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MENA Mashup: Eternal War, Libya, Iran and Syria

(Phyllis Bennis is a superstar…!)

Thursday, the US State Department’s Bureau of Counterterrorism released it’s annual Country Reports on Terrorism 2012, from Chapter 2 Country Reports: The Middle East and North Africa Overview…

The Near East region continued to experience significant levels of terrorist activity in 2012, further complicated by ongoing regional instability across portions of North Africa and the Levant. Al-Qa’ida was not a part of the popular uprisings that led to democratic transitions across the Middle East and North Africa, but violent extremists looked for opportunities to exploit the political transitions underway.

In Libya, the security vacuum in the aftermath of the 2011 revolution provided more opportunities for terrorists to operate. This vacuum, combined with the weakness of Libya’s nascent security institutions, allowed violent extremists to act, as we saw too clearly on September 11 in Benghazi, when J. Christopher Stevens, the U.S. Ambassador to Libya, and three staff members, died during attacks on U.S. facilities.

Al-Qa’ida in Iraq (AQI) – even with diminished leadership and capabilities – continued to conduct attacks across Iraq, while Shia militants largely ceased attacks but continued to threaten U.S. targets in Iraq. AQI also took advantage of a significantly depleted security situation in Syria. Operating under its alias, al-Nusrah Front, the group sought to portray itself as part of the legitimate Syrian opposition and attempted to hijack Syria’s struggle for democracy. The United States designated al-Nusra as an alias of AQI in December 2012. [cont’d.]

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MENA Mashup: Eternal War, Libya, Iran, And, Syria

(Phyllis Bennis is a superstar…!)

Thursday, the US State Department’s Bureau of Counterterrorism released it’s annual Country Reports on Terrorism 2012, from Chapter 2 Country Reports: The Middle East and North Africa Overview…

The Near East region continued to experience significant levels of terrorist activity in 2012, further complicated by ongoing regional instability across portions of North Africa and the Levant. Al-Qa’ida was not a part of the popular uprisings that led to democratic transitions across the Middle East and North Africa, but violent extremists looked for opportunities to exploit the political transitions underway.

In Libya, the security vacuum in the aftermath of the 2011 revolution provided more opportunities for terrorists to operate. This vacuum, combined with the weakness of Libya’s nascent security institutions, allowed violent extremists to act, as we saw too clearly on September 11 in Benghazi, when J. Christopher Stevens, the U.S. Ambassador to Libya, and three staff members, died during attacks on U.S. facilities.

Al-Qa’ida in Iraq (AQI) – even with diminished leadership and capabilities – continued to conduct attacks across Iraq, while Shia militants largely ceased attacks but continued to threaten U.S. targets in Iraq. AQI also took advantage of a significantly depleted security situation in Syria. Operating under its alias, al-Nusrah Front, the group sought to portray itself as part of the legitimate Syrian opposition and attempted to hijack Syria’s struggle for democracy. The United States designated al-Nusra as an alias of AQI in December 2012.

Al-Qa’ida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) has also taken advantage of the instability in the region, particularly in Libya and Mali. Kidnapping for ransom operations continued to yield significant sums for AQIM, and it conducted attacks against members of state security services within the Trans-Sahara region.

In the spring of 2012, a Yemeni military offensive, with the help of armed residents, regained government control over territory in the south, which AQAP had seized and occupied in 2011. Although weakened, AQAP was not eliminated as a threat. AQAP increasingly turned to asymmetric tactics to target Yemeni government officials, pro-government tribal militias known as Popular Committees, and their leaders, soldiers, civilians, and U.S. embassy personnel.

In 2012, there was a clear resurgence of Iran’s state sponsorship of terrorism, through the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Qods Force (IRGC-QF), its Ministry of Intelligence and Security, and Tehran’s ally Hizballah, who remained a significant threat to the stability of Lebanon and the broader region. Attacks in Europe, Africa, the Middle East, South Asia, and the Far East were linked to the IRGC-QF or Hizballah. In fact, Hizballah’s terrorist activity has reached a tempo unseen since the 1990s with attacks plotted in Southeast Asia, Europe, and Africa.

Despite these persistent threats, governments across the region improved their own counterterrorism capabilities, effectively disrupting the activities of a number of terrorists. The Iraqi government displayed increased capability and efficacy in pursuing multiple Sunni violent extremist groups. Though AQIM’s presence and activity in the Sahel and parts of the Maghreb remains worrisome, the group’s isolation in Algeria grew as Algeria increased its already substantial efforts to target it. And in 2012, Yemeni forces were successful in reducing the physical territory that AQAP had previously gained in Yemen as the result of political turmoil…

Notably absent from their MENA assessment for 2012, is Syria…! Fancy that…!

Now, let’s look more closely at our Libyan fiasco…

Libya: Overview: In 2012, Libya was marked by grave insecurity, most apparent in the September 11 terrorist attack that resulted in the death of Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three staff members. The prevalence of loose weapons, the continued ability of extra-governmental militias to act with impunity, the country’s porous borders, and the lack of government capacity to apply the rule of law outside of Tripoli contributed to this insecurity.

Despite these challenges, on July 7, the Transitional National Council peacefully transferred power to a new, democratically elected parliament, the General National Congress. Prime Minister Ali Zeidan and his cabinet have prioritized efforts to strengthen and centralize national security institutions, integrate and disarm armed militias, and confront criminal and terrorist groups that have taken advantage of the security vacuum. This government has recognized that continued instability threatens Libya’s democratic transition and economic future.

The United States remains committed to Libya’s democratic transition and focused on Libya’s insecurity and the need to support Libya’s government in its efforts to address it. The State Department and USAID have provided funding to implementers who support Libya’s emerging civil society, advised Libya’s new political leaders, and empowered minority communities as they seek to understand and participate in the democratic transition, particularly the drafting of a constitution that denounces violence and ensures the rights of all Libyans.

Let’s not forget that this is a State Report, reporting only on the Snafu from last year, and not a compilation of this year’s foreign f*ckery in the MENA…!

So, let’s update it a tad…

Libya becomes ‘the new Mali’ as Islamists shift in Sahara

…Regional rivalries are aggravating the problem for Paris and its Western allies, with a lack of cooperation between Saharan countries helping militants to melt away when they come under pressure and regroup in quieter parts of the vast desert.

Security officials say lawless southern Libya has become the latest haven for al Qaeda-linked fighters after French-led forces drove them from strongholds in northern Mali this year, killing hundreds.

“The south of Libya is what the north of Mali was like before,” said a senior adviser to Mali’s interim President Diouncounda Traore, asking not to be named…

…But the overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi in 2011 flooded the Sahara with pillaged weapons and ammunition. Tuareg separatists used them to seize power in northern Mali, only to be ousted by even better-armed Islamists who set up training camps and imposed harsh Islamic law until the French forces arrived.

The Islamists have also exploited Libya’s weakness. Veteran al Qaeda commander Moktar Belmokhtar bought weapons there after Gaddafi’s fall and his fighters passed through southern Libya to carry out a mass hostage-taking at an Algerian gas plant in January, in which 37 foreigners died…

Now, Iran quickly rejected the report…

Tehran says U.S., not Iran, sponsors terrorism

Iran on Friday rejected a U.S. State Department report that accused Tehran of increasing its support for terrorism overseas to levels not seen for two decades, saying it is the United States that backs terrorists in the Middle East.
“Iran itself has been the victim of state-sponsored terrorism, which has claimed the lives of thousands of innocent Iranian people,” said Alireza Miryousefi, spokesman for Iran’s U.N. mission. “Iran has been actively engaged in counterterrorism activities by all possible means and is a party to many counterterrorism international legal instruments,” he said…

…”It should be mentioned that the U.S. government has no merit to label other nations of sponsoring terrorism as it has a long … record (of) supporting terrorist groups in our region as well as Israeli state terrorism,” Miryousefi said.

He cited the recent removal from the U.S. list of terrorist organizations of the Mujahadin-e-Khalq, a dissident group that calls for the overthrow of Iran’s Shi’ite Muslim clerical leadership and fought alongside the forces of Iraq’s late Sunni Muslim dictator Saddam Hussein in the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war.

“The recent delisting of the MEK terrorist group … and also allowing it to publicly lobby in Washington is a clear indication that the U.S. government has double standards in dealing with terrorism and uses designation of others as terrorist only to serve its illegitimate political interests,” he said…

Speaking of the MEK, translated from Le Figaro

Two members of the Iranian opposition movement People’s Mujahedin were found dead a month ago in the Idlib region in western Syria, says an MEP in contact with the anti rebellion Bashar al-Assad. They fighting alongside insurgents seeking to overthrow the Syrian regime, backed by Iran. Considered by France as a terrorist organization, MKO have a base in Iraq, based in the Paris suburbs. Services to Arab and Western intelligence would use against Iranian interests, or allies of Tehran, as the regime of Bashar al-Assad.

In recent developments on Syria… In spite of McInsane’s screeches, Syrian rebels need heavy weapons, I was certainly pleased to read this…

U.S. withholds millions pledged to help Syrian opposition

The United States is withholding $63 million that it had pledged to the main Syrian opposition organization because the Obama administration is frustrated with the group’s disarray and is searching for more credible partners to support in the rebellion against Syrian President Bashar Assad, knowledgeable officials said Friday.

The decision not to fund the Syrian Opposition Coalition contrasts sharply with the Obama administration’s continued public expressions of confidence in the group, which has been central to U.S. policy on Syria since last fall and which the administration recognizes as the legitimate representative of the Syrian people.

But U.S. officials said privately that they are fed up with the group’s inability to organize, appoint a government-in-exile or reach decisions on a wide range of issues. The officials spoke on the condition of anonymity so as to more freely discuss sensitive diplomacy…

More on the Syrian Rebels…

Saudi edges Qatar to control Syrian rebel support

…The outcome, many Syrian opposition leaders hope, could strengthen them in both negotiations and on the battlefield – while hampering some of the anti-Western Islamist hardliners in their ranks whom they say Qatar has been helping with weaponry.

Anger at a failure by one such Qatari-backed Islamist unit in a battle in April that gave Syrian government forces control of a key highway helped galvanise the Saudis, sources said, while Qatari and Islamist efforts to control the opposition political body backfired by angering Riyadh and Western powers.

The northern rebel commander said Saudi leaders would no longer let Qatar take the lead but would themselves take over the dominant role in channelling support into Syria.

“The Saudis met leaders of the Free Syrian Army, including officers from the Military Council in Jordan and Turkey, and have agreed that they will be supporting the rebels,” he said after attending one of those meetings himself.

Prince Salman bin Sultan, a senior Saudi security official, was now running relations with the Syrian rebels, backed by his elder brother, intelligence chief Prince Bandar bin Sultan.

Qatar also gave ground in the political field, accepting finally, late on Thursday, that the National Coalition should add a non-Islamist bloc backed by Saudi Arabia.

“In the end Qatar did not want a confrontation with Saudi Arabia and accepted the expansion,” said a source close to the liberals who were allowed to join a body which the United States and European Union want to become a transitional government.

The rebels, whose disunity has been a hindrance both in the field and in manoeuvring for a possible international peace conference in the coming weeks, still face a huge task to topple Assad, who has long labelled his enemies Islamist “terrorists” and has his own powerful allies abroad, notably Iran and Russia.

What a Clusterf*ck…! *gah*

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