Sunday, June 14, 2015

ISIS Seeks WMDs, Seven Trends To Watch In The Middle East, U.S. On Perilous Course

ISIL Seeks Ways to Acquire WMD

The latest press-release published by the followers of the self-proclaimed Caliph Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in its propaganda media outlet Dabiq shows that ISIL aims at the creation and consequent use of a wide range of weapons of mass destruction, including chemical, biological and nuclear weapons. In particular, the leader of the Islamic State claimed that it would be able to acquire nuclear weapons by purchasing them from Pakistan... However, according to various experts, this scenario seems to be highly unlikely, since the Pakistani nuclear arsenal is kept under the strictest control by a reliable government in Islamabad.

But a recent article found in the The Independent, cited Australian intelligence agencies claiming that this terrorist organization has already captured a sufficient amount of radioactive material to create a nuclear “dirty bomb” which scatters radioactive material across a significant distance  due to its powerful blast wave.

This fact was the driving concern of a meeting of the Australia Group in the Australian city of Perth which was held on June 5. This group is an association of 41 states that pursue non-proliferation of a wide range of chemical and biological weapons. As it was stated by Australia’s Foreign Minister Julie Bishop at this meeting, intelligence agencies have started registering active attempts to recruit high-profile specialists that are capable of putting different WMDs into production. It should be of little surprise then that ISIL has already started using chlorine in its combat operations in Iraq.

A publication that was featured in the Italian Il Giornale newspaper claims that Islamists will try take a hold of chemical weapon stockpiles in Libya. It’s curious that in September 2014 the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons which was monitoring the liquidation of Syria’s chemical stockpiles reported that Libya was to destroy up to 60% of its “raw materials” which could be used for the production of chemical weapons. According to the source of Il Giornale journalists,  some 850 tons of substances could soon fall into the hands of ISIL militants.

In recent months numerous reports stressed the possible use of chemical weapons in Iraq and Syria by Islamists. It’s believed that the nerve agent that was used in those attacks was sarin, an extremely deadly substance. These reports were featured in numerous outlets, including the Washington Post. However, these cases are not the first attacks carried out by Islamic terrorists with chlorine-based gases. Back in 2006-2007 Al-Qaeda used trucks loaded with chlorine-based gas containers and TNT for terrorist attacks in the Iraqi province of al-Anbar.

The Islamic State’s aspirations toward acquiring WMDs were confirmed by the information obtained after the decoding of a hard disk that was seized from an ISIL militant. This disk contained direct instructions on the use of chemical, bacteriological and other weapons of mass destruction in upcoming operations of this terrorist organization, reported by Foreign Policy magazine.

It is now clear why Islamists demand the release of Aafia Siddiqui who is known as “Lady al-Qaeda” in return for numerous hostages. Aafia is a Pakistani citizen that was arrested in 2008 in Afghanistan carrying documents on chemical and biological weapons. The whereabouts of this former specialist of the famous Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) was unknown since 2003, from the moment “Lady al-Qaeda” returned to Pakistan. During her interrogation, she allegedly took advantage of careless guards, seized their weapons and began shooting. As a result she was sentenced to 86 years in prison and is now serving time in Texas. Another “symbolic” expert on WMD that plays an important role within ISIL is Saleh Jassim Mohammed Falah al-Saba also known as «Abou Malik», this “expert” in the field of chemical weapons was employed at the Al-Muthanna plant back in the days of Saddam Hussein, and then in 2005 he joined al-Qaeda.

The rapid growth of the operational capacity of ISIL along with its capability to recruit tens of thousands of new followers, some of whom possess enough training to produce chemical, biological and even nuclear weapons, can only stress the fact that the international community must effectively confront this threat in order to evade  disaster.

To say the Middle East is experiencing trying times would be an understatement. The region is experiencing unprecedented chaos and lacks political and economic direction. The assumption is that most of this will go on for years to come, and it will likely get worse before it gets better. There are a number of trends and developments that are worth watching, some of which are being ignored by the media. In no particular order, the following are what anyone interested in the future of the region should be paying attention to:

The Lebanese Presidency 

Hezbollah has been holding the Lebanese presidency hostage since March of last year. Since May, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah has increasingly demanded that Michel Aoun be made president. Lebanon’s is not a normal democratic political system; the presidency is reserved for a Christian. That means that the two major political blocs, one run by Hezbollah and the other by those allied with Sa’ad Hariri, each field a candidate for president. Since the last Christian president stepped down Hezbollah has refused to play ball and has neutered the power of the Christians in the country by refusing to consent to the election of a president from the rival camp. In short, it wants a puppet president.

Hezbollah is well on the way to controlling Lebanon – and parts of Syria, as well. Nasrallah’s recent speeches marking Nakba Day and the Israeli withdrawal from Lebanon have been laced with language prepping Lebanon for greater involvement in the Syrian civil war. In addition, Lebanon is spearheading the battle of Arsal-Qalamoun to wipe out Sunni Islamists there. The weakening of the president in Lebanon is one of the last nails in the coffin of Christian leadership in the Middle East, as Christian minorities are increasingly deracinated from their ancient homelands.

The Saudi-Gulf Alliance 

When Saudi Arabia and the Gulf Cooperation Council launched air strikes in Yemen in March, this heralded a major shift in Saudi policy. Except for dabbling in the Bahrain crises during the Arab Spring, Saudi Arabia and the GCC have previously relied on the Americans to shield them. This was part of the Saudi-US pact.

Saudi Arabia and the Gulf provide the oil, the US provides the protection. But the rise of Iran, and US policy regarding the Islamic Republic, have unsettled the Gulf and the Saudis. Especially the prospect of Iran sitting astride the Bab-el-Mandeb and Hormuz straits, giving it a choke-hold on the region’s oil.

Testing their mettle in Yemen has been important for the Saudis. Commentators in the kingdom have now become outspoken about the problems with Iranian influence. Some are openly predicting war. There are rumors of a nuclear arms race. The Saudi-Gulf alliance is key to stabilizing the region and projecting Sunni power as a counterbalance to IS. With Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan weakened, there is a need for these royalist regimes to play a role.

The Rise of Nusra

n late may Al Jazeera released an interview with Nusra Front leader Abu Muhammad al-Julani. Covered by a black hood, with his group’s trademark black flag on the table and speaking softly, Julani explained Nusra’s goals were very different from those of IS. He tried to placate fears of sectarianism, arguing that although his men are devout Sunni Islamists, they aim merely to overthrow Syrian President Bashar Assad and will not persecute minorities. One could read this as a brilliant media coup by a savvy leader, but then, if Julani is that forward-thinking, the implication is that he is strategically positioning his group for the future.

Nusra Front is often ignored, partly because of its name, which doesn’t lend itself to easy reading, and partly because it lurks within an umbrella group called Jaysh al-Fatah, the “army of conquest,” which is made up of other rebel factions. It is principally ignored, however, because IS is the real threat to the region, and known for its horrific actions. But Nusra is the player to watch. IS is over-extended and under attack on numerous fronts. Nusra is gaining ground in Idlib and is one of the groups actually fighting the Syrian army, Hezbollah and their Iranian allies in Qalamoun on the border between Lebanon and Syria. If they can emerge from that contest even partially victorious they may end up being more influential than IS in the long run.

Kurdistan Independence 

Since the 1990s and especially since the US invasion of Iraq in 2003 the Kurds in the country have been striving for increased independence from Baghdad.

Autonomy grew in 2005 with the new Iraqi government’s structure that allowed the Kurdistan Regional Government to function almost like a mini-state.

Later the arrival of IS on the scene isolated the Kurdish region and its military forces from the central government in Baghdad, which became weakened in the face of the Sunni onslaught and the rising power of the Shi’ite militias. Kurdistan has become a sort of island in the storm raging around it. The success of the Kurdish- backed HDP in the recent Turkish elections and the increasing independence of the Kurdish region in Syria, Rojava, mean prospects have never been better for the Kurds. But can they transform these prospects into an independent state?

Mahmoud Abbas’s Successor

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas was born in Safed in Mandate Palestine in 1935.

He was elected president in 2005 and was supposed to serve a four-year term. The success of Hamas in legislative elections in 2006 made the PA wary of holding more and they were indefinitely postponed. The problem with finding a successor to Abbas is that the Palestinians need someone younger than his aging lieutenants such as Ahmed Qurei (78), Nabil Sha’ath (77). If the PA is plunged into uncertainty and chaos that will bode ill for both Israel and Jordan – and particularly for the Palestinians.

Kurdistan Independence 

Since the 1990s and especially since the US invasion of Iraq in 2003 the Kurds in the country have been striving for increased independence from Baghdad.

Autonomy grew in 2005 with the new Iraqi government’s structure that allowed the Kurdistan Regional Government to function almost like a mini-state.

Later the arrival of IS on the scene isolated the Kurdish region and its military forces from the central government in Baghdad, which became weakened in the face of the Sunni onslaught and the rising power of the Shi’ite militias. Kurdistan has become a sort of island in the storm raging around it. The success of the Kurdish- backed HDP in the recent Turkish elections and the increasing independence of the Kurdish region in Syria, Rojava, mean prospects have never been better for the Kurds. But can they transform these prospects into an independent state?

The Destruction of Arab Education

A BBC article recently gave readers a peek inside life in Mosul, the regional capital of IS in Iraq. Mosques are being blown up, private libraries having their contents dumped in the streets and many parents were keeping their children home from school to avoid IS indoctrination. Across the region education has been the main victim of the chaos, political uncertainty, civil war and murderous onslaughts of various groups.

Three Leaders’ Challenges 

Iran’s “Mr. Fix-It,” General Qasem Soleimani, has been the brains behind the extension of Iranian influence to Syria, Iraq and Yemen. But rumors that Iran is infiltrating thousands of troops into Syria to prop up Assad’s ailing army may give him too much influence over too wide an area. When Iran’s policy comes crashing down, Soleimani’s concept of projecting Iranian power to the “near abroad” will have been over-sold.

Similarly Turkey’s Erdogan’s dreams of transforming the power of the Turkish presidency seem to have been temporarily frustrated in the recent Turkish elections. If his party, the AKP, stumbles again it might be good for Turkish democracy and secularism, but it will lead to political instability.

Egypt’s Abdel Fattah Sisi is the mirror image of Erdogan, trying to combat extremism and reform the religious community. He too is well-received abroad and is not particularly liked in the region. His dreams of building a new capital city with help from the Gulf States is nice, but probably just a mirage. His courts keep sentencing Muslim Brotherhood members to death, but the Brothers will not be so easily vanquished, and if Sisi can’t inspire Egyptians he will prove merely a momentary stopgap to another round of violence.

Talks on ending a deadlock between Greece and its international creditors broke up in failure on Sunday, with European leaders venting their frustration as Athens stumbled closer toward a debt default that threatens its future in the euro.
European Union officials blamed the collapse on Athens, saying it had failed to offer anything new to secure the funding it needs to repay 1.6 billion euros ($1.8 billion) to the International Monetary Fund by the end of this month.
Greece retorted it was still ready to talk, but that EU and IMF officials had said they were not authorized to negotiate further. Athens insists it will never give in to demands for more pension and wage cuts.
"This is very disappointing and sad. It was a last attempt to bridge our differences but the gap is too large. One can discuss a gap, but this is an ocean," said a person who was close to the talks.

Both sides acknowledged the talks had lasted less than an hour, although even here accounts differed: Greece put the length at 45 minutes, EU officials at half an hour.
Following what it called this "last attempt" at a solution, the EU's executive Commission said euro zone finance ministers would now tackle the issue when they meet on Thursday.
With no technical deal apparently possible, the ministers are likely to have to make difficult political decisions on Greece's membership of the currency bloc.
Failure to keep Greece in the euro, after years of arduous negotiations and two emergency bailouts totaling 240 billion euros, would send it lurching into the unknown and mark a historic blow to the EU's most ambitious project.

Last Friday, Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras had indicated he would accept painful compromises on demands for austerity and reform in return for debt relief.
But the Commission said after the talks, which also involved the European Central Bank, that "the Greek proposals remain incomplete.
Tsipras says imposing yet more austerity on a country whose economy has shrunk by a quarter in recent years is futile, and will only deepen the suffering of Greeks whose living standards have already dived while unemployment soare

U.S.-based economic analyst Jacob Funk Kirkegaard cast doubt on the Athens government's longevity. He said Europe seemed to be giving up on trying to coax Tsipras toward the political center, opting for confrontation that might lead to "a new more realistic government".

"It is increasingly obvious he is not even a closet centrist but largely seems to agree with the left wing of his party. The euro area thus has no real choice but to seek regime change in Athens," he said on the website of the Peterson Institute for International Economics.

The latest affront to biblical sensibilities came this week when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Americans born in Jerusalem must not have “Israel” listed on their passports as their place of birth, saying the city remains part of disputed territory, WND reported. Such a move could provoke Muslims to violence, President Obama’s U.S. State Department argued, so the passport should say “Jerusalem” not “Israel.” Congress took the opposite stand, and the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the executive branch.

The Palestinian Authority hailed the decision. Saeb Erekat, chief PA negotiator, said it “sends a clear message to Israel that its policies of colonization are null and void.”

American evangelical Christian leaders were disappointed, saying the decision is just one more nail in a coffin that is getting darker by the day.

“Not allowing to declare that Jerusalem is in Israel is a final straw of judgment for America and I’ll tell you why,” said Mark Biltz, pastor of El Shaddai Ministries and author of “Blood Moons: Decoding the Imminent Heavenly Signs.”

“There are three Jews on the Supreme Court (Elana Kagan, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer) that voted against saying Jerusalem was a part of Israel because they were afraid of the ‘giants’ in the political arena around the world,” Biltz told WND.

“I agree with Chief Justice (John) Roberts’ dissenting opinion. He stated that ‘Never before has this Court accepted a President’s direct defiance of an Act of Congress in the field of foreign affairs.’”

Carl Gallups, pastor of Florida-based Hickory Hammock Baptist Church, host of a Christian radio show and author of “Final Warning: Understanding the Trumpet Days of Revelation,” agrees that time is growing short and America’s days as the leader of the free world could be numbered. It is conspicuously absent in end-time Bible prophecy.
“There can be no doubt that there is an amazing convergence of end-time prophecies occurring right before our eyes. Think of where we are in history – Israel is back in its land – a 2,500-year-old prophecy fulfillment – Jerusalem is in the hands of Israel, the nations of the world are rallying against Israel, including the U.S., and Israel is now literally surrounded by Islamic enemies who are publicly calling for the complete destruction of the Jewish state,” Gallups told WND.

Plus, he said, we are watching the Ezekiel 38 “alignment” of nations.

“Those specific nations were predicted to conspire together against Israel in the very last days – and we see these alignments (Turkey, Iran, Russia, etc.) playing out today,” he said.

With the rise of ISIS, the Middle East has become a veritable Islamic-led powder keg that could potentially explode into a World War III scenario, he said.

Talk of world war
Many world leaders, political figures, and major media and business personalities, including Pope Francis and billionaire George Soros, have recently been quoted in the mainstream media as declaring that we are now “on the verge of another world war.”

And, the nation continues to experience what Gallups calls “an outpouring of the Sodom and Gomorrah spirit sweeping the world.”
James Dobson, John Hagee, NRB President Jerry Johnson, Matt Staver of Liberty Counsel, Franklin Graham of Samaritan’s Purse and others have joined the chorus of Christian leaders who recently signed a document warning that if America goes forth with redefining marriage, there will be consequences. They have pledged to engage in civil disobedience if the ruling comes down in favor of same-sex marriage. The petition has now been signed by more than 43,000 Americans.

“The unthinkable is now being called ‘mainstream’ and ‘normal,’” Gallups said.

That reminds Gallups of another biblical passage.
“Just as in the days of Noah and the days of Lot, most of the world doesn’t even know, or care, that it is spitting on God’s Word in these matters. Jesus said in Luke 17 that the end times, just before the coming of the Son of Man, would be ‘just like this.’ I believe, along with millions of others around the world, we are now in those days,” he said.
“We are the first generation in history to see all of these things converging upon the world scene – coming down to a fine point – all at once. 

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