Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Tea Party Propaganda War + ISIS

The Tea Party is unbowed one day in to their shutdown of the federal government. The coverage in today's New York Times points to a propaganda war that will unfold in the next few days as the House Republicans attempt to pass piecemeal spending bills, which they failed to accomplish last night, hoping to force Senate majority leader Harry Reid to take them up. If he refuses, then the GOP can blame the Democrats for keeping the national parks and veterans' centers closed. 

But there is peril on this path for Republican hardliners. To get piecemeal spending bills passed over Democratic opposition they must do so under ordinary rules requiring a simple majority vote. This opens up the possibility that "a clean CR" -- a bill to reopen the government without language to limit, delay or repeal Obamacare -- could make it to the House floor for an up or down vote.

Here is how the august Jonathan Weisman explains it in his "House G.O.P. Pushes Piecemeal Approach as Democrats Stand Firm":
Aides to the Republican leadership said the bills would be introduced on Wednesday under ordinary rules that require only simple majorities, and they should easily pass. But Democrats are likely to be granted procedural votes of their own, which would be an opportunity to test how many Republicans would defy their leadership and vote to reopen the entire government without crippling President Obama’s health care law — the standoff that shut down the government at 12:01 a.m. on Tuesday. 
As public anger grows, more Republicans are coming forward to call for such a rebellion. 
“The frustration and anger over Obamacare is being interpreted to be an all-or-nothing calculation,” said Representative Patrick Meehan, Republican of Pennsylvania, who now favors a simple stopgap spending measure to reopen the government. “People are very worried about Obamacare. Some of its pieces are problematic. 
“But they want us to come here and work on problems across America, and we can’t get to doing that if both sides are dug in,” he said. 
Democrats face pressure of their own to drop their stance of approving a spending bill only if it is free of policy prescriptions. Senate Democratic leaders say they plan to immediately kill all three of the piecemeal House bills, arguing that they will not be forced to choose between financing veterans’ programs or cancer research at the National Institutes of Health.
Tea Party stalwarts are convinced that they can still win the battle for American hearts and minds, even though the first-day response to the opening of the online Obamacare insurance market was so robust it led to meltdowns in the system.

The House GOP is suffering from the same kind of magical thinking that predicted a Romney win absent any polling data last election eve. Nonetheless, they will launch this piecemeal spending bill strategy and try to create some traction in the Senate. I read yesterday that Senator Dick Durbin, Democrat from Illinois, broached the idea of a deal based on a repeal of the medical device tax part of Obamacare. Thankfully, this was quickly shot down by Harry Reid.

Give the propaganda war a few days to play out.

There is a good story by Ben Hubbard this morning, "Qaeda Branch in Syria Pursues Its Own Agenda," about the method of operation of Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS):
The rise of extremist groups has exacerbated Syria’s instability. ISIS has attacked rebel bases to capture supplies, and routed rebel groups last month to seize control of Azaz, a strategic city near the Turkish border, leading to a tense cease-fire. Last week, Qaeda fighters tried to storm a village in Idlib Province to kidnap some rebels, leaving 20 dead from both sides, including the jihadis’ Libyan commander. 
“We want to keep Syria together as a country of freedom and equality,” a leader in an Islamist rebel group opposed to ISIS, called Suqour al-Sham, who gave his name as Abu Bashir, said via Skype. “They want to form an Islamic state that comes together with Iraq.” 
In an audio statement released online late Monday, a Qaeda spokesman defended the group, saying its contributions to the anti-Assad fight had been underappreciated and denying that it had started fights with rebel groups. 
“Those who aspire to sideline the state are many because of incorrect beliefs and doctrines,” said the spokesman, Abu Mohammed al-Adnani al-Shami. “They are greedy for power and for the worthless things of this world.” 
Analysts say the group is a revival and extension of Al Qaeda in Iraq, whose sectarian-fueled insurgency pushed that country to the brink of civil war in 2006 and 2007, before the group suffered major defeats at the hands of tribal fighters and American troops. 
In Syria, however, the group has found the vast territories that have fallen into rebel hands near Syria’s northern and eastern borders as an ideal environment to regroup and advance its agenda. 
The area is stateless, covered by a weak patchwork of local councils and rebel groups struggling to administer their towns and often competing with one another for resources. This gives the group a wide area to work in with no immediate enemies. The porousness of the Iraqi and Turkish borders also makes it easy for the group to bring in supplies and fighters. 
Brian Fishman, a former director of research at the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point and now a fellow at the New America Foundation, said those factors gave Al Qaeda a more favorable environment in Syria than it ever had in Iraq. 
“The conditions in Syria will be ripe for ISIS for quite some time,” he said.
There is a good Moon of Alabama blog post from a few days back that discusses negotiations between the Free Syrian Army and the Syrian government. The reality that is sinking in with the non-jihadi opposition is that the true enemy is the Saudi- and Qatari-funded mujahideen.

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