Tonight the United States and five Arab partner countries launched the first round of airstrikes on Islamic State targets in Syria. Those five Arab partners include Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and other countries. Jordan and Bahrain have also joined the assault. They are all majority Sunni countries. ISIS is a salafist movement, which is considered an offshoot of Sunni Islam.
Earlier today, a handful of US airstrikes against ISIS targets in Iraq took out a few trucks.
Tonight’s strikes are the first conducted inside Syrian territory.
The airstrikes include US Air Force planes as well as cruise missiles from US Navy ships. It also includes aircraft from the Arab partner countries.
The strikes target about 20 ISIS command and control sites inside Syria, based on intelligence reportedly gathered over the past few weeks.
Update: The Obama administration is already telling reporters that after the initial heavy assault, the effort will be scaled back.
Great that we’ve got TV reporters being briefed that bombing will be scaled down after tonight. Think Isis might hear that too?
— Toby Harnden (@tobyharnden) September 23, 2014
Former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta tossed President Obama under the bus Sunday night on the Islamic State.
On the season premiere of 60 Minutes, Panetta lamented the current state of Iraq. He said that Obama should have left U.S. troops there longer, to create more leverage over now former Iraqi Prime Minister Maliki.
Panetta even said that he, then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, pretty much the entire Obama national security team wanted to arm Syria’s rebels. But President Obama disagreed, and would not allow it to happen.
“The real key was how can we develop a leadership group among the opposition that would be able to take control? And my view was to have leverage to do that, we would have to provide the weapons and the training in order for them to really be willing to work with us in that effort,” the former Obama administration official added.
Pelley observed that Obama’s national security team was “virtually unanimous” on the need to arm Syrian rebels – advice the president ignored. Panetta kindly conceded that Obama was concerned over where those weapons provided to Syrian rebels might end up, but the former CIA director summed his own position as, “You have to begin somewhere.”
“I think that would’ve helped,” Panetta said of the aborted plan to arm moderate opposition in Syria. “And I think in part, we pay the price for not doing that in what we see happening with ISIS.”
That’s about as close as we’ll get to seeing a serious Democrat directly blame Obama for the rise of ISIS.
But there’s a problem with Panetta’s version of history. Hillary Clinton pre-emptively disagreed with it. Take at look at this clip from February 2012 — and 60 Minutes.
Wyatt Andrews interviewed then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton specifically on the subject of arming the Syrian rebels. Clinton was nonplussed about the whole idea.
“Well, first of all, we really don’t know who it is that would be armed,” Clinton said. “We have met some of the people from the Syrian National Council. They’re not inside Syria. This is not Libya where you had a base of operations in Benghazi, where you had people who were representing the entire opposition to Libya, who were on the road meeting with me, rather, constantly meeting with others. You could get your arms around what it is you were being asked to do, and with whom. We don’t have any clarity on that.”
Andrews interjected, “Madame Secretary, what’s the fear of arming the rebels?”
Clinton replied: “Well, first of all as I just said, what are we going to arm them with and against what? We’re not going to bring tanks over the borders of Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan. That’s not going to happen. So maybe at best you can smuggle in, you know, automatic weapons. Maybe some other weapons that you could get in. To whom? Where do you go? You can’t get into Homs. Where do you go? And to whom are you delivering them?”
Clinton was far from finished outlining the problems with arming the Syrian rebels: “We know al Qaeda – Zawahiri is supporting the opposition in Syria. Are we supporting al Qaeda in Syria? Hamas is now supporting the opposition. Are we supporting Hamas in Syria? So I think, Wyatt, despite the great pleas that we hear from those people who are being ruthlessly assaulted by Assad, you don’t see uprisings across Syria the way you did in Libya. You don’t see militias forming in places where the Syrian military is not, trying to get to Homs. You don’t see that, Wyatt. So if you’re a military planner or if you’re a Secretary of State and you’re trying to figure out do you have the elements of an opposition that is actually viable, that we don’t see. We see immense human suffering that is heartbreaking and a stain on the honor of those security forces who are doing it.”
That’s clear. That was February 2012. Six months later, Obama did the opposite of what Panetta claimed Sunday night, and signed an order to secretly arm the Syrian rebels. If Clinton’s opinion from February had not changed, then Obama was arming the rebels against the objections of his own secretary of State, and in direct conflict with what Panetta now says was Clinton’s opinion. She was for it, he says. But Hillary Clinton clearly argued against it.
The Jerusalem Post reports:
In a historic verdict, an 11 member jury on Monday found Arab Bank liable for knowingly providing financial services to Hamas – the first time a financial institution has ever been held civilly liable for supporting terrorism.
The Arab Bank trial took place in a federal court in Brooklyn for the last five weeks and revisited some of Hamas’ worst terror attacks, including the August 2001 Sbarro suicide bombing in Jerusalem killing or wounding 130 and a range of 24 horrid terror attacks during the Second Intifada.
The verdict was 10 years in the making, and still may be subject to Supreme Court review.
The central question was whether the 11 member jury would find that Arab Bank knew or should have known that its account holders were using it to transfer “blood money” to Hamas for terror operations – or whether it checked for suspicious transactions as best it could, and simply imperfectly missed them.
On Thursday, during closing arguments, Plaintiffs’ attorney C. Tab Turner told the jury they were in a very special situation: “a situation that no jury in the history of this country has ever been in.”
He continued, “Never has anyone sat on a case of finance terrorism, with issues like you have to decide in this case.”
“You have more power today to change the way that this world operates, the world of banking operates, than anyone else on the face of the earth,” said Turner.
Gary M. Osen, another plaintiffs’ attorney responded, saying, “The jury has found Arab Bank responsible for knowingly supporting terrorism. It found Arab Bank complicit in the deaths and grievous injuries inflicted on dozens of Americans.”
According to an unclassified U.S. State Department memorandum released after the jury began deliberations, “In 2003, the United States provided evidence to Saudi authorities that the Saudi al Quds Intifadah Committee (“Committee”) founded in October 2000, was forwarding millions of dollars in funds to the families of Palestinians engaged in terrorist activities, including those of suicide bombers.”
“The timing of the State Department’s disclosure raises deeply troubling questions,” said Plaintiffs’ trial counsel Michael Elsner, who requested the records. “Obviously, the jury reached the same conclusion about the Saudi payments in finding Arab Bank guilty for its support of Hamas, but this last minute disclosure of this evidence six years after we requested it and hours after the jury began its deliberations is telling.”
“We don’t expect the State Department to take sides in a civil case, but by withholding critical evidence until the jury began its deliberations, the State Department continues its unfortunate pattern of siding with foreign interests against American victims of terrorism,” said Elsner.
During today’s White House press briefing, a reporter asked spokesman Josh Earnest whether he could comment on the number of Americans who have gone to fight alongside the Islamist State, and have since returned to the US. The obvious concern about them is that they can use their American passports to travel freely back and forth, and stage attacks on behalf of ISIS here at home.
Thus far, the Obama administration has taken no actions against Americans who choose to fight for ISIS. Over the weekend, Canada announced that it was revoking the passports of any of its citizens who fight for ISIS.
Earnest was very careful not give numbers or admit that any American ISIS fighters are now under surveillance. But he also did not state that no American ISIS fighters have returned.
The reporter specifically asks Earnest, “Earlier today, administration officials said that at least some of these foreign fighters in Syria and Iraq have come back to the United States. I was wondering, how many of those are the administration tracking? And are they under active surveillance by the FBI? I was wondering if you could comment on that.”
Earnest could not comment on most of it, because the numbers have not been disclosed and because he said that he cannot comment on active surveillance or investigations. He did say that “As it relates to the number, I’m not in a position to confirm numbers like that,” citing the “relatively sensitive intelligence information” that is at stake.
The threat of returning ISIS fighters took on a new dimension this weekend, when two different individuals managed to get past White House security and inside its fence. One of them even got into the White House itself.
Neither are thought to have any connection to ISIS or terrorism in any way. But like the open border and its accessibility to children, if two random people can get past security and into the White House grounds, so can individuals who mean to cause harm.
Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair said he thinks the fight against ISIS will eventually evolve from an air campaign to fighting on the ground.
President Obama has repeatedly stressed that there will be no U.S. boots on the ground, but Blair said commanders will need to assess that as the battle heats up.
“We have got absolutely no choice but to do this, and not just in order to contain and then destroy the onward march of ISIS, but also to send a very strong signal to the other terrorist groups operating in the region and beyond the region that we intend to take action and intend to see it through,” Blair told CNN on Sunday.
“You certainly need to fight groups like ISIS on the ground. It is possible that those people who are there locally and who have the most immediate interest in fighting ISIS can carry on the ground offensive against them,” he continued.
“But, look, this will evolve over time, I’m sure, and I’m sure that the leadership both in the U.S. and elsewhere will make sure that whatever is necessary to defeat ISIS is done. I think, by the way, no one’s talking — there’s no need to put in a kind of army of occupation. I mean, you’re not rerunning Iraq or Afghanistan.”
But, Blair stressed, “there will undoubtedly be, over time, a need to hit ISIS not simply through an aerial campaign, but also on the ground.”
“And the question will be, can those people, if they’re supported locally, can they do the job or will we have to supplement that?” he asked.
The former prime minister called the beheadings of British and American citizens “horrific, it’s evil, and it’s totally contrary to the principles of any form of religious faith.”
“How many British-born jihadists are going from Britain to fight in Syria, the estimates are several hundred have gone there. This is not, unfortunately, though, a problem just for Britain. Most European countries also have foreign fighters there,” Blair said.
“…I mean, these people aren’t going because they’re mistreated back in the U.K. They’re given the benefit of a free education, free health care. They’re given all the benefits of the freedom that comes living in a country like Britain.”
Blair said the Brits who have signed up with ISIS “have been subject to an ideology that’s come in from abroad that, unfortunately, is not just limited to Britain, but is right round the world today.”
“It’s an ideology based on a complete perversion of the proper faith of Islam, but it is powerful. It is proselytized and preached by people in mosques, in madrasas, not just in countries like Pakistan and parts of the Middle East and parts of Africa, but even back in parts of Britain,” he continued. “And one of the things that we have got to look at as a country is, how do you root this kind of teaching out and make it absolutely clear that it is completely unacceptable to teach these forms of extremism, whether in a formal school setting or an informal school setting?”
Former President Bill Clinton said he agreed with his wife in an administration squabble three years ago over arming Syrian rebels at the start of the uprising against Bashar al-Assad.
Then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton argued for arming the unified opposition then, before the Free Syrian Army took a beating and terrorist groups set up shop in the war-torn country.
“I would have taken the chance. I also agree with her when she said we can’t know whether it would have worked or not, and that’s when you have to be careful when you make these commitments because you can’t know,” Clinton told CNN. “But since ISIS has plenty of money, it’s one of the great bank robbers in human history among other things, they were going to get their weapons one way or the other so I would have risked it.”
“And besides, when we were talking about doing it, there was no ISIS,” the former commander in chief added. “However, it was an argument she lost within the administration and she admitted then and acknowledged in her book that she can’t know that if her recommendation had been followed it would have worked. That’s one of those things you can’t know. That’s why all these decisions are hard.”
Clinton called the overall Syria question the “much harder” piece of the puzzle.
“I support giving the forces that we most closely identify with greater capacity to fight ISIS. The whole question about the Syrian government is really academic. Between the Iranians and the Russians and others, they will give them enough money and military capacity to do what they have to do,” he said, referring to Assad’s main avenues of support.
“I think that the worst enemy right now is ISIS, and I don’t think we should be in a position of directly coordinating with or cooperating with Assad, but I think we all recognize what would happen if ISIS had like a monster-like state that included most of Syria and Iraq, and — but I don’t — I think, therefore, that when the president said we’d cooperate with a moderate Syrian forces, they’re the only people we have to try to empower there to do their part in this struggle.”
On the subject of ISIS using beheadings to provoke an American response, Clinton noted “there’s a difference in, for example, using targeted drones and airstrikes as we did against al-Qaeda effectively for years to try to take down their leadership and infrastructure and let them know they can’t just decapitate people for the cheap thrill of the global media response and horrify people and get away with it and getting bogged down in the kind of war they would like us to get bogged down in that would cost us a lot of lives and a lot of treasure and inevitably lead to greater civilian casualties, which is why I think the president’s strategy has a chance of succeeding because the Iraqi government is now more inclusive than it has been since the fall of Saddam Hussein.”
“And that seems to be awakening, if you will, the willingness of the Sunni tribal leaders to participate in fighting,” he said. “We know the Kurds and the Peshmerga are willing to fight. If we can help them and support them, I think the larger fight against ISIS can continue as it should as a local struggle for the freedom and liberty of the people.”
Forces of the Islamic State in Syria have mounted a huge offensive with columns of heavy armor sweeping through the Kurdish region of northern Syria near the Turkish border.
Their goal is apparently capturing the strategic border town of Ayn al-Arab, and more than 60 towns and villages in the region have fallen to ISIS forces in the past few days.
This has unleashed a nearly unprecedented wave of refugees streaming into Turkey. More than 60,00 women, children, and old people crossed the border into Turkey in the 24-hour period from Friday to Saturday, overwhelming aid resources.
Kurdish forces in the region are falling back while others are making their way to the front from Turkey to join their comrades.
Since Thursday, Islamic State rebels, backed by tanks and other heavy armor, have seized control of more than 60 villages near the regional capital of Ayn al-Arab, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a monitoring group. The extremist insurgents, also known as ISIS or ISIL have also forced the evacuation of about 100 other villages, Kurdish field commanders and Turkish officials said.
Turkish television on Sunday continued to broadcast footage of thousands of Kurds, many on foot, crossing the border into Turkey to escape Islamic State. The U.N. refugee agency said most of the refugees were Kurdish women, children and the elderly. Hundreds of Kurdish fighters and volunteers were traveling in the other direction to Syria to shore up their brethren’s defenses, Turkish media reported.
Kurdish militia in Syria, under the banner of the Syrian Kurdish People’s Defense Units, or YPG, said dozens of Kurds had been killed in fighting to defend Ayn al-Arab, called Kobani in Kurdish. They said the jihadists had advanced to within 9 kilometers of Kobani and appealed for international intervention to help their outgunned forces.
The call was joined by one from the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, a rebel group closely affiliated with the YPG, for the youth of Turkey’s mostly Kurdish southeast to rise up and rush to save Kobani. The PKK, listed as a terror organization by Washington and Turkey, has spent three decades fighting for autonomy for Turkey’s Kurds.
“Supporting this heroic resistance is not just a debt of honor of the Kurds but all Middle East people. Just giving support is not enough, the criterion must be taking part in the resistance,” the PKK said on its website. “ISIL fascism must drown in the blood it spills…The youth of north Kurdistan (southeast Turkey) must flow in waves to Kobani.”
Islamic State’s progress toward the Turkish border again showed the group’s military strength. It seized Kurdish territory in Syria even as French warplanes launched their first attacks Friday against the group’s positions hundreds of miles away in northeastern Iraq.
The move on Ayn al-Arab follows the seizure by Islamic State insurgents this past week of a strategic bridge over the Euphrates River. The capture enabled the rebels to march on the city from the west and rain down artillery shells on the city’s streets, said Khaled Issa, a representative of the Syrian Kurdish administration in Paris.
The timing is almost too coincidental, as I’ll explore after the page break.
It’s fair to say that Rep. Emanuel Cleaver is a critic of President Obama’s plan to arm Syrian rebels to fight ISIS. He voted against the plan, and then he appeared on MSNBC to trash the plan.
Cleaver called the congressional vote authorizing arming the rebels a vote “to arm semi-bad buys to kill some barbarically-bad buys to teach all the world that bad guys should not kill.” Cleaver pointed out that we don’t even know who many of the rebels are or why they’re fighting.
Having said that, Cleaver says he has no plans to spend the next month “bashing” Obama because the president “had no good options.”
Plus, the president is a Democrat and there is an election on.
Cleaver didn’t say that last part. It was implied.
This indulgence so overwhelms our ruling class’s perception of reality that the recipes put forth by its several wings, little different from one another, are identical in the one essential respect: none of them involve any plans which, if carried out, would destroy the Islamic State, kill large numbers of the cut-throats, and discourage others from following in their footsteps. Hence, like the George W. Bush’s “war on terror” and for the same reasons, this exercise of our ruling class’s wisdom in foreign affairs will decrease respect for us while invigorating our enemies.
The WSJ’s recommendations, like the Obama administration’s projected activities, are all about discrete measures—some air strikes, some arming of local forces, etc. But they abstract from the fundamental reality of any and all activities: He who wills any end must will the means to achieve it. As in Bush’s war, as is the custom in Washington nowadays, our ruling class’s several sectors decide what actions they feel comfortable undertaking about any given problem, while avoiding reasonable judgment about whether these actions will actually fix the problem. This is the very definition of irresponsibility. But they call it “strategy.”
This is a pretty spot-on analysis of what ails us when it comes to foreign policy. As long as wars are fought to preserve the borders of politicians’ comfort zones thousands of miles away rather than focused on the destruction of an enemy, the enemy has an advantage. Modern American leaders rightfully praise the World War II military members as “The Greatest Generation”. Perhaps they should dust off a history book and familiarize themselves with the decision making and methods used to win that war.
As for the lack of debate, I lay that at the feet of the Democrats, specifically the Clintons. Any person with an ability to perceive reality knows that Hillary’s bemoaning of “the politics of personal destruction” back in the day was pure projection. American politics had always been rough and tumble, but the Clintons took the demonizing and destruction of political enemies to another level. Now Democrat politicians have no compunction whatsoever about labeling (libeling?) Republican foes as Nazis, terrorists or grandma-killers. Who wants to debate with these little Alinskys?
The Republicans don’t get a free pass on this, however. More of them need to be bold in condemning the ridiculous accusations coming out of the mouths of their Democrat counterparts.
Good luck with that.
The 22 senators who voted against arming Syrian rebels in the continuing resolution came from each party and had different reasons for their objections.
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who may be contemplating a run for the White House, told MSNBC he voted “no” because “I do not want to see this become a war between east and west, a war between Christianity and Islam, a war between the United States and ISIS.”
“The bottom line is, we will not be successful until the countries of the Middle East themselves become engaged and are prepared to take on this terrible organization called ISIS,” the senator argued.
Sanders brought up the wealth of those nations as one reason why they should pick up the fight.
“Saudi Arabia has the fourth largest military budget in the world. They spend more than the United Kingdom and France. If we talk about ISIS being a threat, they are most definitively a threat to the countries around Saudi Arabia and around Egypt. Those are the guys who are really threatened. Where are they? Where is Kuwait? Where are — where is Turkey?” he said.
“So, I do not want to see this be a war between the United States and ISIS. These guys have got to the commit both militarily and financially. Last point on this issue. It turns out, of course, that the Saudi family is worth hundreds of billions of dollars, one of the wealthiest families in the world,” Sanders continued. “You tell me why taxpayers in the state of Vermont who cannot afford to send their kids to college are in a sense subsidizing the efforts of one of the wealthiest families on earth. Does not make a lot of sense to me.”
Sanders said he supports President Obama in the overall strategy to conduct airstrikes against ISIS and forge an international coalition, “but we are not yet there.”
“I hear many of my colleagues, especially the Republicans, criticize the president because ‘he did not have a strategy for ISIS,’” the senator said. “Well, I remember a President and a vice President Bush and Cheney, they had a strategy. They were forceful. They were bold. They took action. And, they committed the worst foreign policy blunder in the modern history of the United States. The result of which we are trying to deal with today.”
“Let me tell you what the nightmare is. The nightmare is that a U.S. fighter plane gets shot down or some American soldiers are taken captive. The war hysteria rises in this country. Our troops get sent into battle. You are already seeing Republicans are talking about boots on the ground.”
President Obama has wanted to arm Syria’s rebel groups all along. Now, thanks to the ISIS threat, he has his wish.
Do we even know who many of the Syrian rebels are, and what their long-term goals are? Not really. But Congress has voted to arm them anyway.
WASHINGTON — Legislation requested by President Barack Obama authorizing the military to arm and train moderate Syrian rebels fighting Islamic State militants in the Middle East is headed for his signature after a sweeping Senate vote.
The bipartisan 78-22 tally Thursday blended support from Obama’s close Democratic allies and some of his fiercest GOP critics, including top Senate Republican Mitch McConnell of Kentucky. It put leading contenders for the 2016 GOP presidential nomination on opposite sides. Some of Obama’s liberal allies defected.
Best-case, it will take five or six months to get them trained. During those five or six months, our border will remain as open as it is right now.
Best-case, the Syrian rebels help drive ISIS out of Syria. But given how many of them are allied with ISIS, as Patrick Poole has reported here, the best case isn’t the way to bet.
The Free Syrian Army has been working with ISIS.
The Syrian Revolutionaries Front has been working with ISIS.
Just one more reminder — Sen. John McCain quickly hired Syrian rebel apologist Elizabeth O’Bagy after she was busted for faking her credentials. McCain has been the leading GOP voice for arming the Syrian rebels. The Syrian Emergency Task Force that O’Bagy worked with up to a year ago had ties to the Muslim Brotherhood and its offshoots.
Both John Kerry and John McCain failed to vet her and the SETF before using them as experts. What are the odds that the two Johns’ vetting of rebel groups in Syria is any better?
So, best-case scenario, the Syrian rebels defeat ISIS. Then what? These rebels will now be armies in the field equipped and trained by the US military, and they will be armed with US weapons. They won’t be a state security force like the useless Iraqi military. They won’t be a cohesive pro-American force like the Kurds.
I hope Congress included a very generous buy-back program in its legislation authorizing arming them.
Those weapons will stay in the field after ISIS is beaten, even in the best case scenario. And then what?
A former Auschwitz employee who has been charged in Germany with 300,000 counts of accessory to murder previously spoke out publicly against Holocaust denial, the Guardian newspaper reports.
Oskar Groening, 93, was charged in a Hanover court earlier this week. Once called “the accountant of Auschwitz,” he was responsible for counting the money taken from the luggage of murdered Jews from 1942 to 1944 and sending it back to SS headquarters in Berlin. He also stood guard as the transports entered the camp.
Groening has never denied being in Auschwitz. Appearing in the BBC documentary “Auschwitz: The Nazis and the ‘Final Solution” in 2005, he said that pervasive Holocaust denial had led to him to speak out.
“I see it as my task now, at my age, to face up to these things that I experienced, and to oppose the Holocaust deniers who claim that Auschwitz never happened,” he said. “I saw the crematoria, I saw the burning pits.”
That we have now reached a point in history where many equate what the descendants of the victims of the Holocaust are doing to defend themselves with what happened in that horrible time doesn’t speak terribly well of us as a species.
Everything’s free and everyone has gumdrop smiles in the Islamic State, touts a British Muslim activist known for praising 9/11 and the 7/7 tube bombings:
Ten facts about the “Islamic State” that everyone should know. Who would honestly not want to live in such a society? pic.twitter.com/rkt3pdCHfJ
— Anjem Choudary (@anjemchoudary) September 10, 2014
Which begged the obvious response:
There seem to be offer terms, conditions and restrictions (besides being willing to die in jihad), as well:
— Bridget Johnson (@Bridget_PJM) September 17, 2014
I still blame it on radical Islam.
In the question of what the group that calls itself the Islamic State should be called, France has decided to officially use “Daesh” — an insulting Arabic acronym used by Kurds and others in the region.
Secretary of State John Kerry has his own moniker for the terrorists that the administration formally refers to as ISIL (Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant).
“What would you call — I call them ISIS: Islamic State of Iraq and Syria,” Rep. Ted Poe (R-Texas) asked Kerry today at a House Foreign Affairs Committee meeting on the administration’s strategy.
“What would you tell the American people? OK, we are doing this support. We are at war. We are a counter-terrorism operation. Whatever you want to call it,” Poe said, referring to Kerry’s insistence on “war” terminology not being important. “Who is the enemy? Define the enemy for me. What would you call them?”
“Well, I call them the enemy of Islam, because that’s what I think they are, and they certainly don’t represent a state, even though they try to claim to,” Kerry replied.
“So, officially, we should refer to them as the enemy of Islam?” Poe asked.
“Well, I do,” said Kerry. “I don’t know if there’s an official whatever. But I hope you join me in doing that, because that’s what I think they are, and [they] don’t they deserve to have a reference in their name that gives them legitimacy.”
“Are they the enemy of the United States?” Poe continued.
“They are an enemy of humanity,” Kerry responded. “…Definitively, it is in the national security interest of our country, with Americans over there with passports learning how to fight and taking part in this.”
Rep. Steve Chabot (R-Ohio) said he thought “many” people were “shocked” when Obama “emphasized that the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant was in fact not Islamic.”
“They now simply refer to themselves as the Islamic State. You know, they don’t call themselves the Methodist State or the Episcopalian State or the Baptist State. They’re the Islamic State, and I think for good reason,” Chabot said.
“You know, when Christians, for example, are told to convert to Islam or die, that would seem to fly in the face of the president’s insistence that the Islamic State is not the Islamic State. And an indication that he may not fully accept that radical Islam is indeed something that does exist and in fact is growing.”
Kerry said the U.S. “shouldn’t compound the sin by allowing them to get away with” calling themselves the Islamic State.
“Now religious leaders, Islamic leaders are reclaiming legitimate Islam. And they’re separating it, too. So I wouldn’t compound the crime by calling them a state whatsoever. They’re the enemy of Islam. That’s what they are,” Kerry said. “And as the 21 clerics yesterday said in Saudi Arabia, they are in fact the Order of Satan. And there’s nothing in Islam that condones or suggests people should go out and rape women and sell off young girls or give them as gifts to jihadists, and you know, cut people’s heads off and tie people’s hands behind their backs, and put them on their knees and shoot them in the head.”
“These are war crimes. And they’re crimes against humanity. And we need to make clear that that is exactly what is the reality here.”
“It’s clear to me that their motivation is their religious fervor, this fanaticism, however misguided it is,” Chabot interjected. “I mean, that’s their motivation here.”
“Well, I don’t know. They use that,” Kerry replied. “I don’t know if that is in truth — it’s part of it. The caliphate is certainly on the minds of many. But I think a lot of them are thugs and criminals and people who simply want to go out and maraud and take part in the success of — vanquish and be opposed to modernity and a whole bunch of other things.”
While many have rightfully criticized U.S. President Obama’s recent assertion that the Islamic State “is not Islamic,” some of his other equally curious but more subtle comments pronounced in the same speech have been largely ignored.
Consider the president’s invocation of the “grievances” meme to explain the Islamic State’s success: “At this moment the greatest threats come from the Middle East and North Africa, where radical groups exploit grievances for their own gain. And one of those groups is ISIL — which calls itself the Islamic State.”
Obama’s logic, of course, is fortified by an entire apparatus of professional apologists who make the same claim. Thus Georgetown professor John Esposito — whose apologetics sometimes morph into boldfaced lies — also recently declared that “The “primary drivers [for the Islamic State’s violence] are to be found elsewhere,” that is, not in Islam but in a “long list of grievances.”
In other words and once again, it’s apparently somehow “our fault” that Islamic State Muslims are behaving savagely— crucifying, beheading, enslaving, and massacring people only on the basis that they are “infidels”: thus when IS herds and slaughters “infidel” and/or Shia men (citing the example of the prophet)—that’s because they’re angry at something America did; when IS captures “infidel” Yazidi and Christian women and children, and sells them on the sex-slave market (citing Islamic teachings) — that’s because they’re angry at something America did; when IS bombs churches, breaks their crosses, and tells Christians to convert or die (citing Islamic scriptures) — that’s because they’re angry at something America did.
Although the “grievance” meme has always flown in the face of logic, it became especially popular after the 9/11 al-Qaeda strikes on America. The mainstream media, following the Islamist propaganda network Al Jazeera’s lead, uncritically picked up and disseminated Osama bin Laden’s videotapes to the West where he claimed that al-Qaeda’s terror campaign was motivated by grievances against the West — grievances that ranged from U.S. support for Israel to U.S. failure to sign the Kyoto Agreement concerning climate change.
Of course, that was all rubbish, and I have written more times than I care to remember about how in their internal Arabic-language communiques to fellow Muslims that never get translated to English, al-Qaeda and virtually every Islamist organization make it a point to insist that jihad is an Islamic obligation that has nothing to do with grievances.
Consider Osama’s own words in an internal letter to fellow Saudis:
Our talks with the infidel West and our conflict with them ultimately revolve around one issue — one that demands our total support, with power and determination, with one voice — and it is: Does Islam, or does it not, force people by the power of the sword to submit to its authority corporeally if not spiritually?
Yes. There are only three choices in Islam:  either willing submission [conversion];  or payment of the jizya, through physical, though not spiritual, submission to the authority of Islam;  or the sword — for it is not right to let him [an infidel] live. The matter is summed up for every person alive: Either submit, or live under the suzerainty of Islam, or die. (The Al Qaeda Reader, p. 42)
Conversion, submission, or the sword is, of course, the mission of the Islamic State — not alleviating “grievances.”
Worst of all, unlike al-Qaeda, the Islamic State, from day one of its existence, has made it very clear — in Osama’s words, “with power and determination, with one voice” — that its massacres, enslavements, crucifixions, and beheadings of “infidels” are all based on Islamic law or Sharia — not silly “grievances” against the West… Keep reading
Secretary of State John Kerry acknowledged at Wednesday’s hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that the Islamic State is “pumping oil and selling it to the tune of a million dollars a day to fund its brutal tactics.”
But he was evasive when Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) asked Kerry who was buying the oil. “Who are they selling it to? Which countries are transiting…”
“We have raised with a number of countries in the region the question of how they could possibly be getting oil out of the country. It’s being smuggled out. And what — that’s part of the approach here is to deal… ” Kerry replied before Durbin interjected, “Through which countries do you believe it’s being smuggled out?”
“Well, it’s being smuggled out from the border countries of Syria, obviously, which means either through Turkey or through Lebanon or south…”
“Now, are they joining us in the effort to stop this smuggling?” Durbin asked.
“They are, but, obviously, Turkey has difficulties right now, has 49 hostages that are being held, and they’ve talked about that publicly,” Kerry responded. “And Turkey is — you know, we’ve had some conversations with them, and those conversations will continue.”
In January, the Telegraph reported that Bashar Assad was buying ISIS’ oil and funding the terrorist group. Al-Qaeda affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra already admitted last year that Assad was buying their oil from Deir Ezzor province.
And an opposition lawmaker in Turkey said his government is buying ISIS’ oil
Ali Ediboglu, a Republican People’s Party member of parliament representing a border region, told Taraf, “$800 million worth of oil that ISIS obtained from regions it occupied this year [the Rumeilan oil fields in northern Syria — and most recently Mosul] is being sold in Turkey.
“They have laid pipes from villages near the Turkish border at Hatay. Similar pipes exist also at [the Turkish border regions of] Kilis, Urfa and Gaziantep,” Ediboglu said. “They transfer the oil to Turkey and parlay it into cash. They take the oil from the refineries at zero cost. Using primitive means, they refine the oil in areas close to the Turkish border and then sell it via Turkey. This is worth $800 million.”
President Obama has had a close working relationship with Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the former priem minister who recently became president.
Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Calif.) asked Kerry at today’s House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing if we could bomb the oil fields or refineries to help deprive ISIS of its $1 million-per-day revenue.
“Um, I haven’t heard any objections,” Kerry responded before Chairman Ed Royce (R-Calif.) said he’d run out of time and could submit a more detailed answer to the committee in writing.
Kerry did hint, though, at the Assad-ISIS alliance: “We have evidence that Assad has played footsie with them.”
During Wednesday’s House Select Committee on Benghazi testimony, one witness dropped a major revelation.
The bombshell came during discussion of just what the facility in Benghazi, Libya actually was. Was it a consulate? Was it something else? Its actual status has never been clear.
Former Homeland Security official Todd Keil told the panel that the the State Department classified it as a “Special Mission Compound.”
Under questioning from Rep. Peter Roskam (R-IL), Keil revealed something startling about “Special Mission Compounds.”
Namely, that according to the State Department and government security nomenclature, there is no such thing as a “Special Mission Compound.”
Rep. Roskam asked Keil, “What’s a Special Mission Compound?”
Keep in mind, Mr. Keil has a career spanning 27 years in global security, and 22 years serving in various positions in State Department diplomatic security.
Keil replied to Rep. Roskam, “I don’t know. To be honest, from our review, Under Secretary Kennedy, in authorizing that, made up that term in order to avoid the OSPB security standards.”
Under Secretary Patrick Kennedy is a career State Department official. The Bureau of Diplomatic Security answers to him. The OSPB is the Overseas Security Policy Board. It is charged with helping the State Department comply with a 1986 law.
Kennedy was among the high-level State Department officials who signed off on creating the facility in Benghazi, and who repeatedly denied requests for more security there. In 2013, Regional Security Officer Eric Nordstrom testified before the House that the Benghazi facility never met the department’s security standards. Keil’s revelation explains that: Under Secretary Patrick Kennedy made up a new term to avoid having to meet security standards. The question is, why?
Kennedy answered directly to then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. He also supervised the selection of the staff for the Accountability Review Board, which Clinton convened in the aftermath of the September 11, 2012 attack. The ARB never interviewed Clinton, and kept its focus below Kennedy’s level.
Another State Department official, former Deputy Assistant Secretary Raymond Maxwell, has alleged that prior to the ARB’s investigation, Hillary Clinton loyalist Cheryl Mills led a basement team in scrubbing documents to remove anything that could implicate or embarrass Clinton and other high-level officials.
Four Americans, including US Ambassador to Libya Christopher Stevens, died in the terrorist attack on the facility in Benghazi on September 11, 2012.
ISIS released this morning what it said would be the first in a video “series” featuring another British hostage — not being executed, but delivering a case against the “Western media” portrayal of the Islamic State and the U.S.-British refusal to pay ransom.
Titled Lend Me Your Ears, the first video reveals veteran photojournalist John Cantlie, who has worked for the The Sunday Times, The Sun the Telegraph and more. He was first captured in Syria in July 2012, was shot trying to escape (“every Englishman’s duty,” he later wrote), and was rescued within a week by the Free Syrian Army.
Cantlie extensively talked about his experience after that, detailing between 10 to 15 British captors among the al-Qaeda-linked cell and threats that he would be beheaded, including “mock executions” where captors would torture prisoners and sharpen their knives.
In today’s video, Cantlie sits at a desk in an orange jumpsuit, and says he was abducted in November 2012.
Previous videos of ISIS have include hostages delivering statements criticizing their countries before they were beheaded, but have given indications that the statements were coerced. For example, Miami journalist Steve Sotloff spoke of “what little I know about foreign policy” in his video — but he wrote for Foreign Policy magazine, among others, and deeply covered the Arab Spring countries.
ISIS appears to have heard the skepticism and makes Cantlie address it directly.
Cantlie notes in the video that “many things have changed” since his kidnapping, including the “expansion of the Islamic State… a land mass bigger than Britain and many other nations.”
“Now, I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking, he’s only doing this because he’s a prisoner. He’s got a gun at his head, and he’s being forced to do this, right?” Cantlie says, making a gun-firing gesture toward his head with his fingers.
“Well, it’s true. I am a prisoner. That I cannot deny. But seeing as how I’ve been abandoned by my government and my fate now lies in the hands of the Islamic State I have nothing to lose. Maybe I will live, and maybe I will die.”
He says that “over the next few programs” he will lay out facts that can “save lives.”
He then makes a pitch against “another conflict” in Iraq and says he’ll show how the news organizations he used to work for “twist and manipulate the truth.”
Cantlie also said he’d detail what really happened when “many European prisoners” were released by ISIS “and how they British and American governments thought they could do it differently than every other European country” — a clear reference to the hefty ransoms paid by other nations. “They negotiated with the Islamic State and got their people home, while the British and the Americans were left behind.”
“It’s very alarming to see where this is all headed,” Cantlie adds, “and it looks like history repeating itself yet again.”
“There is time to change this seemingly inevitable sequence of events, but only if you, the public, act now.”
The House today passed an amendment to train and equip Syrian rebels, with more Democrats than Republicans opposing President Obama’s request.
The House vote was 273-156 after more than six hours of debate that revealed no party-line divides. Eighty-five Democrats were opposed along with 71 Republicans. (See the yeas and nays here.)
“The amendment to the continuing resolution, according to a summary by the office of sponsor and House Armed Services Chairman Buck McKeon (R-Calif.), allows the Defense Department ‘to train and equip appropriately vetted elements of the Syrian opposition and other appropriately vetted Syrian groups or individuals.’ Additionally, this amendment would strengthen Congressional oversight by requiring detailed reports, including progress reports on the plan, vetting process, and procedures for monitoring unauthorized end-use of provided training and equipment. It would also require the President to report on how this authority fits within a larger regional strategy.”
McKeon lauded the bipartisan vote after the amendment’s passage.
“This authority would allow those forces to fight ISIL terrorists. The president requested this authority and — after we shaped it to include robust oversight mechanisms — the House gave it to him. I hope the Senate quickly follows suit,” McKeon said.
“While we voted to approve the authority in large numbers, none of us believe that this program alone can achieve the president’s objective to ‘degrade and destroy’ ISI,” he added. “A more robust strategy will be required from the president to do that. I hope that, with the support of Congress and the American people, he adopts one.”
Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), past chairwoman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, voted for the amendment while stressing it still doesn’t present a comprehensive strategy against ISIS.
“I am afraid that this misguided approach will preempt many to acquiesce and take a deal that would undermine our national security and leaves Iran with enrichment capabilities,” Ros-Lehtinen said.
Rep. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.), who’s locked in a tight race to unset Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colo.), voted for the amendment as “ISIL is an imminent threat to the safety of our nation and our interests.”
“They have kidnapped and murdered Americans, threatened attacks on American soil, and are actively pursuing recruits in the United States,” Gardner said. “We must not sit back and watch while this terrorist organization continues to threaten our citizens, our government, and our way of life. Today’s action by the House of Representatives sends a clear message that we will not stand idly by while terrorists attempt to intimidate us.”
Some of the GOP “no” votes came from Tea Party conservatives such as Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-S.C.).
“The only choice I was given was to approve (or disapprove) a plan that would arm groups we know very little about,” Mulvaney said in a statement. “…The Administration has been completely incapable of defining what ‘victory’ looks like. I think ‘when will we know it will be over?’ is a reasonable question to ask. The answers have been frighteningly ambiguous to, worse, completely unreasonable.”
Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.), another “no” vote, said Obama’s “failure to convince the American people, coupled with turning a blind eye to this ongoing conflict, has once again left the United States without any good options.”
“President Obama has the right conclusion – defeating the Islamic State – but a flawed strategy filled with half-measures to reach it,” she continued. “The Islamic State declared war against the United States, and President Obama has asked the U.S. Congress to follow him in a Vietnam-style slow walked response. I will not.”
“Either the United States chooses to decisively defeat this brutal evil with all available resources, or we will have to answer the next generation’s questions regarding why we failed to defeat the totalitarian evil of our day.”
Upon returning from Vietnam, Secretary of State John Kerry testified before Congress about the war and chucked his medal at the U.S. Capitol the next day.
Today, Kerry told antiwar protesters they should be against ISIS in part because of the lack of social services they offer to women.
Kerry began his testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee backdropped by Code Pink protesters seated in the gallery rows. They held signs including “There is no military solution” and “No beheading. No bombing.”
“You know, as I came in here, obviously, we had some folks who spoke out and I would start by saying that I understand dissent. I’ve lived it. That’s how I first testified in front of this country in 1971. And I spent two years protesting a policy,” Kerry said. “So I respect the right of Code Pink to protest and to use that right. But you know what, I also know something about Code Pink.”
“Code Pink was started by a woman and women who were opposed to war, but who also thought that the government’s job was to take care of people and to give them health care and education and good jobs,” he continued.
“And if that’s what you believe in — and I believe it is — then you ought to care about fighting ISIL because ISIL is killing and raping and mutilating women. And they believe women shouldn’t have an education.”
Kerry noted that the Islamic State sells off girls “to be sex slaves to jihadists.”
“There’s no negotiation with ISIL, there’s nothing to negotiate. And they’re not offering anyone healthcare of any kind. You know, they’re not offering education of any kind,” he said. “For a whole philosophy or idea or a cult, whatever you want to call it, that frankly comes out of the Stone Age, they’re cold-blooded killers, marauding across the Middle East, making a mockery of a peaceful religion.”
“And that’s precisely why we are building a coalition to stop them from denying the women and the girls and the people of Iraq the very future that they yearned for. And frankly, Code Pink and a lot of other people need to stop and think about how you stop them and deal with that.”
At this point a protester began chanting, “The war invasion will not protect the homeland!” She was led from the room by security.
“There’s no invasion. The invasion was ISIL into Iraq,” Kerry retorted. “The invasion is foreign fighters into Syria. That’s the invasion. And it is destructive to every possibility of building a state in that region. So even in a region that is virtually defined by division and every member of this committee understands the degree to which these divisions are deep in that region.”
Today’s House Select Committee hearing on Benghazi was short of fireworks or revelations. But former Obama Homeland Security official Todd Keil was asked directly whether the State Department’s Accountability Review Board, which was hand-picked by then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, was as “fiercely independent as she and members of that board have claimed.
Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) asked Keil “What’s your overall impression of the ARB report?”
Keil replied, “Ambassador Pickering referred to the ARB as being ‘fiercely independent.’ In that same hearing, Admiral Mullen admitted to Oversight and Government Reform that he was reporting on ARB proceedings to staff of the State Department, outside of the precepts and requirements of being a member of the ARB.
“I don’t think that fits anyone’s definition of being ‘fiercely independent.’”
Keil is a 27-year veteran of global security operations and management, according to his bio. President Obama tapped him in December 2009 to serve as Assistant Secretary for Infrastructure Protection at the Department of Homeland Security. He also served in the US State Department’s Diplomatic Security Service for over 22 years.
A week ago today, President Obama touted Yemen and Somalia as examples of successful counterterrorism. He made the claim en route to offering his strategy for dealing with the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.
US national security officials tell a different story about those two countries, according to The Hill. They are not successes.
“Al Qaeda’s official branches in Yemen and Somalia continue to remain extremely active,” National Counterterrorism Center Director Matthew Olsen told lawmakers during a hearing.
Olsen said in prepared remarks that the Yemen-based group was the Al Qaeda affiliate “most likely to attempt transnational attacks” against the United States, according to Reuters.
“Of course, over the past five years Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula has sought on three times to take down an airplane bound for the United States,” he said at the hearing.
Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson echoed Olsen’s remarks, warning that while ISIS was the “most prominent terrorist organization,” his Department has to stay focus on a range of terrorist threats.
“From my homeland security perspective we have to stay focus on a range of threats. Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, for example, is still active,” Johnson said.
Obama overrode his generals in crafting the ISIS strategy he rolled out a week ago, just as he overrode them when he pulled US troops out of Iraq. Is he listening to his own national security officials?
“Flames of War,” coming soon! Complete with President Obama vowing no more Iraq war and the Mission Accomplished banner. ISIS ups its production value with its latest threats (Rambo-style explosions in the trailer, fake flames, no beheadings):
Robert Gates was President Barack Obama’s first Secretary of Defense.
On CBS this morning, Gates made his first public comments on the Islamic State since Obama announced his strategy for “degrading and destroying” ISIS without putting any US troops in ground combat against them.
Gates said, ”The reality is, they’re not going to be able to be successful against ISIS strictly from the air or strictly depending on the Iraqi forces or the Peshmerga or the Sunni tribes acting on their own. So there will be boots on the ground if there’s to be any hope of success in the strategy. And I think that by continuing to repeat that [there won't be troops on the ground], the president in effect traps himself.”
After predicting that there will be US boots on the ground if we’re to defeat ISIS, Gates continued: ”I’m also concerned that the goal has been stated as ‘degrade and destroy’ or ‘degrade and defeat’ ISIS. We’ve been at war with al Qaeda for 13 years. We have dealt them some terrible blows, including the killing of Osama bin Laden, but I don’t think anybody would say that after 13 years we’ve destroyed or defeated al Qaeda. And so I think to promise that we’re going to destroy ISIS or ISIL sets a goal that may be unattainable. as opposed to devastating it or as the vice president would put it, following them to the gates of hell and dealing them terrible blows that prevent them from holding territory. Those are probably realistic goals.”
The Islamic State currently holds territory that is roughly the size of the United Kingdom. The UK itself might shrink if Scottish voters approve a referendum to secede from the union.
Watch Gates’ comments on Obama’s anti-ISIS strategy.
Gates’ comments come alongside a new CBS News/New York Times poll showing that Obama’s approval rating on handling terrorism is at a new low.
Is it ISIS or ISIL? The French government has found its solution.
The term ISIL, meaning the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, references the eastern Mediterranean region stretching from Turkey to Egypt, swallowing up Syria, Lebanon, Israel and Jordan. After establishing their “caliphate,” the terror group dropped the Levant from its name and simply went with Islamic State.
The Obama administration, from the Pentagon to the State Department to the White House, consistently uses ISIL. A majority of members in Congress, on both sides of the aisle, also use ISIL in their press releases. Hearing names juggle between ISIS and ISIL. The British government uses ISIL as well.
Houses Democrats eventually decided in caucus to use ISIL, reportedly in part out of deference to women named Isis.
Governments are unified about not legitimizing their border-busting caliphate by calling them the Islamic State, or IS. The use of Islamic State is usually prefaced by “so-called” or “self-professed.”
ISIS, which generally has been favored by a majority of news outlets including The New York Times and ABC News, stands for the Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham — parts of Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria, which formed Greater Syria, after a caliphate was formed in the 7th century. Al-Sham can also be interpreted to mean the same territory as the Levant or to simply refer to Damascus.
After President Obama appeared on Meet the Press earlier this month, host Chuck Todd theorized why the administration uses ISIL. “Obviously we refer to it at NBC News as ISIS. The Obama administration, president, says the word ISIL,” Todd said. “The last S stands for Syria, the last L they don’t want to have stand for Syria.”
Maureen Dowd called it “a bit odd that the administration is using ‘the Levant,’ given that it conjures up a colonial association from the early 20th century, when Britain and France drew their maps, carving up Mesopotamia guided by economic gain rather than tribal allegiances. Unless it’s a nostalgic nod to a time when puppets were more malleable and grateful to their imperial overlords.”
While the successor to al-Qaeda in Iraq sees Islamic State, ISIS, or ISIL as legitimizing their caliphate aims, they take Daesh as an insult.
The formal name of the group is al-Dawla al-Islamiya al-Iraq al-Sham. Take the “D,” an “A,” and the “Sh,” and that’s where the loose acronym Daesh comes from.
It was first pegged by Arabic media and quickly caught on among Free Syrian Army and Kurdish fighters, civilians in the region opposed to IS, Twitter Kurds, and governments in the region that want to dis’ the Islamic State. It’s also used in Israel.
The great part is the term’s multiple meanings among IS opponents, as the word sounds like the Arabic term for trampling or crushing underfoot: daes. It can also sound like Dahes, explained France24, which can either mean “one who sows discord” or refer to the Dahes wal Ghabra war in the pre-Islamic period of Arabia.
France thinks that’s just perfect.
Stressing that “this is a terrorist group and not a state,” Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius told reporters last week that he will be using the Arabic term — and he urged news organizations to do the same.
“The Arabs call it ‘Daesh’ and I will be calling them the ‘Daesh cutthroats,’” Fabius said.
The latest press release from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs leaves out the “cutthroats,” but holds fast to the Daesh vow — while attempting to train people on the term.
“M. Laurent Fabius, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Development, had a meeting today with his British counterpart, Mr Philip Hammond,” said a Tuesday statement. “During this first bilateral meeting, the ministers took stock of the common battle against Daesh [ISIL], support for a solution to the crisis in Ukraine, the priorities for the European Union following the appointment of the new Commission, and the fight against the spread of the Ebola epidemic.”
“There can be little political ambiguity behind the French government’s decision to deploy Daesh as a linguistic weapon,” noted France24.
And IS/ISIS/ISIL goons really hate Daesh:
Several residents in Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city which fell to the extremist group in June, told The Associated Press that the militants threatened to cut the tongue of anyone who publicly used the acronym Daesh, instead of referring to the group by its full name, saying it shows defiance and disrespect. The residents spoke anonymously out of fear for their safety.
Last month, the Associated Press ruled that it would not use ISIL in stories anymore except in direct quotes, telling Poynter: “About a month ago ISIL changed its name, so our approach is to refer to them on first reference simply as ‘Islamic militants,’ ‘jihadi fighters,’ ‘the leading Islamic militant group fighting in Iraq (Syria), etc.’ On second reference, something like ‘the group, which calls itself the Islamic State,’ with ‘group’ helping to make clear that it is not an internationally recognized state.”
What do you think they should be called?
— Asaf Ronel (@AsafRonel) September 17, 2014
— Ruwayda Mustafah (@RuwaydaMustafah) September 17, 2014
— Tony Karon (@TonyKaron) September 17, 2014
— Peter Spooner (@pjspooner) September 17, 2014
On the next page, you’ll find the most cogent analysis of what fueled the terrorist attacks on 9/11 and why we now find ourselves facing a new iteration of the same enemy. Elan Journo, fellow and director of policy research at the Ayn Rand Institute, talks with interviewer Steve Simpson about the confused foreign policy which has led to the longest war in American history.
Journo begins by accurately identifying the enemy, an essential prerequisite to engaging and defeating them. He tells Simpson:
ISIS originated as one of the insurgent groups in Iraq. And they, like a lot of the insurgent groups – the ones that survived were the ones that were better at killing Americans and better at doing savagery. They went into Syria and they became stronger. They are basically now marching to the beat of the Islamist goal, which is to create a regime based on Allah’s laws on Earth, which is what the Taliban did, which is what the Iranians see themselves as doing. So, in that sense, [ISIS is] not unique. They’re basically part of the same enemy.
Indeed, in failing to accurately identify and destroy the enemy which attacked us on 9/11, we merely “scattered them,” as Journo puts it. That’s why we find ourselves facing ISIS today.
The question becomes: why have we failed? How has the most powerful military force on Earth been unable to defeat the relatively ragtag practitioners of Islamic totalitarianism? Journo attributes the failure to our self-crippling morality:
The conventional morality that people take for granted is that you should be selfless.
Now, that sounds crazy in the context of war, because obviously – most people’s healthy reaction is, if [enemies] come after you, you have to defend yourself. [Most people] have self-respect enough to believe in that. But when push comes to shove, [most people] are conflicted, because a lot of people accept the ideas of altruism, of self-sacrifice as a moral idea. Now, put that [idea of altruism] in the context of trying to defend yourself. In fact, that is the doctrine that colors the [conventional] views of how to conduct war…
So take Iraq. The goal there was not to eliminate whatever threat Saddam Hussein posed… It was to rebuild Iraq so that the Iraqis would be lifted out of poverty and would get elections and so-called freedom. That was to serve the Iraqis. That did not serve American interests. Our interests are served by eliminating those who want to kill us.
… People don’t realize that the rules under which the [American] soldiers operate are so restrictive that sometimes they cannot defend themselves, let along eliminate the threat. And so, we put our soldiers in harm’s way. We tie their hands. And then we’re surprised that there’s an insurgency that grows fiercer and more bold, and that Iraq is a mess. Well, you have to look at the ideas that shape the policy.
Since World War II, the West has pursued a policy of restraint in the face of aggression, fueled by various altruistic notions. One of those notions is that we need to free populations under oppression and teach them the virtues of democracy.
That, in essence, was the Bush doctrine. It proceeds from the presumption that, given the opportunity to vote in free and fair elections, people will elect a state dedicated to liberty and justice. Journo swats that presumption down with ease:
The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a small-scale version of the West versus the Islamist movement… Under the Bush doctrine of bring democracy all over the place, the Palestinian territories were subject to that. The Bush administration pushed for Hamas to be allowed to run in elections. And Hamas in fact won by a significant margin, enough for it to be unequivocal. And it was a free and fair election… So, in effect, the Bush doctrine here is illustrated in its failure, in ushering Islamists [our enemies] into power.
Simpson responds, “So much for the wonders of democracy.” Indeed, democracy provides only that a voting majority gets their way. It does not ensure that the way they pick will be just.
Check out the whole video, plus my podcast commentary, on the next page.
The UK Guardian has published an editorial on how to deal with the Islamic State from Bradley/Chelsea Manning.
Manning is currently serving 35 years in Leavenworth for leaking classified intelligence during the Iraq war.
The strategy itself sounds like the one Obama first offered, between the lines, last Wednesday. That may be why it got past Manning’s jail cell and out to the Guardian.
Manning counsels “containment,” allowing ISIS to maintain the territory it currently holds. That will, in Manning’s reckoning, let them fail as a state, divide and disintegrate. It may take years, even decades. Manning doesn’t specify a timeline. It only took the Soviet Union more than 70 years to fail as a state. Caliphates have come and gone in the Middle East over the years, but some of them have lasted centuries.
The Islamic State has armor (ours), aircraft that it may or may not not be able to fly (Syrian) and it pulls in about $2 million a day from oil. Its presence also exacerbates the Kurdish issue: The longer Iraq’s central government remains weak and its territory divided, the longer the Kurds have to maintain their own security — and fosters their own feelings toward independence from Iraq, Turkey, etc.
Manning never lays out what to do if ISIS decides to outgrow its boundaries, or if Syria’s secular dictator falls, or ISIS’ presence crushes the Baghdad government, or Iran intervenes on the ground, or any number of other scenarios that are far from science fiction including ISIS launching strikes outside its territory. ISIS has threatened to do that. Manning does not address that.
Obama never came out for containment, in fact he said that his strategy would eventually “degrade and destroy” ISIS. But he did hold up Yemen and Somalia as examples of what he believes are successful counterterrorism fights.
Terrorists have had free or nearly free run in both for decades now. They are occasionally degraded in drone strikes, but never destroyed.
As for Manning, he (he was a guy at the time) took it upon himself to break his oath and the law in leaking sensitive information that the military had entrusted to him. Manning did this largely out of spite against the military’s gay policies (cluebat: ISIS’ gay policies aren’t friendlier).
Why does the Guardian believe that the opinion of such a person is worth printing? Why does such a person have the ability to communicate with media?
Over the course of the last week plus, the Obama administration’s story on the Islamic State has evolved — the put it kindly. Are we at war? Is it just counterterrorism? What would success look like? What would failure look like? Who’s in the coalition and what will they be doing?
If you’re seeking a straight answer, the Obama administration is probably the last place you’d go for one.
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey told the Senate Armed Services Committee that they haven’t thought ahead yet to what happens when Bashar al-Assad starts striking Free Syrian Army forces tasked by the U.S. to fight ISIS.
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) first pointed out at this morning’s hearing that training and equipping approximately 5,000 FSA fighters in one year seems like a inadequate response” to the strength of “some 31,000,” ISIS fighters, “metastasizing in a very rapid fashion into a much larger force.”
“And, obviously, this group of 5,000, as you mentioned, in unit size deployments will be back in Syria fighting against ISIL. They will also be fighting against Bashar Assad, which they’ve been doing for a number of years before ISIL was ever a significant factor,” McCain told the Pentagon leaders.
“Now, they will be fighting against Bashar Assad, and Bashar Assad will attack them from the air, which he has done and with significant success, not only against them, but there’s been 192,000 people who have been slaughtered in Syria since the onset,” the senator continued. “If a — if one of the Free Syrian Army is fighting against Bashar Assad and he is attacking them from the air, would we take action to prevent them from being attacked by Bashar Assad?”
“Well, we’re, first of all, not there yet, but our focus is on ISIL and that is the threat right now to our country and to our interests and to the people of the region. So what we are training these units for, yes, as a stabilizing force in Syria, as an option, but the first focus is, as I just said, as the president laid out in his statement to the country,” Hagel replied.
“We are now recruiting these young men to go and fight in Syria against ISIL, but if they’re attacked by Bashar Assad, we’re not gonna help them?” McCain asked.
“They will defend themselves, Senator,” Hagel said. “We will help them and we will support them, as we have trained them.”
“If we were to take Assad off the table, we’d have a much more difficult time forming a coalition,” Dempsey said. “But I think what you’re hearing us express is an ISIL first strategy. I don’t think we’ll find ourselves in that situation, given what we intend to do.”
“You don’t think that the Free Syrian Army is going to fight against Bashar Assad who has been decimating them? You think that these people you’re training will only go back to fight against ISIL?” McCain continued. “Do you really believe that, General?”
“What I believe, Senator, is that as we train them and develop a military chain of command linked to a political structure, that we can establish objectives that defer that challenge into the future. We do not have to deal with it now,” Dempsey said.
“That’s a fundamental misunderstanding of the entire concept and motivation of the Free Syrian Army. That — it is Bashar Assad that has killed many more of them than ISIL has,” said McCain. “And for to us say that we are going to go in and help and train and equip these people and only to fight against ISIL, you’re not gonna get many recruits to do that, General. I guarantee you that. And that’s a fundamental fallacy in everything you are presenting the — this committee today.”
Dempsey acknowledged that he recommended aiding Syrian opposition forces back in 2012, when President Obama overruled the Pentagon, State Department and CIA.
“You know that for policy reasons, the decision was taken in another direction,” Dempsey said.
McCain asked Hagel if he was concerned about security on the southern border. “We received testimony from our homeland security people that our border is porous and the people who are now free to travel to the United States and also other radical elements, might cross our southern border to attack the United States,” the senator said.
“I’m always concerned about our border,” Hagel responded. “…We — we can improve our border security.”
During today’s often-interrupted Senate hearing on the rise and threat of the Islamic State, Gen. Martin Dempsey testified that ISIS’ fighters have taken up the fight over “grievances.”
Use of that word would seem to justify their actions, or at least give them some moral cover for them.
Gen. Dempsey testified: “The nature of the threat is such that, as I mentioned, it will only be defeated when moderate Arab and Muslim populations in the region reject it. And therefore, the way forward seems to me to run clearly through a coalition of Arab and Muslim partners, and not through the ownership of the United States on this issue. And so the strategy does that.”
“It seeks to build a coalition, encourage an inclusive government to address the grievances that have caused this in the first place, it applies U.S. military power where we have unique capability to do so, and over time it allows those populations to reject ISIL.”
What “grievances” have causes ISIS’ rise “in the first place?” Dempsey did not elaborate, and he was not asked to explain.
Dempsey has a checkered history when it comes to dealing with so-called “grievances.”
Just over two years ago, on September 12, 2012, Gen. Dempsey personally called Florida pastor Terry Jones and asked him to “withdraw his support” for Innocence of Muslims. That was the obscure YouTube video that President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton were blaming for the terrorist attack at the US facility in Benghazi, Libya on the day before.
Jones also planned to burn a Koran on video in 2010. It was Gen. Dempsey again who called Jones and asked him not to do it, so as not to offend Muslims.
h/t Weekly Standard
According to reports, the House Armed Services Committee is currently preparing an amendment to arm and train the Syrian rebels that will be voted on this week. If passed, the bill will be attached to the continuing resolution to fund the government until December. **UPDATE** The amendment has been posted.
The most troubling element to the proposed amendment is a provision allowing the Obama administration to arm and train rebels with ties to terrorism. The “vetted moderate rebel” groups supported by the administration are known to be partnering with designated terrorist organizations, and the passage of this amendment would give congressional blessing to such arrangements.
According to The Hill:
The measure includes several provisions intended to satisfy Republicans and Democrats worried about giving the administration blanket authority to arm and train rebel groups, who would be used in the fight against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
It would require Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel to submit the administration’s plan for training the moderate opposition 15 days before the commencement of any such activities, the aide said. That requirement was put forward by the administration, the aide added.
After that, Hagel would have to submit an update to lawmakers every 90 days.
That will be the extent of oversight by Congress — notification by the Pentagon.
But then there’s this:
The Pentagon would be required to list every individual they are recruiting, and would have to provide information on their backgrounds, including any possible links to terrorist organizations, according to the aide.
But the bill would not prohibit people with links to terrorist groups from actually participating in the program, the aide said. Such a blanket prohibition could make it tougher to recruit people for the training program.
Remarkably, this amendment is being billed by Republican leadership and the D.C. media as limiting Obama’s powers.
As I’ve been reporting here at PJ Media the past two weeks, considerable evidence is mounting that the “vetted moderate rebels” that the U.S. has already sent weapons to are allying with ISIS and other terrorist groups on the local level.
On September 3, I reported that the Free Syrian Army (FSA) — the main rebel group fighting the Assad regime — recently allied with ISIS and Jabhat al-Nusra, al-Qaeda’s official affiliate in Syria. A FSA commander later confirmed my reporting on their alliance near the Lebanon border.
Then on September 9, I reported on one of the first rebel groups to receive heavy weapons from the CIA earlier this year, Harakat al-Hazm, which has also allied with Jabhat al-Nusra.
And this past weekend I reported that the Syrian Revolutionaries Front (SRF), which had been billed as “the West’s best fighting chance against Syria’s Islamist armies,” has signed a peace deal with ISIS according to both Arabic and English media reports. The head of SRF yesterday published a denial — in English (meaning, for Western audiences) — of those reports. And yet, the Wall Street Journal reported in May about SRF’s open cooperation with Jabhat al-Nusra.
So with this House amendment, Republicans would be endorsing the Obama administration’s existing policy of arming and training Syrian rebel groups known to be working with terrorists, which would effectively give Obama political cover in the case of more U.S. weapons ending up in the hands of ISIS and other terrorist groups.
They don’t call the GOP “the stupid party” for nothing.
Secretary of State John Kerry encouraged getting past the “tortured debate” of whether the U.S. is at war with the Islamic State, backtracking on comments made last week.
Kerry previously told CBS News that “war is the wrong terminology” to describe the fight.
This was followed by the Pentagon and State Department saying that the U.S. is at war with ISIS.
Kerry was asked about his assessment Sunday for CBS’ Face the Nation.
“I think there’s, frankly, a kind of tortured debate going on about terminology,” Kerrys said. “What I’m focused on obviously is getting done what we need to get done to ISIL. But if people need find a place to land in terms of what we did in Iraq, originally, this is not a war. This is not combat troops on the ground. It’s not hundreds of thousands of people. It’s not that kind of mobilization.”
“But in terms of al-Qaeda, which we have used the word war with, yes, we went — we’re at war with al-Qaeda and its affiliates. And in same context, if you want to use it, yes, we’re at war with ISIL in that sense,” he continued. “But I think it’s a waste of time to focus on that. Frankly, let’s consider what we have to do to degrade and defeat ISIL. And that’s what I’m frankly much more focused on.”
Kerry also sought to tamp down rumors that the U.S. would be coordinating its campaign with Syria’s Bashar al-Assad.
“We will certainly want to deconflict to make certain that they’re not about to do something that they might regret even more seriously,” he said. “But we’re not going to coordinate. It’s not a cooperative effort. We are going to do what they haven’t done, what they had plenty of opportunity to do, which is to take on ISIL and to degrade it and eliminate as a threat.”
On his travels to build a coalition, Kerry said he was “extremely encouraged to hear from all of the people that I have been meeting with about their readiness and willingness to participate.”
“I can tell you right here and now that we have countries in this region, countries outside of this region, in addition to the United States, all of whom are prepared to engage in military assistance, in actual strikes, if that is what it requires,” he added. “And we also have a growing number of people who are prepared to do all the other things. People shouldn’t think about this, this effort just in terms of strikes. In fact, as some have pointed out, that alone is not going to resolve this challenge.”
Kerry said some nations have offered to put boots on the ground.
“But we are not looking for that, at this moment anyway. The answer is, yes, there are some that have said that. There are some that are clearly prepared to take action in the air alongside the United States, and to do airstrikes, if that’s what they’re called on to do,” he said.
“What we’re doing right now is putting together the whole package. And it’s not appropriate to start announcing, well, this country will do this, this country will do that.”
Iraq’s supreme leader said that he was approached by the U.S. about joining a coalition to fight the Islamic State — or, in the Arabic acronym, the Daesh — but the Islamic Republic rebuffed Washington.
Ayatollah Ali Khamenei spoke to reporters Monday after being discharged from the hospital, where he underwent prostate surgery and spent a week in recovery, according to remarks carried by the official Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA):
“What has happened in Iraq which broke the backbone of Daesh was not done by Americans but by the Iraqi people and Army. Both Daesh and Americans know this well,” said the Leader.
He added there are evidences indicating that US claims about fighting Daesh terrorists “are lies.”
Commenting on statements of the US Secretary of State about not inviting Iran to join the so-called anti-Daesh coalition, the Leader said: “We are proud that the US has become disappointed at Iran not having a part in a collective wrongdoing.”
But Iran announced from the very beginning that it would not join such a coalition, said Ayatollah Khamenei.
On the very first days of Daesh incursion into Iraq, the US ambassador to that country asked his Iranian counterpart for a meeting between Iranian and American officials to dicuss bilateral cooperation on the issue of Daesh terrorists.
The Supreme Leader said he was opposed to the “Americans’ request” after being informed of the issue by Iranian officials.
“I said we do not work with the Americans as they have evil intentions and stained hands. How is it possible to cooperate with Americans under such circumstances?”
Referring to failure of US previous coalition for Syria, the Leader said: “In the past Americans had formed a coalition against Syria with a heavy propaganda fuss but they failed to do a damned thing. This will be true for their coalition on Iraq too.”
At a Friday press conference in Turkey, Secretary of State John Kerry was asked about engaging with Iran on the ISIS fight.
“Iran has been deeply involved with its forces on the ground in Syria. IRGC forces are on the ground,” Kerry said. “So there would have to be much greater clarity and understanding of exactly what the purpose was and what the meaning was of any kind of presence, which is the only thing that stands in the way, as well as they’re a state sponsor of terror in various places.”
Khamenei also tweeted that Foreign Minister Javad Zarif “rejected US Secretary of State’s offer too.”
— Khamenei.ir (@khamenei_ir) September 15, 2014
— Khamenei.ir (@khamenei_ir) September 15, 2014
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) called the fight against ISIS “a turning point in the war in terror,” but said the U.S. is at a disadvantage because “when the White House tells the world we say what we mean and we do what we say, nobody believes that anymore.”
“We’re fighting a terrorist army, not an organization. It’s going to take an army to beat an army. And this idea we’ll never have any boots on the ground to defeat them in Syria is fantasy,” Graham told Fox News on Sunday. “And all this has come home to roost over the last three years of incompetent decisions, so to destroy ISIL, what I was told … won’t even come close to destroy ISIL. It’s delusional in the way they approach this.”
Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.), who sits on the Senate Armed Services Committee with Graham, argued that President Obama “has proposed a comprehensive plan that recognizes this has to be ultimately the efforts of the local regional powers, particularly the Sunni government, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Republic. Also, the United Arab Emirates, rather.”
“And Iraq particularly. And he is willing to use American airpower and American training efforts to empower these countries, but it’s their fight… this is a battle within the Sunni community about where they’re going.”
White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough told Fox “we’ve been pretty clear and we’ll continue to be clear about exactly what we’re going to do and how we’re going to do it, and the disciplined fashion on which we’re going to carry it out to ensure that we degrade and ultimately destroy this menacing organization called ISIL.”
Reed said the plan “has great potential to work.”
“First of all, there is the U.S. forces, airpower. Second with the cooperation of the Saudis, we’re going to be training, and it’s going to be done by the Department of Defense, military personnel, Syrians, to go back into Syria. Lindsey and I both support that effort. Then we’re going to be hopefully backing up the Iraqis as they start re-claiming their territory, putting pressure on ISIL to either move forces back to Iraq to defend the territory that they have captured, or to pull back and let us take more Iraqi territory back,” Reed continued. “So I think the plan is the best possible one, because it recognizes it’s not just a full military struggle, it’s also a political struggle.”
Graham said we can’t lose sight of the fact that “it is our fight,” not just theirs.
“This is a radical Islamic army, that’s pushing the theory of a master religion, not a master race like the Nazis. This is not about bringing a few people to justice who behead the innocent in a brutal fashion,” Graham said. “It’s about protecting millions of people throughout the world from a radical Islamic army, they’re intending to come here. So, I will not let this president suggest to the American people we can outsource our security and this is not about our safety.”
“There is no way in hell you can form an army on the ground to go into Syria, to destroy ISIL without a substantial American component. And to destroy ISIL, you have to kill or capture their leaders, take the territory they hold back, cut off their financing and destroy their capability to regenerate,” he continued. “This is a war we’re fighting, it is not a counterterrorism operation, this is not Somalia, this is not Yemen, this is a turning point in the war on terror. Our strategy will fail yet again. This president needs to rise to the occasion before we all get killed back here at home.”
“… This is not a Sunni versus Sunni problem, this is ISIL versus mankind.”