Posts Tagged ‘Raqqa’

Raqqa Liberated

Wednesday, October 18th, 2017

The onetime capital of the short-lived caliphate of the Islamic Republic of Iraq and Syria has been completely liberated by the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces:

A US-backed alliance of Syrian Kurdish and Arab fighters says it has taken full control of so-called Islamic State’s one-time “capital” of Raqqa.

Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) spokesman Talal Sello said the fighting was over after a five-month assault.

Clearing operations were now under way to uncover any jihadist sleeper cells and remove landmines, he added.

An official statement declaring victory in the city and the end of three years of IS rule is expected to be made soon.

IS made Raqqa the headquarters of its self-styled “caliphate”, implementing an extreme interpretation of Islamic law and using beheadings, crucifixions and torture to terrorise residents who opposed its rule

The city also became home to thousands of jihadists from around the world who heeded a call to migrate there by IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

“On Tuesday morning, the SDF cleared the last two major IS positions in Raqqa – the municipal stadium and the National Hospital.”

Here are a series of maps (captured from Syria.livemap.com) that paint a picture of how the battle unfolded:

June 9:

July 12:

August 13:

August 25:

September 5:

October 8:

October 14:

Some additional perspective from Robin Wright in The New Yorker:

“There are other places for ISIS to go and survive, but there’s something special about Syria and Iraq and the Fertile Crescent,” [Will] McCants, a fellow at the Brookings Institution, said. “It’s the theatre of prophecy. It’s where the apocalyptic drama unfolds. It’s the heartland of the historic caliphate, and it’s the scene of the final end-of-times drama, as predicted by Islamic scripture. Nowhere else in the Islamic world compares with it.”

McCants said that the fall of Raqqa, a city that was once home to more than two hundred thousand Syrians but is now mostly destroyed, will weaken the group’s ability to recruit fighters and inspire attacks. “The fight will go on, and ISIS will morph into an insurgency and may try to reëstablish another state, but, for now, it’s a crushing blow,” he said. “ISIS put all its chips on creating a state and taking territory as proof of its divine mandate. Some of its followers now have to have doubts.“

At its height, the Islamic State was about the size of Indiana, or the country of Jordan, with eight million people under its control. ISIS transformed the world of jihadism by recruiting tens of thousands of followers from five continents—faster, in larger numbers, and from further corners of the Earth than any other modern extremist group. The caliphate was formally declared by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi on June 29, 2014, from a pulpit in the Grand Mosque of Mosul, the largest city under ISIS control. It, too, was liberated, in July, after a gruesome nine-month offensive by Iraqi security forces.

ISIS still holds bits and pieces of territory in both countries. But it no longer rules. Baghdadi, an Islamic scholar who was detained by the U.S. military in Iraq for almost a year, in 2004, as prisoner number US9IZ-157911CI, has not been sighted in public since the unveiling of his caliphate.

At a press conference on Tuesday, Army Colonel Ryan Dillon, a spokesman for the U.S.-led coalition supporting the campaign against ISIS, said, “Over all, ISIS is losing in every way. We’ve devastated their networks, targeted and eliminated their leaders at all levels. We’ve degraded their ability to finance their operations, cutting oil revenues by ninety per cent. Their flow of foreign recruits has gone from about fifteen hundred fighters a month down to near zero today. ISIS in Iraq and Syria are all but isolated in their quickly shrinking territory.” Brett McGurk, the Special Presidential Envoy for the Global Coalition to Counter ISIS at the State Department, tweeted that an estimated six thousand fighters had died in the battle for Raqqa.

There’s talk that the Islamic State’s surviving foreign fighters will relocate to Libya, where a civil war has ranged off and on since Moammar Gadhafi’s ouster/execution (thanks, Obama).

Now if only the various factions fighting the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria can finish it off there rather than turning on each other…

Raqqa’s Fall: “Hours or Days”

Saturday, October 14th, 2017

Islamic State is on the verge of defeat in Syria’s Raqqa and a deal has been reached to evacuate civilians and Islamic State fighters, but not foreign militants, the U.S-led coalition fighting ISIS said on Saturday.”

Here’s the Syria LiveMap screencap from October 8:

And here’s a screencap from today:

It looks like the already compacted Islamic State pocket in Raqqa has already been reduced by 80% in that time.

Here’s some video of the most recent push:

I look forward to putting up the “Raqqa Liberated” post in a day or two…

Islamic State Update: Hawija Falls, Final Push for Raqqa, Deir ez-Zor Fully Invested

Monday, October 9th, 2017

Quick update on the ongoing destruction of the Islamic State.

First, “Iraqi forces have driven Islamic State fighters from the northern city of Hawija, the militants’ final urban stronghold in Iraq, three years after they seized control of nearly a third of the country, the Iraqi government said Thursday.”

There’s still lots of fighting along the Euphrates, but the Islamic State doesn’t control any cities outside that region any more.

Second, the the final offensive against Islamic State holdouts in what remains of their territory in besieged Raqqa just began, with commanders of the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces estimating that all of Raqqa will be liberated this week.

Third, like Raqqa, Deir ez-Zor has been completely cut off from the rest of the Islamic State by both SDF and Assad’s Syrian army. SDF also captured the Islamic State’s Deir ez-Zor headquarters.

(Pictures, as usual, from http://isis.liveuamap.com/.)

In western Syria, there are conflicting reports about the remaining Islamic State pocket near Hama there. The Syrian government claims it has destroyed the last elements of the Islamic State there, while the Islamic State claims that it is attacking and gaining ground from the Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham, the rival Islamist group in the Syrian civil war that incorporates former elements of the al-Nusra Front.

In 2014, the Islamic State took and ruled vast swathes of Iraq and Syria. Now they struggle to hold on to what few cities they still control, and soon will rule over nothing at all.

Islamic State Near Collapse?

Saturday, September 23rd, 2017

That’s what this headline implies. The truth is a little less dramatic: Raqqa is on the edge of full liberation and the Islamic State is in retreat everywhere else.

Static lines of control that held for months in northern Raqqa have collapsed, as seen in this Syria Livemap screen cap:

Compare that to this map from September 5:

Islamic State fighters are running out of territory in Raqqa to defend.

Here’s a video from the battle of Raqqa:

Southeast of Raqqa, Syrian government forces and the SDF are both pushing toward Deir ez-Zor.

SDF also say they have captured Syria’s largest oilfield from the Islamic State near Deir ez-Zor.

Elsewhere in the theater, “Iraqi Security Forces and the Syrian Democratic Forces have cleared ISIS out of about 50,000 square miles and liberated more than 6 million people who were living under Islamic State occupation.”

Here’s a map of Iraqi forces collapsing the pocket of Islamic State forces to the southwest of Kirkuk that have been cut off from the rest of the Islamic State at least since the investment of Mosul.

Everywhere within it’s supposed caliphate, the Islamic State is in retreat, and nowhere is it counterattacking successfully. But it still holds a lot of territory, and there’s a lot more fighting left before declaring it dead.

Bonus video: Royal Air Force drone stops Islamic State public execution:

Islamic State War Update: Deir ez-Zor Relieved, Raqqa Crumbling, Tal Afar Captured

Tuesday, September 5th, 2017

Before we turn our attention to North Korea, there’s still the war against the Islamic State to be won. And there’s lots of significant news there.

First, Syrian government forces have just relieved the Islamic State’s three year siege of Deir ez-Zor (AKA Deir el-Zour):

Syrian government forces and their allies reached the eastern city of Deir el-Zour on Tuesday, ending a nearly 3-year-old ISIS siege on government-held land near the Iraqi border, Syrian state TV reported.

State TV said troops advancing from the west reached the outskirts of the city and broke the siege after ISIS defenses “collapsed.”

Breaking the siege, which has been divided between an ISIS and a government-held part since January 2015, marks another victory for President Bashar Assad, whose forces have been advancing on several fronts against ISIS and other insurgent groups over the past year.

Meanwhile, the U.S.-backed, Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces have taken the old city of Raqqa:

U.S.-backed forces in Syria have captured the Old City of Raqqa, the latest milestone in their ongoing assault against the self-proclaimed capital of the Islamic State’s rapidly shrinking territories, according to a U.S. military statement on Monday.

Kurdish and Arab fighters with the Syrian Democratic Forces secured the neighborhood over the weekend after vanquishing a last pocket of resistance in the city’s historic Great Mosque, the statement said.

The capture followed a grinding two-month battle for the neighborhood that has proved the toughest challenge yet of a three-month-old offensive for Raqqa, launched in June and still far from over.

Unlike in Mosul, the Old City does not lie at the heart of Raqqa and its seizure does not signify an imminent end to the fighting, said a U.S. military spokesman, Col. Ryan Dillon.

The SDF now controls about 60 percent of Raqqa, said Dillon, who would not put a timeline on how long it would take to claim the rest but predicted that weeks of fighting lie ahead.

Here are some maps (captured from Syria.livemap.com) that paint a picture of how the battle unfolded over the last few months.

June 9:

July 12:

August 13:

August 25:

September 5:

For an idea of what it’s like in Raqqa right now, this piece, originally publishing in the Wall Street Journal over a week ago, provides a pretty vivid account:

Before launching the battle to capture Islamic State’s de facto capital, the U.S.-led military coalition dropped leaflets calling on extremists to surrender. On the ground, militants were going door to door, demanding that residents pay their utility bills.

Islamic State, long bent on expanding its religious empire with shocking brutality in the form of public executions, crucifixions and whippings, is desperately focused on its own survival.

Raqqa has been a crucial part of the terror group’s self-declared caliphate. Until a few months ago, public squares were lined with decomposing bodies of those who had run afoul of Islamic State’s religious rules or bureaucracy.

Instead of ruthlessly enforcing no-smoking decrees and dress codes, though, militants now are doing whatever they can to hold on to areas still controlled by the group—and revenue needed to help keep Islamic State afloat financially.

They are so preoccupied that some women in Raqqa dare to uncover their faces in public. A few men defiantly smoke in the streets and shave their beards, current and former residents say.

When the call to prayer sounds from mosques, some residents no longer bother to go. Islamic State used to force shops to close and people to pray.

Women accused of violating Islamic State’s strict dress code were once whipped. In May, though, militants released two women unharmed after they were forced to buy new robes and all-covering face veils sold by Islamic State’s religious police for 10,000 Syrian pounds each, or a total of about $40, says Dalaal Muhammad, a sister and aunt of the women.

Ms. Muhammad, 37 years old, says her sister had to beg a family member to borrow the $40 from friends.

“They didn’t even have enough to buy bread,” she said at a camp for displaced Syrians, wearing sandals held together by twine. “They just wanted to get the money quickly because we were running out of time” to flee Raqqa.

An estimated 25,000 civilians remain trapped in Raqqa under Islamic State control, according to the United Nations, and more than 230,000 people have fled Raqqa and its suburbs since early April. On Thursday, the U.N. called for a pause in the assault so civilians can escape.

Fighters for the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces, which is leading the assault to oust Islamic State from Raqqa, say on some days they have helped dozens of civilians reach safety. Other days, no one makes it out. Militants execute smugglers helping civilians flee and those accused of collaborating with the U.S.-led coalition.

The Pentagon has estimated there are fewer than 2,500 Islamic State militants left in the city, down from about 4,500.

Militants spent months girding for the long-anticipated assault before it began in June. They dug extensive tunnels beneath streets and homes, set up snipers’ nests and planted improvised explosive devices everywhere to stop people from fleeing.

“They wanted us as human shields,” says Obaida Matraan, 33 years old, a taxi driver who escaped with his family one night just before the battle began. They carried a piece of white fabric to wave as they approached the SDF.

Before the escape, he saw on public display the bodies of executed men with signs that said “smuggler” as “a warning to others,” recalls Mr. Matraan.

In early 2014, Raqqa was the first city in Syria or Iraq to fall under Islamic State’s complete control. The group has lost about 60% of the territory it held in January 2015, including its former Iraqi stronghold of Mosul, according to analysts at IHS Markit Ltd.’s Conflict Monitor.

Even as the self-declared caliphate crumbles, Islamic State has continued to claim responsibility for deadly terror attacks around the world, including in Spain last week, in a bid to project power.

The SDF has encircled Raqqa and says it has seized more than half the area of the city. But militants are capable of striking behind the coalition’s front lines and are scrambling to hoard the little food and water left in areas they control. Much of Raqqa remains a battlefield.

The ground advance by the SDF has been aided by coalition airstrikes. At least 465 civilians have likely been killed in those airstrikes since the battle began, independent monitoring group Airwars reported.

The U.S.-led coalition said it investigates civilian casualties. Monthly reports released by the coalition show far lower estimates of civilian casualties.

Syrian activist groups estimate that at least dozens more civilians were killed during the past week. Civilians still in Raqqa say the airstrikes seem indiscriminate and kill more civilians than militants, who hide out in tunnels.

At the height of Islamic State’s control, life in Raqqa and elsewhere in the group’s territory was dictated by so many laws on everyday life that residents struggled to keep track of them.

Banned items ranged from men’s skinny jeans (too Western and provocative) to canned mushrooms (made with preservatives) to bologna (because the group said it contained pork).

Enforcement slackened as the Syrian Democratic Forces advanced toward Raqqa through the Syrian countryside and eventually surrounded the city, according to residents who fled recently.

Checkpoints thinned out as Islamic State leaders and many militant fighters abandoned the city and headed to the eastern province of Deir Ezzour, residents said. The group still holds much territory in the oil-rich region and is expected to make its last stand there.

People who have left Raqqa say militants suddenly seemed to care much more about money than morals. Islamic State’s revenue—from oil production and smuggling, taxation and confiscation, and kidnapping ransoms—is down 80% in the past two years, IHS Conflict Monitor estimates.

For months, Islamic State ordered businesses and residents to use only the caliphate’s own currency of gold and silver coins, current and former residents said. The move forced people to trade in their U.S. dollars and Syrian pounds to Islamic State, which wanted those currencies as its territory shrinks.

Mr. Matraan, the taxi driver, says Islamic State made him pay $30 for water, electricity and a landline telephone bill just weeks before his family fled.

“They would go to people’s homes and demand payment,” said Mr. Matraan, who wore a San Jose Sharks cap under the searing sun at a camp for displaced Syrians in Ain Issa, a city north of Raqqa. “In the end, their main concern was money.”

Abdulmajeed Omar, 27, says militants began fining those caught violating Islamic State’s smoking ban, rather than jailing or whipping them. Being caught with a pack of cigarettes brought a $25 fine. The fine for a carton of cigarettes was $150.

“They didn’t bother with poor people,” says Mr. Omar, who fled Raqqa before the battle and returned with the Kurdish YPG militia to fight Islamic State.

Before Ms. Muhammad fled the city, militants spent a month digging a tunnel underneath her home in the eastern neighborhood of al-Mashlab, she said. Like many of her neighbors, Ms. Muhammad was afraid to ask them what they were doing.

Inside one house in al-Mashlab, which has since been captured by SDF forces, a tunnel opening cut through the living-room floor. The fighters filled the hole with broken furniture because they weren’t sure where the tunnel led.

“We are suffering from snipers and tunnels,” said Dirghash, a Kurdish YPG commander on the city’s eastern front line who wouldn’t give his last name. “The tunnels are all in civilian homes, and we suddenly find [Islamic State militants] popping up behind us.”

On the western side of Raqqa, a warning painted in silver on the metal shutters of a motorcycle shop simply read: “There are mines.”

In captured neighborhoods, the walls already are covered with new graffiti by the YPG, the Syrian Kurdish militia that is the dominant group in the Syrian Defense Forces. Every conquering force that has swept through Raqqa since the Syrian conflict began more than six years ago has left its mark with cans of paint.

The Islamic State has also reportedly been driven from Uqayribat, its last stronghold in Hama Governorate in central Syria. What little territory they still hold there is completely cut off from the rest of the Islamic State by Syrian government forces.

Assuming both Deir ez-Zor and Raqqa both fall this month, the Islamic State is left with very little viable territory in Syria, mainly a populated strip along the Euphrates from Al Busayrah to Abu Kamal on the Iraqi border, which is some 63 miles or so.

In Iraq, U.S.-supported forces also continue to make gains against the Islamic state, including the liberation of Tal Afar at the end of August. “The Iraqi forces killed over 2,000 Islamic State (IS) militants and more than 50 suicide bombers during a major offensive to free Tal Afar area in west of Mosul, officials said.” The operation is described as a “blitzkrieg” rather than the grinding urban warfare that characterized the Battle of Mosul.

Finally, the anti-Islamic State coalition received a new commander today: Lt. Gen. Paul E. Funk II, commander of III Armored Corps stationed at Ft Hood, assumed command of coalition forces, relieving Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend, who took over in August 2016. The timing suggests a regular duty/force rotation than any change in policy.

To quote Funk: “ISIS is on the run.”

Battle of Raqqa Grinds On

Tuesday, August 15th, 2017

News from the Battle of Raqqa is hard to come by.

U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces have reportedly linked up to completely surround Islamic State forces. The Islamic State had already been surrounded on land, but their access to a small stretch of the Euphrates allowed some passage of fighters and supplies. That’s now gone.

Here’s another Livemap screen cap:

Compare that with this screen cap a month ago:

It’s obvious that the SDF have taken more of south and southwestern Raqqa.

Meanwhile, the Islamic State itself is making claims of a successful counter-offensive…that seemed to consist of four car bombs.

Here’s an interview that suggests that conditions for remaining residents of Islamic State-held Raqqa are desperate, which is exactly what you would expect of modern urban warfare in a besieged city.

The battle is an urban street fight where IS relies on snipers and traps [IEDs]. From what I’ve been able to gather, Islamic State numbers do not exceed 400 fighters.

The SDF is slowly advancing with air support from the coalition.

It’s clear that IS has no intention of giving up easily.

That 400 fighters would be encouraging, if true, but it’s probably too low. Yesterday’s fighting reportedly killed 95 Islamic State fighters, which would suggest they’re quickly running out of fighters, but given the lack of a sudden collapse in Islamic State resistance, this seems unlikely.

Indeed, Syrian Kurdish commander Haval Gabar says that the capture of Raqqa could take up to four months:

“We’ve cleared about half of Old Raqqa … and we’re advancing on all axes,” said Haval Gabar, the 25-year-old commander from the Kurdish YPG militia who is directing the assault on the Old City front in Islamic State’s Syrian stronghold.

Units of the Syrian Democratic Forces, an alliance dominated by the YPG, fully linked up in Raqqa’s southern districts on Tuesday, encircling the militants in the city center which includes the Old City.

“The day before yesterday there was still a small gap,” Gabar said on Wednesday. “Yesterday it was closed. We are now pressing towards Mansour and Rashid districts.”

If you wonder why those northern battle lines seem static, it’s evidently because they’re heavily mined.

Gabar said that despite resistance, several hundred militants had surrendered themselves, and estimates not more than 1,000 are left. He believes their morale “is zero”.

“Maybe 600 Daesh have surrendered. It’s mostly foreign fighters left in the city now. Those with families tend to be the ones to hand themselves over.”

Gabar said that Chechen snipers were especially deadly.

Supposedly even the Russians are helping out:

After a sweeping Syrian military advance to the edge of the besieged Isis “capital” of Raqqa, the Russians, the Syrian army and Kurds of the YPG militia – theoretically allied to the US – have set up a secret “coordination” centre in the desert of eastern Syria to prevent “mistakes” between the Russian-backed and American-supported forces now facing each other across the Euphrates river.

That piece is by Robert Fisk, who says he thinks the Syrian army will be heading toward Deir ez-Zor, where Syrian army units have been besieged by the Islamic State since 2014. But keep in mind this is the man for whom the word “Fisking” was coined, so add as many grains of salt as you see fit…

The State of the War Against the Islamic State

Thursday, July 13th, 2017

The coalition of forces fighting the Islamic State continue to make steady advances on a number of fronts:

  • Mosul is liberated, though mop-up operations against tiny pockets of resistance continues. They just pulled 28 mostly foreign born militants out of tunnels. That sort of thing can continue for a while. The Washington Post has a nice overview of the campaign to retake Mosul.
  • Islamic State forces are completely surrounded in Raqqa, as coalition aircraft pound militant positions in the capital of the crumbling caliphate and the Syrian Democratic Forces continue to grind them down in street-to-street urban warfare. Here’s the livemap snapshot:

  • There are consistent but unconfirmed reports from a number of sources that Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is dead. As in past cases of jihadis reported dead long before they actually reached room temperature, a large dollop of caution is in order. Though this quote from a coalition spokesman (relayed via Stephen Green at Instapundit) is pretty glorious: “We strongly advise ISIS to implement a strong line of succession, it will be needed.”
  • Given the investment of Raqqa, there are conflicting reports as to where the Islamic State’s defacto capital is now: Some say Deir ez-Zor, others say Al Mayadin, AKA Mayadeen, which is all of 44km southeast of Deir ez-Zor, both in Syria on the Euphrates near what used to be the Iraqi border.

  • How President Trump’s strategy against the Islamic State differs from Obama’s:

    Under President Obama, U.S. Army Special Forces assigned to Syrian Democratic Forces needed special approval from Washington for virtually all tactical moves amid the politically complex theater of Americans, Arabs, Kurds, Turks and Syrians.

    In Tabqa, where the city, its dam and its airfield were the objectives, the Green Berets decided they needed an airlift. Suddenly minus red tape, Arabs, Kurds and Americans were helicoptering into battle, and they quickly seized territory.

    Under Mr. Obama, Islamic State terrorists could at times retreat from towns, immune from airstrikes if they used civilians as cover. The battle for Manbij in August became infamous when the SDF let 200 Islamic State fighters turn in their weapons and escape because they had threatened to kill town residents if they were not allowed to run away.

    The new Trump strategy calls for surrounding towns, as opposed to pushing from one end or one side to another, in order to isolate Islamic State fighters and annihilate them.

    Brett H. McGurk, special U.S. envoy to the coalition against the Islamic State who performed the same role for Mr. Obama, talked of “the delegations of authority which has made a difference in terms of the speed of execution. I think Tabqa was an example of that.”

    “Our military people on the ground saw an opportunity to kind of surprise ISIS with a helicopter, moving them by helicopter, surprise them from behind and seize the airport, the dam and the town,” Mr. McGurk later told reporters at the Pentagon.

    After Tabqa’s liberation, Mr. McGurk spoke to the city’s mayor, who gave a brief description of the war of annihilation.

    “He also said he believes that most of these foreign fighters are now dead,” the diplomat said.

    Mr. Mattis said: “No longer will we have slowed decision cycles because Washington, D.C., has to authorize tactical movements. I’ll leave that to the generals who know how to do those kind of things. We don’t direct that from here. They know our intent is the foreign fighters do not get out. I leave it to their skill, their cunning, to carry that out.”

  • Some videos:

    House-by-house clearing in Raqqa:

    The ruins of the Al Nuri Mosque in Mosul, from which al-Baghdadi declared his short-lived caliphate:

  • The Islamic State is by no means destroyed, but they’re definitely on the ropes. The defeat of the Islamic State won’t end transnational Islamic fundamentalism, but it will certainly take the wind out of their sails.

    Not included in this roundup: Groups outside Islamic State territory that pledged allegiance to the Islamic State. I hope to have a separate roundup on them Real Soon Now.

    Note: Post updated to remove embedded video on improvised weapons of the Battle for Mosul, as it’s been taken down for “violating YouTube’s Terms of Service,” possibly because it included Islamic State propaganda videos of weapon-making among the footage.

    LinkSwarm for July 7, 2017

    Friday, July 7th, 2017

    It’s Friday on CNN Self-Immolation Week! And yes, there are a few CNN items at the top of this week’s LinkSwarm:

  • 4Chan declares the Great Meme War of 2017. (Hat tip: Stephen Green at Instapundit.)
  • Trump just schlonged the media again.

    Just before a holiday, Trump does something that amuses the rest of us but shocks the media into doing nothing but talk about it over and over again while he enjoys his time off.

    Hmm.

    When had he done that before?

    Oh yes, just before Christmas 2015, Trump said Obama schlonged Hillary.

    (Hat tip: The Other McCain.)

  • How CNN abandoned its written standards to go after “HanAssholeSolo.”
  • Why the media has broken down in the age of Trump:

    There was a time not so long ago when journalists were trusted and admired. We were generally seen as trying to report the news in a fair and straightforward manner. Today, all that has changed. For that, we can blame the 2016 election or, more accurately, how some news organizations chose to cover it. Among the many firsts, last year’s election gave us the gobsmacking revelation that most of the mainstream media puts both thumbs on the scale — that most of what you read, watch and listen to is distorted by intentional bias and hostility. I have never seen anything like it. Not even close.

    Snip.

    The behavior of much of the media, but especially the New York Times, was a disgrace. I don’t believe it ever will recover the public trust it squandered.

    Snip.

    Here is a true story about how Abe Rosenthal resolved a conflict of interest. A young woman was hired by the Times from one of the Philadelphia newspapers. But soon after she arrived in New York, a story broke in Philly that she had had a romantic affair with a political figure she had covered, and that she had accepted a fur coat and other expensive gifts from him. When he saw the story, Abe called the woman into his office and asked her if it was true. When she said yes, he told her to clean out her desk — that she was finished at the Times and would never work there again. As word spread through the newsroom, some reporters took the woman’s side and rushed in to tell Abe that firing her was too harsh. He listened for about 30 seconds and said, in so many words, “I don’t care if you f–k an elephant on your personal time, but then you can’t cover the circus for the paper.”

    (Hat tip: Ace of Spades HQ.)

  • The Democratic House IT Scandal deepens:

    A Pakistani family under criminal investigation by the U.S. Capitol Police for abusing their access to the House of Representatives information technology (IT) system may have engaged in myriad other questionable schemes besides allegedly placing “ghost employees” on the congressional payroll.

    Imran Awan, his wife Hina, and brothers Abid and Jamal collectively netted more than $4 million in salary as IT administrators for House Democrats between 2009 and 2017. Yet the absence of signs of wealth displayed among them raise questions such as was the money sent overseas or did something other than paychecks motivate their actions?

    Snip.

    Official documents, court records and multiple interviews suggest the crew may have engaged in tax fraud, extortion, bankruptcy fraud and insurance fraud and the money could have been funneled overseas. Abid has hired high-profile attorney James Bacon who specializes in anti-money laundering litigation.

    The Awans share modest homes, drive unremarkable cars and report little in the way of assets on congressional disclosures. The family owns significant amounts of Virginia rental properties, which are heavily financed, with second mortgages sometimes taken out. It’s unclear where the rental income goes because the Awans insist tenants pay in odd ways.

    The Daily Caller News foundation interviewed multiple current and former tenants who said Imran insisted rent be paid in untraceable ways. Many of those TheDCNF interviewed about the Awans asked not to be identified for fear of suffering retaliation by the family, particularly renters to whose homes Imran has keys.

    “He only wants cash — for the security deposit, everything. The mortgage is probably $600, we pay $1,800 a month,” one said.

    “I would write the rent to all sorts of different people,” another claimed. While still another tenant said the family insisted on blank money orders.

    Those interviewed also were puzzled that Congress kept the Awans on the payroll full-time when the family spent months of the year in Pakistan.

    The four Awans were each making approximately $160,000 a year on Capitol Hill. Other House IT workers told TheDCNF that the Awans appeared to hold no-show jobs, with bare-bones services provided, and it appeared one person was doing the work for the rest of them.

    Cristal Perpignan, a former Awan renter, said Imran instructed her to pay the rent to Imran’s friend, Rao Abbas, who lived in the basement of the home she occupied and was also on the House payroll as an IT worker. But Perpignan said Abbas spent his days at home.

    Imran’s wife purchased the home in 2008 for $470,000. A second mortgage was taken out in 2012, and — at least on paper — it was sold to Imran’s 22-year old brother Jamal in November 2016 for $620,000 — $43,000 more than its assessed value.

  • “Phoenix dropped their sanctuary city status and started enforcing the law…and crime rates went down.”
  • “Migrant smugglers in Honduras say their business has dried up since [President] Trump took office.” Also this: “Give Trump critics credit: They predicted he would destroy jobs, and they were right; he appears to have destroyed a considerable number of positions in the previously vibrant and lucrative illicit people-smuggling industry.”
  • How liberals gave up on telling the truth about immigration:

    In 2005, a left-leaning blogger wrote, “Illegal immigration wreaks havoc economically, socially, and culturally; makes a mockery of the rule of law; and is disgraceful just on basic fairness grounds alone.” In 2006, a liberal columnist wrote that “immigration reduces the wages of domestic workers who compete with immigrants” and that “the fiscal burden of low-wage immigrants is also pretty clear.” His conclusion: “We’ll need to reduce the inflow of low-skill immigrants.” That same year, a Democratic senator wrote, “When I see Mexican flags waved at proimmigration demonstrations, I sometimes feel a flush of patriotic resentment. When I’m forced to use a translator to communicate with the guy fixing my car, I feel a certain frustration.”

    The blogger was Glenn Greenwald. The columnist was Paul Krugman. The senator was Barack Obama.

    Prominent liberals didn’t oppose immigration a decade ago. Most acknowledged its benefits to America’s economy and culture. They supported a path to citizenship for the undocumented. Still, they routinely asserted that low-skilled immigrants depressed the wages of low-skilled American workers and strained America’s welfare state.

    Snip.

    Between 2008 and 2016, Democrats became more and more confident that the country’s growing Latino population gave the party an electoral edge. To win the presidency, Democrats convinced themselves, they didn’t need to reassure white people skeptical of immigration so long as they turned out their Latino base. “The fastest-growing sector of the American electorate stampeded toward the Democrats this November,” Salon declared after Obama’s 2008 win. “If that pattern continues, the GOP is doomed to 40 years of wandering in a desert.”

    As the Democrats grew more reliant on Latino votes, they were more influenced by pro-immigrant activism. While Obama was running for reelection, immigrants’-rights advocates launched protests against the administration’s deportation practices; these protests culminated, in June 2012, in a sit-in at an Obama campaign office in Denver. Ten days later, the administration announced that it would defer the deportation of undocumented immigrants who had arrived in the U.S. before the age of 16 and met various other criteria.

  • More on the ObamaCare expansion/opiate overdose link.
  • South African is contemplating seizing the land of white farmers without compensation. Because Zimbabwe is such a sterling model of economic success to emulate…
  • The battle for Raqqa continues, with U.S. supported forces having breached the Old City’s wall.
  • Russia hits the Islamic State with cruise missiles. Good. (Hat tip: Stephen Green.)
  • The text of President Trump’s address to Poland:

    Through four decades of communist rule, Poland and the other captive nations of Europe endured a brutal campaign to demolish freedom, your faith, your laws, your history, your identity — indeed the very essence of your culture and your humanity. Yet, through it all, you never lost that spirit. (Applause.) Your oppressors tried to break you, but Poland could not be broken. (Applause.)

    And when the day came on June 2nd, 1979, and one million Poles gathered around Victory Square for their very first mass with their Polish Pope, that day, every communist in Warsaw must have known that their oppressive system would soon come crashing down. (Applause.) They must have known it at the exact moment during Pope John Paul II’s sermon when a million Polish men, women, and children suddenly raised their voices in a single prayer. A million Polish people did not ask for wealth. They did not ask for privilege. Instead, one million Poles sang three simple words: “We Want God.” (Applause.)

    In those words, the Polish people recalled the promise of a better future. They found new courage to face down their oppressors, and they found the words to declare that Poland would be Poland once again.

  • Speaking of Poland, they just agreed to buy Patriot missiles.
  • Austria deploys troops to Italy’s border to keep Muslim “refugees” out.
  • Czech Republic to enshrine right to bear arms in their constitution. Gee, why on earth would a nation situated between Germany and Russia need its citizens to own guns?
  • “Yeah, Abdul, we’re going to need to tweak your resume for this position. Instead of ‘Beheading Infidels,’ let’s put ‘Contractor.'”
  • Vladimir Putin and President Trump meet at the G20 summit.
  • Speaking of the G20 Summit, mostly peaceful protestors there commit the mostly peaceful arson for which they’ve become so well-known. (Hat tip: Ann Althouse.)
  • German intelligence admits that hundreds of jihadis were among those Islamic “refugees.” Thanks again, Angela…
  • Study finds what conservatives have been saying for years: temperature readings have been systematically changed to support the global warming narrative:

    The conclusive findings of this research are that the three GAST data sets are not a valid representation of reality. In fact, the magnitude of their historical data adjustments,that removed their cyclical temperature patterns, are totally inconsistent with published and credible U.S. and other temperature data. Thus, it is impossible to conclude from the three published GAST data sets that recent years have been the warmest ever – despite current claims of record setting warming.

  • “Democratic lawmakers voted 71-42 to override Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner’s veto of a $5 billion tax hike on Thursday.” Can’t possibly imagine how Illinois’ Democrats plan to tax and spend their way out of a financial hole could possibly backfire… (Hat tip: Director Blue.)
  • “From its founding in 1919 in the wake of the Russian Revolution until the demise of the Soviet Union in 1991, the Communist Party of the United States of America was an instrument of Soviet foreign policy.” Not that anyone should be unclear on the topic after all these years, but I’m sure the piece was a shock to at least some of the New York Times dwindling readership…
  • British woman convicted of making flase rape claims against 15 different men. One look at the convicted should tell that claims of multiple rapes are highly implausible. (Hat tip: Instaundit.)
  • Democrat Beto O’Rourke has raised over $1 million for his Senate race against Ted Cruz.
  • The ratings for some network TV shows are so bad that the networks are mispelling them to game ratings. (Hat tip: Director Blue.)
  • Common sense tips to keep your home from being broken into.
  • Scenes from Central America’s vibrant pre-Colombian diversity: Archeologists find an Aztec temple tower of skulls. (Hat tip: Dwight.)
  • AFSCME vs. 10 goats. (Hat tip: Mickey Kaus.)
  • Long, long, long article about video game maker Konami, where they actually get their money (fitness clubs and gambling machines), and how they came to treat their employees so poorly.
  • Tiny house regret.
  • And a few more CNN tweets:

  • LinkSwarm for June 30, 2017

    Friday, June 30th, 2017

    The year is half over! Donald Trump has been the 45th President of the United States of America for over five months, and liberals still haven’t stopped freaking out about it.

  • It’s Obamacare that’s killing people, and just two classes of states are showing any immunity. Deaths from opiate overdoses are on the rise across the country, except in states that either legalized marijuana or declined Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion.”
  • President Trump this morning: Repeal ObamaCare now, replace it later. Which is pretty much what Republicans have been campaigning on for the last six years
  • Ted Cruz may kill the ObamaCare mandate.
  • Lying with numbers: CBO estimates 18 million people will be covered by ObamaCare in 2017. Actual number enrolled at the end of 2016: 9.1 million. (Hat tip: Director Blue.)
  • “Maxine Waters Says 700 Billion People Are About to Lose Their Healthcare.”
  • “Anthem Inc.’s decision to quit offering Obamacare plans in much of Nevada will leave large parts of the state without options on the health law’s exchanges.” (Hat tip: Director Blue.)
  • The House Democrats IT scandal just keeps getting weirder:

    Multiple members of Congress hired as their information technology (IT) administrator an individual whose most recent job experience was being fired from McDonald’s, The Daily Caller News Foundation’s Investigative Group has learned.

    Spokesmen for the members won’t say what their bosses knew at the time, but the hiring decisions highlight the role — witting or unwitting — the representatives played in what turned out to be an alleged multi-million-dollar IT scam in Congress with serious implications for national security.

    Soon after Imran Awan joined the staff of Florida Democratic Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz in 2005, his brothers Abid and Jamal, his wife Hina, and his brother’s wife Natalia all appeared on other members’ payrolls, supposedly as IT administrators. His best friend Rao Abbas landed on the payroll too. Most of them made salaries ordinarily only chiefs of staff earn, but they were rarely seen or heard from in Hill IT circles.

    The crew is now the target of a U.S. Capitol Police criminal information security probe with assistance from other law enforcement agencies as needed. Politico reported the “House staffers are accused of stealing equipment from members’ offices without their knowledge and committing serious, potentially illegal, violations on the House IT network.”

    By my count, the unqualified members of Imran Awan’s circle (who frequently failed to even show up for work) could read the emails of the 31 different House Democrats…

  • Postscript on the Georgia 6th Congressional District special election: Jon Ossoff actually got fewer votes than the ghost candidate that ran in 2016:

    One good reason why Tom Price beat his last opponent by 23 points was that his last opponent was functionally indistinguishable from a corpse or a bag of lettuce. [Democratic candidate Rodney] Stooksbury spent precisely $0 on his campaign and has never been seen in public. Jon Ossoff had the entire national Democratic Party pulling out the stops for him, and flooded Atlanta television with ten million dollars in advertising. Drastically improving on the Stooksbury numbers should be no dazzling feat. (Although, somewhat hilariously, Stooksbury actually got more total votes than Ossoff, 124,917 to Ossoff’s 124,893. Granted, special elections have lower turnout, but good grief.)

    Ghost workers in the House, ghost candidates on the ballot. Your modern Democratic Party, ladies and gentlemen… (Hat tip: Director Blue.)

  • Speaking of the modern Democratic Party: Members of the all-Democratic City Council in White Plains, New York selected party chairwoman Elizabeth Shollenberger for a plum six-figure judicial seat. Tiny problem: She’s too morbidly obese to perform her duties. If ever there was a metaphor for Democratic-run government…
  • Democrat Seth Williams, former Philadelphia District Attorney, has resigned as part of a bribery plea deal. “In addition to accepting that he could face a maximum five-year term when he is sentenced, Williams agreed to forfeit $64,878.22.” Part of the plea deal was pleading guilty to one count of bribery so he could skate on the other 28…
  • Democrats and the national media sure put the Scalise shooting behind them quickly so they could get back to saying Republicans want to kill you:

    Less than 48 hours after a multiple assassination attempt on members of Congress, there were no media vans or cameras at the Alexandria baseball field where it occurred. Just for perspective, when Republican staffer Elizabeth Lauten committed the offense of writing something critical of President Obama’s daughters on her private Facebook page, news cameras were camped on her parents’ lawn staking her out for the better part of a week.

  • The Islamic State is close to defeat in Mosul and being driven out of Iraq:

    Col. Ryan Dillon, the Baghdad-based spokesman for the U.S.-led coalition battling Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, said that Iraqi forces on Thursday cut a wedge in the middle of the area held by Islamic State, seizing the Nouri mosque and cornering the few hundred remaining fighters in half of Mosul’s Old City on one side, and an area around a hospital that has been a stronghold for the group on the other side.

    Col. Dillon predicted that the fighting would be over in a matter of days and that it would then take time to fully clear the areas the Islamic State holdouts.

    (Hat tip: Stephen Green at Instapundit.)

  • Also, all Islamic State escape routes from Raqqa are now blocked off. (Hat tip: Prairie Pundit.)
  • “Since Donald Trump was elected I have seen a spate of local news stories about companies building, expanding, or investing in manufacturing plants within a 50 mile radius of Chattanooga.”
  • Based on the evidence, everything the experts know seems to be wrong, at least if those “experts” are in the news media.
  • Third Project Veritas CNN video drops. Jimmy Carr, Associate Producer for CNN’s New Day, calls American voters “stupid as shit.”
  • Have those CNN videos finally gotten the MSM to give up on their Russia fantasy?
  • House passes two border control bills. “One is known as Kate’s Law that increases penalties for illegal immigrants who keep trying to re-enter the United States, especially those who have criminal records. The second denies federal grants to sanctuary cities.”
  • Three gay Jews asked leave the “2017 Dyke March Chicago” because their Jewish pride flag bore the Star of David. “If the Star of David makes you feel unsafe, there’s a word for that …”
  • More on the same theme:

    Intersectionality functions as kind of caste system, in which people are judged according to how much their particular caste has suffered throughout history. Victimhood, in the intersectional way of seeing the world, is akin to sainthood; power and privilege are profane.

    By that hierarchy, you might imagine that the Jewish people — enduring yet another wave of anti-Semitism here and abroad — should be registered as victims. Not quite.

    Why? Largely because of Israel, the Jewish state, which today’s progressives see only as a vehicle for oppression of the Palestinians — no matter that Israel has repeatedly sought to meet Palestinian claims with peaceful compromise, and no matter that progressives hold no other country to the same standard. China may brutalize Buddhists in Tibet and Muslims in Xinjiang, while denying basic rights to the rest of its 1.3 billion citizens, but “woke” activists pushing intersectionality keep mum on all that.

    One of the women who was asked to leave the Dyke March, an Iranian Jew named Eleanor Shoshany-Anderson, couldn’t understand why she was kicked out of an event that billed itself as intersectional. “The Dyke March is supposed to be intersectional,” she said. “I don’t know why my identity is excluded from that. I felt that, as a Jew, I am not welcome here.”

    She isn’t. Because though intersectionality cloaks itself in the garb of humanism, it takes a Manichaean view of life in which there can only be oppressors and oppressed. To be a Jewish dyke, let alone one who deigns to support Israel, is a categorical impossibility, oppressor and oppressed in the same person.

  • Progressive urban policies make life harder for the working class. (Hat tip: Borepatch.)
  • President Trump nominates former Texas Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison as the next NATO ambassador. Not my favorite Texas Republican Senator by a long shot, but I fail to see how she would be unqualified for this role.
  • 100-year-old crime boss beats the odds, is released from prison.”
  • Lawyer who committed $600 million in Social Security fraud has evidently skipped the country, claims to be broke. Sure, sport…
  • Label drops Austin band Dream Machine for WrongThink. Including a legal immigrant who was critical of illegal aliens:

    Doris Melton, who came to the United States from Bosnia told the website she was “glad they’re finally starting to work on deporting criminal illegal aliens too. It took ages for me to get my green card here legally and because there’s so many illegals coming in they make it hard for the people who do want to become part of American society the right way. They’re handing out free money to people who come here illegally, but when you want to work hard to become an American citizen to start a family they make it so hard on you, and expensive!”

    Later in the interview, Doris Melton was asked to name something that bothers her about the music industry. She responded by saying “girls have mostly become lazy jellyfish and are starting these horrible feminist bands just to try and ‘show men what they got’.”

    She went on to say, “The safe space mentality has made them weak. They don’t even know how to play their instruments! They’ll make songs about being ‘sexually assaulted’ or about how ’empowering’ abortions are or some (expletive) and it’s (expletive) retarded, they’re embarrassing themselves. If men did that they would be crucified! You see the longing for a gender supremacy under the guise of ‘equal rights.’ What happened to the incredible female singers from back in the day with real talent, singing about finding true love and wanting to be a good woman?”

    (Hat tip: Dwight.)

  • Sarah Palin sues the New York Times for defamation over their claim that she “incited Jared Loughner” to murder people.
  • New York Times staffers rebel against cutbacks. Hey, when you alienate half of your potential audience, a Mexican billionaire’s largess only goes so far…
  • “Wrestling’s new villain named himself ‘Progressive Liberal.'” (Hat tip: Director Blue.)
  • I have no idea how this happened:

    I don’t recall getting into a Twitter tiff with John Cusack, and I’ve liked most of the Cusack films I’ve seen (Being John Malkovich, Grosse Pointe Blank, High Fidelity). I even had mostly kind things to say about him in 1408. I assume he must be using one of those autoblockbot things to avoid running into #WrongThink…

  • You know you suck when Phil Donahue tells you to stop being such a pussy.
  • Methhead with nine prior felony convictions given life for evidence tampering. Previous convictions include manslaughter of an Arizona State Trooper and engaging in a “deviant sex act involving a squash.” And then there’s the creepy stuff…
  • “A BBC investigation found fecal bacteria in iced drinks from Starbucks and 2 other chains.” Is this a Starbucks problem, or a UK water quality problem? (Hat tip: Todd Kincannon’s Gab feed.)
  • Video from the Battle for Raqqa

    Sunday, June 25th, 2017

    The battle for the Islamic State capital of Raqqa continues. The Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces continue to advance, but recently met a fierce counterattack featuring drones, snipers, car bombs and minefields.

    Here are some videos on the fighting, all from foreign sources, since the American MSM evidently cant be arsed to spare anyone from their Russian Conspiracy Story divisions to cover an actual war American-backed forces are fighting.

    Reportedly the Syrian Democratic Forces are just a few hundred meters from the old city, where the Islamic State has dug in for a final battle, and has a network of tunnels to move throughout the city.

    This is a longer video from about a week ago that also includes an interview with a French Middle East expert on the situation.