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.

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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.

Read more

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.

screen-shot-2017-01-08-at-2-24-46-pm

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.

Wanted Istanbul Terrorist ‘Fought for Islamic State in Syria’

Turkish Police

Turkish Police

Breitbart Jerusalem, January 3, 2017:

Istanbul (AFP) – Turkish authorities on Tuesday intensified efforts to identify and detain a suspected jihadist who killed 39 people at an Istanbul nightclub, and who reportedly fought in Syria alongside Islamic State jihadists.

Police released pictures of the suspect who went on the rampage at the plush Reina nightclub on New Year’s night, spraying some 120 bullets at terrified guests before slipping away into the night.

So far, 16 people are being held over the attack, including two foreigners detained by Turkish police at Istanbul’s main airport. But the killer remains on the run.

Of the 39 dead, 27 were foreigners, mainly from Arab countries, with coffins repatriated overnight to countries including Lebanon and Saudi Arabia.

The Islamic State (IS) group on Monday claimed the massacre, the first time it has clearly stated being behind a major attack in Turkey.

The suspect — who has not been named but was reportedly from Central Asia — was staying in a rented flat in Konya before moving to Istanbul to carry out the attack, press reports said.

The Dogan news agency said those detained included a woman suspected of being his wife with whom he had stayed in Konya along with two children.

Reports said police have made progress in the investigation after speaking to the taxi driver who drove the attacker to the club and tracing calls he had made on the driver’s mobile phone.

– ‘Specially selected’ –

The Hurriyet daily said the attacker showed signs of being well trained in the use of arms and had fought in Syria for IS jihadists.

Hurriyet’s well-connected columnist Abdulkadir Selvi he had been trained in street fighting in residential areas in Syria and used these techniques in the attack, shooting from the hip rather than as a sniper.

The attacker had been “specially selected” to carry out the shooting, he said. According to Hurriyet, just 28 bullets failed to hit a target.

“This specially-trained terrorist has still not been detained and is still wandering dangerously amongst us,” he wrote.

He said an IS strike was also planned in Ankara on New Year’s eve but that it had been prevented after eight IS suspects were arrested in the capital. There were no further details.

Near the entrance to the nightclub which lies on the shores of the Bosphorus, an impromptu shrine was set up with pictures of the dead where well-wishers have been piling up flowers.

“The attacker arrived at the door and opened fire towards me,” club manager Ali Unal told AFP.

“My foot slipped and I fell down, the gunshots didn’t stop.”

– ‘Taksim selfie video’ –

Police meanwhile released the first clear images of the attacker, including one taken by security cameras on the night of the attack.

And a chilling video of the suspect taken near Taksim Square in central Istanbul was also released, showing him recording himself with a selfie stick and smiling faintly into the camera.

It was not immediately clear how the footage had been obtained.

Reports said that the attacker could be from Kyrgyzstan or Uzbekistan. In Bishkek, the national security council said it was checking any possible involvement of a Kyrgyz citizen.

In a statement circulated on social media, IS said one of its “soldiers” had carried out the carnage, accusing Turkey — a majority-Muslim country — of being a servant of Christians and saying the shooting was a response to Ankara’s military action against jihadists in Syria.

Turkish troops are pressing a four-month incursion to oust IS jihadists the border area while Ankara is also pushing a ceasefire plan with Russia as a basis for peace talks to end the civil war.

After a cabinet meeting in Ankara chaired by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the government vowed that the operation in Syria would continue with “determination”.

The shooting took place just 75 minutes into 2017 after a bloody year in Turkey in which hundreds of people were killed in violence blamed on both IS jihadists and Kurdish militants.

The foreigners who died — most of them from Arab countries and including Muslims — had come to the club to celebrate a special night in style.

They included three Lebanese nationals, two Jordanians and three Iraqis, as well as several Saudis.

***

***

Tom Joscelyn with some very interesting information on the Turkey nightclub attack. Unfortunately the video cut off an important part of the interview where he gives new info on Al Qaeda in Turkey. I will post it if I find it.

Also see:

The Trump Administration and the Kurds — A Conversation with Sherkoh Abbas

20120906-101543_550px-pkk_militant

President of the Kurdish National Assembly of Syria talks chaos in Turkey and hopes for Kurdish statehood.

Front Page Magazine, by Joseph Puder, November 16, 2016:

Kurdish Peshmerga forces fighting the Islamic State (IS) in both Iraq and Syria have exhibited courage, determination, and a unique pro-American attitude in the Arabic speaking world.  In Syria, however, the Kurdish forces combating the Islamic State bravely and successfully are being attacked by the Turkish army as ordered by President ErdoganHuman rights activist Dilovan Mirkhan told ARA News (November 13, 2016) that “The Turkish army stationed on the borderline with Syria, bombed residential buildings in the Mosako town in Afrin, adding that the bombardment led to massive destruction in the area.” Mirkhan reported that “Dead bodies of eight civilian victims were collected subsequent to the attack, and many others remained stranded under the rubble.”

It should be unacceptable for the incoming Trump administration to allow Turkey’s dictatorial president Erdogan to attack the very forces (the Kurds) who are liberating portions of Syria from the IS. Moreover, it is also high time for the U.N. and the U.S. to recognize the Kurdish people’s right to self-determination.  The U.N. has held endless sessions in support of Palestinian rights and requests for statehood. The Kurds, numbering tens-of-millions, deserve much more from the international community.  There are 22 Arab states but no Kurdish state.  Given the critical role the Kurds are playing in liberating Iraq and Syria from the barbarism of the IS, the time has come to reward the Kurds with a state of their own.

Kurds have been oppressed by Saddam Hussein in Iraq and gassed in Halabja. Hafez Assad, the dictator of Syria expelled hundreds of thousands of Kurds from the Al-Hasakeh region, with similar numbers becoming stateless.  The Islamic Republic of Iran has equally oppressed its largely Sunni-Muslim Kurds. It has denied political and cultural rights to its Kurdish citizens.  Turkey, where the Kurds count for almost 20% of the population, is currently bombing the Kurds at the Kurdish-majority region of southeastern Turkey, and in Syria.

This reporter asked Sherkoh Abbas, President of the Kurdish National Assembly of Syria (KNA-S), to respond to the current situation in Syria.

Joseph Puder (JP): With Donald Trump becoming the new occupant of the White House, and Republicans controlling both houses of Congress, what would you like the new administration to do in Syria?

Sherkoh Abbas (SA): I hope to see the Trump administration abandon the outdated policy of maintaining the unjust legacy of the colonial Sykes-Picot agreement. Similarly, Trump should reverse the previous U.S. administration’s investment in cozying up to ruthless Middle East regimes at the expense of its existing allies.  Instead, the new administration should support its natural allies such as the Kurds in the Middle East and the Amazigh people (Berbers) in North Africa.

Supporting an independent Kurdistan would help finish the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, and reduce Iran’s influence in the region, particularly in Iraq and Syria.  Working with the Kurds would also sever the Shiite Crescent.  Moreover, open support for the Kurds would check Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his ambitious Neo-Ottoman Empire.

The U.S. under the Trump presidency, should provide full and direct support to the Kurds on all levels, including the delivery of arms, unlike the Obama administration.  Arms to the Kurds should bypass Baghdad, and go directly to the Kurds.

During the primaries, Trump expressed support for the Kurds.  We will call on him to do just that.  The Kurds share the same values with the U.S. and they are eager to work with America.

JP: What do you expect from the Trump administration with regards to an independent Kurdish state in Syria?

SA: Syrian Kurds are currently fighting on behalf of humanity in their struggle with the Islamic State.  As quid-pro-quo, the Kurds would like U.S. help in creating a federal system in Syria to start with, and ultimately supporting outright Kurdish independence in Syria. Israel, Russia, and some European nations are promoting a federal state for the failed states of Iraq and Syria.

JP: Are the leaders of the People’s Protection Units (YPG) ready for an independent Kurdish state in Syria?

SA: The YPG needs to distance itself from the Assad regime as well as the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), and work with all the Kurds, including over 5,000 Syrian Peshmerga forces currently fighting to take Mosul.  It must become inclusive instead of a dictatorial regime.  The YPG does not enjoy the overwhelming support of the Syrian Kurds.  The majority of Syrian Kurds want democracy and independence.

The YPG is vacillating between its work with the U.S., Russia, and the Assad regime.  The YPG has to face the Free Syrian Army (FSA) and IS, as well as other terror groups. The Arab Gulf states, particularly Qatar, is supporting the FSA, which is ideologically close to the Muslim Brotherhood.  Turkey, a NATO-member, is too close to the IS and al-Qaeda, and their agenda is to get rid of the Assad regime and the Kurds.

JP: What influence can you and the Kurdistan National Assembly of Syria (KNA-S) exert on the powers that be in your home town of al-Qamishli and Kurdish Syria?

SA: Most of the Syrian Kurds are loyal to Kurdish tribal and civic leaders, and have strong alliances with Iraqi Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG). The YPG opposes such relationships, and thus is not a consensus organization.  The Kurdistan National Assembly of Syria (KNA-S) is aligned with tribal and civic leaders and the KRG in Iraq.  We could deliver the “Kurdish street,” and additional soldiers to finish IS.

This year KNA-S has assembled a wide-ranging delegation of Syrian Kurds, including YPG officials, to come to Washington for talks with U.S. administration officials.  Unfortunately, the State Department did not furnish visas to the delegates from Syria to enter the U.S.  Hopefully, the Trump administration will invite the KNA-S to re-assemble the same delegation for talks in Washington.

JP: Given Erdogan’s dictatorial behavior toward the opposition in Turkey, and especially toward the Kurds in Southeastern Turkey, what would you advise the incoming President Donald Trump to do with regards to Erdogan and Turkey?

SA: Turkey ruled by Erdogan is a lost case, and it is not a friend of the U.S.  Turkey’s intimate relationship with radical Islamic groups requires explanation.  Erdogan’s regime has its eyes focused on Aleppo in Syria and Mosul in Iraq, ostensibly to prevent the formation of an independent and contiguous Kurdistan, comprised of Iraqi and Syrian Kurdistan.

The Trump administration should prevent the Turkish army forces from entering Syrian territory under the guise of fighting IS.  The reality is that Turkey is only interested in fighting the Kurds, and preventing the creation of an independent Kurdish state, or an autonomous Kurdish region in northeastern Syria.

Behind the lines: Syria’s interlocking conflicts

SYRIAN DEMOCRATIC FORCES commanders announce an offensive to take the ISIS-held city of Raqqa last week.. (photo credit:RODI SAID / REUTERS)

SYRIAN DEMOCRATIC FORCES commanders announce an offensive to take the ISIS-held city of Raqqa last week.. (photo credit:RODI SAID / REUTERS)

Jerusalem Post, by Jonathan Spyer, November 11, 2016:

The US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces last Friday announced the commencement of an operation to conquer the northern Syrian city of Raqqa.  The operation was designated ‘Euphrates Wrath.’

Raqqa is the capital of the ‘Caliphate’ maintained by the Islamic State organization.  In tandem with the effort currently under way to recapture the Iraqi city of Mosul from IS, the loss of Raqqa would represent the final eclipse of the Islamic State as a quasi-sovereign entity.  At this point, it would revert back to the guerrilla/insurgent/terrorist force which it constituted prior to the outbreak of the Syrian civil war.

Conquering the city is likely to be a slow business.  However, the final outcome is not in doubt.  The Islamic State, whose main slogan in Arabic is ‘Baqiya watatamadad’ (remaining and expanding) has been in reality contracting since the high point of its advance in the autumn of 2014.  Its eventual demise, at least as a quasi-state entity, is assured.

But Syria is host not only to the war against IS, but to a series of other, interlocking conflicts.  And one of these additional conflicts pits the two main candidates for the leading role in the fight against IS in Raqqa against one another.

Observe: there is in Syria today no less than five identifiable conflicts taking place.

These are: Turkish-backed Sunni Arab rebel and Islamist organizations against the Assad dictatorship, western backed SDF (Syrian Democratic Forces, dominated by the Kurdish YPG) against IS, Kurdish YPG against the Assad regime, the aforementioned Sunni rebels against IS and, lastly, the Sunni rebels against the SDF.

The problem for those seeking to cobble together a force to take Raqqa city and by so doing destroy the Islamic State, is that the two eligible forces to carry out this action are the mainly Kurdish SDF and the Turkish-backed, mainly Islamist Sunni rebels – but these forces are at war with one another.

After the SDF announced the commencement of the Raqqa campaign this week, Turkish President Recep Tayepp Erdogan expressed his opposition to the decision, repeating his assertion that the Kurdish YPG are merely ‘another terror organization…a side branch’ of the PKK.

Following the SDF’s announcement, Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford met with Turkish Chief of Staff General Hulusi Akar in Ankara. After the meeting, Dunford said that the US would work together with Turkey to develop a long term plan for ‘seizing, holding and governing’ the city.

Dunford stated that the US considered the largely non-Arab SDF ‘wasn’t the solution’ for ‘holding and governing’ largely Sunni Arab Raqqa.

A judicious reader will notice that Dunford’s statement doesn’t say that the SDF is unsuitable for the job of capturing the city, only for holding it afterwards.

The root of the deep differences between the SDF and the Turkish supported rebels are to be found not only in the soil of northern Syria. Rather, they are inextricably linked to the long insurgency fought by Turkey’s Kurds against a succession of governments in Ankara since 1984.

The fragmenting of Syria formed a historic opportunity for the Syrian Kurds, which they have seized.  The PYD, the Syrian Kurdish franchise of the PKK organization, established three self-governing cantons along the Syrian-Turkish border in 2012.  In 2015, against the background of the fight against IS, they managed to unite two of these  – Jazeera and Kobani.  On March 17, 2016, the ruling coalition in these areas announced the formation of the ‘Federation of Northern Syria – Rojava.’

The US has since October 2015 found the Kurdish YPG to be a formidable and useful ground partner to coalition air power against IS.  But the Kurds themselves, while welcoming the alliance with the US, have long sought another objective – namely to unite the three cantons, connecting Jazira/Kobani with Afrin in the far north west of the country.

From a Turkish point of view, the prospect of a PKK-linked party controlling the entirety of the 800 km border between Syria and Turkey is entirely unacceptable.  Since mid-2015, a Kurdish insurgency is once again under way against the Turkish government.  As part of the general post-coup crackdown, Erdogan this week arrested Turkey’s most prominent Kurdish politician, Salahattin Demirtas of the HDP.

Since 2012, the instruments Turkey chose to use to contain the Syrian Kurds were the mainly Islamist rebel movements of northern Syria, from the more moderate elements across to Jabhat al Nusra and possibly at one time also ISIS.

By mid-2016, supporting ISIS was no longer an option, and the rebels by themselves were too weak for purpose.  So in August, Turkey boldly launched a direct intervention into northern Syria.  ISIS were the ostensible target.  But the clear purpose was to bisect Syria’s north, rendering a sufficient area impassable that the danger of the Kurds linking up their cantons would disappear.

This process is not yet complete.  The Kurds are still west of the Euphrates, in the town of Manbij. And the crucial IS-held town of Al-Bab remains unconquered.  The Turks would like to help their rebel clients take the town and end any further possibility of Kurdish unification.  But here, in the usual labyrinthine way, other players enter the picture.  Al-Bab is close to Aleppo.  It is possible that the Russians have warned Erdogan that the town remains out of bounds.

But the point to bear in mind is that the process of coalition building against IS in Syria is complicated by the fact that two potential members of the coalition – the US-backed SDF and the Turkish army with their Sunni Arab allies, are currently engaged in a direct conflict with one another.

In this regard,  it is worth noting the yawning gap between the military achievements of the Syrian Kurds and their dearth of similar successes in the diplomatic and political fields.  While YPG commanders call in US airstrikes against IS, no country has recognized the Federation of Northern Syria, and it has received little media coverage.

Dunford’s hurried visit to Ankara reflects the diplomatic state of play.  Namely, that the agenda of a Turkish government, even one that openly supports Sunni jihadis, must be indulged. That of a Kurdish ally can be dismissed.  The Kurds may have little choice in the matter. But they should be careful not to find themselves quickly abandoned once Operation ‘Euphrates Wrath’ is done.

Also see:

Did Russian’s Half A Million To Her Advisor Influence Hillary On Iran?

hillary

Americans need to know whether Hillary Clinton and Thomas Pickering put America’s interests first, or those of Russia and Iran.

The Federalist, by Christine Brim, October 27, 2016:

The Clinton campaign has been complaining bitterly about Russian President Vladimir Putin’s possible ties to WikiLeaks’ daily dumps of campaign chairman John Podesta’s emails. My new investigative report, “Clinton’s Shadow Diplomat: Thomas Pickering and Russia’s Pipeline Sales to Iran and Syria, exposes Hillary Clinton’s own damaging ties to Russia and Iran while she was secretary of State. Her Foreign Affairs Policy Advisor Thomas Pickering was a paid director for the Russian company Trubnaya Metallurgicheskaya Kompaniya (TMK) from June 30, 2009 to June 26, 2012. TMK is majority-owned by Russian billionaire oligarch Dmitry Pumpyansky, a close Putin ally.

I discovered extensive proof of TMK’s business dealings in Iran and Syria while Pickering was on its board, including TMK sales of oil and gas pipelines to Iran that were specifically prohibited under U.S. laws and executive orders. Pickering was deeply involved with TMK. According to TMK records, he attended 143 of the 145 board meetings. Pickering is estimated to have been paid more than half a million dollars for his service to TMK from 2009 to 2012, based on TMK’s compensation rules. He has since claimed to have donated it all to an unnamed charity.

Clinton’s, President Obama’s, and Pickering’s interests converged during the time Pickering was on TMK’s board of directors. Clinton had announced the Russian “reset” in March 2009; Obama pleaded with Iran for a new beginning two weeks later; and Pickering joined TMK, which was publicizing its sales to Iran and Syria in numerous documents, in June of that year.

Yes, We Sell to Countries Americans Sanction

Pickering combined his commercial, nonprofit, and policy roles into a seamless whole, all with the common goal of ending economic sanctions against Iran and reversing U.S. Iran policies. He was Clinton’s foreign affairs policy advisor and email correspondent, a board member for two Iranian advocacy groups, a paid consultant to Boeing (now a $25 billion Iranian aircraft contractor, thanks to Pickering’s advocacy), a well-known “behind-the-scenes” negotiator with Iranian representatives, and a paid director for a Russian company—TMK—that was actively exporting pipelines to Iran and Syria.

TMK’s customers and sales were not secret. In marketing materials, legal documents, a tenth anniversary PowerPoint presentation, catalogs, and webpages, TMK openly stated it had “major” and “main” pipeline customers in Iran and Syria. Iranian customer websites named TMK as a vendor. Steelorbis.com, an online steel industry newsletter, published six different reports from 2009 to 2013 listing specific prices for TMK pipes delivered to an Iranian port. Here’s just one example, an excerpt from the February 18, 2011 article published when Pickering was a TMK director:

brim1

In a February 5, 2010 $412,500,000 convertible bond offering circular issued by its financing subsidiary TMK Bonds S.A, TMK even formally disclosed that it was selling to Iran and Syria, stating “As a globally operating organization, we also conduct business with customers in Iran and Syria. The U.S. Department of State designates these countries as state sponsors of terrorism and subjects them to export controls.”

TMK’s U.S. division, TMK IPSCO, has plants in Pennsylvania, Texas, Arkansas, Ohio, Iowa, Oklahoma, Nebraska, and Kentucky. TMK pledged its U.S. assets as guarantors for international financing in at least two offers. Several executive orders on Iranian economic sanctions prohibit “any approval, financing, facilitation, or guarantee by a United States person, wherever located, of a transaction by a foreign person [company].”

Were Pickering’s Iran Dealings Illegal?

The Iranian ebusiness website pipeiran.com listed the Khatam-al Anbiya as a client and TMK’s Volzhsky Pipe Plant and TMK’s Romanian Division as vendors. Khatam-al Anbiya is the engineering and construction firm of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). On October 21, Adam Szubin, undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, stated “You cannot do business with IRGC companies….If you do, and you’re doing so knowingly, you are risking the most draconian sanctions in our toolkit, and that governs not just U.S. persons but actors all around the world.”

TMK’s customers in Iran were government-owned companies, and so were the ones in Syria. TMK’s three Iranian customers during the years Pickering served on the board were all listed by the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) as “Specially Designated Nationals”: the National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC), Petropars, and Pars Oil and Gas Company. U.S. persons are generally prohibited from conducting any kind of business with “Specially Designated Nationals.”

Similarly, TMK’s three Syrian customers were listed by OFAC as “Specially Designated Nationals” in 2011, while Pickering was on the Board: the Syrian Gas Company, the Syrian Petroleum Company, and the Al Furat Petroleum Company.

Pickering apparently did not disclose his links to TMK and TMK’s sales to Iran when he testified on Iran before Sen. John Kerry’s Senate Foreign Relations Committee on March 28, 2012 while he was still a TMK director. That information might have been relevant (though it wasn’t legally required) for Kerry’s committee, since in his testimony Pickering recommended that, in return for hypothetical limits on Iran’s nuclear program:

Some freezing or easing of sanctions might be a fair quid pro quo for such steps… It would also help if we begin to consider freezing or relaxing the imposition of some sanctions in return for real progress in making their nuclear program more open and more fully inspected and in improving relations with Iran in other areas …My recommendation is that we now take the sanctions pressure and turn it into a useful diplomatic tool to begin serious diplomatic negotiations with Iran.

It Sure Pays to Work in Government

Emails released from Clinton’s private server show that Pickering was emailing, meeting, and coordinating foreign travel with Clinton and her staff from the beginning of her time as secretary of State and arguing for an end to economic sanctions on Iran all during the same years he was on TMK’s board of directors. Starting in December 2011, he also served in official capacity on Clinton’s Foreign Affairs Policy Board. Clinton appointed Pickering chairman for the Benghazi Accountability Review Board three months after he left TMK.

There’s much more in the investigative report “Clinton’s Shadow Diplomat” on these dangerous liaisons between Clinton and Pickering, and Russia’s pipeline sales to Iran and Syria. The bottom line for the American public and policymakers is this: Did Hillary Clinton and Thomas Pickering put America’s interests first, or those of Russia and Iran?

Pickering’s actions with Hillary Clinton, TMK, various Iranian groups, Boeing and all the rest were not an exception to how Washington insiders operate. Pickering’s actions were an exceptionally well-crafted version of what insiders do every day, and not just in Washington—in Moscow and Tehran, too. Some are just better at it, and Pickering is one of the best. Washington insiders don’t want to blow the whistle on Pickering. They want to be Pickering. And some of them are worse.

Christine Brim is a founder of Paratos LLC, a risk communications consultancy. Previously she served at the Center for Security Policy as a vice president and chief operating officer.

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

(ISIS photo)

(ISIS photo)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Also see:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

LISTEN:

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

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Warning: rough language:

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Syrian Rebel U.S ‘Vetted Moderate’ Brigade Defects to Rebranded Al-Qaeda Affiliate

war-on-terror-jihad1-sized-770x415xtPJ Media, by Patrick Poole, October 20, 2016:

Reports are emerging this morning that a battalion of Faylaq al-Sham fighters that had previously been vetted as “moderates” by the U.S. has defected to Jabhat Fateh al-Sham, the recently re-branded Al-Qaeda affiliate in Syria.

This is yet one more episode of U.S.-vetted Syrian rebel groups defecting to U.S.-designated terrorist groups in recent years. Just a few weeks ago I reported here at PJ Media on U.S.-supported Free Syrian Army troops that were openly allied with a group that the State Department had designated a terrorist organization just the week before.

News of the defection of the Muhammad Rasoolullah Brigade of Faylaq al-Sham operating around Idlib initially appeared on Twitter:

Faylaq al-Sham, backed by Turkey, is currently involved in the push against the Islamic State.

Faylaq al-Sham has its roots in the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood, and have been branded “Syria’s Moderate Islamists,” so undoubtedly the “experts” will lament this defection as a shock brought about by military necessities on the ground.

But if the so-called “vetted moderate” groups that receive U.S. weapons later turn terrorist, what is the point of the so-called U.S. “vetting” anyway?

The “experts” may also downplay this defection claiming that Jabhat Fateh al-Sham cut ties with Al-Qaeda; but nothing could be further from the truth. All the group did was rebrand, with permission from Al-Qaeda.

In fact, one of the top Jabhat Fateh al-Sham leaders present at the rebranding announcement was Abu Faraj al-Masri, a longtime lieutenant of Al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri. Al-Masri was killed in a U.S. drone strike earlier this month.

But the myth of Jabhat Fateh al-Sham’s separation from Al-Qaeda continues to circulate.

Read more

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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