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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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Russian Plane Crash Investigation Moves to Hotels

Egypt is now investigating hotel workers, from maids to bellmen, to see if they helped ISIS' Wilayat Sinai bring down the Russian plane.

Turns out, the hotel security staff has been using fake metal detecting wands.

Sharm el-Sheikh now resembles a ghost town.

Apparently, what made all the governments 90% sure it was a bomb was some last second sound on the black box cockpit voice recorder. The turnaround in opinion was immediate. No one has described the sound, calling it an "unknown sound", with many assuming it was of an explosion. I'm wondering if the sound wasn't something else -- like someone shouting "Allahu Akbar", which only takes a second to say.

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Bomb or No Bomb: ISIS Won This Round


[Photo by Gulf Online]

Pieter Van Ostaeyen, (Historian, Arabist, and Islamist) whose analysis and musings on international Jihadism and foreign fighters I have been following for over a year, initially doubted the claim of ISIS' Wilayat Sinai that it was responsible for the Russian airplane crash in Egypt, as did many other analysts and journalists, because of the mistaken assumption that the group claimed to have shot down the plane. (the "Manpad" issue.) Now he isn't sure, but he writes that bomb or no bomb, ISIS scored a major win with the claim.

Whether or not the plane was taken down by The Islamic State, they won anyway. In the strategic battle with the West and Russia IS made a winner strike. Several European countries are repatriating their nationals, thousands of people are supposed to be leaving Sharm el-Sheikh in the next few days. Several airline operators suspended flights to the airport of Sharm el-Sheikh. Flights leaving today, made a u-turn, … Belgian tour operators even sent in their own security personnel and bomb sniffing dogs.

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Sharm el Sheikh: Home to Luxury Resorts

Why did ISIS choose Sharm el Sheikh as a target instead of another popular Russian tourist destination ? With all the photos we've seen of the plane's damage, we haven't seen many of the place itself, except on maps. From the maps, it seems like place in the middle of nowhere. Not so.

Just two weeks before the crash, the Four Seasons in Sharm el Sheikh posted on its website that it had just received two new awards, one from Conde Nast Traveler and one from New-Wealth.com (a publication that tracks the hotel usage and preferences of multi-millionaires -- those with a wealth of more than $10 million. [More...]

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Consensus Emerging Russian Plane Crash Likely a Bomb

Intelligence experts in the U.S. and elswhere are now saying a bomb brought down the Russian airplane in Egypt. The U.K. and Ireland have suspended flights to Sharm el-Sheikh.

Wilayat Sinai released another audio message today taking credit. Here's the last part according to one translation: (dashes inserted by me)

"To the skeptics and decriers we say: die in your rage! We downed it by the grace of G-d, but we are not required to explain how we did it.

So, inspect the wreckage of the aircraft, analyze your black box, make your conclusions based on your expertise, and prove that we did not down nor else prove how it fell. Eat your hearts out! We downed it by the grace of G-d. G-d willing, we will explain how we did it at a time and manner of our own choosing.

[More...]

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Russian Plane Crash: Terrorism Theories Rise, But Stll Uncertain

Terrorism theories got a boost yesterday, amid reports that US infrared satellite detected a heat flash over the Sinai at the time the Russian passenger jet went down, and statements by Kogalymavia Airlines (Metrojet in Russia) ruling out structural failure, technical defects and pilot error.

But there still are no reports of evidence of an explosive device in the debris, and it also doesn't appear anything external hit the plane. While that leaves fewer scenarios, such as a bomb on board, sabotage, or the tail falling off , it still doesn’t answer the question of whether ISIS had anything to do with the crash.[More...]

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What Caused the Crash of Russian Flight #7K9268 in Egypt?

Yesterday, ISIS's Wilayat Sinai (background here) claimed responsibility for the crash of Kogalymavia Airline flight #7K9268 from the resort city of Sharm el-Sheikh in Egypt to St. Petersburg, Russia, in which all 224 persons on board, including 25 children were killed. (The passenger list is here. All but 4 were Russian - 4 were Ukranian, according to the Minister of Foreign Affairs for the Ukraine.)

Russia said ISIS' claim was false and ISIS doesn't have "manpads" that can shoot down a plane at 30,000 feet. )Manpads stands for man-portable air-defense systems. ) Almost everyone is mocking ISIS' claim. But ISIS didn't say it shot the plane down. It just said it was able to bring it down. Earlier reports that the pilot had radioed of technical difficulty and intended to make an emergency landing have now been disputed by officials.

Could there have been a bomb on board? Could it have been on-board sabotage? No one knows right now. [More...]

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U.S. Announces (Non-Combat) Boots on Ground in Syria

Obama today authorizes the first boots on the ground in Syria. The White House still claims they won't be in a combat role.

On CNN today, a Republican called that distinction false, saying the dividing line is whether our troops will be in harm's way and because these troops will be battling ISIS, they will be in harm's way and there will be casualties. At least some Democrats are voicing disapproval. [More...]

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Obama's Advisors Want to Step Up War Against ISIS

President Obama's advisers are promoting the greater use of special forces and stepping up air fight against ISIS in Iraq and Syria.

The debate over the proposed steps, which would for the first time position a limited number of Special Operations forces on the ground in Syria and put U.S. advisers closer to the firefights in Iraq, comes as Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter presses the military to deliver new options for greater military involvement in Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan.

Apparently, the Pentagon agrees we've hit a "stalemate" in the battle against ISIS. [More...]

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First U.S. Soldier Killed in Battle With ISIS

The U.S. raided an Islamic State prison in Iraq to free hostages. Most of those jailed were locals, some are said to be ISIS members suspected of being spies. About 20 of them were Iraqi security forces.

One U.S. Special Forces member was killed.

The raid was led by Kurdish Peshmerga fighters.

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Syria: Assad, Not ISIS or AQ, Is the Problem

Charles Lister's article today on our epic misreading of the problem in Syria is getting tons of praise from analysts on Twitter. Shorter version: The U.S. is walking into an abyss on Syria. Some quotes:

[T]he US and its European partners remain dangerously disconnected from Syria's realities. The threat posed by IS has become a convenient obsession, while the more complex dynamics in the rest of the country appear all but ignored and misunderstood.

... IS remains a potent force in Syria and must be countered, but it will not be marching on Damascus anytime soon, contrary to some uninformed fear mongering. Al-Qaeda also poses a pressing and more long-term threat, perhaps more so than has been acknowledged. But at the end of the day, the root cause of the entire Syrian crisis is Assad and his regime.

Our efforts in Syria to date: "To label the mission a catastrophic failure would be a generous assessment." [More...]

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U.S. Trained Rebel Defector Gave Equipment to al Nusra

First, the U.S. admitted equipment it provided to the Syrian Rebels it was training ended up with al Nusra, the Al Qaida affiliated group. But it denied knowing or training the person who gave it to them.

The Daily Beast says Centcom then admitted a little more:

The Pentagon, responding to reports in The Daily Beast that a specific U.S.-trained commander had defected along with most of his unit to a group affiliated with al Qaeda, will now concede that an unnamed commander who actually had been rejected by the U.S. as a possible trainee for the fight against the self-proclaimed Islamic State had somehow acquired access to U.S. equipment that he then handed over to al Qaeda affiliates.

But it gets worse. [More...]

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