The 257th edition of Al-Naba, the weekly newsletter of the Islamic State (IS), was released on 22 October. Al-Naba 257 contains an article praising the 16 October murder of French schoolteacher Samuel Paty by an Islamist who accused him of blasphemy for showing the Charlie Hebdo cartoons of Islam’s prophet Muhammad during a class on free speech, but the article does not claim that the Chechen refugee who carried out the assassination, Abdoullakh Anzorov, was an IS operative. Among other things, this is a reminder that IS’s claims of responsibility are not indiscriminate, even if it is believed there have been a couple of incidents of high-profile deception. Continue reading
By Oved Lobel on 18 November 2019My friend Oved Lobel, a researcher focused on Russia’s role in the Middle East (among other things), found several interviews the Russian media did with Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) leaders, one with the leader himself Abdullah Ocalan, talking about, inter alia, the group’s relationship with Moscow. He very helpfully translated them and with his permission they are published below.
The broad outline of the PKK’s relationship with the Soviet Union—and then the Russian Federation—is fairly clear. After the PKK was founded in Turkey in the late 1970s by Ocalan, it was evicted from the country during the 1980 military coup. The PKK moved to Syria, where Ocalan was already based, having fled Turkey in June 1979. From there, the PKK moved into the Bekaa area of Lebanon, at that time controlled by the Syrian regime of Hafez al-Asad, and the Soviets acted through Asad, as they so often did in dealing with terrorist groups, to build the PKK into a fighting force that was then unleashed in 1984 on Turkey, a frontline NATO state in the Cold War. Continue reading
To mark the eighteenth anniversary of the 9/11 massacre, Al-Qaeda’s Al-Sahab media department released a video, “And They Shall Continue to Fight You”. The video, which ran over a half-hour, featured a speech by the group’s emir, Ayman al-Zawahiri, interspersed with other leadership figures.
Much attention has been given to Dr. Al-Zawahiri encouraging attacks on America, his contention that the U.S. has enabled the spread of Iranian power by providing its vicious sectarian militias in Iraq, Syria, and beyond with direct support as part of the war against the Islamic State (ISIS), and his use of the issue of Palestine. There are some indications Al-Qaeda is looking abroad again with its terrorism campaign, but the primary purpose of re-emphasising the justice of attacks on the West seems to be to meet the ideological challenge from ISIS. Behind the veneer of the “far enemy” rhetoric in this speech, Al-Zawahiri was in fact very defensive—particularly about 9/11, Al-Qaeda’s greatest “success”, where he seems stung by the accusation Al-Qaeda murdered innocents—and “near enemy” (regionally) focused. Even the call to attack America suggested attacks on military installations in the Middle East, rather than in America itself. Such attacks would also avoid the issue of civilian casualties, Al-Zawahiri noted.
An English translation was put out of the video of Al-Zawahiri’s speech and a transcript is reproduced below.
In February 1979, police in south-eastern Australia arrested six people. The suspects were members of the Croatian nationalist scene that agitated against Communist Jugoslavija and they had planned to commit a series of attacks against symbols of Marshal Tito’s regime that could have killed hundreds of Australians. Except they hadn’t, as Hamish McDonald, a journalist with the Sydney Morning Herald, shows in Framed (2012). Despite the “Croatian Six” being convicted for terrorism and spending a decade in prison, the reality of what had happened was nearly the exact opposite—and at least some powerful people in the Australian government knew or suspected as much from the get-go. Continue reading
The Turkey-Russia Sochi Agreement in September won Idlib a reprieve from what had seemed to be an imminent and catastrophic offensive by Syrian President Bashar Assad’s forces and his Russian and Iranian patrons against the last insurgent-held province.
The ceasefire was meant to provide space for Turkey to dismantle the radical insurgents. Instead, those radicals consolidated their dominance in Idlib and the ceasefire has been visibly fraying. How to proceed is a matter of domestic security for the West. Continue reading
Turkish police announced on 19 July that they had arrested the wife of Tarkhan Batirashvili (Abu Umar al-Shishani), an Islamic State (IS) commander who was killed two years ago this month in Shirqat, Iraq. The capture brings to the fore a story stretching from senior levels of the Chechen Republic to the Levant. Continue reading