The Pentagon hasn’t yet commented on reports that U.S. Special Forces tried yet failed to rescue the downed Jordanian pilot from the clutches of ISIS on New Year’s Day. From the International Business Times:
Five coalition aircrafts reportedly hovered at low altitude over the city, while more than 12 raids were carried out on the outskirts. Reconnaissance planes were used to help aid the attacks, destroying a number of key IS buildings.
At the other end of the city, two helicopter gunships attempted to deploy special forces on the ground to rescue the hostages. However both gunships quickly came under heavy fire from IS militants in the Rumelia area, northeast Raqqa.
Eyewitnesses said they heard gunshots and helicopter gunships circling in the area.
Faced by heavy gunfire from IS militants, both helicopters were forced to abort their attempted landing. Strong clashes erupted, centring around al-Saqiya Street, where the helicopters had tried to land.
Another attempt was made to land in the countryside of eastern Raqqa between villages in the Alekershi area, and fighting ensued.
After the murder of American journalist James Foley in August, the Obama administration said it had launched a rescue operation earlier in the summer to free U.S. hostages. The White House and Pentagon said the hostages weren’t at the site of the raid. Jordanian forces reportedly helped with that rescue attempt.
Last month, the U.S. tried to rescue photojournalist Luke Somers from al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. Somers and South African teacher Pierre Korkie were killed during the raid.
“As this and previous hostage rescue operations demonstrate, the United States will spare no effort to use all of its military, intelligence, and diplomatic capabilities to bring Americans home safely, wherever they are located. And terrorists who seek to harm our citizens will feel the long arm of American justice,” Obama said then.
The new issue of ISIS’ magazine, Dabiq, features what they claim is an interview with the Jordanian pilot captured just before Christmas.
In the magazine, what is claimed to be an interview with Lt. Muath Kasasbeh contradicts CENTCOM’s assertion that ISIS did not shoot the F-16 out of the sky.
On Christmas Eve, ISIS released the ID card of Kasasbeh and paraded parts of his downed plane, as well as images of the pilot in a soaked T-shirt and stripped from the waist down with blood coming from his mouth. U.S. Central Command said in a statement that “evidence clearly indicates that ISIL did not down the aircraft as the terrorist organization is claiming.”
Though the article identifies Kasasbeh by name, it refers to him throughout as “murtadd” — apostate.
The young pilot allegedly told his interviewer that he was sweeping the Raqqa area, capital of the Islamic State, in a party that included Saudi F-15s, Emirati F-16s, and Moroccan F-16s.
“My plane was struck by a heat-seeking missile. I heard and felt its hit. The other Jordanian pilot in the mission – the first lieutenant pilot Saddām Mardīnī – contacted me from a participating jet and told me that I was struck and that fire was coming out of the rear nozzle of my engine. I checked the system display and it indicated that the engine was damaged and burning. The plane began to deviate from its normal flight path, so I ejected. I landed in the Furāt River by parachute and the seat caught on some ground, keeping me fixed, until I was captured by soldiers of the Islamic State,” states the “interview.”
He reportedly told his captors that the flight missions were being coordinated out of U.S. bases in Qatar, where the American pilots enjoyed eating mansaf, the national dish of Jordan, with others in the international team.
“Have you seen videos produced by the Islamic State?” the interviewer asks.
“No, I haven’t,” the pilot reportedly responds.
“We will make sure the jailers provide you with the opportunity to see ‘Although the Disbelievers Dislike It.’ Do you know what the Islamic State will do with you?” the magazine interviewer continues.
“Yes… They will kill me…”
A group of Senate Democrats has asked Treasury Secretary Jack Lew to investigate sanctions violations as Iran prepares to present $40 billion in projects to foreign investors at an upcoming London conference.
The National Iranian Oil Company has already been designated as an affiliate of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.
“We have grave concerns that Iran is exploiting ongoing diplomatic negotiations regarding its nuclear program to weaken the existing international sanctions regime,” says the letter sent to Lew today by Sens. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), Bob Casey (D-Pa.) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.).
All senators would be likely “yes” votes on Iran sanctions when the Menendez-Kirk bill gets resurrected as expected in the new Congress.
“Recently, the National Iranian Oil Company’s (NIOC) deputy director for integrated planning, Moshtaghali Gohari, announced that 40 to 50 projects with a total value of $40 billion will be presented to foreign investors at a conference in London scheduled for February 23-25, 2015. We urge the Treasury Department to act quickly to investigate this matter and take enforcement actions if needed before the conference,” the senators wrote.
“As you are aware, it is a violation of current U.S. sanctions policy to provide material support to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) or its affiliates. The Treasury Department designated NIOC as an affiliate of the IRGC in 2012. The IRGC and its affiliates have been sanctioned multiple times for their role in Iran’s nuclear program, support for terrorism, egregious human rights abuses, and support for the Assad regime in Syria.”
They added that the conference, sponsored by London-based energy company CWC Group Ltd., “is being promoted and organized with the full support of NIOC, and it features a number of high-ranking NIOC officials as speakers.”
“We believe it is possible that the CWC Group’s sponsorship of this conference could constitute material support, possibly placing it in violation of the sanctions policy, and we urge you to investigate any possible breach,” the Dems wrote. “As we continue our diplomatic efforts, it is vitally important that existing U.S. sanctions continue to be strictly enforced.”
The Iranians have said nuclear talks with the P5+1 are resuming Jan. 15, but the State Department hasn’t confirmed that.
Last week, Iran criticized U.S. moves to crack down on entities helping Iran skirt existing sanctions as harmful to nuclear talks.
“At a time negotiations are underway with P5+1, such a move raises doubts about America’s intentions and violates the good will principles,” foreign ministry spokeswoman Marzieh Afkham said, according to state news agency IRNA.
“This action is for mere publicity and will have no bearing whatsoever on our commercial policies,” she added.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said 2014 was the deadliest year yet since fighting began in the country in 2011.
By year’s end, the group documented 76,021 deaths, a conservative count they believe to be about 30,000 below the real number of casualties.
The largest group of casualties was civilians, with 17,790 deaths including 3,501 children and 1,987 women.
Among rebels groups ranging from the secular Free Syrian Army to Islamic factions, 15,488 were killed. Of Syrian regime soldiers and officers who defected to fight Bashar Assad, 259 died.
Assad’s regime lost 12,681 soldiers and officers. The pro-regime Popular Defense Committees, National Defense Forces, and al Shabiha lost 9,766 fighters, while 2,167 Arabs and Asians were killed fighting with pro-regime Shiite militias.
ISIS, the al-Nusra Front, Junoud al-Sham battalion, Jund Al-Aqsa battalion, Jund al-Sham Movement and al-Khadra’ battalion lost 16,979 Arab, European, Asian, American and Australian fighters.
The group also documented the deaths of 366 Hezbollah militiamen inside the country.
The group received 345 documented reports of deaths, confirmed by photos or video) for which it could not identify the victims or any affiliation.
Thousands of detainees remain inside Assad’s prisons and thousands more are still missing after regime raids and attacks. Rebel groups are estimated to be holding hundreds of regime soldiers and pro-regime militants.
The Islamic State is pulling thousands of people into their jails, as well.
“The silence of the International community for the war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in Syria encourages the criminals to kill more and more Syrian people because they have not found anyone that deter them from continuing their crimes that cause to wound more than 1,500,000 people; some of them with permanent disabilities, make hundreds of thousands children without parents, displace more than half of Syrian people and destroy infrastructure, private and public properties,” the human-rights group said.
“After the failure of referring cases of war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in Syria to the International criminal court because of the Russian-Chinese veto in the Security Council, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights renews its call to all international sides to establish a special court for Syria. We in the Syrian Observatory demand the punishment of all perpetrators, instigators, collaborators and all individuals and sides who used the Syrian blood as a political card and as means to carry out their personal agendas, as well as those who transformed a revolution for dignity to a sectarian and ethnic civil war.”
Saying he was “disappointed” that the Palestinian Authority resolution to force Israel out of “occupied” lands failed by one vote at the UN Security Council, President Mahmoud Abbas signed the Rome Statute to join the International Criminal Court.
Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) said today that Abbas’ signature means all U.S. funds to the Palestinians should be immediately suspended.
“The latest destructive actions by Abu Mazen and the Palestinian Authority reaffirms, once again, that Abu Mazen is not a real partner for peace,” Ros-Lehtinen said. “By attempting to bring a flawed resolution to the UN Security Council and by signing the Rome Treaty, Abu Mazen only reiterates that he is not willing to return to direct peace negotiations with Israel without pre-conditions.”
“It’s time for the Obama administration to show Abu Mazen and the PA that there will be consequences for their irresponsible behavior and continued efforts to undermine the peace process. Congress must do everything in its power to block funds to the PA and to any UN entity that recognizes a non-existent State of Palestine to make it clear to Abu Mazen that there will be consequences to his schemes at the United Nations and other international organizations like the International Criminal Court.”
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a statement that “it is the Palestinian Authority – which is in a unity government with Hamas, an avowed terrorist organization that, like ISIS, perpetrates war crimes – that needs to be concerned about the International Criminal Court in the Hague.”
“We will take steps in response and we will defend the soldiers of the IDF, the most moral army in the world,” Netanyahu vowed. “We will rebuff this additional attempt to force diktat on us just like we rebuffed the Palestinian appeal to the UN Security Council.”
State Department spokesman Jeff Rathke told reporters yesterday that Secretary of State John Kerry viewed the Security Council resolution as “unconstructive and ill-timed.”
“We of course support a two-state solution achieved through negotiations between the parties,” Rathke said. “That’s clear and our longstanding policy.”
With the world descending into chaos driven in no small measure by the incoherent, contradictory and frequently non-existent foreign policy of the Obama administration, it was difficult this year to narrow the field for this year’s biggest national security blunders. The task seemed so formidable, I nearly abandoned the endeavor.
But undaunted, I present to you the National Security “Not Top 10” of 2014, in no particular order.
1) Befriending “moderate Al-Qaeda” in Syria:
There are some ideas so at war with reason and reality they can only exist in the fetid Potomac fever swamps of DC think tanks and the foreign policy community. Such was the case in January when three of the best and brightest from those ranks published an article in Foreign Affairs (the same publication that in 2007 brought us the “Moderate Muslim Brotherhood”) contending that the US needed to “befriend” the Syrian jihadist group Ahrar al-Sham as some kind of counter to more extreme jihadist groups, like ISIS and Jabhat al-Nusra. The precedent they cited was the US failure to designate the Taliban (!!!) after 9/11.
Mind you, at the time they wrote this, one of Ahrar al-Sham’s top leaders was a lieutenant for Al-Qaeda head Ayman al-Zawahiri who openly declared himself a member of Al-Qaeda. After most of their leadership was wiped out in a bombing in September, they gravitated closer to the jihadist groups they were supposed to counter and their positions have been bombed by the US – much to the consternation of other “vetted moderate” rebel groups. So ridiculous was their proposition that the original subtitle of their article, “An Al-Qaeda Affiliate Worth Befriending,” was changed online to “An Al-Qaeda-Linked Group Worth Befriending” in the hopes of minimizing the absurdity of their case.
2) Obama administration deploys three hashtag divisions in response to Russian invasion of Ukraine.
As Ukrainians made their bid to free themselves from Russia’s interference, Putin responded by deploying tanks and troops into Ukraine in violation of the 1994 Budapest Memorandum. Obama’s rejoinder was to give a speech and to deploy three divisions of State Department employees all armed with a #UnitedForUkraine hashtag. Hilarity ensued as the Russian Foreign Ministry counterattacked by hijacking the hashtag, prompting State Department spox Jen Psaki to decry, “Let’s hope the Kremlin will live by the promise of hashtag,” leaving many asking: Whiskey. Tango. Foxtrot.
3) Obama: ISIS is the “JV team.”
In January President Obama sat down for an interview with the New Yorker, and when asked about ISIS gains in Iraq, he likened them to a JV team, saying “The analogy we use around here sometimes, and I think is accurate, is if a jayvee team puts on Lakers uniforms that doesn’t make them Kobe Bryant.” Those words came back to haunt him as ISIS surged in both Syria and Iraq, particularly when Obama authorized missile strikes against ISIS in August. Even then Deputy National Security Adviser Tony Blinken defended the president’s “JV team” remark, saying they didn’t pose the threat to America as much as Al-Qaeda. A few week later, the Washington Post noted the attempts to spin the president’s statement. By September, Obama laughably claimed in an interview on Meet the Press that he wasn’t talking about ISIS in his New Yorker interview. But even the notoriously biased Politifact rated his walk-back as “false” and two weeks ago Washington Post fact checker Glenn Kessler branded Obama’s “JV team” spin as “the lie of the year.”
Saudis got a shake-up this month with some radical views from a prominent cleric, who now faces a lawsuit for telling women it’s totally fine to bare their faces and swipe on some lipstick.
Sheikh Ahmad al-Ghamdi, a former head of the religious police in Mecca, issued a fatwa stating that the niqab, or face veil, is not required under Islamic law and women can apply makeup however they wish.
Al-Arabiya reported that Ghamdi underscored this point by bringing his wife onto a popular talk show, where the pair chatted and laughed while her face was uncovered.
He’s the same cleric who rocked the boat last year by noting it’s totally fine for women to travel outside of the kingdom without a male guardian, and stressing that mixing of the sexes in everyday life is “permissible in Islam and is a natural part of life.”
“Those who oppose mixing of the sexes are contradicting themselves as they most likely mix with the opposite sex on a daily basis, such as having female servants,” he noted. He’s also said music is completely fine.
After the Ghamdis’ talk-show appearance, the cleric has been the target of threats and called things like a “filthy pimp” for championing equality.
A few days later, Arab News reported that some Saudis were planning to file suit, hoping to prevent him from speaking on any Islamic matters or appearing in media to do so.
Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdulaziz Al-Alsheikh has basically told Ghamdi to shut up: “There are those who said that it was okay for women to show their faces to strangers and that the veil is a social tradition, and not a religious order,” he said. “This is wrong because covering the face is a religious obligation.”
The debate rages on, with one scholar suggesting middle ground can be found on the ugliness of the woman.
“If she is used to covering her face and if she is comfortable in doing so, she may continue the practice; but if she is not, it should be left to her own judgment,” said Sheikh Abdulaziz Al-Fawzan, a scholar at the High Institute for Jurisprudence at Imam Muhammad Bin Saud Islamic University. “I personally find that it is important for a woman to cover her face, especially if she is young and beautiful. However, if she is old or unattractive then she may be lenient.”
In a painfully intellectual breakdown of the American struggle to comprehend ISIS, the New York Times discusses the educational endeavors undertaken by Maj. Gen. Michael K. Nagata, commander of American Special Operations forces in the Middle East, to “defang” the Islamic State:
Trying to decipher this complex enemy — a hybrid terrorist organization and a conventional army — is such a conundrum that General Nagata assembled an unofficial brain trust outside the traditional realms of expertise within the Pentagon, State Department and intelligence agencies, in search of fresh ideas and inspiration. Business professors, for example, are examining the Islamic State’s marketing and branding strategies.
That’s right, your tax dollars are paying for professors to develop even more politically correct terminology and intellectual strategy to dodge the dangers of radical Islamic militants in favor of convincing themselves and the American public that said religiously-motivated lunatics couldn’t actually be as powerful as they appear to be.
General Nagata’s frustration is shared by other American officials. Even as President Obama and his top civilian and military aides express growing confidence that Iraqi troops backed by allied airstrikes have blunted the Islamic State’s momentum on the ground in Iraq and undermined its base of support in Syria, other officials acknowledge they have barely made a dent in the larger, longer-term campaign to kill the ideology that animates the terrorist movement.
And when the President is losing on the ground, the President turns to think tanks to fix the problem. Stay tuned for the nomination of Obama’s “ISIS Czar” to lord over the
…disagreements among the experts over whether ISIS’ main objective is ideological or territorial — General Nagata encourages competing views, urging the group to have “one hell of a debate” over his questions.
But the panel raised doubts whether ISIS “has the bureaucratic sophistication necessary to govern.”
Apparently the panel of experts is unaware of a little militant group-turned-governing body known as Hamas.
“When I watch Americans use words like cowardly, barbaric, murder, outrageous, shocking, etc., to describe a violent extremist organization’s actions, we are playing right into the enemy’s hands,” General Nagata added. “They want us to become emotional. They revel in being called murderers when the words are coming from an apostate.”
The funny thing is, academic papers and speeches don’t motivate public opinion or soldiers the way the plain, simple truth does. But as long as Nagata is determined to avoid the truth of radical Islam’s dual ideological and territorial goals that are, indeed, barbaric, murderous and outrageous, ISIS and their radical Islamic terror allies will continue to gain ground in this global battle. Our bureaucratic waste is the Obama Administration’s tacit declaration that time is on radical Islam’s side.
Palestinians are getting a bit of video training on how to more effectively randomly stab border guards, rabbis and basically any other random target in Israel.
The video, with a soundtrack of hard rock music, features silent jihadists demonstrating a number of ways to stab ranging from disabling cuts before the fatal blows to a quick stick into someone’s abdomen while passing by.
Israel’s NRG News reported that the video, which was uploaded a couple of days ago, has been circulated among social media of “Palestinian organizations and activists in East Jerusalem.”
At the end, the video asks, “What are you waiting for?”
A remarkable report by Anne Barnard of the New York Times this weekend confirms my multiple reports here at PJ Media about the increased alliance between the U.S.-backed Free Syrian Army (FSA) and al-Qaeda’s Syrian affiliate, Jabhat al-Nusra.
As Barnard reports:
In northern and eastern Syria, where Mr. Assad’s opponents won early victories and once dreamed of building self-government, the nationalist rebel groups calling themselves the Free Syrian Army are forced to operate under the extremists’ umbrellas, to go underground or to flee, according to Syrian insurgents, activists and two top commanders of the American-financed F.S.A. groups.
Two weeks ago I reported that Jabhat al-Nusra had used U.S. TOW anti-tank missiles in the rebels’ seizure of the Syrian Army’s base in Wadi al-Deif. The terror group posted a video showing the use of the TOW missiles in the battle (at ~3:50):
Nusra fans on Twitter were also noting the U.S. missiles being used:
— Muhajiri Shaam (@AbuMohammed_MS) December 15, 2014
Now Barnard confirms that FSA elements were fighting at Wadi al-Deif under the direction and/or control of Jabhat al-Nusra:
The fall of the army base at Wadi al-Deif, which straddles an important supply route in Idlib Province, proved the Nusra Front’s dominance, they said. Other insurgents had long besieged the base without victory. Nusra succeeded after seizing much of the province from Harakat Hazm and the Syrian Revolutionaries Front, two of several groups that until recently, American officials were calling the opposition’s new hope [...]
How exactly the Wadi al-Deif battle unfolded remains murky, with different commanders giving different versions. But reports and images from the operation make two things clear: antitank missiles were used, and Nusra claimed the victory. That means that the American-backed fighters could advance only by working with the Nusra Front, which the United States government lists as a terrorist group, or that they have lost the weapons to the Nusra fighters, effectively joined the group or been forced to follow its orders.
One commander of a group that received antitank missiles said that some F.S.A. fighters were forced to operate them in the battle on behalf of the Nusra Front, which had captured them from American-backed groups — a turn of events that he worried would lead the United States to cut off support [...]
Abu Kumayt, a fighter with the Syrian Revolutionaries Front who said he fought in the battle under cover, gave a slightly different version. He said that groups with the antitank missiles fought alongside Nusra fighters and under their command — but that only Nusra and its Islamist ally Ahrar al-Sham were allowed to enter the base when it fell. Nusra, he said, lets groups vetted by the United States keep the appearance of independence, so that they will continue to receive American supplies.
Earlier this month I noted reports from the Los Angeles Times and McClatchy that U.S.-backed units trained under a covert CIA program were openly operating with Nusra in southern Syria while other “vetted moderate” groups who had received heavy weaponry from the U.S. were surrendering their weapons to Nusra or delivering them to another hardcore jihadist group, Ahrar al-Sham.
Perhaps even more worrying is the $500 million in weapons that the FSA has surrendered to ISIS and admissions by FSA commanders that they are operating with both Nusra and ISIS. And last week a German journalist who spent 10 days embedded with ISIS in Iraq and Syria told France24 that ISIS is obtaining weapons supplied by Western governments and being sold by the FSA:
Todenhofer went on to say that the IS militants are being armed by the West – if only indirectly – as Western moves to arm moderate Syrian rebels have backfired.
“They buy the weapons that we give to the Free Syrian Army, so they get Western weapons – they get French weapons … I saw German weapons, I saw American weapons,” he said.
“The best seller of weapons is the Free Syrian Army, which is financed by NATO, financed probably also by France, but at least by the United States.”
So it is no wonder that the administration is openly ditching the FSA.
The United Arab Emirates, where the worst western tourists are likely to encounter is a mall cop telling a shopper to wear shorts longer than Daisy Dukes, learned long ago that those who reject extremism get to have nice things.
Tourism revenue in the Emirates, where lush hotels and first-class amenities greet travelers, is projected to hit $7.5 billion by 2016. Dubai, known for going big in every way it can from the world’s largest shopping center to record-breaking New Year’s Eve fireworks, announced a goal to be the world’s most visited city by 2020 with 20 million tourists a year.
The UAE’s neighbor, the sultanate of Oman, wants a share of that tourism revenue, setting a goal of 12 million visitors per year by 2020 even though it got 1.6 million visitors in 2010.
Advantage UAE, as banning alcohol is a funny way for Oman to say it wants tourists. From UAE government-owned newspaper The National:
An Omani council’s recommendation for a blanket ban on alcohol in the country is expected to hit the tourism sector and investment in new hotels.
The call from the Majlis Al Shura is awaiting a cabinet nod after which it would proceed to Oman’s Sultan Qaboos for a final approval.
Earlier this month, the council voted to make it a criminal offence to consume and trade in alcohol.
Currently, permits are given only to non-Muslims to consume or trade in alcohol. Violations can lead to a jail term between six months and up to three years, or a minimum fine of 300 Omani rials (Dh2,862), or both.
Along with seeking a ban, the council has recommended a jail term between 10 days and one year, or a minimum fine of 200 OR, or both for violators.
Indeed, the Times of Oman crunched the numbers and found that, with the amount of alcohol currently imported by four- and five-star hotels, the government stands to lose more than 100 million rials if the country goes dry.
Meanwhile, a hotelier, who owns five hotels in Muscat where liquor is served, said that they are all worried over the decision and are looking for greener pastures in other countries.
“We are worried and will be compelled to shut down our hotels. The sale of beverages play a vital role in our income,” said the hotelier while adding that he is revealing the general sentiment of his peers.
“We are also looking to move our base to other Gulf Cooperation Council countries. We will not be able to run our business if we suffer losses over a long period. Many of us have already started looking for other pastures,” added the hotelier.
While talking to Times of Oman, experts said that the impact on the hotel industry should be carefully examined before the ban is imposed.
“The option before the authorities is to decide whether they want Muscat to be known as a global city or a local one. Alcohol is not everything. But it is also part of the offering. We have to wait and watch to know whether the ban will have an impact on the hotel and tourism industry,” Filippo Sona, director of Head of Hotels (Mena Region) at Colliers International, said.
Eighty-four percent of Oman’s Majlis Al Shura voted for the ban on both trade and consumption of alcohol. The tourism ministry, though, stresses that nothing’s been decided yet.
U.S. Central Command said a Jordanian F-16 that went down on a bombing run over the Islamic State “clearly” wasn’t shot down with a manpad as ISIS has been claiming.
ISIS released the ID card of Lt. Muath Kasasbeh and paraded parts of his downed plane, as well as images of the pilot in a soaked T-shirt and naked from the waist down with blood coming from his mouth.
CENTCOM confirmed the plane went down near Raqqa, Syria, and the pilot had been taken captive.
“Evidence clearly indicates that ISIL did not down the aircraft as the terrorist organization is claiming,” CENTCOM said in a statement.
“The Jordanians are highly-respected and valued partners and their pilots and crews have performed exceptionally well over the course of this campaign,” said Gen. Lloyd J. Austin III, who is overseeing coalition operations in Iraq and Syria. “We strongly condemn the actions of ISIL which has taken captive the downed pilot. We will support efforts to ensure his safe recovery, and will not tolerate ISIL’s attempts to misrepresent or exploit this unfortunate aircraft crash for their own purposes.”
ISIS-friendly social media accounts said the lieutenant had “confessed” to a dozen bombing runs over the caliphate, with one stressing that his fate is “set in stone” if there’s no trade with the Hashemite kingdom.
“The United States is working closely with the Government of Jordan concerning the Jordanian pilot captured today,” State Department press secretary Jen Psaki said in a statement. “Our hearts and prayers go out to the pilot, his family, and our partners in the Jordanian Armed Forces.”
The pilot’s father has begged ISIS to find mercy in their hearts to release him, and Kasasbeh’s brother asked ISIS to free the pilot for the sake of their “old and sick parents.”
— Jon Williams (@WilliamsJon) December 24, 2014
The BBC’s director of television Danny Cohen said that he has “never felt so uncomfortable being a Jew” following what he felt was a rise in anti-semitism in the country and the rest of Europe in the last year, reports The Independent.
Speaking to an audience at the Jerusalem Cinematheque, a conference addressing the ability of comedy to drive forward social change, Cohen said “I’ve never felt so uncomfortable being a Jew in the UK as I’ve felt in the last 12 months. And it’s made me think about, you know, is it our long-term home, actually? Because you feel it. I’ve felt it in a way I’ve never felt before.”
Cohen outlined how anti-semitism was on the rise again across Europe. “You’ve seen the number of attacks rise, you’ve seen murders in France, you’ve seen murders in Belgium. It’s been pretty grim actually,” he said.
The unrest here at home has moved the frothing anti-Israel hordes to the background for now, but they’re still out there. Europe is getting positively frightening, however. For so long, a blind eye was turned to the radical Islam elements taking root all over the continent and now there is a militant infrastructure in place to whip all the reliable useful idiots into a frenzy.
It is interesting, and important, that a member of the media is addressing this rising tension. The media everywhere plays a big part in egging agitators on, especially with the way the “news” from Israel is covered. Cohen doesn’t mention that in this interview, but his position at the BBC is lofty enough that it should give some pause, and perhaps make them think a little about their roles.
In a world where the attention spans are shrinking by the hour, shrill sells better than ever these days, especially in television news. The more incendiary, the better. Until the fire hits their doorsteps.
As pilgrims flock to holy sites and Jews prepare to go to work the next day, Israeli Greek Orthodox Father Gabriel Naddaf continues his holy mission to recruit Christian soldiers into the Israeli Defense Forces. Unlike their Jewish neighbors, non-Jews in Israel are not required to serve in the IDF. Druze and Bedouin populations serve voluntarily, as do some 400 Arabs of both Christian and Muslim affiliation.The small number of Arab volunteers is largely due to nationalistic conflicts within the Arab world, conflicts that have made Father Gabriel Naddaf and his Israeli Christians Recruitment Forum (ICRF) a target of both Muslim and Christian Arab contempt.
Forum members, including the priest, said they have been threatened, and Father Nadaf’s son was attacked in Nazareth. “Some people may say we are traitors,” said the younger Nadaf, who after his compulsory service wants to make a career in the army. “But I tell them to go live in Gaza if they are against Israel. We live here. This is my country and I have to give back.” Arab members of the Israeli Knesset are among opponents of the forum’s work, including its support for the recently passed legislation creating a specific Christian seat on the equal employment opportunities advisory committee that addresses job discrimination. They accused Israel and the forum of ignoring discrimination concerns and trying to divide Israel’s Arab population.
The attacks faced by Christian Arabs affiliated with the ICRF haven’t just caused them to be accused of dual loyalties. They’ve also motivated these Christian Arabs to observe that they are “Arabic speaking Christians” who, if they lived in any other country in the Middle East, would be facing persecution for their religious beliefs. After his son Judaan was attacked in the streets of Nazareth, Father Naddaf commented:
[M]y son very much wants to enlist, in the near future, and serve in a combat unit. He believes in what I do, that we all have a home here, that he also needs to give to the country. The country gives him his rights, and should receive what it is due in return. We all need to live here in peace, and protect the existence of the country that we live in, since our future is here.
Only a few weeks ago Judaan enlisted in the IDF:
This is “…a historic and exciting day at the Nadaf household and a happy day for Christians in Israel.” Nadaf stated, adding that he “sees this step as a personal example to Christian parents who teach their kids to love, cherish, honor and serve their country and contribute to society!”
The father and his organization have increased voluntary Arab recruitment from 30 to 150 persons per year. On the eve of one of the holiest days in the Christian year, Father Gabriel Naddaf continues to put his faith into action, sending a powerful statement about the importance of Israel to Christians across the globe.
In a moving message on Facebook, Canon Andrew White, the Anglican vicar of Baghdad, writes that Christians in Baghdad have nothing left but the “refugee child” Jesus this year.
White writes movingly: “I will never forget the day in Baghdad when we had some visitors. They had come to see what it was really like for Christians in Iraq. They were so surprised by how happy the thousands of people were in our congregation. ‘How can you be so happy when you are surrounded by suicide bombs, mortar rockets and such violence?’ One of our young people answered the statement. ‘You see when you have lost everything, Jesus is all you have got left.’
“All you have got left is the love of that refugee child. That to us in the Middle East is all that matters this Christmas.”
White, who had to relocate to Bethlehem after threats to his life, also writes about the refugee tents the church has set up to care for Christian suffering at the hands of ISIS.
Christians have been dismissed from their hometowns in there hundreds of thousands. They have fled in their masses to the very North of Iraq fleeing the onslaught of the terrorist group known as ISIS. There for weeks my staff team have fed and clothed, provided mattresses and cradles for the thousands and thousands of internally displaced people.
This Christmas season, we who celebrate in the safety of the West, let us not lose sight of the true meaning of this special holiday. To quote Canon White’s closing statement:
Christmas is a time when we should never lose the meaning of this Christ Child who came to us so that by simply trusting in him we will have a life filled with hope and purpose and love. He is still with us 2000 years after he first came. This Christmas let us not forget that he so loves us that we must love him and in response our life will be changed forever.
This post uses an image from Shutterstock.
Not every HBO woman is one of Lena Dunham’s girls. Seventeen-year-old Game of Thrones star Maisie Williams made a brilliant observation about contemporary feminism in a recent interview:
We talk about actor Emma Watson’s recent UN speech, in which she talked about her reasons for becoming a feminist, and the need for men to be onside; Williams says she is impatient with this kind of “first-world feminism”. “A lot of what Emma Watson spoke about, I just think, ‘that doesn’t bother me’. I know things aren’t perfect for women in the UK and in America, but there are women in the rest of the world who have it far worse.”
Self-identified feminist or not, Williams appears to have fallen into a trap of, well, totally taking for granted the gains western feminism has made. The assertion that the inequalities that persist in the UK and United States “don’t bother her” is a milder version of women against feminism rejecting the progress wrought by the women’s movement only as they bask in it.
Kutner then lists a series of first-world feminist issues that Williams and feminists everywhere are obviously required to care about: “pay inequality” (myth), “restricted reproductive healthcare access” (myth), “rape culture” (BIG myth, BIG – like Rolling Stone big) and “institutional sexism” (that creates a hostile environment for men as much, if not moreso, than women). She then uses her own big, white, first-world feminist journo privilege to paint Williams’s honest observation about the inequalities within the women’s movement as an example of that ugly buzzword “privilege”:
Around the same time that Mississippi State University’s football team found themselves at the top of the college football rankings, an archaeological team from the school was getting ready to go public with some key finds from their three-year project at Khirbet Summeily, a site in southern Israel.
These finds shed light on life in the Old Testament era. One of the finds, a series of clay seals called bullae, lends credence to the Biblical accounts of the reigns of Kings David and Solomon.
Jimmy Hardin, associate professor in the MSU Department of Anthropology and Middle Eastern Cultures, said these clay bullae were used to seal official correspondence in much the same way wax seals were used on official documents in later periods.
“Our preliminary results indicated that this site is integrated into a political entity that is typified by elite activities, suggesting that a state was already being formed in the 10th century B.C.,” Hardin said. “We are very positive that these bullae are associated with the Iron Age IIA, which we date to the 10th century B.C., and which lends general support to the historical veracity of David and Solomon as recorded in the Hebrew biblical texts.
“These appear to be the only known examples of bullae from the 10th century, making this discovery unique,” he said.
“Some text scholars and archaeologists have dismissed the historic reliability of the biblical text surrounding kings David and Solomon, such as recorded in the Bible in the books of Kings and Second Samuel, which scholars often date to the Iron Age IIA or 10th century B.C,” Hardin said.
Other finds in and around the dig site help clarify what everyday life was like in Israel during that era. Jeff Blakely, another archaeologist involved in the Hesi Regional Project, notes that these finds change the way scholars have viewed economic life at that time.
From the start of the project, archaeologists have tried to determine what people were doing in the region of Khirbet Summeily, Blakely said.
“Generations of scholarship have suggested farming, but over the past few years, we have slowly realized that humans rarely farmed this region,” he said. “It was a pasture. Shepherds tended sheep and goats under the protection of their government. Finding the bullae this past summer strongly supports our idea that Khirbet Summeily was a governmental installation.”
This post includes an image from Shutterstock.
A claim that a jihadist from Minneapolis has been killed in the fighting surrounding the city of Kobane is currently circulating on Twitter.
These two tweets appeared yesterday:
Allahu Akbar, a young Somali brother I used to know back in Minnesota got Martyred in Kobane. His older brother is with me. Taqabalahu llaah
— Mujahid Miski (@Muhajir_1436_) December 21, 2014
The bro who got Shahadah in Kobane is Yusuf from Minneapolis, Minnesota. His brother is Ahmed Bashi he's with me, he says Salams & make Dua.
— Mujahid Miski (@Muhajir_1436_) December 21, 2014
Earlier this year two men from the Twin Cities, Abdiraaman Muhumad and Douglas McCain, were reported killed. And in late August I reported here at PJ Media on a video claiming another three Americans had been killed (thought not identifying them).
If yesterday’s report is correct, this would represent yet another loss in a long line of jihadist recruits from the Twin Cities.
More than 20 men from Minneapolis joined up in 2007 and 2008 to fight with Al-Shabaab in Somalia. More have left since to fight with various jihadist groups in Syria.
The problem of radicalization in the Somali community in the Twin Cities is a topic I’ve been reporting on since 2007 – nearly a year before other media outlets – when I reported on a recruiting and fundraising meeting in Minneapolis where the first round of jihadists, including the first American suicide bomber, were recruited.
\President Obama today signed a bipartisan bill to extend extra support to Israel as a major strategic partner — accompanied by a statement that he reserved the right to interpret the legislation as he sees fit.
The United States-Israel Strategic Partnership Act of 2014 was introduced in the House by Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) and Ted Deutch (D-Fla.) and in the Senate by Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and Roy Blunt (R-Mo.).
First and foremost, the legislation expresses the sense of Congress that Israel is “a major strategic partner.”
It allows the Defense Department to transfer surplus equipment to Israel, beefs up U.S. defense stockpiles in the country by $200 million, and expands U.S.-Israel cooperation in the fields of energy, water, agriculture, and alternative fuel technologies.
It authorizes the president to share more research and intelligence with Israel and authorizes the Department of Homeland Security to launch pilot programs in coordination with Israel to increase their border, maritime and aviation security. It directs the president to report to Congress on potentials for expansion of cyber-security cooperation.
It includes Israel in the visa waiver program and requires that military sales to other countries in the Middle East won’t harm Israel’s military edge, and the administration has to regularly report to Congress on Israel’s qualitative military edge over its neighbors. It also says the administration must move toward granting top-tier status to Israel for certain license-free exports.
“At a time when Israel is facing many external threats, the U.S. Congress today sends to the president’s desk the U.S. – Israel Strategic Partnership Act seeking to bolster closer ties with our ally, the democratic Jewish State of Israel,” Ros-Lehtinen said at the beginning of the month. “At a time when the Iranian regime continues to advance its nuclear ambitions, Hamas unrelentlessly terrorizes Israeli citizens and the Palestinian Authority continues to incite violence and undermine the peace process at every turn, it is important for Congress to stand with Israel in a bipartisan effort.”
“That is why in passing this bill, we will afford Israel the unique status as our major strategic partner and we reaffirm our support to enhance Israel’s qualitative military edge so that it can continue to defend itself and its citizens from all threats.”
Today, in a flood of year-end legislation that passed Obama’s desk, the president signed the bill into law.
He issued a separate statement on it, though.
“This bipartisan piece of legislation reflects the importance placed by my administration on strengthening and deepening U.S.-Israel bilateral cooperation and ties,” Obama said. “It reinforces critical defense and security programs, which have reached an unprecedented level under my administration. It also lays the groundwork for increased trade and cooperation across a range of cutting-edge fields, including energy, water, agriculture, and technology.”
“Sections 11(b) and 12(c)(2) of this bill purport to require me to provide to the Congress certain diplomatic communications and direct the Secretary of State to undertake certain diplomatic initiatives,” he added. “Consistent with longstanding constitutional practice, my administration will interpret and implement these sections in a manner that does not interfere with my constitutional authority to conduct diplomacy and to protect the confidentiality of diplomatic communications.”
The legislation comes as the administration is eager to push Israel to a two-state solution with the Palestinians. “It’s a particularly sensitive moment because we understand the frustrations of Palestinians,” Secretary of State John Kerry said this week in London. “We understand the frustrations of the Palestinian Authority and President Abbas and those who are pushing hard, because they don’t see another course at this moment.”
Boxer said in a statement that she applauded Obama for signing the bill “to strengthen our historic relationship with Israel.”
“This law will enhance cooperation between Israel and the United States on a wide range of issues – from defense to energy to cyber security – so we can work together to address the many challenges facing both countries,” she said.
Secretary of State John Kerry received a bipartisan request to stand with Israel and veto any United Nations Security Council resolution that imposes a “solution” on the Jewish state.
The Palestinians have drafted a resolution declaring a state and giving Israel two years to pull out of territory that the Palestinian Authority considers its own. On Tuesday, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki left the door open to a U.S. vote in favor of such a resolution, telling reporters today “we have to see what the details are.”
“There is a perception …that we have never supported any UN action related to Israel, and that is not true,” Psaki said. “We have supported a range of actions in the past. What we haven’t supported is steps that are unilateral actions that predetermine the outcome of negotiations.”
The draft was submitted to the Security Council on Wednesday by Jordan.
“We write to express concern about ongoing efforts to impose the terms of a peace agreement on our friend and ally Israel outside of direct negotiations between the Israelis and the Palestinians,” Sens. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) wrote to Kerry. “We urge you to make clear that the United States will veto any United Nations resolution and would oppose any efforts to bypass direct negotiations and impose peace terms on Israel through the United Nations Security Council and other international bodies.”
“For decades, the United States has consistently opposed efforts to bypass direct negotiations and impose terms on Israel through the United Nations Security Council,” the letter continues. “As President Obama said to the United Nations General Assembly in 2011, ‘I am convinced that there is no short cut to the end of a conflict that has endured for decades… Peace will not come through statements and resolutions at the United Nations… Ultimately, it is the Israelis and the Palestinians, not us, who must reach agreement on the issues that divide them; on borders and on security, on refugees and Jerusalem.’”
“We strongly agree with this sentiment. Yet there are multiple efforts in the United Nations Security Council to set parameters for final status negotiations, effectively imposing terms on our ally Israel in matters that are vital to its security and national interests.”
Graham and Schumer “strongly” urged Kerry “to make clear to all parties that the United States strongly opposes, and if need be will veto, any effort to bypass direct negotiations and impose peace terms on Israel through the United Nations.”
“A failure to decisively announce that we will veto any resolution from the United Nations that dictates the peace process runs counter to decades of American foreign policy and only gives momentum to these counterproductive proposals,” the senators added. “We thank you for your continued dedication to this issue and we look forward to supporting our government’s efforts to bring both parties back to the negotiating table without preconditions.”
The leader of Hamas in exile says the European Union General Court decision to remove Hamas from its list of terrorist organizations should pave the way for countries to follow suit.
In a statement to Middle East Monitor, Khaled Mashal said the EU’s “past position was not based on objective facts.”
“In addition to this, it was in violation of and contradictory to international law as well as legal and humanitarian norms that guarantee the right of nations to resist occupation. It would be in the European Union’s best interest to align itself with international law and with legal and humanitarian norms and to refrain from violating these laws under the misguided pressure of Israel and its exploitation of the international community,” Mashal said.
The Hamas leader urged leaders of EU countries “to accept and cooperate with the decision of the Court and to take measures to make a brave political decision to remove Hamas from the European Union’s terrorist list in coordination with the Court’s decision and with the values of justice and law, as well as out of respect of the people’s will and their rights.”
“I also urge the leaders and governments in EU states to avoid stalling or wasting time by taking measures or making appeals attempting to circumvent international law and objective facts,” Mashal added. “I also hope that all international forces, including the United States, take the initiative and right the wrong that has been made in the past, which, as everyone knows, is a result of Israeli pressure and not a result of the facts on the ground.”
State Department press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters today that the U.S. is reviewing the court’s findings.
“According to a statement by the European Union, this decision was based on procedural grounds. We understand that the E.U. sanctions Hamas remain in effect pending the E.U.’s decision on whether to appeal,” Psaki said. “The U.S. position on has not changed; Hamas is a designated foreign terrorist organization.”
“Hamas continues to engage in terrorist activity and has demonstrated its intentions during this summer’s conflicts with Israel. It fired thousands of rockets into Israeli civilian areas and attempted to infiltrate Israel through tunnels that extended into Israel,” Psaki continued.
“We will continue to work closely with the European Union on Hamas-related issues. We believe that the E.U. should maintain its terrorism sanctions on Hamas.”
Mashal said Hamas “continues to confine its legitimate resistance and struggle to Palestine and exercises this against the Israeli occupation.”
“This is a natural right for the movement and for all nations under foreign occupation and it is in accordance with our religious and international laws, just as the other nations in the East and the West resisted their occupying forces,” he said.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he was “not satisfied with the European Union’s explanation that the removal of Hamas from its list of terrorist organizations is a ‘technical matter.’”
“The burden of proof is on the European Union and we expect it to put Hamas back on the list forthwith given that it is understood by all that Hamas – a murderous terrorist organization, the covenant of which specifies the destruction of Israel as its goal – is an inseparable part of this list,” Netanyahu said. “We will continue to fight Hamas with strength and determination so that it never achieves this goal.”
The White House will be officially celebrating the Festival of Lights with late afternoon and evening receptions tomorrow, but President Obama kicked off the holiday with his Hanukkah message today:
Over the eight nights of Hanukkah, Jews across America, Israel, and the world will remember an ancient triumph of freedom over oppression, and renew their faith in the possibility of miracles large and small.
Even in the darkest, shortest days of winter, the Festival of Lights brims with possibility and hope. The courage of the Maccabees reminds us that we too can overcome seemingly insurmountable odds. The candles of the Menorah remind us that even the smallest light has the power to shine through the darkness. And the miracle at the heart of Hanukkah – the oil that lasted for eight nights instead of only one – reminds us that even when the future is uncertain, our best days are yet to come.
May this Hanukkah embolden us to do what is right, shine a light on the miracles we enjoy, and kindle in all of us the desire to share those miracles with others. From my family to yours, Chag Sameach.
Tomorrow the Palestinians are expected to bring a resolution before the UN Security Council declaring a state and giving Israel two years to pull out of territory that the Palestinian Authority considers its own. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki left the door open to a U.S. vote in favor of such a resolution, telling reporters today “we have to see what the details are.”
“There is a perception …that we have never supported any UN action related to Israel, and that is not true,” Psaki said. “We have supported a range of actions in the past. What we haven’t supported is steps that are unilateral actions that predetermine the outcome of negotiations.”
The Palestinians need nine votes, or two-thirds of the council, for passage.
Secretary of State John Kerry told reporters in London today that international alliances are needed to battle the “almost medieval vision” of Islamist terrorists that attacked in Pakistan and Sydney this week.
“As a father, I know exactly how hard it is when you send kids out of house into the world, to school or anywhere, and particularly in today’s world,” Kerry said of the attack at the Army Public School in Peshawar, in which at least 131 were killed.
“The images are absolutely gut-wrenching: young children carried away in ambulances, a teacher burned alive in front of the students, a house of learning turned into a house of unspeakable horror,” he said. “…This act of terror angers and shakes all people of conscience, and we condemn it in the strongest terms possible. The perpetrators must be brought to justice. And we pledge our full support to the people of Pakistan in this difficult hour and we will help them in any way that we possibly can.”
Noting the cafe siege in Sydney by an Iranian cleric that left two hostages dead, Kerry noted the U.S. “has come face to face with horrific violence on our own soil, and we have seen our citizens held hostage and murdered in faraway places for the most nihilistic, devastatingly negative purposes.”
“So we know in a very personal way what our ally Australia is going through at this very moment. And we grieve with Australia and with the families of all those terrorized, injured, and killed,” he said. “The attacks in Peshawar and Sydney underscore that threats locally are also threats globally. In today’s world, next door is everywhere. And that’s why the United States is engaged in more places with more partners on more issues than ever before, and we are committed with all those allies and partners to standing up to extremism and to the extremists themselves.”
Kerry said he’d had “very candid and constructive conversations” over the past few days in Rome with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and others. He sits down with Palestinian representatives in London today.
“Now obviously, a focus of these conversations has been our deep concern about the situation on the ground in Israel and in the West Bank and the mounting calls from the international community to pursue diplomatic measures to try to address it,” he said. “…All of the reasons that we engaged so intensely one year ago, a little more than that, and all the reasons that Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Abbas were willing to engage — those reasons are even more compelling today. The status quo is unsustainable for both parties and for the region.”
Kerry condemned an acid attack on an Israeli family last week and “indefensible price tag attacks, so-called price tag attacks” against Palestinians, “including the recent burning of a mosque near Ramallah.”
“The cycle of violence leads to more violence and to nowhere,” he said. “Peace is the only prospect, and people need to fight for it.”
A Palestinian resolution is coming before the UN Security Council on Wednesday to demand Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank and East Jerusalem and declare the formation of a Palestinian state.
“It’s a particularly sensitive moment because we understand the frustrations of Palestinians. We understand the frustrations of the Palestinian Authority and President Abbas and those who are pushing hard, because they don’t see another course at this moment,” Kerry said. “So the key is to try to find out whether or not there are other options, other ways, other courses; could something be done that helps to respect the process that the Israelis are about to undergo, simultaneously respecting the needs of the region to de-escalate the tensions and avoid confrontation?”
“That’s what we hope to achieve, that’s what these discussions are all about, and we will continue to have these discussions this afternoon and on into the next days. But we’ve made no determinations other than that about any — about language, approaches, specific resolutions, any of that. We haven’t made any determinations.”
Pressed further about the fight against extremists staging attacks like those in Pakistan and Australia, Kerry replied “the threat is what the threat is.”
“If somebody decides they want to die, it’s very hard to prevent every situation from occurring,” he said.
“…I know that our friends in Pakistan and in Australia are tough and strong and prepared to stay the course. So it’s very unfortunate when this happens, but it is done precisely for the kind of effect that it gets, which is questions at a press conference and fears that are spread in various parts of the world.”
From The Daily Star in Lebanon:
BEIRUT: Syrian jihadi and rebel militias overran a sprawling government military base in Idlib province Monday, achieving the year’s biggest victory against the regime of President Bashar Assad.
The Nusra Front, Al-Qaeda’s affiliate in Syria, along with the powerful Ahrar al-Sham militia and other allies, seized the Wadi Deif base after a fierce, two-day push that sent hundreds of regime troops fleeing the area, as regime warplanes pounded the area in a bid to secure their retreat.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an anti-regime monitoring group based in Britain, said 31 government troops were killed in the assault on the base, along with a dozen fighters from the Nusra Front and its allies, although some pro-Nusra social media outlets said nearly 80 rebels had been killed.
A military commander from Ahrar al-Sham claimed in a video statement that around 200 regime troops were killed in the offensive, while several hundred were wounded.
That’s always been the tricky part of dealing with the never-ending turmoil in this part of the world-it’s often a “lesser of two evils but, wow, they’re both really evil” proposition (see: Egypt). One bad actor will just step in and take the place of another, and whatever ill the new bad guys sow will be blamed on the United States for either being too proactive or too inactive.
If there is a solution to what the West can do to “help” in Syria, it has yet to be discovered, probably because almost every foreseeable outcome with the current players is so unpalatable.
Iran tried to distance itself from the Iranian cleric who took over a cafe in Sydney, saying Man Haran Monis’ actions had nothing to do with Islam.
The 49-year-old, who called himself Sheikh Haron, was killed when police stormed the Lindt cafe after a 16-hour standoff. Australian authorities said they were forced to move in when they heard shots being fired inside the chocolate shop.
Monis was killed. Two hostages were killed, and a police officer was shot in the face yet is expected to survive.
The Iranian sought political asylum in Australia in 1996.
Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson Marziyeh Afkham expressed alarm about “unclear and imperfect news about the Iranian refugee,” according to the official Islamic Republic News Agency, which didn’t carry the story of the shooting until the government had something to say.
IRNA said the “psychological conditions of the person, who took refuge in Australia two decades ago, had been discussed several times with the Australian officials.”
Iran’s state-owned Press TV said Afkham “emphasized on Monday that recourse to inhuman methods and terrorism has nothing to do with the divine religion of Islam.”
“She noted that the Australian police have been totally abreast of psychological conditions of the hostage taker, who had immigrated to Australia about two decades ago.”
Iran further tried to tie him to ISIS, noting that “the hostage taker had described Iran and the supporters of the Syrian President Bashar al-Assad as terrorists.” Monis was wearing a Shiite headband when he took over the cafe, yet reportedly asked for an ISIS flag during negotiations.
“Some blame the incident on those who support terrorism, including the United States, Israel, and certain regimes in the Middle East region that support such Takfiri groups as al-Nusra Front and ISIL,” Press TV reported.
The semi-official Fars News Agency ran with the headline: “Sydney Hostage-Taker Says He is ISIL Member.” Fars said the generic jihadi flag being waved by Monis was that of al-Nusra.
“The formerly Shiite Muslim underlines that he has converted to Sunni Islam, stressing that Shiites are blasphemous people,” read the Fars story. “He also underscores that the war in Iraq is not a sectarian strife, but a war between the Muslims (i.e. ISIL) and the hypocrites.”
After immigrating to Australia, Monis went to court over hateful letters written to the families of soldiers killed in Afghanistan. He was out on bail on charges of being accessory to the murder of his ex-wife, and subsequently faced more than 50 charges of indecent acts and sexual assault related to his “spiritual healer” practice.
On his website, Monis posted a statement dated December 2014, “I used to be a Rafidi, but not anymore. Now I am a Muslim, Alhamdu Lillah.”
“Islam is the religion of peace, that’s why Muslims fight against the oppression and terrorism of USA and its allies including UK and Australia. If we stay silent towards the criminals we cannot have a peaceful society,” he said in a statement dated Dec. 14. “The more you fight with crime, the more peaceful you are. Islam wants peace on the Earth, that’s why Muslims want to stop terrorism of America and its allies. When you speak out against crime you have taken one step towards peace.”
With the hostage situation resolved — hopefully with no innocent lives lost (reports just coming in – UPDATE: Reports say that one hostage as well as the gunman are dead) — and the release of the name of the hostage taker, Iranian-born Islamic cleric Man Monis aka Shiekh Haron, this seems to be yet another case of what I termed here at PJ Media several weeks ago as “Known Wolf Syndrome.”
In that article, following two separate terror attacks in Canada in which the suspects were already well-known to authorities, I noted that in the U.S., too, in many of the domestic terrorism cases the culprits had already been identified to law enforcement as problems. In the present case, not only was the suspect well-known, but he was out on bail on murder charges related to the stabbing and setting on fire of his ex-wife, with whom he was in a heated custody dispute.
Monis came to Australia in 1996 from Iran and his immigration status was that of political refugee. He has since had other well-known run-ins with law enforcement. In 2009, he sent a series of hate messages, which he deemed as “flowers of advice,” to the families of Australian military members who had been killed in action. He likened their deaths to the deaths of Hitler’s soldiers, as well as to families of Australian victims of international terrorism attacks. He was given 300 hours of community service.
In another case, Monis was charged with 50 counts of sexual assault, where it was claimed that he lured victims in and assaulted them claiming it was a “spiritual healing technique.”
We’ll undoubtedly learn more in the days to come about the intentions and motives of the suspect in the case. The evidence at hand clearly indicates that Monis was another example of the two-faced Islamic cleric. In this case, Monis claimed that he was “an Australian who wanted a safe future for our country” (HT: Stewart Bell) while simultaneously — and openly — hating the very country that gave him refuge.
Yet again, we have a case in the West in which a domestic terrorist was well-known to law enforcement authorities and yet action sufficient to prevent the tragedy at hand was never taken despite the opportunity to do so (in this instance, he was out on bail).
Nonetheless, this will be yet another case where so-called terrorism “experts” will be trotted out by the media and political officials to claim that Monis was a case of “lone wolf syndrome.” Or that his actions were entirely unpredictable, and the government will need more money for terrorism programs that won’t work, and for outreach to the very extremists who continue to murder, rape, and maim innocents. And the “voxsplaining” has begun, distancing the suspect from any known extremist group.
Earlier this month I reported here at PJ Media that U.S.-backed Syrian rebel groups were allying with Jabhat al-Nusra, Al-Qaeda’s official affiliate in Syria, in the south, while others were surrendering their weapons to the terror group in the north.
Now a report by the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights indicates that Jabhat al-Nusra is using TOW anti-tank missiles, which had previously been supplied by the CIA to “vetted moderates” groups, in an assault on a Syrian army position in the north (HT: Zaid Benjamin):
Idlib province: No less than 15 soldiers in regime forces were killed by an attack by Jabhat al-Nusra and Islamic fighters on their bastions in Wadi al-Deif and al-Hamdia camps, while no less than 8 fighters from the other side were killed during the clashes in the area, Jabhat al-Nusra and Islamic battalions have taken over the checkpoints of ” al-Za’lan, al-Raii, al-Rab’an ” around the camps. Jabhat al-Nusra devastated a tank for regime forces around Wadi al-Deif camp with an American Tao [sic] missile.
A report last month indicated that the Syrian Revolutionaries Front and Harakat Hazm — both U.S.-backed and supplied by the CIA with TOW missiles — had surrendered or abandoned their weapons to Jabhat al-Nusra.
Today the timing of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s declassified executive summary on enhanced interrogation techniques used by the Bush Administration raises an intriguing list of political questions. One is even about movies and another has huge implications for the 2016 presidential race.
Now that Senate Committee’s torture report is bedside reading for our enemies, when is ISIS, al-Qaeda, and the Taliban going to release their torture reports so we can all compare techniques?
With Republicans taking control of the Senate on January 3, 2015, why did the Democrats insist on releasing this controversial report today?
Today was scheduled to be “Gruber Day” when controversial MIT professor and Obamacare architect Jonathan Gruber testified before the House Oversight Committee. As predicted, Gruber generated headlines embarrassing to President Obama and the Democrats.
There is no doubt that Gruber’s testimony would have been the lead story in the next 24-hour news cycle. But now, due to the torture report, Gruber’s apologetic, yet pathetic testimony will not get the media attention it deserves. (Gruber refused to tell the committee how much he was paid even though it was been widely reported that he pocketed over $2 million of your tax dollars.)
This leads one to ask, Was Gruber Day and the torture report release merely a news day coincidence?
Now let’s ask a Hollywood question.
The Senate Intelligence Committee report says that no useful intelligence was gained by these enhanced interrogation techniques.
Therefore, was the movie Zero Dark Thirty showing how these techniques gleaned information leading our SEALS to Osama bin Laden’s hiding place, just for the sake of Hollywood action? (Didn’t the Pentagon and CIA cooperate in the making of Zero Dark Thirty?) I am confused!
Finally, let’s think about the effect of the torture report on 2016 politics.
The Senate Intelligence Committee report has been condemned by the CIA and Republicans as PJ Media’s Bridget Johnson reported. It is also a five-year $40 million one-sided exercise in Bush-bashing, detailing how the Bush Administration’s reacted to the War on Terror covering the years 2001 – 2009.
As everyone knows, there is a potential Republican presidential candidate named Jeb Bush who just happens to be the brother of the president at the center of the report. Jeb is supposed to make his decision about whether to run for the 2016 GOP nomination early next year.
As a result of this report, will Jeb Bush decide against entering the race?
Think about it like this — in order for Jeb to run for president his family name needed to be somewhat restored. Thus today, with negative headlines around the world tied to the Bush Administration — coupled with the report’s gruesome details, the Bush family name is toxic once again.
These circumstances make Jeb’s potential candidacy highly unlikely. (His campaign trail safety too.) And that sets off an entire chain of 2016 political jockeying better left for another day.
Cell phone video shot by witness. Graphic content.
The New York Post reports:
Police shot and killed a disturbed man inside one of Brooklyn’s most prominent synagogues Tuesday morning, apparently after he asked for a Bible and then stabbed someone there, sources said.
The bloodshed happened at the world headquarters of the Lubavitch Hasidic sect at 770 Eastern Parkway in Crown Heights shortly after 1 a.m., sources said.
Calvin Peters, 50, had walked into the basement of the synagogue where people were praying, sources said.
According to police sources, Peters asked for a copy of the Bible, then briefly walked out, sources said.
He returned and stabbed a an Israeli student in the side of the head for an unknown reason.
“He’s a very serious student he’d been studying all day,” witness Levi Deutsch said about the victim. “He was stabbed in the side of the head he was conscious but he was bleeding a lot.”
Another witness flagged down cops who were passing the headquarters.
Officers then confronted the man in an encounter that was captured on a dramatic video.
The cops warned Calvin Peters, believed to be homeless, to put down his knife several times. After finally putting it down, he grabbed it once more and lunged at the police officer, causing the officer to fire the fatal shot.
“Most likely it is not a hate crime,” said Mony Ender, the deputy spokesman for Chabad Lubavitch in lsrael. “The assailant was not (running) amok. He stabbed one person, with an ordinary kitchen knife, although he could have attacked many more people who were there.”
However, according to the New York Daily News, the NYPD anti-terror unit was called out to the scene:
An Israeli student praying in a Brooklyn synagogue was stabbed in the neck early Tuesday after a knife-wielding maniac burst inside and yelled “I want to kill the Jew!”
…”I will kill the Jew! I want to kill the Jew!” a witness heard the attacker yelling as he entered the 24-hour religious center.
…A 25-year-old Israeli who was in the synagogue said he saw Peters enter and leave the building an hour before the attack.
“He was looking around, He asked for a book,” that witness said. “He looked not so much crazy, but different.”
When the man returned, he was armed with a knife in his hand and anger in his voice.
“I never thought it would happen in New York,” the witness told The News. “These things don’t need to happen.”
The stabbing victim is currently hospitalized in stable condition.
Rabbi Shmuley Boteach kvells some wise advice in the Jerusalem Post:
On Wednesday night, my son Mendy held a demonstration inside an event held by the Students for Justice in Palestine at New York University. They were screening a documentary by Israeli filmmaker (or should I say anti-Israeli filmmaker) Lia Tarachansky, called On the Side of the Road.
…My son sought to show the other side of the story. While there were indeed hundreds of thousands of Palestinian refugees, there were even more Jewish refugees driven from Arab lands and Iran beginning at the same time. The number of these refugees amounted to 850,000 Jews. My son and his fellow students held 6-foot signs displaying this number. These refugees fled their countries due to the fierce anti-Semitic atmosphere that had begun to envelop them. In the 1940s, and especially after 1948, pogroms were set against the Jews of the Middle East, with hundreds killed. In Iraq in 1941, 180 Jews were murdered, with 900 Jewish homes, schools, businesses and synagogues destroyed.
In Tripoli, 1945, 140 Jews were massacred and another 4,000 were left without homes. In 1947, 75 Jews were murdered across Syria, and another 80 were killed in the anti-Jewish Cairo bombings of 1948. That year 82 Jews were murdered in Aden, in what has come to be known as the “Yemeni Holocaust.”
These killings were not carried out by armies, but by enraged civilian populations who stormed the Jewish areas of their cities.
My son put this information onto signs and set them before SJP’s audience for all to absorb.
…There was another side to this story. The NYU students deserved to see it.
Get ready to laugh. Apparently the Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) kids didn’t think Mendy’s demonstration was permitted. That’s right, professional protesters didn’t think Zionists had the right to protest. Then again, perhaps it had less to do with “right” and more to do with being shocked that college kids would dare to go against the campus trend.
When the SJP organizers saw him and the other students protesting the event, they were shocked. “Is this allowed?” asked the director.
It was, and Mendy had the papers to prove it. She was at a loss for words, and just stared at the display. In the decade that the SJP has been operating, they had never seen something like this inside the walls of their very own event.
…The fight for Israel at leading Western universities is the singles greatest PR war on campus.
It’s a war that is winnable if Jewish and pro-Israel students learn that the time has come to fight back.
For more than 30 years, the A-10 Thunderbolt II—better known as the Warthog because it’s so ugly—has performed a crucial role: attacking hostile targets that threaten troops on the ground, a task called close air support. The plane, designed for the Cold War, is old. It’s slow. And it’s about as sophisticated as a hammer. But it is heavily armored and wickedly armed, making it a ruthlessly effective weapon. And that is why, despite ongoing efforts by Defense Department brass to kill it, the Warthog is headed back into battle to help in the fight against ISIS.
An undisclosed number of Warthogs, part of the “Blacksnakes” 163rd Expeditionary Fighter Squadron based at Fort Wayne, Indiana, have been deployed to Middle Eastern airbases to provide air cover to troops fighting ISIS in Iraq and Syria.
Last summer I wrote about the pencil-pushers’ efforts to get rid of this war machine that is enormously popular with the people who, you know, actually fight wars.
Thankfully, John McCain had another lucid moment and he, along with a few others, have kept fighting for the old bird.
Pentagon brass, including outgoing Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, would like to retire the jet by 2019. But the A-10 has key supporters in Congress, including McCain and New Hampshire Senator Kelly Ayotte (whose husband Joe flew the A-10 in Iraq). They argue there simply isn’t yet an adequate replacement. Not so, say those calling for the A-10’s retirement. The F-35 isn’t quite ready for battle, but they insist planes like the F-16 and the F-15E are up to the task.
That may be, but nothing elicits the same admiration for the Warthog, which is so ugly as to be beautiful, a machine designed to take no end of punishment even as it punishes those stand in its way. “Its ugliness makes it endearing,” Underwood says.
Unless you’re on the receiving end of that 30mm cannon.
The Pentagon acknowledged yesterday that it failed to rescue American journalist and hostage Luke Somers in Yemen because he was not present at the targeted location.
Pentagon Press Secretary Rear Admiral John Kirby said in a written statement that the U.S. government acknowledged the attempted rescue. Somers is the only American of the dozen hostages held by Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). Kirby said he wanted to “provide accurate information given that it is being widely reported in the public domain.”
A Yemini official confirmed that an American journalist along with a Briton were moved before the U.S. raid. Other hostages were rescued during the raid.
Late Wednesday night, AQAP released a video Somers who tells the camera that he had been kidnapped over a year ago in Sanaa, Yemen. He goes on to say “I’m looking for any help that can get me out of this situation. I am certain that my life is in danger. So, as I sit here now, I ask, if anything can be done, please let it be done. Thank you very much,” Somers says in the video.
The Washington Post reports that the AQAP has threatened to kill Somers on account of the botched raid. “We warn Obama and the American government of the consequences of proceeding ahead in any other foolish action,” the al-Qaeda official said in the video.
The internet has made journalists of little use to terrorists. Previously, journalists were necessary to help convey information to the public about terrorist causes, but now it’s easy to release videos on You Tube or post manifestos on social media like Facebook and Twitter. Unfortunately, well-meaning journalists who travel to dangerous locations to report stories are also possible trophies for terrorists who love to capture Americans to show the world.
According to attorney Karam Ghobrial (“Gabriel”), his client, Bishoy Armia Boulous, a Muslim convert to Christianity, remains illegally incarcerated and has “vowed to starve himself to death,” reports MCN.
Bishoy, more notoriously known as Mohammed Hegazy, is the first Egyptian ever to try legally to change his religious identity from Muslim to Christian on his official ID card, prompting much shock and outrage in Muslim-majority Egypt (see Crucified Again, p. 107).
Ghobrial further cited that Bishoy’s detention—in the execution chamber no less—is illegal, prompted solely by malicious charges against him, all of which stem from his original attempt to formally change his religious identity.
In the words of his lawyer: “Bishoy is imprisoned in the execution room in violation of the law. Trumped up charges against him have not been proven and he is being treated even worse [than before]. He has not seen the light [of day] since being released from Minya’s misdemeanor court.”
Bishoy was arrested in July 2014. Then, the judge in Minya cited “disturbing the peace by broadcasting false information” as the reason for sentencing the apostate, who in the weeks before was documenting political unrest in Egypt brought on by numerous Islamic attacks on Christians. He was eventually released, but then immediately scooped up again by State Security acting on behalf of Cairo, now under the charge of “insulting the Islamic faith.”
Bishoy’s lawyer further said that “the [current] judge is behaving in a prejudiced manner in this case because Bishoy had publicly announced his conversion to Christianity.” He stressed the “need for attention to this case, and escalating it, so everyone knows what this convert is being exposed to.”
Bishoy has now been imprisoned for nearly six months, without any action being done in his case. He is being held on charges of “contempt to the Islamic religion” and reportedly spreading “false news” about the existence of State Security “torture chambers” where Muslim converts to Christianity are detained and tortured. Bishoy apparently refuses to recant this claim (quite possibly because he himself is now experiencing it first hand).
As lawyer Karam Ghobrial maintains, it is clear that the real reason his client is being tortured in prison—where he is being held illegally under ever morphing charges—has to do with what made Bishoy Armia, formerly Mohammed Hegazy, notorious in Egypt in the first place: his audacity not only to convert to Christianity, but to try formally to change his religious identity from Muslim to Christian on his ID card, prompting much enmity for him in Egypt.
In short, Bishoy is just another prisoner of conscience, just another born Muslim who wishes to be Christian—but whose actions have been deemed offensive to the state. His story occurs with great frequency all around the Islamic world. One need only recall the plight of Meriam Ibrahim, a Christian wife and mother in Sudan who, while pregnant, was sentenced to be executed on the charge of apostatizing from Islam. And in nearby Iran, for example, Iranian-American Christian pastor Saeed Abedini—also seen as an apostate agitator—continues to rot in prison.
President Obama again used a national security loophole to keep the U.S. Embassy from moving to Jerusalem as required by a nearly 20-year-old law.
“I hereby determine that it is necessary, in order to protect the national security interests of the United States, to suspend for a period of 6 months the limitations set forth in sections 3(b) and 7(b) of the Act,” Obama wrote in a memorandum to Secretary of State John Kerry, mirroring what he’s written every six months.
Under the 1995 act, which was overwhelmingly approved in the House and Senate, the Embassy was supposed to be relocated from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem by May 31, 1999.
George W. Bush suspended the requirements of the bill, too, but always included this sentence in his memos: “My Administration remains committed to beginning the process of moving our embassy to Jerusalem.”
The Obama administration considers Jerusalem on the table for potential division in a final-status agreement.
Two months ago, the White House accused Israel of “poisoning” the peace process with construction in Jerusalem.
White House press secretary Josh Earnest told reporters Oct. 1 that the U.S. is “deeply concerned by reports that Israeli government has moved forward with the planning process in the sensitive area — or in a sensitive area of east Jerusalem.”
“This step is contrary to Israel’s stated goal of negotiating a permanent status agreement with the Palestinians, and it would send a very troubling message if they were to proceed with tenders or construction in that area,” Earnest continued. “This development will only draw condemnation from the international community, distance Israel from even its closest allies, poison the atmosphere, not only with the Palestinians but also with the very Arab governments with which Prime Minister Netanyahu said he wanted to build relations.”
“It also would call into question Israel’s ultimate commitment to peaceful negotiated settlement with the Palestinians.”
Since then, a U.S. citizen baby was killed in a terror attack at a Jerusalem light-rail station and three American rabbis were killed in a vicious synagogue attack.
As is usual for a prime minister under fire, Bibi Netanyahu dissolved the Knesset this week in a call for early elections slated for March 2015. Those on the right rejoiced as Livni and Lapid, Leftist and Center-Leftist respectively, were kicked out of their high-ranking positions in the now defunct coalition. But, that isn’t the Right’s only reason for rejoicing. As David Horovitz reports in Times of Israel, the ultra-Right stands to claim a solid victory in March 2015:
The first three instant polls, taken late Tuesday and early Wednesday, for Channel 2, Channel 10, and Walla, predict a very different Knesset array three-and-a-half months from now. The three polls produce findings very similar to one another, indicating that Likud, Yisrael Beytenu and the former Likud minister Moshe Kahlon’s as-yet-unnamed new party will win 49-51 seats together — a staggering surge compared to the 31 won by Likud-Yisrael Beytenu last time. Jewish Home also gains five seats, in all three polls, to 17. That means the right wing could muster a 66- to 68-seat coalition — a healthy Knesset majority — with no need of outside assistance. Certainly no reliance on the likes of Livni or Lapid. And no reliance, either, on Shas or UTJ. The ultra-Orthodox parties could be invited into the coalition, but they wouldn’t have make-or-break leverage.
Let’s hope they don’t. The Israeli Left was abuzz this past September during my own visit to Israel. “Netanyahu will call for early elections. He’ll form a new coalition with the ultra-Orthodox,” they shook their heads, and with good reason. Yair Lapid may be playing politics, but the former TV news anchor-turned-politician made good points regarding Netanyahu’s timing:
The ultra-Orthodox Shas party entered the fray late Monday, with chairman Aryeh Deri reiterating his own demands for entering a post-election Netanyahu government. These included cutting the 18% sales tax on many basic grocery goods, raising the minimum hourly wage from NIS 23.12 ($5.87) to NIS 30 ($7.62), changing the recently passed ultra-Orthodox draft law, restoring some funds cut by the current government from ultra-Orthodox religious seminaries and schools – and the cancellation of Lapid’s tax-free housing program, which would only apply for those who served in the military, leaving many ultra-Orthodox out.
For months I’ve been reporting here at PJ Media about the ongoing cooperation between US-backed “vetted moderate” Syrian rebel units and designated terrorist groups ISIS and Jabhat al-Nusra, Al-Qaeda’s official affiliate in Syria. This includes U.S.-backed rebel units who have defected wholesale to ISIS and Al-Qaeda.
Despite multiple reports of this cooperation, in September the congressional GOP leadership jumped on board with Obama’s proposal to spend an additional $500 million to arm and train the “vetted moderates” just weeks before the Obama administration abandoned the Free Syrian Army that had been the primary beneficiary of U.S. support for the past three years.
Now reports this weekend indicate growing cooperation between U.S.-backed rebels and Jabhat al-Nusra operating in southern Syria.
According to the LA Times:
Opposition activists reported intensified government bombardment in and around Sheik Maskin and the arrival of battle-tested loyalist reinforcements.
Fighting along with U.S.-backed rebels were elements of Al Nusra Front, the official Al Qaeda affiliate in Syria.
In a Facebook posting, Al Nusra supporters reported “vicious battles” in the Sheik Maskin area. Earlier posts also eulogized a prominent Al Nusra commander, Abu Humam Jazrawi, who was killed in the fighting.
Al Nusra’s participation illustrates how Western-supported rebel groups often cooperate with the Al Qaeda franchise, though both sides try to play down the extent of coordination. Recent clashes between Al Nusra Front and U.S.-backed rebels in northwestern Syria do not appear to have broken the de facto alliance between the Al Qaeda affiliate and West-backed fighters in the south. (emphasis added)
Meanwhile, in northern Syria as “vetted moderate” groups were forming an umbrella with hardcore jihadist groups, such as Ahrar al-Sham, other U.S.-backed units were surrendering to Jabhat al-Nusra (a trend I noted last month) and turning over their CIA-provided arms to Ahrar al-Sham, McClatchy reports:
On Friday, as the groups were meeting here, the Nusra Front stormed the bases of two moderate rebel groups in Syria’s north: the Ansar Brigades in Idlib and the Haqq Front in Hama. The two groups, both of which were receiving U.S. support through a covert CIA program, surrendered to Nusra, delivered their weapons to Ahrar al Sham and returned to their homes. (emphasis added)
And today Syria analyst Aron Lund noted that the U.S.-backed Free Syrian Army signed an agreement last week with Jabhat al-Nusra and Ahrar al-Sham for the Qalamoun area near the Lebanese border guaranteeing the imposition of sharia and creating a mutual defense pact.
The “vetted moderate” follies continue.