeovers and sieges, while the Yemeni wilderness is largely controlled by al-Qaeda.

On Sunday, a U.S. Navy SEAL was killed, and three others wounded, in a firefight with al-Qaeda forces in central Yemen. Fourteen al-Qaeda fighters were reportedly killed, including the brother-in-law of the late al-Qaeda guru, Anwar al-Awlaki. It was the first counterterrorism operation authorized by President Trump.

In October, the U.S. Navy was obliged to strike ground targets in Yemen, after missiles were fired at American ships stationed off the coast.

Seven Inconvenient Facts About Trump’s Refugee Actions

 (AP Photo/Steven Senne)

(AP Photo/Steven Senne)

Breitbart, by John Hayward, January 29, 2017:

The sober and logical reasons for President Donald Trump’s executive order on refugees and visitors are rising above the noise after an evening of hysterical over-reactions and emotional meltdowns on the nation’s TV networks.

Advocates of sane, secure immigration policy have long noted that it’s almost impossible to have a reasonable discussion of the refugee and immigration issues, because it’s been sentimentalized and politicized beyond the realm of rational thought.

This weekend brings them another superb example of media-magnified shrieking about fascism, bleating about “white nationalists,” howling about “religious persecution,” false invocations of the Constitution, and theatrical sobbing on behalf of the Statue of Liberty.

For readers who want to wallow in the emotion, examples can be found in this handy dossier of hysteria compiled by the Washington Post. But clear-eyed adults prefer to examine plain facts about Trump’s executive order:

1. It is NOT a “Muslim ban.” You will search the Executive Order in vain for mentions of Islam, or any other religion. By Sunday morning, the media began suffering acute attacks of honesty and writing headlines such as “Trump’s Latest Executive Order: Banning People From 7 Countries and More” (CNN) and printing the full text of the order.

Granted, CNN still slips the phrase “Muslim-majority countries” into every article about the order, including the post in which they reprinted its text in full, but CNN used the word “Muslim,” not Trump. The order applies to all citizens of Iraq, Iran, Syria, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, and Yemen. It does not specify Muslims. The indefinite hold on Syrian refugees will affect Christians and Muslims alike.

As Tim Carney at the Washington Examiner points out, the largest Muslim-majority countries in the world are not named in the Executive Order.

More countries may be added to the moratorium in the days to come, as the Secretary of Homeland Security has been instructed to complete a 30-day review of nations that don’t provide adequate information for vetting visa applicants.

It’s also noteworthy that the ban is not absolute. Exceptions for “foreign nationals traveling on diplomatic visas, North Atlantic Treaty Organization visas, C-2 visas for travel to the United Nations, and G-1, G-2, G-3, and G-4 visas” are expressly made in the order. The Departments of State and Homeland Security can also grant exceptions on a “case-by-case basis,” and “when in the national interest, issue visas or other immigration benefits to nationals of countries for which visas and benefits are otherwise blocked.”

There is a provision in the Executive Order that says applications based on religious persecution will be prioritized “provided that the religion of the individual is a minority religion in the individual’s country of nationality.”

This has been denounced as a “stealth Muslim ban” by some of the very same people who were conspicuously silent when the Obama administration pushed Christians – who the most savagely persecuted minority in the Middle East, with only the Yazidis offering real competition — to the back of the migration line.

2. The order is based on security reviews conducted by President Barack Obama’s deputies. As White House counselor Kellyanne Conway pointed out on “Fox News Sunday,” the seven nations named in Trump’s executive order are drawn from the Terrorist Prevention Act of 2015. The 2015 “Visa Waiver Program Improvement and Terrorist Travel Prevention Act of 2015” named Iraq, Iran, Sudan, and Syria, while its 2016 update added Libya, Somalia, and Yemen.

“These are countries that have a history of training, harboring, exporting terrorists. We can’t keep pretending and looking the other way,” said Conway.

3. The moratorium is largely temporary. Citizens of the seven countries named as security risks are banned from entering the United States for the next 90 days. Refugee processing is halted for 120 days. The longest-lived aspect of the ban may prove to be the halt on Syrian refugees, but that isn’t given a time frame at all. It will last “until such time as I have determined that sufficient changes have been made to the USRAP to ensure that admission of Syrian refugees is consistent with the national interest,” as President Trump wrote.

4. Obama banned immigration from Iraq, and Carter banned it from Iran.
“Fact-checking” website PolitiFact twists itself into knots to avoid giving a “true” rating to the absolutely true fact that Jimmy Carter banned Iranian immigration in 1980, unless applicants could prove they were enemies of the Khomenei theocracy.

One of Politifact’s phony talking points states that Carter “acted against Iranian nationals, not an entire religion.” As noted above, Trump’s Executive Order is precisely the same – it does not act against an “entire religion,” it names seven countries.

As for Barack Obama, he did indeed ban immigration from Iraq, for much longer than Trump’s order bans it from the seven listed nations, and none of the people melting down today uttered a peep of protest. Richard Grenell summed it up perfectly in a Tweet:

5. Trump’s refugee caps are comparable to Obama’s pre-2016 practices: David French, who was touted as a spoiler candidate to keep Donald Trump out of the White House during the presidential campaign – in other words, not a big Trump fan – wrote a lengthy and clear-headed analysis of the Executive Order for National ReviewHe noted that after the moratorium ends in 120 days, Trump caps refugee admissions at 50,000 per year… which is roughly the same as President Obama’s admissions in 2011 and 2012, and not far below the 70,000 per year cap in place from 2013 to 2015.

Obama had fairly low caps on refugees during the worst years of the Syrian civil war. He didn’t throw open the doors to mass refugee admissions until his final year in office. Depending on how Trump’s review of Syrian refugee policy turns out, he’s doing little more than returning admissions to normal levels after a four-month pause for security reviews.

6. The Executive Order is legal: Those invoking the Constitution to attack Trump’s order are simply embarrassing themselves. The President has clear statutory authority to take these actions. As noted, his predecessors did so, without much controversy.

Most of the legal arguments against Trump’s order summarized by USA Today are entirely specious, such as attacking him for “banning an entire religion,” which the order manifestly does not do. Critics of the order have a political opinion that it will in effect “ban Muslims,” but that’s not what it says. Designating specific nations as trouble spots and ordering a pause is entirely within the President’s authority, and there is ample precedent to prove it.

It should be possible to argue with the reasoning behind the order, or argue that it will have negative unintended consequences, without advancing hollow legal arguments. Of course, this is America 2017, so a wave of lawsuits will soon be sloshing through the courts.

7. This Executive Order is a security measure, not an arbitrary expression of supposed xenophobia. Conway stressed the need to enhance immigration security from trouble spots in her “Fox News Sunday” interview. French also addressed the subject in his post:

When we know our enemy is seeking to strike America and its allies through the refugee population, when we know they’ve succeeded in Europe, and when the administration has doubts about our ability to adequately vet the refugees we admit into this nation, a pause is again not just prudent but arguably necessary. It is important that we provide sufficient aid and protection to keep refugees safe and healthy in place, but it is not necessary to bring Syrians to the United States to fulfill our vital moral obligations.

French’s major objection to the Executive Order is that applying it to green-card holders is “madness,” but unfortunately many of the terrorists who attacked Americans during the Obama years were green-card holders. Daniel Horowitz and Chris Pandolfo addressed that subject at Conservative Review:

Both liberals and conservatives expressed concern over hundreds of individuals going over to fight for ISIS. We are already limited in how we can combat this growing threat among U.S. citizens. Given that it is completely legal to exclude non-citizens upon re-entry, Trump extended the ban to legal permanent residents as well.

If a Somali refugee is travelling back to Somalia (so much for credible fear of persecution!), government officials should have the ability to prevent that person from coming back when necessary. Obviously, there are some individuals from these seven countries who already have green cards and we might not want to exclude. That is why the order grants discretion to the State Department to issue case-by-case exemptions for “religious persecution, “or when the person is already in transit and denying admission would cause undue hardship.” A CBP agent is always stationed at any international airport from which these individuals would board a direct flight to the United States (Paris and Dubai, for example). That individual would not allow anyone covered by this ban onto a U.S.-bound flight unless he grants them a hardship exemption.

Indeed, it appears that green card holders returning yesterday from those seven countries were all granted entry.

Because he is a progressive globalist, Obama deliberately blinded us to security threats, in the name of political correctness and left-wing ideology. Ninety or 120 days isn’t much time for Trump to turn all that around, especially because it is unlikely much will change in the seven countries Trump named.

The hysterical reaction to Trump’s order illustrates the very thing that worries advocates of strong immigration security: Americans’ security is the lowest priority, far below progressive ideology, crass political opportunism, and emotional theater.

We’re being effectively told by the theatrical class to tolerate a certain amount of Islamic terrorism because their feelings would be hurt by the tough measures we need protest ourselves from a tough enemy. But this time, President Trump is proving tough enough to push our security up into the top priority.

***

Before Leaving White House Obama Bombs CIA-Vetted Syrian Rebels Embedded with Al-Qaeda

zenki1-sized-770x415xbPJ Media, by Patrick Poole, January 21, 2017:

If one event can symbolize the incoherence of the Obama administration’s support for the so-called “vetted moderate” rebels in Syria, it would be one of Obama’s last acts in his last full day in office.

On Friday the Pentagon reported that they had struck a terror training camp near Idlib, killing more than one hundred Al-Qaeda terrorists.

The wrinkle is that several members of a group that had previously been backed by the CIA and received TOW missiles as part of an Obama administration program—and were at the camp and embedded with Al-Qaeda—were also killed.

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GORKA: Obama’s Farewell Speech Puts Narrative and Spin Before Safety of the American People

screen-shot-2017-01-12-at-2-04-08-pm-640x480Breitbart, by John Hayward, January 12, 2017:

Breitbart News National Security Editor Dr. Sebastian Gorka, author of the best-selling book Defeating Jihad: The Winnable War, appeared on Fox Business Network to offer his take on departing President Obama’s statement that “no foreign terrorist organization has been able to conduct a terrorist attack on U.S. soil” during his administration.

“My take is, I live in reality, Maria,” Gorka told host Maria Bartiromo. “Yesterday was Alice in Wonderland. It was a wilderness of mirrors. It was spin and narrative over truth.”

“This is outrageous,” he continued. “This the moment when President Obama could have shown great graciousness. He could have handed over the baton with style, admitted some of his mistakes, and just welcomed the new administration. Instead, the lies continue.”

“We’ve had more than 13 attacks linked directly to outside jihadi organizations,” Gorka noted. “The Fort Hood shooter – let me just concentrate on one of them, Maria. The Fort Hood shooter, Major Nidal Hassan, wasn’t just ‘inspired by’ jihadism. He wasn’t just reading jihadi literature. He was emailing Anwar al-Awlaki. He was emailing al-Qaeda’s leadership in Yemen.”

“And the President has the bald-faced cheek to stand up in front of the American people and say ‘No, no, no, no foreign attacks,’” he exclaimed. “It is parsing. He took a leaf out of the playbook of President Clinton, when he said well, it depends what your definition of ‘is’ is. That’s what yesterday was.”

Bartiromo noted that another achievement Obama claimed during his farewell speech was the closing of Guantanamo Bay… only to see the Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee demand a halt to Gitmo transfers the very next day, following the review of new intelligence reports.

“I was told by various individuals inside the national security enterprise that he is adamant, because he’s so embarrassed that on his first day in office he signed that executive order closing Gitmo, eight years ago,” Gorka said. “Simply through personal sheer embarrassment, he says, ‘I have to close it this month.’ This is not about national security. It’s about prestige and ego.”

“These are bad people, Maria,” he said of the remaining detainees. “And Gitmo isn’t a detention facility. Gitmo is an intelligence asset. That’s how we found out where bin Laden was, through interrogations of KSM. This is again narrative more important than reality, spin more important than the safety of the American people.”

Fox News contributor Robert Wolf, a board member of the Obama Foundation, leaped to President Obama’s defense. He claimed Dr. Gorka’s comments were disrespectful to the outgoing President, arguing that Obama justified the false statement Gorka and Bartiromo criticized with a disclaimer that he wasn’t referring to “homegrown terrorists,” and lauding Obama for reducing the U.S. troop presence in Afghanistan and Iraq.

“Your guest, I hope he gets a job in the next Democrat administration. What a water carrier,” Gorka responded.

“Removing troops from a theater of combat is not the definition of victory. I recommend you open a history book. The definition of victory is when the enemy stops killing you. Tell your spin to the dead of Orlando,” he said to Wolf.

When Bartiromo interjected that Obama did oversee the killing of Osama bin Laden, Gorka replied, “Oversee it? Yeah. Anybody who was in that chair would be overseeing it, whether they were left or right.”

“Let me talk about the military,” he said. “You talked about them, your guest mentioned the military. Just before the speech, I had a conversation with a three-star general who is in charge of counter-terrorism issues here in America. He said the counter-terrorism effort under President Obama is shambolic, and morale is at its lowest level ever. That’s from inside.”

“Don’t try and take the bravery of our military and wrap yourself in it, when we have ISIS become the largest insurgent jihadi group in modern history, and when we have the SITE Intelligence Group say outside of Iraq and Syria, we have had a jihadi attack every 83 hours. Not 83 days, every 83 hours. 65 million refugees in the world, in most part thanks to jihadi extremism. If that’s a success story, I have a bridge to sell your guest,” Gorka said.

He predicted Secretary of State nominee Rex Tillerson would have “a little bit of heat put on him” during the remainder of his confirmation hearings, but noted he is “a man who is in charge of one of the largest, most successful companies in the world.”

“I think he’ll do swimmingly,” he predicted. “He’ll skate through. There will be a little bit of rhetoric and posing for the cameras, but I’m confident that these nominees will be confirmed.”

ISIS Shows Preschooler Killing Victim Tied to Carnival Ball Pit

screen-shot-2017-01-08-at-2-22-36-pm-sized-770x415xcPJ Media, by Bridget Johnson, January 8, 2017:

After an end-of-the-year video showing pre-teens hunt down and kill bound prisoners in an abandoned building, the Islamic State today released an even more gory follow-up with children as young as preschool age murdering prisoners tied to broken carnival rides.

The 18-minute highly produced video out of ISIS’ Khayr province in Syria was distributed through publicly accessible Islamic State media channels, social media and file-sharing sites, including Google Drive and, briefly, YouTube.

It begins by showing adults training in a bombed-out building, but transitions into adults leading small children in exercises. A boy about 9 or 10 years old is shown gleefully participating in a public stoning.

Like previous ISIS videos featuring children, the video argues that coalition bombing is a reason for kids to join jihad and kill Americans.

And as in previous execution videos, a trio of prisoners accused of being spies make videotaped “confessions”. The film then cuts to an abandoned funfair filled with ruined carnival rides such as a Ferris wheel and kiddie train.

screen-shot-2017-01-08-at-2-21-00-pm

The first victim is zip-tied to the interior of a tilting, spinning disk ride. A boy about 7 years old ascends the stairs and is handed a knife by a black-clad ISIS member. He covers the victim’s eyes with one hand before being given a signal by the adult jihadist. The boy then saws at the victim’s throat. When done, he wipes off both sides of the knife on the victim’s white T-shirt.

The ride is then slowly spun with the victim’s head sitting on the floor of the interior.

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The second victim is tied to the fence inside a ball pit filled with broken balls. A preschool-aged boy clad in black is handed a small gun by the adult ISIS member. The child shoots the victim five times before holding the gun aloft and yelling “Allahu akbar” twice.

An older boy who appears about 12 years old is the final executioner, pushing a bound victim into the dirt next to kiddie train tracks.

screen-shot-2017-01-08-at-2-26-30-pm

Before he kills the prisoner, the preschool-aged boy makes a motion of drawing his hand across his throat.

After sawing the victim’s throat, the boy plunges the knife into his back before walking away.

screen-shot-2017-01-08-at-2-31-35-pm

At the end of December, the Islamic State released a grisly video showing child jihadists hunting down bound “apostates” in a live-fire training exercise.

The half-hour-long production, from ISIS headquarters in Raqqa, shows child jihadists — boys about 9 to 12 years old — sent on an exercise through an abandoned building with some dummy targets in the rooms and a handful of live targets: prisoners with their hands zip-tied behind their backs, trying to elude the child jihadists in the multi-story, debris-strewn building.

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Also see:

HAYWARD: Time’s ‘Top 10 Risks to the World in 2017’ Starts with America, Excludes Terrorism

AP

AP

Breitbart, by John Hayward, January 4, 2017:

Ian Bremmer of Time magazine declared a “geopolitical recession” due to the election of Donald Trump, and put forth his list of “Top 10 Risks to the World in 2017” with this howler of an opening paragraph:

The triumph of an “America first” foreign policy marks a fundamental break with decades of U.S. exceptionalism and a consensus view in Washington that U.S. international leadership, however flawed and uneven, is indispensable for international stability.

I hate to be the one to break it to him, but “U.S. exceptionalism” and “U.S. international leadership” were traded for a bag of multicultural magic beans by outgoing President Barack Obama, long before anyone thought Trump might run for President.

The Libya disaster, the Syria disaster, the Iran disaster, the ISIS disaster… on and on it goes, in every case reducing America’s international credibility, with such remorseless consistency because Obama intended to sunset American leadership, regardless of the huge cost to Americans and people overseas.

Remember “leading from behind?” Never mind Obama’s hidden agendas and deep-seated, faculty-lounge antipathy to American power, his stated purpose was to make the U.S. less exceptional, to concede its moral stature, and transfer leadership responsibilities to other nations.

As for “international stability,” how is that looking after unlovely but basically pro-American dictatorships were swapped out for Mad Max-style Muslim militias in the “Arab Spring”?

Libya was transformed into a warlords-vs.-terrorists cage match, Europe is bucking under a tidal wave of contemptuous “refugees,” the Syrian bloodbath transformed Russia and Iran into the new Middle Eastern power axis, China began militarizing the South China Sea, and Russia snatched Crimea and tormented Ukraine?

It would be facile to say there’s nowhere to go but up, but President-elect Trump has a fairly low bar to clear when it comes to handling American prestige and global stability better than his predecessor.

The notion that an “America first” stance will automatically make the world less stable is wrongheaded. Nations that look out for their own predictable interests are more predictable than the eight-year globalist dorm-room bull session held by Obama and his friends  Ask the Syrian resistance or the Israelis about that.

Number One on Bremmer’s Top 10 list of threats facing the world is an “Unpredictable America”:

The world’s sole superpower was once the international trump card, imposing order to force compromise and head off conflict. Now it’s a wildcard, because instead of creating policies designed to bolster global stability, President Trump will use U.S. power overwhelmingly to advance U.S. interests, with little concern for the broader impact. Trump is no isolationist. He’s a unilateralist. Expect a more hawkish–and a much less predictable–U.S. foreign policy. Allies, especially in Europe and Asia, will hedge. Rivals like China and even Russia will test. U.S.-led institutions will lose more of their international clout.

For good measure, Number Two on the list of global security risks is… America again, because Bremmer worries about China “overreacting” to Trump’s provocations. He worries that 2017 will be a “dangerous year for China, and all who depend on it for growth and stability.”

Not only is the assertion that more “unilateral” foreign policy is less predictable dubious, but “hawkish” doesn’t seem like the right word for Trump’s foreign policy outlook, just as “dovish” would be an absurd adjective for President Barack “Drone Strike” Obama’s legacy of wars burning around the world.

The Libyan intervention was “unilateralist” with respect to Obama’s disregard for Congress, but impeccably “multilateral” in the way foreign leaders and Hillary Clinton badgered Obama into starting the war, and predictably disastrous.

Obama’s “red line” in Syria was supposed to be the multilateral consensus of the international community – in one of his more scurrilous attempts to escape responsibility for his words, he claimed “The World” had drawn the red line against chemical weapons, not him. Gas-spewing dictator Bashar Assad correctly deduced that a red line drawn by “everyone” would be enforced by no one. The ban against using WMD was supposed to be the most predictable, universal principle on Earth, but it proved extremely unpredictable in practice, judging from the surprised expressions on the faces of the gas victims.

America tops the Time hit parade of global threats… but ISIS, al-Qaeda, and the rest of the terrorist carnival of horrors are not on the list at all. The word “Islamist” is nowhere mentioned, in any of its permutations. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, an Islamist, makes it in at Number Eight because his “tightening grip” on power will “exacerbate the country’s economic problems and his worsening relations with Europe and his neighbors,” but his ideology goes unmentioned. The great danger for the Middle East listed in the article is disruptive technological change.

Entry Number Three on the list is a potential “power vacuum in Europe,” which mentions the French elections, Brexit, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s precarious position, but does not mention why all those European voters are so upset. The risk to global stability and national security that should be ranked high on this list is migration: that is, mass immigration contrary to the best interests of citizens in the host countries.

The arrogance of denouncing the Trump administration and America as the top “risks to the world in 2017” without even mentioning terrorism, just a few days after the latest mass-murder atrocity, is breathtaking.

People from 14 different countries were murdered at the Reina nightclub in Istanbul by a soldier of ISIS. How’s that for a microcosm of “global risk?”

Also see:

Leaked audio: Obama wanted ISIS to grow

Secretary of State John Kerry

Secretary of State John Kerry

Kerry also admitted U.S. helped arm jihadists

WND, January 2, 2017:

As President Obama reflects on his legacy, a recording of Secretary of State John Kerry conversing with leaders of Syrian opposition groups is casting more light on his approach to ISIS, indicating his administration believed that allowing the Islamic State to grow would serve the White House’s objective of ousting Syrian President Bashar Assad.

The recording was leaked to the New York Times and reported Sept. 30, but the Conservative Tree House blog this week featured portions of Kerry’s statements that were virtually ignored at the time.

Regime change was Obama’s only objective in Syria, Kerry indicates, and the administration not only hoped ISIS would carry out the task, it gave arms to the jihadist army and its allies, confirming WND’s reporting.

Kerry admits the U.S. didn’t calculate that Assad would turn to Russia for help.

“And we know that this was growing, we were watching, we saw that DAESH (ISIS) was growing in strength, and we thought Assad was threatened,” Kerry told the Syrians.

“(We) thought, however,” he continued, “we could probably manage that Assad might then negotiate, but instead of negotiating he got Putin to support him.”

Kerry’s off-record, 40-minute discussion with two dozen Syrians who worked with nongovernmental organizations took place during the U.N. General Assembly.

It confirms WND’s reporting since 2011 of evidence that Clinton’s State Department engineered the clandestine transfer of weapons from Libya to Syria that ended up in the hands of terrorist groups aligned with ISIS and al-Qaida.

The Conservative Tree House noted that in August 2014, President Obama gave a press conference in which he stated he “did not have a strategy” against ISIS. Then two months, later, his chief spokesman, Josh Earnest, stated: “Our ISIS strategy is dependent on something that does not yet exist.”

Benghazi tie

In May 2015, WND reported evidence that U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens was involved in shipping weapons from Benghazi to support the al-Qaida-affiliated militias fighting the Assad regime, effectively arming the Sunni jihadists who morphed into ISIS.

Judicial Watch, which obtained much of the evidence, noted an August 2012 Defense Intelligence Agency report, written at time the U.S. was monitoring weapons flows from Libya to Syria, said “the Salafist, the Muslim Brotherhood, and AQI (Al-Qaida in Iraq) are the major forces driving the insurgency in Syria.”

In an Aug. 17, 2014, email released by WikiLeaks, Clinton, after her service as secretary of state, suggested to adviser John Podesta: “At the same time, we should return to plans to provide the FSA [Free Syria Army], with some group of moderate forces, with equipment that will allow them to deal with a weakened ISIL, and stepped up operations against the Syrian regime.”

In September 2013, WND reported Kerry and Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., had relied on the work of Elizabeth O’Bagy, a 26-year-old graduate student, to argue in testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that the Obama administration should send weapons to arm the “moderate” Free Syria Army to oppose the Assad government in Syria.

WND detailed the extensive lobbying efforts conducted in Washington to advance the FSA as a “moderate group,” despite clear evidence the al-Nusra Front – operating under the FSA umbrella – had been declared a terrorist organization by the State Department; has pledged allegiance to al-Qaida’s top leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri; and was the group of choice for foreign jihadis pouring into Syria.

In September 2014, WND reported O’Bagy, who had been fired from her job with a Washington think-tank after her exposure by WND as a source for Kerry’s argument that the FSA is a “moderate” rebel force in Syria, had also arranged for McCain a trip to Syria in May 2013 during which senator met with Abdul Hakim Belhaj, who was then represented as a leader of the FSA.

In November 2013, WND reported trusted Libyan expatriates had claimed Belhaj was at large in Libya. The expatriates identified Belhaj as an al-Qaida operative, noting he was at the top of a list of Libyan terrorists banned by the European Union from obtaining entrance visas and was the principal organizer of the terrorist attack in Benghazi on Sept. 11, 2011, in which Ambassador Stevens was murdered.

A weapons shipment from Benghazi to Syria that occurred just days before the Benghazi attack was coordinated by Belhaj.

The shipment been arranged by Marc Turi, a professional arms dealer who had been indicted by federal prosecutors for supplying arms to Libyan “rebels.” But the Obama administration dropped the criminal case one day before a court-ordered deadline to disclose information about its efforts to arm Muslim rebels.

The DOJ was forced to drop the Turi prosecution because federal prosecutors were convinced his defense would expose Clinton’s secret arms running to the radical al-Qaida-affiliated militia in Libya, contends Fox News senior judicial analyst Judge Andrew Napolitano.

WND also published visual evidence Clinton’s State Department secretly provided weapons to Islamic jihadists in Libya.