Showing posts with label Arab World. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Arab World. Show all posts

27 June 2019

The Arab world in seven charts: Are Arabs turning their backs on religion?

Arabs are increasingly saying they are no longer religious, according to the largest and most in-depth survey undertaken of the Middle East and North Africa.

The finding is one of a number on how Arabs feel about a wide range of issues, from women's rights and migration to security and sexuality.

More than 25,000 people were interviewed for the survey - for BBC News Arabic by the Arab Barometer research network - across 10 countries and the Palestinian territories between late 2018 and spring 2019.

Here are some of the results.

Deterrence Is Failing — Partly Because Iran Has No Idea What the USReally Wants


Iran is accelerating its enrichment of uranium, the IAEA says. Iran attacked four tankers near the Strait of Hormuz, the Trump administration says. If all this is true — Tehran has hinted at the first, though it strenuously denies the second, and there are doubters in world capitals and at home — then U.S.policymakers need to conduct an honest assessment of where and why U.S. policies have failed to deter Iranian actions.

As Washington Post columnist David Ignatius summarizes the mounting tensions, “Trump’s maximum pressure campaign has collided head on with [Iranian Supreme Leader] Khamenei’s maximum resistance.” 

Leaders in Washington and Tehran alike have miscalculated. The Trump administration applied devastating economic pressure on Iran without providing leaders in Tehran with a clear roadmap for how to escape punishment. This put Iran in the penalty box without evident prospect for rehabilitation. As Europe, Russia, and China failed to deliver any meaningful economic relief to Iran, and as the unilateral U.S. withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal, or JCPOA, solidified the position of hardliners in Tehran, it was virtually inevitable that Iran would strike back in order to demonstrate its ability to inflict pain on opponents. 

Making Sense of the Iran Chaos


One would prefer that correct decisions be made according to careful, deliberate plan. But a correct decision made impulsively, through a troubling process, is still nonetheless correct, and so it is with Donald Trump’s decision to refrain from military action against Iran. The proposed strike would represent a serious escalation without providing material military benefit, American forces are more vulnerable than the American people understand, the American people are not prepared for war, and — finally — America has options short of war to maintain crippling pressure on Iran.

First, it’s hard to imagine the true military or diplomatic benefit of the planned strike. Let’s be clear, despite the fact that Trump balked at the projected casualties — an estimated 150 Iranians — a small attack on three targets is a pinprick strike. The mullahs don’t care about those casualties, and a small attack does not materially impair Iranian striking power. Pinprick strikes are often seen as displays of weakness, not strength.

A small attack would, however, grant the pretext for yet another Iranian escalation — perhaps one that would claim American lives, thus generating a much larger American response.

US struck Iranian military computers this week

Tami Abdollah

WASHINGTON — U.S. military cyber forces launched a strike against Iranian military computer systems on Thursday as President Donald Trump backed away from plans for a more conventional military strike in response to Iran’s downing of a U.S. surveillance drone, U.S. officials said Saturday.

Two officials told The Associated Press that the strikes were conducted with approval from Trump. A third official confirmed the broad outlines of the strike. All spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly about the operation.

The cyberattacks — a contingency plan developed over weeks amid escalating tensions — disabled Iranian computer systems that controlled its rocket and missile launchers, the officials said. Two of the officials said the attacks, which specifically targeted Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps computer system, were provided as options after Iranian forces blew up two oil tankers earlier this month.

26 June 2019


WHEN TWO COUNTRIES begin to threaten war in 2019, it's a safe bet that they've already been hacking each other's networks. Right on schedule, three different cybersecurity firms now say they've watched Iran's hackers try to gain access to a wide array of US organizations over the past few weeks, just as military tensions between the two countries rise to a breaking point—though it's not yet clear whether those hacker intrusions are aimed at intelligence gathering, laying the groundwork for a more disruptive cyberattack, or both.

Analysts at two security firms, Crowdstrike and Dragos, tell WIRED that they've seen a new campaign of targeted phishing emails sent to a variety of US targets last week from a hacker group known by the names APT33, Magnallium, or Refined Kitten and widely believed to be working in the service of the Iranian government. Dragos named the Department of Energy and US national labs as some of the half-dozen targeted organizations. A third security firm, FireEye, independently confirmed that it's seen a broad Iranian phishing campaign targeting both government agencies and private sector companies in the US and Europe, without naming APT33 specifically. None of the companies had any knowledge of successful intrusions.



Iran's downing of a state-of-the-art U.S. military drone using what it claimed to be a natively produced defense system may illustrate the complexities of a potential conflict with the Islamic Republic.

Though many details of the recent incident involving an RQ-4A Global Hawk unmanned surveillance aircraft (UAV) remained up for debate, the naval forces of U.S. Central Command have confirmed that Iran's elite Revolutionary Guards shot down the drone somewhere over the Strait of Hormuz.

Each country has branded the other's forces a terrorist organization and disputed other details, but two particular elements of Thursday's events have stood out.

For one, this is the first known downing of any U.S. RQ-4 variant. As non-proliferation and open-source intelligence analyst Fabian Hinz told Newsweek, this weapon is "no tiny Predator"⁠—a reference to the smaller, armed U.S. drones that have seen widespread global use in the post-9/11 "War on Terror." No, Hinz explained, the RQ-4A is one of "the largest and one of the most expensive drones the U.S. has."

The Tension Between the US and Iran

By Lt. Col. (res.) Dr. Raphael Ofek

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: In the Persian Gulf, tensions are rising over the sanctions recently imposed by the US on Iran in the wake of its refusal to comply with Washington’s demand that the nuclear agreement signed by Barack Obama be reopened. Tehran does not wish to submit to this demand, as it would suggest weakness on the part of the regime and would inhibit Iran’s nuclear ambitions. But its refusal could lead to the collapse of the Iranian economy, war, and possibly the overthrow of the regime.

The current crisis between the US and Iran is the most severe since the Iranian 1979 revolution and the attendant establishment of the Islamic Republic. The revolution ended the close relations that had existed between the two countries up to that point. The regime of the ayatollahs remains in place, and the relationship between the countries has never recovered.

The Saudi-UAE axis has destabilising plans beyond the Gulf

Ali Bakeer

Riyadh and Abu Dhabi are putting their bets on Trump's re-election to realise their vision for regional hegemony.

As the situation in the Middle East continues to escalate, with Iran and the US-Saudi axis trading accusations over sabotaged vessels in the Gulf, Qataris quietly marked two years of living under siege.

Although the land, sea and air blockade the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Egypt imposed on Qatar in June 2017 has taken a backseat because of the Iranian crisis, the confrontation at its heart has by far not diminished.

Riyadh and Abu Dhabi continue lobbying against Doha on international platforms and are showing no sign of easing their economic siege. This became apparent once again at the three summits the Saudi king hosted in Mecca last month, to which Qatar was invited.

During the proceedings, Saudi Foreign Minister Ibrahim al-Assaf said a solution to the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) crisis would only be possible if Doha goes back to the "right path" - that is, if it heeds to the Saudi and Emirati regional agenda.

25 June 2019

Why aren’t oil markets reacting to the attacks on tankers in the Persian Gulf?

Samantha Gross

Tensions are rising in the Persian Gulf, following a string of attacks on oil tankers over the last month. The United States just announced that it is sending 1,000 additional troops to the region to address threats to U.S. personnel and interests. Nonetheless, oil markets seem unperturbed, reacting more to economic news than fears of disruption and shortage.

The first four tanker attacks occurred on May 12, in the Gulf of Oman near the United Arab Emirates port of Fujairah. There were no injuries to the ships’ crews or spills of oil or other materials. An international investigation found that the attacks involved limpet mines attached to the ships’ hulls and that the attacks were designed to disable the ships, not destroy them. The investigation pointed to the involvement of a “state actor,” but did not mention Iran by name, although both Saudi and U.S. officials pointed to Iran as the culprit.

The second round of attacks on June 13 was an escalation. A Japanese tanker carrying methanol and a Norwegian tanker carrying naphtha were attacked in international waters in the Gulf of Oman. The Norwegian tanker caught fire and both ships’ crews sent distress signals and were rescued. U.S. officials have been much more strident in blaming Iran this time, sharing video allegedly showing an Iranian patrol boat retrieving an unexploded mine from one of the damaged ships. (Iran is denying its involvement, but evidence certainly points in that direction, and Iran has every reason for carrying out the attacks.)

U.N. report firmly blames Saudi Arabia for the murder of Jamal Khashoggi

Bruce Riedel

The United Nations Special Rapporteur Agnes Callamard has delivered a scathing report on the premeditated murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi last October in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. She recommends that all states impose sanctions on the Saudis involved in the killing, specifically including Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman. It’s long past time for the Trump administration to come clean about what it knows about the murder and the crown prince. King Salman should also get more scrutiny.

The Saudis immediately labeled the rapporteur’s report as nothing new, the latest in their pathetic attempts to cover up the murder as a “rogue” operation. The report instead documents how the Saudi embassy in Washington specifically told Khashoggi that he must travel to Turkey to get documents for his impending wedding, that once he showed up at the consulate, Riyadh ordered the consul general to send two security officers to the kingdom for “top secret” instructions and then dispatched a Special Operations team to Istanbul to deal with Khashoggi.

Northrop Grumman used a fictitious war with Iran to sell its Global Hawk drone to the Pentagon

By Justin Rohrlich

More than a decade before Iran shot down a US military RQ-4 Global Hawk surveillance drone on June 20, its manufacturer pitched the Department of Defense on expanding the fleet by presenting a hypothetical conflict with the Islamic Republic.

In a 2008 briefing document, Northrop Grumman presented the Pentagon with an analysis of the “future security environment” and how the Global Hawk drone might play a central role. An at-the-time imaginary war with Iran features heavily in the sales pitch.

“Deterring and, if needed, fighting a traditional theater conflict will remain a high priority for [US military commanders],” the report reads. “A hypothetical conflict with Iran in the 2015 to 2020 timeframe will provide a framework for discussion.”

The document was produced by the Northrop Grumman Analysis Center, a self-described in-house “think tank.” Quartz found it hosted in an obscure corner of the company’s website, along with a dozen or so other studies on topics ranging from laser weapons to stealth technology.

24 June 2019

Did Iran Just Invite a U.S. Attack?

A U.S. Navy RQ-4 Global Hawk drone, an example of which is seen here on June 11, 2012, was shot down by Iranian IRGC surface-to-air missiles near the Strait of Hormuz. Erik Hildebrandt/U.S. Navy via Northrup Grumman

Iran on Thursday deliberately upped the stakes in its showdown with the United States by shooting down a U.S. reconnaissance drone near the Strait of Hormuz and targeting a key Saudi water facility with a Houthi rocket attack. The strikes, coming after a series of attacks on oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman attributed to Iran and Tehran’s decision to stop complying with some of its obligations under the 2015 nuclear deal, risk tipping the standoff into outright confrontation.

“Iran made a very big mistake!” U.S. President Donald Trump tweeted Thursday. When asked at the Oval Office while meeting with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau how the United States might respond, Trump said he had campaigned on ending U.S. involvement in never-ending wars in the Middle East.

Gulf Of Oman Attacks: How Merchant Ships Can Keep Safe In Dangerous Waters

The latest attacks on two oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman have once again highlighted the vulnerability of merchant ships crossing high risk areas. Both the Front Altair and the Kokuka Courageous sustained significant damage to their hullsin attacks on June 13 that led the the evacuation of the crew. This latest attack mirrors an incident from May, where four vessels, including two Saudi oil tankers also sustained "significant damage", according to the country's energy minister, in a seemingly targeted attack.

Lloyds Joint War Risk Committee, which details areas of heightened insecurity for marine insurers, has recognised the "perceived heightened risk across the region" to shipping. It has included the Gulf of Oman in a list of areas of enhanced risk, essentially designating the waterway a warzone. The incident has also further stoked international tension amid US claims of Iranian involvement. On June 17, the US government said it was sending approximately 1,000 additional troops to the Middle East for "defensive purposes".

Saudi Arabia vs. Iran: The Washington Factor

King Salman of Saudi Arabia convened emergency meetings to discuss attacks on Saudi assets.

He blamed Iran for the attacks, an accusation that Iran flatly rejected.

The danger lies in the fact that Arab countries could be potentially arrayed against Iran.

The greater danger lies in the fact that the US could use the situation to achieve several of its own goals.


Saudi King Salman called an emergency gathering of the leaders of twenty-one Arab League countries to be held on 30 May at two consecutive meetings in the city of Mecca. The reason for the summit was simple: according to the king, decisive action was required to confront Iran’s recent ‘criminal’ actions and to prevent ‘escalations’. The call for action against Iran followed Tehran’s alleged attacks on Saudi oil pumping stations in the kingdom, allegedly by Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen using drones, and on four vessels, including two Saudi-owned oil tankers, off the United Arab Emirates.

Dealing with Iran Will Not Be Enough to Restore Regional Stability

Christopher J. Bolan

The views expressed by the author are his alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of the U.S. government or the U.S. Defense Department.

As U.S.-Iranian tensions mount amidst increasing pressures of intensified U.S. economic sanctions and apparent Iranian-linked attacks on Gulf shipping, U.S. policymakers will be understandably focused on the military dimension of confronting and deterring Iran. However, neither the American public nor senior U.S. government officials should delude themselves as to the source, scope, and significance of longer-term challenges that will continue to threaten stability in this vital region of the world. Dealing effectively with Iran will be a necessary but insufficient condition for restoring stability to a region that is plagued by civil wars, wide-spread political repression, high levels of corruption, insufficient economic growth, and underdeveloped civil societies.

US: Iran Shoots Down Global Hawk; Second Drone Down This Month


The Global Hawk was downed after two earlier shots at US drones in the region, and attacks on commercial shipping.

WASHINGTON: Iranian forces shot down a RQ-4A Global Hawk surveillance drone over the Strait of Hormuz Wednesday night, US officials confirm. This is the latest, and most significant, of a series of attacks in the region that have inflamed tensions between Tehran and Washington.

The drone “was shot down by an Iranian surface-to-air missile system while operating in international airspace,” Navy Capt. Bill Urban, U.S. Central Command spokesman said in a statement today.

Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps said in a statement earlier in the day that the aircraft had entered its airspace and was brought down by its air force near the Kouh-e Mobarak region.

The US military says its drone was shot down outside Iranian airspace.

The New Red Line on Iran Will Fail


While Washington was focused on the highly visible ratcheting up of tensions between the United States and Iran over the past few weeks, the Trump administration quietly began rolling out its first real red line on the Iran nuclear program, which is that any reduction in the one year timeline it would need to produce enough material for a bomb is unacceptable.

National security adviser John Bolton went so far as to explicitly link the threat of Iran to restart additional enrichment activities to a deliberate attempt to shorten the breakout time to produce nuclear weapons. Given the announcement last month by Iran that it will begin unwinding some of its nuclear commitments, which if fully implemented will then eventually shorten this one year timeline, the stage is for a future crisis is now set.

At first glance, this move seems prudent. The Trump administration does not want to be held politically responsible for Iranian nuclear build up, so it wants to show that Iran is the one taking improper actions on weapons. Moreover, a firm stance now could potentially head off a more dangerous situation down the road. As former government experts who helped to negotiate the deal and monitor the Iran nuclear program, however, we believe this new red line on Iran is seriously flawed for four key reasons.

23 June 2019

Iran Decides Its Best Defense Is Bravado

By Reva Goujon

Two brazen attacks near the Strait of Hormuz within a single month suggest that Iran will accept the cost of a military conflict with the United States. 

Given the lack of open dissent within the Iranian establishment at pursuing confrontation, Tehran may be trying to incite Washington to conduct a limited military strike to rally domestic support for the Islamic republic while it's still in a position of relative strength.

As the White House weighs its response, the United States could first try to assemble a coalition of naval escorts in the name of defending freedom of navigation. 

Amid Iran's bravado, there is no guarantee that provocations aimed at initiating a limited war — along with many other triggers for military action — will not spiral into a much more devastating armed engagement.

Two attacks, one month apart, have hit commercial oil tankers in the Persian Gulf region. The first attack signaled that Iran can, and will, disrupt shipping around one of the world's most critical waterways, the Strait of Hormuz. The second, however, shows that the threat is morphing into a not-so-subtle invitation to an arguably avoidable war. 

22 June 2019

How Europe Is Handing Off Its ISIS Militants to Iraq

By Pesha Magid

BAGHDAD—Standing in his prisoner’s yellow jumpsuit, Mustapha Merzoughi remained quiet at first. He shook slightly and brushed at his eyes, before assuming a neutral expression. His Arabic appeared to be limited, and when the judge first began to question him, he stayed silent, eventually saying in French:

“There is no point that I speak. Whatever I say, you will convict me to death.” About an hour later, he was.

Merzoughi was one of 11 French defendants that an Iraqi court sentenced to hang over the course of trials from May 26 to June 3. He was captured, however, not in Iraq but in neighboring Syria, by the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) during the last battles against the Islamic State. Merzoughi and his fellow ISIS defendants were the first official cases of foreigners transferred from Syria to Iraq for trial—juridical guinea pigs in an experimental solution to the problem facing many European countries whose citizens left home to fight for the Islamic State. The Europeans do not want them to return, but the SDF does not have the sovereign power to sentence them, leaving their citizens in limbo.

Saudis Called Khashoggi ‘Sacrificial Animal’ as They Waited to Kill Him

By David D. Kirkpatrick and Nick Cumming-Bruce

Key takeaways from the United Nations report on the killing of Jamal Khashoggi:

• Saudi officials carried out an extensive cover-up of Mr. Khashoggi’s killing in a Saudi consulate in October, scrubbing down rooms, blocking investigators and possibly burning evidence.

• The destruction of evidence and the active role of the Saudi consul general in organizing the operation in coordination with officials in Riyadh suggest that the killing and cover-up were authorized at the highest levels of the Saudi royal court.

• The report presents a new challenge to President Trump, who has embraced the Saudi crown prince, Mohammed Bin Salman, as a pivotal ally and sought to avoid blaming him for directing the killing.

As the killers waited for the victim, the Saudi autopsy specialist reassured them that dismembering the body would “be easy.”