American Elephants


The First Half of 2015 Has Been the Most Intense Period of Terrorist Plotting Since 9/11 by The Elephant's Child

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(The Imam Sadiq Mosque in Kuwait City after a suicide
bomber killed at least 25 Shiite worshipers at prayer)

Peter Brooks, senior fellow for national security affairs at the Heritage Foundation wrote today that: We have had nine terrorist plots this year in the United States. So far all of the plots in 2015 have had ties to ISIS off in Iraq and Syria, whether the plotters were direct (recruited by ISIS) or indirect (inspired by ISIS). FBI Director James Comey said in February, that his agency is investigating Islamic State-related cases in all 50 states.

They heavily use social media, using publicly available encryption found on the internet to chat in complete privacy. They can hide their computer IP addresses, and are moving over to the so-called “dark web” where a lot of very bad actors reside. Their technology is pretty good, their propaganda is increasingly capable of reaching and radicalizing those here who would do us harm.

In Britain, Lord Richards of Herstmonceux, the former Chief of the Defense Staff, has warned that Muslim extremism is a “real threat” to the world, and he condemned dithering politicians who are too reluctant to lead the way. He warned that a “hell of a lot of damage” is going to be wreaked by ISIS in coming years, and leaders are failing to plan properly. “I think the problem is that we have not seen that we need to approach the issue of Muslim extremism  as we might approach World War Two back in the Thirties.

He said “Right now, in the ranks of the armed forces, and the army in particular, are the most experienced, battle hardened people since the end of the Second World War.

Jihadists like anniversaries, so their three terror attacks took place on the eve of ISIS declaration of a caliphate last June 29. They only took  credit for one of the atrocities — a suicide bombing at a Shiite mosque in Kuwait, where 27 people were killed, but all going off at the same time.Ramadan began last week, and an ISIS spokesman called on “mujahadeen everywhere” to make it “a month of disasters for the infidels.”

In Tunisia, a gunman posing as a tourist  killed at least 37 people, most European vacationers at a beach resort. In France, a car-bombing attempt at an American-owned chemical plant near Lyon failed to cause major damage, but not before the attacker planted the decapitated head of his boss on the plant’s gate, along with an Islamic flag.

President Obama recently deployed 450 additional trainers to help the Iraqi army fight, but they aren’t getting enough Iraqi volunteers, which in the wake of ISIS drowning captives, removing heads, burning in cages is not really surprising when the Americans have such restrictive Rules of Engagement, and have demonstrated that they are undependable allies. ISIS is a direct threat to the West as well as to the region in general, and it needs to be dealt with that way.

Obama’s view of the Middle East and ISIS isn’t a policy for dealing with this problem. As he explained, he doesn’t have a complete strategy yet.  Little late in the game for developing one.



It Is Way Past Time to Call a Halt to this Pathetic Search for a Nuclear Deal. by The Elephant's Child

Obama’s Iran nuclear negotiations are coming down to the final days before a self-imposed deadline expires. The administration is desperately seeking support for its effort to make a deal at any price. Five of Obama’s closest advisers, members of his inner circle of advisers on Iran have signed a letter urging him to stand his ground for once. Iran’s parliament has voted that they will accept no inspections, none of their military sites will be open to inspectors at any time, and generally thumbed their noses at the U.S.

Obama came to office with an array of really big accomplishments he expected to make to place him in the list of the greatest presidents. Health Care was one. Ending the Iraq War, closing Gitmo, a Two-State Solution between Israel and Palestine, renewing relations with Cuba, and a nuclear deal with Iran. His list seems remarkably short on history and anything but the shallowest understanding of world affairs.

He badly wants a deal with Iran, and seems open to any concession that might enable him to get “a deal.” Sanctions have put Iran’s economy in a bind, exacerbated by the advent of “fracking” and America’s abundance of oil and natural gas — which, in turn, has significantly brought down the price of a barrel of oil, to less than the break-even cost for Iranian oil. It was the sanctions and pressure on Iran’s economy that brought them to the table in the first place.

The administration has long insisted that any nuclear deal will have no effect on American determination to stop Iran’s support for terrorism, their drive for nuclear weapons, and their regional ambitions. From Mr. Obama’s public statements, he apparently believes that the Iranians are just people like us, who essentially care about their families, and their claims of “Death to America” are just public relations ploys to keep the locals happy, or something like that. From Michael Ledeen:

The central theme in Obama’s outreach to Iran is his conviction that the United States has historically played a wicked role in the Middle East, and that the best things he can do for that part of the world is to limit and withdraw American military might and empower our self-declared enemies, whose hostility to traditional American policies he largely shares.

Obama has already lifted most of the sanctions that brought Iran to the table. Now he is ending some funding that annoys Iran. According to the Wall Street Journal, a Dubai-based Sri Lankan businessman was cited by President GW Bush as the :”chief financial officer and money launderer” for the nuclear-proliferation network of Pakistani scientist A.Q. Khan,  In 1994 or 1995, Mr. Khan asked Mr. Tahir to ship uranium centrifuges to Iran. The Bush Administration put Mr. Tahir on the U.S Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) list of sanctioned persons. The Treasury Department removed his name from that list on April 3, exactly one day after the framework agreement was announced.This delisting is intended to whitewash Iran’s illicit acquisition of centrifuges as having anything to do with a nuclear weapons program. Nothing to see here, just move on.

Iran’s ballistic missile program has long been considered as the most effective way to deliver a nuclear weapon, and the Administration pushed for U.N. sanctions on Iran’s missiles in 2010. When it came time to negotiate, however, the Administration gave in, as they did to most everything else, to Iran’s insistence that it would accept no missile limitations, thus separating the missile program and the nuclear program.

As the shape of the nuclear deal becomes clearer, it looks like a betrayal of our friends and a gift to a repugnant dictatorship, not to mention a real threat to America.

The Obama administration is unlikely to return to the previous goals of requiring Iran to dismantle its nuclear infrastructure or cease, even temporarily, its uranium enrichment. Nor is it likely to insist that Tehran alter non-nuclear policies such as support for terrorism and destabilizing regional activities in connection with a nuclear accord or as a condition for sanctions relief. These facts alone ensure that any nuclear deal will fall well short of longstanding U.S. goals and face significant opposition in Washington and among allies in the Middle East.

Today Iran is insisting the United States and world powers deliver more concessions at the negotiating table, including consenting to demands that any final nuclear agreement last less than 10 years.

Iran’s bid to pressure Western powers came amid reports that the United States promised in secret documents to deliver to Tehran “high-tech reactors and other state-of-the-art equipment” that would modernize and improve its nuclear program. This portion of the agreement appears to reverse decades of U.S. policy towards Iran.



Why Do They Seem To Be Barbarians from the Sixth Century? That is Their Aim! by The Elephant's Child
June 23, 2015, 9:27 pm
Filed under: History, Middle East, National Security, Terrorism | Tags: , , ,

isis

ISIS has released a new video showing the organization using new methods of killing its prisoners. They seem to be striving for the utmost in brutality, and of course, terrorism is supposed to strike terror in the hearts of its opponents. In the first segment, a group of men wearing orange jumpsuits are led into a desert clearing, and locked in an Opel car.  A masked jihadi appears carrying a huge grenade launcher. Fired from close range, the car bursts into flames, the car and its passengers are immolated.

In the second segment,the prisoners are interviewed, where they “confess” to their crimes. The five men are shown locked into an iron cage and slowly lowered into a swimming pool to drown. Underwater cameras capture them thrashing before falling unconscious. ( I hasten to add that I did not see the video, but report from descriptions)

In the third segment, the prisoners are interviewed, then led into a field, where explosive cables are tied around their necks. Seconds later the explosives are detonated. Several of the men are clearly decapitated while other suffer horrific, fatal upper body injuries.

Separately, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported on Monday that two boys well under the age of 18 were crucified by the Islamic State in the streets of the Syrian city of al-Mayadin for not observing the laws of Ramadan. Observatory founder Rami Abdul Rahman said the boys had been caught eating. The children were charged with the crime of “not fasting on Ramadan.” Their bodies had placards around their necks announcing their crime was committed “with no religious justification.”

Captured women have been offered as sex slaves as prizes for learning the most verses of the Koran. Westerners understandably find this almost impossible to comprehend. Why would anyone want to  return to the barbarianism of the sixth century? When the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeinei returned to Iran in 1979, the Peacock throne fell, and the exiled Shah was invited to take up residence in Egypt. The Ayatollah reframed the debate.

The establishment of the state of Israel was a shock to the Muslim world. Then came the 1967 war with Israel. After years of rhetorical attacks on Israel, Nasser demanded the removal of UN peacekeepers in the Sinai and then blockaded the Strait of Tiran to Israeli shipping.

Israel responded with an overwhelming preemptive attack that destroyed the entire Egyptian air force in two hours. When Jordan, Iraq and Syria joined the war against Israel, their air forces were also wiped out that same afternoon. In the next few days Israel captured all of the Sinai, Jerusalem, the West Bank and the Golan Heights, while crushing the forces of the frontline Arab states. It was a turning point in the history of the modern Middle East. The speed and decisiveness of the Israeli victory in the Six Day War humiliated many Muslims who had believed then that God favored their cause.They had lost not only their armies and their territories but also faith in their leaders, in their countries, and in themselves. The profound appeal of Islamic fundamentalism in Egypt and elsewhere was born in this shocking debacle. A newly strident voice was heard in the mosques; the voice said they had been defeated by a force far larger than the tiny country of Israel. God had turned against the Muslims. The only way back to Him was to return to the pure religion. The voice answered despair with a simple formulation: Islam is the solution. …

The voice in the mosque said that the Arabs had let go of the one weapon that gave them real power: faith. Restore the fervor and purity of the religion that had made the Arabs great, and God would once again take their side. …

Islamists say the Sharia cannot be improved upon, despite fifteen centuries of social change, because it arises directly from the mind of God. They want to bypass the long tradition of judicial opinion from Muslim scholars and forge a more authentically Islamic legal system that is untainted by Western influence or any improvisations caused by the engagement with modernity.*

   *Excerpts from The Looming Tower  by Lawrence Wright



It’s All Falling Apart. Chapter two. by The Elephant's Child
June 3, 2015, 5:28 pm
Filed under: Immigration, National Security, Terrorism | Tags: , ,

smart-gates

Representative Lamar Smith (R-TX) asked Department of Homeland Security officials to provide data on high-level threats that have managed to slip through visa screenings.. Specifically he asked for a percentage or exact figures on how many people labeled as potential risks have slipped through visa screenings. Officials could not supply an accurate number to the subcommittee.

The witnesses offered to submit data to the House Subcommittee on Border and Maritime Security on how they are deporting high-risk targets.

The exchange came as DHS announced that it will ramp up its overseas screening operations as a method of heading off attacks at home on Tuesday. The agency said it will add nine new pre-screening stations in 10 different countries. The officials said the agency has cargo screening stations in 60 ports in 32 countries.

These programs have increased security in American airports and shipping ports; now 36 percent of all travelers to the United States are prescreened, and 80 percent of maritime-cargo traffic is examined before entering port.

Alan Bersin, assistant secretary and chief diplomatic officer for DHS office of policy said ” In a global world, the idea of having borders on a map is a thing of the past. We don’t see the traditional borders: air, land, and sea, as the first signs of entry, but the last.”



It’s All Falling Apart. Chapter One by The Elephant's Child
June 3, 2015, 4:35 pm
Filed under: Intelligence, National Security, Terrorism | Tags: , ,

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It is all falling apart. Incompetence is demonstrably in charge. But there is a bright spot in the gloom. The Transportation Security Administration just demonstrated that even beyond the inconvenience, the personal degradation of humiliating whole-body scans or pat-downs, the efforts of the agency to keep us safe is a total flop. Ninety-five percent of explosives and weapons intentionally sent into the TSA detection apparatus went undetected. TSA has a success rate of a bare 5%! Kevin D. Williamson, who just gets better and better, takes the agency apart in a scathing column today. Do read the whole thing.

But the “bright spot”? The bright spot is that in an increasingly incompetent government, there is a “Red Team” testing the efficiency and efficacy of an agency tasked with keeping the nation safe. There was no cover-up. On Monday, the acting chief of the TSA, Melvin Carraway, was transferred to Homeland Security’s office of state and local law enforcement. imagesIt’s only a small bright spot, for Jeh Johnson, secretary of Homeland Security could not summon the gumption to just fire Carraway, but Carraway was reassigned. It is possible to embarrass the Obama administration.

Kevin Williamson also offers up the solution: Make the airlines corporately responsible for their own security, and put the airlines themselves in charge of screening. No one has a deeper concern about flight security.



A Curious And Appalling Agreement to Keep Talking by The Elephant's Child

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With many of the policies our president announces, you know it’s not going to work and I know it’s not going to work, so why is he doing it? I’m certainly not a psychoanalyst, and you probably aren’t either. Congressmen are quick to oppose something and say why, but the White House itself is very close-mouthed. I pay a lot of attention to Richard Epstein’s comments, because I’m a great admirer of Mr. Epstein, and I think he’s an unusually careful observer. (If you haven’t watched the video, it’s helpful if you are curious. Short segment at 20:36).

With all the news about the Iraq nuclear talks, it’s pretty clear that Sec. Kerry and Sec. Moniz have their marching orders. Obama wants a deal. So far the tentative agreement seems to be just what we laughed at for its absurdity. It’s an agreement to keep talking for a few more months, with some very disturbing guidelines. Neither side agrees to what the other said they agreed to.

“Negotiators have a tentative agreement on the rough outline of a possible public statement on the progress they have made so far that would also highlight areas of disagreement, diplomats close to the talks said.”

What I believe would be an acceptable deal bears no relationship to what Obama has in mind, and what he has in mind is frightening in its possible outcome. The questions multiply. (Epstein: He is very dogmatic in his essential positions, and does not change his mind.) But Obama said the Iranians want to be part of the community of nations, or something like that. Well, no, the mullahs have no interest in a community of nations, unless it is a restored Persian empire, and whatever the Iranian people want is of no concern. This is a theocracy, not a democracy. Obama has said Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei has issued a fatwa against the development of nuclear weapons. (No one anywhere can find any evidence of such a fatwa) From Raymond Ibrahim:

First, the Islamic doctrine of taqiyya permits Muslims to deceive non-Muslims. Islamic prophet Muhammad himself regularly lied to his infidel enemies, often resulting in their murder (such as the case of Ka‘b ibn Ashraf). He also proclaimed that lying was permissible in three contexts, one being war. Moreover, throughout the centuries and due to historic circumstances (discussed here), taqiyya became second nature to the Shia — the sect currently ruling Iran. …

Indeed, during a recent speech, supreme leader Khamenei — whose fatwa Obama is now citing — boasted about Iran’s uranium enrichment, even as his military commanders shouted, “Allah Akbar. Khamenei is the leader. Death to the enemies of the leadership. Death to America. Death to England. Death to hypocrites. Death to Israel.”

Back in October of 2008, Martin Kramer, President of Shalem College in Jerusalem wrote a primer on the Middle East for the new president. It’s long, but worth your while for understanding where Obama’s ideas about the Middle East came from, and why they are fixed and unassailable — and mistaken.

Here are a couple more excellent short pieces explaining the present situation. “This Is Not a Deal” by Abe Greenwald. And “The Tricks Obama Is Trying to Play with the Iran Announcement” by John Podhoretz, both from Commentary. And here’s “The Iran Deal’s Fatal Flaw” by Charles Duelfer from Politico.

People react differently to great policy changes or errors — some just don’t want to think about it, and others want to learn everything they can. Painful either way.



And So It Goes: by The Elephant's Child
RAMclr-022615-negotiations-WS-wide-IBD-Oped-extra-147.gif.cms(click to enlarge)



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