Please read this very detailed analysis on the state of affairs in Syria and Iraq.
The ISIS control of southern Syria and Anbar, as well as the neutralization of Lebanon puts them right on Israel’s borders. They will be able to mass forces on the south Lebanon border and along the Golan Heights. They will have modern artillery, tanks, and armored vehicles. They will have poison gas and a strategy to use it. They will not worry about casualties on either side since infidels will go straight to Hell and “martyrs” will get their 72 virgins.
On the other hand, I’m sure that Israel is well prepared. Unlike the US, they will aggressively attack any build up of forces and military vehicles. They will not allow anyone to infiltrate their northern borders. If necessary they can defend human wave attacks with Daisy Cutters, MOABs, and even nukes.
Jordan is the wild card. If ISIS succeeds in neutralizing Jordan, it opens up another Israeli front, along a much less fortified border. If they attack from two directions, with Hamas creating a diversion from the south and Bedouins from Sinai, Israel will be hard pressed to defend itself with conventional weaponry. They may very well call on Obama to act. And when Obama wimps out they will use their entire arsenal.
The nuclear waste in the Middle East will be on Obama’s hands.
And Iran will be there to pick up the pieces.
All this must be done in two years. I think it can be done in one.
Better arm yourselves, folks. We are next.
It is time for a modern crusade. Sign up before it is too late.
Hat Tip to DEBKA weekly.
The Islamic State of Syria and Iraq is not simply devouring swathes of Iraq and Syria as they fall to hand, it is following a calculated, far-sighted plan. A corner of this plan was lifted this week in the latest edition of ISIS’s English-language online magazine Dabiq. Under the title “A Perfect Storm,” the writer asserts: “The Islamic State has billions of dollars in the bank, so they call on their wilayah (chapter) in Pakistan to purchase a nuclear device through weapons dealers with links to corrupt officials.”
The piece is attributed to the British photojournalist John Cantlie, who ISIS has held hostage for two years and uses for its propaganda.
He goes on to raise a “hypothetical” possibility, whereby ISIS operatives in Pakistan bribe an official to provide them with a nuclear device, which is then smuggled into America via Libya, Nigeria and Mexico.
On the face of it, this suggestion sounds improbable given the extreme US and Pakistani security measures in place for guarding Islamabad’s nuclear arsenal. But, not too long ago, the frightening speed with which the Islamic State is slashing its way through countries of the Middle East and the Indian subcontinent – and the huge assets it is scooping up along the way – looked just as improbable.
ISIS scoops up energy resources along with territory
In the last fortnight, after broadening the space under its control in Syria and Iraq, armored ISIS columns were reported exclusively by debkafile Sunday, May 24, to be heading out of newly-captured Palmyra for the Jordanian border.
The Saudis woke up in alarm Friday, May 22 when a suicide bomber blew himself up in a Shiite Mosque in the oil-rich eastern Qatif region. The kingdom had obviously been invaded by secret ISIS cells, which were evidently being activated to ignite the Shiite minority into sectarian conflict with the Sunni crown in Riyadh. This uprising would force the world’s biggest oil exporter to wind down production.
When ISIS overran Ramadi in Iraq and Palmyra in Syria this week, there, too, territory was not the sole objective. Both acquisitions brought the terrorists closer to a grab for Middle East energy resources.
By now, the Islamists not only control three-quarters of Syria, but also 90 percent of its oil, including the al-Furat, al-Omar and Deir Zour fields, which have a combined capacity of 114,000 bpd, although present production runs at roughly 15,000 to 30,000 bpd.
Another half dozen fields have been commandeered in northern Iraq: Ajeel, Himrin, Ain Zalah, Safiyah, Batmah and Qayara, which have a combined capacity of 175,000 bpd and are now producing up to 10,000 bpd.
Not just looting but also sabotaging the enemy’s oil
The Islamists’ lack of technical skills for running the fields poses a great risk of damage to infrastructure.
Nonetheless, they are raking in $10 million to $15 million a day in black market oil revenues – some say as much as $20 – depending on fluctuations in production.
And so John Cantlie’s estimate of “billions of dollars in the bank” is not far-fetched.
But not satisfied with their net gains from the pirated oil fields, ISIS has turned to attacking the resources of its targeted enemies to deprive them of revenue. This tactic is integrated in their Middle East war strategy and highlights the critical importance they attach to oil as a prime strategic and financial asset.
The attack in Qatif was aimed at disrupting the Saudi oilfields by getting at its Shiite workforce.
In Iraq, they are starting fires at the important oil refineries in Baiji.
In central and eastern Libya, Islamists affiliated with ISIS have moved from pillaging facilities to sabotaging them and destroying the oil cargoes destined for export. They are focusing on the fields run as joint ventures with Western companies.
The Middle East as the world’s primary source of oil is under Islamist terrorist assault.
Pillaging Afghanistan’s uranium and precious stones
ISIS has extended its looting-cum-sabotage drive to Afghanistan. Almost unnoticed in the West, the Islamists are moving in on the northern and western provinces, their path smoothed by spending lucre looted from the Middle East on bribing local tribes, militias and villages to pledge their loyalty to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and fight the Taliban under his black flag.
In 2010, Afghanistan was estimated to have one trillion dollars worth of untapped mineral deposits. Since then, the US has been sinking $40 million dollars a year in developing these resources, calculating their potential yield for the struggling country as worth app. $2 billion a year.
The two provinces ISIS has targeted were chosen for their promise of rich pickings: Faryab on the border of Turkmenistan, for its wealth of untapped uranium, gas, oil, salt, alabaster and marble; Farah province in the west, for its abundant natural gas, crude oil, precious and semiprecious stones, salt and sulfur.
Selling these treasures on the black market would further bloat ISIS’s ill-gotten fortune.
In January 2014, six months before he established his caliphate, Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, the Iraqi-born leader of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS), made his first bid to gain possession of Deir ez-Zour, the key to control of eastern Syria, its oil fields and its border with Iraq. This prize finally came within his reach on Tuesday, May 26. 2015, when Syrian President Bashar Assad ordered the Syrian army and air force to evacuate their Deir ez-Zour bases.
This amounted to a decision by the Syrian ruler to relinquish his control of eastern Syria. He also sent similar orders out to the troops fighting on the northern, southern and central fronts, where morale had sunk to the pits.
In Damascus, too, the ground had begun shaking under his feet.
ISIS and its rival, Al Qaeda’s Nusra Front, had launched separate operations to capture the Palestinian refugee camp of Yarmouk, 7 km from the presidential palace and General Staff Headquarters in the capital. Having run out of fighting strength, Assad’s army had abandoned the camp’s defense to Palestinian militias still loyal to the regime and Tehran.
(See DEBKA Weekly’s map.)
Palestinian militias move up front as Assad’s mainstay
The Syrian ruler has been reduced to trusting his regime’s survival to a motley legion of Iranian Revolutionary Guardsmen, the Lebanese Shiite Hizballah, Iraqi, Afghan and Pakistani Shiite militias – and most of all, to the several thousand members of the “PLO’s Military Arm” which, under the command of Mohammed Said, draws most of its fighting strength from the Palestinian camps around Aleppo.
The Palestinians owe Assad a debt of loyalty for the many years their armed groups were given a base of operation and shelter. Most were non-religious factions but, of late, Islamic extremists like Hamas and Islamic Jihad, were also given asylum.
The ISIS grab for the Yarmouk camp has strengthened this alliance. Indeed the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah has declared its support for the Syrian army’s operations to defend the camp.
Another previously unknown armed Palestinian group turned up of late in the Qalamoun battle and the fighting around Damascus. It calls itself the “Galilee Forces” or the “Galilee Brigade.” It is an offshoot of the “Return of the Young to Palestine” organization and is commanded by Fadi Al-Malah, popularly known as Abu al- Fadaa.
A 90,000-strong foreign Shiite legion takes over from Syrian army
The fact that Assad has to rely on this loose assortment of Palestinian paramilitary groups to defend the northern gates of his capital is a measure of his plight.
In general, he has fallen back on the large Shiite “foreign legion” of 90,000 Iranians, Hizballah combatants, imported Shiite militias and Palestinians to preserve his regime. Nearly five years of civil war have reduced the Syrian army to a shrunken semblance of its former size and strength. Heavy battlefield losses and the young Syrians who are now shunning military service have taken their toll. The army was forced to cancel the latest draft, the main source of fresh combatants, after very few recruits reported to the army registration centers.
To preserve the last remnants of his army, the Syrian president this week fired officers accused of mistreating the rank and file. The commander of the Aleppo force, army Gen. Khalid Haider, for instance, was sacked for reducing the soldier’s food rations to one pita and one egg a day.
The situation of Assad’s enemies contrasts starkly with Assad’s military plight.
No more parity between pro- and anti-Assad forces, as the opposition swells
ISIS has struck a rich mine of dedicated manpower. Month after month, thousands of young Syrians and thousands more Muslims from other countries flock to its ranks. They are drawn by two powerful inducements:
1. The appeal of a winning side, as the Islamic State keeps on scoring victories.
2. Good pay and working conditions. An ISIS fighter may draw a monthly wage of $1,000 and can stay in touch with the family he left behind and even care for them financially.
Another magnet for volunteers to fight Assad is the new Muslim militia, Jaish al-Fatah (Army of Conquest), founded by Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey, who spend unstintingly on pay as well as training. These fighters are already in the field in northwestern and southern Syria.
According to an updated evaluation by Western and Middle Eastern military and intelligence watchers, the numerical parity once existing between Iranian- backed and Hizballah forces fighting for Assad and the numbers raised by opposition groups plus ISIS is vanishing. The sources of Assad’s fighting manpower have dried up, whereas his enemies are constantly boosted by an influx of fresh young fighters.
Assad could crash without warning
This evaluation has led to the conclusion that Bashar Assad’s slow decline is picking up speed and he could crash without warning.
At any moment, as the Syrian army withdraws from the northern, central, eastern and southern sectors, one or more division or brigade may desert, abandoning uniforms and heavy weapons and diving into the civilian population, like the Iraqi troops who turned tail against ISIS.
A Western military source told DEBKA Weekly that Syrian troops and their officers are avidly following the war situation in Iraq and drawing comparisons with their own fast deteriorating fortunes. Looking around them, they see that nearly 80 percent of Syrian territory has fallen into opposition hands. Soon, they will have nowhere to flee to, if matters get worse.
Lebanon would be a last resort, except that Syrian officers and men don’t believe ISIS will halt its advance at the Syrian-Lebanese border, and no force is there to stop them crossing over.
Seen from this perspective, Assad may not be the last ruler to fall; it would then be the turn of Hassan Nasrallah and his Shiite Hizballah in Beirut.
And seen from Tehran, after losing its foothold in large parts of Iraq, Iran is in danger of losing the major assets it built up in Syria and Lebanon.
It looked at first as though US President Barack Obama had changed course and turned to the West for partners to fight the Islamic State. Tuesday, May 26, he said that the United States was working closely with its NATO allies to partner with other countries in the fight against Islamic State militants and address challenges in Libya.
Speaking at a White House meeting with NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, Obama said: “NATO is necessarily recognizing a whole range of global challenges, particularly on what we call the Southern Front…making sure that we continue to coordinate effectively in the fight against ISIL.”
But the impression gained from those remarks was misleading.
DEBKA Weekly’s military and intelligence sources report that there is not the slightest sign of US coordination with NATO allies in Iraq. Just the reverse: On the instructions of the US commander-in-chief, Washington has handed Tehran full responsibility for the struggle against ISIS in Iraq. In fact, he has given Iran a free hand in its choice of manpower and tactics for this campaign. Washington will not interfere in these choices, but neither will the US continue to provide Iranian forces with air support.
Partly because of this deal, long Islamist convoys carrying hundreds of fighters were seen this week moving across vast distances in Iraq and Syria, without obstruction.
(See DEBKA Weekly’s map presentation attached to this article.)
Iran’s anti-ISIS campaign led by wanted Iraqi terrorist
Middle East officials define Obama’s carte blanche to Tehran in Iraq as his latest contribution to regional mayhem with three devastating consequences:
First: Since Tehran can’t muster all the troops needed for the four wars it is running in Syria, Iraq, Yemen and Lebanon, it has assigned the campaign against ISIS in Iraq to Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, the Iraq commander of the Popular Mobilization Committee, who led the Second Battle of Tikrit in March.
The PMC is in fact a department of the Iranian Al Qods Brigades. And Muhandis himself is on the US list of wanted terrorists.
This week, his militia was in the forefront of an operation termed by Baghdad “the battle to retake Ramadi” (which fell to ISIS last week.)
This was a misnomer. The operation had two different goals:
1. To draw ISIS forces away from Baghdad and divert them to the Saladin Province, both to relieve the capital of the Islamist threat and to distance them from the Iranian border.
2. The PMC did not engage the Islamic State’s forces face to face, but acted to cut Ramadi off from northern Iraq. This ploy, though partly successful, still left ISIS with open supply lines from the western province of Anbar.
Millions of Sunni Iraqis flee their homes from Shiite militias
Second: By letting Shiite forces loose against ISIS in Iraq, President Obama has exposed America to the charge of betraying the Iraqi Sunni community – not once but twice in less than a decade. The charge is leveled bitterly by their tribal chiefs. But already, millions of Iraqi Sunni Muslims have begun abandoning their homes in a hopeless mass exodus to seek safe haven from mortal persecution by the Shiite militias. The displacement of millions of civilians has created yet another major Middle East refugee crisis.
Third: Charges of American duplicity also come from Saudi Arabia and the Gulf emirates.
Their rulers say that the pledge of protection against Iranian expansionism given by President Obama at their Camp David summit on May 13-14 has proved worthless.
Bashar Assad’s poison weapons arsenal was supposed to have been dismantled in 2013 and 2014 under a deal negotiated between US Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. But, while various Western experts argued over whether or not it was all removed, DEBKA Weekly reports that the Assad regime concealed from UN inspectors 5-10 percent of its deadly stocks of mustard gas, ricin, and sarin and VX nerve gases, and cached them at a secret military complex in the northern town of al-Safira, near Aleppo.
Today, Assad’s cheating is having unforeseen consequences.
Western intelligence spotters tracking the movements in Syria of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) reported Wednesday, May 27, that a concentration of jihadi fighters was arrayed to attack the Al-Safira complex. Their action seemed to be timed to coincide with the general offensive Syrian rebels are preparing to launch for the capture of both Aleppo and the Al Safira complex.
This complex is no more than 25 km south of the sections of Aleppo occupied by ISIS and opposition forces including Jabhat al-Nusra. It is 146 km away from Raqqa, the Islamist State’s Syrian capital.
US special operations alerted to remove chemical agents
The Western spotters reported Tuesday that ISIS columns had left Raqqa and were heading west to link up with the unit poised to attack Al Safira.
If they succeed, the Islamists will have acquired their first known stock of deadly chemical weapons.
So far, there is no sign of Syrian military preparations to whisk chemicals out of danger to a new hideout, as they have done more than once in the past. The Syrian army may be too short of troops to spare for securing convoys shifting this stock.
But the ISIS threat looks serious enough to alert elite forces from Middle East lands, including US special operations teams, who have been trained to take charge of chemical weapons facilities. They appear to be preparing to step into the fray, take possession of the dangerous stock and remove it from Syria.
Eight months ago, in October 2014, the Syrian rebel Ahrar ash-Sham, one of the local groups linked to al Qaeda, launched an assault on the Al Safira complex. But although it captured a few villages in the vicinity, it failed to get through to the chemicals depot.
Syrian army’s operations chief assassinated in Damascus
Tuesday, May 26, Ahrar ash-Sham was in action again – this time with greater effect. A squad armed with a large explosive device and automatic rifles got through to the heart of Damascus and assassinated the Syrian army’s operations chief Brig. Gen. Bassam Ali Muhanna and six of his bodyguards.
It was the most disastrous attack on a high-level Syrian military figure in the capital since July 2012, when assassins murdered Assad’s brother-in-law Military Intelligence Chief Assef Shawkat and wiped out most members of the president’s inner circle.
Meanwhile, ISIS forces were also making tracks for Damascus, heading south from Palmyra just days after its capture this week.
On the way, they did not neglect to grab the Syrian phosphate mines of Khnaifess beside the highway to the capital, so robbing the Assad regime of an important source of income. This was not the worst of the Syrian ruler’s troubles. Among other setbacks, the cracks deepening at the top of his intelligence and military hierarchy are leading his regime to the edge of a precipice.
Roused out of the lethargy that marked his re-election campaign, Binyamin Netanyahu followed up on his strong advocacy of governmental reform by the way he conducted his six-party government coalition in its first two weeks. Fired up for action and unfazed by his wafer-thin 61-member Knesset majority, he is wielding power according to the best divide-and-rule traditions of fully-qualified, omnipotent presidents.
Under Israel’s current system of government, the president is little more than a figurehead most of the time. He can only be fired by a special parliamentary majority, while the prime minister who heads the executive branch can be ousted by an ordinary majority. And so he is now skating on thin ice.
But the constitution is still being written and governance reform is on the table.
To build his fourth cabinet, Netanyahu traded away eight valuable portfolios to win five coalition partners. He then played musical chairs with the overbooked candidacy for the 12 ministries left to his own Likud party. Over-expectant loyalists were appeased with a string of pompous titles.
But when all the ministers settled in their seats this week, DEBKA Weekly’s political analysts ran an eye over the lineup and found nothing random about it; nor was it the result of a right-wing “political circus,” as defined by the sneering domestic media.
First task: Establish unchallenged authority
First, Netanyahu kept his hand on three anchors to support his unchallenged authority in party and government: the premiership, the foreign affairs portfolio, and the defense ministry, which stays in the hands of Moshe Ya’alon with whom he has a perfect understanding.
Secondly, he installed new and relatively young ministers in key posts, dropping the average age by nearly a generation. Netanyahu and Ya’alon are 65. Almost all the new Likud ministers are in their early forties, like most of their coalition colleagues.
By this device, the Likud leader pre-empted a potential party mutiny against him and, by promoting untried, eager politicians to big jobs, he used their inexperience as an asset to make them all the more dependent on the prime minister for advice and for settling turf battles within the cabinet.
Since presenting his government on May 14, sources in Jerusalem say Netanyahu is a new man, compared with the inert figure in the months leading up to the March election: He is constantly on the move, rushing from task to task, sleeping no more than two to three hours a night, in between endless phone calls to parties in Israel and overseas.
Reconstructing the Foreign Ministry, getting gas on flow
Some say he labors under the fear that his government will be short-lived, and he wants to get as much done as he can on matters important to him: e.g. enhanced security, a stable economy, bridging the gap between the haves and have-nots; affordable housing; and boosting foreign relations to debunk his foes’ claims that his policies have led Israel into international isolation.
His efforts have been concentrated in three main areas:
1. Dismantling the foreign ministry mechanisms constructed by the last minister Avigdor Lieberman (now in opposition) and whose policies contradicted those set out by the prime minister. He also ordered the downsizing of the large staff specializing in relations with Russia and East Europe.
This axing he left to the new Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotoveli (36). She and the new Director General Dore Gold will not determine policy; their job is to keep the ministry ticking over smoothly and defuse potential roadside bombs.
Foreign policy will be shaped in the Prime Minister’s Office – and may produce some surprises.
2. Netanyahu also acted expeditiously to solve the nagging issue of Israel’s Mediterranean sea gas bonanza, which had been stuck for many months in an internecine battle over the cartel status of US Noble Energy and Israel’s Delek Group.
Netanyahu needs gas revenues to fund big plans
To remove the main obstacle to a compromise deal between the State of Israel and the gas cartel, he simply showed the door to Antitrust Commissioner Prof. David Gilo, who resigned Monday May 25.
This stirred up a storm of debate, but Netanyahu replied that, with all due respect to competition in the economy, insisting on this point would leave the gas on the seabed, instead of reducing the average Israel’s fuel bills. Noble, moreover, had made available the special equipment needed for deep-sea drilling.
Yuval Steinitz, Minister of national Infrastructure, Energy and Water, disclosed that the bureaucratic delay in bringing the gas on line had cost the treasury a staggering NIS20 billon (est. US$5 billion)!
And Netanyahu needs that money to cover two urgent needs:
One: To fund broad relief programs to lift the lower and neglected classes of the population out of poverty, as well as solving certain balance of payments problems. Both will give Likud an advantage in the next general election.
Two: The steady flow of gas can be used as an incentive for improving relations with Egypt, Jordan and the Palestinians.
At the same time, he whisked gas out of the hands of Finance Minister Moshe Kachlon (55). Although he had campaigned on a pledge to end monopolies, the Kulanu leader bowed to Netanyahu’s show of muscle without demur.
Using rival Internet sites to replace hostile TV channels
3. Plagued year after year by the domestic media’s hostile treatment of himself in person and his Likud party, Netanyahu is striking back against his tormentors. He will finish dismantling the National Broadcasting Authority, whose news programs are a regular platform for the opposition, and also hit the firms which run Television Channel 2. Instead, he plans to establish two new channels, produced by two rival Internet sites – Wallah and i24News. TV Channel 10 will disappear under the burden of debt which the government will no longer cover.
Political circles in Jerusalem wonder how long Netanyahu can maintain his manic drive for change, and still stand up to the unexpected, which is an endemic fact of life in the Middle East.
For now, largely because of the opposition’s weaknesses, he is paradoxically emerging as a strong leader and his government is beginning to look ready and capable of moving energetically into action.