Tag Archives: Jordan

Foreign Fighters in Iraq, Syria More Than Doubled in 16 Months

by Jason Ditz

Roughly spanning the period since the US launched its war against ISIS, the number of foreign Islamist fighters who’ve flocked to Iraq and Syria has far more than doubled from June 2014, providing a huge influx of new fighters for ISIS and other groups.

In June 2014, the estimate was about 12,000 foreign fighters, a huge figure in its own right. The new report now believes the figure is from 27,000 to 31,000, meaning the “more than doubled” assessment of the report is putting it mildly.

The report estimates 6,000 fighters from Tunisia, 2,500 Saudis, 2,400 Russians, 2,100 from Turkey, and 2,000 from Jordan. The European Union member nations in general come to about 5,000, with France the largest at 1,800.

While across the Eastern Hemisphere the recruitment for foreign fighters is soaring, particularly in Europe and Northern Africa, the report says the North American figures are mostly flat, with 150 from the US and 130 from Canada.

The big concern is that an estimated 20% or 30% of these fighters are returning to their western countries of origin, meaning these countries will all be coping with significant influxes of now-seasoned fighters with international contacts.

Will Obama’s Plan To Sell Drones To “Allies” Backfire?

Washington D.C.- The State Department has announced a new policy change that will allow for the sale of weaponized drones to allied nations, but the consequences are far from clear considering recent events and regime changes in the Middle East.

In the video above, Ben Swann speaks with Amos Guiora, Professor of Law at the University of Utah, about what this policy could mean for American security and international relations.

US Hostage Kayla Jean Mueller’s Family Receives Photo from ISIS Confirming Her Death

“We are heartbroken to share that we’ve received confirmation that Kayla Jean Mueller has lost her life,” said a Tuesday statement issued by Mueller’s family after family members received a private message from ISIS confirming her death. According to CBS News, the email from ISIS included a photograph of her body. However, the above-linked video coverage by USA Today notes that US intelligence officials have yet to determine the time and cause of her death.

ISIS claimed last Friday that Mueller, a 26-year-old US aid worker who was reportedly captured by the terror group in August of 2013 in Aleppo, Syria, was the only casualty in a Jordanian air strike on an ISIS compound in Raqqa, Syria. Jordanian officials referred to ISIS’ claim as a “PR stunt” aimed at igniting hostilities between the US and Jordan. On January 3, ISIS secretly executed Jordanian pilot Lt. Moath al-Kasasbeh but continued to offer his safe release as a bargaining chip in negotiations with Jordan throughout the month, raising suspicions that Mueller might have already been dead prior to the Jordanian air strike that ISIS says killed Mueller.

ABC News notes that President Obama released a statement on Mueller’s death, saying, “It is with profound sadness that we have learned of the death of Kayla Jean Mueller. On behalf of the American people, Michelle and I convey our deepest condolences to Kayla’s family – her parents, Marsha and Carl, and her brother Eric and his family – and all of those who loved Kayla dearly. At this time of unimaginable suffering, the country shares in their grief.”

At the time of her capture, Kayla Jean Mueller was reportedly working to help reunite Syrian families torn apart by war and disappeared after leaving a Doctors Without Borders hospital. Her family released a letter today which was written by Mueller during her captivity and received by family members prior to her death. ABC News notes that the letter opens with an explanation as to how Mueller managed to get the missive to her family, which says, “Everyone, If you are receiving this letter it means I am still detained but my cell mates (starting from 11/2/2014) have been released. I have asked them to contact you and send you this letter. It’s hard to know what to say.”

The heart-breaking letter continued, “If you could say I have ‘suffered’ at all throughout this whole experience it is only in knowing how much suffering I have put you all through; I will never ask you to forgive me as I do not deserve forgiveness. I remember mom always telling me that all in all in the end the only one you really have is God. I have come to a place in experience where, in every sense of the word, I have surrendered myself to our creator because literally there was no else….and by God and by your prayers I have felt tenderly cradled in freefall.”

In a 2013 interview with The Daily Courier, Mueller explained her passion for helping the Syrian people and said, “Syrians are dying by the thousands, and they’re fighting just to talk about the rights we have… For as long as I live, I will not let this suffering be normal. [I will not let this be] something we just accept. It’s important to stop and realize what we have, why we have it and how privileged we are. And from that place, start caring and get a lot done.”

Mueller’s family’s statement said, “Kayla was a compassionate and devoted humanitarian. She dedicated the whole of her young life to helping those in need of freedom, justice and peace… Our hearts are breaking for our only daughter, but we will continue in peace, dignity and love for her.”

ISIS’ Allegation That Jordanian Airstrike Only Killed US Hostage Called “PR Stunt” By Jordan

After ISIS released a video on Tuesday depicting the grisly execution of Jordanian pilot Lt. Moath al-Kasasbeh, who was burned alive in a cage, Jordanian King Abdullah vowed to crush ISIS and, on Thursday, initiated a campaign of airstrikes. According to CNN, Jordan claims that its early attacks targeting ISIS’ training facilities and ammunition warehouses were successful, saying, “All targets were completely destroyed and all the planes returned to their bases safely.”

However, Fox News is reporting that, on Friday, ISIS issued a statement claiming that a Jordanian airstrike near Raqqa, Syria hit a building containing the last US hostage held by ISIS, killing her. ISIS also said that the strike failed to kill or injure any of its fighters. The report, which remains unconfirmed, is currently being investigated by the CIA. The Daily Beast notes that a Jordanian official responded to ISIS’ claims by saying, “This is just another PR stunt. This is just part of their whole media-spinning strategy. They’re trying to throw a wedge in the coalition.”

Though US officials have not yet confirmed the identify of the female hostage, International Business Times is reporting that the private security group SITE posted a translation of a press release reportedly issued by ISIS that identified the victim as Kayla Jean Mueller, a US aid worker. ISIS allegedly said in the press release, “The criminal Crusader coalition aircraft bombarded a site outside the city of ar-Raqqah today at noon while the people were performing the Friday prayer. The air assaults were continuous on the same location for more than an hour. Allah made their pursuit disappointed and deterred their cunning, and no mujahid was injured in the bombardment, and all praise is due to Allah. It was confirmed to us the killing of an American female hostage by fire of the shells dropped on the site, and she is Kayla Jean Mueller.”

US National Security Council spokesperson Bernadette Meehan told The Daily Beast, “We are obviously deeply concerned by these reports. We have not at this time seen any evidence that corroborates ISIL’s claim.”

Kayla Jean Mueller from Prescott, AZ reportedly worked for the humanitarian group Support to Life and is believed to have been captured by ISIS in August of 2013 while working to reunite war-uprooted refugee families in Aleppo, Syria. An August 2014 report by CBS News noted that ISIS at that time demanded $6.6 million in ransom in exchange for the release of a female US aid worker who is now believed to have been Mueller. Foreign Policy notes that, while US officials have not yet officially confirmed Mueller as a hostage held by ISIS, White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough accidentally let her name slip during a January television appearance.

According to NBC News, Jordanian state media claims that Lt. Moath al-Kasasbeh was executed on January 3, despite the fact that ISIS continued to offer his thus-impossible release as a negotiating chip later into the month, raising suspicions that Mueller might have been executed by ISIS prior to the Jordanian strike and that her death is being purposefully misattributed to Jordan in an effort to drive a wedge between Jordan and the United States.

ISIS Downs Jordanian Warplane in Syria, Captures Pilot

First Coalition Warplane Lost in ISIS War

by Jason Ditz, December 24, 2014

The US-led coalition has lost its first warplane of the ISIS war in Syria today, as ISIS shot down a Jordanian F-16 with a heat-seeking missile, capturing the pilot. The US denied that ISIS was the one that shot the plane down, but the capture was confirmed.

ISIS issued images of the captured pilot being paraded around their capital city of Raqqa. Jordan warned they are holding ISIS responsible for the safety of the captured pilot.

That’s probably not going to be a serious concern for ISIS, since Jordan and the other coalition members are already at war with them and bombing them on a daily basis.

It’s a much bigger concern for the coalition, as now that ISIS has proven its capability to shoot down coalition warplanes, it’s only a matter of time before they down some more, and as the losses mount, the lack of progress in the war is likely to become a more serious concern.

President Obama says fight with IS not ‘America’s fight alone’

One day after the US began carrying out airstrikes against ISIS targets in Syria, President Obama made a speech hailing the efforts of an international coalition to help stop the growing terrorist threat in the Middle East.

The US airstrikes in Syrian territory were in unison with five other Middle Eastern allies against the terrorist group, and marks a substantial growth in the efforts to stop the Islamic State.  Bahrain, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates are five substantial forces carrying out airstrikes and fighting alongside the US.

Each of these nations, according to the Guardian, provided their own level of support with various forms of air power, including deploying fighter jets, bombers, and Tomahawk missiles to target and weaken 22 ISIS targets in Syria.

“The strength of this coalition makes it clear to the world that this is not America’s fight alone… we are proud to stand shoulder to shoulder with these nations,” said President Obama from  speech on the White House lawn, Tuesday.  “Once again, it must be clear to anyone who would plot against America and try to do Americans harm that we will not tolerate safe havens for terrorists who threaten our people.”

Pentagon spokesperson Lieutenant General Bill Mayville, also said, according to the BBC, the attacks in Syria were organized in three separate waves.  The US carried out the first wave of airstrikes while the other Middle Eastern nations participated in the second and third waves of airstrikes.

Secretary of State John Kerry also spoke Tuesday about the efforts to stop ISIS.  Kerry said to the UN, “We will hold them responsible for their grotesque atrocities.”

Did the US Train ISIS Rebels to Fight Against Assad in Syria?

Special note: the above Fox News video, from 2013, references the existence of a US-led training program in Jordan aimed at strengthening the Syrian opposition against Assad, which some have alleged might have equipped ISIS fighters with the tactics they are currently using against the US-trained Iraqi Army.

Iraq has fallen into total disarray, with a rebel group called ISIS, or the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, having conquered broad sections of the nation, along with a significant amount of territory in neighboring Syria. Though the Iraqi military claims to have ISIS contained, clashes are currently taking place within 140 miles of Baghdad. The US is sending ground troops back to Iraq, and officials representing the government of the war-torn nation have asked the US to provide air support against ISIS.

However, is it possible that the very rebels fighting against the US-backed government in Iraq were trained by American forces in an effort to strengthen the Free Syrian Army’s rebellion against Assad in Syria? Back in March of 2013, Reuters reported that the German magazine Der Spiegel published an account by organizers of the Syrian rebellion claiming that US trainers, some wearing uniforms, were seen providing anti-tank training in Jordan to anti-Assad forces. Though the article mentioned that the training program was meant to exclude radicals that might turn against locals in Jordan, it is challenging to run background checks on everyone who joins a rebel group. Also, individuals who seemed ideologically moderate at one time could later on join a group like ISIS, especially considering its escalating momentum.

In January of 2014, a rift formed between members of the Syrian rebellion and ISIS, largely over tactics. However, ISIS has been successful in its military campaign against the Iraqi government, and this has led its ranks to grow. It’s difficult to know whether the rebels allegedly trained by the US in Jordan have since joined ISIS, but The Washington Post is reporting that ISIS just released a new propaganda video touting its American-style military tactics. The video not only shows a capable military force with mature training, but it also contains footage of rebel fighters using an anti-tank guided missile system.

It is tough to conclusively prove whether or not ISIS fighters were the individuals being trained by the US in Jordan. However, the group’s beginnings lie in the Syrian rebellion, and its military tactics look distinctly American. The latest ISIS propaganda video even demonstrates sophisticated anti-tank tactics, which were the focus of the alleged 2013 training session in Jordan. The division between other Syrian rebel groups and ISIS didn’t grow until January of 2014, several months after Der Spiegel‘s report. The Guardian also corroborated Der Spiegel‘s assertions, noting that special operators from the US, UK, and France were working together in Jordan to strengthen the Syrian opposition and that anti-aircraft missiles, like those seen in ISIS’ new propaganda video, were being funneled over the border from Turkey to Syrian fighters. An Associated Press article referenced by CBS News also noted the existence of the training program.

At this point, not enough clear evidence exists to confirm or deny the rumors that the US might have inadvertently provided ISIS with the training to defeat US-trained forces in Iraq. However, this would not be the first time American tactics and weapons have been found on both sides of a conflict. Also, ISIS’ latest propaganda video demonstrates a tactically mature force using anti-tank weapons, which was the specific focus of the alleged training session in Jordan. When the fog of war clears, it is entirely possible that history will reflect that the US inadvertently armed and trained the very opposition group that would later undo all of its efforts to strengthen the government in Iraq.

U.S. Trained Fighters Now Crossing From Jordan Into Syria

Ask a question without an answer about U.S. foreign policy and just wait. Sooner or later the answer will come.

Lets start with the answer.  According to French newspaper La Figaro guerrilla fighters from the Free Syrian Army have been released across the Syrian border from Jordan and are headed toward Damascus.

These fighters, according to reports have been trained by U.S. military, CIA operatives and Jordanian and Israeli commandos. A first wave of about 300 fighters were released into Syria on August 17 and a second wave on August 19, according to the paper.

As for the question:  about 2 months ago I asked, “Why are 300 marines now stationed along the Syrian border with Jordan?”  At the time, the Obama administration claimed that those Marines were only there as part of a training exercise.  President Obama himself acknowledged the troops in Jordan saying,

“This detachment that participated in the exercise and remained in Jordan includes Patriot missile systems, fighter aircraft, and related support, command, control, and communications personnel and systems,” Obama said.

Today, not only is it clear that these were not training exercises being conducted but that, as we suspected, the U.S. is providing more than just the “non lethal assistance” the administration has claimed.

Why is this important?  Because, as we explain in this video the U.S. is pouring money, assistance and training into the FSA.  However, if the Assad regime falls, it will not be the FSA that is in position to take over the country but instead it will be al Nusra Front, the Syrian wing of al Qaeda in Iraq.

How is that possible and what will al Nusra taking over in Syria mean for the U.S. and for the Syrian people?