The American Kafir

2012/05/09

Wily bomb maker fast in race with technology; informant ID’d device

Wily bomb maker fast in race with technology; informant ID’d device

By Shaun Waterman

Al-Asiri

Al Qaeda’s top bomb maker in Yemen is so ruthless that he recruited and equipped his own brother for an underwear-bomb suicide attack against a top Saudi royal in 2009.

“Even for al Qaeda, that’s cold,” said author Peter Bergen, who has studied the group since the late 1990s.

Now Ibrahim al-Asiri, 30, is suspected of making a new underwear bomb designed for use against a U.S.-bound airliner in a plot uncovered last month by U.S. and Saudi intelligence and thwarted within the past few days.

The supposed would-be bomber was an informant working for the CIA and Saudi Arabian intelligence, U.S. and Yemeni officials said Tuesday, according to the Associated Press. The informant, who delivered the bomb to authorities, is safely out of Yemen.

The revelation, first reported by the Los Angeles Times, shows how the CIA was able to get its hands on a sophisticated underwear bomb well before an attack was set into motion, the AP reported.

Underwear bombs and other explosive devices, such as the converted printer cartridges used in the foiled October 2010 air-cargo bomb plot, are al-Asiri’s trademark, President Obama’s senior counterterrorism adviser said.

Al-Asiri “has demonstrated real proficiency as far as concealment methods as well as the materials that are used in these” bombs, John Brennan said Tuesday in an interview on NBC-TV.

A Saudi national who has served time in the kingdom’s prisons, al-Asiri is the son of a pious retired military man, according to the Saudi Gazette newspaper. The U.S. designated him a terrorist kingpin last year, and he is wanted by the Saudis and by Interpol.

He is believed to be one of the top targets of the recently stepped-up U.S. campaign of lethal drone attacks in Yemen.

The FBI, which is examining the underwear bomb, said it is “very similar” to devices used in plots by al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), the terrorist network’s affiliate in Yemen, “including against aircraft and for targeted assassinations.”

That clearly is a reference to the August 2009 attempt to kill Saudi Deputy Interior Minister Prince Mohammad bin Nayef, who was injured slightly when al-Asiri’s brother Abdullah blew himself up at a meeting he had requested to turn himself in to authorities.

Initial reports suggested that the bomber had concealed the bomb in his rectum, but Saudi investigators concluded that the device was an underwear bomb, said Mr. Bergen, who was briefed by Saudi officials at the time.

They discovered that the device, made of a plastic explosive called PETN, used a chemical detonator, had no metallic components and could not be detected by conventional metal-detector screening.

On Christmas Day 2009, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab attempted to detonate a similar underwear bomb aboard a Detroit-bound U.S. airliner. The detonator failed, probably because Abdulmutallab had sweated through his underwear and dampened the detonator, officials told The Washington Times last year.

The latest version of the underwear bomb has an improved detonator, a U.S. official said Tuesday.

The bomb “was a threat from the standpoint of the design,” Mr. Brennan told ABC News. “And so now we’re trying to make sure that we take the measures that we need to prevent any other … similarly constructed [bomb] from getting through security procedures.”

Abdulmutallab’s underwear bomb was not spotted by metal detectors at Amsterdam’s Schipol airport.

After the failed attack, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) sped up its deployment of advanced imaging technology screening devices, which have become notorious as the “naked X-ray” machines.

Analysts generally agree that the imaging machines should be able to spot the new underwear bomb, said Rep. Mike Rogers, Michigan Republican and chairman of the House Select Committee on Intelligence.

But in an interview with CNN, he cautioned that this was just a “preliminary conclusion. … We don’t know all of the facts yet.”

The key to imaging detection of underwear bombs is generally the detonator because it has to emerge from the clothing in which the explosives are concealed, said Erroll G. Southers, a homeland security scholar at the University of Southern California.

The TSA has deployed about 700 imaging machines at more than 180 U.S. airports, according to agency figures. The machines cost between $130,000 and $170,000 each, and the agency has spent nearly $167 million so far to buy, test, deliver and install them.

TSA has faced keen scrutiny of its efforts to roll out the machines and questions about the effectiveness of deploying them in the United States because all previous al Qaeda attacks against U.S. aviation have originated overseas.

“That is a huge gaping hole,” Mr. Southers said.

Inconsistencies in technology and policy from country to country undermine public confidence, he said, noting reports that the European Union this year will relax the no-liquids rule for air passengers’ hand luggage, which would put the European Union out of step with the U.S. The ban is designed to defeat another kind of nonmetallic explosive.

Investigators from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) will report at a congressional hearing Wednesday that TSA deployed the imaging technology at airports without evaluating it properly.

“Additionally, various reports, studies and independent testimony all suggest that TSA is ineffectively deploying security technology and equipment at commercial airports,” reads a staff memo for the hearing.

2011/10/10

Irans Two Navies

By Commander Joshua Himes, U.S. Navy

The Arab Spring has fomented increasing uncertainty in the Middle East, a circumstance in which Iran’s regional intentions are of increasing concern. U.S. attempts to isolate the regime are driven by concerns over Iran’s nuclear program, the enduring energy chokepoint at the Strait of Hormuz, and Iran’s export of radical Shi’a militancy through proxy groups across the region, particularly as it affects Iraq, the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), Yemen, Syria, and Lebanon.

Tehran has historically used its naval forces to send strategic signals and project its foreign policy ambitions and priorities. The regime views its naval resources as its most visible counterforce to U.S. and allied operations off Iran’s shores and the best prepared of Iran’s military services to conduct conventional military operations.

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Source Link for above PDF: Understanding War.Org

2011/10/01

Al Awlaki is gone but his Jihadists are multiplying

Al Awlaki is gone but his Jihadists are multiplying

By Dr. Walid Phares

Imam Anwar al Awlaki held two important positions in the cobweb of international Jihadi terror. First, he was one of the emerging younger leaders of al Qaeda after the killing of Osama Bin Laden. Out of Yemen, from which his family originates, he had built a network of recruits capable of performing missions in the Arabian Peninsula, but also communicating with the Shabab of Somalia and many cells inside the West. His reach in recruitment was as far as Jihadists have been indoctrinated. The Nigerian Abdelmutalib, known as the Christmas day bomber in the US, was also connected to the Yemeni-based cleric. In a sense, al Awlaki was one of the most effective al Qaeda international officers. His loss will undoubtedly be felt –at least for a while – within the ranks of the network.

But his other position is even more important to Americans. The New Mexico-born Jihadist had established a web of American citizens, indoctrinated and incited to strike against US national security. Shazad, the terrorist who tried to blow up a car in Times Square, and Major Nidal Hassan, who massacred more than a dozen military in Ft Hood, are just two sinister examples of the American Jihadi network linked to al Awlaki. His writings in American English, his speeches and his savvy knowledge of American culture and politics made him in reality the “emir” of US citizens who followed the Jihadi ideology. Thus, his killing is in fact a strike at the head of the most dangerous network operating inside American borders, not just internationally. From that perspective, the “coalition against terror” has scored a point in its war with al Qaeda. But, although this could be coined as a major tactical victory, it is not a strategic one.

As I made the case with Osama Bin Laden’s elimination, the US is not at war with a mafia of criminals who would be impressed with the elimination of the capo. The Jihadists who have already been indoctrinated won’t be deterred by the missiles or bullets that took the lives of their emirs or commanders. In fact, just the opposite will occur. The “martyrdom” (al Istishaad) of these al Qaeda leaders will be viewed from the prism of the ideology that transformed their universe. Osama and Anwar are now seen as floating in the Jenna (heaven) while the Jihadi mission will rest upon the shoulders of the next wave, and on and on. Western-minded people, or non-Jihadi individuals in the Arab world, understand the concept of deterrence. The Jihadists, Salafists or Khomeinists, are brought up to feed from the martyrdom of their leaders and brothers in arms and take strength from that, so that they don’t react in fear.

The reason behind this clone-like phenomenon is ideology, which is in fact the center of al Qaeda, not its leaders. The ideology was created by Jihadism, not the other way around. When a product of this ideologic doctrine is eliminated, this doesn’t affect the factory; it will keep producing more, and will use their eliminations to mobilize further.

There is not now, and won’t be, any victory in the War on Terror (or the war with the Jihadists) unless there is a victory in the War of Ideas, which means that the ideology producing and inspiring the terrorists and would-be terrorists has to be identified and responded to. Naturally, the best parties to engage in this counter campaign are the societies where it has been breeding, in the Greater Middle East where there are the anti-Jihadists, civil societies and secular forces.

Unfortunately the current Administration and the bureaucracy of the past Administration did just the opposite. Instead of identifying the Jihadi ideology, they covered up for it. And instead of partnering with the secular and democratic forces in the Arab Spring, Washington today is flirting with the Muslim Brotherhood. Hence, while our intelligence and military are successful in their part of the war by eliminating the war lords of Jihadism, our foreign policy and domestic policies are allowing the Jihadists, with their Islamist ideological roots, to grow. Therefore the killing of al Awlaki is a small victory in an ocean of defeat.

The immediate question in mind is: who is next. Remember that al Awlaki operated within the US openly, as he even was invited to lecture at the Pentagon. Major Hassan, too, delivered lectures within our defense establishment. Also, In the past decade, a prominent member of an Islamist lobby group, Ismael Royer, was part of a terror training network in Virginia. The list is long. So the undeniable outlook for the future is quantitative: al Awlaki is gone but his Jihadists have been multiplying.

FamilySecurityMatters.org Contributing Editor Dr Walid Phares is the author of The Confrontation: Winning the War Against Future Jihad and The Coming Revolution: Struggle for Freedom in the Middle East. He is a Professor of Global Strategies in Washington DC. He advises members of the US Congress and the European Parliament.

Source Article Link: Family Security Matters

2011/09/30

Assassin-in-Chief

Assassin-in-Chief

By Kevin D. Williamson

Here are two facts: (1) Anwar al-Awlaki is an American citizen and an al-Qaeda propagandist. (2) Pres. Barack Obama proposes to assassinate him. Between the first fact and the second falls the shadow.

The Awlaki case has led many conservatives into dangerous error, as has the War on Terror more generally. That conservatives are for the most part either offering mute consent or cheering as the Obama administration draws up a list of U.S. citizens to be assassinated suggests not only that have we gone awry in our thinking about national security, limitations on state power, and the role of the president in our republic, but also that we still do not understand all of the implications of our country’s confrontation with Islamic radicalism. The trauma of 9/11 has deposited far too much emotional residue upon our thinking, and the Awlaki case provides occasion for a necessary scouring.

Contra present conservative dogma, the Constitution has relatively little to say about the role of the president in matters of what we now call national security, which is not synonymous with combat operations. What the Constitution says is this: “The President shall be Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the Militia of the several States, when called into the actual Service of the United States.” That is all. Upon this sandy foundation, conservative security and legal thinkers have constructed a fortress of a presidency that is nearly unlimited or actually unlimited in its power to define and pursue national-security objectives. But a commander-in-chief is not a freelance warlord, and his titular powers do not extend over everything that touches upon national security. The FBI’s counterterrorism work, for example, is critical to national security, but its management does not fall under the duties of a commander-in-chief; it is police work, like many of the needful things undertaken in the War on Terror. The law-enforcement approach to counterterrorism is much maligned in conservative circles where martial rhetoric is preferred, but the work of the DOJ, FBI, NYPD, etc., is critical. It is not, however, warfare.

A commander-in-chief does not have unilateral authority to invade foreign countries or to name belligerents, and it is clear that the Founders did not intend to give the president that kind of unchecked war-making power, much less to compound it with unchecked domestic police and surveillance powers, which is why the power to declare war resides with Congress rather than with the president. Our Constitution, as in all things, relies upon checks and balances when it comes to the conduct of war. It is significant that the final powers — to declare war, to ratify a peace treaty, to punish treason — do not rest with the president, but with Congress.

Congress deploys its checks and balances through passing laws, but many conservatives now argue that the president need not follow them. It is no exaggeration to write that a key plank in their platform is the belief that the law does not apply to the president or to his employees. Being a co-equal branch of government, conservatives argue, the executive is not bound by what my colleague Andrew C. McCarthy habitually refers to as mere “congressional statute” — i.e., the law — when pursuing its constitutional national-security duties. I do not wish to exaggerate Mr. McCarthy’s position, so I will let him speak for himself. For example, he acknowledges that “Bush’s ‘Terrorist Surveillance Program’ did not comply with the letter of a congressional statute, the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act,” but maintains that the administration was not obliged to follow the law in this case, because of a superseding constitutional investiture. Mr. McCarthy dismisses the notion that “the president acts illegally whenever he transgresses a statute” and argues that Congress “violated constitutional separation-of-powers principles” merely by issuing subpoenas to White House staffers in the course of a criminal investigation. He argues that in national-security matters, the president’s conduct is “more a political matter than a legal one.” For a great many conservatives, President Nixon’s most cracked assertion — “When the president does it, that means it is not illegal” — is now an article of faith, but President Reagan’s Executive Order 12333 banning assassinations is a dead letter.

Running with the ball we passed him, Obama and his administration now insist on the president’s right not only to order the assassination of U.S. citizens, but to do so in secret, without oversight from Congress, the public, or anybody else. Barack Obama today claims powers that would have made Julius Caesar blush.

An assassination may have military consequences, but it is not mainly a military act — war and assassination are different and distinct branches of politics. That does not mean that the law does not come into play: Mr. McCarthy may believe the president can set aside mere statutes, but he frequently justifies our detentions of al-Qaeda suspects as necessary prophylactics against “war criminals,” and the legal contortions that have been used to justify what we’re still calling with mostly straight faces the “enhanced interrogation” program have been a thing of wonder to meditate upon. The necessary thing to remember, these conservatives insist, is that since 9/11 the nation has been at war. In truth, we’ve been inching our way toward carrying out assassinations since well before the terrorist attacks of 2001. Clinton-administration officials told the Washington Post in 1998 that targeting Saddam Hussein was one possible contingency in case of hostilities with Iraq. Killing a hostile head of state as a prelude to combat operations is probably defensible; the slippery slope to assassinating American citizens was lubricated by the grief and rage of 9/11. There was remarkably little discussion given to it, the War on Terror having brought out the destructive strains of American exceptionalism. It is impossible to imagine that the United States would accept that the King of Sweden or the Grand Duke of Luxembourg has the legitimate right to conduct assassinations in the United States on the theory that we might be harboring enemies who wish them ill; to say the words is to appreciate their inherent preposterousness. But our own president is empowered to target our own citizens, wherever they may be found, without even so much as congressional oversight.

Among other intolerable consequences, this line of thinking means that if the president starts assassinating U.S. citizens helter-skelter, then the law is powerless to stop him, Congress is powerless to stop him (short of impeachment), and we’ll just have to wait for the next election. That is what is meant by “political limits” on executive power, as opposed to legal limits. It is an inadequate control.

These beliefs are relatively new to conservatives, being for the most part an artifact of the Bush years. One needn’t roll the clock back very far to discover a time when conservatives took a starkly different view of executive powers. After the fiasco at the Branch Davidian cult compound near Waco, Texas, the Right not only was willing to see executive-branch personnel subjected to the indignity of answering a subpoena but was in fact insistent that “mere statute” be used to put some of them in prison. Elliott Abrams, writing in National Review, called for investigations, arguing that “the balance between energetic law enforcement and limits on excessive government power will not be maintained if the Justice Department does not seek vigorously to maintain it.” On National Review Online, Deroy Murdock lamented the “maddening culture of impunity in which few officials face serious consequences for violating the law. This double standard, in which federal badges become licenses for lawlessness, typified the Clinton-Reno years.” He added that federal actions “involved an unlawfully extreme indifference to human life. Such misconduct often yields second-degree murder charges. But not at Waco.” Or for the would-be assassins of Awlaki. The Clinton administration was enough to make a limited-executive man, at least for a little while, out of John Ashcroft, who wrote: “The Clinton administration’s paranoid and prurient interest in international e-mail is a wholly unhealthy precedent, especially given this administration’s track record on FBI files and IRS snooping. Every medium by which people communicate can be subject to exploitation by those with illegal or immoral intentions. Nevertheless, this is no reason to hand Big Brother the keys to unlock our e-mail diaries, open our ATM records, read our medical records, or translate our international communications.” John Ashcroft felt differently after 9/11, as we all did. But John Ashcroft’s feelings are not what govern the United States.

The evolution of conservatives’ attitudes toward unchecked executive power is cautionary: If some of us who have historically been skeptical of the state and its pretenses are so quickly seduced by the outside observation of absolute power, how much more alluring must the prospect prove to the men who actually employ that power? Conservatives ought to admit that the presence of one of our own in the White House made us much more amenable to executive arrogations, and that the antiwar movement that tormented the Bush administration brings out a kind of Pavlovian response in us: Whichever side of the barricades the placard-carrying hippies and ANSWER dirtbags are on, we want to be on the other. That’s a salubrious instinct, but it can distort our thinking, inasmuch as the civil libertarians are not always wrong about everything. And we should appreciate that the Obama administration has intentionally made this matter public, leaking the details to the Washington Post: This is not a covert operation, but the establishment of a precedent. It is time to restore our ancestral suspicion of executive power.

But we have failed to do so, and now we are enduring the consequences as the Obama administration draws up a list of American citizens to be targeted for premeditated, extrajudicial killing that is part of no conventional military campaign, which brings us to two destructive illusions that must be shed: First, the War on Terror is not a war — not in the conventional sense of that word. Like the War on Drugs (but infinitely more serious and more important), it is a metaphorical war that sometimes has the characteristics of a real war. Awlaki is not a soldier or a man at arms: He is an author of invective and a preacher of sermons — it was not until the administration had been castigated for its assassination plans that it retroactively promoted the hateful homilist to “commander.” His crimes are real, and there is precedent for punishing them — we hanged Der Stürmer editor Julius Streicher at Nuremberg, but felt the need to conduct a trial first: Even a Nazi got more due process than we today are willing to extend to U.S. citizens. Awlaki is a traitor, to be sure, but hanging American traitors is a job for the American federal courts, not for assassins.

Second, and equally important: We are not going to win. Neither is al-Qaeda. Here, Mr. McCarthy is dead on: “There will be no treaty, no terms of surrender, no conquering enemy territory. Instead, there is only vigilance.” The War on Terror is not a military campaign, but a risk-mitigation project — a dangerous, bloody, and often thankless one. Jihad is and will be a constant low-level menace that may from time to time produce a spectacular attack. Al-Qaeda and its sympathizers will try to kill Americans, and we will try to stop them. If Awlaki happens to find himself on the wrong side of an American munition during the course of combat, he will not be missed.

But combat is a different thing from assassination, and regular combat is increasingly rare in the War on Terror, now that the actual war part — in Iraq and Afghanistan — has mostly wrapped up. And that is why the war model, and all of the lawlessness that flows from it, is defective: When the war is a metaphor, the battlefield is everywhere, and the timeline of operations is history’s horizon, we invite the creation of a state of “permanent emergency” by acquiescing to the growth and glorification of the state in arms. The defect in our pre-9/11 antiterrorism program was not that it was based on a law-enforcement model or that it lacked sufficient martial vigor, but that it was incompetently executed, a low-level, back-burner priority for a fat and happy nation cruising toward the millennium with very little on its mind beyond investment returns and Bill Clinton’s sexual shenanigans. That much changed on 9/11, but this did not: Decent governments do not assassinate their own citizens.

— Kevin D. Williamson is a deputy managing editor of National Review and author of The Politically Incorrect Guide to Socialism, just published by Regnery. You can buy an autographed copy through National Review Online here.

Article Source Link: National Review Online

2011/03/25

Update on Protests in the Middle East

Filed under: Bahrain, Jordon, National Security, Obama, Protests, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Yemen — - @ 9:42 pm

Source Link: Stratfor

Related Special Topic Page

SALAH MALKAWI/Getty Images Jordanian anti-government protesters clash with security forces March 25 in Amman

Syrian protests have spread and grown in size, increasing the regime’s vulnerability and creating an opportunity for Iran to rebuild its leverage in Damascus. Splits within the opposition have slowed any potential progress in Yemen’s negotiations over an exit for President Ali Abdullah Saleh. Jordan’s youth protest movement has declared its intent to form a tent city in a main square while the Islamist opposition continues to resist entering into negotiations with the regime and is holding out for greater concessions. The state of unrest in Saudi Arabia and Bahrain remains mostly unchanged from last Friday, but Gulf Cooperation Council forces are unlikely to leave Bahrain until both Riyadh and Manama feel the threat of Iranian destabilization has passed.

Syria

Tens of thousands of demonstrators rallied around the central al-Omari mosque in the southwestern city of Daraa on March 25, the scene of Syria’s largest and most violent protests to date since regional unrest spread to the country. Army and police had reportedly pulled back from the city center after Syrian President Bashar al Assad in a televised speech March 24 called on security forces to avoid using live ammunition, but gunfire was still reported in and around Daraa during Friday protests. Some 20 protesters were reportedly killed in the nearby town of Sanamein, according to Al Jazeera.

The protesters in Daraa, a Sunni stronghold in the country, are hardening their anti-regime stance, now chanting slogans against Maher al Assad, the president’s brother and head of the elite Republican Guard, whose forces have led the crackdown in the city. Protests spread northward as well on March 25, with demonstrations reported in the capital of Damascus, where three people were reportedly killed by security forces, the nearby town of Tel, the city of Homs, the coastal city of Latakia, the northeastern Kurdish city of Wamishli and the city of Hama, the site of the 1982 massacre against the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood (MB). The protests in these areas were relatively small, however, numbering in the hundreds. But the Syrian security apparatus appears to be struggling in its efforts to intimidate protesters into keeping off the streets. The steadily growing protests in Daraa and the spread of demonstrations to other locations increase the potential for the Syrian MB to become more heavily involved in the uprising.

The ongoing demonstrations in Syria provide an opportunity for Iran to rebuild its leverage in Damascus through offering assistance in crushing the opposition. There are growing indications that Iran is deploying Hezbollah operatives to Syria from the Lebanese village of Dayr al Asaher to assist in the crackdowns.

Meanwhile, the Syrian regime appears to be in search of distractions to its domestic crisis, pointing blame at Jordan and the United States for allegedly fueling the protests. A renewed Israeli military campaign in the Gaza Strip could also prove to be a useful distraction for the al Assad government as it resorts to more violent tactics against protesters at home. Damascus remains wary of the precedent set in Libya, where Western coalition forces have mounted a military campaign in the name of protecting protesters from an extraordinarily violent crackdown.

Yemen

A series of high-profile defections from the regime of Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh earlier in the week effectively split the country’s army and tribal landscape in two. In spite of this, the situation in Yemen was far calmer than expected March 25 after Friday prayers. The streets remain packed as Saudi-mediated negotiations continue between the various opposition factions and the Saleh government, but the opposition said it had postponed a planned march to the presidential palace until April 1.

Saleh appears to have resigned himself to the fact that he will be making an early political departure, but he remains intent on making as dignified an exit as possible. He benefits in this regard from the multitude of splits within the opposition movement, which has thus far been unable to work out the details of a post-Saleh regime. Saleh is resisting the complete dismantling of his regime, trying to protect his 22 closest relatives who dominate the security, political and business apparatuses in the country. Hamid al-Ahmar, leader of the main opposition Islah party and the Hashid tribal confederation, is meanwhile trying to position himself to take over the next government. However, he faces considerable opposition from rival Baqil tribesmen as well as many in the south, who resent the al-Ahmar family for seizing their land during the Yemeni civil war. The southerners are meanwhile counting on Yaseen Saeed Noman, the former prime minister of now-defunct South Yemen, to counterbalance the northerners.

Concerns have also been raised that Gen. Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar, commander of Yemen’s northwestern military division and 1st Armored Division who defected early in the week, is looking to assert military rule, though al-Ahmar so far claims that is not his intent. Negotiations are under way over a compromise that would reportedly lead to the resignations of Saleh and al-Ahmar as well as the creation of a transitional council representing Yemen’s various interest groups until elections can be held, but so far the talks have not led to any breakthroughs. Sorting out the details of such an arrangement through Yemen’s fractured political landscape will be an enormous challenge for Saudi mediators, especially with the Saleh family so deeply entrenched in the regime, tribal tensions simmering and the potential for more serious clashes between rival security forces looming.

Jordan

Though protests have been occurring regularly in Jordan since January, there has been a noticeable escalation of tensions in recent days between demonstrators and government supporters as well as security forces. The main reason for this is that youth protesters are trying to create a tent city of their own in downtown Amman, similar to what was seen in main squares in Cairo, Manama and Sanaa. A pro-democracy protest group originally known as the Jordanian Youth Movement has rechristened itself the “March 24 Youth” and declared March 24 that they would not leave Gamal Abdel Nasser Square, aka Interior Ministry Circle, until their demands are met. They have called for the immediate resignations of newly appointed Prime Minister Marouf al-Bakhit and General Intelligence Directorate head Lt. Gen. Muhammad al-Raqqad as well as the dissolution of parliament. Like the Al Wefaq movement in Bahrain, they are not pushing for the overthrow of the monarchy but do want significant political reforms that would weaken the power of King Abdullah II.

The Jordanian government responded with force to the attempted establishment of a permanent encampment in the square. It likely learned from the Egyptian, Bahraini and Yemeni examples that allowing a large tent city to materialize would eventually either lead to a violent episode that would only inflame the situation or would allow the protests to take on a life of their own. Roughly 400 government supporters, likely paid by Amman, attacked the 1,500-2,000 demonstrators in the square on both March 24 and March 25, throwing stones at them. Security forces allowed the clashes to go on for a while before using water cannons to disperse the groups on March 25, and authorities reportedly even clashed with the anti-government protesters themselves. According to reports, one person has been killed and more than 100 have been injured.

The role of the Islamist opposition in the Jordanian unrest remains unknown, and they do not appear to have been involved in the clashes of the past two days. Al-Bakhit accused them of responsibility for the clashes late March 25, adding that they had received help from elements living in Egypt and Syria. It is more likely, however, that the Jordanian MB’s political wing, the Islamic Action Front (IAF), is following the Egyptian MB’s example, allowing youth protest groups to take the lead in demonstrations while it moves toward negotiations on the sidelines with the regime. Thus far the IAF has resisted an invitation from the king to take part in the newly created National Dialogue Committee, however.

Jordan, like Bahrain, is a key regional ally of the United States, which is why U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates traveled to Amman on March 25 to meet with King Abdullah II. U.S. Central Command chief Gen. James Mattis was also in attendance, one day after the Bahraini crown prince held meetings of his own with the Jordanian monarch. There have been no reports as to what may have been discussed in either of these meetings, but Washington is likely trying to reassure Amman that it will stand by the regime, while simultaneously urging it to speed up the pace of reforms so as to stave off continued unrest. A reported shooting at the home of a Jordanian member of parliament March 25, which did not result in any injuries, has raised concerns that other elements are trying to dramatically escalate tensions in the country.

Saudi Arabia and Bahrain

Though Shiite demonstrators took to the streets in Saudi Arabia’s Eastern Province once again this Friday to call for prisoner releases and the withdrawal of Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) forces from Bahrain, the demonstrations were again relatively small in comparison to what has been seen elsewhere in the region. Demonstrators numbering in the hundreds marched in at least two villages, Rabiae and Awamiya, near the city of Qatif, and there were no reported clashes between riot police and protesters. This does not mean, however, that security is not extremely tight throughout the kingdom at the moment, particularly in Shiite areas in the east, where Saudi human rights activists allege more than 100 demonstrators have been arrested over the past week in Safwa, Qatif and al-Ahsa.

Across the causeway in Bahrain, the situation has cooled considerably since the March 16 crackdown by GCC forces. But Riyadh is still concerned about the potential for protests to re-escalate in Bahrain. A state of emergency declared March 15 has prohibited public gatherings, but Friday prayers bring people out into the streets regardless. Moreover, some online activists had called for another “Day of Rage” in the country March 25, with plans for demonstrations in nine locations. Though security forces did use tear gas on one group of protesters and one person was reportedly killed, the Day of Rage largely fizzled. Tight security was one reason: Fighter jets and police helicopters patrolled the skies on Friday as security forces erected several checkpoints on major highways to search people’s cars. But a more significant factor was the lack of support for the demonstrations by the largest Shiite opposition group, Al Wefaq. Al Wefaq’s spiritual leader, Sheikh Isa Qassim, did perform the Friday prayers March 25 in the village of Diraz, reportedly drawing more than 1,000 people. But while he reiterated the people’s determination to continue demonstrating until their demands have been met, he again declined to escalate the situation by calling for the overthrow of the regime.

While the extent of Iranian involvement in the Bahraini protests remains unknown, the al-Khalifa regime has noticeably increased its rhetoric over the past week, alleging that Tehran is directing the demonstrations. This has occurred despite the situation’s having calmed significantly since the leaders of the hard-line Shiite Coalition for a Republic, which is believed to have close links with Tehran and has advocated the total overthrow of the regime, were detained March 17. Until the al-Khalifas, as well as the Saudis, feel that there is not a threat of Iranian destabilization, they will be unlikely to call for the withdrawal of the GCC troops that are helping to provide security in Bahrain.

2011/03/24

UAE: Yemeni Arms Intercepted In Dubai

Filed under: Turkey, United Arab Emirates, Yemen — Tags: , — - @ 11:44 am

Source Link: Stratfor

Dubai police in the United Arab Emirates intercepted 16,000 weapons valued at 16 million dirhams ($4.36 million) that Dubai police chief Dahi Khalfan Tamim said were bound for Yemen from Turkey, Reuters reported March 24. Tamim said six people were arrested in the operation, five from Arab countries and one from Turkey.

2011/03/22

Yemen: 2 Al Qaeda Fighters Killed In Clash With Army

Source Link: Stratfor

Al Qaeda militants on March 22 surrounded a Yemeni army unit in Loder in the southern province of Abyan, leading to a firefight in which two militants died and a third was injured, a security official said, AFP reported. The official said five soldiers were injured in the three-hour clash, in which both sides used artillery, machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades. A witness said the bodies of three al Qaeda fighters were removed from the scene.

2011/03/21

Yemen in Crisis: A Special Report

Filed under: Arab Nations, National Security, Protests, Yemen — - @ 2:05 pm

Source Link:Stratfor

AHMAD GHARABLI/AFP/Getty Images Yemeni anti-government protesters face off March 13 with security forces and regime loyalists in Sanaa

A crisis in Yemen is rapidly escalating. A standoff centered on the presidential palace is taking place between security forces in the capital city of Sanaa while embattled President Ali Abdullah Saleh continues to resist stepping down, claiming that the “majority of Yemeni people” support him. While a Western-led military intervention in Libya is dominating the headlines, the crisis in Yemen and its implications for Persian Gulf stability is of greater strategic consequence. Saudi Arabia is already facing the threat of an Iranian destabilization campaign in eastern Arabia and has deployed forces to Bahrain in an effort to prevent Shiite unrest from spreading. With a second front now threatening the Saudi underbelly, the situation in Yemen is becoming one that the Saudis can no longer leave on the backburner.

The turning point in Yemen occurred March 18 after Friday prayers, when tens of thousands of protestors in the streets calling for Saleh’s ouster came under a heavy crackdown that reportedly left some 46 people dead and hundreds wounded. It is unclear whether the shootings were ordered by Saleh himself, orchestrated by a member of the Yemeni defense establishment to facilitate Saleh’s political exit or simply provoked by tensions in the streets, but it does not really matter. Scores of defections from the ruling party, the prominent Hashid tribe in the north and military old guard followed the March 18 events, both putting Saleh at risk of being removed in a coup and putting the already deeply fractious country at risk of a civil war.

The Army Splits

But the situation in Yemen is also not a replica of the crisis in Egypt, which was not so much a revolution as it was a very carefully managed succession by the country’s armed forces. In Egypt, the armed forces maintained their independence from the unpopular Mubarak regime, thereby providing the armed forces with the unity in command and effort in using the street demonstrations to quietly oust Mubarak. In Yemen, a tribal society at its core, Saleh insured himself by stacking the security apparatus with members of his family and Sanhan tribal village. For example:

  • Gen. Ahmed Ali Abdullah Saleh, the president’s son, is the commander of the Republican Guard and Yemeni special operations forces. The president originally had planned to have his son succeed him.
  • Gen. Yahya Mohamed Abdullah Saleh, commander of the Central Security Forces and Counterterrorism Unit, is Saleh’s nephew.
  • Col. Tareq Mohammed Abdullah Saleh, commander of the Presidential Guard, is Saleh’s nephew.
  • Col. Ammar Mohammed Abdullah Saleh, commander of the National Security Bureau, is Saleh’s nephew.
  • Brig. Gen. Mohamed Saleh al-Ahmar, commander of the air force, is Saleh’s half-brother.
  • Brig. Gen. Ali Saleh al-Ahmar, chief of staff of the general command, is Saleh’s half-brother.
  • Brig. Gen. Mehdi Makwala, commander of the southern military zone in Aden, is a Hashid tribesman from Saleh’s village, Sanhan.
  • Brig. Gen. Mohammed Ali Mohsen, commander of the Eastern Military Zone in Hadramawt, is a Hashid tribesman from Sanhan.

However, Saleh cannot rely on the support of all of his relatives. The biggest threat to Saleh within the military apparatus comes from Brig. Gen. Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar, Saleh’s half brother, commander of the first armored brigade and commander of the northwestern military zone. Mohsen is an influential member of Yemen’s old guard and initiated a fresh wave of defections when he announced March 21 that he is joining the people’s revolution and deployed an armored formation to protect the protestors. Armored vehicles under Mohsen’s command are now reportedly surrounding the presidential palace, where Republican Guard units under the command of Saleh’s son, Ahmed, have already taken up defensive positions. The potential for clashes between pro and now anti-Saleh security forces is escalating.

Ali Mohsen may be positioning himself for Saleh’s political exit, but he is unlikely to be a welcome replacement from the U.S. point of view. Ali Mohsen is considered a veteran of the Islamist old guard, who earned its claim to fame during the 1994 civil war, when Saleh relied on Islamists to defeat the more secular and formerly Marxist south. The infusion of jihadists and jihadist sympathizers throughout the Yemeni security apparatus — a critical factor that has compounded counterterrorism efforts in the country — is a product of the Ali Mohsen legacy.

Following Mohsen’s defection and a crisis meeting among senior Yemen defense officials March 21, Yemeni Defense Minister Maj. Gen. Mohammad Nasser Ali asserted that the army would continue to stand behind Saleh and thwart any attempted coups threatening Saleh’s legitimacy. The Yemeni defense minister does not speak for the entire army, however, particularly those forces under the command of Mohsen deploying in the capital city.

Tribal Opportunism

If the army is the first pillar underpinning Saleh’s regime, the second pillar is the tribe. Yemen, much like Libya, is divided among tribal lines, particularly in the north of the country. Though Saleh understands the power of the tribe and has made a concerted effort to maintain his tribal alliances, his biggest threat within Yemen’s tribal landscape comes from Sheikh Hamid al-Ahmar, one of the sons to the late Abdullah bin Hussein al-Ahmar, who ruled the Hashid confederation as the most powerful tribal chieftain in the country. Hamid is a wealthy businessman and a leader of the conservative Islah party that leads the Joint Meetings Party (JMP) opposition coalition. He has obvious political aspirations to become the next leader of Yemen and sees the current uprising as his chance to bring Saleh down. In fact, the first wave of resignations from within the ruling General People’s Congress (GPC) party could be traced back to the al-Ahmar family tree, as relatives and allies were called on to raise the pressure against Saleh.

Still, there are significant arrestors to Hamid’s political rise. The al-Ahmars, while powerful and wealthy, do not speak for the entire Hashid confederation. Many members of both the Hashid and Bakil tribes have said as much publicly. Tribal sheikhs within the Bakil are especially wary of seeing an archrival Hashid leader assume control of Sanaa. In short, Saleh and his remaining loyalists still have some room to maneuver in playing tribal loyalties off each other to preserve his regime, but that room is narrowing.

The Saudi Vote

Yemeni Foreign Minister Dr. Abu-Bakr al-Qirbi is reportedly en route to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to deliver a “Presidential Letter” to the Saudi Monarch. In this letter, Saleh is likely asking for Saudi support for his regime, making the case that his downfall will lead to a fracturing of the country and greater instability for the Arabian Peninsula overall. Saudi support for Saleh is nowhere near assured, however.

Yemen has long had to contend with the fact that Saudi Arabia has the money, influence and tribal links to directly shape Yemeni politics according to its interests. The Saudis view Yemen as a subordinate power on the heel of the Arabian Peninsula, one that (if partitioned in a civil war) could potentially provide Riyadh with direct access to the Arabian Sea, but that if left to fragment, could also spread instability into the Saudi kingdom. The Saudis have thus relied primarily on their tribal links in the country to maintain influence and keep a lid on unrest, thereby keeping the central government in Sanaa weak and dependent on Riyadh for most of its policies.

Given Saudi Arabia’s heavy influence in Yemen, the Saudi view on the situation in Yemen serves as a vital indicator of Saleh’s staying power. More specifically, defections or pledges of support by Yemeni tribal leaders on the Saudi payroll can provide clues on the current Saudi mood toward Yemen. The al-Ahmar family, for example, has extremely close ties to the Saudi royals, and Hamid al-Ahmar has made a point in his recent interviews to praise the Saudis and highlight that he has been traveling between Saudi Arabia and Yemen in recent weeks. At the same time, a number of other prominent tribes close to the Saudis continue to stand by Saleh. Throughout much of Yemen’s crisis, the Saudis did not show signs of abandoning Saleh, but they were not fully backing him, either.

This is likely a reflection of internal Saudi differences as well as limited Saudi resources to deal effectively with Yemen at this point in time. The three Saudi royals who deal most closely with Yemen affairs are King Abdullah, Crown Prince Sultan and Interior Minister and second deputy prime minister Prince Naif. Prince Naif and Crown Prince Sultan have had a very rocky relationship with Saleh and would most likely be amenable to his ouster, while King Abdullah (whose clan rivals the Sudeiri clan, to which Crown Prince Sultan and Prince Naif both belong) has maintained a closer relationship with the Yemeni president. The three often disagree on various facets of Saudi Arabia’s policy toward Yemen. At the same time, the Saudi government has its hands full in dealing with Iran, preventing it from devoting considerable attention to Yemen’s political crisis. Using Bahrain as a flashpoint for sectarian unrest, Iran has been fueling a destabilization campaign throughout eastern Arabia designed to undermine its U.S.-allied Sunni Arab rivals.

Yemen, while ranking much lower on a strategic level than Bahrain, Saudi Arabia or Kuwait, also is not immune to Iran’s agenda. In the northern Yemeni province of Saada, the Yemeni state has struggled to suppress a rebellion by al-Houthis of the Zaydi sect, considered an offshoot of Shiite Islam and heretical by Wahhabi standards. Riyadh fears al-Houthi unrest in Yemen’s north will stir unrest in Saudi Arabia’s southern provinces of Najran and Jizan, which are home to the Ismailis (also an offshoot of Shiite Islam). Ismaili unrest in the south could then embolden Shia in Saudi Arabia’s oil-rich Eastern Province, who have already been carrying out demonstrations against the Saudi monarchy with Iranian backing.

 

When Saudi Arabia deployed troops in the al-Houthi-Ismaili borderland between Yemen and Saudi Arabia in late 2009, STRATFOR picked up indications that the al-Houthis were receiving some support from Iran, albeit nothing that was considered a game-changer in the rebellion. With unrest spreading throughout eastern Arabia and the Yemeni state falling into a deepening political crisis, the Saudis now have to worry about Iran exploiting a second front through Yemen to threaten the Saudi underbelly. This is in addition to all the other “usual” security issues afflicting Yemen, most notably the threat posed by al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, which uses Yemen as a staging ground for attempts at more strategic attacks in the Saudi kingdom.

With distractions mounting in the region and Saleh still counting on a large network of familial and tribal ties to hold on to power, Saudi Arabia does not appear to have formed a coherent policy on its southern neighbor. This likely explains quiet complaints by Yemeni officials that they have been getting mixed signals from the Saudi kingdom in dealing with the current crisis. Now that the situation in Yemen has reached a tipping point, the Saudis will have to make a call on Yemen. Both Mohsen and the Al Ahmar family have a close relationship with the Saudis. The Saudi plan for Yemen is still likely being worked out, but any contingency involving a prominent political space for an Islamist like Mohsen is cause for concern for countries like the United States. Though speculation has arisen over a possible Saudi military intervention in Yemen, the likelihood of such a scenario is low. The Saudi royals are unlikely to fend for Saleh at this stage, and even if they did, they would face enormous difficulty in maintaining lines of supply to its southern neighbor to quell swelling unrest in the country when the army and tribal landscape are already split.

Yemen may border Saudi Arabia, but the geography of this part of the Arabian Peninsula poses logistical challenges far greater than what exists between eastern Saudi Arabia and Bahrain. Even if Riyadh decided it wanted to deploy its armed forces to protect Saleh, it would not be as simple as sending troops across a causeway into Sanaa.

Saleh in a Regional Context

Saleh is no doubt a political victim of the current wave of Middle East unrest and faces tougher days ahead in trying to maintain control. But he also finds himself in a very different situation from than Mubarak’s Egypt or Ben Ali’s Tunisia. Both Egypt and Tunisia had institutions, most critically the armed forces, able to stand apart from their unpopular leaders and sacrifice them at the appropriate time. Though Mubarak and Ben Ali had built patronage networks throughout the countries’ ruling parties and business sectors, their family names were not entrenched in the security apparatus, as is Saleh’s.

In some ways, Saleh’s case is more akin to that of Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi, who presides over a tribal society split along an east-west axis like Yemen’s north-south axis. Though Yemen is more advanced politically and institutionally than Libya, both Gadhafi and Saleh have insulated their regimes by deliberately preventing the development of alternative bases of power, relying mostly on complex tribal alliances and militaries commanded by nepotism to rule. Such regimes take decades to build and an iron fist to maintain, making the removal of a single leader typically more trouble than it is worth. Though the system has worked for more than three decades for Saleh, the president’s carefully managed support network is now rapidly eroding. Saudi Arabia is now being force to make a tough call on the future of Yemen at a time when Riyadh cannot afford another crisis in the Persian Gulf region.

Tensions Grow Between Yemeni Army, Security Forces

Filed under: Protests, Yemen — - @ 11:42 am

Source Link: Stratfor

March 21, 2011 | 1437 GMT

GAMAL NOMAN/AFP/Getty Images A Yemeni BTR-60 wheeled armored personnel carrier at a military checkpoint in Sanaa on March 21

The potential for a clash between army and security forces in the Yemeni capital of Sanaa is escalating. According to Al Jazeera, Republican Guard troops have been deployed and are taking up defensive positions around the presidential palace. At the same time, an armored formation under an opposing commander is reportedly being deployed to the presidential palace.

The Republican Guard is Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh’s first and last defense. The Republican Guard forces are commanded by Saleh’s closest son, Ahmed, who also commands Yemen’s special operations forces.

The tanks deploying to the palace are doing so under the command of Brig. Gen. Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar, the president’s half-brother as well as commander of the northwestern military zone and 1st Armored Division in position on the outskirts of Sanaa. Al-Ahmar defected March 21 and deployed his forces to protect Yemeni protesters against security forces loyal to Saleh. A string of old guard members loyal to al-Ahmar then defected.

Amid the escalating tensions, Saleh, who relies principally on his loyalists and closest relatives who dominate Yemen’s security apparatus, still refuses to step down. He delivered a speech March 21 saying he is “patient” and has the support of the majority of the Yemeni people. The statement is likely to embolden the protesters, who are already reinvigorated by the growing support they have received from al-Ahmar’s military allies, defectors from the ruling party and Hashid tribesmen loyal to Sheikh Hamid al-Ahmar, who views the current uprising as his chance to assume political leadership over Yemen.

A showdown between rival security forces is developing in Sanaa. STRATFOR will continue monitoring the situation closely.

2011/03/18

State of Emergency Declared in Yemen

Source Link: Stratfor

State of Emergency Declared in Yemen
AHMAD GHARABLI/AFP/Getty Images
Yemeni anti-government protesters carry away a wounded demonstrator in Sanaa on March 18

Footage From Yemen Protests

Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh and the Yemeni National Defense Council declared a state of emergency March 18 following a violent crackdown on protesters in Sanaa that has reportedly left some 50 people dead and more than 200 wounded. Protests outside the University of Sanaa entrance swelled after Friday prayers, numbering in the tens of thousands. Protests also followed Friday prayers in other parts of the country, including Taiz, Ibb, Hodeidah, Aden and Amran.

Though Yemen’s opposition is a fractured amalgam of students, unemployed youth, Islamists, socialists, Salafists, tribesmen with political ambitions and regular laborers, the movement has coalesced around a call for Saleh and his most politically and militarily empowered relatives to step down. Prior to March 18, roughly 40 protesters were reportedly killed in sporadic crackdowns throughout the country. That death toll has now doubled as the regime has resorted to more forceful tactics in trying to intimidate protesters.

The state of emergency will be used by the regime to impose curfews and restrict media access, but the regime’s attempts to clear the streets of protesters in the capital will be a struggle. Yemen’s opposition is refusing dialogue with the regime, intransigent in its demand for Saleh’s ouster. At the same time, Saleh’s position is deeply entrenched within the regime. By design, the security apparatus and the political and business elite are all dominated by members of his family or Sanhan tribe, making any potential dismantling of the regime an extremely complicated process.

So far, Saleh has retained a significant level of tribal support (even as politically ambitious tribesmen such as Hamid al-Ahmar of the powerful Hashid sheikhdom have called on their allies to withdraw support for Saleh). Saleh’s family and tribal connections that pervade the armed forces have also prevented a major break with the army. Though the crisis in Yemen is escalating, and ongoing discussions on the timing of Saleh’s political departure are intensifying among the regime’s elite, the dismantling of his regime does not appear imminent. Yemen will remain in a protracted political crisis as the timing and mechanics of Saleh’s political exit are sorted out.

2011/03/11

Protests in Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Yemen

Filed under: Bahrain, National Security, Protests, Saudi Arabia, Yemen — - @ 5:59 pm

Source Link: Stratfor
Protests in Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Yemen
FAYEZ NURELDINE/AFP/Getty Images
Saudi policemen stand guard March 11 in front of Riyadh’s Al Rajhi mosque

Protests occurred March 11 in Saudi Arabia, Yemen and Bahrain, timed to coincide with Friday prayers. While the Saudi protests were much calmer than expected, tens of thousands of people demonstrated in Yemen amid a deteriorating political situation for President Ali Abdullah Saleh. In Bahrain, well-prepared security forces blocked a march on the presidential palace by hard-line Shiite protesters amid rising sectarian tensions.

Saudi Arabia

In the first major test of whether the world’s largest oil producer is truly immune to the unrest that has swept across the Middle East, demonstrations in Saudi Arabia on March 11 were much calmer than some expected. Groups of protesters numbering from the dozens to the low hundreds began gathering in the afternoon in the Shia-populated and oil-rich Eastern Province cities of Hofuf, Qatif and Al-Ahsa amid a heavy security presence. Protesters chanted slogans calling for the release of Shiite detainees and greater political freedoms as helicopters hovered above. Saudi riot police reportedly chased demonstrators down streets, fired rubber bullets to disperse the crowds, continued arrests and called over loudspeakers for people to stay in their houses.


Protests in Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Yemen
(click here to enlarge image)

Meanwhile, so-called Day of Rage protests failed to materialize in Riyadh. Security forces increased their presence on the streets of the capital in anticipation of protests organized on Facebook by a group of Sunni youths, activists and intellectuals. But media at the scene reported only one person claiming to be a protester.

The low turnout may be the result of Saudi security forces’ firing rubber bullets at protesters March 10 in Qatif, wounding three. However, aside from the effect of this seemingly successful intimidation tactic, it is possible Iran has decided to pull back from provoking a crisis with the Saudis. With Bahrain simmering and a protest movement threatening to take root at home, the Saudis have been attempting to read Iranian intentions and determine the strength of Tehran’s influence over the Saudi and Bahraini Shiite communities, as well as to gauge how far Iran would be willing to go in trying to destabilize its Arab neighbors.

Fears of a genuine crisis in Saudi Arabia have not subsided, and another round of Facebook-organized national protests is planned for March 20. However, the fizzling of the much-publicized March 11 demonstrations has done nothing to increase those fears.

Yemen

The situation in Yemen is turning increasingly dire for embattled President Ali Abdullah Saleh. Tens of thousands of protesters, consisting of a variety of Islamist and socialist political actors, youths and academics, filled Sanaa’s streets March 11 to call for Saleh’s ouster in what appeared to be the largest demonstration to date in the country. Additional protests in the southern city of Aden, where secessionist sentiment runs strong, turned violent as Yemeni riot police reportedly opened fire and used tear gas to try to disperse thousands of demonstrators. Meanwhile, low-level al Qaeda activity has gradually been picking up in the country’s southeastern hinterland; the latest incident was a March 11 attack by suspected al Qaeda militants in Hadramawt that left four policemen dead.

Saleh has so far been able to hold onto significant tribal and army support, due largely to the fact that he has filled key positions in his security apparatus with relatives and tribesmen. This gives him some staying power, but his ability to defuse the demonstrations through political concessions short of his own resignation remains highly doubtful. His latest concession, a March 10 offer to draft by the end of the year a new constitution that would guarantee the independence of Yemen’s parliament and judiciary and transfer powers from the executive branch to a parliamentary system, was immediately rejected by the opposition.

Bahrain

Thousands of hard-line Shiite demonstrators calling for the overthrow of the Bahraini monarchy carried out a planned march toward the royal palace in Manama on March 11. However, when they reached the Sunni-populated area of Riffa, where the palace sits, they were blocked by a wall of riot police and barbed wire. The Shia participating in the march belonged to the newly created “Coalition for a Republic,” composed primarily of members of the Haq and Wafa movements, both of which are banned by the government. Brief clashes between the demonstrators and pro-government Sunnis occurred, reportedly after security forces allowed the latter to pass through police lines and engage the protesters. No deaths were reported, though security forces did eventually fire rubber bullets and tear gas into the crowd. The Interior Ministry in a subsequent statement justified that decision as necessary to prevent Sunnis and Shia from clashing in the streets.

Bahraini security forces were well prepared for the event. The Interior Ministry issuing a warning statement before it began in an effort to stave off the march, stating that it threatened to exacerbate already rising sectarian tensions. The statement also cautioned that security forces would not hesitate to clamp down on anyone who did not heed warnings.

The government is not the only faction warning of increased sectarian tensions in the country. The hard-line Coalition for a Republic was created out of an internal split in the Shiite opposition. This split also caused the more moderate, mainstream faction, led by Shiite Islamist group Al Wefaq, to come to a temporary alliance with Sunnis who support the continued reign of the current government. Al Wefaq has demurred on the issue of actually beginning negotiations with the government, and one of its main goals remains forcing the resignation of long-serving Prime Minister Sheikh Khalifa bin Salman al-Khalifa. Though it maintains its staunch opposition to the current government, Al Wefaq continues to support the preservation of the institution of the monarchy, and thus explicitly expressed its opposition to the March 11 hard-line Shiite march. Indeed, hours before the procession began, the leading Shiite cleric in Bahrain, Sheikh Isa Qassim, who is seen as Al Wefaq’s spiritual guide, attempted to warn Bahraini Shia away from the hard-liners. He reportedly told worshipers at Friday prayers that the government was inciting sectarian tension and called on potential protesters not to “indulge in anything that will bring more suffering to the society.”

2011/03/09

An Arab world in ruins or a new regional beginning?

Source Link: J Post

Written By Zvi Mazel

Analysis: It is clear that the Middle East will go through years of instability.

The Arab world of tomorrow will be very different from what we knew. After decades of oppression, Arab masses are on the move.

They have discovered that they can change their fate. Not all regimes will crumble, but they all will have to implement substantial reforms and allow a measure of freedom of expression as well as greater respect for human rights.

This does not mean that the core elements which characterized the political, economic, social and religious framework of Arab nations will disappear overnight. These nations will have to overcome the legacy of centuries of backwardness and fight beliefs and faiths which have molded them since the dawn of Islam.

Will revolutions free them from tribal and client systems which still prevail in Arab societies? Will discrimination and oppression against women cease? What about the high percentage of the population which is partially or totally illiterate? It is doubtful that they can take a meaningful role in shaping democratic values or initiate economic progress.

Many questions and too few answers. It is unfortunately clear that the Middle East will go through years of instability before the new regimes can find the right balance between the demands of the emerging political forces and those of traditional Arab societies.

The revolutions are far from over and the masses will fill the streets time and time again to protest measures taken by the new regimes or the reforms instituted by the old regimes which survived. Radical elements will try to divert these multitudes to their own ends and thus hijack the revolutions. Such is the way of popular revolutions until they peak and die. Look at the path taken by the French Revolution or the Russian Revolution.

However, through this fog of uncertainty a few facts have emerged. The first is that the Palestinian issue had no part in getting the masses into the streets. Here and there opposition forces tried – and are still trying – to get the people to demonstrate against Israel because of the intifada or the wars against Hamas in Gaza or Hezbollah in Lebanon, but with very little success.

The Israeli question, used for decades by Arab rulers to focus their peoples’ attention away from their sorry economic state, is now revealed for what it was: just a ploy. A similar conclusion can be drawn on the subject of radical Islam on both of its main aspects, the jihadist organizations and the Muslim Brotherhood.

Neither was able to inflame the masses and lead them to topple the regimes.

Al-Qaida and its offshoot jihadist organizations did manage to conduct countless terror attacks in Arab countries and carried out extensive campaigns of incitement through the Internet, in the mosques and with the help of satellite channels such as Al-Jazeera, but all they could achieve was to recruit a few thousand youths. Al-Qaida and the like were never an alternative to the regimes in Arab countries, with the possible exception of Somalia, where the central government was toppled years ago and anarchy now reigns.

The most they could do was to whip the crowds into a frenzy against the West following the publication of the Muhammad drawings in a Danish newspaper.

The Muslim Brotherhood, active for decades in Arab countries, is working openly to create an Islamic regime and is regarded as a permanent threat in the Arab world. Yet it has failed – up to now – to achieve its goal. It was for economic reasons that in Egypt and Tunisia students and unemployed belonging to the lower middle classes started to demonstrate.

The Muslim Brothers did not join them at first, thinking, wrongly as it turned out, that the demonstrations would fail and taking part in them would not further their objectives. They realized their mistake fairly quickly and did join the protesters, but kept a low profile.

On the other hand, the fact that the movement’s foremost theologian, Yusuf al- Qaradawi, was allowed to conduct Friday prayers in Tahrir Square, where hundreds of thousands had gathered, testified to the fact that the Brothers had been busy behind the scenes. They now have representatives on the committee that was set up to amend the constitution, and they have managed to block the cancellation of Article 2, which states that Islam is the country’s religion and that Shari’a is the principal source of law. In other words, the Army Supreme Council had decided to adopt a conciliatory attitude towards the Muslim Brothers – having come to the conclusion that they constituted a well-organized political force, but also that for the present Egyptians on the whole wanted to preserve the Islamic nature of their country.

In Tunisia, though the leader of the Brotherhood, Rashid Ghannushi, came home after 20 years in exile, the organization does not seem to play a meaningful role in the ongoing revolution. It is probably due to the success of president Habib Bourguiba and his successor Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in curtailing the movement, which led to an increased Western influence.

The exact opposite has occurred in Jordan, where the Brothers are the main force against the regime, though at the moment King Abdullah’s throne appears secure enough. Regarding Libya the situation is unclear but it does seem that Islamists make up one of the strongest elements against Muammar Gaddafi.

What is no less interesting is that the Muslim Brothers themselves are affected by the currents washing over the Arab world. In Egypt, a group of young bloggers who are members of the movement are calling for a demonstration on March 17 in front of the Brothers’ Cairo offices. They demand the resignation of the group’s supreme guide, Mohammed Badie, who was elected barely a year ago, the dissolution of all the movement institutions, and free and transparent elections.

These are extreme demands striking at the heart of the Brotherhood and they could not have been formulated even a month ago; the bloggers affirm that no fewer than 30,000 members have voiced their support and will demonstrate.

Brotherhood official leaders, for their part, protest that the movement is united behind them and that they are pursuing their efforts to set up a “democratic country on the basis of the Shari’a.”

They intend to form a political party which shall be called “Freedom and Justice,” a satellite television channel as well as daily and weekly newspapers. In other words, they want to be an influential part of the process.

The Brotherhood has always been known for its unswerving, dogmatic positions on theological matters; at this stage it is not clear what the winds of change will bring to the almost century-old movement.

There are therefore a great number of unknowns in the unrest spreading over the Arab world. Will Islamists succeed in setting up “moderate” Islamic political parties, and how “moderate” would they really be? And what will happen in Saudi Arabia? The king is 87; he is just back from the United States and Morocco after a difficult surgery for a slipped disc. He immediately ordered to give every family $500, a move seen as trying to placate the people ahead of trouble, but which falls woefully short. Saudi Arabia is not better prepared against revolutions than other Arab countries. Most of the huge oil revenues go to the 20,000 princes who lord them over the masses. Poverty and unemployment are rife and the extravagant lifestyle and corruption of the rulers is a source of powerful resentment.

The Shi’ite minority suffers from oppression and discrimination; it is to be found in the east of the country – where most oil reserves are situated – close to Bahrain, a kingdom where the Shi’ite majority is trying to overthrow the Sunni royal family. Will Saudi King Abdullah be wise enough to give up some of his privileges to pacify both the masses and the Shi’ite minority? He has made in the past a few minor reforms in the field of education, but nothing to deal with the real problems.

He undoubtedly worries about events in Bahrain, Yemen and Oman – his nearest neighbors suffering from the same ills. On the other hand, he may be relying on the traditional alliance between the royal family and the Wahabi religious establishment, though that alliance may falter in front of an Egyptian-style revolution. For the moment the kingdom welcomes fallen dictators such as Ben Ali and has offered sanctuary to Mubarak.

President Barack Obama’s most recent declaration about welcoming changes within existing regimes is being seen as tacit support for the embattled oil-rich kingdoms.

When all is said and done, the main question today is how, and in what measure, if at all, can Islamic tradition and Arab nationalism be reconciled with democracy and equality.

In the meantime, it does seem as if the issues which dominated both the Arab world and the West in recent years – the Israeli- Palestinian conflict and radical Islam – no longer occupy center stage. Arab masses above all want better economic and social conditions.

Finally, Iran appears to be the main beneficiary of the turmoil, since its strongest opponents, the so-called pragmatic rulers, are busy with their internal problems – which some say Iran has actively promoted.

The writer is a former ambassador to Egypt and a fellow at The Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.

2011/03/08

Yemen: More Protests, Including Special Forces Affiliates

Filed under: Protests, Yemen — - @ 12:45 pm

Source Link: Stratfor

Hundreds of tribesmen in the town of Khawlan in the Sanaa governorate organized a convoy of over 200 cars to join protesters camping outside the Sanaa University campus in the capital, DPA reported March 8. Tribesmen in Mareb province also held a gathering in the Al-Suheil district to support the protesters nationwide. Meanwhile, hundreds of Special Forces affiliates — many dressed in military uniforms — held a demonstration demanding higher wages in Hudeidah province.Tens of thousands of protesters also gathered in the southern governorate of Shabwa and the eastern governorate of Dhamar.

2011/03/06

The New Middle East

Source Link: CarolineGlick.Com

demo khomeini.jpg

A new Middle East is upon us and its primary beneficiary couldn’t be happier.

In a speech Monday in the Iranian city of Kermanshah, Iranian Revolutionary Guards’ Politburo Chief General Yadollah Javani crowed, “Iran’s pivotal role in the New Middle East is undeniable. Today the Islamic Revolution of the Iranian nation enjoys such a power, honor and respect in the world that all nations and governments wish to have such a ruling system.”

Iran’s leaders have eagerly thrown their newfound weight around. For instance, Iran is challenging Saudi Arabia’s ability to guarantee the stability of global oil markets.

For generations, the stability of global oil supplies has been guaranteed by Saudi Arabia’s reserve capacity that could be relied on to make up for any shocks to those supplies due to political unrest or other factors. When Libya’s teetering dictator Muammar Ghaddafi decided to shut down Libya’s oil exports last month, the oil markets reacted with a sharp increase in prices. The very next day the Saudis announced they would make up the shortfall from Libya’s withdrawal from the export market.

In the old Middle East, the Saudi statement would never have been questioned. Oil suppliers and purchasers alike accepted the arrangement whereby Saudi Arabian reserves – defended by the US military — served as the guarantor of the oil economy. But in the New Middle East, Iran feels comfortable questioning the Saudi role.

On Thursday Iran’s Oil Minister Massoud Mirkazemi urged Saudi Arabia to refrain from increasing production. Mirkazemi argued that since the OPEC oil cartel has not discussed increasing supplies, Saudi Arabia had no right to increase its oil output.

True, Iran’s veiled threat did not stop Saudi Arabia from increasing its oil production by 500,000 barrels per day. But the fact that Iran feels comfortable telling the Saudis what they can and cannot do with their oil demonstrates the mullocracy’s new sense of empowerment.

And it makes sense. With each passing day, the Iranian regime is actively destabilizing Saudi Arabia’s neighbors and increasing its influence over Saudi Arabia’s Shiite minority in the kingdom’s Eastern Province where most of its oil is located.

Moved by the political unrest in Bahrain and Yemen, Saudi regime opponents including Saudi’s Shiite minority have stepped up their acts of political opposition. The Saudi royal family has sought to literally buy off its opponents by showering its subjects with billions of dollars in new subsidies and payoffs. But still the tide of dissent rises.

Saudi regime opponents have scheduled political protests for March 11 and March 20. In an attempt to blunt the force of the demonstrations, Saudi security forces arrested Tawfiq al-Amir, a prominent Shiite cleric from the Eastern Province. On February 25 al-Amir delivered a sermon calling for the transformation of the kingdom into a constitutional monarchy.

Iran has used his arrest to pressure the Saudi regime. In an interview with Iran’s Fars news agency this week, Iranian parliamentarian and regime heavyweight Mohammed Dehqan warned the Saudis not to try to quell the growing unrest. As he put it, the Saudi leaders “should know that the Saudi people have become vigilant and do not allow the rulers of the country to commit any possible crime against them.”

Dehqan continued, “Considering that the developments in Bahrain and Yemen affect the situation in Saudi Arabia, the [regime] feels grave danger and interferes in the internal affairs of these states.”

Dehqan’s statement is indicative of the mullahs’ confidence in the direction the region is taking. In testimony before the Senate Appropriations Committee on Tuesday US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton acknowledged that Iran is deeply involved in all the anti-regime protests and movements from Egypt to Yemen to Bahrain and beyond.

“Either directly or through proxies, they are constantly trying to influence events. They have a very active diplomatic foreign policy outreach,” Clinton said.

Iranian officials, Hizbullah and Hamas terrorists and other Iranian agents have played pivotal roles in the anti-regime movements in Yemen and Bahrain. Their operations are the product of Iran’s long running policy of developing close ties to opposition figures in these countries as well as in Egypt, Kuwait, Oman and Morocco. These long-developed ties are reaping great rewards for Iran today. Not only do these connections give the Iranians the ability to influence the policies of post-revolutionary allied regimes. They give the mullahs and their allies the ability to intimidate the likes of the Saudi and Bahraini royals and force them to appease Iran’s allies.

THIS MEANS that Iran’s mullahs win no matter how the revolts pan out. If weakened regimes maintain power by appeasing Iran’s allies in the opposition – as they are trying to do in Jordan, Kuwait, Morocco, Algeria, Bahrain, Oman and Yemen — then Iranian influence over the weakened regimes will grow substantially. And if Iran’s allies topple the regimes, then Iran’s influence will increase even more steeply.

Moreover, Iran’s preference for proxy wars and asymmetric battles is served well by the current instability. Iran’s proxies – from Hizbullah to al Qaida to Hamas – operate best in weak states. From Hizbullah’s operations in South Lebanon in the 1980s and 1990s, to the Iranian-sponsored Iraqi insurgents in recent years and beyond, Iran has exploited weak central authorities to undermine pro-Western governments, weaken Israel and diminish US regional influence.

In the midst of Egypt’s revolutionary violence, Iran quickly deployed its Hamas proxies to the Sinai. Since Mubarak’s fall, Iran has worked intensively to expand its proxy forces’ capacity to operate freely in the Sinai.

Recognition of Iran’s expanded power is fast altering the international community’s perception of the regional balance of forces. Russia’s announcement last Saturday that it will sell Syria the supersonic Yakhont anti-ship cruise missile was a testament to Iran’s rising regional power and the US’s loss of power.

Russia signed a deal to provide the missiles to Syria in 2007. But Moscow abstained from supplying them until now – just after Iran sailed its naval ships unmolested to Syria through the Suez Canal and signed a naval treaty with Syria effectively fusing the Iranian and Syrian navies. So too, Russia’s announcement that it sides with Iran’s ally Turkey in its support for reducing UN Security Council sanctions against Iran indicates that the US no longer has the regional posture necessary to contain Iran on the international stage.

Iran’s increased regional power and its concomitant expanded leverage in international oil markets will make it impossible for the US to win UN Security Council support for more stringent sanctions against Tehran. Obviously UN Security Council sanctioned military action against Iran’s nuclear installations is out of the question.

Unfortunately, the Obama administration has failed completely to understand what is happening. Clinton told the Congress and the Senate that Iran’s increased power means that the US should continue to arm and fund Iran’s allies and support the so-called democratic forces that are allied with Iran.

So it was that Clinton told the Senate that the Obama administration thinks it is essential to continue to supply the Hizbullah-controlled Lebanese military with US arms Clinton claimed that she couldn’t say what Hizbullah control over the Lebanese government meant regarding the future of US ties to Lebanon.

So too, while Palestinian Authority leaders burn President Barack Obama in effigy and seek to form a unity government with Iran’s Hamas proxy, Clinton gave an impassioned defense of US funding for the PA to the House Foreign Relations Committee this week.

Clinton’s behavior bespeaks a stunning failure to understand the basic realities she and the State Department she leads are supposed to shape. Her lack of comprehension is matched only by her colleague Defense Secretary Robert Gates’ lack of shame and nerve. In a press conference this week, Gates claimed that Iran is weakened by the populist waves in the Arab world because Iran’s leaders are violently oppressing their political opponents.

In light of the Obama administration’s refusal to use US military force for even the most minor missions – like evacuating US citizens from Libya – without UN approval, it is apparent that the US will not use armed force against Iran for as long as Obama is in power.

And given the administration’s refusal to expend any effort to protect US interests and allies in the region lest the US be accused of acting like a superpower, it is clear that US allies like the Saudis will not be able to depend on America to defend the regime. This is the case despite the fact that its overthrow would threaten the US’s core regional interests.

AGAINST THIS backdrop, it is clear that the only way to curb Iran’s influence in the region and so strike a major blow against its rising Shiite-Sunni jihadist alliance is to actively support the pro-democracy regime opponents in Iran’s Green movement. The only chance of preventing Iran from plunging the region into war and bloodshed is if the regime is overthrown.

So long as the Iranian regime remains in power, it will be that much harder for the Egyptians to build an open democracy or for the Saudis to open the kingdom to liberal voices and influences. The same is true of virtually every country in the region.

Iran is the primary regional engine of war, terror, nuclear proliferation and instability. As long as the regime survives, it will be difficult for liberal forces in the region to gain strength and influence.

On February 24, the mullahs reportedly arrested opposition leaders Mir Hossain Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi along with their wives. It took the Obama administration several days to even acknowledge the arrests, let alone denounce them.

In the face of massive regime violence, Iran’s anti-regime protesters are out in force in cities throughout the country demanding their freedom and a new regime. And yet, aside from paying lip service to their bravery, neither the US nor any other government has come forward to help them.

No one has supplied Iran’s embattled revolutionaries with proxy servers after the regime brought down their Internet communications networks. No one has given them arms. No one has demanded that Iran be thrown out of all UN bodies pending the regime’s release of the Moussavis and Karroubis and the thousands of political prisoners being tortured in the mullahs’ jails. No one has stepped up to fund around-the-clock anti-regime broadcasts into Iran to help regime opponents organize and coordinate their operations.

Certainly no one has discussed instituting a no fly zone over Iran to protect the protesters.

With steeply rising oil prices and the real prospect of al Qaida taking over Yemen, Iranian proxies taking over Bahrain, and the Muslim Brotherhood controlling Egypt, some Americans are recognizing that not all revolutions are Washingtonian.

But there is a high likelihood that an Iranian revolution would be. At a minimum, a democratic Iran would be far less dangerous to the region and the world than the current regime.

The Iranians are right. We are moving into a new Middle East. And if the mullahs aren’t overthrown, the New Middle East will be a very dark and dangerous place.

Originally published in The Jerusalem Post.

2011/03/01

The Complexity of Persian Gulf Unrest

Source Link: STRATFOR

Click on image below to watch video:

Analyst Kamran Bokhari examines protests in Persian Gulf countries and their importance to U.S. interests in the region.

Editor’s Note: Transcripts are generated using speech-recognition technology. Therefore, STRATFOR cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.

While the world’s attention is still on Libya because of the fighting over there, the slow-simmering situation in the Persian Gulf is far more important. We’ve already seen Bahrain and Yemen erupt, but now we have Oman in play, and this is forcing other states like Kuwait, the UAE, Qatar and, most significantly Saudi Arabia, to engage in pre-emptive measures.

The countries on the Arabian Peninsula are very complex entities. First of all, there are many of them, and each of them has its own unique dynamic internally that will then shape any potential unrest. If we look at what’s happened in the Persian Gulf area so far, what we have is Bahrain and Yemen already in motion. In Bahrain, there are protests that the government is tolerating, and the same situation is in Yemen, but there is an ongoing negotiation in both states as well, which will lead to some sort of a compromise. That compromise is going to be a slippery slope in terms of the state making concessions.

While that is happening, we now see the contagion spreading to Oman, where there has been violent unrest, and there we see the government trying to deal with the situation, both using security forces as well as other incentives to ensure that any unrest can be contained. Meanwhile, in other places like the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Kuwait, and more importantly, Saudi Arabia, we see governments trying to deal with the situation in a pre-emptive manner. Not only are they trying to sort things out internally within their own respective countries, but they’re also moving on a regional level, hoping that they can contain what is taking place in Oman, and in Bahrain, and in Yemen before it hits their countries.

Instability in this part of the world has huge implications. There is the obvious repercussion for the world’s energy supply — some 40 percent of total global energy output via sea comes through the Persian Gulf — but it’s not just about oil. Each one of those states, from Oman all the way up to Kuwait, houses major American military installations. They are very vital for U.S. military operations in this part of the world, particularly at a time when the United States is in the process of withdrawing its forces from Iraq, which is expected to be completed by the end of this year.

In addition to just the general nature of American military operations in the region, unrest in the Persian Gulf complicates the U.S.-Iranian dynamic. The United States is already withdrawing from Iraq, which allows Iran to flex its muscles, and if, in addition, we see unrest destabilizing the Persian Gulf states, that gives Iran further room to maneuver and project power, not just on its side of Persian Gulf but also across into the Arabian Peninsula. Thus, while the world is still focused on Libya, there is a need to shift focus to the Persian Gulf where the stakes are much higher and the situation much more complex.

Yemeni Dictator: Israel is running all of the Arab revolutions from a room in Tel Aviv

Someone in the Arab world or the anti-Semites in the Western countries, will usually get around to blaming all that is wrong in the world, on a tiny country surrounded by “hate the Jew” filled countries. The Big Satan and the Little Satan. If it wasn’t so serious, I would laugh. W

Source Link: Israel Insider

Yemen President Ali Abdullah Saleh on Tuesday accused Israel of fomenting anti-regime revolts throughout the Arab world and attempting to destabilize his country. “There is an operations room in Tel Aviv with the aim of destabilizing the Arab world,” Saleh said as he gave a speech at Sanaa University. He explained that the “operations room” is “run by the White House.”

Tens of thousands of demonstrators gathered at the university and were joined by opposition groups for the first time. Yemen’s opposition rejected an offer for a unity government on Monday, saying it would stand with the tens of thousands of protesters demanding an end to Saleh’s 32-year rule.

The move came as violence spiked against security forces in the south. Local officials said gunmen killed two soldiers in successive attacks, and a prison riot killed one inmate and wounded two guards as four prisoners escaped. Tens of thousands of protesters gathered across the country, from Sanaa to disparate regions where separatists or Shi’ite rebels hold sway, chanting slogans such as “No dialogue, no dialogue. You leaving is the only option.”

Twenty-four people have died in the past two weeks, no doubt from the long arm of the Tel Aviv office.

2011/02/25

Various articles of the Unrest in Mid East and Africa: Updates

Filed under: Iraq, Jihad, Libya, Muslim Brotherhood, National Security, Yemen — - @ 12:19 pm

Pakistan: U.S. Contractor Arrested

February 25, 2011

Peshawar police arrested Aaron DeHaven, a contractor who recently worked for the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad, saying that his visa had expired, The Guardian reported Feb. 25. DeHaven is head of a company named Catalyst Services.

Iran: 2nd Uranium Enrichment Plant Operational By Summer – IAEA

February 25, 2011

Iran plans to being operating a second uranium enrichment plant by the summer of 2011 in an underground location near Quom, DPA reported Feb. 25, citing a restricted document it obtained that was issued by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). The document said no centrifuges have been installed at the second location yet, and Iran is still generating enriched uranium at the existing plant in Natanz. The report did not mention the Stuxnet virus, but an official was cited as saying several hundred centrifuges at Natanz were replaced, but it did not significantly affect production rates.

Iraq: Basra Protesters Clash With Army, 2 Dead

February 25, 2011

Protesters clashed with army troops in Basra, Iraq, leaving two protesters dead and five Iraqi troops injured, AKnews reported Feb. 25. The demonstrators marched from a government building toward a provincial council, where the soldiers attempted to intercept them. Demonstrators threw rocks at the soldiers and the police fired shots in the air and used water cannons to try to disperse the crowds, with three protesters killed in the ensuing clash. Iraqi lawmaker from Basra Jawaq al-Bazzouni said.

Yemen: 9 Wounded In Clashes With Police

February 25, 2011

At least nine people were wounded when Yemeni security forces opened fire on anti-government protesters in Aden on Feb. 25, DPA reported, citing witnesses at the scene. Witnesses said thousands of people began protesting after Friday prayers in Aden’s Khur Maksar and Mualla neighborhoods, demanding the removal of Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh. Seven were wounded when police opened fire in Khur Maksar, and one of them is in critical condition. Two were injured in Mualla. Around 10,000 people participated in an anti-government rally in Taiz, but no violence was reported there.

Libya: Protesters Killed In Tripoli – Reports

February 25, 2011

Two protesters were killed and several were wounded in confrontations in the Tripoli suburbs of Fashlum, Zawiyat al-Dahmani, Ben Ashour and Al Siyahia, Al Jazeera reported Feb. 25. At least five protesters have been killed in Tripoli’s Janzour district, Reuters reported, citing a resident. Libyan state TV reported that medical sources in Tripoli have denied the reports of killed and injured protesters, accusing Arab satellite channels of conspiring against the Libyan people.

Iraq: Islamic State Of Iraq War Minister’s Body Identified

February 25, 2011

The body of the Islamic State of Iraq’s war minister, Noman Salman, also known as Al-Nasser Lideen Allah Abu Suleiman, has been identified following a Feb. 24 raid in Hit, Iraq, Reuters reported Feb. 25, citing a spokesman for the Baghdad operations command. U.S. forces were not involved in the operation, the spokesman said, which was carried out based on intelligence.

Iraq: Protesters Killed In Mosul

February 25, 2011

At least five protesters were killed and five more injured from gunfire in Mosul, Iraq, Al-Sharqiyah TV reported Feb. 25 in a screen caption at 0957 GMT.

Iraq: Police Open Fire On Protesters

February 25, 2011

Iraqi police reportedly opened fire on protesters in the town of Al Hawijah following “day of rage” anti-government demonstrations, Al-Sharqiyah TV reported Feb. 25 in a screen caption at 0728 GMT.

Iraqi: 2 Protesters Killed

February 25, 2011

Two protesters were killed and over 20 injured during confrontations with security forces in the Iraqi town of Al Hawijah, Al-Sharqiyah TV reported Feb. 25 in screen captions at 0843 GMT.

Somalia: Ethiopian Soldiers Fire Mortars At Town

February 25, 2011

Ethiopian forces, who were based on the border town of Suuftu, are heavily bombarding the town of Beled Xsswo in southwestern Somalia with mortars, the Somali Shabeelle Media Network reported Feb. 25. The town is being controlled by Al Shabab Islamists, the report said.

Israel: Air Force Kills 1, Wounds 3

February 25, 2011

The Israeli airforce attacked Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, targeting a car, killing one and wounding three, according to Palestinian media, The Jerusalem Post reported Feb. 25. The Israeli defense force said the targets were linked to Hamas and had been involved in terrorist activity. “Hamas is trying to restrain the other groups,” a senior official said, adding, Islamic Jihad is trying to attack, challenging Hamas, who is committed to the quiet.

Pakistan: 4 Killed In Convoy Ambush

February 24, 2011

A group of 15 militants armed with rockets and guns ambushed a roadside North Atlantic Treaty Organization terminal on the outskirts of Peshawar, Pakistan, torching 12 tankers and killing four, a local police officer said, AP reported Feb. 25. Those killed were drivers or their assistants, the police officer said.

Somalia: Government Seizes Southwestern District – Report

February 25, 2011

Somali government forces seized the southwestern Somali district of Beled Haawo, Gedo region, Somali Defense Minister Abdihakim Haji Fiqi said, independent Radio Gaalkacyo reported Feb. 25.

2011/02/23

Increased Unrest Causes Growing Concerns

Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi spoke Tuesday, saying many things. However, they can be summed up succinctly: He does not intend to step down, ever. This was not much of a surprise, as the Guide of the First of September Great Revolution of the Socialist People’s Libyan Arab Jamahiriya has been in power for more than four decades, and has weathered several threats to his rule during this span. As Gadhafi did not step down, violence will therefore continue. Even if he had resigned Tuesday, violence would have continued, as Libya has now crossed a threshold from which it will be difficult to retreat. It is likely that chaos is on the horizon in the country.

It is difficult to predict at this point whether the events of the past week will lead to the outright collapse of the Libyan state or whether Gadhafi will be able to ride out the wave. It will certainly not be easy for him to retake the east, which is no longer under the control of the government in Tripoli. With signs of the army splintering and the tribes turning against him, Gadhafi is perhaps facing the most daunting challenge of his 41 years in power. No matter what befalls the Libyan leader, however, it is clear that Libya faces a high likelihood of civil war. This could take the form of a west vs. east dynamic (in which Libya would revert to division between the core coastal regions of Tripolitania, the western region surrounding modern day Tripoli, and Cyrenaica, the eastern region around Benghazi), or it could see a series of localized fiefdoms fighting for themselves. It could also be a hybrid scenario, in which the main division is east vs. west, but where intra-tribal warfare creates images of Somalia.

Italy is more concerned about this latter scenario than anyone else, due to its energy interests in Libya and fears of the resulting wave of Libyans and other African immigrants who would wash up on its shores. There are other long-term concerns for many nations about what lawlessness in Libya (particularly the eastern region) could mean, however. The primary danger is that Libya could potentially become a new jihadist haven, with Libyans who honed their skills in Iraq and Afghanistan employing them on the streets of their home country.

Libya is in flux, and STRATFOR is paying close attention to what happens there — particularly because there is the potential for the first true case of regime change (which did not actually happen in Egypt and Tunisia) since the wave of unrest in the Arab world began late 2010. However, we are turning our eyes back toward the ongoing crises in Bahrain and Yemen.

Bahrain is a tiny island-nation located in the Persian Gulf, between regional powerhouses — and rivals — Iran and Saudi Arabia. It is a country full of Shiite Arabs (and foreign guest workers), but is governed by a Sunni monarchy. Bahrain has hardly any people (roughly 800,000), but a lot of geopolitical significance. It is not an accident that the U.S. Navy has made a considerable investment in shore and support facilities in Bahrain.

Protests have been going on there since Feb. 14, led by a mixture of Shiite opposition parties and Facebook pro-democracy groups, among other groups. The regime has gone back and forth over whether the use of force is the best strategy, and currently appears set on pursuing dialogue, without the use of guns. After all, it is not regime change that the majority of the protesters are after, but political reforms that will even the playing field for the Shia. The Khalifa royal family would have preferred to continue as it had until the recent crisis, but is OK with certain compromises so long as it maintains its rule.

But almost as nervous as the Khalifas about the protests in Bahrain are the Saudis. The royal family in Saudi Arabia fears an Iranian hidden hand behind what is happening in Bahrain, and fears the potential for a special strain of contagion to emerge from the island-nation, one of a general Shiite rising in the Persian Gulf region. Recent protests in Kuwait, albeit small, only add to Riyadh’s concerns that Iranian power is rising on their periphery. Saudi Arabia’s main concern is that the Bahraini unrest does not spread to the sizable Shiite minority populations it has in its own oil-rich eastern provinces. The U.S. Navy, meanwhile, would much prefer to have an ally in charge of the host nation to the 5th Fleet than a potential Iranian satellite, for obvious reasons.

After Bahrain, we move to Yemen, another country in the Saudis’ backyard, where a spillover of unrest would threaten Saudi security as well. Understanding Yemen’s situation is muddled by the multiple conflicts occurring within its borders: a secessionist movement in the south, al-Houthi rebels in the north (where there have been concerns about Iranian meddling as well), al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) throughout, and pro-democracy protesters of the model that helped drive the Egyptian demonstrations. It, too, has witnessed several days of protests in recent weeks, with Tuesday marking the twelfth straight day of demonstrations in the capital of Sanaa. There are also reports that some demonstrators (media reports say about 1,000) are camping out in the central square there, just like what happened in Cairo, and is happening in the Bahraini capital of Manama.

Like Bahraini King Hamad, Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh has already made certain concessions, promising that he will not run again for president in 2013, which would mark his 35th year in power. But like Gadhafi, he has been adamant about one thing: He is not stepping down due to pressure from demonstrators. Thus, the tensions in Yemen will only continue to rise, as concessions have not worked, and nor has the use of force employed to varying degrees. Yemen may not be as significant as Bahrain, as it does not sit right in the middle of Saudi Arabia and Iran. But, if Saleh were to lose the loyalty of the army or the tribes — another parallel to Gadhafi — it would likely lead to a very ugly scene. And that is something jihadist groups like AQAP would welcome.

Source Link: Stratfor

2011/02/21

Yemen: National Defense Council Meets

Filed under: National Security, Yemen — - @ 6:32 pm

Source Link: Stratfor

A meeting of Yemen’s National Defense Council chaired by President Ali Abdullah Saleh discussed developments in the country and ways to modernize the Yemeni armed forces. The council reviewed reports about the domestic situation, including events where saboteurs joined protests with the purpose of attacking security forces and damaging police stations and public property. A council statement accused the saboteurs of attempting a “coup against democracy and the constitution.”

2011/01/29

Three Perspectives on Recent Events in Arab World

Source: MEMRI

The media in different Arab countries have taken varying perspectives on the recent events in the Arab world, specifically the ousting of Tunisia’s former leader Ben Ali, the violent demonstrations in other Arab countries, especially in Egypt, Jordan and Yemen, and the overthrow of the Al-Hariri government in Lebanon.

Saudi journalists have held Iran responsible for the events.

The Iranian press has concurred with this interpretation, presenting the developments as a victory of the resistance camp, led by Iran, over the West, led by the U.S., and predicting that other pro-Western Arab regimes will soon go the way of Tunisia’s former regime.

The editor of the London daily Al-Quds Al-Arabi, ‘Abd Al-Bari ‘Atwan, who over the years has opposed the West and expressed support for Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein, said that the U.S. and Israel were the parties most deeply concerned by the events, for they were the ones bound to suffer the most from the collapse of the pro-Western Arab regimes.

The following are excerpts from articles expressing each of these three perspectives:

The Iranian Position

The Iranian daily Kayhan, which is close Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, said that what is happening in the Middle East is both an armed battle and a “soft war” between the resistance, led by Iran, and the regime of arrogance, i.e. the West, led by the U.S, adding that the resistance front is winning in Lebanon, Iraq, Afghanistan, Egypt, and Sudan, just as Iran had triumphed in the nuclear talks in Istanbul. The paper called for removing the defeated forces, who are allies of the West, from the region.[i]

The weekly Sobh-e Sadeq, which is close to the Revolutionary Guard Corps, said that the crisis in Lebanon has regional repercussions that are extremely damaging to the U.S. It added that the Saudi-Syrian initiative had failed because Saudi Arabia’s moves, made on behalf of the U.S., were aimed solely at buying time until the release of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) indictment. According to Sobh-e Sadeq, Walid Jumblatt’s joining the Syria-Hizbullah camp was a turning point that rendered Prime Minister Al-Hariri superfluous. The paper praised Hizbullah for its wise moves, pointing out that contrary to the dire predictions made by Israel, Saudi Arabia, and the U.S., as well as by certain circles and figures in Lebanon such as Samir Geagea, Hizbullah had not turned to violence but had maintained a patriotic stance on the political, media, and security levels. Sobh-e Sadeq assessed that following the Tunisia uprising, the pro-American Arab regimes are bound to collapse one by one, like dominos.[2]

The Saudi Position

The director-general of Al-Arabiya TV and the former editor of the Saudi London daily Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, ‘Abd Al-Rahman Al-Rashed, hinted that Iran instigated unrest in the countries that opposed it: “Some two years ago, Tehran shook with the [rage of] demonstrators who protested against the election fraud and vote stealing [in the June 2009 presidential elections] and presented Ahmadinejad’s rule as illegitimate. Today the ground is shaking in Tunisia, Ramallah, Beirut, Egypt, and Jordan, while other countries are preparing for strife. From a political perspective, the map [of the Arab world] is divided in two, between the Iranian [camp] and the anti-Iranian [camp]. All the recent upheavals have taken place on the anti-Iranian part [of the map]. Tunisia’s Ben Ali fell. The leader of Hizbullah overthrew Sa’d Al-Hariri’s government. [PA President] Mahmoud Abbas’s government was subjected to a brutal smear campaign, and Cairo’s Liberation Square was flooded with ‘Facebook and Twitter [demonstrators]’[3] with a list of demands, wanting to topple the Egyptian regime, along with its government and parliament. In Jordan, the government’s decision to cancel the [planned] price increases did not stop the demonstrators, who presented a long list of demands, from basic livelihood to the severing of ties with the U.S…”[4]

Responding to the appointment of Najib Mikati, the candidate of the Lebanese opposition, to form the new Lebanese government, Saudi liberal columnist ‘Abdallah bin Bjad Al-‘Otaibi wrote that this was the doing of Hizbullah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah, who served as Khamenei’s official representative in Lebanon.[5] A similar position was expressed on January 27 by an analyst in the Saudi daily Al-Jazirah.

The Position of Al-Quds Al-Arabi

The editor of the daily Al-Quds Al-Arabi, ‘Abd Al-Bari ‘Atwan, known for his criticism of the moderate Arab regimes, stressed the that the political and economic demonstrations are taking place in countries with ties to the U.S., such as Egypt, Jordan, and Yemen, and assessed that Mubarak, like Tunisia’s Ben Ali, would have to spend the rest of his days in exile. He assessed that these developments are profoundly worrying for Israel and America:

“There is no doubt that the two countries most deeply disturbed by the situation in the Middle East… are the U.S. and Israel. The fire of protest has begun to lick at the edges of the moderate Arab regimes, one after the other, in a way that threatens these dictatorships, known for aligning themselves with America’s foreign policy…

“Three countries are facing profound change that could topple their regimes… namely Egypt, Yemen, and Lebanon. Each of these countries has its own unique importance, and each meets a strategic need of the U.S.: Egypt… provides security for Israel, leads the Arab plans for normalization [with Israel], and combats all forms of political and Islamic extremism that oppose its [regime]. Yemen is considered to be the cornerstone of America’s war on Al-Qaeda and a buffer between [this organization] and the sources and deposits of oil. As for Lebanon, it is considered to be the spearhead of the resistance camp and of Iran’s geopolitical and military aspirations. It should be noted that it is [precisely] in these pro-American [countries] that protesters are holding loud demonstrations, demanding to bring down their current regimes just as the Tunisians ousted their dictatorial regime…

“The U.S. will possibly accept its fate and decide to tolerate the changes brewing in the region, but Israel will find it difficult not to panic – because the state of stability, wellbeing, and arrogant [domination] that it has enjoyed for the past 30 years is now dependent upon [the actions of] the Egyptian protesters. It could be said that its fat years are over and its lean years are about to begin, for it is surrounded [by dangers]: a ‘democratic’ intifada armed with 40,000 missiles and with a martyrdom-seeking leadership [i.e., Hizbullah], a popular revolution with a 7,000-year history [i.e., the protesters in Egypt], a Palestinian Authority that has lost its authority, and a Jordanian government that is on the brink of collapse, if it hasn’t collapsed yet…

“As a matter of fact, Mubarak has only one option: to quietly hand the [reins of government] to the army, just as Farouq, [the last king of Egypt], did… Saudi Arabia will never close its gates to him and will never surrender him to the next Egyptian government, for it does not abide by [international] law. Moreover, Mubarak does not have many years [to live], and I sincerely wish him a long life in whichever country he chooses as his place of exile… I recommend Saudi Arabia, because the weather there is better than in Britain, and because it can provide him with a summer house similar to his favorite summer house in Sharm Al-Sheikh…”[6]

Endnotes:

[1] Kayhan (Iran), January 26, 2011.

[2] Sobh-e Sadeq (Iran), January 24, 2011.

[3] This is a reference to the fact that the demonstrations were organized through Facebook and Twitter.

[4] Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), January 27, 2011.

[5] Okaz (Saudi Arabia), January 26, 2011.

[6] Al-Quds Al-Arabi (London), January 27, 2011.