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Pentagon May Ask for Boots on the Ground in Iraq

At a congressional hearing today, General Martin Dempsey would not rule out sending ground troops to Iraq.

“My view at this point is that this coalition is the appropriate way forward. I believe that will prove true,” he said. “But if it fails to be true, and if there are threats to the United States, then I of course would go back to the president and make a recommendation that may include the use of U.S. military ground forces.”

The plan so far, according to Dempsey and Secretary Hagel: [More...]

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Congress and White House One Step Behind on Syria Rebels

The White House is pushing Congress to vote on on arming the "moderate" Syrian rebels. Repubicans are getting on board, and a vote may happen Tuesday.
If it’s not the Syrian opposition, trained and equipped by the United States, authorized by Congress and the president … then it’ll have to be U.S. troops,” White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough told “Fox News Sunday.” “The president made a decision on that. We’re not going to do that.” The GOP-led House appears most ready to approve the plan.
Do they read the news? Colonel Riad al-Asaad, the leader of the Free Syrian Army, in interviews yesterday said the group will not join the U.S. in its fight against ISIS unless it receives assurance the U.S. will also take out Syrian President Assad. More here. [More...]

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Move Over ISIS, The Khorasan Are Waiting in the Wings

The Associated Press today reports that ISIS is not a danger to America, but another Islamic extremist group, Khorasan (aka Khurasan), which is affiliated with al Qaida in Pakistan and Afghanistan and the Taliban, is working with Yemeni bomb-makers from AQAP to launch an attack inside the U.S.

At the center is a cell known as the Khorasan group, a cadre of veteran al-Qaida fighters from Afghanistan and Pakistan who traveled to Syria to link up with the al-Qaida affiliate there, the Nusra Front.

But the Khorasan militants did not go to Syria principally to fight the government of President Bashar Assad, U.S. officials say. Instead, they were sent by al-Qaida leader Ayman al-Zawahiri to recruit Europeans and Americans whose passports allow them to board a U.S.-bound airliner with less scrutiny from security officials.

There are so many Khorasan groups I'm not sure yet which branch this is. [More...]

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Where is ISIS Headed Next?

ISIS has been fairly quiet about its plans lately. Today, it released a new recruitment type video (non-violent). It's called "Squadrons of My State." You can view it here.

The chirons for the video use the phrases "Alive in Baghdad First" and "May Allah preserve them alive as knights in Baghdad First" while showing a blown upphoto of Baghdad and the old Sheraton Ishtar hotel. The hotel was the site of several bombings in 2004 and 2010. It was also a favorite of foreign journalists and businessman. [More...]

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ISIS Executes David Haines, Alan Henning Next

ISIS, through Al Furqan Media, has released a video, Message to Allies of America, in which British hostage David Cawthorne Haines meets the same fate as James Foley and Steven Sotloff.

The same black-clad killer narrates. Instead of being addressed to President Obama, the video is addressed to British prime minister David Cameron. The location is a similar desert spot. The killer again has his gun holster on the left side and uses his left hand to hold the knife and put it to Haines' neck. It then shows Haines' head laying on his body. In the next frame, the killer is holding an orange clad British hostage named Alan Henning, who he says will be next.

He says the action is a result of Cameron's arming the Peshmerga. Later he mentions the recent U.S. bombing of the Haditha Dam, which the Defense Department announced on September 7.[More...]

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White House: We're At War With ISIS

Update: Steven Sotloff's parents are also now saying they were threatened with prosecution if they tried to raise the ransom money. One crime they were told they could be charged with: Material support of terrorism. This is completely unacceptable. I think it's time to out the officials who made the threats. (How is it John Kerry didn't know about this? See his response below.

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Yesterday on CNN, John Kerry refused to call the fight against ISIS a war:

“We're engaged in a counterterrorism operation of a significant order," said Kerry, speaking from Saudi Arabia. "I think 'war' is the wrong reference term with respect to that, but obviously it involves kinetic military action."

Today, White House Spokesman John Earnest pulled no such punches.

"In the same way that we are at war with al Qaeda and its affiliates around the globe, we are at war with ISIL."

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Obama's Speech on ISIS: Live Blog and Reactions

Update: The White House just issued this Fact Statement on its plan to fight ISIS. DOD Secretary Chuck Hagel released this (non-reassuring) statement.

Update: Why Obama's Strategy Has No Chance of Success. See also, Juan Cole.

Update: I think this was a mostly emotional speech. I also think it was risky to be so insulting to ISIS, when they are still holding so many Western hostages, including a female American aid worker.

I disagree with Obama that our years of efforts have been successful in Yemen and Somalia. We took out a few leaders, so what? They just appoint new ones. (It's no different than our ineffective approach to the drug cartels.) AQAP and al-Shabbab have not been diminished. The state of affairs in Yemen and Somalia ranges from unstable to chaotic. Al Qaida central just opened a new branch in the Indian sub-continent.

Obama's strategy has no timeline, he gave no indication of what would be considered a "success" so we would have an end point. I don't even think he referenced the Peshmerga or Turkey as a coalition partner. He said we would work to shut off the point of entry for recruits, but how, if Turkey isn't part of the effort? [More...]

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Australia Says Obama Asked It to Send Special Forces to Iraq

The West Australian reports:

The US wants Australia to commit special forces soldiers to an international mission to destroy Islamic State militants rampaging through northern Iraq.

Australia has already indicated it would offer jet fighters to a US-led coalition but The West Australian understands that Washington believes Australia's most valuable contribution to the mission would be Special Air Service Regiment troops and Commandos.

The request is said to have been made yesterday, after Australia arrested someone for providing money to a different insurgent group, Jabat-al-Nusra, which has been fighting ISIS: [More...]

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Quotes from Obama's Speech on ISIS

Here is a quote from Obama's speech tonight on ISIS:

“So tonight, with a new Iraqi government in place, and following consultations with allies abroad and Congress at home, I can announce that America will lead a broad coalition to roll back this terrorist threat. Our objective is clear: we will degrade, and ultimately destroy, ISIL through a comprehensive and sustained counter-terrorism strategy.

But I want the American people to understand how this effort will be different from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. It will not involve American combat troops fighting on foreign soil. This counter-terrorism campaign will be waged through a steady, relentless effort to take out ISIL wherever they exist using our air power and our support for partner forces on the ground. This strategy of taking out terrorists who threaten us, while supporting partners on the front lines, is one that we have successfully pursued in Yemen and Somalia for years.”

According to John Kerry today, no other country has agreed to put boots on the ground in Iraq or Syria. [More...]

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ISIS Vs. The World

It's ISIS against the world as the countdown begins to Obama's speech on how the U.S. will fight ISIS. Enough details have leaked to already know the basics:

  • We will arm and train Syrian rebels like the Free Syrian Army. Training is likely to be in Saudi Arabia, Jordan (and may already be underway.) Saudi Arabia confirmed its support today in a phone call with Obama. Harry Reid has asked Congress to vote on authorizing money for it. Republicans are giving him a hard time. [More...]

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Sotloff Spokesman Says He Was Sold to ISIS at Border By Moderate Rebel Group

Barak Barfi, the spokesman for Steven Sotloff's family, is angry at the White House and speaking out about how Soltoff was kidnapped. Here's the gist of his interview yesterday with Anderson Cooper of CNN (video available at link, it's worth watching):

"For the first time, we can say Steven was sold at the border. Steven's name was on a list that he had been responsible for the bombing of a hospital," Barak Barfi said on "Anderson Cooper 360." "This was false, activists spread his name around."

"We believe that these so-called moderate rebels that people want our administration to support, one of them sold him probably for something between $25,000 and $50,000 to ISIS, and that was the reason he was captured," Barfi told Cooper.

[More...]

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New Media Reports on ID of Foley and Sotloff Executioner(s)

According to the British press, authorities are very close to publicly revealing the identification of the masked executioner in the James Foley and Steven Sotloff videos. Listening to CNN on the car radio earlier today, I heard Senator Chambliss say the same thing, and that they may or may not be the same person.

The British killer behind the murders of James Foley and Steven Sotloff was known to MI5 as a low-level collector for genuine Arab charities based in London. It is believed he moved on to gathering funds for Islamic State warlords before deciding to fight for the twisted cause.

So who is it? [More...]

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Obama Will Disclose ISIS Strategy on Wednesday

President Obama will outline the U.S. response to ISIS in a speech on Wednesday. Today on Meet the Press:

“What I want people to understand is that over the course of months, we are going to be able to not just blunt the momentum” of the militants, he said. “We are going to systematically degrade their capabilities. We’re going to shrink the territory that they control. And ultimately, we’re going to defeat them.”

Although Obama said there would be a “military element” to the strategy, he added that “this is not going to be an announcement about U.S. ground troops."

He also said he regrets golfing after the James Foley beheading as it had the "wrong optics." You can watch his interview on the Meet the Press website.

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John Kerry at NATO: No Boots on Ground Against ISIS

John Kerry addressed the ISIS crisis at the NATO summit conference today, saying:

“They’re an ambitious, avowed, genocidal, territorial-grabbing, caliphate-desiring quasi-state with an irregular army, and leaving them in some capacity intact anywhere would leave a cancer in place that will ultimately come back to haunt us.”

But he and other officials made clear that at the moment, any ground combat troops would come from either Iraqi security forces and Kurdish fighters in Iraq, or moderate Syrian rebels opposed to the government of President Bashar al-Assad in Syria. “Obviously I think that’s a red line for everybody here: no boots on the ground,” Mr. Kerry said.

So it's not just the U.S. ruling out ground forces, it's all of the western countries. His full statement is here.

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Thursday Morning Reading Club

Reuters has a really good article about ISIS today, "In Northeast Syria, Islamic State Builds a Government."

Among the many interesting points, it says Baghdadi is calling all the shots, even as to beheadings. He also still fights with the group sometimes. He fought during the Division 17 battle in July to take over a Syriran army base. (He was wounded, but is better now.)

I'll add some more articles throughout the day. What are you reading about ISIS you find worthwhile?

I'm also surprised that no major media has been writing about ISIS military chief Omar Shishani lately, or its chief enforcer, Abu Waheeb (also spelled Wahib.) And no one is trying to figure out who the executioner is any more. Either the Government knows and isn't saying, or they are still not sure. I don't think it is any of the four Brits the media has named, particularly the so-called rapper. He's much more hyper when he speaks and his speech isn't the same.

Again, this is kind of an open thread related to ISIS, and articles you have found helpful and would recommend to others.

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