18 July 2014

Al-Qaeda plans final jihad for India: Intel report points to terror recruitment drive targeting nation's Muslims

By Abhishek Bhalla

Published: 16 July 2014 |

Al-Qaeda is at the gates, and there are enough jihadis within already.

Intelligence agencies say the terror network is making inroads into India, sowing the seeds of a "final war" across the country. Information gathered on al-Qaeda's India plans points to a mobilisation of its resources for jihad.

The ideological goal of the group, as detailed in the report, is chilling: Ghazwa-e-Hind, or the final battle in India.

Tribal militias from Pakistan (in photo) are prime candidates for the Ghazwa-e-Hind

Ghazwa-e-Hind refers to an indoctrinated view of a final apocalyptic war in which India will be conquered by a jihadi army. All soldiers of this army are guaranteed a place in heaven.
This term is freely used in jihadi circles and on the web, but is considered bizarre by others.
Sources say the security establishment has been on the trail of launch-pads being set up within the country, and is also in touch with its counterparts in West Asia in order to crack the growing network.

An intelligence report on India being used a hunting ground for global jihad reveals al-Qaeda's diabolic roadmap.
To begin with, the terror group that was created and led by Arab fighters now has recruits from Kashmir-centric groups.

"Not only Kashmiri groups but Taliban and al-Qaeda affiliates have stakes in the larger scheme of Ghazwa-e-Hind where India is regarded as next battleground in the 'End of Times' battle. This ideology is likely to be used to drive Taliban and al-Qaeda affiliates into Kashmir," says an intelligence report.
The al-Qaeda nexus with Kashmir-centric groups indicates it has a readymade jihadi framework in India.
There is other proof too of al-Qaeda using its nexus with Indian groups to spread its ideology.
An online English publication of al-Qaeda called Azan which is not available to the general public but is circulated through changing e-mails and encryption tools is being downloaded by Kashmiri groups.
Sources say this only underlines the trend of terror groups within India getting attracted to the al-Qaeda and global jihad ideology.

Agencies fear that the Azan tactic of spreading the terror group's ideology could spawn anonymous and isolated modules that will be difficult to detect but potent enough to carry out big attacks.
Intelligence reports also state that groups like Tehreek-e-Taliban have declared they will open 'offices' in Kashmir.
It has been revealed that a Taliban flag was hoisted at a point overlooking Srinagar last year, and the walls of Hari Parbat fort were painted with slogans like 'Welcome Taliban.'

Sources say there is an urgent need for the home ministry and intelligence agencies to understand the threat.
"Indicators need to be monitored to prevent the situation from worsening," said one official.
Al-Qaeda's propaganda arm, Al Sahab, released a video recently, titled 'Why is there no storm in your ocean?' The report states that the video and transcripts were posted on several jihadi forums.

The videos have speeches asking youths from Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Gujarat and South India to join the global jihad. Incidentally, these are the areas where young men were recruited by the Indian Mujahideen (IM), India's homegrown terror group that has become synonymous with bomb blasts in public places.

With the IM facing a major setback because of a series of arrests, including that of its top leader Yasin Bhatkal, sources say Indians fighting in Iraq for terror group Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) are part of larger scheme.
Many more recruits are getting attracted to the global jihad that can later be used to wage war against India.

There are also distinct inputs on al-Qaeda running a separate terror module in India as the homegrown terror outfit IM is making efforts to go global and establish strong links with groups like al-Qaeda, Taliban and Hizbut Tahrir.
There is also evidence of al-Qaeda keeping a close watch on activities in India. The charge-sheet filed by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) against Bhatkal says that organisations al-Qaeda and the Taliban are helping IM.

It also mentioned that the investigation revealed that some IM members are fighting on the Afghanistan-Pakistan Border.
NIA has said in the charge-sheet that Riyaz Bhatkal, a top IM commander based in Pakistan, travelled to tribal belts on the Af-Pak border to establish contact with al-Qaeda.

"After the meeting, which was very fruitful, Al Qaeda gave specific tasks to the IM for execution and agreed to train their cadres in terrorist activities," the charge-sheet says.

Pakistan Taliban have a keen interest in J&K

By Mail Today Bureau in New Delhi

The withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan has already fuelled concerns in the Indian security establishment about its implications on Jammu and Kashmir.
The volatile Afghanistan-Pakistan border is expected to explode into further chaos with jihadists expanding their reach to conflict spots such as J&K.

The intelligence agencies have assessed that around 800 militants, mostly foreigners, are ready to cross over the Line of Control (LoC) to spread terror in J&K.

The Army says infiltration attempts have become bolder

With the coming Assembly election in the state, the militant activity is likely to increase. The LoC itself had remained volatile during much of last year, when frequent ceasefire violations were reported.
Even this year, the situation has not improved, though the two countries have initiated steps to normalise the ties.
Sources said the Pakistan Taliban have a keen interest in J&K.
Further, the Pakistan army has not subsided its efforts to push through militants across the LoC.
All the ceasefire violations are linked to the infiltration bids, said officials.
More than two dozen militant camps are still said to be active in Pakistan- occupied Kashmir.

The army has noticed that infiltration attempts have become bolder and the terrorists showed high level of training and carry sophisticated communication equipment to stay in touch with their handlers.
The recent encounters with militants have indicated that their combat techniques have improved drastically.
Most of the camps are located around Muzaffarabad in Kashmir. Another cluster is located in Kotli facing Poonch and Rajouri.

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/indiahome/indianews/article-2694949/Al-Qaeda-plans-final-jihad-India-Intel-report-points-terror-recruitment-drive-targeting-nations-


Friday, 18 July 2014 | G Parthasarathy |

While economic cooperation with China is mutually beneficial, India must review its approach to border issues with the Asian giant. It should insist that the dispute be resolved in accordance with 2005 Guiding Principles

Addressing an election rally in Arunachal Pradesh on February 22, Mr Narendra Modi called on China to shed its “mindset of expansionism”. Mr Modi averred: “Arunachal Pradesh is an integral part of India and will remain so. No power can snatch it from us. I swear in the name of this soil that I would never allow this State to disappear, breakdown, or bow down. China should shed its expansionist mindset and forge bilateral ties with India for peace, progress and prosperity of both nations”. This message was reinforced with the appointment of Mr Kiren Rijiju from Arunachal Pradesh as Minister of State for Home Affairs. China made the predictable noises, with Prime Minister Li Keqiang congratulating Mr Modi on his appointment and President Xi Jinping sending his Foreign Minister Wang Yi to meet Mr Modi, with a personal message of greetings.

Did these gestures signal any substantive change in China’s policies, either on its outrageous territorial claims on Arunachal Pradesh, or the continuing intrusion of its troops across the Line of Actual Control? The answer is clearly in the negative. Just on the eve of Vice President Hamid Ansari’s visit to the Middle Kingdom, China published yet another official map depicting the entire State of Arunachal Pradesh as its territory. While the UPA Government had claimed that new “mechanisms” had been agreed upon to curb cross border intrusions, the intrusions continued. Given these developments the NDA Government should carefully consider reviewing and reorienting existing policies on China.

Any talk of more robust military responses to Chinese adventurism is ill-advised. The NDA Government has unfortunately inherited a situation where India’s armed forces are inadequately equipped and lacking in numbers. It would take a minimum of five years before the armed forces are adequately equipped and manned, to be able to present a more self-confident response to Chinese adventurism. New Delhi should, however, now reorient its diplomacy, by taking note of the fact that Chinese assertiveness and aggression is directed not only against India, but towards all its maritime neighbours, with unilateral declarations on delineation of its maritime boundaries.

Under the shadow of the Caliphate

Published: July 18, 2014
Hasan Suroor

The world is on entirely new territory but what is clear is that the ‘Islamic Caliphate’ marks a new phase in the sectarian battle for supremacy within Islam with profound implications for what remains of moderate Islam

“If things continue like this, the history of our age may one day be written under a caliphate’s supervision.”
— David Selbourne, British academic and writer

Normally, one would hesitate to quote Selbourne approvingly in relation to political Islam given his tendency to hyperventilate on the subject. But, it is noteworthy that he issued this chilling warning — in a briefing paper to the U.S. Secretary of State, John Kerry, later published as an essay in the New Statesman — long before the latest turn of events in Iraq and Syria. More specifically, it pre-dates the audacious move by the Sunni militant group, Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), to establish a medieval-style “Islamic Caliphate” in the heart of West Asia under the leadership of its helmsman, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi who has declared himself the Caliph, and the “leader of Muslims everywhere.”

At the time, Selbourne was accused of fanning Islamophobia and spreading alarm, but in the light of dramatic developments that have rocked West Asia in recent weeks, it seems he was almost prescient. Despite doubts about its legal and theological legitimacy, not to mention its uncertain future, the “caliphate’’ represents a dangerous new advance not only on ISIS’ own ambitions but also the whole Islamist movement.Reactions

The sheer symbolism of “conquering” and controlling such a large chunk of territory — an area the size of Pennsylvania straddling Syria and Iraq — and “erasing” the region’s established borders cannot be ignored. The talk of a caliphate (a concept many may not even have heard of until recently) is no longer a fantasy. And the tone of the debate in Islamic circles is telling: rather than focussing on the absurdity of seeking to impose a seventh century system on 21st century, the discussion is all about technicalities: whether in unilaterally declaring himself the Caliph, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi followed the rules, and whether “Muslims “everywhere” are obliged to recognise his new status.

Denouncing the move, the International Union of Muslim Scholars, led by influential Sunni cleric Dr. Yusuf Al-Qaradawi, concentrated mostly on procedural matters arguing that the ISIS Caliphate was “null and void” because it was not based on “shura” (consultations).

Iraq crisis: Lessons for India

July 16, 2014

It’s just been a month and Narendra Modi led NDA government is already confronting impediments on almost all crucial fronts. With the 80 per cent India facing monsoon deficit, terrains ahead seems to provide no relief to pro-development government, in various sectors, including one of the most important oil and gas sector.

Only when Ministry of Petroleum and Natural gas, led by Dharmendra Pradhan, was contemplating a change in a gas price regime as one of the resolve for bettering India’s investment climate, helping increase in its domestic production, Iraq crisis jeopardised such move, though not directly, but through an inflationary pressure resulting from an increase in the prices of global crude oil and railway passenger fares and freight rates. Natural gas, which is been viewed as one of the important means to curb crude imports, is instrumental in dealing with such geopolitical turbulence to an extent.

Given India’s vulnerability to a rise in global crude oil prices as a result of its 75-80 per cent of its crude import dependency, the sudden and rather steep rise in the same has the potential to displace the economic recovery process of the country in the current fiscal.

CARE ratings, suggests that Iraq crisis could widen India’s current account deficit, while putting pressure on exchange rate, impeding government’s fiscal consolidation goal and putting off any nudge on interest rates by the Reserve Bank of India. Keeping fiscal deficit to 4.1 per cent level, as pegged during interim budget would seemingly impossible to be managed by India’s Finance Minister in upcoming budget.

Iraq, which accounts for four per cent of global crude oil production, making it OPEC’s second largest producer after Saudi Arabia, would further add woes to India’s oil subsidy calculus. As with each dollar rise in the price of Indian crude basket results in an increase of petroleum subsidy by around Rs. 4500 crore and with expected global crude price of $110-111 a barrel through the current fiscal, could shoot up this subsidy to Rs. 7,000-8,000 crores.

But the Indian crude oil basket which remained stable from during July 2013 to May 2014 has suddenly started moving towards the north and expectedly crossing $120 a barrel, owing to recent Iraq disruptions, posing serious threats to India’s imports pay out and local currency’s financial strength. Barclays have already estimated that a rise of $10 a barrel would likely shave 0.5 per cent off India’s GDP, which is already reeling below historic 5 per cent for two consecutive years.

According to Vandana Hari from Platts, though current supply from Iraq’s Basrah Oil Terminal is not been disrupted largely due to violence been restricted to the northern and western parts, any disruption in its supply would be mostly borne by India’s oil marketing companies, as their under-recoveries on subsidised oil products would worsen further.

But how far would India’s contingency plan for Iraq sustains, remains to be seen. Iraq, which fulfils India’s 13 per cent of total crude oil requirement, is expected to touch 20 per cent in current fiscal to the tune of 19.4 million metric tonnes.

Before India fall prey to such geo-political ambushes emanating largely from the Middle East, it should besides aptly diversity its crude oil sourcing trends, also take proactive measures to stir up investments in its domestic energy sector, with a clear objective of consistently reducing are oil import dependencies.

China’s Maritime Silk Route: Implications for India

July 16, 2014

In recent days, China’s proposal for a Maritime Silk Route (MSR) has been a subject of speculation and debate. Beijing’s plan for a maritime infrastructure corridor in the broader Indo-Pacific region, first proposed by President Xi Jinping’s during his trip to Southeast Asia in October 2013, has attracted attention because of its potential to establish a Chinese foothold in the Indian Ocean. Needless to say, China’s outreach to India - inviting it to join the project - has generated much analytical curiosity.

The first thing of interest about the MSR is that it was initially mooted as an ASEAN-centered project. The intention then was to enhance connectivity and cultural links in China’s strategic backyard – the South China Sea. Beijing later expanded the scope of the project to include the Indian Ocean, but in reaching out to Colombo and New Delhi, it found a willing partner only in the former. India has been ambivalent about the MSR and is yet to make up its mind on joining the project.

During Indian Vice President’s Hamid Ansari’s visit to Beijing in end-June, China made another unsuccessful attempt at getting India to sign-up. Beijing’s renewed pitch for the construction of ports, logistical stations, storage facilities and free-trade zones in the Indian Ocean was again met with a passive response. While acknowledging Beijing’s sincere approach, the Indian side requested for more details on the project to help reach an early decision. 

This is the second time running that India has successfully skirted the controversial MSR project. The last occasion was in Feb 2014 during the Special Representatives Talks in New Delhi, when the Indian representative had declined any comment or opinion on the issue. India, however, is not alone in inquiring about the project’s commercial viability – many ASEAN countries have been equally probing about is intended benefits. This raises fundamental questions about the project, the principal one being: Why, despite its scale and scope of the planned investment, does the MSR not inspire any confidence? 

The problem with the MSR, essentially, is the ‘opaque’ nature of its proposal. Outwardly, the project is about the development of massive maritime infrastructure and connectivity in the Indian Ocean and the Western Pacific. Beijing has been careful to project the MSR as an exclusively commercial venture, trying hard to dispel any impressions of it being a cover for maritime military bases. Surprisingly, however, China has released no details about the project, and this makes many countries doubt Beijing’s strategic intentions. The lack of specifics not only makes it hard to decipher the MSR’s real purpose, it gives credence to suspicions of geopolitical game play by China. Indeed, for a project being touted as a critical enabler of regional sea-connectivity, Chinese planners would have spent much time and effort developing the fine-print. The lack of firm plans, proposals and timelines then does lead to a suspicion that there may be something about the MSR that Beijing is hesitant to reveal quickly.

Even on the few specifics that China has released, claims appear doubtful. According to Beijing, the MSR involves the development of maritime nodes that will help enhance trade and sea-connectivity and assist substantially in the development of local economies. Beijing has been promoting the project as an economic game-changer and an enormously beneficial enterprise for all host nations. Even so, it is hard to disregard the fact that China is the source of much of the maritime turbulence in South East Asia. China’s positioning of an exploration rig in the Vietnam’s EEZ, its skirmishes with Philippines over the Scarborough reef, and the aggressive patrols off the Senkaku islands clearly shows Chinese intensions in the Western Pacific are anything but benign. With unsettled issues of sovereignty and sovereign jurisdiction over disputed Islands in the South China Sea and the East Sea, Beijing’s expectation of a free-pass to create an entire infrastructure corridor in a contested maritime space, appears seriously doubtful.

Since it has already shown its approval for China’s BCIM (Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar) development plan, chances are New Delhi will be favourably inclined to consider the MSR. It is, however, certain to go over the details carefully before agreeing to the development of Chinese infrastructure in Indian waters. Even though it will be keen to start-off with Beijing on a positive note, the new NDA government in New Delhi would be wary of displaying undue haste in giving the MSR its full approval.

Understanding India’s Maoists

Publisher: Pentagon Press

ISBN: 978-81-8274-801-9

Price: Rs. 1295 [Download E-Book]

The proscribed Communist Party of India (Maoist), Maoists in short, also known in India as Naxalites, is the most lethal and largest of all such groups. Its ultimate aim is to capture/seize political/state power through protracted people’s war (PPW), on the lines propounded by Mao Tse Tung.

This volume is a modest attempt to understand the thought process of the Communist Party of India (Maoist). In this wake, some of the more important documents of the Maoists have been edited and compiled in this volume. These have been classified under various heads viz. Organisational Aspects; Interviews; Unity Congress; Central Committee/Polit Bureau Circulars/Statements; Synchronised/Large Scale Attacks; and Statements on other Organisations.

About the Author

P.V. Ramana is a Research Fellow at IDSA. He is the editor of a book entitled The Naxal Challenge (2008). His IDSA Occasional Paper No. 20 entitled Measures to Deal with Left-Wing Extremism/Naxalism was published in 2011.

He has written extensively on the Naxalite-Maoist movement in India. His writings have been published in Defense and Security Analysis, Routledge, London (December 2006) and in the authoritative Jane's Intelligence Review, London (June 2008).

He was a visiting Fellow at International Peace Research Institute (PRIO), Oslo, Norway, and Department of History, University of Calcutta, Kolkata.

He was consulted by the All India Congress Committee (AICC)-appointed Task Force on Naxalite Violence, in 2005, in the preparation of its report.

He has lectured at SVP National Police Academy, Hyderabad, Army War College, Mhow, Internal Security Academy, Mount Abu, ITBP Academy, Mussoorie, and Border Security Force Academy, Tekanpur.

He has contributed articles in English and vernacular newspapers in India and appears frequently on various television channels

Military and Intelligence Leaders Lose Confidence in Obama’s Afghan Plan


The idea of pulling nearly all American troops out of Afghanistan in 2016 suddenly seems pretty lousy, after so much of Iraq has collapsed under a similar scenario.

When President Obama announced his plan to leave Afghanistan by the end of 2016, U.S. intelligence said it could be done safely. Now, intelligence and military leaders are privately warning that the U.S. counterterrorism forces could be needed there for much longer. 

During the internal administration debate earlier this year over the way forward in Afghanistan, the CIA supported a plan to degrade al Qaeda to the point that America could withdraw almost all of its troops there by 2016. The responsibility of fighting al Qaeda would be left mostly to the Afghan and Pakistani militaries. 

For a White House looking to announce a new policy to go to zero combat troops in Afghanistan by the time President Obama leaves office, the agency’s classified assessment was exactly what they wanted to hear. But the assessment ran afoul of military leaders, especially those responsible for Afghanistan, who had long advocated for leaving a residual force in Afghanistan past 2016, including a strong contingent of the special operations and intelligence personnel to pursue and press al Qaeda. 

Now, those military leaders and some of their intelligence community brethren are warning privately that the rise of ISIS and the growing crises in Iraq, Syria, and North Africa are drawing away counterterrorism resources faster than expected from Afghanistan and Pakistan. The plan to degrade al Qaeda enough so that U.S. forces can leave is already lagging behind schedule. And given what’s happening in Iraq, they argue dismantling U.S. counterterrorism capabilities in Afghanistan no longer looks like a good idea in the first place. 

“The CIA assessment [earlier this year] was that whatever risk there may be in the President’s plan can be managed,” said one U.S. official who was briefed on the assessment. “In the next couple of years they can further degrade al Qaeda core to the degree where their capabilities would not require the kind of counterterrorism mission we’ve had there over the past few years.” 

But critics worry that the White House plan—and the CIA assessment that underpins it—may be too hopeful. 

“The issue is whether... we can manage the risk that the assessment is wrong and that al Qaeda could regenerate its senior leadership,” the official said. “Al Qaeda in Iraq was a destroyed organization when we left there and look where ISIS is now.” 

If a similar scenario plays out in Afghanistan, it could leave the America vulnerable and its war gains lost. 

“The idea that you could keep the pressure on terrorism networks in Afghanistan in the future without any counterterrorism forces there is highly problematic. Al Qaeda has proven to be an astonishingly resilient organization in the face of great pressure from the U.S.” 

Pakistani Military Launches Offensive to Capture Militant Stronghold of Mir Ali in Waziristan

July 15, 2014

Pakistan Launches Ground Offensive in 2nd Key Town

ISLAMABAD — Pakistan’s military said Tuesday it has launched a ground offensive against local and foreign militants in a second key insurgent stronghold near the Afghan border, as authorities rushed aid to over 800,000 people who fled the northwestern tribal region for safety.

The army spokesman, Gen. Asim Saleem Bajwa, said government forces moved in the town of Mir Ali on Monday, triggering a gunbattle in which 3 soldiers and seven militants were killed.

"Our forces launched the ground operation against terrorists in Mir Ali on Monday, and they are facing resistance," he told reporters in the eastern city of Lahore.

Mir Ali is near Miran Shah, the main town in the North Waziristan tribal region, where the military last month launched a long-awaited operation against the militants who have carried out numerous attacks in the country.

The insurgents were also behind scores of attacks on NATO, U.S. and Afghan forces in neighboring Afghanistan.

Washington has been urging Pakistan for years for a crackdown in North Waziristan. Unable to send in troops itself, the U.S. has relied on CIA drone strikes, many of which have hit Miran Shah and other nearby border villages. Pakistan had previously said its troops were too spread out across the tribal regions to launch such a crackdown.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif pushed for negotiations with the extremists. It wasn’t until a shocking attack on the Karachi airport on June 8 that the government approved the operation.

Authorities say over 800,000 people have poured out of North Waziristan, raising concerns of a humanitarian crisis.

Bajwa said the security forces would never allow militants to return to North Waziristan.

He said the military had cleared Miran Shah of militants, killing 447 of them while losing 26 soldiers there since the start of the June 15 operation.

Also Tuesday, a top opposition leader, Imran Khan criticized Sharif’s government for failing to provide basic facilities to people affected by the military operation.

"Prime Minister (Nawaz Sharif) should resign for his failure," he told reporters in Islamabad.

Khan said Sharif’s government had done little to help those displaced by the military operation in the northwest.

Undoing Afghanistan's resource curse


Drillers from Central Asian Mining Services collect samples from the North Aynak mineral zone outside Kabul. (Los Angeles Times) 

The resource curse could undermine everything the U.S. has invested in Afghanistan since 2001 

Afghanistan is teetering on the edge. A little-known bill just passed the upper house of its parliament that could help counter threats to the country's stability and future development, but only if the U.S. government works with Afghanistan to ensure that it is fixed before it becomes law.

The U.S. hopes that Afghanistan's $1-trillion mineral wealth will kick-start the economy, reduce dependency on American aid and ultimately fund Afghan security forces.- 

The United States hopes that Afghanistan's $1-trillion mineral wealth will kick-start the economy, reduce dependency on U.S. aid and ultimately fund Afghan security forces that can stand up to the Taliban. However, there is a serious risk this measure would instead fuel corruption and conflict, while generating little revenue for the government but a lot for insurgents and warlords.

A significant part of the last 30 years of conflict has been funded from the proceeds of natural resources, including emeralds and rubies. Initial research by Global Witness confirms that the Taliban and other armed groups are still taking a significant cut from mining in many parts of the country.

So the mining law matters. What the proposed law, which would replace an existing one, is supposed to do is set out how contracts for the vast mineral riches are granted, who is eligible to get them, what taxes they will pay and what protections there are for the environment and local communities. It should help determine whether the Afghan people receive their fair share of revenue from their natural wealth, or whether power brokers and corrupt officials will pocket the funds in dirty deals. It should spell out whether ordinary Afghans have any right to know who owns the contracts.

Recent Fighting Shows Untrained and Poorly Equipped Iraqi Shi’ite Militias Have Little Combat Capability

  1. Weeks of combat in Iraq show Shiite militias have few offensive capabilities

    Mitchell Prothero

    McClatchy News, July 16, 2014

    IRBIL, Iraq — The sectarian Shiite militias that the government in Baghdad has dispatched to fill the void created by the collapse of the Iraqi army are proving ill-equipped for offensive operations intended to reverse gains by the radical Islamic State, Iraqi soldiers and military experts studying the current military situation have concluded.

    The inadequacy of the militias to turn the tide was demonstrated again on Wednesday six miles south of Tikrit, the central Iraqi city that Islamic State fighters seized June 11 and that Iraqi forces and Shiite fighters have been trying to reclaim for more than two weeks.

    Local residents and Iraqi media reported that the Iraqi military backed by militias attempted to push through the town of Awja toward Tikrit but were beaten back by heavy machine-gun and mortar fire from Islamic State positions.

    “It was a big battle and the Iraqi army and the Iranian militias have gone,” said one local resident, whose reference to the Shiite militias as Iranians is common, if inaccurate, in heavily Sunni regions of Iraq. “They withdrew to a base south of Awja.” The resident declined to be identified for security reasons.

    A Twitter account associated with the Islamic State posted photographs of what it said was the aftermath of the fighting, including images of burning armored vehicles and at least one destroyed pickup truck emblazoned with the logo of SWAT, a highly trained Iraqi army special forces unit. The photographs were consistent with descriptions of the fighting, the units present and the location of the battle, though their authenticity could not be confirmed.

Invasion of Gaza Likely, Israeli Military Officials Says

 Israeli Invasion of Gaza Is Likely, Official Says; Brief Cease-Fire Is Set

Jodi Rudoren

New York Times, July 17, 2014

TEL AVIV — Even as Israel and Hamas agreed to suspend hostilities briefly on Thursday at the request of the United Nations, a senior Israeli military official said that his government was increasingly likely to order a ground invasion of the Gaza Strip that it had hoped to avoid.

Though Israel initially set limited goals of halting the rocket assaults against it and degrading Hamas, the Islamist movement that dominates Gaza, the group’s tenacity and surprisingly deep arsenal have led to widespread calls to expand the mission. The military official said only “boots on the ground” could eradicate terrorism from Gaza and indicated that Israel was even considering a long-term reoccupation of the coastal territory.

But with the Palestinian death toll reaching 214 on Wednesday, Israel and the Gaza militants agreed to end the violence for five hours on Thursday, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. For Israel, it was a move that might help mitigate international criticism of rising civilian casualties, and that carried little cost: The military warned that if Hamas or other groups “exploited” the “humanitarian window” to attack Israel, it would “respond firmly and decisively.”

Hours earlier, Israel called up 8,000 reservists in addition to the 42,000 troops already mobilized. With no progress reported from Cairo, where President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority had gone to discuss terms to end the fighting, Israel’s airstrikes intensified despite what the military official acknowledged were diminishing returns.

“Every day that passes makes the possibility more evident,” the military official said of a ground campaign. The official, who has been briefing Israeli ministers responsible for strategic decisions and spoke on the condition of anonymity under military protocol, said that his assessment was based on “the signals I get” and that the likelihood of an invasion was “very high.”

“We can hurt them very hard from the air but not get rid of them,” he told a handful of international journalists in a briefing at the military’s Tel Aviv headquarters. An Israeli takeover of Gaza would not be “a huge challenge,” he said, estimating that it would take “a matter of days or weeks.” But he added that preventing a more dangerous deterioration in the territory would require a presence “of many months.”

Dam Projects Ignite a Legal Battle Over Mekong River’s Future

Michelle Nijhuis
JULY 11, 2014

Opponents see threats to fish spawning, food supply, and a way of life in Southeast Asia.

In northern Laos, a boat heads toward the site of the Xayaburi Dam on the Mekong River. The dam is about 30 percent complete. 

On a remote stretch of the Mekong River in northern Laos, the silence is broken by the dull boom of dynamite. This is the site of the Xayaburi Dam, the first dam being built on the main stem of the river south of the Chinese border.

Concrete terraces now climb the steep riverbanks, and engineers estimate the project is one-third complete. If work remains on schedule, the 107-foot-tall (33 meters) Xayaburi will block the river by February. As the dam rises, however, the controversy around it is deepening.

The Xayaburi is endorsed by the Laotian government, which has stated its ambition to become the "battery of Southeast Asia," and financed by Thai investors who are eager to supply their nation's booming cities with electricity. But the project, along with several other large dams proposed downstream, are vehemently opposed by Cambodia, Vietnam, and many environmental organizations because of their threats to the river and those who depend on it.

The Mekong, which roughly translates to "mother of water" in the Lao and Thai languages, is the longest river in Southeast Asia. Running for more than 2,700 miles (4,345 kilometers) from the Tibetan Plateau to its delta in southern Vietnam, it is the largest inland fishery in the world and an essential part of the region's food supply: An estimated 50 million people live on the free protein its fish provide.

"The dams would be a disaster of epic proportions," says Kraisak Choonhavan, a longtime Thai politician and progressive activist.


Villagers from Khok Yai travel by boat and foot to work on the Xayaburi Dam. Once the dam is finished, the village will be evacuated and its residents relocated. 

Hezbollah Playing Relatively Small Military Role in Iraq So Far

Nicholas Blanford

Christian Science Monitor, July 16, 2014

Hasan Shaaban/Reuters
View Caption
Beirut, Lebanon — Hezbollah has dispatched a team of around 250 military advisors to help Iraqi Shiites fight back against the extremist Islamic State (IS) and other Sunni forces, according to sources close to the Iran-backed Lebanese Shiite militant group.

The deployment of the team comes as Hezbollah continues to battle Syrian rebel groups both in Syria and lately inside Lebanon, on its eastern frontier, underlining just how interwoven the conflicts in Syria and Iraq have become.

Hezbollah is aligned with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and, via its Iranian sponsors, with the Shiite-dominated government of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki. On Tuesday, Iraq’s parliament elected a new speaker, Salim al-Juburi, a move that may pave the way for the formation of a new Iraqi government after weeks of inaction.

However, Hezbollah’s battlefield commitment to defending the Syrian regime – and the abundance of Shiite militia volunteers in Iraq – suggest that the Lebanese group will not send combatants to the Iraqi theater.

“My sense is that the Iranians and by extension Hezbollah feel they have enough Iraqi manpower on the ground to fight IS,” says Randa Slim, a director at the Washington, DC-based Middle East Institute.

In Syria, Hezbollah has been compelled to send more fighters to fill the gap left by Iraqi paramilitary fighters who returned home in early June to battle IS, previously known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS). Before the latest Iraqi crisis, Hezbollah had an estimated 5,000 fighters serving in Syria at any one time. Its support has enabled Syria’s regime to retake strategic areas such as the Qalamoun area north of Damascus.

However, the spillover from the Syrian war has unsettled Lebanon.

Hezbollah is also presently engaged in fierce clashes in mountainous territory on the Lebanese side of the eastern border with Syria, near the town of Arsal. Its fighters are battling to dislodge some 3,000 to 4,000 Syrian rebels who are holed up there. The rebels have been using the remote area inside Lebanon as a staging post to mount attacks against the Syrian Army and Hezbollah in the Qalamoun area. At least 10 Hezbollah fighters are believed to have been killed in the area in recent days.

The Paracel Islands and U.S. Interests and Approaches in the South China Sea

Added June 24, 2014 
Type: Monograph 
218 Pages 
Download Format: PDF
Cost: Free 

The Paracel Islands and South China Sea disputes require better understanding by U.S. policymakers in order to address the region’s challenges. To attain that needed understanding, legal aspects of customary and modern laws are explored in this monograph to analyze the differences between competing maritime and territorial claims, and why and how China and Vietnam stake rival claims or maritime legal rights. Throughout, U.S. policies are examined through U.S. conflicted interests in the region. Recommendations for how the United States should engage these issues, a more appropriate task than trying to solve the disputes outright, are then offered. 

The One Thing the U.S. Can’t Train the Iraqi Army To Do

July 14, 2014 

The U.S. armed forces have spent considerable time, resources and talent building up and training Iraqi security forces to enable them to maintain a reasonable degree of stability in that war-torn and divided country. Why, then, did tens of thousands of Iraqi troops, including two army divisions, discard their weapons and uniforms, abandon their equipment and flee from a small attacking force of lightly equipped fighters from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria?

Author Lt. General (USA, Ret.) Robert G. Gard is senior military fellow at the Center for Arms Control & Non-Proliferation and former president of the National Defense University. Full Bio
The major reason was lack of a parallel effort to establish governing institutions capable of earning the loyalty and commitment of its soldiers.

At the time that ISIL took over Mosul without even token resistance, and continued its advance toward Baghdad, Iraqi active duty armed forces of the Ministry of Defense numbered over 200,000, with more than 500,000 police under the Ministry of the Interior. The Iraqi army had more than 300 main battle tanks, including 140 U.S. M1A1 Abrams Tanks, about 3,000 armored personnel carriers, including more than 400 U.S. M113A2s, and more than 70 helicopters.

The collapse of Iraqi security forces certainly was not due to an insufficient number of trained troops or inferiority in equipment and firepower. There is no doubt that our trainers successfully inculcated in the Iraqi soldiers the tactical combat skills necessary to deal with numerically inferior hostile insurgent forces.

What cannot be taught, however, is motivation or incentive that can be called morale or confidence in, and commitment to, the nation’s institutions and leadership, both military commanders and political authorities. This intangible element, essential to success in combat, depends on the legitimacy of domestic governance, not admonitions from foreign military advisors.

The U.S. must accept at least some of the responsibility for the incompetent, corrupt and non-inclusive Iraqi government and its institutions. We supported a second term of another four years for Nouri al-Maliki as primeminister after the 2010 election, despite his obvious malfeasance during his first term, and although a rival coalition bloc, led by a moderate Shiite, Ayad Allawi, had won a majority of the seats in Parliament.

ISIS destroys shrines and mosques, may be targeting Mecca

July 10, 2014

A total of six mosques across the northern Nineveh province of Iraq have been destroyed by ISIS forces. 

ISIS is leaving a path of destroyed churches, shrines and mosques in its wake as it storms across Syria and Iraq, and has even set its sights on Mecca -- Islam's holiest site.

The nihilistic jihadis, led by self-proclaimed descendant of Prophet Muhammad Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, have already bulldozed or blown up some of the most sacred places in Iraq, and seem bent on killing and destroying anyone or anything that does not measure up to their vision of Islam. Experts say the group, which originally stood for Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, but now simply calls itself "Islamic State," has appointed itself the leading proponent of the Muslim faith.

“They see themselves as the last defenders of Islamic civilization and want to eradicate anything that they see as the enemy of Islam, and any Muslim they perceive as compromising with the West,” Yvonne Haddad, a professor at Georgetown University who specializes in the history of Islam and Christian-Muslim relations, told FoxNews.com.

“But if ISIS actually tried to destroy the Ka'ba, they would be met with extraordinary opposition.”

- Prof. Carl Ernst, University of North Carolina

Mostly comprised of Sunnis, ISIS surprised few when it vowed to destroy sites revered by the rival Shia sect. The two main blocs of Islam have been at odds for nearly 1,400 years because of a dispute over who was Prophet Muhammad's successor. The destruction of at least 10 ancient Shia shrines in Iraq has enraged the Shia government in Baghdad, as well as the Iranian regime, also Shia.

But an unverified threat to Mecca itself, the holy city in Sunni-dominated Saudi Arabia where Muslims believe they must make one pilgrimage during their lifetimes, was unprecedented. Allegedly tweeted by a member of the extremist group on a since-suspended account, the threat took aim at the most sacred beacon of the Muslim faith.

Not Belittle the Islamic State

JULY 10, 2014 


The declaration of a Middle Eastern caliphate has wide-reaching consequences for the region and the world. The West needs to realize the significance of what is happening.

While many people were busy watching the 2014 World Cup, a new entity appeared on the world map: the Islamic State, which emerged on June 29 as the successor to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (commonly known as ISIS), a jihadist militant group. This self-proclaimed “state” does not have a president, it has a caliph, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. Instead of a constitution, it has the Koran. Instead of ministers and embassies, it has suicide bombers and sabers. And instead of the rule of law, it has summary executions. 

The Islamic State is now taking root in northern Iraq and northeastern Syria, where it has experienced fighters, many of them foreigners, as well as weaponry, money, and ambitions to expand across the Middle East and Turkey. As former U.S. ambassador to Syria and Iraq Ryan Crocker wrote on June 19, “this is global jihad, and it will be coming our way. . . . This is a determined enemy, and it will not stop where it is now.” 

The emergence of a new caliphate—a nation for all Muslims—has far-reaching consequences for the Middle East, the West, and beyond. The Islamic State has sought to break down borders and has empowered the Kurds in their push for independence, while the turmoil unleashed by the militants has reinforced a worrying trend toward a new kind of Western jihadism. Yet a striking feature of recent developments in Syria and Iraq is the lethargy of Western diplomacies. It is as if, despite a wealth of analyses by foreign ministries, intelligence services, and think tanks, the rest of the world treated the looming crisis with benign neglect for too long. The West needs to seriously assess the significance of the newest entity on the world map.


The proclamation of a caliphate on the first day of Ramadan has shattered the comfortable setup of 1916 known as the Sykes-Picot agreement and threatens to call into question the borders of modern-day states in the region. In terms of more recent history, the Islamic State has also wiped out the achievements of the U.S.-led engagement in Iraq that began in 2003. It is high time to answer this wake-up call. 

As of July 2014, the Islamic State claims to control vast expanses of land in Iraq and Syria or, more accurately, long corridors linking the towns and cities it occupies. These areas run roughly from the Syrian cities of ar-Raqqah and Deir ez-Zor on the Euphrates River in the west to the Iraqi cities of Mosul and Samarra on the Tigris River in the east. Importantly, the Islamic State has been able to take these areas due to the collapse of the Iraqi army along the Tigris and thanks to the significant support it has received from Iraqi Sunni tribal leaders, including remnants of the regime of former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein. In its southbound blitzkrieg, the group has taken Mosul and snatched sizable quantities of U.S.-made weapons and military vehicles including tanks, armored personnel carriers, howitzers, Humvees, and heavy trucks, as well as a stash of cash said to be around $400 million

A significant number of the Islamic State’s fighters (the exact proportion is difficult to assess) come from countries other than Iraq or Syria. Most of those from EU member states have Belgian, French, or British passports, which makes it more difficult to track them down within Europe. These foreigners have also enjoyed the freedom to cross the Turkish-Syrian border at will since Turkey has long practiced an “open door” policy in favor of those fighting against the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. 

Iraq Crisis: How Saudi Arabia Helped ISIS Take Over the North of the Country

By Patrick Cockburn
13 July 2014

A speech by an ex-MI6 boss hints that it has been the Saudis' plan all along

How far is Saudi Arabia complicit in the ISIS takeover of much of northern Iraq, and is it stoking an escalating Sunni-Shia conflict across the Islamic world? Some time before 9/11, Prince Bandar bin Sultan, once the powerful Saudi ambassador in Washington and head of Saudi intelligence until a few months ago, had a revealing and ominous conversation with the head of the British Secret Intelligence Service, MI6, Sir Richard Dearlove. Prince Bandar told him: "The time is not far off in the Middle East, Richard, when it will be literally 'God help the Shia'. More than a billion Sunnis have simply had enough of them."

The fatal moment predicted by Prince Bandar may now have come for many Shia, with Saudi Arabia playing an important role in bringing it about by supporting the anti-Shia jihad in Iraq and Syria. Since the capture of Mosul by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) on 10 June, Shia women and children have been killed in villages south of Kirkuk, and Shia air force cadets machine-gunned and buried in mass graves near Tikrit.

In Mosul, Shia shrines and mosques have been blown up, and in the nearby Shia Turkoman city of Tal Afar 4,000 houses have been taken over by ISIS fighters as "spoils of war". Simply to be identified as Shia or a related sect, such as the Alawites, in Sunni rebel-held parts of Iraq and Syria today, has become as dangerous as being a Jew was in Nazi-controlled parts of Europe in 1940.

There is no doubt about the accuracy of the quote by Prince Bandar, secretary-general of the Saudi National Security Council from 2005 and head of General Intelligence between 2012 and 2014, the crucial two years when al-Qa'ida-type jihadis took over the Sunni-armed opposition in Iraq and Syria. Speaking at the Royal United Services Institute last week, Dearlove, who headed MI6 from 1999 to 2004, emphasised the significance of Prince Bandar's words, saying that they constituted "a chilling comment that I remember very well indeed".

He does not doubt that substantial and sustained funding from private donors in Saudi Arabia and Qatar, to which the authorities may have turned a blind eye, has played a central role in the ISIS surge into Sunni areas of Iraq. He said: "Such things simply do not happen spontaneously." This sounds realistic since the tribal and communal leadership in Sunni majority provinces is much beholden to Saudi and Gulf paymasters, and would be unlikely to cooperate with ISIS without their consent.

Dearlove's explosive revelation about the prediction of a day of reckoning for the Shia by Prince Bandar, and the former head of MI6's view that Saudi Arabia is involved in the ISIS-led Sunni rebellion, has attracted surprisingly little attention. Coverage of Dearlove's speech focused instead on his main theme that the threat from ISIS to the West is being exaggerated because, unlike Bin Laden's al-Qa'ida, it is absorbed in a new conflict that "is essentially Muslim on Muslim". Unfortunately, Christians in areas captured by ISIS are finding this is not true, as their churches are desecrated and they are forced to flee. A difference between al-Qa'ida and ISIS is that the latter is much better organised; if it does attack Western targets the results are likely to be devastating.

The forecast by Prince Bandar, who was at the heart of Saudi security policy for more than three decades, that the 100 million Shia in the Middle East face disaster at the hands of the Sunni majority, will convince many Shia that they are the victims of a Saudi-led campaign to crush them. "The Shia in general are getting very frightened after what happened in northern Iraq," said an Iraqi commentator, who did not want his name published. Shia see the threat as not only military but stemming from the expanded influence over mainstream Sunni Islam of Wahhabism, the puritanical and intolerant version of Islam espoused by Saudi Arabia that condemns Shia and other Islamic sects as non-Muslim apostates and polytheists.

Dearlove says that he has no inside knowledge obtained since he retired as head of MI6 10 years ago to become Master of Pembroke College in Cambridge. But, drawing on past experience, he sees Saudi strategic thinking as being shaped by two deep-seated beliefs or attitudes. First, they are convinced that there "can be no legitimate or admissible challenge to the Islamic purity of their Wahhabi credentials as guardians of Islam's holiest shrines". But, perhaps more significantly given the deepening Sunni-Shia confrontation, the Saudi belief that they possess a monopoly of Islamic truth leads them to be "deeply attracted towards any militancy which can effectively challenge Shia-dom".

Western governments traditionally play down the connection between Saudi Arabia and its Wahhabist faith, on the one hand, and jihadism, whether of the variety espoused by Osama bin Laden and al-Qa'ida or by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi's ISIS. There is nothing conspiratorial or secret about these links: 15 out of 19 of the 9/11 hijackers were Saudis, as was Bin Laden and most of the private donors who funded the operation.

The difference between al-Qa'ida and ISIS can be overstated: when Bin Laden was killed by United States forces in 2011, al-Baghdadi released a statement eulogising him, and ISIS pledged to launch 100 attacks in revenge for his death.

But there has always been a second theme to Saudi policy towards al-Qa'ida type jihadis, contradicting Prince Bandar's approach and seeing jihadis as a mortal threat to the Kingdom. Dearlove illustrates this attitude by relating how, soon after 9/11, he visited the Saudi capital Riyadh with Tony Blair.

He remembers the then head of Saudi General Intelligence "literally shouting at me across his office: '9/11 is a mere pinprick on the West. In the medium term, it is nothing more than a series of personal tragedies. What these terrorists want is to destroy the House of Saud and remake the Middle East.'" In the event, Saudi Arabia adopted both policies, encouraging the jihadis as a useful tool of Saudi anti-Shia influence abroad but suppressing them at home as a threat to the status quo. It is this dual policy that has fallen apart over the last year.

Saudi sympathy for anti-Shia "militancy" is identified in leaked US official documents. The then US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton wrote in December 2009 in a cable released by Wikileaks that "Saudi Arabia remains a critical financial support base for al-Qa'ida, the Taliban, LeT [Lashkar-e-Taiba in Pakistan] and other terrorist groups." She said that, in so far as Saudi Arabia did act against al-Qa'ida, it was as a domestic threat and not because of its activities abroad. This policy may now be changing with the dismissal of Prince Bandar as head of intelligence this year. But the change is very recent, still ambivalent and may be too late: it was only last week that a Saudi prince said he would no longer fund a satellite television station notorious for its anti-Shia bias based in Egypt.

The Sunni Ahmed al-Rifai shrine near Tal Afar is bulldozed

The problem for the Saudis is that their attempts since Bandar lost his job to create an anti-Maliki and anti-Assad Sunni constituency which is simultaneously against al-Qa'ida and its clones have failed.

By seeking to weaken Maliki and Assad in the interest of a more moderate Sunni faction, Saudi Arabia and its allies are in practice playing into the hands of ISIS which is swiftly gaining full control of the Sunni opposition in Syria and Iraq. In Mosul, as happened previously in its Syrian capital Raqqa, potential critics and opponents are disarmed, forced to swear allegiance to the new caliphate and killed if they resist.

The West may have to pay a price for its alliance with Saudi Arabia and the Gulf monarchies, which have always found Sunni jihadism more attractive than democracy. A striking example of double standards by the western powers was the Saudi-backed suppression of peaceful democratic protests by the Shia majority in Bahrain in March 2011. Some 1,500 Saudi troops were sent across the causeway to the island kingdom as the demonstrations were ended with great brutality and Shia mosques and shrines were destroyed.

An alibi used by the US and Britain is that the Sunni al-Khalifa royal family in Bahrain is pursuing dialogue and reform. But this excuse looked thin last week as Bahrain expelled a top US diplomat, the assistant secretary of state for human rights Tom Malinowksi, for meeting leaders of the main Shia opposition party al-Wifaq. Mr Malinowski tweeted that the Bahrain government's action was "not about me but about undermining dialogue".

Western powers and their regional allies have largely escaped criticism for their role in reigniting the war in Iraq. Publicly and privately, they have blamed the Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki for persecuting and marginalising the Sunni minority, so provoking them into supporting the ISIS-led revolt. There is much truth in this, but it is by no means the whole story. Maliki did enough to enrage the Sunni, partly because he wanted to frighten Shia voters into supporting him in the 30 April election by claiming to be the Shia community's protector against Sunni counter-revolution.

But for all his gargantuan mistakes, Maliki's failings are not the reason why the Iraqi state is disintegrating. What destabilised Iraq from 2011 on was the revolt of the Sunni in Syria and the takeover of that revolt by jihadis, who were often sponsored by donors in Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait and United Arab Emirates. Again and again Iraqi politicians warned that by not seeking to close down the civil war in Syria, Western leaders were making it inevitable that the conflict in Iraq would restart. "I guess they just didn't believe us and were fixated on getting rid of [President Bashar al-] Assad," said an Iraqi leader in Baghdad last week.

Of course, US and British politicians and diplomats would argue that they were in no position to bring an end to the Syrian conflict. But this is misleading. By insisting that peace negotiations must be about the departure of Assad from power, something that was never going to happen since Assad held most of the cities in the country and his troops were advancing, the US and Britain made sure the war would continue.

The chief beneficiary is ISIS which over the last two weeks has been mopping up the last opposition to its rule in eastern Syria. The Kurds in the north and the official al-Qa'ida representative, Jabhat al-Nusra, are faltering under the impact of ISIS forces high in morale and using tanks and artillery captured from the Iraqi army. It is also, without the rest of the world taking notice, taking over many of the Syrian oil wells that it did not already control.
The Shia Al-Qubba Husseiniya mosque in Mosul explodes

Saudi Arabia has created a Frankenstein's monster over which it is rapidly losing control. The same is true of its allies such as Turkey which has been a vital back-base for ISIS and Jabhat al-Nusra by keeping the 510-mile-long Turkish-Syrian border open. As Kurdish-held border crossings fall to ISIS, Turkey will find it has a new neighbour of extraordinary violence, and one deeply ungrateful for past favours from the Turkish intelligence service.

As for Saudi Arabia, it may come to regret its support for the Sunni revolts in Syria and Iraq as Jihadi social media begins to speak of the House of Saud as its next target. It is the unnamed head of Saudi General Intelligence quoted by Dearlove after 9/11 who is turning out to have analysed the potential threat to Saudi Arabia correctly and not Prince Bandar, which may explain why the latter was sacked earlier this year.

Nor is this the only point on which Prince Bandar was dangerously mistaken. The rise of ISIS is bad news for the Shia of Iraq but it is worse news for the Sunni whose leadership has been ceded to a pathologically bloodthirsty and intolerant movement, a sort of Islamic Khmer Rouge, which has no aim but war without end.

The Sunni caliphate rules a large, impoverished and isolated area from which people are fleeing. Several million Sunni in and around Baghdad are vulnerable to attack and 255 Sunni prisoners have already been massacred. In the long term, ISIS cannot win, but its mix of fanaticism and good organisation makes it difficult to dislodge.

"God help the Shia," said Prince Bandar, but, partly thanks to him, the shattered Sunni communities of Iraq and Syria may need divine help even more than the Shia.