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ISIS enters its final days

Terror group unlike to survive end of its phoney “Caliphate”

Alexander Mercouris

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Though ISIS has held together surprisingly strongly in the face of the attacks of its multiple enemies, the last two weeks suggest that the tipping point has finally been reached, and that its disintegration has now begun.

Over vast stretches of central Syria its hold has been broken, with towns and villages being rapidly restored to the Syrian government’s control.

Its siege of Deir Ezzor has been broken and its fighters there are being slowly surrounded in the part of that city which it still controls.

It has lost its alternative capital of Mayadin after just a few days of fighting.

The Syrian army is now pressing it hard in its heartland east of the Euphrates river, but contrary to expectations of an apocalyptic battle between ISIS and the Syrian army there, its resistance has been sporadic, and its attempts to mount counter-attacks against the Syrian army’s lines of communication have all ended in failure.

Further north the Kurds have driven it out of Raqqa – though at horrific cost, and only after a deal was done to allow the 350 remaining ISIS fighters in the city to leave – whilst in Iraq it has been unable to capitalise on the Iraqi army’s re-focus on the Kurds to regain ground it has lost.

The organisation is not completely broken.  The rapid advance of the Syrian army through central Syria has left bands of ISIS fighters still roaming around the central Syrian countryside, cut off from their comrades further east, but still dangerous.

Within Syria ISIS still controls a rapidly contracting belt of territory on either side of the Euphrates river, though it is no longer in possession of any major towns.

However ISIS still controls some towns in western Iraq, notably the small but important town of Al-Qaim.

ISIS also remains capable of limited offensives in odd places: for example ISIS fighters recently carried out a successful attack against Al-Qaeda fighters within the Yarmouk Palestinian refugee camp in the suburbs of Damascus.

However the strongest sign that the organisation is indeed starting to disintegrate is that it appears to have lost a series of running battles it recently fought against Al-Qaeda in Jihadi controlled areas of north west Syria, a fact which suggests that as the star of its “Caliphate” wanes it is losing the loyalty of Jihadi fighters, some of whom may be switching back to Al-Qaeda.

Most striking of all is the reported mass defection of tribal fighters formerly loyal to ISIS who were guarding the key Al-Omar oil fields in eastern Syria.  They appear to have gone over en masse to the Kurdish led and US backed “Syrian Democratic Forces”, the umbrella name for the Kurdish led force which has just captured Raqqa.

No doubt this defection was carefully staged and was intended to keep the Al-Omar oil fields – the largest in Syria – out of the Syrian government’s hands.  However even if the defection was staged, it still points to an ongoing collapse on the part of ISIS in eastern Syria.

The critical remaining battle against ISIS in Syria is the one in the city of Deir Ezzor.  This is apparently a much bigger city than Raqqa (the published population figures for the two cities, which do not bear out this claim, are out of date and wrong) and there continues to be fierce fighting there between the Syrian army and the ISIS fighters who over the course of a four year siege were able to capture around two fifths of the city.

However latest reports suggest that the Syrian army has the ISIS fighters in Deir Ezzor largely surrounded, and it seems that their resistance there cannot be sustained for very long.  Most expect it to collapse within the next few days or possibly weeks.

When the collapse in Deir Ezzor comes that will release more Syrian troops to take the fight to ISIS elsewhere, at which point the pace of its disintegration will accelerate.

The received wisdom in the Western media is that ISIS will nonetheless be able to survive these defeats and the imminent loss of its remaining territory.  Supposedly, though these defeats will destroy the fiction of its “Caliphate”, ISIS will nonetheless be able to transform itself back into the terrorist and guerrilla organisation which it was before its territorial conquests of 2014, and will be able to survive that way.  For a classic though intelligent and nuanced statement of this view, see this lengthy article in the Guardian, which by the way is also remarkable for its failure to make any reference whatsoever to Iran and Russia and to the central role of those countries in the defeat of ISIS.

I do not agree with this view.  I think those Western commentators who hold it still have not grasped the implications of ISIS’s proclamation of the Caliphate and its declaration that it is the “Islamic State” to which all Muslims everywhere owe allegiance.

There is no going back on this claim and the making of it means that ISIS became a different organisation because of it than it had been before, and cannot go back to being the same sort of organisation again that it was before.

The thousands of fighters who flocked to ISIS in preference to other older and more established Jihadi organisations such as Al-Qaeda, and who fought ISIS’s battles for it after 2014, did so because they believed its claim that it was the Islamic State and that Al-Baghdadi was Islam’s Caliph.  Al-Baghdadi and ISIS’s other leaders cannot now credibly tell them that it was all a mistake, and expect them to remain loyal to ISIS in spite of it.

What that means is that the existence of ISIS is now inextricably bound up with its Caliphate.  As has been correctly said, a Caliphate without territory is no longer credible, and I would add that a Caliphate which has been repeatedly and resoundingly defeated by “apostate” and “Christian” armies is not credible either.

Perhaps if Al-Baghdadi survives the debacle and finds somewhere where he can hide he will continue to attract some followers who will still in spite of everything continue to accept him as Islam’s Caliph.  The number of these people will however be tiny – what sort of Caliph has to hide? – and whatever organisation survives ISIS’s loss of its territory it will be a shadow of the organisation ISIS once was.

I predicted all this and ISIS’s imminent demise in an article I wrote for Sputnik on 19th January 2016 – ie. shortly after the Russian intervention in Syria began – in which I also expressed some views about the organisation’s origins and the reasons for its ephemeral success.

Since this article was relatively short and sums up my views of the reasons both for the emergence of the organisation and for its eventual failure, I will set it out here in full

The Islamic State (also known as Daesh) is the bastard child of the US’s drive to achieve regime change in Syria.

To that end the US and its allies instigated an armed insurrection against the Syrian government.

Though protests — many of them violent — began in 2011, it was in 2012 — after the Geneva Peace Conference — which the US wrecked by insisting President Assad stand down — that the major fighting began, with a rebel offensive against Syria’s two biggest cities: Aleppo and Damascus.

The offensive failed. The Syrian government survived, retaining control of Damascus and half of Aleppo.

Defending these cities and the populated coastal core of Syria however forced the Syrian army to withdraw from large areas of Syrian territory, most of them desert.

In 2013 the military balance shifted back to the Syrian government.

The US response was to try to use a chemical attack on the Damascus suburb of Ghouta as a pretext to bomb Syria. When that failed because of strong opposition from Russia and US public opinion it stepped up support for the insurgency.

Weapons, money and fighters poured in, and over the course of 2014 the military balance shifted back to the rebels again.

The main beneficiary was the organisation that now calls itself the Islamic State.

This began as the Iraqi branch of the global jihadi terrorist group Al-Qaeda.

It took advantage of the vacuum created by the Syrian army’s withdrawal from Syria’s desert regions to expand into Syria and to establish itself there.

As the best organised, most violent and most militant of the jihadi groups that form the core of the Syrian rebellion, it quickly achieved predominance especially as it focused on seizing territory rather than fighting the Syrian army.

In 2014 it went on the offensive in Iraq, seizing the important city of Mosul.

Shortly after it declared itself the Islamic State and proclaimed its leader — the man known as Ibrahim Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi — Islam’s Caliph.

The Islamic State is said to have a Wahhabist or Salafist ideology, like those in Saudi Arabia and Qatar, and like that of its original parent, Al-Qaeda.  Actually it combines Salafism with an apocalyptic vision previously unknown to Islam.

As it says its leader is the Caliph it claims to be the only legitimate government for Muslims.

It rules the areas it controls by violence and terror, backed by money it gets from the Gulf and from the illegal oil trade.

All this explains why following Russia’s military intervention in Syria it is doomed.

The Russian military intervention means there is no danger of the Syrian government collapsing — as looked possible just a few months ago.

The Syrian army has now been able to go on the offensive, and is advancing on all fronts.

The Islamic State cannot withstand the Syrian army backed by the Russian airforce and Iran and Russia.  However if it fails to hold the territory it has seized its claim to be the Islamic State collapses.

The only way the Islamic State could survive would be if the US and its allies acted to save it.

Its appalling violence and megalomaniac pretensions means that for the US it is however an embarrassment not an asset.  The main thing Its grotesque antics have achieved is to unite world opinion behind the Syrian government and Russia.

Instead of willing the Islamic State’s survival, the US would far rather it disappear so it can support the other jihadi terrorist groups — the so-called “moderates” — without embarrassment.

That seals the Islamic State’s fate.

It follows from this that there is no realistic prospect of ISIS or an organisation like it reappearing once it is destroyed.  The conditions which created it – the US drive for regime change in Syria and the collapse of the Syrian and Iraqi governments’ authority over large areas of their territory – no longer exist.
The regime change project in Syria has conclusively failed, and both the Syrian and Iraqi governments are now busy regaining control of their national territory and reasserting their authority over it.
There is no flood of US weapons going to Iraq or Syria to fuel Jihadi insurgencies there, and no territorial vacuum in which an organisation like ISIS might emerge.
As for the view beloved of some Western commentators who still hanker for regime change in Syria that the Sunni populations of Syria and Iraq will never reconcile themselves to the allegedly Alawite led Syrian government in Damascus or the allegedly Shia led Iraqi government in Baghdad, and that this will supposedly draw them to support militant Jihadist groups like ISIS and Al-Qaeda unless those governments are overthrown or changed, I have explained the fallacy behind these arguments many times.
Briefly, though the people of Syria and Iraq are certainly religious, their sectarian differences are consistently overstated.  The great majority of them are Muslims certainly, but their political and national self-identification is first and foremost to Syria and Iraq and to the Arab nation, not to Sunnism and Shiism, whose differences Western commentators anyway tend to misunderstand and overstate.
The current conflict within Islam is not between Sunni and Shia.  It is between a small and very violent minority of Takfiri militants manipulated by certain Western and Arab powers, and the vast majority of Muslims – Sunni as well as Shia – who are opposed to them.
I would add that if any Syrian or Iraqi Sunnis in eastern Syria or western Iraq were ever drawn to the sort of militant Salafi totalitarianism which ISIS represents, the reality of rule by ISIS will have quickly disabused them of their illusions.  It beggars belief that any large settled population in any country whatever its sectarian preferences would prefer the bleak and bloodthirsty rule of an organisation like ISIS – with public beheadings for the most trivial ‘offences’, slavery, a rampant drugs trade, systematic sexual abuse, and practices which in all respects amount essentially to murderous gangsterism – to the rule of a conventional government.

I discussed all this previously in another article I wrote for Sputnik on 4th October 2015

It seems to me Western pundits are making the same mistake now about Syria they made about Chechnya before.

They assume recklessly that local people prefer terrorism and violent jihadism to peace and orderly government.

They fantasise about the existence of a “third force” consisting of people opposing the government and those fighting it whom they also also oppose.

That this “third force” has no existence outside their imaginations was proved true in Chechnya, as it had previously proved true in Vietnam, and is undoubtedly true in Syria today.  The US admits it.

The latest opinion poll in Syria and Iraq exposes the extent of their mistake.

It shows very low support for the Islamic State in Iraq, and low support for the Islamic State in Syria.

It shows overwhelming majorities of Syrians and Iraqis reject sectarianism, want their countries to remain united, and believe the Islamic State is a creation of the US.

It shows a very wide belief in Syria that conditions were better before the war.

Given the danger of speaking out against the Islamic State in the areas it controls, the poll almost certainly underestimates the extent of opposition to it.

It shows a clear majority of Syrians support a position in all essentials identical to that of the Russian government: an end to the war, the defeat of jihadi terrorists, a return to peaceful conditions, and negotiations without preconditions between Syria’s factions.
As it happens in not a single town that the Syrian or Iraqi armies have liberated from ISIS or Al-Qaeda have the local people shown the least desire to have the Jihadis back.
Predictions that following the liberation of Aleppo from Al-Qaeda and of Mosul from ISIS Jihadi insurgencies would rise up against the “Alawite” and “Shia” authorities amongst the Sunni people of those cities have been proved to be completely wrong.
In the case of Syria the overwhelming response of the local people – Sunni as well as Shia – to the arrival in their towns and villages of the Syrian army has been to welcome it as a liberator, not to take up arms against it alongside the Jihadis to drive it back.
The pending defeat of ISIS in Iraq and Syria therefore signals the death-knell of the organisation, both as a territorial Caliphate and as a terrorist organisation.
A few fanatics gathered around Al-Baghdadi may try to continue the struggle, and ISIS pockets may linger for a while in a few places like Libya, Afghanistan and Nigeria.  However with its Caliphate gone the organisation itself is doomed.
Though Jihadi terrorism will continue in some form at least for a while – and will continue to pose a threat around the world – with the rapid recovery of state authority in Syria and Iraq the conditions which made it possible for an entity like ISIS to emerge are gone.
The focus of Jihadi activity will shift elsewhere, possibly to north Africa or Afghanistan or to the Arabian Peninsula, or conceivably to the increasingly disaffected Muslim populations of western Europe where for specific cultural reasons violent Jihadism has a particular appeal.
The organisation which will lead the renewed Jihadi struggle – if there is one – will however be Al-Qaeda, which has always been a far more sophisticated, well-resourced and intelligently led organisation than ISIS ever was.
As for ISIS – discredited by its failure in Syria and Iraq and disgraced by its grotesque atrocities – its time of power and terror is almost up.

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Putin, Trump meet in Helsinki for first bilateral summit

The Helsinki summit is the first ever full-fledged meeting between Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump. Their previous encounters were brief talks on the sidelines of the G20 and APEC summits in 2017.

Vladimir Rodzianko

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Russian President Vladimir Putin and US President Donald Trump are meeting in the Finnish capital of Helsinki for their first bilateral one-on-one meeting.

Trump arrived in the Finland capital a day early, while the jet of Putin, who wrapped up his nation’s hosting of the World Cup Sunday, touched down around 1 p.m. local time and the Russian president’s motorcade whisked him straight to the palace where the two world leaders are meeting.

Trump signed an August 2017 law imposing additional sanctions on Russia. The law bars Trump from easing many sanctions without Congress’ approval, but he can offer some relief without a nod from Congress.

Almost 700 Russian people and companies are under U.S. sanctions. Individuals face limits on their travel and freezes on at least some of their assets, while some top Russian state banks and companies, including oil and gas giants, are effectively barred from getting financing through U.S. banks and markets.

The agenda of the summit hasn’t been officially announced yet, though, the presidents are expected to discuss global crises, such as the Syrian conflict and Ukraine, as well as bilateral relations.

Stay tuned for updates…

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“Foreign entity, NOT RUSSIA” hacked Hillary Clinton’s emails (Video)

Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Tx): Hillary Clinton’s cache of 30,000 emails was hacked by foreign actor, and it was not Russia.

Alex Christoforou

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A stunning revelation that hardly anyone in the mainstream media is covering.

Fox News gave Louie Gohmert (R-Tx) the opportunity to explain what was going on during his questioning of Peter Strzok, when the the Texas Congressman stated that a “foreign entity, NOT RUSSIA” hacked Hillary Clinton’s emails.

Aside from this segment on Fox News, this story is not getting any coverage, and we know why. It destroys the entire ‘Russia hacked Hillary’ narrative.

Gohmert states that this evidence is irrefutable and shows that a foreign actor, not connected to Russia in any way, intercepted and distributed Hillary Clinton’s cache of 30,000 emails.

Remember to Please Subscribe to The Duran’s YouTube Channel.

Via Zerohedge

As we sift through the ashes of Thursday’s dumpster-fire Congressional hearing with still employed FBI agent Peter Strzok, Luke Rosiak of the Daily Caller plucked out a key exchange between Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Tx) and Strzok which revealed a yet-unknown bombshell about the Clinton email case.

Nearly all of Hillary Clinton’s emails on her homebrew server went to a foreign entity that isn’t Russia. When this was discovered by the Intelligence Community Inspector General (ICIG), IG Chuck McCullough sent his investigator Frank Ruckner and an attorney to notify Strzok along with three other people about the “anomaly.”

Four separate attempts were also made to notify DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz to brief him on the massive security breach, however Horowitz “never returned the call.” Recall that Horowitz concluded last month that despite Strzok’s extreme bias towards Hillary Clinton and against Donald Trump – none of it translated to Strzok’s work at the FBI.

In other words; Strzok, while investigating Clinton’s email server, completely ignored the fact that most of Clinton’s emails were sent to a foreign entity – while IG Horowitz simply didn’t want to know about it.

Daily Caller reports…

The Intelligence Community Inspector General (ICIG) found an “anomaly on Hillary Clinton’s emails going through their private server, and when they had done the forensic analysis, they found that her emails, every single one except four, over 30,000, were going to an address that was not on the distribution list,” Republican Rep. Louie Gohmert of Texas said during a hearing with FBI official Peter Strzok.

Gohmert continued..

“It was going to an unauthorized source that was a foreign entity unrelated to Russia.”

Strzok admitted to meeting with Ruckner but said he couldn’t remember the “specific” content of their discussion.

“The forensic examination was done by the ICIG and they can document that,” Gohmert said, “but you were given that information and you did nothing with it.”

According to Zerohedge “Mr. Horowitz got a call four times from someone wanting to brief him about this, and he never returned the call,” Gohmert said – and Horowitz wouldn’t return the call.

And while Peter Strzok couldn’t remember the specifics of his meeting with the IG about the giant “foreign entity” bombshell, he texted this to his mistress Lisa Page when the IG discovered the “(C)” classification on several of Clinton’s emails – something the FBI overlooked:

“Holy cow … if the FBI missed this, what else was missed? … Remind me to tell you to flag for Andy [redacted] emails we (actually ICIG) found that have portion marks (C) on a couple of paras. DoJ was Very Concerned about this.”

Via Zerohedge

In November of 2017, IG McCullough – an Obama appointee – revealed to Fox News that he received pushback when he tried to tell former DNI James Clapper about the foreign entity which had Clinton’s emails and other anomalies.

Instead of being embraced for trying to expose an illegal act, seven senators including Dianne Feinstein (D-Ca) wrote a letter accusing him of politicizing the issue.

“It’s absolutely irrelevant whether something is marked classified, it is the character of the information,” he said. Fox News reports…

McCullough said that from that point forward, he received only criticism and an “adversarial posture” from Congress when he tried to rectify the situation.

“I expected to be embraced and protected,” he said, adding that a Hill staffer “chided” him for failing to consider the “political consequences” of the information he was blowing the whistle on.

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Donald Trump plays good cop and bad cop with a weak Theresa May (Video)

The Duran – News in Review – Episode 55.

Alex Christoforou

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US President Donald Trump’s state visit to the UK was momentous, not for its substance, but rather for its sheer entertainment value.

Trump started his trip to the United Kingdom blasting Theresa May for her inability to negotiate a proper Brexit deal with the EU.  Trump ended his visit holding hands with the UK Prime Minister during a press conference where the most ‘special relationship’ between the two allies was once again reaffirmed.

Protests saw giant Trump “baby balloons” fly over London’s city center, as Trump played was his own good cop and bad cop to the UK PM, outside London at the Chequers…often times leaving May’s head spinning.

Even as Trump has left London, he remains front and center in the mind of Theresa May, who has now stated that Trump advised her to “sue” the European Union to resolve the tense negotiations over Brexit.

Trump had mentioned to reporters on Friday at a joint press conference with Theresa May that he had given the British leader a suggestion that she found too “brutal.”

Asked Sunday on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show what that suggestion was, May: “He told me I should sue the EU. Not go into negotiation, sue them.” May added…

“What the president also said at that press conference was `Don’t walk away. Don’t walk away from the negotiations. Then you’re stuck.”‘

The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris summarize what was a state visit like no other, as Trump trolled the UK PM from beginning to end, and left London knowing that he got the better of a weakened British Prime Minister, who may not survive in office past next week.

Remember to Please Subscribe to The Duran’s YouTube Channel.

Via CNBC

It wasn’t exactly clear what Trump meant. The revelation came after explosive and undiplomatic remarks Trump made this week about May’s leadership — especially her handling of the Brexit negotiations — as he made his first official visit to Britain.

In an interview with The Sun newspaper published Thursday — just as May was hosting Trump at a lavish black-tie dinner — Trump said the British leader’s approach likely “killed” chances of a free-trade deal with the United States. He said he had told May how to conduct Brexit negotiations, “but she didn’t listen to me.”

He also praised May’s rival, Boris Johnson, who quit last week as foreign secretary to protest May’s Brexit plans. Trump claimed Johnson would make a “great prime minister.”

The comments shocked many in Britain — even May’s opponents — and threatened to undermine May’s already fragile hold on power. Her Conservative government is deeply split between supporters of a clean break with the EU and those who want to keep close ties with the bloc, Britain’s biggest trading partner.

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