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Posts tagged "Arab World"

thepoliticalfreakshow:

With brutal efficiency, the Sunni extremist group has carved out a large chunk of territory that has effectively erased the border between Iraq and Syria and laid the foundations of its proto-state. But the declaration, made on the first day of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, could trigger a wave of infighting among the Sunni militant factions that formed a loose alliance in the blitz across Iraq and impact the broader international jihadist movement, especially the future of a-Qaida.

The spokesman for the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant declared the group’s chief, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, as the leader of the new caliphate, or Islamic state, and called on Muslims everywhere, not just those in areas under the organization’s control, to swear loyalty to al-Baghdadi and support him.

"The legality of all emirates, groups, states and organizations becomes null by the expansion of the caliph’s authority and the arrival of its troops to their areas,” said the spokesman, Abu Mohammed al-Adnani, in an audio statement posted online. “Listen to your caliph and obey him. Support your state, which grows every day.”

Al-Adnani loosely defined the Islamic state’s territory as running from northern Syria to the Iraqi province of Diyala — a vast stretch of land straddling the border that is already largely under the Islamic State’s control. He also said that with the establishment of the caliphate, the group was changing its name to just the Islamic State, dropping the mention of Iraq and the Levant.

Muslim extremists have long dreamed of recreating the Islamic state, or caliphate, that ruled over the Middle East, much of North Africa and beyond in various forms over the course of Islam’s 1,400-year history.

It was unclear what immediate impact the declaration would have on the ground in Syria and Iraq, though experts predicted it could herald infighting among the Sunni militants who have joined forces with the Islamic State in its fight against Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and his Shiite-led government.

"Now the insurgents in Iraq have no excuse for working with ISIS if they were hoping to share power with ISIS," said Aymenn al-Tamimi, an analyst who specializes in Islamic militants in Iraq and Syria, using one of several acronyms for the Islamic State. "The prospect of infighting in Iraq is increased for sure."

The greatest impact, however, could be on the broader international jihadist movement, in particular on the future of al-Qaida.

Founded by Osama bin Laden, the group that carried out the Sept. 11 attacks on the U.S. has long carried the mantle of the international jihadi cause. But the Islamic State has managed to do in Syria and Iraq what al-Qaida never has — carve out a large swath of territory in the heart of the Arab world and control it.

"This announcement poses a huge threat to al-Qaida and its long-time position of leadership of the international jihadist cause,” said Charles Lister, a visiting fellow at the Brookings Doha Center, in emailed comments. “Taken globally, the younger generation of the jihadist community is becoming more and more supportive of (the Islamic State), largely out of fealty to its slick and proven capacity for attaining rapid results through brutality.”

Al-Baghdadi, an ambitious Iraqi militant who has a $10 million U.S. bounty on his head, took the reins of the Islamic State in 2010 when it was still an al-Qaida affiliate based in Iraq. Since then, he has transformed what had been an umbrella organization focused mainly on Iraq into a transnational military force.

Al-Baghdadi has long been at odds with al-Qaida leader Ayman al-Zawahri, and the two had a very public falling out after al-Baghdadi ignored al-Zawahri’s demands that the Islamic State leave Syria. Fed up with al-Baghdadi and unable to control him, al-Zawahri formally disavowed the Islamic State in February.

But al-Baghdadi’s stature has only grown since then, as the Islamic State’s fighters have strengthened their grip on much of Syria, and now overrun large swathes of Iraq.

In Washington, the Obama administration called on the international community to unite in the face of the threat posed by the Sunni extremists.

"ISIL’s strategy to develop a caliphate across the region has been clear for some time now. That is why this is a critical moment for the international community to stand together against ISIL and the advances it has made," State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said.

The Islamic State’s declaration comes as the Iraqi government tries to wrest back some of the territory it has lost to the jihadi group and its Sunni militant allies in recent weeks.

On Sunday, Iraqi helicopter gunships struck suspected insurgent positions for a second consecutive day in the northern city of Tikrit, the predominantly Sunni hometown of former dictator Saddam Hussein. The Iraqi military launched its push to wrest back Tikrit, a hotbed of antipathy toward Iraq’s Shiite-led government, on Saturday with a multi-pronged assault spearheaded by ground troops backed by tanks and helicopters.

The insurgents appeared to have repelled the military’s initial push for Tikrit, and remained in control of the city on Sunday, but clashes were taking place in the northern neighborhood of Qadissiyah, two residents reached by telephone said.

Muhanad Saif al-Din, who lives in the city center, said he could see smoke rising from Qadissiyah, which borders the University of Tikrit, where troops brought by helicopter established a bridgehead two days ago. He said many of the militants had deployed to the city’s outskirts, apparently to blunt the Iraqi military attack.

Military spokesman Qassim al-Moussawi told reporters Sunday that government troops in full control of the university and had raised the Iraqi flag over the campus.

"The battle has several stages. The security forces have cleared most of the areas of the first stage and we have achieved results," al-Moussawi said. "It is a matter of time before we declare the total clearing" of Tikrit.

A provincial official reached by telephone reported clashes northwest of the city around an air base that previously served as a U.S. military facility known as Camp Speicher. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to brief the media.

Jawad al-Bolani, a security official in the provincial operation command, said the U.S. was sharing intelligence with Iraq and has played an “essential” role in the Tikrit offensive.

"The Americans are with us and they are an important part in the success we are achieving in and around Tikrit," al-Bolani told The Associated Press.

Washington has sent 180 of 300 American troops President Barack Obama has promised to help Iraqi forces. The U.S. is also flying manned and unmanned aircraft on reconnaissance missions over Iraq.

Iraq’s government is eager to make progress in Tikrit after weeks of demoralizing defeats at the hands of the Islamic State and its Sunni allies. The militants’ surge across the vast Sunni-dominated areas that stretch from Baghdad north and west to the Syrian and Jordanian borders has thrown Iraq into its deepest crisis since U.S. troops withdrew in December 2011.

More ominously, the insurgent blitz, which prompted Kurdish forces to assert long-held claims over disputed territory, has raised the prospect of Iraq being split in three, along sectarian and ethnic lines.

For the embattled al-Maliki, success in Tikrit could help restore a degree of faith in his ability to stem the militant tide. Al-Maliki, a Shiite who has been widely accused of monopolizing power and alienating Iraq’s Sunni and Kurdish minorities, is under growing pressure to step aside. But he appears set on a third consecutive term as prime minister after his bloc won the most seats in April elections.

thepoliticalfreakshow:

Update

The radical militants of ISIS continue to expand their control over the Anbar region of Iraq, capturing their fourth town in just two days. Among the conquests was the town of Rutba, which is located just 90 miles east of the Iraqi border with Jordan.

As the Associated Press reports, by wresting control of Rutba, ISIS now runs a strip of a major highway, “a key artery for passengers and goods” heading to and from neighboring Jordan. The capture of al-Qaim, as we noted earlier, has already given ISIS control of a vital border crossing post between Iraq and Syria.

ISIS also took the towns of Rawah and Anah, which some fear will lead to the capture of Haditha, home to an important dam that, if destroyed, could cause massive flooding and damage the country’s electrical grid.

This is the latest in a continuing series of setbacks for Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, whose Shiite government has failed to stop the advance of ISIS across western and northern Iraq. His government is awaiting the arrival of 300 military advisers from the United States to help Iraqi forces find a way to stabilize the country.

Iran is now voicing its opposition to any “intervention” by the Americans, whom Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei accuse of trying to re-take control of the country.

American authorities are trying to portray this as a sectarian war, but what is happening in Iraq is not a war between Shi’ite and Sunnis.”

Let’s hope he watches the Sunday shows this morning.

Meanwhile, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, arriving in Cairo this morning, plans to ask the leaders of a number of Arab states to use their influence with Iraqi politicians to convince them to form a government that appeals to broader parts of Iraq’s population. According to the New York Times, Kerry will also push governments to stem the (sometimes covert) flow of funds to ISIS.

Original Post

After a fierce battle with Iraqi forces, the Sunni militant group ISIS took control of a crossing on the border between Iraq and Syria, making it easier for the group to shuttle weapons and supplies between the two countries. 

By the day’s end, a number of Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) fighters and Iraqi troops had died in clashes, mainly over the strategic town of Al-Qaim, near the border with Syria. Once the town was under ISIS control, the border crossing was abandoned, giving the group unfettered access to move fighters, weapons, and supplies between the two frontiers. 

Syria and Iraq comprise the basis for the area that ISIS aims to use to establish a new Islamist state in the Middle East.

Elsewhere in the country, Baghdad was the site of a massive parade by Shiite militiamen, a show of force against what’s seen as an inevitable ISIS offensive against the Iraqi capital. Crowds amassed as groups in all different uniforms marched with guns, swords, rocket launchers, and rifles.

In recent days, ISIS has captured Iraq’s largest oil refinery as well as Saddam Hussein’s old chemical weapons plant. They’ve also displaced tens of thousands of Iraqis, bringing the tally of refugees to over a million this year.

Source: Adam Chandler for The Wire

thepoliticalfreakshow:

ISTANBUL, Turkey — It was never simply about Syria for the extremists who have overrun Iraq so suddenly this week, even as they built their brand and carved out territory amid the chaos of the war against Bashar al-Assad’s regime. They called themselves the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) — and they were deadly serious about the name. The goal was to take big pieces of each nation and use them to build their own, to be ruled by a harsh and rudimentary Islam. The war in Syria was most useful in this sense: A weakened regime gave them room to operate, as well as an easy means of recruitment.

STATEHOOD

image

For those who say ISIS doesn’t have a strategy. #blackgold

This desire for statehood manifested itself across Syria. ISIS plastered its logo over the towns and cities it controlled with exuberance. Its fighters were said to be irked by the nickname other rebels gave the group — Daesh, its acronym in Arabic — preferring the grandeur of the full title.

Now the offensive sweeping Iraq — a blitzkrieg assault that saw the surprise takeover of Mosul on Monday, and has seen ISIS and allied militants pressing closer by the day to Baghdad — suggests ISIS is booming. And it seems as intent as ever on state-building — taking over banks and security installations, even the airport, in Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city, whose population of 2 million would put it fifth on the list of U.S. cities. As jihadi expert Aaron Zelin noted, taking a look at these boundaries on a map, the territory includes a number of oil refineries. “For those who think ISIS doesn’t have a strategy. #blackgold,” he wrote.

To be sure, ISIS seems to have collaborated in this offensive with some of Iraq’s disenchanted Sunni groups, including Baathist officers from the Saddam Hussein era. And much of its success can be blamed on the dysfunction of the Iraqi state, marred by the U.S. war and the disastrous tenure of Nouri al-Maliki, the Shiite prime minister. Iraqi troops reportedly laid down their arms and fled before the far smaller invading force. Though ISIS leaders are urging their forces onward to Baghdad, it remains to be seen whether the group will hold its recent gains or pull back to its stronghold in Syria.

Regardless, the idea of a possible ISIS state has now been made very real — both to a worried international community, and to potential supporters watching from the sidelines. One of the group’s first moves after its win in Mosul, according to images posted by fighters online, was to take commandeered bulldozers and demolish the borderline between Syria and Iraq.

ABDUCTION, IMPRISONMENT, AND TORTURE

ABDUCTION, IMPRISONMENT, AND TORTURE

Refugees fleeing Mosul. AP Photo

As ISIS grew into one of Syria’s most fearsome militant groups, signs of the intensity of its vision became apparent. The group cracked down relentlessly on its opponents, be they regime, fellow rebel, or simply civilian. It employed abduction,imprisonment and torture on a grand scale, beheadings, and crucifixions — all a dark preview for the new reality the group was trying to create.

This brutality made ISIS increasingly unpopular among Syrians, as did the presence among its ranks of so many foreign jihadis, recruited from across the world, from Saudi Arabia to England. These outsiders developed reputations as some of the group’s most brutal and extreme members, adding to its image as an alien oppressor. The group’s senior leadership, though secretive, was believed to be Iraqi. After those in the organization’s ranks came other foreigners, some Syrians complained, saying that local recruits were used mainly as rank and file, guards and frontline soldiers, and fodder for suicide attacks. Other rebel groups launched aninternal war against ISIS earlier this year, and even the local branch of al-Qaeda joined the fight — even for them, ISIS had become too extreme. At times, ISIS seemed to be on the ropes in Syria, but its recent gains in Iraq will put that narrative to rest.

SPILLOVER

SPILLOVER

Kurdish Iraqi Peshmerga forces deploy their troops and armored vehicles on the outskirts of the multi-ethnic city of Kirkuk, not far from areas under ISIS control. MARWAN IBRAHIM/AFP / Getty Images

There is a word for the relationship between ISIS’s steady growth in Syria and its newfound surge in Iraq: spillover.

Regional spillover is the alarm that has been sounded about the Syrian conflict from the start — often by critics of U.S. policy who called on the White House to put an end to the conflict by helping moderate rebels topple Assad. The risk was that a long war would destabilize Syria’s five neighbors, all of them important allies. (The Obama administration’s supporters countered that serious U.S. involvement would only magnify the effect.) In Lebanon, which has descended into regular sectarian bloodletting, the spillover happened gradually, in fits and starts. Turkey and Jordan, likewise, were pulled ever deeper into the murky world of offering assistance to the rebels while taking on the burden of hundreds of thousands of refugees.

The recent ISIS surge in Iraq has been far more jarring. It threatens to undermine any progress U.S. forces made before leaving the country in late 2011. It also looks a lot like a worst-case scenario, threatening to throw the region even further into chaos. The world’s most dangerous extremists — as many experts now describe ISIS — now control significant territory, appear to be armed with significant weaponry, and have just received a very significant boost to morale. ISIS and its allies captured the Iraqi cities of Ramadi and Fallujah earlier this year, prompting a flurry of international concern that soon dropped from the news headlines. But Mosul is a far greater prize.

REGIONAL FALLOUT

REGIONAL FALLOUT

AP Photo

It remains to be seen whether Iraq’s neighbors will be drawn into this brewing and sectarian fight. If they do make it to Baghdad, ISIS and its allies will deal a bracingblow to Prime Minister Maliki; with his army in a shambles, he has reportedly turned to irregular Shiite militias. Iraq’s Kurds are already up in arms and reportedly skirmishing with ISIS, playing out tensions inflamed by the war in Syria, where ISIS has engaged in bitter fighting with Syrian Kurds.

In Turkey, the military has already sent shells, on occasion, across the border into Syria, aimed at both ISIS and the regime. But the crisis in Iraq threatens to draw in the powerful NATO country even deeper, with ISIS having kidnapped Turkish diplomats and staff from the consulate in Mosul on Wednesday. Markets in Turkey dipped at news of the Mosul offensive while the press has speculated that the Turkish military may somehow intervene. But after years of allowing foreign fighters to cross its borders into northern Syria, Turkey has given ISIS the chance to build up a dangerous presence in its own back yard.

Iran, Maliki’s Shiite benefactor, has been heavily engaged in propping up the Assad regime in Syria. It may now see fit to step lend a hand to its ally in Iraq. On Thursday, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani warned that Tehran would not “tolerate this violence and terror.”

Smaller countries such as Lebanon and Jordan, meanwhile, would only suffer from any further regional instability. “The problem is that the U.S. expected its regional allies to bear the brunt of the containment of the Syria crisis,” said Andrew Tabler, a senior fellow at the the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, adding that the Obama administration’s best chance of stemming the ISIS tide is to help its moderate Sunni rivals. “You can’t defeat ISIS without having a moderate Sunni force in Syria. The same goes for Iraq.”

U.S. SLOW TO REACT

U.S. SLOW TO REACT

U.S. President Barack Obama delivers remarks during a Memorial Day event at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery, in Arlington, Va. Drew Angerer/SIPA/Abaca Press / MCT

But as in Syria, Iraq’s moderate Sunnis are looking weak, and the U.S. will likely remain “late, very late” in addressing such concerns, Tabler said. The Obama administration has been deliberate in its approach of limited action in Syria as elsewhere in the world, as it tries to wean the U.S. public and policymakers off the idea of America as the world’s policeman. The U.S. may well stick to that mind-set, even as warnings of spillover and worst-case scenarios sound louder than ever.

Source: Mike Giglio for Buzzfeed

thepoliticalfreakshow:

Iraqi voters braved the threat of sectarian and political violence on Wednesday to vote in the country’s first parliamentary elections since the 2011 withdrawal of U.S. troops.

Iraqi voters braved the threat of sectarian and political violence on Wednesday to vote in the country’s first parliamentary elections since the 2011 withdrawal of U.S. troops.
AP Photo/Nabil al-Jurani

The election came as Iraq is facing the worst bloodshed and political divides it has seen in years; at least 14 people died in attacks on voters and elections polls, including roadside bombs, the BBC reported.

The election came as Iraq is facing the worst bloodshed and political divides it has seen in years; at least 14 people died in attacks on voters and elections polls, including roadside bombs, the BBC reported.
AP Photo/Karim Kadim, File

For many Iraqis, today’s headlines are increasingly reminiscent of the years that followed the U.S-led invasion, when government corruption, sectarian fighting, attacks on civilians, and roaming militias made the daily life of Iraqis a continual struggle.

For many Iraqis, today's headlines are increasingly reminiscent of the years that followed the U.S-led invasion, when government corruption, sectarian fighting, attacks on civilians, and roaming militias made the daily life of Iraqis a continual struggle.
AP Photo/Karim Kadim

This year, more than 22 million Iraqis are eligible to vote, with more than 9,000 candidates vying for 328 parliamentary spots, according to the BBC.

This year, more than 22 million Iraqis are eligible to vote, with more than 9,000 candidates vying for 328 parliamentary spots, according to the BBC.
Ahmed Saad / Reuters / Reuters

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is running for reelection. He is expected to win — but his party is not expected to gain a complete majority in parliament; subsequent coalition-making negotiations would likely be a drawn-out process.

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is running for reelection. He is expected to win — but his party is not expected to gain a complete majority in parliament; subsequent coalition-making negotiations would likely be a drawn-out process.
AP Photo

In 2013, Iraq’s death toll reached the highest since 2007 —the height of the country’s sectarian insurgency; the U.N. estimated that at least 7,818 civilians and 1,050 security forces died. Already in 2014, more than 2,000 have been killed in fighting.

In 2013, Iraq’s death toll reached the highest since 2007 —the height of the country’s sectarian insurgency; the U.N. estimated that at least 7,818 civilians and 1,050 security forces died. Already in 2014, more than 2,000 have been killed in fighting.
AP Photo/Jaber al-Helo

A man mourns over the flag-draped coffin of his son on April 26, 2014.

This week, at least 160 people were killed in Iraq, BBC reported. Critics allege that Maliki’s heavy-handed rule and administration’s persisting corruption has enabled Iraq’s worsening sectarian violence, political polarization, and economic divides.

This week, at least 160 people were killed in Iraq, BBC reported. Critics allege that Maliki's heavy-handed rule and administration's persisting corruption has enabled Iraq's worsening sectarian violence, political polarization, and economic divides.
AP Photo/Karim Kadim

Civilians inspect the site of a car bomb attack in Baghdad’s Sadr City neighborhood on April 9, 2014.

The day of elections, tensions were high. There was a heavy security presence throughout the country; the government deployed hundreds of thousands of soldiers to protect polling stations and imposed a vehicle ban in Baghdad.

The day of elections, tensions were high. There was a heavy security presence throughout the country; the government deployed hundreds of thousands of soldiers to protect polling stations and imposed a vehicle ban in Baghdad.
AP Photo/Khalid Mohammed

In Anbar, where the jihadist Islamist State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has a heavy presence, only 70% of polling stations were open. Voting was also limited in nearby Ramadi, where largely Sunni militias have been battling Iraqi troops and Shai militias.

In Anbar , where the jihadist Islamist State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has a heavy presence, only 70% of polling stations were open. Voting was also limited in nearby Ramadi, where largely Sunni militias have been battling Iraqi troops and Shai militias.
AP Photo/Karim Kadim

Electoral workers count ballots as polls close at a polling center in Baghdad.

Despite the risks, these Iraqis came out to vote today, their ink-stained fingers a temporary testament.

Despite the risks, these Iraqis came out to vote today, their ink-stained fingers a temporary testament.
MARWAN IBRAHIM/AFP / Getty Images
AP Photo

An Iraqi Kurdish woman shows her ink-stained finger after voting at a polling station in Irbil, north of Baghdad.

AP Photo/Karim Kadim

An Iraqi elderly woman inside a polling station for parliamentary elections in Baghdad.

AP Photo/ Karim Kadim

A man and his wife show their inked fingers in Baghdad.

AP Photo/Karim Kadim

An elderly Iraqi woman after casting her vote inside a Baghdad polling station.

AP Photo/ Nabil al-Jurani

An elderly Iraqi man in Basra, Iraq’s second-largest city, southeast of Baghdad.

ALI AL-SAADI/AFP / Getty Images

Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki shows his ink-stained finger after casting his vote.

AP Photo/Khalid Mohammed

Women make ink-stained victory signs at a polling center in Baghdad.

AP Photo/Jaber al-Helo

Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr — one of the candidates — shows an ink-stained finger after casting his vote at a polling station in the Shiite holy city of Najaf, south of Baghdad.

AP Photo/Karim Kadim

An Iraqi family after voting in Baghdad. Even the children came for ink-stained fingers.

AP Photo

An elderly Iraqi woman outside a polling station in Habaniyah town, near Fallujah, Iraq.

AP Photo/Karim Kadim

An Iraqi woman inside a polling station for parliamentary elections in Baghdad.

AP Photo/Khalid Mohammed

An Iraqi woman after casting her vote at a polling center in Baghdad.

AHMAD AL-RUBAYE/AFP / Getty Images

An Iraqi man in Baghdad’s Sadr City district.

MARWAN IBRAHIM/AFP / Getty Images

Governor of Kirkuk Najm al-Din Omar Karim (right) and his wife after casting their votes.

AP Photo

Kurdish regional President Massoud Barzani at a voting station in Salah al-Din resort, Irbil, north of Baghdad.

AP Photo/Karim Kadim

An Iraqi woman casts her vote in Baghdad.

AP Photo/Karim Kadim

An Iraqi family show their inked fingers after casting votes in Baghdad.

KHALIL AL-MURSHIDI/AFP / Getty Images

An elderly man after casting his ballot at a polling center in the upscale Mansour Sunni district of Baghdad.

AP Photo/Jaber al-Helo

Source: Miriam Berger for Buzzfeed

A six-part series by New York Times reporter David Kirkpatrick destroyed several myths about the September 11, 2012, attack on U.S. diplomatic facilities in Benghazi, Libya, myths often propagated by conservative media and their allies in Congress to politicize the attack against the Obama administration.

Since the September 2012 attacks, right-wing media have seized upon various inaccurate, misleading, or just plain wrong talking points about Benghazi. Some of those talking points made their way into the mainstream, most notably onto CBS’ 60 Minutesearning the network the Media Matters' 2013 "Misinformer of the Year" title for its botched report.

Kirkpatrick’s series, titled "A Deadly Mix In Benghazi," debunks a number of these right-wing talking points based on “months of investigation” and “extensive interviews” with those who had “direct knowledge of the attack.” Among other points, Kirkpatrick deflates the claims that an anti-Islamic YouTube video played no role in motivating the attacks and that Al Qaeda was involved in the attack: 

Months of investigation by The New York Times, centered on extensive interviews with Libyans in Benghazi who had direct knowledge of the attack there and its context, turned up no evidence that Al Qaeda or other international terrorist groups had any role in the assault. The attack was led, instead, by fighters who had benefited directly from NATO’s extensive air power and logistics support during the uprising against Colonel Qaddafi. And contrary to claims by some members of Congress, it was fueled in large part by anger at an American-made video denigrating Islam.

Fox News, scores of Republican pundits, and Senators John McCain (R-AZ) and Lindsay Graham (R-SC), among others, dragged then-U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice through the mud for citing talking points that mentioned an anti-Islamic YouTube video on Sunday morning news programs following the attacks. Despite right-wing media claims to the contrary, however, Kirkpatrick stated that the attack on the Benghazi compoundwas in “large part” “fueled” by the anti-Islamic video posted on YouTube. He wrote (emphasis added):

The attack was led, instead, by fighters who had benefited directly from NATO’s extensive air power and logistics support during the uprising against Colonel Qaddafi. And contrary to claims by some members of Congress, it was fueled in large part by anger at an American-made video denigrating Islam.

[…]

There is no doubt that anger over the video motivated many attackers. A Libyan journalist working for The New York Times was blocked from entering by the sentries outside, and he learned of the film from the fighters who stopped him. Other Libyan witnesses, too, said they received lectures from the attackers about the evil of the film and the virtue of defending the prophet.

Another talking point that right-wing media used to accuse the Obama administration of a political cover-up was the removal of Al Qaeda from Rice’s morning show talking points. Kirkpatrick, however, affirmed in his NYTimes report that Al Qaeda was not involved in the attack in Benghazi (emphasis added):

But the Republican arguments appear to conflate purely local extremist organizations like Ansar al-Shariah with Al Qaeda’s international terrorist network. The only intelligence connecting Al Qaeda to the attack was an intercepted phone call that night from a participant in the first wave of the attack to a friend in another African country who had ties to members of Al Qaeda, according to several officials briefed on the call. But when the friend heard the attacker’s boasts, he sounded astonished, the officials said, suggesting he had no prior knowledge of the assault.

Kirkpatrick also dispelled the notion that the attack on the compound was carefully planned, writing that “the attack does not appear to have been meticulously planned, but neither was it spontaneous or without warning signs.” 

h/t: MMFA

The NYT investigation on the Benghazi story is yet more proof that the right-wing was using scaremongering tactics about what happened there as a tool to attempt to get Romney elected President in 2012, smear President Obama (and Democrats by extension) with impunity, and to deliberately harm Hillary’s reputation for the 2016 elections.

h/t: TPM

JERUSALEM — Israel’s centrist Yesh Atid Party introduced civil union legislation on Tuesday that would give same-sex couples access to the rights of marriage and free heterosexual ones from the religious strictures imposed on marriage.

Israel has no civil marriages, and some experts estimate that in recent years a quarter of Jewish couples have chosen to either marry abroad or live together without marrying rather than adhere to the chief rabbinate’s requirements for, among other things, proving Jewish ancestry. Hiddush, an Israeli group that promotes religious pluralism, recently placed Israel among the 45 nations in the world with “severe restrictions” on marriage; most of the other 44 are governed by Islamic law.

Arab citizens of Israel are married through either Christian or Islamic authorities, and encounter problems if they wish to marry outside their faith.

Supporters of the rabbinate’s control over marriage, divorce and other family matters say it is essential for the unity of the Jewish people. Jewish law prohibits certain unions — for example, descendants of the ancient tribe of priests cannot marry divorced women — so allowing civil marriage could create problems for religious marriage in future generations.

American Jewish leaders have strongly urged the adoption of a civil marriage law, fearing that many of their constituents would otherwise be unable to marry in Israel because their family histories do not fulfill the rabbinate’s requirements.

H/T: The New York Times

holygoddamnshitballs:

image

WASHINGTON — When a less-gray-haired Sen. Barack Obama declared, early in his first presidential campaign, that he would be willing to meet with the leaders of estranged nations like Iran and Syria without preconditions, he was roundly chastised by both Democrats and Republicans alike for naivete.

But now, after six arduous, solitary years of standing by a policy of preferring accord with rogue nations over recourse to full-on war, his approach seems to be on the verge of bearing fruit.

In Syria, President Bashar Assad has agreed to open his chemical weapons program to international oversight, and eventual destruction, after a furious round of diplomacy involving Secretary of State John Kerry and top Russian diplomats. And in Iran, a new, moderate president has responded to a personal letter from Obama, engaging in direct communication for the first time in years and hinting that he might be willing to pull back from his country’s controversial nuclear program in exchange for a reduction of painful economic sanctions.

None of the developments has occurred without context or notes of caution, but it’s nevertheless a remarkable turn of events for a president whose foreign policy, even a month ago, appeared to be in hapless disarray. If the diplomatic tracks in Syria and Iran pan out, proponents say they could point the way to the resolution of two of the most significant international crises facing the nation, without any American-caused warfare.

"The administration’s willingness to show both strength and smarts is paying off," said Joel Rubin, the director of policy at the Ploughshares Fund and a former State Department official, who has worked to promote conflict resolution in the Middle East through discourse.

"On Syria, the president demonstrated that there was a clear point that he did not want the regime to pass, and then took a window of opportunity to cut a deal that actually advances American security interests even more," Rubin added. "An ancillary benefit has been that it’s demonstrated to the Iranians that the U.S. is thinking before it’s shooting, and that’s a pretty new trend for the U.S."

Next week, the new Iranian president, Hassan Rouhani, travels to New York for the opening session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA). His arrival brings perhaps the greatest hope for a diplomatic breakthrough between Washington and Tehran in recent memory, and in turn, a possible vindication of Obama’s refusal to condone military strikes against the country.

Egypt’s National Salvation Front announced the appointment of an interim prime minister Saturday to run the country during a transition period in the wake of President Mohammed Morsi’s sudden ouster.

Former United Nations nuclear agency chief Mohamed ElBaradei was scheduled to take his oath of office at 8 p.m. local time on Saturday, a spokesperson for the National Salvation Front told NBC News.

ElBaradei, 72, is poised to join an interim administration headed by Adly Mansour, chairman of the supreme constitutional court, who was sworn in as interim president Thursday.

Meanwhile, supporters of the deposed Morsi again gathered in large numbers Saturday, a day after clashes with security forces and anti-Morsi protesters left 36 dead and more than 1,000 injured.

A Muslim Brotherhood statement said that the movement’s leader Mohamed Badie – who appeared at a rally on Friday after his arrest was ordered earlier in the week – was calling for people to “remain in the public squares of every governorate and every city until power is restored to him [Morsi] as the rightful ruler of Egypt.”

“God is great. He can crush every traitor and every treacherous tyrant. The people of Egypt will protect the Revolution, and will continue to demand their rights,” Badie said, according to the statement.

On Friday, thousands of Morsi’s Islamist supporters marched across a central Cairo bridge in the direction of Tahrir Square, which was also occupied by thousands of protesters whose demonstrations prompted the army to depose Morsi.

The Morsi supporters ended up dispersing after a clash involving a hail of stones, fireworks and sometimes gunfire. There were also clashes in other parts of the country, including Alexandria and the Sinai Peninsula, a hotbed for Islamist militants.

A new Islamist militant group calling itself Ansar al-Shariah in Egypt announced its formation amid the chaos.

The group said it would gather arms and start training its members, in a statement posted on an online forum for militants in the country’s Sinai region on Friday and recorded by the SITE Monitoring organization, Reuters reported.

The group blamed the events on secularists, Egyptian Coptic Christians, state security forces and army commanders, who they said would turn the country into “a crusader, secular freak.”

It denounced democracy and said it would instead champion Islamic law, or sharia, acquire weapons and train to allow Muslims to “deter the attackers, preserve the religion and empower the sharia of the Lord,” SITE reported.

Egypt’s military has been at pains to stress its takeover of power was not a military coup, but an expression of the will of the people as shown by the anti-Morsi protests.

This is key as it would threaten more than $1 billion in annual military aid given by the U.S.

h/t: NBCNews.com

nbcnews:

BREAKING: Egyptian military says it has ousted Morsi; crowds celebrate in Cairo

(GIF: Sarah Coffey / NBC News)

The Egyptian military said Wednesday that it had ousted President Mohammed Morsi and suspended the country’s constitution. Armored cars, tanks and troops deployed in the capital in what advisers to the president described as a coup.

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