Tag Archives: Saudi Arabia

Al-Qaeda Calls for Foreign Attacks, Prioritizes Jews and Americans

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 14 May 2017

The son of al-Qaeda’s founder, Hamza Usama bin Ladin, released a speech on 13 May 2017, “Advice for Martyrdom-Seekers in the West”. The speech took the form of a ten-minute video released by As-Sahab, which was noticeably better in quality than al-Qaeda’s recent produce. The video opened by praising Sayyid Nusayr, and then included picture tributes in the background as Hamza spoke to some past jihadist attackers: Nidal Malik Hasan, Ramzi Yusef, Arid Uka, Ayman Hasan, Sulayman Khater, Mohammed Bouyeri. Michael Adebolajo, Michael Adebowale, and Mevlut Mert Altintas. An English translation of the speech is posted below, with some explanatory notes added and key sections highlighted in bold. Continue reading

Islamic State Prepares for Retreat, Calls for Foreign Terrorism

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on May 23, 2016

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Taha Falaha (Abu Muhammad al-Adnani) is the governor Islamic State-held territory in Syria and oversees the foreign attacks, a roster of duties which indicates that Falaha so powerful that he is effectively the caliph’s deputy after the demise of Abd al-Rahman al-Qaduli (Abu Ali al-Anbari) in March. Falaha is also IS’s official spokesman, and on 21 May 2016 he gave a very significant speech entitled, “That They Live By Proof”. The speech, released by Al-Hayat Media Centre, is reproduced below with some minor alterations in transliteration, some important sections highlighted in bold, and some notes added for explanation.

Falaha made three major points. First, Falaha was especially adamant that territorial control by IS should not be considered a measure of IS’s success: it lost all urban holdings and went into the deserts last time, after the strategic defeat in 2008, but it held to its cause and America withdrew, and this ideological cohesiveness and determination led it to be more powerful than ever within five years. Second, Falaha made use of the savage conduct of the coalition made up of the Assad regime, Iran, and Russia—and the Western indifference to same—to argue for Sunnis to see IS as a protective barrier against such sectarian foes. And, third, Falaha called for foreign attacks by Western Muslims, saying that if IS’s loyalists were unable to journey to IS-held areas this should not be considered a problem since attacks in the West are “more beloved to [IS] than the biggest act done [within the caliphate]”. 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

From Bosnia to Guantanamo

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on January 23, 2016

War cemetery in Sarajevo (personal picture, July 2011)

War cemetery in Sarajevo (personal picture, July 2011)

It was announced on Thursday that Guantanamo inmates Tariq Mahmoud Ahmed as-Sawah and Abd al-Aziz Abduh Abdallah Ali as-Suwaydi had been transferred to Bosnia and Montenegro respectively. Sawah’s path to jihadi-Salafism allows a window into the Bosnian jihad, a much-underestimated factor in shaping al-Qaeda, its offshoots, and the wider Islamist movement. In that story is an examination of the role certain States have played in funding and otherwise helping the jihadists. It also leaves some questions about whether emptying Guantanamo of its dangerous inhabitants is the correct policy. Continue reading

Is Turkey Responsible for the Islamic State?

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on December 20, 2015

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Turkey concluded its biggest investigation to date into Islamic State (IS) operatives on its territory on Friday, and blacklisted sixty-seven people. This provides a good moment to review what Turkey’s role has been in the rise of IS, especially amid the escalating accusations from Russia that Turkey is significantly responsible for financing IS. The reality is that while Turkish policy has, by commission and omission, made IS stronger than it would otherwise have been, so has Russia’s policy—and Russia’s policy was far more cynical than Turkey’s, deliberately intended empower extremists to discredit the rebellion against Bashar al-Assad. Turkey’s focus on bringing down Assad and Ankara’s fear of Kurdish autonomy led it into these policies and now—having seemingly found the will to act to uproot IS’s infrastructure on Turkish territory—there is the problem of actually doing so, when IS can (and has) struck inside Turkey. The concerns about these external funding mechanisms for IS, while doubtless important, obscure the larger problem: IS’s revenue is overwhelmingly drawn from the areas it controls and only removing those areas of control can deny IS its funds. Continue reading

As Syria’s Opposition Tries To Unite, Prospects For Peace Recede

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on December 9, 2015

A version of this article was published at Middle East Eye.

A rebel fighter from the Free Syrian Army's

A rebel fighter from the Free Syrian Army’s “First Battalion” takes part in military training on May 4, 2015, in rebel-held northern Rif Aleppo. (AFP, Baraa al-Halabi)

The Syrian opposition is meeting in Saudi Arabia between December 8 and 10 in an attempt to create a unified structure that can credibly sit across the table from the Bashar al-Assad regime in the internationally-organised peace talks in Vienna, and make a binding commitment on the path forward for Syria. Continue reading