The Obama Administration has knowingly allowed ISIL to gain strength and capture more and more territory inside of Iraq and has set the stage for a second 9/11 style attack against a US target, which may in fact turn out to be the US Embassy Baghdad. The White House looked the other way for years because the US, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar, in particular, were covertly arming, training, equipping, and advising elements of what it falsely believed was the Free Syrian Army (FSA) in Syria. This organization of what became ISIL occurred at US sponsored bases in Jordan, Turkey, and now Syria proper. However, the FSA was in the complete control of Islamic extremists from an early stage (http://www.blackboxwire.com/2013/09/09/media-missed-the-biggest-coup-in-the-middle-east-and-it-wasnt-in-egypt/). This CIA created rebel army then quickly grew too big for the CIA to control as many insiders warned would happen. As extremists took over the remaining “moderate” elements of the FSA, advanced weapons covertly provided to fight Assad, such as the US made Stinger missiles, were seized and retasked for the fight in Iraq. With the covert backing of the US, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar, ISIL gained enough strength and organization to become a formidable light infantry army and capture large swaths of Sunni controlled areas of Iraq. This fight was originally justified as necessary to build a cross border sanctuary for the anti-Assad forces fighting in Syria, but in reality turned out to be the genesis of a new terrorist state. With the capture of territory that included Syrian and Iraqi military bases, ISIL fell into control of a large number of advanced military weapons that supercharged their fighting ability beyond what the CIA intended or could control. At this point, some advisors took refuge in that ISIL may not have the technical knowhow to maintain and fully operate systems such as fighter jets, air defense systems, and M1 Abrams tanks. However, this is a false logic that breeds a false sense of security because ISIL certainly has the skills to use these advanced weapons asymmetrically in attacks never before possible. The US national security establishment is simply not prepared to deal with this increased level of state-like terrorist organization.
Previously, for a terrorist organization to have advanced military weapons, the weapons had to be provided by a state sponsor. Thankfully, no state was going to provide items such as fighter jets and tanks because of the obvious inability to maintain plausible deniability of their support to terrorism. Further, without a true geographical sanctuary, terrorists would find little use in a weapon such as a howitzer. However, ISIL has crossed a new threshold. Because the US has been so strategically inept at combatting the spread of Islamic extremism, an even more violent brand of Al Qaeda inspired Islamism has established what amounts to a terrorist state in the true sense of the term. Under President Obama’s watch, the extreme of the extreme now possess a host of military grade weapons that include anti-tank missiles and rockets, mortars, heavy artillery, man portable air defense systems (Stingers), fighter jets and bombers, helicopters, advanced main battle tanks, night vision optics, SCUD missiles, chemical weapons, and hundreds of millions of dollars in funding. This equipment is proliferating as I write throughout the world’s terrorist elements and will be used to great effect against US targets first abroad and ultimately domestically.
Reviewing ISIL’s order of battle, intent, and demonstrated capabilities, it is clear that ISIL will continue to operate more rapidly than US policy can predict and react. Specifically, the US Departments of State and Defense are mired in fighting an antiquated model of terrorism and US policy makers at the White House are blind to predict how this will impact US security. This will lead to a second 9/11 style attack in magnitude, which will leave the White House claiming the events were unforeseeable and that the CIA was caught off guard. Based on this analysis, I have identified a few of the most likely attacks ISIL may launch. Failure to prepare adequately for this higher level of threat will no doubt lead to loss of American lives.
The first attack we must prepare for is ISIL to use captured fighter jets and bombers to conventionally rocket or bomb strategic US installations such as our consulate in Erbil or our Embassy in Baghdad. They could also successfully attack any number of key infrastructure targets to include critical oil pumping stations. In an unconventional role, ISIL may simply choose to load a jet with explosives and similar to 9/11, fly a jet directly into our main embassy building in Baghdad. Jets could also be used as human guided missiles to destroy passenger jets flying through or near Iraqi airspace. ISIL also has helicopters that could be used to conduct raids and insert assault teams into areas believed inaccessible by infantry forces. This operation could be conducted against lightly defended key infrastructure throughout Iraq and would almost surely take the defenders off guard.
The second attack ISIL is capable of is the use of chemical weapons such as nerve gas. ISIL has already demonstrated its capacity to acquire and use low grade nerve agents inside of Syria in false flag attacks designed to draw the US into the Syrian War. Now with longer range rockets, artillery, and mortars, ISIL has no technological hurdles to overcome if it desires to conduct a chemical attack inside Iraq. ISIL even has shown footage that it has a SCUD missile. If this is in fact true and they can launch it, they have the ability to hit not just Baghdad, but Israel with either a high explosive or chemical payload. In fact, it is very plausible that ISIL could infiltrate a team with rockets or mortars loaded with a nerve agent to a point within the range of the US Embassy in Baghdad and hit our compound with Sarin or other chemical agents. Although diplomatic facilities do have some means to counter this threat, the surprise of the attack would catch our personnel unprepared and cause a large number of casualties.
The third major threat area is the use of anti-aircraft missiles. ISIL now possesses a range of man portable advanced surface to air missiles to include the US made Stinger. Compounded by the loss of over 20,000 advanced Russian man portable anti-aircraft missiles, it is highly likely that ISIL and affiliates will use these systems to target both military and commercial air traffic. Due to the portability of these weapons, this threat could materialize anywhere around the globe. However, it is still most likely that aircraft transiting the Middle East and North Africa in route to or from Europe will the primary targets. Islamic extremists have continually tried to destroy passenger jets with concealed bombs, but now have the ability to utterly bypass airport security and simply blow the plane out of the sky. It is worth noting that the acquisition of this highly lethal military technology was preventable. It was only after major policy blunders in both Libya and Syria, orchestrated by the White House and President Obama’s inner circle of Susan Rice, Samantha Power, and Hillary Clinton that Gadhafi’s arsenals were allowed to be raided by US backed Islamic rebels in Libya and the FSA was covertly provided Stinger missiles by the US. To put it simply, had President Obama not backed Islamists, terrorists around the world would not currently be in the possession of weapons capable of shooting down a passenger jet.
The fourth area worth discussing right now is ISIL’s possession of advanced anti-armor weapons. ISIL now has an extremely large arsenal of anti-tank weapons. These weapons are designed to defeat the armor of main battle tanks and are more than capable of destroying US manufactured Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles and armored cars used by VIPs and dignitaries from ranges up to five kilometers away. Previously, insurgent factions in both Iraq and Afghanistan were limited to RPGs and homemade roadside bombs. Although effective, they simply never presented the threat that a professionally manufactured anti-tank missile or rocket with a chemical or tandem shaped charged warhead presented. These weapons, such as the Russian made Kornet, (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/9M133_Kornet) can be accurately employed by one to three men teams and utterly destroy main battle tanks, MRAPS, armored limousines, low flying helicopters, and fortifications. Making these more dangerous, ISIL does have the organic expertise to maintain and employ these weapons effectively. As such, we can expect to have a persistent threat to high value targets. In particular, I fear that these will be used to target armored convoys of US personnel operating in and around the Middle East. As these systems proliferate, they could be very effectively used against US targets in Africa as well such as diplomatic motorcades.
In summary, I have presented four new threat areas the US must prepare to counter. These threats will grow and persist. ISIL and Islamic extremism are nowhere close to being defeated. In fact, their numbers are growing and the US leadership has proved totally ineffective at the strategic level in countering this growth. As we approach the anniversary of 9/11, I present this analysis in hopes of ringing the warning bells and waking up both our policy makers and the media to the new and much more serious threat presented by ISIL and like terrorist organizations.
By Guiles Hendrik
August 30, 2014
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