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Iranian Kurdish Resistance: A Key U.S. Ally in the War against the Islamic State

After the Sunday, December 20, 2015 Lisa Benson show, we caught up with  US Army  Brig. Gen. (ret.) Ernie Audino. See our December 2015 NER Interview with him, “No War Against ISIS Without the Kurds”.  There was  a swirl of rumors and a buzz in the parliament of the Kurdish  Regional Government in Erbil about the alleged death of Islamic State self-styled Caliph, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi at the hands of Peshmerga, the alleged death of Quds Force  commander, Gen. Soliemani and Ayatollah Khamenei on his death bed.  To which Audino said,  this has to be confirmed.    We  would add in Hebrew, Alevai,” it should only be.”

US Army Brig. Gen. (ret.) Ernie Audino, kneeling center

US Army Brig. Gen. (ret.) Ernie Audino, kneeling center with Kurdish Peshmerga.

Audino, steadfast  American  supporter of the Kurds  and various peshmerga forces in the KRG , adjacent  Syria and Iran was in the process of finishing a Washington Times (WT) column on why the Kurds have Christmas  trees.

However,  of more compelling  interest was  the Tehran push-back against his previous WT column , last Tuesday, December 15, 2015, “Friends of US in Iran. ”   Audino’s  tag line was “Sons of the Kurdish Republic are ready to fight Islamic terrorism.”It was about  arming the three Iranian Kurdish resistance groups in northwest Iran  that continue to bedevil the Islamic Regime in Tehran. This despite the fall of the short-lived Kurdish Republic, formed with support of the then Soviet Union in 1946. It was  headed by its President Qazi Muhammad, who was captured by Iranian troops,  tried for treason and hanged  by the last Shah of Iran in March 1947.  Audino wrote:

“If the [Tehran] regime had more to worry about internally, it would have less appetite for external adventures,” said a senior source in one of the three major Kurdish opposition groups active in Iran and looking to the West for aid. He makes an important point — much of the Sunni-Arab support for the Islamic State, or ISIS, is motivated by the threat of an increasing, Iranian-Shia influence in Iraq, Syria, Yemen and portions of Saudi Arabia.

Tehran has feared no international sanction,” the same source added, “That is why it felt free to violently crush the weeks-long demonstration in the city of Mahabad in May.” Those protests erupted in the Kurdish-populated city in northwestern Iran after a young, Kurdish woman leapt to her death while reportedly trying to escape an attempted rape by an Iranian intelligence officer. “And if we look back to the popular demonstrations in Tehran in 2009,” he continued, “they had potential to ignite a Persian Spring, but no one assisted them. The USA looked the other way while Tehran attacked protesters and shut down the social media the crowds were using to coordinate their actions.”

Still, the members of his group and those of the other two groups keep alive the famed, blood-deep, Kurdish refusal to submit. Case in point; the Kurdistan Freedom Party of Iran (PAK). Elements of it have recently entered Iraq to help in the fight against ISIS, and the PAK leader, Hussein Yazdanpana, is personally commanding their operations on the battlefield.

His group isn’t alone. The Democratic Party of Iranian Kurdistan (PDKI) bases 1,000 of its own peshmerga near Koya in the Kurdish north ofIraq. “They have helped fight ISIS. We can arm another 2,000 if needed,” asserted Arash Saleh, PDKI representative to the United States.

The Komala Party of Iranian Kurdistan is involved, too. “Our peshmerga are fighting alongside other Kurdish and coalition forces near Kirkuk,” said a proud Abdullah Mohtadi, the party’s secretary-general, “and we are doing so to defend Kurdistan and humanity against the evil force of Islamic terrorism.”

Iranian Kurdish Resistance Fighters

Iranian Kurdish Resistance Fighters Source:  Rudaw Kurdish News Agency.

As if to deny Audino’s WT assessment about Iranian Kurdish resistance, the Kurdish news agency Rudaw  reported on Saturday, December 19, 2015, alleged denials by the head of the Iranian parliament national security committee, “Iran says armed Kurdish groups are not ’serious’ security threat:”

The head of the Iranian parliament’s national security committee has said he does not see the armed Kurdish groups opposed to Tehran as a threat to the Islamic Republic.

“These groups are active in border regions and we do not view them as serious security threats,” said lawmaker Mohammad Reza Mohseni, who is also in charge of parliament’s foreign relations committee.

He told the Iranian media that the country is not “under any security threats.”

Referring to the Party of Free Life of Kurdistan (PJAK), the main remaining armed Kurdish opposition group, Mohseni said those fighters were operating sporadically in the border areas, which he dismissed as “nothing new.”

PJAK, which is believed to have close ties with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), said in August that its forces had killed 20 Iranian soldiers in an attack on a border military post.

Tehran dismissed the claim, but confirmed that remote military bases had been attacked. The assault effectively ended a unilateral cease-fire, which PJAK had declared in 2011.

Note this exchange with Gen. Audino from our interview with him about the demise of the Kurdish Republic of Mahabad:

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 Muhammad 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 Muhammad  was hanged above Mahabad’s central square, Chwar Chira.

Watch this You Tube video with English subtitles with the stirring call to Kurdish resistance in the final address by Maahbad Kurdish Republic President Qazi Muhammad:

We have written about PJAK Iranian women fighters in the battle of Sinjar Mountain.  According to the CIA Fact Book, there are an estimated  8.1 million Iranian Kurds, mostly in the mountainous areas adjoining the Iraqi Kurdish Regional  Government. Qazi Muhammad’s valiant  ringing endorsement of Kurdish resistance in Iran as well as the adjacent areas in Turkey, Syria and Iraq have resounded through the generations since the fall of the Mahabad Republic and his death. It is captured in the  legendary comments of an Iranian Kurdish resistance leader; “ they may control the day, but we control at night”.

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

Sen. Tom Cotton: U.S. Discriminates against Christian Refugees

Arkansas U.S. Senator Tom Cotton “broke news” today that the U.S. “inadvertently” discriminates against  Christians among Syrian Refugee Admissions.

Map of States Opposing Syrian Refugees  Daily Signal Heritage Foundation 11-17-15

At least that is the impression lent  by the Washington Times, report  this morning,  “U.S. ‘discriminates’ against Christian refugees, accepts 96% Muslims, 3% Christians:”

Less than 3 percent of the Syrian refugees admitted to the United States so far are Christian and 96 percent are Muslim, the result of a referral system that Republican Sen. Tom Cotton says “unintentionally discriminates” against Christians.

State Department figures released Monday showed that the current system overwhelmingly favors Muslim refugees. Of the 2,184 Syrian refugees admitted to the United States so far, only 53 are Christians while 2,098 are Muslim, the Christian News Service reported.

Mr. Cotton and Sen. John Boozman, both Arkansas Republicans, called Monday for a moratorium on resettlements, a White House report on vetting procedures, and a re-evaluation of the refugee-referral process.

“[T]he United States’ reliance on the United Nations for referrals of Syrian refugees should also be re-evaluated,” said Mr. Cotton in a statement. “That reliance unintentionally discriminates against Syrian Christians and other religious minorities who are reluctant to register as refugees with the United Nations for fear of political and sectarian retribution.”

The current system relies on referrals from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. Syria’s population in 2011 was 90 percent Muslim and 10 percent Christian, CNS said.

Mr. Cotton and Mr. Boozman called Monday for a temporary moratorium on resettlements and “a requirement that the President certify the integrity of the security vetting process as a condition of lifting the moratorium.”

“The American people have long demonstrated unmatched compassion for the world’s persecuted and endangered. But when bringing refugees to our shores, the U.S. government must put the security of Arkansans and all Americans first,” Mr. Cotton said. “No terrorist should be able to take advantage of the refugee process to threaten the United States.”

This confirms what Mike Bates and I reported in our June 2015 New English Review with Ann Corcoran. See: Trojan Horse Federal Refugee ProgramNote this exchange:

Gordon:  Ann, one of the most disturbing parts of this U.N. controlled program is the patent discrimination against endangered Christian refugees, legitimately, from places like Syria, Iraq and other locations. What is the evidence of that?

Corcoran:  Let’s just take the Syrian refugee issue. So far the State Department has brought in a small number of Syrians, relatively speaking, into the country. One would think that we would be choosing first and foremost the Christians who are in real danger. But we are bringing mostly Sunni Muslims. There were about 800 Syrians who have been brought into the country in the last few years. Now the State Department and the U.N. have 11,000 in the pipeline waiting to come into the U.S.

But of the 800 that have come in so far, approximately 700 are Sunni Muslims, there were only 43 Christians among the Syrian refugees that have come in so far. That translates to approximately 92 percent of refugees coming in from Syria are Muslims.

I’m told that that is mostly because we are bringing them in from U.N. camps, where the Muslims are found.  Christians do not go to the U.N. camps, but to Turkey if they get out of Syria at all, where they’re taken care of by the Syriac church.

That pattern of Christians avoiding UN refugee camps was also cited in our interview with Joseph Kassab of the Iraqi Christian Advocacy and Empowerment Institute in the November NER, Iraqi Christians Face Extinction:

Gordon:  What are the current conditions of Iraqi Christian refugee camps in the Kurdish Region and what kinds of assistance are they receiving?

Kassab:  The current conditions for Iraqi Christian IDPs are very chaotic and horrific. The Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) is doing its best to provide for them. However, they are unable to absorb more than 3 million refugees from Syria and Yazidis in their region. The Iraqi government has done nothing for its citizen IDPs. Corruption is very high among the Iraqi government officials and that by itself makes distribution of relief to its IDPs very poor. The UN and humanitarian local and international NGOs are unable to function properly due to lack of coordination and efficient capacity. Therefore people are losing hope and are availing of any opportunity to escape abroad. Christians are urban refugees-IDPs meaning that they do not live in UN refugee camps. Instead they seek shelter with relatives, in unfinished buildings, parks and churches. Overall, this support can be very short lived because volunteering always has a sunset.

Nina Shea of the Washington, DC-based Hudson Institute Center for Religious Freedom in a separate Fox News.com report added:

The UN is basically unloading; it’s emptying out its camps. It’s not seeking those who are outside its camps, much less giving affirmative action for those who are facing genocide. It’s just an expedience measure for those who are in their own camps, so non-Muslim minorities are poorly represented among them.

What is confounding was the petulant response of President Obama at his Antalya G20 Summit press conference on this matter. His remarks were allegedly directed at US Texas Senator Ted Cruz for having the effrontery to suggest that Syrian Christians and other threatened non-Muslim minorities be granted some preference for Refugee Admissions and Muslims sent to Muslim majority countries. The Washington Timesreported that, “at his G20 news conference Monday in Turkey, President Obama described as ‘shameful’ the idea of giving religious preferences to refugees.”That’s not American. That’s not who we are. We don’t have religious tests to our compassion,’ Mr. Obama said.”

We would suggest that the President bone up on how the UN controls who gets admitted as  humanitarian refugees in America. That American taxpayers are funding this plenary program run by executive fiat under the Refugee Act of 1980 co-authored by Vice President Biden and the late Sen. Edward Kennedy. It is time for Congress urged on by more than 27 Governors concerned about admission of possible terrorist refugees to do something. That is why US House Speaker Pat Ryan proposed a “pause” in the Syrian Refugee Program.  If  you listen to Deputy National Security Adviser, Ben Rhodes,  Anne Richards, assistant Secretary for the Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration, they would have you believe that the 10,000 Syrian Refugees bring brought here in the current fiscal year were all vetted.

This morning I listened to a news conference convened by Voluntary Agencies and NGOs to combat the concerns of the more than two dozen governors.  They represented that the UNHCR has an advanced retina scanning biometric system capable of capturing information to track the millions of displaced Syrian refugees in their camps. That DHS is capable of checking the records of these Syrian refugees despite evidence that documents may either not exist or are forged. Further, that if the Governors of states do not participate in resettlement programs that these very same Voluntary agencies stand ready to make more money to distribute them. Moreover, that if states deny those benefits to refugee clients, the clients with their green cards can simply pick up like any other US citizen and move to another state.  To top things off, they represented that no terrorists have been admitted as refugees.  They obviously forgot  about the  refugee Tsarneav brothers who perpetrated the bloody Boston Marathon bombing. Or the two Iraqi asylees, caught in a 2011 FBI sting in Kentucky purchasing weapons to be sent to Al Qaeda.  Then think of the dozens of Soimali emigre youths recruited by radical Imams to fight and die for Al Shabaab in Somalia. Consider  the Somali emigre aircraft cleaner who had the run of the Twin Cities airport who left to fight and die for ISIS in Syria. Listen to this Syrian Refugee Admissions press conference.

Yesterday, we reported that Florida Governor Rick Scott sent a letter to US House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senator Majority Leader Mitch McConnell suggesting that for all intent and purposes state governors have no legal standing to contest the Refugee Admissions Program, but that Congress does. He wrote:

It is our understanding that the state does not have the authority to prevent the federal government from funding the relocation of these Syrian refugees to Florida even without state   support.  Therefore, we are asking the United States Congress to take immediate and aggressive action to prevent President Obama and his administration from using any federal tax dollars to fund the relocation of up to 425 Syrian refugees (the total possible number of refugees pending for state relocation support at this time) to Florida, or anywhere in the United States, without an extensive evaluation of the risk these individuals may pose to our national security.

As the federal elected body that exercises oversight and authorizes federal spending, please take any action available through the powers of the United States Congress to prevent federal allocations toward the relocation of Syrian refugees without extensive examination into how this would affect our homeland security.

Note what my Florida State House Representative, Mike Hill, a graduate of the US Air Force Academy and veteran  said in a Pensacola News Journal article on the Governor’s action:

If they come from a country that fosters, supports or defends terrorism as a legitimate activity to achieve a goal, then it doesn’t matter if there is a small number or large number of refugees coming from those nations. We must refuse them entry without a robust vetting process, which we currently do not have.

The first test of that may come on Thursday at a House Immigration Sub Committee Hearing Chaired by Rep. Trey Gowdy.  The lineup of witnesses includes:

Ms. Anne C. Richard (Invited)
Assistant Secretary
Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration, United States Department of State

Ms. Barbara L. Strack (Invited)
Chief, Refugee Affairs Division, Refugee, Asylum, and International Operations Directorate
United States Citizenship and Immigration Services

Mr. Seth Jones
Director
International Security and Defense Policy Center, RAND Corporation

Mr. Mark Krikorian
Executive Director
Center for Immigration Studies

Mr. Mark Hetfield
President and Chief Executive Officer
HIAS  (Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, one of nine federal resettlement contractors)

Let’s see if the US Refugee Admissions Program executives at the State Department and DHS/ICE show up for this House Immigration Committee hearing. Stay tuned for developments.

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

Documentary ‘Los Abandandos’: Iran’s Assassination of Argentine Prosecutor Alberto Nisman

When Argentine Prosecutor Alberto Nisman was murdered under mysterious circumstances on January 18, 2015, we wrote of the curious circumstances surrounding his death. He was found dead in his Buenos Aires flat with a bullet to his head with a pistol allegedly in his possession. He was on the brink of presenting a 300 page brief to a committee of the Argentine Congress based on a decade of investigations. Investigations begun under the auspices of the late President of Argentina Nestor Kirchner and after his passing in 2007, for a time under his successor, his wife Cristina.

Nisman’s death came amidst revelations about negotiations of a Memorandum of Understanding in 2013 between Iran and outgoing Argentine President Cristina de Fernandez Kirchner and Foreign Minister Hector Timmerman regarding a truth commission. The object of the commission was to facilitate an expose of Iran’s and its proxy Hezbollah’s roles in both the 1992 Buenos Aires Israel Embassy and 1994 AMIA Buenos Aires, Jewish Center bombings. Bombings that killed 114, injuring 542.In exchange for no prosecution following the truth commission proceedings, Iran and Argentina would renew their commercial trade.

On the occasion of Nisman’s January 30, 2015 funeral and interment in the martyrs section of the La Tablada Jewish cemetery in Buenos Aires we wrote in an Iconoclast Post, “There is No Justice in Argentina” :

Many in the Argentine Jewish Community considered that appropriate as they deemed him the “86th victim” of the AMIA blast. In effect his burial in the Martyrs section repudiated initial official assessments from President Cristina de Fernandez Kirchner and the investigating prosecutor that he may have been a suicide. Kirchner quickly changed her story to a likely murder by rogue intelligence elements who had “manipulated” Nisman.

By the time outgoing President Cristina Kirchner gave her valedictory speech at the UN General Assembly on September 28, 2015, she referred to the dismissal and trial of officials in the country’s intelligence echelon who she alleged impeded the investigation saying, “prosecutor Nisman, in charge of the case, passed away.”

Cliff May, President of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies attended a recent premier of a new documentary, Los Abandandos, (The Abandoned) about Nisman’s murder and the AMIA bombing investigations at Washington, DC’s, Newseum. . He published an opinion column in today’s Washington Times about the unsolved mystery of Nisman’s death and the comments of the film’s director, “Argentine Murder Mystery”. May noted:

The evidence, of which there is no shortage, leads to one conclusion: Iran’s rulers ordered the mass murder; Iran’s proxy terrorist organization, Hezbollah, carried out the mass murder; and in recent years Argentine officials at the highest levels have been involved in a cover-up of the mass murder.

May notes what possessed the director of Los Abandandos, Matthew Taylor, to pursue the story and create a riveting documentary:

To prevent the truth from passing away, Mr. Taylor went to Argentina where he quietly — he didn’t inform authorities — interviewed journalists, opposition politicians and anyone else brave enough to tell him what they knew. As the film shows, Argentines have gathered by the hundreds of thousands to protest what they see as their government’s capitulation to terrorists. Some have carried signs reading: “Islamic Fundamentalists Killed Nisman.”

In a conversation immediately following last week’s screening, Mr. Taylor was asked if he had made the movie to influence opinion about President Obama’s nuclear weapons agreement with Iran. When he began the project, he replied, he was not even aware of that controversy. But the film does serve, he added, as “a guide to what happens when you do deals with Iran.”

He pointed out that the AMIA bombing and the murder of Nisman started “with a nuclear deal” — an agreement Argentina made in the late 1980s to provide Iran with nuclear technology and assistance. Eventually, under pressure from the United States, the Argentine government did not give Iran’s revolutionary theocrats what they wanted.

One plausible theory — in essence, Nisman’s theory — is that the attack was Iran’s way of sending a message and a warning: “This time we kill Argentine Jews. Disappoint us again and who knows what our targets will be?”

May concluded:

Whatever the reasons, Mrs. Kirchner’s Faustian bargain necessitated abandoning both the AMIA victims and Nisman. Did it necessitate something even worse? That remains an unsolved murder mystery.

The Islamic fundamentalists who rule Iran are as determined and ruthless as any in the world. Their agents, including Hezbollah, are increasingly influential throughout much of Latin America.

Watch this You Tube video of the trailer for Los Abandandos:

Will the mystery of Nisman’s murder be resolved following the looming Argentine Presidential election on October 25th? That contest pits ruling Peronist Justicialist party candidate Daniel Scioli, the anointed successor to Kirchner, against  Buenos Aires Mayor, Mauricio Macri of the Center Right, PRO party. The latest polls taken show Scioli ahead of Macri, despite the former  not showing up for a televised Presidential debate Sunday; 41.3 % to Marci’s 30.5%.  There are five Presidential candidates in the race. The Buenos Aires Herald quoted Macri in late January 2015 saying, “The priority is to clarify the circumstances of  his death. We need to be respectful and allow the Judiciary to work. Nisman’s death cannot go unpunished.”  Should Scioli maintain his lead, we doubt that the mystery of Nisman’s death will be resolved anytime soon.

EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared in the New English Review. The featured image is the Alberto Nisman assassination graphic by Greg Groesch/Washington Times.

CIA Director worries about Iran/North Korea Nuclear Cooperation

There they  were at  a  University of Texas conference, the masters of intelligence disinformation, CIA Director John Brennan and DNI, James Clapper, poring over Kennedy Johnson era mythologies about body counts  as metrics of  success during  the Nam  era of the 1960’s and 1970’s seizing defeat from the jaws of victory. What a consummate waste of taxpayers’ dollars deflecting serious examination of national security failed strategies of an Administration intent on weakening America’s geo-political respect among doubting allies. All while hollowing out our military capabilities.

Brennan’s track record at the White House, before he was appointed as CIA head to  replace Gen. Petreaus,  was as counterterrorism czar overseeing a number of  Obama covert initiatives. There was the drone assassination program, sugar coating the radical Islam threat and running  covert ops under Presidential Findings collecting MANPADS  and shipping them  to Syrian rebels.  More may be revealed in upcoming hearings by the Special Benghazi Committee.

In this Washington Times (WT) report, Brennan raises the possibility that maybe, just maybe, Iran could have outsourced developments of nuclear weapons ad ICBMs to North Korea. Brennan was responded to media reports to that effect. He was cited by the WT saying:

Therefore, we have to make sure that we’re doing whatever we can to uncover anything,” Mr. Brennan said. “I’m not saying that something is afoot at all — what I’m saying is that we need to be attuned to all of the potential pathways to acquiring different types of [weapons of mass destruction] capabilities.

The WT further noted:

Mr. Brennan’s remarks on the Iran nuclear deal come just days after Mr. Clapper revealed that U.S. intelligence officials “are fielding some independent capabilities that will enable us … to have good insight into [Iran‘s] nuclear industrial enterprise” as the accord goes into effect over the coming months.

Mr. Clapper told the conference that he’s “pretty confident” U.S. intelligence officials will be able to verify “from our own sources” the accuracy of future IAEA assessments of whether or not Iran is complying with the terms of the accord.

Mr. Brennan on Tuesday also said that he stands behind the nuclear deal, and that he has “a lot of confidence” that the accord is structured in such a way that will make it extremely difficult for Iran to cheat.

What have my colleague Ilana Freedman, Stephen and Shoshana Bryen, Israeli  Missile defense expert Uzi Rubin, DIA and Office of Naval Intelligence reports been saying for nearly five years about cooperative nuclear weapons and  ICBM developments between these partners in the Axis of Evil?  That they may already  have developed a small number of nuclear weapons, tested warheads to be fitted on Shahab 3 missiles, and launched  missiles with  disposable boosters for satellite bombs and ICBMs.

House and Senate Iran deal hearings didn’t lay a glove on any of the Administration witnesses querying them about these possibilities , whether behind doors, or in front of the klieg lights of TV-cameras. Brennan either knew about those covert development possibilities, or  purposefully evaded responsibility for  informing  Congressional Select Permanent Intelligence Committees  about the status of those joint Iranian –North Korean development efforts.

We knew from what was leaked by the Pentagon regarding the September 2007 IAF Operation Orchard that destroyed the Syrian nuclear bomb factory on the Euphrates at al-Kibar there were intelligence file photos of North Korean and Iranian scientists at the site.  That was under Bush 43.

Would you place any trust in the representations of Messrs.  Brennan and Clapper?  Clapper is now embroiled in another intelligence disaster, the  allegations that as DNI he met frequently with CENTCOM intelligence chief, Gen. Grove to review  assessments of  the coalition aerial campaign against ISIS in Syria and Iraq.  Given reports of a veritable revolt by 50 CENTCOM analysts about overly optimistic assessments about progress in defeating or at least achieving a stalemate in the war against ISIS, Clapper may be the subject of a Pentagon Inspector General investigations leading to possible  House and Senate Select Permanent Intelligence Hearings.

A Daily Beast report  in late August 2015 quoted former DIA chief, retired US Army Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn saying, “The phrase I use is the politicization of the intelligence community. That’s here. And it’s dangerous.”

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

Obama’s Rules of Engagement Stymie Air War against the Islamic State

Without boots on the ground providing intelligence feed, the U.S. led coalition air war is failing to “deter, let alone degrade” the ISIS.  How else can you explain 7,000 sorties over Syria and Iraq with less than 25% having ‘bomb releases”? That was the key disturbing finding in a Washington Times (WT) article, U.S. bombers hold fire on Islamic State targets amid ground intel blackout.”

 The U.S. conducted 7,319 sorties over Iraq and Syria as part of Operation Inherent Resolve in the first four months of 2015. Of those, only 1,859 flights — 25.4 percent — had at least one “weapons release,” according to data provided by United States Air Force Central Command. That means that only about one in every four flights dropped a bomb on an Islamic State target.

There have been reports of frustration by U.S. Air Force, Navy and Marine pilots engaged in the ISIS air campaign who have acquired targets and yet been commanded to stand down from attacking them. That has led to criticism of the Administration ISIS air war from Members of Congress, most notably, Sen. John McCain who heads the Senate Armed Services Committee cited in the WT report:

The Arizona Republican said at a hearing this year that missions that don’t drop bombs needlessly put American pilots in danger and that U.S. boots on the ground would produce better intelligence that could lead to more effective bombing missions.

 The level of air sorties in the U.S.-led coalition air war is far below those of Gulf Wars I and II and even the Balkan Air campaigns during the Clinton era.  The question is what is causing this?  Many believe it is the restrictive rules of engagement to spare civilian lives, when ISIS fighters move among columns of civilians, effectively using them as human shields.  Further, some analysts ironically believe that these strict rules of engagement actually contribute to civilian casualties by to ISIS. Perhaps this also reflects the misguided Obama Administration obsession in both avoiding collateral damage and avoiding putting special teams on the ground to provide better target intelligence.

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Israel Air Force Commander Maj. Gen. Amir Eshel. Source: Times of Israel.

Perhaps, the Central Command planners and air war commanders might best heed Israeli Air Force Commander Major General Eshel who was cited in a Defense News article saying:

“We have an offensive capability that is unprecedented and extremely significant which we’ve been developing over years and are now able to implement.

“In small wars, it’s a very significant challenge for us to reduce collateral damage on the other side when the enemy is using all he has to elevate the damage we’re forced to inflict on him,” Eshel said.

“First of all, it’s a moral challenge. … It sounds like a slogan, but we are constantly thinking, planning and operating with this challenge in mind.”

The demonstration of that approach was what  occurred in Operation Defensive Edge against the Hamas rocket and terror tunnel war threatening Israel when the IAF F-16’s flew missions in attacks against urban targets with precision guided 1 ton bombs within 250 meters of IDF troops.  The key is precision strikes based on precise intelligence.

Note these debates about the Pentagon handling of the ISIS air war campaign in the WT article:

Former US Navy Helicopter Pilot, Cmdr. Harmer:

Without ground forces, argues Cmdr. Christopher Harmer, a retired Navy helicopter pilot, U.S. airmen are essentially flying half-blind and, as a result, are returning to base with their bombs still in the bay.

“As long as the body politic or president or whoever is making decisions absolutely refuses to put American air controllers on ground, essentially pilots are flying with one eye closed,” Cmdr. Harmer said. “It’s almost impossible for pilots to designate between [Islamic State] fighters and coalition fighters.”

Cmdr. Harmer, who now serves as a senior naval analyst with the Middle East Security Project at the Institute for the Study for War, said airstrikes can hit big, static targets such as bridges, runways and tanks without on-the-ground guidance. But to be effective in hitting moving targets such as enemy troops in a firefight, U.S. pilots need American joint terminal attack controllers to give specific directions from the ground to guide their missiles precisely.

Fewer targets of opportunity says CENTCOM:

Col. Pat Ryder, spokesman for U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM), told reporters Friday that while pilots can often place bombs on targets “within minutes,” it’s very important to be very precise and exercise tactical discipline to protect civilian populations.

“We’re dealing with a hybrid adversary who often hides among the population,” he said. “It’s more important for us to accurately target the enemy with a high degree of precision in order to minimize civilian casualties than it is to strike with such speed or force that would risk disenfranchising the very population we’re there to protect.”

Richard Brennan of RAND Corporation has a more pragmatic assessment:

But to make things work without a ground force and employing only air power, the rules of engagement must change, argues Richard Brennan, a senior political scientist at RAND Corp.

Mr. Brennan said the Islamic State, in adapting and responding to U.S. airstrikes, has started to intermingle its fighters with civilians to frustrate U.S. attacks from the air.

In an effort to protect civilian lives, the strict rules of engagement are doing the opposite by giving the Islamic State, also known as ISIS, the opportunity to kill civilians, he said.

“Even though the United States isn’t doing the killing, by its inability to use force in all but the cases where they’re sure of not having collateral damage, we’re ceding the advantage to ISIS in many situations,” Mr. Brennan said.

Looks to us that CENTCOM needs to whistle up a session with IAF General Eshel to understand how the Israelis do precision hits against Hamas in heavily urbanized Gaza City and Hezbollah Syrian missile and weapons transfers.  Both Cmdr. Harmer of the Institute for the Study of War and Brennan of the RAND Corporation are correct about the stringent rules for engagement in the air war against. They are generating more collateral civilian casualties.  Something that didn’t dawn on the Metternichean Munchkins in the Obama National Security Council who call the shots over Pentagon objections.

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

Bibigate – The Contretemps over Netanyahu’s Speech to Congress on Iran’s Nuclear Program

Last Saturday night a retired U.S. Navy officer said “I’ll bet you even money that Bibi will withdraw from the proposed speech before a joint session of Congress”. I joshed him and said “I wouldn’t count on it.”

Sunday, I received suggestions that Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu should have a Plan B given the rising contretemps in the media over US House Speaker John Boehner’s invitation to talk about Iran before a Joint Session of Congress. There  was a welter of criticism from the White House, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and mainstream media talking heads  included David Brooks of the New York Times and  Chris Wallace and Shepherd Smith of  FoxNews.  They were admonishing Speaker Boehner and Israeli Ambassador Ron Dermer with terms like “dicey, wicked more for photo op” and “partisan politics” and “unwise for Israel.”  It was ostensibly about the lack of courtesy shown the President by not giving prior notice to the White House of the invitation extended to Netanyahu.  There was pique by certain unnamed senior officials in the White House over what some might call Bibigate.

However, let us remember there was increasing  bi-partisan support for new Iran nuclear sanctions legislation despite  the President’s warning that he would veto it if it was passed. New Jersey Democratic Senator Bob Menendez was particularly incensed at the President for his questioning his motivations.  Menendez said: “The more I hear from the administration and its quotes, the more it sounds like talking points that come straight out of Tehran. And it feeds to the Iranian narrative of victimization, when they are the ones with the original sin.”  Lest, we forget, the President had threatened a veto if increased Iran legislation passed.  It was abundantly clear in the January 16th Joint Press Conference at the White House when the President Obama agreed with UK PM David Cameron’s remarks, urging Senators on Capitol Hill not to take up new sanctions legislation at a “sensitive time”. Thus, one could speculate that Speaker Boehner’s invitation to Netanyahu on January 21st to speak to a Joint Session of Congress in early March was a rebuttal to the President.

The rancor over Bibigate was visible in the final week of January into February.  Wednesday, January 28thCNN released a clip of Fareed Zakaria’s February 1st GPS interview with President Obama.  Obama suggested that a visit with Netanyahu was “inappropriate,” as it was too close to the upcoming March Knesset elections.  The President said, “I’m declining to meet with him simply because our general policy is, we don’t meet with any world leader two weeks before their election, [I] think that’s inappropriate. And that’s true with some of our closest allies.”  Those comments engendered another rebuttal that the White House may have been giving tacit support to the involvement of Presidential Campaign aide Jim Byrd in advising the Labor-Hanuat opposition to Netanyahu in the Knesset general elections.

Friday, January 30th, Jeffrey Goldberg published an interview in The Atlantic with Israeli Ambassador to Washington, Ron Dermer, a former US Republican strategist and member of the Netanyahu’s inner circle.   Dermer discussed the background for Boehner’s issuance of the invitation to Netanyahu to speak to Congress on Iran. Dermer suggested that while the Prime Minister “meant no disrespect towards President Obama … Netanyahu must speak up while there is still time to speak up”.

That led Cornell Law Professor William Jacobson on the blog Legal Insurrection to opine that Obama’s not offended; he just wants Bibi out of office.

The Hill round up on the Sunday Talk shows had comments from Rep. Paul Ryan on NBC’s “Meet the Press” and Arizona Senator John McCain on CNN’s “State of The Union.”  Over the issue of Speaker Boehner’s invitation to Netanyahu Ryan said,” The Invitation to Israeli prime minister was ‘absolutely’ appropriate. I don’t know if I would say it’s antagonizing”.  McCain drew attention to the new low in U.S. – Israel relations under Obama saying, “It’s the worst that I’ve ever seen in my lifetime.”

Virtually out of nowhere, Sunday, February 1st, commentary from an “Insight” blog post of the Israeli Institute for National Security Strategic Studies at Tel Aviv University shed light on a bizarre theory of what was behind Bibigate.  The author of the INSS post, Zaki Shalom, suggested:

The backdrop for the Administration’s expressed dissatisfaction with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu’s intention to present his position on negotiations with Iran to Congress, creating a rather transparent linkage between Israel’s positions on negotiations with Iran and sanctions, and U.S. willingness to assist in combating the Palestinian attempt to exert international legal and diplomatic pressure on Israel.

On Thursday, January 30, 2015, the Senate Banking Committee voted out a ‘softer’ version of the Kirk –Menendez Sanctions legislation by a vote of 18 to 4, including six Democrats.  As reported by The Hill, the legislation:

… Would impose sanctions on Iran if a comprehensive agreement to roll back its nuclear program is not reached by June 30 and would allow the president to waive sanctions indefinitely for 30 days at a time.

However, the bill would be shelved until March 24th for a possible floor vote.  Senator Bob Corker (R-TN) said, “All of us understand it’s not going to be voted on before March 24”. While the measure may portend a possible override vote should President Obama veto it that still requires Senator Menendez to keep the group of 17 Democratic Senators who support this version of sanctions legislation in the bi-partisan alliance.

Israeli concern over a weak final agreement by March 24th  is reflected  in a Times of Israel report published  Sunday, February 1st,” US sources deride Israeli ‘nonsense’ on Obama giving in to Iran.”  Israeli  sources contend that Iran is likely to get 80 % of what it is seeking- the ability to continue enrichment with  upwards of 9,000 centrifuges, especially the advanced IR-2s. The Israelis believe that would give Iran nuclear breakout within weeks.  Add to that mix Iran flaunting pictures in a ToA  report of a Medium Range Ballistic Missile (MRBM) capable of covering all of Europe. That is to be followed in 2015 to 2016 by one cap ICBM range. Of course there a number of us who believe that Iran may already have purchased nuclear weapons from rogue regimes, but may lack nuclear warheads, which are likely to be supplied by North Korea to be mounted on those ICBMs.

Especially as the President observed, there is less than a 50/50 chance of reaching an agreement. Then assuming the current polls are correct and Bibi retains the ability to form a new Knesset coalition after the March 17th election, he may speak with both authority and strength.

As a usual astute observer of Israel from Europe, Imre Herzog, opined when I wrote him on my side bet “you might win the bet”.

EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared in the New English Review. The featured image is of U.S. House Speaker John Boehner and Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu. Washington Times File Photo  5-24-2011.

Did ISIS Perpetrate the Damascus Sarin Gas Attack in 2013?

When we posted on the special MERIA report by Jon Spyer on the probable ISIS Chemical Weapons  (CW) attack that killed Kurdish YPG fighters in the village of Avdiko near Kobani, Syria, we referenced the mid-2013 gassing that killed 1,500 in the suburbs of Damascus “by the Assad regime”.  However, there is evidence indicating that the horrific sarin attack in August 2013 may not have been perpetrated by the Assad regime at all, but rather it may have been the work of ISIS.  Recent experience with ISIS demonstrates their willingness to behave far beyond the capabilities of any other terrorist organization. Moreover, the situation in Syria is complex, to the point of being bewildering to the Western mind. To oversimplify the events that take place in this strange and deadly war is both foolish and dangerous.

ISIS began operating in Syria quietly, using the fighting of other groups as camouflage. But over time, they systematically took over large portions of northern Syria. Crimes of extreme barbarism and mass murders, also attributed to Assad, were clearly the work of ISIS, who particularly targeted Christians, Alawites, Shia Muslims, and other minorities. Women and children were viciously tortured and murdered and men were systematically shot, beheaded, or crucified.  These are the hallmarks of ISIS, not Assad. From there, the short steps to acquiring, and deploying chemical weapons were a logical progression.

There are scores of fighting groups participating in the Syrian war. All are ostensibly there in Syria to fight the Assad regime, but they frequently change names, alliances, and even their missions. They fight Assad’s military and they fight each other. So understanding the situation clearly and fully is a daunting task. Not all the groups have the capability or the interest in engaging with chemical weapons. But ISIS has shown a clear interest. In fact, of them all, ISIS has proven to be the most effective and the most deadly.

It has been fashionable throughout the Syrian war that began in 2011 to attribute all the atrocities of the war to Syrian President Bashar Assad, and it is certainly true that his forces have been responsible for many of them. But the easy explanation may not always be the true story.

On March 19, 2013, Assad blamed an alleged chemical attack against Khan Al-Assal near Aleppo on the rebels. He immediately called for a UN investigation of the attack. However he changed his mind when other CW attacks were reported by the US, Britain, and France and the UN decided to expand the investigation. After several months of negotiations, UN inspectors received permission to go to the sites of Khan Al-Assal and two other alleged attacks.  At Syria’s insistence, their mandate was limited to reporting only on whether chemical weapons were used and not on who was responsible.

Many stories about the gas attacks abounded in 2013. According to sources in Syria, the perpetrators may well have been ISIS, which was known to be operating in both northern Syria and the area around Damascus, although al Nusrah, another al Qaeda affiliate , took credit for the Damascus attack. The various reports which both appeared in the media and through private channels were at once confusing and enlightening.

The US administration immediately adopted the position that Assad was responsible for all the gas attacks. In referring to the August attack, US UN Ambassador Samantha Power said “only the regime could have carried out this large-scale attack.” According to Power, the quality of the sarin was higher than that used by Iraq’s Saddam Hussein against Iran, and there was no evidence that the rebels possessed the nerve agent or the ability to deploy it. But lack of evidence is not proof, and the reference to Saddam Hussein’s old store of CW was a red herring, since it was likely that the gas came from Syria.  Syria was known to have an active program of developing and storing large stores of chemical and biological weapons.

On May 6, 2013 the Washington Times reported, “Testimony from victims strongly suggests it was the rebels, not the Syrian government that used Sarin nerve gas during a recent incident in the revolution-wracked nation quoting a UN source.”

Carla del Ponte, a member of the UN Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Syria, added in an interview with Swiss TV, that her commission had not found evidence of Assad government forces using chemical weapons.  They were referring to an earlier attack for which critics of Assad were already holding him responsible.

The Washington Times article featured videos of terrorist forces preparing and then firing what they claimed were chemical weapons which they referenced to specifically as “sarin gas”. One of the weapons was clearly marked in English “Saudi Factory for Chlorine and Alkalies”. The evidence presented in the article is compelling proof that they were not perpetarted by he Assad military.

Reports from sources on the ground in Syria indicated that a Syrian army base near Damascus had been overwhelmed by terrorists, who had stolen chemical weapons and rocket launchers from the stores there. There are a number of stories regarding what happened next.

According to media reports, there were several attacks from rocket mounted chemical warheads against the Ein Tarma, Moadamiyeh and Zamalka neighborhoods of Ghouta near Damascus. One report was that the weapons exploded prematurely as they were being transported through a tunnel, killing and wounding several of the terrorists.  Another report that the weapons were in fact fired from an area close to Damascus was released at the same time. Both are consistent with what we have been told by other sources and the stories are not mutually exclusive.

Finally, there is the question of what happened to the Syrian chemical weapons stores that the UN was tasked to destroy. On September 4, 2014, the Special Coordinator for the Joint Mission of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons and the United Nations (OPCW-UN) reported to the Security Council that 96 percent of Syria’s declared stockpile had already been destroyed and preparations were underway to destroy the remaining 12 production facilities. The operative word in that sentence is “declared”. The report flies in the face of our sources, who report that in fact only 11% of the CW stores were actually destroyed. Much of the remaining weapons were moved into the Bekaa Valley in Lebanon (Hezbollah territory) and into the many caves located in the mountains that flank the valley.

The remaining chemicals were hidden in secret locations in Syria. On October 14,  2014  according to the Associated Press and  reported by Israel National News, Syria revealed the existence of four secret chemical weapons facilities, locations that had been previously hidden from UN inspectors when they were destroying what they thought was Assad’s complete chemical weapons stores. No doubt there are more, and whatever Assad’s reason for revealing these sites now, his announcement raises far more questions about Syria’s CW program than it answers.

Prior to the UN involvement in shutting down the Syrian CW program, some CW were undoubtedly stolen by ISIS as they continued to take over territory in the north. The capture of the al-Saphira chemical plant near Aleppo in December 2012 was an early sign that chemical weapons were a clear target of the al Qaeda-linked groups, al Nusrah and ISIS. Connect that to the latest reports from Kobani and a starkly graphic picture emerges of how freely ISIS has been willing to use chemical weapons against innocent civilians. Their latest has been what appears to be mustard gas against the remaining citizens of that Syrian city. Combined with their total lack of constraint on the use of CW, the former Hussein Ba’athist commanders who have joined ISIS have the necessary experience and knowledge to enable ISIS to use them without compunction. The mix is lethal and barbaric.

The Daily Mail reported that Iraq officials had CCTV pictures of ISIS fighters loading equipment from the abandoned Hussein era Al-Muthanna complex in June 2014 with an estimated 2,500 rockets containing Sarin gas.  The Daily Mail reported:

In a letter to U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, Ambassador Mohamed Ali Alhakim said remnants of a former chemical weapons program are kept in two bunkers there.

‘The project management spotted at dawn on Thursday, 12 June 2014, through the camera surveillance system, the looting of some of the project equipment and appliances, before the terrorists disabled the surveillance system,’ Alhakim wrote in the letter dated June 30.

‘The Government of Iraq requests the  Member States of the United Nations to understand the current inability of Iraq, owing to the deterioration of the security situation, to fulfill its obligations to destroy chemical weapons,’ he said.

[…]

The last major report by U.N. inspectors on the status of Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction program was released about a year after the experts left in March 2003. It states that Bunker 13 contained 2,500 sarin-filled 122-mm chemical rockets produced and filled before 1991, and about 180 tons of sodium cyanide, ‘a very toxic chemical and a precursor for the warfare agent tabun.’

Regarding the potential of ISIS’ ability to use captured former Hussein era CW caches, the National Post reported a former British Colonel who suggested that it may be capable of using them to make dirty bombs, ISIS could make dirty bombs with CW, former British Colonel says.  The NP special report cited the British expert saying:

Hamish de Breton-Gordon, a former colonel, issued the warning after it was found that two large stockpiles of shells filled with mustard and sarin gas had not been made secure, either under the American occupation or when Iraqi forces controlled the areas north of Baghdad before this summer.

Mr. Breton-Gordon said ISIS had shown it was determined to use chemical weapons in Syria and its advance in Iraq had put dangerous material within the group’s grasp.

“These materials are not as secure as we had been led to believe and now pose some significant threat to the coalition in Iraq fighting ISIS,” he said.

“We know that ISIS have researched the use of chemical weapons in Syria for the last two years and worryingly there are already unconfirmed reports that ISIS has used mustard gas as it pursues its offensive against the Kurds in Kobani.”

“They certainly have access to the Al-Qaeda research into chemical weapons and will want to use the legacy weapons in Iraq.” ISIS seized the Muthanna State Establishment, where Iraqi chemical agent production was based in the Eighties, this summer.

The New York Times (NYTreported Wednesday that last year, two contaminated bunkers there containing cyanide components and sarin gas rockets as well as other shells which had not been encased in concrete and made safe.

It also reported that another large bunker where U.S. Marines found mustard shells in 2008 was overgrown and abandoned during the same visit.

The NYT reported that the US Army recovered more than 5,000 abandoned CW shells over the period from 2004 to 2011.

Watch this NYT video of the special CW report.

Connect the dots.  Was ISIS involved with gas attacks in spring 2013 and the August 2013 sarin attacks in Damascus?   In addition, there is Spyer’s MERIA report of a mustard gas attack that killed Kurdish YPG fighters in July 2014.   Did the ISIS attackers used Mustard gas looted from the Al-Muthanna complex as cited in the NP report by a British expert?

Whatever the history of ISIS’ learning curve, it is clearly rapidly becoming  a force to be reckoned with. In only a few short years, ISIS has acquired a formidable capability to undertake genocidal attacks in both Syria and Iraq akin to that perpetrated against Kurds in Halabja in 1988.  The choice which now faces the West is not whether to stop ISIS on its deadly rampage against civilization, but how to do so effectively and permanently? To do otherwise will be to unleash ISIS against targets worldwide and put our civilization as we know it at terrible deadly risk.

EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared in the New English Review. The featured image is of victims of the sarin gas attack in Ghouta, Syria vicinity,  August 21, 2013. Source: Reuters

Let the Little Children Come Unto Me: What is Behind the Humanitarian Crisis on our Southern Border?

This morning on Fox and Friends I watched  a segment  with Texas Governor, Rick Perry.  He  drew  attention to the spike in Central American, Syrian and other Middle Eastern illegal immigrants seeking asylum . The Washington Times quoted as  saying:

That the Obama administration has dropped the ball on border security and must improve diplomatic relations with Central American nations to stem the surge of illegal immigrants trying to cross the nation’s southern border.

This president is totally and absolutely either inept, or making some decisions that are not in the interest of American citizens, particularly from the public safety standpoint.

The federal government must step up because Texas does not have the money or manpower to protect its 1,200 mile southern border.

Then Perry went on to express an abiding concern about illegal immigrants harboring possible terrorist threats:

There are a record number of illegal immigrants that are being apprehended at the border that come from countries that are home to groups that pose a threat to the United States.

These people are coming from states like Syria that have substantial connections back to terrorist regimes and terrorist operations. It is a huge problem and a great concern.

Last week Fox Latino there was a report on radioactive materials in Mexico stolen by armed gun men at  the National Construction Lab. They seized Cesium 37 and  americium-beryllium  that could be used for  creation of  a terrorist device. Last December some thieves in Mexico stole a vehicle with deadly Cobalt 60 virtually assuring their demise from radiation sickness.  Then we recall the 2011 episode involving  a Mexican drug cartel,  Iran’s Qud Force working with an Iranian American plotting to kill the Saudi Ambassador to Washington.  The Iranian American was convicted in June 2013 to 25 years for his role in the assassination plot.

Governor Perry’s comments come in the face of a veritable onslaught of unaccompanied alien minors and women and small children from Central America swarming our borders.  There are daily reports news stories about youngsters being warehoused, and given medical treatment.  They are given bus tickets to stay with alleged relatives on the promise to show up for a Immigration court  to hear  their petition for asylum.  They are threatened with physical harm by the rampant drug related murders in Central American countries like Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala.

The Wall Street Journal investigated the concerns expressed by Texas Governor  Perry in an article yesterday, “Migrant Surge Jams Border”.

Frustration is mounting along the Texas border as federal officials struggle to check a surge of Central Americans illegally crossing into the state—an influx critics say is being aggravated because the Obama administration is allowing more migrants, primarily women traveling with children, to be released into the U.S. pending deportation proceedings.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) hasn’t disclosed statistics on how many immigrants it has released. But the agency has confirmed that due to a shortage of detention space in Texas, it has shipped hundreds of immigrants recently apprehended in Texas to Arizona for processing, and subsequently dropped some off at bus stations there, allowing them to travel to locations around the country until they can be deported.

Texas US Democrat Congressman Henry Cuellar  was cited in the WSJ report  pointed  to the  11,000 illegals who were effectively let go in the Rio Grande Valley and other border locations.  The numbers are staggering.  The DHS has stepped up deportations from 235,093  last fiscal year, up from 151,893 four years earlier.

The major concern are those unaccompanied alien minors as the federal Office of Refugee Resettlement calls them.  The number doubled over the previous fiscal year to more than 47,017 and federal officials expect that to double to in excess of 90,000.  Last Tuesday, the Senate Appropriation Committee authorized  $2 Billion to address the problem,  a billion more than the Obama Administration requested.  The Federal government has an obligation to handle unaccompanied minors separately.

The reality is the current surge is literally swamping the Immigration Courts system used to handle asylum and deportation matters.  Currently the backlog exceeds 350,000 pending cases.

Watch this CNN news video on the crisis in unaccompanied minors illegal immigrants on the Southern border:

The Refugee Act of 1980 was enacted to comply with international standards for handling humanitarian refugees which meant complying with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees program.  The Act has resulting in over 3 million refugees  being settled in the US,  granting them temporary cash benefits, Medicaid eligibility and a Green Card leading to US citizenship in five years. The refugee resettlement program has been fraught with fraud especially among Somali and other African refugees. It has allowed asylum for Iraqi terrorists in Kentucky  and on April 15, 2013, the refugee  Tsarneav Brothers  from Dagestan committed the Boston Marathon Massacre. Then there are Somali émigrés who  returned to their country to fight and die for Al Shebaab, an Al Qaeda affiliate.  The current crisis in the Middle East looms large on the refugee program with the prospect of more than 20,000 Syrian refugee eligible for settlement here.

The Refugee Act is overdue for an overhaul that a number of critics have suggested requires Congressionally sponsored Government Accountability Office audits and  special investigative hearings. The estimated administrative cost of the Refugee Resettlement program exceeds $2 billion annually, not counting the recent Senate Appropriations aimed at dealing with the influx unaccompanied alien minors.  Add to that state welfare and Medicaid costs and some immigration experts maintain that the annual costs could well exceed $10 to 12 billion annually.

The late Sen. Ted Kennedy was a sponsor of the 1980 Refugee Act.  The co-sponsor of that was then Sen. Joe Biden. Vice President Biden  was on  a trip  this week to Central American countries endeavoring to stem the tide. As the WSJ article noted one Administration official said “that they were looking at ways to “enhance”  their support to these Central American countries.   Further they are urging parents to ‘think twice’ about sending children on such a dangerous journey that doesn’t result in long-term residency in the U.S.”

So who is fomenting the current humanitarian crisis on our southern border? Ann Corcoran of Refugee Resettlement Watch suggested in a recent article that may be the same religious groups that were behind the so-called Sanctuary Movement of the 1980’s in the Southwestern US that sent illegals across the country, “Invasion on the border: religious groups telling them to come!

Corcoran cites a Border Patrol officer reflecting the comments of unaccompanied alien minors as to who told them to come here:

Cueto (Art Del Cueto, president of the National Border Patrol Council Local 2544 in Tucson) says when he asked a group of children about their motivation, they spoke of the “announcer on the radio” who encouraged them to head for the United States. Cueto says Central American radio, television, other media, and religious groups have all encouraged people to move north to the United States.

Who are those religious groups suggesting that these Central American children come here? The beneficiaries of the recent Senate emergency appropriation to take care of these children, Voluntary Agencies authorized by the federal Refugee Resettlement programs. They are:

This surge is indicative of the Cloward Piven strategy espoused by two Columbia University social work theorists in the 1960’s. Their thesis was swamping the system would result in a crisis and force transformation to benefit the least able among us.  Thus, the voluntary agencies in the Refugee Resettlement community are simply following the Parable of Matthew 14:19 : Let the little children come unto me. Jim Holt of the Gateway Pundit blog tells the whole story with this headline, “Obama’s Cloward Piven Strategy floods Southern US with Illegal Immigrant Children.

RELATED ARTICLE: Texas Ranchers Under Attack, Overrun by Illegal Immigrants

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

Saudi-led Gulf Squabble Spells Trouble for Obama?

The Obama White House and the world media are pre-occupied with Russian President Putin’s grab of the Ukrainian autonomous province of Crimea. There are undertones of “Back to the Future”- meaning a possible return to Cold War era geopolitics with Russia.

Despite that overriding ruckus there was a less well publicized series of events in the Persian Gulf region among members of the Gulf Cooperating Council (GCC). Does this spell trouble ahead for President Obama’s Middle East policies?

At the GCC meeting on March 5th in Riyadh, Qatar was effectively isolated by “sisterly” Sunni Arab states. The Emir of Qatar, a member of the GCC, has been prominent in supporting financial aid and assistance to Muslim Brotherhood (MB) affiliates in Egypt under Morsi, Hamas in Gaza and the Syrian Opposition Council, one of whose leaders is a dual American Syrian citizenLouay Safi.

Virtually on the heels of the squabble at the GCC gathering, Saudi King Abdullah announced decrees on Friday, March 7th. They listed the MB as a terrorist organization along with several AQ affiliates in Syria and Iraq, as well as Shia terrorist groups in North Yemen and in the oil rich Eastern Province. The latter are backed by both Iran’s Qod Force and Hezbollah. This should present problems and potential conflicts of interest for President Obama’s senior National Security advisor Robert Malley and White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough. Both of these men espouse outreach to the MB, Iran and proxies, Hezbollah and Hamas.

This train wreck about to happen has been in development since the July 3, 2013 ouster by Egyptian Gen. al-Sisi of President Morsi in Egypt. Morsi was a former leader of the Muslim Brotherhood endeavoring to create a Sharia compliant constitution with him as Emir. Egypt’s interim government in December 2013 outlawed the MB. This week an Egyptian court went after Hamas, the Gaza affiliate of the MB banning activities in Egypt. Following, the ouster of Morsi, Saudi Arabia and several of members of the GCC provided upwards of $12 billion in financial assistance to the interim Egyptian interim government. The stage now appears set for Gen. Abdel Fateh al-Sisi to run as the country’s President, a harkening back to the days of Gamal Abdel Nasser and the possible return of military autocracy in Egypt.

The flashpoint for the GCC isolation of Qatar was the notorious aged Egyptian MB preacher Yousuf al Qaradawi who had been in exile in Qatar before temporarily returning to Egypt in February 2011. He issued Fatwas for the reconquest of Al Quds (Jerusalem) and preached anti-Semitic hatred to crowds in Tahrir Square. In a January 2009 broadcast from Qatar, al Qaradawisaid about Jews: “kill them, down to the very last one.” While in Doha, Qatar he steadfastly refused to participate in annual International Interfaith Conferences.

A news report by Radaw noted the isolation of Qatar by “sisterly” Sunni Arab states because of the mischief of al Qaradawi and sanctuary provided by the Emir:

The Arab states of the lower Gulf are engaged in the latest and potentially most serious of their periodic family squabbles, which this week provoked three of them to withdraw their ambassadors from tiny Qatar.

The Qatar government expressed regret and surprise at Wednesday’s decision by the “sisterly countries” of Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, but said it did not plan to retaliate by pulling out its own envoys.

All four states, together with Kuwait and Oman, are members of the GCC.

The official reason for the diplomatic spat is Qatar’s alleged failure to live up to a recent commitment not to interfere in the internal affairs of fellow GCC states.

The three conservative states are particularly distressed that Qatar continued to provide a platform for Yousuf Al Qaradawi, a Qatar-based Egyptian cleric, to use his fiery sermons to attack Saudi Arabia and the UAE despite Riyadh’s threat to freeze relations unless he was silenced.

The scope of King Abdullah’s terrorist designations was reported by Al-Jazeera:

Saudi Arabia has listed the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organization along with two al-Qaeda-linked groups fighting in Syria.

The decree against the Brotherhood, whose Egyptian branch supported the deposed Egyptian president, Mohamed Morsi, was reported on Saudi state television on Friday.

Egypt in December listed the Brotherhood as a terrorist organization, prompting the arrest of members and associates and forcing the Islamist group further underground.

Saudi Arabia also listed Jabhat al-Nusra, which is al-Qaeda’s official Syrian affiliate, and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Sham) (ISIS), which has been disowned al-Qaeda, as “terrorist organizations”.

It also listed Shia Huthi rebels fighting in northern Yemen and the little-known internal Shia group, Hezbollah in the Hijaz.

Early in February, 2014, Ayman al Zawahiri at Al Qaeda Central announced that the global Islamic terrorist group had no association with ISIS, instead providing support for the Al Nusrah front fighting against the Assad regime in Syria.  ISIS however has rampaged across the Anbar province in neighboring Iraq overtaking the Sunni town of Fallujah.

About the same time as the AQ ISIS declaration, King Abdullah had announced new counterterrorism policies that were directed against so-called reform movements in the Saudi Kingdom. The Washington Post  reported the new law “states that any act that ‘undermines’  the state or society, including calls for regime change in Saudi Arabia, can be tried as an act of terrorism.” This Saudi law appears  to be in violation of human rights taken for granted in the West, but clearly viewed as seditious in the autocratic and Sharia compliant Wahhabist Kingdom.

These latest Saudi initiatives could have significant implications for the Obama Administration and Secretary Kerry. Kerry is endeavoring to fashion an Israel- Palestinian final status agreement and resolution of the 37 month civil war in Syria.  We noted earlier the presence of Louay Safi as spokesperson for the Syrian Opposition Council at the recent Geneva II plenum talks. Safi was Research Director at the northern Virginia- based MB supported International Islamic Institute of Thought. Moreover, he was also Leadership Development Director at the MB front, the Islamic Society of North America, an unindicted co-conspirator in the 2008  Federal Dallas  trial and convictions of leaders of the Holy Land Foundation. The Muslim charity group had been accused of funneling upwards of $35 million to MB affiliate Hamas. Safi was also invited by the US Army Chief of Staff to lecture troops on Islam at Fort Hood in early December 2009 following the massacre perpetrated by Maj. Nidal Hassan a month earlier. Clearly, Safi’s rise to prominence in the Syrian Opposition Council is indicative of the MB controlling presence.

White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough and senior National Security Aides were present at the May 2012 meetings of the Brookings Doha Center in Qatar. They were engaged in outreach to MB officials from Egypt, Tunisia and other Arab states and facilitated assistance to ousted President Morsi. Obama Appointments of MB members, especially Department of Homeland Security Assistant Secretary for Policy, Arif Alikhan and Senior Advisory board member Mohamed Elibiary have been problematic. National Security Advisor Malley was a former Middle East foreign policy aide to President Clinton during the failed 2000 Camp David Israel-Palestinian negotiations between former Israeli PM Ehud Barak and the late Yassir Arafat. Malley had accused Israel of nixing the agreement, when it was evident that Arafat had purposely sabotaged it. Malley went on to become head of the Middle East and North African program of the International Crisis group and later advised then Senator Obama and was part of the President’s transition team. He holds views that may further complicate Administration Middle East policies.  Malley propounded speaking with terrorist proxies Hamas and Hezbollah as well as the MB. Malley, was recently appointed to the National Security Council. He has the portfolio for Israel -Palestinian peace talks and the Iran nuclear P5+1 diplomatic initiative.

Now that Egypt and Saudi Arabia have designated the MB as a terrorist group, would the Obama Administration dare follow their lead? How Messrs. McDonough, Malley and Secretary of State Kerry will contend with a plethora of problems arising from efforts by the Egyptian government and now the Saudi led GCC targeting the MB is a ‘puzzlement’.

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

FRAUD ALERT: Obama Loosens Asylum Restrictions, Claims Skyrocket!

Asylum in the US was the political topic  de jour in Washington  today given a  Congressional  immigration report  and  publication  of  change  in  Administration rules.  The Washington Times (WT)  published  an exclusive report on government revelations  of massive fraud in asylum applications, “Audit finds asylum system rife with fraud; approval laws broken with surge of immigrants”.  The Obama Administration announced that  it was unilaterally lifting certain restrictions against asylum seekers with possible inadvertent relations with terrorist sponsoring groups. That may be the  Administration clearing the way  to grant Asylum to an estimated 2,000 Syrians.   A Fox News report, “Administration” cited   Senator  Jeff Sessions (R-AL) who found  the Administration’s move “alarming”, while Patrick Leahy (D-VT) , Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee that has oversight of the Refugee Act  welcomed  it.

Syrian Christian refugees

Endangered Syrian Christians

In December 2013, the  Congressional Research Service (CRS) released a report that indicated “asylum applicants are at the highest level in two decades and triple the number of claims from 2012”.   The CRS noted that for the 2013 Fiscal year that ended in September “36,026 immigrants have expressed credible fear — a preliminary step in determining asylum — stating that they would like to remain in the U.S. because going back to their countries of origin would put them in harm’s way”. Individuals reaching the US at border crossings, ports of entry and landing at airports can requests asylum for fear of threats in their home country . They are placed in detention for disposition through a hearing process.  The US Customs and Immigration Service (USCIS) approved 30,393 asylees immigrants in 2013. In 2012 44,170 requests for asylum were received and  11,978  were granted. Based on data for 2012 the  leading countries of origin for asylum seekers were  China, Egypt and Ethiopia.

A December 2013, Los Angeles Times (LAT) article on the surge in asylum indicated  the magnitude  of the spike in requests:

Most asylum applications are still made from inside the country, rather than by claiming credible fear at the border. People who are in the U.S. legally — on a tourist or business visa, for example — file “affirmative” applications, which have also increased, though not as rapidly as credible fear applications. Combined, the two categories have more than doubled in the last five years, exceeding 80,000 in fiscal year 2013

Statistics show that an immigrant’s chance of winning asylum depends largely on where he or she is from.

In 2012, more than 10,000 people from China were granted asylum, compared with just 126 Mexicans and 234 Hondurans, according to federal data. Immigration court figures, which do not include cases approved in an initial hearing by an asylum officer, show a success rate of nearly 50% for Chinese versus 1% for Mexicans.

Still, the process buys time. Almost 90% of credible fear applicants pass an initial screening interview, which allows them to live and work in the U.S. until their cases are resolved — often a matter of years.

In a House Judiciary hearing in December 2013, Reps. Trent Franks (R-AZ), Jason Chaffetz (R-UT), and Trey Gowdy (R-SC) suggested that the rise in asylum claims may have reflected possible abuse of the immigration system. Chaffetz  said, “these credible-fear claimants almost always get approved and are released into our communities … when their asylum claims are ultimately denied, they simply add to the fugitive population in the U.S.”.

CRS immigration experts suggested otherwise.   Ruth Wasem of the CRS indicated the increase in asylum  claims “alone does not signify an abuse of the claims.”

Today’s  WT report affirms the December 2013 immigration hearing allegations with the release of a heretofore confidential government report by the House Judiciary Committee. It noted “at least 70 percent of asylum applications showed signs of fraud, according to a secret 2009 internal government audit that found many of those cases had been approved anyway”.  The WT report cited:

The 2009 internal report, which looked at claims made in 2005, found extensive evidence of fraud.

Investigators said 12 percent of the cases they reviewed showed clear evidence of fraud. In some cases, adjudicators missed the evidence, and in other instances, the adjudicators weren’t using tools available to the fraud investigators so they couldn’t have known.

House Judiciary Chairman Robert Goodlette (R-VA)  commented:

 Asylum fraud undermines the integrity of our immigration system and hurts U.S. taxpayers. Once individuals are granted asylum, they receive immediate access to all major federal welfare programs. Our immigration system should be generous to those persecuted around the globe, but we must also ensure our compassion isn’t being abused by those seeking to game the system.

The LAT report cited the example of  Chinese asylum seekers in a New York fraud case:

Fraud has been an issue, with underground asylum industries thriving in some ethnic communities.

In New York in 2012,  26 people, including six attorneys, were indicted on charges that they manufactured asylum claims and coached Chinese clients on how to lie to immigration authorities. One church employee allegedly provided religious training so applicants could pass as Christians.

Thomas Mayer, a San Gabriel immigration attorney, said Chinese immigrants sometimes ask him to make up a persecution story for them. He refuses, but the demand is growing.

To weed out impostors, Mayer administers a quiz: “Name two important Christian holidays. What is baptism? Who was John the Baptist?”

The Fox News report noted  the publication of new  rules in the Federal Register on Wednesday loosening restrictions:

The change, approved by Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson and Secretary of State John Kerry, was announced Wednesday in the Federal Register. It would allow some individuals who provided “limited material support” to terror groups to be considered for entry into the U.S.

Supporters of the change, including Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., argued that the current ban on anyone who has ever aided terrorists has unfairly blocked thousands of refugees.

“The existing interpretation was so broad as to be unworkable,” Leahy said in a statement. “It resulted in deserving refugees and asylees being barred from the United States for actions so tangential and minimal that no rational person would consider them supporters of terrorist activities.”

This  and the House Judiciary  release of the  asylum fraud report prompted Sen. Jeff Sessions  (R-AL) to respond:

In light of these and other facts, it is thus deeply alarming that the Obama administration would move unilaterally to relax admissions standards for asylum seekers and potentially numerous other applicants for admission who have possible connections to insurgent or terrorist groups. We need to tighten security standards for asylum, not relax them even further.

What is the point of Congress passing a law if the administration abuses its ‘discretion’ to say that law simply no longer applies?

In May 2013, we  asked in a post, Can We Stop Refugee Terrorism? Ann  Corcoran of Refugee Resettlement Watch noted  in a blog post how alleged suspect Igrahim Todashev, killed by the FBI in a shootout in Tampa, Florida,  entered the US:

From the Boston Globe:

In 2008, the US government granted Todashev asylum, a protection granted to foreigners with a credible fear for their safety in their homelands ­because of religious, political, or other specific forms of persecution.

But Reuters reports that Todashev’s father is a government official in Grozny and has close ties to  Chechen  regional  leader Ramzan Kadryov.

Todaschev was the alleged accomplice of  the late Boston Marathon Bomber Tamerlane Tsarneav in the grisly murder of three men in a Waltham, Massachusetts apartment on 9/11/11.

Mark Kirkorian of the Center for Immigration Studies said  the LAT report:

Giving asylum to all kinds of people who are just using it as a path to a green card is not right. Only by keeping the bar high, so the only ones who get asylum are the ones who are really, really deserving, can it remain politically viable.

For Kirkorian that means those fleeing repressive governments and genocide.  Now we have an Administration relaxing the bar for asylum that might  let in  terrorists like Todaschev; this time from war-torn Syria.  Any priority for admittance of Syrian refugees should be granted to those meeting Krikorian’s criteria; Armenian and Orthodox Christians facing ethnic cleansing by Al Qaeda affiliates and Islamist opposition militias.

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