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Update on Terrorist Organization Known as Islamic State!

Interesting Article: "US Missed Chances to Head Off Islamic State" by  Travis J. Tritten-Stars and Stripes, Published Thursday, July 24th, 2014.

An interesting article mentioned that the Obama administration missed key opportunities over the past six months to beat back the Islamic State assault on Iraq with targeted drone strikes. The Islamic State successes, first in Syria and now in Iraq, have left the group flush with cash, weapons, territory and fighters, and caused widespread concern of a new Islamist safe haven that could be used to stage terrorist attacks against the United States. The U.S. has ramped up intelligence gathering, military advising and diplomatic efforts within Iraq over the past two months as the group took much of the north and threatened the capital, Baghdad. Would you like to know more?

Hundreds of military advisers have also been sent to assist the Baghdad government, and U.S. warships have moved into the Arabian Gulf, however, the current administration strategy favors strengthening Iraq’s government over using U.S. military power to defeat the Islamist forces. The issue is that as time goes by, we are seeing a threat exponentially grow in the middle east, without a clear end, and without a clear way to defeat and destroy current and future members of these extremists organizations.

The Islamic State's actions across Iraq and Syria are gaining so much momentum, that it is hard to see a quick end to this group. The Sunni insurgents, who have declared a caliphate in parts of Iraq and Syria and have threatened to march on Baghdad. The insurgents, formerly called the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), have been systematically stamping out any religious or cultural influences they deem non-Islamic since their lightning sweep through the north.

For example, in Iraq, militants from the Islamic State (IS) blew up a revered Muslim shrine traditionally said to be the burial place of the Prophet Jonah in Iraq’s second-largest city, Mosul. The mosque was built on an archaeological site dating back to eighth century B.C. and is said to be the burial place of the prophet, who in stories from both the Bible and Quran is swallowed by a whale. The residents told the Associated Press the militants claimed the mosque had become a place for apostasy, not prayer.

This would be a clear line crossed, but due to the strength and ferocity of the group, Mosul resident were not necessarily up in arms. Around the same time there were unconfirmed reports that IS had released a statement saying that they wanted all females aged between 11 and 46 in the northern city to undergo female genital mutilation (FGM). (The ritual cutting of girls' genitals is practiced by some African, Middle Eastern and Asian communities in the belief it prepares them for adulthood or marriage.) In addition, the group forced Christians in Mosul out of the city earlier this week and daubed their houses with the Arabic letter N to mark them out as Christians, apparently confiscating their properties. Islamic State militants view Iraq's majority Shi'ites as infidels who deserve to be killed and have told Christians to convert to Islam, pay a religious levy or face death.

The insurgents run vice patrols in Mosul which answer to a morality committee which has shut Mosul's college of fine arts and physical education, knocked down statues of famous poets and banned smoking and water pipes.

Since the army's virtual collapse in the face of the Sunni militant onslaught, Kurdish peshmerga fighters and Shi'ite militias have emerged as the only forces that seem capable of challenging the Islamic State.

What is disturbing is that Islamic State militants seized four small oilfields when they swept through north Iraq last month and are now selling crude oil and gasoline from them to finance their newly declared "caliphate". Near the northern city of Mosul, the Islamic State has taken over the Najma and Qayara fields, while further south near Tikrit it overran the Himreen and Ajil fields during its two-day sweep through northern Iraq in mid-June. The oilfields in Islamic State hands are modest compared to Iraq's giant fields near Kirkuk and Basra, which are under Kurdish and central government control. Most of the Islamic State-held oil wells - estimated by a Kurdish official to number around 80 - are sealed and not pumping.

But the monopoly over fuel in the territory it has captured gives the Islamic State leverage over other armed Sunni factions who could threaten its dominance in northern Iraq.

Iraqi officials say that in recent weeks the group has transported oil from Qayara to be processed by mobile refineries in Syria into low quality gasoil and gasoline, then brought back for sale in Mosul, a city of 2 million people. Larger shipments of crude, some of them from Najma, are also sold via smugglers to Turkish traders at vastly discounted prices of around $25 per barrel, they said.

Qayara, which has estimated reserves of 800 million barrels, had been producing 7,000 barrels per day of heavy crude before the Islamic State took over the field and a nearby 16,000 bpd refinery. Qayara refinery and second smaller plant at Kasak, northwest of Mosul, stopped operating when staff fled.

As another revenue earner, the Islamic militant group levies taxes on all vehicles and trucks bringing goods into Mosul.

In Syria, Al Hasaka Province, violent clashes took place between the Islamic state and the regime forces in Al Fasayel area in the east of Al Hasaka city.  A leading member in the Arab Baath Socialist Party was killed in clashes with IS fighters in the building of Al Baath Party branch in the center of Al Hasaka city, where the flags of the Islamic State were seen above the rooftop of the building.
In Syria, Oil is assisting IS there as well, confirmed reports show that the Islamic State is shipping crude from Najma oilfield in Mosul into Syria to smuggle it to one of Syria's neighbors," said Husham al-Brefkani, head of Mosul provincial council's energy committee.

Islamic State militants launched assaults on Syrian forces across three provinces on Thursday that killed key government figures, including two brigadier generals. In one assault, the jihadists besieged two military bases outside Hasakah city in Syria's east, killing a commanding brigadier general.
If the Islamic State militants can seize Hasakah city that will help them to consolidate their control over the major Syrian and Iraqi cities they have occupied on either side of the border. Hasakah sits in the middle of the Islamic State's two centers of power in both Syria and Iraq—Raqqa and Mosul.
"If they take over the military bases in Malabiah and Kawkab [in Hasakah], they will gain tons of weapons," said a media activist who lives in Hasakah, in a Skype interview. "There are eight weapons warehouses with artillery, tanks and missile launchers."

The Islamic State seized large stockpiles of Iraqi military equipment including tanks and artillery when it overran Mosul, Iraq's second largest city, in June, ferrying away weapons, including some donated by the U.S. The war gains have enabled the Islamic State to fight on multiple fronts: against the Iraqi and Syrian governments and the multiple rebels groups in Syria that oppose them.

The growing power of the ultra-hardline Islamic state means the Syrian army is now having to confront a group it has until now been reluctant to attack for political reasons. At the same time, the group's tendency to fight more moderate rebel forces also helped to divide the opposition, making it easier for Assad's forces to recapture territory lost in earlier periods of Syria's civil war. As a result, some analysts suspect army commanders pursued a twin-track strategy against ISIS - they have sought to reduce the group's threat to the state, while ensuring it remains strong enough to continue feuding with other rebels. Now that Islamic state's fighters have gained momentum in Syria, boosted by equipment seized in a rapid offensive next door in Iraq, the Syrian army may need to become more confrontational with the group if it wants to avoid losing territory to it.

Like the rest of the world, the U.S. government was taken aback when Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city, fell to an offensive by jihadis that triggered the collapse of five Iraqi army divisions and carried the extremists to the threshold of Baghdad. However, we monitoring and closely tracking the al Qaida spinoff since 2012, when it enlarged its operations from Iraq to civil war-torn Syria, seized an oil-rich province there and signed up thousands of foreign fighters who’d infiltrated Syria through NATO ally Turkey.

The group’s operations “are calculated, coordinated and part of a strategic campaign led by its Syria-based leader, Abu Bakr al Baghadi,” Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Brett McGurk told a House committee on Feb. 5, four months before fighting broke out in Mosul. “The campaign has a stated objective to cause the collapse of the Iraqi state and carve out a zone of governing control in western regions of Iraq and Syria.” In testimony before Congress, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Brett McGurk revealed that the administration knew three days in advance that the attack on Mosul was coming. The situation, however, was far beyond the Iraqi government’s ability to cope.

He acknowledged that the Islamic State is no longer just a regional terrorist organization but a “full-blown” army that now controls nearly 50 percent of Iraq and more than one-third of Syria. Its fighters have turned back some of the best-trained Iraqi units trying to retake key cities, while in Syria, it’s seized nearly all that country’s oil and natural gas fields and is pushing the Syrian military from its last outposts in the country’s east.

In another misstep, some experts said, the Obama administration appears to have turned a blind eye as U.S. allies Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey and others provided arms and money that allowed Islamist groups to hijack the Assad opposition and ultimately provide Baghdadi with a secure patch in Syria from which he eventually would send men and weapons back into Iraq.

In fact, long before extremists rolled through Iraq and seized a large piece of territory, the group took over most of Raqqa (Syria) Province, home to about a million people, and established a headquarters in its capital. Through strategic management and brute force, the group, which now calls itself simply the Islamic State, has begun imposing its vision of a state that blends its fundamentalist interpretation of Islam with the practicalities of governance. How IS rules in Raqqa offers insight into what it is trying to do as it moves to consolidate its grip in territories spanning the Syrian-Iraqi border. An employee of The New York Times recently spent six days in Raqqa and interviewed a dozen residents.

Raqqa’s City Hall houses the Islamic Services Commission. The former office of the Finance Ministry contains the Shariah court and the criminal police. The traffic police are based in the First Shariah High School. Raqqa’s Credit Bank is now the tax authority, where employees collect $20 every two months from shop owners for electricity, water and security. Many said that they had received official receipts stamped with the ISIS logo and that the fees were less than they used to pay in bribes to Assad’s government.

Raqqa is a test case for ISIS, which imposed itself as the ultimate authority in this city on the Euphrates River early this year. The group has already proved its military prowess, routing other militias in Syria as well as the Iraqi military. But it is here in this agricultural hub that it has had the most time to turn its ideology into reality, a project that appears unlikely to end soon given the lack of a military force able to displace it. Raqqa’s three churches, once home to an active Christian minority, have all been shuttered. After capturing the largest, the Armenian Catholic Martyrs Church, ISIS removed its crosses, hung black flags from its facade and converted it into an Islamic center that screens videos of battles and suicide operations to recruit new fighters. The few Christians who remain pay a minority tax of a few dollars per month. When ISIS’s religious police officers patrol to make sure shops close during Muslim prayers, the Christians must obey, too. The religious police have banned public smoking of cigarettes and water pipes — a move that has dampened the city’s social life, forcing cafes to close. They also make sure that women cover their hair and faces in public.

A university professor from Raqqa said ISIS gunmen recently stopped a bus heading to Damascus when they found one woman on board insufficiently covered. They held the bus up for an hour and a half until she went home and changed, the professor said. Perhaps realizing that the young extremists most attracted to its sectarian violence lack professional skills, the leader of ISIS, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, asked in a recent audio address for doctors and engineers to travel to places like Raqqa to help build his newly declared Islamic State. “Their migration is an obligation so that they can answer the dire need of the Muslims,” Baghdadi said.

IS is also working to bring in jihadists on a tour of their captured lands. Islamic State militants turned conquered Syria/Iraq territories into jihadist tourist paradise recently. The sphere of influence the Iraq and Al Sham militants’ control, as of June, stretches through large swathes of northern and eastern Syria, as well as parts of northern and western Iraq. Now a quite lucrative tourist trade operates without borders or ID cards, with its jihadist bus flying the black flag and ferrying fighters across the conquered lands.

AFP spoke to a number of rebels and activists by phone, who explained how the business venture works.  Many of the vacationing jihadists are from abroad. According to an activist, a Chechen was among the first. The 26-year-old Abu Abdel Rahman al-Shishani recently got married to a Syrian, whom he took on a honeymoon to Anbar.

Speaking to AFP by phone, one Syrian rebel said that the foreigners among the jihadists “communicate in English and wear the Afghan-style clothing preferred by the jihadists.”
“There is a translator on the bus, who explains to them where they are going. The men on the bus are not armed, but vehicles carrying armed escorts accompany the bus,” Abu Quteiba al-Okaidi said.
Another activist, Abu Ibrahim al-Raqawi, told the agency that “tour buses run twice a week, on Wednesday and Sunday. It works like any bus company would, except that it treats areas under Islamic State control in Iraq and Syria as one state.”

The ascendance of this Islamic State — clearly one that embraces an intolerant strain of fundamentalist Islam — is not only disturbing to the locals in Syria and Iraq from other religions, but also to the world. Recently Norway issued a warning that they have a “credible” threat of a terror attack. Norway's intelligence service said it has received information about an imminent "concrete threat" against Norway from people with links to Islamic fighters in Syria.

About 50 people have traveled to Syria from Norway as foreign fighters, half of whom have now returned to Norway. The domestic intelligence agency could not exclude that people involved with the threat already were in Norway. “We received information that a group of people have traveled from Syria with the goal of carrying out a terror attack in the West, and Norway is specifically named,” Jon Fitje Hoffmann, a strategic analysis chief from PST, the Norwegian security intelligence group, told TV2, the largest commercial television station in Norway, “That was the starting point for the situation we are in now.” The security measures were immediately tightened at atomic reactors in the Norwegian towns of Kjeller, and Halden and also in the country’s capital - Oslo.

Following the information about the threat, tourist attractions announced their closure. City Hall and the Royal Palace in Oslo canceled their tours and announced that it would not be open to tourists until further notice. Armed police were also patrolling Oslo's Gardemoen airport on Thursday.  The country’s authorities also decided to close the Jewish Museum of Oslo.

So far half the year has gone, and we see escalation of issues and not a dying down of terrorists actions, therefore the question is will we ever see an end to these extremists and their threats?

Unfortunately, In the long run, the United States and its allies are far more likely to win this war than the jihadists, not only because liberty is ultimately more appealing than a narrow and extremist interpretation of Islam but also because they learn from mistakes, while jihadist's increasingly desperate efforts will alienate even its potential supporters. But victory in the war on terror will not mean the end of terrorism. Terrorism, after all has been around for a long time and will never go away entirely.

From the Zealots in the first century AD to the Red Brigades, the Palestine Liberation Organization, the Irish Republican Army, the Tamil Tigers, and others in more recent times, terrorism has been a tactic used by the weak in an effort to produce political change. Like violent crime, deadly disease, and other scourges, it can be reduced and contained. But it cannot be totally eliminated.



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