The current armed conflict in Libya has deep domestic, regional, and international roots. The April 4 attack on the capital by of Khalifa Haftar’s Libyan National Army (LNA) has highlighted the failure of international mediation. A return to the negotiating table seems unlikely in the near future, as the parties of the conflict remain convinced that military victory is achievable. In particular, Haftar’s recent actions suggest a dangerous upsurge in violence and material damage may be on the horizon.
When groups are described as monoliths it is typically the result of lacking information on the true internal dynamics within the group. The same goes for the Islamic State, al-Qaeda and likeminded Jihadi groups. The general impression of the Islamic State is that of an ideologically stringent, organizationally coherent and hierarchically centralized group. As information slowly drops from the inside a less rosy picture is emerging though.
In June 2018, I co-authored an Op-Ed in the Dutch newspaper de Volkskrant appealing to the Dutch government to take back the children of Dutch Islamic State (IS) fighters for legal and long-term security considerations.
The Islamic State in Khorasan (IS-K) expanded rapidly in Afghanistan in 2015-17, but during 2018 the crisis of the Caliphate in Syria and Iraq started eventually to affect it. Although the number of IS members moving to Khorasan from Syria and Pakistan was at this stage still small, news of the state of near terminal crisis inevitably spread to the ranks of IS-K, affecting morale negatively. Even greater was the inability of the Caliphate to transfer funds to IS-K.
The military defeats of Islamic State’s (IS) fighters in Iraq and Syria led many to believe that the threat represented by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s organization was on the verge of extinction. The video-message by the “Caliph” in April 2019, however, denied the persistent rumors that circulated about his death and proved above all his growing attention to sub-Saharan Africa.
Five years ago, speaking from the pulpit of the ancient al-Nuri mosque in Mosul, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi proclaimed the rise of the “Islamic State” (IS). Under his personal guidance, the group was set to take control and expand its territories across Iraq and Syria, to establish a transnational “Caliphate” that was meant to be the home for all Muslims in the region and beyond. IS thus spread like wildfire all over the Middle East attracting foreign fighters from all over the world.
On June 29th, 2014, after the Islamic State captured Mosul, the goup's spokesman Abu Mohamed al-Adnani, shocked the world with the publishing of an audio message proclaiming the establishment of a “Caliphate”. Five years later, much has changed, as a number of military offensives have managed to free the territories that had been conquered by the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq.
At the height of the Islamic State’s (IS) success, in 2013 and 2014, a constant flow of information emerged on social media about the group’s leaders.
Though not enough to endanger the group’s leadership, it did give a general idea of its chain of command. At times IS actively contributed to this through its propaganda, while exercising care not to compromise security.
At last, the big day of the Bahrain workshop on the Palestinian economy is coming. After two years of negotiations and secret plans, the Trump administration should soon propose a US framework of guidelines for resolving the oldest struggle in the Middle East, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The location of this event will be Manama (June 25-26), the capital of Bahrain and focal point of some important Middle Eastern dynamics. The conference will bring together government and business leaders from Europe, the Middle East and Asia.
In the Arabian Peninsula, strategic borderlands tell much about Gulf monarchies’ level of disunity and how this can indirectly favour Iranian interests, in times of risky escalation among Iran, the United States and Saudi Arabia. This is the case of Mahra (Yemen) and Musandam (Oman).
As a matter of fact, the subtle but persisting rivalry between the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Oman is not only a regional politics affair, with Abu Dhabi supporting Riyadh’s anti-Iran, anti-Qatar stances and Muscat opting for a pragmatic mediator role.