UK jets launch first attacks against ISIS in Iraq

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Tornado bombers from Britain’s Royal Air Force (RAF) have carried out their first attacks against the Islamic State in Iraq, according to the Ministry of Defense (MoD).

“This action is part of the international coalition’s operations to support the democratic Iraqi government,” the MoD said in a statement.

“In the course of an armed reconnaissance mission from RAF Akrotiri, two Tornados were tasked to assist Kurdish troops in north-west Iraq who were under attack from Isil (Isis) terrorists,” the statement continued.

Two Tornado GR4 aircraft were used, which are now based at RAF Akrotiri in Cyprus. The Tornado is an all-weather day and night fighter bomber, which has been in use by the RAF since the 1980s and is now becoming a little long in the tooth.

According to the statement, the patrol identified a heavy weapon position belonging to the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL), which was attacking Kurdish forces in the area.

The planes used a Paveway IV guided bomb and a Brimstone anti-armor missile to take out the position, as well as an armed pick-up truck.

Until now, RAF Tornados have been limited to flying reconnaissance missions over Iraq, and only began armed patrols after the UK parliament agreed to authorize military action against ISIS on Friday.

UK Defense Secretary Michael Fallon has said that RAF planes could be engaged in bombing ISIS for years to come.

Although there is widespread skepticism of the effectiveness of airstrikes, Prime Minister David Cameron has insisted that they are crucial in the future destruction of the hardline Islamist group, adding that the most important tools in the fight against the Islamic State are better armed Kurdish Peshmerga fighters and better trained Iraqi troops.

British hostage in new ISIS propaganda video panning Obama strategy

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The Islamic State (IS) has released a third video showing John Cantlie, a British journalist held prisoner for two years, in which he delivers a scripted propaganda speech criticizing US President Barack Obama’s strategy against IS in Iraq and Syria.

Cantlie slams Obama’s tactics of using airstrikes and coalition plans to use Iraqi troops, Kurdish Peshmerga and Syrian rebels to fight the IS. The journalist delivered a response to Obama’s recent speech on the 13th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, which he described as “prideful chest banging.”

“It was all disappointingly predictable; America is good, the Islamic State [formerly ISIS] is bad; and they will be defeated using aircraft and a motley collection of fighters on the ground,” he said, commenting on Obama’s speech.

Criticizing the US airstrikes in Iraq, Cantlie said, “Air power is good at taking out specific targets, but it is not good at taking and holding ground. For that you need effective and disciplined troops and it’s hard to see how this hodgepodge army with a long history of underperforming is going to be any form of credible infantry.”

The British hostage says organizing the Iraqi army will take months, and he dismissed the Free Syrian Army as an “undisciplined, corrupt and largely ineffective fighting force.” Cantlie adds that weapons, that the West provides to Syrian rebels, are sold by the rebels on the black market and then end up in the hands of IS fighters.

The five-minute, 34-second video was uploaded on Monday night. Cantlie, just like in the previous two videos, sits behind a desk in an orange jumpsuit, a reference to Guantanamo Bay detainees.

In an effort to rebuild the Iraqi army to be able to fight against IS, the Iraqi military command launched a campaign to re-enlist soldiers and officers who previously abandoned their units, so-called deserters. The New York Times reports that the de facto amnesty for deserters shows that the Iraqi army “desperately needs experienced soldiers.”

Abu Ismail, the owner of a plastics factory that was targeted on Sunday by what activists said were U.S.-led air strikes, gestures while standing at his destroyed factory in the Islamic State’s stronghold of Raqqa September 29, 2014. (Reuters/Stringer)Abu Ismail, the owner of a plastics factory that was targeted on Sunday by what activists said were U.S.-led air strikes, gestures while standing at his destroyed factory in the Islamic State’s stronghold of Raqqa September 29, 2014. (Reuters/Stringer)

The video appears to have been filmed before last Friday, as there is no mention of the British decision to join the US-led campaign. Cantlie makes no reference to British or US action in the regions, including US-led coalition airstrikes on Syrian oilfields and IS checkpoints, over recent days.

While the video was released on September 29, in the video Cantlie only talks about Obama’s 9/11 address and how the media reacted to his speech.

Cantlie quotes approvingly from a New York Times article critical of Obama’s strategy, written a day after Obama’s speech.

At the end of the video, Cantlie says “the Islamic State say they welcome meeting Obama’s under-construction army.”

Cantlie, who has worked for the Sunday Telegraph and Sunday Times, was kidnapped in Syria at the end of 2012. He had previously been captured in Syria in July 2012, but escaped after one week with the help from the Free Syrian Army.

Since August, the militant group released three gruesome videos showing the beheadings of US journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff, and most recently of the British aid worker David Haines. The IS has threatened to execute another British hostage, Alan Henning, if airstrikes hitting IS targets don’t stop.

Meanwhile, the UK has completed five missions over northern Iraq. RAF Tornado jets have not dropped any bombs on IS targets yet, however, and are currently engaged in reconnaissance missions, gathering intelligence of the area and searching for suitable targets.

Just like in the first two videos, Cantlie concludes by saying, “Join me again for the next program.”

OBAMA STRATEGY: CLAIM IGNORANCE, BLAME SUBORDINATES, HOPE PEOPLE FORGET…

The president has a pattern of deflecting blame and denying responsibility. With military action against ISIS underway, that’s a dangerous habit.

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BY JOSH KRAUSHAAR

The time-tested strategy for Obama: Blame, deny, and wait-it-out When national security is at stake, politics should stop at the White House’s edge ‘The president is the captain of the ship and should assume accountability.’
September 29, 2014 In attempting to downplay the political damage from a slew of second-term controversies, President Obama has counted on the American people having a very short memory span and a healthy suspension of disbelief. The time-tested strategy for Obama: Claim he’s in the dark about his own administration’s activities, blame the mess on subordinates, and hope that with the passage of time, all will be forgotten. Harry Truman, the president isn’t. He’s more likely to pass the buck.

His latest eyebrow-raiser came on 60 Minutes on Sunday, when the president blamed the failure to anticipate the rise of ISIS on his intelligence community for not informing him of the growing threat. “I think our head of the intelligence community, Jim Clapper, has acknowledged that I think they underestimated what had been taking place in Syria,” Obama said. Most early news reports dutifully pinned the blame on the intelligence agencies, with the president escaping any further scrutiny.

But anyone following the news over the past year would have been better informed than the commander in chief. As NBC foreign affairs correspondent Richard Engel said on MSNBC Monday: “It’s surprising that the president said that U.S. intelligence missed this one, because it seems that U.S. intelligence was the only group that missed this one. Everyone knew that Islamic extremists were on the rise in Syria and in Iraq; it was well documented. The extremists were publicizing their activities online—they were bragging about it. Journalists, including us, were interviewing foreign fighters. This was no state secret.”

Former Democratic Rep. Joe Sestak of Pennsylvania, the highest-ranking former military officer ever elected to Congress, told National Journal that the president was wrong to pass the buck. “As commander in chief, you’re accountable. You’re the one who is responsible whether the good ship of state is doing it right,” said Sestak, pointing to congressional testimony from former Defense Intelligence Agency chief Michael Flynn in February 2014 regarding the growing threat posed by ISIS. “The administration failed, and the president is the captain of the ship and should assume accountability.” Sestak is considering a Pennsylvania Senate bid in 2016, and he would be one of the Democrats’ top recruits if he ran.

The president’s defenders pointed to a recent David Ignatius interview with Clapper in The Washington Post, in which the intelligence chief indeed claimed he provided the White House with evidence of ISIS’s “prowess and capability.” At the same time, he also acknowledged downplaying the enemy’s “will to fight” and overestimating the capabilities of the Iraqi forces. It was an odd admission, given the long-demonstrated ruthlessness of the extremists in Iraq and Syria, and the long-reported struggles of Iraq’s military. And given the rosy projections of postwar Iraq during the Bush administration, it’s unusual to hear intelligence agencies making the same mistake twice. Still, it’s clear that Obama wasn’t blindsided by the rising threat from Islamic extremists in the Middle East. Outgoing Attorney General Eric Holder even warned that the emerging threat was “more frightening than anything”—back in July.

The elements of the administration’s blame, deny, and wait-it-out communications strategy has been front and center amid all the recent controversies. When the administration badly botched the launch of the health care exchange website, Obama said he was “not informed directly that the website would not be working the way it was supposed to.” This, for his signature achievement in office. Blame was later pinned on Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, who left the administration in April.

When officials at the Internal Revenue Service improperly targeted conservative outside groups for scrutiny, Obama first feigned outrage, saying he had “no patience for” the misconduct. But months later, as the public’s anger subsided, Obama said there “wasn’t even a smidgen of corruption” at the agency, and the administration has done little to hold anyone accountable since.

After CNN reported that Veterans Affairs Department offices covered up long wait times at several of its facilities, former Obama press secretary Jay Carney said, “We learned about them through the [news] reports.” Long wait times were hardly a secret, with Obama himself campaigning on VA reform as a candidate. To his credit, Obama signed legislation reforming the VA and replaced embattled Secretary Eric Shinseki. But the president himself escaped much of the blame, even though he was clearly familiar with the long-standing problems that the agency faced.

The administration’s approach to controversies was best crystallized by former National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor, who deflected criticism about allegations that talking points on the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, were altered for political reasons. “Dude, this was two years ago,” he told Bret Baier of Fox News. The remarks were perceived as flippant, but they underscored the success of the administration’s public-relations strategy. Buy enough time, and inevitably problems tend to go away—especially in today’s attention-deprived environment.

The difference between bureaucratic incompetence and not being fully truthful with the American public is a big one. In the aftermath of scandal, it’s easy to understand why the administration, when choosing between portraying the president as disconnected or dissembling, has chosen the former. But throughout his presidency, Obama has acted far from detached. In his second term, he’s relied increasingly on loyalists who are less likely to push back against the president’s wishes. It’s hard to square a president who reportedly is micromanaging airstrikes in Syria with a president who was unaware of the growing threat from Islamic extremists, which had been increasingly trumpeted on the network news.

“The biggest deficit [in politics now] isn’t the debt. It’s the trust deficit in our politics,” said Sestak. “A year or two ago, when the administration signaled it wasn’t going to use the [phrase] ‘War on Terror,’ that wasn’t correct. When they walked away from that, they suggested to the public we’ve got this in the bag.”

Indeed, at a time of American military conflict, truth in advertising is especially important. The president has avoided using the word “war” in describing the conflict with ISIS and new terrorist cells in Syria, but it’s hard to view it any other way. Military advisers have said ground troops will be necessary to prevail, even as the president continually rules out that option (most likely because it’s politically unpopular). Obama ridiculed the strength of the moderate Syrian militias just last month in an interview with The New York Times’ Tom Friedman, but now he’s praising their skill after his strategy abruptly changed.

It’s understandable that the president was trying to avoid acknowledging that he personally downplayed the threat from ISIS; as a sound bite, it would’ve been politically damaging. But it is crucially important, going forward, that he’s brutally honest with both himself and the American people about the mission. Using campaign-style techniques to deflect criticism from domestic controversies might be expected from any administration. But when national security is at stake, politics should stop at the White House’s edge.

Former Imam Of Oklahoma Beheader’s Mosque Apologizes To ISIS Day After Beheading

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PATRICK HOWLEY
Political Reporter

Patrick Howley is an investigative reporter for The Daily Caller.

The former imam of the Oklahoma City mosque attended by beheading suspect Alton Nolen apologized this week to ISIS for previously criticizing the group.

Suhaib Webb is currently the imam of the Islamic Society of Boston Cultural Center, which is part of the same entity under the same ownership as the Islamic Society of Boston, where Boston Marathon bombers Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev worshipped. Webb spoke alongside the late al-Qaida senior operative Anwar al-Awlaki at a Sept. 9, 2001 fundraiser for an Islamic radical who killed two police officers, according to FBI surveillance documents.

Webb previously served as imam of the Islamic Society of Greater Oklahoma City, where Nolen reportedly worshipped. It is not known whether Webb and Nolen ever met. Webb recently returned to the Oklahoma City mosque to deliver two sermons in October 2013, records reveal. Webb previously gave sermons there in November 2011, October 2010 and October 2008.

The day after Nolen beheaded a co-worker, and the same day that Webb was publicly linked to Nolen’s mosque, Webb apologized to ISIS in an online column he wrote for the Islamic Society of Boston Cultural Center entitled “Shame on Me: A Commitment to Discourse Instead of Demonization.”

“I woke up the other day and decided to skim through my body of work over the last few years,” Webb wrote. “Boy was I surprised at some of my posts and talks — the tone and the demonization of others — I compared ISIS to Ebola. While I don’t agree with ISIS, al-Qāida, certain progressives and others, I’ve decided to apologize to anyone that I have spoken ill towards or demonized.”

“I ask Allah to forgive me and to guide me to observe better character in the future,” Webb continued. “I asked myself, ‘Suhaib did you forget the 49th chapter of the Qur’an, Surah al-Hujurāt?’ Moving forward, I promise myself to address ideas instead of people, to be critical of thoughts instead of personalities and commit to ethics as best I can. That will create a better climate to unpack and examine current trends in our community, but ensure that I recognize other’s humanity and worth.”

Webb then asked Allah for forgiveness in his column.

As The Daily Caller previously reported, Democratic Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick and then-Boston Mayor Tom Menino appeared at inaugural events for the Islamic Society of Boston Cultural Center in 2009. The city of Boston gave a “subsidy” to construct that cultural center. The Muslim American Society of Boston, an affiliate of a Muslim Brotherhood front group, runs the cultural center.