— The Erimtan Angle —

Archive for October, 2014

UN Security Council: Foreigners Flock into Iraq and Syria

‘The UN says an unprecedented number of foreigners is flocking to Iraq and Syria to join extremist groups such as ISIL despite the US-led strikes on the groups positions. A report, conducted by the UN Security Council, has found out that 15000 people have swarmed to Syria and Iraq to fight alongside the Isil or other such terrorist groups. It say they come form more than 80 countries that hadn’t contributed to the international terrorism before. The UNSC report warns that more countries than ever will face a backlash from the nationals who would come back from Syria and Iraq. It reveals that many of the foreign militants are youngsters as the Isil makes massive use of social media. The Obama administration is spearheading a large coalition of western and regional nations to prevent Isil militants from advancing (30 Oct 2014)’.

From New York, the American national security reporter and blogger Spencer Ackerman writes in The Guardian that a “report by the UN security council, obtained by the Guardian, finds that 15,000 people have travelled to Syria and Iraq to fight alongside the Islamic State (Isis) and similar extremist groups. They come from more than 80 countries, the report states, ‘including a tail of countries that have not previously faced challenges relating to al-Qaida’. The UN said it was uncertain whether al-Qaida would benefit from the surge. Ayman al-Zawahiri, the leader of al-Qaida who booted Isis out of his organisation, ‘appears to be maneuvering for relevance’, the report says. The UN’s numbers bolster recent estimates from US intelligence about the scope of the foreign fighter problem, which the UN report finds to have spread despite the Obama administration’s aggressive counter-terrorism strikes and global surveillance dragnets”.[1]

[1] Spencer Ackerman, “Foreign jihadists flocking to Iraq and Syria on ‘unprecedented scale’ – UN” The Guardian (30 Oct 2014). http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/oct/30/foreign-jihadist-iraq-syria-unprecedented-un-isis.

Meysa Abdo: Turkey’s Obstruction of Kobani’s Battle Against ISIS

Meysa Abdo, who is also known by the nom de guerre Narin Afrin, is a commander of the resistance in Kobani and she penned an op-ed about the siege and the role played by Turkey’s AKP leadership. This article was translated from the Kurdish for the New York Times by BBC’s Güney Yildiz.

Abdo start her piece as follows: “[s]ince Sept. 15, we, the people of the Syrian town of Kobani [aka Ayn al-Arab], have been fighting, outnumbered and outgunned, against an all-out assault by the army of the Islamic State, also known as ISIS. Yet despite a campaign that has intensified in the past month, including the deployment of United States-made tanks and armored vehicles, the Islamic State has not been able to break the resistance of Kobani’s fighters. We are defending a democratic, secular society of Kurds, Arabs, Muslims and Christians who all face an imminent massacre. Kobani’s resistance has mobilized our entire society, and many of its leaders, including myself, are women. Those of us on the front lines are well aware of the Islamic State’s treatment of women. We expect women around the world to help us, because we are fighting for the rights of women everywhere. We do not expect them to come to join our fight here (though we would be proud if any did). But we do ask women to promote our case and to raise awareness of our situation in their own countries, and to pressure their governments to help us”.[1]

Meysa Abdo continues by praising the allied bombing campaign and pointing out that the Kurdish resistance in Kobani “will never give up. But we need more than merely rifles and grenades to carry out our own responsibilities and aid the coalition in its war against the jihadist forces”.[2]  This then brings here to talk about “Turkey, a NATO member, [which] should have been an ally in this conflict. [Turkey] could easily have helped us by allowing access between different Syrian Kurdish areas, so as to let fighters and supplies move back and forth through Turkish territory. Instead, the Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has several times publicly equated our fighters, who are defending a diverse and democratic society, with the murderous Islamic State, evidently because of the controversy surrounding Turkey’s Kurdish minority. Last week, following domestic and international criticism, Turkish leaders at last said they would open a corridor for a small group of Iraqi pesh merga fighters, and some Free Syrian Army brigades, to cross into Kobani. But they still will not allow other Syrian Kurds to cross Turkish territory to reach us. This has been decided without consulting us”.[3]  But on the same day her op-ed was published Iraqi Peshmerga crossed into Turkey on their way to the besieged town, as related by the BBC: “Iraqi Kurdish forces are travelling to Turkey, from where they plan to cross into Syria to battle Islamic State (IS) militants besieging the town of Kobane. Officials said a plane carrying 150 Peshmerga had left Irbil. Their heavy weapons will be transported by land. Turkey agreed to the deployment last week after refusing to allow Turkish Kurds to cross the border to fight. Earlier, the Turkish prime minister rejected claims that he was not doing enough to end the jihadists’ assault”.[4]

Nevertheless, Abdo declares that “[t]here is evidence that Turkish forces have allowed the Islamic State’s men and equipment to move back and forth across the border. But Syrian Kurdish fighters cannot do the same. The Turkish government is pursuing an anti-Kurdish policy against the Syrian Kurds, and their priority is to suppress the Kurdish freedom movement in Northern Syria. They want Kobani to fall. We have never been hostile to Turkey. We want to see it as a partner, not an enemy, and we believe that it is in the Turkish government’s interest to have a border with the democratic administration of a western Kurdistan rather than one with the Islamic State”.[5]  She ends her piece with the plea that the “people of Kobani need the attention and help of the world”.[6]

[1] Meysa Abdo, “A Town Shouldn’t Fight the Islamic State Alone” The New York Times (28 Oct 2014). http://www.nytimes.com/2014/10/29/opinion/turkeys-obstruction-of-kobanis-battle-against-isis.html?_r=0.

[2] Meysa Abdo, “A Town Shouldn’t Fight the Islamic State Alone”.

[3] Meysa Abdo, “A Town Shouldn’t Fight the Islamic State Alone”.

[4] “Islamic State crisis: Peshmerga fighters head to Turkey” BBC News (28 Oct 2014). http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-29804437.

[5] Meysa Abdo, “A Town Shouldn’t Fight the Islamic State Alone”.

[6] Meysa Abdo, “A Town Shouldn’t Fight the Islamic State Alone”.

Prime Minister Ahmed Davutoğlu talks to the BBC

The wily Davutoğlu went on the record to say that “We will help coalition forces”. ‘Turkish Prime Minister, Ahmet Davutoglu, has told the BBC that Turkey will continue to help coalition forces if there is a coordinated plan for the creation of a ”democratic” Syria. Speaking to Lyse Doucet, Mr Davutoglu called for the equipping and training of the Free Syrian Army. He also described the challenges of saving the embattled Syrian town of Kobane (28 Oct 2014)’.[1]

Davutoğlu’s boss, the Turkish Prez (RTE or Recep Tayyip Erdoğan) declarerd 4 days earlier, during a press conference in the Estonian capital of Tallinn, that “[a]s I said before, we told Mr. Obama the main group to be cooperated with is the FSA and secondarily the Peshmerga. After a few days, the PYD agreed for 200 Peshmerga to come. According to the information I have recently received, this number has been reduced to 150 now”.[2]  Turkey thus insists that the real fight in Syria’s not-so civil war is the one to overthrow Bashar al-Assad and that the one force to achieve this is the Turkey-sponsored Free Syrian Army . . . But then, on Thursday, 27 October. the news agency Reuters reported from Beirut that the “United States does not expect Syrian rebels it plans to train to fight Islamic State militants to also take on President Bashar al-Assad’s forces, but sees them as a crucial part of a political solution to end the war, the Asharq al-Awsat newspaper quoted a senior U.S. official as saying. The United States, which is leading an international coalition bombing Islamic State in Syria, has said it wants to train and equip ‘moderate’ rebels to fight the militant group which has seized tracts of land in Syria and neighboring Iraq”.[3]

General John Allen, the U.S. representative to the coalition, told the Asharq al-Awsat daily: “No. What we would like to see is for the FSA and the forces that we will ultimately generate, train and equip to become the credible force that the Assad government ultimately has to acknowledge and recognize”.[4]  The General went on to say that “[t]here is not going to be a military solution here”.[5]  Does this now really mean that the U.S. has taken a major U-turn on its road to Damascus???  Allen added that the “intent is that in the political outcome, [the opposition] must be a prominent – perhaps the preeminent voice – at the table to ultimately contribute to the political outcome that we seek”, clarifying next that the “outcome that we seek in Syria is akin to the [current anti-Islamic State] strategy that fits into a much larger regional strategy and that outcome is a political outcome that does not include Assad”.[6]  So, in other words, it’s a U-turn that is not a U-turn, as Assad still will have to go, one way or another . . .

For good measure, Reuters specifies that the “U.S. President Barack Obama said last month he wanted to train and equip Free Syrian Army rebels to ‘strengthen the opposition as the best counterweight to the extremists’ and to prevent U.S. troops from being dragged into another ground war”.[7]  Last month, Lilly Martin Sahiounie wrote from Latakia that “[e]very uniform, bullet, weapon and vehicle that the FSA use is from the American taxpayer. In fact, America is now in the process of sending even more money, weapons and training to this very same Free Syrian Army, who is fighting for Radical Islamic ideology, and are bound and determined to remove the current Syrian government, so they can form an Islamic State in Syria, with Sharia as the only constitution needed”.[8]  After all, Vice President Joe Biden stated some time ago indicated that there is no moderate opposition in Syria.[9]

[1] “Turkey PM Ahmet Davutoglu: ‘We will help coalition forces'” BBC News (28 Oct 2014). http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-29797270.

[2] “Erdoğan announces Turkey will allow FSA to Kobane, PYD says talks continue” Hürriyet Daily News (24 Oct 2014). http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/erdogan-announces-turkey-will-allow-fsa-to-kobane-pyd-says-talks-continue.aspx?pageID=238&nID=73424&NewsCatID=352.

[3] “U.S. sees Syria rebels in political, not military solution: Asharq al-Awsat newspaper” Reuters (27 Oct 2014). http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/10/27/us-mideast-crisis-syria-rebels-idUSKBN0IG0PV20141027.

[4] “U.S. sees Syria rebels in political, not military solution: Asharq al-Awsat newspaper”

[5] “U.S. sees Syria rebels in political, not military solution: Asharq al-Awsat newspaper”.

[6] “U.S. sees Syria rebels in political, not military solution: Asharq al-Awsat newspaper”.

[7] “U.S. sees Syria rebels in political, not military solution: Asharq al-Awsat newspaper”.

[8i] Lilly Martin Sahiounie, “The reality of the FSA that you will never see in the media – stop Obama supporting Terrorists” Friends of Syria (27 September 2014). http://friendsofsyria.co/2014/09/29/the-truth-behind-the-propaganda-in-syria-and-the-reality-of-the-us-funded-fsa/.

[9] “Biden Spills the Beans: Turkey, UAE, Saudi, and Qatari as well as U.S. Responsibility, 2012/2014” A Pseudo-Ottoman Blog (08 Oct 2014). https://sitanbul.wordpress.com/2014/10/08/biden-spills-the-beans-turkey-uae-saudi-and-qatari-as-well-as-u-s-responsibility-20122014/.

Australian IS Spokesman: Abdullah Elmir

‘A new highly produced propaganda video shows a 17-year-old boy from Australia who has become the latest spokesman for ISIS. See the newest ISIS warning in the video. ABC News reported that the spokesman is Abdullah Elmir, who went missing from west Sydney four months ago with a 16-year-old friend (22 Oct 2014)’.

In the land of Oz, the Sydney Morning Herald reports that a “Sydney teenager featured in an Islamic State propaganda video threatening Prime Minister Tony Abbott has been slammed as a “dickhead” and a “clown” by crossbench senator David Leyonhjelm, saying his online threats do not justify new terror laws”.[1]

The Daily Mail states that the “[g]inger jihadist Abdullah Elmir could face 25 years in jail if he ever sets foot on Australian soil again. The Australian Federal Police have confirmed the evidence is being prepared for the Director of Public Prosecutions after the Sydney teenager appeared in the ISIS video rant against western society, according to the Herald Sun. The 17-year-old gained notoriety when he declared that ISIS will not stop their murderous campaign ‘until the black flag is flying high in every single land’ in the YouTube video this week . . . AFP counterterrorism head Neil Gaughan told the Herald Sun that Elmir, who now goes by the moniker Abu Khaled, has ‘basically admitted he is a member of a proscribed terrorist organisation’. ‘The fact that he is admitting that he is a member of ISIS, which he does in the video, straight away says that he has committed an offence under the criminal code. That’s up to 25 years imprisonment,’ he said. Meanwhile, the father of the 17-year-old, known as ‘Fayez’, who accompanied Elmir to the Middle East said his son is ‘back on the right path’ and has returned to school in Sydney to sit his HSC exams, according to Herald Sun“.[2]

[1] Latika Bourke. “Just a ‘d—head’ and ‘clown’: Senator David Leyonhjelm says Bankstown jihadist’s threats don’t justify new terror laws” Sydney Morning Herald (22 Oct 2014). http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/just-a-dhead-and-clown-senator-david-leyonhjelm-says-bankstown-jihadists-threats-dont-justify-new-terror-laws-20141022-119o71.html.

[2] “The ‘Ginger Jihadist’ could face 25 YEARS in jail… as it’s revealed the 17-year-old friend who accompanied him to the Middle East has returned to school in Sydney” The Daily Mail (25 Oct 2014). http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2807706/The-Ginger-Jihadist-face-25-YEARS-jail-s-revealed-17-year-old-friend-accompanied-Middle-East-returned-school-Sydney.html.

Putin Speaks Out

‘Russian President Vladimir Putin lashed out at the US in a speech on Friday, calling the country a threat to global stability. Speaking at the Valdai Discussion Club, an annual gathering of Russian leaders and scholars from across the world, the president delivered some of the harshest criticisms he’s ever directed at the US, picking apart a list of failed American policies and programs. RT’s Egor Piskunov is in Sochi, Russia with more details on the address (24 Oct 2014)’.

State Department Anti-ISIS Campaign: Think Again, Turn Away

(28 July 2014)

‘After ISIS slaughters its last victim; after they blow up the last mosque; they will leave nothing behind but tears and rubble (6 Oct 2014)’.

As penned by ABC’s Ali Weinberg: the “Obama administration’s new drive to battle the ideology of ISIS using social media is falling short of expectations and its potential because the White House was late to the game, disregarded the work of the previous administration and hasn’t properly funded the effort, some experts and government officials say. A major part of the new anti-ISIS tactics, run by the State Department’s Center for Strategic Counterterrorism Communications, is an English-language social media campaign called “Think Again, Turn Away,” which features rapid responses to pro-ISIS rhetoric and sarcastically toned YouTube videos intended to mock ISIS’ fundamentalist intentions. Some of the videos have been criticized as amateurish and ill-suited to their intended targets. One recent “Think Again, Turn Away” video facetiously urged would-be jihadists to “run, don’t walk” to join ISIS and kill fellow Muslims. Tweets from the campaign’s Twitter handle, clearly branded a U.S. government effort, frequently include images, like an old picture, tweeted on Sept. 11 of this year, of the late Osama bin Laden hiding in his compound with the words “Would you throw away your life for those who hide far away?” Such a tactic may have been effective with core al-Qaeda operatives, but less so with the more diffuse groups of today, critics say. The tone and content of the “Think Again, Turn Away” postings do not appeal to the campaign’s key demographic, said James Glassman, the Bush administration’s last Undersecretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs who worked with the 2008 Obama team as it transitioned into office, and who championed the use of diplomatic resources to counter extremism, in fact helping start a more informal version of the Center for Strategic Counterterrorism Communications”.[1]

‘Established in 2010, the Center for Strategic Counterterrorism Communications (CSCC) is an interagency unit based at the U.S State Department which aims to coordinate, orient, and inform government strategic communications activities directed at audiences abroad designed to counter the appeal of violent extremism’.[2] ‘The Center for Strategic Counterterrorism Communications (CSCC) was established at the direction of the President and the Secretary of State to coordinate, orient, and inform government-wide foreign communications activities targeted against terrorism and violent extremism, particularly al-Qaida and its affiliates and adherents. Executive Order 13584, signed by President Obama on September 9, 2011, provides policy background and assigns interagency responsibilities to CSCC. CSCC is guided by National Strategy for Counterterrorism and operates under the policy direction of the White House and interagency leadership. The Coordinator reports to the Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and works closely with the Coordinator for Counterterrorism, other State bureaus, and many government agencies. CSCC liaises with agencies with domestic responsibilities to ensure coordination and consistency of message. Coordinator Ambassador Alberto Fernandez leads an interagency staff drawing on whole-of-government knowledge, skills, and resources. CSCC is comprised of three interactive components. The integrated analysis component leverages the Intelligence Community and other substantive experts to ensure CSCC communicators benefit from the best information and analysis available. The plans and operations component draws on this input to devise effective ways to counter the terrorist narrative. The Digital Outreach Team actively and openly engages in Arabic, Urdu, Punjabi, and Somali to counter terrorist propaganda and misinformation about the United States across a wide variety of interactive digital environments that had previously been ceded to extremists’.[3]

[1] Ali Weinberg, “Obama’s Anti-ISIS Social Media Strategy Panned as Inadequate” ABC News (01 Oct 2014). http://7online.com/news/obamas-anti-isis-social-media-strategy-panned-as-inadequate/333110/.

[2] “Center for Strategic Counterterrorism Communications (CSCC)” Institute for Strategic Dialogue. Counter Extremism. https://www.counterextremism.org/resources/details/id/404/center-for-strategic-counterterrorism-communications-cscc.

[3] “Center for Strategic Counterterrorism Communications” The U.S. Department of State. http://www.state.gov/r/cscc/.

Life Inside the Islamic State

‘What’s it like to live under the rule of the extremist group known as the Islamic State, or ISIS? WSJ looks at the situation in Raqqa, Syria, through the eyes of two activists — and through the lens of ISIS propaganda videos (15 September 2014)’.