Al-Qaeda replacing Assad is the biggest threat to US security – CIA deputy director

 

Acting CIA Director Michael Morell (AFP Photo / Mandel Ngan)Acting CIA Director Michael Morell

The second-in-command of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) says that the toppling of Bashar Assad’s regime in Syria is the largest threat to United States national security and may help al-Qaeda acquire chemical weapons.

Speaking to The Wall Street Journal, CIA Deputy Director Michael Morell said the prospect of the Syrian government being replaced by al-Qaeda his biggest worry.

Morell’s statement is especially surprising considering America’s official position on the Syrian civil war. US President Barack Obama and his officials have repeatedly called Assad a “dictator” who is responsible for more than 92,000 lives lost in a bloody conflict between government forces and rebels – some of whom are openly affiliated with al-Qaeda.

Should the current regime collapse without a stable government to step up to the plate, Morell said the warheads being held by Assad may end up in the hands of America’s adversaries.

The US remains embarked on a plan that would aid Syrian rebels by way of supplying them with arms. With al-Qaeda extremists entwined in that same war against Assad, however, one wrong turn could cause the US to accidentally equip its most feared enemy.

According to Morell, the Syrian government’s weapons “are going to be up for grabs and up for sale” if Assad is ousted. Unless the US has a plan of attack ready for that moment, munitions and warheads currently controlled by Assad could end up in the hands of just about anyone.

And with al-Qaeda close to the action, Morell warned that they could pounce on the opportunity to gain Assad’s equipment.

Al-Qaeda has had its own victory as well,” he said. “The dispersal of al-Qaeda is their victory.”

With al-Qaeda increasing the scope of its operation in Syria, the US could have a whole new front in its war on terror. The terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 brought American troops to Afghanistan and Pakistan, and later to Iraq. In the decade-plus since, the US has launched drones over locales like Yemen and Somalia to take a stab at diminishing al-Qaeda’s presence. As hostilities increase in Syria, a new adversary could worsen the current situation.

Given what the US has reported about the current Syrian government, al-Qaeda stands to collect all sorts of goodies if they can grab hold of Assad’s goods as well. The White House has insisted that Assad deployed chemical weapons on citizens during the civil war, and the opposition and government have both relied on whatever weapons they can collect in order to fight off their foes. That hostile environment is increasingly being populated by al-Qaeda extremists, and Morell says that’s not good for US security.

Syria is “probably the most important issue in the world today because of where it is currently heading,” Morell said. He added that Iran, core al-Qaeda, and the North Korean government are following just behind Syria.

I don’t remember a time when there have been so many national security issues on the front burner as there are today,” Morell said.

(Source / 09.08.2013)

Why are Palestinians blamed for violence in Lebanon?

Scene shows youth on scooter riding past wall covered with poster and graffiti

A slashed poster of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in Burj al-Barajne refugee camp, Beirut, June 2013.

As Syria’s war spills over into Lebanon, and Palestinian refugees from Syria pour into Lebanon by the tens of thousands, the Palestinian refugee community in Lebanon once again finds itself scapegoated along with Syrian refugees by Lebanon’s media and political elite.

Palestinians and Syrians who have fled to Lebanon have been greeted by attitudes such as that of Gebran Bassil, minister of energy and water and leader of the centrist Free Patriotic Movement: “When we say we do not want displaced Syrians and Palestinians, it is because they want to take our place.”

The minister added, referring to the Palestinian camps in Syria: “isn’t it enough that we already have Palestinians in Lebanon for the rest of the camps to come and settle in Lebanon as well,” proposing that Lebanon should close its borders to those fleeing the violence in Syria, following the moves of Jordan and Turkey.

Bassil’s xenophobic rhetoric echoes that of Nayla Tueni, a member of Lebanon’s parliament, who wrote in her family’s newspaper, the daily An-Nahar, that the influx of Palestinian refugees from Syria in Lebanon “will lead us to find ourselves facing a new reality, and new settlers, and a new burden, returning to our memories of the Palestinian nightmare in Lebanon [in the 1970s],” using the same Arabic word used to describe colonist settlers in occupied Palestine, and referring to Lebanon’s 15-year civil war which erupted in 1975.

During Lebanon’s civil war period, when the Palestine Liberation Organization and their Lebanese allies fought Israel from Lebanon, the country’s Palestinian camps suffered terrible massacres, destruction and expulsion at the hands of various parties.

Israel’s 1982 invasion of Beirut was followed by the expulsion of PLO fighters from Lebanon later that year, which in turn was followed by the massacre in the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps, perpetrated by Lebanese militias under the watch of the Israeli army. In 1985, heavy, bitter fighting erupted in Palestinian refugee camps in Beirut as the Syrian-backed Amal party and Palestinian camp militias vied for control.

Palestinian refugees in Lebanon have always been looked at with a suspicious eye and treated as a security threat by Lebanon’s political class, eager to deflect from their own incompetence and malfunction by placing blame for the country’s problems on a foreign bogeyman. The refugee community, currently lacking any meaningful protection, has also always been vulnerable to the turbulent political tides in Lebanon.

Crackdown on refugees

Though there is a historic animosity towards Palestinians in Lebanon, they are hardly the only target of resentment in the country today.

The more than 600,000 Syrian refugees now in Lebanon, a tiny country with a population of just four million, are banned from establishing camps in Lebanon and also find themselves prevented from working as anything besides cheap labor.

Lebanon’s social affairs minister, Wael Abu Fawr, announced the crackdown on unlicensed Syrian-run businesses by stating: “They have the right to work to feed themselves on building sites or other sectors but not in trade or in businesses that require a permit.”

Lebanon’s political class can be heard on the TV or radio blaming the unstable country’s problems such as its weak economy, chronic power outages and inter-Lebanese sectarian clashes on the influx of refugees.

This scapegoating results in populist sentiment detrimental to Syrian refugees; the progressive Lebanese publication Al-Akhbar reported last month that “A recent opinion poll found that 54 percent of respondents believed Lebanon should close its doors to the refugees,” adding that “A full 82 percent said that the refugees were taking jobs from Lebanese.”

Vulnerable community

A recent catastrophe endured by one Palestinian refugee camp in Lebanon should serve as a reminder of what is at stake for the vulnerable community.

In the summer of 2007, the once large and vibrant Nahr al-Bared camp near the northern city of Tripoli was destroyed. Nahr al-Bared camp endured three months of fighting between the Lebanese army and Fatah al-Islam, a militant Islamic group.

Though Fatah al-Islam is not a Palestinian organization, Palestinian refugees were falsely accused of harboring “terrorists” by the Lebanese security forces, politicians and the media. In Beirut — miles away from Nahr al-Bared — Palestinian men were beaten and harassed by the police, solely because they were Palestinian, as Human Rights Watch reported in 2007.

For the last six years Palestinian refugees from Nahr al-Bared have been preoccupied with the daily struggle to return to their camp and rebuild it. The camp’s formerly vibrant economy vanished with the Lebanese military and internal security forces’ tight control of movement in and out of the camp. Since 2007, of the 27,000 displaced refugees, only a handful of families have been able to return to limited sections of the camp that have been rebuilt.

Sectarian calls

This summer, another refugee camp — Ein al-Hilwe near the city of Sidon — narrowly avoided a similar fate.

In June, the Salafi cleric Sheikh Ahmad al-Assir called on all Sunni Muslims in Lebanon — including Palestinian refugees — to do battle with the Lebanese army and Hizballah, the Shia resistance organization which had recently become involved in the war in neighboringSyria.

Following the call, members of Fatah al-Islam and another militant group, Jund al-Sham, fired on a Lebanese military checkpoint close to Ein al-Hilwe.

Palestinian factions inside and outside the camp were determined not to take part in attacks against the Lebanese military. Both Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian Authority’sleader, and Khaled Meshaal, chairman of Hamas’ political bureau, reportedly made contacts with Lebanese political figures to ensure that Palestinians would remain neutral in any fighting within Lebanon.

“Burdens”

Despite Palestinian efforts to stay out of the fray, some commentators in the Lebanese media have used inflammatory language when referring to the Palestinian camps, claiming they are “security hotbeds,” “a source of danger,” or “potential fighting reserves.”

In an article published by local daily tabloid al-Balad, associated with the US-supported March 14 coalition, the author blames Lebanon’s civil war on Palestinian refugees.

“It is not enough that Lebanon is home to the Palestinians and their cause and bears burdens that exceed its capacity,” the article adds. “Lebanon is also forced to live with the presence of armed Palestinians in closed security islands that have become a haven for all types of extremism, terrorism and criminality.”

With some of them too busy maligning Palestinians, Lebanese journalists have generally neglected to expose the discrimination faced by refugees on a daily basis. There is little in the Lebanese media about how Palestinian refugees lack basic civil rights, are banned from practicing more than 70 professions and from owning property, or about the dire conditions in the United Nations-administered and unofficial refugee camps.

Ein al-Hilwe

This is especially the case with Ein al-Hilwe.

Already hosting 80,000 people, Ein al-Hilwe has had to accommodate even more refugees who have fled Syria.

An-Nahar newspaper has a long history of hostility toward Palestinians and over the past few months, it has tried to use the increase in refugee numbers to typecast Palestinians as violent.

After President Michel Suleiman recently spoke about Lebanon’s “burdens,” it was insinuated by the paper that Palestinian refugees were in that category. “For focus has been now turned to the Palestinian refugee camps, which could be transformed once again to explosive hotbeds after an increase in refugee numbers,” the newspaper claimed.

Shoddy research

Quite a few inaccurate and sensationalist reports have been published by the media.

New TV, for example, has formed a habit of blaming recent clashes in Beirut’s Shatila refugee camp on Palestinians.

As a friend of mine noted, this is a particularly egregious case of shoddy research. “New TV’s building is 500 meters away from the camp,” my friend said. “If they got up on their roof they would’ve seen that clashes were outside the camp.”

The fighting involved the Future party and the Amal Movement, both Lebanese parties, rather than Palestinian groups.

One bitter irony is that Palestinians have been victims of the fighting they have been seeking to avoid.

For the past two years, Sunni and Alawite fighters have been fighting each other in the city of Tripoli. The fighting has taken place a short distance from the Palestinian refugee camp of Baddawi.

While residents of the camp have rejected calls by the rival militias to participate in the fighting, they have not been spared its consequences. A few months ago, a building used by the Palestinian political party Fatah in Baddawi was struck by a missile. One man was killed and three were injured. Then on 29 June, a Palestinian man — Khaled Traboulsy —was shot dead by a sniper’s bullets in Tripoli as he was going home to Baddawi.

Manufacturing monsters?

The allegations made in the press are echoed by some Lebanese political groups.

The website of the right-wing Christian Kataeb party has published a stream of articles on Ein al-Hilwe which leave the impression that the camp is responsible for the country’s deep-seated problems.

In an article titled “Ein al-Hilwe camp: one kilometer fabricating scenarios to ignite sectarian conflicts in Lebanon,” the camp is described as “a stronghold fabricating security scenarios to ignite sectarian conflicts all over Lebanon which will bring woes to the country.” The article adds that the camp is “considered the capital of the Palestinian diaspora and a stronghold for outlaws.”

The party’s site claims that Jabhat al-Nusra, a group linked to al-Qaida, is active in Ein al-Hilwe. The article claims, citing anonymous sources, that there is “an intention by a fundamentalist groups in the camp to create a branch for Jabhat al-Nusra in order to destabilize security in the camp and its surroundings.” This claim is especially dangerous given the history of Fatah al-Islam and Nahr al-Bared camp.

Despite his party’s antipathy towards Palestinians, Mahmoud Abbas found time to meet the Kataeb leader Amin al-Gemayel on a trip to Lebanon during July.

Apart from calling on Palestinian refugees not to take part in violence, Abbas has shown little regard for the concerns of his people in Lebanon.

Abbas did not visit any of Lebanon’s twelve official Palestinian refugee camps, opting instead to enjoy the luxury of Phoenicia Intercontinental hotel on Beirut’s waterfront. But Abbas did have the time to present a Palestinian passport and honorary citizenship to the Lebanese pop singer Ragheb Alameh.

Let down by the Palestinian Authority, Palestinian refugees in Lebanon are also facing the prospect of fewer basic services.

During July, youth activists in Nahr al-Bared called for daily protests against a decision by the UN Agency for Palestine refugees, UNRWA, to cease its emergency program for the camp as a result of funding shortfalls. As a result, many Palestinian families will be without shelter, food aid or health coverage from September onwards.

Life is hard enough for Palestinian refugees in Lebanon, who are increasing in numbers as a result of the war in Syria. Baseless allegations of Palestinians taking part in violence that has nothing to do with them — and efforts to push them into the fighting — will make it even harder.

(Source / 09.08.2013)

Egyptian officials: We partnered with Israel on a drone strike against Islamists in the Sinai

Needless to say, the AP’s two senior sources in the Egyptian military are remaining anonymous, but it wouldn’t have taken long to make the connection anyway.  After Israel briefly shut down its airport in the resort town of Eilat yesterday, two explosions rocked the northern Sinai region of el-Agra, killing suspected Islamist terrorists and destroying a rocket launcher.  The tip on the terror threat apparently came from the government in Cairo, which helped coordinate the strike with Israel:

An Israeli drone strike inside Egypt killed five suspected Islamic militants and destroyed a rocket launcher Friday, two senior Egyptian security officials said, marking an incredibly rare Israeli operation carried out in its Arab neighbor’s territory.

The strike, coming after a warning from Egypt caused Israel to briefly close an airport Thursday, potentially signals a significant new level of cooperation between the two former foes over security matters in the largely lawless Sinai Peninsula after a military coup ousted Egypt’s president. Egypt long has maintained that it wouldn’t allow other countries to use its territories as hotbed to launch attacks against other countries.

Residents heard a large explosion Friday in el-Agra, an area in the northern region of the Sinai close to Egypt’s border with Israel. The officials said the Israeli attack was in cooperation with Egyptian authorities. …

A statement later posted on the official Facebook page of Col. Ahmed Mohammed Ali, an Egyptian military spokesman, said there had been two explosions in el-Agra, south of Rafah, and that security forces were investigating. Egypt’s official MENA news agency said an explosion destroyed a rocket launcher set near the border to launch attacks against Israel. The agency said at least five jihadis were killed.

Israel declined to confirm the report to the AP, probably sensitive to the domestic political implications for military leader General Abdel Fatah al-Sissi and his nascent interim government.  It wouldn’t have been a secret for long, anyway, especially if the government in Cairo offered no protest over the strike.  It’s no secret that Cairo has tried to get the Sinai under control and suppress the Islamist terrorists there; even Mohamed Morsi expressed a desire for security and cooperated with Israel on border issues, reluctantly or otherwise.

There is a big difference between that and allowing the IDF to hit Egyptian targets, however. With al-Sissi almost at war with the Islamists in Cairo and other areas of the nation, this provides just another provocation that will likely solidify Islamist opposition to the military coup, and fuel some of the conspiracy theories that posit Morsi’s fall as a Jewish plot (or a Coptic plot, or both).  The threat must have been pretty serious if al-Sissi risked the kind of backlash this might produce — and at least according the AP and its sources, the group planned on attacking the Suez Canal after its rocket attacks against Israel.  Given the precarious nature of the Egyptian economy and its central role in the unrest that unseated the Muslim Brotherhood, that would probably be enough to make al-Sissi reach out to the IDF.

Still, that’s a pretty mind-blowing thing to admit, even anonymously.  We’ll see whether it has any effect on the unrest still gathering in the streets of Cairo.

(Source / 09.08.2013)

Iran warns Palestinian on peace talks

 

Photo shows Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei foreground, leads his sermon of Eid al-Fitr prayer, marking the start in Iran of the Eid al-Fitr holiday in Tehran, Aug. 9. AP Photo

Photo shows Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei foreground, leads his sermon of Eid al-Fitr prayer, marking the start in Iran of the Eid al-Fitr holiday in Tehran, Aug. 9.

Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamanei warned the Palestinians on Aug. 9 against renewed peace talks with Israel, saying they would be “detrimental” to their cause.

The U.S.-mediated talks will force “the Palestinians to relinquish their rights,” Khamanei told worshippers in Tehran University after Eid al-Fitr prayers marking the end of the holy month of Ramadan.

His remarks came a day after the U.S. State Department said Palestinian and Israeli negotiators would resume talks on ending their long-standing conflict on Aug. 14 in Jerusalem. Both sides have already agreed to try to resolve their differences within nine months.

“Negotiations between the Israelis and Palestinians will be resuming Aug. 14 in Jerusalem and will be followed by a meeting in Jericho (in the West Bank),” State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki told a briefing. Psaki said U.S. envoys Martin Indyk and Frank Lowenstein will travel to the region to help facilitate the negotiations. She signaled that no major breakthroughs were likely at the meeting, saying: “Secretary Kerry does not expect to make any announcements in the aftermath of this round of talks.”

The talks will also “encourage the aggressors to increase their aggression and suppress the rightful resistance of the Palestinians,” said Khamanei, who has the final say on Iran’s foreign policy.

Dismissing the talks as “the doing of the arrogance,” an allusion to Iran’s arch-foe the United States, he said the result would “definitely be detrimental” to the Palestinians.

Iran, a major regional supporter of the Islamist Hamas movement that rules the Gaza Strip, does not see eye to eye with the Palestinian Authority. The Islamic republic has repeatedly voiced opposition about talks focusing on a two-state solution, saying Israelwould never agree to withdraw from “occupied lands.”

Khamanei also called on the Muslim world to condemn Israel’s “oppressive” actions against Palestinians. “The Muslim world must not back down from its support for Palestine, and it should condemn the oppressive action of fierce Zionist wolves and their international supporters,” he said.

(Source / 09.08.2013)

Two hunger striking captives suffer weakening in heart muscles

The health situation of the two captives Ayman Hamdan and Imad al-Batran who have been on hunger strike for more than a hundred days has seriously deteriorated.

The two captives are held in solitary at the military Sarafand Hospital (Asaf Harofe) where their situation is continuously deteriorating.

The lawyer for the Ministry of Captives, Fadi Obeidat said that Ayman Hamdan whom he visited at the hospital is administratively detained since 22 August 2012 and that he started his hunger strike on 28 April 2013 to protest his administrative detention without charge or trial.

He added that his health is worsening and that he suffers low blood pressure, low heart rate, vitamin deficiency and weakening of the heart muscle.

Hamdan has been hospitalised since 26 June 2013 and takes water, sugar, salt and vitamins. He lost 22 Kg of his weight, according to the lawyer.

Hamdan told the lawyer that his movement has become difficult and suffers from general weakness, dizziness and head as well as joint aches. He added that despite all this he is determined to continue with his hunger strike until his administrative detention is revoked.

The lawyer also met with Imad al-Batran and noticed serious deterioration in his health despite the fact that he is taking supplements at the hospital.

Batran told the lawyer that he suffers from law heart rate (40 per minute) and takes medicine to regulate his heart. He suffers from general weakness, hair loss, insomnia and dryness of the eyes.

The hunger-striking prisoners are Abdullah al-Barghouthi, Ala’ Hammad, Munir Ma’ari, Hamzah Othman, Muhammad al-Rimawi, Ayman Hamdan, Imad al-Batran, Adel Harbeyat, Ayman Etbish, Husam Matter and Abdul-Majid Khudeirat.

(Source / 09.08.2013)

Amnesty Int’l: Bahrain: Child sent to prison after demonstration

UA: 204/13 Index: MDE 11/027/2013 Bahrain Date: 02 August 2013

A 15-year-old boy, Hussain al-Hawaj, was sentenced to five years’ imprisonment by a Bahraini court on 9 June for participation in a protest, arson and rioting . He is held in Jaw prison for adults.

Hussain al-Hawaj, aged 15, was arrested by plainclothes security officers at about 4pm on 7 December 2012 in the capital, Manama, following clashes between protesters and police. Hussain al-Hawaj had been visiting his grandfather and was going to the restaurant across the street to buy some food. He was taken to the Public Prosecution Office (PPO) at 3am without a lawyer or an adult representative, charged with setting fire to communal dustbins and rioting, then led away to be held in Dry Dock prison. His family were able to visit him after 10 days and he told them that while he was detained at a police station he had been beaten, threatened and made to sign documents he was not allowed to read, before being taken to the PPO. His lawyer said the boy had been coerced into “confessing”. He appeared in court several times and was charged with illegal gathering, arson and rioting.

The High Criminal Court (Branch 1) sentenced him on 9 June to five years’ imprisonment. He was transferred to Jaw Prison for adults (around 30km south of Manama). According to his family all the prosecution witnesses were policemen who gave conflicting testimonies in court. His appeal has been set for 9 September.

Please write immediately in Arabic, English or your own language:

  • Expressing concern that Hussain al-Hawaj is being held in a prison for adult despite being 15 years old, and urging the Bahraini authorities to ensure that he is treated in accordance with the rules of juvenile justice;
  • Urging the authorities to protect him from torture and other ill-treatment, to ensure that his allegations of ill-treatment are independently investigated and that statements obtained through the use of torture or other ill-treatment are not accepted in any proceedings.

 

PLEASE SEND APPEALS BEFORE 12 SEPTEMBER 2013 TO:

King

Shaikh Hamad bin ‘Issa Al Khalifa

Office of His Majesty the King

P.O. Box 555

Rifa’a Palace, al-Manama, Bahrain

Fax: +973 1766 4587 (keep trying)

Salutation: Your Majesty

 

Minister of Interior

Shaikh Rashid bin ‘Abdullah Al Khalifa

Ministry of Interior

P.O. Box 13, al-Manama, Bahrain

Fax: +973 1723 2661

Twitter: @moi_Bahrain

Salutation: Your Excellency

 

And copies to:

Minister of Justice and Islamic Affairs

Shaikh Khalid bin Ali bin Abdullah Al Khalifa

Ministry of Justice and Islamic Affairs

P. O. Box 450, al-Manama, Bahrain

Fax: +973 1753 1284

Email: minister@justice.gov.bh

Twitter: @Khaled_Bin_Ali

Also send copies to diplomatic representatives accredited to your country. Please insert local diplomatic addresses below:

Please check with your section office if sending appeals after the above date.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

The Bahraini authorities have publicly stated their intention to introduce reforms and learn lessons from events in February and March 2011, when they cracked down on anti-government protesters. In November 2011, the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI) submitted a report, which concluded that the authorities had committed gross human rights violations with impunity. Despite the authorities’ claims to the contrary, abuses are still being committed against those who oppose the Al Khalifa family’s rule.

According to Article 15 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), to which Bahrain is a state party, “1. States Parties recognize the rights of the child to freedom of association and to freedom of peaceful assembly. 2. No restrictions may be placed on the exercise of these rights other than those imposed in conformity with the law and which are necessary in a democratic society in the interests of national security or public safety, public order (ordre public), the protection of public health or morals or the protection of the rights and freedoms of others”.

Article 37 of CRC requires that “States Parties shall ensure that: (b) No child shall be deprived of his or her liberty unlawfully or arbitrarily. The arrest, detention or imprisonment of a child shall be in conformity with the law and shall be used only as a measure of last resort and for the shortest appropriate period of time; (d) Every child deprived of his or her liberty shall have the right to prompt access to legal and other appropriate assistance, as well as the right to challenge the legality of the deprivation of his or her liberty before a court or other competent, independent and impartial authority, and to a prompt decision on any such action.

Article 40 also states: “2(a) No child shall be alleged as, be accused of, or recognized as having infringed the penal law by reason of acts or omissions that were not prohibited by national or international law at the time they were committed; 2(b)(ii) To be informed promptly and directly of the charges against him or her, and, if appropriate, through his or her parents or legal guardians, and to have legal or other appropriate assistance in the preparation and presentation of his or her defence and 2 (b)(iv) Not to be compelled to give testimony or to confess guilt; to examine or have examined adverse witnesses and to obtain the participation and examination of witnesses on his or her behalf under conditions of equality”.

(Source / 09.08.2013)

U.S. warns and Saudi arrests: Is al-Qaeda on the rise?

President Barack Obama’s top national security advisers met at the White House on Saturday to discuss the potential threat of terrorist attacks.

The Saudi arrest of two foreign al-Qaeda suspects only few days after the U.S. had shut down 19 diplomatic posts in the region, is according to experts a sign of “the operational environment” between Washington and Riyadh and their “consequential counterterrorism cooperation” against a strengthened decentralized al-Qaeda.

Saudi Arabia’s Interior Ministry announced yesterday the arrest of a Chadian and a Yemeni suspected of having contacts with al-Qaeda’s offshoot in Yemen, al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). The clues came through social media, as the two suspects discussed via coded words an “imminent suicide attack in the region.” The timing of the arrests, however, following the U.S. global terror alert and shutting down 19 diplomatic posts across the Middle East and North Africa, brings to the forefront the Saudi-U.S. counterterrorism coordination.

Consequential Role

While the synchronization of the Saudi arrests and U.S. embassy closures “may not be deliberate” it is a “reflection of the operational environment” between Washington and Riyadh, says Bilal Saab, the Washington Director of the Institute for Near East and Gulf Military Analysis. Saab in an interview with Al Arabiya raises the possibility of “coordination between the U.S. and Saudi intelligence agencies around the timing” of the threat and the arrests, in particular “to send a message that they are in this together, facing the same threat” of terrorism.

Saab describes the U.S.- Saudi efforts as “the most consequential counterterrorism cooperation globally” noting that “no country can discredit al-Qaeda’s narrative more than a Muslim Saudi Arabia and no country can counter al-Qaeda’s operations more than the United States.” The arrests came amidst a sharp U.S. escalation of drone attacks in Yemen, killing 12 militants in three separate strikes yesterday.

A statement by the interior ministry published in the Saudi Press Agency said that the authorities have “managed at the beginning of the last 10 days of the holy month of Ramadan to arrest two expatriates.” The last 10 days of Ramadan started early last week, four days before the United States issued a worldwide terror alert for its citizens.

“The two recruited themselves for the service of deviant thought,” said the ministry, indicating that authorities “seized items from the suspects which included computer hardware, electronic media and mobile phones.” The statement released hints at their communication with AQAP, “by electronic encrypted messages or through identities via the social networks (such as Abu Alfidaa, Hspouy, Muawiya Almadani, Rasasah fi Qusasah, and Abu El Feda Aldokulai) so as to exchange information about impending suicide operations in the region” it read.

A Decentralized al-Qaeda

The nature of the U.S. warning extending over 19 countries, and the Chadian-Yemeni nationalities of those arrested by Riyadh, tell of a changing operational dynamic in al-Qaeda activities, one that is spreading transnationally.

Aaron Zelin, an expert on terrorist groups at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, told Al Arabiya that “al-Qaeda is stronger than it’s been in a while.” Zelin shrugs off the talk about the “resurgence in al-Qaeda,” explaining that “it has not been in decline in the first place to see a resurgence.” He added that those who think so, are deluding themselves.” Zelin explains that what has happened is rather a shift in the nature of the terrorist organization from one central operational force, to one decentralized and spread across the region. Today al-Qaeda is a bigger umbrella for many organizations such as AQAP in Yemen to al-Nusra in Syria, to al-Shabab and al-Qaeda in Maghreb in Somalia and North Africa.

“They are drawing their strengths from destabilization in Arab countries, we see it in Yemen, Iraq, Syria and Tunisia” says Zelin, contending that the aftermath of Arab spring in many countries has helped al-Qaeda.

While Zelin recommends for the U.S. administration a broader coordination mechanism in fighting al-Qaeda, that goes beyond the central government framework and connects with the tribes in places like Yemen and Libya, Saab sees the Syrian conflict as a major cause “for reviving what was once an organization on the run.” Al-Qaeda is “on the march in the Levant, in the Arabian Peninsula, in Iraq, and in Northern Africa,” and that necessitates in his opinion the Saudi-U.S. cooperation as an effective “counter-terrorism team.”

(Source / 09.08.2013)

Fall of Jordanian regime “no longer unlikely”

King Abdullah of Jordan

The Sadat-Begin Centre for Strategic Studies believes that the fall of King Abdullah’s Hashemite regime is Jordan could throw the region in to chaos, from Israel’s perspective

A leading think-tank in Israel believes that the fall of the regime in Jordan “is no longer unlikely”, a Jordanian website has claimed. The Khaberni site was quoting an article published by the Sadat-Begin Centre for Strategic Studies.

Commenting on the preparations of the Israel Defence Forces to meet the challenges in the region the centre claimed that they are “excellent”. However, researchers have concluded that the main problem lies in the fact that possible developments such as the fall of the Hashemite regime in Jordan, the cancellation of the Egypt-Israel Camp David peace treaty, the outbreak of a third Palestinian intifada or a threat from Iran’s nuclear weapons are no longer regarded as “unlikely”. If any or all of these events took place, they said, the IDF’s plans would be rendered useless.

(Source / 09.08.2013)

Reports: Israeli airstrike targets militants in Egyptian Rafah

Israeli airstrikes targeted militants in the Egyptian side of Rafah.

A massive explosion was heard on Friday in the Egyptian side of the border with Israel, Al Arabiya correspondent said, amid reports that a number of militants were killed as they prepared to launch rockets on Israel.

The Palestinian news agency Maan quoted an Egyptian army source as saying that an Israeli plane targeted rockets launchers in an area in the Egyptian Rafah. The launchers were reportedly deployed on Thursday by Islamist militants.

Maan reported that at least five militants were killed.

(Source / 09.08.2013)

Fatah MP warns of Hamas crackdown in Gaza

RAMALLAH (Ma’an) — A Fatah MP warned of an impending security campaign by Hamas in the Gaza Strip, after its security forces raided the homes of several Fatah leaders in the enclave.

Majed Abu Shamallah said Hamas forces raided the home of Khalil Abu Hasna, the executive director of the National Commission for Development and Islamic Solidarity, early Friday morning.

The MP said Hamas forces confiscated Abu Hasna’s cell phone, laptop, documents and his children’s iPad.

The raid followed a charity event held by Abu Hasna’s organization to help prisoners, the disabled and orphans, Abu Shamallah said in a statement.

Abu Shamallah denounced the raid, and said Hamas had ignored the sanctity of the holiday of Eid al-Fitr. He warned that a security campaign announced by Hamas may be launched after the holiday, which ends next week.

Meanwhile, Hamas security forces detained two Fatah affiliates from their homes in northern Gaza early Friday, the PA news agency Wafa reported.

Hamas forces confiscated al-Maqadmeh’s cell phone during the raid, Wafa said.

(Source / 09.08.2013)