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Combat the Islamic State’s Ideology

By , December 5, 2014 4:40 pm

Congressman Brad Sherman (D-CA) had a great idea Tuesday: the U.S. needs to combat the Islamic State not just militarily, but ideologically. Speaking at a congressional hearing, he said: “We have the outreach–what we don’t have is the research. Keep in mind, the State Department has a thousand lawyers. I think they ought to hire one or two experts in Islamic jurisprudence, whether they be practicing Muslims or others who have the expertise.” He added: “It’s not enough to say, ‘look at what ISIS did, they beheaded somebody, it’s evil.’”

Instead, Sherman said, the jihadis had to be refuted on Islamic grounds. “One must be able to turn to the Quran, to turn to the Hadith and show how ISIS is making a mockery of a great world religion,” he explained. “You cannot appeal to Islamic jurists unless you can cite Hadith, unless you can cite Quran, unless you can do all the things you would do in working before any other jurists anywhere in the world. You need legal expertise to get the Islamic legal scholars to be on our side.”

Sherman has a point. For years now, I have been calling on self-proclaimed moderate Muslims in the West to produce an interpretation of the Qur’an and Sunnah that would refute Islamic jihadists’ exegesis and blunt their ability to make recruits among Muslims by convincing them that groups such as al-Qaeda and the Islamic State were the authentic exponents of Islamic teaching. Muslim spokesmen have responded to this call with ridicule, scorn, and exegeses of the Qur’an that were riddled with half-truths and telling omissions, such that it was hard to escape the impression that they were produced in order to reassure credulous infidels, rather than to convince jihadis to lay down their arms.

One notorious example of these deceptive pieces came last September, when the Hamas-linked Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) and the Fiqh Council of North America unveiled with great fanfare what they presented as a refutation of the religious ideology of the Islamic State, in the form of a lengthy “open letter” (not, interestingly enough, a fatwa) addressed to the Islamic State’s caliph Ibrahim, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

If Sherman knows about this “open letter,” he probably believes that it does what he wants, and shows “how ISIS is making a mockery of a great world religion.” He would probably be pleased if the State Department hired some of its signatories to wage the ideological battle against the Islamic State. State could offer contracts to Professor Mustafa Abu Sway, the integral professorial chair for the Study of Imam Ghazali’s Work, Jerusalem — and a Hamas activist; Dr. Jamal Badawi, an unindicted co-conspirator in the Holy Land Foundation Hamas terror funding case; Mustafa Ceric, former grand mufti of Bosnia and Herzegovina, who has called for Sharia in Bosnia; Professor Caner Dagli, a venomously hateful Islamic apologist at Holy Cross College in Worcester, Massachusetts, who traffics in Nazi imagery about “unclean” unbelievers; Ali Gomaa, former grand mufti of Egypt, who endorses wife-beating, Hizballah, and the punishment of apostates from Islam; Hamza Yusuf Hanson, founder and director of Zaytuna College, USA, who blamed the West for Muslim riots over a teddy bear named Muhammad; Ed Husain, senior fellow in Middle Eastern Studies for the Council on Foreign Relations, who recently claimed that seizing British jihadis’ passports so that they couldn’t return to the UK from the Islamic State would only create more jihadis; Muhammad Tahir Al-Qadri, founder of Minhaj-ul-Qur’an International, Pakistan, who drafted Pakistan’s notorious blasphemy law and issued his own disingenuous and hypocritical Fatwa Against Terrorism; and Muzammil Siddiqi, chairman of the Fiqh Council and former head of the Hamas-linked Islamic Society of North America (ISNA).

The signers’ unwholesome associations and allegiances were just one indication that there was far less to this open letter than the mainstream media’s rapturous reception suggested. In fact, the “moderates” who signed on to this open letter by doing so endorsed elements of Islam that most non-Muslim Westerners consider to be “extremist.”

“All Muslims see the great virtue in jihad,” says the open letter. It repeatedly stresses that jihad warfare is strictly defensive. “There is no such thing,” the scholars assert, “as offensive, aggressive jihad just because people have different religions or opinions. This is the position of Abu Hanifa, the Imams Malik and Ahmad and all other scholars including Ibn Taymiyyah, with the exception of some scholars of the Shafi’i school.”

The Shafi’i school is one of the four great schools of Sunni jurisprudence. If some Shafi’i scholars allow for “offensive, aggressive jihad just because people have different religions or opinions,” can it really be said to be un-Islamic? Are the scholars pronouncing takfir on the Shafi’i school? Or just deceiving gullible non-Muslims? The answer is clear.

What’s more, restricting jihad to defensive warfare looks even worse in light of the fact that in Sunni Islamic law, only the caliph has the authority to declare offensive jihad, but defensive jihad is obligatory upon all Muslims when a Muslim land is attacked, and need not be declared by anyone. So since the caliphate was abolished in 1924 to this day (except for those who accept the Islamic State’s caliphate claim), all jihad attacks, even 9/11, have been cast by their perpetrators as defensive — hence the jihadist tendency to retail long lists of grievances when justifying their actions.

So if 9/11 was defensive jihad, and these “moderate” scholars are endorsing defensive jihad, their “moderation” should send just a bit of a chill up the spine.

“Regarding Arab Christians,” the scholars remind the Islamic State’s caliph, “you gave them three choices: jizyah (poll tax), the sword, or conversion to Islam.” Jizya is the tax specified in the Qur’an (9:29) to be levied on “the People of the Book” as a sign of their dhimmitude, their subjugation and submission to Muslim hegemony. This, the scholars say, was wrong, because “these Christians are not combatants against Islam or transgressors against it, indeed they are friends, neighbours and co-citizens. From the legal perspective of Shari’ah they all fall under ancient agreements that are around 1400 years old, and the rulings of jihad do not apply to them.”

However, then the open letter asserts that “there are two types of jizyah in Shari’ah (Islamic Law)”: the first “applies to those who fought Islam,” but the second “is levied on those who do not wage war against Islam.”

The scholars tell the caliph that the Arab Christians are friends of the Muslims, they “did not wage war against you” and thus should not have been subjugated as dhimmis. But then in the next paragraph they say that “the second type of jizyah is levied on those who do not wage war against Islam.” Thus how is the Islamic State transgressing against Islam by levying the jizya on those who did not wage war against Islam?

In any case, the “moderate” scholars are apparently fine with a religion-based poll tax, a sign of the subjugation of the religious minority, in an Islamic state. In this the authors also contradict their earlier claim that jihad is only defensive; now “those who do not wage war against Islam” are to be made to pay the jizya, which results from Muslims fighting the People of the Book: “Fight those who believe not in Allah nor the Last Day, nor hold that forbidden which hath been forbidden by Allah and His Messenger, nor acknowledge the religion of Truth, (even if they are) of the People of the Book, until they pay the Jizya with willing submission, and feel themselves subdued.” (Qur’an 9:29)

Despite all this and more, Brad Sherman would likely be thrilled with this open letter. With so many infidels so eager to be fooled, the work of groups like CAIR and the Fiqh Council of North America is easy. But the great work that Sherman called for — a refutation of the Islamic State on Islamic grounds — that has still not appeared in any genuine form, and that in itself is telling.

Assyrian International News Agency

Inside Islamic State’s Oil Empire: How Captured Oilfields Fuel Isis Insurgency

By , November 20, 2014 6:08 am

Islamic State has consolidated its grip on oil supplies in Iraq and now presides over a sophisticated smuggling empire with illegal exports going to Turkey, Jordan and Iran, according to smugglers and Iraqi officials.

Six months after it grabbed vast swaths of territory, the radical militant group is earning millions of dollars a week from its Iraqi oil operations, the US says. Coalition air strikes against tankers and refineries controlled by Isis have merely dented — rather than halted — these exports, it adds.

The militants control around half a dozen oil-producing oilfields. They were quickly able to make them operational and then tapped into established trading networks across northern Iraq, where smuggling has been a fact of life for years. From early July until late October, most of this oil went to Iraqi Kurdistan. The self-proclaimed Islamic caliphate sold oil to Kurdish traders at a major discount. From Kurdistan, the oil was resold to Turkish and Iranian traders. These profits helped Isis pay its burgeoning wages bill: $ 500 (£320) a month for a fighter, and about $ 1,200 for a military commander.

The US has pressured Iraqi Kurdistan’s leaders to clamp down on smuggling, with limited success. But oil is still finding its way to Turkey via Syria, with Islamic State deftly switching from one market to another, smugglers say, with cheap crude channelled to Jordan instead. On Monday, a UN panel urged countries neighbouring Iraq and Syria to seize oil trucks that continue to flow out from jihadist-occupied territory.

“We buy an oil tanker carrying around 26 to 28 tonnes [of oil] for $ 4,200. We sell it in Jordan for $ 15,000. Each smuggler takes around eight tankers a week,” Sami Khalaf, an oil smuggler and former Iraqi intelligence officer under Saddam Hussein, told the Guardian. Khalaf, who lives in Jordan’s capital, Amman, said smugglers typically paid corrupt border officials $ 650 to pass through each checkpoint.

Iraqi intelligence officials confirm that Isis uses Anbar province, which shares a border with Jordan, as a major smuggling hub. Isis controls three major oilfields in Iraq — Ajeel, north of Tikrit, Qayara, and Himrin.

One official, based in Kurdish-controlled Kirkuk, said 435 tonnes of crude oil from the Ajeel oilfield in Salahuddin province was recently transported to Anbar. From there it went to Amman. Iraq’s oil ministry spokesman, Asim Jihad, said he was not aware of oil being smuggled to Jordan, but conceded that Isis was still managing to export crude to Turkey via Syria. “We are pressing Turkey to stop this trade because it strengthens Isis,” Jihad said.

In June, US reconnaissance drones flying above northern Iraq spotted large numbers of oil tankers crossing unhindered from Isis areas into the Kurdistan region. At the time, Kurdish peshmerga fighters were facing off against Isis on a new and fragile frontline. American commanders presented Kurdish officials with satellite imagery and pressured them to crack down. US planes destroyed seven tankers, with Iraqi aircraft hitting similar targets last month.

“The middlemen, traders, refiners, transport companies, and anyone else that handles [Isis's] oil should know that we are hard at work identifying them, and that we have tools at hand to stop them,” David Cohen, the undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence at the US treasury, warned. Last week, Cohen estimated the militants were still earning “several million dollars per week from the sale of stolen and smuggled energy resources” — down on what they pulled in before the coalition air strikes, but still a substantial amount.

Before Isis captured them, the oil fields might produce 400,000 to 500,000 barrels of oil a day, according to an official in Iraq’s state-run North Oil Company, which oversaw all the fields in the area before the militants took control. One trader said that at its height, 3,000 tonnes of crude oil (25,350 barrels) a day were going to Kurdistan. From there the oil vanished into Turkey and Iran.

International scrutiny has restricted these volumes. But one Kurdish parliamentarian admitted it hadn’t been shut down altogether. “I would say the illegal trade has decreased by 50%. We have detained several people who were involved in buying oil from Da’esh [Isis]. The same people provided Isis with petrol and over 250 pick-up trucks,” Mahmoud Haji Omar said. He added that even Shia militia fighting the extremists had profited from the trade by taxing oil tankers passing through territory they control.

Karim Hassan, a 47-year-old Sunni Arab truck driver identified an Isis commander, Saud Zarqawi, as responsible for much of the trade. Zarqawi had made a deal to smuggle the oil with Sunni tribal leaders and other prominent individuals in the Mosul area, Hassan said. The leaders reactivated existing networks with Kurdish traders who took the oil to the autonomous region.

Hassan, who has transported oil for the past 13 years, said he was astonished how quickly Isis had made these oilfields operational. When he asked his contacts in the oil sector in Mosul, he was told that Isis had brought in two oil engineers from Syria who managed to get the fields under its control up and running.

“Kurdish traders agreed to buy the oil for half of its international price and paid $ 1,500 for each tanker to pass through the peshmerga checkpoints in Kirkuk, Makhmour, Daquq and Tuz Khormato areas,” said Hassan, who used to get $ 120 to $ 150 for transporting crude oil but was paid as much as $ 300 for a round trip by people affiliated with Isis. The oil was then resold to Turkish and Iranian traders.

While the overwhelming majority of Kurdish peshmerga are battling Isis on a long frontline in northern Iraq, some corrupt commanders within the force have facilitated the oil-smuggling from Isis territory.

Nihad Ghafar, who has been transporting crude for the past seven years, said he had loaded oil from the Isis-controlled area of Hemrin and taken it to Qoshtapa — a district about 30km south of the Kurdish capital, Erbil, where much of the smuggled oil appears to have been taken for refining.

“We did not stop at the Kurdish checkpoints because there was an arrangement between the Kurdish traders and the head of the checkpoints,” Ghafar said.

Kurdish regional government officials claim they have detained several individuals who dealt in the oil coming from Isis and are working with American officials to put a stop to the trade. Ahmad Askari, a member of the security committee of the Kirkuk provincial council, said those who had bought oil from Isis would be charged under the anti-terror law, punishable by death.

A security official in south of Kirkuk who requested anonymity said as far as he knew his superiors had not taken any action against Kurds involved in the trade initially because they didn’t want to tarnish the image of the peshmerga.

Ghafar said that for the past month the route he used to buy and transport Isis oil had been closed because of the US bombing. Checkpoints had also applied tighter controls, he said. The air strikes in Iraq and Syria on oil refineries and crackdown on crude oil smuggling has led to price rises for fuel and petrol in Mosul, which poses serious challenges for the Islamic militant group to rule its biggest urban centre. “There are trucks and oil tankers parked by the side of every road in Mosul selling all kinds of gasoline: black, red, white and yellow gasoline with very low quality,” said a resident of Mosul.

When asked if many within the smuggling network have been arrested, the Kurdish oil trader replied: “Small fish always get caught. But the big fish always escape.”

Assyrian International News Agency

The Islamic State’s Ongoing Program of Self-Sabotage

By , November 17, 2014 4:04 am
The Islamic State’s brutality consistently undermines its genuine contributions. Government building in Raqqa pictured. (Photo: Beshr O / Flickr Commons )

The Islamic State’s brutality consistently undermines its genuine contributions. Government building in Raqqa pictured. (Photo: Beshr O / Flickr Commons )

In the New York Times, Kareem Fahim writes about the American airstrikes on Syrian Islamic State capital Raqqa:

Food and fuel prices in Raqqa have soared, power blackouts have prevailed, and order is now threatened by a vacuum of any authority.

For all their violence and intolerance toward disbelievers, the fighters of the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL, at least functioned as a government, providing basic services and some semblance of stability.

…  the American strikes had shaken “a sense of calm,” especially among conservative Sunni Muslims in northern Syria, who, despite their unease with the militants, had adapted, said Hassan Hassan, an analyst of Syria based in Abu Dhabi, the United Arab Emirates.

The rule of the Islamic State militants in Raqqa contrasted sharply with the chaos that had existed before, when there was “infighting between rebels, or shootings, or warlords controlling oil fields,” Mr. Hassan said.

… “People say ISIS is the first group that is able to take complaints seriously” — for instance, arbitrating old property or financial disputes, Mr. Hassan said. The group also won favor by occasionally punishing its own members, and even leaders, who had been accused of abuses, Mr. Hassan and residents said.

In other words, if the Islamic State hadn’t sought to seize oil fields and refineries, as well as Kurdish territory, and if it hadn’t inflicted extremes of brutality that should only be the domain of a horror movie ― and one that stretches the limits of the genre ― the United States wouldn’t bomb Raqqa and disrupt the order and the measure of justice the Islamic State had restored. Considering its strategic and tactical brilliance, as well as its religious scholarship, it’s astonishing that the Islamic State can’t seem to understand that.

But members of the Islamic State remain tethered to their tribal mentality. At Politico, Akbar Ahmed writes:

It should be noted that the support of ISIS comes from tribal groups almost exclusively in what is the periphery in both Iraq and Syria. The failure of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and of former Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to deal with the tribes fairly as respected citizens of the state provided the catalyst for the growth of ISIS. In short, the eastern tribes of Syria are fighting the central government in Damascus, and the western tribes of Iraq are fighting the central government in Baghdad.

… Over the last decades, but escalating after 9/11, the conflict between center and periphery has created so much violence that the traditional code of the tribes has broken down. What has remained, in a mutated form, is the notion of revenge.

“The first step for Washington,” Ahmed writes:

… is to understand the tribal context of ISIS—and others like it—in order to defeat it. Without recognizing its tribal base, its relationship to both the periphery and the center, and the breakdown which is the cause of its existence, the present strategy will remain ultimately ineffective.

Foreign Policy In Focus

Wanna-Be’s Doing the Islamic State’s Bidding

By , October 27, 2014 12:07 pm
U.S. airstrike on Kobbani or Islamic State truck or suicide bomb? (Photo: Karl-Ludwig Poggemann / Flickr Commons)

U.S. airstrike on Kobbani or Islamic State truck or suicide bomb? (Photo: Karl-Ludwig Poggemann / Flickr Commons)

In the New York Times, James Kirkpatrick writes that a “series of episodes over just the last four weeks is raising new fears about the capacity of the extremists who call themselves the Islamic State to catalyze so-called lone-wolf attacks, conceived and carried out by individuals or small groups around the Western world who may have little or no connection to the Islamic State.” These include:

… Australian authorities arrest a ring of 12 accused of plotting daring murders, including a public beheading.

In Canada, a gunman assaults the Parliament building and kills a soldier guarding a war memorial, and a motorist strikes two soldiers, killing one — in both cases, perpetrators with tenuous links to Islamist extremism.

And in New York City, a man wielding a hatchet attacks four police officers in Queens, slashing one in the head and another in the arm.

According to Reuters:

The gunman in Wednesday’s attack on Canada’s capital had a criminal record and recently applied for a passport, planning to travel to Syria after undergoing a “radicalization process,” police said on Thursday.

It seems that, back on September 22, the Associated Press reported:

ISIS released several online propaganda videos … calling for attacks on citizens of Western countries.

According to ABC News, the video says:  “If you can kill a disbelieving American or European, especially the spiteful and filthy French, or an Australian, or a Canadian, or any other disbeliever, then rely upon Allah and kill him in any manner or way however it may be.”

At USA Today, James Robbins writes about the Canadian attacks.

On Monday, Martin Couture Rouleau ran down two soldiers with his car in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, southeast of Montreal, killing one. Rouleau, who had changed his Facebook name to “Ahmad,” was a radicalized convert to Islam who openly posted jihadist messages in social media. Like Zehef-Bibeau, his passport had been withdrawn, in his case in July when he attempted to travel to Turkey, purportedly to join the fighting in Syria.

“Rouleau and Zehef-Bibeau’s apparent lone wolf actions, or ‘individual jihad’,” he continues, “are the kind of attacks that al Qaeda and other terror groups have recently been encouraging. They are inexpensive, harder to detect and disrupt, and chillingly effective. It remains to be seen whether Wednesday’s attack was part of a coordinated, longer term plan, or a spur of the moment operation, perhaps seeking revenge for Rouleau’s death two days earlier.”

Either way, “both of this week’s incidents demonstrate the global reach of radical extremism and could encourage future small-scale attacks.”

Returning to Kirkpatrick of the Times, the appeals from the Islamic State generate more response than Al Qaeda’s in the past.

“The Al Qaeda ‘fan boys’ never did this, definitely not in so coordinated a fashion in so close a time,” said William McCants, a scholar of Islamist militancy at the Brookings Institution.

Decades of Qaeda calls for Muslims in the West to instigate their own attacks mostly “fell on deaf ears,” but “the ISIS guys are just really energized,” Mr. McCants said, using an alternate name for the group, the Islamic State.

The group’s social media messages to Muslims living in the West have changed sharply, from “come join the attack” to “we are being attacked and what are you doing? You are just sitting there!” said Mokhtar Awad, a researcher at the liberal Center for American Progress, based in Washington.

The attacks mark a dark, new chapter in the already blood-soaked saga of the Islamic State. Kirkpatrick:

Analysts say the far-flung plots and attacks mark a change in the nature of the group and its threat to the West. Unlike Al Qaeda or other jihadist groups, the Islamic State had previously focused on capturing territory across Syria and Iraq and on sectarian killings in its own region — not on a global war against the West. But since the American-led bombing campaign against the group began to hit its Syrian stronghold, the Islamic State has sought to retaliate by urging its sympathizers throughout the West to strike back on its behalf.

Foreign Policy In Focus

Iraq PM Warns Arab States Not to Join US Airstrikes

By , October 2, 2014 4:26 pm

Iraq PM Warns Arab States Not to Join US Airstrikes
By: Jason Ditz on: 02.10.2014 [07:41 ] (168 reads)

Iraq PM Warns Arab States Not to Join US Airstrikes
Also Says No Foreign Ground Troops Are Welcome
by Jason Ditz, October 01, 2014

In the escalating US airstrikes against ISIS in Syria, the Obama Administration has touted the international nature of the occupation, pointing out that multiple Gulf Nations, including Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, are taking part.

Not so with the US airstrikes against ISIS in Iraq, and Prime Minister Hayder Abadi today reiterated that the Arab states were not welcome to join in on the air war in his country.

The decision is not a minor one, as Shi’ite-dominated Iraq is not on good terms with the Sunni Arab Gulf nations. They are seen by many in the Shi’ite community as tacit backers of ISIS, or at the least other Sunni Islamist factions.

With respect to the US air war in Iraq, that leaves European nations as the only others involved, with a handful of British and French planes involved, and some Danish planes en route.

Abadi also reiterated his opposition to any foreign ground troops in the war, insisting that only Iraqi ground troops were needed to defeat ISIS with the provision of air support from the US and others. (en) RSS feed for articles and news

Who Buys Islamic State’s Illegal Oil?

By , October 1, 2014 8:15 pm

Who Buys Islamic State’s Illegal Oil?

By John Lee.

A report by Chris Dalby of finds that the 11 oil fields that IS controls in Iraq and Syria have made it a largely independent financial machine.

Its fields in Iraq alone are thought to produce between 25,000 and 40,000 barrels of oil per day, earning it an estimated $ 1.2 million [1.4 billion Iraqi dinars] daily, while adding the Syrian fields brings this to nearly $ 3 million.

The oil is sold at a discount of anything up to 75 percent.

Luay al-Khatteeb, the director of the Iraq Energy Institute, told CNN:

“The crude is transported by tankers to Jordan via Anbar province, to Iran via Kurdistan, to Turkey via Mosul, to Syria’s local market and to the Kurdistan region of Iraq, where most of it gets refined locally.

“Turkey has turned a blind eye to this and may continue to do so until they come under pressure from the West to close down oil black markets in the country’s south.”


(Oil image via Shutterstock)

Iraq Business News

Ex-CIA contractor: US aiding ex-Soviet states to attack Russia

By , September 4, 2014 10:53 am

Ex-CIA contractor: US aiding ex-Soviet states to attack Russia
By: Press TV on: 03.09.2014 [23:04 ] (50 reads)

Ex-CIA contractor: US aiding ex-Soviet states to attack Russia

Wed Sep 3, 2014 5:51PM GMT

US President Barack Obama’s efforts in Estonia to form a coalition against Russia is a “diversion” and illustrates the “height of hypocrisy,” an American author and former CIA and NSA contractor says.

Steven D. Kelley made the comments after he was asked by Press TV about Obama’s statement in Estonia on Wednesday that the United States will not be intimidated by ISIL militants after the beheading of a second American journalist and will build a coalition to “degrade and destroy” the group.

Obama flew to Estonia as part of a 4-day European trip to hold talks with leaders of the NATO military alliance as tensions escalate between the West and Russia over the crisis in Ukraine.

The US president also announced plans to send military units and aircraft to the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania to reassure those countries of their security amid the ongoing conflict in Ukraine.
“He (Obama) talks about forming a coalition to deal with the problem of ISIL while he is trying to form a coalition of former Soviet satellites to form a basis for the purpose of attacking Russia.”

Obama is using the ISIL beheading of US journalist Steven Sotloff “as a diversion from what he’s doing over there in the Baltics,” Kelley told Press TV on Wednesday. “This seems to be the height of hypocrisy.”

He argued that the US president is attempting to form a coalition against Russia for its activities in Ukraine while people of eastern Ukraine are “under attack” by the US, EU and NATO.

Some Western countries and the Kiev government accuse Moscow of having a hand in the crisis in eastern Ukraine where pro-Russian forces are engaged in fierce battles with government forces.

Russia denies the allegations. (en) RSS feed for articles and news

Tortured and Raped by Israel, Persecuted by the United States

By , September 3, 2014 10:28 pm
Rasmea Odeh (Photo: Arab American Action Network)

Rasmea Odeh (Photo: Arab American Action Network)

Twenty-two-year-old Rasmea Odeh, along with 500 other Palestinians, was arrested in 1969 by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) during a massive security sweep following the 1967 war and occupation of the West Bank.

At the time, as now, Palestinians who were detained by the IDF were later charged with crimes they did not commit in order to justify their detention.

Charged with bombing a supermarket, while in prison, Odeh was tortured with electrical shock and raped with batons. Her father was tortured in front of her.

IDF personnel even attempted to make her father rape her.

She was beaten regularly with metal rods, kicked, threatened, humiliated, denied medical care and access to a bathroom, and almost needless to say, was denied access to legal resources.

She was made to watch a Palestinian man literally tortured to death.

She eventually signed a confession to stop IDF personnel from continuing to torture her father.

In March 1979, Odeh was finally released with 60 other prisoners as part of a prisoner exchange for an Israeli soldier. Shortly thereafter she traveled to Geneva, Switzerland, where she gave testimony regarding the torture she suffered at the hands of the IDF.

At the end of the narrative of her torture and imprisonment by the Israelis, she said, “It may have been 10 years, but it felt like 100 years.”

Odeh lived in Lebanon after that, then Jordan, until in 1994 she was able to move to the United States to live, since her father was a US citizen.

Ten years later, she became active in the Arab-American community in Chicago, and became the deputy executive director of the Arab American Action Network (AAAN), a community-based nonprofit that provides social services and advocacy, campaigns against anti-Arab discrimination, and organizes for the Arab-American community in the greater Chicago area.

Then, in 2013, 19 years after arriving in the United States and nine years after receiving US citizenship, Odeh was indicted by the US government and charged with immigration fraud, stemming from other charges pulled from her 35-year-old IDF file.

Read the full story at Truthout

Dahr Jamail

Almost as Surprising as Islamic State’s Explosive Growth: Its Baath Military Leadership

By , August 28, 2014 9:53 am
Top members of the Islamic State met at the U.S. detention center Camp Bucca in Iraq. (Photo: demostene35 / Flickr)

Top members of the Islamic State met at the U.S. detention center Camp Bucca in Iraq. (Photo: demostene35 / Flickr)

At the New York Times, Ben Hubbard and Eric Schmitt report that Islamic State (which the Times still calls ISIS) chief Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi “handpicked many of his deputies from among the men he met while a prisoner in American custody at the Camp Bucca detention center a decade ago.” They continue:

He had a preference for military men, and so his leadership team includes many officers from Saddam Hussein’s long-disbanded army.

They include former Iraqi officers like Fadel al-Hayali, the top deputy for Iraq, who once served Mr. Hussein as a lieutenant colonel, and Adnan al-Sweidawi, a former lieutenant colonel who now heads the group’s military council.

The pedigree of its leadership … helps explain its battlefield successes: Its leaders augmented traditional military skill with terrorist techniques refined through years of fighting American troops, while also having deep local knowledge and contacts. ISIS is in effect a hybrid of terrorists and an army. … it fights more like an army than most insurgent groups, holding territory and coordinating operations across large areas.

Michael Knights of the conservative Washington Institute for Near East Policy, told Hubbard and Schmitt that “it was no surprise that so many officers from Mr. Hussein’s era had joined ISIS. Discontent in the military was widespread near the end of his rule, and underground Islamist movements were gaining strength, even inside the military.

In other words, the Middle East is still suffering the effects of Coalition Provisional Authority Order Number 2 issued by CPA administrator Paul Bremmer and the Defense Department, which ordered the Iraqi military Saddam Hussein disbanded.

Foreign Policy In Focus

Inside ISIS: The Islamic State’s War on Minorities

By , August 28, 2014 4:08 am

I was on Swedish Radio the other day, speaking about the importance of creating a safe haven in northern Iraq to protect Assyrians/Chaldeans/Syriacs, Yazidis and the other minorities who are facing ethnic cleansing there. I told listeners stories of rape, murder, and pillage. I told them about women being kidnapped and sold into sex slavery, of children being abducted.

Suddenly, the host interjected: “Is this really true? Can we believe this?”

I told him I have been bearing witness to these atrocities for months now, and members of these communities had warning of the potential of such monstrous events taking place for a decade now. We saw this coming.

The next question most people have is: “Why is this happening?”

I thought I would try and provide some answers. I called a man — Abu Adil, who cannot be further identified because of his connection wtih ISIS — who I have been following for a couple of years. When I first came across Abu Adil, he was part of the Free Syrian Army, at that time the strongest of the groups fighting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

We got in touch after Abu Adil put a video on YouTube in which he boasted that his unit had an Assyrian Christian fighting with them. Around that time, persecution against Christians by rebel militias was becoming more widely known, and President Assad was trying to rally support among Christians and the international community by claiming that only he could protect Christians, and that the terrorist groups fighting him would slaughter them if his regime collapsed.

I wrote a report, Between the Barbed Wire, which revealed the atrocities being committed against Assyrians, Armenians and other non-Muslims going unreported within the broader narratives of the Syrian Civil War. In an interview about the kidnapping of two bishops in Aleppo in Syria, the former leader of the Syrian opposition George Sabra, a Christian, claimed that I was fabricating these atrocities, so I asked him to put me in touch with one of the leaders of the more Islamist elements of the opposition. I wanted to hear that I was wrong directly from them. A couple of weeks later I got in touch with Abu Adil who told me that I was being deceived by Bashar al-Assad’s propaganda machine: that the President was manipulating us into believing that groups like Abu Adil’s were persecuting Christians in order to win our support.

That was more than a year ago. At that time, Abu Adil referred to himself as a freedom fighter trying to bring down a dictator. I spoke to Abu Adil again last Sunday. He now tells a very different story.

“You have to understand, Mr. Kino, that if I or we don’t try to get you on the correct path — towards finding Allah (God) and following the right prophet — I will be charged, not you. I have to save my own soul, own life, in fact. My sole task is to open your eyes, to make you follow us and be part of the great Caliphate.”

This rhetoric reminded me of what an Imam in Mardin, Southeast Turkey, told me. I’m one of the coordinators of SineMardin, an international film festival that takes place every June, and during the 2013 festival, two producers, two directors and I were having lunch outdoors. After I got back from the bathroom, I saw all four sitting quietly while an elderly gentlemen with a beard and a hat was speaking. Our driver translated from Turkish to English.

“I’m here to save your souls. You must understand that soon a Caliphate will be born and the whole world will become Muslim. It is written. So follow us while you have the chance.”

We smiled. A Caliphate? I asked the Imam if he was threatening us. “On the contrary, I’m enlightening you, I’m saving you,” was his answer. He asked the filmmakers which religion they followed. One of them, a Belgian, said he is an atheist. The Imam had never heard of such a thing. I explained.

“So you don’t believe in anything? But you are European, and that means you are Christian.”

We tried to make him understand that not all Europeans are Christians but gave up after a while. He then warned us that a day would come when we would regret not having a God or worshipping the wrong God.

“To be Christian, for example, is to worship a piece of wood, a cross, and that’s against God’s wishes. For that, Christians will be punished.”

He went on to say that to pray in the language of Jesus — or to speak it — is a sin. There is only one prophet, he said, and we should pray in and speak his language, Arabic. My heart jumped.

This man was telling me these words in a part of what use to be the Ottoman Empire and where almost a century ago they tried to slaughter every Christian they could find, in the genocide against Armenians, Pontic Greeks, Assyrians and Yazidies. He was speaking to an Assyrian whose grandmother lived in this city, whose ancestors going back centuries had developed a culture, a language, and a history on this soil, and he was wantonly declaring his intention to decimate that heritage because of his bigotry. ??I wanted to rebuke the Imam, but before I got a chance to, my Muslim friend told him that he was a disgrace to Islam, going around threatening people in restaurants.

And now, speaking to Abu Adil, I thought of the Imam, and my heartbeat started to quicken.

“Mr. Kino, first I was with the Free Syrian Army, but in time I realised that I must follow Allah’s wishes. The only fight we need to fight is that of our prophet, Allah and our Caliph Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.”

A Caliphate needs a Caliph, a successor to Muhammed, as the Imam would have known, and now they had him.

“You know, all the true Muslims will come here: it is written, it is meant to be. They are coming from all the infidel countries: America, Great Britain, all over Europe, and of course, all the Muslim countries. In our Caliphate, we live according to the Holy Quran. And we are free: in mind, soul and body. You should come and see how happy everyone is.”

Happy? I asked him about the kidnapped children.

“We have not kidnapped any children. We have saved them. Now they will grow in accordance with the right path — that of the Holy Quran — instead of living in sin with their parents who don’t know what’s best for themselves or their kids. Their parents should thank us.”

He called to mind a mother in Syria whose daughter had disappeared 24 hours earlier. She had only been able to reach her daughter’s mobile phone once, and a male voice answered.

“Your daughter is alive and well. Congratulations! Tomorrow she will be initiated into the True Faith. She will be honored by being wedded to one of our sons. Praise Allah.”

I asked Abu Adil what he thought about that conversation.

“He is correct. The daughter has been brought to the right way.”

So I asked about Niqah Jihad. Did he know what that is?

“Of course I do: women from all over the world come to join our holy war. They are doing their part by letting men relax. But they are not doing it in sin, they are getting married.”

Niqah Jihad is another new term that we have been forced to learn since ISIS invaded our consciousness. ‘Niqah’ means marriage. But in practice a woman ‘marries’ many men a day. An Imam weds the couple, then stands in front of a room while the man rapes his wife. He then divorces them. Now she is ready for another marriage, and another divorce.

I ask him before he goes to eat dinner. “What are your goals?”

“We have reached our aim: we don’t need funds from Turkey, America and Europe and Saudi Arabia anymore. We have our own resources now. We have only one goal left and that is to set the entire world onto the right path. We are going to free Jerusalem.”

He was about to hang up but I needed one more answer: “Is it true that they want to destroy Iran?”

“Of course we will take over Iran. We have followers all over the country. The Shi’a regime will be destroyed forever. We have already started to put our plans into effect.”

The prospect of a consolidated IS invading Iran raises the spectre of another World War. The whole region will quake, and with it, the rest of the planet.

I wanted to ask many more questions, but Abu Adil’s dinner was getting cold. My last question was about Abu Banat. What was the latest?

“Don’t worry about him. Turkey hasn’t released him yet.”

Abu Banat, born in Dagestan, became one of ISIS’s most renowned butchers. He was the leader of one of the terrorist cells in Aleppo, Syria. One day he needed to drive to Turkey to meet new recruiters, bringing with him some suicide belts and other “equipment.” A local policeman stopped and interrogated Abu Banat, asking what he was doing in this small Turkish city. There appeared to be no wrongdoing and Abu Banat was free to drive to Istanbul. The same night the local policemen realised where they recognised the man with the long beard and the funny clothes: YouTube clips of beheadings.

The policeman informed his colleagues in Istanbul and Abu Banat was arrested. The locations the Turkish police raided were loaded with terrorist gear.

Documents that I have demonstrate that during the course of the interrogation, Abu Banat was surprised at being arrested: he couldn’t understand why it had happened. He was established and supported by the Turkish intelligence: they are his friends, he said.

That folly of that support is now being shown by the increasingly autonomous nature of IS. IS now controls the main areas of Syrian oil and gas production and it has also looted large amounts of cash and gold from banks it has taken over. It has stolen weapons from the Iraqi Army, supplied by America, using them to fight the Syrian and Iraqi armies. This entity is organising itself into a state everyday, and the stronger it becomes, the more effectively it can advance its manifesto of global domination under principles of slavery, rape, and murder. A group established on such a mandate can only become more violent over time spent in constant combat and with increased means. Adil’s story of increasing extremism has become a pattern affecting the behaviour of the whole organisation, as the recent horrific mass murder and expulsion of Yazidis and the slaughter of 700 Sunni tribesmen in Syria shows.

The Swedish Minister of Foreign Affairs is going to Erbil and Baghdad to see how Sweden and Europe can best help Iraq.

If a safe haven for minorities in northern Iraq is not created, the world will send a message to IS that they can get away with violently imposing their will, however they wish. Not only do we need to allow Assyrians, Yazidis, and other minorities to return safely to their homes, we must build a meaningful place for them in an Iraq that treats and protects its citizens equally, regardless of ethnicity, and promotes a civic and national identity.

But there is yet more work to do if the region is to be saved from total chaos.The policies of Turkey and the Gulf States — supposed allies of the West — must be publicly condemned.

For too long, these states have sponsored and encouraged the same terrorism that they wish to keep at bay from their own countries through authoritarian rule. We are reaping what they have sowed. They have created a chaotic force that has consolidated, is growing ever more self-sufficient, and is knocking on their borders. For too long the people of the Middle East — and the most vulnerable of us have suffered disproportionately for this — have been forced to choose between tyranny and chaos. We deserve security and freedom together.

Nuri Kino is a Swedish-Assyrian investigative journalist, author and founder of A Demand For Action — an initiative working in 15 countries for the protection of Assyrian Christians and other minorities in the Middle East.

Assyrian International News Agency