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Author Topic: The Middle East: War, Peace, and SNAFU, TARFU, and FUBAR  (Read 81080 times)
Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #550 on: February 05, 2015, 11:40:46 PM »



http://uk.businessinsider.com/king-abduallh-of-jordan-is-a-total-badass-2015-2?r=US
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G M
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« Reply #551 on: February 06, 2015, 04:57:40 AM »


Who knew that by Obama's second term, we'd look at a King named Abdullah as a better option?
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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #552 on: February 06, 2015, 06:23:24 PM »

http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2015/02/06/isis-barbarians-face-their-own-internal-reign-of-terror.html
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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #553 on: February 07, 2015, 03:18:38 AM »


http://www.nationalreview.com/article/398019/isiss-barbarism-has-logic-charles-krauthammer

Note his comments about Baraq choosing Iran over Turkey.
« Last Edit: February 07, 2015, 03:21:04 AM by Crafty_Dog » Logged
ccp
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« Reply #554 on: February 07, 2015, 11:00:51 AM »

"Obama eschews Turkey, our most formidable potential ally against both the Islamic State and Assad."

Yes but Turkey is also under leadership that makes threats Israel routinely.

"But even they are mortified by Obama’s blind pursuit of détente with Tehran, which would make the mullahs hegemonic over the Arab Middle East. Hence the Arabs, the Saudis especially, hold back from any major military commitment to us."

Does anyone blame them?  The US has proven time and again they will abandon allies for political expediency.

O has thrown Israel to the wolfs.  He boosts up Iran knowing full well it's existential threat to Israel all for his political agenda.
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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #555 on: February 09, 2015, 01:03:27 PM »

The Lebanese army received on Sunday a shipment of heavy weaponry and ammunition from the United States. According to a report in the An-Nahar Lebanese daily, a ship carrying more than 70 American-made heavy guns docked at the port of Beirut. The weapons are reportedly intended to help the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) fight Islamist organizations who are attempting to infiltrate Lebanese territory from Syria. There is little doubt that many of these weapons will eventually end up in the hands of Hezbollah, a terrorist organization threatening Israel with destruction. A separate report on the IHS Jane's news site said the LAF has already received a shipment of M109 155 mm/37 caliber howitzers, which would provide it with a significant boost to its artillery capabilities. "The Lebanese military received 72 M198 power supply (howitzers), and more than 25 million rounds of artillery, mortar and rifle ammunition," the official said on condition of anonymity. The LAF "received about a dozen M109s supplied by Jordan via a third party transfer," the US embassy in Beirut told IHS Jane's. The howitzers were delivered in late January. An AFP photographer at the Beirut port also saw several Humvees, howitzers, ammunition containers and other military vehicles arriving.

In a statement, the US embassy said the aid is worth $25 million, adding that the 26 million rounds of ammunition included small, medium and heavy artillery rounds. "Support for the (Lebanese military) remains a top priority for the United States. Recent attacks against Lebanon's army only strengthen America's resolve to stand in solidarity with the people of Lebanon to confront these threats," said the embassy. It added: "The United States is providing top of the line weapons to the (Lebanese army) to help Lebanon's brave soldiers in their confrontation with the terrorists." The deal comes as Beirut faces a growing jihadist threat on its border with Syria. More than a million refugees have fled the war in Syria by escaping to Lebanon, according to figures from the United Nations. In September, France and Saudi Arabia signed a $3 billion arms deal for Lebanon, the Elysee Palace said following talks between President Francois Hollande and the Saudi crown prince. "We have come together, Saudi Arabia and France, to help Lebanon on the condition that it also helps itself, for its own security," Hollande added, without commenting directly on the joint contract. The French weapons are scheduled to arrive in Lebanon in early April, the French foreign minister's office said.
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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #556 on: February 10, 2015, 10:54:41 AM »

Middle East: The United Arab Emirates restarted its air campaign against the Islamic State, launching airstrikes from a base in Jordan Tuesday morning. American officials said that the UAE -- one of the most prominent members of the U.S.-led coalition against the Islamic State -- had halted strikes in December. The successful resumption of strikes was announced by the Emirates' state news agency, though it did not specify whether the airstrikes occurred in Iraq or Syria.
 
The deployment of Emirati F-16s to Jordan was announced over the weekend, in a show of solidarity after the brutal execution of Jordanian pilot Moaz al-Kasasbeh. The UAE had suspended its air campaign after Kasasbeh's plane was shot down, though it continued to provide logistical support. American search-and-rescue aircraft have since been moved closer to the battlefield to alleviate allies concerns about the safety of their pilots.
 
The decision to send aircraft to Jordan was motivated by "deep belief in the need for Arab collective cooperation to eliminate terrorism," according to UAE state media. Jordan announced that it carried out 56 airstrikes against the Islamic State between Thursday and Sunday, as part of the "earth-shattering" response it vowed after the murder of Kasasbeh.
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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #557 on: February 14, 2015, 11:40:52 AM »

Spook note: This came to me from an outspoken supporter of Israel. With that said, it does portray the murdered Ms. Mueller in a role much different than that portrayed in the mainstream US media. What id the truth? Does anybody give a damn? I wonder...sad
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Before you shed too many tears for this latest victim of jihad, read this.
I guess we'll have to wait patiently for the inevitable stage play and motion picture about the "heroic Kayla Mueller"!

Subject: Kayla Mueller - Karma's a bitch for jihadi sympathizers
Kayla Mueller was a member of the International Solidarity Movement (ISM) who spent at least two years working with that terrorist support group. She was involved in demonstrations against the Jews in Sheikh Jarrah (part of East Jerusalem) after a 20 year long court decision recognized the Jews' legal rights to homes they were chased from in earlier wars launched by the Arabs. She also participated in demonstrations to interfere with the IDF demolishing the homes of terrorists and suicide bombers after the courts okayed the demolitions.
 
Just as with Rachel Corrie, the press tries to paint Kayla as a selfless volunteer helping poor Arab refugees. She may have helped injured Arabs in "refugee" camps, but she was working to support the goals of Palestinian irredentists and to interfere with the IDF on behalf of terrorist groups.
 
As an ISM activist she was a tool for the worldwide jihad.
 
A letter she wrote which appears on the ISM’s website describes the usual ISM claims of atrocities that never occurred, but were fabrications worthy of Pallywood.
 
First, she lived and rioted with other ISM activists with an Arab family that refused to vacate a home they were squatting in after a legal case that took 20 years established it was stolen from the Jewish owners.
 
She wrote propaganda letters for the ISM website:
 
“Just the next year in 2009 Ashraf’s brother, Bassem Abu Rahma, was participating in the demonstration and was attempting to communicate with the IDF soldiers telling them to stop shooting the steel-coated rubber bullets as an Israeli activist had been shot in the leg and needed medical attention. Not soon after an Israeli soldier illegally used a tear gas canister as a bullet hitting Bassem in the chest, stopping his heart and killing him instantly,” she wrote.
 
Of course, the Arab propaganda rag Al Jazeera told the story that way. This really occurred during one of the weekly riots in Bi’ilin in the West Bank where the Arabs demonstrate “nonviolently” by throwing rocks at the IDF soldiers as well as incendiaries. Kayla was there with the ISM to participate. Kayla admitted to being present at the weekly riots.
 
She was also a human shield in support of terrorists. She wrote:
 
 “I could tell a few stories about sleeping in front of half demolished buildings waiting for the one night when the bulldozers come to finish them off; fearing sleep because you don’t know what could wake you. . . . I could tell a few stories about walking children home from school because settlers next door are keen to throw stones, threaten and curse at them. Seeing the honest fear in young boys eyes when heavily armed settlers arise from the outpost; pure fear, frozen from further steps, lip trembling.”
 
Most Jewish residents of Judea and Samaria are religious Jews. Many are professionals who wish to lead quiet family lives. They do not generally engage in violence, except for an aberrant few who sometimes engage in non-life threatening vandalism and are severely castigated by the rest. The ISM hit on a strategy of accusing the Jews in the 'West Bank' of what the Arabs do continually to Jews: throw stones, attack school children, destroy produce etc.
 
Another ISM strategy is to try and disable Israeli security tactics. One of the newer ones is to try and suggest that when the IDF uses tear gas to avoid lethality in controlling weekly Arab rioters, the gas is really deadly and must be stopped altogether. The real reason for this inversion about tear gas is the Palestinians and their ISM lackeys hope they can make it impossible for the IDF to control the weekly riots such as in Bi’ilin, riots Kayla was a part of.

“The smell and taste of tear gas has lodged itself in the pores of my throat and the skin around my nose, mouth and eyes,” she wrote. “It still burns when I close them. It still hangs in the air like invisible fire burning the oxygen I breathe. When I cry tears for this land, my eyes still sting. This land that is beautiful as the poetry of the mystics.
 
This land with the people who’s (sic) hearts are more expansive than any wall that any man could ever build. Yes, the wall will fall. The nature of impermanence is our greatest ally and soon the rules will change, the tide will turn and just as the moon waxes and wanes over this land so too the cycles of life here will continue. One day the cycle will once again return to freedom.”
 
Freedom? For whom? Another Arab dictatorship. Arabs who are Israeli citizens are free, but Kayla wanted the "free" Palestinian-state-to-be from the “river to the sea” as a good ISM activist. Her writings suggest the classical thought processes of pampered American student “radicals” and “revolutionaries” who can’t get enough of supporting dictatorships and terrorists overseas as liberation movements, the complete opposite of what they are.
 
“Oppression greets us from all angles”, she wrote. “Oppression wails from the soldiers radio and floats through tear gas clouds in the air. Oppression explodes with every sound bomb and sinks deeper into the heart of the mother who has lost her son. But resistance is nestled in the cracks in the wall, resistance flows from the minaret 5 times a day and resistance sits quietly in jail knowing its time will come again. Resistance lives in the grieving mother’s wails and resistance lives in the anger at the lies broadcasted across the globe. Though it is sometimes hard to see and even harder sometimes to harbor, resistance lives. Do not be fooled, resistance lives,”  Kayla concluded in her letter.
 
This certainly doesn’t sound like a tireless “aid worker”. Instead, it connotes a supporter of Palestinian Arab terrorist groups. Her praise of the muezzin calls and “resistance” suggests she’s on the side of the worldwide jihad, not viewing all human beings, even Jews, as having the same rights.
 
Kayla Meuller made it clear she was involved in the weekly riots in Bi’ilin. She wrote of Arabs who died at the hands of the IDF, due to non lethal tear gas usage as if that resulted in several members of the same family who she roomed with dying. Rachel Corrie did the same thing, creating a story for the ISM of protecting an Arab family from IDF bulldozers. One family daughter Kayla guested with died in her own home, not at a demonstration. The fact was the woman was very ill, with leukemia and other internal infections. As in good ISM tactics, her corpse then became another propaganda tool. But like any good ISM activist, Kayla Mueller didn’t let this stand in the way of her propaganda letter home:
 
“And now just today, the daughter of the Rahmah family, Jawaher, has been asphyxiated from tear gas inhalation. Jawaher was not even participating in the weekly demonstration but was in her home approximately 500 meters away from where the tear gas canisters were being fired (by wind the tear gas reaches the village and even the nearby illegal settlement often). There is currently little information as to how she suffocated but the doctor that attended her said a mixture of the tear gas from the IDF soldiers and phosphorus poisoned her lungs causing asphyxiation, the stopping of the heart and death this afternoon after fighting for her life last night in the hospital. The following is a clip from today showing hundreds of Palestinians, Israelis and international activist carrying her body to her families (sic) home where they said their final goodbyes.”
 
The IDF doesn’t use phosphorous in the West Bank. The ISM always claims it does. It’s good for propaganda.
“This family has a tragic story, but it is the story of life in Palestine. Thank you for reading. Ask me questions and ask yourself questions but most importantly, question the answers. Forever in solidarity, Kayla”, she concluded.
Kayla Mueller came from Prescott, Arizona where she once volunteered at a women’s shelter. Instead of continuing to help those who needed it in America, she chose to take the ISM’s revolutionary path and to embrace part of the worldwide jihad and she died for it, tragically. But she was no true altruist. She sought “freedom” working to support fascist groups that provide just the opposite for their people and she paid the ultimate price for that choice.
 
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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #558 on: February 14, 2015, 03:46:43 PM »

second post

A major offensive by the Syrian army in its southern front, in cooperation with Hezbollah and Iranian elements, continued on Fridat, not far from Israel's Golan Heights border. Mere days after the start of the operation, the Syrian Armed Forces declared on Wednesday night that they had made significant achievements in the bloody land battles. So far, Assad's soldiers, aided by Hassan Nasrallah's Hezbollah fighters, successfully retook three towns in the strategic triangle that lies between the Damascus suburbs, Quneitra suburbs, and Daraa suburbs. These include the villages of Deir al-Adas, Al Dnaj, and Deir Makas, in addition to a number of strategic hills, as seen in the map. Media outlets associated with Assad and Nasrallah have been following events on the front very closely, broadcasting videos of land battles accompanied by heavy artillery, as well as the loot purportedly found in conquered areas. Hezbollah's Al Manar network claimed on Wednesday that they had found Ameriacn and Israeli equipment and weaponry alongside an Emirati aid package. Meanwhile, the media outlets have attempted to convey a sense of panic on the part of the rebels and local residents. Among other things, they reported attempts by rebels to reach an agreement with Assad's forces in the face of defeat. The rebels have tried to limit the damage, claiming that the areas taken by Assad's forces with the help of Hezbollah and Iran are insignificant. A look at the operation's targets reveals the army's hopes to drive the rebels and al-Nusra front further away from Damascus and its suburbs. They also seek to prevent the rebels in Quneitra and Daraa, who have over the last four years nearly become a united force, from linking up. The army further feels the need to regain control over the area adjacent to the Israeil border and the Quneitra crossing in particular.
Watch Here
The Asharq Alawsat newspaper reported on Thursday morning that a field commander quoted on Syrian national television said: "The military operation launched by the Syrian army in the south continues under the leadership of Syrian President Bashar Assad and in cooperation with the axis of resistance – Hezbollah and Iran." The Al Mayadeen network has begun referring to the "Syrian army and the resistance" as a single force when referring to the onslaught. Commentators linked to Hezbollah have also been openly admitting that the operation is by the "axis of resistance" and not just the Syrian army. The most senior is Ibrahim al-Amin, editor of the pro-Hezbollah daily Al Akhbar, who related on Wednesday that the so-called axis already decided to begin the operation to retake southern Syria before the airstrike attributed to Israel. "The decision to prevent southern Syria from falling into the hands of Israel's collaborators is more strategic than any other," he said, "and is equally as important as the decision to prevent Damascus from falling to these same collaborators. "The decision was made to allocate everything required to make this decision a reality, and everything required in case of escalation of any kind, direct or indirect, that could occur in the region, including the possibility Israel's involvement in further aggressive actions." Military expect and strategist Amin Hatit, known to be close to Hezbollah, told Asharq Alaswat Thursday morning that "the Golan front currently serves as an example of the first battlefront in which the three components of the axis of resistance (Iran, Syria, and Hezbollah) are operating. The axis is currently testing its capability for joint military action in the field, and it appears that the initial results surpass all expectations. Within 48 hours, goals were achieved for which ten days were allocated." Hatit explained that the operation has four strategic goals: "The first is to prevent the Israeli buffer zone protected by al-Nusra Front. The second is to consolidate the defense around Damascus. The third is directly related to the resistance in Lebanon, which is trying to prevent the opening of a southeastern front (near the Lebanese border), which would exhaust it and involve it in a war of attrition. The fourth goal is to block the American plan to open a war against Syria using the Jordanian option." Meanwhile, in light of the danger posed by the Islamic State group, the Lebanese army – together with Hezbollah – is expected to soon launch a wide-ranging security operation to prevent its advance.
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ccp
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« Reply #559 on: February 14, 2015, 08:40:06 PM »

"Karma's a bitch for jihadi sympathizers"

Interesting insight into the motives of this young girl.  One wonders what someone like her is doing in a war zone.   I mean really.  What could one young lady do that is going to help anyone?

There is some romantic allure of being a "revolutionary".   I noticed this when reading about Stalin and Lenin in the late 1800s and early 1900s.  They think of themselves as gallant like movie actors fighting evil.

God and earthly devils only know what became of her.  And near her own end she must have wished she stayed in Arizona.   

Perhaps I read too much into this but it is interesting that Obama would send a few ground troops in harms way after HER death and not previous ones.

Taking up the Palestinian chant that they are oppressed by Jews is something he clearly believes in as did she.
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G M
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« Reply #560 on: February 15, 2015, 10:43:24 AM »

I am reminded of the zen parable of the scorpion and the frog.
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ccp
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« Reply #561 on: February 15, 2015, 11:22:44 AM »

"I am reminded of the zen parable of the scorpion and the frog"

GM,

Would you explain?  I am not familiar with this.
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G M
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« Reply #562 on: February 15, 2015, 11:36:25 AM »

http://zen-story.blogspot.com/2010/10/frog-and-scorpion.html
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ccp
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« Reply #563 on: February 15, 2015, 12:11:35 PM »

Still one question.  Who is the scorpion?   The Jihadists or Obama?
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G M
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« Reply #564 on: February 15, 2015, 01:28:52 PM »

Still one question.  Who is the scorpion?   The Jihadists or Obama?

I think either applies.
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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #565 on: February 18, 2015, 09:14:40 AM »

http://news.yahoo.com/battle-kobane-us-crews-recount-heavy-bombing-075326579.html
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objectivist1
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« Reply #566 on: February 19, 2015, 06:49:34 AM »

Obama’s ISIS Strategy Is Even Worse Than You Think

Posted By Daniel Greenfield On February 19, 2015 @ frontpagemag.com

“We can not win this war by killing them,” Marie Harf said on MSNBC.

Reversing thousands of years of battlefield experience in which wars were won  by “killing them,” the State Department spokeswoman argued that you can’t defeat ISIS by killing its fighters.

“We can not kill our way out of this war,” she said. “We need in the medium and longer term to go after the root causes that lead people to join these groups, whether it is lack of opportunity for jobs.”

War is one of the few things in life we can reliably kill our way out of. The United States has had a great track record of killing our way out of wars. We killed our way out of WW1. We killed our way out of WW2. The problem began when we stopped trying to kill our way out of wars and started trying to hug our way out of wars instead. Progressive academics added war to economics, terrorism and the climate in the list of subjects they did not understand and wanted to make certain that no one else was allowed to understand. Because the solution to war is so obvious that no progressive could possibly think of it.

Harf’s argument is a familiar one. There was a time when progressive reformers had convinced politicians that we couldn’t arrest, shoot, imprison or execute our way out of crime.

We couldn’t stop crime by fighting crime. Instead the root causes of crime had to be addressed. The police became social workers and criminals overran entire cities. The public demanded action and a new wave of mayors got tough on crime. While the sociologists, social workers, activists and bleeding hearts wailed that it wouldn’t work, surprisingly locking up criminals did stop them from committing crimes.

It was a revelation almost as surprising as realizing that it does take a good guy with a gun to stop a bad guy with a gun. Addressing root causes won’t stop a killing spree in progress. (That’s another one of those things we can and do kill our way out of.)

But bad ideas are harder to kill than bad people. And stupid ideas are the hardest ideas of all to kill.

The same plan that failed to stop street gangs and drug dealers has been deployed to defeat ISIS. Heading it up are progressives who don’t believe that killing the enemy wins wars.

General Patton told the Third Army, “The harder we push, the more Germans we kill. The more Germans we kill, the fewer of our men will be killed.” That kind of thinking is passé. General McChrystal, Obama’s favorite commander (before he had to be purged for insulting Obama) had a much better plan.

“We will not win based on the number of Taliban we kill,” he said. “We must avoid the trap of winning tactical victories—but suffering strategic defeats—by causing civilian casualties or excessive damage and thus alienating the people.”

Under Obama’s rotating shift of commanders, we avoided the trap of winning tactical victories. Instead of following Patton’s maxim, American casualties doubled. The Taliban struck closer to Kabul while US soldiers avoided engaging the enemy because they wouldn’t be given permission to attack unless the  Taliban announced themselves openly while avoiding mosques or civilian buildings.

“We will not win simply by killing insurgents,” McChrystal had insisted. “We will help the Afghan people win by securing them, by protecting them from intimidation, violence and abuse.”

But we couldn’t protect the Afghan people without killing the Taliban. Civilian casualties caused by the United States fell 28 percent, but the Taliban more than made up for it by increasing their killing of civilians by 40 percent. Not only did we avoid the trap of a tactical victory, but we also suffered a strategic defeat. American soldiers couldn’t kill insurgents, protect civilians or even protect themselves.

We’ve tried the McChrystal way and over 2,000 American soldiers came home in boxes from Afghanistan trying to win the hearts and minds of the Afghans. Many more returned missing arms and legs. The Taliban poll badly among Afghans, but instead of hiring a PR expert to improve their image, a Pentagon report expects them to be encircling key cities by 2017.

Unlike our leaders, the Taliban are not worried about falling into the trap of winning tactical victories. They are big believers in killing their way to popularity. As ISIS and Boko  Haram have demonstrated, winning by killing works better than trying to win by wars by winning polls.

Now the same whiz kids that looked for the root cause of the problem in Afghanistan by dumping money everywhere, including into companies linked to Al Qaeda and the Taliban, think that the way to beat ISIS is with unemployment centers and job training. Many of the ISIS Jihadists come from the social welfare paradises of Europe where there are more people employed to find the root causes of terrorism through welfare than there are people working to fight them. So far they haven’t had much luck either.

The Europeans were still searching for the root causes of Muslim terrorism back when Obama was smoking pot on a dirty couch. They’re still searching for them even while newspapers, cafes and synagogues are shot up. Meanwhile unarmed police officers lie on the ground and beg for their lives.

Obama’s real ISIS strategy is even worse than his Afghan strategy. He doesn’t have a plan for beating ISIS. He has a plan for preventing it from expanding while the sociologists try to figure out the root causes for its popularity. American air power isn’t there to crush ISIS. It’s there to stop it from launching any major advances and embarrassing him too much. Meanwhile hearts and minds will be won.

At least those minds that haven’t been beheaded and those hearts that haven’t been burned to ash.

We won’t be falling into the trap of winning victories. Instead we’ll be figuring out how to create jobs so that all the ISIS fighters go home to Copenhagen and Paris where they won’t be Obama’s problem.

But while it’s tempting to believe that stupid ideas like these are solely the realm of lefties like Obama, it was Mitt Romney who announced during the final debate that, “We can’t kill our way out of this mess.”

“We’re going to have to put in place a very comprehensive and robust strategy to help the world of Islam and other parts of the world, reject this radical violent extremism,” he insisted, calling for education and economic development.

“Killing our way out of this mess” has become an orphaned strategy. Neither Democrats nor Republicans want to take it home with them. But killing our way out of wars used to be a bipartisan strategy.

Truman believed in a plan to “kill as many as possible.” Eisenhower could casually write, “We should have killed more of them.”

But why listen to the leaders who oversaw America’s last great war when we can instead listen to the architects of the social strategy that turned our cities into war zones?

What did Eisenhower and Truman know that Obama doesn’t? They knew war.

Truman cheated his way into WW1, despite being an only son and half-blind. He took the initiative and took the war to the enemy. They don’t make Democrats like that anymore. They do make Democrats like Barack Obama, who use Marines as umbrella stands and whose strategy is not to offend the enemy.

In Afghanistan, the top brass considered a medal for “courageous restraint”. If we go on trying to not kill our way out of Iraq, that medal will go well with all the burned bodies and severed heads.
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"You have enemies?  Good.  That means that you have stood up for something, sometime in your life." - Winston Churchill.
Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #567 on: February 20, 2015, 05:43:28 PM »


http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2014/09/16/world/middleeast/how-isis-works.html?_r=0
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ccp
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« Reply #568 on: February 20, 2015, 06:42:42 PM »

Tell me this doesn't remind us of liberals arguments during the Clinton years like "it's all about his private life",  or "what is is?" and the rest.  Liberal legaleze arguments without merit again.   Does it matter what we call our enemies?  Nazis were not Nazis they were guys who had no jobs or bad mothers.   Whatever:

http://news.yahoo.com/video/ask-experts-does-matter-call-205045955.html#/pentagon-laying-plans-battle-terror-113649291.html
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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #569 on: February 21, 2015, 05:00:52 PM »

http://www.ijreview.com/2015/02/255150-isil-terrorist-fails/
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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #570 on: February 21, 2015, 10:16:58 PM »




Taking Note - The Editorial Page Editor's Blog
Advocate for Syrian ‘Moderates’ Changes His Mind
By Carol Giacomo   
February 20, 2015 3:01 pm February 20, 2015 3:01 pm
POTH
   

Predictions that so-called “moderates” in Syria could ever prevail over President Bashar al-Assad were always a long shot. Few had military experience. And throughout the civil war, now going into its 5th year, they have been fractured and unable to coalesce under a unified command.

But the opposition had at least one influential American advocate, Robert Ford, the former ambassador to Syria, who pressed the wary Obama administration to arm a vetted group of moderates so they would be more capable of carrying on the fight.  When he left government last year, Mr. Ford went public with a blistering critique of American policy in Syria. Six months ago, he wrote an essay in Foreign Policy  which asserted that “the moderate rebels in Syria are not finished.”

Now, in a stunning turnabout, even Mr. Ford seems to have thrown in the towel. In recent weeks, Mr. Ford has dropped his call to arms the rebels and is now faulting them as “disjointed and untrustworthy because they collaborate with the jihadists,” according to Hannah Allam of McClatchy News Service .

In a report published on Friday, Ms. Allam said that Mr. Ford still considers American policy in Syria a “huge failure” but is now also blaming the rebels for “collaborating with the Nusra Front, the al Qaida affiliate in Syria that the U.S. declared a terrorist organization more than two years ago.”

He also believes that opposition infighting has worsened.

Mr. Ford’s devastating conclusions come as the administration has been beefing up efforts to train and equip a new, handpicked rebel force to fight Islamic State in Syria. Turkey and the United States just signed an agreement to collaborate on that, the State Department said Thursday.

But Mr. Ford believes that effort is doomed to fail. Ms. Allam quoted him as dismissing as insufficient the amount of money invested in the project and asking: “What are they going to do with 5,000 guys? Or even 10,000 in a year? What’s that going to do?”

Good question.
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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #571 on: February 25, 2015, 10:02:12 AM »

Kurdish forces cut off a supply route from Iraq on Wednesday as part of an offensive against Islamic State militants in northeastern Syria. The Kurdish forces, supported by U.S.-led coalition airstrikes, are challenging Islamic State militants in Syria’s Hassakeh province, seizing more than 100 villages from the fighters and threatening to divide territory they control in Iraq and Syria. Amidst the Kurdish advances, Islamic State militants abducted dozens of Assyrian Christians from villages in the province. The Syriac National Council of Syria said 150 people were kidnapped, though estimates range, and some sources reported both civilians and fighters were seized. The violence forced hundreds of residents to flee to Hassakeh province’s two main cities. Meanwhile, Human Rights Watch released a report Tuesday saying Syrian government forces had dropped barrel bombs on at least 1,000 sites in Aleppo and 450 sites in and around Daraa in the past year, despite a U.N. Security Council resolution condemning their use.

Iraq

The Pentagon reported about $17.9 million worth of weapons, ammunition, and military supplies arrived in Iraq this week. The shipment came after the U.S. Central Command announced last week details of an operation to retake Mosul to be launched with U.S.-trained Iraqi and Kurdish forces, which could begin in April or May. Meanwhile, a series of explosions in and around the Iraqi capital Baghdad Tuesday killed 37 people, with the worst attack twin bombings in the southeastern Jisr Diyala district.
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« Reply #572 on: February 26, 2015, 04:45:29 PM »

 A Risky U.S. Proxy Battle Against Islamic State
Analysis
February 26, 2015 | 10:09 GMT

Rebel Jaish al-Islam fighters during a training session in rebel-held Eastern Ghouta outside Damascus on Jan. 11. (ABD DOUMANY/AFP/Getty Images)

Summary

The United States and Turkey signed a deal Feb. 19 to train and equip a new force of Syrian rebels as part of a broader plan to develop ground forces in Syria necessary to defeat the Islamic State. The United States worked closely with Saudi Arabia and Jordan to develop the plan and recently included Qatar as a core member of the training program. Initial training camps will be set up in Turkey and Jordan, followed by Saudi Arabia and Qatar. In the absence of U.S. troops in Syria or a viable partner among the rebels, the United States has decided to create its own ground force. As with all U.S. options in Syria, however, the move carries significant risks.

Analysis

The U.S. plan envisions the eventual deployment of around 1,000 U.S. troops under the leadership of U.S. Maj. Gen. Michael Nagata into the region. This force would include several hundred trainers who will cooperate with counterparts in the intelligence and military services of Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Qatar. Together, they will train the new Syrian rebel force in basic military tactics, firearms, communications and command and control. The United States also announced Feb. 18 that 1,200 Syrian rebels from moderate factions have already been screened and vetted for the program. The United States expects, however, to recruit the bulk of forces from the Syrian refugee population in Turkey and Jordan.

Training is set to begin this spring, with approximately 5,000 fighters trained each year. Turkey will train around 2,000 of these. A Wall Street Journal report Feb. 17 indicated that the United States also plans to provide the rebels trained under the program with additional firepower through specially equipped pickup trucks that they could use to call in U.S. airstrikes. The new training program will be one of the largest U.S. commitments in Syria to date, but there is a possibility that it could founder or backfire.

Past Rebel Support

This is not the first time that the United States has involved itself in the training of Syrian rebels. The United States and its regional allies have carried out smaller train and equip programs through the CIA. The results, however, have not lived up to expectations. The rise of Islamist militant group Jabhat al-Nusra in particular has made it extremely difficult for the United States to support the so-called moderate Syrian rebel forces. The United States has asked the rebels it supports to demonstrate that they have clearly broken with Jabhat al-Nusra to focus on fighting the Islamic State. But the moderate rebel factions find themselves eclipsed by the firepower of Bashar al Assad's forces and their only viable ally — one that has played a critical role in numerous battles — is Jabhat al-Nusra.

Moderate rebel factions that the United States has supported with weapons in the past claim that weapons shipments have been infrequent as well as inadequate and have not made their forces substantially stronger. What the weapons assistance has done, however, is caused other, more extreme rebel factions to brand moderates as U.S. collaborators and, by extension, collaborators with the al Assad government. The fact that the United States has avoided targeting al Assad's forces but has gone after Jabhat al-Nusra fighters as recently as Feb. 19 bolsters this claim, enhancing the vulnerability of moderate factions. Consequently, numerous powerful Islamist rebel militant groups close to both the Free Syrian Army and Jabhat al-Nusra, such as Ahrar al-Sham, have adopted Jabhat al-Nusra's view that Washington is as much an enemy as Damascus.

U.S.-equipped moderate rebel forces, particularly in northern Syria, have been unable to fend off attacks from Jabhat al-Nusra and its allies. Notable among these are the Syrian Revolutionary Front and Harakat Hazm. Fighters from Harakat Hazm and a number of other U.S.-backed Free Syrian Army groups have surrendered, disbanded, or even defected to Jabhat al-Nusra over the past few months. In the face of Jabhat al-Nusra's wrath, Harakat Hazm's core forces have had to seek protection from Jabhat al-Shamiya, a recently formed rebel coalition based in Aleppo province. Harakat Hazm has claimed, for instance, that its fighters had no choice given the disproportionate strength of Jabhat al-Nusra, but these events have understandably made Washington even more hesitant to increase support for the moderate rebels in Syria's north.

In southern Syria, however, the situation is considerably different. Here the Free Syrian Army units of the Southern Front have been far more effective in marshaling and organizing their forces. These units have benefited from increased support and direction from an operations command center in Jordan, in which the United States plays a key role. The continued support of the United States and U.S. allies has been a significant factor in the Southern Front's numerous victories over the past year. In spite of this success — and in spite of frequent official denials — even the Southern Front often works closely with Jabhat al-Nusra units. Jabhat al-Nusra forces, though outnumbered by the 30,000 Free Syrian Army fighters in the south, have proved useful in rebel offensives, often acting as shock troops spearheading attacks on strongly defended loyalist positions.

A New Effort

The United States cannot win its campaign against the Islamic State without ground forces, putting Washington in a difficult position. The political climate back home is against sending in U.S. ground troops. In Iraq, the United States can readily rely on local forces such as the Kurdish peshmerga and the Iraqi army, in spite of the shortcomings of these local forces. The rebel forces in Syria, however, have shown little desire to abandon their fight against Bashar al Assad in order to follow U.S. interests in taking down the Islamic State first. Even if the rebels could be persuaded, continued loyalist offensives on rebel strongholds would largely hamstring such efforts.

Syria's civil war is a contest of three forces, broadly defined as the rebels, the al Assad loyalists and the Islamic State. The United States hopes to bypass the fight between al Assad and the rebels in order to go directly after the Islamic State. One option to achieve this objective would be to increase support for the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG). During the battle for Kobani the United States provided direct air support to YPG forces. The Kurdish population in Syria, however, is a distinct minority largely unable to project a presence beyond the Kurdish-populated areas of northern Syria. Furthermore, the United States must include Turkey in tackling the Islamic State in Syria by virtue of Turkey's geographic, logistical and military position. However, Turkey is adamantly against strengthening the YPG beyond the measures already taken, fearing such policies will reignite its own domestic Kurdish militant movement.

The U.S. training program aims to circumvent the pitfalls of bolstering existing players by adding a new — and hopefully more reliable — force into the mix. Unlike the disparate rebel forces already on the ground, the new force can be drawn from refugee populations in Turkey and Jordan, making it easier for U.S. civilian and military officials to vet, monitor and advise troops with the help of regional intelligence agencies. The United States also plans to act as the key logistical power behind the force and to pay fighter salaries, shaping the force's actions.
Old Program and Allies Remain

Meanwhile, the United States and its allies will continue supporting Syrian rebel forces already on the battlefield. The United States has limited its support for rebel factions in the north, but Turkey has stepped in to play an enhanced role. The Jabhat al-Shamiya coalition created in December incorporated three of Ankara's favored rebel factions — Harakat Nour al-Din al-Zenki, the Mujahideen Army and the al-Tawhid Brigade — allowing Turkey to garner significant leverage. Turkey also provides the northern rebel factions with important supply lines that run from Turkey to Aleppo province, enhancing its leverage in potential negotiations with its partners on the future direction of Syria. It also allows Ankara to pressure the al Assad government as part of wider moves against the Islamic State.

In the south, Jordan is an increasingly willing key player. With the Islamic State's immolation of the captured Jordanian pilot, Amman has expressed desire to commit more resources to the fight against the extremist group. With the backing of the United States and the Gulf Cooperation Council countries, Jordan is poised to support future allied strategies in Syria, especially given its strategic location. Indeed, the Jordanians have already been a significant factor in the success of the Southern Front rebels.
Risks and Limitations

Though the new training program is an attempt to avoid the complexities of supporting rebel factions, it still carries risks. Even at this early stage, Turkey is invoking the possibility that the new force could be used to target al Assad's forces. In spite of all the measures in place to direct the new group's efforts, there is no guarantee the United States could prevent it from eventually clashing with loyalist forces. Damascus has also said its forces will attack any foreign group that does not cooperate with the government, increasing the chance that the new force will have to contend with the same distraction as existing rebel groups.

Iran is also heavily invested in sustaining the al Assad regime. More direct U.S. interference in the Syrian conflict through this new force — especially if it clashes with loyalists — will threaten critical negotiations between Washington and Tehran. Iran has embedded Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps units with Syrian loyalist forces, raising the risk of direct clashes with the new U.S.-backed rebel force. The most critical risk, however, is that a schism between the Iranians and the United States over Syria could spill over into what the U.S. considers the more important theater: Iraq. Iranian-backed Shiite militias could pose a threat to U.S. forces stationed there if the United States comes into direct conflict with Iran in Syria.

On top of these substantial risks there is no guarantee that the new force will succeed in defeating the Islamic State. Only 5,000 fighters are scheduled to be trained annually, limiting the force's size. The new rebel army can succeed only if it becomes a nucleus for other moderate Syrian groups and initiates a unified rebel effort in line with U.S. interests. With the many complications that could derail this process, this outcome is highly unlikely. However, in order to defeat the Islamic State, the United States needs a ground force. With no other acceptable options, Washington has chosen the least bad out of many terrible options.
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« Reply #573 on: March 01, 2015, 11:17:31 AM »

http://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/191966#.VPNJAC5UWAi

 , , , and the Obama White House called Netanyahu chickenshit?!?

 angry angry angry
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« Reply #574 on: March 01, 2015, 12:57:57 PM »

Unbelievable.  That wart hog face again.  The one with his anti-Semite daughter on MSLSD.   To think he was not given a job with Obama because he was viewed as anti-Israel.

They thought he would cost them a few Jewish voters.   

What a laugh.  We just got Obama.   And the Jewish Democrats are silent.   Indeed many are lashing out at Netenyahu.   Not Obama who is selling down the radioactive Iranian freeway but the one guy who is trying to prevent the possibility of another holocaust.

They claim the Zionists don't speak for them on ads in between Mark Levins radio show.   That they are Jews who support their country and their President.   They are kidding themselves.  They are not Jews.  They are Democrats.  They would be trashing the President if he was a Republican.   
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« Reply #575 on: March 01, 2015, 01:44:47 PM »

Benjamin N has more guts to stand up to Obama the tyrant than the vast majority of Republicans.   Sad commentary on our politicians.
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« Reply #576 on: March 01, 2015, 02:55:48 PM »

In fairness, I should note that article is essentially RumInt, but IMHO is quite plausible.
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« Reply #577 on: March 01, 2015, 03:03:23 PM »

http://shoebat.com/2015/02/28/isis-jihadists-tries-to-capture-young-christian-girl-she-takes-out-a-machine-gun-and-slaughters-five-of-them-there-is-now-a-major-christian-militia-with-american-australian-and-british-christians/
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« Reply #578 on: March 01, 2015, 06:48:34 PM »

Fourth post of the day:

http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2015/mar/1/report-obama-threatened-shoot-down-israeli-warplan/?page=all#pagebreak
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« Reply #579 on: March 03, 2015, 09:29:34 AM »

http://shoebat.com/2014/08/26/muslim-children-parade-heads-victims-crowd-muslim-adults-praise/
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« Reply #580 on: March 04, 2015, 09:03:29 AM »

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/03/04/world/middleeast/iraq-drive-against-isis-reveals-tensions-with-us.html?emc=edit_th_20150304&nl=todaysheadlines&nlid=49641193

Iraqi Campaign to Drive ISIS From Tikrit Reveals Tensions With U.S.

By ANNE BARNARDMARCH 3, 2015



BAGHDAD — Tensions between Iraq and the United States over how to battle the Islamic State broke into the open on Tuesday, as Iraqi officials declared that they would fight on their own timetable with or without American help, and as United States warplanes conspicuously sat out the biggest Iraqi counteroffensive yet amid concerns over Iran’s prominent role.

On Monday, Iraq launched a politically sensitive operation to oust Islamic State militants from Tikrit, the birthplace of Saddam Hussein, without seeking American approval, officials said. Even as Iraq was taking a first step into a bigger battle to oust the Islamic State from the northern city of Mosul, it was also signaling that its alliance with the United States might be more fraught than officials had let on.


American officials, for their part, voiced unease with the prominent role of Iran and its allied Shiite militias in the Tikrit operation. Shiite militia leaders said that their fighters made up more than two-thirds of the pro-government force of 30,000, and that the Iranian spymaster Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani was helping to lead from near the front lines.


Alongside them were advisers and troops from Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps, operating artillery, rocket launchers and surveillance drones, according to American officials, who said that the Iranian forces’ participation in the assault in Iraq’s Sunni heartland could inflame the sectarian divide that the Islamic State has exploited.

The operation comes against the backdrop of Iraqi irritation with American officials after they declared that the assault against the Islamic State in Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city, would begin in April and then backpedaled, saying Iraqi forces would not be ready until fall, if then.

Ali al-Alaa, a close aide to Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, expressed frustration with what he described as a sluggish American pace and pessimistic American estimates of how long it would take to drive the Islamic State from Mosul and the western province of Anbar.

“The Americans continue procrastinating about the time it will take to liberate the country,” he said in an interview. “Iraq will liberate Mosul and Anbar without them.”


Abbas al-Moussawi, the spokesman for Mr. Abadi’s predecessor and rival, Nuri Kamal al-Maliki, said that there was “a crisis of trust” between the Americans and the Iraqis, and that “if they will not resolve this problem, we’ll have a big problem in Mosul.”

Still, the United States-led coalition continued to bombard Islamic State militants in other parts of Iraq. And a spokesman for the Defense Ministry, Gen. Tahseen al-Sheikhly, insisted in an interview that Iraq’s military cooperation with the United States was in fine shape, adding that American officials regularly participated in joint operation meetings in Baghdad that include representatives of Shiite militias.

American and Iraqi officials alike said that the Iraqis had not asked for American help in Tikrit, but some Iraqi officials suggested that was because they knew it would not be forthcoming. And while both sides said that the Americans had been warned of the operation, the defense spokesman, General Sheikhly, said that the “zero hour” — the start time of the assault — was known only to Mr. Abadi.
Continue reading the main story
Continue reading the main story

“We still welcome the international alliance’s support,” said Mr. Alaa, the prime minister’s aide. “But if they won’t be supporting us, we have no problem.”


How has ISIS, a 21st-century terrorist organization with a retrograde religious philosophy, spread from Iraq to Syria, Libya and beyond?
Video by Quynhanh Do on Publish Date December 13, 2014.

But progress appeared slow in the push against Tikrit on Tuesday, with no breakthrough in the Iraqi coalition’s efforts to enter the city. Iraqi military officials said they had reached the outskirts of Al Dour, just south of the city, and were advancing slowly after freeing 13 police officers held there by the Islamic State.

Mohammad al-Turkomani, a leader in the militias known as the “popular mobilization” forces, said that with American participation in Tikrit, “we would have moved twice as fast.”

Since the Islamic State swept into Iraq in June, Iran and the United States, longtime enemies that both support the Iraqi government, have maintained an uneasy de facto alliance against the group, with the United States-led coalition unleashing airstrikes, and Shiite militias aligned with Iran fighting alongside army and Kurdish forces on the ground. There have also been growing reports of Iranian forces’ directly joining the fight within Iraq.

The Americans’ discomfort has grown as Mr. Abadi’s government has been unable to mobilize significant Sunni forces to join the fight, something that American officials consider crucial to breaking the Islamic State’s hold on many heavily Sunni areas.


For their part, Iraqi officials increasingly complain that American support has not been as robust as Iran’s. Many Iraqis resent what they see as American squeamishness about the militias, which by all accounts have been crucial to holding back the Islamic State after regular army units fled its assault.

“Americans consider us a militia that does not represent the government, while we are defending the country and helping the government,” said Mueen al-Kadhimy, a leader in the Badr Organization, a prominent militia. “We are the people of Iraq.”

The Tikrit offensive could prove to be a first step toward driving back the Islamic State, or it could deepen longstanding sectarian and political divides that the militants have exploited to win support from some Iraqi Sunnis and acquiescence from others. The group has also used brutal intimidation tactics against Sunnis who reject it or support the government in Baghdad.

But at the same time, Shiite militias have been accused of reprisals against the Sunni population, many of whom regard them with suspicion and fear.

The Tikrit operation is the Iraqis’ first attempt to seize the area since June, when Islamic State militants massacred more than 1,000 Iraqi Shiite soldiers as they fled a nearby military base, Camp Speicher. There have been fears that Shiite militia members from the same areas many of the soldiers hailed from could take revenge on local Sunnis if they enter Tikrit, and some militia leaders have openly called the assault a revenge operation.

“There’s a risk there,” said one senior American military official, expressing concern that the Iraqi operations might not pay sufficient attention to the risks of civilian casualties from indiscriminate artillery and rocket fire.

But the American official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the ongoing battle, acknowledged that if the Iraqis and their Iranian advisers maintained strict controls on their targeting and the operation resulted in “fewer ISIS fighters and chasing them from Tikrit, that’s not unhelpful.”
« Last Edit: March 04, 2015, 09:50:57 AM by Crafty_Dog » Logged
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« Reply #581 on: March 04, 2015, 12:00:43 PM »

http://pjmedia.com/tatler/2015/03/03/us-backed-syrian-rebel-group-collapses-us-supplied-weapons-end-up-in-al-qaeda-hands-unexpectedly/
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« Reply #582 on: March 05, 2015, 09:04:30 AM »

A glaring omission to not discuss Iran's nukes, but Stratfor is never stupid.

A Middle Eastern Balance of Power Emerges
Geopolitical Diary
March 3, 2015 | 23:32 GMT
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The battle lines of the Middle East are changing. The chaotic force of the Islamic State has pushed the region's major powers — Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Iran — to rethink decades-old relationships and regional strategies. Nowhere is this more apparent than the Syrian-Iraqi battleground, where a sectarian proxy battle has been the incubator for an emerging balance of power. Though it may look messy on the surface, this dynamic falls in line with the United States' long-term strategy for the region.

Many have criticized Washington's decision not to take a more direct role in containing the violence in Syria or to rely on local forces to combat the Islamic State in Iraq. But the United States' global geopolitical imperatives necessitate a balance of power in the Middle East in which regional actors shoulder more of the burden of managing their problems. Washington's refusal to be dragged back into another ground war in the Middle East is slowly bearing fruit, as Turkey is cautiously re-entering its former sphere of influence along its southern flank, counterbalancing the Saudi-Iranian competition that has fueled much of the violence destabilizing the Middle East.
 

We wrote last week about Egypt's attempts to craft an Arab response to regional pressures, focused specifically against the Islamic State and other regional militant groups threatening Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi's administration. Cairo lacks the geopolitical heft to shape outcomes in Syria or Iraq, let alone region-wide change. Egypt nevertheless is a crucial part of a broader attempt by Saudi Arabia, using its role in both the Arab and Sunni worlds, to reach out to Turkey in combatting both the Islamic State and an emergent Iran. The challenges are plenty, and regional Sunni cohesion may well prove as elusive as a stable Pan-Arab military alliance. If nothing else Saudi outreach has helped finish what the United States began: pushing Ankara to take a stronger role in the region.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and a delegation of Turkish politicians arrived in Riyadh this past Monday to meet with their Saudi counterparts, including new Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz. Few details of the discussions were announced, but both sides agreed to work together on Syria. The meetings, as well as the agreement, represent a marked shift in the relations between the Middle East's two main Sunni powers. Turkish foreign policy (especially under the leadership of Erdogan and his Justice and Development Party) has favored mainstream Islamists, to the consternation of the Saudi government under former King Abdullah. Saudi Arabia still views the Muslim Brotherhood and other Sunni Islamist democratization movements as threat to its long-term national stability, but the concurrent threats of the Islamic State and Iran call for a shift in tactics.

Saudi Arabia has also re-engaged Qatar — a state that, like Turkey, supports mainstream Islamists. This support has put them at odds with Riyadh and, at times, broadly in line with Iran (such as the three countries' opposition to the ouster of Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi in 2013). There are growing indications that Riyadh, Ankara and Doha now working together and supporting similar groups of rebels in Syria, in contrast to backing (sometimes violently) competing rebel forces. Especially in northern Syria, along the border with Turkey, groups like Jabhat al-Shamiya are beginning to enjoy a wider base of regional support, as Gulf actors are continuing to scale back support for more right-wing Salafist-jihadist rebel actors such as Jabhat al-Nusra.

In neighboring Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Jordan are working with disaffected Sunni Arab tribesmen to expand the Iraqi coalition battling the Islamic State, even as Turkey works with both Kurdish forces and Baghdad to strengthen Iraq's anti-Islamic State positions. This Sunni cooperation is not without its challenges, however. Both Turkey and Saudi Arabia would like to shape the futures of Syria and Iraq according to their own strategic interests, and Riyadh and Ankara are ultimately competitors for influence in the region. Both also have to deal with Iran.

Iran's influence over its western periphery has ebbed and flowed for some 2,500 years. However, since the fall of Saddam Hussein in 2003, Iran has been able to consolidate relationships in Iraq to create a Shiite arc of influence from its borders to the eastern Mediterranean. Iraq is the crux to Iran's Middle East strategy; it can serve as the launch pad for Iranian influence into the Arab world or, as it has so many times in history, serve as the staging grounds for a foreign invasion of Iran. It makes sense then that Iran has stepped up its direct military involvement in Iraq over the past week, with Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps forces participating with Iranian-backed Shiite militias, Iraqi army forces and a limited number of Sunni tribal elements in the battle for Tikrit.

Along with long-standing Iranian and Shiite backing of Syrian President Bashar al Assad government (Syria historically served as a critical route for Iranian material support to Hezbollah), Iran has increased its military presence across both Syria and Iraq in fighting the Islamic State. Whereas Turkey and Saudi Arabia are attempting to expand their influence into both states, Iran has been forced into a defensive position, seeking to retain elements of the influence it enjoyed in the period between the U.S. invasion of Iraq and the unrest of 2011's Arab Spring. This strategic reversal is one of the factors pushing Tehran to negotiate with the United States to help gain recognition of its footholds in the Arab world and safeguard its status as a regional power, albeit a weak one.

As the threat posed by the Islamic State gives rise to a tenuous working relationship between Ankara and Riyadh, the U.S. plan for a regional balance of power involves changing more than three decades of strained relations with its former ally, Iran. Iran's direct involvement in the battle for Tikrit raises questions over the eventual battle for Mosul, where Shiite militias are slowly increasing their presence and the United States plans to assist Kurdish and Iraqi forces in the fight against the Islamic State.

Coordinating with Iran is an incentive for the United States. Still, Washington cannot see Iran too weakened (or assertive), and direct competition between Tehran and Riyadh poses too great a risk of regional destabilization — necessitating a greater Turkish role in the region. And so we see the battle lines converging, overlapping and blending into an emerging balance of power.
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« Reply #583 on: March 05, 2015, 10:22:13 AM »

States it was the Iraq invasion by the US that beget ISIS.   Wait I thought ISIS birthed in Syria not Iraq.   Also no mention of course that Baraq's removal of Americans out of Iraq left a void being filled by ISIS in the West of Iraq and Iran in the East of Iraq.  I suspect that ISIS would not have invaded Iraq if we had a real US force still there and Iran would not suddenly be a ally in the fight against them.   

****Monday, March 2, 2015 FULL SHOW | HEADLINES | PREVIOUS: Noam Chomsky: After Dangerous Proxy War, Keeping...

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Noam Chomsky, world-renowned political dissident, linguist and author. He is institute professor emeritus at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he has taught for more than 50 years. His forthcoming book, co-authored with Ilan Pappé, is titled On Palestine.

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Jan 21, 2015 | Story


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As Iraq launches a new military operation to retake the city of Tikrit from the self-proclaimed Islamic State, thousands of Iraqi forces and militia fighters have converged in the city Samarra to strike nearby ISIS strongholds. The United States is expected to provide air support as part of its continued bombing campaign. The offensive comes as the Iraqi military prepares for a major U.S.-backed operation to retake Mosul from ISIS in the coming weeks. ISIS "is one of the results of the United States hitting a very vulnerable society with a sledgehammer, which elicited sectarian conflicts that had not existed," says Noam Chomsky. "It is hard to see how Iraq can even be held together at this point. It has been devastated by U.S. sanctions, the war, the atrocities that followed from it. The current policy, whatever it is, is not very likely to even patch up or even put band-aids on a cancer."



Transcript


This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman, with Aaron Maté. Noam Chomsky is our guest for the hour, the world-renowned political dissident, linguist, author of over a hundred books, MIT professor emeritus. Aaron?

AARON MATÉ: Yes. Noam, I wanted to ask you about ISIS. The big news is that Iraq is planning a major offensive to retake Mosul. It’s currently launching strikes to recapture Tikrit with U.S. support. My question is about the effectiveness of the U.S. strategy. To what extent is the U.S. constrained by its own policies in terms of the effectiveness of defeating ISIS, constrains in terms of its ties to Saudi Arabia and its refusal to engage with Iran and groups like Hezbollah, which have been effective in fighting ISIS?

NOAM CHOMSKY: Patrick Cockburn, who has done by far the best reporting on this, describes it as an Alice in Wonderland strategy. The U.S. wants to destroy ISIS, but it’s opposing every force that’s fighting ISIS. So, the main state that’s opposed to ISIS is Iran. They support the Iraqi government, the Shiite government. But Iran is, you know, on our enemies list. Probably the main ground forces fighting ISIS are the PKK and its allies, which are on the U.S. terrorist list. That’s both in Iraq and in Syria. Saudi Arabia, our major ally, along with Israel, is both traditionally, for a long time, the main funder of ISIS and similar groups—not necessarily the government; rich Saudis, other people in the emirates—not only the funder, but they’re the ideological source. Saudi Arabia is committed, is dominated by an extremist fundamentalist version of Islam: Wahhabi doctrine. And ISIS is an extremist offshoot of the Wahhabi doctrine. Saudi Arabia is a missionary state. It establishes schools, mosques, spreading its radical Islamic version. So, they’re our ally. Our enemies are those who are fighting ISIS. And it’s more complex.

ISIS is a monstrosity. There’s not much doubt about that. It didn’t come from nowhere. It’s one of the results of the U.S. hitting a very vulnerable society—Iraq—with a sledgehammer, which elicited sectarian conflicts that had not existed. They became very violent. The U.S. violence made it worse. We’re all familiar with the crimes. Out of this came lots of violent, murderous forces. ISIS is one. But the Shiite militias are not that different. They’re carrying out—they’re the kind of the—when they say the Iraqi army is attacking, it’s probably mostly the Shiite militias with the Iraqi army in the background. I mean, the way the Iraqi army collapsed is an astonishing military fact. This is an army of, I think, 350,000 people, heavily armed by the United States and trained by the United States for 10 years. A couple of thousand guerrillas showed up, and they all ran away. The generals ran away first. And the soldiers didn’t know to do. They ran away after them.

AMY GOODMAN: We have 20 seconds.

NOAM CHOMSKY: Hmm?

AMY GOODMAN: We have 20 seconds.

NOAM CHOMSKY: Yeah. Well, now, it’s basically—the effect, it’s hard to see how Iraq can even be held together at this point. It’s been devastated by U.S. sanctions, the war, the atrocities that followed from it. The current policy, whatever it is, is not very likely to even patch up, put band-aids on the cancer.

AMY GOODMAN: We’re going to have to leave it there, but we’ll continue this discussion tomorrow on Democracy Now! Our guest, Noam Chomsky, institute professor emeritus of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology
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« Reply #584 on: March 05, 2015, 10:36:11 AM »



By George Friedman

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is visiting the United States this week to speak to Congress on March 3. The Obama administration is upset that Speaker of the House John Boehner invited Netanyahu without consulting with the White House and charged Boehner with political grandstanding. Netanyahu said he was coming to warn the United States of the threat of Iran. Israeli critics of Netanyahu charged that this was a play for public approval to improve his position in Israel's general election March 17. Boehner denied any political intent beyond getting to hear Netanyahu's views. The Obama administration claimed that the speech threatens the fabric of U.S.-Israeli relations.

Let us begin with the obvious. First, this is a speech, and it is unlikely that Netanyahu could say anything new on the subject of Iran, given that he never stops talking about it. Second, everyone involved is grandstanding. They are politicians, and that's what they do. Third, the idea that U.S.-Israeli relations can be shredded by a grandstanding speech is preposterous. If that's all it takes, relations are already shredded.

Speeches aside, there is no question that U.S.-Israeli relations have been changing substantially since the end of the Cold War, and that change, arrested for a while after 9/11, has created distance and tension between the countries. Netanyahu's speech is merely a symptom of the underlying reality. There are theatrics, there are personal animosities, but presidents and prime ministers come and go. What is important are the interests that bind or separate nations, and the interests of Israel and the United States have to some extent diverged. It is the divergence of interests we must focus on, particularly because there is a great deal of mythology around the U.S.-Israeli relationship created by advocates of a close relationship, opponents of the relationship, and foreign enemies of one or both countries.
Building the U.S.-Israeli Relationship

It is important to begin by understanding that the United States and Israel did not always have a close relationship. While the United States recognized Israel from the beginning, its relationship was cool until after the Six-Day War in 1967. When Israel, along with Britain and France, invaded Egypt in 1956, the United States demanded Israel's withdrawal from Sinai and Gaza, and the Israelis complied. The United States provided no aid for Israel except for food aid given through a U.N. program that served many nations. The United States was not hostile to Israel, nor did it regard its relationship as crucial.

This began to change before the 1967 conflict, after pro-Soviet coups in Syria and Iraq by Baathist parties. Responding to this threat, the United States created a belt of surface-to-air missiles stretching from Saudi Arabia to Jordan and Israel in 1965. This was the first military aid given to Israel, and it was intended to be part of a system to block Soviet power. Until 1967, Israel's weapons came primarily from France. Again, the United States had no objection to this relationship, nor was it a critical issue to Washington.

The Six-Day War changed this. After the conflict, the French, wanting to improve relations with the Arabs, cut off weapons sales to Israel. The United States saw Egypt become a Soviet naval and air base, along with Syria. This threatened the U.S. Sixth Fleet and other interests in the eastern Mediterranean. In particular, the United States was concerned about Turkey because the Bosporus in Soviet hands would open the door to a significant Soviet challenge in the Mediterranean and Southern Europe. Turkey was now threatened not only from the north but also from the south by Syria and Iraq. The Iranians, then U.S. allies, forced the Iraqis to face east rather than north. The Israelis forced the Syrians to focus south. Once the French pulled out of their relationship with Israel and the Soviets consolidated their positions in Egypt and Syria in the wake of the Six-Day War, the United States was forced into a different relationship with Israel.

It has been said that the 1967 war and later U.S. support for Israel triggered Arab anti-Americanism. It undoubtedly deepened anti-American sentiment among the Arabs, but it was not the trigger. Egypt became pro-Soviet in 1956 despite the U.S. intervention against Israel, while Syria and Iraq became pro-Soviet before the United States began sending military aid to Israel. But after 1967, the United States locked into a strategic relationship with Israel and became its primary source of military assistance. This support surged during the 1973 Arab-Israeli War, with U.S. assistance rising from roughly 5 percent of Israeli gross domestic product to more than 20 percent a year later.

The United States was strategically dependent on Israel to maintain a balance of power in the eastern Mediterranean. But even during this period, the United States had competing strategic interests. For example, as part of encouraging a strategic reversal into the U.S. camp after the 1973 war, the United States negotiated an Israeli withdrawal from Sinai that the Israelis were extremely reluctant to do but could not avoid under U.S. pressure. Similarly, U.S. President Ronald Reagan opposed an Israeli invasion of Lebanon that reached Beirut, and the initial U.S. intervention in Lebanon was not against Arab elements but intended to block Israel. There was a strategic dependence on Israel, but it was never a simple relationship.

The Israelis' national security requirements have always outstripped their resources. They had to have an outside patron. First it was the Soviets via Czechoslovakia, then France, then the United States. They could not afford to alienate the United States — the essential foundation of their national security — but neither could they simply comply with American wishes. For the United States, Israel was an important asset. It was far from the only important asset. The United States had to reconcile its support of Israel with its support of Saudi Arabia, as an example. Israel and the Saudis were part of an anti-Soviet coalition, but they had competing interests, shown when the United States sold airborne warning and control systems to the Saudis. The Israelis both needed the United States and chafed under the limitations Washington placed on them.
Post-Soviet Relations

The collapse of the Soviet Union destroyed the strategic foundation for the U.S.-Israeli relationship. There was no pressing reason to end it, but it began to evolve and diverge. The fall of the Soviet Union left Syria and Iraq without a patron. Egypt's U.S.-equipped army, separated from Israel by a demilitarized Sinai and token American peacekeepers, posed no threat. Jordan was a key ally of Israel. The United States began seeing the Mediterranean and Middle East in totally different ways. Israel, for the first time since its founding, didn't face any direct threat of attack. In addition, Israel's economy surged, and U.S. aid, although it remained steady, became far less important to Israel than it was. In 2012, U.S. assistance ($2.9 billion) accounted for just more than 1 percent of Israel's GDP.

Both countries had more room to maneuver than they'd had previously. They were no longer locked into a relationship with each other, and their relationship continued as much out of habit as out of interest. The United States had no interest in Israel creating settlements in the West Bank, but it wasn't interested enough in stopping them to risk rupturing the relationship. The Israelis were no longer so dependent on the United States that they couldn't risk its disapproval.

The United States and Israel drew together initially after 9/11. From the Israeli perspective, the attacks proved that the United States and Israel had a common interest against the Islamic world. The U.S. response evolved into a much more complex form, particularly as it became apparent that U.S. forces in Afghanistan and Iraq were not going to pacify either country. The United States needed a strategy that would prevent jihadist attacks on the homeland, and that meant intelligence cooperation not only with the Israelis but also with Islamic countries hostile to Israel. This was the old problem. Israel wanted the United States focused on Israel as its main partner, but the United States had much wider and more complex relations to deal with in the region that required a more nuanced approach.

This is the root of the divergence on Iran. From Israel's point of view, the Iranians pose an inherent threat regardless of how far along they are — or are not — with their nuclear program. Israel wants the United States aligned against Iran. Now, how close Tehran is to a nuclear weapon is an important question, but to Israel, however small the nuclear risk, it cannot be tolerated because Iran's ideology makes it an existential threat.
The Iran Problem

From the American perspective, the main question about Iran is, assuming it is a threat, can it be destroyed militarily? The Iranians are not fools. They observed the ease with which the Israelis destroyed the Iraqi nuclear reactor in 1981. They buried theirs deep underground. It is therefore not clear, regardless of how far along it is or what its purpose is, that the United States could destroy Iran's nuclear program from the air. It would require, at the very least, special operations on the ground, and failing that, military action beyond U.S. capabilities. Aside from the use of nuclear weapons, it is unclear that an attack on multiple hardened sites would work.

The Israelis are quite aware of these difficulties. Had it been possible to attack, and had the Israelis believed what they were saying, the Israelis would have attacked. The distances are great, but there are indications that countries closer to Iran and also interested in destroying Iran's nuclear program would have allowed the use of their territories. Yet the Israelis did not attack.

The American position is that, lacking a viable military option and uncertain as to the status of Iran's program, the only option is to induce Iran to curtail the program. Simply maintaining permanent sanctions does not end whatever program there is. Only an agreement with Iran trading the program for an end of sanctions would work. From the American point of view, the lack of a military option requires a negotiation. The Israeli position is that Iran cannot be trusted. The American position is that in that case, there are no options.

Behind this is a much deeper issue. Israel of course understands the American argument. What really frightens the Israelis is an emerging American strategy. Having failed to pacify Afghanistan or Iraq, the United States has come to the conclusion that wars of occupation are beyond American capacity. It is prepared to use air power and very limited ground forces in Iraq, for example. However, the United States does not see itself as having the option of bringing decisive force to bear.
An Intricate U.S. Strategy

Therefore, the United States has a double strategy emerging. The first layer is to keep its distance from major flare-ups in the region, providing support but making clear it will not be the one to take primary responsibility. As the situation on the ground deteriorates, the United States expects these conflicts to eventually compel regional powers to take responsibility. In the case of Syria and Iraq, for example, the chaos is on the border of Turkey. Let Turkey live with it, or let Turkey send its own troops in. If that happens, the United States will use limited force to support them. A similar dynamic is playing out with Jordan and the Gulf Cooperation Council states as Saudi Arabia tries to assume responsibility for Sunni Arab interests in the face of a U.S-Iranian entente. Importantly, this rapprochement with Iran is already happening against the Islamic State, which is an enemy of both the United States and Iran. I am not sure we would call what is happening collaboration, but there is certainly parallel play between Iran and the United States.

The second layer of this strategy is creating a balance of power. The United States wants regional powers to deal with issues that threaten their interests more than American interests. At the same time, the United States does not want any one country to dominate the region. Therefore, it is in the American interest to have multiple powers balancing each other. There are four such powers: Turkey, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Israel. Some collaborate, some are hostile, and some shift over time. The United States wants to get rid of Iran's weapons, but it does not want to shatter the country. It is part of a pattern of regional responsibility and balance.

This is the heart of Israel's problem. It has always been a pawn in U.S. strategy, but a vital pawn. In this emerging strategy, with multiple players balancing each other and the United States taking the minimum possible action to maintain the equilibrium, Israel finds itself in a complex relationship with three countries that it cannot be sure of managing by itself. By including Iran in this mix, the United States includes what Israel regards as an unpredictable element not solely because of the nuclear issue but because Iran's influence stretches to Syria and Lebanon and imposes costs and threats Israel wants to avoid.

This has nothing to do with the personalities of Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu. The United States has shown it cannot pacify countries with available forces. The definition of insanity is doing the same thing repeatedly and expecting a different outcome. If the United States is not involved on the ground in a conflict, then it becomes a problem for regional powers to handle. If the regional powers take the roles they must, they should balance against each other without a single regional hegemon emerging.

Israel does not want to be considered by the United States as one power among many. It is focused on the issue of a nuclear Iran, but it knows that there is no certainty that Iran's nuclear facilities can be destroyed or that sanctions will cause the Iranians to abandon the nuclear program. What Israel fears is an entente between the United States and Iran and a system of relations in which U.S. support will not be automatic.

So a speech will be made. Obama and Netanyahu are supposed to dislike each other. Politicians are going to be elected and jockey for power. All of this is true, and none of it matters. What does matter is that the United States, regardless of who is president, has to develop a new strategy in the region. This is the only option other than trying to occupy Syria and Iraq. Israel, regardless of who is prime minister, does not want to be left as part of this system while the United States maintains ties with all the other players along with Israel. Israel doesn't have the weight to block this strategy, and the United States has no alternative but to pursue it.

This isn't about Netanyahu and Obama, and both know it. It is about the reconfiguration of a region the United States cannot subdue and cannot leave. It is the essence of great power strategy: creating a balance of power in which the balancers are trapped into playing a role they don't want. It is not a perfect strategy, but it is the only one the United States has. Israel is not alone in not wanting this. Turkey, Iran and Saudi Arabia don't want it, either. But geopolitics is indifferent to wishes. It understands only imperatives and constraints.
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« Reply #585 on: March 07, 2015, 09:58:11 AM »

 The Battle for Tikrit Reveals Deeper Truths
Analysis
March 5, 2015 | 22:49 GMT
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Iraqi military and Shiite militia forces fire rockets March 2 in preparation of the assault on Tikrit. (YOUNIS AL-BAYATI/AFP/Getty Images)
Analysis

The ongoing offensive against Islamic State forces holding the Iraqi city of Tikrit in Saladin province is a crucial barometer for future operations. Instead of containing the city and then bypassing it to retake Mosul, military planners have decided to eliminate the Islamic State's presence there first. Aside from being known as the hometown of former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein, Tikrit is an important Sunni Arab stronghold on the highway linking Baghdad with Mosul.

Critical to the conduct of the battle, which began March 1, is the fact that Iran has taken the lead in supporting Iraqi forces as they expand into Sunni territory. Tehran has so far supplied rockets, military advisers and tactical intelligence in an effort to assume responsibility for an area it considers part of its sphere of influence. The United States, while not being overt in its approval, has not vociferously objected either, focusing its own airpower for the time being on other areas held by the Islamic State.

The Iraqi army, recovering from its collapse last year, is making gains in rural areas east of Tikrit, having established a blocking position to the west. By capturing the suburbs of al-Dawr to the south and al-Alam to the north, Islamic State fighters have increasingly been forced to fall back to the city. In an attempt to slow advancing forces and disrupt airstrikes from Iraqi fixed-wing aircraft and attack helicopters, the militants set fire to the Ajil oil field, creating massive clouds of smoke.

Reports indicate that Iraqi attempts to lock down Tikrit have not been successful, with Islamic State fighters still possessing limited freedom of movement. Sources on the ground claim that elements of the Islamic State leadership in Tikrit have already fled the city. Although it is unlikely that the Islamic State would relinquish its grip on Tikrit without extracting a cost on the attacking forces, the exodus of ground commanders could indicate an expectation that the city will fall. Additional reports, however, suggest that Islamic State forces have abandoned Qayyarah Air Base, south of Mosul, to free up reinforcements for Tikrit. This would indicate the militant group is prepared to stand its ground, or in the worst case, counter attack in force.

Battlefield Attrition

Improvised explosive devices and sniper fire are slowing Baghdad's forces as well as anti-Islamic State militias. A roadside bomb in the southern al-Dawr district killed the commander of the Shiite militia League of Righteousness on March 4, along with his bodyguard. Other pro-Iraqi government forces discovered a bomb-making factory in the Naoura district, recovering some 40 explosive devices ready for use.

After tightening the perimeter, about 30,000 Iraqi soldiers and Shiite militia fighters will attack the city with air cover from rotary and fixed-wing aircraft. Fighting in the urban environment will be costlier for the military because the built-up terrain gives the defending Islamic State forces a significant advantage. An estimated 28,000 civilians have already fled the city in anticipation of the coming assault.

A key thing to watch over the coming days and weeks is how the Iraqi military, their Iranian advisers, Shiite militias and Sunni Arabs share the same space. Sunni tribes have been reluctant to join the fight against the Islamic State, though some small elements are helping. The tribes are seen as crucial allies in the fight against the militants. However, perceived injustices by Shiite fighters could exacerbate the sectarian tensions that led to the Islamic State's rise, even pushing the broad Sunni community to overtly support or even join with the militants. The Iraqi air force has already begun dropping leaflets urging civilians to cooperate with Baghdad's forces.

The Tikrit offensive will serve as an indicator of how the Iraqi military will likely fare when it comes to retaking Mosul later in the year. An urban assault will expose any weaknesses in tactics, techniques and procedures, as well as overarching command and control in the urban battle space. The general principals to retake Tikrit are similar to what will be needed to retake Mosul. The two cities have similar combat environments, just on different scales. Suffering heavy casualties or running into problems could force the Iraqi military and its Iranian overseers to further delay any assault on Mosul, though support from the peshmerga and possibly even the United States adds further weight to the far-northern offensive to come. 
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« Reply #586 on: March 09, 2015, 09:18:52 AM »

Splits in Islamic State Emerge as Its Ranks Expand
Defectors say discord is mounting in extremist group over pay disparities, battlefield setbacks and corruption
In this photo taken June 23, 2014, Islamic State fighters parade in a commandeered Iraqi security forces armored vehicle on the main road in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul. ENLARGE
In this photo taken June 23, 2014, Islamic State fighters parade in a commandeered Iraqi security forces armored vehicle on the main road in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul. Photo: Associated Press
By
Maria Abi-Habib
March 9, 2015 9:25 a.m. ET
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BEIRUT—Islamic State is struggling to maintain unity and discipline in the face of corruption, ideological differences and defections that have mounted along with the expansion of its ranks and cash coffers.

Interviews with four recent Islamic State defectors and civilians living in areas the group controls in Syria and Iraq portray an organization with growing pains as it works to accommodate an expanding number of fighters, who bring a multitude of motivations, ideologies and levels of experience.

While some of the discord within the group stems from the extremist group’s rapid rise from an al Qaeda offshoot to the world’s wealthiest jihadist organization, many of the tensions come from the higher salaries and better lodgings given to foreigners recruited to fight alongside locals. The accounts of the growing fissures are consistent with information provided by U.S. and European officials and analysts tracking Islamic State.
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The Paris attacks on Charlie Hebdo in January have put new focus on recent terrorist propaganda, which features no shortage of jihadists claiming to be from France.

“The Syrian fighters feel they’ve been treated unjustly in comparison to the foreign fighters,” said a Syrian who cited this favoritism and the “un-Islamic” levels of brutality meted out to civilians as the reasons for his defection in December.

Islamic State continues to portray its fighters as unified and ready to confront U.S. and Iraqi forces in battles in Iraq while maintaining its grip on Syrian territory as new recruits continue to bolster its ranks. It also continues to draw followers, most notably with Saturday’s pledge of loyalty to the group by Boko Haram, whose fighters have terrorized northeastern Nigeria.

This support, however, hasn’t stopped potentially decisive splits forming in the hard-line ideology that forms the backbone of the group.

When Islamic State captured Jordanian air-force pilot First Lt. Muath al-Kasasbeh in December, for example, there were disagreements over his fate. Some members of the group’s Shura council, which dispenses religious guidance, insisted he be ransomed or exchanged in a prisoner swap, saying burning him alive had no precedent in Islamic texts, one defector said.

Eventually, Lt. Kasasbeh was placed in a black steel cage, doused with gasoline and set alight. The move not only dismayed some members of Islamic State but damaged the organization’s reputation among members of rival jihadist groups it is attempting to co-opt, according another defector.

Recent battlefield setbacks have made the formidable group more fragile and less cohesive than at any time in its history, said Hassan Hassan, a Middle East analyst and co-author of a recently published book about Islamic State. The group’s loss of the Syrian city of Kobani to Kurdish fighters in late January sapped morale and spurred desertions, the defectors and Mr. Hassan said.

Iraqi and Iranian forces launched an offensive last week to recapture the Iraqi city of Tikrit from Islamic State forces. If the operation succeeds, deepening dissent could deal another blow to the group’s prestige and pave the way for a U.S.-backed Iraqi assault to seize back control of Mosul, the country’s second-largest city, that Islamic State seized in June.

The Islamist group’s blitz through Syria and Iraq last summer drew recruits from across the world. According to U.S. intelligence estimates, Islamic State has 20,000 foreigners representing some 90 countries, along with about 18,000 Syrians and Iraqis, making it the biggest Arab jihadist group.

In signs of further ideological divisions, Islamic State said in December it had arrested members of an extremist cell who were plotting a coup against the organization’s leaders.

Before executing them, it released videotaped confessions in which the defectors denounced Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, blaming him for tolerating secular Muslims for the sake of the tax proceeds they provided. One of the men charged with subversion branded Mr. Baghdadi an infidel. In the video, the accused charged with deviating from God.

Islamic State hard-liners eager to expand the group’s self-proclaimed caliphate have clashed with recent enlistees from the more secular Free Syrian Army, according to the defectors. The hard-liners worry that the group is selling out its ideology by absorbing hundreds of these fighters, whose main goal is to overthrow Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and whose moderate religious views they deem heretical.

The group also faces problems managing cash as its ranks and operations expand, with more emirs, or princes, directing various governmental departments across Islamic State provinces and reporting to Mr. Baghdadi. Oil sales, extortion, looting, kidnapping for ransom and donations are generating as much as $5 million in proceeds each day, U.S. officials say, all of which Islamic State needs to govern the territory it has conquered. That, in turn, has led to corruption.

In February, two Egyptians overseeing Syria’s Deir Ezzour province for Islamic State fled with thousands of dollars of the group’s funds, including profit from al Omar oil field, the country’s largest, said residents of the province. The head of Islamic State’s religious police in the eastern Syrian city of Raqqa, the group’s de facto capital, stole thousands of dollars from the organization’s coffers before fleeing to Turkey in January, said area residents. Mr. Hassan, the analyst, said he also had evidence of growing graft within the group.
Smoke rises as Iraqi security forces and Shiite fighters clash with Islamic State militants at the town of Tal Ksaiba, near Al-Alam, on Saturday. Iraqi security forces and Shi'ite militia fighters are trying to advance into the towns of al-Alam and al-Dour near Tikrit. ENLARGE
Smoke rises as Iraqi security forces and Shiite fighters clash with Islamic State militants at the town of Tal Ksaiba, near Al-Alam, on Saturday. Iraqi security forces and Shi'ite militia fighters are trying to advance into the towns of al-Alam and al-Dour near Tikrit. Photo: Reuters

U.S.-led airstrikes on oil facilities, along with declining energy prices, have diminished Islamic State’s resources, according to a February report by the Financial Action Task Force, a Paris-based intergovernmental body.

More controversial still are differences in pay and distribution of war booty, part of efforts to lure more recruits from abroad. Foreign recruits are earning monthly salaries of $800, while Syrian fighters are drawing $400, the defectors said. Fighters from abroad are awarded the choicest properties confiscated by the group, while the Syrians are given humbler quarters.

Compounding this resentment that has led to a large increase in defections in recent months is what the Syrian members of Islamic State view as the poor combat performance by foreign fighters, as well as their refusal to serve long stints in the battlefield, as the U.S.-led military coalition pounds the group’s positions from the air.

Some of the foreigners who have flocked to Syria to join Islamic State are reluctant to fight at all, said a defector and a European official who monitors the movement of his country’s citizens in and out of the region. As an alternative, some seek to join the vice-and-virtue squads that enforce the group’s hard-line behavioral and dress codes.

“Some of these fighters go to Syria to live off the welfare of Islamic State—get a house, a wife in exchange for some lowly [bureaucratic] position. But now they’re being asked to fight, and they don’t always want to,” the official said.

Civilians living Raqqa say the group’s forces that patrol the city’s streets are demanding that foreign fighters produce papers from their commanders proving their leaves are authorized.

The choices facing disgruntled foreign fighters for Islamic State are limited, however. Foreign members from the West and the Middle East are unable to go home, as governments increasingly strip them of their citizenship or jail them upon their return.

Besides growing friction between Islamic State’s foreign and local fighters, the organization also faces a crisis in morale, precipitated mainly by the loss of Kobani in January after a four-month battle for control of the Syrian border city. Some militants were angered by the hundreds of deaths the group suffered in trying to retain control of a city they believed had little strategic significance, according to civilians living in Raqqa and defectors.

During the Kobani campaign, summary punishment was meted out to those who refused to fight. Some 60 fighters were executed in January after they retreated from advancing Kurdish forces in Tal Abyad, near Kobani, said a Syrian defector, citing accounts from members of the group with whom he is still in contact. Those executions came after reports by antigovernment activists that another 100 foreign fighters were killed for fleeing the Kobani battlefield in December.

Rival jihadist groups such as al Nusra, al Qaeda’s Syria branch, and Ahrar al Sham are exploiting Islamic State’s internal quarreling helping its disillusioned or exhausted fighters flee and join their ranks.

One former Islamic State fighter said he was jailed after he protested the group’s brutal treatment of civilians. After returning to the battlefield, he deserted with the logistical help of Ahrar al Sham.

“Islamic State is the most afraid of these defections,” he said.

—Mohammed Nour Alakraa in Beirut contributed to this article.

Write to Maria Abi-Habib at maria.habib@wsj.com
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« Reply #587 on: March 09, 2015, 09:48:38 PM »


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Saudi-Pakistani Cooperation Could Be Growing
Geopolitical Diary
March 9, 2015 | 23:38 GMT
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Last Wednesday, Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif arrived in Saudi Arabia. Saudi King Salman met him at the airport. The Saudi king typically meets only the most distinguished visitors at the airport, so this was an early sign that this visit was somewhat more significant than most. It was enough to cause us to wonder about the significance.

A short time later, a spate of news stories beginning with Pakistan's Express Tribune, which claimed to have heard this from contacts in the Pakistani government, reported that the Saudis were requesting an infusion of Pakistani troops to protect the kingdom. The request is not quite as remarkable as it might appear. Pakistani troops were deployed in Saudi Arabia in 1979 during the rise of Ayatollah Khomeini's Islamic republic. Troops were also stationed there during Desert Storm, and smaller numbers have been present in the kingdom from time to time. However, the recent rumors about the Saudi request have become both more detailed and less believable, with claims that the Saudis had requested both Egyptian and Turkish troops to guard the border.

What is a Geopolitical Diary? George Friedman Explains.

There has been no official comment from Saudi Arabia and some upper-midlevel denial from Pakistan. According to a separate source in the initial report, the Saudis offered Pakistan shipments of oil on deferred and discounted payment terms. What is certain is that last week's meetings came after a long string of high-level meetings, including meetings with Sharif, whom the Saudis protected when Pervez Musharraf's regime regarded him as an enemy. So we know that the Saudis have asked for and gotten Pakistani troops before, and we know that Sharif, of all Pakistani prime ministers, would be the most inclined to support the Saudi government. And we know that in spite of the wide repetition and enhancement of the initial report, neither the Saudi nor the Pakistani government has issued a definitive denial.

We also know that the Saudis have good reason to be worried about their security. The Islamic State is entrenched in both Iraq and Syria, and the Saudis are concerned about supporters of the group within the kingdom. The Islamic State is highly unpredictable, and the Saudis could feel that their own military may not be sufficient to manage the threat. In addition, a civil war is raging in Yemen, along Saudi Arabia's southern border. Not only could that spill over into Saudi Arabia, but also the Saudis are trying to manage the crisis, supporting a two-state solution there. They might want Pakistani troops to add weight to their diplomacy. Both of these are sufficient reasons to ask for help.

But the greatest reason is the growing relationship between the United States and Iran. Leaving aside the nuclear negotiations, which are inching forward and certainly not collapsing, the United States and Iran have similar interests in Iraq: Both want to break the Islamic State. The Saudis also want this as well, but they are appalled that what might replace the group is some sort of joint U.S.-Iranian management of Iraq.

As we have said before, the United States wants to limit its direct involvement in regional conflicts and replace it with support for regional powers that have no choice but to become involved. These are wildly different nations, including Turkey, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Israel. The Saudis have bad memories of Ottoman oppression and a fear of Shiite Iran. They have a complex and multilayered relationship with Israel. The United States used to be the guarantor of Saudi national security. In its new role, Saudi Arabia is only one of a constellation of countries in which the United States is involved.

Of all these countries, the one that concerns Saudi Arabia the most is Iran. It is the closest. It has a history of covert interference in Saudi Arabia, and given the convergence of Iranian and U.S. interests, it might well wind up in a favored position in the region. It is a risk that the Saudis cannot accept. Turning to Pakistan gives the Saudis more military and security weight. And it does not hurt that Pakistan is a nuclear power; although the use of nuclear weapons by Pakistan is extraordinarily unlikely, the possibility could still give Iran and other countries in the region pause.

Saudi Arabia, the weakest among the other major regional powers, needs more weight and needs to give the others pause, and the Saudis wouldn't mind the United States wondering at what they are doing. Asking the Pakistanis to resume a role they played in the past — guarantors of the Saudi regime internally, and of Saudi Arabia's borders externally — makes a great deal of sense, and given Sharif's relationship with the Saudis, it is logical. Whether this strategy extends to requests to Egypt and Turkey is dubious for several reasons, not the least of which is that neither is likely to agree to it.

We have long spoken about the shift in how this region works. Even if nothing comes of it immediately, we are seeing moves by the Saudis to try to cope with the new reality. As the patterns change, the region will respond. This is not really a radical move. Other developments could be more surprising, like the Iranians and Americans collaborating against the Islamic State.
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« Reply #588 on: March 14, 2015, 12:20:12 PM »

WASHINGTON — The Islamic State is facing growing dissension among its rank-and-file fighters and struggling to govern towns and villages it has seized, but the militant Sunni group is still managing to launch attacks and expand its ideological reach outside of Iraq and Syria, senior American officials said.

In the seven months since allied warplanes in the American-led air campaign began bombing select Islamic State targets, the Sunni militancy, while marginally weaker, has held its own, senior defense and intelligence officials said.

Even after the Islamic State lost much of the central Iraqi city of Tikrit following more than a week of fierce fighting, Pentagon officials warned that it would be as difficult for Iraqi forces to hold the city as it was to liberate it. The Islamic State fighters were in the meantime mounting one of the fiercest assaults in months in the city of Ramadi, west of Baghdad.

But tensions have become apparent inside the Islamic State, also known as ISIS, ISIL and Daesh. The troubles stem from new military and financial pressures and from the growing pains of a largely decentralized organization trying to hold together what it views as a nascent state while integrating thousands of foreign fighters with Iraqi and Syrian militants.


The tensions were described in recent interviews with a Syrian fighter who recently defected from the group and an Islamic State recruiter who still works with the group but is critical of some of its practices. The troubles were consistent with accounts from residents of areas that the Islamic State controls and from interviews with numerous Syrian activists who oppose both the Islamic State and the Syrian government. Those activists have recently fled from those areas but maintain extensive contacts there.

There are reports of dozens of executions and imprisonments of Islamic State fighters trying to flee the group. There are strains in fighting on multiple fronts, with some fighters being deployed to battles that, they complain, are not strategically important.

There are complaints about salaries and living conditions, disputes over money and business opportunities, and allegations that commanders have left with looted cash and other resources. And there is growing anecdotal evidence that some members of the group — particularly locals who may have joined out of opportunism or a sense that it was the best way to survive — have been repulsed by its extreme violence.

“I still feel sick,” Abu Khadija, the Syrian defector, said recently after witnessing what he said were the beheadings of 38 Kurdish and Alawite war prisoners by Islamic State fighters in Yaroubiyeh, a Syrian town on the Iraqi border. Abu Khadija asked to be identified only by his nickname for his safety.


Despite such accounts, Gen. Lloyd J. Austin III, the head of United States Central Command, said the battle against the Islamic State was nowhere near won. Although General Austin told the House Armed Services Committee last week that airstrikes had killed more than 8,500 militants, eliminated the group’s primary source of oil revenue and hurt the ability of its leaders to command and control its troops, Pentagon and counterterrorism officials said the militant group was increasingly dangerous through new affiliates in Afghanistan, Algeria, Egypt and Libya. Boko Haram, the Islamic militancy in Nigeria, became the latest group to swear allegiance last Saturday.
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So far the self-declared caliphate has lost only about 20 percent of the territory it seized in Iraq — most of it in the north, to Kurdish pesh merga troops who have been supported by the United States, the Iraqi government and Iran, a senior defense official said. The main areas it has lost — most of Tikrit, territory southwest of Baghdad, some of the areas to the north of the Iraqi capital and the Kurdish city of Kobani in Syria — have been the focus of the overwhelming allied air campaign.

“Other than that, we’re basically looking at what we had before,” said Jessica Lewis McFate, research director with the Institute for the Study of War. “Their numbers are reduced, but their foreign fighter flows are still robust.”

Obama administration officials also said they faced major challenges in countering the Islamic State’s propaganda machine, which pumps out as many as 90,000 Twitter messages and other social media communications every day, and is attracting about 1,000 foreign fighters a month from across Europe, North Africa, the Middle East and the United States.

“ISIL is well-armed and well-financed,” John O. Brennan, the C.I.A. director, said in a speech Friday at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York. “ISIL will not be rolled back overnight.”

Despite the air superiority that the American coalition commands in the skies above Iraq, in late January hundreds of Islamic State gunmen mobilized an attack on Kirkuk, the oil-rich Kurdish city that thus far has been protected by pesh merga forces. Militants temporarily seized an abandoned hotel that the local police had used as their headquarters, suicide bombers detonated their explosives to keep Kurdish forces at bay and militants took over an area southwest of Kirkuk after heavy clashes with Kurdish forces.

Although the Kirkuk attack was ultimately unsuccessful, the group still has control of the largest territory ever held by a terrorist group, Nicholas Rasmussen, the director of the National Counterterrorism Center, told a Senate committee last month. “This safe haven provides ISIL and other extremists with the time and space they need to train fighters and to plan operations,” Mr. Rasmussen said.

Abu Khadija, the defector who witnessed the 38 beheadings, said he was trying to get into Turkey, despite knowing that Islamic State militants might kill him if they caught him. He said he could not forget the beheadings.
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“I can’t eat, I feel I want to throw up, I hate myself,” he said, adding that the executioners had argued over who would wield the knives and finally settled the issue by lottery. “Honestly, I will never do it. I can kill a man in battle, but I can’t cut a human being’s head with a knife or a sword.”

During nearly a year in contact with New York Times reporters, Abu Khadija expressed gradually growing discontent. His grievances ranged from relatively mundane issues like eating canned food and being deployed to a front line far from his family because of a lack of fighters, to discomfort with the group’s strategic priorities and its extreme violence.

Such defections, according to an increasing number of reports, are not isolated cases. In Iraq on Monday, residents of the northern town of Hawija, requesting anonymity for their safety, said that dozens of Islamic State fighters were executed by their comrades for trying to flee the front as the group came under attack from Kurdish pesh merga forces.

Over all, there has always been mistrust between Syrians and foreigners in the Islamic State, said Omar Abu Layla, a longtime activist in Deir al-Zour who is now in Germany and tracks jihadist groups through contacts back home, and uses a nom de guerre for his contacts’ safety.

Islamic State foreign fighters, known as muhajireen, dominate the group’s military leadership and administrative bureaucracy, according to Mr. Abu Layla. “The mistrust was obvious from the beginning,” he said. “They never trusted the locals.”
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« Reply #589 on: March 16, 2015, 10:40:07 AM »

This can't be!  Bush lied when he said there was no WMD!


The Kurdistan Regional Government in Iraq announced on Saturday that it has evidence that the Islamic State used chlorine gas in a suicide bomb attack on January 23 between Mosul and the Iraq-Syria border. Kurdish officials said that lab tests showed traces of chlorine, though these tests have not been independently corroborated. Iraqi forces in Tikrit have found chlorine in Islamic State facilities, which they believe were being used in weapons. The Islamic State has been accused of using chlorine before, but this would be the first time it has been proven to have used chemical weapons.

The announcement comes as Kurdish Peshmerga make new gains against the Islamic State and Iraqi forces continue their offensive to retake the city of Tikrit. The battle in Tikrit is currently stalled as the Iraqi Security Forces await reinforcements and to allow civilians to leave the city, security officials have told reporters.
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« Reply #590 on: March 16, 2015, 07:51:32 PM »

WTF?!?   cool cool cool

http://www.newsweek.com/iran-and-hezbollah-omitted-us-terror-threat-list-amid-nuclear-talks-314073

Edited to add that I meant to click on  angry angry angry
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« Reply #591 on: March 17, 2015, 06:57:50 AM »


Waiting to add the US and Israel.
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« Reply #592 on: March 22, 2015, 08:11:46 PM »

After reading this one can only think Saudies are *already* looking into nucs behind the scenes.

http://www.fool.com/investing/general/2015/03/22/can-you-guess-which-country-is-stockpiling-65-bill.aspx
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« Reply #593 on: April 02, 2015, 07:19:26 PM »



http://blogs.timesofisrael.com/is-turkey-behind-isis/
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« Reply #594 on: April 06, 2015, 04:51:57 PM »

http://freedomjournalism.com/2015/04/05/isis-caliphate-struggling-with-flesh-eating-microbe-epidemic-karma/
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« Reply #595 on: April 12, 2015, 10:32:47 AM »

Normally we would riff about another secret reader of this forum, but I think the Special Operations Forces probably came up with this on their own grin

http://sofrep.com/38783/independent-kurdistan-pays-pick-winner/

http://sofrep.com/36481/rumint-kurds-seeking-establish-state/

I just signed up to this source for $5 a month.  At the URLs posted above you can see the first few paragraphs for free.  Here is the second article in its entirety



In a fragmented Iraq, civil war is in fashion and the only shimmer of hope for stability in the region is coming from the north in Kurdistan.

Today SOFREP has heard RUMINT from several sources that Kurdistan is not only taking ground, they are preparing to announce their own statehood.

“The American air support encouraged the Kurdish militiamen to reverse the momentum of the recent fighting and retake Gwer and the other town, Mahmour, both within a half-hour’s drive of Erbil, according to Gen. Helgurd Hikmet, head of the pesh merga’s media office. General Hikmet said some pesh merga fighters had pushed on beyond the two towns, which lie on the frontier between the Arab and Kurdish areas of Iraq.” -NY Times

I had an opportunity to spend some time in the region in with winter of 2006. The one thing that became clear to me from my experience in Sulaymaniyahwas that Kurdistan has their act together, a stark comparison to the rest of the country. In the back of my mind I’ve always thought that the Kurds should have their independence, they’ve been fiercely loyal to America, and I don’t know anyone who’s served in the north of Iraq who wouldn’t think this a good idea.

“Further destabilization rocked Iraq on Sunday as Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki accused President Fouad Massoum of engaging in a “coup” by failing to choose a new prime minister by an Sunday’s deadline.

In a last-minute bid to cling to power, Mr. al-Maliki declared the inaction to be “a clear constitutional violation” and said he planned to file a legal complaint against Mr. Massoum, who was named the new president in late July.

“This attitude represents a coup on the constitution and the political process in a country that is governed by a democratic and federal system,” Mr. al-Maliki said in a surprise address on Iraqi TV.” -Washington Times

Time will only tell if rumor becomes fact. The one thing we can count on, is that anything is possible in the current environment.

We’ll have more updates ASAP.
kurdistan_map

(Main image courtesy of Wikipedia.)

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We link to other websites if we find their content compelling. We also link to relevant products on Amazon.com as affiliates. The money we earn from Amazon helps keep the beer cold and the lights on.
About the Author

Brandon Webb is a former U.S. Navy SEAL with combat deployments to Afghanistan, and Iraq. During his last tour he served as the west coast sniper Course Manager at the Naval Special Warfare Center. He is Editor-in-Chief of SpecialOperations.com, a SOFREP contributing editor, and a New York Times best selling author (The Red Circle & Benghazi: The Definitive Report). Follow Brandon on Facebook, Twitter or his website.

Read more: http://sofrep.com//sofrep.com/36481/rumint-kurds-seeking-establish-state/#ixzz3X6qihHwp
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« Reply #596 on: April 12, 2015, 01:35:41 PM »



Here the WSJ takes on an idea I have raised here a number of times:

http://www.wsj.com/articles/would-new-borders-mean-less-conflict-in-the-middle-east-1428680793
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« Reply #597 on: April 12, 2015, 02:16:54 PM »



 The Limits of Iranian Expansion
Geopolitical Diary
April 9, 2015 | 23:54 GMT
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It is easy to look at the fight in Yemen as yet another sectarian proxy battle in the region. Saudi Arabia is fighting Iran-backed rebels and Iranian warships are seemingly facing off against the Saudi navy, which is blockading Yemen's ports. And with the number of security incidents picking up inside the Saudi kingdom, many are questioning whether a more assertive Saudi role in the region could end up bringing more trouble, potentially affecting Saudi Arabia's mostly Shiite oil-rich Eastern Province. A more careful look at Iranian capabilities, however, may reveal a less alarming picture.

First, the framing of the conflict as a sectarian one is a bit of an exaggeration. Yemen has long been fighting with itself. Factions such as the Houthis have taken advantage of a power struggle in Sanaa. Al Qaeda, southern separatists and various tribal factions, meanwhile, are playing various sides. Even Yemen's southern separatists have admitted to receiving Iranian financial support and military training in summer 2013. By framing the war in Yemen as a battle against an Iranian bid for regional hegemony, Riyadh can play on emotions to galvanize a Sunni coalition to fight back.

Iran has played an unclear but minor role in supplying Houthi rebels in Yemen, but with a Saudi-led blockade now in effect, that becomes much more difficult. Iran is also trying to flex its muscles by making a media splash out of the routine rotation of a naval group to the Gulf of Aden. But Iran is not about to enter a losing naval battle with Saudi and Egyptian naval forces in the Bab el-Mandeb strait. While Riyadh projects power from the Arabian Peninsula, it is simply too much of a reach for the small Iranian navy deployment operating far outside the umbrella of Iranian air cover.

What is a Geopolitical Diary? George Friedman Explains.

Second, Iran's reach into the Saudi kingdom is also minimal. A gunbattle in the eastern Saudi city of al-Awamiya on April 5 that ended with one Saudi policeman dead and three others wounded raised alarm that Iran could be stirring the embers of unrest. Sporadic attacks, usually involving small groups of gunmen ambushing security checkpoints, have occurred in Saudi Arabia's Eastern Province over the past couple of years. But we have not seen any enhancement of the capabilities and organization of Shiite activists challenging Saudi authorities. As evidenced by the police raid and the militants' continued reliance on light arms, Saudi Arabia has kept a close watch on Eastern Province for good reason. Moreover, Riyadh appears to have been quite successful in preventing outside material support from reaching rebels in the interior.

At most, Iran is able to encourage Shiite militant activity, primarily through religious conduits in Beirut and Bahrain who go between Iranian intelligence and Saudi Shiite community leaders. As much as Iran would like to build up a fifth column in the Saudi kingdom, Saudi Arabia still appears capable of containing low-level unrest in the east to protect its oil wealth.

To be sure, a U.S.-Iranian rapprochement will help rehabilitate Iran's economy, enabling Tehran to project influence in the region. Consequently, Sunni powers are ramping up efforts to curb Iran's ambitions. But Iran's recovery should not be mistaken for a rapid expansion of power. Iran's power began peaking with the fall of Saddam Hussein in Iraq and declined again when the civil war in Syria gained momentum. Tehran is now struggling to sustain its allies in Baghdad and Damascus. With Turkey and Saudi Arabia striving to fill a void left by the United States, Iran will try to preserve its gains rather than opening new fronts.
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« Reply #598 on: April 14, 2015, 09:15:13 AM »

Middle East Christians Trapped by Islamist Extremists Forge Alliances With Former Foes
Without the protection of functioning states, many Christians face difficult choices

On Palm Sunday, Christians in the Lebanese village of Al-Qaa depended on army troops to shield them from nearby ISIS militants. Another source of protection: Shiite militants in Hezbollah, which backs their decade-long enemy, the Syrian regime.
By
Sam Dagher
April 13, 2015 10:34 p.m. ET
33 COMMENTS

AL-QAA, Lebanon—Three decades ago, plainclothes Syrian agents went door to door in this border village seeking out young Christian men, who were abducted and killed in a notorious chapter of Lebanon’s 15-year civil war.

The village’s nearly 2,000 Christians now find themselves siding with the same Syrian regime they blame for what many call the 1978 massacre.

That is because a few miles away, hundreds of Islamist extremists tied to al Qaeda and Islamic State stalk the porous border region separating Lebanon and Syria. Standing between the militants and the village are Lebanese troops aided by the Iran-backed Lebanese Shiite militia Hezbollah, whose men are also fighting for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

“Yes, I prefer the Syrian regime over these terrorist groups,” a 45-year-old Al-Qaa resident said, but it is a choice “between the bitter and more bitter.”

Here and throughout the Middle East, many Christians, under attack and without the protection of functioning states, face difficult choices amid the region’s roiling sectarian conflicts.

Some are taking sides, others are taking up arms. In Iraq and Syria, for example, Christians fight alongside Kurds against Islamic State, even though some Christians accuse the Kurds of seeking to one day incorporate them and their land into Kurdish-controlled territories.

While both Christians and Muslims suffer from the violent extremism engulfing the region, the stakes and consequences differ, said the Rev. Fadi Daou, a Lebanese Maronite Catholic priest and professor of Christian theology.

In Lebanon and Iraq, Shiite Muslims rely on Hezbollah and other militias backed by Iran. Sunni Muslims, while threatened by the Shiite forces, constitute the region’s majority and are backed by insurgents, Father Daou said.

Christians in Lebanon, meanwhile—long viewed as the region’s most empowered and assertive—“are 10 times weaker than they were in 1975,” said Father Daou, who is also chairman of Adyan, a Western-backed organization that promotes cultural and religious diversity across the Middle East.

Lebanon’s symbolic post of president, which must be occupied by a Christian in accordance with the country’s sectarian power-sharing system, has been vacant for nearly a year.

Few Christians in Lebanon, Father Daou said, believe they can repeat what they did at the onset of the Lebanese civil war 40 years ago when they organized themselves into militias to battle armed Muslims.

With the government barely functioning, Christians here see few options: They can emigrate; depend on Hezbollah for protection; or simply pray that regional and world powers will prop up Lebanon’s armed forces and shield the country from falling into sectarian war.

Next to Al-Qaa, in the village of Ras Baalbek, a Christian commander of the Resistance Brigades, a Hezbollah-affiliated unit made up largely of non-Shiites, is rallying residents to take up arms against Sunni extremists because, he said, the army alone can’t protect local Christians.

In early August, the Lebanese army arrested a Syrian Islamist rebel leader tied to Islamic State on the outskirts of Arsal, a predominantly Sunni town near Al-Qaa and Ras Baalbek. Islamist militants then stormed Arsal and nearly 150 people died in the battle with army troops. Militants abducted Lebanese soldiers and security forces. Eventually, eight were released and four killed, two by decapitation. The army sent reinforcements and the skirmishes continue.
ENLARGE

“The entire world knows that Lebanese army posts collapsed during the so-called Arsal raid by militants,” the bearded Christian commander said. “So it’s my natural right to make alternate arrangements.”

The Lebanese Army chief, Gen. Jean Kahwaji, said last month that his troops, with the help of the U.S. and other countries, were capable of protecting the country from militants.

Following the demise of the Ottoman Empire at the end of World War I, the French carved out the State of Greater Lebanon in the Levant, envisioning it as a haven for Christians. The idea of Christians needing the West’s protection lingered after the country gained independence in 1943.

Some Christians in the Middle East, particularly church leaders, believe secular, authoritarian-ruled states offer the best protection. They say regions beset by tribalism and prone to Islamic fundamentalism are ill-prepared for Western-style democracy.

“We do not need lectures from the U.S. about democracy and morality,” said Ignatius Youssef Younan III, Patriarch of Antioch for the Syriac Catholic Church. He favors democratic reform in Syria but not Mr. Assad’s removal.

Many Christians in Egypt, home to the largest Christian population in the Middle East, have embraced the military coup led by Gen. Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi, now president, saying they felt threatened by the Muslim Brotherhood-led government of Mr. Sisi’s predecessor, Mohammed Morsi.

Pope Tawadros II, spiritual leader of Egypt’s Coptic Christians, had urged followers last year to vote for Mr. Sisi, calling him the country’s savior.

Vivian Fouad, former director of the Cairo-based Coptic Center for Social Studies, said most Copts supported Mr. Sisi. But many resented their pope’s foray into politics, she said: “Our best protection is active participation in the rebuilding of Egyptian political life and civil society.”

On Palm Sunday last month, Lebanese soldiers stood guard in front of the Mar Elias Catholic church in Al-Qaa, as families dressed in their finest walked behind a priest, and children carried palm branches in the traditional procession that marked the start of Easter week. Orthodox Christians celebrated Easter on Sunday.

Antoun and Therese Nasrallah, who brought their four children to church for Palm Sunday, are among the Lebanese Christians who fear an attack by Islamist militants.

Mr. Nasrallah has an AK-47 assault rifle at home and his wife keeps a hunting rifle close. “People will fight until the very end if they have to,” she said.

At night, Mr. Nasrallah goes on patrol with other villagers, including those loyal to the Syrian regime and Hezbollah. They face a common enemy but the alliance is difficult for Mr. Nasrallah, he said.
ENLARGE

Mr. Nasrallah, 44 years old, was a child when Syrian agents arrested his three uncles, who were schoolteachers, and two other family members. The men were among 26 Christians taken from Al-Qaa and two nearby villages.

The next day their tortured and bullet-riddled bodies were found in a nearby field—killings that triggered an exodus of local Christians, Mr. Nasrallah said. He was at his grandparents’ house after they heard the news on the radio. “My grandmother was pulling her hair and slapping her face,” he said, “and my grandfather took to the village streets shouting, ‘The boys are gone.’ ”

Like other villagers here, he and his wife believed the goal of Syria at the time was to drive out Christians and others who lived close to the border and who were seen as hostile to the regime.

At the start of Lebanon’s civil war in 1975, many Christians here said they welcomed Syrian soldiers as protectors against Muslim forces. Eventually, though, Syria was seen as a dreaded occupation force.

Al-Qaa residents say they once more feel they are fighting for their existence. This time, the enemy is Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL, whose militants have driven away Christians and other minorities from towns and villages in Iraq and Syria over the past year.

With their focus on survival, longtime opponents of the Syrian regime and Hezbollah speak of having to band together, despite their animosity, against Islamic State.

“We were praying each day for the toppling of the Syrian regime and for its figures to be put on trial for all their crimes, especially the Al-Qaa massacre,” said Bashir Matar, who lost his father, an uncle and two other family members in the 1978 killings.

“The regime has been saved because our focus now is on the imminent danger—ISIS,” said Mr. Matar, a lawyer who heads the local branch of the Lebanese Forces party.

In northern Iraq, Basim Bello faced a similar choice in the Christian town of Al-Qosh. Before Islamic State captured the nearby city of Mosul and surrounding Christian villages last June, Mr. Bello was a vocal critic of leaders in the semiautonomous Kurdistan region.

At the time, Kurds controlled the region known as the Nineveh Plain and backed only Christian clergy and politicians who favored Kurdish control. Kurdish leaders say the area has historically been theirs to govern.

Today, most Christians displaced from Islamic State-controlled areas are sheltered in the Kurdish region, and Christian men fight alongside Kurds against the militants, backed by the U.S. and its Western allies.

“It’s like having your hand stuck under a rock. Today, the enemy is ISIS, but I know Kurds still covet our areas,” said Mr. Bello who heads a political coalition seeking to establish a self-rule area in northern Iraq for Christians and other minorities.

Christians in the Lebanese village of Al-Qaa remember a time when citizens of the newly independent countries of the Middle East dreamed of living in pluralist democracies that respected all faiths.

The era is preserved in the abandoned stone-and-mud rooms that once belonged to the Nasrallah brothers, the schoolteachers who were among the Christian men seized by Syrian agents in 1978. George, Milad and Riyad Nasrallah are remembered here as intellectuals and passionate political activists.

Their books, photographs and political pamphlets are now thickly coated in dust. One tome is titled the “Dawn of Islam.”

—Dana Ballout contributed to this article.

Write to Sam Dagher at sam.dagher@wsj.com
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