China-Pakistan, Economic Corridor: Initially hailed as a key part of China’s ‘One Belt One Road’ vision, the US$56 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor has yet to translate into the ‘game changer’ envisioned by its sponsors. F.M. Shakilwrites that the imported labour from China, tax exemptions for Chinese firms and security costs have combined to bring debt of over US$2.5 billion and Pakistani analysts are now asking how Islamabad will see any benefit. READ THE STORY HERE
Factories & Sanctuaries: Pakistan & Jihadi Networks
Islamabad, Pakistan: Factory and Sanctuary of Jihad, Inc.
By Robert M. Cassidy, RealClearDefense: “The wars against Islamist militants inimical to secular democracies will not end until the West and its genuine friends forge the will to shut down the factories and sanctuaries that generate and sustain the most abominable strains of Salafi-Wahhabi jihadists.”
Dispelling the Myth of Tactical Success and Innovation
By Jason Shell, War on the Rocks: “The U.S. military seems to have settled on the narrative that it won every tactical engagement in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. In this view, failures of strategy and the challenges of nation-building proved the undoing of coalition counter-insurgency efforts in each conflict. Even the most critical accounts of U.S. military performance in the wars, like Lt Gen. (ret.) Bolger’s Why We Lost, emphasize American “tactical excellence” in the campaigns. Such a conclusion, however, seems to equate tactics with firefights and ignores the U.S. military’s failure to meet its objectives to counter the enemy’s weapon of choice — the improvised explosive device (IED).”
Hanging Judge for president and Supreme Leader of Iran. Mohsen Sazegara. Malciolm Hoenlein
Iran’s official month-long presidential campaign period kicked off last week in the run-up to the May 19 election. While former president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s candidacy garnered international headlines, the real major development came when Ebrahim Raisi — touted as a potential successor to Iran’s aging supreme leader — entered the race.
Instead of a straightforward reelection campaign for Iran’s incumbent president, the question of supreme leader succession now looms over next month’s election.
Rouhani has a mixed record during his first term as president. He negotiated the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) with the P5+1 (China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States plus the European Union), lifting international sanctions imposed over the Iranian nuclear program. Rouhani also introduced better economic management, which, alongside the sanctions relief of the JCPOA, generated a modest economic recovery after the Ahmadinejad years. Rouhani continues to be backed by a super-coalition of Iranian political currents composed of reformists, centrists and even moderate conservatives.
How al-Qaeda Shapes the Battlefield: Agitation & The Muslim Brotherhood Should Get Terrorist Designaton
Michael Mazza writes: The United States has long looked at Pakistan as an important partner in the Afghanistan war and with good reason. But Islamabad has also been a crucial partner in Beijing’s efforts to complicate India’s security environment and to project Chinese power into the Indian Ocean region. U.S. national interests suffer as a result. – The Hill
Jason Brodsky writes: Dethroning the Syrian president should not be an end in itself, but rather the means to ensuring a stable government and a durable peace. That will require the preservation of some state institutions to prevent anarchy and terrorist organizations—Sunni and Shiite—and states like Iran from filling the void. But fundamentally, if America is to remain first in U.S. foreign policy priorities, Assad must go. – Real Clear Defense
"Political Will" Needed to End War in Syria
By Roger McDermott, Eurasia Daily Monitor: “Russia’s Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu has outlined the country’s military modernization achievements in the context of the ongoing drafting and internal discussion regarding the new State Armaments Program to 2025 (Gosudarstvennaya Programma Vooruzheniya—GPV). Shoigu put forward a vision of greatly enhanced military capabilities, but he has moved beyond simply promising more military hardware and modern systems.”
"Political Will" Needed to End War in Syria
By Rachel Ansley, Atlantic Council: “As US sanctions on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime have failed to end the war in Syria, the international community must exercise the political will to do so—and, in the meantime, establish safe zones that would put civilians out of harm’s way, according to two members of the Syrian Civil Defense (SCD), also known as the White Helmets.”
Iran and Russia are moving closer together in their military alliance, working to boost ties and coordination in Syria and elsewhere in the region following the U.S. decision to launch a military strike in Syria, according to regional reports and experts. – Washington Free Beacon
ISIS of Syria rallying on the Euphrates at Deir Ezzor. @billroggio. @thomasjoscelyn. @followfdd @thadmccotter
"...The US military announced today that Abdurakhmon Uzbeki, a senior Islamic State operative and “close associate” of Abu Bakr al Baghdadi, was killed during a special forces raid on April 6. The operation was carried out near the city of Mayadin in the eastern Syrian province of Deir Ezzor.
The Islamic State has long battled forces loyal to Bashar al Assad’s regime in the city of Deir Ezzor and the surrounding area. The US also frequently carries out airstrikes against the jihadists’ fighting positions and oil infrastructure in the province, but raids involving ground forces are rare.
Uzbeki “facilitated the movement of ISIS foreign terror fighters and funds,” according to a statement issued by the US military. He “played a key role” in the group’s “external terror attack plotting.”
US intelligence officials have concluded that Uzbeki “facilitated the high profile attack” on the Reina nightclub in Istanbul, Turkey this past New Year’s Eve. The massacre left 39 people dead and dozens more wounded...."
Himmler’s hateful 1943 telegram to Mufti al-Husseini. Malcolm Hoenlein @conf_of_pres @thadmccotter
On March 29, 2017, the blog of the National Library of Israel announced the discovery of SS Commander Heinrich Himmler’s telegram to Amin al-Husseini, the Mufti of Jerusalem.1 Although the telegram was not dated, there is conclusive evidence that it was sent on November 2, 1943, the twenty-sixth anniversary of the Balfour Declaration.
While the existence of this telegram and its contents were known, the original telegram seemed to have been lost. According to Mr. Chen Malul, a contributing editor of the National Library’s blog, this document was donated to the National Library in 1952, some sixty-five years ago. Several months ago, the archivists of the library classified the telegram as pertaining to the Balfour Declaration. With the approach of the Declaration’s centennial, the Library carried out a search by keyword and discovered this document.2
Himmler’s telegram may be appreciated on several levels: 1) as a primary source which represents a statement of Nazi-German policy; 2) as an important part of the context of a major political rally against the Balfour Declaration at which an alliance with the Arab cause, and particularly with the Palestinian Arabs, was ceremoniously celebrated; and, 3) as an address by Amin al-Husseini, an unconditional Nazi-collaborator who pledged the support of the Palestinian Arabs and the Muslim world for Nazi cause.
The Mufti claimed “to present himself not just as leader of the Palestinian national movement, but as leader of all Arabs and even as representative of all Muslims.”3 To be sure, Amin al-Husseini did not possess the legitimacy of a democratically-elected leader. Nevertheless, through his social status, cunning, eloquence and force, he was able to acquire the necessary power to lead the faithful and intimidate the unconvinced. (It should be remembered that under the British Mandate Amin al-Husseini was never officially appointed to this post.)4
The rediscovery of the original telegram is significant. It confirms that there was a partnership between Nazi-Germany, the Arabs of Palestine and the Arab World. This alliance was based on their mutual support for the destruction of World Jewry, which both sides openly declared to be a shared interest and the basis of their friendship. The purpose of this telegram was to reaffirm publicly the existence of this partnership and the transaction it represented. The following is the text of Heinrich Himmler’s shameless telegram:
TO THE GRAND MUFTI AMIN EL HUSSEINI, BERLIN
FROM ITS BEGINNING THE NATIONAL SOCIALIST MOVEMENT OF GREATER GERMANY5 HAS INSCRIBED THE STRUGGLE AGAINST WORLD JEWRY ON ITS BANNER. THEREFORE IT HAS ALWAYS FOLLOWED WITH SPECIAL SYMPATHY THE STRUGGLE OF THE FREEDOM – LOVING ARABS, FOREMOST IN PALESTINE, AGAINST THE JEWISH INTRUDERS. THE RECOGNITION OF THIS ENEMY AND OUR COMMON STRUGGLE AGAINST HIM FORM THE FIRM FOUNDATION OF THE NATURAL ALLIANCE BETWEEN NATIONAL-SOCIALIST GREATER GERMANY AND THE FREEDOM-LOVING MUSLIMS OF THE WHOLE WORLD. ON THE ANNIVERSARY OF THE WRETCHED BALFOUR-DECLARATION I SEND YOU IN THIS SPIRIT MY HEARTFELT GREETINGS AND WISHES FOR THE SUCCESSFUL PURSUIT OF YOUR STRUGGLE UNTIL ITS ASSURED FINAL VICTORY.
SIGNED REICHSFUEHRER-SS HEINRICH HIMMLER6..."
Trump’s Middle East
By Blake Franko, The National Interest: “The Trump administration has performed a variety of policy somersaults in the Middle East. One day it opposed intervention in Syria. Then it intervened. When it came to Israel, candidate Trump pledged a neutral policy. Then, as president, he embraced Israel for a few weeks before returning to a more detached approach. Where will it all head?”
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis will soon make a recommendation to President Donald Trump for an updated strategy in Afghanistan that could include deploying more American troops there after visiting Monday with top leaders in the war-torn country. – Stars and Stripes
In the wake of a surprise attack that killed at least 160 Afghan soldiers last week, Defense Secretary James Mattis said “the fight is going to go on” against terrorism and not just in Afghanistan. – USNI News
The Taliban overran three security checkpoints in Afghanistan's northern Takhar province, killing eight policemen and cutting off a key road and two of the region's districts, an Afghan official said Tuesday. – Associated Press
Ayman al-Zawahiri, bin Laden’s mentor and successor, remains a key player in an attack threat to America that retired Marine Corps General John Kelly, the U.S. homeland security secretary, says is "worse today than what we experienced 16 years ago on 9/11.” And if officials in the Donald Trump administration have their way, al-Zawahiri’s name will soon be as familiar to the world as bin Laden’s once was. - Newsweek
Afghanistan: U.S. Strategy for a Transformed Region
By Barnett Rubin, War on the Rocks: “It is time to recognize that the United States might be able to maintain an open-ended military presence in Afghanistan or stabilize the country, but not both. A permanent military presence will always motivate one or more neighbors to pressure the United States to leave by supporting insurgents — and forestalling stabilization. Currently, Pakistan, Iran and Russia — which together control access to all usable routes to landlocked Afghanistan — are trying to exert such pressure.* Precipitous withdrawal without a settlement, of course, could lead to even more violence.”
A surprise visit by Defense Secretary James Mattis to Afghanistan on Monday has fueled speculation that the Trump administration may be close to a new battle plan for the 16-year-old war. – Washington Times
The general in charge of U.S. forces in Afghanistan appeared to confirm Monday that Russia is sending weapons to the Taliban, an intervention that will likely further complicate the 15-year-old war here and the Kremlin’s relations with the United States. – Washington Post’s Checkpoint
The Islamic State branch in Afghanistan, target of the U.S. military’s massive “mother of all bombs” this month, quickly is losing its luster, according to U.S. war commanders here. Thanks to mounting pressure — the U.S.-led coalition claims to have killed hundreds of their fighters in two months — the local branch of the terrorist group that once was so feared in Syria and Iraq is rapidly losing money, support, and recruits. – Defense One
Javi Ahmad writes: In fact, despite a reputation for cultural myopia, the Taliban’s use of such attacks reveals that it understands Afghan military and intelligence gaps far better than its opponents do. Using Afghan soldiers to plot large-scale attacks on Afghan or U.S. troops is in effect a “cultural weapon” that targets a key weakness in Afghan and the U.S. civil-military apparatus: a deep aversion to casualties. – Washington Post
The psychological impact of the assault, one of the deadliest in the 16-year war, may now prove more devastating than the number of victims. While some survivors have vowed revenge, the assault has sown fear and rage not only among many recruits but also among their families, further threatening enlistment and making the government’s fight against the Taliban that much harder. – New York Times
Tunisian security forces killed a senior commander in an Islamist group who detonated his suicide belt as he was shot during a raid against militants planning attacks during the holy month of Ramadan, officials said on Sunday. - Reuters
Tunisia's Prime Minister Youssef Chahed on Sunday replaced his finance minister after she had faced criticism from political opponents over the sharp fall in the dinar currency and slow progress in economic reforms. - Reuters
In eight hearings over five months, the commission has opened a Pandora’s box of emotions for Tunisians. After long averting their gaze from past horrors, Tunisians are now digging deep into the dirt. Even former President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali has been watching the proceedings from exile in Saudi Arabia, according to his lawyer. – New York Times
In the mountains of western Tunisia, radical Islamists are spreading their ideology, cowing villagers with brute violence and dividing families. American-trained Tunisian soldiers are battling them, but the militants are formidable opponents. – Washington Post
Saudi Arabia’s King Salman has appointed one of his sons as the kingdom’s new ambassador to the U.S., as Riyadh seeks to cement improved ties with Washington following its disputes with the Obama administration over Iran and other American policy in the region. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
King Salman of Saudi Arabia rescinded salary cuts for ministers and restored financial perks for public sector workers in a series of royal decrees late Saturday. – New York Times
The three cases are part of a campaign by Saudi women, who have been broadcasting daring videos with their cellphones, using Facebook to organize street protests and posting Twitter messages to challenge the very idea of male supremacy in their famously patriarchal society. – New York Times
The Trump administration is weighing providing additional support for the Saudi-led fight in Yemen amid mounting speculation about specific military steps the U.S. may take in the battle against Iranian-backed rebels – The Hill
The United States needs to ramp up its military backing of the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen to pressure the Iranian-backed Houthis into diplomatic talks aimed at resolving the two-year civil war, according to policy experts. – Washington Free Beacon
The country now aims to achieve near-full self-sufficiency in line with its regional and global ambitions for more political clout. But some of its indigenous programs may be more time-consuming, difficult and costly to prosper than it hopes. – Defense News
Claire Berlinski writes: The story of what really happened in Turkey still matters, even if it’s too late to help Turks. We all need to have a good think about how democracies die, because they’re dying like flies. It’s not too late to learn how it really happened. If we don’t, we can’t hope to draw the right lessons. These might apply to democracies still alive. They might even apply to our own. – The American Interest
A 10-year blockade and three wars have hardened the people of the Gaza Strip, but now they face a new challenge: a lone power station without fuel…The solution could be simple: Provide Gazans with fuel for their single power plant. But the problem is caught in the middle of a power struggle between the West Bank’s Palestinian Authority and Hamas, the militant rulers of the Gaza Strip. – Washington Post
Afghanistan: The Next Big U.S.-Russia Proxy Battle
From Stratfor: “If recent developments are any indication, Russia is becoming increasingly focused on and active in Afghanistan. The Russian government has held several consultations with Tajikistan on expanding security cooperation on the Tajikistan-Afghanistan border and has explored increasing the scope of its Central Asian military bloc, the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO). It has also increased its diplomatic engagement with the Taliban and, according to Afghan and U.S. officials, may even be providing security assistance to the group. Long a consideration for Russia, Afghanistan is growing in importance to Moscow at both the tactical and strategic levels. And as it does, it is becoming an increasingly important theater for the U.S.-Russia competition.”
A video has emerged that appears to show members of the Egyptian military shooting unarmed detainees to death at point-blank range in the Sinai Peninsula and staging the killings to look as if they had happened in combat. – New York Times
U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis arrived in the Egyptian capital Thursday morning seeking to strengthen bonds with the country’s leaders that were strained under the previous presidential administration. – Stars and Stripes
Max Boot writes: While the U.S. has certainly backed its share of dictators over the years, it’s hard to think of any president other than Richard Nixon who showed such indifference to the moral dimension of foreign policy. Trump clearly looks upon human rights concerns as a distraction from his strategic goals. What he doesn’t understand is that the United States has been a “winner” in no small part because of our idealism, which has made America an attractive ally for freedom-seekers around the world. By jettisoning human rights promotion, Trump is sacrificing what has made America great. – USA Today
Fadil Aliriza writes: Six years after the start of the Arab Spring, Tunisia continues to cling to its precarious status as the Arab world’s sole parliamentary democracy. This week, however, a battle between a politically well-connected TV station and a group of anti-corruption activists is spotlighting a fundamental question: Who really controls the Tunisian state, citizens or tycoons? – Washington Post
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis called on Wednesday for a political solution in Yemen between Sunni Arabs, supported by a Saudi-led coalition, and Iranian-backed Houthis, but he stopped short of publicly warning America’s Sunni allies against a planned bombing campaign targeting the port city of Al Hudaydah. – New York Times
U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis is considering a range of additional military support for Saudi Arabia’s fight against Houthi rebels in neighboring Yemen in the hope of forcing the group into peace negotiations. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)
The Trump administration is considering re-imposing a massive set of economic sanctions on Iran that were lifted by the Obama administration as part of the landmark nuclear agreement that gave Tehran billions in economic support, according to U.S. officials who told the Washington Free Beacon that Iran's military buildup and disregard for international law could prompt U.S. reprisal. – Washington Free Beacon
Syria still has up to three tons of chemical weapons, Israeli defense officials said Wednesday in the first specific intelligence assessment of President Bashar Assad’s weapons capabilities since a deadly chemical attack earlier this month. – Associated Press