Terror Groups Are Strapping Bombs to Cheap Consumer Drones
Motherboard: Most discussions involving the use of remotely piloted aircraft in combat likely conjure up images of America’s giant Predator and Reaper drones, tailor-made military aircraft designed for surveillance and killing. But videos posted recently to YouTube coupled with US military reports suggest that combatants and civilians alike in war-torn regions might also need to worry about weaponized versions of small, inexpensive consumer drones.
In Syria, a country ravaged by civil war, militant groups have started jury rigging quadcopter-style drones with makeshift bombs to drop on targets, military officials told the Associated Press. These small-fry drones would have once been dismissed as unnerving, but harmless. However, a video posted last month showing a drone purportedly belonging to Jund al-Aqsa (a fragment of al-Qaeda) dropping bombs on Syrian armed forces in the Hama province of Syria indicates this may not be the case for much longer.
Another video, this one of alleged footage filmed from a Hezbollah-flown drone, shows bombs being dropped on targets near Aleppo, in Syria.
The Islamic State is also reportedly directly involved in the rudimentary weaponization of consumer drones. A US military official told The New York Times this week that a drone “the size of a model airplane” exploded after being shot down in Iraq recently. The explosion killed two Kurdish fighters, and the official described how the drone contained an explosive device “disguised as a battery.” The small drone, which was thought to be just like many others Islamic State forces use for reconnaissance, exploded after the fighters took it back to their outpost for inspection.
The incident is believed to be the first time Islamic State has successfully killed with a drone deployed with explosives, and the Times reports that American commanders in Iraq are warning allied forces to be wary of any small flying aircraft moving forward.
Jack Serle, a journalist with the Bureau of Investigative Journalism’s Covert Drone War project, told Motherboard that while these drones do not pose the same threat as conventional weapons launched from military aircraft or so-called hunter-killer drones like Reapers and Predators, their capacity to induce panic in civilian areas is a problem.
“What’s really been making people nervous about shop-bought drones in the hands of non-state groups is use in civilian areas, especially in crowded places like shopping centers or sports stadiums,” Serle wrote in an email. “They may not inflict mass casualties, but the terror and panic they could cause is really worrying. This potential for this kind of thing has been on many people’s minds for some years now, and the technology is starting to become a reality.”
A video posted to YouTube showing what is claimed to be a Hezbollah armed drone in Syria. It is worth noting that the authenticity of these videos is still unclear.
American troops stationed in Iraq and Syria have also commented on the rise of small consumeTrr drones being spotted in the air, according to the Times. Such sightings go hand-in-hand with new tactics from the Islamic State.
“In August, the Islamic State called on its followers to jury-rig small store-bought drones with grenades or other explosives and use them to launch attacks at the Olympics,” the Times reported. While no such attacks ever took place in Brazil, the message from Islamic State highlights the terrorist organization’s apparent willingness to expand its toolkit.
Serle told Motherboard that the problem may also be growing as a result of the falling cost of consumer drones that are simultaneously becoming more sophisticated. While traditional anti-air and newly-designed anti-drone weapons exist, Serle said that as consumer drones get more advanced, and the pilots operating them become more adept, “you can imagine a big swarm of them being very hard to stop.”
BreakingDefense: The US Navy needs to get better at hunting sea mines. The Royal Navy needs to get better at robots. So the two fleets are joining forces off Scotland in what the Brits are calling “the largest demonstration of its type, ever,” Unmanned Warrior 2016, with “more than 50 unmanned vehicles from over 40 organizations.” The US Office of Naval Research is a major partner in Unmanned Warrior, contributing ten different technologies for testing, from mini-subs to laser drones.
A major (albeit not exclusive) focus for the exercise is mine warfare. As Breaking D readers know, the US Navy has long neglected the unglamorous and grueling work of minesweeping, relying heavily on allies like the UK. Today the U.S. has just 13 operational minesweepers (the Avenger class), for example, while relatively tiny Britain has 15 (seven Sanddowns and eight Hunts). But the US got a loud wakeup call in 2012, when Iran started threatening to mine the Strait of Hormuz. The US Navy responded by hurriedly mobilizing experimental minesweeping systems, many of them robotic (and many originally slated for the troubled Littoral Combat Ship). While robots remain too inflexible for fast-paced combat, they’re ideal for missions that are “dull, dirty, and dangerous,” and mine clearing can be all three.
The 10 systems the Office of Naval Research sent to Unmanned Warrior include seven directly related to mine warfare:
- Mine warfare platoons, the current gold standard in Navy mine warfare, operate Mark 18 unmanned mini-subs off rigid-hulled inflatable boats.
- Rapid Environmental Assessment sends unmanned underwater vehicles to survey the sea floor and underwater environment, creating the kind of detailed picture particularly useful to mine hunters.
- Slocum Gliders are long-range underwater drones that can spend months mapping the underwater world.
- Seahunter is a small unmanned aircraft carrying a lightweight laser sensor (LIDAR) to map shallow waters where traditional sonar struggles.
- MCM C2 (Mine Counter-Measures Command & Control) combines multiple robotic systems: Unmanned mini-subs transmit data back to an unmanned mini-helicopter, which in turn relays reports to and orders from a manned ship at a safe distance. An unmanned boat acts as the mini-copter’s floating base.
- The ongoing Hell Bay trials continue in Unmanned Warrior, this time focusing on coordinated operations among allied drones — including a kind of underwater traffic control — and by multiple unmanned vehicles acting as an autonomous unit.
Unmanned Warrior, which is happening for the first time this year, is part of the much larger and long-established Joint Warrior exercise involving all three UK services and their NATO allies. As Russia becomes more bellicose, such large-scale wargames are increasingly important, both as practical preparation for the worst case and deterrent signaling to prevent it.
Seems Mitt Romney got it right as well.
The commander of this operation is Major General Qassem Suleimani of Iran who operates at the direction of the Tehran government yet without any interference on war-gaming.
Suleimani took command of the Quds Force fifteen years ago, and in that time he has sought to reshape the Middle East in Iran’s favor, working as a power broker and as a military force: assassinating rivals, arming allies, and, for most of a decade, directing a network of militant groups that killed hundreds of Americans in Iraq. The U.S. Department of the Treasury has sanctioned Suleimani for his role in supporting the Assad regime, and for abetting terrorism. And yet he has remained mostly invisible to the outside world, even as he runs agents and directs operations. “Suleimani is the single most powerful operative in the Middle East today,” John Maguire, a former C.I.A. officer in Iraq, told me, “and no one’s ever heard of him.” (now 18 years)
Assad’s soldiers wouldn’t fight—or, when they did, they mostly butchered civilians, driving the populace to the rebels. “The Syrian Army is useless!” Suleimani told an Iraqi politician. He longed for the Basij, the Iranian militia whose fighters crushed the popular uprisings against the regime in 2009. “Give me one brigade of the Basij, and I could conquer the whole country,” he said. In August, 2012, anti-Assad rebels captured forty-eight Iranians inside Syria. Iranian leaders protested that they were pilgrims, come to pray at a holy Shiite shrine, but the rebels, as well as Western intelligence agencies, said that they were members of the Quds Force.
Suleimani has orchestrated attacks in places as far flung as Thailand, New Delhi, Lagos, and Nairobi—at least thirty attempts in the past two years alone. The most notorious was a scheme, in 2011, to hire a Mexican drug cartel to blow up the Saudi Ambassador to the United States as he sat down to eat at a restaurant a few miles from the White House. The cartel member approached by Suleimani’s agent turned out to be an informant for the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. (The Quds Force appears to be more effective close to home, and a number of the remote plans have gone awry.) Still, after the plot collapsed, two former American officials told a congressional committee that Suleimani should be assassinated. “Suleimani travels a lot,” one said. “He is all over the place. Go get him. Either try to capture him or kill him.” In Iran, more than two hundred dignitaries signed an outraged letter in his defense; a social-media campaign proclaimed, “We are all Qassem Suleimani.” More here from the New Yorker.
Suleimani has been reshaping the Middle East for decades and he is seeing the finish line.
Militias controlled by Tehran are poised to complete a land corridor that would give Iran huge power in the region
Guardian: Not far from Mosul, a large military force is finalising plans for an advance that has been more than three decades in the making. The troops are Shia militiamen who have fought against the Islamic State, but they have not been given a direct role in the coming attack to free Iraq’s second city from its clutches.
Instead, while the Iraqi army attacks Mosul from the south, the militias will take up a blocking position to the west, stopping Isis forces from fleeing towards their last redoubt of Raqqa in Syria. Their absence is aimed at reassuring the Sunni Muslims of Mosul that the imminent recapture of the city is not a sectarian push against them. However, among Iraq’s Shia-dominated army the militia’s decision to remain aloof from the battle of Mosul is being seen as a rebuff.
Yet among the militias’ backers in Iran there is little concern. Since their inception, the Shia irregulars have made their name on the battlefields of Iraq, but they have always been central to Tehran’s ambitions elsewhere. By not helping to retake Mosul, the militias are free to drive one of its most coveted projects – securing an arc of influence across Iraq and Syria that would end at the Mediterranean Sea.
Tehran’s road to the sea
The strip of land to the west of Mosul in which the militias will operate is essential to that goal. After 12 years of conflict in Iraq and an even more savage conflict in Syria, Iran is now closer than ever to securing a land corridor that will anchor it in the region – and potentially transform the Islamic Republic’s presence on Arab lands. “They have been working extremely hard on this,” said a European official who has monitored Iran’s role in both wars for the past five years. “This is a matter of pride for them on one hand and pragmatism on the other. They will be able to move people and supplies between the Mediterranean and Tehran whenever they want, and they will do so along safe routes that are secured by their people, or their proxies.”
Interviews during the past four months with regional officials, influential Iraqis and residents of northern Syria have established that the land corridor has slowly taken shape since 2014. It is a complex route that weaves across Arab Iraq, through the Kurdish north, into Kurdish north-eastern Syria and through the battlefields north of Aleppo, where Iran and its allies are prevailing on the ground. It has been assembled under the noses of friend and foe, the latter of which has begun to sound the alarm in recent weeks. Turkey has been especially opposed, fearful of what such a development means for Iran’s relationship with the PKK (the Kurdistan Workers’ party), the restive Kurds in its midst, on whom much of the plan hinges.
The plan has been coordinated by senior government and security officials in Tehran, Baghdad and Damascus, all of whom defer to the head of the spearhead of Iran’s foreign policy, the Quds force of the Revolutionary Guards, headed by Major General Qassem Suleimani, who has run Iran’s wars in Syria and Iraq. It involves demographic shifts, which have already taken place in central Iraq and are under way in northern Syria. And it relies heavily on the support of a range of allies, who are not necessarily aware of the entirety of the project but have a developed vested interest in securing separate legs.
The corridor starts at the entry points that Iran has used to send supplies and manpower into Iraq over the past 12 years. They are the same routes that were used by the Quds force to run a guerrilla war against US forces when they occupied the country – a campaign fought by the same Iraqi militias that have since been immersed in the fight against Isis.
The groups, Asa’ib ahl al-Haq, Keta’ib Hezbollah and their offshoots, accounted for close to 25% of all US battlefield casualties, senior US officials have said. They have become even more influential since US forces left the country. And in one of modern warfare’s starkest ironies, in the two years since US troops have returned to Iraq to fight Isis they have at times fought under US air cover.
The route crosses through Baquba, the capital of Diyala province, around 60 miles north of Baghdad. A mixed Sunni/Shia area for hundreds of years, Diyala became one of the main sectarian flashpoint areas during Iraq’s civil war. Along roads that have been secured by militias, which are known locally as “popular mobilisation units”, it then moves northwest into areas that were occupied by Isis as recently as several months ago.
The town of Shirqat in Salaheddin province is one important area. It was taken by militias along with Iraqi forces on 22 September, delivering another blow to the terrorist group and an important boost to Iran’s ambitions.
The militias are now present in large numbers in Shirqat and readying to move towards the western edge of Mosul, to a point around 50 miles southeast of Sinjar, which – at this point – is the next leg in the corridor. Between the militia forces and Sinjar is the town of Tal Afar, an Isis stronghold, which has been a historical home of both Sunni and Shia Turkmen – ancestral kin of Turkey.
A senior intelligence official said the leg between Tel Afar and Sinjar is essential to the plan. Sinjar is an ancestral home to the Yazidi population, which was forced to flee in August 2014 after Isis invaded the city, killing all the men it could find and enslaving women. It was recaptured by Iraqi Kurdish forces last November. And ever since PKK forces from across the Syrian border have taken up residence in the city and across the giant monolith, Mt Sinjar, behind it. The PKK fighters are being paid by the Iraqi government and have been incorporated into the popular mobilisation units. Iraqi and western intelligence officials say the move was approved by Iraq’s national security adviser, Falah Fayadh.
An influential Iraqi tribal sheikh, Abdulrahim al-Shammari, emerges as a central figure further to the north. He has a power base near the Rabia crossing into Syria, receives support from the popular mobilisation units and is close to the Assad regime in Damascus. “I believe that in our area Iran does not have very much influence,” he told the Observer in Baghdad. “There is nobody here, no major power that is helping us with weapons. Ideologically speaking, the PKK is affiliated with the Kurds of this area, so there is no problem having them here.”
From the Rabia crossing, the mooted route goes past the towns of Qamishli and Kobani towards Irfin, which are all controlled by the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia. Throughout the war the YPG (People’s Protection Units) has hedged its bets, at times allying with the US against Isis, and at other times siding with the Syrian regime. “Iran thinks it has them where it wants them now,” said the European source. “I’m not sure it has gauged the Turks correctly, though.”
Of all the points between Tehran and the Syrian coast, Aleppo has concentrated Iran’s energies more than anywhere else. Up to 6,000 militia members, mostly from Iraq, have congregated there ahead of a move to take the rebel-held east of the city, which could begin around the same time as the assault on Mosul.
Those who have observed Suleimani up close as he inspects the frontlines in Syria and Iraq, or in meetings in Damascus and Baghdad, where he projects his immense power through studied calm, say he has invested everything in Syria – and in ensuring that Iran emerges from a brutal, expensive war with its ambitions enhanced. “If we lose Syria, we lose Tehran,” Suleimani told the late Iraqi politician Ahmed Chalabi in 2014. Chalabi told the Observer at the time that Suleimani had added: “We will turn all this chaos into an opportunity.”
Securing Aleppo would be an important leg in the corridor, which would run past two villages to the north that have historically been in Shia hands. From there, a senior Syrian official, and Iraqi officials in Baghdad, said it would run towards the outskirts of Syria’s fourth city, Homs, then move north through the Alawite heartland of Syria, which a year of Russian airpower has again made safe for Assad. Iran’s hard-won road ends at the port of Latakia, which has remained firmly in regime hands throughout the war.
Ali Khedery, who advised all US ambassadors to Iraq and four commanders of Centcom in 2003-11 said securing a Mediterranean link would be seen as a strategic triumph in Iran. “It signifies the consolidation of Iran’s control over Iraq and the Levant, which in turn confirms their hegemonic regional ambitions,” he said. “That should trouble every western leader and our regional allies because this will further embolden Iran to continue expanding, likely into the Gulf countries next, a goal they have explicitly and repeatedly articulated. Why should we expect them to stop if they’ve been at the casino, doubling their money over and over again, for a decade?”
Soros Money, Muslim Advocates Leader, Helped Weaken Homeland Security Policies
An IPT Investigation
A Muslim legal group, girded with $1.8 million in grant money from George Soros’s Open Society Foundations (OSF), has helped influence major policy changes in the war on terror, including the Department of Homeland Security’s screening of individuals with suspected terror ties and the FBI’s training program for its agents working in counterterrorism.
Internal records, made public by the hacking group DC Leaks, show OSF spent $40 million between 2008 and 2010 on programs aimed at weakening U.S. counterterrorism policy.
Muslim Advocates’ Executive Director Farhana Khera played a key role in shaping the foundations’ spending. Khera co-authored a 2007 memo that “informed” the foundations’ U.S. Programs Board’s decision to create the National Security and Human Rights Campaign (NSHRC), a Sept. 14, 2010 OSF document discussing the program’s reauthorization, shows.
The NSHRC’s goals included:
- Closing Guantanamo Bay, eliminating torture and methods such as the extraordinary rendition of prisoners, and ending the use of secret prisons;
- Ending warrantless and “unchecked” surveillance;
- Ensuring that anti-terrorism laws and law enforcement activities do not target freedom of speech, association or religious expression;
- Reducing ethnic and religious profiling of people of Muslim, Arab or South Asian extraction;
- Decreasing secrecy and increasing oversight of executive actions, and expose U.S. government or private individuals who abuse or violate the law.
Some of these policies, such as closing Guantanamo and ending enhanced interrogation techniques, already were also advocated by Obama administration. OSF claimed its work laid the groundwork for implementing those policies. The Edward Snowden leaks cast light on the depth of the government’s warrantless surveillance activity. The other goals are more difficult to assess.
Muslim Advocates was founded in 2005 as an offshoot of the National Association of Muslim Lawyers. It often criticizes U.S. counterterrorism strategies that use sting operations and informants as discriminatory.
Papers released by the anonymous hacker group DC Leaks show that OSF budgeted $21 million for the NSHRC from 2008-2010. OSF spent an additional $1.5 million in 2010. The NSHRC also received a matching $20 million contribution from Atlantic Philanthropies, a private foundation established in 1982 by Irish-American Chuck Feeney billionaire businessman.
OSF made 105 grants totaling $20,052, 784 to 63 organizations under the NSHRC program. An Investigative Project on Terrorism tally shows Muslim Advocates received at least $1.84 million in OSF grants between 2008 and 2015.
A funders’ roundtable created by OSF in 2008 helped coordinate the grant making among several left-leaning foundations, ” in order to “dismantle the flawed ‘war on terror’ paradigm on which national security policy is now based.” At least “two dozen” foundations participated in the roundtable’s strategy sessions as of the end of 2008.
Zuhdi Jasser, president of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy, called the Soros foundations’ $40 million program both hypocritical and ironic. He noted that the 2011 OSF-funded Center for American Progress report “Fear, Inc.” complained that seven conservative foundations donated $42.6 million to so-called “Islamophobia think tanks between 2001 and 2009.” The Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) and other major Islamist groups routinely use the $42.6 million funding number to portray their opponents as being pawns of dark forces.
“It’s amazing that one foundation donated an amount that CAIR and [Muslim] Advocates say is the huge sum of money that funds the entire anti-jihad campaign,” Jasser said. “… That wasn’t from one foundation. That was an addition of [the money given to] everybody that they threw under the bus.”
By contrast, OSF and Atlantic Philanthropies spent $41.5 million in just three years. OSF dedicated another $26 million to the NSHRC program from 2011-2014.
OSF additionally funded a study by the New America Foundation equating the terror threat posed right-wing extremists with al-Qaida. An Oct. 17, 2011 memo discussing NSHRC grants notes that New America received $250,000, partly to write two reports. The first aimed at creating a “‘safe space’ in which Muslims in America feel free to hold controversial political dialogues, organize without fear of unwarranted government surveillance.” The second aimed to “correct mistaken public beliefs that Al-Qaeda’s brand of terrorism is unique to Islam and that most terrorists are Muslim.”
The paper promised “to show how adherents of each extremist ideology use different language to justify very similar political means and goals. By demonstrating parallels among militant groups, this paper will aim to separate politically focused terrorism from the religion of Islam.”
Arguments from this report continue to help frame how Democrats and their allies talk about the jihadist threat. New America’s statistics and arguments recently came up in a House hearing about the threat from homegrown Islamic terrorists.
“According to the New America Foundation, there have been more incidents of right-wing extremist attacks in the United States than violent jihadist attacks since 9/11. I’m not minimizing jihadist attacks. In that light, can you explain what your office plans to do with respect to domestic right-wing extremism?” Rep. Bill Pascrell, D-N.J., asked Department of Homeland Security Office of Community Partnerships Director George Selim during a House subcommittee hearing last month.
New America’s effort to conflate right-wing extremists with al-Qaida glossed over a major difference – namely al-Qaida’s reliance on mass casualty attacks and suicide bombings.
New America’s latest data shows that jihadists have killed more people since 9/11 than right-wing extremists.
“What you’ve uncovered is the fact … that the Soros foundation works to obfuscate on national security,” Jasser said. “Muslim Advocates clearly is a prime example of the sickness in Washington related to dealing with the central reforms necessary to make within the House of Islam.
“You’ll see that the Soros foundation is spending money on organizations that deny the very principles they are defenders of, which are feminism, gay rights, individual rights. Muslim Advocates’ entire bandwidth is spent on attacking the government and blocking any efforts at counterterrorism.”
Muslim Advocates also opposes discussion on reform within the Muslim community and supports those who have theocratic tendencies, Jasser said.
“You have evidence here that the Soros foundation is part and parcel of the reason for the suffocation of moderation voices – reformist voices – in Islam,” Jasser said. “Muslim Advocates really ought to change their name to Islamist Advocates, and what the Soros foundation really is doing is just advocating for Islamists.”
OSF also contributed $150,000 in 2011 and $185,000 in 2012 to a donor advised fund run by Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors. It used this money to pay Hattaway Communications, a consulting firm run by former Hillary Clinton adviser Doug Hattaway, to develop a messaging strategy for Muslim Advocates and similar organizations. Hattaway’s message strategy painted Muslims as victims of American national security policies.
Khera used Hattaway’s strategy to paint the New York Police Department’s mosque surveillance strategy as “discriminatory.”
OSF funded groups, including Muslim Advocates, the ACLU, and the Center for Constitutional Rights, filed lawsuits challenging the NYPD’s surveillance program as unconstitutional. Police Commissioner William Bratton ended the policy in 2014.
The NYPD monitored almost all aspects of Muslim life ranging from mosques and student associations, to halal butcher shops and restaurants to private citizens. A federal district court dismissed the suit, but the Third Circuit Court of Appeals revived it in October 2015. New York settled the lawsuit in January, placing the NYPD under supervision of an independent observer appointed by City Hall.
Downplaying Radicalization and the Jihadist Threat
OSF accused conservative opponents of “borrowing liberally from Joe McCarthy’s guilt by association tactics.” It complained in a Sept. 14, 2010 memo to its U.S. Programs Board that the “homegrown terrorism narrative” resulted in “discriminatory” targeting of Muslims by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the FBI.
Khera often expresses similar sentiments. She accused the FBI of engaging in “entrapment operations” to target “innocent” Muslims after former Attorney General Eric Holder called sting operations an “essential law enforcement tool in uncovering and preventing terror attacks.”
Khera likewise characterized law enforcement training materials discussing the Islamic extremist ideology as “bigoted, false, and inflammatory” in her June 28 testimony before a Senate Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Oversight, Agency Action, Federal Rights, Federal Courts.
She and her organization played a central role in late 2011 when Muslim groups called on the Obama administration to purge FBI training materials that they deemed offensive. FBI counterterrorism training materials about Islam contained “woefully misinformed statements about Islam and bigoted stereotypes about Muslims,” she complained in a Sept. 15, 2011 letter. She objected to describing zakat – the almsgiving tax mandate on all Muslims – as a “funding mechanism for combat.”
Yet numerous Muslim commentators describe zakat as a funding mechanism for jihad. A footnote for Surah 9:60 found in “The Meaning of the Holy Qur’an,” says that zakat can be used to help “those who are struggling and striving in Allah’s Cause by teaching or fighting or in duties assigned to them by the righteous Imam, who are thus unable to earn their ordinary living.”
The Assembly of Muslim Jurists in America issued a 2011 fatwa saying zakat could be used to “support legitimate Jihad activities.”
Following Khera’s letter, then-White House counterterrorism advisor John Brennan announced a review of “CVE-related instruction across all levels of government.” This review resulted in a purge of 700 pages of material from 300 presentations. This included PowerPoints and articles describing jihad as “holy war” and portraying the Muslim Brotherhood as group bent on world domination.
The Muslim Brotherhood’s bylaws describe these ultimate ambitions and imply the need for violence: “The Islamic nation must be fully prepared to fight the tyrants and the enemies of Allah as a prelude to establishing an Islamic state.”
Khera’s influence with the Obama administration
Khera enjoys close connections with the Obama White House. Visitor logs show that Khera went to the White House at least 11 times.
Khera played a central role persuading the Obama administration to purge Department of Homeland Security records related to individuals and groups with terror ties, former Customs and Border Patrol (CPB) Agent Phil Haney told the Investigative Project on Terrorism.
His superiors ordered him to “modify” 820 CPB TECS records about the Muslim Brotherhood network in America, Haney said. Irrefutable evidence from the 2008 Holy Land Foundation (HLF) Hamas financing trial proved that many of these groups and individuals assisted Hamas, Haney said.
The HLF trial substantiated deep connections between American Islamist groups such as the Islamic Society of North America, the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) and a Hamas-support network created by the Muslim Brotherhood in the United States.
A 2009 OSF funding document claims credit for helping persuade then-Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano to order a review of border screening procedures. It also reveals that Muslim Advocates worked with “DHS staff to develop a revised border policy.”
The Muslim Advocates’ report recommended the “review and reform of … [Customs and Border Patrol policies and practices that target Muslim, Arab and South Asian Americans for their First Amendment protected activities, beliefs and associations; and … law enforcement and intelligence activities that impose disparate impacts on Muslim, Arab and South Asian communities.” It also asked DHS to prevent CPB agents from probing about political beliefs, religious practices, and contributions to “lawful” charitable organizations.
Muslim Advocates claimed a pivotal role in getting the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) to reverse a new 2010 policy enhancing the screening on travelers from 14 countries, many of them predominately Muslim. The rule was proposed in the wake of the attempt by underwear bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab to blow up a Detroit-bound plane weeks earlier.
Muslim Advocates and several OSF grantees met with Napolitano and other top DHS officials, and the policy was canceled three months later. Muslim Advocates claimed that the Obama administration “made special mention” of its role in reversing the TSA policy.
“This broke into the open with the great purge of 2011 and 2012,” Haney said, recalling Brennan’s letter to Khera announcing that materials she complained about would be removed.
The purge accompanied a practice of meeting with Islamist groups as community partners, Haney said.
In addition to the purge of training material, documents related to people and groups with terrorism ties such as Canadian Muslim Brotherhood leader Jamal Badawi and the Pakistan-based Tablighi Jamaat movement also disappeared from CPB records. (Tablighi Jamaat often serves as a de facto recruiting conduit for groups such as al-Qaida and the Taliban.)
Investigators might have had a better chance of thwarting the San Bernardino and the June Orlando shootings had those Tablighi Jamaat records remained available, Haney said, because the shooters’ respective mosques appeared in the deleted 2012 Tablighi Jamaat case report.
The Obama administration’s “absolute refusal to acknowledge that individuals who are affiliated with networks operating here in the United States, and their deliberate deletion of any evidentiary pieces of information in the system, has made us blind and handcuffed,” Haney said. “The proof of it is San Bernardino and Orlando.
“They obliterated the entire [Tablighi Jamaat] case as if it never existed.”
Haney’s claims have met with some skepticism. Haney stands by his claims and says critics “made a lot of factual errors.”
Still, Muslim Advocates’ success reversing the TSA policy was among the accomplishments showing that it “has proved itself to be an effective advocate on the national stage,” an April 25, 2011 OSF document said. It recommended renewing a $440,000 grant to “support the core operating costs of Muslim Advocates.”
In doing so, the Soros-funded OSF weakened U.S. national security and potentially left it vulnerable to the jihadi attacks we have been seeing in the homeland since the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing.
In part from Washington Post: As the Obama administration scrambles for options in Syria, officials lament that the United States has no leverage over the Assad regime, Russia or Iran to persuade them to halt their ongoing atrocities, especially in Aleppo. But behind the scenes, the White House is actually working to weaken a sanctions bill lawmakers in both parties see as providing leverage against all three.
According to lawmakers and staffers in both parties, the White House is secretly trying to water down the Caesar Syria Civilian Protection Act, a bipartisan bill that would sanction the Assad regime for mass torture, mass murder, war crimes and crimes against humanity. The bill, guided by House Foreign Affairs Committee ranking Democrat Eliot Engel (N.Y.), would also sanction entities that aid the Syrian government in these atrocities; that includes Russia and Iran.
The bill, named after a Syrian defector who presented the world with 55,000 pictures documenting Assad’s mass torture and murder of more than 11,000 civilians in custody, has 70 co-sponsors, a majority of whom are Democrats. More here.
In wake of Arab Spring, Iran’s backing of foreign militias has drawn much attention. Why is this support so central to Iranian foreign policy?
At a military parade commemorating the 36th anniversary of the Iran-Iraq War, the chief of the Iranian armed forces spoke clearly and bluntly. Tehran holds sway over five Arab countries.
Major General Mohammed Bagheri listed them as Lebanon, Yemen, Palestine, Syria, and Iraq.
Their enemy, as Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif controversially wrote in the New York Times last month, is Wahhabism, the ultraorthodox brand of Sunni Islam propagated by Saudi Arabia.
In some of these countries, like Lebanon, Iran has a long history. In others, such as Yemen, they have only recently involved themselves. The Palestinian cause, and by extension enmity to Israel, is a cornerstone of the theocratic regime’s domestic legitimacy.
In recent years, however, it has been Syria and Iraq that have dominated global headlines and Iranian foreign policy. Damascus and Baghdad, historically the twin capitals of the Sunni Islamic caliphate, are now under the control of predominately Shia Iran – a twist not lost on large swathes of the local population.
The sectarian dimension of Iran’s involvement in Syria’s civil war is hard to ignore. Late last month, the leader of the Iraqi Shia Najbaa Movement visited Aleppo. In a propaganda video released after his visit, a song can be heard in the background with the chorus “Aleppo is Shia.”
At the time of publication, over 10,000 Shia troops are currently massing outside rebel-held east Aleppo as joint Syrian-Russian airstrikes have all but obliterated it.
Translation: “The leader of the Iraqi Shia Najbaa Movement visits the city of Aleppo”
What unites Iran’s foreign policy in all these countries, and across the decades since the 1979 Islamic revolution, is Tehran’s unwavering support for these foreign militias and non-state actors across the Middle East.
The question is: Why?
Messianism or nationalism?
A declassified CIA report, written in 1986, said that while Tehran’s support for non-state actors abroad was meant to further its national interest, it also stemmed from the belief that “it has a religious duty to export its Islamic revolution and to wage, by whatever means, a constant struggle against the perceived oppressor states.”
The messianic nature of Iran’s ruling ideology is often cited as an explanation for Iran’s support of foreign groups, with the preamble to its constitution famously committing it to “the establishment of a universal holy government and the downfall of all others.”
There has been a long-running debate over whether Iran’s support for foreign groups is rooted in national interest or in ideology.
Iranian opposition leader in exile Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini gives a speech at Roissy airport near Paris on 31 January, 1979 before boarding a plane bound to Tehran (AFP)
“I think it’s very easy to latch on to this ideological concept of exporting the revolution as a justification or explanation for Iran’s policies,” Dr Sanam Vakil, an associate fellow at Chatham House, told MEE.
“It’s more about the pragmatic element,” she said. “It’s about the national interest.”
Ellie Geranmayeh, a policy fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations, agreed: “Iran is not doing this out of an ideological zeal.”
Geranmayeh said Iran’s policy in the region has much more to do with national security policy “rather than any sort of large ambition to export revolutionary ideals across the region.”
She pointed to the fact that many of Iran’s predominately Shia citizens would not religiously associate Assad’s Alawite regime with their own religion.
This has not prevented Iran from throwing the kitchen sink at the Syrian civil war to preserve its sphere of influence, even recruiting poorer Shia from countries as far away as Côte d’Ivoire, Yemen, Afghanistan and Pakistan to fight on their behalf in Syria. This is in addition to the roles of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) and its elite branch, the Quds Force.
Hezbollah was reticent to involve themselves at first. Their involvement is still a point of controversy in the movement, with former leader Subhi al-Tufayli recently slamming their “aggression” in Syria and labelling anyone fighting alongside the Russians, or Americans, as an “enemy” to God.
“Iran has nurtured and maybe even given birth to Hezbollah, but as any parent will tell you children don’t always listen to you over the course of their life,” Vakil said.
“Hezbollah is not necessarily a puppet of Iran as described in the media, even though a large part of the funding comes from Iran. It has a lot of domestic goals and considerations inside Lebanon which are very important for the success of the movement,” Geneive Abdo, a senior policy fellow at the Atlantic Council, told Middle East Eye.
“Neither are the Shia militias in Iraq,” she added, some of which are more loyal to the influential Iraqi Shia cleric Ali al-Sistani than to Iranian Supreme Leader Ali al-Khameini.
“It’s very complicated,” Abdo said. “At the same time that Iran or the revolutionary guards have a great influence on these forces, it doesn’t mean necessarily mean they control them 100 per cent.”
Vakil expresses a similar level of caution: “Saying that Iran is responsible for everything is demeaning on so many levels.”
“Iran has influence, it has money, but it doesn’t have total control of every situation,” she said. “It is important not to overstate Iran’s ability to manage everything. I think that there’s a lot of overstating and as a result everyone assumes that Iran is bigger than it is, more powerful and more influential than it is.
“That in effect plays into the hands of the IRGC and Qassem Soleimani and creates this sort of mythic impression around the region of what’s happening,” she added.
Relations between Hamas and Iran deteriorated sharply following the outbreak of the Syrian revolution in 2011. The following year, the group’s leadership left Damascus after being based there for more than a decade. Their funding was reduced drastically shortly thereafter.
Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal delivers a speech on 16 November, 2003 in front of a giant painting of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad during a ceremony in Beirut (AFP)
“Our position on Syria affected relations with Iran. Its support for us never stopped, but the amounts [of money] were significantly reduced,” a senior Hamas official said in 2013.
In response to this turn of events, Iran ramped up funding for other Palestinian groups, most notably the Palestinian Islamic Jihad.
Iran’s heightened involvement in the Middle East “began in Iraq with the US invasion and the United States’s role in creating a Shia-led government in Iraq,” according to Abdo.
“That paved the way for Iran’s involvement beginning in 2003 not only in Iraq but now we see in other Arab countries,” she said.
For example, the Quds Force have reportedly been arming the Houthis since 2012. In 2013, the Yemeni coast guard intercepted a boat full of arms, explosives, and anti-aircraft missiles suspected to have come from Iran.
In January 2014, the Bahraini authorities also intercepted a boat departing from Iraq with more than 220 pounds of explosives and other weapons such as C-4 explosives, mines and grenades.
Legacy of the Iran-Iraq war
Any analysis of Iran’s role in Iraq, and indeed the wider Middle East, must include reference to Iran’s bloody, eight-year long war with Saddam Hussein’s Iraq.
Geranmayeh emphasised the autonomy of the local actors themselves: “Given the near and imminent fall of Baghdad in 2014, Iran offered its help to Baghdad and that help was legitimately accepted by the central government of Baghdad.”
She sees Iran’s experience in the Iran-Iraq war as crucial to Iran’s approach to foreign militias around the Middle East in general, and Iraq in particular: “The (Iranian) military was weakened during the eight-year war with Saddam Hussein and so a kind of more voluntarily, locally organised Basij paramilitary force emerged in Iran. A lot of people who are in the Iranian military have that experience themselves of the Iran-Iraq war of how to mobilise local operations into a security architecture in times of need and in times where there is essentially a security vacuum in place. So they have certainly transported some of that know-how into Iraq.”
Iraqi soldiers walk after their victory in the battle at al-Howeizah swamps, north of Basra, on 22 March, 1985 (AFP)
She says that a similar dynamic is at play in Syria and the pro-government National Defence Forces (NDF): “What they (Iran) would say with the NDF is that they are in Syria with the legitimately recognised, UN-recognised government of Syria, the Assad regime, having blessed their cooperation in the Syrian sphere. They would see their role as advisory on the ground to local groups fighting at a time essentially when there is a security vacuum.”
“The IRGC has always played a critical role in Iran’s foreign policy,” Geranmayeh continued. “They have a long history, [with] a lot of these people of course fighting in the Iran-Iraq war, they understand the neighbouring countries very well because they spent a lot of time in those countries.”
“They (the IRGC) are most well-known for their defence of Iran during the Iran-Iraq war and the translation of that defence into supporting non-state actors in other countries throughout the world and in the Middle East itself; Hezbollah being their baby, they have created it,” Vakil said. “It’s the same sort of concept in Syria, they are responsible for the Syria portfolio, and they are responsible for any of the other portfolios around the region.”
The rise of the fiercely anti-Shia Islamic State group has increased the IRGC’s domestic popularity in recent years, Geranmayeh claims: “The IRGC is viewed much more now as a security apparatus that is protecting Iran from being contaminated by ISIS fighters… in Syria, for example, the choice is seen as one between Assad or ISIS.”
Abdo emphasised that the IRGC are an “an economic force, they’re a political force, and they’re an ideological force.”
“We have to be specific, it’s the revolutionary guards who are controlling and funding the militias,” she said.
Follow the money
Iran is one of only three countries considered an official state sponsor of terror by the US; it was added to the State Department’s list on 19 January, 1984. The only other countries listed are Sudan and Syria.
The US foreign ministry’s 2013 Country Reports on Terrorism stated that Iran supports non-state actors in Lebanon, Palestine, Syria, Yemen, Bahrain and Iraq.
“I think that an opportunity has been opened for Iran in the Arab world,” Abdo said. “For many decades, Iran didn’t have the opportunity that it has now in the Arab world… It’s a result of the post-Arab uprising era.”
Naame Shaam, an independent campaign group focused on Iran’s role in Syria, published a report in December 2015 in which they estimated the level of support Iran provided non-state actors across the region.
This is a difficult task to say the least, according to Vakil.
A picture taken on 11 April, 2011 shows Iran’s biggest denomination currencies in Tehran (AFP)
“The key is that we just don’t know what those figures are, they’re estimates and guestimates from different sources and outlets,” she said. “The accurate reflection of Iran’s investment in Syria is a big question ultimately. We know it’s a lot but we just don’t know how much it is. And because they’ve invested a lot obviously it’s a clear indication that this strategy means something for them and they have some sort of long-term plan. But, again, there is a lot of opacity as to what that could be.”
With this in mind, Naame Shaam – comprised of Iranian, Syrian, and Lebanese activists and journalists – used publicly available data to make the following estimates:
- Lebanon: From the 1980s to the beginning of the Arab Spring, Hezbollah received between $100m and $200m annually from Iran. Domestic economic decline and the increasing intervention in Syria led to this number between being cut to around $50m to $100m per year from 2010 onwards.
- Iraq: From the 2003 invasion of Iraq until the end of Bush’s presidency, Iran provided a range of Iraqi Shia militias with $10m to $35m a year, a number which skyrocketed after 2009 to $100m to $200m a year.
- Palestine: From its consolidation of power in 2007 to the start of the Arab Spring in Syria and elsewhere in 2011, Hamas received approximately $100m to $250m per year from Iran. Hamas’s refusal to back Assad led to a dramatic decline in funding.
- Yemen: The Houthis have received anywhere between $10m and $25m a year since 2010.
- Syria: Assad government forces and its allied militias received between $15bn and $25bn over the first five years of the conflict, amounting to between $3bn and $5bn per year.
- Overall: Naame Sham estimated that over the period of time mentioned above, Iranian expenditure on foreign militias and non-state actors ranges between a low estimate of $20 billion – and a high estimate of $80 billion.
The money comes partly from public budgets, but largely from the huge sums of money under the direct control of the supreme leader and the IRGC. These funds come from clandestine business networks pumping out billions of dollars of revenue, and are untraceable as they are not accountable to the public, according to Naame Shaam.
History and consistency
Iranian Defence Minister Hossein Dehghan (L) attends the 5th Moscow Conference on International Security (MCIS) in Moscow on 27 April, 2016 (AFP)
Iran’s defence minister is Hossein Dehghan – a former militia commander who orchestrated the bombing of a US Marine barracks in Beirut in 1983, an attack that killed 241 American troops. This was the deadliest terrorist attack in US history before 9/11. Fifty-eight French soldiers were also killed in the same operation on a French military barracks.
The following year saw Hezbollah’s abduction of CIA station chief William Francis Buckley, who was tortured and executed.
In 1992, the Israeli embassy in Argentina was bombed, killing 29 people. Two years later a Jewish cultural centre was bombed in Buenos Aires, killing 85 people.
Iran and its Lebanese proxies were linked to both attacks. Argentina ordered the arrest of infamous Hezbollah commander Imad Mughniyah for his participation in the 1992 attack, as well as Ali Akbar Velayati, a senior adviser to Khamenei, for orchestrating the latter attack.
In 1996, a further 19 US soldiers were killed by an Iran-backed group, this time in Saudi Arabia as a result of the Khobar Towers bombing. Ahmed al-Mughassil, the suspected mastermind of the attack, was arrested last year in Beirut, having lived under Hezbollah’s protection since the attack.
Iran’s reach is not limited to the Arab world either. Its Shia majority, but staunchly secular, neighbour Azerbaijan has also felt the long reach of Tehran’s arm.
In 2006, Baku arrested 15 of its citizens with links to Iran and Hezbollah, who were planning a wave of attacks against Israeli and Western visitors in the country.
Two years later, Azerbaijan foiled a joint Iran-Hezbollah plan to bomb the country’s Israeli embassy in revenge for the 2008 assassination of Mughniyah.
In 2012, Baku carried out another wave of arrests to prevent another planned bombing campaign, again found to be linked to Iran and Hezbollah.
The same year saw five Israelis killed in Bulgaria in an attack that Sofia said had “obvious links” to Hezbollah.
In his 2014 testimony to the US House Committee on Foreign Affairs, Dr Matthew Levitt of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy said the Quds Force’s increase in activities goes back to Hezbollah’s repeated failures to avenge the assassination of Mughniyah in Azerbaijan and elsewhere, leading to growing frustration within IRGC ranks.
“The IRGC would no longer rely solely on Hezbollah to carry out terrorist attacks abroad,” he told the committee. “It would now deploy Quds Force operatives to do so on their own, not just as logisticians supporting Hezbollah hit men.”
Handout mugshot obtained 12 October, 2011 courtesy of the Nueces County, Texas sheriff’s Office shows Manssor Arbabsiar (AFP PHOTO/NUECES COUNTY SHERIFF)
For these reasons, the State Department reported in 2012 “a marked resurgence of Iran’s state sponsorship of terrorism, through its Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Quds Force (IRGC-QF), its Ministry of Intelligence and Security (MOIS), and Tehran’s ally Hezbollah. Iran and Hezbollah’s terrorist activity has reached a tempo unseen since the 1990s.”
The previous year, Iran even tried to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to the United States, Adel al-Jubeir, in the nation’s capital Washington, D.C.
Manssor Arbabsiar, an Iranian-American citizen, pleaded guilty to the plot in June 2013 and admitted to “conspiring with members of the Iranian military in the formulation of the plot,” CNN reported at the time.
Iran vehemently denied involvement, but the plot was allegedly foiled when Arbabsiar’s contact in the Mexican drug cartel he tried to recruit to carry out the assassination turned out to be an undercover US agent.
Iranian tensions with America only heightened after the 11 September attacks in 2001.
As the executive and legislative branches in America struggled over whether to allow families of 9/11 victims to sue Saudi Arabia, Iran’s role has also been a point of controversy.
Iran quickly condemned the terrorist attack, but the 9/11 Commission Report, published three years after the attack, found that eight of the 10 hijackers travelled through Iran between late 2000 and early 2001.
They were taking advantage of an agreement with the Iranian government that meant the passports of al-Qaeda members were not stamped as they passed through the country.
In a similar vein, a leading figure of al-Qaeda in Iraq – Abu Musab al-Zarqawi – was given shelter in Iran in 2001 and 2002, with Tehran reportedly refusing to extradite him to Jordan. The links are said to have continued and in 2012, the US Department of the Treasury slammed the Iran’s main intelligence organisation, the Ministry of Intelligence and Security (MOIS), for its “support to terrorist groups, such as al-Qaeda and al-Qaeda in Iraq… again exposing the extent of Iran’s sponsorship of terrorism as a matter of Iran’s state policy.”
A US soldier stands between two images of al-Qaeda leader in Iraq Abu Musab al-Zarqawi during a US military briefing 8 June, 2006 in Baghdad (AFP)
In July, the US Treasury imposed sanctions on three senior al-Qaeda members – all of whom are located in Iran. Faisal al-Khalidi is a former al-Qaeda commander and plays a leading role in weapons acquisition, while veteran member Yisra Bayumi served as a mediator with Iranian authorities as early as 2015 and facilitated the transfer of al-Qaeda funds, and Abu Bakr Ghumayn in 2015 assumed control of the financing and organisation of al-Qaeda members in Iran.
With regards to Iran sheltering al-Qaeda members, Vakil said Tehran was “perhaps using them as bargaining chips.”
“There is very limited love between Iran and al-Qaeda, they have no ideological symmetry in just about anything,” she said. “If they are doing anything, it is quite a pragmatic effort trying to get something out of it and that is what this regime is known for.”
Rouhani and the regime
Hassan Rouhani has often been portrayed as a moderate, at least in comparison to his hard-line predecessor Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. His focus is said to be on rebuilding Iran’s shattered economy and normalising relations with the West.
Experts agree, however, that his impact on foreign policy has been minimal.
“It’s very difficult for one person alone to fundamentally redirect and rearrange regional policy without a consensus being formed at top leadership level,” Geranmayeh said.
Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani (C) leaves after addressing the 71st session of the United Nations General Assembly at the UN headquarters in New York on 22 September, 2016 (AFP)
Vakil agrees: “Rouhani doesn’t actually have that much control and influence over Iran’s foreign policy portfolio.”
“One would assume the president is in charge of these things, but in fact he’s not,” she added. “The purview of foreign policy is primarily in the hands of the supreme leader.”
“I think his impact has been minimal,” Abdo said of Rouhani and Iran’s foreign policy. “I think that he has been used as an instrument in the similar way that Mohammed Khatami was used an instrument to achieve a certain regime objective. In Rouhani’s case it was the nuclear deal, in Khatami’s case, it was to try to improve relations with the West.”
Through this prism, the nuclear deal was not “necessarily a Rouhani victory,” she said, but what the supreme leader authorised.
In 2006, then Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said: “Iran has been the country that has been in many ways a kind of central banker for terrorism in important regions.”
A decade later, Obama’s nuclear deal meant Iran received more than $100bn in sanctions relief as well as reintegration into the pivotal SWIFT international banking system. Rouhani has also made a number of visits to the West to increase economic ties.
The lifting of financial sanctions is a contentious issue, so much so that when the Obama administration sent $400m in cash to Iran last month, he kept his own military out of the loop.
“There was a lot of opposition to the lifting of sanctions on Iran, particularly in the US, based on the argument that the money is going to be funnelled to fund Iran’s regional policies that are essentially opposed to Western interests,” Geranmayeh said of opponents of the nuclear deal.
This was certainly the position of Naame Shaam, who wrote in the conclusion to their report that: “There have been fears that, next to domestic investment needs, part of the released funds could end up fuelling conflicts in the Middle East even further due to increased military spending and financial backing of allied militias and governments like the Assad regime in Syria.
“The increase in Iran’s 2015/16 current defence budget may be a first sign of this,” it continued. “In recent months, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and the Iranian Minister of Defence, Hossein Dehqan, both made it clear that they had no intention to cut their support to Hezbollah, Hamas, the (Palestinian) Islamic Jihad, the Houthi militias in Yemen, the Syrian and Iraqi governments and their militias, despite a nuclear deal.”
Iranian Foreign Minister Muhammad Javad Zarif addresses the parliament in Tehran on 2 October, 2016 (AFP)
Geranmayeh takes a different view, however: “The majority of the money is going to fund local investment projects to reduce unemployment, to promote job growth, and to tackle issues to do with inflation.”
Vakil agrees: “The country does need the money internally because if Iran is going to hit all of its growth markers for the next 10 years there has to be a lot of investment in the Iranian economy. For the Iranian regime that is a huge part of why it signed the nuclear deal. It wasn’t about anything else except the economy, and trying to get the economy going, and trying to generate foreign and internal investment into different sections of the Iranian economy. It’s about the long-term sustainability of the Islamic republic.”
The consensus is far from unanimous though.
“I think the money will be directed toward non-state actors abroad,” Abdo said. “I think that it’s very unfortunate, but I think that the regime’s strategy is that they will basically maintain the minimum economic commitment required to prevent dissent and uprising, and as long as they can maintain this low level of service to their own people – which means that the subsidies are cut and the value of the currency is low and so forth – they will continue to do this if this means freeing up resources for regional domination.”
“It’s very clear if you go to Iran, the wages are low, the economy is in a bad situation,” she said. “But they’re spending enormous amounts of money on their regional ambitions.”
Sectarianism and survival
Iran supports non-state actors in the Middle East “because they want to have a foothold politically in the Arab world,” Abdo said.
“I think also there is a religious dimension to this and many people disagree with me,” she said. The topic is one she discusses at greater length in her new book, The New Sectarianism, due to be published on 1 December 2016.
“If you go back and look at Khamenei’s speeches during the early years of the Arab uprising, he talked a lot about the Islamic awakening. This is just pure rhetoric,” she said. “In fact what has happened is that the Iranians are supporting Shia groups in the Arab world.”
“Nasrallah has made very clear over the last two years that Hezbollah now functions as a Shia militia,” Abdo said. “Both Iran and Hezbollah never played the Shia card, they never said that they are the military force for Shia in the region, but they departed from that approximately two years ago and now there is no question that both Hezbollah and Iran are military forces to support Shia in the region.”
“This is what I think is very important in what has changed their historic rhetoric since the revolution,” she said.
There is an ethnic, as well as a religious, dimension to the complexity of Iran’s support for foreign militias, Abdo continued, because these groups are comprised mainly of Arab, not Persian, Shia.
“The Iranians are making inroads because the Shia in many of these countries are not gaining any support from their own governments,” she said. “Iraq is a perfect example of this.”
Zarif’s article in the New York Times has refocused attention on this sectarian proxy war currently raging across the Middle East.
“No doubt the Saudis are definitely instrumental in driving this conflict, but I think the important difference is that ideologically the Saudis don’t need this conflict for their survival,” she says. “The Iranian state depends upon conflict with the West ideologically and conflict with its neighbours to maintain its survival and its legitimacy.”
Related reading: Obama administration and State Department are Hiding Iran Agreements
Related reading: Obama Grants Clemency to 7 Iranian Terrorists in United States, but there were really 21 of them and no access to who they were.
A sudden decision to drop the case against Marc Turi, the legitimate arms dealer approved by Hillary to move weapons to Libya, oh…no…then to Qatar and then not at all had his home raided. Why? Good question except Turi Defense was approved not never launched any shipments. The case against him fell apart mostly due to the notion the government would have to produce documents of the case and background for legal discovery and it would have further tainted Hillary Clinton’s actions regarding Qaddafi and her actions in Libya. Hummm okay….what else? All kinds of cases and questions, try a few of these below. Remember too that Obama issued a pardon for Iranians in the United States during the prisoner swap with Iran. Don’t forget those pesky 5 Taliban commanders released for Bowe Bergdahl.
Across America college campuses are being flooded with pro-terrorist propaganda by groups supported by college administrators and student funds. These groups are led by Students for Justice in Palestine but they include the broad coalitions of the left which have become the breeding grounds for a new anti-Semitism. Boycott, Divest and Sanctions resolutions targeting the state of Israel for destruction are passed to chants of “Allahu Ahkbar,” while Jewish students are the targets of verbal and physical harassments which have reached epidemic proportions. This is a report on the 10 schools most supportive of the efforts of Students for Justice in Palestine and its allies, to demonize the state of Israel and bring about its destruction.
Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) portrays itself as a typical student organization and multicultural group advocating for “social justice” in the Middle East, but this image is a cleverly constructed disguise. Students for Justice in Palestine is not concerned about justice in Palestine where the Hamas regime steals hundreds of millions of dollars earmarked for humanitarian aid and uses it to dig terror tunnels whose only purpose is to murder Jews. In truth, SJP is a pro-terror organization that is funded by anti-Israel Hamas terrorists for the purpose of destroying Israel, the world’s only Jewish state, and committing genocide against its Jewish population as prescribed in the Hamas charter.
1. Brooklyn College (CUNY)
2. San Diego State University
3. San Francisco State University
4. Tufts University
5. University of California Berkeley
6. University of California Irvine
7. University of California Los Angeles
8. University of Chicago
9. University of Tennessee Knoxville
10. Vassar College
**** Then there is Mosed Omar.
Federal prosecutors — acting abruptly and without public explanation — have moved to drop a controversial criminal passport fraud case that critics alleged stemmed from coercive interrogations at the U.S. embassy in Yemen.
Earlier this year, a grand jury in San Francisco indicted Mosed Omar on passport fraud charges linked to a statement he signed during a 2012 visit to the U.S. diplomatic post in the unstable Middle Eastern nation.
After signing the statement saying he’d used a false name when he was naturalized as a U.S. citizen in 1978, Omar’s U.S. passport was confiscated and a request for a passport for his daughter was denied. Omar eventually made it back to the U.S. on a temporary travel permit. More here from Politico.
There was the case of Huma Abedin not only working officially at the State Department for Hillary Clinton, but at the same time she was on the payroll of Teneo. Has this investigation and case advanced in any form? Not so much.
It seems that double dipping, meaning working for the Federal government and other outside organizations is actually quite common and this too includes staffers working for legislators in both houses of Congress. So, this does tell us there is nepotism perhaps and for sure conflicts of interest. How so you ask? Words matter and members of Congress figured out that the word ‘fellowship’ is best used to describe the work…..sheesh….
POGO: The U.S. Congress allows Members to staff their offices with Fellows who are paid by corporations, foundations, universities, non-profits, and other outside private entities.
The Fellows are required to abide by all the laws, rules, and standards governing permanent Congressional staff members. Indeed, they are often indistinguishable from permanent staff members. They work on writing legislation and Floor speeches, and represent the Member in meetings with other offices and constituents.
POGO reviewed 2,014 publicly available reports on Senate fellows and found several examples of the appearance of a conflict of interest, and that Senators did not consistently disclose fellows whose salary was paid by a third party. The House does not maintain records on Congressional Fellows at all.
On the Senate side, fellows and their supervisors are required to file reports detailing when they began their fellowship, how much money they’re making, what entity is paying their salary, and how many hours they’ve worked. Senate rules mandate that new fellows file their “Agreement to Comply with the Senate Code of Official Conduct,” known as form 41.4, at the beginning of their fellowship, at the end of each calendar quarter, and at the end of the fellowship. The fellow’s supervisor must file a “Report on Individuals Who Perform Senate Services,” known as form 41.6, which is often signed by the Senator. While these forms are available to the public, they are not electronically available and anyone interested in seeing them must visit the Senate Office of Public Records during business hours.
Is there a code of conduct, formal disclosures and rules that apply here? Yes….is there compliance? Not so much. Essentially, this is but another means to lobby members of Congress and to ensure earmarks are designated, and they are.
Require disclosure in the House of Representatives
The House Rules committee should introduce language into the Code of Official Conduct that would require Representatives to report when their office employs an individual who is compensated by any source outside of the United States Government. Such a report should include the identity of the source of the compensation and the amount or rate of compensation.
More oversight in the Senate
Senate reporting of Fellows who are paid by corporations, foundations, universities, non-profits, and other outside private entities is falling short. The Senate Ethics Committee needs to increase its oversight over the Congressional Fellows reporting requirements, actively checking with Member offices to make sure they don’t have any Fellows employed for years they don’t report any. The Senate Ethics Committee should also increase training for Member offices on what they are required to report, at the start of each Congress it should hold a series of trainings for all Member offices.
Both Chambers should require electronic filing of these disclosures, in a publically accessible format
The Senate, and House as it begins to require reporting on Fellows, should transition to an electronic filing system that can be accessed by the public. This will allow for more uniform participation by Member offices and more public oversight over the Congressional Fellowship programs. Read on here for further and exact details from POGO. Fabulous investigative work and causes for more questions to be asked and solutions to be applied.