Beyond the Wire - 21 JUL 17

Your daily briefing on the state of the world and the state of the art for all things Transnational Threats. 

Hezbollah and Syrian army conduct joint border operation.

On Friday, Hezbollah and the Syrian Army initiated an offensive operation along the Syria-Lebanon border to root out militants near the Lebanese town of Arsal. Several jihadist groups, including the Islamic State, have used the mountainous area as a base for operations for the past several years. The Lebanese Army, which regularly conducts operations near Arsal, is not expected to take part in the operation. (TNT Comment: The operation comes only days after the Lebanese Prime Minister, Saad Hariri, proclaimed that the Lebanese army was the “protector of the country’s border” and discussed a future Lebanese Army operation in Arsal. The joint operation between the Syrian Army and Hezbollah is likely intended to undermine the legitimacy of the Lebanese Army.)

Islamic State turning to “simple plans” amid territorial losses.

Writing in the Washington Post, Joby Warrick and Souad Mekhennet argue that the Islamic State’s territorial losses are forcing the Islamic State to rely on untrained sympathizers to carry out unsophisticated attacks on the West. These attacks, though difficult to detect, are also far less successful. (TNT Comment: Though “lone-wolf” attacks are marginally successful, future attacks are likely to become more sophisticated as foreign fighters share tactics learned in Iraq and Syria.)

The impact of Marawi.

A new report by the Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict looks at the siege in Marawi and the long-term repercussions on extremism in Southeast Asia. Per the report, countries in southeast Asia must enhance their cooperation if they are to effectively counter the threat posed by jihadists in the region. (TNT Comment: That the Islamic State’s core likely funded the Marawi operation demonstrates the ongoing importance of Southeast Asia to the group. This focus, coupled with the impending migration of foreign fighters to Southeast Asia, portend future attacks there.) 

Significant Activity 

Ignatius on train and equip. David Ignatius explains how the CIA’s train and equip program unintentionally triggered Russia’s entry into Syria and could have been more successful if the United States had a political strategy that accompanied it. (WaPo)

Tamimi: Islamic State not as strategically brilliant as experts say. Aymenn al Tamimi asserts that the Islamic State is not as strategically brilliant as others purport and that the organization, in fact, did not have “master plan of intentional victory and defeat.” (Atlantic)

Maps on Russian airstrikes in Syria, June 8-16. ISW’s Genevieve Casagrande and Ellen Stockert contend that Russia “is disguising its strategic intent by masquerading as a reliable counterterrorism partner for the U.S. in Syria.” (ISW)

Pentagon will not finish military reimbursements to Pakistan in 2016. Pentagon spokesman Adam Stump announced that Secretary Mattis made the decision because he “could not certify that Pakistan has taken sufficient action against the Haqqani Network.” (Reuters)

Trump administration: Assad does not have to go first. Homeland and Counterterrorism adviser Tom Bossert stated at the Aspen Security Forum that it is not a priority that Assad must for first for an eventual political outcome in Syria. (Stars and Stripes)

Turkey provides Germany extensive list of purported terror financers. The list includes 680 German firms that Turkey suspects of supporting terrorism, ten times the amount estimated by the German media. (Reuters)

Pompeo: Russia has no plans to leave Syria. CIA Director Mike Pomeo stated at the Aspen Security Forum that Russia will continue to try to disrupt U.S. plans in Syria and “stick it to America.” (Guardian)

UAE sees Qatari changes to terror law as positive step. Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al Thani amended the state’s anti-terror legislation by establishing a list of terrorist entities, defining “terrorists,” and demarcating the financing of terrorism. (Daily Star)

Two main Syrian opposition groups continue clashes in Idlib. After 150 Turkish- backed rebels arrived in support of Ahrar al Sham, fighting between the Salafi-jihadi group and al Qaeda-linked Hay’at Tahrir al Sham continues and has killed 65 people, including 15 civilians. (Daily Star)

Pakistani militants run networks from prison. Pakistan’s Counter Terrorism Department in Sindh Province reported that extremists within the prison roam freely “and manage their terror activities with impunity from inside the prison.” (VOA)

IRGC clashes with militants on Iraqi border. The IRGC’s website identified the militants as “terrorists,” in what most likely refers to members of an Iranian Kurdish militant group in Iraq. (Reuters)

In the Weeds 

More on Iraq

Post-ISIL Iraq: Breaking the cycle of violence (Al Jazeera)
Iraqi Forces Carry Out Revenge Killings Against ISIS Suspects. (Foreign Policy)
Iraq’s elite special forces struggle to regroup after bloody fight for Mosul (WaPo)

More on Syria

Why the U.S. strategy of arming Syrian rebels didn’t work (PBS)
McCain: Cutting Syria train-and-equip 'irresponsible' (MilitaryTimes)
Fresh Hezbollah advance leads to close quarters combat with Nusra Front: War Media Center (Daily Star