Posts Tagged ‘Raqqa’

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.

    LinkSwarm for June 16, 2017

    Friday, June 16th, 2017

    Briefer than normal due to a packed schedule today:

  • Coalition forces continue to advance in the Islamic State capital of Raqqa.
  • Speaking of Raqqa, Russia is saying one of its airstrikes there may have killed Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. Great news if true, but right now the report should be taken with several grains of salt.
  • Illinois bonds headed toward junk status.
  • “Mueller Hires Clinton Foundation Lawyer for Russia Probe.” Transparent this is not… (Hat tip: Director Blue.)
  • “The Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) reported that in the last six years around 220,000 criminal aliens have been booked in Texas jails. DHS confirmed to DPS that at least 148,000 or 66% of those criminal aliens had entered the U.S. illegally.”
  • “Qatar’s financial system is running out of dollars.”
  • ObamaCare is failing. “Not one Republican voted for Obamacare. A Democratic Congress passed and a Democratic president signed the legislation over the loud objections of the GOP. Conservative activists and legal groups fought tooth and nail to prevent its roll-out, and when that failed, they repeatedly warned it was doomed to failure.” (Hat tip: Director Blue.)
  • And some ObamaCare premiums have increased by more than 100% in the last four years.
  • More of those peaceful Democrats: “FBI Investigates Package With ‘White Powdery Substance’ Sent to GOP Candidate in GA-6.”
  • This piece on the current state of the Democratic Party comes with caveats, namely: a.) Rolling Stone, b.) Obviously hostile to Republicans, Trump, etc., and c.) Lots of “Ra-ra isn’t Tom Perez great” flacking. But look beyond that and there’s a cold-eyed assessment of just how badly off Obama left the Democratic Party:

    The Democratic Party is in the worst shape of its modern history. The presidency of Barack Obama papered over the fact that the party was being hollowed out from below. Over Obama’s two terms, Democrats ceded 13 governorships to the GOP and stumbled from controlling six in 10 state legislatures to now barely one in three. Across federal and state government, Democrats have lost close to 1,000 seats. There are only six states where Democrats control both the legislature and the governor’s mansion.

    More troubling: Even amid the great upwelling of anti-Trump resistance, Democratic favorability ratings have continued to tumble since Election Day – to just 40 percent in a May Gallup poll. “Our negatives are almost as high as Trump’s, as far as party goes,” says Rep. Tim Ryan, a rugged Ohio Democrat serving Youngstown. Ryan led an unsuccessful 63-vote insurgency against House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi in November because, he says, “We weren’t winning.”

    There is no official accounting for this erosion of power and popularity. Unlike the GOP in the aftermath of Mitt Romney’s 2012 defeat, Democrats have not published post-mortems. But get party insiders talking – with anonymity exchanged for candor – and there’s little debate about how the party went sideways.

    Responsibility rests foremost at the feet of former President Barack Obama. As a candidate, Obama sidestepped the party’s next-in-line culture, riding into the White House on the strength of a then-revolutionary digital-and-grassroots machinery of his own creation. “Obama was almost like the anti-Democrat,” a former DNC chair tells Rolling Stone. “The president didn’t care about the Democratic Party.”

    Once in office, Obama had the weight of the world to bear. He staved off financial collapse and secured health insurance for an estimated 20 million Americans, leveraging the party’s infrastructure for these fights. “When you’re at the head of the DNC and you have the White House,” says Sen. Tim Kaine, who chaired the party from 2009 to 2011, “a lot of the job is about promoting the president’s agenda.” But Obama and his team neglected a far less heroic duty: the care and feeding of the national party, which Democrats had rebuilt during the Bush years with a “50-state strategy” that had empowered Obama with dominant Democratic majorities in Congress.

    The GOP took full advantage of the president’s disregard for party politics. The Tea Party vaulted Republicans to control of the U.S. House and statehouses across the country in 2010 – putting the party in the driver’s seat for the once-a-decade redrawing of legislative boundaries known as redistricting. The White House mounted no resistance. “The Obama team, David Axelrod, had no organized structural redistricting [game plan],” says a longtime Democratic strategist. “The Republicans just ran up the fucking score everywhere. They got two or three extra congressional seats in state after state after state, creating lasting struggles to get back to a majority.” Case in point: Democratic House candidates netted 1.3 million more votes than Republicans in 2012, but secured 33 fewer seats.

    The 50-state strategy devolved under Obama into a presidential-battleground strategy, leaving state parties starved for cash and leadership. “Obama didn’t put resources into local parties unless it was for his re-election effort,” says the former party chair. Making matters worse: Obama tapped ambitious Florida Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz – a favorite of White House senior adviser Valerie Jarrett – to run the DNC in 2011. “That congresswoman had no idea what she was doing,” adds the former chair.

    Wasserman Schultz went rogue. In a rift with the White House that spilled into a story on Politico, she was criticized for using the DNC as a vehicle for self-promotion, hoping the office would serve as a springboard into House leadership. The White House made overtures to oust Wasserman Schultz, but she dug in, promising an ugly fight that could tar the president as both anti-woman and anti-Semitic. (Wasserman Schultz, who was forced to resign in the aftermath of the Russian hack of the DNC, declined to participate in this story.)

    Obama dodged that fight, and instead fostered Organizing for Action, the grassroots group born of his campaigns. “They had a mirror organization that did just their politics, and it weakened the DNC,” says a source in House leadership. “It directed money elsewhere and was not in the interest of the long-term stability [of the party]. It was a selfish strategy.”

    The hobbled DNC’s chief remaining value was as a fundraising vehicle. For Obama, it “was like his ATM – and Clinton was the same,” says the former chair. Clinton pioneered a strategy that allowed her largest donors to give $10,000 to each of 32 state parties participating in her Victory Fund. But that money didn’t stay in the states. Instead, nearly every penny was hoovered up to the DNC for the benefit of Clinton’s election.

    Clinton today says she found the DNC to be a liability. In an onstage interview at a Recode tech conference in May, Clinton recalled, “I get the nomination. . . . I inherit nothing from the Democratic Party. It was bankrupt. . . . I had to inject money into it – the DNC – to keep it going.” Clinton then raised eyebrows by indicting the DNC’s data, which the party had inherited from the Obama re-election campaign. “Its data was mediocre to poor, nonexistent, wrong,” Clinton said. (The DNC’s former data chief hit back, tweeting that Clinton’s broadside was “fucking bullshit,” but declined to be interviewed.)

    Under Obama, the party infrastructure was honed to elect a president. And being a presidential party is a powerful thing – until you lose the White House. The Clinton campaign lost significantly on its own merits, though the party is loath to admit it. The same candidate who was caught flat-footed by the rise of Obama in 2008 found herself stunned by the grassroots surge behind Sen. Bernie Sanders. “And she was really surprised by how strong Trump was – and part of it was she just sucked,” says the Democratic strategist, who criticizes Clinton despite being entrenched in her center-left, pro-trade wing of the party. “At a really fundamental level we gotta get people to acknowledge what a fucking piece of shit her campaign was.”

    (Hat tip: Director Blue.)

  • CNN’s Jim Acosta flat out lies about President Trump’s visit to wounded Representative Steve Scalise’s hospital room. (Hat tip: Stephen Green at Instapundit.)
  • More lying from CNN:

  • New York Times editorial about Rep. Scalise’s shooting is not just a lie, it’s actually libelous.
  • New bill aims to eliminate “structuring” civil asset forfeiture abuse. (Hat tip: Director Blue.)
  • A profile of radical Islamist and left-wing media darling Linda Sarsour. “Her rise, and the celebration of her by progressives as one of their own, demonstrates how clearly and phenomenally Jews and Jewish concerns are being written out of the progressive movement.”
  • “DOJ Moves To Seize DiCaprio’s Picasso, Rights To ‘Dumb and Dumber To’ As Part Of 1MDB Case.” Or “Hollywood accounting meets a Malaysian dictator, and hilarity ensues!”
  • MLA votes against Israel boycott.
  • How Indians scam their way to Australian citizenship, and how a crackdown on the practice may crash Sydney and Melbourne property values. (Hat tip: The Other McCain.)
  • President Trump orders the federal government to stop working on the Y2K bug.
  • “Is this some kind of bust?” (Hat tip: Dwight, who also came up with the Police Squad! reference.)
  • “My Trip to a Marijuana Dispensary, the Happiest Place in Boulder.” (Hat tip: Stephen Green at Instapundit.)
  • All the people Billy Martin brawled with.
  • U.S. Backed Forces Enter Islamic State Capital of Raqqa

    Saturday, June 10th, 2017

    While the media was presenting wall-to-wall coverage of the Comey hearing, something a lit more momentous was happening in Syria: U.S.-backed forces entered the Islamic State capital of Raqqa:

    At Raqqa’s eastern edge, a handful of Syrian fighters cross a river by foot and car, all the while relaying their coordinates to the U.S.-led coalition so they don’t fall victim to friendly fire.

    This is their only way into al-Mishlab, the first district the Kurdish and Arab militias have swept into, in what the coalition says will be a long and difficult battle for Raqqa, Islamic State’s de facto “capital” in Syria.

    The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) launched their assault to capture the city this week.

    As artillery and coalition aircraft pounded targets in the city, SDF fighters moved in small groups into the district during a media trip organized by the SDF.

    “The comrades are advancing and Daesh forces are collapsing in front of us, but there are snipers obstructing our movements, and they are also shelling our positions with mortars,” said an SDF fighter who gave his name as Khalil.

    For months, air strikes and special forces from the U.S.-led coalition have helped them encircle Raqqa, which Islamic State seized in 2014 and has used as a base to plan attacks abroad.

    In a statement sent to Reuters, coalition spokesman Colonel Joseph Scrocca said the militants’ resistance had been “minimal” outside the city and that they were retreating “to protect their fortifications inside the city”.

    More from The Guardian:

    Kurdish and Arab forces backed by the US have entered Islamic State’s de facto capital of Raqqa, setting the stage for what could be a months-long campaign to reclaim the militants’ largest stronghold in Syria.

    The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a coalition of Kurdish and Arab fighters, breached the outer city limits of Raqqa, seizing a 1,000-year-old fortress in the west and a neighbourhood on the eastern side of the city, two days after announcing the start of the offensive.

    “Raqqa to them is the capital of the caliphate, and they [Isis] have fortified it to a great extent,” Nouri Mahmoud, a spokesman for the People’s Protection Units (YPG), the Kurdish militia taking part in the assault, told the Guardian.

    The operation – codenamed Operation Wrath of Euphrates – to reclaim Raqqa is led by the SDF, whose largest component is the YPG, and is backed by US air power. If successful, it would deprive Isis of its second largest city, with a simultaneous campaign to take back Mosul in Iraq also under way.

    ISIS Livemap had this snapshot of the battle:

    Here’s an AFP video showing some of the fighting and devastation on the road to Raqqa:

    And here’s video from Kurdistan 24:

    It used to be that entering an enemy’s capital city was a big deal in the media, but information in U.S. outlets seems fairly scanty…

    LinkSwarm for March 10, 2017

    Friday, March 10th, 2017

    Welcome to Friday! (And welcome Instapundit readers coming in off Stephen Green’s link to yesterday’s border security roundup.)

    First up: Liberalism’s continued idée fixe on the “Russians hacked the election” fantasy.

  • If Trump had actually been in the pay of the Russians, Wayne Barrett, who worked the Trump beat for the Village Voice for 40 years, would have known about it. “Wayne Barrett had this file for 40 years, and if neither he nor the reporters he trained got this story, it’s not a story.”
  • Even some liberals are now seeing the Russian fantasy as a dangerous distraction that helps Trump.
  • Lefty Glenn Greenwald agrees:

    This obsession with Russia conspiracy tales is poisoning all aspects of U.S. political discourse and weakening any chance for resisting Trump’s actual abuses and excesses. Those who wake up every day to hype the latest episode of this Russia/Trump spy drama tell themselves that they’re bravely undermining and subverting Trump, but they’re doing exactly the opposite.

    This crazed conspiracy mongering is further discrediting U.S. media outlets, making Washington seem even more distant from and irrelevant to the lives of millions of Americans, degrading discourse to the lowliest Trumpian circus level on which he thrives, and is misdirecting huge portions of opposition energy and thought into an exciting but fictitious spy novel – all of which directly redounds to Trump’s benefit.

    Snip.

    Above all else, it’s because it’s an offensive assault on reason. This kind of deranged discourse is an attack on basic journalistic integrity, on any minimal obligation to ensure that one’s claims are based in evidence rather than desire, fantasy, and herd-enforced delusions. And it’s emanating from the most established and mainstream precincts of U.S. political and media elites, who have processed the severe disorientation and loss of position they feel from Trump’s shock election not by doing the work to patiently formulate cogent, effective strategies against him, but rather by desperately latching onto online “dot-connecting” charlatans and spewing the most unhinged Birther-level conspiracies that require a complete abandonment of basic principles of rationality and skepticism.

  • The timidness of the House GOP ObamaCare repeal plan shows that liberalism has already won.
  • Liberals threaten to primary Democratic senators who vote for cloture on Neil Gorsuch. I’m sure there’s no way that supergenius plan could possibly backfire on them…
  • Speaking of Gorsuch, “the American Bar Association’s Standing Committee on the Federal Judiciary voted unanimously to rate Neil Gorsuch as “well qualified” to serve on the Supreme Court of the United States,” the highest rating possible. (Hat tip: Stephen Green at Instapundit.)
  • Nate Silver at 538: “There Really Was A Liberal Media Bubble.” Silver comes to many of the same conclusions about MSM blinders that conservatives have been making for years. A few samples:
    • “Much of The New York Times’s coverage, for instance, implied that Clinton’s odds were close to 100 percent.”
    • “In a country where educational attainment is an increasingly important predictor of cultural and political behavior, some 92 percent of journalists have college degrees. A degree didn’t used to be a de facto prerequisite7 for a reporting job; just 70 percent of journalists had college degrees in 1982 and only 58 percent did in 1971.”
    • “The political diversity of journalists is not very strong, either. As of 2013, only 7 percent of them identified as Republicans.”
    • “All things considered, then, the conditions of political journalism are poor for crowd wisdom and ripe for groupthink.”
  • The headline is “Battle for Manbij shows Syria’s civil war is almost over – and it looks like Bashar Assad has won.” And that’s part of it. But there’s a lot of information on just how complex the Syrian-Iraqi battlespace is:

    Winners and losers are emerging in what may be the final phase of the Syrian civil war as anti-Isis forces prepare for an attack aimed at capturing Raqqa, the de facto Isis capital in Syria. Kurdish-led Syrian fighters say they have seized part of the road south of Raqqa, cutting Isis off from its other territory further east.

    Isis is confronting an array of enemies approaching Raqqa, but these are divided, with competing agendas and ambitions. The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), whose main fighting force is the Syrian Kurdish Popular Mobilisation Units (YPG), backed by the devastating firepower of the US-led air coalition, are now getting close to Raqqa and are likely to receive additional US support. The US currently has 500 Special Operations troops in north-east Syria and may move in American-operated heavy artillery to reinforce the attack on Raqqa.

    This is bad news for Turkey, whose military foray into northern Syria called Operation Euphrates Shield began last August, as it is being squeezed from all sides. In particular, an elaborate political and military chess game is being played around the town of Manbij, captured by the SDF last year, with the aim of excluding Turkey, which had declared it to be its next target. The Turkish priority in Syria is to contain and if possible reduce or eliminate the power of Syrian Kurds whom Ankara sees as supporting the Kurdish insurrection in Turkey.

  • “The U.S. military is sending an additional 2,500 ground combat troops to a staging base in Kuwait from which they could be called upon to back up coalition forces battling the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.” So instead of following Obama’s strategy of losing slowly and expensively, President Trump’s goal appears to be to crush the Islamic State entirely.
  • “Marine Le Pen: ‘France Isn’t Burkinis on the Beach, France is Brigitte Bardot.'” France is a lot of things, but they could certainly do worse than Brigitte Bardot…

    (Hat tip: Stephen Green at Instapundit.)

  • 40% of households in Philadelphia can’t pay their water bill.” Remind me again which party runs Philadelphia… (Hat tip: Director Blue.)
  • School restages Trump-Clinton debates, but with a woman playing Trump and a man playing Hillary. Result: Hillary loses even more badly than before. “It seems to me that Hillary’s gender actually covered up her flaws, such as inauthenticity, scriptedness, recitations of pablum, and fake-smiling, while, when she was played by a male actor, those flaws were suddenly very visible to the people who think of themselves as ‘gender-woke’ but maybe should just think of themselves as gender partisans.”
  • Orrin Hatch reneges on retirement promise. (Hat tip: Ace of Spades HQ.)
  • Social Justice Syndrome: “Rising Tide of Personality Disorders Among Millennials.”
  • “100 of the 544 Women’s March partners received a total of $246,637,217 from [George] Soros between 2000 and 2014. Soros gave more than $1 million to 36 of those partners, including the Center for Reproductive Rights, MoveOn.org, and the Natural Resources Defense Council.” (Hat tip: The Other McCain.)
  • Washington Examiner writer finds the perfect place to visit on the “Day Without Women”: Hooters. I guess that’s an excuse to break out this classic:

    (Hat tip: Director Blue.)

  • Charles Murray on what it was like to be in the middle of a violent crowd trying to assault him.
  • Lawsuit of man wrongly expelled from Amherst for a “rape” that consisted of him receiving a blowjob while he was passed out can move forward after a judge’s ruling.
  • “Defense contracting firm owners Jeffrey Harrington and Michael Mayer, and employee sisters Kimberlee Hewitt and Natalee Hewitt, pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in California to conspiracy to commit wire fraud and file false claims for using their companies — Veteran Logistics, Inc., Industrial Xchange, Inc., and Boston Laser Technology, Inc. — to sell the government $45 million worth of mostly incorrect and overpriced products.” As far as I can tell, this naval contracting scandal is unrelated to the Fat Leonard naval contracting scandal. Did the Navy just forget to hire auditors?
  • What’s a little rape to Democrats if there are pipelines to be protested?
  • Lynne Stewart, the radical lawyer and convicted felon who represented murderous anti-American scumbags pro bono, has died.
  • Another day, another fake hate crime exposed.
  • CNN’s new frontier in tastelessness: Cannibalism. (Hat tip: Director Blue.)
  • Speaking of CNN: “CNN cuts feed on guest after he cites jihad terror cases involving ‘refugees.'”
  • “Trump Immigration Order Requires Govt Report on ‘Honor Killings‘ by Foreign Nationals.”
  • Don’t believe everything you read about the CIA Vault7 leak. (Hat tip: Borepatch.)
  • Radio Shack to close another 187 stores. In other news, Radio Shack still has stores to close. I also ask your forgiveness in advance when I rerun this joke next year. (Hat tip: Stephen Green at Instapundit.)
  • In prison, mackerel can be exchanged for goods and services.
  • Brings an entire new meaning to the phrase “Got wood?”
  • Japanese man dies after being crushed under six tons of pornography. (Hat tip: Ace of Spades HQ.)
  • Note that I now have a Gab account in addition to my Twitter account.
  • What’s Happening in the War Against The Islamic State?

    Wednesday, December 7th, 2016

    The twists and turns of the election, Hillary’s corruption, liberal derangement over Trump’s triumph, etc. have pushed a lot of other news stories onto the back-burner.

    One of the big ones being: What the hell is happening in the war against the Islamic State?

    It looks like I’m not the only one to have taken my eye off the ball. Back when Bush was President, there was heavy mainstream media reporting on conflicts in the Middle East. But ever since Obama’s Iraq pullout engendered the rise of the Islamic State, American reporting on the conflict has been (at best) sporadic.

    Which is why I was surprised to see reports that Kurdish-led fighters were closing in on the Islamic State’s de-facto capital of Raqqa:

    As the Mosul offensive drags into its second month, another fight is raging 450km to the west around Islamic State’s de facto capital at Raqqa, on the Euphrates River in northern Syria. The battle is already a tragedy for Raqqa’s 320,000 civilians, who’ve suffered under brutal Islamic State occupation for more than three years. Many have fled, with thousands crowding into already overflowing refugee camps since the latest fighting began, and others fleeing across the hills towards the Iraqi border even as night-time temperatures plunge below freezing. Their lives, like those of families still in the city, are about to get even harder.

    The battle for Raqqa will shape the Syrian war throughout the coming year. Though smaller than the vast offensive around Mosul, it will be even more significant. It may decide the fate of Islamic State’s “caliphate” in Syria and will set the tone for the incoming Trump administration’s dealings with Turkey and Russia, two critical relationships that will drive events in the region and beyond.

    During a visit to the Middle East last week, I spoke to Syrian, Kurdish, Iraqi and American leaders involved in the campaign. They told me that while the military offensive is progressing about as well as anyone expected, the politics are proving characteristically complex.

    The troops fighting Islamic State in Raqqa come from the Syrian Democratic Forces, a rebel coalition backed by the US, among other countries. SDF units have received a stream of weapons, training and advisers since last year. Supported by coalition airstrikes, they attacked Raqqa early last month, timing the offensive (known as Operation Euphrates Wrath) to coincide with the Mosul assault, to stop Islamic State shifting reinforcements between fronts.

    The SDF has achieved considerable battlefield success. In the past month it has cleared 600sq km of rural terrain in Raqqa province, recapturing 45 villages and expelling hundreds of Islamic State fighters. Many recovered settlements are ruined, however, their populations massacred or driven off by Islamic State, or bombed out by Bashar al-Assad’s regime in previous fighting.

    The frontline sits just north of Raqqa city, in Ayn Issa district, where heavy combat (including coalition airstrikes called in by observers on the ground) has killed as many as 200 Islamic State fighters in the past two weeks.

    In the same timeframe, SDF spokesmen announced the recapture of the towns of Hazima, al-Taweelah and Tel al-Samman, north and west of Raqqa, bringing the SDF main force within 25km of the city’s outskirts, with reconnaissance teams pushing forward to the edge of town.

    Islamic State resistance is increasing as SDF advances, and most commanders expect a ferocious fight against a determined enemy once they reach the fortified downtown area.

    As the investment of Mosul has been going on for weeks, the battle for Raqqa will probably be at least equally slow and grinding, especially given the difficulties inherent in managing a diverse force of various factions:

    More than 25,000 SDF members — by far the largest faction in a force of about 30,000 — come from the People’s Protection Units (YPG) and the affiliated Women’s Protection Units (YPJ, an all-female combat brigade of 7000 troops). SDF also includes a few hundred Arab fighters from the Shammari tribal confederation, plus an Assyrian Christian militia and a small ethnic Turkmen force. The Shammari have a longstanding blood feud with Islamic State, which has massacred their men and boys and enslaved women and girls as it seeks to intimidate tribes in its region of influence. Christians and Turkmen are fighting for survival against Islamic State, which has engaged in genocidal slaughter against both groups wherever it has gained control. There also is a small secular nationalist force drawn from regime military defectors, the Free Officers Union. But these are minorities, perhaps 15 per cent altogether, in an alliance that is overwhelmingly Kurdish.

    Evidently the fighting is going poorly enough for the Islamic State that their spokesman urged their own soldiers not to flee Raqqa and Mosul. (That would be their new spokesman, the old one having been removed from office by a Hellfire missle.)

    There’s also indications that the Iraqi forces closing in on Mosul have cut off escape routes for Islamic State fighters, though Islamic State forces just launched a counterattack.

    Some have suggested that the Islamic State is preparing to retreat to a desert stronghold, in Wilayat al-Furat near the Iraq-Syrian border if it’s ejected from both Raqqa and Mosul. (This, as far as I can figure, is about where it is.)

    isis-desert-fortress

    More far afield, Libyan militias backed by American airstrikes said they have cleared Sirte, the stronghold of the Islamic State in Libya.

    One thing that may be making battlefield progress against the Islamic State possible: Cheap oil prices. Without excess petrodollars to spend, the Islamic State’s backers on the Arabian peninsula (not to mention Anatolia) may not have the spare cash to prop up their miniature caliphate.

    That said, the war against the Islamic State is far from over, and expected it to drag on into the Trump Presidency.