Monday, 15 December 2014

Iran as a planner and supporter of global terror

Since the declaration of the Islamic Republic of Iran in 1979, the government of Iran has been accused by members of the international community for funding, providing equipment, weapons, training and giving sanctuary to terrorists. The United States State Department describes Iran as an “active state sponsor of terrorism.”US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice elaborated stating, "Iran has been the country that has been in many ways a kind of central banker for terrorism in important regions like Lebanon through Hezbollah in the Middle East, in the Palestinian Territories, and we have deep concerns about what Iran is doing in the south of Iraq. 
World attention on Iran centers on the threats to international security posed by the country’s nuclear program. As Iran persistent to become a nuclear power, the regime in Tehran also employs an aggressive foreign policy that relies heavily on the deployment of clandestine assets abroad to collect intelligence and support foreign operations. The world’s most active state sponsor of terrorism, Tehran relies on terrorism to further Iranian foreign policy interests. Today, Iran feels itself under increasing pressure from the international community by both diplomatic and economic sanctions.
From the Stunt virus to the assassination of Iranian scientists and the defection of Iranian agents, Iran feels increasingly targeted by Western intelligence services in general and Israel and the United States in particular. Hezbollah and Iran each have their own reasons for executing terrorist attacks targeting Israeli or other Western targets. Iran seeks to avenge attacks on its scientists and sanctions targeting its nuclear program, and Hezbollah seeks to avenge Mughniyeh’s death. This convergence of interests strengthens their long-standing and intimate relationship, making their combined operational capabilities that much more dangerous.
In the past, major acts of Iranian state sponsorship of terrorism have ultimately been linked back to the most senior elements of the Iranian leadership. When such cases have led to major law enforcement investigations and prosecutions, the links have been made public. For example, in June 1996 bombing of the Khobar Towers housing complex that was home to American, Saudi, French, and British service members in Saudi Arabia’s Eastern Province—the last time Iranian agents carried out an attack targeting both U.S. and Saudi interests. In that case, Iranian agents teamed up with Saudi and Lebanese Hezbollah operatives to carry out the attack. According to the testimony of a former CIA official, arrangements for the Khobar Towers attack began around 1994, including planning meetings likely held in Tehran and operational meetings held at the Iranian embassy in Damascus, Syria. It was in 1994, according to this account, that the criminal Supreme Leader of Iran, Ali Khomeini, gave the order for the attack on the Khobar Towers complex.


In April 2008, Gen. David Petraeus testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee about the flow of sophisticated Iranian arms to Shia militants in Iraq. The military’s understanding of Iran’s support for such groups crystallized, Petraeus explained, with the capture of a number of prominent Shia militants and several members of the Qods Force operating in Iraq as well. In case it was not already clear to General Petraeus that Qods Force Chief Gen. Qasem Soleimani was calling the shots for Iran in Iraq, the head of the Qods Force reportedly sent the commander of coalition forces a message in early 2008 to make the point. Conveyed by a senior Iraqi leader, the message came just as Iraqi and coalition forces initiated Operation Charge of the Knights, a concerted effort to target Iraqi Shia militias in Baghdad and Basra. Iran’s use of terrorism as a tool of foreign policy, however, goes back as far as the 1979 Islamic Revolution. Writing in 1986, the CIA assessment which is now de-classified report titled “Iranian Support for International Terrorism” that while Iran’s support for terrorism was meant to further its national interest, it also stemmed from the clerical regime’s perception “that it has a religious duty to export its Islamic revolution and to wage, by whatever means, a constant struggle against the perceived oppressor states. According to CIA reporting in the late 1980s, “Iranian leaders view terrorism as an important instrument of foreign policy that they use both to advance national goals and to export the regime’s Islamic revolutionary ideals. Tehran’s capability to carry out global terror attacks rests on its ability to call upon a group of Middle East–based terror groups willing to act at Iran’s behest, a network that would almost certainly be called upon to execute the kind of asymmetric terror attacks that can be carried out with reasonable deniability and therefore make a targeted response more difficult.

Muhammad Hejazi, the deputy head of Iran’s armed forces, hinted that Tehran could order proxy militant groups in Gaza and Lebanon to fire rockets into Israel. He even implied such a strike could be used preemptively, before an attack on Iran. “We are no longer willing to wait for enemy action to be launched against us,” he told Iran’s Fars News Agency. “Our strategy now is that we will make use of all means to protect our national interests.”16 Hezbollah leaders have also stated they would stand by Iran and any other entity that has stood up to the “Zionist regime.
Of all the terrorist groups that Tehran has sponsored over the past twenty-eight years, none is more important to Iran than Hezbollah. Iran helped to create Hezbollah in the early 1980s, funding, training, and indoctrinating new members of the fledgling movement. This support created a completely loyal proxy group ready to engage in terrorist activities at Iran’s behest. As one senior Hezbollah official noted in the early 1980s, “Our relation with the Islamic revolution is one of a junior to a senior of a soldier to his commander.
In Africa, where Hezbollah’s support networks are well entrenched, the group need not rely on Iranian operational support as much as it does elsewhere. It is said that said, the sponsor and its proxy do cooperate closely on two key agenda in Africa: proselytizing and recruitment, and arms smuggling. Committed to its constitutional directive to export the Islamic Revolution, the Revolutionary Guard proactively recruits Shia in Africa by the efforts of Iranian and Lebanese missionaries proselytizing across the continent. As early as 1985, the CIA was aware that Iran had long been known to “promote subversive activity” in far-flung countries with Shia populations, including Nigeria. Three years later, a CIA report acknowledged the phenomenon was far more widespread than just in Nigeria. Moreover, the agency highlighted Hezbollah’s participation in efforts to spread Iran’s Islamic revolutionary vision in Africa.


Iraqi Shia extremists feature prominently in Iran’s arsenal of regional proxies. On their own, and in cooperation with the Qods Force, local Hezbollah affiliates and groups like the Iraqi Dawa Party have engaged in terrorism and political violence in support of their own and Iranian interests. In time, evidence of Hezbollah’s presence in Iraq would be plentiful. Indeed, Hezbollah would create an outfit, Unit 3800, dedicated to aiding the Shia insurgency in Iraq. Iraq became a core issue for Hezbollah, however, not because it had anything to do with Lebanon but because gaining influence over Iraq and hegemony in the region is of primary concern to its Iranian sponsors. Of course, Iran has long sought to push the United States out of the Gulf region. “Iranian-sponsored terrorism is the greatest threat to U.S. personnel and facilities in the Middle East.” So read the opening statement of a CIA memo written in mid-February 1985 on terrorism in the Middle East. So it was that Hezbollah, at Iran’s behest, helped develop a sophisticated training program for Shia militants from Iraq. Some training occurred in Iraq, reportedly at the Deir and Kutaiban camps east of Basra near the Iranian border. In Iran, Hezbollah and Qods Force instructors ran a well-organized training program in which Daqduq was directly involved, “helping Qods Force in training Iraqis inside Iran.”
Over time, Hezbollah operatives trained enough Iraqi Shia militants—in Iraq, Iran, and Lebanon—to significantly improve the Special Groups’ paramilitary capabilities. Hezbollah provided the Iraqi insurgents “with the training, tactics and technology to conduct kidnappings, small unit tactical operations, and employ sophisticated improvised explosive devices, incorporating lessons learned from operations in Southern Lebanon,” according to an April 2010 Pentagon report. Indeed, it would not take long before Hezbollah operatives would begin directing Iraqi militants in the execution of exactly such operations.
Also Washington reported in The Jerusalem Post that : Iran continues to arm and finance a terrorist network that extends from South Asia to the Horn of Africa, from Iraq to Yemen, and across the Palestinian territories, the US State Department reported on Wednesday, acknowledging US willingness to nevertheless engage directly in talks with the state over its nuclear program. Much of the report, released annually by the State Department to outline threats of terrorism around the world, focuses on Iran’s expansive efforts to fund and funnel arms to Islamist organizations, including Hamas in Gaza and Hezbollah, which is based in Lebanon but operates worldwide.“Iran has historically provided weapons, training, and funding to Hamas and other Palestinian terrorist groups,” the report details, “although Hamas’s ties to Tehran have been strained due to the Syrian civil war.” In its efforts to bolster Hezbollah, Iran considers Syria “a crucial causeway in its weapons supply route” and has taken an active role in supporting embattled Syrian President Bashar Assad, the US report claims.
Consider that Iran’s intelligence penetration of South America has expanded significantly since the AMIA bombing. Testifying before Congress in the weeks following that 1994 attack, the State Department’s coordinator for counterterrorism expressed concern that Iranian embassies in the region were stacked with larger than necessary numbers of diplomats, some of whom were believed to be intelligence agents and terrorist operatives:“We are sharing information in our possession with other States about Iranian diplomats, Iranian terrorist leaders who are posing as diplomats, so that nations will refuse to give them accreditation, or if they are already accredited, to expel them. We have had some success in that respect, but we have not always succeeded.

Acknowledgements: Akam Assadi

Sunday, 14 December 2014

Open Letter to "Kurdish Question" Blog Post

Dear Sirs, with respect to your article at Rojava Political Structure Obscured by Headlines, I am writing for two reasons. Firstly, to request that you make a correction to a material factual inaccuracy in the article and secondly, to comment on the observations which you make within the article.

In the first instance I refer to the statement in the article as follows (paragraph 11, final sentence) which ends "... a claim flatly denied by Graham Penrose who helped the men secure positions with the PYG.[sic]".



Throughout the last several weeks my firm and I have been consistent with respect to our role in this matter and we have repeatedly stated that for matters relating to the YPG, YPJ, Peshmerga or other Kurdish groups, organisations or political parties in the region that neither my firm nor I are recruiters or spokespersons or facilitators nor are we mandated to speak on behalf of any of these groups or organisations. 


When asked about assisting these groups we have publicly stated: "We respect that many people wish to assist the Kurdish nation in their struggle against evil and oppression, however TMG Corporate Services are simply not the correct point of contact with whom to progress these noble intentions. We would suggest that you make contact with the local Kurdish charity or group in your region to discuss these matters. Our firm is focussed on our own efforts to assist the Kurdish nation but we are not in a position to assist any third parties with respect to offers of a financial nature, contributions of goods and services or offers of skills and expertise. Additionally our firm is not in a position to advise on or offer assistance regarding entry to Kurdistan, Syria or Iraq." 

After being pitched, I personally agreed to assist James Hughes and Jamie Read with advice, monies for travel and support for their recent trip based on a belief that they were two informed young men who had an objective similar to my own with respect to developing informed commentary and reports from the region that elevated the debate regarding the Kurdish Question and which were based on first hand experience and informed by direct contact and conversation with qualified Kurdish commentators, activists and volunteers. 




I also acted in this matter in a personal capacity passing messages between James Hughes and Jamie Read and their families, at their request, as communications were a factor and I was in a position to assist. I provided this favour to the associated parties to give some peace of mind to people who would have otherwise been in an information vacuum and who are not accustomed to such situations. 


My role is now complete (effective 1st December 2014). I no longer have any role as a liaison with the families of James Hughes and Jamie Read as per mutual agreement. Please also see below a statement from TCRC who are affiliated with James Hughes and Jamie Read confirming this "The Terrorism & Conflict Research Centre is no longer associated with Graham Penrose or TMG Corporate Services so if you have and questions message The Terrorism & Conflict Research Centre or James Hughes and Jamie Read" See Original Statement on TPG Group (TCRC) Facebook Page 


Throughout the heightened media interest that occurred between 20th November 2014 to date regarding James Hughes and Jamie Read, our firm and myself personally have been offered and continue to be offered deals from print media - news and magazines, radio stations, TV stations, documentary makers, investigative journalists, film makers and a long list of miscellaneous types. We have universally declined them all. Others have not. That is their prerogative. 

I have no interest in playing a role with the media and only did so previously in this matter out of necessity and request in order to issue a denial of an untrue allegation (the "mercenary" allegation). 


Recent statements by James Hughes and Jamie Read are inconsistent with what was to have been the objective of this exercise in my view. I wish to distance myself from statements they have made including "vengeance" and "IS killers" and descriptions of motivations based on the tragic murder of Mr. Alan Henning. I would therefore be most obliged if you would correct within your article the incorrect description regarding the basis of my involvement in this matter. 

Secondly, I concur with your observations that the real issues in play with regard to the Kurdish Question are being obscured by a sensationalist and largely uninformed series of articles and comments which have tended to centre around individuals and their personal stories rather than the fundamental issues such as the right to self determination, autonomy and independence which are the cornerstone of the Kurdish struggle. 

As part of my profession I hold opinions on what I believe the various Kurdish groups need to address with respect to information dissemination to battle a superior IS media machine and implement a more sophisticated outbound messaging strategy. It was my view that the YPG / Peshmerga / Kurdish groups in general required up-skilling in the short term with respect to messaging, immediate PR wins focussed on the fundamental issues not the personalities involved, develop a structured and consistent media campaign going forward, increase the production values in general of what is released for public consumption in order to garner greater visibility for the issues and to shepherd and influence public opinion and support regarding the strategic objective of bolstering the legitimacy of the Kurdish claim to nationhood post conflict while establishing a solid and sound foundation from which to lobby for same based on professional, structured and compelling argument.

I have experience of these matters, please see an article I published in July 2014 titled "Precision Guided Message - Radical Islam, Social Media, and Building a Sleeper Army” where I asserted that one of the contributing factors in the forward momentum of the Islamic State (IS) [formerly and variously the Islamic State of Iraq & Syria (ISIS) or the Islamic State of Iraq & al-Sham; and the Islamic State of Iraq & the Levant (ISIL)] was the rapid and regimented dissemination of the organisation’s message.

 


I trust that you will oblige with respect to my request to make the correction within the body of your article and I wish you all the best for the future.

Respectfully,
Graham Penrose.

Friday, 5 December 2014

Jordanian King warns ISIS fight a ‘Third World War’ - Al Arabiya News

Jordan King warns ISIS fight a ‘Third World War’ - Al Arabiya News

Jordan’s King Abdullah II warned Friday that the fight against Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) militants is a “third world war,” as President Barack Obama pledged a sizable U.S. aid increase to his country.

As the two men met at the White House, Obama promised to increase U.S. aid to Jordan from $660 million to more than $1 billion per year.
He also vowed the United States would provide the kingdom with an additional loan guarantee.
King Abdullah said Jordan, the United States and other countries “had to combine our strategies” to combat ISIS, saying he believed it would be a “generational fight.”
“We really have to have a pan-regional approach to this issue. This is a Muslim problem. We need to take ownership of this,” the Jordanian monarch told CBS television.
“It’s clearly a fight between good and evil,” he said, adding: “I think this is a third world war by other means.”
“The medium-term is the security aspect, but the long term is going to be the ideological one. There’s a lot of leaders around the Arab and Muslim world that have had enough, that want to come and say ‘look enough is enough.’”
Obama said the increased U.S. support aims to boost “political and economic reforms that are taking place inside of Jordan.”
This would not only that “the people of Jordan prosper and be self-sufficient, but they can continue to provide an anchor for important efforts that enhance U.S. national security over the long term.”
The U.S. aid is effective from 2015 to 2017.
One of America’s most stalwart allies in the Middle East, Jordan borders Iraq’s Anbar province, which has been largely overrun by ISIS militants.
It is one of several Arab countries taking part in U.S.-led air strikes against the militant group in Syria.
King Abdullah expressed gratitude for the increased financial assistance, which comes at a “difficult” time for his nation as it grapples with its own Islamist extremists and faces a flood of 1.5 million refugees from war-torn Syria who now make up a fifth of Jordan’s population.
“This will have a tremendous impact on Jordanians at all levels. So from all of us, a very gracious thank you to you and your people for this very timely support for our country,” Abdullah told Obama.

ISIS could expand in Libya: EU anti-terrorism chief - Al Arabiya News

ISIS could expand in Libya: EU anti-terrorism chief - Al Arabiya News

The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) could expand in Libya, EU coordinator for anti-terrorism Gilles de Kerchove warned on Saturday. De Kerchove made the statement to Al Arabiya correspondent in Brussels Noureddine Fridhi. He also said that 30 percent of Arab internet users in Belgium have shown support for the extremist group.

Last month several young people in the eastern town of Derna pledged allegiance to ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, according to a video posted on the internet.
Related story:
Dozens of people could be seen in the video posted on social media gathering in Derna to support Baghdadi, who calls himself “caliph,” or Muslim leader, of ISIS, an Al-Qaeda offshoot.
There has been growing concern among Western nations and Libya’s neighbors that ISIS is trying to exploit lawlessness in the oil producer where militant Islamists and other militias who helped topple Muammar Qaddafi in 2011 are carving out fiefdoms.
Derna, a port halfway between the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi and the Egyptian border, has since 2011 turned into a gathering point for militant Islamists and Al-Qaeda sympathisers.
Fifteen foreign members of ISIS traveled to Derna from Syria in September trying to rally support and establish an ISIS branch in Libya, Egyptian security officials have said.
Authorities were unable to open ballot boxes for Libya’s parliamentary elections in June in Derna due to threats from militants.
Derna, already a stronghold of Islamist opposition under Qaddafi, has also made headlines with pictures of Islamic courts and police stations.

Stills & Video: IS pounded by 16 airstrikes 5th December 2014

Airstrikes this morning, IS heavily pounded by 16 airstrikes near Bashiq, NE of Mosul, Iraq. 

See video at http://facebook.com/grahamjpenrose 







Thursday, 4 December 2014

Corruption, Geopolitics, Russia & the Ukraine

Viktor Yanukovych’s involvement in politically facilitated corruption is unprecedented even in the murky annals of Ukrainian politics. From his rise to power after the Orange revolution to his demise as a result of the Maidan protests, Yanukovych and his associates bled Ukraine dry of its assets through sophisticated embezzlement schemes and seizures of state property while actively and violently suppressing any dissenting voices.




Viktor Yanukovych

The most visible example of the climate of politically motivated show trials reminiscent of the Soviet era was the trial of opposition politician Yulia Tymoshenko. Tymoshenko’s trial was opened on the 24th June 2011 and resulted in her conviction on a charge of ‘abuse of power’. The abuse that Tymoshenko was convicted of centred on her ordering of Naftogaz to sign a gas deal with Russia in 2009. She was sentenced to seven years in prison.



Yulia Tymoshenko

Tymoshenko’s conviction was widely denounced as politically motivated. It was the opinion of the EU, the United States and Russia that the allegations levelled at Tymoshenko did not constitute crimes and showed clear political motivation. The June, 2013 session of PACE called for the recognition of Tymoshenko as a political prisoner, citing the vagueness of her charges, the physical and psychological torture that she was subjected to during her detainment and the numerous procedural violations during her trial process. [Kiyv Post 2014]

PACE further articulated that the agreement that Tymoshenko had reached with Putin “...was reached in a climate of severe crisis, after Mr Putin had ordered that gas supplies to Ukraine and through Ukraine to Western Europe be cut on 5 January 2009.” The order affected Hungary, Slovakia and Bulgaria but other regions in Western Europe were also affected including Germany and France.

As such Tymoshenko made the deal with Putin under extreme stress from both Ukrainian colleagues and European Union officials. On the 22 January after agreeing to Tymoshenko’s proposals the gas supply was restored by Russia. Unsurprisingly the prosecution failed to mention the Ukrainian cabinet sign off of the deal two days later. [PACE 2014]





After the jailing of Tymoshenko, Yanukovych set about shutting down any other opposition. Media outlets that investigated Ukrainian corruption were systematically closed down or taken over by Yanukovich. Ukraine’s Forbes, Korrespondent Magazine and TVi television were all either bought or shut down.

In the case of Forbes, the Ukrainian branch of the magazine was bought by VETEK group. VETEK group is chaired by Sergei Kurchenko, an oligarch and widely loathed figure in Ukrainian national affairs. Kurchenko, along with others belong to a tight knit group of Yanukovych associates, affectionately known as ‘The Family’. Kurchenko is widely thought to be a front for Yanukovych. Amassing huge wealth from seemingly nowhere, Kurchenko is believed to have made millions from embezzling state money and widespread tax evasion.




Junior Yanukovych

Recently Arsen Avakov, Ukraine’s interior minister announced eleven criminal investigations into the VETEK group. The most serious charges relate to the importing and ‘re-exporting’ of oil in violation of tax and customs regulations. VETEK is also accused of defrauding state gas company Naftogaz. In total, Ukrainian prosecutors estimate that the VETEK group and Kurchenko embezzled over $1 billion dollars in state and company funds. [Seddon 2014]

In response to VETEK’s acquisition of Forbes fourteen of its journalists signed a collective letter of resignation in protest at the new management’s attempts at widespread censorship of their reporting. According to senior journalists at the magazine, new management informed staff of a “tiny little list” of topics that would be off limits. The inference was quite clear, according to Forbes staff, any investigations relating to the business affairs or affiliations of Kurchenko and his associates were strictly off limits. [Seddon 2014]

Despite efforts to suppress media coverage of corruption and political opposition, Yanukovych's exploits were still widely documented. As Oliver Bullough points out, one of Yanukovych's favoured methods of defrauding the Ukrainian state was embezzling funds from state budgets. The easiest method for Yanukovych was to target the State Procurement budget which was estimated at $50 billion annually. Of this $50 Billion, 30% was embezzled by Yanukovych, estimated to be a total of $15 billion annually for each of his years at the helm.

Yanukovych also siphoned off state funds by awarding government contracts to fake shell companies controlled either directly by him or his associates. In 2013 the Anti-Corruption Action Centre investigated Ukraine’s procurement market, focusing in particular on government paid prices for HIV and Tuberculosis drugs. AntAC revealed a market that was so murky that international drug companies refused to take part. The result was that ‘pseudo competitors’ as termed by AntAC were allowed to thrive. These competitor companies were established by “insiders” and members of the Ukrainian elite and run by nominees using in most cases offshore companies to complicate the identification of the true beneficiaries and to put the looted monies out of reach of any future investigations or rulings.

Prices paid by the Ministry of Health via this rigged system were one and a half to three times higher than the prevailing prices commanded for the same drugs and paid for by other organizations such as the various Ukrainian patient advocacy organizations. The study concluded that $4.9 million out of the $21.9 million spent on ARTs, 22% of the total budget in 2012 and slightly more in 2013 was embezzled out of the final budget. Only six out of the 6,500 registered pharmaceutical companies in Ukraine won contracts, all of which delivered their promised antivirals late. As the report concludes, the conduct directly”...prevent[ed] Ukraine from overcoming the epidemics of HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis, both of which have threatened the country's national security.” [Bullough 2014]

What Yanukovych did with these proceeds of crime was in part documented by the Ukrainian website yanukovychleaks.com (the website at this address does not seem to exist any longer and is redirected to ww2.yanukovychleaks.com which is a generic holding page) comprising documents seized from Yanukovych. They detail some of the money trails of the misappropriated funds. As the website pointed out, Tantalit, owned by a brother of Yanukovych's chief of staff (widely thought to be directly controlled by Yanukovych) owned many luxury properties in Kiev. These properties included luxury apartments valued at $2.86 million and a helipad built on Parkova Road estimated to be worth $3.75 million. [yanukovychleaks.com 2014]

While corruption may not be new in Ukraine, Yanucovych’s activities went far beyond simply lining his own pockets. His activities were far reaching and endemic and in many cases directly and severely compromised the future of the Ukrainian people.


References

Bullough, O. (2014). Looting Ukraine: How East and West Teamed up to Steal a Country. Institute Of Modern Russia, [online] (July 2014), pp.7-10. Available at: http://www.li.com/docs/default-source/publications/ukraine_imr_a4_web.pdf [Accessed 4 Oct. 2014].
Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights Keeping political and criminal responsibility separate. (2013). 1st ed. [ebook] Strasbourg, pp.15-20. Available at: http://www.assembly.coe.int/Communication/ajdoc15_2013.pdf [Accessed 2 Oct. 2014].
Kiyv Post, (2014). http://www.kyivpost.com/content/politics/fule-eu-doesnt-consider- tymoshenko-other-former-of-113148.html. [online] Available at: http://www.kyivpost.com/content/politics/fule-eu-doesnt-consider-tymoshenko-other- former-of-113148.html [Accessed 1 Oct. 2014].
Seddon, M. (2014). Forbes Embroiled In Billion-Dollar Ukrainian Corruption Scandal. Buzzfeed. [online] Available at: http://www.buzzfeed.com/maxseddon/forbes- embroiled-in-billion-dollar-ukrainian-corruption-scan#491qky3 [Accessed 3 Oct. 2014].
Seddon, M. (2014). Forbes Ukraine In Censorship Crisis After Oligarch Takeover. Buzzfeed. [online] Available at: http://www.buzzfeed.com/maxseddon/forbes- ukraine-in-censorship-crisis-after-oligarch-takeover#491qky3 [Accessed 4 Oct. 2014].
Yanukovychleaks.org, (2014). OCCRP - Yanukovych’s Real Estate Empire, Part 2. [online] Available at: http://yanukovychleaks.org/en/stories/yanukovychs-real-estate- part-2.html [Accessed 5 Oct. 2014]. (the website at this address does not seem to exist any longer and is redirected to ww2.yanukovychleaks.com which is a generic holding page) 

Sunday, 30 November 2014

The Siege of Kobanî by the Islamic State (ISIL / ISIS): Situation Report (Warning: Graphic Content)

The YPG and YPJ are engaged in a fierce fight today with ISIS who have opened up a fourth front in the battle by launching attacks from the previously "safe" Turkish side of the town. It is unclear how ISIS can have been facilitated in this new strategy by a "member" of NATO, seemingly allowing ISIS launch an attack on the beleaguered town from within Turkish territory. The town and its brave defenders have unbelievably been under international political and economic embargo for three years. 

ISIS use suicide bombers to commence attacks from Turkish territory

There have been in excess of 1000 mortars rounds launched at the YPG / YPJ forces and six suicide bomb attacks in a single day. The Islamic State group claimed three successful suicide attacks in Kobani's border crossing point, the SITE Intelligence Group reported. The group, quoting Twitter accounts linked to the militants, said the suicide attacks were carried out by a Saudi and a Turkmen, adding that one of them was driving a Humvee.  

Figure 1: YPG fighters moving between the ruins of Kobane

Al-Qaeda affiliated groups have now joined ISIS in their genocide supported by hundreds of millions of dollars in illegal funding from external state terrorists and possess tens of thousands of weapons including tanks, heavy mortars and artillery captured by ISIS in the early stages of the most recent phase of the conflict. 

Despite all of this, the highly mobile and motivated but lightly armed forces of the YPG and the YPJ in Rojava have not only resisted and held out despite facing overwhelming odds and international collaboration with ISIS but they have not been intimidated, continue to resist and shall soon succeed in liberating Kobane.
ISIS "open" new front in siege from Turkey
"ISIS used to attack the town from three sides,” Nawaf Khalil, a spokesman for Syria’s Kurdish Democratic Union Party, told the Associated Press. “Today, they are attacking from four sides." Turkey, while previously backing the Syrian rebels fighting to topple President Bashar Assad in that country's civil war, has been hesitant to aid the defenders of Kobane because it fears that could stoke Kurdish ambitions for an independent state.

Anger over Turkeys support of ISIS

Thousands of Kurds in Riha (Urfa) and Pirsus cities in Turkey are flooding across the Kobane border to support the resistance inside the beleaguered town. (SOURCE: Local TV Channels).

Figure 2: Kurds crossing the Turkish border to support Kobane 

Syria's Foreign Minister said in a television interview aired Friday night that the U.S.-led coalition's weeks of airstrikes against militants in Syria had not weakened the Islamic State group. Washington and the U.N. Security Council "should force Turkey to tighten control" of its border in order to help defeat militants, he added.
Video 1: YPG fighting ISIS in Turkey, today.

The assault began with a suicide bomb in an armoured vehicle on the border crossing between Kobanî and Turkey, said Khalil and the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. The video footage below (taken 29.11.2014) from the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights purports to show ISIS militants firing from inside Turkish territory. Mustafa Bali, a Kobane-based activist, said by telephone that Islamic State group fighters have taken positions in grain silos on the Turkish side of the border and from there are launching attacks toward the border crossing point. 

See video below from point "01.18" point showing ISIS fighters in position firing from grain silo located inside Turkish territory. 

Video 2: ISIS firing on YPG from positions in Turkey

He added that the U.S. led coalition launched an airstrike Saturday morning on the eastern side of the town. "It is now clear that Turkey is openly cooperating with Daesh," Bali said, using the Arabic acronym for the Islamic State. Later in the day, he said the situation was relatively calm on the border after a day of heavy clashes. 

Figure 3 & 4: Air strikes 29.11.14 at Kobane

On the 76th day of ISIS attacks on Kobanê, the YPG and YPJ fighters have gained control of 75-80% of the city. As the Kurdish forces advance, the ISIS gangs fire mortars at random and use snipers, but to no avail as their attacks are repulsed. Clashes are continuing on the eastern, southern and south western fronts. 

On the western front the YPG and YPJ fighters are being supported by Peshmerga and Burkan el Firat. The Islamic State group claimed to have carried out four further suicide attacks in Kobane to the south of the town. The Peshmerga are not on the front line, instead supporting the YPG/YPJ by firing mortars and katyusha rockets. 

Background on Burkan el Firat, membership & objectives

The Firat New Agency previously announced:
The Peoples’ Protection Units (YPG) and Free Syrian Army (FSA), including other armed opposition groups have formed a joint front against the Islamic State (ISIS) in the region around the Euphrates. It has been reported that that the YPG, FSA and other smaller opposition groups have come together to form a ‘joint operation room’ against the Islamic State threat in the Euphrates region. 
The name of this joint force is ‘Burkan El Firat,’ and its aim is to oust IS from the areas currently under its control. The ‘joint operation room’ declared itself in a military ceremony in Western Kurdistan, with the declaration being read by a FSA commander. 
It was declared that the forces joining the ‘Burkan El Firat’ against the gangs of El Bagdadi were as follows: Liva El Tevhid Eastern Wing, Liva El Siwar El Raka, the Shams El Shemal brigades of the Fecir El Huriya, YPG, YPJ, Seraya Cerablus, Liva Cephet El-Ekrad, Siwar Umunaa El Raka, El Kasas Army and Liva El Jihad Fi Sebilillah. 
The following was also listed in the declaration: 1. All the members who have joined ISIS under false pretences must leave the group. 2. The international community must do their part against the terrorist group ISIS. 3. All parties against ISIS must contribute physically and financially to the joint operation room. 
It was also declared that the objective of the joint operation room is to oust ISIS from all the areas currently under their control. The following areas were listed: Karakozak, Sirrin, Cerablus, Minbic and surrounding villages, Rakka and surrounding villages.Figure 5: Burkan el Firat announcement of joint front against ISIS in the Euphrates region
YPG/YPJ fighters who have repulsed attacks by ISIS gangs are continuing to advance step by step and are inflicting heavy losses on the ISIS gangs and seizing large amounts of ammunition and weapons. See below YPG and Burkan al-Firat joint forces of the FSA crossing into the Turkish side of via the Murshitpinar border gate in North Kobane, not to attack Turkish forces or occupy 'Turkish' soil, but to repel ISIS insurgents who were allowed by Turkey to carry out their attacks on Kobane from there. (DIHA)
Figure 6: Murshitpinar Turkish / Syria border gate in North Kobane
Statements from YPG/YPJ spokespersons

YPJ commander Zilan Kobanê said that in recent days on the eastern front in particular many points have been cleansed of ISIS gangs and large quantities of munitions seized. YPG commander Ciwan Kobanê added: "We are advancing step by step. This means that Kobanê is gradually being cleansed of the gangs.”  
Figure 7 & 8: YPG spokesman Ciwan Kobanê & YPJ Spokeswoman Zilan Kobanê
The most intense clashes on the eastern front around Municipality Street, which is now almost entirely under the control of YPG and YPJ fighters. ISIS have abandoned many positions YPJ commander Zilan Kobanê, who is fighting on the front line in the Municipality Street area, said the gangs have been run out of many areas on the eastern front in the last 3 days, adding that the enemy gangs have suffered heavy casualties. She said: "They are now resorting to sporadic sniper fire and indiscriminate mortar fire as we have broken the back of their attacks.”  
Comments from YPG commander Ciwan Kobanê
YPG commander Ciwan Kobanê added “Our comrades have demonstrated in the last 3 days that the gangs will not be able to stand up to our forces. In the last 3 weeks there have been fierce clashes around the Municipality Street area and we are advancing step by step.” He added that the liberation of the city would take time pointing out that "Urban warfare is an arduous, drawn out process. We have experience of this. Fighting is going on house to house, street to street. We are advancing steadily but slowly."
Peshmerga call for regional unity against ISIS
In the wider debate Kurdish Peshmerga forces and their spokesman Khalil Jangi have called for unity amongst all groups and minorities battling the ISIS war criminals saying:
Figure 9: Khalil Jangi, Peshmerga Spokesman
"In this picture, you see an Assyrian mother and her three year old child. She fled from ISIS in Mosul to the city of Dohuk in the governorate of Iraq and part of Iraqi Kurdistan. The Assyrian nation must not accept the crimes committed against them by ISIS, and remain silent. All Assyrians have a duty to their people and nation to fight together against the criminal ISIS."
 Figure 10: Assyrian mother and child fleeing from ISIS in Mosul (el-Mōṣul)
"Assyrians, Kadanians, Izadids, Syrians, Yazidis and Kurds only salvation from ISIS is to stand together. We have the same enemy. Kurdistan is the home for all nations and religions, we are all living together and look forward to peace and prosperity. We will defend our land and people against all enemies." 
YPGH / YPJ Fighting for the future of all our children, Support Them
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Figure 11: The tragedy of Kobane

The unspeakable tragedy of the ISIS barbarians aggression against innocence is shown above with pictures from a Syrian Kurdish refugee camp filled with children from the Kobane area in front of living quarters separated by plastic sheets at a camp in Suruc and receiving food rations, on the Turkey-Syria border.  
The realities of the conflict - ISIS dead
 


Figure 12: ISIS Dead

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS: ANF / İBRAHİM ASLAN / ERSİN ÇAKSU / JAMES HUGHES / JAMIE READ / The Lions of Rojava Media Center