For the Washington Times, Rowan Scarborough writes: The al Qaeda-linked army now conquering territory in Syria and Iraqultimately wants its emerging Islamic state to be a launching pad for attacking the U.S. homeland, says a new congressional report.
“Several leading representatives of the U.S. intelligence community have stated that [ISIL] maintains training camps in Iraq and Syria, has the intent to attack the United States and is reportedly recruiting and training individuals to do so.”
Four analysts at the Congressional Research Service made that assessment, citing intelligence reports and the words of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).
“It already has many hundreds of jihadists with Western nation passports. Those battle-proven jihadists will eventually return to their Western homelands to carry on the jihad using the violent ways learned in Syria and Iraq.”
The CRS report, delivered to members of Congress, makes the point that ISIL is a well-organized, well-funded terrorist group with definite goals to take territory and kill people it considers nonbelievers.
“Several leading representatives of the U.S. intelligence community have stated that [ISIL] maintains training camps in Iraq and Syria, has the intent to attack the United States and is reportedly recruiting and training individuals to do so,” says the June 20 report. Read the rest of this entry »
All but defenseless against ISIS and suffering from punishing shortages of vital resources, Iraq’s ancient Christian communities are taking their only option: leave.
— POLITICO (@politico) June 18, 2014
RT USA reports: Social media posts by an Al-Qaeda affiliate claim a man named Abu Hurayra Al-Amriki (Abu Hurayra the American) blew himself up in an attack in Syria. US officials say he is the first-known American suicide bomber in the civil-war besieged country.
On Sunday, four men from the Al-Nusra Front, a jihadist organization aligned with Al-Qaeda, carried out suicide bombings on army positions in Idlib province, AFP reported. Dozens were killed or wounded, though exact numbers of casualties are still unknown.
Abu Sulayman al Muhajir, one of the top sharia officials in the Al-Nusra Front, according to The Long War Journal, tweeted about the involvement of an American man in the coordinated suicide attacks on Tuesday.
Abu Hurayra Al-Amriki Performed a martydom operation in Idlib, Jabal Al-Arba’een. May Allah accept him pic.twitter.com/MeewywKqDD
— أبو سليمان المهاجر (@abusulayman321) May 27, 2014
A Sunday tweet from Al-Nusra’s Twitter feed appears to show the same man – a light-skinned Caucasian – sitting with three other men and wearing a bomb vest.
— Syria Direct (@SyriaDirect) May 28, 2014
According to Google Translate, the original Al-Nusra tweet translates to “# _ Front victory in cooperation with the # Hawks _ Sham performs four martyrdom operations in Mount _ # # forty Idlib.”
US law enforcement and counterterrorism officials confirmed the suicide bombing to NBC News and said they have identified the American, but would not release his identity or hometown. Read the rest of this entry »
[VIDEO] NBC Chief Foreign Reporter Describes Obama’s Diplomatic Failures: ‘Vortex of Instability’, ‘Lot of Frustration’Posted: May 29, 2014
Hard Pressed to Find Country Where Relations Improved under Obama
“Our allies have become confused”
“…Now you have a presidency, for six years, that’s pulling out, very rapidly, and that is creating kind of a pump action, a vortex of instability, that has left allies like Saudi Arabia, like Egypt, and even some European countries, very confused. Are we going in? Are we pulling out? Are we leading? Are we trying to set the agenda? And I think that has been a lot of frustration..”
“Yes, he talked about ending these two unpopular wars, but I do sympathize with some of the things said in the Wall Street Journal. Right now we have a black hole in Syria. Iraq is in a state of collapse. Libya is about to about to go back into a civil war, and this was the one case where we intervened militarily, so, I think there is ah, a lot of problems, on the horizon…”
Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant fighters smash 3,000-year-old Assyrian statue in latest act of cultural genocide
For The Times of Israel, Ilan Ben Zion reports: Fighters with the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, a radical militia that controls a large swath of eastern Syria, confiscated and destroyed illegally excavated antiquities from an ancient Mesopotamian site.
In an act of cultural genocide strikingly similar to the Taliban’s demolition of the Buddhas of Bamiyan in 2001, the ISIL fighters appear – in pictures recently uploaded by a group working to protect Syria’s rich historical heritage — to smash a 3,000-year-old Neo-Assyrian statue illegally removed from a nearby archaeological site. Another image shows a man placing his foot — an act of disrespect in Arab culture — on the face of the Assyrian statue before its destruction.
Last month, the Syrian antiquities authority said in a statement that it had received notice that artifacts that “appear to be the result of an unauthorized digging” had been plundered from Tell Ajaja, the ruins of the Assyrian provincial capital Shadikanni on the Khabur River, a tributary of the Euphrates.
At least one of the items photographed and published by the Association for the Preservation of Syrian Archaeology appeared among those recently confiscated by ISIL.
The pictures, taken in Syria’s far eastern Hasakeh Province, were also said to be of artifacts removed from Tell Ajaja. The site lies approximately 30 kilometers (18 miles) south of the modern provincial capital of Hasakeh and 50 kilometers (30 miles) from the Iraqi border.
The program aired on Tuesday on the “Seven Stars” satellite television channel.
It featured journalists Shaker al-Johari and Mohammad al-Jayousi talking about the 3-year-old war pitting rebels against President Bashar Assad‘s government, a conflict that activists say has killed more than 150,000 people. Read the rest of this entry »
A copy of a recent report from the Egyptian channel Al Tahrir, subtitled by the Middle East Media Research Institute, a neoconservative group in Washington that monitors the news media in Muslim countries and draws attention to offensive or ridiculous remarks.
For The New York Times, Robert Mackey reports: During a recent broadcast on the Egyptian television channel Al Tahrir, the anchor Rania Badawy alerted viewers to what she called video evidence which “suggests that what is happening in Syria today was premeditated.” She then presented an 80-second clip from an episode of “The Simpsons” first broadcast in early 2001 and later dubbed into French and posted on YouTube.
After screening the animated clip — a parody of a music video that includes images of bombs being dropped on fighters in Middle Eastern dress — the anchor pointed out that the cartoon soldiers drawn in 2001 were pictured in a jeep decorated with a version of the Syrian flag that opposition protesters and rebels started waving in 2011. “The flag was created before the events took place,” Ms. Badawy asserted. “That’s why people are saying on Facebook that this is a conspiracy — in 2001, there was no such thing as the flag of the Syrian opposition.”
While the anchor called the inclusion of the flag in an episode of the cartoon a mystery — “How it reached this animated video nobody knows, and this has aroused a debate on the social networks” — she insisted that the image “raises many question marks about what happened in the Arab Spring revolutions and about when this global conspiracy began.” Read the rest of this entry »
— The Economist (@TheEconomist) May 3, 2014
— The Economist (@TheEconomist) May 2, 2014
For NRO, Andrew Johnson writes: As tensions rise between China and Japan, the latter is growing less and less confident in American diplomatic support in the event of a conflict, according to one Republican congressman who recently visited Japan.
“Those are a bit unprecedented, and it’s because of the uncertainty they feel about America’s commitment to the treaty and to ultimately defend them if and when they were to get into military conflict. I think that’s why the president was asked that same question following later in the week when he visited.”
Antoine Audo writes: Today, the first Sunday of Lent, will see churches crowded across the globe. But here in Syria, where St Paul found his faith, many churches stand empty, targets for bombardment and desecration. Aleppo, where I have been bishop for 25 years, is devastated. We have become accustomed to the daily dose of death and destruction, but living in such uncertainty and fear exhausts the body and the mind.
“It is dangerous work. Five months ago, two rockets hit our offices, and it was truly a miracle that no one was killed.”
We hear the thunder of bombs and the rattle of gunfire, but we don’t always know what is happening. It’s hard to describe how chaotic, terrifying and psychologically difficult it is when you have no idea what will happen next, or where the next rocket will fall. Many Christians cope with the tension by being fatalistic: that whatever happens is God’s will.
Until the war began, Syria was one of the last remaining strongholds for Christianity in the Middle East. We have 45 churches in Aleppo. But now our faith is under mortal threat, in danger of being driven into extinction, the same pattern we have seen in neighbouring Iraq.
“…I have to be careful walking around the city because of the risk of snipers and kidnapping.”
Most Christians who could afford to leave Aleppo have already fled for Lebanon, so as to find schools for their children. Those who remain are mostly from poor families. Many can no longer put food on the table. Last year, even amid intense fighting, you could see people in the streets running around endlessly trying to find bread in one of the shops. Read the rest of this entry »
David Francis writes: As the eyes of the world and the media turn to Ukraine, Syrian President Bashar al Assad has quietly been making momentous gains in his three-year civil war with rebels that all but assure he will leave office on his own terms.
“He is still in power, and with negotiations stalled, it’s unlikely he’ll be removed. In short, he’s won.”
Assad’s army has taken Yabroud, the last major town held by Sunni Muslim rebels, located near the Lebanese border. On Tuesday, with support from Hezbollah fighters and local paramilitary groups, Assad’s forces bombarded the town until the rebels retreated.
Taking Yabroud is an important victory for Assad, who has been fighting for months to control the surrounding region.. He has now effectively cut off rebel supply lines from Lebanon.
If He Believes It, It Must Be So
For the Weekly Standard blog, Elliot Abrams writes: On the eve of the Netanyahu visit to Washington, President Obama gave a lengthy interview to Jeffrey Goldberg that shows a chief executive who has learned next to nothing about the world in his five years in office.
First, kudos to Goldberg: he pressed Obama repeatedly, challenging vague formulations and seeking clarity. Goldberg pushed Obama hard, especially on Iran and Syria.
Obama isn’t good off the cuff, especially when challenged; he is far better with a prepared speech. And what emerged is an awful portrait of the president and his conception of the world.
Take Syria. Here’s what Obama said:
“I think those who believe that two years ago, or three years ago, there was some swift resolution to this thing had we acted more forcefully, fundamentally misunderstand the nature of the conflict in Syria and the conditions on the ground there. … Over the last two years I have pushed our teams to find out what are the best options in a bad situation. … But I’ve looked at a whole lot of game plans, a whole lot of war plans, a whole bunch of scenarios, and nobody has been able to persuade me that us taking large-scale military action even absent boots on the ground, would actually solve the problem. And those who make that claim do so without a lot of very specific information.”
Who are these people who have inadequate information, misunderstand the conflict in Syria, and think there is much more the United States could have done? They include both of Obama’s secretaries of state, Clinton and Kerry, his former defense secretary Leon Panetta, and his former CIA director David Petraeus—all of whom wanted much more U.S. support for the Syrian rebels. And perhaps more to the point, take the case of Fred Hof.
Nina Shea, co-author of Persecuted: The Global Assault on Christians, and director of Hudson Institute’s Center for Religious Freedom has an item in The Corner about religious persecution in Syria that caught my eye, go here for the full story. Here’s a preview:
The religious persecution in Syria deepened this week, as evidenced by a written ultimatum purportedly distributed by the rebel jihadist group ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) to Christians in the northern provincial capital of Raqqa. Rejecting conversion to Islam or death, some 20 Christian leaders of that city held firm in their faith and submitted to the Islamists’ demands to live by as dhimmis.
Under this arrangement, in exchange for their lives and the ability to worship as Christians, they must abide by purported seventh-century rules of the Caliph Umar. According to the Raqqa ultimatum, these include bans on renovating and rebuilding churches and monasteries, many of which need repair because they’ve been shelled and blown up over the past three years, and bans against the public display of crosses and Christian symbols and the ringing of bells. They are forbidden from reading scripture indoors loud enough for Muslims outside to hear, and the practice of their faith must be confined within the walls of their remaining churches, not exercised publicly (at, for example, funeral or wedding processions).
They are prohibited from saying anything offensive about Muslims or Islam. The women must be enshrouded, and alcohol is banned.
Senator Kelly Ayotte R., N.H. said today that President Obama’s policy of trying to “reset” relations with Russia has failed and now
“it’s time to reset the reset…”
”Putin has harbored Snowden, interfered in Syria, and armed the Assad regime… it seems the reset policy hasn’t worked.”
From Ukraine to Syria to the Pacific, a hands-off foreign policy invites more trouble
Niall Ferguson writes: Since former Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke uttered the word “taper” in June 2013, emerging-market stocks and currencies have taken a beating. It is not clear why talk of (thus far) modest reductions in the Fed’s large-scale asset-purchase program should have had such big repercussions outside the United States. The best economic explanation is that capital has been flowing out of emerging markets in anticipation of future rises in U.S. interest rates, of which the taper is a harbinger. While plausible, that cannot be the whole story.
“Mr. Obama’s supporters like nothing better than to portray him as the peacemaker to George W. Bush’s warmonger. But it is now almost certain that more people have died violent deaths in the Greater Middle East during this presidency than during the last one.”
For it is not only U.S. monetary policy that is being tapered. Even more significant is the “geopolitical taper.” By this I mean the fundamental shift we are witnessing in the national-security strategy of the U.S.—and like the Fed’s tapering, this one also means big repercussions for the world. To see the geopolitical taper at work, consider President Obama’s comment Wednesday on the horrific killings of protesters in the Ukrainian capital, Kiev. The president said: “There will be consequences if people step over the line.”
No one took that warning seriously—Ukrainian government snipers kept on killing people in Independence Square regardless. The world remembers the red line that Mr. Obama once drew over the use of chemical weapons in Syria . . . and then ignored once the line had been crossed. The compromise deal reached on Friday in Ukraine calling for early elections and a coalition government may or may not spell the end of the crisis. In any case, the negotiations were conducted without concern for Mr. Obama.
“Syria has been one of the great fiascos of post-World War II American foreign policy. When President Obama might have intervened effectively, he hesitated. When he did intervene, it was ineffectual…”
Krauthammer on Hillary’s Achievements as Secretary of State: ‘The U.S. antagonized Canada, for God’s sake. Canada, of all people…’Posted: February 19, 2014
Appearing on on Tuesday’s Hugh Hewitt Radio Show Pulitzer Prize winning columnist Charles Krauthammer declared that Hillary Clinton did not have one achievement in her four years running the State Department, and further, the U.S. position in the world actually went backwards during her tenure…
… Look, you know, when people talk about Hillary being a superb Secretary of State, I just ask one question. Name me one thing, just one, not three, give me one thing she achieved in her four years as Secretary of State. I have yet to hear an answer…
…I think she is the frontrunner. I don’t think the convention will be a coronation. It’s going to be a worship service. But that’s not exactly why we have a Secretary of State…
[Order Charles' book: Things That Matter: Three Decades of Passions, Pastimes and Politics from Amazon]
…I do think it’s really awful that you can have a four year term, achieve nothing, and as you say, go backwards with Russia, backwards on Iran, backwards on Syria, backwards on Venezuela, backwards in relation with just about all of our allies, including, I would add, Keystone, which sits on the President’s head, and antagonizing Canada, for God’s sake. Canada, of all people…
The nuclear issue may be defused for now, but multiple factors could continue to undermine relations.
Robert Mason writes: The permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany (P5+1) and Iran hammered out an interim nuclear deal (the so-called Joint Plan of Action) which entered into force on January 20. The Joint Plan of Action will involve Iran eliminating stockpiles of its more highly enriched uranium, dismantling some its enrichment related infrastructure, agreeing to more inspections and not to activate any more centrifuges. In return, Iran gets some sanctions relief. However, given the poor history and number of irritants in each bilateral relationship between Iran and the West, it is likely that a broader politico-security deal with Iran, if there is to be one, will still be in the process of being negotiated a couple of years from now.