For more on the US military targeting the Islamic State’s chemical weapons program, see FDD’s Long War Journal report: US military hits another Islamic State chemical weapons facility in Iraq.
Da’esh (14 Jul 17) – ISIS's first attack in Iran punctuated two stark realities: the group's annual Ramadan campaign is alive while the US-led anti-ISIS campaign is on a path to failure. ISIS surges attacks every year during Ramadan in order to gain or increase momentum in its global campaign to maintain its declared caliphate, expand across the Muslim world, and win an apocalyptic war with the West. ISIS has conducted successful attacks in three new countries this year - the United Kingdom, the Philippines, and Iran - and will likely pull off more before the Muslim holy month is over. The jihadist group has sustained a global insurgency despite the considerable military pressure it faces in Iraq and Syria. ISIS has been waging its global campaign in four separate "rings" since 2014. First, ISIS is defending and attempting to remain in and expand its territorial control in its "core terrain" in Syria and Iraq. Second, ISIS seeks to weaken the Middle East's power centres of Turkey, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Iran. Third, ISIS is expanding in other Muslim majority countries through attack networks and, when possible, ground operations. Fourth, ISIS is conducting spectacular attacks in the non-Muslim majority world, or the "far abroad," in order to polarize those communities and radicalize their minority Muslim populations. ISIS's Ramadan surges set conditions in these rings, varying its main effort based on its circumstances and the capabilities in Iraq and Syria and of its networks abroad. ISIS's first Ramadan surges in 2012, 2013 and 2014 kick started its resurgent campaigns to seize vast swaths of terrain in Iraq and Syria and declare the caliphate. ISIS continues to strike offensively against anti-ISIS forces in Iraq and Syria each Ramadan. ISIS began its campaigns in the "far abroad" and Muslim world as early as late 2013, when the ISIS external operations wing in Syria began to recruit, train, and deploy foreign fighters to conduct spectacular attacks in Europe and across the Middle East and North Africa. In 2014, ISIS sent senior operatives to Libya and Sinai in order to cultivate new affiliates. ISIS's success in the Muslim world in 2014 enabled it to recognize formal affiliates in Afghanistan and Pakistan, Saudi Arabia,Algeria, Russia's Caucasus, Nigeria, and Yemen before Ramadan 2015. ISIS did so in order to "remain" in Iraq and Syria and "expand" by creating resilience globally to counter pressure. The main effort of ISIS's Ramadan campaigns became the Muslim world and "far abroad" in 2015, after reaching its apex in Iraq and Syria by seizing the cities of Ramadi and Palmyra shortly beforehand. ISIS surged its campaign in the Muslim world, including spectacular attacks at a beach resort in Tunisia and a Shi'a mosque in Kuwait while continuing to deploy attack cells into Europe. ISIS struck a wide variety of targets across the Muslim world and the "far abroad" in 2016, including successful attacks in Bangladesh, Turkey, and Saudi Arabia. The same year a terrorist pledging allegiance to ISIS's leader attacked a nightclub in Orlando, Florida, shortly after the beginning of Ramadan. ISIS is expanding its reach even further this Ramadan, which began on the 26 May 17. ISIS conducted two near-simultaneous, complex, coordinated attacks against symbolic targets in Iran's capital on the 7 Jun 17. These attacks are a major inflection point that signals growing capability in the second ring of strong Muslim states. ISIS is also gaining momentum in Southeast Asia, part of its third ring, where it launched a major ground offensive in the Philippines, seizing a city and defending it against a counter-offensive by Philippine security forces. ISIS also conducted its first successful suicide attack in the UK, a priority target in the majority non-Muslim fourth ring. This attack suggests ISIS has a growing network in Europe despite increasing European counterterrorism efforts. Other ISIS attack cells have been thwarted in areas with ISIS networks including Spain, Tunisia, and Russia. ISIS has continued to conduct a Ramadan surge in Iraq, though security forces have thwarted some of its attacks. The scope of ISIS's current global Ramadan campaign, its continuity with past campaigns, and its resilience within Iraq and Syria demonstrates that the US has failed to contain ISIS or to reclaim the initiative, much less destroy the organization. Secretary of Defence James Mattis has said America's goals against ISIS are to "crush ISIS's claims of invincibility, deny ISIS a geographic haven from which to hatch murder, eliminate ISIS ability to operate externally, and eradicate their ability to recruit and finance terrorist operations." Current US-led operations in Syria and Iraq will not accomplish these objectives. These operations amount to chasing the ISIS external attack cell around the battlefield through successive linear, tactical assaults that tie up our military capability without achieving decisive results. The ISIS external attack cell has now moved from Raqqa, the main effort of U.S.-backed operations, to south-eastern Syria near the Iraqi border, an area where America's ground partners cannot now project force. ISIS is globalizing its external attack capability in order to endure even a total loss of its terrain in Iraq and Syria, which even today extends beyond Mosul and Raqqa, respectively. ISIS is deliberately "[fostering] interconnectedness among its scattered branches, networks, and supporters, seeking to build a global organization," according to an assessment released by the anti-ISIS coalition in Mar 17. The US has increased the tempo of operations against high-value ISIS operatives, but has not disabled the external operations cell. ISIS has shifted to mobilizing prospective fighters in place rather than bringing them to Syria, Iraq, or Libya as foreign fighters. ISIS's expansion in farther flung areas like Afghanistan and Southeast Asia also generates alternative basing options for command-and-control elements and potential fighting forces. President Donald Trump's supposed "acceleration" of the anti-ISIS campaign he inherited from his predecessor has minimally increased the speed of tactical gains in Raqqa and Mosul while doing little to ensure that the U.S. achieves its strategic objectives The liberation of Mosul and Raqqa in 2014 might have defeated the organization, but it no longer suffices. ISIS's global attack network is now more robust, dispersed, and resilient than ever. ISIS will remain dedicated to its global objectives after Mosul and Raqqa fall and will continue to wage a calculated global campaign. ISIS's global success generates a momentum for jihadism that will endure even if the US manages to defeat the organization, moreover. Al Qaeda is waiting to pick up the mantle of the global war against the West, and could be even more successful than ISIS. The threat the US faces from jihadism vastly overmatches its current hyper-tactical campaign in Iraq and Syria. The first step in placing the US and its allies back on a path to victory is to recognize that the existing strategy of tactics will not suffice.
Jennifer Cafarella is the Lead Intelligence Planner at the Institute for the Study of War. Melissa Pavlik is a Counter-terrorism Analyst at the Institute for the Study of War.
Hezbollah/ANALYSIS: Hezbollah’s Mahdi Scouts and their road to martyrdom (16 Jun 17) – As long as there are terror entities in the shape of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and its proxy Hezbollah, using the state system to brainwash youngsters into carrying out acts of terror in foreign lands, there will never be an end to terrorism. As far as Hezbollah is concerned, it will never run out of cannon fodder, as thousands of child conscripts are being trained within its scouting groups, and are always waiting in the pipeline, ready to take up the challenge of becoming a suicide bomber or proxy warrior within the Shiite militia’s ever-diminishing ranks. The conflict in Syria has certainly taken a toll, as Hezbollah warriors die dutifully in droves for their Iranian paymasters. Children as young as eight, who have joined the ranks of Hezbollah’s Imam al-Mahdi Scouts, are being brain-washed into learning the concepts of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini’s radical Shiite ideology, ready to be unleashed across the globe as part of Iran’s terror machine. As far as Hezbollah is concerned, they like to catch their conscripts at the earliest of age, and one of their favoured methods is to sign them up as Imam al-Mahdi Scouts, the youth wing of their fighting machine. The whole point of this exercise is to program a child’s developing brain, through teaching it the concept of martyrdom, while influencing their hearts and minds, with the use of an intense program of brain washing. At summer camps, which are designed to accommodate children under the age of 10, and youths up to the age of 20, the scouts undergo military training, as well as taking part in various sporting activities.
Dehumanized through indoctrination
On a much darker side, while being dehumanized through indoctrination of radical Shiite ideology, the young novices are taught hatred of Israel, a loathing for Western culture, reverence to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, and at the same time, those attending these camps are expected to swear allegiance to Hassan Nasrallah, the current Secretary General of the Lebanese political and paramilitary party Hezbollah. Whilst taking part in parades, which come as part of the scouting curriculum, the youngsters are often seen attired in military-style uniforms, they also wear berets, and at times, headbands emblazon their foreheads bearing slogans such as “Oh Jerusalem, we are coming”, while on other occasions, scouts have been seen to wear combat paint streaked on their faces, and carry plastic rifles. The fleur-de-lis is the internationally recognized emblem of the scout movement, a badge containing this emblem is worn by the Imam al-Mahdi Scouts, and just like all other scout troops worldwide, their emblem contains an element of their own distinction, which in the case of the Hezbollah troop contains two swords either side of it, a hand raised as if taking an oath, and it also displays an inscription beneath it reading “Obey!” As a fighting unit, Hezbollah is no more than a proxy wing of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). It’s function to carry out terror attacks, as well as fight in conflicts in foreign countries on behalf of the group. With the IRGC Qods Force having moulded the Lebanese militia since its inception, having now found itself entangled in the Syrian Civil War, the IRGC finds it needs Hezbollah more than ever, and adding this to the war against ISIS that has broken out in Iraq, both military campaigns have drawn the Iranian regime ever deeper into a conflict that seems to have no end in sight.
Avoiding body count
To avoid a heavy body count, which would impact on public opinion back home, the Iranian regime has been using Hezbollah, and other foreign militias, to take on the heavy end of the fighting, in a bid to keep their own casualties to a minimum, which has left Hezbollah desperate for recruits. Having suffered heavy losses on the battlefield over recent years, Hezbollah has been working hard to bring young recruits into its ranks, needing to create a new generation of operatives with which to replenish its battle-scarred units. So, at a network of Imam al-Mahdi Scout camps, said to be set up in the Shiite districts of Beirut, the Beqaa Valley and South Lebanon, potential conscripts are put through rigorous military training, as well as heavy indoctrination, preparing them to take on the role of “resistance” fighters. As they progress in their training, in the minds of many of these raw recruits, they see themselves in pursuit of the “greater jihad”, and that by sacrificing their lives for Khamenei, they are convinced they will undergo a spiritual transformation that transports them straight to heaven. One method of indoctrination used to influence these isolated youngsters, are books and magazines extolling the virtues of Khamenei, plus all other aspects of Iranian Shiite doctrine, and once the indoctrinated child reaches seventeen years-old, if the young scout excels in his training, his trainer approaches him with an offer to join the ranks of Hezbollah’s armed resistance group. As far as Hezbollah is concerned, its president is the Supreme Leader of Iran, Ali Khamenei, who is held in an aura of godliness by the faithful, who look upon him as the delegate of Imam Mahdi, or God’s representative on earth, and as such, they emulate him to the status of being the most divine individual alive, who cannot be equalled among mankind. With Hezbollah being a dutiful proxy of Iran, the values of Iranian radical Shiite doctrine are brought into play throughout the training of the Imam al-Mahdi recruits, nurturing the child on terrorist culture, whilst glorifying the terror group’s past martyrs, most of whom have died due to their connection to Hezbollah’s terrorist activities.
The most prominent of those revered “martyrs” come in the form of its co-founder and Secretary General Abbas Mussawi, who was assassinated in 1992, and its military commander Imad Mughniya, who was assassinated in 2008, whose faces can be seen across Lebanon’s Shiite areas, staring down from huge posters. Established in 1985, the Imam al-Mahdi Scouts is believed to have around 50,000 members, who are distributed amongst more than 500 regiments, many of whom will eventually enter Hezbollah’s armed wing, or will go on to become ardent activists of the group. Even the remainder who do not take up a vocation within the organisation, will still have become heavily indoctrinated as to radical Shiite ideology, passing it on to family and friends. The main topic on the curriculum of the al-Mahdi scouts has always been the destruction of Israel, they are also taught that becoming a martyr to protect their land is the highest of virtues, and during these intensive summer courses, scouts are also taught weapons skills, and take part in target practice. But there is also a lighter side to lessons, where youngsters are taught to read and write, they are also taught computer skills, and lessons in administration.
Iran – Several people were reported injured after armed men burst into Tehran's parliament building and the mausoleum of revolutionary founder Ruhollah Khomeini, with state media reporting at least one suicide bombing on the 7 Jun 17. One Member of Parliament told state broadcaster IRIB that there were four gunmen inside the parliamentary complex in central Tehran, armed with rifles and a pistol. News agencies ISNA and Fars said three people had been shot after the gunmen entered via the north entrance, including at least one security guard. An apparently coordinated attack took place at the mausoleum of Iranian revolutionary founder Ruhollah Khomeini, several news agencies said. An armed man had entered at the western entrance of the mausoleum and opened fire before blowing himself up with a suicide vest, the site's head of public relations Ali Khalili told the IRNA news agency. The mausoleum is in southern Tehran, around 20 kilometres (12 miles) from the parliament building. The ILNA news agency said five people had been injured and that security forces were dismantling a bomb inside the mausoleum. There were conflicting reports from inside the parliament complex, with some reports saying the situation had been brought under control while others said the shooting was continuing, with the buildings under lockdown. ISNA reported that the shooters had been surrounded but had yet to be arrested. Shiite Iran has been singled out as a target by Sunni jihadists, including the Islamic State group, but has largely escaped attacks within its urban centres. Iran provides key ground forces against IS and other rebel groups in Syria and Iraq.
Iran/Da’esh – Twin attacks on the Iranian parliament and Ayatollah Khomeini's mausoleum in the capital, Tehran, have killed at least 12 people and injured many more. Iranian officials say they managed to foil a third attack. The so-called Islamic State group (IS) has claimed it carried out the attacks, which would be a first in Iran. IS later posted a video which showed what it claimed was footage from inside the parliament building. Iranian media reported that four attackers inside the parliament building had been killed by security forces. It is not clear whether the death toll of 12 includes the attackers, or whether the victims were killed at both incidents or solely at the parliament. About 40 people were injured in the two attacks, according to emergency services Chief Pir Hossein Kolivand. Gunmen armed with Kalashnikovs entered the parliament on the morning of the 7 Jun 17. Images from the scene showed a major security operation as forces surrounded the building. Iranian authorities denied that there had been a hostage situation inside the parliament building. Speaker Ali Larijani downplayed the events, describing it as a "minor issue". Reports said the gunmen had entered parliament via a public entrance, dressed as women. At about 1040 hrs local (0610 hrs GMT) attackers at the mausoleum in southern Tehran, which is dedicated to the Islamic Republic's founder Ayatollah Khomeini, opened fire. The governor of Tehran said one attacker there had detonated a suicide vest and another had been killed by security forces, state broadcaster Irib reports. The suicide attacker was a woman, reports suggested. Several members of the public, visiting the shrine, were injured. This is the most serious terrorist violence in Tehran since the turbulent early years after the 1979 Islamic Revolution. It will come as a huge shock to ordinary Iranians, who have got used to living in a country which is generally far more stable and safe than most of its neighbours. Despite Iran's active involvement in fighting IS in both Iraq and Syria, the Sunni group has not so far carried out any attacks inside Iran, and appears to have little support in this predominantly Shia country. However, in recent months the group has stepped up its Farsi-language propaganda efforts - targeting Iran's restive Sunni minority, and the Iranian intelligence agencies claim to have foiled a number of IS-inspired plots. IS has this year released a number of propaganda pieces focused on inciting attacks inside Iran. An IS documentary-style video in Mar 17 featured militants who were introduced as Iranian fighters in IS ranks based in Iraq. Speaking in Farsi, they denounced the Iranian government and the religious establishment, including the country's spiritual leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. By mounting a successful attack, IS could claim a major coup against a traditional foe that other Sunni jihadist groups, including its rival al-Qaeda, have failed to target in the past.
Iran/ANALYSIS: Iran’s Khamenei and IRGC capitalizing on recent attacks – The remarks made by Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei can be viewed as seeking to capitalize on the recent attacks in Tehran that left 17 dead and dozens more wounded. “If the Islamic Republic had not taken a stance in the centre of all this sedition, we would have experienced many problems inside the country,” he said in reference to his regime’s meddling in Syria. The Revolutionary Guards (IRGC), being the main lever at Khamenei’s disposal to pursue his policies, is also seeking its own interests. The IRGC, being one of the main parties involved in developments inside Iran and the region, suffered damages in the recent attack and is seeking its own share of profit. The IRGC’s image also endured a major blow in the recent presidential election in Iran and more recently a US Senate vote seeking more sanctions. There questions rising on how convenient these attacks were staged on hours in advance of the Senate vote. Thus, bouncing back from such this series of setbacks seemed impossible. In response, Tehran will seek to capitalize on this turn of events as a major platform to justify launching future measures.
Following US President Donald Trump’s visit to the region and the severing of diplomatic ties by numerous Arab countries with Qatar, a known ally of Iran in the region, Tehran needed desperately to portray itself a victim of terrorism and pave a necessary path in this regard. The IRGC is also terrified of even the slightest influence enjoyed by Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on Khamenei’s opinion and decisions. The recent attacks in Tehran can be described as a nail in the coffin for Khamenei to show any softness. This is exactly what the IRGC needed at this particular timing. For a variety of reasons the IRGC will profit from establishing a certain high security atmosphere inside the country. Firstly, to begin an initiative to pressure Rouhani’s cabinet, and secondly, preparing the grounds for determining Khamenei’s successor, an issue discussed extensively in different circles across Iran. “To those who sacrifice the country’s security, destiny and interests for short-term and factional political gains, have they learned nothing from the recent attacks? This incident should be considered a major wake-up call for those involved in politics, to know we are all sailing in the same ship here,” a piece read in the Kayhan daily, known to be Khamenei’s mouthpiece.
The Ultimate Foe
The IRGC also sought to target the main source threatening the very existence of the mullahs’ regime. “This terrorist incident is similar to the crimes committed by the infidels in the 1980s,” the IRGC-affiliated Fars news agency wrote. Infidels is the term used in the Iranian regime apparatus for the Iranian opposition People's Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK). “Now we must decide what actions must be taken to confront the terrorists. The judiciary and security forces must arrest these criminals, prosecute and execute them,” the piece reads, further signalling how the IRGC will seek to justify upcoming crackdown measures against an already restive Iranian society. “Those who are against our struggles in Iraq and Syria should come to realize how sweet security is, and how bitter is insecurity,” the piece continued.
Eyewitness have pressed on the suspicious nature of this attack, especially armed assailants being able to enter the parliament building with assault rifles and vests full of explosives. “They wouldn’t even allow us take a pen inside. They just said we will take your papers and documents upstairs. How can armed men come into the legislative building? There were no security guards and no security equipment,” one injured man said to Iran’s Health Minister Hassan Ghazizadeh Hashemi. Similar conflicting reports were also witnessed in other state and IRGC media outlets. “Iran’s Deputy Secretary of the Supreme National Security Council said those involved in these attacks were of Iranian nationality. Whereas other state media, including Tabnak website affiliated to former IRGC commander Mohsen Rezaie, the accent heard from the terrorists indicated these individuals were not Iranian Arabs, but most certainly of foreign nationality,” according to the Tabnak website. Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence also issued a statement announcing the first names of five of the assailants, refusing, for some reason, not to mention their last names.
On a broader scale, Iran also failed to prevent a highly significant US Senate initiative seeking to impose new sanctions on Iran. This regime has been described a destabilizing entity and if such a bill gains final approval after the 92-7 initial stage setting vote, Iran’s IRGC will be blacklisted as a foreign terrorist organization. Was it a coincidence that Tehran’s attacks took place only hours before the Senate planned its bill discussion and a number of known regime lobbyists went the distance to delay the measure? You be the judge. As a final thought, this entire string of developments have played into the hands of Iran’s Khamenei and IRGC. The Iranian regime desperately needs such an open hand to have any hope of confronting the status quo, especially since the Trump administration has yet to define its Iran policy, the future of the Iran nuclear deal is in questions, sanctions will not be lifted from Iran and Washington will most likely be demanding concessions from Tehran in the region.
Iran/Qatar/Afghanistan/United States/How Iran, Qatar and Taliban links threaten the US mission in Afghanistan (12 Jun 17) – During the recent weeks, many reports have emerged that accuse Iran of boosting its engagement with the Taliban in the northern and eastern regions of Afghanistan. Historically, the Taliban had vowed and worked on cleansing northern Afghanistan from the Shiite tribe of Hazaras. To reinforce the main principles that shape Taliban’s ideology against Shi’iters, Taliban militants killed nine Iranian diplomats during the late 1990’s which prompted Tehran to post tens of thousands of its soldiers along its border with Afghanistan. These developments resulted in giving Tehran a big presence as a main player in this region, which saw the recent dropping of the “mother-of-all-bombs” by the United States under President Donald Trump. Northern and eastern Afghanistan has also recently seen the rise of ISIS, an enemy arrayed against many players, including US, Iran and the Taliban as well. An example of this clearly came to light early last month when many fighters were killed in clashes between ISIS and Taliban in the eastern province of Nangarhar. Unlike the Taliban, ISIS’ ideology is transnational and can be used to stir up Iran’s restive Sunni populations, the Middle East Institute observed in one of its recent reports titled “Iran’s Taliban Gamble in Afghanistan” by Joshua Levkowitz. Levkowitz, as well as many analysts, said that 2014 represents the critical juncture in Iran’s policy shift with regard to the Taliban.
This year, when most of the international coalition troops began withdrawing from Afghanistan, Iran moved to formalize its relationship with the Taliban by allowing it open a foreign office in Mashhad, giving an impetus to the banned organization’s international presence, the report said. It also added that ISIS gained strength in Nangarhar province after several regional groups, including Al Tawhid Brigade and Ansar Al-Khilafat Wal-Jihad, pledged formal allegiance to ISIS. These events too have served to push Iran and the Taliban closer together. Last December, Voice of America (VOA) reported that the Afghan parliament opened an investigation over military ties between Taliban insurgents and Iran and Russia. Iran stands accused by Afghan officials of harbouring Taliban fighters from Afghanistan in cross-border areas.
Taliban Families in Iran
“Families of a number of high ranking Taliban leaders reside in Iran,” Asif Nang, the governor of western Farah province, recently told Radio Liberty. “They live in cities such as Yazd, Kerman, and Mashhad, and come back to Afghanistan for subversive activities.” The governor said bodies of Taliban fighters who were killed in recent clashes in the provincial capital have been transported to their families in Iran. Nang told Afghan media that over 5,000 Taliban militants are present in the province. Locals say they often see Taliban crossing borders into Iran. “More new faces are seen these days coming from Afghanistan,” Jamaluddin, an Afghan refugee in Taybad city which lies close to the border with Afghanistan, told VOA. “They are barely seen in public places as they try to keep themselves away from other Afghans. Some Afghans say they are Taliban members.” Afghan lawmakers say Tehran is also supplying sophisticated weapons to the Taliban. “Iran not only has hosted Taliban families, it has supplied the group with weapons that could target and damage tanks and planes,” lawmaker Jumadin Gayanwal from south-eastern Paktika province said. The Wall Street Journal reported in June 2015 that Iran sent cash and weapons to the Taliban. In May 16, Al Arabiya reported that Taliban leader Akhtar Mansour was killed in a US drone strike as he returned to Afghanistan from Iran where he has been staying. In early February, a top US commander in Afghanistan said that Russia and Iran were supporting the Taliban in part to undermine US and NATO missions to bring stability to Afghanistan. Army Gen. John Nicholson told the US Senate Armed Services Committee that Iran is providing the Taliban in western Afghanistan with military and logistical support. Thus in the short term, the Taliban is furthering Iranian interests via its insurgency against the US-backed government and by providing support, Iran is preventing the United States from bringing stability to Afghanistan.
Ties with Qatar
According to many news outlets, Taliban members from their political bureau in Qatar, led by Mohammad Tayyab Agha, travelled to Iran in the spring of 2015 to discuss Afghan and regional affairs. The Taliban maintains a political office in Doha, for meetings with Afghan and foreign interlocutors after the controversial facility was formally opened in 2013. Taliban had three capitals as options, but according to reports, Mullah Omar himself preferred Qatar as the venue as he was claiming it was neutral. Some experts now link the revamped ties between Qatar and Iran, amid the GCC crisis, with the struggle in Afghanistan where US troops are now facing other enemies, and not only ISIS and Taliban.
Iran/United States – An Iranian navy vessel conducted an “unsafe and unprofessional” interaction with US ships by pointing a laser at an accompanying Marine Corps helicopter, the US Navy said on the 14 Jun 17. The incident occurred on the 13 Jun 17 as amphibious assault ship the USS Bataan, the USS Cole destroyer and another American ship were sailing in formation in international waters in the Strait of Hormuz. “The Iranian vessel paralleled the US formation, shining a spotlight on Cole,” Commander Bill Urban, a spokesman for the navy’s Fifth Fleet, said in a statement. “Shortly thereafter, the Iranian vessel trained a laser on a CH-53E helicopter that accompanied the formation.” The Iranian vessel then shined a spotlight on the Bataan, scanning the ship from bow to stern before heading away. “During the interaction, the Iranian vessel came within 800 yards (meters) of Bataan,” Urban said. Naval Forces Central Command said the interaction was unsafe and unprofessional because of the laser. “Illuminating helicopters with lasers at night is dangerous as it creates a navigational hazard that can impair vision and can be disorienting to pilots using night vision goggles,” Urban said. The Pentagon periodically voices concern over incidents in waters off Iran, accusing the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and naval ships of conducting risky manoeuvres around US vessels. Iran has counter claimed that US ships act provocatively.
Iraq/Da’esh – A suicide bomber blew himself up in a market in the town of Musayyib, south of Baghdad, on the 9 Jun 17 killing at least 20 people, medical and security sources said. "A suicide bomber blew himself up in Musayyib market, causing 20 civilian martyrs," an interior ministry spokesman said. At least 34 other people were wounded in the attack in the centre of Musayyib, a town that lies about 60 kilometres (35 miles) south of the capital, a police officer and a medic at the local hospital said. A source at Musayyib hospital said at least four of the wounded were in very serious condition following the blast, which rocked the market at around 1130 hrs local (0830 hrs GMT). The attack in Musayyib came hours after another, apparently failed attack in the Shiite shrine city of Karbala, a few kilometres (couple of miles) to the southwest. Four civilians were wounded when a suicide bomber blew himself up at the entrance of the city's main bus station early on the 9 Jun 17 police sources said. Both attacks were claimed by the Islamic State jihadist group through its propaganda agency Amaq, which in both cases spoke of a "martyrdom-seeking operation" using an explosive vest. Da’esh has carried out dozens of deadly suicide bombings targeting civilians but Iraq has been on heightened alert since the start of the holy Muslim fasting month of Ramadan.
Palestine/United States – The leadership of the Palestinian Authority has agreed to halt payments to the families of slain attackers, including suicide bombers, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said on the 13 Jun 17. Compensation payments to the families of "martyrs" who die carrying out attacks on Israelis are one of the sticking points in the moribund Middle East peace process. "They have changed their policy, at least I have been informed they've changed that policy," Tillerson told US lawmakers. Israeli Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman expressed scepticism on the 14 Jun 17. "I did not see any evidence the Palestinian Authority has stopped payments for jailed terrorists and their families," Lieberman told Israeli public radio. US President Donald Trump has vowed to seek to revive peace talks, and has urged Israel to limit settlement building on Palestinian land, but many differences remain. Under questioning at a Senate hearing, Tillerson said Washington had pressed Palestinian leader Mahmud Abbas on the issue of payments to the families of suicide bombers and attackers killed. "It was discussed directly when president Abbas made his visit with his delegation to Washington," Tillerson said, adding that Trump had raised the issue at the White House. Just after that 3 May 17 meeting, Tillerson had a "more detailed" meeting with Abbas. "And I told him you absolutely must stop making payments to family members of quote, 'martyrs'," he said. "I said it's one thing to help orphans and children, but when you designate the payment for that act, that has to stop. "Their intent is to cease the payments to the family members of those who have committed murder or violence against others. "So, we've been very clear with them that this is simply not acceptable to us. It is certainly not acceptable to the American people." If the change in policy is confirmed, it could be politically awkward for Abbas, who has committed himself publicly to the peace process but is wary of being seen to make concessions.
Jordan/Da’esh – Border Guards on the morning of the 3 Jun 17 foiled a terrorist attack by three persons, who were all killed after injuring one soldier, the Jordan News Agency, Petra, quoted a military source as saying. The official said that on the 3 Jun 17 at 0830 hrs local three terrorists, riding motorcycles, came from the Syrian side and attempted to target a forward military posts of the Jordanian Border Guards near Rakban camp. Border Guards engaged with the attackers, killing the three terrorists and destroying their vehicles while a member of the Jordanian Border Guards was injured in the hand and his condition was reported stable. The source stressed the Jordan Armed Forces-Arab Army (JAF) “will deter any person who ever targets the security and stability of the Kingdom”. A year ago, seven Jordanian troops were killed and 13 injured when a car bomb struck a forward military post at the no-man’s land at the borders between Syria and Jordan, the Jordan Armed Forces-Arab Army said. The Daesh terrorist group claimed responsibility for the attack. The crises in Syria and Iraq have placed increasing pressure on Jordan’s army to safeguard the long borders it shares with turmoil-hit Syria and Iraq, the length of whose border lines with Jordan exceeds 510km. Experts say that the “highly professional” JAF and security agencies are capable of protecting the Kingdom’s borders with the said neighbours. JAF has thwarted many infiltration attempts from and into these unstable countries and engaged groups in the process.
Saudi Arabia – A car that exploded in a mainly Shiite Muslim city in eastern Saudi Arabia killing its two occupants was carrying munitions, the interior ministry said on the 2 Jun 17. The blast on the evening of the 1 Jun 17 was the latest incident in Qatif, which has seen criminal violence as well as protests among the Sunni-dominated kingdom's Shiite minority. Police spotted a stolen sports utility vehicle used "to carry out terrorist and criminal crimes" and then took "necessary action", a ministry statement said, without detailing what tactics police used. "As a result, it caught fire and exploded," killing its two occupants. "An investigation is underway to reveal the identity of those two individuals." Police found firearms and ammunition, some of which exploded as a result of the blaze, the ministry said. Footage that circulated on social media showed thick smoke rising from a vehicle engulfed in flames, with periodic sounds of explosions. Saudi Arabia's Eastern Province, where most of its Shiite minority live, has been rocked by unrest since 2011. The authorities refer to the protesters as "terrorists" but also use the term to refer to those engaged in criminal activity and to Sunni extremists of the Islamic State group, who have carried out a number of attacks on Shiites. Last month, violence escalated around a redevelopment project in the old Almosara section of Awamiya, a Qatif district town. The interior ministry said criminals engaged in the drug and arms trade were involved in that unrest, which led to the death of a policeman in a rocket-propelled grenade strike, and two civilians killed by gunfire. Three United Nations rights experts called on Saudi Arabia to halt demolition of the 400-year-old Almosara neighbourhood which, they said, reportedly caused "injury, deaths and material losses to the civilians".
Saudi Arabia – A Saudi soldier has been killed and two others wounded when an explosive device went off during a patrol in the kingdom's restive Qatif province, the interior ministry said. In a statement carried by Saudi Press Agency (SPA), the ministry said that the blast occurred late on the evening of the 11 Jun 17 in the Masoura district in the village of Awamiya. It described the explosion as a "terrorist incident". The state news agency, citing the interior ministry, identified the dead soldier as Major Tariq Al-Allaqi. The oil-rich eastern province of Qatif is mostly Shia, a minority in the Sunni-majority kingdom. The SPA has reported an increase in clashes between Shia fighters and security forces in Masoura in recent weeks, after the Saudi government sent in workers to demolish a 400-year-old walled neighbourhood there.UN rights experts have urged the Saudi government to halt the demolition, saying the planned commercial zone threatened the town's historical and cultural heritage and could result in the forced eviction of hundreds of people from their businesses and residences. In May, another soldier was killed and five others injured in Masoura after they were hit by a grenade while on patrol, the SPA said. It said "terrorist elements" had carried out the attack "to impede the development projects in Al-Masoura". Earlier this month, two men were killed there when their car exploded on a main street. The interior ministry described the pair as "two wanted terrorists". A two-year-old Saudi boy and a Pakistani man were also killed in clashes in Masoura in May 17. The Shia community in Saudi Arabia accounts for somewhere between 10 to 15 percent of the total population.
Saudi Arabia/Egypt/UAE/Bahrain – A joint statement issued by Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the UAE and Bahrain on the 12 Jun 17 listed Qatari citizen Mohammed Jassim al-Sulaiti as number 20 on the Doha-linked terrorism list. Mohammed Jassim al-Sulaiti is an aide to Khalifa Muhammad Turki al-Subaiy, an al-Qaeda financial figurehead, who is listed as number one on the Doha-linked terrorism list. In September 2014, Sulaiti oversaw a campaign for supporting Syrians. But the campaign, which was promoted by Subaiy, had supplied al-Qaeda members to fight in Syria. Sulaiti also distributed supplies and aid to militias in Syria in cooperation with al-Qaeda supporters Saad bin Saad al-Kaabi and Abd al-Latif Bin Abdullah al-Kawar who are on UN and US designated lists of terrorists, as well as the list issued by Arab powers. Since Jun 17, Sulaiti has been working as the administrator of Qatar Charity and its aid coordinator. The organization was also on the terrorist list issued by Arab powers.
Yemen/al-Qaeda – Suspected al-Qaeda militants launched a car-bomb and gun attack on an army camp in south-eastern Yemen early on the 12 Jun 17 leaving at least 10 militants and two soldiers dead, a military official and residents said. The assault near the town of Baddah in oil-producing Hadramout province came after a lull in attacks by the militant group. Attackers set off two car bombs outside the camp, the official said. Residents said they also heard gunfire after two loud explosions. “Our soldiers foiled the attack and managed to secure the camp and we are still pursuing those who have escaped in nearby farms,” the official said. Al-Qaeda took advantage of years of turmoil to build up one of its most active branches in the impoverished Arabian Peninsula country. It has been forced out of some areas in recent years by Yemen’s army and allied Saudi-led coalition forces backing President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi in Yemen’s civil war. But its militants have retreated to mountainous and desert areas and launch regular attacks on Yemeni troops and government facilities.