Media coverage of events in Iraq is by and large pretty poor, reporting day to day events without giving much needed context. Strategy Page performs a public service by giving briefings that provide a fantastic overview of just what is going on. In their latest briefing they explain who the Sunni terrorists are who have grabbed so much of Iraq:
ISIL began as ISI (Islamic State in Iraq) after 2004 and was one of many Sunni Islamic terrorist groups operating in Iraq back then. By 2010 ISI was almost destroyed due to U.S. efforts, especially getting many Sunni tribes to turn against the Islamic terrorist groups. But after U.S. forces left in 2011 the Iraqi government failed to follow U.S. advice to take good care of the Sunni tribes, if only to keep the tribes from again supporting the Islamic terrorist groups. Instead the Shia led government turned against the Sunni population and stopped providing government jobs and regular pay for many of the Sunni tribal militias. Naturally many Sunni Arabs went back to supporting terror groups, especially very violent ones like ISI.
After 2011, as the Iraqi Shia were turning on the Sunni Arab minority, there was a rebellion against a minority Shia government in Syria, led by the Sunni Arab majority there. The Sunni tribes of western Iraq were linked by culture and sometimes family links with the Sunni tribes of eastern Syria. The rebellion in Syria got ISI thinking about forming a new Islamic Sunni state out of eastern Syria, western Iraq, Baghdad (historically the seat of Sunni power in the area, despite it now being half Shia) and Mosul. Actually this also includes Lebanon and all of Iraq, but this was kept quiet initially. This decision had ISI spending a lot more time and effort recruiting in western Iraq after 2011. ISIL was created in 2013 when ISI sought to become the dominant rebel group in Syria by persuading men, especially foreigners, from other Islamic terrorist groups fighting in Syria to join a new, united Islamic terrorist group called ISIL. This caused problems because of the harsh way ISIL treated civilians and anyone who opposed them. ISIL relished the publicity their atrocities received. But al Qaeda knew from bitter experience (in Iraq from 2006-2008) that the atrocities simply turned the Islamic world against you. The bad relations between ISIL and all the other Islamic radicals in Syria reached a low point in June 2013 when the head of al Qaeda (bin Laden successor Ayman al Zawahiri) declared the recent merger of the new (since January 2013) Syrian Jabhat al Nusra (JN) with ISIL unacceptable and ordered the two groups to remain separate. That was because the merger was announced by ISI/ISIL without the prior agreement of JN leadership. Many JN members then left their JN faction to join ISIL. JN leaders saw this as a power grab by ISI/ISIL and most of the JN men who left to join ISIL were non-Syrians. Many of these men had worked with ISI before and thought they were joining a more powerful group. A month later al Qaeda declared ISIL outcasts and sanctioned the war against them. By January 2014 this had turned into all-out war between ISIL and the other rebel groups in Syria.
That was not the first time al Qaeda has had to slap down misbehaving Iraqi Islamic terror groups and won’t be the last. But it’s not a problem unique to Iraq. It is a problem for Saudi Arabia because the Saudis finance al Nusra and some of the other Islamic terrorist rebels in Syria that are now at war with ISIL. To the Saudis such support is the lesser of two evils as ISIL is crippling rebel efforts to overthrow the Assad government. This is also part of the ideological war the Saudis (and most other Sunni Moslems) are fighting with Shia Iran (and its Shia allies the Assads and the Hezbollah militia in Lebanon). Meanwhile the Saudis continue crushing the Sunni Islamic terrorists that try to attack them at home. This includes local members of ISIL. All this sounds somewhat bizarre, with Saudi Arabia funding missionaries that create Islamic terrorists who become uncontrollable and seem to overthrow the rulers of Saudi Arabia. Absurd it may be, but it is a familiar pattern in this part of the world where religion and politics have long been intertwined in absurd and tragic ways.
The Saudis have been dealing with Islamic terrorism within their borders since the kingdom was formed in the 1920s and were able to quickly defeat the 2003 al Qaeda offensive. At first al Qaeda terrorists appeared capable of doing some serious damage in Saudi Arabia. In 2003-4, they made four major attacks. These killed 68 people, including twelve Americans. But most of the dead were Saudis, and this turned the population against the terrorists. All the planned terror attacks since then have been aborted by security forces, usually via tips from Saudi civilians. Most Islamic terrorists have now fled the kingdom. Despite this a large minority of Saudis still support al Qaeda, but it’s the majority who do not and that makes it nearly impossible for the terrorists to operate in their “homeland.” Killing civilians will do that, and al Qaeda has not been able to figure out how to fight without shedding the blood of innocents. So the innocents are taking their revenge. Meanwhile there is still support for groups like ISIL inside Saudi Arabia and ISIL has been recruiting for Saudi men to go fight in Syria and Iraq.
Taking Mosul was crucial to the ISIL plan for regional and world conquest. Mosul was part of Turkey until 1918, when the victorious Allies took Mosul province, and its oil, away from Turkey (to prevent the Turks from financing an effort to rebuild their empire) and gave it to the newly created Iraq. In the 1980s Saddam Hussein, again feuding with the Kurdish majority in northern Iraq, killed or drove Kurds out of Mosul and invited poor Sunnis from the south to move in and take over. After 2003 the Kurds came back seeking to regain their stolen property and control of Mosul. The Sunni Arabs there did not want to give up their new homes as they would be destitute if they did so. So the fighting was vicious and the Mosul Sunnis were glad to get help from ISIL and other Sunni terror groups. But now most Mosul residents are feeling the impact of the ISIL take over as new lifestyle rules have been issued forbidding many things Westernized Iraqis take for granted. Continue reading
I have long thought that Obama is more incompetent than malevolent. In light of the Obama administration trading five terrorists for U.S. Army Sgt. Berghdahl, who, according to the men who served with him, is at best a deserter and at worst a traitor, I think I might have to make a reappraisal:
according to former U.S. Army Sgt. Josh Korder, who served with Berghdahl in Afghanistan.
There is really almost no other conclusion one can draw from the facts that are coming out about Bergdahl’s departure from his unit five years ago.
Even the NY Times is reporting what would lead any thinking person to agree with Korder. For example, Bergdahl left a note in his tent saying “he had become disillusioned with the Army, did not support the American mission in Afghanistan and was leaving to start a new life…[taking] with him a soft backpack,water, knives, a notebook and writing materials” but leaving behind body army and weapons, something he would ordinarily need in that region.
Other curious facts about Bergdahl before his disappearance were that “he wouldn’t drink beer or eat barbecue” with the others, and he was teaching himself local languages such as Pashto and Dari, as well as Arabic. None of these things would be evidence of much of anything in and of themselves, but taken together with Bergdahl’s note and desertion they also could indicate a “going native” phenomenon that might involve a conversion to Islam, which forbids alcohol and pork.
As Korder said, at best a deserter and at worst a traitor. Continue reading
Fresh off their laurels of establishing that the US has no policy regarding Vladimir Putin except to post disapproving internet pics, go here to read all about it, the Obama administration is trying the same thing in regard to the kidnaping of hundreds of Christian girls by the Boko Haram Islamic terrorists in Nigeria. Needless to say that the pictures mention nothing about the main problem in Nigeria: an inept and corrupt government and their Keystone Kops military, both of which are terrified by the terrorists who enjoy a fair amount of support among the half of Nigeria which is Muslim.
Mark Steyn gets to the heart of why the Obama administration does these idiot dog and pony shows:
The blogger Daniel Payne wrote this week that “modern liberalism, at its core, is an ideology of talking, not doing“. He was musing on a press release for some or other “Day of Action” that is, as usual, a day of inaction:
Diverse grassroots groups are organizing and participating in events such as walks, rallies and concerts and calling on government to reduce climate pollution, transition off fossil fuels and commit to a clean energy future.
It’s that easy! You go to a concert and someone “calls on government” to do something, and the world gets fixed.
There’s something slightly weird about taking a hashtag – which on the Internet at least has a functional purpose – and getting a big black felt marker and writing it on a piece of cardboard and holding it up, as if somehow the comforting props of social media can be extended beyond the computer and out into the real world. Maybe the talismanic hashtag never required a computer in the first place. Maybe way back during the Don Pacifico showdown all Lord Palmerston had to do was tell the Greeks #BringBackOurJew.
As Mr Payne notes, these days progressive “action” just requires “calling on government” to act. But it’s sobering to reflect that the urge to call on someone else to do something is now so reflexive and ingrained that even “the government” – or in this case the wife of “the government” – is now calling on someone else to do something. Continue reading
President Obama is deciding whether to intervene in Syria against the Assad regime. I think any hesitation is for show, and the decision to intervene has been made. Intervening in the Syrian Civil War is not popular, so I guess I should give Obama some credit for having a conviction he is willing to defy public opinion on. What that conviction is, I am not quite certain. The Assad regime is a revoltingly bloody tyranny even by Arab standards. However, the main rebel factions are closely allied with groups like Al Qaeda and the Muslim Brotherhood, with the Muslim Brotherhood backed factions being dominant. In Egypt there are constant accusations by Egyptians, largely correct, that the administration has tilted in favor of the Muslim Brotherhood, so perhaps that is the explanation for the desire of the administration to get involved in Syria.
My own opinion is that uttered by Henry Kissinger in regard to the Iraq-Iran war of the eighties: a pity they both can’t lose. I see no interest of the United States furthered by intervention, other than a mild setback to Iran which has become the main backer of the Assad regime, and I see no humanitarian benefit. It is very troubling that Obama is not even making a pretense of gaining the approval of Congress. It is richly ironic to see some of the harshest critics of President Bush and the war in Iraq, now rallying behind Obama’s Syrian adventure.
Neo-neocon at Legal Insurrection has a first rate parody of the to be or not to be soliloquy from Hamlet for Obama:
To strike, or not to strike: that is the question:
Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous Assad,
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,
And by opposing end them? To attack: to dither
No more; and by attack to say we end
The heart-ache and the thousand natural shocks
That Syria is heir to, ’tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wish’d. To act, to attack;
To attack: perchance to depose: ay, there’s the rub;
For in its wake what next may come
Whether or not Assad shuffles off this worldwide stage,
Should give us pause: there’s the respect
That makes calamity of intervention;
For who would bear the whips and scorns of time,
The oppressor’s wrong, the proud man’s contumely,
The pangs of chemical war, the law’s delay,
The insolence of office and the spurns
That patient merit of the unworthy takes,
When he himself might his mark make
With a bare missile? who would tyrants bear,
To defy the red lines that he drew?
But that the dread of something afterward,
The unknown consequences in whose grip
A legacy might founder, puzzles the will
And makes us rather bear those ills we have
Than fly to others that we know not of? Continue reading
In the age of Obama it is possible for Americans to forget that there are leaders who are very shrewd indeed:
The Egyptian defense minister ordered the engineering department of the armed forces to swiftly repair all the affected churches, in recognition of the historical and national role played by our Coptic brothers,” read a statement that aired on Egyptian television.
The Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR), an Egyptian NGO, says at least 25 churches were torched this week, and attackers also targeted Christian schools, shops and homes across all 27 provinces. Continue reading
As Anthony Weiner demonstrates that being a sociopath is not always an advantage in politics, Andrew McCarthy, who was the lead prosecutor in the successful prosecution of Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman and eleven others for the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, explains at National Review Online why Weiner’s wife is much more interesting than her “stand by her worthless man” routine indicates:
Charlotte’s revulsion over Huma Abedin’s calculated “stand by your man” routine is surely right. Still, it is amazing, as we speculate about Ms. Abedin’s political future, that the elephant in the room goes unnoticed, or at least studiously unmentioned.
Sorry to interrupt the Best Enabler of a Sociopath Award ceremony but, to recap, Ms. Abedin worked for many years at a journal that promotes Islamic-supremacist ideology that was founded by a top al-Qaeda financier, Abdullah Omar Naseef. Naseef ran the Rabita Trust, a formally designated foreign terrorist organization under American law. Ms. Abedin and Naseef overlapped at the Journal of Muslim Minority Affairs (JMMA) for at least seven years. Throughout that time (1996–2003), Ms. Abdein worked for Hillary Clinton in various capacities.
Ms. Abedin’s late father, Dr. Zyed Abedin, was recruited by Naseef to run the JMMA in Saudi Arabia. The journal was operated under the management of the World Assembly of Muslim Youth, a virulently anti-Semitic and sharia-supremacist organization. When Dr. Abedin died, editorial control of the journal passed to his wife, Dr. Saleha Mahmood Abedin — Huma’s mother.
Saleha Abedin is closely tied to the Muslim Brotherhood and to supporters of violent jihad. Among other things, she directs an organization – the International Islamic Committee for Woman and Child. The IICWC, through its parent entity (the International Islamic Council for Dawa and Relief), is a component of the Union for Good (also known as the Union of Good), another formally designated terrorist organization. The Union for Good is led by Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, the notorious Muslim Brotherhood jurist who has issued fatwas calling for the killing of American military and support personnel in Iraq as well as suicide bombings in Israel. (As detailed here, the Obama White House recently hosted Qaradawi’s principal deputy, Sheikh Abdulla bin Bayyah, who also endorsed the fatwa calling for the killing of U.S. troops and personnel in Iraq.)
Like Sheikh Qaradawi, who helped write the charter for the IICWC, Saleha Abedin is an influential sharia activist who has, for example, published a book called Women in Islam that claims man-made laws enslave women. It reportedly provides sharia justifications for such practices as female-genital mutilation, the death penalty for apostates from Islam, the legal subordination of women, and the participation of women in violent jihad. Dr. Abedin has nevertheless been hailed in the progressive press as a “leading voice on women’s rights in the Muslim world” (to quote Foreign Policy). What they never quite get around to telling you is that this means “women’s rights” in the repressive sharia context.
Back to daughter Huma. In the late mid to late Nineties, while she was an intern at the Clinton White House and an assistant editor at JMMA, Ms. Abedin was a member of the executive board of the Muslim Students Association (MSA) at George Washington University, heading its “Social Committee.” The MSA, which has a vast network of chapters at universities across North America, is the foundation of the Muslim Brotherhood’s infrastructure in the United States. Obviously, not every Muslim student who joins the MSA graduates to the Brotherhood — many join for the same social and networking reasons that cause college students in general to join campus organizations. But the MSA does have an indoctrination program, which Sam Tadros describes as a lengthy process of study and service that leads to Brotherhood membership — a process “designed to ensure with absolute certainty that there is conformity to the movement’s ideology and a clear adherence to its leadership’s authority.” The MSA gave birth to the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), the largest Islamist organization in the U.S. Indeed the MSA and ISNA consider themselves the same organization. Because of its support for Hamas (a designated terrorist organization that is the Muslim Brotherhood’s Palestinian branch), ISNA was named an unindicted co-conspirator in the Holy Land Foundation case, in which several Hamas operatives were convicted of providing the terrorist organization with lavish financing. Continue reading
In 1883, William Graham Sumner published an essay titled “The Forgotten Man” (originally titled “On the Case of a Certain Man Who Is Never Thought Of” – not quite as catchy) which is as relevant today as it was when it was written. The essay is a great exposition of the laissez-faire understanding and approach to social problems and articulates what I believe many on the libertarian right and within the Tea Party believe today. From a Catholic point of view, there is much I find agreeable within it, though there are certain tangents, unnecessary to the main argument, that I would take issue with.
Hattip to AllahPundit at Hot Air. Your tax dollars at work. The State Department is paying for the above video to run in Pakistan. I find it breathtaking in its complete incomprehension. The foolish anti-Mohammed video is merely a pretext for the Jihadists to carry on their war with us. Obama and Clinton could apologize from now until Doomsday and it would have no impact, except to convince watching muslims that the United States leadership is weak and confused which is a completely accurate assessment of the Obama administration abroad. Continue reading
We in America have learned bitter lessons from two world wars: It is better to be here ready to protect the peace, than to take blind shelter across the sea, rushing to respond only after freedom is lost. We’ve learned that isolationism never was and never will be an acceptable response to tyrannical governments with an expansionist intent.
Matthew Archbold as well as the folks at Hot Air have done a fantastic job covering the story of Chinese dissident Chen Guangcheng. Matt discussed this story a few days ago.
Chen Guancheng is a blind human rights activist who has protested his country’s forced abortions and sterilizations. After months of beatings at the hands of his guards, Chen pretended to be sick and laid up in bed. He and his wife studied the movements of the guards, according to ABC News. In the middle of the night, Guancheng slipped past nearly 100 guards stationed around his home and escaped into the night.
Matt detailed the U.S. government’s less than enthusiastic embrace of Chen, and today we have learned more troubling details that indicate that the administration has betrayed Chen. Ed Morrissey relays this:
Blind legal activist Chen Guangcheng says a U.S. official told him that Chinese authorities threatened to beat his wife to death had be not left the American Embassy.
Speaking by phone from his hospital room in Beijing on Wednesday night, a shaken Chen told The Associated Press that U.S. officials relayed the threat from the Chinese side.
Chen, who fled to the embassy six day ago, left under an agreement in which he would receive medical care, be reunited with his family and allowed to attend university in a safe place. He says he now fears for his safety and wants to leave.
Chen says that the U.S. government lied to him.
An American official denied that account. The official said Mr. Chen was told that his wife, Yuan Weijing, who had been brought to Beijing by the Chinese authorities while Mr. Chen was in the American Embassy, would not be allowed to remain in the capital unless Mr. Chen left the embassy to see her. She would be sent back to Mr. Chen’s home village in Shandong, where no one could guarantee her safety.
“At no time did any U.S. official speak to Chen about physical or legal threats to his wife and children. Nor did Chinese officials make any such threats to us,” Victoria Nuland, the State Department spokesperson, said in an e-mailed statement. “U.S. interlocutors did make clear that if Chen elected to stay in the Embassy, Chinese officials had indicated to us that his family would be returned to Shandong, and they would lose their opportunity to negotiate for reunification.”…
“At no point during his time in the Embassy did Chen ever request political asylum in the U.S.,” Ms. Nuland said. “At every opportunity, he expressed his desire to stay in China, reunify with his family, continue his education and work for reform in his country. All our diplomacy was directed at putting him in the best possible position to achieve his objectives.”
As Allahpundit says, this is a distinction without a difference. One way or the other Chen was led to believe that his wife’s life was in danger, or at the very least was threatened with physical harm. Either way, Chen was clearly upset.
“The embassy kept lobbying me to leave and promised to have people stay with me at the hospital,” he said. “But this afternoon, as soon as I checked into the hospital room, I noticed they were all gone.”
He said he was “very disappointed” in the U.S. government and felt “a little” that he had been lied to by the embassy.
At the hospital, where he was reunited with his family, he said he learned that his wife had been badly treated after his escape.
“She was tied to a chair by police for two days,” he said. “Then they carried thick sticks to our house, threatening to beat her to death. Now they have moved into the house. They eat at our table and use our stuff. Our house is teeming with security — on the roof and in the yard. They installed seven surveillance cameras inside the house and built electric fences around the yard.”
At this point it’s impossible to determine exactly what has happened, and whether or not the State Department and the Obama administration sold Chen out just to remain in China’s good graces. One would like to think the best of this president and assume that he would not betray a heroic dissident in order to keep an evil,authoritarian government happy. One would also have to be hopelessly naive to blindly make such an assumption.
If you move about those regions of the internets in which righteous display their moral superiority by posting sixty second video clips showing just how bad their opponents are, you have probably seen headlines lately along the lines of “Christians Boo Jesus” or “Republicans Mock Golden Rule”. Of course, one hardly needs to watch the clip, because in the dualism that is politicization, everyone already knows that they’re right and their opponents are wrong. But after the fifth or sixth iteration, I had to go ahead watch Ron Paul (who else) present his Golden-Rule based foreign policy to boos. Here’s the clip in question:
Or if, like me, you tend not to watch posted videos, here’s the money quote:
“My point is, that if another country does to us what we do to others, we aren’t going to like it very much. So I would say maybe we ought to consider a golden rule in foreign policy. We endlessly bomb these other countries and then we wonder why they get upset with us?”
Now, this sounds superficially high minded, and some people who really are high minded seem lured by it. Kyle, who has an genuine and expansive desire to understand “the other” has his dander up and says: Continue reading
Tomorrow will mark one month since Honduran President Manuel Zelaya was roused from his bed by members of the military and escorted, in his pajamas, to a plane heading out of the country. Later that same day, June 28th, the Honduran congress elected Roberto Micheletti as interim president, with a term to expire on January 27th, 2010 — the date on which Zelaya’s term would otherwise have ended.
Since then, things have held in a state of tense limbo. No other country has recognized Micheletti as the legitimate president, and Zelaya is now camped out on the Honduras/Nicaragua boarder pushing for his return. Venezuelan strongman Hugo Chavez, a backer of Zelaya, has darkly threatened consequences if he thinks Venezuelans in Honduras might be threatened, but to date no outside power has attempted to force the Honduran military to stand down.
However, the situation is more complicated than a simple coup. This in depth article in the weekend’s WSJ on the lead up to Zelaya’s ouster is a pretty good primer on the subject. The military removed Zelaya in response to orders from the Honduran Supreme Court for the military to arrest Zelaya for disobeying the constitution. Zelaya was attempting to push through a ballot referendum to change the constitution — his primary object according to most Honduran authorities and observers being to remove the constitutional provision which limits each president to only one term in office. In this, he was following the example of other Latin American presidents who have sought to remove the constitutional provisions in their countries that were designed to keep one man from maintaining power indefinitely. Continue reading
My apologies for taking so long to get back with a second part to this review. In the first installment, I covered the history of Rome’s early expansion, and how its commitment to establishing a safe horizon of allies, and defending those allies against any aggression, led the city of Rome to effectively rule all of Italy. From southern Italy, Rome was drawn into Sicily, which in turn made it a threat to Carthage and drew those two superpowers of the third century BC into a series of wars that would end with the total destruction of Carthage as a world power.
In the proud tradition of news photos of beautiful women protesting against political oppression, the Boston Globe provides a series of photos of the protests over Iran’s apparently rigged presidential election, but the first is this one:
(In all seriousness, this is some of the best photo journalism I’ve seen in a long time, go check it out.)
There’s some reasonable dispute as to whether it would help or hurt the protestors for the Obama Administration to break silence on the issue and speak in support of the protestors. Given Iran’s history and the fierce national pride across the political spectrum, if Obama openly supported the protestors it might give Ahmadinejad the ability to paint Mousavi’s supporters as stooges of the US. However, the US and the rest of the world should make it clear that a violent crackdown ala Tiananmen Square would be absolutely unacceptable.
It may seem like overkill to write a multi-part book review, but historian Thomas F. Madden’s new Empires of Trust: How Rome Built–and America Is Building–a New World explores a thesis I’ve been interested in for some time, which has significant implications for our country’s foreign policy and the wider question of what our country is and what its place in the world ought to be.
The US has been often accused, of late, of being an empire. Madden effectively accepts that this is the case, but argues that this is not necessarily a bad thing at all. Among his first projects is to lay out three different types of empire: empires of conquest, empires of commerce, and empires of trust.
An empire of conquest is one spread by military power, in which the conquering power rules over and extracts tribute from the conquered. Classic examples would include the empires of the Assyrians, Persians, Mongols, Turks, Alexander’s Hellenistic empire, Napoleon’s empire and to an extent the Third Reich, Imperial Japan and Soviet Union. Empires of conquest are spread by war, and conquered territory is ruled either by local puppet rulers or by a transplanted military elite from the conquering power.
An empire of commerce is interested only in securing enough of a political foothold in its dominions to carry on trade, and is less concerned over political control or tribute. Examples would include the British and Dutch empires; in the ancient world the Pheonicians and Athenians; and later, medieval Venice. Empires of conquest are typified by a network of far-flung colonies directly controlled by the home country, at locations which are strategic for exploiting natural resources or trading with regional powers. They are less focused on conquering large swathes of territority than with controlling enough of a foothold (and enforcing enough stability in the surrounding area) to carry on their commerce.
The book, however, is primarily concerned with a third type of empire, the empire of trust, of which Madden gives only two examples: Rome and the United States. The term “empire of trust” itself requires some unpacking.