Category Archives: Syria

Why the Showdown with Islamic Extremists Is the War the Pentagon Was Hoping For

Nicolas J.S. Davies writes for AlterNet:

‘As the U.S. escalates its bombing campaign against ISIS (or IS or ISIL), U.S. officials seem to have found an enemy we can all love to hate and fear.  ISIS beheads hostages, conducts brutal ethnic cleansing and has links to Al-Qaeda.  DC power players have eagerly embraced a small war made to order to restore America’s wounded military pride after the first Iraq debacle.

The contrived nature of the narrative presented by U.S. officials was evident from the outset if one cared to look behind the propaganda screen.  As the U.S. bombing campaign began, German Left Party MP Ulla Jelpke told a  press conference in Rojava (Syrian Kurdistan) on August 11th that the Yazidis on Mount Sinjar were rescued by the Kurdish PKK, who the U.S. government classifies as “terrorists.”  Refugees told Jelpke that they were saved by “Allah and the PKK,” not by U.S. bombing.’

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The Khorasan Group: The Fake Terror Threat Used to Justify Bombing Syria

Glenn Greenwald and Murtaza Hussain write for The Intercept:

Featured photo - The Fake Terror Threat Used To Justify Bombing Syria‘As the Obama Administration prepared to bomb Syria without congressional or U.N. authorization, it faced two problems. The first was the difficulty of sustaining public support for a new years-long war against ISIS, a group that clearly posed no imminent threat to the “homeland.” A second was the lack of legal justification for launching a new bombing campaign with no viable claim of self-defense or U.N. approval.

The solution to both problems was found in the wholesale concoction of a brand new terror threat that was branded “The Khorasan Group.” After spending weeks depicting ISIS as an unprecedented threat — too radical even for Al Qaeda! — administration officials suddenly began spoon-feeding their favorite media organizations and national security journalists tales of a secret group that was even scarier and more threatening than ISIS, one that posed a direct and immediate threat to the American Homeland. Seemingly out of nowhere, a new terror group was created in media lore.’

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War Photographer Benjamin Hiller On His Time In Syria

Clear as mud: The war against Islamic State explained

The Impotence of Air Power: Why Bombing ISIS Will Fail

Patrick Cockburn writes for CounterPunch:

‘The US plan to weaken and ultimately destroy Isis has several political and military weaknesses undermining its long-term success. Air campaigns not supported by ground forces can damage the other side but they do not win wars on their own. Isis has already faced bombardment by US planes in Iraq since 8 August, but it is still fighting the Iraqi army around Baghdad.

Some of the weaknesses of the air war are already apparent since Isis had evacuated its leaders, fighters and heavy equipment from buildings that were targeted. Its fighters avoid large gatherings and mix with the civilian population. The shock effect of being bombed will be the less because the Syrian air force has long been bombing rebel-held cities and towns.

Isis expertise is in guerrilla warfare and it is only recently that it has used columns of vehicles packed with gunmen and heavy infantry weapons. Air superiority over the fruit groves of Diyala province or the palm trees of northern Hilla is difficult to use effectively. Of course, in Syria and Iraq there are ground troops capable of taking advantage of the air strikes, but they mostly belong to armies and militias with whom the US is not meant to be co-operating.’

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How the Pentagon Exploits ISIS to Kill Surveillance Reform and Re-Occupy Iraq

Nafeez Ahmed writes for CounterPunch:

‘As the US, Britain and France are maneuvering to escalate military action in Iraq and Syria against the ‘Islamic State’ in an operation slated to last “years,” authorities are simultaneously calling for new measures to tighten security at home to fend off the danger of jihadists targeting western homelands. Intervention abroad, policymakers are arguing, must be tied to increased domestic surveillance and vigilance. But US and British military experts warn that officials have overlooked the extent to which western policies in the region have not just stoked the rise of IS, but will continue to inflame the current crisis. The consequences could be dire – while governments exploit the turmoil in the Middle East to justify an effective re-invasion of Iraq along with intensified powers of surveillance and control – the end result could well be accelerated regional violence and increasing criminalization of Muslims and activists.’

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The Iraq and Syria airstrikes are popular. But so is every military action — at first.

Aaron Blake writes for The Washington Post:

ptflzwhesum4gdejsebywg‘Over the past few weeks, poll after poll has shown the just-launched American airstrikes in Syria and the weeks-long campaign in Iraq are quite popular. And that remains the case.

But actually, it would be more unusual if that wasn’t the case. And in fact, the actions in Iraq and Syria have a lower initial level of support than almost every major U.S. military operation over the past three decades.’

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How John McCain Wound Up Canoodling With Terrorists

Justin Raimondo writes for Antiwar:

ISIS-McCain‘Did Senator John McCain, a leading advocate of arming Syria’s Islamist revolutionaries, meet with members or allies of the Islamic State in al-Sham [the Levant] (ISIS) during his trip to Syria on May 27 of last year?

McCain and his defenders deny it, and McCain’s longtime advisor, Mark Salter, is accusing Sen. Rand Paul – who, in a recent interview with the Daily Beast, said McCain had met with ISIS – of “smearing” McCain and indulging in “conspiracy theories,” rendering him “unfit” for the office of the presidency. The Washington establishment, unsurprisingly, is siding with McCain, one of their own: theWashington Post’s Glenn Kessler, in a scathing piece, gives Sen. Paul “four Pinocchios,” and regrets that’s the maximum allowed. Josh Rogin, of the reliably neoconnish Daily Beast, joined in the pile-on with his colleague Olivia Nuzzi, ex-aide to Anthony Weiner, who accused Paul of “repeating a thoroughly debunked rumor.”

Now, however, it’s time to debunk the “debunking,” because the truth is finally coming out – and it’s worse for McCain than even Sen. Paul imagined. It turns out the frenetic Arizona warmonger met with members of the Northern Storm Brigade – the group that handed US journalist Steven Sotloff over to ISIS as he crossed the border into Syria.’

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‘Tony Blair is a crusader’ says former deputy PM John Prescott

Islamic State battle could take years, Pentagon says

BBC News reports:

‘US-led air strikes have disrupted Islamic State (IS) militants but the fight against them will take years, a Pentagon spokesman has told the BBC. The comments came as activists reported new strikes around the town of Kobane, near Syria’s border with Turkey.

[...] Speaking in Washington, Rear Adm John Kirby said the air strikes in Syria had successfully degraded IS capabilities. “We think we have hit what we were aiming at,” he said. However, IS was good at adapting and reacting to changes, he said, adding that the group presented a “serious threat” that would not be eliminated “within days or months.” “It’s going to take a serious effort by all involved. We do believe that we’re talking about years here.”‘

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Operation Tomahawk the Caliph

Pepe Escobar writes for the Asia Times:

‘The Tomahawks are finally flying again – propelled by newspeak. 42 Tomahawks fired from a Sixth Fleet destroyer parked in Mare Nostrum, plus F-22s raising hell and Hellfires spouted by drones, that’s a neat mini-Shock and Awe to honor Caliph Ibrahim, aka Abu Bakr al -Baghdadi, self-declared leader of Islamic State.

It’s all so surgical. All targets – from ”suspected” weapons depots to the mayor’s mansion in Raqqah (the HQ of The Caliph’s goons) and assorted checkpoints – were duly obliterated, along with “dozens of”, perhaps 120, jihadis.

And praise those “over 40″ (Samantha Power) or “over 50″ (John Kerry) international allies in the coalition of the unwilling; America is never alone, although in this case mightily escorted, de facto, only by the usual Gulf petrodollar dictatorships and the realm of King Playstation, Jordan, all none too keen to engage in “kinetic activities”.

Aseptic newspeak aside, no one has seen or heard a mighty Gulf Cooperation Council air force deployed to bomb Syria. After all the vassals are scared as hell to tell their own populations they are – once again – bombing a fellow Arab nation. As for Damascus, it meekly said it was ”notified” by the Pentagon its own territory would be bombed. Nobody really knows what the Pentagon is exactly telling Damascus.

The Pentagon calls it just the beginning of a ”sustained campaign” – code for Long War, which is one of the original denominations of the Global War on Terror (GWOT) anyway. And yes, for all practical purposes this is a coalition of one. Let’s call it Operation Tomahawk the Caliph.’

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Jimmy Carter: US Bombing of ISIS ‘Likely to Kill More Civilians’ Than Fighters

The Associated Press reports:

‘A U.S. bombing attack against the Islamic State forces in Iraq could end up killing more civilians than militants unless there are American spotters on the ground, former President Jimmy Carter said Monday during an appearance at a community college in western Michigan.

[...] “When ISIS forces go into a city and take it over, and then the United States goes over there with bombers and drops bombs, we are very likely to kill more civilians than ISIS members. That’s why it’s very necessary for us to have our own people on the ground that can give us accurate information about exactly where to let a missile land or a bomb land to make sure that it kills the ISIS terrorists instead of normal civilians.”‘

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Kerry’s rhetoric on ISIS insults our intelligence and conceals the reality of the situation in Syria

Robert Fisk writes for The Independent:

‘[...] Anyone who has studied Syria from afar, let alone those who go there, know that the fictional “moderate opposition” – supposedly deserters from the Syrian government army – does not exist. Corrupted, disillusioned, murdered or simply re-defected towards Isis or some other al-Qaeda outfit, the old “Free Syrian Army” is now a myth as ridiculous – and as potent for the Kerrys of this world – as Mussolini’s boast that the Italian army could defeat the British in North Africa. Any Syrian soldier will tell you that they are happy to fight the FSA because these warriors of the “moderate opposition” always run away. It is the al-Qaeda-Nusra-Isis “terrorists” who fight to the death.

But Kerry, like the generals of the First World War, is in an ornate chateau of his own imagination. “In Syria, the on-the-ground combat will be done by the moderate opposition, which is Syria’s [sic] best counterweight to extremists like [Isis],” he told the House Foreign Affairs Committee. “And we can talk more about that moderate opposition – what it looks like, who it is, what they’re capable of today, what they could be doing – as we go forward.” Like Generals Haig and French, Kerry dreamed on.’

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Syria Becomes the 7th Predominantly Muslim Country Bombed by 2009 Nobel Peace Laureate

Glenn Greenwald writes for The Intercept:

Featured photo - Syria Becomes the 7th Predominantly Muslim Country Bombed by 2009 Nobel Peace Laureate‘The U.S. today began bombing targets inside Syria, in concert with its lovely and inspiring group of five allied regimes: Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, United Arab Emirates, Qatar, and Jordan. That means that Syria becomes the 7th predominantly Muslim country bombed by 2009 Nobel Peace Laureate Barack Obama—after Afghanistan,Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, Libya and Iraq.

The utter lack of interest in what possible legal authority Obama has to bomb Syria is telling indeed: Empires bomb who they want, when they want, for whatever reason (indeed, recall that Obama bombed Libya evenafter Congress explicitly voted against authorization to use force, and very few people seemed to mind that abject act of lawlessness; constitutional constraints are not for warriors and emperors).

It was just over a year ago that Obama officials were insisting that bombing and attacking Assad was a moral and strategic imperative. Instead, Obama is now bombing Assad’s enemies while politely informing his regime of its targets in advance. It seems irrelevant on whom the U.S. wages war; what matters it that it be at war, always and forever.’

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First Germany, Now France Folds On Syrian Airstrikes

From Zero Hedge:

‘In yet another rather embarrassing event for The White House, just days after President Obama praised the French for helping in the fight against ISIS, and General martin Dempsey noted “the French were our very first ally and they’re with us again now,” French officials have, according to Reuters, ruled out participation in airstrikes against Islamic State in Syria. With the fall of France (and Germany already saying “nein”), it appears the broad coalition is now a “coalition of none,” as Obama has stated the US would not go it alone…’

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Syria is sticking point between Russia and U.S. on defeating Islamic State

Karoun Demirjian reports for The Washington Post:

‘As the United States worked to build an international coalition for expanded strikes against the Islamic State, Russia has taken the opportunity to say “we told you so” and hedged broader support until the Syrian government gets a larger role. The Kremlin has no trouble with the intended target — like the United States, Russia wants the Islamic State destroyed and thinks it must be defeated in Syria and Iraq.

But as Syria’s unofficial patron and interlocutor in international discussions about how to confront the Islamic State, Russia has been insistent that U.S. moves to target militants in Syria lack authority without buy-in from Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. President Obama has said he will not directly coordinate planned strikes against the Islamic State with Assad, although the Syrian army is fighting the group, too.

In the past, competing allegiances in the Syrian conflict have not blocked all cooperation. Last year, Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin brokered an agreement to transfer Syria’s chemical weapons to international control, narrowly avoiding U.S. airstrikes. But the near-complete erosion of trust between the two countries since then — and pervasive suspicion about the United States’ motives — complicates the chances of a similar breakthrough.’

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Expanding U.S. Strikes to ISIS in Syria, Has Obama Opened New Phase of “Perpetual War”?

‘The United States has launched airstrikes in Syria targeting the Islamic State, as well as members of a separate militant organization known as the Khorasan group. The Pentagon says U.S. forces launched 47 Tomahawk Land Attack Missiles from warships in the Red Sea and North Arabian Gulf. In addition, U.S. Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps fighters, bombers and drones took part in the airstrikes. According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, at least 20 Islamic State fighters were killed in strikes that hit at least 50 targets in Raqqa and Deir al-Zor provinces in Syria’s east. The United States says Bahrain, Jordan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates had either participated or supported the strikes against the Islamic State, which has seized swaths of Syria and Iraq. The United States acted alone against the Khorasan group, saying it “took action to disrupt the imminent attack plotting against the United States and Western interests.” The Syrian government claims the United States had informed it of the pending attacks hours before the strikes began. Meanwhile, the United States has expanded its bombing of Iraq, launching new strikes around Kirkuk. To discuss this development, we are joined by two guests: Vijay Prashad, professor of international studies at Trinity College who has written extensively about the Islamic State, and Medea Benjamin, co-founder of the peace group CodePink and author of “Drone Warfare: Killing by Remote Control.”‘ (Democracy Now!)

The Geopolitics of World War III

How the west created the Islamic State… with a little help from our friends

Nafeez Ahmed writes for Medium:

‘Missing from the chorus of outrage… has been any acknowledgement of the integral role of covert US and British regional military intelligence strategy in empowering and even directly sponsoring the very same virulent Islamist militants in Iraq, Syria and beyond, that went on to break away from al-Qaeda and form ‘ISIS’, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or now simply, the Islamic State (IS).

Since 2003, Anglo-American power has secretly and openly coordinated direct and indirect support for Islamist terrorist groups linked to al-Qaeda across the Middle East and North Africa. This ill-conceived patchwork geostrategy is a legacy of the persistent influence of neoconservative ideology, motivated by longstanding but often contradictory ambitions to dominate regional oil resources, defend an expansionist Israel, and in pursuit of these, re-draw the map of the Middle East.’

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Perpetual War, and Shame, Is Our Policy

Matthew Hoh writes for The Huffington Post:

‘The United States’ official policy in the Middle East is now perpetual war. What has been known for some time, including by those of us who have served overseas, by the millions who have suffered through our bombs and our bullets, and, of course, by the hundreds of thousands whose lives have been ripped from their families and from any promised futures, President Obama solidified last night.

The United States, by agreeing to airstrikes without end in support of a corrupt and sectarian government in Baghdad; by championing a Shia and Kurdish invasion of Sunni lands; and by promising arms, munitions and money to rebel groups in the middle of the Syrian Civil War, the same groups that sold Steven Sotloff to his beheading, has adopted a policy that will exacerbate the civil wars in both Iraq and Syria and deepen the nightmare existence of their people. President Obama’s speech will be remembered as a mark of moral shame on the United States, so very opposite and so very contradictory to the courage shown by the president five years ago in Cairo, Egypt.’

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Perpetual War Is Fine With the New York Times After All

Normon Solomon writes for The Huffington Post:

‘The editorial board of the New York Times has an Orwellian knack for war. Sixteen months ago, when President Obama gave oratorical lip service to ending “perpetual war,” the newspaper quickly touted that end as a democratic necessity. But now — in response to Obama’s speech Wednesday night announcing escalation of war without plausible end — the Times editorial voice is with the endless war program.’

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Despite ISIS Getting US Arms, Obama Wants to Send More to Syria Rebels

Jason Ditz reports for Antiwar:

‘Yesterday’s big report was that much of the weaponry that ISIS is using, both small arms and anti-tank missiles, were actually provided by the US, for the “moderate” Syrian rebels.

It wasn’t a big surprise that this was going to happen, though the White House tried to spin this as vindication for their decision not to send even more weapons to the rebels, because they had to be super careful to avoid the arms falling into ISIS hands. Which they did anyway.’

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Syrian Rebel Commander: We Are Collaborating with ISIS and Nusra Front

Mikael Thalen reports for Prison Planet:

‘A commander with the Free Syrian Army admitted to fighting alongside several terrorist organizations this week in yet another example of the so-called “rebels” true nature. Speaking with Lebanon’s Daily Star, Bassel Idriss, commander of an FSA-run rebel brigade, openly discussed the group’s joint operations with ISIS and the Al-Nusra Front.

“We are collaborating with the Islamic State and the Nusra Front by attacking the Syrian Army’s gatherings in … Qalamoun,” Idriss said. “Let’s face it: The Nusra Front is the biggest power present right now in Qalamoun and we as FSA would collaborate on any mission they launch as long as it coincides with our values.”’

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Obama Ready to Authorize Airstrikes on ISIS in Syria

Mark Landler and Jonathan Weisman report for The New York Times:

President Obama is prepared to authorize airstrikes in Syria, a senior administration official said on Tuesday, taking the military campaign against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, the Sunni militant group, into new and unpredictable terrain.

But Mr. Obama is still wrestling with a series of challenges, including how to train and equip a viable ground force to fight ISIS inside Syria, how to intervene without aiding President Bashar al-Assad, and how to enlist potentially reluctant partners like Turkey and Saudi Arabia.’

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Russian FM Lavrov: West may use ISIS as pretext to bomb Syrian govt forces

RT reports:

Russia's Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov adresses to his Malian counterpart Abdoulaye Diop (not pictured) during their meeting in Moscow, September 9, 2014. (Reuters/Sergei Karpukhin)‘If the West bombs Islamic State militants in Syria without consulting Damascus, the anti-ISIS alliance may use the occasion to launch airstrikes against President Bashar Assad’s forces, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said.

There are reasons to suspect that air strikes on Syrian territory may target not only areas controlled by Islamic State militants, but the government troops may also be attacked on the quiet to weaken the positions of Bashar Assad’s army,” Lavrov said Tuesday.’

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Islamic State militants vow to ‘de-throne’ Putin over Syria support

AFP reported last week:

‘Islamic State militants have issued a threat to President Vladimir Putin, vowing to oust him and “liberate” the volatile North Caucasus over his support of the Syrian regime. The General Prosecutor’s Office of Russia demanded that access to the address, which was posted on YouTube on Tuesday and features what jihadists say is a Russian-supplied fighter jet, be blocked.

“This is a message to you, oh Vladimir Putin, these are the jets that you have sent to Bashar, we will send them to you, God willing, remember that,” said one fighter in Arabic, according to Russian-language captions provided in the video. “And we will liberate Chechnya and the entire Caucasus, God willing,” said the militant. “The Islamic State is and will be and it is expanding God willing. Your throne has already teetered, it is under threat and will fall when we come to you because Allah is truly on our side,” said the fighter. “We are already on our way God willing.”‘

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Americans Now Fear ISIS Sleeper Cells Are Living in the U.S., Overwhelmingly Support Military Action

Glenn Greenwald writes for The Intercept:

‘[...] If the goal of terrorist groups is to sow irrational terror, has anything since the 9/11 attack been more successful than those two journalist beheading videos? It’s almost certainly the case that as recently as six months ago, only a minute percentage of the American public (and probably the U.S. media) had even heard of ISIS. Now, two brutal beheadings later, they are convinced that they are lurking in their neighborhoods, that they are a Grave and Unprecedented Threat (worse than al Qaeda!), and that military action against them is needed.

It’s as though ISIS and the U.S. media and political class worked in perfect unison to achieve the same goal here when it comes to American public opinion: fully terrorize them.

Although Americans favor military action against ISIS, today’s… CNN poll finds that – at least of now – most do not want ground troops in Iraq or Syria (“61%-38%, oppose placing U.S. soldiers on the ground in Iraq and Syria to combat the terrorist group”). But almost every credible expert has said that airstrikes, without troops, is woefully inadequate to achieve any of the stated goals. Other than further inflaming anti-American sentiment in the region and strengthening ISIS, what possible purpose can such airstrikes have? The answer given by much of the U.S. media, as FAIR documented, seems clear: to “flex muscles” and show “toughness”.

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The Covert Origins of ISIS

Obama vows to ‘degrade and destroy’ Islamic State

Balazs Koranyi and David Mardiste report for Reuters:

‘The United States plans to fight Islamic State until it is no longer a force in the Middle East and will seek justice for the killing of American journalist Steven Sotloff, President Barack Obama said on Wednesday.

He added that destroying the militant group will take time because of the power vacuum in Syria, the abundance of battle-hardened fighters that grew out of al Qaeda during the Iraq war, and the need to build coalitions, including with local Sunni communities.

[...] “The bottom line is this, our objective is clear and that is to degrade and destroy (Islamic State) so that it’s no longer a threat not just to Iraq but also the region and to the United States,” Obama told a news conference.’

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US warns ISIS could get ahold of Syria’s chemical weapons

The Associated Press reports:

Ambassador: Samantha Power, U.S. ambassador the the United Nations, said the U.S. is concerned not only that President Bashar Assad's regime still has chemical weapons, but that any  left behind could end up in the hands of ISIS‘The United States is concerned that the Islamic State group and other terrorists could get a hold of chemical weapons if Syria is hiding any stockpiles, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations said Thursday. Samantha Power spoke to reporters after the Security Council received a briefing from Sigrid Kaag, who heads the international effort to rid Syria of its chemical weapons.

The joint mission of the United Nations and the Organization for the prohibition of Chemical Weapons will end at the end of the month after destroying nearly all of Syria’s declared stockpile. But Kaag said the OPCW is still working with Syria to resolve discrepancies in its declaration, which she said range from outdated records to discrepancies on the volume of materials. Power said the U.S. is concerned not only that President Bashar Assad’s regime still has chemical weapons but that any stockpiles left behind could end up in the hands of the Islamic State group, which has seized large swaths of Syria and Iraq.’

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