islamic state of iraq and syria
U.S. intelligence chief warns of 'homegrown' security threat
Attacks by “homegrown” terrorists are among the most imminent security threats facing the United States in 2016, along with dangers posed overseas by Islamic State and cyber security concerns, the top U.S. intelligence official said on Tuesday.

In his annual assessment of threats to the United States, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper warned that fast-moving cyber and technological advances “could lead to widespread vulnerabilities in civilian infrastructures and U.S. government systems.”

Terrorism remains a top concern in President Barack Obama’s last year in office, Clapper said in prepared testimony before the Senate Armed Services and Intelligence Committees.

Clapper outlined an array of other threats from Russia and North Korean nuclear ambitions to instability caused by the Syrian migrant crisis.

“In my 50 plus years in the intelligence business I cannot recall a more diverse array of crises and challenges than we face today,” Clapper said during the hearing.

Islamic State poses the most danger among militant groups because of the territory it controls in Iraq and Syria, Clapper said. It also has demonstrated “unprecedented online proficiencies,” he said.

While the United States “will almost certainly remain at least a rhetorically important enemy” for many foreign militant groups, “homegrown violent extremists … will probably continue to pose the most significant Sunni terrorist threat to the U.S. homeland in 2016,” he said, referring to Sunni Muslim jihadists.

“The perceived success” of attacks by such extremists in Europe and San Bernardino, California, “might motivate others to replicate opportunistic attacks with little or no warning, diminishing our ability to detect terrorist operational planning and readiness,” Clapper said.

A married couple inspired by Islamist militants shot and killed 14 people in San Bernardino in December.

General Vincent Stewart, director of Defense Intelligence Agency, told Senate Armed Services Committee that Islamic State aims to conduct more attacks in Europe during 2016 and has ambitions to attack inside the United States.

The group is taking advantage of the refugee flow from Syria’s civil war to hide militants among them and is adept at obtaining false documentation, Clapper said.

Al Qaeda affiliates, most notably the one in Yemen known as Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, have proven resilient and are positioned to make gains this year despite pressure from Western counterterrorism operations, Clapper said.

He cited threats from Russia’s increasingly assertive international policies, saying “We could be into another Cold War-like spiral.”

U.S. intelligence assesses that North Korea is committed to developing a long-range nuclear armed missile that can reach the United States and has carried out some steps toward fielding a mobile intercontinental ballistic missile system, Clapper said.


An excerpt:

It’s like you break into somebody’s house, you put their Islamic flag and you say, ‘This is an Islamic State from today.’ There is no legitimacy. The entire act is unlawful and unethical. Getting into somebody’s country, killing them and then wrongfully occupying their land and then declaring that land to be an Islamic State - this all in itself, principally speaking, is against the fundamental teachings of Islam. There is no excuse whatsoever for this tyranny and oppression.

Rolling Coal: From Anti-Environmentalists in the U.S. to the ISIS in the Middle East

If you missed the media frenzy earlier this summer, “rolling coal” is the term for a rising trend among anti-environmentalist conservatives in the U.S. who alter their truck engines to emit massive black clouds of exhaust, often from smoke stack-like attachments. In this latest of Vice News’ dispatches from the advances of the Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS) in Syria and Iraq, we couldn’t help but see this display of military conquest by the IS as a strange parallel to similar displays of anti-authoritarianism in the US. Clearly not an example of knowingly “rolling coal”, the selection of this propaganda of might (whether provided by Vice’s host, an IS press secretary, or selected by Vice’s editors) argues the transcultural rhetorical power of blowing smoke.


The US is killing more civilians in Iraq and Syria than it acknowledges

ISTANBUL, Turkey — In almost a-year-and-a-half of bombing Iraq and Syria, the United States admits to killing just 22 innocent people. That number is impossibly low.

A GlobalPost investigation has unearthed a disturbing truth about the US military campaign against the Islamic State: Many more civilians are dying in American airstrikes than the US government acknowledges. People in Iraq and Syria can see what is happening. And so can the enemy. The Islamic State portrays the conflict as a war on Sunnis and a war on Muslims. When the coalition kills civilians — and does not investigate and apologize — the Islamic State fills the void with propaganda. 

According to the US Department of Defense: “No other military on Earth takes the concerns over collateral damage and civilian casualties more seriously than we do.” Yet our investigation found there has been no honest official estimate of how many civilians the United States has killed in Iraq and Syria. Even if civilian casualties are an inevitable part of war, the American public is being fed the comforting illusion that this war can be fought without shedding much innocent blood.

And that is simply not the case.

Read the full story here.


Top military official suggests Obama still open to ground troops in Iraq.
"I am a 14-year-old Yazidi girl given as a gift to an Isis commander. Here’s how I escaped"

“That afternoon, they brought us to an empty school in Baaj, a little town west of Mosul near the Syrian border. We met many other Yazidi women who were captured by Islamic State. Their fathers, brothers and husbands had also been killed, they told us. Then Islamic State fighters entered. One of them recited the words to the shahada, the Muslim creed – “I testify that there is no God but Allah, and that Muhammad is his prophet” – and said that if we repeated them, we would become Muslims. But we refused. They were furious. They insulted us a lot and cursed us and our beliefs.”

I’ve been reading a lot on ISIS and this article in particular really affected me. It’s the story of Narin, a fourteen-year-old Yazidi girl who was taken captive by ISIS. It’s her story of captivity up until she was able to miraculously escape. It’s a good read so I highly suggest you read it, especially if you don’t know much about what’s happening with ISIS.