August 19, 2014

Ambassador Freeman on US Iraq ISIS

Title: Ambassador Freeman on US Iraq ISIS. Source: VOAvideo. Date Published: August 19, 2014. Description:
Host Carol Castiel talks with retired US defense official and diplomat, Ambassador Chas Freeman, who served in numerous senior positions from US Ambassador to Saudi Arabia to Director of Chinese Affairs at the State Department to Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs, about a range of national security issues from the crises in Iraq and Syria, tensions between the United States and Russia over Ukraine, differences between the U.S. and China over territorial disputes in the South and East China Seas as well as about the challenges to American influence and power in the post-Cold War and post-9-11 era.

Elif Shafak: East, West, and Global Souls

Elif ┼×afak (born 25 October 1971, Strasbourg, France) is an outspoken Turkish author, columnist, speaker and academic. "As Turkey's bestselling female writer, ┼×afak is a brave champion of cosmopolitanism, a sophisticated feminist, and an ambitious novelist who infuses her magical-realist fiction with big, important ideas...". Critics have named her as "one of the most distinctive voices in contemporary Turkish and world literature".

Her books have been published in more than 40 countries, and she was awarded the honorary distinction of Chevalier of the Order of Arts and Letters in 2010.
Title: East, West, and Global Souls. Source: Boston University. Date Published: May 13, 2011. Description:
An award-winning novelist and the most widely read female writer in Turkey, Elif Shafak was the keynote speaker at the 2011 Campagna-Kerven Lecture. Since 1996, the annual lecture has addressed a variety of themes on modern Turkish society, culture, and politics.

Shafak has published 10 books that have been translated into more than 30 languages. She blends Western and Eastern traditions of storytelling, bringing out the multiple stories of minorities, immigrants, women subcultures, and "global souls." Her work draws on diverse cultures and literary traditions, as well as deep interest in history, philosophy, oral culture, and cultural politics.

Shafak writes for various daily and monthly publications in Turkey, and has been featured in major newspapers and periodicals, including the Washington Times, the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, and The Economist.

Hosted by the Boston University Institute for the Study of Muslim Societies & Civilizations on May 3, 2011.
"This is the age of migrations, of movements, of renewals. We keep reconstructing ourselves as we travel and this is the age, in many ways, of nomadic existences and global souls. I do believe there are two very opposite tendencies in today's world. On the one hand, as I've said, all these migrations, cultural encounters, are becoming more and more widespread, and there are more and more global souls. So this is one side of the picture. On the other hand, however, and paradoxically, we are also perhaps becoming more and more insular because we live in our own cultural ghettos, mental ghettos. And although this is the age of cultural encounters it is also the age of cultural misunderstandings. And I think we can misunderstanding each other a lot. So, within that framework, I believe as artists, as storytellers, perhaps we could bring those elements together, those elements that might seem very different at first glance, and see the synthesis, see the energy that comes out of that. For me, that cosmopolitan energy is very important, and perhaps that's one reason why in my books you see all these different characters coming from different cultural backgrounds, religious backgrounds. This is something that I feel strongly about." - Elif Shafak, (13:45 - 15:15 in the video below).

August 18, 2014

Pope Francis Is More Hawkish On ISIS Than President Obama Whose Anti-Assad Policies Led To Its Rise

Pope Francis is speaking common sense in the video below.

But I wish he would name the financiers and arms suppliers of ISIS and other radical Islamist terrorist groups. It is useless to single out ISIS for punishment for its criminal aggression against innocent minorities in Iraq, and leave out entities like the CIA, Mossad, MI6, as well as the intelligence agencies of Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, UAE, and Jordan, all of whom have had a big hand in creating and nurturing the rogue Islamic State.

If ISIS is defeated, as Al-Qaeda was, then these criminal and secretive government entities would just create a new terrorist monster to advance their foreign policies and scare their domestic populations.

So it is better in the long run to name and shame the government aiders of terrorism than strike periodically and aimlessly at its many manifestations.

Video Title: Pope Francis on Iraq: "It is licit stop the unjust aggressor." Source: Reuters. Date Published: August 18, 2014. Description:
Pope Francis, speaking on his return flight from South Korea, says the situation in Iraq is grave and that the international community has to respond together. Gavino Garay reports.

Mosque-Goers Pledge Allegiance to ISIS Leader Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi following Al-Raqqah Sermon + Residents of Makhmour vow not to let the town fall to IS again

Mosque-Goers Pledge Allegiance to ISIS Leader Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi following Al-Raqqah Sermon. Source: MEMRI TV. Date Published: August 18, 2014.

Residents of Makhmour vow not to let the town fall to IS again. Source: Middle East Eye. Date Published: August 18, 2014.

4 Videos of Iraq's IDPs And Refugees

Below are videos of Iraq's internally displaced persons and refugees.

Christians, minorities seek refuge from militants in Iraq. Source: The Washington Post. Date Published: August 17, 2014.

2014.08.14 - Assyrian IDP discuss their situation. Source: Shlama Foundation. Date Published: August 14, 2014.

2014.08.15 - Man from Bakhdeda Describes his Family's situation. Source: Shlama Foundation. Date Published: August 15, 2014.

Iraq crisis: Yadizi refugees keen to leave for good. Source: Channel 4 News. Date Published: August 13, 2014.

August 17, 2014

Quotes About ISIS And Its Expansion In Iraq By Experts

"ISIS isn't an Islamic state. They're a Zarqawist death cult, the Khmer Rouge of the Middle East--and will do as much damage if not defeated." - Joel Rayburn, author of, "Iraq after America: Strongmen, Sectarians, Resistance" (2014).

"The more I dig into ISIS ops across northern Iraq, the more I see a pathological campaign to eliminate Shia, mainly Turkmen but also Arabs." - Michael Knights, Lafer fellow at The Washington Institute.

"Since Isis took over large swaths of Iraq, in particular, Arabic media outlets of all types have produced reports about the nature of the group and the source of its ideology. There is a collective soul-searching in the region, coming from everyone from ordinary people to clerics and intellectuals. After the 9/11 attacks, such questions came from outside the region and were shunned as "imperialist" or "orientalist". Today the voices are coming from within and are more powerful. Supporters of the group seek to ground its behaviour in Islamic traditions and object to the notion that its atrocities are anomalies.

But its critics have responded. Mohammed Habash, a cleric from Syria, places blame for the rise of Isis on mosque imams, saying: "We did not speak about the caliphate as a political system that is fallible. No, we spoke about it as a sacred symbol of unity … Isis did not arrive from Mars; it is a natural product of our retrograde discourse." A Saudi commentator, Ibrahim al-Shaalan, tweeted that Isis is "but an epitome of what we've studied in our school curriculum. If the curriculum is sound, then Isis is right, and if it is wrong, then who bears responsibility?"

Such a debate is likely to lead to a positive change, but what about people such as Abu al-Mutasim and their victims? The factors that led to the rise of Isis are still unaddressed, while the group has not even reached half of its potential." - Hassan Hassan, "Isis: a portrait of the menace that is sweeping my homeland" The Guardian, August 16, 2014.

"“I think it is a big mistake to read the Islamic State movement as just a bunch of thugs.  I think these guys are very smart, and they have a political program, an expansionist political program, that aims to create a state which actually controls an ever-expanding amount of territory.  They have a political program that is, by orders of magnitude, more developed than anything al-Qa’ida ever came up with.  These guys are in serious business, not just from a military or we might say a terrorist standpoint; they’re in serious business politically…

I think they have gotten support from a number of different sources, including some of our so-called allies.  There has been a lot of financial support at least that’s come out of Saudi Arabia, some Gulf Arab states, for the Islamic State.  Turkey has been supportive of them at various junctures.  So they do have external support.

It is [also] a transnational movement.  It’s not overwhelmingly Iraqi at all.  There’s an important figure in the movement who’s a Chechen, from Russia.  There are Uighurs from China who are fighting in it.  There are people from all over the Arab world, really from all over the Muslim world who have come to join this cause.

So it is not just a bunch of thugs.  This is a serious movement, with serious external support and a transnational base.”

In reviewing ISIS’s external supporters, Flynt notes that the United States has its “own hand to play in the creation and growth” of what is now called the Islamic State:

“Everybody talks about what a great idea the ‘surge’ was in Iraq in 2007-2008, but basically what the surge amounted to was U.S. arming and training 80,000 Sunni militants of various descriptions.  While we were training them, we paid them $300 a month each so that they wouldn’t kill Americans during the period while we were training them.  But we helped to feed what is now ISIS in a big way with the surge.

Then, after the unrest started in Syria in March 2011, and Saudi money, Gulf Arab money started flowing to this group (ostensibly so they could fight the Syrian government under President Assad), we basically turned a blind eye to all of this.  We wanted to see the Syrian opposition supported, we wanted to see President Assad overthrown, and these guys were the most capable fighters in that arena.  So, if our so-called allies were supporting these guys, that was fine with us.  And now—certainly for us and, I think, there’s a good chance for the Saudis—this movement has slipped the leash, and is no longer really responsive to some of the places from which it got early support.”

Even now, in dealing with the Islamic State, the Obama administration’s decision to launch airstrikes against ISIS fighters plays right into the Islamic State’s jihadist narrative.  As Flynt puts it, “Nothing will rehabilitate these guys like getting bombed by the United States.”" - Flynt Leverett and Hillary Mann Leverett, "Flynt Leverett on Iraqi Politics, Iranian-Iraqi relations, and How to Think About the Islamic State," August 14, 2014.

Heroic YPG Sacrificed To Save Yezidis While US-Backed KRG Peshmerga Faced ISIS With Yellow Eyes And Ran Away Like Rats In The Night

 Image: Iraqi volunteers from the Yazidi sect gather during a training camp at the Serimli military base, which is controlled by YPG, in Qamishli
 The YPG in Syria are training the Yezidi refugees they rescued in Iraq. Photo Source: Reuters.

There is a worrying trend in Iraq and across the Middle East. U.S-trained armies are breaking down and abandoning their posts in the face of the ISIS onslaught. The Iraqi army ran away when ISIS invaded Mosul in June, and the Peshmerga forces of the Kurdistan Regional Government did likewise when ISIS invaded the Sinjar region.

It looks like Kurds in Iraq have gone soft under U.S. tutelage in the last 20+ years. This is what happens when you rely on a superpower for your safety. The Israeli army is also overrated. Without the U.S, both the Israeli government and the KRG would not be able to look after themselves. In the past they were more than able to defend themselves because their reliance on Uncle Sam was less, but not today. 

The true Kurdish fighters who deserve the name of Peshmerga are the YPG of Syria. They are not as well-armed, but they possess greater will and courage. They faced down ISIS and secured a route from the Sinjar mountains to northern Syria to help Yezidi refugees escape. They did not sacrifice civilian lives for political considerations, as the KRG may have done by abandoning the Yezidis in their hour of greatest need.

They broke their promise to them, and many Yezidis say they won't ever forgive their shameful betrayal. These lowlifes did not even have the courtesy to warn the Yezidi civilians that ISIS was coming. They just left them in the middle of the night to rot.

1. An excerpt from, "How the U.S.-favored Kurds Abandoned the Yazidis when ISIS Attacked" by Christine van den Toorn, The Daily Beast, August 17:
Interviews with survivors of the IS onslaught in the region of Sinjar this month suggest that the peshmerga and the political leadership in Iraqi Kurdistan misled them about the threat and abandoned them when they came under attack. Perhaps worse, still, many of the their Sunni Muslim neighbors, with whom they had lived and farmed for centuries, turned against them.

For years, the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), one of the two ruling parties in the Kurdistan region, has poured money into the pockets of Yazidis in Sinjar who were willing to join the party. They also offered protection. The Yazidis’ arcane religion, which mingles Zoroastrianism and belief in fallen-and-resurrected angels, is incorrectly but commonly called “devil worship” by outsiders and is precisely the kind of “idolatrous” faith Muslims have sought to extirpate since the days of the Prophet Mohammad.  In areas outside of Kurdish control, like Mosul, jihadists targeted Yazidis even before the recent offensive by IS. But in Sinjar, nestled at the southern foot of a large isolated mountain that rises like a vision from the surrounding plain,  the KDP assured the residents — including Yazidis and a smaller Christian population — that they were safe.
If the Yazidi men had known the peshmerga would withdraw, they might have fled earlier as well. Alone, they were no match for the IS army.

North of the mountain, locals received no warning from peshmerga or KDP and government officials regarding the attacks, said Amina, who worked for the party in that region. She heard about attacks from her aunt who lives south of the mountain, and she called her sub-branch director.  She was told to stay calm and that there was no withdrawal. But when she called Sarbast Baiperi’s guards they said he had left the night before and they themselves were already gone, and they confirmed the troop withdrawal. 

Others from northern villages had similar stories: foggy information about the nature of the attacks south of the mountain, unaware of peshmerga withdrawal.
2. An excerpt from, "Our Victory is Measured by the Souls We Save and Not the Souls We Kill" Kovan Direj, August 17:
As a result of ISIS’ invasion, 200,000 Yazidi and Turkmen men and women, children and elderly escaped to the Sinjar Mountains without any basic life supplies as water or food, to await their fate on a dry mountain in 50 degree heat.  The Peshmerga initially fled to Rojava and then headed to KRG through Semalka’s border.  Peshmerga’s commander refused YPG’s advice to not abandon the Sinjar region and to fight ISIS side by side.

Upon Peshmerga’s refusal, YPG entered into the 97km area abandoned by Peshmerga, stretching from the Zhalah Bridge to the Sinjar Mountains.  YPG opened a road that crossed ISIS’ controlled area to reach the Mountain of Sinjar and successfully evacuated 20,000 people.  The toll of this operation was of 15 martyred YPG Special Forces.

A YPJ fighter holding a baby over the injured mother was asked how many ISIS had been killed, to which she replied: “Our victory is measured by the souls we save and not the souls we kill.”  All witnesses of the massacre by ISIS say: “only God and YPG saved us and the Peshmerga betrayed us.”  If the Peshmerga betrayed or not could be argued, but what is clear is that the PDK Commander’s order to withdraw led to 500-1000 people to their graves, beheaded or buried alive and 15 thousand refugees.  We may never come to understand how or why a heavily armed and trained Peshmega abandoned defenseless civilians without firing a single bullet.
3. An excerpt from, "Kurdish militants train hundreds of Yazidis to fight Islamic State" by Youssef Boudlal, Reuters, August 17:

Kurdish militants have trained hundreds of Yazidi volunteers at several camps inside Syria to fight Islamic State forces in Iraq, a member of the armed Kurdish YPG and a Reuters photographer who visited a training camp said on Sunday.

The photographer spend Saturday at the training camp at the Serimli military base in Qamishli, northeastern Syria on the border with Iraqi Kurdistan, where he saw 55 Yazidis being trained to fight the Islamic State.
The YPG are one of the few militant groups that have been able to stem the advance of the Islamic State, the most powerful rebel group in Syria and Iraq.