Iran, Hezbollah off terror list as concession in nuke talks
Iran and the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah have been removed from this year’s terror list, despite being on it for the past several years.
Fox News Channel reported Tuesday that the office of National Intelligence Director James Clapper blamed the omission on a formatting change in the way the document is printed.
Fox’s Greta Van Susteren called it “a little bit insane that they changed the format and suddenly the two worst terrorists, Iran and Hezbollah, disappear.”
“The people who would say this is a format change are weasels,” Bolton said on Fox News Channel’s “On the Record with Greta Van Susteren.”
“It’s a flat lie. The format of this year’s report is exactly the same as last year’s report. Don’t believe me? Go look on the web. Compare the two of them. It’s exactly the same.”
Bolton said he believes the Iranian negotiators told the American negotiators they have to ease up on labeling the country the largest state sponsor of terrorism.
Bolton said he doesn’t believe the details of the arrangement will show up in the final nuclear deal, which is troubling, he said, because it raises questions of what other concessions might have been made, but will never be made public.
“I think that we are looking at a quid pro quo, where Iran helps us with counter-terrorism and we facilitate their nuclear ambitions and cut down on our labelling of them as terrorists,” Max Abrahms, professor of political science at Northeastern University and member at the Council of Foreign Relations, told Newsweek.
“The world has changed. The Sunni threat has gotten worse, the Islamic State is a greater danger than al-Qaida ever was, and the Iranians have really come up big in terms of helping us out in combating the Islamic State.”
U.S. loses track of $ 500 mln in military aid to Yemen
As much as $500 million in U.S. military aid to Yemen is unaccounted for, U.S. officials said Tuesday, March 17, sparking fears that military equipment could be seized by Shiite Houthi rebels or even al Qaeda.
According to Fox News, the Defense Department has lost its ability to monitor the location of $500 million in weapons, aircraft and equipment donated to the country by the U.S.
Well-placed congressional sources confirmed that the matter has been discussed on Capitol Hill with Pentagon officials. Sources said the Defense Department lost track of the weapons after the sudden withdrawal from the embassy in the Yemeni capital of Sanaa last month.
It is unclear how much and what kind of weapons are missing, but public sources suggest $500 million is a reasonable estimate based on open source reporting on the “Section 1206” train and equip program, and arms to Yemen authorized through Congress in the last few years.
Yemen’s government was overthrown in January by Houthi rebels, who are backed by the Iranian government and have been critical of U.S. drone strikes in the country.
Rebels have occupied many military bases in the northern part of Yemen, while al Qaeda recently took over a base in the south, meaning that equipment could potentially have been secured by either group.
A U.S. defense official told The Washington Post that there was no hard evidence that U.S. arms or equipment had been looted or confiscated, but conceded the Pentagon had lost track of the items.
“We have to assume it’s completely compromised and gone,” a legislative aide on Capitol Hill was quoted as saying.
Tikrit: Iran’s strategy to take Iraq
One of the latest offensives in Iraq against the Islamic State has seen the terrorist group forced out of one of its key cities: Tikrit. This event should be carefully analyzed because it highlights a key role in the shifting balance of power in Iraq.
Tikrit is situated on the bank of the Tigris River, 87 miles north of Baghdad. The largely evacuated city had been under Islamic State control since June last year. The attempt to retake the city was a test to see how effective an assault would be on Islamic State-controlled Mosul—an Iraqi city that is ten times larger.
Iraqi military forces, Sunni tribesmen and Shiite militias entered Tikrit on March 10, marking the start of one of the nation’s largest efforts to wrest control from the Islamic State. The Tikrit offensive highlights far more than just the effectiveness of a future attack on Mosul. It highlights Iran’s strategy to replace Islamic State jurisdiction with its own.
Since the Islamic State first took control of northern Iraq, Iran has been slowly upping its activity within the nation. First there were skirmishes and air raids along the Iran-Iraq border, which were given an international free pass when Iran claimed it was defending itself. Then Iran began defending Shiite holy places, and eventually Shiite towns. Shiite forces were grouped, trained, equipped and led by Iranian forces. This string of successes led to more Shiites flocking to Iranian militias.
A look at Tikrit shows who actually captured the city.
Media reports say “Iraqi forces” took the city, but this could mislead one to think that it was Iraq’s American-trained security forces. While they played a part, it was far from crucial. Only 3,000 Iraqi security forces joined the assault, along with 1,000 Sunni tribal militias. But there were 20,000 Shiite militiamen, all from the group called the Popular Mobilization Force—Iranian owned and operated.
This group is led by Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis—a man listed by the United States government as a specially designated global terrorist. He is an adviser to Qassem Suleimani, the commander of Iran’s Quds Force—which is also a terrorist group. Suleimani is reportedly visiting the battlefront in Tikrit to oversee the operation personally. The Quds Force supplied ample manpower for the retaking of Iraq, and it has the generals to control it.
But the obvious omission from the attack is the United States. There were no U.S. airstrikes or U.S. forces involved. Some may count this as a win. After all, dislodging the Islamic State is now key to the U.S.’s Middle Eastern policy. And now it is being done systematically with minimal U.S. loss.
But while the U.S. has always striven to create an Iraqi military that can stand on its own, that is not what we see today. What we see is the rise of Iranian militias, backed and sponsored by the world’s numberone state sponsor of terror. Look at Tikrit. Look at who has been doing the fighting. Look at who is leading the assault. It is not Iraqi security forces; it is not America—it is Iran.
If the Islamic State terrorists are routed, they will just be replaced by another radical terrorist group.
When the Sunni Islamic State took control, it slaughtered Shiites and turned many into refugees. Now the Sunnis are being ousted and replaced by radical Shiites.
Anyone who wonders what the Shiites are capable of doing should just look across the Middle East. Iran’s Shiite Quds Force leads terrorists across Iran’s Shia crescent from Lebanon to Afghanistan. It has orchestrated attack after bloody attack, even against U.S. forces. There are already reports of Shiites slaughtering Sunnis in the regained towns taken by Suleimani and his cohorts. Amnesty International released a report claiming that Shiite militias were abducting and killing Sunni civilians in response to Islamic State attacks.
The report mentioned one account where an undercover Amnesty International worker recorded a Shiite guard at a checkpoint who said, “If we catch those Sunnis coming down from the Tikrit area, we execute them. In those areas they are all working with the Islamic State.” Even during the offensive into Tikrit, many of the Shiite militias viewed the operation as revenge for the slaughter of over 1,000 Shiite fighters last year who died when the Islamic State arrived. Many blame the Sunnis for either not intervening or worse, for endorsing the slaughter.
Now the Shiites have their chance for revenge as they consolidate their influence in Iraq. Sunnis have complained about their mistreatment by the pro-Iranian government for years. It has kept the sectarian violence simmering throughout the U.S. occupation. But the U.S. is now gone, and can no longer play the role of mediator. Instead, Iran is working to settle the dispute by overthrowing the Sunni strongholds. The Islamic State has provided Iran the perfect excuse.
Iran’s effort to replace the Islamic State with Shiite forces is a terrifying prospect. The world is all too glad to see the atrocities of the Islamic State brought to an end, but at what cost?
U.S. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey summed it up well when he said:
Israeli President Benjamin Netanyahu said it even better in his speech to Congress in March:
The difference is that [the Islamic State] is armed with butcher knives, captured weapons and YouTube, whereas Iran could soon be armed with intercontinental ballistic missiles and nuclear bombs. We must always remember—I’ll say it one more time—the greatest dangers facing our world is the marriage of militant Islam with nuclear weapons. To defeat [the Islamic State] and let Iran get nuclear weapons would be to win the battle, but lose the war.
Some are now waking up to the fact that we may be replacing the Islamic State with an even more radical power. But recognition of Iran as a danger won’t stop it. The U.S. has already allowed Iran to get involved and gain the allegiance and support of Iraq’s Shiites. Iraq’s government now also owes a great debt of gratitude to the Iranians, whose forces are now driving back the Islamic State.
For years, the Trumpet has forecast the rise of Iran in the Middle East. Two decades ago, Iraq was the dominant power in the region, not Iran. But go back and read our booklet The King of the South. Even in the early ’90s when Iran had little strength compared to its neighbor, we warned that Iran would rise to power.
Take a look at Iran today: Iranian-led Shiites have just swarmed through Tikrit. More Islamic State targets are likely to fall. Undoubtedly Mosul is shifting into the crosshairs. What happened in Tikrit highlights Iran’s plan: Rout and replace. Keep a close eye on Iraq, because the more territory the Islamic State loses, the more Iran gains. ▪
Instability in Hadramout continues unabated
Il movimento secessionista del Sud, Herak, continua a rimanere fermo nella sua richiesta di autodeterminazione e secessione, con una persistente campagna di disobbedienza civile che ogni settimana – ad Aden, Mualla, Mukalla e Lahji – viene repressa con la forza dalle armi. Nella provincia di Abyan e di Hadramout il quadro appare ancora più complesso, con i militanti di al-Qaeda nella Penisola Araba che mantengono alta la pressione sull’autorità centrale con attacchi quotidiani di cui è la popolazione locale in definitiva a pagarne il prezzo finale.
SANA’A, Dec. 4—New reports of armed clashes between state forces and alleged Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) emerged Wednesday morning in the Ghail Bawzeer district in Hadramout, according to officials. There were no reported deaths or injuries.
There are security personnel stationed all over the governorate, the Interior Ministry previously told the Yemen Times.
In Ghail Bawzeer, residents have been warned not to go out at night, said Mohammed Bawzeer, the editor-in-chief of the local Shibam Public Newspaper.
“Residents are dissatisfied with the presence of armed men and security forces. There is panic because of repetitive clashes and shootings,” he said.
“The entirety of Hadramout is tense,” said Colonel Hussein Hashim, the security manager of Sayoun in Hadramout.
A security analyst, Mohammed Al-Khalid, said efforts toward an ongoing security campaign in Hadramout will not be successful because it’s not comprehensive. He says those targeted by it—mostly AQAP affiliates—will continue to jump from one area to the next.
Elsewhere in the governorate, in the aftermath of a security campaign in Al-Shehr city that began two weeks ago, dozens of houses were destroyed. The city remains under a 9:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m. curfew.
Markets close at 7:00 p.m., Mohammed Al-Qahoom, a local resident said. Everyone is doing their shopping in the morning, he added.
On Monday in Sayoun, another believed AQAP stronghold in Hadramout, Sheikh Sad Bin Harish, the head of Hadramout’s tribal federation in Sayoun, was killed by state forces at a checkpoint right outside the city.
According to local officials, Harish, who was travelling with bodyguards refused to hand over weapons his convoy was carrying at the checkpoint. Officials say Harish’s men fired first and a gun battle ensued. Seven, including Harish, were killed in the clashes and four injured, according to Hashim.
The Defense Ministry’s website published a statement immediately following the incident, saying that Habrish was a member of Al-Qaeda. Later, the ministry retracted the statement and apologized to tribes in Hadramout.
But as many predicted it seems Habrish’s fellow tribesmen may seek revenge against the state for his death.
Hashim said the situation in the city remains tense and that security forces are expecting armed men in the area to mobilize.
Sabri Masoud, the head of Haq Organization for Human Rights in Seyon, said security forces have withdrawn from four security checkpoints to avoid clashes. Hashim did not confirm this. But, Masoud says tribesmen are coming from districts outside of Sayoun to avenge the sheikh’s death.
“They are coming to Seyon to agree on how to respond to Habrish’s murder,” he said.
Source Yemen Times