Beyond the Wire - 29 JUN 17
June 29, 2017
Your daily briefing on the state of the art and the state of the world for all things Transnational Threats.
Islamic State reverting to insurgency.
CTC’s Daniel Milton and Muhammad al Ubaydi examine 1,468 Islamic State attacks in 11 cities in Iraq and five in Syria since the date of their liberation. The two contend that the pace of attacks prove the Islamic State is morphing back into a guerilla organization that will use the same tactics it employed in 2003-2011 Iraq. (TNT Comment: As Will McCants outlines, the Islamic State is “prepared to wage a war from the shadows to reclaim [the caliphate].” Milton and Ubaydi corroborate predictions that the Islamic State relying on less sophisticated attack methods likely presages the next phase of the battle.)
NATO and United States contemplate troop increase as Islamic State gains in Afghanistan.
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg announced that the coalition has requested an increase of several thousand troops for its mission in Afghanistan. NATO has not yet decided on the final increase number, as it is contingent upon the soon-to-come U.S. decision regarding its troop levels in Afghanistan. (TNT Comment: The announced rise in troop numbers comes amidst the Islamic State’s increasing influence in Northern Afghanistan, which is significantly bolstered by ex-Taliban members. According to a recent report released by the Terrorism Research Initiative, the Islamic State currently wields roughly 3,000 fighters in the AfPak region, 70% of which are former Pakistani Taliban.)
The Islamic State’s Ba’athist myth.
Craig Whiteside examines the influence of former members of Saddam Hussein’s Ba’athist regime on the Islamic State and contends that their role is overblown in contemporary scholarship. Per Whiteside, these regime officers served solely in “military and command roles,” whose influence in spreading the Islamic States’ message paled in comparison to the religious experts and Salafi-jihadists “who could reliably interrupt and uphold the legitimacy of the so-called caliphate project.” (TNT Comment: Whiteside’s analysis adds to a longstanding debate about whether the Islamic State, as he states, “is a religiously inspired group of apocalyptic zealots” or “a pragmatic power aggregator whose leaders learned to govern as the henchmen of Iraq’s former dictator.” The current reversion of the Islamic State into a guerilla organization may serve as another opportunity to test this report’s hypothesis.)
Why al Qaeda has declined, pt 2. Daniel Byman contends that al Qaeda has declined due to its killing of Muslims, loss of safe haven infrastructure resulting from the U.S.’ response to 9/11, and lack of “a strong base among the people it claims to represent.” (Lawfare)
Pakistan furious over Syed Salahuddin designation. Pakistan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs stated the country has “a demonstrated a longstanding commitment of combating terrorism” and that the United States’ recent designation of the Pakistan-backed Kashmiri insurgent group leader is “completely unjustified.” (FDD)
The OPCW and the Shayrat Airbase. Aron Lund examines the safety concerns, fear of regime betrayal, and “problematic political optics” that potentially explain why the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) has not inspected Syria’s Shayrat Air Base. (TCF)
Egypt, Hamas seek to curb cross-border militant flow. With the help of Egypt, Hamas has begun building a 7.5 mile buffer zone along the Gaza border that will serve to prevent Salafi-jihadi spill out into Egypt’s Sinai, as well as vice versa. (WaPo)
Qaradawi as a symbol of Qatar-Gulf feud. Joby Warrick and Sudarsan Raghavan explain how Qatar-based cleric Yusuf al Qaradawi’s inflammatory sermons and ability to sway Muslim opinion play a large part in explaining the Gulf’s current hostility towards Doha. (WSJ)
Russia responds to U.S. threat on chemical attack. Russian Foreign Ministry Sergei Lavrov announced that Russia will react “in proportion” to a retaliatory U.S. strike on pro-regime forces in the event Assad carries out a chemical weapons attack. (Reuters)
Iraq declares end of Caliphate. Brigadier General Yahya Rasool announced that the Islamic State’s “fictitious state has fallen,” as Iraqi Security Forces captured the symbolic Grand al Nuri mosque where Abu Bakr al Baghdadi declared the Caliphate in 2014. (Reuters)
Congress threatens to stop funding Iraqi Kurds. The House Armed Services Committee released its annual defense bill that contends it will stop arming the Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga if it breaks “participation in the government of a unified Iraq.” (Al Monitor)
Al Qaeda hits Yemeni troops. Suspected al Qaeda militants opened fire on a military zone in the al Qoton district in Yemen’s Hadramawt Province on 28 JUN, killing three Yemeni soldiers. (Al Arabiya)
More of the same against Islamic State. Karen Deyoung examines how the Pentagon’s newly crafted Islamic State strategy looks extremely similar to the Obama administration’s, as it seeks to deny territory to the Islamic State, deconflict with Russia commanders, and remain largely unengaged from the war between pro-regime forces and opposition. (WaPo)
France eyes Russian cooperation in Syria. French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Brian stated that “there is a window of opportunity” to collaborate with Russia on finding a resolution to the conflict in Syria. (Reuters)
Chechen gang guilty in Nemtsov murder. A Russian jury found a group of five Chechen gang members responsible for the death of opposition figure Boris Nemtsov who was shot in FEB 2015 near the Kremlin (BBC)
In the Weeds
More on Afghanistan
More on Syria
Syria says U.S. chemical attack warning untrue, aims to justify new attack (Reuters)
U.S.-backed forces encircle Raqqa after closing last route into city: monitor (Reuters)
U.S.-backed SDF sees big risk of clash with Turkey in northwest Syria (Reuters)