Pakistan continues to harbor Taliban, including al Qaeda-linked Haqqanis

A message from Siraj Haqqani was included in a Dec. 2016 Taliban video celebrating the group’s alliance with al Qaeda.

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

Pakistan continues to allow the Taliban, including the al Qaeda-linked Haqqani Network, to operate on its soil, despite pressure from the US government. That is one of the conclusions drawn in the State Department’s newly released Country Reports on Terrorism 2017.

“The Pakistani government pledged support to political reconciliation between the Afghan government and the Afghan Taliban but did not restrict the Afghan Taliban and HQN [Haqqani Network] from operating in Pakistan-based safe havens and threatening U.S. and Afghan forces in Afghanistan,” the report reads.

The Trump administration has attempted to pressure Pakistan into changing its longstanding policy. During a speech on Aug. 21, 2017, President Trump announced his plan for the war in Afghanistan. One “pillar of our new strategy is to change the approach and how to deal with Pakistan,” Trump said. “We can no longer be silent about Pakistan’s safe havens for terrorist organizations, the Taliban, and other groups that pose a threat to the region and beyond.”

“Pakistan has much to gain from partnering with our effort in Afghanistan,” Trump said. “It has much to lose by continuing to harbor criminals and terrorists.” He blasted Pakistan for “housing the very terrorists that we are fighting” and harboring “militants and terrorists who target U.S. servicemembers and officials,” even as the Pakistani government received American aid.

According to the State Department’s new report, the Trump administration followed through on the president’s warning. “From August to December 2017, the Trump Administration placed a pause on spending new Foreign Military Financing for Pakistan, holding these funds until Pakistan addressed key U.S. concerns, including the threat posed by the Haqqani Network and other terrorist groups that enjoyed safe haven with Pakistan,” the report reads.

Approximately $512.4 million in aid for Pakistan was appropriated for 2017, and $242.3 million of this was earmarked for “Foreign Military Financing.” Some portion of this was withheld during the latter half of 2017, though the report doesn’t make it clear how much.

However, nothing changed. “Pakistan did not adequately address these concerns in 2017,” Foggy Bottom found.

The Taliban continues to enjoy its Pakistani safe haven, from which some of the group’s most senior leaders direct the insurgency in neighboring Afghanistan.

“Afghanistan continued to experience aggressive and coordinated attacks by the Afghan Taliban, including the affiliated Haqqani Network (HQN) and other insurgent and terrorist groups,” the State Department found. “A number of these attacks were planned and launched from safe havens in Pakistan.”

State says that both “Afghan and Pakistani forces continued to contest AQ’s presence in the region,” explaining that “Pakistan’s military operations in the Federally Administered Tribal Area (FATA) further degraded the group’s freedom to operate.”

The Pakistani military operations undoubtedly restricted al Qaeda’s ability to operate in northern Pakistan. But al Qaeda has operated elsewhere in Pakistan. Moreover, the group began relocating operatives from the FATA years ago. Files recovered in Osama bin Laden’s compound show that the al Qaeda founder ordered his men to relocate out of northern Pakistan in 2010, if not earlier.

President Obama also noted that al Qaeda relocated into Afghanistan as a result of the Pakistani military campaign. “Pressure from Pakistan has resulted in more al Qaeda coming into Afghanistan,” Obama said in an Oct. 15, 2015 speech, during which he announced that he would keep a residual American force in Afghanistan.

The Taliban-Haqqani-Al Qaeda axis

Pakistan’s ongoing sponsorship of the Haqqani Network (HQN), an integral part of the Taliban, likely benefits al Qaeda. Country Reports on Terrorism 2017 notes that “HQN’s founder Jalaluddin Haqqani established a relationship with Usama bin Laden in the mid-1980s, and joined the Taliban in 1995.” The Taliban recently announced Jalaluddin Haqqani’s death and al Qaeda was quick to eulogize him as Osama bin Laden’s “brother.”

“After the fall of the Taliban in Afghanistan in 2001,” State new report reminds readers, “Jalaluddin retreated to Pakistan where, under the leadership of Jalaluddin’s son Sirajuddin Haqqani, the group continued to direct and conduct terrorist activity in Afghanistan.”

Sirajuddin Haqqani was named the deputy emir of the Taliban’s Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan in mid-2015. Osama bin Laden’s files reveal that al Qaeda was cooperating with Siraj and his men in operations inside Afghanistan in mid-2010. In Dec. 2016, the Taliban’s Manba al-Jihad Media outfit (which has long served the Haqqanis) released a video featuring an audio message from Siraj, as well as a senior al Qaeda ideologue. That same video celebrated the Taliban’s historical alliance with al Qaeda. And in its eulogy for Jalaluddin, al Qaeda’s general command lauded Siraj’s leadership role within the Taliban, saying it takes “solace in the fact” that Siraj is the deputy to the Taliban’s emir.

The State Department’s Country Reports on Terrorism 2017 notes that both the “Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan [the Pakistani Taliban] and the Haqqani Network…have ties to AQ.” The US government has also revealed significant connections between the Haqqani Network and al Qaeda in a series of terrorist designations. Haqqani facilitators who also assist al Qaeda are based in various areas of Pakistan, including Peshawar.

Pakistan has assisted the US in various counterterrorism operations against al Qaeda in the past. But that is not all there is to the story.

By granting the Haqqanis and other Taliban leaders safe haven, Pakistan is harboring some of al Qaeda’s most important allies in the region.

The UN recently reported that al Qaeda and the Taliban remain “closely allied” and their “alliance…remains firm.” Indeed, al Qaeda emir Ayman al Zawahiri has sworn an oath of allegiance to the Taliban’s overall leader, Haibatullah Akhundzada. Although Akhundzada’s whereabouts is not widely known, his predecessor was killed in a US drone strike in Pakistan in 2016.

The Taliban, including the Haqqanis, is not the only jihadist group that is still supported by Pakistan. Although the government has cracked down on groups that attack the Pakistani state, other jihadists continue to enjoy freedom of movement — just as long as their terror is directed elsewhere.

The State Department’s report notes that although Pakistan says its policy is to “ensure that no armed militias are allowed to function in the country,” this isn’t the case. According to Foggy Bottom, “several terrorist groups focused on attacks outside of the country continued to operate from Pakistani soil in 2017.” In addition to the Haqqani Network, these organizations include Lashkar e-Tayyiba (LeT) and Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM), both of which have targeted Indian interests in Kashmir and elsewhere. Historically, both the LeT and JeM have their own ties to al Qaeda.

“The government failed to significantly limit LeT and JeM from openly raising money, recruiting, and training in Pakistan – although Pakistan’s Elections Commission refused to allow a LeT‑affiliated group register as a political party,” Country Reports on Terrorism 2017 reads. “In November, a Pakistani court ordered the release of Hafiz Saeed, the alleged mastermind of the 2008 Mumbai attacks.” Saeed is the longtime head of LeT and its various front groups. He praised Osama bin Laden as a “martyr” shortly after the May 2011 raid in Abbottabad, Pakistan.

Despite Pakistan’s support for al Qaeda’s allies, the State Department reports that $344.6 million in aid has been requested for fiscal year 2018. This figure includes approximately $100 million in “Foreign Military Financing.” Although this is less than in past years, it is still a significant sum.

Country Reports on Terrorism 2017 also documents the heavy toll terrorism has taken inside Pakistan itself, as jihadi groups have attacked parts of the Pakistani state, as well as civilians. The Pakistani Taliban, which has its own ties to al Qaeda, and the Islamic State’s regional arm regularly launch operations inside the country.

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

DECISION BRIEF: Designate India as a ‘Major Non-NATO’ Ally

Center for Security Policy, September 6, 2018:

Decision:  In conjunction with a necessary downgrading of Pakistan’s status as a “Major Non-NATO Ally” (MNNA), the United States should begin negotiations with New Delhi to establish India as its primary partner in South Asia, with a view ultimately to designating India as an MNNA.

Reason: The strategic realignment underway in South Asia makes a stronger formal relationship with India long overdue. Pakistan has chosen a route at odds with the security and other vital interests of the United States, as explained in the Center for Security Policy’s Decision Brief 2018.003. India, on the other hand, is an increasingly important bulwark against Sharia-supremacism and the jihadism it commands and against an expansionist and ever-more-aggressive Communist China. India shares the U.S. and Japanese commitment to freedom of navigation on the high seas and has a mutual interest in security in the Indo-Pacific region.

Pushback: Some in the Pentagon and Congress view U.S.-Indian relations through the Cold War lens of the U.S. relationship with Pakistan, through that of India with the Soviet Union and through the prism of Pakistan’s more recent, post-9/11 assistance with respect to the resupplying of U.S. forces and their allies in Afghanistan. These paradigms have, however, been overtaken by more current events and should no longer be permitted to obscure today’s divergent strategic realities.

Background: For two decades following India’s independence, the U.S. had some notable military ties with New Delhi and even provided military assistance in India’s border war with China in 1962. The Soviets aggressively courted India, though, even as the U.S. courted Communist China and later Pakistan, causing strained relations between Washington and New Delhi from the mid-1970s to the mid-1990s. The U.S. nonetheless began annual naval exercises with India in 1992. And while the U.S. imposed sanctions on India in 1998 for nuclear testing, most were eased within a few months, and finally lifted altogether in 2001.

The relationship between the two nations has steadily improved in recent years, especially as a result of the jihadist attacks to which both have been subjected and intensifying concerns about China’s imperialist inroads in Asia and the Pacific.  Bilateral defense trade has increased from near zero to over $15 billion, making the United States India’s second largest arms supplier. Today, the United States is India’s top military exercise partner, including those they conduct with Japan as permanent members of the annual Malabar naval exercise.

The U.S. and India signed a bilateral defense and strategic cooperation agreement in 2005, which was extended in 2015for another 10 years. In 2016, both countries signeda Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA), and the U.S. designated India as a “Major Defense Partner.”

The U.S. has also granted India Strategic Trade Authorization-1(STA Tier-1) status, a move that greatly facilitates the exchange of high technology and strengthens defense collaboration. Most STA-1 countries are NATO allies. India is the third Asian country, after Japan and South Korea, to have STA-1 status.  And it would, with appropriate understandings in place, be a good candidate for the United States’ major regional ally and, in due course, the alternative to Pakistan as our Major Non-NATO Ally in South/Central Asia.[1]

Policy considerations:  Among those understandings must be that India is aligned with the United States with regard to the need to help the Iranian people liberate themselves from a regime that represses them and threatens others.  Secretary of State Pompeo has hopefully reinforced during his visit with Secretary of Defense Mattis to New Delhi, India’s reported willingness to end to its purchases of Iranian energy.  India will have an opportunity to buy all the oil it needs from a successor government in Tehran, but should not be party to efforts to perpetuate the present one – whether through energy purchases or other means. The same would apply to the Chabahar Port project which would afford India a means to bypass the overland trade route through Pakistan in order to access Afghanistan, while also serving India as means to effectively counter Chinese-Pakistani designs on the Indian Ocean.

Similar alignment will be needed with respect to India’s ties to the Kremlin.  India’s 20-year “agreement of friendship” with Moscow was signed in 1971 and, although it ended decades ago and Russia has been drawing dramatically closer to China and Pakistan, the Indians have yet to adjust the relationship with the Putin regime to reflect the new reality that they are facing increasing encirclement by adversaries.

In addition, consistent with the Trump administration’s commitment to religious freedom, New Delhi must undertake to prevent India’s 64 million Christians from persecution by Hindu extremists, in and out of government.

The Bottom Line: India is a bitter rival of Communist China that needs strong allies to resist Beijing’s expanding hegemony. It is a bulwark against Islamic extremism. It is a rival of the untrustworthy Pakistani government. It is one of the world’s most populous countries and markets, and the world’s largest democracy. India is also a strong emerging power in a region where the U.S. too needs powerful allies, and it is one of the few non-NATO countries with top Strategic Trade Authorization-1 status. The recommended termination of the U.S. designation of Pakistan as a “Major Non-NATO Ally” should clear the way for achieving the conditions for a U.S. strategic alliance with India.

[1]The authority to designate a country as an MNNA resides with the President, under Title 22 US Code § 2321k. The imminence of a common threat from external aggression and the existence of common regional security concerns justifies U.S. authorization of such a designation.

pdf: DB_India

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?

The FBI still hasn’t found these 9/11-era terrorists

Still at large are al Qaeda boss Ayman al-Zawahiri and fellow terrorist Saif al-Adel.

New York Post, by Paul Sperry, September 8, 2018:

After 9/11, the FBI warned the public about a number of potential terrorists they believed were being groomed for an encore attack. The feds described them as “the next Mohamed Atta” and put them on their Most Wanted Terrorists list. Today, these dangerous suspects remain on that same list and are still at large. Yet oddly, the FBI no longer talks about them.

The only thing that’s changed, besides the descriptions of their appearances, is that the FBI is now offering bigger rewards for them, along with several key al Qaeda leaders also still on the loose.

Families of 9/11 victims want to know why, after two wars costing trillions of dollars, do we appear no closer to capturing these top terrorists? Did the FBI stop hunting for them? Has it given up hope of finding them?

Terrorism experts are equally troubled by the delay in bringing them to justice.

“I’m concerned about these individuals still being at large,” said Philip Haney, former Department of Homeland Security counterterrorism analyst. “It should be the government’s top priority to locate and apprehend them.”

One would-be terrorist who was said to be planning to lead another attack on the US, following in the footsteps of 9/11 ringleader Atta, is the English-speaking Adnan G. El Shukrijumah, who spent time in Florida before fleeing the country in the wake of the attacks.

The Saudi-born suspect, also known as “Jaffar the Pilot,” is still featured prominently on the FBI’s website as a Most Wanted Terrorist. (The bureau has added a “digitally enhanced” photograph of Shukrijumah sporting a full Islamic beard.) In 2010, the feds indicted the 43-year-old for his alleged role in a 2009 plot to attack New York’s subway system.

The FBI believes Shukrijumah is helping run al Qaeda’s operations from Pakistan, while Islamabad claims its military killed him years ago. Considering that Pakistan has lied before about killing al Qaeda members — and about harboring Osama bin Laden — US officials are dubious of its claim.

FBI headquarters confirmed the Shukrijumah case remains open and that counterterrorism agents are still hunting for the indicted fugitive.

“The cases you mention remain open, active FBI investigations with large rewards continuing to be available to those who provide information about the cases mentioned,” said Michelle Goldschen of the FBI’s Office of Public Affairs in Washington.

Shukrijumah also has New York connections. His late father served as a translator for the “Blind Sheik,” Omar Abdel Rahman, at his mosque in Brooklyn before he was imprisoned for his role in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing and other terrorist plots.

After 9/11, the US government fingered the street-smart Shukrijumah as the ultimate al Qaeda “sleeper agent,” and potentially more dangerous than even Atta. In fact, he was said to have been handpicked by 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, aka KSM, to carry out an encore plot to detonate nuclear devices in several US cities simultaneously.

Today, his mentor KSM is locked up at Gitmo, where he awaits punishment for his crimes — which frustrates 9/11 survivors to no end.

“When you consider the US government’s absolute ineptitude and abject failure to prosecute those they currently already have in custody in Gitmo — where they’re still in the pretrial phase 17 years after the attacks — you have to wonder whether, perhaps, the US government has just done a cost-benefit analysis and determined that it’s not quite worth their time to bring any al Qaeda terrorists to justice or provide a modicum of accountability and closure to the innocent victims of terrorism,” said Kristen Breitweiser, who lost her husband, Ronald, in the World Trade Center’s south tower.

Another potentially dangerous suspect still eluding authorities is Abderraouf Jdey. Also known as Faruq al-Tunisi, he is a trained pilot who has a Canadian passport and was said to be slated for a “second wave” of suicide attacks after 9/11. He was identified in martyrdom videos recovered in Afghanistan.

An FBI poster places a $5 million bounty on Jdey’s head and includes a photo “retouched” to show how the 53-year-old might look today. The New York field office is handling tips on Jdey, along with Shukrijumah. (Unlike Shukrijumah, Jdey has not been indicted in absentia.)

Then there are the still-at-large al Qaeda leaders Saif al-Adel, Abdullah Ahmed Abdullah and Ayman al-Zawahiri.

The trio was listed among the FBI’s Most Wanted Terrorists after 9/11 and the three remain there today — in spite of $10 million rewards for information leading to the capture of both al-Adel and Abdullah and an additional $25 million bounty for Zawahiri. Just last month, the US doubled the reward offers for al-Adel and Abdullah.

Zawahiri took command of al Qaeda in 2011 after US forces killed kingpin Osama bin Laden, who for years was sheltered in Pakistan. While we don’t hear much about al Qaeda anymore, it’s alive and well. In fact, terrorism experts warn it’s been growing in strength, not waning, since bin Laden’s death.

Zawahiri has declared plans to replace ISIS at the forefront of global jihad. He’s also given a central role in the organization to bin Laden’s son, Hamza. And he recently called on Muslims during a 17-minute videotaped address to attack American interests “everywhere” — echoing a fatwa issued by bin Laden before the 9/11 attacks.

DHS’s Haney said that Zawahiri is “consolidating power” under a new terror umbrella — AQIS, or al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent — adding that the center of gravity of the global jihadist movement is shifting to that region.

“An argument could be made that Zawahari is not only the world’s most experienced jihadist now, but also the most dangerous one,” Haney warned.

And yet the FBI still cannot seem to get much traction hunting down him or other 9/11-era terrorists.

The FBI declined to comment on why it’s taken so long to capture these bad guys.

“We would decline any further comment due to the ongoing nature of the current investigations,” Goldschen said.

Paul Sperry is a bestselling author and former Hoover Institution media fellow.

Analysis: Pentagon continues to underestimate al Qaeda, downplay ties to Taliban

Screenshot from video produced by the Taliban in Dec. 2016 that emphasized the ties between al Qaeda and the Taliban. Al Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden and Taliban founder Mulla Omar (center, top) are shown side by side in an image that promotes the martyrs of jihad.

Long War Journal, by Bill Roggio, July 5, 2018:

The US Department of Defense continues to ignore fundamental facts in spinning its latest narrative. Yet again, the Pentagon underestimates al Qaeda’s strength in Afghanistan while downplaying the group’s ties to the Taliban. The Pentagon claimed that al Qaeda’s “core members are focused on their own survival” and “there is no evidence of strategic ties” between al Qaeda and the Taliban.

Except, the Pentagon and the US intelligence community has consistently been wrong about al Qaeda’s strength in Afghanistan, and evidence of strategic ties between the two groups does indeed exist.

The Pentagon made these latest claims in the “Threats from Insurgent and Terrorist Groups” section (pages 25 & 26) of its most recent biannual report, Enhancing Security and Stability in Afghanistan. The report was released earlier this week. The paragraph discussing al Qaeda and the Taliban is excerpted in full below [emphasis added]:

The al-Qa’ida threat to the United States and its allies and partners has decreased, and the few remaining al-Qa’ida core members are focused on their own survival. The remnants of the organization likely reside along the southeast Afghanistan border with Pakistan with a smaller element in isolated areas of northeast Afghanistan. Some lower- and mid-level Taliban leaders provide limited support to al-Qa’ida; however, there is no evidence of strategic ties between the two organizations and the Taliban likely seeks to maintain distance from al-Qa’ida. In addition, al-Qa’ida’s regional affiliate, AQIS, has a presence in south and southeast Afghanistan, and in Pakistan, and is composed primarily of militants from within the broader South Asia region.

Underestimating al Qaeda, yet again

The Pentagon report employed language that was used consistently during the Obama administration that downplayed al Qaeda’s strength. Phrases such as “few remaining” (General Joseph Dunford, 2013), “remnants” (President Barack Obama, 2014), and “focused on their own survival” (General John Campbell, 2015), were uttered by the President and his top commanders for Afghanistan numerous times.

Beginning in 2010, CIA Director Leon Panetta claimed that al Qaeda had only “50 to 100, maybe less”leaders and operatives based in Afghanistan. FDD’s Long War Journal repeatedly refuted this estimate and even used the US military’s own press releases on raids against al Qaeda in Afghanistan to rebut the claims. Panetta’s estimate was repeated numerous times by intelligence and military officials, unchanged, for nearly six years. Additionally, the US military claimed that al Qaeda was confined to the northeastern provinces of Kunar and Nuristan.

This incorrect assessment of al Qaeda’s was proven wildly inaccurate when in Oct. 2015 US forces killed more than 150 al Qaeda operatives in an attack on two al Qaeda training camps in the Shorabak district in the southern province of Kandahar. After the raid on the al Qaeda camps, US military spokesman Brigadier General Wilson Shoffner described the raid as “one of the largest joint ground-assault operations we have ever conducted in Afghanistan.” It took US and Afghan forces more than four days to clear the two camps, with the aid of 63 airstrikes. Shoffner’s description of the al-Qaeda facilities indicated that they had been built long ago.

“The first site, a well-established training camp, spanned approximately one square mile. The second site covered nearly 30 square miles,” Shoffner said. “We struck a major al-Qaeda sanctuary in the center of the Taliban’s historic heartland,” he added.

After the Shorabak raid, the US military was ultimately forced to concede its estimate of al Qaeda’s strength in Afghanistan was wrong. In April 2016, Major General Jeff Buchanan, Resolute Support’s deputy chief of staff, told CNN that the 50 to 100 estimate was incorrect based on the results of the Shorabak raid.

“If you go back to last year, there were a lot of intel estimates that said within Afghanistan al-Qaeda probably has 50 to 100 members, but in this one camp we found more than 150,” he said.

The estimate of al-Qaeda operatives in Afghanistan was revised upwards to about 300.

Yet, in mid-December 2016, General John Nicholson admitted that the US military killed or captured 50 al-Qaeda leaders and an additional 200 operatives during calendar year 2016 in Afghanistan. And in Sept. of 2016, Nicholson said that US forces were hunting al Qaeda in seven of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces.

The US continues to hunt al Qaeda leaders to this day. Most recently, in late April the US announced that it killed a dual-hatted al Qaeda and Taliban leader in an airstrike in the eastern Afghan province of Nangarhar. The jihadist was described as “a senior AQIS [al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent] and Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) commander” who “controlled fighting forces in both Pakistan and Afghanistan.”

Additionally, al Qaeda’s leaders do not appear to be “focused on their own survival.” Al Qaeda’s propaganda arm, As Sahab, has increased its production of videos and other materials since mid-2015. Al Qaeda emir Ayman al Zawahiri and his heir apparent, Hamza bin Laden, have released numerous statements during this timeframe, while al Qaeda central has dispatched leaders to direct the fight in other theaters, such as Syria. These are not the actions of a group that is focused on survival.

Clearly, the US intelligence community and the military has consistently underestimated al Qaeda and its strength in Afghanistan, and continues to do so to this day.

“Strategic” al Qaeda and Taliban ties

The Pentagon report also stated that “there is no evidence of strategic ties between the two organizations and the Taliban likely seeks to maintain distance from al-Qa’ida].” The groups have long been tied and there is indeed evidence to prove it.

In December of 2016, the Taliban issued a video that emphasized its continuing alliance with al Qaeda. The video, entitled “Bond of Nation with the Mujahideen,” is replete with imagery and speeches that promote the enduring Taliban-al Qaeda relationship. In one section which promoted the martyrs of the Afghan jihad, al Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden and Taliban founder Mulla Omar (see image above) were shown side by side. Also shown is Nasir al Wuhayshi, Osama bin Laden’s aide de camp who was promoted to lead al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. Wuhayshi was killed in a US drone strike in Yemen, not in Afghanistan.

“Bond of Nation with the Mujahideen” also included clips of a speech by Sheikh Khalid Batarfi, a senior official in Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. LWJ believes he is likely part of al Qaeda’s global management team. Batarfi praised the Afghan jihad and stressed that the ties between al Qaeda and the Taliban remain strong.

The video is clear evidence that the Taliban, as recently as Dec. 2016, did not seek to “maintain distance from al-Qa’ida,” as the Pentagon claims.

Al Qaeda leaders’ oaths to the Amir-ul-Mumineen [“Emir of the Faithful”], or the head of the Afghan Taliban, is solid evidence of continuing ties between the two groups. Osama bin Laden’s pledge to Mullah Omar was maintained up until the US killed Osama in Abbottabad, Pakistan, in May 2011. Both the Taliban and al Qaeda have noted multiple times that the oath endured the Taliban’s loss of control of Afghanistan after the US invasion in 2001.

Zawahiri swore allegiance to Omar after Osama was killed, and again swore an oath to Mullah Mansourafter the Taliban announced Omar’s death in 2015. Mansour publicly accepted Zawahiri’s pledge in an official statement released on Voice of Jihad. After the US killed Mansour in May 2016, Zawahiri again issued a public pledge to his successor, Mullah Haibatullah, who is the Taliban’s current emir. While Haibatullah did not publicly accept Zawahiri’s oath, he also did not reject it. Haibatullah is considered to be far more radical than his predecessor, and he served as the Taliban’s chief judge for Mansour, so he would have given approval for Mansour’s acceptance of Zawahiri’s oath.

Al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent, al Qaeda’s branch in south and central Asia, also has publicly declared its allegiance to the Taliban.

Another key indicator that the Taliban’s relationship with al Qaeda remains strong to this day is the ascendance of Sirajuddin Haqqani to serve as one of the top two deputies to the Taliban’s emir as well as its commander of military operations. Sirajuddin is closely allied to al Qaeda. The Pentagon, in a previous section of the Enhancing Security and Stability in Afghanistan report, noted that “Sirajuddin Haqqani’s role as a Taliban deputy probably increased Haqqani influence within the Taliban leadership.”

The Haqqani Network, which is a powerful and influential faction of the Taliban, is known to have very close ties to al Qaeda, and maintains these ties to this day. Numerous designations of Haqqani Network commanders detail the close ties to al Qaeda. (Designations of other Taliban leaders not part of the Haqqani Network also detail close ties to al Qaeda.) The US, in its covert drone campaign in Pakistan, has killed multiple al Qaeda leaders who were sheltering in areas controlled by the Haqqanis.

The Pentagon cannot explain how the Taliban seeks to distance itself from al Qaeda while promoting Sirajuddin to the top echelon of its leadership cadre.

The US military has demonstrated time and time again that is unable to properly assess al Qaeda’s strength in Afghanistan as well as its close and enduring ties to the Taliban.

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

UTT Throwback Thursday: President Should Drop Pakistan as Ally

Understanding the Threat, by John  Guandolo, Sept. 21, 2017:

It is being reported that President Trump is considering dropping Pakistan as a U.S. “ally” due to their obvious support for “terrorism.”

It’s about time.

Pakistanis showing support for Al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden

The Quranic Concept of War – written in 1989 by a Brigadier General SK Malik of the Pakistani army with the forward by the Army Chief of Staff/former Pakistani President Zia ul Haq and the Preface by the Advocate General of Pakistan – is doctrine for the Pakistani military.  It makes clear that war against non-muslim forces is obligatory until Islam dominates the world.

After the 9/11 attacks, the Pakistani Intelligence Service (ISI) aided Al Qaeda in moving men and equipment to safer locations anticipating U.S. retaliatory attacks.

Al Qaeda’s leader Osama bin Laden lived in Abbottabad, Pakistan for several years up until the time he was killed in a U.S. raid.

Pakistan used “aid” money provided by the United States government during the Obama Administration to expand its nuclear program.

Pakistani ISI created Lashkar e Taiba, a designated Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO) by the U.S. government, which has conducted numerous jihadi attacks including the four-day long Mumbai (India) attack of 2008 which killed over 160 people.

Pakistan has never been a friend to the United States, because it is a driving force in the global jihad.

Pakistan needs to be crushed along with Saudi Arabia and Iran.