Story 1: Turkey Votes To Change From Parliamentary to Presidential System of Government — Videos —
Where’s Turkey headed after its referendum? – Inside Story
Turkey Referendum: Erdogan’s new grip on power
Dispute over Turkey’s referendum results continues
Is Turkey Becoming a Dictatorship?: Erdogan Claims Victory in Vote to Give President Sweeping Powers
Turkey’s Choice: Nation deciding on changing political system
The Truth about Turkeys failed Coup (CIA designed Civil War)
Lionel on the Alex Jones Show: Syria False Flags, North Korea Lies, French Elections & Media Lies
The Idiot’s Guide to Turkey, Erdogan and the Phony Coup
Turkish Referendum Erdogan Wins ! | The Millennial Revolt
Published on Apr 16, 2017
Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has claimed victory in a referendum granting him sweeping new powers, hailing the result as an “historic decision”. The leader called on the international community to respect the result and discouraged his critics from “belittling” the outcome, saying they “shouldn’t try, it will be in vain”. The state-run Anadolu news agency claimed that 51 per cent per cent of voters had sided with the “Yes” campaign, ushering in the most radical change to the country’s political system in modern time.
But the main opposition the Republican People’s Party (CHP) said they would demand a recount of up to 40 per cent of the vote, saying that “illegal acts” occurred during the vote and that there were up to 2.5m “problematic ballots”. The pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party (HDP) also claimed they had information that voter fraud was implicated in up to four per cent of the ballots. Both parties said they would appeal the results. CLICK LINKS FOR SOURCES
Story 2: Coalition Against Islamic State in Syria — What is Next: Wrath of Euphrates: The Battle for Raqqa: Isolate and Assault — Take No Prisoners — Videos
US eyes assault on ISIS stronghold
CNN’s Nick Paton Walsh talks to Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend near Mosul, Iraq, where coalition forces hope to make a push toward Raqqa, ISIS’ center of control in Syria.
U.S.-Led Coalition Has ‘Made Adjustments’ In Syria To Account For ‘Tensions’
Wrath of Euphrates Op: US troops spotted near Raqqa frontline (EXCLUSIVE)
400 US troops deployed outside ISIS capital Raqqa
Ministers of the Global Coalition on the Defeat of ISIS
Raqqa Battle Phase 3 outcome
Beginning of a new phase to free Raqqa
Battle for Raqqa. First phase of Wrath of Euphrates Initiative ends successfully.
Published on Nov 12, 2016
12 Nov 2016 Syria. Raqqa.
SDF, YPG, YPJ and International Brigade fighters had began to advance from Siluk and Eyn İsa southwards from two directions on November 5.
The Siluk branch has cleared an area of 30 kms and the Ayn İsa branch has cleared an area of 15 kms from ISIS gangs. Yesterday, the two branches united along the Beliz creek.
After the liberation of Xınıse and the unification of the two branches of fighters, the first phase of the initiative ended successfully.
Civilians flee Raqqa as Syrian forces advance
More U.S. Troops heading to Raqqa, Syria to fight ISIS
18 Allied Fighters Killed In US Led Syria Strike
100s killed following US-led airstrike in Syria
Assad: No one invited US to Manbij, all foreign troops in Syria without permission are ‘invaders’
U.S. military says misdirected airstrike in northern Syria killed 18 allied fighters
Syria: Kurdish fighters make gains against IS behind enemy lines
Ross Kemp The Fight Against Isis
Turkey and Russia join forces against Islamic State
US Joins Ground Forces with Kurds, Syrian, & Russian Fighters Against ISIS in Syria
Targeting the High Value Terrorists
On The Road To Raqqa – Heavy Clashes Between Kurdish Forces And ISIS During The Battle Of Raqqa
US soldiers help Iraqi troops secure Mosul
Satellite Imagery: The Cutting of Mosul’s Bridges
Satellite Imagery: The Islamic State’s Mosul Defenses
Satellite Images: The Islamic State’s Scorched Earth Tactics
Why Did the Iraq War Start? The Untold Story – Seymour Hersh – Reasons, Justification (2005)
The Breathtaking Incoherence of American Foreign Policy as to North Korea and Syria
‘Defeating ISIS No.1 US goal’: Tillerson at coalition summit coinciding with London attack
Trump Gives Generals More Freedom on ISIS Fight
Pentagon brass take lead on decisions that were made by White House under Obama; ‘I authorize my military,’ Trump says
U.S. Army trainers watch as an Iraqi recruit fires at a military base in Iraq. PHOTO: JOHN MOORE/GETTY IMAGES
Dion Nissenbaum in Washington and
Maria Abi-Habib in Beirut
Updated April 14, 2017 10:29 p.m. ET
U.S. military commanders are stepping up their fight against Islamist extremism as President Donald Trump’s administration urges them to make more battlefield decisions on their own.
As the White House works on a broad strategy, America’s top military commanders are implementing the vision articulated by Defense Secretary Jim Mattis: Decimate Islamic State’s Middle East strongholds and ensure that the militants don’t establish new beachheads in places such as Afghanistan.
“There’s nothing formal, but it is beginning to take shape,” a senior U.S. defense official said Friday. “There is a sense among these commanders that they are able to do a bit more—and so they are.”
While military commanders complained about White House micromanagement under former President Barack Obama, they are now being told they have more freedom to make decisions without consulting Mr. Trump. Military commanders around the world are being encouraged to stretch the limits of their existing authorities when needed, but to think seriously about the consequences of their decisions.
The more muscular military approach is expanding as the Trump administration debates a comprehensive new strategy to defeat Islamic State. Mr. Mattis has sketched out such a global plan, but the administration has yet to agree on it. While the political debate continues, the military is being encouraged to take more aggressive steps against Islamic extremists around the world.
The firmer military stance has fueled growing concerns among State Department officials working on Middle East policy that the Trump administration is giving short shrift to the diplomatic tools the Obama administration favored. Removing the carrot from the traditional carrot-and-stick approach, some State Department officials warn, could hamper the pursuit of long-term strategies needed to prevent volatile conflicts from reigniting once the shooting stops.
Gen. Nicholson said Friday it was too early to say how many militants had been killed in the previous day’s bombing. The Afghan Defense Ministry retracted an earlier statement that the strike had killed 36 militants, saying it was unable to provide precise figures yet.
A military official for the coalition who viewed footage of the bombing said it was difficult to make out details of its effects beyond a “mushroom cloud” of smoke rising into the sky. He added that a second MOAB was available for use in the country, but no decision had been made on whether it should be deployed.
Islamic State’s Amaq news agency posted a statement on Friday saying none of its fighters were killed or wounded in the strike, which took place in Nangarhar province, along the country’s mountainous border with Pakistan.
Gen. Nicholson indicated that he—not the White House—decided to drop the bomb. “The ammunition we used last night is designed to destroy caves and tunnels. This was the right weapon against the right target,” he told reporters Friday. “I am fortunate that my chain of command allows me the latitude to make assessments on the ground.”
A senior administration official said Mr. Trump didn’t know about the weapon’s use until it had been dropped.
Mr. Mattis “is telling them, ‘It’s not the same as it was, you don’t have to ask us before you drop a MOAB,’” the senior defense official said. “Technically there’s no piece of paper that says you have to ask the president to drop a MOAB. But last year this time, the way [things were] meant, ‘I’m going to drop a MOAB, better let the White House know.’”
Indeed, on Thursday Mr. Trump himself emphasized the free rein he gives the Pentagon. “I authorize my military,” Mr. Trump said. “We have given them total authorization.”
On Friday, the U.S. military said it has sent dozens of soldiers to Somalia, where Mr. Trump recently gave the head of the U.S. Africa Command more leeway to carry out counterterrorism operations against al-Shabaab, the al Qaeda affiliate in the area.
The more aggressive military approach comes as the long slog against Islamic State is bearing fruit. The group is on the back foot in its Iraqi stronghold, Mosul, and is facing a hard battle to defend its de facto Syrian capital, Raqqa.
The U.S. has sent more forces into Iraq and Syria, stepped up support for Saudi Arabia’s fight against Houthi militants in Yemen, and dispatched an aircraft carrier to the Korean Peninsula amid growing evidence that North Korea is preparing for a new nuclear test.
Loren DeJonge Schulman, who served as senior adviser to Mr. Obama’s national security adviser, said a more assertive military campaign is destined to fail unless it is part of a broader strategy against Islamic State, also known by the acronyms ISIS and ISIL.
“It’s crazy that the Trump administration thinks that ‘taking the gloves off’ is either a winning strategy against ISIL or a useful narrative for the White House or the military,” said Ms. Schulman, now a senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security.
Derek Chollet, a former assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs in the Obama administration, said giving the Pentagon more freedom is one of the most significant things Mr. Trump has done.
“It’s not clear to me that he’s making any tough decisions,” said Mr. Chollet, now executive vice president at the German Marshall Fund of the United States. “All that he’s essentially done is ceded decision authority down to protect himself from making tough calls.”
The flip side of the Trump administration’s emphasis on a more-free-wheeling military approach to Islamic State is an apparent reduction of the use of soft-power tools—economic development, diplomacy and democracy-building—favored by the Obama White House.
Some State Department officials describe being cut out from the White House’s counterterrorism strategy in the Mideast, with efforts to nurture democratic governments and push for more secular education systems carrying less weight in the White House’s evolving approach.
“State is being systematically sidelined,” said a State Department official who has worked on counterterrorism issues in Washington and abroad.
The official said the White House strategy of prioritizing military might over diplomacy makes it hard to persuade Mideast allies to relax their grip on power. Many of Washington’s closest Arab allies are autocratic regimes guilty of human-rights abuses that critics say fuel terrorism.
“The problem there is that in many of the places where you need carrots, those carrots are often seen as threats to local governments,” the official said, referring to democracy and society-building programs the State Department funds across the Mideast.
Egypt offers a prime example of the Trump administration’s leanings. When Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al Sisi, a military strongman, visited the White House earlier this month, Mr. Trump gave him a warm welcome. Mr. Obama had refused to meet him because of his regime’s alleged human-rights abuses.
U.S. officials in the Mideast say a counterterror approach that focuses solely on military might without programs to fight the causes that feed extremism could backfire, leading groups like Islamic State to go underground and wait for future opportunities to re-emerge. They are particularly concerned about Raqqa, where a U.S.-led military coalition is closing in around the city but post-liberation stabilization plans aren’t finalized as State Department officials wait for White House guidance.
—Jessica Donati and Habib Khan Totakhil in Kabul and Carol E. Lee in Washington contributed to this article.
After the start of the Battle of Mosul (2016–17) in Iraq, many of the 20,000 ISIL fighters estimated to be living in the city fled to Raqqa, boosting the ISIL forces that were already present in their de facto capital city.
The SDF officially announced the start of the operation on 6 November in the village of Ayn Issa. The intention was to proceed in two phases, first seizing areas around Raqqa and isolating the city, advancing from three fronts, then taking control of the city itself. The SDF general command called for the international coalition against ISIL to support the operation. In response, Ash Carter welcomed the announcement and emphasized the importance of capturing Raqqa and defeating ISIL, while cautioning that “there is hard work ahead”.
Phase One: Isolating Raqqa from its northern hinterland
Tal Saman, ISIL headquarters in the northern Raqqa countryside, after being captured by the SDF.
On 6 November, the SDF captured six small villages, including the villages of Wahid, Umm Safa, Wasita, Haran, al-Adriyah and Jurah south and southeast of Ayn Issa. The Islamic State detonated four car bombs on the first day of the offensive.
On 8 November, the SDF reported that they had taken control of 11 villages near Ain Issa. The SDF also claimed that ISIL used several car bombs against their forces. By 11 November, the SDF had captured over a dozen villages and the strategically significant town of Al-Hisbah, which had served as a local headquarters and command center for ISIL. On the next day, the SDF continued to advance against ISIL in the area around Tal Saman and Khnez, bringing the number of captured farms and villages to 26.
As of 14 November, the SDF reported the completion of the initial phase of the operations, stating that 500 km2has been captured: 34 villages, 31 hamlets and seven strategic hills, along with 167 Islamic State casualties.The SDF had also begun to besiege Tal Saman, the largest village and ISIL headquarters north of Raqqa, while ISIL launched a counter-attack near Salok in the eastern countryside of Raqqa Governorate in order to force the SDF to split its forces and open a new front. On the next day, the SDF advanced into Tal Saman, resulting in a fierce battle with its ISIL defenders. At the same time, the SDF also captured 10 more villages and farms. By 19 November, the SDF had fully captured Tal Saman and had driven ISIL completely from the surrounding countryside. With this, the first phase of the offensive was considered completed.On 20 November 2016, 200 fighters completed training, joined the SDF, and were sent to participate in the offensive.
The second phase of the offensive aimed to enforce a full blockade of the city of Raqqa. On 21 November, the SDF captured two more villages, while ISIL launched a counter-attack near Tal Saman. Over the next days, the SDF attempted to further advance, such as at al-Qalita, but was unable to break through ISIL’s defense line south of Tal Saman. On 24 November, a US serviceman died from wounds he suffered after stepping on an improvised explosive device near the town of Ayn Issa, to the north of Raqqa.
On 25 November, ISIL received reinforcements from Iraq, among them explosive experts and defected Iraqi Army personnel. On the next day, ISIL launched a counter-attack, retaking parts of Qaltah village and a nearby water pump station, while the SDF managed to advance in the village’s vicinity. Boubaker Al-Hakim, an ISIL commander who was linked to the Charlie Hebdo shooting, was reported to have been killed in an American airstrike in Raqqa on 26 November. Iraqi military however later stated in April 2017 that he might still be alive.
On 27 November, the SDF announced the offensive’s second phase was due to start, though this was then delayed. At least five SDF fighters were killed in renewed clashes north of Raqqa on 29 November. Meanwhile, ISIL suffered from the defection of two senior commanders, who fled from Raqqa to join Jabhat Fateh al-Sham in Idlib. On 4 December, a coalition drone strike in Raqqa killed two ISIL leaders who had helped facilitate the November 2015 Paris attacks and another who was involved in a foiled suicide attack in Belgium in 2015. Three days later, co-Chair of the Democratic Union Party (PYD) Salih Muslim said that the first phase to surround Raqqa was almost over, while a new Arab brigade consisting of more than 1,000 men and women from the al-Raqqa area had joined the SDF as part of the second phase which was slated to be launched on 10 December. More than 1,500 Arab fighters who were trained and equipped by the anti-ISIL coalition joined the SDF for the second phase on its launch day.
Phase Two: Isolating Raqqa from its western countryside
SDF fighters advance northwest of Raqqa after the start of the offensive’s second phase.
The SDF launched the second phase on 10 December, with the aim of capturing the northwestern and western countrysides of al-Raqqa and ultimately reaching and securing the Tabqa Dam. The same day, it was announced that Arab SDF groups, consisting of the Elite Forces, Jabhat Thuwar al-Raqqa and the newly formed Deir Ezzor Military Council would be taking part. During the first day, the SDF began to advance south of the Tishrin Dam and captured al-Kiradi village. The United States announced that it would send 200 more troops to assist the SDF. The next day, the SDF captured seven more villages from ISIL. On 12 December, the SDF captured four villages as well as many hamlets south of Tishrin Dam. The SDF captured five villages during the next two days. On 15 December, the SDF captured three villages, taking the total number of villages captured by them in the second phase to 20.
Over the next four days, the SDF captured 20 more villages, while finally reaching Lake Assad‘s shore, thereby cutting off and besieging 54 ISIL-held villages to the west. In response to these territorial losses, ISIL began to carry out more suicide attacks against both the SDF as well as civilian targets within SDF-controlled areas in an attempt to hinder the offensive. On 19 December, ISIL launched a counter-attack to regain four villages in the northwestern countryside, but the attack was repelled after a few hours. The following night, ISIL forces retreated largely unopposed from the besieged 54 villages, leaving them to be captured by the SDF. The SDF declared that they had captured 97 villages overall during the second phase, and had begun to advance against Qal’at Ja’bar.
On 21 December, the SDF seized five villages near Qal’at Ja’bar, including Jabar, which served as the main weaponry storage and supply centre for ISIL in the northwestern countryside. The coalition then began to move toward Suwaydiya Saghirah and Suwaydiya Kabir, the last villages before Tabqa Dam. Even though an ISIL counter-attack managed to retake Jabar village soon after, the SDF attacked again on 23 December, and once again took control of it, while also capturing another village. This prompted ISIL to launch yet another counter-attack later that day, which was accompanied by several suicide car bombs. As a result, heavy clashes took place between them and SDF fighters in several villages along the frontline that lasted until the early morning of 24 December. The ISIL forces were eventually forced to withdraw after the SDF first shelled and then stormed their positions, whereupon the latter took control of most of Jabar as well as two more villages, though some ISIL holdouts persisted in Jabar.
ISIL was pushed out of the neighboring, strategic village of Eastern Jabar on the next day, bringing SDF within 5 kilometres (3.1 mi) of Tabqa Dam, and by 26 December, the SDF had finally fully secured the main Jabar village, with the last ISIL defenders being expelled after heavy fighting. An ISIL counterattack on the village later that day failed, with a US airstrike killing Abu Jandal al-Kuwaiti as he commanded the assault. Al-Kuwaiti, also known as Abdulmuhsin al-Zaghelan al-Tarish, was a high-ranking ISIL commander leading the defense of the whole Raqqa region against the SDF. Meanwhile, the Amaq News Agency declared that Iman Na’im Tandil (nom de guerre: Abu ‘Umar Al-Hindi), one of the few Indian ISIL fighters active in Syria, had also been killed during the fighting near Jabar. The Islamic State’s official media wing later also officially paid tribute to Iman.
Battle for Jabar’s surroundings
A YPGBMP, loaded on a truck, being transported to the frontline near Mahmudli on 4 January.
On 27 December, ISIL launched an attack on the village of Secol in the northern countryside, reportedly breaching the local SDF defences. On the next day, the SDF reportedly captured Hadaj village after two days of heavy fighting, while another ISIL counter-attack against Jabar was repelled. Mahmud al-Isawi, a senior ISIL facilitator who was a manager of instructions and finances for the group’s leaders as well as a provider of propaganda and intelligence support, was killed on 31 December in a US-led coalition airstrike on Raqqa. After three days of heavy fighting, the SDF captured all or most of Mahmudli, the largest town of the Al-Jarniyah Subdistrict, on 1 January 2017. ISIL counterattacked later in an attempt to regain the town. The SDF leadership said that in the clashes since the launch of the second phase they had captured 110 villages, killed 277 ISIL fighters, and captured 13.
Also on January 1, the SDF resumed its offensive on the northern front, reportedly advancing 6 km south of Tell Saman against ISIL positions. The SDF reportedly captured nine more villages in this area, within the next three days. Meanwhile, with the SDF edging closer to Raqqa, ISIL further restricted Internet access and increased surveillance over Internet users in Raqqa. There were harsh punishments for accessing anti-ISIL websites, with a new special unit within the ISIL’s security office searching for offenders. Several online activists in Raqqa were captured and tortured or executed. Another two villages and hamlets were captured by the SDF on 5 January.
SDF fighters examine Qal’at Ja’bar. ISIL had built tunnels and weapons depots into the medieval castle.
The SDF captured Qal’at Ja’bar (Ja’bar Castle) from ISIL on 6 January. The same day, ISIL was reported to have moved its 150 prisoners from Tabqa city due to the offensive. The SDF later captured eight villages and five hamlets at the Ayn Issa front. On 7 January, the SDF captured five villages including the strategic Suwaydiya Gharbi and Suwaydiya Saghirah, reaching the outskirts of Tabqa Dam. ISIL reportedly recaptured Suwaydiya Saghirah by the next day after a counterattack, while a local leader of the group was killed in clashes. Meanwhile, ISIL was reported to have withdrawn 150 of its fighters towards Raqqa city.
On 8 January 2017, US special forces raided the village of Al-Kubar, between Ar-Raqqah and Deir ez-Zor, killing at least 25 ISIL militants in the two-hour operation. It was believed that the goal of the US may have been to rescue hostages from an ISIL secret prison in the village. After the raid, ISIL forces cut off access to the village.
On 9 January, the SDF captured another village, along with three hamlets.
On 10 January, ISIL launched a large-scale counter-attack at the Jabar frontline and reportedly recaptured several sites; with pro-Free Syrian Army sources claiming Qal’at Ja’bar and the village of Jabar were among these. ISIL consequently released photos of dead SDF fighters, while claiming that over 70 of them had been killed in the counter-attack. However, the SDF was reported to still be in control of Jabar village and Qalat Jabar a few days later.
An ISIL attack on Jib Shair village, trying to resist SDF advances from the north, was repelled on the next day, after which the SDF advanced and captured six hamlets around it. The SDF later announced that their forces advancing from the Ayn Issa front and on the Qadiriya front linked up in Kurmanju village after capturing several villages over the past few days, besieging a large pocket of about 45 villages and 20 hamlets. All of them were captured by the next day, resulting in the alliance gaining about 460 square kilometres (180 sq mi) of land. Another village was captured by the SDF on 13 January. On 15 January, the SDF progressed to Suwaydiya Kabir village, while ISIL launched a large-scale counter-attack against Mahmudli and a nearby village, resulting in clashes within these settlements. The attack was repelled after several hours of fighting. The SDF captured three villages during the day, while Suwaydiya Saghirah was also reported to be under its control again. On 17 January 2017, 28 Arab tribes from Raqqa announced their support for the offensive and encouraged locals to join the SDF.
The SDF attacked Suwaydiya Kabir on the next day, leading to heavy clashes in the village. Meanwhile, it was announced that about 2,500 local fighters had joined the offensive since it began. On 19 January, ISIL launched a counter-attack against Suwaydiya Saghirah, supported by mortars and heavy machine guns, killing or wounding several YPG fighters. Despite this, the SDF made further progress on the next day, capturing a village and advancing against many other ISIL-held villages. The SDF again attacked Suwaydiya Kabir on 20 January, reaching the outskirts of the village, and captured it on 22 January after heavy clashes, with the support of U.S. special forces.
Tabqa Dam raid and further SDF advances in the north
In late January 2017, it was reported that a number of ISIL militants were hiding inside the structure of the Tabqa Dam, including senior militant leaders who used to be “very important prisoners” wanted by the US and several other countries, in order to deter a possible US-led coalition strike on them.
On 23 January, the SDF began to advance on the Tabqa Dam, spurring ISIL to open its turbines to raise the Euphrates River’s water levels. This was seen as an attempt to hinder the progress of the Kurdish-led forces and a scare tactic, and caused the water level of the Euphrates to rise to its highest level in 20 years, leading to record flooding downstream. Coinciding with this, pro-SDF sources reported that US special forces and SDF units had launched a raid against Al-Thawrah across the river. By 24 January, SDF forces had managed to capture parts of the town, and SDF forces on the dam began working towards the Tabqa Dam’s control rooms, at the southern part of the dam, in an attempt to stop the massive outflow of water released by ISIL. However, the entrance to the dam’s control rooms was too well defended, and with the continued threat of disastrous flooding downstream, SDF and the US forces withdrew from both the Tabqa Dam and the town of Al-Thawrah, after which ISIL closed the dam’s turbines again.
Over the next three days, ISIL repeatedly launched fierce counter-attacks against SDF positions in the western and northern countryside. ISIL managed to retake ground in the area around the dam, but the attack was later repelled.
Preparation for the third phase
An SDF IAG Guardian armoured personnel carrier in February 2017, one of several APCs that were supplied by the United States to the SDF.
On 31 January 2017, the SDF received a number of armoured personnel carriers supplied by the US. The SDF spokesman stated that preparations for a new phase of the operation were continuing and the operation would begin in “a few days”. Meanwhile, the leader of the SDF-aligned Syria’s Tomorrow Movement and its paramilitary wing, Ahmad Jarba, announced that 3,000 Arab fighters under his command were training with US special forces to be deployed in the battle for Raqqa against ISIL.
On the night of 2–3 February, intense CJTF–OIR airstrikes targeted several bridges in or near Raqqa city, destroying them as well as the local water pipelines, leaving the city without drinking water. Meanwhile, the SDF advanced against the village of Qaltah in the northern countryside, which the coalition had already unsuccessfully attacked in November. ISIL maintenance crews managed to fix the pipelines during 3 February, restoring Raqqa’s water supply. On 3 February, 251 Arab fighters in Hasaka completed their training and joined the SDF.
Phase Three: Isolating Raqqa from its eastern countryside
On 4 February, the SDF announced the offensive’s third phase, aiming at capturing Raqqa’s eastern countryside, and to separate Raqqa city from ISIL forces in Deir ez-Zor, though operations in the west and north would continue simultaneously. The SDF captured a village and three hamlets to the northeast of Raqqa later that day, with clashes being reported at al-Qaltah and Bir Said, while 750 Arabs completed training and joined the SDF. On the next day, the Kurdish-led forces captured another two villages along with a hamlet and two farms, and besieged Bir Said, while especially intense airstrikes hit several ISIL targets in Al-Thawrah. Bir Said, along with another village, was eventually captured by the SDF on 6 February. In addition to these villages, the SDF also captured another five villages on two fronts. The SDF made further progress, capturing three more villages on 7 February. In early February 2017, US-led coalition airstrikes destroyed much of the Deir ez-Zor-Raqqa highway, reducing it to a single-file gravel road in some spots, with the SDF patrolling other areas with minefields, in order to prevent ISIL from reinforcing Raqqa city. By this point, almost all of the five bridges leading to Raqqa had been destroyed either by the US-led coalition or by ISIL, with the only exceptions being the Tabqa Dam and the Baath Dam, both west of Raqqa city.
As these advances continued, ISIL responded by launching several unsuccessful counter-attacks against Suwaydiya Kabir and other strategic territories captured by the SDF. On 8 and 9 February, the SDF advanced at the northern and northeastern frontline, capturing several villages and besieging Mizella, a major strategic ISIL stronghold in the northern countryside. The advance put them within 11 kilometres (6.8 mi) of Raqqa. The SDF captured Mizella the next day. The two fronts of the alliance converged on 11 February as it also captured two villages and wheat silos to the north of Raqqa during the day; the next day, the SDF attempted to cross the Balikh River northeast of Raqqa, leading to heavy fighting with local ISIL defenders. On 12 February, a large-scale counter-attack by ISIL reportedly succeeded in retaking Suwaydiya Kabir and four other nearby villages. However, pro-YPG sources denied these reports. Another counterattack was carried out by ISIL to the northeast of Raqqa where the SDF had advanced to, leading to heavy clashes between both sides. Clashes continued over the next few days. On 16 February, 165 more SDF fighters completed training and joined the offensive.
On 17 February 2017, the SDF announced the launch of the second stage of the third phase, aimed at capturing the eastern countryside of Raqqa near Deir ez-Zor, with the Deir Ezzor Military Council leading the operation. On the same day the SDF captured two villages from ISIL to the north of Deir ez-Zor and came within 6 kilometres (3.7 mi) of the northeast of Raqqa, while the Russian Air Force conducted airstrikes on ISIL forces in Raqqa city for the second time since its entry into the war. The next day, the SDF captured another village to the southwest of the Makman front (north of Deir ez-Zor) as well as another near Raqqa. On 18 February, the SDF stormed a prison a few kilometres northeast of Raqqa, freeing some of the inmates. They later captured three villages in Deir ez-Zor’s northern countryside. On the next day, the SDF captured five villages to the east of Raqqa. On 20 February, they captured four villages on the Makmen front, including the strategic village of Sebah al-Xêr as well as a base station of Syriatel, thus cutting off the road between Makman and Raqqa and besieging three ISIL-held villages. Furthermore, the SDF took control of a significant bridge over the Balikh River on the western front.
On 21 February, the SDF captured two villages on the Makman front and another one near Raqqa. ISIL later again assaulted Suwaydiya Kabir, attacking it from three fronts, leading to heavy fighting around it. The SDF continued advancing in the eastern countryside of Raqqa on 22 February, capturing three villages, and merging the two fronts at Makman and Bir Hebe. A YPJ commander declared that the SDF had cut the road to Raqqa and Deir ez-Zor. The SDF stated that it had entered Deir ez-Zor Governorate for the first time in the offensive. On the next day, they captured six villages and sixteen hamlets.
Opening of a new front
On 24 February, the SDF captured four villages in the Makman front and another three in a fourth front to the northeast of Deir ez-Zor. They captured the strategic Abu Khashab village later that day. On 25 February, they captured another three villages on the fourth front.
On 26 February, a US airstrike near Tabqa Dam destroyed a former government facility which was being used as a headquarters by ISIL. The airstrike’s vicinity to the dam’s structure led to fears that the dam could potentially be destabilized or destroyed during the fighting. Later that day, it was reported that the SDF had captured the village of Al-Kubar, on the northern bank of the Euphrates in the Deir ez-Zor countryside, further tightening the siege on Raqqa. On 28 February, it was reported that the US-led coalition had completely destroyed the Tabqa Airbase in an airstrike.
On 27 February, the plan that the Pentagon submitted to US President Trump to significantly speed up the fight against ISIL included a significant increase in US participation in the Raqqa campaign, with the possibility of the US increasing its ground presence on the Raqqa front to 4,000–5,000 troops.
Advance to the Raqqa-Deir Ezzor highway
YPG/SDF fighters on the bank of the Euphrates east of Raqqa.
The offensive resumed on 5 March, with the SDF capturing at least seven villages and 15 hamlets to the northeast of the Euphrates River, east of Raqqa. The offensive had previously been paused due to bad weather, according to the SDF. The area captured by SDF forces on that day was about 19 square kilometers, and about 32 ISIL militants were killed in the clashes. After further advances on 6 March, the SDF cut the highway between Raqqa and Deir ez-Zor, which was the last road out of the city, and reached the Euphrates River. The SDF captured six villages, the Al-Kubar Military Base (a former nuclear facility), and the Zalabiye Bridge, during the day. On 8 March, the SDF took control of the strategic West Menxer hill in the eastern countryside, while elements of the US 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit were deployed to northern Syria, bringing with them an artillery battery of M777 howitzers to support the attack on Raqqa. Meanwhile, about 150 ISIL militants from Hama and Deir-ez Zor managed to reinforce Raqqa, by crossing the Euphrates, despite the partial siege that had been imposed by the SDF on the city.
On 9 March, SDF captured the strategic East Menxer hill and captured three villages on two different fronts. Two villages, including Kubar, were captured on the front to the far east of Raqqa, and one near Raqqa. 244 Arab fighters from the Raqqa countryside also joined the SDF during the day, for the protection of the people in the region. On the next day, SDF forces advancing from the Abu Khashab front captured three villages, including two near Kubar. On 12 March, the SDF captured Khas Ujayl village, to the southeast of Raqqa, on the Abu Khashab front, while ISIL continued to launch repeated counterattacks in the area, in an attempt to check the SDF advances. Meanwhile, 230 ISIL fighters entered Raqqa to reinforce the city.
On 14 March, the SDF captured the Khass Hibal village, as well as the Al-Kulayb grain silos, along the Raqqa-Deir Ezzor highway. An SDF spokeswoman stated that Raqqa had been isolated. The advance of the SDF put them in control of the land region used by ISIL to connect to their territories in the east, stretching from al-Kubar to the northern bank of the Euphrates and measuring 30 kilometres (19 mi). The SDF captured the Hamad Asaf silos and the Al Kulayb village the next day. Hamad Assaf was also reportedly captured. On 17 March, a YPG commander stated that the SDF planned to storm Raqqa city in April 2017, and that the YPG would be participating in the attack, despite the fierce opposition from the Turkish government. However, Pentagon Spokesman Jeff Davis denied that any decision regarding when and how an assault on Raqqa city will be carried out. Meanwhile, clashes continued to take place around Khas Ujayl.
The town of al-Karama, after the SDF had captured it from ISIL.
Heavy clashes took place in the town of al-Karama, to the east of Raqqa, on 19 March. On the next day, SDF captured al-Karama, along with Jarqa village as well as a train station and water pumping station nearby. On 21 March, it was reported again that the SDF had captured Hamad Assaf in the eastern countryside from the Abu Khashab front. Another village was captured on 22 March from the Abu Khashab front. Meanwhile, Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) and Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently (RIBSS) stated that coalition airstrikes hit a school being used as a shelter for displaced people in a village to the west of Raqqa on 20 March. SOHR stated that 33 civilians were killed in the airstrikes while RIBSS stated that it was unknown what happened to 50 families who were there. The SDF continued advancing in the eastern Raqqa countryside on 23 March, capturing two more villages on the Abu Khashab front, allowing them to capture a small ISIL pocket.On 24 March, the SDF took control of two more villages in the eastern countryside of Raqqa.
Battle for al-Tabqa countryside and other advances
On 22 March, the SDF began an assault to capture the Tabqa Dam, al-Thawrah (Tabqa) city, and its airbase. Five hundred SDF fighters and five hundred US Special Forces from CJTF–OIR were airlifted by helicopters of the United States military, across the Euphrates River and Lake Assad, and were dropped on the Shurfa Peninsula to the west of Al-Thawrah. The attack was supported by artillery support from United States Marines, as well as air support. SDF and US forces also landed on the Jazirat al-‘Ayd Island (or Peninsula) to the west of Tabqa Dam, capturing it as well. Four villages southwest of Tabqa were captured in the attack, including Abu Hurayrah, al-Mushayirafah, al-Krain, and al-Jameen. The SDF advanced towards the town of Al-Thawrah, where fliers were dropped, asking residents to stay indoors and avoid clashing against ISIL for now. These fliers were also dropped on Raqqa city. An anti-ISIL coalition spokesman announced that the advance had cut off the highway linking the Aleppo, Deir ez-Zor, and Raqqa Governorates. He added that around 75-80% of the attacking force consisted of Arab fighters, with the rest being Kurds. The SDF stated that the advance was also meant to block any advance on Raqqa by the Syrian Arab Army from the west.
On the same day, SDF and US forces stormed the Tabqa Dam, triggering “intense” clashes with ISIL forces. US officials stated that it may take several weeks to capture Tabqa Dam, Al-Thawrah city, and the surrounding countryside from ISIL. Airstrikes by the coalition on Tabqa city were reported to have killed about 25 civilians. On 23 March, some early reports circulated that the SDF had captured Tabqa Dam from ISIL, after clashing with ISIL forces for a few hours. However, these reports were unconfirmed by other sources, with neither the SDF or CENTCOM confirming the capture of Tabqa Dam, and Rudaw reported that the SDF was still preparing to capture it. SDF spokesman Talal Silo stated during the day that they were still advancing on the dam and the city and expected to attack the dam soon. Later on the same day, it was reported that ISIL was redeploying a large number of fighters from the Deir ez-Zor Province to Al-Thawrah and Raqqa city, in order to reinforce those fronts. ISIL’s Amaq News Agency later denied later that the SDF had captured the dam.
Refugees from al-Thawrah (Tabqa) city, who have fled from the fighting between the SDF and ISIL.
On 24 March, SDF spokeswoman Jihan Sheikh Ahmed announced that they had reached the Tabqa Dam, and were fighting ISIL at its entrance. The assault on the dam was spearheaded by SDF fighters who were backed by United States Special Operation Forces. According to early reports, the SDF and its allies had taken its outer perimeter, with the battle ongoing for its middle. On the same day, it was also reported that the SDF had captured 8 villages to the southwest of Al-Thawrah. On 25 March, pro-Kurdish news agency Kurdistan24 reported that the SDF had announced the capture of the Tabqa Dam. On the same day, the SDF advanced on Al-Tabqa Airbase, setting off clashes in the vicinity.Amaq meanwhile claimed SDF had withdrawn from the dam.
On 26 March, the SDF captured 2 villages to the east of Al-Thawrah. It was also reported that ISIL was shelling the surroundings of Tabqa Dam with heavy weaponry.On the same day, ISIL claimed that Tabqa Dam was on the verge of collapse and that all the floodgates were closed. The dam was reported to have become inoperable, which ISIL claimed was due to Coalition bombing and artillery strikes, though the SOHR stated that the actual reasons were unknown, adding that ISIL still held its main building and turbines.SDF however denied that it had been hit, while RIBSS (Raqqa is Silently Being Slaughtered) stated that ISIL was informing fleeing civilians that the dam was safe. Additionally, the US-led Coalition stated that the Tabqa Dam was structurally sound, and that the dam had not been targeted by any airstrikes. They also stated that the SDF controlled an emergency spillway at the northern part of the dam, which could be used in the event of an emergency. On the same day, SDF spokesman Talal Silo announced that SDF had stormed the Tabqa military airport, and had taken sixty to seventy percent of it. They later announced that they had completely captured the Al-Tabqa Airbase, following a 24-hour battle.ISIL forces stationed at Al-Tabqa Airbase were reported to have withdrawn northward, to Al-Thawrah city. Additionally, SDF forces captured 2 villages near the airbase during the advance.
Late on 26 March, it was reported that the SDF had taken full control of Tabqa Dam, and that repairs on the dam by Coalition engineers had begun. A day later however SDF announced they were temporarily pausing their offensive for the dam. Later in the day, a spokeswoman of the SDF announced that engineers who had been permitted to check the dam and its operations did not find it was damaged or malfunctioning. SDF also captured 2 villages to the west of Raqqa on the same day. It resumed the offensive against ISIL at the Tabqa Dam on 28 March. Syrian engineers worked on the dam during a pause in the fighting to open spillways and ease the pressure on the dam. Its southern reaches were reported to be under ISIL control. ISIL claimed that the maintenance team was killed in airstrikes by the anti-ISIL coalition while the SOHR stated that it had learned that the engineer administering the dam had been killed in airstrikes along with a technician. It also stated that the group had sent 900 fighters from Raqqa to fight against the SDF advance.
On 29 March, the SDF cut the road between Al-Thawrah (Tabqa) city and Raqqa. The SDF stated that ISIL had shelled the Tabqa Dam during the day, causing repair work to be temporarily paused. On 31 March, SDF forces attacked the town of Al-Safsafah, to the east of Al-Thawrah, in an attempt to besiege the city. On the same day, the Ajeel tribe of al-Raqqa announced its support for the SDF’s Raqqa campaign and sent 150 fighters. On 1 April 2017, 200 Arab youths completed training and joined the SDF, also for the Raqqa campaign. The SDF announced during the day that over 220 new recruits had joined the offensive. Meanwhile, leaflets were dropped on the city calling on ISIL to surrender. Clashes continued in the countryside of Tabqa on next day as both sides attempted to advance.
The SDF and some activists stated on 2 April that it had repelled a major ISIL counterattack to the northeast of Tabqa city, near the Tabqa Dam and near the Tabqa airbase. They also continued to advance in villages to the east of Tabqa city. On the same day, it was reported that SDF had completely besieged Al-Thawrah (Tabqa) city, with Kurdish activists stating that 2 SDF units linked up to the east of the city. SOHR, however, stated that they were still trying to besiege the city. SDF fighters continued battling for Safsafah and Ibad, on the next day, to fully encircle Tabqa. On 3 April, it was reported that ISIL was possibly in the process of moving its capital from Raqqa city to Mayadin, in the Deir ez-Zor Governorate. This followed months of gradual relocation of resources and senior ISIL leaders from Raqqa to Mayadin. SDF entered and besieged Safsafah on 5 April, thus also besieging Tabqa city while claiming that it had also taken control of a major part of Safsafah. The village was captured by the next day, resulting in SDF completely encircling Tabqa city.
The SDF captured Ibad village, to the east of Safsafah, on 9 April, further expanding their control in eastern countryside of Tabqa, while more than 25 ISIL fighters were killed in the clashes. ISIL also launched unsuccessful counterattacks on Safsafah, while also attacking Al-Tabqa Airbase. The SDF captured another village near Tabqa on the next day.
On 11 April, the US-led Coalition reported that the SDF had captured 60% of Tabqa Dam, and that they were “very close” to liberating the dam. On 13 April, the United States military stated that CJTF-OIR had bombed a SDF fighting position near Tabqa as it was misidentified as belonging to ISIL. It added that the airstrikes resulted in deaths of 18 SDF fighters.
Phase Four: Offensive directly north of and around Raqqa city; Assault on Tabqa city
On 13 April, the SDF announced the launch of the fourth phase of the campaign. The new phase will involve capturing the entire area directly north of Raqqa city, including the Jalab valley, as well as completing the siege of Raqqa city. The advancements may involve capturing the southern countryside of Raqqa as well, since the SDF stated that they plan to fully isolate the city before launching an attack on it. A plan to attack Raqqa city itself was also scheduled to for April 2017, but it was postponed due to the Battle of Tabqa. SDF was reported to have captured a village in the northern countryside of Raqqa on the same day.
SOHR stated early on 15 April that the SDF had advanced to the edge of Tabqa, and was within hundreds of meters of the city. Later, SDF captured the village of Ayad al-Saghir village near Tabqa and stormed the city itself, capturing the Alexandria suburb and bringing about 15% of the city under their control. They also cleared the Mushayrifah village near Tabqa, killing 27 ISIL fighters.
On 17 April, the SDF captured 3 villages in the northern countryside of Raqqa along with four hamlets.
Civil administration of captured territory
Samer Kharkhi, one of the Raqqa Civil Council’s leading members.
On 14 November, the SDF’s civilian sister institution, the Syrian Democratic Council (SDC), started working on the establishment of a civilian administration to run the city of Raqqa after the expulsion of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. SDC co-chair Îlham Ehmed said “such an administration could provide a good example for democratic change in Raqqa, especially that the city has been for years a de facto capital for the ISIS terrorist group. This accomplishment would be a major change in the overall situation in Syria, and would help the country move towards stability, democratic change. Raqqa will be an example for the whole country.”
On 8 December, Col. John Dorrian, the Operation Inherent Resolve spokesman, stated that “a governance structure representative of the local population” similar to that in Manbij is planned for Raqqa. On 10 December, Cihan ShekhEhmed, the spokesman of the SDF-led operation, said that Raqqa would be run by a local elected civilian council after it was liberated. On 27 March 2017, Salih Muslim Muhammad, co-chairman of the Democratic Union Party (PYD), said that as soon as the SDF had captured the city, “the people of Raqqa are the ones who [will] take the decision on everything”. If they wanted to do so, Muslim said, they could choose to join the Democratic Federal System of Northern Syria. On the same day, the Raqqa Civil Council announced that it had taken over the administration of the eastern countryside.
A YPJ sniper during the offensive on 13 November 2016
A boat carrying SDF fighters cross Lake Assad on 9 April 2017
Toyota Hilux and other vehicles of the YPG and YPJ near Tabqa, 9 April 2017
Jump up^Most Leftist Western volunteers fight as part of the YPG, though some have also formed an independent unit, the Antifascist International Tabur, or joined the International Freedom Battalion. The latter is a larger unit, mostly composed of Kurdish and Turkish communists.
Jump up^1,500 volunteers from villages captured by the SDF during phase one; 1,000 volunteers from villages captured during phase two, 750 volunteers from villages captured during phase three, 200 more joined in April
Jump up^According to SOHR, 8 SDF casualties were Western volunteers; among these were 4 Americans (one of which fought for the MFS), 1 British, 1 Canadian, and 1 German.ARA News, on the other side, reported that only 5 Western volunteers had been killed.
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson speaks with a delegate during the afternoon ministerial plenary for the Global Coalition working to Defeat ISIS at the State Department in Washington, March 22, 2017.
U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson presided over a meeting of the 68-member Global Coalition to defeat ISIS and emphasized that the Coalition is unified, remains committed to the military defeat of ISIS, and noted the significant progress that has been made.
On March 22, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson presided over a meeting of the 68-member Global Coalition to defeat ISIS and emphasized that the Coalition is unified, remains committed to the military defeat of ISIS, and noted the significant progress that has been made.
On the battlefield, 23 coalition partners have over 9,000 troops in Iraq and Syria in support of the effort to defeat ISIS. The Coalition has made significant progress in denying ISIS safe haven and building the military capacity of those directly engaged in fighting ISIS.
Coalition operations have liberated 62 percent of the terrain ISIS once controlled in Iraq and 30 percent in Syria, including key cities in both countries. The number of ISIS fighters in Iraq and Syria is down by more than half since its peak in 2014.
Coalition aircraft have conducted more than 19,000 strikes on ISIS targets, removing tens of thousands of ISIS fighters from the battlefield and killing over 180 senior to mid-level ISIS leaders, including nearly all of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s deputies, his so-called ministers of war, information, finance, oil and gas, and his chief of external operations.
The Coalition has supported its Iraqi partners to achieve significant progress in the fight to retake Mosul. Iraqi Security Forces officially liberated eastern Mosul on January 24, 2017, and now are making significant territorial gains in the western portion of the city.
To date, Coalition efforts have trained nearly 90,000 Iraqi Security Force members, including Iraqi Army soldiers, Counterterrorism Services soldiers, Kurdish Peshmerga, federal police and border security soldiers, and tribal volunteers.
With the support of the Coalition, Syrian partners have liberated over 14,000 square kilometers of terrain in Syria, including more than 7,400 square kilometers of territory since isolation operations around Raqqa began on November 5.
Coalition forces are now pressuring ISIS in Raqqa, its external operations headquarters, from where ISIS is plotting against Coalition member interests around the globe.
“Hard-fought victories in Iraq and Syria have swung the momentum in our coalition’s favor,” said Secretary Tillerson, “but we must increase the intensity of our efforts to solidify our gains in the next phase of the counter-ISIS fight. Degradation of ISIS is not the end goal, we must defeat ISIS.”
The race for Raqqa: Major battle to liberate the ISIS stronghold looms after victory nears in Mosul and Palmyra… but who will lead the offensive?
Syrian soldiers, Turkish troops and US-backed Kurdish troops eyeing up Raqqa
Islamic State terrorists were driven out of Mosul and Palmyra in another victory
With liberation of the two cities drawing nearer, Raqqa will become top priority
The fall of the terror group’s de facto capital would be seen as ISIS’ biggest loss
By Gareth Davies For Mailonline
PUBLISHED: 06:48 EDT, 3 March 2017 | UPDATED: 07:05 EDT, 3 March 2017
A major battle to liberate the Islamic State group’s stronghold of Raqqa in northern Syria is looming after victories on the battlefields of Mosul and Palmyra.
The Pentagon has drawn up a secret plan which is likely to lean on local allies with stepped-up American support, but questions still remain as to who exactly will lead the operation to kick ISIS out of its de facto capital.
Syrian government forces, Turkish troops and their Syrian militia allies, and US-backed Kurdish forces all have their eye on Raqqa.
Each vehemently rejects letting the others capture the city and would likely react in anger should the United States support the others, and it is not clear that any has the resources to take the city on its own.
The fall of Raqqa, the Islamic State group’s de facto capital and largest remaining stronghold, would be the biggest defeat for the militants in Syria since they captured the northern city on the banks of the Euphrates River in January 2014.
An Iraqi Army officer (right) uses his mobile phone to film a rocket launched towards Islamic State militants during a battle with Islamic State militants in Mosul,Iraq
Iraqi family displaced due to fighting between the Iraqi army and ISIS, waiting at a temporary shelter to be sent to a refugee camp in Hamam Ali town, southern Mosul
Iraqi soldiers fire a rocket toward Islamic State militants on the outskirt of the Makhmour south of Mosul, Iraq
Smoke billows as Iraqi forces hold a position on a street in Mosul on March 1, 2017, during an offensive by security forces to retake the western parts of the city from Islamic State
Since October, US-backed coalition forces have been advancing on Mosul in an attempt to re-capture it from the terror group’s control.
Civilians have been evacuated and ISIS have been driven out of the city one village and area at a time.
This morning, an Iraqi military commander says forces have taken control of another neighborhood in western Mosul.
Brigadier General Yahya Rasool, spokesman of the Joint Military Operations Command said despite bad weather, Iraqi special operations forces have completely retaken the Wadi Hajjar area from militants.
However, commanders on the ground say that clearing operations are still continuing.
Wadi Hajjar lies just northwest of the city’s international airport.
Iraqi forces, including special operations forces and federal police units, launched an attack on the western part of Mosul nearly two weeks ago to dislodge the extremists.
Since the offensive began, more than 28,000 people have been displaced by the fighting, according to the UN.
Across the border in Syria, army units were clearing land mines and explosives left behind by ISIS in the historic town of Palmyra on Friday, a day after government troops and allied militiamen recaptured it from the extremists.
The military expects the process to be long and difficult due to the large number of mines planted by the terror group.
Syrian troops fully recaptured Palmyra on Thursday after a push that saw the militants’ defenses crumble and ISIS fighters flee in the face of artillery fire and intense Russia-backed airstrikes.
The Tetrapylon and Roman Amphitheatre in the ancient city of Palmyra is blown up in conflict
Fighters from the al-Qaida linked Islamic State, now called the Islamic State group, marching in Raqqa, Syria, where attention will now turn
Now, all eyes turn to Raqqa.
Faysal Itani, an analyst at the Washington-based Atlantic Council, said: ‘Raqqa is more of an abstract goal: everyone wants it in principle, but no one is willing to commit the resources and bear the risks necessary.’
Turkey rules out a US compromise in Syria
Turkey is ruling out compromise with the United States over the involvement of Kurdish militia fighters in an assault in Syria, an obstacle for Washington’s plan to deploy its strongest allies on the ground in a decisive showdown with Islamic State.
Donald Trump has made defeating ISIS one of the key goals of his presidency, and his new administration received a draft Pentagon plan on Monday to accelerate the campaign.
Raqqa in Syria, one of Islamic State’s two de facto capitals along with Mosul in Iraq, is expected to be the scene of the final battle to crush the jihadists’ self-proclaimed Caliphate sometime this year, after a US-backed Iraqi government assault on Mosul already under way since October.
But putting together a united ground force to take Raqqa has so far proven a confounding task in Syria, where the United States, Turkey, Russia, Iran and Arab states have all backed local forces in a multi-sided civil war since 2011. All the foreign powers oppose Islamic State, but their Syrian proxies have mainly fought against one another.
Turkey, with the second largest army in NATO, is adamant that Washington should switch support for the planned Raqqa offensive from the Kurdish YPG militia to Syrian rebels Turkey has trained and led against Islamic State for the past year.
President Donald Trump has vowed to ‘obliterate’ the group.
‘We will work with our allies, including our friends and allies in the Muslim world, to extinguish this vile enemy from our planet,’ he told Congress on Tuesday.
The top US commander in the campaign against IS, Lieutenant General Stephen Townsend, has said he believes Raqqa and Mosul will be taken within six months.
So far, the offensive on Mosul has been underway four months, with only half the city captured from the militants in ferocious street-to-street urban combat.
And that is using a relatively intensively trained and united military, backed by heavy U.S. firepower and commandos on the ground – a contrast to the comparatively undisciplined and fragmented forces the US has to choose from as allies in Syria.
Raqqa is a smaller city than Mosul, but the militants are believed to have dug in with powerful fortifications there.
In Syria, US-backed predominantly Kurdish fighters known as the Syria Democratic Forces, or SDF, remain Trump’s best bet.
Aided by US-led coalition airstrikes and some 500 US special forces troops deployed in an advisory role, the force has been marching toward Raqqa since November.
Closing in on the city from different directions, it is now stationed some eight kilometers (five miles) north of the city.
The US military recently provided a small number of armored vehicles to the US-backed force to give better protection from small arms fire and roadside bombs as they get closer to Raqqa.
Further aid to the rag-tag group, however, raises sensitive questions over how to deal with Turkey, a NATO ally with much at stake in Syria.
Turkey considers the main Kurdish militia in Syria – known as the YPG, and an affiliate of the US-backed SDF – a terrorist organization, and has vowed to work with Syrian opposition fighters known as the Free Syrian Army to liberate Raqqa.
In a dramatic reversal of years of the Obama administration’s calls for the ouster of President Bashar Assad, Trump has hinted he might be willing to work with Assad’s army and Russia, whose year-and-a-half military intervention has propped up Assad’s government.
Assad’s forces are preoccupied with other battles, however, and would likely need significant US military involvement to take on Raqqa.
On Wednesday, the Syrian military recaptured the central town of Palmyra, a city located in the desert south of Raqqa that has gone back and forth between control of the military and the extremists several times.
The government forces have also clashed with the Turkish-backed Syrian fighters, who block their path to Raqqa.
Iraqi security forces inspect a recently discovered tunnel that had been used by Islamic State militants as a training camp, in western Mosul, Iraq on Wednesday, March 1. 2017
Syrians are sharply divided over who should enter Raqqa.
Many opposition supporters consider the SDF, which maintains a tacit non-aggression pact with Assad’s forces, to be a hostile group.
There are also fears of tensions if Raqqa, home to a nearly 200,000 mainly Arab population, is taken by the SDF, a coalition of Kurdish, Arab and Christian fighters.
‘Let us be frank that any force that will liberate Raqqa, other than the Free Syrian Army, is going to be a new occupation force with different flags and banners,’ said Mohammed Khodor of Sound and Picture Organization, which tracks atrocities by ISIS in Iraq and Syria.
Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim was even more blunt, warning that if the SDF enters Raqqa, it will hurt relations between Ankara and Washington.
Since the Mosul offensive began, more than 28,000 people like these have been displaced by the fighting, according to the UN
‘We have said that a terror organization cannot be used against another terror organization,’ the Turkish leader told the state-run Anadolu news agency.
The Kurds reject that notion and insist that only forces fighting under the SDF banner will liberate Raqqa.
‘Turkey is an occupation force and has no legitimate right to enter Raqqa,’ said SDF spokeswoman Cihan Sheikh Ehmed.
In a text message exchange from northern Syria, she said the SDF has the experience in fighting IS to finish the operation.
Battlefield victories by the SDF against the Islamic State group have brought growing Western support.
Asked if adding more US troops or better arming Syria’s Kurds were options, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said he will ‘accommodate any request’ from his field commanders.
In Mosul, the US-led coalition is playing a greater role than ever before in the fight against IS and coalition forces have moved closer to front-line fighting.
U.S. Air Force Col. John Dorrian says the increased support is an effort to ‘accelerate the campaign’ against the Islamic State group, noting that launching simultaneous operations in both Mosul and Raqqa ‘puts further strain on the enemy’s command and control.’
‘It is a complicating factor when you don’t have a partner government to work with,’ conceded Dorrian, adding that whoever the coalition partners with in the fight for Raqqa is ‘a subject of ongoing discussions.’
Wladimir van Wilgenburg, a Middle East analyst at the Jamestown Foundation who closely follows Kurdish affairs, says the US-led coalition wants to have a quick end to IS in Raqqa, from which external operations against the West are planned.
That means it would prefer to work with the Kurdish-led SDF forces ‘since they are able to mobilize manpower unlike the Turks,’ he said.
An ISIS flag flies in the city of Palmyra – but not for long as victory nears in the city
Allied forces stand on the rubble of the Tetrapylon and Roman Amphitheatre in Palmyra
An Iraqi soldier inspects a recently-discovered train tunnel, adorned with an Islamic State group flag
In any case, the battle for Raqqa is sure to be a long and deadly one. It took the SDF nearly 10 weeks to capture the northern Syrian town of Manbij from IS last year.
It took Turkish forces and allied groups more than three months to retake the town of al-Bab, a costly battle that killed dozens of Turkish soldiers and many civilians.
Raqqa is much larger than either Manbij or al-Bab.
Some Syrian opposition activists say the extremists dug a trench around it to make it difficult for attackers to storm it.
‘It would be difficult for any troops,’ said Itani of the Atlantic Council.
‘Witness the slow and ugly progress in Mosul as well. Raqqa would be tough,’ he said.
The Trump foreign policy team has been all over the map on what to do next in Syria — topple the regime, intensify aid to rebels, respond to any new attacks on innocent civilians. But when pressed, there is one idea everyone on the team seems to agree on: “The defeat of ISIS,” as Secretary of State Rex Tillerson put it.
Well, let me add to their confusion by asking just one question: Why?
Why should our goal right now be to defeat the Islamic State in Syria? Of course, ISIS is detestable and needs to be eradicated. But is it really in our interest to be focusing solely on defeating ISIS in Syria right now?
Let’s go through the logic: There are actually two ISIS manifestations.
One is “virtual ISIS.” It is satanic, cruel and amorphous; it disseminates its ideology through the internet. It has adherents across Europe and the Muslim world. In my opinion, that ISIS is the primary threat to us, because it has found ways to deftly pump out Sunni jihadist ideology that inspires and gives permission to those Muslims on the fringes of society who feel humiliated — from London to Paris to Cairo — to recover their dignity via headline-grabbing murders of innocents.
The other incarnation is “territorial ISIS.” It still controls pockets in western Iraq and larger sectors of Syria. Its goal is to defeat Bashar al-Assad’s regime in Syria — plus its Russian, Iranian and Hezbollah allies — and to defeat the pro-Iranian Shiite regime in Iraq, replacing both with a caliphate.
Challenge No. 1: Not only will virtual ISIS, which has nodes all over the world, not go away even if territorial ISIS is defeated, I believe virtual ISIS will become yet more virulent to disguise the fact that it has lost the territorial caliphate to its archenemies: Shiite Iran, Hezbollah, pro-Shiite militias in Iraq, the pro-Shiite Assad regime in Damascus and Russia, not to mention America.
Challenge No. 2: America’s goal in Syria is to create enough pressure on Assad, Russia, Iran and Hezbollah so they will negotiate a power-sharing accord with moderate Sunni Muslims that would also ease Assad out of power. One way to do that would be for NATO to create a no-fly safe zone around Idlib Province, where many of the anti-Assad rebels have gathered and where Assad recently dropped his poison gas on civilians. But Congress and the U.S. public are clearly wary of that.
So what else could we do? We could dramatically increase our military aid to anti-Assad rebels, giving them sufficient anti-tank and antiaircraft missiles to threaten Russian, Iranian, Hezbollah and Syrian helicopters and fighter jets and make them bleed, maybe enough to want to open negotiations. Fine with me.
What else? We could simply back off fighting territorial ISIS in Syria and make it entirely a problem for Iran, Russia, Hezbollah and Assad. After all, they’re the ones overextended in Syria, not us. Make them fight a two-front war — the moderate rebels on one side and ISIS on the other. If we defeat territorial ISIS in Syria now, we will only reduce the pressure on Assad, Iran, Russia and Hezbollah and enable them to devote all their resources to crushing the last moderate rebels in Idlib, not sharing power with them.
I don’t get it. President Trump is offering to defeat ISIS in Syria for free — and then pivot to strengthening the moderate anti-Assad rebels. Why? When was the last time Trump did anything for free? When was the last real estate deal Trump did where he volunteered to clean up a toxic waste dump — for free — before he negotiated with the owner on the price of the golf course next door?
This is a time for Trump to be Trump — utterly cynical and unpredictable. ISIS right now is the biggest threat to Iran, Hezbollah, Russia and pro-Shiite Iranian militias — because ISIS is a Sunni terrorist group that plays as dirty as Iran and Russia.
Trump should want to defeat ISIS in Iraq. But in Syria? Not for free, not now. In Syria, Trump should let ISIS be Assad’s, Iran’s, Hezbollah’s and Russia’s headache — the same way we encouraged the mujahedeen fighters to bleed Russia in Afghanistan.
Yes, in the long run we want to crush ISIS everywhere, but the only way to crush ISIS and keep it crushed on the ground is if we have moderate Sunnis in Syria and Iraq able and willing to replace it. And those will only emerge if there are real power-sharing deals in Syria and Iraq — and that will only happen if Assad, Russia, Iran and Hezbollah feel pressured to share power.
And while I am at it, where is Trump’s Twitter feed when we need it? He should be tweeting every day this message: “Russia, Iran and Hezbollah have become the protectors of a Syrian regime that uses poison gas on babies! Babies! Russia, Iran, Hezbollah, Assad — poison gas enablers. Sad.”
Do not let them off the hook! We need to make them own what they’ve become — enablers of a Syria that uses poison gas on children. Believe it or not, they won’t like being labeled that way. Trump needs to use his global Twitter feed strategically. Barack Obama never played this card. Trump needs to slam it down every day. It creates leverage.
Syria is not a knitting circle. Everyone there plays dirty, deviously and without mercy. Where’s that Trump when we need him?
Iraqi Kurdistan first gained autonomous status in a 1970 agreement with the Iraqi government, and its status was re-confirmed as an autonomous entity within the federal Iraqi republic in 2005. There is a province by the name Kurdistan in Iran; it is not self-ruled. Kurds fighting in the Syrian Civil War were able to take control of large sections of northern Syria as government forces, loyal to Bashar al-Assad, withdrew to fight elsewhere. Having established their own government, they called for autonomy in a federal Syria after the war.
The Kingdom of Corduene, which emerged from the declining Seleucid Empire, was located to the south and south-east of Lake Van between Persia and Mesopotamia and ruled northern Mesopotamia and southeastern Anatolia from 189 BC to AD 384 as vassals of the vying Parthian and Roman Empire. At its zenith, the Roman Empire ruled large Kurdish-inhabited areas, particularly the western and northern Kurdish areas in the Middle East. Corduene became a vassal state of the Roman Republic in 66 BC and remained allied with the Romans until AD 384. After 66 BC, it passed another 5 times between Rome and Persia. Corduene was situated to the east of Tigranocerta, that is, to the east and south of present-day Diyarbakır in south-eastern Turkey.
Some historians have correlated a connection between Corduene with the modern names of Kurds and Kurdistan;T. A. Sinclair dismissed this identification as false, while a common association is asserted in the Columbia Encyclopedia.
Some of the ancient districts of Kurdistan and their corresponding modern names:
19th-century map showing the location of the Kingdom of Corduene in 60 B.C
One of the earliest records of the phrase land of the Kurds is found in an Assyrian Christian document of late antiquity, describing the stories of Assyrian saints of the Middle East, such as Abdisho. When the SasanianMarzban asked Mar Abdisho about his place of origin, he replied that according to his parents, they were originally from Hazza, a village in Assyria. However they were later driven out of Hazza by pagans, and settled in Tamanon, which according to Abdisho was in the land of the Kurds. Tamanon lies just north of the modern Iraq-Turkey border, while Hazza is 12 km southwest of modern Erbil. In another passage in the same document, the region of the Khabur River is also identified as land of the Kurds. According to Al-Muqaddasi and Yaqut al-Hamawi, Tamanon was located on the south-western or southern slopes of Mount Judi and south of Cizre.
Map by Mahmud al-Kashgari (1074), showing Arḍ al-Akrād Arabic for land of Kurds located between Arḍ al-Šām (Syria), and Arḍ al-ʿIrāqayn (Iraq Arabi and Iraq Ajami).
Kurdistan in the Middle Ages was a collection of semi-independent and independent states called emirates. It was nominally under indirect political or religious influence of Khalifs or Shahs. A comprehensive history of these states and their relationship with their neighbors is given in the text of Sharafnama, written by Prince Sharaf al-Din Bitlisi in 1597. The emirates included Baban, Soran, Badinan and Garmiyan in the south; Bakran, Bohtan (or Botan) and Badlis in the north, and Mukriyan and Ardalan in the east.
In the 16th century, after prolonged wars, Kurdish-inhabited areas were split between the Safavid and Ottoman empires. A major division of Kurdistan occurred in the aftermath of the Battle of Chaldiran in 1514, and was formalized in the 1639 Treaty of Zuhab. From then until the aftermath of World War I, Kurdish areas (including most of Mesopotamia, eastern Anatolia, and traditionally Kurdish northeastern Syria) were generally under Ottoman rule, apart from the century-long, intermittent Iranian occupation in the early modern to modern period, and the later reconquest and vast expansion by the Iranian military leader Nader Shah in the first half of the 18th century. After the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, the Allies contrived to split Kurdistan (as detailed in the ultimately unratified Treaty of Sèvres) among several countries, including Kurdistan, Armenia and others. However, the reconquest of these areas by the forces of Kemal Atatürk (and other pressing issues) caused the Allies to accept the renegotiated Treaty of Lausanne and the borders of the modern Republic of Turkey, leaving the Kurds without a self-ruled region. Other Kurdish areas were assigned to the new British and French mandated states of Iraq and Syria.
At the end of the First Gulf War, the Allies established a safe haven in northern Iraq. Amid the withdrawal of Iraqi forces from three northern provinces, Iraqi Kurdistan emerged in 1992 as an autonomous entity inside Iraq with its own local government and parliament.
A 2010 US report, written before the instability in Syria and Iraq that exists as of 2014, attested that “Kurdistan may exist by 2030”. The weakening of the Iraqi state following the 2014 Northern Iraq offensive by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant has also presented an opportunity for independence for Iraqi Kurdistan, augmented by Turkey’s move towards acceptance of such a state although it opposes moves toward Kurdish autonomy in Turkey and Syria.
The incorporation into Turkey of the Kurdish-inhabited regions of eastern Anatolia was opposed by many Kurds, and has resulted in a long-running separatist conflict in which thousands of lives have been lost. The region saw several major Kurdish rebellions, including the Koçgiri rebellion of 1920 under the Ottomans, then successive insurrection under the Turkish state – including the 1924 Sheikh Said rebellion, the Republic of Ararat in 1927, and the 1937 Dersim rebellion. All were forcefully put down by the authorities. The region was declared a closed military area from which foreigners were banned between 1925 and 1965.
In an attempt to deny their existence, the Turkish government categorized Kurds as “Mountain Turks” until 1991. The words “Kurds”, “Kurdistan”, or “Kurdish” were officially banned by the Turkish government. Following the military coup of 1980, the Kurdish language was officially prohibited in public and private life. Many people who spoke, published, or sang in Kurdish were arrested and imprisoned. Throughout the 1990s and early 2000s, political parties that represented Kurdish interests were banned.
In 1983, the Kurdish provinces were placed under martial law in response to the activities of the militant separatist organization, Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). A guerrilla war took place through the 1980s and 1990s in which much of the countryside was evacuated, thousands of Kurdish-populated villages were destroyed, and numerous extrajudicial summary executions were carried out by both sides. Many villages were reportedly set on fire or destroyed. Food embargoes were placed on Kurdish populated villages and towns. More than 20,000 Kurds were killed in the violence and hundreds of thousands more were forced to leave their homes.
Turkey has historically feared that a Kurdish state in Northern Iraq would encourage and support Kurdish separatists in the adjacent Turkish provinces, and have therefore historically strongly opposed Kurdish independence in Iraq. However, following the chaos in Iraq after the US invasion, Turkey has increasingly worked with the de facto autonomous Kurds in Iraq.
The successful 2014 Northern Iraq offensive by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, with the resultant weakening of the ability of the Iraqi state to project power, also presented a “golden opportunity” for the Kurds to increase their independence and possibly declare an independent Kurdish state. The Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, who took more than 80 Turkish persons captive in Mosul during their offensive, is an enemy of Turkey, making Kurdistan useful for Turkey as a buffer state. On 28 June 2014 Hüseyin Çelik, a spokesman for the ruling AK party, made comments to the Financial Times indicating Turkey’s readiness to accept an independent Kurdistan in northern Iraq. Various sources have reported that Al-Nusra has issued a fatwā calling for Kurdish women and children in Syria to be killed, and the fighting in Syria has led tens of thousands of refugees to flee to Iraq’s Kurdistan region. As of 2015, Turkey is actively supporting the Al-Nusra.
In A Dictionary of Scripture Geography (published 1846), John Miles describes Upper and Lower Kurdistan as following:
Modern Curdistan is of much greater extent than the ancient Assyria, and is composed of two parts the Upper and Lower. In the former is the province of Ardelan, the ancient Arropachatis, now nominally a part of Irak Ajami, and belonging to the north west division called Al Jobal. It contains five others namely, Betlis, the ancient Carduchia, lying to the south and south west of the lake Van. East and south east of Betlis is the principality of Julamerick, south west of it is the principality of Amadia. the fourth is Jeezera ul Omar, a city on an island in the Tigris, and corresponding to the ancient Bezabde. the fifth and largest is Kara Djiolan, with a capital of the same name. The pashalics of Kirkook and Solimania also comprise part of Upper Curdistan. Lower Curdistan comprises all the level tract to the east of the Tigris, and the minor ranges immediately bounding the plains and reaching thence to the foot of the great range, which may justly be denominated the Alps of western Asia.
The northern, northwestern and northeastern parts of Kurdistan are referred to as upper Kurdistan, and includes the areas from west of Amed to lake Urmia.
The lowlands of southern Kurdistan are called lower Kurdistan. The main cities in this area are Kirkuk and Arbil.
Much of the region is typified by an extreme continental climate – hot in the summer, bitterly cold in the winter. Despite this, much of the region is fertile and has historically exported grain and livestock. Precipitation varies between 200 and 400 mm a year in the plains, and between 700 and 3,000 mm a year on the high plateau between mountain chains. The climate is dominated by mountains in the zone along the border with Iran and Turkey, with dry summers and cold, snowy winters or wet springs, while to the south, it progressively transitions towards semi-arid and desert zones. The northern mountainous regions along the border with Iran and Turkey receive heavy snowfall.
Kurdistan is one of the most mountainous regions in the world with a cold climate receiving annual precipitation adequate to sustain temperate forests and shrubs. Mountain chains harbor pastures and forested valleys, totaling approximately 16 million hectares (160,000 km²), including firs and countryside is mostly oaks, conifers, platanus, willow, poplar and olive. Also the Mediterranean region known as west Kurdistan has olive trees. Kurdistan’s climatic conditions are due to the northern mountainous topography producing the steppe and forest vegetation in the area. The region north of the mountainous region on the border with Iran and Turkey features meadow grasses and such wild trees as poplar, willow and oak, hawthorn, Cherry plum, rose hips, mountain apple, pear, mountain ash, and olive. The desert in the south, by contrast, has such species as palm trees and date palm.
The plateaus and mountains of Kurdistan, which are characterized by heavy rain and snow fall, act as a water reservoir for the Near and Middle East, forming the source of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, as well as other numerous smaller rivers, such as the Little Khabur, Khabur, Tharthar, Ceyhan, Araxes, Kura, Sefidrud, Karkha, and Hezil. Among rivers of historical importance to Kurds are the Murat (Arasān) and Buhtān rivers in Turkey; the Peshkhābur, the Little Zab, the Great Zab, and the Diyala in Iraq; and the Jaghatu (Zarrinarud), the Tātā’u (Siminarud), the Zohāb (Zahāb), and the Gāmāsiyāb in Iran.
These rivers, which flow from heights of three to four thousand meters above sea level, are significant both as water sources and for the production of energy. Iraq and Syria dammed many of these rivers and their tributaries, and Turkey has an extensive dam system under construction as part of the GAP (Southeast Anatolia Project); though incomplete, the GAP already supplies a significant proportion of Turkey’s electrical energy needs. Due to the extraordinary archaeological richness of the region, almost any dam impacts historic sites.
Kurdistan extends to Lake Urmia in Iran on the east. The region includes Lake Van, the largest body of water in Turkey; the only lake in the Middle East with a larger surface is Lake Urmia – though not nearly as deep as Lake Van, which has a much larger volume. Urmia, Van, as well as Zarivar Lake west of Marivan, and Lake Dukan near the city of Sulaymaniyah, are frequented by tourists.
KRG-controlled parts of Iraqi Kurdistan are estimated to contain around 45 billion barrels (7.2×109 m3) of oil, making it the sixth largest reserve in the world. Extraction of these reserves began in 2007.
Al-Hasakah province, also known as Jazira region, has geopolitical importance of oil and is suitable for agricultural lands.
In November 2011, Exxon challenged the Iraqi central government’s authority with the signing of oil and gas contracts for exploration rights to six parcels of land in Kurdistan, including one contract in the disputed territories, just east of the Kirkuk mega-field. This act caused Baghdad to threaten to revoke Exxon’s contract in its southern fields, most notably the West-Qurna Phase 1 project. Exxon responded by announcing its intention to leave the West-Qurna project.
As of July 2007, the Kurdish government solicited foreign companies to invest in 40 new oil sites, with the hope of increasing regional oil production over the following 5 years by a factor of five, to about 1 million barrels per day (160,000 m3/d). Gas and associated gas reserves are in excess of 2,800 km3 (100×1012 cu ft). Notable companies active in Kurdistan include Exxon, Total, Chevron, Talisman Energy, Genel Energy, Hunt Oil, Gulf Keystone Petroleum, and Marathon Oil.
Other mineral resources that exist in significant quantities in the region include coal, copper, gold, iron, limestone (which is used to produce cement), marble, and zinc. The world’s largest deposit of rock sulfur is located just southwest of Erbil (Hewlêr).
In July 2012, Turkey and the Kurdistan Regional Government signed an agreement by which Turkey will supply the KRG with refined petroleum products in exchange for crude oil. Crude deliveries are expected to occur on a regular basis.
Story 1: Leading From Behind and Strategic Patience — Obama’s Total Failed Foreign Policy Disaster — No Leadership, No Guts, No Strategy — Obama The Empty Suit — Putin Resets The Middle East — Trump Strategy For Syria, Islamic State and Islamic Republic of Iran — Videos
Russia hits ISIS from Caspian Sea
Four Russian cruise missiles launched from the Caspian Sea fell short of their Syrian targets and landed in a rural part of Iran, U.S. officials said Thursday.
The errant missiles were part of a volley of 26 long range cruise missiles that Russians fired from ships in the Caspian Sea a day earlier, according to officials who asked not to be identified because they were not authorized to discuss intelligence matters.
The Russians fired Kalibir cruise missiles, which had not yet been used in combat conditions. The flight path took the missiles over Iran and Iraq. One U.S. official said they had not been able to detect any casualties or damage from the strikes, suggesting they may have fallen harmlessly in a rural part of Iran.
The development comes amid growing concerns about Russian actions in the region. The Russians have launched airstrikes in Syria, saying they are attacking terrorists. Washington and its allies have accused Russia of trying to prop up the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad.
Defense Secretary Ashton Carter warned Thursday that Russia will soon experience consequences as it ramps up its military campaign in Syria. “In the coming days, the Russians will begin to suffer from casualties,” he said.
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Jim Lindsay focuses on the relationship between foreign policy and domestic political considerations at the Council on Foreign Relations. He considers the domestic political fall-out from Obama’s Iran deal and the failed policies in Syria, and shares with Jim Zirin that it is too early to tell whether these factors will affect the outcome of the 2016 presidential election.
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Published on Oct 1, 2012
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Syrian forces begin ground offensive backed by Russia air and sea power
By Andrew Roth and Erin Cunningham
Russia’s Caspian Sea fleet on Wednesday launched a complex cruise missile strike against Syrian rebels from nearly 1,000 miles away, a potent exhibition of Moscow’s firepower as it backs a government offensive in Syria’s multi-faction civil war.
The bombardment was the first naval salvo of Russia’s week-old military intervention in Syria, where it has already launched more than 100 airstrikes against the Islamic State and factions of Islamist and U.S.-backed rebel forces opposed to President Bashar al-Assad.
The attack showcased Russia’s advanced military capabilities and closer coordination with the governments of Iran and Iraq, whose airspace the missiles traversed before striking targets in Syria held by the Islamic State and Jabhat al-Nusra, an affiliate of al-Qaeda.
Like Russia, Iran is a key backer of Assad. Iraq’s leadership has close ties with Iran but also depends on support from the United States and Western allies.
[Why Russia is in Syria]
Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said in a nationally televised briefing that the ships launched 26 cruise missiles, destroying 11 targets and killing no civilians. He also said that Russian planes continued to carry out airstrikes Wednesday.
The naval strikes on Wednesday were the first known operational use of state-of-the-art SSN-30A Kalibr cruise missiles, which were still being tested by the Russian navy in August.
Russian President Vladimir Putin said the strikes spoke to the professionalism of Russia’s revamped army.
“We know how difficult it is to carry out this kind of anti-terrorist operation,” Putin told Shoigu. “Of course, it is early to draw conclusions. But what has been done so far deserves a highly positive assessment.”
The strikes came as Syrian troops backed by Russian air power launched their first major ground offensive since Moscow began its intervention in the conflict Sept. 30.
News reports and video of fighting uploaded to the Internet on Wednesday showed that the Syrian army was moving from the city of Hama toward Idlib, a stronghold held by a coalition of mostly Islamist rebels.
While the Kremlin’s stated aim in the conflict is to fight the Islamic State in Syria, the United States and its allies say Russia is concentrating its firepower against other rebel groups to prevent Assad from being overrun. One video on Wednesday appeared to show the Free Syrian Army, a moderate force backed by the West, firing antitank missiles at government troops advancing with Russian air support.
Ground level: On the scene of controversial Russian airstrikes in Syria
View Photos The actions, quickly criticized by Washington, add an unpredictable element to a multilayered war.
“Russia is targeting civilians and the Free Syrian Army brigades that are supported by America. They are not targeting the Islamic State as they claimed,” said Raed Fares, a Syrian activist in Idlib. “Russia is here to keep Assad in power, so they will strike what Assad strikes.”
In televised remarks on Wednesday, Putin encouraged the Free Syrian Army to join an alliance with Assad’s troops against the Islamic State. At the same time, he belittled the influence of moderate rebels on the conflict.
“True, we don’t currently know where it is and who is leading it,” Putin said of the Free Syrian Army.
[These are the cruise missiles Russia just sent into Syria]
Russian news reports Wednesday said Syrian forces launched a heavy artillery bombardment and were moving toward Idlib, but they added that it was not yet clear how far the Syrian troops had advanced.
The news reports also said Syrian troops used advanced rocket-launch systems similar to the ones that Western officials say Moscow shipped to Syria last week.
In a video posted to YouTube from the town of Kafranboudah, in the western part of the Hama countryside, a Syrian rebel commander said government forces began shelling his unit’s position on the front line early Wednesday. Kafranboudah is about 16 miles east of Latakia province, a Syrian regime stronghold. More than a dozen rebel groups formed a coalition to oust government forces from Hama in August.
Regime soldiers on Wednesday stormed the town from three sides with Russian air support, the rebel commander said, and the fighting has extended nearly 20 miles southeast to the town of Maan. He did not say whether his fighters suffered any losses but said Syrian rebels destroyed at least four regime tanks with antitank missiles.
The West, which has launched more than 7,000 airstrikes against the Islamic State in the past year, has bristled at Moscow’s military buildup in Syria. Russia has deployed surface-to-air missiles, fighter jets and radar-jamming equipment that officials say is meant to interfere with Western forces.
On Tuesday, U.S. and Russian officials tentatively agreed to resume talks on how to coordinate in the skies over Syria. Turkey, a NATO member that shares a border with Syria, has already accused Russia of violating its airspace.
In Rome, Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter did not respond directly when asked by reporters about the Russian military’s apparent support for the Syrian government’s ground offensive.
But the Pentagon chief for the first time ruled out any cooperation with Moscow in the fight against the Islamic State, saying that Russia’s strategy was clearly just to support Assad and his government.
“We believe Russia has the wrong strategy. They continue to hit targets that are not ISIL. This is a fundamental mistake,” Carter said, using one of the acronyms for the Islamic State.
In the past, the Obama administration has publicly held out hope — however faint — that Moscow might cooperate in the military campaign against the Islamic State.
In his most hard-line comments to date about Russia, Carter rejected the possibility of teaming up with the Russians in that regard. He said the Pentagon still wanted to talk with Moscow about finding ways to manage the crowded airspace above Syria and avoid any hostile or inadvertent encounters. “That’s it,” he said flatly.
There have been no reported close encounters or unsafe incidents involving U.S. and Russian warplanes so far in Syria, according to a senior U.S. defense official who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss military operations.
Russian aircraft have “come closer” to U.S. drones on at least one occasion, the official said, but it was not a dangerous incident.
“Certainly they are in similar battle space, so they see each other and they are aware of each other,” the official said of Russian and U.S. warplanes.
Pentagon officials have said the Russian intervention in Syria has not forced the U.S. military or its coalition partners to alter the rate or location of their surveillance missions and airstrikes against the Islamic State.
The two sides have jousted in recent days over the conditions for holding another round of talks. Washington wants to limit the discussion to technical factors about aviation safety, while Moscow has said it wants a broader conversation about possibly coordinating military operations — something the Pentagon steadfastly opposes.
The senior U.S. defense official said the Pentagon drafted a document last week for the Russians that lays out “basic rules of flight conduct,” such as what language and radio frequencies pilots would use in a hostile or inadvertent encounter.
The Russians have not responded to any of the particulars, the official said.
Russia fires cruise missiles from warships into Syria
Russian warships in the Caspian Sea fired cruise missiles Wednesday as Syrian government troops launched a ground offensive in central Syria in the first major combined air-and-ground assault since Moscow began its military campaign in the country last week.
The missiles flew nearly 1,500 kilometers (930 miles) over Iran and Iraq and struck Raqqa and Aleppo provinces in the north and Idlib province in the northwest, Russian officials said. The Islamic State group has strongholds in Raqqa and Aleppo, while the al-Qaida-linked Nusra Front has a strong presence in Idlib.
U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter said Russia was continuing to strike targets other than Islamic State militants, adding that he was concerned about the Syrian ground offensive backed by Moscow’s airpower.
The latest developments came a week after Russia began airstrikes in Syria, its longtime ally, on Sept. 30, and added a new dimension to the complex war that has torn apart the Mideast country since 2011.
Activists and rebels say the targets have included Western-backed fighters and other groups opposed to President Bashar Assad.
A Syrian official and activists said government troops pushed into areas in the central province of Hama and south of Idlib in the boldest multipronged attack on rebel-held areas, benefiting from the Russian air cover. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the media.
Moscow has mainly targeted central and northwestern Syria, strategic regions that are the gateway to Assad’s strongholds in Damascus, and along the Mediterranean coast where Russia has a naval base.
The Russian airstrikes strikes appear to have emboldened Syrian troops to launch the ground push after a series of setbacks in northwestern Syria in recent months.
The Islamic State group is not present in the areas where the ground fighting is underway.
The offensive in central Syria and the ensuing clashes with militants, including the Nusra Front, was the first major ground fighting since the Russian campaign began.
Appearing on television with President Vladimir Putin, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said 26 missile strikes were conducted from four warships in the Caspian. Shoigu insisted the operation destroyed all the targets and did not launch any strikes on civilian areas.
The launches marked the combat debut of the Russian Kalibr long-range cruise missiles, equivalent to U.S. Tomahawk missiles.
“The fact that we launched precision weapons from the Caspian Sea to the distance of about 1,500 kilometers and hit all the designated targets shows good work by military industrial plants and good skills of personnel,” Putin said.
Andrei Kartapolov of the Russian General Staff told Russian news agencies the strikes were planned so that the cruise missiles would fly “over unpopulated areas.” Shoigu also said Russia has carried out 112 airstrikes on IS positions since Sept. 30.
Iranian state TV, citing Russian media, reported that the Russian missiles flew through Iran’s airspace and hit targets in Syria.
“The Russian military operation in support of the Syrian army continued at new higher technological level,” said Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov, adding that the Syrian army began an offensive “with our fire support.”
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said a government offensive began early Wednesday on four fronts in Idlib and neighboring Hama provinces in what the group’s director Rami Abdurrahman called “the most intense fighting in months.”
In Syria, the leader of a U.S.-backed rebel group Tajammu Alezzah confirmed the ground offensive in a text message to The Associated Press, saying Russian and Iranian soldiers were involved in the operation.
Russian officials deny sending any ground troops to the battlefield. Iran has been bolstering Assad by sending weapons and advisers, and helping arrange the deployment of Shiite fighters from Iraq and Hezbollah, as well as sending financial aid.
Last month, an intelligence sharing center was set up in Baghdad by Russia, Iraq, Iran and Syria to coordinate efforts to combat the Islamic State group.
Maj. Jamil al-Saleh said the offensive, accompanied by air cover and shelling, came from three fronts, including Latamneh, north of Hama province where his Tajammu Alezzah group is based, and Kfar Zeita to the north. The offensive targeted rural areas of Hama and Idlib that are almost totally controlled by rebel groups, he said.
Activist Ahmad al-Ahmad, who is in Idlib, said government troops “heavily” shelled central areas after rebels attacked an army post and destroyed a tank. He said the advance covered an area of over 16 kilometers (10 miles), and was a coordinated, multipronged attack, the boldest in the area in months. The rebels repulsed government troops, al-Ahmad said.
The Observatory, which has a network of activists in Syria, said the main launching point for government forces was the town of Morek on a highway linking Damascus and Aleppo, Syria’s largest city and its former commercial hub. Rebels have controlled areas on the highway since 2012.
The Local Coordination Committees, another activist group, said rebels were able to destroy two tanks and an armored personnel carrier in northern Hama province near Idlib. Video on social media by rebel fighters showed government tanks burning, apparently after being hit by U.S.-made TOW missiles.
The Observatory said 37 Russian air raids hit on Wednesday alone.
Syrian state TV quoted an unidentified Syrian military official as saying Russian warplanes attacked IS positions in the towns of Al-Bab and Deir Hafer in Aleppo province.
Two low-flying helicopters were seen in Morek but escaped militant fire, the Observatory said. It was not immediately clear if the pilots were Russians or Syrians. Assad’s air force has Russian-made helicopters.
Although the Islamic State has no presence in the areas hit by airstrikes Wednesday, the Nusra Front is active in central and northern parts of the country — as are the Western-backed rebels. Russian officials have said the Nusra Front is among the groups it is targeting.
At a news conference in Rome, Carter said the U.S.-led coalition that also is conducting airstrikes in Syria has not agreed to cooperate with Russia in the fight against the Islamic State, and no collaboration is possible as long as Moscow continues to hit other targets.
He said the U.S. will conduct basic, technical talks with Russia about efforts to ensure that flights over Syria are conducted safely and, “That’s it.”
Washington is not prepared to cooperate with Russia’s strategy that is “tragically flawed,” he said.
“They continue to hit targets that are not ISIL,” Carter said, using an acronym for the Islamic State group. “We believe that is a fundamental mistake.”
Since September 2014, the coalition has been hitting Islamic State positions mostly in northern and eastern parts of Syria, as well as in Iraq. U.S. aircraft are still flying missions daily over Syria, the Pentagon said.
Russia’s entry into the crowded and sometimes uncoordinated air wars in Syria is making the U.S. increasingly nervous, reflecting concern at the Pentagon and in Europe about the risk of accidents or unintended conflict.
At least one U.S. military aircraft changed its route over Syria recently to avoid coming dangerously close to Russian warplanes, said Navy Capt. Jeff Davis, a Pentagon spokesman. He could not provide details, including how many times this has happened.
In Turkey, Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu renewed criticism of Russia, insisting the airstrikes were mainly targeting the moderate Syrian opposition and thus helping strengthen IS. He urged Moscow to respect Turkey’s airspace, saying the country would not “make any concessions” on its border security.
Russian warplanes violated Turkey’s borders twice over the weekend, drawing strong protests from Turkey’s NATO allies. Turkey scrambled F-16s in response and also summoned the Russian ambassador to lodge protests.
Turkey’s Foreign Ministry said it had proposed a meeting between Turkish and Russian military officials in Ankara on avoiding Russian infringements of its airspace.
A. Moscow has said they were Kalibr ship-launched cruise missiles, also known as 3M-14s or, in NATO parlance, SS-N-30s. They are a fairly recent addition to an established family of ship-launched missiles that are mostly intended for ship-to-ship or shorter-range missions. The new model, intended for land attacks, is reported to have a much longer range than its siblings, perhaps reaching 1,550 miles.
Q. What is a cruise missile?
A. Unlike a ballistic missile, which is fired on a fairly simple high-altitude arc like a cannonball, a cruise missile does most of its flying horizontally at low altitude, like an airplane or a drone. The missiles can trace a complex flight paths, and some, like the Kalibr, are believed to accelerate to supersonic speeds as they approach their targets, making them hard to detect and intercept. Depending on their guidance systems, cruise missiles can be highly accurate, compared with ballistic missiles. But they are single-use weapons and are relatively complicated and expensive to manufacture.
Q.How was the strike launched?
A. The Defense Ministry said the missiles were fired from four ships in the Caspian Sea and flew across Iran and northern Iraq to reach their targets. Russia has maintained a naval flotilla in the Caspian — which is landlocked from the rest of the world’s seas — for nearly 300 years. The flotilla currently has no aircraft carriers or other large capital ships, but it has frigates and Buyan-class missile corvettes, including two that were commissioned just last year, the Grad Sviyazhsk and the Veliky Ustyug. Those two ships reportedly fired cruise missiles at sea targets during a major naval exercise last month.
Q. Does the United States use similar weapons?
A. Yes, frequently. The best-known American cruise missile, the Tomahawk, has been used in both Persian Gulf wars and against targets in Afghanistan, the Balkans, Libya, Yemen and most recently Syria.
Pentagon: Some Russian cruise missiles crashed in Iran
By Thomas Gibbons-Neff
Several cruise missiles fired from Russian ships at targets in Syria Wednesday crashed in Iran, according to Pentagon officials.
Twenty-six cruise missiles, launched from the Caspian Sea, traveled more than 900 miles over Iran and Iraq before hitting targets throughout Syria, according to a statement by the Russian Defense Ministry.
However, according to a senior U.S. defense official who requested anonymity to discuss intelligence matters Thursday, a few of the missiles did not make it to their intended targets.
[Syrian forces begin ground offensive backed by Russia air and sea power]
Reports on Iranian TV indicated that an “unidentified flying object” had crashed and exploded in a village near near the Iranian city of Takab. A number of cows were killed in the ensuing blast.
While it is unclear what made the missiles crash, videos posted on social media showed them flying overhead at low altitude. While it is common for cruise missiles to fly low (to avoid radar detection), it can make traversing mountainous terrain perilous.
The Russian Defense Ministry in Wednesday’s statement however, said that the new Kalibr-NK cruise missiles all hit within nine feet of their intended targets. The strikes landed in Raqqa, Idlib and Aleppo provinces, and Russian officials said they destroyed Islamic State positions, including training camps and ammunition depots.
The Kalibr cruise missile is a relatively new addition to Russia’s arsenal, and according to IHS Jane’s analyst Jeremy Binnie, Wednesday’s launch was the first time the missile’s 900-plus-mile range had been made public.
[Russia declares partial victory in bombing campaign in Syria]
While cruise missiles are traditionally used at the beginning of bombing campaigns to hit multiple high-value targets simultaneously while avoiding radar detection and maintaining the element of surprise, Russia’s strikes did none of those things. Instead, Binnie believes, everything that was targeted by the Russian cruise missiles could have easily been hit by other Russian assets within Syria (more than 50 aircraft) or possibly by Russian ships in the Mediterranean Sea.
“I think if you look at what cruise missiles are traditionally used for . . . this isn’t one of those scenarios,” Binnie said. “Russia has been striking the [Islamic State] for more than a week, and the U.S. has been for more than a year.”
Binnie went on to say that the cruise missile strikes were probably a show of Russian military force and technology, noting that the ships that fired the missiles — mostly small missile corvettes — were intended to demonstrate that even the small ships in the Russian navy are stronger than they look.
According to the Russian Defense Ministry, the smaller ships that participated in the strikes are approximately 230 feet long and their primary weapon is the Kalibr cruise missile. The flagship of the strike group, the Dagestan, is 320 feet long and displaces 2,000 tons.
Story 1: Part 1, Obama The Big Liar (The Great Pretender) Vs. Trump The Great Truth Teller (We Will Rock You) — Make America Great Again! — Could Not Have Said It Better Myself — Three Cheers For Trump — Videos
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“The Mexican Government is forcing their most unwanted people into the United States. They are, in many cases, criminals, drug dealers, rapists, etc. This was evident just this week when, as an example, a young woman in San Francisco was viciously killed by a 5 time deported Mexican with a long criminal record, who was forced back into the United States because they didn’t want him in Mexico. This is merely one of thousands of similar incidents throughout the United States. In other words, the worst elements in Mexico are being pushed into the United States by the Mexican government. The largest suppliers of heroin, cocaine and other illicit drugs are Mexican cartels that arrange to have Mexican immigrants trying to cross the borders and smuggle in the drugs. The Border Patrol knows this. Likewise, tremendous infectious disease is pouring across the border. The United States has become a dumping ground for Mexico and, in fact, for many other parts of the world. On the other hand, many fabulous people come in from Mexico and our country is better for it. But these people are here legally, and are severely hurt by those coming in illegally. I am proud to say that I know many hard working Mexicans—many of them are working for and with me…and, just like our country, my organization is better for it.”
– Donald Trump, Written Statement released July 6, 2015
Donald Trump Speech: 2016 Presidential Announcement 6/16/16 HD
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• Donald Trump • One On One • Hannity • 6/17/15 •
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Billionaire mogul Donald Trump announced his 2016 presidential run Tuesday. Below is the text of his speech:
Last quarter, it was just announced, our gross domestic product – a sign of strength, right? But not for us.
It was below zero. Who ever heard of this? It’s never below zero.
Our labor participation rate was the worst since 1978.
But think of it, GDP below zero, horrible labor participation rate, and our real unemployment is anywhere from 18-20%. Don’t believe the 5.6. Don’t believe it.
That’s right – a lot of people up there can’t get jobs. They can’t get jobs because there are no jobs because China has our jobs and Mexico has our jobs. They all have our jobs. But the real number, the real number, is anywhere from 18-19 and maybe even 21% and nobody talks about it because it’s a statistic that’s full of nonsense.
Our enemies are getting stronger and stronger by the day and we as a country are getting weaker. Even our nuclear arsenal doesn’t work.
It came out recently. They have equipment that’s 30 years old and they don’t even know if it works. And I thought it was horrible when it was broadcast on television because boy does that send signals to Putin and all of the other people that look at us and they say ‘OK, that is a group of people and that is a nation that truly has no clue. They don’t know what they’re doing. They don’t know what they’re doing.’
We have a disaster called the big lie – Obamacare, Obamacare.
Yesterday it came out that costs are going, for people, up 39, 39, 49 and even 55%. And deductibles are through the roof. You have to get hit by a tractor, literally a tractor, to use it because the deductibles are so high it’s virtually useless. It’s a disaster.N
As an example, I’ve been on the circuit making speeches and I hear my fellow Republicans and they’re wonderful people. I like them. They all want me to support them.
They don’t know how to bring it about, they come up to my office. I’m meeting with three of them in the next week and they don’t know: Are you running, are you not running, could we have your support, what do we do, how do we do it?
And I like them. I hear their speeches. And they don’t talk jobs. They don’t talk China. When was the last time you heard ‘China’s killing us?’ They’re devaluing their currency to a level that you wouldn’t believe it makes it impossible for our companies to compete. Impossible.
They’re killing us, but you don’t hear that from anyone else. You don’t hear that from anybody else.
And I watch the speeches. I watch the speeches and they say ‘the sun will rise. The moon will set. All sorts of wonderful things will happen.’
And the people are saying ‘What’s going on? I just want a job. I don’t need the rhetoric, I just want a job.’
And it’s going to get worse because remember, Obamacare really kicks in in 2016, 2016.
Obama is going to be out playing golf. He might even be on one of my courses – I would invite him. I have the best courses in the world. So I say, you know what, if he wants to – I have one right next to the White House. Right on the Potomac. If he wants to, if he’d like to play, that’s fine. In fact I’d love him to leave early and play. That would be a very good thing.
But Obamacare kicks in in 2016, really bigly. It is going to be amazingly destructive.
Doctors are quitting.
I have a friend who’s a doctor and he said to me the other day: ‘Donald, I never saw anything like it. I have more accountants than I have nurses. It’s a disaster. My patients are besides themselves. They had a plan that was good. They had a plan. They have no plan now.’
We have to repeal Obamacare and it can be replaced with something much better for everybody. Let it be for everybody, but much better and much less expensive for people and for the government. And we can do it.
So I’ve watched the politicians. I’ve dealt with them all my life. If you can’t make a good deal with a politician, then there’s something wrong with you. There’s something certainly not very good and that’s what we have representing us.
They will never make America great again. They don’t even have a chance. They are controlled fully, they are controlled fully by the lobbyists, by the donors and by the special interests. Fully. They control them.
Hey, I have lobbyists. I have to tell you, I have lobbyists that can produce anything for me. They’re great. But you know what? It won’t happen. It won’t happen because we have to stop doing things for some people, but for our country it’s destroying this country.
We have to stop and it has to stop now.
Our country needs, our country needs a truly great leader and we need a truly great leader now.
We need a leader that wrote the Art of the Deal. We need a leader that can bring back our jobs, can bring back our manufacturing, can bring back our military, can take care of our vets – our vets have been abandoned. And we also need a cheerleader.
You know, when President Obama was elected I said ‘Well, the one thing I think he’ll do well – I think he’ll be a great cheerleader for the country. I think he’d be a great spirit. He was vibrant. He was young. I really thought he would be a great cheerleader.
He’s not a leader, that’s true. You’re right about that. But he wasn’t a cheerleader. He’s actually a negative force. He’s been a negative force. He wasn’t a cheerleader, he was the opposite.
We need somebody that can take the brand of the United States and make it great again. It’s not great.
We need, we need, we need somebody that literally will take this country and make it great again. We can do that.
And, I will tell you, I love my life. I have a wonderful family. They’re saying, ‘Dad, you’re going to do something that’s so tough.’
You know, all of my life I’ve heard that a truly successful person, a really, really successful person – and even modestly successful – cannot run for public office. Just can’t happen.
And yet, that’s the kind of mindset that you need to make this country great again.
So, ladies and gentlemen, I am officially running for President of the United States and we are going to make our country great again.
It can happen. Our country has tremendous potential. We have tremendous potential.
We have people that aren’t working. We have people that have no incentive to work. But they’re going to have incentive to work. Because the greatest social program is a job. And they’ll be proud, and they’ll love it, and they’ll make much more money than they would have ever made. And they’ll be doing so well, and we’re going to be thriving as a country. Thriving. It can happen.
I will be the greatest jobs president that god ever created, I tell you that.
I’ll bring back our jobs from China, from Mexico, from Japan, from so many places. I’ll bring back our jobs, and I’ll bring back our money.
Right now, think of this – we owe China $1.3 trillion. We owe Japan more than that. So they come in, they take our jobs, they take our money and then they loan us back the money and we pay them in interest. And then the dollar goes up, so their deal’s even better.
How stupid are our leaders? How stupid are these politicians to allow this to happen? How stupid are they?
Business mogul Donald Trump announces his candidacy for the U.S. presidency at Trump Tower on Tuesday in New York. Trump is the 12th Republican who has announced running for the White House.
I’m going to tell you a couple of stories about trade, because I’m totally against the trade bill for a number of reasons.
Number one: the people negotiating it don’t have a clue. Our president doesn’t have a clue. He’s a bad negotiator. He’s the one that did Bergdahl. We get Bergdahl, they get five killer terrorists that everybody wanted over there. We get Bergdahl. We get a traitor. We get a no-good traitor and they get the five people that they wanted for years. And those people are now back on the battlefield trying to kill us. That’s the negotiator we have
Take a look at the deal he’s making with Iran. He makes that deal, Israel maybe won’t exist very long. It’s a disaster and we have to protect Israel.
So we need people – I’m a free trader. But the problem with free trade is, you need really talented people to negotiate for you. If you don’t have talented people, if you don’t have great leadership, if you don’t have people that know business – not just a political hack that got the job because he made a contribution to a campaign, which is the way all jobs just about are gotten, free trade is terrible.
Free trade can be wonderful if you have smart people. But we have people that are stupid. We have people that aren’t smart, and we have people that are controlled by special interests and it’s just not going to work.
So here’s a couple of stories. Happened recently, a friend of mine is a great manufacturer, and you know, China comes over and they dump all their stuff.
I buy it. I buy it because, frankly, I have an obligation to buy it, because they devalue their currency so brilliantly. They just did it recently and nobody thought they could do it again, but with all our problems with Russia, with all our problems with everything, everything, they got away with it again.
And it’s impossible for our people here to compete. So I want to tell you this story. Friend of mine if a great manufacturer. Calls me up a few weeks ago, he’s very upset.
I said, ‘What’s your problem?’
He said, ‘You know, I make a great product.’
I said, ‘I know, I know that, because I buy the product.’
He said, ‘I can’t get it into China. They won’t accept it. I sent a boat over and they actually sent it back. They talked about environmental, they talked about all sorts of crap that had nothing to do with it.’
I said, ‘Oh, wait a minute, that’s terrible. Did anyone know this?’
He said, ‘They do it all the time with other people.’
I said, ‘They send it back?’
He said, ‘Yea, so I finally got it over there, and they charged me a big tariff.’
They’re not supposed to be doing that. I told him. Now they do charge you tariffs on trucks when we send trucks and other things over there.
Ask Boeing. They wanted all their patents and secrets before they agreed to buy planes from Boeing.
Hey, I’m not saying they’re stupid. I like China. I just sold an apartment for $15 million to somebody from China. Am I supposed to dislike them?
I own a big chunk of the Bank of America building at 1290 Avenue of Americas that I got from China in a war. Very valuable. I love China.
The biggest bank in the world is from China. You know where their United States headquarters is located? In this building, in Trump Tower.
I love China. People say, ‘Oh, you don’t like China.’ No, I love them, but their leaders are much smarter than our leaders. And we can’t sustain ourselves with that.
There’s too much – it’s like, it’s like take the New England Patriots and Tom Brady and have them play your high school football team. That’s the difference between China’s leaders and our leaders.
They are ripping us. We are rebuilding China. We are rebuilding many countries.
China, you got there now – roads, bridges, schools. You never saw anything like it. They have bridges that make the George Washington Bridge look like small potatoes.
And they’re all over the place. We have all the cards, but we don’t know how to use them. We don’t even know that we have the cards, because our leaders don’t understand the game.
We would turn off that spigot by charging them tax until they behave properly.
Now they’re going militarily. They’re building a military island in the middle of the South China Sea – a military island. Now, our country could never do that because we’d have to get environmental clearance and the environmentalists wouldn’t let our country – we would never be able to build in an ocean.
They built it in about one year, this massive military port. They’re building up their military to a point that is very scary.
You have a problem with ISIS, you have a bigger problem with China.
And in my opinion, the new China, believe it or not, in terms of trade is Mexico.
So this man tells me about the manufacturing. I say, ‘that’s a terrible story, I hate to hear it.’
But I have another one, Ford. So Mexico takes a company, car company, that was going to build in Tennessee, rips it out. Everybody thought the deal was dead. Reported in the “Wall Street Journal” recently.
Everybody said that it was a done deal. It’s going in, and that’s going to be it, going into Tennessee -. great state, great people. All of a sudden, at the last moment, this big car manufacturer, foreign, announces they’re not going to Tennessee, they’re going to spend their billion dollars in Mexico instead. Not good.
Now Ford announces a few weeks ago that Ford is going to build a $2.5 billion car and truck and parts manufacturing plant in Mexico. $2.5 billion. It’s going to be one of the largest in the world. Ford – good company.
So I announced that I’m running for President. I would, one of the early things I would do, probably before I even got in, and I wouldn’t even use – you know, I know the smartest negotiators in the world.
I know the good ones, I know the bad ones, I know the overrated ones. You’ve got a lot that are overrated. They get good stories because the newspapers get buffaloed. But they’re not good.
But I know the best negotiators in the world and I’d put them one for each country. Believe me folks, we will do very, very well. Very, very well.
But I wouldn’t even waste my time with this one. I would call up the head of Ford, who I know. If I was President I’d say ‘Congratulations, I understand that you’re building a nice, $2.5 billion dollar factory in Mexico and that you’re going to take your cars and sell them to the United States. Zero tax – just across the board.’
And you say to yourself, ‘How does that help us, right? Where is that good.’ It’s not.
So I’d say ‘Congratulations, that’s the good news. Let me give you the bad news. Every car, and every truck and every part manufactured in this plant that comes across the border, we’re going to charge you a 35% tax. Okay? And that tax is going to be paid simultaneously with the transaction, and that’s it.’
Now here’s what’s going to happen. If it’s not me in the position, if it’s one of these politicians that we’re running against, you know, the 400 people that we’re – and here’s what going to happen. They’re not so stupid. They know it’s not a good thing. And they may even be upset by it,
But then they’re going to get a call from their donors or probably from the lobbyists for Ford and say ‘you can’t do that to Ford, because Ford takes care of me, and I take care of you, and you can’t do that to Ford.’
And you know what? No problem. They’re going to build in Mexico, they’re going to take away thousands of jobs. That’s very bad for us. So under President Trump, here’s what would happen: The head of Ford will call me back, I would say within an hour after I told him the bad news, but it could be he’d want to be cool and he’ll wait until the next day. You know, they want to be a little cool.
And he’ll say, ‘Please, please, please.’
He’ll beg for a little while, and I’ll say, ‘Sorry, no interest.’
Then he’ll call all sorts of political people and I’ll say ‘Sorry fellas, no interest.’
Because I don’t need anybody’s money. It’s nice. I don’t need anybody’s money. I’m using my own money. I’m not using lobbyists, I’m not using donors. I don’t care. I’m really rich.
And by the way, I’m not even saying that to brag. That’s the kind of mindset, that’s the kind of thinking you need for this country.
So, because we’ve got to make the country rich. It sounds crass. Somebody said ‘oh, that’s crass.’ It’s not crass.
We’ve got $18 trillion in debt, we’ve got nothing but problems.
We’ve got a military that needs equipment all over the place. We’ve got nuclear weapons that are obsolete.
We’ve got nothing.
We’ve got social security that’s going to be destroyed if somebody like me doesn’t bring money into the country. All these other people want to cut the hell out of it. I’m not going to cut it at all. I’m going to bring money in, and we’re going to save it.
But here is what’s going to happen. After I’m called by 30 friends of mine who contributed to different campaigns, after I’m called by all of the special interests and by the donors and by the lobbyists – and they have zero chance at convincing me. Zero. I’ll get a call they next day from the head of Ford.
He’ll say, ‘Please reconsider.’
I’ll say, ‘No.’
He’ll say, ‘Mr. President, we’ve decided to move the plant back to the United States. We’re not going to build it in Mexico.’
That’s it. They’ll have no choice. They have no choice. There are hundred of things like that.
I’ll give you another example: Saudi Arabia. They make a billion dollars a day, a billion dollars a day.
I love the Saudis, many are in this building. They make a billion dollars a day. Whenever they have problems, we send over the ships. We send, we’re going to protect – what are we doing? They got nothing but money.
If the right person asked them, they’d pay a fortune. They wouldn’t be there except for us.
And believe me, you look at the border with Yemen – you remember Obama a year ago, Yemen was a great victory. Two weeks later the place was blown up. Everybody.
And they kept our equipment. They always keep our equipment. We ought to send used equipment, right? They always keep our equipment, we ought to send some real junk because, frankly, it would be – we ought to send our surplus. We’re always losing this gorgeous, brand-new stuff.
But look at that border with Saudi Arabia. Do you really think that these people are interested in Yemen? Saudi Arabia without us is gone. They’re gone.
And I’m the one that made all of the right predictions about Iraq. You know, all of these politicians that I’m running against now, it’s so nice to say I’m running as opposed to if I run, if I run – I’m running.
But all of these politicians that I’m running against now, they’re trying to dissociate. I mean, you look at Bush – it took him five days to answer the question on Iraq. He couldn’t answer the question. He didn’t know.
I said, ‘Is he intelligent?’
And then I looked at Rubio. He was unable to answer the question. He didn’t know.
How are these people going to lead us? How are we going to go back and made it great again? We can’t They don’t have a clue. They can’t lead us. They can’t.
They can’t even answer simple questions. It was terrible, but Saudi Arabia is in big, big trouble.
Now, thanks to fracking and other things, the oil is all over the place. And I used to say it, there are ships at sea, and this was during the worst crisis, that were loaded up with oil. And the cartel kept the prices up because, again, they were smarter than our leaders.
They were smarter than our leaders. There is so much wealth out there that we can make our country so rich again and, therefore, make it great again.
Because we need money. We’re dying. We’re dying. We need money. We have to do it and we need the right people.
So Ford will come back. They’ll all come back. And I will say this – this is going to be an election, in my opinion, that’s based on competence.
Somebody said to me the other day, a reporter, very nice reporter – ‘But Mr. Trump, you’re not a nice person.’
But actually, I am. I think I’m a nice person. Does my family like me? I think so. Look at my family.
I’m proud of my family by the way. Speaking of my family – Melania, Barron, Kai, Donny, Dunn, Vanessa, Tiffany, Ivanka did a great job. Did she do a great job? Jarrett, Laura and Eric. I’m very proud of my family. They’re a great family.
So the report said to me the other day ‘But Mr. Trump, you’re not a nice person. How can you get people to vote for you?’
I said, ‘I don’t know. I think that, number one, I am a nice person. I give a lot of money away to charities and other things.’
I think I’m actually a very nice person, but I said ‘This is going to be an election that’s based off competence. Because people are tired of these nice people and they’re tired of being ripped of by everybody in the world and they’re tired of spending more money on education than any nation in the world per capita. Than any nation in the world.’
And we’re 26th in the world. Twenty-five countries are better than us at education, and some of them are like, third-world countries.
But we’re becoming a third-world country because of our infrastructure, our airports, our roads, everything.
So one of the things I did, and I said, you know what I’ll do? I’ll do it. And a lot of people said ‘he’ll never run. Number one, he won’t want to give up his lifestyle.’
They’re right about that, but I’m doing it.
Number two – I’m a private company, so nobody knows what I’m worth. And the one thing is, when you run, you have to announce and certify to all sorts of governmental authorities, your net worth.
So I said, ‘that’s okay, I’m proud of my net worth.’
I’ve done an amazing job. I started off in a small office with my father in Brooklyn and Queens. And my father said – and I love my father. I learned so much. He was a great negotiator.
I learned so much just sitting as his feet playing with blocks, listening to him negotiate with subcontractors. But I learned a lot.
But he used to say ‘Donald, don’t go into Manhattan. That’s the big leagues. We don’t know anything about that. Don’t do it.’
But I said, ‘Dad, I gotta go into Manhattan. I gotta build those buildings. I’ve got to do it, Dad, I’ve got to do it.’
And after four or five years in Brooklyn, I ventured into Manhattan and did a lot of great deals: the Grand Hyatt hotel, I was responsible for the convention center on the west side.
I did a lot of great deals and I did them early and young, and now I’m building all over the world. And I love what I’m doing.
But they all said, a lot of the pundits on television, ‘well Donald will never run and one of the main reasons is, he’s private, and he’s probably not as successful as everybody thinks.’
So I said to myself, ‘you know, nobody’s ever going to know unless I run because I’m really proud of my success, I really am.’
I’ve employed tens of thousands of people over my lifetime. That means medical, that means education, that means everything.
So a large accounting firm and my accountants have been working for months because I’m big and complex and they put together a statement, a financial statement. It’s a summary, but everything will be filed eventually with the government. And we don’t need extensions or anything, we’ll be filing it right on time.
We don’t need anything. And it was even reported incorrectly yesterday, because they said he had assets of nine billion.
I said, ‘no, that the wrong number. That’s the wrong number, not assets.’
So they put together this, and before I say it, I have to say this: I made it the old-fashioned way. It’s real estate. it’s labor and it’s union – good and some bad – and lots of people that aren’t unions and it’s all over the place and building all over the world.
And I have assets, big accounting firm – one of the most highly respected – $9,240,000,000.
And I have liabilities of about $500 – that’s long-term debt, very low interest rates.
In fact, one of the big banks came to me, said, ‘Donald, you don’t have enough borrowing, can we loan you $4 billion.”
I said ‘I don’t need it. I don’t want it. I’ve been there. I don’t want it.”
But in two seconds, they give me whatever I wanted. So I have a total net worth, and now with the increase, it’ll be well-over $10 billion. But here, a total net worth of — net worth, not assets, not — a net worth, after all debt, after all expenses, the greatest assets — Trump Tower, 1290 Avenue of the Americas, Bank of America building in San Francisco, 40 Wall Street, sometimes referred to as the Trump building right opposite the New York — many other places all over the world.
So the total is $8,737,540,000.
Now I’m not doing that, I’m not doing that to brag, because you know what? I don’t have to brag. I don’t have to, believe it or not.
I’m doing that to say that that’s the kind of thinking our country needs. We need that thinking. We have the opposite thinking.
We have losers. We have losers. We have people that don’t have it. We have people that are morally corrupt. We have people that are selling this country down the drain.
So I put together this statement, and the only reason I’m telling you about it today is because we really do have to get going, because if we have another three or four years — you know, we’re at $8 trillion now. We’re soon going to be at $20 trillion.
According to the economists, who I’m not big believers in, but, nevertheless, this is what they’re saying, that $24 trillion. We’re very close, that’s the point of no return. $24 trillion.
We will be there soon. That’s when we become Greece. That’s when we become a country that’s unsalvageable. And we’re gonna be there very soon. We’re gonna be there very soon.
So, just to sum up, I would do various things very quickly. I would repeal and replace the big lie, Obamacare.
I would build a great wall, and nobody builds walls better than me, believe me, and I’ll build them very inexpensively, I will build a great, great wall on our southern border. And I will have Mexico pay for that wall.
Mark my words.
Nobody would be tougher on ISIS than Donald Trump. Nobody.
I will find, within our military, I will find the General Patton or I will find General MacArthur, I will find the right guy. I will find the guy that’s going to take that military and make it really work. Nobody, nobody will be pushing us around.
I will stop Iran from getting nuclear weapons. And we won’t be using a man like Secretary Kerry that has absolutely no concept of negotiation, who’s making a horrible and laughable deal, who’s just being tapped along as they make weapons right now, and then goes into a bicycle race at 72 years old, and falls and breaks his leg.
I won’t be doing that. And I promise I will never be in a bicycle race. That I can tell you.
I will immediately terminate President Obama’s illegal executive order on immigration, immediately.
Fully support and back up the Second Amendment.
Now, it’s very interesting. Today I heard it. Through stupidity, in a very, very hard core prison, interestingly named Clinton, two vicious murderers, two vicious people escaped, and nobody knows where they are.
And a woman was on television this morning, and she said, ‘You know, Mr. Trump,’ and she was telling other people, and I actually called her, and she said, ‘You know, Mr. Trump, I always was against guns. I didn’t want guns. And now since this happened,’ it’s up in the prison area, ‘my husband and I are finally in agreement, because he wanted the guns. We now have a gun on every table. We’re ready to start shooting.’
I said, ‘Very interesting.’
So protect the Second Amendment.
End, end Common Core. Common Core should, it is a disaster. Bush is totally in favor of Common Core.
I don’t see how he can possibly get the nomination. He’s weak on immigration. He’s in favor of Common Core. How the hell can you vote for this guy? You just can’t do it.
We have to end, education has to be local.
Rebuild the country’s infrastructure. Nobody can do that like me. Believe me. It will be done on time, on budget, way below cost, way below what anyone ever thought.
I look at the roads being built all over the country, and I say I can build those things for one-third. What they do is unbelievable, how bad.
You know, we’re building on Pennsylvania Avenue, the Old Post Office, we’re converting it into one of the world’s great hotels. It’s gonna be the best hotel in Washington, D.C. We got it from the General Services Administration in Washington. The Obama administration. We got it. It was the most highly sought after — or one of them, but I think the most highly sought after project in the history of General Services.
We got it. People were shocked, Trump got it. Well, I got it for two reasons. Number one, we’re really good. Number two, we had a really good plan. And I’ll add in the third, we had a great financial statement. Because the General Services, who are terrific people, by the way, and talented people, they wanted to do a great job. And they wanted to make sure it got built.
So we have to rebuild our infrastructure, our bridges, our roadways, our airports.
You come into LaGuardia Airport, it’s like we’re in a third world country. You look at the patches and the 40-year-old floor. They throw down asphalt, and they throw.
You look at these airports, we are like a third world country. And I come in from China and I come in from Qatar and I come in from different places, and they have the most incredible airports in the world. You come to back to this country and you have LAX, disaster. You have all of these disastrous airports. We have to rebuild our infrastructure.
Save Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security without cuts. Have to do it.
Get rid of the fraud. Get rid of the waste and abuse, but save it. People have been paying it for years. And now many of these candidates want to cut it.
You save it by making the United States, by making us rich again, by taking back all of the money that’s being lost.
Renegotiate our foreign trade deals.
Reduce our $18 trillion in debt, because, believe me, we’re in a bubble. We have artificially low interest rates. We have a stock market that, frankly, has been good to me, but I still hate to see what’s happening. We have a stock market that is so bloated.
Be careful of a bubble because what you’ve seen in the past might be small potatoes compared to what happens. So be very, very careful.
And strengthen our military and take care of our vets. So, so important.
Sadly, the American dream is dead. But if I get elected president I will bring it back bigger and better and stronger than ever before, and we will make America great again.
Thank you. Thank you very much.
Remarks by the President on Progress in the Fight Against ISIL
4:10 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Good afternoon, everybody. I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday weekend — especially our men and women in uniform. This Fourth of July we were honored to once again welcome some of our incredible troops and their families to share Fourth of July and fireworks at the White House. It was another chance for us, on behalf of the American people, to express our gratitude for their extraordinary service around the world every day.
And that includes the work that brings me here today — our mission to degrade and ultimately destroy the terrorist group ISIL. This is a cause, a coalition, that’s united countries across the globe — some 60 nations, including Arab partners. Our comprehensive strategy against ISIL is harnessing all elements of American power, across our government — military, intelligence, diplomatic, economic, development and perhaps most importantly, the power of our values.
Last month, I ordered additional actions in support of our strategy. I just met with my national security team as part of our regular effort to assess our efforts — what’s working and what we can do better. Secretary Carter, Chairman Dempsey, I want to thank you and your team for welcoming us and for your leadership, including General Austin who’s leading the military campaign. And I want to summarize briefly where we stand.
I want to start by repeating what I’ve said since the beginning. This will not be quick. This is a long-term campaign. ISIL is opportunistic and it is nimble. In many places in Syria and Iraq, including urban areas, it’s dug in among innocent civilian populations. It will take time to root them out — and doing so must be the job of local forces on the ground, with training and air support from our coalition.
As with any military effort, there will be periods of progress, but there are also going to be some setbacks — as we’ve seen with ISIL’s gains in Ramadi in Iraq and central and southern Syria. But today, it’s also important for us to recognize the progress that’s been made.
Our coalition has now hit ISIL with more than 5,000 airstrikes. We’ve taken out thousands of fighting positions, tanks, vehicles, bomb factories, and training camps. We’ve eliminated thousands of fighters, including senior ISIL commanders. And over the past year, we’ve seen that when we have an effective partner on the ground, ISIL can be pushed back.
In Iraq, ISIL lost at the Mosul Dam. ISIL lost at Mount Sinjar. ISIL has lost repeatedly across Kirkuk Province. ISIL lost at Tikrit. Altogether, ISIL has lost more than a quarter of the populated areas that it had seized in Iraq. In Syria, ISIL lost at Kobani. It’s recently endured losses across northern Syria, including the key city of Tal Abyad, denying ISIL a vital supply route to Raqqa, its base of operations in Syria.
So these are reminders that ISIL’s strategic weaknesses are real. ISIL is surrounded by countries and communities committed to its destruction. It has no air force; our coalition owns the skies. ISIL is backed by no nation. It relies on fear, sometimes executing its own disillusioned fighters. Its unrestrained brutality often alienates those under its rule, creating new enemies. In short, ISIL’s recent losses in both Syria and Iraq prove that ISIL can and will be defeated.
Indeed, we’re intensifying our efforts against ISIL’s base in Syria. Our airstrikes will continue to target the oil and gas facilities that fund so much of their operations. We’re going after the ISIL leadership and infrastructure in Syria — the heart of ISIL that pumps funds and propaganda to people around the world. Partnering with other countries — sharing more information, strengthening laws and border security — allows us to work to stem the flow of foreign fighters to Syria as well as Iraq, and to stem, obviously, the flow of those fighters back into our own countries. This continues to be a challenge, and, working together, all our nations are going to need to do more, but we’re starting to see some progress.
We’ll continue cracking down on ISIL’s illicit finance around the world. By the way, if Congress really wants to help in this effort, they can confirm Mr. Adam Szubin, our nominee for Treasury Under Secretary to lead this effort. This is a vital position to our counterterrorism efforts. Nobody suggests Mr. Szubin is not qualified. He’s highly qualified. Unfortunately, his nomination has been languishing up on the Hill, and we need the Senate to confirm him as soon as possible.
Meanwhile, we continue to ramp up our training and support of local forces that are fighting ISIL on the ground. As I’ve said before, this aspect of our strategy was moving too slowly. But the fall of Ramadi has galvanized the Iraqi government. So, with the additional steps I ordered last month, we’re speeding up training of ISIL [Iraqi] forces, including volunteers from Sunni tribes in Anbar Province.
More Sunni volunteers are coming forward. Some are already being trained, and they can be a new force against ISIL. We continue to accelerate the delivery of critical equipment, including anti-tank weapons, to Iraqi security forces, including the Peshmerga and tribal fighters. And I made it clear to my team that we will do more to train and equip the moderate opposition in Syria.
Now, all this said, our strategy recognizes that no amount of military force will end the terror that is ISIL unless it’s matched by a broader effort — political and economic — that addresses the underlying conditions that have allowed ISIL to gain traction. They have filled a void, and we have to make sure that as we push them out that void is filled. So, as Iraqi cities and towns are liberated from ISIL, we’re working with Iraq and the United Nations to help communities rebuild the security, services and governance that they need. We continue to support the efforts of Prime Minister Abadi to forge an inclusive and effective Iraqi government that unites all the people of Iraq — Shia, Sunnis, Kurds and all minority communities.
In Syria, the only way that the civil war will end — and in a way so that the Syrian people can unite against ISIL — is an inclusive political transition to a new government, without Bashar Assad — a government that serves all Syrians. I discussed this with our Gulf Cooperation Council partners at Camp David and during my recent call with President Putin. I made it clear the United States will continue to work for such a transition.
And a glimmer of good news is I think an increasing recognition on the part of all the players in the region that given the extraordinary threat that ISIL poses it is important for us to work together, as opposed to at cross-purposes, to make sure that an inclusive Syrian government exists.
While the focus of our discussions today was on Iraq and Syria, ISIL and its ideology also obviously pose a grave threat beyond the region. In recent weeks we’ve seen deadly attacks in Tunisia, Kuwait and Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula. We see a growing ISIL presence in Libya and attempts to establish footholds across North Africa, the Middle East, the Caucasus, and Southeast Asia. We’ve seen attacks in Ottawa, Sydney, France and Copenhagen.
So I’ve called on the international community to unite against this scourge of violent extremism. In this fight, the United States continues to lead. When necessary to prevent attacks against our nation, we’ll take direct action against terrorists. We’ll continue to also partner with nations from Afghanistan to Nigeria to build up their security forces. We’re going to work day and night with allies and partners to disrupt terrorist networks and thwart attacks, and to smother nascent ISIL cells that may be trying to develop in other parts of the world.
This also includes remaining vigilant in protecting against attacks here in the homeland. Now, I think it’s important for us to recognize the threat of violent extremism is not restricted to any one community. Here in the United States, we’ve seen all kinds of homegrown terrorism. And tragically, recent history reminds us how even a single individual motivated by a hateful ideology with access to dangerous weapons can inflict horrendous harm on Americans. So our efforts to counter violent extremism must not target any one community because of their faith or background, including patriotic Muslim Americans who are our partners in keeping our country safe.
That said, we also have to acknowledge that ISIL has been particularly effective at reaching out to and recruiting vulnerable people around the world, including here in the United States. And they are targeting Muslim communities around the world. Numerous individuals have been arrested across the country for plotting attacks or attempting to join ISIL in Syria and Iraq. Two men apparently inspired by ISIL opened fire in Garland, Texas. And because of our success over the years in improving our homeland security, we’ve made it harder for terrorists to carry out large-scale attacks like 9/11 here at home.
But the threat of lone wolves or small cells of terrorists is complex — it’s harder to detect and harder to prevent. It’s one of the most difficult challenges that we face. And preventing these kinds of attacks on American soil is going to require sustained effort.
So I just want to repeat, the good news is that because of extraordinary efforts from law enforcement as well as our military intelligence, we are doing a better job at preventing any large-scale attacks on the homeland. On the other hand, the small, individual lone wolf attacks or small cells become harder to detect and they become more sophisticated, using new technologies. And that means that we’re going to have to pick up our game to prevent these attacks.
It’s also true why, ultimately, in order for us to defeat terrorist groups like ISIL and al Qaeda it’s going to also require us to discredit their ideology — the twisted thinking that draws vulnerable people into their ranks. As I’ve said before — and I know our military leaders agree — this broader challenge of countering violent extremism is not simply a military effort. Ideologies are not defeated with guns; they’re defeated by better ideas — a more attractive and more compelling vision.
So the United States will continue to do our part, by working with partners to counter ISIL’s hateful propaganda, especially online. We’ll constantly reaffirm through words and deeds that we will never be at war with Islam. We’re fighting terrorists who distort Islam and whose victims are mostly Muslims. But around the world, we’re also going to insist on partnering with Muslim communities as they seek security, prosperity and the dignity that they deserve. And we’re going to expect those communities to step up in terms of pushing back as hard as they can, in conjunction with other people of goodwill, against these hateful ideologies in order to discredit them more effectively, particularly when it comes to what we’re teaching young people.
And this larger battle for hearts and minds is going to be a generational struggle. It’s ultimately not going to be won or lost by the United States alone. It will be decided by the countries and the communities that terrorists like ISIL target. It’s going to be up to Muslim communities, including scholars and clerics, to keep rejecting warped interpretations of Islam, and to protect their sons and daughters from recruitment. It will be up to all people — leaders and citizens — to reject the sectarianism that so often fuels the resentments and conflicts upon which terrorists are currently thriving. It will be up to governments to address the political and economic grievances that terrorists exploit.
Nations that empower citizens to decide their own destiny, that uphold human rights for all their people, that invest in education and create opportunities for their young people — those can be powerful antidotes to extremist ideologies. Those are the countries that will find a true partner in the United States.
In closing, let me note that this Fourth of July we celebrated 239 years of American independence. Across more than two centuries, we’ve faced much bigger, much more formidable challenges than this — Civil War, a Great Depression, fascism, communism, terrible natural disasters, 9/11. And every time, every generation, our nation has risen to the moment. We don’t simply endure; we emerge stronger than before. And that will be the case here.
Our mission to destroy ISIL and to keep our country safe will be difficult. It will take time. There will be setbacks as well as progress. But as President and Commander-in-Chief, I want to say to all our men and women in uniform who are serving in this operation — our pilots, the crews on the ground, our personnel not only on the ground but at sea, our intelligence teams and our diplomatic teams — I want to thank you. We are proud of you, and you have my total confidence that you’re going to succeed.
To the American people, I want to say we will continue to be vigilant. We will persevere. And just as we have for more than two centuries, we will ultimately prevail.
Thank you very much, everybody. And thanks to the team up on the stage here with me — they’re doing an outstanding job.
Q Take a question?
THE PRESIDENT: You know what, I will take a question. Go ahead.
Q Every servicemember who is listening to you today, Mr. President, is wondering, are you going to veto the defense bills that are going to pay me? What is your latest thinking on that? Because we’ve heard secondhand through statements of policy that your advisors would threaten a veto. What’s your take, sir? Would you veto the appropriations bills?
THE PRESIDENT: Our men and women are going to get paid. And if you’ll note that I’ve now been President for six and a half years and we’ve had some wrangling with Congress in the past — our servicemembers haven’t missed a paycheck.
But what is also important in terms of our budget is making sure that we are not short-changing all the elements of American power that allow us to secure the nation and to project our power around the world. So what we’re not going to do is to accept a budget that short-changes our long-term requirements for new technologies, for readiness. We’re not going to eat our seed corn by devoting too much money on things we don’t need now and robbing ourselves of the capacity to make sure that we’re prepared for future threats.
I’ve worked very closely with the Chairman and the members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to develop a budget that is realistic and that looks out into the future and says this is how we’re going to handle any possible contingency. And we can’t do that if we’ve got a budget that short-changes vital operations and continues to fund things that are not necessary.
We also have to remind ourselves that the reason we have the best military in the world is, first and foremost, because we’ve got the best troops in history. But it’s also because we’ve got a strong economy, and we’ve got a well-educated population. And we’ve got an incredible research operation and universities that allow us to create new products that then can be translated into our military superiority around the world. We short-change those, we’re going to be less secure.
So the way we have to look at this budget is to recognize that, A, we can’t think short term, we’ve got to think long term; and B, part of our national security is making sure that we continue to have a strong economy and that we continue to make the investments that we need in things like education and research that are going to be vital for us to be successful long term.
Q As an Army reservist, I’m curious to know if you have any plans to send any more American troops overseas right now, any additional forces.
THE PRESIDENT: There are no current plans to do so. That’s not something that we currently discussed. I’ve always said that I’m going to do what’s necessary to protect the homeland.
One of the principles that we all agree on, though, and I pressed folks pretty hard because in these conversations with my military advisors I want to make sure I’m getting blunt and unadultered [sic] uncensored advice. But in every one of the conversations that we’ve had, the strong consensus is that in order for us to succeed long-term in this fight against ISIL we have to develop local security forces that can sustain progress.
It is not enough for us to simply send in American troops to temporarily set back organizations like ISIL, but to then, as soon as we leave, see that void filled once again with extremists. It is going to be vital for us to make sure that we are preparing the kinds of local ground forces and security forces with our partners that can not only succeed against ISIL, but then sustain in terms of security and in terms of governance.
Because if we try to do everything ourselves all across the Middle East, all across North Africa, we’ll be playing Whack-a-Mole and there will be a whole lot of unintended consequences that ultimately make us less secure.
All right? Thank you. I didn’t even plan to do this. (Laughter.) You guys got two bonus questions.
Trump was born on June 14, 1946, in Queens, New York, one of five children of Mary Anne (née MacLeod) and Fred Trump, who married in 1936. His oldest brother, Fred Jr., died in 1981 at the age of 43. Trump’s mother was a Scottish immigrant, born on the Isle of Lewis, off the west coast of Scotland, and Trump’s paternal grandparents were German immigrants. His grandfather, Frederick Trump (né Friedrich Drumpf), immigrated to the United States in 1885, and became a naturalized United States citizen in 1892. Frederick married Donald’s grandmother, Elisabeth Christ (October 10, 1880 – June 6, 1966), at Kallstadt, Bavaria, Germany, on August 26, 1902. They had three children.
Trump began his career at his father’s real estate company, Elizabeth Trump and Son, which focused on middle-class rental housing in Brooklyn, Queens, and Staten Island. One of Trump’s first projects, while he was still in college, was the revitalization of the foreclosed Swifton Village apartment complex in Cincinnati, Ohio, which his father had purchased for $5.7 million in 1962. Trump became intimately involved in the project and with a $500,000 investment, turned the 1200-unit complex with a 66 percent vacancy rate to 100 percent occupancy within two years. In 1972 the Trump Organization sold Swifton Village for $6.75 million.
In 1971, Trump moved to Manhattan and became involved in larger building projects and used attractive architectural design to win public recognition. He made plans to acquire and develop the old Penn Central for $60 million with no money down. Later, with the help of a 40-year tax abatement from the New York City government, he turned the bankrupt Commodore Hotel into the Grand Hyatt and created The Trump Organization.
New York City had a plan to build the Javits Convention Center on property for which Trump held a right-to-buy option. Trump estimated his company could have completed the project for $110 million but the city rejected his offer and Trump received a broker’s fee on the sale of the property instead. Repairs on The Wollman Rink in Central Park (built in 1955) were started in 1980 with an expected 2½-year construction schedule but was nowhere near completion by 1986. Trump took over the management of the project, at no cost to the city, and completed it in three months for $1.95 million, which was $750,000 less than the initial budget.
By 1989, poor business decisions left Trump unable to meet loan payments. Trump financed the construction of his third casino, the $1 billion Taj Mahal, primarily with high-interest junk bonds. Although he shored up his businesses with additional loans and postponed interest payments, by 1991 increasing debt brought Trump to business bankruptcy and to the brink of personal bankruptcy. Banks and bond holders had lost hundreds of millions of dollars, but opted to restructure his debt to avoid the risk of losing more money in court. The Taj Mahal emerged from bankruptcy on October 5, 1991, with Trump ceding 50 percent ownership in the casino to the original bondholders in exchange for lowered interest rates on the debt and more time to pay it off.
In 2015, Forbes estimated his net worth at $4.1 billion. In June 2015, Business Insider published a June 30, 2014, financial statement supplied by Trump. The statement reflects his net worth as $8.7 billion. Of that amount, $3.3 billion is represented by “Real Estate Licensing Deals, Brand and Branded Developments”, described by Business Insider as “basically [implying] that Trump values his character at $3.3 billion”.
Beyond his traditional ventures in the real estate, hospitality, and entertainment industries and having carved out a niche for the Trump brand within these industries, Trump has since then moved on to establish the Trump name and brand in other industries and products. Trump has succeeded in marketing the Trump name on a large number of products, including Trump Financial (a mortgage firm), Trump Sales and Leasing (residential sales), Trump Restaurants (located in Trump Tower and consisting of Trump Buffet, Trump Catering, Trump Ice Cream Parlor, and Trump Bar), GoTrump (an online travel website), Donald J. Trump Signature Collection (a line of menswear, men’s accessories, and watches), Donald Trump The Fragrance (2004), Trump magazine, Trump Golf, Trump Chocolate, Trump home (home furnishings), Trump Productions (a television production company), Trump Institute, Trump The Game (1989 board game), Donald Trump’s Real Estate Tycoon (a business simulation game), Trump Books, Trump Model Management, Trump Shuttle, Trump Ice, Trump Mortgage, Trump Vodka, and Trump Steaks. In addition, Trump reportedly receives $1.5 million for each one-hour presentation he does for The Learning Annex.
In 2011, Forbes’ financial experts estimated the value of the Trump brand at $200 million. Trump disputes this valuation, saying that his brand is worth about $3 billion. Many developers pay Trump to market their properties and to be the public face for their projects. For that reason, Trump does not own many of the buildings that display his name. According to Forbes, this portion of Trump’s empire, actually run by his children, is by far his most valuable, having a $562 million valuation. According to Forbes there are 33 licensing projects under development including seven “condo hotels” (the seven Trump International Hotel and Tower developments).
In April 2011, amidst speculation whether Trump would run as a candidate in the US presidential election of 2012, Politico quoted unnamed sources close to him stating that, if Trump should decide to run for president, he would file “financial disclosure statements that [would] show his net worth [was] in excess of $7 billion with more than $250 million of cash, and very little debt.” (Presidential candidates are required to disclose their finances after announcing their intentions to run.) Although Trump did not run as a candidate in the 2012 elections, his professionally prepared 2012 financial disclosure was published in his book stating a $7 billion net worth.Estimates of Trump’s net worth have fluctuated along with real estate valuations: In 2015, Forbes listed it as $4.1 billion. On June 16, 2015, just prior announcing his candidacy for President of the United States, Trump released professionally prepared financial disclosure statements to the media stating a net worth of almost $9 billion. Some business journalists have expressed skepticism of the higher net worth estimate.
In 2011, Trump made a rare foray into the stock market after being disappointed with the depressed American real estate market and facing poor returns on bank deposits. He stated that he wasn’t a stock market person, but he also stated that prime real estate at good prices is hard to get. Among the stocks Trump purchased, he stated he bought stock in Bank of America, Citigroup, Caterpillar Inc., Intel, Johnson & Johnson and Procter & Gamble. In December 2012, Trump revealed that he also added shares of Facebook to his stock portfolio.
The USFL planned to play its 1986 schedule in the fall, directly opposite the NFL, thanks mostly to Trump’s strong advocacy of direct competition with the older, established league. Two years earlier, Trump sold most of his fellow owners on a move to the fall by arguing that it would eventually force a merger with the NFL—in which the owners of any USFL teams included in a merger would see their investment more than double.
Following the death of Buffalo Bills owner Ralph Wilson Jr. in March 2014, Trump expressed public interest in purchasing the team. When speaking to the media, Trump has made it clear that should he purchase the team, the Bills would remain in Buffalo.Ultimately, the team was sold to Kim and Terrence Pegula in September 2014.
Turnberry Hotel, Ayrshire, Scotland
The Trump Organization operates many golf courses and resorts in the United States and around the world. On February 11, 2014, it was announced that Trump had purchased Doonbeg Golf Club in the Republic of Ireland. It was confirmed that Doonbeg Golf Club would be renamed Trump International Golf Links, Ireland. In 2006, Trump bought the Menie estate in Balmedie, Aberdeenshire, Scotland creating a highly contentious golf resort. In April 2014, Trump purchased the Turnberry hotel and golf resort in Ayrshire, Scotland, which is a regular fixture in the Open Championship rota. In June 2015, Trump’s appeal objecting to an offshore windfarm (Aberdeen Bay Wind Farm) within sight of the golf links was denied.
The Miss Universe and Miss USA have been owned by Donald Trump since 1996 and are among the most recognized beauty pageants. The pageant was founded in 1952 by the California clothing company Pacific Mills. In 2015, Trump awarded the Reelz Channel exclusive rights to air the Miss Universe and Miss USA Pageants.
In March 2011, Trump was the subject of a Comedy Central Roast. The special was hosted by Seth MacFarlane, and roasters included Larry King, Snoop Dogg, and Anthony Jeselnik among regular roast participants. Trump’s daughter Ivanka was seen in the audience. In April 2011, Trump attended the White House Correspondents’ Dinner, featuring comedian Seth Meyers. President Obama used the occasion to present several prepared jokes mocking Trump.
In 2003, Trump became the executive producer and host of the NBCreality show, The Apprentice, in which a group of competitors battled for a high-level management job in one of Trump’s commercial enterprises. Contestants were successively “fired” and eliminated from the game. In 2004, Donald Trump filed a trademark application for the catchphrase “You’re fired.”
For the first year of the show, Trump was paid $50,000 per episode (roughly $700,000 for the first season), but following the show’s initial success, he is currently[when?] paid a reported $3 million per episode, making him one of the highest paid TV personalities. In 2007, Trump received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for his contribution to television (The Apprentice).
Along with British TV producer Mark Burnett, Trump also put together The Celebrity Apprentice, in which well-known stars compete to win money for their charities. While Trump and Burnett co-produced the show, Trump stayed in the forefront, deciding winners and “firing” losers.
In February 2015, Trump opted not to renew his television contract for The Apprentice, generating speculation of his eventual run for President of the United States in 2016.
He also appeared at WrestleMania 23 in a match called “The Battle of the Billionaires”. Trump was in the corner of Bobby Lashley, while Vince McMahon was in the corner of Lashley’s opponent Umaga with Stone Cold Steve Austin as the special guest referee.The stipulation of the match was hair versus hair, which means that either Trump or McMahon would have their head shaved if their competitor lost. Lashley won the match, and he and Trump shaved McMahon bald.
On June 15, 2009, as part of a storyline, McMahon announced on Monday Night Raw that he had “sold” the show to Trump. Appearing on screen, Trump declared he would be at the following commercial-free episode in person and would give a full refund to the people who purchased tickets to the arena for that night’s show. McMahon “bought back” Raw the following week for twice the price. His entrance theme “Money, Money” was written by Jim Johnston.
A 2011 report by the Center for Responsive Politics showed that over two decades of U.S. elections, Donald Trump made contributions to campaigns of both Republican Party and Democratic Party candidates. In February 2012, Trump endorsed Mitt Romney for president of the United States. Trump was an early supporter of Ronald Reagan for president of the United States.
At the 2011 CPAC conference, Trump stated that he is “pro-life” and “against gun control.” He has spoken before Tea Party supporters. Trump has expressed himself against the scientific consensus that no evidence links the childhood vaccination to the development of autism.In May 2015, Trump opposed giving President Obama fast track trade authority for the Trans Pacific Partnership trade agreement. Instead, he has called for stronger negotiations with China on trade and tariffs if necessary. Trump has advocated a policy of stronger leadership to deal with the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), which he has blamed for high oil prices.
Trump floated the idea of running for president in 1988, 2004, and 2012, and for governor of New York in 2006 and 2014, but did not enter those races. He ran for the presidential nomination of the Reform Party in 2000, winning the party’s California primary. As Trump publicly speculated about seeking the 2012 Republican presidential nomination, a Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll released in March 2011 found Trump leading among potential contenders, one point ahead of former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney. A Newsweek poll conducted in February 2011 showed Trump within a few points of Barack Obama, with many voters undecided in the November 2012 general election for president of the United States. A poll released in April 2011 by Public Policy Polling showed Trump having a nine-point lead in a potential contest for the Republican nomination for President of the United States while he was still actively considering a run. His moves were interpreted at the time by some media as possible promotional tools for his reality show The Apprentice. On May 16, 2011, Trump announced he would not run for president.Public Policy Polling described the events of May 2011 as “one of the quickest rises and falls in the history of presidential politics”. In December 2011, Donald Trump was named among the top six of the ten most admired men and women living, according to a USA Today/Gallup poll.
In 2013, Trump was a featured speaker at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), and spent over $1 million to research a possible run for president of the United States. In October 2013, New York Republicans had circulated a memo suggesting Trump should run of governor of the state in 2014 against Andrew Cuomo. Trump said that while New York had problems and taxes were too high, running for governor was not of great interest to him. In February 2015, Trump opted not to renew his television contract for The Apprentice, generating speculation that he might run for President of the United States in 2016.
In January 2013, Trump (who is a notably popular figure in Israel) endorsed Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during the 2013 Israeli elections, stating that “A strong prime minister is a strong Israel.” In 2015, Trump was awarded the ‘Liberty Award’ at the ‘Algemeiner Jewish 100 Gala’ in honor of his positive contributions to US-Israel relations.
Trump formally announced his candidacy for president of the United States in the 2016 elections on June 16, 2015, from his headquarters in Trump Tower in New York City. Trump’s announcement speech included the song “Rockin’ in the Free World“.Trump launched his campaign declaring the official slogan, “We are going to make our country great again” with a commitment to become the “greatest jobs president that God ever created”.
Trump is popularly known as The Donald, a nickname perpetuated by the media after his first wife Ivana Trump, a native of the Czech Republic, referred to him as such in an interview.
Trump’s mother, Mary Anne, was born in 1912 at Tong, Stornoway on the Isle of Lewis, off the coast of Scotland. In 1930, aged 18, on a holiday in New York, she met Fred Trump and stayed in New York. Born in Queens, New York, Trump has four siblings: two brothers, Fred, Jr. (who is deceased) and Robert S. Trump; and two sisters, Maryanne and Elizabeth. His older sister, Maryanne Trump Barry, is a federal appeals court judge.
In 1977, Trump married Ivana Zelníčková and together they have three children: Donald, Jr. (born December 31, 1977), Ivanka (born October 30, 1981), and Eric (born January 6, 1984). They were divorced in 1992. In 1993, he married Marla Maples and together they had one child, Tiffany (born October 13, 1993). They divorced on June 8, 1999. In a February 2008 interview on ABC’s news program Nightline, Trump commented on his ex-wives by saying, “I just know it’s very hard for them [Ivana and Marla] to compete because I do love what I do. I really love it.”
On April 26, 2004, he proposed to Melania Knauss, a native of Slovenia. Trump and Knauss married on January 22, 2005, at Bethesda by the Sea Episcopal Church, on the island of Palm Beach, Florida, followed by a reception at Trump’s Mar-A-Lago estate. Melania gave birth to a boy named Barron William Trump, Trump’s fifth child, on March 20, 2006.
Trump has seven grandchildren: five from his son Donald Jr. (Kai Madison, Donald John III, Tristan Milos, Spencer Frederick and Chloe Sophia) and two from his daughter Ivanka (Arabella Rose and Joseph Frederick).
Trump is a Presbyterian. In an April 2011 interview, on the 700 Club, Trump said, “I’m a Protestant, I’m a Presbyterian. And you know I’ve had a good relationship with the church over the years. I think religion is a wonderful thing. I think my religion is a wonderful religion.” A February 2011 Politics Daily article described Trump as “apparently a member of the Dutch Reformed Church, which is a Presbyterian denomination”. Andrew Cusack in 2008 stated that Donald Trump is a member of New York City’s Marble Collegiate Church. Explaining that church’s organizational relationships, Cusack says “the Collegiate Reformed Protestant Dutch Church is actually a denomination within a denomination” and that the Collegiate Churches are “now part of the Reformed Church of America“. Marble Collegiate Church also states that it is denominationally affiliated with the Reformed Church in America, with the RCA website stating that the RCA has a local church “presbyterian form of government”. Trump does not drink alcohol. Of his daughter Ivanka’s conversion to Judaism he said: “Not only do I have Jewish grandchildren, I have a Jewish daughter and I am very honored by that.”
Trump manages business financing as far as possible without placing himself at risk of personal bankruptcy. Four of his businesses have declared Chapter 11 bankruptcy. According to a 2011 report by Forbes, these were due to over-leveraged hotel and casino businesses in Atlantic City: Trump’s Taj Mahal (1991), Trump Plaza Hotel (1992), Trump Hotels and Casino Resorts (2004), and Trump Entertainment Resorts (2009)Trump said “I’ve used the laws of this country to pare debt. … We’ll have the company. We’ll throw it into a chapter. We’ll negotiate with the banks. We’ll make a fantastic deal. You know, it’s like on ‘The Apprentice.’ It’s not personal. It’s just business.” He indicated that other “great entrepreneurs” do the same.
Trump’s first corporate bankruptcy was in 1991 when Trump Taj Mahal was unable to pay its obligations.Forbes indicated that his first bankruptcy was the only one where his personal wealth was involved. Time, however, maintains that also in the later 2004 bankruptcy $72 million personal money was involved.
On November 2, 1992, the Trump Plaza Hotel filed a prepackaged Chapter 11 protection plan. Under the plan, Trump agreed to give up a 49 percent stake in the luxury hotel to Citibank and five other lenders. In return Trump would receive more favorable terms on the remaining $550+ million owed to the lenders, and retain his position as chief executive, though he would not be paid and would not have a role in day-to-day operations.
In the subsequent restructuring of these two events Trump had eliminated a large portion of his $900 million personal debt by 1994 and reduced significantly his nearly $3.5 billion in business debt. While he relinquished theTrump Princess yacht and the Trump Shuttle (which he had bought in 1989), he managed to retain Trump Tower in New York City and control of his three casinos in Atlantic City. Trump sold his ownership of West Side Yards to Asian developers as a result of his negotiations with Chase Manhattan Bank. Trump was reportedly paid a premium for placing his well known moniker on the buildings that eventually arose. In 1995, he combined his casino holdings into the publicly held Trump Hotels & Casino Resorts. The real estate assets became a source of wealth even when profits had struggled.
The third corporate bankruptcy was on October 21, 2004, when Trump Hotels & Casino Resorts announced a restructuring of its debt. The plan called for Trump’s individual ownership to be reduced from 56 percent to 27 percent, with bondholders receiving stock in exchange for surrendering part of the debt. Trump Hotels was forced to seek voluntary bankruptcy protection to stay afloat. After the company applied for Chapter 11 Protection in November 2004, Trump opted to relinquish his CEO position but retained a role as Chairman of the board. In May 2005 the company emerged from bankruptcy as Trump Entertainment Resorts Holdings.
The most recent corporate bankruptcy occurred in 2009. On February 13, Trump announced that he would resign from the board of Trump Entertainment Resorts and four days later the company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. At that time Trump Entertainment Resorts had three properties in Atlantic City: Trump Taj Mahal, Trump Plaza, and Trump Marina (sold in 2011). In early August 2014 Donald Trump filed a lawsuit requesting his name be removed from the Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino and the Taj Mahal facilities since he no longer runs or controls the company. Trump Entertainment Resorts filed again for bankruptcy in 2014.
In March 1990, after an analyst at Janney Montgomery Scott said that Trump’s Taj Mahal project would initially “break records” but would fail before the end of that year, Trump threatened to sue the firm unless the analyst recanted or was fired. The analyst refused to retract the statements, and was fired by his firm. Taj Mahal declared bankruptcy for the first time in November 1990. A defamation lawsuit by the analyst against Trump for $2 million was settled out of court. The analyst’s statements regarding the Taj Mahal’s prospects were later called “stunningly accurate.”
In January 2002, the Securities and Exchange Commission brought a financial-reporting case against Trump Hotels & Casino Resorts Inc., alleging that it had committed several “misleading statements in the company’s third-quarter 1999 earnings release.” The matter was settled with the defendant neither admitting nor denying the charge.
In 2015 Trump initiated a $100 million lawsuit against Palm Beach County claiming that officials pressured the FAA to direct air traffic to the Palm Beach International Airport in a “deliberate and malicious” act over his Mar-A-Lago estate. The air traffic is allegedly damaging the construction of the building and disrupting its ambience. Trump had previously sued twice over airport noise.
In 1973, the Justice Department unsuccessfully sued Trump Management Corporation for alleged racial discrimination, at which time Trump was the company’s president. The federal government filed the lawsuit against his New York City real estate company for allegedly discriminating against potential black renters to which Trump never admitted, the case was settled out of court in 1975.
A 1991 book, Trumped!!, by John R. O’Donnell, former president of Trump Plaza Hotel & Casino, claimed that Trump once said in reference to a black accountant at Trump Plaza: “laziness is a trait in blacks.” O’Donnell claimed he told him: “Black guys counting my money! I hate it. The only kind of people I want counting my money are short guys that wear yarmulkes every day.” Trump responded that O’Donnell was a disgruntled employee.
In April 2011, he questioned President Obama’s proof of citizenship. Trump also questioned whether Obama had good enough grades to warrant entry to Harvard Law School. On April 25, 2011, Trump called for Obama to end the citizenship issue by releasing the long-form of his birth certificate. Obama eventually made a formal statement in efforts by the White House to put the matter to rest with the release of the long-form of Obama’s birth certificate on April 27, 2011. Trump expressed pride at his role in the release of the long-form certificate in a press conference follow-up.
On August 24, 2013, a lawsuit filed by New York Attorney GeneralEric Schneiderman, whose claims were dismissed by the Manhattan Superior Court, had accused Trump of defrauding more than 5,000 people of $40 million for the opportunity to learn Trump’s real estate investment techniques in a for-profit training program, Trump University. On January 30, 2014, the New York court dismissed all of the Attorney General’s fraud claims against Trump, allowing only the licensing aspect of the case to proceed. In October 2014, the New York court found Trump only liable for not obtaining a license to operate the for-profit investment school, Trump Entrepreneur Initiative, formerly known as Trump University. In a separate class action civil suit in mid-February 2014, a San Diego federal judge allowed claimants in California, Florida, and New York to proceed.
On June 5, 2013, Trump tweeted: “According to Bill O’Reilly, 80% of all the shootings in New York City are blacks-if you add Hispanics, that figure goes to 98%, 1% white”. Trump also tweeted: “Sadly, the overwhelming amount of violent crime in our major cities is committed by blacks and hispanics-a tough subject-must be discussed”.
In late October 2014, model Alexia Palmer filed a civil suit against Trump Model Management for promising a $75,000 annual salary but paying only $3,380.75 for three years’ work. Palmer claims to be owed more than $200,000. Palmer charged that Trump Model Management, charged, in addition to a management fee, “obscure expenses” from postage to limousine rides that consumed the remainder of her compensation. Trump attorney Alan Garten claims the lawsuit is “bogus and completely frivolous.”
Illegal immigration comments, 2015
Trump attracted reactions from opponents and defenders regarding comments on undocumented illegal immigration while announcing his candidacy for the U.S. presidency at Trump Tower on June 16, 2015 in New York City. He stated in part, “When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re not sending you. They’re not sending you. They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems…. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.”
On July 6, 2015, Trump issued a 3-page, 881-word written statement clarifying his earlier comments on illegal immigration, which read in part:
“The Mexican Government is forcing their most unwanted people into the United States. They are, in many cases, criminals, drug dealers, rapists, etc. This was evident just this week when, as an example, a young woman in San Francisco was viciously killed by a 5 time deported Mexican with a long criminal record, who was forced back into the United States because they didn’t want him in Mexico. This is merely one of thousands of similar incidents throughout the United States. In other words, the worst elements in Mexico are being pushed into the United States by the Mexican government. The largest suppliers of heroin, cocaine and other illicit drugs are Mexican cartels that arrange to have Mexican immigrants trying to cross the borders and smuggle in the drugs. The Border Patrol knows this. Likewise, tremendous infectious disease is pouring across the border. The United States has become a dumping ground for Mexico and, in fact, for many other parts of the world. On the other hand, many fabulous people come in from Mexico and our country is better for it. But these people are here legally, and are severely hurt by those coming in illegally. I am proud to say that I know many hard working Mexicans—many of them are working for and with me…and, just like our country, my organization is better for it.”
– Donald Trump, Written Statement released July 6, 2015.
Reactions to illegal immigration comments
José Antonio Meade Kuribreña, Mexican Secretary of Foreign Affairs, said that “he is a politician who ignores the context in which it is participating”, with regard to US international economic relations and Trump’s comments.
Univision announced it would no longer carry broadcasts of the Miss USA Pageant. In response, Trump indicated the matter would be handled by legal action, and followed through by filing a $500 million lawsuit against Univision. The complaint asserts that Univision is attempting to suppress Trump’s First Amendment rights by putting pressure on his business ventures.
Paulina Vega, the current Miss Universe, said that, although she repudiates the immigration remarks of Trump, who in turn called her a “hypocrite”, that she cannot give up the crown because her contract forbids it, and she could be sued.
Serta, a mattress manufacturer, also decided to drop their business relationship with Trump.
Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs (OMGs) are organizations whose members use their motorcycle clubs as conduits for criminal enterprises. OMGs are highly structured criminal organizations whose members engage in criminal activities such as violent crime, weapons trafficking, and drug trafficking. There are more than 300 active OMGs within the United States, ranging in size from single chapters with five or six members to hundreds of chapters with thousands of members worldwide. The Hells Angels, Mongols, Bandidos, Outlaws, and Sons of Silence pose a serious national domestic threat and conduct the majority of criminal activity linked to OMGs, especially activity relating to drug-trafficking and, more specifically, to cross-border drug smuggling. Because of their transnational scope, these OMGs are able to coordinate drug smuggling operations in partnership with major international drug-trafficking
9 Dead in Waco Biker Gang Shooting 18 Injured 5-17-15
Biker brawl breaks out at Waco restaurant
Waco Biker Gang Shooting. 9 Dead At Waco Shooting Twin Peaks
Waco Shooting Updates — Ten people killed in Waco, Texas biker gang shooting
[AERIAL FOOTAGE] Biker Gang Shootout Waco, Texas – 17 May 2015
( ORIGINAL FOOTAGE ) Waco Texas Shooting 9 biker gangs Dead In Waco Texas
9 dead in Texas biker brawl
Gunfire erupted Sunday among rival biker gangs in Waco, Texas, leaving at least nine people dead, according to police.
Authorities had anticipated trouble and pre-positioned officers.
“There were at least three rival gang groups here this morning for whatever reason. As they were here, we had officers on scene. We expected issues,” said Sgt. W. Patrick Swanton, a police spokesman. He later said there were at least five gangs.
The fight broke out at Twin Peaks restaurant and spilled into the parking lot. It quickly escalated from hands and feet, as weapons, to gunfire, Swanton said.
“In my nearly 35 years of law enforcement experience,” he said, “this is the most violent and gruesome scene that I have dealt with.”
Bikers shot at each other and at officers, who returned fire.
Swanton expressed anger at Twin Peaks, which he claims had been less than helpful in dealing with gangs in the past. He declined to identify the specific groups involved in Sunday’s shooting.
“Are we frustrated? Sure. Because we feel like there may have been more that could have been done by a business to prevent this,” he said.
Corporate management at Twin Peaks released a statement saying it was reviewing the circumstances of the shooting. The Waco restaurant is franchised.
“We are thankful no employees, guests or police were injured in this senseless violence outside the restaurant, and our sympathies are with the families of those killed,” the statement said.
To escape the fight, some restaurant customers and employees took cover in the freezer, according to CNN affiliate KWTX. The station reported that more than 100 weapons were recovered, and Waco police said officers were continuing to arrest people arriving with weapons.
Swanton told reporters that eight people were dead on the scene and another was pronounced dead at an area hospital. A total of 18 people were taken to the hospital. It was not immediately clear whether that figure included the person who died. All those injured or dead are believed to be bikers.
No officers were hurt, Swanton said, praising their response.
“Their action has saved lives in keeping this from spilling into a very busy Sunday morning,” the spokesman said. “Thank goodness the officers were here, and took the action that they needed to take to save numerous lives.”
Police: Deadly Waco biker gang shooting is capital murder
By Patrick Tolbert and Jackie Vega
At last count, 170 people have been arrested and are in the process of being booked and charged with engaging in organized crime in connection to the deadly shooting that broke out between five biker gangs at a Twin Peaks in Waco. Police Sgt. W. Patrick Swanton says this shooting is now considered a capital murder case “because of the number of people killed in one episode.”
Swanton says the details of the charges are still being worked out, but everyone is in the process of being booked on charges of engaging in organized crime. That organized crime is capital murder, said Swanton.
“That’s a pretty severe charge — engaging in organized crime in reference to nine individuals killed. It doesn’t get much more significant than that,” said Swanton. “There may be warrants on individuals that may be attached to that as well, but that’s a pretty serious charge.”
Some 18 Waco police officers and four Texas Department of Public Safety officers were involved in the gunfight in a matter of seconds, according to Swanton. Off-duty officers even responded to the incident. He also added that they are in the process of going through “every blood spot” and “every body” involved in the shootout that spanned a large area.
Under a Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission mandate, the restaurant shut down its alcohol sales for the next seven days as the investigation continues into the shooting that left nine people dead and at least 18 people injured — an investigation that has included biker gang death threats made against uniformed officers. The restaurant’s corporate officials later said they were immediately revoking its franchise agreement,and Waco police are urging the restaurant to remain closed entirely — at least for the next week — out of respect for the incident.
“They are threatening to kill uniformed officers, and we’re aware of that. We’re sharing the intelligence that we’re getting. We know that we had a heavy influx of biker members coming into our area yesterday. We believe that was in an attempt to come in,” said Swanton early Monday morning, who added that the people arrested could be looking at capital murder charges. “They saw the show of force that we had here; they saw the large number of officers that we had here — not only at this location but scattered throughout Waco. We were prepared for a worst-case scenario if they tried to bring a fight to us.”
Swanton said local, state and federal officers are prepared if the biker gangs decide to act on those threats. He also added that if you could name a local agency in the area, they were there helping them Sunday afternoon following the shootout.
“I can tell you that yesterday’s events started as bad guys on bad guys,” said Swanton. “When our officers got there and intervened in the active-shooter situation, those bad guys turned their hostility on our officers, which included Waco and DPS.”
Meanwhile, authorities continue to comb through evidence that spans a Central Texas shopping center, much of which is closed Monday morning due to the amount of evidence they have to go through. Some 50 weapons — including knives, brass knuckles, chains and clubs — have been recovered from the scene so far.
“These were bad-guy weapons. They ranged from brass knucks to knives to chains to clubs and to firearms,” said Swanton. “This was a true gang fight.”
It started with a fist fight in the bathroom of the restaurant near the intersection of Interstate 35 and State Highway 6 Sunday afternoon in Waco. It spilled into the bar, where it quickly escalated into knife fight — and then out into the parking lot where a gun battle raged between five different biker gangs and heavily armed police. Swanton says the shooting began inside the restaurant and spilled out into the parking lot and surrounding area.
Three bodies were found in the immediate Twin Peaks parking lot, and another four were found throughout the extended parking lot. Eight people died at the scene, and another person died at the hospital. Most of the injured either had stab wounds or gunshot wounds — or both. Two people had to be take out of the Waco area because of the severity of the injuries, and most of the others injured were taken to Scott & White Baylor Hillcrest.
“They had a little bit of an issue there as well, with individuals showing up, being threatening to staff, demanding answers and had some problems there,” said Swanton of the hospital situation.
Waco police are questioning hundreds of people.
“In 34 years of law enforcement, this is the most violent crime scene I have ever been involved in,” Swanton said. “There is blood everywhere.”
The altercation between biker gangs began just as churchgoers arrived at the Central Texas Marketplace for Sunday Lunch.
In anticipation of any problems, Waco police were already on scene when the violence broke out. Officers say bikers were attacking one another with chains, knives, bats, clubs and firearms.
“These are officers that ran into gunfire to protect our citizens, and they — without a doubt — did a hell of a job doing that yesterday, and we’re very proud of them. And again, we think that saved numerous lives,” said Swanton. “We were quickly able to gain control because of the number of officers we had here on scene. And we began calling for additional resources due to the large number of people that were there and the threat to not only our officers, but the citizens as well.”
It is still unclear if those killed and injured were hit by police gunfire or gunfire from the bikers involved.
“What I want you all to understand: This is not a bunch of doctors and dentists and lawyers riding Harleys,” said Swanton on Sunday afternoon. “These are criminals on Harley-Davidsons that are members of a criminal biker gang, and we know who they are. We know which clubs that they’re with.”
Meanwhile, the shopping center is shut down from Cabela’s to Best Buy. The shopping center is open for business starting from Kohl’s.
Could it have been prevented?
“What happened here today could have been avoided,” Swanton told the media during a news conference. He went on to say that police alerted the restaurant to the threat of violence and that the manager was asked to discontinue ‘bike night.’”
Swanton says police presence has been at that Twin Peaks for about two months now, adding that this incident wasn’t the first Sunday that they’d been out there.
“They were aware that there were issues here. We have been working with management here — to no avail. And I have to say: That was local management here,” said Swanton. “We told them of the issues. We tried to get assistance from them in dealing with this crowd, but they would not cooperate … There was a statement that local management put out last night that was absolute fabrication. It was a lie.”
Jay Patel, operating partner of the Twin Peaks Waco franchise, offered up a statement on Facebook.
“We are horrified by the criminal, violent acts that occurred outside of our Waco restaurant today. We share in the community’s trauma. Our priority is to provide a safe and enjoyable environment for our customers and employees, and we consider the police our partners in doing so. Our management team has had ongoing and positive communications with the police, and we will continue to work with them as we all want to keep violent crime out of our businesses and community. We will continue to cooperate with the police as they investigate this terrible crime.”
Swanton doesn’t agree.
“We feel like they could’ve done more. We feel like that they did not take our advice and try to keep the bike groups from being here,” said Swanton on Sunday after the shooting. “They absolutely have a right to refuse service to people that may be a harm to their patrons and employees. They didn’t do that, and today is the ultimate aftermath of what their decision was.”
Swanton says that the police department has had officers in plain clothes — in large numbers — at the restaurant for the past two months. He also said there have been several arrests stemming from incidents at Twin Peaks, most of them minor skirmishes, warrant arrests and arrests of that nature.
“As of about a week ago, we were in contact with the national management of Twin Peaks because we were getting no cooperation locally, and we were going to them for assistance,” said Swanton. “People have civil rights. Until a law is broken, there’s nothing we can do if we don’t have management to support — to assist us — in keeping individuals out of a business. There’s nothing we can do until a law is broken.”
No bystanders were hurt, despite another packed restaurant just 25 feet from the gun battle.
As bikers from across the state began to pour into town Sunday afternoon, Waco police decided to close the mall where the restaurant is located.
While five different gangs are believed to be involved in the fight, officers on scene said it appeared some of the gangs appeared to be in alliance with one another.
Twin Peaks corporate statement
“We are in the people business, and the safety of the employees and guests in our restaurants is priority one. Unfortunately, the management team of the franchised restaurant in Waco chose to ignore the warnings and advice from both the police and our company, and did not uphold the high security standards we have in place to ensure everyone is safe at our restaurants. We will not tolerate the actions of this relatively new franchisee and are revoking their franchise agreement immediately. Our sympathies continue to be with the families of those who died and are very thankful on employees, guests, police officers of bystanders were hurt or injured.”
Waco’s proximity to Austin and Dallas, by way of Interstate 35 and less-traveled highways, has made it a popular destination for bikers since the 1970s. The city has several biker bars on the outskirts bearing signs barring gang members from wearing “colors” inside.
Investigators in Waco say the gangs involved in Sunday’s violence were apparently in town in effort to recruit new members.
The motorcycle gangs involved in Sunday’s shootout in a Waco, Texas, restaurant parking lot are a breed apart from weekend hobbyists on bikes, authorities say.
The groups are serious criminal organizations — including one that the FBI alleges is among the largest outlaw motorcycle gangs in the USA.
Police in Waco say the melee involved five gangs, including the Bandidos and the Cossacks, who clashed at a weekend recruiting event. The FBI says on its organized crime Web page that the Bandidos is one of the largest outlaw motorcycle gangs (OMGs) in the USA, with about 900 members and 93 chapters. The group itself says it has over 200 chapters with more than 2,500 members in 16 countries.
The FBI says OMGs such as the Bandidos “pose a serious national domestic threat.” It defines them as “organizations whose members use their motorcycle clubs as conduits for criminal enterprises” including drug trafficking, cross-border drug smuggling, prostitution and human trafficking. More than 300 OMGs are active in the USA, it says, coordinating smuggling operations with “major international drug-trafficking organizations.”
The FBI says the Bandidos “are involved in transporting and distributing cocaine and marijuana and are involved in the production, transportation and distribution of methamphetamine.” The group is most active in the Pacific, Southeastern,Southwestern and the West Central regions of the USA.
The FBI’s National Gang Intelligence Center in 2013 found that just 2.5% of U.S. gang members belonged to an OMG — by contrast, 88% were street gang members and 9.5% were prison gang members. OMGs were considered the greatest threat in only about 11% of jurisdictions.
But the center said the low percentage is misleading. OMGs, it said, “are more problematic than their modest numbers suggest. This is likely due to their solid organizational structure, criminal sophistication, and their tendency to employ violence to protect their interests.”
On one of its websites, the Bandidos says a U.S. Marine named Donald Eugene “Mother” Chambers formed the group in San Leon, Texas, in 1966, after he and other veterans returning home from Vietnam found themselves abandoned by the U.S. government, living in poverty “and without any respect for what they have done” during the Vietnam War.
“What they have learned in their unit of companionship and unconditional support … has no existence in the civilian life,” according to the site. The club chose the red and gold colors of the U.S. Marine Corps. The group’s motto: “We are the people our parents warned us about.”
The FBI in 2013 said the Bandidos and other groups use their ties to “military-affiliated gang members” to extend their operations, through transfers and deployment, “and thereby potentially undermine security at military installations.”
The FBI identified at least 60 gangs whose members or associates “have been either enlisted or have attempted to gain employment in the military or various government agencies.” Of the 60, 54 had members who served in the military or who were affiliated with the military. It also said the Bandidos and others were encouraging members without criminal records to enlist in the military “to obtain weapons expertise, combat training, or access to sensitive information.”
A McLennan County deputy stands guard near a group of bikers in the parking lot of a Twin Peaks restaurant in Waco, Texas. Waco Police Sgt. W. Patrick Swanton told KWTX-TV there were “multiple victims” after gunfire erupted between rival biker gangs at the restaurant. (Photo: Rod Aydelotte, Waco Tribune-Herald via AP)
The Cossacks, a smaller, local Texas gang, had been challenging the Bandidos’ dominance, including discussing a possible alliance with rival gang the Hell’s Angels, Steve Cook, executive director of the Midwest Outlaw Motorcycle Gang Investigators Association, told Vox.
The biggest provocation came, he said, when the Cossacks began wearing a Texas patch on their clothing, which was “basically a slap in the face” to the Bandidos.
“We knew the tensions with the Cossacks were as high as they’d ever been,” he said. “I don’t think anybody could have forecasted it to the degree that it happened.”
Cook said Sunday’s shootout parallels previous encounters between the Bandidos and Hells Angels. Cook told The Washington Post that the shootout started because the Cossacks, backed by the Angels, challenged the Bandidos for control of Texas. Several other bike gangs might have joined the battle, too, angry over recent killings by Bandidos members, he said.
“My perception is that the Cossacks have been flirting, if you will, with Hell’s Angles,” Cook said. “If I’m a Bandido, my immediate reaction is: ‘These guys are going to try to make a move and bring an international gang into our state, which is going to cause a war.'”
Cook said he hoped Sunday’s shooting will draw more attention to the gangs. “Maybe it’ll be time for law enforcement and the public to take the blinders off and recognize these groups for what they are: criminals.”
Talking to reporters on Sunday, Waco Police spokesman Sgt. Patrick Swanton cautioned that the groups involved in the shootout were not “a friendly group of motorcycle enthusiasts,” but criminal gangs.
Cook agreed. “They can pretend like they’re these fraternal organizations — I can’t tell you the last time the Kiwanis and the Shriners had a shootout at a public venue.”
Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs (OMGs) are organizations whose members use their motorcycle clubs as conduits for criminal enterprises. OMGs are highly structured criminal organizations whose members engage in criminal activities such as violent crime, weapons trafficking, and drug trafficking. There are more than 300 active OMGs within the United States, ranging in size from single chapters with five or six members to hundreds of chapters with thousands of members worldwide. The Hells Angels, Mongols, Bandidos, Outlaws, and Sons of Silence pose a serious national domestic threat and conduct the majority of criminal activity linked to OMGs, especially activity relating to drug-trafficking and, more specifically, to cross-border drug smuggling. Because of their transnational scope, these OMGs are able to coordinate drug smuggling operations in partnership with major international drug-trafficking organizations (DTOs).
The Bandidos Motorcycle Club (Bandidos) is an OMG with a membership of 2,000 to 2,500 persons in the U.S. and in 13 other countries. The Bandidos constitute a growing criminal threat to the U.S. Law enforcement authorities estimate that the Bandidos are one of the two largest OMGs operating in the U.S., with approximately 900 members belonging to 93 chapters. The Bandidos are involved in transporting and distributing cocaine and marijuana and are involved in the production, transportation and distribution of methamphetamine. The Bandidos are most active in the Pacific, Southeastern, Southwestern and the West Central regions of the U.S. The Bandidos are expanding in each of these regions by forming additional chapters and allowing members of supporting clubs, known as “puppet” or “duck” club members who have sworn allegiance to another club but who support and do the “dirty work” of a mother club – to form new or join existing Bandidos chapters.
Black Pistons Motorcycle Club
The Black Pistons Motorcycle Club (Black Pistons) is the official support club for the Outlaws Motorcycle Club (Outlaws). Established in 2002 with the backing of the Outlaws, the Black Pistons have expanded rapidly throughout the U.S., Canada and Europe. The Black Pistons have an estimated 70 domestic chapters in 20 states and an unknown number of foreign chapters in Belgium, Canada, Germany, Great Britain, Norway and Poland. The exact number of Black Pistons members is unknown but the figure is estimated to be more than 200 in the U.S. The Outlaws use the Black Pistons chapters as a recruitment source for prospective Outlaws members. The Outlaws also use the Black Pistons chapters to conduct criminal activity, especially for the transportation and distribution of drugs. Members of the Black Pistons are also known to engage in assault, extortion, fraud, intimidation and theft.
Hells Angels Motorcycle Club
The Hells Angels Motorcycle Club (Hells Angels) is an OMG with between 2,000 and 2,500 members who belong to over 230 chapters in the U.S. and in 26 foreign countries. The Hells Angels pose a criminal threat on six continents. U.S. law enforcement authorities estimate that the Hells Angels have more than 92 chapters in 27 states with a membership in excess of 800 persons. The Hells Angels are involved in the production, transportation and distribution of marijuana and methamphetamine. Additionally, the Hells Angels are involved in the transportation and distribution of cocaine, hashish, heroin, LSD (lysergic acid diethylamide), ecstasy, PCP (phencyclidine) and diverted pharmaceuticals. The Hells Angels are also involved in other criminal activity including assault, extortion, homicide, money laundering and motorcycle theft.
Mongols Motorcycle Club
The Mongols Motorcycle Club (Mongols) is an extremely violent OMG that poses a serious criminal threat to the Pacific and Southwestern regions of the U.S. The Mongols are engaged in the transportation and distribution of cocaine, marijuana and methamphetamine. The Mongols are also known to frequently commit violent crime including assault, intimidation and murder in defense of their territory, and to uphold the reputation of the club. A majority of the Mongols membership consists of Hispanic males who live in the Los Angeles area, and many are former street gang members with a long history of using violence to settle grievances. Agents with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms (ATF) have called the Mongols the most violent and dangerous OMG in the nation. In the 1980’s the Mongols seized control of Southern California from the Hells Angels, and today, the Mongols are allied with the Bandidos, the Outlaws, the Sons of Silence and the Pagans against the Hells Angels. The Mongols have also maintained their ties with Hispanic street gangs in Los Angeles.
Outlaws Motorcycle Club
The Outlaws Motorcycle Club (Outlaws) have more than 1,700 members who belong to 176 chapters in the U.S. and in 12 foreign countries. U.S. law enforcement authorities estimate that the Outlaws have more than 86 chapters in 20 states with over 700 members. The Outlaws also identify themselves as the A.O.A. (American Outlaws Association) and the Outlaws Nation. The Outlaws are the dominant OMG in the Great Lakes region. The Outlaws are involved in the production, transportation and distribution of methamphetamine, the transportation and distribution of cocaine, marijuana and, to a lesser extent, ecstasy. The Outlaws engage in various criminal activities including arson, assault, explosives, extortion, fraud, homicide, intimidation, kidnapping, money laundering, prostitution, robbery, theft and weapons violations. The Outlaws compete with the Hells Angels for both members and territory.
Pagans Motorcycle Club
The Pagans Motorcycle Club (Pagans) is a violent OMG whose membership distribute cocaine, methamphetamine, marijuana and PCP (phencyclidine). The Pagans are one of the most prominent OMGs in the Mid-Atlantic region. The Pagans have an estimated 200 to 250 members among 41 chapters in 11 states. The Pagans have been tied to traditional organized crime groups in Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and New York and have engaged in criminal activities such as arson, assault, bombing, extortion and murder.
Sons of Silence
Sons of Silence Motorcycle Club (SOSMC) is one of the largest OMGs in the United States, with 250 to 275 members among 30 chapters in 12 states. The club also has five chapters in Germany. SOSMC members have been implicated in numerous criminal activities, including murder, assault, drug trafficking, intimidation, extortion, prostitution operations, money laundering, weapons trafficking, and motorcycle and motorcycle parts theft.
May 17 2015 Breaking News IRAN led Shiite paramilitaries have been deployed to Ramadi Iraq
ISIL seizes Iraq’s Ramadi
Islamic State ‘seizes Iraqi city of Ramadi’ – BBC News
Watch: ‘Islamic State forces’ march into Ramadi after seizing the Iraqi city
ISIS Seizes Government Headquarters in Ramadi, Iraq
PBS NewsHour Weekend full episode May 17, 2015
US Special Forces Secret Night Mission kills senior ISIS Commander Abu Sayyaf in Syria
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U.S. Army’s Delta force kills senior ISIS commander
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Syria: 1st SFOD-D Kill Abu Sayyaf, Capture His Wife, Free Yazidi Slave Girl, Secure Intelligence
ISIS Leader Killed USA (Boots On The Ground)
Iraqi city of Ramadi falls to Islamic State as police, military retreat
By Hugh Naylor and Mustafa Salim
BAGHDAD — The capital of Anbar province fell to Islamic State militants Sunday as hundreds of police personnel, soldiers and tribal fighters abandoned the city, prompting the Iraqi premier to order Iranian-aligned Shiite militias to join the fight to win back control.
The fall of Ramadi represented a huge victory for the Islamic State and dealt a profound blow to Iraq’s U.S.-backed government, led by Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi, and its military campaign to drive the extremist group out of the war-torn country. Just 24 hours before, officials in Baghdad announced that military reinforcements had been dispatched to defend the city, capital of Iraq’s largest province, against a brutal assault that began on Thursday.
But by Sunday, even the roads to Baghdad, 80 miles to the east, appeared vulnerable to the militant advance.
“Ramadi has fallen,” Muhannad Haimour, a spokesman for the Anbar governor told the Associated Press. “The city was completely taken…It was a gradual deterioration. The military is fleeing.”
Sunday’s developments, including Abadi’s decision to deploy Shiite militias to the country’s Sunni heartland, could complicate the U.S.-led campaign targeting the extremist group, which in recent days has included American airstrikes against militant positions in Ramadi in an effort to keep the city in government hands. U.S. officials have expressed concern over the divisive, sectarian-motivated — and increasingly powerful — Iranian-backed Shiite militias.
Carried by state television on Sunday evening, Abadi’s announcement, which contained few details, also included a plea for pro-government forces not to abandon their positions in Anbar.
The rapid disintegration of pro-government forces in Ramadi conjured memories of the Islamic State’s similar lighting defeat of Iraq’s weak military during sweeping advances throughout northern areas of the country last summer. Security forces retreated from the Malaab area of Ramadi at 1:30 p.m., abandoning about 60 military vehicles, including military-grade Humvees, to the militants, said Col. Nasser al-Alwani of the Ramadi police force. About half of the abandoned vehicles were sent by the U.S.-backed government on Saturday to reinforce the neighborhood, he added.
“Today, everybody retreated from the Malaab area, including counterterrorism units, army and police,” he said by telephone. Along with soldiers and counterterrorism units, the force of about 400 police officers who fall under Alwani’s command retreated in their vehicles to the east, he said. Islamic State fighters besieged them on all roads, forcing them to abandon the vehicles and escape on foot. A military convoy from the al-Habbaniyah air base later retrieved the fleeing Iraqi forces, he added.
“The retreat was complete chaos. There was no organization,” Alwani said, describing attacks by “hundreds” of Islamic State militants.
Earlier in the day, militants posted a statement on social media by the Islamic State that described Sunday’s events as a major military success, saying that the group “had imposed its control over all of Ramadi.”
In Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city, which the group captured in June, loud street celebrations were being held that involved fighters shooting automatic weapons into the air and passing out candy, according to a resident in the city. He spoke on condition of anonymity, citing concern for his safety.
“The streets are full of cars honking horns and shouting Allahu Akbar because of Ramadi,” he said in a Facebook message.
In a sign of the seriousness over the situation in Anbar, the prime minister’s order to Shiite militias came just hours after Anbar’s provincial council voted in favor of allowing the irregular forces — known by the government as “popular mobilization units” — to participate in the battle to retake the city.
Iraqis, particularly in the Sunni-dominated province, are wary of the militias and the Shiite-led government in Baghdad. The Islamic State has capitalized on Sunni grievances to take control of most of most of Anbar.
“We voted yes to the measure,” said Kahtan Abed, officer manager for the provincial council’s head, Sabah Karhout. “We took this decision because we have nowhere else to turn. We’ve literally lost everything.”
Diplomats, analysts and Iraqis say that the powerful militias threaten to undermine Iraq’s government as well as delicate sectarian relations in the country. With aid from Shiite Iran, the militiamen carried out scores of attacks against American soldiers when U.S. forces were still fighting in Iraq. But more recently, the militias have proved to be a crucial force in retaking territory, including the city of Tikrit last month, from the Islamic State.
An official in one of the Iranian-backed Shiite militias, Kitaeb Hezbollah, confirmed by text message that the group’s militiamen have mobilized and been put on high alert. Jawad al-Talibawi, a spokesman for the armed wing of Asaib Ahl al-Haq, another Iran-aligned militia, said the group had mobilized 1,500 members of its special forces to enter Anbar. The fighters had spent months battling in Syria’s civil war against rebels seeking to overthrow President Bashar al-Assad’s regime, also an ally of Iran.
“Those 1,500 fighters are now awaiting the order to go in,” Talibawi said by telephone.
Omar al-Alwani, a pro-government tribal fighter from Ramadi, said no soldiers are left to defend eastern roads to the capital, Baghdad. He said he was among those who fled Malaab with the group of pro-government forces, which he estimated at more than 500. They left behind weapons that included artillery, machine-gun trucks and machine guns, he said.
“Daesh seized the police station, the big mosque” in the area, he said, adding that Islamic State fighters surrounded the area police station and fatally shot the senior officer there, Col. Muthana al-Jabari. Daesh is the Arabic acronym for the Islamic State.
He and others expressed concern about several hundred pro-government forces who are still surrounded by militants in a military operations hub in the city. According to unconfirmed reports, as many as 40 people in that facility were killed Sunday in two suicide bombings.
“Only God can help those people now. There is no one left to protect them,” said Alwani the tribal fighter.
However, Majed Abdullah, a captain in the Iraqi army who was besieged in the compound, said that scores of pro-government forces managed to escape the facility. They drove away, heading west, he said, adding that they left behind dozens on wounded soldiers and police. It is unclear whether the Islamic State has entered the compound, although there is fear that those who have been left behind could be executed by the militants.
“We’re on the Iraq-Jordan highway now and we’re waiting for orders to either reconstitute our forces and attack or retreat entirely,” Abdullah said by telephone. Using car bombings and heavy shelling, Islamic State militants launched a surprise attack Thursday on Ramadi, capturing most of the city’s neighborhoods by the following day. Residents, pro-government forces and officials accuse the militants of carrying out dozens of executions and systematic destruction of homes belonging to members of the security services.
Before the assault on Thursday, the Islamic State had already taken control of most of Anbar during sweeping advances last summer throughout Iraq.
Just under a decade ago, U.S.-backed Sunni tribes in Anbar led a revolt against al-Qaeda in Iraq, the precursor to the Islamic State. But frustration with Iraq’s Shiite-led government persuaded a number of tribesmen in the province to side with the Islamic State.
Rafia al-Fahdawi, an elder in the province’s Albu Fahed tribe, expressed doubt that a similar tribal uprising could be waged at the moment against the extremist group. On Saturday, he and dozens of fellow Sunni tribal leaders also issued a call for Shiite militias to intervene in Anbar.
“The army has let us down. The SWAT team has let us down. We can’t depend on these forces, and we need forces that are inspired to fight hard,” he said, referring to the militias.
Islamic State captures government compound in Ramadi
An Iraqi official says Islamic State militants have captured the main government compound inRamadi, the capital of the western Anbar province, after fierce clashes with security forces.
Ramadi’s Mayor Dalaf al-Kubaisi says the militants raised the black flag of the IS group over the area on Friday after troops were forced to withdraw from the compound, which houses most of the city’s government offices.
He says the IS militants are now attacking the Anbar Operation Command, the military headquarters for the province.
U.S. troops saw some of the heaviest fighting of the eight-year Iraq intervention in Anbar, and Ramadi was a major insurgent stronghold.
The IS assault on the government compound began with three nearly simultaneous suicide car bombings that killed 10 police and wounded seven others.
Following heavy defeats at Tikrit in Iraq and the appalling costly siege of Kobane, Islamic State have launched their own social media rules to censor coverage on its recent defeats.
The image of the rules began to circulate on social media, two weeks after Islamic State was forced to abandon the Iraqi city of Tikrit.
With ISIS propaganda team releasing endless sets of dull publicity photos from life inside Iraq and Syria, the senior commanders appear keen to eradicate any hint of problems within the group’s territory.
The media crackdown appears to be an attempt by ISIS senior commanders to eradicate any knowledge of the extremist group’s defeats or internal problems.
Some ISIS supporters on social media appear to be exasperated by the apparent leaking of information and discussions of the defeat at Tikrit.
Specific details like the manufacturing of new weapons and any pictures of ISIS fighters, have been deemed by ISIS as a breach of online security.
Perhaps the strangest and most unclear rule reads: ‘The stupendous spread of Mujahideen along a specific locations’ It appears unknown what the extremist group meant by ‘the stupendous spread of mujahideen.’
Whilst it remains unknown how Islamic State will manage to enforce these rules, the jihadi group has previously struggled to keep any control of its fighters and supporters on social media.
One exasperated ISIS supporter wrote: ‘Brothers, please stop posting news about anything in Tirkit or Ramadi walla. You are doing more harm to the mujahideen than good. Fear Allah.’
Some of the rules, particularly regarding the publishing information on the location of fighters and the use of tactics, appears to come after a series of calamitous social media errors by some fighters.
Islamic State fighter Mark Taylor, originally from New Zealand, shot to fame after accidentally tweeting his location whilst fighting in Syria.
Taylor forgot to turn off the geo-locator setting on his account, allowing intelligence services to successfully track his every movement. He even managed to give away where he was living in al-Tabaqah, south west Raqqa.
Known as Ali Al-Farsi, 19-year-old Ali Kalantar’s death was first tweeted by Halane, under the nom de guerre, Umm Jafar al-Britaniyah.
British terror twin Zahra Halane (left) and Kiwi fighter Mark Taylor (right), have both been criticised by ISIS supporters for giving away information on fighters and locations.
Islamic State commander fear that with the deadly coalition air strikes decimating their ranks, such lapses in security is proving costly.
In particular female jihadis have been criticized by fellow ISIS supporters for their loose lipped attitude on social media. One of the British terror twins, Zahra Halane, has previously broken the rules by announcing the death of her husband on social media.
Known as Ali Al-Farsi, 19-year-old Ali Kalantar’s death was first tweeted by Halane, under the nom de guerre, Umm Jafar al-Britaniyah. Halane quickly deleted the tweets but not before a screenshot had sent them viral.
Islamic State propaganda remains highly important to their strategy for recruitment and legitimacy. ISIS media continue to churn out endless propaganda photos from inside ISIS territory.
Islamic State fighters have recently made worrying gains near the Iraqi city of Ramadi, Anbar province. Shiite paramilitary groups and other reinforcements are reportedly heading to Ramadi to provide support against the ISIS threat.
New propaganda photos from Anbar province claim that ISIS were warmly welcomed as they entered a nearby town near Ramadi.
Islamic State continue to launch new offensives, targeting the strategic Iraqi oil fields at Baiji and the city of Ramadi in Anbar province.
Using suicide bombers to destroy the surrounding fence, Islamic State fighters have been managed to fight their way inside the oil field compound in Salahuddin province.
Parts of the oil fields have frequently changed hands between the Iraqi army and militants from Islamic State. Due to its remote desert location, it has proved to be a difficult base to maintain.
Newly published photos and a brief video shows dozens of ISIS fighters celebrating inside the oil field’s facilities.
It remains unknown how long they will manage to hold out before the Baghdad forces re-take it.
Using suicide bombers to destroy the surrounding fence, Islamic State fighters have been managed to fight their way inside the oil field compound
Delta Force Commandos Kill Key ISIS Leader in Ground Raid in Syria
In a ground raid deep in Syrian territory, U.S. special operations forces killed a top ISIS leader who they were attempting to capture and interrogate about American hostages and how the terror group finances its war machine, the Obama…
U.S. conducts raid in Syria, says it kills senior Islamic State leader
WASHINGTON| BY WILL DUNHAM AND MATT SPETALNICK
American special operations forces killed a senior Islamic State leader in a raid in Syria, U.S. officials said on Saturday, an operation that marked a departure from Washington’s strategy of relying primarily on air strikes to target militants there.
Delta Force commandos used UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters and V-22 Osprey tiltrotor aircraft to punch deep into eastern Syria from Iraq. They engaged in a firefight and hand-to-hand combat with Islamic State fighters, killed a key figure in the group named as Abu Sayyaf and captured his wife, U.S. officials said.
The officials described Sayyaf, a Tunisian, as an Islamic State commander who helped manage the group’s black-market sales of oil and gas to raise funds. The officials said President Barack Obama ordered the overnight operation, which killed about a dozen Islamic State fighters and had been planned for several weeks.
It marked the first known U.S. special forces operation inside Syria apart from a failed mission last year to rescue U.S. and other foreign hostages held by Islamic State in northeastern Syria.
Wary of the United States getting pulled deeper into Middle East conflicts, Obama has promised not to commit major ground forces in the fight against Islamic State, which has seized swathes of Syria and Iraq. But he has left open the prospect of special forces raids.
It was not immediately clear if this one marked the start of a new chapter in Syria.
U.S. and Arab forces have carried out almost daily air raids against hardline Islamist militant groups in Syria including Islamic State since last September, and U.S.-led forces are also targeting the group in Iraq.
Defense Secretary Ash Carter said the operation was intended to capture Abu Sayyaf but he was killed “when he engaged U.S. forces.” His wife, Umm Sayyaf, was captured, then placed in U.S. military detention in Iraq and was being questioned about Islamic State operations and hostages held by the group.
No U.S. forces were killed or wounded during the operation, Carter said.
“The operation represents another significant blow to ISIL, and it is a reminder that the United States will never waver in denying safe haven to terrorists who threaten our citizens, and those of our friends and allies,” Carter said, using an acronym for the Islamic State organization.
Local Syrian sources contacted by Reuters said two other senior Islamic State operatives, a Syrian and a Saudi, were also killed alongside Abu Sayyaf. The raid lasted no more than half an hour, according to the sources.
The accounts could not be independently verified. U.S. officials had no immediate comment on whether other senior Islamic State militants were killed in the raid.
The raid in Syria came at a time when Islamic State, which has declared a caliphate in areas it controls and has carried out beheadings and massacres, has scored high-profile gains in Iraq and made advances in Syria.
Islamic State militants raised their black flag over the local government headquarters in the Iraqi city of Ramadi on Friday and claimed victory after overrunning most of the provincial capital.
If Ramadi were to fall it would be the first major city seized by the Sunni insurgents in Iraq since security forces and paramilitary groups began pushing them back last year.
U.S. House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner said he extended his “gratitude and continued support” for the U.S. troops involved in the Syria raid. But Boehner, a Republican, said he was “gravely concerned” by Islamic State’s advances in Ramadi, which he said “threatens the stability and sovereignty of Iraq, which is vital to America’s interests.”
Hawkish Republican critics of Obama, a Democrat, say he has not acted forcefully enough to rein in the rise of Islamic State.
GREEN LIGHT FROM OBAMA
White House National Security Council spokeswoman Bernadette Meehan said the Syria raid was conducted “with the full consent of Iraqi authorities.” She said the United States did not give any advance warning or coordinate with the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who Washington opposes.
“The president authorized this operation upon the unanimous recommendation of his national security team and as soon as we had developed sufficient intelligence and were confident the mission could be carried out successfully,” Meehan said.
Meehan said U.S. forces freed a young Yezidi woman “who appears to have been held as a slave” by Abu Sayyaf and his wife. His wife was suspected of playing “an important role in ISIL’s terrorist activities,” Meehan said.
The U.S. military last summer carried out a failed mission in Syria to rescue journalist James Foley, held hostage by Islamic State. Foley was later beheaded by the group in August 2014.
In December, al Qaeda militants shot and fatally wounded American photo journalist Luke Somers and South African teacher Pierre Korkie during a failed rescue attempt led by U.S. commandos in Yemen.
Saturday’s raid followed a summit Obama held at Camp David earlier this week with Saudi Arabia and other Gulf Arab allies who have pressed the United States to be more militarily assertive in Syria, especially in support of moderate rebels seeking to oust Assad.
Story 1: Two Terrorist Islamic Jihadists Attack Garland Texas Curtis Culwell Center Where Mohammed Cartoon Contest Free Speech Event Was Ending — Suspect Elton Simpson and Nadir Soofi Shot Dead — Don’t Mess With Texas — Videos
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.
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Michael Coren & Robert Spencer – Jihad Watch – Jan 15, 2015
Two Gunmen killed at Muhammad Art Contest in Garland Texas identified as Jihad sympathizers
Shooting at Muhammad Cartoon Contest Garland, Texas: 2 Gunmen Killed, Officer Down -FIRST VIDEO
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Lying Lunatic Left
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FBI had known about suspected Texas shooter for years
By Adam Goldman and Mark Berman
One of the gunmen authorities say opened fire Sunday outside an exhibition of cartoons depicting the prophet Muhammad had previously been suspected of trying to fly overseas and wage violent jihad, according to court records.
He was identified as Elton Simpson, 30, of Phoenix, according to a U.S. law enforcement official. Law enforcement officials said Monday afternoon that the second shooter in the Texas attack was Nadir Soofi, 34, Simpson’s roommate.
FBI agents searched a Phoenix apartment Monday as part of the investigation into the shooting, which occurred Sunday evening in Garland, a city near Dallas.
The FBI had begun monitoring Simpson again recently. Authorities said Monday that they were still working to determine details about the two men and who may have instigated the plan. The FBI does not believe the shooting was directed by an international terrorist group, but is still investigating.