Mokhtar Belmokhtar, leader of Algerian insurgency-terror network, is thought dead, listed as missing
Translated today by our Mideastwire.com (a free trial via firstname.lastname@example.org)
“On April 19, the daily El-Watan said: “Intelligence services in three countries think Mokhtar Belmokhtar, the instigator of the hostage situation in Tinguentourine in January 2013, is dead; but the most wanted North African jihadist leader is “a missing person” for the time being due to lack of evidence. While rumours of his death – by poison – have been circulating for the last few weeks, Algerian, Malian and Niger’s intelligence services have classified Belmokhtar as “missing”. “We have strong assumptions about his death but we cannot confirm it until we see the corpse or at least obtain three testimonials that corroborate the facts,” a military source explained. “For us a terrorist is either ‘gunned down’, or ‘alive and wanted’ or ‘missing’.” What are the doubts over the Algerian jihadist’s death? “Even if we don’t know where a terrorist is, there are always testimonials from his entourage saying they saw him at some point. In this case, no member of the Barabiche tribes has flagged him since mid-March,” the source added…” [read on at http://www.mideastwire.com
Al-Akhbar report says there are two trends in the Aounist camp that are set to seperate in the future
An interesting article: http://www.al-akhbar.com/node/230870
After ten years of denying it, Michael Young finally sees that building up Lebanese Army could provide a critical dynamic in process to undermine/contain Hezbollah
Surprised but welcome nevertheless. I just wish Mike Young had seen the strength of this approach in the critical cedar revolution years, especially in 2005-2006 when he and others encouraged a far more aggressive, direct confrontational approach that proved to be a disaster. From the National here:
“…Not much will change in the short term between Hizbollah and the army. A confrontation is improbable. But with Lebanon so divided over the war in Syria, most Lebanese believe the army alone is capable of containing domestic unrest. This comes as Hizbollah’s fealty to Iran is bitterly contested, which means the party can no longer defend its weapons as a national need.
Will Hizbollah willingly dissolve itself as a militia? Definitely not, but with the presence of an increasingly credible Lebanese army backed by a popular consensus, the party will find it more and more difficult to justify an independent militia that refuses to recognise the ultimate authority of the state.”
Amid all of the violent breakdowns, role reversals and unlikely alliances expanding across the Middle East in recent years, sudden shifts in public rhetoric – absent immediate actions on the ground – between various actors can seem far less important.
However, when it comes to the unprecedented “war of words” between the Saudi royal family and Hezbollah of late (a war that was operative at Hizbullah’s inception, was veiled even when KSA probably tried to assassinate Fadlallah, and then began to arise in late 2013 – and which is deeply tied to common Iranian perceptions), we would all do well to pay close attention for this new stage may signal a qualitative escalation, perhaps even a “tipping point,” in the ongoing sectarian battles that, alongside a multitude of other conflicts, is leading the region to even greater death, destruction and hopelessness.
Despite the “pause” today in the battle over Yeman – and it is likely just a pause – Hizbullah seems to have shifted it’s understanding of and/or public stance over the next stage in the region – this is apparent from Nasrallah’s speeches and private discussions with Hizbullah officials here in beirut. Yes, it may just be a part of political theatre – one cannot be sure at this stage – but I think it might be more serious than that… no matter how rational or “correct” the “new” thinking may be.
Nasrallah’s words – equating KSA and Israel, attacking them on a wide and personally insulting religious-moral basis, predicting that KSA will likely undergo an internal eruption, together with Hizbullah’s analysis of the growing power of ISIS and its targeting, in the next stage, the Saudi royal family – all feed into, I believe, their “new” analysis of regional dynamics which sees an even wider sectarian war – whether one wants it or not becomes immaterial – which could very well topple the main historical backer of Sunni extremism i.e. the Saudi royal family as Hizbullah sees it.
My basic question here is this: Should Hizbullah (and Iran) not be greatly concerned by the possible fall of the house of Saud? Doesn’t this mean an even more brutal, “open” sunni-shia war? Has the party resigned itself to this outcome in the near to medium term because of the perceived “stupidity” of KSA and its various local allies?
I wonder finally: has Hizbullah’s barely latent, and arguably growing, shiite chauvanism (though usually well-veiled and with ample platitudes towards the rational basis of their superiority in the field and beyond) combined with the pre-existing messianic tendencies (not to mention the more secular “radical” tendencies) to produce a situation where the Party almost welcomes a great, clarifying battle within Islam for the true direction and true leadership of the community?
And doesn’t this become the same way of desiring – though perhaps not seeking – a clarifying end a la ISIS?
Can Iran pursue another option in Syria attractive to itself & several parties: Replacing Bashar’s cancerous circle?
The Wall Street Journal ran an interesting, though purely speculative, piece the other day that has had no traction – which makes sense as only Fawwaz Gerges was really “the source” (if I remember correctly).
The main thrust, however, is something that is being – at the very least – considered in polite, off the record company here in Beirut among publicly accessible Hizbullah officials and M8 supporters.
The core idea is that if Iran and the P5+1 are able to reach a final agreement (a big if), this helps regional cooperation between these players and Iran. In Syria, especially, interests may all align within this “new” framework, including with Sunni-led states like Turkey and KSA, and especially Algeria, Egypt and Jordan which already have a less hostile approach to the forces aligned behind Bashar.
Randa Slim skirts the real possibilities of a negotiated solution in this piece here:
She says: “But it’s difficult to see in the short to medium term how Iran will heal its own festering wound in Syria. Unlike in Iraq, where Tehran had a cadre of trustworthy Shiite Iraqi politicians to replace Nouri al-Maliki as prime minister when the cost of supporting him became too high, it does not have this option in Syria. Assad is perceived as the only guarantor of Iranian and Hezbollah’s interests in Syria. To date, Iran has no acceptable alternative to Assad.”
— This is indeed the crux of the matter and the way forward towards a negotiated solution. If we agree with her and many others who speculate that Iran and Hizbullah are both increasingly unhappy about the energy and effort expended in Syria on behalf of Bashar, a contention that seems likely from the available public evidence and private discussions, then the key issues is: Can Iran and Hizbullah find an acceptable alternative to Bashar and his immediate clique?
I disagree with Randa here – I am increasingly coming to believe that the extensive experience that Iran and Hizbullah have accumulated fighting in Syria and with the Syrian army and officers represents the best hope yet of both these key actors finding a collection of Syrians that 1) will protect Iranian-Hizbullah interests in Syria and 2) are far more effective in the field than the corrupt-morally outrageous-obtuse Bashar clique.
So this, I believe, represents the way forward for what Randa asks here: “[will Iran] take the lead in laying the groundwork for a serious negotiation process that leads to a new leadership[?] A prerequisite for such a solution will be for Iran to show a readiness to abandon Assad and for the pro-rebel regional coalition to recognize Iranian interests in the Levant…”
Could we imagine a time in the coming months when Bashar and his clique are removed – one way or another – and the army does not dissolve? Do Hizbullah and Iran still believe that removing the head will collapse this army? Or have they built an infrastructure (as they should have by now!) of human capital that can be trusted and which could hold the Syrian Arab Army together?
I think we can begin to see the contours of this, and we should all start looking. Indeed, this pathway may be the ONLY remaining way to START to end the conflict in Syria: It would be after the nuclear agreement, with a US-Russian and Sunni state acceptance of certain Iranian-Russian interests in Syria, a de-facto partitioning of Syria along what would be the current ceasefire lines, a political negotiation process for the partitioned state that runs concurrent with a truly united fight against ISIS exclusively…. And the final piece, an Iranian-Hizbullah replacement of Bashar’s immediate circle with nationalist, pro-Resistance army officers and political figures who can credibly keep the army together as well as ensure the land and sea access and territories that Iran and Hizbullah will demand at a minimum to freeze the conflict and roll back ISIS broadly.
Within an overall framework that does not see the US leading an anti-Iranian push in the region (something that seems feasible given Obama’s current bent) and which sees US-led pressure on Israel to not get itself involved in stoking the Syria conflict – not to mention an Iranian-Hizbullah (and Russian) desire to support such a direction – there is a chance that conflict mitigation rather than conflict acceleration could finally become preponderant.
In the absence of this, however, a post-agreement phase looks just as bloody in Syria at least as the pre-agreement phase.
Battle said to be close in Palestinian camp of Ein el-Hileweh against ISIS et al., led by Dahlan man Lino
In tonight’s briefing:
On April 20, the Lebanese Debate news website carried the following report: “A well-informed and trustworthy Palestinian source revealed to Lebanon Debate pieces of information concerning a firm storm and an armed battle that is now confirmed and that will imminently take place within the Ain el-Helweh camp in the city of Saida against the radical takfiris.
“The armed battle will be led by the Fatah Brigadier, Abdul Hamid el-Lino, under a cover provided by the Lebanese security sources and the Palestinian presidency in Ramallah…”
Jordanian monarchy, worried by ISIS-Iran-Iraq is accepting 60 km border with An-Nusra in South Syria
The release by the monarchy of Nusra theologian Makdisi is but the tip of the problem.
Translated today by Mideastwire.com
“…But what is certain is that the talk about the strategic defense of the Jordanian border with Iraq and Syria is earning wide popular support… Political circles linked the critical and dangerous content of the King’s interview with Fox to the scenarios that could result from Jordan’s retroversion and its tending to its interests, and what is happening in Iraq and Syria where a “non-confrontational rivalry” – that is unlikely to turn into a friendship – was reached with An-Nusra Front and has formed a 60-kilometer long “barrier” on the border between Jordan and Syria… Indeed, the practical threat in the Jordanian national priorities is represented by ISIL, which is why the “channels of understanding” that could have always been opened with An-Nusra Front in Syria have become likely to emerge, especially after the Jordanian authorities’ recent release of Sheikh Abu Muhammad al-Maqdisi…”