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VIDEO: Hope Restored for Syria’s Christians?

Just before Christmas, it appeared the United States was on the verge of quickly withdrawing remaining U.S. troops from Syria, a move which would have thrown the safety, security, and religious freedom of the area into doubt. Now, thankfully, the quick withdrawal isn’t so sure.

When President Trump announced this decision, FRC expressed concern — as did a number of the president’s supporters — about the religious freedom implications of this move. If the United States moves out, ISIS, Turkey, Iran, and other Islamist groups move in. As our own General Jerry Boykin pointed out to CBN News, among the vulnerable are Christian communities, including those made up of former Muslims, who would undoubtedly receive the brunt of ISIS’s rage if the group is allowed to fester and again conquer freed areas of Syria. Syrian Christians also appealed directly to fellow believers in the United States, asking not to be abandoned now, after our support enabled them to fight for some semblance of freedom.

As General Boykin told Fox News over the Christmas break, while he “wants the president to succeed,” he believes it would be a mistake to pull U.S. troops out of Syria this quickly. Aside from the shame of again abandoning our allies the Kurds, any genocide that occurs due to our withdrawal would destroy President Trump’s legacy on ISIS and the Middle East. It makes sense that the president would want to fulfill this campaign promise, but the United States needs to make sure ISIS is fully defeated.

It appears the president is listening. Following his initial statement about a “quick” withdrawal, Trump more recently announced that the withdrawal would take four months. After a recent lunch with the president, Senator Lindsey Graham (who shares our concerns about the move), said Trump “told me some things I didn’t know that make me feel a lot better about where we’re headed in Syria.” President Trump “promised to destroy ISIS. He’s going to keep that promise,” Graham said. “We’re not there yet. But as I said today, we’re inside the 10-yard line and the president understands the need to finish the job.”

One of the vulnerable areas is known as the Federation of Northern Syria, which is a modern religious freedom miracle — permitting those of all religions (including former Muslims) to live out their faith (something quite rare in the Middle East). Those cultivating this miracle want to build religious freedom for everyone over the long-term — the type of allies the United States needs as we seek to promote religious freedom around the world. Failure to support the work of such allies will inevitably result in destabilization, only causing more people to flee and seek refuge elsewhere.

Aside from the actual problems associated with a quick pull-out, the optics of this potential move are very bad. It appears President Trump spoke with Turkey’s President Recep Erdogan who had threatened to invade Northeastern Syria, and now the United States is planning to pull out. Even if the two leaders have some kind of agreement to protect the Kurds, this looks bad, because Erdogan cannot be trusted. Compounding all this is the fact that our withdrawal could lead to Iran’s increased presence, which will further threaten Israel. Yet now, with the Saudis ready to spend big money to re-build some of Syria, President Trump has a perfect opportunity.

It remains to be seen how this will all play out. With his announcement that our troops will now be withdrawn more slowly, it appears the president recognizes some of the concerns we and others have pointed out, and we are optimistic he will continue to take them into account. In supporting religious freedom models like the Federation of Northern Syria, and helping build them elsewhere in the region, President Trump has an opportunity for a truly historic legacy in the Middle East.


Tony Perkins’ Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.


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EDITORS NOTE: This column with images by FRC is republished with permission.

A Middle East Grand Bargain Must Create Kurdistan by Sherkoh Abbas and Robert Sklaroff

President Trump’s itinerary during his first overseas trip revealed both his goal and its attendant strategy—although it remains officially unstated—as he tries to fashion a durable end to the Syrian civil war and the birth of a restructured region.

In the process of touching-base with the nerve-centers of each of the three major Middle East religions, he attempted to eliminate the Islamic State without empowering Iran.

Conspiratorial Liberals yelp when he recruits Russia, and acolytes of the Obama Administration condemn his having maneuvered around Tehran.

But he must defang the ayatollahs, lest they ally with North Korean missile-rattlers and threaten World War III.

This is why he keeps an armada in the Gulf, while maintaining a beefed-up presence in the Sea of Japan and encouraging Beijing to block Pyongyang from nuke-testing, for he must stretch the depleted military in theaters a half-globe apart until it has been rebuilt.

And that’s why he has embedded Americans with Kurdish forces attacking Raqqa, for it is impossible to be a “player” without having placed pieces onto the board.Lt. Gen. H. R. McMaster, the U.S. national security adviser, was triggered to inform Turkey on May 1st  that the Kurds were to receive heavy machine guns, mortars, anti-tank weapons, and armored cars after the Turks had lethally-bombed Kurdish forces in northeast Syria the prior Tuesday. That reflected autocrat Erdo?an having again  “distracted”  world attention from targeting the primary target, the Islamic State.

Accommodating this major reconfiguration of regional forces, President Vladimir Putin said that Russia saw no need to arm the Syrian Kurds, but said Moscow would maintain working contacts with them.

Secretary of Defense James “Jim” Mattis had decided to arm the Kurds directly rather than via any regional country, finally reversing Obama’s following-from-behind intransigent passivity.

He is implementing key aphorisms derived from his storied career defending America.

Indeed, Senator Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) recognized arming the Kurds constitutes “an immense milestone.”

In the process, Mattis has recognized The Road to Defeating the Islamic State Runs through Kurdistan, an essay—illustrated by a settlement-map—that succinctly details the historic, military, economic, religious and political implications of this overdue stance.

Visiting Trump in this charged atmosphere, Erdo?an chose the wrong time to be bellicose against Israel and America.  His post-referendum dictatorial effort to promote Jihad was again manifest through two decrees; one that expelled more than 4,000 civil servants and another that banned television dating programs.

That these actions were  not being well-received. That was reflected in the fact that the latter two hyperlinks [al-Monitor and Aljazeera] are from Arab websites, suggesting welcome-recognition of a tilt toward inter-alia the Sunni Gulf states, plus Qatar, the locale of a major American military presence over NATO-aligned Ankara ,which is increasingly aligning with Iran against the potential for Kurds to achieve independence.

That  would serve as the culmination of battle-plans we have proposed for almost a decade.  In 2008, we identified  Kurds as  an “invisible people”  and   advocated confronting the major source of global terrorism,The Road to Iran Runs through Kurdistan – and Starts in Syria. In 2015, we showed why the United States cannot evade this trouble-spot,[The Pathway to Defeating ISIS Runs Though Kurdistan – And Starts in America. In 2013, we  concluded The Kurds can lead a reconstituted  Syria, at peace with all of her neighbors.  In 2014, we suggested NATO Must Help the Kurds Now.

That is  why Kurds are seeking recognition of their enormous military sacrifice and their unique political feat, noting their carefully-constructed federal system in Rojava;  the area of Northern Syria comprised of four self-governing cantons.

Resolving vague territorial claims would yield a regional Diaspora in Turkey, Iran, and Russia, although Stalin purged much of the USSR-population a half-century ago.

Recognizing that Russia has unilaterally created safe-zones, and buzzed American jets near Alaska and Crimea, it will remain vital to coordinate militaries functioning in close-quarters, to ensure spheres of influence do not inadvertently trigger  conflict.

If America retracts support for anti-Islamist Kurds, Erdo?an will be free to promote his brand of Muslim Brotherhood ideology; the dangerous ramifications of which have been explored [Islamophobia: Thought Crime of the Totalitarian Future].

NATO can reassure Turkey that creation of an independent Kurdistan south of its border, joining with the federated section of northern Iraq, will remove inordinate fears that secession-agitation will persist on its eastern reaches.

Turkey needs to accept this type of endpoint, for its military killed six members of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) in air strikes in northern Iraq .

What really irks Erdo?an is that “U.S. arming Syrian Kurds shattered Turkey’s Ottoman Empire ambitions. ” Both  America and Turkey will face a de-facto proxy-war unless Erdogan heeds the more conciliatory tone struck by his Prime Minister.

The schism between the United States and Turkey was illustrated during their press  event.  These leaders deemed different entities as “terroristic”.  Trump cited PKK; whereas Erdo?an cited YPG/PYD .

This perhaps explains the anguish expressed by Turkish security guards, when they beatprotesters—primarily Kurds and Armenian outside t their D.C. embassy .

We suggest the following blueprint should be followed to prompt Moscow to help oust Iran from Syria . It would allow the Kurdish-plurality in northwestern Syria to extend its governance to the Mediterranean Sea, blocking Turkey from expansionist temptations.

The multi-front war against Islamists is recognized by Western leaders such as US Senator Ted Cruz (R, Texas) and globally Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu—to have supplanted the Cold War paradigm of former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger.

Perhaps the ultimate method to illustrate the wisdom of this approach is to discount an oppositional paradigm, such as the false claim that American involvement in Syria would merely be a manifestation of Western Imperialism in Rojava.

Instead, America should  implement Point 12  of Woodrow Wilson’s 14-Point Plan that advocated establishing Kurdistan more than a century ago.

At  long last, America Must Recognize Kurdistan  by serving as midwife for a new country [assuming this is the electoral outcome of the originally scheduled September 25 plebiscite sponsored by the Kurdish Regional Government in Iraq. That  would assist in finally defeating  the Islamic State.  This would offer immediate and long-term geo-political  dividends.

ABOUT SHERKOH ABBAS

Sherkoh Abbas is President of the Kurdistan National Assembly of Syria.

ABOUT ROBERT SKLAROFF

Robert Sklaroff is a physician-activist and supporter of Kurdish self-determination.

This article constitutes the policy of the Kurdistan National Assembly of Syria, conveyed to America and to the world, representing the Kurds of Syria.

RELATED ARTICLE: Netanyahu, the First World Leader to Endorse Independent Kurdistan, Hits Back at Erdogan for Supporting Hamas

EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared in the New English Review.

Will Syria’s Kurds join with Israel and the U.S.?

kurdnasLogoHiSherkoh Abbas , President of the Kurdistan National Assembly of Syria (KURDNAS), raised in  a recent Jns.com article the tantalizing prospect of a Kurdish- Israel- US Alliance to complete the work of destroying the Islamic State, “Are Syrian Kurds the missing ingredient in the West’s recipe to defeat Islamic State?” The thoughts expressed in this article reflect a recent conversation the author held with Sherkoh Abbas and Dr. Mordechai Nisan, author of  Minorities in the Middle East: A History of Struggle and Self-Expression.

The Kurds have earned political and military capital in both Iraq and Syria as the most effective boots on the ground combating the extremist Salafism of the Islamic State. This largest non Arab ethnic group in the Middle East has long been denied the promised statehood at the Versailles conference of 1919 that ended the First World War and the Lausanne Treaty of 1923 that established the modern Republic of Turkey.

Nevertheless, the Kurds have been resilient despite numerous tragic setbacks in their history over the past century. The establishment of a no fly zone in northern Iraq under US auspices led to the creation the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) and its much praised fighting force, the Peshmerga.

Further, it demonstrated the capabilities of the Kurds to govern themselves, overcoming internal differences and external geo- political threats from a hegemonic Iran and the Ba’athist regime of the late Saddam Hussein. Having vast energy resources helped to fuel the KRG’s development. KRG’s Peshmerga exemplary role in the current battle to retake Mosul from the Islamic State, in coordination with Iraqi national security and US forces, demonstrated its proficiency. Its humanity was demonstrated providing safe havens for Yazidis, Chaldean Christians and other ethnic non Muslim minorities that brought the KRG global recognition and respect.

On the surface the situation in Syrian Kurdistan, while complicated, has the potential for fostering the development of an autonomous Kurdish region extending across northern Syria from the KRG frontier to the Mediterranean, despite the objections of Erdogan’s Turkey.

We only have to look at recent actions by both Russia and the US. Russia and the YPG concluded an arrangement potentially protecting the Kurdish enclave of Afrin in Northwest Syria. Further, Russian meetings with Syrian Kurdish representatives in Moscow have evinced Kremlin interest in a federalized Syria in any agreement to end the seven year civil war with the Assad regime. After WWII, the Russians established a short-lived Kurdish Republic in Mahabad, Iran.  US Army Brig. General (ret.) Ernie Audino in our December 2015 New English Review interview, “No War Against ISIS Without the Kurds”, noted that history:

The well-educated and well-respected Qazi Muhammad was elected to serve as president of the Mahabad Republic, history’s first and only sovereign, Kurdish state. Knowing he needed a capable army to protect the state he requested help from the great Kurdish nationalist, Mustafa Barzani, who showed up with 5,000 of his peshmerga. During this period, a son was born to Barzani who named him, Masud. That son is now Masud Barzani, the current President of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in northern Iraq.

The U.S. has acted as an umpire between Turkish forces of President Erdogan and Islamist Sunni opposition militia from entering Manbij, liberated by the YPG on the west bank of the Euphrates River.

Moreover, the US sent a message to Ankara that it was backing the YPG led Syrian Democratic Force in the battle to retake the Islamic State administrative capital of Raqqa. The Pentagon has dispatched a US Marine artillery unit. It also alerted a reinforced brigade of the 82nd Airborne Division for possible deployment in Syria.

On the political side of the Syrian Kurdish conundrum there is the daunting task of unifying the tribes, political parties, and the Kurdish National Council.

As Sherkoh Abbas of KURDNAS has pointed out that will require the delinking of the YPG/PYD leadership from outreach and involvement with the PKK, the Assad regime, Iran’s Qods Force, and its proxy, the Iraqi Hashd Shiite Popular Mobilization Force militia. There are indications that the YPG/PYD might consider doing this if there were US, Russian and potentially, Israeli auspices.

Israeli PM Netanyahu, a year and a half ago, issued a statement supporting the establishment of an independent Kurdish state in the region; welcomed by the Kurdish communities.

The benefits would include having a reliable ally in a post Assad Syria with both political and military capacities and a secure source of oil to meet the Jewish nation’s growing domestic and regional demand.

Israel has to take an important step to achieve these desirable results. It has to reach out to both the Syrian Kurds and the Trump Administration to recognize the significant Kurdish role in the final destruction of the Islamic State threatening the security of Israel’s northern Golan frontier.

If that succeeds then both the US and Israel would have an important stable alliance with the largest non Arab ethnic polity in the troubled Middle East.  With the defeat of the Islamic State, that would turn attention to reining in the threat posed by a hegemonic Iran. With the possibility of a triple entente composed of both Iraqi and Syrian Kurdistans, Israel and the US, it raises the future prospect of fostering regime change in Tehran giving rise to the aspirations for autonomy of minorities in Iran- the Kurds, Azeri, Ahwaz and Baluch.

EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared in the New English Review.

Views on Radical Islam: An interview with Dr. Sebastian Gorka, Deputy Assistant to the President

The Trump Administration spearhead of the ideological war against Radical Islamic Jihadism is Dr. Sebastian Gorka, Deputy Assistant to President Trump and member of the White House Strategic Initiatives Group. He has recently surfaced as spokesperson for the Administration on this and related issues and been the subject of a number of media reports. We had prior knowledge of his views on Radical Islamic jihadism from our New English Review book review and interviews prior to his involvement in the Trump transition team.  Subsequently, following the President’s election he was selected to serve in the Executive Office of the President.  We were afforded an opportunity to interview him on a wide range of current issues on Northwest Florida’s Talk Radio 1330 AMWEBY.  The program aired February 28, 2017.

Among the following national security and foreign policy issues addressed in the 1330amWEBY interview with Dr. Gorka were:

  1. Why the Trump Administration is concerned about the threat from radical Islamic Jihadism?
  2. Who are the ‘self-styled’ counterterrorism experts criticizing the Administration for exposing the ideology behind Radical Islamic Jihadism?
  3. The dangerous threat of Iran’s nuclear and missile development, state support for global terrorism and hegemonic aspirations in the Middle East.
  4. Importance of Israel, Jordan, Egypt as allies in support of US national security interests in the Middle East.
  5. Possible formation of a NATO-type regional military alliance composed of Sunni Arab Monarchies, Emirates and states with possible links to Israel.
  6. Administration views on Turkey and the Kurds in the war to defeat ISIS.
  7. Global spread of Radical Islamic Jihad especially in Sudan, Nigeria, Niger and Mali in Africa.

What follows is the interview with Dr. Gorka:

Mike Bates: Good afternoon welcome back to Your Turn. This is Mike Bates. With me in the studio Jerry Gordon is the Senior Editor of the New English Review and its blog The Iconoclast and joining us by telephone Dr. Sebastian Gorka, Deputy Assistant to the President in the strategic initiatives group. Dr. Gorka, welcome.

Dr. Sebastian Gorka: Thank you for having me.

Bates: Dr. Gorka, you have been criticized significantly by so-called counter-terrorism experts for concentrating on addressing the ideology behind radical Islamic terrorism. Is there any merit to that criticism at all?

Gorka: It’s quite ironic that the individuals that have written these recent critiques are in many cases the people who are responsible for the last eight years of Obama administration policies. That completely ignored the ideological component of groups like ISIS and Al Qaeda and simply resulted in the atrocious situation we have today with ISIS declaring a caliphate of remarkable affiliates across the globe and with attack after attack occurring not only in America but especially in Europe. So the fact is denying the reality of what your enemy believes makes it very difficult to stop them recruiting new terrorists in the future. That’s my bottom line.

Bates: So how are you advising the Trump administration concerning the threat from radical Islamic terrorism?

Gorka: The President, even before he became the Commander in Chief, was very clear on these issues so we are just continuing the work of the presidential campaign. If your listeners look at a very important speech that wasn’t paid adequate attention to it, the Presidents’ Youngstown speech which was very clear on the ideological components of this war. Then we have the inauguration which was very specific, his fifteen minute speech that talked about the radical Islamic terrorist threat the phrase of your former President denied and refused to use.  Then we had  last Friday his address to CPAC which was just as strenuous and talked about obliterating the threat and wiping them from the face of the earth.  Our belief is that this is a war against individual organizations like ISIS. However, in the long term it is really a counter-ideological fight that has to resolve finally in the delegtimization of the religious ideology that drives groups like ISIS.

Jerry Gorda: Dr. Gorka, speaking about obliterating ISIS what changes might we expect in administration policies towards the Kurds in the war to defeat ISIS and the resolution to the conflict in Syria?

Gorka: Unlike previous administrations we don’t give our playbook away in advance. We don’t talk about the specifics of our war plan. However, the President has been clear that whether it’s the Kurds or whether it’s others in the region America is not interested in invading other peoples’ countries; that’s un-American. Our nation was born in a rejection of imperialism not the colonization or occupation of other countries.  Whether it is the Kurds or local Sunnis or the forces of Iraq, we are interested in helping our partners in the region win their wars for themselves. It’s not about American troops being deployed in large numbers, it’s about helping those Muslim nations and forces in the Middle East who want to be our friends help them win their battles for themselves.

Bates: Well speaking about them winning the battles for themselves there have been some news reports about some administration discussions about the possible formation of a NATO type regional military alliance in the Middle East. Is there anything developing there?

Gorka: Again we are going to keep our powder dry and we are not going to give away our game plans in advance. The bottom line is not the labels or not what we wish to package things into. The issue is the local actors stepping up to the plate with our assistance to fight their backyard war.  I mean it’s not, Christians who have been decimated, Yazidis have been decimated but by far the largest number of victims of the jihadist groups are their fellow Muslims. They are not just the Shia who they deem to be heretics but in many parts of Iraq and Syria and elsewhere the ISIS forces, the related groups are killing other Sunnis that they disagree with.  Whatever the coalition it will be very different from the smoke and mirrors coalition that was created under the Obama years which really wasn’t a serious force.

Gordon: Dr. Gorka, how dangerous is the threat of Iran’s nuclear and missile development, state support for global terrorism and hegemonic aspirations in the Middle East?

 Gorka: That’s a question that could have a PhD dissertation level response. Let’s just talk about the facts. We know Iran according to the U.S. Government is a state-sponsored terrorism, the largest state-sponsor of terrorism. It is not doing this recently it has been doing this since 1979 whether it is from the Iranian hostage siege crisis all the way down.  This is a nation that I like to depict as an anti-status quo actor. This is a nation that doesn’t share basic interests with the normal values of the international community. They are not interested. If you are a theocratic regime that wishes to forcibly and subversively export  your theocratic vision around the world what is the common interest you could have with America or with any of our allies? That’s the false premise upon which U.S. Iran relations were based in the last eight years and the idea that a nation that has that destabilizing ideology wishes to acquire weapons of mass destruction including nuclear capability means that they do represent a threat to all nations that believe in a global stability.

Gordon: Dr. Gorka, how important is Israel as an ally in support of U.S. National Security interests in the Middle East versus resolution of the impasse with the Palestinians?

Gorka: There is no greater partner of the United States in the Middle East. We are very close and we help the Jordanians, Egypt, UAE  redressing and improving the very  negative relationship that was established between the White House under the Obama administration and Egyptian President Sisi’s government. Israel, as a beacon of democracy and stability in the Middle East, is our closest friend in the region and the President has been explicit in that again and again So it would be difficult  to overestimate just how important Israel is not only to America’s interest in the region but also to the broader stability of the Middle East.

Bates: And what kind of role do you foresee for Turkey?

Gorka: I think that is in many ways up to Ankara. Historically, after it’s accession to NATO, Turkey became one of the most important nations in the alliance. It had the largest army in Europe. As a result of its location it was highly important during the Cold War geo-strategically. Recent events with an emphasis to rising fundamentalist attitudes have questioned the future trajectory of Turkey. The administration and the President is clear that it wishes to be a friend to those who wish to be our friends.  I think you know any good relationship depends upon both parties willingness to work together. We would like to continue a fruitful relationship with Turkey but that depends upon the government in Ankara itself.

Gordon: Dr. Gorka, the Obama administration lifted sanctions against the Islamic Republic of the Sudan on the cusp of leaving office. This despite evidence that the regime of President Bashir is raising a terrorist army literally to foment jihad in the Sahel region of Africa. What remedies might the administration consider to combat this?

Gorka: Again you are trying to tease out very concrete policy prescriptions from us and I’m really not prepared to do that at this point. Remember we are in week six of the administration.  However, we do recognize and we are very serious about the fact that of what I call the global jihadi movement isn’t just an issue in the Middle East. We like to focus on the so-called five meter target. It was Al Qaeda for a decade then it morphed into the Islamic state or ISIS.  There are large swaths of territory in Africa that are unstable, are not sovereign in the sense that the local government exercises full control over them. The mere fact alone if you look at Nigeria, the Boko Haram, the black African jihadi group has sworn allegiance to ISIS and Ab? Bakr al-Baghdadi and has been incorporated into the Islamic state, changed its name to the West African Province of the Islamic state. That shows you just how serious the situation is.  Jihadism truly spreads from whether it’s Aleppo, whether it’s Raqqa, whether it’s Africa, Mali, Nigeria or to the streets of Brussels or San Bernardino. We fully appreciate just how global the threat is and that includes Africa as well.

Bates: Dr. Gorka, it obviously includes the United States as well.  One of President Trump’s very first executive orders had to do with the restriction of entry into the United States from people from seven countries. The administration was criticized by the Democrats and the media, my apologies for being redundant there.  However, if you look at the numbers of those seven affected countries, Iran, Iraq, Libya, Sudan, Somalia, Syria and Yemen,  have a combined population of  220 million people and there is a global Muslim population of 1.6 billion.  That means that 86 percent of Muslims in the world are not prevented from entering the United States and yet it was portrayed as a Muslim ban. How does the administration intend to come out with a revised plan that can avoid that criticism or do you think the criticism will come no matter what?

Gorka: The criticism will come no matter what because there is a fundamental disjuncture between the mainstream media, a perception of the world and the actual reality of how serious the threat is. These are the countries that either are state sponsors of terrorism or are the hotbeds of jihadist activity today be it Islamic State or Al Qaeda. This is a threat analysis we inherited from the Obama administration.  The idea that it is controversial is asinine and secondly you’re absolutely right. If this had been an Islamaphobically generated executive order then how is it the most populous Muslim nation in the world, Indonesia, was left off of the list? How is it the most populous Arab Muslim nation in the world  Egypt was left off the list? The challenge that was politically brought was that there was some ulterior motive behind the listing of these seven countries.  The fact is it is an unemotional cold analysis of the threat to America that was the reason for the drawing up of that moratorium of that list of seven nations.  But if you have a political agenda then of course you will spin things politically.

Bates: Another nation that’s not on that list is Saudi Arabia. Can you address the cooperation we are getting from the House of Saud regarding the overall global war on Islamic terrorism?

 Gorka: Again, it’s getting a little too specific.  However,  I will talk about some good things that have occurred. We know that there were issues with certain elements of Saudi society propagating or supporting the propagation of radical ideologies around the world. That attitude changed quite drastically in about ’05, ’06 when Al Qaeda started targeting Saudi officials on Saudi soil.  A nation that may have been problematic for several years has recently been reassessing its attitude to these international actors.  We expect to see even more positive things coming out of Saudi Arabia as we in the White House, especially the President and Secretary Tillerson start to rebuild the relationships with all our allies in the region that were so detrimentally affected by the treatment they received at the hands of the Obama White House.

Bates: Well if I may editorialize for just a moment, it is a relief to see an administration that is taking the threats seriously and is dealing with the world as it is and not as it wishes the world were. Dr. Sebastian Gorka, Deputy Assistant to the President in the strategic initiatives group, thank you so much for joining us this afternoon on Your Turn on 1330 AM WEBY.

LISTEN to the 1330 AM WEBY interview with Dr. Gorka.

RELATED ARTICLE: Swede Democrat leaders pen WSJ op-ed imploring Americans to avoid the mistakes Sweden made 

EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared in the New English Review.

Despite what President Obama says, ISIS is striking back in Syria

When President spoke to US CENTCOM troops at McDill Air Base in Tampa, Florida on December 6, 2016, he gave the impression that the 70 nation US Global coalition was winning the war against ISIS. He effusively said:

The results are clear:  ISIL has lost more than half its territory.  ISIL has lost control of major population centers.  Its morale is plummeting.  Its recruitment is drying up.  Its commanders and external plotters are being taken out, and local populations are turning against it.

As we speak, ISIL faces an offensive on Mosul from Iraqi troops and coalition support.  That’s the largest remaining city that it controls.  Meanwhile, in Syria, ISIL’s self-declared capital in Raqqa is being squeezed.  We have attacked ISIL’s financial lifeline, destroying hundreds of millions of dollars of oil and cash reserves.  The bottom line is we are breaking the back of ISIL.  We’re taking away its safe havens.    And we’ve accomplished all this at a cost of $10 billion over two years, which is the same amount that we used to spend in one month at the height of the Iraq War.

The events of less than 10 days later given a significantly troubling situation report in Syria. This despite the defeat of rebel forces in Aleppo by the combined Russia air and Assad regime ground forces after taking the last position held by rebel forces in the last pocket of resistance in Aleppo.  Fighting against the ISIS forces inside Syria is quite another matter. After combined Russian Syrian Armed Forces took back Palmyra on May 2015, an ISIS assault reclaimed it on December 12th, quickly overtaking the Russian-Syria T-4 airbase, with abandoned anti-air defense systems, weapons and armored vehicles.  ISIS forces have moved on to cut off the main supply road between Homs and Palmyra. Moreover, they are engaged in suicide attacks against the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) that is driving to encircle Raqqa from the west preparing for a final assault on the city itself. The SDF Forces had liberated six villages in the vicinity of Raqqa.  The SDF forces are assisted by embedded US Special operators. Outgoing US Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter announced an additional allotment of 203 additional US Spec ops troops bringing the total to 503. He calls them the ‘connection’ between the SDF and the US coalition.  The Pentagon announced the take out by air strikes of three key ISIS leaders, involved in the Paris and Brussels attacks on November 2015 and March 2016. Meanwhile, there are reports that the Pentagon is preparing tougher measures for the incoming Trump Administration as options for ostensibly gaining closure in the war against ISIS.

Thus, Obama’s counterterrorism legacy involving letting others doing its fighting in place of sending in US forces appears to be confronting faltering progress and reversals leaving it up to the new Administration on January 21, 2017 to pick up the pace of in terms of force commitments. All of this in retrospect might have been avoided if the outgoing Obama Administration had concluded a status of forces agreement with the corrupt al-Maliki regime in Baghdad in 2011 which might have precluded the mass jail break in 2013 of former Saddam Hussein Ba’athist officers who promptly joined forces with ISIS. There are now upwards of 5,000 US troops in Iraq assisting the combined Peshmerga and Iraq National Forces in the Battle for Mosul, which has slowed against the intense Islamikaze fighting by ISIS, amid reports from Pentagon chief Ashton Carter  at a briefing in Iraq that there an estimated 2,000 ISIS dead.  US Lt. Gen Stephen Townsend commander of Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve estimated there upwards of 6,000 ISIS fighters still in Mosul.

Conclusions

Russian, Iranian and Hezbollah support of Assad forces does not appear to be having much success in fighting ISIS as distinct from the war against Syrian rebels in Western Syria. Whether the suggestions of Operation Inherent resolve US Lt. Gen. Townsend that the coalition can take back Palmyra and destroy the weapons and dangerous air defense systems abandoned by the Russians and Syrians will be a daunting task. The lack of an effective US ground force working with the Kurdish-led SDF to fend off ISIS suicide attacks and take the Administrative Capital at Raqqa is another major concern. This despite their advances to within less than 25 miles and closing the noose in western Raqqa in Operation Wrath of Euphrates.  The Obama Administration strategy of war on the cheap has failed to degrade let alone destroy ISIS.  We’ll see what the Pentagon under the incoming Trump Administration in the first 100 days to achieve operational objectives during the ensuing year ahead.

Note these excerpts ARA News, Debka reports and News Comm.au that present a disturbing picture of the lack of a coordinated strategy to finish the fight against ISIS.

raqqa-liberated-women-and-children-12-2016-raqqa-campaign

Women and Children Liberated in Western Raqqa by SDF December 2016. Source: ARA News

December 12, 2016 ARA NEWS: SDF expel ISIS from Six Villages after Launching 2nd Phase of Raqqa Campaign 12-12-16.

After launching the second phase of the Euphrates Wrath Operation against ISIS, the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) on Sunday reported new gains in the fight for Raqqa–de facto capital of the Islamic State (ISIS).

The SDF seized control of several villages in western Raqqa in an area measuring approximately 8 square kilometers.

The Kurdish-Arab alliance of the SDF on Sunday captured six villages after clashes with ISIS militants.

“The liberated villages include Merwaniya, Krajah, Hamer Saghir, Hamer Kabir, Qerefdan and Draniya,” a spokesman for the SDF told ARA News at the battlefront of western Raqqa.

According to SDF’s leaders the second phase of the operation is aimed to liberate the western countryside of Raqqa and tighten the siege on the ISIS-held city. Additional to the previous SDF factions, some 1500 new Arab fighters have joined the campaign.

“The time has come to liberate Raqqa and its people from ISIS terrorism. We will enter Raqqa city with help from our Kurdish brothers and the Arab factions of the SDF,” Hussein al-Awak, chief of the SDF Relation’s Office, told ARA News.

Al-Awak confirmed to ARA News that the US-led coalition has provided them with some advanced weapons in support of the Raqqa campaign.

“We have received advanced weapons from the US-led coalition, besides preparing strategic operations against ISIS headquarters,” the SDF official said. “After completing the second phase of the Euphrates Wrath, we’ll move to the final stage of this operation to eliminate ISIS in Raqqa completely.”

During the first phase of Euphrates Wrath, SDF soldiers captured an area measuring approximately 560 km2, containing dozens of towns, villages and farms. Military sources told ARA News that more than 185 ISIS jihadists have been killed since November 6. The operation’s long-term objective is the isolation and elimination of the Islamic State in Raqqa.

palmyra-attack-debka-large12-12-16 ARA News: Retaking Palmyra ISIS Assaults T4 Airbase near Syria’s Homs

Islamic State (ISIS) militants assaulted the T4 Military Airport on Monday, breaching its defenses with mortar batteries and heavy machine guns.

Amro al-Hussein, a media activist, reported that ISIS “destroyed at least three warplanes in the T4 Airport and captured some parts of the base, after clashes with the Syrian Army.”

Located in the Homs’ eastern countryside, the T4 Airport is a critical security installation, providing regime forces with close air support. ISIS jihadists were able to storm into the base after seizing security checkpoints in the nearby Mashtal and Qasr al-Hir Districts.

Monday’s assault came just one day after the hardline group recaptured the ancient city of Palmyra in Homs Governorate. Activists and military sources confirmed the rout, reporting that the army had been forced to withdraw under fire.

“The army withdrew after the clashes reached the city center and it became impossible for them to push ISIS back,” local media activist Abas al-Omar reported.

Regime forces were obliged to evacuate their headquarters in Palmyra, heading westward toward Doua District and the T4 Airbase.

According to al-Omar, ISIS had “continued shelling the army’s positions inside Palmyra with mortars and heavy artillery for hours, causing large losses in the army ranks.” Dozens of soldiers were killed on Sunday and a number of others remain unaccounted for, likely taken as prisoners.

Russia had supported the Syrian Army in Palmyra, with airstrikes and logistical support but their efforts were apparently insufficient to save the city.

russian-vehicles-taken-by-isis-in-palmyra-small

Russian Vehicles taken by ISIS in Palmyra. Source: Amaq

12-12-16 Debka:  ISIS Seizes big Russian Syrian T-4 air base

Islamic State forces pushed their assault forward to retake the central Syrian town of Palmyra Monday, Dec. 12. By evening, they had entered the big Russian-Syrian T-4 air base outside the town, carrying off substantial quantities of Russian armaments. Reporting this, Debkafile’s military sources add that the booty they snatched included different types of ground-to-ground missiles as well as anti-tank and anti-air rockets.

Russian forces manning the base were hurriedly evacuated from Palmyra and the T-4 base, after the worst defeat Russian armed forces had ever experienced at ISIS hands in Syria. Military circles in Moscow commented grimly that the Russian army had suffered “a major disgrace” in Palmyra.
According to our sources, long convoys of ISIS fighters backed by tanks taken booty from the Syrian army, first forced the Syrian 11th Tank Division to abandon the strategic Jhar Crossroad. After that, the way was clear for the jihadis’ column to reach the T-4 base.

12-14-16 Newscom.au: Fleeing Russians leave anti-aircraft missiles to Islamic State

The top US general leading the fight against IS told reporters last night that Syrian Government and Russian forces had “taken their eye off the ball” and fled the ancient Palmyra ahead of a new jihadist attack.

Of greatest concern, however, was the extensive stock of ammunition and weapons the fleeing Russians left behind.

Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend said Russia and Syria was likely to attempt to take the city back again. But if they don’t, he said, the US-led coalition will take action, particularly if insurgents start moving weapons out of the city.

“We believe it includes some armored vehicles and various guns and other heavy weapons, possibly some air defense equipment,” General Townsend said.

“Anything they seize poses a threat to the coalition, but we can manage those threats and we will.”

However speculation has been growing that among the hastily abandoned Russian/Syrian army base was an advanced, long-range mobile anti-aircraft system. Mounted on the back of armored vehicles, these could be deployed against coalition aircraft.

Fox News reports anonymous US defense sources as saying the captured missile system dated from the Soviet era and had the NATO designation SA-3.

General Townsend said he anticipates that the coalition will soon strike the captured Russian equipment and kill the militants operating it.

Islamic State’s Amaq news agency released video of what it claims to be the abandoned Palmyra camp, showing food and Russian-language books left on tables along with other personal items — indicating a rapid, unplanned departure.

Amaq claims to have seized 20 tanks, some armored personnel carriers, antitank guided missiles and howitzers.

12-14-16: ARA News: ISIS militants cut off regime supply route in Syria’s Homs 12-14-16

Homs – Militants of the Islamic State (ISIS) on Tuesday made new gains in their fight with the Syrian Army forces in the central governorate of Homs.

ISIS fighters captured the main road between al-Qaryatain town and Homs city, which used to be a key supply route for the Syrian regime’s army forces.

The radical group seized control of the supply-line after capturing military checkpoints that were previously held by the Syrian regime’s troops.

“Subsequent to clashes with the Syrian Army forces, ISIS fighters took over four checkpoints in the vicinity of al-Qaryatain, which enabled the group to block the army’s supply route,” local media activist Amro al-Hussein told ARA News.

“The route was a main supply line for the Syrian Army in Homs Governorate. The army forces have been relying on this route to send military reinforcements from al-Qaryatain town to the T4 Airbase and further into Homs city,” al-Hussein reported.

12-15-16: ISIS Suicide Bombers hit Kurdish positions West of Raqaa to Impede SDF Progress 12-15-16

Raqqa – The Islamic State (ISIS) radical group launched on Wednesday several suicide attacks in western Raqqa, targeting defenses of the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).

ISIS suicide bombers targeted security checkpoints of the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG)–leading member of the SDF– near Ain Issa town.

“Members of the radical group carried out four simultaneous attacks at YPG checkpoints in the vicinity of Ain Issa,” media activist Jivan Mustafa told ARA News.

The number of casualties remained unknown.

The Kurdish forces have not issued any statements yet with regard to the attack.

This comes days after the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces launched the second phase of the Euphrates Wrath Operation to capture western Raqqa.

“Daesh terrorists try to impede our progress through launching such suicide attacks,” an SDF officer told ARA News in western Raqqa, using another acronym for ISIS. “But such cowardly attacks won’t affect our advance.”

The Syrian Democratic Forces announced the beginning of the second phase of the Euphrates Wrath Operation last Saturday. While the first phase focused on securing both banks of the Balikh River, the second phase aims “at liberating the western countryside of Raqqa.”

RELATED ARTICLE: Aleppo’s Fall Signals Rise of Emboldened Radical Shi’ite Axis by Yaakov Lappin

Meet the former college student now female warrior fighting the Islamic State

Meet the female political science student who ran away to fight the Islamic State. She says militants are ‘easy to kill.’ Joanna Palani has described the brutal horrors she witnessed in the war-torn country – from child sex slaves to her comrade being shot dead next to her.

Joanna Palani

Joanna Palani

Sophie Evens from the UK Mirror reports:

A young woman who travelled to Syria to fight jihadis on the frontline has revealed how ISIS thugs are ‘very easy to kill’ and children are rounded up to be sexually abused.

Joanna Palani, then 22, gave up her life as a college student to become a Kurdish fighter in the war-torn country, where she came face-to-face with murderous militants.

With the knowledge of how to shoot a gun, she spent a year battling ISIS on the frontline, teaching other girls how to fight and witnessing the brutal horrors of war.

Now back home, Joanna has told of her experiences from her time abroad – and the striking differences between the Islamic State and President Assad’s ‘killing machines’.

Joanna came face-to-face with murderous militants in Syria and Iraq.

Danske Joanna Palani forlod i November 2014 Danmark for at kæmpe mod Islamisk Stat i Irak og Syrien.

“ISIS fighters are very easy to kill!”

“ISIS fighters are very easy to kill,” she told Vice, laughing. “ISIS fighters are very good at sacrificing their own lives, but Assad’s soldiers are very well-trained and they are specialist killing machines.”

Joanna, from Copenhagen, Denmark, left college in November 2014 to ‘fight for human rights for all people’.

Read more.

WATCH: All-female combat unit hungry for revenge against Islamic State

‘Report card’ on Syria, Iraq and the Islamic State

Rescue of victim of Assad regime bombing, Aleppo, Syria, April 11, 2016

Rescue of victim of Assad regime bombing, Aleppo, Syria, April 11, 2016. Source: yahoo.com.

Former U.S. Ambassador to Syria spoke at the Pensacola Tiger Bay Club Friday, April 15, 2016. The author and Florida State Rep. Mike Hill, a good friend of Israel, were among the attentive audience while he gave his ‘report card’ on the sectarian impasse in the civil war in Syria with an estimated 300,000 deaths and the failed reconciliation in Iraq among majority Shia, minority Sunni and Kurds. A Pensacola News Journal report of his Syria-Iraq ‘report card’ covered the major points of his presentation, “9 Things to know about Syria and Iraq.”

Not included in this PNJ report were his responses to questions that we posed on whether he supported the alleged covert CIA plan to overthrow Assad in 2012 as depicted in the new book, Left Boom by ex CIA operative Doug Laux. See our Iconoclast April 5, 2016 post on this issue. The other question from an audience member was directed at whether the Obama failure to implement the 2012 red line over alleged chemical weapons release that killed hundreds in the Damascus suburb of Ghouta was a lost opportunity.

As regards the question about the covert plan to overthrow Assad, Ford demurred answering that directly. However, it was evident in his response that the US had lost credibility by not undertaking pinpoint operations as push back against the Assad regime. A regime who he suggested helped to foster the rise of the Islamic State by attacks on major Sunni centers in Syria and release of fundamentalists. He did allow that the al Maliki regime torpedoed the Sunni Awakening, at the core of the Surge Plan by not continuing payments to Sunni workers and targeting leaders of the Sunni Awakening with reprisals. That he suggested drove them into the ranks of the Islamic State. Meanwhile Shia Militias fomented sectarian razzias against Sunni centers under current Iraqi PM Haidar al- Abadi. The sectarian impasse was graphically portrayed in pictures this week of fights inside the Baghdad parliament among the Shia, Kurdish and Sunni members. The drop in world oil prices hasn’t helped the situation.

LiveLeak-dot-com-a80_1460114240-3_1460114328

Liveleak.com screen grab of Kurdish PYD-YPG victim of Jaysh al-Islam chemical attack on April 7, 2016 in Sheikh Maqsud district of Aleppo, Syria.

On the matter of Obama’s failure to follow through with his 2012 red line threat against Assad he noted that Obama was not concerned about the complete removal of prohibited chemical weapons indicating less concern about chlorine and more about Sarin gas. The irony of the President’s response is reflected in confirmation from multiple sources of the use of Chlorine gas mortars by the Jaysh al-Islam militia in the April 7, 2016 attacks against Kurdish PYD-YPG forces in the Kurdish enclave of Sheik Maqsud district of Aleppo province. Ambassador Ford tends to rely on reports from both Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch attesting to Kurdish led Syrian Democratic Forces pushing tens of thousands of Sunnis fleeing not to the North but South into the Islamic State.

Watch this LiveLeak report on the Jaysh al-Islam chemical mortar attack on the Kurdish enclave of Sheikh Maqsud district in Aleppo Province.

A Syrian Observatory for Human Rights report indicated that Jaysh al-Islam has claimed responsibility for the use of alleged Chlorine gas and investigating the field commander’s use of “unauthorized weapons.” We note that Jaysh, a Salafist rebel force backed by Turkey and Saudi Arabia, is a terrorist organization designated by Russia, Iran and Egypt had a representative at Friday’s Syrian peace talks, while the PYD-YPG was barred from attending.

His former Iraqi period colleague, Bret McGurk, Obama’s special envoy on the war against ISIS would probably disagree as he has made common cause with the PYD-YPG as the only effective boots on the ground in Syria fighting the Islamic State.

He also expressed the view that Israel’s government is speaking increasingly of the necessity of removing Assad via some political deal.

With fighting raging in Syria’s north between rebel forces, the regime, and ISIS forces, Syrian refugees caught on the frontier with Turkey are being prevented from sanctuary there.

On the matter of Syrian refugees, Ambassador Ford was not able to respond to that publicly, although we understand that he views US admissions of Syrian Refugees as a humanitarian gesture with those brought in, largely women and children.

Here were the key points in Ambassador Ford’s Syria-Iraq report card:”And it has a way of looking at things which is very frightening,” he said.

  1. ISIS started as al-Qaida in Iraq. Eventually, its leader cut off ties to the main al-Qaida organization and declared a caliphate in spring 2014.
  2. ISIS has a literalist interpretation of early Islamic jurisprudence dating back to the 7th Century, along with a large bureaucracy. Ford showed photos of tax receipts, as Christians must pay a tax if they choose to continue to follow Christianity.
  3. ISIS controls oil wells that fund its activities. Before some were recaptured, the group was estimated to earn up to $70 million per month on the black market. The loss of those assets has caused it to cut in half the salary it pays its soldiers.
  4. The Kurdish Democratic Union Party, or PYD, is a group of Syrian Kurds the U.S. has supported to fight ISIS. The PYD, however, is allied with Turkish Kurds who commit acts of terrorism in Turkey. “The Turks are saying, ‘Why are you helping one group of terrorists against another group of terrorists?'” Ford said.
  5. When the Kurds have taken back land from ISIS, Ford said, they have committed war crimes against Syrian Arabs in the area. ISIS is then able to recruit displaced people who flee.
  6. There is a vacuum left after the conquest of an ISIS-controlled area and there has not been a good nonmilitary follow-up. “If we don’t have people to take this over and make sure the electricity is running, get the hospitals going and make sure the schools are running,” Ford said. “If there is a vacuum, you know the extremists will fill it.”
  7. The Syrian military will lay siege to cities to starve out the population, cut off water, electricity and medical supplies and personnel. As a result of one such siege, a famous Syrian goalie joined ISIS. Ford said this would be the equivalent of a major league baseball star joining a terrorist organization. “What I want you to understand is, the Syrian Civil War is driving people, even prominent people, into the Islamic State,” he said.
  8. Shia militias in Iraq who fight ISIS will go door-to-door, pull people out of their homes and shoot them. In the city of Diyala, ISIS detonated three car bombs in January. Militias responded by killing between 50 and 100 people and bombing seven Sunni mosques.
    Syria’s Bashar al-Assad regime would facilitate the flow of jihadists across Syria to attack U.S. troops fighting al-Qaida in Iraq. “The people who want us to support Assad don’t understand what kind of a snake he is,” Ford said.
  9. Syria’s Bashar al-Assad regime would facilitate the flow of jihadists across Syria to attack U.S. troops fighting al-Qaida in Iraq. “The people who want us to support Assad don’t understand what kind of a snake he is,” Ford said.

EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared in the New English Review.

Confirmed: Islamic State Used Mustard Gas to Attack Kurds

Independent experts confirmed that attacks on Kurdish fighters in Iraq last August used mustard gas, in addition to previous attacks in Syria.

The Islamic State used mustard gas in attacks on Kurdish fighters in Iraq last year, Reuters reported it has now been confirmed.

An independent analysis of samples from the battlefield confirmed mustard gas was used in an attack last August in which 35 Kurdish soldiers were poisoned and showed symptoms of the chemical agent. Mustard gas is a chemical weapon first used in World War I, which burns the lungs and eyes.

The analysis was carried out by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW). The tests confirmed the gas was used by the Islamic State, an unnamed diplomat told the press on condition of anonymity.

The OPCW also found evidence that sarin gas has been used in Syria, although it is unclear in what circumstances.

Confirmation of the attack in Iraq follows proff that the Islamic State used mustard gas in Syria last October.

One diplomat speculated ISIS had captured its chemical weapons from the Syrian regime. “If Syria has indeed given up its chemical weapons to the international community, it is only the part that has been declared to the OPCW and the declaration was obviously incomplete,” the diplomat told Reuters.

Another theory is that ISIS is manufacturing its own mustard gas. “I’m pretty convinced that the mustard IS are using in Iraq is made by them in Mosul,” chemical weapons specialist Hamish de Bretton-Gordon told Reuters. “They have all the precursors at hand from the oil industry and all the experts at hand to do it.”

Watch the original report from August about the attacks:

RELATED ARTICLES:

Will Assad Retake Raqqa and Is It a Good Idea?

You Won’t Believe What’s Happened Since Friday…

Syrian Christian Escapes to Germany; Sees ISIS Tormentor

Three Americans Kidnapped in Baghdad

RECOMMENDED READING
The Psychology of Radicalization and Terrorism

THE PSYCHOLOGY OF RADICALIZATION AND TERRORISM

By Willem Koomen and Joop Van Der Pligt

A unique and systematic approach to a vital topic, integrating knowledge from diverse literatures, and using social psychology as a basis for comprehending human behaviour. Essential reading for students and researchers from all disciplines seeking a greater understanding of terrorism and violent political conflict in all its forms.

Buy Now

 

Heartbreaking: Photos of Drowned Yezidi Refugee Children

As Canada and other countries make their claims that they are helping refugees, there are those who have lost their lives who remain unseen, unreported and forgotten.

The plights of Yezidis have been forgotten and ignored by the United States, the United Nations, the Liberal government of Canada, the Main Stream Media and the rest of the free world when Alan Kurdi’s photos went viral to help the Liberal government of Canada win the election by landslide which prompted the acceptance of over 50.000 Sunni Muslim Syrians to this country which according to experts vetting would be impossible.

Please see the photos below provided by Khaled Khalaf​, a Yezidi activist. WARNING GRAPHIC IMAGES:

Shabnam Assadollahi's photo.
Shabnam Assadollahi's photo.
Shabnam Assadollahi's photo.

Mr. Khalaf told us: “These are all Yezidi children who were drowned but no media gave any attention to them because they were from the Yezidi faith.”

Khalaf continues: “These picture were taken a couple weeks ago. These kids and their family were fleeing from Turkey to Greece for a safer, better and more promising life but no media has given any publicity to this horrifying news..”

The Kurds, Christians and Yizidis are facing massacres and yet are being ignored. Did the Liberals and their media including the Islamic State had an agenda showing Alan Kurdi, the drowned Syrian boy?

RELATED ARTICLES:

Canada mainly accepting Sunni and not Izidi (Yizidi) refugees – Jerusalem online

Workshop on converting non-Muslims held at the University of Calgary

RELATED VIDEO: The genocide of Yizidis in broad daylight:

Christmas will never, ever be the same with the Yazidis — the Forgotten people

No one could ever forget the horrendous images on television news in August of 2014 when ISIS cornered and entire Iraqi tribe on a mountaintop called Mount Sinjar.  This forgotten people are called the Yazidis.

Over 5,000 men, women and children were slaughtered by the terrorists of the Islamic State (ISIS)!  Since it was such a remote place in northwest Kurdistan, food, blankets and water had to be dropped by plane as Kurdistan forces finally reached them to save the majority of this people group.

Bob Armstrong with Yazidi sheik in Kurdistan

Bob Armstrong with Yazidi sheik in Kurdistan.

Kurds are mostly Sunni, but they are ethnically distinct from Iraqi Arabs.  They control most of northern Iraq, to include most of the important oil fields in the northeast.  They possess a unique piece of the puzzle in the conflict between the Iraqi government and ISIS.  The Yazidis, living in northwestern Kurdistan, are even more “removed” because they are simply a “forgotten” people.  Few visit them as they are dangerously close to ISIS strongholds.

The Kurdish militia (“The Peshmerga,” among others) number between 80,000 and 240,000 and does not “answer” to Baghdad.  But they are highly-trained and represent a very real threat to ISIS.

Like many others, my heart and prayers immediately went out to these dear people.  I vowed right then to visit them!  Far from the headlines in the news now, there is still an active genocide happening in Northern Iraq and Syria of Yazidis and Christians.  ISIS calls the Yazidis “apostate” Muslims, since they do not share the ISIS belief in the Caliphate.

The United Nations and some non-government organizations are trying to assist them, but most are running out of money quickly.  However, no amount of money, although desperately needed, will put a final halt to this genocide.

So the Yazidis join the long list of IDPs (Internationally Displaced Persons).  They suffered much and have supernaturally “maintained” since.  Then last month, the Peshmerga forces from Kurdistan began a concentrated operation to free Sinjar from ISIS and their 300 warriors left in the desolated town.  Coalition warplanes provided air support.

American news pundits claimed that battle would take many weeks.  However, within two days, Kurdistan President Barzani held a news conference in the town of Sinjar, claiming total victory.

Bob prays with Yazidi widow, made by ISIS!

Praying with Yazidi widow, whose husband was killed by the Islamic State.

By faith, I scheduled a trip to Mount Sinjar this past July.  I was ready to spend Christmas with these forgotten people, no matter what.

After arriving and venturing within a couple of hours of Sinjar, my host and mercenary military person advised me to wait a couple of weeks because the victory was not 100% yet (“some mortars were still being fired on the road by ISIS”) and all the IEDs left by retreating ISIS was not yet all cleared.  In spite of my mission to touch their lives, I saw the seriousness in this military man’s face.  And he knew what he was talking about!

Immediately following the Paris terror attack which took the lives of 130 souls, French planes began to bomb ISIS positions, even more fervently than the United States bombing raids.  I’ll never forget my discussion with religious leaders in Lebanon last December when they said to me, “We cannot trust the United States government.  You are now bombing ISIS, when two to three years ago, you were arming what is now ISIS (under the umbrella of rebel groups against the President of Syria).”

According to the United Nations High Commissioner on Refugees (UNHCR), 19,000 Syrians have been picked straight from refugee camps in Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan and given U.N. approval for resettlement in the United States.  However, most Christians are NOT in the United Nations refugee camps because of assaults and rapes by Muslims.  Just about all of the 19,000 Syrian refugees are Sunni Muslims with an extreme hatred for free Western governments.

Over the past five years of war in Syria, the United States has admitted a grand total of about 120 Syrian Christian refugee families and just one Yazidi.  How can this be?

IMG_0937

Tears of gratitude from a Yazidi girl rescued from the Islamic State.

Billions of dollars are being given to bonafide terrorists by the United States in Iran as part of the supposed “Iran Nuclear Deal” in spite of Iranians (and their leaders) gathering and chanting:  “Death to America!”

Yet again people ask:  How can this be?

Clear-thinking Americans realize there will be attacks on the American soil.  In a Washington Post-ABC News survey published just BEFORE the San Bernardino, California terror attacks, 83 percent of registered voters believe a terrorist attack in the United States resulting in large casualties is likely in the near future.  Forty percent say a major attack is “very likely.”

Let the news speak the truth of this survey!

A purposefully unnamed American official in Kurdistan pronounced to me:  “Christianity is finished in Iraq!”

But, I beg to differ.  Many “Home churches” that I personally witnessed are springing up across Kurdistan.  Christianity is not finished!

But, as Christians, what can we do?

Bob Armstrong delivers food in northwest Kurdistan

Delivering food in Northwest Kurdistan

We must continue to pray and do as much as we possibly can.  That’s why I took food and the Gospel to the Kurds and to the Yazidis this Christmas season.

In the Khanki United Nations’ Camp where many Yazidis are literally “warehoused” just outside Duhok, Kurdistan, I visited and prayed with over three dozen women and widows who have literally been rescued from ISIS.  The posted United Nations admission is they give only $19 (USA) to each person for food per month.  In reality, according to Christians who visit the U.N. camps on a regular basis, the food they distribute is “Grade 4” food, suitable as animal or dog food.  So in addition to prayer and encouragement (and a promise to return), I left each one with approx. $40 for food.

The stories of atrocities are too painful to retell, (or show in pictures) even from someone who has heard similar stories from various war zones in years past.  ISIS is the most ruthless, demonic murdering group ever.

I heard, firsthand, horrific stories from a rescued ten-year-old who had been repeatedly raped by ISIS.  Some ladies were paid for at ISIS slave auctions by undercover rescuers.  Some girls and widows managed to risk all and somehow escaped, traveling days and nights to “freedom.”

Armenian genocide monument in Hawresq, Kutdistan

Armenian genocide monument in Hawresq, Kutdistan. Let us never forget.

Most did not know whether or not their husbands were dead or alive.  Unfortunately, the majority will learn a terrible inevitable.

In spite of losing all and suffering more than anyone, all smiled with tears of gratitude for me reaching out to them with the compassion of Jesus Christ.  Making a small difference: one desperate life at a time.

Christmas, this year; I will never, ever be the same!

EDITORS NOTE: The featured image is of the author with a young Yazidi girl who was captured by the Islamic State. She was bought at an Islamic State slave auction by a group of undercover rescuers.

Why the Islamic State cannot be defeated without the Kurds

On the morning of November 13, 2015 combined Peshmerga and Yazidi forces, with U.S. Special operators and USAF tactical support, successfully cut off the occupied city of Sinjar in northern Iraq. This action blocked Highway 47, the strategic line of communications between the Islamic State self-declared Caliphate capital in Raqqa, Syria from Mosul.

Gen. Audino in Peshmerga Uniform

U.S. Army Brig. Gen. (ret.), Ernie Audino knows the Peshmerga from practical experience. He was embedded with them for a year in 2006 as the commander of a small team of combat advisors. He knows that ISIS’ aim is a global Jihad insurgency. Speaking on the November 15, 2015 Lisa Benson Show on National Security, he called Sinjar a “decisive victory” by 7,500 Peshmerga and 6,000 armed Yazidis. He told the program listeners that the Kurds had “rolled up 28 villages retaking 200 kilometers of terrain.” The combined Peshmerga and Yazidi forces were assisted, he said, by “40 USAF strikes inside the city.” The combined force, Audino said, had cut off “600 ISIS fighters, resulting in 300 dead” against a few dozen Peshmerga casualties.

Thus ended a 15 month barbaric occupation of the largely Yazidi city, seized in August 2014 with a thousand men killed and buried in mass graves, thousands of women treated as chattel and sold as sex slaves and children enslaved as well. Thousands fled to Sinjar Mountain and were relieved by Kurdish PKK and Syrian Kurdish YPG forces which retook Sinjar Mountain in December 2014. The seizure of Sinjar by ISIS caught the Peshmerga off balance. They faltered in defense of the city because of alleged inadequate command and control. The Guardian report on the re-conquest of Sinjar, noted what a senior Kurdish official said:

This shows what we can do. We acknowledge the failings of last summer [2014], but they were command and control issues and they have been sorted out. The Americans know that we are reliable and that the Iraqi army still isn’t. But if they want us to take Mosul, it will be on our terms. We are not agents. And we are not naive.

KRG President Masud Barzani, Sinjar, Iraq, November 13, 2015

The recapture of Sinjar on November 13th was a fulfillment of a promise by the Peshmerga, reflected in the comments reported by The Guardian of KRG President Masud Barzani at a news conference held at a sandbagged site overlooking the reconquered city:

On this day I announce to the people of Kurdistan the liberation of Sinjar. We promised and we keep our promises: we proved to our Yazidi brothers and sisters that all Kurdistan is behind them. Today we took revenge for every Yazidi.

It was the seizure of Mosul in June 2014 and flight of Yazidis from Sinjar which prompted President Obama to declare on September 10, 2014 “to degrade and destroy” ISIS through a strategy of air assaults on targets in both Syria and Iraq. At the time Obama said:

I have made it clear that we will hunt down terrorists who threaten our country, wherever they are. That means I will not hesitate to take action against ISIL in Syria, as well as Iraq. This is a core principle of my presidency: if you threaten America, you will find no safe haven.

Obama was employing a small complement of U.S. special operators in concert with local boots on the ground and has been criticized by Congressional leaders and others, including former Defense Intelligence Agency chief, US Army Lt. Gen. (ret.) Michael Flynn and former Central Command commander (ret.) Marine General Anthony Zinni. The generals accused Obama of not pursuing an effective strategy for they had in mind the 160,000 Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga and the 25,000 Syrian YPG Kurds who had relieved the siege of Kobani in January 2015.

Both Secretary of State Kerry and President Obama issued statements a day prior to the Sinjar operation on November 13th reflecting a myopic attitude the Administration’s ISIS strategy was indeed working. Reuters reported:

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry expressed confidence Sinjar would be cleared in days.

President Barack Obama said he was focusing on shrinking and constraining Islamic State in Syria and Iraq but acknowledged that problems with the group would continue until the Middle East stabilizes.

“Our goal has to be militarily constraining ISIL’s capabilities, cutting off their supply lines, cutting off their financing,” he told ABC News.

On the evening after the Sinjar victory in Iraq, November 13th, events in Paris were to devastate the President’s assessment. ISIS trained Belgian and French born operatives using  Kalashnikov assault rifles and grenades killed 130 innocent civilians, injuring more than 352, 99 seriously. They perpetrated suicide bombings at a French soccer stadium, random shootings of patrons at outdoor cafes, and hostages held at a concert hall. France and the world were devastated by this ISIS attack. French President Hollande called it “an act of war” by the self-declared Islamic State. The alleged mastermind of the ISIS massacres was subsequently killed along with a female cousin and a third unidentified suspect in a massive shootout by French police who assaulted a safe house on November 18th in the predominately Muslim suburb of St. Denis, north of Paris. French President Hollande and President Obama at a White House Press Conference on November 23 declared their solidarity endeavoring to destroy ISIS.

Gen. Audino in a Washington Times op-ed in mid-October 2015, just prior to the events in Sinjar and Paris, called attention to the Administration’s “timidity” in supporting the Kurds, saying:

The Kurds, longtime U.S. ally and the undisputed main effort in the war against ISIS, are running low on battlefield supplies.

“In the past four to five months we have not received a single shipment of military supplies from the USA, not small arms ammunition, which we desperately need, not counter-IED equipment and not medium or heavy anti-tank weapons. We’ve repeatedly asked for Javelins, in particular, and received nothing from the USA,” said a senior source in the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in Iraq.

President Masud and KRG delegation meet President Obama May 2015

On the November 15th Lisa Benson Show, Audino said “very little gets through. No supplies have been sent since May.” That shipment followed a meeting between a delegation headed by President Masud Barzani of the KRG with President Obama and his National Security Staff. At that time Congressional leaders were including requests for direct supply of these requested arms and equipment, in drafts of the 2016 National Defense Authorization Act. They wanted to avoid relying on the equipment being filtered through the national Iraqi military of the Al –Abadi central government in Baghdad. In the aftermath of the seizure of both Sinjar and Mosul in June and August 2014, the KRG fielded the additional burden of sheltering 1.8 million internally displaced Yazidis, Chaldean Christians and other non-Muslim religious minorities. Moreover, the Al-Abadi government had not met the payroll of the Peshmerga for several months and had virtually reneged on remitting a fair share of oil revenues.  Gen. Audino’s comment in his Washington Times op ed was:

To date our tethering of Peshmerga logistics to the whim of the Iraqi Army in Baghdad has been an unmitigated failure. Very little is delivered into the hands of the Kurds, and the vast bulk claimed by the Iraqi Army has been lost on the battlefield.

Irbil will enthusiastically welcome this change in U.S. policy, and we should, too, but Moscow, Tehran, Damascus and Baghdad will not. That should tell us something.

Gen. Audino with President Bush.

Against this background we invited Gen. Audino for this interview. Gen. Audino is a native of Cape Cod and a 1983 graduate of the US Military Academy at West Point. He retired after 28 years of active service in 2011. He served multiple assignments in armor, cavalry, infantry and Stryker units. Other key assignments include service as an Army Congressional Fellow in the US Senate, duty as the Executive Assistant to the Vice Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Director of Nuclear Support at the US Defense Threat Reduction Agency. His last assignment was as the Deputy Director of Operations for Headquarters, US Army, in the Pentagon.

He earned a Master’s Degree from the National War College. General Audino’s introduction to the Kurds, their language, history and culture resulted from his time at the National War College where he studied under US Ambassador to Croatia and Assistant UN Secretary General, Peter W. Galbraith. Ambassador Galbraith has been a diplomatic and financial adviser to the KRG and is a proponent of Kurdish independence. Audino subsequently received both a Juris Doctorate and a Masters in Law, cum laude, from Vermont Law School.

He commanded a detachment of US Army combat advisers embedded in 3rd Infantry Brigade, 4th Division Iraqi Army. His brigade was formed entirely from Kurdish peshmerga (guerrilla units) re-missioned to conduct counterinsurgency operations with Kurdish Peshmerga forces in 2006. Gen. Audino is a Senior Military Fellow at the London Center for Policy Research. He also serves as Senior Advisor to the Kurdistan National Assembly of Syria and is on the Board of the Kurdish Human Rights Watch. He simultaneously serves as SVP of Military Market Development for Raydon Corporation, a world leader in state-of-the-art virtual training capabilities for domestic and international defense and security forces. He is a frequent contributor to the Washington Times and has appeared on FoxNews, the Hugh Hewitt Radio Show and the Lisa Benson Show on Salem Media network.

Jerry Gordon:  General Audino thank you for consenting to this interview.

Gen. Ernie Audino:  Thank you for inviting me.

Gordon:  Who are the Kurds and where are they located in the Near East?

Audino:  The Kurds reside across a mountainous, contiguous zone stretching across four countries; Iraq, Iran, Syria and Turkey. Without the benefit of a modern census, their numbers must be estimated. Roughly 7-9 million live in the north of Iraq, 5-7 million in Iran, 2-3 million in Syria and 20 million in southeastern Turkey. Those numbers are close but certainly open for debate.

They are commonly described as the largest ethnic group without a nation of their own. They speak an Indo-European, not a Semitic, language and they are generally considered closer to a European bloodline than to any other. They overwhelmingly identify by their ethnicity, first, and everything else second. That is an anomaly in the Gulf, where all other major groups tend to identify first by religion. Kurds are proudly Kurdish.

This is an important point, because in my experience living with them in the mountains of Iraq and operating with them on the battlefield, this has helped make them enormously accommodating. The open practice of multiple religions, for example, is no issue in Kurdistan. Most Kurds are Muslim, but many are Christian, Yezidi, Kakai, Zoroastrian and other pre-Christian religions. There are Kurdish Jews, too. That ethnic and religious minorities in Iraq flee to the Kurdish region for safeguard is telling. No one flees to Baghdad!

Having said that, Kurdish history goes back thousands of years and is marked by a stubborn refusal to submit. The Sumerians couldn’t subdue them. Nor could the Akkadians, and the King of Uruk referred to them as the Stinging Serpent of the Hills after struggling with them in an effort to secure his routes to the sources of important metals essential to his regime. Also, Xenophon in his Anabasis, the chronicle of the 10,000 Greeks in the Persian Expedition, described their passage through the Zagros Mountains and said they lost more men in a week fighting the Kurds there than in the next three months fighting the Persians.

Gordon:  During the Versailles treaty discussions that ended World War I, the Kurds were promised an independent country of their own. What happened to deny that?

Audino:  The short answer is the Turkish government subsequently refused to accept it. This was expressed through the Treaty of Lausanne, 1923, which functionally put an end to the promised notion of an independent, sovereign state for the Kurds.

Gordon:  After WWII, the Russians established a short-lived Kurdish Republic in Mahabad, Iran, who among Kurdish leaders was involved and what caused its demise?

Audino:  Tehran caused its demise.

So long as large numbers of Soviet troops remained on the ground in Iran at the time, 1946, the conditions were favorable for the realization of the Kurdish dream, an independent state of their own. When Iranian troops were pushed away from the Kurdish-populated city of Mahabad, the time was ripe. The well-educated and well-respected Qazi Muhammad was elected to serve as president of the Mahabad Republic, history’s first and only sovereign, Kurdish state. Knowing he needed a capable army to protect the state he requested help from the great Kurdish nationalist, Mustafa Barzani, who showed up with 5000 of his peshmerga. During this period, a son was born to Barzani who named him, Masud. That son is now Masud Barzani, the current President of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in northern Iraq.

The Soviets couldn’t stay forever, and when they pulled out the Iranian troops moved in. Qazi Mohamed stepped forward and offered his life to save the residents of the city. Iranian troops seized Mahabad on 15 December, 1946. The Republic had lasted exactly one year. A few months later on March 31, 1947 Qazi Mohamed was hanged above Mahabad’s central square, Chwar Chira.

Gordon:  From the 1950’s to 1970’s Iraqi Kurds engaged in a covert war against the regime of Iraqi Dictator Saddam Hussein. Who supported that and why did it end?

Audino:  Actually, the Kurds have fought against successive regimes based in Baghdad since well before the 1950’s. Kurdish Shayk Mahmoud, for example launched his famous rebellion in 1919 to oppose the repressive, foreign rule of Baghdad over Kurdish affairs. The Brits held the Mandate over the Kurdish north at the time, so he fought them, too, and humiliated a British brigade sent to remind him who was boss in May of 1919. The Brits came back some weeks later with an entire division, including airplanes, and pinned him back, but the blood-deep, Kurdish tenacity to refuse to submit continued. It was a factor underlying the so-called First Kurdish Revolution in the early 1960’s and continued through the wars of the 70’s and 80’s.

US covert aid funneled through the Shah of Iran helped supply the Kurdish operations against the Ba’athists when they began coming into power in the late ‘60s. By 1970 these operations were tying down significant portions of Ba’athist combat power, and Saddam Hussein was induced to propose a cease-fire. Known as the 1970 Agreement it purported to offer the Kurds what they wanted, autonomy, in exchange for a cessation of hostilities. The agreement began unraveling almost as soon as it was signed. Open warfare resumed and continued until 1975 when the US brokered the signing of the Algiers Accord, wherein Saddam conceded claims to disputed portions of the Sha’at al Arab in exchange for the Shah’s cessation of support to the Kurdish peshmerga in Iraq. The Kurds consider this one of their great betrayals.

Gordon:  During the Iran Iraq War of the 1980’s the Kurds opted to support Iran, how did that turn out?

Audino:  Widespread guerilla operations by the peshmerga during this period tied down an estimated 25% of the combat power available to the Iraqi Army. These were resources Saddam would have preferred to employ directly against Iran. By 1986 or so the fortunes of Saddam’s war with Iran began to tilt in his favor. As he gained freedom of maneuver against the Iranians, he was able to begin turning his sinister attention north. He intended to use the opportunity to eradicate his Kurdish problem once and for all and then subsequently disengage his combat power from the Kurdish north and add it to his operations against the Iranians. His effort to complete the destruction of his Kurdish threat became nothing less than a state-sponsored, genocide against the Kurds. Saddam named it, Operation Anfal, after the 8th Sura of the Koran, The Spoils of War. It led directly to the destruction of 5000 Kurdish villages, the sowing of 7 million landmines into Kurdish soil, the construction of dozens of Kurdish concentration camps, the gassing of at least 48 Kurdish towns and the deaths of a minimum of 200,000 Kurdish people.

Gordon:  When did the US and allies establish a no fly zone in Iraq and how did that assist in establish the autonomous Kurdish Regional Government?

The northern no-fly zone was established in 1991 to protect the Kurds. The signing of the Cessation of Hostilities on March 3, 1991 between Coalition Forces and the Iraqi Ba’ath Regime failed to expressly bar Iraqi future use of armed helicopters. Consequently, Saddam chose to employ them to quash the Kurdish uprising that ensued after the ceasefire. As Saddam’s armed helicopters bore down on Kurdish villages, millions of Kurds fled toward the Turkish border.  Barred from crossing into Turkey the Kurds were trapped out in the open, suffering in the snow and under threat of attack by Iraqi helicopters. The no-fly zone put a halt to that.

Within a year the Kurds had formed a parliament and supporting ministries to begin administering their new autonomy. The Kurdish region has since lifted itself from the ashes of genocide to become the most peaceful, the most democratic, the most prosperous and the most beautiful portion of Iraq.

Gordon:  What is the political makeup of the KRG and its relationships with the central government in Baghdad and adjacent countries, Iran, Syria and Turkey?

Audino:  The Kurdish political landscape in Iraq is dominated by the two, traditional Kurdish parties, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) led by the Talabani family and the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) led by Masud Barzani. The membership of the PUK largely corresponds to Sulaymani Province and the surrounding eastern areas of the Federal Region of Kurdistan in Iraq, and the membership of the KDP largely corresponds to the western areas, including the KRG capitol of Erbil.

Both parties have an important interest in the maintenance of a working relationship with Baghdad, but both remain rightly cautious given the history of repression and betrayals directed from there at the Kurds over the past several generations. These parties also share important interests in fundamental issues common to all Kurds; peace, human rights, democracy, free practice of religion, free speech, safety, public service, common defense, education, prosperity, etc.

Each party has its own individual interests, too, of course. The KDP tends toward closer, albeit pragmatic, relations with Ankara, given that geography makes them neighbors. The PUK tends toward closer relations with Tehran, as the PUK’s base in Sulaymani sits physically close to the Iranian border.

In the last few years a group splintered from the PUK and formed a reform movement named, Goran, Change. It is strongest in the PUK’s political base area of Sulaymani, and tends to attract a younger demographic of Kurdish society. It is generally considered closer to Iranian interests.

Gordon:  When did you serve as US Combat Advisor to the Kurdish Peshmerga and what was your experience?

Audino:  I served with the peshmerga for all of 2006, the busiest full year of Operation Iraqi Freedom, and I regard it as the most significant assignment of my career. We lived with them and we operated with them. Their families opened their homes to us. They welcomed us like brothers. We were invited to their weddings. We ate in their homes, and mothers and wives even occasionally sent us out the door with food for a mission. Frankly, my time with the Kurds changed the second half of my life. I am now on a mission to help bring the merits of the Kurdish story of struggle to an American audience that sadly knows too little of these remarkable people and trusted allies.

But I must give tribute to the twenty-two peshmerga we lost from our brigade that year and the sixty wounded. I attended most of their funerals, and in every case I was welcomed into the mosque and seated next to the mullah. Grieving family members frequently approached me to express their gratitude that an American was in attendance at the funeral. One man told me his brother, who had been killed in Balad, kept an American flag in their home. Another young man told me his father, who also died on the battlefield, kept a photo of President Bush on the wall of their home.

If I was given the opportunity to do one military assignment again, my choice would be to go back to serve another assignment with the Kurds.

Gordon:  How significant is the Peshmerga force and its legendary fighting prowess?

Audino:  Let me put it this way…there simply is no war against ISIS without the Kurds. That’s significant, to say the least. Their peshmerga provide the undeniable main effort in this fight, a war I refer to as the War to Defend Humanity. They are the only ones consistently seizing terrain from ISIS and holding it. We can all be thankful the Kurds stepped forward to secure Kirkuk at the same time the Iraqi Army was running away from Mosul, because had they not, Kirkuk would today be part of the Islamic State.

So, the peshmerga have the ability, sure, but what they really have is the Will. I’ll take a unit with Will over a unit with ability any day of the week. Unfortunately, low levels of equipping and limited resources are constraining the peshmergafrom achieving their full ability, their full combat power, so to speak. The Abadi Regime in Iraq knows this. That is why it requires all military aid and equipment to pass through Baghdad, first, before continuing on to Erbil, the Kurdish capitol. Anything Baghdad does not want in the hands of the peshmerga gets barred, and anything remaining is ripe for pilferage. I know this from first-hand experience.

Baghdad’s capability to choke the flow of military supplies needed by the peshmerga is only one of two major levers Baghdad has over the Kurds. The other is Baghdad’s withholding of all federal revenues from the Kurdistan Regional Government. The Iraqi constitution requires Baghdad to annually disburse 17% of Iraqi revenues to the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), but it hasn’t sent a single dinar in the past two years. As a result the Kurds are slugging it out in the Defense of Humanity while Baghdad is trying to undermine their finances and military supplies. Remarkably, the current administration in DC is doing nothing that can be seen to change this.

Gordon:  What facilitated the rise of ISIS and the Islamic State that created a self declared Caliphate in Syria and Iraq?

Audino:  Obviously, ISIS became a household name shortly after Mr. Obama pulled US troops out of Iraq. That created the opportunity, but not necessarily the motivation for the rapid growth of ISIS. The motivator is the threat of increasing Iranian dominance across a Shia crescent that spreads from Iran, through the southern 60% of Iraq, Syria, to Yemen and into portions of Saudi Arabia.

Look at it this way; since our withdrawal from Iraq, Iran has become the overwhelming, dominant power in the Gulf. Regaining a balance of power is a reasonable desire, but that means checking Iranian power, not accommodating it. ISIS, in key part, is trying to check it. Tragically, Mr. Obama’s vigorous promotion of the Shia Abadi Regime in Baghdad and his headlong rush for a nuclear deal with Tehran are seen by many Sunnis as tangible reason to be concerned about Shia dominance. Is there any mystery why the Sunni Arab dominated portions of Iraq and Syria have become the strongholds for ISIS?

Gordon:  How was ISIS able to seize Sinjar, Mosul, Ramadi and other cities in Iraq in a veritable blitzkrieg?

Audino:  I can understand why you use the term “blitzkrieg,” but the early and dramatic ISIS successes on the ground were as much about Sunni Arab uprisings as they are about ISIS offensives. I repeatedly hear from my Kurdish friends in Iraq and Syria that many Sunni Arabs in or near ISIS-controlled terrain are actively supporting and cooperating with ISIS. Many of the others are passive supporters. Together, this support has become the Center of Gravity for ISIS military operations. No clearer evidence of this exists than the fact that the further ISIS tries to extend from Sunni-Arab dominated regions the less effective it becomes on the battlefield.

Gordon:  How effective has the US led coalition strategy been in “containing” ISIS since the undeclared war began in September 2014?

Audino:  The Paris attacks makes it quite obvious ISIS has not been contained. Let’s look at it this way, however…ISIS has lost much of its battlefield initiative. The swift and dramatic “advances” of ISIS of a year ago are no longer being reported. We are just not seeing much more of that from ISIS in Iraq or Syria. Frankly, the only swift and rapid advances on those battlefields today are being made by the Kurds. With help from US and Coalition air assets and intelligence, thepeshmerga are consistently seizing ground from ISIS and controlling it.

Having said that, the ISIS enemy is a thinking enemy, and in true asymmetric fashion,  is choosing to focus on other soft targets, such as Paris. With a relatively minor application of combat power to such targets he achieves a disproportionately greater effect. Tactical actions achieving strategic effect, so to speak. Unfortunately, Paris is but one of many soft targets. God forbid anymore of them are hit by ISIS, but that is where he is clearly able to operate to achieve some effect. He is still dangerous elsewhere, for sure, but he has largely lost his ability to choose the time, place and manner for decisive military operations in Iraq and Syria.

Gordon:  What is the current situation in Sinjar since it was retaken in mid-November by combined Peshmerga and Yazidi forces with US Special Operations and air support?

Audino:  Sinjar is now firmly back in Kurdish control, as is the main east-west highway that runs through it. That is important, because that highway runs from the Syrian border, through Sinjar to Mosul. It was the main line of communication (LOC) by which ISIS supplied its fighters in Mosul. Now the Kurds have isolated Mosul. Peshmerga control the key terrain to its west, north and east, and they will remain in place while they wait for the Iraqi Army to build a capability and will to launch an operation to expel the remaining ISIS from Mosul. Given the Iraqi Army’s extremely poor performance in their earlier operation to re-take Tikrit, a much smaller military objective, and their continued, spotty progress in Ramadi, the Kurds shouldn’t hold their breath.

Gordon:  From pictures of the Kurdish Peshmerga and Yazidi forces assault on Sinjar, we saw long lines of fighters being trucked to the Battle Front in Toyota and Mitsubishi pickup trucks toting Soviet era weapons. Whatever happened to the promised deliveries of weapons, vehicles, equipment and ammunition promised Kurdish Regional Government when KRG President Barzani met with President Obama and his national security team in Washington in May 2015?

Audino:  High level Kurdish sources tell me the KRG has not received a single shipment from the USA since May. Thepeshmerga are consequently running low on small arms ammunition, and they have specifically requested Javelins, our medium antitank weapon, counter IED equipment, tactical intelligence collections capabilities, small arms ammo and MRAPs. On the matter of MRAPs I was shocked to recently hear SECDEF Ash Carter, say proudly the USA is sending MRAPs to the Kurds. The truth is the delivery of 250 MRAPS went to Baghdad, not Erbil. Only twenty-five of those MRAPS ever made it to the Kurds. That means only 10% went to the indisputable main effort. This is inconsistent with sound military doctrine.

Gordon:  Did  the enactment of the 2016 National Defense Authorization Act contain funding for delivery of military equipment, artillery, anti-tank weapons and ammunition to Peshmerga Forces in Iraq and YPG Kurdish Forces in Syria?

Audino:  Not that I can confirm. I don’t think it was included.

Gordon:  What in your professional assessment besides military equipment and material do  the Peshmerga and YPG Kurdish forces need to become effective boots on the ground in combating ISIS?

Audino:  Well, military equipping and supply are sorely needed by the Kurdish fighters, but aside from that they could benefit from three key items: 1) dramatically increased close air support (total number of sorties per day and duration) to enable more decisive offensive operations by the peshmerga, 2) dramatically improved financial health for the KRG, and 3) unequivocal diplomatic overhead cover for appropriately aggressive rules of engagement (ROE) for the peshmerga. Thepeshmerga should not have to worry about diplomatic blow-back when, in their prosecution of the defense of humanity, they have to shoot evil men in the face. The object of war is to break the enemy’s will to fight, and that has never occurred through the application of moderation. As British Admiral John Abuthnot Fisher put it, “The essence of war is violence. Moderation in war is imbecility.”

Gordon:  Why does Erdogan’s Turkey oppose Syrian YPG forces going further West than Kobani in Syria?

Audino:  Because Turkey fears nothing more than a contiguous Kurdish belt stretching along their southern border with Syria. Right now the Kurds have nearly achieved that. Their control extends from the Iraqi border westward several hundred miles to Kobani. They pick up again at Afrin on the west side of Aleppo. The only portion of it not controlled by Kurdish YPG is the 100 km gap between Aleppo and Kobani.

Not so coincidentally, that is the precise location for the so-called ISIS-free Zone the Turks propose to administer. A blind man can see it has far less to do with defeating ISIS than it has to do with blocking further progress to complete the contiguous Kurdish belt. Incidentally, this gap is also the reported avenue for much of the materiel and personnel support for ISIS in Syria. A great deal of it comes in from Turkey, and most of it flows through that gap. The Kurds know this well, and have expressed no opposition whatsoever for an ISIS-free zone in that gap. What they oppose is a Turkish–controlled ISIS-free zone.

Gordon:  Given the secular divide in both Iraq and Syria and the restive southeastern Kurdish region of Turkey and adjacent northwestern Iran, could we witness the long suppressed goal of a united Kurdistan in our lifetime?

Audino:  United? That might still be a long way off. Independent? Yes, that is likely, and it will start in Iraq. The Kurds there, however, are very pragmatic and have been exercising extreme restraint on this matter. The President of the KRG, Masud Barzani expressed it well when he said, Kurdish independence will not arise because Kurdistan leaves Iraq. It will arise because Iraq leaves Kurdistan.

And let’s look at a key indicator, the central, so-called unity government in Baghdad is failing as a national government. It is proving less capable each day of executing three fundamental functions on behalf of Iraqi citizens: it has not been able to secure its borders, it has not been able to maintain internal security, and it is not willing to disburse its federal revenues to at least one of its constitutionally recognized regions, the Federal Region of Kurdistan. So, about all that is left is a flag and a passport, and those provide only a slender reed upon which to hang the hat of a “country.”

Gordon:  General Audino, many thanks for this comprehensive and informative interview.

Audino:  Thank you. It was my pleasure.

Listen to General Audino on this November 15, 2015 Lisa Benson Show podcast at the 42 minute mark.

RELATED ARTICLE: Syrian Immigration Poses ‘Grave National Security Threat,’ Conservative Leaders Say

EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared in the New English Review. The featured image is of Kurdish Peshmerga Celebrating Victory in Sinjar, Iraq, November 13, 2015. See Jerry Gordon’s collection of interviews, The West Speaks.

What’s wrong with this picture?

Over the past five years of the Saudi-sponsored war in Syria, the United States has admitted a grand total of only 53 Syrian Christian refugees and just one lone Yazidi, despite all the media attention on the Yazidi situation last year.

What’s wrong with this picture?

What shall I tell the Yazidi sheiks when I meet with them in early December?

I will never forget the religious leaders in Lebanon last December saying to me, “We cannot trust the United States government.  You are now bombing ISIS, when two or three years ago, you were arming what is now ISIS?!”

What’s wrong with this picture?

Now our president, while at the G20 Summit in Turkey, in reaction to the Paris multiple-terrorist bombings and carnage, tells the world that we will “stay the course” for victory.  What???

Obama held a press conference in which he said the terror attacks in Paris that left 130, including one American dead, will not change his policy in regards to ISIS, and that he still will not consider American boots on the ground in Syria or Iraq.

Although the Joint Chiefs of Staff would recommend many boots on the ground, seemingly, they are afraid to contradict the “Commander-in-Chief”.

bob armstrong with Iraqi christians

Reverend Armstrong with Iraqi Christians. Photo by Bob Armstrong.

However, former New York City Mayor Rudy Guliani, weighed in on the outrage where every country is against ISIS even more.  Guliani said, “I don’t care about public opinion.  I care about the national security of the United States.  We should have 30,000 or 40,000 troops in Iraq.  If we had had them there consistently, ISIS would never have emerged.”

What’s wrong with this picture?

The French military has bombed more of ISIS strongholds in two days, than the United States has bombed in almost six months! Hello??

What’s wrong with this picture?

According to the United Nations High Commissioner on Refugees (UNHCR) 19,000 Syrians have been picked straight from “refugee camps in Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan” and given U.N. approval for resettlement in the United States.  However, most Christians are NOT in the United Nations refugee camps because of assaults and rapes by Muslims.  Most Christians are “urban refugees” living in basements of rundown buildings – and worse – in cities.  Virtually all of the 19,000 Syrian “refugees” will be Sunni Muslims who have a hatred for free Western governments.

What’s wrong with this picture?

IMG_0281

Former Iraqi General Georges Sada (right) with Reverend Bob Armstrong. Photo courtesy of Bob Armstrong.

According to former Iraqi General Georges Sada, head of Saddam’s Air Force and then a consultant to former President George W. Bush (and even now a consultant to the current Iraqi government on a daily basis) he knew a month ago that President Obama would send a few troops in to fight ISIS, “ONLY because Russia has taken the lead in the region!”  I had the privilege of having a private lunch with him.

Although he does not speak to many American audiences, except the United States War College, he reveals that Americans really do not want to hear the truth!  He states, “America’s best supposed ‘allies’ in the Middle East are:  Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Turkey.  Yet these three countries provide over three-fourths of the money to fund worldwide terrorism!”

What’s wrong with this picture?

The United States is giving BILLIONS of dollars to bonafide terrorists in Iran as a part of the supposed “Iran Nuclear Deal” even while Iran gathers and chants “DEATH TO AMERICA!”

What is wrong with this picture?

Then there are the arguments for and against immigration.  Yes, I am for legal immigration.  Yes, I am for protecting our borders with a wall or whatever is required.  Our 21,444 U. S. Border Patrol agents need our support and backing, regardless of the inaction by our government in reference to enforcement.

I am against illegal immigrants who disobey our laws to gain access to America, regardless of their color or creed or culture.  How can I teach my child to obey laws, if the United States government turns a blind eye to people who are disobeying the laws.  (Of course we cannot deport 12 million people.  How ludicrous!)  But something must be done to STOP the illegal flow!

What about a future attack on the United States?  A new Islamic State video is pointing toward New York City as a terrorist target.  The New York Post reports:  “The images of New York City are spliced between disturbing clips of suicide bombers preparing for attacks.  A fighter also holds a grenade, pulling the trigger as the camera cuts to black.  French President Francois Hollande then appears on screen, giving an address just after the Paris attacks.  At the end of his speech, he says, “It’s horrible!”  Then words flash on the screen, saying, “And what’s coming next will be far worse and more bitter.”

Obviously, the United States of America is in the “crosshairs” of a future attack by ISIS.

Breitbart News reports: “Two federal agents operating under the umbrella of U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) are claiming that eight Syrian illegal aliens attempted to enter Texas from Mexico in the Laredo Sector.

A local president of the National Border Patrol Council (NBPC) confirmed that Laredo Border Patrol agents have been officially contacting the organization with concerns over reports from other federal agents about Syrians illegally enter the country in the Laredo Sector.  The sources claimed that eight Syrians were apprehended on Monday, November 16, 2015.

Honduran officials have arrested five Syrians who intended to go to the United States with stolen Greek passports.

On and on, the stories continued to multiply.

What’s wrong with this picture?

Our current administration is like a “Trojan Horse” in assisting Terrorism and radical Islam to make it to the shores of the United States of America.  Islam is on the verge of accomplishing in half a dozen years what the Ottoman Empire could not do in 600 years – conquer Europe!  Our own U. S. President supports the Muslim Brotherhood!

“But Muslims are peace-loving!” contends many people, even former President George W. Bush.  I understand there are those who do love peace and their peaceful way of life in America, but if one were to thoroughly read the Qur’an, and act upon every part, there is really no such thing as a “peace-loving” Muslim.

Most Islamists do not understand that their “cult” is disguised as a religion as they “worship” this false god called “Allah” who directs them to torture and kill anyone who does not submit.  They even convince many that Allah and God are one in the same!

President Obama and “wanna-be president” Hillary Clinton both continue to defend radical Muslims.  But Islam is for sure tied to every ISIS attack.

Just in the last few hours, in Mali, Islamic Jihadists released a number of the hostages unharmed after they proved that they were Muslims by reciting, for the jihadis, verses of the Qur’an.

In the 2008 Mumbai, India terror attacks, the Islamic terrorists from Pakistan released a number of hostages from the hotel.  They did this when the hostages in question proved that they were Muslims by reciting passages from the Qur’an.

A little-known fact is during the Mumbai attacks, a Muslim Labour MP who was in the hotel at the time of the attack was allowed to leave unharmed by the Islamic Pakistani terrorists.  He never gave any interviews about his experiences but seems to have withdrawn to the margins of obscurity in British politics.  Maybe one day France and Great Britain will have a Muslim majority electorate.  Dear Lord, help us!  A well-known Muslim told me: “We do not need to fire a shot to win control.  France and England allow Muslims to practice their religion of having four wives.  Considering all the children, one day we will be in the majority in France and England.”  Wow.

What’s wrong with this picture?

Much has been said on social media about the refugees who drowned in the Mediterranean, but no one is forcing these people onto unsafe boats.  They all do so willingly.  President Obama wants to bring 10,000 Syrian refuges (how many are terrorists?) into the United States.  However, the number of refugees welcomed by Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Libya, Egypt, Qatar, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates, Pakistan, etc. is ABSOLUTELY ZERO!!

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With the backdrop of the Paris terrorist attacks, which left 130 dead including one American, President Obama wants to continue our no-win policy against ISIS.  Former GOP House Majority Leader Tom DeLay urges: “The president in his press conference, what I saw was he all but surrendered.  He has surrendered to ISIS!  We have a president that’s feckless, that’s incompetent, that has no idea what he is doing.  His worldview is the wrong worldview for a war president and Congress has to say it. Congress has to stand up.”

The recent anti-Immigration of Syrians bill voted on this past week had nearly 50 Democrats joining the Republicans, but it falls far short of solving the problem.  After this past week’s vote, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid vowed to kill the bill even though it received overwhelming bipartisan support in the House.

In another immigration bill, President Obama is vowing to veto the bill which would increase the screening for Syrian and Iraqi refugees before they enter the United States.  The bill would add FBI background checks.  Despite the European terror attacks, President Obama simply does not “get it.”

This invasion of America, which is called immigration, is the biggest threat to your personal safety of our generation.  In fact, even before the immigration crisis of the last four months, we faced the biggest immigration crisis since World War II.  But this could lead to the “Trojan Horse” of terrorism in the USA!

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Most Americans understand there may be a major terrorist attack in the United States.

The Washington Post – ABC News survey, finds an unbelievable 83 percent of registered voters believe a terrorist attack in the United States resulting in large casualties is likely in the near future.  Forty percent say a major attack is “very likely,” matching the level of concern after the 2005 subway bombings in Britain.

Get this, in spite of what our President says, the survey shows that 59 percent think “The United States is at war with radical Islam.”  YET, President Obama and presidential candidate Clinton refuse to use that term as the enemy!

In spite of all the worldwide carnage and the terrorism finger pointed directly at the United States of America, our “Commander in Chief” is hell-bent on making “Gun Control” his legacy in his last year in office.  I am reminded of Ronald Reagan’s advice: “Self-defense is not only our right; it is our duty.”

Please don’t be sucked into the potent videos children being killed by guns.  Bad people will always somehow have access to weapons.  Americans must cling to their Second Amendment rights:  To defend themselves and their families.

It is against this dismal backdrop that I plan on meeting the enemy head-on in December for three weeks.

If you will recall the daily news last August, 2014 about the Iraqi people who were surrounded by ISIS on a mountaintop, the Yazidis.  One-half of the men women and children were slaughtered by ISIS (5,000).  The USA dropped from the air food, water and blankets, while the Kurds finally rescued the other half.  Genocide, on a smaller scale, still continues in that region.  I plan to spend one week in December with them:  giving them food, encouraging them, and showing them the love of Christ.  Yes, it is still considered a “war zone.”

In fact a Kurd offensive was begun earlier this week, as first reported by CNN to rid Sinjar of the 300 ISIS fighters.  U. S. Coalition forces bombed strategic regions near there this past week!  But my “insiders” tell me they will be rid of by the time I get there! Pray the Kurds eliminate ALL the IEDs!    I will be a couple of miles from ISIS territories and within six miles where Turkey last month – and yesterday – bombed the PKK of the Kurds.

Even though God nudged me to do this, and I will be safe because of Him, for three days I will have five armed bodyguards of the Assyrian Christian “Special Forces”.  Confidentially, the Nineveh Plains Protection Unit!

In addition, I will spend the day at a special home for 30 Yazidi women where they have been brutally raped by ISIS (and their husbands killed by ISIS)!  I need divine guidance on how to encourage these dear women who have sacrificed ALL. It is like a Rehab Center “on steroids.”

Then the second and third week I will be in Iraq, Jordan, and near the Syrian border in Lebanon, partnering with my good friend, Bill Murray, in the Religious Freedom Coalition’s program “Christmas for Refugees.”  Thousands of refugee children will be fed, and their parents will receive food for a week for the entire family, as well as a Bible in their own language.

Last year, I was within 100 yards of ISIS tents; and several Muslims came to know Christ. An ISIS sympathizer infiltrated the church.  As a result, according to General Georges Sada, former Iraqi general and present consultant with the Iraqi government on a daily basis, he informed me that I have a $300,000 kidnapping bounty on my head by ISIS, if I came to Baghdad region of Iraq!!

I am not “crying wolf” now.  This trip is extremely serious…even one of a kind.  NO ONE is reaching the Yazidis except a couple of my new friends!  I will be within a few miles where the United States just this weekend sent Special Forces into Syria.  Russia’s presence is already enormous in Syria!

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EDITOR’S NOTE:  Bob Armstrong needs to raise $10,000 before December 3rd for his security-conscience Middle East trip to feed Yazidis and refugee children.  If you can assist, financially, thank you.  All gifts to Lovelink Ministries are tax-deductible.

Readers who wish may give by check. Please email Bob Armstrong at:  bobkimandb@gmail.com. To give online, go to www.LovelinkMinistries.com

Analysis: Iranian human rights situation following Iran deal by Rachel Avraham

A recent report by the Boroujerdi Civil Rights Group has documented that in spite of Iranian promises in the wake of the Iran deal, the rate of executions remains high, the jailing of journalists and human rights activists continues unabated, and the lack of freedom of expression and discrimination against women continues to be widespread: “The five main reasons for death penalties in Iran are heresy, rape, murder, drug smuggling and armed struggle.  Capital punishment has spiked under Rouhani.   More than 2000 executions were carried in Iran during President Rouhani’s period since October 3, 2013.   The human rights situation has not improved since Rouhani became President two years ago.”

iran men hanged

Public execution in Iran. Photo Credit: Channel 2.

The Boroujerdi Civil Rights Group noted that the rate of executions in Iran has risen by 16% since the last year of Ahmadinejad’s presidency, despite the perception in the West that Rouhani is a moderate and Ahmadinejad was a hard core extremist: “Furthermore, Iran has the horrible status of being the world’s last official executioner of child offenders, people convicted of crimes when they were under the age of 18.”

The report noted that the UN confirmed that the Bahais are still persecuted in Iran despite claims by the Iranian government to the contrary: “Bahai citizens continue to face discrimination, arrest and arbitrary detention in connection with their religion.  Bahais have been systematically persecuted since 1979; extremist Islamic groups close to the regime have confiscated their property and assets.”   The report also noted that Bahais are not given work permits, are deprived of the right to attend university, and don’t have any representative in parliament, a privilege that is given to other religious groups within the country.   They stressed that Bahais aren’t even permitted to bury their loved ones in public cemeteries: “Since 2005, more than 800 Bahais have been arrested.   Over the years, thousands of pieces of anti-Bahai propaganda have been disseminated in the Iranian media.”

According to the report, Iran treats the Baloch nation living with her borders like second class citizens: “Balochistan has the lowest economic participation in the country, the highest illiteracy rate, the highest unemployment rate, the highest percentage of poverty, the highest rate of executions, the highest mortality rates for mothers and children, and the highest percentage of malnutrition.   Living in the poor region of Balochistan is a torture in itself but the people of this region go through different types of tortures and persecutions. The medieval tortures are a bitter memorial of what Iran’s officials have been using against Baloch dissidents in the regimes detention centers.”   According to the report, the methods of torture employed against Baloch dissidents include waterboarding, pulling out fingernails, cutting off fingers, hanging the dissidents from the ceiling, lashings, high voltage shocks, shoving sharp objects into sensitive organs, burning sensitive organs, rape, roast chicken torture, mock executions, sexual harassment, hanging objects from the testicles, and lethal injection.

Read more.

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France to Turkey: Strike the Islamic State not the Kurds

The revelations about the Moroccan Jihadi, who brave Americans, Brit and French took down on the Thayles fast train last Friday, clearly indicated Ayoub El-Kanazzi’s travels to Turkey, were to confer with alleged French ISIS fighters. Following the glowing tributes and medals bestowed at the Elysee Palace to Americans, Spencer Stone, Alek Skarlatos and Anthony Sadler and Brit Chris Norman, French President turned his political attention to Turkey’s President Erdogan.  He issued a statement today suggesting that Erdogan concentrate hitting ISIS targets instead of Kurdish PKK forces in both Syria and Iraq. Reuters reported these developments in an article, “France’s Hollande: Turkey Needs to Ramp up Islamic State Fight:”

French President Francois Hollande said on Tuesday Turkey must do more to tackle Islamic State in Syria and urged it to restore dialogue with Kurdish groups after launching strikes against them more than a month ago.

Hollande delivered his annual foreign policy speech to French ambassadors a day after the Turkish foreign minister told Reuters that Turkey and the United States would launch air operations to push Islamic State from a border area in northern Syria, something that could help prevent the militants bringing in fighters and arms in.

“All the players need to be part of the solution. I’m thinking of Gulf Arab states and Iran. I’m thinking of Turkey that needs to be involved in the fight against Islamic State and needs to relaunch dialogue with the Kurds.” Hollande said.

Turkey’s critics say it has used its role in the U.S.-led coalition against Islamic State as a cover to attack Kurdish PKK fighters and stem Kurdish political and territorial ambitions. Ankara says it is conducting a “synchronized war on terror”

[…]

Hollande also said the deal reached with Iran over its nuclear program opened a window of opportunity to include it in resolving regional crises such as Syria, where it is Assad’s primary backer.

“We must ask Iran to associate itself with the resolution of crises that are devastating the region,” Hollande said. “Iran must be a constructive player.”

Hollande is putting on brave face following the close call last Friday with a heavily armed Moroccan Jihadist on the Thalys train taken down by U.S., Brit and French heroes. He’s requesting that Turkey’s Islamist President Recep Tayyip Erdogan go after ISIS instead of the PKK and Kurdish resistance forces in both Iraq and Syria. Add to that hoping that Iran, an accomplice in the Axis of Evil including Russia, Syria and North Korea, would aid in removal of Bashar Assad is truly whistling past the graveyard. But then Hollande acquiesced to approval of the Iran nuclear pact given glowing economic opportunities for French companies like Total and Peugeot.

Erdogan is caught in a trap of his own making. He snookered his admirer Obama by relenting on the use of the Incirlik air base, while sending his F-16s to attack PKK bastions on the Quandil Mountain in northern Iraq, leaving the USAF to attack ISIS targets in Syria and Iraq. Then he rounded up the usual PKK suspects in southeastern Turkey and found both he and his security forces in an internal revolt by Kurds in Southeastern Turkey.

Because the minority Kurdish party in the Ankara parliament, the HDP, won eighty seats, by attacking the Kurds inside Turkey, that will ensure another political fiasco now that he’s called for a new snap election in October. So-called Conservative Kurds who fell for his sinuous Islamist appeal are bailing, which translates to the HDP increasing its stake of possible seats in this coming election. Add to that the swooning Turkish economy. So, the neo Ottoman Sultan in Ankara may find himself in a stalemate quagmire of his own making and the elusive executive authoritarian Presidency beyond his reach.

Having said all that Hollande unlike Obama is correct that Turkey has to shut down the cross border flood of ISIS wannabees into Syria. But then Erdogan wouldn’t make illicit profits from the sale of antiquities and smuggled oil from the Islamic State. Moreover, his ally, the IHH Muslim charity, involved with the Mavi Marmara incident off Gaza in 2010, wouldn’t be able to ship cash and weapons for the Sunni supremacists in Raqaa, Syria. Further, his seeking that 60 mile buffer zone in northwest Syria abutting the Turkish frontier may not become a reality. The U.S. and others suggest that a no-fly zone based on the model from the 1990’s in Saddam Hussein’s Iraq may be the best solution. Besides the buffer zone was supposed to solve two problems: a means of sending back Syrian refugees and blunt a Kurdish push to seal the frontier perhaps all the way to the Mediterranean. So, thank you President Hollande for the honors you bestowed on our heroic boys and for the clarity of your message to Islamist recalcitrant, Turkish President Erdogan, an alleged NATO ally.

On Iran, M. Hollande, you bought into the nuclear pact because of glittering economic prizes to French companies.  You may have inadvertently have let loose the dogs of war against Israel via proxy Hezbollah.

EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared in the New English Review.

Turkey Uses the Islamic State as Excuse to Attack Kurds

Erdogan has been notably reluctant to attack the Islamic State, and when he finally does, he attacks the Kurds. Clearly he hopes that the Islamic State will take care of some of his enemies for him, and then Turkey can step in and reap the dividends.

“Turkey Uses ISIS as Excuse to Attack Kurds,” by Uzay Bulut, Gatestone Institute, July 26, 2015:

Turkey’s government seems to be waging a new war against the Kurds, now struggling to get an internationally recognized political status in Syrian Kurdistan.

On July 24, Turkish media sources reported that Turkish jet fighters bombed Kurdish PKK (Kurdistan Workers’ Party) bases in Qandil, in Iraqi Kurdistan, as well as the Islamic State (ISIS) in Syria.

Turkey is evidently unsettled by the rapprochement the PKK seems to be establishing with the U.S. and Europe. Possibly alarmed by the PKK’s victories against ISIS, as well as its strengthening international standing, Ankara, in addition to targeting ISIS positions in Syria, has been bombing the PKK positions in the Qandil mountains of Iraqi Kurdistan, where the PKK headquarters are located.

There is no ISIS in Qandil.

As expected, many Turkish media outlets were more enthusiastic about the Turkish air force’s bombing the Kurdish militia than about bombing ISIS. “The camps of the PKK,” they excitedly reported, “have been covered with fire.”

It appears as if Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) is using ISIS as a pretext to attack the PKK. Ankara just announced that its air base at Incirlik will soon be open to coalition forces, presumably to fight ISIS, but the moment Turkey started bombing, it targeted Kurdish positions. Those attacks not only open a new era of death and destruction, but also bring an end to all possibilities of resolving Turkey’s Kurdish issue non-violently.

Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu announced that

“a second wave operation against Daesh [ISIS] in Syria was started. Just after that, a very comprehensive operation was carried out against the camps of the terrorist organization PKK in northern Iraq. I am glad that the targets were hit with great success. We have given instructions to start a third wave operation in Syria and a second wave operation in Iraq.”

The “great success” of the Turkish military has brought much damage and injury to even Kurdish civilians — including children. The Kurdish newspaper Rudaw reportedthat two Kurdish villagers in Duhok’s Berwari region were carried to hospital in the aftermath of a Turkish artillery bombardment in the Amediye region. One of the victims was 12 years old. The second victim lost a leg in an airstrike. Four members of the PKK were killed and several others were injured.

Shortly after military operations against the PKK started, access to the websites of pro-Kurdish newspapers and news agencies was denied “by decree of court.” These websites — including Fırat News Agency (ANF), Dicle News Agency (DIHA), Hawar News Agency (ANHA), Ozgur Gundem newspaper, Yuksekova News, Rudaw and BasNews — are still blocked in Turkey.

ISIS, meanwhile, has not so far made any statement regarding Turkey’s so-called bombings of ISIS in any of its media outlets.

Had Turkish military attacked the PKK alone, and not in addition to attacking ISIS, it would probably have received widespread international condemnation. So to add “legitimacy” to its attacks against the Kurdish PKK — whose affiliate Democratic Union Party (PYD) in Syria and its armed wing, the Kurdish People’s Defense Units (YPG) have been resisting ISIS and other Islamist terrorist groups since 2013 — Turkey declared that it will also attack ISIS. This would give it cover for its attacks against Kurdish fighters.

In 2014, Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan described the plan he wanted to carry out in Syria and Iraq: “The problem in Syria should be taken into account. Iraq too should be considered similarly. Moreover, there needs to be a solution that will also deal with the Syrian wing [PYD] of the separatist terrorist organization [PKK].”

The AKP government, dissatisfied with the results of last month’s parliamentary elections, also seems to want to hold new elections, to push the mainly Kurdish HDP Party below the required 10% threshold, and thus force them out of parliament. Perhaps the government thinks that bombing the PKK will generate Turkish nationalist enthusiasm that will work in the AKP’s favor to help it regain a majority in early elections.

Apparently, Turkey does not need Kurdish deputies in its parliament. Apparently, the state prefers to slaughter or arrest the Kurds — as it has done for decades. Why hold talks and reach a democratic resolution when you have the power to murder people wholesale?[1]

Sadly, Turkey has preferred not to form a “Turkish-Kurdish alliance” to destroy ISIS. First, Turkey has opened its borders to ISIS, enabling the growth of the terrorist group. And now, at the first opportunity, it is bombing the Kurds again. According to this strategy, “peace” will be possible only when Kurds submit to Turkish supremacism and abandon their goal of being an equal nation.

In the meantime, Mevlut Cavusoglu, Turkish minister of foreign affairs, said that the Incirlik air base in Turkey has not yet been opened for use by the U.S. and other coalition forces, but that it will be opened in the upcoming period.

Kurdish forces, therefore, are the only forces that are truly resisting the Islamic State.

They have been repressed by Baghdad and murdered by Turkey and Iran.

If this is how the states that rule over Kurds treat them, why is there even any question as to whether the Kurds should have their own self-government?

As a result of the ISIS attacks in the region, the Kurdish PKK — as well as its Syrian Kurdish affiliate, Democratic Union Party (PYD) and its armed wing, Kurdish People’s Defense Units (YPG) — have emerged as the America’s most effective battlefield partners against ISIS. Ever since ISIS became a major force in Syria, the U.S. has apparently relied heavily on YPG to stop ISIS from advancing. According to Henri Barkey, a former State Department specialist on Turkey, “The U.S. has become the YPG’s air force and the YPG has become the U.S.’s ground force in Syria.”

[ … ]

Attacks on the Kurds were already under way last week. On July 20, a bomb attack in the Kurdish town of Suruc (Pirsus) in Turkey killed 32 people during a meeting of young humanitarian activists, who were discussing the reconstruction of the neighboring Kurdish town of Kobane.

The scene of the suicide bombing in Suruc, Turkey. An ISIS suicide bomber murdered 32 people and wounded more than 100 others in a July 20 attack on Kurdish humanitarian activists. (Image source: VOA video screenshot)

The blast took place while the activists were making a statement to the press in the garden of a cultural center. At least 100 others, mostly university students, were wounded. (Graphic video of the explosion)

The suicide bomber was identified through DNA testing, according to reports in the Turkish news media. Seyh Abdurrahman Alagoz was reportedly a 20-year-old Turkish university student, recently returned from Syria, and believed to have had ties to ISIS.

Alagoz targeted a meeting 300 secular activists, members of the Federation of Socialist Youth Associations (SGDF), who gathered at a cultural center in the province of Urfa, opposite the Kurdish town of Kobane in Syrian Kurdistan. As part of an effort to rebuild Kobane, they were preparing to provide aid, give toys to the children there and build a hospital, school, nursery, children’s park, library and a memorial forest for those who had lost their lives in Kobane.

“Work on the building of hospitals and schools needs to be done,” Oguz Yuzgec, the co-president of the federation, said before the explosion. “One of the things we will do is to build a children’s park in Kobane. We will name it after Emre Aslan, who died fighting in Kobane. We are collecting toys. We will participate in the construction of the nursery that the canton of Kobane is planning to build. We have the responsibility of helping the nursery function. We need everybody who knows how to draw and can teach children.”

Mazlum Demirtas, a survivor of the attack, said: “The main one responsible for this incident is the state of Turkey, the AKP fascism, the AKP dictatorship. … It attacked us with its gunmen and gangs. Since yesterday, parents have been collecting the dismembered body parts of their children. They are trying to identify the dismembered bodies. This is called fascism, inhumanity and barbarity.”

Pinar Gayip, another survivor of the attack, said in a telephone interview on the pro-government Haberturk TV that, “Instead of helping the wounded, the murderer-police of the murderer-AKP threw tear gas at the vehicles with which we carried the wounded.” She was taken off the air.

All across Turkish Kurdistan, there were protests condemning the massacre and the government’s alleged involvement in it. Police in Istanbul used plastic bullets and water cannons against people who gathered to remember those murdered in Suruc.

The Turkish authorities briefly blocked access to Twitter last Wednesday to prevent the people from viewing photos of the bombing in Suruc. Officials admitted that Turkey had asked Twitter to remove 107 URLs (web addresses) with images related to the bombing; before the ban, Twitter had already removed 50.

Selahattin Demirtas, the co-chair of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Party (HDP), said that state surveillance activities were intensive in Suruc, and that the intelligence service was recording the identity of everyone traveling to and from Suruc.

As Demirtas’s own convoy had recently not been permitted to enter Suruc, heemphasized the extent of state surveillance in the town, and said that nobody could argue that someone could have managed to infiltrate the crowd and carry out the suicide attack without state support.

“Today, we have witnessed in Suruc yet again what an army of barbarity and rape, an army that has lost human dignity, can do,” Demirtas said. “Those who have been silent in the face of ISIS, who have not dared even raise their voice to it, as well as the officials in Ankara who threaten even the HDP every day but caress the head of ISIS, are the accomplices of this barbarity.”

In the meantime, Mehmet Gormez, the head of the Turkish Presidency of Religious Affairs (Diyanet), announced on its Twitter account that the perpetrators of the Suruc attack do not have religion.

However, three days before the massacre in Suruc, about 100 Islamists — alleged to be ISIS sympathizers — had performed mass Islamic Eid prayers in Istanbul. They demanded Islamic sharia law instead of democracy. ISIS sympathizers had performed the same Eid prayers at the same place the year before, as well.

Over the border in Syrian Kurdistan, shortly after the blast in Suruc, a suicide bomber detonated a car bomb at a checkpoint in Kobane. Two Kurdish fighters were killed in the explosion, according to Rami Abdel Rahman, director of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

Last month, a deadly blast hit the Kurdish province of Diyarbakir in Turkey, during an election rally of the pro-Kurdish HDP that was attended by tens of thousands of people. Just before the HDP co-chair Selahattin Demirtas was going to speak, two bombsexploded at different places. Four people were killed, and more than 100 people are estimated to have been wounded. One of the wounded, Lisa Calan, 28, a Kurdish art director from Diyarbakir, lost both legs in the explosion.

As the wounded were being carried to hospitals, police used tear gas against people trying to run from the area in panic

The bomber was reported to be a member of ISIS.

[ … ]

In Turkey, millions of indigenous Kurds are continually terrorized and murdered, while ISIS terrorists can freely travel and use official border crossings to go to Syria and return to Turkey; they are even treated at Turkish hospitals. Emrah Cakan, for instance, a Turkish-born ISIS commander wounded in Syria, got medical treatment at the university hospital in Turkey’s Denizli province in March.

The Denizli governor’s office issued a written statement on 5 March:

“The treatment of Emrah C. at the Denizli hospital was started upon his own application. The procedural acts concerning his injury were conducted by our border city during his entry to our country and they still continue. And his treatment procedures continue as a part of his right to benefit from health services just like all our other citizens have.”

The “compassion” and hospitality that many Turkish institutions have for ISIS members is not even hidden. The silence of the West is mystifying and disappointing.

The U.S. government cooperates with oppressive regimes — including the terrorist regime of Iran, under which Kurds are forced to live — to the detriment of the Kurds, to the detriment other persecuted peoples, and to the detriment of the future of the West.

Many Middle Eastern regimes are ruled by Islamist, often genocidal governments — so there is not much to expect from them in terms of human rights and liberties.

The Kurds need real support, real arms and real recognition. Otherwise, there does not seem to be much difference between the dictatorial, genocidal Middle Eastern regimes and the West, which used to represent democracy and freedom.

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