The killing of Terrorist Leader in Yemen Is Latest Blow to Qaeda Affiliate
NYTimes, Feb. 10, 2020For more than a decade, Al Qaeda’s affiliate in Yemen has been one of the most dangerous terrorist organizations on the planet. The group spent years inventing explosives that are difficult to detect, including trying to disguise bombs in devices like cellphones. It has tried at least three times to blow up American airliners, without success.But the White House’s announcement last week that the United States had killed the group’s leader, Qassim al-Rimi — confirming what The New York Times first reported several days earlier — was the latest in a string of setbacks over the past few years that have damaged the group’s ability to orchestrate or carry out operations against the West, American and European counterterrorism specialists say.A flurry of American drone strikes in Yemen in recent years has now killed two successive leaders of the group as well as Ibrahim Hassan al-Asiri, the affiliate’s notorious bomb maker. Clashes with rival Islamic State and Houthi rebel fighters in Yemen have also weakened the group, whose full name is Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. And its once formidable jihadi news media presence has been far surpassed by the Islamic State’s. “AQAP doesn’t seem like the beast it once was,” Edmund Fitton-Brown, a former British ambassador to Yemen who is now a top United Nations counterterrorism official, told a think-tank audience in Washington last week.As the Yemen branch reels from these body blows, other Qaeda affiliates around the world are elbowing their way to prominence. The Shabab, an East African terrorist group affiliated with Al Qaeda, has ramped up attacks in Somalia in recent years, drawing increasing fire from American missile strikes. The group last month assaulted a Kenyan military base housing United States troops, killing three Americans.
American counterterrorism officials have voiced increased alarm about a Qaeda affiliate in Syria, Hurras al-Din, that they say is plotting attacks against the West by exploiting the chaotic security situation in the country’s northwest and the protection inadvertently afforded by Russian air defenses shielding Syrian government forces allied with Moscow.
Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula has dogged President Trump since his first days in office in 2017, when the president authorized an ill-fated raid on Mr. al-Rimi’s hide-out in Yemen that left dead one member of the Navy’s elite SEAL Team 6, Chief Petty Officer William Owens.
Even though the group has been weakened, intelligence and counterterrorism officials warn that the organization remains dangerous. … [To read the full article, click the following LINK – Ed.]
Book Review: After ISIS by Seth Frantzman
BESA, Dec. 18, 2019
Several months before the death of Islamist madman Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, Israeli journalist and scholar Seth Frantzman published his tour de force volume, After ISIS: America, Iran and the Struggle for the Middle East—a thought-provoking and at times heartbreaking narration of a war and its ongoing aftermath.
Does Frantzman believe we are living in an “after ISIS” world? Not exactly.
His book provides a painstakingly researched and carefully documented overview of a modern war. It includes the author’s personal accounts of explosive battle scenes, half-buried mass graves, and hungry, homeless children—scenes he witnessed while deployed with Kurdish Peshmerga fighters.
Here, for example, he describes what he saw in the aftermath of the Yazidi slaughter:
Here in the killing fields of Sinjar, the bones of those killed in 2014 sit on the surface. Human hair pokes through grass that has grown on the bodies. Skull fragments. Bullet casings… A teenager’s soccer jersey that says “Emirates” on it. The clothes people wore when they were murdered are there. The blindfolds they wore could be seen.
The author’s narrative reflects his personal response—anger—and not only at the barbaric killing of untold thousands of Yazidis, Christians, Kurds, and Arabs. He is also angered by the lack of international investigation, or of NGO assistance to the desperate survivors. How could the Western powers, he asks, “with all their technology, all their drones, their EU Parliament and councils of human rights and international criminal courts, do nothing?”
Frantzman provides a sketch of Iraq’s military capabilities (or lack thereof) and includes perspectives of American military officers, some of whom fought in Iraq against Saddam Hussein in 2003-04.
After the 2006 supposed demise of al-Qaeda and the Islamic State of Iraq thanks to the killing of its leader Abu Musab Zarqawi, radicalized foreign fighters made their first major appearance in Iraq. In response, the US deployed more soldiers and increased its assaults.
The Americans’ provision of military equipment was enormous. At the November 2007 peak, US military forces in Iraq numbered 170,300.
President Barack Obama ordered US troops out of Iraq in December 2007. Their withdrawal was completed by December 2011, supposedly bringing an end to the Iraq War. Unfortunately, much of the US military equipment that had been provided to the Iraqi Army fell into the hands of ISIS following their stunning 2014 declaration of the “Caliphate” and subsequent ruinous march across Iraq’s heartland.
In the meantime, as the US and its allies began to fight in earnest against ISIS, the terrorist group was expanding rapidly beyond the Middle East. Frantzman writes, … [To read the full article, click the following LINK – Ed.]
An Ideological Struggle Will Shape Islamism in the Middle East
Financial Times, Jan. 17, 2020
This year may see the resolution of the Middle East’s civil wars. Eight years on, the violent after-effects of the 2011 uprisings in the Arab world still wreak havoc on the populations of Yemen, Syria and Libya. These countries have, inevitably, become arenas where regional powers pursue their respective interests but an end may be in sight — at least in Yemen and Syria. To understand how regional rivalries could play out and affect the polities that will emerge from them, it is important to consider an ideological schism within Islamism, often hidden from view.
The Iran-Saudi rivalry, which, since 2011, has dominated the region and pervaded its wars, can be interpreted in geopolitical and sectarian terms. But these interpretations must be complemented by a third: the ideological clash between two models of Islamism, one top-down and the other bottom-up.
The top-down model is associated with Saudi Arabia, a state run according to a pact between the Saudi monarchy and the Wahhabi clerical establishment since its inception in 1932, and even before, in the proto-states that preceded it. Saudi Arabian politics and society are infused with religion, but it is an Islamism controlled by the regime, which sets the tone and determines the religious content of political institutions, legal precepts and social mores.
The Saudi model is challenged by a bottom-up Islamism powered by mass mobilisation, which comes in a variety of guises. In 1979, the Iranian Revolution quickly took an Islamist turn and attacked the Saudi Wahhabi ideology.
Another variant of the bottom-up model is employed by the Saudi regime’s other adversary, the Muslim Brotherhood, which sees the reformed individual as the stepping stone for the construction of an Islamist society and an Islamic state. According to this model, “the people”, when given the right to express their political preferences freely, will naturally gravitate towards Islam. Brotherhood organisations have come to favour elections in the expectation that voters will propel them to power.
This view, which imagines an intrinsic bond between the people and Islam, is a common thread that links the Muslim Brotherhood (and Brotherhood-inspired organisations) in Egypt, Tunisia, Gaza with Turkey’s Justice and Development party. Each derives legitimacy from popular appeal and arrogates to itself the role of people’s representative. Such claims are also put forward by the Islamic Republic of Iran, the Iran-backed group Hizbollah and their allies.
In thinking about how the struggle at the heart of Islamism will play out in 2019 and shape the future of the region’s politics, we should avoid a number of blind alleys. It is futile, for example, to ask which model is closer to the true Islam — no such thing exists. Both are validated by the texts and traditions of the religion, with the help of pliant religious officials on each side. Asking which model is likely to be more moderate is similarly facile. Neither is inherently so and history shows us that either can lead to extremism and the employment of violent tactics or, equally, to their renunciation.
Neither model is necessarily conducive to liberal democracy, a measure of which will be required in resolving the civil wars of Syria, Yemen and Libya and freeing the Middle East from its present political impasse. The bottom-up model can drive democracy but, by the same token, majoritarianism leads to populist, authoritarian politics. The top-down reformism of the Saudi regime, under Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, has modernised some areas of public life and granted a few rights but only at the sufferance of the regime.
Rival proponents of Islamist ideologies will continue to fight it out but neither side is inherently more favourable to the values of freedom, tolerance and accountability the region badly needs.
The Qatar Papers: How Qatar Charity Inserts itself in European Muslim Affairs
European Eye on Radicalization, Jan. 21, 2020
In 2016, two French journalists Christian Chesnot and Georges Malbrunot received a USB stick containing thousands of files documenting Qatar Charity’s support for a Europe-wide missionary network maintained by the Muslim Brotherhood. The identity of the whistle-blower has never been revealed but in light of the crisis between Qatar and Gulf Cooperation Council countries, state involvement seems likely. The choice of the two journalists was also no coincidence: Chesnot and Malbrunot had authored two highly critical works of Qatar in 2014 and 2016. In the three years following the leak, the two journalists conducted in-depth research into Qatar Charity, resulting in a book and documentary that shed new light on Qatar’s involvement in European Muslim affairs.
Qatar Charity and the Muslim Brotherhood
Qatar Charity poses as an independent NGO, but according to the research of the two French journalists, it is tightly interwoven with the Qatari state and advances its agenda abroad. Qatar’s foreign policy is driven by both ideology — expressed in its strong support for political Islam— and by competition with its regional rivals over influence. In this regard, Qatar has entered a symbiotic relationship with the Muslim Brotherhood which goes back several decades to the period between the mid-1950s and mid-1960s when Brotherhood figures such as Abdul-Badi Saqr and Yusuf al-Qaradawi fled Egypt for the Gulf emirate, infiltrating its bureaucracy and education system. However, while Qatar supports the Muslim Brotherhood abroad through funding and propaganda — via the Qatari media channel Al-Jazeera — it is keen to keep the Brotherhood’s power within its own borders limited.
Qatar Charity is active on a global scale, but its primary focus is on Western countries where it launched a proselytization program called Al-Gaith. The funds invested in this proselytizing effort in Europe are substantial. As of 2014, Qatar had invested about 72 million Euro in 113 projects in Europe. Two years later, Salah Al Hammadi, QC’s Executive Director, claimed that “Qatar Charity had established 138 Islamic centers in Europe, Canada and America which work to introduce the civilization of Islam, encourage dialogue between different peoples and preserve the identity of Muslim communities”.
The Muslim Brotherhood and its network of associations, mosques, and cultural centers seem to be one of the chief benefactors of this investment. Islamic-conservative NGOs such as the European Muslim Union, which vows to spread the wearing of the veil and claims to fight Islamophobia, and activists like Tariq Ramadan, have also received money. This Brotherhood network in Europe has been in the making since the late 1950s. Foreign money has always been one of the drivers of its expansion and in recent years Qatar has become its main sponsor. But what is the goal of this network?… [To read the full article, click the following LINK – Ed.]
For Further Reference:
AQAP Claims “Full Responsibility” for Shooting at Naval Air Station Pensacola: Thomas Joscelyn, FDD, Feb. 2, 2020 — Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) has claimed “full responsibility” for the Dec. 6 shooting at Naval Air Station Pensacola.
Al-Qassam Brigades Releases Message About Israeli Captives: Joe Truzman, FDD, Feb. 7, 2020 — On Wednesday, the spokesperson for the military wing of Hamas stated that Israelis in their captivity were injured during airstrikes conducted by Israel’s Air Force.
Can Muslim Terrorists be Deradicalized? – Part I: Denis MacEoin, Gatestone, Feb. 5, 2020 — On Friday November 29, 2019, an Islamist terror attack took place in London.
Islamic State Group Claims Responsibility for South London Attack: France 24, Feb. 3, 2020 — “The attacker in the Streatham area in south London yesterday is an IS fighter, and he carried out the attack in response to a call to target nationals” of countries belonging to the global anti-IS coalition, the IS group’s propaganda arm said in a statement released through the Telegram messaging application.
Most Wanted Female Terrorist Lives in Freedom in Jordan Despite Extradition Request for Bombing that Killed Americans: Hollie McKay Fox News, Jan. 29, 2020 — Ahlam Ahmad al-Tamimi is the most wanted woman in the world, with a $5 million bounty for information that leads to her arrest or conviction.