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Intelligence digest: Middle East, 4-10 November 2012


Victims and relatives to testify in trial of US soldier accused of killing 16 Afghan civilians
New York Times, 9 November: Two victims and four victims’ relatives will testify Friday from Afghanistan, via videoconference and through a translator, in an overnight session of the pre-trial hearing for Staff Sgt. Robert Bales, who allegedly murdered 16 Afghan civilians in two villages in March.

Afghan-Pakistan meeting to discuss resuming negotiations with the Afghan Taliban
Express Tribune, 9 November: Afghan and Pakistani officials will hold talks in Islamabad next week on restarting negotiations with the Afghan Taliban, marking Salahuddin Rabbani’s first visit to Pakistan since the killing of his father and predecessor as head of Afghanistan’s High Peace Council, Burhanuddin Rabbani.

Afghanistan bomb attacks ‘kill 20’
BBC, 8 November: At least 20 people, including 12 civilians, have been killed in four separate militant attacks in Afghanistan, officials say. Women and children were among 10 killed when a minibus hit a roadside bomb in southern Helmand province. Other bombings killed five Afghan soldiers in Laghman in the east, three police in Kandahar and two boys in Zabul province.

Afghanistan welcomes UN designation of Haqqani Network as terrorists and rules out negotiations
Reuters, 6 November: Afghanistan’s presidential spokesman welcomed the United Nations’ designation of the Haqqani Network as a terrorist organization on Tuesday, and said the government would not negotiate with the group.

Attacker of schoolgirl Malala Yousafzai believed hiding in E Afghanistan
Washington Post, 6 November: U.S. officials say that Mullah Fazlullah, the Taliban leader who ordered the attack last month on 14-year-old activist Malala Yousafzai, is hiding in eastern Afghanistan now, but is not being tracked by U.S. forces there because “he is viewed as an ‘other-side-of-the-border’ problem”

Afghanistan welcomes UN designation of Haqqani Network as terrorists and rules out negotiations
Reuters, 6 November: Afghanistan’s presidential spokesman welcomed the United Nations’ designation of the Haqqani Network as a terrorist organization on Tuesday, and said the government would not negotiate with the group, which is blamed for several high-profile attacks in Afghanistan


Ahmadinejad Wants Direct Talks with US on Iran Nuclear Issue
Turkish Weekly, 9 November: Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said problems related to his country’s nuclear program must be discussed directly with the United States, IRNA news agency reported.

UN confirms December talks with Iran
World Bulletin, 9 November: The U.N. nuclear agency said on Friday it would hold a new round of atomic talks with Iran in Tehran on December 13, confirming an earlier Reuters report.

Iran warns against airspace breach after US drone incident
World Bulletin, 9 November: Iran said it would deal decisively with any foreign encroachment into its airspace, an apparent warning to the United States after one of its surveillance drones was allegedly targeted by Iranian warplanes last week.

Inflation continues to rise in Iran
Critical Threats, 8 November: According to the Central Bank, inflation reached an average of 24.9% during the past twelve months. In the last month, inflation reached 32%.

U.S. targets Iranian human rights violators
CNN, 8 November: The United States sanctioned 17 Iranian individuals and entities for their alleged roles in the Iranian government’s human rights abuses and support of terrorism, the Treasury and State departments announced Thursday.

Iranian MPs draft Bill to reduce oil exports by up to a third
Reuters, 7 November: Iranian parliamentarians have prepared a draft law to reduce the country’s crude exports by up to a third this year in retaliation for western sanctions against Iran’s oil sector, the semi-official Fars news agency said on Wednesday.

Iran says will take part in nuclear-free Middle East conference
Reuters, 6 November: Iran said on Tuesday it would take part in a proposed international conference in December on creating a nuclear-free zone in the Middle East.

Iran sets up new base near disputed islands
US News, 4 November: Iran’s powerful Revolutionary Guards inaugurated a new naval base on Sunday to reinforce Tehran’s authority over three Persian Gulf islands also claimed by the neighboring United Arab Emirates, Iranian state TV reported.


Iraq cancels $4.2bn Russian arms deal over ‘corruption’
BBC, 10 November: Iraq has cancelled a $4.2bn (£2.6bn) deal to buy arms from Russia because of concerns about “corruption”, an Iraqi government advisor has said.

Iraq needs up to $1trillion to rebuild
AAP, 9 November: Iraq needs up to $US1 trillion ($A964.18 billion) over the next 10 years to rebuild its crumbling infrastructure and battered economy, its investment chief says.

Seven killed in Iraq attacks
PakTribune, 9 November: A series of bombings and gun attacks killed seven people in Iraq on Thursday, including four who died in a car bombing in a predominantly Shia city south of Baghdad, officials said.

Turkish air strikes kill 13 Kurdish militants
Reuters, 9 November: Turkish air force jets and attack helicopters pounded Kurdish militants along the border with Iraq on Thursday, killing 13, the local governor’s office and security sources said on Friday.

Iraq car bomb kills 25 army recruits
AFP, 6 November: At least 25 people were killed on Tuesday by a car bomb that was placed outside an Iraqi army base as new recruits were massed at the entrance gate, in the country’s deadliest single attack for more than three months.


Palestinian boy ‘killed by Israeli gunfire’
BBC, 9 November: A Palestinian boy has been killed by Israeli gunfire in the Gaza Strip, during clashes between Israeli forces and militants, Palestinian medics say.

Israel says it follows U.S. lead on Iran
CNN, 8 November: Israel is signaling a major change in tone toward U.S. President Barack Obama now that he has won reelection. In an interview with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour on Thursday, Israel’s Deputy Foreign Minister, Danny Ayalon, gave what could only be described as a ringing endorsement of the Obama administration’s handling of Iran’s nuclear program.

Israel advances plans for 1,213 new West Bank settlement homes
Reuters, 6 November: Israel has announced plans to press ahead with construction of 1,213 homes on annexed West Bank land, defying international opposition to its settlement policies.

Israel arrests wife of Islamic Jihad leader
Gulf News, 5 November: Israeli forces have detained the wife of an Islamic Jihad leader who is being held in administrative detention, Israeli and Palestinian sources said on Monday. Palestinian security sources in the northern city of Jenin said Nawal Sa’adi, 52, was arrested at her home in the city’s refugee camp in the early hours of Monday morning.

Gaza ship to break Israeli siege from within
World Bulletin, 4 November: Palestinian and foreign activists are making preparations for a ship named “Gaza Arak” with which they plan to break the embargo on Gaza from within by raising anchor in May 2013.


UN food relief agency chief stresses need to strengthen aid to Syrian refugees
UN News Service, 9 November: During a visit to Jordan, the head of the United Nations food relief agency, the WFP, today said the world body and its partners are intensifying their efforts to assist Syrian refugees who continue to grow in numbers due to the violence in the Middle Eastern country.

Jordan king asks Obama to work on Mideast peace
Jordan Times, 8 November: Jordan’s King Abdullah II on Thursday congratulated Barack Obama on his re-election, telling him the Middle East’s future “hinges on” resolving the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.


Kuwait releases royals detained over tweets
Al-Jazeera, 10 November: Kuwait has released two members of the Al-Sabah ruling family after holding them for two days allegedly over tweets deemed critical of the government. Sheikh Abdullah Salem Al-Sabah was released late on Friday, while Sheikh Nawaf Malek Al-Sabah was freed on Saturday afternoon.

Two royals arrested over critical tweets – Opposition boycott polls in dispute over electoral law
Kuwait Times, 9 November: Kuwait has arrested two members of the Al-Sabah ruling family for tweets deemed critical of the government and supportive of the opposition, a human rights group and a lawyer said yesterday. Meanwhile, registration of candidates for Kuwait’s upcoming polls closed yesterday amid a total boycott by the opposition in protest over amendment of the disputed electoral law.

Kuwait opposition to stage joint demonstration Sunday
Reuters, 7 November: Kuwaiti opposition groups plan to stage a joint demonstration on Sunday against new voting rules as a standoff with the government intensifies ahead of an election on December 1.

Kuwait opposition determined to seek greater rights
BBC, 6 November: Opposition supporters are determined to press their demands for greater democratic rights as protests take place in Kuwait City.

Kuwait takes hard line on unauthorised protests
Reuters, 5 November: Kuwait’s government has made clear it is willing and able to suppress unauthorised street protests, saying it must protect public safety, but risks provoking worse popular unrest by taking a hard line.

Kuwait police use stun grenades against protest
AFP, 5 November: Kuwaiti riot police used stun grenades and smoke bombs against thousands of demonstrators who defied a protest ban to block a major road south of the capital Sunday as the emir met leading opposition figures.


Lebanese President Rules out Postponement of Elections
NNA, 10 November: Lebanese President Michel Suleiman ruled out Friday the postponement of next year’s parliamentary elections, stressing that “the rotation of power is the right path in democratic life”, the National News Agency reported.


Nothing significant to report.


Karachi violence claims fifteen more lives
Dawn, 10 November: At least fifteen people died and several injured on Saturday as the menace of targeted killings continues to spread havoc in Karachi.

Militants attack Pakistani military outpost, killing one
Dawn, 9 November: Militants in South Waziristan attacked a security checkpoint on Friday, killing one member of the Pakistani security forces, and provoking a counter-attack that resulted in the deaths of six militants

PM: “No clash of institutions”
Critical Threats, 9 November: Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf said on Friday that there was no clash of institutions in the country. His comments follow a recent “war of words” between the Army, the judiciary, and parliament over who defines Pakistani national interest.

Bomb explosion injures 12
Critical Threats, 9 November: A bomb explosion in Dera Bugti, Balochistan injured more than 12 people on Friday. It is unclear who planted the bomb. Police have begun an investigation.

Four killed in multiple attacks
Critical Threats, 9 November: Four people were killed in Karachi in various incidents Friday. Police say two of the attacks were targeted killings. A man was shot in Gulzar-e-Hijri, two were killed in Rehri Goth, and a woman’s body was discovered in a drain in Korangi.

Security ban of motorcycle passengers
Express Tribune, 9 November: Officials in Karachi have announced a ban on riding as a passenger on the backs of a motorcycles until the 11th day of the Islamic month of Muharram in an effort to reduce the violence that killers can easily carry out as passengers on a motorcycle. Muharram is a holy month in which fighting is prohibited, so the ban on pillion riding does not apply to women, children, the elderly, or journalists.

Taliban suicide attack on base in Pakistan’s biggest city kills one
Reuters, 8 November: A suicide bomber slammed his vehicle into the gates of a paramilitary base in downtown Karachi on Thursday, killing at least one and injuring over 20, but was apparently unable to breach the gates of the base and cause further harm.

Obama victory infuriates Pakistani drone victims
Dawn, 8 November: Relatives of the victims of the U.S. drone campaign in Pakistan’s tribal regions reacted with anger and despair at the re-election of President Obama.

Senior police officer among six killed in  two separate shootings
Dawn, 7 November: A suicide bomber killed at least six people in Peshawar on Wednesday, including the Assistant Superintendent of Police Hilal Haider. And in Karachi, two Shi’a Muslim members of the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) were shot and killed at a restaurant by an unidentified gunman.

Four killed in shooting between Afghan Taliban and TTP
Critical Threats, 6 November: A fight between the Afghan Taliban and the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) broke out in Andar district of Afghanistan’s Ghazni province on Tuesday. According to the Provincial Governor, the fighting left two Afghan Taliban militants and two TTP militants dead.

Anti-Taliban campaigner killed
Dawn, 4 November: After surviving two previous attempts on his life, the chief of an anti-Taliban peace committee, Abdur Rehman was killed “in a targeted attack in Fazalabad area in Maidan subdistrict of Lower Dir district, Khyber-Pakhtunlhwa on Sunday.” According to sources interviewed by Dawn, Rehman was also affiliated with the Jamaat-i-Islami (JI) party.

Karachi taken hostage by 25 Jihadi groups
The News, 5 November: Last Wednesday, the Supreme Court ordered the Sindh government to investigate the infiltration of over 7,000 Taliban militants into Karachi. Following this order, “well-placed circles in the security establishment” identified at least 25 Taliban- and al Qaeda-affiliated jihadi groups operating in the city.

UN increase package to help Afghani’s return to Afghanistan
Dawn, 5 November: The United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) has enhanced its offered return package to Afghan refugees willing to return to Afghanistan from Pakistan. In addition to $150, willing refugees will also receive equipment and transport assistance.

Taliban suicide bomber kills 6 in Pakistan
USA Today, 3 November: A Taliban suicide bomber blew himself up near a vehicle carrying the regional head of a government-allied militia in northwest Pakistan on Saturday, killing him and five others, police and the militant group said.

Saudi Arabia

Iran Seeks to Exploit Shia Grievances in Saudi Arabia
Al-Monitor, 9 November: Saudi Arabia is facing a growing internal threat from its minority Shia community with help from Iran. The royals have put their best man in charge of the fight, Prince Muhammad bin Nayef, who has been at the centre of fighting al-Qaeda’s challenge to the kingdom for years.

Sudan’s Bashir leaves Saudi Arabia hospital
Reuters, 7 November: Sudan’s President Omar Hassan al-Bashir left hospital in Saudi Arabia on Wednesday, a day after what state media called a “small successful” operation.


Syria’s opposition SNC elects George Sabra as new head
Reuters, 9 November: The Syrian National Council, the main opposition body outside the country in the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad, elected veteran activist George Sabra as its head on Friday.

UN: Syria ‘Dramatically Deteriorating’
Global Security, 9 November: The United Nations says the huge upsurge in the number of civilians fleeing Syria reflects the dramatically deteriorating situation in that country. Aid officials estimate that 2.5 million civilians still inside Syria need humanitarian assistance.

U.S and Qatar pile on pressure for Syria opposition to reach unity deal
Reuters, 9 November: Syria’s fractious opposition, under pressure from the United States and Qatar to unite, looked likely on Friday to agree to form an inclusive new opposition body that would serve as a unity government if Bashar al-Assad falls.

UN sees 4 million needy in Syria by early 2013
Reuters, 9 November: An estimated four million people inside Syria will need humanitarian aid by early next year when the country is in the grip of winter, up from 2.5 million now whose needs the world is not fully meeting, a senior U.N. aid official said on Friday.

Syria rebels take Turkish border town, Kurds alarmed
Reuters, 9 November: Free Syrian Army fighters captured a town on the Turkish border on Thursday in a push to seize control of frontier areas from President Bashar al-Assad’s forces, a rebel commander and opposition sources said.

Twenty Syrian security personnel killed in attack on northern base
Reuters, 9 November: At least 20 members of the Syrian security forces were killed and several wounded when fighters from rebel battalions attacked the headquarters of a military security building in northern Syria, a watchdog said.

Syrian National Council set to announce new leader
AAP, 8 November: The Syrian National Council (SNC), has elected a controversial all-male leadership team in the plenary session meeting in Doha, Qatar’s capital on Wednesday. The team is to choose an 11-member executive body and an SNC president later on Thursday.

Syria summit to be held in Turkish capital delayed
World Bulletin, 8 November: The meeting between Turkey, Egypt and Iran about Syria has been postponed after Iran states it will no longer attend. A new date is to be arranged.

Syria mortar bomb lands in Israeli village
Reuters, 8 November: A mortar bomb fired from Syria hit the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights on Thursday, the Israeli military said, with spill-over from the conflict in the Arab country on the rise.

Syrian rebels kill 10 pro-Assad Palestinian militiamen
Reuters, 7 November: Syrian rebels killed 10 members of a Palestinian militant faction loyal to President Bashar al-Assad on Wednesday in fighting near a Palestinian refugee camp in Damascus, opposition sources said.

UN cites “credible reports” Syria army using cluster bombs
Reuters, 6 November: The U.N. political affairs chief told the Security Council on Tuesday of credible reports that the Syrian government has used cluster bombs.

Gunmen kill brother of Syria’s parliament speaker
Reuters, 6 November: Gunmen assassinated the brother of Syria’s speaker of parliament on Tuesday, state television said, in the latest episode of a deadly campaign against people regarded as linked to President Bashar al-Assad.

Assad’s safe exit “could be arranged” – Britain’s PM Cameron
Reuters, 6 November: A safe exit and possible immunity from prosecution for President Bashar al-Assad “could be arranged” if it would end Syria’s increasingly bloody conflict, British Prime Minister David Cameron said on Tuesday before a visit to Saudi Arabia.

Russia backs Turkey’s tri-partite proposal on Syria
WorldBulletin, 5 November: An adviser to Russian President Vladimir Putin has said Russia could join in a ‘tri-partite mechanism’ which was proposed by Turkey to find a settlement to the crisis in Syria.

Air strike kills 20 rebels
Reuters, 5 November: At least 20 Syrian rebel fighters were killed in an air strike in the northwest province of Idlib on Monday.


Continued instability imperils Yemen
Gulf News, 10 November: The targeted assassinations of security officials in Yemen, as witnessed again last Wednesday with the killing of a Yemeni official in Sana’a, portends continued instability. The government of President Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi has blamed Al Qaida-affiliated militants for the targeted killings that have been on the rise in recent months.

Pro-army militia clashes with Qaeda-linked tribe in Yemen
Middle East Online, 10 November: Two aides to a tribal chief with alleged Al-Qaeda links were killed in a clash with pro-army militiamen in the troubled southern province of Abyan on Saturday, a local militia official said.

Major AQAP plot thwarted
Critical Threats, 9 November: Yemeni security forces thwarted a suspected al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) plot to assassinate government, security, and military personnel in Sana’a on November 9. Local sources reported that eight suspects were arrested. Several of the captured suspects admitted to belonging to AQAP.

Reports: US has loaned four surveillance drones for anti-AQAP operations
Critical Threats, 9 November: Local sources quoting an unidentified Arab Gulf newspaper reported on November 9 that the United States gave four unmanned drones to the Yemeni government for the purpose of tracking al Qaeda. Local sources added that the drones were recently delivered to al Anad airbase in Lahij governorate.

AQAP suspected of attack on oil pipeline
Critical Threats, 8 November: Suspected al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) operatives bombed an oil pipeline in Shabwah governorate on November 8. Engineer teams and security personnel have been deployed to assess the damage.

Reports: US airstrike kills three AQAP operatives
Critical Threats, 8 November: A suspected U.S. targeted airstrike killed at least three individuals in Sanhan region near Sana’a on November 7. Local sources reported that the targeted airstrike killed three al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) operatives

Gunmen kill CSF officer
Critical Threats, 7 November: Unidentified gunmen shot dead a Central Security Forces (CSF) officer in Sana’a on November 7. The officer, identified as Maj. Mohammad Hussein al Fil, was shot dead by two gunmen riding a motorcycle. A local source reported that Maj. Fil was working in a counterterrorism capacity. Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) is suspected of being behind the attack.

Yemen chief suspected of links to al Qaeda ordered to surrender
Reuters, 6 November: A tribal leader suspected of links to al Qaeda has been given an ultimatum to surrender to pro-government forces besieging his home in south Yemen on Tuesday or be seized by force, an official said.

Yemen reports seizure of weapons shipped from Turkey
World Bulletin, 5 November: Yemen’s customs authority says it has seized boxes of arms in southern Yemeni city of Aden that were originated from Turkey.

AQAP clashes with Saudi border guards at Yemen border
Critical Threats, 5 November: Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) operatives clashed with Saudi border guards in Najran district in southern Saudi Arabia on November 5. The AQAP operatives were reportedly attempting to enter Yemen. Two Saudi border guards and four AQAP operatives were killed in the clashes.

US Embassy security strengthened in response to threat
Critical Threats, 5 November: Security measures at the U.S. Embassy in Sana’a have been reinforced following reported threats by al Houthi rebels. Local sources added that al Houthi rebels have threatened to respond against the United States for a suspected U.S. targeted airstrike that killed AQAP operatives in al Houthi-controlled territory on October 29.

Related issues

Arab League to hold joint European Union meeting
Al-Monitor, 9 November: For the first time since its inception, the Arab League will host a joint meeting for Arab foreign ministers (22 ministers) and their European counterparts (27 ministers) on Nov. 13 at the headquarters of the Arab League General Secretariat in Cairo.

Strategic analysis articles

Get your act together or we won’t help
The Economist, 10 November: A discussion on whether Syria’s fractious opposition can be melded into one.

Pakistan’s minority Hindus feel under attack
Associated Press, 8 November: An article on the increasing violence against Hindus in Pakistan, which has resulted in the destruction of Hindu religious sites, a growing divide between the minority community and their Muslim neighbors, and the exodus of thousands of Pakistani Hindus to India

More al Qaeda links to Cairo terror cell reportedly found
The Long War Journal, 9 November: The Egyptian investigation into the Nasr City terrorist cell has revealed more links to al Qaeda and Libya, according to recent Arabic press reports.

Obama’s Re-Election Means Fourth Term of Bush Terrorism Policies
US News, 9 November: For all his talk about spreading democracy and liberty, President George W. Bush has come to be associated with policies of indefinite detention, coercive interrogation, and warrantless wiretapping. But unlike President Bush, it is doubtful that President Barack Obama will be remembered for his assertions of unchecked executive power. That’s dangerous. This article explains why.

Military Stats Reveal Epicentre of U.S. Drone War
Brookings Institute, 9 November: Forget Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, and all the other secret little warzones. The real centre of the U.S. drone campaign is in plain sight — on the hot and open battlefield of Afghanistan.

Designating the Haqqani Network: New Constraints Moderating Pakistan’s Relationship with the U.S.
Critical Threats, 8 November: The Haqqani Network is one of the most violent and dangerous insurgent organizations, and the most prolific user of terrorism, operating in South Asia today. The network maintains complex and diversified funding streams throughout Pakistan, Afghanistan, and the Persian Gulf. This article discusses why U.S. has done little to combat the network’s financial base or cut into its revenue streams.

US drone operations In Yemen
The Long War Journal, 8 November: In a strike near the Yemeni capital of Sana’a on 7 November, US drones killed an al Qaeda commander involved in the attack on the US Embassy in Sana’a in 2008, along with two fighters. The strike near Sana’a and the previous one in Saada in northern Yemen indicate that the US is expanding drone operations from the traditional hunting grounds in the south. This article reviews US drone operations in Yemen.

Sudan: Bashir Says Sudan to Seek Advanced Weaponry to Counter-Attack Israel
Sudan Tribune, 8 November: Sudan’s president Omer Al-Bashir has revealed that his country will seek to acquire “advanced” attack weaponry to answer repeated Israeli attacks “tit for tat.”

Having dispatched Romney, Obama faces Iran, Syria
Reuters, 7 November: A brief assessment of the challenges facing the re-elected President.

Slip-Sliding on a Yellow Brick Road: Stabilization Efforts in Afghanistan
Human Security Gateway, 6 November: The ongoing transition process in Afghanistan will deliver three shocks in the coming few years: foreign forces will complete the handover of security responsibility to their Afghan counterparts, aid volumes and international spending in the country will decrease and, lastly, the political dispensation will be upended by presidential elections in which President Hamid Karzai is not supposed to run again. This article discusses the future of the battered nation.

Losing Yemen
Foreign Policy, 5 November: How this forgotten corner of the Arabian Peninsula became the most dangerous country in the world.

Taliban claim over 20 insider attacks in eight months
The Long War Journal, 4 November: In an interview published in the 78th issue of the Afghan Taliban’s al-Samoud magazine, an official in the group’s Da’wa and Education Committee describes the Taliban’s strategy for its insider attack campaign and summarizes operations in that area.

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