TBR News August 30, 2017

Aug 30 2017

The Voice of the White House

Washington, D.C., August 30, 2017:”Given the increase in violent weather patterns, there is no doubt the planet is enduring climate changes. Droughts, floods, rising sea levels are among these changes. That these exist is true but no one, not a single blogger or pseudo-scientist knows why. We have such interesting theories as the magnetic pole lurching all over the northern hemisphere, clouds of methane gas erupting from melting permafrost, ultra violet rays from the sun or another planet and on and on. In fact, there are changes evident and in fiction, many interesting if flawed theories. A theory is a guess, not a fact. One of the most ludicrous phrases connected with weird theories is “Scientists have proven….” And a scientist is a man who used to sweep out the chemistry labs at a local high school.”


Table of Contents

  • Storm-hit Houston reels from influx of evacuees, crime outbreak
  • What stopped Japan from intercepting North Korean missile?
  • Iran, Again
  • Who was behind the jihadist attacks on Europe and North America?
  • A Terror Group in its Death Throes?
  • Germany keen to avoid new ‘ice age’ in ties between Russia, West
  • Justice Minister Slams Israel’s Top Court, Says It Disregards Zionism and Upholding Jewish Majority
  • The Great Majority of Jews Today Have No Historical or Ethnic Relationship to Palestine



Storm-hit Houston reels from influx of evacuees, crime outbreak

August 30, 2017

by Ernest Scheyder


HOUSTON (Reuters) – Houston strained under the arrival of tens of thousands of people fleeing submerged homes and flooded roads on Wednesday and faced an outbreak of looting and armed robberies that forced a midnight curfew.

The city opened the George R. Brown Convention Center over the weekend with a plan to house 5,000 people and be run largely by American Red Cross volunteers. The center’s size quickly doubled, as people streamed in from areas south and west of the city. Despite promising two more “mega” centers early Tuesday, Houston opened one, at a basketball arena, and two smaller centers.

That proved too little for county officials who set up their own location as an outbreak of looting and armed robberies prompted the city to order an indefinite curfew from midnight to 5 a.m. (0500 to 1000 GMT).

Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo said late Tuesday individuals impersonating police officers knocked on doors in at least two parts of the city telling residents to evacuate their homes.

Saying it spent days trying to coordinate an emergency plan with city, federal and county officials, Harris County officials late Tuesday decided to open a separate shelter for 10,000 people at a county-owned exhibition hall.

“The Red Cross was pretty much overwhelmed,” the county’s chief administrator, Ed Emmett, said at a news conference late Tuesday. After joint efforts didn’t come together, Emmett said officials decided “we can’t wait. We need to get this done.”

A county-owned exhibition hall, the NRG Center, was opened at 10 p.m. local time Tuesday. Emmett said it would be staffed in part by members of the National Guard.

More than 3,000 Houston homes were underwater and thousands more were threatened by two reservoirs swollen by an estimated 35 inches (90 cm) of rain.

In Brazoria County south of Houston, a levee broke on Tuesday morning, and the county’s chief administrator urged residents to “get out now.”

Mandatory evacuation orders covered Brazoria, Galveston and Fort Bend counties south and west of Houston, and officials issued calls for people to leave voluntarily across the region.

Some 9,000 people were at the nearly 2-million-square-foot Houston convention center early Tuesday, and local officials began searching for two additional sites as more he

Officials defended a decision not to call for a mass evacuation because of the dangers posed by such a move. A 2005 evacuation ahead of Hurricane Rita turned into a nightmare for many in Texas and Louisiana who found themselves trapped on clogged roadways and running out of fuel.

Area churches and aid organizations donated clothing, bedding and food for those forced to leave their home. The American Red Cross brought at least 1,000 volunteers to staff the city’s convention center, and provided cots, blankets and food for 34,000 across the region, officials said.

Houston called on the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to send cots, other supplies and food to help 10,000 people “as soon as possible,” Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said. The main shelter was initially expected to take in 5,000 people, but more than 2,000 arrived late on Monday, and the numbers swelled.

Among them were Maria Davila, 56, her husband, daughter, and two grandchildren, who arrived Monday night after their Houston home was flooded.

“We left our cars and belongings and starting swimming,” she said. “We don’t know how long we will be here.”

Dulcie Alexander, 44, was trapped along with several other drivers by heavy water on a highway Saturday night. She and a group of 15 others spent the night in their cars. On Sunday morning they made their way to a fire station, and were ferried to the convention center.

City officials prepared to vote Wednesday to allocate $20 million to storm relief, said city Controller Chris Brown. “Houston will have enough money to handle this storm,” he said.

City officials would not say how many evacuees they expected, or how many the city could hold.

“We are going to have to take folks. We have no choice,” said Darian Ward, a spokeswoman for Mayor Turner.

Lakewood Church, the Houston megachurch that holds televised services in a former basketball arena, announced on Tuesday it would take in up to 300 people. The church has been collecting supplies for other centers and is providing on-site health checks.

“When the city needs us, we try to help,” said Paul Osteen, the brother of Lakewood Pastor Joel Osteen and an associate church pastor. Pastor Osteen was criticized on social media for offering prayers, but not opening church doors to evacuees. Church spokesman Donald Iloff Jr. called the criticism a “completely false” narrative.

Additional reporting by Marianna Parraga and Ruthy Munoz in Houston; Writing by Gary McWilliams; Editing by Jonathan Oatis and Jeffrey Benkoe



What stopped Japan from intercepting North Korean missile?

The altitude and speed of Hwasong-12 would have made it very difficult to destroy missile in flight, while failure would have been embarrassing for Japan and encouraging to N Korea.

August 30, 2017

by Julian Ryall


In the aftermath of North Korea’s launch of a ballistic missile across Japan early on Tuesday morning, the Japanese government went to great lengths to reassure the public that it is taking all the necessary steps to protect them. In truth, however, there was effectively very little that the Japanese military could have done to neutralize this latest provocation by Pyongyang.

The weapon is believed to have been a nuclear-capable Hwasong-12 intermediate range ballistic missile that was fired from a site close to Pyongyang at 5:57am local time. After ascending over the Sea of Japan, the missile passed over northern Japan at an estimated altitude of 550 kilometers before apparently breaking into three parts and falling into the Pacific Ocean around 1,180 kilometers east of Hokkaido.

The missile was detected within seconds of launch – almost certainly by one of four US-operated space-based infra-red early warning satellites in geosynchronous orbit above the equator – and Japan’s automatic J-Alert system issued warnings to the public through mobile phones, radios and television across northern Japan.

No intercept effort

The Self-Defense Forces tracked the movement of the missile, although they made no attempt to intercept it.

Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera said the decision was made not to try to bring the missile down because it was not aimed at a target in Japan and there was therefore no danger of the projectile coming down on Japanese territory. He added that it was actually over Japan for less than two minutes.

The projectile was apparently tracked by the three Aegis destroyers, each equipped with Standard Missile-3 interceptor missiles that are constantly deployed in the Sea of Japan. A second layer of close-in defense is provided by the Air Self-Defense Force’s ground-based Patriot Advanced Capability-3 missiles, with the ASDF’s PAC-3 unit in Hokkaido based at Chitose Air base.

“By the time this got over Japan, this thing was very high and moving extremely fast,” Lance Gatling, a defense analyst and president of Tokyo-based Nexial Research Inc., told DW.

“It was apparently at an altitude of 550 kilometers when it passed over Hokkaido, which is at the very limit of the intercept range for the SM-3, and any Aegis destroyer would have needed to be in just the right position to intercept,” Gatling said. “All in all, it was a pretty low percentage shot if they had gone ahead and ordered it.”

Significant risks

There would also have been some significant risks to an attempted intercept, Gatling points out.

“What would Japan have got out of this if they had intercepted the missile? There would have been a whole load of extra space junk either cluttering up the atmosphere and potentially endangering our rockets or resupply missions to the International Space Station, for example,” he said.

North Korea would inevitably be put out by any such move, he added, because it is not clear that Japan has the legal right to interfere with another nation’s vehicles when they are in space, as opposed to in a nation’s airspace.

“It is most certainly discourteous to fire a missile over another country, but it’s arguably not illegal,” he said.

Arguably the biggest downside of an attempt to intercept the missile would have been if Japan’s defenses had failed.

“If they had tried to bring it down and failed, then the consequences would have been serious,” said Gatling. “This is a defensive system that Japan has spent a lot of money on and it had come up short in its first test. That would not have looked good domestically, while it would also encourage the North Koreans to think their missiles could not be touched.”

Stephen Nagy, a senior associate professor of international relations at Tokyo’s International Christian University, agrees that the speed and altitude of the North Korean missile made any attempt to bring it down “extremely challenging.”

“Clearly it would have been difficult solely in terms of the time required to gather the information, determine the missile’s course and target and then have a decision by the National Security Council on a response,” he said. “By the time that had happened, the missile had already come down.”

Future responses

The question now might be how Shinzo Abe, the Japanese prime minister, prepares to meet the next missile that is fired from North Korea – the likelihood of which increased sharply on Wednesday after state media reported that Kim Jong Un has defiantly ordered more missile tests landing in the Pacific Ocean.

“The Japanese government is talking about equipping the military to carry out pre-emptive attacks on sites in foreign countries if a direct threat to Japan is identified, although it must be remembered that any such attack on North Korea is likely to be met with an artillery barrage on Seoul,” Nagy said.

Estimates have suggested that an artillery strike on the South Korean capital could kill one million people in one minute.

“I expect Japan to work with the US, South Korea and possibly with China to apply more pressure on Pyongyang to squeeze their finances and cut off supplies of the technology and components that they need to make these missiles,” he said.


Iran, Again

Will Israel start a new war?

August 29, 2017

by Philip Giraldi

The Unz Review

When politicians are feeling the heat, they start a war and their popularity goes up even if the war is unnecessary or completely ridiculous. Donald Trump, the presidential candidate who promised that he would not take the nation into another Middle Eastern war, did so when he launched a fifty-nine cruise missile barrage against a Syrian Air Base even before he knew for sure what had happened on the ground. It was totally stupid but proved to be popular, even among talking heads and Congressmen, some of whom described his action as “presidential” in the best sense of the word.

It’s the same in Israel. For those who have not been following developments there, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been under pressure due to an ongoing investigation for corruption. One of the truly great things about Israel is that while they have a lot of corrupt politicians, just like everywhere else, they actually investigate, indict, prosecute, convict and send them to jail. The betting is that Netanyahu will soon be in prison, so he has been responding in the time-honored fashion by threatening his neighbors and hinting at the possibility of increased military action and even war. If there is a war going on, he believes, probably correctly, that no one will want to remove him.

In an amicable recent meeting with Russia’s Vladimir Putin, Netanyahu stressed that there are some red lines that Israel will not allow to be crossed, while also suggesting that some of them have already been violated, most notably through the alleged construction of an Iranian military base inside Syria. Netanyahu provided Putin with “top secret intelligence” to make his point and told the Russian premier that “Iran is making an accelerated effort to entrench itself militarily in Syria. This poses a danger to Israel, the Middle East and in my opinion the world itself.”

Netanyahu characteristically depicted himself as restrained in his responses, telling Putin that Israel had taken only limited action in Syria against Hezbollah supply lines, but that was a lie as Israel has also hit Syrian army positions. Netanyahu described an Iran that is largely a fantasy creation of his own Foreign Ministry, “We don’t for a second forget that Iran continues to threaten Israel’s destruction on a daily basis. It arms terrorist organizations and initiates terror itself. It is developing intercontinental ballistic missiles with the intention to equip them with nuclear warheads.” He went on to claim that his strategic objective was to prevent the development of an Iranian controlled land bridge, described as “territorial continuity,” that would extend through Iraq, Syria and Lebanon to the Mediterranean Sea.

The reality is, however, somewhat different, that Israel has long preferred chaos in Syria since it eliminates any threat from a unified and powerful government in Damascus. But just as nature abhors a vacuum that policy had a considerable downside with Iranian supported militias and Revolutionary Guard units increasingly become part of the conflict, picking up the slack where the Syrian Army has been too overstretched to operate. Iranian influence over Syria, both overtly and covertly, will continue after Damascus eliminates the last vestiges of al-Qaeda affiliates and ISIS, not to mention the rag-tag “moderate rebels.” And Iran will have standing behind it the Syrian Army, Iraqi Shi’a militias, and Russian firepower. This has meant that the Israeli plan to have a chronically weak state across its border has backfired, bringing into the fighting and post-war reconfiguration Iran, which Tel Aviv fears most as a regional adversary.

So Israel has two strong motives to begin a war with Iran, one political and the other ostensibly linked to national security. Ironically, however, it also knows, and has even admitted, that Iran does not actually pose any threat against a nuclear armed Israel that has complete air superiority over any or even all of its neighbors. The often-cited land bridge threat is also a bit of a chimera, as whether it could potentially exist or not depends on effective interaction with Lebanon, Syria, and Iraq, all of which have their own political dynamics and are somewhat wary of Iranian involvement. If there is any actual threat against Israel it comes from Hezbollah in Lebanon, which is an independent player even though it has strong ties to Tehran, but even in that case the threat is not as serious as fearmongering government leaders have claimed.

All of which is not to suggest that Iran is toothless if Israel were to get really aggressive. Hezbollah would undoubtedly unleash its missile arsenal against Israeli cities, some of which would get through, and any attack on Iran using aircraft would be confronted by formidable air defenses. Iran could also strike back against Israel using its ballistic missiles, all of which means that attacking Iran would be far from cost-free.

From Netanyahu’s point of view, it is far better to stage an incident that brings in Washington and then allows Uncle Sam to do the heavy lifting. The U.S. has strategic military capabilities that Israel lacks, including heavy bombers and armaments that could penetrate Iranian defenses, but it also has vulnerabilities in terms of military bases within striking range and ships at sea that could be attacked by swarms of small boats and land launched missiles.

Israel believes that bringing Washington into the conflict is doable given that the U.S. media has heavily propagandized against Tehran and that inside-the-beltway groupthink largely perceives Iran as an enemy. Recently Henry Kissinger spelled out the new line of strategic thinking which Israel is already exploiting to make its case. Per Kissinger, the impending defeat of ISIS in Syria and Iraq will create a power vacuum which will open the door to the creation of an “Iranian radical empire,” a more evocative version of the “land bridge” warning, which he refers to as a “territorial belt reaching from Tehran to Beirut.” As Iran is also fighting ISIS, Kissinger warns against complacency, that “in the contemporary Middle East…the enemy of your enemy is also your enemy.”

Israel has been pushing hard on Washington, recently having sent a high-level combined intelligence and military delegation to confer with National Security Adviser H. R. McMaster and Special Mideast Envoy Jason Greenblatt to explain the alleged Iranian threat. And the neocon chorus is also signaling that it expects the Trump Administration to do something. Frederick Hof of the hardline Atlantic Council recently wrote that the fundamental mistake made by Washington consisted of not invading Syria and installing an acceptable government years ago, which would have kept Iran out.

Saudi Arabia, which is demonstrating some signs of political instability, would also welcome conflict with Iran, which means that there is an existing coming-together of parties who for various reasons would welcome the escape from other problems that war offers. Donald Trump himself was angry at the State Department in July because it had certified that Tehran was in compliance with the nuclear pact signed last year and Congress also vented its anger by initiating new sanctions against Iran. The next certification is due in October and the president would clearly like to have a good reason, contrived or actual, to break the agreement.

Speculation in Israel is that some kind of preemptive strike is being planned, possibly directed against an Iranian target inside Syria. The danger is that such a move could quickly escalate, with the U.S. Congress and White House quickly aligning themselves with Netanyahu. The United States has no real compelling interest to attack the Iranians and would again find itself in a conflict generated by feckless regional allies that are not allies at all. The results could prove catastrophic in practical terms as Iran is capable of striking back, and it could be devastating to actual American longer terms interests both regionally and worldwide. It is time to say “no” when Israel comes knocking.

Comment: Israel has been tgryiing for some years to push the US into attacking Iran. They figure that Iran might launch a counter-attack on Israel if that country attacked first so the Israeli would prefer it if they could somehow persuade America to attack Iran and also Hezbollah in southern Lebanon because of Hezbollah’s huge store of deadly surface-to-surface missiles they could launch against Israel. Israel will fight to the last American soldier, believe it. Ed


Who was behind the jihadist attacks on Europe and North America?

A series of attacks in Europe over the summer months has raised the number of people killed in the West by jihadists during the past three years to more than 420,

August 30, 2017

by Dr Lorenzo Vidino

BBC News

The deaths of 16 people in Barcelona and Cambrils earlier this month highlighted the continued threat posed by Islamist militants.

The summer months have also seen new attacks in Belgium, France, Austria, Germany and the UK, as well as the first in Finland and one in the US.

Although the vast majority of Islamist attacks are elsewhere in the world, an unprecedented number have taken place in Europe and North America since the declaration of a “caliphate” by the so-called Islamic State, in June 2014.

The first look at the data behind the attacks – everything from the age of the perpetrators, to immigration status – offers an insight into those responsible and how they might be tackled.

Where the attacks were

We identified 63 attacks between September 2014 and late August 2017 that we considered to be acts of jihadist terrorism.

A relatively limited number of countries were affected: nine in Europe – those named above, plus Denmark and Sweden – along with the US and Canada.

Regardless of country, most attacks were in large towns and cities – including Barcelona, London, Manchester, Paris, Nice, Berlin, Brussels, Stockholm and Orlando.

A few attacks hit iconic targets, such as the Champs-Elysees and the Louvre museum in Paris, Westminster in London and Las Ramblas in Barcelona.

Many others targeted crowded spaces such as busy pedestrian areas, entertainment venues or transport hubs.

But some terrorist attacks have hit more unusual places, including an office Christmas party and a service at a church.

How the attacks were identified

We looked at attacks motivated by jihadist ideology, that involved deliberate acts of violence against other people and were intended to intimidate or convey a message to a larger group. Other organisations use different definitions.

  • Researchers used open-source material and interviews with officials
  • It is possible that some attacks did not come to our attention, or that full details are not available
  • The research covers the US, Canada and the 28 member states of the EU, plus Norway and Switzerland
  • Attacks motivated by other ideologies – such as the murder of Jo Cox – are not included in this study

The dead and injured

In total, the 63 attacks caused 424 deaths and left almost 1,800 people injured.

The perpetrators are not included in these figures.

The Paris attack of November 2015 was the deadliest, with 130 people killed, including 90 at the Bataclan theatre.

France also saw the Nice lorry attack, which left 86 people dead.

There were many other attacks that left many people dead and others injured.

  • In Orlando, 49 people were killed in an attack on a gay nightclub
  • Bombings at Brussels airport and at a metro station left 32 people dead
  • 14 people were killed at a Christmas party in San Bernardino, California
  • 12 people died when a lorry was driven into a crowded Christmas market in Berlin
  • 12 people died when the Paris offices of Charlie Hebdo were attacked in January 2015
  • Five people were killed in the Westminster attack in April
  • The Manchester Arena bombing in May led to 22 deaths
  • The London Bridge attack in June left eight people dead
  • The attacks in Barcelona and Cambrils left 16 people dead

In total, these 11 attacks were responsible for 386 deaths.

However, most of the attacks did not cause casualties, with the exclusion of the perpetrators.

Who the attackers were

Although the number of young people being radicalised has caused concern, the average age of the attackers – 27.5 – is not unusually young.

The two youngest were 15 – an unnamed boy who attacked a Jewish teacher with a machete in Marseille, and Safia S, a girl who stabbed a police officer at a Hannover train station.

Of the five who were under the age of 18 at the time, four were in Germany.

The vast majority of the attackers were in their 20s, with about one in four attackers above the age of 30 and six aged 40 or older.

The oldest suspect, Mohamed H Khalid, was 54 when he was accused of stabbing to death an elderly couple in the Austrian city of Linz.

In the UK, Khalid Masood, was 52 when he drove into pedestrians on Westminster Bridge and stabbed to death a police officer at the Houses of Parliament.

Despite women becoming increasingly active in jihadist networks, only two out of 85 individual perpetrators were female.

Fewer than one in five perpetrators was a convert to Islam, with a significantly higher percentage in North America than in Europe.

However, the converts were significantly more likely to have a criminal background and to have served time in prison.

Overall, half of the attackers had a prior criminal background.

Immigration status

The relationship between terrorism and migration is a complex one and has been at the centre of extremely polarising debates, particularly during the European migrant crisis.

However, the number of attackers who were illegally in a country or who arrived as refugees is small.

Two-thirds were citizens of the country they attacked, with others either legal residents, or legal visitors from neighbouring countries.

However, individuals who were in the West illegally also carried out deadly attacks.

At least two of those involved in the November 2015 Paris attacks are thought to have posed as refugees to enter Europe through Greece.

Three other individuals were refugees or asylum seekers at the time of attack, while seven were in the country illegally or awaiting deportation.

The latter group includes Uzbek national Rakhmat Akilov, who killed four people with a hijacked lorry in Stockholm in April 2017, and Tunisian citizen Anis Amri, who also used a lorry to commit his attack at the Berlin Christmas market.

There is also one case of “terrorist tourism”, involving Egyptian citizen Abdullah Hamamy, who lived in the United Arab Emirates and attacked soldiers at the Louvre in February 2017.

Links to IS

Two of the four most lethal attacks – those in Paris in November 2015 and in Brussels in 2016 – are believed to be well orchestrated multiple attacks directed by IS.

They were also executed in part by former foreign fighters.

However, the two other most deadly attacks – those in Orlando in June 2016 and in Nice in July 2016 – were carried out independently by individuals without operational connection to a jihadist group.

These episodes demonstrate that terrorist sympathisers who never travelled to conflict areas and who act independently can be as dangerous as a team of highly trained militants.

Overall, links between attackers and jihadist groups operating overseas are not always easy to determine.

Of the attacks that have hit the West since June 2014, fewer than one in 10 was c

In some cases it can be difficult to tell, for example IS said it was behind both the Las Ramblas and Cambrils attacks, but it did not provide any evidence.

Nevertheless, the influence of IS can be clearly seen.

During or before the attack, six out of 10 perpetrators pledged allegiance to a jihadist group, almost always IS – which frequently claims responsibility.

Learning the lessons

Unsurprisingly, given the frequency of attacks and the number of deaths and injuries, jihadist terrorism has come to the fore of political debates in the West and receives widespread news coverage.

The threat is not expected to wane in the near future, with policymakers, counter-terrorism officials and the public all being asked to take action.

There are huge implications for domestic and foreign policy throughout Western countries.

It is hoped that knowing more about the attacks and the people who carried them out will help us all have a more informed debate about what action is needed.

Dr Lorenzo Vidino is the director of the Program on Extremism at the George Washington University and of the Program on Radicalisation and International Terrorism at the Italian Institute for International Political Studies (ISPI) in Milan


A Terror Group in its Death Throes?

Islamic State has lost an enormous amount of territory in both Iraq and Syria and many of its leaders are dead. Yet even as the terror group appears to be breaking apart, attacks are being carried out in its name in Europe. What’s next for IS?

August 30, 2017

by Christoph Reuter


Few in the West are familiar with the city that Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi ordered to be invaded 10 days ago. “You either surrender, or die,” he said in a televised speech, a combative appearance during which he wore the black fatigues of the notorious anti-terror units. The town is called Tal Afar, located west of the recently liberated city of Mosul, and it is one of the last Islamic State (IS) strongholds in Iraq.

Tal Afar is essentially one of two IS hometowns, having produced several high-ranking members of the terrorist organization. Even under Saddam Hussein, the city was something of a laboratory of hate. The Turkmen majority here mistrusted the Arab minority, yet the Turkmen community included both Sunnis and Shiites, allowing Saddam to play them off against each other. Sunnis, for example, were allowed to pursue a career in the secret services and enrich themselves at the expense of their neighbors.

When IS conquered Tal Afar in June 2014, the group murdered or expelled all Shiites. In response, notorious Shiite militias have been insisting that they be allowed to fight on the front lines during the battle for the liberation of the city, where around 10,000 of the once 200,000 residents are still holed up.

The war, in other words, is also a battle for revenge. And Tal Afar is the next round.

Islamic State’s “caliphate,” which Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi proclaimed in July 2014 and which once stretched from al-Bab in northern Syria to Tikrit in Iraq, is now history. The area under the terrorist group’s control has shrunk dramatically. IS has lost Mosul in Iraq. It has been pushed out of Sirte in Libya and lost control of almost all of its oil wells. Soon, the group will also be forced to surrender Raqqa in Syria.

Between 80 and 90 percent of the group’s top leadership is dead, having been neutralized in the last three years primarily by U.S. drones and missiles. Among the dead are the five most important IS commanders who, starting in 2012, planned and carried out the conquering of northern Syria. Today, the group no longer has a centralized military chain of command — each unit is fighting on its own. Unsigned orders are jotted down on slips of paper and delivered via courier.

No Verifiable Connection

In Europe, meanwhile, more terror attacks are being committed in Islamic State’s name, and in Islamic State’s spirit, than ever before. In this year alone, there have been attacks in London, Manchester, Paris, Stockholm, Saint Petersburg and Istanbul. And that was before 15 people were killed and almost 100 injured in the attacks earlier this month in Barcelona and Cabrils. IS claimed responsibility just hours after the violence.

As upsetting as each individual attack is, it is grotesquely simple to drive vehicles into crowds of people, fire a Kalashnikov into dancing crowds or stab people with knives. The Barcelona attackers were so unsophisticated that they weren’t even able to use gas bottles as bombs.

There is, in other words, no comparison to Islamic State’s 2013 ability to import hundreds of tons of explosives from around the world into Syria across the Turkish border.

Furthermore, there is no verifiable connection between the perpetrators in Spain and the IS leadership in Syria or Iraq, and IS claims of responsibility have not included any proof of such a connection. The group has long since set in motion a wave of terror, and Islamic State is no longer necessary to keep it going. But the intended effect of the attacks is consistent with the IS mission: that of stoking hatred and resentment against Muslims in the West as a way of driving a wedge into European societies — and driving Muslims in Europe into the arms of the terrorist group.

Thus far, Europeans have proven to be astonishingly resilient to the terror, even if the end is not yet in sight. Nobody has yet figured out, after all, how to put a stop to this wave of attacks, given that the only thing attackers need to strike the West is a vehicle of some kind.

The increase in attacks in Europe is far from surprising. The more quickly IS loses territory, the less the group has to lose. It can now launch terror attacks at will.

More Experienced and More Competent

Does this, then, mean that Islamic State is facing its demise? One should be careful with such a verdict. Islamic State seemed to be at an end once before. Seven years ago, the U.S. military along with Iraqi security personnel had almost completely destroyed the organization’s leadership. In June 2010, U.S. generals announced that the group, which at the time was still called Islamic State of Iraq, had been devastated. But the Americans had merely accelerated a generational change among the group’s leadership, paving the way for the organization to become the monster that began terrorizing the world in 2014.

The group’s new leaders had been part of the IS chain of command for some time and were both more experienced and more competent than most of those who had been killed. Until then, though, their rise had been blocked by a flaw they all shared: They had all been officers in Saddam Hussein’s intelligence services and military. They were experts in military leadership, intelligence agency structuring and strategic planning. In short, they were the kinds of people who knew how to build up a state.

The terror militia’s rapid advance in 2014, extensive planning for which had been conducted in secret, was their work. Islamic State’s ideological façade may be similar to al-Qaida’s, but the two groups are fundamentally different. The core of the successful IS strategy in Iraq, Syria and Libya was infiltration, lightning attacks and, afterward, keeping a tight grip on the conquered territory by terrorizing the populace. Islamist propaganda was merely the means chosen to legitimize the incursions and to attract volunteer fighters from around the world.

Their strategy would have worked if IS could have managed to hold on to the territorial gains it initially made. What, though, might follow the group’s most recent collapse?

Expert predictions range from the premature proclamations of victory coming from the Iraqi prime minister to assumptions that IS will continue to operate as a terrorist group and focus its violence on attacks in the West. There is even a theory that the group consciously accepted the Mosul defeat as a way to recruit new followers.

Even if IS has lost control of its largest cities, which had functioned as symbols of the group’s strength, it still rules over a significant swath of territory. It is currently fighting on around 11 different fronts and is not withdrawing from any of them without putting up a powerful fight. In Syria, it is still holding on to the fertile and densely populated Euphrates valley between the city of Deir al-Zor and the Iraqi border, an area to which many IS leaders are thought to have withdrawn.

Down on the Agenda

The narrow valley would actually be easier to conquer than the cities, but it is located far from where Kurdish militias are operating as they attack Raqqa with U.S. support. Furthermore, the topography of the valley is advantageous for IS: Both sides are flanked by steppe land and desert, making it easy for the terrorist group to quickly pull back.

Perhaps most importantly, though, fighting Islamic State is well down on the agenda of Syrian ruler Bashar Assad and his Russian and Iranian allies, despite all their claims to the contrary. The jihadists have simply been too beneficial to Assad, allowing him to appear as the lesser of two evils in the eyes of the world.

In Iraq, too, the terrorist army continues to maintain its hold on a vast territory beyond the now embattled stronghold of Tal Afar: the district of Hawija, a region of more than 40 square kilometers of fertile land located southwest of Kirkuk, home to several towns, around 100 villages and tens of thousands of residents.

Hawija was one of Islamic State’s first strongholds in Iraq — and will likely be the last one to fall. The district is a microcosm that reveals both the terror organization’s decay as well as its resilience. DER SPIEGEL informants in the region have been supplying information for months, including reports of the erosion of discipline among fighters and leadership in addition to massive disputes between competing factions.

The Hisbah morality police, which conducts patrols in IS-held territories, and the group’s secret service organization Amniyat both try to prevent civilians from fleeing the region, for example. Without a human shield, after all, it would be more difficult to defend the region. IS fighters on the front lines and observation posts, by contrast, earn significant sums of money by allowing civilians to pass through or by smuggling them through the minefields themselves.

“There were 200 of us in our group,” recalls one person who fled the IS-controlled area. “The IS man who took us out embraced the guards at the checkpoint. They knew each other.” In the towns and villages, say eyewitnesses, IS members organize the smuggling operation even as IS commandos immediately take people into custody on even the slightest suspicion that they are preparing to flee.

Scorched Earth

Despite all of that, Islamic State continues to have a tight grip on Hawija. When the security chief for the town of Abbasi was murdered at the end of June, IS fighters made hundreds of arrests and killed seven of their own people, including two town commanders. The end of IS control in Hawija still seems a long way off, but even here, the group’s demise doesn’t lie too far into the future. Cities and villages will be destroyed and women and children will likely be sent as suicide bombers into Iraqi lines — while Iraqi troops are likely to shoot prisoners dead. IS leaves behind scorched earth — if it goes down, everything else must go down as well. It is a taste of the apocalypse, consistent with the constant claims being made by IS propaganda.

That doesn’t, however, mean that the entire IS is interested in perishing. Islamic State is made up of diverse groups: In addition to the devout and the “martyrs,” who would rather die fighting than give up, there have always been the opportunists, who were more interested in money and power. For as long as IS continued to win on the battlefield, these fault lines remained largely invisible. Now, though, amid growing pressure, the situation is changing. In Mosul last fall, it became apparent that many IS fighters were leaving the city even as others were arriving, knowing full well that they wouldn’t escape with their lives.

IS could have surrendered Mosul, saving both the city and the lives of thousands of its own fighters. But it didn’t, instead accepting military defeat in order to further stoke the hatred between Sunnis and Shiites. Doing so made Sunnis the targets of revenge attacks and placed them under a general suspicion of all being terrorists.

Now, the same Shiite militias who liberated Mosul are systematically destroying Sunni towns like Diyala, Babel and Tuz Khurmatu. They are abducting young men, who are never seen again, driving out their families and stripping down factories. Even those who fled Islamic State are finding no protection with the group’s enemies. Many of the hundreds of thousands of displaced people are prevented from traveling to Baghdad or southern Iraq. They are stopped at the heavily guarded district borders and left to vegetate in miserably supplied camps.

Dysfunctional and Corrupt

The investment in hate and retribution is a strategic constant for the Islamic State. Even Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, founder of al-Qaida in Iraq, which preceded Islamic State, began targeting the Iraqi Shiite majority with terror in 2003 instead of seeking to attack far-flung enemies in America and Europe. The calculation is a simple one: Shiite reprisals would drive Sunnis directly into the arms of Islamic State. And that is exactly what happened in 2014. In Mosul, Tikrit and elsewhere, many Sunnis welcomed the IS invaders as liberators.

This time, nothing will stand in the way of the victors’ excesses following their defeat of the terrorist group. Particularly given that in recent years, the Shiite militias have transformed into a frightening, multinational shadow-army that fights in both Syria and Iraq and is made up of recruits from Pakistan and Afghanistan in addition to Hezbollah supporters, all controlled by Iran’s Revolutionary Guard.

The Shiite-dominated government in Baghdad, on the other hand, is so dysfunctional and corrupt that it can’t even provide for its own people, much less the Sunni population. In one of the most oil-rich countries on earth, one-third of the population lives below the poverty line and the state can’t even afford to pay many of its civil servants. There likewise aren’t plans or money yet for the reconstruction of Mosul. And that will ensure that hate will survive, as will the thirst for revenge. A new generation of jihadists will emerge — there is, after all, no shortage of rage.

One thing, though, is irreplaceable: the entire generation of military and secret service leaders that IS made more powerful than ever before. At the peak of its powers, the organization controlled 100,000 square kilometers of land with several million residents. A vast apparatus kept this new empire in operation.

But the proclamation of the caliphate also made Islamic State vulnerable. Its visibility turned it into a target. In August 2014, when Washington finally joined the battle against the terror organization, an escalation began that the IS could only lose. The execution of American and British hostages along with the terror attacks in Europe and Turkey did nothing to discourage the countries belonging to the anti-IS coalition. On the contrary. Declaring war on the entire world may have been good for IS from a PR point of view, but the caliphate had no response to the airstrikes that followed.

Taken Out of Harm’s Way

Some have nevertheless continued to fight. But others have not. Shortly after the beginning of the year, a group of junior commanders and small elite units vanished without a trace. Islamic State declared many of them dead, saying that they had fallen victim to various airstrikes. But Western intelligence agencies know from sources deep within Islamic State roughly where some of the terrorists are. “We know of at least two or three cases where the person in question wasn’t present at the site where they allegedly died,” says one European intelligence officer. That would seem to indicate that they were discretely taken out of harm’s way.

In late March, the IS news channel Aamaq sowed panic among the residents of Raqqa when it announced that the Tabqa Dam upriver from the city had been bombed by the Americans and was about to burst. All residents were called on to flee immediately, which they did. The city emptied out within just one day. Just hours later came the order to return: The dam, it was said, wouldn’t break after all. IS knew that the dam wasn’t in danger of breaking, so why did it knowingly spread the false rumor?

According to an IS fighter from Raqqa who fled in early April, the mass evacuation was a well-planned diversion. “It allowed the leadership to leave the city without exposing them to drones,” the man told DER SPIEGEL at the end of May. The evacuating civilians had been used as a human shield.

As early as the turn of the year, IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was to be brought to Syria by way of the village of Asaviyah, southwest of Hawija. IS had already assembled a number of fighters there at the end of October. The trip was made in secret, but IS bragged afterwards that they had brought their leader to safety.

The U.S. government confirmed Baghdadi’s departure from Iraq weeks later. But when Baghdadi’s death was reported for the umpteenth time in early July, the news was based on just a single source: Within IS, rumors were circulating that the Islamic State leader was no longer alive. The report could be accurate — or it could have been purposely planted to relieve pressure on Baghdadi.

Biding Its Time

So, what comes next? For as long as the group has enough jihadists willing to fight to the death and enough kidnapped child soldiers, it will likely continue to let one village after the next be destroyed in murderous battles. But IS has long since evacuated parts of its leadership, its elite fighters and its immense gold reserves, much of which was plundered in 2014 from Mosul. It has done so in order to continue fighting where it has always been most mobile: underground. There, it will reorganize, bide its time and then pop up under a different name and perhaps with a different profile.

The decisive trigger for IS to once again begin operating in the open in 2013 was the prospect of establishing its own state. How good are the chances, then, that it will return once again? The Islamic State brand has been exhausted, but it is still useful for propaganda purposes. Nothing triggers U.S. drone attacks as reliably as the black-and-white IS flag.

Furthermore, the conditions in the Middle East — the deep distrust between Shiites and Sunnis, the wars and the lack of state control — are perfect for the rise of a new group of Sunni fighters. Starting in 2010, IS leadership had the patience, the ideas and the discipline to take advantage of those conditions to create the most powerful terror organization in the world.

Today, that leadership no longer exists. As such, the decisive question is: Has a sufficient number of competent commanders and planners managed to stay alive, or are there enough able replacements, to keep IS together underground?

If so, then one European intelligence agent — a man who intensively monitored the climb of Islamic State even before 2014 — might ultimately be right. “They always had a Plan B, a Plan C and a Plan D,” he says. “There is no reason why they won’t surprise us once again.”



Germany keen to avoid new ‘ice age’ in ties between Russia, West

August 29, 2017


WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Germany and Europe want to ensure that new U.S. sanctions against Russia do not lead to a new “ice age” in ties between Russia and the West, German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel said on Tuesday.

Gabriel said he spoke with U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson about the sanctions in a meeting in Washington, adding that he was grateful that U.S. President Donald Trump had agreed to coordinate on further measures with U.S. allies.

“We as Europeans have great concerns that this will have unintended consequences for Europe. We don’t want to completely destroy our business relations with Russia, especially in the energy sector,” Gabriel said.

Trump this month approved new sanctions on Moscow for its 2014 annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea peninsula and for what U.S. intelligence agencies say was its meddling in the U.S. presidential election, a charge Russia denies.

Gabriel has criticized the United States for the move, saying the new punitive measures expose European companies involved in energy projects in Russia to fines for breaching U.S. law.

Economy Minister Brigitte Zypries even urged the EU to retaliate against the United States if the new sanctions on Russia should end up penalizing German firms.

Gabriel said European leaders were concerned that the latest sanctions would not only have economic consequences, but could also “lead to a new ice age between Russia and the United States and the West.”

Despite European concerns about the sanctions, Gabriel insisted that Moscow must do its part to implement a fragile ceasefire agreement in place for eastern Ukraine, including the withdrawal of heavy weapons.

“That would be a starting point for improved relations,” Gabriel said.

Kurt Volker, the newly appointed U.S. special representative for Ukraine, told broadcaster Deutsche Welle, that Washington would not forge any agreement with Moscow “over the heads of the Ukrainians or behind the backs of the Europeans.”

“The U.S. has made clear we fully support the Normandy process, and it’s not our intention to become a part of it or to try to go over the top of it,” Volker told Deutsche Welle.

He acknowledged Russian concerns about Washington’s decision to consider arming Ukraine in the conflict, but said it was “quite reasonable for Ukrainians to want to be better able to defend themselves.”

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President on Monday called for Russia and Ukraine to increase their efforts to implement the ceasefire agreement.

The conflict between Ukrainian forces and Russian-backed separatists has claimed more than 10,000 lives since it erupted in 2014. Germany and France have tried to convince both sides to implement a peace deal agreed in Minsk in 2015 under the so-called Normandy process but with little success so far.

Merkel told reporters on Tuesday that sanctions against Russia would be lifted when the situation in eastern Ukraine improved.

Reporting by Andrea Shalal; Editing by Hugh Lawson


Justice Minister Slams Israel’s Top Court, Says It Disregards Zionism and Upholding Jewish Majority

The Israeli judicial system places too much emphasis on individual rights, Ayelet Shaked claims, while labeling the nation-state bill a ‘moral and political revolution’

August 29, 2017

by Revital Hovel


Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked criticized the Supreme Court on Tuesday, claiming that the justice system gives insufficient consideration to Zionism and the country’s Jewish majority.

Speaking at a conference of the Israel Bar Association in Tel Aviv, Shaked said that Zionism and “national challenges have become a legal blind spot” that carry no decisive weight in comparison to questions of individual rights. She added that the court’s rulings do not consider the matter of demography and the Jewish majority “as values that should be taken into consideration.”

Shaked’s comments come the day after the Supreme Court, sitting as the High Court of Justice, ruled that asylum seekers may be deported to Rwanda and Uganda but may not be jailed for more than two months if they refuse to go.

“Zionism should not continue, and I say here, it will not continue to bow down to the system of individual rights interpreted in a universal way that divorces them from the history of the Knesset and the history of legislation that we all know,” Shaked told her audience, which included Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit, Supreme Court President Miriam Naor, State Prosecutor Shai Nitzan and Military Advocate General Sharon Afek.

Shaked’s speech was momentarily interrupted when some of the lawyers in the audience yelled that Israeli was an apartheid state.

The minister also said that the nation-state bill now being advanced by the government will be a “moral and political revolution.” The controversial bill holds that Israel is “the national home of the Jewish people” and that the right to realize self-determination in the state is unique to them.

Shaked said that the court’s rulings reflect an attitude according to which “the question of the Jewish majority isn’t relevant in any case.” With regard to the Supreme Court ruling, she added: “It isn’t relevant when we’re talking about infiltrators from Africa who have settled in south Tel Aviv and established a city within a city, pushing out the residents of the neighborhoods, and the response of the judicial system in Israel is to strike down again and again the law that seeks to deal with the matter.”

With regard to the Jewish majority, Shaked also mentioned increasing the Jewish population of the Galilee.

Shaked said she considered the system of individual rights important, but “not when it is disconnected from context, from our national tasks, from our identity, from our history, from our Zionist challenges.”

She added that “since the rights revolution, we have stopped seeing ourselves as a community.”

Regarding the nation-state bill, Shaked said that those who oppose it “believe that a Basic Law that gives prominence to our national and Zionist values will make us less democratic. I, on the other hand, see the individual rights that the Knesset has recognized as an absolute truth, and I also see our national and Zionist values as an absolute truth.”

She added: “Only a moral and political revolution along the lines of the one we experienced in the 1990s that will reconfirm the main achievements of Zionism since its inception will change this problematic trend.” The minister said that this trend has led to legal “interpretation that has turned our national uniqueness into an empty symbol and an empty vessel.”

Reacting to Shaked’s comments, the leader of the opposition in the Knesset, Zionist Union Knesset member Isaac Herzog, said: “In the face of a government that is ignoring the orphan, the disabled, the foreigner and the widow, we need a strong judicial system that will not show bias. The coalition parties should head off Shaked’s revolution, for the good of the public as a whole.”

The head of the Hatnuah faction of the Zionist Union, Tzipi Livni, said: “Zionism isn’t bowing down to human rights. It is proudly raising its head, because protecting [human rights] is also the essence of Judaism and part of Israel’s values as a Jewish and democratic state.”

In response to the Monday’s ruling on asylum seekers, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Interior Minister Arye Dery, together with Shaked, called for legislation that would allow asylum seekers to be deported against their will. Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan criticized the Supreme Court ruling, saying that it nullified his decision when he was interior minister “to apply the policy of removal to a third country and leaves the state without an effective tool to remove infiltrators.”



The Great Majority of Jews Today Have No Historical or Ethnic Relationship to Palestine

by Issa Nakhleh  LL.B

The Jews of today are composed of the Ashkenazi and the Sephardi Jews. The Sephardi Jews are the Oriental Jews wo are descendants of the Jews who left Palestine during the Christian era and migrated to neighboring Arab countries., North Africa and Spain. Some of the Oriental Jews were also converts to Judaism, such as some Berbers of North Africa who were converted to Judaism. The Tunisian Jews, Albert Memmi, a Professor of Sociology at the Sorbonne in Paris, has expressed doubt as “to whether his own ancestors in the Saraha had any historic connection to Palestine. Perhaps, he suggested, they were just Berbers converted to Judaism, since according to his information, “most North African Jews are simply Berber nomads who have accepted Judaism.”

Arthur Koestler maintains that there were many Jewish converts outside of Palestine with no biblical family roots:

‘Witness to the proselytizing zeal of the Jews of earlier times are the black-skinned Falasha of Abyssinia, the Chinese Jews of Kai-Feng who look like Chinese, the Yemenite Jews with the dark olive complexion, the Jewish Berber tribes of the Sahara who look like Tauregs, and so on, down to our prime example, the Khazars.’

The Ashkenazi Jews who lived in Russian and Central Eastern Europe and later on migrated to Western and Southern Europe, are of Khazar origin and were converted to Judaism in the 9th century A.S. The Khazar Jews have no ethnic or historical connection with Palestine. The Ahakenazi Jews who migrated to Palestine during the British mandate and who committed the crime of genocide against the Palestinian people are descendants of the Khazars. The Jewish Encyclopedia refers to the Khazars and their conversion to Judaism:

“A people of Turkish origin whose life and history are interwoven with the very beginnings of the history of the Jews of Russia. The kingdom of the Khazars was firmly established in most of South Russia long before the foundation of the Russian monarchy by the Varangians(855)…Driven onward by the nomadic tribes of the steppes and by their own desire for plunder and revenge, they made frequent invasions into Armenia…

In the second half of the sixth century the Khazar move westward. They established themselves in the territory bounded by the Sea of Azov, the Don and the lower Volga, the Caspian Sea, and the northern Caucasus…In 679 the Khazars subjugated the Bulgars and extended their sway further west between the Don and the Dnieper, as far as the the head-waters of Donetsk….It was probably about that time that the Khaghan (Bulan) of the Khazars and his grandees, together with a large number of his heathen people, embraced the Jewish religion…

It was one of the successors of Bulan, named Obadiah, who regenerated the kingdom and strengthened the Jewish religion. He invited Jewish scholars to settle in his dominions, and founded synagogues and schools, The people were instructed in the Bible, Mishnah, and Talmud…

From the work Kitab al-Buldan written about the ninth century, it appears as if all the Khazars were Jews and that they had been converted to Judaism only a short time before that book was written….It may be assumed that in the ninth century many Khazar heathens became Jews, owing to the religious zeal of King Obadia,. “Such a conversion in great masses says Chwolson (Izvyestia o  Khazaraka, p 58), ” may have been the reason for the embassy of the Christians from the land of the Khazars to the Byzantine emperor Michael…

The Jewish population in the entire domain of the Khazars, in the period between the seenth and tenth centuries, must have been considerable…

The Russians invaded the trans-Caucasian country in 944…This seems to have been the beginning of the downfall of the Khazar kingdom…The Russian prince Sviatoslav made war upon the Khazars (c.974) the Russians conquered all the Khazarian territory east of the Sea of Azov. Only the Crimean territory of the Khazars remained in their possession until 1016, when they were dispossessed by a joint expedition of Russians and Byzanatines…Many were sent as prisoners of was to Kiev, where a Khazar community had long existed…Some went to Hungary, but the great mass of the people remained in their native country. Many members of the Khazrian royal family emigrated to Spain…

Professor Graetz describes the Khazar kingdom as follows:

“The heathen king of a barbarian people, living in the north,m together with all his court, adopted the Jewish religion…Their kings, who bore the title of Khakhan or Khaghan, had led these warlike sons of the steppe from victory to victory…

It is possible that the circumstances under which the Khazars embraced Judaism have been embellished by legend, but the fact itself is too definitely proved on all sides to allow any doubt as to its reality. Besides Bulan, the nobles of his kingdom, numbering nearly four thousand,m adopted the Jewish religion. Little by little it made its way among the people, so that most of the inhabitants of the towns of the H=Khazar kingdom were Jews…At first the Judaism of the Khazars must have been rather superficial, and could have had but a little influence on their mind and manners…

A successor of Bulan, who bore the Hebrew name of Obadiah, was the first to make serious efforts to further the Jewish religion. He invited Jewish sages to settle in his dominions, rewarded them royally, founded synagogues and schools, caused instruction to be given to himself and his people in the Bible and the Talmud, and introduced a divine service modeled on that of the ancient communities…After Obadiah came a long series of Jewish Khaghans, for according to a fundamental law of the state only Jewish rulers were permitted to ascent the throne…”

According to Dr. A.A. Poliak, Professor of Medieval Jewish History at Tel Aviv University, the descendants of the Khazars-“those who stayed where they were, those who emigrated to the United States and to other countries, and those who went ti Israel– constitute now the large majority of world Jewry.”

The physiological differences between the Ashkenazim, who are mainly of Turkic Khazar origin, the the Sephardim, who are mainly of Semitic Palestinian origin, has been confirmed by scientific evidence:

“By, and large, the Sephardim are dolichocephalic (long-headed), the Ashkenazim brachycephalic (broad-headed)…The statistics relating to other physical features also speak against racial unity…The hardest evidence to date come from classification by blood groups.

(“The thirteenth Tribe” by Arthur Koestler pps. 232-233)

Thus both historical and physiological evidence negate any historical claims to being of Palestinian origin to the European Jews in Israel and to the majority of Jews in the world.




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