Archive for February, 2018

Iran’s suppression of December 2017 unrest marked by brutal violations of law

(CENTER FOR HUMAN RIGHTS IN IRAN) — February 19, 2018—The state crackdown that effectively crushed the protests that erupted across Iran in late December 2017 was marked by an unusually high degree of violence and disregard for the law, according to a new briefing by the Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI).

Silencing the Streets, Deaths in Prison: The December 2017 Crackdown in Iran, which is based on extensive interviews with released detainees, the families and attorneys of detainees, and journalists and human rights defenders inside Iran, provides a detailed look at the mass arrests, systematic denial of counsel, campaign of intimidation against detainees and their families, and ill treatment and deaths inside the prisons that characterized the state response to the week-long unrest.

“People came out to exercise their legitimate right to public protest,” said Hadi Ghaemi, executive director of CHRI. “They came home beaten, too frightened to seek counsel or in coffins.”

Key Findings:

Some 4,970 people were arrested during protests that broke out on December 28, according to the government’s own sources, 90% of them under age 25.
Detainees were denied access to attorneys and threatened with charges that carry the death penalty if they sought counsel.
Multiple reports indicate many of the detainees were beaten.
Detainees were administered pills of an unknown substance, as well as methadone, without the presence of a doctor, in an attempt to depict the detainees as drug addicts.
At least two detainees died during detention. The bodies were quickly buried without an investigation or autopsy, with officials claiming the deaths were suicides.
A third detainee death, unrelated to the protests, was also labeled a “suicide” by officials, indicating a growing pattern of fatal ill treatment in prison and cover-up.
The families of deceased detainees, as well as released detainees and their families, have been under intense pressure by state authorities not to speak publicly.

“From arrests to burials, the authorities in Iran have demonstrated a refusal to allow peaceful protest, disregard for due process, abandonment of their responsibility to respect the safety of detainees, and a concerted effort to cover up rights violations,” said Ghaemi.

“Officials worldwide should register their condemnation of these violations directly with their Iranian counterparts,” he added.

[ READ MORE]

Iraqi archbishop: Muslim genocide of Christians started 1400 years ago

(OAN) — An Iraqi archbishop for the Chaldean Catholic Church is calling for a response to the Muslim genocide against Christians.

Archbishop Bashar Warda said the behavior of Muslims is rooted in the Islamic symbol of faith, which calls for an endless “holy war” against infidels.

Warda made his remarks in a speech at Georgetown University in D.C. last week.

The archbishop added, terror and violence are key characteristics of Islam, which have accompanied Muslim practices throughout their history.

“There is a fundamental crisis within Islam itself and if this crisis is not acknowledged, addressed and fixed, then there can be no future for Christians or any form of religious plurality in the Middle East,” stated Warda.

the archbishop urged the Christian community to crackdown on the Islamic persecution of Christians in the Middle East and beyond.

[ READ MORE]

‘We will level Tel Aviv to the ground’ senior Iranian official warns Israel

(THE JERUSALEM POST) — By Juliane Helmhold

Any attacks carried out against Iran will result in the destruction of Tel Aviv, Mohsen Rezaei, secretary of Iran’s Expediency Council, warned Israel on Monday, according to the Fars News Agency.

Quoted by Iran’s semi-official government news site, Rezaei, in response to Netanyahu’s comments at the Munich Security Conference, asserted that “If they [Israel] carry out the slightest unwise move against Iran, we will level Tel Aviv to the ground and will not give any opportunity to Netanyahu to flee.”

“The US and Israeli leaders don’t know Iran and don’t understand the power of resistance and therefore, they continuously face defeat,” he was quoted as saying in an interview with Lebanese Hezbollah-affiliated Al Manar News.

“Today, the situation of the US and Israel indicate their fear of the Zionist regime’s collapse and the US decline,” he added in the interview.

Israel came in direct conflict with Iran on February 10, when an IAF attack helicopter shot down an Iranian operated drone, and later took out its command center in Syria.

According to the Iranian Mehr News Agency, Rezaei also highlighted that, while it is true that Iran supports what it calls the “Resistance Front” which stretches from Tehran to Gaza, the regime does not interfere in the Palestinian Territories and Lebanon but merely offers advisory help.

He added that Iran never wants to dominate the countries in the region, it wants them to stand on their own feet.

Rezaei’s pointed comments came in response to Netanyahu’s speech at the Munich Security Conference on Sunday where the Israeli prime minister warned Iran, “not to test Israel’s resolve.”

Netanyahu said at the conference, which was attended by Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, that Israel “will act not just against Iran’s proxies that are attacking us, but against Iran itself.”

[ READ MORE]

ISIS kills 27 pro-Iraqi government fighters in ambush

(OAN) — ISIS militants claimed responsibility for killing more than 25 pro-government fighters in an ambush attack in northern Iraq.

The assault happened north of Baghdad on Sunday evening when Shiite militia forces were conducting overnight raids.

The militants were reportedly disguised in military uniforms, and operated fake checkpoints before clashing with Iraqi forces for at least two hours.

Officials say troops were killed at the scene, including some who were beheaded.

A leader from one of the most prominent Shiite militias vowed revenge, and called on security forces to be vigilant.

[ READ MORE]

Former IDF iIntelligence chief: Shootdown of Iranian drone could be prelude to Israel-Shia +war

(THE TOWER) — The interception of an Iranian drone that targeted Israel suggests that the chances for a war between Israel and Iran-led forces, the first Israel-Shia war, have increased, General (ret.) Amos Yadlin, the former head of Israel’s military intelligence told a conference call on Saturday.

The call was hosted by The Israel Project, which publishes The Tower.

Original footage showing #Iranian UAV infiltrating and then shot down over Israel, and #IDF strike on Iranian command vehicle in #Syria pic.twitter.com/Sz6poAOdjc

— Jonathan Conricus (@LTCJonathan) February 10, 2018

Following the interception of the drone, The New York Times reported, Israeli jets attacked what was identified as the command and control center in Syria. One the way back from the mission, an F-16, which had come under Syrian anti-aircraft fire crashed in northern Israel. Two pilots escaped from the plane, though one has been reported to have been severely injured.

Israel reported that it hit eight targets in Syria including three anti-aircraft batteries and four Iranian positions, which were described as “part of Iran’s military entrenchment in Syria.”

For a long time Iran and the Quds Force have been operating, with the backing of Syrian forces and the approval of the Syrian regime, from the Syrian T-4 Airbase near Tadmor. pic.twitter.com/U9H33vDF4O

— IDF (@IDFSpokesperson) February 10, 2018

“There is a determination by Iran to build a military force in Syria and Lebanon, and there is determination by Israel not to let it happen. And the two vectors are colliding,” Yadlin said, explaining the escalation.

This is the Iranian UAV that infiltrated Israeli territory early this morning pic.twitter.com/R1cfL4v5dF

— IDF (@IDFSpokesperson) February 10, 2018

Despite expressing concerns that the conflict could escalate, Yadlin expressed that he believed that it was in Russia’s interests to push back against Iran to defuse the situation, saying “Conflict in the north between Israel, Iran and Hezbollah is not in their interests.”

[ READ MORE]

Islamic State fighter on trial admits terror group sent him disguised as refugee

(BREITBART) — by Chris Tomlinson

Three Syrian migrants are currently on trial in Hamburg for being members of a terrorist cell and one of the men has admitted that the Islamic State terror organization sent him to Germany telling him to disguise himself as a refugee.

The three Syrians, aged between 19 and 27, came to Germany during the migrant crisis in 2015 and were arrested in September of 2016 at asylum homes in Ahrensburg, Großhansdorf and Reinbek near Hamburg, Suddeutsche Zeitung reports.

For the last eight months, the judges in the court have tried to determine whether or not the men were sent by the Islamic State, or whether they were radicalized independently.

The eldest defendant, 27-year-old Mohamed A., confirmed to the judge that he had been commanded by the Islamic State terror group to infiltrate the wave of refugees and wait in Germany for further instructions.

The 27-year-old said that he trained with the terror group in its former capital of Raqqa for three months with four different weapons before heading to Europe. An Islamic State member also gave him a forged passport along with a sum of $1,500.

As early as December of 2015, three weeks after he arrived in the country, German police showed up to Mohamed’s asylum home and told him they had an eye on him. As a result, no contact from the Islamic State came.

The fear of the terror group sending fighters to Europe as asylum seekers has been constant since 2015 and many warned that the group would employ such tactics.

[ READ MORE]

Munich Security Conference: How to stop a post-caliphate jihad?

(DEUTSCHE WELLE) — Munich Security Conference: How to stop a post-caliphate jihad?

Panelists at the Munich Security Conference about how to stop a post-caliphate jihad unanimously agreed that the terror group “Islamic State” remains a threat, even though it may have lost its “territory.”

It has been just 3 1/2 years since the self-proclaimed caliph Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi announced the founding of the so-called “Islamic State” (IS) at the mosque of the freshly captured city of Mosul in Iraq.

Now, after a long and bloody military campaign, the group has been wholly driven out of the country. And in neighboring Syria, only isolated pockets of IS fighters remain in the former IS stronghold of Raqqa. At its zenith, some 40,000 people took up arms for IS. Now 3,000 of them are hiding in the desert – or are seeking new areas of operation.

Although the terror group has been thwarted in its efforts to create a sovereign state, it nevertheless lives on. It still has its propaganda division — albeit greatly weakened. It also lives on in the hearts of its blind adherents and as the dream of a Salafist “utopia” for which thousands were willing to die. More than 5,000 people traveled to the “caliphate” from Western Europe alone.

Above all, “jihad” as such lives on. And the demise of IS could encourage other terror groups such as al-Qaida to launch new attacks, as Dan Coats told participants at the Munich Security Conference on Saturday. As the US director of national intelligence, Coats has a good overview of the threat posed by terrorism. The “Global Threat Assessment” that the US intelligence community released on Tuesday emphasized that the largest terror threats still emanate from “violent Sunni extremists,” above all from Islamic State and al-Qaida.

One thing participants at the Munich Security Conference unanimously agreed upon is that the fight against jihadism is far from over. Many spoke of the stamina that would still be required to achieve ultimate victory. The primary importance of exchanging information among intelligence services was also stressed.

Germany’s federal interior minister, Thomas de Maiziere, emphasized the importance of international intelligence services’ cooperation in tracking down German jihadists who have fought for IS in Iraq and Syria: “Especially with America, but also with other agencies in the region that often give us tips. Those agencies are key to helping us protect German citizens,” he told DW.

Nevertheless, during the panel discussion on “Post-Caliphate Jihad,”he spoke of the many technical and legal hurdles impeding data exchange within the European Union itself. EU security commissioner Julian King assured the audience that the EU was dealing with such impediments effectively. He pointed out that the exchange of information among national anti-terror agencies had grown by 40 percent since 2015.

It was conspicuous that Thomas de Maiziere, much like Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel and Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen before him, spoke in support of the concept of “networked security” – albeit, without calling it by name. De Maiziere did not limit himself to addressing the importance of police and intelligence cooperation; he also spoke extensively about prevention and the necessity of denying terrorism any kind of platform.

This issue was also addressed in a separate panel discussion called “Making the Sahel Safe.” A number of African leaders, the president of the World Bank and the secretary-general of the UN Climate Secretariat spoke frankly about the connections between development, climate change and terrorism. Lack of opportunity, poor governance and a lack of education, they said, all provide fertile ground for terrorism.

Moussa Faki, the chairman of the African Union (AU), illustrated the threat posed by a lack of education with an anecdote about a woman living near Lake Chad. She decided to become a suicide bomber because she was told she would be able to choose her own husband when she got to paradise.

Tunisia’s foreign minister explained that many Tunisians join terror groups for financial reasons. A disproportionate number of Tunisians traveled to the caliphate because IS offered them good pay, he said.

[ READ MORE]

Israel strikes terror tunnels in Gaza overnight]

(THE JERUSALEM POST) — By Juliane Helmhold

The Israel Air Force struck an underground network of terror tunnels in the Gaza Strip overnight on Sunday, the IDF Spokesperson’s Office announced Monday morning.

The strike came in response to sirens heard in Sderot and other communities near the border of the Gaza Strip and a projectile that was launched into Israeli territory from Gaza Sunday night. According to reports, one mortar landed in an open area near Sderot.

“The IDF will continue to act to ensure security for the citizens of Israel by all means at its disposal. Hamas is responsible for everything happening in and out of the Gaza Strip, above and below ground,” the IDF Spokesperson’s Office responded in a statement.

This incident follows a period of rising tensions on Israel’s southern border.

“Spontaneous” protests which were held in recent weeks along the Israel-Gaza border have been getting more violent in recent days, with protesters bringing firearms and grenades to use against IDF troops on the other side of the fence.

On Saturday afternoon, four solders were wounded when a bomb was detonated against their military jeep, after they arrived to investigate a suspicious flag that was spotted on the Palestinian side of the fence near Khan Yunis in the southern part of the Strip. Two out of the four soldiers who were in serious condition were evacuated by helicopter to Soroka University Medical Center in Beersheba.

On Saturday evening, a home in the Sha’ar HaNegev Regional Council was directly hit by a rocket launched from the Gaza Strip.

Media reports in Gaza said that an observation post belonging to the armed wing of Islamic Jihad, Saraya al-Quds, was struck by an IDF tank shell in response.

Soon after that, Palestinian media reported several air strikes in the Gaza Strip against Hamas positions. The IDF carried out large-scale strikes against six terrorist targets belonging to Hamas, including an attack tunnel in the Zeitun neighborhood of Gaza City that was dug toward Israeli territory on Saturday night.

The air force also attacked a Hamas military compound in the Netzarim area that included a weapons manufacturing site and another Hamas military compound in Khan Yunis.

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman responded to the situation on Sunday and vowed to eliminate the people responsible for the explosive device that injured four IDF soldiers.

“Until we eliminate them, the score remains unsettled,” Liberman told Israeli news site YNet on Sunday morning. “It will take two days, a week or two weeks. We’ll eliminate anyone behind the attack’s execution.”

[ READ MORE]

How badly is the U.S. Government penetrated by terrorists?

(UNDERSTANDING THE THREAT) — A reminder of the serious penetration of our system by suit-wearing jihadis. Remember this is much more a counterintelligence and espionage problem than merely a “terrorism” issue.

[ CLICK HERE FOR A SERIES OF DISTURBING REMINDERS]

The Islamic State has left a toxic farewell of environmental sabotage and chronic disease

(POST-GAZETTE) — Iraq – Like any typical 15-year-old, Ahmed Jassim stays glued to his smartphone, watching music videos and playing games. In his family’s modest living room with dark concrete walls, the light from the phone’s screen illuminates his handsome but gaunt face.

But unlike his peers, Ahmed doesn’t go outside to play soccer or fly kites. Simple activities tire him out quickly because his heart is permanently damaged, the result of inhaling the smoke that blanketed this town of farmers and shepherds after Islamic State militants ignited nearby oil wells.

“He hates life. He just hates life,” his mother, Rehab Fayad, said wistfully. “It’s affected him not just physically, but psychologically.”

The militants detonated 25 oil wells in a desperate and ultimately unsuccessful effort to defend their terrain against Iraqi security forces in 2016 and wreck a prized national asset. For nine months, a thick, blinding cloud of smoke engulfed Qayyarah and the villages that surround it, turning people’s skin and sheep’s coats black from soot.

The Islamic State footprint on Iraq’s environment may be unprecedented and permanent, with a toxic legacy that includes wide-scale cattle deaths, fields that no longer yield edible crops and chronic breathing complications in children and the elderly, doctors and experts said.

Up to 2 million barrels of oil were lost, either burned or spilled, between June 2016 and March 2017, when firefighters put out the final blaze, according to a United Nations report citing Iraq’s Oil Ministry. Environmental experts worry that much of the oil has seeped into the groundwater and the nearby Tigris River – a lifeline for millions of Iraqis stretching more than 1,000 miles to Baghdad and beyond.

The militants also torched a sulfur plant north of Qayyarah, spewing 35,000 tons of the stinging substance into the air, the United Nations said. Reportedly containing one of the largest sulfur stockpiles in the world, the plant was set ablaze in part to help hold off Iraqi security forces, according to human rights and environmental experts.

Still unknown is the full extent of the impact. Studies into the long-term health effects have been halting, with Iraq’s government putting greater urgency on rebuilding, resettling displaced people and the clearing of explosives.

“The effect of what happened here will be felt for many years and decades, and the worst of it hasn’t even shown up yet,” said Abdelmeneim Tabbour, the head of Qayyarah’s health department. “The government has other priorities.”

[ READ MORE]