ISIS IS a Functioning State, Admitted by New York Times

NYT Istanbul:  The Islamic State uses terror to force obedience and frighten enemies. It has seized territory, destroyed antiquities, slaughtered minorities, forced women into sexual slavery and turned children into killers.

But its officials are apparently resistant to bribes, and in that way, at least, it has outdone the corrupt Syrian and Iraqi governments it routed, residents and experts say.

“You can travel from Raqqa to Mosul and no one will dare to stop you even if you carry $1 million,” said Bilal, who lives in Raqqa, the Islamic State’s de facto capital in Syria, and insisted out of fear on being identified only by his first name. “No one would dare to take even one dollar.”
The Islamic State, also known as ISIS, ISIL and Daesh, initially functioned solely as a terrorist organization, if one more coldblooded even than Al Qaeda. Then it went on to seize land. But increasingly, as it holds that territory and builds capacity to govern, the group is transforming into a functioning state that uses extreme violence — terror — as a tool. That distinction is proving to be more than a matter of perspective for those who live under the Islamic State, which has provided relative stability in a region troubled by war and chaos while filling a vacuum left by failing and corrupt governments that also employed violence — arrest, torture and detention.

While no one is predicting that the Islamic State will become steward of an accountable, functioning state anytime soon, the group is putting in place the kinds of measures associated with governance: issuing identification cards for residents, promulgating fishing guidelines to preserve stocks, requiring that cars carry tool kits for emergencies.

That transition may demand that the West rethink its military-first approach to combating the group.

“I think that there is no question that the way to look at it is as a revolutionary state-building organization,” said Stephen M. Walt, a professor of international affairs at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard. He is one of a small but growing group of experts who are challenging the conventional wisdom about the Islamic State: that its evil ensures its eventual destruction.

In a recent essay in Foreign Policy magazine — “What Should We Do If the Islamic State Wins?” — Mr. Walt argued that the Islamic State could indeed prevail in the face of a modest, American-led military campaign that has been going on for almost a year and still leaves the group in control of large areas of Syria and Iraq, including Mosul, its second-largest city.

He wrote, “An Islamic State victory would mean that the group retained power in the areas it now controls and successfully defied outside efforts to ‘degrade and destroy’ it.”

He added that now, after almost a year of American airstrikes on the group, it is becoming clear that “only a large-scale foreign intervention is likely to roll back and ultimately eliminate the Islamic State.”

Mr. Walt is not the only expert thinking along these lines. It is an argument buttressed by a widespread belief that a military strategy alone, without political reconciliation to offer alienated Sunnis an alternative authority, is not sufficient to defeat the Islamic State. More on the story here.

**** NATO via the Atlantic Council:

ISIS Takes on the Gulf States

Another suicide bombing has shaken the Gulf region, as young Saudi Abdallah Fahd Abdallah Rashid blew himself up at a checkpoint in the Saudi capital of Riyadh on July 16. Rashid conducted the bombing just after killing his uncle, a colonel with the Saudi Ministry of Interior. The Islamic State (ISIS or ISIL) claimed responsibility for the dual operation. This attack comes only a week after authorities in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait arrested several Saudi nationals related to an of ISIS member in Syria. Police claimed that the men played a part in the attack on a Shia mosque in Kuwait city on June 26. The bombing in Kuwait took place only three days after the ISIS media company Al-Furqan released an audio recording by ISIS spokesman Abu Muhammad al-‘Adnani in which he congratulated Muslims on the commencement of Ramadan and called upon Arab countries, including Saudi Arabia, to join the jihad against Shia. The Saudi and Kuwait attacks fall within the broader ISIS strategy of stoking the Gulf Sunni-Shia sectarian divide. In the polarized regional context driven by the Saudi-Iranian rivalry, this sectarian game plan threatens to tear the fabric of Gulf society apart.

In the attack on June 26, a Saudi suicide bomber blew himself up in a Shia mosque during Friday prayers in Kuwait city, killing twenty-seven people and injuring another 200. On May 29, a car bomb exploded at the entrance to the al-Anoud mosque in Damam, Saudi Arabia, killing three. Exactly a week prior, twenty-one worshippers died and 120 injured when a bomb exploded inside a mosque in the eastern Saudi province. ISIS claimed responsibility for both attacks. Another attack last November 2014 on the al-Ahsa mosque in the Eastern Province also killed seven and injured dozens. An ISIS affiliate calling itself Wilayat Najd (Najd Province) claimed the attack. Each attack specifically targeted the Shia minority in the Gulf against the backdrop of growing enmity and sectarian tensions between the Saudi Arabia and Iran, which ISIS has used to justify its brutal confessional narrative.

These attacks are Abu Musab al-Zarqawi’s legacy to ISIS. The Jordanian al-Qaeda leader believed that a religious war in Iraq would bring more Sunnis to his side and allow for the expansion of his organization. Shortly after Zarqawi sent a letter in 2004 to the al-Qaeda leadership in Afghanistan on his intentions to attack Shia in Iraq to spark sectarian conflict, members of his organization killed at least 185 Shia celebrating the Ashura holiday in a series of coordinated attacks in Baghdad and Karbala. This began a long string of attacks targeting Shia under his leadership until he died in a US air strike in 2006.

ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, like Zarqawi before him, sees a window of opportunity in the current upheaval shaking the region. The Arab Spring fractured countries from the Levant to North Africa, where civil war and resurgent authoritarianism has led to a crisis of legitimacy. The rivalry between Iran and Saudi Arabia on issues such as Syria, Iraq, and Yemen only adds fuel to the sectarian fire. In countries such as Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, riots broke out in mainly Shia areas. Although Shia only make up a minority of Kuwaitis, they still account for an estimated 25 to 30 percent of the population. In Saudi Arabia, the Shia population, located mostly in the oil rich Eastern Province, amounts to about 15 percent of the total population.

Marginalized Shia communities, the rise of Salafi jihadist movement, and the ongoing war in Yemen—a conflict seen as the Sunni response to Iran’s expansion plan in the region—have left both Kuwait and Saudi Arabia vulnerable to the growing regional sectarian strife. Kuwait may have the most inclusive policies toward their Shia community among the Gulf countries (Shia representatives hold ten of the fifty seats in its parliament), the war in Yemen in particular has raised sectarian tensions. Kuwait’s Shia denounced the Saudi-led operation, resulting in a brawl inside parliament in May. Seven of the ten Shia parliamentarians also criticized the Kuwaiti Air Force’s participation.

Shia in Saudi Arabia enjoy far less influence and have begun to agitate in the oil-rich Eastern Province. Carnegie Senior Associate, Fred Wehrey, reported in a 2013 paper “an unending cycle of detentions, shootings, and demonstrations,” many linked to the marginalization of and discrimination against Shia in the kingdom. Gulf clerics have often resorted to hate propaganda against Shia and the Saudi campaign to oust the Houthi Zaydi Shia rebels from Sana’a has clearly taken on a sectarian dimension. Wealthy Saudi and Kuwaiti nationals have also reportedly contributed to funding ISIS and even joined the groups to fight the Assad regime in Syria. An estimated 5,500 Gulf nationals—4,000 of them coming from Saudi Arabia alone—currently fight with ISIS.

These factors make for an explosive cocktail, one that ISIS will utilize to instigate sectarian violence and destabilize the Gulf countries that host significant Shia populations. By targeting the minority community, ISIS hopes to provoke a Shia backlash, gambling on an aggressive Gulf response that would create further instability on which ISIS could capitalize. For the extremist group, the success or failure of a resulting crackdown provides a win-win situation: a successful crackdown would vindicate ISIS’s sectarian narrative; a failure would undermine faith in the Gulf authorities and expand support for the extremist group.

ISIS will likely widen its sectarian war into other parts of the Gulf, beyond Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. Given its large Shia population (estimated at approximately 70 percent), Bahrain shares similar traits with Iraq over Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. Bahrain’s Shia have faced a massive crackdown since it engaged in protests in 2011 demanding inclusive policies. Prominent ISIS members, such as Shaikh Turki Al Ban’ali who is believed to be serving as a religious leader in the organization, also hail from Bahrain. The United Arab Emirates—home to a Shia population of about 10 percent—might be less at risk than Bahrain, but remains vulnerable to possible lone wolf operations.

While the recent attacks in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait may have shaken these countries sense of security, Gulf governments still maintain a strong security apparatus with which ISIS must contend. Nonetheless, ISIS operations in these countries will create instability in the short term and exacerbate tensions between Sunnis and Shia. To prevent ISIS from establishing a more permanent presence in these countries, Gulf countries should complement counterterrorism campaigns with dialogue between citizens of different religious beliefs and promoting conciliatory measures toward Shia minorities. The ongoing rivalry between Iran and Saudi Arabia and the proxy competition in countries like Syria, Iraq, and Yemen will also continue to buttress ISIS’s regional ambitions. Until Iran and the Gulf countries reach an understanding on their own regional ambitions, their enmity will fuel ISIS’s sectarian narrative and support the destabilization of divided Muslim countries.

Iran PMD (Possible/Probable Military Dimensions)

In 2014:

Iran Fact File

Fact Sheet

The Possible Military Dimensions of Iran’s

Nuclear Program

The United States and a number of other countries have provided evidence to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) that Iran secretly sought to develop the materials and technology to produce nuclear weapons over the past several decades. There is substantial evidence that Iran acquired expertise, information and technology from the nuclear black market run out of Pakistan by nuclear scientist A.Q. Khan. The IAEA is trying to determine whether this evidence is accurate and how far Iran has progressed in developing nuclear weapons. There is no evidence that Iran has or has ever built a nuclear weapon or that it has enough nuclear material to do so now. The IAEA’s investigation is based on information provided by other countries and its own work. This information suggests that Iran has previously pursued development of a nuclear implosion device, a design similar to that used in the arsenals of most nuclear weapon states. (See figure one below.)

An implosion device – in simplistic terms – involves compressing a sphere of uranium or plutonium into a smaller but symmetrical sphere through the use of shaped explosive lenses.

The concept is similar to trying to compress a soccer ball into a baseball with dynamite. Each step in designing, testing, producing and delivering this kind of device requires highly specialized materials, equipment and expertise. Over the past decade, the IAEA has investigated the extent to which Tehran has pursued, developed and perfected many of the steps associated with the production of such a device.

Figure 1. Implosion Weapon Design Concept

Source: 2011 Nuclear Weapons Handbook, DOD

The bulk of what the IAEA has learned is referred to by the Agency as the “possible military dimension” of Iran’s nuclear program. A detailed summary of the issues being assessed by the IAEA was reported by IAEA Director General Yukia Amano to the IAEA Board of Governors in November 20111 and is summarized below.

The Joint Plan of Action and the IAEA

The political negotiations taking place between Iran on the one hand and the United States, Russia, China, France, the United Kingdom, Germany (known as the P-5+1) and the European Union on the other seek to negotiate a comprehensive agreement that will limit Iran’s nuclear program while enabling it to enjoy the peaceful benefits of nuclear technology. To do so, Iran must enable full and effective safeguards as implemented by the IAEA. To date, the Agency has reported that Iran is in full compliance with its obligations for special monitoring under the terms of the Joint Plan of Action (JPOA).

Iran has, however, been found in non-compliance with its safeguard agreement obligations2 required under the terms of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. For over a decade, the IAEA has been seeking to clarify a number of outstanding issues related to Iran’s past nuclear activities, catalogued below. It remains unclear whether a comprehensive settlement of the remaining issues with Iran can be achieved without Iran also satisfying all of the IAEA’s outstanding concerns about its nuclear past. At the very least, states will continue to have 1 IAEA Report, “Implementation of the NPT Safeguards Agreement and relevant provisions of Security Council resolutions in the Islamic Republic of Iran,” November 8, 2011 doubts about Iran’s peaceful intentions as long as the IAEA is not satisfied that its investigations are complete.

2 September 24, 2005 IAEA Board of Governors Resolution GOV/2005/77

The JPOA agreed to by Iran and the P-5+1 on November 24, 2013 states that a “Joint Commission of E3/EU+3 and Iran will be established to monitor the implementation of the nearterm measures [under the JPOA] and address issues that may arise, with the IAEA responsible for verification of nuclear-related measures. The Joint Commission will work with the IAEA to facilitate resolution of past and present issues of concern.” However, the State Department has recently clarified that the issue of past weapon-related activities is a matter for the IAEA to investigate and is not a matter for the special commission3.

IAEA and Iranian officials have continued to meet since the JPOA was completed and implemented. As yet, these discussions have not resolve the issues listed below. At some point the IAEA will likely be asked to judge whether its concerns have been addressed, and how any remaining unresolved issues might affect the IAEA’s ability to carry out its inspection mandate to verify that Iran’s nuclear activities are of an exclusively peaceful nature.

Possible Military Dimensions of Iran’s Nuclear Program

Much of the evidence that Iran pursued a secret nuclear weapons development program comes from the United States and other IAEA member states. IAEA reports indicate that at least ten member states have provided evidence to the IAEA related to Iran’s past nuclear activities. In addition, IAEA documents suggest that some of the evidence about Iran’s past activities come from interviews with Pakistani sources, including possibly A.Q. Khan. None of the publicly available evidence in and of itself proves that Iran had a nuclear weapon program. It is also not clear that Iran has continued any of these activities, and it is not publicly known how far this alleged work progressed before it was reportedly stopped in 20034.

Procurement Activities

The IAEA has evidence that from the 1980s until the early 2000s, Iran acquired nuclear  expertise and related materials outside of normal procurement channels, including through a black market network run by A. Q. Khan. Iranian officials claim they were forced to seek nuclear items on the black market because it was blocked from pursuing “legitimate” nuclear efforts by the United States and other western powers. However, the fact that much of the procurement efforts were run by military organizations, including the Ministry of Defense, has suggests that the nuclear efforts being pursued by Iran were military in nature. Moreover, the links between procurement and other military application programs, including ballistic missile programs, undermines but does not disprove Iran’s argument that its program is entirely 3 February 17, 2014 Background Briefing, Senior Administration Official, Vienna, Austria peaceful. The IAEA continues to try to understand the full nature of Iran’s procurement activities.

4 “Iran: Nuclear Intentions and Capabilities”, National Intelligence Estimate, National Intelligence Council,

November 2007,

Nuclear Material Acquisition Activities

The IAEA has evidence that during the 1990s and early 2000s, Iran pursued the development of clandestine nuclear facilities for the processing and enrichment of uranium. The Natanz and Fordow uranium enrichment sites were only declared after they were uncovered by western intelligence or outside sources. Iran also had an active program to acquire uranium outside of IAEA safeguards, for possible use in these previously clandestine facilities. The IAEA has evidence that Iran planned to secretly acquire and enrich uranium at non-declared nuclear facilities and this evidence remains under investigation by the IAEA.

Detonator Development

The IAEA has evidence that Iran pursued studies and received documentation for the development of fast-functioning devices known as “exploding bridgewire detonators.” These devices have limited uses outside of detonating explosive charges associated with nuclear weapons. Iran acknowledges that it has developed EBW for civilian and conventional military applications, but has not explained to the IAEA what these applications are. As such, the IAEA continues to consider this effort a “matter of concern.” Moreover, as noted below, the IAEA has information that Iran has considered the reliability of EBW in the possible testing of nuclear weapons.

Nuclear Components for an Explosive Device

Key to the IAEA’s investigation is a document reportedly provided to Iran by the Pakistani black marketers related to the conversion of uranium into metallic form and the shaping of uranium metal into hemispheres. It also appears likely that Iran acquired designs for nuclear weapons, as did other customers of the Pakistani network, including Libya. The IAEA also has evidence that Iran did work preparing to produce components for such a device. This matter remains of high interest to the IAEA.

Initiation of High Explosives

IAEA member states have provided information that Iran had access to information about multipoint initiation systems. Such systems are necessary for the operation of an implosion device, such as the one Iran may have pursued. Iran has acknowledged access to the information, but claims the document was “not understandable” to their experts and has not conducted activities referred to in the information. This stance is contradicted by information provide to the IAEA by member states and appears to be related to a possible experiment carried out by Iran in 20035.

5 Joby Warrick, “Russian scientist Vyacheslav Danilenko’s aid to Iran offers peek at nuclear program” The

Washington Post November 13, 2011


Hydrodynamic experiments are full-scale model tests of nuclear implosion devices that substitute non-fissile materials to uranium or plutonium. Member states have provided information to the IAEA indicating Iran has manufactured “simulated nuclear explosive components using high density materials” – presumably to simulate uranium metal. This, together with Iran’s activities related to the use of high-speed diagnostic equipment, including flash x-ray technology, raise concerns about nuclear weapons-related work.

This area of investigation has spawned one of the most contentious6 areas of the IAEA’s work – that related to the facility at Parchin. The IAEA has received information from member states that Iran acquired information about, and may have built, a large explosives containment vessel in which to conduct hydrodynamic experiments. There is some evidence that Iran built and installed such a device at Parchin. Two visits to Parchin by the IAEA in 2005 failed to identify this site, but not all facilities were visited by the Agency at the time. Iran has since made large scale changes to the site, a move that could be related to concealment efforts of its past activities.

Aside from site access, Iran has yet to fully explain or effectively refute the evidence that has been made available to the IAEA on this matter and it remains of concern to the IAEA. The Agency states that it has had direct access to the source of some of this expertise for Iran, believed to be a former Soviet weapons-scientist7.

Neutron Initiation

Iran may, according to evidence provided to the IAEA, have undertaken work to build neutron initiators for use in nuclear weapons. In an implosion device, a small source of additional neutrons can be inserted inside the sphere to be compressed, releasing a boost of neutrons at the exact moment of implosion. This can help ensure that fission takes place and also increase the yield of a nuclear device.

Modeling and Calculations

The design of nuclear weapons can be achieved by using advanced calculations and computerbased modeling. Iran has reportedly sought access to calculation and nuclear modeling training.

The IAEA has evidence that representatives from Iran “met with officials from an institute in a nuclear-weapon state to request training courses in the fields of neutron cross section calculations using computer codes.” Such models can be used in civil as well military nuclear applications. Iran has denied these allegations in writing to the IAEA.




7 Ibid

Nuclear Test Planning

Iran may have made plans to test a nuclear device. There is evidence that Iran may have “conducted a number of practical tests to see whether its EBW firing equipment could function” over long distances between a firing point and a deep test shaft – commonly used in underground nuclear tests. The IAEA has also received documents from member states in Farsi discussing possible logistics associated with such a test.

Work to Modify a Missile Payload Area

The IAEA has information that Iran conducted engineering studies on how to integrate a “new spherical payload into the existing payload chamber which would be mounted in the re-entry vehicle of the Shahab-3 missile.” The Shahab-3 missile is an Iranian version of the North Korean No-Dong system with a reported range of almost 1,300 kilometers or 800 miles. The work allegedly includes the production of component prototypes as well as modeling work on at least 14 different progressive design iterations. Iran has told the IAEA it believes the information it has received are forgeries, but the IAEA has stated the “quantity of the documentation, and the scope and contents of the work covered in the documentation, are sufficiently comprehensive and complex that in the Agency’s view, it is not likely to have been the result of forgery or fabrication.”

Fusing, Arming and Firing

The alleged studies and documents noted above also indicate that Iran pursued design work on developing a prototype firing system to enable both air and ground detonation of the payload.

Iran dismissed the information as an “animation game.” The Agency has worked with member state experts to determine that the most likely application of the designed air burst system would be for a nuclear system and that the alternative possible use (for chemical weapons-use) could be ruled out.

Taken together, this information and analysis does not prove that Iran had a nuclear weapon program. However, US and other foreign officials are convinced of Iran’s past illegal activities.

Regardless, if a final comprehensive settlement is to be reached, Iran and the IAEA will have to find a politically acceptable way to resolve the outstanding matters under investigation.

Iran Fact File is a project of the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies.

© 2014 Iran Fact File

All rights reserved.


IAEA Director General to Punt the Iran PMD Issue to the Board of Governors

Have you seen this new Bloomberg article by Jonathan Tirone? I’m almost dumbstruck by it.  In it he reports:

Investigators probing Iran will let national officials from places including the U.S., China and Russia decide if the Persian Gulf country hid a nuclear weapons program, according to two officials familiar with their work.

The International Atomic Energy Agency’s inspection team will likely have to make an assessment based on incomplete information and let its board of nationally-appointed governors draw definitive conclusion about the country’s past nuclear work, said the two senior international officials, who asked not to be named because the information isn’t public. . .

It isn’t realistic to expect the IAEA to provide a black-and-white assessment showing that Iran either did or did not have a nuclear-weapons program, the officials said. The IAEA will set a time to end the investigation and submit its findings to the 35-member board of governors to make a ruling, they said.

I almost don’t know where to begin on this. As readers will know, I’ve long been critical of the IAEA’s decision to investigate allegations, mostly originating from third party states, of past possible military dimensions (PMD) to Iran’s nuclear program, and the November 2011 IAEA DG report that most comprehensively laid out these allegations.  I published this commentary on the report the day after it was sent to the BOG.  Since then I’ve written on the issue several times, including here, and have tried to explain that the IAEA has absolutely no mandate or authority to investigate and assess whether safeguarded states have done research and development work on nuclear weaponization not involving fissile materials.

Notwithstanding this lack of legal authority and, as Bob Kelley and Tariq Rauf point out in their new article in Arms Control Today, a lack of technical expertise to assess nuclear weaponization R&D as well, the IAEA has proceeded over the past three years to gather what information they could about the PMD claims, and has tried to engage Iran on this issue, with little success.

It’s never been clear to me what DG Amano’s game plan was on the PMD issue – i.e. how he thought the investigation would realistically play out, and what he thought would be achieved through it.  Again, there is no legal source that lays out the IAEA’s authority and tools for investigating nuclear weaponization, so there are no standards for the agency to follow.

It now appears that the final chapter of the IAEA’s PMD inquiry in Iran will consist of the IAEA DG’s office handing over whatever technical information they have, however incomplete, to the national political representatives who constitute the 35 member Board of Governors of the IAEA, and asking them to determine whether Iran worked on nuclear weaponization in the past.

If that sounds kind of crazy to you, then you’re not alone.

Again, I don’t think the IAEA should have ever started down the path of investigation and assessment on this issue, but given that they have, surely it must be recognized that this is essentially a technical matter – i.e. whether there is sufficient evidence of a nuclear weaponization program in Iran in the past. It is not a political matter. How, then, are the political representative of 35 countries on the IAEA BOG qualified in any way to make this determination?

This seems to me to be a complete cop-out – a surrender by the IAEA DG’s office. Whether it’s a surrender to facts (i.e. the DG’s office doesn’t have, and knows it never will have, enough information to really make the call technically, and is afraid to admit it) or a surrender to politics (i.e. the US and others are pressuring Amano to get the PMD issue resolved, and this is the only way to face-savingly do it) or more likely a combination of both, this can’t be the way Amano hoped this PMD inquiry would be resolved. Although, again, I don’t know what his plan was to begin with.

This is a punt – a buck passing, plain and simple. And even though the IAEA should never have gotten involved in this issue in the first place, this sets a very bad precedent for the agency going forward. The IAEA DG’s office is basically admitting that they cannot do their job of making a technical determination here, and they are instead punting the issue over to the BOG for a politicized vote. What does that say to IAEA member states about the IAEA’s ability to objectively apply technical safeguards to their nuclear programs, and about the independence and apolitical nature of the agency?

If this vote does indeed go ahead in the IAEA BOG, no matter what the outcome I think it will be one of the darkest days in the agency’s history. And I think that DG Amano is solely responsible for the black eye the agency’s reputation will take from this ill conceived, and badly executed foray into weaponization investigation.

A Redline for Islamic State Chemical Weapons?

It was reported last month and confirmed that ISIS hired chemical experts.

Islamic State recruiting chemical weapons experts, Australia’s foreign minister says

In January of 2015, an ISIS chemical expert was killed in an Iraq airstrike.

So, where is that impassioned speech by John Kerry? Where is the United Nations? Where is the White House redline? Where is the UK?


NYT’s: ISIS Has Fired Chemical Mortar Shells, Evidence Indicates

A 120-millimeter mortar shell struck fortifications at a Kurdish military position near the Mosul Dam in June, arms experts said, sickening several Kurdish fighters who were nearby. Credit Conflict Armament Research and Sahan Research

The Islamic State appears to have manufactured rudimentary chemical warfare shells and attacked Kurdish positions in Iraq and Syria with them as many as three times in recent weeks, according to field investigators, Kurdish officials and a Western ordnance disposal technician who examined the incidents and recovered one of the shells.

The development, which the investigators said involved toxic industrial or agricultural chemicals repurposed as weapons, signaled a potential escalation of the group’s capabilities, though it was not entirely without precedent.

Beginning more than a decade ago, Sunni militants in Iraq have occasionally used chlorine or old chemical warfare shells in makeshift bombs against American and Iraqi government forces. And Kurdish forces have claimed that militants affiliated with the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL, used a chlorine-based chemical in at least one suicide truck bomb in Iraq this year.

Firing chemical mortar shells across distances, however, as opposed to dispersing toxic chemicals via truck bombs or stationary devices, would be a new tactic for the group, and would require its munitions makers to overcome a significantly more difficult technical challenge.

Chemical weapons, internationally condemned and banned in most of the world, are often less lethal than conventional munitions, including when used in improvised fashion. But they are indiscriminate by nature and difficult to defend against without specialized equipment — traits that lend them potent psychological and political effects.

In the clearest recent incident, a 120-millimeter chemical mortar shell struck sandbag fortifications at a Kurdish military position near Mosul Dam on June 21 or 22, the investigators said, and caused several Kurdish fighters near where it landed to become ill.

The shell did not explode and was recovered nearly intact on June 29 by Gregory Robin, a former French military ordnance disposal technician who now works for Sahan Research, a think tank partnered with Conflict Armament Research, a private organization that has been documenting and tracing weapons used in the conflict. Both research groups are registered in Britain.

The tail of the shell had been broken, Mr. Robin said by telephone on Friday, and was leaking a liquid that emanated a powerful odor of chlorine and caused irritation to the airways and eyes.

It was the first time, according to Mr. Robin and James Bevan, the director of Conflict Armament Research, that such a shell had been found in the conflict.

In an internal report to the Kurdish government in Iraq, the research groups noted that the mortar shell appeared to have been manufactured in an “ISIS workshop by casting iron into mold method. The mortar contains a warhead filled with a chemical agent, most probably chlorine.”

Conflict Armament Research and Sahan Research often work with the Kurdistan Region Security Council. Mr. Robin and Mr. Bevan said the council had contracted a laboratory to analyze residue samples removed from the weapon.

He added, “What I don’t know is what kind of burster charge it had,” referring to the small explosive charge intended to break open the shell and distribute its liquid contents. The shell had not exploded, he said, because, inexplicably, it did not contain a fuse.

Whether any finding from tests underwritten by Kurdish authorities would be internationally recognized is uncertain, as the Kurdish forces are party to the conflict.

The week after Mr. Robin collected the shell, on July 6, another investigator found evidence that the research groups said indicated two separate attacks with chemical projectiles in Kurdish territory in the northeastern corner of Syria.

Those attacks, at Tel Brak and Hasakah, occurred in late June and appeared to involve shells or small rockets containing an industrial chemical sometimes used as a pesticide, the investigators said.

In the incidents in Syria, Mr. Bevan said, multiple shells struck in agricultural fields near three buildings used by Kurdish militia forces known as the Y.P.G., or Peoples Protection Units, in Tel Brak. More shells, he said, landed in civilian areas in Hasakah; at least one struck a civilian home.  More on the story here.

Consequences of JPOA with Iran are Being Realized

It may be real apparent that even the military and Washington DC has not measured all the consequences of the Joint Plan of Action nuclear deal with Iran.

Just for grins, this is the written and verbal text of the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power declaration to the UN this morning to the Security Council, it is full of lies.

U.K. Lifts Export Bans on Arms to Israel

The United Kingdom has lifted all remaining restrictions on arms sales to Israel, according to The Independent. Over the past year, the U.K. government conducted a review of export licenses in light of Operation Protective Edge in Gaza.


Washington Examiner: NORAD is not taking any chances by working some air exercises to test missile defense systems, one of which is scheduled for Washington DC this week.

Civil Air Patrol aircraft and a military helicopter will be flying over D.C. between midnight and 2 a.m. Tuesday night into Wednesday morning as part of an exercise designed to hone NORAD’s intercept operations.

The North American Aerospace Defense Command and its geographical component, the Continental United States NORAD Region (CONR), have been conducting these exercises in the U.S. and Canada since the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks on U.S. soil.

This particular exercise, called Falcon Virgo 15-10, is part of a series of flights run in coordination with the Federal Aviation Administration, the National Capital Region (NCR) Coordination Center, the Joint Air Defense Operations Center (JADOC), Civil Air Patrol, U.S. Coast Guard and CONR’s Eastern Air Defense Sector, CONR officials said in a statement Sunday.

“Exercise Falcon Virgo is designed to hone NORAD’s intercept and identification operations as well as operationally test the NCR Visual Warning System and training personnel at the JADOC. Civil Air Patrol aircraft and a U.S. Coast Guard MH-65 Dolphin helicopter will participate in the exercise,” CONR said.
From Times of Israel in part: Tehran has announced they WILL NOT CHANGE THEIR BEHAVIOR TOWARDS THE WEST OR ISRAEL

US President Barack Obama says the vote at the UN Security Council sends a “clear message: that the deal with Iran is a path forward.

Germany and Iran soon will hold their first economic conference in a decade in the wake of a deal with world powers over the Islamic Republic’s nuclear program, Iran’s state-run news agency reports.

However, the top German official in a delegation visiting Tehran warned Iran that threatening Israel and not respecting human rights could damage these nascent economic efforts.

Then comes India

Gatestone Institute: India’s Foreign Ministry and media welcomed the Iran deal, much as their counterparts in Western capitals did. But country’s defence establishment and business community are raising their concerns about the newly negotiated deal with Iran.

Recent defence procurements show that India is preparing for a destabilizing Middle East. In the run-up to the Iran deal, India has been ramping up its missile defence capabilities, including building a comprehensive missile defence shield capable of intercepting a ballistic missile fired from a range of 5,000 km — effectively covering the South China Sea and the Persian Gulf region.

India has good reason to be concerned about an Iranian windfall from its oil trade financing Shia militancy across the Muslim world. The Iranian ascendancy could intensify the Shia-Sunni fight for the control of political Islam and spill over into India’s Kashmir region and beyond.

India’s primary concern, however, remains neighbouring Pakistan.

As this nuclear deal sets a Shiite Iran on the highway to a nuclear bomb, rival Sunni-Arab nations are getting jittery about the prospect of living in an Iranian-dominated Middle East.

Pakistan would be the preferred one-stop shop from Sunni-Arab nations to acquire a “turnkey” nuclear bomb. Saudi Arabia has apparently financed Pakistan’s clandestine nuclear program for decades and hopes get an “off the shelf” nuclear bomb in return. U.S. President Barack Obama might be right about not allowing a nuclear Iran “on his watch,” but after he leaves the White House — and because of him — the nuclear landscape of the Middle East might be “radiating” like a pinball machine.

The multi-billion dollar nuclear deals between Pakistan and Sunni-Arab nations will be brokered by the Pakistani Army, and the money will largely go to fund Islamist infrastructure and jihadist insurgencies in Kashmir and beyond.

The Iran deal also ends India’s hopes of oil exploration in Iran. Major Western powers such as Germany and France, which pushed for an agreement, will be lining up to secure trade concessions from Iran in return for removing sanctions and watering down restrictions.

Indians will not be playing in that club of Oil Majors — it will be forced to take a back seat. Political commentators in India who may have hoped for unrestricted access to Iranian cheap oil after the lifting of sanctions, have not factored in that the French and the Germans are eying the same oil reserves.

Both Islamic State (ISIS) and Al Qaeda have repeated their calls for jihad on India. With ISIS in Syria having paraded a captured Scud missile that is capable of carrying a tactical nuclear warhead, it doesn’t take much imagination to picture a nuclear-armed Arab state falling to Islamic State or its affiliates.

Islamic State jihadists parade a mobile-launched Scud tactical ballistic missile, captured from Syrian regime forces, through their capital of Raqaa in June 2014.

The best India can do is to hedge its bets, secure its borders and strengthen its defences.

Like Israel, India too must realize that it is on its own. The Western powers that negotiated the Iran deal have demonstrated that they lack the conviction and resolve to prevent Iran from building nuclear weapons — or prevent Arab countries from acquiring nuclear weapons of their own.

And with President Obama shrinking America’s “footprint” in the world, this time the cavalry might not be coming.



UN Voted FOR the Iran Deal Before Congress

Secretary of Defense, Ash Carter is on a 3 country tour in the Middle East, Israel, Saudi Arabia and Jordan. War gaming on some plan?

This cannot end well.

Israeli Defense Force:

The IDF is seeking government commitment to a multi-year defense spending plan – a commitment that has been absent for the past several years – as it prepares to deal with the possibility of a covert Iranian attempt to break through to nuclear weapons production, a senior defense source said on Sunday.

The source said the IDF needs to assume that its most severe “reference scenarios” regarding Iran, Hezbollah, Hamas, and ISIS will come true, in order to correctly use the coming years to reshape the military, improve training, and make cost cutting reforms that include the shedding of 100,000 reservists and 5000 career soldiers.

The multi-year budget commitment from the government –  absent for the past several years – will be necessary to reshape the military and improve training to meet those challenges while at the same time, implementing cutting reforms that include the shedding of 100,000 reservists and 5000 career soldiers.

Other proposed changes include military restructuring to create specialized war fighting and border security divisions that do not overlap one another.


UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The U.N. Security Council on Monday unanimously endorsed the landmark nuclear deal between Iran and six world powers and authorized a series of measures leading to the end of U.N. sanctions that have hurt Iran’s economy.

But the measure also provides a mechanism for U.N. sanctions to “snap back” in place if Iran fails to meet its obligations.

The resolution had been agreed to by the five veto-wielding council members, who along with Germany negotiated the nuclear deal with Iran. It was co-sponsored by all 15 members of the Security Council.

Under the agreement, Iran’s nuclear program will be curbed for a decade in exchange for potentially hundreds of billions of dollars’ worth of relief from international sanctions. Many key penalties on the Iranian economy, such as those related to the energy and financial sectors, could be lifted by the end of the year.

The document specifies that seven resolutions related to U.N. sanctions will be terminated when Iran has completed a series of major steps to curb its nuclear program and the International Atomic Energy Agency has concluded that “all nuclear material in Iran remains in peaceful activities.”

All provisions of the U.N. resolution will terminate in 10 years, including the snap back provision.

But last week the six major powers — the U.S., Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany — and the European Union sent a letter, seen by The Associated Press, informing U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon that they have agreed to extend the snap back mechanism for an additional five years. They asked Ban to send the letter to the Security Council.

U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power said the nuclear deal doesn’t change the United States’ “profound concern about human rights violations committed by the Iranian government or about the instability Iran fuels beyond its nuclear program, from its support for terrorist proxies to repeated threats against Israel to its other destabilizing activities in the region.”

She urged Iran to release three “unjustly imprisoned” Americans and to determine the whereabouts of Robert Levinson, a former FBI agent who vanished in 2007.

“But denying Iran a nuclear weapon is important not in spite of these other destabilizing actions but rather because of them,” Power said.

She quoted President Barack Obama saying the United States agreed to the deal because “an Iran with a nuclear weapon would be far more destabilizing and far more dangerous to our friends and to the world.”