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

26 August 2019

Mohammed bin Salman’s Collapsing Coalition in Yemen Means Trouble for Trump

By Alexandra Stark

Growing tensions between long-standing allies Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates could lead to southern secession in Yemen and harm the White House’s pressure campaign on Iran.

On Aug. 7, fighting broke out in Yemen’s de facto capital, the port city of Aden. The battle pitted the Southern Transitional Council (STC), a coalition of secessionist militia forces that has been supported and trained by the United Arab Emirates, against the internationally recognized government of President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, which is backed by Saudi Arabia.

The dispute brings to light long-subsumed tensions between Emirati and Saudi objectives in Yemen. This in turn has exposed a broader rift between the regional policy approaches of these two key U.S. security partners, which could enmesh Washington in yet another regional dispute and complicate the Trump administration’s stance on Iran.

While Saudi and Emirati leaders have tried to play down the rift, the recent fighting in Aden demonstrates that Saudi and Emirati approaches to the Yemen conflict have differed since the beginning of the coalition’s intervention in Yemen’s civil war, in March 2015. Saudi Arabia’s overriding priority is securing its southern border against the Houthis, who have received support from Saudi Arabia’s regional rival, Iran. It has therefore focused its efforts on fighting the Houthis in the north and supported the Hadi government as the sole governing entity deserving of international recognition.

Return and Expand?

PDF file 1.2 MB 

With the end of its territorial caliphate, the Islamic State will almost certainly attempt a comeback. Such efforts will require money. The authors examine the group's history as an insurgency and a self-styled caliphate, drawing from the literature, the group's documents, and interviews with individuals who lived under the caliphate, with a focus on how the group has financed itself. The Islamic State has prided itself on drawing from local funding sources rather than external donations. As a territorial caliphate, it could openly levy taxes and fees and sell oil from fields it controlled to cover its expenses. Now that it can no longer rely on such sources, the group will go with activities that it has used successfully in the past, as an insurgency. Criminal activities will prove useful, with its members seeking to extort, kidnap, steal, smuggle, and traffic to obtain the money they need to finance the group's activities. On top of this, the Islamic State likely has detailed information on the population it once ruled, and it appears to have sizable assets in reserve. As an insurgency, rather than a territorial government, its expenses are far lower than they were at the peak of its power. Accordingly, the United States will need to stay involved with counter–Islamic State activities across several lines of effort, including counterfinance and potentially including military action.

Defining and Understanding the Next Generation of Salafi-Jihadis

PDF file 0.2 MB 

As the first members of Generation Z, or Gen Z (those born between 1997 and 2012), enter adulthood, how might Salafi-jihadism manifest differently in Gen Z than in previous generations? How will the political upheavals of the Middle East, socioeconomic trends throughout the Muslim world, and rising digital connectivity affect susceptibility to radicalization in Gen Z?

In this Perspective, the authors explore the unique characteristics and expected drivers of Salafi-jihadism in Gen Z, elucidate potential threats and challenges from the next generation of Salafi-jihadis, and put forward recommendations for counter violent extremism programming to address the future threat. A review of the literature suggests that many of the overarching factors that drove past generations of Salafi-jihadis will remain salient in the coming generational cohort, although the manifestations of these factors will vary across localities. However, Gen Z's unprecedented familiarity with and connection to the internet and modern technology differentiate these members from previous Salafi-jihadis and portend an adaptive, tech-savvy future terrorist threat.

25 August 2019

ISIS vs. Al Qaeda: What Lies in the Future of Global Jihadism?

by Colin P. Clarke

The fallout from the split between the Islamic State and Al Qaeda has led to a competition viewed by both sides as zero sum in nature, where progress by one of these groups signaled a loss for the other.

The fall-out from the split between IS and al-Qaeda has led to a competition viewed by both sides as zero sum in nature, where progress by one of these groups signaled a loss for the other. One of the primary drivers of such a heated competition is that, in many ways, the ideology and objectives of the group are so similar. The Islamic State reverted to extreme levels of violence as one method of differentiating itself from its rivals, including al-Qaeda. Both groups are attempting to recruit from the same milieus and influence similar constituencies. The main differences are that IS sought to create a caliphate on a timeline considered premature by al-Qaeda, and IS pursued a far more sectarian agenda in attempting to achieve this objective. Whether and how these differences are ever resolved will have a major impact on the future of the movement writ large.

The Mark of a Terrorist Is Behavior, Not Ideology

By Scott Stewart
Terrorism is a tactic used by radical extremists of many different ideologies, which means there is no fixed ethnic, religious or gender profile for what a "terrorist" looks like. But while their motives may vary, all would-be attackers are still bound to generally follow the same attack cycle. Thus, tactics used to disrupt terrorism of one strain can also be successfully used against others. Combating terrorism, however, is not just the responsibility of the government but of society at large. "See something, say something" works, which is why the public must be educated on how to spot activities associated with the terrorist attack cycle. 

The Las Vegas Joint Terrorism Task Force arrested a 23-year-old man Aug. 8 who was allegedly plotting to attack Jewish houses of worship and bars frequented by the LGBTQ community in the city. In 2017, he began to frequent websites peddling a narrative that people who shared his extremist views were under attack. And as he began to relate to that narrative, he started frequenting online forums and social media groups that peddled even more radical messages that contained urgent and overt calls for violence. This eventually mobilized him to gather bombmaking materials and firearms, as well as establish contact with like-minded individuals to discuss potential targets and attack tactics. But little did he know that the co-conspirators he thought were his allies were actually undercover FBI agents who had been monitoring his online activity.

The Big Picture

‘Desperate Need For Speed’ As Army Takes On Chinese, Russian, ISIS Info Ops

By SYDNEY J. FREEDBERG JR

TECHNET AUGUSTA: The Army wants to expand its fledgling cyber branch into an information warfare force that can do everything from jamming insurgent radio stations to fighting Chinese cyber espionage and protecting US elections from online subversion.

It’s a tremendous task, even within the Army — and the implications of information operations go far beyond the military, touching sensitivities central to a democracy. At a minimum, the service’s new strategy requires:

Reorganizing Army Cyber Command into an Information Warfare Command, at the same time as it relocates its HQ from Fort Belvoir outside DC to Fort Gordon, South Carolina, just 10 miles from here.

24 August 2019

Terrorism and Technology: The Front End

Mark D. Robinson and Cori E. Dauber

Despite the fact that there is a robust conversation regarding “terrorism and technology,” that discussion is – as near as we can tell – uniformly about the back end, that is to say exclusively addressing the dissemination of what terrorists have already produced. We have found virtually nothing in the popular press[i] and nothing at all in the academic literature about the technology involved in the production of the materials that are being distributed.[ii]But the technologies available to support content production have changed dramatically in the last few years, and those changes have had major consequences, not only for terrorist groups’ ability to distribute materials, but also for the propaganda quality, and indeed for the very nature of these materials. Yet the literature presumes that the propaganda terrorists post to social media is of some consequence, otherwise there would be no reason to discuss the material.

Likewise, this assumption drives the search for appropriate government or inter-governmental responses to the problem.

ISIS Is Regaining Strength in Iraq and Syria

By Eric Schmitt, Alissa J. Rubin and Thomas Gibbons-Neff

WASHINGTON — Five months after American-backed forces ousted the Islamic State from its last shard of territory in Syria, the terrorist group is gathering new strength, conducting guerrilla attacks across Iraq and Syria, retooling its financial networks and targeting new recruits at an allied-run tent camp, American and Iraqi military and intelligence officers said.

Though President Trump hailed a total defeat of the Islamic State this year, defense officials in the region see things differently, acknowledging that what remains of the terrorist group is here to stay.

A recent inspector general’s report warned that a drawdown this year from 2,000 American forces in Syria to less than half of that, ordered by Mr. Trump, has meant the American military has had to cut back support for Syrian partner forces fighting ISIS. For now, American and international forces can only try to ensure that ISIS remains contained and away from urban areas.

23 August 2019

ISIS'S SECOND COMEBACK: ASSESSING THE NEXT ISIS INSURGENCY

By Jennifer Cafarella with Brandon Wallace and Jason Zhou
Source Link

The Islamic State of Iraq and Al-Sham (ISIS) is not defeated despite the loss of the territory it claimed as its so-called ‘Caliphate’ in Iraq and Syria. It is stronger today than its predecessor Al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) was in 2011, when the U.S. withdrew from Iraq. AQI had around 700-1000 fighters then. ISIS had as many as 30,000 fighters in Iraq and Syria in August 2018 according to a Defense Intelligence Agency estimate. ISIS built from the small remnant left in 2011 an army large enough to recapture Fallujah, Mosul, and other cities in Iraq and dominate much of eastern Syria in only three years. It will recover much faster and to a much more dangerous level from the far larger force it still has today.

[Download the full report here.]

Insurgents and the Flip Side of Special Operations


This article reflects the personal views of the authors and does not reflect the views of the U.S. Navy or the U.S. Government.

While the Islamic State’s physical caliphate is no more, it is clear that the group has successfully transitioned back to a uniform insurgency contesting for influence in areas of Syria and Iraq. Certainly, its far-flung affiliates in Asia and Africa believe in the sustainability of the brand, foregoing an opportunity to drop their allegiance to a “guerrilla caliph” and instead renewing their pledges. Efforts to gauge the possibility of an Islamic State comeback “After the Caliphate” would be wise to consult its previous rise to power before 2014, a period that is understudied and widely misunderstood—despite the fact that the Islamic State has regularly published on its insurgency doctrine and noted its pre-caliphate roots. As part of a larger investigation of how the group gained its caliphate, we recently published an article titled “Black Ops: Islamic State Innovation in Irregular Warfare” (Studies in Conflict and Terrorism) that investigates the evolution of a sophisticated style of insurgency that experimented with the use of special operations. Below, we summarize our results for the policy community and present the findings for those interested in how militant tactics and strategies are evolving.

Yemeni separatists extend control in south, Saudi-led forces strike capital


ADEN (Reuters) - Southern separatists seized most Yemeni government security and military bases near the port of Aden on Tuesday after clashes between nominal allies that have complicated U.N. peace efforts, residents and officials said.

The separatists and the Yemeni government are both part of a Saudi-led military coalition battling the Iran-aligned Houthi movement, which took over the capital Sanaa in the north and most major cities in 2014.

But the separatists broke with the government when they seized its temporary base of Aden on Aug. 10.

On Tuesday, they took over military police, special forces and military brigades camps in Zinjibar, around 60 km (40 miles) east of Aden in Abyan province, local officials said.

This effectively put control of the Abyan capital in the hands of the United Arab Emirates-backed separatists, who seek self-rule in the south, and further weakened the government of Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, who resides in the Saudi capital Riyadh.

The Saudi-led military coalition, which backs Hadi, carried out air strikes on Zinjibar, two sources including a local official said.

21 August 2019

A Battle for Supremacy in the Middle East


The struggle between Iran and Saudi Arabia for dominance in the Middle East has insinuated itself into nearly every regional issue, fracturing international alliances and sustaining wars across the region, while raising fears of a direct conflict between the two powers. 

Saudi Arabia has ramped up its regional adventurism since Mohammed bin Salman, the powerful son of King Salman, was appointed crown prince in 2017. And it has cracked down on its opponents, including the brutal murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. That appears to have had little effect on the crown prince’s increasingly close ties to the Trump administration, though. Determined to undermine the Iranian regime, Washington has pulled out of the nuclear deal with Tehran and, more recently, used its economic might to block five countries from continuing to purchase Iranian oil. 

20 August 2019

Israel’s Massive Self-Own

Daniel Shapiro
Source Link

You don’t expect logic and reason to rule the day when it comes to the Middle East. But every now and then, in a limited way, you get lucky. In July, an overwhelming bipartisan majority of the House of Representatives voted to affirm the traditional tenets of U.S. policy toward Israel: opposing attacks on Israel’s legitimacy, as articulated by the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement, and supporting a two-state solution to allow Israelis and Palestinians to live in peace, security, and dignity—notwithstanding opposition to various elements of the resolution from the Trump administration, the Israeli government, and the Palestinian Authority.

This month, large delegations of members of Congress from both parties visited Israel and met with Israeli and Palestinian leaders, expressing support and asking hard questions, as allies do with one another.

Unveiling the Role of Women in Jihadist Groups

By: Sudha Ramachandran

On July 21, two back-to-back terror attacks rocked Dera Ismail Khan in Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. The first was carried out by two unidentified gunmen, who opened fire at a checkpoint at Kotla Saidan, killing two policemen. Soon after, a suicide bomber struck a hospital to which the victims of the Kotla Saidan attack were rushed. According to local officials, the suicide bomber was a 28-year-old burqa-clad woman. She was reportedly strapped with 7-8 kilograms of explosives packed with nails and ball-bearings, which she detonated near a crowd of people who were bringing in the injured and dead to an ambulance. The suicide bombing resulted in the death of four policemen and three civilians visiting relatives at the hospital. Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), which is opposed to the Pakistani state and is based largely in areas along the Afghan-Pakistani border, claimed responsibility for the attack, describing it as revenge for the killing of two TTP commanders by police a month earlier. However, it denied that the suicide bomber was a woman (The Nation, July 22).

19 August 2019

New eBook out by Robert J. Bunker and Pamela Ligouri Bunker, The Islamic State English-Language Online Magazine Rumiyah (Rome): Research Guide, Narrative & Threat Analysis and U.S. Policy Response


The work is divided into an introduction to this subject matter, the placing of Rumiyah in context with an overview of the magazine and the new Islamic State eBooks promoted within it, a comparative analysis of the themes and narratives found within each issue focusing on the topical areas of end state, enemy, recruitment, and TTPs (generalized), and a selected study of IS attacks directed against the West and their interrelationship to Rumiyah. It also provides a discussion of the ‘Just Terror’ tactics promoted in the magazine, and provides U.S. governmental recommendations to counter and mitigate the production and distribution of the magazine as well as its effects upon its readership and the violent outcomes expressed in terrorist actions. A comprehensive glossary of Arabic terms and jargon utilized in the magazine—which provides for a better understanding of Islamic State worldviews and also for deeper understanding of the individual magazine issues when independently read—is also included at the end of this text.

Terrorism and Technology: The Front End

Mark D. Robinson and Cori E. Dauber
Despite the fact that there is a robust conversation regarding “terrorism and technology,” that discussion is – as near as we can tell – uniformly about the back end, that is to say exclusively addressing the dissemination of what terrorists have already produced. We have found virtually nothing in the popular press[i] and nothing at all in the academic literature about the technology involved in the production of the materials that are being distributed.[ii]But the technologies available to support content production have changed dramatically in the last few years, and those changes have had major consequences, not only for terrorist groups’ ability to distribute materials, but also for the propaganda quality, and indeed for the very nature of these materials. Yet the literature presumes that the propaganda terrorists post to social media is of some consequence, otherwise there would be no reason to discuss the material.

Likewise, this assumption drives the search for appropriate government or inter-governmental responses to the problem.

18 August 2019

Insurgents And The Flip Side Of Special Operations – Analysis

By Ian Rice*
(FPRI) — While the Islamic State’s physical caliphate is no more, it is clear that the group has successfully transitioned back to a uniform insurgency contesting for influence in areas of Syria and Iraq. Certainly, its far-flung affiliates in Asia and Africa believe in the sustainability of the brand, foregoing an opportunity to drop their allegiance to a “guerrilla caliph” and instead renewing their pledges. Efforts to gauge the possibility of an Islamic State comeback “After the Caliphate” would be wise to consult its previous rise to power before 2014, a period that is understudied and widely misunderstood—despite the fact that the Islamic State has regularly published on its insurgency doctrine and noted its pre-caliphate roots. As part of a larger investigation of how the group gained its caliphate, we recently published an article titled “Black Ops: Islamic State Innovation in Irregular Warfare” (Studies in Conflict and Terrorism) that investigates the evolution of a sophisticated style of insurgency that experimented with the use of special operations. Below, we summarize our results for the policy community and present the findings for those interested in how militant tactics and strategies are evolving.

Why would insurgents develop a special operations capability, and what exactly does that look like? In an era where state militaries rely on well-resourced special operations forces and use them at an unprecedented rate, little attention has been paid to militant development of a parallel capability. Much of this neglect is compounded by the fact that insurgent operations are often clandestine in nature, a mix of terror and guerilla tactics, and vary by village, region, and country. Sorting through this complexity to find examples of special operations is a difficult task and requires a great deal of conceptual sorting. Our research into Islamic State of Iraq/Islamic State of Iraq and Sham (a.k.a. ISIS) claims and documents from 2006-2014 revealed three anomalous operations that we felt qualified as special operations.

What Makes Special Operations, Special? 

16 August 2019

Stop the Slaughter of Our Children With These Weapons of War

BY MIKE MULLEN

Assault weapons are designed to kill as many people as possible in the shortest time possible. They are for war; they are not for sport.

Since the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in which 20 of our first graders were slaughtered with an AR-15-style rifle, I have pondered despairingly how long it would take for America to put an end to the killing generated by these weapons of war. I very briefly had hope that the massacre of our little ones would bring us to our senses, spurring Congress to pass commonsense legislation, including universal background checks and a ban on assault weapons—those massively lethal weapons of mass destruction.

I spent my entire professional life taking up arms in defense of our country, serving in wars from Vietnam to Afghanistan, and ending my service as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. During the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan I saw how our ground forces and special forces sought to improve the precision and lethality of their weapons, which took enemy lives and saved their own. Such is the nature of war.

A Tiananmen Solution in Hong Kong?

MINXIN PEI

WASHINGTON, DC – The crisis in Hong Kong appears to be careening toward a devastating climax. With China’s government now using rhetoric reminiscent of that which preceded the Tiananmen Square massacre in June 1989, Hong Kong’s pro-democracy protesters – and, indeed, its democracy – could well be in grave danger.

For more than two months, Hong Kong has been beset by protests. Triggered by a proposed law to allow the extradition of criminal suspects to mainland China, the demonstrations have since developed into broader calls to safeguard – or, perhaps more accurately, restore – the semi-autonomous territory’s democracy, including by strengthening state (especially police) accountability.

As the unrest drags on, the Chinese government’s patience is wearing thin – and its warnings are growing more ominous. The People’s Liberation Army (PLA) garrison in Hong Kong is, in the words of its commander Chen Daoxiang, “determined to protect national sovereignty, security, stability, and the prosperity of Hong Kong.” To drive the point home, a promotional video showing Chinese military officers in action was released along with the statement.

15 August 2019

ISIS: Forgotten But Not Gone

Megan O'Dwyer

Despite complete territory loss in recent months, ISIS still has plenty of life left, and its predecessors have recovered from far more difficult situations in the past. ISIS has more manpower, money, and reliable networks than it ever had before it began controlling territory. Considering how successful the group became with less resources, its current status should still be very worrisome. Combine these factors with diminishing interest from policymakers,impending critical infrastructure shortages in Iraq, inadequate reconstruction funds to Sunni-dominated areas, and ISIS’s history of co-opting civil unrest, and suddenly an ISIS resurgence doesn’t seem so far-fetched.

The group originally emerged as al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) in 2003 after capitalizing on sectarian tensions and conflict brought on by the U.S invasion. However, a series of AQI bombings in 2005 targeting civilian Muslims alienated its key demographic, and the U.S.-funded Awakening Movement — an initiative which armed Sunni tribes frustrated with AQI’s brutal tactics and attempts to govern — nearly destroyed the group in the late 2000s. Despite near annihilation and a fraction of the support that the group has today, AQI reemerged as the Islamic State (IS) with shocking success in 2014.

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