English LCCC Newsbulletin For Lebanese, Lebanese Related, Global News & Editorials
For January 14/2020
Compiled & Prepared by: Elias Bejjani


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Bible Quotations For today

Ruining of the temple and signs of the end of times
Luke 21/05-24:  And looking up, he saw the men of wealth putting their offerings in the money-box.  And he saw a certain poor widow putting in a farthing. And he said, Truly I say to you, This poor widow has given more than all of them:  For they gave out of their wealth, having more than enough for themselves: but she, even out of her need, has put in all her living.  And some were talking about the Temple, how it was made fair with beautiful stones and with offerings, but he said,  As for these things which you see, the days will come when not one stone will be resting on another, but all will be broken down. And they said to him, Master, when will these things be? and what sign will there be when these events are to take place?  And he said, Take care that you are not tricked: for a number of people will come in my name, saying, I am he; and, The time is near: do not go after them.  And when news of wars and troubled times comes to your ears, have no fear; for these things have to be, but the end will not be now.  Then he said to them, Nation will be moved against nation and kingdom against kingdom:  There will be great earth-shocks and outbursts of disease in a number of places, and men will be without food; and there will be wonders and great signs from heaven.  But before all this, they will take you and be very cruel to you, giving you up to the Synagogues and to prisons, taking you before kings and rulers, because of my name.  And it will be turned to a witness for you. So take care not to be troubled before the time comes, about what answers you will give:  For I will give you words and wisdom, so that not one of those who are against you will be able to get the better of you, or to put you in the wrong. But you will be given up even by your fathers and mothers, your brothers and relations and friends; and some of you will be put to death. And you will be hated by all men, because of me. 18 But not a hair of your head will come to destruction.  By going through all these things, you will keep your lives.  But when you see armies all round about Jerusalem, then be certain that her destruction is near.  Then let those who are in Judaea go in flight to the mountains; and those who are in the middle of the town go out; and let not those who are in the country come in.  For these are the days of punishment, in which all the things in the Writings will be put into effect.  It will be hard for women who are with child, and for her with a baby at the breast, in those days. For great trouble will come on the land, and wrath on this people.  And they will be put to death with the sword, and will be taken as prisoners into all the nations; and Jerusalem will be crushed under the feet of the Gentiles, till the times of the Gentiles are complete

Titles For The Latest English LCCC Lebanese & Lebanese Related News & Editorials published on January 13-14/2021

Lebanon Human Garbage/Abu Arz/Etienne Saqr/January 13/2021
Ministry of Health: 4988 new coronavirus cases, 35 deaths
President undergoes routine medical checkup at Hotel Dieu
UN urges people in Lebanon to abide by preventive measures to contain COVID-19 amidst unprecedented health emergency
Lebanese health minister hospitalized after testing positive for COVID-19
Lebanon begins 11-days of 24-hour curfews to stem COVID-19 surge
Lebanon records highest single day coronavirus deaths, cases re-surge
Hizbullah Positions among Targets of Israeli Raids in Syria
Berri Schedules Session for Passing Covid-19 Vaccines Bill
Khalil: Lebanon Must Import Different Types of Vaccine besides Pfizer’s
Sit-in outside Social Affairs Ministry demanding support for underprivileged families during lockdown
US dollar exchange rate: Buying price at LBP 3850, selling price at LBP 3900
Wehbe on Increasing Israeli Violations: It Makes Us Fear Something
Syndicates of Bakeries, Gas Stations Reassure Citizens amid Panic Buying
World Bank Emergency Aid for Vulnerable Lebanese
Prosecutor Appeals STL Trial Chamber Judgment in Hariri Case

Titles For The Latest English LCCC Miscellaneous Reports And News published on January 13-14/2021

57 Killed in Deadliest Israeli Raids on Syria in Years
Israel stepping up airstrikes against Syrian troops in recent weeks
Official Says U.S. Gave Israel Intel for Deadly Syria Raid
Israel using social media to win Arabs’ ‘hearts and minds’
US designates Iran-backed Popular Mobilization Unit leader Abu Fadak as terrorist
Iran demands sanctions 'snapback' removed in any new nuclear talks
Iran works on uranium metal for reactor fuel in new breach of nuclear deal
Biden must heal the nation and show world adversaries a unified America
Majority of US House votes to impeach Trump for second time
Turkey, Greece set for historic East Med talks


Titles For The Latest The Latest LCCC English analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on January 13-14/2021

New Iranian Bill Aims to Officialize a Policy of Avenging Soleimani and Destroying Israel/Farzin Nadimi/The Washington Institute/January 13/2021
US to designate Yemen’s Houthis as a foreign terrorist organization/Bill Roggio/FDD's Long War Journal/January 13/2021

Caleb Weiss/FDD's Long War Journal/January 13/2021U.S. designates Iraqi PMF chairman for human rights violations
U.S. identifies additional al Qaeda leaders in Iran/Thomas Joscelyn/FDD's Long War Journal/January 13/ 2021
Biden’s options in Syria/Baha al-Awam/The Arab Weekly/January 13/2021
Future of Turkish-US ties an early dilemma for Biden/Zaid M. Belbagi/Arab News/January 13/2021
What Biden’s Arab American ‘partnership’ might look like/Ray Hanania/Arab News/January 13/2021
Iran’s regime and Al-Qaeda: An axis of convenience/Dr. Majid Rafizadeh/Arab News/January 13/2021


The Latest English LCCC Lebanese & Lebanese Related News & Editorials published on January 13-14/2021

Lebanon Human Garbage
Abu Arz/Etienne Saqr/January 13/2021
Statistics confirm that the approximate number of foreigners on in Lebanon is close to three million among Syrian refugees, Palestinians, Asian workers and others !!!
The danger of these figures is that they are equivalent to about 60 percent of the population of Lebanon that is afflicted by its neighbors and rulers alike.
They are really terrifying numbers !!!
The most frightening of  these alarming numbers is the on going migration of Lebanese youth in record numbers that puts the country as an entity and destiny, at the center of an existential disaster.
The ugliest and most filthy thing is the scene of the ruling gang that is fighting over positions, and powers while the country is dying and suspended between life and death.
The difference between this gang and the household garbage that is once again accumulated in neighborhoods and streets, is that it is human garbage that is not recyclable.
Lon Live Lebanon.
Abu Arz.


Ministry of Health: 4988 new coronavirus cases, 35 deaths
NNA/January 13, 2021
The Ministry of Public Health announced 4988 new coronavirus infection cases, which raises the cumulative number to 231936 confirmed cases.
35 deaths have been recorded over the past 24 hours.

President undergoes routine medical checkup at Hotel Dieu

NNA/January 13, 2021
President of the Republic General Michel Aoun went through routine medical tests this afternoon at Hotel Dieu hospital, and returned in the evening to the Presidential Palace.—Presidency Press Office

UN urges people in Lebanon to abide by preventive measures to contain COVID-19 amidst unprecedented health emergency
NNA/January 13, 2021
As Lebanon registers new records in the daily surge of COVID-19 infections and after the Lebanese government has declared a health emergency, UN Lebanon and partners call on individuals and all sectors to strictly abide by the lockdown and preventive measures.
Despite continued efforts by many individuals, families, communities, public and private services, businesses and industries that have been applying preventive measures since February 2020, the number of cases has increased to the extent that ICU beds are no longer available in Beirut and 1,705 people have lost their lives, out of 226,948 cumulative cases, as of 12 January 2021[1]. The increase was primarily driven by a significant increase in social gatherings during the holiday season, such as restaurants, crowds at bars, weddings, shopping malls and elsewhere. COVID-19 is a deadly disease impacting the health of individuals, their livelihoods and the economy. It will only decrease if individuals and all public and private sectors abide by preventive measures strictly and consistently.
“We have reached a tipping point in our year-long fight against COVID19. The virus is spreading like wildfire and is weighing heavily and severely on Lebanon’s multifaceted crises, making people’s life unbearable on different fronts,” said Najat Rochdi, Deputy Special Coordinator, Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for Lebanon. “Business as usual is no longer an option and fighting this deadly virus doesn’t spare anyone. We have all a role to play, a social responsibility to recognize and shoulder. That’s why we must all redouble our efforts and take simple but life-saving preventive and safety measures because every single person’s support and contribution is crucial to that effort,” she added.
UN Lebanon and partners will flood their digital platforms with a new campaign to extend the promotion of the preventive measures and behaviors, as part of the UN response to contain COVID-19 through communication and community engagement strategies. UN support to the COVID-19 national plan also includes immediate coordinated response plans and actions to control the transmission of the virus, such as the provision of technical assistance, health supplies, services and equipment, and capacity building.
Videos under the hashtags #TimeToAbide and #StopCOVIDNow have been circulating to help families protect themselves and contain the alarming spread of the virus by complying with the preventive measures:
Wash your hands frequently.
Maintain a physical distance of at least one meter.
Wear a mask, particularly when physical distancing is not possible.
Cover your mouth when coughing or sneezing.
Keep rooms well-ventilated
Apply additional disinfection and protection measures at home and the workplace.—UNIC

Lebanese health minister hospitalized after testing positive for COVID-19
Arab News/January 13/2021
BEIRUT: Lebanon’s caretaker health minister Hamad Hasan was admitted to hospital the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) on Wednesday evening. The Hezbollah-appointed minister was transferred to the St. George hospital in Beirut’s suburb of Al-Hadat for treatment, according to a hospital statement.
Hasan's condition was good, the statement added. Lebanon has experienced a spike in COVID-19 cases and deaths over the past week, with a record-high of 5,540 new cases recorded on Friday. The surge has been put down to widespread non-adherence to precautionary measures during holiday celebrations, during which the government eased restrictions.


Lebanon begins 11-days of 24-hour curfews to stem COVID-19 surge
Najia Houssari/Arab News/January 13/2021
A state of health emergency, a total lockdown and a curfew have been imposed between Jan. 14-25
Lebanon’s land and sea borders will be closed from Thursday, while the country’s airport will be operating at its lowest operational capacity
BEIRUT: Starting Thursday morning, the Lebanese people will be put to the test again, as a new 11-day lockdown is imposed. All projections predict a spike in the country’s coronavirus disease (COVID-19) cases in the upcoming days, while the hundreds of intensive care hospital beds dedicated to COVID-19 patients are full. Doctors have started to check on patients inside ambulances, and ask those who need oxygen to provide it at their own expense, and stay home. According to the Lebanese Health Ministry’s statistics, there were 618 critical cases and 80,386 active cases as of Wednesday morning, while the number of daily cases recorded has not dropped below 4,300 for days. These infections came a week after social interactions during New Year celebrations. A state of health emergency, a total lockdown and a curfew have been imposed in the country between Jan. 14-25, a period that can be extended, to face the most dangerous COVID-19 wave Lebanon has witnessed since recording its first case last February. The Lebanese Armed Forces, along with the state’s security apparatus, will ensure the implementation of the curfew across Lebanon, noting that this is the first time the army has been asked to take part in the measures to limit the spread of the virus. Under the state of emergency, “the security forces and judicial authorities have the right to strictly enforce the laws that punish the hospitals that refuse to treat urgent cases, including coronavirus cases, punish those who do not abide by the prevention measures, and issue tickets for those who violate these measures and contribute to the spread of the virus.”The Supreme Defense Council has prohibited people from going onto the streets, with some exceptions for medical personnel, nursing staff, diplomats, travelers and the employees of a number of institutions that require minimum administration. However, food and grocery stores will only be operating through delivery service.
Lebanon’s land and sea borders will be closed from Thursday, while the country’s airport will be operating at its lowest operational capacity. Only transit passengers with tickets showing their crossing date will be allowed to cross into Lebanon through the land borders. Minister of Health Hamad Hassan announced on Wednesday that he is now quarantined pending the necessary tests after three of his office staff tested positive for COVID-19, joining 18,715 others who have been forced to quarantine over the past 2 days. This comes at a time when all eyes are on the government to the implement the measures after being criticized for a general state of confusion in previous weeks. The country has also failed to form a government capable of leading the efforts to save Lebanon from its various crises beyond the coronavirus. The Health Ministry’s statistics show that 45,445 positive COVID-19 cases were recorded in the first 12 days of January, while 53,559 cases were recorded during the whole month of December. Firas Al-Abyad, director of the Hariri Governmental University Hospital, said that “a large number of people in Lebanon have caught the coronavirus. This requires … people to be admitted into hospitals, which are at their maximum capacity. What scares us is that we have reached the point that we did not want to reach.” He expected that “the number of people in need (of) intensive care will double next week, which means that we are heading toward a major disaster.”Dr. Abdul Rahman Al-Bizri, head of the Health Ministry’s Scientific Committee on Combatting the Coronavirus Pandemic, told Arab News: “I hope that the strict total lockdown will limit the spread of the virus. However, I am afraid of going back to how things were and completely opening up the country without any measures after the lockdown is over.”
Al-Bizri is the person charged with communicating with Pfizer, on behalf of the Health Ministry, to procure its coronavirus vaccine.

Lebanon records highest single day coronavirus deaths, cases re-surge
Rawad Taha, Al Arabiya English/Wednesday 13 January 2021
Lebanon reported its highest daily number of new coronavirus deaths since the outbreak began in December 2019, with the health ministry reporting 35 new COVID-19 related deaths in a 24-hour period on Wednesday. The total number of confirmed deaths in the country reached 1,740. Authorities also reported 4,988 new coronavirus cases, bringing the cases toll in the small Mediterranean country to 231,936. The country’s supreme defense council announced a complete lockdown for eleven days tha started on Thursday. The lockdown is the first that includes the closure of supermarkets after the country recorded an unpreceded spread in coronavirus infections. The state announced that the lockdown would include the closure of all banks, restaurants, private institutions, schools, universities, sports stadiums, houses of worship, along with the ban of all gatherings and events. Lebanon has been experiencing a spike in COVID-19 cases and deaths in the past week. The country registered an all time-record of 5,540 new cases on Friday. The surge in cases is directly linked to the state and citizen’s failure in implementing precautionary measures during the holiday celebrations when the government eased the restrictions amid a worsening economic situation.


Hizbullah Positions among Targets of Israeli Raids in Syria
Agence France Presse/January 13, 2021
Israeli night raids targeting arms depots and military positions, including those of Hizbullah, in eastern Syria killed nine Syrian soldiers and 31 allied fighters, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Wednesday. The Israeli air force carried out more than 18 strikes against multiple targets in an area stretching from the eastern town of Deir Ezzor to the Boukamal desert at the Syrian-Iraqi border, according to the Britain-based war monitor. The overnight raids killed nine Syrian soldiers and 31 foreign militia fighters whose nationalities were not immediately known, the Britain-based monitoring group said. They wounded at least 37 others. Paramilitaries belonging to the Lebanese Hizbullah movement and the Fatimid Brigade, which is made up of pro-Iranian Afghan fighters, operate in the region, the Observatory said.

Berri Schedules Session for Passing Covid-19 Vaccines Bill
Associated Press/January 13, 2021
Speaker Nabih Berri on Wednesday scheduled a parliament session for Friday aimed at “studying the urgent draft law for regulating the novel use of medical products to fight the Covid-19 pandemic,” the National News Agency said.
Parliament's health committee has prepared a draft law to allow for importing coronavirus vaccines from Pfizer and BioNTech. The law, expected to be passed by parliament on Friday, aims to reassure international companies that they will not be responsible in case of side effects for the vaccines. Caretaker Health Minister Hamad Hassan had said the first batch of vaccines is expected in February.

Khalil: Lebanon Must Import Different Types of Vaccine besides Pfizer’s
Naharnet/January 13, 2021
MP Hassan Khalil said on Wednesday that Lebanon should import Covid-19 vaccine from several sources, amid speculations that Lebanon's decision to get the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine reportedly in February could be delayed or not sufficient for a large number of Lebanese. “The government should take an initiative to allow the import of approved vaccines from any scientifically approved source, regardless of waiting for the contract with Pfizer, similar to what countries of the world do,” said Khalil in a tweet. “It is important to have the vaccine available at the cheapest prices to reduce the disaster. We will stress this in the Parliament session,” he added. Lebanon is set to receive its first shipment of coronavirus vaccines in February from Pfizer-BioNTech, according to caretaker Health Minister Hamad Hassan. But the vaccine requires “complicated” storing requirements, in a freezer at -Celsius which experts fear the government could be incapable of making properly. Adding to the above, Lebanon is scrambling to approve a law that protects the company from legal action shall complications arise because of the virus. Pfizer announced they would not sign with Lebanon before it approves the law, which hands total responsibility for any side effects to the Lebanese State. The new requirement was brought to surface only Tuesday.

Sit-in outside Social Affairs Ministry demanding support for underprivileged families during lockdown
NNA/January 13, 2021
A group of the civil movement on Wednesday held a sit-outside the Ministry of Social Affairs in Badaro, demanding support for the underprivileged families during the lockdown period, especially in this crisis, NNA correspondent reported.


US dollar exchange rate: Buying price at LBP 3850, selling price at LBP 3900
NNA/January 13, 2021
The Money Changers Syndicate announced in a statement addressed to money changing companies and institutions Wednesday’s USD exchange rate against the Lebanese pound as follows:
Buying price at a minimum of LBP 3850
Selling price at a maximum of LBP 3900

Wehbe on Increasing Israeli Violations: It Makes Us Fear Something

Naharnet/January 13, 2021
Caretaker Foreign Minister Charbel Wehbe denounced on Wednesday Israel’s constant violation of Lebanese airspace saying “it makes us fear that Israel is up to something,” Nidaa al-Watan newspaper reported. “There is no accurate information about the possibility of an aggression against Lebanon, but everything Israel is doing makes us fear something,” said Wehbe in remarks to the newspaper. He added: “We must remain alert of this fear. We do not expect anything good or a positive action from Israel because every act it does is negative and harmful for Lebanon.”Wehbe stated: “Israeli enemy warplanes flying and violating the Lebanese airspace is in itself a clear and blatant aggression, even without making a direct military attack. The Security Council must officially document the Lebanese complaint, and it must deter Israel from its attacks.”Lebanon on Tuesday filed a U.N. complaint against Israel over its intensive aerial violations in recent days. The Minister called on the UNIFIL peacekeeping forces in south Lebanon to “play their role in this field. Standing like a witness who has not seen a thing is not enough. They must document and report to the UN the Israeli violations.”
Israeli warplanes had on Tuesday staged successive overflights at low altitude in the skies over the South, especially its western and central sectors, before reaching Beirut and its suburbs.The jets also violated the Lebanese airspace over the southern regions of Nabatiyeh and Iqlim al-Tuffah, staging mock raids at medium altitude. Israel regularly violates Lebanon airspace, often to carry out strikes in neighboring Syria. On Christmas Eve, Israeli jets flew low late into the night, terrorizing Beirut residents who are no strangers to such flights. They were followed by reported Israeli strikes in Syria.

Syndicates of Bakeries, Gas Stations Reassure Citizens amid Panic Buying
Naharnet/January 13, 2021
The syndicates of bakeries and fuel stations reassured citizens and residents on Wednesday that there will be no shortages during the 11-day strict lockdown that authorities have imposed to curb a dangerous spike in coronavirus cases. The head of the syndicate of supermarket owners, Nabil Fahed, meanwhile voiced skepticism over supermarkets’ ability to meet all home delivery requests during the lockdown, in which supermarkets and grocery shops have been ordered to close their doors and only offer delivery services. “The home delivery service requires manpower, trucks and cars, and this is unavailable,” Fahed said in an interview with the National News Agency, noting that only some supermarkets and branches of supermarkets have delivery services. “Some on the coronavirus committee believe that supermarkets lead to the spread of the pandemic, but this is not true, because they are very strict in enforcing anti-coronavirus precautionary measures,” Fahed added, noting that no country has shut down supermarkets during the pandemic.He also called for reversing the decision and for extending opening hours to prevent crowding inside supermarkets. The head of the syndicate of bakery owners, Ali Ibrahim, for his part noted that there is no reason for consumers’ run on bakeries, which will continue to receive customers during the lockdown, albeit until 3pm. “We have increased working hours and laborers are working beyond their capacity for an additional eight hours, but people are not being convinced,” Ibrahim said. “Bakeries are exempted from the lockdown decision and will operate daily from 8am until 3 pm,” he added. He also reassured that “flour and bread are available,” stressing that “pressure and panic buying are unjustified" and might “aggravate the spread of the pandemic.”
The representative of fuel distributors Fadi Abu Shaqra meanwhile told the agency that “there will be no gasoline crisis during the general lockdown.”“All stations will open and work during the specified times,” Abu Shaqra added.
The Higher Defense Council has allowed fuel stations to open till 5pm during the lockdown. The National News Agency meanwhile reported that supermarkets in the southern city of Tyre were witnessing an unprecedented turnout on the eve of the lockdown which begins on Thursday. “Some co-ops exceeded their ability to receive customers as some foodstuffs sold out,” NNA said. Citizens also queued outside bakeries to buy bread as some gas stations ran out of gasoline. In Sidon, citizens scrambled to grocery shops, butcheries, bakeries and gas filling centers although these centers will remain open during the lockdown. “Some citizens did not abide by precautionary measures in terms of wearing masks,” NNA said. The northern governorate of Akkar has meanwhile witnessed a “hysteric and alarming situation over the past three days” as to panic buying, the agency added. “The peak was today, especially at ATMs and in bakeries, grocery shops and shops that sell meat, fish and dairy products,” NNA said, noting that this situation led to “emptying the shelves of bakeries and shops of bread and some foodstuffs.” “There was major laxity in respecting social distancing and wearing masks,” the agency added.

World Bank Emergency Aid for Vulnerable Lebanese

Associated Press/January 13, 2021
The World Bank approved a $246 million loan to Lebanon to provide emergency cash assistance to nearly 800,000 Lebanese reeling under the country's compounded economic and health crises. The World Bank said in a statement late Tuesday the loan would also support the development of a national social safety net in Lebanon, which was struggling with a financial crisis before the pandemic struck, driving nearly half the population of the small country of 6 million into poverty. Over 1 million refugees from Syria live in Lebanon. The economic crisis has led to a projected 19.2% decline in gross domestic product, triple-digit inflation and is pushing 1.7 million people below the poverty line. Some 22% of the population is expected to fall into extreme poverty. International donors have been dispensing direct humanitarian assistance to Lebanon. But in the absence of major structural reforms, talks with the International Monetary Fund that began last summer have failed to produce a rescue package for the cash-strapped government. The deepening crisis has depleted foreign reserves in the import-dependent country and sent the local currency tumbling, losing nearly 80% of its value before the dollar. The government is discussing ways to lift subsidies from some basic goods and has already increased the price of flour and bread. Meanwhile, a surge in coronavirus infections -- rates have been hovering at around 4,000 new cases a day in recent days -- and a strained health care system have added to the concerns. A massive explosion last summer at the Beirut Port ravaged the city, killing over 200 people and injuring thousands. "The consequences of these repeated shocks on the economic well-being of households is far-reaching and potentially disastrous", said World Bank Regional Director Saroj Kumar Jha. The significant portion of the loan -- nearly $200 million -- will go toward providing cash assistance to around 786,000 individuals through a pre-paid electronic card. With a turbulent exchange rate and a thriving black market, the World Bank said it will dispense the assistance in local currency, using a conversion rate for the loan funds calculated at 1.6 times the one set by the Central Bank for the U.S. dollar. The conversion rate would be subject to change if there were major fluctuations in the currency value, the World Bank said. But the rate raised questions among activists who said converting the loan at 6,240 Lebanese pounds to the dollar -- or about 40% less than the black market rate -- would benefit the Central Bank, which is short on foreign currency. The loan also includes school fees for some 87,000 children between ages 13 and 18. It will also help Lebanon develop a social registry to determine who would need assistance in the future.

Prosecutor Appeals STL Trial Chamber Judgment in Hariri Case
Agence France Presse/January 13, 2021
Prosecutor Norman Farrell of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) has filed a Notice of Appeal before the Appeals Chamber of the STL alleging errors of law and errors of fact in the Judgment of the Trial Chamber, rendered 18 August 2020, the STL said in a press release on Wednesday.
The Prosecutor submitted that such errors invalidate the Judgment and occasion a miscarriage of justice. The Prosecutor requested that the Appeals Chamber grant the appeal and enter convictions against those subject of this appeal. Salim Ayyash's lawyers and victims' representatives have also filed notices of appeal against the judgements for varying reasons, the Netherlands-based STL announced. Four suspected members of Hizbullah were tried in absentia for Hariri's assassination, a major attack that killed 21 others and wounded 226. On December 11, after six years of trial, the Netherlands-based court sentenced Salim Ayyash to five life terms following his conviction in August.But the court said there was a lack of evidence to convict the three other defendants -- Assad Sabra, Hussein Oneissi and Hassan Habib Merhi.
All four were tried in absentia, including Ayyash, 57, who remains on the run. "The filing of the notices of appeal marks the beginning of the appeals phase," the court said in a statement. According to the tribunal, Ayyash's lawyers "challenged every finding of guilt returned by the trial chamber" and called for the conviction to be overturned. They were also appealing against the sentence. The victims' representatives are appealing against the decision not to impose financial penalties against Ayyash, the tribunal said. The appeals chamber of the tribunal can confirm, reverse or revise the trial judgement, sentence or both. It can also order a re-trial if necessary. A date was not announced for the start of hearings in the appeals phase. In the February 2005 attack, a suicide bomber detonated a small van full of explosives as Hariri's armored convoy passed. Ayyash was found guilty of conspiracy to commit a terrorist act, committing a terrorist act using an explosive device, the "intentional homicide" of Hariri and of 21 other people, and attempted homicide of those injured in the attack. Hizbullah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah has refused to hand him over or to recognize the U.N.-backed court.
The court has issued an international warrant for Ayyash's arrest.


The Latest English LCCC Miscellaneous Reports And News published on January 13-14/2021

57 Killed in Deadliest Israeli Raids on Syria in Years
Agence France Presse/January 13, 2021
Israeli air strikes on east Syria killed 57 regime forces and allied Iran-backed fighters, in the deadliest such strikes since the start of the conflict, a war monitoring group said Wednesday. The overnight raids against arms depots and military positions killed at least 14 Syrian regime forces, 16 Iraqi militia fighters and 11 Afghan members of the pro-Iran Fatimid Brigade, said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. The nationality of the remaining 16 who lost their lives in the 18 strikes was not immediately clear. "This is the largest death toll from Israeli raids in Syria," Observatory head Rami Abdul Rahman told AFP. The official Syrian news agency SANA said "the Israeli enemy carried out an aerial assault on the town of Deir Ezzor and the Albu Kamal region," only adding that "the results of the aggression are currently being verified." Contacted by AFP, an Israeli army spokesperson declined to comment. Days before the strikes, the Fatimid Brigade transported a consignment of Iranian-manufactured weapons to eastern Syria from neighboring Iraq, said the Observatory, which is based in the United Kingdom. They were stored in the region targeted overnight, it added. In June 2018, strikes on the same region killed at least 55 pro-government fighters, including Iraqis as well as Syrians, according to the monitoring group, which relies on a network of sources on the ground. The latest raids came hours after separate strikes near the Iraqi border killed at least 12 Iran-backed militia fighters on Tuesday. The Observatory said it could not identify the warplanes responsible for the earlier strikes.
'Not sitting and waiting'
It is less than a week since the last wave of Israeli strikes in Syria.
On Thursday, Israel targeted positions in the south and in the southern outskirts of Damascus, killing three pro-Iran fighters. Israel routinely carries out raids in Syria, mostly against targets linked to Iran in what it says is a bid to prevent its arch foe from consolidating a foothold on its northern border. Observers have warned that Donald Trump and Israel could up the ante against Iran and its regional allies in the final days of the U.S. president's tenure. Trump's administration, which is to make way for Joe Biden's on January 20, gave unprecedented U.S. support to the government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. "In the dying days of the Trump administration, Netanyahu is trying to do as much damage as possible to the IRGC effort in Syria before Biden takes office," said Nicholas Heras, of the Institute of the Study of War, referring to Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.
Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz on Tuesday said: "We remain vigilant on all our frontiers." "We have taken action and will continue to take action against anyone who tries to challenge us, from near or far. We're not sitting and waiting," he added. Israel hit around 50 targets in Syria in 2020, according to an annual report released by the Jewish state's military. It has carried out hundreds of air and missile strikes on Syria since civil war broke out in 2011, targeting Iranian and Lebanese Hizbullah forces as well as Syrian government troops. Israel rarely acknowledges individual strikes but has done so when responding to what it describes as aggression inside Israeli territory. The war in Syria has killed more than 387,000 people and displaced millions more since it erupted after the brutal repression of anti-government protests.

Israel stepping up airstrikes against Syrian troops in recent weeks
Joe Truzman/FDD's Long War Journal/January 13/2021
As Israel attempts to prevent Hezbollah from establishing itself near the Golan, Syrian soldiers have increasingly become the target of its military operations.  Syrian Air Defense Corps soldiers Ali Ma’an Houla, Husein Abdullah and Abdul Shehebeir killed in Israeli airstrikes. In recent weeks the Israeli military has targeted the Syrian Armed Forces in its “war between the wars” campaign of attempting to thwart the establishment of Hezbollah and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) in southern Syria. On Dec. 30, the IDF began targeting Syrian troops with airstrikes in the city of al-Zabadani, located near the Lebanon-Syria border. The Syrian state-controlled news organization SANA reported the airstrikes caused “material losses” and a “martyred soldier.” The report of a “martyred soldier” was later proven true when pro-Syrian groups published martyr posters of Sharaf Ali Ma’an Houla, a Lieutenant in the Air Defense Corps. Eight days later on Jan. 6, the IDF renewed operations against Syrian forces in the village of al-Dur, located south of Damascus. Citing a military source, SANA reported Israel’s attack came from the “direction of the occupied Syrian Golan” against “some targets in the south.”
However, the SANA report failed to mention that a Syrian air defense unit located south of Damascus was attacked which resulted in the deaths of two Syrian soldiers, Abdul Shehebeir and Husein Abdullah.
The recent targeting of Syrian positions has not come without overt warnings from Israel.
Over the last several weeks, the Israeli military has expanded a campaign of dropping leaflets in southern Syria near the Golan Heights. The leaflets warned villagers not to aid Hezbollah or risk becoming a target of the IDF.
“Hezbollah is like cancer, they snatch you in secret and in public, they deceive you with money and fake slogans said by Soleimani, Nasrallah, and Khamanei until you have sanctified them. Hezbollah is preparing Hadar village [Syrian village near the Golan] to be their place like the Shiite villages in south Lebanon. Anybody who deals with Hezbollah is a target,” one leaflet warned. Other leaflets warned Syrian soldiers that money provided to them by Hezbollah is not worth risking their lives.
“To the elements of the Syrian Army: Hezbollah wants to make Syria a battlefield for it against Israel at your expense. Hezbollah destroyed Lebanon and southern Lebanon, and is now destroying Syria and southern Syria. Hezbollah and especially the southern leadership (Haji Hashem) are doing the impossible to entice you to work with them. The value of the money that you get from them is not equal to the value of your life for you and your families, we will not allow your cooperation with them to continue,” an IDF leaflet dropped on Jan. 7 stated.
It is reasonable to conclude that the increased warnings by Israel and the targeting of Syrian soldiers are connected. Israel is demonstrating that Syrian soldiers will not be spared as it attempts to thwart the establishment of Iranian-led groups near the Golan and the transfer of precision guided munitions to Hezbollah in Lebanon. With its stepped up airstrikes and leaflet campaign near the Golan Heights, it is highly probable that Israel will be launching more military operations in the coming days or weeks in Syria.
*Joe Truzman is a contributor to FDD's Long War Journal.


Official Says U.S. Gave Israel Intel for Deadly Syria Raid
Associated Press/Agence France Presse/January 13/2021
Israeli warplanes carried out intense airstrikes in eastern Syria early Wednesday, apparently targeting positions and arms depots of Iran-backed forces as the region is on high alert. Dozens of fighters were killed or wounded, according to an opposition war monitoring group.
A senior U.S. intelligence official with knowledge of the attack told The Associated Press that the airstrikes were carried out with intelligence provided by the United States -- a rare incidence of publicized cooperation between the two countries over choosing targets in Syria. The official said the strikes targeted a series of warehouses in Syria that were being used in a pipeline to store and stage Iranian weapons. The U.S. official, who requested anonymity to speak about the matter, said U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo discussed Tuesday's airstrike with Yossi Cohen, chief of Israel's spy agency Mossad, at a public meeting in the popular Washington restaurant Café Milano on Monday. The warehouses also served as a pipeline for components that support Iran's nuclear program, the official said. There was no immediate comment from Iran.
Days before the strikes, the Fatimid Brigade transported a consignment of Iranian-manufactured weapons to eastern Syria from neighboring Iraq, said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which is based in the United Kingdom.
They were stored in the region targeted overnight, it added.
Syria's state news agency SANA said the strikes hit areas in and near the towns of Deir el-Zour, Mayadeen and Boukamal along the border with Iraq. An unnamed military official was quoted as saying Syrian air defenses responded to the incoming missiles. It gave no further details.
The Observatory reported at least 18 strikes in Deir el-Zour and along the border with Iraq, saying several arms depots were hit. It said 57 people were killed, including nine Syrian troops, and the rest were Iran-backed fighters. It said 37 were wounded.
"They burned Iranian positions in Deir el-Zour," said Omar Abu Laila, a Europe-based activist from Syria's eastern Deir el-Zour province who runs an activist collective that reports on news in the border area. He recorded at least 16 targeted buildings, warehouses or bases for Iranian, Lebanese and Iraqi militias in the towns of Boukamal, Mayadeen and Deir el-Zour. Israel has launched hundreds of strikes against Iran-linked military targets in Syria over the years but rarely acknowledges or discusses such operations.
The Observatory said it recorded 39 Israeli strikes inside Syria in 2020 that hit 135 targets, including military posts, warehouses or vehicles. In those attacks, at least 217 people were killed, mostly Iranian-allied militiamen, according to the Observatory. The strikes come at a time of heightened tension in the region in the final days of President Donald Trump's administration. The Israeli military has been on a high level of defensive alert, and according to Amos Harel, a prominent Israeli military affairs correspondent, an aerial defense battery of Patriot missiles was deployed in Israel's southern seaport of Eilat. Writing in the newspaper Haaretz, he said an exceptionally large presence of fighter planes has been in the skies over the country for a considerable portion of the day. Meanwhile, Israeli jets have been violating Lebanese airspace and crisscrossing skies over Beirut in daily, low-altitude flights that have added to jitters in the Lebanese capital. Many fear retaliation for the U.S. killing of Iran's Revolutionary Guard commander Qassem Soleimani last year in Baghdad may come before Trump leaves office, or that conflict could erupt to scuttle efforts by Joe Biden's incoming administration to negotiate with Iran. Israel views Iranian entrenchment on its northern frontier as a red line, and has repeatedly struck Iran-linked facilities and weapons convoys destined for Lebanon's Hizbullah group.


Israel using social media to win Arabs’ ‘hearts and minds’
The Arab Weekly/January 13/2021
JERUSALEM - Working in close quarters, surrounded by maps of the Middle East, a small team based in Israel’s foreign ministry are focusing their sights on the Arab world. Their mission: using social media to convince Arabs to embrace the Jewish state. The team is spearheading an Arabic-language campaign via platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram as part of a multi-pronged diplomatic effort to win over popular acceptance in the Middle East.
But overturning decades of hostility is no easy feat, despite Israel in recent months having secured landmark Washington-brokered deals with the governments of the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Sudan and Morocco.
The magnitude of the task was underscored by recent online backlash after photographs of Egyptian actor and rapper Mohamed Ramadan partying with Israeli celebrities at a Dubai bar surfaced on social media in November, along with a video showing guests partying as the Jewish song “Hava Nagila” played.
The Israeli Arabic-language social media team re-posted the photos from its main Facebook and Twitter accounts, including one of Ramadan hanging an arm around the neck of Israeli pop star Omer Adam with the caption “art always brings us together.”Israeli officials acknowledge the challenges of the task in a region where there is widespread support for Palestinians living under Israeli occupation or as refugees across the Middle East. Yonatan Gonen, who heads the Arabic-language social media unit, said in an interview that they posted the photos of Ramadan with the Israeli celebrities to show “normalisation” between Israelis and Arabs. He acknowledged that the furore was disappointing but said there were also positive responses and that “it takes time, people change their minds over generations.”
Ofir Gendelman, a spokesman for Israel’s prime minister, said increasing numbers of Arabs view Israel as an ally and many publicly show their support on social media. “As regional peace expands further, talking to our neighbours in their own language becomes even more important,” said Gendelman, adding that Israel plans to expand its outreach in Arabic. Ramadan didn’t respond to requests for comment. He said on social media at the time that he did not ask people taking photographs where they came from. “I salute the brotherly Palestinian people,” he added.
Dr Ala’a Shehabi, a London-based academic researcher with dual Bahraini and British nationality, said public sentiment in Arab countries remains pro-Palestinian. Of Israel’s social-media campaign, she added: “It is not a success if it hasn’t changed popular opinion.”
— Protracted campaign —
Israel wants to gain broader Arab support for the new deals than it has with formal peace treaties it signed with Egypt and Jordan, in 1979 and 1994, respectively. Those treaties are upheld by the countries’ leaders but are regarded with little enthusiasm by many Egyptians and Jordanians.
An October report by Israel’s Ministry of Strategic Affairs found that during August and September more than 90% of Arabic social media commentary regarding the “normalisation” deals was negative.
“Israel must prepare to commence a protracted campaign online to win hearts and minds in favor of creating stronger ties with Israel,” according to a detailed summary of the report shared with Reuters by the ministry. A ministry official said that by January the level of negative commentary had fallen to 75%.
That foreign ministry’s ten-member Arabic-language team includes both Jews and Arabs. With messages such as “Salam, Shalom” – the Arabic and Hebrew words for peace – the campaign heavily features what Gonen refers to as “soft content,” such as music, food and sport. The team also posts about Israel’s adversaries such as Iran, Hamas and Hezbollah.
Established in 2011, the Arabic-language unit has significantly ramped up activity since late summer when news of the first accord was made public. The team currently publishes up to 700 or so social media posts a month, about 15% to 20% more than before the deals, Gonen said.
During a recent visit to Dubai, team member Lorena Khateeb posted to Twitter a photo of herself outdoors with the Israeli flag draped over her back. “Never imagined that I would raise the Israeli flag in an Arab country,” she said in the November 21 post in both Arabic and English. Days later, one Israel’s official accounts – called @IsraelintheGulf and which she operates – tweeted a similar flag-draped photo of her.
Khateeb told Reuters that responses to her posts are mostly positive but some are negative.
— “Engagement intercations”–
Gonen says the aim is to create “engagement, interactions and dialogue” with Arab audiences. He said his team reaches 100 million people monthly via its social media accounts, which is double what it was a year ago. It’s main Twitter account, which uses the handle @IsraelArabic and posted the Ramadan photos, has more than 425,000 followers. Still, the Jewish state faces widespread opposition to its reconciliation efforts across the region, which is home to more than 400 million Arabic speakers. Michael Robbins of the Arab Barometer, a non-partisan research network that studies attitudes across the Arab world, said a post-normalisation survey by his group in Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, Jordan and Lebanon suggested that the efforts of Israel and its regional allies “have had little if any effect on the views of ordinary citizens.”
He said they lacked data from Gulf countries, which did not permit them to ask questions that name Israel, but that attitudes in the countries they did conduct surveys had changed little from previous years. “Overall, these results suggest that Israel’s strategy to win hearts and minds is failing. Few Arab citizens regardless of age or geography have positive views toward Israel,” Robbins said.


US designates Iran-backed Popular Mobilization Unit leader Abu Fadak as terrorist
Rawad Taha, Al Arabiya English/Wednesday 13 January 2021
The US designated Abu Fadak al-Mohammadawi, Iranian-backed Popular Mobilization Unit leader and former secretary general of Iraqi Kata’ib Hezbollah, as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist (SDGT), the US State Department reported in a statement. The statement added that Muhammadawi is the former secretary general of Kata’ib Hezbollah (KH), a US-designated Foreign Terrorist Organization and SDGT. “KH, established in 2006, is an Iran-backed terrorist organization that seeks to advance Iran’s malign agenda in the region and has claimed responsibility for numerous terrorist attacks in Iraq, including improvised explosive device attacks, indirect fire attacks, rocket-propelled grenade attacks, and sniper operations,” the statement added. The statement added that KH has reportedly been involved in recent and widespread theft of Iraqi state resources and the killing, abduction, and torture of peaceful protesters and activists in Iraq. The statement added that Muhammadawi is separately working in conjunction with Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps – Qods Force to reshape official Iraqi state security institutions away from their true purpose of defending the Iraqi state and fighting ISIS, to instead support Iran’s malign activities, including the defense of the Assad regime in Syria. “Iran-backed elements, including those in which Muhammadawi now plays a leadership role, have previously been involved in sectarian violence, including the abductions of hundreds of men from areas liberated from ISIS control,” the statement added. The State Department added that the designation seeks to deny Muhammadawi the resources to plan and carry out terrorist attacks. Among other consequences, all of his property and interests that are in the US, that hereafter come within the US, or hereafter come within the possession or control of US persons, have been blocked, and US persons are generally prohibited from engaging in any transactions with him.
Abu Fadak
The Iranian-backed Popular Mobilization Unit (PMU) militia group has named Abu Fadak al-Mohammadawi as its new leader, succeeding Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis who was killed in Iraq alongside Iranian commander Qassem Soleimani last year.
Several Iraqi politicians and activities confirmed the appointment on Friday after the PMU held a board meeting recently. Iranian state-owned Press TV quoted Abu Ali al-Bassari, a PMU official, as saying that the chief commander of the Iraqi armed forces “will sign Abu Fadak’s decree in the next couple of days.”The new PMU leader, whose real name is Abdulaziz al-Mohammadawi, has been known to go by the nickname “al-Khal” or the uncle in English.
Al-Mohammadawi was considered as a close friend of Soleimani.

Iran demands sanctions 'snapback' removed in any new nuclear talks
Reuters/January 13/2021
DUBAI (Reuters) - Iran demands the removal of the so-called snapback mechanism in its nuclear accord, which could revive all U.N. sanctions against Tehran, in the event of new talks with world powers, a senior aide to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said. Under the 2015 deal, Iran agreed to curb its nuclear work in return for relief from U.S. and other sanctions. The accord includes the option of a snapback of U.N. sanctions if Iran breaches the deal, requiring Tehran to suspend all nuclear enrichment-related and reprocessing activities, including research development. “This (trigger) mechanism must be abandoned as an irrational principle in the event of further negotiations,” Ali Akbar Velayati, a top adviser to Khamenei, said in an interview posted on the Supreme Leader’s website.“From the beginning, the Supreme Leader was not satisfied with the issue of the trigger mechanism and this was done against his will,” said Velayati, a former foreign minister. Iran has rejected Western calls for wider international talks over its nuclear and military ambitions after U.S. President Donald Trump withdrew from the deal in 2018 and reimposed sanctions. World powers and Iran have weeks to revive the 2015 nuclear deal after Tehran began to enrich uranium at higher levels and Iran’s parliament threatened to curb the access of U.N. inspectors next month, the head of the global atomic watchdog said on Monday.
*Reporting by Dubai newsroom, Editing by William Maclean


Iran works on uranium metal for reactor fuel in new breach of nuclear deal
Reuters/January 13/2021
VIENNA: Iran has started work on uranium metal-based fuel for a research reactor, the UN nuclear watchdog and Tehran said on Wednesday, in the latest breach of its nuclear deal with six major powers as the country presses for a lifting of US sanctions. Iran has been accelerating its breaches of the deal in the past two months. Some of those steps were required by a law passed in response to the killing of its top nuclear scientist in November, which Tehran has blamed on its arch-foe Israel. They are also, however, part of a process started by Tehran in 2019 of committing breaches in response to US President Donald Trump's 2018 withdrawal from the deal and his reimposition of US sanctions that the deal lifted in exchange for restrictions on Iran's nuclear activities. The moves raise pressure on US President-elect Joe Biden, who takes office next week and has pledged to return the United States to the deal if Iran first resumes full compliance. Iran wants Washington to lift sanctions first. "(International Atomic Energy Agency) Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi today informed IAEA Member States about recent developments regarding Iran's plans to conduct R&D activities on uranium metal production as part of its declared aim to design an improved type of fuel for the Tehran Research Reactor," the IAEA said in a statement. The agency issues ad hoc reports to member states when Iran commits a new breach of the deal, though it declines to call them breaches, leaving that call to parties to the 2015 accord.
The deal specifically imposes a 15-year ban on Iran producing or acquiring uranium metal, a sensitive material that can be used in the core of a nuclear bomb. The IAEA's confidential report to member states, obtained by Reuters, said Iran had indicated it plans to produce uranium metal from natural uranium and then produce uranium metal enriched up to 20% for fuel for the Tehran Research Reactor. The deal also says that can only happen in small batches and in consultation with parties to the deal after 10 years. Separately Iran also plans to enrich uranium to 20%, a level it last reached before the 2015 deal, at its Fordow site buried in a mountain, and it started that process last week. It had so far only gone as far as 4.5%, above the 3.67% limit imposed by the deal but still far short of the 90% that is weapons grade. US intelligence agencies and the IAEA believe Iran had a secret, coordinated nuclear weapons programme that it halted in 2003. Iran denies ever seeking nuclear weapons and says its aims with nuclear energy are entirely peaceful. Iran told the agency on Wednesday, however, that "there is no limitation on (its) R&D activities" and "modification and installation of the relevant equipment for the mentioned R&D activities have been already started" at its Fuel Plate Fabrication Plant in Isfahan, the IAEA report said.

Biden must heal the nation and show world adversaries a unified America
Clifford D. May/The Wahington Times/January 13/2021
What a marvelous time to be America’s enemy! Despots, dictators and other assorted villains are gloating. I’ll give you two examples. Alluding to last week’s assault on the Capitol — a shameful episode that President Trump recklessly and irresponsibly encouraged — Ali Khamenei, supreme leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran, tweeted: “Have you seen the situation in the U.S.? This is their democracy and this is their election fiasco. Today, the U.S. & ‘American values’ are ridiculed even by their friends.”Then, referring to the mass uprisings against his oppressive regime 12 years ago, the theocrat added: “The US wanted to start a civil war in #Iran in 2009, & God has afflicted them with the same predicament in 2021.”The Chinese Communist Party’s Xinhua News Agency equated the mob that breached the halls of Congress with pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong where freedoms are being crushed in flagrant violation of Beijing’s unambiguous treaty obligations. The spectacle in Washington, the Xinhua commentator added, “has left the world not only appalled, but also disillusioned.”Of course, persuading “the world” that the democratic experiment is an illusion has been a strategic goal of China’s rulers — along with those of Russia and Iran — for decades. Their consistent message to subjects at home and peoples abroad: “You’d be a fool to risk your life for a political system that is decadent, declining, and bound to fail — or be defeated — sooner or later. Better to obey us. We know what’s best for you.”
Americans have been a particular target of such disinformation campaigns. Three years ago, I wrote about a bipartisan study that found that Russian President Vladimir Putin’s propagandists were “attempting to undermine faith in America’s democratic institutions, assist extremists on both the left and right, divide and polarize Americans (even more than they already are), and poison the policy debates that citizens of a mature republic should be able to conduct in a civil manner.”

Majority of US House votes to impeach Trump for second time
Agencies/January 13/2021
A bipartisan majority of lawmakers in the House of Representatives voted
WASHINGTON: A bipartisan majority of lawmakers in the House of Representatives voted Wednesday to impeach Donald Trump seven days from the end of his term, assuring he becomes the first US president to be impeached twice. With nearly all votes counted, the number supporting impeachment on the single charge of “incitement of insurrection” for Trump's role in whipping up a violent mob surpassed 217, the majority threshold out of 433 current House members. At least 10 Republicans joined the Democrats. Impeachment of the president will trigger a trial in the US Senate, which is not expected to begin its proceedings until Trump, 74, is out of office. The Republican votes were in sharp contrast to the unanimous support for Trump among House Republicans when he was first impeached by Democrats in 2019. Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney, the third-ranking House Republican, said in a statement: “There has never been a greater betrayal by a President of the United States of his office and his oath to the Constitution.” Nine other House Republicans also supported impeachment: Reps. John Katko of New York; Adam Kinzinger of Illinois; Anthony Gonzalez of Ohio; Fred Upton and Peter Meijer of Michigan; Jaime Herrera Beutler and Dan Newhouse of Washington state; Tom Rice of South Carolina; and David Valadao of California. All Democrats who voted supported impeachment, while 197 Republicans voted no. The Senate could not conduct a “fair or serious” trial of Trump in the short time frame before he leaves office next week, the Senate’s Republican leader said. “Given the rules, procedures, and Senate precedents that govern presidential impeachment trials, there is simply no chance that a fair or serious trial could conclude before President-elect (Joe) Biden is sworn in next week,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said in a statement.Trump’s impeachment triggered a Senate trial. But “even if the Senate process were to begin this week and move promptly, no final verdict would be reached until after President Trump had left office,” added McConnell, who has said he would not reconvene the chamber before its scheduled resumption January 19, one day before the inauguration.

Turkey, Greece set for historic East Med talks
AP/Arab News/January 13/2021
ANKARA: A first round of new exploratory talks between Turkey and Greece will take place this month following Ankara’s offer to discuss conflicting territorial claims in the Eastern Mediterranean. The talks are set to take place in Istanbul on Jan. 25. It will be the 61st round of exploratory talks to be held in the past 14 years, but previous meetings mainly focused on issues related to the Aegean Sea. Athens is expected to focus discussions on maritime zones in the Aegean and East Med in line with the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), while Ankara has not set any pre-conditions for the talks.
Turkey is not a signatory of UNCLOS and does not recognize the government of Cyprus, an EU member. Rauf Mammadov, resident scholar at the Middle East Institute, told Arab News that any direct dialogue was a positive step toward reconciliation between the conflicting parties. “The dialogue is also the sole non-conflict method toward resolving the disagreement in this particular case. “The gist of the dispute between the two NATO members rests on a competing interpretation of international law. The alternative to talks is regular diplomatic feuds, sometimes accompanied by threats of military escalation,” he said.
However, Oxford University Middle East analyst Samuel Ramani said that a short-term diplomatic breakthrough in the Med standoff between Greece and Turkey was “unlikely” to happen. “Levels of trust on both sides are extremely low and both sides see any diplomatic overture as an image-branding exercise to the international community, rather than a sincere attempt to de-escalate the crisis,” he added. Ramani said it was “unsurprising” that Turkey offered to stage talks with Greece, as Ankara had hinted toward it previously.
“The only path to convergence in the Eastern Mediterranean is for some of the tensions around the Greece-Turkey dispute to ease. Turkey’s recent overtures toward France are a positive step, as are the UAE’s recent statements on de-escalating with Turkey,” he added.
Turkey rejects the maritime boundary claims of Greece and Cyprus, claiming they violate the sovereign rights of both Turkey and Northern Cyprus. Experts have also underlined the importance of the announcement’s timing. “Ankara and Athens are taking steps toward a potential compromise as the Southern Gas Corridor (SGC) becomes operational. The project is a rare example of continuing economic cooperation between two neighboring nations,” Mammadov said. He added that a possible resolution to the East Med energy dispute would be successful if driven by mutually beneficial economic interests, similar to the SGC.
Charles Ellinas, a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council, told Arab News that the incoming administration of US President-elect Joe Biden must be of concern to Turkey, especially given that within a short length of time it had become the subject of sanctions both from the EU and America.
“It is very important that aggressive language and threats should be avoided. The recent warning from (Turkish President Recep Yayyip) Erdogan to the EU that in case it supports Greece, Turkey will return back to offshore surveys and further escalate the dispute, is not constructive,” he said.
Ellinas added that without a change in direction, Turkey was likely to face a difficult time with Biden, while a constructive start to discussions with Greece would be seen quite positively by the EU and the US. On the other hand, both countries are hoping for stronger support from Washington in consolidating their regional gains and pushing for their “red lines” ahead of the upcoming inauguration of Biden on Jan. 20. However, Ramani said that while a reduction of the aggression on both sides was possible, the core issues would be harder to resolve.
“Turkey will keep its gas extraction agreement with Libya, which is unacceptable to Greece. The Cyprus dispute is still a point of friction,” he added. Decades-long efforts to establish peace in the divided island are on the verge of collapsing, especially after Ankara began advocating the division of Cyprus into two states in October last year. The controversies unfolding around maritime rights and hydrocarbon explorations off the island are also adding fuel to the growing tensions in Eastern Mediterranean waters.
Ramani said that the key issue that Turkey-Greece dialogue would resolve, in theory, was the end of Turkish brinkmanship, such as harassment of fishing boats and provocative military drills. “It likely won’t solve the core problems,” he added. In December, Turkey withdrew its Oruc Reis seismic research vessel that was operating in disputed waters of the Eastern Mediterranean, triggering a row with Athens over energy drilling prospects. The ship will remain within the Turkish continental shelf until June 15 — a move that was seen by some as a goodwill gesture. The 60th round of talks, the most recent between the two countries, began in Athens in March 2016. The talks continued for years through political consultations, despite having no formal framework. “Athens’ only pre-condition is that the exploratory discussions should address only the delimitation of maritime zones, based on international law, starting from where they stopped in March 2016. Turkey appears to prefer open-ended discussions. Hopefully, they will converge to an agreed agenda,” Ellinas said. Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu and Erdogan met EU member-state ambassadors in Ankara on Tuesday, in a move seen by many experts as another attempt to reconcile with the EU and mend ties with Greece. Cavusoglu is also set to travel to Brussels on Jan. 21.


The Latest LCCC English analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on January 13-14/2021

New Iranian Bill Aims to Officialize a Policy of Avenging Soleimani and Destroying Israel
Farzin Nadimi/The Washington Institute/January 13/2021
فرزين نديمي/معهد واشنطن: مشروع قانون إيراني جديد يهدف إلى إضفاء الطابع الرسمي على سياسة انتقام سليماني وتدمير إسرائيل

In addition to prohibiting any negotiations over Iran’s military power or regional ambitions, the legislation would oblige the government to work toward evicting the United States from the Middle East and destroying Israel within twenty years.
On December 30, hardline politicians in Iran introduced a new parliamentary bill mapping out the country’s response to the killing of Qods Force commander Qasem Soleimani by a U.S. drone strike one year earlier. Centered around Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei’s July 21 directive to avenge Soleimani’s death, the legislation includes four main goals: (1) initiate a “decisive act of revenge” by weakening the United States and evicting it from the region; (2) counter Israel’s actions and follow through on Soleimani’s objective of destroying that country; (3) counter America’s economic “terrorism” against Iran; and (4) pursue an “honorable” (meaning defiant) foreign policy.
If the law passes, it would by implication have full support from the Supreme Leader, so President Hassan Rouhani’s team and future governments would be obliged to follow it. The executive branch might create some room for maneuver by crafting various regulations to shape how the law is actually implemented, but the Majlis could intervene at any point to roll back unwanted changes.
Evicting the United States
As Article 1 makes clear, the bill would formally compel the government and armed forces to take active measures aimed at forcing U.S. Central Command out of the region, which Iran has defined as “the Persian Gulf region and West Asia.” It would also hold host countries equally responsible for any U.S. military and intelligence-gathering activities that originate from their territory and go against any Iranian interests. In addition, it stipulates that any U.S. military action against Iran shall result in a proportional or stronger military response aimed at the country of origin (Article 1.2). Likewise, Article 4 states that Iran’s armed forces are obliged to respond commensurately to any action that attempts to kill Iranian citizens. And in an effort to create rifts between the United States and host nations, the bill promises unspecified “defense cooperation” at an agreed price to any country that stops hosting U.S. forces.
As for funding, Article 1.4 authorizes the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Qods Force to reward any individual or group involved in targeting American forces in the region. These rewards would be financed in part by the revenue generated from state-sponsored exports to Iraq. Including electricity and natural gas, Iranian exports to Iraq totaled about $12 billion in 2020. Thus, the 1 percent share that the bill specifies for the Qods Force would be around $80 million, assuming at least two-thirds of exports to Iraq are government-to-government. This structure is a more official form of what the Qods Force has done in recent years to fund its operations and proxies in Iraq, either by siphoning from assets held up in Iraq or pursuing cross-border trade.
The bill would also give the Qods Force 30 percent of customs fees collected from the import of any U.S.-made or -branded products at Iranian ports of entry (Article 1.5). (It should be noted that importing American products and services is prohibited unless exempted by the Supreme National Security Council, per Article 1.8). In the first half of 2020, U.S. exports to Iran dropped to about $20 million, but this amount is expected to rise significantly if sanctions are lifted. Under the existing sanctions regime, exporting goods and services from the United States to Iran is prohibited, with exceptions for medicine, medical devices, and agricultural commodities.
The bill foresees a monetary union between “axis of resistance” countries within two years to facilitate the flow of money and goods between those members (Article 1.10), which currently include the Gaza Strip, Iraq, Lebanon, Syria, and Houthi-controlled areas of Yemen. This provision can be viewed as a counter to previous bills that sought to implement international standards recommended by the Financial Action Task Force, only to meet vehement resistance from Khamenei and hardline parliamentarians. In another move to encourage trade relations with friendly countries and bust sanctions, the bill directs the Foreign Ministry to prioritize trade with China, Iraq, Russia, Syria, and Venezuela (Article 1.11), as opposed to Western countries.
The bill also prohibits any “effective cooperation” between Iranian citizens and the U.S. government and other organizations, except for authorized cultural and educational activities that advance the regime’s interests. Under the “Countering the Reckless Terrorist Activities of the United States of America in the Region” act of August 13, 2017, individuals accused of such actions will be put to trial under espionage charges. When unable to arrest the accused inside Iran, the government shall designate them as terrorists (Article 1.6). This provision could facilitate the targeting of Iranian dissidents in other countries as well as dual-national Iranian American employees who work for the U.S. government or NGOs.
Regarding potential negotiations with Washington, the bill would prohibit and even criminalize any talks related to the regime’s military power (including missiles), its regional role, or its relations with the so-called axis of resistance. In fact, the bill prohibits the government from making concessions on any issue other than the nuclear program (Article 2). To further limit the government’s power, the bill forbids any negotiations with or in the presence of Americans unless the U.S. administration (1) officially apologizes for leaving the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) in 2018 and killing Soleimani, and (2) agrees to compensate Iran for damages incurred as a result of that withdrawal (Article 3). And if Iran does return to its original commitments under the JCPOA, it must do so in steps, each of which must be ratified separately by the Majlis (Article 3).
Support for Palestinians and the “Resistance Front”
Article 5 of the bill officially tasks the Iranian government with destroying the “aggressor Zionist regime” by the year 2041. This bold charge includes breaching the blockade of Gaza by sending essential goods to the territory’s residents via sea lines, starting no later than six months from the date the bill comes into force. In addition, the government would be required to actively promote the right of “return for Palestinian refugees,” the right of “return to Qods” (i.e., Jerusalem), the “liberation of Golan,” and the “annual pilgrimage to Qods.”
Similarly, Article 6 instructs the government to provide humanitarian aid to the “revolutionary people” of Yemen, and to help break the blockade of Houthi-controlled areas by directly sending “essential goods, medicine, and fuel.” These shipments are to be sent at least every three months starting no later than March 2021. The bill characterizes any attempt to block such shipments from reaching their destination as an “act of war against the Islamic Republic.”
The bill also introduces the right to permanent residence for immigrant and refugee applicants, giving them rights equal to those of citizens (Article 13). Citizenship applications from immigrants and refugees who serve in the Iranian armed forces and have “directly participated in military operations” would be fast-tracked. These provisions are mainly aimed at encouraging Afghan, Pakistani, and other nationals recruited by the Qods Force to serve in its proxy units. Finally, the bill directs the Basij militia to facilitate communication with “any popular front across the world that confronts the United States” (Article 14).
Expected to pass the Majlis and be ratified by the Guardian Council in its entirety, the new bill is a good example of Iran’s continued terrorist, anti-American, and anti-Israeli intentions. Although the legislation does not signal anything new about the government’s activities or goals, it confirms and formally enshrines Tehran’s hostile policy orientation in clear, undeniable terms. Hence, the regime needs to be held accountable for the bill’s contents if it becomes law. With regard to Iraq, the United States needs to remind its local partners that—per Iran’s legislation—any money that Tehran makes from trading with its neighbor will partly finance efforts to kill Americans.
*Farzin Nadimi is an associate fellow with The Washington Institute, specializing in the security and defense affairs of Iran and the Gulf region.

US to designate Yemen’s Houthis as a foreign terrorist organization
Caleb Weiss/FDD's Long War Journal/January 13/2021
Houthi promotional image for its 2019 fundraiser for Lebanon’s Hezbollah, featuring Abdul Malik al-Houthi (left) and Hezbollah’s Hassan Nasrallah.
The US State Department announced earlier today that it intends to designate Yemen’s Houthi movement (also known as Ansarallah) as a foreign terrorist organization (FTO).
This announcement came through a statement from Secretary of State Michael Pompeo, in which he noted that the department will also designate three of the top Houthi leaders as specially designated global terrorists.
Houthi leaders have previously been sanctioned by the US government, however, this is the first time the movement itself will be considered an FTO.
Pompeo states that “these designations will provide additional tools to confront terrorist activity and terrorism by Ansarallah, a deadly Iran-backed militia group in the Gulf region.”
He goes on to also add that the designations “are intended to hold Ansarallah accountable for its terrorist acts, including cross-border attacks threatening civilian populations, infrastructure, and commercial shipping.”
In addition to cross-border raids, the Houthis have been responsible for hundreds of drone and missile strikes inside Saudi Arabia as well as dozens of naval attacks on international shipping in the Red and Arabian Seas. Many of the weapons used in these attacks were supplied by Iran.
Pompeo also highlights the Houthis’ role in the devastation in Yemen and specifically brings attention to last month’s missile strike at Aden’s airport in which 27 people were killed.
In his statement, Pompeo also acknowledges the humanitarian concerns surrounding such a designation given Houthi control over much of the country. However, he argues that the US will also implement several measures to mitigate these concerns on the ground.
The designations occur as the outgoing Trump administration seeks to continue its maximum pressure campaign against Iran before leaving office.
Pompeo specifically calls out Iran’s relationship to the Houthis in his statement and says that the Yemeni movement has embraced “the world’s leading state-sponsor of terrorism even more.”
Both the United States and the Houthis themselves have long shown the ties between the insurgent movement and Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and its network. The IRGC was itself designated as an FTO by the State Department last year.
Three Houthi leaders also designated
In addition to moving to designate the entirety of the Houthi movement as an FTO, Pompeo also announced that State also intends to designate three of the Houthis’ top leaders as global terrorists.
According to the statement, Abdul Malik al-Houthi, Abd al-Khaliq Badr al-Din al-Houthi, and Abdullah Yahya al-Hakim will be designated. Abd al-Khaliq al-Houthi and Abdullah Yahya al-Hakim were previously sanctioned by the US Treasury Department in late 2014. All three leaders are also sanctioned by the United Nations Security Council.
Abdul Malik al-Houthi is the overall leader of the Houthis, assuming leadership of the movement in 2004 and leading several subsequent uprisings inside Yemen.
Since seizing Sana’a and forcing former President Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi from power in Jan. 2015, Abdul Malik al-Houthi has wielded significant influence across large swaths of Yemen.
He has also increased his movement’s public support for Iran and its Lebanese proxy, Hezbollah. On two occasions, al-Houthi has expressed his willingness to send fighters to Lebanon to take part in a future war with Israel.
His men have also openly fundraised for Hezbollah in territories they control while also openly meeting with Hezbollah leaders in Beirut.
Abd al-Khaliq Badr al-Din al-Houthi, the youngest brother of Abdul Malik, is the military commander of the Houthi movement and leads its Republican Guards and special forces units.
He has previously led the Houthis in northern Yemen. As noted in his sanctions from both the US and the UN, Abd al-Khaliq “led a group of fighters dressed in Yemeni military uniforms in an attack on locations in Dimaj” in Yemen’s Sa’adah Governorate. He was also directly involved in the 2014 takeover of Sana’a.
Abdullah Yahya al-Hakim is often described as the ‘second-in-command’ of the Houthi movement, as well as its intelligence chief. Like Abd al-Khaliq, Abdullah Yahya al-Hakim (also known as Abu Ali al-Hakim), has played a significant military role.
The UN notes his involvement in the takeover of Sana’a and other areas of Yemen, while pro-Houthi sources continue to report on his involvement in Houthi military offensives.
*Caleb Weiss is a contributor to FDD's Long War Journal.

U.S. designates Iraqi PMF chairman for human rights violations
Bill Roggio/FDD's Long War Journal/January 13/2021
The U.S. State Department has designated Falih al-Fayyadh, the chairman of Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Forces, as a human rights abuser for his role in crushing protests in Oct. 2019.
Fayyadh was identified by State as part of a “crisis cell” that included former Qods Force commander Qassem Soleimani.
State designated Fayyadh on Jan. 8 as part of Executive Order 13818, which identifies individuals who are involved in “serious human rights abuse or corruption.”
“During protests beginning in October 2019, Iran-aligned [PMF] forces attacked Iraqi civilians protesting against corruption, unemployment, economic stagnation, poor public services, and Iranian interference in Iraq’s domestic affairs,” State noted in a press release accompanying the designation. PMF forces “fired live ammunition at protesters resulting in the deaths of Iraqi civilians.” An estimated 420 people were killed and more than 17,000 were wounded during the PMF attacks, BBC reported.
In addition to serving as the chairman of the PMF, Fayyadh served as the National Security Advisor to Haider al-Abadi, Iraq’s previous Prime Minister. Abadi dismissed Fayyadh in Oct. 2018 as both National Security Advisor and PMF Chairman for “getting involved in practicing political and partisan work.” In a display of the PMF’s and Iran’s power and influence in Iraq, Fayyadh ignored the order and remains the head of the PMF to this day.
Fayyadh is a supporter of Iran’s efforts to dominate Iraqi politics and its security forces. After the U.S. killed Qods Force Commander Soleimani in Jan. 2019, Fayyadh described him as a “martyr” and noted that he played a crucial role in standing up and supporting the PMF.
The PMF was officially formed in 2014 to battle the Islamic State after Iraqi security forces collapsed in western, central and northern Iraq. It is primarily made up of militias that are supported by and in many cases take direct orders from Iran’s IRGC. The PMF has since become an official military institution answerable only to Iraq’s Prime Minister. In many ways it is analogous to Iran’s IRGC, which takes its orders from Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, outside the military chain of command.
The Qods Force-backed “crisis cell”
The State designation of Fayyadh further highlights the close ties between Iran and Iraq’s PMF. According to State, he was also “a member of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Force Qods Force (IRGC-QF) supported crisis cell that included previously sanctioned militia leaders Qais al-Khazali and Hussein Falah al-Lami, as well as the now-deceased IRGC-QF commander Qasem Soleimani and [PMF] deputy leader Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis.”
Khazali is the head of the Asaib Ahl al Haq, or League of the Righteous, an Iranian-backed Iraqi Shia terror group. Khazali and his brother, Laith, were listed as Specially Designated Global Terrorists, and the League of the Righteous was listed as a Foreign Terrorist Organization, in March 2020. Khazali, who was in U.S. custody between 2007 and 2009, was instrumental in working with Soleimani and Qods Force to stand up Iranian-supported Shia militias. [See Iraqi militant Qayis Khazali warned us about Iran. We ignored him]
Muhandis, who was killed alongside Soleimani, was the operational leader of the PMF and leader of the Hezbollah Brigades, which was listed a terrorist entity in July 2009. Muhandis was also designated under Executive Order 13438. In that designation, Muhandis was identified as a senior adviser to Soleimani and a member of Qods Force who created a group of trainers to support the pro-Iranian Shiite militia, such as the the League of the Righteous and Hezbollah Brigades. Muhandis later played a critical role in establishing the PMF, with the help of Soleimani.
Lami is the current leader of the PMF’s Central Security Directorate and a commander in Hezbollah Brigades. He reportedly directed the snipers to open fire on Iraqi protesters. Lami, along with Qais and Laith Khazali, as well as Khamis Farhan Al-Khanjar al Issawi, were designated as human rights abusers in Dec. 2019 for their roles in suppressing the protests.
*Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD's Long War Journal.

U.S. identifies additional al Qaeda leaders in Iran
Thomas Joscelyn/FDD's Long War Journal/January 13/ 2021
The U.S. State Department announced a reward for information on the whereabouts of ‘Abd al Rahman al Maghrebi, a senior al Qaeda leader based in Iran.
The U.S. State Department today revealed additional details concerning the senior al Qaeda leaders operating inside Iran. Five al Qaeda figures have been added to the U.S. government’s list of specially designated global terrorists. The most noteworthy of them is Muhammad Abbatay, more commonly known as ‘Abd al Rahman al Maghrebi.
Maghrebi, a native Moroccan, is the son-in-law al Qaeda’s global leader, Ayman al Zawahiri. Born on July 1, 1970, Maghrebi has served in a number of senior roles. The State Department describes him as the “longtime director” of As Sahab, al-Qaeda’s central media arm, as well as the “head” of the group’s “External Communications Office.” In that latter job, Maghrebi “coordinates activities with” al Qaeda’s “affiliates.” Maghrebi has also been al Qaeda’s “general manager in Afghanistan and Pakistan since 2012.”
In conjunction with today’s designation, a reward of up to $7 million for information on Maghrebi’s whereabouts was announced by the State Department’s Rewards for Justice program.
Pointing to files recovered during the May 2011 raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound, the State Department says that Maghrebi has been a “rising star” within al Qaeda “for many years.”
Indeed, Maghrebi is discussed in the correspondence between Atiyah Abd al-Rahman, who served as al Qaeda’s general manager before his death in 2011, and Osama bin Laden. In one memo, Atiyah mentioned that Maghrebi was already in “charge” of As Sahab. But Atiyah recommended Maghrebi for a possible promotion, writing that the Moroccan was a good candidate to become one of Atiyah’s deputies.
Maghrebi “has a fine intellect, and as far as I can judge, his faith is strong,” Atiyah wrote. “He [Maghrebi] has high morals, he can keep a secret, and he is patient. His ideology is prudent, and he has excellent awareness.”
Atiyah explained that Maghrebi is “good for command,” but some “senior members” of al-Qaeda (meaning “older shiekhs”) may not accept Maghrebi as a deputy general manager because he is “newer than them.” Atiyah advised bin Laden that this “problem” could be “solved” if bin laden issued an audio message announcing the appointment of Maghrebi. Atiyah said he would “check on this approach” and await bin Laden’s guidance.
Maghrebi eventually did take on other senior roles, as mentioned by the State Department. Atiyah was killed in a drone strike in northern Pakistan in August 2011. One month before, in July 2011, the U.S. Treasury Department designated Atiyah as a terrorist. Treasury stated that bin Laden had “appointed” Atiyah “to serve as al Qaeda’s emissary in Iran, a position which allowed him to travel in and out of Iran with the permission of Iranian officials.”
And now, according to the State Department, Maghrebi is located in Iran as well.
In addition to Maghrebi, the State Department designated a senior al Qaeda figure known as Sultan Yusuf Hasan al ‘Arif, but provided no information about his current role. Identifying information indicates that al ‘Arif is a Saudi national who was born in 1986. Al ‘Arif is also known as Qattal al ‘Abdali, Qital al-Najdi, and Abu Musab al-Saudi.
Three other al Qaeda-affiliated jihadists — Isma’il Fu’ad Rasul Ahmed, Fuad Ahmad Nuri Ali al-Shakhan, and Niamat Hama Rahim Hama Sharif — were designated as well. All three are Iraqis who were born in the 1970s. The are leaders of the al Qaeda Kurdish Battalions (AQKB), which was designated as a terrorist organization in 2012. [See FDD’s Long War Journal report, US adds Al Qaeda Kurdish Battalions to list of terror groups.]
The State Department also revealed that Yasin al-Suri, one of al Qaeda’s top facilitators, and Saif al Adel, one of Ayman al Zawahiri’s deputy emirs, are also still located inside Iran.
The State Department has a standing reward offer for information on Saif al Adel, who is based in Iran and one of al Qaeda’s deputy emirs.
In mid-2018, a team of experts working for the United Nations Security Council revealed that al Adel and his comrade, Abdullah Ahmed Abdullah (a.k.a. Abu Muhammad Al-Masri), were playing prominent management roles within al Qaeda. Both were located in Iran. On Aug. 7, 2020, Abdullah was killed by Israeli assassins in a Tehran suburb. Abdullah was considered al Qaeda’s number two at the time — a role that al Adel may now fill.
Previous designations and other statements by Treasury and State Departments
The U.S. Treasury and State Departments have repeatedly pointed to the presence of al Qaeda leaders and networks inside Iran.
In 2008 and 2009, Treasury reported that several al Qaeda operatives were either living inside Iran, or working with other jihadists in the country.
Then, beginning in July 2011, both the Treasury and State Departments repeatedly targeted the Iran-based network with sanctions and terror designations, saying that the hub is operated as part of a formerly “secret deal” between the Iranian government and al Qaeda’s leadership. Both departments explained that al Qaeda’s “core facilitation pipeline” is in Iran.
Below is a brief timeline of designations and other official statements by the U.S. government.
June 2008: Treasury designated `Abd al-Rahman Muhammad Jaffar `Ali, an al Qaeda “financier and facilitator” based in Bahrain “who has provided significant funding to” al Qaeda. Among his other tasks, `Ali “facilitated the movement of money to a senior al Qaeda facilitator in Iran.”
Treasury also designated Adil Muhammad Mahmud Abd Al Khaliq, who served al Qaeda’s senior leaders and “provided financial, material, and logistical support to al Qaeda and the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG).” Treasury explained that “[b]etween 2004 and 2007, Abd al Khaliq traveled to Iran five times on behalf of al Qaeda and the LIFG for his facilitation duties.” Abd al Khaliq “met with senior al Qaeda facilitators” during “each of these trips.” And during “this same timeframe,” Abd al Khaliq “provided material support to al Qaeda and the LIFG by equipping them with electrical parts used in explosives, laptop computers, jackets, GPS devices, and other equipment.” He also “arranged the transportation of fighters, money, and material to LIFG camps in Pakistan.”
Jan. 2009: Treasury designated four al Qaeda members in Iran, including Osama bin Laden’s son Saad, who was later killed after relocating to Pakistan. “It is important that Iran give a public accounting of how it is meeting its international obligations to constrain al Qaeda,” Stuart Levey, who was then Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, said at the time.
July 2011: Treasury targeted Iran’s formerly “secret deal” with al Qaeda, designating six jihadists who were involved with al Qaeda’s network inside the country. One of them is known as Yasin al Suri, “a prominent Iran-based al Qaeda facilitator” who operates “under an agreement between al Qaeda and the Iranian government.” The agreement was negotiated with Atiyah Abd al Rahman’s permission. Atiyah was a top al Qaeda lieutenant who was killed in a US drone strike in mid-2011. As noted above, Atiyah was appointed by bin Laden to serve as al Qaeda’s “emissary in Iran.”
On January 12, 2020, the State Department publicized its reward for information on Yasin al-Suri’s whereabouts once again.
“Iran is the leading state sponsor of terrorism in the world today,” David S. Cohen, who was then Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, said in a press release. “By exposing Iran’s secret deal with al Qaeda allowing it to funnel funds and operatives through its territory, we are illuminating yet another aspect of Iran’s unmatched support for terrorism,” Cohen emphasized.
Dec. 2011: The State Department announced a $10 million reward for Yasin al Suri, making him one of the most wanted terrorists on the planet. “Under an agreement between al Qaeda and the Government of Iran, Yasin al Suri has helped move money and recruits through Iran to al Qaeda leaders in neighboring countries in the region,” Robert Hartung, the State Department Assistant Director for Threat Investigations and Analysis, explained during a briefing.
Feb. 2012: The Treasury Department designated the Iranian Ministry of Intelligence and Security (MOIS) for a number of reasons, including the assistance it provided to al Qaeda and al Qaeda in Iraq. According to Treasury, the “MOIS has facilitated the movement of al Qaeda operatives in Iran and provided them with documents, identification cards, and passports.” In addition, the MOIS has “provided money and weapons to al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI)…and negotiated prisoner releases of AQI operatives.”
July 2012: In its Country Reports on Terrorism 2011, the State Department reported that “Iran remained unwilling to bring to justice senior AQ members it continued to detain, and refused to publicly identify those senior members in its custody.” Iran “also allowed AQ members to operate a core facilitation pipeline through Iranian territory, enabling AQ to carry funds and move facilitators and operatives to South Asia and elsewhere.”
October 2012: Treasury explained that Yasin al Suri had been temporarily sidelined as the chief of al Qaeda’s network in Iran. His replacement was Muhsin al Fadhli, a veteran Kuwaiti operative, who later relocated to Syria as part of al Qaeda’s “Khorasan Group” and was killed in an American airstrike. Treasury named Adel Radi Saqr al Wahabi al Harbi as one of Fadhli’s men inside Iran. Harbi also eventually relocated to Syria, where he served as the military commander of Jund al Aqsa, an al Qaeda front group, until meeting his own demise.
Treasury explained how the deal between the Iranian regime and al Qaeda works. “Under the terms of the agreement between al Qaeda and Iran,” Treasury reported, “al Qaeda must refrain from conducting any operations within Iranian territory and recruiting operatives inside Iran while keeping Iranian authorities informed of their activities.” As long as al Qaeda didn’t violate these terms, “the Government of Iran gave the Iran-based al Qaeda network freedom of operation and uninhibited ability to travel for extremists and their families.”
Treasury’s Cohen explained in a press release that the designation of Harbi “builds on our action from July 2011” and “further exposes al Qaeda’s critically important Iran-based funding and facilitation network.” Cohen added: “We will continue targeting this crucial source of al Qaeda’s funding and support, as well as highlight Iran’s ongoing complicity in this network’s operation.”
May 2013: In its Country Reports on Terrorism 2012, the State Department said that Iran “allowed AQ facilitators Muhsin al-Fadhli and Adel Radi Saqr al-Wahabi al-Harbi to operate a core facilitation pipeline through Iran, enabling AQ to move funds and fighters to South Asia and to Syria.” Fadhli “began working with the Iran-based AQ facilitation network in 2009,” was “later arrested by Iranian authorities,” but then released in 2011 so he could assume “leadership of the Iran-based AQ facilitation network.”
Jan. 2014: Treasury and State Department officials told Al Jazeera that Yasin al Suri was once again in charge of al Qaeda’s Iran-based network.
Feb. 2014: Treasury identified another Iran-based al Qaeda facilitator, Olimzhon Adkhamovich Sadikov, who is an Uzbek and part of the Islamic Jihad Union. Sadikov “provides logistical support and funding to al Qaeda’s Iran-based network,” according to Treasury.
Apr. 2014: In its Country Reports on Terrorism 2013, the State Department once again noted that the Iranian regime hosted al Qaeda’s “core facilitation pipeline” and “remained unwilling to bring to justice senior al Qaeda (AQ) members it continued to detain,” while also refusing “to publicly identify those senior members in its custody.”
Aug. 2014: Treasury designated a senior al Qaeda leader known as Sanafi al Nasr, who “served in early 2013 as chief of al Qaeda’s Iran-based extremist and financial facilitation network.” Nasr relocated to Syria in 2013 as part of al Qaeda’s “Khorasan Group” and was killed in an American airstrike in 2015.
June 2016: The State Department’s Country Reports on Terrorism 2015 is released. “Iran remained unwilling to bring to justice senior al-Qa’ida (AQ) members it continued to detain and refused to publicly identify the members in its custody,” the report read. State added: “Iran previously allowed AQ facilitators to operate a core facilitation pipeline through Iran since at least 2009, enabling AQ to move funds and fighters to South Asia and Syria.” The implication of the language (“previously allowed”), which was included in the 2014 report as well, was that al Qaeda no longer operated its facilitation network inside Iran. However, al Qaeda did in fact continue to operate its pipeline inside Iran. Country Reports on Terrorism 2016 removed the phrase “previously allowed” from its summary.
July 2016: The US Treasury Department designated three senior al Qaeda figures “located in Iran”: Faisal Jassim Mohammed Al Amri Al Khalidi, Yisra Muhammad Ibrahim Bayumi, and Abu Bakr Muhammad Muhammad Ghumayn. Treasury explained that it took the action to “disrupt the operations, fundraising, and support networks that help al Qaeda move money and operatives from South Asia and across the Middle East.”
Faisal Jassim Mohammed Al Amri Al Khalidi (a.k.a. Abu Hamza al Khalidi), has served as al Qaeda’s “Military Commission Chief” — meaning he was one of the most important figures in the group’s international network. Al Khalidi was identified in Osama bin Laden’s files as part of a “new generation” of leaders al Qaeda groomed to replace their fallen comrades.
July 2017: The State Department released its Country Reports on Terrorism 2016. “Iran remained unwilling to bring to justice senior al-Qa’ida (AQ) members it continued to detain and has refused to publicly identify the members in its custody,” the report reads. “Since at least 2009, Iran has allowed AQ facilitators to operate a core facilitation pipeline through the country, enabling AQ to move funds and fighters to South Asia and Syria.”
Sept. 2018: The State Department’s Country Reports on Terrorism 2017 repeated the language regarding al Qaeda’s network inside Iran.
*Note: The spelling of al Qaeda was changed in some quotes to make it consistent throughout.
Thomas Joscelyn is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Senior Editor for FDD's Long War Journal.
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Biden’s options in Syria
Baha al-Awam/The Arab Weekly/January 13/2021
US forces are building up military reinforcements in the Deir ez-Zor governorate in eastern Syria. Their moves have not been ordered by US President-elect Joe Biden, but are a prelude to the incoming president’s next steps on a crisis that is approaching the end of its first decade with no political solution in sight.
The reinforcements followed the escalation of ISIS operations east of the Euphrates River. Whether orchestrated by Damascus and its allies or not, a new limited war on terror is looming on the horizon there and may shape Biden’s policy in Syria during his term in office.
The reinforcements also came after tensions eased between the government’s National Defense Forces and the Asayish forces in Qamishli.
For Biden, anyone who takes up arms against the Kurds is a terrorist and must be chased. The US president-elect considers the Kurds to be allies who must be protected. This is especially true when the terrorist is backed by Russia, Iran or even Turkey. The US president-elect does not seem concerned about Ankara’s wariness about the possibility of the establishment of a Syrian Kurdish region that would represent an extension of neighbouring Iraqi Kurdistan and would lend inspiration to adherents of Kurdish nationalism in neighbouring countries.
The idea of partition may be tempting to Biden, who has supported the option since it was proposed during the US invasion of Iraq.
Biden was only a member of the Senate then. Today, he is president-elect of the United States. Conditions also seem to favour partition in the two countries. Biden may proceed with his project, which has been postponed for nearly three decades.
Biden’s predecessor, Donald Trump, has left a valuable legacy. The wills bequeathed by former US envoy to Syria and the international coalition against ISIS James Jeffrey are what must be taken into account.
Jeffrey called on the new White House administration to continue Trump’s approach to dealing with the Syrian crisis. Trump’s most prominent achievements in the crisis over the past four years include destroying ISIS’s self-proclaimed caliphate, obstructing other countries’ normalisation with Syrian “President” Bashar Assad, granting free land to Turkey in the northern part of the country and supporting the establishment of an independent Kurdish province east of the Euphrates.
These accomplishments may seem somewhat contradictory, but they give the incoming White House flexibility on how to deal with the crisis according to US interests.
In his call for Biden to adopt Trump’s approach to the Syrian crisis, Jeffrey leaves the president-elect with three options that Trump has laid the groundwork for and according to developments in the region and in light of his country’s relationship with Iran, Russia and Turkey.
The first option is to restore legitimacy to Assad after he carries out internal reforms, including implementing Resolution 2254, cooperating with the United States in combating terrorism, getting rid of chemical weapons he still possesses, holding accountable the perpetrators of war crimes that have taken place over the decade-long crisis and ensuring a “free” and “dignified” return for refugees and displaced people. The second option was presented during a recent press interview with Jeffrey. It does not call for overthrowing the regime, but dividing Syria into several parts. No one can deny that this is an option. It is what drives most international and local protagonists to delay resolving the crisis — either they prefer this option and hope that with time it will become the only viable solution, or they are taking advantage of the paranoia about partition to intimidate and push their opponents and competitors towards implementing their proposals and plans to resolve the country’s crisis. The former US envoy said that there are an estimated tens of thousands of Turkish troops in Idlib that, with the support of the Americans and Europeans, can prevent the province from falling again into the hands of ISIS.
With Washington’s recognition of the occupied Golan’s annexation by Israel, its expansion of support for the Kurds east of the Euphrates river, economically, politically and militarily, in addition to its acceptance of Russia’s permanent military presence in Syria, one can conclude that the project to partition Syria could go forward. Even if the US publicly claims otherwise, it has not written off this option.
With the previous considerations taken into account, the exit of Israel, the United States, Turkey and Russia from Syria seems unlikely, leaving only Iran, with which Biden wants to conclude a new agreement and reach reconciliation once he enters the White House.
The incoming president will not allow the Khomeinists to build up a military force in southern Syria similar to Hezbollah in southern Lebanon. But he will not fight their militias that have infiltrated Syrian society in thought, in the economy and in politics, especially if Tehran agrees to US controls on its nuclear and missile programmes.
Jeffrey knows that Iran will not leave the Arab countries under its domination without a war that forces it to.
Since he does not know if the region is really waiting for war or is instead on the verge of a new deal between his country and Tehran, Jeffrey has suggested a third option to the new US administration — to suspend Middle East crises indefinitely.
This means continuing to clip the wings of the Khomeinists outside their borders even after the conclusion of an agreement controlling their nuclear programme, which is the opposite of what former President Barack Obama did in the Lausanne Agreement in 2015.
Because many priorities are high on Biden’s foreign policy agenda, Jeffrey’s third option could be the most realistic, especially as he has avoided dealing in detail with the crises in Iraq, Syria, Yemen and Lebanon during his election campaign.
In doing so, he seemed to be saying that his administration will not seek Middle East stability if the winds blow in an opposite direction to the desires of the Democrats in implementing an American agenda that reformulates the country’s alliances and international agreements to suit its aspirations in the region and the world.

Future of Turkish-US ties an early dilemma for Biden
Zaid M. Belbagi/Arab News/January 13/2021
The very public, and at times altogether baffling, Turkish support of Donald Trump’s re-election campaign left many in the dark as to why Ankara would side so committedly with such a pro-Israel American president. The answer, quite simply, was the alternative. With President-elect Joe Biden now waiting in the wings, Turkey’s precious strategic goals are undoubtedly being recalculated.
Given that Biden has promised to reconfigure America’s relationships with the world, there is a real opportunity for both sides to consider a reset in bilateral ties, away from the short-term calculations of the election. With a Turkey that is increasingly at odds with NATO and European powers, how the US manages this relationship is of immense strategic importance.
A perfect storm of factors has made Turkey a concern of the US government for the last decade. It is a valuable ally as a long-standing member of NATO and given its situation between Europe and Asia, which makes it an important buffer not only to the chaos of the Near East but also to Russian expansionism. In Syria, where the US has lost important ground to Russia, Turkey provided not only a conduit for American efforts in the region but also a powerful reminder that the US’ recalcitrance for military adventurism had given way to the enthusiasm of regional powers. However, where Turkey once provided a vital pillar in the security of the transatlantic community, as illustrated by its work in Afghanistan, the war on terror and in promoting economic interdependence with Europe, its increasingly independent policies have seen Washington lose ground.
The dysfunctionality of the bilateral ties between the two overtly allied powers has only grown in recent years. Interestingly, the new year has not only concerned Ankara from the perspective of the change in administration, but also the sanctions enforced under the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act, which had been delayed by Trump. With Turkey's Defense Industry Directorate, its chief Ismail Demir and three other employees feeling the pressure over their country’s acquisition of the Russian S-400 missile system, it is not surprising that Ankara is now feeling somewhat marooned.
The dysfunctionality of the bilateral ties between the two overtly allied powers has only grown in recent years.
These circumstances do, however, provide an opportune moment for a realignment of the relationship. As much as the Biden administration may hope that sanctions drive Turkey closer to its orbit, it will be well aware that any further pressure may drive Ankara toward Moscow, or worse still to expand its more independent diplomatic initiatives in the Mediterranean and farther afield. Where President Recep Tayyip Erdogan benefited from a personal relationship with his American counterpart to avoid the more commonplace repercussions for US allies that challenge its strategic imperatives, the new administration has made clear that it will only engage with Turkey through traditional diplomatic channels — and not rely on the kind of ad hoc communication that marked the relationship between Trump and Erdogan.
Though the transactional nature of the Trump administration that endeared it to foreign governments may have been deplored by Biden, there are certain concessions that both sides will need to make in order for relations to improve. Aside from the S-400 issue, US support for the Syrian Democratic Forces does not sit well with Turkey, while the Biden administration’s expected reluctance to extradite Fethullah Gulen (the alleged mastermind of Turkey’s July 2016 failed coup) will harm the prospects of changing things. Ankara has long been at odds with the US over its Syria policy, with America’s support of the People’s Protection Units — the Syrian affiliate of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, which is designated as a terrorist organization by Ankara, the US and the EU — long considered a betrayal of the alliance between the two.
Despite these obvious hurdles, there are signs that relations could improve. Turkish presidential spokesperson Ibrahim Kalin has said that Biden’s team wants to turn a new page in its relations with Turkey, but how and when this comes about remains to be seen. The haphazardness of the Trump administration provided a strategic vacuum, in which Turkey was able to act, to some extent, without concern for US consternation. Whether through defense purchases, explorations for natural gas in disputed waters in the eastern Mediterranean or their pursuit of their own agenda in Libya, Turkey’s leaders may have gotten too used to their new-found independence to see the strategic imperative of warming to Washington.
With the ruling Justice and Development Party having had to ally itself with nationalists to stay in power, any moves deemed to reduce Turkey’s international standing will be hard to enact. In any case, seasoned Obama-era hands like Antony Blinken, Jake Sullivan, Lloyd Austin, Wendy Sherman, Victoria Nuland, Amanda Sloat and Brett McGurk, who will no doubt formulate Biden’s foreign policy, know both Turkey and its diplomats very well. Like the president-elect, they realize that the US has lost too many friends in the last four years — a trend that must be reversed.
• Zaid M. Belbagi is a political commentator, and an adviser to private clients between London and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). Twitter: @Moulay_Zaid

What Biden’s Arab American ‘partnership’ might look like
Ray Hanania/Arab News/January 13/2021
Joe Biden will be sworn in as the 46th president of the US next week, with the backing of Arab, Muslim and Palestinian American voters. The key question remains, however, was the vote for Biden merely a protest against the outgoing administration, which was vilified by many Arabs and Muslims, or was it because of a firm belief that he will actually bring change for the Arab world generally and Palestinians in particular?
I think it is clear that Biden has opened the door a little wider than his predecessors, having last year issued what Arab Americans called a “historic” six-page “Plan for Partnership” with the community. No other presidential candidate has directly addressed the concerns of Arab Americans in the way Biden did with this document.
But what does it really mean? Well, Biden has moved quickly to name several Arab Americans to key positions in his administration. These appointees have, however, refrained from speaking publicly to Arab Americans about what is expected of them. And they are already under attack from the pro-Israel movement, which has accused them of harboring views that are “anti-Israel” — a sacred institution in American politics that few are allowed to question.
Biden’s “partnership” document speaks to some important issues, like supporting a freer form of immigration. While Trump restricted immigration, using what was described as a “Muslim ban” to stop arrivals from six predominantly Muslim nations, the president-elect has called that “morally wrong” and promised to end the ban. He has also vowed to reinforce protections for so-called “Dreamers,” the children of illegal immigrants to America who continue to fight for citizenship.
Biden also promised in his plan to fight “discriminatory policies that single out Arab Americans and cast entire communities under suspicion.” What policies are these? Will he call out the anti-Arab racism, such as the distortion of the truth about the 1948 Palestinian Nakba, which has been denounced by pro-Israel members of Congress, including many Democrats?
There was heightened discrimination against Arabs and Muslims in America after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, but most of that has subsided. However, nothing has ever been done to make up for the failure of Congress to recognize the dozens of Americans who were beaten or killed in the weeks after 9/11 because they were or looked like they might be “Middle Eastern.”
Biden says he will review the Department of Homeland Security’s no-fly list and the watch list, which targets individuals suspected of involvement in terrorism, as well as ending the racial profiling of suspects based on their appearance.
And he has said he will support the inclusion of a “Middle East and North Africa” category on future US Census forms, which would boost the identification of America’s Arabs. There are 22 racial and ethnic groups currently listed in the Census, which is conducted every decade. These statistics are used to help distribute billions of dollars in grants and funding to the ethnic and racial groups that are listed.
Biden’s partnership document, if you read it carefully, is actually filled with a lot of positive words about protecting the civil rights of everyone, not just Arabs. The most important part is the least descriptive, which is titled “Championing democracy and human rights globally.” Does that mean censoring Israel when it discriminates against its non-Jewish citizens? Will Biden stand up for the rights of Palestinians who live under occupation? Will he return the vernacular of the Middle East conflict to reality by calling things what they are: An “occupation,” not “disputed territories?”
Will Biden speak out against the laws adopted by more than 30 American states that call for punishments and contract restrictions against anyone who supports the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement? The issue of boycotting Israel because of the exploitation of stolen Palestinian lands by the illegal and racist settler movement has been a big topic in the US and the world, but it is not addressed in Biden’s document. No other presidential candidate has directly addressed the concerns of Arab Americans in the way Biden did.
I hope the president-elect will stand up for all the things he says he is going to stand up for. Many presidents before him have uttered — and then failed to keep — the same promises.
I have to ask Arab Americans, what are we really expecting? Will Biden have the courage to stand up to Israel’s racist policies and achieve a two-state solution, in which Palestinians have their own sovereign state with Jerusalem as its capital? Or will he simply move all of us Arabs, Muslims and Palestinians back to where we were under his predecessors — leaders who literally did nothing of substance to defend the rights of the Palestinian people or champion democracy in the Arab world? If we argue that is too much to expect from any American president, I have to then ask: What is the point of it all?
*Ray Hanania is an award-winning former Chicago City Hall political reporter and columnist. He can be reached on his personal website at www.Hanania.com. Twitter: @RayHanania

Iran’s regime and Al-Qaeda: An axis of convenience
Dr. Majid Rafizadeh/Arab News/January 13/2021
د. مجيد رافيزادا: النظام الايراني والقاعدة: محور الملاءمة

With less than two weeks left in office, the Trump administration has publicly accused the Iranian regime of having ties with the terrorist group Al-Qaeda. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo revealed the link on Tuesday using recently declassified intelligence material during a speech to the National Press Club in Washington.
This was the first time a US secretary of state had provided evidence of the links between the Tehran regime and Al-Qaeda. The intelligence included information on the assassination of Al-Qaeda’s second in command, Abdullah Ahmed Abdullah, also known as Abu Mohammad Al-Masri, in Tehran on Aug. 7 last year.
Al-Masri, who would most likely have succeeded current Al-Qaeda leader Ayman Al-Zawahiri, was accused of being involved in the bombings of two US embassies in Africa in 1998.
At first, Iranian authorities attempted to cover up his death, apparently because they would have preferred it not to be known that they have any links to Al-Qaeda. But the theocratic Iranian establishment may well have provided Al-Masri with the resources to carry out his campaigns against the US.
The Trump administration is not only attempting to reveal Iran’s ties to Al-Qaeda, but it is also trying to complicate President-elect Joe Biden’s intention to return to the Iran nuclear deal and make it more difficult for his administration to pursue appeasement policies and normalize relations with Tehran.
• 1992-1996 Iranian regime emissary Sheikh Nomani reportedly met Khartoum-based Al-Qaeda leadership under the aegis of Sudan’s National Islamic Front.
• 1996-2000 Secret understanding between Osama bin Laden and Tehran said to facilitate travel for Al-Qaeda leaders through Iran to Afghanistan.
• 1998 Al-Qaeda used Iran/Hezbollah tactics in August to bomb US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, killing 223 people and wounding thousands more.
• 2000 Iran, along with Sudan, accused of liability in October bombing of USS Cole in Yemen by a US federal judge, nearly four years after the loss of 17 sailors in the attack.
• 2001 Allegations of transit of Al-Qaeda members in and out of Afghanistan through Iranian territory in lead-up to Sept. 9 terror attacks backed up by strong evidence provided in subsequent US trial.
• 2001-2004 Al-Qaeda leaders reportedly received safe harbor in Iran after escaping from Tora Bora and other hideouts in Afghanistan that were bombed by US forces in Oct. 2001.
• 2001-2010 Al-Qaeda operatives, including Saif Al-Adel, Saad bin Laden, Abdullah Ahmed Abdullahi and Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi, took up residence in Iran, ostensibly under “house arrest.”
• 2011 The US formally accused Iran of forging a pact enabling Al-Qaeda to move money, arms and fighters to its bases in Pakistan and Afghanistan.
• 2015 Iran reportedly released five senior Al-Qaeda members as part of a prisoner swap with group’s branch in Yemen, which was holding an Iranian diplomat.
• 2015-2016 The US Office of the Director of National Intelligence released a tranche of declassified documents shedding light on the relationship between Al-Qaeda and Iran.
• 2018 UN panel of experts suggested that Al-Qaeda leaders in Iran had grown more prominent.
• 2020 Abdullah Ahmed Abdullah reportedly slain in Tehran on Aug. 7 along with his daughter by Israeli agents acting for the US.
• 2021 US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announces $7 million reward for information on Muhammad Abbatay, aka Abd Al-Rahman Al-Maghrebi, described as Iran-based Al-Qaeda leader.
Biden has indicated that his administration intends to rejoin the nuclear deal and even lift sanctions against Iran.
The Trump administration has invested significant political capital over the last four years imposing sanctions pressure on the Islamic Republic, which has led to the significant weakening of the regime and its economy, as well as a substantial decline in its oil exports.
When it comes to Iran’s deep ties with Al-Qaeda, unfortunately little attention has been given to the subject by mainstream media outlets, politicians and scholars.
Some might have bought the false narrative — buttressed by the Tehran regime, its agents and some media outlets — that Al-Qaeda and Tehran are enemies because the former is Sunni and the latter is Shiite. But I think more attention should be paid to the three-decade-long relationship between Al-Qaeda and the Iranian regime.
These ties date back to the early 1990s. The Iranian regime then viewed Al-Qaeda through the prism of ideological and political opportunism. From the Iranian leaders’ perspective, Al-Qaeda was an invaluable non-state terrorist group that could help accomplish Iran’s three main revolutionary aims: Anti-Americanism, undermining Saudi Arabia’s interests in the region, and destabilizing the Middle East so that Tehran could exploit the chaos and instability.
The Sunni-Shiite division was never an issue for the Iranian regime as long as the terrorist group could help it accomplish its revolutionary aims.
In the early 1990s, Al-Qaeda was in desperate need of funds — and, more importantly, sophisticated tactical, technical and militia training that would enable it to carry out large-scale terrorist attacks. Iran’s proxy, Hezbollah, had previously carried out attacks against US forces, such as the 1983 bombing of the Marines barracks outside Beirut, which killed 241 Americans. This is when the Iran-Al-Qaeda marriage of convenience began.
A convergence of interests led to a blossoming of ties and the empowerment of Al-Qaeda. Iran struck a deal with Al-Qaeda and used Hezbollah to provide funds, arms and explosives. Soon, a meeting took place in Sudan between Al-Qaeda’s Osama bin Laden and Imad Mughniyah, the Hezbollah security chief.
Bin Laden advised his followers to revere the Iranian regime and wrote that Iran was the “main artery for funds, personnel and communication” for Al-Qaeda. Three of Iran’s institutions were key to assisting Al-Qaeda and Hezbollah: The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), its elite Quds Force, and the Ministry of Intelligence.
Although Iran attempted to hide its ties to Al-Qaeda, reports about their relationship began to surface in the mid-1990s.
The first federal indictments of Al-Qaeda under the Clinton administration stated: “Osama bin Laden, the defendant, and Al-Qaeda also forged alliances with the National Islamic Front in Sudan and with representatives of the government of Iran, and its associated terrorist group Hezbollah, for the purpose of working together against their perceived common enemies in the West, particularly the United States.”
Iran and Hezbollah’s sophisticated training of Al-Qaeda operatives was also instrumental.
In December 1992, Al-Qaeda carried out its first known terrorist attack: The bombing of the Gold Mohur hotel in Aden, Yemen. The following year, it bombed the World Trade Center in New York. The group’s modus operandi was entirely shaped by the Iranian regime. This included bombs in vehicles, suicide bombers and simultaneous multidimensional attacks on several targets.
After acquiring tactical, technical and bombing expertise, Al-Qaeda carried out its second large-scale attack in August 1998 — the truck bombs at the US embassies in Nairobi, Kenya, and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, in which more than 200 people died.
A US district court found that, before Iran and Hezbollah’s training, Al-Qaeda “did not possess the technical expertise required to carry out the embassy bombings.” In fact, they were replicas of the Hezbollah attacks of 1983. In other words, the Iranian regime was responsible for the attacks.
Al-Qaeda has helped Iran against Western forces in Syria and Iraq and has provided the pretext for the IRGC to increase its influence in Baghdad, Damascus and Sanaa.
Later, ahead of the 9/11 attacks, the Iranian regime allowed Al-Qaeda operatives to cross through its territory without visas or passports. Robust evidence, including a federal court ruling, found that “Iran furnished material and direct support for the 9/11 terrorists.”
Al least eight of the hijackers passed through Iran before heading to the US. Iran also provided funds, logistical support and ammunition to Al-Qaeda leaders and sheltered several of them in exchange for the terrorist group attacking US interests.
The Iranian regime also supported Al-Qaeda in Iraq, Syria and other countries with the goal of pushing out forces that were rivals to Tehran.
In fact, the regime released Al-Qaeda operatives to Syria during the country’s civil war in order to impose fear in the society, battle Western elements, provide an excuse for the IRGC to ratchet up its influence in the country, and to buttress Bashar Assad and Tehran’s argument that the Syrian government was fighting “terror groups,” not legitimate oppositional groups.
In 2017, a trove of 470,000 documents released by the CIA revealed close ties between Bin Laden, Al-Qaeda and the Iranian regime. The files confirmed what had been known by several intelligence agencies, courts and experts for a long time. According to the files, Iran offered Al-Qaeda fighters “money and arms and everything they need, and offered them training in Hezbollah camps in Lebanon, in return for striking American interests in Saudi Arabia.”
Saudi and foreign citizens gather 13 May 2003 around the devastated Al-Hamra expatriate housing compound that was hit by a suicide car bombing last night blamed on the Al-Qaeda terror network in Riyadh. (AFP/File Photo)
Further evidence came from former IRGC general Saeed Ghasemi, who shared a surprising revelation in 2019. He statedthat the Iranian government sent agents to Bosnia in the 1990s to train Al-Qaeda members, and that these operatives hid their identity by posing as humanitarian workers for Iran’s Red Crescent Society.
Another Iranian official, Hossein Allahkaram, confirmed this account. He said: “Al-Qaeda has different ranks, and the rank that was in Bosnia were connected to us in some ways. Occasionally, some of them, after they were trained in Al-Qaeda bases and received their weapons, for some reasons, they would leave that place and come to us.”
Al-Qaeda has helped Iran against Western forces in Syria and Iraq and has provided the pretext for the IRGC to increase its influence in Baghdad, Damascus and Sanaa. Their alliance likely explains why the terrorist group has never carried out an attack against the Iranian regime.
Iran is the godfather of many terror groups across the region, including Al-Qaeda. More attention should be paid to the regime’s long-standing ties with this militia. In light of all this evidence, it is incumbent on the international community — and particularly the next US administration — to hold the Iranian regime accountable for its funding, arming and empowering of one of the most dangerous terrorist groups in the world.
*Dr. Majid Rafizadeh is a Harvard-educated Iranian-American political scientist. Twitter: @Dr_Rafizadeh