By Peter Clifford © (www.petercliffordonline.com)
SYRIA and IRAQ NEWS
The United States has revealed that it attempted an operation earlier this summer to rescue James Foley and other hostages but although the US special forces fought their way into the designated location, no prisoners were found.
Two dozen soldiers from a mixed team from Delta Force and other specialist military agencies were dropped by helicopter on Syrian territory and engaged in fighting with members of the Islamic State, some of whom were killed.
James Foley Speaking About His Work in 2011
One soldier from the US team was injured and one of the aircraft that took them away afterwards was shot at. They were not sure if they the hostages had been moved hours before or days.
The location of the secret operation is variously given as “near an oil refinery” and the Ukayrishah district of Raqqah city, the Islamic State stronghold in Syria.
The Boston Global Post, who employed James Foley, have released, with the permission of his family, the text of an email they received a week before the American journalist was executed.
The email stated that it was “a message to the American government and their sheep like citizens”. It went on to say, “You were given many chances to negotiate the release of your people via cash transactions as other governments have accepted” or to exchange prisoners for “Muslims currently in your detention.”
“Now you return to bomb the Muslims of Iraq once again”, the email continued, “This time resorting to Arial attacks and ‘proxy armies’, all the while cowardly shying away from a face-to-face confrontation!”
The email ended with a statement that Foley “will be executed as a DIRECT result of your transgressions towards us!”
According to the Global Post, the Foley family “was not ‘given many chances to negotiate’ for Jim’s release”.
After hearing nothing for more than a year after Foley’s capture, they received a message on the 26th November 2013 asking for money – $132 million no less, or the release of unspecified prisoners held by the US. The FBI helped the Foleys craft a response calling for mercy in regard to their son but they heard nothing more.
President Obama commenting on the brutal killing of James Foley said, “No just god would stand for what they did yesterday and every single day …. ISIS has no place in the 21st century,” and called on America’s allies to help defeat a “cancer so it does not spread.” You can hear Obama’s full statement, HERE:
A spokesman for the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, called Foley’s murder “barbaric” and Laurent Fabius, the French Foreign Minister, said it exposed ISIS as the “caliphate of barbarism”.
John Kerry, Obama’s Secretary of State for Defence was more blunt saying that “ISIS must be destroyed”, a view echoed by General John R. Allen, a senior military officer who has led US forces in both Iraq and Afghanistan.
Another Destroyed Islamic State Vehicle Near Mosul Dam
Allen said in an article, “IS must be destroyed and we must move quickly to pressure its entire “nervous system,” break it up, and destroy its pieces”.
General Allen’s “bottom line” is“The president deserves great credit in attacking IS. It was the gravest of decisions for him.
But a comprehensive American and international response now — NOW — is vital to the destruction of this threat.
The execution of James Foley is an act we should not forgive nor should we forget, it embodies and brings home to us all what this group represents.
The Islamic State is an entity beyond the pale of humanity and it must be eradicated. If we delay now, we will pay later”.
You can read the whole article, HERE:
In a press conference yesterday, Thursday, US Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel said the United States was “keeping its options open” and would not commit to attacking Islamic State bases in Syria.
General Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, sitting beside Hagel said that while it is possible to “contain” the Islamic State in the short run, a broader international effort will be required to eventually defeat it.
“Can they be defeated without addressing that part of their organization which resides in Syria?”, he was asked.“The answer is no. That will have to be addressed on both sides of what is essentially at this point a nonexistent border. And that will come when we have a coalition in the region that takes on the task of defeating ISIS over time. ISIS will only truly be defeated when it’s rejected by the 20 million disenfranchised Sunni that happen to reside between Damascus and Baghdad.”
General Dempsey however is well known for being opposed to US direct action in Syria because of the threat to American airmen by Syria’s air defences. There are now suggestions that the West will have to have direct (“over or under the counter”) talks with President Assad. Al Jazeera has a video report, HERE:
IN UK MUCH SPECULATION ON IDENTITY OF JAMES FOLEY’S KILLER, WHILE ANOTHER TOWN OF 20,000 UNDER THREAT OF ISLAMIC STATE ANNIHILATION:
In the UK there has been much speculation as to the identity of the masked Islamic State fighter speaking with a British accent in the Foley video. Voice analysts say he is either from London or the south-east of England.
MI5 and MI6, the British intelligence agencies, are trawling through their lists of suspects. A former French hostage in Syria, Didier François, who was held with Foley and others, plus other sources, have suggested that the British man in the video is known as “John”.
“John” the British Jihadist Murderer?
Apparently 3 British Jihadists were allocated by the Islamic State to look after foreign hostages and the were referred to as “The Beatles”, “John, Paul and Ringo”, a play perhaps on their British origins and the “beetle blackness” of their garb and manner.
Other analysts have suggested that as the actual killing of Foley is not shown in the video, it’s a compilation of various frames apparently, the Jihadist in the video is not the actual killer and the small knife he holds (scroll down – see earlier report) is not the one he uses.
(EDITOR: Either way it is difficult to understand why anyone with a shred of humanity can behave like or be involved in this in any way.)
The last word on the Islamic State’s murder of Foley goes to President Obama:
“People like this ultimately fail. They fail, because the future is won by those who build and not destroy and the world is shaped by people like Jim Foley, and the overwhelming majority of humanity who are appalled by those who killed him.”
On the ground military action against the Islamic State continues, with 6 US airstrikes on Islamic State personnel and their vehicles in the region of the Mosul Dam, bringing to 90, the number of US airstrikes in Iraq in the last week, two-thirds of them near the Dam.
Al Jazeera has a good video report from the Dam earlier in the week, HERE:
Kurdish Peshmerga forces have since removed 250 explosive devices from the area near the Dam and are still combing the shoreline of the 40 mile lake along the route of the Tigris river. You can read more detail of the Mosul Dam operation, HERE:
Boosted by their success at the Dam, Kurdish and Iraqi forces, backed by the Iraqi Air Force, are advancing on 2 towns held by the Islamic State near the border with Iran and Kurdistan, Jalawla and Saadiya, both around 115 kilometres (70 miles) north-east of Baghdad.
Jalawla was taken by the Islamic State more than a week ago but the Kurdish Peshmerga are said to have now penetrated the eastern side with loss of life of both sides.
Grandmother in Amerli Defends against Islamic State
110 kilometres north of Badhdad is the Turkman majority town of Amerli, a settlement of 20,000 that has been fighting off the Islamic State for 70 days now.
No electricity, and running out of water and food, they are relying on irregular helicopter flights from the Iraqi Army to bring in supplies and fly out 30 or so people at a time when conditions allow.
All the towns and villages around have already fallen to the Islamic State, but Amerli by mobilising everyone, including grandmothers and children is desperately holding on.
Iraqi forces are trying to fight a way through to the town but it is by no means certain that they will make it in time. You can read more at the BBC’s Iraq news.
Latest reports emerging from Iraq this morning, Friday, say that Shia militia, perpetuating the sectarian violence that has torn Iraq apart since 2003, have opened fire inside a Sunni mosque in or near Baquba in Diyala province, killing between 30 and 73 at the latest count.
Fighter jets have are also being reported as hitting Islamic State targets in Salahaddin province. More details awaited.
WHILE ISLAMIC STATE KIDNAPS 4 MORE HOSTAGES INCLUDING 2 WOMEN, YEZIDI QUINTUPLETS BORN IN NORTH-EAST SYRIA:
Following on from the James Foley killing in Syria, the Islamic State are reported to have kidnapped 4 more hostages in Aleppo in the last week, taking the total number of Western hostages they hold to 20.
The last victims include 2 Italian women, a Dane and a Japanese man. All those held are believed to be journalists, photographers or aid workers and reports suggest they have all been transferred to Raqqah.
Apart from anything else, this has turned into a lucrative business for the Islamic State. In the last 6 months 10 hostages, including a Dane, 3 French nationals and 2 Spaniards, have been released after lengthy negotiations involving demands for ransom money. The US and the UK have however been resilient so far in not paying ransoms.
Lord Dannatt, Britain’s former military Chief of Staff, has suggested that Britain and the West may have to come to some arrangement with Syria’s President in order to deal effectively with the Islamic State, but the UK’s Foreign Secretary, Philip Hammond, has since said that working with Assad to fight Islamists “would poison what we are trying to achieve”.
“We may very well find that we are fighting, on some occasions, the same people that he is but that doesn’t make us his ally,” Hammond said.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) yesterday, Thursday, published new figures claiming that the death toll in Syria was now more than 180,215, 58,805 (32.6%) of those being civilians, including 9,428 children and 6,036 women.
49,699 (27.6%) of the Assad armed Opposition have been killed, including the Islamic State and 66,365 (36.8%) from the pro regime forces – 40,438 from the military, and 25,927 members of a pro-regime militia.
561 members of Lebanon’s Hezbollah movement have been recorded killed and 1,854 from Shia and other non-Syrian militia. The total also included 2,931 unidentified people whose details could not be verified.
Navi Pillay Stands Down As UN Human Rights Commissioner
To more than confirm SOHR’s estimates, Navi Pillay, the UN’s outgoing Human Rights Commissioner today, Friday, said the UN records show 191,369 deaths in Syria since 2011, almost doubling their last published figure a year ago.
Pillay, a South African, wrapping up her 6 year stint as the UN’s Human Rights chief, lashed out at the UN Security Council saying it “lacked resolve in ending crises” and that the dwindling global interest in Syria was “scandalous”.
“It is scandalous that the predicament of the injured, displaced, the detained, and the relatives of all those who have been killed or are missing is no longer attracting much attention,” she said.
“I deeply regret that, given the onset of so many other armed conflicts in this period of global destabilisation, the fighting in Syria and its dreadful impact on millions of civilians has dropped off the international radar,”adding,“The killers, destroyers and torturers in Syria have been empowered and emboldened by the international paralysis.”
“There have been serious allegations that war crimes and crimes against humanity have been committed time and time again with total impunity” but the deadlocked UN Security Council had failed to refer the case of Syria to the International Criminal Court “where it clearly belongs,” Pillay said in her concluding remarks.
On the ground in Syria, the battle by the Islamic State (IS) for control of the Tabqa airbase in Raqqah province has continued, but with reports of very heavy casualties on both sides. Unconfirmed reports give deaths on the IS side anywhere between 30 and 150, while the Jihadists are claiming that they have killed 300 pro-Assad troops and militia.
IS also claims that they have killed the Tabqa base commander, Brigadier General Ali Sarhan. The Assad regime apparently flew in reinforcements to the base last night, but the Islamists also pounded it with dozens of Grad missiles. More information awaited in what is a very volatile situation.
In Hama province, Opposition fighters have repelled an an attack by members of Assad’s National Defence Force at Tel Sharaya, killing 15 of them, and north-east of Hama city, members of the Al-Nusra Front have taken over the village of Al-Rahjan.
In Damascus province, it is reported that there is heavy fighting once again at the Tameco Pharmaceutical factory in Mlieha, including the Opposition claimed death of Major General Adnan Omran, Assad’s Chief of Staff for Air Defence.
In Hasakah province clashes continue between the Islamic State (IS) and the Kurdish militia, the YPG, with reports that IS has driven the Kurds out of Jazaa in the north-east, killing a large number of Kurdish fighters, including some of their female ones according to gruesome photos published on the Internet.
Lest we forget, yesterday, August 21st was the 1 Year anniversary of the hideous Assad sarin gas attack on Opposition areas near Damascus, killing as many as 1400, including 400 children. As Human Rights Watch (HRW) points out, despite Assad’s “declared” chemical weapons stock being destroyed, the victims of his attacks have yet to receive justice, HERE:
Lastly, in a sign of hope for the persecuted Yezidi community and in stark contrast to their bloodthirsty killing by the Islamic State, a 27 year old Syrian Yezidi woman, having fled from the Islamic State Jihadists approaching her home in Iraq, has given birth last week to quintuplets by caesarian section at a hospital in Kurdish-controlled Qamishli – 2 boys and 3 girls.
Tamam, who hails from Qamishli, had married a Iraqi man last year and moved to be with him in Mosul. When the Islamic State fighters approached they first fled to safety in Sinjar and then fled again, spending 2 days walking to the Syrian border. The babies were born 2 months premature but they and the mother are all doing well and receiving practical support from the UNHCR.
Hoorah! Five New Born Yezidi Quintuplets