Screen Shot 2014-10-11 at 5.46.39 PM

By Liz Sly October 10 at 8:18 PM

REYHANLI, Turkey — The U.S.-led air war in Syria has gotten off to a rocky start, with even the Syrian rebel groups closest to the United States turning against it, U.S. ally Turkey refusing to contribute and the plight of a beleaguered Kurdish town exposing the limitations of the strategy.

U.S. officials caution that the strikes are just the beginning of a broader strategy that could take years to carry out. But the anger that the attacks have stirred risks undermining the effort, analysts and rebels say.

The main beneficiary of the strikes so far appears to be President Bashar al-Assad, whose forces have taken advantage of the shift in the military balance to step up attacks against the moderate rebels designated by President Obama as partners of the United States in the war against extremists.

The U.S. targets have included oil facilities, a granary and an electricity plant under Islamic State control. The damage to those facilities has caused shortages and price hikes across the rebel-held north that are harming ordinary Syrians more than the well-funded militants, residents and activists say.

At the start of the air campaign, dozens of U.S. cruise missiles were fired into areas controlled by the moderate rebels, who are supposed to be fighting the Islamic State. Syrians who had in the past appealed for American intervention against Assad have been staging demonstrations denouncing the United States and burning the American flag.

Kurds fleeing from Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian city of Kobane find shelter in Turkey, as they wait for action to save their homes. (Reuters)
“Everyone is angry with the airstrikes. For three years we have been asking for support, and now the West decides to hit only the Islamic State?” said Abu Wassim, a rebel fighter in the northern province of Idlib. The strikes are weakening the Islamic State, he said, but “empowering the regime.”

Since the outcry about the choice of targeting in the first days of the air campaign, the majority of coalition attacks have been concentrated in the three northern and eastern provinces governed by the Islamic State as part of its self-proclaimed caliphate, which stretches across the Syrian border into Iraq.

U.S. officials say the strikes are working to achieve the core American objective — to degrade and ultimately defeat the militants.

“The airstrikes are hitting the targets they are intended to hit,” State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf told journalists Friday. “They take out ISIL positions. They take out ISIL tanks. They take out ISIL weapons. That’s obviously helping,” she said, using an acronym for the Islamic State.

Residents of Islamic State-
controlled areas say the attacks have had a noticeable impact on the jihadist group’s tactics and behavior, forcing it to adopt a lower profile to avoid detection from the air.

In their self-styled capital of Raqqah, the foreign jihadists who until recently swept through the streets in armored convoys, showing off American Humvees and other booty captured from the Iraqi army, now drive around in regular vehicles, according to residents. A wealthy neighborhood of spacious villas has been abandoned by the Chechen, European, Arab and other foreign fighters who had moved in. They have relocated to apartments in the city center, blending in among the ordinary citizens, residents say.

Elsewhere, the militants have vacated headquarters, checkpoints, command posts, courts and other facilities, many of which had been conspicuously painted with the Islamic State’s distinctive black-and-white logo.

1 of 26
Intensified airstrikes push some Islamic State militants from Kobane
OCT. 8 TO OCT. 9, 2014
U.S.-led coalition stepped up airstrikes on members of the Islamic State around the Syrian border town.
Oct. 10, 2014 Smoke rises after airstrikes by the U.S.-led coalition on the Syrian town of Ain al-Arab, known as Kobane by the Kurds. Aris Messinis/AFP via Getty Images
“You don’t see them around like you used to,” said a resident of Raqqah, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

The strikes are not unpopular among ordinary people in Raqqah, who yearn for an end to the militants’ harsh rule, said another resident interviewed on a visit to Turkey. He also spoke on the condition of anonymity because he is afraid. Since the U.S.-led attacks began, Syrian government airstrikes have stopped, he said.

“The big difference between the coalition strikes and the Assad strikes is that the coalition strikes are accurate and they only hit the Islamic State,” he said, speaking during a visit to relatives. “The Assad strikes only kill civilians.”

Militants unbroken
But the attacks have not loosened the militants’ grip on power, he and other residents said, or had any significant impact on the militants’ capacity to launch offensives and capture territory, as the assault on the Kurdish border town of Kobane has demonstrated. Over a two-week period, fighters swept unimpeded through a string of villages around the town. Only when they reached the town itself did the U.S. military weigh in with intensified strikes.

U.S. officials have defended the response to the Kobane battle by pointing to the broader strategy, which is primarily aimed at rolling back the Islamic State’s gains in Iraq.

“In Syria, the purpose of the airstrikes largely is to get at this group’s ability to sustain itself, to resupply, to finance, to command and control,” Rear Adm. John Kirby, the Pentagon’s spokesman, told reporters last week. “They use Syria as the sanctuary and safe haven so that they can operate in Iraq.”

In Iraq, however, the United States has allies beyond the borders of the Islamic State’s territories who back the airstrikes, including the Iraqi government and the leaders of the semiautonomous Kurdish region. At least in some parts of the country, those allies are in a position to dispatch ground forces to capitalize on the airstrikes.

In Syria, the strikes have highlighted the absence of U.S. partners on the ground. Moderate rebels grouped in the Free Syrian Army were pushed out of the Islamic State’s northeastern strongholds during fierce fighting over the summer and now have no presence in the areas that are the chief target of the coalition attacks.

The one front on which the rebels are battling the Islamic State, in the northern province of Aleppo, has not seen any coalition airstrikes, even though rebels say they have asked for them.

Instead, the Syrian government launched a new offensive last week aimed at cutting off rebel supply lines to Aleppo city a few miles farther south, forcing the rebels to redirect troops from the fight with the militants.

Moderate rebels at risk
In Khan Sheikhoun, a front-line town in rebel-held Idlib province, the rate of government airstrikes has tripled since the U.S.-led attacks were launched, according to activists in the town.

“There’s a disconnect between a stated American policy that recognizes you need a credible local force on the ground and a campaign that is undermining those local forces,” said Noah Bonsey, a senior analyst at the International Crisis Group who is monitoring the war from Syria’s northern border with Turkey. If the U.S. government doesn’t speed up plans to support the Free Syrian Army, “a year from now there might not be any moderate rebels left,” he said.

U.S. officials say they are aware of the need to accelerate the effort to train and equip an effective rebel force in Syria. Harf said a Pentagon team will be dispatched to Turkey next week for discussions on ways to do that. The White House strategy includes a $500 million program to train and equip 5,000 Free Syrian Army fighters, but that still has not begun.

“We don’t have a willing, capable, effective partner on the ground inside Syria right now,” Kirby said Wednesday. “It’s just a fact.”

Even rebels who have received U.S. support now have withdrawn their backing for the U.S.-led air campaign, which they had initially welcomed. Harakat Hazm, the group anointed with the first deliveries of U.S.-made antitank weapons this year, issued a statement calling the American effort “a sign of failure whose devastation will spread to the whole region.”

The rebels say they have been put in a difficult position in which they are being asked to support a strategy that has so far brought them no benefits and is regarded with suspicion by ordinary Syrians. They are now insisting they will not support the strikes unless the strategy is extended to include toppling the Assad regime — a position shared by Turkey, which hosts the rebel leadership.

“We have no problem with striking the Islamic State, but people think it is Syrians who are being targeted, which makes it difficult for the Free Syrian Army to support America,” said Salim al-Birin, a commander with the Fifth Legion, another group that has received U.S. support. “That is why we want strikes against the regime as well. Then maybe people would change their minds.”

‘LOL #Holocaust’: NBA player sparks outrage over German selfie


A professional basketball player for the San Antonio Spurs has apologized after taking a selfie at a Holocaust memorial in Berlin and posting it on social media.

Danny Green, a 27-year-old shooting guard with the NBA champs, said he “showed poor judgment” on Wednesday when he posed for a cell phone portrait at the German capital’s grim Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe and then shared it on the web with a caption that quickly caused the gaffe to go viral:

“You know I had to do it one time lol #Holocaust” Green sent to his social media followers.


Twitter users didn’t let him off the hook easily though, taunting him with responses such as “You’re scum,” “You were a mistake” and “You are an uneducated moron.”

The Spurs then began their preseason with a game Wednesday against Alba Berlin, losing by a single point at the buzzer to the German team’s 94-point win.


“Off to Istanbul,” Green tweeted. The Spurs will be back in the United States to play the Phoenix Suns in Arizona next Thursday

The Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, or Denkmal für die ermordeten Juden Europas, was completed in 2005 and features nearly 3,000 concrete slabs in a 4.7-acre plot in Berlin.

Trojan horse: ISIS militants come to Europe disguised as refugees, US intel sources claim

Screen Shot 2014-10-06 at 12.24.18 PM

Islamic State militants are planning to insert operatives into Western Europe disguised as refugees, claim US intelligence sources, who unencrypted locked communications of the caliphate’s leadership.

The militant organization is afraid of using aircraft due to strict security rules, so they use land as an alternative, the US sources told Bild Am Sonntag, a German national Sunday newspaper.

Disguised as refugees from Syria, Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS) operatives will cross the border to Turkey. Then, using fake passports, they will travel further to European countries to conduct attacks.

“In view of the chaotic conditions on the Syria-Turkey border, it is nearly impossible to catch ISIS-terrorists in the wave of refugees,” wrote Bild Am Sonntag.

Because hundreds of refugees cross the Syrian-Turkish border every day, the jihadists have a good chance of remaining unnoticed in the crowds.

Turkey is also used by jihadists who want to join the IS in Syria, as they don’t need a visa to get there. They go on ‘vacations’ as tourists and upon arrival have almost no trouble finding a way to cross the border.

According to one of Iraq’s foremost security experts with unique access to intelligence, at least 100,000 jihadists were fighting in the ranks of the IS in August.

There are some 15,000 foreign fighters from the IS in Syria alone, including 2,000 Westerners, a US intelligence official told AFP in September.

Germany continues to be one of the main goals of IS
An official from the German Interior Ministry told the paper that the country is in the “focus of jihadist terrorism,” but there is no indication at this time of any concrete attacks.

German security says that about 450 extremist German Muslims traveled in the direction of Syria.

But it is still nearly impossible to track their country’s radicals when they are heading from Germany to Syria, as they don’t need a visa to travel to Turkey, a German official told the Jerusalem Post.

About 150 Islamic fighters have returned from Syria to Germany.

Last week it was revealed that German authorities encouraged some jihadists to leave the country. Ludwig Schierghofer, the chief officer in charge of counterterrorism at Bavaria’s LKA investigative police department, told public broadcaster Westdeutscher Rundfunk that such measure is aimed at “protecting our [German] population.”

The issue was “to get people out of the country” if there was evidence that “the danger existed that they might commit attacks.”

“If somebody had become radicalized and wanted to leave the country, then we tried to either let him depart, or even sought to accelerate their departure using legal means,” Schierghofer said.

The measure was introduced in Bavaria, southeastern Germany, in 2009, but then abandoned in 2014 after the authorities understood that they were actually helping IS militants.

IS continues Middle East advance despite US strikes
US-led airstrikes on the Islamic State are failing to stop the advance of the jihadists.

The militants are reportedly approaching the outskirts of the city of Kobani, a town in the Aleppo Governorate in northern Syria near the Turkish border.

The situation in the town prompted some 186,000 Kurds to flee the area across the border into Turkey, and groups of Kurdish volunteers wishing to cross into Syria to defend the town against the IS on Saturday clashed with tear gas-firing Turkish security forces refusing to let them pass.

Around 100,000 people remain in Kobani amid the violence.

Enemy tactics: Kurdish female suicide bomber ‘attacks ISIS jihadists’ in Kobani

“Those who stay in the area are living in very poor conditions, there is drastic shortage of food,” Muhammad, a Kobani resident, told RT.

According to Osman, a Turkey-Syria border resident, Turkish security forces prevent them from helping the Kurds, but the residents of Kobani will continue to assist them where they can.

“We are eyewitnesses of the event. It seems that the whole world has abandoned Kobani,” he told RT. “If the Kurdish forces don’t get the supplies they need there will be a mass slaughter among the Kurdish population.”

He added that so far the local residents “haven’t seen any results of US strikes against the Islamic State.”


Screen Shot 2014-09-29 at 12.41.35 PM

U.S. stocks went on a roller-coaster ride last week

Adam Shell and Kim Hjelmgaard 1:28 p.m. EDT September 29, 2014

U.S. stocks opened sharply lower Monday on worries over pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong. The Hang Sang Index is down nearly 2%, falling to its worst level since July. Newslook

Pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong are spooking Wall Street Monday, as U.S. stocks continued their recent run of volatility, with the Dow dropping triple digits in early trading, tracking the nearly 2% drop overnight in Hong Kong amid concerns over China’s move to limit reforms in the Asian financial hub.

Stocks pared early losses and were off their lows in afternoon trading. The Dow Jones industrial average was down about 75 points, or 0.4%, to 17,040 after being down more than 170 points in early trading.

The Standard & Poor’s 500 index dropped 0.4% and the Nasdaq composite index fell 0.3%, but both of those indexes were also well off their lows of the session.

The Hong Kong protest is the latest geopolitical flare-up to get Wall Street’s attention, and cause investors to pare back their risk-taking. U.S. stocks went on a roller-coaster ride last week and has been dogged by global uncertainty in Iraq, Syria and the Ukraine. The stock market has also been victimized by profit-taking in recent days as investors react to a market that hit fresh record highs a little more than a week ago, but which has since seen the market’s upward momentum stall.

The protests in Hong Kong drew a tough response from police who declared them “illegal” and used tear gas after pepper spray and warnings of greater force failed to disperse demonstrators trying to join a sit-in outside the government headquarters.

Hong Kong democracy protesters defy calls to disperse
Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index fell 449.20 points, or 1.9%, to 23,229.21. Stocks in mainland China, however, were slightly higher, with the Shanghai composite index up 0.4%. Asian stock markets were mixed elsewhere as Japan’s Nikkei 225 index rose 0.5% to 16,310.64.

The stock market, which had been a sea of calm, has suddenly turned into a scary roller-coaster ride.The Dow opened down more than 100 points today, extending its string of price moves of 100 points or more to a sixth session.

The market has been extremely volatile in the past week or so, and investors were rattled to start the week by the demonstrations in Hong Kong that began Sunday and had investors wondering if a repeat of the Tiananmen Square protests in spring 1989 was brewing.

VOLATILITY: New normal? Dow dips of 100-plus points

FLASHBACK: ’89 Tiananmen Sq. protest did not sink U.S. stocks

It is important to note that U.S. stocks were not upended by the high-profile street protests back in Beijing back in 1989. In fact the index rose 8% from the unofficial start of the Tiananmen Square uprising on April 15, 1989, until June 4, 1989, the day the government crackdown intensified and resulted in deaths, USA TODAY research shows.

If the Dow finishes down — or up — by more than 100 points today, it will mark the first triple-digit point move of six days or more since an eight-session streak from June 11 to June 20 of 2013. That decline was exacerbated by a so-called “taper tantrum,” as U.S. investors reacted negatively to the earliest hints that the Federal Reserve would begin to pare back its bond-buying program. The Fed started to pull back on asset purchases this January and are slated to phase out quantitative easing, or QE, next month.

The Hong Kong Stock Exchange is the fifth largest in the world, when measured by the market value of the companies listed on the exchange, according to the World Federation of Exchanges, citing data through the end of August. (WFE data does not include the London Stock Exchange.) The Hong Kong exchange has a market cap of $3.4 trillion. Only the New York Stock Exchange ($19.3 trillion), the Nasdaq Stock Market ($6.8 trillion), and the Japan Exchange Group and Euronext are bigger.

European shares were trading lower as Germany’s DAX index dropped 0.7% and France’s CAC 40 fell 0.8%. Britain’s FTSE index was only down 0.04%.

Friday, stocks rallied as traders reacted to news of the fastest economic growth since 2011 as the final reading on gross domestic product for the second quarter was revised up to 4.6% from the previous estimate of 4.2%.

Islamic State Terrorist Makes Chilling Threat, Says They’ll “Make Some Attacks in New York Soon” (Video)

Sep, 2014

by Duane Lester

Is there any doubt there are already ISIS terrorists in the United States, what with our border as open as it is?

That’s what makes this threat even more dangerous:

Farah Shirdon, also known as Abu Usamah Somali, is a Canadian citizen who left his native country to fight with the Islamic State in Iraq. He is seen in a recent propaganda video burning his passport and promising to destroy the U.S. and Canada.

“[We] will make some attacks in New York soon,” he told VICE News. “A lot of brothers there are mobilizing right now. … Mobilizing for a brilliant attack, my friend.”

So many targets. And only a fool thinks they are only looking at New York.

While that may be what this sub-human said, he could be lying. Especially when you look at the recent events at the White House.

Intel gathering, or coincidence?

Me? I don’t believe in coincidence. What about you?

Stocks plunge: Dow down about 200; Apple sinks 3%

Screen Shot 2014-09-25 at 12.34.07 PM

Global conflicts fuel nosedive

Stocks fell sharply Thursday led by a plunge in tech stocks as the Dow dropped about 225 points and Apple shares continued to slide.

Markets were unable to build on the previous day’s rally that halted a three-day slide. Investors remain nervous about global conflicts and economic growth.

The Dow Jones industrial average was down 1.3% and dropped back below the 17,000 level. The blue-chip index has been volatile of late and is on its fourth straight day of more than 100-point moves, with three of them down.

The Standard & Poor’s 500 index dropped 1.3% and the Nasdaq composite index plunged 1.7%. Both indexes are down for the fourth day out of the past five sessions.

Apple (AAPL) shares fell for a second straight day and was trading below $100 a share after glitches with the tech giant’s new phones and operating system came to light. Apple plunged about 3%.


Apple’s glitchy Wednesday: Bugs, bendable phone rile users

The yield on the 10-year Treasury note fell to 2.52% from 2.57% Wednesday.

In economic news, durable goods orders plunged 18.2% in August thanks to a sharp drop aircraft orders. Orders for durable goods excluding the volatile transportation category rose 0.7%.

Applications for unemployment benefits rose 12,000 to a seasonally adjusted 293,000 last week. Despite the rise, applications remain near pre-recession levels.


Durable goods orders slide 18.2% in August

Asian markets were mixed as Japan’s Nikkei index jumped .3% to 16,734.14 and Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index fell 0.6% to 23,768.13.

European markets were trading lower and losses accelerated after Wall Street’s decline: Britain’s FTSE 100 dropped 1% and Germany’s DAX fell 1.6%.

Stocks rallied Wednesday as the Dow ended up more than 150 points and the S&P 500 broke a three-day losing streak.