Thursday, September 18, 2014

Poroshenko to Congress: A Choice Between Two Ways of Life

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshekno delivered an address to a joint session of the U.S. Congress on September 19, 2014. This text is from the Kyiv Post

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Mr. Speaker,
Majority Leader,
Members of the House, Members of the Senate
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Let me thank you for your warmth and hospitality.
Addressing both houses of Congress is one of the highest political privileges.
Standing here, I am grateful – and fully aware that this honor goes not to me, but to the people of Ukraine – those brave men and women who are today on the forefront of the global fight for democracy!
Allow me speak to you on their behalf.
I will focus on one thing that is at the core of Ukraine’s existence today: freedom.
There are moments in history when freedom is more than just a political concept.
At those moments, freedom becomes the ultimate choice, which defines who you are – as a person and as a nation.
Ukraine has lived this moment over the last 10 months – and became the scene of the most heroic story of the last decade, a synonym for sacrifice, dedication and the unbreakable will to live free.
The people of Ukraine stood up to the corrupt regime of Yakukovych.
They stood their ground during this dramatic winter – and they are standing their ground right now!
The defenders of freedom were willing to sacrifice their lives for the sake of a better future. What is even more amazing, they won. Armed with only sticks and shields, they attacked the special police and chased them away.
The victory gained on the Independence Square in Kyiv, now known to the whole world as Maidan was a victory against police brutality, harassment by the state-controlled media, violence, and intimidation.
There is nothing more impressive than seeing hundreds of thousands of peaceful people forcing out a violent dictator, and changing the course of history.
Day after day, week after week, month after month – thousands upon thousands streamed into the streets of Kyiv, simply because their dignity didn’t allow them to remain passive and silent, while their liberties were at stake.
The stand-off on the Maidan lasted three months.
It culminated on February 20th and 21st – when over 100 protesters were shot by snipers.
We call them the “Heavenly Hundred”. We revere them as true national heroes.
We applaud their heroism!
Ladies and Gentlemen,
In February, when the world saw that no one could take away Ukraine’s freedom – an external aggressor decided to take away a part of Ukraine’s territory.
The annexation of Crimea became one of the most cynical acts of treachery in modern history.
Ukraine, which gave up the world’s third-largest nuclear potential in exchange for security assurances, was stabbed in the back by one of the countries who gave her those assurances.
Allow me to remind you: 20 years ago, in the Budapest Memorandum, Russia (along with the United States, the United Kingdom, France and China) vowed to provide for the inviolability of Ukraine’s state borders and territorial sovereignty.
In reality, what we got from Russia was annexation and a war that has brought Ukraine to the brink of its survival.
The Soviet Union had collapsed too quickly, creating the illusion that this chapter in history was closed, and that this story had come to the end.
But in the minds of the people, it has not ended. The imperialistic mindset is still there. Nostalgia for the Soviet Union and the dismissal of the settlement that ended the Cold War has been cultivating revisionist instincts.
In 2008, Russian troops occupied Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Now they have invaded Ukraine.  The right to protect ethnic Russians, and even Russian speakers, can and already has become a reason to fan the flames of war. Besides Ukraine, the Russian speakers reside in Moldova, Georgia, Kazakhstan, the Baltic States, Poland, Romania, Bulgaria.
Moldova, Georgia, Ukraine – what happens next?
Many things, including the effectiveness of the global non-proliferation system, will be put to a severe test and judged depending on the response of America, and the world, to that question.
Even NATO allies are at risk. As if to underline this point, two days after President Barack Obama’s visit to Estonia, the day the NATO summit ended, an Estonian intelligence officer was abducted and accused of espionage. 
The security assurances that were extended to Ukraine then have failed to work, proving that no agreements or treaties can secure world order.
So, what can bring peace and maintain it? - Common values, cooperation, and interdependence; leadership, and responsibility.   
Therefore, I urge you not to let Ukraine stand alone in the face of this aggression.
The United States made a commitment that it would stand behind Ukraine’s territorial integrity – and we hope that it will live up to that promise.
Democracies must support each other.
They must show solidarity in the face of aggression and adversity.
Otherwise, they will be eliminated – one by one.
The aggression against Ukraine has become one of the worst setbacks for the cause of democracy in the world in years.
With just one move, the world has been thrown back in time – to a reality of territorial claims, zones of influence, criminal aggression and annexations.
Within two weeks Crimea was invaded and annexed.
Ukraine was not prepared to face the enemy.
The consequences were devastating.
The post-war international system of checks and balances was effectively ruined.
The world was plunged into the worst security crisis since the US-USSR stand-off of 1962.
Today, we are witnessing another attempt at dividing the world, and Ukraine stands at the center of this attempt.
The outcome of today’s war will determine whether we will be forced to accept the reality of a dark, torn, and bitter Europe as part of a new world order.
These Ukrainian army, these young boys (underequipped, and often unappreciated by the world) are the only thing that now stands between the reality of peaceful coexistence and the nightmare of a full relapse into the previous century and a new cold war.
And should that happen, then this would neither be the end of it, nor the worst of it.
The war that these young men are fighting today is not only Ukraine’s war.
It is Europe’s, and it is America’s war, too. It is a war of the free world – and for a free world!
Today, aggression against Ukraine is a threat to global security everywhere. Hybrid proxy wars, terrorism, national radical and extremist movements, the erosion of international agreements, the blurring, and even erasing, of national identities: all of these threats now challenge Europe. If they are not stopped now, they will cross European borders and spread throughout the globe.
To prevent this, thousands of Ukrainian soldiers are in the line of fire right now.
Speaking in the United States Congress, from this high beacon of freedom, I want to thank them for their sacrifice!
I urge the world to recognize and endorse their fight!
They need more political support!
And they need more military equipment – both non-lethal and lethal.
Blankets and night-vision goggles are important.
But one cannot win a war with blankets!
I thank all those in America who realize and appreciate the historic importance of this fight.
Just like Israel, Ukraine has the right to defend her territory – and it will do so, with all the courage of her heart and dedication of her soul!
I urge America to help us and to rise and be equal to its natural and manifest role – I urge America to lead the way!
Ukraine has always had a special bond with the United States.
Today, Ukraine is taking shape as America’s natural and consequential partner in the region.
This partnership is not circumstantial.
It has not come about because we find ourselves “in the same boat”.
It came about because, in the moment of existential crisis, Ukraine’s choice was the same as America’s: freedom, democracy, and the rule of law.
In a time of Europe’s skepticism and Russia’s open, unprovoked hostility, Ukrainian citizens have been ready to give their lives to see Ukraine democratic and free.
Circumstantial “boats” can change. The nature of a people cannot.
It is in the nature of the Ukrainian people to tolerate no dictators and to strive for their freedom – no matter what.
Given today’s situation, Ukraine’s democracy will have to rely on a strong army.
In the upcoming years, building a strong military will be another existential test for Ukrainian democracy.
I see it as my utmost duty to rectify the damage done to the Ukrainian military and to give Ukraine a strong, modern army that we can be proud of.
With this in mind, I strongly encourage the United States to give Ukraine special, non-allied partner status.
I also ask that the United States be forceful and stand by its principles with respect to further sanctions against the aggressor.
Economic sanctions are important for many reasons.
They help to distinguish between good and evil.
They help us defend and stand the moral high ground and not to sink into indifference disguised as pragmatism.
I understand that the wars of the last decade have taken a heavy toll on the economy of the West.
I understand that American citizens and taxpayers want peace, not war.
So do Ukrainian citizens and taxpayers.
However, there are moments in history, whose importance cannot be measured solely in percentages of GDP growth.
Ukraine’s war is the only war of the last decade that is purely about values.
One nation decided to be free and democratic.
Another nation decided to punish her for this.
The world simply cannot allow this kind of behavior!
“Values come first” – this is the truth the West would remind Ukraine of over the last years.
Now it is Ukraine’s turn to remind the West of this truth!
Allow me to also say this: there is no way, at no price, and under no condition, that we will ever put up with Crimea’s occupation.
Ending the occupation and annulling the annexation is not only an integral precondition to a full normalization of relations between Ukraine and Russia.
It is also an integral precondition to Crimea’s prosperity and modernization!
Until this precondition is fulfilled, I urge America and the world to stand united in sending a signal to the aggressors of today and of the future, that the policy and practice of annexation will never be tolerated.
Clearly I am not talking about a military solution of the Crimean problem.
This will be a dilemma for many years; a choice between two ways of life and two political, economic, and social systems.
But I have no doubt that in the long run the system that offers the greater freedom will prevail.
It always does!
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The last half-year has been a time of ultimate challenge for millions of Ukrainians.
It was a time of heroism and sacrifice.
To many – it became the ultimate sacrifice.
Let me share with you two human stories that illustrate my point.
On March 3rd, when the occupation of Crimea just started, there was one man in the Crimean city of Simferopol who did the unthinkable.
When millions felt paralyzed and stunned at what was unfolding before their eyes, Reshat Ametov, a 39-year-old father of three, decided not to be silent.
This brave son of the Crimean Tatar people went on a one-man protest in front of the occupied City Hall.
He did nothing more than hold a sheet of paper that said “NO to Occupation!”
A group of unknown people arrested him and transported him away – in the plain sight of dozens of witnesses and in front of TV cameras.
Two weeks later he was found tortured and executed – mafia-style.
Just the thought of this man’s final tormented minutes sends chills down my spine.
I ask myself – what made this hero do what he did?
And I can find no other answer than – he did it for freedom; so that his children would not face slavery like that of a neo-Stalinist dictatorship.
I am convinced that years from now, when Crimea’s occupation will belong to the past, the Crimean people will think about what he did and salute his braveness – just like I do now!
Ukraine will always stand together with the Crimean Tatar people, whose language, rights, and culture are being trampled upon right now – as they were many years ago under Soviet rule.
I urge America and the world not to be silent about these crimes.
It is Ukrainians and Crimean Tatars who are being oppressed in Crimea today.
And it is time for all people of good will to rephrase John Kennedy’s words from over 50 years ago: “I am a Crimean Tatar!” – and there is nothing that would make me give up my freedom!
Let me also commemorate Volodymyr Rybak, a 42-year-old father of two, and a member of the municipal parliament of East Ukrainian Horlivka.
On April 15, he confronted the separatists and Russian special-ops officers over a separatist flag that they were trying to hoist atop the local administration building.
Just like Reshat Ametov – he was abducted and tortured.
His last hours must have been unthinkable. His body was badly mutilated.
Today I stand here – in awe of this tragedy, and of the courage and sacrifice of this man, and of the courage and sacrifice of millions of Ukrainians.
From the bottom of my heart, I deeply believe that there will be a time (and very soon!), when Horlivka’s central square will be named after Volodymyr and when schoolchildren will bring flowers to his monument.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Make no mistake: Europe’s, and the world’s, choice right now is not a choice between a uni-polar and a multi-polar order.
Neither is it a choice between different kinds of civilizations.
It is a choice between civilization and barbarism.
And while standing at this juncture, before this great trial – the democratic world cannot shrink or hesitate!
We do not want to see all the democratic accomplishments of the last decades to be erased and to have been for nothing.
The free world must stand its ground. And with America’s help – it will!
We live in a world that is mutually reliant and interconnected.
In this world, the aggression on one democratic nation is aggression against all.
If anyone had doubts about this, if anyone was hoping “to sit it out” while Ukrainians and Russians continue killing each other – this ended on July 18th, when a Russian missile launched by a Russian mercenary shot down the civilian Boeing-777.
298 innocent, peaceful people, many of whom were flying on their vacations in the South, met their ultimate demise in the steppes of Ukraine.
Their cold-blooded killing (just like the barbaric treatment of their remains afterwards) showed that whoever floods Europe with uncontrolled weapons – puts millions of lives at risk. For years and decades to come.
This was an indisputable brutal act of terror. Unfortunately, it was this tragedy that gave a wake up call to many in the world about the situation in Ukraine.
Long after wars end – the fear and hate linger on.
How many more deaths will be caused by the handguns handed out, with absolutely no controls or accountability, in those regions?
How many innocent children will step on land mines so massively utilized by separatists?
How many lives will be ruined and souls poisoned by the propaganda machine?
The act of pumping the region full of uncontrolled arms  represents a policy of state-funded terrorism – and it needs to stop now!
The cynical downing of the Malaysian Boeing revealed one more important thing: we are now at the forefront of the fight against terrorism.
And we need to join our efforts to effectively respond to this challenge.
With this said, people throughout the world are asking the same questions.
“Are we on the eve of a new cold war?”
“Is the possibility of a new, terrible and unimaginable European war there?”
“Is what until recently seemed unthinkable now becoming a reality?”
Sadly, today, the answer to these questions is – “Yes.”
However, we cannot and must not accept this as an inevitability.
As recently as 2008, the then president of Russia ran his election campaign under the slogan “Freedom is better than non-freedom.”
I am sure that, despite the Crimean annexation and the ongoing aggression, millions of Russians still remember that slogan and take it seriously.
Let’s remind them of it!
Let’s show them that freedom is not a luxury (as some try to convince them), but a necessity – and a precondition for the true success of a nation!
I am convinced that the people of Ukraine and the people of Russia have enough goodwill to give peace one last chance and prevail against the spirit of hate.
That’s why my presidency began with a Peace Plan and a one-sided ceasefire.
That’s why we are holding our fire now.
That’s why two armies stand before each other – without massively shedding each other’s blood.
And if things work out right – they will not have to!
I am in daily contact with the leaders of the world, including the leader of Russia.
The dialogue is not easy. Over these last months, too much goodwill was destroyed.
Too much hate was generated – naturally and artificially.
Too many people have died.
Based on that, I feel there is a growing mutual recognition that enough is enough!
The bloodshed must stop! The pandemic of hate must be localized and contained!
As president, looking in the eyes of the mothers and wives of the dead soldiers and civilians has been my hardest duty.
No one can take it lightly. Today, it’s my burden – and the burden of President Putin.
As he lit a candle in a Moscow church to remember those who perished in this war last week – I did the same in Kyiv.
And from the bottom of heart, I deeply, profoundly wish that church candles would be the only things burned in Ukraine from now on.
Over the last months, Ukrainians have shown that they have the courage to stand up to the most powerful enemy.
We will never obey or bend to the aggressor. We are ready to fight.  But we are a people of peace.
I am ready to do my utmost to avoid a further escalation and casualties – even at this point, when the war has already started feeding on itself.
Sooner or later, peace will return to Ukrainian homes.
And despite the insanity of this war, I am convinced that peace can be achieved – sooner rather than later!
I am ready to offer those who live in Donbas more rights than any part of Ukraine has ever had in the history of the nation.
I am ready to discuss anything – accept one thing – Ukraine’s dismemberment.
And I am confident: if this war is about rights, and not about geopolitical ambitions – a solution must, and will be, found!
 Ladies and Gentlemen,
In 1991, independence came to Ukraine peacefully.
Yet, the more real this independence became – the higher grew its cost.
Today that cost is as high as it gets.
While fighting this war, we learn to value independence and to recognize true friends.
And at no point to we ever forget WHY we need independence.
We need it to have a country worthy of the dreams of our ancestors.
We need a state that would give its citizens a life of dignity, fairness and equal opportunity.
To reach this goal – we will have to root out the sins that drained Ukraine’s potential for such a long time and made the two decades of independence a time of lost opportunities.
We are painfully aware of these sins, largely inherited from the era of Soviet decay: corruption, bureaucracy and the self-preserving cynicism of political elites.
There is a saying that each people deserve the government it gets.
Ukraine’s two revolutions within a single decade show that Ukraine needs and deserves deep and profound modernization in all spheres – of the kind that brought economic success to our Western neighbors.
Given the current situation in and around Ukraine, the implementation of comprehensive reforms is not a matter of Ukraine succeeding, but of Ukraine surviving.
Deeply aware of that, I gave my voters this pledge – and I will stick to it!
With the Ukraine-EU Association Agreement signed and ratified this treaty simultaneously in the Ukrainian and the European Parliament – we have a clear path of reforms before us.
Never in the history of the European Union was there a document that was paid for so dearly – at such incredible human cost and sacrifice.
And this sacrifice, the memory of the hundreds dead and wounded, will be one more reason and incentive to hold to this unique chance to make Ukraine live up to its potential. 
Ukraine needs modern governance and non-corrupt public administration!
Ukraine needs to delegate more powers to local communities!
Ukraine needs to rely more on its strong, vibrant, and dynamic civil society!
Ukraine is building a new model of managing its state and economic affairs, where merit and hard work are duly rewarded!
Ukraine needs know-how, technology, and new start-ups to become better integrated with the global economy.
And for all that – we need America’s help!
In particular, I ask the Congress to create a special fund to support investments of American companies in Ukraine, and to help us with reforming our economy and our justice system!
I assure you that all aid received from the West will be utilized by non-corrupt institutions and that the new generation of officials will make sure the funds are distributed effectively.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
We called our revolution the Revolution of Dignity.
Human dignity was the driving force that took people to the streets.
This revolution must result in an education of dignity, an economy of dignity, and a society of dignity.
Human dignity is what makes Ukraine’s heart beat and Ukraine’s mind look toward a new and better version of itself.
Human dignity is the one thing we have to oppose to the barbarism of those attacking us.
It is the one thing that we can set against the sea of lies in which the highly sophisticated and well-funded machine of Russian propaganda is trying to drown the truth about Ukrainian democracy.
In the coming years, too many things will depend on Ukraine’s success.
This success will be determined by Ukraine’s new leadership, by its new political generation and by the newly mobilized society of Ukraine.
Ukraine truly makes a difference.
By supporting Ukraine, you support a new future for Europe and the entire free world.
By supporting Ukraine, you support a nation that has chosen freedom in the most cynical of times.
In Ukraine, you don’t build a democracy – it already exists. You just defend it!
This is what makes Ukraine unique, and its struggle deeply and profoundly different from other conflicts on the world scene.
This is what makes Ukraine the ultimate test of adherence to the ideal of freedom!
“Live free or die!” – was one of the mottos of the American Revolutionary War.
“Live free or die!” – was the spirit on the revolutionary Maidan during the dramatic winter months of 2014.
“Live free or die!” are the words of Ukrainian soldiers standing on the line of freedom in this war.
“Live free!” – must be the answer, with which Ukraine comes out of this war.
“Live free!” – must be the message Ukraine and America send to the world, while standing together in this time of enormous challenge.
Thank you!

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A few other items to put Poroshenko’s speech in Congress in context:

Jason Ditz of antiwar,com notes: “Poroshenko, and indeed other officials in the new Ukrainian government, have wildly varied their rhetoric in recent days, talking up peace and concessions when addressing eastern Ukraine, promising a great war to wipe them out when talking to hawkish ultranationalists in the west, and presenting a nigh-apocalyptic vision of a war on Russia when addressing potential donors.”

From the BBC:

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko stressed that the legislation giving the special status to parts of Donetsk and Luhansk regions for three-years would guarantee the "sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence" of Ukraine, while paving the way for decentralisation.
The amnesty affects the rebels, but does not cover the shooting down of the MH17 passenger plane in July.

Western leaders believe rebels shot down the Malaysia Airlines jet with a Russian missile - a charge the rebels and the Kremlin deny.

The legislation means that pro-Russian separatists taken prisoner in the fighting should now be released.

Separatists holding government buildings are now supposed to leave them, hand over captured Ukrainian soldiers and other prisoners and surrender their weapons.

Rebels accused of other "grave" crimes will not be covered by the new amnesty either.

But some Ukrainian lawmakers described the self-rule law as a sell-off of Ukraine in what they see as a war against Russia.

"A capitulation was announced today in this war," Oleh Tiagnybok, the leader of the nationalist Svoboda party, was quoted as saying by the Ukrainska Pravda website.

Andriy Shevchenko, an MP in the Batkivshchyna party led by former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, said he was "ashamed of this parliament".

He said the law was voted in "a secret regime", violating normal parliamentary procedures.

Meanwhile, Andrei Purgin, a rebel leader in Donetsk, told AFP news agency that the eastern region "no longer has anything to do with Ukraine".

"Ukraine is free to adopt any law it wants. But we are not planning any federalism with Ukraine." . . .

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Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Obama Issues Threat Against Assad

This excerpt is from a Peter Baker piece in the New York Times, September 13, reporting a conversation between Obama and various foreign policy experts. Obama expands on his administration’s role in the Syrian war and issues a threat against Assad:

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If his thinking has evolved, Mr. Obama admitted no errors along the way. While some critics, and even his former secretary of state, Hillary Rodham Clinton, have faulted him for not arming moderate Syrian rebels years ago, Mr. Obama does not accept the premise that doing so would have forestalled the rise of ISIS.

“I have thought that through and tried to apply 20-20 hindsight,” he told some of his guests, as one recalled. “I’m perfectly willing to admit they were right, but even if they were right, I still can’t see how that would have changed the situation.”

He defended his decision to wait to approve airstrikes until last month in Iraq and last week in Syria, saying he wanted first to force Iraq to replace its government with a more inclusive coalition that could draw disaffected Sunnis away from supporting ISIS and take on the task of combating it.

But while Mr. Obama sees bolstering the new Iraqi government as his path to ultimate success on that side of the border, he struck his guests as less certain about the endgame on the Syrian side, where he has called for Mr. Assad to step down and must now rely on the same moderate Syrian rebels he refused to arm in the past.

Mr. Obama acknowledged it would be a long campaign, one complicated by a dearth of intelligence about possible targets on the Syrian side of the border and one that may not be immediately satisfying. “This isn’t going to be fireworks over Baghdad,” he said.

Asked by one of the columnists what he would do if his strategy did not work and he had to escalate further, Mr. Obama rejected the premise. “I’m not going to anticipate failure at this point,” he said.

He made clear the intricacy of the situation, though, as he contemplated the possibility that Mr. Assad might order his forces to fire at American planes entering Syrian airspace. If he dared to do that, Mr. Obama said he would order American forces to wipe out Syria’s air defense system, which he noted would be easier than striking ISIS because its locations are better known. He went on to say that such an action by Mr. Assad would lead to his overthrow, according to one account.

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Peter Baker, “Paths to War, Then and Now, Haunt Obama,” New York Times, September 13, 2014


Al-Qa'ida Affiliates: No to Satanic Alliance

This joint statement by two al-Qa’ida affiliates-- Al-Qa’ida in Islamic Maghreb and Arabian Peninsula—appears in Joshua Landis’s Syria Comment.  The text was translated (with extensive commentary) by Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi.

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Joint Statement (11 September: Statement No. 1)
Situation: Support for Muslims over the alliance of Crusaders and Apostates.

[...]

The suffering of our people in Iraq and al-Sham has not been absent from our minds, and what they have offered from bodily sacrifices. Nor have the negative consequences- which have followed on for the people of al-Sham from the infighting of the mujahideen- been absent from our minds. Nor has the sadness of the arenas of jihad for the loss of its best leaders and sons from infighting- in which the beneficiary has been the people of the Zionists [Israel], the Cross worshippers, the Rafidites [Shi'a], the Nusayris [Alawites] and their followers- been absent from our minds.

Then there is America- the head of disbelief- and the symbol of the enemy and tyranny, rearing its head again, enlisting behind it allies from the Crusaders and their apostate collaborators, leading the Crusader attempt to wage war on Islam and Muslims, to increase the misfortunes of the Ummah, under the pretext of striking the Islamic State and annihilate it- so they have claimed!! We ask God to render them disappointed, defeated and slaughtered.

As for this oppressive Crusader effort, we can only stand with Islam and Muslims, against Crusader America and its alliance (Jewish-Crusader-Safavid-Apostate) that is the true enemy of the Ummah and the Path and the first to wage war on Shari’a, so we declare this stance of ours to please God, to support our mujahideen brothers over the disbelievers, and defend our Muslim people wherever they are. Thus we say:

. Our mujahideen brothers in Iraq and al-Sham…stop infighting among yourselves and stand as one rank in the face of the initiative by America and its Satanic alliance lying in wait against us all to break us again and again. Counter the unity of the nations of disbelief against you by your unity against them, in accordance with the speech of the Almighty: “And fight the polytheists as a whole just as they fight you as a whole, and know that God is with those aware of Him” [...]

. Oh mujahideen and ansar [helpers/supporters], stop name-calling and hurling of insults, and turn your truth-telling pens and cutting swords on the head of disbelief- America- and its oppressive, aggressive alliance.

. To all who bear arms in the face of the tyrant Bashar and his shabiha, it is you that America will seek to finance with its double-dealing and deception, that you may deviate from your path and only be banners in its hand realizing its interests.

. To our people- the Ahl al-Sunna [Sunnis] in Iraq and al-Sham, do not forget America’s crimes against your lands, and do not forget its stance in the line of your battles, and its poisonous daggers remain planted in your chests, so do not let its trickery deceive you, or enter into its alliance, or become among its soldiers against your mujahideen sons.

. We call on our Muslim Ummah to support our people in Iraq and al-Sham, and support them with what is precious and costly, and stand in their rank against America, the head of disbelief, the source of evil and the symbol of corruption and oppression.

. We call on our Muslim Ummah to disavow the calls of the apostate rulers and their collaborators in error and leading astray to support the disbelieving Americans against the mujahideen, just as we call on them to stop their conscripted sons from participating in this oppressive enemy war that aims in truth to preserve American Crusader hegemony over our Muslim Ummah and protect the state of the people of Zionists [Israel].

. We call on our people in the Arabian Peninsula in particular and in all the states in this Satanic alliance in general to stand against their collaborationist governments and prevent them- by all lawful means- from continuing this war on Islam under the pretext of waging war on terrorism.

. As for you, oh allies of disbelief and evil, take heed of what will afflict you, for black days await you. For these leaders of yours today are sinking and are afraid to confront the knights of Islam. And indeed you hav tested the swords of the soldiers of Islam and the assault of the heroes of Iraq and al-Sham, so God brought you to defeat and degradation at their hands, and your armies were defeated bearing the consequences of failure.

. We conclude these calls by reminding the Islamic Ummah of the words of the renewer of time and vanquisher of the Americans- Sheikh Osama [bin Laden] (may God have mercy on him and make good his soil): “Consult no one in [fighting] the Americans.”

To conclude this statement, we offer our sincere condolences to the mujahideen of the group Ahrar al-Sham…and we ask God to have mercy on their martyrs and remunerate us and them in their misfortune and render us better from it, just as we offer to our people in al-Sham in general and the families of martyrs in particular our sincere condolences and we ask God the Almighty, the High to connect with their hearts and pour out endurance on them.

God, provide for this Ummah a just situation in which the people who obey you are made mighty and the people of your misfortune are laid low. God, give victory to our mujahideen brothers in Iraq and al-Sham and in every place.God, ruin America and whoever of its allies and those taking its side against the mujahideen.

[...]

Qa’ida al-Jihad in the Arabian Peninsula and in the Land of the Islamic Maghreb.

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Sunday, September 14, 2014

Iraqi Sunni: ISIS Is Just Alright With Me

Lauren Bohn of Foreign Policy reports on the sentiments of Omar, a well educated Iraqi Sunni who finds ISIS not half bad:

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In the past year alone, 43-year-old Omar says he's watched hundreds die. Or as he describes it, "boom, gone, the end."

Omar is an administrator of one of the busiest hospitals in Fallujah, in Iraq's restive Anbar province. First, his brother nearly lost a leg in a mortar attack. Then, his neighbor's home was destroyed in shelling. Soon after, his mother narrowly missed a bombing in their once-placid neighborhood. But it wasn't until he watched a 5-year-old girl in a bright pink shirt take her last gasp of air outside his office, her body torn apart from shelling, that he knew he had to leave his hometown. Life in Iraq, as he puts it, has become an endless flow of "dark, dark red."

"Every day, I saw children watching parents die and parents watching children die," he says, recalling grim scenes from the hospital he's worked at for years. "I couldn't raise my children there any longer ... we all have targets on our head."

Back in January, six months before the Islamic State, then still ISIS, seized the world's attention by capturing Mosul, Iraq's second-largest city, the group and its allies took the city of Fallujah and parts of the provincial capital of Ramadi. It was one of the first signs that Iraq's Sunni regions were falling into a state of open rebellion against the Shiite-led government in Baghdad.

The ragtag fighters saw an opening after then-Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki ordered security forces to dismantle a yearlong sit-in camp near Ramadi, claiming it had become a base for al Qaeda-linked militants. Sunnis like Omar had been protesting for the release of Sunni prisoners who they said were detained arbitrarily and without trial; they deeply resented their political exclusion from the Shiite-led central government. This wasn't the first time Anbar province had become a center of revolt: After the 2003 U.S.-led invasion that overthrew Saddam Hussein, the region became ground zero for a Sunni-led insurgency against the Iraqi government and U.S. troops.

Omar is one of the hundreds of thousands of internally displaced people who have fled Iraq's largest province since fighting swept the region in January. He and his family have resettled in Shaqlawa, a mountain-ringed city near the regional capital of Erbil. There are so many displaced people from Fallujah that residents jokingly call the town "Shaqlujah."  Many live cramped lives in converted hotels, but middle-class families like Omar have rented homes, blending into a town they once traveled to for summer holidays. Christians and Yazidis have also sought refuge from other Islamic State-controlled territories, bringing with them horror stories of mass executions and kidnappings. But as a Sunni Arab, who complains of systemic oppression by Shiites in Baghdad, Omar wasn't fleeing the Islamic State -- in fact, he believes it is necessary in what he calls a renewed fight for the survival of Iraqi Sunnis.

"The government should be the father of the people," he says. "And Iraq's government is a terrorist organization. See, my vocabulary is different. You have to ask yourself: Who are the real terrorists here? When will the world wake up?"

Omar's deep-seated distrust of the Shiite-led government in Baghdad has been the fuel that allows the Islamic State to thrive, as the jihadist organization has exploited Iraq's deeply frayed social fabric in places like Anbar. It's a major hurdle for President Barack Obama's strategy for fighting IS, which hinges upon Sunni buy-in for the new unity government in Baghdad. Iraq's new prime minister, Haider al-Abadi, has vowed to "work with all communities" -- but it's a mammoth task that has tripped up his predecessors and much of the international community.

"National reconciliation for many is a mirage ... it's a utopia," says Ahmed Ali, senior research analyst on Iraq at the Institute for the Study of War. "The problem is, Baghdad hasn't been able to articulate a reconciliatory approach to the residents of Anbar."

The longer the Islamic State is allowed to entrench itself in Anbar, Ali fears, the more difficult it will be to convince Iraqi Sunnis like Omar to give the government another chance. "ISIS wants that distrust to be present," he says. "They live on hatred."

The Baghdad government's actions have been far less than reconciliatory -- in fact, they've often been brutal. Human Rights Watch (HRW) has condemned Iraqi security forces and government-affiliated militias for use of barrel bombs and indiscriminate attacks in Anbar that have resulted in a heavy civilian toll.

"The Iraqi government may be fighting a vicious insurgency, but that's no license to kill civilians anywhere they think ISIS might be lurking," HRW deputy Middle East director Joe Stork said in a statement in July. "The government's airstrikes are wreaking an awful toll on ordinary residents."

That toll has further entrenched the Islamic State's hold in Fallujah, Omar says. "The Iraqi military is using ISIS as an excuse to commit genocide against Sunnis. For every shelling in Fallujah, I see a new black flag when I return. They're the only way to rule."

About once a week, Omar shuttles between Shaqlawa and Fallujah. It was a five-hour journey before the conflict, but now, with the route riddled with Kurdish, Iraqi government, and IS checkpoints, the drive takes 12 hours. Kurdish authorities are wary that Omar is colluding with the Islamic State: While Iraqi Kurdistan has welcomed a steady flow of internally displaced people, many harbor distrust toward Arabs and worry that violence will spill over and mar their own fight for independence from Iraq. Meanwhile, Omar says, the jihadists are wary he's colluding "with the other side" -- meaning a Kurdish-U.S.-Shiite coalition allied to destroy the Islamic State.

The reality? "Maybe a little of both in these times," Omar laughs nervously.

Omar speaks positively about the Islamic State's success in running day-to-day affairs in his home city. The group now oversees the operations of the hospital where he works: While he and colleagues once waited months for government paychecks, he says, they now receive them in a timely fashion.

"They aren't bad guys," he says. "They're us, they're a part of us. We all know them."

Not all Iraqi Sunnis are so sanguine about the Islamic State. Omar's friend Ehab, also displaced from Fallujah, shakes his head at this answer. The jihadist group, he believes, is simply another side of the evil he fled. "ISIS doesn't represent us," he says. The two men share a light debate over orange juice and agree to disagree.

Omar, however, can't muster outrage at the Islamic State's increasingly brutal methods. When asked about the jihadist group's endless parade of gory executions, crucifixions, and beheadings, he shrugs. Then he asks to move to a quieter, more discreet location.

"On the battlefield, ISIS fighting is different than ISIS ruling. So far, they're running things smoothly," he says, when we're out of range of potential eavesdroppers. "They might be moving a bit fast ... but they're what's needed now. Are there other options?"

"Look, I know it's brutal," he admits. "But this is war."       

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Lauren Bohn, “The Blood Brothers of Anbar,” Foreign Policy, September 12, 2014

Kerry: All Bases Are Covered

Bob Schieffer of CBS interviewed Secretary of State John Kerry on September 13, 2014. Secretary Kerry helpfully clarifies when a war is not a war. It's somewhat difficult to tell who's on first, second, and third, but it seems that the bases are loaded. 

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MR. SCHIEFFER: We spoke with Secretary of State John Kerry yesterday in Cairo, before this latest news broke. Here is part of what he said.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, thank you so much. Can I clear up one thing first? This week, you went to some lengths to say you wouldn’t call this a war, but yet at the Pentagon and at the State Department even they were saying we are at war with ISIS. Are we at war?

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, Bob, I think there’s, frankly, a kind of tortured debate going on about terminology. What I’m focused on, obviously, is getting done what we need to get done to ISIL. But if people need to find a place to land, in terms of what we did in Iraq originally, this is not a war. This is not combat troops on the ground, it’s not hundreds of thousands of people, it’s not that kind of mobilization. But in terms of al-Qaida, which we have used the word “war” with, yeah, we went – we’re at war with al-Qaida and its affiliates, and in the same context, if you want to use it, yes, we’re at war with ISIL in that sense.

But I think it’s a waste of time to focus on that, frankly. Let’s consider what we have to do to degrade and defeat ISIL, and that’s what I’m, frankly, much more focused on.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, let me ask you about your trip. The Syrian foreign minister is being quoted here as saying that Syria was no problems with American airstrikes going after ISIS targets in Syria, as long as they are coordinated, and he said he was ready to talk. Will we be coordinating this campaign with Syria?

SECRETARY KERRY: No, we’re not going to coordinate it with Syria. We will certainly want to de-conflict to make certain that they’re not about to do something that they might regret even more seriously, but we’re not going to coordinate. It’s not a cooperative effort. We’re going to do what they haven’t done, what they had plenty of opportunity to do, which is to take on ISIL and to degrade it and eliminate it as a threat. And we will do that with allies.

I think with respect to this trip, I’ve been extremely encouraged to hear from all of the people that I’ve been meeting with about their readiness and willingness to participate. I can tell you right here and now that we have countries in this region, countries outside of this region, in addition to the United States, all of whom are prepared to engage in military assistance, in actual strikes if that is what it requires. And we also have a growing number of people who are prepared to do all the other things.

People should not think about this effort just in terms of strikes. In fact, as some have pointed out, that alone is not going to resolve this challenge.

QUESTION: Well, Mr. Secretary, have you gotten any specific commitments for military help? For example, have you found anybody that’s willing to put troops on the ground into this fight?

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, we’re not looking to put troops on the ground. There are some who have offered to do so, but we are not looking for that, at this moment anyway. The answer is yes, there are some that have said that. There are some that are clearly prepared to take action in the air alongside the United States and to do airstrikes, if that’s what they’re called on to do.

What we’re doing right now, Bob, is putting together the whole package. And it’s not appropriate to start announcing, well, this country will do this and this country will do that.

QUESTION: Well, let me just ask you this. Going back to what you said, you said you’re not looking for troops on the ground. Do your really think you can destroy ISIL without --

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, not from external --

QUESTION: -- troops on the ground? I mean, how does that work?

SECRETARY KERRY: Bob, there are troops on the ground that don’t belong to us. They’re called Syrian. The Syrian opposition is on the ground, and one of the regrettable things is it has been fighting ISIL by itself over the course of the last couple of years. And it’s one of the reasons that they’ve had a difficult battle. And now, with the air support and other effort from other countries, they will be augmented in their capacity.

One of the things the President put in the plan is the effort to increase the training, increase the equipping and advising to that – to the Syrian opposition. And I can’t tell you whether some other country in the neighborhood will or won’t decide to put some people in there. We know the United States is not going to do that, but as I say, this is a strategy coming together as the coalition comes together and the countries declare what they’re prepared to do.

But I want it to be absolutely clear out of this discussion we’re having that every single aspect of the President’s strategy and what is needed to be done in order to accomplish our goal has been offered by one country or multiple countries and all bases are covered.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, we thank you so much for finding time to talk with us this morning.

SECRETARY KERRY: Delighted to be with you. Thank you very much, Bob.

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Interview with ob Schieffer of CBS’s Face the Nation, U.S. Department of state, September 13, 2014