Editorial December 11, 2015

TheWeekinCongress.com

Editorial

“Cutting off the source of oil is a good first step but not without confounding obstacles.”

The fallout from the President’s speech about taking on ISIS after the San Bernardino shooting has drawn the expected political responses that the President is politicizing the matter in advance of the 2016 elections, responses that in and of themselves are politically charged as well.

Of course we have all heard of one presidential candidate’s position to simply ban all Muslims from entering the country as a result of San Bernardino.

These knee-jerk reactions are to be expected when a terrifying act shows up unexpectedly. Besides providing the opportunity to gain political points by blaming someone, there is the reaction of wanting to strike back as quickly and effectively. Unfortunately, as the President pointed out, our expertise in successfully fighting terrorist such as al Qaeda does not necessarily guarantee success against ISIS. A multifaceted approach is being pursued perhaps the most effective being cutting off ISIS financing.

A very thorough article was published online in Business Insider that explains in detail how ISIS gets its money and how its extensive financing is also its greatest vulnerability. The article by Lianna Brinded points out that ISIS “…has managed to grow in size rapidly because it has an abundance of funding.”

Brinded explains that ISIS brings in $80 million each month and at least $1.1 million daily from oil revenues which explains why the US and other countries in the fight are bombing oil fields. So we look at these murderers who commit atrocities in the name of their god while hiding their faces and in the immediate wake of those atrocities we want, to state it commonly, to kick their asses. But we have learned that is not a solution but a reaction that further fuels the fire of ISIS supporters  who are also sources of revenue.

Feeding on this natural gut reaction constituents, the candidates, and others now suggest ‘boots on the ground’ as a solution. But the phrase masks the reality that ‘boots on the ground’ really means putting US lives in jeopardy without knowing if it will succeed.

Cutting off the source of oil is a good first step but not without confounding obstacles.

That path a barrel of oil takes from well to the ISIS bank accounts is well explained in an October 14, 2015 Financial Times article by Erika Solomon, Robin Kwong, and Steven Bernard – “Though many believe that Isis relies on exports for its oil revenue, it profits from its captive markets closer to home in the rebel-held territories of northern Syria and in its self-proclaimed “caliphate”, which straddles the border between Syria and Iraq. The group sells most of its crude directly to independent traders at the oil fields. In a highly organised system, Syrian and Iraqi buyers queue in their tankers at the entrances to fields, often waiting for weeks.”

The fuel they buy and then sell supports a humble lifestyle of innocent Iraqis and Syrians who have no alternative because they live in ISIS-held territories; the Financial Times article links through to another which asks the question the US has been trying to answer and may well explain the slow process of overcoming the ISIS demon or, at least, its revenues “…how to bring down the “caliphate” without destabilising the life of the estimated 10 million civilians in areas under Isis control, and punishing the west’s allies?”

Despite no declared war this situation is best described by former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld about other US excursions in the Middle East as the long slog of war. Time for troops on the ground may come, but not now.

Update – 12/11/2015 –

“The Islamic State’s finance minister, Abu Saleh, was killed in an a strike last month in Iraq, U.S. officials announced yesterday. “Killing him and his predecessors exhausts the knowledge and talent needed to coordinate funding within the organization,” Pentagon spokesperson Col. Steve Warren said. Two other Islamic State officials were also killed, one of whom supported the Islamic State’s extortion network and another who worked on the transportation of information, people, and weapons.” CNN.com through Foreign Policy Magazine

Quotes on the Issues

At his weekly press briefing, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) discussed progress achieved through regular order and his focus on delivering a bold, pro-growth agenda for the American people in 2016:

“I’d like to start by talking about my top priority for 2016.

“Last week, at the Library of Congress, I outlined my vision for a confident America, here at home and abroad. The current approach isn’t getting us there, so we need to offer the country a real alternative in the form of a bold, pro-growth agenda.

“This morning, I told our members—at our conference—this agenda will be our focus in the new year. And I’ve asked each of our members to bring their ideas to the table so we can get started early next year.

“Over the last six weeks, I believe that we have made a very, very good down payment on this project.

“We’ve enacted the first long-term transportation bill in more than a decade.

“We’ve enacted the biggest reform of our education system in 25 years, driving power back to the states, school districts, and our students.

“We’ve enacted a bipartisan defense bill that requires the president to put forward a real, comprehensive plan to defeat ISIS.

“Tomorrow, we will pass a customs enforcement bill—this is a bill I negotiated while being Ways and Means chair. It’s the most comprehensive rewrite of our customs laws in a generation. This will help American workers and businesses compete on a level playing field.

“We have done all of this while opening up the process and returning to regular order.

“I’ve talked about how conference committees have been an endangered species here in Washington. Well, with the customs conference report passing tomorrow, that will be the third conference report passing in Congress in 10 days.

“Let me put that in perspective. In the entire last Congress, only three conference reports became law in total. Only three conference reports became law all last Congress. We’ve done three conference reports in 10 days.

“So we are getting real, concrete results. And we’re getting the House of Representatives back to functioning as the people’s House.

“As we move forward, we need to raise our gaze. We need to aim higher than just trying to meet deadlines. We need to treat this like the generational defining moment that it really is, so that we can give the people of this country a real choice.

“That is what 2016 is going to be all about, and I am looking forward to it.” House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI)

S 1177 Elementary and Secondary Education Act

“Today, the Senate gave its approval to the Every Student Succeeds Act, a bipartisan reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) the House passed last week, clearing the way for President Obama to sign it into law.  I’m glad that Democrats and Republicans were able to work together in both the House and Senate to reach the compromises necessary to invest in our students, teachers, and schools in a way that promotes learning, innovation, and our children’s safety and well-being. House Minority Whip Steny  Hoyer

HR 158 Visa Waiver Improvement Act of 2015

“House Democrats and House Republicans have no greater priority than keeping Americans safe. That is not a partisan issue nor is it a partisan difference. Many Americans are frustrated with the pace of progress against ISIS in Iraq and Syria. I want to see the Administration and Congress working together to protect our nation. The reforms in this bill are an excellent start.

“The visa waiver program has long been a tool to promote business ties and tourism, both of which are vital to our economy. We cannot nor should we simply shut our doors to the world if we want to continue to lead the world. This legislation will make it easier for law enforcement to vet those visitors coming from visa waiver countries, such as in Europe, to ensure that we’re not admitting those who have traveled to places like Iraq or Syria [to] link up with ISIS. House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer.

ISIS

The U.S. plan to deploy a “specialized expeditionary targeting force,” announced in a congressional hearing on Tuesday, faces challenges in Iraq. The proposal has drawn sharp criticism from within Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi governing bloc. “The government is not allowed to authorize a deployment of American troops in Iraq even if it they are expeditionary or intelligence gathering forces,” a Sadrist politician told Reuters, and another parliamentarian threatened a vote of no confidence. Abadi’s hold on power was threatened last month as well, when the parliament would not approve a series of reforms. Another concern raised about the U.S. expeditionary force is that there is no clear delineated plan for the detention of captured Islamic State fighters. Foreign Affairs Magazine

In discussing the administration’s strategy to defeat the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff on Tuesday told the House Armed Services Committee “the enemy doesn’t respect borders and neither do we.” Marine Corps Gen. Joseph Dunford said, “Our effort is inextricably linked to the quality of the intelligence we receive US Naval Institute-John Grady

The following is the Nov. 19, 2015 Congressional Research Service report, U.S. Special Operations Forces (SOF): Background and Issues for Congress. US Naval Institute Sam La Grone

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