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

16 February 2019

Undefeated, ISIS Is Back in Iraq

Aziz Ahmad

Erbil, Iraq—Inside a prison in the Kurdistan region of Iraq, vanquished Islamic State fighters who once swept through much of the country now mill about sullenly on a bare, tiled floor, reflecting on a cause they insist will endure. Many spend hours in fierce debate, apparently undeterred by their movement’s apparent military defeat. Their cause, they say, remains divinely ordained. Their capture incidental. “Hathi iradet Allah,” they say. This is God’s will.

A Kurdish guard called for a captive, whom I will call Abu Samya—a brooding Baghdad resident kidnapped first by the Islamic State’s forerunner group, al-Qaeda in Iraq, and later by Shia death squads as sectarian lines hardened in 2006–2007. As he walked toward the guard, some fellow captives condemned him as “kha’in,” or traitor. Outside the walls, long before the caliphate crumbled, that charge carried a death penalty. The jaded jihadist shrugged it off.

The Strategy the U.S. Should Pursue in Iraq

By Anthony H. Cordesman

The future security and stability of Iraq is a vital United States national security interest. Iraq is a critical component to any kind of stability in the Gulf and to the secure flow of petroleum to the global economy. It is a key to containing Iranian influence, and enhancing the security of our Arab security partners and Israel. It is a key to countering the image that the United States invaded Iraq for the wrong reasons in 2003 and left it weak, divided, and unstable. And, Iraq is a key to countering the increasing fears on the part of our regional security partners that the U.S. is leaving or reducing its security role in the Gulf.

The U.S. cannot afford to leave a power vacuum in Iraq. It must deal with Iraq's remaining security problems and military weaknesses, and deal with its grave political divisions, problems in governance, and years without effective economic growth and development. At the same time, the U.S. needs to recognize that it faces very real rivals for influence in Iraq, and a nation that has a long and strong history of nationalism and sensitivity to foreign pressure – despite its deep sectarian and ethnic divisions

Ghani Suggests ‘Grand Consultative Jirga’ For Peace

President Ashraf Ghani on Monday called for a grand consultative Jirga, a traditional assembly, on the peace process in the country amid Washington’s marathon diplomatic efforts to facilitate direct talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban who has been fighting against Afghan and foreign forces over the past 18 years. 

Addressing the “National Consultative Meeting on Peace” at the Presidential Palace on Monday, Ghani said the decision to hold a Jirga has been made on the advice of delegates of today’s conference to help “dignified” peace in the country.

“At the Jirga, people will hold discussions on the nature of the peace talks and the post-peace government in Afghanistan,” said Ghani. 

The Fall of the Shah: 40 Years Later

By George Friedman 

Yesterday, on the 40th anniversary of the Iranian Revolution, we published an articleexplaining what the revolution can teach us about the economic and political problems facing Iran now. Today, I’d like to focus on the geopolitical implications of the revolution that saw the overthrow of the Shah of Iran, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, and the rise of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. It was a formidable time for the country, but the existing geopolitics of the region remained largely intact.

Most observers didn’t expect the shah to fall, although many claimed afterward that they had predicted it. The shah, who was essentially installed by the United States and Britain, was used as a bulwark of the American containment strategy. He unseated democratically elected Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadegh, who the U.S. feared was aligned with the Soviets, and helped to block Soviet access to the Persian Gulf. He claimed to be the heir to the Iranian monarchy, but in reality, he sat on the throne because of a coup staged in 1925 by his father, Reza Shah Pahlavi, a military officer who himself had no connections to the long line of Persian monarchs.

15 February 2019

The Salafi-Jihadist Movement Is Winning

By Katherine Zimmerman

U.S. President Donald Trump crowed victory over the so-called Islamic State in his State of the Union Address. Like so many before it, his claim was premature. The United States and its partners have indeed reduced the Islamic State’s control of territory to about 20 square miles in Syria, down from the more than 35,000 square miles the group controlled at the peak of its expansion. The Islamic State’s black flag no longer flies over land it governs. Meanwhile here in America, homegrown terrorist attacks seem to be tapering off, and neither al Qaeda nor the Islamic State has pulled off another 9/11-style attack. Many observers, including the president, look at these outcomes and deem the terrorist threat finished -- but our enemies take a different view. They think they’re winning, and they are right.

Al Qaeda, the Islamic State, Boko Haram, the Taliban, and many similar groups define success as being accepted or at least tolerated by Sunni populations. These groups are part of the global Salafi-jihadist movement andbelieve they must impose a form of Islam, Salafism, upon the Muslim world, and eventually the entire world, through jihad. The number of Sunni under their governance has always been their principal metric of success.

14 February 2019

Islamic State-Inspired Extremist Threat Looms Large in India

By: Animesh Roul

Despite massive territorial losses and military setbacks in the Middle East, the violent ideals espoused by Islamic State (IS) remain resilient and seem to be resonating in the hearts and minds of a section of inspired Indian Muslims. After a brief lull in IS-inspired or directed events in the country, Indian security agencies have unearthed multiple covert pro-IS networks, foiling conspiracies to carry out terrorist attacks targeting vital and sensitive installations and sites in and around the national capital, New Delhi, and places in Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra States.

In late December 2018, the National Investigation Agency (NIA)—India’s elite anti-terrorism agency—conducted a major joint operation with Delhi and Uttar Pradesh police to crack down on pro-IS activities in the country. During the operation, authorities arrested at least 10 people belonging to an IS-inspired group called Harkat-ul-Harb-e-Islam (HuHI). The ring leader of the HuHI was identified as Muhammed Suhail (a.k.a. Hazrath), a native of Amroha city in Uttar Pradesh where he is engaged as a mufti (Islamic jurist) in a madrasa located at Hakim Mahtab Uddin Hashmi Road (, December 26, 2018).

From Rogue to Regular


Successive U.S. administrations have since the 1980s consistently called Iran out as a rogue state, bashing Tehran over its support of militant groups, its violations of human rights, and its pursuit of nuclear-related technologies. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has reinforced this position in several policy pronouncements in which he has called on Iran to be a “normal” state. But what exactly is a normal state in today’s international order?

The behaviors Iran needs to abandon to become normal in Washington’s eyes are indeed problematic. But these behaviors are commonly practiced by other nations that U.S. administrations tend to perceive as completely ordinary.

The Iranian government’s practice of hostage-taking after the 1979 revolution was the root cause of Iran’s pariah status during the Ronald Reagan years. These days, Iran’s reputation as a rogue state is usually linked to its regional and domestic policies—in particular, its support for nonstate actors such as Hezbollah and human rights abuses at home. However, a review of Washington’s behavior suggests that the United States would have likely overlooked many of Iran’s unsavory actions—as it did under the Shah before 1979—had Tehran not been defying the international order and challenging U.S. interests in the Middle East.

The Crisis of Peacekeeping

By Séverine Autesserre

In nearly 50 conflict zones around the world, some one and a half billion people live under the threat of violence. In many of these places, the primary enforcers of order are not police officers or government soldiers but the blue-helmeted troops of the United Nations. With more than 78,000 soldiers and 25,000 civilians scattered across 14 countries, UN peacekeepers make up the second-largest military force deployed abroad, after the U.S. military.

The ambition of their task is immense. From Haiti to Mali, from Kosovo to South Sudan, UN peacekeepers are invited into war-torn countries and charged with maintaining peace and security. In most cases, that means nothing less than transforming states and societies. Peacekeepers set out to protect civilians, train police forces, disarm militias, monitor human rights abuses, organize elections, provide emergency relief, rebuild court systems, inspect prisons, and promote gender equality. And they attempt all of that in places where enduring chaos has defied easy solution; otherwise, they wouldn’t be there to begin with.

13 February 2019

What Really Happened in Iran

By Ray Takeyh

Back in 2009, during his heavily promoted Cairo speech on American relations with the Muslim world, U.S. President Barack Obama noted, in passing, that “in the middle of the Cold War, the United States played a role in the overthrow of a democratically elected Iranian government.” Obama was referring to the 1953 coup that toppled Iranian Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddeq and consolidated the rule of the shah, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi. Obama would go on to remind his audience that Iran had also committed its share of misdeeds against Americans. But he clearly intended his allusion to Washington’s role in the coup as a concession -- a public acknowledgment that the United States shared some of the blame for its long-simmering conflict with the Islamic Republic.

Yet there was a supreme irony to Obama’s concession. The history of the U.S. role in Iran’s 1953 coup may be “well known,” as the president declared in his speech, but it is not well founded. On the contrary, it rests heavily on two related myths: that machinations by the CIA were the most important factor in Mosaddeq’s downfall and that Iran’s brief democratic interlude was spoiled primarily by American and British meddling. For decades, historians, journalists, and pundits have promoted these myths, injecting them not just into the political discourse but also into popular culture: most recently, Argo, a Hollywood thriller that won the 2013 Academy Award for Best Picture, suggested that Iran’s 1979 Islamic Revolution was a belated response to an injustice perpetrated by the United States a quarter century earlier. That version of events has also been promoted by Iran’s theocratic leaders, who have exploited it to stoke anti-Americanism and to obscure the fact that the clergy itself played a major role in toppling Mosaddeq.

12 February 2019

After the caliphate: Has IS been defeated?

President Donald Trump expects to announce soon that the United States and its partners have reclaimed the last pocket of territory in Syria controlled by the jihadist group Islamic State, bringing a formal end to the "caliphate" it proclaimed in 2014.

IS once controlled 88,000 sq km (34,000 sq miles) of territory stretching from western Syria to eastern Iraq, imposed its brutal rule on almost eight million people, and generated billions of dollars in revenue from oil, extortion, robbery and kidnapping.

Now, between 1,000 and 1,500 militants are believed to be left in a 50 sq km (20 sq mile) area in the Middle Euphrates River Valley, near Syria's border with Iraq, which is under attack by fighters from the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) alliance.

10 February 2019

How U.S. Mission Creep in Syria and Iraq Could Trigger War With Iran

An incident in Syria two years ago involving the transport of an Iranian port-a-pottynearly led to a confrontation between American and Iranian forces, underscoring just how quickly even minor events could escalate there.

The episode, told here for the first time, is particularly instructive as the Trump administration signals it might leave behind a small force in both Syria and Iraq to monitor Iranian activities.

Some analysts and U.S. officials believe that the change of mission for those forces could raise the chances of a war between the United States and Iran—and that it may even be illegal under the U.S. Constitution.

9 February 2019

Why do we still use the term Middle East when West Asia is more relevant to Arab nations?

Neuroscientists and linguists have demonstrated that the language we speak and the words we use shape how we think. Terminology certainly matters in geopolitics as well, conditioning how we view entire regions of the world. Crucially, our geographic vocabulary evolves to suit the times. The Cold War, for example, was often referred to as the “East-West conflict” but today nobody thinks of Russia as representative of the “East” – when it is China that is clearly the eastern superpower. Unfortunately, when it comes to the Arab, Turkic and Persian realms, the catch-all term “Middle East” continues to hold sway among English speakers. Subsuming any of the geographic distinctions and nuance contained in the Arabic terms Maghreb, Khaleej and Mashriq, the vague “Middle East” continues to represent so much –even as it increasingly means nothing at all. Isn’t it time for our vocabulary to adapt to reality?

7 February 2019

IRGC-led Afghan, Pakistani militias criticize US terror designation, stop short of direct threats BY AMIR TOUMAJ | February 1, 2019 | | @AmirToumaj


US Treasury on January 24 designated the Afghan Fatemiyoun Division and the Pakistani Zeynabiyoun Brigade, which are led by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), pursuant to counter-terrorism and human-rights-abuses designations. Treasury also designated a commercial airline that ferries weapons to Syria. Criticizing the US, the Shiite-Islamist militias emphasized that they are part of the IRGC-led transnational militant network, pledged to keep fighting, but stopped short of directly threatening the US.

On January 26, IRGC-linked news agencies circulated the reaction of the Fatemiyoun Division, followedby the Zeynabiyoun Brigade four days later. Rejecting the terrorism charge, the Fatemiyoun accused the US of supporting “terrorist” groups including the Islamic State, and vowed to continue its fight until uprooting “terrorism” and the “destruction” of Israel. The Zeynabiyoun promised that the terror designation would “strengthen the unity of the Islamic front.”

6 February 2019

ISIS could reclaim territory in months without military pressure, warns Pentagon in draft report

By Courtney Kube, Josh Lederman and Carol E. Lee

WASHINGTON — A draft Pentagon report warns that without continued pressure, ISIS could regain territory in six to 12 months, according to two U.S. officials familiar with the draft.

The finding is in a draft of the Department of Defense Inspector General Quarterly Report about Operation Inherent Resolve that is expected to be released early next week. The report draws on information from the U.S. military, U.S. government agencies, and open source reports.

The draft says ISIS is intent on reconstituting a physical caliphateand that with ungoverned spaces in Syria and no military pressure, the terror group could retake land in a matter of months, according to the officials familiar with the report.

The report covers the three months from Oct. 1 to Dec. 31, 2018. President Donald Trump announced on Dec. 19 that the U.S. military would be leaving Syria.

Why Saudi Arabia Joining CPEC Matters

By Sabena Siddiqui

From the beginning, the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) has been a strictly bilateral project between Pakistan and China. Even though other countries have been invited to join in at various times, control of the project remained with the original partners. According to the contracts, other countries can join CPEC-related projects but the policymaking and implementation is to remain a bilateral arrangement between China and Pakistan.

In the past, Pakistan had invited both Iran and the United States to join CPEC as well, so in that sense inviting Saudi Arabia is nothing new

Becoming an important stakeholder in the Pakistani seaport of Gwadar in the province of Balochistan, Saudi Arabia has long-term plans that also carry geopolitical implications for the region as it embarks on this new foreign policy.

4 February 2019

ODNI Releases Annual Overview of Islamic State and Al Qaeda Networks

By Thomas Joscelyn

The ODNI’s map highlights the Islamic State’s and al Qaeda’s global footprint, though the jihadists are not a major force in some of the countries depicted. The ODNI’s map recognizes the presence of Al Qaeda’s senior leadership (AQSL) in Iran.

The Office of Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) released its annual “Worldwide Threat Assessment” today. The written statement accompanied oral testimony given by Director Daniel Coats to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.

The Arab League Mulls Whether to Readmit al Assad's Syria

Readmitting Syria to the Arab League would mark the first normalization of high-level ties with Damascus since other countries in the organization turned against Bashar al Assad's government in 2011.
Faced with the reality that their strategies to counter Damascus in the civil war have failed, some powerful Arab states are warming up to the idea that working against Syria is no longer as strategic an option as working with the country. 

The Arab League's reinstatement of Syria would not immediately pave the way for the rest of the world to welcome Damascus back into the international fold, but it would mark a first step in the lengthy process of enabling others to do business with al Assad's government. 

2 February 2019

Islamic State 2019: An Assessment

Joseph V. Micalle

It was roughly a year ago that the Iraqi government of Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi announced the defeat of the Islamic State (IS) in Iraq by declaring that, "our heroic armed forces have now secured the entire length of the Iraq-Syria border." U.S. officials, while more circumspect, echoed similar sentiments. Former Secretary of Defense James Mattis, declared, "we sit here today at the end of 2017, the caliphate is on the run, we're breaking them."

A year later, despite continued progress in rolling back the last remnants of the territorial domain of Islamic State, the final defeat of IS seems less certain. Despite statements from the Trump White House that the Islamic State has been "obliterated," and is in in "its final throes," IS continues to show remarkable resiliency.

1 February 2019

Is Trump baiting Iran into an armed confrontation?

by Ted Regencia

With US President Donald Trump's top diplomat ramping up his campaign to confront Iran's "malevolent influence" in the Middle East, and his top national security adviser reportedly seeking military options to attack the Islamic Republic, Iranobservers are warning the US may be provoking Tehran into an armed conflict that could quickly spread to the whole region.

Sina Toossi, a Washington, DC-based security and nuclear policy analyst, said the Trump administration's Iran policy now "seems firmly under the control of hardliners" such as US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and National Security Adviser John Bolton, both of whom had previously advocated regime change in Iran.

The Strategy Washington Is Pursuing in the Middle East Is the Only Strategy Worth Pursuing


President Trump’s surprise December 19 announcement of an immediate withdrawal of American forces from Syria hit some Israelis like a sucker punch. “With this withdrawal, the United States abandons Syria and leaves Israel alone,” said Yaakov Amidror, a former national-security adviser to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. While conceding that “the effect of the U.S. decision is primarily psychological and diplomatic,” Amidror continued: “In those arenas, this is a very significant decision.” Subsequent reports to the effect that the drawdown of forces will be slower than originally announced and coordinated with America’s allies have softened the blow, but the shock still remains.

In retrospect, the announcement shouldn’t have come as a surprise. After all, Trump has never hidden his conviction that extended military operations in the Middle East are futile. He campaigned on the theme in 2016 and then returned to it last April. The United States, he declared then, had “spent $7 trillion in the Middle East in the last seven years. We get nothing out of it, nothing.” To this general observation, he added a specific promise: “We’ll be coming out of Syria . . . very soon. Let the other people take care of it now.”