Despite Bombing Campaign, Islamic State No Weaker Than a Year Ago

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WASHINGTON (AP) — After billions of dollars spent and more than 10,000 extremist fighters killed, the Islamic State group is fundamentally no weaker than it was when the U.S.-led bombing campaign began a year ago, American intelligence agencies have concluded.

The military campaign has prevented Iraq’s collapse and put the Islamic State under increasing pressure in northern Syria, particularly squeezing its self-proclaimed capital in Raqqa. But intelligence analysts see the overall situation as a strategic stalemate: The Islamic State remains a well-funded extremist army able to replenish its ranks with foreign jihadis as quickly as the U.S. can eliminate them. Meanwhile, the group has expanded to other countries, including Libya, Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula and Afghanistan.

The assessments by the CIA, the Defense Intelligence Agency and others appear to contradict the optimistic line taken by the Obama administration’s special envoy, retired Gen. John Allen, who told a forum in Aspen, Colorado, last week that “ISIS is losing” in Iraq and Syria. The intelligence was described by officials who would not be named because they were not authorized to discuss it publicly.

“We’ve seen no meaningful degradation in their numbers,” a defense official said, citing intelligence estimates that put the group’s total strength at between 20,000 and 30,000, the same estimate as last August when the airstrikes began.

The Islamic State’s staying power also raises questions about the administration’s approach to the threat that the group poses to the U.S. and its allies. Although officials do not believe it is planning complex attacks on the West from its territory, the group’s call to Western Muslims to kill at home has become a serious problem, FBI Director James Comey and other officials say.

Yet under the Obama administration’s campaign of bombing and training, which prohibits American troops from accompanying fighters into combat or directing air strikes from the ground, it could take a decade to drive the Islamic State from its safe havens, analysts say. The administration is adamant that it will commit no U.S. ground troops to the fight despite calls from some in Congress to do so.

The U.S.-led coalition and its Syrian and Kurdish allies on the ground have made some inroads. The Islamic State has lost 9.4 percent of its territory in the first six months of 2015, according to an analysis by the conflict monitoring group IHS. And the military campaign has arrested the sense of momentum and inevitability created by the group’s stunning advances last year, leaving the combination of Sunni religious extremists and former Saddam Hussein loyalists unable to grow its forces or continue its surge.

“In Raqqa, they are being slowly strangled,” said an activist who fled Raqqa earlier this year and spoke on condition of anonymity to protect relatives and friends who remain there. “There is no longer a feeling that Raqqa is a safe haven for the group.”

A Delta Force raid in Syria that killed Islamic State financier Abu Sayyaf in May also has resulted in a well of intelligence about the group’s structure and finances, U.S. officials say. His wife, held in Iraq, has been cooperating with interrogators.

Syrian Kurdish fighters and their allies have wrested most of the northern Syria border from the Islamic State group. In June, the U.S.-backed alliance captured the border town of Tal Abyad, which for more than a year had been the militants’ most vital direct supply route from Turkey. The Kurds also took the town of Ein Issa, a hub for IS movements and supply lines only 35 miles north of Raqqa.

As a result, the militants have had to take a more circuitous smuggling path through a stretch of about 60 miles they still control along the Turkish border. A plan announced this week for a U.S.-Turkish “safe zone” envisages driving the Islamic State group out of those areas as well, using Syrian rebels backed by airstrikes.

In Raqqa, U.S. coalition bombs pound the group’s positions and target its leaders with increasing regularity. The militants’ movements have been hampered by strikes against bridges, and some fighters are sending their families away to safer ground.

In early July, a wave of strikes in 24 hours destroyed 18 overpasses and a number of roads used by the group in and around Raqqa.

Reflecting IS unease, the group has taken exceptional measures against residents of Raqqa the past two weeks, activists say. It has moved to shut down private Internet access for residents, arrested suspected spies and set up security cameras in the streets. Patrols by its “morals police” have decreased because fighters are needed on the front lines, the activists say.

But American intelligence officials and other experts say that in the big picture, the Islamic State is hanging tough.

“The pressure on Raqqa is significant, and it’s an important thing to watch, but looking at the overall picture, ISIS is mostly in the same place,” said Harleen Gambhir, a counterterrorism analyst at Institute for the Study of War, a Washington think tank. “Overall ISIS still retains the ability to plan and execute phased conventional military campaigns and terrorist attacks.”

In Iraq, the Islamic State’s seizure of the strategically important provincial capital of Ramadi has so far stood. Although U.S. officials have said it is crucial that the government in Baghdad win back disaffected Sunnis, there is little sign of that happening. American-led efforts to train Syrian rebels to fight the Islamic State have produced a grand total of 60 vetted fighters.

The group has adjusted its tactics to thwart a U.S. bombing campaign that tries to avoid civilian casualties, officials say. Fighters no longer move around in easily targeted armored columns; they embed themselves among women and children, and they communicate through couriers to thwart eavesdropping and geolocation, the defense official said.

Oil continues to be a major revenue source. By one estimate, the Islamic State is clearing $500 million per year from oil sales, said Daniel Glaser, assistant secretary for terrorist financing at the Treasury Department. That’s on top of as much as $1 billion in cash the group seized from banks in its territory.

Although the U.S. has been bombing oil infrastructure, the militants have been adept at rebuilding oil refining, drilling and trading capacity, the defense official said.

“ISIL has plenty of money,” Glaser said last week, more than enough to meet a payroll he estimated at a high of $360 million a year.

Glaser said the U.S. was gradually squeezing the group’s finances through sanctions, military strikes and other means, but he acknowledged it would take time.

Ahmad al-Ahmad, a Syrian journalist in Hama province who heads an opposition media outfit called Syrian Press Center, said he did not expect recent setbacks to seriously alter the group’s fortunes.

“IS moves with a very intelligent strategy which its fighters call the lizard strategy,” he said. “They emerge in one place, then they disappear and pop up in another place.”

VIDEO: ISIS Leader Admits They Are Being Funded by the Obama Administration

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Pakistani police arrested an ISIS commander, who admitted ISIS receives funds routed through the United States to recruit young people to fight in Syria.

Almost within the same week, President Obama admitted the United States was training and supporting ISIL forces. Here is the president’s statement.

The White House has said there was a mistake on the teleprompter read by the President and that the U.S. is not funding the Islamic State.

Yousef al-Salafi said he has been paid $600 per recruit he sent to Syria, according to Pakistan’s Express Tribune.

Just over one year ago, the United States was funding rebel groups in Syria to topple Syrian President Assad. ISIS was not a priority.

Now, President Obama is preparing to ask Congress for $5.3 billion for Syrian rebels to fight the Islamic State.

In the past, Washington has not done a good job of identifying the true opposition in Syria. Many are concerned that the weapons and supplies that are a part of this new package could end up in the hands of ISIS.

The Street Gangs More Vicious Than ISIS

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BY CHRISTOPHER DICKEY

El Salvador has been brought to its knees by gang violence, and the groups have infiltrated the U.S., too.
One of El Salvador’s former guerrilla leaders, who years ago traded olive drab for Irish tweeds and took up residence at Oxford University, can tell you exactly why his homeland is being torn apart right now by gang violence.

He can also tell you what that means to those of us who live under the delusion that the carnage in the streets of San Salvador this month—expected to get much worse this weekend—is not just a local problem in a faraway land.

 The body of bus driver Elias Emilio Melendez lies inside his vehicle after he was killed by suspected gang members during the third day of a suspension of public transport services in San Salvador, El Salvador July 29, 2015.
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Central America’s savagery is terrorism, pure and simple, says Joaquín Villalobos, and in many respects it is more horrible than the Middle Eastern brand. “Islamic terrorism decapitates and crucifies in its territories,” says Villalobos in a column for the Madrid daily El País. “In Latin America the criminals hang, decapitate, burn, chop up, and play soccer with the heads of their victims. In both cases terrorism is the method used to maintain authority.”

And Central America’s brand of terror is just around the corner from communities all over the United States, whether in the barrios of Los Angeles or at a derelict shopping mall next to a posh neighborhood on Long Island, as chronicled by Sarah Garland in her 2009 book The Gangs in Garden City.

The Salvadoran pandillas or maras, as the gangs are called, are in Washington State and in suburban Maryland on the fringes of Washington, D.C. Indeed, the FBI’s “National Gang Report—2013” (PDF), the most recent that’s been published, shows the two main Salvadoran groups, MS-13 and Barrio 18, are in just about every corner of this country. And, like other gangs, according to the FBI, they have infiltrated the U.S. military to get training and expand their influence. The feds also say that gang members show up on college campuses.

In fact, the Salvadoran gangs have roots almost as deep in the United States as they do in El Salvador itself. They started to grow in the 1980s, as hundreds of thousands of Salvadorans fled the civil war there, arriving in the U.S. to live, often without documents, on the margins of society. An estimated 40 percent of the population eventually “went north,” legally or illegally, to live and work.

Central America’s brand of terror is just around the corner from communities all over the United States.

El Salvador’s economy became dependent on the money sent back, but instead of going into the development of the country, most of the remittances went to buy imported consumer goods and the cash wound up in the hands of the very rich, who, in turn, spend it for their own protection and invest it abroad. Villalobos, the erstwhile revolutionary turned specialist in conflict resolution, concludes, “Exporting poor people has become the most lucrative business for the local oligarchs.”

Many of the immigrants’ and refugees’ children in the United States, often without documents and without futures, joined gangs on the streets and did time in prison, the graduate schools of violent crime. Then theywere deported back to their home country with all their newly acquired contacts and skills. Eventually, hardened and brutalized, tattooed with the indelible badges of their criminal tribe, some of them came back again to the United States in a truly vicious circle of worsening violence. It was a blending of the gang culture that existed in Los Angeles with the phenomenal violence that El Salvador experienced during the war from 1980 to 1989, waged by right wing death squads and guerrilla assassins, as well as by soldiers in the field.

El Salvador has been brought to its knees by gang violence, and the groups have infiltrated the U.S., too.

The kind of gang violence that grew up in El Salvador is now endemic in Guatemala and Honduras, as well, and it is localized terrorism as extreme as anything seen on the planet. Those three little countries rank among the five countries with the highest murder rates in the world.

The photographer and filmmaker Christian Poveda in his 2009 documentary La Vida Loca recorded the gang culture of cruelty and desperation in stunning detail. Soon after the film’s release, Poveda himself was murdered execution-style with four bullets in the head.

Over the last few days, the terror in El Salvador has brought virtually all of the country to a standstill: The slaughter of several bus and minibus drivers—five on Monday alone—has provoked a nationwide strike. Despite new waves of arrests, and the gangs’ hatred of each other, MS-13 and Barrio 18 are clearly out to show how powerless the central government really is.

In 2013, left-wing President Mauricio Funes negotiated a truce between MS-13 and Barrio 18 that dramatically reduced the country’s murder rate, but it ratified the power of the gangs in Salvadoran society, leaving them able to continue their protection rackets, their rapes, their drug dealing, and other crimes. By 2014, the murder rate was going up again, and Funes had to admit the truce had been a failure.

The government of his successor, former guerrilla fighter Salvador Sánchez Cerén, has said it is ready to put the army back in the streets to protect transport and combat the gangs.

A new round of Central American wars, and tragedies, may be about to begin.

Obama May Be Importing Radical Islamists Into the U.S.

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BY JIM KOURI

The bloody and terrifying war being fought between Muslim terrorists — from radical groups such as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), al-Qaida-affiliate Al Nusra Front and others — and the regime of Syrian President Bashir Al-Assad has brought the largest number of refugees and asylum-seekers to the United States in a decade. However, counterterrorism experts within U.S. law enforcement are concerned with terrorists using the refugee exodus as cover to enter the United States. And, according to the U.S. Department of State, many more thousands are expected to arrive in 2016.

Human rights groups specializing in refugees and asylum-seekers, like the International Rescue Committee (IRC), have been urging the U.S. government help thousands more from Syria relocate to the U.S., claiming that more than 12 million are in dire need of some type of humanitarian assistance. Meanwhile, the United Nations has estimated close to 200,000 fighters and civilians have been killed in the savagely fought conflict that includes beheadings, mass shootings of prisoners, killings of Christians and Muslim apostates and many others.

The surge of refugees and asylum seekers from Syria and other Middle Eastern countries, in addition to those coming here with visitors’ visas, has caused concern about the Obama administration properly vetting them, in order to identify Islamists and those with terror ties seeking to exploit the immigration system. Lawmakers are worried that not only is Syria the headquarters of ISIS, the most brutal and deadly of all terrorist groups, but also that Arab country’s state of chaos is making it extremely difficult to screen the refugees, many of whom possess little or no identification documents.

While Syrian refugees have already been resettled in the United States this year — with the goal of bringing upwards of 2,000 in by the years end — a number of American cities and states have been less than cooperative with Obama unilateral actions. A number of Americans are also suspicious of Obama’s program since it appears the only Syrians entering the U.S. are Muslims, a large segment of them being Sunnis, the same sect as al-Qaida, Al Shabaab, Boko Haram and the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.

Chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee Michael McCaul, R-Texas, had written a letter to President Obama voicing how he and other congressmen are finding it difficult to support Obama’s plan to resettle another 2,000 Syrian refugees in the United States in final months of 2015.

In the letter, McCaul mentioned what he and others have warned the Obama administration about in the past: that radical Muslim terrorists have repeatedly bragged on their Internet websites that there are plans to exploit any international program in order to breach the security of European Union nations and the U.S. mainland.

In the letter to Obama, McCaul also wrote about the national security threats posed by Obama’s magnanimous sounding refugee program that will cost the American people millions of dollars for housing, food, healthcare and other benefits given to refugees. “It’s one of the personal problems I have with the so-called progressives. They are quick to be magnanimous with other people’s lives and other people’s money. Then they give one another awards for their actions which actually cost neither blood nor treasure,” said former U.S Marine and police detective Michael Snopes.

“Despite all evidence towards our homeland’s vulnerability to foreign fighters, the Administration still plans to resettle Syrian refugees into the United States,” McCaul said in his letter to the President, which was copied to Obama’s so-called national security team including Secretary of State John Kerry, Attorney General Loretta Lynch and FBI Director James Comey.

“The Director of the National Counterterrorism Center and the Deputy Director of the FBI both sat before my Congressional Committee… and expressed their concern with admitting refugees we can’t properly vet from the global epicenter of terrorism and extremism in Syria. America has a proud tradition of welcoming refugees from around the world, but in this special situation the Obama Administration’s Syrian refugee plan is very dangerous,” warned Rep. McCaul.

ISIS Plans Massive Attack in India and Provoke ‘End of the World’ – “Armageddon”, ‘apocalyptic confrontation’ with America

ByPAMELA GELLER on July 29, 2015
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A recruitment document has revealed the Islamic State’s (ISIS) “grand ambition” to ignite a war in India, build a new terror army in Pakistan and Afghanistan, and provoke an Armageddon-like “end of the world” situation.

The document also urges the world to ‘swallow the bitter truth’ that the caliphate will survive and prosper until it takes over the entire globe and beheads every last person who rebels against Allah.

Obama’s response? His Secretary of Homeland Security, Jeh Johnson said — wait for it — that the government will call such attacks “violent extremism” over “Islamic terrorism” out of respect for the Muslim community. Jeh Johnson  announced this policy mandate at a national security conference on July 23.

Be afraid, my fellow Americans.

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“Why do you, and the Obama Administration, describe this as violent extremism and not – and refuse to use the phrase – Islamic extremism?”

Johnson responded, “I believe strongly – and I hear this over and over again from Muslim leaders in this country – that to refer to ISIL as ‘Islamic extremism’ concedes too much. It dignifies them as occupying some part of the Islamic faith, which is about peace.” Really, he pulled out that old line.

He further stated, “And so if you call it ‘Islamic anything,’ uh, we are dignifying this terrorist organization with occupying a part of the Islamic faith which Muslims in this country I know, push back very strongly on,” Johnson said. “So If I went into these [Muslim] communities calling it ‘Islamic extremism,’ I’d get nowhere.”

Lizza pushed back, “Isn’t the government denying the fundamental religious component of this kind of extremism by not using the word, ‘Islamic’?”

He added, “To some people, it sounds like political correctness.” To most people, really.

“I could not disagree more,” Johnson retorted.

Johnson then went on to state the alternative to identifying Islamic terror as Islamic:

“And so here domestically, I think it’s critical that in order to build our relationships and build our level of cooperation with the Islamic community here. Um, we have to say to them ‘Look, we understand that what this depraved terrorist organization is doing is no part of your religion.”

ISIS must be reeling at the Obama administration’s superior knowledge of Islam.

Boom.

A rose is not a rose and if you say it is a rose, you are a hater and a bigot.

“New ISIS document reveals ‘grand plan’ to wage war in India, trigger ‘Armageddon,’” Business Standard, July 29, 2015 (thanks to Narain):

A recruitment document retrieved from Pakistan’s lawless tribal lands has revealed the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria’s (ISIS) ‘grand ambition’ to ignite a war in India, build a new terror army in and and provoke an Armageddon-like ‘end of the world’ situation.

The 32-page-document, titled ‘A Brief History of the Islamic State Caliphate (ISC),’ has been obtained by American Media Institute (AMI), and says that ‘The Caliphate, according to the Prophet’, seeks to unite various terror factions in Afghanistan and Pakistan into a single army, the Today reports.

The document, which highlights a ‘never-before-seen’ history of the ISIS, describes future battle plans and urges Al Qaeda to join the group. It says that the self-styled Islamic State leader should be recognised as the sole ruler of the world’s one billion-strong Muslim population under a religious empire called, ‘caliphate’.

It also warns that ‘preparations’ are on for an attack in and predicts that an attack will provoke an ‘apocalyptic confrontation’ with America.

The document also urges the world to ‘swallow the bitter truth’ that the caliphate will survive and prosper until it takes over the entire globe and beheads every last person who rebels against Allah.

U.S. officials are concerned about the recruiting efforts of the ISIS, as the group has stepped up its online outreach.

Confronted with efforts by the Islamic State to inspire Americans to commit violence, the F.B.I. in recent months has apprehended people suspected of being Islamic State sympathizers soon after they came onto the government’s radar.

The F.B.I. has arrested and charged at least 25 people in the past three months with having ties to the Islamic State or other terrorist groups, compared with 20 people arrested over the previous year, according to court records.

The revelation came after former Punjab DGP K P S Gill claimed that the terror attack that took place in Gurdaspur, Punjab recently was carried out under the umbrella of the ISIS.

At least six people were killed and nine injured after three terrorists, who were armed with mortars and night-vision devices, apart from AK-47s, crossed the Ravi on the border and came to Dinanagar by taking the route to the railway track.

The GPS devices showed they were activated at Talwandi Point in Gurdaspur’s Parmanand village and their next target was civil lines in Gurdaspur town, around 25 km from Dinanagar.

– See more at: http://pamelageller.com/2015/07/isis-plans-massive-attack-in-india-and-provoke-end-of-the-world-armageddon-apocalyptic-confrontation-with-america.html/#sthash.7QI6y8Nd.dpuf

Report: Iran Executes Almost 700 People in Six Months, Obama Yells at Kenya About Gay Marriage

ByPAMELA GELLER on July 28, 2015
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The depth and breadth of Obama’s duplicitous hypocrisy is without equal. While our “Kenya-American” president excoriated our ally Kenya on the world stage about gay marriage, he remains monstrously silent about the treatment of gays under Islamic law (forget gay marriage in Muslim countries, just being gay will get you killed).

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Obama felt safe to abuse and attack a country that worships him. How brave of him to attack our key ally in the region — one under siege by Islamic groups (he didn’t talk about jihad, either).

Obama pontificated:

As an African-American in the United States, I am painfully aware of the history of what happens when people are treated differently, under the law, and there were all sorts of rationalizations that were provided by the power structure for decades in the United States for segregation and Jim Crow and slavery, and they were wrong.

You can always count on Obama to dredge up America’s worst moments in front of the world. It’s evil.

Kenyan President Kenyatta gave President Obama a big boy reality check. He said that Kenya has many more problems to focus on, and that the West should be helping them on issues related to equality for women, water sanitation, and economic growth before attacking laws that many Kenyans view as an important safeguard of their culture.

Why didn’t Obama bring up gay rights in the Iranian negotiations? They are executing gays at an unprecedented rate. Why hasn’t Obama ever raised the issue of gay rights about gays who live in Muslim countries under the sharia (Islamic law)? Muslims are throwing gays off the roof and Obama is beating up our allies over gay marriage? Gay activists in Iran estimate that thousands of gays have been executed by Iran since its 1979 Islamic Revolution. Most victims of capital punishment are executed via hanging.

Why give a country that executes its own people and threatens annihilation to its neighbors nuclear weapons, while insulting our ally over the sanctity of gay marriage?

Report: Iran Executes Almost 700 People in Six Months, By Mary Chastain, Breitbart, July 24, 2015

Amnesty International’s latest report on Iran states the regime executed 694 people between January 1 and July 15. This means the country averages at least three executions a day.

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“Iran’s staggering execution toll for the first half of this year paints a sinister picture of the machinery of the state carrying out premeditated, judicially-sanctioned killings on a mass scale,” explained Said Boumedouha, Deputy Director of Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Programme. “If Iran’s authorities maintain this horrifying execution rate we are likely to see more than 1,000 state-sanctioned deaths by the year’s end.”

The organization rallies against the death penalty, but they keep a very close eye on Iran’s executions. Amnesty claims the death sentences “are invariably imposed by courts that are completely lacking in independence and impartiality.” These suspects do not receive fair trials or access to proper defense attorneys. They are also shocked that some offenses are criminal within the regime, “let alone attract the death penalty.”

Courts found the majority of the executed guilty of drug offenses. A new law allows the death penalty for numerous drug charges, “including trafficking more than 5kg of narcotics derived from opium or more than 30g of heroin, morphine, cocaine or their chemical derivatives.” Amnesty found no evidence that a death penalty sentence lowers drug use or trafficking. In fact, despite the harsh new law, “methamphetamine production and abuse of hard drugs are skyrocketing.” Officials say at least 2.2 million Iranians are addicted to drugs. Only 1.3 million are in a rehabilitation program.

Iran hanged eleven prisoners a day before Amnesty released their report. Ten prisoners lost their lives at the Gohardasht Prison of Karaj, while another died at the Esfaham prison. The regime executed 65 people in one week during April.

From the National Council of Resistance in Iran (NCRI):

In the past week (from April 12 to 18), henchmen hanged at least 65 prisoners. Forty-five of these have been executed just in Karaj City prisons. On April 13, eight prisoners were hanged in Karaj’s Central Prison while 13 other prisoners were executed in Ghezel Hessar Prison. On the next day, 19 prisoners were hanged in Gohardasht Prison. And on April 15, henchmen hanged five prisoners in Gohardasht. Among those executed was Javad Saberi, a juvenile at the time of his arrest.

During this period, one prisoner was hanged on April 12 in Mehriz (Yazd Province), eight prisoners were hanged on April 12 and 15 in Arak, three were hanged on April 14 and 15 in Shiraz, four prisoners were hanged on April 13 in Esfahan, and four were hanged in Zahedan on April 18. Two of those executions, in Mehriz and in Shiraz, were public hangings.

The holy month of Ramadan did not stop Iran from executing or severely punishing people. At leastten people lost their lives during the month. NCRIreported the regime flogged 900 people for not fasting during Ramadan. That number includes young children and women. Another 3,000 received warnings.

The regime added more torture practices on political prisoners, because fasting keeps them extremely weak. “Prisoners are constantly experiencing symptoms of dryness of mucus, muscle pains, severe headaches, blurry vision, vomiting and numbness,” they state.

Officials cut off water to Varamin’s Qarchak Prison for women if they do not observe Ramadan. Police tortured and raped numerous women in this prison during the 2009 uprising. Prison officials told guards “to flog women who eat or drink during fasting hours.” But the regime also performed more executions during the holy month. On June 18, NCRI said the government readied 22 prisoners for death and issued ten more death verdicts.

– See more at: http://pamelageller.com/2015/07/report-iran-executes-almost-700-people-in-six-months-obama-yells-at-kenya-about-gay-rights.html/#sthash.Hg4vK8pH.dpuf