Obama Starts Syrian Bombing using Cover of Khorasan Claims

Last night, President Obama said the word “imminent” and started bombing Syria.

It appears the legal logic behind the attack (besides the fact that Congress hurriedly approved funding for war through December so it could get back to the campaign trail) is that in addition to striking ISIS in Syria (an attack we don’t have any reasonable  legal justification for) we are also attacking a group that James “Too Cute by Half” Clapper just rolled out, “Khorasan,” which unlike ISIS has not been kicked out of Al Qaeda and therefore might be targetable under the 2001 AUMF.

In spite of the fact that DOD allegedly had these Khorasan plans already in place, sources apparently felt like it’d be a good idea to alert them by telling Ken Dilanian they were the hot new thing just 10 days ago.

While the Islamic State group is getting the most attention now, another band of extremists in Syria — a mix of hardened jihadis from Afghanistan, Yemen, Syria and Europe — poses a more direct and imminent threat to the United States, working with Yemeni bomb-makers to target U.S. aviation, American officials say.

At the center is a cell known as the Khorasan group, a cadre of veteran al-Qaida fighters from Afghanistan and Pakistan who traveled to Syria to link up with the al-Qaida affiliate there, the Nusra Front.

Today’s continuation of that narrative appears in CNN (and ABC, which I won’t link to because of their infernal auto-play ads), which doesn’t ask how the US hoped to surprise Khorasan if they had just rolled them out as the big new boogeymen.

Among the targets of U.S. strikes across Syria early Tuesday was a collection of buildings to the west of Aleppo, some distance from ISIS strongholds.

While the United States worked with Arab partners to attack ISIS targets, the U.S. military alone took aim at the Khorasan Group, an organization formed by senior al Qaeda members based in Pakistan who traveled to Syria, CNN national security analyst Peter Bergenhas reported.

“Khorasan” is an ancient term for an Islamic empire.

The sites the United States struck overnight included “training camps, an explosives and munitions production facility, a communication building and command and control facilities,” the military said in a statement.

The group was actively plotting against a U.S. homeland target and Western targets, a senior U.S. official told CNN on Tuesday. The United States hoped to surprise the group by mixing strikes against it with strikes against ISIS targets.

The official said the group posed an “imminent” threat. But another U.S. official later said the threat was not imminent in the sense that there were no known targets or attacks expected in the next few weeks.

The plots were believed to be in an advanced stage, the second U.S. official said. There were indications that the militants had obtained materials and were working on new improvised explosive devices that would be hard to detect, including common hand-held electronic devices and airplane carry-on items such as toiletries.

The threat of Ibrahim al-Asiri –who with one bomb that could not have worked and several more claimed attacks identified by double agents in Saudi employ not only created the excuse for millions of dollars in TSA scanner profits, but also the ability to label Yemen an “imminent” threat and therefore bomb it — has moved to Syria.

Label the country an “imminent” threat. Then bomb.

In Obama’s statement, he emphasized the Khorasan tie.

Some questions smart people have been asking:

Micah Zenko: If Khorasan group was truly an imminent threat, why would the US delay bombing them just so they could bomb ISIS simultaneously?

Gregory Johnsen: Are people asking why a group calling itself “khurasan” is basing itself in Syria? Or is this just a USG name for a cell?

Spencer Ackerman: Why did a senior official say, just yesterday, that Khorasan was not an imminent threat.

Also:  Why was Asiri claimed to be helping ISIS back in July?

The sources on which this latest justification relies seem to be people — James Clapper and Mike Rogers are two — who have a somewhat strained relationship with the truth and a very cozy relationship with disinformation. Moreover, Congress still hasn’t been briefed on the covert ops (which both Clapper and Rogers do know about) that the CIA has been working, with their Saudi partner, in Syria.

But we’ve got some claim to “imminent” now, so it’s all good.

11 replies
  1. P J Evans says:

    How many of the justifications we’re now being given are lies that we’ll learn about in thirty or forty or fifty years?

  2. ArizonaBumblebeeper says:

    When I read the stories about IS on the internet, I feel as if I’m living in an absurd nightmare. We have a president who apparently believes he doesn’t need anyone else’s approval to engage in a naked act of aggression by bombing a sovereign country, Syria, that represents no imminent threat to the United States. Forget about the United Nations Charter and the United States Constitution; if President Obama wants to bomb you, it’s bombs away. If the President gets away with this unilateral action, he will have institutionalized a practice that will haunt this nation in the decades ahead and establish a dangerous precedent for future international disputes. Meanwhile, members of Congress, Democrats and Republicans alike, and their cheerleaders in the media almost act on occasion as if they have become unhinged. Every statement they make about IS or another jihadist group is tinged with paranoia and incitement of fear. It doesn’t matter whether this is intentional because, even if it isn’t, it represents an escalation in rhetoric that will ultimately influence America’s actions in the region. Ever since the Iranian Revolution in 1979 the United States has become obsessed with reestablishing its control over the principal actors in the Middle East. Unfortunately, America’s bombs, invasions, and covert actions have only yielded a garden of turds, and the chickens on the roost are cackling as they look down at the chaos America helped create.

  3. Don Bacon says:

    How about some good news?
    The Houthis, backed by Iran and al-Qaeda enemies, have taken control of Yemen, Three years ago, Clapper pegged Yemen’s Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula as America’s greatest threat.
    Thanks to several years of US special forces raids and aerial bombing in Yemen. Saudi Arabia can’t be happy, but so what.
    If Iran plays its cards right, and I believe it will, it will also come out a winner from the latest US bombing extravaganza.

  4. Garrett says:

    So CNN says the Khorasan Group is an organization formed by senior al Qaeda members based in Pakistan who traveled to Syria.

    And NYT says the Khorasan Group is an organization formed by senior al Qaeda members based in Iran who traveled to Syria.

    Pakistan, Iran, whatever.

    I find the idea of some Saudis and Kuwaitis taking on an old Persian name, as they run around Syria, kind of odd. Odd if they had come from Iran. Really odd if they had come from Pakistan.

    • P J Evans says:

      I can see it as a ploy, bearing in mind that the hawks would like to see us bomb Iran, and so would the Saudis.

  5. Les says:

    CNN said they were in the pre-planning phase of a plot which means they were doing nothing. At best, they were probably approached by CIA and Saudi intel agents with ideas for bombs in a replay of the Yemen false flag plot.

  6. Don Bacon says:

    “in the pre-planning phase of a plot”–gotta love it.
    It’s the election coming up in seven weeks that’s an imminent threat, not Khorosan. If the Taliban can step up violence prior to an election, so can the US.
    It’s also Obama doing what Al Gore tried to do–become a he-man. More macho, as in a Mexican refrain Sigo Siendo El Rey (I Continue to be The King).
    Yo se bien que astoy afuera,
    pero el dia en que yo me muera,
    Se que vas a llorar y llorar
    lorrar y llorar
    Diris que no me quisiste,
    pero vas a estar muy triste,
    Y asi te vas a quedar.
    Con dinero o sin dinero,
    hago siempre lo que quireo
    Y mi palabra as la ley;
    No tengo trono ni reina,
    ni nadie que me comprenda,
    Pero sigo siendo al Rey.
    I know well that I’m on the outside,
    but the day in which I die,
    I know that you’re going to cry and cry
    cry and cry
    You’ll say that you don’t love me,
    but you’re going to be very sad,
    And that’s how you’ll remain.
    With money or without money,
    I always do what I want,
    And my word is the law.
    I have no throne or queen,
    nor anyone who understands me,
    But I continue the be the King.
    People have to die for that.

  7. Anon says:

    EW, While I agree with your analysis generally I feel that we should stop saying “Obama bombed” or “Obama did” any more than we can say “Congress authorized spying.” At this point given the NSA and CIA’s tendency to just do things and their clear willingness to lie to or even bully everyone (hey a new Existential threat just before the midterms!) I find it unlikely that Obama is really ‘deciding’ anything. At best he is passively following where they lead him and at worst he just lacks the spine to use what official power her has. Either way he is not driving the bus. If anything this spate of sudden new groups, leaks, and fear mongering is too coordinated for the people that didn’t even manage the health care rollout smoothly.

  8. Anon says:

    I ask this as a general question:

    Do we really have any reason to believe that they are telling Obama the truth?

    If you think about it Obama has made a number of claims (e.g. no ground troops) that have turned out to be already false, and he IC has lied to two branches of government with regularity. What is one more?

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