Does ISIS have the capability of taking out a civilian passenger jet? According to an alarming new report by Reuters the answer appears to be yes.
The Islamic State has long been rumored as in possession of surface-to-air missiles, and now it appears a US ally is providing ground level confirmation of what might be a worst case nightmare scenario come true. The Lebanese Army has recently been engaged in a fierce campaign to root out ISIS terrorists from the Arsal border pocket - a northeast region of Lebanon bordering Syria which has seen fighting rage since 2014. As we previously reported, the operation is receiving some level of assistance from US special forces advisers as well as coordination from Hezbollah, while at the same time the Syrian Army is attacking from the Syrian side of the border in the Qalaman mountains.
On Monday, Reuters issued the following report based on official statements of the Lebanese Army:
Lebanon's army found anti-aircraft missiles among with a cache of weapons in an area abandoned by Islamic State militants, it said on Monday.
The arms cache also included mortars, medium and heavy machine guns, assault rifles, grenades, anti-tank weapons, anti-personnel mines, improvised explosive devices and ammunition.
Not only did Lebanon's army - which is working under the advisement of the Pentagon for the operation - confirm ISIS possession of anti-aircraft missiles, but last week it reported to have uncovered a similarly stocked Nusra (al-Qaeda in Syria) cache as well. According to the same Reuters report:
A Hezbollah offensive last month forced militants from the Nusra Front group, formerly al Qaeda's official Syrian branch, to quit an adjacent enclave on the border for a rebel-held part of Syria.
On Friday, the Lebanese army said it had discovered surface-to-air missiles in a weapons cache left by the Nusra militants in an area captured by Hezbollah and then taken over by the army.
Such anti-aircraft missiles, commonly called MANPADS ("man-portable air-defense system": heat seeking shoulder fired missiles capable of hitting targets flying at anywhere between 10,000 and 15,000 feet), have appeared on the Syrian battlefield in recent years in the hands armed opposition groups supported by the West and Gulf states, including various FSA and Islamist factions like Ansar al-Islam Front (operating in the south) and Ahrar al-Sham (operating in the north of Syria).
These groups have at various times filmed and demonstrated themselves to be in possession of externally supplied MANPADS, which are believed by analysts to have entered Syria in multiple waves via different routes and external sponsors, including old Soviet models shipped out of Libya, Chinese FN-6's provided by Qatar, and through NATO member Turkey's porous border with Syria. Some supplies were also likely gained through opposition takeovers of Syrian government storehouses as well as ISIS seizures of Iraqi government bases and equipment.
The Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control said it would target 10 entities and six individuals who help already sanctioned people who aid North Korea's missile program or "deal in the North Korean energy trade." The U.S. also aims to sanction people and groups that allow North Korean entities to access the U.S. financial system or helps its exportation of workers, according to the Treasury:
As a result of the latest action, "any property or interests in property of the designated persons in the possession or control of U.S. persons or within the United States must be blocked, and U.S. persons are generally prohibited from dealing with them."
Speaking on today's sanctions, Steven Mnuchin who, or rather whose wife today is in the news for an entirely different reason, made the following statement:
“Treasury will continue to increase pressure on North Korea by targeting those who support the advancement of nuclear and ballistic missile programs, and isolating them from the American financial system,” said Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin.
“It is unacceptable for individuals and companies in China, Russia, and elsewhere to enable North Korea to generate income used to develop weapons of mass destruction and destabilize the region. We are taking actions consistent with UN sanctions to show that there are consequences for defying sanctions and providing support to North Korea, and to deter this activity in the future.”
When it comes to North Korea, there are no easy solutions. Historically, every attempt at diplomacy has failed in the long run. Every attempt to get China to reign in their buffer state has also failed. And as time goes on, the military option seems less feasible.
Several days before he left the White House, Steve Bannon did a pretty good job of explaining why going to war with North Korea would be such a bad idea. “Until somebody solves the part of the equation that shows me that 10 million people in Seoul don’t die in the first 30 minutes from conventional weapons, I don’t know what you’re talking about, there’s no military solution here, they got us.”
At the end of the day, there may be only one thing we can do, and that is nothing. We can simply keep a lid on the country until it collapses, or until the population decides that they’ve had enough, and tries to change or reform the regime.
The latter of those possibilities may be more plausible than you think. While most people in America assume that North Koreans are hopelessly brainwashed into submission, that’s not true at all. As it turns out, there’s a sign that the starving and brutalized masses of North Korea are growing increasingly restless and disillusioned with their government. They’re turning to religion in growing numbers, and in defiance of their brutal regime. For instance, according to a U.S. State Department report, the number of Christians in North Korea has increased five-fold over the past five years, to somewhere between 200,000 and 400,000 people.
One thing most people forget about terrible governments is that they are kept in place by the same thing that every government relies on. It doesn’t matter if you’re talking about a democracy or an iron fisted dictatorship, they all rely on the consent of the governed.
In the former case, the people decide who rules them every few years. In the latter case, the people have either a literal or proverbial gun pointed at them at all times, but the government still needs either their consent or their submission. The moment the population decides that they’d rather risk death than worship the state, then that state is not long for this world.