Treasury Department identifies another Iran-based facilitator for al Qaeda

download (71)Long War Journal, By THOMAS JOSCELYN:

In a series of designations released today, the US Treasury Department targets “a diverse set of entities and individuals located around the world for evading US sanctions against Iran, aiding Iranian nuclear and missile proliferation, and supporting terrorism.”

One of the newly designated individuals is a part of al Qaeda’s Iran-based network.

Treasury identifies Olimzhon Adkhamovich Sadikov (also known as Jafar al-Uzbeki and Jafar Muidinov) as an “Iran-based Islamic Jihad Union facilitator.” The Islamic Jihad Union (IJU) is an offshoot of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) and both groups are closely allied with al Qaeda.

Sadikov “provides logistical support and funding to al Qaeda’s Iran-based network,” according to Treasury. He “serves as a key extremist smuggler based in Mashhad, Iran, near the country’s border with Afghanistan, and has provided visas and passports to numerous foreign fighters, including al Qaeda recruits, to facilitate their travel.” Sadikov has also “assisted extremists and operatives transiting Iran on their way into and out of Pakistan and Afghanistan.”

IJU and IMU operatives have long operated inside Iran. In September 2010, for example, Coalition and Afghan forces captured an IMU facilitator who was supported by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps’ Qods Force.

The Treasury Department identifies Sadikov as “an associate of designated al Qaeda facilitator Yasin al Suri.” He has “provided funding to al Suri.”

The Treasury and State Departments first exposed al Suri’s role as the head of al Qaeda’s Iran-based network in 2011. Afterwards, the Iranian regime reportedly detained al Suri. He was then replaced by Muhsin al Fadhli, another longtime al Qaeda operative. At some point, however, the Iranians allowed al Suri, whose real name is Ezedin Abdel Aziz Khalil, to return to work.

Al Suri has “resumed leadership of al Qaeda’s Iran-based network after being temporarily detained there in late 2011,” Treasury reports. This confirms recent reporting on al Suri’s return to al Qaeda’s operations.

“As head al Qaeda facilitator in Iran,” Treasury explains further, “Yasin al Suri is responsible for overseeing al Qaeda efforts to transfer experienced operatives and leaders from Pakistan to Syria, organizing and maintaining routes by which new recruits can travel to Syria via Turkey, and assisting in the movement of al Qaeda external operatives to the West.”

Although none of these “external operatives” have been named by the US government, at least two international terrorist plots have been connected to al Qaeda’s Iran-based network. Both al Qaeda’s planned 2010 Mumbai-style attacks in Europe and a foiled plot to derail a train running from New York City to Toronto in 2013 were directly tied to al Qaeda operatives in Iran. [See LWJ article, Report: Senior al Qaeda facilitator 'back on the street' in Iran.]

“Al Qaeda’s network in Iran has facilitated the transfer of funds from Gulf-based donors to al Qaeda core and other affiliated elements, including the al Nusrah Front in Syria,” Treasury’s designation reads. “The Iran based al Qaeda network has also leveraged an extensive network of Kuwaiti jihadist donors to send money to Syria via Turkey.”

The most curious aspect of this relationship is that the Iranians allow al Qaeda operatives to support the Al Nusrah Front from Iranian soil. Iran and Al Nusrah are currently on opposite sides of the war in Syria, as Iran wants to preserve Bashar al Assad’s regime while Al Nusrah wants to destroy it.

Still, for unknown reasons, the Iranians are allowing al Suri and his operatives to support Al Nusrah. Treasury notes that al Suri’s Iran-based network “operates there with the knowledge of Iranian authorities.”

Treasury’s designation today is the latest to take aim at the relationship between Iran and al Qaeda. In July 2011, Treasury designated al Suri and other members of his network, saying that Iran had a “secret deal” with al Qaeda. In February 2012, Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence and Security (MOIS) was designated for, among other things, supporting al Qaeda. And in October 2012, an additional member of al Qaeda’s network in Iran was designated. The State Department has also exposed the relationship on multiple occasions.

Iran helping Al Qaeda transfer Sunni fighters to Syria:

See also:

Global Terrorist Threat Set To Grow In 2014 – Analysis

By 

January 6, 2014

The past year has been the most violent since the beginning of the current wave of terrorism. Al Qaeda, though truncated, has become more influential globally via the web, guiding its associates to strike official and civilian targets. With the western withdrawal from Afghanistan in 2014 the Taliban-led terrorist sanctuary is likely to be revived to threaten stability and security worldwide.

By Rohan Gunaratna

SINCE September 11, 2001 the global terrorist threat has been growing exponentially. According to START, the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism, there were 5,100 terrorist attacks in the first six months of 2013, following the 8,400 attacks in 2012, which killed nearly 15,400 people. “The wave of violence shows few signs of ebbing,” reported the US-based START.

The western kinetic operations have failed to reduce the global threat. Indeed, the threat of international and national terrorism is projected to grow in 2014. With half of the countries in the world suffering from political violence and ideological extremism, terrorism will remain the Tier-One national security threat to the stability of most countries.

Hubs of global terrorism

Afghanistan and Syria are emerging as the two most important hubs of global terrorism that threaten the security of South Asia, West Asia and North Africa. Just as the anti-Soviet multi-national Afghan mujahidin campaign formed the foundation of contemporary terrorism, the blowback from the civil war in Syria is likely to produce the next generation of fighters – both guerrillas who attack government forces and terrorists who attack civilians.

The conflicts in Afghanistan and Pakistan, as well as India, are the most violent in South Asia. Next are the Middle East: Syria and Iraq; and Africa: Nigeria and Somalia. Since 9/11 over a million people, combatants and non-combatants, have been killed or injured, mostly Muslims, by terrorists and US-led coalition forces fighting insurgents and terrorists. According to START, Pakistan, Iraq and Afghanistan suffered more than half of the 2012 attacks (54%) and fatalities (58%). The next five most targeted countries were India, Nigeria, Somalia, Yemen and Thailand. The threat is projected to escalate in 2014 and grow even further following the US-led coalition’s withdrawal from Afghanistan at year end.

Counter-insurgency and counter-terrorism efforts since 9/11 have had mixed results. Al Qaeda has weakened but the Al Qaeda family has grown in strength, size and influence. About 30-40 threat groups in Asia, Africa, Middle East and the Caucasus are emulating the Al Qaeda ideology of global violence and methodology of suicide attacks.

While the core Al Qaeda led by Dr Ayman al Zawahiri has transformed from an operational to an ideological and training organisation, the associate groups carry out the bulk of the attacks. Although the death of Osama bin Laden demonstrated that any terrorist can be hunted down, the death of the Al Qaeda leader did not reduce the growing threat.

Threat landscape

SMOKE OVER NAIROBI, KENYA WESTGATE SHOPPING MALL ON 23 SEPTEMBER 2013. PHOTO BY ANNE KNIGHT, WIKIPEDIA COMMONS

SMOKE OVER NAIROBI, KENYA WESTGATE SHOPPING MALL ON 23 SEPTEMBER 2013. PHOTO BY ANNE KNIGHT, WIKIPEDIA COMMONS

The deadliest terrorist groups in the world belong to the Al Qaeda family with the Taliban (both Afghan and Pakistan) heading the list. Others are Al Nusra Front in Syria, Boko Haram in Nigeria, Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and Al Shabaab in Somalia. The Al Qaeda ability to influence associate groups was brought to international attention by the brutal attack on the Westgate Mall in Kenya by Al Shabaab. With the decentralisation of the threat Northern Africa is emerging as a new epicentre of terrorism and extremism.

The “Arab Spring” has become a nightmare with multiple Al Qaeda-linked groups emerging throughout North Africa and the Middle East, including Al Nusra in Syria. With 12,000 Sunni and a comparable number of Shia foreign fighters in Syria the threat to the West and the rest of the world will grow.

Stemming from the developments in Syria, the Shia-Sunni conflict is threatening to break out into a regional conflict, involving Bahrain and Lebanon. Further afield in the Caucasus terrorists mounted year-end attacks in Volgograd, Southern Russia, hitting a railway station and a trolley bus. Shumukh al-Islam, the top forum for Al Qaeda-affiliated propaganda, praised the timing of the attacks. The SITE Monitoring Service reported the terrorists as saying Russians are not safe “since their country continues to supply arms to the malicious combatant regime of the doomed apostate Bashar”. From the Caucasus the terrorists are travelling through Turkey to Syria to fight against the Bashar al Assad regime.

Read more at Eurasia Review

Rohan Gunaratna is Head of RSIS’ International Centre for Political Violence and Terrorism Research (ICPVTR), Singapore. He is author of “Inside Al Qaeda” published by Columbia University Press.

U.S. Aid to Syrian Rebels: Last Chance or Too Late?

By Ryan Mauro:

The aid is an attempt to build up the moderates as an alternative to the Islamists but critics question if it is too late for that.

Fighters from Tahrir al-Sham, a jihadi opposition group in Syria funded by Qatar. (Photo:© Reuters)

Fighters from Tahrir al-Sham, a jihadi opposition group in Syria funded by Qatar. (Photo:© Reuters)

After a White House announcement that it will provide military help to the Syrian rebels, the CIA will soon be delivering small arms to the Supreme Military Council of the Free Syria Army (FSA) through Turkey and Jordan. The FSA is the only one of the 12 rebel groupsthat is not Islamist (excluding one group that is an offshoot of a Kurdish terrorist group).

Is this the last chance to build up a third alternative to Assad and the Islamist rebels or is it too late?

The provision of anti-aircraft missiles has been ruled out, while the decision on anti-tank missiles has yet to be made. The strongest political force within the opposition is the Muslim Brotherhood and the strongest fighting force is the 7-10,000-strong Jabhat al-Nusra, an Al-Qaeda affiliate. Al-Nusra members have already said they willattack the West later, so the worry about arms falling into their hands is completely reasonable.

The CIA says that the Syrian rebels are more clearly divided along ideological lines now and the leadership has coalesced in recent months. Deputy National Security Advisor Benjamin Rhodes confidently said the U.S. is able to deliver arms into moderate hands because, “We have relationships today that we didn’t have six months ago.” This is a positive development, but as the Clarion Project has pointed out, “All of the rebel groups cooperate on some level and weapons are constantly captured, sold or lost in a chaotic war zone.”

According to the Washington Post, Idris and the FSA leadership “favor the creation of a democratic government, although the network includes avowedly Islamist groups.” One such group is the Syrian Liberation Front, but the Post reassures us that they are “moderate” and “pragmatic” Islamists.

Read more at The Clarion Project

 

Qatar Funding Jihadis in Global Sharia Push

Fighters from Tahrir al-Sham, a jihadi opposition group in Syria funded by Qatar. (Photo:© Reuters)

Fighters from Tahrir al-Sham, a jihadi opposition group in Syria funded by Qatar. (Photo:© Reuters)

By Clare Lopez:

As the Syrian civil war continues to tear that country apart, with possible use of chemical weapons (by somebody) reported and certain commission of atrocities on all sides, calls for Western and especially U.S. intervention are mounting.

Some want a “no fly zone” so that Bashar al-Assad’s forces can be prevented from aerial bombardment of his people, civilians and rebels alike. Some want the Obama administration to arm the rebels directly (or at least more directly than it already has been for the last year or more). Some, like U.S. Senators John McCain (R-AZ) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC), want both a no-fly zone and more weapons for the rebels. Sen. Graham has even pushed for the insertion of U.S. ground forces into the Syrian conflict.

The trouble is that most U.S. lawmakers realize there just aren’t a lot of good candidates among the rebels whose victory would actually advance core U.S. national security interests in the region. Where in Syria is there a capable, credible rebel force openly dedicated to anything but Sunni Islam and Islamic Law?

Aside from some out-funded, outgunned and outmanned militias among the umbrella Syrian Free Army (SFA) that have been identified and met by Major General Paul Vallely, USA (ret.), thanks to decades of inaction and neglect of pro-Western voices by U.S. leadership, the most powerful forces now opposing the Assad regime are Islamic jihadis, sponsored by Qatar, Saudi Arabia and other theocratic regimes.

The loss of SFA commander Col. Riad al-Assad in March 2013 to a bomb that left him seriously injured and out of the fight was a critical blow to opposition forces not aligned with either the al-Qa’eda militia, Jabhat al-Nusra, or the Muslim Brotherhood.

Since at least October 2012, when it first warned that most of the weapons being shipped to the rebels by Qatar and Saudi Arabia were going to “hard-line Islamic jihadists,” even the New York Times has been sounding some well-considered notes of caution about calls for deeper U.S. involvement.  Following up in April 2013, Times journalist Ben Hubbard reported that “nowhere in rebel-controlled Syria is there a secular fighting force to speak of” but rather that “[a]cross Syria, rebel-held areas are dotted with Islamic courts staffed by lawyers and clerics, and by fighting brigades led by extremists.”

So, acknowledged hard-line Salafis like al-Qa’eda and Saudi Arabia aside, what might be expected in Syrian territory seized by Qatari-backed (i.e., Muslim Brotherhood-aligned) fighters?

While ostensibly a U.S. ally, Qatar in fact shares little with American core principles such as gender, ethnic and faith equality, genuine pluralism, tolerance, individual liberty or liberal secular democracy.

For starters, Qatar is an authoritarian monarchy whose legal system is dominated by sharia (Islamic) law. Article I of the 1972 Qatari constitution declares with finality that “its religion is Islam and the Islamic Shari’a is the main source of legislation.” Qatari judges are graduates of Saudi schools of Islamic jurisprudence or Egypt’s al-Azhar University. Qatar’s sharia courts have full jurisdiction in all civil and criminal matters over both Qatari nationals and resident or visiting Muslims from other countries.

Read more at The Clarion Project

A Risky Alliance: The Danger of Arming Syrian Rebels

830_largeby Frank Spano:

Time and time again, the United States has set itself up for long-term failure in the interest of preserving short-term face. American forces fighting in Afghanistan have faced threats from training and munitions provided to the Afghan fighters in the 1980s that led to the Taliban’s rise to power. In that instance, the United States chose to arm a rebel force in an effort to defeat a Soviet invasion of a country with limited strategic importance, in order to maintain its position in the “cause du jour” of stamping out communism wherever it may exist.

Today, though the cause has changed slightly, we find ourselves ready to jump headlong into supporting the underdog in a fight to establish “a just and democratic state” in Syria. Though the long-term negative ramifications of arming the Afghan Mujahedeen were not immediately apparent, the present-day question of dumping arms into the Syrian civil war could pose immediate negative results for the United States and its interests abroad.

U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., introduced the Syria Stabilization Act of 2013 last week, calling for sanctions against supporters of the al-Assad regime, humanitarian relief for refugees, and the arming of Syrian rebel forces. Menendez, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said the steps were necessary amid indications Assad used chemical weapons and because “[t]he greatest humanitarian crisis is unfolding in and around Syria.”

Assad’s forces have killed 80,000 people and displaced nearly 3 million more during the two-year-old uprising. There is growing concern he might lose control of his chemical weapons stockpiles. Those weapons likely were used against Syrian civilians. Meanwhile, the “security vacuum” within Syria has provided an unobstructed operating environment for Shia and Sunni extremists who “could in the future threaten the security of the United States and its partners.”

One group, Jhabat al-Nusra, is an immediate threat. The group, otherwise known as the Al-Nusra Front, is a primarily Sunni terrorist group with sworn allegiance to Al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri. A Quilliam Foundation report on Al-Nusra indicates the group’s main objectives were decided during meetings in later 2011 and include:

1. “to establish a group including many existing jihadists, linking them together into one coherent entity,

2. To reinforce and strengthen the consciousness of the Islamist nature of the conflict,

3. To build military capacity for the group, seizing opportunities to collect weapons and train recruits, and to create safe havens by controlling physical places upon which to exercise their power,

4. To create an Islamist state in Syria, and
5. To establish a ‘Caliphate’ in Bilad al-Sham (the Levant).”

While Menendez’s proposed legislation limits American support only to opposition forces which “have been properly vetted and share common values and interests with the United States” senior members of the somewhat more conventional Free Syrian Army (FSA) describe al-Nusra as “[t]he strongest military force in the area.” Younger FSA members look to the group with reverence due to its efficiency and prowess in battle against the Syrian Army, while some even called the group “the special forces of Aleppo.” From the FSA’s perspective, al-Nusra is well-positioned to influence any successive government. Most assuredly, if al-Nusra has its way, such a government will be dominated by Shariah law and far from the democracy the United States and its allies hope to establish.

Read more at IPT

 

David Reaboi: Who’s Arming Syrian Jihadist Groups?

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David Reaboi, Vice President for Strategic Communications at the Center for Security Policy, appeared on FoxNews.com to discuss the increasingly deadly weapons Syrian jihadist groups are using during the Civil War there. He notes the latest news about the sophisticated and expensive AS50 sniper rifle (or a copy) in the hands of a Hamas-run rebel militia called the Descendants of the Prophet Brigade, and argues against the US intervening in the conflict. Despite the heartbreaking casualties of civil war, now in its second year, there is no good outcome for the United States.

 
David raised some important points during the interview:

  • Recent NYT reporting reveals Qatar and Saudi money is being used to send arms into Syria from Croatia possibly with the cooperation of the CIA
  • The Independent Commission (ARB – Accountability Review Board) criticized the State Department for calling in the February 17th Martyrs Brigade for security at the consulate in Benghazi.
  • David says he doesn’t trust our intelligence bureaucracy to know who the good guys and the bad guys are because they have removed the study of ideology from the equation. “So once you take out what these guys actually believe, all you’re left with is competing personalities, and that doesn’t tell you very much about where they want to go in the long run.”
  • It is the position of the Center For Security Policy that the United States should not become involved in the Syrian war because we would be forced to support “the bad guys”. The choice being discussed in Washington is between “moderate” Islamist groups like the Muslim Brotherhood versus more militant Salafi or al-Qaeda al-Nusra front type groups. There is no good outcome.

 

 

Syrian Jihadist Group Threatens United States

by IPT News 

Syrian al-Nusrah front

Syrian al-Nusrah front

Syrian Jihadists Get Obama’s Blessing

Rebels_24092012-450x344By Joseph Klein

President Obama chose an exclusive interview with ABC News’s Barbara Walters to announce his decision that the United States now formally recognizes the recently formed umbrella coalition of Syrian rebels who are fighting to topple Syrian President Bashar Assad. The coalition is known formally as the National Coalition of Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces. In yet another example of leading from behind, Obama’s decision follows recognition of the rebel coalition by France, Britain, Turkey, the European Union and the Gulf Cooperation Council.

“We’ve made a decision that the Syrian Opposition Coalition is now inclusive enough, is reflective and representative enough of the Syrian population that we consider them the legitimate representative of the Syrian people in opposition to the Assad regime,” Obama said.

Providing arms openly and directly to the rebels, rather than relying solely on the indirect channels set up by Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Turkey, may be next.  Obama may also give in to pressure from Turkey and establish some sort of no-fly zone over Syrian territory near the Turkish border. Although Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta said this week that the relevant intelligence had “really kind of leveled off” with regard to Assad’s plans to move forward imminently with the use of chemical weapons, any intelligence assessments suggesting more aggressive preparations by Assad can be used by the Obama administration as a pretext for military intervention.

In short, it looks like the Obama administration has made a strategic decision to position itself for possible direct military intervention in the 21-month-old civil war and to gain influence during any post Assad transition by putting its money on what it thinks is the most inclusive opposition group.

The question remains, however, as to the composition of the National Coalition of Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces that the Obama administration has recognized as “the legitimate representative” of the Syrian people. And just because we confer that mantle of legitimacy on the coalition does not make it so.

In his interview with Walters, President Obama sought to isolate extremist elements.  “Not everybody who’s participating on the ground in fighting Assad are people who we are comfortable with,” Obama said. “There are some who, I think, have adopted an extremist agenda, an anti-U.S. agenda, and we are going to make clear to distinguish between those elements.”

Shortly before Obama’s decision to officially recognize the opposition coalition became known, his administration designated a militant Syrian rebel group known as the al-Nusrah Front as an al-Qaeda affiliated terrorist organization.

State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland explained that “al-Nusrah has sought to portray itself as part of the legitimate Syrian opposition while it is, in fact, an attempt by [Al-Qaeda in Iraq] to hijack the struggles of the Syrian people for its own malign purposes.”

Obama is taking us deeper into some very choppy waters in a very leaky boat. He stubbornly continues his refusal to recognize the broader transnational threat posed by Islamic jihadists who use many front groups to spread their Islamist ideology by force or stealth.

Jihadists play on a global field, but are now focusing their attention on destabilizing and replacing regimes in the Middle East and Africa.  They go under many names and migrate back and forth among bases in Pakistan, Egypt, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Yemen, Algeria, Mali and Nigeria, just to name a few locations.  Syria is their current front-line target.

According to the co-founder of the medical charity Doctors Without Borders, Dr. Jacques Beres, who treated Syrian rebels in the city of Aleppo, about half of the rebels he treated were jihadists, many of whom were foreigners.  “It’s really something strange to see. They are directly saying that they aren’t interested in Bashar Assad’s fall, but are thinking about how to take power afterward and set up an Islamic state with Sharia law to become part of the world Emirate,” Dr. Beres told Reuters.

The most cohesive ideology fueling the best armed groups, whether affiliated with the opposition coalition the Obama administration chose to recognize or remaining outside the coalition, is Islamic jihadism. At least twenty-nine different Syrian rebel groups, including fighting “brigades” and civilian committees, have reportedly pledged their allegiance to al-Nusrah. More than 100 anti-government organizations and fighting battalions are planning demonstrations under the rallying cry “we are all Jabhet al-Nusra.”

read more at Front Page