SEPTEMBER 16, 2013 By JOEL GEHRKE
President Obama waived a provision of federal law designed to prevent the supply of arms to terrorist groups to clear the way for the U.S. to provide military assistance to “vetted” opposition groups fighting Syrian dictator Bashar Assad.
Some elements of the Syrian opposition are associated with radical Islamic terrorist groups, including al Qaeda, which was responsible for the Sept. 11 attacks in New York, Washington, D.C., and Shanksville, Pa., in 2001. Assad’s regime is backed by Iran and Hezbollah.
The president, citing his authority under the Arms Export Control Act, announced today that he would “waive the prohibitions in sections 40 and 40A of the AECA related to such a transaction.”
Those two sections prohibit sending weaponry to countries described in section 40(d): “The prohibitions contained in this section apply with respect to a country if the Secretary of State determines that the government of that country has repeatedly provided support for acts of international terrorism,” Congress stated in the Arms Control Export Act.
“For purposes of this subsection, such acts shall include all activities that the Secretary determines willfully aid or abet the international proliferation of nuclear explosive devices to individuals or groups or willfully aid or abet an individual or groups in acquiring unsafeguarded special nuclear material,” the law continues.
The law allows the president to waive those prohibitions if he “determines that the transaction is essential to the national security interests of the United States.”
Under section 40(g) of the AECA, the Obama team must also provide Congress — at least 15 days before turning over the weapons — “the name of any country involved in the proposed transaction, the identity of any recipient of the items to be provided pursuant to the proposed transaction, and the anticipated use of those items,” along with a list of the weaponry to be provided, when they will be delivered, and why the transfer is key to American security interests.
“Our intelligence agencies, I think, have a very good handle on who to support and who not to support,” Corker said. “And there’s going to be mistakes. We understand some people are going to get arms that should not be getting arms. But we still should be doing everything we can to support the free Syrian opposition.”
A report says the foreign-backed militants operating inside Syria have been making chemical weapons in the suburbs of the Syrian capital, Damascus.
The weapons, which are made by an individual named Hani Nour Eldin Aqeel in a workshop in the city of Yabroud, are smuggled to the city of Douma in domestic gas capsules by women who have come to be referred to as Harayer al-Soura, the Arabic-language news website Asianewslb reported on Sunday.
Meanwhile, local reports also said that the al-Qaeda-linked al-Nusra Front has been running bomb-making workshops in Yabroud and transfer the explosives to the different areas of Syria, including the capital, as well as neighboring Lebanon.
The al-Nusra Front has been behind many of the deadly bombings targeting both civilians and government institutions across Syria.
The development comes as the United States is struggling to secure support for military action against Syria over the accusation that the Syrian government has used chemical weapon against its people.
The US Congress will officially start debating a US administration plan for war when lawmakers end their recess on September 9.
The recent war rhetoric against Syria first gained momentum on August 21, when the militants operating inside the Middle Eastern country and its foreign-backed opposition claimed that over a thousand people had been killed in a government chemical attack on the outskirts of Damascus.
The Syrian government categorically rejected the accusation.
The UN, Iran, Russia, and China have warned against war.
- Weakened al-Qaida could be revived by Syrian rebel group the al-Nusra Front (jpost.com)
- Syrian Al-Qaeda offshoot al-Nusra Front produces Chemical Weapons (syrianews.cc)
- Videos show joint Al Nusra, Free Syrian Army attacks in ancient village (longwarjournal.org)
- Syrian Army Kills 40 al-Nusra Front Members in Damascus Ambush (uprootedpalestinians.wordpress.com)
- Are more radicals joining the rebels? (cnn.com)
Ansar al-Sharia running training camps in Benghazi and DarnahAugust 28, 2013 BY: Bill Gertz
U.S. intelligence agencies earlier this month uncovered new evidence that al Qaeda-linked terrorists in Benghazi are training foreign jihadists to fight with Syria’s Islamist rebels, according to U.S. officials.
Ansar al-Sharia, the al Qaeda-affiliated militia that U.S. officials say orchestrated the Sept. 11 attacks on the U.S. diplomatic compound and a CIA facility in Benghazi, is running several training camps for jihadists in Benghazi and nearby Darnah, another port city further east, said officials who discussed some details of the camps on condition of anonymity.
The officials said the terror training camps have been in operation since at least May and are part of a network that funnels foreign fighters to Syrian rebel groups, including the Al-Nusra Front, the most organized of the Islamist rebel groups fighting the Bashar al-Assad regime in Damascus.
The officials said the jihadist training is a clear indication that Ansar al-Sharia continues to conduct terrorist activities and is linked to jihadists in both Syria and North Africa.
Disclosure of the terror training camps also bolsters earlier intelligence assessments that Libya, following the death of Muammar Qaddafi, is now a focal point for al Qaeda terrorist activity in North Africa.
Information about the terrorist training camps in northeastern Libya was uncovered after the arrest of several jihadists near the port city of Darnah in early August.
Other information about the camps appeared online at jihadist social media outlets around the same time.
Two men identified as Tunisians disclosed the existence of the training camps in Benghazi after they were interrogated by a local militia group in northern Libya.
At the time of their arrest, the Tunisians stated that they were trained in small arms use and were on their way to join Syria rebels by traveling first to Benghazi, then Istanbul, and over land across Turkey and into northern Syria.
According to the officials, the Tunisians were arrested Aug. 3. Inside their car, the militia found six passports, an AK-47 assault rifle, and foreign currency. A total of four people traveling in the car, including two Libyans, clashed with guards at a security checkpoint at the time of the arrest.
One of the men said he was an associate of Ansar al-Sharia’s leader Sufian Ben Qumu, an al Qaeda terrorist released from the U.S. prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, in 2007.
Details of the number of jihadist training camps and jihadists was not disclosed, but the officials said there are several training camps.
The Ansar al-Sharia Brigade in Benghazi was formed in early 2012 from several Islamist militias that fought during the 2011 revolution that ousted Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi. The group was forced to relocate its operating bases based on local opposition to the group’s role in attacks on the U.S. diplomatic compound.
Ansar al-Sharia is engaged in overt charitable activities and armed patrols in Benghazi, in addition to the covert terrorist training. The group has sought to play down its role in jihadist activities to avoid both the Libyan government and international scrutiny.
Ansar al-Sharia in Darnah was founded by former members of the terrorist Salim Martyrs Brigade and operates a base west of Darnah.
Libyan officials told Britain’s Arabic language newspaper Al Sharq al Awsat earlier this month that some type of covert U.S. military action was taken against al Qaeda bases in Darnah. However, Pentagon spokesmen said they had no information about such attack that reportedly took place Aug. 11.
U.S. intelligence agencies believe Libya has produced more jihadist rebels for the Syrian conflict than any other outside nation. Some 20 percent of foreign jihadists in Syria came from Libya and that several hundred are currently in the country.
Over 100 Libyans were reported killed in Syrian fighting for such rebel groups as Al-Nusra Front, the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, Umma Brigade, Muhajirin Brigade, and Ahrar al-Sham, an Al-Nusra offshoot.
The jihadist training highlights the danger that Libya is becoming a breeding ground for al Qaeda terrorists. Officials said the weak central government in Tripoli has allowed Islamist militias to flourish, including in Benghazi and Darnah where the two factions Ansar al-Sharia groups operate.
The Ansar al-Sharia Brigade was blamed by U.S. officials for carrying out the deadly Benghazi terrorist attack Sept. 11.
The Obama administration sought to cover up the terrorist attack in the weeks before the presidential election by initially claiming the action was the result of a spontaneous demonstration triggered by an anti-Islamic Internet video.
Four Americans were killed in the attack, including U.S. Ambassador to Libya Christopher Stevens.
A Pentagon report from August 2012 published by the Library of Congress stated that al Qaeda senior leaders and the group al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) “have sought to take advantage of the Libyan Revolution to recruit militants and to reinforce their operational capabilities in an attempt to create a safe haven and possibly to extend their area of operations to Libya.”
The report said al Qaeda is developing a “clandestine network” in Libya that could be used in the future to destabilize the government and offer logistical support for al Qaeda activities in the region.
The report said that AQIM has formed sleeper cells that “are probably connected to an al Qaeda underground network in Libya, likely as a way, primarily, to secure the supply of arms for its ongoing jihadist operations in Algeria and the Sahel.”
“The al Qaeda clandestine network is currently in an expansion phase, running training camps and media campaigns on social-media platforms, such as Facebook and YouTube,” the report said. “However it will likely continue to mask its presence under the umbrella of the Libyan Salafist movement, with which it shares a radical ideology and a general intent to implement sharia in Libya and elsewhere.”
To avoid attacks, Ansar al-Sharia in Libya “could be the new face of al Qaeda in Libya despite its leader’s denial.”