Spitfire List Web site and blog of anti-fascist researcher and radio personality Dave Emory.

For The Record  

FTR #880 The ISIS File: The Myth of the Moderates

Dave Emory’s entire life­time of work is avail­able on a flash dri­ve that can be obtained here. The new dri­ve is a 32-giga­byte dri­ve that is cur­rent as of the pro­grams and arti­cles post­ed by late spring of 2015. The new dri­ve (avail­able for a tax-deductible con­tri­bu­tion of $65.00 or more) con­tains FTR #850.  

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This pro­gram was record­ed in one, 60-minute seg­ment

Intro­duc­tion: With reportage of ISIS dom­i­nat­ing the news cycle in the after­math of the sec­ond Paris mas­sacre of this cal­en­dar year (“Machi­avel­li 3.0”?) and the San Bernardi­no shoot­ings, we explore the gen­e­sis and oper­a­tions of the orga­ni­za­tion. (Please exam­ine this show–the descrip­tion for it in particular–to see the extent to which it frames the polit­i­cal rhetoric on the Islamist and “Euro-reac­tionary” sides. That rhetor­i­cal dynam­ic has only increased in the wake of the most recent attacks.)

We begin by review­ing the fact that evi­dence that CIA is aid­ing the so-called “mod­er­ate” rebels in Syr­ia, and by exten­sion, ISIS, is strong. They are work­ing with the Syr­i­an Mus­lim Broth­er­hood in that capac­i­ty.

This should be eval­u­at­ed against the back­ground of: the use of Islamists as proxy war­riors against Rus­sia and Chi­na; the transna­tion­al cor­po­ra­tions embrace of the “cor­po­ratist” eco­nom­ics of the Mus­lim Broth­er­hood (par­ent insti­tu­tion of al-Qae­da and its relat­ed orga­ni­za­tions) and the high­ly muta­ble nature of the Islamist mil­i­tants in Syr­ia (ele­ments of the Nus­ra Front–an al-Qae­da affiliate–have read­i­ly embraced ISIS).

After review­ing ISIS founder al-Baghradi’s “for­mer” mem­ber­ship in the Mus­lim Broth­er­hood, we exam­ine sev­er­al arti­cles relat­ing infor­ma­tion from a de-clas­si­fied DIA doc­u­ment that details the sup­port of Amer­i­can allies Sau­di Ara­bia, Turkey and Qatar for the estab­lish­ment of a Sun­ni caliphate in Syr­ia as part of the pres­sure on Pres­i­dent Assad.

Even Vice Pres­i­dent Joe Biden not­ed the role of Amer­i­ca’s allies in the growth of ISIS (fail­ing to men­tion covert sup­port for their efforts by ele­ments of CIA.)

A VERY telling com­ment was made in Octo­ber by the chief of Turk­ish intel­li­gence. In effect, it was an oblique endorse­ment of ISIS.

The pro­gram reviews a short quote from Zbig­niew Brzezin­s­ki, read by Eliz­a­beth Gould in FTR #872. Brzezin­s­ki is quite open about the util­i­ty of using Islamists to desta­bi­lize Rus­sia and Chi­na.

We note in that con­text that the Al Kifah orga­ni­za­tion switched its focus from sup­port­ing the Muja­hadin in Afghanistan to sup­port­ing the Islamists from Chech­nya. ISIS appears to have drawn heav­i­ly on Chech­nyan jihadists and now Chechens have mate­ri­al­ized in Ukraine.

Pro­gram High­lights Include:

1a. The evi­dence that ele­ments of CIA is aid­ing the so-called “mod­er­ate” rebels in Syr­ia, and by exten­sion, ISIS, is strong. They are work­ing with the Syr­i­an Mus­lim Broth­er­hood in that capac­i­ty.

“C.I.A. Said to Aid in Steer­ing Arms to Syr­i­an Oppo­si­tion” by Eric Schmitt; The New York Times; 6/21/2012.

A small num­ber of C.I.A. offi­cers are oper­at­ing secret­ly in south­ern Turkey, help­ing allies decide which Syr­i­an oppo­si­tion fight­ers across the bor­der will receive arms to fight the Syr­i­an gov­ern­ment, accord­ing to Amer­i­can offi­cials and Arab intel­li­gence offi­cers.

The weapons, includ­ing auto­mat­ic rifles, rock­et-pro­pelled grenades, ammu­ni­tion and some anti­tank weapons, are being fun­neled most­ly across the Turk­ish bor­der by way of a shad­owy net­work of inter­me­di­aries includ­ing Syr­ia’s Mus­lim Broth­er­hood and paid for by Turkey, Sau­di Ara­bia and Qatar, the offi­cials said. . . .

1b. ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Bagh­da­di has been iden­ti­fied by key Mus­lim Broth­er­hood cler­ic Youssef Qaradawi as a “for­mer” mem­ber of the Mus­lim Broth­er­hood. In the arti­cle below, note that Qaradawi notes the key ter­ror­ist lead­ers that were “for­mer” mem­bers of the Broth­er­hood. The “for­mer” is to be tak­en with a huge dose of salt–Muslim fas­cists are as capa­ble as Euro­pean and Amer­i­can fas­cists at imple­ment­ing “plau­si­ble deni­a­bil­i­ty.”

“FEATURED: Youssef Qaradawi Says ISIS Leader Was Once Mus­lim Broth­er­hood; First Eng­lish Trans­la­tion of State­ment”; Glob­al Mus­lim Broth­er­hood Watch; 10/21/2014.

The GMBDW has dis­cov­ered what appears to be the first Eng­lish trans­la­tion of the video in which Glob­al Mus­lim Broth­er­hood leader Youssef Qaradawi can be seen refer­ring to what is almost cer­tain­ly Abu Bakr al-Bagh­da­di and explain­ing that he was once a mem­ber of the Mus­lim Broth­er­hood. At time 0:44 of the video, post­ed on the Brotherhoodwatch.co.uk web­site, Qaradawi refers to “this young­ster” who once belonged to the Mus­lim Broth­er­hood but desir­ing lead­er­ship and after a peri­od in prison (al-Bagh­da­di is thought to have spent five years in an Amer­i­can deten­tion facil­i­ty) went on to join the Islam­ic State of Iraq and the Lev­ant (ISIL/ISIS). It would appear that al-Bagh­da­di joins the ranks of oth­er infa­mous ter­ror­ist lead­ers such as Ayman al-Zawahiri, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, and Khalid Mesha­lal who once belonged to the Mus­lim Broth­er­hood before going on to join­ing lead­ing ter­ror­ist orga­ni­za­tions. In the video (time 1:12), Qaradawi also refers to uniden­ti­fied “young­sters” from Qatar who also joined ISIS. . . . .

1c. Our recent series of pro­grams fea­tur­ing Peter Lev­en­da dis­cussing The Hitler Lega­cy high­light­ed the gen­e­sis of “weaponized Islam” and the use of jihadists as proxy war­riors by Impe­r­i­al Ger­many in World War I, Nazi Ger­many in World War II and, final­ly, the U.S. and the West dur­ing the Cold War.

In FTR #773, we not­ed the cir­cum­stances sur­round­ing the Boston Marathon Bomb­ing. In that pro­gram, we opined that the evi­dence sug­gest­ed very strong­ly that ele­ments of U.S. and West­ern intel­li­gence were con­tin­u­ing to use jihadists as “proxy war­riors,” in this case against Rus­sia in the Cau­ca­sus.

In that pro­gram, we also sug­gest­ed that the Boston Marathon Bomb­ing itself, like 9/11, was “blow­back” from our con­tin­ued use of Islam­ic fas­cists as prox­ies.

We have also not­ed that, in effect, there is a proxy war com­po­nent to the bur­geon­ing Shia/Sunni con­flict in the Mid­dle East. Rus­sia is sup­port­ive of the Shi­ite nation­al com­bat­ant forces–Iran and Syr­ia, pri­mar­i­ly. This appears to be a gam­bit intend­ed, in part, to shield Rus­si­a’s south­ern flank from fur­ther assault by Sun­ni proxy war­riors.

Alparslan Celik & Friends give the Grey Wolf hand sign. They exe­cut­ed the pilot of the Su-24.

There have been indi­ca­tions of Sau­di pre-plan­ning their anti-Shi­ite cru­sade. Prince Ban­dar spoke omi­nous­ly of a day of ret­ri­bu­tion against Shi­ites. In addi­tion, we have dis­cussed the “cor­po­ratist” eco­nom­ic view­point of the Mus­lim Broth­er­hood, an ide­ol­o­gy that frames that orga­ni­za­tion in the same con­text as Hitler, Mus­soli­ni and Impe­r­i­al Japan. Although those coun­tries were bit­ter oppo­nents of the U.S. and democ­ra­cy itself, their anti-com­mu­nist and fas­cist [“cor­po­ratist”] ide­ol­o­gy made them desir­able to the transna­tion­al cor­po­ra­tions that helped to spawn the fas­cist pow­ers in the first place.

The Mus­lim Broth­er­hood is the par­ent orga­ni­za­tion of Al-Qae­da, Hamas, Pales­tin­ian Islam­ic Jihad and, very pos­si­bly ISIS. (It’s head is a “for­mer” mem­ber of the Broth­er­hood.)

It should be under­stood that, for the transna­tion­als and the GOP and oth­er polit­i­cal ele­ments that sup­port them and are, in turn, sup­port­ed by them, the U.S. casu­al­ties from World War II, the 9/11 attacks, the U.S. war in Afghanistan and the Boston Marathon Bomb­ing are accept­able loss­es.” They are col­lat­er­al dam­age, accept­able under the cir­cum­stances.

Attacks like the Paris inci­dents of 2015 also serve as a de fac­to “strat­e­gy of ten­sion,” but­tress­ing the far-right and the forces of reac­tion and jus­ti­fy­ing intru­sions on civ­il lib­er­ties. Although we don’t think this is the pri­ma­ry moti­va­tion for the West­ern intel­li­gence col­lab­o­ra­tion with Sun­ni jihadists, the ben­e­fits of the “blow­back” are con­sid­er­able and wel­comed by fas­cists in this coun­try and oth­ers.

ISIS recruits pledg­ing alle­giance. They are NOT audi­tion­ing for an anti-per­spi­rant com­mer­cial.

A recent post by Ger­man For­eign Pol­i­cy flesh­es out this line of inquiry. (Ger­man For­eign Pol­i­cy feeds along the low­er right hand side of the front page of this web­site.)

“The Jihad’s Use­ful­ness (II);” german-foreign-policy.com; 5/28/2015.

A recent­ly declas­si­fied memo of the US Defense Intel­li­gence Agency (DIA) reveals that the West had sup­port­ed the cre­ation of the “Islam­ic State” (IS). Using jihadist forces has been a West­ern tra­di­tion for decades, as the Afghanistan war in the 1980s and an analy­sis of the West­ern pow­er strug­gle with Iran (espe­cial­ly since 2003) show. In the 1980s, west­ern coun­tries — in col­lab­o­ra­tion with Sau­di Ara­bia — had sup­port­ed jihadists asso­ci­at­ed with Osama bin Laden, to defeat Sovi­et mil­i­tary forces in Afghanistan. Since at least ten years, they have been sup­port­ing Arab jihadists in an effort to weak­en Iran’s main allies. These activ­i­ties, accom­pa­ny­ing the offi­cial “war on ter­ror,” are “a very high-risk ven­ture,” warn US intel­li­gence offi­cials. Sau­di Ara­bia, one of Ger­many’s main allies in the Arab world, is play­ing a cen­tral role in sup­port­ing jihadists.

Against the Sovi­et Union

West­ern pow­ers first used mod­ern jihadism on a major scale dur­ing the 1980s in Afghanistan. In their quest to defeat the pro-Sovi­et Afghan gov­ern­ment and the Sovi­et mil­i­tary sta­tioned in Afghanistan, the Unit­ed States, the Fed­er­al Repub­lic of Ger­many and oth­er NATO mem­ber coun­tries banked, not only on the Afghan Mujahidin, but also Arab jihadists, includ­ing Osama bin Laden.[1] The then lit­tle known Osama bin Laden, and the oth­er jihadists were pro­mot­ed with Sau­di Ara­bi­a’s finan­cial and logis­ti­cal sup­port. The head of Sau­di for­eign intel­li­gence at the time and Bin Laden’s con­tact per­son, Prince Tur­ki al Faisal bin Abdu­laz­iz al Saud played a major role. Today, he pro­vides his polit­i­cal exper­tise to the “Advi­so­ry Coun­cil” of the Munich Secu­ri­ty Conference.[2] The Afghan Mujahidin and the grow­ing num­ber of Arab jihadists final­ly suc­ceed­ed in forc­ing the Sovi­et armed forces into with­draw­ing from Afghanistan. From the west­ern per­spec­tive, jihadism had there­fore proven its effec­tive­ness as an instru­ment in fight­ing sec­u­lar, social­ist forces.

Against Iran

The al Qae­da attacks on US embassies in Nairo­bi and Dar es Salaam (August 7, 1998), the US counter attack on al Qae­da bases in Afghanistan (August 20, 1998) and par­tic­u­lar­ly the 9/11 ter­ror attacks and the ensu­ing war on Afghanistan seemed to have led to an irrepara­ble rift between the West and the jihadists. How­ev­er, the “war on ter­ror” did not hin­der the West from again engag­ing in punc­tu­al coop­er­a­tion with Arab jihadists — this time, not a strug­gle against sec­u­lar social­ist forces, but an attempt at weak­en­ing Iran. With Iraq’s destruc­tion start­ing in 2003, the US-led war alliance had neu­tral­ized Iran’s tra­di­tion­al rival, inad­ver­tent­ly open­ing an oppor­tu­ni­ty for Iran becom­ing a Per­sian Gulf region­al hege­mon­ic pow­er. To pre­vent this, West­ern pow­ers began an arms buildup of the Gulf dic­ta­tor­ships — par­tic­u­lar­ly Sau­di Ara­bia — to cre­ate a counterforce.[3] These dic­ta­tor­ships, in turn, soon began sub­vert­ing Iran’s region­al allies — for exam­ple Syr­ia and the Lebanese Hezbol­lah.

“High Risk Ven­ture”

This has led to Arab jihadists being called back into action. In 2007, the US jour­nal­ist Sey­mour Hersh exposed how the West, togeth­er with Sau­di Ara­bia, was mov­ing against Hezbol­lah in Lebanon.[4] While, on the one hand, for exam­ple the Ger­man Navy was par­tic­i­pat­ing in the UN mis­sion off the Lebanese coast to pre­vent arms sup­plies from reach­ing this Shi­ite mili­tia, Riyadh, on the oth­er hand, was build­ing up their most res­olute ene­mies, the Salafists and jihadists, whose hatred of Shi­ite Mus­lims is as strong as their hatred of sec­u­lar, social­ist forces. In ear­ly 2007, gov­ern­ment offi­cials from var­i­ous coun­tries had con­firmed to Hersh that the USA and Sau­di Ara­bia were pro­vid­ing Lebanese Salafist and jihadist orga­ni­za­tions with the means for fight­ing Hezbol­lah. A Lebanese gov­ern­ment offi­cial told Hersh, “we have a lib­er­al atti­tude, allow­ing those al Qae­da groups to main­tain a pres­ence here.” A for­mer agent from the Unit­ed States explic­it­ly admit­ted, “we’re financ­ing a lot of bad guys with some seri­ous poten­tial unin­tend­ed con­se­quences. It’s a very high-risk ven­ture.”

A Salafist Prin­ci­pal­i­ty

The fact that the West is fol­low­ing this same strat­e­gy in the war in Syr­ia has been con­firmed in a memo, dat­ing from August 2012, from the US Defense Intel­li­gence Agency (DIA) and made pub­lic last week. (german-foreign-policy.com reported.[5]) Accord­ing to the memo, the cre­ation of a “Salafist prin­ci­pal­i­ty” in east­ern Syr­ia was seen as advan­ta­geous — to deprive the “Shi­ite expan­sion,” ema­nat­ing from Iran, its “strate­gic depth” in Syr­ia. The “Islam­ic State” (IS), in fact, has evolved from that “Salafist prin­ci­pal­i­ty.”

The Ban­dar Plan

The west­ern pow­ers along with their main region­al allies — Turkey and Sau­di Ara­bia — have active­ly built up the Salafist and jihadist mili­tias, in Syr­ia, with the ex-Sau­di Ambas­sador to the Unit­ed States (1983 — 2005), Prince Ban­dar bin Sul­tan bin Abdu­laz­iz al Saud play­ing a deci­sive role. In his func­tion as Gen­er­al Sec­re­tary of the Sau­di Nation­al Secu­ri­ty Coun­cil (2005), Ban­dar bin Sul­tan sup­port­ed the Lebanese Salafists, and as head of the Sau­di intel­li­gence ser­vices, (2012), he was also involved in the Syr­i­an war. The “Ban­dar Plan,” named after him, called for form­ing and arm­ing insur­gent mili­tias in Syr­ia. In fact, this refers to the — pri­mar­i­ly Salafist — mil­i­tary units being financed by Sau­di Ara­bia. The plan also calls for the infil­tra­tion of Sau­di agents into al Qae­da allied groups and using oth­er means to influ­ence those jihadist mili­tias, where infil­tra­tion proved unfea­si­ble. With­in this frame­work Sau­di Ara­bia even pro­vid­ed aid to IS, albeit the financ­ing, in this case, was inof­fi­cial, fur­nished by pri­vate jihadist sup­port­ers, accord­ing to an Israeli analy­sis pub­lished in 2014.[6] Only after the IS began expand­ing in Iraq, in ear­ly 2014, and began cre­at­ing the sit­u­a­tion that the DIA had warned of in August 2012,[7] was Ban­dar bin Sul­tan relieved of his duties and flown to the USA “for med­ical treat­ment.” In the sum­mer of 2014, west­ern coun­tries found them­selves com­pelled to mil­i­tar­i­ly inter­vene against IS, which was gath­er­ing strength. This is the IS, the West had pater­nal­is­ti­cal­ly watched tak­ing its first steps in the strug­gle against the gov­ern­ment of Pres­i­dent Assad, their com­mon ene­my.

Destruc­tive Poten­tial

Even this has not put an end to the West­’s use of jihadists. Most recent­ly, the US-led “anti-IS coali­tion” stood by watch­ing as IS drove Syr­i­an gov­ern­ment troops out of Palmyra, a strate­gi­cal­ly impor­tant city — a wel­come sup­port in the war on Pres­i­dent Assad’s gov­ern­ment. Accord­ing to reports, Sau­di Ara­bia and Turkey have “again been close­ly col­lab­o­rat­ing” since March. Of course, in the war on Syr­ia “they do not have their sights on the IS, but rather tar­get Assad” — Riyadh and Ankara’s more polite for­mu­la­tion of the stan­dard Salafist and jihadist demand.[8] West­ern strate­gists have even begun propos­ing using jihadists in the strug­gle against the jihadists of IS, which has become much too pow­er­ful. Accord­ing to a recent web­site arti­cle of the US “For­eign Affairs” jour­nal, the al Qae­da should not be allowed to be fur­ther weak­ened. Al Qae­da must be allowed to con­tin­ue to exist to keep its sup­port­ers from defect­ing to IS. There­fore the ter­ror­ist orga­ni­za­tion should be kept “afloat and [Aiman az-] Zawahiri alive.”[9] Jihadists are only being fought, if they become too pow­er­ful — as in the case of IS — or if they begin to attack west­ern tar­gets. Oth­er­wise, their destruc­tive poten­tial is con­sid­ered a west­ern secret asset in its war on com­mon ene­mies.

[1] More infor­ma­tion on the Jihadists in Afghanistan and the West in: Steve Coll: Ghost Wars. The Secret His­to­ry of the CIA, Afghanistan, and bin Laden, from the Sovi­et Inva­sion to Sep­tem­ber 10, 2001. New York 2004.

[2] See Old Allies and Good Guys, Bad Guys.

[3] See Gulf Sta­bil­i­ty and Hege­mon­ic Con­flict at the Gulf (II).

[4] Sey­mour M. Hersh: The Redi­rec­tion. Is the Admin­is­tra­tion’s new pol­i­cy ben­e­fit­ting our ene­mies in the war on ter­ror­ism? www.newyorker.com 05.03.2007.

[5] See Vom Nutzen des Jihad (I) and A Salafist Prin­ci­pal­i­ty.

[6] Udi Dekel, Orit Perlov: The Sau­di Ara­bia and Kuwait “Out­posts Project”: Al-Qae­da and Its Affil­i­ates. The Insti­tute for Nation­al Secu­ri­ty Stud­ies, INSS Insight No. 517, 16.02.2014.

[7] See Vom Nutzen des Jihad (I) and A Salafist Prin­ci­pal­i­ty.

[8] Markus Bick­el: Fortschritte und Rückschritte in Syrien. Frank­furter All­ge­meine Zeitung 09.05.2015.

[9] Barak Mendel­sohn: Accept­ing Al Qae­da. www.foreignaffairs.com 09.03.2015.

1d. Ger­man For­eign Pol­i­cy arti­cle presents more of the text of the DIA doc­u­ment excerpt­ed above.

“A Salafist Prin­ci­pal­i­ty;” ger­man-for­eign-pol­i­cy; 5/27/2015.

In August 2012, the U.S. Defense Intel­li­gence Agency (DIA) men­tioned a pos­si­ble “Salafist Prin­ci­pal­i­ty” in East­ern Syr­ia and a pos­si­ble foun­da­tion of an “Islam­ic State”. german-foreign-policy.com doc­u­ments excerpts from the DIA paper.

Depart­ment of Defense: Infor­ma­tion report, not final­ly eval­u­at­ed intel­li­gence. 14-L-0552/DIA/287–293.
The gen­er­al sit­u­a­tion:
A. Inter­nal­ly, events are tak­ing a clear sec­tar­i­an direc­tion.
B. The Salafist, the Mus­lim Broth­er­hood, and AQI are the major forces dri­ving the insur­gency in Syr­ia.
C. The West, Gulf Coun­tries, and Turkey sup­port the oppo­si­tion, while Rus­sia, Chi­na, and Iran sup­port the regime.
...
3. Al Qae­da — Iraq (AQI):
A. AQI is famil­iar with Syr­ia. AQI trained in Syr­ia and then infil­trat­ed into Iraq.
B. AQI sup­port­ed the Syr­i­an oppo­si­tion from the begin­ning, both ide­o­log­i­cal­ly and through the media. AQI declared its oppo­si­tion of Assad’s gov­ern­ment because it con­sid­ered it a sec­tar­i­an regime tar­get­ing Sun­nis.
...
5. The pop­u­la­tion liv­ing on the bor­der:
A. The pop­u­la­tion liv­ing on the bor­der has a social-trib­al style, which is bound by strong trib­al and famil­ial mar­i­tal ties.
B. Their sec­tar­i­an affil­i­a­tion unites the two sides when events hap­pen in the region.
C. AQI had major pock­ets and bases on both sides of the bor­der to facil­i­tate the flow of materiel and recruits.
D. There was a regres­sion of AQI in the west­ern provinces of Iraq dur­ing the years of 2009 and 2010. How­ev­er, after the rise of the insur­gency in Syr­ia, the reli­gious and trib­al pow­ers in the regions began to sym­pa­thize with the sec­tar­i­an upris­ing. This (sym­pa­thy) appeared in Fri­day prayer ser­mons, which called for vol­un­teers to sup­port the Sun­nis in Syr­ia.
...
8. The effects on Iraq:
...
C. If the sit­u­a­tion unrav­els there is the pos­si­bil­i­ty of estab­lish­ing a declared or unde­clared Salafist prin­ci­pal­i­ty in east­ern Syr­ia (Hasa­ka and Der Zor), and this is exact­ly what the sup­port­ing pow­ers to the oppo­si­tion want, in order to iso­late the Syr­i­an regime, which is con­sid­ered the strate­gic depth of the Shia expan­sion (Iraq and Iran).
D. The dete­ri­o­ra­tion of the sit­u­a­tion has dire con­se­quences on the Iraqi sit­u­a­tion and are as fol­lows:
1. This cre­ates the ide­al atmos­phere for AQI to return to its old pock­es in Mosul and Rama­di, and will pro­vide a renewed momen­tum under the pre­sump­tion of uni­fy­ing the jihad among Sun­ni Iraq and Syr­ia, and the rest of the Sun­nis in the Arab world against what it con­sid­ers one ene­my, the dis­senters. ISI could also declare an Islam­ic State through its union with oth­er ter­ror­ist orga­ni­za­tions in Iraq and Syr­ia, which will cre­ate grave dan­ger in regards to uni­fy­ing Iraq and the pro­tec­tion of its ter­ri­to­ry.
...
3. The renew­ing facil­i­ta­tion of ter­ror­ist ele­ments from all over the Arab world enter­ing into Iraqi are­na.
...
1e. More about the declas­si­fied DIA memo (this arti­cle is the source of the screen shots of the memo.)
Judi­cial Watch has – for many years – obtained sen­si­tive U.S. gov­ern­ment doc­u­ments through free­dom of infor­ma­tion requests and law­suits.

The gov­ern­ment just pro­duced doc­u­ments to Judi­cial Watch in response to a free­dom of infor­ma­tion suit which show that the West has long sup­port­ed ISIS. The doc­u­ments were writ­ten by the U.S. Defense Intel­li­gence Agency on August 12, 2012 … years before ISIS burst onto the world stage.

Here are screen­shots from the doc­u­ments. We have high­light­ed the rel­e­vant parts in yel­low:

 1f. Remarks by Vice Pres­i­dent Joe Biden height­ened sus­pi­cions about the West hav­ing mid-wived the birth of ISIS.

“Behind Biden’s Gaffe Lie Real Con­cerns About the West­’s Role in Rise of the Islam­ic State” by Adam Tay­lor; The Wash­ing­ton Post; 10/06/2014.

. . . . When asked by a stu­dent whether the Unit­ed States should have act­ed ear­li­er in Syr­ia, Biden first explains that there was “no mod­er­ate mid­dle” in the Syr­i­an civ­il war, before chang­ing the top­ic to talk about Amer­i­ca’s allies:

“Our allies in the region were our largest prob­lem in Syr­ia. The Turks were great friends, and I have a great rela­tion­ship with Erdo­gan, [who] I just spent a lot of time with, [and] the Saud­is, the Emi­rates, etcetera.

What were they doing? They were so deter­mined to take down Assad, and essen­tial­ly have a proxy Sun­ni-Shia war, what did they do? They poured hun­dreds of mil­lions of dol­lars and tens of tons of weapons into any­one who would fight against Assad – except that the peo­ple who were being sup­plied, [they] were al-Nus­ra, and al-Qae­da, and the extrem­ist ele­ments of jihadis who were com­ing from oth­er parts of the world.

Now, you think I’m exag­ger­at­ing? Take a look. Where did all of this go? So now that’s hap­pen­ing, all of a sud­den, every­body is awak­ened because this out­fit called ISIL, which was al-Qae­da in Iraq, when they were essen­tial­ly thrown out of Iraq, found open space and ter­ri­to­ry in [east­ern] Syr­ia, [and they] work with al-Nus­ra, who we declared a ter­ror­ist group ear­ly on. And we could not con­vince our col­leagues to stop sup­ply­ing them. . . .

So what hap­pened? . . . .

2c. Dur­ing a Skype inter­view back in Octo­ber, Hakan Fidan, the head of Turkey’s intel­i­gence ser­vice, railed against Rus­sia try­ing to sup­press Syria’s Islamist rev­o­lu­tion and assert­ed that “ISIS is a real­ity and we have to accept that we can­not erad­i­cate a well-orga­nized and pop­u­lar estab­lish­ment such as the Islam­ic State; there­fore I urge my west­ern col­leagues to revise their mind­set about Islam­ic polit­i­cal cur­rents, put aside their cyn­i­cal men­tal­ité and thwart Vladimir Putin’s plans to crush Syr­ian Islamist rev­o­lu­tion­ar­ies.”

“Turk­ish Intel­li­gence Chief: Putin’s Inter­ven­tion in Syr­ia Is Against Islam and Inter­na­tional Law, ISIS Is a Real­ity and We Are Opti­mistic about the Future”; AWD News; 10/18/2015.

Hakan Fidan, the head of Turkey’s Nation­al Intel­li­gence Orga­ni­za­tion, known by the MIT acronym, has drawn a lot of atten­tion and crit­i­cism for his con­tro­ver­sial com­ments about ISIS.

Mr. Hakan Fidan, Turk­ish President’s staunchest ally, con­demned Russ­ian mil­i­tary inter­ven­tion in Syr­ia, accus­ing Moscow of try­ing to ‘smoth­er’ Syria’s Islamist rev­o­lu­tion and seri­ous breach of Unit­ed Nations law.

“ISIS is a real­ity and we have to accept that we can­not erad­i­cate a well-orga­nized and pop­u­lar estab­lish­ment such as the Islam­ic State; there­fore I urge my west­ern col­leagues to revise their mind­set about Islam­ic polit­i­cal cur­rents, put aside their cyn­i­cal men­tal­ité and thwart Vladimir Putin’s plans to crush Syr­ian Islamist rev­o­lu­tion­ar­ies,” Anadolu News Agency quot­ed Mr. Fidan as say­ing on Sun­day.

Fidan fur­ther added that in order to deal with the vast num­ber of for­eign Jihadists crav­ing to trav­el to Syr­ia, it is imper­a­tive that ISIS must set up a con­sulate or at least a polit­i­cal office in Istan­bul. He under­lined that it is Turkey’s firm belief to pro­vide med­ical care for all injured peo­ple flee­ing Russ­ian ruth­less airstrikes regard­less of their polit­i­cal or reli­gious affil­i­a­tion.

Recent­ly as the fierce clash­es between Russ­ian army and ISIS ter­ror­ists rag­ing across the war-torn Syr­ia, count­less num­ber of ISIS injured fight­ers enter the Turk­ish ter­ri­tory and are being admit­ted in the mil­i­tary hos­pi­tals name­ly those in Hatay Province. Over the last few days, the Syr­ian army with the sup­port of Russ­ian air cov­er could fend off ISIS forces in strate­gic provinces of Homs and Hama.

Emile Hokayem, a Wash­ing­ton-based Mid­dle East ana­lyst said that Turkey’s Erdo­gan and his oil-rich Arab allies have dual agen­das in the war on ter­ror and as a mat­ter of fact they are sup­ply­ing the Islamist mil­i­tants with weapons and mon­ey, thus Russ­ian inter­ven­tion is con­sid­ered a dev­as­tat­ing set­back for their efforts to over­throw Syr­ian sec­u­lar Pres­i­dent Assad.

Hokayem who was speak­ing via Skype from Wash­ing­ton, D.C. high­lighted the dan­ger of Turk­ish-backed ter­ror­ist groups and added that what is hap­pen­ing in Syr­ia can­not be cat­e­go­rized as a gen­uine and pop­u­lar rev­o­lu­tion against dic­ta­tor­ship but rather it is a chaos orches­trated by Erdo­gan who is dream­ing to revive this ancestor’s infa­mous Ottoman Empire.

3a. Next, we recap a short read­ing by Eliz­a­beth Gould of a quote from Zbig­niew Brzezin­s­ki about using Islamist forces to de-sta­bi­lize post-Cold War Rus­sia and Chi­na. (This was orig­i­nal­ly read in FTR #872.)

3b. A major focal point of Chech­nyan jihadism is in Boston, evolved from the Al Kifah orga­ni­za­tion, renamed CARE (not to be con­fused with the UN char­ity.) That milieu is inex­tri­ca­bly linked with the 1993 attack on the World Trade Cen­ter.

“Boston’s Jihadist Past” by J.M. Berg­er; For­eign Pol­icy; 4/22/2013.

When Boston Marathon run­ners round­ed the bend from Bea­con Street last week, they were in the home stretch of the race. As they poured through the closed inter­sec­tion, they ran past a non­de­script address: 510 Com­mon­wealth Avenue.

The loca­tion was once home to an inter­na­tional sup­port net­work that raised funds and recruit­ed fight­ers for a jihadist insur­gency against Russ­ian rule over Chech­nya, a region and a con­flict that few of the run­ners had like­ly ever giv­en any seri­ous thought. . . .

. . . . (The most impor­tant Chechen jihadist group has dis­avowed the attack, but has not unequiv­o­cally ruled out the pos­si­bil­ity of some kind of con­tact with Tamer­lan.) . . .

. . . But if the lead pans out, it won’t be Boston’s first brush with that far­away war. Dur­ing the 1980s and into the 1990s, Islamist for­eign fight­ers oper­ated robust recruit­ing and financ­ing net­works that sup­ported Chechen jihadists from the Unit­ed States, and Boston was home to one of the most sig­nif­i­cant cen­ters: a branch of the Al Kifah Cen­ter based in Brook­lyn, which would lat­er be rechris­tened CARE Inter­na­tion­al.

Al Kifah sprang from the mil­i­tary jihad against the Sovi­ets in Afghanistan. Through the end of the occu­pa­tion, a net­work of cen­ters in the Unit­ed States helped sup­port the efforts of Afghan and Arab muja­hedeen, solic­it­ing dona­tions and recruit­ing fight­ers, includ­ing at least four from Boston who died in action (one of them a for­mer Dunkin Donuts employ­ee). When the war end­ed, those net­works did not dis­ap­pear; they refo­cused on oth­er activ­i­ties.

In Brook­lyn, that net­work turned against the Unit­ed States. The center’s lead­ers and many of its mem­bers helped facil­i­tate the 1993 World Trade Cen­ter bomb­ing, and they active­ly planned and attempt­ed to exe­cute a sub­se­quent plot that sum­mer to blow up the Lin­coln and Hol­land Tun­nels in New York, which would have killed thou­sands. . . .

. . . . When the FBI thwart­ed the tun­nels plot, the Brook­lyn Al Kifah office and most of the oth­er satel­lite loca­tions were shut­tered. But in Boston, the work con­tin­ued under a new name and with a new focus: sup­port­ing for­eign-fight­er efforts in Bosnia and Chech­nya.

The fol­low­ing nar­ra­tive is derived from inter­views and thou­sands of pages of court exhibits, includ­ing cor­re­spon­dence, Al Kifah and CARE Inter­na­tional pub­li­ca­tions, and tele­phone inter­cepts devel­oped over a years-long series of FBI inves­ti­ga­tions into the char­ity that were made pub­lic as part of mul­ti­ple ter­ror­ism-relat­ed pros­e­cu­tions.

Estab­lished in the ear­ly 1990s, the Boston branch had emerged from the World Trade Cen­ter inves­ti­ga­tion rel­a­tively unscathed. Lit­tle more than two weeks after the bomb­ing, the head of the Boston office, Emad Muntass­er, changed his operation’s name from Al Kifah to CARE Inter­na­tional (not to be con­fused with the legit­i­mate char­ity of the same name). . . .

. . . . It took longer to build a case against CARE. In 2005, pros­e­cu­tors in Boston went after the charity’s direc­tors using the Al Capone strat­egy. Muntass­er and fel­low Boston-area CARE offi­cials Samir Al Mon­la and Muhamed Mubayyid were charged with fil­ing false tax returns and relat­ed crimes, hav­ing mis­rep­re­sented their polit­i­cal and mil­i­tant activ­ity as relief for orphans and wid­ows in order to obtain a non­profit tax exemp­tion.

The strat­egy was not as suc­cess­ful as it was with Capone. The defen­dants were con­victed but received min­i­mal sen­tences after years of appeals and legal dis­putes. Muntass­er and Al Mon­la have since been released from prison and are liv­ing in the Unit­ed States, accord­ing to pub­lic records data­bases. Mubayyid was deport­ed after a short sen­tence and was last report­ed to be liv­ing in Aus­tralia. . . .

4. We high­light an arti­cle not­ing the mil­i­tary prowess and sophis­ti­ca­tion of ISIS. Crit­i­cal to this analy­sis is the appar­ent role of the Chechens in the tac­ti­cal devel­op­ment of the group. In FTR #381. we not­ed the role of the Al-Taqwa milieu in the fund­ing of the Chechen sep­a­ratists. U.S. and West­ern fund­ing for the Chechens appears to have con­tin­ued, as we saw in our analy­sis of the Boston Marathon Bomb­ing.

In the con­text of U.S. and West­ern sup­port for the OUN/B milieu in Ukraine, includ­ing the UNA-UNSO fight­ers who fought with the Chechens and else­where in the Cau­ca­sus, we may well be see­ing “blow­back” from what we have termed The Earth Island Boo­gie in the devel­op­ment of ISIS’ sophis­ti­ca­tion. As dis­cussed in FTR #808, the UNA-UNSO fight­ers were ini­tial­ly com­posed large­ly of Ukrain­ian vet­er­ans of the Afghan war. The orga­ni­za­tion gave rise direct­ly to Pravy Sek­tor.

As we have seen in FTR #878, Pravy Sek­tor is work­ing with Chechen Islamists from ISIS, as well as Pan-Turk­ist Crimean Tatars.

“The Dura­bil­i­ty of Ukrain­ian Fas­cism” by Peter Lee; Strate­gic Cul­ture; 6/9/2014.

. . . . One of Bandera’s lieu­tenants was Roman Shukhevych.  In Feb­ru­ary 1945, Shukhevych issued an order stat­ing, “In view of the suc­cess of the Sovi­et forces it is nec­es­sary to speed up the liq­ui­da­tion of the Poles, they must be total­ly wiped out, their vil­lages burned … only the Pol­ish pop­u­la­tion must be destroyed.”

As a mat­ter of addi­tion­al embar­rass­ment, Shukhevych was also a com­man­der in the Nachti­gall (Nightin­gale) bat­tal­ion orga­nized by the Wehrma­cht.

Today, a major pre­oc­cu­pa­tion of Ukrain­ian nation­al­ist his­tor­i­cal schol­ar­ship is beat­ing back rather con­vinc­ing alle­ga­tions by Russ­ian, Pol­ish, and Jew­ish his­to­ri­ans that Nachti­gall was an impor­tant and active par­tic­i­pant in the mas­sacre of Lviv Jews orches­trat­ed by the Ger­man army upon its arrival in June 1941. . . .

. . . . Yuriy Shukhevych’s role in mod­ern Ukrain­ian fas­cism is not sim­ply that of an inspi­ra­tional fig­ure­head and reminder of his father’s anti-Sovi­et hero­ics for proud Ukrain­ian nation­al­ists.  He is a core fig­ure in the emer­gence of the key Ukrain­ian fas­cist for­ma­tion, Pravy Sek­tor and its para­mil­i­tary.

And Pravy Sektor’s para­mil­i­tary, the UNA-UNSO, is not an “unruly” col­lec­tion of week­end-war­rior-wannabes, as Mr. Hig­gins might believe.

UNA-UNSO was formed dur­ing the tur­moil of the ear­ly 1990s, large­ly by eth­nic Ukrain­ian vet­er­ans of the Sovi­et Union’s bit­ter war in Afghanistan.  From the first, the UNA-UNSO has shown a taste for for­eign adven­tures, send­ing detach­ments to Moscow in 1990 to oppose the Com­mu­nist coup against Yeltsin, and to Lithua­nia in 1991.  With appar­ent­ly very good rea­son, the Rus­sians have also accused UNA-UNSO fight­ers of par­tic­i­pat­ing on the anti-Russ­ian side in Geor­gia and Chech­nya.

After for­mal Ukrain­ian inde­pen­dence, the mili­tia elect­ed Yuriy Shukhevych—the son of OUN‑B com­man­der Roman Shukhevych– as its leader and set up a polit­i­cal arm, which lat­er became Pravy Sek­tor. . . .

5. Again, ISIS’ com­bat prowess is viewed by U.S. spe­cial oper­a­tions forces as prob­a­bly hav­ing stemmed from the Chechen com­po­nent. Note that, in this sto­ry, ISIS is described as hav­ing evolved from AQI!

“ISIS an ‘Incred­i­ble’ Fight­ing Force, Spe­cial Ops Sources Say” by James Gor­don Meek; ABC News; 8/25/2014.

With the Oba­ma White House left reel­ing from the “sav­age” slaugh­ter of an Amer­i­can jour­nal­ist held hostage by ISIS ter­ror­ists, mil­i­tary options are being con­sid­ered against an adver­sary who offi­cials say is grow­ing in strength and is much more capa­ble than the one faced when the group was called “al Qae­da-Iraq” dur­ing the U.S. war from 2003–2011.

ISIS, the Islam­ic State of Iraq and Syr­ia, has been mak­ing a “tac­ti­cal with­draw­al” in recent days in the face of with­er­ing U.S. airstrikes from areas around Erbil in north­ern Iraq and from the major dam just north of Mosul it con­trolled for two nail-bit­ing weeks, accord­ing to mil­i­tary offi­cials mon­i­tor­ing their move­ments.

“These guys aren’t just bug­ging out, they’re tac­ti­cal­ly with­draw­ing. Very pro­fes­sion­al, well trained, moti­vat­ed and equipped. They oper­ate like a state with a mil­i­tary,” said one offi­cial who tracks ISIS close­ly. “These aren’t the same guys we fought in OIF (Oper­a­tion Iraqi Free­dom) who would just scat­ter when you dropped a bomb near them.”

ISIS appeared to have a sophis­ti­cat­ed and well thought-out plan for estab­lish­ing its “Islam­ic Caliphate” from north­ern Syr­ia across the west­ern and north­ern deserts of Iraq, many experts and offi­cials have said, and sup­port from hostage-tak­ing, rob­bery and sym­pa­thet­ic dona­tions to fund it. They use drones to gath­er over­head intel on tar­gets and effec­tive­ly com­man­deer cap­tured mil­i­tary vehi­cles – includ­ing Amer­i­can Humvees — and muni­tions.

“They tried to push out as far as they thought they could and were ful­ly pre­pared to pull back a lit­tle bit when we beat them back with airstrikes around Erbil. And they were fine with that, and ready to hold all of the ground they have now,” a sec­ond offi­cial told ABC News.

ISIS did­n’t nec­es­sar­i­ly count on hold­ing Mosul Dam, offi­cials said, but scored a major pro­pa­gan­da vic­to­ry on social media when they hoist­ed the black flag of the group over the facil­i­ty that pro­vides elec­tric­i­ty and water to a large swath of Iraq, or could drown mil­lions if breached.

U.S. spe­cial oper­a­tions forces under the Joint Spe­cial Oper­a­tions Com­mand and U.S. Spe­cial Oper­a­tions Com­mand keep close tabs on the mil­i­tary evo­lu­tion of ISIS and both its com­bat and ter­ror­ism — called “asym­met­ric” — capa­bil­i­ties, offi­cials told ABC News. A pri­ma­ry rea­son is in antic­i­pa­tion of pos­si­bly fight­ing them, which a full squadron of spe­cial mis­sion unit oper­a­tors did in the Inde­pen­dence Day raid on an ISIS camp in Raqqah, Syr­ia.

“They’re incred­i­ble fight­ers. ISIS teams in many places use spe­cial oper­a­tions TTPs,” said the sec­ond offi­cial, who has con­sid­er­able com­bat expe­ri­ence, using the mil­i­tary term for “tac­tics, tech­niques and pro­ce­dures.”

In sober­ing press con­fer­ence Fri­day, Sec­re­tary of Defense Chuck Hagel said ISIS has shown that it is “as sophis­ti­cat­ed and well-fund­ed as any group that we have seen.”

“They’re beyond just a ter­ror­ist group. They mar­ry ide­ol­o­gy, a sophis­ti­ca­tion of strate­gic and tac­ti­cal mil­i­tary prowess. They are tremen­dous­ly well-fund­ed,” he said. “This is beyond any­thing that we’ve seen.”

Pri­or ISIS’s recent pub­lic suc­cess­es, the for­mer chair­man of the 9/11 Com­mis­sion, which just released a tenth anniver­sary report on the threat of ter­ror­ism cur­rent­ly fac­ing the home­land, said he was shocked at how lit­tle seems to be known inside the U.S. intel­li­gence com­mu­ni­ty about the Islamist army bru­tal­iz­ing Iraq as it has Syr­ia.

“I was appalled at the igno­rance,” for­mer New Jer­sey Gov­er­nor Tom Kean, who led the 9/11 Com­mis­sion, told ABC News last week.

Kean, a Repub­li­can, who with vice chair­man Lee Hamil­ton, a Demo­c­rat, recent­ly met with about 20 top intel­li­gence offi­cials in prepa­ra­tion of the commission’s lat­est threat report, said many offi­cials seemed both blind-sided and alarmed by the group’s rise, growth and com­pe­ten­cy.

“One offi­cial told me ‘I am more scared than at any time since 9/11,’” Kean recount­ed in a recent inter­view.

A spokesper­son for the Office of the Direc­tor of Nation­al Intel­li­gence defend­ed the intel­li­gence community’s track­ing of ISIS, say­ing offi­cials had “expressed con­cern” about the threat as far back as last year.

“The will to fight is inher­ent­ly dif­fi­cult to assess. Ana­lysts must make assess­ments based on per­cep­tions of com­mand and con­trol, lead­er­ship abil­i­ties, qual­i­ty of expe­ri­ence, and dis­ci­pline under fire — none of which can be under­stood with cer­tain­ty until the first shots are fired,” ODNI spokesper­son Bri­an Hale said.

Where did ISIS learn such sophis­ti­cat­ed mil­i­tary meth­ods, shown clear­ly after the first shots were fired?

“Prob­a­bly the Chechens,” the one of the U.S. offi­cials said.

A Chechen com­man­der named Abu Omar al-Shis­hani — who offi­cials say may have been killed in fight­ing near Mosul — is well known for com­mand­ing an inter­na­tion­al brigade with­in ISIS. Oth­er Chechens have appeared with­in pro­pa­gan­da videos includ­ing one com­man­der who was killed on video by an artillery burst near his SUV in Syr­ia.

Ear­li­er this year, ABC News report­ed on the secret his­to­ry of U.S. spe­cial oper­a­tions forces’ expe­ri­ences bat­tling high­ly capa­ble Chechen fight­ers along the Afghanistan-Pak­istan bor­der since 2001. In addi­tion, for decades Chechen sep­a­ratists have waged asym­met­ric war­fare against Russ­ian forces for con­trol of the North­ern Cau­ca­sus.

The Secret Bat­tles Between US Forces and Chechen Ter­ror­ists

In the bat­tle against ISIS, many with­in Amer­i­can “SOF,” a term that com­pris­es oper­a­tors from all branch­es of the mil­i­tary and intel­li­gence, are frus­trat­ed at being rel­e­gat­ed by the Pres­i­dent only to enabling U.S. airstrikes in Iraq. They are eager to fight ISIS more direct­ly in com­bat oper­a­tions — even if unteth­ered, mean­ing unof­fi­cial­ly and with lit­tle if any U.S. gov­ern­ment sup­port, accord­ing to some with close ties to the com­mu­ni­ty.

“ISIS and their kind must be destroyed,” said a senior coun­tert­er­ror­ism offi­cial after jour­nal­ist James Foley was behead­ed on high-def­i­n­i­tion ISIS video, echo­ing strong-word­ed state­ments of high-lev­el U.S. offi­cials includ­ing Sec­re­tary of State John Ker­ry.

6. It should come as no sur­prise to vet­er­an lis­ten­ers that ISIS is park­ing its cash in bit­coin, the lat­est exam­ple of the dig­i­tal cur­ren­cy being used  for nefar­i­ous pur­pos­es. In FTR #760, we looked at evi­dence that Bit­coin may very well have been devel­oped by BND and the Under­ground Reich.

“ISIS Parks Its Cash in Bit­coin, Experts Say” by Heather Nauert; Fox News; 11/25/2015.

Just days after the hack­er group Anony­mous pledged to hunt down Islam­ic State mem­bers and launch cyber­at­tacks against their accounts, a sep­a­rate group of techies claims it has iden­ti­fied a key fund­ing avenue for the ter­ror net­work – bit­coin accounts.

Ghost Secu­rity Group, a col­lec­tive of com­puter “hack­tivists,” says it has locat­ed sev­eral bit­coin accounts that ISIS uses to fund oper­a­tions. One account con­tained $3 mil­lion worth of bit­coin, a Ghost­Sec mem­ber told Michael K. Smith II, a co-founder of Kro­nos Advi­sory, a nation­al secu­rity advi­sory firm.

Ghost­Sec “wants to make an impact in coun­tert­er­ror­ism,” Smith said, adding that the Ghost­Sec mem­ber reached out to him because gov­ern­ment offi­cials were not pay­ing close atten­tion to the alle­ga­tions.

Smith said U.S. coun­tert­er­ror­ism offi­cials are con­cerned that ISIS is acquir­ing gold and using numer­ous finan­cial tools, includ­ing bit­coin, to tap into mar­kets. A Trea­sury Depart­ment spokesper­son said the agency couldn’t com­ment on accounts alleged­ly linked to ter­ror­ists unless the depart­ment has tak­en pub­lic action.

But bit­coin – an unreg­u­lated form of online cur­rency that cir­cum­vents the tra­di­tional bank­ing sys­tem – is on the government’s radar, since it could serve as an ide­al place­holder for ter­ror­ist assets and pro­vide a way for ter­ror­ists to exchange mon­ey. The bit­coin web­site, bitcoin.org, describes the ease with which any­one can send and receive vir­tual funds:

“Send­ing bit­coins across bor­ders is as easy as send­ing them across the street. There are no banks to make you wait three busi­ness days, no extra fees for mak­ing an inter­na­tional trans­fer, and no spe­cial lim­i­ta­tions on the min­i­mum or max­i­mum amount you can send.”

Bit­coin is con­sid­ered the first world­wide, decen­tral­ized cur­rency; it can be sent from per­son to per­son with­out the third-par­ty involve­ment of a finan­cial insti­tu­tion. Bit­coin accounts are set up with vir­tual mon­ey, but the dig­i­tal funds can be cashed in for real mon­ey or goods.

A Ghost­Sec mem­ber said ISIS’ vir­tual cur­rency amounts to between 1 per­cent and 3 per­cent of its total income – between $4.7 mil­lion and $15.6 mil­lion. The Trea­sury Depart­ment esti­mates that ISIS gen­er­ates between $468 mil­lion and $520 mil­lion annu­ally. The ter­ror group’s pri­mary sources of rev­enue are rob­bery, extor­tion, oil sales, ran­som pay­ments and over­seas dona­tions, accord­ing to the Trea­sury Depart­ment.

But it doesn’t take a for­tune to pull off a ter­ror attack. Even large-scale attacks can be rel­a­tively inex­pen­sive. The 9/11 Com­mis­sion deter­mined that it cost between $400,000 and $500,000 to plan and car­ry out the Sep­tem­ber 11 attacks on New York and Wash­ing­ton.

Ghost­Sec hack­ers insist the alleged ISIS bit­coin account was not linked to the Paris attacks, but they say it shows that ter­ror net­works have found a way to trans­fer assets with­out easy detec­tion.

Relat­ed: Sony’s PlaySta­tion 4 could be ter­ror­ists’ com­mu­ni­ca­tion tool, experts warn

“The bit­coin uni­verse is decen­tral­ized by design,” accord­ing to Juniper Research, a firm that iden­ti­fies online mar­ket trends. “They’re built by ran­dom play­ers around the world. They’re trans­ferred seam­lessly via name­less dig­i­tal wal­lets.”

Cyber­se­cu­rity expert Mor­gan Wright, a senior fel­low at the Cen­ter for Dig­i­tal Gov­ern­ment, a nation­al research and advi­sory insti­tute on infor­ma­tion tech­nol­ogy poli­cies, says ter­ror­ists are increas­ingly uti­liz­ing 21st cen­tury tech­nol­ogy to trans­fer assets and finance oper­a­tions

“Ter­ror­ists need anonymi­ty,” Wright said. “Coun­tries have got­ten very good at track­ing ter­ror financ­ing in the years since 9/11. Net­works have looked for new ways to do it, and it appears they’ve found it in bit­coin.”

Relat­ed: Anony­mous declares ‘war’ on ISIS, vows cyber­at­tacks

Gov­ern­ment offi­cials have become increas­ingly con­cerned about these unreg­u­lated finan­cial sys­tems, and the U.S. is start­ing to apply mon­ey laun­der­ing reg­u­la­tions to cyber cur­ren­cies. Firms that issue or exchange bit­coin are required to main­tain records and report trans­ac­tions of more than $10,000.

Indi­vid­ual states, too, are pass­ing laws designed to reg­u­late bit­coin exchanges. New York recent­ly enact­ed a reg­u­la­tory frame­work, and Cal­i­for­nia will start gov­ern­ing the exchanges next year. “The U.S. gov­ern­ment is work­ing with a broad coali­tion of gov­ern­ments around the world to dis­rupt ISIL’s financ­ing and to sev­er its access to the inter­na­tional finan­cial sys­tem,” a Trea­sury Depart­ment offi­cial told Fox News.

But few for­eign nations, have spe­cific reg­u­la­tions that gov­ern bit­coin use. The Euro­pean Com­mis­sion is expect­ed to release reg­u­la­tions by 2017 that would affect Euro­pean Union nations. . . .

7. An inter­est­ing foot­note to the oper­a­tions of ISIS, as well as L’Af­faire Snow­den con­cerns the use by the Islam­ic State of a Berlin-based mes­sag­ing ser­vice to broad­cast their announce­ments.

With ele­ments of CIA, as well as over­lap­ping Under­ground Reich ele­ments back­ing the Sun­ni Islamists (al-Qae­da, its Syr­i­an off­shoot the Nus­ra Front and their spawn ISIS) we won­der to what extent the Snow­den “op” was intend­ed to run inter­fer­ence for the Earth Island Boo­gie, now under­way from Ukraine to Syr­ia to Iraq to Chi­na.

Recall that, when (in the sum­mer of 2009) the Angel of Mer­cy alight­ed upon the shoul­der of Eddie the Friend­ly Spook, infus­ing him with the spir­it of human benev­o­lence, he was employed by the CIA.

“Encrypt­ed Mes­sag­ing Apps Face New Scruti­ny over Pos­si­ble Role in Attacks” by David E. Sanger and Nicole Perl­roth; The New York Times; 11/17/2015; p. A12.

. . . . Even if Apple and oth­ers in the Unit­ed States were com­pelled to weak­en the encryp­tion in their ser­vices, Amer­i­can author­i­ties still would have and no judi­cial author­i­ty over Telegram, the Berlin-based mes­sag­ing ser­vice, recent­ly used by Islam­ic State ter­ror­ists to broad­cast their com­mu­niques. . . .

 

 

 

 

Discussion

11 comments for “FTR #880 The ISIS File: The Myth of the Moderates”

  1. When you’re forced to ask ques­tions like, “will an al Qae­da ally be a peace­mak­er in [*insert con­flict zone here*]?” you real­ly have to hope world peace just sud­den­ly broke out and all groups amid a glob­al wave of peace, pros­per­i­ty, and democ­ra­cy. Because oth­er­wise that means there’s a very unfor­tu­nate group of peo­ple who are about to be offi­cial­ly ruled al Qae­da:

    For­eign Pol­i­cy
    Will an al Qae­da Ally Be a Peace­mak­er in Syr­ia?

    World pow­ers are grap­pling with whether one of Syria’s most suc­cess­ful rebel groups should be invit­ed to peace talks to help build a new gov­ern­ment.

    By Colum Lynch, John Hud­son
    Decem­ber 4, 2015

    The suc­cess of the Syr­i­an peace talks may hinge on whether a band of Islamist rebels who have fought with al Qae­da will be allowed to join the next round of nego­ti­a­tions, and poten­tial­ly play a role in a new gov­ern­ment, after mount­ing a PR cam­paign to cast them­selves as mod­er­ate mil­i­tants.

    Sau­di Ara­bia has invit­ed Ahrar al-Sham, along with more than 90 oth­er Syr­i­an oppo­si­tion rep­re­sen­ta­tives, to Riyadh next week in an attempt to uni­fy their mes­sage before big-pow­er polit­i­cal talks that are sched­uled for Dec. 18 in New York, accord­ing to diplo­mats based at the Unit­ed Nations who have been briefed on the plans.

    But Rus­sia wants Ahrar al-Sham — which has pro­vid­ed some of the stiffest mil­i­tary resis­tance against Syr­i­an Pres­i­dent Bashar al-Assad — added to the list of ter­ror­ist orga­ni­za­tions that are exclud­ed from the peace talks.

    The Islam­ic State, also known as ISIL, and Syria’s most promi­nent al Qae­da affil­i­ate, al-Nus­ra Front, are already des­ig­nat­ed as ter­ror­ist groups by the U.N. Secu­ri­ty Coun­cil. The Unit­ed States has stopped short of block­ing Ahrar al-Sham from the peace talks but has voiced con­cerns over its links to al Qaeda’s affil­i­ate in Syr­ia.

    Ahrar al-Sham, also known as the Islam­ic Move­ment of the Free Men of Syr­ia, was cre­at­ed in late 2011 by for­mer polit­i­cal pris­on­ers to fight the Assad regime. It is wide­ly con­sid­ered among the most capa­ble of anti-Assad fight­ing forces not for­mal­ly des­ig­nat­ed as ter­ror­ist orga­ni­za­tions. Over the years, it has joined forces with the U.S.-backed Free Syr­i­an Army, al-Nus­ra Front, and oth­er anti-Assad ele­ments, and is fund­ed by Turkey and Qatar.

    In op-eds ear­li­er this year in the Wash­ing­ton Post and the Tele­graph of Lon­don, Ahrar al-Sham spokesman Labib al-Nah­has denied his group shares al Qaeda’s extrem­ist ide­ol­o­gy. He sought to por­tray Ahrar al-Sham as a key play­er in the main­stream oppo­si­tion in Syr­ia.

    At the same time, the armed group signed up to a coali­tion — dubbed Jaish al-Fatah, or the Army of Con­quest — that includ­ed fight­ers from al-Nus­ra Front and oth­er extrem­ist Islam­ic fac­tions seek­ing to top­ple the Syr­i­an regime.

    “They are very tight with al-Nus­ra,” said Joshua Lan­dis, the direc­tor of the Uni­ver­si­ty of Oklahoma’s Cen­ter for Mid­dle East Stud­ies.

    Indeed, it was that coalition’s mil­i­tary suc­cess­es ear­li­er this year — it seized vital, strate­gic strong­holds in Idlib and around Alep­po — that prompt­ed Iran to gird its mil­i­tary sup­port for Assad’s regime. It also set the stage for Russia’s inter­ven­tion in Syr­ia to avert a col­lapse of the gov­ern­ment.

    The Unit­ed States has pre­vi­ous­ly expressed con­cerns about Ahrar al-Sham’s links to al-Nus­ra Front. But it has nev­er des­ig­nat­ed the group as a ter­ror­ist orga­ni­za­tion, leav­ing the door open for pos­si­ble coop­er­a­tion in the future. Recent­ly, Wash­ing­ton has been more will­ing to explore the pos­si­bil­i­ty of a role for Ahrar al-Sham — as long as it backs inter­na­tion­al efforts to reach a polit­i­cal set­tle­ment with the Syr­i­an gov­ern­ment, accord­ing to diplo­mats track­ing the process.

    “The Amer­i­cans say any­one who signs on to a cease-fire can be [left off] the ter­ror list,” said one offi­cial who is close­ly involved in the diplo­mat­ic process. “Con­verse­ly, if you don’t sign onto a cease-fire, you’re fair game.”

    A State Depart­ment offi­cial, speak­ing on con­di­tion of anonymi­ty, declined to out­line the Amer­i­can posi­tion on Ahrar al-Sham but said the Unit­ed States was “mind­ful that we have more work to do in resolv­ing this issue.”

    ...

    While there is broad agree­ment that the Islam­ic State will be exclud­ed from polit­i­cal talks, the key inter­na­tion­al play­ers — includ­ing the Unit­ed States, Rus­sia, Iran, Turkey, and Sau­di Ara­bia — have wide­ly diver­gent views on which groups should be includ­ed. Qatar, for instance, has urged al-Nus­ra Front to break away from al Qae­da in hopes the group might be giv­en a voice in the polit­i­cal tran­si­tion.

    Ulti­mate­ly, the Unit­ed States seems to be seek­ing a mid­dle ground on Ahrar al-Sham: While it refus­es to embrace the Islamist group, Wash­ing­ton also won’t block it from West­ern-backed polit­i­cal talks. A West­ern diplo­mat said the issue could be resolved if the mil­i­tant group plays its cards right.

    “We don’t view Ahrar al-Sham as a major stick­ing point,” the offi­cial said. “If Ahrar al-Sham is will­ing to abide by a polit­i­cal process and nego­ti­a­tions towards tran­si­tion, then it should not be exclud­ed. Nor should it be a legit­i­mate tar­get.”

    The Riyadh meet­ing, set to run from Dec. 8 to Dec. 11, is expect­ed to bring togeth­er the most diverse col­lec­tion of Syr­i­an oppo­si­tion groups to date at one table. It will include the U.S.-backed Syr­i­an Nation­al Coali­tion and the Syr­i­an Free Army, as well as the Russ­ian-sup­port­ed Nation­al Coor­di­na­tion Com­mit­tee for the Forces of Demo­c­ra­t­ic Change. Addi­tion­al­ly, Jaish al-Islam — a Sau­di-financed coali­tion of more than 40 Salafi and Islamist fac­tions that was cre­at­ed in Sep­tem­ber 2013 to ramp up the war against the Assad regime — has also been invit­ed.

    Najib Ghad­bian, the U.S. rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the Syr­i­an Nation­al Coali­tion, said the Riyadh meet­ing marks the largest gath­er­ing of Syr­i­an oppo­si­tion fig­ures since the war began. He hopes the meet­ing will lead to the cre­ation of a “uni­fied posi­tion” by the Syr­i­an oppo­si­tion on polit­i­cal progress and select a slate of per­haps two dozen can­di­dates to rep­re­sent the broad­er group. He also offered sup­port for Ahrar al-Sham’s par­tic­i­pa­tion in the meet­ing.

    While “we don’t have a 100 per­cent assur­ance that they will total­ly dis­as­so­ci­ate them­selves from al Qae­da and become the mod­er­ate group we would like them to be, we should give them a chance,” Ghad­bian said. “They are fight­ing the regime, they are a cred­i­ble force on the ground, and they are Syr­i­an.”

    Amer­i­can and British spe­cial envoys are in dai­ly con­tact with the Saud­is and oth­er mem­bers of the anti-Islam­ic State coali­tion over the issue of Syr­i­an oppo­si­tion rep­re­sen­ta­tion, a U.K. diplo­mat told FP. But Riyadh is tak­ing the lead in bring­ing togeth­er the Syr­i­an oppo­si­tion.

    “The Saud­is have talked for a while about want­i­ng to host and play a role,” the British diplo­mat said. “Now the sit­u­a­tion is ripe.”

    The diplo­mat­ic jostling comes weeks before the Unit­ed States, Rus­sia, Iran, Sau­di Ara­bia, and oth­er key pow­ers will meet in New York to con­vene the third round of high-lev­el polit­i­cal talks that began in Vien­na ear­li­er this year and ulti­mate­ly will cul­mi­nate in pres­i­den­tial elec­tions in Syr­ia. Until now, the Syr­i­an gov­ern­ment and oppo­si­tion groups have been large­ly exclud­ed from the big-pow­er talks.

    Hos­sein Amir Abdol­lahi­an, Iran’s deputy for­eign min­is­ter for Arab and African affairs, denounced the Sau­di dri­ve to unite the oppo­si­tion groups, say­ing next week’s meet­ing in Riyadh “will divert Vien­na polit­i­cal efforts on Syr­ia from its nat­ur­al path and will dri­ve the Vien­na talks toward fail­ure,” accord­ing to the offi­cial IRNA news agency, the Asso­ci­at­ed Press report­ed.

    Who is invit­ed to the nego­ti­a­tions known by world pow­ers as the Vien­na process — named for the first two rounds of Russ­ian- and U.S.-backed dis­cus­sions that were held in the Aus­tri­an cap­i­tal — has emerged as a major stick­ing point. Com­pli­cat­ing mat­ters, key region­al pow­ers have been throw­ing finan­cial and mil­i­tary mus­cle behind an array of com­pet­ing fac­tions in Syr­ia, where Qatar, Turkey, and Sau­di Ara­bia sup­port a vari­ety of Islamist fac­tions.

    Tense rela­tions between Moscow and Ankara have added anoth­er lay­er of com­plex­i­ty since last week’s Turk­ish shoot­down of a Russ­ian war­plane along the Syr­i­an-Turk­ish bor­der. Russ­ian jets are report­ed­ly pro­vid­ing air sup­port to Kur­dish mil­i­tary fight­ers, defy­ing Ankara’s long­time fears and oppo­si­tion to Kur­dish sep­a­ratist ambi­tions. Moscow is not the only pow­er help­ing Kur­dish fight­ers: Seek­ing to seize ter­ri­to­ry in north­ern Syr­ia from the Islam­ic State, the Unit­ed States also has sup­port­ed the mil­i­tary wing of the Kur­dish Demo­c­ra­t­ic Union Par­ty (PYD), which draws inspi­ra­tion from Abdul­lah Ocalan, the jailed founder of the Kur­dis­tan Work­ers’ Par­ty (PKK). Ankara and Wash­ing­ton both con­sid­er the PKK a ter­ror­ist orga­ni­za­tion.

    ...

    But the Unit­ed States is press­ing Ankara to recon­sid­er or at least issue an invi­ta­tion to anoth­er rep­re­sen­ta­tive from Muslim’s Syr­ia-based polit­i­cal par­ty. Obvi­ous­ly, the Turks have been very clear from “day one” about their oppo­si­tion to the PYD, said one diplo­mat involved in the process. “But the Amer­i­cans have had some tough dis­cus­sions with the Turks on this. It hasn’t been pleas­ant.”

    Kurds make up the largest eth­nic minor­i­ty in Syr­ia — about 10 per­cent of the nation’s over­whelm­ing­ly Sun­ni pre­war pop­u­la­tion of 23 mil­lion. Ulti­mate­ly, U.S. and oth­er West­ern offi­cials said the list of oppo­si­tion rep­re­sen­ta­tives should be as broad as pos­si­ble in order to rep­re­sent all Syr­i­ans — includ­ing Sun­nis, Kurds, Druze, Chris­tians, and Alaw­ites.

    “Big tent is a good way of describ­ing it,” the West­ern diplo­mat said. “It shouldn’t be the West defin­ing this. The Syr­i­an oppo­si­tion of all dif­fer­ent types and back­grounds can be rep­re­sent­ed. The aim is to facil­i­tate and help them come togeth­er to rep­re­sent a free Syr­ia in the nego­ti­a­tions.”

    “Big tent is a good way of describ­ing it”
    Can tents get too big? Well, it depends on who you ask. If you lis­ten to Ankara, the tent isn’t big enough for the var­i­ous Kur­dish fac­tions. Qatar, on the oth­er hand, would like to see some space made under the tent for al-Nus­ra to squeeze in there. And the US wants the Kurds in there but is also will­ing to include al-Nus­ra’s close ally, Ahrar al-Sham, but only as long as the group is “will­ing to abide by a polit­i­cal process”. In oth­er words, the size of the ‘big tent of nego­ti­a­tions’ is, itself, up to nego­ti­a­tions :

    ...
    While there is broad agree­ment that the Islam­ic State will be exclud­ed from polit­i­cal talks, the key inter­na­tion­al play­ers — includ­ing the Unit­ed States, Rus­sia, Iran, Turkey, and Sau­di Ara­bia — have wide­ly diver­gent views on which groups should be includ­ed. Qatar, for instance, has urged al-Nus­ra Front to break away from al Qae­da in hopes the group might be giv­en a voice in the polit­i­cal tran­si­tion.

    Ulti­mate­ly, the Unit­ed States seems to be seek­ing a mid­dle ground on Ahrar al-Sham: While it refus­es to embrace the Islamist group, Wash­ing­ton also won’t block it from West­ern-backed polit­i­cal talks. A West­ern diplo­mat said the issue could be resolved if the mil­i­tant group plays its cards right.

    “We don’t view Ahrar al-Sham as a major stick­ing point,” the offi­cial said. “If Ahrar al-Sham is will­ing to abide by a polit­i­cal process and nego­ti­a­tions towards tran­si­tion, then it should not be exclud­ed. Nor should it be a legit­i­mate tar­get.
    ...

    So will groups like Ahrar al-Sham actu­al­ly agree to abide by a polit­i­cal process in ham­mer­ing out a peace deal? Well, they indeed agree to form the new “big tent” body for nego­ti­at­ing a peace set­tle­ment, although one fac­tion of Ahrar al-Sham pulled out after com­plain­ing that the agree­ment failed to “con­firm the Mus­lim iden­ti­ty of our peo­ple,” while anoth­er wing signed the agree­ment so it appears that Ahrar al-Sham has a bit of an inter­nal polit­i­cal process it’s going to have to deal with on its own.

    But that was­n’t the only angst to emerge from the Islamist par­ties at the nego­ti­a­tion table and it does­n’t bode well for their will­ing­ness to engage in a polit­i­cal process: Islamist del­e­gates object­ed to using the word “democ­ra­cy” in the final state­ment, so the term “demo­c­ra­t­ic mech­a­nism” was used instead:

    The New York Times
    Syr­i­an Rebels Form Bloc for New Round of Peace Talks

    By BEN HUBBARD
    DEC. 10, 2015

    RIYADH, Sau­di Ara­bia — An array of Syr­i­an oppo­si­tion groups agreed here on Thurs­day to form a new and more inclu­sive body to guide the diverse and divid­ed oppo­nents of Pres­i­dent Bashar al-Assad in a new round of planned talks aimed at end­ing the Syr­i­an civ­il war.

    The for­ma­tion of such a body has been seen by the Unit­ed States and the opposition’s oth­er inter­na­tion­al sup­port­ers as a pre­req­ui­site for new talks, and the new body appeared to fit the bill by pulling togeth­er polit­i­cal dis­si­dents who have long dis­trust­ed one anoth­er as well as rebel groups fight­ing the Syr­i­an Army.

    “This is the widest par­tic­i­pa­tion for the oppo­si­tion, inside and out­side of Syr­ia, and we have the par­tic­i­pa­tion of the armed groups,” said Hadi al-Bahra, a mem­ber of the exiled Syr­i­an Nation­al Coali­tion who attend­ed the two-day con­fer­ence that pro­duced the new body.

    The agree­ment in Riyadh, which Sec­re­tary of State John Ker­ry called “an impor­tant step for­ward,” fol­lowed a truce between rebels and gov­ern­ment forces in part of the strate­gic city of Homs, which a senior Unit­ed Nations offi­cial said could serve as a build­ing block for a broad­er cease-fire agree­ment, so long as the gov­ern­ment can hold up its end of the deal as proof that it “cares about its peo­ple.”

    The twin devel­op­ments — the oppo­si­tion con­fer­ence in Sau­di Ara­bia and the truce inside Syr­ia — occurred as world lead­ers pre­pared to meet in New York in the com­ing days to dis­cuss pos­si­ble ways to end a civ­il war that has killed more than 250,000 peo­ple, cre­at­ed mil­lions of refugees and empow­ered jihadist groups like the Islam­ic State.

    Yet it remains unclear whether peace talks will even take place, much less suc­ceed. Near­ly five years of con­flict in Syr­ia have drawn in a range of region­al and inter­na­tion­al pow­ers, with the Unit­ed States, Sau­di Ara­bia, Turkey and oth­ers back­ing the oppo­si­tion, while Rus­sia and Iran have stood firm­ly behind Mr. Assad.

    Tak­ing advan­tage of the chaos, an affil­i­ate of Al Qae­da has gained trac­tion among the rebels while the extrem­ists of the Islam­ic State have seized stretch­es of the coun­try for a self-declared caliphate that extends into Iraq.

    The rise of the Islam­ic State and the waves of Syr­i­an refugees arriv­ing in Europe have accel­er­at­ed inter­na­tion­al efforts to end the war, and a new round of inter­na­tion­al peace talks were pro­posed at an inter­na­tion­al meet­ing last month in Vien­na.

    This week’s oppo­si­tion con­fer­ence in Riyadh was part of the prepa­ra­tion for those talks.

    In two days of meet­ings host­ed by the Sau­di gov­ern­ment that end­ed Thurs­day, more than 100 oppo­si­tion lead­ers cre­at­ed a new high com­mis­sion to over­see nego­ti­a­tions with the gov­ern­ment.

    While pre­vi­ous efforts to uni­fy the oppo­si­tion failed or remained lim­it­ed, the Riyadh meet­ing brought togeth­er many par­ties with dif­fer­ing agen­das, some of whom regard­ed one anoth­er as ene­mies: exile politi­cians from the Syr­i­an Nation­al Coali­tion; dis­si­dents who have remained inside the coun­try; and rep­re­sen­ta­tives from armed groups, includ­ing some hard-line Islamists.

    All par­ties signed a final state­ment that called for main­tain­ing the uni­ty of Syr­ia and build­ing a civ­il, rep­re­sen­ta­tive gov­ern­ment that would take charge after a tran­si­tion­al peri­od, at the start of which Mr. Assad and his asso­ciates would step down.

    The high com­mis­sion con­tains 33 mem­bers, about one-third rep­re­sent­ing armed fac­tions. It will select a nego­ti­at­ing team of 15 peo­ple to face the Assad gov­ern­ment at talks that could begin in Jan­u­ary.

    Par­tic­i­pants said issues that have long divid­ed the oppo­si­tion remained, with fight­ers dis­miss­ing politi­cians, exiles writ­ing off domes­tic dis­si­dents and Islamists and sec­u­lars not trust­ing each other’s motives.

    “There were many false accu­sa­tions against us, but most of our peo­ple have been in prison,” said Kha­laf al-Dawood, a mem­ber of the Nation­al Coor­di­na­tion Body, an oppo­si­tion group that has remained based in Syr­ia.

    He said the new body would coun­ter­act claims by Rus­sia and Iran that the oppo­si­tion was too scat­tered to uphold an agree­ment.

    But divi­sions and obsta­cles remain.

    Islamist del­e­gates object­ed to using the word “democ­ra­cy” in the final state­ment, so the term “demo­c­ra­t­ic mech­a­nism” was used instead, accord­ing to a mem­ber of one such group who attend­ed the meet­ing.

    And one pow­er­ful Islamist rebel brigade, Ahrar al-Sham, announced that it was with­draw­ing from the con­fer­ence, accus­ing oth­er del­e­gates of being too close to the Syr­i­an gov­ern­ment and say­ing that con­fer­ence failed to “con­firm the Mus­lim iden­ti­ty of our peo­ple.”

    But Abdu­laz­iz Sager, the Sau­di aca­d­e­m­ic who mod­er­at­ed the meet­ings, said after­ward that the rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the group had not known about the state­ment and had signed the final agree­ment any­way — sug­gest­ing a split between the group’s polit­i­cal offi­cials and its hard-line base.

    The mere par­tic­i­pa­tion of armed fac­tions marked a shift, since many have long shunned pol­i­tics and refused to nego­ti­ate with the gov­ern­ment.

    Mohammed Baer­ak­dar, a rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the Islam Army, one of the armed brigades, said that for­eign mil­i­tary sup­port had not been enough to ensure vic­to­ry so the group had to pur­sue a polit­i­cal solu­tion.

    “We did not take up arms to spill blood,” he said. “We took up arms to spare blood.”

    ...

    “The real test for the gov­ern­ment,” Mr. El Hil­lo said, is whether “it will give civil­ians a peace div­i­dend,” mean­ing resum­ing ser­vices and allow­ing human­i­tar­i­an access. Such promis­es have gone unful­filled in pre­vi­ous cease-fires that failed, leav­ing behind destroyed ghost towns.

    “This should be tak­en as an oppor­tu­ni­ty to show that the state cares about its peo­ple,” Mr. El Hil­lo added, “and not repeat what we have seen.”

    Still, the prospect of a peace deal rests on sev­er­al par­al­lel diplo­mat­ic tracks bear­ing fruit.

    The talks are to come along­side a cease-fire that the Unit­ed Nations hopes will cov­er much of the coun­try, except ter­ri­to­ries con­trolled by ter­ror­ist groups.

    Jor­dan is tasked with com­ing up with a list of groups that are to be des­ig­nat­ed as ter­ror­ists, itself a polit­i­cal­ly charged enter­prise.

    Many oppo­si­tion groups are con­sid­ered to be extrem­ist in their ide­ol­o­gy. “It’s a very fraught issue,” one Unit­ed Nations diplo­mat said.

    Well, let’s hope the “demo­c­ra­t­ic mech­a­nism” the nego­ti­at­ing par­ties agreed upon actu­al­ly results in some sort of gov­ern­ment that isn’t anti­thet­i­cal to democ­ra­cy.

    So with all that hap­pen­ing, it will be inter­est­ing to see if “mod­er­ate” rebel groups like the Free Syr­i­an Army emerge as a sort of com­pro­mise group that near­ly every­one will be able to unite behind. After all, the Free Syr­i­an Army is still at least qua­si-Islamist giv­en its close rela­tion­ship with the Syr­i­an Mus­lim Broth­er­hood. But it’s also not an overt al Qae­da affil­i­ate which, sad­ly, makes groups like the Free Syr­i­an Army rather crit­i­cal play­ers in any sort of nego­ti­a­tions where pre­vent­ing a take over by an al Qae­da-like group is going to be avoid­ed. At least they might agree to some sort of demo­c­ra­t­ic qua­si-sec­u­lar solu­tion that isn’t a total­ly Sun­ni-Islamist dom­i­nat­ed gov­ern­ment. Hope­ful­ly.

    Who knows, maybe some sort of set­tle­ment where the non-Islamist groups are giv­en the key Sun­ni lead­er­ship roles in a future sec­u­lar gov­ern­ment is still pos­si­ble. Or maybe not:

    Stars and Stripes
    US-backed Syr­i­an rebel group on verge of col­lapse

    By Slo­bo­dan Lekic
    Stars and Stripes
    Pub­lished: Decem­ber 13, 2015

    IRBID, Jor­dan — The main West­ern-backed Arab rebel group in Syr­ia appears on the verge of col­lapse because of low morale, deser­tions, and dis­trust of its lead­ers by the rank and file, threat­en­ing U.S. efforts to put togeth­er a ground force capa­ble of defeat­ing the Islam­ic State and nego­ti­at­ing an end to the Syr­i­an civ­il war.

    “After five years of this war the peo­ple are just tired … and so are our fight­ers,” said Jaseen Sal­abeh, a vol­un­teer in the Free Syr­i­an Army, which was formed in Sep­tem­ber 2011 by defec­tors from the army of Syr­i­an Pres­i­dent Bashar Assad.

    The Free Syr­i­an Army, or FSA, some of whose mem­bers are trained by the Cen­tral Intel­li­gence Agency, is the biggest and most sec­u­lar of the scores of rebel groups fight­ing the Assad gov­ern­ment. Although defeat­ing the Islam­ic State is the focus of West­ern atten­tion, the U.S. believes there can be no last­ing peace in Syr­ia, and no elim­i­na­tion of the Islam­ic State there, as long as Assad remains in pow­er.

    In order to deal with both the Islam­ic State and the future of Assad, Sec­re­tary of State John Ker­ry and Russ­ian For­eign Min­is­ter Sergey Lavrov have bro­kered a plan to bring the Syr­i­an gov­ern­ment, which Rus­sia sup­ports, and all “mod­er­ate” rebel groups to the nego­ti­at­ing table in Vien­na next month. The aim is to build a coali­tion to wage a coun­tert­er­ror­ism cam­paign against the Islam­ic State mil­i­tants and pre­pare for demo­c­ra­t­ic elec­tions with­in the next 18 months.

    With an esti­mat­ed 35,000 fight­ers, the FSA remains the biggest rebel group and is a key ele­ment in the U.S. strat­e­gy. Islam­ic State fight­ers are believed to num­ber about 30,000 but spread over a wider area of both Syr­ia and Iraq.

    If the FSA can’t be relied on as a strong part­ner, how­ev­er, the U.S. and its West­ern part­ners would have to turn to an assort­ment of small­er hard­line Islam­ic mili­tias — backed by Sau­di Ara­bia and Qatar — that the West fears are too mil­i­tant to rec­on­cile with the sec­u­lar gov­ern­ment. Kur­dish rebels, known as the YPG, have fought well in Kur­dish areas but are not con­sid­ered a viable option in Arab parts of the coun­try.

    Unlike the Islam­ic State and oth­er more extrem­ist groups, how­ev­er, the FSA has failed to achieve any sig­nif­i­cant vic­to­ries or cre­ate a “lib­er­at­ed” zone of its own. On many occa­sions, its for­mer fight­ers say, FSA units have coop­er­at­ed close­ly with the al-Qai­da-linked Nus­ra Front, which is strong in the north and shares the same bat­tle­space as the FSA in south­ern Syr­ia.

    “The lack of bat­tle­field suc­cess has mit­i­gat­ed against them,” Ed Blanche, a Beirut-based mem­ber of London’s Inter­na­tion­al Insti­tute for Strate­gic Stud­ies and an expert on Mid­dle East­ern wars, said of the FSA. “They haven’t been get­ting sig­nif­i­cant (out­side) sup­port because they haven’t been show­ing results.”

    Among oth­er prob­lems, Sal­abeh and oth­ers say, FSA fight­ers are los­ing faith in their own lead­ers.

    “They reg­u­lar­ly steal our salaries,” said Sal­abeh, who came to this city in north­ern Jor­dan after being wound­ed in bat­tle and now intends to stay here. “We’re sup­posed to get $400 a month, but we only actu­al­ly receive $100.”

    He also com­plained of lack of sup­port for those killed or wound­ed in bat­tle. Fight­ers who lost legs in the fight­ing were reduced to beg­ging inside the mas­sive refugee camps in north­ern Jor­dan.

    “If some­body is wound­ed, they just dump him in Jor­dan and aban­don him,” he said. “Wid­ows of mar­tyred fight­ers also receive noth­ing after their deaths.”

    As a result, many FSA men in south­ern Syr­ia were aban­don­ing the group, usu­al­ly leav­ing for Jor­dan or join­ing the esti­mat­ed 15,000-strong Nus­ra Front, accord­ing to Saleh and oth­er Syr­i­ans inter­viewed in north­ern Jor­dan. By con­trast, the Nus­ra Front report­ed­ly pays its fight­ers $1,000 a month and cares for its wound­ed mem­bers, pay­ing their med­ical bills and pro­vid­ing for the fam­i­lies of those killed in com­bat.

    The sit­u­a­tion has got­ten so bad, Sal­abeh said, that some FSA fight­ers are ques­tion­ing the rea­son for con­tin­u­ing the con­flict. He said a grow­ing num­ber believe the time has come for a cease­fire even it means coop­er­at­ing with Assad.

    “After all, Bashar isn’t all that bad,” Sal­abeh said.

    Karim Jamal Sobei­hi, a refugee from south­ern Syr­ia and a self-described FSA sup­port­er, said the opposition’s main prob­lem was that var­i­ous groups owed their alle­giance to for­eign gov­ern­ments that pro­vide the mon­ey and, there­fore, the rebels can­not agree on uni­fied posi­tions. This includ­ed the FSA, which itself con­sists of many dif­fer­ent fac­tions, he said. That made the rad­i­cals — with their Islamist ide­ol­o­gy and inde­pen­dent streak — more attrac­tive to those will­ing to fight the regime, he said.

    ...

    Hisham Jaber, a retired Lebanese gen­er­al and mil­i­tary ana­lyst, said the inter­na­tion­al focus on fight­ing the Islam­ic State rather than oust­ing Assad indi­cates the West and its Arab allies rec­og­nize that Assad can­not be over­thrown by mil­i­tary means — espe­cial­ly after Russia’s inter­ven­tion on the Syr­i­an president’s behalf.

    This has in turn demor­al­ized FSA troops, Jaber told Stars and Stripes dur­ing an inter­view in Beirut. He said FSA units in both the north and south were coop­er­at­ing more close­ly with the bet­ter-orga­nized and bet­ter-fund­ed Nus­ra Front, regard­less of its al-Qai­da con­nec­tions.

    “In con­trast, Nus­ra is win­ning the hearts and minds of the peo­ple, and posi­tion­ing them­selves as mod­er­ates despite their al-Qai­da links,” said Elias Han­na, a for­mer Lebanese gen­er­al and pro­fes­sor of geopol­i­tics at the Amer­i­can Uni­ver­si­ty of Beirut.

    Ok so...

    ...

    If the FSA can’t be relied on as a strong part­ner, how­ev­er, the U.S. and its West­ern part­ners would have to turn to an assort­ment of small­er hard­line Islam­ic mili­tias — backed by Sau­di Ara­bia and Qatar — that the West fears are too mil­i­tant to rec­on­cile with the sec­u­lar gov­ern­ment. Kur­dish rebels, known as the YPG, have fought well in Kur­dish areas but are not con­sid­ered a viable option in Arab parts of the coun­try.

    ...

    Karim Jamal Sobei­hi, a refugee from south­ern Syr­ia and a self-described FSA sup­port­er, said the opposition’s main prob­lem was that var­i­ous groups owed their alle­giance to for­eign gov­ern­ments that pro­vide the mon­ey and, there­fore, the rebels can­not agree on uni­fied posi­tions. This includ­ed the FSA, which itself con­sists of many dif­fer­ent fac­tions, he said. That made the rad­i­cals — with their Islamist ide­ol­o­gy and inde­pen­dent streak — more attrac­tive to those will­ing to fight the regime, he said.

    ...

    “In con­trast, Nus­ra is win­ning the hearts and minds of the peo­ple, and posi­tion­ing them­selves as mod­er­ates despite their al-Qai­da links,” said Elias Han­na, a for­mer Lebanese gen­er­al and pro­fes­sor of geopol­i­tics at the Amer­i­can Uni­ver­si­ty of Beirut.

    ...

    “Karim Jamal Sobei­hi, a refugee from south­ern Syr­ia and a self-described FSA sup­port­er, said the opposition’s main prob­lem was that var­i­ous groups owed their alle­giance to for­eign gov­ern­ments that pro­vide the mon­ey and, there­fore, the rebels can­not agree on uni­fied posi­tions.”
    Yep, the alle­giance of so many rebel groups to for­eign gov­ern­ments with a predilec­tion for spon­sor­ing mil­i­tant anti-demo­c­ra­t­ic extrem­ists is def­i­nite­ly a peace process prob­lem.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | December 14, 2015, 4:04 pm
  2. Oh look. A new giant ‘anti-extrem­ism’ mil­i­tary coali­tion was just announced. Maybe. It’s actu­al­ly unclear what’s been announced:

    The Wall Street Jour­nal
    Sau­di Ara­bia Forms Mus­lim Anti-Ter­ror Coali­tion
    The 34-mem­ber bloc will fight ter­ror­ism in Iraq, Syr­ia, Libya, Egypt and Afghanistan, deputy crown prince says

    By Ahmed Al Omran in Riyadh and Asa Fitch in Dubai

    Dec. 15, 2015 9:59 a.m. ET

    Sau­di Arabia’s plan to form a Mus­lim antiter­ror­ism coali­tion has under­lined a new mus­cu­lar for­eign pol­i­cy aimed at con­fronting the extrem­ist group Islam­ic State, even at the risk of wad­ing deep­er into the region’s messi­est con­flicts.

    Call­ing ter­ror­ism a “dis­ease which affect­ed the Islam­ic world first before the inter­na­tion­al com­mu­ni­ty as a whole,” Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said Tues­day the coali­tion of 34 Mus­lim states would fight the scourge in Iraq, Syr­ia, Libya, Egypt and Afghanistan.

    Besides the 34 Mus­lim nations who signed up to the coali­tion, Riyadh said more than 10 oth­er coun­tries, includ­ing Indone­sia, expressed their sup­port of the new bloc. The kingdom’s main rival Iran, how­ev­er, was absent from the list.

    The for­ma­tion of the coali­tion fol­lowed crit­i­cism from U.S. and Euro­pean politi­cians that Sau­di Ara­bia hasn’t done enough to fight Islam­ic State and oth­er ter­ror­ist groups. Islam­ic State mil­i­tants took over large swaths of Iraq and Syr­ia last year and are the focus of the U.S.-led air cam­paign in which Sau­di Ara­bia and oth­er Per­sian Gulf coun­tries are par­tic­i­pat­ing.

    Some Saud­is believe the time has come to show the gov­ern­ment is seri­ous about fight­ing Islam­ic State, a Sun­ni mil­i­tant group that has roots in its own region and reli­gion.

    Islam­ic State “is the seed of evil that we have let out of the can in the Mid­dle East,” Prince Tur­ki Al Faisal, chair­man of King Faisal Cen­ter for Research and Islam­ic Stud­ies, told the Arab Strat­e­gy Forum in Dubai. “It’s our respon­si­bil­i­ty to van­quish it.”

    But it is also unclear what Sau­di Ara­bia is ask­ing the oth­er coun­tries to do—whether it is a loose group­ing to talk strat­e­gy and share intel­li­gence or the first step to estab­lish­ing an actu­al fight­ing force.

    The new Sau­di-led coali­tion will have a joint com­mand cen­ter in Riyadh to “coor­di­nate” and devel­op means to fight ter­ror­ism mil­i­tar­i­ly and ide­o­log­i­cal­ly, Prince Mohammed told a hasti­ly called news con­fer­ence at a Riyadh air base ear­ly Tues­day morn­ing.

    Some coun­tries that were list­ed as mem­bers expressed will­ing­ness to review such a pro­pos­al but didn’t appear to make any for­mal com­mit­ment to a mil­i­tary coali­tion.

    Turkey, the only coun­try in the alliance that is also a NATO mem­ber, wel­comed the new coali­tion. Turk­ish Prime Min­is­ter Ahmet Davu­to­glu said Tues­day that “the best response to those striv­ing to asso­ciate ter­ror­ism and Islam is for nations of Islam to present a uni­fied voice against ter­ror­ism”

    Mean­while, Jor­dan­ian gov­ern­ment spokesman Moham­mad Momani said the war against ter­ror­ism was “our war and the Mus­lims’ war,” accord­ing to a state­ment car­ried by the offi­cial Petra news agency.

    William Hague, a for­mer U.K. for­eign sec­re­tary, told the Arab Strat­e­gy Forum in Dubai on Tues­day that more Arab involve­ment was need­ed to com­bat Islam­ic State and counter the extrem­ist nar­ra­tive that it was at war with the West. Mak­ing it effec­tive required coor­di­na­tion, how­ev­er, he said.

    “To make some­thing like NATO, you real­ly have to decide to act together…to send peo­ple to act and die in anoth­er coun­try,” Mr. Hague said.

    For Riyadh, the risks of such aggres­sive mil­i­tary action on a broad scale have become appar­ent in Yemen.

    ...

    Christo­pher David­son, a pro­fes­sor at Durham Uni­ver­si­ty in the U.K. who spe­cial­izes in Gulf affairs, said the new alliance was pri­mar­i­ly a way for Sau­di Ara­bia to gen­er­ate pos­i­tive news about its role in inter­na­tion­al affairs fol­low­ing recent ter­ror attacks in Paris and San Bernardi­no. Both of the assailants in the Cal­i­for­nia attack had spent time in the king­dom.

    Yet divi­sions with­in the par­tic­i­pat­ing coun­tries of the Islam­ic coali­tion don’t bode well for its effec­tive­ness, he said.

    “The con­stituent mem­bers of the new coali­tion most­ly fall on the Sun­ni side of the sec­tar­i­an fault-line and are them­selves deeply divid­ed on a num­ber of key pol­i­cy areas,” Mr. David­son said.

    “The prob­a­bil­i­ty that it can become an effec­tive inter­na­tion­al secu­ri­ty alliance is there­fore almost zero.”

    Sounds excit­ing:

    ...
    Christo­pher David­son, a pro­fes­sor at Durham Uni­ver­si­ty in the U.K. who spe­cial­izes in Gulf affairs, said the new alliance was pri­mar­i­ly a way for Sau­di Ara­bia to gen­er­ate pos­i­tive news about its role in inter­na­tion­al affairs fol­low­ing recent ter­ror attacks in Paris and San Bernardi­no. Both of the assailants in the Cal­i­for­nia attack had spent time in the king­dom.

    Yet divi­sions with­in the par­tic­i­pat­ing coun­tries of the Islam­ic coali­tion don’t bode well for its effec­tive­ness, he said.

    “The con­stituent mem­bers of the new coali­tion most­ly fall on the Sun­ni side of the sec­tar­i­an fault-line and are them­selves deeply divid­ed on a num­ber of key pol­i­cy areas,” Mr. David­son said.

    “The prob­a­bil­i­ty that it can become an effec­tive inter­na­tion­al secu­ri­ty alliance is there­fore almost zero.”

    That does­n’t sound like we’re on the verge of see­ing a ground-force coali­tion to be used against ISIS. And con­sid­er­ing that Sau­di Ara­bi­a’s gov­ern­ment is like a much larg­er ver­sion of ISIS ‘that made it’ and a top sup­port­er of an array of Islamist extrem­ist orga­ni­za­tions oper­at­ing in Syr­ia, the for­ma­tion of an anti-extrem­ism army, as opposed to an explic­it­ly anti-ISIS army, would be a bit sur­pris­ing any­way. And accord­ing to an anony­mous senior US defense offi­cial, the announce­ment of this new Islamist army against Islamist extrem­ism was indeed pret­ty sur­pris­ing to US defense offi­cials since they had no indi­ca­tion that such an announce­ment was going to take place:

    The Asso­ci­at­ed Press
    The Lat­est: Sau­di FM details new alliance

    Decem­ber 15 at 10:33 AM

    MOSCOW — The lat­est news on devel­op­ments in the Syr­i­an con­flict. All times local:

    6:20 p.m.

    Sau­di Ara­bia says a new Islam­ic mil­i­tary alliance would con­sid­er requests for assis­tance from mem­bers on a “case-by-case basis.”

    For­eign Min­is­ter Adel al-Jubeir told reporters in Paris on Tues­day that “there is no lim­it in terms of where the assis­tance would be pro­vid­ed, or to whom it would be pro­vid­ed.”

    Sau­di Ara­bia announced the 34-nation alliance ear­li­er in the day, say­ing it would uni­fy efforts to fight ter­ror­ism across the Mus­lim world.

    The alliance does not include Shi­ite-major­i­ty Iran or Iraq, both of which are bat­tling the Islam­ic State group. It also leaves out Syr­ia, a key ally of Tehran. Sau­di Ara­bia and Iran are region­al rivals that back oppo­site sides in the civ­il wars in Syr­ia and Yemen.

    5:30 p.m.

    U.S. Defense Sec­re­tary Ash Carter says he is look­ing for­ward to learn­ing more about what Sau­di Ara­bia has in mind for the cre­ation of a new 34-nation coun­tert­er­ror­ism alliance based in Riyadh.

    Carter told reporters on Tues­day dur­ing a vis­it to Incir­lik Air Base in Turkey, that he would like to talk to the Saud­is and learn more specifics of the plan.

    “In gen­er­al, at least, it appears that it’s very much aligned with some­thing that we’ve been urg­ing for quite some time, which is greater involve­ment in the cam­paign to com­bat ISIL by Sun­ni Arab coun­tries,” he said, using an acronym for the Islam­ic State group.

    A senior defense offi­cial said the U.S. did not know in advance about the for­ma­tion of an Islam­ic mil­i­tary alliance to fight ter­ror­ism, but offi­cials were work­ing to find out the details. The offi­cial spoke on con­di­tion of anonymi­ty because he was not autho­rized to dis­cuss the mat­ter pub­licly.

    —Loli­ta C. Bal­dor in Incir­lik Air Base, Turkey

    ...

    “A senior defense offi­cial said the U.S. did not know in advance about the for­ma­tion of an Islam­ic mil­i­tary alliance to fight ter­ror­ism, but offi­cials were work­ing to find out the details. The offi­cial spoke on con­di­tion of anonymi­ty because he was not autho­rized to dis­cuss the mat­ter pub­licly.”

    So the patron saints of Islam­ic extrem­ism made a sur­prise announce­ment about a new mil­i­tary coali­tion to fight Islam­ic extrem­ism. Ok then.

    In oth­er sur­pris­ing news, it turns out the world is indeed flat. Or at least each of its six sides are flat.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | December 15, 2015, 10:07 am
  3. A very big fight for the heart of ISIS in Iraq is get­ting under­way in Mosul. But as the arti­cle below points out, it won’t be a short:

    The New York Times
    After Gains Against ISIS, Pen­ta­gon Focus­es on Mosul

    By HELENE COOPER and MATTHEW ROSENBERG
    FEB. 29, 2016

    WASHINGTON — Recent gains against the Islam­ic State in east­ern Syr­ia have helped sev­er crit­i­cal sup­ply lines to Iraq and set the stage for what will be the biggest fight yet against the Sun­ni mil­i­tan­cy, the bat­tle to retake Mosul, Pen­ta­gon offi­cials said on Mon­day.

    Gen. Joseph F. Dun­ford Jr., the chair­man of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said at a Pen­ta­gon news con­fer­ence that Amer­i­can-backed forces had begun lay­ing the ground­work for the fight by mov­ing to iso­late Mosul from the Islam­ic State’s de fac­to head­quar­ters in Raqqa, Syr­ia. Kur­dish and Arab forces retook the town of Shad­da­di in east­ern Syr­ia last week, cut­ting off what Defense Sec­re­tary Ash­ton B. Carter called the last major artery between Raqqa and Mosul.

    But mil­i­tary offi­cials cau­tioned that the fight for Mosul could last many months, requir­ing Iraqi forces unproven in urban war­fare to advance street by street through the explo­sives-laden ter­rain of Iraq’s sec­ond-largest city, with more than one mil­lion peo­ple.

    In addi­tion to the advances in east­ern Syr­ia, the Pen­ta­gon has begun using cyber­at­tacks on Islam­ic State com­mu­ni­ca­tions between Raqqa and Mosul, as well as attacks meant to dis­rupt the mil­i­tant group’s abil­i­ty to use social media to recruit fight­ers, offi­cials said.

    Retak­ing Mosul would be a “mas­sive hit” to the Islam­ic State, said Patrick Mar­tin, an Iraq expert at the Insti­tute for the Study of War. Such a loss would bol­ster claims by the Amer­i­can-led coali­tion that the Sun­ni mil­i­tan­cy is on the run in Iraq. It could also sharply demor­al­ize Islam­ic State fight­ers, rais­ing ques­tions about whether the group could still cred­i­bly call itself a caliphate.

    The Pen­ta­gon has declined to pre­dict when Iraqi troops will try to enter Mosul, though Gen­er­al Dun­ford said on Mon­day that “it is not some­thing that will hap­pen in the deep, deep future.” Prime Min­is­ter Haider al-Aba­di of Iraq said two weeks ago that Iraqi forces would start a full mil­i­tary oper­a­tion to retake the city as ear­ly as March, and an Amer­i­can mil­i­tary offi­cial said over the week­end that the Pen­ta­gon believed that Iraqi troops were ready to launch a cred­i­ble assault.

    Still, mil­i­tary offi­cials acknowl­edge that the bat­tle will be an uphill slog. “Do I think it’s going to be easy? No,” Maj. Gen. Richard Clarke, the com­man­der of Amer­i­can land forces in Iraq, told reporters dur­ing a brief­ing last week. “It’s going to be tough.”

    The long fight by Iraqi secu­ri­ty forces to take back Rama­di from the Islam­ic State, which con­clud­ed in Decem­ber, offers a pre­view of the bat­tle to come over Mosul. Advanc­ing inch by inch, Iraqi forces, backed by Amer­i­can airstrikes, took more than five months to gain con­trol of the city cen­ter of Rama­di, the cap­i­tal of Anbar Province.

    As dif­fi­cult as that bat­tle was, the fight for Mosul will be much hard­er, mil­i­tary offi­cials say. The city is five times as large as Rama­di. And while the Iraqi mil­i­tary used two Amer­i­can-trained brigades in the Rama­di fight — the 73rd and the 76th, which Gen­er­al Clarke said were believed to be the best in the Iraqi Army — those forces num­ber some 8,000, far short of the 30,000 troops Pen­ta­gon offi­cials say are need­ed.

    Mil­i­tary offi­cials also say it is hard to imag­ine how the fight for Mosul can be waged with­out close Amer­i­can air sup­port, which would prob­a­bly require Amer­i­can attack heli­copters, some­thing Mr. Aba­di, for polit­i­cal rea­sons, has yet to agree to.

    The effort is like­ly to include Kur­dish pesh mer­ga fight­ers, Pen­ta­gon offi­cials say. The Amer­i­can mil­i­tary has trained some 16,000 Kur­dish fight­ers, but their par­tic­i­pa­tion is like­ly to come with its own prob­lems. “I do think the expec­ta­tion is that the force will be heav­i­ly Kur­dish, but then you get into the polit­i­cal issues,” said Kath­leen H. Hicks, a for­mer Pen­ta­gon offi­cial who is now at the Cen­ter for Strate­gic and Inter­na­tion­al Stud­ies.

    Mr. Abadi’s gov­ern­ment is unlike­ly to want the Kur­dish fight­ers to assume the lead role in the com­ing fight, a role that Iraq experts say is like­ly to be filled by the Shi­ite-dom­i­nat­ed Iraqi secu­ri­ty forces.

    In 2004, it took more than 13,000 high­ly trained troops, pri­mar­i­ly Amer­i­cans, almost two months to retake and clear Fal­lu­ja of about 3,000 insur­gents in the fiercest fight of the Iraq war. Nine­ty-five Amer­i­can ser­vice mem­bers died, and more than 560 were wound­ed.

    The bat­tle for Mosul, many mil­i­tary experts say, could be much worse. Pen­ta­gon offi­cials say they are unsure how many Islam­ic State mil­i­tants are in the city, but they have been there for almost two years.

    “When the coali­tion cleared Fal­lu­ja, it took for­ev­er, and Mosul is larg­er than Fal­lu­ja,” Mr. Mar­tin, the Iraq expert, said. “And the peo­ple who will be doing the clear­ing are not U.S. troops.”

    ...

    Gen­er­al Kinani said the Iraqi mil­i­tary was work­ing with Sun­ni tribes in Mosul against the Islam­ic State. The tribes, he said, “are giv­ing infor­ma­tion about those loca­tions that are plant­ed with explo­sive mate­ri­als and I.E.D.s, and also they talk about the morale and the sta­tus of the ISIS fight­ers inside the city.”

    “The long fight by Iraqi secu­ri­ty forces to take back Rama­di from the Islam­ic State, which con­clud­ed in Decem­ber, offers a pre­view of the bat­tle to come over Mosul. Advanc­ing inch by inch, Iraqi forces, backed by Amer­i­can airstrikes, took more than five months to gain con­trol of the city cen­ter of Rama­di, the cap­i­tal of Anbar Province.”
    So that’s about to hap­pen in Mosul. A very long, bru­tal fight. As omi­nous as that sounds, here’s a very big rea­son why it’s actu­al­ly a lot more omi­nous:

    ABC News
    ‘Cat­a­stroph­ic’: US Rais­es Alarm Over Per­ilous Mosul Dam

    By Kir­it Radia
    Lee Fer­ran

    Mar 9, 2016, 5:23 PM ET

    The U.S. Ambas­sador to the Unit­ed Nations today left a “chill­ing” brief­ing about the dan­ger posed by Iraq’s Mosul Dam and called on the inter­na­tion­al com­mu­ni­ty to real­ize the “mag­ni­tude of the prob­lem and the impor­tance of readi­ness to pre­vent a human­i­tar­i­an cat­a­stro­phe of epic pro­por­tions.”

    The brief­ing from geot­ech­ni­cal experts said the dam, already described near­ly a decade ago as the “most dan­ger­ous dam in the world,” now faces a “seri­ous and unprece­dent­ed risk of cat­a­stroph­ic fail­ure with lit­tle warn­ing.”

    The Mosul Dam lies approx­i­mate­ly 30 miles north of Iraq’s sec­ond-largest city of Mosul and has been a dan­ger ever since it was con­struct­ed in the mid-1980s on unsta­ble foun­da­tion. But offi­cials fear that in recent years the prob­lem has got­ten much worse as the ter­ror group ISIS was able to tem­porar­i­ly take con­trol of the dam and may have inter­fered with the con­stant, mas­sive grout­ing oper­a­tion that is nec­es­sary to keep the dam func­tion­al — though an Iraqi offi­cial told ABC News in 2014 that the work con­tin­ued, even under ISIS con­trol.

    In a worst case sce­nario, should the dam breach, it could send a flood wave sev­er­al sto­ries high into Mosul and inun­date cities with dev­as­tat­ing effect as far down the Tigris as Bagh­dad, more than 200 miles away, accord­ing to a 2007 warn­ing let­ter from top U.S. offi­cials to the Iraqi gov­ern­ment and con­tem­po­rary esti­mates by experts.

    “While impor­tant steps have been tak­en to address a poten­tial breach, the dam could still fail,” U.S. Ambas­sador to the U.N. Saman­tha Pow­er said today in a writ­ten state­ment. “In the event of a breach, there is the poten­tial in some places for a flood wave up to 14 meters [46 feet] high that could sweep up every­thing in its path, includ­ing peo­ple, cars, unex­plod­ed ord­nance, waste and oth­er haz­ardous mate­r­i­al, fur­ther endan­ger­ing mas­sive pop­u­la­tion cen­ters that lie in the flood path... We all must inten­si­fy our efforts to ensure that urgent­ly-need­ed repair work is under­tak­en as soon as pos­si­ble and that peo­ple across Iraq under­stand the risks and the best evac­u­a­tion routes.”

    ...

    The day after the secu­ri­ty mes­sage was sent out, an Ital­ian com­pa­ny, Tre­vi, announced that it had agreed to inter­vene and fix the dam for $300 mil­lion, but it won’t be easy.

    “These are huge and very sophis­ti­cat­ed repairs. It’s not like going to Home Depot and grab­bing some paint and caulk,” a geot­ech­ni­cal expert, who pre­vi­ous­ly worked on the dam, told ABC News.

    The expert said he fore­saw a few months before mean­ing­ful repairs would begin. In the mean­time, as to when the dam could fail, he said, it “could be tomor­row, could be next week, could be 10 years-time.”

    “The expert said he fore­saw a few months before mean­ing­ful repairs would begin. In the mean­time, as to when the dam could fail, he said, it “could be tomor­row, could be next week, could be 10 years-time.””

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | March 11, 2016, 6:55 pm
  4. A very infor­ma­tive arti­cle on this top­ic was pub­lished by Voltaire Net­work by Eman Nabih:

    https://www.voltairenet.org/article191278.html

    It con­cludes:
    ​US ​start­ed mil­i­tary strikes against ISIS in Iraq, just to pro­tect US inter­ests in Iraq. US want­ed to remove Assad regime in Syr­ia by financ­ing and sup­port­ing ter­ror­ists like ISIS, instead of fight­ing them. More­over, US is still sup­port­ing Mus­lim Broth­er­hood ter­ror­ists orga­ni­za­tion, as long as they don’t announce Mus­lim Broth­er­hood a “ter­ror­ist group”.

    The US thought that sup­port­ing Mus­lim Broth­er­hood fas­cist regime in Egypt, will enable the Mus­lim broth­er­hood to have con­trol on all oth­er ter­ror­ist groups, and it was ok for the US that ter­ror­ists divide the mid­dle east to Islam­ic emi­rates, and force their own Sharia laws pro­vi­sions on the major­i­ty and the minor­i­ty, as long as they will become allies to the US instead of being ene­mies.

    Some oth­er inter­est­ing pas­sages include:
    Mus­lim Broth­er­hood are the par­ent of all ter­ror­ist groups, includ­ing ISIS. Has­san Al-Ban­na, founder of the Mus­lim Broth­er­hood sought to restore world­wide Islam­ic Caliphate. Since his child­hood, Alban­na was attract­ed to extrem­ists who were hos­tile to West­ern cul­ture and to its sys­tem of rights, par­tic­u­lar­ly women’s rights.

    Al-Ban­na spelled out his ideas in a major doc­u­ment titled “The Way of Jihad.”

    Under Al-Banna’s stew­ard­ship, the Broth­er­hood devel­oped a net­work of under­ground cells, stole weapons, trained fight­ers, formed secret assas­si­na­tion squads, found­ed sleep­er cells of sub­ver­sive sup­port­ers in the ranks of the army and police, and wait­ed for the order to go pub­lic with ter­ror­ism, assas­si­na­tions, and sui­cide mis­sions.

    It was dur­ing this time that the Broth­er­hood found a soul­mate in Nazi Ger­many. The Reich offered great pow­er con­nec­tions to the move­ment, but the rela­tion­ship bro­kered by the Broth­er­hood was more than a mar­riage of con­ve­nience. Both move­ments sought world con­quest and dom­i­na­tion and both move­ments com­mit­ted crimes against human­i­ty.

    On 27 Jan­u­ary 2016, Al-Bawa­ba News pub­lished names of 30 Mus­lim broth­er­hood ele­ments, who joined ter­ror­ist camps in Libya and are trained to com­mit sui­ci­dal attacks in Egypt. Mus­lim Broth­er­hood joined ISIS and Al-Qae­da ter­ror­ist camps in East­ern Libya, dur­ing the last 6 month and are trained on using weapons, mak­ing explo­sives and car bombs.

    Al-Bawa­ba News revealed 30 names out of 100 from the Mus­lim broth­er­hood orga­ni­za­tion, who joined ter­ror­ist camps in Libya and Syr­ia, like ISIS and Al-Qae­da and espe­cial­ly the ter­ror­ist group called “Al-Mora­betoun Al-Godod” a ter­ror­ist branch of Al-Qae­da orga­ni­za­tion in Libya, to pre­pare the MB ele­ments to car­ry out sui­ci­dal attacks in Egypt.

    In Bahrain, dur­ing the year of 2012, Nass­er Al-Fadal­lah one of the Mus­lim Broth­er­hood top lead­ers, made a speech in front of the US Embassy in Man­a­ma, protest­ed against the abus­ing movie of Prophet Mohamed, when masked men appeared behind Fadal­lah raised the black flags of ISIS. At this time, no one under­stood the pur­pose or the sym­bol of rais­ing these flags, till ISIS raised the same flag after they appeared in Syr­ia and Iraq.

    On 18/6/2014, The Egypt­ian min­istry of Inte­ri­or arrest­ed Mam­douh Mohamed Has­san, Mus­lim Broth­er­hood mem­ber worked in the Egypt­ian min­istry of edu­ca­tion, who was involved in vio­lence incite­ment and par­tic­i­pat­ed in attack­ing police forces dur­ing Mus­lim Broth­er­hood armed and vio­lent protests. Inves­ti­ga­tors revealed that he had maps and papers that indi­cat­ed the ties between ISIS and Mus­lim Broth­er­hood to com­mit ter­ror attacks in dif­fer­ent parts of Egypt.

    SIS man­aged to recruit many of Mus­lim Broth­er­hood youth through social net­works. Like Mus­lim Broth­er­hood jihad move­ments in Egypt: Molo­tov, Ahrar and Islam­ic Jihad in Egypt. All these Mus­lim Broth­er­hood move­ments in Egypt pledged loy­al­ty to ISIS.

    Sabra Alqasse­my, for­mer Jihadist in Egypt gave up vio­lence some time ago, and pro­vid­ed ear­li­er infor­ma­tion and details which led to the arrest of the first ISIS cell in Shar­qia city. He con­firmed that ISIS ide­ol­o­gy exists in Egypt since Mus­lim Broth­er­hood have reached pow­er, and the fol­low­ers and sup­port­ers of ISIS got the bless­ings from Mohamed Mor­si. The armed forces war against ter­ror­ism in Sinai, forced ter­ror­ists to escape to upper Egypt and hide in the moun­tains areas.

    Nabil Naim, for­mer leader of Jihadists group in Egypt, gave up vio­lence and now he is fight­ing ter­ror­ism, and Dr. Samir Ghat­tas, direc­tor of Strate­gic stud­ies in the mid­dle east cen­ter, con­firmed that there is an Egypt­ian man called Abu Hamza Almas­ry, he is the link between Mus­lim Broth­er­hood youth jiha­di move­ments in Egypt and ISIS leader Abu Bakr Albogh­dady. They added that after the 30th of June rev­o­lu­tion that top­pled the Mus­lim Broth­er­hood fas­cist regime in Egypt, MB found in ISIS the last hope to get back to pow­er, espe­cial­ly after what ISIS is achiev­ing in Syr­ia, Iraq and Libya.

    On 13/8/2014, Veto­gate news­pa­per pub­lished a report about unan­nounced vis­it by one of Mus­lim Broth­er­hood top lead­ers to Iraq with Abu Bakr al-Bagh­da­di the leader of ISIS [10]. Mus­lim Broth­er­hood offered ISIS all kinds of sup­port includ­ing financ­ing, in addi­tion to MB medi­a­tion and guar­an­tee that the US is not going to inter­fere in Iraq’s inter­nal affairs, and won’t launch any mil­i­tary strikes against ISIS in Iraq.
    Mus­lim Broth­er­hood also offered to facil­i­tate the entry of ISIS ele­ments to the Egypt­ian ter­ri­to­ry, through the west­ern and south­ern bor­ders of Egypt, In return of ISIS help­ing Mus­lim Broth­er­hood to reach pow­er again in Egypt till they con­trol all country’s joints.

    Abu Bakr al-Bagh­da­di the leader of ISIS refused the Mus­lim Broth­ers offer includ­ing the finan­cial sup­port to ISIS, but showed his agree­ment to make a deal with Mus­lim Broth­er­hood to help them reach­ing pow­er again in Egypt, pro­vid­ed that Mus­lim Broth­er­hood pledge loy­al­ty to him as the grand Caliph of Mus­lims (the head of Mus­lims states), and ISIS to become part­ners to Mus­lim Broth­er­hood in rul­ing Egypt. The report revealed that Mus­lim Broth­ers total­ly refused al-Baghdadi‘s deal.

    Despite that ISIS is formed of about fif­teen thou­sand mil­i­tant and seized many arms and ammu­ni­tion and is con­trol­ling some of the oil fields in Iraq, and they man­aged to con­trol the cen­tral bank in Musul, after they seized about 429 mil­lion Dol­lar; A bunch of mer­ce­nar­ies like ISIS can­not win any bat­tle against coun­tries, peo­ple and well equipped and qual­i­fied armies in the world, but we can­not under­es­ti­mate the big threat and dan­ger these ter­ror­ists are rep­re­sent­ing, if they man­age to have full con­trol on just one Arab coun­try, like Iraq, Libya or Syr­ia.

    Iraq and Libya in par­tic­u­lar, are easy tar­gets for ISIS, After US invad­ed Iraq based on a barefaced lie of WMD, and US delib­er­ate­ly dis­persed The Iraqi Army and Police forces, same thing hap­pened in Libya after the inva­sion too. What makes things worse, is also that Libya and Iraq are formed of dif­fer­ent tribes and mul­ti­ple doc­trines, this is anoth­er dan­ger­ous issue that make people’s uni­ty against ter­ror­ism, is almost impos­si­ble, because they are not unit­ed, on the oppo­site, they are fight­ing each oth­er since the inva­sion and they do have reli­gious and doc­trines con­flicts.

    Posted by Anonymous | May 9, 2016, 6:35 am
  5. 51 State Depart­ment diplo­mats signed an inter­nal “dis­sent chan­nel” memo crit­i­ciz­ing the Oba­ma admin­is­tra­tion over its Syr­ia pol­i­cy. It’s an unusu­al­ly large num­ber of diplo­mats to sign a dis­sent chan­nel memo. It’s also unusu­al for a dis­sent memo in that it’s call­ing for more, not less, mil­i­tary action. For peace:

    The New York Times

    51 U.S. Diplo­mats Urge Strikes Against Assad in Syr­ia

    By MARK LANDLER
    JUNE 16, 2016

    WASHINGTON — More than 50 State Depart­ment diplo­mats have signed an inter­nal memo sharply crit­i­cal of the Oba­ma administration’s pol­i­cy in Syr­ia, urg­ing the Unit­ed States to car­ry out mil­i­tary strikes against the gov­ern­ment of Pres­i­dent Bashar al-Assad to stop its per­sis­tent vio­la­tions of a cease-fire in the country’s five-year-old civ­il war.

    The memo, a draft of which was pro­vid­ed to The New York Times by a State Depart­ment offi­cial, says Amer­i­can pol­i­cy has been “over­whelmed” by the unre­lent­ing vio­lence in Syr­ia. It calls for “a judi­cious use of stand-off and air weapons, which would under­gird and dri­ve a more focused and hard-nosed U.S.-led diplo­mat­ic process.”

    Such a step would rep­re­sent a rad­i­cal shift in the administration’s approach to the civ­il war in Syr­ia, and there is lit­tle evi­dence that Pres­i­dent Oba­ma has plans to change course. Mr. Oba­ma has empha­sized the mil­i­tary cam­paign against the Islam­ic State over efforts to dis­lodge Mr. Assad. Diplo­mat­ic efforts to end the con­flict, led by Sec­re­tary of State John Ker­ry, have all but col­lapsed.

    But the memo, filed in the State Department’s “dis­sent chan­nel,” under­scores the deep rifts and lin­ger­ing frus­tra­tion with­in the admin­is­tra­tion over how to deal with a war that has killed more than 400,000 peo­ple.

    The State Depart­ment set up the chan­nel dur­ing the Viet­nam War as a way for employ­ees who had dis­agree­ments with poli­cies to reg­is­ter their protest with the sec­re­tary of state and oth­er top offi­cials, with­out fear of reprisal. While dis­sent cables are not that unusu­al, the num­ber of sig­na­tures on this doc­u­ment, 51, is extreme­ly large, if not unprece­dent­ed.

    The names on the memo are almost all midlev­el offi­cials — many of them career diplo­mats — who have been involved in the administration’s Syr­ia pol­i­cy over the last five years, at home or abroad. They range from a Syr­ia desk offi­cer in the Bureau of Near East­ern Affairs to a for­mer deputy to the Amer­i­can ambas­sador in Dam­as­cus.

    While there are no wide­ly rec­og­nized names, high­er-lev­el State Depart­ment offi­cials are known to share their con­cerns. Mr. Ker­ry him­self has pushed for stronger Amer­i­can action against Syr­ia, in part to force a diplo­mat­ic solu­tion on Mr. Assad. The pres­i­dent has resist­ed such pres­sure, and has been backed up by his mil­i­tary com­man­ders, who have raised ques­tions about what would hap­pen in the event that Mr. Assad was forced from pow­er — a sce­nario that the draft memo does not address.

    The State Depart­ment spokesman, John Kir­by, declined to com­ment on the memo, which top offi­cials had just received. But he said Mr. Ker­ry respect­ed the process as a way for employ­ees “to express pol­i­cy views can­did­ly and pri­vate­ly to senior lead­er­ship.”

    Robert S. Ford, a for­mer ambas­sador to Syr­ia, said, “Many peo­ple work­ing on Syr­ia for the State Depart­ment have long urged a tougher pol­i­cy with the Assad gov­ern­ment as a means of facil­i­tat­ing arrival at a nego­ti­at­ed polit­i­cal deal to set up a new Syr­i­an gov­ern­ment.”

    Mr. Ford, who is now a senior fel­low at the Mid­dle East Insti­tute, resigned from the For­eign Ser­vice in 2014 out of frus­tra­tion with the administration’s hands-off pol­i­cy toward the con­flict.

    In the memo, the State Depart­ment offi­cials wrote that the Assad government’s con­tin­u­ing vio­la­tions of the par­tial cease-fire, known as a ces­sa­tion of hos­til­i­ties, will doom efforts to bro­ker a polit­i­cal set­tle­ment because Mr. Assad will feel no pres­sure to nego­ti­ate with the mod­er­ate oppo­si­tion or oth­er fac­tions fight­ing him. The government’s bar­rel bomb­ing of civil­ians, it said, is the “root cause of the insta­bil­i­ty that con­tin­ues to grip Syr­ia and the broad­er region.”

    “The moral ratio­nale for tak­ing steps to end the deaths and suf­fer­ing in Syr­ia, after five years of bru­tal war, is evi­dent and unques­tion­able,” it said. “The sta­tus quo in Syr­ia will con­tin­ue to present increas­ing­ly dire, if not dis­as­trous, human­i­tar­i­an, diplo­mat­ic and ter­ror­ism-relat­ed chal­lenges.”

    The memo acknowl­edged that mil­i­tary action would have risks, not the least fur­ther ten­sions with Rus­sia, which has inter­vened in the war on Mr. Assad’s behalf and helped nego­ti­ate a cease-fire. Those ten­sions increased on Thurs­day when, accord­ing to a senior Pen­ta­gon offi­cial, Rus­sia con­duct­ed airstrikes in south­ern Syr­ia against Amer­i­can-backed forces fight­ing the Islam­ic State.

    The State Depart­ment offi­cials insist­ed in their memo that they were not “advo­cat­ing for a slip­pery slope that ends in a mil­i­tary con­fronta­tion with Rus­sia,” but rather a cred­i­ble threat of mil­i­tary action to keep Mr. Assad in line.

    Once that threat was in place, the memo said, Mr. Ker­ry could under­take a diplo­mat­ic mis­sion sim­i­lar to the one he led with Iran on its nuclear pro­gram.

    The expres­sion of dis­sent came a week after Mr. Assad showed renewed defi­ance of the Unit­ed States and oth­er coun­tries, vow­ing to retake “every inch” of his coun­try from his ene­mies. The cease-fire, which Mr. Ker­ry helped nego­ti­ate in Munich last win­ter, has nev­er real­ly tak­en hold. Mr. Assad has con­tin­ued to block human­i­tar­i­an con­voys, despite a warn­ing that the Unit­ed Nations would begin air­drops of food to starv­ing towns.

    “There is an enor­mous frus­tra­tion in the bureau­cra­cy about Syr­ia pol­i­cy,” said Andrew J. Tabler, a Syr­ia expert at the Wash­ing­ton Insti­tute for Near East­ern Pol­i­cy. “What’s brought this to a head now is the real down­turn in the nego­ti­a­tions, not just between the U.S. and Rus­sia, but between Assad and the oppo­si­tion.”

    Last month, Mr. Ker­ry reject­ed the sug­ges­tion that the Unit­ed States and its allies would nev­er use force to stop the bomb­ings or enforce human­i­tar­i­an access. “If Pres­i­dent Assad has come to a con­clu­sion there’s no Plan B,” he said, “then he’s come to a con­clu­sion that is total­ly with­out any foun­da­tion what­so­ev­er and even dan­ger­ous.”

    Still, Mr. Oba­ma has shown lit­tle sign of shift­ing his focus from the cam­paign against the Islam­ic State — a strat­e­gy that prob­a­bly acquired even more urgency after the mass shoot­ing Sun­day in Orlan­do, Fla.

    In the memo, the State Depart­ment offi­cials argued that mil­i­tary action against Mr. Assad would help the fight against the Islam­ic State because it would bol­ster mod­er­ate Sun­nis, who are nec­es­sary allies against the group, also known as ISIS or ISIL.

    ...

    In this case, the memo main­ly con­firms what has been clear for some time: The State Department’s rank and file have chafed at the White House’s refusal to be drawn into the con­flict in Syr­ia.

    Dur­ing a debate in June 2013, after the Assad gov­ern­ment had used chem­i­cal weapons against its own peo­ple, Mr. Ker­ry bran­dished a State Depart­ment report that argued that the Unit­ed States need­ed to respond mil­i­tar­i­ly or Mr. Assad would view it as “green light for con­tin­ued CW use.”

    Three years lat­er, the sense of urgency at the State Depart­ment has not dimin­ished. The memo con­cludes, “It is time that the Unit­ed States, guid­ed by our strate­gic inter­ests and moral con­vic­tions, lead a glob­al effort to put an end to this con­flict once and for all.”

    “Three years lat­er, the sense of urgency at the State Depart­ment has not dimin­ished. The memo con­cludes, “It is time that the Unit­ed States, guid­ed by our strate­gic inter­ests and moral con­vic­tions, lead a glob­al effort to put an end to this con­flict once and for all.””
    That’s right, the State Depart­men­t’s “dis­sent chan­nel” memo is call­ing for US mil­i­tary strikes against Assad as part of a glob­al effort to “put an end to this con­flict once and for all.” And yet, curi­ous­ly, what that “end” would look like remains unad­dressed:

    ...
    While there are no wide­ly rec­og­nized names, high­er-lev­el State Depart­ment offi­cials are known to share their con­cerns. Mr. Ker­ry him­self has pushed for stronger Amer­i­can action against Syr­ia, in part to force a diplo­mat­ic solu­tion on Mr. Assad. The pres­i­dent has resist­ed such pres­sure, and has been backed up by his mil­i­tary com­man­ders, who have raised ques­tions about what would hap­pen in the event that Mr. Assad was forced from pow­er — a sce­nario that the draft memo does not address.
    ...

    Huh. The actu­al peace sce­nar­ios, and what role the Islamist rad­i­cals and al Qae­da affil­i­ates who com­prise the most lethal ele­ment of the exist­ing non-ISIS Syr­i­an rebel forces, appear to be yet-to-be-worked-out details. And yet it does appear to be the case that these diplo­mats don’t just expect the Assad gov­ern­ment to nego­ti­ate with the mod­er­ate rebels in some sort of final peace set­tle­ment. The “oth­er fac­tions fight him” are also sup­posed to be part of the nego­ti­a­tions:

    ...

    In the memo, the State Depart­ment offi­cials wrote that the Assad government’s con­tin­u­ing vio­la­tions of the par­tial cease-fire, known as a ces­sa­tion of hos­til­i­ties, will doom efforts to bro­ker a polit­i­cal set­tle­ment because Mr. Assad will feel no pres­sure to nego­ti­ate with the mod­er­ate oppo­si­tion or oth­er fac­tions fight­ing him. The government’s bar­rel bomb­ing of civil­ians, it said, is the “root cause of the insta­bil­i­ty that con­tin­ues to grip Syr­ia and the broad­er region.”

    ...

    Now, keep in mind that there are “oth­er fac­tions” that aren’t groups like al Nus­ra and the var­i­ous oth­er hard core Islamists groups who real­ly do have a very valid place at any peace set­tle­ment talks. Any mean­ing­ful peace set­tle­ment would­n’t make sense if it does­n’t include the Kurd rebels backed by the Pen­ta­gon. But at the same time, any mean­ing­ful peace set­tle­ment would­n’t make sense if it does include the CIA’s back hard­core jihadists hell bent on cre­at­ing a Sun­ni-suprema­cist theoc­ra­cy. The only “peace” that can come from that sce­nario only hap­pens hap­pens after the jihadists fin­ish slaugh­ter­ing every­one who does­n’t join their cult and the New Syr­ia becomes a some­what dif­fer­ent ver­sion of what ISIS has already cre­at­ed.

    So when form Ambas­sador to Syr­ia Robert S. Ford says, “Many peo­ple work­ing on Syr­ia for the State Depart­ment have long urged a tougher pol­i­cy with the Assad gov­ern­ment as a means of facil­i­tat­ing arrival at a nego­ti­at­ed polit­i­cal deal to set up a new Syr­i­an gov­ern­ment,” it would prob­a­bly be a good idea for those many frus­trat­ed State Depart­ment offi­cials to make it com­plete­ly clear that the the envi­sioned peace set­tle­ment that they’re advo­cat­ing the US bomb Assad into agree­ing to does­n’t include the many mil­i­tant extrem­ist rebel groups that are best posi­tioned to be the mil­i­tary pow­er in a post-Assad Syr­ia and have noth­ing but slaugh­ter of the non-Islamists in mind and the full back­ing of the Sun­ni region­al pow­ers:

    The Inde­pen­dent

    Syr­i­an civ­il war: Jab­hat al-Nus­ra’s mas­sacre of Druze vil­lagers shows they’re just as nasty as Isis

    The inci­dent last week sug­gests that the US have let the al-Qae­da affil­i­ate off light­ly

    Patrick Cock­burn
    Sat­ur­day 13 June 2015

    Last week fight­ers from Jab­hat al-Nus­ra, the al-Qae­da affil­i­ate in Syr­ia, entered a vil­lage in Idlib province in the north-west of the coun­try and shot dead at least 20 vil­lagers from the Druze com­mu­ni­ty. They had ear­li­er forcibly con­vert­ed hun­dreds of Druze to their fun­da­men­tal­ist vari­ant of Sun­ni Islam.

    ...

    It was just one more mas­sacre in a land that has seen thou­sands of atroc­i­ties by gov­ern­ment and rebels over the past four years. But what gives the Qalb Lawzeh killings pecu­liar sig­nif­i­cance is that they hap­pened at a moment when Nus­ra, and the rebel coali­tion it leads, had inflict­ed a series of defeats on the Syr­i­an army in the north, lead­ing to spec­u­la­tion that the regime of Pres­i­dent Bashar al-Assad might be start­ing to crum­ble under mul­ti­ple pres­sures. It has recent­ly lost Idlib province in the north, Palmyra in the east, and is on the retreat in the south.

    A rea­son why Nus­ra and Ahrar al-Sham, anoth­er hard-line jiha­di group, were able to break the mil­i­tary stale­mate is the greater sup­port they are get­ting from Turkey, Sau­di Ara­bia and Qatar. Since suc­ceed­ing to the throne in Jan­u­ary, Sau­di King Salman, along with oth­er Sun­ni lead­ers, has pur­sued a more aggres­sive pol­i­cy in back­ing extreme jiha­di rebels in Syr­ia.

    Along­side this mil­i­tary offen­sive is an effort by Nus­ra and its sup­port­ers to rebrand itself as a com­plete­ly dif­fer­ent and more mod­er­ate enti­ty than Islam­ic State (Isis). This is not easy to do. Nus­ra was cre­at­ed by Isis in 2012 and split from it in 2013, since when the two move­ments have been fierce rivals who share the same fanat­i­cal beliefs and hatreds. The US regards both as ter­ror­ist organ­i­sa­tions and peri­od­i­cal­ly bombs Nus­ra, though not with the same inten­si­ty as it attacks Isis. The Saud­is and the oth­ers are not look­ing for the US to end its hos­til­i­ty to Nus­ra, but they do want Wash­ing­ton to con­tin­ue to turn a blind eye to sup­port for it from America’s main Sun­ni allies.

    The rebrand­ing of Nus­ra is being ener­get­i­cal­ly pur­sued. A dra­mat­ic if some­what ludi­crous episode in this cam­paign was a 47-minute inter­view with Abu Mohammed al-Golani, the leader of al-Nus­ra, broad­cast by Al Jazeera tele­vi­sion net­work on 27 May. Golani was to demon­strate to a Syr­i­an and inter­na­tion­al audi­ence how much more rea­son­able and less mur­der­ous his organ­i­sa­tion was com­pared with Isis when it came to Syria’s minori­ties and to stress that it would not be launch­ing ter­ror­ist oper­a­tions against west­ern tar­gets.

    The inter­view did not entire­ly suc­ceed in con­vey­ing a com­fort­ing sense of restraint and mod­er­a­tion. This is not because Golani came under much pres­sure from the sym­pa­thet­ic Al Jazeera inter­view­er. “It was not Frost/Nixon, more like a high-school date,” says the Syr­ia expert Aron Lund, edi­tor of Syr­ia in Cri­sis, in the online newslet­ter Syr­ia Com­ment. The soft­ball approach, he says, “may well have been inten­tion­al. Many assume that Qatar, which owns and con­trols Al Jazeera, is eager to see the group show its gen­tler side, now that it and oth­er rebels are cap­tur­ing ter­ri­to­ry in north-west­ern Syr­ia.”

    Golani expressed his new-found mod­er­a­tion by say­ing that it would be safe for a mem­ber of the Allaw­ite sect – to which Pres­i­dent Assad and much of Syria’s rul­ing elite belong – to sur­ren­der to Nus­ra fight­ers “even if he killed a thou­sand of us”. But any Allaw­ite con­sid­er­ing tak­ing advan­tage of Golami’s kind offer must meet cer­tain con­di­tions. They must not only stop sup­port­ing Assad, but they must con­vert to Nusra’s brand of extreme Sun­ni Islam or, in oth­er words, stop being Allaw­ites. Chris­tians will be giv­en a grace peri­od before they have to start pay jizya, a spe­cial tax, and Golani takes for grant­ed that Sharia will be imple­ment­ed. “The basics remain the same,” says Lund, “and they’re extreme enough to be bor­der­line geno­ci­dal even when sug­ar-coat­ed by Al Jazeera.”

    What gives this inter­view such sig­nif­i­cance is that Golani leads a move­ment which might, if the Assad regime falls, form part of Syria’s next gov­ern­ment. Assad’s mil­i­tary oppo­si­tion is dom­i­nat­ed by Isis in the east, hold­ing half the coun­try, and Nus­ra, lead­ing a coali­tion of al-Qae­da type jihadis in the north and cen­tre.

    “We have to deal with real­i­ty as it is,” said Robert Ford, the for­mer US ambas­sador to Syr­ia in an inter­view with Han­nah Allam of McClatchy news ser­vice ear­li­er this year. “The peo­ple we have backed [mod­er­ate Syr­i­an rebels] have not been strong enough to hold their ground against the Nus­ra Front.”

    What made Mr Ford’s asser­tion that Nus­ra dom­i­nat­ed the non-Isis armed oppo­si­tion so shock­ing for many was that he was the man who had resigned from the US gov­ern­ment, accus­ing it of not giv­ing enough sup­port to the mod­er­ate rebels. Not so long ago he had been main­tain­ing that the mod­er­ates were still a real force. But now Mr Ford was quot­ed as com­plain­ing that the rebels, as well as their patrons in Turkey and Qatar, were legit­imis­ing Nus­ra as an inte­gral part of the anti-Assad oppo­si­tion when, in real­i­ty, it was the same as Isis. “Nus­ra Front is just as dan­ger­ous, and yet they keep pre­tend­ing they’re nice guys, they’re Syr­i­ans,” he said. Anoth­er prob­lem was that weapons sup­plied by the US to more mod­er­ate groups were end­ing up in the hands of Nus­ra.

    It is not just that Nus­ra is sec­tar­i­an, vio­lent and true to its al-Qae­da roots. Its pres­ence at the heart of the armed oppo­si­tion gives the rebels greater mil­i­tary strength, but polit­i­cal­ly it is a tremen­dous lia­bil­i­ty.

    Mr Ford defends the mod­er­ates, say­ing that their alliance with Nus­ra is only tac­ti­cal and the result of their weak­ness and dis­uni­ty. But in a fur­ther inter­view with Mid­dle East Mon­i­tor, Mr Ford makes an impor­tant point, warn­ing that “with this coop­er­a­tion [between mod­er­ates and Nus­ra], they have made it impos­si­ble to get a nego­ti­at­ed polit­i­cal deal, because the peo­ple in the regime who do not like Assad, and there are lots who don’t like Assad, look at the oppo­si­tion and say we can­not nego­ti­ate with an oppo­si­tion that sup­ports Nus­ra”.

    The pres­ence of Nus­ra pre­vents any chance of a nego­ti­at­ed set­tle­ment, but will not be enough to win an out­right mil­i­tary vic­to­ry. Syr­ia is being torn apart by a gen­uine civ­il war in which nei­ther side can afford to let the oth­er win. Mem­bers of the regime in Dam­as­cus know that get­ting rid of Assad is not going to do them any good and, if they lose, they may well end up dead, like the Druze vil­lagers of Qalb Lawzeh.

    “Mr Ford defends the mod­er­ates, say­ing that their alliance with Nus­ra is only tac­ti­cal and the result of their weak­ness and dis­uni­ty. But in a fur­ther inter­view with Mid­dle East Mon­i­tor, Mr Ford makes an impor­tant point, warn­ing that “with this coop­er­a­tion [between mod­er­ates and Nus­ra], they have made it impos­si­ble to get a nego­ti­at­ed polit­i­cal deal, because the peo­ple in the regime who do not like Assad, and there are lots who don’t like Assad, look at the oppo­si­tion and say we can­not nego­ti­ate with an oppo­si­tion that sup­ports Nus­ra”.
    Well, that was ambas­sador Ford’s views on the sit­u­a­tion last year. And it seems like the kind of view that the rest of the State Depart­men­t’s offi­cials deal­ing with Syr­ia should be famil­iar with by now. And so it would appear that a large chunk of the State Depart­men­t’s Syr­ia pol­i­cy spe­cial­ists are call­ing for the US to bomb the Assad gov­ern­ment into accept­ing a peace set­tle­ment which was seen as polit­i­cal­ly impos­si­ble last year due to the fact that groups like al Nus­ra will become legit­imized polit­i­cal forces and ter­ror­ize the pop­u­lace.

    Wow. That’s pret­ty dark. But if there’s one pos­i­tive thing the leak­ing of this memo could bring about it’s that the absur­di­ty of this “bombs for ‘peace’ ” dec­la­ra­tion might final­ly start a con­ver­sa­tion about what sort of peace set­tle­ment could hap­pen if no Islamist rad­i­cals are part of the new gov­ern­ment. Yes, such a set­tle­ment would be staunch­ly opposed by coun­tries like Sau­di Ara­bia and Turkey, but so what? It’s a big world.

    So, assum­ing the forced con­ver­sions and eth­nic cleans­ing that would inevitably be part of an Islamist gov­ern­ment aren’t part of any “peace” set­tle­ment, isn’t there some sort of guar­an­tees the glob­al com­mu­ni­ty could make to the non-Islamist fac­tions that would clear­ly be agree­able to all par­ties? Pledges of mas­sive sus­tain­able aid and maybe peace­keep­ing forces to pre­vent reprisal killings? Who knows, maybe such an agree­ment isn’t pos­si­ble which would be an incred­i­ble tragedy. But it’s prob­a­bly an even greater tragedy if we nev­er even get to the point of find­ing out whether or not peace is pos­si­ble because var­i­ous par­ties insist on includ­ing vio­lent theocrats in the peace process.

    Of course, drop­ping bombs to force peace nego­ti­a­tions with those vio­lent theocrats would be even pret­ty trag­ic too.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | June 18, 2016, 4:53 pm
  6. Here’s a big rea­son why Turkey’s efforts to pre­vent anoth­er ISIS attack are prob­a­bly going to have lim­it­ed results: Turkey’s ongo­ing aid and shel­ter to ISIS’s mil­i­tant ide­o­log­i­cal brethren:

    The Wash­ing­ton Post

    Dou­ble game? Even as it bat­tles ISIS, Turkey gives oth­er extrem­ists shel­ter

    By Joby War­rick
    July 10, 2016 at 8:07 PM

    To his Turk­ish hosts, Rifai Ahmed Taha was a tiny, elf-like man with an over­size beard and col­or­ful past. To U.S. offi­cials, he was a dan­ger­ous ter­ror­ist who would be tracked and tar­get­ed — if ever he left his Turk­ish sanc­tu­ary.

    The oppor­tu­ni­ty came in ear­ly April, when Taha ven­tured across the bor­der into Syr­ia for a meet­ing with Islamist mil­i­tants. Just five days lat­er, a U.S. drone fired a mis­sile at the Egyptian’s car as it stopped for gas near the Syr­i­an city of Idlib, killing him and four oth­er sus­pect­ed jihadists.

    The strike end­ed the career of a man who had been an ally of ­Osama bin Laden and, more recent­ly, an advis­er to Syr­i­an rebels linked to al-Qae­da. It also high­light­ed what U.S. ter­ror­ism experts view as Turk­ish schiz­o­phre­nia when it comes to bat­tling vio­lent jihadists: Even as Turkey ramps up its cam­paign against the Islam­ic State, it con­tin­ues to tol­er­ate and even pro­tect oth­er Islamists des­ig­nat­ed by West­ern gov­ern­ments as ter­ror­ists.

    Turkey has defend­ed its pol­i­cy of giv­ing refuge to exiled sup­port­ers of Egypt’s Mus­lim Broth­er­hood gov­ern­ment, which was over­thrown in a coup in 2013. But among those offered shel­ter in Turkey are lead­ers of the Egypt­ian group Gamaa Islamiya, whose mem­bers car­ried out mur­der­ous attacks against tourists in Egypt in the 1990s and were lat­er tied to mul­ti­ple plots to kill Amer­i­cans.

    Like Taha, some of the exiles con­tin­ued to sup­port pro-al-Qae­da groups in Syr­ia , U.S. offi­cials say. Taha was try­ing to medi­ate a dis­pute between Jab­hat al-Nus­ra — al-Qaeda’s Syr­i­an affil­i­ate — and anoth­er Islamist fac­tion when he was killed.

    “These peo­ple were part of [al-Qae­da leader Ayman] al-Zawahiri’s core cadre,” said Jonathan Schanz­er, a for­mer Trea­sury Depart­ment coun­tert­er­ror­ism offi­cial and now vice pres­i­dent for research at the Foun­da­tion for Defense of Democ­ra­cies, a Wash­ing­ton think tank. “It’s all the more trou­bling because Turkey is a NATO mem­ber that is sup­posed to be allied with the West in fight­ing a com­mon ene­my.”

    The new con­cerns about Turkey’s pro­tec­tion of vio­lent jihadists fol­low years of com­plaints about Ankara’s sup­port for oth­er Islamist groups, such as Hamas. While the Pales­tin­ian group’s mil­i­tary wing is offi­cial­ly list­ed by the Unit­ed States as a ter­ror­ist orga­ni­za­tion, Turkey has repeat­ed­ly grant­ed asy­lum to Hamas oper­a­tives, and it allowed the group to open an inter­na­tion­al head­quar­ters in Istan­bul two years ago.

    Since 2013, Turkey has served as a refuge and orga­niz­ing base for exiled oppo­nents of Egypt­ian Pres­i­dent Abdel Fatah al-Sissi’s gov­ern­ment. Istan­bul is home to thou­sands of Mus­lim Broth­er­hood activists — the vast major­i­ty of them non­vi­o­lent — as well as at least two Web TV chan­nels that spe­cial­ize in anti-Sis­si pro­gram­ming, includ­ing explic­it calls for the over­throw of Egypt’s sec­u­lar gov­ern­ment.

    Such per­mis­sive poli­cies stand in con­trast to Turk­ish Pres­i­dent Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s new­ly assertive stance against the Islam­ic State, the group sus­pect­ed in last month’s Istan­bul air­port attack that killed 45 peo­ple. Erdo­gan has moved to tight­en lax bor­der con­trols that allowed ter­ror­ist recruits and con­tra­band to flow from Turkey into Iraq and Syr­ia, and last week he vowed a fur­ther crack­down against a group that he called “not Islam­ic.”

    ...

    Yet Erdo­gan has tak­en a soft­er line toward Jab­hat al-Nus­ra, one of sev­er­al Islamist groups that Turk­ish offi­cials sup­port­ed dur­ing the ear­ly years of the Syr­i­an civ­il war before for­mal­ly break­ing with it under West­ern pres­sure in 2014. In a speech last month, Erdo­gan repeat­ed his sug­ges­tion that the “ter­ror­ist” label was inap­pro­pri­ate for Jab­hat al-Nusra’s Islamist rebels, who, after all, also are at war with the Islam­ic State.

    Turk­ish offi­cials reject crit­i­cism of the country’s poli­cies as hyp­o­crit­i­cal. West­ern coun­tries, includ­ing the Unit­ed States, are pro­vid­ing weapons and mon­ey to Kur­dish groups that Turkey regards as ter­ror­ist, not­ed a senior Turk­ish diplo­mat, who spoke on the con­di­tion of anonymi­ty to dis­cuss a pol­i­cy dis­pute with a NATO ally.

    “The dif­fer­ence is, Turkey doesn’t give arms or train­ing to any of these groups,” the offi­cial said. “We’re con­cerned over U.S. engage­ment with [Kur­dish mili­tia group] YPG. The Unit­ed States jus­ti­fies its sup­port for them because they’re fight­ing ISIS. But to us, this sup­port is very destruc­tive to the sta­bil­i­ty of the region.”

    A jihadist elder states­man

    The Egypt­ian exile killed in the April 5 drone strike was unde­ni­ably deserv­ing of the ter­ror­ist label, accord­ing to U.S. coun­tert­er­ror­ism offi­cials famil­iar with his his­to­ry.

    Taha was 61 and wiz­ened, with a broad, snow-white beard, when he crossed into Syr­ia for a meet­ing with Islamist rebel groups. Yet U.S. offi­cials con­tend that even at that age, he was an active and respect­ed fig­ure with­in al-Qaeda’s net­work in the Mid­dle East and beyond. He had been want­ed by Wash­ing­ton since the late 1990s, when U.S. pros­e­cu­tors named him as a co-con­spir­a­tor in al-Qae­da plots to strike U.S. tar­gets around the world.

    Taha had been a senior leader in Egypt’s Gamaa Islamiya in 1997 when its mem­bers killed 58 for­eign tourists and four Egypt­ian guides in Lux­or, Egypt. In lat­er years, by his own admis­sion, he would par­tic­i­pate in mul­ti­ple plots to assas­si­nate Egypt­ian lead­ers, and he would pub­licly praise al-Qaeda’s attack on the USS Cole in Yemen in 2000. While Gamaa Islamiya would ulti­mate­ly renounce ter­ror­ism, Taha was part of a small fac­tion that con­tin­ued to sanc­tion its use, a State Depart­ment report con­clud­ed in 2001. The report described Taha’s fac­tion as com­mit­ted to “attacks against U.S. and Israeli inter­ests.”

    Taha, also known as Rifai Taha Musa, was arrest­ed in Syr­ia in late 2001 and deport­ed to Egypt, where he spent the next decade in prison. But he regained his free­dom, along with hun­dreds of oth­er jailed Islamists, after the 2011 elec­tion that brought Mus­lim Broth­er­hood leader Mohamed Mor­si to pow­er.

    Morsi’s over­throw and arrest two years lat­er sent hun­dreds of sup­port­ers flee­ing to Turkey, to be wel­comed by an Erdo­gan gov­ern­ment that pub­licly con­demned the coup and denounced Egypt’s new pres­i­dent as a despot. But among the exiles were a num­ber of vet­er­an jihadists well-known to West­ern coun­tert­er­ror­ism offi­cials, includ­ing Taha and Moham­mad Shawqi al-Islam­bouli, also a for­mer top leader of Gamaa Islamiya, which is also known as the Islam­ic Group.

    Islam­bouli, who announced his offi­cial sta­tus as a pro­tect­ed polit­i­cal refu­gee on his Face­book account in June 2015, was a close bin Laden ally in the 1980s and 1990s. His alleged con­tin­ued asso­ci­a­tion with jihadist groups prompt­ed U.S. Trea­sury offi­cials in 2005 to label him a “spe­cial­ly des­ig­nat­ed glob­al ter­ror­ist.” Last year, a spe­cial review of Islambouli’s record by U.N. offi­cials result­ed in the removal of his name from the world body’s ter­ror­ist list. The Unit­ed States kept him on its list. Efforts to reach Islam­bouli for com­ment were unsuc­cess­ful.

    Since at least 2014, U.S. offi­cials have linked Taha and Islam­bouli to the Kho­rasan Group, an al-Qae­da off­shoot in Syr­ia said to spe­cial­ize in plan­ning attacks against the West. Yet dur­ing this time, the two lived open­ly in Istan­bul, appear­ing at con­fer­ences and media events. Taha was an occa­sion­al guest on pro-Mor­si Web TV chan­nels, where he would some­times encour­age fel­low Egyp­tians to take up arms against their country’s gov­ern­ment.

    “What are we wait­ing for?” he asked dur­ing a Novem­ber 2014 inter­view record­ed in Istan­bul. “We will not con­front this regime with bare chests. If they take up arms, then we will take up arms.”

    Asso­ciates of Taha con­firmed that he was killed while try­ing to set­tle a dis­pute between Jab­hat al-Nus­ra and oth­er Islamist fac­tions in Syr­ia. His death was mourned at a pub­lic ser­vice in Istan­bul, attend­ed by friends and for­mer com­rades, includ­ing Islam­bouli, accord­ing to pho­tos and videos tak­en at the event.

    ‘What he wished for’

    It was a fit­ting end for a career jihadist who had always talked of becom­ing a mar­tyr, accord­ing to Hani al-Sibai, direc­tor of the Maqrizi Cen­ter for His­tor­i­cal Stud­ies in Lon­don. Taha had no soon­er crossed into Syr­ia than he “got what he wished for,” Sibai said.

    “He met his Lord in an Amer­i­can drone strike,” Sibai said.

    Turkey’s embrace of exiles such as Taha and Islam­bouli has drawn con­dem­na­tions from Egypt’s gov­ern­ment, which has blast­ed Erdo­gan as a ter­ror­ist sup­port­er who is con­tribut­ing to insta­bil­i­ty in the Mid­dle East. Erdo­gan, for his part, insists that he rejects ter­ror­ism and seeks only to pro­tect Mus­lims’ right to peace­ful self-deter­mi­na­tion.

    “If we defend democ­ra­cy, then let’s respect the bal­lot box,” Erdo­gan said in a 2014 U.N. speech, in a thin­ly veiled cri­tique of Egypt’s Sis­si.

    Yet the vio­lent his­to­ries of some of Turkey’s “guests” under­cut such claims, high­light­ing the per­ils of a pol­i­cy that seeks to pro­tect and even encour­age some extrem­ists while Turkey wages war against oth­ers, accord­ing to U.S. offi­cials and ana­lysts.

    Erdogan’s gov­ern­ing Jus­tice and Devel­op­ment Par­ty, or AK Par­ty, par­ty aligns itself with the inter­na­tion­al Mus­lim Broth­er­hood move­ment, and Erdo­gan per­son­al­ly has sought to project him­self as a defend­er of oppressed Islamists, from Cairo to the Pales­tin­ian ter­ri­to­ries. But in real­i­ty, the lines between ardent nation­al­ism and vio­lent extrem­ism are nev­er neat­ly drawn, said Son­er Cagap­tay, direc­tor of the Turk­ish Research Pro­gram at the Wash­ing­ton Insti­tute for Near East Pol­i­cy, a think tank.

    “The AKP is Mus­lim Broth­er­hood-lite,” Cagap­tay said. “But even as a ‘lite’ ver­sion, it is inter­na­tion­al­ly net­worked and sym­pa­thet­ic to the heav­ier ver­sion. And that includes Hamas and the Egypt­ian Mus­lim Broth­er­hood.”

    Turk­ish offi­cials have main­tained that they can con­trol such groups by allow­ing them to oper­ate in the open. But Ankara once made sim­i­lar claims about rad­i­cal Syr­i­an fac­tions that it allowed to work in rel­a­tive free­dom along the bor­der, not­ed Schanz­er, the for­mer Trea­sury offi­cial.

    “The Turks turned a blind eye, and now they’re pay­ing the price,” Schanz­er said. “The idea was that they could dis­tin­guish between these groups — between a guy from the Egypt­ian Islam­ic Group or al-Nus­ra Front and anoth­er from the Islam­ic State. But they don’t real­ly have the abil­i­ty to dis­tin­guish, and now they’ve lost their way.”

    Erdogan’s gov­ern­ing Jus­tice and Devel­op­ment Par­ty, or AK Par­ty, par­ty aligns itself with the inter­na­tion­al Mus­lim Broth­er­hood move­ment, and Erdo­gan per­son­al­ly has sought to project him­self as a defend­er of oppressed Islamists, from Cairo to the Pales­tin­ian ter­ri­to­ries. But in real­i­ty, the lines between ardent nation­al­ism and vio­lent extrem­ism are nev­er neat­ly drawn, said Son­er Cagap­tay, direc­tor of the Turk­ish Research Pro­gram at the Wash­ing­ton Insti­tute for Near East Pol­i­cy, a think tank.”

    Yeah, brand­ing your gov­ern­ment as the glob­al defend­er of oppressed Islamists groups like Hamas and Gamaa Islamiya is prob­a­bly going to com­pli­cate your gov­ern­men­t’s anti-ter­ror strat­e­gy. You have to won­der how many ISIS mem­bers are join­ing these pro­tect­ed groups as ISIS con­tin­ues to crum­ble. It seems like an obvi­ous escape route.

    Of course, as the Erdo­gan gov­ern­ment has also remind­ed us, it could be worse! Because it is.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | July 11, 2016, 2:54 pm
  7. Dur­ing one of Don­ald Trump’s recent attempts to deflect spec­u­la­tion that he may have giv­en assis­tance by Krem­lin hack­ers, Trump raised an inter­est­ing ques­tion regard­ing the US pol­i­cy regard­ing ISIS that should­n’t be dis­missed out of hand despite the fact that it came from Don­ald Trump’s mouth: “When you think about it, would­n’t it be nice if we got along with Russia?...Wouldn’t it be nice if we got togeth­er with Rus­sia and knocked the hell out of ISIS?”. That was Trump’s ques­tion. It’s not an unrea­son­able ques­tion. And while it may have been intend­ed as sort of a rhetor­i­cal ques­tion, here’s the lat­est con­se­quence of a joint US-Russ­ian mil­i­tary cam­paign in Syr­ia:

    CNN

    Syr­i­a’s al-Nus­ra rebrands and cuts ties with al Qae­da

    By Ray Sanchez and Paul Cruick­shank

    Updat­ed 7:08 PM ET, Thu July 28, 2016

    (CNN)Syrian jihadist group Jab­hat al Nus­ra has announced it is sev­er­ing ties with al Qae­da and chang­ing its name to Jab­hat Fateh Al-Sham, accord­ing to a video state­ment from leader Abu Moham­mad al-Golani.

    Though Golani, in his first video appear­ance, said the new group will have “no affil­i­a­tion to any exter­nal enti­ty,” U.S. offi­cials quick­ly dis­missed the rebrand­ing as a pub­lic rela­tions ploy.

    The sup­posed breakup comes less than two weeks after Sec­re­tary of State John Ker­ry said the Unit­ed States and Rus­sia had agreed to coop­er­ate in Syr­ia against al Nus­ra in an effort to “restore the ces­sa­tion of hos­til­i­ties, sig­nif­i­cant­ly reduce the vio­lence and help cre­ate the space for a gen­uine and cred­i­ble polit­i­cal tran­si­tion” in the war-rav­aged coun­try.

    Al Qae­da has giv­en the split its bless­ing, accord­ing to vet­er­an Egypt­ian oper­a­tive Ahmad Hasan Abu al Khayr al-Mas­ri, who has been ele­vat­ed to the No. 2 lead­er­ship posi­tion in the ter­ror group. Mas­ri spoke in an audio mes­sage released Thurs­day by al Nus­ra.

    The man Mas­ri would replace, al Qae­da leader Ayman al-Zawahiri, in a sep­a­rate mes­sage also expressed sup­port for the decou­pling and called for infight­ing between jihadist groups to end.

    Golani said the change does not rep­re­sent an ide­o­log­i­cal split. Instead, it was intend­ed to remove the excuse used by the inter­na­tion­al com­mu­ni­ty — led by the Unit­ed States and Rus­sia — to “bom­bard and dis­place Mus­lims ... under the pre­tense of tar­get­ing Jab­hat al Nus­ra.”

    The group emerged in late 2011 dur­ing the ear­ly days of the Syr­i­an civ­il war and was ini­tial­ly large­ly made up of bat­tle-hard­ened Syr­i­ans who had trav­eled to Iraq to fight U.S. troops dur­ing the Amer­i­can engage­ment there.

    It has become one of the most effec­tive fac­tions fight­ing the Syr­i­an regime and cur­rent­ly con­trols swaths of north­west­ern Syr­ia.

    In 2012, the State Depart­ment added al Nus­ra Front to the list of alias­es for al Qae­da in Iraq, which had already been des­ig­nat­ed a for­eign ter­ror­ist orga­ni­za­tion.
    The name change does not alter Wash­ing­ton’s per­cep­tion of the group, accord­ing to the State Depart­ment.

    “We judge any orga­ni­za­tion, includ­ing this one, much more by its actions, its ide­ol­o­gy, its goals,” State Depart­ment spokesman John Kir­by said of al Nus­ra.

    “We judge a group by what they do, not by what they call them­selves. ... Thus far, there’s no change to our views about this par­tic­u­lar group. We cer­tain­ly see no rea­sons to believe that their actions or their objec­tives are any dif­fer­ent. And they are still con­sid­ered a for­eign ter­ror­ist orga­ni­za­tion.”

    Speak­ing at the Aspen Secu­ri­ty Forum on Thurs­day, Direc­tor of Nation­al Intel­li­gence James Clap­per called the rebrand­ing a “PR move ... to cre­ate the image of being more mod­er­ate in an attempt to uni­fy and gal­va­nize and appeal to oth­er oppo­si­tion groups in Syr­ia.”

    Clap­per also said al Nus­ra is con­cerned about being tar­get­ed by Rus­sia.

    U.S. Army Gen. Joseph Votel, com­man­der of U.S. Cen­tral Com­mand, told the Aspen Secu­ri­ty Forum that al Nus­ra’s new branch “comes back into the core ide­ol­o­gy and core approach at the cen­ter. ... It’s still al Qae­da.”

    Experts said the split will enable al Nus­ra to more deeply ally itself with oth­er rebel groups in Syr­ia. It also fits into Zawahir­i’s long­stand­ing strate­gies of gain­ing mass Mus­lim back­ing for al Qae­da and push for jihadists to build a base for future expan­sion in the Arab world.

    Al Qaeda’s new No. 2 man, Mas­ri, had been under some form of deten­tion in Iran but was released in March 2015 in a report­ed pris­on­er swap. West­ern intel­li­gence agen­cies believe he may be in Syr­ia.

    The dis­tri­b­u­tion of his audio mes­sage by the Syr­i­an jihadist group — in addi­tion to Mas­ri’s ref­er­ence to study­ing the Syr­i­an are­na — fur­ther points to his pres­ence in Syr­ia.

    Accord­ing to a 2005 des­ig­na­tion by the U.S. Trea­sury Depart­ment, Mas­ri’s real name is Abdul­lah Muham­mad Rajab Abd al-Rah­man. He was born in north­ern Egypt in 1957.

    A for­mer al Qae­da insid­er, who met the Egypt­ian oper­a­tive in Afghanistan, described al Mas­ri as respon­si­ble for trav­el logis­tics and expense claims for oper­a­tives sent on inter­na­tion­al mis­sions before 9/11.

    Mas­ri, the insid­er said, has been close to Zawahiri and was part of his Egypt­ian Islam­ic Jihad group since the late 1980s, accord­ing to the for­mer al Qae­da oper­a­tive.

    Mas­ri trav­eled to Sudan with Zawahiri in the ear­ly 1990s and lat­er to Afghanistan, where he joined Osama bin Laden’s entourage. The cir­cum­stances of his cap­ture by Iran are unclear.

    Al Qae­da oper­a­tive Sulay­man Abu Ghayth told U.S. inves­ti­ga­tors that he, Mas­ri and oth­er al Qae­da oper­a­tives were arrest­ed in Shi­raz, Iran, in April 2003 and jailed in Tehran for near­ly two years.

    Ghayth said they were trans­ferred to apart­ment-like hous­ing “with­out win­dows” and then to small hous­es inside a mil­i­tary com­pound in the Tehran area, where they were joined by mem­bers of bin Laden’s fam­i­ly, includ­ing Hamza bin Laden, accord­ing to U.S. court doc­u­ments.

    The for­mer al Qae­da insid­er described Mas­ri as an offi­cious book­keep­er with lit­tle charis­ma who was often mocked by oth­er jihadists.

    ...

    “The sup­posed breakup comes less than two weeks after Sec­re­tary of State John Ker­ry said the Unit­ed States and Rus­sia had agreed to coop­er­ate in Syr­ia against al Nus­ra in an effort to “restore the ces­sa­tion of hos­til­i­ties, sig­nif­i­cant­ly reduce the vio­lence and help cre­ate the space for a gen­uine and cred­i­ble polit­i­cal tran­si­tion” in the war-rav­aged coun­try.”

    That’s right, less than two weeks after the US and Rus­sia agreed to a joint mil­i­tary cam­paign against al Nus­ra, the group laugh­ably declared itself no longer a branch of al Qae­da...with al Qaeda’s lead­er­ship’s bless­ing. Wow, that’s real­ly sneaky!

    So what might hap­pen when the US and Russ­ian form an alliance against ISIS too? We’ll see, since the Oba­ma admin­is­tra­tion pub­licly float­ed last month and Sec­re­tary of State John Ker­ry announced that the US and Rus­sia were work­ing on such an alliance over two weeks ago.

    Don­ald Trump must have missed those updates. Hope­ful­ly he’ll be more up to date now that he’s get­ting nation­al secu­ri­ty brief­in­gs as the GOP can­di­date. Well, ok, hope­ful­ly he does­n’t actu­al­ly get those nation­al secu­ri­ty brief­in­gs. Or if he does get them at least the infor­ma­tion is lim­it­ed. There’s got to be at least some nation­al secu­ri­ty risk-relat­ed infor­ma­tion he can be safe­ly giv­en. At least a few tid­bits here and there.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | July 29, 2016, 6:00 pm
  8. Sau­di Ara­bia, Bahrain, the UAE and Egypt all sud­den­ly sev­ered diplo­mat­ic ties with Qatar. Why? Well, the main rea­son appears to be out­rage over com­ments by Qatar’s ruler crit­i­cal of grow­ing anti-Iran­ian sen­ti­ments in the region.
    Plus Qatar’s long-stand­ing role as the Gulf monar­chy that still open­ly backs and finances hard­line Islamist groups like the Mus­lim Broth­er­hood:

    Bloomberg Pol­i­tics

    Why Tiny Qatar Angers Sau­di Ara­bia and Its Allies: Quick­Take Q&A

    by Grant Clark and Mohammed Sergie
    June 5, 2017, 1:38 AM CDT June 5, 2017, 1:55 PM CDT

    Sau­di Ara­bia and three of its Arab allies cut diplo­mat­ic ties with Qatar on Mon­day, furi­ous with what they see as the tiny emirate’s tol­er­ant atti­tude toward Iran and Islamist groups such as the Mus­lim Broth­er­hood. The moves by the Saud­is, Bahrain, the U.A.E. and Egypt came soon after U.S. Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump vis­it­ed the region and joined Sau­di Ara­bia in lam­bast­ing Iran for spon­sor­ing ter­ror­ism from Syr­ia to Yemen.

    1. What’s caused the diplo­mat­ic rift?

    It’s most­ly, but not all, about Iran. The spark for this flare-up was a report by the state-run Qatar News Agency that car­ried com­ments by Qatar ruler Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani crit­i­ciz­ing mount­ing anti-Iran sen­ti­ment. Qatari offi­cials quick­ly delet­ed the com­ments, blamed them on hack­ers and appealed for calm. Crit­i­cism by Sau­di and U.A.E. media out­lets esca­lat­ed after Sheikh Tamim phoned Iran­ian Pres­i­dent Has­san Rouhani over the week­end in appar­ent defi­ance of Sau­di crit­i­cism.

    2. So this is a Sun­ni vs Shi­ite ten­sion?

    Part­ly. The Shi­ite-led Islam­ic Repub­lic of Iran is Sun­ni-led Sau­di Arabia’s main region­al rival. The two major oil exporters are on oppo­site sides of con­flicts from Syr­ia to Iraq. In tak­ing diplo­mat­ic action, the Saud­is accused Qatar of sup­port­ing “Iran­ian-backed ter­ror­ist groups” oper­at­ing in the kingdom’s east­ern province as well as Bahrain. But they also cit­ed Qatar’s sup­port of “ter­ror­ist groups aim­ing to desta­bi­lize the region,” includ­ing the Mus­lim Broth­er­hood, Islam­ic State and al-Qae­da.

    3. Why is the spat tak­ing place now?

    The tem­per­a­ture notice­ably rose fol­low­ing Trump’s vis­it. Days after Trump and Sau­di King Salman bin Abdu­laz­iz sin­gled out Iran as the world’s main spon­sor of ter­ror­ism, Sau­di Ara­bia and the U.A.E. accused Qatar of try­ing to under­mine efforts to iso­late the Islam­ic Repub­lic. News­pa­pers, cler­ics and even celebri­ties attacked Qatar’s Sheikh Tamim; the Riyadh-based Al-Jazi­rah dai­ly declared that he stabbed his neigh­bors with Iran’s dag­ger.

    4. What do ana­lysts say?

    Embold­ened by clos­er U.S. ties under Trump, the Saud­is and the U.A.E. are seek­ing to crush any oppo­si­tion that could weak­en a unit­ed front against Iran­ian influ­ence in the Mid­dle East. The two coun­tries are also putting pres­sure on Qatar to end its sup­port for Islamist move­ments such as the Mus­lim Broth­er­hood and the Pales­tin­ian Hamas group that rules the Gaza Strip.

    5. What does Iran say?

    Before the lat­est con­fronta­tion, Rouhani, a mod­er­ate cler­ic who was re-elect­ed to a sec­ond, four-year term last month, said his coun­try is ready for talks to end the feud­ing. At the same time, though, Iran’s Supreme Leader Aya­tol­lah Ali Khamenei, who wields more pow­er than Rouhani, has said the Sau­di regime faces cer­tain demise for its poli­cies in Yemen. In 2015, Sau­di Ara­bia assem­bled a coali­tion of Sun­ni-led coun­tries to fight Yemeni Shi­ite rebels loy­al to Iran after they top­pled a Gulf-backed gov­ern­ment. The war there con­tin­ues.

    6. Where else are Sau­di and Iran fac­ing off?

    They are locked in proxy wars on oppo­site sides of con­flicts across the region from Syr­ia to Yemen. Sus­pi­cions that cyber­at­tacks on gov­ern­ment agen­cies in Sau­di Ara­bia emanat­ed from Iran threat­ened to ele­vate ten­sions between the two pow­ers in late 2016. Ear­li­er that year, after Sau­di Ara­bia exe­cut­ed a promi­nent Shi­ite cler­ic, Iran­ian pro­test­ers set the Sau­di embassy in Tehran on fire, and Sau­di Ara­bia sev­ered diplo­mat­ic rela­tions with Iran.

    7. Are dis­agree­ments with Qatar any­thing new?

    In 2014, Sau­di Ara­bia, the U.A.E. and Bahrain tem­porar­i­ly with­drew their ambas­sadors from Qatar. That dis­pute cen­tered on Egypt, where Qatar had sup­port­ed a Mus­lim Broth­er­hood gov­ern­ment while the Saud­is and U.A.E. bankrolled its army-led over­throw. Qatar also hosts Hamas’s exiled lead­er­ship as well as Tal­iban offi­cials. Ana­lysts say Sau­di and its allies want to show Qatar, a coun­try of 2.6 mil­lion res­i­dents, that it is punch­ing above its strate­gic weight.

    8. Isn’t that what Qatar tries to do?

    Less so now than in the past. Dur­ing the Arab Spring upris­ings Qatar, unique­ly among Mid­dle East­ern gov­ern­ments, broad­ly sup­port­ed groups agi­tat­ing for change — as long as it was out­side the Per­sian Gulf. Mus­lim Broth­er­hood groups have most­ly foundered since, and Qatar reeled back its sup­port for them in 2014 when faced with diplo­mat­ic threats from its Gulf neigh­bors. Qatar also aspires to be the region’s indis­pens­able medi­a­tor. Its lead­ers have con­nec­tions with a wide range of par­ties, such as war­ring tribes in Libya as well as both the U.S. and the Tal­iban. On the oth­er hand, by choos­ing sides dur­ing the Arab Spring revolts, it weak­ened its stand­ing as a neu­tral par­ty.

    9. What else is Qatar known for?

    It’s the world’s biggest exporter of liq­ue­fied nat­ur­al gas, has the world’s high­est per-capi­ta income ($129,700 a year), will hold the 2022 FIFA World Cup and hosts the Al Jazeera tele­vi­sion chan­nel. When Sau­di Ara­bia eject­ed the U.S. air oper­a­tions cen­ter for the region in 2003, Qatar took it on. Today the emi­rate hosts 10,000 U.S. troops and is home to the for­ward head­quar­ters of CENTCOM, the U.S. military’s cen­tral com­mand in the Mid­dle East.

    The nation’s $335 bil­lion sov­er­eign wealth fund holds stakes in com­pa­nies from Bar­clays Plc and Cred­it Suisse Group.

    ...

    11. Why might this dis­pute be dif­fer­ent?

    “Inter­nal dif­fer­ences and dis­agree­ments are noth­ing new, but what is inter­est­ing is the tim­ing and the some­what unprece­dent­ed lev­el of pres­sure,” says Mehran Kam­ra­va, direc­tor of the Cen­ter for Inter­na­tion­al and Region­al Stud­ies at George­town Uni­ver­si­ty in Qatar, refer­ring to the recent Trump vis­it. That sug­gests that “Sau­di Ara­bia and the U.A.E. want noth­ing but com­plete sub­mis­sion from Qatar.’’ If Qatar resists, that will fur­ther desta­bi­lize an already volatile region. For one, the face­off also encum­bers U.S. efforts to fight Islam­ic State: Qatar is home to bases cen­tral to the U.S.-led air offen­sive.

    ...

    ———-

    “Why Tiny Qatar Angers Sau­di Ara­bia and Its Allies: Quick­Take Q&A” by Grant Clark and Mohammed Sergie; Bloomberg Pol­i­tics; 06/05/2017

    “It’s most­ly, but not all, about Iran. The spark for this flare-up was a report by the state-run Qatar News Agency that car­ried com­ments by Qatar ruler Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani crit­i­ciz­ing mount­ing anti-Iran sen­ti­ment. Qatari offi­cials quick­ly delet­ed the com­ments, blamed them on hack­ers and appealed for calm. Crit­i­cism by Sau­di and U.A.E. media out­lets esca­lat­ed after Sheikh Tamim phoned Iran­ian Pres­i­dent Has­san Rouhani over the week­end in appar­ent defi­ance of Sau­di crit­i­cism.”

    So com­ments by Qatar’s ruler that weren’t in keep­ing with the Sau­di plans for ramp­ing up for war with Iran. And that trig­gered a sev­er­ing of diplo­mat­ic rela­tions. But this isn’t just about Qatar devi­at­ing from the Sun­ni-Shia civ­il war. It’s also appar­ent­ly about Qatar’s ongo­ing dis­agree­ment over whether or not to back the var­i­ous Sun­ni rad­i­cal mil­i­tant groups oper­at­ing in the region like Hamas and the Mus­lim Broth­er­hood:

    ...
    Embold­ened by clos­er U.S. ties under Trump, the Saud­is and the U.A.E. are seek­ing to crush any oppo­si­tion that could weak­en a unit­ed front against Iran­ian influ­ence in the Mid­dle East. The two coun­tries are also putting pres­sure on Qatar to end its sup­port for Islamist move­ments such as the Mus­lim Broth­er­hood and the Pales­tin­ian Hamas group that rules the Gaza Strip.

    ...

    7. Are dis­agree­ments with Qatar any­thing new?

    In 2014, Sau­di Ara­bia, the U.A.E. and Bahrain tem­porar­i­ly with­drew their ambas­sadors from Qatar. That dis­pute cen­tered on Egypt, where Qatar had sup­port­ed a Mus­lim Broth­er­hood gov­ern­ment while the Saud­is and U.A.E. bankrolled its army-led over­throw. Qatar also hosts Hamas’s exiled lead­er­ship as well as Tal­iban offi­cials. Ana­lysts say Sau­di and its allies want to show Qatar, a coun­try of 2.6 mil­lion res­i­dents, that it is punch­ing above its strate­gic weight.

    8. Isn’t that what Qatar tries to do?

    Less so now than in the past. Dur­ing the Arab Spring upris­ings Qatar, unique­ly among Mid­dle East­ern gov­ern­ments, broad­ly sup­port­ed groups agi­tat­ing for change — as long as it was out­side the Per­sian Gulf. Mus­lim Broth­er­hood groups have most­ly foundered since, and Qatar reeled back its sup­port for them in 2014 when faced with diplo­mat­ic threats from its Gulf neigh­bors. Qatar also aspires to be the region’s indis­pens­able medi­a­tor. Its lead­ers have con­nec­tions with a wide range of par­ties, such as war­ring tribes in Libya as well as both the U.S. and the Tal­iban. On the oth­er hand, by choos­ing sides dur­ing the Arab Spring revolts, it weak­ened its stand­ing as a neu­tral par­ty.
    ...

    So Qatar is get­ting iso­lat­ed by its fel­low Sun­ni Gulf monar­chies (plus Egypt) over Qatar’s appar­ent sup­port of Iran but also over Qatar’s open sup­port of Sun­ni-suprema­cist extrem­ist groups like Hamas and the Mus­lim Broth­er­hood. Its’ a rather strange sit­u­a­tion in that sense.

    Espe­cial­ly giv­en all the secret sup­port of these same Sun­ni-extrem­ists by the Saud­is and gulf monar­chies. Secret sup­port that isn’t actu­al­ly a secret but gov­ern­ments don’t want to men­tion any­way:

    The Guardian

    ‘Sen­si­tive’ UK ter­ror fund­ing inquiry may nev­er be pub­lished

    Inves­ti­ga­tion into for­eign fund­ing and sup­port of jiha­di groups oper­at­ing in UK under­stood to focus on Sau­di Ara­bia

    Jes­si­ca Elgot
    Wednes­day 31 May 2017 10.20 EDT
    Last mod­i­fied on Wednes­day 31 May 2017 13.08 EDT

    An inves­ti­ga­tion into the for­eign fund­ing and sup­port of jiha­di groups that was autho­rised by David Cameron may nev­er be pub­lished, the Home Office has admit­ted.

    The inquiry into rev­enue streams for extrem­ist groups oper­at­ing in the UK was com­mis­sioned by the for­mer prime min­is­ter and is thought to focus on Sau­di Ara­bia, which has repeat­ed­ly been high­light­ed by Euro­pean lead­ers as a fund­ing source for Islamist jihadis.

    The inves­ti­ga­tion was launched as part of a deal with the Lib­er­al Democ­rats in exchange for the par­ty sup­port­ing the exten­sion of British airstrikes against Islam­ic State into Syr­ia in Decem­ber 2015.

    Tom Brake, the Lib Dem for­eign affairs spokesman, has writ­ten to the prime min­is­ter ask­ing her to con­firm that the inves­ti­ga­tion will not be shelved.

    The Observ­er report­ed in Jan­u­ary last year that the Home Office’s extrem­ism analy­sis unit had been direct­ed by Down­ing Street to inves­ti­gate over­seas fund­ing of extrem­ist groups in the UK, with find­ings to be shown to There­sa May, then home sec­re­tary, and Cameron.

    How­ev­er, 18 months lat­er, the Home Office con­firmed the report had not yet been com­plet­ed and said it would not nec­es­sar­i­ly be pub­lished, call­ing the con­tents “very sen­si­tive”.

    A deci­sion would be tak­en “after the elec­tion by the next gov­ern­ment” about the future of the inves­ti­ga­tion, a Home Office spokesman said.

    ...

    The con­tents of the report may prove polit­i­cal­ly as well as legal­ly sen­si­tive. Sau­di Ara­bia, which has been a fund­ing source for fun­da­men­tal­ist Islamist preach­ers and mosques, was vis­it­ed by May ear­li­er this year.

    Last Decem­ber, a leaked report from Germany’s fed­er­al intel­li­gence ser­vice accused sev­er­al Gulf groups of fund­ing reli­gious schools and rad­i­cal Salafist preach­ers in mosques, call­ing it “a long-term strat­e­gy of influ­ence”.

    The Lib Dem leader, Tim Far­ron, said he felt the gov­ern­ment had not held up its side of the bar­gain made ahead of the vote on airstrikes. The report must be pub­lished when it was com­plet­ed, he insist­ed, despite the Home Office cau­tion that infor­ma­tion in the doc­u­ment would be sen­si­tive.

    “That short-sight­ed approach needs to change. It is crit­i­cal that these extreme, hard­line views are con­front­ed head on, and that those who fund them are called out pub­licly,” he said.

    “If the Con­ser­v­a­tives are seri­ous about stop­ping ter­ror­ism on our shores, they must stop stalling and reopen inves­ti­ga­tion into for­eign fund­ing of vio­lent extrem­ism in the UK.”

    ———-

    “ ‘Sen­si­tive’ UK ter­ror fund­ing inquiry may nev­er be pub­lished” by Jes­si­ca Elgot; The Guardian; 05/21/2017

    “The inquiry into rev­enue streams for extrem­ist groups oper­at­ing in the UK was com­mis­sioned by the for­mer prime min­is­ter and is thought to focus on Sau­di Ara­bia, which has repeat­ed­ly been high­light­ed by Euro­pean lead­ers as a fund­ing source for Islamist jihadis.”

    Yes, the UK has a report thought to focus on Sau­di financ­ing of Islamist rad­i­cals. But its con­tents might be so ‘sen­si­tive’ that it might not be pub­licly released:

    ...
    The inves­ti­ga­tion was launched as part of a deal with the Lib­er­al Democ­rats in exchange for the par­ty sup­port­ing the exten­sion of British airstrikes against Islam­ic State into Syr­ia in Decem­ber 2015.

    Tom Brake, the Lib Dem for­eign affairs spokesman, has writ­ten to the prime min­is­ter ask­ing her to con­firm that the inves­ti­ga­tion will not be shelved.

    The Observ­er report­ed in Jan­u­ary last year that the Home Office’s extrem­ism analy­sis unit had been direct­ed by Down­ing Street to inves­ti­gate over­seas fund­ing of extrem­ist groups in the UK, with find­ings to be shown to There­sa May, then home sec­re­tary, and Cameron.

    How­ev­er, 18 months lat­er, the Home Office con­firmed the report had not yet been com­plet­ed and said it would not nec­es­sar­i­ly be pub­lished, call­ing the con­tents “very sen­si­tive”.

    A deci­sion would be tak­en “after the elec­tion by the next gov­ern­ment” about the future of the inves­ti­ga­tion, a Home Office spokesman said.
    ...

    “How­ev­er, 18 months lat­er, the Home Office con­firmed the report had not yet been com­plet­ed and said it would not nec­es­sar­i­ly be pub­lished, call­ing the con­tents “very sen­si­tive”

    So no word yet on whether or not Sau­di Ara­bia is plan­ning on sev­er­ing diplo­mat­ic rela­tions with itself over its fund­ing of far-right reac­tionary Islamist ide­olo­gies.

    But one thing is very clear at this point: Sau­di Ara­bi­a’s new glow­ing anti-ter­ror­ism orb had bet­ter watch out.

    The call is com­ing from inside the House, orb! Get out of there!

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | June 5, 2017, 2:11 pm
  9. With the UK’s June 8th ear­ly elec­tions wrap­ping up — and exit polls sug­gest­ing a sur­pris­ing loss of the Con­ser­v­a­tive par­lia­men­tary major­i­ty — fol­low­ing repeat­ed far-right Islamist ter­ror attacks, it’s worth not­ing that the next UK gov­ern­ment should prob­a­bly look into this:

    Medium.com
    Insurge Intel­li­gence

    ISIS recruiter who rad­i­calised Lon­don Bridge attack­ers was pro­tect­ed by MI5

    From col­lu­sion to blow­back

    by Nafeez Ahmed

    June 7, 2017

    Pub­lished by INSURGE INTELLIGENCE, a crowd­fund­ed inves­tiga­tive jour­nal­ism project for peo­ple and plan­et. Sup­port us to keep dig­ging where oth­ers fear to tread.

    The ter­ror­ists who ram­paged across Lon­don on the night of 3 June were part of a wider extrem­ist net­work close­ly mon­i­tored by MI5 for decades. The same net­work was heav­i­ly involved in recruit­ing Britons to fight with jihadist groups in Syr­ia, Iraq and Libya.

    Police have con­firmed that Khu­ram Shaz­ad Butt, Rachid Redouane and Youssef Zagh­ba were the three ter­ror­ists shot dead after par­tic­i­pat­ing in a bru­tal van and knife attack in the Lon­don Bridge area.

    Accord­ing to press reports, both Butt and Redouane were long­stand­ing mem­bers of the pro­scribed extrem­ist net­work for­mer­ly known as al-Muha­jiroun. After 9/11, the group oper­at­ed under dif­fer­ent names such as Shariah4UK, Muslims4Crusades and Islam4UK. Orig­i­nal­ly found­ed by Lebanese fire­brand, Omar Bakri Mohammed, who was banned from return­ing to the UK after the 7/7 attacks, the net­work was lat­er run by Bakri’s deputy, Anjem Choudary.

    Red flags, missed

    Choudary was con­vict­ed in 2016 for sup­port­ing and encour­ag­ing sup­port for ISIS.

    Yet the press has large­ly ignored the extent to which Choudary’s uncan­ny free­dom to oper­ate in Britain, and to send British Mus­lims to fight in for­eign the­atres, was linked to his opaque rela­tion­ship to Britain’s secu­ri­ty ser­vices.

    Khu­ram Butt was known to counter-ter­ror­ism police and MI5, who inves­ti­gat­ed him in 2015. The offi­cial line is that he was depri­ori­tised as no evi­dence of attack plan­ning was found.

    Anony­mous British counter-ter­ror­ism sources, how­ev­er, told CNN that Butt was the sub­ject of a “full pack­age” of inves­ti­ga­to­ry mea­sures, as he was believed to be “one of the most dan­ger­ous extrem­ists in the UK”. After Sep­tem­ber 2014, when ISIS began call­ing for attacks on the West, British secu­ri­ty ser­vices grew “increas­ing­ly con­cerned that al-Muha­jiroun mem­bers who had remained in the UK would car­ry out ter­ror­ist attacks.” The sources said that “One of those they were most con­cerned about was Butt.”

    Accord­ing to the Tele­graph, Redouane fought with the Libyan Islamist mili­tia unit Liwa al-Ummah to top­ple Muam­mar Qaddafi. Libyan secu­ri­ty and diplo­mat­ic sources told the paper this mili­tia sent for­eign fight­ers to Syr­ia after the NATO-backed rev­o­lu­tion, many of whom “went on to fight along­side Al-Qae­da extrem­ists in Syr­ia”.

    As British for­eign pol­i­cy ana­lyst Mark Cur­tis reports: “The Liwa al-Ummah was formed by a deputy of Abdul Hakim Bel­haj, the for­mer emir of the al Qae­da-linked Libyan Islam­ic Fight­ing Group.” Bel­haj went on to become a mil­i­tary com­man­der for the NATO-backed Nation­al Tran­si­tion Coun­cil in Tripoli to bring down Qadafi in 2011. And in 2012, Liwa al-Ummah fight­ers in Syr­ia merged with the main rebel force, the Free Syr­i­an Army (FSA)?—?which received direct mil­i­tary and logis­ti­cal sup­port from the US and UK mil­i­taries, as well as the Gulf states and Turkey.

    Met­ro­pol­i­tan Police denied that the third attack­er, Zagh­ba, was known to the author­i­ties, describ­ing him as “not a police or MI5 sub­ject of inter­est.”

    An Ital­ian nation­al of Moroc­can descent, Zagh­ba had also come on the radar of Ital­ian intel­li­gence in March 2016. Author­i­ties stopped him at Bologna air­port while try­ing to take a flight to Turkey to reach Syr­ia, and had passed infor­ma­tion on his move­ments to Moroc­can author­i­ties, as well as MI5 and MI6—noting that he had told author­i­ties in Bologna that he want­ed to become a ter­ror­ist.

    Despite being placed on an EU-wide watch­list, he man­aged to enter Britain with­out prob­lems.

    ISIS recruiters

    Sev­er­al sources who spoke to me on con­di­tion of anonymi­ty said they had known of both Butt and Redouane, describ­ing them as noto­ri­ous “trou­ble-mak­ers” who were shunned by wider Mus­lim com­mu­ni­ties.

    “Yeah, I knew these guys, they used to hang out down the road from me in Bark­ing,” said one Mus­lim res­i­dent of east Lon­don. “They were known as open ISIS sup­port­ers. They used to recruit peo­ple to go Syr­ia and fight. It was hard­ly a secret.”

    The source was famil­iar with Khu­ram Butt but did not know the oth­er Lon­don attack­ers. “He was part of the al-Muha­jiroun net­work. They were Anjem Choudary’s boys. When the Syr­i­an war first broke out, these guys were organ­is­ing a lot of peo­ple to go there and fight. They did it under human­i­tar­i­an cov­er, pre­tend­ing they were going to give aid and stuff.”

    Anoth­er source based in north Lon­don knew both Butt and Redouane as fol­low­ers of Anjem Choudary. He said that they had joined al Muha­jiroun after 9/11, and when­ev­er he would bump into them they would talk “all about fight­ing infi­del shia, they worse than Jews, etc.”

    He said that they open­ly cam­paigned in sup­port of ISIS: “Man, these guys were loud and clear. They thought of Iraq and Syr­ia as land of the caliphate. As before they loved Tal­iban but crit­i­cised them for not mak­ing it caliphate. They always invit­ed peo­ple to join jihad and Syr­ia. Noth­ing new there.”

    MI5’s open door

    Accord­ing to an inves­ti­ga­tion by Mid­dle East Eye, from 2011 to around ear­ly-2013, MI5 oper­at­ed an ‘open door’ pol­i­cy for Britons to trav­el and fight in Libya and Syr­ia. For­eign fight­ers told MEE that their trav­els had been facil­i­tat­ed by Britain’s secu­ri­ty ser­vices.

    After trav­el­ling back to Libya in May 2011, one British fight­er “was approached by two counter-ter­ror­ism police offi­cers in the depar­ture lounge who told him that if he was going to fight he would be com­mit­ting a crime.”

    The fight­er pro­vid­ed them the name and phone num­ber of an MI5 offi­cer. Fol­low­ing a quick phone call to him, he was waved through.

    “As he wait­ed to board the plane, he said the same MI5 offi­cer called him to tell him that he had ‘sort­ed it out’…

    Anoth­er British cit­i­zen with expe­ri­ence of fight­ing in both Libya and in Syr­ia with rebel groups also told MEE that he had been able to trav­el to and from the UK with­out dis­rup­tion.

    ‘No ques­tions were asked,’ he said.”

    The ‘open door’ pol­i­cy was designed to aug­ment US and British sup­port to oppo­si­tion forces seek­ing to over­throw Gaddafi and Bashar al-Assad in Syr­ia. Fun­nelled through our allies, the Gulf states and Turkey, the bulk of this sup­port went not to sec­u­lar rebels but to hard­line Islamist groups, includ­ing both al-Qae­da and ISIS.

    Under this ‘open door’, as Cur­tis observes, “at least one Lon­don attack­er and the Man­ches­ter bomber were able to trav­el to Libya to fight in Britain’s war.”

    So, under May’s Home Office, at least one future Lon­don attack­er & Man­ches­ter bomber were able to trav­el to Libya to fight in Britain’s war. https://t.co/putYdceCDR— Mark Cur­tis (@markcurtis30) June 7, 2017

    Since 2011, the pri­ma­ry fig­ure respon­si­ble for recruit­ing Britons to fight in the Mid­dle East and North Africa was Anjem Choudary.

    Of the 850 Britons who went to join var­i­ous insur­gent groups in Syr­ia, Iraq and Libya, most of them—fully 500—had been recruit­ed by Choudary to fight with ISIS. Choudary had also been linked to as many as 15 ter­ror plots since 2001. These aston­ish­ing fig­ures were revealed by the police after Choudary was con­vict­ed last year.

    Sen­si­tive ISIS doc­u­ments cor­rob­o­rate the for­mer al-Muha­jiroun network’s cru­cial role in this British-ISIS ter­ror fun­nel. The doc­u­ments, leaked in ear­ly 2016, iden­ti­fied Choudary’s mentor—Omar Bakri Mohammed—as a spon­sor of Britons try­ing to be induct­ed into ISIS.

    Choudary’s role as a key insti­ga­tor in the recruit­ment of British Mus­lims to join the ISIS jihad in Syr­ia, occurred at pre­cise­ly the same time that Britain’s secu­ri­ty ser­vices were oper­at­ing an ‘open door’ pol­i­cy to aug­ment the anti-Gaddafi and anti-Assad rebel­lions.

    These activ­i­ties were well-known to British police and intel­li­gence. Ear­li­er this year, a group of extrem­ists con­nect­ed to Choudary were jailed for sup­port­ing ISIS and urg­ing peo­ple to fight in Syr­ia, after a 20 month-long under­cov­er police oper­a­tion.

    This rais­es the ques­tion as to whether the rea­son noth­ing was done to shut down Choudary’s activ­i­ties was his util­i­ty to MI5’s ‘open door’ to Libya and Syr­ia.

    MI5 and ISIS recruiters, sit­ting in a tree

    The offi­cial expla­na­tion of the fail­ure to pros­e­cute Bakri and Choudary for so long despite this track record is that the two were noto­ri­ous­ly clever at appear­ing to stay­ing on the right side of law. Sup­pos­ed­ly, this meant that counter-ter­ror­ism offi­cials found it dif­fi­cult to build a case against them.

    This nar­ra­tive is prob­lem­at­ic. Secu­ri­ty sources speak­ing out­side of offi­cial press state­ments have point­ed to a some­what dif­fer­ent real­i­ty: that both Bakri and Choudary had ties to MI5.

    In his book The Way of the World, Pulitzer Prize win­ning reporter Ron Suskind recounts how he was told by a senior MI5 offi­cer that Bakri had long been an infor­mant for the secu­ri­ty ser­vice, who “had helped MI5 on sev­er­al of its inves­ti­ga­tions.”

    Bakri con­firmed the same in an inter­view with Suskind. “Bakri enjoyed his noto­ri­ety and was will­ing to pay for it with infor­ma­tion he passed to the police,” wrote Suskind.

    “It’s a fab­ric of sub­tle inter­lock­ing needs: the [British author­i­ties] need be in a backchan­nel con­ver­sa­tion with some­one work­ing the steam valve of Mus­lim anger; Bakri needs health insur­ance.”

    Bakri’s ties with British intel­li­gence to sup­port for­eign oper­a­tions, more­over, go back decades.

    As I It’s a fab­ric in the Inde­pen­dent on Sun­day:

    “Accord­ing to a for­mer US Army intel­li­gence offi­cer, John Lof­tus, three senior al-Muha­jiroun figures—Mr Bakri Mohammed, Abu Hamza and Haroon Rashid Aswat—were recruit­ed by MI6 in 1996 to influ­ence Islamist activ­i­ties in the Balka­ns.”

    But the con­nec­tion did not stop there.

    In 2000, Bakri admit­ted train­ing British Mus­lims to fight as jihadists abroad, boast­ing: “The British gov­ern­ment knows who we are. MI5 has inter­ro­gat­ed us many times. I think now we have some­thing called pub­lic immu­ni­ty.”

    A year lat­er, the pri­vate secu­ri­ty firm set up by Bakri in cohorts with Abu Hamza—Sakina Secu­ri­ty Services—was raid­ed by police and even­tu­al­ly shut down. Speak­ing in Par­lia­ment at the time, Andrew Dis­more MP claimed the firm sent Britons “over­seas for jihad train­ing with live arms and ammu­ni­tion”. Bakri was not arrest­ed, let alone charged or pros­e­cut­ed.

    In short, Omar Bakri’s util­i­ty to British state oper­a­tions in for­eign the­atres, such as the Balka­ns, appeared to grant him immu­ni­ty in extrem­ist recruit­ment at home.

    To this day, it is not wide­ly known that Bakri and his al-Muha­jiroun net­work played a key role in facil­i­tat­ing the recruit­ment, rad­i­cal­i­sa­tion and logis­tics behind the 7/7 Lon­don bomb­ings. The ulti­mate sup­pres­sion of cru­cial evi­dence of this from gov­ern­ment nar­ra­tives, despite being manda­to­ry read­ing for all legal coun­sel dur­ing the 7/7 Coroner’s Inquest, has grant­ed the group vir­tu­al free reign.

    Thus, Omar Bakri’s acolyte and deputy, Anjem Choudary, led a sim­i­lar­ly charmed life.

    Days after Choudary’s ter­ror­ism con­vic­tion, a for­mer Scot­land Yard counter-ter­ror­ism offi­cer who had inves­ti­gat­ed Choudary revealed that pri­or to the pro­ceed­ings, Choudary too had been pro­tect­ed by MI5.

    The Tele­graph report­ed that despite being at “the fore­front of rad­i­cal Islam in Britain” for 20 years:

    “The secu­ri­ty ser­vices repeat­ed­ly pre­vent­ed Scot­land Yard from pur­su­ing crim­i­nal inves­ti­ga­tions against hate preach­er Anjem Choudary… Met counter-ter­ror offi­cers often felt they had enough evi­dence to build a case against the rad­i­cal­is­ing cler­ic, only to be told to hang fire by MI5, because he was cru­cial to one of their on-going inves­ti­ga­tions.”

    It was only in August 2015, after Choudary post­ed YouTube videos online which open­ly doc­u­ment­ed his sup­port for ISIS, that he was even­tu­al­ly pros­e­cut­ed. Pri­or to that, the police believed they had a water­tight case, but the deci­sion not to pros­e­cute had come from MI5.

    The police source him­self told the news­pa­per:

    “I am gob­s­macked that we allowed him to car­ry on as long as long as he did. He was up to his neck in it but the police can’t do full inves­ti­ga­tions on peo­ple if the secu­ri­ty ser­vice say they are work­ing on a real­ly big job, because they have the pri­or­i­ty. That is what they did con­stant­ly. While the police might have had lots of evi­dence they were pulled back by the secu­ri­ty ser­vice because he [Choudary] was one of the peo­ple they were mon­i­tor­ing. It was very frus­trat­ing and did cause some ten­sion but we were told we had to con­sid­er the big­ger pic­ture.”

    The big­ger pic­ture: war

    Accord­ing to Charles Shoe­bridge, though—a for­mer British Army and Met­ro­pol­i­tan Police counter-ter­ror­ism intel­li­gence officer—“nothing was done by UK author­i­ties” to stop UK cit­i­zens “join­ing jihadist groups in Libya and Syr­ia.”

    This was despite the fact that these Britons “made no secret on social media of the fact, even some­times post­ing evi­dence of their par­tic­i­pa­tion in acts of ter­ror­ism and war crimes.” There was an “obvi­ous risk of ter­ror­ism blow­back were such trained and expe­ri­enced extrem­ists to return to Britain.”

    Shoe­bridge had point­ed out at the time that “this ‘turn­ing a blind eye’ was actu­al­ly con­sis­tent with the UK govt posi­tion of inten­sive overt and covert sup­port of rebel groups in Libya and Syr­ia in attempt­ing to top­ple Gaddafi and Assad.” Turn­ing a blind eye, he added, was also con­sis­tent with “a long record of the UK gov­ern­ment allow­ing, using and facil­i­tat­ing Islamist extrem­ists to desta­bilise ‘ene­my’ states, from Sovi­et occu­pied Afghanistan in the 80s, through Bosnia and Chech­nya, to Libya and Syr­ia today…

    “It was only in 2013 when groups such as ISIS start­ed to harm US and UK inter­ests in Syr­ia and Iraq, and kill US and UK cit­i­zens, that any action at all was tak­en to stop British jihadists from trav­el­ling, or arrest­ing and charg­ing those who returned. At this time it’s like­ly a tip­ping point was reached in the inher­ent con­flict between MI6 pri­or­i­ties in fur­ther­ing UK govt pol­i­cy to over­throw Gaddafi and Assad, and MI5’s stat­ed pri­or­i­ty of keep­ing the UK safe from terrorism?—?indeed, it’s like­ly a tip­ping point was also reached inter­nal­ly with­in MI5 itself. In any event, from 2013 action start­ed to be tak­en, which sug­gests gov­ern­ment pol­i­cy changed.”

    The offi­cial defence for all this is that before 2013, the leg­is­la­tion nec­es­sary to tack­le trav­el­ling jihadists did not exist. Shoe­bridge dis­miss­es this as non­sense: “First, it’s been ille­gal to take part in ter­ror­ist relat­ed activ­i­ties abroad since 2006 and, sec­ond, the new leg­is­la­tion intro­duced since 2013 has itself bare­ly been used.”

    In fact, it was only around 2014 that British counter-ter­ror­ism offi­cials moved more aggres­sive­ly to take down al-Muha­jiroun.

    I asked the Home Office to con­firm whether Choudary was indeed an MI5 infor­mant, and whether British author­i­ties were aware of his recruit­ment of Britons to Syria—including the role of any of the Lon­don attack­ers as ‘for­eign fight­ers’.

    A spokesper­son said: “We are not com­ment­ing on the indi­vid­u­als named while that inves­ti­ga­tion con­tin­ues or respond­ing to spec­u­la­tion.”

    But if Ged­des and Shoe­bridge are cor­rect, then when Anjem Choudary—Britain’s top ISIS ter­ror recruiter—was dis­patch­ing Britons to Syr­ia, he was, in Ged­des words, “allowed… to car­ry on” by Britain’s secu­ri­ty ser­vices.

    The deci­sion not to pros­e­cute Choudary was to have fatal con­se­quences. In Feb­ru­ary, about half of the British fight­ers who had trav­elled to Iraq, Syr­ia and Libya returned.

    In Novem­ber 2014, as Home Sec­re­tary, There­sa May said that JTAC, the Joint Ter­ror­ism Analy­sis Cen­tre, had raised the threat lev­el for inter­na­tion­al ter­ror­ism from ‘sub­stan­tial’ to ‘severe’, indi­cat­ing that an attack on the UK was believed to be “high­ly like­ly.” May’s announce­ment clar­i­fied that the threat lev­el was lift­ed pri­mar­i­ly due to the threat from 500 British nation­als who had large­ly fought with ISIS:

    “The deci­sion to change the threat lev­el was based pri­mar­i­ly on devel­op­ments in Syr­ia and Iraq, where the ter­ror­ist group ISIL con­trols swathes of ter­ri­to­ry. We believe more than 500 British nation­als have trav­elled to Syr­ia and Iraq, many of them to fight… ISIL and its west­ern fight­ers now rep­re­sent one of the most seri­ous ter­ror­ist threats we face.”

    Col­lu­sion

    It was There­sa May’s own ‘open door’ pol­i­cy toward Britons fight­ing in for­eign the­atres which direct­ly facil­i­tat­ed the expan­sion of this threat.

    Under that pol­i­cy, the chief coor­di­na­tor of the British-ISIS cor­ri­dor, Choudary, had active ties to MI5 which pre­vent­ed counter-ter­ror­ism police offi­cers from pros­e­cut­ing him.

    This draws a direct con­nec­tion between Choudary’s impuni­ty in Britain until 2015, and Britain’s short-sight­ed for­eign pol­i­cy goals in Syr­ia.

    “When the US and British mil­i­taries were work­ing with the Turks to train var­i­ous Syr­i­an rebel groups, many mil­i­tary offi­cers knew that among those we were train­ing was the next round of jihadists,” said Alas­tair Crooke, a for­mer 30 year senior MI6 offi­cer who dealt with Islamist groups across the Mus­lim world. “But the CIA was fix­at­ed on regime change. We knew that even if at any moment ISIS was even­tu­al­ly defeat­ed, these Islamist groups would move against sec­u­lar and mod­er­ate forces.”

    This col­lu­sion between West­ern secu­ri­ty ser­vices and Islamist extrem­ism, Crooke told me, has very long roots in an intel­li­gence cul­ture that went back as far as the 1920s, “when in the attempt to gath­er con­trol of the Ara­bi­an penin­su­la, King Abdu­laz­iz told us that the key is Wahabism.”

    This alliance cul­mi­nat­ed in the war in Afghanistan in the 1980s, which was “the first clear use of fired-up Islamist rad­i­cals to pro­voke Rus­sia into an inva­sion. This set the scene ever since. From then, our intel­li­gence ser­vices have had a deeply entwined his­to­ry with Islamist groups based on the belief that Sau­di Ara­bia had the pow­er to turn them on and off at will.”

    Islamist groups have been used by British and Amer­i­can intel­li­gence ser­vices, said Crooke, essen­tial­ly “to con­trol and con­tain the Mid­dle East” against dif­fer­ent forces, Nasserism, nation­al­ists, and more recent­ly Baathists.

    Per­haps Crooke’s most damn­ing insight was how these oper­a­tions led to British intel­li­gence becom­ing heav­i­ly depen­dent on Gulf state intel­li­gence ser­vices to con­duct region­al oper­a­tions.

    “In the 1980s, Sau­di began pay­ing for oper­a­tions with large sums of money—which was con­sid­ered accept­able in the inter­ests of land­ing a blow on the USSR’s influ­ence in the region. As a result, though, our intel­li­gence ser­vices became increas­ing­ly depen­dent on Sau­di fund­ing. If they want­ed to avoid Con­gres­sion­al or par­lia­men­tary over­sight, and to con­tin­ue expand­ing dif­fi­cult and sen­si­tive off-the-books oper­a­tions, they would go instead to their Gulf part­ners.”

    The impact of this on the integri­ty of the US and British intel­li­gence com­mu­ni­ty has been dev­as­tat­ing:

    “The assump­tion is that this doesn’t affect the integri­ty of intel­li­gence, but clear­ly it does. The Gulf states have become pay­mas­ters for increas­ing expen­di­tures on intel­li­gence oper­a­tions that the secu­ri­ty ser­vices would pre­fer not be dis­closed.”

    This “incip­i­ent influ­ence direct­ly into the intel­li­gence ser­vices”, said Crooke, is “sup­ple­ment­ed by huge sub­si­dies to think-tanks in Wash­ing­ton and Lon­don which cre­ate a spe­cif­ic cul­tur­al atmos­phere. It has led many in the US and Europe to uncrit­i­cal­ly absorb the Gulf king­doms’ nar­ra­tive of the region—one in which it is seen as absolute­ly fine to use fired-up Sun­ni Islamism to over­turn gov­ern­ments like that of Gaddafi or Assad, with­out any sort of reflec­tion.”

    For Crooke, this mind­set is respon­si­ble for the per­sis­tence of such failed poli­cies, and explains why in the ear­ly days of the ‘Arab Spring’, West­ern pol­i­cy­mak­ers believed they could “use Islamists of all sorts as use­ful tools to bring about change, and that our Gulf allies could con­trol all this.”

    I asked Crooke what should be done—especially now, in the unprece­dent­ed wake of three ter­ror­ist attacks in Britain over three months:

    “We should start by sur­fac­ing these mat­ters into con­scious­ness. Only then can we begin the con­ver­sa­tions need­ed to resolve them. We need to under­stand that the ten­sion between fight­ing a ‘war on ter­ror’ while at the same time in some ways being in bed with ter­ror­ists, has pro­duced a dis­as­ter.”

    For Shoe­bridge, the biggest ele­phant in the room is intel­li­gence reform: “Repeat­ed­ly, MI5 has made deci­sions not to deploy its sub­stan­tial phys­i­cal and elec­tron­ic sur­veil­lance resources against extrem­ists who were well known to it, and who then went on to com­mit or attempt ter­ror­ist attacks?—?Manchester being a prime exam­ple.”

    One expla­na­tion of this, he said, could be that the deci­sion mak­ing process­es by which MI5 pri­ori­tis­es the deploy­ment of its resources are “defec­tive.” Anoth­er could be that some extrem­ists “were actu­al­ly work­ing as infor­mants for MI5, regard­ed as under con­trol or trust­wor­thy, and there­fore not need­ing to be watched.”

    ...

    ———-

    “ISIS recruiter who rad­i­calised Lon­don Bridge attack­ers was pro­tect­ed by MI5” by Nafeez Ahmed; Medium.com; 06/07/2017;

    “Yet the press has large­ly ignored the extent to which Choudary’s uncan­ny free­dom to oper­ate in Britain, and to send British Mus­lims to fight in for­eign the­atres, was linked to his opaque rela­tion­ship to Britain’s secu­ri­ty ser­vices.”

    And what was that rela­tion­ship with Britain’s secu­ri­ty ser­vices? It appeared to be “if you act as an infor­mant, but also recruit and train jihadists for fights in for­eign lands, you’ll be fine”. Or some­thing like that:

    ...
    In his book The Way of the World, Pulitzer Prize win­ning reporter Ron Suskind recounts how he was told by a senior MI5 offi­cer that Bakri had long been an infor­mant for the secu­ri­ty ser­vice, who “had helped MI5 on sev­er­al of its inves­ti­ga­tions.”

    Bakri con­firmed the same in an inter­view with Suskind. “Bakri enjoyed his noto­ri­ety and was will­ing to pay for it with infor­ma­tion he passed to the police,” wrote Suskind.

    “It’s a fab­ric of sub­tle inter­lock­ing needs: the [British author­i­ties] need be in a backchan­nel con­ver­sa­tion with some­one work­ing the steam valve of Mus­lim anger; Bakri needs health insur­ance.”

    Bakri’s ties with British intel­li­gence to sup­port for­eign oper­a­tions, more­over, go back decades.

    As I It’s a fab­ric in the Inde­pen­dent on Sun­day:

    “Accord­ing to a for­mer US Army intel­li­gence offi­cer, John Lof­tus, three senior al-Muha­jiroun figures—Mr Bakri Mohammed, Abu Hamza and Haroon Rashid Aswat—were recruit­ed by MI6 in 1996 to influ­ence Islamist activ­i­ties in the Balka­ns.”

    But the con­nec­tion did not stop there.

    In 2000, Bakri admit­ted train­ing British Mus­lims to fight as jihadists abroad, boast­ing: “The British gov­ern­ment knows who we are. MI5 has inter­ro­gat­ed us many times. I think now we have some­thing called pub­lic immu­ni­ty.”

    A year lat­er, the pri­vate secu­ri­ty firm set up by Bakri in cohorts with Abu Hamza—Sakina Secu­ri­ty Services—was raid­ed by police and even­tu­al­ly shut down. Speak­ing in Par­lia­ment at the time, Andrew Dis­more MP claimed the firm sent Britons “over­seas for jihad train­ing with live arms and ammu­ni­tion”. Bakri was not arrest­ed, let alone charged or pros­e­cut­ed.

    In short, Omar Bakri’s util­i­ty to British state oper­a­tions in for­eign the­atres, such as the Balka­ns, appeared to grant him immu­ni­ty in extrem­ist recruit­ment at home.

    To this day, it is not wide­ly known that Bakri and his al-Muha­jiroun net­work played a key role in facil­i­tat­ing the recruit­ment, rad­i­cal­i­sa­tion and logis­tics behind the 7/7 Lon­don bomb­ings. The ulti­mate sup­pres­sion of cru­cial evi­dence of this from gov­ern­ment nar­ra­tives, despite being manda­to­ry read­ing for all legal coun­sel dur­ing the 7/7 Coroner’s Inquest, has grant­ed the group vir­tu­al free reign.

    Thus, Omar Bakri’s acolyte and deputy, Anjem Choudary, led a sim­i­lar­ly charmed life.

    Days after Choudary’s ter­ror­ism con­vic­tion, a for­mer Scot­land Yard counter-ter­ror­ism offi­cer who had inves­ti­gat­ed Choudary revealed that pri­or to the pro­ceed­ings, Choudary too had been pro­tect­ed by MI5.
    ...

    So let’s hope the next UK gov­ern­ment takes a look into this his­to­ry. Will it? Well, that prob­a­bly depends on whether or not who ends up being the next prime min­is­ter. And whether or not they have close ties to HSBC and/or busi­ness in Sau­di Ara­bia:

    The Canary

    Amber Rudd has been caught on film try­ing to cen­sor a debate about the Tories and ter­ror­ism [VIDEO]

    Steve Top­ple
    June 5th, 2017

    Home Sec­re­tary Amber Rudd tried to shut down a debate about the Man­ches­ter bomb­ing, the Con­ser­v­a­tive Party’s links to Sau­di Ara­bia, and ter­ror­ism. But it was caught on film. And the man at the cen­tre of the storm has told The Canary that Rudd tried to silence him because the sub­ject is so “sen­si­tive” to the Tories.

    Silenc­ing dis­sent?

    Nicholas Wil­son is an anti-cor­rup­tion cam­paign­er. And he is also stand­ing as an inde­pen­dent par­lia­men­tary can­di­date in Hast­ings and Rye, against Rudd. At a hus­tings on 3 June, Wil­son was dis­cussing There­sa May’s links to Sau­di Ara­bia and HSBC bank, but also how the Sau­di king­dom itself is linked to inter­na­tion­al ter­ror­ism – espe­cial­ly in rela­tion to the Man­ches­ter bomb­ing.

    But moments after Wil­son start­ed, Rudd can be seen writ­ing on a piece of paper. She then hand­ed the note to the Chair of the hus­tings, who imme­di­ate­ly tried to stop Wil­son talk­ing:
    [see video]

    Fol­low­ing this, the Chair of the meet­ing forced Wil­son to stop and hand him the micro­phone:
    [see video]
    Too sen­si­tive?

    Wil­son told The Canary:

    Rudd shut me down because I was broach­ing two sub­jects the Tories are very sen­si­tive about: HSBC and arms sales to Sau­di Ara­bia, and their con­nec­tions to each. As I’ve been dis­clos­ing for years, the Tories are up to their necks in HSBC cor­rup­tion. And, until April, two top peo­ple at the BBC were also an HSBC Direc­tor [Rona Fair­head] and Chair­man of BAE Sys­tems [Roger Carr].

    As The Canary pre­vi­ous­ly report­ed, Wil­son has detailed May’s poten­tial con­flict of inter­est regard­ing her hus­band Philip and HSBC, and also her pro­mot­ing of invest­ment in Sau­di Ara­bia.

    Con­flict of inter­est?

    May’s hus­band Philip works for US invest­ment firm Cap­i­tal Group. The com­pa­ny works close­ly with HSBC, just recent­ly estab­lish­ing a part­ner­ship in Hong Kong. So when it was announced that HSBC had been select­ed to advise Sau­di Ara­bia on the sale of its state oil com­pa­ny Aram­co, Wil­son looked into this.

    And he found that, in April 2017, There­sa May had gone to Sau­di Ara­bia and had a meet­ing with Aram­co Chair­man Khalid Al-Fal­ih. Addi­tion­al­ly, only one British busi­ness­man attend­ed any of May’s meet­ings in Sau­di Ara­bia. He was Sir Xavier Rolet, the CEO of the Lon­don Stock Exchange. Wil­son told The Canary:

    It seems obvi­ous to me that the PM is sim­ply lob­by­ing in secret on behalf of her hus­band, Philip. But also for HSBC and the Lon­don Stock Exchange. And, of course, the Tory Par­ty. Seri­ous ques­tions need to be asked.

    ...

    More ques­tions than answers

    In the wake of first­ly the Man­ches­ter bomb­ing, and now the Lon­don attacks, more ques­tions appear than answers. And while there needs to be dis­cus­sion about the for­eign pol­i­cy impli­ca­tions of these hor­rif­ic attacks, the ques­tion of Sau­di Ara­bia is more clear cut. The UK gov­ern­ment should sus­pend all arms licences to the king­dom with imme­di­ate effect, and should con­duct a full review of our “rela­tion­ship” with the coun­try. But judg­ing by Rudd silenc­ing debate on this issue, it’s a sub­ject the Tories have no inter­est in talk­ing about.

    The Canary approached Amber Rudd for clar­i­fi­ca­tion of her actions but received no response.

    ———-

    “Amber Rudd has been caught on film try­ing to cen­sor a debate about the Tories and ter­ror­ism [VIDEO]” by Steve Top­ple; The Canary; 06/05/2017

    “Nicholas Wil­son is an anti-cor­rup­tion cam­paign­er. And he is also stand­ing as an inde­pen­dent par­lia­men­tary can­di­date in Hast­ings and Rye, against Rudd. At a hus­tings on 3 June, Wil­son was dis­cussing There­sa May’s links to Sau­di Ara­bia and HSBC bank, but also how the Sau­di king­dom itself is linked to inter­na­tion­al ter­ror­ism – espe­cial­ly in rela­tion to the Man­ches­ter bomb­ing.

    And what hap­pened just moments after Wil­son start­ed dis­cussing the HSBC/Saudi arms sales/terror con­nec­tion to There­sa May and her hus­band Philip? Britain’s Home Sec­re­tary (There­sa May’s old job) and shut Wilson’s speech down. On video:

    ...
    But moments after Wil­son start­ed, Rudd can be seen writ­ing on a piece of paper. She then hand­ed the note to the Chair of the hus­tings, who imme­di­ate­ly tried to stop Wil­son talk­ing:
    [see video]

    Fol­low­ing this, the Chair of the meet­ing forced Wil­son to stop and hand him the micro­phone:
    [see video]
    Too sen­si­tive?

    Wil­son told The Canary:

    Rudd shut me down because I was broach­ing two sub­jects the Tories are very sen­si­tive about: HSBC and arms sales to Sau­di Ara­bia, and their con­nec­tions to each. As I’ve been dis­clos­ing for years, the Tories are up to their necks in HSBC cor­rup­tion. And, until April, two top peo­ple at the BBC were also an HSBC Direc­tor [Rona Fair­head] and Chair­man of BAE Sys­tems [Roger Carr].

    As The Canary pre­vi­ous­ly report­ed, Wil­son has detailed May’s poten­tial con­flict of inter­est regard­ing her hus­band Philip and HSBC, and also her pro­mot­ing of invest­ment in Sau­di Ara­bia.
    ...

    So that gives us a sense of the cur­rent UK gov­ern­men­t’s inter­est in address­ing the jihadist recruiting/training net­works appar­ent­ly oper­at­ing under the pro­tec­tion of MI5 as part of a larg­er for­eign pol­i­cy of uti­liz­ing Islam­ic rad­i­cals for geopo­lit­i­cal ends regard­less of the inevitable blow­back to the UK and the incred­i­ble dam­age fos­ter­ing such groups and protecting/arming fun­da­men­tal­ist regimes does to the reform move­ments of the Mus­lim world.

    It’s the kind of sit­u­a­tion that makes every­day a good day for an ear­ly elec­tion. So yay for today.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | June 8, 2017, 2:40 pm
  10. The Finan­cial Times had a good piece on some of the region­al ten­sions behind the sud­den sev­er­ance of diplo­mat­ic ties between Qatar and its Sun­ni neigh­bors. And the arti­cle notes one of the dynam­ics that should be inter­est­ing to watch as this plays out: Qatar and Turkey have been grow­ing increas­ing­ly close, with Ankara open­ing up a mil­i­tary base in Qatar in recent years. And many of the same issues that alleged­ly sparked this fight (Qatar’s ongo­ing sup­port for the Mus­lim Broth­er­hood and oth­er far-right Islamists mil­i­tants) are also being pur­sued by Turkey (and also the Saud­is and UAE, but they assert that sup­port has gone away in recent years). So is a big Saudi/UAE/Egypt fight with Turkey on the hori­zon too? We’ll see, but based on the log­ic behind the spat with Qatar it seems like a future fight with Turkey only makes sense (which is not to say that any of this actu­al­ly makes sense):

    The Finan­cial Times

    What is behind the extra­or­di­nary Gulf dis­pute with Qatar?
    Doha’s alleged sup­port for ter­ror­ism pits vital US allies in Mid­dle East against each oth­er

    by: Sime­on Kerr in Dubai
    June 5, 2017

    The unprece­dent­ed move by Sau­di Ara­bia, the Unit­ed Arab Emi­rates, Egypt and Bahrain to sev­er diplo­mat­ic ties and cut trans­port links with Qatar pits impor­tant US allies in the Mid­dle East against each oth­er.

    The action on Mon­day is an attempt to iso­late the Gulf state because of its alleged sup­port of ter­ror­ism.

    Fol­low­ing the move, Qataris have been giv­en two weeks to leave the four coun­tries, while Saud­is, Egyp­tians, Emi­ratis and Bahrai­nis have been barred from trav­el to or through the state.

    Qatar has a pop­u­la­tion of just 2.7m peo­ple — most of whom are expa­tri­ates. Vast gas resources have turned it into one of the world rich­est nations and it is a cru­cial sup­pli­er of liq­ue­fied nat­ur­al gas to Asia and Europe. The coun­try also has large invest­ments in the UK, includ­ing London’s Shard build­ing and Har­rods depart­ment store, and Europe through the Qatar Invest­ment Author­i­ty, its sov­er­eign wealth fund.

    What is the imme­di­ate impact on Qatar?

    The impact will be pro­found as Qatar imports half of its food sup­plies across the land bor­der with Sau­di Ara­bia. The clo­sure is also like­ly to effect the con­struc­tion indus­try and threat­en Doha’s abil­i­ty to pre­pare for the 2022 foot­ball World Cup.

    There will also be an impact on avi­a­tion. Qatar Air­ways, one of the world’s fastest grow­ing car­ri­ers, will face longer west­bound flights with Sau­di air­space closed. Abu Dhabi car­ri­er, Eti­had, and Emi­rates, the Dubai-based air­line, have already announced they will stop flights to Qatar from Tues­day.

    Riyadh and Abu Dhabi also said they would seek legal mea­sures to stop oth­er friend­ly par­ties using their air­space to reach Doha, but details of any attempt to tight­en the block­ade have not emerged.

    If the dis­pute deep­ens, Qatar’s sup­ply of nat­ur­al gas to neigh­bour­ing UAE via the Dol­phin pipeline could be halt­ed, cut­ting a third of the UAE’s sup­ply as demand for pow­er spikes in the hot sum­mer months.

    What is Qatar accused of?

    Qatar’s sup­port for Islamist move­ments has long been crit­i­cised by its region­al neigh­bours, espe­cial­ly the UAE.

    Abu Dhabi regards Doha’s embrace of polit­i­cal Islam, includ­ing the Mus­lim Broth­er­hood and Hamas, the Pales­tin­ian mil­i­tant group, as an exis­ten­tial threat to the Gulf monar­chies. The two have been engaged in increas­ing­ly vicious pro­pa­gan­da wars for years, using state-owned media to throw alle­ga­tions at each oth­er.

    Doha, long­stand­ing home of the brotherhood’s spir­i­tu­al leader, Sheikh Yusef al-Qaradawi, has act­ed as a haven for Islamist activists, includ­ing Sau­di and Emi­rati nation­als.

    Qatar has also backed Islamist par­ties and rebel groups in con­flicts, includ­ing in Libya and Syr­ia.

    In Syr­ia, Qatar has been the most aggres­sive backer of Islamist groups seek­ing to top­ple the regime of Pres­i­dent Bashar al-Assad. Crit­ics say this has includ­ed indi­rect assis­tance to al-Qae­da affil­i­ates, such as Tahrir al-Sham, via ran­som pay­ments for hostage releas­es.

    Sau­di Ara­bia has also been a sup­port­er of Islamist groups, but observers say it has reduced its direct assis­tance in recent years. West­ern crit­ics accuse Doha of luke­warm co-oper­a­tion in the fight against ter­ror­ist financ­ing.

    Egypt and the UAE have also accused Qatar and Turkey of sup­port­ing Islamist rebels in Libya. Cairo and Abu Dhabi back Khal­i­fa Haf­tar, a mil­i­tary strong­men who con­trols much of east­ern Libya.

    Region­al­ly, Doha has forged clos­er ties with Ankara, which has adopt­ed a sim­i­lar approach to back­ing Islamist groups in Syr­ia. Turkey has opened a mil­i­tary base in Qatar, which has host­ed the US’s region­al mil­i­tary head­quar­ters at al-Udeid air base for years.

    Qatar admits its view of polit­i­cal Islam and the Mus­lim Broth­er­hood dif­fers to some of its neigh­bours, but says there is noth­ing wrong in back­ing groups that have wide­spread pop­u­lar sup­port. It denies back­ing vio­lent ter­ror­ist groups.

    What are the links between Qatar and Iran?

    The Riyadh/Abu Dhabi axis has become increas­ing­ly con­cerned about what it sees as Doha’s cosy­ing up to Shia Iran, Sau­di Arabia’s arch-rival, in recent months.

    Qatar, a Sun­ni state that shares its mas­sive North gas­field with the Islam­ic repub­lic, has tra­di­tion­al­ly tak­en a less aggres­sive stance towards Iran, like fel­low Gulf state Oman.

    Doha prides itself as a neu­tral play­er that can act as an inter­me­di­ary in region­al con­flicts, from Lebanon to Sudan. The city hosts offi­cials from groups regard­ed as ter­ror­ists by many oth­er states, includ­ing Hamas and the Tal­iban in Afghanistan.

    But Doha’s crit­ics say neu­tral medi­a­tion has mutat­ed into sup­port for groups that are active­ly attack­ing the inter­ests of Sun­ni Gulf states.

    Qatar is alleged to have paid mil­lions of dol­lars to Iran-backed groups, includ­ing Hizbol­lah, to secure the release last month of Qataris who were tak­en hostage in south­ern Iraq last year.

    Riyadh accus­es Tehran of inter­fer­ing in Syr­ia, Iraq, Lebanon, Yemen and Bahrain. Break­ing Sun­ni Gulf ranks on Iran is regard­ed as a betray­al too far.

    Why now?

    The pro­pa­gan­da war between the state-fund­ed media of Sau­di Ara­bia and the UAE against Qatar has been esca­lat­ing for weeks.

    Doha claimed its state news agency had been hacked after it pub­lished com­ments last month alleged­ly made by the Qatari emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, express­ing sup­port for the Mus­lim Broth­er­hood and threw an olive branch to Iran. The Sau­di and Emi­rati media ignored the hack­ing claims and repeat­ed­ly broad­cast Sheikh Tamim’s alleged remarks.

    Qatar’s state-owned satel­lite tele­vi­sion chan­nel, Al Jazeera, then gave promi­nence to reports this week about the appar­ent hack­ing of emails writ­ten by Yousef al-Otai­ba, the UAE’s high­ly influ­en­tial ambas­sador to the US, that referred to a cam­paign against Doha’s alleged ter­ror­ist links.

    ...

    ———-

    “What is behind the extra­or­di­nary Gulf dis­pute with Qatar?” by Sime­on Kerr; The Finan­cial Times; 06/05/2017

    “Region­al­ly, Doha has forged clos­er ties with Ankara, which has adopt­ed a sim­i­lar approach to back­ing Islamist groups in Syr­ia. Turkey has opened a mil­i­tary base in Qatar, which has host­ed the US’s region­al mil­i­tary head­quar­ters at al-Udeid air base for years.”

    Yep, Turkey jopened its first mil­i­tary base in Qatar just last year and now it’s plan­ning on send­ing 3,000 troops to that base in the wake of this dis­pute. And giv­en their mutu­al deep ties to the Mus­lim Broth­er­hood it’s note a sur­pris­ing par­tic­u­lar­ly sur­pris­ing rela­tion­ship:

    ...
    Egypt and the UAE have also accused Qatar and Turkey of sup­port­ing Islamist rebels in Libya. Cairo and Abu Dhabi back Khal­i­fa Haf­tar, a mil­i­tary strong­men who con­trols much of east­ern Libya.

    ...

    Qatar admits its view of polit­i­cal Islam and the Mus­lim Broth­er­hood dif­fers to some of its neigh­bours, but says there is noth­ing wrong in back­ing groups that have wide­spread pop­u­lar sup­port. It denies back­ing vio­lent ter­ror­ist groups.
    ...

    So that poten­tial fault line in what appeared to be a near­ly unan­i­mous Sun­ni front against Iran and the Shias should be some­thing to watch. What’s next? That remains to be seen, although what­ev­er is next will prob­a­bly involve more claims of Russ­ian hack­ing. More Russ­ian hack­ing claims on top of the cur­rent ones:

    CNN

    CNN Exclu­sive: US sus­pects Russ­ian hack­ers plant­ed fake news behind Qatar cri­sis

    By Evan Perez and Shi­mon Proku­pecz
    Updat­ed 7:34 AM ET, Wed June 7, 2017

    Wash­ing­ton (CNN) US inves­ti­ga­tors believe Russ­ian hack­ers breached Qatar’s state news agency and plant­ed a fake news report that con­tributed to a cri­sis among the US’ clos­est Gulf allies, accord­ing to US offi­cials briefed on the inves­ti­ga­tion.

    The FBI recent­ly sent a team of inves­ti­ga­tors to Doha to help the Qatari gov­ern­ment inves­ti­gate the alleged hack­ing inci­dent, Qatari and US gov­ern­ment offi­cials say.

    Intel­li­gence gath­ered by the US secu­ri­ty agen­cies indi­cates that Russ­ian hack­ers were behind the intru­sion first report­ed by the Qatari gov­ern­ment two weeks ago, US offi­cials say. Qatar hosts one of the largest US mil­i­tary bases in the region.

    The alleged involve­ment of Russ­ian hack­ers inten­si­fies con­cerns by US intel­li­gence and law enforce­ment agen­cies that Rus­sia con­tin­ues to try some of the same cyber-hack­ing mea­sures on US allies that intel­li­gence agen­cies believe it used to med­dle in the 2016 elec­tions.

    US offi­cials say the Russ­ian goal appears to be to cause rifts among the US and its allies. In recent months, sus­pect­ed Russ­ian cyber activ­i­ties, includ­ing the use of fake news sto­ries, have turned up amid elec­tions in France, Ger­many and oth­er coun­tries.

    It’s not yet clear whether the US has tracked the hack­ers in the Qatar inci­dent to Russ­ian crim­i­nal orga­ni­za­tions or to the Russ­ian secu­ri­ty ser­vices blamed for the US elec­tion hacks. One offi­cial not­ed that based on past intel­li­gence, “not much hap­pens in that coun­try with­out the bless­ing of the gov­ern­ment.”

    The FBI and CIA declined to com­ment. A spokes­woman for the Qatari embassy in Wash­ing­ton said the inves­ti­ga­tion is ongo­ing and its results would be released pub­licly soon.

    Krem­lin spokesman Dmit­ry Peskov dis­missed what he called CNN’s “fake” report­ing Wednes­day.

    “It’s anoth­er lie that was pub­lished,” he told reporters. “Unfor­tu­nate­ly, our col­leagues from CNN again and again pub­lish ref­er­ences to unnamed sources in unnamed agen­cies, etc, etc. These streams of infor­ma­tion have no con­nec­tion with the real­i­ty. It’s so far away from the real­i­ty. Fake is a fake.”

    The Qatari gov­ern­ment has said a May 23 news report on its Qatar News Agency attrib­uted false remarks to the nation’s ruler that appeared friend­ly to Iran and Israel and ques­tioned whether Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump would last in office.

    Qatari For­eign Min­is­ter Sheikh Mohammed Bin Abdul­rah­man al-Thani told CNN the FBI has con­firmed the hack and the plant­i­ng of fake news.

    “What­ev­er has been thrown as an accu­sa­tion is all based on mis­in­for­ma­tion and we think that the entire cri­sis being based on mis­in­for­ma­tion,” the for­eign min­is­ter told CNN’s Becky Ander­son. “Because it was start­ed based on fab­ri­cat­ed news, being wedged and being insert­ed in our nation­al news agency which was hacked and proved by the FBI.”

    Sheikh Saif Bin Ahmed Al-Thani, direc­tor of the Qatari Gov­ern­ment Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Office, con­firmed that Qatar’s Min­istry of Inte­ri­or is work­ing with the FBI and the Unit­ed King­dom’s Nation­al Crime Agency on the ongo­ing hack­ing inves­ti­ga­tion of the Qatar News Agency.

    “The Min­istry of Inte­ri­or will reveal the find­ings of the inves­ti­ga­tion when com­plet­ed,” he told CNN.

    Part­ly in reac­tion to the false news report, Qatar’s neigh­bors, led by Sau­di Ara­bia and the Unit­ed Arab Emi­rates, have cut off eco­nom­ic and polit­i­cal ties, caus­ing a broad­er cri­sis.

    The report came at a time of esca­lat­ing ten­sion over accu­sa­tions Qatar was financ­ing ter­ror­ism.

    On Tues­day, Trump tweet­ed crit­i­cism of Qatar that mir­rors that of the Saud­is and oth­ers in the region who have long object­ed to Qatar’s for­eign pol­i­cy. He did not address the false news report.

    “So good to see the Sau­di Ara­bia vis­it with the King and 50 coun­tries already pay­ing off,” Trump said in a series of tweets. “They said they would take a hard line on fund­ing extrem­ism, and all ref­er­ence was point­ing to Qatar. Per­haps this will be the begin­ning of the end to the hor­ror of ter­ror­ism!”

    In his tweet, Trump voiced sup­port for the region­al block­ade of Qatar and cit­ed Qatar’s fund­ing of ter­ror­ist groups. The Qataris have reject­ed the ter­ror-fund­ing accu­sa­tions.

    Hours after Trump’s tweets, the US State Depart­ment said Qatar had made progress on stem­ming the fund­ing of ter­ror­ists but that there was more work to be done.

    US and Euro­pean author­i­ties have com­plained for years about fund­ing for extrem­ists from Sau­di Ara­bia and oth­er nations in the Gulf region. Fif­teen of the 19 9/11 hijack­ers were Sau­di cit­i­zens.

    Last year, dur­ing a vis­it to Sau­di Ara­bia, Oba­ma admin­is­tra­tion offi­cials raised the issue of Sau­di fund­ing to build mosques in Europe and Africa that are help­ing to spread an ultra-con­ser­v­a­tive strain of Islam.

    ...

    ———-

    “CNN Exclu­sive: US sus­pects Russ­ian hack­ers plant­ed fake news behind Qatar cri­sis” by Evan Perez and Shi­mon Proku­pecz; CNN; 06/07/2017

    “The FBI recent­ly sent a team of inves­ti­ga­tors to Doha to help the Qatari gov­ern­ment inves­ti­gate the alleged hack­ing inci­dent, Qatari and US gov­ern­ment offi­cials say.”

    And what did that FBI team dis­cov­er when inves­ti­gat­ing this inci­dent that cre­at­ed a major diplo­mat­ic and mil­i­tary headache for the US? Russ­ian hack­ers dun­nit!

    ...
    It’s not yet clear whether the US has tracked the hack­ers in the Qatar inci­dent to Russ­ian crim­i­nal orga­ni­za­tions or to the Russ­ian secu­ri­ty ser­vices blamed for the US elec­tion hacks. One offi­cial not­ed that based on past intel­li­gence, “not much hap­pens in that coun­try with­out the bless­ing of the gov­ern­ment.”

    The FBI and CIA declined to com­ment. A spokes­woman for the Qatari embassy in Wash­ing­ton said the inves­ti­ga­tion is ongo­ing and its results would be released pub­licly soon.

    ...

    The Qatari gov­ern­ment has said a May 23 news report on its Qatar News Agency attrib­uted false remarks to the nation’s ruler that appeared friend­ly to Iran and Israel and ques­tioned whether Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump would last in office.

    Qatari For­eign Min­is­ter Sheikh Mohammed Bin Abdul­rah­man al-Thani told CNN the FBI has con­firmed the hack and the plant­i­ng of fake news.

    “What­ev­er has been thrown as an accu­sa­tion is all based on mis­in­for­ma­tion and we think that the entire cri­sis being based on mis­in­for­ma­tion,” the for­eign min­is­ter told CNN’s Becky Ander­son. “Because it was start­ed based on fab­ri­cat­ed news, being wedged and being insert­ed in our nation­al news agency which was hacked and proved by the FBI.”
    ...

    So just remem­ber: this emerg­ing intra-Sun­ni con­flict isn’t a con­se­quence of the myr­i­ad of con­flicts and con­tra­dic­tions over­lay­ing the inter­ests and strug­gles of a region dom­i­nat­ed by theo­crat­ic mon­archs at per­pet­u­al war with the reli­gious rad­i­cals of their own cre­ation. ‘Russ­ian hack­ers’ did it.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | June 9, 2017, 3:12 pm
  11. Pres­i­dent Trump laid out his vision for the US’s role in Afghanistan going for­ward last night dur­ing an address to the nation: In con­trast to his calls dur­ing the cam­paign to pull out of Afghanistan entire­ly he’s now con­vinced to sense thou­sands of more ground troops. But, Trump empha­sized, ‘We’re not nation-build­ing. We’re killing ter­ror­ists’. So it’s unclear what the actu­al new strat­e­gy is, but what is clear is that the US is going to have a major mil­i­tary foot­print in Afghanistan for the fore­see­able future, which isn’t par­tic­u­lar­ly sur­pris­ing but it does mean that that the under­ly­ing urgency to find­ing some sort of grounds for a peace­ful set­tle­ment to the con­flict is still there too.

    So with that in mind, it’s worth not­ing that if there’s one thing that Trump could pos­si­bly do that would facil­i­tate a peace­ful res­o­lu­tion it’s going after the flows that keep the Tal­iban sup­plied with weapons, resources, and poten­tial­ly for­eign fight­ers. That’s part of what made Trump’s eye­brow-rais­ing com­ments where he call out Pak­istan’s gov­ern­ment for pro­vid­ing assis­tance to Tal­iban net­works and then called on Pak­istan’s mor­tal ene­my India to “help us more” in Afghanistan so intrigu­ing. One the sur­face the com­ments seemed like Trumpian blus­ter that was sim­ply going to to piss off the Pak­istani gov­ern­ment. But if it also sig­nals some sort of new back­room diplo­mat­ic dri­ve to pres­sure Pak­istan, who knows, maybe some good will come from it. But if cut­ting off the weapons and mon­ey flows to the Tal­iban is going to be part of Trump’s strat­e­gy, some­one should let him know that his wealthy bud­dies in Sau­di Ara­bia need some Trumpian scold­ing over their sup­port for the Tal­iban too:

    The New York Times

    Saud­is Bankroll Tal­iban, Even as King Offi­cial­ly Sup­ports Afghan Gov­ern­ment

    By CARLOTTA GALL
    DEC. 6, 2016

    KABUL, Afghanistan — Fif­teen years, half a tril­lion dol­lars and 150,000 lives since going to war, the Unit­ed States is try­ing to extri­cate itself from Afghanistan. Afghans are being left to fight their own fight. A surg­ing Tal­iban insur­gency, mean­while, is flush with a new inflow of mon­ey.

    With their nation’s future at stake, Afghan lead­ers have renewed a plea to one pow­er that may hold the key to whether their coun­try can cling to democ­ra­cy or suc­cumbs to the Tal­iban. But that pow­er is not the Unit­ed States.

    It is Sau­di Ara­bia.

    Sau­di Ara­bia is crit­i­cal because of its unique posi­tion in the Afghan con­flict: It is on both sides.

    A long­time ally of Pak­istan, Sau­di Ara­bia has backed Islamabad’s pro­mo­tion of the Tal­iban. Over the years, wealthy Sau­di sheikhs and rich phil­an­thropists have also stoked the war by pri­vate­ly financ­ing the insur­gents.

    All the while, Sau­di Ara­bia has offi­cial­ly, if cool­ly, sup­port­ed the Amer­i­can mis­sion and the Afghan gov­ern­ment and even secret­ly sued for peace in clan­des­tine nego­ti­a­tions on their behalf.

    The con­tra­dic­tions are hard­ly acci­den­tal. Rather, they bal­ance con­flict­ing needs with­in the king­dom, pur­sued through both offi­cial pol­i­cy and pri­vate ini­tia­tive.

    The dual tracks allow Sau­di offi­cials plau­si­bly to deny offi­cial sup­port for the Tal­iban, even as they have turned a blind eye to pri­vate fund­ing of the Tal­iban and oth­er hard-line Sun­ni groups.

    The result is that the Saud­is — through pri­vate or covert chan­nels — have tac­it­ly sup­port­ed the Tal­iban in ways that make the king­dom an indis­pens­able pow­er bro­ker.

    In inter­views with The New York Times, a for­mer Tal­iban finance min­is­ter described how he trav­eled to Sau­di Ara­bia for years rais­ing cash while osten­si­bly on pil­grim­age.

    The Tal­iban have also been allowed to raise mil­lions more by extort­ing “tax­es” by press­ing hun­dreds of thou­sands of Pash­tun guest work­ers in the king­dom and men­ac­ing their fam­i­lies back home, said Vali Nasr, a for­mer State Depart­ment advis­er.

    Yet even as pri­vate Sau­di mon­ey backed the Tal­iban, Sau­di intel­li­gence once covert­ly medi­at­ed a peace effort that Tal­iban offi­cials and oth­ers involved described in full to The Times for the first time.

    Play­ing mul­ti­ple sides of the same geopo­lit­i­cal equa­tion is one way the Saud­is fur­ther their own strate­gic inter­ests, ana­lysts and offi­cials say.

    But it also threat­ens to under­mine the frag­ile demo­c­ra­t­ic advances made by the Unit­ed States in the past 15 years, and per­haps undo efforts to lib­er­al­ize the coun­try.

    The Unit­ed States now finds itself try­ing to per­suade its puta­tive ally to play a con­struc­tive rather than destruc­tive role. Mean­while, the Afghans have come to view Sau­di Ara­bia as both friend and foe.

    The ques­tion now, as Afghan offi­cials look for help, is which Sau­di Ara­bia will they get?

    Prince Tur­ki al-Faisal, who led the Sau­di intel­li­gence agency for over 24 years and lat­er served as ambas­sador to the Unit­ed States until his retire­ment in 2007, reject­ed any sug­ges­tion that Sau­di Ara­bia had ever sup­port­ed the Tal­iban.

    “When I was in gov­ern­ment, not a sin­gle pen­ny went to the Tal­iban,” he wrote in emailed com­ments.

    He added that the “strin­gent mea­sures tak­en by the king­dom to pre­vent any trans­fer of mon­ey to ter­ror­ist groups” had been rec­og­nized by Daniel L. Glaser, the Unit­ed States assis­tant sec­re­tary for ter­ror­ist financ­ing at the Trea­sury, in tes­ti­mo­ny to Con­gress in June.

    Oth­ers say the ver­dict is still out. “We know there has been this financ­ing that has gone on for years,” Hanif Atmar, direc­tor of the Afghan Nation­al Secu­ri­ty Coun­cil, said in an inter­view. “This sus­tains the ter­ror­ist war machine in Afghanistan and in the region, and it will have to be stopped.”

    That may be eas­i­er said than done. Sau­di Ara­bia remains one of the main sources of what Sec­re­tary of State John Ker­ry recent­ly called “sur­ro­gate mon­ey” to sup­port Islamist fight­ers and caus­es.

    Much of that largess is spread about in pur­suit of what Mr. Nasr describes as a Sau­di strat­e­gy of build­ing a wall of Sun­ni rad­i­cal­ism across South and Cen­tral Asia to con­tain Iran, its Shia rival.

    That com­pe­ti­tion is being rekin­dled. With the Amer­i­cans leav­ing, there is the sense that Afghanistan’s fate is up for grabs.

    In recent months, the Tal­iban has mount­ed a coor­di­nat­ed offen­sive with about 40,000 fight­ers across eight provinces — a push financed by for­eign sources at a cost of $1 bil­lion, Afghan offi­cials say.

    At the same time, Sau­di Ara­bia is offer­ing the Afghan gov­ern­ment sub­stan­tial defense and devel­op­ment agree­ments, while Afghans say sheikhs from Sau­di Ara­bia and oth­er Arab Per­sian Gulf states are qui­et­ly fun­nel­ing bil­lions in pri­vate mon­ey to Sun­ni orga­ni­za­tions, madrasas and uni­ver­si­ties to shape the next gen­er­a­tion of Afghans.

    “The Saud­is are re-engag­ing,” said Mr. Nasr, now dean of the Johns Hop­kins School of Advanced Inter­na­tion­al Stud­ies, in a tele­phone inter­view. “Afghanistan is impor­tant to them, which is why they invest­ed so much in the 1980s, and they are look­ing to make them­selves much more rel­e­vant.”

    Sur­ro­gate Sup­port

    The sev­en-year Tal­iban theoc­ra­cy in Afghanistan was com­ing to a fiery end. It was 2001, and the Tal­iban gov­ern­ment was col­laps­ing under Unit­ed States bomb­ing unleashed in retal­i­a­tion for the Sept. 11 attacks.

    Dis­guis­ing him­self as a doc­tor, Agha Jan Motasim, the Tal­iban finance min­is­ter, escaped over a remote bor­der cross­ing into Pak­istan aboard a Red Cres­cent ambu­lance, he said in a recent inter­view.

    In the Pak­istani bor­der town of Quet­ta, he and oth­er Tal­iban lead­ers regrouped and began orga­niz­ing the insur­gency that con­tin­ues today. Mr. Motasim was appoint­ed head of the finance com­mit­tee.

    One of his first stops was Sau­di Ara­bia.

    As home to both enor­mous oil wealth and Islam’s holi­est sites, it was the per­fect place to make appeals not only to rich Sau­di sheikhs and foun­da­tions but also to impor­tant donors who trav­eled to the king­dom on pil­grim­age from all over the Mus­lim world.

    Between 2002 and 2007, Mr. Motasim trav­eled to Sau­di Ara­bia two or three times a year. Osten­si­bly he went on pil­grim­age, but his pri­ma­ry pur­pose was to raise cash for the Tal­iban.

    “There were peo­ple com­ing from oth­er coun­tries for umrah and hajj,” he said refer­ring to the dif­fer­ent Mus­lim pil­grim­ages. “Also the Sau­di sheikhs would come as well. I would ask them for their help for the war.”

    “It was not only the Saud­is who would help us but peo­ple who would come from dif­fer­ent coun­tries,” he recalled. “Sau­di Ara­bia was the only coun­try where I could meet them.”

    Once secured, the mon­ey could be moved in myr­i­ad ways to Tal­iban cof­fers, offi­cials said, includ­ing through region­al banks near Pakistan’s trib­al areas and the hawala sys­tem of infor­mal mon­ey-chang­ers.

    Last year, Afghan secu­ri­ty forces even dis­cov­ered fam­i­lies of Al Qae­da mem­bers enter­ing east­ern Afghanistan with a stash of gold bars, Rah­mat­ul­lah Nabil, for­mer head of Afghanistan’s intel­li­gence agency, the Nation­al Direc­torate of Secu­ri­ty, said.

    The Sau­di author­i­ties often say they can­not con­trol or always iden­ti­fy the mil­lions of Mus­lims who trav­el to the king­dom every year on the hajj, said Bar­nett Rubin, who worked as spe­cial advis­er to the Unit­ed States envoy for Afghanistan and Pak­istan.

    The Tal­iban always trav­eled on fake Pak­istani pass­ports under assumed names and were unknown to Sau­di author­i­ties, said a secu­ri­ty offi­cial in the region, who spoke on con­di­tion of strict anonymi­ty, cit­ing the extreme sen­si­tiv­i­ty to upset­ting Sau­di Ara­bia.

    Amer­i­can requests to cut the fund­ing yield­ed lit­tle result.

    In 2009, Amer­i­can offi­cials com­plained that the Tal­iban and oth­er extrem­ist groups were rais­ing mil­lions of dol­lars dur­ing annu­al pil­grim­ages, accord­ing to Amer­i­can diplo­mat­ic cables released by Wik­iLeaks.

    A Decem­ber 2009 cable from Sec­re­tary of State Hillary Clin­ton stat­ed that donors in Sau­di Ara­bia con­sti­tut­ed the “most sig­nif­i­cant source of fund­ing to Sun­ni ter­ror­ist groups world­wide.”

    The cables date from a peri­od when Richard C. Hol­brooke, who died in 2010, act­ed as spe­cial envoy for Afghanistan and Pak­istan, and active­ly sought to curb fund­ing to the Tal­iban and Al Qae­da.

    The fund­ing from the gulf extend­ed well beyond that peri­od and to oth­er groups besides the Tal­iban, includ­ing the Islam­ic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL.

    In a leaked email from 2014, Mrs. Clin­ton described the gov­ern­ments of Qatar and Sau­di Ara­bia as “pro­vid­ing clan­des­tine finan­cial and logis­tic sup­port to ISIL and oth­er rad­i­cal Sun­ni groups in the region.”

    Financ­ing such groups, she wrote, was part of a con­test between Qatar and Sau­di Ara­bia, who were in “ongo­ing com­pe­ti­tion to dom­i­nate the Sun­ni world.”

    Covert Peace Efforts

    It was Sep­tem­ber 2008, the holy month of Ramadan, and King Abdul­lah was host­ing an iftar din­ner in Mec­ca. But this was no rou­tine break­ing of the fast at sun­set.

    The feast was an impor­tant sig­nal of the king’s per­son­al sup­port for a covert yet still evolv­ing peace effort. Among the dozens of guests were Afghan offi­cials and elders, as well as for­mer Tal­iban mem­bers.

    With­in months, at a more dis­creet venue in the Red Sea port of Jid­da, the Sau­di intel­li­gence agency con­vened Afghanistan’s chief adver­saries to hash out a peace deal.

    Mr. Motasim, the same man who had been col­lect­ing mon­ey for the insur­gency, was named by the Tal­iban as its rep­re­sen­ta­tive.

    On the oth­er side, the emis­sary for Pres­i­dent Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan was his broth­er, Qayum Karzai.

    Dur­ing three days of intense dis­cus­sions — break­ing at inter­vals when the men locked horns — a Sau­di inter­me­di­ary nudged the two sides for­ward.

    The peace effort had begun in 2006. The ini­tial bro­ker was Abdul­lah Anas, an Alger­ian who had won cred­i­bil­i­ty by fight­ing the Sovi­ets for 10 years in Afghanistan.

    In an inter­view, Mr. Anas said his deci­sion to seek out the Saud­is as a third-par­ty medi­a­tor was obvi­ous, because of the kingdom’s spe­cial sta­tus as home to Islam’s two holi­est sites and its sup­port dur­ing the fight against the Sovi­et occu­pa­tion.

    “Even in a very far vil­lage in Afghanistan, Sau­di means some­thing,” said Mr. Anas, who today runs Al Magharib­ia, a satel­lite tele­vi­sion chan­nel based in Lon­don.

    Still, get­ting the Saud­is on board took some per­suad­ing. The events of 9/11 had deeply embar­rassed them.

    Both the king­dom and the Unit­ed States had nur­tured the muja­hedeen to push out a Sovi­et occu­pa­tion in the 1980s, but the sub­se­quent behav­ior of the Tal­iban infu­ri­at­ed the Amer­i­cans. Har­bor­ing Osama bin Laden was the last straw.

    For the Saud­is, it was more com­pli­cat­ed.

    Even when the Tal­iban refused to hand over Bin Laden — Prince Tur­ki, the Sau­di intel­li­gence chief, request­ed it in per­son in 1998 — the king­dom still did not break with them.

    Sau­di Ara­bia sup­port­ed the Tal­iban gov­ern­ment up to 2001 and beyond, in align­ment with Pak­istan, the kingdom’s main ally to check Iran­ian influ­ence in the region.

    “The prob­lem is Sau­di Ara­bia sees Afghanistan through the lens­es of Pak­istan,” Mr. Anas said, describ­ing a prime chal­lenge of his peace ini­tia­tive.

    To achieve peace, Mr. Anas said he want­ed to encour­age the Saud­is to build a rela­tion­ship with Afghanistan direct­ly.

    Peo­ple involved in the effort — who spoke on con­di­tion of anonymi­ty because the process was con­duct­ed in con­fi­den­tial­i­ty — say King Abdul­lah was moved to back the effort out of a sense of com­pas­sion.

    He did so, they said, even in the face of resis­tance from oth­er Sau­di roy­als who were unhap­py with the Amer­i­can occu­pa­tion. Yet oth­ers were wary of fur­ther involve­ment in Afghanistan.

    To over­come Sau­di reluc­tance, Mr. Anas took the Sau­di emis­sary to Afghanistan to show that it remained a freely prac­tic­ing Mus­lim soci­ety, despite the pres­ence of Amer­i­can troops. Pres­i­dent Karzai wrote King Abdul­lah, who had ascend­ed to the throne in August 2005, a def­er­en­tial let­ter request­ing his inter­ces­sion. It worked.

    King Abdul­lah met the Afghan leader at the door of his plane on a pil­grim­age vis­it. Mr. Karzai still speaks high­ly of his friend­ship with King Abdul­lah, who died in 2015.

    “He would nev­er, nev­er, nev­er leave my call unan­swered,” he recount­ed in an inter­view. “The same day he would get back to me, talk to me and do all that I asked.”

    The Sau­di intel­li­gence chief, Prince Muqrin bin Abdul Aziz, per­son­al­ly over­saw the nego­ti­a­tions, send­ing his emis­sary between Mr. Motasim of the Tal­iban and the Afghan gov­ern­ment for two years.

    But when talks neared a crit­i­cal end­point, the Tal­iban were gripped by a vicious pow­er strug­gle. The Sau­di demand that the Tal­iban renounce ter­ror­ism and its ties to Al Qae­da was nev­er met. Mr. Motasim was accused of embez­zle­ment and removed.

    The next year, 2010, his main pro­tec­tor, Mul­lah Abdul Ghani Baradar, the Taliban’s chief oper­a­tional com­man­der, was arrest­ed in Pak­istan, while an assas­sin shot Mr. Motasim and left him for dead out­side his home in Karachi, though he sur­vived.

    Both events were inter­pret­ed as Pakistan’s oppo­si­tion to any peace process being nego­ti­at­ed with­out its par­tic­i­pa­tion, sev­er­al of those involved in the process say.

    “It was then that this process was sab­o­taged,” Mr. Motasim said.

    King Abdul­lah inti­mat­ed to Pres­i­dent Karzai in 2010 that there were obstruc­tions beyond his con­trol.

    “I wish to help Afghanistan,” Mr. Karzai recalled the king’s say­ing. “I want it to be peace­ful, I want you to sit down and talk to the Tal­iban, but you must rec­og­nize that all I can do is what Sau­di can do.

    “That was a very mean­ing­ful word,” Mr. Karzai con­clud­ed, “mean­ing that there were oth­er forces who were prob­a­bly not will­ing to allow this to hap­pen.”

    Trou­ble on the Hori­zon

    Despite those covert efforts, the Sau­di king­dom, pub­licly and offi­cial­ly, has been large­ly absent in Afghanistan. While pay­ing lip ser­vice to the Amer­i­can mis­sion, Sau­di Ara­bia has not built a sig­nif­i­cant project in its own name in Afghanistan in 15 years.

    Yet offi­cial Sau­di neglect stands in stark con­trast to the wealth of pri­vate Sau­di fund­ing that has done more than bol­ster the Tal­iban and allied mil­i­tant groups in the region.

    It has also spawned hun­dreds of uni­ver­si­ties, madrasas and rad­i­cal groups that have extend­ed Sun­ni influ­ence and that Afghans fear are sow­ing seeds of future tur­moil.

    One of those Afghans is Nis­ar Karimzai, who runs a small research office, the Orga­ni­za­tion for Research of Peace and Sta­bil­i­ty.

    Dur­ing the Sovi­et occu­pa­tion, Mr. Karimzai went to school in Pak­istan, where he fell in with a Sun­ni extrem­ist crowd. “They teach that the Shia are not Mus­lim,” he recalled, refer­ring to Shi­ites.

    He even­tu­al­ly dis­card­ed extrem­ist think­ing. But his own expe­ri­ence made him wary when he saw a cousin become involved with an Islamist group called Jami­at Eslah.

    “I rec­og­nize the way they are train­ing them,” Mr. Karimzai said. “It was exact­ly the same way they taught me.

    “Per­son­al­ly I am scared,” Mr. Karimzai added. “In five years we will face a dan­ger from them. One day they will fight and we will have a very big prob­lem.”

    Jami­at Eslah pro­motes a strict Islamist world­view and describes itself as a self-financed, non­po­lit­i­cal orga­ni­za­tion focused on human­i­tar­i­an and edu­ca­tion­al work.

    But the size of its oper­a­tions, with 40 to 50 build­ings includ­ing offices, a uni­ver­si­ty and a hos­pi­tal, indi­cates sub­stan­tial out­side fund­ing, said Mr. Nabil, a for­mer head of Afghan intel­li­gence.

    The group’s bank accounts show no for­eign bank trans­fers, accord­ing to an inter­nal gov­ern­ment report. Nev­er­the­less, the report con­clud­ed that the group is financed by sources in Sau­di Ara­bia, Qatar and the Unit­ed Arab Emi­rates.

    The group is just one of a pro­lif­er­at­ing num­ber that have sprout­ed in recent years as Sun­ni Arabs from the Per­sian Gulf com­pete with Shi­ite Iran for influ­ence here.

    The Ira­ni­ans, too, have been busy build­ing madrasas, uni­ver­si­ties and cul­tur­al cen­ters for the Shi­ite pop­u­la­tion, and even a road to the bor­der with Iran.

    The rival­ry under­ly­ing the scale of such com­pet­ing fund­ing, Afghan offi­cials and oth­ers warn, spells trou­ble. In 2001, Afghanistan had just 1,000 madrasas. Today, there are more than 4,000, the major­i­ty of them built in the last few years.

    After a sum­mer and fall of vio­lent attacks, includ­ing at the Amer­i­can Uni­ver­si­ty of Afghanistan and against Shi­ite gath­er­ings, Afghans wor­ry at the grow­ing sec­tar­i­an tilt of Sun­ni extrem­ist groups.

    ...

    Anoth­er youth move­ment gain­ing trac­tion is Hisb ut-Tahrir, a secre­tive, anti-estab­lish­ment group that has a wide under­ground fol­low­ing in Cen­tral Asia, accord­ing to sev­er­al gov­ern­ment offi­cials.

    Offi­cials and for­mer insid­ers of the group said they believed it was fund­ed by for­eign­ers includ­ing Saud­is and oth­er gulf Arabs, as well as donors in Egypt and Europe.

    “They want to reach as many peo­ple as they can and bring them into the par­ty and even­tu­al­ly strength­en their ranks and announce a caliphate,” said Mas­soud Rahi­mi, a stu­dent at Kab­ul Uni­ver­si­ty, who said he declined when a cousin tried to recruit him.

    “It is going to put Afghanistan on the road of con­flict,” he said.

    Which Sau­di Now?

    Upon his elec­tion 2014, Afghanistan’s cur­rent pres­i­dent, Ashraf Ghani, chose Sau­di Ara­bia for his first offi­cial trip. Then five months lat­er, after a sec­ond trip to meet the new Sau­di king, Salman bin Abdul-Aziz Al Saud, Mr. Ghani pledged Afghan sup­port for the Sau­di mil­i­tary coali­tion for Yemen.

    In return, Mr. Ghani want­ed Sau­di Arabia’s rulers to stop the flow of funds from rich Sau­di sheikhs to the Tal­iban and encour­age the Tal­iban back into nego­ti­a­tions.

    “The signs are pos­i­tive,” said Mr. Atmar of the Nation­al Secu­ri­ty Coun­cil. “We have not yet seen con­crete move­ments against this, but we believe that we have a strong com­mit­ment.”

    Yet oth­er Afghan offi­cials and local diplo­mats are deeply skep­ti­cal.

    One diplo­mat in Kab­ul said track­ing the flow of ille­gal mon­ey was vir­tu­al­ly impos­si­ble. Anoth­er, who had served in Sau­di Ara­bia, doubt­ed that Riyadh would change, adding that the vast roy­al fam­i­ly is split into fiefs often work­ing at odds with each oth­er.

    The scale of the Taliban’s recent offen­sive also has left many Afghans wary.

    “The lev­el of finance, the lev­el of logis­ti­cal sup­port in terms of weapons and oth­er mate­ri­als, and the lev­el of orga­ni­za­tion­al sup­port in terms of lead­er­ship of the war they have received is unprece­dent­ed,” said Nad­er Nadery, chief advis­er on strate­gic affairs to the pres­i­dent.

    “It clear­ly indi­cates a declared war against Afghanistan,” he added, accus­ing Pak­istan, the stal­wart Sau­di ally.

    Mr. Abdul­lah, Afghanistan’s chief exec­u­tive, recent­ly led a del­e­ga­tion to Sau­di Ara­bia. They went seek­ing invest­ment, but also asked Sau­di lead­ers to press Pak­istan to end its safe haven for ter­ror­ists, a request Pres­i­dent Karzai also made repeat­ed­ly.

    “They said they will do that, and they said they will try in the gulf region to use their influ­ence to mobi­lize against ter­ror­ism,” said Nas­rul­lah Arsalai, direc­tor gen­er­al of the coun­cil of min­is­ters sec­re­tari­at in Afghanistan, who was part of the del­e­ga­tion.

    “Sau­di Ara­bia knows if we fight togeth­er, it means the Tal­iban will not be able to bring mon­ey from there,” he said.

    Yet Ruhul­lah Wak­il, a trib­al elder who is now a mem­ber of the Afghan peace coun­cil says he, too, recent­ly beseeched Sau­di offi­cials to spon­sor the work of the coun­cil, which is autho­rized to pur­sue nego­ti­a­tions.

    The Saud­is were unin­ter­est­ed.

    “They are deaf,” he said. “We asked them to help. We asked them even just to give us some dates to serve to guests.

    “But they gave us noth­ing.”

    ———-

    “Saud­is Bankroll Tal­iban, Even as King Offi­cial­ly Sup­ports Afghan Gov­ern­ment” by CARLOTTA GALL; The New York Times; 12/06/2016

    “Despite those covert efforts, the Sau­di king­dom, pub­licly and offi­cial­ly, has been large­ly absent in Afghanistan. While pay­ing lip ser­vice to the Amer­i­can mis­sion, Sau­di Ara­bia has not built a sig­nif­i­cant project in its own name in Afghanistan in 15 years.”

    As we can see, on the sur­face it would appear that the Saud­is have a rel­a­tive small focus on the affairs of Afghanistan, but that obscures the pri­vate Sau­di role financ­ing Tal­iban and oth­er orga­ni­za­tions ded­i­cat­ed to spread­ing an extrem­ist form of Sun­ni Islam:

    ...
    Yet offi­cial Sau­di neglect stands in stark con­trast to the wealth of pri­vate Sau­di fund­ing that has done more than bol­ster the Tal­iban and allied mil­i­tant groups in the region.

    It has also spawned hun­dreds of uni­ver­si­ties, madrasas and rad­i­cal groups that have extend­ed Sun­ni influ­ence and that Afghans fear are sow­ing seeds of future tur­moil.
    ...

    But at the same time wealthy Saud­is are sup­port­ing the Tal­iban and mil­i­tant Islamist rule it’s the Sau­di gov­ern­ment that’s become the secret peace nego­tia­tor. Start­ing back in 2006:

    ...
    It was Sep­tem­ber 2008, the holy month of Ramadan, and King Abdul­lah was host­ing an iftar din­ner in Mec­ca. But this was no rou­tine break­ing of the fast at sun­set.

    The feast was an impor­tant sig­nal of the king’s per­son­al sup­port for a covert yet still evolv­ing peace effort. Among the dozens of guests were Afghan offi­cials and elders, as well as for­mer Tal­iban mem­bers.

    With­in months, at a more dis­creet venue in the Red Sea port of Jid­da, the Sau­di intel­li­gence agency con­vened Afghanistan’s chief adver­saries to hash out a peace deal.

    Mr. Motasim, the same man who had been col­lect­ing mon­ey for the insur­gency, was named by the Tal­iban as its rep­re­sen­ta­tive.

    On the oth­er side, the emis­sary for Pres­i­dent Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan was his broth­er, Qayum Karzai.

    Dur­ing three days of intense dis­cus­sions — break­ing at inter­vals when the men locked horns — a Sau­di inter­me­di­ary nudged the two sides for­ward.

    The peace effort had begun in 2006. The ini­tial bro­ker was Abdul­lah Anas, an Alger­ian who had won cred­i­bil­i­ty by fight­ing the Sovi­ets for 10 years in Afghanistan.

    In an inter­view, Mr. Anas said his deci­sion to seek out the Saud­is as a third-par­ty medi­a­tor was obvi­ous, because of the kingdom’s spe­cial sta­tus as home to Islam’s two holi­est sites and its sup­port dur­ing the fight against the Sovi­et occu­pa­tion.

    “Even in a very far vil­lage in Afghanistan, Sau­di means some­thing,” said Mr. Anas, who today runs Al Magharib­ia, a satel­lite tele­vi­sion chan­nel based in Lon­don.
    ...

    “Even in a very far vil­lage in Afghanistan, Sau­di means some­thing,” said Mr. Anas, who today runs Al Magharib­ia, a satel­lite tele­vi­sion chan­nel based in Lon­don.

    Yep, if any­one can nego­ti­ate a peace treaty between the Tal­iban and the rest of Afghan soci­ety it would appear to be the Sau­di gov­ern­ment. And yet it’s unclear if that’s true since these secret nego­ti­a­tions haven’t exact­ly been suc­cess­ful over the the last decade as the Sau­di sup­port of the Tal­iban con­tin­ued. But it’s even more unclear who else on the plan­et is going to have more cred­i­bil­i­ty is a peace nego­tia­tor in the eyes of the Tal­iban so it seems like the US might be heav­i­ly reliant on Sau­di coop­er­a­tion if there’s any hope of see­ing the US leave Afghanistan with­out watch­ing the rest of the coun­try almost imme­di­ate­ly fall to the Tal­iban.

    And yet a Tal­iban-style theoc­ra­cy is clear­ly what the Sau­di gov­ern­ment would like to see for the coun­try which makes con­vinc­ing them oth­er­wise part of any sort of long-term Afghan peace process. What is Trump to do? We’ll see but the Saud­is are clear­ly going to need to see The Art of the Deal in action. Hope­ful­ly there won’t be any more sword dances required of Trump because it’s unclear that helps. Anoth­er round of com­muning with the glow­ing anti-ter­ror­ism orb should be fine.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | August 22, 2017, 1:53 pm

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