Iran/Yemen/Somalia – A newly-released report by independent research group Conflict Armament Research (CAR) published on the 1 Dec 16 “suggests” that there is an arms “pipeline” that extends from Iran to Somalia and Yemen. The UK-based CAR released its analysis on the 30 Nov 16 after US officials claimed in Oct 16 that they had seized five shipments of Iranian weapons bound for Yemen. “CAR’s analysis of the seized materiel suggests the existence of a weapon pipeline extending from Iran to Somalia and Yemen, which involves the transfer, by dhow, of significant quantities of Iranian-manufactured weapons and weapons that plausibly derive from Iranian stockpiles,” the report said. CAR also said in its report that after analysis of the caches of anti-tank missiles, rocket launchers and other light and small arms from the dhows that were heading to Somalia, they believe the arms were “probably supplied with the complicity of Iranian security forces.” Iran has denied US and Gulf claims that it supplies Houthi militias with arms, saying its support to the Houthis is merely diplomatic. Meanwhile, the UAE ambassador to the UN, Lana Nusseibeh, said CAR’s findings “would be a flagrant violation of UN security council resolutions,” according to the Abu Dhabi-based The National. “The UAE calls on the Security Council to take all measures necessary to demand that Iran comply with its obligations,” she added. These shipments are further evidence of Iran’s expansionist and destabilizing behaviour in Yemen, fuelling the conflict and endangering Yemeni civilians and Yemen’s neighbours.”
Iran/Kenya/Israel – Two Iranians and their Kenyan driver, who worked for the Iranian embassy in Nairobi, were charged on the 1 Dec 16 with collecting information for a terrorist act after filming the Israeli embassy, lawyers said. Sayed Nasrollah Ebrahimi, Abdolhosein Ghola Safafe and driver Moses Keyah Mmboga “were found taking video clips of the Israeli embassy ... for the use in the commission of a terrorist act”, according to a charge sheet produced in court. The three men were in a car belonging to the Iranian embassy when they were arrested on the 29 Nov 16 the court papers said. The diplomatic status of the two Iranians was unclear. The Iranian embassy did not respond to requests for comment. “My clients pleaded not guilty and have been detained by the ATPU (Kenya’s Anti Terrorism Police Unit) for further interrogation,” defence lawyer Cohen Amanya said after the men’s court appearance. Prosecutor Duncan Ondimu said the two Iranians were visiting Kenya but gave no further details. Kenya has suffered repeated militant attacks in recent years but those were mainly carried out by ethnically Somali militants who would be hostile to Iran because of sectarian differences. In 2002, 15 people died when an Israeli-owned hotel was bombed in the coastal town of Mombasa at the same time two missiles were fired at an Israeli jet, narrowly missing it. In 2013, a Kenyan court jailed two Iranians for life on terrorism-related charges, including possessing explosives. The sentence was reduced to 15 years on appeal.
Iran/United States – The US Senate passed a 10-year extension of existing sanctions against Iran on the 1 Dec 16 sending the measure to the White House for President Barack Obama to sign into law and delaying any potentially tougher actions until next year. As the voting continued, senators were backing the renewal of the Iran Sanctions Act by 89-0. It passed the House of Representatives nearly unanimously in Nov 16 and congressional aides said they expected Obama would sign it when it reached his desk. Iran’s Foreign Ministry said on the 1 Dec 16 that the US Senate’s vote violated a historic nuclear deal reached between the country and six major powers in 2015. “The extension of sanctions by the US congress is a violation of the deal. We will report it to Iran’s committee, assigned for monitoring the implementation of the deal,” according to a statement by Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Ghasemi read on television.
Iran/United States – Iranian Faris News Agency revealed that the Iranian lawmakers want to draft an urgent bill to resume all nuclear activities in the country in response to the extension of US sanctions against Tehran. The agency said on the 2 Dec 16 that Iranian MPs intend to prepare an urgent draft law to resume all nuclear activities in the country in response to the US Senate’s decision. It added that the deputies stressed on the need to have a serious answer in the face of the US Senate’s decision.
Iran/Afghanistan/Taliban/ (United States) – In an unprecedented move, Tehran is publicly hosting leaders of hardline Taliban movement in the ‘Islamic Unity’ conference it was reported on the 14 Dec 16. Tehran had previously denied any direct contact with the movement. According to the Iranian Mehr news agency, Iranian cleric Mohsen Araki, who is the Secretary-General of the World Forum for Proximity of Islamic Schools of Thought, said at a press conference on Tuesday that Tehran has invited moderate figures such as Taliban to attend the two-day International Islamic Unity Conference in Tehran. Araki said that “the invitation was sent to some Islamic and political figures in the Taliban movement who believe in the unity of Muslims,” stressing that “Iran has always held contacts with some parties in the Taliban movement, who believe in the Islamic unity.” This announcement comes two days after the statement of the Iranian ambassador to Kabul, Mohammad Reza Bahrami, who spoke about talks between his country and hardline Taliban. Afghan authorities had accused Tehran of providing military and logistical support to Taliban, which in turn has in recent months escalated its operations in various regions of the country. 361 COMMENT: With the United States declaring further sanctions on Iran it is possible that Iran are now openly courting the Taliban which would go against the United States wishes. This will be a step that they can court and get away with as it will not directly impact on the nuclear deal. But with openly siding with the Taliban it has now stated that it is against the Afghan government no matter what rhetoric it will spin in the future. There will be more support for the Taliban from Iran and there will be other groups that will be openly supported in the coming year. COMMENT ENDS
Israel/Hamas – Israel’s Shin Bet security agency on the 8 Dec 16 announced the arrest of a seven-man Hamas cell in the West Bank, which was planning to kidnap an Israeli soldier in order to negotiate the release of a convicted terrorist. The arrests were made in the Hebron area and included three brothers — Fadi Ibrahim Ranimat, Muhammad Ranimat, and Shadi Ibrahim Ranimat, who was apparently the leader of the cell. The brothers focused their plans, which also included shooting attacks, on kidnapping a soldier in order to secure the release of their father, who is currently serving a life sentence in Israel. Ibrahaim Abdallah Ranimat, 58, orchestrated the kidnapping and murder of IDF soldier Sharon Edri in 1996, as well as a suicide bombing attack on a Tel Aviv cafe in 1997, which claimed the lives of three women and wounded 48 others. According to the Shin Bet, the cell had been observing IDF movements near Tzurif in order to plan an abduction. During the arrests, Israeli forces uncovered large quantities of ammunition and weapons, including two Kalashnikov rifles, two M-16 assault rifles, and three pistols. In addition to the three brothers, two Palestinian men were arrested for supplying and storing the weapons and another was apprehended for plotting kidnappings while imprisoned with Ranimat. “The uncovering of the infrastructure reveals the high motivation of Hamas militants, both in the field and in prison, to carry out severe attacks including shootings and abductions,” a Shin Bet statement said. The Hebron area is considered to be a Hamas stronghold and has been a focal point for violent Palestinian attacks since October last year, which have killed at least 42 people. Israeli security forces have disrupted a number of Hamas cells operating in the West Bank during the past year. In addition, in March, the Palestinian Authority security forces arrested another Hamas cell in Hebron, which was planning attacks on Israelis. Earlier this week, the Shin Bet announced that it had arrested a cell of four Palestinians, including three minors, who had perpetrated four shooting attacks in the West Bank.
Israel/Hezbollah – An Israeli air raid on a depot controlled by the Syrian regime two weeks ago hit a supply of chemical weapons being transferred to the Iran-backed terror group Hezbollah, a spokesperson for a Syrian opposition group said on the 11 Dec 16. Fahed al-Masri of the National Salvation Front told Israel’s Army Radio that planes had struck a chemical weapons convoy intended for Hezbollah. Israeli Defence Minister Avigdor Liberman obliquely suggested last week that Israel was responsible for the strike and that the target had been Hezbollah-bound chemical weapons; other Israeli leaders have made it clear in public statements and conversations with foreign leaders that they will act to prevent Hezbollah from acquiring “game-changing” weapons or strengthening its positions on Israel’s borders. Hezbollah reportedly has an arsenal of 130,000 rockets, more than the combined total of all twenty-seven non-U.S. NATO member states. According to a July report published by the Foundation for Defence of Democracies, Israeli officials believe that any future war with Hezbollah has the potential to cause “thousands of civilian deaths” in Israel. Hezbollah has, among other things, threatened to attack ammonium tanks in Haifa, which could kill tens of thousands of people. The think tank’s vice president for research, Jonathan Schanzer, explained that Hezbollah’s widely-reported tactic of hiding military assets in civilian areas would also lead to mass casualties. Reports emerged two years ago that Hezbollah was offering reduced-price housing to Shi’ite families who allowed the terrorist group to store rocket launchers in their homes. An Israeli defence official told the New York Times in May 2015 that the build-up of Hezbollah’s terror infrastructure in southern Lebanese villages meant that “civilians are living in a military compound” and that their lives were at risk. A few days later, a newspaper linked to Hezbollah bolstered the Israeli assessment. In his interview, al-Masri also warned that ISIS, Hezbollah, and Iranian forces could be expected to move closer to Israel’s border if Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad remains in power. Research analyst David Daoud made a similar argument in Newsweek last week, writing that if the administration of President-elect Donald Trump defeated ISIS in Syria but left Assad in power, “instead of starving Hezbollah, it would empower that implacable enemy of the United States — one which has already proven itself a formidable threat to Americans.”
Lebanon/Hezbollah/Israel – A map released on the 6 Dec 16 by the Israel Defence Forces shows the degree to which Hezbollah has embedded itself into the Lebanese civilian population. The map shows hundreds of military emplacements, including weapons depots, rocket launchers, and terror tunnels, that Hezbollah has constructed in preparation for its next war against Israel. Hezbollah’s deliberate positioning of military infrastructure in Lebanese villages, a tactic that the IDF has called a “war crime,” is consistent with the Iran-backed terror organization’s history of exploiting civilians to launch wars against Israel. It was reported in 2013 that Hezbollah was paying poor Shi’ite families in southern Lebanon to allow them to store weapons in their homes, effectively making them human shields. An Israeli defence official told The New York Times in May 2015 that Hezbollah’s build-up in southern Lebanese villages meant that “civilians are living in a military compound. We will hit Hezbollah hard, while making every effort to limit civilian casualties as much as we can [but] we do not intend to stand by helplessly in the face of rocket attacks.” A few days later, a newspaper linked to Hezbollah confirmed the Israeli assessment. Hezbollah has “turned the Shiite villages…into essentially missile silos,” Jonathan Schanzer, the vice president for research at the Foundation for Defence of Democracies, said in Jul 16. Noting the threat posed by Hezbollah’s extensive rocket arsenal and its placement among civilians, Geoff Corn, an international military law expert at the South Texas College of Law in Houston, observed earlier this year that the resulting devastation from a war with these conditions would “both legally and morally…lie solely at the feet of Hezbollah.” United Nations Security Council Resolution 1701, which was passed unanimously to end the 2006 war between Israel and Hezbollah, forbids countries from transferring weapons to the terror organization. However, Iran has continued to arm Hezbollah, and the Security Council has refused to act to enforce the resolution. The IDF released a similar map two years ago showing that Hamas—also an Iranian client—had used a civilian neighbourhood in Gaza to house its terrorist infrastructure.
Saudi Arabia/Djibouti/Iran – Djibouti's Foreign Minister Mahamoud Ali Youssouf said that his country welcomed a Saudi military base to be built on its territory it was reported on the 4 Dec 16. “I took Saudi military leaders to some of Djibouti areas for Saudi Arabia’s military bases,” Youssouf said, adding that the agreement will be signed off in the near future. With regards to Djibouti’s relations with Iran, Youssouf explained that after Tehran supported that attack against the legitimate government of Yemen, Dijbouti decided to cut all ties with Iran.
Syria/United Nations – There are no “red lines left to cross in Syria,” the UN humanitarian chief said 29 Nov 16 accusing parties to the Syrian conflict who have systematically disregarded the laws of war. Speaking via video-link from London, Stephen O’Brien told an emergency meeting of the Security Council that was nowhere more apparent than in the besieged city of eastern Aleppo with nearly a quarter of million people trapped inside. “There are no limits or red lines left to cross. The rules of war - sacrosanct notions borne out of generations of costly and painful lessons and set more than 150 year ago in the First Geneva Convention - have been systematically disregarded in Syria,” O’Brien said. O’Brien said some 25,000 people, most of them women and children, have been displaced from their homes since Saturday and that it is likely thousands more will flee in the coming days as Syrian forces step up their attack. He said there was no longer any properly functioning hospitals in eastern Aleppo, which has been under siege for nearly 150 days and that most of the people trapped inside don't have the means to survive much longer. He called on the Syrian government to allow the UN and its humanitarian partners unrestricted access to deliver food and medical aid. He also urged the Security Council for action. “For the sake of humanity we call on - we plead - with the parties and those with influence to do everything in their power to protect civilians and enable access to the besieged part of eastern Aleppo before it becomes one giant graveyard,” he said. Staffan de Mistura told the council that over the last two weeks, government forces have recaptured almost 40 percent of the area in Aleppo previously held by opposition groups forcing thousands to flee. He said his office had received credible reports of opposition groups preventing civilians from fleeing areas under their control. Also, he expressed concern that many fleeing the city, who are perceived to have links to the opposition, were being detained by government forces. There are about six million Syrian children “in need of humanitarian assistance,” UNICEF Regional Director Greet Cappelaere told the Security Council emergency meeting. “Over 2 million of these children are in hard-to-reach areas, which humanitarian agencies cannot access on a regular basis,” Cappelaere said. “Nearly half a million [children] live under siege, cut off from humanitarian aid and basic services.” She said that some of these children have been living under siege for two years. Cappelaere warned that “schools have come under relentless attack all over the country.” She described 2016 as “particularly devastating for education.” “Since the beginning of 2016, the UN has documented 84 attacks on schools across Syria, with at least 69 children losing their lives and many more injured,” she added. “Across the country, more than 7,000 schools can no longer be used because they are destroyed, damaged, sheltering displaced families or being used for military purposes.” Currently, there are 1.7 million children and adolescents in Syria, who are out of school.
Yemen/Da’esh – A suicide bomber from a local affiliate of ISIL killed at least 48 Yemeni soldiers at a military base in the southern port city of Aden, in another major attack claimed by the group on the 11 Dec 16. A security official said that the suicide bomber detonated his explosives as troops were waiting to collect their salaries at the entrance to the Sawlaban base on the outskirts of Aden. Another 30 people were reportedly wounded in the attack. ISIL, or the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant group, claimed responsibility for the attack, according to Amaq, a news agency that supports the group also known as ISIS. However, Aden al-Ghad, a local news website, said the men were not soldiers but young men registering to take part in a government offensive to break the siege of Yemen's second largest city, Taiz.