Friday, October 31, 2014

Iraq Victory in Jurf al-Sakhar

WaPo reporter in Jurf al-Sakhar finds a destroyed town, signs of Iranian presence and no local population. It's not clear how many more such victories America's Sunni allies in the region can stomach

Iraq’s victory over militants in Sunni town () {

By = Loveday Morris
Date = October 29

A visit to the Sunni settlement Tuesday laid bare the huge cost of the victory. The town is now emptied of its 80,000 residents, and building after building has been destroyed — by airstrikes, bombings and artillery fire.

On Tuesday, hundreds of militiamen trundled out of Jurf al-Sakhar in trucks and buses, handing over control of the town and outlying villages and farms to Iraqi security forces... The Shiite forces could not remain in the area, militia commanders said. Their presence would only spark controversy and accusations of sectarian killings, they said. There already have been reports of revenge attacks in the aftermath of the Jurf al-Sakhar victory.

It was not hard to see why such reports were circulating. A convoy of trucks blaring religious music from loudspeakers drove out on a dusty road just north of the town. The men in the truck were jovial and flashed peace signs, but the decaying body of an alleged insurgent was being dragged behind the vehicle...

(...)

A local police officer, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to talk to the media, said Iranian fighters were present on the battlefield, while a Washington Post employee heard Farsi being spoken at a military base.

(...)

The future of the town is unclear. None of its Sunni residents remain or are likely to return anytime soon. Those who had stayed in the town until last week were considered combatants, said Hassan Shakir Oda, a member of the provincial council and the Badr Brigade.

“We considered every family that stayed al-Qaeda or Daesh,” he said, referring to the Islamic State by its Arabic acronym. “If anyone against Daesh had stayed, Daesh would have killed them.”

“For now, it’s impossible that they come back,” he said.

Source = http://wapo.st/1tJGUze 
}


Thursday, October 30, 2014

Our weekly column on sports and culture in the Middle East

Dragging bodies around tied to cars seems to be a big hit in Iraq right now. Before it was the hanging of bodies from electricity poles

Image: Presumably, Shia militias with the body of a dead ISIS fighter



The more caliphates, the better

I would notice as interesting the fact that historically it was accepted that there could be more than one caliphate. Given the split and ensuing rivalry between ISIS and Al Qaeda and Al Nusra's latest fallout with other rebel groups in Idlib, it makes you wonder... Of course the chances that, by creating its cross border empire, ISIS is about to start a race of caliphates across the region are not very high. But it's an interesting possibility to consider nonetheless


# BBC
What's the appeal of a caliphate? () {

By  = Edward Stourton 
Date = 25 October 2014 

(...)

"Seventy years after the Prophet's death, this Muslim world stretched from Spain and Morocco right the way to Central Asia and to the southern bits of Pakistan, so a huge empire that was all… under the control of a single Muslim leader," says historian Prof Hugh Kennedy. "And it's this Muslim unity, the extent of Muslim sovereignty, that people above all look back to."

Yet these dynasties extended their rule so far, and so fast, that it became increasingly difficult for any one lineage to control all Muslim lands. As power fragmented, it was not just a political dilemma for any particular dynasty, but also a theological challenge to the very idea of the caliphate. The power of unity was closely linked to the idea of a caliph - yet it only took just over a century of the Muslim faith for the world to see parallel - and even competing - caliphates emerge.

The Sunni theologian Sheikh Ruzwan Mohammed argues: "While you do have two caliphs on earth proclaiming that they're the representatives of the Muslim community at this point, and more deeply that they are the shadow of God on earth, Muslims at that point were very pragmatic, and they acknowledged the fact that there could be more than one caliph representing the benefits and the concerns of the Muslim community - and that was also understood and accepted by Muslim theologians."

(...)

Source = http://t.co/q8RjGDnnFi  }

ISIS fighters answer dead Peshmerga phone



A rare video of ISIS Sunni Turkmen (Iraq ethnic minority) fighters who ambushed Kurdish peshmerga and answer call to one of the dead peshmergas' phone

Warning: The video is somewhat graphic

٦ أكتوبر، ٢٠١٤

The third intifada has already started

Jewish politicians in Jerusalem agree. The third intifada has already started.

For now it's a local Jerusalem affair. But this may change


# Jerusalem Post 
The city’s politicians agree: Third intifada is a foregone conclusion () {

By = DANIEL K. EISENBUD
Date = 10/28/2014

It would appear that the only issue that two of the city’s most outspoken and diametrically opposed politicians can agree on is that the violence is indeed another intifada, and it is anything but silent.

According to councilmen Dr. Meir Margalit (Meretz), who holds the east Jerusalem portfolio, and right-wing hardliner Arieh King (United Jerusalem), the “third intifada” is already upon us, and has been for some time.

“For several weeks I have said that we are inside the third intifada,” said Margalit on Monday. “I don’t know why they call it a “silent intifada,” because it’s very loud, so the word silent is incorrect. It’s an intifada, and we have to call it by its proper name.”

(...)

“It’s different than the second intifada, because there are no suicide bombers,” he said. “It’s more similar to the first intifada, which was defined by rock throwing and firebombs.

“I think the main reason is that Hamas is not a part of this process,” he explained. “The suicide bombers came from Hamas, and it seems that they are not part of the issue.”

Another reason, Margalit continued, “is that I think the Palestinians realize that the strategy of suicide bombers was counterproductive; that the international community condemned them, damaging the Palestinian struggle.”

Moreover, he said that Palestinian Authority President Muhammad Abbas has no control over the east Jerusalem violence.

“The fact that it hasn’t started in the West Bank is because Abbas and the Palestinian Authority are not interested in an intifada, but in Jerusalem they have no control over what happens on the ground,” he said.

(...)

Councilman King concurred with Margalit regarding the existence of a third intifada.

“It’s been a reality for at least two years -- people just have a short memory,” he said. “Stones today are something people aren’t counting – only firebombs and firecrackers.

But for at least two years there have been daily attacks against Jews in the Yemenite village [Silwan] and at the Mount of Olives Cemetery, where stones are thrown at Jews visiting and leaving every single day.”

King said the third intifada actually began two years ago when the National Security Council “made sure that everything that happens in east Jerusalem goes through the Prime Minister’s Office, including building permits and city planning.” He added that “the PMO didn’t have any clue what they were dealing with.”

(...) }

Source = http://t.co/Aa1g2FwUNd

Syrian rebel targeting regime warplanes in Handarat Aleppo ten days ago

ريف حلب حندرات التصدي للطيران الحربي بالأسلحة الخفيفة على يد الجيش الحر 20 10 2014

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Because there is nothing louder than the sound of bullets


# Newsweek
Because there is nothing louder than the sound of bullets () {

Date = October 29, 2014
By = Laura Kasinof 

(...)

“It doesn't seem that Hadi has much control,” says Nadwa al-Dawsari, a Yemeni civil society activist and researcher, who specialises in tribal conflict. “In his last speech, he asked the Houthis to evacuate Sana’a and other cities immediately, but they are still there and expanding. It only means that he no longer has control over Houthis, security or even his own military forces.”

The Houthis’ takeover also threatens to bring a sectarian-based conflict to Yemen not unlike those being fought in Iraq and Syria. The Houthis are traditionally Shia, .. They preach a Shia’a revivalist doctrine and have been engaged in an on-again, off-again war with the Yemeni state since 2005.

“There is a strong atmosphere of apprehension and rumours about the motives of the Houthis, including one that they want to claim a long lost right to rule based on religious grounds,” says al-Dawsari. “While this might not be true, the Houthis’ expansion by force across different areas of Yemen is reinforcing this perception and instigating radical responses based on that ­perception.”

(...)

Source = http://t.co/puzcmFwRa 
}

Foreign Fighters Pouring Into Syria Faster Than Ever

The West's top counterterrorism officials struggle to wrap their heads around the mystery of the ISIS appeal as the number of foreign fighters in Syria goes thru the roof




# NBC News
Foreign Fighters Pouring Into Syria Faster Than Ever, Say Officials () {

By = CHRIS FRANCESCANI AND ROBERT WINDREM
Date = October 29th 2014

 ... “It’s greater than anything we’ve seen into Afghanistan, into Yemen, into Somalia, into Iraq, or anything that we’ve seen in the last 10-year period.”

Blake said the number... has risen so rapidly in recent weeks that a new law enforcement video shown at the four-day event is already out of date.

“The video said there are somewhere around 12,000 foreign fighters in Syria. We would update that number to about 16,000 foreign fighters who have traveled to Syria from over 80 countries,” Blake said, adding that roughly 2,000 of those fighters hail from Western countries...

(...)

What’s more, authorities have found it nearly impossible to create a demographic profile of these Western volunteers.

...  said John Adams, the FBI’s deputy director for counterterrorism. 

“We’re currently age-ranged from minors of 15 years old, which is our youngest traveler, up to 63 years old, which has been our oldest traveler. It’s very, very difficult to try and identify a particular age group that this particular foreign fighter message resonates with,”...

(...)

No one knows for sure what is motivating so many Westerners to head to Syria, but one U.S. official offered a personal theory.

...  Andrew McCabe, assistant director in charge of the FBI’s Washington field office.

“Our culture is one that grew up with instant gratification, instant information,” said McCabe. “Al Qaeda’s message has historically been, ‘This is a long war, we’ll fight the Great Satan [and] we’ll try and establish a caliphate sometime in the future.’ ISIL has come forward and said, 'The time is now, it's happening now. We have our own territory, come join us.'”

“To me, the instant appeal of participating in the caliphate that’s happening now, I think that resonates...“

(...) 

Source =  http://nbcnews.to/1u7NU9Q }

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

It's indeed a CNN war

After the outcry over America ignoring Kobani, some are now critical that Kobani gets too much attention. Some wonder whether Iraq has been sacrificed to win a CNN war in Kobani.

It's too late for that frankly. It's indeed a CNN war that was imposed on the coalition by the TV audiences. People live this world thru CNN and even the US president can't change this fundamental fact of our reality.

# The Telegraph
West waging a 'CNN war' in Syria as Isil makes gains in Iraq () {

By = Sofia Barbarani, Erbil and Richard Spencer
Date = 25 Oct 2014

(...)

The world's attention has been focused on the medium-sized Kurdish town of Kobane, on the Syria-Turkey border, whose accessibility has provided countless opportunities for telegenic news coverage of American air strikes, which have multiplied in size and number. But Kobane is a secondary focus of the war that has been waging in Syria for more than three years; and that war is itself supposed to be secondary in strategic heft for America and its allies, including Britain.

Analysts and some Iraqis now wonder whether President Barack Obama's declared strategy in the Middle East has been abandoned in favour of pursuing a short-term agenda dictated by the news agenda: that the "CNN factor was at play", as Ben Barry, a former British Army brigadier, put it after compiling a detailed analysis of the military situation in Iraq.

Isil may even have drawn the West into a trap – pouring second-grade but eager foreign recruits into the battle for Kobane, while pursuing their more important goals next door, he said.

"Kobane is right against the border," he told The Telegraph. "It may be that Isil deliberately took the decision to attack there to draw US air power away from Anbar."

(...)

Mr Barry, who analysed the state of the war for the International Institute of Strategic Studies, said strikes in Syria were running at twice the rate of those in Iraq, despite the insistence that the latter was the prime strategic target.

(...)

The Americans were facing one of the toughest challenges of modern times in Iraq, he said – compared with the easy win of hitting Isil in Kobane. "My suspicion is that the CNN factor is at play here," he said.

The Americans would claim – perhaps rightly – that it is important to match propaganda with propaganda, and that losing Kobane now would be a disastrous blow to morale.

It is that town that the West now wants to win. Iraq will have to wait – if it can.

Source = http://fw.to/u5TADkH }

Graduation Ceremony of Iranian Policewomen's Training Course, 2005


Houthi scream marks the expanding boundaries of rising Houthi power

Vice News. The Houthi sarkha/scream marks the expanding boundaries of rising Houthi power in Yemen.


The most intriguing part of the article is the surprise of residents of Sanaa on seeing Houthi checkpoints to be  manned by their neighbors who previously couldn't care less about Houthis.  This may indicate further sectarianization of the conflict with Zaidi Shia outside the Houthi traditional stronghold of Saada increasingly flocking to the group.

# Vice News
The Houthis Are Battling al Qaeda Amid a 'Slow-Burning Coup' in Yemen () {

By = Peter Salisbury
Date = October 28, 2014

(...)

Checkpoints manned by Yemeni men in traditional garb sprang up across Sanaa. Many of the men decorated their guns, their cars, and even their foreheads with stickers and banners bearing the Houthis' sarkha slogan spelled out in red and green on a white background

"Death to America, Death to Israel, Damned be the Jews, Victory to Islam."

The sarkha is visible just about everywhere the Houthis are. It's a supremely effective piece of marketing, marking anyone who chooses to display it as a supporter of the group. The slogan's presence in Sanaa has come to be seen as a signal that the Houthis — once a small religious revivalist movement, now a popular and powerful political movement — are an unstoppable military force that is effectively in control of the capital. When the slogan is seen elsewhere in the country, it is seen as a sign that the Houthis are on their way.

And the slogan is everywhere. In central Yemen, the group is battling al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), the local franchise of the extremist movement that the US government saw as the most dangerous radical Islamist group in the world before the Islamic State sprang up in Syria and Iraq. In mid-October, sarkha-bedecked men took control of Hodeidah port on Yemen's western coast. The group has also expanded south into Ibb and Taiz provinces, where it is battling both al Qaeda affiliates and local tribes.

Where a year ago they would have scoffed at such an idea, residents of Aden, a port city in the south of Yemen, are now genuinely worried that the Houthis, who hail from the other side of the country, could soon be surveying the Indian Ocean.

(...)

Khaled, who lives in central Sanaa but was working outside the capital during the fighting there, described his surprise to VICE News upon returning to find friends and acquaintances who were agnostic in their politics manning Houthi checkpoints in the city center. "I know these people," he said. "They aren't Houthis. They… couldn't care less about the Houthis."

Sanaa residents have by now realized that most Houthi checkpoints are manned not by fighters from Sadah, but by locals. As a result, talk has been less about the "Houthi takeover" of Sanaa and more about the "takeover of Sanaa."

This reassessment is not unique to the capital city. A resident of Taiz disputes the extent to which the "Houthi" presence in the area is made up of bona fide fighters from the north. "All the people here that I can see who say they are Houthis, I recognize," he says, indicating that the supposed Houthis are instead locals. He adds that the bulk of the armed men in the city come from a local division of the Republican Guard, a military unit once run by Saleh's son. Even the fighters who aren't local, he says, aren't from Sadah. Their accents don't match up.

(...)

Source = https://t.co/JHp8UEBpKq }

Video = A boy performs the Houthi "scream" during a demonstration in Sanaa

Interesting Iraq scenario

Interesting Iraq scenario

ISIS ⇒ Anbar ⇒ Karbala = Samarra ⇒ Sunni-Shia WW2

PS

I wouldn't bet my house on it though


# Global Post
The battle for Anbar could shape the future of Iraq () {

By = Susannah George
Date = October 25, 2014

(...)

“From the first day that ISIS was appearing we were warning the government. We said all of Iraq is in danger and if Anbar falls, the rest of the country will follow,” he says.

(...)

Ali says beyond the province’s symbolic value, there will be dramatic strategic consequences if Anbar falls out of government control. One of those consequences will be that Islamic State militants will be better positioned to launch attacks on Shia holy sites in Karbala. One such devastating attack, Ali argues, could spark an all out civil war in a manner similar to how the 2006 al-Askari Mosque bombing in Samarra unleashed a torrent of sectarian violence.

(...)

Source = http://t.co/hSx8yolcS6 }

Iraq fighter plays Rambo in Amriyat al-Fallujah, dies within seconds

مقتل الملازم اسامه العيساوي احد منتسبي فوج طواريء الانبار في عامرية الفلوجه 28-10-2014

Video: Iraq army uses TOS-1A in Jurf as-Sakhr


Video of a TOS-1A launcher of Iraqi Army in Jurf as-Sakhr 

I just can't help noticing that Russians supplied same systems to the regime of Bashar Assad in Syria. They should rename it into ASIS-1A.

ASIS = Anti Sunni Insurgent System


Monday, October 27, 2014

The Call of Jihad

Spiegel puzzles over the magnetic force of radical Islam. Even Kurds. Even not only just Kurds, but Alevi Kurds


# Spiegel Online
The Call of Jihad () {

Families Struggle as German Kurds Join Islamists in Syria

By = Maximilian Popp
Date = October 15, 2014

A few months before Sedat Aras set off to join the jihad, the young man took down the Kurdish flag which had been hanging on the wall of his bedroom in his family's home in Hamburg, Germany. "I'm a mujahedeen now," he said.

... Sedat's family are Alevi Kurds and yet he is now fighting on the side of Islamic State (IS), even though it is attacking Kobani, the Kurdish city in Syria that has become the symbol of the war against the Sunni terrorist organization. In his sister's eyes, Sedat is waging war against his own people.

The trip to Syria by German-Kurd Sedat Aras, 23, follows a rapid period of radicalization. His story combines the identity crisis experienced by some children born into immigrant families with the seemingly magnetic force exerted by radical Islam.

(...)

The developments have shed light on a little understood generational conflict that has erupted among the families currently losing their sons to the jihad. It is a conflict that affects Turkish and Arab immigrants as well as people of ethnic German origin who have converted to Islam. Now, it is also dividing the Kurdish community in Germany -- a community that has recently taken to the streets to protest the tragedy unfolding in Kobani. The demonstrations have largely been peaceful, but there have been isolated cases of violence.

Özdemir, the daughter of Kurdish immigrants from Turkey, has viewed with horror how Salafists have also successfully recruited Islamic State supporters among German Kurds. Barely a week goes by in which Özdemir doesn't receive calls from distressed parents who don't know what they can do to prevent their children's radicalization...

(...)

Researchers like Mouhanad Khorchide, an Austrian of Palestinian origin and Islamic theologian at Germany's University of Münster, have been trying to find an explanation. He believes that many Islamic State supporters in Germany have limited interest in Islamic issues. Instead, he argues, they view Salafism, a particularly reactionary movement within Sunni Islam, as a kind of counterculture. "Salafism is a product of modernity," Khorchide says. He describes it as being similar to radical youth movements seen in many other societies. Salafists, Khorchide explains, divide the world into good and evil, pious and non-believers. They offer orientation and cohesion to young people struggling to find a direction in life.

(...)

Source: http://spon.de/aelxO }

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Iraq army claims victory in Jurf al-Sakhar

The Iraqi army claims victory in the battle for the town of Jurf al-Sakhar in Anbar province... But ISIS begs to differ.


Reuters reporters on the ground confirm the fall of Jurf al-Sakhar

#Reuters
After victory in key Iraqi town, time for revenge () {

By = by Ahmed Rasheed and Michael Georgy
Date = Sun Oct 26, 2014

(...)

As Iraqi government soldiers and militias savored their victory and were taking photographs of the bodies, mortars fired by Islamic State fighters who had fled to orchards to the west rained down on the town.

The blast hit the militiamen, killing dozens and scattering body parts. Soldiers who moments before were celebrating now screamed out in fear.

"Run to the ditch. Mortars. Mortars," yelled a militiaman. An army officer shouted at local militia leaders, berating them for advancing too fast, before helicopters had wiped out any pockets of resistance.

"OK, let's retreat," one of the militiamen shouted.

Source = http://reut.rs/1wtF1VQ }

US CENTCOM official video of airstrike intercepting ISIS VBIED


US CENTCOM official video of an airstrike intercepting ISIS VBIED (kamikaze car bomb) in Kobani






Poor quality extract from an Iraqi army official video of ISIS kamikaze attacks against Iraqi troops

لحظة انفجار المدرعة المفخخة على عناصر الجيش الصفوي في منطقة الحمرة جنوب بيجي



The original video. Both scenes happen during the 1st minute

عمليات صلاح الدين تستمر بالتقدم بإتجاه تحرير قضاء بيجي

Israeli Arab leader: Jerusalem will be the capital of the Caliphate

Israeli Arab leader Kamal Khatib: Jerusalem will be the capital of the Caliphate

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Are Israel/West Bank about to join the wider regional armageddon?


Low-intensity intifada against the light train in Jerusalem. Are Israel/West Bank about to join the wider regional armageddon?

# The Financial Times
Rail line becomes lightning rod for tensions in Jerusalem () {

By = John Reed in Jerusalem
Date = October 24, 2014 

(...)

“The light rail represents the state,” says Ozel Vatik, CityPass marketing and public relations manager, who says that since mid-July more than 150 cars have been taken for repair after being hit by rocks. “They see the train and they see Israel – they want to hurt the train.”

Despite the controversy, the train was until recently one of the few places one might see a veiled Palestinian woman sitting opposite an Orthodox Jewish family in black religious garb. It was designed with shatterproof windows and powerful air conditioning, meant to withstand the city’s tough political conditions and hot summers.

(...)

“This touchy-feely coexistence thing was always disingenuous,” says Daniel Seidemann, an attorney who specialises in Israeli-Palestinian relations. “The veil has been ripped away from that; these neighbourhoods have been turned into armed camps.”

In Pisgat Ze’ev, Shirel Zaken, a 24-year-old Israeli who works at a men’s clothing store, boarded the tram from an empty platform as it headed back west. One night last week she was riding the train through Shu’afat when a rock was thrown at the train in front of a window she was sitting alongside.

“It was very scary,” she says. But she is not giving up on the train. “I live in Israel – I am used to this already.” 

Source: http://on.ft.com/1uOKMu7 }

A Syrian army surface-to-surface missile explodes in mid-air


A Syrian army surface-to-surface missile targeting the rebel held Jobar in Damascus explodes in mid-air

مميز: انفجار صاروخ من نوع ارض ارض بعد اطلاقه بعدة ثواني في سماء ريف دمشق

Friday, October 24, 2014

Harakat Hazm destroys Gvozdika with TOW


Harakat Hazm destroys Gvozdika (Russian-made self-propelled howitzer) with a TOW missile 

حركة حزم تدمير مدفع فوزديكا لقوات النظام على تلة الشيخ يوسف

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Syrian jet destroyed on the ground by a rebel anti tank missile


Harakat Hazm destroys a Syrian jet with a TOW missile at the Nairab air base, Aleppo. This is probably one of the best hits of this kind

حركة حزم تدمير طائرة حربية واحتراق الاخرى في مطار حلب بصاروخ تاو مضاد للدروع

US bombs ISIS flag

Comment from a pro-ISIS Twitter account () {
 US forces used 10 high-precision bombs to kill two ISIS fighters and remove their flag }

Syria rebels destroy latest regime tank

Syrian rebels destroy one of the Syrian modifications of Russian-supplied T-72M1 tanks reported by Jane a few months ago

RT https://twitter.com/Mario_Greenly


# IHS Jane's Defence Weekly
Syria enhances T-72 protection () {

By = Christopher F Foss, London
Date = 20 August 2014

Syria has developed a new passive armour package to enhance the survivability of its Russian-supplied T-72M1 main battle tanks (MBT) against RPG-7 rocket propelled grenades.

Photographs published on a pro-Syrian military Facebook page on 9 August show a T-72M1 with a locally designed bar/slat armour array fitted to its turret to provide increased protection against RPG-7 rounds through a full 360 degrees.

The bar armour is on an all-welded frame positioned a short distance from the turret. It would appear that gaps have been left in the left side of the bar armour so that the sighting system for the 125 mm smooth bore gun is not obscured.

(...)

At this stage, it unclear whether this is a prototype bar/slat armour installation or if the package has been deployed on Syrian Army T-72M1 for operations.

Syria operates a large fleet of Russian supplied T-72M1 MBT with some these fitted with the standard Russian explosive reactive armour (ERA) package, which only provides protection over the frontal arc.

(...)

Source = http://goo.gl/fOZC6E }


Video of the destroyed tank

Al Nusra uses drones

An aerial presumably shot from an Al Nusra drone in Al Malikha, Damascus. 
That is, Al Nusra uses drones


Sunday, October 19, 2014

Advanced TOW sharp shooting while hunting a Syrian army BMP


ريف درعا ام المياذن الجيش الحر يدمر دبابة بصارخ تاو ضمن معركة اهل العزم 18 10 2014 جـ 2