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Patrick Poole

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August 11, 2014 - 12:23 am

The Middle East is in full meltdown and the U.S. is rapidly nearing full retreat in the region. But considering the incompetents running our foreign policy, our absence may be best for the Middle East for the moment.

So here’s what’s happening:

Iraq: Last night Prime Minister Maliki gave a speech accusing new President Fuad Masum of violating the constitution as Golden Dawn militias backing Maliki took up strategic positions around Baghdad, including the Green Zone, in an all-out coup. Remarkably, Maliki is accusing Masum of a coup. Maliki’s issue with Masum is that the new president has not selected Maliki for a third term as prime minister. One report said that U.S. forces had to extricate President Masum from the presidential palace when it came under mortar fire from Maliki’s renegades. Let’s not forget the words of President Obama in December 2011, when he declared that “we’re leaving behind a sovereign, stable and self-reliant Iraq” upon pulling out all remaining U.S. troops.

Islamic State: A coup, of course, is exactly what Iraq needs right now as the terrorist Islamic State continues to push south despite U.S. airstrikes. The terror group is conducting ethnic and religious cleansing of Yahzidis and Christians, creating a staggering humanitarian crisis. Last week the Islamic State forces captured the dam north of Mosul, the largest dam in Iraq which the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers described in 2007 as “the most dangerous dam in the world” because of its instability. This is a key strategic asset that will give the Islamic State control of the Tigris River as they push towards Baghdad. The best hope to stall this push is not the Iraqi army, which collapsed several weeks ago when the Islamic State began their offensive, but Kurdish forces. The Islamic State is also preparing to target Saudi intelligence officials as they plan to open a front there, despite the fact that much of their funding has come from Saudi Arabia.

Lebanon: Iraq is not the only place where the Islamic State has launched an offensive. Last week they launched an attack on the Lebanese border town of Arsal, overrunning Lebanese army checkpoints and taking Lebanese soldiers hostage. Arsal is home to a large camp housing refugees from Syria. ISIS took the captives hoping to exchange them for a Syrian Islamist militia commander supported by al-Qaeda and the Islamic State who had been arrested by Lebanese authorities. Although the terrorist groups eventually agreed to withdraw and release their captives, the New York Times quoted one of their commanders saying that the attack forces included the Islamic State, Jabhat al-Nusra (the Syrian Al-Qaeda affiliate) and the Free Syrian Army – the same Free Syrian Army receiving weapons from the U.S. As I reported here last month, some of those U.S.-backed Free Syrian Army forces have pledged allegiance to the Islamic State. Meanwhile, Lebanon remains without a president as Hezbollah and their March 8 Alliance allies in parliament refuse to elect a president, a position reserved for a Maronite Christian. Syrian refugees now make up one-third of the country’s population, further destabilizing Lebanon.

Syria: The war in Syria drags on as 170,000 people are estimated to have been killed – one-third of those civilians – and many of its largest cities, such as Homs, lie in complete ruin. The Islamic State controls a wide swath of territory in the north, while the Iranian and Russian-backed Assad forces fight to hold onto the coast and Damascus with no end to the war in sight. The recent successes of the Islamic State are prompting many Syrian rebels to join with the terror group.

Turkey: Yesterday’s presidential election saw the current Prime Minister Recep Erdogan elected.  Last week Erdogan signaled that as president he intends to turn the office from its largely ceremonial role to running the country from this new position. Under Erdogan, the country has grown increasingly authoritarian, with last year’s Gezi protests violently suppressed and the country remaining the largest jailer of journalists in the world. Concerns have been raised about Erdogan’s support for terrorism, particularly his financing of Hamas and looking the other way as terrorist groups operate openly on the country’s Syrian border. Recent news reports have directly linked Erdogan to internationally banned al-Qaeda financier Yasin al-Qadi, even meeting with him repeatedly despite being on Turkey’s own terrorism list. Despite Erdogan’s dictatorial manner President Obama has hailed the neo-Ottoman Erdogan as one of his top five favorite world leaders, and notwithstanding its support for terrorist groups, Turkey remains as co-chair of the State Department’s Global Counterterrorism Forum.

Israel/Gaza: A new 72-hour truce was announced last night in the ongoing war between Israel and Hamas. While negotiators are headed back to Cairo today for continued talks, there remains a Mexican standoff: Israel has no intention of ending the blockade on Gaza and allowing Hamas to resupply itself as it continues to rain down rockets on Israel, and Hamas has made the border openings a pre-condition to any deal. Since the beginning of Israel’s Operation Protection Edge, Hamas and other terrorist groups have launched 3,488 rockets at Israel. Casualties in Gaza are approaching 2,000 (though many media outlets and even the UN are expressing long-overdue caution about casualty figures being supplied by Hamas-controlled ministries).

Egypt: One of the chief causes of the current Israel/Hamas conflict is that the Egyptian government has wisely put a stranglehold on the smuggling tunnels between Egypt and Gaza. Since the ouster of Muslim Brotherhood president Mohamed Morsi a year ago, Egypt has shut down and destroyed a reported 80 percent of the Gaza smuggling tunnels, putting a severe crimp in the Hamas finances that netted the terror group $1 million every day and stocked the terror group with material and weapons. Thus, Hamas is eager to have the Rafah border crossing reopened. The Egyptian presidential election in May that saw Abdel Fattah al-Sisi installed as president seemed to definitively resolve the country’s political crisis, but terror attacks in Sinai and around Egypt directed at the new government continue. These same terrorist groups have also used the Sinai to launch rockets towards Israel. This past weekend the Muslim Brotherhood and its allies announced the formation of the “Egyptian Revolutionary Council” in Istanbul, portending a continued insurgency against the Egyptian government. Violence could erupt this week during the first anniversary of the dispersal of the Muslim Brotherhood’s Rabaa protests last August 14th, and attacks on Coptic Christians continue in Upper Egypt, where I recently visited.

Libya: The ongoing violence in Libya recently spilled over into Egypt as 21 Egyptian border guards were killed two weeks ago in an attack on a border crossing. The violence between terrorist groups and government-aligned militias continues around the country, which has prompted the U.S. and other countries to remove all of their personnel. Attempts to seat Libya’s newly elected parliament this past week were met with bombardment of areas around Tripoli as militias aligned with the Libyan Muslim Brotherhood’s Justice and Construction Party, who were big losers in the elections, are openly opposing the new government. Many of these militias now trying to destabilize the government and launching attacks on Tripoli and Benghazi were directly funded by the previous Islamist/Muslim Brotherhood-dominated government.

Kuwait/Qatar: Last week the U.S. placed sanctions on three Kuwaitis for terrorism financing in an ongoing struggle to rein in terror funding from the Persian Gulf states. In response, Kuwait pledged to help curb financial support for terror groups operating in Syria and Iraq, though the country remains the largest funder of terror groups in Syria. U.S. efforts with Qatar, the recent beneficiary of an $11 billion arms deal with the U.S. and the site of U.S. CENTCOM forward headquarters, have not been as successful. As conflict continues to rage between Israel and Hamas, the U.S. had to block Qatar from transferring millions to Hamas to keep their operations in Gaza running. Israel President Shimon Peres has called Qatar “the world’s largest funder of terror,” not without cause.

As if that weren’t enough trouble for the world, the president of Azerbaijan is threatening war with Armenia, the World Health Organization last week declared a global health emergency for the ebola epidemic on the West African coast, all-out war looms between Russia and the Ukraine, Secretary of State John Kerry continues to broker a nuclear deal with Iran, the results of the Afghanistan presidential election remain in flux, Boko Haram continues its terror attacks in Nigeria, a bloody civil war still rages in South Sudan, attempts at a ceasefire continue to break down in the Central African Republic as an Islamic insurgency fuels sectarian clashes that have left thousands dead, and attacks by the Somali terror group Al-Shabaab in Kenya exacerbate deep political divisions.

In the meantime, back at home an endless wave of illegal immigrants continues to pour over our southern border, an Orthodox rabbi was murdered walking to synagogue in Miami this past weekend in what may be a Gaza-related hate crime, a study by a U.S.-government funded research center claims that sovereign citizens and patriot groups represent the greatest terror threat to the U.S., Hillary Clinton attempts to distance herself from the Obama administration’s foreign policy that she helped create, and Obama adviser Valerie Jarrett criticizes close U.S. ally Israel on Face the Nation while trying to deflect the administration’s inept handling of the Gaza crisis as America’s allies across the globe weigh the growing downside for being our friends.

If you think it can’t get any worse, don’t worry: it will.

Patrick Poole is a national security and terrorism correspondent for PJMedia. Follow me on Twitter.
Top Rated Comments   
President Obama has brought an Augean Stability to the Middle East.
10 weeks ago
10 weeks ago Link To Comment
Looks like it's going about as planned by the obomanible administration; or rather, as deliberately not planned, since world chaos and mushrooming mayhem seems to be the desired result.

But Little Lenin can proudly declare that whatever Dubya did, he has undone, and whatever Duby thought about anything has been reversed.

Foreign policy as nyah nyah nyah.
10 weeks ago
10 weeks ago Link To Comment
Hold on, hold on! Your are just confusing Kerry with all this detail! Now, talk louder and a lot slower and write in much bigger block letters and change the color of the crayon with each new subject.
10 weeks ago
10 weeks ago Link To Comment
All Comments   (49)
All Comments   (49)
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We should give the Kurds all the help we can, arms aid and air support, since they have courage, and have aways been pro american and anti jihadist. But other than the Kurds, Israel, and Christians, posibly Jordan, Egypt (al long as they are hostile to the muslim brotherhood), Lebenese (other than Hezbolla and Syrian), and possibly the Turks, the rest of the traitorous cowardly insane Islamicist snakes in that region can go to hades.
10 weeks ago
10 weeks ago Link To Comment
"The terror group is conducting ethnic and religious cleansing of Yahzidis and Christians, creating a staggering humanitarian crisis."

I'm about convinced that a different word than "humanitarian" needs to be coined for the concept of compassionate fellow-feeling, because "human" as a root word is obviously completely inappropriate to the purpose.
10 weeks ago
10 weeks ago Link To Comment
"Last night Prime Minister Maliki gave a speech accusing new President Fuad Masum of violating the constitution as Golden Dawn militias backing Maliki took up strategic positions around Baghdad..."

"Golden Dawn." That sounds as lovely as "Arab Spring".
The Middle East must be an absolutely charming place to live.
10 weeks ago
10 weeks ago Link To Comment
SOCIALISM is the EBOLA of Political thought.
10 weeks ago
10 weeks ago Link To Comment
There is only ONE KORAN and it declares ITSELF to be and MUSLIMS accept it as being the 'ACTUAL and UNALTERABLE' word of their evil GOD and to be for 'ALL men for ALL time'. Proof if any were needed that allah is an evil, vindictive, sadistic, cruel, misogynistic, self contradicting, slavery supporting, wife beating advocating, paedophilia endorsing, nonsense spouting, INCEST allowing entity. These two claims remove all possibility of ISLAMIC 'REFORMATION' and completely devalue the 'HISTORICAL and OF ITS TIME' excuses that MUSLIMS and their APOLOGISTS are fond of trotting out when cornered. They also love to run and hide behind the ANCIENT PRIMITIVE ARABIC in which it is written where ONE WORD can have MANY MEANINGS, unlike that RICH sophisticated language ENGLISH which has many words for ONE MEANING.
10 weeks ago
10 weeks ago Link To Comment
Where does AL QUADA get all its ideas from - the KORAN
Where does ISIS/L get all its ideas from - the KORAN
Where does BOKO HARAM get its ideas from - the KORAN
Where does HAMAS get its antisemitism from - the Koran
Where does HEZZBOLLAH get its antisemitism from -the KORAN
Where does AL SHAHBAB get its antisemitism from - the KORAN
Where does IRAN get its antisemitism from - the KORAN

No matter what the MORONIC Left wing moonbats CRETINS and the naive, gullible deluded Western Politicians tell you the problem does not just come from all these disparate TERRORIST GROUPS in ISOLATION the problem is what INSPIRES them and that is the KORAN and ISLAM that is the REAL ENEMY and until we WAKE UP and accept this TRUTH we will never be able to defeat it.
10 weeks ago
10 weeks ago Link To Comment
America needs to get the 'ell out of the Islamic Crescent. Let the Haji's kill each other. When they want to stop, they will. With Fracking the USA has no strategic interests in the Middle East. Nothing to be gained by America in continuing our invcolement there.
Yes, when we needed their OIL to keep our civilization going, we needed to be there. We no longer need their OIL, so lets get out.
10 weeks ago
10 weeks ago Link To Comment
Help the Kurds, they are good people, and the can provide a safe haven for the christians in the area. Other than that I agree with you, the rest of them can go to Hades.
10 weeks ago
10 weeks ago Link To Comment
The coup or multiple concurrent coups in Iraq made me think of the handling of South Viet Nam by the Kennedy administration. Someone in the administration implies that we wouldn't mind if we were working with someone else, and suddenly the original office holder is found in a ditch. Not exactly a way to foster democratic-minded leadership or stability.
10 weeks ago
10 weeks ago Link To Comment
Me, I have a different view. I say we step back and let them all kill each other.

Why would we arm the Kurds? Because they are slightly less violent and crazy than ISIS? Ooooh, oooh, let's support Stalin, he's just a teensy bit better than Hitler, only he wasn't, and we got rewarded with 45 years of terror.

Pray explain to me the difference between Soviet Russia and the Kurds.

The Yahzidis and Christians? They are unarmed, defenseless, voluntarily so. Objectively, they deserve to die. I feel some sympathy for their innocence, but my God, they are apparently as stupid as a liberal Democrat about guns. It's evolution in action.
10 weeks ago
10 weeks ago Link To Comment
You have a grossly distorted view of the Kurds, they are not just lesser evils, like the USSR, or the Saudis, they are actually good:
1. They are the only faction in that area that has never betrayed us, even when we did not support them very well.
2. They share US ideas about respecting religious minorities unlike most other Muslims.
3. They are not Islamicists and hate both ISIS and the Iranian terrorists.
4. They are live and let live, they generally only take up arms to defend themselves, but otherwise dont bother others. They never impose their faith on others, are fairly secular, and treat their women well.
5. They are courageous, any weapons we give them wont be left behind for ISIS or Iran.
6. They actually like Americans, like local christians, even like local pagans like the Yesidis, and even get on well with Israelis.
7. In fact the Kurds are the very moderate Muslims wesay we are constantly looking for, but rarely find. The rest of them can go to hades, but the Kurds deserve whatever help we can give them.
10 weeks ago
10 weeks ago Link To Comment
I'll be a bigger fan of the Kurds when they stop forcibly mutilating their young girls.
10 weeks ago
10 weeks ago Link To Comment
Ooooh, oooh, let's support Stalin, he's just a teensy bit better than Hitler, only he wasn't, and we got rewarded with 45 years of terror.

We can never truly know what would have happened if we'd taken a different road when we hit that fork. Still, it's interesting to speculate. Let's say we stepped aside and let Hitler defeat Stalin without giving Stalin any support at all. Our help was significant and, in the early days at least, the Soviets were only hanging on by a thread. Hitler was taking half a million Soviet soldiers at a time in enormous encirclements. If we'd let that go on, the Soviets might well have been destroyed by late 1941 or early 1942. Then what? You guessed it: America and the British Empire alone would have had to take on Germany, a Germany that had NOT had nearly the losses that the Red Army inflicted on the German Army in the period from 1941 through, say, 1944. How well would we have done against a Germany that would have basically faced no other opposition and could devote its full resources against us?

We'll never know but I doubt it would have been a cakewalk. We had a tough enough fight with Hitler engaged in a multi-front war.

By the same token, whether we choose to arm the Kurds or leave them to ISIS' not-so-tender mercies, we won't know whether the move we DON'T make would have worked out much better than the move we DO make.
10 weeks ago
10 weeks ago Link To Comment
Below is an example of a daily summary you can subscribe to over email from LongWarJournal.org

The Long War Journal (Site-Wide)

________________________________

AQAP claims killing of 50 Yemeni soldiers in Seyoun attack

Posted: 11 Aug 2014 12:21 PM PDT

A Twitter account affiliated with al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula announced yesterday that AQAP fighters had killed more than 50 Yemeni soldiers during the group's Aug. 7 attack on the Yemeni Army's 1st Military District headquarters in the city of Seyoun in Hadramout province. The district, whose jurisdiction covers the Wadi Hadramout area, has seen violent clashes between the Yemeni military and AQAP in recent weeks.

The AQAP Twitter account reported that the attack on the district's headquarters began when a suicide bomber named Abu Ahmad al-Lahji entered the base and detonated his suicide vest as soldiers began to crowd around him. Following the explosion, the seven remaining AQAP attackers stormed the base and engaged in clashes with Yemeni troops.

According to the tweet , the AQAP attackers managed to detain a group of Yemeni soldiers at the base and then summarily executed them. The AQAP tweet noted that communication between the attackers and AQAP's leadership was ongoing throughout the operation and that the AQAP fighters killed "more than fifty soldiers."

Arabic news sources claimed that other AQAP-affiliated Twitter accounts announced that the seven AQAP attackers were killed during the course of the assault. Those reports identified them as: Abu Dhar al-Lahji, Abu Khitab al-Sana'ani, Abu Anas al-Sharuri, Abu Dajjana al-Sharuri, Abu Awwad al-Azzani, Abu Ahmad al-Lahji, Abu al-Raheem al-Adani, and Khitab al-Hadhrami. Based on their names, it would appear that four of the attackers were Yemenis, and two were Saudis (from the southern Saudi province of Sharura).

The Aug. 7 attack came on the second day of heavy fighting between the Yemeni military and AQAP militants in the area. On Aug. 6, nine AQAP fighters were killed in Hadramout as they tried to ambush soldiers heading to eastern Yemen. On Aug. 7, in coordination with the attack in Seyoun, a small group of AQAP fighters briefly took over government buildings in the nearby town of Qatn.

The Yemeni Defense Ministry had responded to initial reports of the Aug. 7 attack on the Seyoun military headquarters by commenting that army personnel successfully defended the base and killed the terrorists who had attempted to take control over the regional headquarters. The ministry also confirmed that Yemeni soldiers had killed 25 AQAP fighters in the two days of fighting in Wadi Hadramout, including the seven attackers from the Aug. 7 incident. According to Xinhua , the Yemeni military later arrested four AQAP members suspected of involvement in the attack.

In an apparent response to Yemeni military advances, AQAP kidnapped and executed 14 Yemeni soldiers on Aug. 8 as they were returning home from duty in eastern Yemen. The soldiers were kidnapped from a public bus and their bodies were found riddled with bullets three hours later on a road near Seyoun.

The ancestral home of Osama bin Laden, Hadramout province has become an AQAP bastion over the past several years. AQAP has regrouped in Hadramout and other provinces after losing control of major cities in Abyan and Shabwa to government forces starting in late spring 2012. In May 2013, the Yemeni government claimed it foiled a plot by AQAP to establish an Islamic emirate in the Ghayl Bawazir area . Last month, AQAP distributed leaflets in Seyoun that said the jihadist group is establishing an emirate in Hadramout and will impose sharia, or Islamic law.

Developing events in Yemen are notoriously difficult to report, as both local authorities and AQAP are thought to exaggerate their achievements at times. In a 2012 letter of advice to al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb , Nasir al-Wuhayshi, the leader of AQAP, emphasizes that the media is the terror group's "most important weapon" and counsels to use it wisely. The Yemeni government, for its part, is believed to overstate its achievements in fighting AQAP, and some claim that Yemeni authorities intentionally inflate assessments of the terrorist threat in the country in order to secure US support.


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