Credible reports over the last few days indicate that Al-Qaeda’s leader Ayman al-Zawahiri is dead, and there are even clearer reports that two of his most senior deputies have been killed. The terrorist network itself, however, will survive. Al-Qaeda has, in the last ten years, survived the killing of its charismatic founder Usama bin Laden, the upheaval of the “Arab spring”, and the rise of the Islamic State (IS)—all of them greater challenges than whatever short-term turbulence might attend the succession process. Continue reading
At 1 AM on 3 January, an American drone strike killed the head of Iran’s Quds Force, the division of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) charged with exporting the Islamic revolution, and his Iraqi deputy, Jamal al-Ibrahimi (Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis). Sulaymani was the strategic driver of Iran’s expansionist policy in the Middle East, as well as the orchestrator of its terrorism and assassinations further afield. Unlike with the killing of Al-Qaeda’s Usama bin Laden in 2011 or the Islamic State’s Ibrahim al-Badri (Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi) in October, where the dynamics shifted little, Sulaymani’s death opens up questions about the direction in which the Middle East will now move. Continue reading
Reuters has published a profile of Harakat Hizballah al-Nujaba (HHN), sometimes simply called Harakat al-Nujaba, a Shi’a militia made up of Iraqi citizens that is loyal to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamene’i and the revolutionary theocracy’s ideology of absolute wilayat al-faqih (guardianship of the jurist). HHN, which first emerged in the summer of 2013, is one of a web of overlapping Shi’a jihadist groups recruited from Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and beyond—as far afield as the Ivory Coast—that have been used to spearhead Tehran’s imperial push into the Arab world, particularly the rescue of Bashar al-Asad’s regime in Syria that would otherwise have fallen to a popular rebellion. In recent months, Iran has been raising the profile of HHN. Continue reading
Published at The New Arab.
The Iraqi government announced an operation to clear the Islamic State (IS) out of Fallujah on the evening of 22 May. In the intervening three weeks, IS have lost numerous villages and towns around Fallujah and Iraqi counterterrorism forces are said to have entered Fallujah proper in the south.
As the first major city IS took on its way to proclaiming a caliphate in June 2014, the pace of the operation is not the most troubling element. What is disturbing—and what may ultimately undo any military success against IS—is the overtly sectarian nature of the offensive, led not by professional troops loyal to Baghdad, but by militias loyal to Iran and the extremist ideology of Tehran’s clerical regime. Continue reading
Today, my first report with The Henry Jackson Society was published: “Destroying Islamic State, Defeating Assad: A Strategy for Syria“. Continue reading
President Obama invited the leaders of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) to a meeting at Camp David on Thursday to clear the air as the President looks to finalize his nuclear deal with Iran. But on Sunday, Saudi King Salman said he was not attending, and soon after the Bahraini monarch followed. The only Gulf leaders in attendance will be the Emirs of Qatar and Kuwait. Since leaders do not just have other things to do when they are scheduled for a private meeting with the President of the United States, this can be taken as a pointed snub to President Obama, and no amount of administration spin about Salman’s absence having nothing to do with political substance will change that. Continue reading
This morning Human Rights Watch released a report, “After Liberation Came Destruction: Iraqi Militias and the Aftermath of Amerli.”
Amerli is a town of about 25,000 people, mostly Shi’a Turcomen, in the east of Saladin Province, close to Diyala Province, sixty miles from the Iranian border.
The Islamic State (ISIS) invaded Iraq from Syria, conquering Mosul on June 10, 2014, then swept across central Iraq into Diyala. In a situation not dissimilar to the Assad regime’s terror-sieges and ISIS surrounding of the Yazidis on Sinjar Mountain, ISIS imposed a siege on the population of Amerli on June 14.
By the time the Iraqi government forces and Hashd al-Shabi (a.k.a. the Popular Mobilization Units, PMUs), the Shi’ite militias that are largely Iran proxies, broke the siege on August 31, with the help of airstrikes from the American-led Coalition, “at least 15 civilians in Amerli, including newborn infants, had died from lack of food, water or medical treatment, and more than 250 children were suffering from severe malnutrition and dehydration,” HRW reports. On Sept. 1, the militias and Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) entered Amerli. Continue reading
Iraq’s Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi announced the beginning of an offensive on March 1 to dislodge the Islamic State (ISIS) from Salah ad-Din Province. Abadi announced that this would be led by the Iraqi army and Hashd al-Shabi, known in English as the Popular Mobilization Units (PMUs), the militias composed overwhelmingly of Shi’ites and directed by Iran.
While the offensive seems to be winding down, it is not over. ISIS is out of ad-Dawr/Dour and al-Awja, south of Tikrit, and Albu Ajeel to the east. Al-Alam to the north seems to still be contested. On March 10, ISIS was driven out of al-Qadissiya, a northern district of Tikrit City. On March 11, the anti-ISIS forces entered Tikrit City, “inched closer to the city center … and took up positions in a military hospital, the police academy and the traffic police headquarters … Forces in southern districts took over three palaces erected by former dictator Saddam Hussein”. Continue reading
Argentina’s government yesterday announced it was dissolving the Secretariat of Intelligence (S.I.), an intelligence agency tainted by the “Dirty War” regimes (1974-83), and more recent abuses as President Cristina Kirchner has taken Argentina back toward autocracy, and replacing it with a Federal agency. Just two days before, charges of corruption were levelled against Antonio Stiusso, S.I.’s director until Kirchner fired him in December. At the beginning of this month, Stiusso went missing. It now seems Stiusso has taken shelter in a neighbouring State.
These events are the latest twist in an extraordinary saga that has followed the discovery of the body of Alberto Nisman on Jan. 18 in his apartment in Buenos Aires, shot in the head in an apparent suicide. Nisman was a prosecutor investigating the July 18, 1994, bombing of the Argentine Israelite Mutual Association (AMIA) building in Argentina’s capital. All the evidence that Nisman had gathered pointed to Iran as the perpetrator. Few believe Nisman committed suicide, and—the history of Argentines being “suicided” considered—most fingers are pointing at Iran. Continue reading
In watching the Syrian conflict, one of the most extraordinary tendencies of the reporting is the way “foreign fighter” and “jihadist” have become synonymous with the Sunni militants who have descended on that tormented country. This is one among many illusions that will hopefully be ended by Phillip Smyth’s monograph, “The Shiite Jihad in Syria and its Regional Effects“. You should read the whole thing but below are the salient points I took away. Continue reading