Beyond the Wire - 20 July 2017
July 20, 2017
Your daily briefing on the state of the world and the state of the art for all things Transnational Threats.
POTUS ends CIA train and equip program.
The Central Intelligence Agency’s “Timber Sycamore” program trained and equipped roughly 80 vetted moderate Syrian opposition groups. The program began under President Obama and was intended to “put pressure on Assad to step aside” and win the Syrian moderate opposition’s allegiance. (TNT Comment: The decision will likely empower Salafi-jihadi groups such as Ahrar al Sham and Hay’at Tahrir al Sham who may share a common enemy in the Assad regime. The moderate opposition will likely ally themselves with top powerbrokers out of tactical necessity, further emboldening al Qaeda’s mission in Syria.)
The ISI’s history of double dealing.
The Cipher Brief’s Bennet Seftel explains how the Pakistani ISI has historically aided U.S. counterterrorism efforts while simultaneously supporting the Haqqani Network and the Afghan Taliban as leverage over its rival, India. Seftel also contends that the ISI has traditionally stayed loyal to the Pakistani Army due to the army’s role in appointing the head of the intelligence service. (TNT Comment: Since its inception the ISI has found a balance between ensuring U.S. support for the country and continuing to support insurgent networks that provide strategic depth against potential Indian invasion. That the Trump administration has threatened to cut significant aid from Pakistan and revoke its status as a major non-NATO ally in the fight against terrorism may upset Pakistan’s touchy strategic equilibrium.)
NOC at the forefront of Libya’s oil revival.
Reuters’ Aidan Lewis reports on how Libya’s National Oil Cooperation has managed to raise output amid chaos in Libya to more than one million barrels per day by “cajoling community leaders, shaming blockaders and navigating a bewildering range of tribal feuds as it reopened fields and patched up infrastructure.” The feat is largely the result of successful negotiations brokered by NOC’s chief, Mustafa Sanalla, who regularly tours the country to foster dialogue with the U.N.-backed government in Tripoli and armed factions controlling ports and pipelines throughout the country. (TNT Comment: Armed groups in Libya regularly sustain themselves by stealing fuel and copper from desert oil facilities. Sanalla’s efforts may serve as a positive step to regain control of the oil industry and combat Libya’s war economy that currently dominates the country.)
Strategic congestion in the Pentagon. Dr. Mara Karlin and Christopher Skaluba contend that the pentagon should prioritize the National Defense Strategy, eliminate duplication of strategy documents, police other department strategies, and rationalize precise roles for various organizations dictating strategy. (War on the Rocks)
Russia’s real objective in Syria. CFR’s Alexander Decina contends that Russia does not want to secure outright victory for Assad but rather seeks to negotiate a political settlement with international powers to bolster its reputation on the global stage. (Defense One)
Russian-backed separatists kill 9 Ukrainian soldiers. The fresh surge in fighting took place around Donetsk and several days after separatist Alexander Zakharchenko announced a “mini-Russia” statelet in eastern Ukraine. (RFERL)
Nour al Din al Zinki withdraws from Hay’at Tahrir al Sham. The decision comes amidst recent opposition infighting in Idlib and was purportedly made due to HTS’ decision to attack Ahrar al Sham without consulting the Shura council. (@hxhassan)
U.S. armored vehicles purportedly flow into Syria’s north. The Military Times’ Shawn Snow reports that, per Kurdish activists, U.S.-made MRAPs, M-ATVs and armored bulldozers are being transported in bulk by plane into Syria’s north. (Military Times)
Jaysh al Islam kills 28 pro-regime forces. The opposition group ambushed pro-regime forces in the Damascus suburb of eastern Ghouta amidst JAI’s advance on the town of al Rihan. (Daily Star)
U.S. training course graduates 250 in Raqqa. So far, the United States had trained 800 soldiers in Raqqa province that are tasked with manning checkpoints, identifying Islamic State sleeper cells, and detecting explosives. (Daily Star)
IRGC head warns U.S. over recent sanctions. Commander Mohammad Ali Jafari stated that because of recent sanctions, the United States should “move its regional bases to a distance of about 1,000 km around Iran and be aware that it would pay a high price for any miscalculations.” (Reuters)
State Department lists Iran, Islamic State as top terror concerns. On 19 JUL, The U.S. State Department released its annual report on global terrorism and noted that the current capabilities of the Islamic State and Iran’s vast network of support for terror groups—including al Qaeda— put the two at the forefront of the global terror threat. (VOA)
Egyptian police kill three high-ranking Salafi-jihadi militants. Egyptian police killed Ahmed Hassan Ahmed al-Nshou, a senior member of the Islamic State’s Egyptian affiliate, and two high-ranking members of the extremist Hasam group. (Al Arabiya)
Thailand convicts 62 of trafficking and murder crimes. The group included police officers and provincial officials in what is the “biggest ever human-trafficking trial.” (Reuters)
Philippine police arrest 43 foreigners charged with kidnapping Singaporean woman. The group of people from China and Southeast Asia are said to be part of a “loan-shark syndicate targeting foreign high-rollers” in the Philippines. (Reuters)
Israeli soldiers kill Palestinian assailant in West Bank. The assailant attempted to stab Israeli soldiers at a checkpoint in Tekoa south of Bethlehem. (Daily Star)
In the Weeds
More on Syria
IS Loses Ground in Syria's North, East (VOA)
Battles between Ahrar Al-Sham and Tahrir Al-Sham expand to include Idlib Province from east to west and from its north to its southern borders with Hama (SyriaHR)
More on Iraq
After Mosul, Islamic State digs in for guerrilla warfare (Reuters)
French woman faces prosecution in Iraq for possible IS links (WaPo)
Iraq's Kurds, seeking independence, call vote hoping to ease row (Reuters)