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
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
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
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
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
The Islamic State (IS) put out the 260th edition of its newsletter, Al-Naba, on 13 November. Much of the focus was on IS’s war with its jihadi rival, Al-Qaeda, in northern and western Africa. There are reports of guerrilla operations from elsewhere in Africa, from the Centre (in Iraq and Syria), as well as from Egypt and Afghanistan. IS notably feels secure enough in the strength of its networks to draw attention to its responsibility for several attacks in the Turkish-held areas of northern Syria, and there is a rare report of an attack in Indonesia. Al-Naba 260 also has IS’s response to the U.S. Election. Continue reading
The Islamic State (IS) released the 259th edition of its newsletter, Al-Naba, on 5 November, which reiterated IS’s admission that it was behind the 2 November shooting rampage in Vienna that murdered four people and wounded twenty-two. IS had posted the killer’s bay’a video on Telegram during the attack, and the following day formally claimed the Vienna attack, naming the killer by his kunya as Abu Dujana al-Albani. This is the first claim of an attack in the West by IS since the stabbing in Streatham, London, by Sudesh Amman on 2 February 2020. Continue reading
The 252nd edition of Al-Naba, the weekly newsletter of the Islamic State (IS), was released on 17 September.
Al-Naba 252 contained reports of guerrilla attacks and targeted assassinations at the Centre—against Iraqi security forces and the Iranian proxy militias in the Hashd al-Shabi in Iraq, and against the SDF/PKK in eastern Syria—and the “West African State”, Chad and Niger specifically. IS has been making the Maghreb a primary front since the caliphate collapsed. There was, as ever, the ideological essay on page eleven (of twelve).
The two most notable aspects of Al-Naba 252—expanded on below—were the devotion of the main editorial on page three to an attack on the Taliban for the deal they have made with the Americans over Afghanistan, and IS finally claiming responsibility for the murder of the French aid workers in Niger on 9 August, while continuing its ideological war with Al-Qaeda in Africa. Continue reading
The Islamic State (IS) published the 246th edition of its newsletter, Al-Naba, on 6 August, which highlighted the 2-3 August prison break in the Nangarhar province of Afghanistan, a massive IS operation lasting twenty-plus hours, and proclaimed that freeing IS jihadists from prisons will now be a priority for the group. In 2012, shortly after the American withdrawal from Iraq, IS announced Operation BREAKING THE WALLS, which went on for a year, breaking open Iraqi prisons. The narrative of the IS’s “defeat” by the Surge and Awakening of 2007-08 is problematic in some of its fundamentals, but among the reasons it proved to be so fleeting in practice was this prison-break campaign that restored to the battlefield key IS operatives who planned the caliphate project in 2014. It is, therefore, alarming to see the arrival of such a campaign in Afghanistan at the moment the U.S. is headed, heedlessly, for the exit. Continue reading