The extremist Islamic State group has nearly been pushed out of the Syrian border town of Kobani, activists and Kurdish officials said Monday, making a major symbolic victory both for the Kurds and the U.S.-led coalition targeting the extremists.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and senior Kurdish official Idriss Nassan said the Islamic State group had been nearly expelled, with some sporadic fighting on the eastern edges of the city near Turkey. . . .
The expulsion of the terrorist outfit from Kobani is a stunning turnaround; by mid October, many had considered the town lost.
However, this victory ought not to be overstated. As the Daily Beast reported earlier this month, the Islamic State has almost doubled the area it controls in Syria over the past four months. The following maps show the approximate gain:
Kobani has not been easily won. According to the AP:
Since mid-September, the battle for Kobani has killed some 1,600 people, including 1,075 Islamic State group members, 459 Kurdish fighters and 32 civilians, the Observatory reported earlier this month. The Islamic State group, increasingly under pressure, has carried out more than 35 suicide attacks in Kobani in recent weeks, activists say.
Speaking before Al-Azhar and the Awqaf Ministry on New Year’s Day, 2015, and in connection to Prophet Muhammad’s upcoming birthday, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, a vocal supporter for a renewed vision of Islam, made what must be his most forceful and impassioned plea to date on the subject.
Egypt’s President Sisi slams Islamism and calls for reformation of religious thought…
Among other things, Sisi said that the “corpus of [Islamic] texts and ideas that we have sacralized over the years” are “antagonizing the entire world”; that it is not “possible that 1.6 billion people [reference to the world’s Muslims] should want to kill the rest of the world’s inhabitants—that is 7 billion—so that they themselves may live”; and that Egypt (or the Islamic world in its entirety) “is being torn, it is being destroyed, it is being lost—and it is being lost by our own hands.”
The relevant excerpt from Sisi’s speech follows (translation by Michele Antaki):
I am referring here to the religious clerics. We have to think hard about what we are facing—and I have, in fact,addressed this topic a couple of times before. It’s inconceivable that the thinking that we hold most sacred should cause the entire umma [Islamic world] to be a source of anxiety, danger, killing and destruction for the rest of the world. Impossible!
That thinking—I am not saying “religion” but “thinking”—that corpus of texts and ideas that we have sacralized over the years, to the point that departing from them has become almost impossible, is antagonizing the entire world. It’s antagonizing the entire world!
Is it possible that 1.6 billion people [Muslims] should want to kill the rest of the world’s inhabitants—that is 7 billion—so that they themselves may live? Impossible!
I am saying these words here at Al Azhar, before this assembly of scholars and ulema—Allah Almighty be witness to your truth on Judgment Day concerning that which I’m talking about now.
All this that I am telling you, you cannot feel it if you remain trapped within this mindset. You need to step outside of yourselves to be able to observe it and reflect on it from a more enlightened perspective.
I say and repeat again that we are in need of a religious revolution. You, imams, are responsible before Allah. The entire world, I say it again, the entire world is waiting for your next move… because this umma is being torn, it is being destroyed, it is being lost—and it is being lost by our own hands.
Note: It is unclear if in the last instance of umma Sisi is referring to Egypt (“the nation”) or if he is using it in the pan-Islamic sense as he did initially to refer to the entire Islamic world.
China’s People’s Liberation Army on Thursday confirmed that its military conducted a flight test of a new long-range missile that U.S. intelligence agencies say involved the use of simulated multiple warheads.
DF-41 Chinese Multi-Warhead Intercontinental Ballistic Missile
“China has the legitimate right to conduct scientific tests within its border and these scientific tests are not targeting any country or target,” PLA Sr. Col. Yang Yujun told reporters at a year-end news briefing.
Yang was asked about the flight test of the DF-41 ICBM on Dec. 13 and whether the testing of the missile changed China’s strategic nuclear policy of not being the first to use nuclear weapons in a conflict.
“What needs to be pointed out is that China pursues a nuclear policy of self-defense and its policy of no-first-use of nuclear weapons has not changed,” he said.
The reference to the no-first-use policy by the military spokesman is a tacit admission the missile involved the test of a last stage that carried multiple, independently-targetable reentry vehicles, or MIRVs.
The missile test was first reported by the Washington Free Beacon Dec. 18. Defense officials said the DF-41 was launched from the Wuzhai Missile and Space Test Center, also known as Taiyuan, in central China. The missile landed in an impact zone in a remote region of western China and was closely monitored by U.S. satellite and other electronic monitoring gear.
Military analysts said the test of China’s long-range nuclear missile that can carry up to 10 nuclear warheads increases the strategic threat to the United States. The Pentagon has said the DF-41 will be able to target all of the United States.
China’s state-run Communist Party newspaper Global Times in November 2013 published a provocative article showing the effects of submarine-launched nuclear missile attacks against Seattle and Los Angeles that the article said would kill up to 12 million people. The article was later withdrawn from publication. However, the report revealed China’s plans for nuclear strikes on the United States in a future conflict.
China’s new Jin-class ballistic missile submarines began the first sea patrols this year as predicted by senior Navy officials and the Pentagon’s annual report on the Chinese military, according to defense officials familiar with intelligence reports of the sea patrols.
The nuclear missile submarine patrols also mark a major step forward in China’s large-scale nuclear forces build up that has been carried out largely in secret.
The MIRVed DF-41 missile test also is expected to rekindle the debate in U.S. intelligence circles about the size of China’s nuclear arsenal, initially thought to be limited to around 240 strategic warheads.
The testing of a 10-warhead missile is an indication that the Chinese warhead arsenal is far larger or will rapidly expand as new DF-41s are deployed in the coming years.
A new report by the Georgetown University Asian Arms Control Project reveals that satellite photos have identified a new DF-41 launch complex at the Taiyuan launch center. The imagery is dated April 13, 2014, and is compared with a photo from 2010 of the same location.
The report, dated Dec. 16, states that the DF-41 appears to be based on the Russian design SS-25 road-mobile ICBM but “with Chinese characteristics.”
The DF-41, deployed with either six or 10 MIRVs, as well as DF-31A MIRVed missile will increase the number of warheads in the Chinese strategic arsenal to as many as 600 warheads by 2025, according to the report.
The report also reveals that China’s military is developing new tunneling technology that will permit widening construction of some of the 3,000 miles of underground strategic nuclear facilities. The new tunnels size of 17 meters wide by 10 meters wide will permit adjacent passage of road-mobile DF-31As and DF-41s as well as a possible rail-mobile ICBM variant in a single tunnel, the report said.
A Pentagon spokesman had no immediate comment.
The congressional U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission stated in its annual report made public earlier this month that the DF-41 will carry up to 10 warheads and initial deployment of the mobile missile is expected next year.
The DF-41 will “have a maximum range as far as 7,456 miles, allowing it to target the entire continental United States,” the report said. “In addition, some sources claim China has modified the DF–5 and the DF–31A to be able to carry MIRVs.”
The Free Beacon also disclosed in September that China is building new missile labeled the DF-31B that also is expected to be MIRVed.
“China could use MIRVs to deliver nuclear warheads on major U.S. cities and military facilities as a means of overwhelming U.S. ballistic missile defenses,” the commission report said.
China’s MIRV technology is based on illegally exported U.S. satellite technology transferred during the administration of President Bill Clinton.
Lockheed Martin was fined $13 million in 2000 as part of the illicit exports that China diverted to its MIRV warhead program.
Phillip Karber, a Georgetown University professor who is associated with the Asian Arms Control project, said the DF-41 test with multiple warheads is an indication that China’s strategic nuclear arsenal could increase “quite rapidly.”
China inadvertently disclosed the existence of the DF-41 missile last summer when a regional Communist Party web site posted facts about the system, including that it will carry multiple warheads. The posting was removed after it was widely reported.
Yang, the PLA spokesman, also declined to comment when asked if the Chinese government has been asked by the Obama administration to help provide details on the hackers behind the Sony Pictures Entertainment cyber attack and whether the hackers operated from Chinese territory.
“Actually, this is not a question related to the military, and I cannot provide an answer to you here,” he said.
The Justice Department on May 1 indicted five Chinese military hackers who were charged with cyber attacks against U.S. companies.
Turkey’s Obstruction of Kobani’s Battle Against ISIS
Kurdish refugees near Turkey’s border with Syria on Oct. 26, as smoke rises over Kobani in the distance. Credit Yannis Behrakis/Reuters
Since Sept. 15, we, the people of the Syrian town of Kobani, have been fighting, outnumbered and outgunned, against an all-out assault by the army of the Islamic State, also known as ISIS.
Yet despite a campaign that has intensified in the past month, including the deployment of United States-made tanks and armored vehicles, the Islamic State has not been able to break the resistance of Kobani’s fighters.
We are defending a democratic, secular society of Kurds, Arabs, Muslims and Christians who all face an imminent massacre.
Meysa Adbo is one of the Kurdish woman leaders fighting ISIL in Kobani
Kobani’s resistance has mobilized our entire society, and many of its leaders, including myself, are women. Those of us on the front lines are well aware of the Islamic State’s treatment of women. We expect women around the world to help us, because we are fighting for the rights of women everywhere. We do not expect them to come to join our fight here (though we would be proud if any did). But we do ask women to promote our case and to raise awareness of our situation in their own countries, and to pressure their governments to help us.
We are thankful to the coalition for its intensified airstrikes against Islamic State positions, which have been instrumental in limiting the ability of our enemies to use tanks and heavy artillery. But we had been fighting without any logistical assistance from the outside world until the limited coalition airdrops of weapons and supplies on Oct. 20. Airdrops of supplies should continue, so that we do not run out of ammunition.
None of that changes the reality that our weapons still cannot match those of the Islamic State.
We will never give up. But we need more than merely rifles and grenades to carry out our own responsibilities and aid the coalition in its war against the jihadist forces. Currently, even when fighters from other Kurdish regions in Northern Syria try to supply us with some of their armored vehicles and antitank missiles, Turkey has not allowed them to do so.
Kurdish men watch helplessly from Turkey as the battle for Kobani rages and are prevented by Erdogan’s government from crossing the border to fight alongside their brothers.
Turkey, a NATO member, should have been an ally in this conflict. It could easily have helped us by allowing access between different Syrian Kurdish areas, so as to let fighters and supplies move back and forth through Turkish territory.
Instead, the Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has several times publicly equated our fighters, who are defending a diverse and democratic society, with the murderous Islamic State, evidently because of the controversy surrounding Turkey’s Kurdish minority.
Last week, following domestic and international criticism, Turkish leaders at last said they would open a corridor for a small group of Iraqi pesh merga fighters, and some Free Syrian Army brigades, to cross into Kobani. But they still will not allow other Syrian Kurds to cross Turkish territory to reach us. This has been decided without consulting us.
As a result, the Islamic State can bring in endless amounts of new supplies and ammunition, but we are still effectively blockaded on all sides — on three by the Islamic State’s forces, and on the fourth by Turkish tanks. There is evidence that Turkish forces have allowed the Islamic State’s men and equipment to move back and forth across the border. But Syrian Kurdish fighters cannot do the same.
Turkish tanks prevent Kurdish fighters from going to Kobani to fight and effectively block any chances for the Kurdish fighters in Kobani to resupply.
The Turkish government is pursuing an anti-Kurdish policy against the Syrian Kurds, and their priority is to suppress the Kurdish freedom movement in Northern Syria. They want Kobani to fall.
We have never been hostile to Turkey. We want to see it as a partner, not an enemy, and we believe that it is in the Turkish government’s interest to have a border with the democratic administration of a western Kurdistan rather than one with the Islamic State.
Western governments should increase their pressure on Turkey to open a corridor for Syrian Kurdish forces and their heavy weapons to reach the defenders of Kobani through the border. We believe that such a corridor, and not only the limited transport of other fighters that Turkey has proposed, should be opened under the supervision of the United Nations.
We have proved ourselves to be one of the only effective forces battling the Islamic State in Syria. Whenever we meet them on equal terms, they are always defeated. If we had more weapons and could be joined by more of our fighters from elsewhere in Syria, we would be in a position to strike a deadly blow against the Islamic State, one that we believe would ultimately lead to its dissolution across the region as a whole.
The people of Kobani need the attention and help of the world.
Syrian Kurds have fended off a new attempt by “Islamic State” militants to cut off the city of Kobani. The jihadist group reportedly suffered heavy losses in the assault.
Kurdish fighters have repulsed a fresh attempt by “Islamic State” (“IS”) militants to cut the Syrian town of Kobani off from the border with Turkey, raising hopes Kurdish forces would maintain control of the city.
“IS” forces reportedly launched a fierce attack from the east toward the border gate with Turkey before being pushed back. The jihadist group suffered heavy losses and was forced to send in reinforcements, according to the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
The news comes as the besieged city suffered its heaviest round of shelling by “IS” forces in days, with mortar shells hitting the town center and landing inside of Turkey in Mursitpinar.
Siege of Kobani watched by Kurds on Turkey’s Mount Mursitpinar
“They want to cut off Kobani’s connection with the rest of the world,” a Kurdish militia source said. “Turkey is not allowing in fighters or weapons, but they send aid at Mursitpinar. The ‘Islamic State’ wants to destroy this gate so that we will be completely trapped here.”
Kurdish forces have been battling “Islamic State” militants for control of Kobani for a month. “IS” forces seek to capture the town to consolidate a 60-mile (95-kilometer) stretch of land they control along the border with Turkey.
But Kurdish resistance backed by expanded US-led coalition airstrikes have blunted the “IS” advance. The US military said it had carried out 25 more airstrikes in Syria and Iraq on “IS” targets since Friday. A US-led coalition airstrike hit a gas distribution facility in an “Islamic State” stronghold, killing at least eight people, activists said on Saturday.
Washington said the signs were “encouraging,” but cautioned that airstrikes alone may not be adequate to prevent Kobani from falling to the jihadists, and emphasized its priority remains targeting “IS” in Iraq.
“Iraq is our main effort and it has to be, and the things that we’re doing right now in Syria are being done primarily to shape the conditions in Iraq,” said Central Command General Lloyd Austin.
Shells land inside Turkey
At least three shells reportedly landed on Turkey’s side of the border, one of them close to a hill where the Turkish army is deployed. Syria’s northern neighbor has sent dozens of tanks to defensive positions on a hill overlooking the besieged city.
Turkish tanks on Syrian Border 200 yards from Kobani
Despite having the strongest army in the region, NATO member Turkey has been reluctant to get involved in the fighting against “IS.” Turkey is suspicious of the Syrian Kurdish Militia (YPG) defending Kobani due to its connection with the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which has waged a 30-year armed campaign for Kurdish self-rule in Turkey.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said last month that in his view the PKK was no better than the “Islamic State.” He has demanded that the US coalition also widen its campaign against “IS” by aiding Syrian rebels battling Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s forces.
Kurds still in control
Meanwhile, Kurdish forces claim to control most of Kobani, and on Saturday they released a video which shows cheering crowds and the recapture of areas near the Syrian border from the “Islamic State.”
A Kurdish fighter plants the yellow Kurdish flag above Tel Shair hill after an ISIS flag that had been fluttering for more than a week was torn down
“We have liberated the people here and driven away the terrorists,” a Kurdish fighter said in the video.
BEIRUT — Kurdish forces defending a Syrian town near the Turkish border clashed with militants from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) on Monday after repelling a wide-ranging jihadist assault the day before in battles that left dozens dead on both sides.
While the Kurds remain in control of the town of Kobani, an Associated Press journalist on the Turkish side of the border saw two black banners with Arabic writing – one raised over a building and another from a nearby hill – at the eastern entrance on Monday, suggesting that ISIS fighters may have regrouped and broken through the Kurdish perimeter.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and a statement from the Kurdish force known as the People’s Protection Units, or YPK, said more than 45 fighters on both sides were killed Sunday near the town of Kobani, including a Kurdish female fighter who blew herself up, killing several jihadists.
Kobani and surrounding areas have been under attack since mid-September, with ISIS militants capturing dozens of nearby Kurdish villages.
The YPK said in a statement that there were 50 points of clashes around Kobani on Sunday, adding that 74 ISIS fighters as well as 15 Kurdish gunmen were killed. The Observatory said 27 jihadists and 19 Kurds were killed in the battles, making it one of the deadliest days since the latest round of fighting began three weeks ago.
ISIS appeared to be making advances in at least some of the hotspots around the town, reportedly raising their flag on a building after clashes in the eastern part of Kobani.
The assault has forced some 160,000 Syrians to flee and strained Kurdish forces, who have struggled to push back the jihadists despite being aided by U.S.-led coalition airstrikes.
City of Kobani being evacuated as battle with ISIS rages.
On the Turkish side of the border, at least 14 Turkish army tanks took up defensive positions on a hilltop near Kobani. Heavy bombardment could be heard down below as plumes of smoke rose from the town.
A shell from the fighting struck a house and a small grocery store across the border in Turkey, but no one was wounded. At least four people were injured in a similar incident on Sunday.
Syrian Kurdish forces have long been among the most effective adversaries of the ISIS group, keeping it out of their enclave in northeastern Syria even as the extremists routed the armed forces of both Syria and neighboring Iraq in recent months.
Turkish tanks take positions on their border.
But in recent weeks the overstretched Kurds have struggled to counter the jihadists, who have looted heavy arms and vehicles from captured Syrian and Iraqi army bases.
“They are using tanks, artillery and all kinds of weapons they captured in Iraq and Syria,” said Nasser Haj Mansour, a defense official in Syria’s Kurdish region, referring to ISIS, which has declared a caliphate in the large areas it controls in both countries, and which now refers to itself simply as the “Islamic State.”
The Observatory’s chief Rami Abdurrahman said Monday that one of the attacks against ISIS the day earlier was carried out by a female Kurdish fighter who blew herself up, killing 10 jihadists.
The YPK statement identified the suicide attacker as Deilar Kanj Khamis, better known by her military name, Arin Mirkan.
Haj Mansour said Kurdish fighters withdrew from a position on the strategic hill of Mashta Nour near Kobani. Khamis stayed behind, and as ISIS fighters moved in she attacked them with gunfire and grenades, eventually blowing herself up. The Kurds then recaptured the position.
Map of Coalition air strikes
“If necessary, all our female and male fighters will become Arin. The attacks by mercenaries of Daesh (another ISIS acronym) against Kobani will not be allowed to achieve their goals,” the YPK statement said, using the Arabic acronym for ISIS.
Nawaf Khalil, a spokesman for Syria’s leading Kurdish Democratic Union Party, or PYD, said: “Yesterday was a very violent day but they were neither able to enter Kobani nor Mashta Nour.”
Meanwhile, elsewhere in Syria, al Qaeda affiliate there has attacked positions manned by Lebanon’s Shiite Hezbollah along the border, killing eight of its fighters, officials and activists said Monday.
An official close to Hezbollah declined to say how many fighters were killed in Sunday’s battles with the Nusra Front, but in mosques across Lebanon’s eastern Bekaa valley funerals were announced for eight Hezbollah fighters.
Rami Abdurrahman, who heads the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said the Nusra Front attacked several Hezbollah positions on the Lebanese and Syrian side of the border simultaneously. Abdurrahman said four Hezbollah fighters were killed on the Syrian side of the border.
Over the past year, Syrian troops and Hezbollah fighters have captured most of the towns and villages in Syria’s mountainous Qalamoun region along the Lebanon border, depriving the rebels of residential areas where they can stay during the winter.
Lebanese officials have warned that they expect Syrian rebels to try to capture areas on the Lebanese side of the border before the snow hits.
The fighting on Sunday lasted for several hours. The official said Hezbollah’s response to the attack was “huge, strong and fast.” The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to speak to reporters.
The official said the attackers captured an observation post known as Ein el-Saa before Hezbollah took it back about two hours later.
“This post was turned into their graveyard,” the official close to Hezbollah said by telephone.
It appeared that Hezbollah fighters were taken by surprise, as Shiites in Lebanon marked the start of the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha. Shortly after the battles began, Hezbollah rushed reinforcements to the rugged mountainous region.
Abdurrahman of the Observatory said there were casualties among the Nusra fighters, but he could not provide an exact figure. The Britain-based Observatory gathers its information from a network of activists inside Syria.
Hezbollah’s Al-Manar TV aired footage from Ein al-Saa post showing blood stains as well as medication that the Nusra Front fighters had left behind.
It was the most serious incursion into Lebanon since Aug. 2, when Syrian rebels briefly captured the Lebanese border town of Arsal as well as 20 soldiers and policemen. Two of the soldiers were later beheaded by ISIS. The third was shot dead by the Nusra Front.
Sherkoh Abbas was born in Qamishli in the Kurdistan region of Syria and came to the U.S. in the 1980s. He is the President of the Kurdistan National Assembly of Syria.
Kurdish Peshmerga (militia) in Iraq
He is a founding member of the Syrian Democracy Council, the Kurdish National Congress, the America-Kurdistan Friendship League and the Center for Democracy in the Middle East, of which he is the director. Abbas previously served as the President of the Kurdish-American Committee for Democracy in Syria.
Abbas has briefed officials from the White House and Congress and organized a 2006 conference under the auspices of Senator Carl Levin (D-MI) and then-Senator Robert Voinovich (R-OH) that brought together all the Syrian opposition groups, including Kurds, Sunni-Arabs, Christians and Druze.
The following is Sheroh Abbas’ interview with Clarion Project National Security Analyst Ryan Mauro:
1.Ryan Mauro: The Islamic State (more commonly known by the acronym for its former name, ISIS) is attacking Syrian Kurdish positions right now. Are they succeeding?
Sherkoh Abbas: Yes. The Islamic State army has heavy U.S. military equipment and has attracted radical Islamists from around the world. Furthermore, Turkey allows the Islamic State to use Turkey for logistical purposes and medical treatments. As a result, the Islamic State has conquered more than 60 Kurdish villages and towns, and is imposing its dark and violent culture.
2. Mauro: Can the Kurds in Syria fend-off the Islamic State or even push them back?
Abbas: No. The Kurds are opposed by the Islamic State as well as by Syrian dictator Bashar Assad and Iran’s mullahs. Sometimes, these three entities collaborate in their attempts to crush the Kurds.
They can be defeated if the Democratic Union Party and Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG/YPD) changes its policy of working with Assad and Iran and instead joins a Kurdish front supported by the Kurdish Regional Government and Western powers.
3. Mauro: The U.S. Congress just approved a bill to train and equip Syrian rebels. Are you confident that the U.S. won’t arm Islamic extremists?
Abbas: No. Judging from recent history, the Obama Administration is creating an “alliance of the unwilling” that includes Turkey and Saudi Arabia. Thus, Islamic extremists will be able to use weapons provided by Obama against America’s regional allies (e.g. Kurds and Jews). Indeed, most of the people who train them are the same people who spread global terrorism.
4. Mauro: How can the U.S. properly vet Syrian rebels? What should be the standard?
Abbas: The litmus test is accepting democracy, honoring human rights, respecting the Kurdish capacity to achieve self-determination (federalism or independence), and Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state.
Kurds have earned the right to be viewed as the core of the Syrian opposition group, rather than followers of leadership provided by others. Only the Kurds fight Islamists and identify themselves as Kurds rather than Muslim.
Allowing the Kurds to vet other opposition forces (for they know them all) would necessitate a change in the mindset and philosophy of those who seek darkness.
5. Mauro: The Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) is getting a lot of positive press right now but is listed by the U.S. State Department as a Foreign Terrorist Organization. Does the PKK deserve the label? Is it possible to separate the PKK from other Kurdish forces?
Abbas: The U.S. and most E.U. nations consider them terrorists and, thus, the PKK must change its ways and work with the Kurdish Regional Government and Kurdish leadership in Syria (including the Kurdistan National Assembly and Kurdish National Council).
Most Kurds do not trust the PKK (and its allies like PYD/YPG), noting that the Kurdish Peshmerga (Iraqi Kudish militias) are separate from them. The PKK must explain why:
1. It opposes Kurdish self-determination (federalism or independence),
2. It has coordinated activities with the Syrian dictatorship and Iranian regime,
3. It has forced Kurds to join Assad’s forces,
4. It has closed Kurdish political offices,
5. It has collaborated with Assad’s efforts to trisect Kurdistan of Syria, and6. It has helped to orchestrate forced emigration of almost one million Kurds out of Syrian Kurdistan [the Kurdish areas of Syria] to Iran, Turkey and Europe.
6. Mauro: Give us a snapshot of the beliefs of the Kurds. Are they practicing Muslims? Are they Islamists who want to implement sharia governance?
Abbas: Overwhelmingly, the Kurds view themselves as Kurds first and see Islam as a tool perverted by Arabs (since the 1920s); Farsi’s (since 1979) and Turks (since 2003) to force Kurds to submit to assimilation.
Most Kurds are Muslims, do not believe in sharia and are tolerant of other religions. Also, there are Kurdish Yazidi, Jews and Christians.
Kurds recognize that they have received support from no Islamic nation during the past century, even after Saddam Hussein used chemical weapons against Kurds in 1988 (the worst chemical weapons massacre in history) and even after the Islamic State attacked Kurds in Syria and Iraq (currently).
7. Mauro: There is increasing talk about the value of endorsing an independent Kurdistan. The Kurds already have autonomy in Iraq and Syria. Is it possible for this to form without a major war between Kurds and the governments in Iran and Turkey?
Abbas: First, one premise must be corrected: Kurds in Syria do not have autonomy (note that their declaration of independence a few months ago was ignored by everyone in the region except Israel) and Kurds in Iraq have limited autonomy (note that America cannot send arms directly to Erbil).
The regimes of Iran and Syria are using YPG/PYD to manage the Kurds of Syria, preventing them from (1) joining the Kurdistan Regional Government or supporting Kurdistan of Iraq; (2) creating a federal region in Syrian Kurdistan or (3) forming an independent Kurdistan under the leadership of the Kurdistan Regional Government President Barazani.
Thus, Assad fully controls Syrian Kurdistan but, rest assured, once the Syrian Kurds have served his interest, he will deal harshly with the PKK/YPG/PYD.
Turkey recently endorsed an independent Kurdistan in Iraq and claimed it would endorse an independent Kurdistan in Syria if Syrian Kurds would work with the Kurdistan Regional Government and mirror its positive relationship with Turkey.
Turkey will not, however, accept the PKK or its allies controlling Syrian Kurdistan. Ultimately, Iran, Syria, Iraq and Turkey all oppose an independent Kurdistan.
Therefore, Kurds must do whatever it takes to survive. This is why Kurds are asking the international community for assistance in their struggle against radical Islamists including the Islamic State.
We are resisting efforts by most countries in the region to assimilate Kurds by leveraging Islamist Kurds. We are Kurds first and we have accepted the fact that—just like Israelis—the only forces that could stop the dark forces in the region are those that are targeted for victimization.
Kurds—just like Israelis—view Western civilization as a natural ally. Furthermore, an independent Kurdistan would assuredly promote an inclusive, heterogeneous culture. Were America to endorse this initiative, it would serve to sustain “facts on the ground”; thus it is possible that this dream could be achieved without others feeling compelled to engage in warfare to reverse it.
The result would be a reliable Western ally in a tumultuous region, self-sustaining and an asset to the world.
Pope Francis will have no additional security when he travels to the predominantly Muslim country of Albania this week, despite reports that the pontiff is a target for ISISterrorists.
While in Albania, a predominantly Muslim country, Pope Francis will use the same jeep shown here as he arrives for his weekly general audience in St Peter’s square at the Vatican on Sept.3, 2014.
The pope will use the same open-topped Jeep he uses at the Vatican during his single-day trip Sunday, a spokesman confirmed Monday.
“There is no reason to change the pope’s itinerary,” the Rev. Frederico Lombardi said in a briefing Monday, explaining that there were no specific threats or concerns. “We are obviously paying attention but there is no need for concern or a change to his program in Albania.”
The pope, 77, will use the open-topped vehicle because he prefers to be unhindered, Lombardi said.
Recent unsourced Italian media reports claim the pope is a target for ISIS terrorists. Italian news reports say Albanian authorities are concerned about Muslim extremists who trained in Iraq and Syria who may have returned, according to The Associated Press.
Iraq’s ambassador to the Holy See has also publicly expressed concerns.
“The Pope is indeed a target,” Habeeb Al Sadr told Italian newspaper Il Messaggero late last week. “We know very well how these terrorists think… I would not exclude that ISIS would arrive to strike him.”
Pope Francis told reporters last month the world would be justified in using force to stop ISIS aggression.
The Ebola outbreak has dropped off the front pages, pushed aside by news from the Middle East and Ukraine.
But the epidemic is not contained and is getting out of control, says the director of the Center for Disease Control:
The director for the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention says that the Ebola outbreak is going to get worse. Speaking to “CBS This Morning” following his trip to the West African countries dealing with the outbreak, Dr. Tom Frieden explained that they have to act now to try to get Ebola under control.“It is the world’s first Ebola epidemic and it is spiraling out of control. It’s bad now and it’s going to get worse in the very near future,” Frieden told CBS News. “There is still a window of opportunity to tamp it down, but that window is closing. We really have to act now.” Frieden, who visited Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea, will tell Washington tomorrow that the Ebola outbreak is “spiraling upward.” The CDC director explained that these countries still need help to deal with the deadly outbreak.“We need to support countries with resources, with technical experts and with cooperation. Too many places are sealing off these countries,” Frieden told CBS News. “If we do that, paradoxically, it’s going to reduce safety everywhere else. Whether we like it or not, we’re all connected and it’s in our interest to help them tamp this down and control it.”Frieden said that they cannot wait for vaccines to deal with the disease.“Vaccines and treatments may come along, but right now what we have are tried and true methods that we have to scale up. They have worked in prior outbreaks but we are not getting to scale,” Frieden told “CBS This Morning.” “The epidemic is going faster than we are. We need to scale up our response. We can hope for new tools and maybe they’ll come, but we can’t count on them.”
During a CDC briefing Monday afternoon, Frieden reiterated his comments to CBS News and said that the outbreak is “now increasing rapidly.”
The World Health Organization says that 20,000 could die before the disease is brought under control.The death toll currently tops 1500, which means we have a long way to go before we can say that the outbreak is being managed.
Some African countries are in virtual shutdown with nobody allowed in or out. But the ban is imperfect and the disease keeps spreading. Thankfully, the disease appears to be affecting only a few larger cities, but that luck can’t last. The more densely packed the population, the more cases will arise.
The US has been fortunate in avoiding the disaster, but how long can that last? The CDC director thinks Ebola’s spread to the US is “inevitable,” so it really is a question of time.
The Navy is sending a second aircraft carrier strike group to the Asia Pacific region amid new tensions with China over a dangerous aerial encounter between a Chinese interceptor and Navy P-8 surveillance craft.
Navy P-8 Orion
The strike group led by the USS Carl Vinson departed San Diego for the Pacific on Friday, the Navy said in an announcement of what it terms a “planned” deployment.
China’s military on Saturday, meanwhile, demanded an end to all U.S. monitoring flights and called U.S. criticism of dangerous Chinese jet maneuvers false. Chinese Defense Ministry spokesman Yang Yujun said in a statement that a Chinese fighter jet made a “regular identification and verification” of the Navy P-8 anti-submarine warfare jet during an encounter in an area 135 miles east of Hainan Island.
Yang called Pentagon criticism of the incident “totally groundless” and insisted the Chinese pilot operated professionally and kept a safe distance.
The Chinese spokesman’s account, published in the state-run Xinhua news agency, is at odds with Pentagon officials who called the encounter both dangerous and aggressive. A White House official also said the dangerous intercept was a Chinese “provocation.” Pentagon spokesman Rear Adm. John Kirby on Friday called the maneuvers by the Chinese J-11—a Russian design Su-27—a dangerous and unprofessional encounter and said the military has protested the incident to the Chinese military.
“We have registered our strong concerns to the Chinese about the unsafe and unprofessional intercept, which posed a risk to the safety and the well-being of the air crew and was inconsistent with customary international law,” Kirby said, adding that the pilot of the J-11 was “very, very close; very dangerous.”
Location of dangerous aerial confrontation with the Chinese fighter.
Asked Saturday about Yang’s assertion, Kirby told the Free Beacon: “We stand by our account of this dangerous and unprofessional incident.”
The Carl Vinson strike group will patrol “both 5th and 7th Fleet areas of responsibility,” the Navy statement said The 7th fleet covers the Pacific and the 5th Fleet is responsible for operations in the Middle East.
The guided missile cruiser USS Bunker Hill and three guided missile destroyers, the USS Gridley, USS Sterett, and USS Dewey also deployed with the Vinson. The Vinson will join the Japan-based USS George Washington strike group.
Earlier, Pentagon spokesman Lt. Col. Jeff Pool said in a statement that the aerial incident took place 135 miles east of Hainan Island when the J-11 came within 20 feet of a U.S. Navy P-8 anti-submarine warfare aircraft. “The intercept was aggressive and demonstrated a lack of due regard for the safety and well-being of the U.S. and Chinese aircrews and aircraft,” Pool said, adding that the incident was of the most dangerous aerial encounters with the Chinese since the April 2001 EP-3 mid-air collision with a Chinese J-8.
The P-8 was on a routine mission in international airspace when the Chinese jet sought to intimidate the crew with several dangerous maneuvers, including a barrel roll over the top of the militarized Boeing 737 jet. “On three different occasions, the Chinese J-11 crossed directly under the U.S. aircraft with one pass having only 50 to 100 feet separation between the two aircraft,” Pool said. “The Chinese jet also passed the nose of the P-8 at 90 degrees with its belly toward the P-8 to show its weapons loadout.”
“In doing so, the pilot was unable to see the P-8, further increasing the potential for a collision,” Pool said. “The Chinese pilot then flew directly under and alongside the P-8 bringing their wingtips within 20 feet and then before he stabilized his fighter he conducted a roll over the P-8 passing within 45 feet.”
The latest incident followed earlier intercepts that the Pentagon said were “nonstandard, unprofessional and unsafe intercepts of U.S. aircraft.” Additionally, the aggressive interceptor was based at the same unit on Hainan Island that conducted similar aggressive intercepts in March, April, and May.
“We are concerned that the intercepting crews from that unit are acting aggressively and demonstrating a lack of regard for the safety of our aircrews,” Pool said. “We have raised our concerns over this unsafe behavior to the PRC.”
Deputy White House Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes told reporters the Chinese aerial encounter was “a deeply concerning provocation.” Both the Pentagon and White House comments were unusually harsh for the Obama administration, which has sought to play down dangerous and threatening military developments by the Chinese.
Yang stated that “massive and frequent close-in surveillance of China” endangers air and maritime security and is at the root of accidents.
China is urging the United States to abide by international law and international practices and to respect the concerns of coastal countries, Yang said, adding that Washington should properly deal with the differences between the two nations on air and maritime security issues. Yang said the United States should abide by the principle of “non-conflict, non-confrontation, mutual respect and win-win cooperation, take concrete actions, reduce and finally stop close-in surveillance of China, so as to create a sound atmosphere for bilateral military ties.”
Pool, the Pentagon spokesman, said in his statement Friday that U.S. monitoring is legal. “Under international law, as reflected in the 1982 Law of the Sea Convention, military activities may be conducted within the Exclusive Economic Zone of another nation as an exercise of the freedoms of navigation and overflight,” he said. “Coastal states, including China, shall have due regard for the rights and duties of other States, including in the exercise of these freedoms.”
The aerial encounter comes amid a toughening posture by China in the South China Sea.
U.S. officials said Chinese official statements related to the ASEAN Regional Forum in early August revealed that China had no plans to back off aggressive claims in the South China Sea and is pushing hard to block U.S. involvement in the regional dispute. Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi rejected a U.S. proposal to voluntarily freeze destabilizing action in disputed waters, such as China’s placement of an oil-drilling rig in the South China Sea.
China also announced it was stepping up activities in disputed areas of the sea, challenging claims by Vietnam, Philippines and other nations.
Until the Defense Ministry statement Saturday, China’s government had remained silent on the Su-27 encounter with the P-8.
Most state-run news outlets in China did not cover the affair, with major newspapers and wire services ignoring the story. Only CCTV, the state television network, reported on the Aug. 19 incident.
CCTV’s report from the network’s Washington correspondent quoted unspecified “Chinese experts” as saying the P-8 “posed a threat to their country’s military security over the South China Sea.”
The White House said Friday through Ben Rhodes, deputy national security advisers, that the Chinese jet, which conducted a barrel roll over the P-8 some 135 miles east of Hainan Island was a “provocation.”
The latest Ebola outbreak has claimed almost 900 lives in West Africa.
Deadly Ebola Virus
Despite warnings from health officials, villagers in West Africa continue to purchase and eat bats, rodents and bush meat.
Scientists report that Ebola may be present in more animals than previously thought. So far, it has been detected in chimpanzees, gorillas, fruit bats, monkeys, antelopes, porcupines, rodents, dogs, pigs and humans.
Now this…Several studies show the deadly virus may spread through airborne transmission;
Airborne Ebola a possibility….
In 2012 investigators in Canada were making headlines of their own with research indicating the deadly virus may spread between species, through the air.
Abstract The potential of aerogenic infection by Ebola virus was established by using a head-only exposure aerosol system. Virus-containing droplets of 0.8-1.2 microns were generated and administered into the respiratory tract of rhesus monkeys via inhalation.Inhalation of viral doses as low as 400 plaque-forming units of virus caused a rapidly fatal disease in 4-5 days. The illness was clinically identical to that reported for parenteral virus inoculation, except for the occurrence of subcutaneous and venipuncture site bleeding and serosanguineous nasal discharge. Immunocytochemistry revealed cell-associated Ebola virus antigens present in airway epithelium, alveolar pneumocytes, and macrophages in the lung and pulmonary lymph nodes; extracellular antigen was present on mucosal surfaces of the nose, oropharynx and airways. Aggregates of characteristic filamentous virus were present within type I pneumocytes, macrophages, and air spaces of the lung by electron microscopy. Demonstration of fatal aerosol transmission of this virus in monkeys reinforces the importance of taking appropriate precautions to prevent its potential aerosol transmission to humans.
Lancet also reported on the airborne transmission of Ebola:
Abstract: Secondary transmission of Ebola virus infection in humans is known to be caused by direct contact with infected patients or body fluids. We report transmission of Ebola virus (Zaire strain) to two of three control rhesus monkeys (Macaca mulatta) that did not have direct contact with experimentally inoculated monkeys held in the same room. The two control monkeys died from Ebola virus infections at 10 and 11 days after the last experimentally inoculated monkey had died. The most likely route of infection of the control monkeys was aerosol, oral or conjunctival exposure to virus-laden droplets secreted or excreted from the experimentally inoculated monkeys. These observations suggest approaches to the study of routes of transmission to and among humans.
Even OSHA reported on the possible transmission of Ebola through aerosol droplets.
MODE OF TRANSMISSION: In an outbreak, it is hypothesized that the first patient becomes infected as a result of contact with an infected animal (15). Person-to-person transmission occurs via close personal contact with an infected individual or their body fluids during the late stages of infection or after death (1, 2, 15, 27). Nosocomial infections can occur through contact with infected body fluids due to the reuse of unsterilized syringes, needles, or other medical equipment contaminated with these fluids (1, 2). Humans may be infected by handling sick or dead non-human primates and are also at risk when handling the bodies of deceased humans in preparation for funerals, suggesting possible transmission through aerosol droplets (2, 6, 28). In the laboratory, infection through small-particle aerosols has been demonstrated in primates, and airborne spread among humans is strongly suspected, although it has not yet been conclusively demonstrated (1, 6, 13). The importance of this route of transmission is not clear. Poor hygienic conditions can aid the spread of the virus (6).
INCUBATION PERIOD: Two to 21 days, more often 4 – 9 days (1, 13, 14).
We may just be seeing the start of a colossal outbreak.
The following video by Nova gives you a detailed understanding of the ebola threat. It’s long but well worth the watch if you want to be informed;
Hat Tip WarrenUPDATE: I spoke with my cousin Dr. Dan Hoft M.D. Ph.D. an expert in infectious disease at St. Louis University Hospital. Dan is the Director of the new Division of Immunobiology. Dan helped save my life last year during my battle with a Strep infection that caused several strokes, put out an eye and damaged my heart. So, obviously, I trust him with my life.Dr. Dan told me there has never been a documented case of airborne transmission of Ebola. However, he is concerned with the spread of this strain in West Africa. He will keep me updated if he hears more on this epidemic.
“On the call with Netanyahu, Obama stressed the need to enact a ‘sustainable ceasefire’ that both ‘allows Palestinians in Gaza to lead normal lives, and addresses Gaza’s long-term development and economic needs while strengthening the Palestinian Authority.’”
On the other side would be “the disarmament of terrorist groups and demilitarization of Gaza” — but the jihad terror groups would not honor that, and Netanyahu knows it: “Hamas,” he said, “has broken five cease-fires that we accepted.” He should not accept Obama’s one-sided demand here, which would only strengthen the jihadists — like everything else Barack Obama has done.
“Obama pushes for ‘immediate’ ceasefire between Israel and Hamas,” by Laura Barron-Lopez, The Hill, July 27, 2014:
President Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke by phone on Sunday as a ceasefire with Hamas broke apart.
Obama reiterated his “strong condemnation” of rocket and tunnel attacks against Israel by the militant group Hamas, but also expressed “growing concern” about the rising number of Palestinian civilian deaths in Gaza.
Obama called for an “immediate, unconditional” humanitarian ceasefire, according to a White House readout of the call.
Negotiations to extend a 12-hour truce broke down over the weekend. Israel says it offered to extend the ceasefire for another 24 hours, only to see new rocket fire from Gaza. Israel then resumed its own military actions in Gaza.
“Hamas has broken five cease-fires that we accepted,” Netanyahu said on Fox News Sunday. “They rejected all of them, violated all of them, including two humanitarian cease-fires in the last 24 hours.”
On the call with Netanyahu, Obama stressed the need to enact a “sustainable ceasefire” that both “allows Palestinians in Gaza to lead normal lives, and addresses Gaza’s long-term development and economic needs while strengthening the Palestinian Authority.”
Any lasting solution to the ongoing conflict would only occur with the disarmament of terrorist groups and demilitarization of Gaza, Obama said.
After State Dept. warns Israel could do more to protect civilians, Kerry offers US support for focused ground ops
WASHINGTON — US Secretary of State John Kerry told Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that the US strongly supports Israel’s right to defend itself against threats posed by the Gaza tunnels dug into Israel and urged Israel to limit its ground operation to a precision offensive against the tunnels, the State Department revealed late Thursday evening.
In a statement following a Thursday afternoon phone call between Netanyahu and Kerry as Israel launched a ground offensive into Gaza, State Department officials said that “the secretary reaffirmed [the US’s] strong support for Israel’s right to defend itself against terrorist threats emanating from tunnels into Israel and expressed our view that this should be a precise operation to target tunnels, as described in a statement from the Israeli Defense Forces.”
A picture released by the Israeli Defense Forces shows weapons found inside a tunnel near Kibbutz Sufa in the Israeli Gaza border on July 17, 2014 (photo credit: IDF Spokesperson’s office/Flash90)
During the call, Netanyahu briefed Kerry on the attempted terrorist attack that was thwarted near Kibbutz Sufa on Thursday morning, and emphasized what the State Department described as “the imminent threat to Israeli civilians posed by Hamas tunnels from the Gaza Strip.”
Netanyahu discussed with Kerry his decision to launch a ground operation to target the threat of further terrorist infiltration through tunnels into Israel.
According to State Department officials, in addition to offering support for the operation against Hamas’s underground networks, Kerry “emphasized the need to avoid further escalation and to restore the 2012 ceasefire as soon as possible.”
The secretary of state also reiterated Washington’s “continuing commitment to the Egyptian initiative as the way” to restore the ceasefire, while emphasizing that it was important for Hamas to accept the plan “as soon as possible.”
The statement came a day after State Department officials were pressed as to whether the US had only cool support for the Egyptian proposal, which was reportedly brokered with the help of Quartet representative and former British prime minister Tony Blair.
On Tuesday, Israel agreed to abide by the Egyptian proposal for a ceasefire, but Hamas refused, continuing to launch rockets at Israeli cities.
In his conversation with Netanyahu, Kerry also reiterated US concern about the safety and security of civilians on both sides and the importance of doing everything possible to prevent civilian casualties. Kerry’s comments followed a strongly-worded statement issued by State Department Spokesperson Jen Psaki casting doubt as to whether Israel was really taking all steps possible to avoid civilian casualties.
After two separate incidents of Gazan children being killed were reported in as many days, Psaki said that the State Department was “increasingly concerned about the safety and security of civilians on both sides” and said that the US was “asking for a redoubling of efforts moving forward to prevent civilian casualties given the events of the past couple days.”
Psaki told reporters that Kerry had addressed the issue in a call with Netanyahu earlier in the week. “We believe there is more that can be done” to protect civilians, Psaki said.
John Kerry, Jen Psaki and not a brain between them.
Expanding on her reaction to Wednesday’s killing of four Gazan children playing by the city’s fishing pier, Psaki described the US as “heartbroken” by reports of children’s deaths, and that – regarding the specific incident Wednesday – “the reports were horrifying, the photos were horrifying and the video was horrifying.”
Psaki said State Department officials, including Kerry, “were heartened to see the statement by President Shimon Peres in which he spoke to the deaths of these children” but underscored the fact that they did not consider Peres’s statement to be a condemnation of the children’s deaths.
They say, “The Real Zionist Holocaust is Predicted in the Hadiths! The Hour [resurrection] will not take place until the Muslims fight the Jews and the Muslims kill them.” (In your dreams, sandrats!)
IPTISIS, the terrorist group controlling parts of Syria and Iraq, is using social media to promise another Holocaust against the Jews. The group’s supporter placed a post on Twitter quoting Muslim Hadith (traditionally a statements or action of Muhammad) that says in part, “The Real Zionist Holocaust is Predicted in the Hadiths! The Hour [resurrection] will not take place until the Muslims fight the Jews and the Muslims kill them.”
An English translation of speech by ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was posted on the internet Tuesday. In the oration, al-Baghdadi launched into an anti-Semitic diatribe:
So listen, O ummah of Islam. Listen and comprehend. Stand up and rise. For the time has come for you to free yourself from the shackles of weakness, and stand in the face of tyranny, against the treacherous rulers – the agents of the crusaders and the atheists, and the guards of the Jews. O ummah of Islam, indeed the world today has been divided into two camps and two trenches, with no third camp present: The camp of Islam and faith, and the camp of kufr (disbelief) and hypocrisy – the camp of the Muslims and the mujahidin everywhere, and the camp of the Jews, the crusaders, their allies, and with them the rest of the nations and religions of kufr, all being led by America and Russia, and being mobilized by the Jews.
A ISIS video posted on June 2 (below) encourages violence against Christians and Jews, writing, “Break the crosses and destroy the lineage of the grandsons of monkeys [Jews].”
Many Americans who argue against any U.S. action against ISIS claim that we have no stake against the terrorist group. However ISIS’s own propaganda demonstrates their violent intentions extend beyond Syria and Iraq and into Jewish and Christian communities across the world.
A fitting comment by Eric R on the IPT blog sums this up pretty nicely:
“The fifty of them left after the global nuclear war that would ensue would pray five times per day toward that smoking crater that used to be Mecca.”