Iran’s Foreign Minister, Muhammad Javad Zarif, took part in an oral history project intended for internal use by the clerical dictatorship in February and on 25 April the audio was leaked—so goes the story. There is every reason to think this is a controlled leak, which is to say an information operation or a piece of strategic messaging—more pejoratively, propaganda or disinformation: choose the terminology as you will—intended to assist the Iranian theocracy as it works through its negotiations on the nuclear file with the new American administration of President Joe Biden. Still, there are some insights from this episode, as with an interview Zarif gave—focused on Afghanistan—in December. Continue reading
A year ago, U.S. President Donald Trump gave the order to kill Qassem Soleimani, the de facto deputy leader of Iran. Arash Azizi’s The Shadow Commander: Soleimani, the U.S., and Iran’s Global Ambitions is an effort to explain who Soleimani was, how he rose to controlling the lives of millions of people well outside the borders of Iran, and how in the end he was brought down. Continue reading
Russian ruler Vladimir Putin’s current special envoy for Afghanistan, Zamir Kabulov, spoke to Sputnik’s Tajik service on 17 February, and a translation of the interview is published below with some interesting sections highlighted in bold. Kabulov was the KGB resident in Kabul in the 1980s and early 1990s, and later in the 1990s, during the Taliban’s reign over Kabul and much of the rest of the country, he was an adviser to the United Nations peace envoy. Continue reading
Hamid al-Zawi (Abu Umar al-Baghdadi), the second leader of the Islamic State movement, known at the time as the Islamic State of Iraq (ISI), made his ninth speech out of what would prove to be twenty-three, entitled “Al-Deen al-Naseeha” or “Religion is Advice” (الدين النصيحة), on 14 February 2008. The speech was something of a rarity in that it focused on Palestine. A transcript of the speech was put out by ISI and is reproduced below with edits for grammar and clarity. Continue reading
Last week, as one of his last acts in office, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo gave a speech about Iran’s collaboration with Al-Qaeda. It was unfortunate that Pompeo did this at this time and in this way, with such blatant political intent, because the factual content of Pompeo’s speech was unassailable: the Islamic Republic’s long relationship with Al-Qaeda does stretch back about three decades, the killing of Al-Qaeda’s deputy Abdullah Ahmed Abdullah (Abu Muhammad al-Masri) in Tehran in August 2020 is demonstrative of a shift in the strategic positioning of the organisation away from Pakistan to Iran, and even the part of Pompeo’s speech that got the most pushback—about Tehran’s contact with the 9/11 killers—is not controversial and is not new.
Unmentioned in Pompeo’s speech was one of the crucibles that forged this relationship, and forged Al-Qaeda into something more than a regional menace, namely the Bosnian war of 1992-5. Continue reading
Abd al-Munim al-Badawi (Abu Hamza al-Muhajir) had become the leader of Al-Qaeda in Mesopotamia (AQM) after its founder, Ahmad al-Khalayleh, much better known as Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, had been killed in June 2006. AQM was the dominant faction within the Islamic State (IS) when it was announced in October 2006 as a merger of jihadist insurgents, and for that reason most analysts at the time considered IS a “front” for AQM. When IS’s emir, Hamid al-Zawi (Abu Umar al-Baghdadi), made his first speech in December 2006 affirming the statehood declaration, most read this as the foreign-led AQM putting an Iraqi face on their enterprise. In fact, as can now be seen, dynamics were essentially as presented by the jihadists.
Crucial was a speech Al-Badawi gave on 10 November 2006, his fifth of what would prove to be fifteen, released by Al-Furqan Media Foundation within IS’s “ministry of information”, entitled, “I’na al-Hukm I’la Allah” (إن الحكم إلا لله), something like “Judgment is Only for God” or “Judgment is God’s Only”, where he gave his bay’a (oath of allegiance) to Al-Zawi, put AQM’s troops under Al-Zawi’s command, and effectively dissolved Al-Qaeda’s presence in Iraq. A transcript of the speech is available here, and a summary of the speech is below. Continue reading
The world has been captivated this week by the scenes of an insurrectionary mob overrunning the United States Capitol at the behest of President Donald Trump. It is unlikely that many people remember or even know that nearly forty years ago, this building—the meeting place of the U.S. Congress, the place where laws are made—was bombed by a Communist terrorist group, a group remarkable for its all-female membership. A new book, Tonight We Bombed the Capitol: The Explosive Story of M19, America’s First Female Terrorist Group, by William Rosenau, a senior policy historian at CNA and a fellow in the International Security program at New America, examines this forgotten episode. Continue reading
The Islamic State (IS) released the 268th edition of its newsletter, Al-Naba, on the evening of 7 January. The main editorial on page three this week dealt with the Trump-instigated mob storming the U.S. Capitol building on 6 January. Al-Naba took this as the culmination of a trend towards internal crisis for the U.S., but was not convinced that the focus on domestic politics in the next few years will mean an American retreat in the world, though, in the case of the anti-IS war, Al-Naba does detect a collapse in the American position to merely trying to delay IS’s victory. Al-Naba concludes by making clear that no President, of any colour or political persuasion, would affect IS’s stance towards the West since their war against America and its allies is based solely on the fact that these powers are unbelievers. Continue reading
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