Chris Mitchell

CBN News Middle East Bureau Chief

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Friday, November 20, 2015

Egyptian Commentator's View of President Obama

For several years, many in the Middle East have disparaged U.S. President Barack Obama's policy in the region. As shown in this video clip posted on Facebook, the traditional allies of the U.S. often feel abandoned. Other traditional adversaries feel emboldened. Here is one example of how some Egyptian commentators view the way President Obama sees as a major security threat to the U.S.

posted @ Friday, November 20, 2015 6:51 AM | Feedback (0)

Monday, November 16, 2015

The 'House of Peace' Strikes Paris

I listened this morning to the tributes of those struck down in Paris. They wrench the heart. Earnest students, aspiring lawyers, young couples in love … dozens of lives full of promise and potential gunned down in the prime of their lives. The attacks – called the worst against France since the Second World War – stunned the French Republic, Europe and the world. Many wonder why.   
ISIS itself answered that question in its claim of responsibility. 
“… Let France and all nations following its path know that they will continue to be at the top of the target list for the Islamic State and that the scent of death will not leave their nostrils as long as they partake in the crusader campaign, as long as they dare to curse our Prophet … and as long as they boast about their war against Islam in France and their strikes against Muslims in the lands of the Caliphate with their jets, which were of no avail to them in the filthy streets and alleys of Paris. Indeed, this is just the beginning.” 
It also described Paris as “… the lead carrier of the cross in Europe ...”
Even though many see France as a secular, post Christian nation, they do not. ISIS sees France as a “crusader” country and a bastion of “the cross” of Christianity. 
It also sees France and the West as part of what they call “the House of War.” 
As this reporter wrote in Destination Jerusalem, when the leader of ISIS, Abu al-Baghdadi declared the caliphate of the Islamic State last summer, he stated, “O Ummah [nation] of Islam, indeed the world today has been divided into two camps and two trenches, with no third camp present: The camp of Islam and faith, and the camp of kufr [disbelief] and hypocrisy, the camp of the Muslims and the mujahidin everywhere, and the camp of the Jews, the crusaders, their allies, and with them the rest of the nations and religions of kufr, all being led by America and Russia, and being mobilized by the Jews.” 
Al-Baghdadi espoused one of the basic tenets of Islam – the dogma that divides the world into two spheres: The House of War and the House of Peace. He referred to the House of Peace as “the camp of Islam and faith” and the House of War as “the camp of the kufr [disbelief] and hypocrisy …” The House of Peace consists of those lands under the subjugation of Islam; the House of War makes up those lands yet to fall under the sway of Islam. Those lands include France, all of Europe, Israel and especially the United States.
ISIS, al Qaeda, al Nusra and many other Islamic groups all ascribe to this doctrine. We in the “House of War” will continue to be their target, whether it’s Paris, Jerusalem, New York City or any other Western city or country. This is a battle for the future of our civilization otherwise known as the “the House of War.”  

posted @ Monday, November 16, 2015 7:08 AM | Feedback (0)

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Israel Stands with Paris

Darkness visited the "City of Light" on Friday, November 13, 2015.  Sadly, Israelis have lived with this darkness for many years. 

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sent a message to French President Hollande and said Israel "stands shoulder to shoulder" with the people of France. 

Tragically, Israel knows too well the horrors of Islamic terror.  They also know the goals motivating these jihadists.  One of those goals is to intimidate France from participating in the battle against ISIS.  Another is to expand their more than 1-year -old caliphate far beyond the former nations of Syria and Iraq.   In the summer of 2014, my cameraman Jonathan Goff, our translator/guide Pastor Majeed, and I heard firsthand that chilling goal.     

From the Kurdish capital, Erbil, we drove to a hastily set up refugee camp after ISIS captured Iraq's second largest city, Mosul.  We met a former Iraqi soldier named Sha'alan who worked in intelligence.  In that capacity, he interrogated ISIS fighters. 

Below is the account of that meeting with Sha'alan in the book CBN News' Chris Mitchell wrote called Destination Jerusalem:

"We meet Sha'alan, an Iraqi soldier. He's one of the Iraqi soldiers almost universally vilified for abandoning their positions, dropping their weapons and fleeing the battle. Most melted away in the face of ISIS. However, he insists he fought bravely until his commanding officers fled. 'Then, what else could I do?' he asks us. After the fall of Nineveh, he's a man without a country. He can't go back to Nineveh; ISIS would kill him. But he can't fly to Baghdad, and he doesn't have any documentation to go into the Kurdish city of Erbil. You can read the dread in his eyes. Even though he's outside of the city, he says he's still 'inside the fire.'

He tells us many ISIS fighters are from Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Qatar and other Muslim nations.  Experts warn that these hardened fighters might be the next wave of jihadists heading to Europe and the U.S.

Serving in Iraqi intelligence, Sha'alan interviewed captured ISIS soldiers and learned that their agenda is much bigger than just Iraq. He warned us they don't have merely a countrywide or even regional agenda.

His sobering words issue a warning: 'We know that ISIS is not dreaming to rule over Iraq only, but they're dreaming to go to Europe and rule over the entire European continent and, if I'm allowed to say, ISIS is dreaming to rule over the whole world.'

It wouldn't be the last time we heard ISIS had an agenda far beyond the borders of Iraq or the boundaries of the Middle East. Their twenty-first century dream echoed the dreams of other would-be global conquerors who left millions of desperate people like Sha'alan in their wake."

In his statement, Netanyahu put this in the context of Western civilization: 

"I call on the entire civilized world to unite to defeat the plague of worldwide terrorism," the Israeli leader said. "An attack on any one of us should be seen as an attack on all of us.  All terrorism must be condemned and fought equally with unwavering determination. It's only with this moral clarity that the forces of civilization will defeat the savagery of terrorism."

Netanyahu is right, this is a civilizational jihad.  It's not about the "occupation."  It's not about having "two states living side by side in peace and security."  It's about one civilization against another.  It's about freedom vs. tyranny and in Islamic terms the "House of Peace" waging war against the "House of War." 

We need to be educated regarding what this war is about.  We need to understand our enemy.  And we need to win.  Years ago, we interviewed Bernard Lewis, a man many considered the world's leading expert on Islam.  He said the stakes in this war are "the survival of our civilization."   

posted @ Sunday, November 15, 2015 10:12 AM | Feedback (0)

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Kurds Take the Offensive against the Islamic State

Today more than 7,000 soldiers of the Kurdish military – known as the Peshmerga – launched an offensive against the Islamic State. Along with the help of U.S. airstrikes, they hope to retake the pivotal northern Iraqi city of Sinjar. The campaign is important both strategically and symbolically – strategically because it runs along Highway 47 connecting the Islamic State capital of Raaqa in Syria with Iraq's second largest city Mosul. If the Kurds retake the city it will cut off this vital ISIS supply route.
It's also significant symbolically for two reasons: First, it will show the world the Kurds can take the offensive against ISIS. And second, it will redeem a significant defeat the Kurds suffered last year.
Last August, Kurdish fighters abandoned Sinjar as ISIS advanced on the city, leaving tens of thousands of Yazidis at the mercy of the Islamic State. ISIS massacred thousands. Thousands more fled and many died on the way. Here's a story we did last year on the plight of these often persecuted people. As you'll see in this story, they suffered unspeakable horrors as they fled ISIS. One Yazidi man lamented, "They cut us like sheep." 
Recently, we visited Kurdistan and interviewed some of those who were captured by ISIS and since have escaped. One was a 19-year-old girl abused as a sex slave for 10 months. Another 14-year-old boy was being trained to become a jihadi to kill his own people. We'll have their story soon. 
In the meantime, here's our story from the front lines of the Kurdish military. When I was there, between the Kurdish military and ISIS, I had the deep sense I was on the front lines of the free world. Make no mistake, this battle over Sinjar is important to you and me and the Western world. The Kurdish military is battling a group committed to destroying our freedoms, our civilization and way of life. They deserve our support and our prayers. 

posted @ Thursday, November 12, 2015 10:29 AM | Feedback (0)

Friday, October 09, 2015

Russia in the Middle East: There's a New Sheriff in Town

In the past few weeks, Russian leader Vladimir Putin strode into the Middle East. Within days it was clear "there's a new sheriff in town." He announced to the townsfolk he came in to get rid of the town bully, ISIS. He asked others to join him, especially the former sheriff, U.S. President Barack Obama. He'd been sheriff a while, but for more than a year, folks knew he just did enough to get by when dealing with the town bully.

It got so bad the bad guys didn't even look up when the sheriff strode into the town's saloon. They just mumbled something about "red lines," stayed saddled up to the bar and kept drinking.

What the new sheriff didn’t say is he also came to save another town bully, Syrian President Bashar Assad. That became obvious the first time he fired a shot. He didn’t fire at ISIS. He aimed at the guys attacking his friend Assad. This new sheriff took care of his friends, even if they were bullies.

The old sheriff insisted he wouldn’t take on the new gunslinger.

"We’re not going to make Syria into a proxy war between the United States and Russia," he said. "This is not some superpower chessboard contest, and anybody who frames it in that way isn't paying very close attention to what’s been happening on the chessboard."

Except this new sheriff – like many Russians – was paying attention and he plays a mean game of chess. In fact, he plays with some of the most sophisticated chess pieces the world has to offer, like advanced T-90 tanks; Sukhoi Su-24 and Su-25 jets; Smerch multiple-launch rocket systems and even Kalibr ship-launched cruise missiles.

Some said why not let Putin come in and take over. After all, let Russian "conscripts" or "volunteers" do the dirty work. When it's all over, the U.S. can come and pick up the pieces.

Well, it turns out there won't be any pieces to pick up. Those pieces – the country formerly known as Syria – may well be under the control of the new sheriff. From the way he "cleaned up' Crimea and parts of that town up north called Ukraine, everybody knew he didn't take kindly to giving up parts of towns he's already given to his deputies.

Back south in Syria, Putin's posse included some mean desperadoes. Nasty hoodlums like Hezbollah. They just happen to have more than 100,000 rockets and missiles aimed at Israel, one of the good guys in the neighborhood.

he Israelis have spent years keeping advanced weapons out of their nemesis' hands. Any advanced weapons sent by Iran via Syria found themselves the brunt of Israel's punishing air assaults. Now, they might have to think twice if the new sheriff sends any of his advanced weapons to Hezbollah.

Israel doesn't want a war, but this puts them in a very difficult situation, especially when bad deputies like Ayatollah Khamenei keep bad mouthing Israel and saying the Jewish state should be wiped off the map. Kind of makes them immune to retaliation when the new sheriff is standing alongside those ayatollahs.

Suddenly, the skies have become a dangerous place to fly.

The townsfolk know this new sheriff plays by different rules than the former sheriff. After all, one time he came into a town called Grozny in a place called Chechnya and leveled it. The U.N. called it "the most destroyed city on earth."

They warn he may say he wears a white hat, but he's mischievous and cunning. In Syria, he took a weak poker hand and played it incredibly powerfully. Some people call the new sheriff "muscular," the former sheriff "feckless."

But even if the former sheriff says it's not some geo-political chess game, it doesn't make it so. Some folks say his inaction puts America's main ally, Israel, in peril and our traditional allies in jeopardy. Right now, it looks like a Shiite crescent is forming in town.

Putin is putting much more on the line than the former sheriff, who won't come out of his office much these days. He prefers to keep saying the new sheriff won't succeed while his posse is getting fidgety. He hasn't turned in his badge yet, but everybody in town knows who's in charge. He keeps talking like it matters, but he doesn't seem to understand he's getting run out of town.

Too bad. It's one of the most strategic towns in the world.

Rumor has it that once this new sheriff comes in, it's hard to get him out. Just ask the folks in Crimea. Nobody knows when he'll stop, but around town, folks say people up north in Estonia are getting nervous.

posted @ Friday, October 09, 2015 1:02 PM | Feedback (0)

Friday, July 17, 2015

Chattanooga, ISIS and War

Four Marines fell in Chattanooga on July 16, 2015 at the Marine Corps Reserve Center. One had earned two Purple Hearts and their unit served in the battle of Fallujah. Yet on this Thursday they died on home soil.

Twenty-four-year-old Mohammad Youssef Abdulazeez pulled the trigger. But it seems a murderous viral ideology loaded the gun and filled his mind.

On his Facebook page he recently posted the following:

"This life is that test designed to separate the inhabitants of Paradise from the inhabitants of Hellfire … we ask Allah to make us follow their path … to give us a complete understanding of the message of Islam, and the strength to live by this knowledge, and to know what role we need to play to establish Islam in the world."

While his post didn't pledge violence, it seems clear the seeds of murder had already been sown. It's not clear ISIS inspired him but his behavior fits their call for "lone wolf" attacks during the month of Ramadan against U.S. military and police.

But those calls for Western Muslims have been issued for many months. In Destination Jerusalem this reporter cited specific ISIS instructions issued last year:

"Rig the roads with explosives for them. Attack their bases. Raid their homes. Cut off their heads. Do not let them feel secure. Hunt them wherever they may be. Turn their worldly life into fear and fire. Remove their families from their homes and thereafter blow up their homes." p. 152

We're now living in the time when as one expert said the worlds of international and domestic terrorism collide. So called "lone wolves" - who may not have direct contact with a foreign group like ISIS - nevertheless embrace their same mission and motive … and act.

FBI Director James Comey warned Congress just days ago when he explained how these calls by ISIS play on fertile minds: "This is not your grandfather's al-Qaeda. There's a device, almost a devil on their shoulder all day long saying, 'Kill, kill, kill, kill.'"

We're at war.

On July 16, the battlefield was Chattanooga. Who knows where the next battlefield will be on U.S. soil. But many are at war with our country and way of life. Many years ago, Osama bin Laden issued a declaration of war against the United States of America. That declaration spawned 9/11.

Now ISIS - the Islamic group that has usurped the lead role of al Qaeda in global jihad - is continuing that war. Just over one year ago on July 5, 2014, the leader of ISIS declared a caliphate. The significance of his declaration laid in the fact that al-Baghdadi and many Muslims see the world far differently than most Westerners. As Baghdadi proclaimed they divide the world in two:

"O Ummah (nation) of Islam, indeed the world today has been divided into two camps and two trenches, with no third camp present: The camp of Islam and faith, and the camp of kufr (disbelief) and hypocrisy - the camp of the Muslims and the mujahidin everywhere, and the camp of the Jews, the crusaders, their allies, and with them the rest of the nations and religions of kufr, all being led by America and Russia, and being mobilized by the Jews." P. 62

He espoused one of the basic tenets of Islam - that dogma divides the world into two spheres: The House of War and the House of Peace. The House of Peace consists of those lands under the subjugation of Islam; the House of War makes up those lands yet to fall under the sway of Islam.

ISIS, al Qaeda and some other Muslims feel it is their duty to make sure that the House of War is subjugated to the House of Peace. Those lands include Israel, Europe, the United States … and Chattanooga.

posted @ Friday, July 17, 2015 11:50 AM | Feedback (0)

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Deal Fallout: Mideast Nuclear War Coming?

According to an Iranian expert, the nuclear deal (JCOPA) will lead to a confrontation between the major powers of the Middle East.

Iranian-born Menashe Amir hosts a radio show that broadcasts into Iran itself. Given his extensive understanding of the Middle East, his knowledge of the Iranian mindset and the region's religious and geo-political dynamics, CBN News asked Amir about the fallout from this historic agreement reached on July 14, 2015.

Here's some of the excerpts from that interview:

First, Amir explained why the agreement shows that Iran "took" the US to a Mideast bazaar and came out the winner.

Amir expounded on why Iran - despite this agreement - still considers the United States their sworn enemy.

Amir also pointed out why there is a huge conflict between Shiite Iran and Sunni Saudi Arabia. These two nations represent the two rival factions within Islam.

He also described why this agreement will lead to a nuclear arms race in the Middle East.

Amir showed why this deal has made the Iranian regime happy and presents difficult days for Israel.

Amir expounded how this agreement could lead to a Mideast war.

Finally, Amir explained how Iran because of this deal will get "the bomb."

posted @ Wednesday, July 15, 2015 12:52 PM | Feedback (0)

Friday, July 10, 2015

Why a Deal with Iran Scares the Middle East

Why are so many in the Middle East concerned about the possible nuclear deal with Iran?

In the short term, one of the main concerns in the region would be the billions of dollars Iran would receive in sanctions relief.

Even the U.S. State Department released a report recently saying Iran remains one of the chief sponsors of terror in the world. Those billions of dollars could be funneled to support Iran's battle to establish a Shiite government in Yemen, re-supply the Lebanese terror group Hezbollah, and continue to prop up the government of Syrian president Bashar al Assad.

Many here in Israel and throughout the area feel that would be a high price to pay for a deal that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says would all but guarantee that Iran would eventually get a nuclear bomb.

If history is any judge, Israel will do all it can to stop Iran from getting a nuclear bomb. In 1981, they bombed the nuclear reactor in Iraq that Saddam Hussein was building. In 2007, they bombed the nuclear plant president Assad was building in Syria.

They don't want any of their neighbors to get a nuclear device that threatens the survival of the Jewish state. If a deal is struck that, as Netanyahu has said would pave the way for Iran to get a nuclear device, it seems plausible that Israel would do what it has to do, including a military strike to destroy Iran's nuclear program.

In fact, a report just the other day in an Israeli news outlet said the Israel Defense Force has appointed a special team to plan for a potential strike.

It seems Netanyahu feels destined to be the leader to stop Iran. As this reporter explained in Destination Jerusalem: ISIS, Convert or Die, Christian Persecution and Preparing for the Days Ahead, CBN News accompanied the prime minister to Moscow in November 2013.

He went to persuade Russian President Vladimir Putin not to sign one of the interim deals with Iran. During a background briefing to the traveling press, I asked Netanyahu if he felt in a similar position as Winston Churchill in the 1930s.

At that time in history, Churchill warned the world of the dangers of a re-armed Nazi Germany. Now, Netanyahu like a voice in the wilderness is sounding the alarm about a nuclear Iran.

He answered, "I need to make sure I do everything in my power in the time that I have as leader of Israel to make sure that the chain of Jewish existence and the chain in the life of the Jewish people in the Jewish state is not severed. This is my responsibility."

So it's possible in the event of a deal with Iran that allows the Islamic regime to get a nuclear bomb, we might see a greater conflict - not less - here in the region and possibly the world.

posted @ Friday, July 10, 2015 3:57 PM | Feedback (0)

Wednesday, July 08, 2015

A Failed Strategy

President Barack Obama paid a rare visit to the Pentagon this week and gave an update on his ambition “to degrade and ultimately destroy the terrorist group ISIL.” He painted a rosy picture.

“This is a cause, a coalition, that’s united countries across the globe -- some 60 nations, including Arab partners. Our comprehensive strategy against ISIL is harnessing all elements of American power, across our government -- military, intelligence, diplomatic, economic, development and perhaps most importantly, the power of our values,” the president said.

He went on to list his administration’s achievements.

“Our coalition has now hit ISIL with more than 5,000 airstrikes. We’ve taken out thousands of fighting positions, tanks, vehicles, bomb factories, and training camps. We’ve eliminated thousands of fighters, including senior ISIL commanders. And over the past year, we’ve seen that when we have an effective partner on the ground, ISIL can be pushed back.”

Yet, the next day, Republican Sen. John McCain delivered a blistering critique of the administration’s policy before a Senate committee.

“President Obama delivered remarks that were in delusion. It is right, but ultimately unneeded, to point out that we have done airstrikes and pushed equipment out of the territory. None of the progress of the president cited suggests that we are on a path to success,” McCain said.

“Since U.S. and coalition airstrikes began last year, ISIS has continued to enjoy successes, including taking Ramadi and other key terrain in Iraq, holding over half the territory in Syria, and controlling every border post between Iraq and Syria. The longer ISIS remains undefeated in Iraq and Syria, the more potent its message is to those around the globe who… may be radicalized and inspired mayhem on its behalf,” he continued.

“It is not that we are doing nothing. It is that that there is no compelling reason to believe that anything we are doing currently will be sufficient to achieve the president’s long stated goal of degrading or destroying ISIS in the short-term or long-term … They suggest that we are not winning. When you are not winning a war, you're losing,” he concluded.

McCain voices the same concern many share here in the Middle East. It’s a worry that U.S. policy toward ISIS is weak and impotent. In the meantime, this Islamic scourge continues to devour lands and peoples. They seem compelled to make their latest monstrous deed worse than their previous atrocities. For example, 25 Syrian soldiers met their doom in the ancient ruins of Palmyra. In a scene worthy of Rome’s Coliseum 2,000 years ago, young boys lined up behind the kneeling and bound soldiers and executed them before a bloodthirsty crowd.

Tragically, it was thumbs down for the ill-fated soldiers and many, including Sen. McCain, feel it’s thumbs down for President Obama’s policy.

Perhaps the group most affected by the administration’s policy is the Kurds. Despite being the most cohesive fighting group staring down this Islamic menace, according to a recent report in The Telegraph, Obama is preventing other Arab nations in the Middle East from arming the Kurds with heavy weapons.

“Some of America’s closest allies say President Barack Obama and other Western leaders, including David Cameron, are failing to show strategic leadership over the world’s gravest security crisis for decades.

“They now say they are willing to 'go it alone' in supplying heavy weapons to the Kurds, even if means defying the Iraqi authorities and their American backers, who demand all weapons be channeled through Baghdad.

“High-level officials from the Gulf States and others have told this newspaper that all attempts to persuade Mr. Obama of the need to arm the Kurds directly as part of more vigorous plans to take on Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant [ISIL] have failed … The officials say they are looking at new ways to take the fight to ISIL without seeking U.S. approval.

“If the Americans and the West are not prepared to do anything serious about defeating ISIL, then we will have to find new ways of dealing with the threat,” a senior Arab government official said. “With ISIL making ground all the time we simply cannot afford to wait for Washington to wake up to the enormity of the threat we face.”

As this reporter chronicles in his book, Destination Jerusalem, Kurdish military officers on the front lines told us they needed heavy U.S. weapons to confront ISIS. Since ISIS captured tons of weapons from a fleeing Iraqi army, they stood outgunned on the battlefield. Ironically, the Kurds find themselves facing modern American weapons while they fight with outdated equipment.

One year after they asked for better weapons, along with adequate training, those pleas are largely unanswered even though they appear to be the one military force in the region capable and willing to confront ISIS successfully.

McCain concludes that ISIS can be defeated but not given our current strategy.

“ISIS is not 10 feet tall. It can be and must be defeated. But that will never happen if we continue to delude ourselves about our current campaign,” McCain said. “The president is fond of the truism that there is no military solution to ISIS or any other problem, but what he is so often fail to realize is that there is sometimes a major military dimension to achieving a political solution. It is clear that we are moving in a time of unprecedented turmoil. We see it on our television screens every day.”

With the current strategy, it appears we will be seeing this “unprecedented turmoil” for the foreseeable future.

posted @ Wednesday, July 08, 2015 11:02 AM | Feedback (0)

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

A Wake Up Call for the US

How would Americans respond if dozens of ISIS terrorists emerged from tunnels inside a major US city like San Diego? According to a new thriller from Dan Gordon, that horrific scenario is all too possible.

Day of the Dead is his new novel based on front lines, real life experiences from last summer's war with Hamas.

They dug tunnels inside Israel and planned to kill, maim, and kidnap as many Israelis as they could.

Thankfully, the IDF stopped those deadly plans. But is the United States ready for ISIS to use already dug drug smuggling tunnels? We talked to Gordon about his book and why he feels it's a wakeup call to the United States.

posted @ Wednesday, June 24, 2015 1:18 PM | Feedback (0)