Aiding and abetting terrorists/terrorism in forming a middle eastern Islamic caliphate, or pure ignorance? It’s rather difficult to make hundreds, if not thousands, of mistakes in a row solely out of pure ignorance, however, only time will tell.
ERBIL, Iraq (CBS News/CBSDC/AP) — The Sunni militant group in Iraq is a force roughly 3,000 strong and includes some Americans, a senior intelligence official told CBS News on Tuesday.
The majority of fighters in the group, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, are of Iraqi and Syrian origin.
In all, up to 10,000 are fighting with the group, 3,000 in Iraq and another 7,000 in Syria, the intelligence official said. Between 3,000 and 5,000 are foreigners, though how many of those are in Iraq is difficult to assess.
The fighters view Syria and Iraq as one battlefield and have been able to move swiftly inside Iraq with the help of local Sunnis, ties the intelligence official described as more of a “relationship of convenience” than a formal alliance.
The official said the group, also known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, was well-positioned to keep the territory that it has captured but would be stretched thin if it tried to push south into Baghdad. It has intentions to target U.S. interests, the official said.
Its leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, rose through the ranks of the organization before becoming emir some time in 2010-2011. The group relies on a handful of senior decision makers, but al-Baghdadi has the final word, according to the intelligence official. Most of its funding comes via robbery, extortion and smuggling, with a small percentage coming from donations.
Massoud Barzani, whose powerful minority bloc has long functioned as kingmaker in Iraqi politics, did not directly mention Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, who is facing the strongest challenge to his rule since he assumed power in 2006. But al-Maliki has made little effort beyond rhetoric to win the trust of his critics, who are led by disaffected Sunnis, Kurds and even several former Shiite allies.
Instead the Kurds have deployed their own well-trained security forces known as peshmerga and seized long-coveted ground of their own in the name of defending it from the al Qaeda breakaway group and other Sunni insurgents who have swept through the north. The Kurds are unlikely to give up that territory, including the disputed oil-rich city of Kirkuk, regardless of the status of the fighting.
Al-Maliki has been entirely focused on the security situation, spending hours each day in the main military command center, rather than politics, officials close to his inner circle say, speaking on condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to release such details. Despite the attention, Iraq’s mainly Shiite security forces have failed to wage any successful counteroffensives against the insurgents.
A weeklong fight for control of Iraq’s largest oil refinery continued Tuesday with helicopter gunships attacking what appeared to be formations of Sunni militants preparing for another assault on the facility in Beiji, a top military official said.
Full article: Intel Official: Americans Have Joined Militant Group ISIS (CBS DC)