Daily Archives: June 25, 2014

Security Tops Agenda in Algeria During Egypt Leader’s First Foreign Trip

Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, left, and Algerian Speaker of the Senate Abdelkader Bensalah, center, listen to their national anthems as el-Sissi arrives for a visit in Algiers, Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, left, and Algerian Speaker of the Senate Abdelkader Bensalah, center, listen to their national anthems as el-Sissi arrives for a visit in Algiers, Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi called for coordinated efforts to fight “terrorism” during a visit to Algiers on Wednesday, his first trip abroad since his election in May.

“The purpose of my visit to Algeria is to reach a shared vision of common interests and challenges facing the two countries and the region,” Algerian official media quoted the ex-army chief as saying.

“The two countries need to work together on a number of issues,” he added, citing the problem of “terrorism… (which requires) a coordination of positions.”

Sisi was met by Algerian premier Abdelmalek Sellal and Senate speaker Abdelkader Bensalah, and was later received by President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, whose chronic health problems have severely limited his movements.

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Algeria and Egypt both share long borders with Libya, which has been gripped by deadly violence since the NATO-backed ouster of dictator Moamer Kadhafi in 2011 that scattered weapons across the Sahara region and has provided refuge for jihadists.

Despite a decline in deadly unrest under Bouteflika, jihadists still operate in Algeria, and since the 2011 uprisings toppled dictators across the region, Algeria has been increasingly vulnerable to attacks from neighbouring Mali and Libya.

After Algeria, Al-Sisi will head to Equatorial Guinean capital Malabo for the 23rd African Union (AU) Summit. He is expected to address the summit, as is tradition for a newly elected president of a member state.

UPDATE : ALGIERS/CAIRO, June 26

(Reuters) – Algeria agreed to ship five cargoes of liquefied natural gas to Egypt before the end of the year, a source at Algerian state energy firm Sonatrach said, helping its north African neighbour with its worst energy crunch in years.

The offer of five 145,000 cubic metre cargoes was made after a visit by Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi to Algiers, his first trip abroad since taking office. Sisi was seeking Algeria’s support to counter Islamist militancy and cooperation on the chaos in neighbouring Libya.

“We did not reach a deal on pricing yet, but it is almost a deal,” the source said of the agreement, which is part of talks over supplying Algerian gas for Egyptian power stations.

Egypt’s oil ministry spokesman Hamdy Abdel-Aziz said he did not have any information on the status of the negotiations between the two countries, which began early this year.

The two north African countries both have long borders with Libya where, three years after the fall of Muammar Gaddafi, a weak central government is struggling to contain Islamist militants and brigades of former rebels and militias.

Egypt’s steadily declining gas production and foreign firms’ wariness about any increasing investment have combined with price subsidies and rising consumption to create the country’s worst energy crisis in decades.

The country of 85 million relies heavily on gas to generate power for households and industry. Previously unheard of winter power cuts this year emphasised the extent of the crisis.

Egypt has been scrambling to secure natural gas supplies, which its mainly oil-producing Gulf Arab allies cannot provide. Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Kuwait have given $6 billion in petroleum products since the army ousted Islamist President Mohamed Mursi last summer.

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Benghazi women’s rights activist Salwa Bughagis murdered

Salwa Bughaigis voting in today’s elections (Photo: her Facebook page)

Benghazi women’s rights activist and lawyer Salwa Bughagis was murdered this evening by five gunmen who broke into her home in the city’s Hawari district and shot her in the head.

She was rushed to Benghazi Medical Centre but died shortly afterwards. She is also said to have stabbed several times.

A gardener was also said to have been shot in the attack; he is recovering. Her husband, Essam Al-Ghariani, is missing, presumed kidnapped.

She had earlier returned home after voting in today’s elections and put pictures on her Facebook page of herself casting her vote today. She was then on Al-Nabaa TV for a few minutes at around 6pm speaking about clashes in the city which she said she could see from her house between security forces and an Islamist brigade. She urged people to go out and vote

The killing has shocked Benghazi where she and her sister Iman were prominent supporters and activists in the revolution from its very beginning. However, her support for women’s rights made her a vocal opponent of not only Islamic extremists but also of the Muslim Brotherhood and the Grand Mufti. She was against the hijab, insisting it was not Islamic, and would not even wear a headscarf.

She had received a number of death threats which she ignored but after a reported attempt to kill her son earlier this year went abroad with the entire family. Nonetheless, she said at the time that nothing would stop her speaking out about women’s rights.

It is not known who killed her, but militant Islamists are being blamed. She had just returned to Libya with her husband to vote in the elections. It is thought that her TV appearance may have alerted her killers to the fact that she was back in Benghazi.

Russian stealth corvette put British Navy on alert off Danish coast – media

The Soobrazitelny head corvette

A British frigate was dispatched to track a mysterious battleship that covertly sneaked in close to Denmark’s coast. The ship turned out to be Russian stealth corvette conducting a complex checkout of battle systems, according to British media.

Russian naval drills in the Baltic Sea drew some heat after British HMS Montrose (a type 23 frigate) had to establish line-of-sight range with an unidentified warship cruising off the territorial waters of NATO-member Denmark on June 19.

In harsh conditions of 30 knot winds, British sailors identified the warship as Russia’s 104-metre-long RFS Soobrazitelny (Project 20381), Steregushy-class stealth corvette, armed with a vast arsenal of anti-ship and air-defense missiles, and anti-submarine torpedoes.

Steregushchy lead ship

“We picked up a vessel on our radar that was not showing any of the normal behavior expected of merchant vessels or allied warships,” said Lieutenant Chloe Lea, HMS Montrose’s watch officer, as quoted by the Daily Mail.

“We have seen the Russians operate a lot in this area, but this is the closest we have seen them,” she said.

The Royal Navy’s HMS Montrose, based in Plymouth, has a crew of 205 and is armed with Sea Wolf missiles, Harpoon missiles, and Sting Ray torpedoes.

The RFS Soobrazitelny’s basic weapon is an X-35 (NATO code SS-N-25 Switchblade) Uran anti-ship missile complex, Redut anti-air missiles and Paket–NK torpedoes.

Both Russian warships and aircraft were conducting routine maneuvers in international waters, so the British ship left the area.

While HMS Montrose was tracking Soobrazitelny, a Russian Ilyushin IL-20 “Coot” maritime patrol aircraft was circling the British ship, analyzing the radar target signature of the Royal Navy destroyer.

“Both the Russian vessel and aircraft appeared to be carrying out their normal business,” the British Ministry of Defense acknowledged in a statement.

HMS Montrose was taking part in the BALTOPS multinational reinforced exercise that included 14 countries, the biggest NATO military drills in Eastern Europe since the Ukraine political crisis entered its critical phase.

“All our interaction so far has been professional and effective, and we have gained huge benefit from working so closely with our allies in such a busy and challenging environment,” said Commander James Parkin, commanding officer of HMS Montrose.

Soobrazitelny corvette

Three warships of the Steregushy-class stealth corvette series, the prototype Stereguschy, accompanied by Soobrazitelny and Boiky production line ships, have taken part in the latest naval drills, conducting missile firing tests and practicing landings of on-board helicopters in various conditions, including at night time and in motion.

Two days prior to the latest naval encounter, three RAF Typhoon fighter jets were scrambled to head off four separate groups of Russian aircraft taking part in drills in the Baltic.

​ISIS in Iraq stinks of CIA/NATO ‘dirty war’ op

Iraqi Kurdish forces take position near Taza Khormato as they fight jihadist militants from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) positioned five kilometers away in Bashir, 20 kms south of Kirkuk

by – William Engdahl

For days now, since their dramatic June 10 taking of Mosul, Western mainstream media have been filled with horror stories of the military conquests in Iraq of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, with the curious acronym ISIS.

ISIS, as in the ancient Egyptian cult of the goddess of fertility and magic. The media picture being presented adds up less and less.

Details leaking out suggest that ISIS and the major military ‘surge’ in Iraq – and less so in neighboring Syria – is being shaped and controlled out of Langley, Virginia, and other CIA and Pentagon outposts as the next stage in spreading chaos in the world’s second-largest oil state, Iraq, as well as weakening the recent Syrian stabilization efforts.

Strange facts

The very details of the ISIS military success in the key Iraqi oil center, Mosul, are suspect. According to well-informed Iraqi journalists, ISIS overran the strategic Mosul region, site of some of the world’s most prolific oilfields, with barely a shot fired in resistance. According to one report, residents of Tikrit reported remarkable displays of “soldiers handing over their weapons and uniforms peacefully to militants who ordinarily would have been expected to kill government soldiers on the spot.”

We are told that ISIS masked psychopaths captured “arms and ammunition from the fleeing security forces” – arms and ammunition supplied by the American government. The offensive coincides with a successful campaign by ISIS in eastern Syria. According to Iraqi journalists, Sunni tribal chiefs in the region had been convinced to side with ISIS against the Shiite Al-Maliki government in Baghdad. They were promised a better deal under ISIS Sunni Sharia than with Baghdad anti-Sunni rule.

According to the New York Times, the mastermind behind the ISIS military success is former Baath Party head and Saddam Hussein successor, General Ibrahim al-Douri. Douri is reportedly the head of the Iraqi rebel group Army of the Men of the Naqshbandi Order as well as the Supreme Command for Jihad and Liberation based on his longstanding positions of leadership in the Naqshbandi sect in Iraq.

In 2009, US ‘Iraqi surge’ General David Petraeus, at the time heading the US Central Command, claimed to reporters that Douri was in Syria. Iraqi parliamentarians claimed he was in Qatar. The curious fact is that despite being on the US most wanted list since 2003, Douri has miraculously managed to avoid capture and now to return with a vengeance to retake huge parts of Sunni Iraq. Luck or well-placed friends in Washington?

The financial backing for ISIS jihadists reportedly also comes from three of the closest US allies in the Sunni world—Kuwait, Qatar and Saudi Arabia.

US passports?

Key members of ISIS it now emerges were trained by US CIA and Special Forces command at a secret camp in Jordan in 2012, according to informed Jordanian officials. The US, Turkish and Jordanian intelligence were running a training base for the Syrian rebels in the Jordanian town of Safawi in the country’s northern desert region, conveniently near the borders to both Syria and Iraq. Saudi Arabia and Qatar, the two Gulf monarchies most involved in funding the war against Syria’s Assad, financed the Jordan ISIS training.

Advertised publicly as training of ‘non-extremist’ Muslim jihadists to wage war against the Syrian Bashar Assad regime, the secret US training camps in Jordan and elsewhere have trained perhaps several thousand Muslim fighters in techniques of irregular warfare, sabotage and general terror. The claims by Washington that they took special care not to train ‘Salafist’ or jihadist extremists, is a joke. How do you test if a recruit is not a jihadist? Is there a special jihad DNA that the CIA doctors have discovered?

Militants from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) parading with an Iraqi army vehicle in the northern city of Baiji in the in Salaheddin province.

Jordanian government officials are revealing the details, in fear that the same ISIS terrorists that today are slashing heads of ‘infidels’ alongside the roadways of Mosul by the dozens, or hundreds if we believe their own propaganda, might turn their swords towards Jordan’s King Abdullah soon, to extend their budding Caliphate empire.

Former US State Department official Andrew Doran wrote in the conservative National Review magazine that some ISIS warriors also hold US passports. Now, of course that doesn’t demonstrate and support by the Obama Administration. Hmm…

Iranian journalist Sabah Zanganeh notes, “ISIS did not have the power to occupy and conquer Mosul by itself. What has happened is the result of security-intelligence collaborations of some regional countries with some extremist groups inside the Iraqi government.”

Iraq’s Chechen commander

The next bizarre part of the ISIS puzzle involves the Jihadist credited with being the ‘military mastermind’ of the recent ISIS victories, Tarkhan Batirashvili. If his name doesn’t sound very Arabic, it’s because it’s not. Tarkhan Batrashvili is a Russian – actually an ethnic Chechen from near the Chechen border to Georgia. But to give himself a more Arabic flair, he also goes by the name Emir (what else?) Umar al Shishani. The problem is he doesn’t look at all Arabic. No dark swarthy black beard: rather a long red beard, a kind of Chechen Barbarossa.

According to a November, 2013 report in The Wall Street Journal, Emir Umar or Batrashvili as you prefer, has made the wars in Syria and Iraq “into a geopolitical struggle between the US and Russia.”

That has been the objective of leading neo-conservatives in the CIA, Pentagon and State Department all along. The CIA transported hundreds of Mujahideen Saudis and other foreign veterans of the 1980s Afghan war against the Soviets in Afghanistan into Chechnya to disrupt the struggling Russia in the early 1990s, particularly to sabotage the Russian oil pipeline running directly from Baku on the Caspian Sea into Russia. James Baker III and his friends in Anglo-American Big Oil had other plans. It was called the BTC pipeline, owned by a BP-US oil consortium and running through Tbilisi into NATO-member Turkey, free of Russian territory.

Batrashvili is not renowned for taking care. Last year he was forced to apologize when he ordered his men to behead a wounded ‘enemy’ soldier who turned out to be an allied rebel commander. More than 8,000 foreign Jihadist mercenaries are reportedly in ISIS including at least 1,000 Chechens as well as Jihadists Saudi, Kuwait, Egypt and reportedly Chinese Uyghur from Xinjiang Province.

Jeffrey Silverman, Georgia Bureau Chief for the US-based Veterans Today (VT) website, told me that Batrashvili “is a product of a joint program of the US through a front NGO called Jvari, which was set up by US Intelligence and the Georgian National Security Council, dating back to the early days of the Pankisi Gorge.”

Jvari is the name as well of a famous Georgian Orthodox monastery of the 6th century. According to Silverman, David J. Smith—head of something in Tbilisi called the Georgian Foundation for Strategic and International Studies, as well as the Potomac Institute in Washington where he is listed as Director of the Potomac Institute Cyber Centerr—played a role in setting up the Jvari NGO.

Silverman maintains that Jvari in Rustavi, near the capital, Tbilisi, gathered together Afghan Mujahideen war veterans, Chechens, Georgians and sundry Arab Jihadists. They were sent to the infamous Pankisi Gorge region, a kind-of no-man’s lawless area, for later deployment, including Iraq and Syria.

Batrashvili and other Georgian and Chechen Russian-speaking Jihadists, Silverman notes, are typically smuggled, with the assistance of Georgia’s Counterintelligence Department and the approval of the US embassy, across the Georgia border to Turkey at the Vale crossing point, near Georgia’s Akhaltsikhe and the Turkish village of Türkgözü on the Turkish side of the Georgian border. From there it’s very little problem getting them through Turkey to either Mosul in Iraq or northeast Syria.

Silverman believes that events in Northern Iraq relate to “wanting to have a Kurdish Republic separate from the Central government and this is all part of the New Great Game. It will serve US interests in both Turkey and Iraq, not to mention Syria.”

Very revealing is the fact that almost two weeks after the dramatic fall of Mosul and the ‘capture’ by ISIS forces of the huge weapons and military vehicle resources provided by the US to the Iraqi army. Washington has done virtually nothing but make a few silly speeches about their ‘concern’ and dispatch 275 US special forces to allegedly protect US personnel in Iraq.

Whatever the final details that emerge, what is clear in the days since the fall of Mosul is that some of the world’s largest oilfields in Iraq are suddenly held by Jihadists and no longer by an Iraqi government determined to increase the oil export significantly.

Report : Attack near border with Iraq kills 3 Iranian border guards

TEHRAN, Iran – An Iranian semi-official news agency says an attack near the country’s western border with Iraq has killed three Iranian border guards.

The Fars news agency on Wednesday quoted security official Shahriar Heidari as saying the troops were killed on Tuesday night while patrolling along the border in western Kermanshah province. A border outpost commander was among those killed.

Heidari says an unspecified “terrorist group” was behind the attack. No other details were immediately available.

Iran has boosted border security amid the blitz offensive in neighboring Iraq by Sunni militants from the al-Qaida breakaway Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. The militants have snatched much of northern and western Iraq from Baghdad‘s control.

In the past, sporadic clashes have taken place between Iranian troops and opposition groups in western Iran.

Militia down chopper near Slavyansk, 9 feared dead – military spokesman

Nine people are feared dead after self-defense forces in the Donetsk region shot down a Ukrainian army helicopter, which was used for transporting military cargo, a Kiev spokesman said.

The Mi-8 helicopter was downed “at about 5 pm local time at Karachun Mountain near Slavyansk by a rocket fired from a portable air defense system,” eastern Ukraine military operation spokesman, Vladislav Seleznyov, wrote on his Facebook page.

“There were nine people aboard the helicopter. According to preliminary information, all those aboard died in the crash,”
he said, adding that the helicopter was returning to a Ukrainian checkpoint after a cargo delivery mission.

The self-defense troops, who fired the missile, escaped to the nearby village of Bylbasovka, Seleznyov wrote.

The Ukraine’s National Guard fighters told the Ukrainskaya Pravda newspaper that the Mi-8 helicopter was downed during takeoff from Karachun Mountain (a strategic high point near Slavyansk where the Ukrainian army’s artillery is deployed).

The place where the shot came from has been established, with troops currently being deployed there, the source in the National Guard added.

The Ukrainian forces continued shelling the village of Semyonovka on the outskirts of Slavyansk on Tuesday night and during the day, the self-defense forces of the People’s Republic of Donetsk told ITAR-TASS news agency earlier.

The heavy artillery fire has prevented the self-defense forces from recovering the bodies of two of its troops killed the previous day, they said.

“There’s no living thing left in the village. Everything is devastated, including factories and railway crossings,” the self-defense forces stressed. “The houses are abandoned. Nobody is harvesting crops from their gardens.”

Meanwhile, the town of Slavyansk remains without a water supply, with the majority of shops and pharmacies staying closed.

Also on Tuesday, a crew from Russia’s Channel One was caught in the shelling outside Slavyansk; the journalists luckily avoided injury.

Also, fighting is currently underway in the suburbs of the city of Donetsk, said Aleksandr Boroday, prime minister of the People’s Republic of Donetsk.

“Artillery and armored vehicles are being used,” he told RIA-Novosti news agency, adding people have already been killed and injured in the fighting.

President Vladimir Putin has expressed concern over the resumption of hostilities in Slavyansk and urged Kiev to strive to bring about an end to the bloodshed in southeastern Ukraine.

“Unfortunately, now I have relevant information that in one of the most troubled areas – near the city of Slavyansk – the fighting is currently underway; [Kiev’s] paratroopers have landed there and there are already victims. It’s sad,” Putin said during a press-conference in Vienna, Austria.

Read more: Putin: Weeklong cease-fire in Ukraine should be extended, accompanied by talks

The fighting in the Donetsk region is continuing despite the seven-day ceasefire announced by Ukraine’s new president, Petro Poroshenko, on June 20, which was agreed to by the self-defense forces on Monday.

Putin stressed that “the declarations should be backed by real actions, otherwise none of the problems will be solved.”

“Simply declaring a ceasefire isn’t enough,” the Russian president said, calling on the sides to begin “substantive negotiations” on the matter as soon as possible.

“Seven days of ceasefire is insufficient,” he added.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko has not excluded the possibility of a premature cancellation of the ceasefire in the country’s southeast, the president’s press service said.

During a meeting with the heads of the country’s security agencies, he touched upon the issue of the downed helicopter, saying that the self-defense forces have no respect for the truce.

According to the president, Kiev’s forces have come under fire 35 times since he announced his peace plan last week.

Poroshenko gave the security agencies “an order to open fire without hesitation” on the self-defense forces,” the president’s press service said.

But the authorities of the People’s Republic of Donetsk said the “so-called ceasefire,” which Porosheko now wants to cancel, “was never in place.”

“The Ukrainian security forces began shelling Semyonovka and Slavyansk in the morning,” Miroslav Rudenko, one of the Donbas self-defense leaders, told Interfax news agency, adding that the artillery fire was less intense than in previous days, but still steady.

“It was only a declaration [of truce]. On the ground, hostilities didn’t stop even for an hour,”
he added.

Researchers discover how governments can take control of smartphones

Two new reports have discovered how “legal malware” from Hacking Team can be used to gain complete control of mobile devices. The Italian company is suspected of offering its services to dozens of governments.

Operating since 2001, the Milan-based company – which employs over 50 people – promises to “take control of your targets and monitor them regardless of encryption and mobility,” while “keeping an eye on all your targets and manage them remotely, all from a single screen.”

Previous research showed that these claims were true for desktop computers, but according to data obtained separately by Russian security firm Kaspersky Lab and University of Toronto’s Citizen Lab (which also obtained a user manual), Hacking Team is just as adept at penetrating mobile phones with a tool known as Remote Control Systems (RCS).

“Our latest research has identified mobile modules that work on all well-known mobile platforms, including as Android and iOS,” wrote Kaspersky researcher Sergey Golovanov.

“These modules are installed using infectors – special executables for either Windows or Macs that run on already infected computers. They translate into complete control over the environment in and near a victim’s computer. Secretly activating the microphone and taking regular camera shots provides constant surveillance of the target – which is much more powerful than traditional cloak and dagger operations.”

Police can install the spy malware directly into the phone if there is direct access to the device, or if the owner of the phone connects to an already infected computer, according to Wired.

Various softwares can also lure users to download targeted fake apps.

Once inside an iPhone, for instance, it can access and activate all of the following: control of Wi-Fi, GPS, GPRS, recording voice, e-mail, SMS, MMS, listing files, cookies, visited URLs, cached web pages, address book, call history, notes, calendar, clipboard, list of apps, SIM change, live microphone, camera shots, support chats, WhatsApp, Skype, and Viber.

While the malware can be spotted by some of the more sophisticated anti-virus software, it takes special measures to avoid detection – such as “scouting” a victim before installation, “obfuscating” its presence, and removing traces of its activity.

Hacking Team has maintained that its products are used for lawful governmental interceptions, adding that it does not sell items to countries blacklisted by NATO or repressive regimes.

Wired reported that there have been cases where the spying apps were used in illegal ways in Turkey, Morocco, and Saudi Arabia.

Citizen Lab discovered spying malware hiding in a legitimate news app for Qatif Today, an Arabic-language news and information service that reports on events in Saudi Arabia’s eastern Qatif region. It also argued that circumstantial evidence pointed to Saudi Arabia’s government using the spying malware against Shia protesters in the area.

“This type of exceptionally invasive toolkit, once a costly boutique capability deployed by intelligence communities and militaries, is now available to all but a handful of governments. An unstated assumption is that customers that can pay for these tools will use them correctly, and primarily for strictly overseen, legal purposes. As our research has shown, however, by dramatically lowering the entry cost on invasive and hard-to-trace monitoring, the equipment lowers the cost of targeting political threats for those with access to Hacking Team and Gamma Group toolkits,” Citizen Lab said in its report.

Map showing the countries of the current HackingTeam servers’ locations

Hacking Team controls the spying malware remotely via command-and-control servers. Kaspersky has discovered more than 350 such servers in more than 40 countries. A total of 64 servers were found in the US – more than in any other country. Kazakhstan came in second, with a total of 49 servers found. Thirty-five were found in Ecuador and 32 in the UK.

Official: Intelligence community warned about ‘growing’ ISIS threat in Iraq

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The U.S. intelligence community warned about the “growing threat” from Sunni militants in Iraq since the beginning of the year, a senior intelligence official said Tuesday — a claim that challenges assertions by top administration officials that they were caught off guard by the capture of key Iraqi cities.

Earlier Tuesday, in an interview with Fox News, Secretary of State John Kerry said “nobody expected” Iraqi security forces to be decisively driven out by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, as they were earlier this month in Mosul.

But in a separate briefing with reporters Tuesday afternoon, the senior intelligence official said the intelligence community had warned about the ISIS threat.

“During the past year, the intelligence community has provided strategic warning of Iraq’s deteriorating security situation,” the official said. “We routinely highlighted (ISIS’) growing threat in Iraq, the increasing difficulties Iraq’s security forced faced in combating (ISIS), and the political strains that were contributing to Iraq’s declining stability.”

Asked who failed to act, the official did not explain.

Offering a grave warning about the current strength of the group — which is a State Department-designated terror organization — the official also said that barring a major counteroffensive, the intelligence community assesses that ISIS is “well-positioned to keep the territory it has gained.”The official said the ISIS “strike force” now has between 3,000 and 5,000 members.

Further, the official said ISIS, as a former Al Qaeda affiliate, has the “aspiration and intent” to target U.S. interests. Asked if Americans have joined, the intelligence official said it “stands to reason that Americans have joined.”

The information from the intelligence community adds to the picture of what is known about the ISIS threat, and what might have been known in the weeks and months before its militants seized Mosul and other northern cities and towns.

Kerry, speaking with Fox News on Tuesday in the middle of a multi-country swing through the Middle East and Europe as he tries to calm the sectarian crisis in Iraq, pushed back on the notion that more could have been done from a Washington perspective to prevent the takeovers. Pressed on whether the fall of Mosul and other cities to Sunni militants marks an intelligence failure, Kerry said nobody could have predicted Iraqi security forces would have deserted.

“We don’t have people embedded in those units, and so obviously nobody knew that. I think everybody in Iraq was surprised. People were surprised everywhere,” he said.

The secretary noted that the U.S. and Iraq did not sign a formal agreement allowing troops to stay in the country past 2011, so “we didn’t have eyes in there.”

“But the Iraqis didn’t even have a sense of what was happening,” Kerry said.

When asked what the U.S. did to shore up Mosul, after seeing other Iraqi cities fall earlier this year, Kerry added: “In the end, the Iraqis are responsible for their defense, and nobody expected wholesale desertion and wholesale betrayal, in a sense, by some leaders who literally either signed up with the guys who came in or walked away from their posts and put on their civilian clothes.

“No, nobody expected that.”

But aside from the apparent warnings from the U.S. intelligence community, reports in The Telegraph and Daily Beast claim that Kurdish sources did warn American and British officials that ISIS was gaining strength and ready to advance, but it “fell on deaf ears.”

A senior lieutenant to Lahur Talabani, head of Kurdish intelligence, reportedly told The Daily Beast that the Kurds passed on warnings about a possible takeover of Mosul to British and U.S. government officials.

“We knew exactly what strategy they were going to use, we knew the military planners,” the official said.

The Telegraph reported that Washington and London got warnings months ago about Sunni militant plans to try and take over the northwestern region of Iraq. The Kurds reportedly had been monitoring developments on their own.

At this stage, though, the question for Kerry and the Obama administration is how far they are willing to go to shore up the embattled Iraqi government. Kerry, in Baghdad a day earlier, pressed Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to proceed with the formation of a new government — Iraq’s parliament is set to begin this process next week.

In the meantime, President Obama has committed up to 300 U.S. military advisers to help Iraq’s government fend off ISIS forces. The administration continues to weigh whether to authorize airstrikes.

via Official: Intelligence community warned about ‘growing’ ISIS threat in Iraq | Fox News.