TRNS News Notes is brought to you by Victoria Jones. Victoria Jones is the Chief White House correspondent and global analyst of the Washington DC based Talk Radio News Service, where her insight and analysis are made available to over 400 news talk radio stations around the country and internationally.

News Now
  • Paris attacks: Latest
  • Russia: Plane downed by explosive device
  • ISIS: Obama defends his strategy
  • Fight over refugees
  • Why ISIS wanted a passport found
  • Poll: Americans don’t want troops on ground
 
Paris Attacks: Latest (WSJ, NYT, NBC News, AP, AP, Politico, AP, WSJ, TRNS, TRNS, TRNS, TRNS, me)
• France has launched fresh airstrikes on the ISIS stronghold of Raqqa in Syria. French military spox Col Gilles Jaron said the strikes destroyed a command post and training camp and come a day after President Francois Hollande vowed to forge a united coalition capable of defeating the jihadists at home and abroad
 
• France identified Abdelhamid Abaaoud, a 27-year-old Belgian who once boasted about killing “infidels” and fought for ISIS in Syria, as the mastermind of the Paris attacks. Hollande vowed Monday at a joint session of parliament to forge a united coalition capable of defeating the jihadists at home and abroad
 
• Addressing lawmakers after France observed a minute of silence honoring the 129 people killed and 350 wounded, Hollande said the victims came from at least 19 nations, and the international community, led by the U.S. and Russia, must overcome their deep-seated divisions over Syria to destroy ISIS on its home turf
 
• Abaaoud had been monitored in Syria by Western allies seeking to kill him in an airstrike, but they couldn’t locate him in the weeks before the plot was carried out, two Western security officials said. A year ago, video emerged of him in Syria, smiling as he drove a truck dragging the dead bodies of ISIS’s opponents tied to the bumper

• Interactive: Finding the links between the attackers (NYT)

 

• A French security official cited chatter from ISIS figures that Abaaoud had recommended a concert as an ideal target for inflicting maximum casualties, as well as electronic communications between Abaaoud and one of the Paris attackers who blew himself up. Officials didn’t know of the Paris plot when they sought to have Abaaoud killed
 
• Anti-terror agencies previously linked him to a series of abortive shooting plots this year in Belgium and France, including a planned attack on a passenger train that was thwarted by American and British passengers who overpowered the lone gunman
 
• French police have used emergency powers to conduct 168 searches since Sunday night that netted 127 arrests and 31 weapons, including a Kalashnikov rifle, a rocket launcher, three automatic pistols and a bulletproof vest as well as other military-grade gear
 
• Nobody suspected in the plot has yet been captured. Seven attackers died – six after detonating suicide belts and a seventh from police gunfire – but Iraqi intel officials said that its sources indicated 19 participated in the attack and five others provided hands-on logistical support

• OMG: Trump’s new spox, Katrina Pierson, former congressional candidate and a tea party activist, condemned Islam in a Facebook post Monday. “Islam preys on the weak and uses political correctness as cover. Two things that Americans won’t be concerned about when @realDonaldTrump is in the White House.”

 

• French police accidentally permitted the suspected driver of one group of gunmen, 26-year-old Salah Abdeslam, to avoid arrest at the border Saturday and cross to his native Belgium. Monday, police raided Abdeslam’s suspected hideout in the Molenbeek district of Brussels but came out empty handed
 
• Determined to root out jihadists within French communities, Hollande said he would present a bill Wednesday seeking to extend a state of emergency – granting the police and military greater powers of search and arrest, and local govts the right to ban demonstrations and impose curfews – for another three months
 
• Hollande said he hoped to meet soon with President Obama and Russian President Putin, who on Monday were attending the G-20 summit in Turkey. “We are not in a war of civilizations, because these assassins don’t represent one,” Hollande said in his address Monday
 
• ISIS issued a new video Monday threatening to attack all nations involved in bombing ISIS positions in Syria and Iraq. One man in the video threatened to target the U.S. in the same style as Paris, saying that as “we struck France on its ground in Paris, we will strike America on its ground in Washington.”

• Portraits of loss – slideshow of some of the victims of the attacks (Reuters) Stories of those who died in the Paris attacks (AP)

 

• ISIS is reported to be using a web-savvy, 24-hour jihadi help desk to help its foot soldiers spread its message worldwide, recruit followers and launch more attacks on foreign soil, counterterrorism analysts affiliated with the U.S. Army say. The desk was established to help would-be jihadists use encryption and other secure communications to evade detection
 
• CIA director John Brennan on Monday denounced “hand-wringing” over the govt’s role in the effort to try to find the terrorists. “There have been some policy and legal and other actions that have been taken that make our ability collectively, internationally, to find these terrorists much more challenging.” (sounds a bit opportunistic to me – and being jumped on too by pols)
 
• SecState John Kerry made an unannounced visit to Paris Monday to show solidarity with France. “We will never be intimidated by terrorists,” Kerry said. “They are in fact psychopathic monsters and there is nothing, nothing civilized about them. So this is not a case of one civilization pitted against another.” Kerry met Hollande in Paris today
 
• Homeland Security Sec Jeh Johnson and FBI director James Comey will offer House members a classified briefing this afternoon on the terrorist attacks, at the request of Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis)

• John Oliver sums it up and says on HBO what we’d all like to say on HBO. “First, as of now, we know this attack was carried out by gigantic f**king as#holes. Unconscionable flaming as#holes, possibly working with other f**king as#holes, definitely working in service of an ideology of pure as#holery.” (HBO)

 

• The Senate has passed a resolution condemning Friday’s attacks and pledging to stand in solidarity with France. Earlier Monday, the House observed a moment of silence. Leaders of a regional summit in the Philippines, attended by Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping, plan to condemn the attacks
 
• Paris will still host the UN conference on climate change from 30 Nov – 11 Dec, Holland said on Monday. However, the conference will be “restricted to negotiations.” Nevertheless, a coalition of environmentalists say they want to go ahead with plans to march in Paris before the summit. Demonstrations have been banned in France
 
• Capitol police have bolstered security around the Capitol following the Paris attacks and are urging lawmakers and staffers to take “simple precautions,” such as traveling through the tunnels that connect the Capitol to the House and Senate office buildings
 
• 2016er Sen Marco Rubio (R-Fla) lit into two GOP presidential rivals who backed efforts to overhaul U.S. bulk collection of phone records. “At least two of my colleagues in the Senate, Sen Cruz in particular, have voted to weaken the U.S. intel program,” Rubio said – the other senator was Rand Paul (R-Ky)

 

Russia: Plane Downed by Explosive Device (AP, me)
• The Russian passenger plane that crashed in Egypt was brought down by a homemade bomb placed on board in a “terrorist” act, the head of Russia’s FSB security service told President Putin today. All 224 people on board, most of the them Russian tourists, were killed in the 31 Oct crash (don’t you think they already knew?)
 
• “According to our experts, a homemade explosive device equivalent to 1 kg of TNT went off onboard, which caused the plane to break up in the air, which explains why the fuselage was scattered over such a large territory. I can certainly say that this was a terrorist act,” Alexander Bortnikov said. Egypt today has detained two people in connection with the bombing
 
• “There’s no statute of limitations for this, we need to know all of their names,” Putin said. “We’re going to look for them everywhere wherever they are hiding. We will find them in any place on Earth and punish them.” (somehow feels like the timing of the announcement was political)
 
• ISIS has claimed responsibility for bringing the Russian plane down in written statements, as well as video and audio messages posted on the internet following the crash. It said the attack was retaliation for Russia’s campaign against ISIS – and other groups – in Syria, where Moscow wants to preserve the rule of President Assad
 
• The group warned Putin they would also target him “at home” but didn’t offer any details to back its claim. While releasing specifics would add credibility, the group may be withholding either because its claim is false, or because doing so would undermine plans for similar attacks in the future – because the aura of mystery might deepen its mystique

ISIS: Obama Defends His Strategy (NYT, Politico, me)

• At a sometimes tense presser in Turkey on Monday, a defensive President Obama said he would intensify targeted airstrikes and assistance to local ground forces in Syria and Iraq. Obama warned: “What I do not do is take actions either because it is going to work politically or it is going to somehow, in the abstract, make America look tough or make me look tough.”
 
• Obama grew especially animated in slamming suggestions by some Republican 2016ers, governors and lawmakers that the U.S. should block entry of Syrian refugees. “The people who are fleeing Syria are the most harmed by terrorism; they are the most vulnerable as a consequence of civil war and strife,” Obama said (see refugee story for more detail)
 
• Pressed several times to explain his resistance to a broader war against ISIS, Obama twice chided reporters for asking the same question in slightly different ways. Obama expressed his personal outrage at the “terrible and sickening” Paris attacks by calling ISIS “the face of evil,” but stood firm on his strategy, which he acknowledged would take time
 
• “With his excuse-laden and defensive press conference, President Obama removed any and all doubt that he lacks the resolve or a strategy to defeat and destroy ISIS,” said Reince Priebus, chair of the Republican National Committee (GOP 2016ers chimed in – what happened to leaving it at the water’s edge – particularly when ISIS is looking for divisions?)
 
• Obama said, “There were no specific mentions of this particular attack that would give us a sense of something that we could provide French authorities, for example, or act on ourselves.” He said there have been concerns about ISIS attacks in the West for more than a year, but “some of it is extraordinarily vague and unspecific.”
 
 

• Cartoonists pick up their pens in different ways for Paris. The first cartoon, by Jordanian cartoonist Osama Hajjaj, breaks your heart (Al Jazeera, WaPo, me)

 

• Obama announced a new agreement between the U.S. and France to share more intel info, saying the new arrangements would “allow our personnel to pass threat info, including on ISIL, to our French partners even more quickly and more often.” He said the U.S. was seeking to persuade other allies to engage more deeply in the fight against ISIS
 
• But he said more troops on the ground “would be a mistake, not because our military could not march into Mosul or Raqqa or Ramadi and temporarily clear out ISIL, but because we would see a repetition of what we’ve seen before.” Victory required local populations to push back “unless we’re prepared to have a permanent occupation of these countries.” (see poll story)
 
• In addition: “Let’s assume that we were to send 50,000 troops into Syria. What happens when there’s a terrorist attack generated from Yemen? Do we then send more troops into there? Or Libya perhaps? Or if there’s a terrorist network that’s operating anywhere else in North Africa or in Southeast Asia?” (point – haven’t heard good counter arguments yet)
 
• Obama rejected the idea the admin had underestimated ISIS’s capabilities. “If you have a handful of people who don’t mind dying, they can kill a lot of people,” Obama said. “That’s one of the challenges of terrorism. It’s not their sophistication or the particular weaponry that they possess. But it is the ideology they carry with them and their willingness to die.”
 
• Obama insisted that he’s not shown hesitation to act militarily, but said he wouldn’t be pressured into “posing” as tough. “Some of them
[critics] seem to think that if I was just more bellicose in expressing what we’re doing, that that would make a difference. Because that seems to be the only thing that they’re doing, is talking as if they’re tough.” (and all they need to do)

 

Fight Over Refugees (AP, Hill, Hill, me)
• Speaking from the G-20 in Turkey, President Obama held firm Monday to current plans to bring in thousands more Syrian refugees, appealing to Americans to “not close our hearts” to Syria’s victims of war and terrorism and denouncing calls from Republican 2016 candidates to favor Syrian Christians over Muslims in the refugee influx (bit late?)
 
• Gov Greg Abbott (R-Texas) ordered his state’s refugee resettlement program not to accept any more Syrians and more than 20 Republican governors – and a Dem – announced or suggested they were suspending cooperating with DC on the program. None of the governors has the authority to prevent refugees from moving into a state
 
• Republican lawmakers threatened to try to stop the federal Syrian refugee program in legislation that must pass by 11 Dec to keep the govt running. House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis) didn’t tip his hat
 
• Sen Ted Cruz (R-Texas), a 2016er, said he’ll introduce legislation banning Muslim Syrian refugees from entering the U.S., calling Obama’s plan to bring in thousands “lunacy.” Sen Rand Paul (R-Ky), a 2016er, is proposing a bill to halt all visas from all countries with “significant jihadist movements” – about 30 countries (nice – that’s why they have refugees)
 
• 2016er Donald Trump said the U.S. will have to “strongly consider” shutting down some of the country’s mosques. “It would be something that you’re going to have to strongly consider.”

 

• List of the governors and current positions on Syrian refugees – some say they won’t take them, while some say they don’t want to. Some haven’t decided etc (AP)

 

• Obama said, “When I hear political leaders suggesting that there would be a religious test for which person who’s fleeing from a war-torn country is admitted, when some of those folks themselves come from families who benefited from protection when they were fleeing political persecution, that’s shameful.” Sen Ted Cruz’s (R-Texas) family is from Cuba
 
• At the heart of the debate is the Obama admin’s decision to raise the nation’s annual limit of 70,000 refugees by 10,000, with most of the new slots for Syrians, in the budget year that started 1 Oct (even so, it takes about 24 months or more to get screened, even if you get approved – which many don’t)
 
• Former Gov Jeb Bush (R-Fla) asserted the “focus ought to be on the Christians who have no place in Syria anymore,” because “they’re being beheaded, they’re being executed by both sides.” Before the attacks, he had spoken of moderate Muslims also being slaughtered in Syria as well (guess they’re not being slaughtered any more)
 
• Gov Chris Christie (R-NJ) said he would “not permit them in.” When asked by conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt whether that includes orphans under 5, he said, “I don’t think orphans under 5 are being – you know – should be admitted into the U.S. at this point.” (alrighty, terrifying toddlers – oh and he’s another one who’s previously decried folks in Syria being “slaughtered”)
 
• Sen Bernie Sanders (I-Vt) said in Cleveland, “During these difficult times, as Americans, we will not succumb to racism, we will not allow ourselves to be divided and succumb to Islamophobia.” (oh I think we will you know)

Why ISIS Wanted a Passport Found (Think Progress, me)

• A Syrian passport with the name of 25-year-old Ahmed Almohamed was found near one bombing site in Paris and was registered to a man who landed on a Greek island on 7 Oct, and crossed into Serbia a few days later, but French authorities haven’t confirmed whether the passport is authentic. Many analysts suspect the attackers wanted the passport to be found
 
• “The Islamic State (ISIS) loathes that individuals are fleeing Syria for Europe,” writes Jihadology analyst Aaron Zelin. “The Islamic State’s strategy is to polarize Western society – to ‘destroy the grayzone,’ as it says in its publications.”
 
• ISIS has released statements saying it wants the West to turn on refugees, proving its assertions that Western nations are at war with Islam. ISIS has also said on at least 12 occasions that Muslims should be seeking refuge in their self-declared Caliphate as opposed to “the lands of the infidel.” (get it? we’re being played – very well – by ISIS)
 
• “The group hopes frequent, devastating attacks in its name will provoke overreactions by European govts against innocent Muslims, thereby alienating and radicalizing Muslim communities throughout the continent,” Harleen Gambhir, a counterterrorism analyst at the Institute for the Study of War, wrote in WaPo

• Zelin writes, “The reality is, IS loathes that individuals are fleeing Syria for Europe. It undermines IS’ message that its self-styled Caliphate is a refuge, because if it was, individuals would actually go there in droves since it’s so close instead of 100,000s of people risking their lives through arduous journeys that could lead to death en route to Europe.”

 

Reuters Poll: Americans Don’t Want Troops on Ground (Reuters, me)
• A Reuters/Ipsos poll conducted over the weekend found that 60% of Americans think the U.S. should be doing more to attack ISIS. A small majority said they support using airstrikes in Iraq and Syria, but about 65% oppose sending special forces to the region – they’re already there. Ground troops? Stronger opposition – 76% oppose deploying troops
 
• The poll found that 63% of Americans were fearful that a Paris-style attack could happen near them. Americans are more fearful now than they were in the immediate aftermath of the bombing of the Boston Marathon in 2013
 
• Of those polled, 17% listed terrorism as their top concern – a rise from 9% when asked in October. Terrorism tied with the economy as the top issue. The results suggest an opening for GOP 2016ers, who have been looking for ways to attack Democrat Hillary Clinton’s tenure as SecState under President Obama
 
• The poll found that 52% of Americans think nations which accept refugees fleeing Syria are less safe. A Syrian passport was found near the body of one of the attackers, showing that its holder passed through Greece in October, raising refugee concerns
 
• But there’s a sharp divide over whether nations should stop accepting refugees. The poll showed 40% said countries should continue to accept refugees because those people are fleeing terrorism. And 41% said those countries should stop accepting refugees because of the threat of terrorism

 

• The House approved a measure by voice vote Monday to extend federal transportation funding for two weeks in an effort to prevent a highway funding shutdown. The measure would extend federal transportation spending – currently set to expire Friday – until 4 Dec. The Senate is expected to quickly take up the patch at the end of this week (Hill)

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___________________
Victoria Jones – Editor

TRNS’ James Cullum, Loree Lewis, Ebony Romero and Washington Desk contributed to this report

 

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