Tag Archives: Arab Spring

Yemen’s Former President Killed By Houthi Rebels

On December 4th, Yemen’s former President Ali Abdullah Saleh was killed by Iranian-backed Houthi rebels for what they described as treason, in a roadside attack near Sanaa.

Despite the declaration by the Houthis the actual ambush itself was likely conducted by Iranian forces, amid fierce clashes between Saleh forces and the Houthis in Sanaa. Houthi leaders accused Saleh of treachery after he switched to the Saudi-led coalition in the civil war. It is likely the Iranians helped carry out the attack on Saleh given the professional skill involved in the attack.

During the night of the 4th, the Saudi-led coalition carried out airstrikes targeting Houthi rebels in retaliation for killing Saleh, hitting the Houthi-controlled presidential palace in Sanaa.

Ali Abdullah Saleh ruled Yemen for more than three decades before being deposed in 2012. Saleh took over North Yemen in 1978, and became president of the whole country after its two halves were united in 1990. Saleh’s reign ended after he signed a deal brokered by the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), after Arab Spring protests in 2011.

Yemen descended into war in September 2014 when Houthi rebels, a group that follows the Zaidi branch of Shi‘ite Islam, allied with Saleh and marched on the capital of Sanaa in order to seize control of the government. The Houthis tried to gain control of the country, forcing President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, who succeeded Saleh in 2012, to flee to Saudi Arabia.

In 2015, Saudi Arabia created a military alliance of 10 countries to target the Houthis and restore Hadi. The U.S. backed the coalition but did not join in direct military action, providing logistics and intelligence support for the coalition’s air campaign.

Also in 2015, Saleh formally announced an alliance with Houthi fighters for the first time, after the Arab coalition launched two air strikes on his home. Before formally allying with the Houthis, Saleh and his forces helped the Houthis seize control of the capital in 2014.

The Saleh-Houthi alliance was a questionable alliance from the start. When Saleh was still president, he killed Houthi founder Badr-eddin Houthi, in 2004 and in 2011, Houthis participated with other Yemenis in the Arab Spring, demanding the removal of Saleh. During the alliance, both groups were suspicious of each other’s ultimate motives but were united in the fight against the pro-Hadi Saudi-led coalition.

Saleh made a speech on December 2nd, saying his alliance with the Houthis was ending over political differences, and that he was open to dialogue with the Saudi-led coalition. Saleh said he was open to ties with the coalition if it agrees to stop attacks on his country and lifted the siege.

The war between the Iran-aligned Houthis and the Saudi-backed coalition has created a humanitarian crisis in Yemen, with widespread hunger and disease leaving 20.7 million people in need of aid in the past 3 years.

Following the assassination of Saleh, President Hadi has urged Yemenis to rise up against the Houthi rebels. Since killing Saleh, Houthi rebels have gained control of the majority of the country’s capital from Saleh’s forces. Saleh’s death may lead the Saudi-led coalition to further escalate its military operations, as seen by the airstrikes that followed the killing.

The U.S., who has backed the Saudi-led coalition, is unlikely to change its current strategy of defeating terrorism in Yemen militarily.

Is the Hasm Movement the Future of Terror in Egypt?

On October 20th, as many as 50 Egyptian police officers were killed in an attack while conducting operations on a suspected hideout of the armed group Hasm, in a desert town about 85 miles southwest of Cairo.

This was one of the deadliest attacks this year suffered by Egypt’s security forces. The Hasm movement claimed responsibility for the attack. Eight police vehicles were hit when they were following a lead which indicated that an apartment was housing eight suspected members of Hasm.

The group hit the convoy with gunfire and rockets said police officials. Additionally, after the ambush, the insurgents went through the disabled vehicles, seizing weapons and executing survivors.

An official statement issued by the Egyptian Interior Ministry put the number of casualties lower at 16 officers killed and 13 wounded, but did not explain the discrepancy with news reports. The statement also claimed that the police had killed or wounded about 15 of the insurgents. The statement said that the incident would be investigated.

Hasm emerged publicly  when it claimed credit for an attack on a police officer on July 18, 2016. Since then, the group has claimed credit for a number of deadly attacks on security forces and assassinations of public figures, including a failed attempt in August 2016 to assassinate the former Grand Mufti of Egypt, Ali Gomaa.

The Egyptian government accuses Hasm of being the armed wing of the Muslim Brotherhood which was outlawed in 2013.

Following the fall of President Morsi Muslim Brotherhood Shura council member Mohamed Kamal, began to structure terror cells, such as the Popular Resistance Movement. These cells under Kamal’s command were focused on targeting security forces and personnel, as well as attacking churches.

Hasm was created under Kamal’s influence, and the attacks which have been conducted recently by Hasm serve the Brotherhood’s interests. Kamal was killed when security forces raided an apartment which was being used as a Brotherhood safe house in October of 2016.  While Muslim Brotherhood has claimed that it wants to move toward a non-violent stance and denies any connection itself and Hasm, Brotherhood leaders expressed outrage at Kamal’s death.

The attack on the 20th came just a few days after Hasm attacked al-Arish  in the Sinai Peninsula. The group robbed a local bank and fired grenades, while shooting at security forces guarding a vacant church on the 16th. The services at the church were suspended several months ago following a wave of attacks on Christians in Sinai. 3 civilians, 3 guards and 1 soldier were killed and 15 other civilians were injured during this attack.  Al-Arish has been in a state of emergency with a curfew since 2014 when the Islamic State began deadly attacks and kidnappings within the area.

U.S. Embassy in Cairo  is aware of the threat from the terror group. In May of 2017 Hasm posted on their website a message threatening Americans living in Cairo. The threat was not acted on, however, the Embassy urged Americans to follow security guidelines issued by the State Department.

Insurgency in the Sinai Peninsula has grown since the overthrow of President Mohamed Mursi. Mursi was a member of the Muslim Brotherhood who was elected president of Egypt after the 2011 Arab spring, that ended Hosni Mubarak’s 30-year rule. Then on July 3rd, 2013 following the mass protests against his rule, Mursi was removed by the military. The current president Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has been carrying out an extensive campaign to crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood’s   base of support by jailing many of the group’s members on charges of terrorism, rioting, and incitement to violence.

On the 24th Egyptian security forces arrested 12 suspected members of Hasm, and confiscated weapons and explosive devices. The members arrested were located in the province of Fayoum about 40 miles south of Cairo. The Egyptian Interior Ministry did not state whether the members arrested were involved in the attack on the 16th or the 20th.

With Hasm’s attacks on government officials, servicemen and increasingly civilians, specifically in the Sinai region, the Egyptian government should continue to target the terror group through investigations and military action if the Egyptian government wants to counter the group’s growing insurgency. The government also needs to address the direct links between Hasm and the Muslim Brotherhood, and more effectively present this case to it’s allies in order to receive international assistance in halting their violent acts of terror.

Continued Tunisia Protests Raise Questions for “Arab Spring” model

Protests have erupted in Tunisia this past week amid the growing unemployment rate due to the lack of available jobs. The protests began in the province of Kasserine, near the Algerian border, after a man was killed while climbing a telephone pole. Radha Yagyaoui, 28, was  taken off the shortlist for employment and began to protest in the streets only to be killed in the act Saturday the 16th.

Tunisia’s unemployment sits at 15% through 2015. While this number is lower than the 18% unemployment in 2011, pre-Arab Spring, it has increased from the past two years’ 13%. While the country average sits at 15%, there are some areas, including Kasserine, where rates are as high as 30%.

Protests have become increasingly violent as they have spread throughout the country. Police and security forces have been targeted in the protests, and last Thursday a police station was attacked by protestors. Due to the escalation in violence, the Tunisian government has imposed a nationwide curfew in hopes of quelling some of the destruction.

The situation worsened after Finance Minister Slim Shaker’s announced a plan to create 5,000 jobs in Kasserine only to have the government retract the claim, calling it a communication error. The finance ministry came out the next day to say they were planning to add 5,000 job training positions in a region that desperately wants jobs.

Tunisia’s 2011 revolution ousted President Zine el-Abedine Ben Ali, former dictator of Tunisia. While Tunisia has been considered one of the more stable Arab Spring counties, it has also faced repeated terror attacks against its economically important tourism industry, as well as political violence.

Tunisian President Beji Caid Essebsi has publicly claimed that there are “dirty hands” involved in the increased unrest in the country. President Essebsi claimed outside actors have been targeting protestors to join their cause. The President names The Islamic State (IS) and “others” as the main external actors working to target the unemployed.

While President Essebsi has not come out with any conclusive evidence that IS or other terrorist organizations have been involved, he is correct in believing they may benefit from the chaos. Terrorist activity has the ability to thrive in countries where political unrest is high. Terrorists can easily blend in to the population or cross borders more easily while governments are focused on internal disputes..

IS and other outside actors may not be the only ones to have an interest in the protests. The unrest with the current government could provide an opportunity for the Muslim Brotherhood’s Ennahda Party to reclaim control of the government. The Ennahda Party won control of the government after the 2011 revolution but was ousted from power following protests which claimed the party played a role in the assassination of secular left politicians.

While the Ennahda Party has condemned the most recent violent protests, their potential to regain power is not to be overlooked. They recently reacquired the majority of the seats in the Tunisian parliament after several members of the Nidaa Tounes Party, current Party of the President, defected.

The current protests have the potential to change much more in Tunisia than its economic policy. With terrorists on the borders and the possibility of Muslim Brotherhood affiliates controlling the government, Tunisia is far less than a beacon of hope for Arab democracy it has been portrayed as. If the Tunisian government fails to establish order it may come to resemble an increasingly ungovernable territory.

Tunisia Faces Double-Edged Sword, Terrorism In and Out of it’s Borders

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The Tunisian government has revealed its plans to build a 100 mile long sand wall along its border with Libya in attempt to counter threats from Islamist terrorists. Thirty-eight tourists recently lost their lives when gunman Seifeddine Rezgui opened fire on a popular beach resort in Tunisia. In March, a gunman opened fire in the Bardo National Museum in Tunis, killing 22 people, again mostly tourists. The Islamic State has claimed responsibility for both attacks. IS has recently installed bases in Libya, and more than 7,000 Tunisians are suspected to have joined the ranks of IS.

Although Tunisia may benefit from the installation of the border wall, Tunisian officials are failing to see the big picture of their terrorism problem. In part, a major risk is the fact that the shooters were Tunisians who traveled to Libya for jihad training, and reentered Tunisia because visas are not required. This raises the question of how many of the 7,000 reported Tunisian IS militants have or plan to return to Tunisia. In order to properly counter terrorism in Tunisia, the government should first focus on targeting those inside the country who are indoctrinating citizens in order to stop those from leaving to get training. Only then will a wall serve its purpose well, and keep those who have received training out.

Significant risks exist inside Tunisia’s borders including Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, who is known to operate out of the lawless mountains in Western Tunisia. In addition, religious and political intolerance still looms even after largely secular President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali was ousted in 2011 during the Arab Spring.

Tunisian President Beji Caid Essebsi has stated Tunisia is at war against terrorism. In response, AQIM has warned the Tunisian government that “an open war on Islam and Muslims aimed at pleasing America, France, and Algeria, will be quite costly.” Over the past two years, 34 Tunisian soldiers have been killed by AQIM militants, and scores more have been injured in attacks by the same militants. AQIM has taken advantage of the lawlessness regions of western Tunisia, enabling them to easily smuggle weapons including rocket-propelled grenades into Tunisia’s borders. The smuggled armory has been used in multiple AQIM attacks in Tunisia, including an attack that left four policemen dead.

On July 4, President Essebsi declared a 30-day state of emergency, allowing military forces to combat terrorism however they see fit, and restricting rights such as public assembly. The extended state of emergency emerges at the same time as a new Tunisian counterterrorism bill is being discussed in the northern African country’s parliament. The bill, which was first introduced in March following the Bardo Museum attack, allows for suspects to be help in incommunicado detention for up to 15 days without being taken to a judge, and permits death sentences for those convicted of acts of terrorism that resulted in casualties.

In the wake of Ben Ali’s demise, the Muslim Brotherhood connected Ennahda group served as the interim government. The Ennahda government was alleged to have partnered with the jihadist group Ansar al-Sharia to target its secular opponents, and Tunisia had become a breeding ground for terrorism when the party stepped down in 2014, when Essebsi was elected into office.

Both major terrorist attacks in Tunisia took place after the Tunisia-Libya border was closed to traffic in August. Thus, little confidence can be instilled in the effectiveness of Tunisia’s newest wall to deter terrorism inside the nation.

Jomaa previously explained the Tunsian military is vastly underequipped, and more emphasis needs to be placed on intelligence gathering, and training in order to properly confront terrorism. Tunisia must develop an adequate national security strategy, or as President Essebsi has expressed, Tunisian society could collapse should it face yet another horrific attack by jihadist terrorists.

While a new wall along the Libyan border can help Tunisian officials prevent indoctrinated Tunisians from returning to their home country, Tunisia needs to first combat its internal struggles with terrorism. Because there are concerns related to Tunisia’s ability to protect and secure the wall, the Tunisian government must first halt indoctrination inside its borders to ultimately lessen the influx of jihadis attempting to return from Libya. As many nations around the world are doing, Tunisia must find a way to deter individuals from instilling the warped belief systems of terrorist organizations, such as Ansar al-Sharia and IS, onto its citizens in order to prevent the fleeing to join IS, and returning home to carry out attacks.

Don’t Hold Out Hope For Libyan Negotiations

Negotiations on forming a national unity government in Libya have not gone well, which should be of surprise to no one. Yet the United States and European Union remain committed to attempting to force the secularist Libyan government (currently in exile in Tobruk) to work with the Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated Libyan Dawn/General National Congress. The European Union recently issued a warning against any faction in Libya attempting to undermine unity talks. The Tobruk government in turn believes that the solution is a military not political one, calling for help with the defeat of the Islamist militias it accuses Western countries of effectively supporting. On March 15th, 2015, Libyan Information Minister Omar al-Qweri told Al Monitor:

The problem in Libya is not political; rather it is a security problem. As long as the militias continue to raise arms against the state — with the presence of political parties that want to use and exploit these militias to gain seats and posts — we cannot envision the success of a political solution. We must disarm the militias and fight against terrorism first.

Egypt and the United Arab Emirates are already backing the internationally recognized Tobruk government as having a Muslim Brotherhood backed legitimate government in North Africa would be a disaster. However, Turkey and Qatar are backing Libyan Dawn. With such foreign backers aiding both factions, conflict is almost guaranteed to be long and drawn out.

Islamic State’s presence in Sirte is also of concern, and as the conflict and disorder in Libya intensifies it is likely that Islamic State could take advantage of the fighting between the two major factions. Several Libyan Islamist groups have already sworn allegiance to Islamic State and have carried out attacks such as the infamous beheadings of Coptic Christians and the Corinthia Hotel attack.

The European Union has a vested interest in bringing the conflict in Libya to a swift end. As mentioned before, Libya is a prime area for sending Islamic State terrorists and arms to Italy or other Mediterranean states, and the outflow of refugees from the embattled country puts strain on hosting countries. But more importantly is what led to this situation. The West’s failed policy of supporting “democratic” Islamist “Arab Spring” governments has destabilized North Africa and allowed for organizations such as Islamic State and the Muslim Brotherhood to co-opt the revolutions and create home bases for Islamic terror organizations.

Continuing to Low-ball Jihadis in Syria Will Come Back to Bite Us

The mainstream media and the Obama Administration continue to minimize the extent of jihadi influence in Syria, even while ostensibly reporting on the threat possessed by battle-hardened foreign fighters returning from the civil war there.

In his column, “A nightmare group in Syria could target the U.S.”, David Ignatius cites U.S. Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, where Clapper caps the number of extremists operating in Syria at “26,000.”

The Administration has held steady at 26,000 “extremists” (an ill-defined largely meaningless term), even as Syria-watchers have put the number of self-described jihadists and those seeking to establish an Islamic state, or implement shariah, much higher.  As far back as September of last year, reports indicated that “nearly half” of the Syrian opposition are “Islamist” in disposition.

And there are some who would whittle down the 26,000 “extremists”  even lower if they could get away with it.  In January, in the Council on Foreign Relation’s online magazine Foreign Affairs, in an article subtitled, “An Al Qaeda-linked Group Worth Befriending” Michael Doran, William McCants, and Clint Watts made the case for working with Ahr Al-Sham, an Islamist militia at the time led by the now deceased Al Qaeda member Khalid Al-Suri. Ahr Al-Sham is a dominant part of the Islamic Front faction and routinely fights alongside the Al Nusra Front. The Islamic Front was cited as a partner worth working with by the head of the Syrian Emergency Task Force Mouaz Moustafa. Links have been reported between the SETF and the Global Muslim Brotherhood. Because of the reportedly close links between SETF and the State Department, it’s not surprising that the U.S. did in fact attempt to reach out to the Islamic Front, only to be rebuffed.

This tendency to define jihadists and ties to terrorism downward will come back to bite us.

Combine the Obama Administration decision to loosened rules to permit those who have engaged in “limited material support” for terrorism into the country, with revelations by Sen. Chuck Grassley of a DHS “Hands off” list for those with known terrorism ties, and the ever present tendency to define threats down to the lowest possible common denominator, and we have a recipe for disaster.

However the Syrian civil war ends, it is not  hard to imagine that we may see lining up on our borders asylum seekers confidently informing Immigration agents, “Oh, no, I’m not an extremist. I provided limited material support for the AL-Qaeda-linked group that even the State Department wanted to befriend.”

Disturbing Facts About a Senior Homeland Security Adviser

The Clarion Project, the Center for Security Policy and the Institute on Religion and Democracy have published a shocking interview with Mohamed Elibiary, a senior Department of Homeland Security adviser. The Daily Caller reported on it yesterday.

Elibiary is a member of the Secretary’s Homeland Security Advisory Committee and founder of Lone Star Intelligence LLC. He served on the DHS Countering Violent Extremism Working Group and the DHS Faith-based Security and Communications Advisory Committee.

On September 12, he announced that he had been reappointed to the Committee and promoted to Senior Fellow. He was also a delegate for Republican presidential nominee John McCain in 2008.

The complete 37-page annotated interview is available here. The report is full of interesting material, but here are 15 important points to focus on. If you feel that these facts are concerning, e-mail, mail and/or fax a copy of this article to the House Homeland Security Committee, the Senate Homeland Security Committee as well as your congressman whose job is to represent you.

1. Elibiary says he knows the Muslim Brotherhood in a “personal manner.”

In 2007, Elibiary wrote, “[O]ur government is playing a post-9/11 script it played in the 1960s against the Mafia, but this time against a social network it calls the ‘International Muslim Brotherhood.’ People like me know of the brotherhood group in a much more personal manner than the Average White Guy, who has no more insight than what’s available in the media.”

2. Elibiary praises the Muslim Brotherhood and says the U.S. should support it.

In his interview with me, Elibiary said, “MB in Egypt is a pragmatic, non-violent and generally pluralistic socio-political movement by Egyptian cultural standards. It is not accurate to paint MB-Egypt as dogmatic, violent or autocratic, much less more sensationalized terms like dictatorial, totalitarian or jihadist.”

He continued: “I believe that MB and its political arm, the Freedom and Justice Party, has by and large acted responsibly, if not always effectively, during the democratic transition period that Egypt is in the very early stages of.”

His Twitter photo has a pro-Muslim Brotherhood “R4BIA” logo that protests a violent crackdown on a Brotherhood protest in Egypt after the military toppled President Morsi by popular demand. He says it is a pro-freedom symbol that is “bigger than” the Brotherhood.

Elibiary says the U.S. should partner with the Muslim Brotherhood. In our interview, he said, “Our government needs to deepen our strategic engagement with MB.”

3. Elibiary compares the Muslim Brotherhood to Christian evangelicals.

In 2007, his organization made a presentation at a conference of the Assembly of Muslim Jurists of America. It stated: “The Muslim Brotherhood of Egypt, Jordan, Tunis, etc. is a social movement for religious revival that seeks to Islamicize the society through cultural changing Dawah and that includes the political system, sound familiar? Yup you’re right they are the Muslim world’s version of the Evangelical Christian Coalition/Moral Majority movement.”

He told the Daily CallerIslamism is a multi-century, transnational, intellectually grounded movement with influential philosophical works from multiple continents … It has many subcultures and currents of thought. Some are no different than conservatives who ground their values in a Judeo-Christian worldview and it has its violent extremist strains.”

4. Elibiary has associated with the Assembly of Muslim Jurists of America and pro-Khomeini groups.

As mentioned above, Elibiary spoke at a joint conference of the Assembly of Muslim Jurists of America (AMJA) and the North American Imams Federation.

AMJA is a hardline Islamist group whose fatwas call for the gradual establishment of sharia law in America using deception; marital rape; jihad against Israel and ban Muslims from joining the FBI or serving the US military in a combat capacity.

AMJA opposes offensive jihad in the West because “the Islamic community does not possess the strength to engage in offensive jihad at this time.”

In our interview, Elibiary says he “spent a week with dozens of very senior Salafi scholars” from the group discussing Islamic jurisprudence.

He also speaks of when he brought a senior Salafi cleric “to give the first Friday Muslim congregational prayer literally inside the Texas State Capitol.” It is unclear if this Salafi cleric was from AMJA.

In 2004, Elibiary spoke at a pro-Khomeini conference. He said he did not know of the event’s extremist nature.

5. Elibiary says the U.S. should not oppose sharia law in Muslim countries.

In the same presentation, Elibiary’s group said, “We should remember that them [Islamists] ruling their countries with sharia law doesn’t mean them coming to our country and using our planes to destroy our buildings.”

“We must always resist the temptation to force one group such as Islamists to reform by adopting ‘liberalism’ for example. That would be denying them their self-determination to structure their societies according to their public will,” it also said.

6. Elibiary is a long-time friend of the former head of the Holy Land Foundation, a convicted Brotherhood/Hamas fundraiser.

In 2007, Elibiary wrote that he was 16 years old when he met Shukri Abu Baker and his life was changed when Abu Baker told him about the alleged persecution of Palestinians by Israel. Elibiary took the first $50 he ever deposited into a bank account and donated it to the Holy Land Foundation and donated monthly until it was shut down in 2001.

Abu Baker was the CEO of the Holy Land Foundation, a U.S. Muslim Brotherhood entity that was shut down for financing Hamas. He was convicted in the largest terrorism-financing trial in U.S. history. The FBI had wiretapped Abu Baker during a secret Brotherhood/Hamas meeting urging participants to engage in deception to further their Islamist goals.

The two were so close that they met for coffee the day before the verdict.

7. Elibiary depicts the Holy Land Foundation and U.S. Muslim Brotherhood network as a victim of political persecution by the U.S. government.

In 2010, Elibiary blasted the guilty verdict in the Holy Land Foundation trial in an editorial. He wrote, “Using the law to force compliance with unjust foreign policies by our government will simply trigger civil disobedience.”

“This global war on terror needs a new strategy, because we’re destroying ourselves more than al-Qaeda ever could,” he wrote in another editorial in reaction to the prosecution.

In our interview, Elibiary said he was “warning against the strategy being deployed against the Holy Land Foundation (HLF) and a broader Muslim Brotherhood network, in the eyes of the government, as if they were an organized criminal syndicate akin to the mafia. I viewed this strategy in 2007 as counterproductive to our national interest and instead called for an honest dialogue between the US and Islamists to find common ground and turn the page on the past.”

8.  Elibiary says he helped “safeguard” U.S. Muslim Brotherhood groups from prosecution.

In our interview, Elibiary made three statements about his role in protecting American Islamists:

·        “I helped my community pick up the pieces and safeguard its nonprofit organizations, in order to protect its liberties, after the HLF’s closure and eventual conviction.”

·        “But the corollary to my position was that if the Muslim community leadership and the government can mutually reconcile and turn a new page, then the targeted national Muslim community organizations should be allowed to proceed anew.

·        “As has been reported in multiple conservative media outlets over the past few years, the long-desired HLF 2.0 trial for the unindicted co-conspirators is no longer going to happen.”

The statements substantiate reports by counter-terrorism expert Patrick Poole in 2011 that the Justice Department cancelled planned prosecutions of senior U.S. Muslim Brotherhood figures, including a founder of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR).

9. Elibiary likely helped craft Islamist-friendly counter-terrorism training guidelines.

In our interview, Elibiary said, “The area that has earned me the most amount of anti-Islamist media criticism has been my role assisting DHS and the broader administration craft a framework and later a strategy for Countering Violent Extremism (CVE).”

A Clarion Project analysis of the DHS Countering Violent Extremism training guidelines concluded that they prevent instruction about the U.S. Muslim Brotherhood and non-violent Islamist tactics. Elibiary served on the DHS Countering Violent Extremism Working Group.

10. Elibiary is accused of trying to leak confidential documents for political purposes.

Patrick Poole reported in 2011 that Elibiary tried to leak confidential documents to a media outlet in an attempt to damage the presidential campaign of Texas Governor Rick Perry. Elibiary reportedly had his access to the database containing the files revoked.

Elibiary says he was exonerated by the Secretary of the DHS. Poole says, “At no time was I or my source ever contacted by anyone at DHS. How could they have done an investigation with only one side being heard?”

11.  Elibiary is hostile to anti-Islamist Muslims.

In our interview Elibiary said, “There are other Muslim advocates of reform who have instead publicly chosen to politically demonize, in conservative media outlets, mainstream Muslim community organizations as ‘Islamists.’ Labeling these or other Muslim community organizations as either ‘Muslim Brotherhood-associated’ or ‘Muslim Brotherhood-legacy’ in my opinion is counterproductive.”

Elibiary, though, used the term “Islamist” throughout the interview.

This same hostility was present in the DHS Countering Violent Extremism training guidelines. The new guidelines advise agencies that “trainers who are self-professed ‘Muslim reformers’ may further an interest group agenda instead of delivering generally accepted unbiased information.”

12. Elibiary said the West “routinely insults Muslim dignity.”

In 2004, Elibiary wrote, “Just because I listen to Osama bin Laden’s tapes and agree that the West routinely insults Muslim dignity, that doesn’t make me al-Qaeda. By listening I gain a better understanding of a philosophy I wish to counter.”

13. Elibiary says the U.S. government should not “touch” houses of worship.

On October 7, Elibiary tweeted, “US successfully prosecutes individuals 4 allkinds of criminal activity. That shd always b done w/o gov touching Churches, Mosques, etc.”

14. Elibiary repeats Brotherhood attacks on Coptic Christians.

The Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood regularly blasts its Coptic Christian opponents as being anti-Muslim. So does Elibiary.

On September 14, he tweeted, “Good read by @mwhanna1 on need to reform #Coptic activism in #US including stop promoting #Islamophobia.”

The next day, he tweeted, “For >decade since 9/11 attack extremist American #Coptic activists have nurtured anti #Islam & anti #Muslim sentiments among AM RT wing,”

15. Elibiary praises Sayyid Qutb, a Brotherhood cleric whose preaching inspired Bin Laden and Islamists around the world.

In 2006, Elibiary wrote, “I’d recommend everyone read Qutb, but read him with an eye to improving America not just to be jealous with malice in our hearts.”

Syria strike debate splits conservative defense hawks

Former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton and the Center for Security Policy’s Frank Gaffney are often described as “uber-hawks” for their support for a forceful projection of American power abroad.

Neither of them would ever be confused with the likes of non-interventionist Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky.

Yet, like Paul and his fellow non-interventionists, Gaffney and Bolton have spoken out against targeting the Syrian regime of Bashar Assad with military strikes. So what gives?

A decade ago, foreign policy thinkers on the Right who supported the Iraq War typically had the “neoconservative” label slapped on them. Now, conservatives who oppose action in Syria are seen as part of a growing wave of anti-interventionist sentiment.

In both cases, these labels are overly simplistic in a way that obscures the real nuances in foreign policy thought on the right.

Most self-identified conservatives backed the overthrow of Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein. But beneath the surface of this unity, there were real differences between those who had narrower rationale for supporting action focused on American national interests and those who had broader ambitions about building democracy in the Arab world.

In early 2011, as popular uprisings started to spread throughout the Middle East that would become known as the Arab Spring, those differences were exposed.

“Neoconservatives thought the Arab Spring would move the region in a positive direction, whereas the more (national) interest-oriented conservatives believed it might not work out because the conditions weren’t right and because the abstract emphasis on democracy doesn’t necessarily comport with the actual circumstances around the world,” Bolton said.

Bolton, who volunteered for Barry Goldwater’s 1964 presidential campaign as a high school student, has often been inaccurately described as a neoconservative, despite his skepticism of the idea that democracy promotion should be a pillar of U.S. foreign policy. He said he doesn’t think America has an interest in taking sides militarily in Syria’s ongoing civil war.

A longtime hawk, Gaffney worked in the Defense Department during the Reagan administration and is currently most often associated with being a passionate critic of radical Islam.

He backed the Iraq War, but has been a skeptic of the Arab Spring, which he has viewed as strengthening Islamist forces in the Middle East. He opposed President Obama’s intervention in Libya and has come out strongly against taking military action in Syria.

In a Monday phone conversation, Gaffney said it would be “ill-advised” to risk America’s limited military resources on a civil war that could spread.

Additionally, by changing the momentum on the battlefield, he argued, it would benefit Islamic jihadist elements fighting Assad, including al Qaeda, making it even more likely that they could get their hands on dangerous chemical weapons.

Despite finding himself in agreement with the noninterventionist strain of the Republican Party on military action in Syria, Gaffney cautioned against lumping all opponents of the war together. After all, he would still support military action against Iran’s nuclear program.

“I certainly don’t subscribe to isolationist sympathies, or, for that matter, libertarian nostrums about restricting America to defense of our borders and nothing more, or otherwise recoiling from international leadership,” Gaffney said.

“I’m just of the view, and I think there are lots of us who are, that leadership should be exercised sensibly and not simply because somebody claims we have a responsibility to enforce international norms.”

Bolton also echoed this note of caution. “I think there are neoisolationists in the Republican Party, but I don’t think that’s a good description for everybody who opposes the use of military force in Syria,” he said.

Obama’s ‘Goldilocks’ strike on Syria

President Obama surprised friends and foes alike with his announcement in the middle of Labor Day weekend that he would attack Syria, but ask Congress for approval first.  Even more surprising is the idea that anyone – friends, foes or Congress – would take seriously his Goldilocks-like strike plan, with its promise of “not too much, not too little, just right” amounts of death and destruction somehow calibrated to punish Bashar Assad for using chemical weapons, but not defeat him.

Fairy tales are not a sound basis for American strategy, especially in as volatile a part of the world as today’s Middle East.  The coming debate on Capitol Hill must establish whether the President actually has a credible, coherent and reasonably promising plan, one that looks beyond his initial missile lay-down to shaping a positive outcome in Syria and minimizing the real dangers of retaliation from one or more quarters.

The following are among the issues Congress must be address:

  • If the object of the exercise is not only to penalize the Assad regime for killing large numbers of civilians with Sarin nerve gas and perhaps other chemical agents but to prevent his stocks of such weapons from being used in the future, will the U.S. attack serve that purpose?  It is hard to see how, unless it involves a concerted effort to destroy Assad’s chemical stockpiles.

Otherwise, there is a distinct possibility that either the regime’s own troops or allies (notably Iran and its proxy, the designated terrorist organization Hezbollah) or its enemies (notably, the Muslim Brotherhood and its partner in Syria, the designated terrorist organization al Qaeda) will get their hands on these weapons.  Either way, the prospect is for more chemical weapons use, not less, if Assad’s chemical arsenal is not eliminated.

Unfortunately, no one can promise that an effort to use force to neutralize Assad’s chemical stockpiles would be surgical and antiseptic – two attributes upon which Mr. Obama seems fixated.  Even if we actually know where all of them are (including those Saddam Hussein is believed to have covertly transferred to Syria before we liberated Iraq), blowing up the caches will almost certainly result in some of their deadly contents being released downwind.  So, what’s the plan?

  • Those like Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham, who insist the United States must help overthrow Bashir Assad, contend that there is an alternative in the Free Syrian Army (FSA).  They assert that the FSA is “moderate,” pro-Western and has a realistic possibility – with our assistance – of keeping Syria together and out of the hands of the Islamists who appear to dominate the opposition’s political and military operations.

There are a number of problems with this proposition, which President Obama may have to endorse more or less explicitly to secure the support he acutely needs in the coming debate from the Senate’s Dynamic Duo, Batman McCain and his sidekick, Robin Graham.  For one thing, it is far from clear that the Free Syrian Army is, as advertised, the secular great-white-hope for Syria.  As Daniel Greenfield points out at FrontPage Magazine (http://frontpagemag.com/2013/dgreenfield/the-wall-street-journals-misleading-report-on-the-moderate-syrian-opposition/), even Elizabeth O’Bagy – who waxed enthusiastic about the FSA in a Wall Street Journal op.ed. last Saturday – told the New York Times in April, “My sense is that there are no seculars [in the Syrian rebel leadership].”

Then, there is the natty problem that, if the Free Syria Army somehow does prevail over Assad’s forces and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard and Hezbollah units now augmenting them, the FSA will also have to triumph over the avowedly Islamist units – including al Qaeda – with whom it is now aligned.  If President Obama is unable to offer a way to accomplish this hat-trick, the best that can be hoped for is that Syria remains chaotically riven between our enemies: Assad and Company on the one hand and the Sunni Islamists and their FSA partners on the other.  The unhappy alternative is that the worst in one or the other of these factions will emerge victorious, with dire consequences for Syria, the region and us.

O Among those most at risk from a bad outcome in Syria is Israel.  To be sure, an Assad victory would strengthen and embolden Iran.  Conversely, an Assad defeat, particularly at American hands, would be a strategic blow to the mullahs in Tehran – a prospect that is inducing some Israelis and many of their champions here to fall into line behind President Obama’s proposed attack.

These stakes suggest, however, that Iran will do everything possible to make a U.S. intervention in Syria very costly.  Its threats to retaliate against Israel if Obama pulls the trigger cannot be discounted.  Neither should the possibility that Hezbollah cells known to be in this country will be ordered to carry out attacks here.

For those who believe the United States must defeat the Iranian regime before it obtains nuclear weapons, there are other, more direct and certainly more effective means of doing so than by engaging in a bank-shot – particularly a Goldilocks-style one – by attacking Syria.  We should help the people of Iran free themselves from their Islamist oppressors.  Our success there would do more than any single other thing to assist the Syrian people.

A congressional debate on Obama’s Mideast policies is long-overdue.  If the impending one fails satisfactorily to address these critical topics, among many others, President Obama’s proposed attack on Syria will probably have – like some other fairy tales – an unhappy ending.