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ISIS Using Drones To Kill Civilians and Soldiers in Mosul

Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL) is using attack drones to drop grenades while fighting to keep hold of the Iraqi city of Mosul. Captured by ISIS in 2014, Iraq’s second largest city is in the process of being recaptured from the terrorist group by the Iraqi army.

One strike in eastern Mosul, which has been liberated by Iraqi national forces, wounded eight people.

Previously, ISIS was known to use drones for surveillance purposes. Now the drones have been upgraded to be used as attack weapons. “This is the first time I’ve heard of ISIL dropping weapons from a drone,” Iraqi special forces medic Colonel Khalil Jawad told The Telegraph.

ISIS is thought to be using easily-purchasable hobbyist drones such as quadracoptors along with slightly larger fixed-wing aircraft.

As this technology advances, ISIS and other terrorist groups will come up with new ways to apply the technology to terrorism.

They have already used social media to their benefit, using it to recruit people online to their cause. They have used cars and trucks to carry out terrorist attacks in Europe and Israel.

In the latest issue of Al-Qaeda’s propaganda magazine Al-Risalah, the magazine explains to jihadists how to use the deep web to communicate effectively without alerting the watchful eye of the state.

Until the underlying ideology fuelling jihadist terrorism is addressed, coping with each developing security threat as new technologies and methods of slaughter emerge will simply be a game of wack-a-mole.

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EDITORS NOTE: The featured image is an illustrative picture of a Quadracopter drone. (Photo: © Creative Commons/Simon Jardine)

Islamic State’s Rogue Use of Chemical Weapons – a Clear and Present Danger

Dr. Jill Bellamy, noted bio defense expert and member of the UN Counterterrorism Task Force, has warned repeatedly about the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) development and test of CBRN weapons in Syria, Iraq and potentially in Europe. She has also drawn attention to vast resources of the Islamic State to create Chemical and Biological weapons laboratories and scientific figures from the regime of late Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein.  In several Lisa Benson Show programs she has drawn attention to the likelihood of use of CBRN weapons in the EU, given revelations  following the Brussels airport and subway bombings, about the  Brussels  ISIL terrorist cell attempts to kidnap Belgian nuclear research  experts and  obtain radio isotopes for creation of dirty bomb terror weapons.   Note this from a January 2016 New English Review interview article with Dr. Bellamy:

In conversations with Dr. Bellamy she had raised the threat that the Islamic State with more than $1 billion in funding from smuggled oil sales, extortion and looted bank hard currency and gold reserves could acquire the professional staff of scientists and technicians and equip laboratories for production of leading edge synthetic biological weapons. She had also drawn concern over foreign ISIS fighters in Libya gaining control of Gaddafi-era chemical weapons caches sealed by the UN.

Bellamy’s response on chemical weapons threat of ISIL:

We have seen IS’ capability of using chemical weapons. On several occasions, they have used mustard agents. They have also used sarin. This has been confirmed by the UN. We have a situation where they have already been using it in the Caliphate. The potential that they could bring this into Europe is extremely high. This is very easy using the refugee routes. Thus chemical weapons use in [Europe] could result in mass casualties.

To illustrate Dr. Bellamy’s prescient concerns, one can read into a U.K. Telegraph article published, May 22, 2016 on the redeployment of ISIL Chemical weapons laboratories and former Saddam Hussein experts to residential areas in preparation for the potential battle by Iraqi Forces to retake Mosul.  Note these excerpts:

ISIL has moved its chemical weapons operation to densely populated residential areas and is testing homemade chlorine and mustard gas on its prisoners, residents of the Iraqi city of Mosul have claimed.

ISIL is reported to have set up laboratories in built-up neighborhoods in the heart of its so-called caliphate to avoid being targeted by coalition air strikes.

The terror group is known to harbor chemical and nuclear ambitions, and is trying to manufacture weapons not only for attacks within Iraq and Syria but also the West.

It has a special unit for chemical weapons research made up of Iraqi scientists who worked on weapons programs under Saddam Hussein, as well as foreign experts.

The head of the unit, Sleiman Daoud al-Afari, was captured during a raid by US Special Forces outside Mosul in March and is now sharing intelligence on ISIL’s chemical weapons operation.

An investigation by Syrian and Iraqi citizen journalists who report under the name Sound and Picture reveal he has now been replaced by Abu Shaima, an Iraqi doctor who worked at the University of Baghdad during Saddam’s reign.

Other than his links to the late Iraqi dictator little is known about Shaima, which is customary for top ISIL leaders.

The evidence of ISIL CW testing in Mosul residential areas:

Residents of al-Mohandseen – which had been a wealthy Christian neighborhood until ISIL seized the city – said several houses had been taken over by ISIL officials in the last few weeks. A number of large unmarked trucks have been parked outside and more recently they reported seeing dozens of dead dogs and rabbits in nearby rubbish containers.

An ISIL insider confirmed to the journalists, who shared the information with the Telegraph, that they had been dumped there after they were used for chemical testing.

The report also claimed ISIL has been carrying out experiments on prisoners they are holding at a secret jail in al-Andalus, in the Nineveh governorate of Mosul, exposing them to chlorine and mustard gas to test the toxicity.

Residents near the prison have reported breathing difficulties and children developing severe rashes – some of the side effects of exposure to such substances.

The stockpiles and indiscriminate use of CW by ISIL:

The extremists have seized large quantities of industrial chlorine and are believed to have the expertise to make mustard gas. They are also feared to have captured chemical weapon stocks from Bashar al-Assad’s regime across the border in Syria.

The militant group has already used chemical weapons against Kurdish Peshmerga forces in northern Iraq and Syria.

In March, a suspected ISIL chemical attack on the Iraqi town of Taza, south of Kirkuk, killed three children and wounded some 1,500 people, with injuries ranging from burns to rashes and respiratory problems.

Brig Roger Noble, the deputy commander of international troops training and supporting the Iraqi army, told the Telegraph that ISIL militants are expected to use chemical weapons against troops trying to retake Mosul, Iraq’s second city.

Witness this warning from a former UK military expert on CBRN about this ISIS CW threat:

Hamish de Bretton-Gordon, former commanding officer of the UK Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear Regiment (CBRN) and chemical weapons adviser to NGOs in Syria and Iraq, told The Telegraph:

“ISIL’s chemical weapons operation has been heavily targeted – as is detailed in this report – and moving into residential areas is exactly what you would expect them to do now.”

He said Western security services should be concerned that their chemical operations have effectively gone underground, allowing them to continue their work outside of strike range.

“Now we know the extent of the ISIL chemical and dirty bomb aspirations we must make doubly sure that our security in the UK is absolutely water-tight against this threat.”

This warning about ISIL’s rogue use of CW confirms Dr. Bellamy’s prescient warning that defense against such threats to our troops and civilians there  and in the West should be cause to make them “water tight”.  Unfortunately, ISIL is not bound to international conventions in the banning and use of Chemical Weapons, as evidenced by mass casualties in both Iraq and Syria. The laboratories, personnel that produce them and the stockpiles must be captured and destroyed. The track record in alleged use of Sarin gas on civilians in Syria and intervention of the Office for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons suggests that these defenses are far from “water tight”.

EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared in The Nat Sec Daily Brief.

Genocide of Christians in Kenya, Syria and Iraq ‘Intensifying’

We wish all participants and observers of this Holy Season a Happy Good Friday, a Happy Easter, and a Happy Passover.

Today’s treatment of Christians in a great many nations is disturbingly and reminiscent of the brutal persecution and genocide of the early followers of Jesus Christ; it is a current day “Crime Against Humanity.” Christian Americans are frustrated by the indifference displayed by the U.S. Government’s in its refusal to join in with world leaders to condemn the persecution, torture, and genocide of helpless Syrian and Assyrian Christians by Radical Islamic Terrorists members of Islamic State and Al Q’ieda as the genocide intensifies from week to week. We are now also observing the religious persecution of conscientious and believing Christians in the United States, led by the left of center liberal media establishment, because of their refusal to participate in or provide support for religious ceremonies that their well held religious beliefs don’t agree with.

The Pope, the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Royal Family in England, the UK Prime Minister, the King of Jordan, the President of Egypt, the President of Kurdistan, the Prime Minister of Japan, the Prime Minister of Australian, President George W. Bush, Reverend Billy Graham, the Patriarch of the Eastern Orthodox Church, the Prime Ministers of NATO nations, the Prime Minister of Israel, Christian Religious Leaders of every denomination from throughout the world, the current crop of candidates seeking to run for President of the United States, Christians worldwide, and the Secretary General of the United Nations have all raised their voices in unison to demand that the bloody genocide of Christians in Africa, Syria, and on the Plains of Nineveh in Iraq stop.

Unfortunately for three years, the occupant of the Oval Office has not joined in with other world leaders in their condemnation of the genocide of Christians by Radical Islamic Terrorists members of the Islamic State and Al Q’ieda in this current Jihad against Christians—that silence from the Oval Office for the last three years has been deafening!

Inside ISIS’ Shocking Persecution of Assyrian Christians on the Plains of Ninveh in Iraq

Assyrian Christianity started in the Plains of Nineveh with first-century Apostles in churches the Disciples founded, and Assyrian Christians still speak Aramaic, the language that Christ spoke. For over 2000 years, they endured and survived the Roman persecution of Christians, sieges by Saladin, conquests by the Persians, persecution by the Ottoman Empire, oppression by the Mongols, the survived Turkish genocide at the turn of the century, WWI, WWII, Iraq’s long war with Iran, the US led coalition Iraqi War with Saddam Hussein.,

But in just 10 months of control, Islamic State and Al Q’ieda, the members of Radical Islamic Jihadists perpetrating worldwide Jihad, have forced hundreds of thousands of Assyrian Christians into exile. At one time, 4 million Assyrian Christians made the Plains of Ninveh, in what was once Mesopotamia (Iraq today), their traditional home for over 2000 years. By clicking on the below listed link you can view the 60 Minutes segment that will take you inside Iraq today and will describe the life and death struggle that the Assyrian Christians, trying to survive, are involved in with Radical Islamic Jihadists.

Assyrian Christians are being crucified, beheaded, being forced to kneel to be shot, thrown off buildings to their deaths, being buried alive, being burned alive, whose children are being cut in half, and whose female children & women are being raped then killed for refusing to deny that Jesus Christ is their Lord and Savior. For the last 3 years the Obama administration has refused to provide logistic support and small arms to the Assyrian Christians; in the last 10 months the Assyrian Christian Militia has been training, employing the paucity of funds donated to their cause by American citizens. The newly constituted Assyrian Christian Militia has been trying to protect the Assyrian Christians who have migrate toward the Kurdish lines on the eastern end of the Plains of Ninveh Although 51 US Congressmen have petitioned the Obama administration to simply provide logistics and defensive small arms for the Assyrian Christian Militia engaged with ISIL, their requests have been ignored, yet US military air support and logistic aide is being provided to Iraq and their ally, the Iranian Quid’s Force, with boots on the ground in Iraq who are also engaged with ISIL.

Seyfo Center Organization Mission Statement and 100 Years Anniversary Of Assyrian Genocide.


​​New York Times

ISIS Onslaught Engulfs Assyrian Christians as Militants Destroy Ancient Art

By ANNE BARNARD

ISTANBUL — The reports are horrifying, something out of a distant era of ancient conquests: entire villages emptied, with hundreds taken prisoner, others kept as slaves; the destruction of irreplaceable works of art; a tax on religious minorities, payable in gold.

A rampage reminiscent of Tamerlane or Genghis Khan, perhaps, but in reality, according to reports by residents, activist groups and the assailants themselves, a description of the modus operandi of the Islamic State’s self-declared Islamic caliphate this week as it prosecuted a relentless campaign in Iraq and Syria against what have historically been religiously and ethnically diverse areas with traces of civilizations dating to ancient Mesopotamia.

The latest to face the militants’ onslaught are the Assyrian Christians of northeastern Syria, one of the world’s oldest Christian communities, some speaking a modern version of Aramaic, the language of Jesus.

Assyrian leaders have stated hundreds Assyrian Christians men, women, and children have been taken captive, along with civilian men and fighters from Assyrian Christian Militias, said Dawoud Dawoud, an Assyrian political activist who had just toured the area, in the vicinity of the Syrian city of Qamishli. Thirty villages had been emptied, he said.

The Syriac Military Council, a local Assyrian militia, put the number of those taken in the hundreds.

Reached in Qamishli, Adul Ahad Nissan, 48, an accountant and music composer who fled his village before the brunt of the fighting, said a close friend and his wife had been captured.

“I used to call them every other day. Now their mobile is off,” he said. “I tried and tried. It’s so painful not to see your friends again.”
Members of the Assyrian diaspora have called for international intervention, and on Thursday, warplanes of the United States-led coalition struck targets in the area, suggesting that the threat to a minority enclave had galvanized a reaction, as a similar threat did in the Kurdish city of Kobani last year.

The assault on the Assyrian communities comes amid battles for a key crossroads in the area. But to residents, it also seems to be part of the latest effort by the Islamic State militants to eradicate or subordinate anyone and anything that does not comport with their vision of Islamic rule — whether a minority sect that has survived centuries of conquerors and massacres or, as the world was reminded on Thursday, the archaeological traces of pre-Islamic antiquity.

An Islamic State video distributed on the worldwide Internet shows Radical Islamic Terrorists smashing statues with sledgehammers inside the Mosul Museum, in northern Iraq, that showcases recent archaeological finds from the ancient Assyrian empire. The relics include items from the palace of King Sennacherib, who in the Byron poem “came down like the wolf on the fold” to destroy his enemies.

“A tragedy and catastrophic loss for Iraqi history and archaeology beyond comprehension,” Amr al-Azm, the Syrian anthropologist and historian, called the destruction on his Facebook page.

“These are some of the most wonderful examples of Assyrian art, and they’re part of the great history of Iraq, and of Mesopotamia,” he said in an interview. “The whole world has lost this.”

Islamic State militants seized the museum — which had not yet opened to the public — when they took over Mosul in June and have repeatedly threatened to destroy its collection.

In the video, put out by the Islamic State’s media office for Nineveh Province — named for an ancient Assyrian city — a man explains, “The monuments that you can see behind me are but statues and idols of people from previous centuries, which they used to worship instead of God.”

A message flashing on the screen read: “Those statues and idols weren’t there at the time of the Prophet nor his companions. They have been excavated by Satanists.”

The men, some bearded and in traditional Islamic dress, others clean-shaven in jeans and T-shirts, were filmed toppling and destroying artifacts. One is using a power tool to deface a winged lion much like a pair on display at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.
The Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL, has presented itself as a modern-day equivalent of the conquering invaders of Sennacherib’s day, or as Islamic zealots smashing relics out of religious conviction.

Yet in the past, the militants have veered between ideology and pragmatism in their relationship to antiquity — destroying historic mosques, tombs and artifacts that they consider forms of idolatry, but also selling more portable objects to fill their coffers.

The latest eye-catching destruction could have a more strategic aim, said Mr. Azm, who closely follows the Syrian conflict and opposes both the Islamic State and the government.

“It’s all a provocation,” he said, aimed at accelerating a planned effort, led by Iraqi forces and backed by United States warplanes, to take back Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city.

“They want a fight with the West because that’s how they gain credibility and recruits,” Mr. Azm said. “They want boots on the ground. They want another Falluja,” a reference to the 2004 battle in which United States Marines, in the largest ground engagement since Vietnam, took that Iraqi city from Qaeda-linked insurgents whose organization would eventually give birth to the Islamic State.

The Islamic State has been ecumenical in its violence against the modern diversity of Iraq and Syria. It considers Shiite Muslims apostates, and has destroyed Shiite shrines and massacred more than 1,000 Shiite Iraqi soldiers. It has demanded that Christians living in its territories pay the jizya, a tax on religious minorities dating to early Islamic rule.

Islamic State militants have also slaughtered fellow Sunni Muslims who reject their rule, killing hundreds of members of the Shueitat tribe in eastern Syria in one clash alone. They have also massacred and enslaved members of the Yazidi sect in Iraq.

Read more.

RELATED ARTICLE: ‘PERSECUTED FOR HIS NAME’: The Pope Recites Emotional Prayer For The Slain Students in Kenya

EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared on the Combat Veterans for Congress website.

Should Turkey be Forced to Leave NATO?

Jonathan Schanzer of the Washington, DC-based Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD) has written compellingly in a Politico Magazine article suggesting that  NATO should consider expelling Turkey, “Time to kick Turkey Out of NATO?” Schanzer notes:

Membership in NATO still holds significance. The alliance was designed to be an elite group of countries that stood for Western values. The NATO charter, set forth in 1949, holds that member states will protect one and all from attack at the hands of ideological foes. The Turkish Republic, founded and governed as an avowedly secular state, agreed to these terms in 1952, three years after NATO’s founding.

Of course, NATO was initially engineered to fight communism. But over the years, the threats to the international system have changed. The latest challenge is a jihadist ideology that fuels the Islamic State, but also al Qaeda and other terror groups and their state sponsors.

Yet, it has become clear that Turkey, once a bulwark of secularism in the Muslim world, is now ambivalent at best and complicit at worst, about fighting these forces. The fact that the AKP is a splinter of the Muslim Brotherhood provides a good indication of its leanings. More troublingly, it is a champion of the Palestinian terrorist group Hamas and allows several of its senior figures to operate out of Turkey. It has failed consistently to uphold international standards on fighting terrorism finance, including the designation of al Qaeda figures on its own soil. It has been reluctant to even acknowledge that groups like the Nusra Front—which has pledged fealty to al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri—are terrorist organizations. Its dangerously lax border policies have contributed to the rise of the Islamic State. And it has helped Iran, the leading state sponsor of terrorism in the world; evade sanctions at the height of the international community’s efforts to hinder its illicit nuclear program.

 Schanzer’s  question was spurred on by Turkey’s inaction in the face of the ISIS siege and likely conquest of the Kurdish enclave of Kobani just across the border in Syria. allied with the Muslim Brotherhood, doesn’t want to move against the ISIS jihadists rampaging in Syria and Iraq.  Until recently he tacitly supported their cause fighting to eject the Assad government in Syria and replacing it with a self-proclaimed Caliphate.  This would fill his oil pipelines with smuggled product from captured Syrian and Iraqi oil fields to sell at a good profit. He facilitated the so-called “jihadist highway” filtering foreign Salafist jihadist recruits for ISIS and the Al Qaeda al Nusrah Front opposition to Assad. But Erdogan has to play it cool, as he has a lively trade exchanging gold for much needed gas from neighboring Iran, a Shiite ally of the Assad regime to foster Turkey’s economic growth. The gold received by Iran allowed the Islamic Republic to evade US and international sanctions to finance its nuclear development program. We learned this week that he exchanged 180 jihadists, sequestered in Turkey, on September 20th for release of 49 Turkish diplomats and their families held captive for 101 days following the fall of  Mosul in June  2014.

Those of us old enough to have lived through the so-called Korean Conflict of 1950-53, can recall the tough Turkish military contingents part of the multilateral UN force that endeavored to stave off the North Korean and Chinese PLA hordes in what was euphemistically called, “a police action”.  That was then. Now, Turkey’s U.S. supplied F-16 aircraft are not flying from NATO airbases in his  country. He has yet to permit USAF operations out of those airbases despite authorizing legislation passed by the Turkish parliament.  US supplied Turkish Army tanks are positioned silently on the Turkish Syrian border. All while the world’s media  coveys images of the courageous YPG fighters, women among them, lightly armed, desperately fighting against all odds with ISIS troops equipped with stolen US mortars, tanks and artillery. Most of Kobani’s population, over 180,000, has fled to refugee sanctuary in Turkey.

 The Erdogan regime’s decision not to lift the Kobani siege has roiled Turkey’s Kurdish population. President Erdogan was allegedly concerned about Kurdish irredentism in Syria and Turkey.  He got confirmation of  that with the rising of Kurds throughout the Southeastern region of  his country resulting in more than two dozen dead and counting.  Kurds in Europe have also erupted in protest and fought pitched battles with ISIS supporters in the streets of Hamburg.

These developments have given rise to questions  from  fellow NATO  and US-led Sunni coalition members over  Erdogan’s  ‘conditions’ to enter the fray to provide ‘boots on the ground ‘and permit air assaults from NATO bases in Turkey.

Let’s examine some plausible reasons why Erdogan may not wish to unleash  his army in the US-led coalition conflict with ISIS.  He has publicly stated that his objective is to bring down the Assad government. Less well known is the current round of Turkish negotiations with Cyprus over ‘unification’ of the Republic of Cyprus and the rump Turkish Northern Cypriot ‘Republic’. That was  carved out by a Turkish invasion in 1974. An opportunistic invasion contrived by the secular Turkish government at the time to counter the Greek military coup of the Archbishop Makarios government of Cyprus.   Turkey is pressing for a lucrative share of the gas development offshore Cyprus and transmission to EU markets via his network of pipelines.

Until recently the US was willing to sacrifice the Kurds in Kobani and only resorted to conducting  limited bombing to slow down the inevitable advance of ISIS fighters bent on exterminating remaining YPG fighters and the remnant of the town’s  population. Erdogan may be the equivalent of Stalin who during the August 1944 Polish Resistance Uprising ordered the Red Army to sit on the east bank of the Vistula River watching the German Army decimate the valiant Poles and turn Warsaw to rubble.  Stalin barred USAAF air drops from a base at Poltava in the Western Ukraine, forcing allied air drops to originate in England, many of which fell in the hands of waiting German forces.  Stalin also wanted to ensure that a Communist regime spawned in liberated Lublin would rule post war Poland. Erdogan clearly wants the Syrian Kurds decimated so that they will not have virtual autonomy in the country’s Northeast.

We note Schanzer’s conclusion in his Politico article:

The crisis in Kobani once again brings the challenge of Turkey into sharp relief. Despite the best efforts of Washington and other coalition members to bring Turkey along, it now appears clear: Turkey under the AKP is a lost cause. It is simply not a partner for NATO. Nor is it a partner in the fight against the Islamic State.

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

The Ethics of Fighting with Terrorists

The United States is supporting, funding, and arming “terrorists.” Not through back channels, middlemen, Swiss bank accounts or CIA covert operations, but openly and publicly. The Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) was designated as a foreign terrorist organization on October 8, 1997 by the U.S. Department of State after thirteen years of insurgency, including bombing attacks and kidnappings, against Turkish military personnel and citizens. Aside from its use of terrorist tactics, the PKK found itself on the wrong side of the strategically crucial alliance between the United States and Turkey. Now, however, the United States is actively supporting the PKK rebels in their fight against the Islamic State (IS). Additionally, the United States is arming the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) to combat IS; these two political parties were classified as “Tier III” terrorist organizations for their role in the armed uprising against Saddam Hussein in the 1990s, although Senator John McCain introduced a Senate amendment last November to have these groups removed from the terror list.

For months now, news headlines have updated the world on the Islamic State’s terrifyingly swift march through Iraq, as militants captured the major cities of Tikrit and Mosul and approached Baghdad and Erbil, where the United States retains military bases. Thousands, most notably the Christians of Mosul and the Yazidis trapped on the Sinjar Mountains, have been slaughtered or forced to flee their homes by IS militants. The Iraqi army failed to stop the onslaught of the Islamic State, even after the Kurdish Peshmerga fighters joined forces with them. But now, IS’s conquests have temporarily stalled in Iraq, due largely to the guerrilla fighters of the PKK, who have allied with the Peshmerga, their long-time rivals, to take back the Mosul dam with the aid of U.S. air strikes. This is good news for the embattled Iraqis and for the United States, which has suffered a loss of international respect for failing to intervene in the civil war and protect persecuted religious minorities sooner. However, these new Kurdish allies may create a legal problem for the United States concerning its terrorism laws.

A Troubled History

The U.S. government has a history of arming controversial rebel groups, beginning with its global mission to prevent the spread of communist ideology in the aftermath of World War II and continuing in the late 20th and early 21st centuries with groups fighting against Islamic extremists and dictators. Major operations include those in Honduras, Chile, Nicaragua, Afghanistan, Libya, Syria, and now Iraq.

Some of the most infamous rebel groups to receive U.S. support were the Contras, groups of guerrilla fighters working to overthrow the communist Sandinista regime in Nicaragua. In 1981, the Reagan Administration began financing and arming the rebels. This policy became controversial, not only because of the entanglement in the Iran-Contra Affair, but also because the Contras allegedly engaged in serious and frequent human rights abuses, including attacking and murdering non-combatant civilians, according to Human Rights Watch. Unsurprisingly, the Contras were never listed as a terrorist organization by the United States, but under current U.S. law, the group likely warranted the designation; 18 U.S. Code § 2331 defines “international terrorism” as:

violent acts or acts dangerous to human life that are a violation of the criminal laws of the United States or of any State, or that would be a criminal violation if committed within the jurisdiction of the United States or of any State; appear to be intended to intimidate or coerce a civilian population, to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion, or to affect the conduct of a government by mass destruction, assassination, or kidnapping, and occur primarily outside the territorial jurisdiction of the United States.

Around the same time, on the other side of the world, the United States was arming another group of rebel fighters—the mujahideen of Afghanistan. Beginning in 1979 and continuing through the 1980s until the collapse of the Soviet Union, mujahideen fighters received weapons and training from the CIA to push back Soviet forces and topple the communist government in Kabul. Unlike the U.S.-backed Contras, the mujahideen successfully drove out the Soviets, and liberated Afghanistan from communism. The ideology that succeeded this regime was even worse.

Dealing with the Consequences

From the U.S.-trained and -armed mujahideen sprung Al-Qaeda and the Taliban, responsible for the 9/11 attacks and deaths of more than 2,200 American soldiers and an estimated 20,000 Afghan civilians in the ground war in Afghanistan. A similarly dangerous and potentially more deadly situation is now unfolding with the Islamic State. Stalling in Iraq, IS has turned its attention to a renewed offensive in northern Syria, using U.S. Humvees captured from the faltering Iraqi army to transport militants and weapons across the border. Armed with American weapons, IS has increased its fighting capabilities and emboldened its fighters, which has added the brutal and tragic beheading of American journalist James Foley to its death toll.

While airstrikes in Iraq have been instrumental in the pushback against IS, President Obama has yet to authorize additional strikes in Syria; for now, America’s solution to the carnage wrought by IS is largely to fight terrorists with other terrorists. It goes without saying that IS must be stopped as quickly and effectively as possible. With an estimated 20,000 fighters in Iraq and Syria, the PKK are by far the most experienced and well-trained group to lead a counter-ground attack against IS in northern Iraq and Syria, especially with American air support. After three decades of insurgency with Turkey, PKK rebels are battle-tested and well organized, whereas the Peshmerga and other Kurdish fighters have far less experience and have proven unable to take IS head on. The PKK’s support of besieged minorities and civilians against IS has spurred a lobbying effort in the United States to have the group taken off the State Department’s terrorist organization list. Since a cease-fire agreement with Turkey in March of 2013, the PKK has largely aborted the use of terrorist tactics; however, the group has launched several attacks against Turkish security forces in recent weeks, which could undermine peace negotiations and the recent attempt to declassify it as a terrorist organization.

Fighting in the Grey

It is difficult to determine whether the Contras should have been designated as a terrorist group or whether the United States should have been more cautious about arming the Afghan mujahideen; even hindsight isn’t 20/20. Supporting the PKK may well turn out to be a brilliant strategic move if it leads to the destruction of IS. Nonetheless, in this moment, the PKK is a terrorist organization, and that may put the United States government in a legally grey area. 18 U.S. Code § 2339B states, “Whoever knowingly provides material support or resources to a foreign terrorist organization, or attempts or conspires to do so, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than 15 years, or both, and, if the death of any person results, shall be imprisoned for any term of years or for life.”

This section of the law would seemingly prohibit the United States from supporting the PKK, but a later section of the same law states, “No person may be prosecuted under this section in connection with the term ‘personnel’, ‘training’, or ‘expert advice or assistance’ if the provision of that material support or resources to a foreign terrorist organization was approved by the Secretary of State with the concurrence of the Attorney General. The Secretary of State may not approve the provision of any material support that may be used to carry out terrorist activity.” This is the exception. As long as the “material support” provided by the United States is not used in a terrorist act, the U.S. government, with approval from both the Secretary of State and the Attorney General, can support foreign terrorist groups. Currently, the PKK is working to defeat IS; killing armed combatants is a legitimate act of war, not terrorism, so it seems that the United States is not acting illegally. However, there is a possibility that arms provided indirectly to the PKK through the Iraqi army and other Kurdish groups could eventually be turned against Turkish security forces and civilians, the latter of which would be an act of terror against a U.S. ally.

A Country Without a Moral Conscious?

What do these situations and potential scenarios mean for U.S. terrorism laws? The point is not whether the United States might entangle itself in grey areas of the laws concerning terrorism; it likely already has. The real question is, do these laws hold any weight? Do they have anything meaningful to contribute to the country’s foreign policy principles and decisions? The United States has chosen not to label groups as terrorist organizations if it is politically inconvenient or would get in the way of a greater policy objective; it provides funding and arms to rebel groups it cannot control, and who have often turned against the United States at a later date; most recently, it is using terrorists to fight other terrorists. If not illegal, this part of American history at least presents a moral predicament, one that we are actively dealing with in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Syria, and Iraq. Laws are fundamentally impositions of morality on society, but if the laws we write do not create a guiding moral framework, and instead allow us to do what is most convenient, expedient, or politically popular in the moment without serious regard to a higher set of common ethical principles, then where does a secular society based on the rule of law derive its morality from?

Last year, President Obama, now infamously, said that the use of chemical weapons in Syria constituted a moral red line that, once crossed, would result in severe consequences for the Assad regime. This ended up being an empty threat when proposed airstrikes against Syrian military targets failed to gain support on either side of the aisle in Congress. The decisions that need to be made regarding policy in Middle East are complicated, and they are rarely black or white. But that is the entire point of having a strong set of moral principles—you stick to them even when the choices are difficult or unpopular, or when cutting corners might be easier. The question is, what set of moral principles does the United States have, and do its leaders have the backbone to uphold them?

EDITORS NOTE: Featured image source: ntvmsnbc.com.

Iraq on Brink of Disintegration: ISIS Blitzkrieg threatens Baghdad – Kurds Seize Kirkuk

The ISIS Jihad  blitzkrieg seized the oil-rich Northern Iraqi City of Mosul Wednesday, while the Iraqi Army fled. This leaving  nearly half a million civilians, Assyrian Christians among them,  to flee to rural areas of the province of Biblical Nineveh. ISIS is the Salafist –Jihadist Al Qaeda terrorist army, the Islamic State of Iraq and Sham,the Levant.

ISIS has looted nearly a half billion in cash and tons of gold bullion making the terrorist army perhaps the largest well funded Al Qaeda affiliate.  Add to that the significant oil fields and Iraq’s largest refinery in Mosul, the ISIS literally may have the fuel to follow through with their threat to attack Baghdad. Mosul  was festooned with the decapitated heads of  Iraqi policemen. This despite Prime Minister Nouri al- Maliki putting on a brave face calling upon his parliament to declare a state of national emergency. Now he has to rely on the loyalty of the US trained Iraqi army and militia from his Shia base to defend the capital.

Meanwhile, the Kurdish Regional Government  (KRG) in Irbil dispatched its peshmerga forces to take over what they couldn’t do by plebiscite, the oil rich city of Kirkuk.  A Kirkuk that the Kurds consider as “their equivalent of Jerusalem”.  Now, as one report cited, just a mound of dirt separates Kurdish peshmerga from ISIS jihadi.

At risk is the future of this artificial country created by the British from the Mesopotamian Mandate of the League of Nations following WWI.   Ironically the US surge strategy of General Petreaus nearly a decade ago used nation building and bribery to defeat the al Qaeda forces in the Anbar provinces and Mosul.  Given current developments the  refusal of the Al Maliki government to negotiate a status of forces agreement with may have contributed to this looming debacle.  That choice was up to Maliki.  Because of these missteps we have looming a possible  Sunni Caliphate stretching across neighboring Syria deep into Iraq.  Today the picture gets even murkier as Iran announced dispatch of battalions of its  Quds Force to bolster the defense of Nouri al-Maliki’s beleaguered capitol.  This episode may rival the legendary history of the  sweep of the first Grand Jihad over 14 centuries ago. The Washington Post in a report today on these rapidly deteriorating developments in Iraq quoted President Obama saying:

“I don’t rule out anything, because we do have a stake in making sure that these jihadists are not getting a permanent foothold in either Iraq or Syria,” Obama told reporters after a White House meeting with visiting Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott.

“I think it’s fair to say that . . . there will be some short-term, immediate things that need to be done militarily, and our national security team is looking at all the options,” he said. “But this should be also a wake-up call for the Iraqi government” about the need for political accommodation between the country’s Shiite Muslim majority and the Sunni minority, he added.

ISIS loots Mosul Central bank

The International Business Time(IBT)  wrote of how much booty the ISIS secured in the capture of Iraq’s second largest city, Mosul Seized: Jihadis Loot $429m from City’s Central Bank to Make Isis World’s Richest Terror ForceThe IBT reported:

Nineveh governor Atheel al-Nujaifi confirmed Kurdish television reports that Isis militants had stolen millions from numerous banks across Mosul. A large quantity of gold bullion is also believed to have been stolen.

Following the siege of the country’s second city, the bounty collected by the group has left it richer than al-Qaeda itself and as wealthy as small nations such as Tonga, Kiribati, the Marshall Islands and the Falkland Islands.

The financial assets that ISIS  now possesses are likely to worsen the Iraqi government’s struggle to defeat the insurgency, which is aimed at creating an Islamic state across the Syrian-Iraqi border.

[…]

They also seized considerable amounts of US-supplied military hardware. Photos have already emerged of Isis parading captured Humvees in neighboring Syria where they are also waging war against President Bashar al-Assad’s regime.

What  is really worrisome is that the vast treasury that ISIS has seized that will enable them to  pay on average $600 a month to attract  thousands of  foreign jihadis, especially those in the West.

Just yesterday, ISIS forward elements seized Tikrit the ancestral home town of the late Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, putting it less than 95 miles from Baghdad. ISIS has also surrounded the city of Samarra less than 70 miles from the nation’s capital.

http://www.ekurd.net/mismas/articles/misc2012/11/kirkuk754.jpg

Kurdish peshmerga troops in Kirkuk. Source: ekurd.net.

Kurdish Peshmerga Seize Kirkuk

The autonomous KRG Peshmerga forces went into action today seizing a virtually defenseless Kirkuk. The KRG had been thwarted by the Al Maliki government from conducting a plebiscite to take back this resource rich original part of the Kurdish homeland.    The Guardian’s report conveys the sense of how rapidly Iraqi forces had abandoned the defenseless city,  Kurdish Peshmerga seize a chaotic victory in Kirkuk:

Capturing the city and its huge oil reserves, just outside the area controlled by the KRG, is a huge achievement. Yet victory looks far from glorious or orderly.

[…]

On Thursday Kurdish officials said they had stepped in to protect the city after government troops fled before advancing rebels from the Sunni jihadi group Isis.

Locals alleged that weaponry inside the K1 base had been seized by Kurdish Peshmerga forces belonging to both the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), the two main political forces in the KRG. But in the confusion of Iraq’s deepening crisis it is hard to be quite certain.

[…]

“There are no security concerns at this moment and the situation is calm in the city,” said Dler Samad, the Kirkuk governor’s press officer. The governor, Dr Najmadin Karim, had visited Peshmerga forces near Hawija, just 3km away from ISIS units. But a minister responsible for regional security forces survived a bomb blast as he drove into Kirkuk.

Chaldean Archbishop Emil Shimoun Nona of Mosul, Iraq. Sourcs CNS Church in Need Service.

The ISIS threat to Christians in Nineveh

We have written extensively of the flight of the beleaguered  Assyrian Christians. A report by Nina Shea in the National Review On-line depicted the crisis that this ancient Christian community faces  in the midst of  the ISIS jihadist onslaught, The Cleansing of Iraq’s Christians Is Entering Its End Game.  Shea wrote:

Mosul’s panic-stricken Christians, along with many others, are now fleeing en masse to the rural Nineveh Plain, according to the Vatican publication Fides. The border crossings into Kurdistan, too, are jammed with the cars of the estimated 150,000 desperate escapees.

[…]

Since 2003, Iraq’s Christian community has suffered intense religious persecution on top of the effects of the conflict and, as a result, it has shrunk by well over 50 percent. Mosul, the site of ancient Nineveh of the Assyrians, who converted to Christianity in the first century, has become the home of many Christians who remained. Considered by Christians the place of last resort inside Iraq, Mosul and the surrounding Nineveh Plain has been home to many Christian refugees driven out of Baghdad and Basra.

ISIS on the march

Sources: The Institute for the Study of War, The Long War Journal. The Washington Post. Published on June 11, 2014, 9:37 p.m. For a larger view click on the map.

Who do you pin the blame on?

Earlier we  noted the failure of the Maliki government to conclude a status of forces agreement when the remaining US forces left three years ago. This was just as the civil war in Syria arose in bloody earnest that spawned ISIS’ terrorist Jihad in the region.  The Wall Street Journal cited Sen. McCain and  House Speaker John Boehner laying blame on Obama, while the Chairmen of the House and Senate Armed Service Committees, Republican Rep. Buck McKeon and  Democrat Sen.Carl Levin held differing views:

Several top Republican congressional leaders Thursday blamed President Obama for what they called policy failures leading to the collapse of Iraqi armed forces and the fall of major Iraqi cities to the control of Islamist militants.

[…]

“Now they’ve taken control of Mosul, they’re 100 miles from Baghdad. And what’s the president doing? Taking a nap,” Mr. Boehner said.

Mr. McCain said the administration’s decision to leave in 2011 was politically motivated.

“The trouble is, as the events of this week show, what the Americans left behind was an Iraqi state that was not able to stand on its own,” he said. “What we built is now coming apart.”

He said the U.S. must “take immediate action” to head off the militants’ advance, and reconsider the decision by Mr. Obama to wind down the U.S. presence in Afghanistan in 2016.

[…]

Rep. Buck McKeon (R., Calif.), who heads the House Armed Services Committee, told reporters that he opposed airstrikes and any additional involvement by the U.S. in a crisis that has seen Sunni militants and Kurdish military units make incursions around the country. Iraq’s government had a chance to sign a status-of-forces agreement with the U.S. but didn’t, Mr. McKeon said.

“We lost a lot of blood, a lot of treasure there and gave them an opportunity and they wouldn’t sign the agreement,” Mr. McKeon said, adding that any assistance would add another strain to the military when officials are trying to slim down budgets. “They all take money, they all take resources, they all put people at risk.”

Sen. Carl Levin (D., Mich.), chairman of the Senate armed services panel, blamed Iraq’s government for not doing enough to unify the country and stave off sectarian violence. He also questioned whether U.S. airstrikes would be effective given that Iraqi security forces, he said, have “melted away” in some places.

“While all options should be considered, the problem in Iraq hasn’t been so much a lack of direct U.S. military involvement, but a lack of reconciliation on the part of Iraqi leaders,” Mr. Levin said.

Fred Kaplan in Slate had views close to that of McKeon and Levin in an article, “If jihadists control Iraq, blame Nouri al-Maliki, not the United States”.  Kaplan is the author of The Insurgents and the Edward R. Murrow press fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. After reviewing the success of General Petreaus’ surge in the western provinces and Mosul, Kaplan concludes about the current debacle:

Maliki has his own political problems. His party won a plurality of votes in the recent election, but not enough to declare victory…. The threat from ISIS—and it’s now a dire threat—might move some factions to strengthen the nation’s leader, or it might move more to abandon all confidence in Maliki and turn to someone else.

One hope for Iraq is that ISIS might have gone one rampage too far. While stomping through Mosul, some of their militiamen stormed the Turkish consulate and kidnapped Turkish diplomats. Under international law, that amounts to an attack on Turkey, and it’s unlikely that the Turks will simply shrug. Iran, which has emerged as Maliki’s main ally, has no interest in seeing Sunnis regain power in Baghdad. A strange alliance among all three may come to life to beat back this equally strange insurgency.

With news today that Iran is sending battalions of its elite Quds Force to fight in Iraq, Kaplan’s views appear like grasping a thin reed. Supplying more US military aid and perhaps air resources by the Obama Administration may not even put a dent into the ISIS Jihadist blitzkrieg poised to possibly conduct a siege on the capital.  Iraq is for all intents and purposes a failed state. The world and we in America will pay for its possible demise with a spike in both oil and gas prices. Time for us to bolster the independence of Kurdistan and let the Shia provinces become veritable client states of Iran, while a Jihadist  Sunni Emirate arises. Saudi Arabia will doubtless consider its options with  the failure of Iraq further endangering the Gulf region and its oil fields. Could a regional war of global proportions be in the offing?

Will the US Embassy in Baghdad be evacuating before being overwhelmed? Stay tuned for developments.

RELATED ARTICLES:

Jihadist behind takeover of Mosul released from U.S. custody in 2009
Iraq Isis Crisis: Medieval Sharia Law Imposed on Millions in Nineveh Province
Obama: “The World Is Less Violent Than It Has Ever Been”
Decapitated heads of policemen and soldiers line the streets of Mosul as ISIS imposes Sharia

EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared on The New English Review.