World War 4 Report has been keeping a dispassionate record of Barack Obama's moves in dismantling, continuing and escalating (he has done all three) the oppressive apparatus of the Global War on Terrorism (GWOT) established by the Bush White House. On the day of his 2015 State of the Union address, we offer the following annotated assessment of which moves over the past year have been on balance positive, neutral and negative, and arrive at an overall score:
A group of US senators on Jan. 13 proposed legislation (PDF) that would place a moratorium on the release or transfer of prisoners from Guantánamo Bay. Republican Senators Kelly Ayotte (NH), John McCain (AZ), Lindsey Graham (SC) and Richard Burr (NC) touted the new bill as the best course of action to protect US national security. The act, titled "The Detaining Terrorists to Protect America Act of 2015," would halt all releases of Guantánamo detainees with high or medium risk ratings, issue more prohibitions ontransfers and provide more transparency on how detainees' risk levels are determined. Ayotte stated, "It's clear that we need a 'time out' so that we do not re-confront the terrorists that we had captured and are currently in Guantánamo." The new legislation will place pressure on the White House as the Obama administration released 28 prisoners from Guantánamo in 2014.
UK Home Secretary Theresa May on Nov. 24 outlined the new Counter-Terrorism and Security Bill to combat ongoing national security threats. The bill will expand the power of authorities to suspend outgoing and incoming international travel of persons that are reasonably believed to be traveling to commit terrorism. The legislation will also broaden the Terrorism Prevention and Investigation Measures (TPIMs) to allow authorities to force terrorist suspects to relocate within the country and will raise the burden of proof for TPIMs from a "reasonable belief" to a "balance of probabilities." May stressed the importance of bridging the "capabilities gap" that authorities must confront when dealing with communications data and announced that the bill will require Internet providers to retain IP addresses "to identify individual users of internet services," with some limitations. May urged the need for this legislation in response to new threats from the Islamic State (IS) and other established terrorist groups abroad.
A study by UK-based Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP) finds there were nearly 10,000 terrorist attacks in 2013, 44% more than the year before. The number of terrorism-related deaths climbed 61%—from 11,133 in 2012 to 17,958 in 2013. The Global Terrorism Index reported four groups dominated the attacks: ISIS, Boko Haram, al-Qaeda and the Taliban, collectively responsible for 66% of the fatalities. Iraq was the country most affected by terrorism, with 2,492 attacks that killed more than 6,300. The report found that ISIS was responsible for "most" of the deaths in Iraq. The next top countries were Afghanistan, Pakistan, Nigeria and Syria. IEP produces the report from the Global Terrorism Database compiled by the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START), at the University of Maryland. (Yahoo News, Nov. 18; AP, Nov. 17)
Lebanon's NaharNet, citing Syria's official SANA news agency, reports the absolutely maddening claim from Bashar Assad's Information Minister Omran Zohbi that the regime's armed forces have been providing support to the Kurdish fighters defending ISIS-besieged Kobani. "The state with its military forces and planes has been providing military and logistical support, and has supplied ammunition and arms to the town," he said. While not actually claiming the regime is coordinating with the US air-drops of aid to the Kurdish militia, he said Damascus "will continue to give military aid to Kobane at the highest level. From the outset of the battle, the state has not hesitated to play its military, political, social and humanitarian role" because the town is "Syrian territory and its residents are Syrians."
The US carried out its first air-strikes against ISIS targets in Syria on Sept. 22. In a statement, Pentagon press secretary Rear Adm. John Kirby said the US used "a mix of fighter, bomber and Tomahawk Land Attack Missiles" launched from the USS George HW Bush in the Persian Gulf. Kirby said that because these strikes are ongoing, he could not give details about where they took place. But an unnamed Pentagon official told NPR the strikes targeted positions near Raqqa, the ISIS de facto capital. Planes from five Arab countries participated in the strikes—also not named by Kirby, although FoxNews identified them as Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Jordan, Bahrain and Qatar. There was no indication that the Syrian government had been consulted on the strikes, as Damascus had demanded.
The Obama administration is preparing to carry out a campaign against ISIS that may take three years to complete, requiring a sustained effort that could last until after President Obama has left office, according to the New York Times, citing "senior administration officials." The first phase, an air campaign is already underway, with nearly 145 air-strikes in the past month. The Times says the aims are "to protect ethnic and religious minorities and American diplomatic, intelligence and military personnel, and their facilities, as well as to begin rolling back ISIS gains in northern and western Iraq." The next phase, to begin sometime after Iraq forms a more inclusive government, is expected to involve an intensified effort to train, advise or equip the Iraqi military, Kurdish forces and possibly Sunni tribal fighters. The final, toughest and most controversial phase is destroying the ISIS sanctuary inside Syria. This might not be completed until the next administration, some Pentagon planners are said to "envision a military campaign lasting at least 36 months." (NYT, Sept. 7)
Boy, did we ever call this one. Contrary to the prevailing leftist conspiracy theory that the US was backing ISIS against Assad, we predicted earlier this year that the US would soon intervene in Syria against al-Qaeda and its offshoots such as ISIS. Today, the New York Times reports the comments of Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, that ISIS cannot be defeated unless the US or its partners take them on in Syria. "This is an organization that has an apocalyptic end-of-days strategic vision that will eventually have to be defeated," Dempsey said. "Can they be defeated without addressing that part of the organization that resides in Syria? The answer is no." Dempsey and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, who both spoke at a Pentagon press conference, stopped short of saying air-strikes on Syria are planned, but the comments were obviously intended to float the idea.