Accusations of anti-Semitism taint French presidential race

A day after his party was accused of painting a presidential campaign rival in an anti-Semitic light, conservative candidate François Fillon finally called for those responsible to be punished. Fillon’s Les Républicains party was accused of attacking the independent centrist Emmanuel Macron on anti-Semitic grounds on Friday, the same day a leftist rival drew an awkward parallel between Macron’s campaign and Nazi gas chambers. The two incidents are a watershed of poor taste in a remarkably tumultuous campaign. The lead-up to April 23’s first presidential election round has already been punctuated by the constant drumbeat of scandals affecting key players, namely Fillon and far-right leader Marine Le Pen.

On Friday, the conservative Les Républicains party tweeted a caricature that appeared to borrow heavily from anti-Semitic 1930s iconography depicting Macron encircled by allies. The former French economy minister was drawn with a long hooked nose and a top hat, using a sickle to cut a …

"Heaven will wait": on the religious radicalization of young women

Two teenage girls fall into the clutches of radical Islamists: A new French movie takes a look at the real threat of Islamist radicalization in Western societies. 
One encounters these stories often in the daily media, in the news or in political magazines: a young woman or man, 17 or 18 years old, from a western European country, most often a middle class family, suddenly breaks away and turns to radical Islamists. Sometimes these young people have already left for Syria or Iraq. Sometimes they remain in their homeland and have been arrested by the authorities. Shocked and baffled parents are left behind to ponder how it ever happened. French director Marie-Castille Mention-Schaar directly addresses this fraught subject in her fourth feature film, "Heaven will wait," which follows two young women as they become ensnared by IS and jihad.The path to jihad  The story begins with the character Melanie, who still lives at home with her mother Sylvie. The two get along well unti…

Shi'ite Militias Could Turn Against US Forces After IS Leaves Mosul

WASHINGTON —  As Iraqi forces come closer to expelling so-called Islamic State from Mosul, a Shi'ite militia aligned with Iran is threatening to turn against the U.S.-led coalition after the city is retaken. U.S. officials say there won't be a hasty withdrawal of more than 9,000 U.S. and coalition forces after Mosul's capture. And one of the aims is to stabilize a region outside Mosul where more than 25,000 troops, including paramilitary forces made up of Sunni tribal fighters and Shi'ite militiamen, have been clearing IS from villages. A leader of the grouping of 40 Shi'ite militia known as Iraq's Popular Mobilization Units, or PMF, many linked to Iran, says they will not welcome U.S. forces. “If American forces refrain from leaving Iraqi territories after the annihilation of IS, the Islamic resistance of Iraq will target them,” Jafar al-Hosseini, a spokesman and a senior commander of the PMF, said in an interview with the Iranian official Islamic Republic New…

Analysis: Al Qaeda groups reorganize in West Africa

On Mar. 2, a merger of al Qaeda groups in the Sahel was announced. The “Group for the Support of Islam and Muslims” (Jama’at Nusrat al-Islam wal-Muslimin) brings together four existing al Qaeda organizations under one banner. Ansar Dine, Al Murabitoon and Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb’s (AQIM) Sahara branch are all part of the new entity. The Macina Liberation Front, an arm of Ansar Dine, is as well. Iyad Ag Ghaly, the longtime leader of Ansar Dine, heads the new joint venture. Ghaly, a Malian Tuareg jihadist, explained why the merger was necessary in a video that is more than seven minutes long. And he emphasized that his group is part of al Qaeda’s international network. “On this blessed occasion, we renew our pledge of allegiance [bayat] to our honorable emirs and sheikhs: Abu Musab Abdel Wadoud, our beloved and wise sheikh Ayman al Zawahiri and…the emir of the Islamic Emirate in Afghanistan Mullah Haibatullah, may Allah protect them and support them,” Ghaly said. Ghaly’s stated…

Pakistan’s terror-finance time-bomb

Islamabad is now feeling the heat from the global Financial Action Task Force — but this isn’t the end of the Lashkar-e-Toiba story

Days after 26/11, with the threat of an India-Pakistan war just beginning to recede from the minds of policy-makers, United States diplomat Bryan Hunt met Pakistani Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif for a leisurely breakfast to discuss the next steps in the war against terror. Key terror commander Hafiz Muhammad Saeed had been arrested on December 12; the next morning, the portly politician told Hunt that “he intended to completely shut down the Jama’at-ud-Dawa”. The diplomat was impressed: “The unwavering attitude displayed by Shahbaz Sharif in shutting down the Jama’at-ud-Dawa bodes well for the crackdown,” he reported in a classified cable to the State Department.
Less than a year later, in October 2009, Saeed walked out of prison — efforts to keep him in jail, other diplomatic cables record, sabotaged in no small part by Sharif and his brother, now…

Kurdish Commanders Say Russia Building Anti-IS Base in Syria

The possible increasing role of Russia in the military future of Syria came into dispute Tuesday after Moscow denied a claim by Kurdish forces that Russia is building a military base in a predominately Kurdish town in northwestern Syria. Kurdish commanders say Russian forces will be training local Kurdish fighters for the war on Islamic State. Russian troops already have deployed recently near the northwestern town of Afrin, with troop carriers and armored vehicles in support of the Syrian government, Kurdish military officials say. Kurdish People's Protection Unit (YPG) commanders said the move came after a deal was reached between them and Moscow over the weekend. "It is the first of its kind," Redur Khalil, a YPG spokesperson, told Reuters news agency. A video posted Tuesday by the Russian government-controlled Sputnik news agency showed Russian soldiers and tanks in Afrin.Russia’s response But Russian defense officials said Tuesday that the troops are there only as …