Al-Qaeda/Israel/Palestine – Al Malahem Media, the official propaganda arm of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), has released a new English-language magazine titled, "Palestine, betrayal of the guilty conscience." The slickly-produced publication was released online on the 16 Aug 14 and, as a piece of propaganda, seeks to capitalize on anti-Israeli sentiment. The magazine is similar to AQAP's Inspire magazine, which has encouraged jihadist recruits to carry out individual acts of terrorism. The authors of the 24-page production portray their message as being part of the same "school" of thought that has led to a long line of terrorist attacks against American and Israeli interests, including those planned by al Qaeda's senior leadership. "The statements, views and strategies expressed herein are those in line with September 11, [the] Muhammad Merah Operation, the Brussels Museum Shooting and [the] Boston Bombings," the magazine reads. "This booklet is a collection of statements regarding this school plus a couple of ways to arm yourselves," it continues. "This work is prepared to help the reader find a way to support his Muslim brothers in Palestine and Gaza." As in past AQAP publications, aspiring jihadists are given do-it-yourself instructions on how to build bombs. A section by the "AQ Chef" adapted from the first issue of Inspire shows how to build pressure cooker bombs like those used in the Apr. 15, 2013 Boston bombings. A photo glorifying the Tsarnaev brothers, the perpetrators of the attack, is included. AQAP's newest online magazine features the writings of prominent al Qaeda leaders and operatives, both deceased and alive, including Osama bin Laden and Abu Yahya al Libi. A piece by Samir Khan, an American who helped produce Inspire magazine before he was killed in a US drone strike, is also included. One page includes quotes from Nasir al Wuhayshi, the head of AQAP and general manager of al Qaeda's operations. Wuhayshi's words are excerpted from the AQAP film, "Here We Start, And At Al-Aqsa We Will Meet." Wuhayshi says that demonstrations are not enough to counter the Zionist-Crusader alliance, a conspiratorial motif that is often included in al Qaeda's propaganda. "No, demonstrations must be followed by explosions, and civil disobedience by military rage, and we must cut aid to the Zio-Crusader and kill those of the Crusaders whom we find on our land, and destroy Western interests until Europe and America stop their support of the Jews and stop the killing there and order their agents, the treasonous rulers, to open the border-crossings to Gaza and Palestine," Wuhayshi says. Another AQAP leader, Harith bin Ghazi al Nadhari, also stresses the importance of confronting the imagined Zionist-Crusader conspiracy. Nadhari's statement first appeared in an audio message released earlier this year. The "cursed state of Jews is nothing without the American aid and support," Nadhari says. "The Jews and the Americans are sharing the same trench in fighting the Muslim ummah [community]. So it is incumbent upon all Muslims to fight this Zio-Crusader enemy who has allied against the Muslim ummah." "The same way Muslims are obliged to fight and repel the Zionist Jews, they are obliged to fight America and their allies, the allies of the Jews in the killing of Muslims," Nadhari argues. Nadhari is a prominent AQAP ideologue whose writings have also been featured in al Qaeda publications focusing on the jihad in Afghanistan and Pakistan. (LWJ 17 Aug 14)
Bahrain – A bomb killed two Bahraini policemen on the 28 Jul 15 and the explosives resembled some seized at the weekend that the government say were smuggled in from Iran. Iran denies interfering in Bahrain but openly supports opposition groups seeking greater rights for its Shi'ite community. "A terrorist bombing targeted policemen on duty in the Sitra area, resulting in the deaths of two of them and seriously wounding a third," BNA said, citing a tweet from the Interior Ministry. Five other policemen were lightly to moderately injured and were being treated in hospital, the ministry said. The explosives were similar to those seized by security forces on the 25 Jul 15 which the government says were smuggled into the country by two Bahrainis with links to Iran. The blast happened south of the capital Manama in the mainly Shi'ite village of Sitra - a hot spot of unrest.
Saudi Arabia – A Saudi policeman was killed and two others wounded in an attack in a mainly Shia area of Eastern Province, the interior ministry said on the 29 Jul 15. In a statement, police said two suspects were arrested after a patrol came under fire in al-Jesh village in Qatif district. It was not immediately clear who was responsible for the attack. Most of Saudi Arabia's Shias live in the oil-rich east. Since 2014 the Saudi region has been targeted by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant group.
Syria/North Korea – Reports have emerged during the reporting period indicating the presence of North Korean military personnel in Syria. They note that 15 North Korean helicopter pilots are operating there on behalf of President Bashar Assad’s regime. The reports have been validated by the pro-rebel but usually reliable Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. They are also not the first evidence that Pyongyang is actively involved on the ground in the Assad regime’s war effort. Earlier this year, the Saudi-based regional newspaper Asharq al-Awsat carried eyewitness reports revealing the presence of North Korean officers among the Syrian regime’s ground forces in the city of Aleppo. On this occasion, the Syrian Observatory was itself the source of the report. Asharq Al-Awsat detailed the presence of between 11 and 15 North Korean officers in the city. Rami Abdul Rahman of the organization said the men were artillery officers. They were not, he said, taking part directly in the fighting. Rather, the men were engaged in providing “logistical support in addition to the development plans of military operations.” These sightings are the latest confirmation of the long, close and cooperative relationship maintained between Pyongyang and the regime of the Assads. The connection precedes the current Syrian war. It forms part of North Korea’s broader network of relationships in the Middle East. Most famously, of course, the plutonium reactor under construction at the al-Kibar facility near Deir ez-Zor, destroyed by Israel in September 2007, was built under North Korean supervision. North Korean participation in the reactor’s construction was confirmed by a high-level Iranian defector, Ali Reza Asghari. According to Der Spiegel, North Korean scientists were present at the site at the time of the bombing. In an October 3 interview with Radio Free Asia, former Defence Intelligence Agency analyst Bruce Bechtol noted that North Korea has been supplying weaponry, including chemical weapons, to Syria since the early 1990s. According to Bechtol, North Korea provides the Syrians with the ability to “marry up” chemical weapons with missile systems. He noted that the North Koreans constructed two chemical weapons facilities for the Syrians, which remain in operation today. In terms of conventional weapons, North Korea has played a vital part in Syria’s missile program. The North Koreans are acknowledged experts in weapons smuggling process. They have continued to transport spare parts for Assad’s missiles into the country throughout the war, by air and by sea, coolly dismissive of the supposed international arms embargo. According to a 2012 report prepared for the UN Security Council, South Korea intercepted one shipment in May 2012, which was carrying graphite cylinders en route to Syria for Assad’s missiles. The Iraqi authorities also claim to have diverted a plane carrying North Korean material to Syria, last September. Bechtol, the former DIA man, noted that “in the past few months, there’s been an uptick in the number of North Korean advisers and logistics personnel on the ground that are helping Syrians resupply themselves,” and in the maintenance of weapons systems earlier supplied by Pyongyang. Such maintenance and resupply, of course, is vital for a country engaged in a long war, in which systems are in daily use. Why are the North Koreans doing this? The answer does not lie in the realm of ideology. Rather, the North Koreans are isolated and subject to sanctions. They need money, and will sell to whoever pays them. So who is paying them? In the case of Syria, the answer is – almost certainly – the Iranians. As with Russia, Syria does not get free arms handouts from its sponsors outside of the region. It instead gets free cash handouts from its regional patron, Iran, for which the survival of the Assad regime is most vital. This money is then used to pay for Pyongyang’s and Moscow’s hardware and expertise. Of course, Iran is North Korea’s main customer in the Middle East. So Pyongyang’s evident involvement in the Syrian war is also a matter of longstanding alliances, as well as monetary gain. Most intriguing in the latest development is the involvement of North Korean pilots. It is not clear if these men are actually engaged in combat on behalf of Assad, or in other tasks. But their presence appears to suggest that the dictator’s problems with manpower also extend to his air force. The lack of trustworthy fighters has been the main problem facing the regime since the outbreak of the war. Iran has sought to solve it through the insertion of large numbers of Hezbollah fighters, Iraqi Shi’ite volunteers and Iranian Revolutionary Guards into the fighting lines. If Pyongyang is now supplying pilots to the regime, then appears it can no longer rely even on its own airmen. This is quite plausible. On the one hand, the Assad regime is, among other things, an “air force” regime. Hafez Assad was himself a pilot and a commander of the Syrian Air Force. But as with other parts of the armed forces, the most loyal men in the air force are to be found in the most politically sensitive positions, not the most dangerous ones. So while the very powerful Syrian Air Force Intelligence (Idarat al- Mukhabarat al-Quwwa al-Jawiya) is largely officered by Syrian Alawites, the majority of the pilots are Sunnis. As such, it is perfectly possible that the same problems of trust apply to Assad’s aircrews as those which afflict his ground forces. The evidence suggesting the presence of North Korean soldiers and aviators in Syria ultimately furthers testimony to the determined, effective and continuing effort by Assad’s allies, from the very start of the war, to keep him in place. It may also be assumed that the North Koreans have noted and enjoyed the rudderless, wavering US policy toward the same issue over the same period.