On outskirts of Baghdad, Islamic State’s advances raise tensions

ISIS-KurdsWashington Post (Oct 17) — About 14 miles from Baghdad International Airport, a mortar shell landed with a thud. A second followed, closer, and then a third struck across the Iraqi army’s lines, as the Islamic State militants zeroed in on their target.

The volley of mortar fire outside the Baghdad suburb of Abu Ghraib this week was not unusual in itself; Islamic State fighters and the Iraqi army have regularly exchanged fire in this area for months. But now, officials worry that gains by the extremist group in neighboring Anbar province will provide momentum for an assault on the outskirts of the capital.

Mortar shells fired by the Islamic State have already fallen in central Baghdad in recent weeks, and suicide bombings have picked up pace — a wave of blasts killed at least 50 people in and around Baghdad on Thursday, local media reported. While the army is holding its ground around the capital’s perimeter, Abu Ghraib is seen as a weak point, and sympathy for the radical fighters is growing here, residents say, because of the heavy-handed actions of Shiite militias.

Despite U.S. and allied airstrikes intended to crush them, the Sunni extremists have been steadily consolidating power in the majority-Sunni province to the west. Islamic State fighters continued to advance Thursday, closing in on the Anbar town of Amriyat al-Fallujah, one of the last in the province still controlled by the government. Local officials begged the government to send reinforcements, warning that the town could be overrun in a matter of hours.

‘The gate of Baghdad’

“If Anbar falls, it’s going to have a huge impact, for us and all Baghdad,” Gen. Ali al-Majidi, a commander with the Iraqi army’s 6th Division, said Tuesday as he visited troops on the front line near Abu Ghraib. “This is the gate of Baghdad; if they took this area, they could mortar the airport.”

Iraqi officials complain that media reports claiming that the Islamic State has advanced on Baghdad through Abu Ghraib are inflammatory. But there is no doubt the security situation around the capital is precarious.

On Oct. 1, four mortar shells struck inside the Green Zone, a fortified area in central Baghdad filled with foreign embassies and government buildings, according to a U.S. Embassy security official, who declined to be identified. The rounds fell a few hundred yards from the U.S. Embassy and followed another mortar attack a week earlier, he said.

Brig. Gen. Saad Maan, spokesman for Baghdad Operations Command, confirmed that mortar fire had hit inside the Green Zone but said the shells landed on “empty space without any buildings.” He declined to give further details but said an investigation was underway to determine its source. He stressed that there have been no further incidents.

But Islamic State mortaring is becoming increasingly frequent, with five rounds targeting the Shiite neighborhood of Shula on Thursday, according to security officials. The Shiite neighborhood of Kadhimiyah has also come under mortar fire in recent weeks…

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Group claims ISIS has taken to the air

isis-syria-pilots-training.siCBS News (Oct 18) — A new report says the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) militants are taking to the sky.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), a U.K.-based organization which relies on an extensive network of sources and activists inside Syria, claims defected Iraqi military officers are teaching members of the terror group how to fly three commandeered fighter jets.

SOHR’s sources say jets have been seen flying low over Syria’s province, reports CBS News correspondent Holly Williams. ISIS did overrun and seize control of the al-Jarah air base in rural Aleppo, but it isn’t clear how long ago.

“The people who live in the nearby areas of the airbase of al Jarrah informed SOHR activists that they saw a warplane taking off from al Jarrah airbase and flying at a low altitude over the area. It is worth mentioning that it is not the first time that the people witness an aircraft flying at a low altitude after taking off from al Jarrah airbase,” said SOHR in its online report.

However, the U.S. military said on Friday it was unaware of ISIS flying fighter jets “in Syria or elsewhere,” Reuters reported.

“We continue to keep a close eye on ISIL activity in Syria and Iraq and will continue to conduct strikes against their equipment, facilities, fighters and centers of gravity, wherever they may be,” said Central Command spokesman Colonel Patrick Ryder, using another acronym for ISIS.

The Syrian army has reportedly conducted airstrikes on the facility in recent days, which could explain some of the reports of low-flying aircraft.

The claim from the SOHR comes a day after a series of terror attacks in the Iraqi capital of Baghdad, where ISIS militants are still inflicting deadly damage.

At least 50 people were killed in the Iraqi capital Thursday in a series of car bombs carried out by ISIS, as well as a mortar attack on a residential area.

In Syria, however, the battle for the key border town of Kobani has taken a new turn.

Just a few days ago ISIS was in control of a third of the town, but after intense U.S.-led airstrikes, including 53 over the last three days, there are reports that the militants are retreating.

Local Syrian fighters tell us they’ve begun coordinating the airstrikes with the U.S.

Kobani is strategically important — it lies on the Turkish-Syrian border which is a conduit for smuggled weapons and fighters. But it’s also become a very public test of whether U.S.-led airstrikes can be effective in halting the advance of ISIS militants.

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What Naval Battle Happened on This Day Over 400 Years Ago That Buck Sexton Says ‘Cannot’ Be Forgotten?

TheBlaze (Oct 8) — You may not know about the Battle of Lepanto, but TheBlaze Radio’s Buck Sexton believes it ”belongs in the pantheon of great victories alongside Marathon, Actium, Waterloo [and] Yorktown.”

On Tuesday, Sexton aired a two-hour special on the naval battle, saying Americans cannot allow it to be forgotten.

“Some have said it is the most important naval battle in history,” he said. “And yet it has faded away in our modern memories like an ancient shipwreck, slowly breaking apart and disintegrating beneath the endless rhythmic pull of the warm Mediterranean sea above.”

“We cannot allow it to be forgotten. We will not,” he said. “Gather around, for I wish to tell you a tale. Today, October 7th, is the anniversary of the Battle of Lepanto — a gargantuan struggle on the sea that changed the course of events in the 16th century.”

Sexton explained that at the Battle of Lepanto, Christendom was saved “from extinction at the hands of the Islamic conquest.”

On Oct. 7, 1571, the united fleet of Christendom “risked all against the vast military hordes of the Ottoman Empire” off the coast of Greece, he said.

“The victor-take-all struggle — cross against crescent, jihad against crusade — was a fight for domination of the Mediterranean,” Sexton continued. “And with it, the naval and commercial power that would come to define the world for centuries.”

“Lepanto — a day when the fate of the West, and thus the world — was decided,” Sexton remarked. “And it all rested on the shoulders of the dashing, illegitimate son of the Holy Roman Emperor — one of the central heroes of our tale — Don Juan of Austria.”

Sexton told TheBlaze he chose to do a special on the naval battle because of its historical significance, but also because it “raises troubling questions that are still very relevant today given the growth of the so-called Islamic State and violence across the Middle East.”

“That the forces of the Christian West banded together to defeat the largest caliphate in history is a story everyone should know,” he said. “And now with our special presentation of the Buck Sexton Show on October 7th — they will.”

Listen to the complete special here.

Report: Beheading Plot Disrupted After Police Arrest Four Islamic Terrorists in London

U.K. Telegraph defense editor Con Coughlin appears on Fox News October 7, 2014. (Photo: Fox News)

U.K. Telegraph defense editor Con Coughlin appears on Fox News October 7, 2014. (Photo: Fox News)

TheBlaze (Oct 7) — Police in London have arrested four suspected Islamic terrorists in several raids throughout the British capital, and U.K. Telegraph defense editor Con Coughlin told Fox News that a plot to behead Londoners may have been foiled.

“This is a breaking story here in London, but the material that we have from Scotland Yard and the intelligence services is they have uncovered the first ISIS plot here in the U.K.,” Coughlin said on Fox News. “Basically, British jihadists coming back to London and wanting to carry out a plot, and I’m told the plot was to behead people on the streets of London.”

Police said Tuesday the four suspects are aged 20 and 21, and they were arrested on suspicion of preparing or instigating acts of terrorism.

“What I’m told about this plot is this group did recently come back from Syria, was planning to carry out beheadings — I say plural — on the streets of London in the next few days or so,” Coughlin remarked, adding that the situation is still fluid and the information may change.

The suspects remain in custody, and homes and vehicles in west and central London are being searched as part of what police called an ongoing investigation into Islamic-related terrorism.

The terror threat in the U.K. was recently raised to “severe” because of the increase in the number of Britons traveling to Syria to join up with the Islamic State group. The government has said the militant group plans to strike targets inside Britain.

Video from Fox News here.

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“Twice as many’ UK Muslims fighting for Islamic State than in UK armed forces

isis-video-still[1]JihadWatch.org – This is the fruit of the clueless and craven British authorities’ naive and suicidal assumption that all the Muslims in Britain, with the exception of a tiny minority of “extremists,” were all secular pluralists and loyal subjects of the British crown. They partnered with pro-Sharia, pro-jihad groups. They demonized foes of jihad terror and banned them from the country. Now they are just beginning to reap what they have sown for so many years.

“‘Twice as Many’ British Muslims Fighting for ISIS Than in UK Armed Forces,” by Madeline Grant and Damien Sharkov, Newsweek, August 20, 2014:

There are now more than twice as many British Muslims fighting for Islamic State than there are serving in the British armed forces, according to a British Member of Parliament (MP).

Khalid Mahmood, the MP for Perry Barr in Birmingham, estimates that at least 1,500 young British Muslims have been recruited by extremists fighting in Iraq and Syria in the last three years.

Mahmood told Newsweek that this figure had been building since the start of the Syrian conflict: “If you look across the whole of the country, and the various communities involved, 500 going over each year would be a conservative estimate.”

According to the Ministry of Defence, there are only around 600 British Muslims currently serving in the Armed Forces, making up approximately around 0.4% of total personnel. 4.3% of the British population are Muslim.

The UK Foreign Office said that they believe over 400 individuals have travelled to Syria since the uprising began, but said that they could not give exact numbers.

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Islamic State jihadists are using water as a weapon in Iraq

TS-Nic6367352-16871[1]Washington Post (Oct 7) — The Islamic State militants who have rampaged across northern Iraq are increasingly using water as a weapon, cutting off supplies to villages that resist their rule and pressing to expand their control over the country’s water infrastructure.

The threat is so critical that U.S. forces are bombing the jihadists close to the Mosul and Haditha dams — Iraq’s largest — on a near-daily basis. But the radical Islamists continue to menace both facilities, clashing Tuesday with Iraqi troops near the Haditha Dam.

The Sunni militants want to seize the dams to bolster their claim that they are building an actual state. They have already taken over large swaths of Iraq and Syria and, as part of their latest offensive, have been besieging the Syrian town of Kobane in an effort to secure another piece of the border with Turkey. The U.S.-led coalition escalated its airstrikes Tuesday around Kobane, blunting the assailants’ offensive.

Controlling the dams is important because of their role in irrigating the country’s vast wheat fields and providing Iraqis with electricity. More ominously, the Islamic State has used its control of other water facilities — including as many as four dams along the Tigris and Euphrates rivers — to displace communities or deprive them of crucial water supplies.

The Islamic State “understands how powerful water is as a tool, and they are not afraid to use it,” said Michael Stephens, a Middle East expert at the Royal United Services Institute, a London-based security studies think tank.

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China and Iran to Conduct Joint Naval Exercises in the Persian Gulf

13920929000205_PhotoINY Times (Sep 21) — Two Chinese warships have docked at Iran’s principal naval port for the first time in history, Iranian admirals told state television on Sunday, adding that both countries would conduct four days of joint naval exercises.

On Sunday, Xinhua, the official Chinese news agency, reported that Chinese Navy ships involved in protecting shipping in the Gulf of Aden stopped at an Iranian port on Saturday for a “friendly visit.” One of the vessels was the Changchun, a guided-missile destroyer, the report said.

The news agency posted images of one of the destroyers docking in the port of Bandar Abbas, where it was given a military welcome.

The Iranian and Chinese Navies were scheduled to start joint exercises on Monday, focusing on rescue missions, Iranian news media reported. China has been expanding the areas where its navy operates, most recently joining the effort to fight piracy in the Gulf of Aden and off the coast of Somalia.

The visit to Bandar Abbas is an example of the growing ties between China and Iran. China is already the principal buyer of Iranian oil, and Iran uses much of the profit to buy Chinese products, deals complicated by the international sanctions over Iran’s nuclear program.

The website of the Chinese Navy reported that this was the first visit to Iran by Chinese naval ships. The report did not mention any joint exercises.

A Chinese fleet commander, Rear Adm. Huang Xinjian, said the visit was intended to “deepen mutual understanding, and to enhance exchanges between our two countries’ navies.”

“I’m sure that this visit will encourage the constant advancement of friendly cooperation between our two countries’ navies,” Admiral Huang added.

His Iranian counterparts said drills would focus on safety at sea and the fight against piracy.

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ISIS Will Try for Tunisia Next

Tunisia is one night’s rapid sail from Italy and the situation there is beginning to resemble that of Iraq and Syria.

By Dr. Mordechai Kedar for IsraelNationalNews.com (Oct 7) —

Dr. Mordechai Kedar is a senior lecturer in the Department of Arabic at Bar-Ilan University. He served in IDF Military Intelligence for 25 years, specializing in Arab political discourse, Arab mass media, Islamic groups and the Syrian domestic arena.

Dr. Mordechai Kedar is a senior lecturer in the Department of Arabic at Bar-Ilan University. He served in IDF Military Intelligence for 25 years, specializing in Arab political discourse, Arab mass media, Islamic groups and the Syrian domestic arena.

… Tunisia’s Interior Minister, Loutfi ben Jaddo, revealed that Al Qaeda has given its fighters in North Africa instructions to eliminate, yes, eliminate anyone who attempts to bring the idea of Islamic State to the region, whose control by Al Qaeda was unchallenged up to now. This echoes the bloody dispute going on between Jabhat al Nusra and Al Qaeda in Syria, a dispute whose victims are also the ordinary citizens that each attempts to entice to its side. The Tunisian government, and that of Jihad adherents, is convinced that a similar struggle on their soil will lead to mass murders as it has in Syria – not limited to the Tunisian borders with Libya in the east and Algeria in the west, but also inside the poverty stricken suburbs of its cities, whose residents are highly fundamentalist.

The most well known names among Al Qaeda supporters in the area are Abd al-malik Durkedal the Algerian and Louqman Abu Sakhr, the Tunisian. To their happiness, Islamic State has not officially declared its presence in Tunisia, but there are signs that more and more people are sympathetic to that entity. This is deduced from social media, where praise and awe at Islamic States’ accomplishments in Iraq and Syria are being posted, along with expressions identifying with its goals and the means used to achieve them.

The most immediate danger facing Tunisia comes from the hundreds of Tunisians who have returned from the Jihad fields of Syria and Iraq, having gained much experience in explosives, mine laying, terror and butchery, as well as being provided with additional training in the Libyan Jihad camps. If these returnees join Uqba ibn Nafi, they will turn it into the Tunisian branch of Islamic State. It is quite possible that this has already happened, because there has been a report that the Uqba ibn Nafi brigade has sworn allegiance to Abu Bakr, calling on him to “advance, cross the borders and destroy the thrones of the infidel despots everywhere.”

The Tunisian government has been fighting the Brigade from the day it began its activity in the mountainous areas on the Tunisian-Algerian border, especially Mount Ash-Shaʿnabī and succeeded in killing tens of soldiers and policemen. Destroying the organization is especially important in light of the government’s plans to hold parliamentary and presidential elections in October and November of this year.

… The Tunisian government is not a dictatorship, but it is in the main a game of political democracy, one in which the players are political parties, some of them secular liberals, some religious Islamic, with many of the politicians themselves steeped in corruption. That makes the system vulnerable and apt to crumble, and is the reason political crises have been frequent since President Ben Ali was deposed in January 2011.

Tunisia’s economy is shaky so that many sectors feel that democracy has not improved their personal and financial situations. The secular public still identifies with the country to a large extent, but those sectors closer to Islam tend to accept the Islamic solution to the ills of society and nation. The daylight between the Islamic solution and the Al Qaeda and Islamic State’s solution shrinks as the political crises which plague Tunisia last longer and longer.

It is unclear if the West can help the Tunisian government at this point, beyond providing secret intelligence data on the progress of Jihadist organizations. Any obvious Western aid weakens the already limited legitimacy of the government in the eyes of those loyal to Islam. It is, however, quite clear that if the government fails in its struggle against the Jihadists – whether Al Qaeda or Islamic State – the West will be drawn into the resulting chaos just as it was into the predatory swamp of Iraq and Syria.

The danger that Tunisia poses to Europe is in no small part due to its proximity to that continent, and an armed terrorist boat can reach Italy from Tunisia in one night’s rapid sailing. European intervention in Tunisia will take place much earlier than serious intervention in Syria or Iraq, which is why the Tunisian arena may turn out to be even more incendiary than that of Syria and Iraq.

Without doubt, the time has come to rewrite the rules of war and the international agreements that stand at the foundations of international law regarding conflict management. These were decided on when the world talked in terms of armies and nations, and they are irrelevant in the present wars, in which a modern nation finds itself fighting militias using methods taken from the seventh century.

Noble Ideas such as “distancing the war from civilians”, “human rights of fighters”, “the treatment of prisoners” that were laid down in post World War Europe have lost their relevancy in recent years. Most of the wars fought in the past twenty years were against organizations not subject to international law and unaffected by it. These militias attempt to paralyze the organized armed forces facing them, who,forced to battle fighters in civilian clothing who hide in populated areas, are prevented from hitting them effectively because of their extreme sensitivity to the possibility of harming peaceful citizens.

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ISIS’s Gruesome Muslim Death Toll

Daily Beast (Oct 7) — The group’s killing of Westerners gets attention. But ISIS has killed far more Muslims, and publicizing that fact would harm it more.

Last Thursday, the United Nations released a report that could provide us with one of the keys to defeating ISIS. Unfortunately, it received almost zero media attention.

What makes this 26-page report (PDF) so powerful is that it describes to us the gruesome circumstances in which ISIS has killed fellow Muslims. We are talking beheadings, killing of women for objecting to ISIS’ policies, and executing Sunni Muslim clerics for refusing to swear allegiance to ISIS.

Why is this important? This information can hopefully help dissuade other Muslims from joining or financially supporting ISIS. And it may even persuade other Muslim countries to join or increase their efforts in fighting ISIS. The reason being that slaughtering fellow Muslims is seen as universally wrong across the Muslim world and as a violation of Islamic values. In fact, Al Qaeda has even publicly criticized ISIS for this very conduct.

Now the report also details ISIS’ horrific actions against Christians, Yazidis, and other minorities. But these events—along with the grisly beheadings of American journalists and Western aid workers- have been covered extensively by our media.

The killing of Muslims has not, and part of the reason may be because we lacked facts surrounding those events. After all, ISIS releases videos of its gruesome actions that it wants the world media to discuss but doesn’t publicize events it understands can hurt its cause.

This report changes that. It provides us with evidence we were missing about the specifics of ISIS’ actions towards Muslims. This investigation, undertaken by UN’s Human Rights Office together with the UN’s Assistance Mission for Iraq, conducted more than 500 interviews with witnesses and visited locations across Iraq to examine how many civilians were killed in Iraq between July and September of this year.

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Massive blast reported at suspected Iranian nuke facility

Two reportedly killed in explosion at secretive Parchin site that shatters windows 12 kilometers away.

2004 satellite image of the military complex at Parchin, Iran

2004 satellite image of the military complex at Parchin, Iran

Times of Israel (Oct 7) — TEHRAN, Iran — Two people were killed in an explosion at a defense ministry plant east of Tehran for the production of explosives, Iran’s state news agency IRNA reported Monday.

The Defense Industries Organisation, quoted by IRNA, said the fire broke out at the plant on Sunday night but it gave no further details.

The BBC, citing a report from the semi-official Iranian Students News Agency (ISNA), reported on Monday that the incident happened in an “explosive materials production unit” at the site south-east of the capital Tehran.

According to ISNA the blast was so powerful it shattered windows up to 12 kilometers away and the glare from the explosion lit up the night sky.

Several arms facilities and military bases are located east of the Iranian capital, including Parchin. UN nuclear inspectors have been seeking to visit the site to answer concerns about Iran’s atomic program.

The base lies at the centre of allegations of past Iranian research into sophisticated explosives that can be used to detonate a nuclear warhead.

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9/11 terrorists caught testing airport security months before attacks

Mohamed Atta (right) and Abdulaziz Alomari pass through airport security on Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2001, at Portland International Jetport.

Mohamed Atta (right) and Abdulaziz Alomari pass through airport security on Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2001, at Portland International Jetport.

NY Post (Oct 5) — At least three eyewitnesses spotted al Qaeda hijackers casing the security checkpoints at Boston’s Logan Airport months before the 9/11 attacks. They saw something and said something — but were ignored, newly unveiled court papers reveal.

One of the witnesses, an American Airlines official, actually confronted hijacking ringleader Mohamed Atta after watching him videotape and test a security checkpoint in May 2001 — four months before he boarded the American Airlines flight that crashed into the World Trade Center.

The witness alerted security, but authorities never questioned the belligerent Egyptian national or flagged him as a threat.

“I’m convinced that had action been taken after the sighting of Atta, the 9/11 attacks, at least at Logan, could have been deterred,” said Brian Sullivan, a former FAA special agent who at the time warned of holes in security at the airport.

The three Boston witnesses were never publicly revealed, even though they were interviewed by the FBI and found to be credible. Their names didn’t even appear as footnotes in the 9/11 commission report.

But what they testified to seeing — only revealed now as part of the discovery in a settled 9/11 wrongful-death suit against the airlines and the government — can only be described as chilling.

… The eyewitness accounts surfaced in a lawsuit brought by the family of Mark Bavis, a Los Angeles Kings hockey scout who died in one of the hijacked Boston flights. Because the case was settled in 2011 for several million dollars and never went to trial, the evidence never aired in open court.

Over the objections of federal authorities, the Bavis lawyers later made the risky decision to dump the FBI interviews and deposition transcripts into the public archives.

The testimony is expected to factor prominently in another 9/11 lawsuit brought against the airlines by the owner of World Trade Center Properties. That case, which is on appeal, is expected to be heard next year.

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Islamic State presses offensives in Iraq, Syria; defenders call for more airstrikes

ISIS brutalityWashington Post (Oct 2) — Islamic State fighters pressed their assault on two key towns in Syria and Iraq on Thursday as defenders on both fronts prepared for possible street-by-street battles and appealed for intensified U.S.-led airstrikes, reports and witnesses said.

The two showdowns — in the Euphrates River town of Hit in Iraq and the strategic Syrian crossroads of Kobane near the Turkish border — suggest that the Islamic State retains enough firepower and command structure to make continued gains despite weeks of airstrikes by Western and Arab nations.

The clashes also have exposed weaknesses among the ground forces trying to blunt the extremist group’s push. Such worries have been raised in Turkey, whose parliament Thursday gave the green light for possible military intervention in the two neighboring countries.

Turkey, which has a vast and well-equipped military, had previously sent reinforcements to the border but had remained on the sidelines of the international coalition fighting the Islamic State. The parliament’s nod to an active Turkish role in the fight could mark a significant shift in tactics.

In Syria’s northern Kurdish region, Islamic State militants appeared to be moving closer to the border town of Kobane, which has been under near-constant attack for more than two weeks. The battles have sent more than 160,000 people fleeing to Turkey or seeking safety in enclaves outside the group’s reach.

A senior Syrian Kurdish commander, Ismet Sheik Hasan, said forces defending Kobane were digging in for possible urban combat in the event that Islamic State fighters breach the last lines ringing the town, also known in Arabic as Ayn al-Arab.

The U.S. military said the United States and partner nations launched four airstrikes against the Islamic State in Syria on Wednesday and Thursday.

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Armed contractor with criminal record was on elevator with Obama in Atlanta

Obama_Ebola-0d8ec-6713Washington Post (Oct 2) — A security contractor with a gun and three convictions for assault and battery was allowed on an elevator with President Obama during a Sept. 16 trip to Atlanta, violating Secret Service protocols, according to three people familiar with the incident.

Obama was not told about the lapse in his security, these people said. The Secret Service director, Julia Pierson, asked a top agency manager to look into the matter but did not refer it to an investigative unit that was created to review violations of protocol and standards, according to two people familiar with the handling of the case who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

The incident, which took place when Obama visited the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to discuss the U.S. response to the Ebola crisis, rattled Secret Service agents assigned to the president’s protective detail.

The private contractor first aroused the agents’ concerns when he acted oddly and did not comply with their orders to stop using a cellphone camera to record the president in the elevator, according to the people familiar with the incident.

When the elevator opened, Obama left with most of his Secret Service detail. Some agents stayed behind to question the man and then used a national database check that turned up his criminal history.

When a supervisor from the firm providing security at the CDC approached and discovered the agents’ concerns, the contractor was fired on the spot. Then the contractor agreed to turn over his gun — surprising agents, who had not realized that he was armed during his encounter with Obama.

Extensive screening is supposed to keep people with weapons or criminal histories out of arm’s reach of the president. But it appears that this man, possessing a gun, came within inches of the president after undergoing no such screening.

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Israelis ponder uniqueness of Khorasan terror threat

Experts say group, which US contends may be as dangerous as Islamic State, is just one of dozens of jihadi offshoots

nusraTimes of Israel (Oct 2) — Reading the reports issued from US intelligence officials in recent days about the Khorasan Group, which has come under US aerial attack, one would be entitled to the belief that an elite undercover cell of terrorists under the direct command of al-Qaeda’s leader was posted to Syria, a jihadi safe haven, solely in order to incubate and hatch a mega terror plan against a Western state.

Army Lt. Gen. William C. Mayville Jr., director of operations for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told a group of reporters last week that the group, whose leader was apparently killed in airstrikes last week, was in the “final stages of plans to execute major attacks against Western targets and potentially the U.S. homeland.”

James R. Clapper Jr., the director of national intelligence, asserted that “in terms of threat to the homeland, Khorasan may pose as much of a danger” as the Islamic State.

Former Israeli intelligence officials have been more circumspect. They did not dispute the potential danger of radicalized Western jihadi operatives training in Syria, but asserted that the so-called Khorasan Group was squarely part of al-Qaeda. Most believe that the organization was not particularly unique but was rather just another one of the hundred or so Sunni jihadi groups operating in the Hobbesian hell of Syria.

“They are not something else. They are not a different organization,” said Brig. Gen. (res) Nitzan Nuriel, a former head of the Counter-Terrorism Bureau in the Prime Minister’s Office. “It’s not that they said our task is to target America and that’s it. It’s not at all like that.”

Nuriel likened the diversity of the jihadist groups in Syria to the myriad ultra-Orthodox sects in Israel. “The difference between the groups is minor, mere nuance,” said Nuriel, a senior researcher at the IDC Herzliya’s International Institute for Counter-Terrorism.
He described a situation in which an individual who is “number five or six” in the hierarchy of a certain organization breaks away, often for reasons of prestige, and starts his own affiliate.

In the case of the Khorasan Group, which is part and parcel of al-Qaeda Central, the name is rich in the central ingredient necessary for most forms of fundamentalism: nostalgia. Khorosan was a region in eastern Iran and western Afghanistan and Pakistan. The Washington Post noted that the region, which was part of the early Islamic culture in the 7th century, was discussed in a disputed Hadith that speaks of how “black banners will come out of Khorasan” in the end of days.

Nuriel said it is likely that many of the members of Khorasan are indeed from that region. The war in Afghanistan is a low scale conflict, he said, and al-Qaeda surely felt that it could organize a group of them under a local banner and bring them to Syria, where the Islamic State has eclipsed al-Qaeda’s supremacy in the battle against Bashar Assad and, crucially, in the battle for jihadist public opinion.

In illustrating the slight shades of difference between many of the jihadist groups operating in Syria, Nuriel said that, for instance, the sole difference between al-Qaeda and Islamic State is that the former wants to wage jihad in order to establish a caliphate and the latter wants to do both simultaneously. In fact, according to a report in the al Hayat daily, a group of fighters from the Nusra Front – al Qaeda’s official branch in Syria – swore allegiance to the Islamic State in Bukamal, near the Iraqi border, in late June.

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Analysis of the Israeli PM’s Speech: Vintage Netanyahu

Netanyahu always places the focus first and foremost on security; He sees his historic role as leader of Israel not necessarily as being the one who will bring peace.

Watch the full speech here:

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The Jerusalem Post (Sep 30) — Netanyahu stood on the world’s grandest stage on Monday and delivered three key messages: Israel’s fight is your fight, the time has come to retire the 20-year-old template of direct negotiations with the Palestinians as the path to peace, and that his main historic role is to defend the Jewish state.

The speech was vintage Netanyahu. It had passion, it had soaring rhetorical flourishes, it had sarcasm. It even had a contemporary reference to retiring New York Yankees legend Derek Jeter.

And, finally, it had an appraisal of how Netanyahu views his role as a leader.

Toward the end of the speech, Netanyahu said that some in the world do not take Israel’s security concerns seriously.

“But I do, and I always will,” he said. “Because as prime minister of Israel I am entrusted with the awesome responsibility of ensuring the future of the Jewish people and the future of the Jewish state. And no matter what pressure is brought to bear, I will never waiver in fulfilling that responsibility.”

That theme has been woven more than anything else through all of Netanyahu’s major addresses. Some leaders, like Yitzhak Rabin and Ehud Olmert, saw their ultimate role as being a peacemaker, and emphasized that in their keynote addresses.

Not Netanyahu. He always places the focus first and foremost on security. He sees his historic role as leader of Israel not necessarily as being the one who will bring peace, but rather the one who will ensure the country’s security, even if it means taking positions unpopular around the world to do so. One such position may be his signal Monday that he now prefers partnership with the Arab world as a way to reach some kind of accommodation with the Palestinians, rather than negotiations and peace with the Palestinians as the ticket to rapprochement with the Arab world.

In the role he envisions for himself as the defender of the Jewish people and the Jewish state, Netanyahu sees it as his responsibility to sound the warning loudly and clearly about the incoming storms.

He did that in his addresses to the UN in 2012 and 2013, focusing on Iran, and he did it again Monday.

This time the storm had two names: Iran and militant Islamic radicalism.

Knowing full well the world in which he lives, Netanyahu tried to draw parallels between Islamic State, which has the world up in arms, with the Islamic state of Iran, which he fears the world is willing to give a pass. Though there might be differences in their theological approach, he stressed, the aim is the same: world domination.

Netanyahu sees it as his role to shout from the mountain tops about the incoming storms. And he artfully shouted about them Monday at the UN. And if the world does not heed his warnings, he had another message as well – one that also always props up in his keynote addresses: Israel will always defend itself, by itself, against any threat.

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Netanyahu at the UN: Arab world beginning to see common interests with Israel

Netanyahu at UN

Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu holds up a photograph as he addresses the 69th United Nations General Assembly. (Photo: Reuters)

The Jerusalem Post (Sep 29) —  Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu addressed the UN general assembly on Monday in New York and warned the crowd of the threat of radical militant Islam.

He said that the Arab world, for the first time, was beginning to recognize the benefit in aligning themselves with Israel and seeing they have a common enemy.

He also said that he is willing to make a “historic compromise” with the Palestinians.

The prime minister spoke in his speech of the correlation between Hamas and ISIS, saying the two are “branches from the same poisonous tree.”

He warned that the escalation of the radical groups is similar to that of the Nazi’s and continued to warn about Iran, saying that Iran is not actually willing to give up nuclear weapons, rather just wants to get rid of the sanctions against them.

Netanyahu then spoke about Operation Protective Edge, saying that the IDF is the most moral army in the world.

Netanyahu said that Israel “faced a propaganda war because in an attempt to gain sympathy, Hamas used human shields, homes and hospitals to fire rockets at Israel while Israel surgically struck military targets.”

He said that Israel took steps to minimize civilian casualties and that “Palestinians were tragically and unintentionally killed. Israel was not targeting citizens.”

Prior to leaving for the US on Sunday, Netanyahu said that his speech would “deflect all the lies about us, and tell the truth about the heroic soldiers of the IDF, the most moral army in the world.”

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Priest tells UNHRC to ‘end witch hunt’ of Israel

Israeli Arab Father Gabriel Naddaf says the Jewish state ‘is the only place where Christians in the Middle East are safe’

Father-Naddaf-Speech-PhotoTimes of Israel (Sep 23) — Greek Orthodox priest from Israel defended the Jewish state before the UN Human Rights Council on Tuesday, arguing that it is the only country in the Middle East where Christians are not persecuted, and imploring the 47 member nations to “end your witch hunt of the only free country in the region.”

“In the Middle East today, there is one country where Christianity is not only not persecuted, but affectionately granted freedom of expression, freedom of worship and security,” Father Gabriel Naddaf said.

“It is Israel, the Jewish state. Israel is the only place where Christians in the Middle East are safe.”

According to Naddaf, some 120,000 Christians have been killed each year in the Middle East for the last decade. “That means that every five minutes a Christian is killed because of his faith,” he said. “Those who can escape persecution at the hands of Muslim extremists have fled. Those who remain, exist as second- if not third-class citizens to their Muslim rulers.”

Naddaf, who heads the Greek Orthodox Church in Yafia near Nazareth, maintained it “is time the world woke up to the fact that those who want to destroy the Jewish state are signing the death warrant on the last free Christians in the Holy Land.

“Leaders of people, seekers of peace, end your witch hunt of the only free country in the region,” he added.

Naddaf was brought to Geneva to testify on the plight of Christian minorities by The Face of Israel, a public diplomacy organization that’s affiliated with the Foreign Ministry.

Naddaf has become a controversial figure in Israel since joining the Forum for Drafting the Christian Community in October 2012 and for openly calling on Israel Christians to serve in the IDF. His activities have drawn criticism from Arab MKs as well as threats against his family.

In December 2013, his son was assaulted and hospitalized because of his father’s views.

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Israel says Iran used Parchin military site for testing nuclear detonation technology

Reuters (Sep 24) —  Israel said on Wednesday that Iran has used its Parchin military base as the site for secret tests of technology that could be used only for detonating a nuclear weapon.

The Jewish state has been a severe critic of six big powers’ negotiations with Iran on restraining its nuclear program, suspecting Tehran is only trying to buy time to master sensitive nuclear know-how and would evade the terms of any final deal.

The Islamic Republic says allegations that it is seeking a nuclear weapons capability are false and baseless. Tehran says it is Israel’s assumed atomic arsenal that is a destabilizing threat to the Middle East.

A statement from Intelligence Minister Yuval Steinitz, issued a day before Iranian President Hassan Rouhani – the architect of Tehran’s diplomacy with the big powers – was to address the UN General Assembly, said internal neutron sources such as uranium were used in nuclear implosion tests at Parchin.

Israel, his statement said, based its information on “highly reliable information,” without elaborating.

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