One thing I’ll always be proud of is that we provided Husham with the platform & resources to publish his work almost weekly. We had big plans, ideas for longterm projects & to publish more regularly. Others only used him for quotes, and ignored his published work.
Two very important statements issued by al-Qaeda and Hayat Tahrir al-Sham in northern Syria. Both offer insights into the nature of the fighting between the two in the north, and a little about their "relationship".
Starting with the latest, just now. Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (formerly known as Jabhat al-Nusra) issues a response to al-Qaeda, denying they initiated the fighting against the formal franchise of al-Qaeda known as Hurras ad-Din.
HTS's statement is issued by Abu Abdullah al-Shami.
Al-Shami says his group HTS and al-Qaeda's franchise had signed an agreement (after a period of fighting that followed the HTS breaking away from al-Qaeda) that regulated al-Qaeda franchise's work in the north. Those regulations include:
Abu Saad al-Shamali al-Shami Faiz Ukal al-Nuaymi al-Qurayshi, was killed in a drone strike earlier this week. He was traveling under a false name and ID for "Ahmed El Darwish" in areas controlled by the Turkish-backed rebels.
A gruesome video & picture exist but not for sharing.
Abu Saad, a Syrian, is a KEY ISIS operative in Syria. He is said to have been jailed in the notorious prison of Sednaya before the Syrian uprising. He is also known for extreme views, even within ISIS, but was VERY close to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. He was put in charge of Raqqa.
In an escalation, Egyptian president Sisi says Cairo is now prepared to intervene directly in Libya. He says an Egyptian intervention has become legal under international law to protect its borders, secure Libya & protect civilians there
This statement follows persistent efforts in past weeks by the UAE to stop the advances of the Turkish-backed UN-recognized government in Libya, after the military fiasco of its ally Haftar.
Using the same line that Russia and the UAE in past weeks, Egypt’s Sisi says that the red line for them would be if the Turkish-backed Libyan forces attempt to capture Sirte and Jafra. The Cairo Declaration seems to stop these advances through a ceasefire:
Can you think of a more cruel law against women in the Middle East? Women in Saudi Arabia are banned from visiting the graves of their loved ones. Men are encouraged to. A moving footage of a woman peeking into a cemetery, as part of a campaign to lift it:
The issue came now because during Eid, it’s customers for people (men in this case) visit burial sites in the morning as part of connecting with their loved ones and families.
When asked if it’s okay for women to pray for their loved at the gate of a cemetery, this Saudi cleric says no. Not even entering, just praying at the entrance.
He says prayers are prayers wherever they are performed. So pray far away from graves, women:
The symbol of #Assad regime’s corruption, Assad’s cousin, does something unheard of: he goes live on Facebook to discuss recent news that Assad, with pressure from Russia, seized cousins’ assets to get them to pay $3 billions. With no access, he pleads Assad to hear him out. 1/2
In the video, Rami Makhlouf says:
• my telecom company, with ~11 million users, pays 12 billion Syrian pounds in tax + 50% of profits
• a committee by Assad claimed he’s involved in tax fraud & must pay more: 125-130 billion
• I’m willing to pay but not all of the sum at once
Apart from the plea, the remarks are quite interesting.
He says when he claimed he abandoned his businesses & turned his wealth to humanitarian work after the 2011 uprising, it was to take a bullet for Assad & to not embarrass him. This is the result of that move, he says.
One core reason for maximum pressure on Iran and Syria is not necessarily to convince Assad to reform his regime, but to force Russia to consider the costs of Assad not reforming. Unless this is Russia propaganda, it sure looks like it’s working.
Same for pressure on Iran itself
Iran’s oil exports to Syria have increased substantially in recent weeks and currently several cargoes have reached the Baniyas port in Syria.
Turkey is not stopping. The Syrian and Iranian forces are paralyzed without Russian air cover. Lots of myths and bad takes are being destroyed in northwestern Syria
A mere week ago, Turkey seemed on the way out in Syria. At least to some observers. Now it’s not just keeping its presence. When this is over, Turkey might get more than it had before, in terms of lasting deals.
All correct. But to add: Turkey has really no choice but to continue on this path, despite such unfortunate incidents. Standing down in Idlib will be the end of its presence in the more strategic areas it controls close to its borders. The refugee issue remains secondary to that.
It’s easy to get sidetracked by daily events about Turkey’s real concerns and priority. But we have about two decades, years before the Syrian conflict, to understand #Turkey’s thinking/approach. Specifically, I mean its approach in Iraq after 2003 (not the decades-long PKK war).
First, Turkey has never cared about #Idlib as a strategic objective. Idlib became more important as a real estate when the Turkish forces seized Kurdish areas in NW Syria in 2018 & because of the deepened US presence in the NE post-2016.
The recording could have been part 2 of the statement that immediately followed the killing of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. Most of it went over the history of ISIS to establish how ISIS has seen this movie before, and that any proclamation about its demise are premature.
That part is objectively accurate: ISIS is still a major threat & has what it takes to endure & re-emerge. Currently, as I keep saying, its biggest achievement is that it has survived the upheavals it faced in recent years & kept its "organism" intact. Vital to count that in.
@martinchulov The Guardian's reporting confirms that the man behind the nom de guerre of Abu Ibrahim al-Hashemi is Amir Mohammed Abdul Rahman al-Mawli al-Salbi. He's sometimes identified as Abdullah Qardash or Hajj Abdullah.
But there is a lot of confusion about him, two points in particular:
1) is he really an Arab, or a Turkoman (thus impossible to be a descendent of the Hashemite clan of prophet Mohammed, as he and ISIS claim)
2) is he the same person as Abdullah Qardash. People like Hisham al-Hashemi have been saying they’re different people, one was dead.
"Shortly after midnight, we received a formal verbal message from the Islamic Republic of Iran that the Iranian response to the assassination of Qassem Suleimani has begun or will begin shortly, and that the strike will be ...
... the strike will be limited to places where the US army is present in Iraq, without specifying the locations. Exactly at the same time, the US side called us as missiles were falling on the part where the US forces are housed in Ain al-Assad in Anbar & Harir in Erbil & others
Big update — The US military informs Iraq of its plan for an “onward movement” of US troops in response to the requests from the Iraqi parliament and prime minister, “in due deference to the sovereignty of Iraq“. Via @LizSly
Mark my word: this is not how it sounds. It’s NOT a withdrawal, it’s a drawdown to the pre-2014 levels, *at best*.
People will laugh at this but — as before — it’ll become clear pretty soon that this won’t really change much.
Who wants to bet?
The problem with this kind of assertions, I realize, is that people will laugh at them but when they turn out to be right, people won’t say anything. And the cycle repeats.
Such an important & insightful story by @MazMHussain, using internal Iranian documents.
“Secret Iranian spy cables show how Qassim Suleimani wielded his enormous power in Iraq” interc.pt/2FjBW6t
(I’ll post about 5 extracts I think are super interesting)
“While the Iranian-led war against the Islamic State was raging, Iranian spies privately expressed concern that the brutal tactics favored by Suleimani and his Iraqi proxies were laying the groundwork for major blowback against the Iranian presence Iraq.”
“In some documents, intelligence officers criticize Suleimani for alienating Sunni Arab communities and helping to create the circumstances that justified a renewed American military presence in Iraq.”