Friday, May 22, 2015

22-May-15: Yet another Australian "normal guy" joins barbarians as government announces passport-driven counter-strategy

The Islamist propaganda video features an Australian
doctor urging Moslem health workers to join him in Syria
[Image Source: Screen shot captured from ISIS video]
Australia's Border Force Counter-Terrorism Unit says it has stopped nearly 300 people deemed national securit­y risks from leaving via its airports over the past nine months. Those individuals earned the attention of the authorities by being identified as "foreign fighters, jihadi brides and those involved in financing terrorism".

Not all were stopped, however. A glitzy 15-minute long recruitment video (featured here), published in April by one of the most blood-lusting of the various Islamist groups building a new Middle East "stars" a Australian-trained doctor raised in a Perth home where he "attended Al-Hidayah Islamic School in Bentley and Lynwood Senior High School, both in Perth’s eastern suburbs".

Now he regales in the nom-de-slaughter Abu Yousef Al-Australi from a new home somewhere in the killing fields of Syria. Pointedly ignoring the reality of the torrential Arab-on-Arab carnage going on hourly in Iraq, Syria, Libya, and the fact that he himself has now become a willing participant, the man - real name Tareq Kamleh - declares that despite what we might think, it's Australia that has blood on its hands:
"I saw this as part of my jihad for Islam, to help the muslims ummah (community) in the area that I could, which is the medical field," Dr Kamleh says in an Australian accent... [B]eing in IS-controlled territory made him "very happy". "I wished that I'd come a lot sooner." [Sydney Morning Herald, April 25, 2015]
Australians who knew Tareq Kamleh before he came a lot sooner are portraying him in ways familiar to anyone who follows media coverage of Islamist terrorists once they are outed. Australian news reports quote him as "a pretty normal guy"; "no signs of holding extreme Islamic views"; "a womaniser who regularly drank alcohol" (according to a woman friend); "seemed to be sound and focused on the care of his patients"; and so on.

There are also those who know the son of a Palestinian father and a German Catholic mother ("who converted to Islam and became ultra-religious") from Thornlie, a Perth, West Australian suburb, as "a lazy doctor who would flirt with his patients and use his charm and good looks to get nurses to do his work". And (naturally) he's also called "a bit of a lost soul" with a "massive ego" [Brisbane Times, April 29, 2015].

(Is he connected to another Australian Kamleh convicted of murdering a prostitute 15 years ago - see this legal note? We don't know - no one seems to have mentioned it in the media yet.)

Australian media: Trying to make sense of the lunacy
[Image Source]
Setting to one side for a moment the self-delusional aspect of this fellow's moment in the media spotlight, the sociopathic pre-occupation of the ISIS Islamists with doctors is in fact a known reality. Just a month ago, it was reported that ISIS foot-soldiers
executed 10 doctors who refused to treat wounded members of the terrorist organisation. The jihadists sustained injuries while fighting in the Hammam al-Alil area and required medical treatment. However, the doctors were unwilling to support the terror group's activities, and refused to treat them. They were shot in the head for their defiance. Graphic photographs of their final moments were released on social media, while Al-Sumaria satellite television reported the details of the doctors' murders in the northern Iraqi desert... IS fighters routinely carry out such horrific executions in accordance with their radical interpretation of Sharia law. [Source]
Kamleh, speaking directly into the camera, expresses his disappointment that greater numbers of Moslem professionals, especially in the health fields, have not already made the religious decision he did and join the jihad. He reiterates what a very happy camper he is in his new home, a move he calls "very well educated and calculated", by promising he does not intend to return. This might be a popular decision to judge from the viewpoints widely posted on Australian forums and discussion groups in the wake of his appearance.

But he might not even have that choice. Once he and his fellow savages have had their fill of massacre, beheadings and rape (and assuming he remains alive that long), he may need to give creative consideration to his future in Australia.

An article in The Australian yesterday explains why:
Second-generation Australians involved in terrorism face being stripped of their citizenship, along with dual nationals, as part of the Abbott government’s efforts to tighten national security laws. The Australian understands the government is examining ways to revoke or suspend the ­citizenship of hate preachers and foreign fighters, including Australians who have one or both parents born overseas, in a bid to tackle the growing threat of homegrown jihadi­sts. The government is actively considering whether it would be possible to strip them of their Australian citizenship, forcing them to take out citizenship in the country of their parents’ birth... National security agencies are watching a large number of radic­alised second-generation Australians... Immigration Minister Peter Dutton said yesterday there was a “determination by the government to keep our population as safe as we possibly can, particularly with the current threats, particularly given the amount of radicalisation that is taking place in back rooms, in kids’ bedrooms”... "It’s hard for me to walk down the street without people saying: ‘Why do we allow these people to come back into the country if they are going off to fight in a foreign land? Why do we allow them to return to Australia even more radicalised to do harm to us here?' ...Under the Australian Citizenship Act, the minister has the power to revoke citizenship... The government wants to modernise the citizenship laws to deal with Australians going to Syria or other terrorist zones and taking up arms with jihadis... “We work now with the Islamic leaders and we identify radical threats,’’ the Immigration Minister said. “We want to work even more closely with them in regards to any proposed changes around citizenship."...Mr Dutton said: “It is a privilege to be an Australian citizen even by birth and if people are involved in terrorist activities the government is examining what options might be available in terms of suspension of privileges..." [The Australian, May 21, 2015]
There has been a scattering of mild, soft-focus condemnations of the doctor in the recruitment video by Australian Muslims (like these worthy words from an imam in outback Australia). And spokespeople from the Australian medical profession who have spoken out in clear, measured terms expressing revulsion at the direction Kamleh's life and profession have taken.

So far, however, we have found nothing meaningful or unambiguous from the West Australian school (in particular) that educated Kamleh or from any of the numerous (and flourishing) Islamic representative bodies in Australia in condemnation of Kamleh's call to do jihad with his ISIS savages or taking any position on it. (It's difficult to be sure about things you can't locate. We will of course be happy to be corrected. Everyone wins if we are wrong on this.)

22-May-15: Tough, crucial questions at Europe's borders

Nice Moroccan boy wanting to spend more time with immigrant mother
in Italy? Or murder-minded gunman with no problem shooting
dozens of tourists in the back? [Image Source]
Go back and take a look at our comments on the most recent random murder attack on people in Tunisia ["19-Mar-15: In Tunisia, terrorists target tourists... again"] and you can see that there were all manner of speculations about what triggered the terror attack on a busload of foreign tourists (from Italy, Japan, France, Spain, Colombia, Australia, Britain, Belgium, Poland and Russia) exiting a bus to visit a museum in Tunis. Two dozen victims lay dead, most of them shot in the back by two masked gunmen, before the shooters were done.

A key suspect has been arrested. Here's what's known today:
  • He was arrested in Gaggiano, Italy, a few kilometers south of Milan. His mother and two siblings have lived there legally for "many years". It's a known tourist town.
  • His name is Abdel Majid Touil. He's a Moroccan national, age 22. How much he actually appreciates tourism and tourists is now an open question.
  • Italian police are saying he arrived in Italy on a so-called "migrant boat" loaded with 90 others, that set sale for Italy from somewhere in North Africa in February. Photographs of the freshly arrived migrants are above and below.
  • How did a "migrant", desperate enough to sail across the Mediterranean to rejoin his mother and siblings (who have been residing in Italy for years at that point), manage to then leave Italy within a few weeks, go back to north Africa, take part in a shooting attack on unarmed people, killing nearly two dozen of them, then slip (march?, parachute?) back into Italy in time to be arrested there for terrorism and murder? The Wall Street Journal asked officials at Italy's Interior Ministry: they say they don't know. [Source: "Tunis Attack Suspect Arrested with Migrants", Wall Street Journal, May 21, 2015]
  • AFP says Touil is wanted "for premeditated murder, kidnapping and terrorism" on an international warrant. The arrest was executed by Italy’s counter-terrorism DIGOS police.
Other people are probably asking larger questions, like: if there are boatloads of "migrants" arriving on Europe's shores and it turns out one or more of them has terror, murder and mayhem on his mind, what ought to be done? Who checks them? How cautious ought European society to be?

An Italian newspaper report from yesterday drills down on the outlook and attitudes of people living in Gaggiano ["a characterless series of streets, buildings, and link roads"], and their views of what has been going on in the "four-storey 1960s building of 16 apartments at 14 Via Pitagora... inhabited by pensioners and blue-collar workers" where the suspect lived. For neighbours:
judgment has already been passed. For them, the Moroccan is guilty, no doubt about it. What they remember about the Touil family is “€32,000 of unpaid condominium charges,” and rubbish, including nappies and sanitary towels, “thrown out of the window”. They had to call in a special cleaning firm, “not once, but twice”, to “deal with the pigsty on the top floor” inhabited by the family. Six people are crammed into a 60-m² apartment, with a living room, kitchenette, bedroom and bathroom: the mother, Fatima, the eldest son with his partner and daughter, one of Fatima’s two daughters, and lastly, Abdel Majid... In Via Pitagora, neighbours say that the Touil family are squatters, who broke down the door to take possession of their house...  [Corriere della Serra, May 21, 2015]
As for the suspect himself
Instead of going to the mosque, he spent his time in the local bars, such as Novella 73, frequented by pensioners, with whom he used to spend the evenings chatting. When he went further afield, it was only to attend Italian lessons in Trezzano sul Naviglio, which is where he was the week of the attack in Tunis; according to the school’s teachers and principal, Abdel Majid was in class. However, the youth had not been seen for the last two weeks. According to his mother, there was nothing strange in this, since “he had been ill.” Apart from Novella 73 and the school, Abdel Majid Touilin seems to have led a quiet life. His brother has a criminal record for drug pushing, but since becoming a father may have changed his ways. [Same Italian source]
And the plot?
Early in February, his father and sister, who lived with him in Morocco, near Casablanca, are reported to have taken him to the airport. On this first leg of his journey, Abdel Majid allegedly flew to Tunisia with a low-cost airline. In Tunis, he is thought to have stayed for three days in a hotel, and from there to have moved on to Libya, where he boarded a boat of migrants heading for Sicily, to be subsequently rescued on 15th or 16th February. He may be the victim of a terrible mistake by the Tunisian authorities, or perhaps has been confused with somebody else with the same name. Alternatively, Abdel Majid Touil may be a well-trained terrorist, who first of all deceived his own mother, or even “enlisted” her, getting her to cover for him and provide an alibi. It was in fact his mother who failed to report the disappearance of her son’s passport to the police until two months after the event. The idea of enrolling in an Italian course may also have been a bluff, aimed at showing his willingness to integrate. [Same Italian source]
There's more. According to the occasionally-reputable Daily Mail UK
Touil arrived in Porto Empedocle in Sicily on February 17 using the alias Abdullah after being rescued by Italian authorities on a migrant boat in the Mediterranean. But he received an expulsion order demanding he leave Italy within 15 days.
They publish these photos today leaving readers to wonder whether the face and attitude belong to a skillful traveling-shooting-murdering terrorist thug they call "ISIS fanatic" or just a well-meaning son wanting more time with his mother:
The suspect [Image Source]
 Little doubt they're pleased - but about what, exactly? [Image Source]
Not surprisingly, there are those focusing on the smirks and the triumphant V-for-Victory raised hands and trying to interpret the mindsets behind them. 

But there are larger and serious issues at work here. Should European authorities be driven by the notion that some unknown proportion of the hundreds of thousands of Arabs making their way into Europe by sea on open boats and avoiding conventional migration channels (like the 900 or so received on Wednesday) have terrorism on their minds?

Or should they be considered hard-luck cases looking for a better life until proven otherwise? 

Whatever they conclude, there's no room for doubting any more that Europe is in the cross-hairs of some highly ideological killers and planners. Getting this wrong is going to come at a very high price. The issues are anything but theoretical, even if arriving at the answers calls for some unpleasant checking, thinking and acting. Either way, there are concrete consequences.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

21-May-15: Why is this man still free? Human rights, the Qataris, dignity and football

2010 announcement by FIFA that Qatar was the successful bidder
to host the 20122 Mondial. That's the previous Qatari emir
beaming on the left.
Something about terrorism - it's clearer to us as the years go by - makes rational, otherwise intelligent people act irresponsibly and strangely. They may have a well-developed sense of right and wrong, of lawful and illicit, of moral and bestial. But once terror is added to the reality with which they cope, odd results follow.

And this is as true of governments and major international organizations as it is of prominent people and ordinary folk. And individuals throughout the length and breadth of the mass media and the news reporting industry. The engineer of the massacre that ended our daughter's life is living proof (see at the end of this post).

We focused some blog attention here on Qatar earlier this week. Our two posts looked at the outrageous arrest there of a BBC reporting team and the connection this had to one of the world's richest and most watched sporting events, the FIFA World Cup which (at least for now) is going to be hosted by Qatar in seven years. See "18-May-15: As the Qatari thug says, Disneyland it's not" and "18-May-15: Peeking behind Qatar's genteel, manicured and increasingly disastrous public relations".

Negative mass-media news about Qatar is not so common. Partly, this seems to be a function of the branding for which Qatar's management seems to have a considerable appetite. In itself, it's a subject worthy of close attention (and here's a good methodological starting point).

Qatar had been our minds before this too, mainly because of the way it's widely treated as a country while acting like a family business (there are numerous such states in the Arab world). And also because Qatar is perceived by people whose views we take seriously as a global player in the business of terrorism. It has stood close to the Hamas thugs for years, side-by-side, giving them protection, money, cover, a conduit to the civilized world, and a safe haven for its leading figures (who make no secret of it) to set up personal luxury residences and live - comfortably and well.

Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani, is greeted by President
Obama at White House, May 13, 2015 [Image Source]
Yet watch some of the world's major television networks - especially CNN International and BBC World - and advertisements for Qatar itself, for its airline, for its tourist attractions (2006; 2011, 2012) and its businesses, seem to appear at a rate and frequency ridiculously out of proportion to a country that has a mere 300,000 citizens. Then of course there's Qatar's own home-grown global network, the fully-owned-by-Qatar Aljazeera. Confidential US State Department cables exposed by Wikileaks said [see The Guardian] it had "proved itself a useful tool for the station's political masters". The reference is to the owners of Qatar, the Al-Thanis.

Those advertising funds that find their way to CNN and other outlets seem to deliver nice returns on investment. See "On CNN International, the ‘news’ isn’t always the news" [Columbia Journalism Review, October 28, 2014] for an indication of how that process works.

Looking at Qatar and its acceptance in polite circles around the world gets a person thinking. Being frank, that's especially so when you are the parents of a child murdered by the pampered proteges of Qatar's owners and operators [see  "30-Jul-14: Is Qatar's stupendous wealth connected with Hamas' ongoing terrorism?"]. In fact, the more we learn about aspects of the role Qatar and its dealings play on the rest of the world, the sharper is the somewhat bizarre picture that emerges. 

Qatar's Al-Nu'aymi: Man of many parts,
still walking and living free
It's unlikely most readers will immediately recognize the name Abdurrahman bin Omair Al-Nu'aymi. (Eleven different ways to write it appear in this US government press release). He's a Qatari with a distinguished profile: a one-time professor of history at Qatar University (though we don't see his name there now); an advisor to the Qatar government and well-connected to its ruling elite; a one-time president of the Qatar Football Association; an activist for a certain sort of human-rights; and, in Islamic terms, a conservative. So much so that...
When the Emir decided in 1998 to give women the right to vote, protests were heard from Islamists. One of these was Dr. Abd al-Rahman bin Umayr al-Nu’aymi, professor of history at Qatar University. He was so vocal that the emir had him arrested and put in jail, although they were friends. After a thousand days without a trial, Dr. Nu’aimi was released, but he still expresses his conservative Islamic views and heads an important intellectual center. [Source]
Prison seems not to have been an obstacle to his rise. In 2004, Al-Nu'aymi went on to co-found al-Karama (from the Arabic word for dignity), a Geneva-based NGO that purported to "uncover human rights violations in the Arab world and to help victims", and became its top official. It has a strange Wikipedia page that clearly was written, in part, by its own officers, and claims that it sought:
to contribute to an Arab World where all individuals live free, in dignity, and protected by the rule of law. With this goal in mind, the founders decided to address the most serious violations of human dignity, physical integrity and freedom, namely extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances, torture and arbitrary detention... [and] contribute to a better understanding of human rights and raise awareness of the UN's human rights protection mechanisms in the Arab civil society... Alkarama's action, documenting and denouncing violations, has made many States in, or with interests in the region resent its work, which has led to reprisals against our organisation (smear campaigns, trials and arrests of members, accusations that the organisation was pro-Israeli, pro-Qatari, protecting terrorists or supporting political groups and other contradictory accusations)... Alkarama unambiguously and irrevocably denies all these accusations... [Wikipedia]
Along the way, Al-Nu'aymi became deeply involved with money.

The Al-Karama body went on to forge ties with the United Nations, with multiple UN organs, and with notable players in the human rights industry including Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies, the Gulf Center for Human Rights, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, the Center for Constitutional Rights and others [one sourceanother source]. As the Jerusalem-based NGO Monitor noted [here, December 23, 2013], this raises troubling questions regarding "the lack of due diligence and professional judgment of NGOs when selecting allies... [T]hese organizations have an obligation to review the status of the officials responsible for such collaborations, alliances, and affiliations."

When terrorism charges were leveled at its president, Al-Karama found itself profiled in a Swiss business magazine article in December 2013 ["President of Swiss foundation al Qaeda's banker?"] (The article claims Al-Nu'aymi stepped down as head of the organization once the allegations were out in the open. But the same Wikipedia profile cites a source ["Press Release by the Council of the Alkarama Foundation, 8 January 2014, retrieved 16 January 2014"] claiming the board rejected his resignation.)

What was he alleged to have done?

In November 2014, a detailed expose in the UK's Telegraph newspaper ["Terror financiers are living freely in Qatar, US discloses" | The Telegraph UK, November 16, 2014] called him one of "al-Qaeda’s most senior financiers". Al-Nu'aymi was added to the US sanctions list and identified as a terrorist at the end of 2013. The British only got around to doing the same ten months later [source].

The claims are [see "Money Trail: Terrorists for Human Rights", Eli Lake in The Daily Beast, December 20, 2013] that as a major source of funding for Islamist terrorists, Al-Nu'aymi
oversaw the transfer of hundreds of thousands of dollars to al Qaeda and its affiliates in Iraq, Somalia, Syria, and Yemen over the last 11 years. In 2013, the [US government's announcement] says, al-Naimi ordered the transfer of nearly $600,000 to al Qaeda via the group’s representative in Syria... If the Treasury Department’s allegations are correct, the story of al-Naimi, who until Thursday was the president of al-Karama’s board, illustrates how sometimes human-rights advocacy can also be used as political cover for jihadist networks... [The Daily Beast]
Qatar's Emir Al-Thani, is greeted by Queen Elizabeth II
in London, October 29, 2014 [
Image Source]
The Telegraph quotes some very damning statements about the man and even more so about Qatar, coming from David Cohen, the US Treasury under-secretary for terrorism and financial intelligence.
Mr Cohen has accused Qatar and its near neighbour Kuwait of being “permissive jurisdictions for terrorist financing” but until now the fate of a number of money men — identified as Specially Designated Global Terrorists by the US government — has not been known.Qatar has refused to say what has happened [to al-Nuaimi and another terror-funder who are] accused of raising millions of dollars for al-Qaeda and other jihadist groups... The revelation casts serious doubt on the Gulf state’s insistence that it does not support terrorists, including jihadists in Syria and Iraq... Al-Nuaymi, a former president of the Qatar Football Association, is accused of being one of the world’s most prolific terrorist fundraisers, accused of sending more than £1.25 million a month to al-Qaeda jihadists in Iraq and hundreds of thousands of pounds to Syria. He was designated a terrorist in the US last December and added to a British sanctions list only in October this year. [Qatar] introduced a designated terrorist list but to date not a single individual has been put on it... The US treasury believes countries such as Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates have clamped down on jihadist financiers in recent months whereas Qatar and Kuwait have failed to tackle the issue — much to the frustration of Washington. The US... is wary about the Qatari government’s overt support for Hamas and also for the Muslim Brotherhood... Mr Cohen added: “There’s more work to do both in Qatar and Kuwait. We have been deeply engaged with both countries for a number of years. We have seen others make really substantial progress in combating terrorist financing.
It then quotes a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, a Washington think tank, who believes Cohen's revelation
proves meaningful cooperation behind the scenes [between Qatar and the West] is virtually nonexistent. “It suggests maybe the Qataris are quite happy being a permissive jurisdiction for terrorist finance. It may also bear noting that the previous emir of Qatar has reportedly praised Nuaymi as his old friend. Arrests, indictments and convictions are only one dimension of whether Qatar is taking the fight against terrorism seriously, but historically it is one of several dimensions in which the [ruling] al-Thani family has miserably failed the test. [David Weinberg, The Telegraph UK, November 16, 2014]
Qatar's response to this is more interesting than we might have expected:
In his only broadcast interview the current emir, Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, said “We don’t fund extremists” and explained that terrorism was “not acceptable in our culture and our religion”. [Then adds:] “There are differences between some countries, of who are the terrorists and who are the maybe Islamist groups, but we don’t consider them as terrorists.” [The Telegraph UK]
And that is what this is all about.

Qatar is not so different from most places. "You may say these people are terrorists but we disagree." The UK knows the man is central to the world of Islamist terror but finds it hard to actually do anything about it. Might this be connected to the phenomenal wave of Qatari investment that has found its way into the London property market, and into UK business in general?

A very partial description of Qatar's investment portfolio includes significant ownership stakes in British Airways, the Barcelona soccer teamVolkswagen, PorscheBarclays Bank, Sainsbury's, Miramax, Canary WharfRoyal Dutch Shell, London's Chelsea Barracks, London's Savoy Hotel, the luxury Connaught Hotel in Mayfair, One Hyde Park ("the world’s most expensive apartment block", the London Stock Exchange, as well as complete ownership of Harrods, Credit Suisse's London headquarters, the French football club Paris Saint-Germain, the famous London office tower The Shard, the US embassy building in Grosvenor Square, and a long list of London's choicest real estate trophies as catalogued by the Daily Mail UK. It funds religious institutions in Europe that propagate a message of "radical Islam", and is a major funder worldwide of the work of the Muslim Brotherhood. On the far side of the Atlantic, it provides lavish funding for the hugely-influential Washington-based Brookings Institution, and signed colossally-large arms-purchase agreements with Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon, Boeing and other US suppliers in March 2014. The list goes on and on.

Direct from friendly, supportive Qatar: Proud, unrepentant
celebrity terrorist interviews happy (and free) fellow
convicted murderers of Jewish children [Screen capture from video]
A recent item in New Statesman ["How Qatar bought London"] quotes a British trade union source warning that "Britain has to ensure that it never falls out with Qatar, or one day we might wake up and find this Gulf state has us at its mercy".

But as we have learned to our sorrow, it's not only in Qatar that people look the other way when Islamist terrorists walk freely in their midst.

For the record, our daughter's murderer had no difficulty going to Qatar in 2013 from her home base in Jordan and basing herself and her team there to film an episode of her weekly television show - the one that exists to rejoice in the killing of Jewish children and the 'heroism' of her fellow terrorist savages. Click on this YouTube clip to watch as she giggles and beams her way through an hour of interviews with other freed Shalit Deal murderers living in Qatar with their new, young families.

As with so much else in the Qatar story, the evidence is plain for anyone who wants to see.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

20-May-15: Car-ramming attack again in Jerusalem

It's a beautiful, sunny morning here in Jerusalem. But there are reports of yet another deliberate car-ramming attack done by a Palestinian Arab for an evidently-terrorist motivation. This time, it has happened at the A-Tur junction on Jerusalem's north side, close to the Hebrew University’s Mount Scopus campus and the Mount of Olives. So far, we know of two Israelis, uniformed police, who are injured.

Times of Israel says the driver was shot by police and in critical condition and that he is being treated for his wounds at the scene. But both Haaretz and Ynet say, in updated reports, that he is dead. According to Ynet, immediately after running down his victims
he tried to "confirm the kill" by reversing back over the wounded officers. He was then shot by police... Bystanders hurtled stones at security forces as they arrived at the scene. There were also riots reported at the site. [Ynet]
The weapon in this morning's attempted killing in A-Tur,
Jerusalem [Image Source]
In an 11:30 am update, Ynet says the attacker is a 41-year-old male resident of Jabel Mukaber, a neighbourhood of Jerusalem (abutting Talpiot) whose population have permanent resident status, courtesy of Israeli law, and are entitled to hold blue Government of Israel identity cards which give them "wide freedom of movement within Israel, and... access to health care, unemployment and other benefits" [Wikepedia]. Worth noting that the SUV driven by the alleged, suspected militant attacker is considered expensive and prestigious in Israeli terms. Let each us make of that what we will. (Some might want to note that entering the search term "Jabel Mukaber" and clashes delivers 45,000 Google hits.)

The Haaretz report, providing some context and perspective, says
Jerusalem Police Chief Moshe Edri who arrived on the scene said that "the Border Patrol officers acted as was expected of them, neutralized the terrorist and prevented further harm to innocent people."
Our most recent previous report on a similar attack is just five days old: "15-May-15: Attempted murder by vehicle: yet another Palestinian Arab attack on pedestrians".

A couple of weeks before that, a similar vehicle-borne attacker struck at almost the same spot in Jerusalem's A-Tur. We wrote about here: "29-Apr-15: Almost entirely unreported, violent Arab attacks in and on Jerusalem". It's highly likely today's attack will get minor media coverage outside Israel, if any.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

19-May-15: Days of our lives: As most of the Middle East hurtles into chaos, questions about the driver's seat

President Obama and his deputy national security adviser
[Image Source]
Without an additional word of commentary, below is Bret Stephens with a dramatic wake-up call for those not yet comprehending how rapidly and completely the Middle East with all its conflicts and dangers is changing shape for the worse in front of our eyes. 

Everything Is Awesome, Mideast Edition | It takes a special innocence to imagine that the chaos unfolding in the Middle East can be put right | Bret Stephens | Wall Street Journal | May 18, 2015

Ben Rhodes, President Obama’s deputy national security adviser, has been offering a reassuring view of the Iranian nuclear deal in the face of some Arab skepticism. “If you can diplomatically and peacefully resolve the nuclear issue in a way that prevents Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon,” he told reporters last week, “we believe that will lead to a much more stable region.” Mr. Rhodes also contends that with a deal “there will be no need to see [a] regional arms race.”

So what’s more frightening: That Mr. Rhodes believes what he’s saying? Or that he does not?

Just for Mr. Rhodes’s benefit, here’s a refresher course on stability and the arms race in the Middle East since April 2, 2015, the day Mr. Obama announced his framework nuclear agreement with Iran.
  • April 2: Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif immediately accuses the U.S. of “spin” and contradicts Mr. Obama’s key claims regarding the terms of the deal.
  • April 12: A Swedish think tank reports that Saudi Arabia registered the biggest increase in defense spending in the world.
  • April 13: Moscow says it will deliver the S-300 air-defense system to Tehran. Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei later boasts that the U.S. “can’t do a damn thing” militarily against Iran.
  • April 14: Iran announces agreements with Russia and China to build additional nuclear reactors.
  • April 17: Iran dispatches an armed convoy of ships, believed to be destined to resupply pro-Iranian Houthi rebels in Yemen in contravention of a U.N. arms embargo. The convoy turns back after the U.S. deploys an aircraft carrier to the region to shadow the ships.
  • April 20: Jason Rezaian, the American-born Washington Post reporter imprisoned in Iran since July, is charged with espionage, “collaborating with hostile governments” and “propaganda against the establishment.”
  • April 20: The British government informs the U.N. panel monitoring sanctions on Iran that it “is aware of an active Iranian nuclear procurement network” associated with two Iranian companies that are under international sanctions.
  • April 22: Saudi Arabia resumes airstrikes in Yemen despite administration pressure to maintain a cease fire.
  • April 28: Iran seizes the 837-foot long Maersk Tigris, a Marshall Islands flagged cargo ship with 34 sailors aboard, as it transits the Strait of Hormuz along an internationally recognized route. The ship is released a week later after Maersk pays a fine of $163,000.
  • April 29: Former Saudi Intelligence Minister Turki al Faisal tells a conference in Seoul that the kingdom will match Iran’s nuclear capabilities with its own. “Whatever the Iranians have, we will have, too.” The prince also accuses Mr. Obama of going “behind the backs of the traditional allies to strike the deal.”
  • May 8: Reuters reports that inspectors have discovered traces of sarin gas at an undeclared military research site near Damascus. The report puts paid to administration boasts that its diplomacy effectively solved the Syrian chemical crisis.
  • May 11: Saudi Arabia’s King Salman withdraws from the Arab summit meeting with Mr. Obama. The king of Bahrain follows suit, preferring instead to attend a horse show with Britain’s Queen Elizabeth.
  • May 13: Reuters reports “the Czech Republic blocked an attempted purchase by Iran this year of a large shipment of sensitive technology usable for nuclear enrichment after false documentation raised suspicions.”
  • May 14: Iranian patrol boats fire upon a Singapore-flagged oil tanker with machine guns as it transits the Strait of Hormuz. The ship makes it safely to Dubai.
  • May 17: Citing senior U.S. officials, the Sunday Times reports that “Saudi Arabia has taken the ‘strategic decision’ to acquire ‘off-the-shelf’ atomic weapons from Pakistan.”
  • Also on May 17, Islamic State fighters in Iraq seize the city of Ramadi, the capital of Anbar Province. This is after Mr. Obama crowed in February that “our coalition is on the offensive, ISIL is on the defensive, and ISIL is going to lose.” Now the Iraqi government will turn to Shiite paramilitaries under Iranian control to try to retake the city, further turning the Baghdad government into an Iranian satrap.
President Obama and his deputy national
security adviser [Image Source: Pete Souza, White Press
via NY Post
]
I recount these events not just to illustrate the distance between Ben Rhodes’s concept of reality and reality itself. It’s also a question of speed. The Middle East, along with our position in it, is unraveling at an astonishing pace. Reckless drivers often don’t notice how fast they’re going until they’re about to crash.

We are near the point where there will be no walking back the mistakes we have made. No walking away from them, either. 

It takes a special innocence to imagine that nothing in life is irreversible, that everything can be put right, that fanaticism yields to reason and facts yield to wishes, and that the arc of Mideast history bends toward justice.

Ben Rhodes, and the administration he represents and typifies, is special.

Monday, May 18, 2015

18-May-15: Peeking behind Qatar's genteel, manicured and increasingly disastrous public relations

Doha, Qatar: Bright, shiny, wealthy, healthy, happy, sunny, with good teeth
and getting better and better all the time [Image Source]
Ever true to the bureaucrat's favourite crutch, "The best defense is an offense", Qatar’s Government Communications Office has rushed into action today following the BBC report about which we posted earlier today.

After Mark Lobel of the BBC was brought to Qatar for a visit arranged by, for, with and because of the government of that odd place, and handcuffed, arrested and interrogated before being thrown into one of its prison cells (see "18-May-15: As the Qatari thug says, Disneyland it's not"), Qatar has now responded.

The official statement comes from Saif Al-Thani, described as the head of Qatar’s Government Communications Office (and note that almost anyone in a position of power or privilege in Qatar is called Al-Thani, including the eighth and current emir whose family has ruled the place as if it were a private plantation since the mid-1700s). Here it is in full:
Earlier this month the Government of the State of Qatar organized a press tour for reporters from the UK, Europe and the region that was designed to provide a better understanding of the challenges Qatar is facing – and the progress it is making – on the issue of migrant labour. The Government Communications Office invited a dozen reporters to see – first-hand –some sub-standard labour accommodation as well as some of the newer labour villages. We gave the reporters free rein to interview whomever they chose and to roam unaccompanied in the labour villages. In addition, we arranged a roundtable discussion and one on one interviews with the Minister of Labour and Social Welfare, Secretary General of the Supreme Committee for Legacy and Delivery and the Director of Workers Welfare at Qatar Foundation. Perhaps anticipating that the Government would not provide this sort of access, the BBC crew decided to do their own site visits and interviews in the days leading up to the planned tour. In doing so, they trespassed on private property, which is against the law in Qatar just as it is in most countries. Security forces were called and the BBC crew was detained. The journalists who took part in the press tour were given an opportunity for a comprehensive look at the problems Qatar is facing, and the progress the government and the private sector are making to address those problems. They saw some of the worst labour villages, and some of the best. The BBC was meant to be part of that tour, and would have been if they had not chosen to break Qatari laws. Once the BBC reporter and his crew were released from detention, we tried to help them get the basic elements for the story they had missed. While the full program could not be duplicated, a separate one-on-one interview with the Minister of Labour and Social Welfare was arranged and they were able to tour a modern labour village. We hope it is clear from this detailed account that the problems that the BBC reporter and his crew experienced could have been avoided if they had chosen to join the other journalists on the press tour. They would have been able to visit – in broad daylight –the very camps they tried to break into at night. Reporters from the Associated Press, AFP, the Guardian and Le Monde have filed stories on what they saw and heard in Qatar, and we invite interested readers to review their reports, which are available on-line. By trespassing on private property and running afoul of Qatari laws, the BBC reporter made himself the story. We sincerely hope that this was not his intention. Moreover, we deeply regret that he was unable to report the real story, which is that the government and the private sector are making significant progress in efforts to improve the lives and the labour conditions of guest workers in Qatar.
Under the inspired headline "Qatar responds to BBC reporter's arrest with truly deluded statement", a news site belonging to Independent UK adds today that the Qataris are
basically admitting that the BBC crew were arrested for nothing more than journalism, raising further serious concerns about Fifa awarding the World Cup to a country where homosexuality is illegal and human rights are severely limited.
Lobel of the BBC tweeted right after the Qatari retort to simply say
I'm not expecting much but an apology or just return of my phone would be nice. [Twitter]
Over at ArabianBusiness.com, they write today that
FIFA, which has been repeatedly criticised for the way Qatar won the bid to host the 2022 World Cup, said it was investigating the arrests...
But at Buzzfeed News, where they have their feet planted on the ground, they quote FIFA's spokesperson today who says:
...the general rules of the respective host countries should be respected by media when it comes to filming and gaining the necessary permissions.
Yes, ladies and gentlemen: that thing about arresting reporters after you fly them in and house them in your hotels; about taking away their phones and computers and liberty; about imprisoning homosexuals because under Qatar's laws it's illegal; about getting arrested for filming without permission; about incarcerating foreign visitors because they were witnesses to someone else's traffic incident; it's all a matter of respect.

18-May-15: As the Qatari thug says, Disneyland it's not

A visibly delighted Emir of Qatar, is driven by Ismail Haniya,
the Hamas prime minister, to an official reception in Gaza
October 24, 2012 [NY Times Photo]
There's a famous Hollywood moment in a movie now more than 75 years old that captures a feeling we occasionally - but not often enough - see in the reporting of the news. It happens in the iconic "Wizard of Oz" when Dorothy, played by Judy Garland, says to the dog she's holding in her arms while she stares at some cognitive-dissonance-triggering sights: "Toto, I've a feeling we're not in Kansas anymore." (Here's a video clip to jog the memory.)

One of those rare Kansas moments can be seen today in a striking first-person account on the BBC's website datelined Doha. In it, a journalist, Mark Lobel describes what happened when he was invited to Qatar by the prime minister's office and by Qatar's public relations advisors Portland Communications
"Trusted by some of the world’s most successful brands and high-profile organisations, we have a track record of helping our clients achieve their goals in the UK and internationally. We protect and promote our clients’ reputations through distinctive and compelling campaigns... " [Portland Communications website, today
Click here for today's BBC report on what
happened to its reporter in Qatar
The goal of the junket was to inspect brand-spanking-new housing for its army of low-paid migrant workers. But it turned into something quite different: as an opportunity to "protect and promote our clients’ reputation", this might not have been the very biggest of successes.

As he tells it, Lobel is arrested, intimidated by tough-talking cops ("This is not Disneyland," he barked. "You can't stick your camera anywhere..."), imprisoned in a disgusting cell and then released a couple of days later as if nothing had happened.

The outrage, in Lobel's narrative, is that he and his BBC colleagues "ended up being thrown into prison for doing our jobs... while gathering additional material for our report". Just for doing their jobs? That's upsetting.

But there may be a larger, considerably more malevolent process going on that the BBC man either doesn't comprehend or has chosen to self-censor. His editors, by the way, seem to have tucked the report away in their Sports section. But reported it was.

First, the facts. In "Arrested for reporting on Qatar's World Cup labourers", [BBC, May 18, 2015] Lobel starts with some familiar terrain, reminding readers that
Qatar, the world's richest country for its population size of little more than two million people, is pouring money into trying to improve its reputation for allowing poor living standards for low-skilled workers to persist.
This is part of the run-up to soccer's 2022 World Cup, the hosting of which was somewhat bizarrely awarded to Qatar five years ago ["Blatter reaches out to Arabia | Fifa president says Middle East 'deserves' World Cup in boost to Qatar 2022 bid", Aljazeera, April 24, 2010]. That decision is now under a cloud, having come with a laundry list of allegations focusing principally (but not only) on bribery and corruption. (FIFA exonerated them, but that's another story.)

Then there was the matter of Qatar's abuse of foreign workers, And that's what is mainly behind the BBC report - how Qatar is fixing the problem and making the allegations go away. 

Qatar is one of those formally-sovereign flyspeck countries that functions, in reality, as a family business. An ambitious, prickly, astronomically-well-funded family business. 
It owns Al-Jazeera, the Arabic-language broadcaster whose programs can be seen around the world. The World Cup would be the crowning glory for the tiny emirate. Some estimates suggest that $220 billion is being spent to expand the country's infrastructure ahead of the World Cup. Workers for that effort come mainly from South Asia. [NPR, November 18, 2013]
The BBC's Qatar story makes the website's home
page... buried  under the Sport header
And as a 2014 business article ["How Qatar Got So Rich So Fast", Business Insider] shows
The tiny peninsula has  the highest per-capita GDP in the world at $98,800 — and even that number may vastly understate the actual wealth of Qatar's 280,000 citizens... Qatar has done much to reinvest energy money and diversify its economy. Support from the U.S. as well as decades of proven reserves have also fostered stability. 
The Guardian ["How Qatar is taking on the world", July 7, 2012] reviewed its footprint and influence, since its present dominant figure, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani,
seized power in 1995 from his father in a bloodless palace coup [followed by Qatar's] emergence on to the world stage as a considerable diplomatic, cultural and even military player of a tiny state whose huge ambitions to spread influence around the globe are fuelled by enormous wealth and devotion to a strict interpretation of the Qur'an. That ambition is being realised, from the sports stadiums and skyscraper penthouses of western capitals to the industrial centres of China and the battlefields of Syria and Libya... Today it is difficult to avoid its money and influence. In London, the al-Thanis' investment arm, Qatar Holdings and the Qatar Investment Authority, have been on a long shopping spree, spending more than £13bn in recent years on purchasing Chelsea Barracks, Harrods and the Olympic Village. Qatar is the largest shareholder in Barclays Bank... The Qatar Foundation sponsors Barcelona football club... [It's the host] of international organisations – Georgetown University, the British Royal United Services Institute for Defence and Security Studies – creating a space where the west rubs shoulders with the Islamic world.
A visibly delighted US president and wife greet the emir of Qatar
and his spouse at 2009 New York reception [Image Source]
Qatar happens as well to possess some astonishing demographics that are at the heart of the Lobel story.

Its total population in 2013 was 1.8 million [source]. And how many of those are citizens? 278,000, or about 15%. All the rest are so-called "expatriates", mainly Indians, Nepalis, Filipinos, Bangladeshis, Sri Lankans and Pakistanis. (Qatar's own official 2015 statistics say they have 2,342,725 people, of whom 1,759,391, or 75%, are males. A fun society.)

Back to Lobel:
We were on a quiet stretch of road in the capital, Doha, on our way to film a group of workers from Nepal. The working and housing conditions of migrant workers constructing new buildings in Qatar ahead of the World Cup have been heavily criticised and we wanted to see them for ourselves. Suddenly, eight white cars surrounded our vehicle and directed us on to a side road at speed. A dozen security officers frisked us in the street, shouting at us when we tried to talk. They took away our equipment and hard drives and drove us to their headquarters. Later, in city's main police station, the cameraman, translator, driver and I were interrogated separately by intelligence officers. The questioning was hostile. We were never accused of anything directly, instead they asked over and over what we had done and who we had met... During a pause in proceedings, one officer whispered that I couldn't make a phone call to let people know where we were. He explained that our detention was being dealt with as a matter of national security. An hour into my grilling, one of the interrogators brought out a paper folder of photographs which proved they had been trailing me in cars and on foot for two days since the moment I'd arrived. I was shown pictures of myself and the team standing in the street, at a coffee shop, on board a bus and even lying next to a swimming pool with friends. It was a shock. I had never suspected I was being tailed. At 01:00, we were taken to the local prison... Thirteen hours of waiting around and questioning later, one of the interrogators snapped. "This is not Disneyland," he barked. "You can't stick your camera anywhere..." I began my second night in prison on a disgusting soiled mattress. At least we did not go hungry, as we had the previous day. One of the guards took pity on us and sent out for roast chicken with rice. In the early hours of the next morning, just as suddenly as we were arrested, we were released. Bizarrely, we were allowed to join the organised press trip for which we had come. It was as if nothing had happened, despite the fact that our kit was still impounded, and we were banned from leaving the country... Other journalists and activists, including a German TV crew, have also recently been detained... [BBC, May 18, 2015]
As Dorothy might have said, Qatar is not exactly Kansas.
Most Qatari citizens belong to the strict Wahhabi sect of Islam... In March 2008, a Roman Catholic church, Our Lady of the Rosary, was consecrated in Doha. No missionaries are allowed in the community. The church displays no Christian symbols such as crosses, bells, or a steeple on its exterior. [Wikipedia on Religion in Qatar] 
Wahhabism
has been variously described as "orthodox", "ultraconservative", "austere", "fundamentalist", "puritanical" (or "puritan"); as an Islamic "reform movement" to restore "pure monotheistic worship" (tawhid), by scholars and advocates and as an "extremist pseudo-Sunni movement" by opponents. [Wikipedia on Wahhabism
Religion aside, a person might think that, being so much in the global public eye now as the designated host of that FIFA World Cup tournament seven years away, Qatar might take that long list of complaints, controversies and problems to heart and have its officials think twice before messing with a reporter for the  globally-influential BBC media empire. 

But no, evidently they're not that concerned. 

That's a little strange when you think about it. What makes the Qataris so sure of themselves and immune from criticism and review - apart of course from their being, per capita, by far the richest country on earth [see "30-Jul-14: Is Qatar's stupendous wealth connected with Hamas' ongoing terrorism?"]?

In fact, there is not much about Qatar's public profile that makes it or its proprietors, the Al-Thani clan, seem like worried people. 

So do they worry about rank-and-file Palestinian Arabs? 

Well, yes if we consider that Qatar has provided a comfortable home-away-from-home for the highest echelon of terrorist leadership. TIME Magazine ["Hamas Still Has Some Friends Left", July 25, 2014] pointed out last summer that Qatar
hosts Hamas’ political bureau which includes Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal,” says Shashank Joshi, Senior Research Fellow at the Royal United Services Institute. “Qatar has a long history of providing shelter to Islamist groups, amongst them the Muslim Brotherhood and the Taliban... Hamas used to be strongly allied with both Iran and Syria, with the former giving Hamas an estimated $13-15 million a month as recently as 2011, as well as long-range missiles. Hamas’ political bureau used to be based in the Syrian capital of Damascus before its move to Qatar in 2012.” [TIME]
Qatar is where Hamas terrorist-in-chief Khaled Meshaal still makes his home, along with a handful of other murder-mind Hamas insiders. What's more, Qatari enthusiasm for terror extends well beyond hospitality.
Qatar financially supported Hamas with donations, grants and field projects (not cash, as Hamas wished) to compensate for the cessation of Iranian support, as Hamas leaders Meshaal, Khalil al-Haya and Sami Abu Zuhri had openly declared for the first time that the movement was financially suffering... Qatar also gave Hamas a regional role. Qatar was considered Hamas’s “godmother” in regional and international forums. Then came the visit by Qatar’s emir to Gaza in October 2012 and his call at the recent Arab summit in March 2013 for a mini-summit to discuss reconciling Fatah and Hamas... ["Hamas Ties to Qatar Have Cost", published on the Al-Monitor site in April 2013]
But let's look at this in more concrete terms.

  1. What percentage of its off-the-charts wealth gets shared on an annual basis with the Palestinian Arabs with whom it shares such strong ties of brotherhood and solidarity? In this, Qatar is like most of the other Arab states and statelets. It contributes zero to UNRWA, the extremely odd "refugee" agency that exists to service only the Palestinian Arabs and no other refugee category. There's more background to that in "Whose taxpayers fund UNRWA?" [Jerusalem Post, 2013] and in our post "19-May-14: Will momentary focus on UNRWA throw any light on PA and Hamas abuse of their own people?".
  2. And how many Palestinian Arabs have found new careers and well-paid (or even not-so-well-paid) work in Qatar's booming economy? About 20,500 as of 2014. That's from the government of Qatar's official numbers [source] and it represents less than a single percent of Qatar's population.

All in all, it's a story waiting to be properly exposed, as is the emergence of Qatar as
financiers of extremism and terrorism [who have] now replaced Saudi Arabia as the source of the largest private donations to the Islamic State and other al-Qaeda affiliates. ["Qatar and Terror", Denis MacEoin, Gatestone Institute, November 22, 2014]
There's more to tell, and perhaps Mark Lobel of the BBC will tell it, given the Qatari trauma to which he has just been subjected. But to be honest we're not waiting for that to happen (and just in case of editorial changes to today's BBC report, we have taken the precaution of archiving this morning's version here). Meanwhile, readers might want to review some of our past attention to Qatar:

Saturday, May 16, 2015

16-May-15: US ground forces go into Syria after President says it won't happen

Deir Ez Zor, home to Syria's oil industry, a year ago [Image Source]
United States ground troops carried out a raid on Friday night inside Syria.

Though President Barack Obama "has vowed not to deploy combat forces on the ground to help defeat the Islamic State in Iraq or Syria" [source: Long War Journal], this is thought to have been the third such 'special ops' ground attack in the past seven years.

The first was October 26, 2008, when US special operations forces sought out and killed a senior al Qaeda leader, Abu Ghadiya, thought to have the head of al Qaeda Syrian network since 2005. That attack brought about the deaths of several of the leader's aides. Abu Ghadiya's mission included (according to Wikipedia) providing false passports, safe houses, weapons and money to so-called militants on Syria's side of the border with Iraq before they crossed into Iraq.

The second was during an unsuccessful effort in August 2014 to rescue an American freelance journalist, James Wright Foley, who had been kidnapped and was being held inside Syria by forces of the so-called Islamic State, or ISIS. Two Delta Force teams from the US Army, helped by air support, attacked the target site but found he was not there. Foley was beheaded later the same month by the ISIS savages who produced and disseminated a video graphically capturing the butchering of their unarmed and bound prisoner. Both of the news agencies for whom Foley had been freelancing when he was seized by the Islamists - the GlobalPost from Boston, and Agence France-Presse - published statements after his murder claiming they would "no longer accept work from freelance journalists" who travel to what we would call terror-infested territories, meaning places like Syria. Whether that policy is justified or was ever put into actual effect, it's a reminder of how news reporting from such places is inevitably manipulated and unreliable. Fear and intimidation are under-appreciated factors in evaluating how good a job the mainstream news media do in these terrorism-afflicted times.

The third ground assault on Syria took place either Friday night or earlier today (Saturday) according to Aljazeera. It took place at an oil field east of Deir Ez Zor, a city of some 210,000 people, based on population figures that were relevant when Syria functioned as a state, which it has long ceased to do. It's the largest city in eastern Syria and 450 km northeast of Damascus.

The raid resulted in the deaths of "at least six people from ISIL... at least two of Arab nationalities; a Saudi and an Iraqi" according to Aljazeera, plus a leading figure in ISIS named Abu Sayyaf in the US Defense Department's official press release, issued a few hours ago:
Abu Sayyaf was involved in ISIL's military operations and also helped direct the terrorist organization's illicit oil, gas and financial operations, the defense secretary said. “Abu Sayyaf was killed during the course of the operation when he engaged U.S. forces,” he said. “U.S. forces captured Umm Sayyaf, who we suspect is a member of ISIL, played an important role in ISIL's terrorist activities, and may have been complicit in what appears to have been the enslavement of a young Yezidi woman rescued last night,” Carter said. No U.S. forces were killed or injured during the operation, which represented “another significant blow to ISIL,” the defense secretary said. “And it is a reminder that the United States will never waver in denying safe haven to terrorists who threaten our citizens, and those of our friends and allies,” he continued.
In September 2014, the US President, speaking at U.S. Central Command in Florida, said ["Obama, Kerry: No U.S. troops will be sent into combat against ISIS in Iraq, Syria" | CNN, September 17, 2014]
that U.S. troops "do not and will not have a combat mission" in Iraq against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria... "After a decade of massive ground deployments, it is more effective to use our unique capabilities in support of partners on the ground so they can secure their own countries' futures," he said. "And that's the only solution that will succeed over the long term." [CNN]
Plainly, in the war against the terrorists means, you need to keep some flexibility up your sleeve.

UPDATE Sunday night, 9:00 pm: AFP, quoting Rami Abdel Rahman, the head of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. says no fewer than 32 ISIS "members" were killed in the US ground attack. Abdel Rahman claimed earlier this month that US-led forces had mounted an especially lethal attack (he termed it a "strike", presumably meaning attacks by aircraft) on the village of Birmahle in Syria's Aleppo province, killing 52 civilians, including "seven children" at least. "Not a single ISIS fighter" was killed in the strikes on Birmahle, Abdel Rahman is quoted saying, and the village was inhabited by civilians only, with no ISIS positions.