“Khorasan Group” flap-du-jour Explained

Fox News, The National Review, and Rush Limbaugh all say The Khorasan group doesn’t exist. Most right wing commentators tell us this is further proof the Obama Administration lied, just to justify, Bush-style, the anti-ISIS air war over Iraq and Syria.

I saw a Facebook newspaper scan purporting to be from a Canadian journalist, but I couldn’t find it again when I went back to look for it. It said and suggested the same thing.

They’re pimping opinion from more respected sources.

Glen Greenwald says the media vastly over-hyped this. “Literally within a matter of days, we went from “perhaps in its final stages of planning its attack” (CNN) to “plotting as ‘aspirational’” and “there did not yet seem to be a concrete plan in the works” (NYT).”

Al Jazeera, which employs reporters who are actually very smart, says “Something about the name Khorasan, which the US says is a group of al-Qaeda veterans, doesn’t feel right.” They had contacts, whom they couldn’t name either of course, who said “Khorasan? I don’t know that name. I don’t know who they are.”

Writing for Yahoo, Kaye Foley said “It is a small network of an estimated 50 or so al-Qaida veterans who set up shop in Syria, benefiting from the cover of civil war and the protection of the Syrian al-Qaida affiliate al-Nusra Front. Although the group was brought to public attention in the past week, Attorney General Eric Holder said in an exclusive interview with Yahoo Global News Anchor Katie Couric the U.S. has been watching Khorasan for two years.”

Even the Administration seems to be downplaying early claims US fighter planes severely crippled a “Khorasan Group” cell operating in the region. It seems a group, actually calling itself “Khorasan,” may not even exist.

What further proof do we need, you say? Ask yourself first: what do we really know?

None of the partisan news sources above have cited their sources, if they have any, or disclosed any documentation to substantiate their claims, on either side. So the attacks from the right and the antiwar left are speculative.

No one doubts that Al Qaeda has attacked the United States before and would like to try it again. We also know there are hundreds of Al Qaeda splinter groups, including ISIS. ISIS was disowned because it refused to follow orders of the Al-Qaeda leader Ayman al Zawahir, currently trying to muster the parent group.

“The Khorasan Region” may refer to an ancient historical area including Afghanistan, Iran, Turkmenistan and Pakistan, or to a military terrorist area of current interest in Syria.

If Al Qaeda is operating a secret group in the Khorasan region – “DUH” – and if national or international security agencies have identified a specific threat, and that splinter group does not have a name, “Khorasan Group” would be a logical working name for US intelligence services to specifically identify that group of interest.

Why would that secret group, if it exists, keep its identity and existence secret? – “DUH!”

But neither our security forces nor the US Administration can afford to reveal their sources without compromising intelligence “assets.” There will be no hard intelligence sources outside the intelligence community, and they cannot reveal that. I think everyone, left and right, understands that.

I conclude no civilian sources have any bona-fide hard intelligence and aren’t likely to get any. The US intelligence services and top level Administration may have it, but they’re not likely to say so.

Media hype, yes. Fox News and right-wing partisanship, yes. Any hit against Al Qaeda is a good hit. As for the rest of the hype, for the rest of us, we may never know.

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Mideast Geography Lesson

Mideast_Geography.jpg MAP ... To cheat, click image for larger file.

How well do you know your mideast geography?

Do go to RethinkingSchools Online, take the test, and find out!

I got this after many second and third tries. I WAS embarrassed that Afghanistan was one of my last right choices, way over to the east of where I thought it would be.

Here, I have defocused the scaled-down image a bit so it’s hard to cheat. If you run out of time or patience, click the image to see the full-size image with answers.

I knew there was a Gulf of Bahrain (Gulf of Persia) somewhere, but had to Google it to see where Bahrain fit, it was so tiny.

Notice that all the country names ending in –istan are grouped together.

I felt a little silly because I think I had seen and done this at some point before, and learned nothing.

My real question  after finishing: how many of you print out the finished map for future reference? The next time a country goes to hell in a handbasket, I, at least, will be able to point to where on the map that country really is.

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Deadly Circle of Questions: Sri Lanka

We took advantage of a lazy Saturday afternoon to catch up on reading. We caught a San Francisco Chronicle article entitled “Sri Lanka’s Future Down A Rough Road.” The article was bylined by Dexter Filkins of the Los Angeles Times. It bothered us.

What we learned:

Sri Lanka is an island about the size of West Virginia, 30 miles off the south coast of India. Sri Lanka has been embroiled in a civil war for 15 years. Principals are 19,000 government troops, and 5,000 “Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam”, a feared and popular guerrilla band. The government represents the predominantly Buddhist ethnic Sinhalese population (75%), while the Tigers state that they represent the predominantly Hindu Tamils (18%). The military battle is over turf. The Tigers control a sizeable chunk of Sri Lanka territory, control of which has grown and shrunk over the years. The battle now focuses on a 19-mile stretch of government road that cuts through the Tamil “stronghold”.
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