Tag Archives: Qatar

Losing in Yemen, Winning in Afghanistan, Islamic State Weighs in on Arab-Israeli Peace

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 22 August 2020

Al-Naba 248

The Islamic State (IS) produced the 248th edition of Al-Naba, its newsletter, on 20 August. The front page was devoted to recent events in Yemen, which had not gone well for IS—although one could easily miss that fact when reading a story that a focuses almost entirely on enemy casualties and the failures of others. IS is, of course, not pleased about the Israeli normalisation of relations with the United Arab Emirates, but Al-Naba makes clear that it is more perturbed that Muslims should believe Turkey or Qatar are any better than the U.A.E., despite their different approach to Islamists. Al-Naba 248 documents IS’s continuing advances in Afghanistan—and, indeed, Iraq, Syria, Africa (the Sahel), and Egypt. There is also a report of insurgent activity in the Philippines. Continue reading

Islamic State Spokesman Addresses Coronavirus, Expansion in Africa, and Qatar

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 28 May 2020

After trailing the release yesterday, an audio statement from the Islamic State (IS) spokesman, Abu Hamza al-Qurayshi, was published by Al-Furqan Foundation today. It is entitled, “And the Disbelievers Will Know Who Gets the Good End”, i.e. heaven. The title is taken from a sura of the Qur’an [Ra’d (13):42]. The speech gloated about the damage the coronavirus has done to the West, presenting it as God’s revenge for the Coalition dislodging IS from the cities it had occupied in Iraq, Syria, Libya, and elsewhere. There is the usual focus on anti-IS Sunnis in Iraq and Syria, who are warned that the U.S. is pulling back, thus those who bet on the U.S. for protection need to reassess or they will be killed. The two most significant parts of the speech are: (1) its focus on IS’s expansion in Africa, a visible fact for some time now, and the competition with Al-Qaeda in that area; and (2) the closing few minutes where Abu Hamza agitates against Qatar, a state that IS has never bothered with before in its messaging.
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Trump’s Middle East Failure Was Made By Obama

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 19 November 2019

President Barack Obama meeting President-elect Donald Trump, 10 November 2016 [image source]

October 2019 may well remain in the popular memory as the inflection point marking the collapse of America’s — and by extension, the West’s — position in at least the northern Middle East. Having been thwarted twice before in efforts to leave Syria, in March and December 2018, President Donald Trump made one more try. For many, ‘Trump betrayed the Kurds’ will be the summary of the events that followed as Turkey made a swift move into the vacuum. The reality is a lot more complicated, and in truth the amount of blame that Trump can take for the events of the last month is rather limited. This catastrophe was baked into the policy of Barack Obama, and Trump’s main fault is to have followed the policy track laid down by his predecessor. Continue reading

The Memoir of a British Spy in Al-Qaeda

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 8 July 2019

The main issue with that Nine Lives has to overcome is the one that has attended Aimen Dean (a pseudonym) since he went public in March 2015 with an interview he gave to the BBC, claiming he had been a British spy within Al-Qaeda between 1998 and 2006. That issue is overcoming the doubts about his story. Nine Lives goes a long way to solving this by bringing in Paul Cruickshank, the editor-in-chief of CTC Sentinel, one of the premier academic resources in the terrorism field, and Tim Lister, a terrorism-focused journalist with CNN, as co-authors. As well as helping structure the book from Dean’s memories, the two co-authors note they had been able to “corroborate key details” that convinced them: “In the years immediately leading up to and following 9/11, Aimen Dean was by far the most important spy the West had inside al-Qaeda”. Continue reading

Stick or Twist: Israel’s Referendum on Netanyahu

Published at The Arab Weekly

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 31 March 2019

An Orthodox Jewish man looking at Israeli election campaign posters in Jerusalem, 27 March 2019 // Reuters

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was in attendance on 25 March when President Donald Trump signed the order recognising Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights, but had to leave soon after a rocket from Gaza hit a house north of Tel Aviv. These events—and other regional developments—are taking place less than two weeks from Israeli elections, where Netanyahu is neck-and-neck with his challenger. Continue reading

The Folly of Trying to Buy Assad’s Loyalty From Iran

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 5 February 2019

Bashar al-Assad meeting Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, Damascus, Syria, 3 September 2018 // SANA handout to REUTERS

The Syrian regime of Bashar al Assad has nearly collapsed twice under pressure from the armed insurrection, in late 2012 and early 2015. On both occasions, Assad was rescued by outside powers, first Iran and then a joint Iranian-Russian operation. It has been a recurring illusion that there is or will be, a strategic split between Russia and Iran. This prospect has continued to tantalise the US and others, and occasional Moscow-Tehran disagreements are presented as evidence that dynamics are shifting this way. Another round of such speculation is currently underway. Continue reading

What Would a Benny Gantz Administration Be Like for Israel?

Published at The Arab Weekly

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 3 February 2019

Benny Gantz, Binyamin Netanyahu [image source]

Benny Gantz, a former head of the Israel Defence Forces, opened his campaign for prime minister on January 29 with a speech setting out his programme. Gantz was swiftly denounced by Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu as a “leftist” but there is no sign of that in what is known of Gantz and for good reason. Continue reading

The Turkey-Saudi Rivalry for America’s Attention

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 29 October 2018

The Turkish government’s recent record in foreign policy is hardly a success story. It is therefore noteworthy that, so far, Ankara has handled the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi with a singular deftness. Whether Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan can see this through is now the key question. Continue reading

Turkey’s Upcoming Foreign Policy Challenges

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 12 July 2018

American troops look out toward the border with Turkey from a small outpost near the town of Minbij, 7 Feb. 2018 (AP Photo/Susannah George)

As Turkey moves past last month’s election, the foreign policy challenges remain acute, particularly in Syria, and there is a looming confrontation with the United States over sanctions on Iran that might undo the recent progress toward the normalisation of U.S.-Turkish relations. Continue reading

Rebel-Turned-Jihadist Saddam al-Jamal Reported Captured

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 10 May 2018

Saddam al-Jamal after his capture, 9 May 2018 (image source)

Saddam al-Jamal, born in al-Bukamal, a town near the Iraqi border in Syria’s the Deir Ezzor province, became a prominent example of a rebel against Bashar al-Asad’s regime who joined the Islamic State in 2013. It has now reported that al-Jamal has been arrested by the Iraqi government after an operation involving Turkey and the United States lured him into a trap. Continue reading