American Resistance To Empire

House OKs Creation of “AL-QAIDA 3,” In Saudi

House Gives Obama Authority to Arm and Train Syrian Rebels in Fight with the Islamic State

In a crucial vote of support for the White House’s declared war on Islamic State militants in Syria and Iraq, the House of Representatives voted to give President Barack Obama authority to arm and train Syrian rebels in the war-torn country.

The plan passed 273-156 despite concerns by House Democrats about a new U.S. military commitment in the Middle East and Republican concerns that the president’s proposal is far too limited.

The administration’s request was an amendment to a must-pass, stopgap measure to keep the government running through mid-December. Although the amendment had the early support of House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi D-Calif., a number of lawmakers in both parties began defecting, prompting a last-minute push by party leaders to build support.

New York’s Steve Israel, chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, said a range of top Democrats worked to the last minute to gather votes for the president’s plan, which would train some 5,000 Syrian rebels in the first year at facilities in Saudi Arabia.

Israel specifically cited Maryland’s Dutch Ruppersberger, the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, New York’s Nita Lowey, the ranking Democrat on the Appropriations Subcommittee on Foreign Operations, New York’s Eliot Engel, the ranking Democrat on the Foreign Affairs Committee, and Pelosi, as key backers of the plan. “It cuts across a broad range of members,” he said.

Publicly, Pelosi downplayed her role in lobbying support for the war effort. “We just don’t whip war votes,” she told reporters, calling the decision a “vote of conscience” for her colleagues.

Having secured approval in the House, the bill now moves to the Senate, where it may receive a skeptical reception. In testimony Wednesday before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Secretary of State John Kerry came under intense questioning about the White House’s plan to train and equip moderate Syrian rebels.

Tennessee’s Bob Corker, the ranking Republican on the committee, called the strategy “unserious” and a “political answer” to widespread outrage among the American public fueled by the barbaric tactics used by the Sunni-militant group.

Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin, the Illinois Democrat, was deeply skeptical that the legal rationale articulated by the White House, which relies on the 2001 Authorization to Use Military Force, grants the White House power to carry out military action against Islamic State in Syria. Calling the three-year Syrian civil war a “dog’s breakfast” of violence, carnage, and deceit, Durbin questioned how efforts to undermine the group also known as ISIS and ISIL would not inadvertently end up strengthening the regime of Bashar al-Assad.

In an effort to reassure war-weary Americans, Obama spoke at MacDill Air Force Base in Florida on Wednesday and ruled out deploying ground combat forces. “I want to be clear: The American forces that have been deployed to Iraq do not and will not have a combat mission,” he said.

Many lawmakers’ misgivings about arming the rebels stem from the lack of guarantees that the United States is working with and handing heavy weaponry to people that it can trust.

“There’s still a lot of questions on who the opposition is,” said Oudai Shahbandar, a senior advisor to the Syrian opposition, who has been meeting with lawmakers and their staff about arming the rebels. For years now, that uncertainty has stalled efforts to train and equip the rebels, long before the Islamic State took over vast chunks of Iraq and drew the U.S. military back into engagement there.

The CIA is in charge of vetting the rebels, as part of a training program the agency runs at a base in Jordan. That vetting has gone painfully slow, say sources with direct knowledge of the process. Now, though, the White House says it’s starting to bear fruit.

“The president has been deliberate about vetting the elements of the Syrian opposition. And over the course of the last three years, the United States has gotten much greater clarity about which individuals in the region we can rely on and count on and work with, and which individuals, frankly, that we can’t,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest said last week. In the past year, the U.S. has provided direct military assistance to the rebels, primarily in the form of heavy weapons.

Shahbandar argued that the rebels have demonstrated that they can be trusted not to let powerful weapons slip out of their control. “Not a single TOW missile has fallen into the wrong hands,” he said. Last April, a YouTube video surfaced showing what appeared to be the first public confirmation that the rebels had obtained the TOW anti-tank missile. Such videos, which the rebels produce, are meant to build a public case that they know how to use the weapons and can be trusted with them.

That strategy sees to be working. “[The rebels'] capacity is expanding and improving,” Earnest said last week, adding there’s “no doubt” that U.S. airstrikes “will significantly enhance their capability on the battlefield.”

But sources working with the Syrian rebels say the program hasn’t produced a large enough group of soldiers to fight the Islamic State. That could fundamentally undermine the Obama administration’s strategy of fighting the militant group, which relies on the rebels to be the “boots on the ground” while the U.S. provides airstrikes.

“What the president has said he wants to do, he said more out of theory. You can’t fight someone with no one,” said one person working with the Syrian opposition.

There’s also no plan to ensure that the U.S.-armed and trained rebel fighters stay focused on the administration’s main enemy. Testifying before Congress on Tuesday, Gen. Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the U.S. has “no agreement at all” with Syrian rebels to attack only Islamic State fighters instead of the Assad regime.

The White House might not want one. Officials have made no secret that they’d also like to use the rebels to weaken Assad. “We need to bolster the Syrian moderate opposition to enable it to be able to take and hold ground, pushing out both ISIL and the Assad regime,” a senior administration official said last week shortly before Obama laid out his plan for fighting the militant group. “That is going to be essential to our strategy to degrade and ultimately destroy the organization.”

How quickly the rebel-training program will get off the ground remains an open question. Sources working with the Syrian opposition said that crucial operational procedures have yet to be worked out. It’s not clear whether fighters in Syria would be removed from the battlefield, trained in Saudi Arabia, and then brought back to Syria, or if the Americans and their partners would recruit a new force from people outside the country. There are, for example, defected Syrian military officers in Turkey who could be brought into the fight.

Kerry and Saudi Prince Faizal Laughing Their Asses Off After ISIS Hearing

Foreign Minister Saud Al Faisal says help should be extended to the Syrian opposition

  • Gulf News


Riyadh: Saudi Arabia wants the war on the so-called Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil) and other militant groups to continue for ten years, Foreign Minister Prince Saud Al Faisal has said.

Addressing world leaders during the International Conference on Peace and Security in Iraq, Prince Saud on Monday cautioned that the threat posed by Isil has transcended the boundaries of Iraq and Syria, Saudi media reported.

“We see that the planned structure to fight [Isil} should continue for at least ten years to eradicate this hateful phenomenon.”

“It has become a danger, threatening everybody, and as such, should be jointly confronted.”

He emphasised the need to attack Isil strongholds in Syria, where the group received military training. “We should also extend every means of support to the Syrian opposition to confront Isil militants.”

WV Sen. Joe Manchin Takes A Principled Stand Against Collective ISIS Insanity

Sen Joe Manchin Alone In the Senate

Manchin: I will not support training Syrian rebels

the hill

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) said he doesn’t trust Syrian rebels and will not support President Obama’s plan to train them in the fight against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

“I cannot and will not support arming and training Syrian rebels,” Manchin said on the Senate floor Wednesday. “The first principle of war is to know your enemy. … It is equally important to know our allies and I am not confident that we know who our allies are.

“How do we know they won’t join forces with ISIS if it would help them defeat [Syrian President Bashar] Assad.”

Manchin said he supports Obama’s airstrike efforts but that he’d prefer that Middle Eastern countries, such as Turkey, use their military to present a ground front rather than arming moderate Syrian rebels.

“We have been at war in that part of the world for that last 13 years,” Manchin said. “If money and military might could make a difference it would have by now.”

The House is expected to pass a continued spending resolution (CR) to keep the government funded through Dec. 11 on Wednesday and attach an amendment to train Syrian rebels at the president’s request. Lawmakers are trying to get out of town by the end of the week so some can head home to campaign for the midterm election.

“I do not believe we should have to fund our government and arm Syrian rebels in the same vote,” Manchin said. “But if it that is the decision I am forced to make, it is one I am committed to making. … I believe these issues should be separate and debated.”

OWWWW!–Obama Smackdown of Gen. Dempsey

[SEE: Gen. Dempsey Rates Iraq Army–Half Incompetent, Half Incapable of Working With US Army]

Obama insists no ‘combat mission’ for US troops in Iraq, despite Dempsey comment

Obama _MacDill Air Force Base_660_AP.jpg

In this Wednesday, Sept. 17, 2014 photo, President Barack Obama speaks at US Central Command (CentCom) at MacDill Air Force Base, Fla. (AP)

President Obama insisted Wednesday that he will not send U.S. troops into a “combat mission” on the ground in Iraq, a day after his top military adviser opened the door to that possibility during a Capitol Hill hearing.

The comments from Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, stirred confusion about the administration’s policy and pointed to possible daylight between Obama’s long-term view of the fight against the Islamic State and that of his military team. It triggered complaints from the Iraqi government as well as Obama’s Democratic allies on the Hill.

IRAN–U.S. ‘Not Serious’ About Defeating Islamic State

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif speaks during a recent news conference in Rome. Zarif told NPR that the U.S. has been hesitant and contradictory in its approach to dealing with the self-declared Islamic State.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif speaks during a recent news conference in Rome. Zarif told NPR that the U.S. has been hesitant and contradictory in its approach to dealing with the self-declared Islamic State.

Fabio Campana/EPA/Landov

Iran’s foreign minister says the U.S. has been hesitant and contradictory in its approach to combating extremist groups in Iraq and Syria and that President Obama needs a reality check on the subject of defeating the Islamic State insurgency.

Mohammad Javad Zarif, speaking with Morning Edition host Steve Inskeep in an interview to air on NPR, said the United States is “not serious” about defeating the Sunni extremists.

U.S. interests are “not served by a double-edged policy” in which militants with the so-called Islamic State are dealt with differently whether they are inside Syria or in neighboring Iraq, he said.

“You cannot deal with a terrorist group whose bases are in Syria based on this illusion … that you can [also] have this pressure on the Syrian government,” Zarif told NPR.

Asked if he thinks Obama ought to reach an accommodation with Syrian President Bashar Assad, Zarif replied: “President Obama needs to reach an accommodation with reality.”

‘We Are Ready’ For A Nuclear Deal

On the subject of negotiations over Iran’s nuclear weapons program, Zarif said all the “wrong options” have already been tried and that “we are ready” for an agreement.

“The only problem is how this could be presented to some domestic constituencies, primarily in the United States but also in places in Europe,” because “some are not interested in any deal,” he said.

“If they think any deal with Iran is a bad idea, there is no amount of — I don’t want to call it concession — no amount of assurance that is inherent in any deal because they are not interested in a deal, period,” Zarif said.

In sharp contrast with what U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other political leaders have said about no deal being better than a bad one, Zarif said: “I think if you compare any deal with no deal, it’s clear that a deal is much preferable.”

He noted that Western sanctions against Iran’s “peaceful” nuclear program have, in any case, been ineffective. “Iran did not abandon it,” Zarif said. “At the time of the imposition of sanctions, we had less than a couple of hundred centrifuges. Now, we have 20,000. So that’s the net outcome.”

Detained Journalist

The foreign minister also spoke about Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian, who has been held by Iranian authorities since July. Zarif said Rezaian has been “interrogated” but declined to say for what crime.

“Jason Rezaian is a dual citizen,” Zarif said. “Whatever he has done … he has done as an Iranian citizen, not as an American citizen.”

Pressed about the charge against the journalist, Zarif insisted that Iran’s judiciary “has no obligation to explain to the United States why it is detaining one of [Iran's own] citizens.”

“His lawyers know, he knows his charge,” Zarif said.

Update at 2:45 p.m. ET: Washington Post Response

The Washington Post emailed this statement from foreign editor Douglas Jehl regarding the detention of Jason Rezaian:

“It is long past time for the Iranian authorities to release Jason Rezaian of The Washington Post and his wife Yeganeh Salehi. The two have been held for more than eight weeks without explanation or charges. They have not been permitted to meet with their lawyer. The two are fully accredited journalists, and we remain mystified by their detention and deeply concerned about their welfare.”

Gen. Dempsey Rates Iraq Army–Half Incompetent, Half Incapable of Working With US Army

[Pentagon chief promises to reoccupy Iraq after Obama's non-fighting Arab coalition fails.  The plan then (he calls it "Plan B," although, in truth, ISIS WAS "PLAN B") would be to do that which previously proved impossible--train an Iraqi army that will fight Iraqis.]

Top general says half of Iraqi army incapable of working with US against ISIS


The U.S. military’s top officer said Wednesday that almost half of Iraq’s army is incapable of working against the Islamic State militant group, while the other half needs to be rebuilt with the help of U.S. advisers and military equipment.

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey made the remarks to reporters while traveling to Paris to meet with his French counterpart to discuss the situation in Iraq and Syria. The general said that U.S. assessors who had spent the summer observing Iraq’s security forces concluded that 26 of the army’s 50 brigades would be capable of confronting the Islamic State, also known as ISIS. Dempsey described those brigades as well-led, capable, and endowed with a nationalist instinct, as opposed to a sectarian instinct.

However, Dempsey said that the other 24 brigades were too heavily populated with Shiites to be part of a credible force against the Sunni ISIS.

Sectarianism has been a major problem for the Iraqi security forces for years and is in part a reflection of resentments that built up during the decades of rule under Saddam Hussein, who repressed the majority Shiite population, and the unleashing of reprisals against Sunnis after U.S. forces toppled him in April 2003. Sunni resistance led to the relatively brief rise of an extremist group called Al Qaeda in Iraq, led by the late Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. That group withered but re-emerged as the Islamic State organization, which capitalized on Sunni disenchantment with the Shiite government in Baghdad.

On Tuesday, Dempsey told the Senate Armed Services Committee that he would consider recommending the return of ground forces to Iraq if an international coalition sought by the Obama administration proves ineffective

On Wednesday, Dempsey said no amount of U.S. military power would solve the problem of ISIS’s takeover of large swaths of northern and western Iraq. The solution, he said, must begin with formation of an Iraqi government that is able to convince the country’s Kurdish and Sunni populations that they will be equal partners with the Shiites in Iraq’s future.

“I’m telling you, if that doesn’t happen then it’s time for Plan B,” he said. He didn’t say what that would entail.

Dempsey also said that ISIS fighters in Iraq have reacted to weeks of U.S. airstrikes by making themselves less visible, and he predicted they would “literally litter the road networks” with improvised explosive devices, or IEDs, in the days ahead. That, in turn, will require more counter-IED training and equipment for the Iraq army, he said.

According to the general, a renewed U.S. training effort might revive the issue of gaining legal immunity from Iraqi prosecution for those U.S. troops who are training the Iraqis. The previous Iraqi government refused to grant immunity for U.S. troops who might have remained as trainers after the U.S. military mission ended in December 2011.
“There will likely be a discussion with the new Iraqi government, as there was with the last one, about whether we need to have” Iraqi lawmakers approve new U.S. training, he said. He didn’t describe the full extent of such training but said it would be limited and he believed Iraq would endorse it.
“This is about training them in protected locations and then enabling them” with unique U.S. capabilities such as intelligence, aerial surveillance and air power, as well as U.S. advisers, so they can “fight the fight” required to push the Islamic State militants back into Syria, Dempsey said.

A Pentagon plan for training Syrian rebels is another, more controversial element of the plan, which also includes potential airstrikes in Syria; building an international coalition to combat the Islamic State group in Syria and Iraq; and efforts to cut off finances and stem the flow of foreign fighters to the Islamic State group.

President Obama is to be briefed on the planned campaign against ISIS Wednesday in Tampa, Florida, when he meets with Gen. Lloyd Austin, head of U.S. Central Command, which manages U.S. military operations and relations across the Middle East.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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