Blogging should resume late night or in the morning, depending how beat I am.
#Dodgers lineup vs. Indians: Gordon 2B Puig RF Gonzalez 1B Kemp LF Ethier CF Uribe 3B Ellis C Rojas SS Haren P— Los Angeles Dodgers (@Dodgers) June 30, 2014
Commentary and analysis on American politics, culture, and national identity, U.S. foreign policy and international relations, and the state of education - from a neoconservative perspective! - Keeping an eye on the communist-left so you don't have to!
#Dodgers lineup vs. Indians: Gordon 2B Puig RF Gonzalez 1B Kemp LF Ethier CF Uribe 3B Ellis C Rojas SS Haren P— Los Angeles Dodgers (@Dodgers) June 30, 2014
Six months ago, Sunni Arab militants faced a daunting firepower imbalance in their uprising against the U.S.-equipped Iraqi army west of Baghdad.Keep reading.
But once their campaign for the city of Fallouja was launched in January, their lethal capabilities were bolstered from the stockpiles of the Iraqi armed forces.
Many soldiers fled, throwing down their weapons, which were picked up by the insurgents. Police stations and security posts overrun by Sunni militants yielded more martial booty to be turned against the forces of Prime Minister Nouri Maliki's Shiite Muslim-led government.
"Praise God, we soon had enough weapons to fight for one or two years," said Ahmad Dabaash, spokesman for the Islamic Army, a Sunni rebel faction, who spoke in a hotel lobby here in Iraq's northern Kurdistan region. "And now? Don't even ask!"
Egyptian special forces tracked and arrested a terrorist cell which had used tunnels to cross from Gaza into the Sinai Peninsula, Ma'ariv reported on Saturday. The 15 militants arrested belong to the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).Still more from Michael Maloof, at WND, "IRAQ INVADERS THREATEN NUKE ATTACK ON ISRAEL: ISIS focus on 'destroying Zionist regime' to 'liberate Palestine'."
Further interrogation of the cell by Egyptian forces revealed that the group's intent was to relay messages and set up terrorist cells for the ISIS in Egypt, to fight the Egyptian government...
BAGHDAD — Iraqi government officials said Sunday that Russian experts had arrived in Iraq to help the army get 12 new Russian warplanes into the fight against Sunni extremists, while the extremists declared their leader the caliph, or absolute ruler, of all jihadi organizations worldwide.
The Russian move was at least an implicit rebuke to the United States, which the Iraqis believe has been too slow to supply American F-16s and attack helicopters — although the United States is now in the process of providing both.
“In the coming three or four days the aircraft will be in service to support our forces in the fight” against the insurgents of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, said Gen. Anwar Hama Ameen, the commander of the Iraqi Air Force, referring to five SU-25 aircraft that were flown into Iraq aboard Russian cargo planes Saturday night, and two more expected later Sunday.
Also on Sunday, the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria released a 34-minute audio recording of a speech by its official spokesman, Abu Muhammad al-Adnani, who said that the insurgency’s leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, was now the world’s caliph and as such had declared all other jihadi organizations void and under his direct control, according to the SITE Intelligence Group, which monitors extremists’ online presence.
The audio speech was released on an ISIS-linked Twitter feed, the group said....
In present-day Baghdad, the Iraqi Air Force commander, General Ameen, said that Russian military experts had arrived to help set up the new SU-25 warplanes, but that they would stay only a short time. The last five Russian aircraft would arrive by Monday, he said. Last week, President Obama ordered 300 American military advisers into the country, and the Iranians have reportedly sent advisers from their Republican Guards’ Quds Force. At least three United States Special Forces teams are said to have been deployed north of Baghdad in recent days, tasked with carrying out a survey of Iraqi forces to determine their condition and needs.
This was the first report of Russian military aides in the country, although General Ameen said they were experts, not advisers...
BREAKING: #ISIS declares Caliphate, All muslims according to Sharia & hadith must give allegiance
— Al-Janabi #باقية (@AbuBakrAl_Janab) June 29, 2014
They clearly intend to hold the territory they have captured. They’ve also declared Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi the new caliph; he claims to be a descendant of Muhammad, so it is possible that if they can make their state viable, this claim will gain currency. If that happens, it will be interesting to see how Muslims in the West react to the idea that he is the “leader for Muslims everywhere,” which historically was always a claim of the caliph.Plus, an English-language ISIS propaganda video, "The End of Sykes - Picot":
Muslims express their happiness over the declaration of the Islamic Caliphate. Photo is from Raqqa, Syria #ISIS pic.twitter.com/xljmGKLhnF
— ابنة الشيخ البغدادي© (@MujaahidaHafy) June 29, 2014
The caliphate was abolished when the Ottoman empire collapsed in 1924. May Allah allow us to now see it again, a unified & real one. #ISIS
— ابنة الشيخ البغدادي© (@MujaahidaHafy) June 29, 2014
The Khilafah has been reestablished. Saudi's reaction pic.twitter.com/7tuI1njmaB
— ﷲ MILLATU IBRAHIM ﷲ (@RadicalIslamist) June 29, 2014
#Syria: the Husba car on patrol in celebration of the announcement of Caliphate: pic.twitter.com/Al4ZhZNsY3
— Aymenn J Al-Tamimi (@ajaltamimi) June 29, 2014
Alhamdulilah. What a HISTORIC moment, shivers run down my spine hearing the announcement of the Islamic Caliphate- #KHILAFAH #ISLAMIC_STATE.
— ابويحيي الصومال (@AbuYahya_Somal) June 29, 2014
The Kuffar, Murtadin and Munafiqin have been preventing the rebirth of the Caliphate for years! DIE IN YOUR RAGE! The Khilafa has returned!
— Abu Yazan (@UtopianIslamist) June 29, 2014
Citizens of the Islamic state in the street partying after the proclamation of the Caliphate pic.twitter.com/OGQndPD6p4"
— Ak47 (@afaqbeig) June 29, 2014
Al Jazeera from Baghdad: "a caliphate is effectively an Islamic Republic led by one leader, regardless of national boundaries." #ISIS
— ابنة الشيخ البغدادي© (@MujaahidaHafy) June 29, 2014
#Palestine old woman cries after Zionist Rat's bulldozed her house.#Israel will be destroyed #IS coming for you pic.twitter.com/cJWjRF8jDB"
— Ak47 (@afaqbeig) June 29, 2014
A message from the Islamic Khilafa to all Jihadi groups worldwide who fight for tawhid #IS #Syria #Iraq pic.twitter.com/pb5e7Gtr3R
— Al-Janabi #باقية (@AbuBakrAl_Janab) June 29, 2014
This Is the Promise of Allah An announcement by Ash-Sheikh Abu Muhammad Adnaani http://t.co/wXR1xiXMzV #CaliphateRestored #KhilafaRestored"
— Ak47 (@afaqbeig) June 29, 2014
ISIS claims its spokesman AlAdnani was himself at #Syria #Iraq border demolishing official international borders pic.twitter.com/xepbOAaWuM
— Jenan Moussa (@jenanmoussa) June 29, 2014
BAGHDAD—Iraqi security forces were locked in a standoff outside the city of Tikrit on Sunday morning, local security officials said, as the military's most muscular effort to beat back a three-week-old Sunni insurgency appeared to stall.Continue reading.
The military offensive, which began Saturday afternoon after weeks of preparation, was hampered by extensive land-mine formations laid by insurgents on the main road between Samarra, the provisional headquarters of Iraqi forces north of Baghdad, and Tikrit, according to security forces at the Samarra Command Center.
Reports from the ground contradicted government statements carried by the official television station, which said Iraqi security forces had "cleansed" Tikrit and were preparing to recapture all of the surrounding Salah Al Din province in the coming hours.
But as of Sunday morning, Iraqi forces still hadn't succeeded in taking Tikrit, the birthplace of former President Saddam Hussein and a flash point in the Sunni-led resistance against American forces following the 2003 invasion, according to residents of the city...
A California Public Records Act inquiry revealed that multiple professors from San Francisco State University met with terrorists on a trip funded by the university. Professors Rabab Abdulhadi and Joanne Barker, along with Abdulhadi's husband, met with terrorists Leila Khaled and Sheikh Raed Salah during the "Labor Delegation to Palestine 2014" which began on January 5th, 2014 and concluded on February 14th, 2014.More here, "AMCHA and Jewish Organizations Write President Wong about Professor Abdulhadi and SFSU Faculty Event Condoning Terrorism."
Eight organizations- the AMCHA Initiative, Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law, Institute for Black Solidarity with Israel, Proclaiming Justice to the Nations, Scholars for Peace in the Middle East, Simon Wiesenthal Center Campus Outreach, StandWithUs, and Zionist Organization of America- sent a letter to CSU Chancellor Timothy White, SFSU President Leslie Wong, CSU Vice Chancellor and Chief Audit Officer Larry Mendel and CSU Attorney Carrie Hemphill Reith concerning the matter.
Leila Khaled is "a convicted hijacker and the most famous member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), a terrorist organization responsible for 159 terrorist acts such as bombings, armed assault and assassinations, resulting in numerous injuries and deaths including those of more than 20 US citizens," the groups noted.
Sheikh Raed Salah has been convicted of funding the terrorist organization Hamas and sat in prison from 2003 - 2005. In the letter to school administration the organizations also highlighted that, "In 2008, Salah was charged with incitement to violence and racism. In 2010, Salah was also arrested for his participation on the Mavi Marmara, part of the Gaza Freedom Flotilla. Salah was recently incarcerated again on charges of incitement to violence."
The letter to the university administration outlined Abdulhadi's dishonest approach to obtaining funding...
AMCHA has predictably focused a huge amount of attention on our meeting with Leila Khaled, in an attempt to demonize the delegation and to damage my reputation. So let me clarify the purpose of meeting with Khaled. Khaled is a Palestinian feminist icon. She is therefore relevant to my research and pedagogy, both of which aim to revise Palestinian women’s studies by critiquing conventional wisdom within the feminist canon. In my courses, I aim to provide a counter narrative to the orientalist depictions of Palestinian, and other Arab and Muslim, women as weak and docile—and men as bloodthirsty and misogynist. To this end, I screen several films including “Leila Khaled: Hijacker?” and open these classes to the public.Orientalist? Sounds like terror-supporting Middle East scholar (the late) Edward Said.
CAIRO – Two people were killed and dozens wounded when a car bomb exploded in a town on the outskirts of Damascus on Saturday, a rights watchdog reported.And at Press TV, "Two killed as blast hits Syrian town of Douma."
The bomb struck a crowded market area in Douma town, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. Earlier this month, a bombing killed eight people in Douma.
Rebels accused the jihadist Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) of carrying out the attack against other Islamist groups fighting to oust the regime of President Bashar al-Assad...
If the Sunni Muslim insurgents lurking west of Baghdad decide to rush the Iraqi capital, Ahmed Ali knows the quickest route runs past his fruit stand.More.
Peering at the highway over mounds of watermelon and bananas, Ali watches Iraqi army pickup trucks and personnel carriers race by — headed, he hopes, toward a battle somewhere.
“I feel relief when I see them,” said Ali, a Shiite Muslim in his 50s who took refuge in Abu Ghraib this year after insurgents seized his village. “Somehow, I feel the security forces will protect me.”
Facing a methodical onslaught by an Al Qaeda splinter group and antigovernment militants, soldiers, police and Shiite militias are digging in around Baghdad and at strategic points outside the capital in a desperate bid to prevent the pillars of Prime Minister Nouri Maliki’s Shiite-dominated government from falling to the insurgents.
With the deployment of security forces, bolstered by tens of thousands of volunteer fighters, Iraqi military officials say, Baghdad is not in immediate danger of a major attack. U.S. officials are less certain. Navy Rear Adm. John Kirby, the Pentagon spokesman, said this week that as the insurgents “continue to press into central and southern Iraq … they are still a legitimate threat to Baghdad.”
The jihadists of the Islamic State of Iraq and al Sham (ISIS) continue to consolidate their grip on Sunni Iraq. They control most major cities, they took over the border crossings with Jordan this week, and now they're re-opening banks and government offices and establishing political control.Keep reading.
Welcome to the new Middle East caliphate, a state whose leader is considered the religious and political successor to the prophet Mohammed and is thus sovereign over all Muslims. The last time a caliphate was based in Baghdad was 1258, the year it was conquered by the ravaging Mongols. Now the jihadists aim to do the ravaging, and it isn't clear that the Obama Administration has a plan to depose them.
It's important to understand how large a setback for American interests and security this is. Establishing a caliphate in the Middle East was the main political project of Osama bin Laden's life. Current al Qaeda leader Ayman al Zawahiri once said a new caliphate would signal a turning of world history "against the empire of the United States and the world's Jewish government."
In 2005, a Jordanian journalist named Fouad Hussein wrote a book on al Qaeda's "second generation," which focused on the thinking of terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who was killed by U.S. forces in 2006. The book described a seven-phase plan, beginning with an "awakening" of Islamic consciousness with the September 11 attacks. Among other predictions, it foresaw an effort to "clear plans to partition Syria, Lebanon and Jordan into sectarian statelets to reshape the region."
In phase four, timed to happen between 2010 and 2013, the Arab world's secular regimes would be toppled. And then? Phase five would see the "declaration of the caliphate or Islamic state" sometime between 2013 and 2016. This was to be followed by "total war," or "the beginning of the confrontation between faith and disbelief, which would begin in earnest after the establishment of the Islamic caliphate."
BAGHDAD — The Iraqi Army on Saturday drove Islamic extremists from the center of a major city in central Iraq, for the first time mounting a concerted assault against insurgents who had charged to within 50 miles of Baghdad.More.
Independent sources, including local officials and witnesses, confirmed that an Iraqi Army counteroffensive had driven militants of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria from the center of Tikrit, including from government buildings as well as from major roads and other positions throughout the city.
But fighting was still continuing, with Iraqi war planes bombing targets inside the city late in the afternoon.
Tikrit, the birthplace of Saddam Hussein, with a largely Sunni population of 250,000, is in the Tigris River Valley, 100 miles north of Baghdad. It has long been a stronghold of antigovernment Sunnis in Iraq, and losing it would sever the insurgents’ lines of communication to Mosul and Syria. It could also strand some of their fighters in pockets south of Tikrit.
Some Iraqi military analysts said they thought it was no coincidence that army’s counteroffensive was launched now, with 180 of the 300 American advisers ordered to Iraq by President Obama arriving over the past three days, but Iraqi officials denied that there was any American role.
If the advances by the Iraqi Army are sustained, and even built upon, it would provide a much needed morale boost for an army that lost as much as a fourth of its soldiers and equipment when ISIS overran Mosul, and has lurched from one embarrassment to another since then. It has given up the oil-rich city of Kirkuk to Kurdish forces. And it has lost all of its border crossing points with Syria and Jordan to the militants, ceding to them control of most of four major provinces spanning more than 200 miles from north to south.
A spokesman for the Iraqi military, Gen. Qassim Atta, claimed that ISIS militants were withdrawing and that they had buried their dead on the grounds of a former Hussein palace in Tikrit. “Reports and surveillance show that ISIS leaders have ordered a retreat,” he said...
More than two-thirds of America's youth would fail to qualify for military service because of physical, behavioral or educational shortcomings, posing challenges to building the next generation of soldiers even as the U.S. draws down troops from conflict zones.More.
The military deems many youngsters ineligible due to obesity, lack of a high-school diploma, felony convictions and prescription-drug use for attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder. But others are now also running afoul of standards for appearance amid the growing popularity of large-scale tattoos and devices called ear gauges that create large holes in earlobes.
A few weeks ago, Brittany Crippen said she tried to enlist in the Army, only to learn that a tattoo of a fish on the back of her neck disqualified her. Determined to join, the 19-year-old college student visited a second recruiting center in the Dallas-Fort Worth area and was rejected again.
Apologetic recruiters encouraged her to return after removing the tattoo, a process she was told would take about year. "I was very upset," Ms. Crippen said...
“They [Isis] are going against a supposedly professional military force with a speed and ferocity that has the Iraqis taking to their heels,” says Patrick Skinner, a former counter-terrorism officer at the Central Intelligence Agency and now analyst at the Soufan Group. “The Iraqi Security Forces [ISF] are mind-crushingly inept.”
Of immediate concern is the seizure by the jihadis of a range of high-grade military equipment. A force once lightly armed with an arsenal of shoulder-held missile launchers and anti-aircraft guns mounted on pick-up trucks, Isis is now far more comprehensively kitted out, thanks to its raids on the depots of the Iraqi army’s second motorised division.
Identifying exactly what the jihadi group has in its armoury is complicated because it has been wildly embellishing its capabilities for effect on social media. But even a conservative list – corroborated by intelligence and military officials – is worrying enough. It includes unknown quantities of M114 Humvees, other armoured personnel carriers and Stinger missiles, as well as a huge cache of explosives and small arms and an unspecified number of M198 155m howitzer artillery pieces with a conventional range of 22km.
In July 2012, Isis – then still known as al-Qaeda in Iraq – began the first of two intensive insurgency campaigns that paved the way for its current fight.
“These were intelligent campaigns in design: well-resourced, prepared, executed and adapted,” says Jessica Lewis, a veteran US army intelligence officer who served in Iraq and is now research director at the Institute for the Study of War. “These are not things I might associate with a terrorist organisation. These are things I associate with an army.”
All of which raises questions about just how big Isis is. US intelligence officials posit a central fighting force of 3,000. Military and intelligence analysts put the minimum size of Isis’s larger force at 7,000 to 10,000. “They are not spreading themselves too thinly,” says Ms Lewis.
“They have matched personnel to their objectives carefully.”
As to what those objectives are, Isis’s attack pattern now seems to point squarely in one direction.
“Isis has uncommitted forces proximate to Baghdad,” says Ms Lewis. “They always meant to establish control. They always meant to break the state. They want Baghdad.” And specifically, she adds, the government-protected Green Zone...
Security at U.S. diplomatic posts is falling short, and Benghazi is only the most visible example.Keep reading.
A new report on “Diplomatic Security” by the Government Accountability Office — GAO-14-655 — demonstrates the problem is systemic, leaving U.S. personnel serving overseas at unnecessary risk. At a time of rising security threats from metastasizing Al Qaeda spinoffs and other terrorist groups, this problem must be addressed immediately at the State Department.
According to the report, State conducts a range of activities to manage risk at overseas work facilities, including the setting of security standards. But GAO found State lacked a fully developed risk management policy to coordinate these activities. It is unclear what standards apply to some facilities, and in others, it took eight years for standards to be identified.
The report identified other deficiencies, including...
The Supreme Court handed President Obama his 13th unanimous loss in two years on Thursday, and this one may be the most consequential. All nine Justices voted to overturn Mr. Obama's non-recess recess appointments as an unconstitutional abuse of power.Keep reading.
Over nearly 238 years of American history, the Supreme Court has never had to review the President's authority to temporarily fill vacant executive offices when Congress is adjourned. Mr. Obama's 2012 maneuver to void the Senate's advice and consent role triggered a judicial intercession, and defeats at the High Court are seldom as total as this one...
PARIS—The Obama administration ended the week deeply immersed in stemming crises in Iraq and Syria as it launches a new strategy that American and Arab officials acknowledge could be risky for the U.S. and its closest Mideast allies.
Days of high-stakes Middle East diplomacy on a trip Secretary of State John Kerry completed Friday, combined with a $500 million plan for supporting Syrian rebels announced the day before by the White House, outline a markedly expanded U.S. role in the region's chaotic security and political landscape.
A primary risk for the administration is that much of the strategy rests on the removal of Iraq's Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki from office, an outcome that remains deeply uncertain, according to these officials, as Baghdad embarks next week on the task of picking a new national government.
Washington's new approach also entangles the administration in a volatile thicket of interests held by America's friends and foes. Taking on a larger share of responsibility in Iraq and Syria, President Barack Obama finds himself funding a war against President Bashar al-Assad in Syria, but aligned with the Syrian strongman in the fight against Islamic extremists who are seizing control across Iraq.
"It's a devilishly difficult circumstance to confront," said former Democratic Sen. Kent Conrad. "My experience in that part of the world is you better be very modest about what you think you are going to achieve…in part because we're stepping into what is in essence a family feud."
Mr. Kerry ended his weeklong trip to the Middle East and Europe on Friday in Saudi Arabia, in a visit that brought the Iraq and Syria crises into a single frame. The U.S. diplomat held meetings in the Red Sea city of Jeddah with Saudi King Abdullah as well as with Ahmed Jarba, head of Syria's main political opposition coalition.
Mr. Kerry noted that Mr. Jarba "represents a tribe that reaches right into Iraq," and would be crucial to countering the insurgents of the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham, or ISIS. Like King Abdullah's mother and some of his wives, Mr. Jarba is a member of the Shammar tribe, whose ranks sprawl across the adjoining borders of Syria, Iraq and Saudi Arabia.
Mr. Jarba, however, said the situation in Iraq is different than Syria. He said Mr. Maliki's divisive approach calls for "greater efforts on the part of the U.S. and regional powers to address the situation in Iraq." Mr. Kerry, in the week's meetings with Middle East leaders in Paris, Baghdad, Erbil and Jeddah, sought to forge a regional consensus among Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds to create a new Iraqi government that is more representative of the country's three main communities and unified in the fight against ISIS.
But after a week of intense pressure, the Iraqi leader so far has offered no sign that he is willing to leave office. Many U.S. and Arab officials acknowledge that Washington and its allies may not be able to refrain from military action against ISIS while Baghdad sorts out its political divisions, due to advances by the al Qaeda-linked militia.
If Mr. Maliki does leave office in the selection process that begins next week in Baghdad, the administration will face a vexing choice: Get more deeply involved in a country that has little chance of holding together, or watch 10 years of U.S. investment disappear in the carnage.
U.S. officials also are contemplating military strikes against ISIS sites in Syria, a move Mr. Obama has struggled for years to avoid. Washington's closest Mideast allies—whose support Mr. Obama critically needs to execute his Iraq strategy—are pressing the White House to strike ISIS inside Syria.
"If there are bad guys and they represent a threat, you have to hit them wherever they are," said a senior Arab official who has taken part in discussions about ISIS with the U.S. in recent days. "I think they understand this now. I also think they understand how dangerous not dealing with them is."
In any case, if this photo is real, it indicates yet again that our leadership in Washington is utterly clueless, and that their assurances that we are aiding only “moderates” are completely hollow.According to the Religious Freedom Coalition:
The tent is part of the “non-lethal” aid that President Barack Obama bragged about sending to Syria’s “legitimate” resistance and civilians. Most news sites say the photo “purports” to be of Kavkaz wa Sham, however, the placement of the shadows clearly shows that this photo has not been photo-shopped.Whatever. Regardless of the authenticity of the photo, Abu Omar is indeed in Syria, as reported earlier at the Long War Journal, "Chechen commander leads Muhajireen Brigade in Syria." And at the BBC, "Syria crisis: Omar Shishani, Chechen jihadist leader."
...was named commander of the northern sector of Syria by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant in the summer of 2013. Units under his command have participated in major assaults against Syrian military bases in and around Aleppo, including the capture of Menagh Airbase in August 2013. He is considered "one of the most influential military leaders of the Syrian opposition forces."This is all the more important now in light of the Obama administration's approval of at least $500 million in military aid for the "moderate" rebels in Syria. See the Wall Street Journal, "Obama Proposes $500 Million to Aid Syrian Rebels: Program to Train and Equip Moderate Opposition Would Expand U.S. Role in Civil War":
WASHINGTON—The White House on Thursday proposed a major program to train and arm moderate Syrian rebels, in a significant expansion of the U.S. role in a civil war that officials fear is bleeding into Iraq and across the region.Yeah, "vetting" the extremists might be important, yo.
The Obama administration requested $500 million—a larger amount than expected—to aid the Syrian opposition, reflecting growing U.S. alarm at the expanding strength of Islamist forces in Syria, who in recent weeks have asserted control of large parts of neighboring Iraq and now pose threats to U.S. allies in the region.
Coming on the heels of a decision to send 300 military advisers to Iraq, the Syrian rebel training elevates the U.S. role in the Middle East.
The proposal amounts to a major U-turn by the administration, which had sought until now to limit its involvement in the war.
However, the expanded U.S. involvement will be on President Barack Obama's terms, by emphasizing the use of partner forces, and not the direct use of American combat forces.
Speaking at a town-hall meeting in Minneapolis on Thursday, Mr. Obama emphasized that he didn't want U.S. forces fighting in the Middle East, but said recent violence has focused attention on the region.
"We've got to pay attention to the threats that are emanating from the chaos in the Middle East," Mr. Obama said.
Officials stressed there are hurdles to overcome before the expanded Syrian rebel program goes into effect, including obtaining congressional approval; figuring out how to effectively vet large numbers of rebel fighters so the U.S. doesn't end up training extremists; and persuading countries in the region to host the effort.
Officials said the program may not actually begin until next year. They said the first batch of fighters could complete training roughly six to eight months after the proposed program is authorized and funded by Congress.
Still, the move amounts to an about face by an administration that had sought to strictly limit its role in the Syrian civil war. Related Iraq Parliament to Start Talks on New Government Think Tank: Addressing the Conflict in Syria Is the Way to Move Forward in Iraq...
Tea party official Mark Mayfield, charged in connection with a scandal involving photos of Mississippi Sen. Thad Cochran's ailing wife, has been found dead and police said they suspect suicide.More at Twitchy, "Reports: Mississippi attorney charged in Cochran nursing home photo scandal commits suicide."
Ridgeland Police Chief Jimmy Houston said the body of Mayfield, who was an attorney, was found Friday morning at his house outside Jackson, Miss., and that a suicide note was found at the scene, the Associated Press reported.
Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant released a statement early Friday...
Thanks for the apology about shooting at our Border Agents, Mexico. Now give us back our Marine #MarineHeldInMexico
— Katie Pavlich (@KatiePavlich) June 27, 2014
On Thursday morning between midnight and 6 a.m. at least one Mexican military helicopter crossed eight miles into the United States and shot at Border Patrol agents with lethal force before returning to Mexican territory. The incident occurred in an area notorious for violent drug cartel activity just west of the Tohono O'odham Indian Nation during a Border Patrol drug interdiction operation. The timing and location of the incident has prompted agents to believe the use of the helicopter by the Mexican military may have been on behalf of drug cartels operating in the area.
"Mexican military are oftentimes working hand in glove with the cartels. The Mexican military has routinely crossed the border in areas that Border Patrol agents are actively tracking or seizing drug loads. Inevitably the Mexican military claim they got lost, that the border was not clearly marked, or in extreme cases fire on agents to cover their retreat," National Border Patrol Council Spokesman Shawn Moran exclusively tells Townhall. "Ajo, AZ Border Patrol agents have had several incidents like this over the years where they have taken shots from the Mexican military. The cartels' resources are nearly limitless and it would not surprise me if they "rented" the cover by the Mexican military helicopter in this incident."
A Border Patrol agent stationed in Arizona, who asked to remain anonymous, backed up Moran's statements saying the Mexican military regularly works with cartels on the border and has been doing so for years.
The Mexican government has apologized for the shooting, but has not explained why the helicopter was in the area.
A group of U.S. diplomats arrived in Libya three years ago to a memorable reception: a throng of cheering men and women who pressed in on the startled group "just to touch us and thank us," recalled Susan Rice, President Obama's national security advisor.Also at the far-left Jacobin, "Libya and Its Contexts: The Libyan campaign not only caused extensive death and human rights violations, but it may usher in decades of more war."
The Libyans were emotional because the U.S. and its allies had toppled leader Moammar Kadafi in a military campaign that averted a feared slaughter of Kadafi's foes. Obama administration officials called the international effort, accomplished with no Western casualties, a "model intervention."
But in three years Libya has turned into the kind of place U.S. officials most fear: a lawless land that attracts terrorists, pumps out illegal arms and drugs and destabilizes its neighbors.
Now, as Obama considers a limited military intervention in Iraq, the Libya experience is seen by many as a cautionary tale of the unintended damage big powers can inflict when they aim for a limited involvement in an unpredictable conflict.
"If Iraq and Afghanistan are examples of overkill and overreach, Libya is the reverse case, where you do too little and get an unacceptable result," said Brian Katulis, a Middle East specialist at the Center for American Progress, a think tank. "The lesson is that a low tolerance of risk can have its costs."
Though they succeeded in their military effort, the United States and its North Atlantic Treaty Organization allies fell short in the broader goal of putting Libya on a path toward democracy and stability. Exhausted after a decade of war and mindful of the failures in Iraq, U.S. officials didn't want to embark on another nation-building effort in an oil-rich country that seemed to pose no threat to Western security.
But by limiting efforts to help the new Libyan government gain control over the country, critics say, the U.S. and its allies have inadvertently helped turn Libya into a higher security threat than it was before the military intervention.
Libya has become North Africa's most active militant sanctuary, at the center of the resurgent threat that Obama warned about in a May address at West Point. A 2012 terrorist attack against the U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi killed four Americans, including Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens.
Arms trafficking from Libya "is fueling conflict and insecurity — including terrorism — on several continents," an expert panel reported to the United Nations Security Council in February. Weapons smuggled out of Libya have been used by insurgents in Mali, by Boko Haram terrorists in Nigeria and by Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip.
More than 50,000 people, including refugees from Syria and migrants from North Africa, have flooded into Europe through Libya's porous borders, sharpening the continent's immigration crisis.
The latest U.S. State Department travel warning portrays Libya as a society in near-collapse, beset by crime, terrorism, factional fighting, government failure and the wide availability of portable antiaircraft weapons that can shoot down commercial airplanes...
'All the empirical evidence shows that it is on the rise. You're seeing it in all the headlines, then you're looking at Iraq, you're looking at Syria, you're looking at Nigeria.I promptly blew off this otherwise interesting piece as unworthy, and would have forgotten about it, but Robert Spencer at Jihad Watch was flabbergasted that this Krieg idiot's comments passed for "expert" analysis at Daily Mail. See, "“Middle East security analyst”: rise of global jihad “has nothing to do with Islam”":
'But in all three cases this has nothing to do with Islam. I think people in the West may think it is because they feel alienated by Islam. There is alot of Islamaphobia.'
How could a “radical interpretation of Islam” have “nothing to do with the religion”? How is it that these groups that uniformly explain and justify their actions on the basis of Islam have nothing to do with Islam? How is it that a group that calls itself the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant and another that calls itself the Congregation of the People of the Sunnah for Dawah and Jihad have nothing to do with Islam? Why is it that study after study has shown that jihadis are actually generally wealthier than their peers, and yet Krieg asserts that the jihadis are “disillusioned by austerity” and thus turn to Islam? Why is it that this palpable nonsense gets printed in the mainstream media without a murmur of dissent?
Why is only Krieg quoted and no one who looks at the available evidence and says that the rise of the global jihad has everything to do with Islam? Why does the ever-witless Daily Mail not ask Krieg to give anything more than the barest explanation for his counterfactual claims? Why does the mainstream media always rush to exonerate Islam of all responsibility for the ever-mounting number of atrocities done in its name and inspired by its texts and teachings, instead of confronting the ideology that jihadis say motivates and inspires them and formulating positive and effective ways to limit its power to incite to violence?
I’d love to debate Andreas Krieg about this question. But I am sure that he would refuse to do so.
President Obama’s [last] Thursday speech outlining America’s response to the situation in Iraq alluded to the possibility of an expanded U.S. role there, which could involve some form of aerial support to Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) fighting on the ground against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and other Sunni Arab insurgents. The coordination of air power and Iraqi allies on the ground (perhaps with a limited presence of American Special Operations Forces) would mirror U.S. interventions in Afghanistan in 2001 and Libya in 2011. The principal objective of a limited aerial intervention in Iraq would be to provide battlefield support to ISF to change the dynamics on the ground, decisively halting ISIS’s offensive and reversing its recent territorial gains. While this approach was tactically and operationally successful in Afghanistan and Libya, its long-term strategic benefits in those cases are more uncertain. There is no reason to expect that a similar intervention in the unfolding crisis in Iraq will further long-term American strategic interests—even if it achieves limited tactical successes.More.
At first glance, Iraq would seem to be an ideal setting for reenacting the Afghan/Libyan model. As it did in Afghanistan and Libya, airpower could have a decisive impact on the outcome of what are essentially conventional battles between Sunni insurgents and ISF. However, a closer look at those cases does not provide much ground for optimism. First, the antigovernment forces would adapt their tactics in response to American airpower and thus make it less effective. Similar to the response of Qaddafi’s forces to NATO bombing, ISIS and its allies would eschew massing their forces in the open in conventional formations (thus posing as targets for American precision bombs); their forces would instead disperse, take cover and conceal, which would significantly reduce their vulnerability from airpower, without necessarily ending their offensive. This tactical adjustment would not necessarily allow the insurgents to hold on to their newly conquered territory indefinitely. As the Libya case clearly shows, a prolonged intervention with precision airpower in conjunction with local ground forces can weaken and help overcome local opponents through attrition. With sufficient time, airstrikes would enable ISF to defend the territory it currently holds and even reclaim territory lost to ISIS forces.
A key point, though, is that U.S. intervention from the air will not bring about these results quickly. Indeed, the NATO operation in Libya took far longer and involved significantly more firepower than the allies initially anticipated. A few pinprick attacks are unlikely to alter the trajectory on the ground; and a more sustained military campaign would require firm American political will—something that may not be in the cards.
Second (and more crucial), in response to a successful counteroffensive on the part of the Iraqi government, supported by U.S. airpower, ISIS would certainly switch to the kind of guerrilla tactics in which it proved so proficient in the past (just as the Taliban did after its early defeat in 2001). In this scenario, ISIS and other insurgent groups, benefiting from the support of significant segments of Iraq’s Sunni population, could sustain a high-intensity guerrilla campaign against the Iraqi government for a long period of time. This reinvigorated insurgency may make the year preceding the insurgent “surge” (with hundreds of terrorist and hit-and-run attacks and over 1,000 deaths a month) look like a period of relative stability. Thus, an aerial intervention would not provide a lasting solution; at best, it would merely push ISIS and the broader Sunni resistance back to the position they were in just some months ago.
At its heart, the crisis in Iraq stems from an underlying political problem that military means alone cannot address. Namely, Maliki’s ethnosectarian policies—in particular, the systematic marginalization and humiliation of the Sunni minority—have provided fertile ground for the growth of several insurgent organizations (some Baathist, some Jihadist) claiming the mantle of defenders of Iraq’s beleaguered Sunnis. An American intervention would reduce Maliki’s incentive to institute the much-needed political reforms that would give the country’s Sunni community a stake in the future of the country. Put simply, this is an ethnosectarian war (with an important transnational Islamist component) whose long-term solution won’t be brought about from 15,000 feet in the air.
One might object to this noninterventionist approach, pointing to a series of negative consequences that may result. These concerns are not baseless, but either rest on implausible worst-case-scenario assumptions, or identify risks and costs that could only be avoided by taking even riskier and costlier courses of action...
In March the Institute for Fiscal Studies warned forcing Britain’s highest earners to foot a greater share of the tax bill is putting the long term finances at risk.Also at the Daily Express UK, "Most households in Britain get more in benefits than they pay out in tax, new figures show," and London's Daily Mail, "Half of families receive more from the state than they pay in taxes but income equality widens as rich get richer."
“Lumping more taxes on the rich” is not a sustainable strategy because the ability and willingness of high earners to pay more could eventually run out, the IFS suggested.
Just 300,000 high earners now pay 30 per cent of all income tax and 7.5 per cent of all tax, official figures show. Households with an average income of £104,000 paid £30,000 more in tax than they received from the state last year, ONS figures show.
The top ten per cent of earners contributed £26,984 in income and council tax, plus £10,303 in indirect taxes such as alcohol duty and VAT – a contribution to the public purse of £37,287. They received £2,284 in state cash benefits, which include child benefit, maternity pay and pensions.
The cost of educating their children came to £1,274, while they used NHS treatment worth £3,410 – meaning their total cost to the Exchequer was £7,264.
By contrast, a family with the national median income of £23,069 received £3,798 more in benefits and services than they paid in taxes last year.
They paid £4,620 in direct tax and £5,029 in indirect taxes, but received £6622 in cash benefits. They received schooling worth £2623 and NHS services worth £4,202. In total, they paid in £9,649 and received £13,477. It means for every £1 they paid in, they got £1.40 back.
The poorest ten per cent of families, with wages of £3,875 a year, paid £4,611 in direct and indirect taxes and received £13,559 in cash benefits and services. It means they received £2.94 in state support for every £1 they paid in tax.
The figures also show middle class families have seen the steepest fall in living standards since the financial crisis.
The Supreme Court ruled Thursday that President Obama exceeded his power under the Constitution by filling three federal positions when the Senate was on a brief break, but justices upheld the right of the president to make recess appointments during longer breaks.More.
While the president is authorized to fill vacancies while the Senate is on recess, the justices decided in a 9-0 ruling that the Senate was not on a true recess in January 2012 when Obama filled three seats on the National Labor Relations Board.
The decision is a rebuke to the president, but its short-term impact on Obama could be muted because last year the Democratic-controlled Senate scrapped a long-standing filibuster rule that had allowed the current Republican minority to block a vote on many of his nominees.
Before that change was made, Republicans effectively blocked many of Obama appointments, prompting the president to turn to recess appointments as a way to fill vacant posts.
The limited scope of the court’s ruling was criticized by Justice Antonin Scalia, who agreed with the majority but said the court should have gone much further.
Justice Anthony Kennedy and the court’s most liberal members also signed onto the opinion, written by Justice Stephen Breyer.
“A Senate recess that is so short that it does not require the consent of the House is not long enough to trigger the President’s recess appointment power,” Breyer wrote.
But the court was split 5-4 on the broader question of whether the modern presidency should retain the right to make recess appointments...
Since the beginning of the twenty-first century, foreign policy experts have been predicting that the United States' days as global hegemon are coming to a close. But rather than asking themselves which country is most likely to replace the United States, they ought to be asking themselves whether the concept of global hegemony still applies in our era.I don't know. I remember similar arguments like this in the early 1990s, with the end of the Cold War. Joseph Nye published a classic response to futuristic arguments in 1992, "What New World Order?"
It increasingly seems that the world will no longer have a single superpower, or group of superpowers, that brings order to international politics. Instead, it will have a variety of powers -- including nations, multinational corporations, ideological movements, global crime and terror groups, and human rights organizations -- jockeying with each other, mostly unsuccessfully, to achieve their goals. International politics is transforming from a system anchored in predictable, and relatively constant, principles to a system that is, if not inherently unknowable, far more erratic, unsettled, and devoid of behavioral regularities. In terms of geopolitics, we have moved from an age of order to an age of entropy.
Entropy is a scientific concept that measures disorder: the higher the entropy, the higher the disorder. And disorder is precisely what will characterize the future of international politics. In this leaderless world, threats are much more likely to be cold than hot; danger will come less frequently in the form of shooting wars among great powers than diffuse disagreements over geopolitical, monetary, trade, and environmental issues. Problems and crises will arise more frequently and, when they do, will be resolved less cooperatively...
Iraq’s parliament will meet next week to begin the process of forming a new government, officials said Thursday, as Prime Minister Nouri Maliki blamed the United States for his army’s inability to stop Sunni Muslim insurgents who are threatening his grip on the country.More.
In an interview with the BBC’s Arabic-language service, Maliki said that the Iraqi army would have been able to block the insurgents’ advance into northern and western Iraq if the U.S. had moved more quickly to deliver fighter planes that Baghdad had purchased.
Apparently referring to F-16 jets that U.S. officials have said would arrive no earlier than September, Maliki said Iraqi officials had bought 36 of the planes and thought they would have received them by now.
“I’ll be frank and say that we were deluded when we signed the contract,” Maliki told the British broadcaster in his first interview with an international news organization since the insurgents seized Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city, earlier this month.
“We should have sought to buy other jet fighters like British, French and Russian, to secure the air cover for our forces,” he said. “If we had air cover, we would have averted what had happened.”
When David Riley, a 19-year-old member of San Diego's Lincoln Park gang, was arrested in August 2009 on suspicion of shooting at a rival gang member, it received little or no public notice.PREVIOUSLY: "Supreme Court Rejects Warrantless Cellphone Searches — #4a."
The same was true when Riley's first trial ended in a hung jury, and when he was convicted at a second trial of attempted murder and other charges, and sentenced to 15 years to life in prison.
But now Riley's name has assumed national legal prominence as one of two cases that led to Wednesday's U.S. Supreme Court decision that extended privacy rights to cellphones, a sweeping ruling for the digital age when information about a person's entire life can be stored in a mobile device.
"We got everything we wanted," said Stanford law professor Jeffrey Fisher, who was part of the team that argued the case at the U.S. Supreme Court.
The court ruled 9 to 0 that police acted improperly when they seized Riley's smartphone without a warrant and discovered evidence used at his trial linking him to the gang and the shooting.
The decision does not free Riley from prison, but it could allow his attorneys to seek a new trial on grounds that the original trial was "tainted" because of the phone information, Fisher said.
In upholding Riley's conviction in 2013, a California appeals court said that cellular phone information was akin to things pulled out of a defendant's pocket during a post-arrest search and thus did not merit special protection.
Legal analysts said Wednesday's ruling would clearly apply to defendants whose cases are still pending in the courts, but may not help those, like Riley, whose convictions are already final.
"There probably will be a good deal of litigation over whether this decision can be applied retroactively," said Dennis Riordan, an appellate criminal defense lawyer based in San Francisco.
Charles M. Sevilla, a San Diego appellate criminal defense lawyer, said those defendants whose convictions are final will face "an uphill battle" in trying to persuade courts to reexamine their cases.
But the complications are unlikely to stop lawyers from trying...
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