MESOPOTAMIA NEWS INTEL BY MEIR AMIT INTELLIGENCE & TERRORISM INFORMATION CENTER -ISRAEL / Spotlight on Iran

December 29, 2019 – January 12, 2020 Editor: Dr. Raz Zimmt
Overview
Last week’s events were marked by a significant escalation between the United States and Iran following the assassination of the Commander of the Qods Force of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), Qasem Soleimani, in an American strike in Baghdad. The attack also killed the Deputy Commander of the Hashd al-Shaabi, the pro-Iranian Shi’ite militias in Iraq, Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, as well as several operatives in the ranks of the Qods Forces and the Shi’ite militias, who were in the convoy attacked by the United States.
  • In an initial response to Soleimani’s elimination, the IRGC launched ballistic missiles toward the Ayn al-Assad base in western Iraq, in which U.S. forces are present. The attacks did not result in any American casualties. The Supreme Leader of Iran, Khamenei, stressed after the Iranian attack that military actions are not enough to achieve revenge, and what is important is to end American military presence in the region.
  • Shortly after Soleimani’s assassination, his deputy, Esmail Qa’ani, was appointed in his stead, as the commander of the Qods Force. Qa’ani vowed to avenge Soleimani’s death, persist in his path and remove the United States from the region.
  • Over the past two weeks, officials in Syria and Iran have been engaging in deliberations: a delegation of prominent tribal figures arrived in late December for a visit in Iran and met with senior Iranian government officials; the senior adviser to the Iranian minister of foreign affairs arrived for a visit in Damascus and met Syrian officials, chief among them, President Assad; and the Secretary General of the Supreme National Security Council, Ali Shamkhani, met in Damascus with the Senior National Security Adviser to the Syrian president, Ali Mamlouk.
  • Qasem Soleimani’s assassination provided an opportunity for a meeting between the heads of the Palestinian factions, Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad, with senior Iranian officials. A delegation of both organizations, who came to Tehran to participate in Soleimani’s funeral, met during their visit with the incoming Qods Force commander.
The Assassination of Qods Force Commander[1]
  • On January 2, 2020, American drones struck two vehicles in Baghdad that were carrying senior commanders in the IRGC’s Qods Force. The attack eliminated Qasem Soleimani, the Commander of the Qods Force, and Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, the Deputy Commander of the Pro-Iranian Shi’ite militias in Iraq (the Hashd al-Shaabi, Popular Mobilization Units), and several members of the Qods Force and Shi’ite militias who were in the targeted convoy. Shortly after Soleimani’s assassination, his deputy, Esmail Qa’ani, was appointed as his replacement as the commander of the Qods Force. During the ceremony welcoming the coffin with Soleimani’s remains, Qa’ani vowed to avenge Soleimani’s death, remove the United States from the region as payback for the martyrdom of Soleimani, and continue down the path laid by Soleimani, until the establishment of the rule of the 12th Shi’ite Imam, the Mahdi (Fars, January 6).
  • In an initial response, the IRGC launched over 12 ballistic missiles toward the Ayn al-Assad base in western Iraq, which houses American forces. No Americans were harm in the strike. In a speech delivered on January 8, the Supreme Leader of Iran, Ali Khamenei, called the Iranian attack “a slap in the face” of the United States, but stressed that revenge is another matter, and that military actions are not enough to achieve this, and that what matters is ending U.S. presence in the region (Fars, January 8).
Iranian Involvement in Syria
  • On December 28, a delegation of senior tribal figures from Syria arrived for a visit in Iran and met high-ranking government officials in Tehran, including the Senior Adviser for International Affairs of the Supreme Leader, Ali Akbar Velayati, and the Speaker of the Majlis, Ali Larijani. Velayati stressed in his meeting with the delegation Iran’s opposition to any foreign meddling in the countries of the region, and declared that Iran will resist the plots of the enemies and their aggression, which aim to weaken and divide the countries of the region. He expressed opposition to establishing safe zones in Syria, arguing that this policy is intended to allow countries to partition Syria and hand over to them the management of Syria’s affairs, contrary to the country’s interest. The adviser to the Supreme Leader added that any change in the Syrian constitution can be made by the Syrian people alone, and without foreign meddling (Fars, December 28).
  • In his meeting with the members of the delegation, the Speaker of the Majlis, Ali Larijani, stated that the crisis in Syria is over, and the phase of reconstruction in the country has begun. He remarked that the statements by U.S. President Donald Trump prove that the United States is only interested in Syria’s oil. Addressing Israeli strikes in Syria, the chairman of the Majlis stated that they stem from Israel’s nervousness as Syrian authorities regain control of their county. The members of the delegation expressed their gratitude for Iran’s support for Syria in recent years (Fars, December 29).
  • On December 31, Ali-Asghar Khaji, the Senior Adviser to the Iranian Minister of Foreign Affairs, held a one-day visit in Damascus. The meetings focused on developments in Syria and the region, and the negotiations process concerning the settlement of the war in Syria. During the visit, Khaji also met with the Syrian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Walid al-Mualem and his deputy, Faysal Meqdad (IRNA, December 31).
  • On January 5, the Secretary of the Supreme National Security Council of Iran, Ali Shamkhani, met in Tehran with Ali Mamlouk, the National Security Adviser to the Syrian president. Mamlouk delivered to Shamkhani the condolences of the Syrian president for the death of the Commander of the IRGC’s Qods Force, Qasem Soleimani, and pointed to his special status among Muslims in the Middle East. Shamkhani thanked Mamlouk for the condolences, and added that the Americans will soon realize that Soleimani’s death will cause them greater danger than he did in his life, and that Iran’s response will surely involve military steps, but will not be limited to military steps alone (Fars, January 5).
Iranian Involvement in Iraq
  • Iran condemned the attack carried out on December 29 by the United States against targets of the Shi’ite Iraqi militia, Kataeb Hebollah, near the Syrian-Iraqi border. The attack was a retaliation for the launch of dozens of missiles by the militia toward an Iraqi base near the city of Kirkuk on December 27, which killed an American civilian contractor, and injured several soldiers. The Spokesman of the Iranian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Abbas Mousavi, declared that the American military attack against Iraq is an act of terrorism, which Iran forcefully condemns. He demanded that the United States honor the independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity of Iraq, and halt its meddling in Iraqi domestic affairs. He added that attacking forces who have waged a campaign against ISIS terrorists for years proves, once again, that the United States is lying when it is claiming to be fighting ISIS, declaring that the United States must bear responsibility for its illegal actions (ISNA, December 30). The Spokesman of the Iranian Government, Ali Rabei, also addressed the American attack, denying any Iranian role in striking the military base near Kirkuk. He asserted that this claim of Iranian involvement is groundless and can not justify bombing and killing civilians in violation of international law. He warmed that the American attack will only increase the hatred toward the American occupiers and regional insecurity (Fars, December 30).
  • Following the American attack on Kataeb Hezbollah, the IRGC published a special statement concerning the action, emphasizing the “natural right” in accordance with international law of the Iraqi people and armed forces to avenge the attack. The statement added that the attack violates Iraqi sovereignty and is further proof of the fact that the United States is the main cause of instability and chaos in the region, and only the removal of “the American terrorist occupiers” will ensure Iraq’s security and stability. The statement concluded by stating that “the Zionist entity” should not rejoice in light of the American attack, since a day will come, and the rage of the “resistance front” will hit the occupiers of Jerusalem (Tasnim, December 30).
  • On January 1, the Supreme Leader of Iran, Ali Khamenei, addressed the American strikes against Kataeb Hezbollah in a speech. Khemeni condemned the attack, stating that the United States seeks to take revenge against the Shi’ite militias for their struggle against ISIS, which according to him, was established by the United States. He rejected the claims of the U.S. president, who blamed the attack on the American embassy in Baghdad on Iran, arguing that the people of the region hate the United States for the crimes it has committed, and that if Iran wished to fight any country, it would do so out in the open (Fars, January 1).
  • The U.S.-government funded Arab TV channel, al-Hurra, reported (January 2) based on sources close to a senior Iraqi security official and a senior commander with the Shi’ite militias in Iraq, that it was the Commander of the IRGC’s Qods Force, Qasem Soleimani, who planned the assault on the American embassy in Baghdad. According to this report, carrying out the attack was made possible due to rare cooperation with a senior security official in the central government in Baghdad, which facilitated the entry of the Shi’ite militiamen into the secured compound, the Green Zone, where the embassy is located. The report also claimed that an officer in the IRGC’s Qods Force, known as al-Hajj Hamed, participated in a meeting with senior commanders of the pro-Iranian Shi’ite militias, in which the assault on the embassy was planned.
  • On December 30, the President of Iraq, Barham Saleh, met with the Iranian Ambassador to Baghdad, Iraj Masjedi, and discussed bilateral relations and internal political developments in Iraq, in light of the ongoing protests and political dead-end in the country. A statement issued by the Iraqi presidency reported that the president of Iraq and the Iranian ambassador highlighted the need to preserve the stability and independence of Iraq without foreign meddling (ISNA, December 30).
Iranian Involvement in the Palestinian Arena
  • On January 6, a delegation of Hamas senior officials, led by the Head of Hamas’ Political Bureau, Ismail Haniyeh, arrived in Tehran to participate in the funeral of Qods Force Commander, Qasem Soleimani. The delegation also included Haniyeh’s deputy, Saleh al-Arouri, and the members of Hamas’ political bureau, ‘Izzat al-Rishq and Musa Abu Marzouq. During their visit to Tehran, the members of the delegation met with the incoming Qods Force Commander, Esmail Qa’ani (Mehr, January 6).
  • In his condolences speech delivered at the funeral, Haniyeh condemned the “reprehensible crime” carried by the United States, and expressed great admiration for Soleimani’s contribution to the “resistance,” emphasizing that it will persist and not die down until the “occupiers” are expelled from Palestine and Jerusalem (Erem News, January 6). Before arriving in Tehran, Haniyeh spoke to the Iranian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mohammad Javad Zarif, over the phone and expressed his condolences for Soleimani’s death. He praised the role played by Soleimani in supporting the resistance and his backing of the rights of the Palestinian people in all spheres. Foreign Minister Zarif thanked Haniyeh for his words, stressing that Iran will continue to support the Palestinian people and its resistance (ISNA, January 5). A delegation of Palestinian Islamic Jihad, led by the Secretary General of the group, Ziad al-Nakleh and his deputy, Akram al-Ajouri, also reached Tehran to participate in the funeral (Radio Nour, January 6).
  •  The members of both delegations also visited the home of Qasem Soleimani and paid condolences to his family (the official website of Hamas, January 6). During the condolences visit, Haniyeh remarked that Soleimani played a central role of great importance in supporting the Palestinian “resistance.” According to him, Soleimani was directly involved in the resistance, made a strategic pact with it, and saw it as the “tip of the spear” in dealing with Israel. Haniyeh added that the masses in Iran and Iraq who took part in Soleimani’s funeral proceedings can be seen as a referendum, proving that the option of resistance lies in the heart of the nation (al-‘Alam channel, January 6).

[1] See the publication of the Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center, “Responses in Iran and Initial Assessment of the Impact of Eliminating Qasem Soleimani, the Commander of the Qods Force of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps,” January 6, 2020.

MESOPOTAMIA NEWS SUGGESTION : Massive demonstrations are expected to be held against Assad and Iran in Deir Ezzor next Friday

  1. Jan 2020 – DEIR EZZOUR NEWS

Dozens of activists and local actors in the Deir Ezzor countryside have called for demonstrations next Friday in all over Deir Ezzor countryside to emphasize the need to expel Iranian militias and Assad regime from the region.

The demonstrations will be held under the slogan “no peace, no stability except by expelling Assad and Iran” to emphasize the continuity of the revolution and the need to expel Assad regime and its allies, the iranian militias.

According to sources of Deir Ezzor 24 network, dozens of areas in Deir Ezzor countryside are preparing for the demonstrations to send their message that Assad and Iran are the source of terrorism in the region.

It is indicated that in the recent months, people have staged many demonstrations to demand Assad regime and the Iranian militias leave the areas they control in the eastern Euphrates.

It is worth mentioning that the demonstrations are expected to be the largest in the region, as many areas will participate in them to emphasize the continuity of the revolution and the need to unite against Iran and its projects.

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MESOPOTAMIA NEWS MIDEAST SPECIAL : THE DEA’S TARGETING OF HEZBOLLAH’S GLOBAL CRIMINAL SUPPORT NETWORK

Featuring John Fernandez  –  Policy Forum Report January 10, 2020

The head of the Counter-Narcoterrorism Operations Center discusses how the group uses drug trafficking and other schemes to fund its activities, and what the DEA is doing to stop it.

On January 9, John Fernandez addressed a Policy Forum at The Washington Institute. As the Drug Enforcement Administration’s assistant special agent in charge of the Special Operations Division’s Counter-Narcoterrorism Operations Center, he oversees interagency support to field investigations concerning Hezbollah’s global criminal support structures. The following is a rapporteur’s summary of his remarks.

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MESOPOTAMIA NEW : THE IRANIAN ESCALATION TIMELINE

MESOPOTAMIA NEWS : RUSSIAN MADE QUALITY IN IRANIAN HANDS !

CONFIRMED: RUSSIAN-MADE TOR M-1 MISSILE MISTAKENLY FIRED BY IRANIAN AIR DEFENSES BROUGHT DOWN THE UKRAINIAN AIRLINER WITH LOSS OF 176 SOULS

by Tsionizm Staff January 9, 2020

IT HAS NOW BEEN CONFIRMED that Iranian disregard for human life and reckless misuse of military technology caused the tragic loss of the Ukrainian airliner with 176 souls on board

Russian-made Tor AA system is designed for the short-range air defense of military installations during combat operations
Copyright: Vitaly V. Kuzmin [CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)]

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MESOPOTAMIA NEWS „LBGTQ-WASCHANLAGE HOLLYWOOD“: Auf der Suche nach einer bislang von Rassismus-, Misogynie-, Homophobie- und Missbrauchsvorwürfen verschonten, möglichst weiblichen Moderatorenidealbesetzung / REISST „GRETA“ RAUS?

Oscars ohne Moderator : Idealbesetzung

  • Ein Kommentar von Elena Witzeck – FAZ  –  09.01.2020- – Ricky Gervais bei den Golden Globes

Zum zweiten Mal soll die Oscar-Verleihung in diesem Jahr ohne Moderator auskommen. Was Ricky Gervais damit zu tun hat – und auf wen sich eigentlich alle hätten einigen können.

Anfang dieser Woche schien es, als gäbe es in Hollywood zumindest einen, der es noch ungestraft durfte: sozialunverträgliche Witze reißen, den prominenten Filmdarstellern die Show stehlen und daran verdienen. Da hatte der britische Comedian Ricky Gervais gerade zum fünften Mal die Golden Globes moderiert, die Veranstalter rassistisch genannt, einen nominierten Film über zwei Kirchenoberhäupter pädophil – und den herumsitzenden Schauspielern in allem Freimut erklärt, warum es keine gute Idee sei, den Anlass für moralische Appelle zu nutzen. Wer rein gar nichts über die echte Welt wüsste, sei nicht in der Position, die Öffentlichkeit zu belehren.

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MESOPOTAMIA NEWS EXCLUSIVE : Iraqi Foreign Ministry leaked documents show Iran’s hand in dictating policy

9 JAN 2020 –  NEW YORK,— According to leaked documents obtained by Ekurd.net a pro-Iran elements dictate policy to Iraqi Embassies to support the Iraq’s Popular Mobilisation Forces (PMF), an umbrella organization composed of Shia Muslim groups, abroad.

The document has been translated  from Arabic (see below):

REPUBLIC OF IRAQ
MINISTRY OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS
OFFICE OF UNDERSECRETARY FOR
BILATERAL RELATIONS

Entry No. : 73
Date: 23.10.2016

To All Embassies and Missions
Subject: Support for PMF

Sincere Greetings

Following on from our previous memorandum, owing to the PMF and its personnel being smeared by false information through unjust campaigns, we must emphasise that a correct image of them is conveyed as being an independent military entity and a very important element within the Iraqi Armed Forces, acting under the authority of the Commander General of the Iraqi Armed Forces in accordance with Order No. 91 of the 24.02.2016 of the Chamber.

The PMF has been playing a significant role in countering the barbaric assault led by ISIS against humanity and Islamic civilisation. We therefore ask that you treat this issue as a priority, providing us with reports at the start of each month concerning your undertakings in this regard and that you must report back concerning anything you observe that you consider relevant.

Signed

Nazar Al Kayrallah
Undersecretary

CC:
House of Parliament/Foreign Relations Committee
Your Letter 211 dated 13.08.2016
Political Officer, for the same purpose

The original document in Arabic

 

 

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MESOPOTAMIA NEWS INTEL BY MEIR AMIT INTELLIGENCE & TERRORISM INFORMATION CENTER / ISRAEL – Published: 09/01/2020

The explosion of the second car bomb (Ibaa, January 2, 2020)

The explosion of the second car bomb (Ibaa, January 2, 2020)

Highlights of the events
  • The dramatic events that occurred this week, especially the elimination of Qods Force Commander Qassem Soleimani and the firing of missiles in response at two US bases in Iraq could, in the ITIC’s assessment, impair the effectiveness of the US-led campaign against ISIS. This is reflected in this week’s announcement by the US army that it has suspended military activity against ISIS because it is now committed to prioritizing the defense of the Iraqi bases that host the Coalition forces.
  • Despite US Secretary of Defense Mark Esper saying that the US will continue its efforts against ISIS, pressure exerted on the forces of the US and the Coalition countries in Iraq could eventually lead to a withdrawal of the forces from Iraq, thus harming the campaign against ISIS. On the other hand, removing the forces or, alternatively, having them concentrate mainly on defending themselves, is expected to raise the morale of ISIS operatives and provide it with an opportunity to accelerate the process of restoring its military capabilities and increase the scope of its terrorist activity, mainly in the Iraqi arena.
  • In the Syrian arena, there was no change in the situation on the ground this week. The Syrian army has not yet resumed the ground offensive in the Idlib region, which was halted on January 5, 2020. The Headquarters for the Liberation of Al-Sham initiated a counterattack, in which two car bombs were blown up, killing dozens of Syrian soldiers. The counterattack was curbed by Syrian army artillery and airstrikes. In the Euphrates Valley, ISIS’s intensive activity continued. This included attacks on a Kurdish Internal Security force headquarters (nine dead) and a bus carrying Syrian soldiers (seven dead).
  • In the Iraqi arena, ISIS conducted its activity at low intensity. Prominent forms of attacks this week included the activation of IEDs against vehicles of the Iraqi security forces, sniper fire, and targeted killings. The Iraqi security forces continued their counterterrorist activities at low intensity.
  • This week, there has been a decrease in ISIS’s activity around the world, with the exception of Northern Sinai, where “routine” attacks against the Egyptian security forces continued. There was one unusual incident in Russia, where two Caucasus Province operatives carried out a stabbing and ramming attack against members of the Ingushetia police force (two dead).
Idlib region
Overview

This week, the Syrian army did not resume its attacks against the rebel organizations in the rural area of Maarat Nu’man. At the same time, Russian and Syrian airstrikes continued. The Headquarters for the Liberation of Al-Sham attempted to mount a counterattack east of Maarat Nu’man, which included the detonation of two car bombs. According to reports by the Headquarters for the Liberation of Al-Sham, the Syrian troops sustained dozens of fatalities in the explosion of the two car bombs.

Halting the counterattack east of Maarat Nu’man
  • On January 2, 2020, operatives of the Headquarters for the Liberation of Al-Sham and other rebel organizations mounted an attack against Syrian forces about 12 km east of Maarat Nu’man. The Syrian army halted the attack by gun and rocket fire. According to Syrian regime reports, the rebel organizations sustained many casualties (SANA, January 2, 2020).
  • During the attempted attack, the operatives of the Headquarters for the Liberation of Al-Sham detonated two car bombs against Syrian army forces southeast of Maarat Nu’man:
  • The first car bomb was detonated against Syrian army troops. The Headquarters for the Liberation of Al-Sham released a video taken by a quadcopter, documenting the explosion (Ibaa, January 2, 2020). According to a report by the Headquarters for the Liberation of Al-Sham, more than 20 soldiers (probably from the “Tiger forces”) were killed in the explosion and over 15 soldiers were wounded (Ibaa, January 3, 2020).
  • The second car bomb was detonated against Syrian army outposts near the scene of the first explosion. The Headquarters for the Liberation of Al-Sham released another video showing the car bomb advancing on a dirt road and soldiers fleeing moments before the detonation (Ibaa, January 2, 2020). According to a report by the Headquarters for the Liberation of Al-Sham, about eight Syrian soldiers (probably from the “Tiger forces”) were killed in the explosion and over six others were wounded (Ibaa, January 3, 2020).
Airstrikes
  • On January 2, 2020, Russian fighter jets carried out airstrikes in the area of the village of Al-Tah, about 12 km southeast of Maarat Nu’man (Edlib Media Center Facebook page, January 2, 2020). On January 4, 2020, Syrian fighter jets carried out airstrikes against targets in the city of Maarat Nu’man and its environs, the city of Saraqib (15 km southeast of Idlib), and the M5 highway (Aleppo-Damascus). In addition, Syrian helicopters dropped barrel bombs in the area of Maarat Nu’man (Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, January 4, 2020). On January 5, 2020, Russian fighter jets carried out airstrikes in the rural area of Maarat Nu’man (Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, January 4, 2020).

Smoke rising after the explosion of a barrel bomb dropped from a Syrian helicopter on a village southeast of Maarat Nu'man (Edlib Media Center, January 4, 2020)
Smoke rising after the explosion of a barrel bomb dropped from a Syrian helicopter on a village southeast of Maarat Nu’man (Edlib Media Center, January 4, 2020)

The Euphrates Valley

ISIS continued its activity in the Euphrates Valley. Outstanding event this week was the detonation of a car bomb in the headquarters of the Kurdish Internal Security forces, southeast of Al-Mayadeen. ISIS reported that nine members of the Kurdish Internal Security had been killed in the explosion. Another outstanding event was an attack against a Syrian army bus about 30 km southeast of Al-Mayadeen (seven soldiers killed). At the same time, attacks continued in the usual forms, which included the activation of IEDs against SDF and Syrian army vehicles and targeted killings of SDF fighters and intelligence operatives.

The area of Al-Mayadeen and Albukamal
  • Following are ISIS’s main activities (mainly according to the organization’s claims of responsibility):
    • On January 6, 2020, a Syrian Air Force Intelligence operative was shot and wounded in the village of Jaradi, about 20 km southeast of Al-Mayadeen (Telegram, January 6, 2020).
    • On January 6, 2020, a Syrian army bus was targeted by machine gun fire in the desert, near the village of Al-Duweir (about 30 km southeast of Al-Mayadeen). Seven Syrian soldiers were killed and 14 others wounded (Telegram, January 6, 2020; Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, January 6, 2020).
    • On January 5, 2020, an IED was activated against an SDF vehicle on the road leading to the Al-Omar oil field, about 20 km east of Al-Mayadeen (Telegram, January 5, 2020).
    • On January 4, 2020, an IED was activated against an SDF vehicle on the road leading to the Al-Omar oil field, about 20 km east of Al-Mayadeen. No casualties were reported (Telegram, January 5, 2020).
    • On January 4, 2020, the house of a Syrian army “agent” was targeted by machine gun fire in Darnaj, about 10 km southeast of Al-Mayadeen. The “agent” was killed (Telegram, January 5, 2020).
    • On January 2, 2020, an IED was activated against a Syrian army truck carrying a gun in the Al-Mayadeen Desert. The truck was put out of commission (Telegram, January 3, 2020).
    • On January 1, 2020, a car bomb driven by a suicide bomber was detonated against Kurdish Internal Security forces (Asayish) near their headquarters in Abu Hamam, about 30 km southeast of Al-Mayadeen. Nine operatives of the Kurdish Internal Security forces were killed, including a commander. Several others were wounded (Telegram, January 1, 2020).
    • On January 1, 2020, an SDF intelligence operative was targeted by machine gun fire in the village of Diban, 5 km east of Al-Mayadeen. He was killed (Telegram, January 1, 2020).
    • On January 1, 2020, the house of an SDF Intelligence commander was targeted by machine gun fire in the village of Al-Tiyanah, 8 km southeast of Al-Mayadeen. The commander was killed (Telegram, January 1, 2020).
    • On December 31, 2019, an IED was activated against a Syrian army vehicle in the Al-Mayadeen Desert (Telegram, January 1, 2020).
Coalition and SDF counterterrorist activity
  • SDF fighters, in collaboration with Coalition forces, carried out an operation against ISIS in the Deir ez-Zor Province. Sixteen ISIS operatives were apprehended. Their capture reportedly prevented an attack in the immediate future against the Coalition and SDF forces (Iraq/Syria)@SOJTFOIR, Operation Inherent Resolve’s Twitter account, January 2, 2020).
The Al-Hasakah area
Release of ISIS families from the Al-Hol displaced persons camp
  • Soon, the SDF forces are expected to release about 400 additional family members of ISIS operatives from the Al-Hol displaced persons camp (about 40 km east of Al-Hasakah). Their release was probably made possible after sheikhs of tribes living east of the Euphrates River had vouched for them (January 4, 2020). The involvement of sheikhs and dignitaries in the release process is intended to serve as a guarantee of sorts that the released ISIS operatives or their family members would not resume their activity in the ranks of ISIS.
The area of Palmyra and Al-Sukhnah
  • In the area of Palmyra and Al-Sukhnah, ISIS carried out several attacks against the Syrian army:
    • On January 2, 2020, an IED was activated against a Syrian army vehicle in the Al-Sukhnah area. Photos which were released show at least one body, as well as red ribbons with the Arabic inscription “Al-Quds Brigade” (i.e., a Palestinian brigade) (Telegram, January 2, 2020).
    • On December 31, 2019, two Syrian soldiers were targeted by machine gun fire near Hmeimah, about 100 km southeast of Al-Sukhnah. They were both killed (Telegram, January 2, 2020).
US army statement on a pause in the campaign against ISIS
  • On January 5, 2020, the US army announced a pause in its military actions against ISIS, subject to continuous review. According to the statement, repeated rocket attacks over the last two months by elements of Kata’ib Hezbollah, which have caused the death of Iraqi security forces personnel and a US civilian, are behind this decision. At the present time, the US army is first and foremost committed to protecting the Iraqi bases that host Coalition troops, at the expense of supporting the operations carried out by the Iraqi partners of the US against ISIS (website of Operation Inherent Resolve, January 5, 2020).
The Iraqi arena
ISIS activity in the various provinces

ISIS continued its activity in the Iraqi arena at relatively low intensity. Prominent forms of attacks this week included the activation of IEDs against vehicles of the Iraqi security forces; sniper fire; and targeted killings. The following are highlights of ISIS’s activity (according to its claims of responsibility).

Diyala Province
  • On January 2, 2020, emergency police personnel were targeted by sniper fire about 30 km northeast of Baqubah. One policeman was killed and two others were wounded (Telegram, January 3, 2020). According to the Iraqi Prime Minister’s Office website, the policeman was killed in an attack carried out by ISIS operatives against an outpost of the emergency police (@SecMedCell Facebook page of the Iraqi Prime Minister’s Office, January 2, 2020).
  • On December 31, 2020, a Popular Mobilization compound was targeted by sniper fire about 70 km north of Baqubah. One operative was killed (Telegram, January 1, 2020).
Al-Anbar Province
  • On January 3, 2020, the house of an Iraqi Military Intelligence operative was targeted by gunfire west of Ramadi. The intelligence operative was killed. His house and vehicle were set on fire (Telegram, January 4, 2020).
Kirkuk Province
  • On January 5, 2020, an Iraqi army camp about 30 km south of Kirkuk was attacked. Five soldiers were killed (Telegram, January 7, 2020).
  • On December 31, 2020, an oil facility police compound was attacked about 30 km northwest of Kirkuk. Two policemen were killed in the exchange of fire (Telegram, January 1, 2020).
Erbil Province
  • On January 3, 2020, an IED was activated against an Iraqi army vehicle about 50 km southwest of Erbil. Two soldiers were killed and another was wounded (Telegram, January 4, 2020).
Counterterrorist activities by the Iraqi security forces
  •   The Iraqi army has begun the eighth phase of Operation The Will to Win against the presence of ISIS cells in the Salah al-Din, Kirkuk, Nineveh and Diyala provinces (ISIS’s main activity areas). Weapons belonging to ISIS were located in the activity in the Nineveh Province. In addition, several tunnels used by ISIS operatives were uncovered (Facebook page of the Iraqi Ministry of Defense, January 2, 2020).
Officers in the Iraqi security forces in Nineveh Province (Facebook page of the Iraqi Ministry of Defense, January 2, 2020)   Convoy of the Iraqi security forces operating in the Nineveh Province in the third phase of Operation The Will to Win.
Right: Convoy of the Iraqi security forces operating in the Nineveh Province in the third phase of Operation The Will to Win. Left: Officers in the Iraqi security forces in Nineveh Province (Facebook page of the Iraqi Ministry of Defense, January 2, 2020)
Security activity in the Kirkuk Province
  • Acting on the basis of accurate intelligence, Iraqi F-16 fighter jets attacked three ISIS tunnels about 50 km north of Kirkuk. The tunnels were destroyed and ISIS operatives inside were killed (@SecMedCell Facebook page of the Iraqi Prime Minister’s Office, January 3, 2020).
Security activity in the Al-Anbar Province
  • A force of the Iraqi Interior Ministry apprehended two ISIS operatives about 45 km west of Baghdad. Their capture was made possible by intelligence indicating the return of ISIS operatives to the region. The two operatives had carried out several attacks, including the activation of IEDs that killed members of the Iraqi security forces (Al-Sumaria, January 5, 2020).
The Sinai Peninsula
  • ISIS’s Sinai Province operatives continued their “routine” activity against the Egyptian security forces in northern Sinai:
    • On January 6, 2020, an IED was activated against an Egyptian army bulldozer near a checkpoint south of Sheikh Zuweid. The soldiers on the bulldozer were wounded (Telegram, January 6, 2020).
    • On January 4, 2020, an IED was activated against an Egyptian army armored vehicle near the village of Sabika, about 30 km west of Al-Arish. The soldiers on the armored vehicle were killed or wounded (Telegram, January 6, 2020).
    • On January 4, 2020, ISIS’s Sinai Province released photos documenting the execution of two “agents” who worked for the Egyptian army, south of Bir al-Abd (Telegram, January 4, 2020).
    • On January 2, 2020, an IED was activated against an Egyptian army bulldozer east of Sheikh Zuweid. The soldiers on the bulldozer were wounded (Telegram, January 2, 2020).
    • On December 31, 2019, an IED was activated against an Egyptian army bulldozer west of Rafah. The soldiers on the bulldozer were wounded (Telegram, January 2, 2020).
The activity of ISIS’s provinces in Africa and Asia
Nigeria
  • This week, ISIS’s activity continued in Borno State in northeastern Nigeria, at relatively low intensity. Following are attacks for which ISIS’s West Africa Province claimed responsibility:
    • On January 6, 2020, ISIS operatives attacked a Nigerian police checkpoint about 20 km west of Maiduguri, the capital of Borno State. Five policemen were killed and others were wounded. Weapons and ammunition were seized (Telegram, January 7, 2020).
    • On January 6, 2020, ISIS operatives ambushed Nigerian soldiers in the area of Jakana, 40 km west of Maiduguri. Eight soldiers were killed and several others were wounded. Weapons and ammunition were seized (Telegram, January 7, 2020). According to an African news website, on January 6, 2020, ISIS operatives blocked main roads in the Jakana area and then attacked a Nigerian army base. According to the report, at least four soldiers and at least six ISIS operatives were killed (African news website All Africa, January 7, 2020).
    • On January 5, 2020, ISIS operatives attacked a Nigerian army compound 40 km west of Maiduguri. A total of 30 soldiers were killed or wounded. The compound was set on fire. Weapons and ammunition were seized (Telegram, January 7, 2020).
    • On January 5, 2020, ISIS’s Amaq News Agency released a video documenting the execution of two Christian residents in revenge for the killing of ISIS’s leader and its spokesman.
    • On January 4, 2020, ISIS operatives attacked a Nigerian army compound. The forces exchanged fire. Several soldiers were killed or wounded. Weapons and ammunition were seized (Telegram, January 4, 2020).
Somalia
  • ISIS operatives shot and killed a Somali policeman in the Bakara open market in Mogadishu (Telegram, January 5, 2020).
Yemen
  • On January 6, 2020, an IED was activated against Al-Qaeda operatives in the Qifah area in the northwest of the Al-Bayda Province (about 100 km southeast of Sana’a). Four Al-Qaeda operatives were wounded (Telegram, January 7, 2020).
Russia
Attack on an Ingushetia police checkpoint by Caucasus Province operatives
  • On January 2, 2020, a ramming and stabbing attack was carried out against an Ingushetia police traffic control post. The attack was carried out in the Magas region, the capital of Ingushetia in the northern Caucasus. Two policemen were reportedly killed and two others wounded. One of the perpetrators of the attack, Mikail Miziyev, 18, was killed, while the other, Akhmed Imagozhev, was wounded and hospitalized (Radio Free Europe – Radio Liberty, American news website, January 2, 2020)
  • ISIS’s Caucasus Province claimed responsibility for the attack. According to the announcement issued by the province, two operatives carried out a combined ramming and stabbing attack against members of the Ingushetia police force. According to ISIS, two police officers were killed and several others were wounded (Telegram, January 1, 2020).

The two ISIS operatives who carried out the ramming and stabbing attack. The ISIS flag can is visible on the smartphone screen (Telegram, January 1, 2020).
The two ISIS operatives who carried out the ramming and stabbing attack.
The ISIS flag can is visible on the smartphone screen (Telegram, January 1, 2020).

The battle for hearts and minds
Summary of the acts of revenge for the killing of ISIS’s leader and the organization’s spokesman
  • ISIS’s Al-Naba’ weekly published an infographic summing up activity of its provinces around the world this week (December 19–26, 2019) as part of the acts of revenge for the killing of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and the organization’s spokesman Abu al-Hassan al-Muhajir. According to the infographic, ISIS’s various provinces carried out 139 attacks, killing and wounding over 355 people. The attacks included: activating IEDs (38 attacks); raids (32); sniper fire (21); targeted killings (21); “other attacks” (17); ambushes (7); suicide bombing attacks (3). The distribution of attacks by country is as follows: Syria (60 attacks, 23 of which were carried out in the Al-Khayr Province and 19 in the Al-Raqqah Province (i.e., in the Euphrates Valley); Iraq (51 attacks, including 19 in the Diyala Province); West Africa (18); The Sinai Peninsula (5); Somalia (3) and Yemen (2) (Telegram, January 2, 2020).

It is clearly evident that ISIS’s two core countries of Syria and Iraq still play a central role in ISIS’s terrorist activity even after the blows that ISIS has been dealt. In contrast, Afghanistan is not mentioned, although it formerly played a central role in ISIS’s terrorist activity, probably due to the defeat suffered by ISIS operatives in the Nangarhar Province, which has apparently – at least temporarily – terminated the activity of the Khorasan Province. With regard to the nature of the activity, the modus operandi of the “revenge operations” did not include any sophisticated attacks, apparently because ISIS has not fully regained its operational capabilities.

MESOPOTAMIA NEWS PRESS SAMPLER : Following Killing Of IRGC Qods Force Commander Soleimani, Lebanese, Syrian Press Reveal New Details About His Aid To The Assad Regime And Hizbullah, His Struggle Against The U.S., And The Arming Of Gaza Terrorist Organizations

January 9, 2020 Special Dispatch No. 8482

Following the U.S. killing of IRGC Qods Force Commander Qassem Soleimani, Lebanese and Syrian media outlets, particularly the Hizbullah-affiliated Lebanese Al-Akhbar daily, published many reports providing new details about Soleimani’s activity and his support for Hizbullah, the Assad regime in Syria, the Palestinian factions in Gaza, and the Iran-backed Shi’ite resistance factions in Iraq. The articles explain how Soleimani managed and equipped fighters to confront the U.S. forces in Iraq; how he turned Syria into a center for coordination between the various resistance forces in Lebanon, Iraq, and Palestine, with the cooperation of Hizbullah military chief ‘Imad Mughniyeh; how he helped the Assad regime deal with the protests against it and persuaded Russian President Putin to intervene in Syria; and how he oversaw the arming of Gaza via many channels, and even on occasion mediated among the Palestinian factions.

The following are translated excerpts from these reports:

 

Read all http://www.mesop.de/?p=108161

MESOPOTAMIA NEWS PRESS SAMPLER : Following Killing Of IRGC Qods Force Commander Soleimani, Lebanese, Syrian Press Reveal New Details About His Aid To The Assad Regime And Hizbullah, His Struggle Against The U.S., And The Arming Of Gaza Terrorist Organizations

January 9, 2020 Special Dispatch No. 8482 MEMRI

Following the U.S. killing of IRGC Qods Force Commander Qassem Soleimani, Lebanese and Syrian media outlets, particularly the Hizbullah-affiliated Lebanese Al-Akhbar daily, published many reports providing new details about Soleimani’s activity and his support for Hizbullah, the Assad regime in Syria, the Palestinian factions in Gaza, and the Iran-backed Shi’ite resistance factions in Iraq. The articles explain how Soleimani managed and equipped fighters to confront the U.S. forces in Iraq; how he turned Syria into a center for coordination between the various resistance forces in Lebanon, Iraq, and Palestine, with the cooperation of Hizbullah military chief ‘Imad Mughniyeh; how he helped the Assad regime deal with the protests against it and persuaded Russian President Putin to intervene in Syria; and how he oversaw the arming of Gaza via many channels, and even on occasion mediated among the Palestinian factions.

The following are translated excerpts from these reports:

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