Iranian Majlis Speaker Ali Larijani warned recently regarding the threat that terrorism posed to international stability and security by extremist and terrorist groups. He stated, “For the world today, fighting terrorism is not a tactical issue but is a necessary and strategic one,” Larijani said in a meeting with former European Union (EU) foreign policy chief, Javier Solana, in Tehran on Saturday. He also made a statement regarding certain regional and global powers for spreading terrorism and extremism and stated that the spread of these types of groups will mainly inflict damage on European countries. He further went on to explain that cooperation between Iran and European countries can create a new atmosphere in the region. Remarks of this nature regarding extremism and terrorism are rich coming from a country that not only harbours terrorists but provides training, funding, weapons, logistical support and exports terrorism no matter who they represent. The remarks could be interpreted as blackmail by inferring that if there is no cooperation from the European Union (presumably regarding sanctions imposed on Iran due to its nuclear program and Syria) then it could expect an escalation in terrorist and extremist activity. The new Iranian government may seem Europe as the weak link in the American-European axis regarding the sanctions imposed on them.
Iraq – The semi-autonomous region of Kurdistan has threatened to intervene with the conflict in Syria if the Kurds were “under threat of death and terrorism”. The Kurdish leader Massoud Barzani made the statement after recent fighting between the Kurds in Syria and Islamist anti-government had left numerous Kurds dead in northern Syria. Since President Bashar forces withdrew the Kurdish region has been run by local Kurdish councils. Syrian Kurdish militia have been fighting jihadists of the al-Nusrah Front. The Kurds in Syria were probably hoping to stay out of the current fighting in the country and to establish another semi-autonomous region similar to that in Iraq. Then later to join the two slowly regaining the country they once had prior to it being subsumed into the Ottoman Empire.
The recent bombings in the country have been accredited to al-Qaeda which comes as no surprise to many. In a recent article from Terrorist Watch dated the 12 Aug 13, AQ have stated that they are responsible and warned the Iraqi government to cease arresting suspected terrorists or face more violence. The government is being blackmailed for to stop the arrests of terrorists would mean they are weak and would have failed in their attempt to stop terrorism. If they complied then they would be seen to be bowing down to terrorist demands, furthermore the country would be doomed as it would then be taken over by hard-line Islamists and the country turned in to a Caliphate. Once this had been achieved the terrorists would use this as a base to launch further attacks elsewhere. The Iraqi government will not bow down to the terrorist’s demands but the outlook was bleak if the past Ramadan is anything to go by and with the release of prisoners. It is a wonder that the Iraqi people have not asked the Americans to intervene as there is no security in the country and probably not for the foreseeable future. Politically with the draw down of Afghanistan looming and the Obama government not wishing to get involved with other Arabian country affairs it is unlikely that the Americans will get involved with Iraqi security and politics. It is time for the Iraqi government to stand up to the mark and sort the out mess they have caused. Not to do so will upset the people of Iraq and only add to the woes that they have endured over the last few decades.
Lebanon – With Hezbollah currently on the back foot with being banned by the GCC and Europe it needs to find some sort of credibility not only in itself but its masters in Iran. They need to change the tack into its favour. Although it has fighters in Syria, Hezbollah also has to put up with attacks in its home land. Hezbollah Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah had recently emerged giving a public speech which he had not done so for some time. In it he said that people should stop worrying over their involvement in the Syrian conflict and instead concerns itself about the Jews and that the Shiites would never abandon the Palestinians. This is not strictly true due to its involvement in other affairs and its problem of fighting on two fronts. The rebel army of Syria may be stagnant at the moment but Hezbollah who have sent their troops to fight them are losing manpower and this may reflect on the terrorist organisations ability to fight credible operations against the Israelis in the future. Especially in light of the recent prison break in Iraq where no doubt some of those released will find their way to Syria to bolster the rebel ranks. Previously the day before Nasrallah’s speech the Lebanese President stated for the first time in public that he could no longer sanction Hezbollah’s existence as an armed militia in Lebanon. So if Hezbollah attack Israel to show that it is still a force to be reckoned with they may attempt to gain solidarity with the Shiites and attack Israel. They of course will respond but where would that leave the Lebanese government after the Presidents remarks? It maybe that Hezbollah has overstretched itself and found itself out of its depth. To strike Israel with sincerity it would have to rely on the ability to win for to lose will only push itself further into decline. They are in dire need of a distraction, but would have to be careful in its choice otherwise it will only have Iran which is too far away and who knows what will happen if and when Syria falls.
On the 9 Aug 13 a previously unknown terrorist group called ‘the Zuwar al-Imam Reda’ kidnapped two Turkish pilots working for Turkish Airlines on Beirut’s airport road. The kidnapping is in reprisal for the kidnapping of nine Lebanese Shia Muslims in Syria’s northern Aleppo province. The nine are being held by a rebel group known as Northern Storm Brigade (Asifar al Shamal). The Zuwar al-Imam Reda believe that the group holding the nine hostages are influenced by Turkey. There have been several attempts at negotiating the release of the Lebanese but nothing has come out of the talks. The new group may have been set up deliberately from a better known organisation in an attempt to put pressure on Turkey to have the nine released. A statement from the pilot kidnapping group have addressed a message to Turkey stating that, “Once the visitors return, the Captain will be released.” This statement is odd as they are holding two aircrew but the statement says that it will release the captain. There maybe another plan for the release of one but not the other or it maybe just an error on the captors side.
On the 15 Aug 13 there were reports that a car bomb had exploded between Bir el-Abed and Roueiss neighbourhoods. The explosion occurred near a complex used by Hezbollah. A previously unknown group called “the Aisha Umm-al Mouemeneen” claimed responsibility for the attack. The group sent a message via an online video claiming the attack due to Hezbollah’s involvement with the fighting in Syria. The last car bomb in Lebanon was on the 9 Jul 13.
Syria – On the 1 Aug 13 a large explosion was reported in the Wadi al-Thahab neighbourhood of Homs. With the Free Syrian Army (FSA) being on the back foot currently the organisation is attempting guerrilla/terrorist tactics. With government forces assisted by Hezbollah and Iranian forces the rebels are not able to continue their efforts to oust President Assad. This attack shows the Assad regime that the FSA has not gone away nor been defeated but is still there and a huge threat to him.
On the 8 Aug 13 there were reports that President Assad’s convoy had been attacked but it was not known if he was travelling at the time. A group known as the Liwa al-Islam Brigade claimed to have attacked the convoy along with another unknown group. Assad was heading to perform Eid al-Fitr prayers on the 7 Aug 13 at the Anas Bin Malik Mosque in Damascus. Although the Syrian government denied the attack residents in the area that is controlled by the government and where Assad lives and there were explosions in the area. If the two incidents are linked this will be the first time that Assad has been targeted directly in the two years that the conflict has been going on. The group is also known by the name Banner of Islam and is a Syrian rebel group fighting against the Syrian regime and mainly operates in the Damascus neighbourhoods of Douma and Eastern Ghouta. The Banner of Islam also claimed the 18 Jul 13 bombing in Damascus that killed Defense Minister Dawoud Rajiha, Deputy Defense Minister Asef Shawkat, and Assistant Vice President Hassan Turkmani. Liwa al-Islam is a driving force behind actions in Damascus and is known to cooperate with Jabhat al-Nusra and conduct joint operations.
On the 8 Aug 13 there are reports that an Iranian cargo plane carrying arms and ammunition was shot down near Damascus. Although both the Syrians and the Iranians deny that they had lost an aircraft there were reports that the downed aircraft hit the international airport and that a fire spread to the passenger terminal. The FSA claimed that they had used anti-aircraft missiles to shoot the aircraft down; the aircraft landed but lost control bursting into flames.
In a report by the Business Standard on the 6 Aug 13 its headline was “Syria’s Assad ‘legalises’ private security firms. Since the uprising the police have been moved to other duties leaving a gap that he hopes to fill and put a stop to crime and reduce the kidnapping and robberies. The decree will enable private security companies to apply for one-year renewable licences to provide protection and guard duties but only by Syrian nationals. The interior minister will define the arms to be used and said that those working would have to wear a uniform and be licensed to recruit between 300 and 800 guards. Some of the duties will include protecting prominent personalities, businesses and securing cash in transit. The Assad regime must be having a difficulty in recruitment and has had to place the police on other operations leaving a gap in the countries security. By hiring security companies he will be able to deploy the police on other duties probably allowing soldiers on those duties to fill the ranks and continue the fight against the rebels.
Yemen – Yemeni authorities claim that they had thwarted numerous al-Qaeda Yemen branch plots to disrupt the countries economic lifeline. The actions involved attacking two strategic southern ports and oil and gas facilities and firing missiles at foreign embassies along with attacking international shipping in the Red Sea. It is unclear if this is connected to the closure of many embassies and consulates over the same period. A Yemani spokesman for the government said that al-Qaeda had planned to take control of Mukalla a vital sea port and capital of the Hadramaut govern ate and Bawzer which was another sea port approximately 27 miles from Mukalla. The two ports employ a number of western workers. At the same time other terrorists were to target the Belhaf gas pipelines in the southern Shabwa province along with other gas facilities in that area. The terrorists planned to dress as Coast Guard officers and stage a fake demonstration claiming extra money for the Ramadan period. Although terrorists continue to use official uniforms in their areas of operation these attacks may have been based on the successful attack at the Amenas gas facility in Algeria on the 16 Jan 13. These attacks were to be a large scale operation involving many terrorists and if successful would have created a major impact not only in Yemen but also the world by hitting oil facilities. This operation would have taken a long time to plan and organise with the logistics to be obtained and put in place. Had AQ succeeded it would have caused huge embarrassment for the Yemen government and had a huge propaganda platform for recruitment and morale especially with the United States President claiming that AQ were not strong and were “on the ropes” referring to Afghanistan and Pakistan on the 7 Aug 13. However, other analysts have stated that al-Qaeda and its affiliates remain a global threat. It maybe that the countries are seeing a drop in AQ actions but in Yemen they are still a very strong force to be reckoned with especially if they can put an operation together like the one in Yemen.
In an Al-Jazeera report on the 12 Aug 13 the leader of the al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, Nasser al-Wuhayshi said that those that were prisoners of the organisation would be freed. In a letter to those being held captive he said, “the detention of prisoners cannot last and the chains will be broken” and, “your brothers are about to bring down the walls of evil… and victory is within reach.” This statement may well have been made with bravado after the successful liberation of prisoners in Pakistan, Libya and Iraq. On the other hand he may have got carried away with himself and is announcing that the AQAP are about to launch an attack on a prison in Yemen holding members of al-Qaeda.