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

24 April 2018

THE EVOLUTION OF ONLINE TERRORIST PROPAGANDA


Europol hosted the second conference of the European Counter Terrorism Centre Advisory Group to present and discuss new strategies against online terrorist propaganda and radicalisation. Terrorist propaganda constantly shifts on to new and diverse platforms and the quantity of information exchanged, either publicly or in private spaces, is increasing. In order to face these evolving threats, Europol hosted the second conference of the European Counter Terrorism Centre Advisory Group on 17 and 18 April 2018. During the conference several academic research papers were discussed, relevant to ECTC’s complex tasks in a way that is effective and in compliance with Europol’s high data protection standards. External and diversified contributions are fundamental to analysing a world-wide phenomenon as terrorist propaganda. This year’s event built on the success of the first conference of the ECTC Advisory Group in April 2017.

Iran's Army of Drones, Target of Syria Strike: Rising Force or Limited Threat?

by Yaniv Kubovich

The recent airstrike in Syria attributed to Israel has brought to the forefront Iran’s intentions of establishing a network of drones (unmanned aerial vehicles) in that country. The project could expand the Islamic Republic’s capabilities of gathering intelligence and prepare the groundwork for possible attacks. Iran began producing drones in the 1980s, building dozens of them, mainly for spying and aerial photography. In recent years, since joining the fighting in support of the Assad regime, its drones have been seen in the skies of Syria and Iraq. Israel believes it still has the upper hand when it comes to drones, but that the Iranian ones do constitute a limited threat.

Syria, Turkey, and the Eastern Mediterranean


Two Eastern Mediterranean countries—Syria and Turkey—present some of the most vexing problems for U.S. foreign policy today. The Syrian civil war has become a magnet for both terrorists and U.S. adversaries. Turkey, a NATO ally, is facing terrorism and a refugee crisis. Domestically, it is increasingly turning away from democratic principles and making choices that are at odds with the United States. The United States needs to take a new strategic approach to the Eastern Mediterranean, outlined in a CSIS report forthcoming in May 2018. An urgent part of that strategy, outlined here, is recalibrating U.S. policy toward Syria and Turkey. 

23 April 2018

The Saudi Export Of Ultra-Conservatism In The Era Of MbS – Analysis


There has long been debate about the longevity of the Saudi ruling family. One major reason for doubts about the Al Sauds’ viability was the Faustian bargain they made with the Wahhabis, proponents of a puritan, intolerant, discriminatory, anti-pluralistic interpretation of Islam. It was a bargain that has produced the single largest dedicated public diplomacy campaign in history. Estimates of Saudi spending on the funding of ultra-conservative Muslim cultural institutions across the globe and the forging of close ties to non-Wahhabi Muslim leaders and intelligence agencies in various Muslim nations that have bought into significant, geopolitical elements of the Wahhabi worldview are ballpark. With no accurate date available, they range from $75 to $100 billion.

The Syria Quagmire

By Charles Hill

In 1947, Arnold Toynbee appeared on the cover of Time magazine. At the time, he was the world’s most renowned scholar, author of the monumental ten-volume A Study of History, praised by the historian William Hardy McNeill for “taking all the knowable human past as his province” and finding “rhythms and patterns which any less panoramic view could scarcely have detected.” Toynbee’s reputation soon plummeted when historians turned away from studying big ideas to nibble away at small-scale trends. But his unique perceptions still are relevant. Decades ago, he recognized that “two relatively small patches of geography”—one in “the Oxus-Jaxartes basin,” i.e. Afghanistan, and the other in Syria—have been “roundabouts” where the traffic of civilizations and religions across the world come together, jostle, and collide at exceptionally close quarters. Just as Afghanistan has proven elusive to conquer and tame over the years, so too is Syria a place of chaos and instability, which is today sucking the great powers of the world into its whirlwind.

22 April 2018

ISIS Is Making A Comeback In Syria As Trump Pushes To Leave And Bring In Arab Forces

Joseph Trevithick

Despite the U.S.-led coalition making significant progress in curtailing the group’s activities, ISIS terrorists are making a comeback in certain parts of Syria, especially in areas under the control of the Syrian regime of Bashar Al Assad. The possibility of an ‘ISIS 2.0’ is a worrying development that comes as President Donald Trump and his administration are looking for ways to extricate U.S. forcesfrom the conflict and replace them with a potentially problematic predominantly Arab coalition consisting of troops from countries including Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates.

21 April 2018

Are Iran and Israel Headed for Their First Direct War?

Thomas L. Friedman

SYRIA-ISRAEL BORDER, Golan Heights — Ever since the Iranian Islamic Revolution in 1979, Iran and Israel have been fighting each other in the shadows — through proxies, assassination squads and cyber-virus attacks, but never as rival armies meeting on the field of battle. That may be about to change, and if it does, it will have vast implications for Syria, Lebanon and the whole Middle East. I’m sure neither side really wants a war. It could be devastating for Israel’s flourishing high-tech economy and for Iran’s already collapsing currency. But Iran’s Revolutionary Guards’ Quds Force seems determined to try to turn Syria into a base from which to pressure Israel, and Israel seems determined to prevent that. And in the past few weeks — for the first time ever — Israel and Iran have begun quietly trading blows directly, not through proxies, in Syria.

20 April 2018

What Iran Really Wants

Paul R. Pillar

THE ADVENT of the Trump administration has put U.S.-Iranian relations into a deep freeze. President Trump has repeatedly indicated his displeasure with the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the agreement that restricts Iran’s nuclear program. His appointment of Mike Pompeo to become secretary of state, and the ascension of John Bolton to become national security advisor, suggest that he wants to adopt a much harder line toward the JCPOA even at the expense of isolating the United States from its European allies. Trump has said, “When you look at the Iran deal—I think it’s terrible; I guess [Rex Tillerson] thought it was okay. I wanted to either break it or do something, and he felt a little bit differently. So we were not really thinking the same. With Mike Pompeo, we have a very similar thought process.”

19 April 2018

The Real Next War in Syria: Iran vs. Israel

By Thomas L. Friedman

SYRIA-ISRAEL BORDER, Golan Heights — Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: Syria is going to explode. I know, you have heard that one before, but this time I mean really explode. Because the U.S., British and French attack on Syria to punish its regime for its vile use of chemical weapons — and Russia’s vow to respond — is actually just the second-most dangerous confrontation unfolding in that country. Even more dangerous is that Israel and Iran, at the exact same time, seem to be heading for a High Noon shootout in Syria over Iran’s attempts to turn Syria into a forward air base against Israel, something Israel is vowing to never let happen. This is not mere speculation. In the past few weeks — for the first time ever — Israel and Iran have begun quietly trading blows directly, not through proxies, in Syria.

15 April 2018

Tiny Bahrain's Big Oil Discovery Will Boost the Country’s Fortunes -- Eventually


Bahrain's discovery of the Khaleej Al Bahrain oil and gas field has the potential to make a material change in the country's financial crisis, but there are roadblocks. It will be five to 10 years before production begins in substantial volumes, it will be expensive, and it's not clear how much of the oil and gas can be recovered. In the meantime, Bahrain will use the long-term potential of increased oil and gas production — and the state revenue that comes with it — to attract new investment. An increase in oil revenue will allow the country to boost some of the social services that it provides to its restive population and reduce the need for painful economic adjustments.

13 April 2018

How Do We Prevent ISIS 2.0? Withdrawing From Syria Is Not The Answer.

By Pavel Baev, Ryan Crocker and Michael O'Hanlon 

The international community also has some assets in Syria. Collectively they do provide raw materials out of which a plausible strategy can be built. American and international strategy towards the horrific conflict in Syria is at a crossroads. ISIS has been largely defeated militarily on the physical battlefield. The top goal of both President Obama and President Trump has been partially achieved, through a strategy they both helped develop and implement. The temptation for Americans in general, and the Trump administration specifically, may be to declare victory and go home — as in fact Trump has just signaled he would like to do, as soon as possible.

Stability in the Middle East: The Range of Short and Long-Term Causes

Anthony H. Cordesman

The Middle East has long been one of the most unstable regions in the world, and there are no present prospects for change in the near future. This instability is the result of ongoing conflicts and tensions, and a variety of political tensions and divisions. It also, however, is the result of a wide variety of long-term pressures growing out of poor governance, corruption, economic failures, demographic pressures and other forces within the civil sector. The Short and Long-Term Forces Shaping Stability and Instability The immediate sources of instability are clear. Most of the region has some form of internal conflict, faces rising external threats, or is dealing with violent extremism. The violence and wars that have resulted from the political upheavals in 2011 will at best leave lasting challenges for unity and development even if the fighting ends. All the major causes of violent extremism remain, and there are few prospects that the fight against ISIS will eliminate the extremist threat in even one MENA country. Tensions between Israel and the Palestinian persist, each side has seen rising internal political barriers to a compromise peace, and the tensions between Israel and Iran and Hezbollah are creating new military threats.

12 April 2018

Iran Hit After Cyber Attack Exploits Cisco Router Flaw

Tom Jowitt 

Did nation state hackers target computer networks of Iran by exploiting a flaw with Cisco routers? “Advanced actors” have exploited a flaw with Cisco routers to launch an attack at the weekend that apparently hit 200,000 routers around the world. This included 3,500 switches in Iran, according to that country’s Communication and Information Technology Ministry, as reported by Iran’s official news agency IRNA. And there is a suspicion that these “advanced actors” could have been working for a nation state, after computer screens in data centres in Iran were left with the image of a US flag on screens along with a warning: “Don’t mess with our elections”.

Tiny Bahrain's Big Oil Discovery Will Boost the Country’s Fortunes -- Eventually


Bahrain's discovery of the Khaleej Al Bahrain oil and gas field has the potential to make a material change in the country's financial crisis, but there are roadblocks. It will be five to 10 years before production begins in substantial volumes, it will be expensive, and it's not clear how much of the oil and gas can be recovered. In the meantime, Bahrain will use the long-term potential of increased oil and gas production — and the state revenue that comes with it — to attract new investment. An increase in oil revenue will allow the country to boost some of the social services that it provides to its restive population and reduce the need for painful economic adjustments.

11 April 2018

The New Shape of the Middle East

By George Friedman

The Middle East has assumed a different shape and structure in recent years. Nowhere is this more visible than in the April 4 meeting in Turkey between Russia, Iran and Turkey. This group has become critical in defining the Middle East. It is not necessarily a cohesive group, and its staying power is uncertain. But for the moment, the United States, formerly the defining power of the region, is moving to the margins, and a new architecture has emerged.

Choosing Sides

The change was rooted in two events: the defeat of the Islamic State in Iraq and the Arab Spring. IS was defeated by U.S. troops and Iraqi Shiite irregular militias. The Iraqi militias were supported and in many cases led by the Iranians, who are also Shiites. When IS shattered, the Iranians gained a dominant role in shaping Iraqi foreign policy.

10 April 2018

THE ISIS FILES


We unearthed thousands of internal documents that help explain how the Islamic State stayed in power so long. On five trips to battle-scarred Iraq, journalists for The New York Times scoured old Islamic State offices, gathering thousands of files abandoned by the militants as their ‘caliphate’ crumbled.By Rukmini Callimachi Photographs by Ivor Prickett April 4, 2018 MOSUL, Iraq — Weeks after the militants seized the city, as fighters roamed the streets and religious extremists rewrote the laws, an order rang out from the loudspeakers of local mosques. To make sure every government worker got the message, the militants followed up with phone calls to supervisors. When one tried to beg off, citing a back injury, he was told: “If you don’t show up, we’ll come and break your back ourselves.”
RUKMINI CALLIMACHI, a New York Times foreign correspondent, has covered ISIS since 2014. She has tracked the group's rise around the world from their encrypted, online chatrooms to on-the-ground reporting on four continents. Her new audio series, Caliphate, launches later this month.

Al-Qaeda’s Long Game


Islamist fighters from the al-Qaida affiliate in Syria wave their movement’s flag at the Yarmuk Palestinian refugee camp, south of Damascus, in July 2014. A new propaganda video from a resurgent al-Qaeda shows its leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri, positioning himself as the unifier of a fragmented jihadi movement. But it also echoes the group’s laser focus on its historical arch-enemy: the United States. ISIS’s propaganda machine is going dark as the group is cleared from its final strongholds in Iraq and Syria. Quietly in the shadows, accompanying ISIS’s territorial demise has been an equal and opposite resurgence by its jihadi rival, al-Qaeda.

9 April 2018

ISIS 2.0 Is Really Just the Original ISIS


Nearly four months after Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi declared that the Islamic State had been militarily defeated, the group has rapidly transformed back into a terrorist network and shows no sign of ending its campaign of attacks across northern Iraq. “ISIS’s proto-state no longer exists. Their flag doesn’t fly over Iraqi territory,” says Fareed Yasseen, the Iraqi ambassador to the United States. “But that doesn’t mean they’ve disappeared. They are reverting to old tactics used by al Qaeda before 2014.”

Trump’s new national security team likely spells disaster for the Iran nuclear deal

Suzanne Maloney

Iranians are gathering today for picnics to mark sizdah bedar, the culmination of the annual celebration of the Persian new year (Nowruz.) Nowruz, a pre-Islamic holiday that coincides with the spring equinox, remains “so embedded in Persian culture” that it endured the early puritanism of Iran’s post-revolutionary era. For millions of Iranians and others who celebrate, the weeks around Nowruz mark an annual opportunity for ritual and renewal, a time for housecleaning and family get-togethers, casting out the dark winter and welcoming the fresh buds of spring.

8 April 2018

Taking All the Wrong Steps in Syria, Iraq, and the Fight Against Terrorism

By Anthony Cordesman

There is a case for limiting the U.S. role in Syria. The U.S. has no reason to provide aid to Assad in rebuilding his power in Syria, and no reason not to place the full burden on funding the Assad regime on Iran and Russia. That kind of pressure could be a key part of actually forming some kind of U.S. strategy for dealing with the large portions of Syria that now are back under the control of a failed dictator. A unilateral sudden U.S. military withdrawal from the other parts of Syria, however, is a very different story – as General Joseph Votel, the commander of U.S. forces in the Central Region has made clear. A sudden withdrawal deprives us of diplomatic leverage, abandons the last vestiges of moderate Arab forces in Syria, and exposes the Kurdish forces that did much to defeat ISIS to defeat by Assad and Turkey. It will fundamentally undermine the already fading trust of our other Arab strategic partners, be seen as a major defeat of the U.S. by Russia and Iran, and as a further opening to intervention by an increasingly authoritarian Turkey in the Arab world.