TIME Syria

The UAE’s First Female Pilot Was Leading Airstrikes Against ISIS

She entered military flight school as soon as the UAE let women join

The United Arab Emirates’ first female pilot was a team leader in the United States-led airstrikes against the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) in northern Syria this week, FOX News reports.

Major Mariam Al Mansouri, 35, is the first woman in the UAE’s air force, and reportedly took part in leading the airstrikes with allied forces from the U.S., Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Qatar and Bahrain.

Al Mansouri joined the UAE’s air force in 2007 when it first started accepting women in 2007.

In an interview, Al Mansouri said being in the air force has always been an aspiration. She joined the country’s military flight school in 2007 when it first started admitting women, then graduated in 2008 before obtaining her current rank of commander.

[FOX News]

TIME National Security

The Meaning of the New ISIS Videos

Screenshot shows British hostage John Cantlie held by Islamic State militants at an undisclosed location on Sept. 23, 2014.
EPA This still frame from a video released by ISIS on Sept. 23, 2014 shows British hostage John Cantlie who is currently being held hostage at an undisclosed location.

ISIS has switched propaganda tactics, swapping snuff films for sermons

The orange jumpsuit is the same, but now there is no masked executioner, no knife, no barren desert backdrop. The new video series produced by the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) features one of the militant group’s captives, British journalist John Cantlie, giving disquisitions from behind a desk.

As the United States begins a bombing campaign against targets in Syria, ISIS has switched propaganda tactics, swapping snuff films for sermons. In the first two installments of the ISIS lecture series, released on Twitter in recent days by the group’s Al-Furqan media center, Cantlie warns the West against the march to war.

“After two disastrous and hugely unpopular wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, why is it that our governments appear so keen to get involved in yet another unwinnable conflict?” Cantlie says in the first video. “I’m going to show you the truth behind the systems and motivations of [ISIS].”

But for ISIS, the motivation behind the video is probably fear, says Rita Katz, the director of SITE Intelligence Group, which tracks Islamist extremism online. The murder of U.S. and British citizens failed to forestall the airstrikes, so the group is using the videos to argue the folly of foreign intervention against the self-declared Islamic caliphate.

To make the case, ISIS uses a familiar jihadist tactic: quoting Westerners critical of the West’s actions. In Cantlie’s second forced lecture, an almost six-minute clip released Tuesday, the British journalist, reading from a prepared script, quotes the former CIA officer Michael Scheuer, whom he praises for “considerable” knowledge of the Muslim world.

“Let’s get straight to the point with a quote from former-C.I.A.-chief-turned-vigorous anti-intervention-campaigner Michael Scheuer: ‘President Obama does not have the slightest intention of defeating the Islamic State,'” Cantlie says, quoting Scheuer to argue that a military strategy that relies on bombing but foreswears ground troops is a half-measure. Later in the video, Cantlie quotes a second U.S. official, former New Jersey Republican Gov. Tom Kean, saying the U.S. “failed to anticipate” the emergence of ISIS.

This is a shopworn rhetorical device for jihadi propagandists. In video lectures to the faithful, Islamist leaders regularly mix in reproachful quotes from top Western officials to buttress criticism of the U.S. and its allies. “There’s nothing better,” Katz says, “than using our own words against us.”

Scheuer—a veteran of the CIA’s Osama Bin Laden task force turned staunch critic of U.S. foreign policy—is something of a favored source for jihadists. His quotes have been invoked in propaganda videos and literature at least 16 times since 2007, according to a database compiled by SITE. He’s been referenced by figures ranging from al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri to al-Qaeda’s American-born spokesman, Adam Gadahn, to a high-ranking official with the Somali Islamist group al-Shabab.

But the old CIA hand is hardly the only U.S. insider whose insights are deployed by jihadists. Both Bin Laden and Zawahiri have quoted journalist Bob Woodward’s reporting from within the inner circles of the presidency. Gadahn has twice invoked the writing of American author John Perkins, whose books purport to reveal the economic incentives of U.S. military adventures abroad. A native Californian with a finger on the pulse of his former country, Gadahn name-checked Bernie Madoff in a 2009 speech assailing the avarice of the U.S. financial system.

The words of Presidents and senior administration officials are regularly repurposed in Islamist propaganda for one cause or another. So are the columns of well-known pundits. New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman has been invoked at least three times by Zawahiri, while Bin Laden liked to borrow criticism from the political commentator Noam Chomsky to argue America’s depravity in one form or another.

The new ISIS video filches a term from Obama himself. “The president once called George Bush’s conflict ‘a dumb war,'” Cantlie notes, suggesting Bush’s successor was slipping into one of his own. As long as the terrorist lecture series continues, so too will the pattern of using the enemy’s words against them.

TIME White House

Obama Calls on World to Reject ‘Cancer of Violent Extremism’ in UN Address

69th session of the UN General Assembly
Justin Lane—EPA President Barack Obama speaks during the general debate of the 69th session of the United Nations General Assembly at the United Nations headquarters in New York on Sept. 24, 2014.

The president devoted much of his annual speech to the UN General Assembly to rebutting extremist ideologies

With the U.S. military continuing its air campaign against the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS), President Barack Obama sounded a call to the world to combat of the spread of Islamic extremism Wednesday.

Acknowledging a “pervasive unease in our world” in an address to the United Nations General Assembly, Obama highlighted American efforts to address global challenges from Ebola to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, but devoted much of his annual speech to rebutting extremist ideologies, and encouraging the world to join the U.S.-led campaign against them.

“It is time for the world–especially Muslim communities–to explicitly, forcefully, and consistently reject the ideology of al Qaeda and [ISIS],” Obama said, calling on leaders to reject sectarian strife and push back on extremist propaganda. “It is time for a new compact among the civilized peoples of this world to eradicate war at its most fundamental source: the corruption of young minds by violent ideology.”

“No God condones this terror,” Obama said of the Islamist militant group which has seized large swaths of territory across Iraq and Syria. “No grievance justifies these actions. There can be no reasoning—no negotiation—with this brand of evil. The only language understood by killers like this is the language of force. So the United States of America will work with a broad coalition to dismantle this network of death.”

Speaking 36 hours after the U.S. launched an extended air campaign against ISIS in Syria alongside Arab allies, Obama reiterated the U.S. commitment to strike out against terrorist threats wherever they reside. “Ultimately, the task of rejecting sectarianism and extremism is a generational task—a task for the people of the Middle East themselves,” Obama said. “No external power can bring about a transformation of hearts and minds. But America will be a respectful and constructive partner. We will neither tolerate terrorist safe-havens, nor act as an occupying power.”

Elsewhere in his speech, Obama was sharply critical of Russian aggression in eastern Ukraine, warning that Russia’s actions “challenge” the post-World War II order. “This is a vision of the world in which might makes right—a world in which one nation’s borders can be redrawn by another, and civilized people are not allowed to recover the remains of their loved ones because of the truth that might be revealed,” Obama said. “We will impose a cost on Russia for aggression, and counter falsehoods with the truth.”

Highlighting the role America is playing in addressing the Ebola crisis in West Africa, including deploying hundreds of doctors and thousands of troops to assist in the response, Obama said “It’s easy to see this as a distant problem – until it is not… At this crossroads, I can promise you that the United States of America will not be distracted or deterred from what must be done.”

Obama also invoked last month’s unrest in Ferguson, Mo. following the shooting of Michael Brown, conceding that the U.S. has struggled to live up to its ideals, but said that despite challenges “we welcome the scrutiny of the world” as a country that is striving to address its lingering problems.

“So yes, we have our own racial and ethnic tensions,” Obama said. “And like every country, we continually wrestle with how to reconcile the vast changes wrought by globalization and greater diversity with the traditions that we hold dear. But we welcome the scrutiny of the world – because what you see in America is a country that has steadily worked to address our problems and make our union more perfect. America is not the same as it was 100 years ago, 50 years ago, or even a decade ago. Because we fight for our ideals, and are willing to criticize ourselves when we fall short.”

TIME politics

U.N. Headquarters in South Dakota: How It Could Have Happened

UN HQ - Dec. 10, 1945
TIME From the Dec. 10, 1945, issue of TIME

New York City wasn’t the obvious choice for the United Nations headquarters

Representatives from around the world are now gathering in New York City for the 69th session of the United Nations General Assembly. A vast cadre of diplomats, staff and heads of state have descended on the Big Apple — ensuring a nightmare for daily commuters. But, though that traffic jam is now a dependable annual event, New York City wasn’t the obvious choice for the United Nations headquarters.

In the wake of the 1945 conference establishing the modern day United Nations — which took place in San Francisco — a committee was set up to find the best spot for what would essentially become the world’s capital. A look back into TIME’s coverage of that period shows that the competition to host the U.N. was wide open, though one thing was clear: New York City, where the UN would be overshadowed by “Wall Street, etc…” as one TIME story put it, was no good.

Philadelphia made a strong case for itself when delegates visited to check out potential sites in 1946, TIME reported:

When the time for on-the-spot inspection came, the spirit of brotherly love was almost overpowering. There was a cocktail party for them in the home of Mr. and Mrs. Kenneth Day, who would be evicted if [one of the potential locations] were chosen. Mr. and Mrs. Day thought that would be a fine idea.

…Philadelphia’s hosts never missed a bet. There was a concert by the famed Philadelphia Orchestra, a luncheon at the Art Museum (under pictures by Matisse, Gauguin and Reynolds). In a helicopter provided for the delegates, Holland’s Jan de Ranitz and Dr. M. P. M. van Karnebeek plopped down near Philadelphia for a hearty greeting by a local farmer & family.

But, still, even Philadelphia was considered to be too close to New York and Washington, D.C.

Chicago, San Francisco, Atlantic City and Boston were among the other locales lobbying to become the permanent headquarters. One unlikely contender, the Black Hills region of South Dakota, made the rational argument that it was far from the reach of an atomic bomb, unlike the coastal cities.

“In the Black Hills there are no military objectives, and the gentlemen who are striving for the peace of the world can live at peace while the atomic bombs are falling,” Paul Bellamy, a businessman representing the Black Hills, told an assembly of the U.N., which was temporarily based in London, according to a TIME story from December 1945.

“It was no part of Bellamy’s job, or of the booster tradition,” the author noted, “to ask what the gentlemen would be doing at that point.”

Ultimately, Bellamy’s urgings were for naught. Despite the organizers’ original misgivings, real-estate concerns ended up carrying more weight than atomic ones: New York City received the boost it needed when philanthropist John D. Rockefeller Jr. gifted a parcel of Manhattan land to the U.N.

Read a 1952 cover story about the building of the current United Nations headquarters: Cheops’ Architect

TIME Jordan

Radical Muslim Cleric Abu Qatada Cleared of Terrorism Charges in Jordan

Abu Qatada
Raad Adayleh—AP Radical Muslim preacher Abu Qatada sits behind bars at the Jordanian military court in Amman, Jordan, on June 26, 2014

The British Home Office insists the 53-year-old is “not coming back to the U.K.”

Radical Islamic preacher Abu Qatada has been acquitted of terrorism charges by a Jordanian court. He was deported to the Middle Eastern kingdom from the U.K. in 2013.

On Wednesday, a court in the capital Amman found him not guilty of plotting to carry out terrorist attacks on Western and Israeli targets in Jordan during millennium New Year celebrations, reports the BBC.

He was accused of providing “spiritual support” through his writings to those alleged to have plotted the attacks.

In June, the 53-year-old cleric was also cleared of a conspiracy to attack an American school in Amman.

Abu Qatada had been involved in a decadelong legal battle in the U.K. Government ministers repeatedly tried to deport him to Jordan so he could face the charges in his home country, but judges were concerned he could face torture if repatriated.

After the U.K. and Jordan signed a deal in 2013 stating evidence gathered against Abu Qatada obtained by British deportees in Jordan could not be used, British Home Secretary Theresa May secured his deportation.

“It is right that the due process of law has taken place in Jordan,” a spokesperson for the Home Office told the BBC.

In 1994, Abu Qatada was granted asylum in the U.K. but officials quickly saw him as a security threat.

British judges called him a “truly dangerous individual … at the centre in the United Kingdom of terrorist activities associated with al-Qaeda,” reports the BBC.

[BBC]

TIME Syria

Fresh Air Strikes Hit ISIS Forces in Syria

A Turkish soldier watches as Kurdish Syrian refugees walk on the Turkish-Syrian border near the southeastern town of Suruc in Sanliurfa province, Sept. 24, 2014.
Murad Sezer—Reuters A Turkish soldier watches as Kurdish Syrian refugees walk on the Turkish-Syrian border near the southeastern town of Suruc in Sanliurfa province, Sept. 24, 2014.

Reports say ISIS positions near the besieged town of Kobani were pounded

Updated 8:10am ET

U.S. military aircraft carried out fresh raids against Sunni extremist fighters from the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) in northern Syria on Tuesday night.

U.S. Central Command said Tuesday night that U.S. military forces had continued to attack ISIS targets in Syria with two airstrikes southwest of Dayr Az Zawr. Secretary of State John Kerry confirmed Wednesday that there had been more strikes overnight. “Definitely a second day and a third and maybe more,” Kerry said, in an interview with CNN. “We’re going to do what’s necessary to get the job done.”

The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported on Wednesday that planes scored hits against ISIS militants near Kobani, which is also known as Ayn al-Arab. The Observatory’s Rami Abdulrahman said that local activists reported that the planes had approached from the Turkish side of the border. Turkish officials have dismissed that claim, according to the BBC, and denied that Turkish aircraft or the U.S. airbase at Incirlik were used.

Since Friday, close to 140,000 ethnic Kurds from Syria have flooded across the border into southern Turkey, as ISIS forces took surrounding villages and began to tighten their grip on Kobani. Kurdish militia fighters were still in control of the city as of Wednesday morning.

Earlier this week, Melissa Fleming, a spokesperson for the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, told reporters in Geneva that the agency was preparing for the entire 400,000 strong-population of communities in and around Kobani to cross the border.

TIME Iraq

Iraq’s New Premier Says He’s ‘Happy’ With the Anti-ISIS Coalition

Al-Abadi says ISIS controls at least a quarter of Iraq and is very close to the capital, Baghdad

Iraq’s newly appointed Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi told CNN Tuesday he was “happy” that the U.S. and Arab coalition has joined the fight against ISIS.

But he warned that they must “do it right.”

“We have warned in the last two years: this is a danger,” he said, in one of his first international interviews. “It’s going to end in a bloodbath if nobody stops it and nobody was listening.

“They thought they were immune from this danger and only Iraq and Syria were on the spot of this danger but now I think we’re happy.”

Five Arab nations — Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Jordan, Bahrain and Qatar — have joined the U.S. to fight the militant extremists who control vast swaths of Iraq and Syria.

Al-Abadi’s comments came after the coalition launched a series of strikes Tuesday against ISIS and Khorasan targets in Syria.

“I personally am happy that everybody is seeing this danger so that they are going to do something about it and I hope they do something about it and they do it right,” he said. “They don’t do it the wrong way.”

Sharing al-Abadi’s optimism, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry told the U.N. General Assembly in New York on Tuesday that no country could just stand by and do nothing when faced with the ISIS threat.

“I’ve been very encouraged, as I think all of us engaged in this are, by everybody else’s cooperation, by the overwhelming unity and support for Iraq’s new government,” he said. “No civilized country can shirk its responsibility to stop this cancer from spreading.”

Al-Abadi had been instrumental in pushing the international community to expand its campaign against the militants into Syria. But he criticized Washington for not working closely with Iraqi ground troops fighting ISIS, CNN reports.

“Our forces are moving forward and, when they are moving forward, they need air cover, they need air support,” he said, adding that ISIS controls at least 25% of Iraq and remain very close to the capital, Baghdad.

Al-Abadi must also attempt to mend the deep rifts in his own country between the Shi‘ite majority and the Sunni minority. “This is our country. And if we don’t work together, we don’t deserve a country,” he told CNN.

TIME Syria

Watch as U.S. Air Strikes Target al-Qaeda-Linked Khorasan Group

“We believe that the Khorasan Group was nearing the execution phase of an attack either in Europe or the homeland"

The aftermath of U.S. and Arab allies’ missile strikes on al-Qaeda affiliate the Khorasan Group can be seen on this footage obtained by CNN.

The U.S. Department of Defense said the first wave of strikes that targeted the extremist group were close to the Syrian cities of Aleppo and Raqqa, but do not go into more detail.

Tuesday’s attacks hit key Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) facilities as well as the little-known Khorasan Group, which is based in northwest Syria.

But it is not yet clear to what extent the Khorasan leadership and operatives had been taken out in the attacks. The joint staff director of operations Lieut. General William Mayville said the U.S. was still “assessing the effects of the strikes.”

The U.S. military says the terrorist organization, made up of seasoned al-Qaeda operatives, posed an “imminent threat” as they were preparing to launch a “major” attack against the West.

“We believe that the Khorasan Group was nearing the execution phase of an attack either in Europe or the homeland,” said Mayville, adding the group is attempting to recruit Westerners to serve as operatives to infiltrate their own countries.

“The Khorasan Group are clearly not focused on either the Assad regime or the Syrian people, they are establishing roots in Syria in order to advance attacks against the West and the homeland,” he said.

Speaking from the White House lawn Tuesday, U.S. President Barack Obama said, “It must be clear to anyone who would plot against America and do Americans harm, that we will not tolerate safe havens for terrorists who threaten our people.”

TIME Australia

Gay Asylum Seekers Could Be Resettled in Papua New Guinea, Which Outlaws Homosexuality

(FILE) Manus Island Detention Centre
Handout—Getty Images This handout photo provided by the Australian Department of Immigration and Citizenship, shows facilities at the Manus Island Regional Processing Facility, used for the detention of asylum seekers that arrive by boat, primarily to Christmas Island off the Australian mainland, on October 16, 2012, in Papua New Guinea.

The men had originally sought refuge in Australia

Several gay people, who fled persecution in their home countries and sought asylum in Australia, are reportedly to be resettled in Papua New Guinea (PNG), where homosexuality is a crime.

The asylum seekers are currently held by the Australian immigration officials on Manus Island in PNG, where they could eventually live permanently, the Guardian claims.

Homosexuality in PNG is punishable by up to 14 years in prison.

The Guardian says it has seen what purport to be letters written in Farsi by four gay Iranian men in the Australian-run detention center on Manus Island. The authors appear to detail persecution in their home country and the fear of being resettled in PNG.

“I thought Australia and its people would be my protector, but they taught me otherwise,” one letter reads.

“I am hoping that I will not be sent to PNG prison because I don’t want to be killed by indigenous people living in PNG like my fellow countryman did in February,” reads another.

The authenticity of the letters has not been confirmed.

A December report by Amnesty International says the detainees at the facility have been told that anyone found engaging in homosexual acts will immediately be reported to the PNG police. The report also details numerous other human-rights violations at the detention center.

Amnesty had “consistently raised the issue of gay men on Manus with the [Australian] immigration department” but “never had a clear response,” Graeme McGregor, Amnesty Australia’s refugee-camp coordinator, told the Guardian.

Ben Pynt, director of Humanitarian Research Partners, estimates there are around 36 gay men detained at Manus and several others who are too afraid to reveal their sexual orientation, the Guardian says.

Australian Immigration Minister Scott Morrison, who did not respond to the Guardian’s request for comment on the purported letters, said in December he was unaware of any claims of homosexuality among Manus inmates. He also denied that it was the Australian government’s policy to report homosexual activity among asylum seekers to the PNG government.

[Guardian]

TIME space travel

India Has Sent a Spacecraft Into Mars Orbit

The Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle rocket lifts off carrying India's Mars spacecraft from the east-coast island of Sriharikota, India, Nov. 2013.
Arun Sankar K—AP The Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle rocket lifts off carrying India's Mars spacecraft from the east-coast island of Sriharikota, India, Nov. 2013.

That makes it the first Asian country to achieve the feat and the only country to do so on a first attempt

Indian spacecraft Mangalyaan (also called the Mars Orbiter Mission or MOM) entered Mars orbit at approximately 10.30 p.m. E.T. on Tuesday, making India the first Asian country to accomplish the feat.

The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) is now the fourth space agency to have successfully completed a Mars mission — joining those of the U.S., Russia and Europe — and the South Asian nation is the only country to enjoy success on a maiden mission to Mars.

Another superlative: Mangalyaan has set a record for the cheapest Mars mission, costing just $67 million. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi earlier claimed that it was less expensive than the Oscar-winning film Gravity, Indian news channel NDTV reported.

In comparison, NASA’s MAVEN, which entered Mars’ orbit a day earlier, cost 10 times as much.

ISRO announced the news of Mangalyaan with this tweet:

Modi was monitoring the mission’s progress at ISRO headquarters as the team behind Mangalyaan — which simply means “Mars craft” — broke into cheers. He commended the Indian scientists who worked on the mission.

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