State: Iran’s Proxy Hezbollah Operating Across Western Hemisphere, Including U.S.

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Breitbart, by Edwin Mora, September 20, 2018:

The “world’s preeminent state sponsor of terrorism” Iran and its proxy Hezbollah maintain an operational presence across Latin America and in the United States, the U.S. Department of State (DOS) reported this week.

For years, State and the U.S. military have warned against Iran and Hezbollah’s growing activities in Latin America, including the terrorist group’s involvement in drug trafficking and money laundering.

According to State’s Country Reports on Terrorism for 2017 released Wednesday, which tracks terrorist activities across the world, Iran is the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism with a “near-global reach.”

While briefing reporters about the terrorism reports on Wednesday, Nathan Sales, the State Department’s ambassador-at-large and coordinator for counterterrorism, declared:

Iran is the world’s preeminent state sponsor of terrorism, and it brings to its terrorist activities the resources of a state. We have seen Iran’s and its proxies’ terrorist-related activities across the globe. There are active fundraising networks in places as far afield as Africa, in South America. We’ve seen weapons caches planted around the world. We’ve seen operational activity not just in Lebanon by Hizballah, but by Iran-backed terrorists in the heart of Europe. Iran uses terrorism as a tool of its statecraft. It has no reservations about using that tool on any continent.

The annual Country Reports on Terrorism for 2017 added:

Iran’s state sponsorship of terrorism worldwide remained undiminished through the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Qods Force [IRGC-QF], its Ministry of Intelligence and Security, and Tehran’s proxy Hizballah, which remained a significant threat to the stability of Lebanon and the broader region

State noted that authorities across the Western Hemisphere, including the FBI in the United States, arrested several Hezbollah (or Hizballah) operatives and disrupted various plots last year.

“As far as Iran-backed terrorist organizations are concerned, we’ve arrested a number of operatives who allegedly were casing targets in support of Iran-backed terrorist organizations, and they’re now facing charges in federal court,” Sales told reporters.

In early June 2017, the FBI arrested Ali Kourani, 32, of the Bronx, New York, and Samer el Debek, 37, of Dearborn, Michigan, on charges linked to their alleged activities on behalf of Shiite Hezbollah.

Referring to one of the defendants, State noted:

In addition to its financial and fundraising activities in the Western Hemisphere, Hizballah also maintained interest in the region during 2017. A Hizballah operative was arrested by the FBI in the United States in June 2017. Among other accusations, he was allegedly involved in surveilling U.S. and Israeli targets in Panama.

Latin American authorities also arrested several Hezbollah jihadis and disrupted some plots linked to the Shiite terrorist group last year.

DOS reported:

[B]olivian security services previously uncovered and disrupted a Hizballah cache of explosive precursors in the La Paz area. The Peruvian government’s prosecution of a Hizballah member arrested in 2015 is still ongoing, with the Peruvians successfully appealing a ruling acquitting this operative of terrorism charges.

With the help of U.S. counterparts, Paraguayan law enforcement officials arrested multiple Lebanese Hizballah-linked suspects in the Ciudad del Este area who were engaged in money laundering and drug trafficking activities, some with links to the United States.

“Panama cooperated with U.S. law enforcement on various counterterrorism cases this year, including individuals linked to Hizballah,” State added.

A local Peruvian news outlet reported in 2016 that Shiite Iran’s terror proxy Hezbollah had registered as an official political party in Peru’s Abancay province, home to the nation’s largest Muslim community.

In previous terrorism reports, State acknowledged that the socialist country of Venezuela, which is hostile to the United States, provides “a permissive environment” that benefits known terrorist groups like Hezbollah.

State reiterated in its latest report:

In May 2017, for the twelfth consecutive year, the U.S. Department of State determined, pursuant to section 40A of the Arms Export Control Act, that Venezuela was not cooperating fully with U.S. counterterrorism efforts. The country’s porous borders offered a permissive environment to known terrorist groups.

Politico found last year that former U.S. President Barack Obama’s administration “derailed” a DEA operation targeting Hezbollah’s drug trafficking activities in Latin America to secure approval of the controversial Iran nuclear deal.

U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration, which has taken a tough stance against Iran, pulled out of the nuclear deal and is expected to reimpose sanctions against the Islamic Republic.

Under the deal, Iran was expected to reduce its nuclear weapons activities in exchange for sanctions relief.

While financial support for Hezbollah and other Iranian proxies by the heavily sanctioned regime may be drying up, the terrorist group is believed to be generating hundreds of millions of dollars from drug trafficking.

Moreover, the terrorist group is believed to be laundering billions of dollars. Forbes this year deemed Hezbollah the richest terrorist organization with an annual income of $1.1 billion, generated primarily by “aid funding from Iran, drug manufacture and trade.”

Breitbart News has learned that Iran is operating up to 100 so-called cultural centers across Latin America manned by Hezbollah and IRGC recruiters.

State Department: Iran allows al Qaeda to operate its ‘core facilitation pipeline’

 

The US government has repeatedly identified al Qaeda’s leadership in Iran. From left to right: Yasin al Suri, Atiyah Abd al Rahman, Sanafi al Nasr, Muhsin al Fadhli and Adel Radi al Harbi. OnlyYasin al Suri is believed to be still alive. Others continue to operate in Iran.

Long War Journal, by Thomas Joscelyn, September 19, 2018:

The State Department released its annual Country Reports on Terrorism today. The report covers events during the previous calendar year. As in past assessments, State says that Iran “has allowed” al Qaeda to operate its key facilitation network on Iranian soil.

“Iran remained unwilling to bring to justice senior al Qaeda (AQ) members residing in Iran and has refused to publicly identify the members in its custody,” Country Reports on Terrorism 2017 reads.*

Moreover, “Iran has allowed AQ facilitators to operate a core facilitation pipeline through Iran since at least 2009, enabling AQ to move funds and fighters to South Asia and Syria.”

The language closely mirrors that included in past State Department reports and statements, as well as in a series of terrorist designations issued by the Treasury Department. The paragraphs below borrow from previous reports on these official statements, including an article summarizing last year’s Country Reports on TerrorismFDD’s Long War Journal has repeatedly summarized these official US government reports in the past. See, for example, State Department: Iran continues to host al Qaeda’s ‘core facilitation pipeline’.

Since July 2011, the US Treasury and State Departments have repeatedly stated that the Iranian regime allows al Qaeda to maintain a “core pipeline” on its soil. This arrangement is the result of a specific “agreement” between the Iranian government and al Qaeda’s leadership. A timeline of these statements is included below.

In addition, the UN reported in late July that “Al Qaeda leaders in the Islamic Republic of Iran have grown more prominent, working with” al Qaeda emir Ayman al Zawahiri and “projecting his authority more effectively than he could previously.” According to the UN, the Iran-based al Qaeda leadership has worked to undermine the authority of Abu Muhammad al-Julani, the head of Hayat Tahrir al Sham (HTS). Separately, the State Department increased the reward for information on these two same al Qaeda managers, Abdullah Ahmed Abdullah and Saif al-Adel. [See FDD’s Long War Journal reports, UN: Iran-based leaders ‘have grown more prominent’ in al Qaeda’s global network and Analysis: 2 wanted al Qaeda leaders operate in Iran.]

The agreement between al Qaeda’s leadership and Iran is, in some ways, curious to say the least. The two sides have openly fought one another in Syria and Yemen. Iran also detained a number of al Qaeda leaders and family members for years after the 9/11 attacks. This led al Qaeda to agitate for their release. Al Qaeda considers the expansion of Iranian influence throughout the Middle East to be pernicious. And al Qaeda’s leaders regularly frame their Sunni jihad as a counterweight to Iran’s Shiite designs.

Still, unlike the Islamic State, al Qaeda has not conducted a direct terrorist attack inside Iran, as this would cause problems for its facilitators. According to the US government, these same operatives have managed al Qaeda’s “core pipeline” inside Iran for years.

Previous designations and other statements by Treasury and State Departments

The State Department’s Country Reports on Terrorism 2017 is the latest instance in which a branch of the US government has officially recognized al Qaeda’s “core facilitation pipeline” inside Iran, or exposed related aspects of al Qaeda’s operations inside the country.

In 2008 and 2009, Treasury reported that several al Qaeda operatives were either living inside Iran, or working with others jihadists in the country.

Then, beginning in July 2011, both the Treasury and State Departments repeatedly targeted the Iran-based network with sanctions and terror designations, saying that the hub is operated as part of a formerly “secret deal” between the Iranian government and al Qaeda’s leadership.

Below is a brief timeline of designations and other official statements by the US government.

June 2008: Treasury designated `Abd al-Rahman Muhammad Jaffar `Ali, an al Qaeda “financier and facilitator” based in Bahrain “who has provided significant funding to” al Qaeda. Among his other tasks, `Ali “facilitated the movement of money to a senior al Qaeda facilitator in Iran.”

Treasury also designated Adil Muhammad Mahmud Abd Al-Khaliq, who served al Qaeda’s senior leaders and senior leaders and “provided financial, material, and logistical support to al Qaeda and the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG).” Treasury explained that “[b]etween 2004 and 2007, Abd al-Khaliq traveled to Iran five times on behalf of al Qaeda and the LIFG for his facilitation duties.” Abd al-Khaliq “met with senior al Qaeda facilitators” during “each of these trips.” And during “this same timeframe,” Abd al-Khaliq “provided material support to al Qaeda and the LIFG by equipping them with electrical parts used in explosives, laptop computers, jackets, GPS devices, and other equipment.” He also “arranged the transportation of fighters, money, and material to LIFG camps in Pakistan.”

Jan. 2009: Treasury designated four al Qaeda members in Iran, including Osama bin Laden’s son Saad, who was later killed after relocating to Pakistan. “It is important that Iran give a public accounting of how it is meeting its international obligations to constrain al Qaeda,” Stuart Levey, who was then Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, said at the time.

July 2011: Treasury targeted Iran’s formerly “secret deal” with al Qaeda, designating six jihadists who were involved with al Qaeda’s network inside the country. One of them is known as Yasin al Suri, “a prominent Iran-based al Qaeda facilitator” who operates “under an agreement between al Qaeda and the Iranian government.” The agreement was negotiated with Atiyah Abd al Rahman’s permission. Rahman was a top al Qaeda lieutenant who was killed in a US drone strike in mid-2011. “Rahman was previously appointed by Osama bin Laden to serve as al Qaeda’s emissary in Iran, a position which allowed him to travel in and out of Iran with the permission of Iranian officials,” Treasury noted.

“Iran is the leading state sponsor of terrorism in the world today,” David S. Cohen, who was then Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, said in a press release. “By exposing Iran’s secret deal with al Qaeda allowing it to funnel funds and operatives through its territory, we are illuminating yet another aspect of Iran’s unmatched support for terrorism,” Cohen emphasized.

Dec. 2011: The State Department announced a $10 million reward for Yasin al Suri, making him one of the most wanted terrorists on the planet. “Under an agreement between al Qaeda and the Government of Iran, Yasin al Suri has helped move money and recruits through Iran to al Qaeda leaders in neighboring countries in the region,” Robert Hartung, the State Department Assistant Director for Threat Investigations and Analysis, explained during a briefing.

Feb. 2012: The Treasury Department designated the Iranian Ministry of Intelligence and Security (MOIS) for a number of reasons, including the assistance it provided to al Qaeda and al Qaeda in Iraq. According to Treasury, the “MOIS has facilitated the movement of al Qaeda operatives in Iran and provided them with documents, identification cards, and passports.” In addition, the MOIS has “provided money and weapons to al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI)…and negotiated prisoner releases of AQI operatives.”

July 2012: In its Country Reports on Terrorism 2011, the State Department reported that “Iran remained unwilling to bring to justice senior AQ members it continued to detain, and refused to publicly identify those senior members in its custody.” Iran “also allowed AQ members to operate a core facilitation pipeline through Iranian territory, enabling AQ to carry funds and move facilitators and operatives to South Asia and elsewhere.”

October 2012: Treasury explained that Yasin al Suri had been temporarily sidelined as the chief of al Qaeda’s network in Iran. His replacement was Muhsin al Fadhli, a veteran Kuwaiti operative, who later relocated to Syria as part of al Qaeda’s “Khorasan Group” and was killed in an American airstrike. Treasury named Adel Radi Saqr al Wahabi al Harbi as one of Fadhli’s men inside Iran. Harbi also eventually relocated to Syria, where he served as the military commander of Jund al Aqsa, an al Qaeda front group, until meeting his own demise.

Treasury explained how the deal between the Iranian regime and al Qaeda works. “Under the terms of the agreement between al Qaeda and Iran,” Treasury reported, “al Qaeda must refrain from conducting any operations within Iranian territory and recruiting operatives inside Iran while keeping Iranian authorities informed of their activities.” As long as al Qaeda didn’t violate these terms, “the Government of Iran gave the Iran-based al Qaeda network freedom of operation and uninhibited ability to travel for extremists and their families.”

Treasury’s Cohen explained in a press release that the designation of Harbi “builds on our action from July 2011” and “further exposes al Qaeda’s critically important Iran-based funding and facilitation network.” Cohen added: “We will continue targeting this crucial source of al Qaeda’s funding and support, as well as highlight Iran’s ongoing complicity in this network’s operation.”

May 2013: In its Country Reports on Terrorism 2012, the State Department said that Iran “allowed AQ facilitators Muhsin al-Fadhli and Adel Radi Saqr al-Wahabi al-Harbi to operate a core facilitation pipeline through Iran, enabling AQ to move funds and fighters to South Asia and to Syria.” Fadhli “began working with the Iran-based AQ facilitation network in 2009,” was “later arrested by Iranian authorities,” but then released in 2011 so he could assume “leadership of the Iran-based AQ facilitation network.”

Jan. 2014: Treasury and State Department officials told Al Jazeera that Yasin al Suri was once again in charge of al Qaeda’s Iran-based network.

Feb. 2014: Treasury identified another Iran-based al Qaeda facilitator, Olimzhon Adkhamovich Sadikov, who is an Uzbek and part of the Islamic Jihad Union. Sadikov “provides logistical support and funding to al Qaeda’s Iran-based network,” according to Treasury.

Apr. 2014: In its Country Reports on Terrorism 2013, the State Department once again noted that the Iranian regime hosted al Qaeda’s “core facilitation pipeline” and “remained unwilling to bring to justice senior al Qaeda (AQ) members it continued to detain,” while also refusing “to publicly identify those senior members in its custody.”

Aug. 2014: Treasury designated a senior al Qaeda leader known as Sanafi al Nasr, who “served in early 2013 as chief of al Qaeda’s Iran-based extremist and financial facilitation network.” Nasr relocated to Syria in 2013 as part of al Qaeda’s “Khorasan Group” and was killed in an American airstrike in 2015.

June 2016: The State Department’s Country Reports on Terrorism 2015 is released. “Iran remained unwilling to bring to justice senior al-Qa’ida (AQ) members it continued to detain and refused to publicly identify the members in its custody,” the report read. State added: “Iran previously allowed AQ facilitators to operate a core facilitation pipeline through Iran since at least 2009, enabling AQ to move funds and fighters to South Asia and Syria.” The implication of the language (“previously allowed”), which was included in the 2014 report as well, was that al Qaeda no longer operated its facilitation network inside Iran. However, al Qaeda did in fact continue to operate its pipeline inside Iran. Country Reports on Terrorism 2016 removed the phrase “previously allowed” from its summary.

July 2016: The US Treasury Department designated three senior al Qaeda figures “located in Iran”: Faisal Jassim Mohammed Al Amri Al Khalidi, Yisra Muhammad Ibrahim Bayumi, and Abu Bakr Muhammad Muhammad Ghumayn. Treasury explained that it took the action to “disrupt the operations, fundraising, and support networks that help al Qaeda move money and operatives from South Asia and across the Middle East.”

Faisal Jassim Mohammed Al Amri Al Khalidi (a.k.a. Abu Hamza al Khalidi), has served as al Qaeda’s “Military Commission Chief” — meaning he was one of the most important figures in the group’s international network. Al Khalidi was identified in Osama bin Laden’s files as part of a “new generation” of leaders al Qaeda groomed to replace their fallen comrades.

July 2017: The State Department released its Country Reports on Terrorism 2016. “Iran remained unwilling to bring to justice senior al-Qa’ida (AQ) members it continued to detain and has refused to publicly identify the members in its custody,” the report reads. “Since at least 2009, Iran has allowed AQ facilitators to operate a core facilitation pipeline through the country, enabling AQ to move funds and fighters to South Asia and Syria.”

Thus, the language in the State Department’s Country Reports on Terrorism 2017 closely follows previous assessments and statements by the US government.

*Note: The spelling of al Qaeda was changed in some quotes to make it consistent throughout.

Thomas Joscelyn is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Senior Editor for FDD’s Long War Journal.

Islamist Group in Arizona Hosts Supporter of Iran Regime, Hezbollah Terrorists

February 22, 200: Hezbollah militants make their way into a huge hall as thousands of mainly Shiite Muslims gather to watch a televised speech by Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of the Shiite Muslim Lebanese Hezbollah militant group, in Beirut’s southern suburb, ten days after the assassination of top Hezbollah commander Imad Mughnieh in a bomb attack in Damascus. (Photo: Mazen All / AFP / Getty Images)

Clarion Project, by Ryan Mauro, Justin Charters and  Alex VanNess, September 18, 2018:

A Shiite Islamist group in Arizona hosts a supporter of the Iran Regime and Hezbollah terrorists. Coming out of Mesa, Arizona, the group turned its back on Iranians protesting the theocracy earlier this month by hosting a sheikh who supports the Iranian regime and the Hezbollah terrorist group it sponsors. Online advertisements posted by the Islamic Education Foundation of Arizona shows that the group selected Sheikh Usama Abdulghani to preach to its congregation on September 8 and 9.

Abdulghani’s website hosts a shocking lecture of his titled “How to Remain on the Right Path.” In it, he teaches that Muslims should follow the Iranian Supreme Leader and Hezbollah chief into battle.

He fondly recalls learning from Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah when he was a student in Qom, Iran.

He then compares the celebration of Nasrallah’s arrival to an Islamic holiday. He says, “Normally for the students, that’s like Eid,” referring to the day that marks the end of the holy month of Ramadan for Muslims.

Abdulghani continues to refer to Nasrallah’s speech, saying:

“This was years before the victory in Lebanon. He said brothers I’m going to tell you right now I’ll be frank with you–I’m paraphrasing.

He said ‘brothers if all of the ulama [body of Islamic religious scholars] go into a valley and Sayyid Ali Khamenei goes into a valley, brothers you go into that valley that Sayyid Ali Khamenei goes in.’”

Abdulghani then reiterates that Muslims should handle any confusion they have by following the teachings of Nasrallah and Supreme Leader Khamenei:

“So, brothers and sisters when times are tough—when you see that you don’t know where truth is, everybody’s talking—just remember the words of the man who was more old school than any of us. Sayyid Hassan Nasrallah, may Allah protect and preserve him…and all our leaders, especially the leader, Sayyid Ali Khamenei.”

Another unsettling feature of the sermon is its apocalyptic theme. He tells the audience that the 12th Imam will soon appear.

He says:

“Right now, brothers and sisters we are getting closer and closer to the time of the Imam. The return of the Imam is imminent brothers and sisters. It is very, very close. We don’t want to get lost now.”

According to Islamic End Times prophecies that the Iranian regime frequently references, the 12th Imam will appear during a cataclysmic war. The 12th Imam delivers a final victory for the true Muslims, ushering in global Sharia-based rule.

In another video from 2017, Abdulghani provided a voiceover describing ISIS as a plot of Israel and the West. It referred to Iran’s Supreme Leader Khamenei as “the Leader.

Abdulghani was born in Washington D.C. and moved to Qom, Iran when he was 20 years old, according to his bio. He studied at the Islamic Seminary there for another 20 years before moving back to the U.S.

He currently lives in Dearborn, Michigan. His teachings reflect the extremist education he received under the terrorism-sponsoring Iranian regime.

In July, the Clarion Project reported on three mosques in Michigan that promoted the Iranian regime’s ideology. One of them, the Zainabia Center of Michigan, had hosted Abdulghani as a guest lecturer.

The mosque posts messages from the Supreme Leader of Iran, Ayatollah Sayyid Ali Khamenei, treating him as a respected religious authority who Muslims should listen to.

The hosting of a pro-Khamenei, pro-Hezbollah sheikh is a strong indication that the Islamic Education Foundation of Arizona is promoting Shiite extremism.

Another strong indication is what the organization is not doing: It is not siding with the Iranian people over the theocratic regime.

Surely, if the Arizona organization sided with the oppressed Iranians, it could find a speaker to discuss the regime’s human rights violations. It could give a platform to Shiites that oppose the Iranian regime’s Islamism. It could help mobilize Shiites on the side of the Iranian protestors or at least bring some attention to their cause.

Yet, it doesn’t. Instead, the person it brings in as a religious authority sides with the terrorism-sponsoring regime and terrorist group Hezbollah.

What does that say about the ideology of the Islamic Education Foundation of Arizona?

What Is Hezbollah?

Prager U, September 17, 2018:

When listing the world’s most notorious terrorist organizations, why is it that Al-Qaeda, ISIS and Boko Haram so quickly spring to mind, while Hezbollah is frequently forgotten? In this video, Tony Badran, Research Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, explains how the backing of Iran has served to legitimize Hezbollah on the world stage, while simultaneously making the group all the more dangerous.

Al Qaeda is very much alive, and widely misunderstood

Al Qaeda’s emir, Ayman al Zawahiri, from a video released in Aug. 2018.

Long War Journal, by Thomas Joscelyn, September 11, 2018:

Editor’s note: This article was originally published at The Weekly Standard.

On Sept. 11, 2001, nineteen of Osama bin Laden’s operatives changed the course of world history. We are fortunate that al Qaeda hasn’t carried out another 9/11-style attack inside the U.S. in the seventeen years since. But that fact shouldn’t obscure the reality about al Qaeda and its global jihad. Al Qaeda remains a threat. Its operatives are fighting in more countries around the world today than was the case on 9/11. And its leaders still want to target the United States and its interest and allies. The war they started is far from over.

There are many reasons for al Qaeda’s failure to successfully execute a mass-casualty attack in the US: America’s defenses hardened, as its tactical offensive capabilities improved; U.S. counterterrorism and intelligence officials, sometimes aided by allies, hunted down numerous al Qaeda planners overseas; al Qaeda’s men have also bungled undetected opportunities, proving that even when they get a clear shot, it is difficult to execute mass terror operations on the scale we witnessed in 2001. This is one reason that al Qaeda’s men began calling for small-scale attacks carried out by individuals.

Al Qaeda has faced other obstacles as well. In its war with the U.S., the group has lost key management personnel – most importantly, of course, was the death of Osama bin Laden in May 2011. Scores of other senior figures have been killed or captured. This has raised logistical hurdles, sometimes disrupting communications and al Qaeda’s chain of command. In addition, the rise of the Islamic State in 2013 and 2014 created the biggest challenge to al Qaeda’s authority within the global jihadist movement since its inception in 1988.

Despite all of this, however, al Qaeda is very much alive – albeit widely misunderstood. Consider this shocking fact: the counterterrorism community still has not formulated a common definition or understanding of the organization. Basic facts remain in dispute or are actively denied.

With that in mind, let us briefly review the state of al Qaeda. When we look at the organization as a whole, it quickly becomes apparent that al Qaeda has many thousands of men around the globe. Indeed, al Qaeda is waging jihad in far more countries today than it was on 9/11, with loyalists fighting everywhere from West Africa, through North and East Africa, into the heart of the Middle East and into South Asia. Some labor to disconnect the dots on al Qaeda’s global network, so let us reconnect them.

Al Qaeda honors Osama bin Laden as the “reviving imam” – an honorific that is intended to emphasize his revolutionary role in spreading the jihadist ideology. Look around the world today, and you see they unfortunately have a point.

Al Qaeda’s senior leadership

In 2011, Ayman al Zawahiri succeeded Osama bin Laden as al Qaeda’s global leader. It was a natural move, as Zawahiri had worked closely with bin Laden since the 1980s. And Zawahiri’s own original organization, the Egyptian Islamic Jihad (EIJ), provided bin Laden’s nascent endeavor with key personnel and logistical assistance in the early 1990s. EIJ operatives played crucial roles in the 1998 U.S. Embassy bombings, al Qaeda’s most devastating attack prior to 9/11.

EIJ veterans continue to hold some of the most important roles inside al Qaeda to this day. For example, the UN recently reported that Saif al-Adel and Abdullah Ahmed Abdullah, both of whom are still wanted for their roles in the embassy bombings, are assisting Zawahiri from inside Iran. The two were held by the Iranians for years after the 9/11 attacks, but they resumed their activities in 2015, after al Qaeda and Iran reportedly agreed to a hostage swap. These “[a]l Qaeda leaders in the Islamic Republic of Iran have grown more prominent, working with” Zawahiri and “projecting his authority more effectively than he could previously,” according to the UN.

This shouldn’t be surprising. The Obama administration’s Treasury and State Departments revealed in 2011 that al Qaeda’s Iran-based network serves as the organization’s “core pipeline through which” it “moves money, facilitators and operatives from across the Middle East to South Asia.” This pipeline operates under an “agreement” between al Qaeda and the Iranian government. In the years since the Obama administration first exposed this “secret deal,” the U.S. government has revealed additional details about other al Qaeda leaders operating inside Iran, including “new generation” figures who were groomed to replace their fallen comrades.

Hamza bin Laden, Osama’s ideological and biological heir, has become a prominent voice for al Qaeda globally. The group undoubtedly likes to market the bin Laden name, but this isn’t a mere branding exercise. There is evidence that the junior bin Laden plays a leadership role within the organization. He, too, has operated out of Iran.

Al Qaeda continues to have a significant presence in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and some senior managers are operating in those two countries.

One of the principal reasons the group has been able to weather the America-led counterterrorism storm in South Asia is its relationship with the Taliban. This is perhaps the most underestimated aspect of al Qaeda’s operations. Following in bin Laden’s footsteps, Zawahiri has sworn his allegiance to the Taliban’s overall leader, an ideologue known as Hibatullah Akhundzada. And al Qaeda’s chief goal in South Asia is to resurrect the Taliban’s Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, which Zawahiri argues is the “nucleus” of a new jihadist caliphate.

Although it is a somewhat awkward arrangement, al Qaeda’s regional branches ultimately owe their loyalty to Akhundzada as well. Each regional arm is led by an emir who has sworn his allegiance to Zawahiri. Their fealty technically passes through Zawahiri to Akhundzada himself. Although there is little evidence that the Taliban’s hierarchy plays any role in managing al Qaeda’s presence outside of South Asia, al Qaeda’s scheme connects Afghanistan to various conflicts around the globe, as Zawahiri’s men are attempting to build Islamic emirates in several countries.

Al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS)

In September 2014, Zawahiri announced the formation of Al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS), which brought together parts of several pre-existing al Qaeda-linked groups. AQIS is led by Asim Umar, who is openly loyal to Zawahiri. One of AQIS’s first plots was an audacious attempt to hijack Pakistani frigates and fire their weapons into American and Indian ships.

AQIS’s chief goal is to help the Taliban reconquer Afghanistan. Its men are deeply embedded in the Taliban-led insurgency and its role in the Afghan War has been underestimated. For example, in October 2015, the U.S. and its Afghan allies raided two training camps in the southern Shorabak district. According to the U.S. military, one of the two was approximately 30 square-miles in size – making it one of the largest al Qaeda training camps in post-2001 Afghanistan, if not the largest.

AQIS is attempting to strengthen al Qaeda’s organization throughout South Asia, working with groups from Bangladesh, India, Kashmir, Pakistan and likely other countries, too. The Pakistani Taliban is closely allied with al Qaeda as well.

Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP)

Outside of South Asia, al Qaeda’s strongest branch is AQAP. Bin Laden’s former aide-de-camp established the current iteration of AQAP in 2009. Today it is led by Qasim al-Raymi, an al Qaeda veteran who has sworn his fealty to Zawahiri. Raymi is surrounded by other al Qaeda veterans.

AQAP gained global attention in 2009 and 2010 with its failed attempts to strike inside the U.S. AQAP simultaneously began promoting the idea of “lone jihad,” an effort that has had some limited success. Several attacks in the U.S. can be traced to this campaign. The January 2015 massacre at Charlie Hebdo’s offices in Paris was AQAP’s doing as well.

AQAP is not just a regional branch of al Qaeda’s organization, it has also housed senior management figures responsible for making decisions that affect the jihadists’ global efforts. Its propaganda organs, which have been disrupted, also serve al Qaeda’s global operations.

AQAP has taken over much of Yemen twice, as it is attempting to build an Islamic state in the country. However, Raymi and his men are currently embroiled in Yemen’s multi-sided war, which pits an Arab-led coalition against the Iranian-backed Houthis. While AQAP has clashed at times with the Arab coalition, the UAE and Saudi Arabia have not taken the fight directly to the group on the ground. Instead, AQAP has cut deals to allow its men to live and fight another day. While AQAP has often been on the same side as the Arab coalition, it has also accused the Saudis of assisting the Americans in a targeted air campaign against its leadership.

According to a recent UN report, AQAP may have as many as 6,000 to 7,000 fighters, though it is difficult to estimate the group’s strength for a variety of reasons.

Shabaab in Somalia

Based in Somalia, Shabaab is al Qaeda’s branch in East Africa. It is not only responsible for waging a prolific insurgency inside Somalia, but has also launched operations throughout the region. The U.S. is supporting the Somali government in its attempt to stymie the jihadi insurgents.

Files recovered in Abbottabad, Pakistan show that Osama bin Laden considered Shabaab to be a part of his organization by 2010, at the latest. The reality is that Shabaab was already strongly tied to the al Qaeda network before then. In mid-2010, Bin Laden ordered Shabaab’s leader at the time to keep his allegiance private, as the al Qaeda founder thought a public announcement would further complicate Shabaab’s mission in various ways. Some still have not recognized this point, wrongly arguing that bin Laden did not admit Shabaab into al Qaeda’s fold. But this isn’t what the al Qaeda founder said. Bin Laden simply didn’t want to announce their formal merger to the public.

In early 2012, months after bin Laden’s death, Shabaab and al Qaeda’s leadership did announce their union. Today the group is led by Abu Ubaydah Ahmad Umar – a man who doesn’t hide his loyalty to Zawahiri and al Qaeda.

Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM)

AQIM publicly announced its union with al Qaeda in 2006. And files recovered in Osama bin Laden’s compound show that AQIM regularly communicated with al Qaeda’s senior leadership in South Asia in the years thereafter. AQIM grew out of an existing jihadist group that was opposed to the Algerian government. It is led by Abu Musab Abdul Wadoud (a.k.a. Abdelmalek Droukdel), who has sworn his own blood oath to Zawahiri.

AQIM operates in North and West Africa. It is often difficult to measure the scope of its operations, as AQIM’s leaders have decided to hide their roles in various front groups. This has caused confusion in the West. For instance, AQIM clearly backed Ansar al Sharia, one of several al Qaeda or al Qaeda-linked groups responsible for the September 11, 2012 attack in Benghazi. But the U.S. government was initially reluctant to recognize Ansar al Sharia’s ties to AQIM. Other organizations in Benghazi, Derna and elsewhere in Libya have been tied to AQIM. And AQIM has a small arm in Tunisia that is responsible for carrying out attacks.

In 2012, AQIM and its local jihadist allies took over much of Mali. Their intent was to build an Islamic emirate, or state, which could one day be part of al Qaeda’s imagined caliphate. They lost their grip on the country after the French invaded in early 2013. But AQIM has continued to operate in North and West Africa since then.

The “Group for the Support of Islam and Muslims” (Jama’at Nusrat al-Islam wal-Muslimin, or JNIM) 

JNIM was established in March 2017, bringing together several al Qaeda groups that were already waging jihad in Mali and West Africa. JNIM is led by Iyad Ag Ghaly, a Tuareg jihadist who has sworn his fealty to Wadoud and Zawahiri, as well as Taliban emir Akhundzada.

Ghaly formerly led an organization known as Ansar Dine, which was a crucial part of AQIM’s plan for building an Islamic state in Mali. Ansar Dine was folded into JNIM upon its founding.

Today, Ghaly’s men are prolific, targeting local security forces and the French in Mali. JNIM has also built a regional network stretching into the surrounding countries.

Al Qaeda in Syria

Until 2016, a group known as Jabhat al-Nusrah was al Qaeda’s official branch in the Levant. Its leader, Abu Muhammad al-Julani, was publicly loyal to Zawahiri from 2013 to 2016. U.S. officials referred to it as al Qaeda’s largest arm, with approximately 10,000 fighters, perhaps more.

But in July 2016, Julani announced that his group was rebranding. In January 2017, Julani’s men merged with several other groups to form Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), an ostensibly independent organization. In the months that followed, a controversy over the formation of HTS and Julani’s leadership became heated, leading to fierce infighting. Some al Qaeda veterans objected to Julani’s moves, claiming that he had broken his oath of fealty to Zawahiri. This has introduced significant new uncertainties into any assessment of al Qaeda’s strength in Syria.*

Some factions broke off from HTS. A new suspected al Qaeda group known as the “Guardians of Religion” was established earlier this year. According to a recent UN report, al Qaeda’s Iran-based leaders were responsible for its founding, as they “influenced events in the Syrian Arab Republic, countering the authority of [HTS’s Julani]…and causing formations, breakaways and mergers of various Al Qaeda-aligned groups in Idlib.”

Yet, the UN (citing information from its “Member States”) reported that “HTS and its components still maintain contact with Al Qaeda leadership.” The UN added that HTS was recently “reinforced by the arrival of military and explosives experts from al Qaeda in Afghanistan.”

The UN and the U.S. government still consider HTS an “affiliate” of al Qaeda. And Turkey, which has offered protection for HTS in the northwestern Syrian province of Idlib, has designated HTS as a terrorist organization as well, amending its previous designation of Nusrah to include HTS as an alias for the al Qaeda group.

While there has been a disruption in al Qaeda’s chain of command in Syria, it is likely that al Qaeda still maintains a strong cadre of loyalists in the Levant. Even though the situation with HTS is somewhat murky (HTS claims it is no longer part of al Qaeda), there are multiple actors inside Syria who are part of al Qaeda’s network and loyal to Zawahiri. Another prominent jihadist organization in Syria, the Turkistan Islamic Party, is also part of al Qaeda’s web.

The future of al Qaeda’s presence in Syria will be determined in the weeks and months to come. The Assad regime, Iran and Russia are eyeing Idlib province for a possible large-scale invasion. HTS is the strongest actor in Idlib, and should the jihadists lose their safe haven, or struggle to defend it, Julani’s authority could be further undermined. In any event, al Qaeda isn’t dead in Syria – whatever the exact truth regarding HTS really is.

Al Qaeda lives

The U.S. and its allies have failed to defeat al Qaeda. The organization has survived multiple challenges. Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s Islamic State is not the only Sunni jihadist organization that has fought for territory. From Afghanistan to West Africa, al Qaeda loyalists are attempting to build their own caliphate. They consider it long-term project, with multiple obstacles ahead of them.

As al Qaeda has expanded its geographic footprint, it has placed most of its resources in various insurgencies and wars. Al Qaeda’s leadership has also deprioritized professional attacks on the West. The group hasn’t attempted to carry out a mass casualty attack in the U.S. or Europe in years.

But that could change at any time. It would then be up to America’s and Europe’s formidable defenses to stop them.

*This sentence was added a few hours after initial publication.

Thomas Joscelyn is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Senior Editor for FDD’s Long War Journal.

Americans Will Win This War In the Shadows of the Heroes of Flight 93

Understanding the Threat, by John Guandolo, September 10, 2018:

On 9/11/2001, the U.S. Government failed to protect America, and Islamic jihadis flew planes into two World Trade Center buildings in New York (American Airlines flight 11 and United Airlines flight 175) and the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia (American Airlines flight 77) killing nearly 3,000 people.

     

But on United Airlines flight 93, average American citizens demonstrated leadership, courage, and initiative and gave the last full measure of devotion to this nation by ensuring that airplane would not be used to do the kind of devastation we saw in New York and Arlington.

And so it is today.  Citizens will win or lose this war at the local level.

It is 2018.  Contrary to U.S. warfighting doctrine, the United States government has still not identified the “enemy” we face in this war.  You cannot hit the bullseye if there is no target.

Since 9/11, 159 Americans have been killed and 502 wounded in 71 jihadi attacks perpetrated by muslims in 24 different states inside America.

Texas leads the nations with eight (8) separate attacks.

Fifteen (15) of the nineteen (19) Islamic jihadis who attacked America on 9/11 were from Saudi Arabia.  Evidence exists revealing Saudi intelligence operatives conducted a “dry run” for the 9/11 attacks one year prior to 9/11/01, and the Saudi Ambassador to the United States – Prince Bandar – and his wife passed money to an account used to support 9/11 hijackers.

Yet, the United States government calls Saudi Arabia an “ally” in the “War on Terror.”

Pakistani Intelligence helped move Al Qaeda personnel on the ground in Pakistan and Afghanistan after the 9/11 attacks, and Osama bin Laden lived for years in Pakistan less than a mile from the Pakistani Military Academy.

Yet, the United States government calls Pakistan and “ally” in the “War on Terror.”

U.S. military generals, State Department officials, National Security advisors, and directors of U.S. intelligence agencies continue to rely upon Islamic “coalition partners” and Islamic advisors to tell them how to fight the war.

We LOST the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and it is not because our military soldiers, Marines, sailors, and airmen failed to do their jobs – it is because our generals/admirals and civilian leaders failed and continue to fail to Understand the Threat and identify the enemy.

Al Qaeda, the Islamic State, Boko Haram, Al Shabaab, Hizbollah, Hamas, Islamic Jihad, Abu Sayef, the Muslim Brotherhood, Hizb u Tahrir, Jamaat e Islami, Tabligi Jamaat, and all Islamic nations on the planet under the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) clearly state they intend to establish an Islamic State (caliphate) under sharia (Islamic law) through all means necessary.

The enemy very clearly makes their intentions known.  The enemy is not the problem.  Our leaders are the problem.

U.S. leadership has failed and continues to fail America and Americans are dead because of it – nearly 700 killed or wounded since 9/11 here at home.

President Trump stands virtually alone in this administration as someone who has some semblance of an understanding Islam is the problem and sharia is the threat doctrine of our enemy.

Because of all of this, this war will be won or lost at the local level.

Here is what citizens must do if America is to win this war:

  1. Know and understand sharia.  Speak truth boldly.
  2. Organize citizens who understand the threat into small teams to focus their efforts on educating and activating:  police; prosecutors and judges; legislators; pastors/rabbis; school officials; business leaders (chamber of commerce); and local politicians.
  3. Give each team simple focused tasks.
  4. POLICE:  Give a copy of the book Raising a Jihadi Generation and the UTT Episode 1 DVD to your local police chief and sheriff.  Encourage your local police chief and sheriff to bring the UTT’s 3-day “Understanding and Investigating the Jihadi Network” course to their jurisdiction.  This is the only program of its kind in the U.S. which gives police tools to map out, investigate and prosecute the jihadi network in your community.
  5. PROSECUTORS/JUDGES:  Share UTT information with prosecutors and judges you know, and encourage them to host a UTT training.  If able, show them examples of the jihadi network in their city/county and how they operate – ie they (suit-wearing jihadis) portray themselves as helpful and friendly yet still have the same objectives as Al Qaeda.
  6. LEGISLATORS:  Work with patriots involved with legislative efforts at your state house to increase the strength of state Racketeering statutes and increase the list of predicate crimes to include “Terrorism.”  Work to make “Conspiring to overthrow the state constitution” a state felony in your state.
  7. PASTORS/RABBIS:  Educate local church leaders, including pastors, about the threat of Islam and encourage them to cease all “Interfaith Outreach” as it is today, since all U.S. interfaith outreach efforts are driven by the U.S. Muslim Brotherhood via the International Institute of Islamic Thought (IIIT), the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), the Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA), and the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR).
  8. SCHOOL OFFICIALS:  Firmly ensure Islam is not being taught in your local schools, nor are children compelled to openly state the shahada (Islamic statement of faith).  Work with organizations like TruthinTextbooks.com to ensure social studies and history books are actually teaching historical facts not revisionist history.  Ensure the school board, principles, PTA leaders and others are aware that the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) is a front for the terrorist group Hamas, and has no place in any discussions or activities dealing with American school children.  See “CAIR is Hamas” document here.  DO teach children about America’s founding principles, specifically, “The law of nature and nature’s God” and what that legally means and how it relates to the foundation of U.S. law and government.
  9. BUSINESS LEADERS:  Identify key patriotic business leaders in the community, and educate them on the threat (once you understand it!).  Have team members ready to publicly call for boycotts and participate in public protests outside businesses who support jihadi organizations domestically or overseas.  Work to promote courageous men and women who understand the threat to be a part of your local chamber of commerce.
  10. LOCAL ELECTED OFFICIALS:  Mayors, city council members, and other local officials who are open-minded and able to hear and receive facts and truth should be engaged and taught about the threat of the Islamic Movement in the United States and your local area.  These officials should be be encouraged to know this threat and act accordingly in the day to day disposition of their duties as community leaders.  They should know they will be held accountable, and the team working with them should consistently be giving them positive or negative feedback based on their actions.

In all of this, local leaders should know your teams will stand with them through all of this if they do the right thing and speak truth.  There does not need to be a public proclamation by all these officials that they understand the threat.  Many will get much more done by quietly shutting the doors to the jihadis that have been open to them for so long.

The most important thing is the know the threat first before you ever decide to act.  When you act you must have a reasonable understanding of how the jihadis will respond so you will be prepared to counter-act them accordingly.

On 9/11/01, American citizens on United Airlines flight 93 took charge and won the day by ensuring a greater tragedy did not take place.  They gave their lives for all of us, as have thousands of American warriors on battlefields across the world.

Will you stand up and do your duty now?

Protests in Iran Hit Boiling Point, Amplifying Calls for Regime Change

Getty Images

New sanctions to further choke an already ailing regime

Washington Free Beacon, by Adam Kredo, August 6, 2018:

Protests against Iran’s hardline ruling regime hit a boiling point over the weekend, as demonstrators took to the streets for the sixth consecutive day in the face of efforts by the regime to beat and arrest those seeking regime change in the Islamic Republic, according to multiple reports from the region.

Curfews have been imposed in parts of the country amid nightly demonstrations by Iranian dissidents who have been heard chanting, “death to the dictator” and “Mullahs should go away.”

At least one protester was shot and killed by Iranian security forces over the weekend, but that does not appear to have quelled opposition to the Iranian ruling regime, which was smacked Monday with the first portion of harsh new sanctions by the Trump administration following the president’s decision to abandon the landmark nuclear deal that provided Iran’s leaders with millions in cash windfalls.

The ongoing protests have been percolating for weeks as dissidents take to the streets across Iran to protest the hardline ruling regime and its massive military spending, which has crippled an already weak Iranian economy.

Western pressure on the Iranian financial sector heightened on Monday, as the Trump administration imposed the first wave of new sanctions on Iran’s gold, coal, steel, and aluminum trade. The sanctions are being supported by new efforts by the Trump administration to warn European countries that any new business with Iran will subject them and their international banking systems to harsh new sanctions, as the Washington Free Beacon first reported on Thursday after conversations with multiple senior U.S. officials.

Video that emerged on social media on Sunday shows a reported 6,000 bus drivers in Tehran, Iran’s capital city, sitting in long lines for nearly 24 hours to get fuel, which has been cut off due to Iran’s inability to pay its debts, according to translations of the Farsi language videos posted to Twitter.

“Eighteen hours of work and this is the status of our city,” a videographer can be heard narrating, according to an independent translation. “We have to wait in line 24 hours to pump fuel. If [Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei] doesn’t have enough money, how dare he support Palestine and [the Lebanese] Hezbollah? If he doesn’t have money, how dare he provide for those people going to Arbaeen [ Shiite religious ceremony in Iraq marking the death of Prophet Mohammad’s grandson, Imam Hossein]?”

“How much more hardship and disgrace are we to endure?” the narrator continues. “Our revolution wasn’t for these people to take advantage of us and be cruel to us. Who should I say it to? I’m not saying it to myself. We should gather and go say it. Our revolution wasn’t to support Lebanon, Palestine, and that filthy [Hezbollah leader] Hassan Nasrallah.”

Dissident protesters appear to have been encouraged by recent remarks by the Trump administration, including the president and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, supporting the right of those to demonstrate against the regime. However, it remains unclear just how far the White House will go to back these protesters as they seek to topple the hardline ruling regime.

On Sunday, Iranian officials imposed a curfew around Tehran amid the ongoing, nightly demonstrations, according to those familiar with events on the ground. Much of the frustration has centered around the Iranian regime’s continued spending on military interventionism, particularly in Syria on behalf of embattled President Bashar al-Assad.

One protester, identified as Reza Otady, is said to have been shot dead during clashes with Iranian security forces and pro-regime militias.

Other protests have raged in major Iranian cities, including Shiraz, Qom, and Mashhad, sources said.

Social media sites such as Twitter have emerged as a prominent platform during the protests, which demonstrators coordinating their moves via these platforms.

The main frustration continues to be Iran’s economy, including the plunging value of the rial and the inability of citizens to purchase life staples.

***

Also see:

REIMPOSING TOUGH SANCTIONS: President Donald J. Trump’s Administration is taking action to reimpose sanctions lifted under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

  • President Trump made clear when he ended United States participation in the JCPOA that his Administration would be reimposing tough sanctions on the Iranian regime.
    • In connection with the withdrawal from the JCPOA, the Administration laid out two wind-down periods of 90 days and 180 days for business activities in or involving Iran.
  • Consistent with President Trump’s decision, the Administration will be reimposing specified sanctions after August 6, the final day of the 90-day wind-down period.
  • On August 7, sanctions will be reimposed on:
    • The purchase or acquisition of United States bank notes by the Government of Iran.
    • Iran’s trade in gold and other precious metals.
    • Graphite, aluminum, steel, coal, and software used in industrial processes.
    • Transactions related to the Iranian rial.
    • Activities relating to Iran’s issuance of sovereign debt
    • Iran’s automotive sector.
  • The remaining sanctions will be reimposed on November 5, including sanctions on:
    • Iran’s port operators and energy, shipping, and shipbuilding sectors.
    • Iran’s petroleum-related transactions.
    • Transactions by foreign financial institutions with the Central Bank of Iran.
  • The Administration will also relist hundreds of individuals, entities, vessels, and aircraft that were previously included on sanctions lists.

ENSURING FULL ENFORCEMENT: President Trump will continue to stand up to the Iranian regime’s aggression, and the United States will fully enforce the reimposed sanctions.

  • The Iranian regime has exploited the global financial system to fund its malign activities.
    • The regime has used this funding to support terrorism, promote ruthless regimes, destabilize the region, and abuse the human rights of its own people.
  • The Trump Administration intends to fully enforce the sanctions reimposed against Iran, and those who fail to wind down activities with Iran risk severe consequences.
  • Since the President announced his decision on May 8 to withdraw from the JCPOA, the Administration has sanctioned 38 Iran-related targets in six separate actions.

PROTECTING OUR NATIONAL SECURITY: The JCPOA was defective at its core and failed to guarantee the safety of the American people.

  • President Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Iran deal upheld his highest obligation: to protect the safety and security of the American people.
  • The Iranian regime only grew more aggressive under the cover of the JCPOA and was given access to more resources to pursue its malign activities.
    • The regime continues to threaten the United States and our allies, exploit the international financial system, and support terrorism and foreign proxies.
  • The Administration is working with allies to bring pressure on the Iranian regime to achieve an agreement that denies all paths to a nuclear weapon and addresses other malign activities.

Read the full text of the Executive Order.

Read the full statement from President Trump.