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White House Hosts Syrian Activist Who Sees AQ-Tied Rebels as Moderate

Fresh from congressional approval to arm and train Syrian rebel groups fighting the vicious Islamic State terrorist group, the White House met this week with Syrian American advocates to discuss how to proceed.

But one of the people consulted is on record defending and sympathizing with Syrian rebels tied to al-Qaida.

Mohamad Alla Ghanem, government relations director for the Syrian American Council, touted his White House visit on his Facebook page Thursday.

Last November, Ghanem wrote about a trip to Doha, where he got to meet Sheik Yusuf al-Qaradawi, a spiritual guide to the Muslim Brotherhood who has endorsed attacks against American troops in Iraq and suicide bombings against Israelis.

"I love this appreciated scholar very much," Ghanem wrote, "even I adore his jurisprudence. I consider this a great honor. Now, I am over the moon." Qaradawi has been banned from entering the United States and United Kingdom due to his support for terrorism.

But that's not the only time Ghanem has praised jihadists.

In December2012, Ghanem wrote a column in Washington Post in which he criticized the United States for classifying Jabhat Al Nusra as a terrorist organization. Sure, many Jabhat leaders are ideological on par with al-Qaida, he wrote, but not all of its members share that view. And the group "has achieved military successes and has delivered critical civilian aid."

In a column published a week ago by The Hill, Ghanem noted a recent Islamic State attack that wiped out the leadership in the Syrian rebel group Ahrar al-Sham. It is perhaps "the most hardline Syrian rebel group," and founded by al-Qaida leader Ayman al-Zawahiri's personal representative in Syria, but it is an Islamic State rival nonetheless.

Ghanem said he didn't mention the group to endorse it, but argued it was "a great shame that" American support to Syrian rebels was held back "for fear of rebel groups like Ahrar al-Sham as Syrians were slaughtered by the thousands."

Advocates for increased U.S. support for Syrian rebels acknowledge the steep challenge of ensuring weapons and training don't go to other radical jihadists. Having Ghanem advise the White House on the issue, when it either didn't know about his past statements or didn't care, isn't going to instill confidence.

And Ghanem's organization, the Syrian American Council, sponsored last year's U.S. fundraising visit of Rateb Al Nabulsi. Nabulsi is a Syrian Islamic scholar who labeled all Jews as legitimate targets for suicide bombers. Now Al Nabulsi, along with an imam named Osama Al Rifai, who also came to the U.S with the help of SAC to raise money, are on the Syrian Islamic Council, which issued a statement opposing the American airstrikes against the Islamic State.

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By Ravi Kumar  |  September 19, 2014 at 6:21 pm  |  Permalink

Turkey's Erdogan Compares Israel to Hitler, Openly Supports Hamas

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan compared Israel to Hitler and predicted that the Jewish state "will drown in the blood that they shed" at a rally prior to his presidential election last month, a Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) translation of his address posted on the Internet on Aug. 3 shows.

"Just like Hitler tried to create a pure Aryan race in Germany, the State of Israel is pursuing the same goals right now," Erdogan told a cheering crowd.

He continued his anti-Semitic rant, accusing Israel of genocide.

"They kill the women so that they will not be able to give birth to Palestinian babies. They kill the babies so that they will not be able to grow up to be men. They kill the men so that they will not be able to defend their homeland."

Given attitudes like that from the political leadership, it's easy to see why Turkey, though a NATO ally, has become a base of Hamas operations. Turkey is considered a top Hamas funder. More than a dozen Hamas officials now live there, the Washington Free Beacon's Adam Kredo reported last month. That includes Saleh al-Aruri, who acknowledged Hamas was responsible for the kidnapping and murder of three Israeli yeshiva students in June.

In addition, Aruri reportedly was involved in a coup plot against Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas that was broken up by Israeli officials during the summer.

Erdogan is notorious for his anti-Semitic statements and worldview. In the past, he has referred to Zionism as a "crime against humanity" and senior Turkish officials have blamed their country's internal problems on the Jews.

Meanwhile, Turkey has balked at joining emerging coalition of countries trying to beat back the terrorist Islamic State which has been terrorizing neighboring Syria and Iraq. As many as 1,000 Turkish citizens have joined the Islamic State, and critics say the country has not done enough to seal its borders to stem that tide.

Turkey's open support for a designated terrorist organization, according to the U.S. and key Western allies, should be scrutinized in light of the fact that Turkey remains a NATO member.

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By IPT News  |  September 19, 2014 at 3:06 pm  |  Permalink

Rochester Man Charged With Assisting ISIS, Plotting to Attack U.S. Armed Forces

A Yemeni native was indicted in Rochester, N.Y. Wednesday for attempting to provide material support and resources to the terrorist group Islamic State of Iraq and the Syria (ISIS), which calls itself the Islamic State. Mufid Elfgeeh, a naturalized American, also is accused of plotting to kill U.S. soldiers and of firearms violations.

According to court documents, Elfgeeh tried to help three people travel to Syria to wage violent jihad alongside ISIS forces. Two of the three turned out to be FBI informants. He also sent $600 to help someone in Yemen travel to Syria to join ISIS.

When one of the informants expressed reluctance to leave his family behind, Elfgeeh encouraged him to take his family with him. He gave examples of families participating in jihadist expeditions, including "a Saudi woman who left her children behind and went to the war for jihad." He also suggested names of "trustworthy people" the informant should contact, including "someone in Jabhat al-Nusrah [al-Qaida affiliate in Syria] who I told you is from our homeland."

Elfgeeh showed the informant a list of Facebook friends on his iPhone that included a man named Abu Qays, who he "described as a military leader of the Green Battalion in Homs, Syria." Elfgeeh noted "that the Green Battalion used to be affiliated with al-Nusrah Front [aka Jabhat al-Nusrah], but they separated from them," adding "[w]e are coordinating with them [the Green Battalion] on the grounds that they want to pledge allegiance to the State (ISIS), and they would like for the State to support them with ammunition and weapons."

This followed a series of Twitter posts in which he praised al-Qaida and other terrorist groups and said that "the prophet Muhammad preached that people should fight the infidels with the money, their bodies, and their words," an FBI affidavit said.

Elfgeeh was arrested in May after trying to buy handguns, unregistered silencers and ammunition from one of the informants. Last December, he mentioned the recent al-Shabaab shooting massacre in a Nairobi shopping mall, saying he was "thinking about just go[ing] to buy a big automatic weapon from off the street or something ... and just go around and start shooting."

In March, he talked about how getting a gun and silence was "a big step." He talked about posting a video statement "[o]nce we do five or ten already, 15, something like that."

If convicted, Elfgeeh could face 15 years in prison for charges involving material support for terrorists, and a minimum of 30 years for the firearms possession charges.

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By Abha Shankar  |  September 17, 2014 at 4:42 pm  |  Permalink

Confident From Syria, Hizballah Considering Attacking Israel

Hizballah plans to dispatch scores of terrorists into Israel while striking civilian communities with missiles in a future war that could last months, a senior Israeli source told reporters.

The terrorist organization's confidence grew, based on experience gained from its military intervention in Syria on behalf of dictator Bashar al-Assad. That, the Israeli military official believes, has the group considering going on the offensive. A pre-emptive Israeli ground operation could prevent such incursions.

"The battlegrounds of Syria have enabled Hezbollah to upgrade its capabilities. Hezbollah plans to send many combatants into Israeli territory near the border and seize it," said the source, adding that Israel was forced to make "dramatic changes" to its border-defense assessments as a result.

Such a conflict is not considered imminent, as Hizballah still has significant forces in Syria fighting for Assad and against the Islamic State.

According to the officer, there are no known tunnels leading into Israel from Lebanon; however, the terrorist organization has constructed a vast and sophisticated network of tunnels and underground bunkers in southern Lebanon. With Iranian help, Hizballah taught Hamas how to build their own tunnel network in the Gaza Strip.

Hizballah is believed to have tens of thousands of rockets with greater sophistication and power than those Hamas fired into Israel from Gaza.

To eliminate any threat, Israeli officials have said they'll have to launch a ground attack deep into Lebanon. The collateral damage would be significant, the source acknowledged.

Fighting in Syria taught Hizballah about battlefield command and control of its ground forces and intelligence. Israel doesn't expect immediate hostilities, the source said, but is preparing for the possibility and remains confident that "There is no challenge in Lebanon that the IDF (Israel Defense Forces) cannot overcome. There is no village in Lebanon in which the IDF can't overwhelm Hezbollah."

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By IPT News  |  September 15, 2014 at 2:33 pm  |  Permalink

Hamas and the Art of Deception

Hamas apologists often argue that, since it won one election eight years ago, it is really a legitimate political movement and not a terrorist organization.

Hamas does engage in politics. And a new report from the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) shows, it is skilled in the political art of deception.

In its social media posts, Hamas offers starkly different messages in English compared to Arabic. Writing for English-speaking Westerners, Hamas minimizes the fundamentalist Islamist ideology at the core of its mission. Rather, it emphasizes Palestinian nationalism, as in this example the IDF report cited from Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal: "The Palestinian people are committed to their right to their land, to defend themselves and to lift the siege imposed on Gaza."

Reaching out to Arabic speakers, Hamas routinely invokes the religious commitment used to justify its attacks. The link refers to a hymn with the lyrics, "We, the ones who have pledged allegiance to Muhammad / Will engage in jihad as long as we live."

The Hamas charter, which has been translated into English, invokes Quranic verses to justify the goal of killing Jews and destroying Israel. Its preamble says that, "Israel will exist and will continue to exist until Islam will obliterate it, just as it obliterated others before it."

In altering its messages to appeal to Arabic and English audiences, Hamas borrows a page from its parent organization, the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood. As we reported during the Arab Spring uprising in Egypt, the Brotherhood removed a section of its bylaws calling for "establishing the Islamic State" from its English-language website.

When Osama bin Laden was killed by a U.S. Navy SEAL team, the Brotherhood's English reaction was to acknowledge "one of the reasons for which violence has been practised in the world has been removed." In Arabic, however, the mass-murdering al-Qaida founder was described as both a sheikh and as a martyr, both terms of honor, and the American raid was described as an assassination.

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By IPT News  |  September 12, 2014 at 1:44 pm  |  Permalink

Hamas Admits Launching Rockets From Civilian Areas

Hamas now publicly admits that it used civilian areas to launch rockets at Israel during the summer war, according to a Times of Israel report.

But in admitting that "mistakes" were made, the terrorist organization claims that it had no choice but to fire from urban areas since Gaza is so densely populated. A BBC map of the Gaza Strip demonstrates that there are open areas in which Hamas could have set up their operations to avoid innocent casualties.

According to Hamas, it is not about whether the terrorists fired from residential areas, but rather exactly how close they were to civilian structures.

"The Israelis kept saying rockets were fired from schools or hospitals when, in fact, they were fired from 200-300 meters [220-328 yards] away. Still there were some mistakes made and they were quickly dealt with," senior Hamas official Ghazi Hamad told the Associated Press.

That claim is demonstrably false. An Indian television crew showed a rocket launching site adjacent to their hotel. A French television crew showed rockets being fired near a United Nations building. The Israel Defense Forces produced ample evidence throughout the conflict, including a Hamas training manual, showing that civilian buildings – including mosques, schools, hospitals, and private homes – were deliberately chosen as locations for rocket launch pads, weapons storage and to serve as operating bases.

Israel is now compiling evidence of Hamas' use of human shields to prepare for an impending United Nations investigation into possible war crimes on either side. Most of the evidence will come from Israeli intelligence and Air Force footage, especially since journalists in Gaza were prevented from reporting Hamas' conversion of civilian structures into military bases of operations. In fact, there are numerous documented cases of journalists being detained, interrogated, and even exiled for suspicion of filming Hamas' exploitation of human shields. Yet some journalists were able to report of this blatant violation of international law. In one instance, video footage sent out by the Associated Press showed a rocket launched from a lot next to a mosque in Gaza City.

Meanwhile, Gaza may lose out on possible foreign investment for reconstruction if Hamas remains in power.

"As long as Hamas insists on controlling the Gaza Strip and continues to prevent the PA and the national unity government from exercising their duties, there will be neither funds nor investment," Ali Ibrahim, Saudi Arabian-affiliated Asharq al-Awsat's deputy editor in chief wrote in an op-ed Wednesday, the Jerusalem Post reports.

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By IPT News  |  September 12, 2014 at 12:59 pm  |  Permalink

Obama's "not Islamic" Islamic State Claim Ridiculed

President Obama's assertion Wednesday night that the Islamic State terrorist group "is not 'Islamic'" is drawing derision from a number of quarters.

The claim, also made by Obama's predecessors, is "preposterous," Daniel Pipes wrote for the National Review Online. "To state the obvious: As non-Muslims and politicians, rather than Muslims and scholars, they are in no position to declare what is Islamic and what is not."

Author Sam Harris, an atheist who challenges all religions, went further, dismissing Obama's argument as a "scrim of pretense and delusion."

"Which will come first, flying cars and vacations to Mars, or a simple acknowledgment that beliefs guide behavior and that certain religious ideas—jihad, martyrdom, blasphemy, apostasy—reliably lead to oppression and murder?" Harris wondered in an essay. "It may be true that no faith teaches people to massacre innocents exactly—but innocence, as the President surely knows, is in the eye of the beholder. Are apostates 'innocent'? Blasphemers? Polytheists? Islam has the answer, and the answer is 'no.'"

But Obama's argument echoes statements made by Muslim American leaders during a news conference Wednesday morning. "All of this is against the foundation and teaching of Islam," former Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) President Mohamed Magid told reporters. He also is a member of the president's Homeland Security Advisory Council.

The Quran includes numerous passages encouraging violent jihad and inspiring hatred of non-believers, Harris notes. Robert Spencer offers specific examples here, and asks why the Islamic State has become such a magnet for wannabe jihadists if it was not seen as inherently Islamic.

But instead of acknowledging those verses and debating their modern application, the president used a nationally televised speech to act as if they do not exist. Harris blames "a large industry of obfuscation designed to protect Muslims from having to grapple with these truths."

We saw that in action during Wednesday's news conference at the National Press Club.

It's a difficult sell, Pipes concludes, because of the clear theological statements and justifications Islamic State terrorists invoke for their brutality.

"Anyone with eyes and ears realizes that the Islamic State, like the Taliban and al-Qaeda before it, is 100 percent Islamic. And most Westerners, as indicated by detailed polling in Europe, do have eyes and ears. Over time, they are increasingly relying on common sense to conclude that the group is indeed profoundly Islamic."

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By IPT News  |  September 11, 2014 at 11:11 am  |  Permalink

Colorado Teen Sought Military Training Before Trying to Join ISIS

A Colorado teen pleaded guilty Wednesday to conspiring to provide material support to the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq (ISIS), also known as the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). The conspiracy started earlier this year when 19-year-old Shannon Conley of Arvada, Col. met an ISIS member on the Internet, who identified himself as Yousr Mouelhi.

In their communications, Conley and Mouelhi "shared their view of Islam as requiring participation in violent jihad," the plea agreement said. The two later decided to get engaged and worked with other unnamed co-conspirators to arrange for Conley to travel to Syria to be with Mouelhi.

According to the plea agreement, Conley was fully aware that ISIS was a designated terrorist organization. She joined the U.S. Army Explorers (USAE) to learn military tactics and firearms use in hopes of fighting for ISIS forces in the future. FBI agents met with Conley several times to persuade her to not travel overseas to wage violent jihad, but she would not give up her jihadi ambitions. In March, Mouelhi and other conspirators helped Conley buy an airline ticket to travel to Turkey. She was arrested April 8 at Denver International Airport while trying to board her flight.

A search of Conley's home revealed jihadi materials that included DVDs of lectures by now-deceased American-born Yemeni al-Qaida cleric, Anwar al-Awlaki, as well as "a number of books and articles about Al-Qaeda, its affiliate groups, and jihad." Agents also found "shooting targets labeled with the number of rounds fired and distances."

Conley faces up to to five years in prison and a fine up to $250,000.

Conley's admission of her support for ISIS comes in the wake of the recent killings of Americans fighting for jihadi groups in Syria and Iraq.

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By Abha Shankar  |  September 10, 2014 at 6:18 pm  |  Permalink

Georgetown's Esposito Joins Israel Boycott

Georgetown University Professor John Esposito is one of six Middle East Studies directors at American universities to embrace an academic boycott of Israel, according to a Global Muslim Brotherhood Daily Watch report. The letter first was reported by Campus Watch last week.

The six directors signed a public letter vowing "not to collaborate on projects and events involving Israeli academic institutions," a move that ArabianBusiness.com says could conflict with promises the directors made for federal funds.

As heads of U.S. Department of Education Title VI National Resource Centers, Esposito and the other directors assured that they will "maintain linkages with overseas institutions of higher education and other organizations that may contribute to the teaching and research of the Center."

But the move is quite consistent for Esposito, who, as the Investigative Project on Terrorism (IPT) has documented, has long supported the Muslim Brotherhood and its front groups in the United States. His Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding at Georgetown University was staked with $20 million from Saudi Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal in 2005.

Esposito served as an expert defense witness in the Hamas-financing prosecution against the Texas-based Holy Land Foundation and five of its former officials. He describes Sami Al-Arian, a man documented as a member of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad's governing board, as "a proud, dedicated and committed American ... a man of conscience with a strong commitment to peace and social justice."

Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad are committed to Israel's destruction.

Esposito has repeatedly defended terrorist organizations Hamas and Hizballah. In a 2000 interview in the Middle East Affairs Journal, Esposito was asked if they were terrorist organizations. "One can't make a clear statement about Hamas," he said… Some actions by the military wing of Hamas can be seen as acts of resistance, but other actions are acts of retaliation particularly when they target civilians."

In the same interview, Esposito defended Hizballah for operating "within the Lebanese political system functioning as a major player in parliament. But when it comes to the south it has been primarily a resistance movement…"

Internal documents admitted into evidence during the Holy Land prosecution show that the Middle East Affairs Journal and its publisher, the United Association for Studies and Research (UASR), were part of a Hamas-support network in the United States. The UASR was created by Hamas deputy political director Mousa Abu Marzook. A 1995 edition listed Esposito among the journal's Board of Advisory Editors. At the time, Marzook was in a New York jail, arrested and identified as a leader of Hamas in court papers.

One 1991 document described the UASR as "the official organization which represents the media and cultural aspect to support the cause." A second document, a 1989-90 annual report, made clear that the cause included supporting "the emerging movement, the Hamas Movement."

For more on Esposito, click here.

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By IPT News  |  September 9, 2014 at 3:24 pm  |  Permalink

Islamic State Wins Support from Jordanian Pol, Shocks Saudis

Ruthless violence from the terrorist organization Islamic State (IS, or ISIS) is dividing people in the Muslim world, two recent clips from Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) show.

In Jordan, politician Muhammad Bayoudh Al-Tamimi, a Palestinian, vigorously defended the group during a television appearance posted online Aug. 31. Islamic State ideology "stems from the Quran and the Sunna," he said, according to MEMRI's translation.

"The Quran and the Sunna constitute their ideology, doctrine, and conduct…there is no such thing as 'ISIS ideology' – its Islam."

It has divided the world into two camps – those who stand with the West, including the United States – and those who stand with ISIS. A recent ISIS slaughter of Syrian troops was justified, Al-Tamimi said, because, "They had killed tens of thousands of Muslims… If these Muslims are terrorists – I salute those terrorists! I salute the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria! Blessed be your hands! March on!"

For Saudi Arabia, however, news that a 25-year-old Saudi doctor, Faisal bin Shaman Al-'Anzi, carried out a suicide car-bomb attack for ISIS in northern Iraq in July, killing and injuring approximately 30 people, sent shockwaves through the country's press, a separate MEMRI report shows.

Columnists questioned how someone tasked with saving lives could join a terrorist group like ISIS. Some also emphasized that the roots of the radicalization are based in the institutions of Saudi society, including the education system. Some even suggested re-evaluating the overall ideological origins of the Saudi state.

For instance, liberal Saudi columnist Halima Muzaffa called for reform of the Saudi education system and social institutions, in an article in the daily Al-Watan.

"The phenomenon [of joining ISIS] doubtlessly indicates that our education [system] is unable to improve [the students'] awareness, which means that we must reassess [the issue of] increasing the level of their awareness. However, the responsibility for this does not lie solely with the education [system], but with all the social institutions that are party to shaping [people's] awareness. Therefore, we must rebuild the ideological-moral system in all the institutions, on the religious, educational, medical and media levels," writes Muzaffa.

In the Saudi daily Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, columnist Mishari Al-Zaidi compared Al-'Anzi to other doctors in history who participated in brutal activities, such as Nazi doctor Aribert Heim and Serbian doctor Radovan Karadzic. He noted that al-Qaida leader Ayman al-Zawahiri also is a doctor.

The ISIS ideology is "a malady that kills off the conscience and emotions," Al-Zaidi writes. He called on Saudi education and health professionals "to open their eyes and wake up in order to notice any sign, even the most minute, of any civil servant's [attraction to the ideas of] ISIS -- which could become a cup of poison that will end up causing bitterness and death. This epidemic means that [we must declare] a state of emergency -- from the home through the office to the street."

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By IPT News  |  September 5, 2014 at 1:26 pm  |  Permalink

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