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January 10 2014

16:29

The Rise of al Qaeda in the Middle East and the US Response

Guest host Judy Muller looks at al Qaeda's resurgence in the Middle East and what it means to the United States. http://www.kcrw.com/news/programs/tp/tp140109the_rise_of_al_qaeda
07:11

Week In The News: Polar Vortex, Christie’s ‘Bridge Gate’ And Al Qaeda In Iraq

Polar vortex. Chris Christie and “Bridge Gate.” Al Qaeda in Iraq. Dennis Rodman in North Korea. Our weekly news roundtable goes behind the headlines.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie enters a news conference Thursday, Jan. 9, 2014, at the Statehouse in Trenton, N.J. Christie has fired a top aide who engineered political payback against a town mayor, saying she lied. Deputy Chief of Staff Bridget Anne Kelly is the latest casualty in a widening scandal that threatens to upend Christie's second term and likely run for president in 2016. Documents show she arranged traffic jams to punish the mayor, who didn't endorse Christie for re-election. (AP)

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie enters a news conference Thursday, Jan. 9, 2014, at the Statehouse in Trenton, N.J. Christie has fired a top aide who engineered political payback against a town mayor, saying she lied. Deputy Chief of Staff Bridget Anne Kelly is the latest casualty in a widening scandal that threatens to upend Christie’s second term and likely run for president in 2016. Documents show she arranged traffic jams to punish the mayor, who didn’t endorse Christie for re-election. (AP)

Guests

Margaret Brennan, CBS News State Department correspondent. (@margbrennan)

Charles Babington, Associated Press Congressional and political reporter. (@cbabington)

Jack Beatty, On Point News analyst.

From Tom’s Reading List

Wall Street Journal: U.S. Leverage in Iraq Tested As Fears of Civil War Mount — “Iraq’s Shiite-led government paused on Wednesday on the brink of a military assault against al Qaeda-linked Sunni militants that posed the risk of exacting a high civilian toll and plunging the country deeper into sectarian conflict. Senior U.S. officials, including Vice President Joseph Biden, have urged Iraq’s Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to secure the support of local Sunni leaders before attacking to drive the extremists from Fallujah, which sits in the heartland of Iraq’s Sunni minority. Many Sunni tribal leaders, alienated and angered by Mr. Maliki, have refused.”

WNYC: N.J. Gov. Christie Faces Traffic Jam Scandal — “Uncovered emails and text messages link Gov. Chris Christie’s administration to a scandal involving the closing of lanes leading to the country’s most traveled bridge. It snarled traffic for days. The emails add evidence to claims from state Democrats that the closure was political retribution for a mayor who did not endorse Christie for re-election.”

Washington Post: A Deep Dive Into the Polar Vortex — “The polar vortex is really just a large air mass that is extremely cold (temperatures fall below -78C, or -108F, during the Northern Hemisphere winter). This concentrated area of cold is encircled by a fast-flowing river of air called the polar night jet. Basically, the jet – with its swiftly moving air current – traps the vortex over and near the poles, north and south.”

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January 07 2014

23:12

News On The Ground From Baghdad

It can be hard to find a reporter in Baghdad these days. Long gone are the days of the American-led war, when every important international news source had a well-staffed Baghdad bureau, filled with on the scene reporters, local fixers and translators.

So we were very fortunate to have Reuters’ Suadad Al-Salhyan experienced Iraqi reporter, join us during our Jan. 7 hour on the growing crisis in that country’s Anbar province. She gave us a clear-eyed view of the situation in Fallujah.

“We are facing different situations in Ramadi and Fallujah in whole at this time. We have jihadist militants from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS), we have tribal fighters and and at Fallujah, we have a small group from other insurgents, like Ansar al Dine and other small groups. They were breaking into other small groups outside Anbar, but they joined the groups together in Fallujah.”

Al-Salhy also noted that it’s hard to tell just where many of these militant groups in Anbar came from — or if they spilled over from the ongoing conflict in neighboring Syria.

“We cannot say specifically, they just came a few days ago. This part has witnessed many operations and attacks during the last few weeks. ISIS was trying to build its own state on the ground this time by launching high profile attacks on the border towns which belong to Iraq. So we have no idea how many specifically, but we are talking about hundreds of high profile, well-trained militants who cross the border from Syria.”

That surge of militants has fully occupied the city of Fallujah, al-Salhy said.

“Fallujah is still under siege today. The central government kept sending forces to reign in the attacks in Anbar province. There’s fighting in Ramadi, and in Fallujah they’re expecting a big battle will erupt any minute. But there’s no fighting in Fallujah — and even the shelling that was launched by the Iraqi army into the northern part of Fallujah was stopped this morning, when the tribal leaders in Ramadi and Fallujah made a deal with the central government to try to convince the militants to leave the city. In return, the army has not been allowed to enter the city and attack the militants inside the city. There will be talks in the next few days. Right now, they are not planning on launching any attacks targeting Fallujah.”

Reports that some of the weapons used by the Iraqi government have come from Iran, traditionally an enemy, can’t be verified, al-Salhy said.

“We have no evidence that Iranians are involved. But we know that for sure, the Russians are involved for sure. They came out of purchases that Iraq made in the last year — helicopters, Russain helicopters are definitely taking part at this time and because of this it seems like Iraqi are making great progress in Anbar at this time.  Against ISI, they destroyed many big camps that Iraqi troops couldn’t reach since the US troops left Iraq.”

And although the fighting and armed conflict is a mere 40 miles away from the capital in Baghdad, the central government and the people who work for it in the city aren’t worried, al-Salhy said.

“To be honest, no [people in Baghdad are not worried]. Already, it’s as thought it was known and it was expected. Already in the last few months Al Qaeda was showing up every time and planning high profile attacks against the local government in Anbar, in Ramadi and Fallujah and the towns along the Iraqi-Syrian border. And everybody was expecting it was a matter of time, the government hadn’t done anything to treat it. So it wasn’t a big surprise when they took control over the cities of Fallujah and Ramadi. They were just waiting for a suitable time to announce their control over these cities.”

During a chaotic and important time in Iraq, we’re grateful to reporters like Suadad Al-Salhy for helping to keep us and our listeners informed on what’s going on.

August 07 2013

09:30

Embassy Lockdown And The Al-Qaida Threat

With John Harwood in for Tom Ashbrook.

Embassies on lockdown across the globe, personnel pulled from Yemen. We look at the nature and scope of the al-Qaida threat now.

Guests

Elise Labott, Foreign Affairs reporter for CNN. (@eliselabottcnn)

Ambassador Daniel Benjamin, Director of the Dickey Center for International Understanding at Dartmouth College. He served as  Coordinator for Counterterrorism at the U.S. State Department from 2009 to 2012.

Brian Michael Jenkins, longtime terrorism expert and senior adviser to the President of the Rand Corporation. Author of the Rand Corporation’s report, “Al Qaeda in Its Third Decade: Irreversible Decline or Imminent Victory,” published last year. (@BrianMJenkins)

Gregory Johnsen, Yemen expert at Princeton University. Author of, “The Last Refuge: Yemin, al-Qaeda, and America’s War in Arabia.” (@gregorydjohnsen)

 

From the Reading List:

The New York Times: Qaeda Leader’s Edict to Yemen Affiliate Is Said to Prompt Alert – “The intercepted conversations last week between Ayman al-Zawahri, who succeeded Osama bin Laden as the head of the global terrorist group, and Nasser al-Wuhayshi, the head of the Yemen-based Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, revealed what American intelligence officials and lawmakers have described as one of the most serious plots against American and Western interests since the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.”

Reuters: Al Qaeda intercept is just one piece of threat intelligence: U.S. sources – “The threat picture is based on a broad range of reporting, there is no smoking gun in this threat picture,” a U.S. official told Reuters on condition of anonymity. U.S. officials said there was still no information about a specific target or location of a potential attack, but the threat to Western interests had not diminished.”

Foreign Policy: How We Lost Yemen — “Why, if the U.S. counterterrorism approach is working in Yemen, as Barack Obama’s administration claims, is AQAP still growing? Why, after nearly four years of bombing raids, is the group capable of putting together the type of plot that leads to the United States shuttering embassies and missions from North Africa to the Persian Gulf? The answer is simple, if rather disheartening: Faulty assumptions and a mistaken focus paired with a resilient, adaptive enemy have created a serious problem for the United States.”

 

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