Tag Archives: Syria

Spywar and Strategy: The Israel-Iran Contest in the Middle East

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 29 June 2021

Members of the Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades, the military wing of Hamas, at a memorial in Gaza, 31 January 2017. Photo by Abed Rahim Khatib, Flash90.

The May 2021 round of fighting in Gaza brought with it the upending of the unspoken understanding between Israel and Hamas and a level of intercommunal violence within Israel that has not been seen in quite some time. The scale of the rocket attacks on the Jewish state must also be counted among the unusual elements of this latest flare-up, with Iran clearly identifiable as the enabling state behind Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), the two primary factions behind these attacks. Continue reading

Just What Is Iran Capable Of?

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 8 June 2021

Massive explosion at Khojir in eastern Tehran lights up the night sky, 25 June 2021 [image source]

The clerical regime in Iran, born in terrorism and dedicated to its export, has carried out atrocities across the world since 1979. The Islamic Republic has made Israel and Jews a special target of its murderous Revolution, and this has naturally incurred what one might call “resistance” from the Israeli government. What is notable in recent times is how the global ledger is shaping up, albeit while the strategic regional situation is quite different. The Israelis have delivered blow after blow to Iran, many of them within Iran, including removing senior officials, and the Iranian theocracy has proven unable to reply because its terrorist infrastructure is so badly infiltrated and just sheerly incompetent. Continue reading

Islamic State Advertises its Afghan Escalation and Holding Territory in Africa

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 29 May 2021

Al-Naba 288, front page

The Islamic State (IS) released the 288th edition of Al-Naba yesterday, and amid the commonplace items—insurgent reports from Iraq and Syria, Egypt and Africa, its main editorial and the ideological essay(s)—the two items on its front page were most interesting. The top item was a series of reports from Afghanistan about the ongoing progress of IS as NATO draws down. The second item down was from Nigeria, about the imposition of zakat, the tax for the needy, which had some suggestive details about IS’s procurement of territory in Africa. Continue reading

Gaza is Just One Front in Iran’s Regional War

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 27 May 2021

Israel’s Iron Dome missile defence system [left] activates over southern Israel against incoming HAMAS rockets [right], 14 May 2021

Naim Qassem, the deputy secretary-general of Hizballah, the Lebanese division of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), gave an interesting interview to Hizballah’s Al-Nour radio station on 22 May, explaining IRGC/Hizballah’s vision for what it had achieved with the recent war in Gaza. Qassem added to a large body of evidence about Iran’s extensive role in the war, a lot of it supplied directly by the combatant parties themselves. Not only did the clerical regime in Iran supply the material basis for the Islamists’ war against Israel this month; they provided much of the ideological framework, too. Continue reading

The Spokesman’s Response When the Islamic State Went to War With the Syrian Rebellion

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 24 May 2021

Taha Falaha (Abu Muhammad al-Adnani) is probably most famous for the September 2014 speech he made as the official spokesman for the Islamic State (IS) calling for international terrorist attacks, which initiated a wave of atrocities in Europe and beyond lasting about three years. But Falaha had been in office by that time, formally, since the summer of 2011, and in total he would make two-dozen speeches before he was killed at the end of August 2016. The twelfth speech, entitled, “The Scout Doesn’t Lie to His People”, and reproduced below,[1] was made on 7 January 2014, four days after the onset of a massive assault on IS by the Syrian rebellion that inter alia killed senior jihadist commanders like Samir al-Khlifawi (Haji Bakr or Abu Bakr al-Iraqi). What is interesting about this speech, as revealed in the recent Al-Naba profile of Falaha’s great friend and collaborator, the media emir Wael al-Ta’i (Abu Muhammad al-Furqan), is that Falaha composed this speech while he was besieged by the rebels in Aleppo. Al-Ta’i had evacuated the IS media department and their families, then slipped back into the area surrounded by the rebels to help Falaha compose IS’s first political counter-measure to this unexpected development in Syria, which was followed nearly a fortnight afterwards by a speech from the caliph himself, Ibrahim al-Badri (Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi). Continue reading

Islamic State Comments on the Gaza War and Escalates in Afghanistan

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 22 May 2021

Al-Naba 287, page three

The last two issues of Al-Naba, the weekly newsletter of the Islamic State (IS), had a number of interesting items, most obviously finally breaking its silence on the latest flare-up between Israel and HAMAS. Continue reading

Islamic State Profiles the Godfather of its Media Department

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 8 May 2021

Wael al-Ta’i (Abu Muhammad al-Furqan), Al-Naba 285, p. 3

The 285th edition of Al-Naba, the weekly newsletter of the Islamic State (IS), released on 6 May, had a biography of Abu Muhammad al-Furqan, one of the most important IS leaders, the head of its Central Media Department and its operational ruler when he was killed in September 2016. Continue reading

Islamic State Newsletter Claims an Attack on Russia in Syria, Operations in Pakistan and Afghanistan

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 25 April 2021

Al-Naba 283, p. 8

The 283rd edition of Islamic State’s (IS) weekly newsletter, Al-Naba, released on 22 April 2021, contained the usual reports on IS’s guerrilla and terrorist operations, stretching from Africa to Syria and Iraq at the “Centre” to South Asia, plus the main editorial and an ideological essay. Amid the reports was IS’s response to a controversial episode in eastern Syria involving the Russians, and a sign of an uptick in IS’s operations in Afghanistan and Pakistan as the U.S.-led NATO forces prepare to abandon Afghanistan. Continue reading

New Speech Does Not Provide Proof of Life for Al-Qaeda’s Leader

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 12 March 2021

A nearly-22-minute video was released by As-Sahab, the media wing of Al-Qaeda, on 12 March 2021, entitled, “The Wound of the Rohingya is the Wound of the Umma” or “The Wound of the Rohingya is the Wound of the Islamic Nation”. More than anything actually said or presented, the video itself was the story since it comes after credible reports in November 2020 that Al-Qaeda’s emir, Ayman al-Zawahiri, had died a month earlier. The only question was whether the video would provide proof-of-life for Al-Zawahiri, and it pointedly did not. Continue reading

Qassem Sulaymani: Life and Ambition

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 2 March 2021

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