Fragments from mortars fired by Islamic State militants at Kurdish fighters in northern Iraq earlier this month tested positive in a U.S. military field test for the chemical weapons agent sulfur mustard, a U.S. general said on Friday.
A Syrian military source said on Tuesday the army had retreated to new defensive lines in a region of vital strategic importance to President Bashar al-Assad, seeking to avoid losses at the hands of advancing rebels. The insurgent advance into the Sahl al-Ghab plain in northwestern Syria has brought rebels including the al Qaeda-linked Nusra Front to the eastern edge of mountains that form the historical heartland of Assad's Alawite people.
In Political Pilgrims, the sociologist Paul Hollander exposes and excoriates the mentality of a certain kind of Western intellectual, who, such is the depth of his estrangement or alienation from his own society, is predisposed to extend sympathy to virtually any opposing political system. The book is about the travels of 20th-century Western intellectuals to the Soviet Union, China, and Cuba, and how these political travelers were able to find in such repressive countries a model of “the good society” in which they could invest their brightest hopes. Hollander documents in relentless and mortifying detail how this utopian impulse, driven by a deep discontent with their own societies, led them to deny or excuse the myriad moral defects of the places they visited.
Teennessee seems an unlikely birthplace for American jihad. Yet long before the five U.S. service members were murdered this past week in Chattanooga, before the Boston Marathon bombers, the Fort Hood shooting or the rise of the Islamic State, it was another troubled teenager from the same state who embarked on a journey of jihad and ended in the first deadly terrorist attack on U.S. soil after 9/11. The road to jihad began here, where Highway 40 bisects the state Abraham Lincoln once called the “keystone of the southern arch,” heading southwest out of Nashville and Jackson and through endless miles of rich Mississippi delta before riding the steel scaffolding of the Hernando de Soto Bridge across the wide lazy waters.
The battle in May over the Syrian town of Palmyra was notable for being ISIS’s first major military victory against the forces of the Assad government. The Army fled, leaving the jihadis in control of sizable gas reserves, the brutal prison where thousands of Islamists and political dissidents had formerly been held (which they blew up), and the ruins of a fabled dominion that was once ruled by a queen named Zenobia, who dared to threaten the power of imperial Rome. Zenobia’s empire reached across Egypt and through much of modern-day Turkey. Her city’s remains are now in the hands of a force that wages war on civilization, both modern and ancient.
ISIS has been signaling its designs on the Palestinian territory of Gaza. "The rule of sharia will be imposed on Gaza," an ISIS fighter announced in a recent video. And that means going after Hamas, the violent Islamist group that controls the Palestinian territory. Abu al-Ayna al-Ansari, a spokesman for Palestinian groups that have pledged to ISIS, told the New York Times, "We will stay like a thorn in the throat of Hamas, and a thorn in the throat of Israel."
White Americans are the biggest terror threat in the United States, according to a study by the New America Foundation. The Washington-based research organization did a review of “terror” attacks on US soil since Sept. 11, 2001 and found that most of them were carried out by radical anti-government groups or white supremacists.
The U.S. committed Monday to contribute weapons, aircraft and forces, including commandos, as needed for NATO's new rapid reaction force, to help Europe defend against potential Russian aggression from the east and the Islamic State and other violent extremists from the south. Defense Secretary Ash Carter announced the specifics of American contributions to the rapid reaction force a year after President Barack Obama made a commitment to such assistance at the NATO summit last year in Wales.
When the Islamic State fighters burst into the Iraqi village of Eski Mosul, Sheikh Abdullah Ibrahim knew his wife was in trouble. Buthaina Ibrahim was an outspoken human rights advocate who had once run for the provincial council in Mosul. The IS fighters demanded she apply for a "repentance card." Under the rule of the extremist group, all former police officers, soldiers and people whose activities are deemed "heretical" must sign the card and carry it with them at all times. "She said she'd never stoop so low," her husband said.
A 21-year-old white man accused of murdering nine people in a historic black South Carolina church appeared in court on Friday by closed-circuit television from the jail where he was brought after his arrest at the end of a 14-hour manhunt. Dylann Roof, 21, stood quietly through the hearing, providing brief answers to the judge's questions, confirming his name and address and saying he was unemployed before family members of several of the nine worshippers he is alleged to have shot dead at the nearly-200-year-old Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church spoke. Some said they forgave Roof.
With a string of victories over Islamic State, Syria's Kurds are proving themselves an ever more dependable ally in the U.S.-led fight against the jihadists and building influence that will make them a force in Middle Eastern politics. Aided by U.S.-led air strikes, the Kurdish-led YPG militia may have dealt Islamic State its worst defeat to date in Syria by seizing the town of Tel Abyad at the Turkish border, cutting a supply route to the jihadists' de facto capital of Raqqa city.
Thousands of Syrians cut through a border fence and crossed over into Turkey on Sunday, fleeing intense fighting in northern Syria between Kurdish fighters and jihadis. The flow of refugees came as Syrian Kurdish fighters closed in on the outskirts of a strategic Islamic State-held town on the Turkish border, Kurdish officials and an activist group said, potentially cutting off a key supply line for the extremists' nearby de facto capital. Taking Tal Abyad, some 80 kilometers (50 miles) north of the Islamic State stronghold of Raqqa, would deprive the militant group of a direct route to bring in new foreign militants or supplies. The Kurdish advance, coming under the cover of intense U.S.
There's no doubt that America's Middle East policy has contributed mightily to the region's problems. But it's important to keep in mind that the real causes of regional chaos are local forces well beyond America's control — as this quote, from a Politico Magazine piece by former Obama administration official Philip Gordon, perfectly demonstrates:
As news out of the Middle East goes from bad to worse—the humanitarian disaster in Yemen, Libya’s disintegration, the fall of Ramadi to ISIL, take your pick—the inevitable American tendency, especially in the political season, is to attribute all these developments to U.S. policy choices. Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates said in May the United States has “no Middle East Strategy at all,” the Washington Post editorial page explains the fall of Ramadi not as the result of an Iraqi dynamic but as a consequence of U.S. strategy and Republican candidates are of course tripping over each other to attribute the region’s unraveling to the “weakness” and lack of resolve of the Obama administration.
Last week, in an interview with MSNBC’s Chris Hayes, former Clinton and Bush administration counter-terrorism czar Richard Clarke pointed out something extraordinary. “Congress has been asked by the President months ago now to make a decision, to vote on the use of force against ISIS. And they’ve refused to do it. It’s incredible.” It is incredible. On the campaign trail, Republican presidential candidates endlessly slam Obama’s lack of a strategy against ISIS. And yet given the opportunity to help craft such a strategy, and back it up with an authorization for war, Republican leaders in Congress refuse. It’s a perfect illustration of the absurdity of GOP foreign policy today.
On Tuesday afternoon, as President Obama was bringing an occasionally contentious but often illuminating hour-long conversation about the Middle East to an end, I brought up a persistent worry. “A majority of American Jews want to support the Iran deal,” I said, “but a lot of people are anxiety-ridden about this, as am I.” Like many Jews—and also, by the way, many non-Jews—I believe that it is prudent to keep nuclear weapons out of the hands of anti-Semitic regimes. Obama, who earlier in the discussion had explicitly labeled the supreme leader of Iran, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, an anti-Semite, responded with an argument I had not heard him make before.
Shiite militias have surged into Iraq's Anbar province, a largely Sunni region, in a government-sanctioned bid to recapture the provincial capital Ramadi, which was seized in its entirety by the jihadists of the Islamic State at the end of last week. Thousands have fled the city, which is about 80 miles west of Baghdad. Ramadi's fall poses a problem for U.S. officials, who have sought to paint a picture of a weakening Islamic State. One Pentagon spokesman told reporters that the city's capture was part of "complex, bloody fight" in which "there are going to be ebbs and flows."
$25 million. That’s how much, prior to Osama bin Laden’s death in 2011, a hypothetical informant could have gotten for information leading to the whereabouts of the world’s most-wanted terrorist at the time. In the government’s story of bin Laden’s death, no one took that bait. In the controversial alternative version that journalist Seymour Hersh published recently—which the Obama administration vigorously disputes—the bounty was actually the key to bin Laden’s fate, the enticement for which a “former senior Pakistani intelligence officer betrayed the secret” of his whereabouts.
U.S. commandos mounted a rare raid into eastern Syria overnight, killing a senior commander for the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, in a firefight, capturing his wife and rescuing a Yazidi woman held as a slave, the Pentagon said Saturday. Defense Secretary Ash Carter announced the raid, identifying the militant as Abu Sayyaf. He said no U.S. forces were killed or injured in the operation.
U.S. Special Operations forces killed a key ISIS commander during a daring raid in eastern Syria overnight Friday to Saturday -- securing intelligence on how the terror organization operates, communicates and earns money, U.S. government officials said. The ISIS commander, identified by his nom de guerre Abu Sayyaf, was killed in a heavy firefight after he resisted capture in the raid at al-Omar, U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter said in a statement.