ISIS' $2 Billion Jihadist Network - Martin Chulov (Guardian-UK)
Two days before Mosul fell to the Islamic insurgent group ISIS, Iraqi forces captured more than 160 computer flash sticks which contained the most detailed information yet known about the terror group.
The treasure trove included names and noms de guerre of all foreign fighters, senior leaders and their code words, initials of sources inside ministries and full accounts of the group's finances.
The information detailed how, in less than three years, ISIS had grown from a ragtag band of extremists to perhaps the most cash-rich and capable terror group in the world.
ISIS secured massive cashflows from the oilfields of eastern Syria, which it had commandeered in late 2012, and from smuggling all manner of raw materials pillaged from Syria, as well as priceless antiquities from archaeological digs.
This has now been supplemented with money robbed from banks and the value of looted military supplies.
Turkey's Support for ISIS Islamist Terrorists - Daniel Pipes (Washington Times)
Ankara may deny helping ISIS, but the evidence for this is overwhelming. ISIS strongholds not coincidentally cluster close to Turkey's frontiers.
Syrians, Turks (estimated to number 3,000), and foreign fighters have crossed the Turkish-Syrian border at will to join ISIS.
Moreover, the Turks provided the bulk of ISIS' funds, logistics, training and arms.
In a photograph, ISIS commander Abu Muhammad was seen in a hospital bed in Hatay State Hospital in Turkey in April, receiving treatment for battle wounds.
One Turkish opposition politician estimates that Turkey has paid $800 million to ISIS for oil shipments.
Another politician released information about active-duty Turkish soldiers training ISIS members.
Ex-Islamic Jihad Leader Launches New Armed Group in Gaza - Raasha Abou Jalal (Al-Monitor)
Hisham Salem, a well-known figure in Gaza, has declared the start of a new resistance movement called "Al-Sabirin" or "Hosn," its Arabic acronym. Its flag looks a lot like that of Lebanon's Hizbullah.
Despite Salem's insistence that his movement does not promote Shiite ideas in Gaza, he strongly denounced the beliefs prevailing in Palestinian society that Shiites constitute an existential threat to Sunnis.
Salem runs a charity association named al-Baqiyat al-Salihat, which primarily relies on Iranian support. The Hamas movement had shut down the association in April 2011 for allegedly spreading Shiism.
See also Iran Spawns New Jihadist Group in Gaza - Jonathan Schanzer and Grant Rumley (Long War Journal)
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- Huge U.S.-Iran Gap on Nukes as Target Date Nears - George Jahn
Recent high-level U.S.-Iran talks meant to pave the way to a final nuclear deal only highlighted the two nations' huge differences, say two diplomats, further diminishing expectations that a July 20 target date for agreement will be met. They said last week's discussions between U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Bill Burns and Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi left major differences unresolved.
Iran wants to keep the almost 20,000 enriching centrifuges it now operates or has on standby. The U.S. demands that Iran run no more than a few hundred centrifuges, dismantle all on standby and agree to tight limits on how much enriched uranium it can stockpile.
See also Deadlock Continues at Iran Nuclear Talks
Two days of negotiations this week have failed to narrow differences in the nuclear talks between Iran and six world powers, diplomats said Thursday.
- U.S.: Iran Economy Remains in Distress from Sanctions - Steven Scheer
U.S. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew said Iran's economy remained in a state of distress due to sanctions over its nuclear program and that the U.S. would not rush into making a bad deal to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. "Iran is losing a significant amount in oil sales alone from the sanctions that remain in place, more than the value of the temporary relief," Lew said in Jerusalem on Wednesday.
"As we approach the last month of the agreed upon period for negotiations, Iran's economy remains in a state of distress that brought the government to the negotiating table in the first place." (Reuters)
- David Cameron: ISIS Is Planning to Attack UK - Rowena Mason
Speaking about the crisis in Iraq, Prime Minister David Cameron warned the House of Commons on Wednesday: "I'd disagree with those people who think this is nothing to do with us and if they want to have some sort of extreme Islamist regime in the middle of Iraq that won't affect us - it will....The people in that regime, as well as trying to take territory, are also planning to attack us here at home in the United Kingdom." (Guardian-UK)
- Syrian Helicopters Kill 20 People in Attack on Refugee Camp - Suleiman Al-Khalidi
Syrian army helicopters killed at least 20 people, mostly children and women, in an attack on a refugee camp in southern Syria along the border with Jordan. Residents and opposition activists said the army dropped several barrel bombs on the camp in the village of Shajra. At least eighty people were injured.
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
- Gazans Accept that Hamas Was Involved in the Kidnapping and Brace for Israeli Response - Avi Issacharoff
The Palestinian population in Gaza widely believes that the Hamas leadership was indeed involved in the abduction of three Israeli teens and that after Israel has finished dealing with the episode, it will turn its attention to the Strip.
(Times of Israel)
See also Palestinian Social Media Adopt Pro-Kidnapping Salute - Elhanan Miller
Popular support for the abduction of three Israeli teens has continued to proliferate on Palestinian social media as Palestinians posted photos of themselves making a three-fingered victory sign, sometimes writing the words "three Shalits" on their hands.
(Times of Israel)
- Palestinian Rocket Hits Home in Kibbutz, Israel Air Force Strikes Gaza in Response
After a Palestinian rocket fired on Wednesday struck a home in a kibbutz near Gaza, the Israel Air Force launched a series of airstrikes targeting a terror activity site, a terror infrastructure site and a concealed rocket launcher in Gaza.
(Times of Israel)
- Israel to Vice-Chair UN Committee on Palestinian Refugees - Spencer Ho
Israel overcame a coordinated effort by Arab states on Wednesday to thwart its appointment as vice chair of a UN committee dealing with issues such as Palestinian refugees and human rights.
Mordehai Amihai won the appointment to represent the Western European and Other Groups voting bloc on the 4th (Decolonization) Committee with 74 votes, while 68 countries abstained and two voted for other candidates. He received staunch backing from Britain, Canada and the UK.
Israeli Ambassador to the UN Ron Prosor thanked countries that supported Israel's bid and accused the Arab Group of hypocrisy. Prosor noted, "The Arab Group did not see anything wrong with the membership of Iran, a state that arms Assad and Hizbullah, in the Committee on Disarmament and International Security." (Times of Israel)
- Stop the Loose Talk about Meeting with Iran to Discuss Iraq - Michael Eisenstadt
How should the U.S. respond to the mess in Iraq?
First, do no harm; donít over-react.
Second, stop the loose talk about meeting with Iran to discuss the situation in Iraq. This only feeds speculation that Washington and Tehran are conspiring at the expense of the Sunnis, and that the U.S. believes that the way to fight Sunni jihadists is by allying with Shiite jihadists.
This perception will only further complicate the already polarized and fraught situation in Iraq, and foster additional distrust toward the U.S. among its traditional (Sunni) Arab allies.
The writer is a senior fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.
- ISIS Terrorists: Should Tehran and Washington Cooperate? - Frederic C. Hof
Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has served Iran well by (among other things) permitting the Islamic Republic to ship arms to Syria and raise Iraqi militiamen to help Assad wage war. Yet he is now a grotesque liability for one and all.
The people Tehran has supported - Assad and Maliki - are the principal authors of political disasters that can undermine Iran's security decisively. If Iran wishes to open the alternative of a political track by obliging its Syrian client to cease its program of mass homicide, it is free to do so. If it wishes to stabilize the area that ISIS wants to turn into a pre-Islamic emirate, it has means at its disposal that require no blessing from Washington and would provoke no condemnation.
Secretary of State John Kerry has said: "Let's see what Iran might or might not be willing to do." This is highly preferable to chasing Tehran and begging it to do that which is in its interests anyway.
The writer is a senior fellow with the Atlantic Council's Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East.
- Who Will Win in Iraq? - Steven Simon
Rather like what happened in Syria, the Sunni offensive is likely to spur a transformation of the Iraqi Army from the sorry mess it is now into a more resilient and operationally effective force. In Syria, the army reeled in the face of the rebellion in 2011; desertions were rife and large sections of territory were lost to the insurgency. But as incompetent commanders were killed or relieved and a new leadership emerged, the army was able to bring its vastly greater firepower to bear on an increasingly fractionated adversary. Its combat capability was multiplied by the successful integration of civilian militias and the intelligence and tactical advice supplied by Iran.
This trajectory is likely to be replicated in Iraq. In short, despite the rapid success of the Sunni campaign, it is a kamikaze attack that will make the Shiite hold on the Iraqi state stronger, not weaker. Moreover, Iraq, like the Assad regime in Syria, will be ever more in thrall to Iran. The writer was the senior director for the Middle East and North Africa at the U.S. National Security Council from 2011 to 2012.
(New York Times)
When Authority Erodes in the Sunni Middle East, Al-Qaeda Terrorists Gain Traction - Ryan Evans interviews Amb. James F. Jeffrey (War on the Rocks)
- "In Syria, the United States for the first time since the 1980s allowed a regional Near East crisis to degenerate without [playing] any significant role, inadvertently helping give birth to a truly lethal al-Qaeda offshoot."
- "There must be a strategy to prevent a permanent ISIS presence in parts of Iraq and Syria."
- "From Pakistan to Mali, it's now obvious that within the Sunni Middle East, when authority erodes, terrorists with an al-Qaeda philosophy will spring up and gain traction. Attempting to stem this by imposing Western institutions and ideals has failed miserably."
- Regarding Iran, "while our interests in Iraq momentarily coincide (maintaining unity, fighting al-Qaeda), our larger interests do not, be it in Syria, or cooperation with our Israeli, Turkish and Sunni Arab partners, or in trying to win over Sunnis in ISIS-dominated areas. Too close a U.S. approach to Iran would be fatal."
Amb. James F. Jeffrey, a Fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, served as U.S. envoy to Baghdad (2010-2012) and as deputy national security advisor in the George W. Bush administration.
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