Category Archives: Iran

The Passing of Hizballah’s Old Guard

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on May 15, 2016

Hizballah's military commander (2008-2015) Mustafa Amine Badreddine

Hizballah’s military commander (2008-2015) Mustafa Amine Badreddine

Mustafa Badreddine, the military commander of Hizballah, was announced killed in Syria on 13 May. This is the third major casualty of the founding generation: Imad Mughniyeh, Badreddine’s predecessor and also his cousin and brother-in-law (Mughniyeh married Saada, Badreddine’s sister), was killed in February 2008 in Damascus in an operation led by MOSSAD and supported by the CIA, and Hassan al-Laqqis, who had become one of the Party of God’s military officials in Syria, was gunned down outside his home in Beirut in December 2013. For all the speculation about “Ahrar al-Sunna Baalbek Brigade” and its links to Kataib Abdullah Azzam and al-Qaeda—or Saudi intelligence, as Hassan Nasrallah had it—the likeliest suspect was never in doubt. Hizballah has also lost other senior and propagandistically important men like Samir Kuntar, who was killed in an explosion in Damascus in December 2015. Again, however, there seemed little doubt—even from Hizballah—that Israel had done this. Continue reading

Barack Obama Comes Clean

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on March 11, 2016
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Yesterday, Jeffrey Goldberg’s latest interview with President Obama was published. There have been numerous worthwhile takes on what is a very revealing conversation, such as Max Boot and Nibras Kazimi, and it is very difficult to quarrel with the conclusion of David Frum that “the dominant theme of these interviews is that we, all of us, have grievously let down the president,” who has exactly one self-criticism: “Obama admits he does not make sufficient allowances for how unreasonable other people are.” What I think deserves most attention is that the President has finally aligned his rhetoric, especially on Iran, with his actual foreign policy. Continue reading

Another Legacy of the Bosnian Jihad

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on February 5, 2016

Mirsad Bektašević

Mirsad Bektašević (2005)

I recently wrote about the jihad in Bosnia. This much-neglected aspect of the war in the 1990s was crucial in shaping al-Qaeda, and global jihadism more broadly, providing this movement, and Clerical Iran, with a staging post in Europe, not least because Tehran’s spy-terrorist capabilities had been deployed to bring many of the jihadists into the country and train them in the first place. While Islamist militancy and terrorism were brought to Bosnia largely as imports, their entry was facilitated by the Party of Democratic Action (SDA), the ruling party to this day. While the war itself trained many jihadist “graduates,” almost all of whom were allowed to stay (or at least received Bosnian passports that gave them that right), the entry of extremist charities/missionaries to lead the rebuilding, many of them bankrolled by Saudi Arabia, entrenched the jihadists and spread their form of Islam in Bosnia after the war. As such, Bosnia became a hospitable operating environment for Islamist recruitment and training and both veterans of the war and people radicalized in Bosnia since have continued to show up in the ranks of international terrorism. It is of interest, therefore, to have an important old case re-emerge in a new way in the last few days, that of Mirsad Bektašević, which again highlighted Bosnia’s importance in the formulation of the infrastructure that underpins the jihadi-Salafist movement, the less-than-clear division between al-Qaeda and the Islamic State (IS) when it comes to the European facilitation networks, and the dangers of seeing Iran as a partner in stability. Continue reading

The Iranian Nuclear Deal and North Korea

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on January 18, 2016

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In the last few days, the international sanctions against the Islamic Republic of Iran’s nuclear program were lifted, which will allow Tehran access to $30 billion immediately and more than $100 billion will become available in short order. There are many fears about the uses Iran will put this money to, whether on the nuclear program itself, in aiding Iran’s imperial policy in the region, now proceeding with assistance from Russia, or perhaps exporting terrorism further abroad. An under-examined potential use of this money, highlighted by new sanctions the United States applied to Iran over its ballistic missile program, is to purchase weapons from North Korea. Pyongyang has already conducted what it claims is a hydrogen bomb test this year; fuelled by Iranian money the Hermit Kingdom might yet make more trouble for its neighbours and beyond. Continue reading

In Syria, Russia and Iran Reap the Harvest of Obama’s Failed Foreign Policy

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) and James Snell on October 1, 2015

Published at National Review.

Aftermath of a Russian airstrike against U.S.-supported moderate rebels in Talbiseh, Homs (AP)

Aftermath of a Russian airstrike against U.S.-supported moderate rebels in Talbiseh, Homs (AP)

The situation in Syria could hardly get more desperate. With more than half the population displaced and 300,000 people dead, the civil war in Syria is the greatest humanitarian disaster of our time. But Syria is also a profound challenge to the American-underwritten geopolitical order that aspires toward free institutions and representative rule. As a direct consequence of policies pursued by the Obama administration, Iran and Russia, two enemies of this order, have taken their chance to assert their dominance. Continue reading

Iran’s Partnership with al-Qaeda and Unanswered Questions

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on September 19, 2015

Imad Mughniyeh and Osama bin Laden

Imad Mughniyeh and Osama bin Laden

The Islamic Republic of Iran released five senior al-Qaeda terrorists in March, ostensibly as part of a prisoner exchange for an Iranian diplomat kidnapped in Yemen by al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). But the murky circumstances in which al-Qaeda’s leaders were “held” in Iran and other inconsistencies cast some doubt on this version of events, and draw attention to some old questions about Iran’s support for al-Qaeda and its affiliates and offshoots. Continue reading

Britain’s New Syria Policy Concedes to Iran and Russia—and Keeps Assad in Power

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on September 11, 2015

Published at Left Foot Forward

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On 9 September the British government announced a new plan for dealing with Syria and the Islamic State (ISIS):

  1. Airstrikes when necessary into Syria to destroy the leadership of ISIS;
  1. Buttressing the Iraqi government in its fight with ISIS;
  1. Dropping the demand that Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad step aside immediately and instead allowing Assad to lead a transition, in order that Russia and Iran will agree to Assad going at all.

All three parts of this plan push in a pro-Iran direction, and strengthen Assad. Continue reading