Archive for the ‘Mosul’ category

Humor | After Declaring Victory Over ISIS, Iraq Returns To Being An Idyllic Paradise

July 17, 2017

After Declaring Victory Over ISIS, Iraq Returns To Being An Idyllic Paradise, Duffel Blog, July 17, 2017

BAGHDAD — After retaking Mosul and declaring victory over the Islamic State, Iraq returned to it’s previous state of utopia, sources confirmed today.

“Iraq is now liberated from the scourge of ISIS,” Iraqi Prime Minster Haider al-Abadi said. “Now we can focus on the positive aspects of Iraq, like the low taxes on highway repair, waste disposal, and women’s education.”

“We also have the world’s best police force,” al-Abadi said. “Look at how many criminals they’ve packed into our prisons. They are honest as well. Over the last decade there have been zero convictions of police corruption. In fact, you can’t find a single witness!”

Recently added to the list of “Developing Nations” by the International Association of Realtors, Iraq has the world’s lowest homeless population and is the easiest place to adopt stray dogs.

Although parts of the Iraqi economy are stagnant, there are some great jobs for Iraqis. Politician remains the most lucrative option, followed by bodyguard and bomb-maker.

“Tourists will love to see all the beautiful places in Iraq,” al-Abadi said. “Come visit Babylon and the Ziggurat of Ur. Tourists will get a chance to see a blend of many cultures.”

“If they visit certain areas it will be just like going to Yemen!” al-Abadi added after running off the podium, chased by a camel spider.

At press time, Iraqi politicians were declaring a trash bag floating in the wind the country’s national bird.


Men Like These

June 22, 2017

Men Like These, Bill Whittle Channel via YouTube, June 21, 2017

The short blurb beneath the video summarizes:

A former Special Forces soldier in Mosul runs, unarmed, through an ISIS free-fire zone to rescue an Iraqi child. The video illustrates a story that’s not told often enough, but Scott Ott, Bill Whittle and Stephen Green work to remedy that.

New ISIS mobile tactics against US in Syria, Iraq

May 8, 2017

New ISIS mobile tactics against US in Syria, Iraq, DEBKAfile, May 8, 2017

The effect of this tactic has been disastrous. Capable of penetrating as far as 10 km inside Iraqi lines, the deadly vehicles and suiciders have managed to slow the US-Iraqi advance and, in some places, brought it to a halt. The method has won the title of “crust mobile defense” from American commanders in Syria and Iraq

In short, the Mosul offensive, estimated to last a couple of months, is going into its eighth month with no end in sight.

A live example of this method was seen in Iraq Sunday, May 7, when at least five ISIS suicide bombers detonated their explosives vests against Kurdish Peshmerga forces outside the K1 base near the northern oil city of Kirkuk where US instructors are deployed. At least two Kurdish servicemen were killed.


It is important to get the spate of reported successes by US-backed forces fighting the Islamic State in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan in proper proportion – in particular, the impression that ISIS is falling back from its strongholds in Mosul and Raqqa and that its certain defeat is just around the corner.

On Monday, May 8, it was disclosed that Sheikh Abdul Hasib, Islamic State commander in the Afghan province of Khorasan was killed in a raid on April 27 by US and Afghan special operations forces, in which two US Army Rangers lost their lives.

All these reports are accurate as far as they go, but they don’t take into account the upbeat sense prevailing in the ISIS command. The Islamic organization’s strategists, former officers of Iraq’s Saddam Hussein regime and Baath party, are confident they have found a convincing tactical answer to the American push for crushing them in Mosul. They don’t believe they are close to defeat or that Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi’s caliphate is anywhere near collapse.

DEBKAfile’s intelligence and counterterrorism sources offer six reasons for the jihadists’ confidence, which the Mosul battle has if anything solidified:

1.  The numbers of ISIS fighters still fighting in the Old City of Mosul is seriously underestimated as 300-400 by American and Iraqi military sources. The true figure is ten times larger – 3,000-4,000.

2.   The American and the Iraqi commands have not worked out how to counter the ISIS forces’ device of connecting tunnels running under buildings, which are accessed through holes blown through the walls of attached buildings. The jihadists can therefore move around between battles unobserved.

3.  The only force able to combat ISIS tactics is the Iraqi Gold Division, the one elite force available to the US-Iraqi command. It is not however large enough to fight in more than one arena at once and is, moreover, too slow-moving to overwhelm the swift, invisible ISIS fighters. Most other Iraqi army units have been withdrawn from the Mosul front after being decimated.

4.  ISIS has given up the strategy of defending large urban areas, pursued early in its campaign of conquest in such places as Ramadi, Tikrit and Fallujah – and the start of its defense of Mosul. Instead, their commanders have split them up into small detachments of no more than 10-15 fighters each for commando and suicide raids against their adversaries. These detachments are supported by a large group well behind the front lines which is running assembly lines of booby-trapped cars for delivery to the commando detachments.

Each is provided with more than a dozen explosive cars for release against Iraqi and US troops for maximum losses, as well plenty of exposive vests for multiple suicide attacks.

5. The effect of this tactic has been disastrous. Capable of penetrating as far as 10 km inside Iraqi lines, the deadly vehicles and suiciders have managed to slow the US-Iraqi advance and, in some places, brought it to a halt. The method has won the title of “crust mobile defense” from American commanders in Syria and Iraq

In short, the Mosul offensive, estimated to last a couple of months, is going into its eighth month with no end in sight.

A live example of this method was seen in Iraq Sunday, May 7, when at least five ISIS suicide bombers detonated their explosives vests against Kurdish Peshmerga forces outside the K1 base near the northern oil city of Kirkuk where US instructors are deployed. At least two Kurdish servicemen were killed.

6. High on the success of their tactics in Iraq, ISIS chiefs are duplicating it at the Raqqa battlefield in Syria. They have begun relocating their northern Syrian command centers to the eastern Deir ez-Zor region and Euphrates Valley, which straddles the Syrian-Iraqi border. The terrorist organization has selected the small desert town of Al-Mayadin east of Deir ez-Zor as the next seat for its central command, mainly because of its isolation. Only five roads access the town, most of them not fit for vehicular traffic and so any approaching enemy is quickly exposed.

ISIS is now planning to post its “crust mobile defense system” squads along the 170km of road linking Al Mayadin to Raqqa.

Mosul quietly fills with Iran-backed Shiite militias using battle for revenge on Sunnis

April 30, 2017

Mosul quietly fills with Iran-backed Shiite militias using battle for revenge on Sunnis, Washington Times, Seth J. Frantzman, April 30, 2017

An Iraqi Special Forces vehicle displays a Shiite flag bearing the likeness of Imam Hussein and Imam Ali with Arabic words reading “At your service Hussein” in Mosul, Iraq. State

HAMAM AL-ALIL, Iraq — The road to Mosul is littered with the detritus from almost three years of war: burned M1117 armored vehicles, sandbagged berms and trenches from defensive positions once manned against Islamic State fighters, houses pancaked by airstrikes. The long supply line of the Iraqi army stretches through villages, with bulldozers, camouflaged trucks and temporary base camps.

Particularly noticeable are the frequent checkpoints manned by young armed men. But the fighters often aren’t from the Iraqi army or the Federal Police, but are members of various Iran-supported Shiite militias in the Hashd al-Shaabi, or Popular Mobilization Units.

While taking part in the U.S.-backed assault on the Islamic State group’s last major stronghold in Iraq, many of these units fly flags celebrating Shiite religious figures such as the Imam Hussein, and some have posters of Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Life in those areas under control of the Shiite militias provides a window into Iran’s influence and the sectarian tensions that still dog Iraq as the campaign for Mosul enters its seventh grinding month.

A tour of these areas shows that Shiite militias and Iran have been empowered in the fight and that Iraq remains a state even more divided along religious and ethnic lines.

The battle for Mosul, once a city of more than 2 million residents, began in mid-October. In a lightning assault in 2014, the Islamic State, a radical Sunni Muslim group, took the city, expelled Christians and massacred Shiite and other minorities, and dynamited shrines and archaeological sites as part of its Salafi policy. When the Iraqi army began its campaign last fall, Mosul’s population had been reduced to around 1 million people.

Complicating the battle has been the presence of thousands of fighters allied with the Popular Mobilization Units. Composed of numerous militias that answered a 2014 fatwa by Iraqi Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani to fight the Islamic State, the units have many leaders with shadowy pro-Iranian pasts.

Qais Khazali was a follower of Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, who attacked U.S. troops in Karbala in 2007 and now runs the Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq militia. Hadi al-Amiri, leader of the Badr Organization, fought alongside Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps during the Iran-Iraq War of the 1980s. Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, leader of the Kata’ib Hezbollah militia, also fought with the Iranians in the 1980s.

In December, the PMU was incorporated as an official paramilitary force of the Iraqi government. But fears remain that its role in northern Iraq will inflame tensions with Sunni Arabs and the Kurdish population.

In an October speech, Mr. Khazali called the battle for Mosul the “revenge for the killing of Hussein.” He was referring to a historic killing that Shiites blame on Sunnis and tying it to the modern sectarian war with the Islamic State.

“If they exact widespread revenge against the Sunnis and expel them, this might create a conducive environment for ISIS to come back,” Kawa Hassan, director of the Middle East and North Africa Program at the Brussels-based EastWest Institute, told a European Parliament hearing in November.

Quietly expanding

The worst fears of mass revenge killings and expulsions have not been realized in or around Mosul to date. Instead, Shiite militias are more quietly extending their presence and visible control in a new part of the country, as a tour of the region repeatedly demonstrates.

Driving out of the Kurdish autonomous region from Irbil, the closest major city to Mosul, one leaves the Kurdish flags behind and immediately enters the uncertain terrain of militias. In the Christian town of Hamdaniyeh, the Nineveh Plains Protection Units, a Christian militia paid by and affiliated with the PMU, guards the entrance and exit. Its members are relaxed and friendly. Most of them live in the Kurdish region, where they fled the Islamic State and have only recently returned.

After Hamdaniyeh, the road crosses hillocks and fields with long-dilapidated chicken coops and the militias are from a Shabak unit. The Shabak are a local minority, some of whom are Shiite and recently joined the PMU’s Badr Organization.

For some Shabak and Iraqi Christians, the PMU are liberators. Last year, the PMU released a video showing the church bells of Mosul ringing again, sending the message that they would liberate the city from the Islamic State and make it safe for Christians. Militia members hand out “Imam Hussein” flags to children in local hamlets.

But in some Sunni Arab villages, there is obvious fear of the militia members who wander the streets, rifles over their shoulders, peering into mud-caked compounds.

Leaving the Shabak behind, the road skirts the ruins of the ancient Assyrian city of Nimrud, which Islamic State fighters blew up in 2015. A floating pontoon bridge over the Tigris is all that connects the western and eastern sides today. Airstrikes have demolished the old bridges.

The pontoon bridge is in such bad shape that it washed out during flooding in April and took days to repair. Civilians trod this road, and Iraqi nongovernmental organizations bring food to some of the estimated 160,000 civilians who have fled the battle of Mosul for refugee camps.

One car flying a white flag drove by with a corpse in the back, transported for burial across the river.

But each civilian vehicle, often packed with people, must pass a strict checkpoint on both sides. The checkpoint stops are tense. Soldiers and militia members ask where the Arab passengers are from and check the cargo. They are looking for Islamic State fighters. A Shiite flag with the sketch of a sword dripping blood flutters on the bridge.

As the road from the Tigris nears Mosul, it merges with a large highway that runs to Baghdad and the presence of the militias appears to thin out. The Iraqi army and Federal Police take the lead at checkpoints. Many vehicles of the Iraqi armed forces display Shiite flags, but the militias are not playing an official role in the battle for the city — only in rural areas around it.

A massive new United Nations camp at Hamam al-Alil is largely unoccupied. A giant sign by the PMU indicates that Shiite militias control access to the camp and claim they are “confirming the [safety]” of the camps and will provide aid equally.

The Shiite militias know that they are viewed by many with suspicion and are accused of discrimination and sectarianism. When a reporter tries to enter an older part of the Hamam al-Alil camp, militia members wearing black balaclavas and masks with skulls on them block the way.

Civilians in these neighborhoods have transitioned from Islamic State rule to another form of religious rule, with militarized checkpoints controlling their movements. A young man who fled one of these villages when the Shiite arrived and now lives in a reformatory in Irbil said the Shiite militias don’t belong in his Sunni village or northern Iraq.

In many ways, civilian life has an air of normalcy — even in Mosul with the sound of gunfire in the background. Women in black abayas wait for food to be distributed. Men stand around smoking, observing. Children play, some with visible burns from the war.

Most of these people have lived with years of war. Since the 1980s and particularly since 2003, they have witnessed rounds of violence. In January 2008, for instance, the city was hit by more than a dozen attacks a day, including improvised explosive devices, car bombs and shootings.

By contrast, life under the Islamic State was relatively peaceful for many pious Sunnis, many of whom greeted the takeover warmly in 2014.

“This too shall pass,” seemed to be the overall feeling in and around Mosul. Saddam came and went, then the Americans, the jihadis, the Americans, the Islamic State and now the Shiite militias. If Shiite militias continue to hoist flags over Sunni mosques in the city and the militias continue to man dozens of checkpoints in the rural countryside, then it is likely only a matter of time before insurgent attacks begin again.

Propping up US-Iraqi Mosul flop exposed Baghdad

December 31, 2016

Propping up US-Iraqi Mosul flop exposed Baghdad, DEBKAfile, December 31, 2016

(I receive frequent daily Google alerts on Iraq. Most deal with terrorist attacks in and near Baghdad, sometimes resulting in a few deaths and sometimes resulting in many.  —  DM)

mosul_iraq_destroyed_tank_12-16Iraqi tank blown up by ISIS bomber in Mosul battle

This week, another 1,700 US special operations forces and 4,000 members of the Iraqi federal police and counter-terrorism service (CTS) were urgently sent out to reinforce the crumbling front lines. Their deployment was officially characterized as marking the launch of “the second phase of the operation to retake Mosul.”


The US-backed Iraqi campaign launched in October to liberate Mosul from the clutches of the Islamic State is on its last legs, although the Obama administration and Iraqi Prime Minister Haydar al-Abadi are making every effort to disguise the debacle.

AS DEBKAfile has been reporting for three weeks, the Iraqi army’s Mosul operation has run aground, despite solid US military backing, giving the advantage to Islamic State fighters occupying Iraq’s biggest city since the summer of 2015.

This development has major security ramifications – not only for Iraq, but also for Syria, Jordan, Israel and the West at large.

The jihadists staunched the Iraqi army’s advance by releasing in its path hundreds of suicide killers in waves on foot and in bomb cars. This tactic has inflicted crippling losses on the two elite Iraqi divisions leading the offensive, the Golden Division, which is the backbone of Iraq’s Special Operations forces, and the 9th Armored Division. Devastating losses forced both to pull back from the battlefield.

This week, another 1,700 US special operations forces and 4,000 members of the Iraqi federal police and counter-terrorism service (CTS) were urgently sent out to reinforce the crumbling front lines. Their deployment was officially characterized as marking the launch of “the second phase of the operation to retake Mosul.”

Their real function was to prop up the few positions Iraqi forces have captured so far and save the Mosul offensive from crashing.

Western military observers noted Saturday, Dec. 31, that more and more American troops are to be seen on the embattled city’s front lines. US combatants are therefore fighting face to face with ISIS jihadists, a development the Obama administration is loath to admit, never having released the number of American lives lost in the Mosul offensive.

Our military sources add that the Iraqi counter-terrorism force sent to Mosul was previously posted in Baghdad to secure the capital against Islamist terrorist operations and ISIS attempts to seize the center and Iraqi’s national government centers. Its transfer to Mosul, 356km to the north, exposed central Baghdad to terror.

And, inevitably, on Saturday, two suicide bombers blew themselves up on a main street of the capital, killing 28 people and injuring 40 in their first major attack there in three months since the onset of the Mosul offensive..

This happened the day after the Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook released an unwelcome report that US security agencies “do think [Abu Bakr al] Baghdadi is alive and is still leading” the Islamic group and the battle for Mosul.

ISIS for its part issued a menacing new communiqué that jacked up its threat against neighboring Jordan’s King Abdullah II and his security forces, in the wake of its terrorist-cum-hostage assault earlier this month on the southern town of Karak, in which 10 people were killed and 29 injured.

The communiqué reads:“All Jordanian soldiers, police, mosque preachers, information activists and regime supporters are legitimate targets for the muhahideen’s bullets and knives. All of Jordan is an open battlefield!”

ISIS is informing the world of its coming targets, say DEBKAfile’s counterterrorism sources, which are:

1. The overthrow of the Hashemite king and his rule, and

2. The seizure of southern Jordan.

If Baghdadi succeeds in this scheme, he will gain control of a large stretch of land adjacent to Israel and Egyptian Sinai to the west and Saudi Arabia to the south, thereby bringing both under threat and placing itself close enough to block the port of Aqaba, Jordan’s only outlet to the sea.

From the desert region of southern Jordan, ISIS will also achieve proximity to the Sinai desert – through Israeli and Egyptian Bedouin – and be able to control the main Middle East arms-smuggling route and the Sinai center of operations of this illicit and enormously profitable trade

Mosul offensive folds, waiting now for Trump

December 5, 2016

Mosul offensive folds, waiting now for Trump, DEBKAfile, December 5, 2016


Altogether 54,000 Iraqi troops and 5,000 US servicemen – supported by 90 warplanes and 150 heavy artillery pieces – were invested in the Mosul campaign when it was launched in October. They proved unable to beat 9,000 jihadists.

Aware of the crisis on the Mosul front, the Pentagon has drawn up plans for sending out US reinforcements in the hope of turning the tide of the stalled battle. Those plans repose in their pending trays to await the decisions of the incoming US President Donald Trump and the new Defense Secretary Gen. James Mattis.


The failure of the US-backed Iraqi army offensive to liberate Mosul – nine weeks after it began – could no longer be denied when a delegation of ISIS chiefs arrived there Sunday, Dec. 4, traveling unhindered from Raqqa, Syria.

DEBKAfile’s military and intelligence sources report that they arrived to discuss how to synchronize the operations of the two jihadist strongholds, after the Islamist leaders occupying Mosul changed course about leaving the city and decided to stay put.

This decision followed their assessment that the Iraqi army and its American backers were incapable of bringing their offensive to a successful conclusion. It was also evident in Washington that the US commanders in the field would not be able to meet Barack Obama’s presidential directive to capture Mosul by the end of December, so that he could exit the White House next month with a successful Mosul campaign behind hm.

Altogether 54,000 Iraqi troops and 5,000 US servicemen – supported by 90 warplanes and 150 heavy artillery pieces – were invested in the Mosul campaign when it was launched in October. They proved unable to beat 9,000 jihadists.

Iraqi forces have gained no more than one-tenth of the territory assigned them. This lack of progress has damped their initial impetus and sapped their morale. While Baghdad keeps on pumping out reports of good progress and new fronts opening up, the Iraqi army has come to a virtual standstill and does nothing more than exchange fire with ISIS fighters.

The first sign that ISIS had reversed its tactics and decided to hold out against the Iraqi assault came in the form of a slickly-produced video released by the jihadists on Dec. 27 to display their defenses inside Mosul. It showed commando units in battle formation, sniper positions in place, bomb cars parked at key points and well-barricaded streets. In the terrain from which they pulled back, they had strewn shells and rockets loaded with poisonous chemicals as a warning message to Iraqi troops that they would storm the city at their peril.

Our sources report meanwhile that some of the ISIS fighters who quit Mosul in the early stage of the Iraqi offensive are turning back, along with some of the administration officials.

The Kurdish Peshmerga, which three weeks ago turned their backs on the campaign, now realize they will have to live with ISIS as a dangerous next-door neighbor, after all. They are bending their energies to establishing a strong line of defense against Mosul, to secure their capital Irbil and other towns of the semiautonomous Kurdish Republic of Iraq.

Aware of the crisis on the Mosul front, the Pentagon has drawn up plans for sending out US reinforcements in the hope of turning the tide of the stalled battle. Those plans repose in their pending trays to await the decisions of the incoming US President Donald Trump and the new Defense Secretary Gen. James Mattis.

The Houris: Islam’s ‘Sexual Superwomen’

November 25, 2016

The Houris: Islam’s ‘Sexual Superwomen’, Front Page MagazineRaymond Ibrahim,November 24, 2016


Western secular minds would do well to stop projecting their own materialistic paradigms onto jihadis—such as when the Obama administration said that people join ISIS for “a lack of opportunity for jobs”— and start understanding Islam’s motivations on its own terms.


Last month, when the battle for Mosul began, Islamic State “caliph” Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi reportedly promised four extra Houris (supernatural, celestial women designed for sexual purposes)—atop the other 72 promised by prophet Muhammad—to all jihadis who die (are “martyred”) fighting the infidel forces, according to Arabic media accounts.

Al-Baghdadi did this during an extra “fiery sermon” wherein he recounted 15 hadiths and three stories dealing with the Houris in the context of the original Muslim conquest of Mosul, circa. 637, at the hands of Muhammad’s companions (the sahahba).  After promising his followers that “blood will run like rivers in the battle,” al-Baghdadi added: “All, without exception, will enter paradise as martyrs.  Moreover, you will enter paradise with four more Houris than other martyrs.  For just as you stand by me now, so will they stand by you, or under you, or above you, so that you might forget what will happen to you by way of violence, death, and degradation in this war.”

While it is easy to dismiss this report as a hoax (among other things, it doesn’t explain why al-Baghdadi thinks they will get four more heavenly concubines), the problem is that Islam—from its history and doctrines, to the exhortation of its leaders, from Muhammad to al-Baghdadi—is full of stories and enticements concerning the Houris.

Here, for instance, is an authentic hadith—a statement attributed to Muhammad that mainstream Islam acknowledges as true—which all jihadi organizations (including ISIS) regularly invoke:

The martyr is special to Allah. He is forgiven from the first drop of blood [that he sheds]. He sees his throne in paradise…. He will wed the Houris [[a.k.a. “voluptuous women”] and will not know the torments of the grave and safeguards against the greater horror [hell]. Fixed atop his head will be a crown of honor, a ruby that is greater than the world and all it contains. And he will copulate with seventy-two Houris.   (Source: The Al Qaeda Reader, p.143).

The histories of the conquest of Mesopotamia and Syria are in fact full of anecdotes of Muslims throwing themselves into the fray and rushing to death because they believed doing so would rush them to the warm embraces of the divine sex slaves.  Here are some anecdotes from al-Waqidi’s account of the battle of Yarmuk in Syria (636), which took place right around the same time as the conquest for Mosul, and which also pitted smaller Muslim forces against much greater infidel (in this case, Christian Byzantine) forces:

As one Muslim captain searched for his nephew, Suwayed, in a field of Muslim corpses, he found him dying on the ground.   When the man came into the vision of the fallen youth, Suwayed began to cry.  He explained that, after being speared by a Byzantine, “something amazing began to happen to me: the Houris are standing beside me, awaiting my soul’s departure.”  Another Muslim reported that he came upon a fallen comrade in a strange posture: “I saw him smitten on the ground, and I watched as he lifted his fingers to the sky. I understood he was rejoicing, for he saw the Houris.”   While waving his standard, another Muslim battalion leader told his men that a furious rush against the “Christian dogs” is synonymous with a “rush to the embraces of the Houris.”

As usual, obsession over Houris is not limited to arcane Islamic texts or ISIS (“which has nothing to do with Islam”).  Over the years I have watched numerous videos of Muslim men—mostly jihadis—discussing their excitement at the prospect of dying in the jihad and being rushed to the embraces of the supernatural celestial women.  For an idea of how pervasive the Houri is in Islam, consider its impact on Muslim women, as demonstrated in a video of a Muslim cleric taking and answering questions via phone calls.  A woman called in expressing outrage at the Houris, saying that she would be driven “mad with jealousy” seeing her husband copulating with these supernaturally beautiful women all day.

The cleric responded telling her that “when you enter paradise, Allah will remove the jealousy from your heart.   And have no fear, for you will lord over the Houris and be their queen.”  Still apprehensive, the Muslim wife asked, “But must he have the Houris?”  Laughing, the cleric reassured her:  “Look, when you enter paradise, you will be more beautiful than the Houris—you will be their mistress.  Okay?  And, when you enter paradise Allah will remove any jealousy or concerns from your heart.”

All this is a reminder that the Muslim mindset and the motivations behind the jihad are many and multifaceted—and even include those that disbelieve in Allah and the afterlife altogether.  As such, Western secular minds would do well to stop projecting their own materialistic paradigms onto jihadis—such as when the Obama administration said that people join ISIS for “a lack of opportunity for jobs”—and start understanding Islam’s motivations on its own terms.

ISIS will survive Mosul and Raqqa

November 2, 2016

ISIS will survive Mosul and Raqqa, Israel Hayom, Dr. Ori Goldberg, November 2, 2016

The American administration recently announced that it is planning an offensive to take the city of Raqqa, the Syrian “capital” of Islamic State. The American announcement illustrates the overarching logic behind the current campaign against Islamic State. According to this logic, Islamic State is, in fact, a state. And one state defeats another if it conquers its capital. Such a conquest forces the enemy’s administrative institutions to crumble, along with its remaining forces and defenses, while the conquering country can effectively “take control” of the vanquished country.

Reality, however, does not necessarily abide logic, as we will see when Raqqa is taken, because Islamic State is not a state. Even its expected defeat in Mosul, along with the future downfall of Raqqa, cannot dissolve the “Islamic State,” because it is just one expression, or one phase, of an ongoing struggle. The purpose of this struggle is to prepare the world for the day of judgment, and a ready world is a world that realizes the weakness and fallacy inherent to the human political order.

The state of Islamic State is a mirror intended to demonstrate to the entire world the tenuous nature of the “Arab” states in the Middle East. The role of this state is to rise, and after it has risen to make a laughing stock of the countries around it. It melts away borders and nullifies national identity; it rejects the laws of the state and the international community, and scorns such ideas as “human rights.”

ISIS, however, does not portend to be a complete or sufficient alternative to the Western model or to any other model. The Islamic State is part of a path whose ending is already known — judgment day will come, the final battle will be decided and the Muslims will win. Therefore, when Raqqa falls Islamic State will not simply vanish into thin air. If the tangible Islamic State can no longer fulfil its grand purpose, another means of fulfilling it will be found. When the physical state finally collapses, after much blood is spilled, the citizens who lived under its boot will surely breathe a sigh of relief. The soldiers of the Islamic State will disperse; some will join any of the numerous terrorist groups out there, others will go back home to their worried parents, from Tunisia to Kosovo. The idea of Islamic State, however, will not dissipate in the slightest. Quite the opposite, it can be expected to grow stronger.

The creation of the Islamic State marked a significant escalation for global jihad. Many talked about a caliphate while waging jihad over the years, from the mid-1980s in Afghanistan until today, but no one felt secure enough to implement the idea. Islamic State took the step and was successful, specifically because it never believed that having a state was the end all and be all.

The memory of the Islamic State will encourage new believers, in groups or on their own, to continue undermining the stability and unity in their host countries. Violence will continue to be, to an even higher degree, the most readily accessible and effective way to expand Islamic State’s jihadi doctrine and religious struggle. There is no reason to necessarily expect grandiose terrorist attacks in the style of al-Qaida.

The purpose of Islamic State does not lie in the spectacle, the widespread destruction or in the unfathomable number of casualties. We can, however, expect a dogged response unrestrained by time or distance. The current and soon-to-be martyrdom in Mosul and Raqqa is not the result of loyalty to the state, rather a devotion to the unceasing advance forward, toward the assured end.

Turkey’s Descent into Islamist Tyranny Deepens

October 31, 2016

Turkey’s Descent into Islamist Tyranny Deepens, Counter Jihad, October 31, 2016


Turkey’s military forces have just seized the Hagia Sophia, appointing a full-time imam to lead Islamic prayers there after 80 years of it being held as a neutral place for both Christians and Muslims.  The move is symbolic, but shows clearly the designs of Turkey’s Islamist president.

The Turkish government under Recep Tayyip Erdoğan used the abortive coup of this summer to deepen its control over every aspect of Turkish life, but especially the media and education.  Over ten thousand public servants have been purged from the government in recent days, raising the total figure to over a hundred thousand — some 37,000 of whom have been arrested. Erdoğan has pressed the Turkish parliament to reinstate the death penalty so that he can begin disposing of those he has identified as his enemies.

“Our government will take this proposal [on capital punishment] to parliament. I am sure parliament will approve it, and when it comes back to me, I will ratify it…Soon, soon, don’t worry. It’s happening soon, God willing. The West says this, the West says that. Excuse me, but what counts is not what the West says. What counts is what my people say.”

According to CounterJihad’s sources, the detained who are subjected to trial must submit to having all of their conversations with their lawyers recorded whenever the prosecution requests it.  Such recordings are of course admissible as evidence against the client — or the lawyer, if he comes to be considered an enemy of the state from working too hard to defend people already classified as ‘enemies of the state.’

The detained include especially members of opposition media.  The leadership of the Cumhuriyet daily newspaper, which is nearly a century old, were arrested and their laptops seized by the police.  Their paper is not only critical of Erdoğan , but occasionally supportive of the Kurdish minority.  That appears to be grounds for arrest in Turkey now:  even two mayors were seized by order of a Turkish court on suspicion of being sympathetic to Kurdish militants.  In addition to the attacks on the Cumhuriyet daily, 15 Kurdish news outlets have been shuttered by order of the state.  A pro-Kurdish television station was raided by police and forced off the air.

In addition to the media, the state has moved to consolidate control over its system of higher education.  Some 1267 academics who signed a “Peace Petition” last January have been removed from their jobs according to CounterJihad’s sources, and several have been arrested and charged with “terroristic acts” for signing or forwarding that petition.  Our sources tell us that under the new laws, President Erdoğan must personally approve all new university presidents.

At the same time, the Turkish government is pressing NATO to end its naval mission aimed at containing migration flows across the Mediterranean sea.  Turkey claims that the mission is no longer needed, but the siege of Mosul is expected to produce at least a million new refugees in the coming months.  The Russian operations against Aleppo are likewise expected to produce new waves of migrants.

Turkey appears to be using its position within NATO to advance Russia’s interest here, which is to flood Europe with migrants in order to overburden European governments.  That will produce a Europe less able to resist Russian expansion into Eastern Europe.  Turkey and Russia recently signed a major energy deal, clearing the way for at least an economic alliance.  Erd also moved to abandon daylight savings time, a shift that places Turkey in the same time zone as Moscow.  Russia for its part appears to be negotiating a peace between Turkey and Iran on a partition of Iraq, one that would give Turkey greater control over its Kurdish problems.  If Russia succeeds in peeling Turkey off from NATO, it would invalidate the alliance as NATO requires unanimous decisions for all military decisions.

Bernard-Henri Lévy: With the Peshmerga, on the Front Line in the Battle for Mosul

October 30, 2016

Bernard-Henri Lévy: With the Peshmerga, on the Front Line in the Battle for Mosul, Algemeiner, Bernard-Henri Lévy,October 30,2016

Editor’s note: Bernard-Henri Lévy’s documentary, “Peshmerga,” was an Official Selection at the 2016 Cannes Film Festival. He and his team are back in Iraqi Kurdistan, embedded with the Peshmerga, filming a follow-up. The following is his report.

Return to Kurdistan. My first move is to go into the hills around Mount Zartak to gather my thoughts in the spot where Maghdid Harki, the young, white-haired general who was one of the heroes of Peshmerga, spent his last moments. Nothing has changed. Not the sandbags that were too flimsy to protect him. Not his bunker which, as he liked to say, was no better fortified than those of his men. Those men have kept his water bottle hanging in its place on the wall near the door, still containing the last gulp of water that he had been about to drink. The only difference is that American special forces are now using the bunker.

Through binoculars, a US soldier scans the valley in which the human bombs of ISIS may appear at any moment. Another stands behind a telescope trained 20 kilometers farther away on the outskirts of Mosul. A third, with long, blond hair and an Errol Flynn mustache, recovers a drone that has just landed at our feet in a cloud of dust. A fourth who looks like an intellectual (reminding me of Norman Mailer’s cartographer from the 112th cavalry of San Antonio) sits under a canopy deciphering the data coming in on his PC. And a fifth, the highest in rank, from Tennessee, passes on the intelligence. Who are these young Americans, oppressed by the heat and squinting at the light like blind men blinking at the dark? With Mosul a stone’s throw away, they are the leading edge of the coalition that has finally decided, in support of the Kurdish Peshmerga and the Iraqi army, to take the capital of the Islamic State.

I am in Sheikh Amir in the al-Khazir zone. Sheikh Amir is the last liberated village before the beleaguered Christian city of Qaraqosh. Three brand new Toyotas come to a screeching halt, disgorging a squad of men in mismatched black uniforms — definitely not the Peshmerga.

“What are you doing here?” demands General Hajar, with whom I’ve traveled from Erbil. “You shouldn’t be here!”

“This is our land!” answers an ill-shaven man with a nasty, menacing look who seems to be the leader of the group.

“No,” says Hajar, gesturing toward a distant stand of prefabricated shelters that, from the road, we had taken for a refugee camp. “That’s where you should be. The accords are clear: You’re not supposed to leave your camp unless you’re attacking.”

“To hell with you!” chimes in another of the men in black. “We’re home wherever we are.”

As Hajar ups the ante and the confrontation threatens to turn ugly, the leader mumbles a half-hearted apology and, after ordering his bunch back into their pickups, heads off in the direction of the camp, where we can make out three helicopters landing. It all took place very quickly. But the men in black, we now know, were among the thousands of Shi’ite militiamen that Baghdad has hastily incorporated into the Iraqi regular army. And the incident, however minor, speaks long about the tensions among the participants (the Peshmerga on the one hand; Baghdad’s majority Shi’ite army on the other) called upon to liberate the Islamic State’s Berlin.

Another sign. A few kilometers farther on, we are in the Christian village of Manguba. Here, ISIS put up little resistance. But, in retreat, it left behind explosives hidden in soda bottles, fuel cans and sometimes even Korans. And Anwar, a Christian officer in the Peshmerga, is one of very few who take the risk of going out to see what remains of his house. He arranges to rejoin us at a nearby spot, the highest in the village, which, to judge from the punctured soccer ball and the marbles mingled with spent cartridges, must have been a playground before becoming, today, the unit’s lookout post.

“It’s terrible,” he tells us on his return. “There’s nothing left of my house, and they torched the church.” Then, choking back a sob: “But there’s another problem, Mr. Lévy. These bastards have left and, God willing, they won’t come back. But then what? Who will be responsible for protecting our community? We have a Christian brigade training with the Peshmerga, but what will become of it after the victory? Under whose command will it be then?”

Egged on by questions from my friend, Gilles Hertzog, Anwar speaks his mind plainly. Neither he nor any of the Christians in the Qaraqosh region has any confidence in Iraq. He won’t bring his wife and children back, he says, unless the Kurds, and the Kurds alone, are protecting the Plain of Nineveh. In what form, we ask? As a province? An autonomous zone under Kurdish mandate? And does he think that the Iraqis or the Americans on Mount Zartak will agree to such a thing? He shrugs. For soldiers of God, life and salvation are non-negotiable.

Hassan al-Sham. Near the Christian town of Bartallah. The same landscape of charred earth, wreckage of suicide trucks, and lingering fires from torched fuel depots. And suddenly, right in front of me, a big hole. A well, I think at first. Wrong. There is a ladder in the hole, which my cameraman and I climb down behind a member of the bomb squad. Three meters down, I discover a tunnel a meter wide with an arched ceiling and cement walls interspersed with crude masonry in which a man my height can stand upright.

After walking tentatively for 100 meters by the light of the bomb technician’s flashlight, we come upon a passage perpendicular to the one we are in and similarly walled but that we do not enter because we can make out bundles of plastic explosive and contact wires. Then, on each side of the tunnel, rooms filled with a jumble of dirty mattresses. Then, again symmetrically arranged, a twin command center in which someone has left behind a pile of newspapers in Arabic. It’s a black-and-white publication of eight pages, a sort of bulletin for ISIS fighters, entitled “The News.” On the front page, under a photo of a man being beheaded, the headline: “How we identify traitors.” Inside, an article on a terrorist operation in the Sinai; an “analysis” of the “unlimited rights” of a shahid (martyr) who has rid the world of a kafir (heretic); and a report on the presence of sleeper cells in Kirkuk. On page 2, a strange roundup of the past year: “1,031 news reports, 110 infographics, 50 maps, and 112 executions of traitors.” If the enemy took the trouble to dig this tunnel in a forlorn village, what are we likely to find in Mosul? What lacework of traps and pitfalls? What secret, subterranean city for what sort of dirty war?

We are on the road again heading due north to the outskirts of Dohuk, 13 kilometers from the Mosul dam. The man whom we have come to see is Rawan Barzani, the younger brother of the prime minister of Iraqi Kurdistan and the commander of the first battalion of the Kurdish special forces. The base where he receives us is no more than 300 meters from the front line. In his bunker, furnished with a simple table and spartan bed, I observe this amazing officer who is the age of Napoleon’s generals. I listen to him explain, in perfect English and against a background of arriving and departing mortar shells, his theory of an enemy made up of (1) “loonies” (the drivers of suicide trucks); (2) “rats” (the denizens of the tunnels); and (3) “attack dogs” (whom he believes will offer fierce resistance).

How is it possible that a soldier of his rank should be so exposed, so close to the combat zone that he can grant me only a few seconds for a photo outside in the open? There is the legendary courage of the Kurdish commanders who place themselves not behind but in front of their men … There is his name, which could expose him to suspicions of nepotism if he didn’t force himself to be all the braver … But, above all, there is the following. Here, ISIS holds one of its most strategic positions. We are only a few kilometers from an immense dam that, if sabotaged, would flood the entire region extending to Mosul and on to Baghdad. Therefore, the coalition has no choice. It has no use for men in black or Sunni tribesmen hastily recruited for walk-on parts. It needs serious, solid soldiers. It needs seasoned commandos to pass behind enemy lines and carry out the boldest attacks. And, at their head, it needs a grandson of the founder of the Kurdish nation, the father of the Peshmerga, Mustafa Barzani…

An envoy from the general staff comes looking for us during the night. We are to head east toward Nawaran, where the taking of Bashiqa, the last linchpin before Mosul, is to start. The usual crush of tanks, armored vehicles, and Toyotas. Then, at the first glimmers of dawn, two drones, similar to the one that dropped a bomb two weeks ago on the French camp in Erbil: but this time the Peshmerga, in a hail of fire from Kalashnikovs and 12.7 mm caliber machine guns, destroy them before they can touch down. We slip into the last of the five armored personnel carriers that are headed for the front. We leave behind us the mounds of excavated earth where the rest of the troops will await the order to advance. We wend through a landscape of hamlets, warehouses, and ghostly houses from which we expect at any moment to see a suicide bomber emerge. A sniper! Our gunner at his turret takes him out. And another, whose shot grazes our lead cameraman who is filming from the turret next to the gunner. This one escapes, disappearing into the gloom. A spasm of anxiety at the sound of something striking our vehicle’s armor. Another when we learn through walkie-talkie exchanges with the excavators ahead of us that the road is mined and we will have to find a new route across the empty terrain to our left. We spend two hours driving nearly blind, with no other guidance but that of the local villager riding on the lead bulldozer, two hours of jolts and swerves in the dust, of bogging down, all to travel the eight kilometers that separate us from the fringes of the village of Fazlia, which the column has been ordered to retake.

Of the sequence that follows, I have the images recorded by our second cameraman, Ala Tayyeb, after operational command orders the vehicle I’m in to turn back. The personnel carriers and T55 tanks encircle the village. The men get out, are joined by an elite Zeravani unit, and advance in the open. Suddenly, shots burst forth from houses and from an olive grove that had seemed abandoned. Over his walkie-talkie, the colonel in command requests air support. The voice at the other end of the line promises it within minutes, as is the norm. But the shooting becomes more intense. The jihadists surge out of the olive grove and surround the Peshmerga on three sides. Seven Kurdish soldiers are hit. Those that their comrades haul behind the armored carriers are targeted by snipers. When two of the assailants raise a white flag and Ardalan Khasrawi, who also appeared in Peshmerga, approaches to accept their surrender, he finds another trap. The two men open fire and seriously wound Khasrawi. Orders and counterorders. Total confusion. Should the vehicles form a circle? Should they spread out? And the fact is that for the two and a half hours the ambush lasts, for the interminable minutes of hell on earth during which the Kurdish commander never stops pleading for air support and never stops hearing that it is coming, nothing comes. The unit is left to fend for itself, abandoned by the gods and by its allies. Only by their own valiance do the Kurds overcome the jihadists and liberate the village — but at what a price!

Two hours later, we are with President Barzani at his camp of Mount Zartak, which lies at the end of a winding road protected by US special forces. I had asked to see him. And, it soon becomes clear, he has messages to pass on. Yes, in the Arab villages that it is taking, his army is conducting itself in an exemplary manner. No, that army does not intend, at least for the time being, to enter Mosul proper, a job that the allied accords have reserved for the Iraqi army. Yes, again, he had a plan for the “day after,” and he deplores the fact that his partners, in their haste to be done with this before the US election, did not heed him more closely. But his face betrays nothing. The same dark eyes but devoid of their usual mischief. The commanders and dignitaries seated around the makeshift shed that serves as his HQ do not look any more overjoyed than he. He says hardly a thing when I praise the courage of his soldiers. He ducks when I ask him if he believes that the prospect that seemed to haunt him when we last talked in September, the specter of a Shi’ite corridor running through Mosul from Baghdad to Syria, has been dispelled. And, when Gilles Hertzog tells him the story of the Christians who have confidence only in the KRG, he is terse: “It will be up to them to decide and up to the international community to assume its responsibilities — or not.” The truth, which I learned a few hours later from his chief adviser, is that the president spent the hours of the battle for Fazlia in communication with the American ambassador in Iraq, demanding air support for his troops. And the reason for his mood during our interview, not to say his wrath, is that he felt abandoned by his allies — and not far from believing that he has fulfilled his part of the bargain and that, for him, the war is over.

Because why didn’t the promised air support arrive? Why, in defiance of the rules of engagement, did no aircraft take off from the bases in Erbil or Qayyarah? Why, when an Apache helicopter had, at that same moment and not far away, come to the rescue of a mortally wounded American soldier, was another not found to come to the assistance of the trapped Peshmerga fighters? Some in Washington, London and Paris will pin the tragic failure on the chain of command. Others will point to the change in itinerary, when the column realized that the road was mined and had to find another route. But here in Erbil the most widely accepted explanation is less forgiving. We are the best, the Kurds say. We were flying from one victory to another while the Iraqi regulars were managing to lose again two of the villages they had just taken. But our western allies were listening selectively. They wanted success to be equally apportioned among all parties: Kurds, the majority Shi’ite Iraqi army, and the Sunni militiamen designed to reassure the Arabs of Mosul. And, in this studied balance that they sought; in the distribution of roles testily negotiated with, in particular, Baghdad and its Iranian backers; within the framework, then, of the commitment the Americans made not to let the Peshmerga move too fast and gain an advantage that would cost too much later on — the price being the independence of Kurdistan and the supposed “destabilization” of Iraq and the region — it was not necessarily a bad thing to see our column rubbed out in Fazliya.

authorThe author with Peshmerga fighters.

That explanation is probably too simple. But I do remember one of Barack Obama’s predecessors sending the late Richard Holbrooke to warn President Izetbegovic of Bosnia that he would cease to benefit from American air cover if he persisted in his intemperate goal of entering Banja Luka. And we all remember the trouble that a certain General de Gaulle had in obtaining from another American president the right to have a Free French division enter insurgent Paris. And thus that explanation may not be too absurd to ascribe to allied capitals locked into their old sovereign schemes and ready to do nearly anything to try to please one newly rehabilitated power (Iran) or to preserve another pseudo-nation (Iraq) while not becoming overly indebted to a people who would certainly not shrink, when the time came to settle up, from claiming their fair share of the fruits of victory (the Kurdish people, who for a century have played the fall guy in our schemes). If that were the case, if that were the nature of the powers’ great game here, if one persisted in asking the Peshmerga to open the doors to Mosul but not to enter it, and if the return of the Christians to the Plain of Nineveh were to hang on such a cynical accommodation, then the battle would have gotten off to a very bad start and the moral defeat of ISIS would be much less certain than it appears.