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Iraqi Christians Celebrate First Christmas in Lands Liberated from ISIS 

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Thousands of Assyrian Christians fled their homes in northern Iraq when ISIS militants took control in August 2014.

 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 »

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Multiple Suicide Blasts Hit Saudi Arabia

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Riyadh (AFP) – Three suicide bombers struck in Saudi Arabia on Monday in a rare incidence of multiple attacks in the kingdom where the Islamic State group has previously staged deadly attacks.

There were no immediate claims of responsibility.

The latest explosion occurred at one of Islam’s three holiest sites, the Prophet’s Mosque in Medina in the kingdom’s west where Mohammed is buried, Saudi-owned Al-Arabiya news channel reported.

Other blasts occurred in the Red Sea city of Jeddah near the US consulate and in Shiite-dominated Qatif on the other side of the country.

The interior ministry said two security officers were wounded in the Jeddah bombing.

Residents of Qatif said only the bomber died in that attack, blowing his body apart near a Shiite mosque.

Al-Arabiya said the Medina incident occurred during sunset prayers after which Muslims break their fast during the holy month of Ramadan, which ends Tuesday.

It showed images of fire raging in a security forces parking lot with at least one body nearby.

The Prophet’s Mosque is particularly crowded during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which is supposed to be a time of charity but has seen spectacular attacks around the region.

Sunni extremists from IS claimed, or weer blamed for, a suicide bombing in Baghdad on Sunday that killed more than 200 people as well as other attacks in Bangladesh and at Istanbul’s Ataturk airport.

At about the same time as the Medina blast, another bomber killed himself in Qatif, residents there said.

“Suicide bomber for sure. I can see the body” torn apart, said one witness to the attack in Qatif.

Nasima al-Sada, another resident, told AFP that “one bomber blew himself up near the mosque”, frequented by Shiites in downtown Qatif on the Gulf coast. Read the rest of this entry »


[VIDEO] #ShiiteClericsLivesMatter Protesters Storm Saudi Embassy, Set it On Fire 

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TEHRAN, Jan. 2 (UPI) — Following the execution of an outspoken Shiite cleric in Saudi Arabia on Saturday, protesters ransacked the Saudi embassy in Tehran, setting fire to part of the building.

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Rocket fire on the Saudi Embassy

The New York Times reported protesters gathered outside of the embassy and began throwing Molotov cocktails at the building. They proceed to break windows and smash furniture.

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Molotov cocktail, anyone?

Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr was executed along with 46 others convicted of terrorism-related offenses in Saudi Arabia Saturday. The mass-execution one of the largest in Saudi Arabia in decades. The Saudi kingdom executed 157 people in 2015, its most in nearly 20 years.

Sheikh Nimr was a vocal critic of the monarchy. During the Arab Spring, Shiite protesters adopted Nimr as a symbolic leader. Because of this, his execution is seen as part of a rivalry. Amnesty International had warned of the impending execution in November…(read more)

Developing…

Source: UPI/Breitbart


Match Made in Hell: SoCal Terrorists Likely Forged Bond in Online Jihadist Forums

Hollie McKay reports: The online romance between Southern California terrorists Farook Rizwan Syed and Tashfeen Malik was more a meeting of like minds than lonely hearts, with two radical jihadists forming a bond of hate and bloodlust in the dark recesses of the Internet.

Family members have said Syed, 28, and Malik, 29, met online and embarked on a whirlwind digital relationship capped by their 2014 marriage. But if they did, it was not on any dating site resembling those that bring people together every day in the civilized world. Their meeting brought together two already-radicalized soulmates who would go on to kill 14 people and wound 21 more in last week’s massacre at a San Bernardino social services facility

“They were actually radicalized before they started [dating online],” FBI Director James Comey told lawmakers Wednesday. “As early as the end of 2013 they were talking about jihad and martyrdom, before they became engaged.”

“As early as the end of 2013 they were talking about jihad and martyrdom, before they became engaged.”

– FBI Director James Comey

Farook seemingly set up several profiles years ago in his search for a wife – reportedly using sites like Dubaimatrimonial.com, BestMuslim.com and iMilap.com, which is an Indian-centered matrimonial and dating site “for people with disabilities and remarriage.

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A spokesperson for iMilap.com confirmed to FoxNews.com that while Farook has an inactive profile not in public view, Malik never belonged to the site and they have no history of any such name or details. In his profiles, Farook described himself as a “devout” Muslim and added that he spends “much free time in the [mosque] memorizing the Quran and learning more about the religion.”

[Read the full story here, at Fox News]

As for Malik, she was an online ghost, and experts said absent her participation in hardcore jihadist chat forums or use of a pseudonym, it is unlikely that she met Farook innocently. Read the rest of this entry »


VICE: We Talked to One of the World Trade Center Bombers About ISIS and Mass Shootings 

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John Broman writes: Eyad Ismoil is one of the half-dozen men convicted for carrying out the World Trade Center bombings in 1993. Born in Kuwait to a Palestinian father and Jordanian mother, he was sentenced to 240 years in prison for driving a rental van packed with a bomb into a garage, killing six and injuring about 1000 more. (During his trial, he maintained that he was innocent and did not know what was inside the truck.) But 20 years after his arrest and burial deep inside the dungeons of the ADX Super Max facility in Colorado, Ismoil was moved to the general population here in West Virginia at USP Hazelton, the high-security federal prison where I reside.

Ismoil is my coworker in one of the resource centers on the compound that gives inmates an opportunity to break free from the gambling, drugs, and violence that makes up a monotonous prison life. I find him to be an extremely intelligent and humble man; for someone who’s supposed to “hate the infidels,” he shows no signs of loathing towards the many prisoners and staff who openly despise him.

Still, Ismoil’s ethnicity and the nature of his crime make him a target. Every horrific event that pops up on the news increases the disdain for him even more, but after talking with the guy, I found myself less than shocked at the eruption of radical Islamic terrorism over the past two decades. Indeed, when I first asked Ismoil about ISIS after the Paris attacks, he asked me one question back: “Why do you think they did it?”

I responded with the only thing I knew: “They hate us.”

He smiled and rolled his eyes, as if to say I knew nothing. So it was that an unlikely acquaintanceship between a hippie bank robber from Pittsburgh and a convicted terrorist from the Middle East was born.

[Read the full text here, at VICE]

Recently I sat down at a table with the thin, bearded 44-year-old Muslim, to get his views on the Islamic State, the mass shooting in San Bernardino, and other tragedies like the Planned Parenthood attack in Colorado. He said that to resolve the conflicts between extremists in the Middle East and the West, it was important to talk “human to human,” but he also made it clear that he empathizes at least somewhat with the Islamic State. Unsurprisingly, many of his views would be considered appalling to the vast majority of Americans, but our conversation gave me a window into the worldview of people who think the US is to blame for terrorism.

VICE: As an Islamic terrorist from an earlier generation, what’s your sense of who the Islamic State’s members are and where they came from?

Eyad Ismoil: ISIS is not jihadists recruited from all over to fight. They are the Sunni Muslims that have lived through 25 years of wars, torture, and rapes. They are the Iraqi and Syrian people that have suffered from unjust wars started by the US government. And when the US government [mostly pulled out of] Iraq in 2010, the Shia and Maliki government started killing the Sunni day and night under the watch of the Americans.

The US response was, “This is an internal problem. We don’t want to interfere with their business.” The show Rise of ISIS showed this, even though they tried to spin it like ISIS are aliens from another planet trying to take advantage of the massacres that the Shia—the government of Iraq—is doing to the Sunni and to get people to pledge.

But the fact that every Arab and Muslim knows is [that] ISIS is the native people of Iraq and Syria. That’s why the head of ISIS is Abu Bakr Baghdadi. He was a prisoner in an American prison in Iraq during the occupation for about four years and is known to be a scholar from the prophet’s family. They are a very big family in Iraq. That’s why [many] of the Sunni pledge to him.

You don’t have to recruit people for ISIS. They’re Muslims from all over the world that have seen an injustice after 25 years and want to help their brothers. What you have to understand is the Iraqi people are the most stubborn of the Muslim world. They won’t accept occupation or humiliation.

Day after day, all these things add up ’til the volcano erupts, and that is what’s happening in Iraq and Syria under the name ISIS.

Were you surprised by the Islamic State attack in Paris?

People over in America ask why ISIS did this. [But] people in the Middle East ask, “Why is the US doing this to us?” Put yourself in their shoes—France is dropping bombs for a year in Iraq and [more recently] Syria, destroying everything, women, children, buildings… A bomb doesn’t discriminate between ISIS or women and children—it just destroys. Read the rest of this entry »


BAM: SAS Sniper Saves Syrian Father and Eight-Year-Old Son from Being Beheaded

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‘A Good Day’s Work’: SAS sniper gunned down a knife-wielding Islamic State maniac just as he was trying to brutally behead a father and his young son.

Nick Gutteridge reports: The brave British marksman saved the terrified eight-year-old and his father after taking out the crazed jihadi with a head shot from 1,000 metres away.

The special forces crack shot then killed two other members of the hated terror group, who were also taking part in the sick planned execution.

“Through binoculars the soldiers could see that the crowd were terrified and many were in tears….They were both wearing blindfolds and looked terrified…A tall bearded man emerged and drew a long knife…He began addressing the crowd and slapping the father and his son around the head and kicking them on to the floor.”

ISIS militants had decreed that the little boy and his father must die after branding them “infidels” because they refused to denounce their faith.

They were just seconds from death when the hero sniper intervened to stop the barbaric killing in the Syrian desert. The pair were part of the minority Shia sect of Islam which ISIS considers to be heretical.

“Standing either side of the executioner were two other Isis fighters, both armed with AK47s…The ISIS thug who was about to decapitate the father was shot in the head and collapsed…Everyone just stared in confusion. The sniper then dispatched the two henchmen with single shots – three kills with three bullets…”

They were saved from a cruel and painful death at the hands of the fanatics after an Iraqi spy tipped off British special forces to the planned execution.

Special forces troops who arrived at the killing site, where ISIS was carrying out a series of rigged ‘trials’ of locals, discovered a gruesome scene with several headless bodies already lying bloodied on the desert floor.

The dramatic rescue operation took place last month near the Syrian border with Turkey, where an elite SAS unit had been conducting covert patrols.

Defence sources described how the SAS unit moved into a position just outside a village where ISIS members were holding the ‘trial’ in front of a crowd of locals who had been forced to attend at gunpoint.

The crack team considered calling in an air strike using a Reaper Drone, but the elite troops feared many of the innocent civilians who had been forced to watch the executions might also be killed.

Instead the SAS unit decided on a risky long-range kill using the team’s sniper.

Speaking to the Daily Star Sunday, one source said: “There were several decapitated bodies already lying on the ground. Read the rest of this entry »


Israel and Saudi Arabia Present United Front over Iran Deal

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Iran’s enemies unsettled by its deal with the West, but Bashar al-Assad of Syria says it is ‘a great victory’

 writes: The nuclear deal with Iran caused fury in Israel and consternation around the region at the likely increase in influence and resources of a newly enriched Iran.

Most telling was the loudest expression of support. “I am happy that the Islamic Republic of Iran has achieved a great victory by reaching an agreement,” President Bashar al-Assad of Syria said in a message to his Iranian opposite number, Hassan Rouhani.

“In the name of the Syrian people, I congratulate you and the people of Iran on this historic achievement.”

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Benjamin Netanyahu during an earlier, tense press conference (Reuters)

Israel and the Sunni Arab world have set aside old grievances to stand together against the West’s engagement with Iran.

The more strident denunciations came from Israel, which regards Iran as a direct threat. Benjamin Netanyahu, the prime minister, said the country would not be bound by what he called a “stunning historic mistake”.

“Israel is not bound by this deal with Iran,” he said in a televised address hours after the conclusion of the accord. “Iran continues to seek our destruction and we will defend ourselves.”

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad

Mr Netanyahu, who had condemned the deal even before it had been announced, said its terms failed to achieve the goal of denying Iran the capacity to build a nuclear bomb while, by lifting sanctions, enabled its theocratic rulers to increase their support for groups Israel considers terrorists.

“The bottom line of this very bad deal is exactly as Iran’s President Rouhani said today – the international community is removing the sanctions and Iran is keeping its nuclear programme,” he said. Read the rest of this entry »


‘Inghemasiyoun’: Secret to ISIS Success: Shock Troops Who Fight to the Death

In this photo released on June 23, 2015 by a website of Islamic State militants, an Islamic State militant looks through the scope of his rifle in Kirkuk, northern Iraq. Though best known for its horrific brutalities _ from its grotesque killings of captives to enslavement of women _ the Islamic State group has proved to be a highly organized and flexible fighting force, according to senior Iraqi military and intelligence officials and Syrian Kurdish commanders on the front lines. (Militant website via AP)

The IS calls them ‘Inghemasiyoun,’ Arabic for “those who immerse themselves.” The elite shock troops are possibly the deadliest weapon in the extremist group’s arsenal: Fanatical and disciplined, they infiltrate their targets, unleash mayhem and fight to the death, wearing explosives belts to blow themselves up among their opponents if they face defeat

BAGHDAD (AP) — Bearded and wearing bright blue bandanas, the Islamic State group’s “special forces” unit gathered around their commander just before they attacked the central Syrian town of al-Sukhna. “Victory or martyrdom,” they screamed, pledging their allegiance to God and vowing never to retreat.

“They tend to use their foreign fighters as suicide bombers. People go to the Islamic State looking to die, and the Islamic State is happy to help them.”

— Patrick Skinner, a former CIA officer who now directs special operations for The Soufan Group, a private geopolitical risk assessment company

The IS calls them “Inghemasiyoun,” Arabic for “those who immerse themselves.” The elite shock troops are possibly the deadliest weapon in the extremist group’s arsenal: Fanatical and disciplined, they infiltrate their targets, unleash mayhem and fight to the death, wearing explosives belts to blow themselves up among their opponents if they face defeat. They are credited with many of the group’s stunning battlefield successes — including the capture of al-Sukhna in May after the scene shown in an online video released by the group.

“They cause chaos and then their main ground offensive begins,” said Redur Khalil, spokesman of the U.S.-backed Kurdish People’s Protection Units, which have taken the lead in a string of military successes against the IS in Syria.

In this photo released on June 23, 2015 by a website of Islamic State militants, an Islamic State militant fires artillery against Syrian government forces in Hama city, Syria. Special troops called "Inghemasiyoun," Arabic for "those who immerse themselves," are possibly the deadliest weapon in the extremist group's arsenal: Fanatical and disciplined, they infiltrate their targets, unleash mayhem and fight to the death. (Militant website via AP)

In this photo released on June 23, 2015 by a website of Islamic State militants, an Islamic State militant fires artillery against Syrian government forces in Hama city, Syria. Special troops called “Inghemasiyoun,” Arabic for “those who immerse themselves,” are possibly the deadliest weapon in the extremist group’s arsenal: Fanatical and disciplined, they infiltrate their targets, unleash mayhem and fight to the death. (Militant website via AP)

“The fighters incorporate suicide bombings as a fearsome battlefield tactic to break through lines and demoralize enemies, and they are constantly honing them to make them more effective.”

Though best known for its horrific brutalities — from its grotesque killings of captives to enslavement of women — the Islamic State group has proved to be a highly organized and flexible fighting force, according to senior Iraqi military and intelligence officials and Syrian Kurdish commanders on the front lines.

Its tactics are often creative, whether it’s using a sandstorm as cover for an assault or a lone sniper tying himself to the top of a palm tree to pick off troops below. Its forces nimbly move between conventional and guerrilla warfare, using the latter to wear down their opponents before massed fighters backed by armored vehicles, Humvees and sometimes even artillery move to take over territory. The fighters incorporate suicide bombings as a fearsome battlefield tactic to break through lines and demoralize enemies, and they are constantly honing them to make them more effective. Recently, they beefed up the front armor of the vehicles used in those attacks to prevent gunfire from killing the driver or detonating explosives prematurely.

“The group is also flush with weaponry looted from Iraqi forces that fled its blitzkrieg a year ago, when IS overtook the northern city of Mosul and other areas.”

Those strategies are being carried over into new fronts, appearing in Egypt in last week’s dramatic attack by an IS-linked militant group against the military in the Sinai Peninsula.

Andreas Krieg, a professor at King’s College London who embedded with Iraqi Kurdish fighters last fall, said IS local commanders are given leeway to operate as they see fit. They “have overall orders on strategy and are expected to come up with the most efficient ways of adapting it,” he said. The group “is very much success oriented, results oriented.” That’s a strong contrast to the rigid, inefficient and corrupt hierarchies of the Iraqi and Syrian militaries, where officers often fear taking any action without direct approval from higher up.

IS fighters are highly disciplined — swift execution is the punishment for deserting battle or falling asleep on guard duty, Iraqi officers said. The group is also flush with weaponry looted from Iraqi forces that fled its blitzkrieg a year ago, when IS overtook the northern city of Mosul and other areas. Much of the heavy weapons it holds — including artillery and tanks — have hardly been used, apparently on reserve for a future battle. Read the rest of this entry »


BREAKING: Bomb Blasts Kill 20 People In and Around Baghdad

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BAGHDAD (AP) — A series of bombings targeting public places and Iraqi security forces killed 20 people in and around Baghdad on Tuesday, officials said.

The deadliest attack took place on Tuesday night, when a car bomb went off near restaurants and shop in Palestine Street in eastern Baghdad, killing 10 people, including three women. The bombing also wounded 24 people, police officials said.

Several shops and cars were burned in the attack and police sealed off the blast area.

Earlier in the day, a roadside bomb struck an army patrol in Youssifiyah, just south of the Iraqi capital, killing three soldiers and one civilian. At least eight people were wounded in that attack, the officials said. Read the rest of this entry »


‘Everybody Knows Who killed Her and Why’: Gunmen Kill Prominent Female Activist Sabeen Mahmud in Pakistan

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Friends are calling it an assassination

(KARACHI, Pakistan)— Adil Jawad reports: Gunmen on a motorcycle killed a prominent women’s rights activist in Pakistan just hours after she held a forum on the country’s restive Baluchistan region, home to a long-running insurgency, police said Saturday.

While investigators declined to speculate on a motive for the killing of Sabeen Mahmud, friends and colleagues immediately described her death as a targeted assassination in Pakistan, a country with a nascent democracy where the military and intelligence services still hold tremendous sway.

The gunmen shot both Mahmud and her mother, Mehnaz Mahmud, as they stopped at a traffic light Friday night in an upscale Karachi neighborhood, senior police officer Zafar Iqbal said. Later, Mahmud’s car was brought to a nearby police station; blood stained the car’s white exterior, the front driver’s side window was smashed and a pair of sandals sat on the floor, surrounded by broken glass.

“Two men riding a motorcycle opened fire on the car,” Iqbal said. Mahmud “died on her way to the hospital. Her mother was also wounded,” he said.

Alia Chughtai, a close friend of Mahmud, told The Associated Press that Mahmud was driving at the time of attack and her mother was sitting next to her. Chughtai said Mahmud’s driver, who escaped unharmed, was sitting in the back seat at the time of the attack. She said she did not know why the driver wasn’t driving the car.

Iqbal and other police officials declined to speculate on a motive for the slaying. However, earlier that night, Mahmud hosted an event at her organization called The Second Floor to discuss human rights in Baluchistan, an impoverished but resource-rich southwestern province bordering Iran.

Thousands of people have disappeared from Baluchistan province in recent years amid a government crackdown on nationalists and insurgent groups there. Activists blame the government and intelligence agencies for the disappearances, something authorities deny. Read the rest of this entry »


Reuel Marc Gerecht and Mark Dubowitz: Iran’s Negotiating Triumph Over Obama and America

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The U.S. is surrendering control of verification to the United Nations, where our influence is weak

Reuel Marc Gerecht and Mark Dubowitz write: President Obama believes that the nuclear “framework” concluded Friday in Switzerland is a historic achievement. Iran’s foreign minister, Javad Zarif, says he believes the same. Those two positions are incompatible.

“The American, French and Israeli governments have compiled fat files on the clerical regime’s nuclear-weapons drive. No one who has read this material can possibly believe Iranian assertions about the nuclear program’s peaceful birth and intent.”

Mr. Zarif is also a loyal servant of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei,who believes that the West, in particular the U.S., and Iran are locked in a “collision of evil and evil ways on one side and the path of…religious obedience and devotion on the other,” as he said in July 2014.

“The inspections regime in Iran envisioned by the Obama administration will not even come close to the intrusiveness of the failed inspections in Iraq.”

The supreme leader says the Islamic Republic has a divine calling to lead Muslims away from the West and its cultural sedition. The Obama administration has never adequately explained why Mr. Zarif’s relentlessly ideological boss would sell out a three-decade effort to develop nuclear weapons.

“Worse, once sanctions are lifted and billions of dollars of Iranian trade starts to flow again to European and Asian companies, the U.S. likely will be dealing with a U.N. even more politically divided, and more incapable of action, than in the days of Saddam and the run-up to the Iraq war in 2003.”

The defensive and offensive strategies of the Islamic Republic, given the chronic weakness of its conventional military, ultimately make sense only if nuclear weapons are added to the mix. The American, French and Israeli governments have compiled fat files on the clerical regime’s nuclear-weapons drive. No one who has read this material can possibly believe Iranian assertions about the nuclear program’s peaceful birth and intent. The history of this effort has involved North Korean levels of dishonesty, with clandestine plants, factories and procurement networks that successfully import highly sensitive nuclear equipment, even from the U.S.

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A White House less desperate to make a deal would consider how easily nuclear agreements with bad actors are circumvented. Charles Duelfer has written a trenchant account in Politico of how Saddam Hussein tied the United Nations Security Council and its nuclear inspectors into knots in the 1990s, rendering them incapable of ascertaining the truth about Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction. Read the rest of this entry »


BREAKING: Saudi Arabia Launches Airstrikes in Yemen, Ambassador Adel al-Jubeir Says

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WASHINGTON –  The Saudi ambassador to the United States says his country has begun airstrikes against the Houthi rebels in Yemen, who drove out the U.S.-backed Yemeni president.

Ambassador Adel al-Jubeir says the operations began at 7 p.m. Eastern time.

He says the Houthis, widely believed to be backed by Iran, “have always chosen the path of violence.” He declined to say whether the Saudi campaign involved U.S. intelligence assistance.

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Al-Jubeir made the announcement at a rare news conference by the Sunni kingdom.

He says the Saudis “will do anything necessary” to protect the people of Yemen and “the legitimate government of Yemen.” Read the rest of this entry »


Michael J. Totten: Yemen Falls Apart

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Michael J. Tottentotten reports: Suicide-bombers killed at least 137 people and wounded more than 350 in Yemen at two Shia mosques in the capital city of Sanaa on Friday. The very next day, Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula seized control of the city of al-Houta, and the day after that, the Iranian-backed Houthi rebel movement conquered parts of Taiz, the nation’s third-largest city. Rival militias are battling for control of the international airport in the coastal city of Aden, and the US government just announced that American troops are evacuating Al Anad airbase.

ISIS is taking credit for the Sanaa attacks. “Infidel Houthis should know that the soldiers of the Islamic State will not rest,” it said, “until they eradicate them and cut off the arm of the Safavid (Iranian) plan in Yemen.” Al Qaeda has a much larger footprint in Yemen, so the ISIS claim is a little bit dubious, but ISIS is on the rise there and its attitude toward Shia Muslims is more bloodthirsty—more explicitly genocidal as the quote above shows—than Al Qaeda’s.

Regardless of who committed the latest round of atrocities, everything in Yemen is about to become much, much worse. The region-wide storm of sectarian hatred has been gathering strength by the year for more than a decade, and it blew the roof off Yemen earlier this year when the Tower of the Sun Cover for blog-2Houthis, who are Shias, seized control of the capital and sent Sunni President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi into semi-exile in Aden.

[Order Michael J. Totten‘s book “Tower of the Sun: Stories from the Middle East and North Africa” from Amazon.com] 

The Houthis see their takeover of the city and government institutions as a natural progression of the revolution in 2011 that toppled former President Ali Abdullah Saleh, but it isn’t, not really. While they enjoy some backing beyond their Shia support base, the sectarian dimension is inescapable. Shias make up almost half the population, and the Sunni majority is keenly aware that minorities in the Middle East are capable of seizing power and lording it over everyone else—especially if they’re sponsored by a regional mini superpower like Iran. Syria has been ruled by the Iranian-backed Alawite minority for decades, and Saddam Hussein used brute force to bring the Sunni minority to power in Iraq.

Still, the Houthis have virtually no chance of ruling the entire country. Their “territory,” so to speak, is restricted to the northwestern region surrounding the capital. Previous governments had a rough go of it too. South Yemen was a communist state—the so-called People’s Democratic Republic of Yemen—until the Soviet Union finally ruptured, and four years after unification with North Yemen, the armed forces of each former half declared war on each other. Read the rest of this entry »


Islamic State Fighters Dress as Women in Desperate Attempt to Flee Battlefield‏

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As Islamic State-driven violence rages on in Iraq, people are using any means possible to escape, and for some that means dressing in drag.

On Monday, the Iraqi army arrested 20 male Islamic State members dressed as women in the northern city of Baquba, according to spokesman Ghalib al-Jubouri.

The arrested used a number of creative ways to pull off a realistic female disguise, as seen in the pictures originally posted on Instagram.

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Underneath the robes and veils, the men put on makeup, wore dresses and some even wore women’s bras. Others chose not to shave their facial hair, though still applied eyeliner, eyeshadow and blush.

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The men were desperately attempting to flee the fighting in Tikrit, which Iraq’s military only managed to take back from Islamic State six days ago….(read more)

Jerusalem Post


Rock Paper Scissors: Iran Occupies Iraq

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As the U.S. leads from behind, Tehran creates a Shiite arc of power. What could go wrong? 

While Washington focuses on Iran-U.S. nuclear talks, the Islamic Republic is making a major but little-noticed strategic advance. Iran’s forces are quietly occupying more of Iraq in a way that could soon make its neighbor a de facto Shiite satellite of Tehran.

That’s the larger import of the dominant role Iran and its Shiite militia proxies are playing in the military offensive to take back territory from the Islamic State, or ISIS. The first battle is over the Sunni-majority city of Tikrit, and while the Iraqi army is playing a role, the dominant forces are Shiite militias supplied and coordinated from Iran. This includes the Badr Brigades that U.S. troops fought so hard to put down in Baghdad during the 2007 surge.

“The irony is that critics long complained that the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 created a strategic opening for Iran. But the 2007 surge defeated the Shiite militias and helped Sunni tribal sheikhs oust al Qaeda from Anbar. U.S. forces provided a rough balancing while they stayed in Iraq through 2011. But once they departed on President Obama’s orders, the Iraq government tilted again to Iran and against the Sunni minority.”

The Shiite militias are being organized under a new Iraqi government office led by Abu Mahdi Mohandes, an Iraqi with close ties to Iran. Mr. Mohandes is working closely with the most powerful military official in Iran and Iraq—the Iranian General Qasem Soleimani, the head of the Quds Force of the Revolutionary Guard Corps. Iran’s official news agency last week confirmed Western media reports that Gen. Soleimani is “supervising” the attack against Islamic State.

“The strategic implications of this Iranian advance are enormous. Iran already had political sway over most of Shiite southern Iraq. Its militias may now have the ability to control much of Sunni-dominated Anbar, especially if they use the chaos to kill moderate Sunnis. Iran is essentially building an arc of dominance from Tehran through Baghdad and Damascus to Beirut on the Mediterranean.”

This is the same general who aided the insurgency against U.S. troops in Iraq. Quds Force operatives supplied the most advanced IEDs, which could penetrate armor and were the deadliest in Iraq. One former U.S. general who served in Iraq estimates that Iran was responsible for about one-third of U.S. casualties during the war, which would mean nearly 1,500 deaths.

“Iran’s military surge is now possible because of the vacuum created by the failure of the U.S. to deploy ground troops or rally a coalition of forces from surrounding Sunni states to fight Islamic State. With ISIS on the march last year, desperate Iraqis and even the Kurds turned to Iran and Gen. Soleimani for help. The U.S. air strikes have been crucial to pinning down Islamic State forces, but Iran is benefitting on the ground.”

Mr. Soleimani recently declared that Islamic State’s days in Iraq are “finished,” adding that Iran will lead the liberation of Tikrit, Mosul and then all of Anbar province. While this is a boast that seeks to diminish the role of other countries, especially the U.S., it reveals Iran’s ambitions and its desire to capitalize when Islamic State is pushed out of Anbar province. Read the rest of this entry »


19 Killed in Attack on Pakistani Shi’ite Mosque

PAKISTAN-UNREST-NORTHWEST

Men attacked the mosque, at least one blew himself up

PESHAWAR, Pakistan — A Pakistani official says that the death toll in a militant attack on a Shiite Muslim mosque in the northwestern city of Peshawar has risen to 19.

Provincial Information Minister Mushtaq Ghani says the attack on Friday also wounded more than 40 people. There was much shooting in the immediate aftermath of the explosion but he says the violence is now over. Read the rest of this entry »


Tens of Thousands Protest in Yemen: ‘Hadi, Hadi, Return, Your People Are Awake’

Yemen-Protests

Largest Protest Since Houthis Rebels Swept into the Capital 

SANAA, Yemen (AP) — Tens of thousands of Yemenis marched in protest on Saturday against Shiite rebels who hold the capital, amid a power vacuum in a country that is home to what Washington describes as al-Qaida‘s most dangerous offshoot.

Some 20,000 hit the streets of the capital, Sanaa, where demonstrators converged on the house of President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, who resigned Thursday along with his Cabinet. It was the largest protest since the rebels, known as Houthis, swept into the capital in September.

Protesters carried banners and chanted slogans denouncing the rebels and demanding the restoration of the president. Scuffles involving knives and batons broke out in one instance in Sanaa when the rebels tried to block one procession, leaving two demonstrators and one Houthi injured. Read the rest of this entry »


Islamic State: Dare to Play an Un-Islamic Electronic Keyboard? 90 Lashes For You!

The men were apparently caught playing electronic keyboards, and what appears to be a lute, instruments that were deemed to be 'un-Islamic' by ISIS's fanatical religious police

ISIS police sentence musicians to 90 lashes because they were playing an ‘un-Islamic’ electronic keyboard

Chris Pleasance for Mail OnlineIslamic State religious police have been filmed beating musicians and destroying their instruments as punishment after they were discovered playing an ‘un-Islamic’ keyboard.

90-lashes

The men were apparently caught playing electronic keyboards, and what appears to be a lute, instruments that were deemed to be ‘un-Islamic’ by ISIS’s fanatical religious police

“The men were pictured being hit across the back and legs with a wooden stick in a public square after ISIS’s fanatical Islamic enforcers ruled their electric keyboard was ‘offensive to Muslims’.”

Another picture shows two keyboards and what appears to be a lute smashed to pieces after raids thought to have taken place in Bujaq, a few miles to the east of Aleppo in Syria.

According to text posted along with the images on a file sharing website, the musicians were punished with 90 lashes alongside a man caught impersonating a ‘hisbah’.

“Thieves are regularly pictured having their hands or arms amputated in public squares amid crowds of onlookers, while adulterers have been executed.”

The Arabic term generally refers to the obligation on Muslim leaders to uphold the law, but in this context likely refers to a local official or tribal elder.

Musicians in Syria were given 90 lashes each after they were caught by the Islamic State's religious police playing an electric keyboard, which they deemed 'offensive to Muslims', according to pictures posted online

Musicians in Syria were given 90 lashes each after they were caught by the Islamic State’s religious police playing an electric keyboard, which they deemed ‘offensive to Muslims’, according to pictures posted online

According to the online post, which claims to have come from ISIS’s information office in Aleppo, a man caught smuggling cigarettes was also punished with 50 lashes.

Since taking control of large parts of Syria and Iraq last year ISIS claims to have formed a Caliphate in the Middle East, and has taken to enforcing strict Sharia law within its borders.

lashes

Thieves are regularly pictured having their hands or arms amputated in public squares amid crowds of onlookers, while adulterers have been executed.

After the men had been beaten the instruments were destroyed. ISIS has been enforcing a terrifying vision of Sharia law across its so-called Caliphate, including executing people for breeding pigeons.

Read the rest of this entry »


Iran’s Foreign Minister Wins Captain Obvious Award: U.S. ‘Not Serious’ in Fight Against ISIS

Mohammad-Javad-Zarif

Tehran (AFP) – Iran accused the United States Sunday of not taking the threat from Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria seriously, and charged that US aid had previously helped the jihadists.

“We were aware of this danger from the beginning...But we will not be coordinating our action together.”

–Iran’s Foreign Minister

Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif levelled the accusations despite an expanding US air campaign in Iraq since August 8 that provided key support in relieving a jihadist siege of a Shiite Turkmen town north of Baghdad late last month.

Iran and the United States have a shared opposition to IS, which controls a swathe of both Iraq and neighbouring Syria, but both governments deny cooperating militarily against the jihadists.

“There is still no serious understanding about the threat and they (the United States) have as yet taken no serious action,” Zarif was quoted as saying by Iran’s Mehr news agency.

“There is still no serious understanding about the threat.”

“They have helped (IS) in Syria in different ways,” he added, alluding to support that the United States has provided to some rebel groups fighting President Bashar al-Assad‘s forces. Read the rest of this entry »


[VIDEO] Surviving an ISIS Massacre

ISIS massacred hundreds of Iraqi military recruits in June. Ali Hussein Kadhim survived. This is his improbable story.  Read the rest of this entry »


Chaldiran: The 16th Century Battle that Created the Modern Middle East

The pivotal legacy of the Battle of Chaldiran still reverberates 500 years later

For The DiplomatAkhilesh Pillalamarri16th-century writes: Chaldiran (چالدران) today is a small, sleepy town in northwestern Iran near the Turkish border. Yet, nearly five hundred years ago to the day, on August 23, 1514, the plains outside of Chaldiran groaned under the weight of men and horses and thundered with the sound of cannon-fire and muskets.

“The Battle of Chaldiran had an enormous impact on shaping the modern Middle East, its boundaries, and its demography.”

The Battle of Chaldiran is one of the most pivotal battles in the history of the Middle East. Rather than being an obscure footnote in history, it was a battle of pivotal importance, with results that still reverberate in the modern Middle East. By determining the borders and demographics of the Persian Safavid Empire and the Turkish Ottoman Empire, the Battle of Chaldiran created the contours of the modern Middle East. Read the rest of this entry »


Women Warriors: Understanding and Combating Female Extremism

ISIS-ALL-WOMEN-BRIGADE

Countering Radical Narratives Requires Understanding the Radicalized

Nimmi Gowrinathan writes: Reports that women have formed their own brigade within the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) have confounded experts — and worried them. For many, the idea of women as violent extremists seems paradoxical. After all, why should women want to join a political struggle that so blatantly oppresses them?Daraa al-Thawra Fighter

“In war zones across the world, women absorb a disproportionate amount of the fallout from conflict, including material deprivation in refugee camps, daily harassment and fear in militarized zones, and a constant vulnerability to rape.”

That question reveals more about the experts than the fighters. Those who ask it assume, first, that women are more peaceful than men by nature; and second, that women who participate in armed rebellion are little more than cannon fodder in a man’s game, fighting foolishly for a movement that will not benefit them. As the women of ISIS prove, both assumptions are false.

“Joining the fight is sometimes the only way to survive.”

To understand the women of ISIS and their motivations, it helps to place them in their historical context, among the legions of women in El Salvador, Eritrea, Nepal, Peru, and Sri Lanka who voluntarily joined violent movements and militias, sometimes even as highly ranked officers. In each of these cases, women joined for the same basic reasons as men. Living in deeply conservative social spaces, they faced constant threats to their ethnic, religious, or political identities — and it was typically those threats, rather than any grievances rooted in gender, that persuaded them to take up arms. Read the rest of this entry »


ISIS Beheads Photojournalist James Wright Foley in Warning Message to U.S.

UPDATE: FBI Closing in on ‘Jihadi John’, ISIS Murderer Who Beheaded James Foley

foley-fbi-page

From the FBI’s website

UPDATE: More confirmation coming in.

BREAKING NEWS: ISIS beheads missing American… – Daily Mail

Missing American Journalist Reportedly Beheaded by ISIS – Breitbart

Sasha Goldstein reporting, N.Y .Daily News:foley-sm

An American freelance photojournalist missing since being abducted in Syria some 22 months ago was apparently beheaded by an Islamic State militant in a graphic video released Tuesday.

Titled “A Message to America,” the gruesome clip shows a masked militant saw away at the neck of James Wright Foley, a 40-year-old New Hampshire native captured in Binesh, Syria on Thanksgiving Day 2012.

ISIS Reportedly Beheads U.S. Journalist James Wright – Mediaite

James Wright Foley, Kidnapped Journalist, Apparently executed — NBC News

The family, on its “Free James Foley” Facebook page, has yet to confirm his death.

“Please be patient until we all have more information, and keep the Foleys in your thoughts and prayers,” the statement reads.

Nicole Tung/ASSOCIATED PRESS Foley reporting in Aleppo, Syria, in November 2012.

Foley reporting in Aleppo, Syria, in November 2012.  Nicole Tung/ASSOCIATED PRESS 

Foley, dressed in orange and kneeling in a desert, reads what appears to be a coerced statement that alludes to recent American airstrikes against the Islamic State in Iraq.

“I call on my friends, family and loved ones to rise up against my real killers, the U.S. government. For what will happen to me is only a result of their complacency and criminality,” Foley reads as he kneels beside an armed militant, masked and dressed all in black.

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Read the rest of this entry »


Analysis: ISIL Hell-Bent on Creating Islamic State to be Launchpad for Attacks on U.S.

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(AP Photo/Militant Website, File)

For the Washington TimesRowan 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.

[SEE ALSO: Paul Wolfowitz: Obama lacks ‘seriousness’ in Iraq]

“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 »


[VIDEO] The Hammer: ‘Can Anyone Rely on U.S. Under Obama?’

From The Corner: Since the U.S. cannot work with Iran, Iraq must choose between Iran and the U.S. for its ally, Charles Krauthammer said on a Fox News Special Report.

Iran’s objective is to support the Shi’ite government as a dictatorship, backing Iraqi prime minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki even though he lost the election 92-238 in parliament. The U.S. objective, however, is to form a coalition including the Kurds and the Shi’ite, along with Shi’ite moderates…(read more)

National Review Online


The Massacre Strategy: Why ISIS brags about its brutal sectarian murders


Escalation, Targeted killings: Early Warning Signs of Shia Genocide in Pakistan

How is this grand protest different from what we witnessed at Tahrir Square in Egypt last year? It didn’t get the coverage it deserved. PHOTO: AFP

How is this grand protest different from what we witnessed at Tahrir Square in Egypt last year? It didn’t get the coverage it deserved. PHOTO: AFP

For The DiplomatWaris Husain writes: Last month the world commemorated the 20th anniversary of the Rwandan Genocide. Dignitaries from around the world delivered speeches to mark the occasion, but UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon’s statement was perhaps the most remarkable, as he admitted that the United Nations was “ashamed” of its failure to prevent the mass killing. At the same time Ban was making this statement, a Shia doctor was gunned down in Karachi, Pakistan by sectarian terrorists, as part of a self-avowed campaign to “make Pakistan a graveyard” for all Shias.

pakistan-protest

The international community can no longer ignore the alarming rise in violence directed at Pakistan’s Shia minority.

Despite the escalation of targeted killings of Shia leaders and large-scale bombings of Shia neighborhoods, the Pakistani government and international community have failed to apply the lessons from cases like Rwanda in recognizing the early warning signs of an impending genocide perpetrated by sectarian terrorist groups. While the murder rates of Shias in Pakistan is nowhere close to the 800,000 Tutsis killed in Rwanda, members of the international community are duty-bound to prevent mass killing events before they occur.

REUTERS/Mohsin Raza

REUTERS/Mohsin Raza

The Shia’s plight must be understood in the context of Pakistan’s position within the larger sectarian struggle between Sunnis, largely supported by Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states, and Shias, supported by Iran and its close allies. Pakistan walks a tightrope in this conflict as it shares a border with Iran, but relies on Saudi Arabia for aid and political patronage. This international tension has domestic implications with 20 percent of Pakistan’s population belonging to the Shia faith, amounting to nearly 25 million people who are being threatened with extermination by sectarian outfits.

To understand the threat that Pakistan’s Shias face, one must look to the Convention on the Punishment and Prevention of Genocide, to which Pakistan is a signatory. Under the Convention, a genocide occurs when a party has the intent to destroy a religious, ethnic, or racial group “in whole, or in part” and acts on that intent by killing, injuring, or deliberately causing conditions leading to the physical destruction of that group. Read the rest of this entry »


Car Bombs Kill at Least 56 People in Iraq

(BAGHDAD) — A new wave of car bombs hit Shiite neighborhoods of Baghdad and a suicide bomber targeted soldiers in a northern city in attacks that killed at least 56 across Iraq on Sunday, officials said.

Coordinated bombing onslaughts killing scores of people have hit Iraq multiple times each month, feeding a spike in bloodshed that has left over 5,000 since April. The local branch of al-Qaida often takes responsibility, although there was no immediate claim for Sunday’s blasts.

Four police officers said that the bombs in the capital, placed in parked cars and detonated over a half-hour, targeted commercial areas and parking lots, killing 42. Read the rest of this entry »


Al-Qaeda ‘running Iraq’: Appalling Carnage Shows Ferocity of Terror Resurgence

Smoke billows from the site of a car bomb explosion in the central Iraqi city of Kut on October 13, 2013.

Smoke billows from the site of a car bomb explosion in Kut, Iraq

 reports: A series of bomb blasts in Iraq killed at least 42 people on Sunday, but the story could have been ripped from last week’s papers (12 killed) or those from two weeks ago (51 killed) or repeatedly from the month of September (979 killed). Iraqis have not seen death tolls this high since the 2008 insurgency. “It seems like al-Qaeda is running the country,” one government employee told the Associated Press.

Since American troops withdrew from Iraq in 2011, al-Qaeda has freed hundreds of militants by attacking prisons. These jail breaks, the ability to recruit young Iraqi men and the security vacuum in neighboring Syria are believed to have helped the group’s revival from the handful of small cells it was reduced to in 2009.

One Iraqi officials says al-Qaeda commands some 3,000 fighters in the country, with around 100 members prepared to undertake suicide missions. The group’s leader, Abu Bakr, is thought to have ordered dozens of attacks per week in a bid to destabilize Iraq’s Shiite-led government.

Read the rest of this entry »