Iranian Regime Gives Green Light to Qods Force, Proxies to Initiate Plans Against US and its Allies

The Middle East roach infestation has originated from Iran – so who will turn on the light to make them scatter? Source:

The Middle East roach infestation has originated from Iran – so who will turn on the light to make them scatter?

June 1, 2015 / / 1 Comment

In Yesterday’s article titled “Arabian Pensinsula Violence Escalates After Second IS Bombing in Saudi Arabia,” we stated that our sources in the region have been reporting back that movement appears to be underway towards targeting westerners – mainly Americans. Specifically, we’ve been informed that the Qods Force may have directed Hezbollah, Kitaib Hezbollah (KH) and the Houthis to begin making plans for conducting William Buckley-style abductions Americans in Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Yemen. Furthermore, reporting from various media outlets have already begun covering the Americans taken hostage by the Houthis and a Hezbollah plot disrupted in Cyprus. None of these are a “coincidence.” Its all by design and timed with the nuclear weapons negotiations. Why do this if the Obama administration is prepared to give them everything without having to sacrifice anything on their end? It all comes down to the fact that the Iranian regime views the US government is weak – and they will be able to be much more “assertive” by escalating their belligerence. Thus far the Obama administration has done nothing to prove otherwise.

Arabian Pensinsula Violence Escalates After Second IS Bombing in Saudi Arabia

We’ve been warning about the Qods Force working to expand their influence in Yemen and model the Houthis after Lebanese Hezbollah. In “Iranian Regime Consolidates Yemeni Gains, Begins Work on Forming Houthi Intel Proxy” we laid out how such work has already been underway. Furthermore, a consistent theme we’ve been touching on in our Arabian Peninsula reporting has been how intelligence collection against US State Department (DoS) personnel and American citizens in the country had dramatically increased with the influx of Hezbollah and Iranian military personnel into the country – so none of this is “new,” although the Obama administration would like to make you think it is, and that the Qods Force doesn’t exercise any control over the Houthis. The inconvenient truth is that they do, and the man calling the shots in the country is Qods Force External Operations Division (Department 400) BG Aboldreza Shahlai.

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Terrorism in Africa: The Imminent Threat to the United States

Ansar al Sharia recruits receive training at a camp near Benghazi.

Ansar al Sharia recruits receive training at a camp near Benghazi.

Long War Journal, April 29, 2015:

Editor’s note: Below is Thomas Joscelyn’s testimony to the House Committee on Homeland Security’s Subcommittee on Counterterrorism and Intelligence on the threat posed by jihadist groups in Africa. 

In preparing today’s testimony, I reviewed the history of al Qaeda’s plotting against the West. A number of facts demonstrate that al Qaeda’s presence in Africa has been tied to these efforts. For instance, declassified documents recovered in Osama bin Laden’s compound show that he ordered al Qaeda’s branches in Africa to select candidates capable of striking inside the U.S. Bin Laden also ordered al Qaeda’s African branches to coordinate their work with his “external operations” team, which was responsible for plotting attacks against Western interests. Some of al Qaeda’s most senior leaders, including those who have overseen al Qaeda’s planned attacks in the West, have come from Africa. Senior al Qaeda leaders embedded in Shabaab have also trained operatives to attack in Europe. I discuss this evidence in detail in the final section of my written testimony.

Complex tribal, ethnic, and religious dynamics mean that any summary of the situation in Africa will be necessarily incomplete.  However, I will attempt to distill some themes that are important for understanding the rising jihadist threat in the continent. While there are important differences between ISIS and al Qaeda, and the two are at odds with one another in a variety of ways, they are both inherently anti-American and anti-Western. Thus, they constitute a threat to our interests everywhere their jihadists fight.

Since the beginning of the year, the ISIS branch in Libya has repeatedly attacked foreign interests. The group has bombed and/or assaulted with small arms the Algerian, Moroccan, Iranian, South Korean and Spanish embassies in Tripoli. Fortunately, these attacks have caused only a few casualties, as foreign governments pulled most of their diplomatic personnel out of Libya months ago. But these incidents show the organization’s followers are deeply hostile to any foreign presence.

Other ISIS attacks on foreigners in Libya have been more lethal and at least two Americans have been killed by ISIS’ so-called “provinces.” In January, the group’s fighters launched a complex assault on the Corinthia Hotel in Tripoli. Ten people, including David Berry, a former U.S. Marine serving as a security contractor, were killed. In August 2014, jihadists from the ISIS province in the Sinai killed William Henderson, an American petroleum worker.

Some of ISIS’ most gruesome acts in North Africa have come with pointed threats against the West. In February, the jihadists beheaded 21 Egyptian Copts. The propaganda video showing the murders was entitled, “A Message Signed with Blood to the Nation of the Cross.” ISIS explicitly threatened Italy in the video and also made it clear that they would target Christians simply for adhering to a different faith. Earlier this month, ISIS’ branch followed up by killing a large group of Ethiopian Christians.

In March, ISIS claimed responsibility for the massacre at the Bardo National Museum in Tunis. More than 20 people were killed in the assault, which targeted foreign tourists. Citizens of Britain, France, Colombia, Germany, Italy, Japan, Poland, and Spain were among the victims. Although ISIS was quick to lay claim to the museum slayings, the reality is more complicated. The Tunisian government has blamed the Uqba ibn Nafi Brigade, which is part of al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), an official branch of al Qaeda. Based on publicly-available information, it appears that the attackers may have joined ISIS, but the operation itself was planned by the AQIM brigade’s leadership.

Al Qaeda’s international network continues to launch high-profile attacks across the continent. Some of these operations directly target foreigners. Earlier this month, Shabaab, al Qaeda’s official branch in Somalia, killed more than 140 people at the Garissa University College in Kenya. The gunmen reportedly separated out non-Muslims for killing, letting many Muslims go. This shows that the organization, like other parts of al Qaeda, is very concerned about the impact of its violence in the Muslim-majority world. In this respect and others, the Garissa attack was similar to Shabaab’s siege of the Westgate shopping mall in September 2013. More than 60 people were killed, with Shabaab’s gunmen singling out non-Muslims. Shabaab’s attacks in Kenya and other neighboring countries are part of what the UN has identified as the group’s “regional” strategy. Shabaab has undoubtedly suffered setbacks since the height of its power in East Africa, but it still operates a prolific insurgency inside Somalia, while also seeking to expand its capabilities in the surrounding countries. In fact, America’s counterterrorism efforts in East Africa seem to be principally aimed at the part of Shabaab tasked with exporting terrorism throughout the region.

As we’ve seen over the past several years, al Qaeda-affiliated groups in Africa will attack American and Western interests when the opportunity presents itself.  The September 11, 2012 attack on the U.S. Mission and Annex in Benghazi and the raid on the U.S. Embassy in Tunis three days later were carried out by al Qaeda-linked groups. The Ansar al Sharia organizations in Libya and Tunisia, both of which are tied to AQIM, were involved in these assaults on America’s diplomatic presence in North Africa. In early 2013, terrorists commanded by Mokhtar Belmokhtar killed dozens of foreign workers during the siege of the In Amenas gas facility in Algeria. Belmokhtar, who is openly loyal to Ayman al Zawahiri, claimed responsibility for operation on behalf of al Qaeda.

There is no doubt, therefore, that both ISIS and al Qaeda pose a threat to Western interests in Africa. Below, I explore current trends within both organizations, highlighting some ways these international networks may threaten Americans both home and abroad. But first, I briefly look at the different strategies ISIS and al Qaeda are employing to build up their networks.

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Subcommittee Hearing: Terrorism in Africa: The Imminent Threat to the United States


Dr. J. Peter Pham
Africa Center
Atlantic Council
Witness Statement [PDF]
Witness Truth in Testimony [PDF]

Mr. Thomas Joscelyn
Senior Fellow
Foundation for Defense of Democracies
Witness Statement [PDF]
Witness Truth in Testimony [PDF]

Dr. Daniel Byman
Research Director
Center for Middle East Policy
Center for Security Studies
Brookings Institution
Witness Statement [PDF]
Witness Truth in Testimony [PDF]

Admiral Warns: Potential for Islamist Raids on European Islands

Chris-Parry-640x480Breitbart, by OLIVER LANE, April 24, 2015:

The security situation in the Mediterranean will continue to deteriorate to the point where we can expect Islamist raids on A, a recently retired Royal Navy Admiral has told Breitbart London.


Rear Admiral Chris Parry CBE, the straight-talking former Director General of the Ministry of Defence Development, Concepts, and Doctrine Centre, the government body tasked with foreseeing future strategic threats, made the comments in an interview this week as European nations gathered to discuss the sudden migrant crisis gripping the Mediterranean.

The Threat of Islam

Parry, who warned in a government paper in 1990 that Islam would replace Communism as the main threat against the West and accurately predicted the collapse of African and Arab nations during the so-called ‘Arab Spring’, told Breitbart London he regretted the government was only taking action now, and had not heeded his warning earlier. The Falklands veteran said his warnings were ignored in 2006 when he wrote a major paper on future threats, as the Labour government of the day deemed speaking about Immigration as racist.

Migrants Italy Reuters Large

Parry remarked:

“When I said these things in 2006, my political masters told me to drop it, that it was racist, but I told them it was just what came out of the analysis of the raw data.

“the government interpreted my report as having a go at immigration which was a ‘verboten’ subject in those days, it was all about multiculturalism. Any mention of immigration was considered to be ideologically incorrect. But I didn’t mention immigration, I merely said the world was heading for a migratory pattern that is on a par with the end of the fifth century”.

A speech given by Parry in 2006 at the Royal United Services Institute was reported by The Times after he said the migratory patterns that would emerge in the coming decade would resemble “the 5th century Roman empire facing the Goths and the Vandals”, as European nations experienced a process of “reverse colonisation”.

Piracy on Europe’s Doorstep

Although Parry said he stood by his comments of moving diasporas and large populations of migrants with no allegiance to their new homes destabilising nations such as the UK, he said the increasingly fragile Mediterranean was more of a threat to Europe. Libya, now an increasingly lawless state after the British-backed toppling of former dictator Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, is fuelling this change in the Mediterranean as it becomes a haven for criminals engaging in people smuggling.

Parry said at first, the switch from people smuggling as a profitable and comparatively risk-free criminal activity to piracy of the sort seen off the lawless Horn of Africa would be driven by a profit motive. He said:

“It is only a matter of time before we get crime and piracy off the North African coast. People will see it as a business opportunity and they will take it.

“People used to call them Barbary pirates, and they will come back when you have a collapse of governance if there isn’t a strong system of international control in the Mediterranean. You can compare it to what Jessie James is reputed to have said when asked ‘why do you rob banks?’ – ‘it’s where the money is’!”.

Mumbai Terror Attacks

During the last Caliphate, ‘Barbary’ pirates from North Africa grew incredibly rich by attacking European and American ships in the Mediterranean, taking the cargoes and holding the crews hostage. Many would be sold into slavery, with young white women and girls being particularly prized, while others were ransomed back at enormous profit, creating an income stream also used by the new Caliphate established by the Islamic State today.

Terror From the Sea

Parry said that isolated attacks on easily overpowered craft such as yachts could be expected soon. At least two coast guard ships have already been fired upon by Libyan people smugglers, as they used AK-47s to recapture impounded smuggling boats.

Pirates Reuters

Citing the 2008 Mumbai terror attack in which Islamist killers used inflatable speedboats to land commandos to kill over 150, Parry said terrorist groups in Northern Africa, a number of which have already sworn allegiance to the Islamic State, could launch raids against southern Europe. Such attacks were common in the 17th and 19th centuries, when Caliphate ships would raid coastal settlements in Italy, Spain, and even as far afeild as Cornwall in England to capture slaves and hostages for ransom. Parry remarked:

“90 per cent of the wealth, both personal and corporate in the Mediterranean is on the northern shore and 10 per cent is on the south. You have a demographic explosion all across North Africa, and an ageing demographic in Europe. That is all the historic ingredients for terror and crime.

“We will soon be experiencing minor hit and run attacks on remote parts of Europe, like Malta and the Greek Islands”.

Message to Policy Makers: How to Avert Disaster

It is possible for Europe and Western civilisation to forestall these attacks, Rear Admiral Parry said, even if the best chance for peace in the Mediterranean had already been lost, as the governments capable of maintaining peace in North Africa and the Levant had already collapsed in the Arab Spring. In his message to policy makers, Parry was unapologetic about the role Britain and other maritime nations like the United States, Canada and Australia had to play:

“Long term, we have to stabilise the whole community around the Mediterranean… we have to be able to hold our maritime borders, because we have very aggressive Islamism which wants to recreate the extent of Islamic lands the Middle Ages.

“If you look at the maps put out by the Islamic State, it is pretty clear what they want back. Italy, Spain. They want back what they once had. Islam is a very territorial religion.

“If there isn’t the political will or military ability to face down threats off the North African littoral, be it migration, criminality, or terrorism, then we will get progressive erosion. We will get raids on coasts, we will get yachts intercepted at sea, we will get merchant ships subject to terrorist, pirate, or criminal attack.

“The Western world needs to have more self belief in its own values, it has to hold its nerve, and we have to rediscover a lot of self-reliance”.

Praising Tony Abbott’s policy of sinking migrant ships with naval gunfire and returning people to their home countries where possible, Parry remained sceptic that the sudden tough talk about sinking smuggler boats in Europe would actually happen, remarking that sending in special forces teams to Libya would be like “putting your fingers in a mangle”.

The United Nation’s International Maritime Organisation (IMO) should be taking the lead in the Mediterranean, but he didn’t hold out much hope for their getting involved in a meaningful way either:

“If this sort of thing was happening on land, the area would be crawling with United Nations blue helmets [peacekeepers], but because it’s at sea, it is ignored. The gutless IMO always go for the low-hanging fruit like climate change and emissions control, collecting their grossly inflated pensions and doing bugger all”.

Also see:

TERROR: Death toll from Boko Haram attack in Cameroon rises to 19, majority of victims were beheaded

bok (1)

Today, by Olawale Kadir, April 19, 2015:

Nineteen people were killed in Thursday night’s attack on a Cameroonian village by Nigeria-based Boko Haram militants, a security source said in an updated toll, adding that most of the victims were beheaded, AFP reports. “The final toll from this attack is 19 dead, with a majority of the victims decapitated,” a security source said Saturday on condition of anonymity. Security sources had previously said 10 civilians were killed in the cross-border raid on the village of Bia in Cameroon’s Far North region. The attack comes after a regional military offensive — which includes Cameroon — has claimed a string of successes in their fightback against the Islamist militants in Nigeria in recent weeks. Bia, which borders Lake Chad, has been identified previously by security forces as a recruiting ground for Boko Haram militants. The source speaking to AFP on Saturday said security forces were slow to react to the raid on Bia, located in an area with several military bases. “We noted a late response by our forces,”, the source said.

“Many huts were burned down,” the source added. Also during the night from Thursday to Friday, Boko Haram Islamists attacked a Cameroon army position in Amchide, on the border with Nigeria. “They burned houses in Amchide, but without losses on our side. The attack was repulsed. We don’t know yet about casualties on the enemy side,” a security source told AFP on Friday. The insurgency by Boko Haram — which is seeking to create a hardline Islamic state — has killed some 13,000 people in northeast Nigeria and sent 1.5 million fleeing their homes since 2009. The group had in recent months widened its attacks into neighbouring nations, prompting Chad, Cameroon and Niger to launch a joint offensive with the Nigerian army, resulting in a series of rebel-held towns and villages being recaptured in Nigeria’s northeast. Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan’s perceived inability to end the six-year insurgency was a factor in his election defeat last month. Nigerian President-elect Muhammadu Buhari has vowed to rid the country of the “terror” of Boko Haram.

Report: ISIS, Al-Qaeda, and Boko Haram Training Together

AP Photo/Militant Website, Fil

AP Photo/Militant Website, Fil

Breitbart, by John Hayward, March 24, 2015:

According to Veryan Khan of the Terrorism Research & Analysis Consortium, the great under-the-radar terror threat comes from an expanse of the Sahara Desert in Mauritania, where ISIS, al-Qaeda, and Boko Haram are working together to train Western recruits for jihad, including terror attacks in Europe and North America.

“The situation in Mauritania is a powder keg very few people are talking about,” Khan told Fox News.

When the first stories about Boko Haram’s idolization of ISIS broke, some analysts were confident the two terror groups would never work together, because the Islamic State was supposedly too racist to cooperate with their African fan club. That analysis disintegrated completely over the past few months, as ISIS officially embraced Boko Haram as a franchise of their “caliphate.” Operational cooperation, especially in the form of tactical training badly needed by the enthusiastic but sloppy Boko Haram terrorists, would be the next logical step.

Khan’s organization has a source in Mauritania that says at least 80 trainees — including recruits from the U.S., Canada, and Europe — are quartered at the camps, which are located in the sparsely-populated desert interior of the country. “Signs in English can be seen in videos and photos obtained by TRAC inside one of the main camps at the Maatamoulana Mosque, providing unmistakable evidence of westerners’ presence,” writes Fox News.

The joint terrorist training project got a big shot in the arm when Mauritania’s government released five top terrorists following a prison riot in which they took two guards hostage and threatened to not only kill the hostages, but hunt down and slaughter their families as well.  The five were prominent members of al-Qaeda and one of its parent organizations, the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat.  Several of them have experience with jihadi recruitment and training.

It is not clear from the Fox News report if any of these five are thought to be actively participating in the Mauritania camps, or if their release was more of a morale-booster and propaganda coup for the camp management.  The article does run down a list of headline-grabbing terrorists who made trips to Mauritania, which offers little in the way of amenities for jihadis besides the desert training facility. Suspected veterans of the training program include three Canadians who joined al-Qaeda in a bloody attack on an Algerian gas plant in 2013, a Florida-based cleric who allegedly used his seminary to funnel terrorist recruits to Mauritania, and a French citizen involved in the execution of ISIS hostage Peter Kassig.

As for Boko Haram’s involvement, it is noted that the leader of the Nigerian gang has claimed some of his thugs were trained in Mauritania, and indeed Boko Haram’s ideology was incubated there. “There also are links between Mauritania and Boko Haram evident in its interaction with Al Qaeda for training and the supply lines for finance and weapons,” Khan told Fox News.  “In addition, there are recruitment centers and organized crime networks in Mauritania facilitating ISIS expansion in North and Central Africa.”

Mauritania has also arrested several suspected ISIS terrorists who bragged that the Islamic State was “on its way to that country,” and a major Mauritanian terrorist brigade recently pledged allegiance to the Islamic State.  It was not merely a rhetorical salute, as a couple of Mauritanian terrorists were subsequently arrested trying to smuggle a load of cash and weapons into Mali.

The Mauritanian terror gangs have been quite active, according to Fox News:

Within Mauritania, there have been several terrorism related incidents waged by jihadists since 2005, including the assassination of four French tourists in Aleg by Al Qaeda, attacks on the Israeli and French embassies, clashes between Al Qaeda members and Mauritanian forces in Tevragh Zeina, the beheading of 12 Mauritanian soldiers, the murder of Christopher Ervin Leggett, a U.S. citizen, the kidnapping of three Spanish citizens, the kidnapping of an Italian couple kidnapped and other embassy attacks that were prevented.

CNN recently ran a disturbing profile of African terrorism that cited Jane’s Defense Weekly’s description of Mauritania as “an aspirational target for jihadist groups due to its military co-operation with France and Algeria.” The World Policy blog proposed Mauritania as part of an urgently-needed African “security belt,” and wondered how al-Qaeda’s interests in Africa would respond to the encroachment of ISIS — “will AQ affiliates strengthen when challenged, or will they pledge bayat [allegiance] to IS like Boko Haram has done?”  If all three groups are cooperating at terror camps in Mauritania, we may have the beginnings of an answer to that question, and it’s not a good answer.

Islamic State Threatens Italy

One of many rescues by the Italian government.  What will Italy, Malta and other European countries do with the migrants? None of these mostly young men will be sent back!

One of many rescues by the Italian government. What will Italy, Malta and other European countries do with the migrants? None of these mostly young men will be sent back!

CSP, by Sean MacCormac, Feb. 18, 2015:

Ever since the fall of the Gaddafi regime in Libya, the embattled nation has become fertile ground for Islamist rebels to set up an aspiring Islamic emirate. Islamic State has established a foothold in Libya by acquiring the allegiance of several Islamist organizations within the country. The strategy in Libya differed from Islamic State’s actions in Syria; the militant organization sent envoys to Libyan Islamist rebels to enlist their aid in the creation of a new caliphate. Islamic State had aggressively sought recruitment efforts in Libya and courted jihadist groups such as Al Qaeda-linked Ansar al-Shariah in neighboring states under pressure from anti-terrorist initiatives, first gaining their aid in Syria before turning their focus back towards Libya. As the two opposing Libyan governments fought each other, they neglected to confront the common Islamic State threat.

As of late, Islamic State-affiliated jihadists in Libya have become increasingly more aggressive in their attacks, targeting oil installations and hotels as well as executing Christians on video. Fears mount over Islamic State’s success in Libya, and of the nation becoming a center for jihadism in the region. As a response to the beheading video, the Egyptian government launched an airstrike on the jihadist hotbed of Derna, killing over sixty fighters.

Now, however, Islamic State has threatened to invade Italy. During the beheading video, Islamic State propagandist Abu Arhim al-Libim stated that Islamic State “will conquer Rome, by Allah’s permission.” al-Libim cited the large amounts of weaponry present in Libya held by Islamic State and that the Sicilian coast was less than 300 miles away from Libya’s coast. In fact, an ISIS report recovered by Libyan media in January states that the Islamic State intends to flood Italy with illegal immigrants to overwhelm the country’s defenses and infrastructure. It would be a simple matter for Islamic State to infiltrate agents within the large number of refugees from Libya, yet the Italian government is still in favor of taking in large amounts of refugees. Already, there are thousands of refugees fleeing Libya and making the risky cross-Mediterranean travel to Italy, even as Italy withdraws all personnel from its embassy in Tripoli.

The Italian government has already taken actions to ensure the nation’s security in the face of the threat from Islamic State. Security in Rome has been tightened greatly after Islamic State directly threatened the Italian capital. The Italian Parliament is to be briefed on Libya Thursday, and there is already considerable support for possible military action against Islamic State in Libya. Italian defense minister Robert Panotti stated that 5,000 troops could be deployed to Libya if necessary, though Prime Minster Matteo Renzi confirms that the position of the Italian government for the time being is to wait until the UN Security Council reaches an agreement. With that in mind, it is unclear if the Italian armed forces are in any condition for an invasion of Libya; the 5,000 troops mentioned could very well be the only troops available for an expeditionary force due to the heavy military cuts conducted two years ago.

Egyptian beheadings show ISIS taking ‘global jihad’ to rest of Arab world

Published on Feb 16, 2015 by jim hoft  (who reminds us that Ansar al-Sharia claimed responsibility for the Benghazi attack and 3 emails were sent to the WH informing them of this on the night of the attack)

Fox News, Feb. 16, 2015:

The Islamic State’s mass execution of Egyptian Christians is the latest sign that ISIS is pointing its sword against not just the West but the rest of the Arab world — drawing the region into a spreading war that leaves the United States in a difficult spot as it tries to marshal a cohesive coalition.

That coalition started last fall as a U.S.-led airstrike campaign involving several Gulf states, and Jordan. Not only have a host of western nations since joined to offer at least financial support, but several other countries in the Middle East and North Africa are now launching their own military campaigns.

On Monday, Egyptian warplanes struck at ISIS militants in Libya, in retaliation for the mass execution of Coptic Christians from Egypt. The airstrikes reportedly were coordinated with the Libyan government.

Meanwhile, Iran is said to be fueling Shiite militias now battling ISIS militants on the ground in Iraq, as Iraq’s military loses strength. Syria’s Assad regime has been fighting ISIS from the start. And Jordan, a U.S. ally, has escalated its role in the coalition after a captured Jordanian pilot was burned alive by the Islamic State.

The distinct campaigns have raised questions about the direction of the anti-ISIS coalition and alliances in the region.

“It’s much more like Game of Thrones, and much less like a seriously thought-through strategy against a regional opponent,” Danielle Pletka, senior vice president for foreign and defense policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute, told

With ISIS-aligned militants battling on so many fronts in the region, analysts say the organization is trying to demonstrate its clout, in turn boosting its already-robust recruitment.

The multiple fronts, though, create challenges for the Obama administration. The Washington Post reported Monday that Iran-backed militias are taking the fight to ISIS in Iraq — which in turn increases Iran’s already growing influence in that country.

The impact of Egypt’s entry into Libya remains to be seen. But retired Lt. Col. Tony Shaffer, a former military intelligence officer now with the London Center for Policy Research, said: “Egypt jumping into Libya is not part of the [U.S.] plan.”

Amid the chaos, Shaffer said his group is urging the creation of a single “comprehensive treaty organization” — a standing coalition of countries in the region, which he describes as a sort of “Arab NATO.” Such a group, he said, could organize against ISIS and plan for establishing post-ISIS governance in areas where there is none. This could include Jordan, Egypt and several other governments all fighting a common enemy, which he stressed as critical.

“If everyone is in charge, no one is in charge,” he said, describing the current patchwork of local battles in the region.

Matthew Levitt, counterterrorism analyst with The Washington Institute, described the strikes in Libya as a separate issue from other Islamic State battles, and one fed by the severe instability in that country. “It’s a problem for Egypt, because they’re right next door,” he noted.

But regardless of how connected the Libya fighting is to the broader Islamic State crisis, the entire conflict has had a curious side effect: drawing attention away from what once was the No. 1 enemy in the region, Israel.

Even before the rise of ISIS, analysts say, some Arab states in the region were beginning to — quietly — work with Israel on various challenges including Iran. Now with ISIS the singular force uniting a region notoriously riven by tribal, religious and territorial differences, Israel is on the sidelines.

“This is actually not about Israel, for the first time in a long time,” Levitt said.

He suggested it best for Israel not to play any active role in the current conflict but said the reality is the Gulf states are now realizing “that not every evil in the world … has to do with Israel.”

Pletka said, further, “They and the Israelis see the region through the same prism.”

Whether this results in the long run in Israel being seen as less of an enemy of the Arab world — or simply means Israel becomes the target of fewer United Nations condemnations for a short spell — it represents a significant change, analysts say.

“This is a major, tectonic shift,” Pletka said.

The Islamic State, meanwhile, continues to incite surrounding countries, chiefly through the tactic of horrific executions.

The video released online over the weekend showed 21 Egyptian victims kneeling on a beach, before being beheaded. Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi quickly vowed revenge, saying the whole world is in a “fierce battle with extremist groups.”

Both the Egyptian government and Libya’s fragile state are facing internal threats from militants claiming loyalty to ISIS. Egypt already is battling ISIS militants in the Sinai Peninsula, and the airstrikes in neighboring Libya mark an expansion of that fight.

“Clearly, this is a global jihad right before our eyes,” retired Gen. Jack Keane, a Fox News military analyst, said of the ISIS-driven killings.

In a written statement, the White House condemned the “despicable and cowardly murder of twenty-one Egyptian citizens in Libya by ISIL-affiliated terrorists.”

The White House noted that the killing “is just the most recent of the many vicious acts perpetrated by ISIL-affiliated terrorists against the people of the region, including the murders of dozens of Egyptian soldiers in the Sinai, which only further galvanizes the international community to unite against ISIL.”

The White House urged a “political resolution” to the ongoing conflict in Libya. The White House is hosting a summit later this week on “countering violent extremism.”’s Judson Berger contributed to this report.

Also see:

African Nations to Send 7,500 Troops to Combat Boko Haram – Why is Iran so Interested?

The African Union (AU) has agreed to send a multi-nation force of 7,500 troops to Nigeria to assist the Nigerian military in combating Boko Haram. Interestingly enough, the Iranian regime has offered their “services” to assist this multi-nation force. Apparently Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian has been involved with African nations affected by Boko Haram to provide assistance. Specifically, the regime informed the AU that they’re willing to share their experiences and intelligence gained over the years in Iraq, Lebanon, Syria, and Africa – Nigeria and Somalia in particular. Its also worth noting that Iran had representatives at the two-day summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia that the announcement of the troop deployment was made. They were there as “observers.”

7,500 troops to fight Boko Haram

Iran Offers to Help Fight Boko Haram

So why is Iran so interested in Africa? Well, the IRG-Qods Force and Hezbollah have both been very active on the continent over the past decade, so this isn’t a new phenomenon at all (remember, the IRGC has arms production factories in Sudan). Their expansion into the continent began to really expand when the first indicators of foreign fighters were making their way into Syria in the early days of the “Arab Spring.” Since then their objectives have been the following:

1. Keep tabs on the foreign fighter networks providing personnel and weapons to anti-Shia efforts in Syria, Iraq and Lebanon.

2. Eliminate the key personnel in those foreign fighter networks.

3. Conduct target development for when (and it will happen) the Qods Force and Hezbollah cells in Africa receive the green light to begin attacking American, Israeli and British diplomatic facilities, military personnel and civilians.

IRGC-Qods Force Insignia Source:

IRGC-Qods Force Insignia

The 2011-2013 time period saw a sharp increase in Qods Force and Hezbollah activity in Nigeria with Nigerian security forces having made several arrests of individuals associated with both organizations on terrorism charges. Nigeria is an anomaly, as other African nations have kept their mouths shut on the expansion of the Qods Force/Hezbollah networks in the western and eastern parts of the continent. Much of this has to do with Iran’s increased involvement in the economic, political and cultural fields, thus creating a co-dependent relationship (as the regime has been looking for ways to circumvent sanctions, although this may well be moot now that the Obama administration is on the job). However, there was one incident in JUN 12 where two Iranian nationals – identified as Ahmed Abolfathi Muhammad and Sayid Mansur Mousavi – who were arrested in Nairobi, Kenya for possessing explosive material. Apparently they had a lot more that was shipped into the country that Kenyan security forces weren’t able to find. The two individuals were suspected of plotting to conduct attacks targeting the Israeli, US, British and Saudi diplomatic missions. They received life sentences.

Out of Iran, into Africa: Hezbollah’s scramble for Africa

Nigeria has long been known for being a major hotbed of Qods Force and Hezbollah activity, going as far back as 2004 when an Iranian diplomat was arrested of casing the Israeli embassy in Abuja. In FEB 13, Nigerian security forces arrested Abdullahi Mustapha Berende and two other Nigerians for attempting to establish a proxy group that was reportedly trained in Iran. They were said to have been planning to attack American targets in Lagos. Berende himself allegedly first traveled to Iran in 2006, where he received his Islamic education and returned again in 2011 for weapons and explosives training. His Qods Force handlers tasked him with collecting intelligence on hotels and public places frequented by Americans and Israelis to identify potential targets for future attacks. Berende himself admitted that he worked with the Iranians and had received $30,000 USD to carry out the operations. A few months later, his associate Iranian national Azim Aghajani and another Nigerian accomplice were sentenced to five years for their involvement to smuggle a shipment of weapons into West Africa. The case was opened on them when Nigerian security forces opened 13 containers at Apapa Port in OCT 10 and found the weapons to include 107mm rockets, among other things. The shipment was bound for Gambia. The US government has linked Aghajani to the Qods Forces’ Department 400 External OPs Division. In keeping with the usual Qods Force TTPs, Aghajani was moving the weapons throughout Africa with the use of front companies such as Behineh Trading Co.

Read more at The ISIS Study Group


2743059668Iran in Africa: A Tutorial Overview (

Iran’s activity in Africa is a model of their strategic conduct that allows them an asymmetric advantage over the United States in terms of diplomacy and statecraft. This pattern of behavior is adaptable and observable in Latin America as well as in Africa. Where there are weak governing institutions and fertile soil for anti-American sentiment of any form, the Iranian regime will seek global allies, revenue streams, resources, and capabilities that serve them well on the world stage.

This is an introductory overview meant to give a broad picture of behavior and intention. The open source record of Iranian, Hezbollah, and Quds Force activity in Africa is extensive.

Click here to download pdf of complete overview. See video presentation.

Boko Haram Discusses Baga Massacre, Ideology in New Video


CSP, by Kyle Shideler, Jan. 28, 2015

The jihadist group known as Boko Haram, appears to have released a new video featuring an interview with the group’s spokesman Sheikh Abu Mus’ab Al barnawi. Regarding its recent successes in attacks on towns in the Lake Chad region Al Barnawi says:

As for it’s importance to us, it’s because of it removes that military presence from the lands of the Islamic state, and hence establish the Shariah of Allah in the region, and attain safety and security in it for Muslims. It’s known that those military complexes if they go to a place they corrupt it and injustice rules over it, and we by the Grace of Allah alone have managed to conquer this city and add it to the cities of the Islamic state in Africa.

It’s not immediately clear if Al barnawi means the term Islamic State in a generic sense, or if he is referring to the self-declared Caliphate represented by ISIS leader AbuBakr Al Baghdadi, but Boko Haram has increasingly utilized the flag and symbols of ISIS in its media presentations, and has expressed support for, if not allegiance to Al Baghdadi. In the video, Al barnawi is explicit regarding the group’s larger goals of establishing Sharia and expresses irritation at the insistence of the western media’s referring to the group as Boko Haram rather than by its official name Jama’aat Ahul Sunna wall el Daa’wa wal Jihad (Group for the Propagation of the Sunnah and Jihad). The Boko Haram spokesman also denied allegations that the group engaged in Takfirism (the practice of declaring fellow Muslims to be infidels), spending several minutes denying the claim.

We have come to give victory to AlSunna and to establish the governance of Allah on earth. As for accusing us of shedding Muslims’ blood that’s not true, and Allah is our witness. How do we fight them if we fight for their cause? When we entered the city that was what is called the stick carriers “Catodqora,” they collaborated with the armies of the false deity and carried their weapons, and stood by them. We fought who fought us, and they know they fought us, and when they saw our strength they fled the city, some by sea, some to the forests, and yet we send them this message: Who fought or didn’t fight us who comes repenting will be forgiven and we give him safety and security because we are a nation whose morals refuse to initiate harm on who doesn’t harm us.

“Stick carriers”, presumably refers to vigilante groups which have sprung up in some northern Nigerian towns in order to repulse attacks by the jihadist group. As is common in jihadist propaganda material, the focus of the group remains on the establishment of the Islamic State, and enforcement of Shariah. There are no references to corruption, disparity in oil wealth, or endemic poverty, the sorts of so-called “root causes” that drive State Department policy on Nigeria.

Paris Attack Inspires Praise and Action from Terrorist Leaders in Africa

CSP, by Nicholas Hanlon, Jan. 13, 2015:

Mokhtar Belmokhtar

Mokhtar Belmokhtar

The jihadist attacks in Paris by Cherif and Said Kaouchi have drawn praise and a call to arms from Africa’s top terrorists.  Former al Qaeda member Mokhtar Belmokhtar (also former leader of the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat and AQIM) who now runs his own group, Signers in Blood, praised the Kaouchi brothers as the ‘best knights’ for their cause.  Belmokhtar urged Muslims everywhere to carry out similar attacks. Belmokhtar’s exploits in Algeria and far exceed the talents of the Kaouchi brothers save only the symbolic potency of Charlie Hebdo as a target.

The North African branch of al Qaeda also issued praise separately from Belmokhtar.  AQIM used it’s statements to associate the Charlie Hebdo attacks with French counter terrorism activity in Africa and particularly operations in Mali where the French have been at the forefront in the fight against al Qaeda.  Al Qaeda, erroneously declared to have been decimated by the Obama administration, does find the French to be it’s primary challenger on the continent along side Algerian and Moroccan counter terrorism efforts.   AQIM stands to gain from the U.S. administration’s chronic misreading of the capability and intentions of Islamist movements in Africa.  Their ability to capitalize on such misreads is precedent in an AQIM strategy document discovered in early 2013 where AQIM emir instructed his followers to mask their international intentions and gain ground with small insurgency movements.  In other words, the Islamist version of ‘think global act local’ will continue to act global the more they go unchallenged in Africa.

Boko Haram is ISIS in Africa

165551161CSP, by Nicholas Hanlon, Jan. 8, 2015:

Like the U.S. non-response to the Syrian civil war which gave rise to ISIS, Boko Haram has been allowed to fester in Nigeria.  Inaction emboldens the merciless Islamist militants and makes them stronger.

Boko Haram currently holds a military base in Baga, a tri-border town on Lake Chad in the North Eastern most part of Nigeria near Cameroon and Chad.  The sum of territory Boko Haram holds is comparable to that of ISIS.  There are reports that some 2000 lives were taken when Baga fell and in the aftermath.  The strength of Boko Haram’s hold on such territory rests largely on the fear in the hearts of the land’s inhabitants as does the strength of the Taliban in Afghanistan and ISIS in Iraq.   The White House has given relatively minor attention to Boko Haram.  The nature of the group’s rise and territorial occupation would raise the same foreign policy debates about military expedition and counter insurgency as the Taliban and ISIS did were Boko Haram anywhere else but Africa.  The current unprofessional conduct of the Nigerian military defies the best practices of a counter insurgency and does more to drive locals into Boko Haram’s merciless arms.  The best advice still demands a large force of well trained soldiers to take back, secure, and keep territory.  But who is prepared to take on the task?

For any heads of state that may come to terms with that reality, several questions follow.   Who could muster such resolve and force, and who would?  Baga represented the regional response.  It is where the Multi-National Joint Task Force (MNJTF) was meant to base its operations that includes Cameroon, Chad, and Niger.  Cameroonian president Biya was able to recess a previous military base attack with airstrikes and has sent 7000 troops to the border.  Perhaps in recognition of Biya’s reliability, AFRICOM stepped up its counter terrorism cooperation with Cameroon in December.

In the new world we live in now, it is clear that the U.S. will not take initiative in Nigeria. The White House press office has put out a fact sheet that reads more like a check list on how to do as little as possible and still appear engaged. Wrought with generalizations the list makes broad statements referencing funding for already existing programs.  The primary measures of substance point to the new Security Governance Initiative but there are no resolute statements that speak to actually defeating Boko Haram.

Even if it were a willing Strong Horse, U.S. military resources have now long since been vultured by domestic politics, misused, and diffused of their strategic posture.  Further, the president made clear in his 2014 West Point address that he did not consider U.S. military power an important or primary tool of state craft.  Likening the U.S. military to  a hammer is an unsophisticated description of the most complex, versatile, and useful force for peace the world has yet seen.  Real solutions and efforts to counter ISIS and Boko Haram will be ugly and require an undesirable level of resolve and commitment.  The president’s misconception of his own options are compounded by a misconception of who Boko Haram and ISIS are as enemies.  Though the White House now bullet points terrorist organization designations of Boko Haram on the list of things it has done, it resisted doing so until John Kerry took over at State Department.  A clear early opportunity to recognize a potential long term ideological threat was lost.  Instead, the state department attributed Boko Haram’s rise to poverty and lack of resources.  Similarly likening ISIS to a Junior Varsity team, the effort to down play the threat of Islamic groups with territorial ambition has been the administration’s supplement for challenging them early on.

The similarities between Boko Haram and ISIS are glaring for a reason and increasingly observed in detail.  There is the claim of a Sunni Islamic caliphate, territorial ambition, highly organized systems of kidnapping and sexual slavery, and organized court systems used to rule captive towns and villages under Shariah law.  There is also increasing recognition of each others legitimacy. Boko Haram’s leader Abubakar Shekau has expressed support for ISIS, incorporated its logo and anthem, and has flattered Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi with mimicry.  Boko Haram’s nods to ISIS are not simply surprising similarities discovered by analysts or trite displays of mutual admiration.  Furthermore, whether these acts symbolize real allegiance or recognition is secondary.  These are clear symptoms of camaraderie and brotherhood.  Official declarations of affiliation between Sunni groups are in most ways insignificant to their success, growth or motivation.  Their ideology unites them and animates them both.  More simply put, Boko Haram and ISIS are similar because they are the same set of ideas manifest on different continents in different cultures.

Boko Haram in Nigeria is one front of a larger war. ISIS is another.  Boko Haram presents challenges of diplomacy and state-craft that will increase in threat level the longer left unchecked which will rival that of ISIS.  It is in Nigeria, however that U.S. assertiveness can still galvanize regional resolve in way that has been lost in the Middle East.  Hopefully that opportunity will remain for the possibility of the next U.S. administration to recognize it.

Nigeria Teeters on the Brink: 8 Terrifying Trends

bokoPJ Media, By Patrick Poole, December 18, 2014:

For much of its five-year long insurgency in Nigeria costing thousands of lives, Boko Haram enjoyed no sanction by the U.S. government. That changed just over a year ago when they were finally designated a terrorist organization by the State Department.

That notwithstanding, Boko Haram continues to expand its terror campaign across the north of the country, now controlling an area the size of Maryland.

On the other side of the conflict is the hapless administration of President Goodluck Jonathan, which so far has been unable to mount any substantive opposition to Boko Haram’s advance. With presidential elections looming in February and with Jonathan most likely running for reelection, there appears to be no effective political counterweight that can put Nigeria on a course to mount a counter-offensive against Boko Haram.

The strategic stakes involved for the U.S. are extraordinary, but you would never be able to gauge that from the absence of any alarm from the Obama administration or from either side of the aisle in Congress. Not only does Nigeria have the continent’s largest population at 173 million and the largest economy in Africa, it also is the10th largest oil producer in the world.

With a failed Libyan state (thanks in no small part to the Obama administration), Egypt — the world’s largest Arab country — fighting its own counterinsurgency in the Sinai, and Islamist insurgencies inflamed from Nigeria to Kenya, the loss of Nigeria to jihadists could be the tipping point to lose the whole of Africa.

With those factors in mind, here are eight disturbing trends that warrant immediate attention for Nigeria’s fight against Boko Haram.

1) Religious cleansing of Christians is escalating: It’s remarkable that not even two years ago senior State Department officials were denying before Congress that there was any religious dimension to Boko Haram’s reign of terror.

Nigerian churches, which should be open and inviting, are now having to install crash barriers and metal detectors. And yet within just the past few months, more than 1,000 churches have been ransacked and burned, and hundreds of thousands of Christians are being driven from their homes.

For instance, in one October offensive in just two northeastern states, Boko Haram reportedly burned down 185 churches and forced 190,000 to flee. Last month they attacked Mubi, the second largest city in Adamawa state, killing hundreds and destroying as they went. Without the slightest hint of hypocrisy, Boko Haram renamed the city “Madinatul Islam,” meaning, “city of Islam and peace.”

2) Massive population displacement: According to a UN press release, the attack on Mubi displaced 13,000 Nigerians, who were forced to flee to neighboring Cameroon, which is struggling to accommodate nearly 50,000 Nigerian refugees and another 250,000 from the Central African Republic with extremely scarce resources. Another 100,000 refugees have fled to Niger, with 30,000 arriving just in the past two months. There’s no guarantee of safety in taking refuge in neighboring countries, as Boko Haram has staged cross-border attacks. Inside Nigeria, it was reported that 400,000 refugees are in the Yolo area, severely taxing the city’s resources. Overall, 1.5 million Nigerians have been displaced by the violence, with 650,000 in the northeast alone.

3) Disease and famine loom: The massive displacement has strained refugee centers past the breaking point. Conditions in the camps are universally reported to be unsanitary and breeding grounds for cholera and measles. Because resources are stretched so thin, most refugees are left to fend for themselves for shelter, food, and water. As winter begins to set in, observers on the ground I have spoken to in the past few weeks warn of possible mass starvation in the months ahead.

Food prices are high and most refugees left their homes with nothing and have no reliable income. Because of the security situation, few relief agencies have a permanent operating presence in the most heavily affected areas. UN and private relief agencies are requesting additional funds, and yet the Strategic Response Plan for Nigeria launched in February was just 14 percent funded by mid-November.

4) Power grab by Muslim militias: In recent weeks there have been efforts by Islamic authorities and the emirs to stand up Muslim militias in the north, ostensibly to fight Boko Haram. But there’s no guarantee that these militias will always be opposed to Boko Haram, particularly if they continue to advance against government forces (this has been true for rebel groups in Syria that were initially opposed to ISIS and other hardline jihadist groups, but ended up allying with or defecting to these same groups).

And it should be noted that Boko Haram has not been the only actor targeting Christians in the north. Muslim militias have been attacking Christian areas for years. Observers on the ground express concern that the real-world effect of these militias will be to create a parallel system to the Nigerian government and eventually grab power in the north. Many Muslims in the north would love to break away from the political influence and governmental control of the Nigerian government, where they are forced to share power with the Christian majority. Thus, many of these calls for Muslim militias by Islamic authorities are couched in openly anti-government rhetoric.

5) Targeting of children: When nearly 300 school girls were abducted from Chibok in April, it grabbed the world’s attention. Some were able to flee, but reportedly 219 remain captive. Last month, Boko Haram chief Abubakar Shekau said that the girls had converted to Islam and had been married off. When Boko Harm stormed the town of Lassa on December 3, they carried away 20 more girls.

But while girls are targeted for abduction, boys are targeted for killing. Just last month, dozens of young men were killed when a suicide bomber dressed as a student bombed a morning assembly. This targeting of school-age boys is a pattern for Boko Haram, such as when they attacked a boarding school in Yobe state back in February where boys were shot, had their throats slit, or were burned alive when their dorms were set on fire.

6) Women suicide bombers: Last Wednesday, two young girls in hijabs conducted a dual suicide bombing in a high-traffic textile market in Kano city, the largest city in the north. Another 13-year-old girl was found wearing an explosive vest just hours later. Boko Haram is using young female suicide bombers at an increasing and disturbing rate, thoughthis tactic is not isolated to their operations in Nigeria and has been endorsed elsewhere by preeminent Islamic scholars like Yusuf al-Qaradawi. The use of female suicide bombers requires security forces to target women as well as men, and then the terror group is able to use the “abuse” of women being searched as a propaganda ploy. What is especially troubling is a VICE News report last week that indicated that Boko Haram has dispatched 50 female suicide bombers in the hopes of inflicting 100,000 casualties.

7) Jihadist jail breaks: ISIS has used jail breaks to effective use in Iraq, busting out al-Qaeda operatives of the infamousAbu Ghraib prison last year and Mosul and Tikrit earlier this year. Those released have helped swell the terror group’s ranks. So too with Boko Haram, which staged a jail break earlier this month that released 300 prisoners, and one on Sunday that freed another 200. The BBC reported in November that Boko Haram jail breaks had at that time freed 2,251 prisoners, and that they had launched an attack on a French cement plant and recovered a large cache of dynamite that could be used for future jail breaks. With thousands of Boko Haram operatives and supporters presently in jails, along with hardened criminals conditioned to violence, targeting more jails will continue to swell their ranks.

8) Government impotence: One of the primary factors emboldening these power grabs has been the ineffectiveness of the Nigerian military to roll back Boko Haram’s gains. Relatively few small scale victories by government forces are overshadowed by continuing gains by Boko Haram. To mask the problem, the Nigerian government has issued a media blackout in many of these areas and imposed a moratorium on foreign media visas. While President Jonathan’s administration has come under fire for not adequately protecting its own people, it has seemed to be more concerned about its public relations in Washington, D.C. than in regaining the public trust of its own citizens.

A study published this week by the International Centre for the Study of Radicalization found that Boko Haram was responsible for 801 deaths last month alone, with more people killed by terror attacks in Nigeria than in Syria or Afghanistan.

NBC News noted last week that Boko Haram’s violence is now on par with ISIS in Iraq, which is why in 2013 Nigeria climbed to fourth in the Global Terrorism Index, up from seventh in 2012 and twelfth in 2011. According to the Council on Foreign Relations tracker, the violence in Nigeria from May 2011 (when President Jonathan came into office) to November 2014 has claimed more than 26,000 lives. Now there are reports that Nigerian special forces have uncovered plans by Boko Haram to expand their attacks by targeting 25 communities in five different states.

But you would never know how desperate the situation is in Nigeria in light of the absence of any urgency or alarm from the Obama administration or from Congress.

It’s worth repeating: Congress had to drag a reluctant Clinton State Department kicking and screaming to get Boko Haram designated in November 2013. Members of Congress also discovered earlier this year that the Clinton State Department intentionally lied and downplayed the threat from Boko Haram, and worked to kill bills in both the House and the Senate calling for their designation in 2012.

At the same time, 21 American academics sent a letter to Hillary Clinton strongly arguing against Boko Haram’s designation in response to the Department of Justice’s National Security Division urging the State Department to do so.

But the November 2013 designation of Boko Haram and the offensives by ISIS in Syria and Iraq have allowed Congress to get distracted as well.

There are considerable national security and other strategic interests for the United States in Nigeria. But as the country teeters on the brink in the face of Boko Haram advances, Washington, D.C. is asleep at the wheel. The risks of inattention and inaction in Nigeria threaten to jeopardize the whole of Africa.

The Global Jihad

3682902893By Olivier Guitta:

“Islamic extremism is a Middle East problem but it is quickly becoming the world’s problem too.  It is a transnational challenge, the most destabilizing and dangerous global force since fascism. For certain, the United States and the West have a big interest in this battle.  Now is the time to act.

Any action must begin with a clear plan for direct intervention against ISIS but must address the other dangerous extremist groups in the region.  It is also critical to tackle the support networks, the entire militant ideological and financial complex that is the lifeblood of extremism.”

Who uttered these words? President Obama, PM Cameron or President Hollande? Actually, none of them; it was the UAE Ambassador to the U.S., Yousef Al Otaiba, speaking in September 2014.

From 2001 and a time when Al-Qaeda (AQ) was perceived as our main enemy, the jihadist movement has grown in strength and in numbers. The violent jihad groups we now face include the Islamic State, Boko Haram, al Shabaab, Ansar al Sharia, al Murabitun, Ansar al Dine and AQ itself, which has expanded significantly with franchises in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), East Asia, and now the new Indian franchise as well.

Nor is the threat limited to Sunni groups but includes Shia terror outfits such as Hezbollah that, under Iranian sponsorship, are still very much active on an international scale and will stop at nothing to strike terror against the West. Geographically, the threat has grown from an Afghanistan-centered one to one that spans the globe, with a jihadist presence on nearly every continent.

The Global Jihad should be viewed from two different, but related perspectives: first, the most obvious is the doctrinally-mandated conquest of physical territory in all theaters of war; second, and just as important, is the conquest of our societies from within by way of the civilizational jihad challenges that we face. Therefore, it’s not enough to merely look at terrorist groups, because the role of intellectuals, propaganda operatives, and recruiters is actually at the root of the problem. Jihad groups should be viewed and approached through that prism.

Fighting against the global jihad cannot be effective if focused only on the “armies” but must also confront the “brains” behind them: let’s not forget that inciting terrorism has a multiplying effect.

The Islamic State

Surging to power across national borders in 2014, the Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) has become a household name and supplanted al-Qaeda (AQ) as the vanguard of the global jihadist movement. ISIS announced in June 2014 the establishment of a new Caliphate in Syria and Iraq and changed its name to the “Islamic State (IS)” to signify its global ambitions, claim the allegiance of Muslims everywhere, and emphasize its non-recognition of Western-drawn political boundaries. It also seeks allegiance from jihadist group worldwide and rapidly is winning support from Muslim followers and recruits from over 80 countries around the world.

IS victories in Syria and its spectacular advances in Iraq from Mosul to the fringes of Baghdad, and even advancing to the Saudi and Jordanian borders, have made IS the new “kid on the block”. In mid-September 2014, its Chechen members threatened to march on Amman, Jordan’s capital, while Saudi’s military forces are on high alert for advances toward Mecca and Medina.

By calling itself the Islamic State with no mention of countries, IS leader al-Baghdadi is seeking to bring to his fold all groups that view al-Zawahiri’s brand as passé and see al-Baghdadi as the true inheritor of Osama Bin Laden’s global vision. This is why in the past months, thousands of jihadists around the world announced they were switching allegiances to the Islamic State. The Islamic State’s fighters are young, fluent on social media platforms like Twitter and Instagram, and, unlike al-Qaeda, they are actually setting up the Caliphate and governing captured territory.

Read more at Center for Security Policy

Olivier Guitta is a security and geopolitical risk consultant to corporations and governments. He tweets@OlivierGuitta.

Islamic State spreading into northern Africa, alarming U.S.

Islamic State 5 year territorial expansion plan

Islamic State 5 year territorial expansion plan

By Guy Taylor:

In its war to create a caliphate across Syria and Iraq, the Islamic State is opening a front in North Africa, where affiliated militants are wreaking havoc in eastern Libya and Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula — presenting a complex challenge for Washington and its allies in the region.

Through its savvy use of social media and slick production of recruitment videos, the Islamic State — also known by the acronyms ISIS and ISIL — is attracting a growing number of individual jihadis to its harsh interpretation of Islamic, or Shariah, law.

“ISIL’s stated goal of expanding its caliphate and its adherence to a strict form of Shariah has definitely resonated with a collection of extremists across North Africa, who appear to be mimicking ISIL’s rhetoric and brutality,” said a U.S. intelligence official who spoke on the condition of anonymity in order to discuss security issues freely.

What remains to be seen is whether the region will face a surge of unbridled Islamic State-style violence, including beheadings. Counterterrorism analysts say there is little doubt of that — especially in Libya, where the government is under threat of being overrun by militants, and in Egypt, where the military has struggled to contain Sinai extremists for years.

“I don’t think there’s any doubt that the Islamic State is going to commit and claim responsibility for an increasing number of attacks in North Africa, both in Libya and in the Sinai during the year ahead,” said Thomas Joscelyn, a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies in Washington.

“But it’s not yet clear how it’s going to play out,” Mr. Joscelyn said. “If they go in the direction of more horror killings the way the Islamic State is doing in Syria and Iraq, they may go after Christians and others, and that could end up triggering sectarian violence in Egypt. But that remains to be seen.”

The U.S. intelligence community regards the Islamic State as the world’s most violent terrorist organization, and officials say its leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, sees himself as a kind of Osama bin Laden figure.

But Mr. Joscelyn, who writes about the Islamic State for the Long War Journal, says al-Baghdadi has had limited success in persuading jihadi groups around the world to abandon bin Laden’s core al Qaeda movement and join his caliphate.

“You have to understand the context here that al-Baghdadi and his minions have made a huge push over the last year to basically try and co-opt or win the allegiance of all these jihadi groups around the world — basically saying, ‘Hey, everybody needs to sign on with us now because we’re the strong horse,'” said Mr. Joscelyn. “But that effort was, for the most part, a total failure. The Islamic State was actually rejected far more than they were accepted.”

Where the group has had success is among young jihadists seeking to distinguish themselves from their elders by declaring “baya,” or pledging allegiance, to al-Baghdadi. That seems to be occurring most often in eastern Libya and the Sinai Peninsula in Egypt.

Early this month, a group of militants claiming to control the Libyan town of Darna — long a hotbed of al Qaeda-inspired extremism between Benghazi and Libya’s border with Egypt — declared allegiance to al-Baghdadi.

Read more at Washington Times

Also see:

al Qaeda, al Shabaab, and ISIS: Recruiting and Taking Ground


By Nicholas Hanlon:

The recent interplay between al Shabaab and the African Union military mission in Somalia offers new data on the role of ground troops, the holding of territory, and Islamist recruiting.   After conventional ground forces deprived the al Qaeda linked group of its last stronghold in Baraawe, al Shabaab retaliated with a failed assassination attempt on the Somali president in Baraawe.  To a more tragic effect, they succeeded in killing thirteen innocent civilians in Mogadishu with a car bomb yesterday.  The loss of Baraawe was a big loss for al Shabaab.  They once enjoyed control of two major port cities where they could earn money in exports and bring in weapons and new recruits unchecked.

It is important to keep in mind that as far back as 2007, the FBI was mobilizing to counter al Shabaab’s successful recruiting of Americans among the Somali refugee community.  In 2010, fourteen people were indicted for trying to support al Shabaab.  Individuals among them came from California, Alabama, and Minnesota.  One of the attackers at Westgate Mall in Kenya last year was believed to be from Kansas City, Missouri.

It also helps to keep in mind that al Shabaab was started by lieutenants of Osama Bin Laden.  Now, ISIS internet recruiting strategies are being compared to Al Qaeda’s as next-generation in technical innovation.   Why? The giant terrorist recruiting boon has long since begun.  That fact overshadows the differences between the groups and highlights their overarching unity of purpose.

Harken back to when the pillar of our now president’s foreign policy debate was that Gitmo caused terrorist recruiting.  If only we could close down Gitmo, we could stem terrorist recruiting world wide.  Another re-hashing of counter recruiting strategy also emerges.  Namely, did invading Iraq serve the cause of terrorist recruitment on a grand scale?  Would another boots on the ground campaign amplify recruiting once again in Syria?

Consider the basic elements at work: 1. Globalized social media with a propaganda capability 2. Freedom and ease of individual travel  3. Porous borders and poorly governed territory

Now apply those elements to each case regarding Al Qaeda in Afghanistan, ISIS in Iraq and Syria, and al Shabaab in Somalia.  These categories clearly do not represent the complexity or all of the scenarios involved in the current threat matrix but do serve for an acceptable base line comparison.

In Afghanistan al Qaeda has good propaganda instincts but it is first generation stuff and there is physical distance between terrorist strongholds and a communications infrastructure.  Freedom and ease of individual travel is made difficult by remoteness and lack of transportation infrastructure.  The low level of governance, however, falls in the plus column.

In Iraq and Syria, ISIS is not only the benefactor of al Qaeda and former al Qaeda, they have more travel infrastructure and communications infrastructure.  It is much easier for Americans and Europeans to travel in and out, gain battle experience, and receive training before they return home.  Add to their globalized propaganda capability a free microphone from HBO’s Vice.  Their ability to take territory and govern speaks for itself.  But here is the twist.  Upon return, their media capability extrapolates as it already had been doing among the Somali jihadists.

Al Shabaab in Somalia had success early on with recruiting and importing foreign fighters due to the absence of an opposing force on the ground and control of vital seaports.  The freedom of individual travel beget effective globalized social media even without great communications infrastructure.   The FBI remains deeply concerned about those who have joined the jihad in Somalia carrying out attacks in the U.S. after returning.

What does all of this say to the debate about putting boots on the ground?  Does military intervention not play right in to Islamist strategy?  To be fair, let us quickly paraphrase the Iraq invasion strategy.  The idea was that it is better to fight terrorists with voluntary soldiers on foreign soil than to leave them unchecked and able to mobilize over seas to then launch attacks on U.S. soil.

It may sound simplistic but the ground force operations in Iraq and Afghanistan gave us an intelligence capability and a special forces capability we would have never had otherwise.  Without it, we would have never gotten Bin Laden and a lot of other bad guys.  That capability is no where near what it was since before the Iraq withdrawal.   Further, the U.S. had the un-articulated strategic advantage of new strike capabilities in a theater where we needed more geo-strategic leverage.  That’s gone too.

For the sake of argument, however, let’s say that the Iraq invasion did bring more terrorists out of the woodwork then would have ever otherwise confronted the U.S. unprovoked.   As Sam Harris has recently highlighted, the same ideas animate the overarching actions of all three groups; al Qaeda, al Shabaab, and ISIS.  It is a strategy for global dominance.  In Somalia, early al Shabaab had an ideological enemy, the Siad Barre military regime, long before U.S. foreign policy provided the foil.   His rise had to do with the Soviets whose foreign policy also provided the foil for Bin Laden’s early propaganda successes.

It will  help Islamist propaganda generally when they can use a Western or secular foreign policy or ideology as a foil.  Letting them determine when and where to fight is to concede that jihadists will name the tune that the West will dance to.  As the list of no-good options grows, there is healthy debate and a lot of good reasons why we should not invade  Iraq for a third time.  But a recruiting coup is not one of them.  The factors listed above can account for a robust propaganda and recruiting capability for ISIS, al Shabaab, and al Qaeda.  Further, thanks to social media, the viral effect is in effect.  That ship has sailed and Western leaders are in more dissarray than ever as to what to do about it.

Baraawe reminds us that taking territory away from Islamist terrorist groups can deprive them of money, weapons, and new recruits in the short term.  Iraq teaches us that if we don’t hold the ground taken from Islamist groups, they will take it back.  Neither case address the blood lust or sense of righteousness for their cause in the long run.  Yet their ideas can draw fighters to their banner with or without a U.S. presence on the ground.  A counter ideology capability for the West will not likely emerge in the American political climate.