Ebb and Flow

Hi Everyone,

The situation with Islamic State seems to be ebb and flow...

Kobani – where much of the worlds attention, has seemed to fall into a stagnant situation, with neither side able to muster an offense.

Before Kobani – was the incident of the exodus of Yazidi and other minorities to Mount Sinjar.

Since those tragic scenes, people on the mount have ironically been safe- yet held captive because IS forces encircled the Mount.

However, these last few days Kurdish forces have made a significant victory in breaking that siege.

Thousands of displaced people now have a potential way off the mountain and try to reach family and friends – predominately in Kurdistan where most fled back in August when the siege began.

The US who is leading coalition forces against IS says that the terror group has been weakened and are losing moral. Yesterday several high-ranking IS fighting figures were killed in Coalition bombings in Iraq.

But with the success in the north – the large area of the Anbar province is not bringing good news.

Iraqi forces have been encircled on a base by IS and lost in a mere four hours what took them two weeks of fighting to gain.

This is a blow to the steps forward made by the Iraqi military.

Soldiers complained that they lacked Coalition air support and were forced to pull back to Ain al-Asad airbase.

Some of the deadliest fighting has taken place in the region and more than half a million people have been forced to flee their homes.

The Iraqi forces were hoping to gain control of a supply route run between IS in Syria, and IS on the outskirts of Iraq's capital Baghdad.

Now, with these men trapped on this major base, it becomes a desired target for IS to regain it's military prowess - a potential major victory for the Islamic State.

Brian Bush Middle East Correspondent LeSEA Broadcasting

Ex-Wife of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi

Hello All,

This week has carried a particularly intriguing story.

It comes out of Lebanon, with Lebanese authorities detaining a woman with her son, first thought to be the wife of Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

The arrest came a few weeks ago when the woman tried to enter Lebanon from Syria – apparently with fake documents.

So called "foreign intelligence apparatus" was involved in her apprehension – as she would be a high value target. Many versions of just who she was were circulating from regional sources, including Iraq and Lebanon.

It turns out that the woman was married to Baghdadi for three months six years ago, and has a daughter by him.

She was traveling with her daughter, and two sons.

Lebanese security used DNA from both the woman and the daughter with her, along with DNA from Iraqi authorities of Al-Baghdadi to ascertain the match.

The two boys with her are from a previous marriage. It turns out, in fact, that she is now married to a Palestinian, and is actually pregnant with his child.

Her family is a known terror source with her father and brother being active in Al-Nusra Front.

She was in custody at the beginning of the year and released in an Al-Nusra prisoner exchange for Greek Orthodox Nuns whom the group kidnapped. 120 prisoners were swapped, and this woman was part of that exchange,

One Lebanese official has said she is a "powerful card" in negotiations with IS and Al-Nusra, who are currently holding more than 20 Lebanese soldiers and police hostage.

They are threatening to kill them unless militants are freed from Lebanese jails.

Islamic State has not commented on the affair.

Al-Nusra has condemned her being held.

Make no mistake, authorities are pleased to have the chance to glean information from her as they seek to learn more about the self proclaimed Caliph - Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

Brian Bush Middle East Correspondent LeSEA Broadcasting

Islamic State Expanding

Hello Friends,

The Islamic State is expanding.

It seems that they feel they are not going to be gaining more territory any time soon in Syria and Iraq – so they are looking to destabilize and create new areas of influence.

We already know that they wish to see their black flag raised in the Kingdom of Saud.

In Libya, the Islamic State's influence is moving west with fighters claiming loyalty to IS now in complete control of the city of Derna, with a population of about 100,000, not far from Egypt's western border.

This area is a known weapons smuggling route, and places the extremist group about 200 miles from the shores of the European Union.

Libya is suffering from political chaos and ethnic strife.

Reports say that up to 300 Libyan jihadists have returned from fighting in Syria and Iraq in order to expand IS's presence westwards along the coast towards Algeria - where Islamic State has recently gained a foothold as well, through the allegiance of a large terrorist group there.

In Egypt's Sinai, Ansar Beit al-Maqdis – the area's largest and most effective terror group has now pledged allegiance to the Islamic State.

They now call themselves the "State of Sinai" – eluding to ISs desire to grow its boundaries.

The terror group has been responsible for the death of hundreds of Egyptian police and soldiers – along with escalating attacks upon Israeli interests.

The Islamic State has sent a deputy commander of its leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi to lead the acquired groups operations.

Egypt's President Abdel al Sisi has vowed to crush the group.

Reports say that as many as 20,000 soldiers are in the area preparing to confront the Jihadists. Israel authorized the expansion of the Egyptian presence as it sees President Sisi serious about wiping out this potential major threat before it can organize any further terror.

The buffer zone to the Gaza Strip has now been extended to roughly ½ miles width as opposed to the original size of ¼ mile.

President Sisi (and Israel for that matter) wishes to block any physical ability for Jihadists in the Northern Sinai to link up with Hamas or any other group in Gaza.

Brian Bush Middle East Correspondent LeSEA Broadcasting

Kobane Boost of Moral

Hello Everyone!

The most impactful news right now may be that Turkey will now reportedly allow Iraqi Kurdish fighters (not Syrian Kurds, not Turkish Kurds) to enter the Syrian border town of Kobane to fight Islamic State.

It is being understood as a reversal of their earlier policy.

The news came after America carried out air drops of weapons, ammunition, and first aid supplies to the Kurdish fighters who have long complained that they are outgunned by IS who has tanks, armored personnel carriers and heavy weaponry.

Sometimes using home made bombs, the defenders have regained a fairly large portion of the city – but the battle isn't over yet.

This announcement is huge because the Islamic State has freely sent supplies and fighters as reinforcements into battle where as the Kurdish forces were left on their own not able to receive much in terms of fighting relief or supplies.

Perhaps as many as 200,000 people have fled Kobane in the recent months of fighting.

Many Kurds who fled with their families into Turkey have sought to return to fight in defense of their homes.

Turkey has not officially allowed re-entry into Kobane.

This has caused hundreds to stand upon the hills and offer only their cheers as support for their brothers fighting a desperate battle.

At points durring the past weeks, Kurds have broken through border fencing to reach the town - which is roughly a mile away from the border.

This past week saw an major increase in US Coalition airstrikes upon IS targets in and around Kobane, shifting the momentum back into the hands of the Kurdish fighters of the town. For a second day now it has been somewhat quite.

There are still battles, but not the same intensity and breadth across the town.

Perhaps the biggest thing to come out of this is a boost of moral for these men and women who have, particularly over this last month, lost many of their comrades and friends who fought to defend this strategic and symbolic city.

Brian Bush Middle East Correspondent LeSEA Broadcasting

Update on Islamic State

Hello Friends,

Lets update ourselves on the situation with the Islamic State.

In Iraq, advancing Islamic State fighters now appear to hold as much as 80% of the Anbar province west of Baghdad.

IS fighters reportedly reached as close to 6 miles distance from Baghdad's International airport before retreating under fire from American Apache helicopter gunships sent to stop their advance.

Despite this occurrence Iraqi and American officials remain confident that Baghdad itself will not fall to Islamic State.

In Baghdad this week the Shia areas suffered from extensive car and suicide bombings. Markets, checkpoints, and crowed streets were targeted where perhaps as many as 100 people have been killed and hundreds more wounded in the series of daily attacks which included mortar rounds striking Shia neighborhoods. Meanwhile in Syria where intensified US airstrikes and a resolute Kurdish fighting force on the ground appear to have made progress in retaking parts of the Syrian Kurd border town of Kobane.

The fighting in and around Kobani has ebbed and flowed this week, where more than 550 people, the majority of them Islamic State fighters, have died. Islamic State outnumbers and outguns the Kurds with tanks and heavy weaponry, and the free flow of supplies and fresh fighters. But increased Coalition airstrikes have served to assist the pushing back of the Jihadists who had reportedly taken up to 50% of the besieged town. Lets continue to pray for those effected, displaced, wounded, and suffering from the fighting – and that God in His great mercy would find His way into the hearts of men – so desperately needing Him.

Brian Bush Middle East Correspondent LeSEA Broadcasting

What It Takes To Win The Battle

Hello Friends,

The regional news is about President Obama's declared commitment to US soldiers: "I will not commit you and the rest of our armed forces to fighting another ground war in Iraq".

So are hailing this decision – believing America causes more damage than good, citing Afghanistan and Iraq as examples.

Others say that without the superiority of US forces on the ground fighting Islamic State, the conflict will continue for years to come, further instability and terrorism will flourish.

The President did say that America has "unique abilities" to respond to IS.

This of course is the air power we have seen over the past few weeks.

This air support, in the open desert warfare of the day, gives the Iraqi and Kurdish fighters on the ground the strong advantage.

But what about IS in Syria – people here in the Middle East are worried that if they are not dealt with in total (including in Syria), then they will never be defeated.

Mr. Obama spoke of his new strategy that allows for reconnaissance and air strikes in Syria, while building a 40 strong coalition of countries to fight and defeat IS.

He is also adamant about attacking the militant ideology too, calling upon the Muslim world to educate Muslims on this radicalization and to reject it publicly.

This will be the hardest and longest fight.

It is a fight that Muslims the world over must take at those who seek to radicalize youth and those who are marginalized – and it must come from within.

Saudi Arabia is home to the Sunni branch of Islam with it's Muslim Holy sites.

Yesterday we saw a prominent Saudi Cleric begin to tackle this issue. There will need to be more... just like their will need to be more airstrikes.

And just as the fight will rage in the desert of Iraq and potentially Syria, so too the war must be won within the mosques, with many Arab commentators asking if their fellow Muslims have what it takes to win the battle.

Brian Bush Middle East Correspondent LeSEA Broadcasting

The Cheif Diplomat

Hello All,

America and Great Britain are now supplying Iraq's unity government with increased military aid in it's fight against the Islamic State.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry touched down in Baghdad vowing to build a "broad coalition" of nations that would fight Islamic State.

That was Mr. Kerry's first stop on a regional tour where has enlisted 10 Arab countries in a global coalition to defeat IS. Mr. Kerry says that about 40 nations are helping in the fight against IS in Iraq. Officials traveling with Secretary Kerry, who was traveling in the Middle East this week said that the appointment of the new Iraqi government would kick-start US President Barak Obama's strategy to combat the Islamic State and ultimately defeat it.

Mr. Kerry, America's chief diplomat is tonight in Turkey, after having secured Saudi Arabia and Jordan for hosting logistical efforts and training camps for the fight against IS. Qatar and Turkey, who have supported Islamic interests and movements in the past, are on board in a capacity yet defined in the effort to rid the region of IS.

Turkey has around 49 of it's citizens being held hostage in Syria and they wish to tread carefully in their decisions so as not to irresponsibly provoke their captors.

The President wants an international coalition, made up of Arab countries with American logistical and air support, to aggressively pursue IS in Iraq and is now willing to commit to airstrikes in Syria against IS forces.

Troubling updated assessment data was released this week where the Central Intelligence Agency in America has concluded that there may be up to 31,500 Islamic State Fighters in Syria and Iraq.

The CIA is saying that more than 15,000 fighters, including 2,000 Westerners, have gone to Syria to join the Islamic State. The jihadist fighters have reportedly come from more than 80 countries across the world.

Mr. Kerry's diplomatic drive centers on building regional support for a global coalition to combat ISIS. He met with King Abdullah II in Jordan on Wednesday and with leaders of six Persian Gulf nations in Saudi Arabia on Thursday.

Kerry wants support for the military campaign against ISIS, and a crack down on Islamic State funding in addition to the stop of foreign fighters flowing into Syria and Iraq. The US also wants Sunni Arab states, particularly Saudi Arabia, to counter the IS narrative in the hope of persuading Sunni Muslims not to follow its ideology.

Brian Bush Middle East Correspondent LeSEA Broadcasting

New Iraqi Government

Hello Friends,

The big news in the Middle East is the creation of the new government in Iraq today.

The United States is hailing it as a major milestone and a crucial step towards defeating the militant group, Islamic State (IS).

The desire of the international community is to see a united Iraqi government – one that represents and acts for all of Iraq's communities.

The US State Department said Secretary of State John Kerry will travel to the Middle East today to consult key partners on how to further support the Iraqi government, combat IS, and confront regional security challenges.

This is translated to mean that he will be going to Saudi Arabia and Jordan, who are Sunni Arab Kingdoms and who both share borders with Iraq, to build a coalition to confront and contain IS.

Hopefully this new government will avoid sectarian divides – that have led largely to the situation Iraq is now in – and start building the needed trust to bring together the people as Iraqis rather than their religious/ethnic affiliations.

America will now reward Iraq's unity government with increased military aid in it's fight against IS.

The United Kingdom has already initiated today, as a signal of their support of the new government, a shipment of heavy machine guns and other military hardware.

That task ahead is huge, because the disarray of Iraq's army.

It is largely the Kurdish forces and Shia militia who have been fighting the Sunni IS fighters – and it is the Sunni's of Iraq that have helped IS conquer large areas of the north.

Many believe these Sunnis can turn on IS and help Iraq win back it's territory if they clearly see recognition, rights, and representation in Governance.

It is the Sunni Iraqis who the government must pay the most attention to right now – along with the Kurds who Iraq has to thank that Baghdad isn't flying the black and white flag of IS.

But the message is clear - Iraq is going to do things the way the western powers want it done, or there is no support for the new government.

Brian Bush Middle East Correspondent LeSEA Broadcasting

Materials Making Their Way

Hello Friends!

Good news as the first loads of construction materials are making their way to Gaza.

After the agreement of a cease fire between Israel and Hamas, building supplies have now entered the Gaza Strip for the first time since July 8.

The Kerem Shalom crossing, not far from Egypt, is the sole commercial passageway into the coastal Strip.

First across were quantities of window glass and ceramic tiles.

Cement and iron will follow in the coming days once an international organization effort for monitoring takes over the operations.

During the conflict, Israeli and Palestinian workers operated under fire for seven weeks as only humanitarian supplies of food, water and medicine trickled into Gaza.

Deliveries from Israeli vehicles are now being dropped off and loaded onto Palestinian trucks to distribution points throughout Gaza.

Other items making their way across include school supplies, clothing, shoes, and toys.

According to the United Nations approximately 16,000 homes in Gaza were destroyed or damaged by Israeli bombardments during the conflict.

Some sources estimate that 3.5 million tons of construction material will be needed to rebuild them.

With the fall fast approaching the building efforts will be colossal.

Over half a million people were displaced in Gaza. Many of that figure are able to return to homes or extended family – but many are not.

The Arab world is expected to kick in financially, alongside the UN, European donors, and international aid to rebuild Gaza.

The stark reality is that it will take years to rebuild homes, infrastructure, and life in Gaza after 50 days of conflict with Israel.

Brian Bush Middle east Correspondent LeSEA Broadcasting

Truce Continues To Hold

Hello Friends,

Good news here in the region as the 72 hour truce continues to hold.

As of this hour, there are reports of another 72 hour agreement on the table as Israeli press is reporting that Israel needs more time to come to some type of an agreement.

Some reports here actually are saying talks have in fact, from Israel's point of view - stalled, where other reports say that the Palestinians have agreed to the new truce extension.

Some unconfirmed points have been circulating which include that Hamas has agreed in principle to a 1000 man strong Palestinian Authority controlled force to man the Rafah crossing between Gaza and Egypt.

This will be the first time the PA has been tangibly been in charge of something in Gaza since 2007 when Hamas kicked the Fatah aligned forces from the Strip.

The Rafa crossing is about six miles long and is essentially at the end of what is called the Philadelphia Route which is an Israeli military controlled buffer zone where Gaza and Egypt's borders meet.

Israel is also apparently trying to push for a formula to allow for select goods to begin to enter Gaza based upon Hamas's gradual demilitarization.

These are all part of the negotiations in Cairo for a lasting ceasefire that would morph into a long-term solution.

On the surface it appears that this does not address the core issues of the conflict – and that we will just be setting ourselves up for another conflict down the road in the future.

That may be, however the sides seem to be seeking a strategy that allows their position to seem victorious to their constituencies while not giving in to their opponent.

What is clear is that the differences between the sides are wide and not close to being bridged.

Gazans continued their efforts to repair electricity, water, and sewage for the 1.8 million inhabitants effected by Israeli strikes from land, sea, and air. An Israeli cabinet meeting on the truce talks scheduled for 12:00 today was cancelled.

Humanitarian supplies continue to make their way in, but not to the numbers sufficient to help the over quarter of a million displaced persons effected by the conflict - now in it's fifth week.

Brian Bush Middle East Correspondent LeSEA Broadcasting

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