Top 10 ways Barack Obama has muzzled American media

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After US President Barack Obama entered office in 2009 pledging transparency and open government, it was a refreshing wind of change from the locked-down Bush years. The reality, however, has fallen dramatically short of the promise.

10. White House seizes phone records of Associated Press reporters
During a two-month period in 2012, the US Justice Department seized telephone records from some 100 journalists at AP offices in New York, Washington and Connecticut without providing any explanation. The government waited until May 2013 to inform the global news agency of the unprecedented surveillance, which naturally sparked a wave of consternation and not a little apprehension throughout the media world. “There can be no possible justification for such an overbroad collection of the telephone communications of The Associated Press and its reporters,” AP Chief Executive Gary Pruitt said in a letter addressed to former Attorney General Eric Holder.

AFP Photo / Jean AyissiAFP Photo / Jean Ayissi

9. Emmy-award winning reporter accuses government of bugging her laptop
In her book, “Stonewalled: My Fight for Truth Against the Forces of Obstruction, Intimidation, and Harassment in Obama’s Washington,” former CBS anchor Sharyl Attkisson says she was informed that one of the US government’s intelligence agencies “discovered my Skype account handle, stole the password, activated the audio, and made heavy use of it, presumably as a listening tool.” Further inspection of the laptop revealed classified US documents that were “buried deep” in her computer. The reason for the “plant,” according to her unidentified source, “was probably to accuse you of having classified documents if they ever needed to do that at some point.”

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8. News correspondent’s emails monitored
In May 2013, Fox News correspondent James Rosen was accused under the Espionage Act of possibly being a “co-conspirator” in the 2009 release of classified information on North Korea’s nuclear plans based on interviews with his Washington source. It was revealed that the US government monitored Rosen’s emails, a clandestine activity that would seem to have little in common with the spirit of a free press. The charges came at a very peculiar time. Republican Senator Marco Rubio reminded that Rosen had been aggressively reporting on the 2012 Benghazi tragedy, which saw the US ambassador to Libya J. Christopher Stevens killed during a massive protest. “The sort of reporting by James Rosen detailed in the report is the same sort of reporting that helped Mr. Rosen aggressively pursue questions about the Administration’s handling of Benghazi.” Was not-so-subtle pressure being exerted on Rosen to back off on Benghazi?

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7. Obama’s ‘Insider Threat Program’
Following a wave of whistleblowing activities inside government agencies, an “Insider Threat Program” is being organized inside government agencies that “require all federal employees to help prevent unauthorized disclosures of information by monitoring the behavior of their colleagues,” according to the Committee to Protect Journalists. In this atmosphere, instead of treating the disease of rampant intrusiveness of the sort revealed last year by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, the government hopes to merely hide the symptoms of its abusive powers. Since 2009, seven government employees, including Snowden, have been subjects of felony criminal prosecutions under the 1917 Espionage Act, accused of leaking classified information to the media. AP’s Washington Bureau Chief Sally Buzbee said some government employees have allegedly been told they could lose their jobs for talking to reporters, adding, “day-to-day intimidation of sources is also extremely chilling.”

6. Obama, the stage-managed president
Editors of The Associated Press condemned the White House’s latest novelty in the field of photojournalism of handing out press release-style pictures taken by his own staff photographers. These official photographs do little to capture history and are “little more than propaganda,” according to AP director of photography Santiago Lyon. Past presidential administrations were less restrictive about taking photographs, putting into doubt once again Obama’s claim that he aims for “the most transparent administration” in White House history.

US President Barack Obama (AFP Photo / Jewel Samad)US President Barack Obama (AFP Photo / Jewel Samad)

5. Censorship
In July, 40 news organizations reminded President Obama in a letter that any attempt to control what the public is allowed to see and hear is a form of “censorship.” The candid communication provided a picture of the increasingly repressive atmosphere US journalists must contend with when attempting to provide coverage on stories connected to the government: “Journalists are reporting that most federal agencies prohibit their employees from communicating with the press unless the bosses have public relations staffers sitting in on the conversations. Contact is often blocked completely: Reporters seeking interviews are expected to seek permission, often providing questions in advance. Delays can stretch for days, longer than most deadlines allow. Public affairs officers might send their own written responses of slick non-answers.” Meanwhile, the Washington Post reported in September that members of the White House press-pool have complained that Obama media officials demand changes to their stories before they are disseminated to the public, allowing the White House to put a positive spin on stories.

AFP Photo / Saul LoebAFP Photo / Saul Loeb

4. Bye-bye military embeds
As the Obama administration has opened its latest military offensive, this time against the Islamic State [IS, formerly ISIS] in Iraq and Syria, only a few photographs are trickling out of the war zone. Gone are the days when journalists were embedded in the military, documenting conflicts side-by-side soldiers as the action was happening. “News organizations can’t shoot photos or video of bombers as they take off – there are no embeds. In fact, the administration won’t even say what country the S. bombers fly from,” complained AP’s Washington Bureau Chief Sally Buzbee.

Lt. Gen. William C. Mayville Jr. speaks about the Syrian bombing campaign September 23, 2014 in Washington, DC (AFP Photo / Mark Wilson)Lt. Gen. William C. Mayville Jr. speaks about the Syrian bombing campaign September 23, 2014 in Washington, DC (AFP Photo / Mark Wilson)

3. Guantanamo Bay information blackout
Despite early campaign promises to close down the infamous Guantanamo Bay detention center, the facility is not only still open but the Obama administration is keeping the public in the dark as the military tribunal against some 175 alleged terrorists enters its closing stages. Photo and video coverage is outright forbidden. This is strange considering that even the Nuremburg hearings against Nazi leaders – who killed far more people than Al-Qaeda – permitted the media a front-row seat at the international hearings. It is also a very unfortunate and telling footnote to the American claim that it wants to spread democracy around the world.

Detainees participate in an early morning prayer session at Camp IV at the detention facility in Guantanamo Bay U.S. Naval Base (Reuters / Deborah Gembara)Detainees participate in an early morning prayer session at Camp IV at the detention facility in Guantanamo Bay U.S. Naval Base (Reuters / Deborah Gembara)

2. Investigation against NYT’s reporter James Risen
Following the publication of James Risen’s 2006 book, “State of War: The Secret History of the CIA and the Bush Administration” ex-CIA officer Jeffrey Sterling was hit with felony charges for allegedly revealing classified information involving Iran’s nuclear program. Department of Justice lawyer Robert A. Parker, arguing that the Pulitzer-Prize winning journalist should be forced to testify in the trial of Sterling, said there’s “no [reporter’s] privilege in the first place.” In June, the Supreme Court rejected an appeal from Risen, who now faces imprisonment for refusing to identify his source. “We can only hope now that the government will not seek to have him held in contempt for doing nothing more than reporting the news and keeping his promises,” his lawyer, Joel Kurtzberg, told the New York Times.

AFP Photo / Saul LoebAFP Photo / Saul Loeb

1. Hunting season for whistleblowers
The Obama administration has filed seven cases under the Espionage Act, the latest one against former NSA contractor Edward Snowden this June. Before Barack Obama was sworn into office in 2009, there had been only three cases of the government using the Espionage Act to prosecute government officials for blowing the whistle on questionable activities. “There’s no question that this has a chilling effect,” Mark Mazzetti, who covers national security issues for the New York Times, told the Washington Post. “People who have talked in the past are less willing to talk now.”

Germany could be home to 7,000 Muslim extremists by Christmas

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German authorities fear there could be as many as 7,000 Muslim extremists in the country by the end of the year. Disenfranchised youths are particularly vulnerable to being recruited, while there are around 450 German extremists in Syria and Iraq.

The extremists all follow the strict interpretation of Islam known as Salafism and believe that jihad is a legitimate tool in their fight against the West, which they believe is an enemy of Islam. Hans-Georg Maassen, who is the head of Germany’s BfV domestic intelligence agency,told rbb-Inforadi that there are currently around 6,300 Islamic extremists in Germany, but this figure could rise to as many as 7,000 by the end of the year, AP reports.

There has been a steep rise in the number of Germans attracted to fundamentalist Islam. Three years ago there were only in the region of 3,800 followers of Salafism in the country, which then rose to 4,500 in 2012.

Speaking in late August in Berlin, Maassen said young Muslims are attracted to Islamic State (IS) because of its brutality. The militant group has become infamous for beheading captives amongst other things. The German domestic intelligence chief also says the group formally known as ISIS, seems to be “more authentic” than Al-Qaeda.

“There is a link between the successes IS has had so far in Iraq and the activities here in Germany and the propaganda and canvassing activities aimed at young jihadists,” said Maassen, which was reported by Reuters. “The Islamic State is, so to speak, the ‘in’ thing – much more attractive than the Nusra Front, the al Qaeda spin-off in Syria.”

“What attracts people is the intense brutality, the radicalism and rigor. That suggests to them that it is a more authentic organization even than al Qaeda,” he said. “Al Qaeda fades besides the Islamic State when it comes to brutality,” the BfV chief added.

Massen also mentioned that many young people who feel disenfranchised from society are attracted to extremist Islamic groups, as it gives them a sense of belonging and purpose. They hope that by joining such organizations, they will go “from being underdogs to top dogs.”

It is estimated that around 450 Islamic fundamentalists from Germany have travelled to Syria and Iraq. According to German authorities the majority are German nationals, with about 30 percent coming from a number of nations, which include Turkey, Morocco and Bosnia.

AP quoted a security official as saying that around a quarter of them are converts to Islam.

The BfV estimates that there are currently around 43,000 Islamists in Germany overall, with 1,000 being of serious concern, while 130 are under round-the-clock surveillance.

A report by German security officials also found that the “most important factor for radicalization” was friends. They had more of an influence than recruiters or radical imams, while the internet was also another important source to gain extremist followers.

The document states that it normally takes around a year for the vast majority of people to become radicalized, which would allow sufficient time for them to be offered help. However, identifying someone who is going through the process of radicalization is not so easy, with visible changes in behavior only taking place once the person is becoming more extremist, the report added, according to Der Spiegel.

DEMOCRATS RUN FROM HARRY REID

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Reid’s approval rating hovers around 20%

By Steven Dennis and Humberto Sanchez

Harry Reid’s caucus is running from him on the campaign trail, but that doesn’t mean a revolt is in the works — yet.

The majority leader has twisted the Senate into a pretzel all year to protect his vulnerable members, but the Nevada Democrat is now facing skepticism on the campaign trail from some of those same Democrats, as well as from some would-be newcomers. And there’s at least one scenario that could force his hand.

Still, there’s that old saying: You can’t beat somebody with nobody, and so far, none of the senators who might have the chops to take on Reid have made any noises about doing so.

That includes No. 3 Senate Democrat Charles E. Schumer of New York, who has long been seen as having the inside track to replace Reid atop the Democratic power structure.

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Schumer has shown immense patience, and Reid has given him tons of power in the meantime. But Schumer dismissed the notion Reid could get the boot.

“Is Harry Reid bigger than the majority?” NBC’s “Meet the Press” moderator Chuck Todd asked Schumer on Sunday, noting that nearly a dozen Democrats have suggested they’d like a different majority leader.

“Harry Reid will run for majority leader and he will win with an overwhelming, probably very close to a majority vote,” the New York Democrat said.

Reid “is not concerned at all,” his spokesman Adam Jentleson told CQ Roll Call Monday.

Still there are unknowns.

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Independent Greg Orman in Kansas could be the most intriguing wild card — particularly if the Senate is otherwise 50-49 Republican without his vote. The businessman is running against Republican Sen. Pat Roberts on a message of disgust for Washington, D.C., and its partisanship. He has said he won’t vote for Reid or Republican Mitch McConnell for leader.

What would happen if a majority-maker — or breaker — such as Orman demands a new leader as the price of choosing to caucus with Democrats? That would be analogous to the long-shot scenarios some House conservatives have pitched as ways to deny Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, another term with the gavel.

A Democratic aide predicted any senator trying to force a change in leadership in return for caucusing with Democrats would likely become “a pariah.”

“People would not take kindly to that kind of tactic,” the aide told CQ Roll Call. “If you are doing that then you are essentially telling the caucus, ‘You can’t have the leader you want because I say so.’ … I think you would be shooting yourself in the foot in terms of your own prospects to make what is essentially a symbolic point.”

Besides, the aide added, “It’s very deeply against the grain of what makes a caucus function.” Such a power-grab “would put a new leader in that scenario under a huge cloud — they basically would be assuming the leadership under a hostage situation — and I don’t think anybody would really want to become leader that way.”

A former Democratic leadership aide said there’s a “less than zero” chance of Schumer taking on Reid, given the loyalty he has on his team. The same goes for Schumer’s housemate, No. 2 Democrat Richard J. Durbin of Illinois, or Sen. Patty Murray of Washington.

Instead, expect a steady diet of blaming the White House, and more minor adjustments to assuage the malcontents.

“Any fallout that occurs would mostly fall at the feet of the administration and to the extent there are calls for change among Senate Democrats, I think Sen. Reid has shown himself perfectly willing to entertain different approaches and tactics to respond to his members while still remaining leader,” the former aide said.

Reid told CQ Roll Call in an interview last year that he’d like to stick around until 2022, indicating that other Democrats would only get their chance to lead the caucus if he dropped dead.

But the grumbling in the ranks has grown louder as Election Day nears.

At a debate Monday evening, Mary L. Landrieu conceded she has said previously she would back Reid. But she’s changed her tune.

“I said a couple of months ago that I would, but I’m going to make my decision based on what is before me and who is running,” the Louisiana Democrat said. ”I think Harry Reid gets beat up more than he deserves, and I’m not saying yes and I’m not saying no. I’m not saying no. I’m going to see what the leadership is, what the lineup is, and then make my decision.”

In a New Hampshire debate last week, Sen. Jeanne Shaheen sounded a similar note. She said there should be a contest to see who’ll the next Democratic leader, and refused to endorse Reid.

“I’m not sure who our choice will be,” Shaheen said. Pressed by the moderator to say whether she believed Democrats should have a choice, she said, “I do.”

“I’m not going to speculate on who, but I think, I think it’s important for us to have a contest in these positions because we need to think about how we’re doing business in the Senate,” said Shaheen, who is being challenged by former Massachusetts Sen. Scott P. Brown.

And Democrat Rick Weiland, who is challenging Republican Mike Rounds for the South Dakota Senate seat being vacated by retiring Sen. Tim Johnson, D-S.D., vowed to vote against Reid.

“Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell have given us the most dysfunctional government in a generation and they need to step aside,” Weiland said during a debate last week. His campaign made sure the statement reached reporters. “They have both failed the American people and it’s time for new leadership.”

Another Democratic senator who hasn’t endorsed Reid is Virginia’s Mark Warner, who said recently in a debate that both parties might be better off with new leadership.

Republicans, who need to win a net of six seats to reclaim control, have used the “Fire Reid” slogan this year on the campaign trail. It’s a similar tactic to the “Fire Pelosi” rhetoric against then-Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California that helped the GOP win back the House in 2010.

The Democratic aide dismissed the idea that Reid was an anchor for the party.

“People in races who are out there every day on the ground, they are not hearing … complaints about Harry Reid denying amendments from voters. That is all inside the Republican echo chamber,” said the aide, who noted the majority leader took the actions he’s taken because members asked to be protected from politically difficult votes.

“They are not going to turn around and blame him for doing exactly what they’ve asked him to do for the last few years,” the aide said, adding that Reid “is a big boy” who doesn’t take the criticism personally and has told members to do what they need to in order to win.

There’s also at least theoretically the potential for Reid to step aside if Democrats lose in a blowout — although there’s the counter argument that in that scenario you’d want an experienced tactician like Reid to engage in the daily battles with a newly ascendant McConnell.

Pelosi notably rebuffed a revolt after the 2010 shellacking cost her the gavel, and has shown no signs of budging since.

Niels Lesniewski contributed to this report.

Top Iranian Official: Obama is ‘The Weakest of U.S. Presidents’

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Adviser to Iranian president mocks Obama’s ‘humiliating’ presidency (UPDATED)

BY: Adam Kredo

The Iranian president’s senior advisor has called President Barack Obama “the weakest of U.S. presidents” and described the U.S. leader’s tenure in office as “humiliating,” according to a translation of the highly candid comments provided to the Free Beacon.

The comments by Ali Younesi, senior advisor to Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, come as Iran continues to buck U.S. attempts to woo it into the international coalition currently battling the Islamic State (IS, ISIL, or ISIS).

And with the deadline quickly approaching on talks between the U.S. and Iran over its contested nuclear program, Younesi’s denigrating views of Obama could be a sign that the regime in Tehran has no intent of conceding to America’s demands.

“Obama is the weakest of U.S. presidents, he had humiliating defeats in the region. Under him the Islamic awakening happened,” Younesi said in a Farsi language interview with Iran’s semi-official Fars News Agency.

“Americans witnessed their greatest defeats in Obama’s era: Terrorism expanded, [the] U.S. had huge defeats under Obama [and] that is why they want to compromise with Iran,” Younesi said.

The criticism of Obama echoes comments made recently by other world leaders and even former members of the president’s own staff, such as Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates.

Younesi, a former minister of intelligence in the country, also had some harsh comments about U.S. conservatives and the state of Israel.

“Conservatives are war mongers, they cannot tolerate powers like Iran,” he said. “If conservatives were in power they would go to war with us because they follow Israel and they want to portray Iran as the main threat and not ISIS.”

Younesi took a more conciliatory view towards U.S. Democrats, who he praised for viewing Iran as “no threat.”

“We [the Islamic Republic] have to use this opportunity [of Democrats being in power in the U.S.], because if this opportunity is lost, in future we may not have such an opportunity again,” Younesi said.

The candid comments by Rouhani’s right-hand-man could provide a window into the regime’s mindset as nuclear talks wind to a close.

The Obama administration has maintained for months that it will not permit Congress to have final say over the deal, which many worry will permit Iran to continue enriching uranium, the key component in a nuclear weapon.

About the potential for a nuclear deal, Youseni said, “I am not optimistic so much, but the two sides are willing to reach results,” according to an official translation posted online by Fars News.

Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have adopted a much more pessimistic view of Iran’s negotiating tactics, which many on the Hill maintain are meant to stall for time as Tehran completes its nuclear weapon.

Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R., Fla.), for instance, wrote a letter to the White House this week to tell Obama his desire to skirt Congress is unacceptable.

“Congress cannot and will not sit idly by if the Administration intends on taking unilateral action to provide sanctions relief to Iran for a nuclear deal we perceive to be weak and dangerous for our national security, the security of the region, and poses a threat to the U.S. and our ally, the democratic Jewish State of Israel,” Ros-Lehtinen wrote.

“If the Administration opts to act in a manner that directly contradicts Congress’ intent, then Congress must take all necessary measures to either reverse the executive, unilateral action, or to strengthen and enhance current sanctions law,” she told the president.

“President Obama does believe that by rewarding Iran and permitting it to do whatever it wants in the region, the mullahs in Tehran will be convinced to compromise,” said Saeed Ghasseminejad, an Iranian dissident and associate fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD).

However, “the result has been disastrous: Iran controls 3 Arab capitals (Damascus, Beirut, and Baghdad) and its allies just captured the fourth one (Sana in Yemen) and Iran’s economy has significantly improved,” Ghasseminejad explained.

“Unfortunately, it does not seem that the mullahs reached the conclusion desired by the administration,” he said. “Iranians believe this administration is weak, it has lost its economic leverage over Iran and there is no credible military option on the table. Iran has been rewarded upfront, they now ask for more while are determined to keep their nuclear program intact.”

Al Qaeda issues call to support Islamic State in new threat to America, “We urge all Muslims to back their brethren, with their souls, money and tongues, against the crusaders”

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For anyone who thought things might cool off, it’s just getting started.Four terror attacks in as many days, two in Canada one after the other, an ax attack in NYC and vehicular jihad in Jerusalem ……But no worries, Obama say, al Qaeda is on the run!

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For anyone who thought things might cool off, it’s just getting started.Four terror attacks in as many days, two in Canada one after the other, an ax attack in NYC and vehicular jihad in Jerusalem ……But no worries, Obama say, al Qaeda is on the run!Screen Shot 2014-10-24 at 11.51.22 AMMembers of jihad Syrian group Jabhat al-Nusra pose for a picture at a checkpoint at the Karaj al-Hajez crossing in Syria Photo: MOLHEM BARAKAT/REUTERSAl-Qaeda issues call to support Isil in new threat to American strategy, The Telegraph, October 17, 2014Al-Qaeda branch calls on group to support Isil in blow to American-led coalition, as monitoring group reports that Isil has been able to fly three Russian fighter jetsAl-Qaeda’s leading terror franchise has presented a new challenge to the American-led coalition in Syria and Iraq by calling on the group to back Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant despite the two groups’ fierce rivalry.
The call by Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula is doubly significant because its leader is believed to have been appointed as “general manager” or chief operating officer and deputy to Al-Qaeda’s overall head, Ayman al-Zawahiri.
In the past year, Zawahiri and the head of Isil, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, have clashed openly and the two groups have fought each other in Syria. But America’s decision to bomb not only Isil in Iraq and Syria but also a group of Al-Qaeda fighters accused of planning an attack on the United States has drawn the two rival jihadi organisations closer together.
“We urge all Muslims to back their brethren, with their souls, money and tongues, against the crusaders,” a statement released on Friday said. “We call on anyone who can wear down the Americans to strive to do so by military, economic or media means.” The American decision to bomb an outpost of Al-Qaeda’s official faction in the Syrian Civil War, Jabhat Al-Nusra, caused outrage in the rebel cause.
Many rebels were already angry that after refusing to intervene militarily on their side against the Assad regime, the US was nevertheless prepared to bomb Isil positions. The attack on Jabhat Al-Nusra, which had fought closely alongside other rebel factions, including pro-Western ones, was seen as an outright betrayal of the anti-Assad cause.
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Now the United States is having difficulty finding rebels to train and arm in accordance with the broader plans outlined by President Barack Obama to support the “moderate” cause in the war.
On a recent visit to the region, Gen John Allen, the retired US army officer put in charge by President Obama, made contact with the rebels’ political leadership recognised by the US and its western allies, but not the Free Syrian Army, its military wing.
He said that recruiting the rebel army would not happen immediately and would require a “holistic approach”. “At this point, there is not formal co-ordination with the FSA,” he said.
His words cast fresh doubt on America’s long-pledged commitment to bring about the downfall of the regime.
Without support for secular and non-jihadi Islamist rebels, the battle for Syria has become increasingly one between the regime on the one hand and extremist groups like Isil and Jabhat Al-Nusra on the other.
Some more moderate rebels are holding out in the south, and in Idlib and Aleppo provinces in the north-west. But the rebels in Aleppo are all but surrounded by the regime, while continuing to have to fight Isil on their eastern front.
In a further development, the monitoring group Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that Isil had been able to fly three Russian fighter jets captured from the regime. Though they have not been used in operations, the Observatory said the MiG jets were being flown with the help of defected Iraqi air force officers.
The United States said it had picked up no radar signs of the planes, but the Observatory said they were flying at low altitude to avoid detection by the regime.
The world’s attention has been focused on the Kurdish city of Kobane on the Syrian-Turkish border, where air strikes have helped the Kurdish YPG militia hold off an Isil advance.
But elsewhere, Isil forces have been strong in recent days. Kurdish advances in the north of Iraq seem to have halted, while Isil continues to make ground in Anbar province close to the capital Baghdad.
As for Syria, despite events in Kobane, the United States insist that it is of secondary importance to events in Iraq. If Jabhat Al-Nusra, which now plays a leading role in fighting the regime, including seizing territory on the border with Israeli-occupied Golan, joins forces with Isil, it will present a huge challenge to both the regime and American plans.
Analysts said the new statement did not resolve the ideological issues dividing the two – Al-Qaeda still objects to Isil’s declaration of a “Caliphate” with Baghdadi at its helm.
But it specifically rejected declaring Isil non-Muslims or heretics, as many of its opponents do, saying they are “no such thing”.
Instead it insists they are “brothers”. “We urge all mujahidin to set aside their differences and inter-factional fighting and move instead against the crusadetargeting all,” it said. – See more at: http://pamelageller.com/2014/10/al-qaeda-issues-call-to-support-islamic-state-in-new-threat-to-america-we-urge-all-muslims-to-back-their-brethren-with-their-souls-money-and-tongues-against-the-crusaders.html/#sthash.EBBJDHfW.dpuf