Monthly Archives: January 2018

Why The Obama Doctrine Failed

Film review of The Final Year (2018)

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 31 January 2018

The Final Year, a new documentary film directed by Greg Barker, tracks the closing stages of the administration of President Barack Obama in 2016. Senior officials are followed and interviewed, and the White House is watched as it tries to react to daily events. Much of the substance contained in the film was knowable in real time, but it is very useful to have these officials on record—on video, no less—explaining the assumptions and thought processes they were operating with as they made decisions that led to a series of such intense disasters around the world. This is especially interesting since the ripple effects from these catastrophes ultimately set the conditions for the election of Donald Trump and dismantling of much of the Obama legacy. Continue reading

Al-Qaeda Gives its Verdict on the “Arab Spring” Seven Years On

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 28 January 2018

Al-Qaeda’s leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri, made a speech on 26 January 2018, entitled, “After Seven Years Where Is the Deliverance?” The speech built the case that the “Arab spring” uprisings failed because they tried to make changes within the framework of the nation-state, to be incremental, and to make accommodations with the fallen regimes, rather than radical “purification” by launching coordinated jihadist revolutions that respected no frontier, violently uprooted the old order, and implemented the shari’a. An English transcript of the speech was released by al-Qaeda’s As-Sahab Media station and is reproduced below. Continue reading

American Intelligence Acknowledges Anti-ISIS Coalition’s Kurdish Partner is a Terrorist Group

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 27 January 2018

YPG/YPJ fighters raise the banner of the PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan in Raqqa city on 19 October 2017 (YPG Press Office)

The Central Intelligence Agency has publicly recognized that the Kurdish partner force the United States-led Coalition against the Islamic State (IS) has been working with in Syria is a subsidiary of the terrorist-designated Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). Continue reading

When Iran Saved Al-Qaeda

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 24 January 2018

The new book by the investigative journalists Adrian Levy and Catherine Scott-Clark, The Exile: The Flight of Osama bin Laden, charts the career of al-Qaeda’s founder, Osama bin Laden, up to the day he became a household name—11 September 2001—through his downfall in 2011, to the end of 2016, when al-Qaeda was more powerful than ever. It is a thoroughly absorbing account, bringing to light vast tranches of new facts, including many intricate details of how al-Qaeda operated on a human, day-to-day level, and of those states and para-states that shielded the terror network, collaborated with it, and enabled it—and still do.

The gathering of the Bin Laden network in Sudan and then in the Taliban-held areas of Afghanistan in the 1990s is a familiar story, but the splits and debates among the Arab jihadists around Bin Laden, including the opposition of significant numbers of them to the 9/11 massacre, is perhaps less well known. The authors trace out how Bin Laden manipulated his own quasi-institutions to get his way. First, Bin Laden took on the plan of a man, Khalid Shaykh Muhammad (KSM), who was not even a member of al-Qaeda, and then, ahead of the crucial vote, packed the shura (consultation) council with ultra-zealous Egyptians by engineering a merger between al-Qaeda and Islamic Jihad, led by Ayman al-Zawahiri. Continue reading

Turkey’s Afrin Offensive and Russia’s Policy in Syria

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 21 January 2018

Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, threatened on Jan. 13 to begin a military operation “in about a week ” to evict Kurdish militants from Afrin in northwestern Syria. Erdoğan has repeatedly threatened to “cleanse ” Afrin of the fighters over the last two years. It turned out he really meant it this time: on Jan. 20 Turkey commenced Operation Olive Branch against Afrin.

Kurdish forces, affiliated with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), have constituted an important element of the Coalition’s ground force in Syria against the Islamic State (ISIS) since late 2014, expanding their “Rojava” statelet by capturing vast swathes of territory from ISIS in northern and eastern Syria that is connected to Afrin under a deal with the pro-regime coalition—Bashar al-Assad, Iran, and Russia.

Any Turkish government would see this situation as a threat, and be angry at the United States for supporting the Kurds. The PKK regards Rojava and the ruling Democratic Union Party (PYD) as strategic elements in its long war against the Turkish state. Indeed, Kurds in Rojava have already provided at least logistical support for PKK attacks inside Turkey. Continue reading

Al-Qaeda Attacks The Legitimacy of the Saudi Regime

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 18 January 2018

The son of al-Qaeda’s founder, Hamza Usama bin Ladin, released a short, twelve-minute speech earlier today, the fourth episode of “Sovereignty of the Best of Nations Is In the Uprising of the People of the Haram”. Hamza root-and-branch condemns the legitimacy of the Saudi monarchy as founded on a pact with a disbelieving state, Britain. An English translation of the speech was released by al-Qaeda’s as-Sahab Media and is reproduced below. Continue reading

Former Al-Qaeda Group Continues Its Efforts To Annex The Syrian Revolution

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 17 January 2018

Ahmad al-Shara (Abu Muhammad al-Jolani), the leader of the Syrian jihadi group, Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), released an audio speech, entitled, “Their Plot Will Not Harm You At All” or “Not The Least Harm Will Their Cunning Do To You” [Ali Imran (3): 120], on 16 January 2018. The speech is a continuation of themes HTS—even under its previous names, Jabhat al-Nusra and Jabhat Fatah al-Sham—has used, namely that it saw through the “peace processes” from the beginning as a conspiracy against the revolution, and that only it has the will and capacity to fulfil the desires of those Syrians who want to be free of Bashar al-Asad’s tyrannical regime. The recent insurgent counter-offensive in Idlib is taken by HTS as vindication, and as an opportunity to draw what’s left of the northern rebellion out of Turkey’s orbit and under its influence. A pro-HTS Telegram channel put out a transcript of the speech, which is reproduced below with some syntactical edits.
Continue reading

Islamic State Newsletter Tells the Story of Transition Between Statehood and Insurgency

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 13 January 2018

Islamic State, Wilayat al-Baraka, fighting north of al-Jafra with PKK, 14 October 2017

The Islamic State’s (IS) tactical behaviour, particularly its attitude toward the holding of territory, has become a centrally important matter recently with the destruction of the “caliphate” and IS’s reversion to insurgency. Continue reading

Al-Qaeda Encourages Jihadi Unity, Says Syria Is The Central Front In Its War

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 11 January 2018

Al-Qaeda’s General Command issued a statement on 8 January 2018, entitled, “And it is Due from Us to Aid Those Who Believe”. The statement is reproduced below. Continue reading

The Islamic State Was Engaged in Insurgency Long Before the Caliphate Collapsed

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 11 January 2018

Al-Naba 43, page 3

The Islamic State (IS) brought out the forty-third edition of Al-Naba, its newsletter, on 16 August 2016. On page 3 was an article that made reference to IS’s insurgent activities, which had already begun in areas it had lost. A rough copy is reproduced below.

At that time this article was published, IS was on the verge of losing Minbij, and had issued statements in May 2016 and June saying that the loss of the caliphate would not be the end of the group. By early 2017, IS’s insurgent operations were visibly mature, long before the formal declaration in October 2017 that IS was giving up its statelet and recommencing all-out insurgency. Continue reading