CONTROVERSIAL TOPICS

CONTROVERSIAL TOPICS

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Roots of the Islamic State: The real coalition goes to war, Syria, Iran, Iraq and Russia, revenge is sweet:Middle East and Far East In Turmoil

 

 

 

 

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Roots of the Islamic State, a chronology in photos

A photographic timeline of conflict in Iraq and Syria over the last decade and the rise of the "Islamic State," which seized large swathes of both countries in 2014.

A photographic timeline of conflict in Iraq and Syria over the last decade and the rise of the "Islamic State," which seized large swathes of both countries in 2014.
In January 2014, Islamist militants seized the city of Fallujah in Iraq's Anbar province,
a major flashpoint between American and Iraqi resistance forces a decade earlier. By June, the so-called "Islamic State," also known as ISIS and ISIL, had swept into Mosul, Iraq's second largest city, and beyond. According to the United Nations, over 3 million Syrians have fled the country since March 2011. From their defacto capitol of Raqqa, Syria, the Islamic State has brutally transformed on-the-ground realities in both Iraq and Syria, shattering borders set up by the British and French after World War I. The following images recount a decade of turmoil leading up to 2014's rapid expansion of the self-declared caliphate.
Description of . In this Monday, June 23, 2014 file photo, militants from the Islamic State parade down a main street Mosul, Iraq, in a commandeered Iraqi security forces armored vehicle. The chaos unleashed by the Arab Spring has led to the rise of powerful militias -- including many Islamic extremist groups -- across a Middle East where many central governments have been exposed as weak. Some of the groups are allied with such governments, others are fighting to topple them and some -- like the Kurdish peshmerga in northern Iraq -- are seen as vital Western allies. All could prove to be major obstacles to bringing peace or stability to the troubled region. (AP Photo, File)1 of 55 -In this Monday, June 23, 2014 file photo, militants from the Islamic State parade down a main street Mosul, Iraq, in a commandeered Iraqi security forces armored vehicle. The chaos unleashed by the Arab Spring has led to the rise of powerful militias -- including many Islamic extremist groups -- across a Middle East where many central governments have been exposed as weak. Some of the groups are allied with such governments, others are fighting to topple them and some -- like the Kurdish peshmerga in northern Iraq -- are seen as vital Western allies. All could prove to be major obstacles to bringing peace or stability to the troubled region. (AP Photo, File)Description of . Syrians look at the aftermath of an airstrike on a rebel area of the war-torn northern city of Aleppo on December 15, 2013. The Aleppo Media Centre, an activist network on the ground, reported several helicopter attacks on rebel areas of the city, once Syria's economic hub. MOHAMMED AL-KHATIEB/AFP/Getty Images2 of 55 -Syrians look at the aftermath of an airstrike on a rebel area of the war-torn northern city of Aleppo on December 15, 2013. The Aleppo Media Centre, an activist network on the ground, reported several helicopter attacks on rebel areas of the city, once Syria's economic hub. MOHAMMED AL-KHATIEB/AFP/Getty ImagesDescription of . In this Wednesday, Jan. 14, 2004 file photo, a man suspected of involvement in attacks on coalition forces is questioned in the living room of his home during a raid by the 82nd Airborne Division near Fallujah, Iraq. In 2014, the city's fall to al-Qaida-linked forces has touched a nerve for the service members who fought and bled there. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)3 of 55 -In this Wednesday, Jan. 14, 2004 file photo, a man suspected of involvement in attacks on coalition forces is questioned in the living room of his home during a raid by the 82nd Airborne Division near Fallujah, Iraq. In 2014, the city's fall to al-Qaida-linked forces has touched a nerve for the service members who fought and bled there. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)Description of . A U.S. Marine of the first Division passes by a burning house in the western part of Fallujah, Iraq, Sunday, Nov. 14, 2004. U.S. military officials said that U.S. Forces had now 4 of 55 -A U.S. Marine of the first Division passes by a burning house in the western part of Fallujah, Iraq, Sunday, Nov. 14, 2004. U.S. military officials said that U.S. Forces had now "occupied" the entire city of Fallujah. (AP Photo/Anja Niedringhaus)Description of . A bullet riddled painting of Saddam Hussein on a wall on the outskirts of Baghdad April 5, 2003. (Photo by Andy Cross/The Denver Post)5 of 55 -A bullet riddled painting of Saddam Hussein on a wall on the outskirts of Baghdad April 5, 2003. (Photo by Andy Cross/The Denver Post)Description of . U.S. Marines of the 1st Division take position on the outskirts of Fallujah, Iraq, Monday, Nov. 8, 2004. (AP Photo/Anja Niedringhaus)6 of 55 -U.S. Marines of the 1st Division take position on the outskirts of Fallujah, Iraq, Monday, Nov. 8, 2004. (AP Photo/Anja Niedringhaus)Description of . Moments after the attacks, a youth runs past the victims and burning debris at the site of several bomb blasts which exploded in densely-occupied areas, during the holy day of Ashoura, a Shiite festival, in the holy city of Karbala, Iraq, Tuesday, March 2, 2004. This photograph is one in a portfolio of twenty taken by eleven different Associated Press photographers throughout 2004 in Iraq. The Associated Press won a Pulitzer prize in breaking news photography for the series of pictures of bloody combat in Iraq. The award was the AP's 48th Pulitzer.  (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley)7 of 55 -Moments after the attacks, a youth runs past the victims and burning debris at the site of several bomb blasts which exploded in densely-occupied areas, during the holy day of Ashoura, a Shiite festival, in the holy city of Karbala, Iraq, Tuesday, March 2, 2004. This photograph is one in a portfolio of twenty taken by eleven different Associated Press photographers throughout 2004 in Iraq. The Associated Press won a Pulitzer prize in breaking news photography for the series of pictures of bloody combat in Iraq. The award was the AP's 48th Pulitzer. (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley)Description of . A crowd of Iraqis carry an injured man from a damaged building after a car bomb exploded in central Baghdad, Iraq, Monday, June 14, 2004.  A car bomb tore through a convoy Monday in central Baghdad, killing at least 10 people, including three foreigners working to rebuild Iraq's power plants. This photograph is one in a portfolio of twenty taken by eleven different Associated Press photographers throughout 2004 in Iraq. The Associated Press won a Pulitzer prize in breaking news photography for the series of pictures of bloody combat in Iraq. The award was the AP's 48th Pulitzer. (AP Photo/Mohammed Uraibi)8 of 55 -A crowd of Iraqis carry an injured man from a damaged building after a car bomb exploded in central Baghdad, Iraq, Monday, June 14, 2004. A car bomb tore through a convoy Monday in central Baghdad, killing at least 10 people, including three foreigners working to rebuild Iraq's power plants. This photograph is one in a portfolio of twenty taken by eleven different Associated Press photographers throughout 2004 in Iraq. The Associated Press won a Pulitzer prize in breaking news photography for the series of pictures of bloody combat in Iraq. The award was the AP's 48th Pulitzer. (AP Photo/Mohammed Uraibi)Description of . FILE - In this file photo taken on May 26, 2004, Qais al-Khazali, then the top aide of radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, and leader of a militant group called Asaib Ahl al-Haq, or League of the Righteous, inspects the damage after overnight fighting against Iraqi army and US forces in Najaf, Iraq. The wave of attacks by al-Qaida and Sunni extremists that has killed thousands of Iraqis in 2013 so far, most of them Shiites, is provoking ominous calls from Shiite leaders to take up arms in self-defense. Iraqís Shiite prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, who will meet with U.S. President Barack Obama on Friday, Nov. 1, 2013, said he wants American help in quelling the violence. (AP Photo/Khalid Mohammed, File)9 of 55 -FILE - In this file photo taken on May 26, 2004, Qais al-Khazali, then the top aide of radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, and leader of a militant group called Asaib Ahl al-Haq, or League of the Righteous, inspects the damage after overnight fighting against Iraqi army and US forces in Najaf, Iraq. The wave of attacks by al-Qaida and Sunni extremists that has killed thousands of Iraqis in 2013 so far, most of them Shiites, is provoking ominous calls from Shiite leaders to take up arms in self-defense. Iraqís Shiite prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, who will meet with U.S. President Barack Obama on Friday, Nov. 1, 2013, said he wants American help in quelling the violence. (AP Photo/Khalid Mohammed, File)Description of . A U.S. soldier at a press conference in Baghdad, Iraq, takes down an older image, to display the latest image purporting to show the body of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the al-Qaida-linked militant who led a bloody campaign of suicide bombings, kidnappings and hostage beheadings in Iraq, who was killed Wednesday in a U.S. airstrike, Iraq's Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki announced, in this June 8, 2006, file photo. (AP Photo/Khalid Mohammed/FILE)10 of 55 -A U.S. soldier at a press conference in Baghdad, Iraq, takes down an older image, to display the latest image purporting to show the body of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the al-Qaida-linked militant who led a bloody campaign of suicide bombings, kidnappings and hostage beheadings in Iraq, who was killed Wednesday in a U.S. airstrike, Iraq's Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki announced, in this June 8, 2006, file photo. (AP Photo/Khalid Mohammed/FILE)Description of . In this photograph taken during a U.S. Army organized media trip to the site, a U.S. 4th Infantry Division soldier walks past a crater at the scene of the recent airstrike against Abu Musab al-Zarqawi at an isolated palm grove on the outskirts of Hibhib, near Baqouba in Iraq Saturday, June 10, 2006. On Wednesday, the U.S. military tracked al-Zarqawi to a house northwest of Baghdad, and blew it up with two 500-pound (225-kilogram) bombs. (AP Photo/Joao Silva, Pool)11 of 55 -In this photograph taken during a U.S. Army organized media trip to the site, a U.S. 4th Infantry Division soldier walks past a crater at the scene of the recent airstrike against Abu Musab al-Zarqawi at an isolated palm grove on the outskirts of Hibhib, near Baqouba in Iraq Saturday, June 10, 2006. On Wednesday, the U.S. military tracked al-Zarqawi to a house northwest of Baghdad, and blew it up with two 500-pound (225-kilogram) bombs. (AP Photo/Joao Silva, Pool)Description of . US soldiers from Alpha Company, 2nd Battalion, 3rd Infantry Regiment, 3rd Stryker Brigade Combat Team patrol the Beida neighborhood bordering Sadr City in Baghdad, Iraq Sunday,  Feb. 18, 2007. The soldiers are part of a surge of US troops brought to Baghdad as part of a plan to bring security to the city.  (AP Photo/Maya Alleruzzo)12 of 55 -US soldiers from Alpha Company, 2nd Battalion, 3rd Infantry Regiment, 3rd Stryker Brigade Combat Team patrol the Beida neighborhood bordering Sadr City in Baghdad, Iraq Sunday, Feb. 18, 2007. The soldiers are part of a surge of US troops brought to Baghdad as part of a plan to bring security to the city. (AP Photo/Maya Alleruzzo)Description of . Iraqi army soldiers search a driver at a vehicle checkpoint in central Baghdad, Iraq, Saturday, Feb. 10, 2007. Although Iraqis have seen an increase in the number of checkpoints and other security measures, there is little sign of a 13 of 55 -Iraqi army soldiers search a driver at a vehicle checkpoint in central Baghdad, Iraq, Saturday, Feb. 10, 2007. Although Iraqis have seen an increase in the number of checkpoints and other security measures, there is little sign of a "surge" of troops in the streets and the U.S. officials insist the public will see a big increase soon. (AP Photo/Khalid Mohammed)Description of . In this Tuesday, Dec. 8, 2009. Gen. Abboud Qanbar, center, commander of the Baghdad Operations Command inspects the site of a bomb attack near the new Finance Ministry building in Baghdad, Iraq. The angry mood after suicide bombings killed 127 people in the capital Wednesday led Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to replace Baghdad's top military commander. (AP Photo/Hadi Mizban)14 of 55 -In this Tuesday, Dec. 8, 2009. Gen. Abboud Qanbar, center, commander of the Baghdad Operations Command inspects the site of a bomb attack near the new Finance Ministry building in Baghdad, Iraq. The angry mood after suicide bombings killed 127 people in the capital Wednesday led Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to replace Baghdad's top military commander. (AP Photo/Hadi Mizban)Description of . A protestor burns a portrait of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad during a demonstration after Friday prayers on April 29, 2011 in Istanbul against the regime of al-Assad and the deadly crackdown on opposition protests. About 1,000 people demonstrated in Istanbul Friday to denounce a bloody crackdown on protests in Syria, calling for President Bashar al-Assad's departure.  Following Friday prayers at an ancient mosque, the crowd, including Syrians based in Turkey's largest city, staged a march, chanting slogans against Assad and burning his portraits, an AFP reporter said. BULENT KILIC/AFP/Getty Images15 of 55 -A protestor burns a portrait of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad during a demonstration after Friday prayers on April 29, 2011 in Istanbul against the regime of al-Assad and the deadly crackdown on opposition protests. About 1,000 people demonstrated in Istanbul Friday to denounce a bloody crackdown on protests in Syria, calling for President Bashar al-Assad's departure. Following Friday prayers at an ancient mosque, the crowd, including Syrians based in Turkey's largest city, staged a march, chanting slogans against Assad and burning his portraits, an AFP reporter said. BULENT KILIC/AFP/Getty ImagesDescription of . In this Wednesday, Aug. 15, 2012 file photo, injured Syrian women arrive at a field hospital after an air strike hit their homes in the town of Azaz, on the outskirts of Aleppo, Syria. More than two years into Syria's civil war, the once highly-centralized authoritarian state has effectively split into three distinct parts, each boasting its own flags, security agencies and judicial system. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)16 of 55 -In this Wednesday, Aug. 15, 2012 file photo, injured Syrian women arrive at a field hospital after an air strike hit their homes in the town of Azaz, on the outskirts of Aleppo, Syria. More than two years into Syria's civil war, the once highly-centralized authoritarian state has effectively split into three distinct parts, each boasting its own flags, security agencies and judicial system. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)Description of . Anti-government protesters gesture on the streets of Daraa, 100kms south of the capital Damascus on March 23, 2011. Three people, including an 11-year-old girl, were killed this afternoon in the volatile Syrian city of Daraa, witnesses said, as state media reported President Bashar al-Assad had fired the city's governor. ANWAR AMRO/AFP/Getty Images17 of 55 -Anti-government protesters gesture on the streets of Daraa, 100kms south of the capital Damascus on March 23, 2011. Three people, including an 11-year-old girl, were killed this afternoon in the volatile Syrian city of Daraa, witnesses said, as state media reported President Bashar al-Assad had fired the city's governor. ANWAR AMRO/AFP/Getty ImagesDescription of . Syrians anti and pro-Assad protesters clash after Friday prayers in Damascus, Syria, Friday, March 25, 2011. Thousands of Syrians took to the streets Friday demanding reforms and mourning dozens of protesters who were killed during a violent, week long crackdown that has brought extraordinary pressure on the country's autocratic regime, activists and witnesses said. (AP Photo/Muzaffar Salman)18 of 55 -Syrians anti and pro-Assad protesters clash after Friday prayers in Damascus, Syria, Friday, March 25, 2011. Thousands of Syrians took to the streets Friday demanding reforms and mourning dozens of protesters who were killed during a violent, week long crackdown that has brought extraordinary pressure on the country's autocratic regime, activists and witnesses said. (AP Photo/Muzaffar Salman)Description of . In this Sunday, March 27, 2011 file photo, a Syrian man, right, reacts as standing next to his brother who was seriously wounded during a clash between security forces and armed groups in Latakia, northwest of Damascus, Syria. The conflict, which began amid Arab Spring protests across the region, started off as protests that turned into an armed insurgency and eventually became a full-blown civil war that activists say has killed more than 140,000 people and has seen 2 million people flee the country. (AP Photo/Hussein Malla)19 of 55 -In this Sunday, March 27, 2011 file photo, a Syrian man, right, reacts as standing next to his brother who was seriously wounded during a clash between security forces and armed groups in Latakia, northwest of Damascus, Syria. The conflict, which began amid Arab Spring protests across the region, started off as protests that turned into an armed insurgency and eventually became a full-blown civil war that activists say has killed more than 140,000 people and has seen 2 million people flee the country. (AP Photo/Hussein Malla)Description of . Syrian refugees are seen inside a tented refugee city, in Boynuyogun, Turkey, Saturday, June 18, 2011, before a brief visit organized by Turkish authorities for the media. According to Turkish authorities more than 10,000 Syrians are now in refugee camps in the Hatay province, near Turkey's border with Syria.(AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)20 of 55 -Syrian refugees are seen inside a tented refugee city, in Boynuyogun, Turkey, Saturday, June 18, 2011, before a brief visit organized by Turkish authorities for the media. According to Turkish authorities more than 10,000 Syrians are now in refugee camps in the Hatay province, near Turkey's border with Syria.(AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)Description of . U.S. soldiers begin their journey home at al-Asad airbase, west of Baghdad, Iraq, Tuesday, Nov. 1 , 2011. The U.S. has promised to withdraw from Iraq by the end of the year as required by a 2008 security agreement between Washington and Baghdad. Some 39,000 U.S. troops are scheduled to clear out along with their equipment. (AP Photo/Khalid Mohammed)21 of 55 -U.S. soldiers begin their journey home at al-Asad airbase, west of Baghdad, Iraq, Tuesday, Nov. 1 , 2011. The U.S. has promised to withdraw from Iraq by the end of the year as required by a 2008 security agreement between Washington and Baghdad. Some 39,000 U.S. troops are scheduled to clear out along with their equipment. (AP Photo/Khalid Mohammed)Description of . In this Wednesday, Dec. 12, 2012 file photo, an elderly Syrian man smokes a cigarette as he stands next to a residential building destroyed in a government airstrike, in Maaret Misreen, near Idlib, Syria. A U.S.-based rights group on Thursday accused Syria of war crimes by indiscriminate and sometimes deliberate airstrikes against civilians, killing at least 4,300 people since last summer. (AP Photo/Muhammed Muheisen)22 of 55 -In this Wednesday, Dec. 12, 2012 file photo, an elderly Syrian man smokes a cigarette as he stands next to a residential building destroyed in a government airstrike, in Maaret Misreen, near Idlib, Syria. A U.S.-based rights group on Thursday accused Syria of war crimes by indiscriminate and sometimes deliberate airstrikes against civilians, killing at least 4,300 people since last summer. (AP Photo/Muhammed Muheisen)Description of . Two Syrian rebels take sniper positions at the heavily contested neighborhood of Karmal Jabl in central Aleppo on October 18, 2012. Violence persisted on October 19 with rebels and loyalists of President Bashar al-Assad locked in battle for the northwestern town of Maaret al-Numan on the Damascus-Aleppo highway linking Syria's two biggest cities. Javier Manzano/AFP/Getty Images23 of 55 -Two Syrian rebels take sniper positions at the heavily contested neighborhood of Karmal Jabl in central Aleppo on October 18, 2012. Violence persisted on October 19 with rebels and loyalists of President Bashar al-Assad locked in battle for the northwestern town of Maaret al-Numan on the Damascus-Aleppo highway linking Syria's two biggest cities. Javier Manzano/AFP/Getty ImagesDescription of . A man is treated for wounds after a Syrian government forces jet attacked the Karm al-Aser neighborhood in eastern Aleppo, on October 31, 2012. The unprecedented surge in air strikes carried out by Syrian forces this week is a desperate attempt by President Bashar al-Assad's regime to reverse recent gains by rebel fighters, analysts and rebels say. Javier Manzano/AFP/Getty Images24 of 55 -A man is treated for wounds after a Syrian government forces jet attacked the Karm al-Aser neighborhood in eastern Aleppo, on October 31, 2012. The unprecedented surge in air strikes carried out by Syrian forces this week is a desperate attempt by President Bashar al-Assad's regime to reverse recent gains by rebel fighters, analysts and rebels say. Javier Manzano/AFP/Getty ImagesDescription of . Members of Liwa (brigade) Hamzah, a newly formed Islamist brigade from the Syrian eastern city of Deir Ezzor stand on top of a mosque holding the flags of Jebhat al-Nusra (L) and Katiba al-Mustafa, another Islamist unit hailing from Deir Ezzor, during a rally in the centre of the city to announce their formation on February 25, 2013. Syria's opposition and foreign powers hold crucial talks in Rome with Washington suggesting it is ready to boost support to rebels in their struggle against President Bashar al-Assad. ZAC BAILLIE/AFP/Getty Images25 of 55 -Members of Liwa (brigade) Hamzah, a newly formed Islamist brigade from the Syrian eastern city of Deir Ezzor stand on top of a mosque holding the flags of Jebhat al-Nusra (L) and Katiba al-Mustafa, another Islamist unit hailing from Deir Ezzor, during a rally in the centre of the city to announce their formation on February 25, 2013. Syria's opposition and foreign powers hold crucial talks in Rome with Washington suggesting it is ready to boost support to rebels in their struggle against President Bashar al-Assad. ZAC BAILLIE/AFP/Getty ImagesDescription of . AK-47 machine guns hang in a shelter for Syrian rebels in the Salaheddine district of the northern Syrian city of Aleppo on April 12, 2013. A major coalition of Islamist rebels fighting the regime of President Bashar al-Assad has denounced Al-Nusra Front's pledge of allegiance to Al-Qaeda, urging insurgents to unite behind moderate Islam. DIMITAR DILKOFF/AFP/Getty Images26 of 55 -AK-47 machine guns hang in a shelter for Syrian rebels in the Salaheddine district of the northern Syrian city of Aleppo on April 12, 2013. A major coalition of Islamist rebels fighting the regime of President Bashar al-Assad has denounced Al-Nusra Front's pledge of allegiance to Al-Qaeda, urging insurgents to unite behind moderate Islam. DIMITAR DILKOFF/AFP/Getty ImagesDescription of . A picture shows destruction in the Salaheddine district of the northern Syrian city of Aleppo on April 12, 2013. A major coalition of Islamist rebels fighting the regime of President Bashar al-Assad has denounced Al-Nusra Front's pledge of allegiance to Al-Qaeda, urging insurgents to unite behind moderate Islam. DIMITAR DILKOFF/AFP/Getty Images27 of 55 -A picture shows destruction in the Salaheddine district of the northern Syrian city of Aleppo on April 12, 2013. A major coalition of Islamist rebels fighting the regime of President Bashar al-Assad has denounced Al-Nusra Front's pledge of allegiance to Al-Qaeda, urging insurgents to unite behind moderate Islam. DIMITAR DILKOFF/AFP/Getty ImagesDescription of . Members of Liwa (brigade) Hamzah, a newly formed Islamist brigade from the Syrian eastern city of Deir Ezzor, hold flags of Jebhat al-Nusra as they take part in a rally in the centre of the city to announce their formation on February 25, 2013. Syria's opposition and foreign powers hold crucial talks in Rome with Washington suggesting it is ready to boost support to rebels in their struggle against President Bashar al-Assad. ZAC BAILLIE/AFP/Getty Images28 of 55 -Members of Liwa (brigade) Hamzah, a newly formed Islamist brigade from the Syrian eastern city of Deir Ezzor, hold flags of Jebhat al-Nusra as they take part in a rally in the centre of the city to announce their formation on February 25, 2013. Syria's opposition and foreign powers hold crucial talks in Rome with Washington suggesting it is ready to boost support to rebels in their struggle against President Bashar al-Assad. ZAC BAILLIE/AFP/Getty ImagesDescription of . In this Wednesday January 1, 2014, file photo, al-Qaida fighters patrol in a commandeered police truck passing burning police vehicles in front of the main provincial government building, in Fallujah, 40 miles (65 kilometers) west of Baghdad, Iraq. With a new label - the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant - the global terror network al-Qaida is positioning itself as a vanguard defending a persecuted Sunni community against Shiite-dominated governments across Syria, Lebanon and Iraq. The al-Qaida gains pose the most serious challenge to Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's Shiite-led government since the departure of American forces in late 2011. (AP Photo, File)29 of 55 -In this Wednesday January 1, 2014, file photo, al-Qaida fighters patrol in a commandeered police truck passing burning police vehicles in front of the main provincial government building, in Fallujah, 40 miles (65 kilometers) west of Baghdad, Iraq. With a new label - the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant - the global terror network al-Qaida is positioning itself as a vanguard defending a persecuted Sunni community against Shiite-dominated governments across Syria, Lebanon and Iraq. The al-Qaida gains pose the most serious challenge to Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's Shiite-led government since the departure of American forces in late 2011. (AP Photo, File)Description of . Iraqi men inspect the damage following shelling as clashes between Iraqi security forces and the jihadist Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) continue in the flashpoint city of Fallujah, west of the capital Baghdad, on January 22, 2014. Fallujah, a former insurgent bastion a short drive from Baghdad, was still under the control of Al-Qaeda with gunmen tightening their grip on the city at the expense of tribal sheikhs. Sadam el-Mehmedy/AFP/Getty Images30 of 55 -Iraqi men inspect the damage following shelling as clashes between Iraqi security forces and the jihadist Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) continue in the flashpoint city of Fallujah, west of the capital Baghdad, on January 22, 2014. Fallujah, a former insurgent bastion a short drive from Baghdad, was still under the control of Al-Qaeda with gunmen tightening their grip on the city at the expense of tribal sheikhs. Sadam el-Mehmedy/AFP/Getty ImagesDescription of . In this January 5, 2014, file photo, gunmen patrol during clashes with Iraqi security forces in Fallujah, 40 miles (65 kilometers) west of Baghdad, Iraq. With a new label - the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant - the global terror network al-Qaida is positioning itself as a vanguard defending a persecuted Sunni community against Shiite-dominated governments across Syria, Lebanon and Iraq. The al-Qaida gains pose the most serious challenge to Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's Shiite-led government since the departure of American forces in late 2011. (AP Photo, File)31 of 55 -In this January 5, 2014, file photo, gunmen patrol during clashes with Iraqi security forces in Fallujah, 40 miles (65 kilometers) west of Baghdad, Iraq. With a new label - the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant - the global terror network al-Qaida is positioning itself as a vanguard defending a persecuted Sunni community against Shiite-dominated governments across Syria, Lebanon and Iraq. The al-Qaida gains pose the most serious challenge to Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's Shiite-led government since the departure of American forces in late 2011. (AP Photo, File)Description of . This undated file image posted on a militant website on Tuesday, Jan. 14, 2014 shows fighters from the al-Qaida linked Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) marching in Raqqa, Syria. The past year, ISIL _ has taken over swaths of territory in Syria, particularly in the east. It has increasingly clashed with other factions, particularly an umbrella group called the Islamic Front and with Jabhat al-Nusra, or the Nusra Front, the group that Ayman al-Zawahri declared last year to be al-Qaidaís true representative in Syria. That fighting has accelerated the past month. (AP Photo/militant website, File)32 of 55 -This undated file image posted on a militant website on Tuesday, Jan. 14, 2014 shows fighters from the al-Qaida linked Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) marching in Raqqa, Syria. The past year, ISIL _ has taken over swaths of territory in Syria, particularly in the east. It has increasingly clashed with other factions, particularly an umbrella group called the Islamic Front and with Jabhat al-Nusra, or the Nusra Front, the group that Ayman al-Zawahri declared last year to be al-Qaidaís true representative in Syria. That fighting has accelerated the past month. (AP Photo/militant website, File)Description of . Al-Qaida fighters wave al-Qaida flags as they patrol in a commandeered Iraqi military vehicle in Fallujah, 40 miles (65 kilometers) west of Baghdad, Iraq, Sunday, March 30, 2014. Al-Qaida-linked fighters and their allies seized the city of Fallujah and parts of the Anbar provincial capital Ramadi in late December after authorities dismantled a protest camp. Like the camp in the northern Iraqi town of Hawija whose dismantlement in April sparked violent clashes and set off the current upsurge in killing, the Anbar camp was set up by Sunnis angry at what they consider second-class treatment by the Shiite-led government. (AP Photo)33 of 55 -Al-Qaida fighters wave al-Qaida flags as they patrol in a commandeered Iraqi military vehicle in Fallujah, 40 miles (65 kilometers) west of Baghdad, Iraq, Sunday, March 30, 2014. Al-Qaida-linked fighters and their allies seized the city of Fallujah and parts of the Anbar provincial capital Ramadi in late December after authorities dismantled a protest camp. Like the camp in the northern Iraqi town of Hawija whose dismantlement in April sparked violent clashes and set off the current upsurge in killing, the Anbar camp was set up by Sunnis angry at what they consider second-class treatment by the Shiite-led government. (AP Photo)Description of . A man displays Iraqi army body armour in front of an Iraqi army vehicle and other items of military kit, at the Kukjali Iraqi Army checkpoint, some 10km of east of the northern city of Mosul, on June 11, 2014, the day after Sunni militants iincluding fighters from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) overran the city.  Half a million people were estimated to have fled Iraq's second largest city, as Islamist militants tightened their grip after overrunning it and a swathe of other territory, patrolling its streets and calling for government employees to return to work. SAFIN HAMED/AFP/Getty Images34 of 55 -A man displays Iraqi army body armour in front of an Iraqi army vehicle and other items of military kit, at the Kukjali Iraqi Army checkpoint, some 10km of east of the northern city of Mosul, on June 11, 2014, the day after Sunni militants iincluding fighters from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) overran the city. Half a million people were estimated to have fled Iraq's second largest city, as Islamist militants tightened their grip after overrunning it and a swathe of other territory, patrolling its streets and calling for government employees to return to work. SAFIN HAMED/AFP/Getty ImagesDescription of . Refugees fleeing from Mosul head to the self-ruled northern Kurdish region in Irbil, Iraq, 350 kilometers (217 miles) north of Baghdad, Thursday, June 12, 2014. The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, the al-Qaida breakaway group, on Monday and Tuesday took over much of Mosul in Iraq and then swept into the city of Tikrit further south. An estimated half a million residents fled Mosul, the economically important city. (AP Photo)35 of 55 -Refugees fleeing from Mosul head to the self-ruled northern Kurdish region in Irbil, Iraq, 350 kilometers (217 miles) north of Baghdad, Thursday, June 12, 2014. The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, the al-Qaida breakaway group, on Monday and Tuesday took over much of Mosul in Iraq and then swept into the city of Tikrit further south. An estimated half a million residents fled Mosul, the economically important city. (AP Photo)Description of . Iraqi Turkmen forces patrol a checkpoint in the northern city of Tuz Khurmatu on June 21, 2014, close to locations of jihadist Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) fighters. Sunni militants led by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant took control of an Iraq-Syria border crossing after Syrian rebels withdrew overnight, security officers and witnesses said. KARIM SAHIB/AFP/Getty Images36 of 55 -Iraqi Turkmen forces patrol a checkpoint in the northern city of Tuz Khurmatu on June 21, 2014, close to locations of jihadist Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) fighters. Sunni militants led by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant took control of an Iraq-Syria border crossing after Syrian rebels withdrew overnight, security officers and witnesses said. KARIM SAHIB/AFP/Getty ImagesDescription of . IRBIL, IRAQ - JUNE 15:  A general view from the Qaysari Market to the walls of the ancient Citadel on June 15, 2014 in Erbil, Iraq. The Citadel is thought to be the oldest continuously inhabited settlement in the World. In Iraq's capital city of  Baghdad and other towns and cities effected by the recent conflict, people who can afford to do so have began to stockpile essential items of food, which has increased prices dramatically. The US dollar which is normally a relatively stable currency in Iraq, rose about 5 percent in one day making many household items more expensive. Potatoes increased approximately sixfold, to about $4.50 USD a pound. People continue to leave Iraq's second city of Mosul after it was overrun by ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) militants. Many have been temporarily housed at various IDP (internally displaced persons) camps around the region including the area close to Erbil, as they hope to enter the safety of the nearby Kurdish region.  (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)37 of 55 -IRBIL, IRAQ - JUNE 15: A general view from the Qaysari Market to the walls of the ancient Citadel on June 15, 2014 in Erbil, Iraq. The Citadel is thought to be the oldest continuously inhabited settlement in the World. In Iraq's capital city of Baghdad and other towns and cities effected by the recent conflict, people who can afford to do so have began to stockpile essential items of food, which has increased prices dramatically. The US dollar which is normally a relatively stable currency in Iraq, rose about 5 percent in one day making many household items more expensive. Potatoes increased approximately sixfold, to about $4.50 USD a pound. People continue to leave Iraq's second city of Mosul after it was overrun by ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) militants. Many have been temporarily housed at various IDP (internally displaced persons) camps around the region including the area close to Erbil, as they hope to enter the safety of the nearby Kurdish region. (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)Description of . KALAK, IRAQ - JUNE 14:  People arrive at a Kurdish checkpoint next to a temporary displacement camp on June 14, 2014 in Kalak, Iraq. Thousands of people have fled Iraq's second city of Mosul after it was overrun by ISAS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) militants. Many have been temporarily housed at various IDP (internally displaced persons) camps around the region including the area close to Erbil, as they hope to enter the safety of the nearby Kurdish region.  (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)38 of 55 -KALAK, IRAQ - JUNE 14: People arrive at a Kurdish checkpoint next to a temporary displacement camp on June 14, 2014 in Kalak, Iraq. Thousands of people have fled Iraq's second city of Mosul after it was overrun by ISAS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) militants. Many have been temporarily housed at various IDP (internally displaced persons) camps around the region including the area close to Erbil, as they hope to enter the safety of the nearby Kurdish region. (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)Description of . KALAK, IRAQ - JUNE 14:  Families arrive at a Kurdish checkpoint at sunset next to a temporary displacement camp on June 14, 2014 in Kalak, Iraq. Thousands of people have fled Iraq's second city of Mosul after it was overrun by ISAS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) militants. Many have been temporarily housed at various IDP (internally displaced persons) camps around the region including the area close to Erbil, as they hope to enter the safety of the nearby Kurdish region.  (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)39 of 55 -KALAK, IRAQ - JUNE 14: Families arrive at a Kurdish checkpoint at sunset next to a temporary displacement camp on June 14, 2014 in Kalak, Iraq. Thousands of people have fled Iraq's second city of Mosul after it was overrun by ISAS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) militants. Many have been temporarily housed at various IDP (internally displaced persons) camps around the region including the area close to Erbil, as they hope to enter the safety of the nearby Kurdish region. (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)Description of . President Barack Obama addresses the nation from the Cross Hall in the White House in Washington, Wednesday, Sept. 10, 2014. In a major reversal, Obama ordered the United States into a broad military campaign to ìdegrade and ultimately destroyî militants in two volatile Middle East nations, authorizing airstrikes inside Syria for the first time, as well as an expansion of strikes in Iraq.  (AP Photo/Saul Loeb, Pool)40 of 55 -President Barack Obama addresses the nation from the Cross Hall in the White House in Washington, Wednesday, Sept. 10, 2014. In a major reversal, Obama ordered the United States into a broad military campaign to ìdegrade and ultimately destroyî militants in two volatile Middle East nations, authorizing airstrikes inside Syria for the first time, as well as an expansion of strikes in Iraq. (AP Photo/Saul Loeb, Pool)Description of . From left: Sir Nicholas Houghton, of the United Kingdom, Gen. Peter Schelzig, of Germany, Gen. Yousif, of Bahrain and US Lt. Gen. Garrett sit after a meeting with US President Barack Obama at Andrews Air Force Base October 14, 2014 in Maryland. Obama and Gen. Martin Dempsey, US Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, met with foreign military leaders from 21 countries to discus solutions for dealing with the Islamic State militant threat. BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images41 of 55 -From left: Sir Nicholas Houghton, of the United Kingdom, Gen. Peter Schelzig, of Germany, Gen. Yousif, of Bahrain and US Lt. Gen. Garrett sit after a meeting with US President Barack Obama at Andrews Air Force Base October 14, 2014 in Maryland. Obama and Gen. Martin Dempsey, US Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, met with foreign military leaders from 21 countries to discus solutions for dealing with the Islamic State militant threat. BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty ImagesDescription of . Members of the Iraqi security forces mourn during the funeral procession of their comrades in Iraq's Shiite shrine city of Karbala on October 27, 2014 after a suicide bomber detonated an explosives-rigged Humvee armoured vehicle near security forces and allied militiamen in Jurf al-Sakhr, south of Baghdad, killing over a dozen. Security forces and militia allies have fought for months to regain ground in Jurf al-Sakhr from Islamic State (IS) group fighters, which spearheaded a major militant offensive that has overrun large areas since June. MOHAMMED SAWAF/AFP/Getty Images42 of 55 -Members of the Iraqi security forces mourn during the funeral procession of their comrades in Iraq's Shiite shrine city of Karbala on October 27, 2014 after a suicide bomber detonated an explosives-rigged Humvee armoured vehicle near security forces and allied militiamen in Jurf al-Sakhr, south of Baghdad, killing over a dozen. Security forces and militia allies have fought for months to regain ground in Jurf al-Sakhr from Islamic State (IS) group fighters, which spearheaded a major militant offensive that has overrun large areas since June. MOHAMMED SAWAF/AFP/Getty ImagesDescription of . An Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga fighter fires at Islamic-State (IS) militant positions, from his position on the top of Mount Zardak, a strategic point taken 3 days ago, about 25  kilometres east of Mosul on September 9,2014. Kurdish forces in the north have been bolstered by US strikes and took control of Mount Zardak, a strategic site that provides a commanding view of the surrounding area, a senior US officer said. JM LOPEZ/AFP/Getty Images43 of 55 -An Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga fighter fires at Islamic-State (IS) militant positions, from his position on the top of Mount Zardak, a strategic point taken 3 days ago, about 25 kilometres east of Mosul on September 9,2014. Kurdish forces in the north have been bolstered by US strikes and took control of Mount Zardak, a strategic site that provides a commanding view of the surrounding area, a senior US officer said. JM LOPEZ/AFP/Getty ImagesDescription of . Iraqi Shiite men who have volunteered to join government forces and militias in the fight against jihadists from the Islamic State group, take part in a training session in the central city of Hillah on October 18, 2014. The Islamic State group led a sweeping offensive in June that overran much of Iraq's Sunni Arab heartland. HAIDAR HAMDANI/AFP/Getty Images44 of 55 -Iraqi Shiite men who have volunteered to join government forces and militias in the fight against jihadists from the Islamic State group, take part in a training session in the central city of Hillah on October 18, 2014. The Islamic State group led a sweeping offensive in June that overran much of Iraq's Sunni Arab heartland. HAIDAR HAMDANI/AFP/Getty ImagesDescription of . Syrian Kurdish fighters ride motorcycles on the outskirts of Suruc, on the Turkey-Syria border, as they try to approach the border to cross into Syria to rejoin the fighting In Kobani, background, Friday, Oct. 17, 2014. The are all members of the Peopleís Protection Units, also known as YPG and is fighting against militants of the Islamic State group in Kobani, Syria. According to them, every few weeks, some of the fighters take a couple of days to cross the border into Turkey. Kobani, also known as Ayn Arab, and its surrounding areas, has been under assault by extremists of the Islamic State group since mid-September and is being defended by Kurdish fighters. (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)45 of 55 -Syrian Kurdish fighters ride motorcycles on the outskirts of Suruc, on the Turkey-Syria border, as they try to approach the border to cross into Syria to rejoin the fighting In Kobani, background, Friday, Oct. 17, 2014. The are all members of the Peopleís Protection Units, also known as YPG and is fighting against militants of the Islamic State group in Kobani, Syria. According to them, every few weeks, some of the fighters take a couple of days to cross the border into Turkey. Kobani, also known as Ayn Arab, and its surrounding areas, has been under assault by extremists of the Islamic State group since mid-September and is being defended by Kurdish fighters. (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)Description of . A Syrian man walks amid a street covered with dust following a reported air strike by government forces in the old city of Aleppo on July 21, 2014. Aleppo was Syria's most populous city before the conflict, but it is now a major battle zone split into areas controlled by the rebels concentrated in the east and those held by the government mainly in the west. AHMED DEEB/AFP/Getty Images46 of 55 -A Syrian man walks amid a street covered with dust following a reported air strike by government forces in the old city of Aleppo on July 21, 2014. Aleppo was Syria's most populous city before the conflict, but it is now a major battle zone split into areas controlled by the rebels concentrated in the east and those held by the government mainly in the west. AHMED DEEB/AFP/Getty ImagesDescription of . An elderly Syrian Kurdish refugee woman from the Kobani area, warms up by a fire at a  camp in Suruc, on the Turkey-Syria border Monday, Nov. 10, 2014. Kobani, also known as Ayn Arab, and its surrounding areas, has been under assault by extremists of the Islamic State group since mid-September and is being defended by Kurdish fighters. (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)47 of 55 -An elderly Syrian Kurdish refugee woman from the Kobani area, warms up by a fire at a camp in Suruc, on the Turkey-Syria border Monday, Nov. 10, 2014. Kobani, also known as Ayn Arab, and its surrounding areas, has been under assault by extremists of the Islamic State group since mid-September and is being defended by Kurdish fighters. (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)Description of . A US Air Force B1-B bomber plane flies above the Syrian town of Kobane, also known as Ain al-Arab, on October 18, 2014 as seen from the Turkish border town of Suruc. Turkey is turning a deaf ear to insistent pressure to take a more pro-active stance in the fight against Islamic State (IS) jihadists, adding to existing strains with the West under President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.  Western diplomats have repeatedly made clear they want to see the key NATO member play a key role in the coalition against the militants, who are battling for the Syrian town Kobane just a few kilometers from Turkey. ARIS MESSINIS/AFP/Getty Images48 of 55 -A US Air Force B1-B bomber plane flies above the Syrian town of Kobane, also known as Ain al-Arab, on October 18, 2014 as seen from the Turkish border town of Suruc. Turkey is turning a deaf ear to insistent pressure to take a more pro-active stance in the fight against Islamic State (IS) jihadists, adding to existing strains with the West under President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Western diplomats have repeatedly made clear they want to see the key NATO member play a key role in the coalition against the militants, who are battling for the Syrian town Kobane just a few kilometers from Turkey. ARIS MESSINIS/AFP/Getty ImagesDescription of . SANLIURFA, TURKEY -  OCTOBER 20:  (TURKEY OUT)   An explosion rocks Syrian city of Kobane during a reported suicide car bomb attack by the militants of Islamic State (ISIS) group on a People's Protection Unit (YPG) position in the city center of Kobani, as seen from the outskirts of Suruc, on the Turkey-Syria border, October 20, 2014 in Sanliurfa province, Turkey. According to Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, Turkey will reportedly allow Iraqi Kurdish fighters to cross the Syrian border to fight Islamic State (IS) militants in the Syrian city of Kobane while the United States has sent planes to drop weapons, ammunition and medical supplies to Syrian Kurdish fighters around Kobane. (Photo by Gokhan Sahin/Getty Images)49 of 55 -SANLIURFA, TURKEY - OCTOBER 20: (TURKEY OUT) An explosion rocks Syrian city of Kobane during a reported suicide car bomb attack by the militants of Islamic State (ISIS) group on a People's Protection Unit (YPG) position in the city center of Kobani, as seen from the outskirts of Suruc, on the Turkey-Syria border, October 20, 2014 in Sanliurfa province, Turkey. According to Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, Turkey will reportedly allow Iraqi Kurdish fighters to cross the Syrian border to fight Islamic State (IS) militants in the Syrian city of Kobane while the United States has sent planes to drop weapons, ammunition and medical supplies to Syrian Kurdish fighters around Kobane. (Photo by Gokhan Sahin/Getty Images)Description of . A militant of Islamic State (IS) is seen just after an air strike  on Tilsehir hill near Turkish border on October 23, 2014, at Yumurtalik village, in Sanliurfa province. Turkey said on October 21 that Kurdish peshmerga fighters based in Iraq have yet to cross into Syria from Turkish territory, a day after announcing it was assisting their transit to join the battle for the Syrian town of Kobane, also known as Ain al-Arab. It was seen as a major switch in policy by Turkey, which until now has refused to interfere in the over month-long battle for Kobane between Syrian Kurdish fighters and Islamic State (IS) jihadists. BULENT KILIC/AFP/Getty Images50 of 55 -A militant of Islamic State (IS) is seen just after an air strike on Tilsehir hill near Turkish border on October 23, 2014, at Yumurtalik village, in Sanliurfa province. Turkey said on October 21 that Kurdish peshmerga fighters based in Iraq have yet to cross into Syria from Turkish territory, a day after announcing it was assisting their transit to join the battle for the Syrian town of Kobane, also known as Ain al-Arab. It was seen as a major switch in policy by Turkey, which until now has refused to interfere in the over month-long battle for Kobane between Syrian Kurdish fighters and Islamic State (IS) jihadists. BULENT KILIC/AFP/Getty ImagesDescription of . People watch as smokes rises from the town of Kobane, also known as Ain al-Arab, on October 26, 2014, at the Turkish border near the southeastern village of Mursitpinar, Sanliurfa province. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan accused the main Kurdish party in Syria of not wanting Kurdish peshmerga fighters from Iraq to help it fight Islamic State jihadists trying to overrun the town of Kobane, reports said October 26, 2014. Erdogan said that the Syrian Kurdish party the Democratic Union Party (PYD), which has been leading the defence of Kobane, fears losing its influence in northern Syria when the peshmerga arrive in the coming days. BULENT KILIC/AFP/Getty Images51 of 55 -People watch as smokes rises from the town of Kobane, also known as Ain al-Arab, on October 26, 2014, at the Turkish border near the southeastern village of Mursitpinar, Sanliurfa province. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan accused the main Kurdish party in Syria of not wanting Kurdish peshmerga fighters from Iraq to help it fight Islamic State jihadists trying to overrun the town of Kobane, reports said October 26, 2014. Erdogan said that the Syrian Kurdish party the Democratic Union Party (PYD), which has been leading the defence of Kobane, fears losing its influence in northern Syria when the peshmerga arrive in the coming days. BULENT KILIC/AFP/Getty ImagesDescription of . Kurdish boys ride a horse cart during a rainy day in Suruc, a rural district of Sanliurfa Province, on October 30, 2014. Heavily armed Kurdish peshmerga fighters were on their way by land and by air, joining militias defending the Syrian border town of Kobane, also known as Ain al-Arab, from the Islamic State group after setting off from Iraq. Kobane's Kurdish defenders have been eagerly waiting for the peshmerga since Turkey last week said it would allow them to traverse its territory to enter the town. BULENT KILIC/AFP/Getty Images52 of 55 -Kurdish boys ride a horse cart during a rainy day in Suruc, a rural district of Sanliurfa Province, on October 30, 2014. Heavily armed Kurdish peshmerga fighters were on their way by land and by air, joining militias defending the Syrian border town of Kobane, also known as Ain al-Arab, from the Islamic State group after setting off from Iraq. Kobane's Kurdish defenders have been eagerly waiting for the peshmerga since Turkey last week said it would allow them to traverse its territory to enter the town. BULENT KILIC/AFP/Getty ImagesDescription of . A Syrian Kurdish refugee woman from Kobani, holds a baby and branches she collected for starting a fire at a refugee camp in Suruc, near the Turkey-Syria border, Thursday, Oct. 23, 2014. Kobani, also known as Ayn Arab, and its surrounding areas, has been under assault by extremists of the Islamic State group since mid-September and is being defended by Kurdish fighters. (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)53 of 55 -A Syrian Kurdish refugee woman from Kobani, holds a baby and branches she collected for starting a fire at a refugee camp in Suruc, near the Turkey-Syria border, Thursday, Oct. 23, 2014. Kobani, also known as Ayn Arab, and its surrounding areas, has been under assault by extremists of the Islamic State group since mid-September and is being defended by Kurdish fighters. (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)Description of . A Kurdish refugee girl stands during a rainy day at the Rojova Camp, in Suruc, a rural district of Sanliurfa Province, on October 30, 2014. Heavily armed Kurdish peshmerga fighters were on their way by land and by air, joining militias defending the Syrian border town of Kobane, also known as Ain al-Arab, from the Islamic State group after setting off from Iraq. Kobane's Kurdish defenders have been eagerly waiting for the peshmerga since Turkey last week said it would allow them to traverse its territory to enter the town. BULENT KILIC/AFP/Getty Images54 of 55 -A Kurdish refugee girl stands during a rainy day at the Rojova Camp, in Suruc, a rural district of Sanliurfa Province, on October 30, 2014. Heavily armed Kurdish peshmerga fighters were on their way by land and by air, joining militias defending the Syrian border town of Kobane, also known as Ain al-Arab, from the Islamic State group after setting off from Iraq. Kobane's Kurdish defenders have been eagerly waiting for the peshmerga since Turkey last week said it would allow them to traverse its territory to enter the town. BULENT KILIC/AFP/Getty ImagesDescription of . Syrian Kurdish refugees that fled the Syrian town of Kobane, also known as Ain al-Arab, walk past tents in a refugee camp in the southeastern town of Suruc, in the Turkish Sanliurfa province, on October 16, 2014. Kurdish fighters backed by a flurry of US-led air strikes were holding out on October 16 against jihadists in Kobane, as an Islamic State (IS) offensive on the Syrian border town entered its second month. ARIS MESSINIS/AFP/Getty Images55 of 55 -Syrian Kurdish refugees that fled the Syrian town of Kobane, also known as Ain al-Arab, walk past tents in a refugee camp in the southeastern town of Suruc, in the Turkish Sanliurfa province, on October 16, 2014. Kurdish fighters backed by a flurry of US-led air strikes were holding out on October 16 against jihadists in Kobane, as an Islamic State (IS) offensive on the Syrian border town entered its second month. ARIS MESSINIS/AFP/Getty Images

 Vietnam launches luxury cruise to the hotly contested Spratly islands

  • Vietnam offering 180 patriotic citizens a six-day cruise to the Spratlys
  • An $800 promotional offer takes passengers to the contested archipelago
  • Boat trip also includes night fishing, a lighthouse visit and fresh seafood
  • US Beijing had placed mobile artillery systems in contested territory

Vietnam is offering scores of patriotic citizens the holiday of a lifetime: a cruise to some of Asia's most contested islands, where China has been rapidly building up its military presence.

In a special $800 (£525) promotional offer, 180 Vietnamese travellers will get to see parts of the disputed Spratly archipelago later this month.

In a move likely to stroke its simmer dispute with Beijing over South China Sea sovereignty, the boat trip also offers passengers the chance to take part in night fishing, to visit a lighthouse and to enjoy local seafood.

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Vietnam has launched a 'sovereignty' cruise to the hotly-contested Spratly islands in the South China Sea 

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Vietnam has launched a 'sovereignty' cruise to the hotly-contested Spratly islands in the South China Sea

The six-day cruise will visit two reefs and two islands in the Spratlys, or Truong Sa in Vietnamese, which is an area that the country has occupied for some time despite rival claims.

High-rollers will be able to choose from VIP hotel rooms and can also fly in on their private helicopters should they so prefer, according to the Ho Chi Minh City government website.

The offer makes little attempt to disguise its political flavour and comes as Vietnam pursues a bolder agenda in pushing its claims in the face of China's own growing assertiveness.

'Travelling to Truong Sa... means the big trip of your life, reviving national pride and citizens' awareness of the scared maritime sovereignty of the country,' the promotion said, reading much like a brochure for a Caribbean holiday.

'Tourists will no longer feel Truong Sa as far away, the blue Truong Sa ocean will be deep in people's hearts.'

The six-day cruise will visit two reefs and two islands in the Spratlys, or Truong Sa in Vietnamese

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The six-day cruise will visit two reefs and two islands in the Spratlys, or Truong Sa in Vietnamese

Vietnam, the Philippines, Brunei and Malaysia are currently each competing for jurisdiction of the Spratlys with China

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Vietnam, the Philippines, Brunei and Malaysia are currently each competing for jurisdiction of the Spratlys with China

Such a maneouver echoes its intentions to China, against which the country is competing for jurisdiction

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Such a maneouver echoes its intentions to China, against which the country is competing for jurisdiction

The Spratlys make up nine-tenths of the South China Sea, which is also a vital global shipping lane

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The Spratlys make up nine-tenths of the South China Sea, which is also a vital global shipping lane

Concern over China's activity around the Spratly Islands

Vietnam, the Philippines, Brunei and Malaysia are currently each competing for jurisdiction of the Spratlys with China, which claims nine-tenths of the South China Sea.

The Sea is a vital global shipping lane with potentially vast energy reserves.

The cruise mirrors those offered by China on ships like its 'Coconut Princess', and illustrates a growing civilian presence in the South China Sea as countries vie to cement their competing claims.

China has been criticised for extensive reclamation work and moves to turn submerged rocks into man-made structures. Last week, the United States said that Beijing had placed mobile artillery systems in contested territory.

China has been criticised for extensive reclamation work and moves to turn submerged rocks into man-made structures

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China has been criticised for extensive reclamation work and moves to turn submerged rocks into man-made structures

Last week, the United States said that Beijing had placed mobile artillery systems in contested territory 

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Last week, the United States said that Beijing had placed mobile artillery systems in contested territory

Photos taken earlier this year, show artificial islands being built on the coral reefs in the Spratly islands

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Photos taken earlier this year, show artificial islands being built on the coral reefs in the Spratly islands

Southwest Cay, also known as Pugad Island, is a small piece of the Spratlys currently controlled by Vietnam

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Southwest Cay, also known as Pugad Island, is a small piece of the Spratlys currently controlled by Vietnam

After territorial rows broke out again last year, Vietnam's offering will take adventurous passengers night fishing, to visit a lighthouse and to enjoy local seafood

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After territorial rows broke out again last year, Vietnam's offering will take adventurous passengers night fishing, to visit a lighthouse and to enjoy local seafood

Despite close party-to-party ties with Communist neighbour China and nearly $60billion of annual trade, analysts say Vietnam has taken a harder line since a fresh territorial row erupted last year and now wants to boost diplomatic and military alliances.

Its media ran news last month of the opening of a new school on the Spratlys, and Vietnamese troops stationed there joined counterparts from the Philippines in a soccer match.

The cruise is a trial run ahead of Vietnam's tentative plans to put the Spratlys on its tourism map, including scheduled passenger flights, which could possibly launch this year.

The real coalition goes to war, Syria, Iran, Iraq and Russia, revenge is sweet

 

…by Gordon Duff  and  Nahed al Husaini in Damascus

This week, the government of the Islamic Republic of Iran announced that their support of Syria will be unlimited.  Over the past few weeks Iranian military leaders, both Republican Guard and the Al Quds brigade in particular, have assessed the situation on the ground. 

A plan of action has been developed and is being implemented at this time. No other source has this information. Information in the press is fabrication and conjecture.  What is known and what can and will be told is here and will be nowhere else.


  • Reinforcements from both Iran and Iraq have begun arriving in Syria and are being deployed at this time.  Only a small percentage of the initial force is in Syria thus far.
  • Troops are being moved to fight in Idlib, near the Turkish border.  Their task will be to liberate Idlib and Jisr al Shougour.  Rumors about them being used in the defense of Damascus are false.
  • There they are to confront forces of al Nusra and the Fateh Army.
  • The next deployment to Syria will be from Hizbullah Iraq and the Mahdi Army.  They are currently involved in military operations near Ramadi and across Anbar Province in Iraq.  They will take part in a joint Syrian-Iraqi operation that will drive from the Iraqi border to Palmyra. This force is 70,000 strong and highly trained.
  • Russia is supplying Syria with advanced surface-to-surface missiles and other “non export” weaponry.  Russia will not be sending technicians or troops.  Yes, Russia is selling, not giving weapons.
  • Iranian forces are not yet deployed but are scheduled, Republican Guard and Al Quds.  No number has been given or will be given at any time.
  • A third operation (1. Idlib 2. Palmyra) will be against Qalamoun.
  • A fourth operation will sweep south from the suburbs of Damascus to the Jordanian border.  ISIS will be pushed into Jordan where they are expected to attempt to overthrow the government in Amman.  It is a general consensus that King Abdullah will eventually end up looking for a home in the south of France.

A message is passed to the Americans and others that have spent years gloating over the suffering of the Syrian people:

Damascus will fall when Tehran falls.

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