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Ramadi and the "Scars of War"

The New York Times has a thoroughly depressing article on what remains of Ramadi now that the Iraqi army has dislodged ISIS.

Few civilians remain from a population that once numbered around 400,000, and the city lacks electricity and running water, meaning that supplies must be trucked in...It remains deserted, except for a contingent of Iraqi troops who do not wander around much because Islamic State fighters still hit it with mortar rounds.

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al Baghdadi Releases New Audio Speech

Update: Thanks to Pieter Van Ostaeyen for publishing the English translation of ISIS leader al Baghdadi's speech.

ISIS leader al Baghdadi released a new audio speech today. I haven't seen a full English translation yet (a French one is available.)

In it, he threatens Israel:

"With the help of Allah, We are getting closer to you every day," al-Baghdadi told his Israeli listeners. "The Israelis will soon see us in Palestine. This is no longer a war of the crusaders against us. The entire world is fighting us right now."

The ISIS leader continued, "The Israelis thought that we forgot Palestine and that they had distracted us from it. That is not the case. We have not forgotten Palestine for one moment."

This is the first public audio speech since May. I don't think he's been seen since mid-2014 when he announced the Caliphate. As to when this message was made, Haaretz says it was after the beginning of the Russian airstrikes.[More....]

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Iraqi Forces Move in On ISIS in Ramadi

Iraqi forces have been moving in on ISIS in Ramadi for 2 weeks. Only 6,00 to 1,000 ISIS fighters remained at the start of the new offensive. Yesterday Iraqi Forces reportedly moved into the town center. The U.S. says there are now only 250 - 350 ISIS fighters remaining. What about civilians?

Iraqi airplanes dropped leaflets on Sunday urging residents of Ramadi to evacuate within 72 hours, warning of an impending operation and suggesting two evacuation routes. Colonel Warren estimated that thousands or even tens of thousands of civilians were still in the city; hundreds of thousands have fled.

The U.S. says Ramadi will be cleared of ISIS in 2 to 3 days. Then what? [More...}

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McCain and Graham Call for 10k U.S. Troops in Raqqa

John McCain and Lindsay Graham have an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal calling for the U.S. to put 10,000 ground troops in Raqqa, Syria, to defeat ISIS. And then they want more troops in Iraq, Libya, and anywhere else ISIS is gaining a foothold in the region.

Shorter version: The world is our colony, let's start acting like it.

Missing from their op-ed: Not a single mention of al Qaida or al Nusra in Syria or elsewhere. What are they, chopped liver? Or are al Qaida and al Nusra now okay in their book because on occasion they side with the (non-existent) Syrian rebels we're training and equipping? [More...]

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Over-Reacting to ISIS Threat

From Foreign Policy Magazine: Ten truths about terrorism:

  • No. 1: We can’t keep the bad guys out.
  • No. 2: The threat is already inside.
  • No. 3: More surveillance won’t get rid of terrorism.
  • No. 4: Defeating the Islamic State won’t make terrorism go away.
  • No. 5: Terrorism still remains a relatively minor threat, statistically speaking.

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Lebanon and al Nusra Prisoner Swap Underway

Update: The soldiers were released and put in Red Cross vans. Also released as expected: Saja al Dulaimi, ex-wife of ISIS leader al-Baghdadi, She says she divorced him six years ago and intends to go to Turkey.

Lebanon and al Nusra have finally agreed on the terms of a prisoner exchange for the 16 Lebanese military members held hostage by the al-Qaida linked group since August, 2014. Nusra delivered the soldiers to the release point last night.

The actual release won't occur until the 15 or so Islamist prisoners who had been held at Lebanon's Roumieh Prison, arrive at the site. [More...]

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Shami Witness Update: India Wants to Add More Charges

Mehdi Masroor Biswas, aka @Shami Witness, has been in custody since December 13, 2014. He was not charged until June, 2015. He has still not been tried.

What's the holdup? Indian authorities are waiting on Google to respond to a subpoena. They believe Google's response will identify more accounts Biswas used to tweet out his ISIS news updates and opinions. They intend to file a second charge sheet against him with more charges.

The police suspect Biswas ran multiple e-mail accounts which they could not access. “We are yet to get a response from Google. The access and information provided will help to file an additional charge sheet,” said M. Chandrashekhar, Joint Commissioner of Police (Crime).

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Foreign Fighters and ISIS: What the West Should be Doing

Tuesday, the U.N. Security Council’s counter-terrorism committee held a conference at which several experts spoke about ISIS and foreign fighters. I found this media recap of the presentation of Scott Atran from the Centre for Resolution of Intractable Conflict at Oxford University very interesting. (He is highly credentialed, and his research in the field includes interviews with captured ISIS fighters and still fighting al Nusra fighters.)

He debunks several of the memes currently making the rounds as to ISIS' intentions and strategy, and the reasons young Western recruits find ISIS so attractive. He also explains why the U.S. counter-messaging campaign has been such a failure.[More...]

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Fear vs. Facts

Despite the rabid hype by Republicans, we are not in danger of getting killed by terrorists.

Consider, for instance, that since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Americans have been no more likely to die at the hands of terrorists than being crushed to death by unstable televisions and furniture. Meanwhile, in the time it has taken you to read until this point, at least one American has died from a heart attack. Within the hour, a fellow citizen will have died from skin cancer. Roughly five minutes after that, a military veteran will commit suicide. And by the time you turn the lights off to sleep this evening, somewhere around 100 Americans will have died throughout the day in vehicular accidents – the equivalent of “a plane full of people crashing, killing everyone on board, every single day.”

Daniel Kahneman, professor emeritus at Princeton University, has observed that “[e]ven in countries that have been targets of intensive terror campaigns, such as Israel, the weekly number of casualties almost never [comes] close to the number of traffic deaths.”

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Dabiq #12: A Soda Can and John Cantlie

ISIS has released Dabiq #12, the 12th issue of its glossy English magazine. (no links to magazine in comments please.) It says a soda can was used to take down the Russian Plane.

There's an article by John Cantlie, "Shift and Paradigm, Part 2". He refers to events in June and July, so at least he was still alive then, and hopefully is today.

He writes about the future course of ISIS: [More...]

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Trial Begins for Al-Baghdadi's Ex-Wife in Lebanon

A military trial for Saja Hamid al-Dulaimi, the ex-wife of ISIS leader al-Baghdadi began today in Lebanon on charges of illegal entry into Lebanon (her documents were forged) and belonging to an armed terrorist organization with the intent of carrying out a terrorist attack. Her lawyer says she is willing to provide assistance in the Lebanese Hostage situation.

She has been held for a year, in a cell with her four children, one of whom was born in custody. Her 7 year old daughter Hajar is the child she had with al-Baghdadi, to whom she was married for 2 months.

She was last in court in July, when her trial was postponed because she had no lawyer. She made several statements to the court, including referring to al-Baghdadi as "Hisham Mohammad." [More...]

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The Debate Over Refugees

Should the U.S. take Syrian refugees? The debate continues as Republicans fall all over themselves, as if they were competing to be elected the next Henny Penny instead of President.

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Kremlin Announces Russian flight Downed by Bomb

Russia last night announced the results of its investigation into the Sharm el-Sheikh plane crash in Egypt. It was a bomb. Traces of explosives were found.

Alexander Bortnikov, the chief of the country's FSB domestic security agency, said that a bomb equivalent to 2.2 pounds of TNT exploded on board the aircraft, according to the Kremlin.

"You can definitely say that this is a terrorist act," he told a meeting of Russia's Security Council on Monday.

Russia is offering a $50 million reward for information on the perpetrator(s.) And, Putin said in his announcement, Russia has no intention of letting up on its airstrikes in Syria. [More...]

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Who Did the U.S. Kill In Libya Airstrikes?

The Libya Herald reports Abu Nabil Al-Anbari, was not killed in a U.S. airstrike near Derna in Libya yesterday.

More importantly, how can the U.S. say al-Anbari is probably the Isis leader featured in the Egyptian Coptic Christian killing video from February, "A Message Signed with Blood to the Nation of the Cross?"

The leader in the video spoke English with an American accent. At the time, experts said if he was not American, he spent a lot of time in the U.S. Nabil al-Anbari is Iraqi and a former police officer.

al-Furqān Media put out two videos featuring the English speaking killer. The first was the video of the Egyptian Coptic Christians being beheaded on the beach which is attributed to Wilayat Tarabulus (Tripoli.) The second, a few months later, depicts the slaughter of Ethiopian Coptic Christians (described here) and is attributed to Wilayat Barqa and Wilayat Fezzan. (I think he also may be in this video by the group, released in September, 2015, at about 14 minutes in, speaking in Arabic, but that's just my opinion.) [More...]

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Did the U.S. Strike Kill Mohammed Emwazi?

The U.S. says it is 90% sure that Jihadi John died in an airstrike in Raqqa.

I don't believe he was an ISIS leader. He seemed more of a recruit" who after basic military training, was sent to watch prisoners. Then he became the iconic symbol of the ISIS beheader of foreign journalists, and caught everyone's attention.

If the U.S. killed him, they killed a telegenic symbol of the war with ISIS. So what? It won't dampen ISIS' enthusiasm for shock killings. His replacement was probably picked before his death. And ISIS may have decided he had to go because he was bringing too much heat. Either way, he's likely dead. I doubt they had a mole who gave him up (although some will claim to have been the mole . Sounds to me like our gps and electronic surveillance got him.

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