Pompeo: China, not Russia, poses greatest long-term threat
Bill Gertz reports: The Central Intelligence Agency under President Trump is giving more authority to field operatives and cutting excessive bureaucracy in a bid to boost intelligence operations, CIA Director Mike Pompeo says.
In his first news interview since taking charge of the agency in January, Pompeo also said he believes America’s greatest long-term security challenge is the threat posed by China, not Russia. Excerpts of the interview can be found here.
During the wide-ranging interview on the sidelines of a security conference in Aspen, Colo., Pompeo revealed the CIA is preparing intelligence options for the president, including covert action, for use against North Korea in efforts to counter the threat of a future nuclear missile attack.
He also outlined how the CIA is stepping up counterintelligence programs against foreign spies and leaks of intelligence.
Other disclosures by the CIA chief included new details of North Korea’s drive to develop reliable strategic nuclear missiles and a renewed CIA focus on stealing foreign secrets.
“Look, our primary mission is foreign intelligence,” Pompeo told the Washington Free Beacon.
“That is at the core of what we do, and so the ability to go collect against the most difficult places, the most difficult targets in a way that is not one off, that is deep and robust and redundant, is something this agency is really good at when they are allowed to do it. And the president is going to go let us do it.”
Similar to the Pentagon shift in giving military commanders greater authority to act in the field, the CIA is unleashing its spying power—clandestine operations, intelligence analysis, and technical prowess.
The CIA chief said decentralizing spying authority presents both risks and promise.
“In nearly every one of those cases it increases the risk level,” he said. “It also greatly enhances the likelihood you’ll achieve the outcome you’re looking for.”
The shift followed an internal agency review earlier this year that identified several areas where the CIA needed new guidance, or CIA activities that are allowed under law but had been restricted under President Barack Obama’s administration, Pompeo said.
The CIA director said he meets regularly with Trump during intelligence briefings and noted that the president has been very supportive of agency reforms aimed at improving CIA operations.
A former Army officer who until January was a Republican member of the House, Pompeo said the two most immediate security threats are Islamic State terrorists fleeing the Middle East and North Korea’s aggressive effort to field long-range missiles with nuclear warheads that can strike the United States.
U.S. Faces Growing Threats From China, North Korea
Over the longer term, however, Pompeo singled out China as the most serious security challenge.
While China, Russia, and Iran all are expected to pose significant problems in the future, China is a greater threat because of its robust economy and growing military power—both aimed against the United States.
“I think China has the capacity to present the greatest rivalry to America of any of those over the medium and long term,” he said.
China’s military is building up forces that are aimed at countering U.S. power projection around the world, he said.
“So you see that, whether it’s going on in the South China or East China Sea, or the work they’re doing in other parts of the world,” Pompeo said. Read the rest of this entry »
Mediha Medy Salkicevic has claimed that her support of ISIS constituted “legitimate warfare” and that she was waging war against the regime of Bashar al-Assad, just as the U.S. government is doing by supporting Syrian rebels.
Salkicevic was working for a cargo company at Chicago’s International O’Hare Airport when she was arrested in 2015. Investigators allege she said she wanted to “bury unbelievers alive” and kill infidels.
“Under United States law, acts of legitimate warfare during a civil war are not murder and are entitled to combatant immunity,” her attorneys said. They argue that Americans are “protected from prosecution as acts of legitimate warfare under the doctrine of combatant immunity.”
On Friday, her attorneys filed a motion to dismiss two charges: conspiracy and providing material support to terrorists.
Salkicevic and her alleged co-conspirators stand accused of sending money and military equipment to Bosnian national Abdullah Ramo Pazara, an ISIS leader in Syria. Read the rest of this entry »
Sam Webb reports: An astonishing video showing a Kurdish sniper laughing after a bullet fired by an ISIS terrorist narrowly misses her head has emerged online.
After she takes her own shot, a chunk of the wall just behind her head explodes, showering the room with dust and plaster.
She immediately ducks down and laughs at her close brush with death — and is even seen sticking her tongue out sheepishly.
The footage, which has not been verified, was posted online by a Kurdish journalist embedded with the YPJ fighters.
SEATTLE – Dan Springer’s latest test launch over the weekend has raised concerns among U.S. officials. The Pentagon says the ballistic missile flew 1,000 miles higher than NASA’s International Space Station. It was then able to re-enter earth’s atmosphere and splash down just 60 miles from Russia. One official told Fox News it was a “big step forward” in North Korea’s nuclear missile program.
Emergency planners in Hawaii, the closest state to North Korea, have taken notice and are evaluating existing nuclear attack response plans. Meanwhile, another possible target on the West Coast is barred from taking any steps to plan for a nuclear attack.
Washington State allows evacuation plans for every disaster scenario except a nuclear bomb. Former state Rep. Dick Nelson remembers the prevailing thinking in the legislature at the time concerning response plans in the event of nuclear war.
“You are really sending a message that you’re getting ready to do something maybe yourself,” Nelson said.
The law passed in 1984, seven years before the end of the Cold War. It was the opposite approach taken by President Ronald Reagan, whose peace through strength doctrine helped lead to the collapse of the Soviet Union.
A current Washington state senator says the current law is irresponsible and naïve.
“I think it’s ridiculous and silly,” says state Sen. Mark Miloscia, “And sort of the head-in-the-sand mentality. If it has a probability of happening, prepare for it.”
Seattle could be in the crosshairs if North Korea’s leader, Kim Jung Un, ever did the unthinkable. Naval Base Kitsap reportedly has roughly 1,300 nuclear warheads — almost one-quarter of the U.S. arsenal — making it the largest stockpile of nukes in the world. The Puget Sound is also home to Joint Base Lewis McChord, home to the important Stryker Brigade. With the headquarters of Boeing, Microsoft and Amazon, the region is a high-tech hub. Read the rest of this entry »
Senators briefed at WH by military, intelligence officials.
WASHINGTON—The Trump administration said it is launching an urgent push, combining diplomatic pressure and the threat of military action in a bid to halt North Korea’s advancing nuclear-weapons program.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, one of those who briefed senators at a classified briefing hosted by the White House on Wednesday, also plans to host a special meeting of the United Nations Security Council on Friday, where he will propose international officials redouble efforts to enforce economic sanctions and isolate North Korea.
North Korea’s Missile Advancements
The State Department said Mr. Tillerson is considering harsh measures such as asking other countries to shut down North Korea’s embassies and other diplomatic facilities. Read the rest of this entry »
Hugh Dugan writes: With his surprise, 180-degree decision to avenge innocents in Syria, President Donald Trump entered the particle accelerator that is foreign affairs.
The barrage of urgencies—inhumanity, chemical weapons, Syrian civil war, North Korean missiles, Russian warships, truck bombings, ISIS—has streamed his focus into a statesmanship that impresses even his detractors. This reminds us of Trump’s speech to Congress in February where he grew visibly into his presidential shoes.
Taking decisive action in Syria indeed was in the U.S. national interest, not only an understandable human response to a human atrocity. How is it in the national interest? Chemical weapons cannot be tolerated a bit. No excuse exists. Any shadow of their acceptability would quickly become a black cloud over a world cowed into suspicion and fear. Our national interest depends upon a world open to itself and to the future. Read the rest of this entry »
Moscow (AFP) – A Russian military plane carrying 91 people has disappeared from radar after taking off from the southern city of Adler, local news agencies reported the defence ministry as saying Sunday.
Russian aircraft goes missing pic.twitter.com/BEpTSYtrLH
— NewsX (@NewsX) December 25, 2016
Thousands of Assyrian Christians fled their homes in northern Iraq when ISIS militants took control in August 2014.
Reuters reports: Several hundred Iraqi Christians flocked on Saturday to a northern town recently retaken from the Islamic State group, celebrating Christmas for the first time since 2013, their joy tainted with sadness over the desecration of their church.
“This is a dark cloud over Iraq. But we will stay here in our land no matter what happens. God is with us.”
— Bishop Shemani, Christmas Eve sermon in Bartella.
Once home to thousands of Assyrian Christians, Bartella emptied in August 2014 when it fell to ISIS’ blitz across large parts of Iraq and neighboring Syria. Iraqi forces took it back in the first few days of the U.S.-backed offensive that started in October.
Women holding candles ululated as they went into the town’s Mar Shimoni church, expressing their joy at returning to the place where many of them said they had been baptized.
“This is the best day of my life. Sometimes I thought it would never come,” said Shurook Tawfiq, a 32-year-old housewife displaced to the nearby Kurdish city of Erbil.
The church was badly damaged during ISIS’ time in control of the town, with crosses taken down, statues of saints defaced and the chancel burnt.
A new cross has been affixed on top of the chapel, while a decorated plastic Christmas tree now stands near the massive gate. Soldiers stood guard nearby and others were posted on rooftops.
A peal of festive bells rang out over the town, which is still largely empty, with many houses reduced to rubble by the fighting that raged two months ago.
“It is a mix of sadness and happiness,” Bishop Mussa Shemani told Reuters before celebrating the Christmas Eve Mass.
“We are sad to see what has been done to our holiest places by our own countrymen, but at the same time we are happy to celebrate the first Mass after two years.”
The region of Nineveh is one of the most ancient settlements of Christianity, going back nearly 2,000 years.
At Mar Shimoni, the congregation sang and prayed in Syriac, a language close to the one spoken by Jesus.
“It’s the church where I was baptized, where I was educated, where I was taught the faith,” said Bahnam Shamanny, the editor of Bartelli al-Syriann, a monthly local newspaper. Read the rest of this entry »
The Syrian regime says it has taken full control of Aleppo, marking a major turning point in the nation’s five-year civil war. Syrian government forces and their allies are now in control of eastern Aleppo, ending more than four years of rebel rule in the area. The government made significant territorial gains in eastern Aleppo after forces backed by airstrikes entered rebel-held areas in late November. An estimated 400,000 Syrians have been killed and more than 4.81 million have fled the country since the war began in 2011, according to the United Nations….(developing)
David French writes: The world just got more dangerous. A gunman shot and killed the Russian ambassador to Turkey and then stood over his body, shouted “Allahu Akhbar” and began ranting about Syria and Aleppo. I won’t embed video of the shooting, but you can see the entire thing here. Warning, the footage is extremely disturbing.
Early reports are often wrong, but it appears the shooter was a Turkish police officer:
— Ali Hashem علي هاشم (@alihashem_tv) December 19, 2016
We can’t forget that this incident comes just a little more than a year after Turkish forces shot down a Russian jet, and it comes after Erodgan has comprehensively purged Turkish security forces to allegedly leave only his loyalists on staff. Read the rest of this entry »
Gen. James Mattis questions White House strategy in Iraq and Afghanistasn, ponders what’s happening in Syria and bemoans America’s lack of influence in the Middle East.
Suspects planned ‘synchronized’ attacks in Kosovo and Albania, police say; weapons, ammunition and a drone seized in sweep
Police said the arrests were made over the past 10 days and that the suspects had planned “synchronized terror attacks,” without going into further detail.
“They were planning to commit terrorist attacks in Kosovo and also [an attack] against [the] Israeli football team and their fans during the Albania-Israel match,” Kosovo police said in a statement on Wednesday, adding that weapons, explosives, ammunition and a drone were seized during the sweep.
The police said the suspects were communicating and receiving orders from an Islamic State member, Lavdrim Muhaxheri, the self-declared “commander of Albanians in Syria and Iraq.” Read the rest of this entry »
MEXICO CITY (AP) — The world faces a starkly different America led by a President Donald Trump.
While the billionaire businessman’s election was welcomed in some countries, others saw it as a big shock as governments will now have to deal with a man who has cozied up to Vladimir Putin, told North Atlantic Treaty Organization allies they would have to pay for their own protection and vowed to make the Mexican government pay for a multibillion-dollar border wall.
Trump’s win was particularly startling in Mexico, where his remarks calling Mexican immigrants criminals and “rapists” were a deep insult to national pride. Financial analysts have predicted a Trump win would threaten billions of dollars in cross-border trade, and government officials say they have drawn up a contingency plan for such a scenario, though without releasing details.
This is as serious as you say it is, and it tells you how far we have fallen in the region. We were the ones, before the evacuation in Iraq, we were the ones — for all the blood and the toil and the waste of the initial invasion — who controlled that area. We controlled the airspace. We had airbases in Iraq — we controlled everything. No country would ever have said to us, and nobody was in a position to say to us, ‘You can’t have a no-fly zone, or we will patrol and shoot you down.’”
“The Russians are now in Syria, they have the approval of the government, so they have international law — I think it is ridiculous to worry about that, but the administration does — on their side, and they are telling the United States, which were the dominant power for half a century here: ‘If you go up in the air we’ll shoot you down.’ They have just installed in Tartus — which is a naval base, the Russian naval base — S-300 missiles which can do that, meaning they actually have not only a threat, but they have the capacity to shoot American airplanes down. Its probably a bluff because it could trigger a war, it could trigger something extremely serious. But it means we are excluded and the Russians are in charge. Think about the reversal of fortunes, of a place where we were the dominant power since the 1970s.”
Tetsuo Arima Professor, Faculty of Social Sciences, Waseda University
Tetsuo Arima writes: In Washington D.C., the capital of the United States, there is an attraction called the “Duck Tour.” It takes tourists on an amphibious vehicle to tourist spots on both sides of the Potomac River. As the vehicle nears the State Department building, the tour guide gives tourists a quiz. “Over there is the Voice of America, a network which broadcasts around the world. What is the only country that is not covered by this network?” When I participated in this tour, I was the first to raise my hand and answer, “America.” The tour guide made a sour face.
The U.S. government does not engage in propaganda toward Americans. Since the people choose representatives to form a government by democratic elections, the government should not lead its people to make wrong decisions by spreading propaganda. This is a basic principle of democracy. Countries such as China and North Korea, which do not practice democracy, control their populations with propaganda.
However, the U.S., which is a democracy, does engage in propaganda toward other countries. Even its allies are no exception. America, with huge “soft” power, has great influence on other countries, mainly through movies, TV programs, music and fashion, and also utilizes propaganda to the maximum extent. The tour guide must have been displeased because he realized I knew that.
Propaganda in the Information Age
We live in a highly digitized world today. The amount of information is growing exponentially, and many people believe unconditionally that more information is better. This is true if such information is true, unbiased and helps its recipients make sound judgments. But as the amount of information grows, so does the amount that is biased and false. In particular, in the borderless world of the Internet, if one continues to pursue related information, one can easily stray into propaganda sites established by various countries without knowing it.
Readers believe that such information is interesting and useful, but its creators take the trouble to translate and present it in an effort to plant certain ideas and images in the reader’s mind. They expend great time and money to do so. Even smallish businesses spend huge amounts of money on public relations and commercials, so it is natural that major countries bring together elite propagandists, organize powerful state agencies, and give them enormous budgets in order to spread propaganda.
— Sean Davis (@seanmdav) September 29, 2016
VOA, mentioned above, is one of those propaganda agencies. In fact, it is modeled after the British Broadcasting Corporation. The BBC has a strong image as a reputable public broadcaster, but it is also known to spread propaganda, especially during wartime. Nonetheless, it did not spread rumors, praise its country unreservedly, or slander enemy countries, unlike state-owned media in non-democratic countries. The BBC reported news strictly based on facts, but achieved enormous impact by broadcasting only the facts that were convenient to its country and inconvenient to hostile ones.
Responsibility of the mass media
In China, a non-democratic country which controls its people with propaganda, news presented by China Central Television (CCTV), a broadcaster run by the Communist Party, should be regarded as propaganda whether it targets domestic or foreign audiences. Of course CCTV also uses language which makes its content really sound like propaganda. The problem in Japan is that the mass media frequently repeat such propaganda as part of their news. Read the rest of this entry »
French President Francois Hollande Gagged From Saying the Forbidden: Obama White House Censors Phrase ‘Islamist Terrorism’Posted: April 1, 2016
Sean Davis reports: President Barack Obama and French President Francois Hollande met in Washington on Thursday to discuss ways for the two countries to work together to defeat terrorism. But the White House apparently had zero appetite for Hollande’s mention of Islamist terrorism, since it censored the phrase from the official White House video of the meeting posted on the White House website.
[Watch and listen to the video below, which is available on YouTube through the White House’s official account, and you can hear the audio cut out right before Hollande says “Islamist terrorism”]
Media Research Center, a non-profit media watchdog, was the first to report the White House censorship.
[Hollande’s use of the phrase “Islamist terrorism” is also censored in the White House’s official MP3 recording of the event]
While the official transcript available on the White House web page includes Hollande’s use of the phrase “Islamist terrorism,” the White House video of the remarks muted the audio during that portion of Hollande’s remarks. The audio of the French-to-English interpreter stops right before Hollande characterizes “Islamist terrorism” as the root of terrorism in Syria and Iraq…(read more)
Here is the transcript of what Hollande said, with strikethrough notation to show what the White House censored in its video of the exchange between the two presidents:
Europe has been hit more, given that it is also the target of the terrorists and ISIS. We’ve seen it in Paris last year, as well as in Brussels. And together with President Obama, we worked on coordinating further our commitments, our organizations, our services when it comes to fighting against these terrorists. Read the rest of this entry »
“Earlier today, we lost contact with two small U.S. naval craft en route from Kuwait to Bahrain. We subsequently have been in communication with Iranian authorities, who have informed us of the safety and well-being of our personnel. We have received assurances the sailors will promptly be allowed to continue their journey.”
— Senior administration official
Two Navy boats are reportedly in Iranian custody, according to the Associated Press.
Iran has reportedly told the US that the crew will be returned “promptly.”
“Earlier today, we lost contact with two small U.S. naval craft en route from Kuwait to Bahrain,” a senior administration official said in a statement.
“We are working to resolve the situation such that any US personnel are returned to their normal deployment. We are hopeful it will be resolved.”
— White House Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes
“We subsequently have been in communication with Iranian authorities, who have informed us of the safety and well-being of our personnel. We have received assurances the sailors will promptly be allowed to continue their journey.” Read the rest of this entry »
[PHOTO] Iran-Iraq Border: Iranian Female Students Play Around an Abandoned Tank in Shalamcheh, Khuzestan, IranPosted: January 4, 2016
‘There are relics left along the Iran-Iraq boarders. A group of Iranian female students play around an abandoned tank [in Shalamcheh, Khuzestan, Iran]. Among them, one girl stands on the tank with her arms open.’ (Yanan Li / National Geographic 2015 Photo Contest)
See more here
TEL AVIV – An article published on CNN’s website featured a map that erased Israel and replaced it with “Palestina,” a Spanish or Portuguese translation of ”Palestine” the HonestReporting media watchdog revealed.
“Following the publication of this post and the complaints of many HonestReporting subscribers, CNN has removed the map in question and replaced it with an image of the aftermath of a Syrian airstrike in Aleppo.”
The map, taken from Getty Images, accompanied a CNN Money article titled, “Beyond ISIS: 2016’s scariest geopolitical hotspots.”After HonestReporting cited the error, CNN took the map downand replaced it.
“Following the publication of this post and the complaints of many HonestReporting subscribers, CNN has removed the map in question and replaced it with an image of the aftermath of a Syrian airstrike in Aleppo,” said HonestReporting.
HonestReporting managing editor Simon Plosker added:
”Whether it was an oversight or something more…(read more)
This is a scandal. And those involved believe that it reaches into the White House.
Stephen F. Hayes writes: Barack Obama says he wants the truth. On November 21, the New York Times reported allegations that military intelligence officials provided the president with skewed assessments that minimized the threat from ISIS and overstated the success of U.S. efforts against the group. The Times story was an update of reporting from the Daily Beast earlier this fall. “More than 50 intelligence analysts working out of the U.S. military’s Central Command have formally complained that their reports on ISIS and al Qaeda’s branch in Syria were being inappropriately altered by senior officials,” the Beast reported in September. These analysts say their superiors regularly massaged pessimistic assessments to make them more upbeat before sending them up the chain of command. The analysts registered their grievances with the inspector general at the Pentagon, who is investigating their claims.
Obama was asked about this investigation at a press conference on November 22. The president said he doesn’t know the details of the allegations. But he added: “What I do know is my expectation, which is the highest fidelity to facts, data—the truth.”
“We were certainly blocked from seeing all the documents, and we were given limited time and resources to exploit the ones we had.”
— Michael Pregent, a DIA analyst on the CENTCOM team
The allegations are serious. We’re told by sources with knowledge of the investigation that the analysts who made them knew well in advance they’d be filing an official complaint. So they were ready when they did, providing the IG with extensive documentation—going back more than a year—to support their claims.
Why were they so well prepared?
Among other reasons: They’d seen such pressures before, up close. And they understood that by formalizing their complaints they would be challenging not their immediate superiors alone but in some important respects an entire system that had encouraged analysts and other national security officials to downplay the jihadist threat.
“The obvious question: Why would the president’s National Security Council intervene to block access to the bin Laden documents for analysts from the DIA and CENTCOM—analysts who are providing intelligence to those on the frontlines of America’s battle with jihadists?”
The current storm over ISIS intelligence is not a new controversy, though most of the media are treating it as such. It’s better understood as an installment in a long-running scandal that extends beyond CENTCOM in Tampa, into the upper reaches of the U.S. intelligence community and perhaps into the White House.
“After a bitter interagency dispute, James Clapper, director of national intelligence, allowed analysts from CENTCOM and the Defense Intelligence Agency to have time-limited, read-only access to the documents. What they found was fascinating and alarming.”
Readers of this magazine are familiar with the story of the documents obtained in the raid that killed Osama bin Laden. The Sensitive Site Exploitation team on the raid collected more than a million documents—papers, computer hard drives, audio and video recordings. Top Obama administration officials at first touted the cache as the greatest collection of terrorist materials ever captured in a single raid and boasted that the contents would fill a “small college library.”
An interagency intelligence team, led by the CIA, conducted the initial triage—including keyword searches of the collection for actionable intelligence. And then, according to senior U.S. intelligence officials with firsthand knowledge of the controversy, the documents sat largely untouched for as long as a year. The CIA retained “executive authority” over the documents, and when analysts from other agencies requested access to them, the CIA denied it—repeatedly.
“What they found was fascinating and alarming. Much of what these analysts were seeing—directly from Osama bin Laden and other al Qaeda leaders—contradicted what the president and top administration officials were saying publicly.”
After a bitter interagency dispute, James Clapper, director of national intelligence, allowed analysts from CENTCOM and the Defense Intelligence Agency to have time-limited, read-only access to the documents. What they found was fascinating and alarming. Much of what these analysts were seeing—directly from Osama bin Laden and other al Qaeda leaders—contradicted what the president and top administration officials were saying publicly. While drone strikes had killed some senior al Qaeda leaders, the organization had anticipated the U.S. decapitation strategy and was flourishing in spite of it; bin Laden remained intimately involved in al Qaeda decision-making and operational planning; the relationship between al Qaeda and the Afghan Taliban remained strong despite the Obama administration’s attempts to weaken it by negotiating with Taliban leaders; al Qaeda’s relationship with Iran, while uneven and fraught with mutual distrust, was far deeper and more significant than U.S. intelligence assessments had suggested.
Read the rest of this entry »
Chris Perez reports: One of the two teens who fled Austria last year to become a “poster girl” for ISIS has been beaten to death after trying to escape the group’s Syrian stronghold of Raqqa, reports say.
Kesinovic and her friend Sabina Selimovic, 15, made headlines in April 2014 when they ran away from their homes in Vienna and shacked up with militants in Syria. Read the rest of this entry »
A Russian jet has been shot down by Turkish warplanes this morning, near the border with Syria.
Russia’s defence ministry claims the aircraft at no point strayed into Turkish airspace, with authorities insisting it remained in Syria “at all times”, according to Interfax.
However, a Turkish military official told Reuters that the Nato member country’s F-16s had fired on the then-unidentified aircraft only after warning it was violating Turkey’s airspace.
He could have acknowledged people’s qualms as legitimate and argued at greater length…But that would have meant not taking cheap shots against the political opposition at home — the people who really make him angry.
Michael Barone writes: Three days after the Islamic State terrorist attacks in Paris, Americans were primed to hear their president express heartfelt anger, which he did in his press conference in Antalya, Turkey, at the end of the G-20 Conference. And they did hear him describe the Islamic State as “this barbaric terrorist organization” and acknowledge that “the terrible events in Paris were a terrible and sickening setback.”
“What really got him angry, as the transcript and videotape make clear, were reporters’ repeated questions about the minimal success of his strategy against the Islamic State and Republicans’ proposals for more active engagement in Syria and Iraq.”
But what really got him angry, as the transcript and videotape make clear, were reporters’ repeated questions about the minimal success of his strategy against the Islamic State and Republicans’ proposals for more active engagement in Syria and Iraq. As well as critics of his decision to allow 10,000 Syrians into the United States.
“The reporters did not seem this time to be absorbing his patient instruction.”
The reporters did not seem this time to be absorbing his patient instruction. The Islamic State “controls less territory than it did before,” he stated — but not much less, and is still holding Iraq’s second largest city and a huge swath of Iraqi and Syrian desert. Our bombs did pulverize the British-born Islamic State beheader. “We’ve been coordinating internationally to reduce their financing capabilities.
“Most Americans want people who behead Americans destroyed considerably sooner than that. They wonder why the world’s greatest military can’t do that.”
But in his self-described goal, “to degrade and ultimately destroy,” the word “ultimately” looms uncomfortable large. Most Americans want people who behead Americans destroyed considerably sooner than that. They wonder why the world’s greatest military can’t do that.
Such action, Obama suggested, might be bad public relations. The Islamic State has “a twisted ideology,” and we play into its “narrative” by treating it as a state and using “routine military tactics.” Read the rest of this entry »
More than 100 police and soldiers stormed an apartment building in the suburb of Saint-Denis during a seven-hour siege that left two dead, including the suspected overseer of the Paris bloodshed, Abdelhamid Abaaoud.
PARIS — French police commandos killed the suspected ringleader of the Paris attacks in a massive predawn raid Wednesday, two senior European intelligence officials said, after investigators followed leads that the fugitive militant was holed up north of the French capital and could be plotting another wave of violence.
“Paris prosecutor François Molins, speaking to reporters hours after the siege, said a discarded cellphone helped identify a series of safe houses used by attackers to plan Friday’s coordinated assaults, which killed 129 people and wounded more than 350 across Paris.”
More than 100 police and soldiers stormed an apartment building in the suburb of Saint-Denis during a seven-hour siege that left two dead, including the suspected overseer of the Paris bloodshed, Abdelhamid Abaaoud, a Belgian extremist who had once boasted he could slip easily between Europe and the Islamic State strongholds in Syria.
“Two senior European officials, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss intelligence matters, confirmed that Abaaoud was killed in the raid.”
After the raid, forsenics experts combed through the aftermath — blown-out windows, floors collapsed by explosions — presumably seeking DNA and other evidence. The intelligence officials spoke on condition of anonymity before announcements from authorities.
“The death of Abaaoud closes one major dragnet in the international search for suspects from Friday’s carnage.”
Paris prosecutor François Molins, speaking to reporters hours after the siege, said a discarded cellphone helped identify a series of safe houses used by attackers to plan Friday’s coordinated assaults, which killed 129 people and wounded more than 350 across Paris.
“But it raised other worrisome questions, including the apparent ability of Abaaoud to evade intelligence agencies while traveling through Europe and whether other possible Islamic State cells could be seeking to strike again.”
Molins said police launched the raid because they believed that Abaaoud may have been “entrenched” on the third floor of the apartment building. He said he could not yet provide the identities of the two people who died at the scene, but he added that neither Abaaoud nor another wanted suspect, Salah Abdeslam, was among a total of eight people who were arrested at the apartment and other locations Wednesday. Three people were arrested in the raid on the apartment, he said, one of whom had a gunshot wound in the arm.
“The raid on an apartment building in the Saint-Denis suburb appeared to be linked in part to plans to stage a follow-up terrorist attack in the La Defense business district, about 10 miles away, two police officials and an investigator close to the investigation said.”
Two senior European officials, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss intelligence matters, confirmed that Abaaoud was killed in the raid.
Molins said the safe houses indicated “a huge logistics plan, meticulously carried out.”
The death of Abaaoud closes one major dragnet in the international search for suspects from Friday’s carnage. Read the rest of this entry »
John Nolte writes:
In Tuesday remarks to the staff and their families at the U.S. Embassy in Paris, Secretary of State John Kerry suggested there was a “rationale” for the January Islamic terror attacks against the journalists/cartoonists at Charlie Hebdo magazine in Paris, France, that resulted in the murder of 12 people.
“There was a sort of particularized focus and perhaps even a legitimacy in terms of – not a legitimacy, but a rationale that you could attach yourself to somehow and say, okay, they’re really angry because of this and that.”
“There’s something different about what happened from Charlie Hebdo, and I think everybody would feel that,” Kerry told the group. “There was a sort of particularized focus and perhaps even a legitimacy in terms of – not a legitimacy, but a rationale that you could attach yourself to somehow and say, okay, they’re really angry because of this and that.” Read the rest of this entry »
‘We can unequivocally say it was a terrorist act’
MOSCOW – The Kremlin said for the first time on Tuesday that a bomb had ripped apart a Russian passenger jet over Egypt last month and promised to hunt down those responsible and intensify its air strikes on Islamist militants in Syria in response.
“According to an analysis by our specialists, a homemade bomb containing up to 1 kilogram of TNT detonated during the flight, causing the plane to break up in mid air, which explains why parts of the fuselage were spread over such a large distance.”
Until Tuesday, Russia had played down assertions from Western countries that the crash, in which 224 people were killed on Oct. 31, was a terrorist incident, saying it was important to let the official investigation run its course.
But in a late night Kremlin meeting on Monday three days after Islamist gunmen and bombers killed 129 people in Paris, Alexander Bortnikov, the head of Russia’s FSB security service, told a meeting chaired by President Vladimir Putin that traces of foreign-made explosive had been found on fragments of the downed plane and on passengers’ personal belongings.
“We will search for them everywhere wherever they are hiding. We will find them anywhere on the planet and punish them.”
— Vladimir Putin
“According to an analysis by our specialists, a homemade bomb containing up to 1 kilogram of TNT detonated during the flight, causing the plane to break up in mid air, which explains why parts of the fuselage were spread over such a large distance,” said Bortnikov. Read the rest of this entry »
An Islamic State operative suspected of helping plan the Paris attacks had been monitored in Syria by Western allies seeking to kill him in an airstrike, but they couldn’t locate him in the weeks before the plot was carried out, two Western security officials said.
“A year ago, video emerged of him in Syria, smiling as he drove a truck dragging the dead bodies of Islamic State’s opponents tied to the bumper.”
The operative, a Belgian citizen named Abdelhamid Abaaoud, was convicted in abstentia in Brussels earlier this year of recruiting jihadists, was suspected of masterminding a foiled plot to behead police officers, escaped to Syria and was profiled in Islamic State’s online magazine mocking European authorities for their failure to catch him. A year ago, video emerged of him in Syria, smiling as he drove a truck dragging the dead bodies of Islamic State’s opponents tied to the bumper.
Mr. Abaaoud is one of two people who have emerged at the center of a probe into the attacks that killed 129 people on Friday. Both are at large. French and Belgian authorities are also searching for a 26-year-old petty criminal named Salah Abdeslam, who they say rented a car used in the attacks on Friday and is suspected of driving some of the suicide bombers through Paris.
On Monday, dozens of masked Belgian police stormed a house in a predominantly Muslim district in Brussels in their hunt for Mr. Abdeslam….(read more)
Sympathisants Jihadists: In Paris Neighborhood Heavily Hit by Terrorists, Bobo Hipster Residents View Attackers as VictimsPosted: November 15, 2015
‘They’re stupid, but they aren’t evil,’ says Parisian woman who works in 11th arrondissement, and in Place de la Republique, no one wanted to talk about Islamists or the Islamic State.
PARIS – Ansel Pfeffer reports: On the day after the terror campaign in Paris that left 129 people dead and more than 300 wounded, residents of the French capital are still trying to absorb what hit them.
“They are victims of a system that excluded them from society, that’s why they felt this doesn’t belong to them and they could attack. There are those who live here in alienation, and we are all to blame for this alienation.”
By evening, after they had avoided gathering outdoors all day on the orders of police, hundreds of people started to assemble at the Place de la Republique, only a few hundred meters from the Bataclan concert hall where four terrorists had held hostage hundreds of people for more than two hours, killing 89 of them. From Boulevard Voltaire, where the hall is located and which was closed by police, ambulances carrying the bodies of the victims would emerge every few minutes, sirens wailing. As of last night only a handful of the victims had been named.
“They don’t want us to think that maybe it’s connected to the policies of our government and of the United States in the Middle East. These are people the government gave up on, and you have to ask why.”
A group of friends was standing near the candles that had been lit at the foot of the monument at the square, trying to find out if the waiter that had served them at La Belle Equipe, one of the restaurants attacked in the 11th arrondissement, had been killed.
“One member of the group said they had come to the square to demonstrate ‘unity,’ but they didn’t seem to feel solidarity with the victims of the last wave of terror. There were signs calling for unity, but it wasn’t clear what they were meant to unite around.”
“It’s very personal, what’s happened,” said Stephan Byatt, an actor who lives on a nearby street. He has a hard time finding the words to describe what he’s feeling. His friend, Bruno Michlaud, a graphic artist, tries to help out. “It’s a symbol of Paris, a symbol of life. They hurt us in the center of our lives and each of us could have been one of those killed.”
But they aren’t angry, at least not at the perpetrators. “They’re stupid, but they aren’t evil,” their friend Sabrina, an administrative worker in one of the theaters in the 11th arrondissement, said. “They are victims of a system that excluded them from society, that’s why they felt this doesn’t belong to them and they could attack. There are those who live here in alienation, and we are all to blame for this alienation.”
“Perhaps it’s correct to bomb them in the name of democracy and freedom, but it brought the war in Syria to us in France. I don’t think it’s worth it.”
Ten months after the previous wave of terror in Paris that hit the editorial offices of Charlie Hebdo and the Hypercacher kosher supermarket, one might assume that residents would feel a sense of continuity, but that didn’t seem to be the case. “Then they harmed journalists and Jews, those were defined targets,” said one of the young people who had come to the square. “Now it was an attack with no objective, anyone could have been hurt.” Read the rest of this entry »
Bridget Johnson reports: ISIS beheaded four Peshmerga in a grisly video released today with a retribution message to President Obama — delivered by an American-sounding executioner — for last week’s raid to rescue 69 prisoners near Hawija, Iraq.
“…There is still no compelling reason to believe that anything we are currently doing will be sufficient to achieve the President’s stated goal of degrading and ultimately destroying ISIL.”
— Senator John McCain
Three of the Kurds are forced to watch the fourth prisoner being beheaded before they are subjected to the same fate.
“Obama, you have learned a new lesson. Six of the soldiers of the caliphate faced 400 of your children. They killed and injured them, by Allah’s grace. You were probably surprised by this. O Crusader, it is the support of Allah you did not gain anything, you returned to your base with loss and humiliation.”
The video, viewed by PJM, includes night-vision images of a helicopter attack, though it’s unclear if it’s footage from that night. It also shows clips of Defense Secretary Ash Carter, dead bodies and a field of rubble while ripping off coalition footage of the strikes. U.S. forces said they leveled the compound after the prisoners, who were set to be killed later that day, were rescued.
“Obama, you wage war against Allah. He supports us against you; it is the promise of Allah. Allah will never fail in his promise.”
A narrator speaking in Arabic walks through the decimated compound as he recounts ISIS’ version of events and includes alleged witnesses.
One jihadist wearing gloves and a surgical mask picks through a pile of first-aid packaging, bloody bandaging and needles they said were left by U.S. and Kurdish forces.
Then the 15-minute video cuts to the prisoners in orange jumpsuits kneeled before the rubble, and the black-clad killers wielding knives. Read the rest of this entry »
Hillary Clinton may not see the point, but her testimony may tell us much about her ability to lead.
“As the crisis unfolded that day in Benghazi, with violence also erupting in Tunis, Cairo and potentially elsewhere, Mrs. Clinton disappeared. Instead of staying at her desk, ‘on the bridge’ of the State Department’s seventh floor, Mrs. Clinton literally left the building. Why?”
Nonetheless, the committee’s work is utterly serious, its preparations extensive (and extensively stonewalled by Mrs. Clinton’s team) and its mission vital to our fight against still-metastasizing Islamist terrorism. Much is at stake. The hearing’s focus must be on the key policy and leadership implications of the mistakes made before, during and after the murders of Amb. Christopher Stevens and three other Americans on Sept. 11 three years ago.
“Imagine the effect on morale when, with colleagues in Libya in mortal peril, State Department personnel learned that their leader had gone home for the evening. There is no evidence that Mrs. Clinton or President Obama did anything other than passively monitor events.”
Before the attack, there was ample warning that the U.S. consulate in Benghazi wasn’t secure, with terrorist threats in the area multiplying. Even the International Red Cross had pulled out of Benghazi. After a string of requests from the U.S. Embassy in Tripoli for more security, in mid-August came a joint Embassy-CIA recommendation to move the State Department’s people into the CIA’s Benghazi compound. The State Department in Washington was invariably unresponsive, even though, as Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey later testified, the rising terrorist threat in Libya was well known.
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Given her self-proclaimed central role in deposing dictator Moammar Gadhafi, why was Mrs. Clinton so detached from the deteriorating situation in Libya? She has so far dodged the issue, pawning off such “technical” matters on her subordinates. Working in the State Department in 1990 when Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait, I saw firsthand how Secretary of State James Baker dived into every detail of safeguarding U.S. diplomats stranded in Kuwait City. If earlier secretaries of state have been perfectly prepared to get their fingernails dirty in operational details when those under their responsibility were threatened, why wasn’t Mrs. Clinton?
Libya was no backwater for Mrs. Clinton. It was one of President Obama’s highest foreign-policy priorities, touted by the administration as evidence of successfully “leading from behind,” averting a Gadhafi bloodbath through “humanitarian intervention,” and with democracy and stability to follow. So acknowledging that precisely the opposite was happening, and appropriately increasing security in Libya, would demonstrate failure. That was politically unacceptable.
As the crisis unfolded that day in Benghazi, with violence also erupting in Tunis, Cairo and potentially elsewhere, Mrs. Clinton disappeared. Instead of staying at her desk, “on the bridge” of the State Department’s seventh floor, Mrs. Clinton literally left the building. Why? Read the rest of this entry »
Despite Nuclear Accord, U.S.-Iran Tensions Are on the Rise.
Conviction of U.S. journalist, testing of ballistic missiles heighten concerns among deal’s U.S. critics.
WASHINGTON— Jay Solomon reports: Tensions between the U.S. and Iran, rather than easing as a result of July’s nuclear accord, are increasing over a wide spectrum of issues tied to the broader Middle East security landscape and to domestic Iranian politics, current and former U.S. officials say.
“Fears are mounting in Washington and Europe that these two conflicts could fuel a much broader regional war, in which Iran and Saudi Arabia are the chief protagonists.”
Just in the past two days, Iran has test-fired a ballistic missile and announced the conviction of American journalist Jason Rezaian, fueling suspicions the historic nuclear agreement has allowed Tehran’s Islamist clerics to step up their long-held anti-U.S. agenda.
Washington’s closest Mideast allies, particularly Israel and Saudi Arabia, are more broadly concerned about Iran’s ability to use the diplomatic cover provided by the nuclear accord—and the promised release of tens of billions of dollars of frozen oil revenues—to strengthen its regional position and that of its allies.
“There’s a risk that nonnuclear issues could sink the overall deal. The optics are terrible.”
—Richard Nephew, a former top negotiator with Iran
Iran last month launched a joint military operation with Russia in Syria aimed at stabilizing the regime of President Bashar al-Assad, Tehran’s closest regional ally, according to Iranian and Russian officials.
Iran has also continued to ship arms and money to Houthi rebels in Yemen, who seized the country’s capital this year but are now facing an expansive counteroffensive led by Saudi Arabia, according to Arab officials.
Fears are mounting in Washington and Europe that these two conflicts could fuel a much broader regional war, in which Iran and Saudi Arabia are the chief protagonists.
The Obama administration’s ability to implement the nuclear accord amid such tumult could be compromised, said former U.S. officials involved in the Iran diplomacy.
“There’s a risk that nonnuclear issues could sink the overall deal,” said Richard Nephew, who was a top negotiator with Iran up until late 2014. “The optics are terrible.”
“Both in its nuclear negotiations and its consideration of Americans detained in Iran, the administration has shown a dangerous naiveté regarding who it is dealing with.”
—Rep. Ed Royce (R., Calif.), chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee
Obama administration officials on Monday stressed that the July 14 agreement is solely focused on denying Iran the capability to develop an atomic weapon, and not solving these regional problems.
State Department spokesman John Kirby said the U.S. was closely monitoring both Iran’s missile test on Sunday and Mr. Rezaian’s legal case to decide if and how to respond. Read the rest of this entry »
Russian President Vladimir Putin defends decision to send warplanes as aimed at political solution.
MOSCOW— Thomas Grove reports: Russia stepped up its bombing campaign in Syria over the weekend, more than doubling the rate of strikes seen at the beginning of the operation.
“The Kremlin’s air campaign in Syria has exacerbated tensions between Moscow and Washington, which has led a separate campaign of strikes against Islamic State fighters in Syria and Iraq.”
The Russian Ministry of Defense said Monday its jet fighters had carried out 55 sorties over the past 24 hours, hitting targets in the provinces of Homs, Hama, Latakia, Idlib and Raqqa. The daily number had been around two dozen last week.
“U.S. and Western officials say Russia’s airstrikes have largely targeted Syrian opposition groups other than Islamic State in a bid to shore up Mr. Assad’s government.”
Russian warplanes are backing an offensive launched last week by troops loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. The Russian military said Su-34, Su-24 and Su-25 fighters hit Islamic State field headquarters, training camps and weapons arsenals in the latest bombing runs.
“Our task is to stabilize the legal government and create the right conditions for reaching a political compromise. We have no desire to recreate an empire and resurrect the Soviet Union.”
— Vladimir Putin
The Kremlin’s air campaign in Syria has exacerbated tensions between Moscow and Washington, which has led a separate campaign of strikes against Islamic State fighters in Syria and Iraq. U.S. and Western officials say Russia’s airstrikes have largely targeted Syrian opposition groups other than Islamic State in a bid to shore up Mr. Assad’s government.
The Russian government depicts Islamic State as a direct threat to its citizens. On Monday, Russia’s Federal Security Service told the state news agency Interfax that law-enforcement officials had foiled a plot to carry out an attack on public transportation in Moscow—and that some of the individuals arrested in the case had trained at Islamic State camps in Syria.
In an interview aired Sunday, Russian President Vladimir Putin defended his decision to send warplanes to Syria, saying the air war was aimed at spurring a political solution to the conflict in Syria. Read the rest of this entry »
Obama may end up being the only person in the world to sign his much-wanted deal, in effect making a treaty with himself.
Amir Taheri writes: Sometime this week, President Obama is scheduled to sign an executive order to meet the Oct. 15 “adoption day” he has set for the nuclear deal he says he has made with Iran. According to the president’s timetable the next step would be “the start day of implementation,” fixed for Dec. 15.
“The Iranians have signed nothing and have no plans for doing so. The so-called Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action has not even been discussed at the Islamic Republic’s Council of Ministers.”
But as things now stand, Obama may end up being the only person in the world to sign his much-wanted deal, in effect making a treaty with himself.
“Nor has the Tehran government bothered to even provide an official Persian translation of the 159-page text.”
The Iranians have signed nothing and have no plans for doing so. The so-called Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) has not even been discussed at the Islamic Republic’s Council of Ministers. Nor has the Tehran government bothered to even provide an official Persian translation of the 159-page text.
The Islamic Majlis, the ersatz parliament, is examining an unofficial text and is due to express its views at an unspecified date in a document “running into more than 1,000 pages,” according to Mohsen Zakani, who heads the “examining committee.”
“The changes we seek would require substantial rewriting of the text,” he adds enigmatically.
Nor have Britain, China, Germany, France and Russia, who were involved in the so-called P5+1 talks that produced the JCPOA, deemed it necessary to provide the Obama “deal” with any legal basis of their own. Obama’s partners have simply decided that the deal he is promoting is really about lifting sanctions against Iran and nothing else.
So they have started doing just that without bothering about JCPOA’s other provisions. Britain has lifted the ban on 22 Iranian banks and companies blacklisted because of alleged involvement in deals linked to the nuclear issue.
“Nor have Britain, China, Germany, France and Russia, who were involved in the so-called P5+1 talks that produced the JCPOA, deemed it necessary to provide the Obama ‘deal’ with any legal basis of their own.”
German trade with Iran has risen by 33 percent, making it the Islamic Republic’s third-largest partner after China.
China has signed preliminary accords to help Iran build five more nuclear reactors. Russia has started delivering S300 anti-aircraft missile systems and is engaged in talks to sell Sukhoi planes to the Islamic Republic.
“Obama’s partners have simply decided that the deal he is promoting is really about lifting sanctions against Iran and nothing else.”
France has sent its foreign minister and a 100-man delegation to negotiate big business deals, including projects to double Iran’s crude oil exports.
Other nations have also interpreted JCPOA as a green light for dropping sanctions. Indian trade with Iran has risen by 17 percent, and New Delhi is negotiating massive investment in a rail-and-sea hub in the Iranian port of Chah-Bahar on the Gulf of Oman. With help from Austrian, Turkish and United Arab Emirates banks, the many b Read the rest of this entry »
Inconveniently, Sanctions Relief Provision Conflicts with Federal Statutes that were Signed into Law by President Obama.
Some senior U.S. officials involved in the implementation of the Iran nuclear deal have privately concluded that a key sanctions relief provision – a concession to Iran that will open the doors to tens of billions of dollars in U.S.-backed commerce with the Islamic regime – conflicts with existing federal statutes and cannot be implemented without violating those laws, Fox News has learned.
“What’s more, ITRA contains language, in Section 605, requiring that the terms spelled out in Section 218 shall remain in effect until the president of the United States certifies two things to Congress: first, that Iran has been removed from the State Department’s list of nations that sponsor terrorism, and second, that Iran has ceased the pursuit, acquisition, and development of weapons of mass destruction.”
At issue is a passage tucked away in ancillary paperwork attached to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA, as the Iran nuclear deal is formally known. Specifically, Section 5.1.2 of Annex II provides that in exchange for Iranian compliance with the terms of the deal, the U.S. “shall…license non-U.S. entities that are owned or controlled by a U.S. person to engage in activities with Iran that are consistent with this JCPOA.”
In short, this means that foreign subsidiaries of U.S. parent companies will, under certain conditions, be allowed to do business with Iran. The problem is that the Iran Threat Reduction and Syria Human Rights Act (ITRA), signed into law by President Obama in August 2012, was explicit in closing the so-called “foreign sub” loophole.
“Additional executive orders and statutes signed by President Obama, such as the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act, have reaffirmed that all prior federal statutes relating to sanctions on Iran shall remain in full effect.”
Indeed, ITRA also stipulated, in Section 218, that when it comes to doing business with Iran, foreign subsidiaries of U.S. parent firms shall in all cases be treated exactly the same as U.S. firms: namely, what is prohibited for U.S. parent firms has to be prohibited for foreign subsidiaries, and what is allowed for foreign subsidiaries has to be allowed for U.S. parent firms.
What’s more, ITRA contains language, in Section 605, requiring that the terms spelled out in Section 218 shall remain in effect until the president of the United States certifies two things to Congress: first, that Iran has been removed from the State Department’s list of nations that sponsor terrorism, and second, that Iran has ceased the pursuit, acquisition, and development of weapons of mass destruction. Read the rest of this entry »