Not 24 hours after the brutal video showing the beheading of humanitarian aid worker David Haines was released, the British government said it would seek justice while stressing that ISIS doesn’t represent Islam.
The killer shown in all three ISIS beheading videos — Haines, James Foley, Steve Sotloff — speaks with a London accent.
“David Haines was a British hero. The fact that an aid worker was taken, held and brutally murdered at the hands of ISIL sums up what this organisation stands for,” British Prime Minister David Cameron said in a statement today. Haines, a former Royal Air Force engineer, was kidnapped 18 months ago, and the prime minister said ”the whole country, like his grieving family, can be incredibly proud of what he did and what he stood for in his humanitarian mission.”
“They are killing and slaughtering thousands of people, Muslims, Christians, minorities across Iraq and Syria,” Cameron said of ISIS. “They boast of their brutality. They claim to do this in the name of Islam. That is nonsense. Islam is a religion of peace.”
“They are not Muslims. They are monsters. They make no secret of their desire to do as much harm not just in the Middle East, but to any countries or peoples who seek to stand in their way or dare to stand for values they disagree with.”
Cameron said “the British people need to know that this is a fanatical organisation called ISIL, that has not only murdered a British hostage: They have planned – and continue to plan – attacks across Europe and in our country.”
He said they will confront the terrorist state “in a calm, deliberate way – but with an iron determination” with allies.
“The United States is taking direct military action. We support their efforts,” Cameron continued. “British Tornadoes and surveillance aircraft have been helping with intelligence gathering and logistics. This is not about British combat troops on the ground. It is about working with others to extinguish this terrorist threat. As this strategy intensifies, we are ready to take whatever steps are necessary to deal with this threat and keep our country safe.”
“…It falls to the Government, and to each and every one of us, to drain this poison from our society and to take on this warped ideology that is radicalising some of our young people.”
Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg issued a shorter statement calling Haines’ beheading “a crime of the most horrendous kind.”
“This murderous organisation calls itself Islamic State,” Clegg said. “But it is not a state, it is a brutal terrorist outfit whose actions are an affront to every peace loving Muslim around the world. No religion could possibly justify such grotesque acts.”
The Islamic Society of Britain sent a letter to Cameron vowing that they “shall take every opportunity to continue to say clearly and loudly ‘not in our name and not for our faith’.”
“We do not believe the terror group responsible should be given the credence and standing they seek by styling themselves ‘Islamic State’. It is neither Islamic, nor is it a State. The group has no standing with faithful Muslims, nor among the international community of nations. It clearly will never accept the obligations that any legitimate state has, including the responsibility to protect citizens and uphold human rights,” the Islamic Society wrote.
“So we believe the media, civic society and governments should refuse to legitimise these ludicrous Caliphate fantasies by accepting or propagating this name.”
They proposed that “Un-Islamic State” could be an “accurate and fair alternative name to describe this group and its agenda – and we will begin to call it that.”
“We are sure that most British Muslims would agree that ‘Un-Islamic State’ is a considerably more fitting label for this poisonous group – and hope that our fellow citizens will join us in that,” wrote the organization. “We know that this would be one small, symbolic step and that we must all work together to build the inclusion and integration in British society that would repel these poisonous ideas. But we believe that it would help and look forward to your response.”
After the third ISIS beheading video was released Saturday, Secretary of State John Kerry announced that a former commander of coalition forces in Afghanistan would be coming on board to help lead the administration’s coalition-building effort against the Islamic State.
“The United States has asked one of our most respected and experienced military experts, General John Allen, to join the State Department to serve as Special Presidential Envoy for the Global Coalition to Counter ISIL,” Kerry said in a statement tonight. “In this role, General Allen will help build and sustain the coalition so it can operate across multiple lines of effort in order to degrade and ultimately destroy ISIL.”
Last year, Allen became the fourth Afghanistan commander to leave under President Obama. He was scheduled for a February 2013 transition to be Commander of United States European Command and Supreme Allied Commander, Europe, but retired instead.
“General Allen is a patriot and a remarkable leader. His extraordinary career in the military speaks for itself,” Kerry continued. “Whether as the top commander of NATO’s ISAF forces in Afghanistan during a critical period from 2011-2013, or as a deputy commander in Anbar during the Sunni awakening, or as a thinker, scholar, and teacher at the U.S. Naval Academy. And he has done significant public service out of uniform since he returned to civilian life. His commitment to country and to service has really been enduring.”
“Most recently we worked together very closely in designing new approaches to meet the long-term security needs of the state of Israel, and I could not be more pleased than to have General Allen coming on board now fulltime at the State Department.”
Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Brett McGurk, who said earlier this month that an ISIS strategy included the belief that Sunni tribal leaders will get “sick and tired” of the terror group and kick them out of territory, will serve as Allen’s deputy senior envoy with the rank of ambassador.
“Not only has Brett been back and forth to Baghdad and Erbil almost every month this past year, but he has also spent a number of years over the past decade posted in Iraq as a top advisor to three different ambassadors,” Kerry said. “Brett is one of our foremost experts on Iraq, and he will be integral to this effort’s success. Both General Allen and Ambassador McGurk will begin work immediately.”
President Obama said in a statement this evening that the United States “strongly condemns the barbaric murder of UK citizen David Haines by the terrorist group ISIL.”
“Our hearts go out to the family of Mr. Haines and to the people of the United Kingdom. The United States stands shoulder to shoulder tonight with our close friend and ally in grief and resolve,” Obama said.
“We will work with the United Kingdom and a broad coalition of nations from the region and around the world to bring the perpetrators of this outrageous act to justice, and to degrade and destroy this threat to the people of our countries, the region and the world.”
Haines, 44, worked for the aid group ACTED and had previously helped the needy in South Sudan and Libya. He was seized in March 2013 shortly after crossing into Syria. He served in the Royal Air Force for more than a decade, service cited by his executioner in the video, “A Message to America’s Allies,” released today.
The Scotsman leaves behind his wife, Dragana, who has been living under police protection in Croatia, and 4-year-old daughter, along with a 17-year-old daughter in Perth from his first marriage.
The executioner is the same Brit as in the videos showing the deaths of American journalists James Foley and Steve Sotloff.
“This British man has to pay the price for your promise, Cameron, to arm the Peshmerga against the Islamic State,” the terrorist says. “Ironically, he has spent a decade of his life serving under the same Royal Air Force that is responsible for delivering those arms.”
“Playing the role of the obedient lapdog, Cameron, will only drag you and your people into another bloody and unwinnable war.”
Like the previous two videos, nothing shows the Brit executioner doing the actual killing. The Haines video shows a knife being pulled across his throat, then cuts away to a grisly shot of the victim’s body.
At the end of the David Haines video another man in an orange jumpsuit is threatened: Alan Henning. “If you, Cameron, persist in fighting the Islamic State, then you, like your master Obama, will have the blood of your people on your hands,” the executioner says.
One Syrian activist tweeted that Henning was part of a British humanitarian aid convoy, abducted in Al Dana by ISIS when they occupied the city.
“The murder of David Haines is an act of pure evil. My heart goes out to his family who have shown extraordinary courage and fortitude,” tweeted British Prime Minister David Cameron.
“We will do everything in our power to hunt down these murderers and ensure they face justice, however long it takes.”
The next hostage under threat by ISIS. Notice they picked a less identifiable landscape than Foley murder. pic.twitter.com/bKLK6qKAK0
— Bridget Johnson (@Bridget_PJM) September 13, 2014
The Islamic State has now beheaded another western hostage. The Mirror reports:
A new video has been released by militants purporting to show the 44-year-old aid worker being executed.
The second hostage to be executed was freelance journalist Steven Sotloff.
A video of the 31-year-old’s beheading emerged just weeks after his fellow captive James Foley was also killed.
In the footage, the executioner – again believed to be man nicknamed Jihadi John – said: “I am back, Obama, and I am back because of your arrogant foreign policy towards the Islamic State, because of your insistence on continuing your bombings and … on Mosul Dam, despite our serious warnings.”
The executioner is believed to be the same London-accented British jihadist who butchered the two Americans, James Foley and Steve Sotloff.
These serial killer jihadists are cowards. They take journalists and aid workers hostage. They refuse to show their faces on camera while they taunt the free world. The fact that all three hostages have recited anti-American or anti-British statements before their murders indicates that the helpless hostages have been tortured and brainwashed for years in captivity.
British PM David Cameron reacts:
The murder of David Haines is an act of pure evil. My heart goes out to his family who have shown extraordinary courage and fortitude.
— David Cameron (@David_Cameron) September 13, 2014
We will do everything in our power to hunt down these murderers and ensure they face justice, however long it takes.
— David Cameron (@David_Cameron) September 13, 2014
President Obama’s strategy is not going to stop ISIS. Two of our so-called allies in Obama’s strategy have now allied with ISIS. The Iraqi army is clearly not ready. The Arab states are only promising money and training for Syrian “rebel” troops, so far. Yemen and Somalia, the two countries Obama himself held up as models of successful counterterrorism, are terrorist playgrounds.
Raymond Ibrahim wrote recently about why these terrorists specifically choose to behead their victims. Beheading “infidels” and those cast as “enemies of Islam” has a specific origin in Islamic history.
Obama’s hope to do anything of substance in Syria took another severe blow yesterday as the U.S.-backed and armed Syrian Revolutionaries Front (SRF) struck a peace deal with ISIS, according to both Arabic and English language news reports.
The SRF had only a few months ago been deemed by the U.S. foreign policy establishment as “the West’s best fighting chance against Syria’s Islamist armies.”
Now AFP reports:
Syrian rebels and jihadists from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria have agreed a non-aggression pact for the first time in a suburb of the capital Damascus, a monitoring group said on Friday.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the ceasefire deal was agreed between ISIS and moderate and Islamist rebels in Hajar al-Aswad, south of the capital.
Under the deal, “the two parties will respect a truce until a final solution is found and they promise not to attack each other because they consider the principal enemy to be the Nussayri regime.”
Nussayri is a pejorative term for the Alawite sect, an offshoot of Shiite Islam to which President Bashar al-Assad belongs.
According to media reports, other groups joining the ceasefire with ISIS include Liwa Ahrar Turkman al-Golan, Liwa Hittin and Liwa al-Umma al-Wahida.
When seeking U.S. heavy weapons, including TOW anti-tank missiles, SRF commander Jamal Maroof was full of bravado, declaring war against ISIS. In May, McClatchy reported that SRF and other “vetted moderate rebel” groups had received TOW missiles from the U.S. and posted videos of their use.
But as soon as weapons were being delivered to Maroof’s SRF forces, he was giving interviews to Western media making clear that “al-Qaeda is not our problem.”
A May 2014 report by Jenan Moussa of Al-Aan notes that Maroof runs SRF in a cave with his three wives and children:
During that interview where Maroof talks about receiving U.S. military aid and his soldiers receiving U.S. training, there is one curious artifact in the background, as you’ll see in the photo on the next page.
I am of two minds about this story. Certainly, we can all relate to the desperation of the parents of Steve Sotloff and James Foley. They were willing to do anything to get their children back — as any of us would do in a similar situation. The fact that the government apparently threatened both families with prosection if they tried to raise ransom money seems harsh and arbitrary.
But the government is forced to think not only about present hostages, but any future hostage taking of Americans by the terrorists. It seems logical that paying ransom for hostages only encourages more hostage taking. Recall in Lebanon in the 1980s when the U.S. bartered arms for hostages only to see more hostages taken by the terrorists.
But there is more to this story. Specifically, White House lies about being in “constant contact” with the families of hostages. That’s not the story the families are telling. And the manner in which the message about potential prosection was delivered is more reminiscent of a threat delivered by a mafioso than a caring, compassionate government.
The mother of slain American journalist James Foley said she wasn’t necessarily surprised that the U.S. government threatened her family with prosecution should they raise money to pay her son’s ransom, but she was astounded by how such a devastating message was delivered.
“I was surprised there was so little compassion,” Diane Foley told ABC News today of the three separate warnings she said U.S. officials gave the family about the illegality of paying ransom to the terror group ISIS. “It just made me realize that these people talking to us had no idea what it was like to be the family of someone abducted… I’m sure [the U.S. official] didn’t mean it the way he said it, but we were between a rock and a hard place. We were told we could do nothing… meanwhile our son was being beaten and tortured every day.”
Earlier this week five current and former officials with direct knowledge of the Foley case confirmed the alleged threats were made.
“It was an utterly idiotic thing to do that came across as if [the U.S. official] had the compassion of an anvil,” said a former official who has advised the family.
At times, Diane Foley said the family “had to beg” the government for information on their son.
“We were an annoyance, it felt, at some level… They didn’t have time for us,” she said.
Today White House spokesperson Josh Earnest said that government officials were in constant contact with the Foley family and declined to comment on the alleged ransom warnings, telling reporters he’s “not going to be in a position to detail the kinds of conversations that took place so often between members of the administration and the Foley family.”
“It is a long standing policy of this administration, it was the policy of previous administrations that ransoms should not be paid to terrorist organizations,” Earnest said before referring more specific questions about the Foley’s situation to the Justice Department.
Secretary of State John Kerry today told reporters that he was “really taken aback [and] surprised” by Foley’s allegations. “I can tell you that I am totally unaware and would not condone anybody that I know of within the State Department making such statements,” Kerry said.
The family of Steve Sotloff, the other murdered American, was also threatened directly with prosecution at a White House meeting.
Sources close to the families say that at the time of the White House meeting the Sotloffs and Foleys — after receiving direct threats from IS — were exploring lining up donors who would help pay multimillion-dollar ransoms to free their sons. But after the meeting those efforts collapsed, one source said, because of concerns that “donors could expose themselves to prosecution.”
Although European hostages have been freed through ransom payments that have run into the millions of dollars, the Obama administration has taken a hard line against any such payments, viewing the transfer of cash as a violation of federal laws that forbid providing “material support” to a terrorist organization.
“They’ve been stricter than any administration on this,” said a former law enforcement official who has been working with the families of IS hostages.
Barfi said that within a few hours of the White House meeting, he was at a separate meeting with State Department officials. One of those officials repeatedly mentioned the “material support” law and made it “clear,” said Barfi, that criminal prosecutions could result if ransoms to the IS terrorists were paid.
Such explicit threats made to parents who “had to beg” to get any information about their children points to an administration that employed clod-hoppers as liaisons to the families. No doubt it was a tough job to inform the families of the law and the potential penalties that would have come with raising ransom money. But it’s obvious from statements made by both families that the administration blew it. The situation called for striking the right balance between showing compassion and imparting the matter-of-fact information about potential prosections. The White House chose people without tact or empathy to deliver their message and struck out.
Even though they’re right about the policy.
The Obama administration spent Thursday (the 13th anniversary of 9-11, by the way) arguing that the United States is not at war with the Islamic State/ISIS/ISIL.
The White House spokesman said it wasn’t a war. Secretary of State John Kerry and his spokeswomen at the department also said that it’s not a war. Kerry, for his part, called it…what was that again?
Right — it’s a “heightened level of counter terrorism operation.”
Well, today, the White House and the Pentagon have finally come around. This thing we’re doing against ISIS is, in fact, a war. Take a look.
An old book that most people don’t pay much attention to these days says “A double-minded man is unstable in all his ways.”
CNN interviewed Diane Foley, mother of American journalist James Foley. ISIS beheaded him and posted the video online on August 19.
Foley is calling the Obama administration out:
“I think our efforts to get Jim freed were an annoyance” to the U.S. government, Diane Foley told CNN’s Anderson Cooper in an interview that aired Thursday. “It didn’t seem to be in (U.S.) strategic interest, if you will.”
Officials told Foley family members “not go to the media,” and that the “government would not exchange prisoners,” or carry out “military action” to try to rescue her son, according to Diane Foley.
As we now know, the Obama administration did exchange five hard-core Taliban for Bowe Bergdahl. The administration was aware that Bergdahl may have deserted his post in Afghanistan prior to his capture.
And as we now know, the Obama administration did attempt a rescue of Foley. That rescue failed, because President Obama dragged his feet before greenlighting the mission.
Diane Foley says that the administration threatened the family.
She added that the family was told many times that raising ransom “was illegal (and) we might be prosecuted.”
Diane Foley could become to Barack Obama what Cindy Sheehan was to George W. Bush — if the media decided to do that. But we all know that that’s not going to happen.
Chris Matthews is skeptical. Tom Friedman wonders where the Chinese are.
And that’s just a start. Others in the mix include Chuck Todd, Ed Schultz, Tom Brokaw, and Jim McDermott.
For a mind-bender on a par with that Bill Maher clip we posted yesterday, some of the Democrats’ criticisms sound like some of ours — that the strategy that the president laid out is too wimpy, and is very unlikely to work.
Take a look.
In a move that has many anti-Islamist Egyptians concerned, the government has again allowed the Salafis to return to preaching in mosques and on television.
Salafis are Muslims who profess to follow as literally as possible the teachings and habits of Islam’s prophet and his companions.
Soon after the June 2013 revolution in Egypt, which saw the ousting (and subsequent imprisonment) of the Muslim Brotherhood, Islamic supremacist groups—chief among them the Salafis—were banned from preaching.
The logic was that they were the primary actors responsible for inciting the nation’s more zealous Muslims to attack government targets, Coptic Christian churches, etc.
Accordingly, their access to mosques and other outlets were severely curtailed.
According to Nabil Zaki, the former spokesman for Assembly Party of Egypt, this new move allowing the Salafis, particularly the Nour party, to make a comeback
is a major setback that will make it that much harder for the government to combat reactionary thinking—and this, after the Egyptian public had made great strides against such thinking…. Permitting the Salafi sheikhs to ascend to the pulpits again revives the bitter experiences of confronting this form of thinking, bringing us back to square one.
Zaki and others also warned that this decision coincides with parliamentarian elections, meaning that the Salafi clerics will again use their influence and religious rhetoric to sway voters towards a more “reactionary,” that is, Islamic, agenda.
Drudge is fronting this major story from CNN. The thrust: ISIS is even bigger than previously believed.
A CIA assessment puts the number of ISIS fighters at possibly more than three times the previous estimates.
The terror group that calls itself the Islamic State “can muster between 20,000 and 31,500 fighters across Iraq and Syria,” a CIA spokesman told CNN on Thursday.
Analysts and U.S. officials initially estimated there were as many as 10,000 fighters, including those who were freed from prisons by ISIS, and Sunni loyalists who have joined the fight as the group advanced across Iraq.
“This new total reflects an increase in members because of stronger recruitment since June following battlefield successes and the declaration of a caliphate, greater battlefield activity and additional intelligence,” the spokesman said.
To put that into some perspective, a division in the US military ranges from 10,000 to 18,000. So ISIS’ numbers equal a couple of US divisions, or a corps. With the proper combined arms strategy and decisive command, the US military could wipe ISIS off the battlefield fairly quickly.
That would require a decision to put those troops in the field to do the job, of course.
ISIS doesn’t respect any secular national boundaries, and it recruits globally. Its recruitment efforts are slick and apparently effective.
A simple way to assess the strategy that President Obama outlined Wednesday is to ask, will it kill ISIS fighters faster than the group is able to recruit new ones? So far, the answer is obviously no. Their numbers may be triple the previous estimate.
Since the president touted Yemen and Somalia as models of effective counterterrorism, have we been able to kill al Qaeda and al-Shabab recruits in those countries faster than the groups find new recruits?
It doesn’t seem likely, does it? We drone kill terrorist leaders in both countries with some regularity, but the groups survive, elevate new leaders, and go on holding territory and staging attacks — and recruiting new terrorists.
To understand why the Islamic State not only decapitates its “infidel” captives, but also mutilates and mocks their corpses—and all to sadistic laughter—one need only turn to the Koran and deeds of Islamic prophet Muhammad.
The Koran exhorts believers to “Fight them [those who oppose Islam], Allah will torment them with your hands, humiliate them, empower you over them, and heal the hearts of the believers, removing the rage from their hearts” (Koran 9:14-15).
As usual, to understand the significance of any Koran verse, one must turn to the sira andhadith—the biography and anecdotes of Muhammad, respectively—for context.
Thus we come to the following account concerning the slaughter of ‘Amr bin Hisham, a pagan Arab chieftain originally known as “Abu Hakim” (Father of Wisdom) until Muhammad dubbed him “Abu Jahl” (Father of Stupidity) for his staunch opposition to Islam.
After ‘Amr was mortally wounded by a new convert to Islam during the Battle of Badr, Abdullah ibn Mas‘ud, a close companion of Muhammad, saw the “infidel” chieftain collapsed on the ground. So he went to him and started abusing him. Among other things, Abdullah grabbed and pulled ‘Amr’s beard and stood in triumph on the dying man’s chest.
According to Al-Bidaya wa Al-Nihaya (“The Beginning and the End”), Ibn Kathir’s authoritiative history of Islam, “After that, he [Abdullah] cut his [‘Amr’s] head off and bore it till he placed it between the hands of the Prophet. Thus did Allah heal the hearts of the believers with it.”
This, then, is the true significance of Koran 9:14-15: “Fight them, Allah will torment them with your hands [mortally wounding and eventually decapitating ‘Amr], humiliate them [pulling his beard], empower you over them [standing atop him], and heal the hearts of the believers, removing the rage from their hearts [at the sight of his decapitated head].”
The logic here is that, pious Muslims are so full of zeal for Allah’s cause that the only way their inflamed hearts can be at rest is to see those who oppose Allah and his prophet utterly crushed—humiliated, mutilated, decapitated. Then the hearts of the believers can be at ease and “healed.”
This is surely one of the reasons behind the Islamic State’s dissemination of gory videos and pictures of its victims: the new “caliphate” is trying to heal the hearts of every believer inflamed for the cause of Allah.
If this sounds too farfetched, consider the following picture of a decapitated “infidel” from the Islamic State’s websites. The Arabic caption to the left says “healing for hearts”—a clear reference to the aforementioned Koran verse… Click for images and to keep reading
Don’t call it a war, says Marie Harf at the State Department.
Don’t look for any definition of “victory,” says Josh Earnest at the White House.
It’s…whatever John Kerry means here.
— SalenaZito (@SalenaZitoTrib) September 11, 2014
Whatever it is, we’re losing potential coalition partners.
— Ali Weinberg (@AliABCNews) September 11, 2014
When did our foreign policy get lined up like a running Fawlty Towers gag?
Update: According to a “Senior Administration Official,” Saudia Arabia shares an “extensive border with Syria.”
ISIL has been I think a galvanizing threat around the Sunni partners in the region. They view it as an existential threat to them. Saudi Arabia has an extensive border with Syria. The Jordanians are experiencing a destabilizing impact of over a million refugees from the Syrian conflict, and are profoundly concerned that ISIL, who has stated that their ambitions are not confined to Iraq and Syria, but rather to expand to the broader region.
The Syrians had taken the stance that any US airstrike on IS on Syrian land would be an act of war against Syria.
[Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal] Mekdad openly expressed support for airstrikes on Syria — an option detailed by President Barack Obama in an overnight speech — by saying his administration has “no reservations whatsoever.”
But he said cited the need for logistical coordination with the U.S. before any airstrikes so “there should be no mistakes,” and said “it is a must” for Obama to call Assad.
He even suggested that Syria could join the US in a coalition against IS that includes Russia, China and Iran.
Mekkad doesn’t want the US working with the Free Syrian Army, though.
When it came down to international law, Mekdad was most concerned about Obama’s plan to arm rebel groups in Syria.
“Betting on other forces in Syria is a very big mistake,” he warned.
Warning that the ISIS threat is the same “if not worse” than the threat faced by America from al-Qaeda on Sept. 10, 2001, House Armed Services Committee Chairman Buck McKeon (R-Calif.) argued this morning that the “minimalist approach” outlined by President Obama would not work.
McKeon traveled last week through the Middle East, meeting with ministers and heads of state.
“I listened, and I asked questions. They gave me blunt answers and some hard truths,” he said. “Our allies are on the front lines of terrorism.There is a genuine sense among the leaders I talked with that America is disengaging from the region and concerns about American credibility, at a time when credibility counts.”
“Our relationships with these allies in the region are at a tipping point. What is also notable is that these allies are ready to bear the burden of the fight. They know their very existence, and stability in the region, depends on defeating ISIL.”
The chairman said the strategy needs to be “one that pins ISIL down and knocks them out.”
“The president has said the threat is not imminent to the homeland. Well, exactly when does the threat become imminent? Why wait until it does?” McKeon said. “We must have a comprehensive strategy that stops any plot against US citizens or our interests now.”
A “go-slow strategy” just gives ISIS ”space to thrive and grow and blend with the population” as 500 foreign fighters a month come to join their ranks and the terror group rakes in $85 million a month from oil revenue alone.
“Soon all that will be left is a cowering population unable to resist the caliphate,” McKeon said. “…We have to get into those Sunni villages with Special Operations Forces to rebuild relationships. Because if the moderate Sunnis slip through our fingers, they’re gone – and with them, our chances for success. We have to reconnect the intelligence links and security forces’ capabilities that were lost when we left Iraq.”
He added that the strategy can’t focus on Iraq first and must encircle the caliphate. “Any strategy that allows ISIL to squirt out into Jordan, Lebanon, or Turkey will only make the fight more difficult,” he said. “A coalition force, empowered by the Americans, could do just that. And once they are encircled and eliminated, we need that territory held by those friendlies. This is the only way to get this done and done right.”
Obama has “finally started” building that coalition, McKeon said.
“The Kurds, the Iraqis, the Turks, the Emeratis, and the Jordanians all have military capability. They all want to knock ISIL on its back. They need our help, they want our help, and we owe them our help,” he said. “Ignoring their pleas is a quick way to end up friendless with little, if any, U.S. influence left in the region. Let’s not forget that our allies around the world are watching and wondering if they can ever trust the U.S. again.”
“The president needs an A-team of diplomats and soldiers on the ground, ushering every player towards the same purpose – not just this week, but on a sustained basis…. We’re holding the starter pistol; the time to pull the trigger was yesterday.”
McKeon called it a “red herring” to assume that “boots on the ground” means a large occupying force. “In fact the best way to ensure that we never have to drop an entire maneuver Corps into Iraq is to be smart about using the right boots on the ground today,” he continued. “The president may not admit it, but he has already made this distinction. He has inserted Special Forces, trainers, advisors, and security forces. This is the right decision. But more can be done.”
“This will take troops. It will not take divisions. But there’s no way around it; American boots will be standing on sand. Americans will be shot at, and they will be shooting back. There’s simply no other way to do this.”
The chairman cautioned that “wars are not won by counterterrorism alone – the 1990s proved as much.”
“The president wants to use a light footprint now in hopes that he doesn’t need a heavy footprint later. This approach was not terribly successful in Libya, which has fallen into chaos. It has short-term benefits, though. It will be cheaper in blood and treasure –for now,” he said. “I want our coalition to go all-in now, so that we do not risk having to use enormously more blood and treasure later. I would much rather fight ISIL in Iraq and Syria today than fight them in Iraq, Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, and Kurdistan tomorrow. Fortune favors the bold.”
During today’s White House press briefing, a reporter asks spokesman Josh Earnest a simple question: “What does victory (over ISIS) look like here?”
Earnest turns the serious question into a joke: “I didn’t bring my Webster’s Dictionary with me.”
Let’s briefly go over what we’ve learned recently.
The president does not believe that the Islamic State is Islamic.
The president claimed that national security is his highest priority, yet he has not secured the border and has no intention of doing so.
The president has replaced “Don’t do stupid sh*t,” his previous foreign policy guidestar, with “If you threaten America, you will find no safe haven.” That’s hardly a new principle to American foreign policy, though it is evidently new to Barack Obama.
The president believes that Yemen and Somalia are models for effective counterterrorism against Islamic State. Terrorists freely operate in both countries, though they are subject to the occasional setback via US drone strike. Drone operations in both countries, using that term loosely, show no signs of actually destroying the terrorist groups operating in them.
The president who accused Bush of “going it alone” in Iraq refuses to consult Congress, and is going into his non-war versus Islamic State with a much smaller coalition than Bush had going into Iraq.
Among the coalition he has assembled is the Free Syrian Army, which is known to be in alliance with IS — the enemy.
The president, through his spokesman, has not even defined what victory over IS will look like.
Oh yeah, this is going to work out real well.
Declaring “an F-16 is not a strategy,” House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) t0ld reporters at a press conference today that Republican leaders will “make a decision sometime next week on how we will proceed” with President Obama’s ISIS plans at the congressional level.
“I support the president’s plan to train and equip Iraqi security forces and the Syrian opposition. But I remain concerned that those measures could take years to fully implement, at a time when ISIL’s momentum and territorial gains must be halted and reversed immediately,” Boehner said of the “questions and concerns” that remain after last night’s speech.
“We stand ready to work with the president to put in place a plan that would destroy and defeat ISIL. Members are getting briefed as we speak on a range of options that the president is contemplating. Those briefings and consultations will continue,” he said.
Boehner said he believes “it’s in the institution of the Congress’ interest to speak on this question” of what intervention will look like.
“Now, normally in such a case, I’ve been through this a few times over the 24 years that I’ve been here, the president of the United States would request that support and would supply the wording of a resolution to authorize this force. And, at this point in time, we’ve not gotten that request and we’ve not seen that language,” the Speaker said.
“I think that we’re at the beginning stages of building of the kind of support that’s necessary from the nation to carry out this plan and to carry it out successfully.”
Boehner said “the only request that has come from the White House at this point” is the Title X authorization to train and equip Syrian rebels under the Defense Department instead of the CIA.
“I can tell you, in our conversations this morning, a lot of our members don’t feel like the — the campaign that was outlined last night will accomplish the mission that the president says, and that is to destroy ISIL,” he added. “And so frankly, a lot of our members think a lot more needs to be done than what was laid out last night.”
Congressional leaders went to the White House on Tuesday to discuss what the president would be asking for. Boehner said Obama made his “specific request to have the ability to train Syrian rebels” at that meeting.
“I wanted to make sure that members have ample time to have the conversation about this — started today — and it will continue,” he said.
“…Based on all the information that I’ve looked at, the Free Syrian Army has, by and large, been very well vetted by our intelligence officials. Today they’re in a fight against Assad, they’re in a fight against ISIL, and they’re in a fight against another al-Qaeda affiliate in eastern Syria. And they’re about to get run over.”
The Speaker stressed that “airstrikes alone will not accomplish what we’re trying to accomplish.”
“And the president’s made clear that he doesn’t want U.S. boots on the ground. Well, somebody’s boots have to be on the ground,” Boehner said. “And so I do believe that what the president has asked for as the commander in chief is this authority to train these Syrian rebels, and frankly we ought to give the president what he’s asking for.”
Boehner was asked if Obama should have publicly taken any chance of troops off the table.
“Listen, we only have one commander in chief. He laid out his plan. I would never tell the enemy what I was willing to do or unwilling to do. But he is the commander in chief. He made that decision,” he replied. “At this point in time, it’s important we give the president what he’s asking for. And — and we’ve got to keep our eye on the ball. The issue here is about defeating a terrorist threat that is real and imminent.”
Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) said he agreed with the part of President Obama’s speech about ISIS not representing true Islam, calling the Islamic State “an aberrant form that should not represent most of the civilized Islamic world.”
After Obama’s address, some ISIS accounts on Twitter were using the hashtag ”Islamic State represents Islam right” in response to one part of the speech: “ISIL is not ‘Islamic,’” Obama said. “No religion condones the killing of innocents, and the vast majority of ISIL’s victims have been Muslim. And ISIL is certainly not a state.”
“I think there was one important point that he was making about them not being Islamic or a form of true Islam. Ultimately, civilized Islam will have to step up. We need to do everything we can to protect ourselves. I’m all in for saying we have to combat ISIS. But also, the ultimate war, the long war, whoever knows how long, ultimately is going to need allies from civilized Islam,” Paul said on Fox.
“So I think it is important not only to the American public but for the world and for the Islamic world to point out that this is not a true form of Islam.”
The senator and potential 2016 presidential candidate said he didn’t think Obama was trying to “diminish” the point that ISIS’ goal is to spread its caliphate.
“I would say that he was trying to make the point to the Islamic world that this isn’t a true or accurate depiction of Islam because, ultimately, we do need — and most of the allies around that also are offended and also are worried about the rise of ISIS are also Muslim nations. And I think they will rise up,” Paul said. ”And ultimately, the ultimate victory — there are going to be short-term victories in the war on terror and the war on radical Islam, but the long-term victory is going to require allies who are part of the civilized Islamic world, which is the majority of the Islamic world.”
“But they have to step up because, frankly, they’ve been allowing too much of this to go on. And frankly, countries like Saudi Arabia I think have aided and abetted the rise of ISIS.”
Paul also gave a defense of “secular dictators.”
“Assad — as bad as Assad is, he is an enemy of ISIS. He is an enemy of radical Islam. As bad as Gadhafi was, Gadhafi was an opponent of radical Islam. As bad as Hussein was… We didn’t create it, but we did allow a festering of chaos when we toppled the secular dictators.”
The senator acknowledged Obama’s plan “is an intervention, and I don’t always support intervention, but this is one I do support.”
“But I think the president would be more powerful, the country would be more united,” Paul said. “He should have come before a joint session of Congress, laid out his plan as he did tonight, and then called for an up or down vote on whether or not to authorize going to war.”
Secretary of State John Kerry is in Saudi Arabia, where he announced that 10 Arab nations including Iraq have signed on to support the fight against the Islamic State. Kerry’s announcement comes a day after President Obama announced that the US would build a coalition for the fight, but would not seek congressional approval and apparently will not seek any authorization from the United Nations.
President George W. Bush sought both congressional and UN approval, and won both, and built a coalition of some 40 nations for the war to remove Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq. Kerry and Obama, then in the Senate, described Bush’s actions as “going it alone.”
Russia has reacted to Obama’s speech, with a warning, according to the BBC.
Russia has warned that US air strikes against militants in Syria would be a “gross violation” of international law.
A Russian foreign ministry spokesman said any such action, without the backing of the UN, would be “an act of aggression”.
“The US president has spoken directly about the possibility of strikes by the US armed forces against Isil (IS) positions in Syria without the consent of the legitimate government,” ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich was quoted as saying.
“This step, in the absence of a UN Security Council decision, would be an act of aggression, a gross violation of international law.”
Syria also repeated its warning that the US had to co-ordinate with the Syrian government before launching air strikes on its territory.
“Any action of any kind without the consent of the Syrian government would be an attack on Syria,” National Reconciliation Minister Ali Haidar said on Thursday.
If anyone knows about acts of aggression and violations of international law, it would be Russia.
Russia’s announced position all but forecloses any UN Security Council action on ISIS, as Russia holds a permanent seat and veto power. Russia is one of Syrian dictator Assad’s few allies.
China has yet to weigh in one way or the other.
Kerry is working on plans to train the Free Syrian Army rebels on Saudi soil, despite the fact that the FSA is working with ISIS.
President Obama said at the Pentagon memorial this morning that the strength and perseverance of the 9/11 families is the “ultimate rebuke to the hatred of those who attacked us that bright blue morning.”
“They sought to do more than bring down buildings or murder our people. They sought to break our spirit and to prove to the world that their power to destroy was greater than our power to persevere and to build,” Obama said.
“But you and America proved them wrong. America endures in the strength of your families who through your anguish kept living. You kept alive a love that no act of terror can ever extinguish. You, their sons and daughters, are growing into extraordinary young men and women they knew you could be.”
American Airlines Flight 77 hit the Pentagon at 9:37 a.m. on Sept. 11, 2001, killing 59 aboard the plane and 125 in the building as it slammed into E Ring.
“Our thoughts also turn to others whose lives were forever changed that day. The first responders and survivors whose heroism and resilience we celebrate. The Pentagon personnel who came to work the next day with a greater sense of determination than ever before, and the men and women in uniform who have stepped forward to defend our country over 13 long years of war, bearing incredible sacrifices, along with their families,” Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said at the morning ceremony. “We live at a time of many complicated challenges, but America has always faced challenges and we have always responded as a nation united in purpose, woven together in a fabric of strong character and resounding commitment to each other and to our country.”
“To lead our nation at such a defining time requires not only the courage and the vision to lead, but the humility that recognizes this unique privilege,” Hagel said. “These traits are embodied in our commander in chief.”
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey acknowledged to the families and friends of the fallen that “these memorial ceremonies, and we know you’ve been through many, are especially tough, emotion-filled moments for you.”
“Today offers us, all of us, the opportunity to rededicate our own lives to the causes of our great nation and its great future,” Dempsey said. “For as one of our nation’s leaders said, we could easily allow our time and energy to be consumed by the crisis of the moment, of the day, but we must also lay the groundwork to help define our future.”
The Pentagon leaders were to hold another remembrance ceremony for Pentagon employees in the courtyard at 1 p.m.
Transcript of the audio above…
[October 2000] We are getting word just now that Osama Bin Laden, the Muslim terrorist leader who declared war on the United States two years ago, has been killed by U.S. Special Forces in Afghanistan. President Bill Clinton reportedly gave the order to take out bin Laden after viewing a live CIA video feed from a Predator drone. While some of his friends on the Left had urged Clinton’s Justice Department to indict bin Laden, and bring him to trial, the president said today, “This evil man declared war on us, had a track record of slaughter, billions of dollars in funding and a global network of slavishly-devoted suicidal soldiers. You don’t send lawyers after a man like that — you send Seals, Marines and Green Berets.”
[May 1991] President George H.W. Bush, in a triumphant speech from downtown Baghdad, Iraq, today announced the unconditional surrender of Saddam Hussein’s government and his Baathist Army. The president said that nothing short of total surrender can save Iraq. Bush added that the coalition that conquered Saddam, would stay on the job until Iraqis build a constitutional republic, under the rule of law.
President Barack Obama delivered his strategy to defeat ISIS, ISIL, Islamic State — choose the name you prefer — Wednesday night. The four-pronged strategy includes the use of American and allied air power; partnering with the Iraqis, the Kurds and the Free Syrian Army; counterterrorism operations; and humanitarian aid.
The Free Syrian Army alliance is problematic for two reasons. The FSA is weakened by years of war against both Syrian dictator Assad and against ISIS. It is also infiltrated with Islamists who are more sympathetic to radicals, and who may have sold American hostages James Foley and Steven Sotloff to ISIS. Patrick Poole reports that the FSA is working with ISIS.
The president’s speech included this strange passage. The president touted two nations in which he believes counterterrorism has worked against al Qaeda, and similar strategies can be deployed against IS.
“This counter-terrorism campaign will be waged through a steady, relentless effort to take out ISIL wherever they exist, using our air power and our support for partner forces on the ground. This strategy of taking out terrorists who threaten us, while supporting partners on the front lines, is one that we have successfully pursued in Yemen and Somalia for years. And it is consistent with the approach I outlined earlier this year: to use force against anyone who threatens America’s core interests, but to mobilize partners wherever possible to address broader challenges to international order,” the president said.
Successful? Al Qaeda-linked al-Shabab controls territory in Somalia and regularly launches attacks.
Counterterrorism in Somalia, essentially, is Whack-A-Mole. It works to some extent against terrorist leaders and cells, but IS is a very different prospect. It is a terrorist army numbering in the thousands, powered by stolen oil and robbed banks, mechanized by abandoned American tanks and HUMVEES, which is now building a capital city and gunning to bring about Armageddon. It has carved out a large territory and it is recruiting fighters from all over the world, including American and European citizens. Whack-A-Terrorist, as the Obama administration has done in Yemen, is unlikely to make much of an impact on IS.
The U.S. effort in Somalia is a particularly disturbing one for Obama to turn to. The United States has been involved in one way or another in Somalia since December of 1992.
President George H. W. Bush ordered U.S. forces into that chaotic failed east African territory as the main component of an international force dispatched to restore its government and provide food to the impoverished people there. The American military made shore along Somalia’s coast in a nighttime operation made bright by the glare of media TV lights. The cable news networks were tipped and were literally waiting onshore for the Americans to land and walk up the beach.
Not a shot was fired that night, and the Somalis initially greeted America as liberators. Operation RESTORE HOPE looked like it would be a peaceful humanitarian mission, and nothing more. The warlords who had replaced Somalia’s central dictatorship with feudal local power centers even cooperated with the international force and each other, at first. I was in the Air Force, stationed in Japan, when Somalia operations got into full swing. One of my co-workers volunteered and deployed there. Many of us, including myself, considered volunteering. I ended up staying put in Tokyo.
This is not ancient history. We all know what happened eventually. Mission creep. The hunt for Aidid. The Battle of Mogadishu. Black Hawk Down. American troops killed in a hyperviolent urban battle, and their bodies dragged through the streets of Mogadishu for all the world to see.
Americans quickly lost interest in the Somalia mission and President Bill Clinton was not inclined to continue it. Our swift exit encouraged Obama bin Laden to see us as a paper tiger. He attacked us on our soil 13 years ago today.
“BREAKING: Man who was Obama’s chief spokesman like two seconds ago still thinks he’s doing a good job,” the Huffington Post sarcastically tweeted of CNN’s newest political analyst, recent White House press secretary Jay Carney.
But Carney’s TV baptism was going to be even harsher than that.
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), linked in from the Capitol rotunda after President Obama’s speech, was paired with Carney in a segment and beat him down to the ground.
Long story short: McCain calls out Carney for “saying facts that are patently false.” Carney says they can respectfully agree to disagree. McCain says, “It’s not a matter of disagreements, it’s a matter of facts, and you have yours wrong, and you have distorted them.”
And on and on. “Facts are stubborn things,” McCain schools Carney.
— Sadanand Dhume (@dhume) September 11, 2014
As President Obama laid out his “strategy” last night for dealing with the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), and as bipartisan leadership in Congress pushes to approve as much as $4 billion to arm Syrian “rebels,” it should be noted that the keystone to his anti-Assad policy — the “vetted moderate” Free Syrian Army (FSA) — is now admitting that they, too, are working with the Islamic State.
This confirms PJ Media’s reporting last week about the FSA’s alliances with Syrian terrorist groups.
On Monday, the Daily Star in Lebanon quoted a FSA brigade commander saying that his forces were working with the Islamic State and Jabhat al-Nusra, al-Qaeda’s official Syrian affiliate — both U.S.-designated terrorist organizations — near the Syrian/Lebanon border.
“We are collaborating with the Islamic State and the Nusra Front by attacking the Syrian Army’s gatherings in … Qalamoun,” said Bassel Idriss, the commander of an FSA-aligned rebel brigade.
“We have reached a point where we have to collaborate with anyone against unfairness and injustice,” confirmed Abu Khaled, another FSA commander who lives in Arsal.
“Let’s face it: The Nusra Front is the biggest power present right now in Qalamoun and we as FSA would collaborate on any mission they launch as long as it coincides with our values,” he added.
In my report last week I noted that buried in a New York Times article last month was a Syrian “rebel” commander quoted as saying that his forces were working with ISIS and Jabhat al-Nusra in raids along the border with Lebanon, including attacks on Lebanese forces. The Times article quickly tried to dismiss the commander’s statements, but the Daily Star article now confirms this alliance.
Among the other pertinent points from that PJ Media article last week was that this time last year the bipartisan conventional wisdom amongst the foreign policy establishment was that the bulk of the Syrian rebel forces were moderates, a fiction refuted by a Rand Corporation study published last September that found nearly half of the Syrian “rebels” were jihadists or hard-core Islamists.
Another relevant phenomenon I noted was that multiple arms shipments from the U.S. to the “vetted moderate” FSA were suspiciously raided and confiscated by ISIS and Jabhat al-Nusra, prompting the Obama administration and the UK to suspend weapons shipments to the FSA last December.
In April, the Obama administration again turned on the CIA weapons spigot to the FSA, and Obama began calling for an additional $500 million for the “vetted moderate rebels,” but by July the weapons provided to the FSA were yet again being raided and captured by ISIS and other terrorist groups. Remarkably, one Syrian dissident leader reportedly told Al-Quds al-Arabi that the FSA had lost $500 million worth of arms to rival “rebel” groups, much of which ended up being sold to unknown parties in Turkey and Iraq.
At the same time U.S.-provided FSA weapons caches were being mysteriously raided by ISIS and Jabhat al-Nusra, one of the senior FSA commanders in Eastern Syria, Saddam al-Jamal, defected to ISIS. In March, Jabhat al-Nusra joined forces with the FSA Liwa al-Ummah brigade to capture a Syrian army outpost in Idlib. Then in early July I reported on FSA brigades that had pledged allegiance to ISIS and surrendered their weapons after their announcement of the reestablishment of the caliphate. More recently, the FSA and Jabhat al-Nusra teamed up last month to capture the UN Golan Heights border crossing in Quneitra on the Syria/Israel border, taking UN peacekeepers hostage.
But the Free Syrian Army is not the only U.S.-armed and trained “rebel” force in Syria that the Obama administration is having serious trouble keeping in the “vetted moderate” column.
Earlier this week I reported on Harakat al-Hazm, which was the first of the “vetted moderates” to receive U.S. anti-tank weaponry earlier this year. Harakat al-Hazm is reportedly a front for the Muslim Brotherhood as well as Turkey and Qatar, its Islamist state sponsors.
An L.A. Times article was published this past Sunday from the battle lines in Syria. The reporter recounted a discussion with two Harakat al-Hazm fighters who admitted, “But Nusra doesn’t fight us, we actually fight alongside them. We like Nusra.”
Despite a claim by the L.A. Times that Harakat al-Hazm had released a statement of “rejection of all forms of cooperation and coordination” with al-Nusra Front, I published in my article earlier this week an alliance statement signed by both Jabhat al-Nusra and Harkat al-Hazm forging a joint front in Aleppo to prevent pro-Assad forces from retaking the town.
As the Obama administration began to provide heavy weaponry to Harakat al-Hazm, the Washington Institute for Near East Policy published an analysis hailing Harakat Hazm as “rebels worth supporting,” going so far as to say that the group was “a model candidate for greater U.S. and allied support, including lethal military assistance.”
The White House says part of the administration’s strategy against the Islamic State will be a PR campaign to expose the “true nature” of ISIS.
“Clerics around the world have spoken up in recent weeks to highlight ISIL’s hypocrisy, condemning the group’s barbarity and criticizing its self- proclaimed ‘caliphate,’” says a fact sheet released to reporters just before President Obama spoke. “We will work with our partners throughout the Muslim world to highlight ISIL’s hypocrisy and counter its false claim to be acting in the name of religion.”
The fact sheet also stresses the need to keep “working aggressively” to choke ISIS’ “significant and diverse sources of funding.”
It also notes that intelligence on the group needs to improve.
“Continuing to gain more fidelity on ISIL’s capabilities, plans, and intentions is central to our strategy to degrade and ultimately destroy the group,” the fact sheet said. “Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance flights and other important efforts will strengthen our ability to understand this threat, as well as to share vital information with our Iraqi and other regional partners to enable them to effectively counter ISIL.”
The Sept. 24 “historic summit-level meeting” of the UN Security Council, which will be chaired by President Obama, will focus largely on stemming the flow of foreign fighters, the White House said.
“Foreign terrorist fighters are ISIL’s lifeblood, and a global security threat—with citizens of nearly 80 countries filling its ranks,” the fact sheet said. “Over 100 foreign fighters from the United States have traveled or attempted to travel to the conflict.”
“We will continue to use the criminal justice system as a critical tool in our counterterrorism toolbox. Federal criminal laws provide a sound basis to prosecute those who provide material support to ISIL or who conspire with ISIL to plot attacks at home or abroad,” continued the strategy. “With respect to aviation security, we will work with air carriers to implement responsible threat-based security and screening requirements, and provide additional screening to individuals suspected of affiliation with ISIL. Finally, we will counter violent extremism here at home, including tailored domestic programs to prevent violent extremism and radicalization in order to intervene with at-risk individuals before they become radicalized toward violence and decide to travel abroad to Syria and Iraq to join ISIL.”
Look, I have to be honest here. I had about as much interest in watching a Barack Obama foreign policy speech as I’d have in watching a 48-hour Young and the Restless marathon hosted by Rosanne Bahr and Carrot Top.
It’s not that Barack Obama has lost me on foreign policy. He never had me. He has always come off as the worst combination of rank opportunist and clownish amateur on foreign affairs. This is a man who went to Berlin and declared himself a citizen of the world, and he is the same man who sincerely believed that his mere election would sate the jihadists’ thirst for American blood.
When it comes to dealing with the Islamic State, I believe that we have to be swift, overwhelming and ruthless. But in Barack Obama we have a man who fills his gassy speeches with “Let me be clear, it’s all Bush’s fault,” and who believes that American power is more a force of bad than good. Any action he orders is unlikely to get the job done.
And so we arrive at the eve of the 13th anniversary of the 9-11 attacks. 9-11 is a twin mile marker now. There’s the original al Qaeda attack of 9-11-2001, and the follow-on attack in Benghazi on 9-11-12. About the second, we still do not know where Barack Obama was that night and what he was doing. We do know that he blamed a movie and refused, for weeks, to blame the terrorists. Most of the animals who attacked and killed four Americans that night are still at large.
On this eve of 9-11 memorials and remembrances, Barack Obama asked for network time to explain his strategy to defeat the Islamic State.
President Obama laid out a strategy that does the bare minimum. He wants to combine American air power with Iraqi boots and Free Syrian Army sandals on the ground, along with the courageous Kurds. IS probably laughed at two of those. It has defeated the Iraqi military already and has infiltrated the so-called “moderate” FSA. The Kurds are fighting IS bravely and have acquitted themselves well.
That leaves us with American air power, perhaps combined with the air forces of the British and the French.
Given enough time, air power might knock IS loose and might even defeat them. That’s not the way to bet, but air power did work in Bosnia during the Clinton years. IS is a different enemy, though, the best funded terrorist force in history, we’re told, and the most savvy social media terrorists around. They can fight air power with digital propaganda, with kidnappings, with beheadings, and with those attacks across the Texas-Mexico border that they’re threatening.
Syrian dictator Assad has already said that he views American airstrikes in his country as an act of war. That might complicate the picture.
President Obama had nothing to say about the US-Mexico border tonight, despite opening his speech with a claim that our national security is his “highest priority.” Skepticism of that claim, with an unsecured border and a president who downplayed the IS threat for months, is well justified.
“ISIL is not Islamic,” Obama claimed, despite the long history of Islamic terrorism and the fact that the first I in the name stands for “Islamic.”
Strange claim, that. ISIL ultimately derives its ideology from the Muslim Brotherhood. Perhaps they’re not Islamic too.
Stranger still, Obama touted Somalia and Yemen as models for the action to destroy IS. Somalia is a chaotic failed state, where the occasional droning of a terrorist leader seldom makes much strategic difference. Yemen is a longstanding haven of al Qaeda’s, where also, the occasional droning makes some, but not a great deal, of strategic difference.
The president was more energetic in tonight’s delivery than in his previous several speeches on terrorism. But his tone still contrasts with the passion, even power, he shows when speaking at party fundraisers and attacking Republicans. This is a president for whom foreign policy is a foreign language.
Referring to the Islamic State as one of the “small groups of killers” that “have the capacity to do great harm,” President Obama announced tonight that “America will lead a broad coalition to roll back this terrorist threat.”
That four-pronged campaign will include “a systematic campaign of airstrikes” and increasing “support to forces fighting these terrorists on the ground.”
It will also include continuing “to draw on our substantial counterterrorism capabilities to prevent ISIL attacks” and “providing humanitarian assistance to innocent civilians who have been displaced by this terrorist organization.”
“In two weeks, I will chair a meeting of the UN Security Council to further mobilize the international community around this effort,” Obama said.
“As commander in chief, my highest priority is the security of the American people. Over the last several years, we have consistently taken the fight to terrorists who threaten our country. We took out Osama bin Laden and much of al-Qaeda’s leadership in Afghanistan and Pakistan. We’ve targeted al-Qaeda’s affiliate in Yemen, and recently eliminated the top commander of its affiliate in Somalia. We’ve done so while bringing more than 140,000 American troops home from Iraq, and drawing down our forces in Afghanistan, where our combat mission will end later this year,” he said.
“Still, we continue to face a terrorist threat. We cannot erase every trace of evil from the world, and small groups of killers have the capacity to do great harm. That was the case before 9/11, and that remains true today. That’s why we must remain vigilant as threats emerge. 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 said he wanted to “make clear” that ISIL, or ISIS, is “not Islamic” and “certainly not a state.”
“If left unchecked, these terrorists could pose a growing threat beyond that region – including to the United States. While we have not yet detected specific plotting against our homeland, ISIL leaders have threatened America and our allies. Our intelligence community believes that thousands of foreigners – including Europeans and some Americans – have joined them in Syria and Iraq. Trained and battle-hardened, these fighters could try to return to their home countries and carry out deadly attacks,” he said. “I know many Americans are concerned about these threats.”
“Tonight, I want you to know that the United States of America is meeting them with strength and resolve…. Our objective is clear: we will degrade, and ultimately destroy, ISIL through a comprehensive and sustained counter-terrorism strategy.”
Obama called ”a core principle of my presidency” the promise “if you threaten America, you will find no safe haven.”
He also indicated that there won’t be any alliance with the dictator in Damascus. “In the fight against ISIL, we cannot rely on an Assad regime that terrorizes its people; a regime that will never regain the legitimacy it has lost,” he said. “Instead, we must strengthen the opposition as the best counterweight to extremists like ISIL, while pursuing the political solution necessary to solve Syria’s crisis once and for all.”
The president said he “secured bipartisan support” for his four-pronged approach.
“I have the authority to address the threat from ISIL. But I believe we are strongest as a nation when the president and Congress work together. So I welcome congressional support for this effort in order to show the world that Americans are united in confronting this danger,” he said.
“This counter-terrorism campaign will be waged through a steady, relentless effort to take out ISIL wherever they exist, using our air power and our support for partner forces on the ground. This strategy of taking out terrorists who threaten us, while supporting partners on the front lines, is one that we have successfully pursued in Yemen and Somalia for years. And it is consistent with the approach I outlined earlier this year: to use force against anyone who threatens America’s core interests, but to mobilize partners wherever possible to address broader challenges to international order.”
Obama veered toward job creation and energy independence, adding that “despite all the divisions and discord within our democracy, I see the grit and determination and common goodness of the American people every single day.”
“American leadership is the one constant in an uncertain world. It is America that has the capacity and the will to mobilize the world against terrorists. It is America that has rallied the world against Russian aggression, and in support of the Ukrainian peoples’ right to determine their own destiny. It is America – our scientists, our doctors, our know-how – that can help contain and cure the outbreak of Ebola. It is America that helped remove and destroy Syria’s declared chemical weapons so they cannot pose a threat to the Syrian people – or the world – again. And it is America that is helping Muslim communities around the world not just in the fight against terrorism, but in the fight for opportunity, tolerance, and a more hopeful future.”
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) plans to give his response to President Obama’s full ISIS plan at a lunchtime speech tomorrow on the floor of the Senate.
More than two hours before Obama was scheduled to speak tonight, though, Graham said he would back authorizing under Title 10 the equipping and training of Syrian rebels through the Pentagon.
Administration officials led by top White House counter-terrorism adviser Lisa Monaco were reportedly lobbying lawmakers on the Hill today to support the move.
“There are risks associated with any decision, but today the biggest risk is to continue on the current path of doing nothing. ISIL now poses a direct threat to the American people and homeland and must be vanquished,” Graham said in a statement.
“For over three years, brave people in Syria have been fighting against a brutal tyrant, Bashar al-Assad. Nearly 200,000 Syrians have lost their lives as Assad has unleashed his military on his own people. For three years, I have been calling to provide critical military assistance to the Free Syrian Army (FSA) to stop the siege. Unfortunately, for three years, the president has rejected this strategy and Syria has descended further into chaos,” Graham continued.
“Seizing an opportunity, ISIL reconstituted itself from a diminished terrorist group in Iraq to become the largest, most well organized terrorist group on the planet, now headquartered in Syria. The ideal time to support the FSA was three years ago, at a time when it would have had the most return on investment.”
Graham added that it’s “clear to me the vast majority of Syrians don’t like Assad and sure don’t want to live under the thumb of ISIL.”
“It’s in our interests to support these Syrian opposition forces in their cause of defeating the ISIL terrorists who are reigning terror on them,” he said. “Therefore, if he makes the request tonight, I plan to support President Obama’s decision to allow the Department of Defense to take over training of the Syrian opposition in place of the CIA. I will also support funding requests for training and arming the Syrian opposition to enhance our chances of success.”
The administration has been reportedly training Free Syrian Army members at a camp in Jordan in a quiet CIA operation.
“Someone has to fight ISIL inside of Syria to keep America safe,” Graham said. “It is my hope that the House and Senate will support this request and provide the authorities and funding necessary to enhance our chances of success.”
“If we do not engage ISIL, the chances of being attacked here at home dramatically increase and I’d rather have willing Syrians do the fighting than have America go it alone.”
Shahid Hamid of the Brookings Institution tweeted that the original $500 million plan “could likely train only less than [a] single brigade of fighters over an 18-month period.”
“So key thing to watch for is whether Obama *explicitly* commits to more than the original $500 million for training/equipping Syrian rebels,” Hamid continued. “If Obama doesn’t commit to anything beyond the $500 million for Syrian rebels, that should be clear enough confirmation we’re not serious.”
The White House released a couple of excerpts from Obama’s address early.
“Tonight, with a new Iraqi government in place, and following consultations with allies abroad and Congress at home, I can announce that America will lead a broad coalition to roll back this terrorist threat. Our objective is clear: we will degrade, and ultimately destroy, ISIL through a comprehensive and sustained counter-terrorism strategy,” Obama will say, according to prepared remarks.
“But I want the American people to understand how this effort will be different from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. It will not involve American combat troops fighting on foreign soil. This counter-terrorism campaign will be waged through a steady, relentless effort to take out ISIL wherever they exist using our air power and our support for partner forces on the ground. This strategy of taking out terrorists who threaten us, while supporting partners on the front lines, is one that we have successfully pursued in Yemen and Somalia for years.”
Well, the border is largely unguarded, to the point that children can walk across. If they can, and if coyotes and drug cartel operatives can (and they can, and do), so can ISIS. The Free Beacon reports that ISIS has figured this out.
A senior Homeland Security (DHS) official confirmed to Congress on Wednesday that militants associated with the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL or ISIS) are planning to enter the United States via the porous southern border.
Francis Taylor, under secretary for intelligence and analysis at DHS, told senators during a hearing that ISIL supporters are known to be plotting ways to infiltrate the United States through the border.
“There have been Twitter, social media exchanges among ISIL adherents across the globe speaking about that as a possibility,” Taylor told Sen. John McCain (R., Ariz.) in response to a question about “recent reports on Twitter and Facebook of messages that would urge infiltration into the U.S. across our southwestern border.”
“Certainly any infiltration across our border would be a threat,” Taylor said, explaining that border security agents are working to tighten measures that would prevent this from taking place.
Such as? The flood of illegal aliens across the border has slowed, but every time President Obama talks about amnesty or even speaks on the subject of “comprehensive immigration reform,” he attracts more people to cross illegally.
Prediction: Obama will ignore this reality in tonight’s speech. What will it take for him to recognize the border not as a political football, but as a serious national security issue that he as commander-in-chief must deal with?
NBC phrases the question in the title a little differently:
ISIS Speech Offers Obama One Chance to Turn Bad Polls Around
I’m not so sure that they’re right. The Islamic State threat is not primarily a poll-driven problem. It’s a real-world security threat. Words and speeches will not solve it. Leadership and action are needed.
The situation that President Obama finds himself in is an uneviable one, but one that he could have avoided.
He called ISIS “jayvee,” and ignored their threat until it metastasized.
He ran for the presidency promising to end — but not win — the war in Iraq. He ended that war, so he thought, by withdrawing American troops prematurely. President Bush had warned him and others, explicitly, what would happen if U.S. troops were removed from Iraq too soon. In 2007, Bush warned the following would happen if American troops were removed from Iraq too soon.
- Leaving too soon would be dangerous for Iraq, for the region, and for the United States.
- It would mean surrendering the future of Iraq to al Qaeda.
- We would risk mass killings on a horrific scale.
- It would allow the terrorists to establish a safe haven in Iraq, to replace the one they lost in Afghanistan.
- Leaving too soon would make it more likely that American troops would have to return to Iraq, to face an even more dangerous enemy.
And here we are. ISIS has carved out a territory the size of the United Kingdom. It is a threat worse than the one our troops faced the first time around in Iraq. ISIS has perpetrated mass killings. Its existence does put Iraq’s immediate future in the hands of a group that’s arguably worse than Iraq.
According to NBC, Obama’s new plan for dealing with ISIS will involve U.S. air power, the Iraqi military, and “moderate” Syrian rebels, but no more American boots on the ground than the 1000+ who are already there.
Of those three, U.S. air power is obviously far and away the most effective. U.S. air power alone can achieve a great deal, but probably cannot eliminate ISIS.
The Iraqi military melted in the face of ISIS months ago, which allowed them to gather up territory and scoop up the American weapons we had provided the Iraqi military. The “moderate” Syrian rebels may have sold the American hostages to ISIS that the terrorists beheaded recently. The extent to which they were ever moderate is debatable, but they are infiltrated with Islamists now.
This moment is a moment for an American president to lead — lead the American people in battling a threat, and lead the world in building a coalition to eliminate the threat. So far, Obama has shown no ability to do either. Tellingly, he has already told Congress that he doesn’t need them. That is a recognition that Congress does not trust him, and he has no ability to change that. It also puts the success or failure of the effort to remove ISIS entirely on his shoulders, even though most in Congress have been ahead of him in recognizing the ISIS threat.
A leading national security Democrat said he’s hoping President Obama will present a strategy tonight that stresses “you cannot just wave a magic wand and have ISIS disappear.”
Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Calif.), a key Dem on the House Foreign Affairs Committee and a notable critic of the Obama administration’s Iran strategy, said ISIS’ ”destruction doesn’t mean that truth and justice just emerges from the soil of the Middle East.”
“If you destroy one power in the Middle East, you empower the other side,” Sherman told C-SPAN. “And the four groups that are fighting ISIS now are, in many ways, nearly as evil as ISIS itself. And, in fact, those who are fighting against ISIS today on the ground have killed far more Americans than ISIS has.”
The congressman said Obama’s “cautious” approach ”has been a good one — when caution is called for.”
“I hope that the president will put Congress on the spot and ask for an authorization to use force because as important as it is to work for good governance in the Middle East, we’ve got to respect the United States Constitution,” he said. “It is not a given that our constitutional structure can be ignored and degraded and pulled apart and that somehow, the society will be able to face tougher times than we face now without — without it completely unraveling.”
That authorization should cover “air power and air power alone,” Sherman said, with boots on the ground only in instances such as rescuing a pilot.
“I think you authorize for two or three years with expedited procedures to reauthorize as this goes forward. And I think you have to explain to the American people, you can’t always get what you want immediately at a low cost,” the congressman continued. “And ISIS is not going to be destroyed in just a few weeks or a few months.”
Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) said President Obama has labored hard to “unite the world” against ISIS and Republicans need to get behind whatever strategy he presents tonight.
“The Congress has to hold together and back the president on this. I think the president has been working very hard to put together a coalition to go against ISIS,” Boxer told MSNBC. “Now, let’s — you know, we forget sometimes who ISIS is, and what they believe in. They believe, if you don’t see the world as they do in terms of this very strict interpretation of Islam, OK? That you either convert or they kill you, I mean, this is an incredible terrorist organization.”
“We’ve seen the way they act. The way they have treated people who are just innocent, freelance journalists, beheading two Americans. Our president is the commander-in-chief. ISIS is an imminent treat. We ought to be backing the president. He has got nine nations now to help us. He’s got NATO to help us. He’s going to the U.N. to get them to help us. The Arab League has said we have to take actions.”
With Obama “pulling together the world,” she continued, “you would think that the Republicans would be heart of that world coalition because no one will be left — faith in this world if we don’t bear down on this group.”
Boxer charged that all Republicans care about is making Obama look bad.
“Trying to defeat him in his last election. That’s what they care about and now, all they care about is taking back the Senate. That’s all they care about,” she said.
“So, if there’s one point in history — and it’s coming… when this president is going to go out to the American people and I can tell you, he has worked hard to get the world united here. The people of this country are going unite behind him, and frankly if [Republicans] don’t act as if they’re part of this fabric of this nation against ISIS I think they will suffer. I hope they will suffer because this is a time for us to put aside the D label, the R label, the I label, whatever label we hide behind and be Americans who want to stand up to this threat, but not do it the way we did Iraq, with walking into the middle of the civil war.”
Calling Obama “deliberative,” Boxer then acknowledged the president “does wear a tan suit once in a while.”
“But let me tell you, he is decisive once he has all the facts on his plate and I want a deliberative president,” she added.
The Republican majority on the House Armed Services Committee took preemptive action on President Obama’s address to the nation tonight on ISIS, releasing its five elements of a successful strategy to destroy the terrorist group:
1. Recognizes the Immediate Threat to US National Security
• ISIL is more than a regional threat, it poses a clear and certain threat to the United States, our interests, and our allies and partners across the globe.
• Waiting until a terrorist organization is planning an “imminent” attack will cost American lives, as we learned 13 years ago on September 11th.
• ISIL also poses an imminent and existential threat to our allies in a critical region within the world. Their assistance is key to comprehensively and sustainably handling this threat.
2. Calls for Swift Action with a Clear Objective to Destroy ISIL
• The window for targeting ISIL while it is still operating largely in the open and has not yet fully blended in with the populace is closing.
• A go-slow strategy gives ISIL the space and time to defeat potential partners, attract more foreign fighters, secure additional funding, and plot and plan for future attacks against the United States, Europe, and our interests in the region.
• Our allies recognize that now is the time to act and are seeking US support and leadership. Missing the opportunity presented by this coalition will make the job harder in the long run and will not lead to a sustainable solution.
3. Embraces Simultaneous Operations In Iraq and Syria
• An Iraq first, or Iraq only strategy cannot sufficiently erode ISIL. Decisive simultaneous action in Iraq and Syria is required to deny ISIL a safehaven.
• Waiting until the political situation in Iraq becomes more clear fails to create the space for moderate Sunnis to reject ISIL. Rather it allows ISIL to further radicalize the population and foment sectarian tensions.
• Actions in Syria can be tailored to reduce the risk that operations embolden Assad or Jahbat al-Nusra and other al Qaeda affiliates.
4. Establishes the US as a Leading Coalition Partner
• The US is uniquely able to build, lead, and support coalition operations. There are military options available to us that leverage the capabilities of regional allies on the ground, with the US in a supporting role.
• It is a misleading to suggest that the use of any American forces on the ground is akin to “serial occupation.”
• There is a narrow opportunity to defeat ISIL that will not require American boots on the ground in “surge” level numbers, but anyone who suggests a minimalist approach will be successful is not being clear-eyed about the challenge and resiliency of ISIL.
5. Does Not Rely On a Counter Terrorism (CT)-Only Approach
• Air strikes alone will not defeat ISIL, or meaningfully degrade them.
• Our allies are willing to lead the fight, but they will not be able to succeed on the ground without US support in areas like command & control, intelligence, refueling, and special operations.
• A strategy that closely resembles the CT centric standoff operations of the last 5 years is one that cannot prevent this threat from growing. Nor can it sufficiently roll ISIL back as a threat.
Armed Services Committee Chairman Buck McKeon (R-Calif.) will present his strategy to defeat ISIS tomorrow morning at AEI.
Meet the Press host Chuck Todd appeared on MSNBC’s Morning Joe today and said that President Obama is on the brink of doing long-term damage to the Democratic Party brand — damage on a scale not seen since 1980.
For years up to the election of President Bill Clinton, most Americans saw the Democratic Party as too weak to be trusted on foreign policy. That mistrust stemmed from three things: the Democrats’ hardline anti-war stance in Vietnam and afterward, their indecision and weakness in the face of the Soviet Union after they nominated liberal George McGovern for president in 1972, and Jimmy Carter’s terrible presidency which culminated in the loss of Iran as an ally and the hostage crisis. Carter’s weakness in particular hurt the Democrat brand so badly that Bill Clinton had to run as a “new Democrat” in 1992 — meaning he explicitly rejected progressive big government policies and offered himself as someone who would be stronger in foreign affairs than Jimmy Carter. When President Clinton declared that “the era of big government is over,” he was rejecting the Democrats’ left flank, including former President Carter and, though he did not know it at the time, President Barack Obama.
Clinton has since backslidden into supporting big government, after Obama’s nomination in 2008.
Chuck Todd’s comments on MSNBC today may have another Clinton wondering what outrageous declaration she will have to make to win the presidency in 2016.
Todd tells host Joe Scarborough that thanks to President Obama’s weakness, Republicans now lead by 38 points on national defense.
“He’s on the precipice of doing Jimmy Carter-like damage to the Democratic band on foreign policy,” Todd said, to the shock of the Morning Joe hosts.
Members of the 9/11 Commission are criticizing Congress for the rise of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), arguing lawmakers have not taken the threat seriously enough.
In interviews with The Hill, veterans of the blue-ribbon panel rebuked lawmakers for a generally lax approach toward oversight and said Congress fell down on the job by not implementing the recommendations they made 10 years ago.
“Nobody can be very impressed by the congressional record here. You don’t go on a five-week vacation if you think the threat to the United States is imminent. Or, at least, I hope you don’t,” said former Rep. Lee Hamilton (D-Ind.), the vice chairman of the 9/11 Commission.
Hamilton ripped Congress for failing to fulfill President Obama’s request for $500 million, made in late June, to train and equip moderate opposition forces in Syria. Obama said the money would help build up a rebel alternative to ISIS while helping to keep the conflict in Syria from spilling over into Iraq.
Hamilton was giving some partisan cover to the president by implying that the belated request is a huge difference maker, but he was right about the vacation. If we’re going to beat up on the president for golfing during all of this, Congress should be held accountable too.
Another member of the panel, Tim Roemer, got to the real heart of the problem (albeit while still running some interference for President Obama) when he said this threat should have been identified long ago.
Most of us in the real world don’t really care which American leaders ID the threat and take it seriously, just as long as somebody does. That we’re at this point a mere thirteen years later is surreal. It’s as if those charged with protecting the country have an MTV generation attention span on matters of national security.
Can we just get an adult in the room?