Rebels from the Justice Brigade
This article was originally published by the Middle East Institute on 14 February 2014.
Osama bin Laden may be dead, but his ghost was in Riyadh the other day, hovering over Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah as he issued a decree making it a crime for any Saudi citizen to take part in a war outside the kingdom.
The obvious motivator was the civil war in Syria, where hundreds of young Saudis have been spotted in the ranks of the most radical jihadi groups battling both the government and other less extreme rebels. But the roots of the king’s action, and the problem it was designed to address, can be traced to the 1980s war against the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. » More
Photo: thierry ehrmann/Wikimedia Commons.
The denial that seems to have characterized most of American and European leaders’ assessment of the status of al Qaeda over the last three years seems to be over. Last week two of America’s top intelligence officials openly stated before Congress that the group is morphing, franchising and expanding its reach globally. Similarly, John Sawers, the head of MI6, recently told the British Parliament that “We are having to deal with al Qaeda emerging and multiplying in a whole new range of countries. There is no doubt at all that the threat is rising.”
These assessments are completely different from the tunes heard just a year ago on both sides of the Atlantic. The narrative touting al Qaeda’s demise took shape in Western capitals in early 2011. The first months of the so-called Arab Spring made Western observers swoon with hope at the sight of thousands of demonstrators throughout the Arab world fighting for democracy and adopting none of al Qaeda’s ideas and slogans. Al Qaeda’s message, they argued, had been defeated and the democracies that would rise from the ashes of the authoritarian regimes of Mubarak, Ben Ali, and Ghaddafi would push Arabs and Muslims further away from it. » More
Graffiti displaying the word “Hamas”. Photo: Soman/Wikimedia Commons.
Editor’s Note: This article is included in our ‘Conflict Hotspots 2014’ dossier which can be accessed here .
Born of a common struggle against Israel and nourished by common benefactors in Syria and Iran, Sunni Hamas and Shiite Hezbollah have long been natural allies despite their sectarian differences. Ever since the early 1990s, when Israel exiled Hamas’ leadership to Lebanon, the two groups have cultivated an alliance that has shaped the Middle East’s balance of power for decades.
But the crisis in Syria has ruptured the old “axis of resistance,” with regional forces giving the two organizations opposing stakes in the conflict and bringing unprecedented tension to their relationship. While Hezbollah fighters have fought and died for Bashar al-Assad in some of the civil war’s fiercest battles, Hamas has thrown in its lot with the rebels and retreated deeper into the embrace of Sunni Islamist powers in the region. » More
Photo: United States Navy/Wikimedia Commons.
A recent ISN blog by Owen Frazer highlighted the implications of the post-9/11 ‘Financial War on Terror’ for civil society groups as they grapple with the vulnerability global authorities believe they represent in the struggle against terrorism. But there is a third, critical party in this field that is not often contemplated from a security perspective, namely the Financial Services Industry (‘FSI’).
Following 9/11, the first step of the Bush administration’s ‘War on Terror’ was to sign Executive Order 13224, which aimed to launch ‘a strike on the financial foundation of the global terror network’ in order to ‘starve the terrorists of funding.’ This assault was led by the Financial Action Task Force (‘FATF’), a body originally set up in 1989 to co-ordinate a global response to the laundering of drug money through the banking system. Adding counter-terrorist financing (CTF) to the mandate of the FATF seemed logical at the time, and the Task Force expanded its original 40 Recommendations to include 9 Special Recommendations focused on CTF. These additional recommendations were recently revised and amalgamated to create a new set of 40 Special Recommendations. In effect, this regime has led global authorities to delegate the frontline implementation of CTF policies to the FSI. » More