Jason Ditz / AntiWar.com & David D. Kirkpatrick and Rick Gladstone / The New York Times – 2014-11-14 01:10:03
US Air War on ISIS Killing Civilians, But How Many?
Jason Ditz / AntiWar.com
(November 12, 2014) — US airstrikes around Jawsag, near Mosul, killed or wounded at least seven civilians today, including an unspecified number of children. Such vague reports of civilian casualties are now a near daily occurrence in the ISIS air war, but who’s counting?
Not the US, surely, as the Pentagon has insisted they have no information on any of the repeated reports of civilian deaths, and rejected any responsible for large numbers of slain civilians, particularly in Syria.
Rebel mouthpiece the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights seems to be hazarding an attempt to count the toll inside Syria, putting the number of civilians killed in the US and coalition campaign at at least 50.
In Iraq the attempts to count are even less formal, though the number in Iraq is likely to be considerably higher, with multiple reports that US warplanes have attacked ISIS-held towns, hitting crowded marketplaces full of civilians.
The US air campaign in Syria, so far, has focused on the outskirts of Kobani, trying to drive advancing ISIS fighters back, and the civilian deaths in Syria have come in the sideline attacks on Nusra and Islamic Front forces in held towns. In Iraq, almost all of the strikes are against held towns, meaning the risk is much greater.
ISIS Chief Returns, Vows ‘Volcanoes of Jihad Everywhere’
Jason Ditz / AntiWar.com
(November 13, 2014) — After a few days of speculation about an attempted US airstrike against him, ISIS leader Caliph Abu Bakr al-Bagdadi has emerged with a new audio recording which appears to have shown he survives.
The audio recording wasn’t specifically dated, though Baghdadi did make mentions to events that took place after the US airstrike, including Monday’s pledge of loyalty by a Sinai militant faction.
Baghdadi is alive and riled, mocking President Obama’s plan to send more ground troops, and vowed “volcanoes of jihad everywhere” against invaders he dubbed “Jews and crusaders.”
The audio recording does not necessarily rule out the idea that Baghdadi was present at the US strike or wounded, though the indications are that he is, at the very least, well enough to still be in power.
ISIS Chief Emerges, Urging ‘Volcanoes of Jihad’
David D. Kirkpatrick and Rick Gladstone / The New York Times
BAGHDAD (November 13, 2014) — Dispelling rumors of his injury or death, the leader of the militant group that calls itself the Islamic State issued a new call to arms on Thursday in a 17-minute speech, belittling President Obama’s plan to send more soldiers to Iraq and urging disciples to “erupt volcanoes of jihad everywhere.”
[Note: Although every major Western news agency that reported this story mention receiving copies of the audio of the speech along with printed transcripts in English, none of the news outlets posted the complete transcript nor did they link to it online. The New York Times offered a link to Kalimah, an ISIS website, but access to the website appears to be blocked, making it impossible to read Abu Bakr al-Bagdhadi’s complete statement.]
An audio recording of the speech by the leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, was distributed online, along with Arabic, English and Russian transcripts. It was first reported by the SITE Intelligence Group, a jihadist monitoring organization.
Mr. Baghdadi’s speech appeared to end days of rumors that he had been killed or grievously wounded in an airstrike carried out in northwestern Iraq on Saturday by the American-led coalition fighting the Islamic State.
It was not clear precisely when the recording was produced. But it alluded to an event that took place on Monday, when an Egyptian militant organization pledged its loyalty to the Islamic State.
With characteristic bluster, Mr. Baghdadi exhorted Muslims throughout the Middle East to rise up against “the agents of the Jews and crusaders, their slaves, tails and dogs.” He declared, “We see America and her allies stumbling between fear, weakness, inability and failure.”
The speech was distributed on the same day that top American military officials were testifying in Congress about the fight against the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL.
The Sunni Muslim group has seized a large area that crosses the border of Syria and Iraq. On Friday, Mr. Obama announced plans to deploy 1,500 additional soldiers to Iraq, effectively doubling the number assigned as advisers to help the Iraqi Army beat back the militants.
Mr. Baghdadi scoffed at that plan. “Here is Obama, who has ordered the deployment of 1,500 additional soldiers under the claim that they are advisers because the crusaders’ airstrikes and constant bombardment — day and night — upon the position of the Islamic State have not prevented its advance, nor weakened its resolve,” he said in the audio recording.
In a mix of anti-Semitic and other hateful language, he urged followers to prioritize violence against Shiite Muslims and, after that, the Saudi royal family. Of the group’s enemies, he said: “Dismember them. Snatch them as groups and individuals.”
Just days after the Egyptian militant group, Ansar Beit al-Maqdis, became the first significant group outside Syria or Iraq to declare its fealty to him as leader of the Islamic State, Mr. Baghdadi said he accepted its pledge of obedience as well as those of smaller groups in Yemen, Libya and Algeria.
Any Muslims in those countries should report to their local Islamic State affiliate as soon as possible, he said. “We ask every individual among them to join the closest unit to him, and to hear and obey the governor appointed by us for it,” he said, urging patience for others. “Soon — God willing — the vanguard of the Islamic State will reach you.”
He mocked news reports about the Sunni Arab states that are participating in the campaign against the Islamic State, and especially the heavy publicity about the role of a female fighter pilot from the United Arab Emirates.
“The Jews and crusaders are not in need of the effeminate pilots from the soldiers of the gulf rulers, nor are they in need of their planes,” he said. “The story of their participation in the crusade is just a media farce.”
Mr. Baghdadi appeared to claim that Israel was secretly involved in the American-led campaign as well. “Due to their fear and weakness, the Jews covertly and stealthily participate in this crusade,” he said. “They do not have the courage to announce this, out of fear of the Muslims.”
He also sought to push back against the many Muslim scholars of all shades who have condemned his self-proclaimed caliphate. The Western powers, he said, had “amassed all the palace scholars and utilized all their trumpets, satellite stations and media in the largest campaign of forgery, falsification, distortion and slander against the Islamic State.”
He predicted that the Western powers would soon be forced to engage in ground combat with his fighters, who are concentrated mostly in eastern Syria and northwestern Iraq.
“O soldiers of the Islamic State, continue to harvest the soldiers,” he said. “Erupt volcanoes of jihad everywhere.”
The Islamic State also disclosed in a separate announcement reported by SITE a plan to mint and circulate its own currency, using gold, silver and copper coins. The announcement did not explain when the currency would be introduced or other important details, but that it was meant to liberate users from the “satanic usury-based global economic system.”
David D. Kirkpatrick reported from Baghdad, and Rick Gladstone from New York.
US ‘Actively Considering’ Combat Troops in Iraq
Jason Ditz / AntiWar.com
(November 13, 2014) — To the extent that anyone still believes President Obama’s pledge that the ever-growing number of ground troops sent to Iraq, the notion was destroyed by comments from Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman General Martin Dempsey in testimony to Congress.
Gen. Dempsey confirmed that the US is “actively considering” the use of ground troops in direct combat roles against ISIS, in the course of its plans to send yet more troops on top of the 3,000 already there.
Dempsey is still trying to avoid scaring people off of what is shaping up to be an enormous, open-ended war, saying he didn’t think the number of ground troops would be on the scale of the last failed occupation of Iraq.
At the same time, Dempsey talked about the need for “80,000 competent” Iraqi troops to retake parts of Iraq, and in the absence of those troops it was clear that the Pentagon would be expected to fill in the gaps.
Exactly what is meant by “competent” in the context of Iraqi troops is unclear, though they have proven to be anything but in recent clashes with ISIS, hence the loss of such a large amount of territory already.
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