OE Watch Issue # 01, 2024

OE Watch, Vol 14, Issue 01, 2024; click image to download magazine

(Click image to download magazine.)


CHINA

China Celebrates New Turbofan Engine Design as Giving It a Strategic Advantage
By Cindy Hurst

Chinese and Vietnamese Leaders Meet Over Tensions in South China Sea
By Alpha Ngo

Chinese Media Defends PLA Navy in Maritime Dispute With the Philippines
By Jacob Zenn

China Nears Completion of Large Port in Peru With Dual-Use Capabilities
By Ryan Berg


RUSSIA

Russian Military Working To Respond to U.S. “Multi-Domain Operations”
By Chuck Bartles

Russia Details Plan To Overcome Military Drone Deficiencies
By Dodge Billingsley

Russia’s Federal Budget Puts Economy on War Footing
By Dodge Billingsley

Russian Arctic Naval Activity and Capability Continue To Expand
By Les Grau

Russia Denies that North Korea Is Supplying It With Weapons for Use in Ukraine
By Lionel Beehner


IRAN

Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Seeks Dominant Role in Maritime Development
By Michael Rubin

Iran’s Supreme Leader Announces Maritime Development Strategy
By Michael Rubin

Iran Seeks To Assert Global Leadership in Determining International Cyber Policy
By Michael Rubin

Belarus and Iran Form Alliance Against the West
By Paris Gordon


TERRORISM AND TRANSNATIONAL CRIME

Drug Trafficking a Prime Source of Financing for Venezuela’s Maduro Regime
By Ryan Berg

Syrian Regime, Opposition Wary of Hamas Despite Support for 7 October Attacks on Israel
By Lucas Winter

Fears of Gaza Violence Prompt Egypt To Reinforce the Sinai Border
By Lucas Winter

Pakistan Deporting Approximately 1.7 Million Undocumented Afghanis in Response to Terrorist Attacks
By Christopher Betts

Malian Coup Leader Faces Challenges Reconquering Kidal
By Jacob Zenn


GLOBAL OPERATIONAL ENVIRONMENT

Israel’s Operation in Gaza Compounding Logistical Delays for India’s Armed Forces
By Matthew Stein

Azerbaijan’s Joint Exercise With Turkey Sends Familiar Warning Message to Armenia
By Matthew Stein

African Government Support for Palestinian Territories Spreads
By Jason Warner

Ukraine Launches Counteroffensive in Sudan and Across Africa To Minimize Russian Influence
By Jason Warner


Ukraine Launches Counteroffensive in Sudan and Across Africa To Minimize Russian Influence

Following its invasion by Russia, Ukraine is now launching a counteroffensive against Russian influence in Africa.


“Ukraine’s involvement in attacking Wagner forces in Africa signifies a limited yet noteworthy expansion of the Ukrainian conflict.”


While the diplomatic implications of the Russian invasion of Ukraine have been felt in Africa,[i] the security implications have been less so. That appears to be changing. As the first accompanying article from the Nigeria-based Military Africa monitoring site suggests, members of the Ukrainian special forces appear to have targeted members of the Russian Wagner Group operating in Sudan supporting the Rapid Support Forces (RSF). In April 2023, fighting erupted between the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and the paramilitary RSF, two groups that had previously worked together to oust Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir in 2019, and then led a subsequent military coup in 2021. As tensions between the two groups rose post-2021 coup, fighting broke out in the spring of 2023. Reporting has suggested that Wagner Group forces—which have been in Sudan since 2017 to support deposed President Al-Bashir—are now aiding the RSF, providing the faction surface-to-air missiles and other support. Notable is that Ukrainian special forces have taken their fight against Russia to Sudan, allegedly working with members of the SAF to attack the rival RSF/Wagner contingents in the country. As the article notes, other reporting has suggested that Ukrainian mercenaries not officially associated with the government may also be participating in fighting in Sudan on the side of the SAF. Indeed, this news from Sudan falls in line with Ukraine’s August 2023 pledge to radically revive Ukraine’s relations with African countries to lessen what one Ukrainian diplomat called Moscow’s “grip” on the continent based on “coercion, corruption, and fear.”[ii] Showing that the African continent is emerging as part of the broader landscape of the Russia-Ukraine conflict, the second article from the Nigerian newspaper Premium Times describes how, even during its war, Ukraine plans to invest $25 million to create ten new embassies in Africa over the coming years, adding to the current eleven. Sudan is among the ten countries in which Ukraine plans to open a new embassy. Commenting on the opening of new Ukrainian embassies in Africa to counter Moscow, President Zelensky has noted: “We are not afraid of Russia’s presence in any African country.”


Sources:

“Africa emerges as the new battleground between Russia and Ukraine,” Military Africa (Nigeria-based military news aggregator), 9 November 2023. https://www-military-africa.cdn.ampproject.org/c/s/www.military.africa/2023/11/africa-emerges-as-the-new-battleground-between-russia-and-ukraine/?amp=1

Recent reports suggest that Ukrainian special services may have played a role in a series of attacks against forces affiliated with Russia’s Wagner Group and the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) in Sudan, thousands of miles from the main theater of war.

But, since the outbreak of war in Sudan earlier this year, there have also been reported suspicions of Ukrainian mercenaries fighting on the side of the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) in their battle against the Rapid Support Forces (RSF). This April, CNN reported that Wagner had supplied RSF paramilitaries with missiles.

Notably, the action didn’t occur within Ukraine’s borders, but rather against forces associated with Wagner Private Military Company (PMC) and the RSF….

The videos depict a special unit sniper of the Ukrainian Defense Intelligence Directorate (GUR) conducting precision strikes on Wagner Private Military Company (PMC) forces in Sudan. This expands the theater of the Ukraine-Russia conflict into Africa, with Ukraine’s intelligence agency vowing to hunt down Wagner forces anywhere in the world…

Ukraine’s involvement in attacking Wagner forces in Africa signifies a limited yet noteworthy expansion of the Ukrainian conflict.


Chiamaka Okafor, “Ukraine to invest $25 million in establishing embassies in Africa,” Premium Times (Nigeria), (Lagos, Niger-based daily), 15 November 2023. https://www.premiumtimesng.com/news/top-news/643589-ukraine-to-invest-25-million-in-establishing-embassies-in-africa.html

The Government of Ukraine on Wednesday said it is set to invest $25 million in establishing nine embassies in African countries. This was revealed by Ukraine’s Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal in Kyiv while meeting with African journalists. He said the establishment of these embassies was a part of Ukraine’s African renaissance and rekindling its relationship with its African counterparts…

Ukraine, according to the prime minister, already has 11 embassies in Africa and is ready to open 10 more. Clarifying, he said plans to open an embassy in Ghana have already been finalised and not included in the $25 million budgeted for the other nine. The other nine countries include Sudan, Mozambique, Botswana, Mauritania, Côte d’Ivoire, Rwanda, Democratic Republic of Congo, Cameroon, and Tanzania.

According to the prime minister’s office, the plan to establish these embassies in Africa and other parts of the world had been developed in 2019 by President Volodymyr Zelenskyy until the war derailed the plans. Asked if he was concerned by the growing presence of Russia’s Wagner Group in Africa, he said, “We are not afraid of Russia’s presence in any African country…”He added that the presence of Wagner in any part of the world is a bad signal although “no third party will stop us from moving forward.”


Notes:

[i] For more reading on the ways that Africa has responded to the Ukraine-Russia war, see: Jason Warner, “Morrocco Sending Military Equipment to Ukraine,” OE Watch, 02-2023. https://fmso.tradoc.army.mil/2023/morocco-sending-military-equipment-to-ukraine/; Jason Warner, “African Stances on the Russia-Ukraine War Demonstrate Reliance on, Antipathy Toward West,” OE Watch, 09-2022. https://fmso.tradoc.army.mil/2022/african-stances-on-the-russia-ukraine-war-demonstrate-reliance-on-antipathy-toward-west/

[ii] For more on the August 2023 Ukrainian declaration of a revival of its relations with Africa to lessen Russia’s grip, see: “Ukraine announces a long fight against the “Russian hold in Africa,” AfricaNews.com, 17 August 2023. https://www.africanews.com/2023/08/17/ukraine-announces-a-long-fight-against-the-russian-hold-in-africa/


Image Information:

Image: Following its invasion by Russia, Ukraine is now launching a counteroffensive against Russian influence in Africa.
Source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Africa_Ukraine_Locator.png
Attribution: BY-SA 4.0


African Government Support for Palestinian Territories Spreads

Tunisians protest in support of Palestine in 2021. Since the Hamas attack on Israel in October, governments and civil societies around the African continent have shown a disproportionate amount of support for Palestine.


“Hamas is a liberation organization and mujahideen struggling to liberate the Palestinian land from Jews, we will not accept to call it a terror group.”


While the earliest days of the war between Israel and Hamas elicited the greatest amount of support for the Palestinian Territories from civil societies in North Africa, increasingly, both governments and civil societies in other locations around the African continent are similarly choosing sides, typically in support of the Palestinian Territories.[i]

The most vociferous calls in support of the Palestinian Territories, and Hamas, have come from some of the continent’s Muslim-majority states. According to the first article from the Mogadishu-based Shabelle Media, Somalia’s prime minister, Hamza Abdia Barre, has rejected calls to label Hamas a terrorist organization. Instead, he publicly declared that “Hamas is a liberation organization… struggling to liberate the Palestinian land from Jews: we will not accept to call it a terror organization.” Such rhetoric from Somalia’s government is particularly interesting given that it faces its own significant threats from Al-Shabaab, itself one of the world’s most violent jihadist terrorist groups. According to the second excerpted article from the pan-African news aggregator AllAfrica.com, similar manifestations of support for the Palestinian Territories have emerged in Libya. Though the country is currently divided into two warring factions vying for official recognition, the eastern side’s parliament, overseen by General Khalifa Haftar and the Libyan National Army (LNA), recently released a statement urging the expulsion of entities that support Israel and the cessation of the export of oil and gas to those countries that support Israel. It particularly decried what it deemed to be hypocritical rhetoric on the support of human rights by the United States, the U.K., France, and Italy, which the parliament argued “support the Zionist entity [Israel] in its crimes.” For its part, Senegal’s president, Macky Sall, has led his state to a slightly more balanced outlook. According to the third article from the Senegal-based DakarActu, Sall has decried deaths in Gaza, urged a two-state solution, but has still shown some degree of preference in proposing the creation of a global solidarity fund to support the people of Gaza. Outside of these pro-Palestinian government policies, African civil society support of the Palestinian Territories has also been evident, even in non-Muslim majority states. According to the fourth article from the South Africa-based news site GroundUp, large pro-Palestinian marches have occurred in Cape Town, with protestors urging the closure of the Israeli Embassy in South Africa. African states in which the U.S. Army operates are demonstrating opposing views on the issue that have the potential to cause diplomatic friction given ongoing U.S. military aid to Israel.


Sources:

“Somali PM says Hamas is not terrorist organization, calls it a liberation group,” Shabelle Media (Mogadishu, Somalia-based news publication), 2 November 2023. https://shabellemedia.com/somali-pm-says-hamas-is-not-terrorist-organisation-calls-it-a-liberation-group/

Prime Minister Hamza Abdi Barre said that the government of Somalia refused to call Hamas a “terrorist organization” and did not heed pressure.

“Hamas is a liberation organization and mujahideen struggling to liberate the Palestinian land from Jews, we will not accept to call it a terror group,” added Barre…

The Muslim world was divided, made enemies of each other, and forced to call Hamas a terrorist organization. We don’t say it, and we don’t accept it,” said the prime minister….

The Somali Prime Minister said the solution is to find two states – Israel and Palestine,” We will not compromise until we see a Palestinian government with Jerusalem as its capital.

Somalia is among many Muslim countries, including Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Syria, and Yemen that do not recognize Israel as a state.


Jerry Chifamba, “Libya’s Parliament Orders Out of Countries Supporting Israel,” AllAfrica.com (pan-African news aggregator), 26 October 2023. https://allafrica.com/stories/202310260518.html

The Libyan parliament on Wednesday, October 25, requested that ambassadors from countries that “support” Israel in its conflict with Hamas in Gaza leave the country…

In an announcement posted on its official website, the parliament located in the east, supported by military leader Khalifa Haftar in Libya, which is divided between two opposing administrations, threatened to shut off energy supplies if “massacres” against Palestinians continued.

“We demand that the ambassadors of the states which support the Zionist entity (Israel) in its crimes leave the territory (of Libya) immediately,” the statement read.

“If the massacres committed by the Zionist enemy do not stop, we demand that the Libyan government suspend the export of oil and gas to the states that support it,” it said.

The acts of “the governments of the United States, the United Kingdom, France, and Italy” were condemned “in the strongest terms” by the parliament. According to the statement, the leaders of these countries “lecture on human rights and the right of peoples to self-determination” while they “support the Zionist entity in its crimes” in Gaza, it said…


“Bombardements à Gaza: Macky Sall propose ‘la mise en place d’un fonds de solidarité en faveur du peuple palestinien,’” (“Bombings in Gaza: Macky Sall proposes “the establishment of a solidarity fund for the Palestinian people”), DakarActu (private Senegal-based news site), 11 November 2023. https://www.dakaractu.com/Bombardements-a-Gaza-Macky-Sall-propose-la-mise-en-place-d-un-fonds-de-solidarite-en-faveur-du-peuple-palestinien_a240238.html   

From Riyadh where he is, the head of state, Macky Sall, says he is concerned about the situation prevailing in Gaza. He called for the establishment of a solidarity fund for the Palestinian people.

“As we sit here, I think of the unbearable human tragedy in Gaza. Senegal reiterates its serious concern at so many deaths, injuries and destruction.”…

Thus, he said: “I call for the establishment of a solidarity fund in favor of the Palestinian people. Only a peaceful settlement, establishing two independent and sovereign States, Israel and Palestine, each within secure and internationally recognized borders, in accordance with relevant United Nations resolutions, will bring peace for all.


Matthew Hirsch, “Thousands march in Cape Town, call for ceasefire in Gaza,” GroundUp (private South Africa-based news site), 22 October 2023. https://www.groundup.org.za/article/thousands-march-in-cape-town-calling-for-ceasefire-in-gaza/

Several thousand people marched through the streets of Salt River, Cape Town, on Sunday in a show of solidarity for the people of Palestine.

The march was organised by the Palestine Solidarity Campaign and the Salt River Heritage Society. It was one many pro-Palestine marches across the world this weekend…Protesters held placards and flags, while chants of “free Palestine” and “stop the genocide, stop the hate” were heard.The protesters demanded that the Israeli embassy be shut down. They also called for an immediate ceasefire and for support for humanitarian aid for Gaza. They called for South Africans who serve in the Israeli Defence Force (IDF) to be prosecuted.


Notes:

[i] For more on early support for Palestine emanating from northern Africa, see: Jason Warner, “North Africa Shows Wave of Support for Palestinians at Start of Israel-Hamas War,” OE Watch 10-2023. https://fmso.tradoc.army.mil/2024/north-african-wave-of-support-for-palestinians-at-onset-of-israel-hamas-war/


Image Information:

Image: Tunisians protest in support of Palestine in 2021. Since the Hamas attack on Israel in October, governments and civil societies around the African continent have shown a disproportionate amount of support for Palestine.
Source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Protest_for_palestine_Tunis_Kassba_17-05-2021_By_Brahim_Guedich-3582.jpg
Attribution: BY-SA 4.0


Azerbaijan’s Joint Exercise With Turkey Sends Familiar Warning Message to Armenia

Turkish Armed Forces at the Victory Parade 2020 in Baku


“The exercises are still another warning to Armenia to refrain from any border provocations and cool the attitude of those who harbor ideas and goals of revenge.”


Azerbaijan has carried out several joint military exercises with Turkey in recent years as part of their security cooperation partnership. Past exercises with Turkey have often sought to prepare Azerbaijani forces for a potential conflict with Armenian-backed separatists in Nagorno-Karabakh and gain experience from Turkey’s Armed Forces.[i] The accompanying excerpted article from the independent Caucasus-based news website Kavkazskiy Uzel reports on a joint Azerbaijan-Turkey exercise that took place in October 2023, which has sent a familiar message to Armenia. According to an expert who previously worked in the Ministry of Defense of Azerbaijan, the recent exercise serves as a warning to Armenia. Even though Azerbaijan regained control over Nagorno-Karabakh from ethnic Armenians in an operation a month prior to the exercise taking place, the governments of Azerbaijan and Armenia have yet to reach an agreement demarcating their border, with disputes leading to several clashes along the border over the past few years. Azerbaijan’s exercise ultimately shows how it continues to develop its Armed Forces with Turkey’s help in preparation for a potential conflict with Armenia. Yet, the article mentions that the most recent exercise is different from previous ones because it involved more types of units outside of Azerbaijan’s Army, including missile and artillery, engineer, and special forces units. The exercise is also different because there are no longer Armenian troops on Azerbaijan’s territory. Given that Azerbaijan regained control of Nagorno-Karabakh it presumably no longer needs to conduct that type of scenario in an exercise.


Sources:

Faik Majid, “Аналитики в Баку оценили значение азербайджано-турецких учений (Analysts in Baku assessed the meaning of the Azerbaijsan-Turkish exercise),” Kavkazskiy Uzel (independent Caucasus-based news website), 25 October 2023. https://www.kavkaz-uzel.eu/articles/393732

“Up to three thousand military personnel are taking part in the joint Azerbaijani-Turkish military exercises “Mustafa Kemal Ataturk – 2023”, which began on October 23 in Baku, Nakhichevan, as well as in the territories of Karabakh that came under the control of Azerbaijan.

The current joint Azerbaijani-Turkish military exercises differ from previous ones in that they involve almost all types of troops, military expert, former employee of the information and analytical department of the Ministry of Defense of Azerbaijan Azad Isazade told the “Caucasian Knot”…

Judging by official reports, units of the ground forces of the Azerbaijani army, a separate combined arms army stationed in the Nakhichevan Autonomous Republic, the Air Force, missile and artillery troops, engineering troops, special forces, even special forces of the Navy and representatives of the relevant types of troops of the Turkish Armed Forces are taking part in the exercises…

“Azerbaijan, after the anti-terrorist operation on September 19-20, restored its territorial integrity. There are no longer Armenian troops on its territory. However, the exercises are still another warning to Armenia to refrain from any border provocations and cool the attitude of those who harbor ideas and goals of revenge,” the military expert suggested. The algorithm of joint exercises between Azerbaijan and Turkey indicates Baku’s determination to transfer its army to the Turkish model of armed forces, says military expert, retired officer Adalat Verdiyev…One of the advantages of the Turkish army model is that small groups of special forces, commandos, even without the participation of artillery and other types of combat units, can independently successfully complete missions, going deep into rear of the enemy over long distances, or suddenly deliver crushing blows to the enemy’s forward positions,” said Verdiev…


Notes:

[i] For more information on past Azerbaijan-Turkey exercises, see: Matthew Stein “Azerbaijan’s Post-War Exercise with Turkey,” OE Watch, March 2021. https://community.apan.org/wg/tradoc-g2/fmso/m/oe-watch-articles-2-singular-format/382686


Image Information:

Image: Turkish Armed Forces at the Victory Parade 2020 in Baku
Source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Turkish_Armed_Forces_at_the_Victory_Parade_2020_in_Baku_2.jpg
Attribution: CCA 4.0


Israel’s Operation in Gaza Compounding Logistical Delays for India’s Armed Forces

Indian Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the India-Israel Business Summit, in New Delhi on January 15, 2018


“Consequently, in light of the ongoing conflicts in Ukraine and now in Gaza, Russia and Israel, he warned, could well end up either failing to meet India’s numerous materiel requirements or delaying deliveries interminably.”


Two months after Russia began its invasion of Ukraine in 2022, India began to experience delays in deliveries of weapons and equipment from Russia. The Israeli operations in Gaza have only compounded the delays.[i] The accompanying excerpted article from the independent English-language news website The Wire reports on the ongoing delays of military equipment from not only Russia, but now Israel, as it carries out its Gaza operation. The article examines how two of India’s main suppliers of weapon systems and equipment, Russia and Israel, are currently engaged in conflicts. It also notes how Israel has not provided India with major platforms or systems like Russia has but provided components for various systems as well as different munitions. These components have been implemented into systems of all branches of the Indian Armed Forces making it difficult to quantify the number of Israeli systems in Indian platforms. The author of the article ends by mentioning that Russia’s and Israel’s conflicts could motivate India to pursue alternatives to continue building its defense industry. While the article does not offer specifics on how India will deal with the delays, the situation may push India to seek other partners to find short and long-term solutions to grow the country’s defense industry.


Sources:

Rahul Bedi, “Ukraine and Gaza May Impact Russia and Israel’s Ability to Sustain Materiel Exports to India,” The Wire (an independent English-language news website in India), 14 October 2023. https://thewire.in/security/ukraine-gaza-materiel-exports-to-india

The involvement of India’s two principal materiel providers – Russia and Israel – in their respective wars and conflicts has the potential to impact the inflow of defence equipment supplies into the country, warned a cross-section of service veterans and military analysts.

…This equalled a whopping 55% or so of Russian and Israeli military imports for India…

Retired Brigadier Rahul Bhonsle of the Security Risks Asia consultancy in Delhi said that while the BJP-led government had launched the atamnirbhar initiative to indigenise Indian military needs, Delhi still topped the global list of defence equipment importers.

Consequently, in light of the ongoing conflicts in Ukraine and now in Gaza, Russia and Israel, he warned, could well end up either failing to meet India’s numerous materiel requirements or delaying deliveries interminably.

Unlike Russia, Israel does not provide India any major platforms, but supplies critical and innovative force multipliers like unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV), assorted missile, guidance and avionics systems, precision-guided munitions, diverse sensors and surveillance and targeting radars, amongst other equipment.

Most of this was fitted onto combat aircraft, helicopters, warships, submarines and armoured vehicles.

But such equipment and component diversity made it difficult to quantify the exact or even near-precise percentages of Israeli military equipment in service with India’s armed forces.

…(though) Israel’s ongoing war in Gaza against Hamas was ‘unlikely’ to impact military hardware and spares supplies to India in the short term, they cautioned that an extended conflict could jeopardise deliveries.

…Once diplomatic ties with Israel were instituted under Prime Minister Narasimha Rao in 1992, the two sides fast-tracked their strategic and defence relationship based on mutual security and commercial interests.

Israel, for its part, rightly perceived a commercial opportunity, while India looked upon Tel Aviv as a reliable and ‘no-questions-asked’ materiel provider, especially of varied ammunition and missile systems which India’s military badly lacked, and still does.

Nonetheless, it still took another six-odd years and the BJP’s ascent to power under Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee for Israel’s defence machinery to definitively establish itself in India…

However, it was the 11-week long Kargil war with Pakistan in 1999 that catapulted Israel’s defence industry to centre stage domestically.

As the seriousness of the deadly conflict unfolded, commercially savvy Israel dug deep into its military reserves to supply India high-end hardware, especially badly-needed 155mm rounds for its FH-77B Bofors howitzers, laser-guided munitions and other ordnance that contributed largely to the Pakistan Army vacating the mountainous region’s siege and ending hostilities.

Two decades later, the Indian Air Force’s (IAF’s) Mirage 2000H fighters in their attack on a Pakistani militant training camp at Balakot in Pakhtunkhwa in February 2019, fired specifically configured Israeli Crystal Maze Mk2 missiles (variants of the Rafael Advanced Defence Systems AGM-142 Raptor Have Nap/Popeye missile)…

…And though India had reduced its dependence on Russia for military equipment by some 33% between 2011 and 2020 in an effort to diversify its network of materiel suppliers, switching entirely to alternate sources was not an option military-planners in Delhi desired, as it entailed colossal expenditure, reworked infrastructure, inordinate delays and doctrinal changes.Perhaps the individual wars in Ukraine and Gaza and the constraints these could impose on Russia and Israel’s ability to export defence equipment may end up providing alternative routes to sustain and modernise India’s military through indigenous efforts.


Notes:

[i] For more information on India’s issues with deliveries of ordnance since the war in Ukraine began, see: Matthew Stein “India Takes a Step Away from the Russian Defense Industry,” Journal of Indo-Pacific Affairs, 31 July 2023. https://www.airuniversity.af.edu/JIPA/Display/Article/3475660/india-takes-a-step-away-from-the-russian-defense-industry/


Image Information:

Image: Indian Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the India-Israel Business Summit, in New Delhi on January 15, 2018
Source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:The_Prime_Minister,Shri_Narendra_Modi_and_the_Prime_Minister_of_Israel,_Mr._Benjamin_Netanyahu_at_the_India-Israel_Business_Summit,_in_New_Delhi_on_January_15,_2018(2).jpg
Attribution: Government Open Data License – India (GODL)


Malian Coup Leader Faces Challenges Reconquering Kidal

MINUSMA Goundam 2015


“I am sending planes to bomb their positions and the army will return to Kidal….”


Over the past half-decade, Malian insurgents, and especially the al-Qaeda-affiliated Group for Supporters of Islam and Muslims (JNIM), have expanded their influence across northern Mali and have begun to control key towns in that region, such as the primarily Tuareg-inhabited Kidal. However, according to the excerpted article from the French-language publication togotimes.com, interim president of Mali, Assimi Goïta, has vowed to reconquer Kidal. While the Malian Army may be more powerful than JNIM, the reconquest and government rule of Kidal raises questions about heavy-handed tactics the Malian Army will employ and whether the Army will cooperate with Russia’s Wagner Group,[i] which has aided it in counterterrorism for the past year.[ii]

At the same time, Goïta is rejecting any negotiations with the Coalition of the Movement of Azawad (CMA), [iii] which seeks autonomy for Tuareg regions of northern Mali. Unlike JNIM, which is explicitly jihadist and unwilling to compromise with the state, the CMA accepts Mali’s legitimacy as a nation-state. In his speech, Goïta stated he would send the Army to liberate any area of the country that disassociates from being “Malian,” which hinted at little room for accommodation of the “Tuareg” CMA. Goïta’s threats to send warplanes to bomb Kidal alongside his partnership with Wagner suggest that an excessively harsh military operation may be underway and that it could alienate civilians in northern Mali from government rule and ultimately favor recruitment into JNIM or the CMA.

Less than two weeks after Goïta’s speech, discussed in the excerpted article in French-language media agenceecofin.com, the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) withdrew from its base in Aguelhok, Kidal region following demands from Goïta and other Malian coup leaders.[iv] However, Goïta condemned MINUSMA for its accelerated exit from Aguelhok due to intensified combat with JNIM and not transferring the base or weapons to the Malian Army. Rather, MINUSMA destroyed them so they would not fall into the hands of JNIM, which ultimately took over the Aguelhok base for a short period of time.[v] The rapid MINUSMA withdrawal and JNIM advances in its aftermath will make Goïta’s realization of his promise to reconquer and hold Kidal more difficult, even as his political credibility rests on it. On top of this, cooperation with Wagner could result in the alienation of northern Malian civilians from the government. Further, the chasm between Goïta and the CMA make any political resolution in northern Mali less likely as well.


Sources:

“Ce message important d’Assimi Goïta au CMA, le JNIM et leurs llies (This important message from Assimi Goïta to the CMA, JNIM and their allies),” togotimes.com (French-language publication edited in Togo that provides commentary on current affairs in Francophone African countries), 10 October 2023. https://togotimes.info/2023/10/10/mali-ce-message-important-dassimi-goita-au-cma-le-jnim-et-leurs-allies/#google_vignette

The reconquering of Malian territory will not be a subject to discussion. Regarding this point, the latest transitional president Assimi Goïta is categorical. There is no question of him accepting a compromise with anyone. He refused the elders of Timbuktu, Gao and Kidal, who were sent by the CMA, JNIM, and their allies to negotiate. 

“We must dissolve any entity from one state or another and dissociate ourselves from any movement. You have to accept being Malian…. I am sending planes to bomb their positions and the army will return to Kidal before the 30th and if MINUSMA gets involved, the Malian people will decide their fate.”

“Bamako accuse la Minusma d’avoir précipité son retrait du camp d’Aguelhok sans le rétrocéder (Bamako accuses MINUSMA of expediting its withdrawal from the Aguelhok camp without handing it over),” agenceecofin.com (French-language publication based in Geneva, Switzerland and Yaounde, Cameroon that focuses on African economic affairs), 26 October 2023. https://www.agenceecofin.com/securite/2610-113102-mali-bamako-accuse-la-minusma-d-avoir-precipite-son-retrait-du-camp-daguelhok-sans-le-retroceder

The Malian army condemned in a press release released on Tuesday afternoon, October 24, the withdrawal of MINUSMA from the Aguelhok camp without handing it over. According to the FAMA, this rapid departure aided the introduction of “terrorists to destroy several installations,” the message added. The areas abandoned by MINUSMA have, for several months, been at the center of violent clashes between the FAMA and armed rebel groups in the north of the country…. But faced with intensifying fighting, the UN mission decided to accelerate its exit from the area, and condemned in the process the destruction of some of its equipment in attacks.


Notes:

[i] For additional details on Russia’s deepening engagement with Mali and neighboring Sahelian states, see Jason Warner, “Russia-Supported Military Rulers in Mali, Burkina, and Guinea Continue To Deepen Ties,” OE Watch, 04-2023. https://fmso.tradoc.army.mil/2023/russia-supported-military-rulers-in-mali-burkina-faso-and-guinea-continue-to-deepen-ties/

[ii] Human Rights Watch, for example, found that “Malian armed forces and foreign fighters apparently from the Russia-linked Wagner Group have summarily executed and forcibly disappeared several dozen civilians in Mali’s central region since December 2022…. They also destroyed and looted civilian property and allegedly tortured detainees in an army camp. See Human Rights Watch, “Mali: New Atrocities by Malian Army, Apparent Wagner Fighters,” July 24, 2023, https://www.hrw.org/news/2023/07/24/mali-new-atrocities-malian-army-apparent-wagner-fighters

[iii] The CMA is signed the Algiers Peace Accords in June 2015, which sought “to restore peace in Mali principally through a process of decentralisation or regionalisation, reconstituting a national army from the members of the former armed groups that were signatories, and boosting the economy (particularly in the north), based on dialogue, justice and national reconciliation.” The coalition is composed of the Mouvement National pour la Libération de l’Azawad (MNLA), the Haut Conseil pour l’Unité de l’Azawad (HCUA), and part of the Mouvement Arabe de l’Azawad (MAA-CMA), which were all formerly pro-independence movements in northern Mali. However, the CMA has remained an umbrella organization for northern Mali Tuareg militias. See International Crisis Group, “Mali’s Algiers Peace Agreement, Five Years On: An Uneasy Calm,” June 24, 2020. https://www.crisisgroup.org/africa/sahel/mali/laccord-dalger-cinq-ans-apres-un-calme-precaire-dont-il-ne-faut-pas-se-satisfaire

[iv] The latest era of pervasive instability in Mali began in 2012, when the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA) led an attack on Aguelhok and subsequently other northern Malian towns. Several weeks later, in March 2012, one of the future JNIM coalition components, Ansar al-Din, released a video of its fighters massacring dozens of Malian soldiers at the Aguelhok base. After this, Ansar al-Din and other al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) allies took control over most of northern Mali. This led to the military overthrow of the civilian government in Bamako and later, in early 2013, the French-led military intervention in northern Mali. The intervention expelled Ansar al-Din, AQIM, and their allies – at least temporarily – from the territories they held in northern Mali, including Aguelhok. See: Alexander Thurston and Andrew Lebovich, “A Handbook on Mali’s 2012-2013 Crisis,” Institute for the Study of Islamic Thought in Africa (ISITA), Working Paper No. 13-001, 2 September 2013. https://sahelresearch.africa.ufl.edu/wp-content/uploads/sites/170/ISITA-13-001-Thurston-Lebovich.pdf

[v] France24 journalist Wassim Nasr posted on X (formerly Twitter) the claim by JNIM of an improvised explosive device (IED) attack on a MINUSMA convoy as it was departing the Aguelhok base. According to JNIM “all of the occupants” of one vehicle were killed. This claim reflected how JNIM was prepared to immediately frustrate and take advantage of the MINUSMA withdrawal to seize the base and pilfer items from it before the Malian armed forces could arrive. Wassim Nasr, “#Mali #JNIM #AQMI revendique un IED contre un convoi @UN_MINUSMA à #Aguelhok « le 23.10 un véhicule détruit […] tous les occupants tués » // « le 24.10 un IED contre un blindé FAMa & #Wagner entre #Hombori et #Gossi […] tous les passagers tués »,” X (formerly Twitter), 25 October 2023. https://twitter.com/SimNasr/status/1717211647608021370


Image Information:

Image: MINUSMA Goundam 2015
Source: Attribution: MINUSMA
https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:MINUSMA_Goundam_2015.jpg
Attribution: CC x 2.0


Pakistan Deporting Approximately 1.7 Million Undocumented Afghanis in Response to Terrorist Attacks

Flag of the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan


“Suppose that the Pakistani government succeeds in deporting all Afghan refugees, will terrorism be eradicated? Obviously not.”


Pakistan continues to struggle with a series of terror attacks, leading the government to resort to mass deportations of Afghan refugees to curb the violence. According to the first excerpted article from the Pashto-language version of the German media company Deutsche Welle, terrorists carried out four separate attacks in Pakistan between 3 and 6 November 2023. The attacks, in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Punjab, and Balochistan provinces, resulted in the deaths of 17 soldiers, five civilians, with another 24 wounded. The article notes that ten militants were killed in response, and “security forces have received Afghan ID cards from six of the militants killed in the Zhob [Balochistan] attack.” Amid rising tensions due to the ongoing acts of terrorism, the regional government of the Balochistan province alleged that both border nations, Iran and Afghanistan, were involved in recent attacks to increase political pressure on Pakistan. No evidence was provided to substantiate these allegations. Pakistan’s proposed solution to counter the ongoing violence inside its borders includes the deportation of approximately 1.7 million undocumented Afghanis, some of whom have lived in Pakistan for up to 40 years, according to the second excerpt from the independent Afghan news outlet Hasht e Subh. As of December 2023, over 400,000 have left Pakistan.[i] A majority of the remaining refugees currently reside in either the Balochistan or Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provinces that border Afghanistan.[ii] The article notes that Pakistan has not been able to successfully contain the Pakistani Taliban (Tehreek-e-Taliban-e-Pakistan (TTP)) and has frequently accused the Afghan refugee population of collaborating with the TTP. The article alleges that the Pakistani military has used both the Afghan and Pakistani Taliban to further its own geopolitical agenda when convenient. Some Afghan refugees allege that the Pakistani government is committing acts of terrorism by expelling them from the land. A mass deportation of a long-standing population may also lead to an increase in grievances by that community and possibly increased support for the TTP and other like-minded groups, resulting in additional terrorist attacks.[iii] The mass expulsion of undocumented refugees has already created a burden on both the Afghan and Pakistani governments from an economic and human rights perspective.


Sources:

“پاکستان: په ۴۸ ساعتونو کې وسله والو ۴ بریدونه کړي دي (Pakistan: Militants have carried out 4 attacks in 48 hours),” Deutsche Welle (German news site), 6 November 2023. https://p.dw.com/p/4YRJH

According to security sources, militants carried out another attack in The Dera Ismail Khan district of Khyber Pakhtounkhwa yesterday, but this is the fourth attack on Pakistani security forces in the past 48 hours. Last night, police raided a police checkpoint in Ismail Khan district with heavy weapons. The exchange between the police and the armed forces lasted about half an hour, but the militants eventually fled. Police say they have cordoned off the area and are searching for suspected attackers. In the past three days, terrorists have carried out major attacks in Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtounkhwa, Punjab and Balochistan provinces, killing 17 security forces, five civilians and wounding about 24 others, including police. Police claimed to have killed 10 people in the attack.

In recent days, attacks in different parts of Pakistan have increased. In the wake of the latest incidents, Balochistan’s regional government has claimed that two neighbouring countries are involved in the terrorist attacks because they want to pressure Pakistan. Balochistan’s Acting Information Minister, Jan Achakzai, told a news conference on Sunday that Pakistan was facing attacks “on both sides” but that it could not undermine the government’s will to defeat terrorists. He claimed that security forces had obtained identification cards from six of the militants killed in the attack. John Achakzai accused India of spreading insecurity in the region and that India’s intelligence agency, “Ro” is “involved in terrorist attacks in Pakistan.” Referring to the two terrorist attacks last week, he said: “We have repeatedly mentioned that India is involved in the terrorist attacks in the country, especially in Balochistan.”


“د کډوالو په اېستلو سره په پاکستان کې ترهګري له منځه نه ځي (Terrorism in Pakistan will not disappear by expelling refugees)” Hasht e Subh (independent Afghan news site), 5 November 2023. https://8am.media/ps/terrorism-in-pakistan-will-not-disappear-by-expelling-refugees/

The interim government of Pakistan has started deporting Afghan refugees en masse, which has provoked widespread protests. The interim prime minister of Pakistan has emphasized that all those illegal Afghan refugees who have been living in Pakistan for the past 40 years will be deported. This move has deepened the crisis which is not new for the Afghans and they have been dealing with it for decades. With the rule of the Taliban, the crisis of immigration has not decreased, but has expanded and increased… This has caused citizens to move to neighboring countries. This is not the only result of the arrival of the Taliban. The strengthening of terrorist groups and the development of their activities is also one of the destructive consequences of the Taliban rule in Afghanistan… The government of Pakistan, which is unable to control the TTP and has not given the desired result to the pressure on the Afghan Taliban to suppress this group, has increased the pressure on the Afghan refugees and accuses the Afghan refugees of terrorist attacks… There is no doubt that the Taliban is involved in many terrorist attacks in Pakistan and will continue to be in the future. But it cannot be that all Afghan refugees are considered terrorists or collaborators of terrorists and the solution is to seek their deportation. In reality, Afghan refugees have not only played an important role in the growth and strengthening of terrorism, but are considered the primary victims of the development of terrorist groups’ activities.

The terrorism that the government of Pakistan is using to expel Afghan refugees from their land today is the result of the deadly game that the soldiers of this country have skillfully played for years and the result was full of benefits for them. Thanks to the terrorist industry managed by the Pakistani army, the people of this country have not seen a stable civilian government and the army has control over all affairs. Terrorism is actually a pretense through which the soldiers introduce themselves as the saviors of Pakistan. If they are not there, the country will become food for wolves… It is not yet clear whether the TTP, as well as the Afghan Taliban, have really escaped the control of the Pakistani army or not; But what can’t be doubted is that the main threat to Pakistan is the soldiers, or to put it bluntly, the managers of the terrorist industry, not the Afghan refugees or the Pashtuns of this country. The Pashtuns on both sides of the Durand Line are the main victims of terrorism trained by the Pakistan Army.In the last few decades, one of the important tasks of the religious seminaries established in Pakistan with the support of the army was the training of the hard-line jihadi generation, who as proxy soldiers of the ESA during the invasion of the Soviet Union and also during the presence of the American forces in Afghanistan, the Pakistani army overthrew the western-backed government in Afghanistan and established its own proxy regime in the country. But now that the jihad in Afghanistan is over, according to the terrorists, how and where will the thousands of jihadists trained in the religious schools of Pakistan quench their thirst for jihad… Suppose that the Pakistani government succeeds in deporting all Afghan refugees, will terrorism be eradicated? Obviously not. The main supporter of terrorism in Pakistan is the army, which is in control of the entire country, and thus, the main source of terrorism in Pakistan is religious madrassas, which continue to operate whether they are children of Afghan refugees or not. and the army does not care about them. Are only Afghans committing suicide attacks? No. Pakistanis are ahead of Afghans in terrorism and extremism…


Notes:

[i] A supplemental report by the Associated Press detailing recent updates in the deportation of undocumented Afghanis in Pakistan: Sattar, Abdul and Munir Ahmed. “A Pakistani province aims to deport 10,000 Afghans a day,” Associated Press, November 30, 2023. https://apnews.com/article/pakistan-baluchistan-deport-migrants-afghans-7393238ace4c49acce9d7c77ebd708bf

[ii] For additional information on Afghan refugees in Pakistan, please visit the United Nations Refugee data website: “Registered Afghan refugees in Pakistan” United Nations Operational Data Portal. https://data.unhcr.org/en/country/pak

[iii] To learn more about the potential impact of grievances and their effect on terrorism globally, see:

Murphy, Natalie. “Why Grievances Matter: An Analysis of the Influence Grievances Have on Domestic Terrorism Globally,” Johns Hopkins University, [Thesis] May 2022. https://jscholarship.library.jhu.edu/server/api/core/bitstreams/0f722198-6850-4d16-8250-5fcad421430b/content


Image Information:

Image: Flag of the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan
Source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Flag_of_the_Tehrik-i-Taliban_Pakistan.png#globalusage
Attribution: Public Domain


Fears of Gaza Violence Prompt Egypt To Reinforce the Sinai Border

Map of Egypt showing major cities as well as parts of surrounding countries and the Mediterranean and Red Seas.


“Threats [to Egypt] usually come from the east, and Gaza is Egypt’s first line of defense…”


Egypt has turned its strategic focus toward its eastern border amidst rising concerns that violence from Israel’s military operation in Gaza could spill over into the Sinai Peninsula. Most concerning to Egypt’s military-led government is the potential of a massive influx of Palestinian refugees into the Sinai.[i] The Egyptian military, according to the first accompanying excerpt from the Qatar-aligned daily al-Araby al-Jadeed, is firmly opposed to any relocation of Gaza’s residents to the Sinai. Reflecting these principles, Egyptian President Sisi has stated that “Egypt has not and will never allow the displacement of Palestinians from Gaza to Sinai.”[ii] A secondary security concern for Egypt’s Armed Forces is cross-border fire from errant projectiles from both sides of the conflict.[iii] As a result of these concerns, Egypt has begun to quietly take precautions. It has increased its military and security presence around the Rafah border crossing.[iv] In late October, Egyptian military leadership conducted a readiness inspection of the Armed Forces’ 4th Armored Division, 3rd Field Army, based in Suez.[v] Military and security measures alone, however, are unlikely to ease the mounting pressure on Egypt’s border with Gaza. The second accompanying excerpt, also from al-Araby al-Jadeed, argues that Egypt will need to overhaul its strategic thinking to cope with these pressures. To do so, the author argues, the Egyptian government should provide immediate, open support for Hamas via all means possible short of war. In addition, he argues that Egypt should begin to “coordinate positions as closely as possible and share concerns and capabilities with Qatar, Turkey, Iran, and Jordan.”


Sources:

مخططات تهجير الفلسطينيين إلى سيناء… رفض مصري ممتد لعقود

“Decades-long Egyptian rejection of plans to forcibly relocate Palestinians to Sinai,” Al-Araby al-Jadeed (Qatari-aligned daily), 2 November 2023.https://www.alaraby.co.uk/politics/مخططات-تهجير-الفلسطينيين-إلى-سيناء-رفض-مصري-ممتد-لعقود

Despite these fears, this plan still depends on many factors in order to implement it, “some of which are almost impossible,” according to the description of a former Egyptian security official, who spoke to Al-Araby Al-Jadeed on condition of anonymity. On top of these factors is “the position of the Egyptian military establishment, which absolutely rejects the idea of ​​settling Palestinians in Sinai , due to many considerations related to Egyptian national security.”

The former official added, “The army’s rejection of that idea existed previously, during the era of the late President Hosni Mubarak, and it still exists today, which can be seen in the messages conveyed in President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi’s recent speeches, which seemed to be directed to the armed forces in order to reassure its leaders and allay their fears.”


لماذا على مصر التفكير في أمنها القومي بشكل مختلف؟

“Why should Egypt think about its national security in a different way?” Al-Araby al-Jadeed (Qatari-aligned daily), 12 November 2023. https://www.alaraby.co.uk/opinion/لماذا-على-مصر-التفكير-في-أمنها-القومي-بشكل-مختلف

… Egyptian national security theory and its constants, or what remains of those constants, the most important of which is that threats usually come from the east, and Gaza is Egypt’s first line of defense, and that whenever Gaza collapses, Egypt’s defensive lines collapse, regardless of the degree of compatibility with the political or administrative system in power following the collapse…

The Egyptian government must immediately stop talking about more than meager aid, as after a month of aggression, no more people entered the Gaza Strip than they did one day before. It must restrain the “Samsung media”, as this is a major national security issue and a top priority, and this is not the time to export hatred for the Palestinian resistance and belittle it, nor the time to outbid it, condemn it, or blame the victims in any way. Rather, it is the best piece of chess through which everything you want can be achieved. Without a single concession. Egypt should coordinate positions as closely as possible and share concerns and capabilities with Qatar, Turkey, Iran, and Jordan.


Notes:

[i] The idea of a population transfer from Gaza to the Sinai is not new and has been floated several times before. Since 7 October, several Israeli statements and documents have alluded to the forcible displacement of Gaza’s population as a policy option. See for instance: “An Israeli ministry, in a ‘concept paper,’ proposes transferring Gaza civilians to Egypt’s Sinai,” AP, 30 October 2023. https://apnews.com/article/israel-gaza-population-transfer-hamas-egypt-palestinians-refugees-5f99378c0af6aca183a90c631fa4da5a; Giora Eiland. “It’s time to rip off the Hamas band-aid,” Ynet News, 12 October 2023. https://www.ynetnews.com/article/sju3uabba

[ii] Statement quoted in: “Defend and populate Sinai,” al-Ahram Weekly, 31 October 2023. https://english.ahram.org.eg/News/511373.aspx

[iii] This includes projectiles fired toward Israel from the south that have landed along the Sinai’s Red Sea coast, as well as cross-border Israeli fire that hit an Egyptian border guard post near Gaza. On the former, see: “Drone blasts hit two Egyptian Red Sea towns, Israel points to Houthi,” AP, 27 October 2023. https://www.reuters.com/world/middle-east/explosion-heard-egyptian-red-sea-town-near-israeli-border-witness-2023-10-27/ On the latter, see: “At least seven injured as Israeli tank ‘accidentally’ hits Egyptian border,” al-Jazeera, 22 October 2023. https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2023/10/22/at-least-seven-injured-as-israeli-tank-accidentally-hits-egyptian-border

[iv] Images of Egyptian special forces deployed in Rafah can be found at: https://twitter.com/mahmouedgamal44/status/1715623393909694745

[v] The inspection included the first official appearance of the South Korean K9A1 155 mm self-propelled howitzer in the Egyptian military.  For images and description of the platforms involved see: https://twitter.com/mahmouedgamal44/status/1717074441501290762.


Image Information:

Image: Map of Egypt showing major cities as well as parts of surrounding countries and the Mediterranean and Red Seas.
Source: CIA Factbook, https://www.cia.gov/the-world-factbook/countries/egypt/map Attribution: Public Domain


Syrian Regime, Opposition Wary of Hamas Despite Support for 7 October Attacks on Israel

Damage in Gaza Strip during the October 2023


“Syrians received the news of the operation as a historic, heroic act that was able to break the prestige of the Israeli occupier…”


On the surface, Hamas seems to enjoy widespread support in Syria among backers of both the government and the anti-government Sunni Arab opposition.[i] Media outlets associated with each side have used laudatory rhetoric to describe the 7 October Hamas “al-Aqsa Flood” operation. The first accompanying excerpt from the anti-Syrian-government news website Syria TV,describes the Hamas raid as “a source of pride for the Arab and Islamic nation in every sense of the word.” The second excerpt, from the pro-Syrian government daily al-Watan, states that Hamas’ raid “will be recorded in history in golden letters that time will not erase.” In addition to widespread support for the operation itself, outlets affiliated with both the Syrian regime and the opposition strongly oppose Israel’s military actions in Gaza. Thus, according to the author of the third accompanying excerpt from the Qatar-aligned al-Araby al-Jadeed, events in Gaza have forged the first “consensus among the various components of the Syrian people…since the beginning of the revolution.” And yet, while they agree with the operation, the Syrian government and its opposition also concur in being wary of Hamas. Hamas was an ally of the Syrian government until 2012, when it broke with Damascus and sided with members of the Syrian rebellion. In 2017, however, Hamas’s new leadership steered the group back into the pro-Iran camp, and in 2022, Hamas formally reconciled with the Syrian government.[ii] Many in the Syrian opposition resent Hamas’s return to supporting the Syrian government, as expressed in the fourth accompanying excerpt from the Syrian opposition news website SyriaDirect. Similarly, the Syrian government remains skeptical of Hamas despite their recent rapprochement. Last August, Syrian President Assad accused Hamas’ leadership of “betrayal” for siding with Syrian rebels and against his government for much of the 2010s.[iii] Indeed, since the “al-Aqsa Flood” attack on 7 October, the Assad government has taken steps to remove military assets from areas near the border with Israel, in a sign that it seeks to avoid becoming militarily entangled on Hamas’ side.[iv] This shared perspective between the Syrian government and opposition – widespread support for the  “al-Aqsa Flood” operation, strong opposition to Israeli military activity in Gaza, and a general distrust of Hamas – is likely generalizable to other segments of the broader Arab public.


Sources:

طوفان الأقصى وأسطورة الجيش الذي لا يقهر 

Fayez al-Asmar. “Al-Aqsa Flood and the myth of the invincible army,” Syria TV (Syrian opposition news website), 12 October 2023. https://www.syria.tv/طوفان-الأقصى-وأسطورة-الجيش-الذي-لا-يقهر 

In fact, the Hamas operation is an unprecedented military operation in terms of size and method of implementation in the history of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, and it in itself is a source of pride for the Arab and Islamic nation in every sense of the word. 

بين «طوفان الأقصى» والطوفان الجارف 

Rifaat Badawi. “Between the al-Aqsa Flood and the torrential flood,” Al-Watan (pro-government Syrian daily), 10 October 2023. https://www.alwatanonline.com/بين-طوفان-الأقصى-والطوفان-الجارف/

The “Al-Aqsa Flood” operation will be recorded in history in golden letters that time will not erase, because it will remain engraved in the memory of the Palestinian and Arab generations who believe in resisting and defeating the Israeli occupation, for all of Palestine, from the river to the sea, and its capital will be Holy Jerusalem, no matter how many sacrifices are made and no matter how long it takes.

غزة التي وحدت السوريين

“Gaza, which unified Syrians,” al-Araby al-Jadeed (Qatari-aligned daily), 15 October 2023. https://www.alaraby.co.uk/politics/غزة-التي-وحدت-السوريين

The “Al-Aqsa Flood” operation and the subsequent Israeli aggression on the Gaza Strip formed a consensus among the various components of the Syrian people, with all their affiliations, the first of its kind since the beginning of the Syrian revolution. At the popular level, in all opposition-controlled areas, and in diaspora countries, Syrians received the news of the operation as a historic, heroic act that was able to break the prestige of the Israeli occupier.

من إدلب هنا غزة: السوريون يشاركون الفلسطينيين آلامهم ويستذكرون مأساتهم

“From Idlib to Gaza: Syrians share the pain of the Palestinians and remember their tragedy,” Syria Direct (Syrian opposition news website), 21 October 2023. https://syriadirect.org/من-إدلب-هنا-غزة-السوريون-يشاركون-الفلس/

Many Syrians feel let down by the Hamas movement, which restored relations with the Syrian regime in 2022, after ten years of estrangement that began when it left Damascus in February 2012. This in addition to Hamas’s close relations with Iran, the regime’s main ally in suppressing Syrians who protested against Assad in the spring of 2011, demanding freedom. However, their position on Hamas did not affect their sympathy for the Palestinian cause and support for the people of Gaza, as expressed by a number of sources who spoke to Syria Direct.


Notes:

[i] For additional context see: “Syrians’ Reactions to the First Weeks of Israel-Hamas War,” Washington Institute for Near East Policy-Fikra Forum, 24 October 2023. https://www.washingtoninstitute.org/policy-analysis/syrians-reactions-first-weeks-israel-hamas-war

[ii] For additional details on Hamas in the region, see: Lucas Winter. “Hamas Rejoins the Resistance Axis,” OE Watch, December 2017.

https://community.apan.org/wg/tradoc-g2/fmso/m/oe-watch-past-issues/216805

[iii] “After Assad Insulted its Leaders, Hamas to Open Office in Damascus,” Syrian Observer, 15 August 2023. https://syrianobserver.com/news/84563/after-assad-insulted-its-leaders-hamas-to-open-office-in-damascus.html

[iv] “Al-Assad Was Absent from Nasrallah’s Speech,” Syrian Observer, 10 November 2023. https://syrianobserver.com/commentary/86113/al-assad-was-absent-from-nasrallahs-speech.html


Image Information:

Image:  Damage in Gaza Strip during the October 2023
Source: Palestinian News & Information Agency (Wafa) in contract with APAimages,https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Damage_in_Gaza_Strip_during_the_October_2023_-_32.jpg
Attribution: CC BY-SA 3.0


Drug Trafficking a Prime Source of Financing for Venezuela’s Maduro Regime

The Venezuelan armed forces have become critical to the Maduro regime’s ability to move drugs around the world.


“Venezuela is currently an important bridge in global drug trafficking exports, from where between 250 and 350 metric tons per year leave, which has a street value of between 6 and 8 billion dollars.”


The Maduro regime in Venezuela has long maintained links to organized crime groups and drug trafficking organizations (DTOs).[i] However, a recent hack of documents from the Colombian Prosecutor’s Office has revealed the depths of the Maduro regime’s involvement with DTOs. According to the Argentine daily Infobae, the documents allege that Venezuelan Armed Forces are crucial to trafficking drugs through Venezuela. The outlet reports that they cooperate with Colombian guerrillas and are directly involved in the process of moving drugs, as opposed to passively permitting their passage and receiving bribes, as was the case in the past. The second excerpted article from Infobae states that the alleged center of these operations is Catatumbo, a borderland region between Colombia and Venezuela rich in coca production estimated to be 330 tons per year. The article paints a complex picture of rival criminal organizations from Mexico and Venezuela also occupying the same territory. The Maduro regime’s spiral into criminality will likely have meaningful impacts on the operational environment.[ii]Venezuelan Armed Forces’ increased role in Latin America’s drug trafficking operations will have spillover effects for most neighboring countries. At the same time, such activities are likely to deepen the Maduro regime’s staying power.


Sources:

“Un informe reveló cómo el régimen de Maduro hizo del narcotráfico su principal fuente de financiamiento (A report revealed how the Maduro regime made drug trafficking its main source of financing),” Infobae (Argentine daily with excellent regional coverage), 7 November 2023. https://www.infobae.com/venezuela/2023/11/07/un-informe-revelo-como-el-regimen-de-maduro-hizo-del-narcotrafico-su-principal-fuente-de-financiamiento/

Leaked documents from the Colombian Prosecutor’s Office, analyzed and verified through additional interviews and other independent reports, reveal that Venezuelan military personnel, in association with Colombian guerrillas, are directly involved in drug trafficking operations…The epicenter of this network is the mountainous region of Catatumbo, on the border with Venezuela, an area that has a high concentration of coca leaf plantations…More than 330 tons transited through the state of Zulia from the Catatumbo region last year alone, an alarming figure given that experts say that Catatumbo supplies only about 60% of the drugs entering Venezuela. The rest is transported by rivers in the plains region and the jungle region in the south of the country.


“Vínculos del Gobierno venezolano con el narcotráfico en la región del Catatumbo en Colombia revelan filtraciones de documentos de la Fiscalía (Links of the Venezuelan Government with drug trafficking in the Catatumbo region in Colombia revealed by leaks of documents from the Prosecutor’s Office),” Infobae (an Argentine daily with excellent coverage), 8 November 2023. https://www.infobae.com/colombia/2023/11/08/vinculos-del-gobierno-venezolano-con-el-narcotrafico-centran-la-atencion-en-la-region-del-catatumbo-en-colombia/ In the department of Norte de Santander, there is also the presence of the Mexican cartels of Sinaloa and Jalisco New Generation, along with the Venezuelan gang known as the Tren de Aragua… The investigation also highlighted the change in the roles of participation of the Venezuelan authorities, which have gone from being bribed by the drug cartels to leading illegal operations themselves, which represents an increase in the complexity and severity of the criminal operations.


Notes:

[i] For information on the Maduro regime’s links to criminal groups, see: Moises Rendón, “Maduro’s Mafia State,” Center for Strategic & International Studies, 31 October 2018. https://www.csis.org/analysis/maduros-mafia-state

[ii] For more information on how the Maduro regime uses criminal groups as an instrument of state power and power projection capability, see: Moises Rendón and Arianna Kohan, “Identifying and Responding to Criminal Threats from Venezuela,” Center for Strategic & International Studies, 22 July 2019. https://www.csis.org/analysis/identifying-and-responding-criminal-threats-venezuela


Image information:

Image: The Venezuelan armed forces have become critical to the Maduro regime’s ability to move drugs around the world.
Source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Ch%C3%A1vez_eyes_-_Venezuelan_armed_forces.png
Attribution: Wikimedia, CC BY 3.0 DEED