Legacy Articles On Iran

2024-06-26 Iran Navy Upgrades Bell-212 Helicopters (Michael Rubin)
2024-06-26 Iranian Self-Sufficiency in Aircraft Spare Parts May Benefit Sanctioned States (Michael Rubin)
2024-06-26 Iranian Navy Conducts Ballistic Missile Launches From Warship (Holly Dagres)
2024-06-26 Iran Vaunts Benefits of State-Owned Construction Company (Holly Dagres)
2024-06-26 Venezuela Seeks To Rectify Deteriorating Relations With Iran (Ryan Berg)

2024-04-23 Iran Conducts Joint Exercises To Bolster Air Force (Michael Rubin)
2024-04-23 Iranians Using Black Market VPNs To Bypass Restrictions (Michael Rubin)
2024-04-23 Iran Warns United States Against Attacking Ships in Red Sea (Holly Dagres)

2024-04-15 Spotlight on Vatanpour, Iran’s “Most Active” Airbase (Michael Rubin)
2024-04-15 Iran Hints It Will Supply Air Defense Weaponry to Palestinians (Michael Rubin)
2024-04-15 Iran Rationalizes Russia’s Pro-Arab Position on Disputed Islands (Michael Rubin)

2024-03-01 Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Seeks Dominant Role in Maritime Development (Michael Rubin)
2024-03-01 Iran’s Supreme Leader Announces Maritime Development Strategy (Michael Rubin)
2024-03-01 Iran Seeks To Assert Global Leadership in Determining International Cyber Policy (Michael Rubin)
2024-03-01 Belarus and Iran Form Alliance Against the West (Paris Gordon)

2024-01-03 Iran Announces Integration Of Artificial Intelligence Into Drone Fleet (Michael Rubin)
2024-01-03 Iran Equips Drones With Heat-Seeking Missiles (Michael Rubin)
2024-01-03 Iran Demands Disarmament Of Kurdish Dissidents In Iraq (Michael Rubin)

2023-11-08 Iran Promoting Medical Tourism To Generate Hard Currency (Michael Rubin)
2023-11-08 Iran’s Supreme Leader Accuses West of Ukraine War Conspiracy (Michael Rubin)

2023-10-03 Iran Claims Development of Cruise Missiles Guided by Artificial Intelligence (Michael Rubin)
2023-10-03 Requirements for Desirable Iranian Oil Ministry Jobs Revealed (Michael Rubin)
2023-10-03 Iran’s Supreme Leader Warns of Declining Fervor of New Generation (Michael Rubin)

2023-08-25 Iran Claims New Flight Simulator Will Enhance National Power (Michael Rubin)
2023-08-25 Iran’s Simorgh Transport Plane Makes Maiden Flight (Michael Rubin)
2023-08-25 Iran Indicates Plans To Commercialize Nuclear Technology, Sell Heavy Water (Michael Rubin)
2023-08-25 Iran’s Persistent and Growing Influence in Latin America (Ryan Berg)

2023-06-01 Iran Unveils New Thermobaric Warhead (Michael Rubin)
2023-06-01 Iran Opens New Helicopter, Drone Base in Southeastern Provincial Capital (Michael Rubin)
2023-06-01 Iran Ready To Help Syria Rebuild Its Defense Infrastructure (Michael Rubin)

2023-05-01 Iran Installs New Precision Missiles on Army Helicopters (Michael Rubin)
2023-05-01 Iran Seeks To Reestablish Embassy and Consulate in Saudi Arabia Before Hajj (Michael Rubin)
2023-05-01 Iran Considers Rapprochement With Pakistan (Michael Rubin)

2023-04-01 Iran Unveils Updated Yasin Training Jet With Possible Close Combat Applications (Michael Rubin)
2023-04-01 Iran’s Increased Defense Budget Leading to More Arms Exports (Michael Rubin)
2023-04-01 Iran Capitalizing on Post-Earthquake Conditions To Deepen Influence in Syria (Lucas Winter)

2023-03-01 Iran Praises Revolutionary Guards’ Proxy Afghan Brigade (Michael Rubin)
2023-03-01 Iran Profiles the Female Police Seeking To Quell the Women’s Protests (Michael Rubin)

2023-02-01 Iran Moves Sea-Borne Drone Fleet Closer to Reality (Michael Rubin)
2023-02-01 Iranian General Reiterates Goal To Expel United States From Region (Michael Rubin)
2023-02-01 Iran Fires Indigenous Torpedoes From Submarines for First Time (Michael Rubin)

2023-01-01 Iran Asks Tajikistan Not To Use Iranian Drones in Dispute With Kyrgyzstan (Michael Rubin)
2023-01-01 Iran Claim of Hypersonic Missile Capability Probably Exaggerated (Michael Rubin)

2022-11-01 Iran Vaunts Persian Language as Marker of National Identity Despite Country’s Ethnic Diversity (Michael Rubin)
2022-11-01 Iran’s Proposal To Build Railroads and Housing in Syria Could Enrich IRGC (Michael Rubin)
2022-11-01 Iran Lauds Air Defense, Claims Sepehr Radar Will Soon Be Operational (Michael Rubin)

2022-10-01 Iran Wants Sukhoi-35 Fighters From Russia (Michael Rubin)
2022-10-01 Iran Intercepts Crystal Meth Shipment From Afghanistan (Michael Rubin)

2022-09-01 Iran Reportedly Using New Carrier, Submarines To Expand Reach of Drones (Michael Rubin)
2022-09-01 Iran Unveils Stealth Speedboats (Michael Rubin)
2022-09-01 Iran’s Flawed Statistics and Growing Drug Addiction (Michael Rubin)

2022-08-01 Iranian F-14 Crash Highlights Iran’s Need for New Fighter Contract (Michael Rubin)
2022-08-01 Iranian Trade With China Is Up, but So Is Political Risk (Michael Rubin)
2022-08-01 Iran’s Revolutionary Guards To Expand Drug Treatment Center (Michael Rubin)
2022-08-01 Iran Believes Turkey’s Rapprochement With Israel and Saudi Arabia Is a Threat (Ihsan Gunduz)

2022-07-01 Iran Unveils New Drone-Fired Cruise Missile (Michael Rubin)
2022-07-01 Iran Opens New Drone Plant in Tajikistan (Michael Rubin)
2022-07-01 Iran Warns UAE Against Allowing Israel in the Persian Gulf (Michael Rubin)

2022-06-01 Khamenei Speaks on Necessity of Palestinian “Resistance” (Michael Rubin)
2022-06-01 Iran Initiates and Defends New Bread Subsidies Amid Deteriorating Economy (Michael Rubin)
2022-06-01 Iran Seeks To Counter Misinformation Circulating on Social Media (Michael Rubin)

2022-05-01 Iran Digs into Central Syria, Filling Vacuum Left by Russia (Lucas Winter)
2022-05-01 Iran Tries To Justify Abstention in UN Vote Condemning Russian Invasion of Ukraine (Michael Rubin)
2022-05-01 Iranian Navy Joins Indian Naval Exercises (Michael Rubin)
2022-05-01 Iran’s New Damavand Destroyer Set To Join Navy (Michael Rubin)

2022-04-01 Iran: Emphasizing Religiosity in Regular Army Promotions (Michael Rubin)
2022-04-01 Iran Uses Online War Games To Teach Younger Generation of Officers (Michael Rubin)
2022-04-01 Iran’s Supreme Leader Condemns Alleged Corruption of the West (Michael Rubin)
2022-04-01 Iran Repositions Its Proxies in Syria as Russia Turns Focus to Ukraine (Lucas Winter)

2022-03-01 Iranian Authorities Arrest Alleged Deputy Leader of Royalist Terrorist Group (Michael Rubin)
2022-03-01 Iran’s Prosecution of Arab Separatist Highlights Supposed Saudi Ties (Michael Rubin)
2022-03-01 Russia and China To Help Iran Build New Airports (Michael Rubin)

2022-02-01 Iran and Syria Discuss Transportation Cooperation (Michael Rubin)
2022-02-01 Iran’s Purported Counter-Hijacking Record (Michael Rubin)
2022-02-01 Iran Busts Weapons and Ammunition Smuggling Ring (Michael Rubin)

2022-01-01 Iran-Pakistan Bolstering Naval Cooperation (Michael Rubin)
2022-01-01 Iran Agrees To Gas Swap with Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan (Michael Rubin)
2022-01-01 Iran and Syria Seek To Jumpstart Economic Ties (Michael Rubin)

2021-04-01 IRAN Unveils New Baman Radar System (Michael Rubin)
2020-10-01 Iran Stockpiling Supplies through Chahbahar (Michael Rubin)

2020-09-01 More Iran in Venezuela (Geoff Demarest)
2020-09-01 Iran Increases Range of Smart Bombs (Michael Rubin)
2020-09-01 Iran: Passive Defense Organization and Basij Sign Memorandum of Understanding (Michael Rubin)
2020-09-01 Iran: Khamenei Speaks on Sanctions, Enmity toward America, and Nuclear Power (Michael Rubin)

2020-08-01 Iran: Khamenei Speaks on Corruption (Michael Rubin)
2020-08-01 Iran: What’s Behind the Government’s Secrecy on Handing Over Kish Island to Chinese? (Michael Rubin)
2020-08-01 Iran Eager to Enter the Global Market as a Military Equipment Exporter (Jerrilee Plude)
2020-08-01 China and Iran Announce $400 Billion Trade Deal (Peter Wood)

2020-07-01 Russian Arms Sales to Iran? (Ray Finch)
2020-07-01 An Afghan Perspective: A New Phase in Afghanistan-Iran Relations (Michael Rubin)
2020-07-01 More Iran in Venezuela (Geoff Demarest)
2020-07-01 The Three Main Missions of the Army of the Islamic Republic of Iran (Michael Rubin)

2020-06-01 Iran: Prosecute Cybercriminals (Michael Rubin)
2020-06-01 Iran Improves its UAV Technology (Robert Bunker and Alma Keshvarz)

2020-05-01 Iran: Khamenei on Power and Patience (Michael Rubin)
2020-05-01 Iran Unveils Ghadir Submarine Upgrades (Michael Rubin)
2020-05-01 India Evacuates its Citizens from Iran (Michael Rubin)
2020-05-01 Iran Announces Mass Production of COVID-19 Test Kits (Jerrilee Plude)

2020-04-01 Israel Establishes New ‘Strategy and Iran Directorate’ Under General Staff (Zachary Fesen)
2020-04-01 Iran: Sanctions Don’t Impact Military Spending (Michael Rubin)
2020-04-01 Iran: IRGC Establishes Biological Defense Headquarters (Michael Rubin)

2020-03-01 Counterfeit Bank Notes Seized in Iran (Michael Rubin)
2020-03-01 Iran-Increasing Domestic Production of Rare Earth Elements (Michael Rubin)
2020-02-01 Iran to Send Astronaut into Space? (Michael Rubin)

2020-01-01 Iran: Identity Theft and Extortion in Isfahan (Michael Rubin)
2020-01-01 Iran and Russia to Establish Visa Waivers (Michael Rubin)
2020-01-01 Iran: Use Suicide Drones as Air Defense (Michael Rubin)
2020-01-01 Iran, China, and Russia Plan Joint Naval Drills in Indian Ocean (Zachary Fesen)

2019-12-01 Iran- Khamenei Speaks on America (Michael Rubin)
2019-12-01 Iran Establishes Official VPN Operators (Michael Rubin)

2019-11-01 Iran and Turkey- Friend or Foe (Ihsan Gunduz)
2019-11-01 Iran Opens Persian Gulf Air Defense Command Center (Michael Rubin)
2019-11-01 Iran- Mobile Rocket Systems and Underground Tunnels (Michael Rubin)
2019-11-01 Iran Announces Dome Defense against Drones (Michael Rubin)

2019-10-01 Iran- Khamenei Speaks on Kashmir (Michael Rubin)
2019-10-01 Iran- Armed Forces Ready to Take Over National Intranet Project (Michael Rubin)
2019-10-01 Israel- Iran’s Military Entrenchment in Iraq Poses Threat (Karen Kaya)

2019-09-01 Iran Warns of Phone and Text Scams (Michael Rubin)
2019-09-01 Iran – Mohajer-6 UAV Strikes Targets in Iraq (Michael Rubin)
2019-09-01 Iran’s Negotiations with Domestic Kurdish Opposition Groups (Ihsan Gunduz)
2019-08-01 Iran: Optoelectronic Military Developments (Michael Rubin)

2019-07-01 Iran: Progress on National Intranet (Michael Rubin)
2019-07-01 Iran: Nationwide Curriculum for Computer Programming (Michael Rubin)
2019-07-01 Iran: Preparing for Zafar III Satellite Launch (Michael Rubin)
2019-07-01 Iran: Admiral Fadavi Selected as Revolutionary Guards Deputy (Michael Rubin)
2019-06-01 The Dynamics of Trilateral Relations between Turkey, Russia, and Iran (Ihsan Gunduz)

2019-05-01 Iran Cements its Presence in Syria (Lucas Winter)
2019-05-01 Iran: Khamenei Threatens to Use Precision Missiles (Michael Rubin)
2019-05-01 Iran Conducts its Largest UAV Exercise (Michael Rubin)

2019-04-01 Iran: Hovercraft successfully fires cruise missiles (Michael Rubin)
2019-04-01 Iran Diverting Money from Development to Military (Michael Rubin)
2019-03-01 Iran Builds Up Syrian Proxies on the Western Banks of the Euphrates (Lucas Winter)
2019-02-01 IRGC: Iran Can Extend Ballistic Missile Range (Michael Rubin)

2019-01-01 Iran’s Basij in Cyberspace (Michael Rubin)
2019-01-01 Iran Unveils JDAMs? (Michael Rubin)
2019-01-01 China, Russia and Iran Seek to Revive Syrian Railways (Lucas Winter)

2018-11-01 Iran to Build New Missile System? (Michael Rubin)
2018-11-01 Supreme Leader’s Advisor- United States Common Enemy of Iran and China (Michael Rubin)
2018-09-01 Will Iran Pivot to the East (Michael Rubin)
2018-09-01 Iran: IAEA Shouldn’t Inspect Universities (Michael Rubin)
2018-09-01 Russia and Iran Hamper Turkey’s Aspirations to Become Energy Hub (Ihsan Gunduz)

2018-08-01 Questions on Shortfalls in Electricity Generation in Iran (Michael Rubin)
2018-08-01 Achieving Gasoline Self-Sufficiency in Iran (Michael Rubin)
2018-08-01 Visit of Chinese Military Delegation to Iran (Michael Rubin)
2018-08-01 Iran to Re-Launch “Helicopter Carrier” (Michael Rubin)
2018-08-01 Iran Preparing to Host Nanotechnology Festival (Michael Rubin)
2018-08-01 Iran to Launch New Satellite by Year’s End (Michael Rubin)

2018-07-01 Group Planning to Hack Bank in Iran Arrested (Michael Rubin)
2018-07-01 Who Took $30 Billion out of Iran? (Michael Rubin)
2018-07-01 Iran to Attend Russian Military Trade Show (Michael Rubin)
2018-07-01 Iran Cracks Down on Internet Café VPNs (Michael Rubin)

2018-06-01 Iran, Russia to Jointly Manufacture Helicopter (Michael Rubin)
2018-06-01 Iran Unveils New Unmanned Helicopter (Michael Rubin)
2018-06-01 Russia and Iran Compete for Syria’s Phosphates (Lucas Winter)
2018-06-01 Is Iran Ready to Send Its Navy to Japan (Michael Rubin)

2018-05-01 Iran and Russia Compete for Influence in Syria (Lucas Winter)
2018-05-01 Will Iran Interfere in Kashmir? (Michael Rubin)
2018-05-01 Iran and Russia Compete for Influence in Syria (Lucas Winter)
2018-05-01 Iran and Russia Compete for Influence in Syria (Lucas Winter)
2018-05-01 Will Iran Interfere in Kashmir? (Michael Rubin)
2018-05-01 Iran and Russia Compete for Influence in Syria (Lucas Winter)

2018-04-01 13 Million Users of Domestic Messaging Apps in Iran (Michael Rubin)
2018-04-01 Iran: Supreme Leader Advisor Lauds Russian Strategic Ties (Michael Rubin)
2018-04-01 Iran: Muslims Supported by US, UK are Illegitimate (Michael Rubin)
2018-04-01 Iran: Israel’s Missile Defense Can Be Overwhelmed (Michael Rubin)
2018-04-01 Iran Unveils New Anti-Armor Missile (Michael Rubin)

2018-03-01 Iran: Warship Sinks after Mishap (Michael Rubin)
2018-03-01 Iran: Winning Hearts and Minds in Deir Ezzor (Lucas Winter)
2018-03-01 Iran Develops UAS with “Smart Bomb” Capability (Alma Keshavarz and Robert Bunker)
2018-03-01 Iran: US Sponsoring Islamic State in Afghanistan (Michael Rubin)
2018-03-01 Iran: Winning Hearts and Minds in Deir Ezzor (Lucas Winter)
2018-03-01 Iran: Telegram Giving Data to US and Israel (MIchael Rubin)

2018-02-01 A Malaysian Perspective on US-Iran Relations (Jacob Zenn)
2018-02-01 Turkish Perspectives on Iran (Karen Kaya)
2018-02-01 Iran: Was America Behind Uprising? (Michael Rubin)
2018-02-01 Iran: Lifting the Ban on Instagram was Illegal (Michael Rubin)

2018-02-01 Iran Approaches the Syria-Jordan Border (Lucas Winter)
2018-02-01 Indonesian Perspectives on the Iran Protests (Jacob Zenn)
2018-02-01 India’s Interest in Stability in Iran (Matthew Stein)
2018-02-01 China Limits Internet Exposure to Iran Protests (Jacob Zenn)
2018-02-01 Saudi-Iran Tensions Seen in Nigerian Crackdown on Shia Group (Jacob Zenn)

2018-01-01 Iran: New Military Budget Proposed (Michael Rubin)
2018-01-01 Iran-Khamenei Speaks on Views toward America (Michael Rubin)
2018-01-01 Iran’s Amphibious Aircraft from Russia (Michael Rubin


Key Arab Countries Join Chinese-Led Regional Body as Dialogue Partners

Shanghai Cooperation Organization Secretariat (2022).

Shanghai Cooperation Organization Secretariat (2022).

“… The group’s expansion, however, should not be interpreted as meant to pose a challenge to the West, but rather as a means to provide an alternative…”

A growing number of Arab countries are joining the Chinese-led Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) as “dialogue partners.” The SCO was established in the early 2000s as a mechanism for deepening political, economic, and security cooperation between countries of Central and South Asia. It has eight member nations (China, India, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Russia, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan) and over a dozen “observer” and “dialogue partner” nations, which may send delegates to SCO meetings and negotiate with the bloc on particular issues but do not have voting rights or official sway within the organization.

In the past year, Egypt, Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE have all been officially granted “dialogue partner” status, with Bahrain expected to follow suit. With this, roughly two-thirds of countries in the CENTCOM Area of Responsibility have joined the SCO in some capacity.[i] While these developments bear watching, SCO partnership is—at least for now—not necessarily at odds with existing security commitments and arrangements.[ii] Instead, engagement with the SCO is seen as part of a strategic diversification approach being pursued by Arab countries in response to emerging multipolarity. Arabic-language media largely sees these moves through an economic lens and as part of what the first accompanying excerpt, published in the Qatari-aligned daily al-Araby al-Jadeed, considers China’s “efforts to consolidate a new multipolar world economic order.” Arab countries’ interest in the SCO, however, should not be dismissed as a purely economic phenomenon bereft of potential strategic implications. According to a former Egyptian diplomat cited in the second accompanying article, published last September in the prominent Saudi daily al-Sharq al-Awsat, Russia will seek to use the SCO “as an additional point in its confrontations with the West.” Russian attempts to use the SCO for strategic leverage against NATO would likely cause friction within the organization, clashing not only with China’s more regional and economic focus but also with the strategic interests of other SCO members. Nonetheless, growing Russo-Chinese geostrategic alignment may eventually enable the SCO’s orientation to gradually shift toward global geopolitics, particularly if its membership begins extending beyond Central and South Asia. Especially noteworthy in this regard is Iran’s interest in full SCO membership (it is currently an observer country). This interest, combined with the recent China-mediated Saudi-Iranian détente, makes the SCO a potential venue through which Iran may seek to compete with the United States. Last April, Iran was for the first time invited to participate in the SCO defense ministers’ meeting in New Delhi. As reported in the third accompanying excerpt, from the pro-Iranian Lebanese media outlet al-Mayadeen, Iran’s Defense Minister called for the establishing of a “Shanghai Maritime Security Belt” and more broadly using the SCO to promote a “balance of power.” Iranian ambitions notwithstanding, the SCO remains an “alternative” rather than a “challenge” to the West, as articulated by an Indian journalist cited in the fourth accompanying excerpt, from the Saudi English-language daily Arab News. Still, in a competitive world, today’s alternatives may become tomorrow’s challenges. Present Arab involvement in the SCO remains limited and largely economic in nature, but the potential for this involvement to morph in a way that that erodes U.S.-Arab security partnerships, while not imminent, is worthy of consideration.


“منظمة شنغهاي.. ترسيخ الصين لاقتصاد التعددية القطبية يتمدّد عربياً

(Shanghai Organization.. China’s consolidation of the multipolar economy is expanding in the Arab world),” al-Araby al-Jadeed (Qatari-aligned daily), 16 April 2023. https://tinyurl.com/muamystt

China is seeking to attract a larger number of economically active countries to membership in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, as part of its efforts to consolidate a new multipolar world economic order.

“ماذا يعني انضمام 5 دول عربية إلى منظمة «شنغهاي»؟

(What does the accession of 5 Arab countries to the ‘Shanghai Organization’ mean?).” al-Sharq al-Awsat (influential Saudi daily), 17 September 2022. https://tinyurl.com/bdf9f2v8

Ambassador Raouf Saad, the former Egyptian assistant foreign minister and former Egyptian ambassador to Moscow, acknowledged that Russia will work to exploit the matter as an additional point in its confrontations with the West. However, he stressed the constants of Egyptian foreign policy, which refuses to “enter into alliances directed at the expense of its interests.”

“وزير الدفاع الإيراني: يجب تفعيل حزام الأمن البحري لمنظمة “شنغهاي

(Iranian Defense Minister: The ‘Shanghai Organization’ maritime security belt must be activated,)” al-Mayadeen (pro-Iran Lebanese media outlet), 29 April 2023. https://tinyurl.com/35dfp45z

Today, Saturday, the Iranian Minister of Defense, Brigadier General Mohammad Reza Ashtiani, proposed adopting the “Shanghai Maritime Security Belt” mechanism with the aim of maintaining the security of communication lines and collectively guaranteeing global trade with the participation of the armed forces of member states…

During his remarks at the meeting of defense ministers of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization member states in New Delhi, India, Ashtiani said that the achievements of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization “should promote global multilateralism and balance of power.”

“Middle Eastern participation grows in China-led security bloc as new countries join,” Arab News (English-language Saudi daily), 5 May 2023. https://www.arabnews.com/node/2298341/world
“It is a question of moving the weight or the center of gravity from the Western world — the US and EU combined — to the Eastern world, the place where the population of the world actually now exists overwhelmingly, the place where the fastest-growing economies are also present,” Suhashini Haidar, diplomatic editor at the English-language daily the Hindu, told Arab News. The group’s expansion, however, should not be interpreted as meant to pose a challenge to the West, but rather as a means to provide an alternative, she said.


[i] Of the 21 countries in the CENTCOM Area of Responsibility, only eight (Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Oman, Syria, Turkmenistan, and Yemen) do not have any status in the SCO. However, Iraq, Israel, and Syria have all applied for dialogue partner status, while Turkmenistan has attended SCO summits as a guest attendee. That leaves Jordan, Lebanon, Oman, and Yemen as the only countries with no relationship to the SCO.

[ii] SCO partnership alone means little in terms of defense commitments: Turkey, a NATO member, is an SCO dialogue partner.  Full membership in the SCO should also not be equated to membership in a defense alliance, such as NATO, given that both India and Pakistan are full members. Armenia and Azerbaijan, which have an adversarial relationship with one another, are both dialogue partners.

Image Information:

Image: Shanghai Cooperation Organization Secretariat (2022).
Source: N509FZ, https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Shanghai_Cooperation_Organization_Secretariat_%2820220909162501%29.jpg
Attribution: CC 4.0

Saudi Arabia Continues Buying Missiles and UAVs From China as Part of Broader Foreign Policy Rebalancing

A Chinese DF-21A transporter erector vehicle on display at the "Our troops towards the sky" exhibition at the Beijing Military Museum.

A Chinese DF-21A transporter erector vehicle on display at the “Our troops towards the sky” exhibition at the Beijing Military Museum.

“Saudi foreign policy has adapted to international multipolarity…”

Saudi Arabia’s continued unwillingness to act against Russia in global energy markets should understood in the context of a broader Saudi foreign policy recalibration, formulated prior to the Ukraine conflict and in response to a perceived geostrategic transformation in which it views China playing a key role. Early in the Ukraine conflict, Saudi leadership countered U.S. pressure to undermine Russian interests in global energy markets with demands that the U.S. bolster security assistance for the kingdom. Looming behind these demands was the prospect of turning to China as a complementary, if not alternative, security partner. As detailed in the first excerpted article, a columnist in the influential Saudi daily al-Riyadh recently noted: “Saudi foreign policy has adapted to international multipolarity,” leading the kingdom to strengthen political, economic and military relations with several countries, including China. Chinese-Saudi military cooperation, which is likely to come under increased scrutiny in coming months, primarily involves weapons and technology transfers, most notably involving ballistic missiles and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs).

At the core, Chinese-Saudi defense cooperation is rooted in missiles, and has been a relationship shrouded in secrecy from the start. Such cooperation began with a 1986 deal for around 50 medium-range DF-3 (Dongfeng 3) missiles, conducted surreptitiously and before the establishment of official bilateral relations in 1990.[i] In 2007, following a landmark visit to China by King Abdullah, Saudi Arabia purchased the upgraded DF-21 ballistic missile system; however, neither country publicly admitted to the deal, which was reported on several years later. Today, the secret China-Saudi missile development program appears to continue evolving, with recent media reports and analyses claiming that Saudi Arabia, with Chinese assistance, has begun producing missiles domestically.

In contrast to the clandestine missile program, Saudi-Chinese cooperation on UAVs and counter-UAV systems is mostly in the open. In the past decade, Saudi Arabia has purchased the Chengdu Aircraft Industry Group’s Wing Loong II and the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation’s Rainbow CH-4 UCAVs, employing them in the Yemen conflict and signing cooperation agreements for CH-4s to be coproduced in Saudi territory. Saudi military industry has also contracted with the China Electronics Technology Group to jointly develop drones and counter-drone systems.[ii]  Last February, during the first edition of the Saudi World Defense Show, the Saudi government signed a deal with China’s Poly Technologies to purchase an anti-UAV laser system called “Silent Hunter”[iii] amid Saudi accusations that the United States was an unreliable security partner. As a prominent journalist wrote at the time in the regionally influential Saudi daily al-Sharq al-Awsat: “When Houthi terrorism targets Saudi Arabia with ballistic missiles and Iranian drones, Washington rushes to Vienna to complete the nuclear agreement,” in reference to negotiations to revive the Iran nuclear deal. A few weeks before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in early 2022, the defense ministers of China and Saudi Arabia met virtually and, per the accompanying tweet by the Saudi Defense Minister, “explored ways to strengthen our military and defense cooperation.”  Similar discussions took place in June 2022, on the sidelines of the 2022 Shangri-La Asian Security Dialogue. There was much expectation that Chinese President Xi Jinping would visit Saudi Arabia last summer, but the visit never materialized. If such a visit takes place, defense and security cooperation will very likely be on the agenda.


المملكة وسياسة الرصانة.. تنويع التحالفات وتعزيز التوازن الدولي

Fahim al-Hamed. “The Kingdom and its Sober Policy… Diversifying Alliances and Strengthening International Balance,” al-Riyadh (influential Saudi daily), 15 October 2022. https://www.alriyadh.com/1977312

The kingdom is governed by mutual strategic interests, but has always set limits to its flexibility and to being pressured. At this stage, the kingdom maintains its interests in light of a changing international system and major international conflicts, to ensure its leading role in the global scene. Saudi foreign policy has adapted to international multipolarity; thus, the kingdom has strengthened its political, economic and military relations with China, Russia and India, and has recently been restoring the relationship with Turkey.

حان وقت العقلانية السياسية

Tariq al-Hamid. “It is time for political rationality,” al-Sharq al-Awsat (regionally influential Saudi daily), 23 March 2022. https://tinyurl.com/4663yaye

It is unreasonable for the price of oil to rise, so Britain and the United States rush to contact Saudi Arabia, and when Houthi terrorism targets Saudi Arabia with ballistic missiles and Iranian drones, Washington rushes to Vienna to complete the nuclear agreement…
Is there a serious stance from the US administration, which is now talking about “partnership” and “alliance” with Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states? Where is the serious American position on the security of the Gulf, as the Americans demand the Saudis and the Gulf states now to reduce oil prices and support international stability?

@kbsalsaud (Khalid bin Salman, Saudi Minister of Defense), Twitter, 26 January 2022. https://twitter.com/kbsalsaud/status/1486308204455804932

Upon the direction of HRH the Crown Prince, I met with the Minister of National Defense in the people’s republic of China General Wei Fenghe. We reviewed the historic ties between our two countries and explored ways to strengthen our military and defense cooperation.

@defensearabia (Defense Arabia, Arabic-language military news and analysis website), Twitter, 11 June 2022. https://twitter.com/defensearabia/status/1535634061141725184Saudi Assistant Defense Minister meets Chinese Defense Minister in Singapore, to discuss defense and military cooperation relations.


[i] The DF-3 missiles were expensive and inaccurate, to the point of allegedly making them unusable during the first Gulf War. Yet, according to the memoirs of former deputy defense minister Khalid bin Sultan—the key Saudi official involved—the deal marked a turning point in Saudi military development and in its relations with China.

[ii] See: Lucas Winter, “UAV Technologies Proliferating in Yemen and Saudi Arabia,” OE Watch, Issue 7, 2022.

[iii] See: Lucas Winter, “Saudi Arabia Turns to China for Low-Altitude Air Defense,” OE Watch, Issue 4, 2022.

Image Information:

Image: A Chinese DF-21A transporter erector vehicle on display at the “Our troops towards the sky” exhibition at the Beijing Military Museum.
Source: Max Smith, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:DF-21A_TEL_-_Chinese_Military_Museum_Beijing.jpg
Attribution: Public Domain

Burkina Faso: A Bellwether on Russian and French Presence

Memorial of the Martyrs in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso.

Memorial of the Martyrs in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso.

“Russia delivers the equipment to us and shows us how to use it and that’s it. What it is given in return, if it is indecent exploitation, there is no problem. France has exploited us for a long time without it bothering anyone.”

The September 2022 military takeover in Burkina Faso appears to be an indication of the continuing shifts in geopolitical affinities among Burkinabe away from France and towards Russia. In the accompanying article from the Burkina Faso-based daily L’Observateur Paalga, a journalist interviews Alouna Traoré, a survivor of the 1987 Burkina Faso coup d’état, a seminal event in Burkinabe history.[i] In the interview, Traoré articulates why he supports what is perceived to be Russian influence in the September 2022 military takeover which saw Interim President Paul-Henri Sandago Damiba ousted by Army Captain Ibrahim Traoré (no known relation) due to the former’s inability to control the spiraling jihadist insurgencies plaguing the country. In the aftermath, international media reported the presence of numerous Russian flags carried by civil society members supporting the change of power. While Russia’s role in Burkina Faso remains murky, next door in Mali, Russian Wagner mercenaries have been in the country assisting the ruling military junta there to try to stem the tide of its own fight against jihadists associated with Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State. Meanwhile, even despite years of Sahelian counterterrorism assistance via Operation Barkhane, a strong anti-French sentiment persists throughout the Sahel.[ii]

As the interview details, Traoré, a longtime supporter of Russia, views Russian support positively and pragmatically. Given the dire situation that the country faces, Traoré believes Russia to be the country’s only option, especially for weapons, as neither France nor the United States offers what he views to be acceptable assistance. Importantly, he also articulates that simply because he advocates for engaging with Russia, he views this not as Burkina Faso being co-opted, as many intellectuals in his country interpret, but rather, as a pragmatic and necessary move. As he notes: “We are drowning and clinging to everything. But just because we’re attached to [Russia] doesn’t mean you become our owner.”[iii]


“Lutte contre le terrorism: ‘Ceux qui ont des problèmes avec Wagner n’ont qu’à rester là’ (Alouna Traoré, le rescapé du 15 Octobre 87) (Fight against terrorism: ‘those with problems with Wagner can just stay there’(Alouna Traoré, survivor of 15 October 87),” L’Observateur Paalga (daily newspaper from Burkina Faso), 12 October 2022.https://rb.gy/o4uxn

You are known to be a defender of the Russian cause. Can you give us an explanation for this Russophilia?

When you say defender of the Russian cause, that’s a bit of an exaggeration. The people of Burkina Faso find themselves shipwrecked. And when you’re in that situation, you cling to anything to get yourself out of trouble. The main thing is not to die. However, we are on the way to extinction with regard to what is happening to us. I cannot slander those who attack us because they are sending us a message….

To come back to your question, I have the feeling that Burkinabe intellectuals are a bit dangerous. They act exactly like France and the United States. We perish, we die, we lose parts of the territory and we find that normal. France does not speak, it has the ammunition and the techniques, but it does nothing. France’s mentor, the United States, says nothing either…

We have to make allowances: Russia delivers the equipment to us and shows us how to use it and that’s it. What it is given in return, if it is indecent exploitation, there is no problem. France has exploited us for a long time without it bothering anyone. Russia gives us weapons that we did not have with France in a short time and that is a problem. It is an insult to our intelligence. The African intellectual makes me ashamed. People who don’t know what they want in a situation of extreme peril is dangerous.

Some believe that those who support Russia, in particular Wagner, are financed. Is this your case?

At my age, am I incapable of knowing what is good for me? Do I need someone to show me the path that suits me? How are they [the Russians] going to come and arm me and instrumentalize me? Russia manufactures weapons like the Kalashnikov which has shown its effectiveness around the world. We are asking for Kalashnikovs in quantity to arm our people…

We are drowning and clinging to everything. But just because we’re attached to [Russa] doesn’t mean you become our owner. One does not leave slavery to go to another slavery. We want the emancipation of the African man because Westerners have never considered us as humans. When are we going to understand it?

Do you think the Russians can make us happy?

I saw something with the Russians I want. Do we manufacture weapons in Burkina Faso? We go to countries that manufacture weapons. Russia is looking out for its interests, I agree. I agree that the Russians are after the money, but in return I have the weapons to defend myself… Burkina Faso is looking for weapons and Russia has them. And better quality. What Russia will take in return cannot finish our wealth. That’s what it’s all about.


[i] In that episode, then Captain Blaise Compaoré orchestrated a coup d’état, killing Burkina Faso’s far-left President Thomas Sankara. Among other reasons, Compaoré had justified the act by noting that Sankara’s left-leaning rhetoric had created problems with former colonial France; resultantly, the coup is a symbol for varying perspectives on Burkina Faso’s alignment, or not, with France.

[ii] For more on the phenomenon of anti-French “fake news” in the Sahel, see: Matthew Kirwin, Lassane Ouedraogo, and Jason Warner, “Fake News in the Sahel: ‘Afrancaux News,’ French Counterterrorism, and the Logics of User-Generated Media.” African Studies Review. July 2022.

[iii] For more on African stances on the Russia-Ukraine war, see: Jason Warner, “African Stances on the Russia-Ukraine War Demonstrate Reliance on, Antipathy Toward West,” OE Watch Issue 9, 2022.

Image Information:

Image: Memorial of the Martyrs in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso.
Source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Memorial_of_the_Martyrs-Ouagadougou-4.jpg
Attribution: CC BY 2.0

Iran Lauds Air Defense, Claims Sepehr Radar Will Soon Be Operational

Brigadier General Alireza Elhami, deputy commander of Iranian Army Air Defense.

Brigadier General Alireza Elhami, deputy commander of Iranian Army Air Defense.

“Air defense is the front line of all defense.”

On 26 September 2022, Brigadier General Alireza Elhami, deputy commander of the Iranian Army, granted an interview with Radio Tehran that was transcribed and published by the Defense Ministry’s Holy Defense News Agency. Elhami began by saying that Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei had described air defense as the “front line” of Iranian defense. He lauded the history of the Army’s Air Defense, including its supposed success during the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq War, reflecting on the importance that the eight-year “Holy Defense” continues to play in Iranian military and political culture.[i] Not only did he speak about the continuation of air travel during the war, but he also said that Iran’s air defense prevented the Iraqis from cutting off Iranian oil exports.

After praising past success, Elhami described new platforms and developments within the army’s air defense. While he gave progress reports on the Bavar-373 surface-to-air missile system and announced that the range of Sayyad missile system would increase from 60 to 80 miles, the pride of his talk was the Sepehr radar. Although Iranian military officials frequently exaggerate capabilities, Elhami claims the new radar could provide over-the-horizon coverage to more than 1,800 miles, a range with which it could theoretically monitor air traffic across the entirety of the Middle East, Eastern Mediterranean, and South Asia.


“Radar-e Mavara-ye Afegh Sepehr behzudi ‘Amaliyati Mishavad (Sepehr over-the-horizon radar will soon be operational),” Holy Defense News Agency (official media outlet of Iran’s Defense Ministry), 26 September 2022. https://defapress.ir/fa/news/547521

What is the importance of the army’s air defense from the perspective of the commander-in-chief?

The deputy commander of the army’s Air Defense [Alireza Elhami] said, “My take on this mission and the heavy responsibility that the Supreme Leader placed on the shoulders of his soldiers in the air defense is because in recent wars, especially regional wars, it was proved that the main threats will be due to the speed, effectiveness and result of airborne airstrikes. Therefore, the Supreme Leader has said that air defense is the front line of all defense of the country….

“One of our greatest honors in air defense is that we did not allow oil exports to be cut off for a moment with all the heavy and massive attacks by the Ba’athist enemy,” he said. “We did not allow any of the country’s airports to be closed. During the eight years of holy defense, not a single day was the country’s space closed to commercial aircraft. It was the zeal and efforts of the army’s air defense specialists who did not allow the radars to be dismantled for a moment….”

Brigadier General Elhami said that today not only in the region but also in some areas, Iran is among the top 10 powers in the world [in radar technology] and stressed, “We will soon have native radar beyond the horizon. Maybe a number of countries in the world have it, but fewer than five countries in the world have the knowledge to produce it indigenously.

The deputy commander of the army’s air defense said that today we are proud of our radar beyond the horizon that is named Sepehr and which will soon be operational. He noted, “This radar with a range of 3,000 kilometers [1,864 miles] provides operational ability for air defense. This radar can monitor a variety of flying objects ranging from commercial aircraft, fighters, control command aircraft, communication relay aircraft and drones. He continued, “This radar is able to detect all air threats and provide us with information to make decisions and counteract them.”


[i] Iran’s Army Air Defense is a coequal division within the Iranian military to the ground forces, navy, and air force.

Image Information:

Image: Brigadier General Alireza Elhami, deputy commander of Iranian Army Air Defense
Source: Holy Defense News Agency https://defapress.ir/files/fa/news/1397/5/8/486921_295.jpg
Attribution: Public Domain

Iran’s Proposal To Build Railroads and Housing in Syria Could Enrich IRGC

Iranian Minister of Roads and Urban Development Rostam Ghasemi meets with Syrian President Bashar al-Asad, October 7, 2022 in Damascus, Syria.

Iranian Minister of Roads and Urban Development Rostam Ghasemi meets with Syrian President Bashar al-Asad, October 7, 2022 in Damascus, Syria.

“Iran stands by the people and government of Syria.”

In May 2022, the UN hosted a conference in Brussels to seek $10.5 billion in donor commitments to rebuild Syria. While pledges fell short, the money that the international community will spend on reconstruction in Syria is significant. The excerpted article from the Mehr News Agency, an outlet sponsored by Iran’s Islamic Ideology Dissemination Organization, reports on a visit by Iran’s Minister of Roads and Urban Development, Rostam Ghasemi, to Damascus to meet with top Syrian officials including President Bashar Al-Assad. During his visit, Ghasemi floated the possibility of a railroad from Iran through Iraq to Syria. This seems farfetched given both insecurity in regions of Iraq and Syria, which the railroad would transect, as well as the length of time it would take to complete the project. Ghasemi also promised that Iran would help support the construction of housing projects in Syria—an offer that the Syrian government appeared to welcome. Construction projects of this sort have military implications given that the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ (IRGC) economic wing, Khatam al-Anbiya,dominates Iran’s construction sector. Should the Syrian government contract with Iranian firms to aid Syria’s reconstruction, this could essentially provide the IRGC with funds at a time when both sanctions and the expense of countering internal protests drain Iran’s treasury.


“Amadegi Iran baraye Sakht-e Peruzheh-ha-ye Bozorg Moskan dar Suriya (Iran is Ready to Build Large Housing Projects in Syria),” Mehr News Agency (media outlet sponsored by Iran’s Islamic Ideology Dissemination Organization), 7 October 2022. https://www.mehrnews.com/news/5603757

According to Mehr News Agency, Rostam Ghasemi, the minister of Roads and Urban Development, during his trip to Damascus and in a meeting with Syrian Prime Minister Hossein Arnous, emphasized Tehran’s support for Syria and stated: Iran stands by the people and government of Syria. We are with Syria in various fields, especially economic, and we can have good cooperation and participate in the fields of trade, commerce and large housing construction projects.

In this meeting, Arnous also mentioned the all-round support of the Islamic Republic of Iran to the people and the country of Syria and stated, “I thank and appreciate the leader, people and government of the Islamic Republic of Iran for the all-round and continuous support to Syria.”

He added, “In the difficult situation we are facing to supply oil and its derivatives, we thank Iran for helping us to supply oil. We are under an unfair siege and we welcome Iranian investors who want to be in Syria.”

Referring to the process of rebuilding Syria after the war and the devastation caused by the 11-year war, Arnous stated: Opening wider horizons of cooperation between the two countries is for the benefit of the two nations and the two countries, and positive results are created from joint cooperation.

Image Information:

Image: Iranian Minister of Roads and Urban Development Rostam Ghasemi meets with Syrian President Bashar al-Asad, October 7, 2022 in Damascus, Syria
Source: Tasnim News Agency
Attribution: Public Domain

Iran Vaunts Persian Language as Marker of National Identity Despite Country’s Ethnic Diversity

Mohammad-Mehdi Esmaeili, minister of culture and Islamic guidance.

Mohammad-Mehdi Esmaeili, minister of culture and Islamic guidance.

“The individual and social identity of each of us depends on the Persian language.”

While the Persian language and its long literary history are central to shaping Iranian nationalism, Iran is linguistically diverse.[i] As recently as a decade ago, Iranian demographic data suggested only half the country spoke Persian as its primary language. Because the Middle East interlinks ethnicity and language, this also highlights Iran’s ethnic diversity. Persian might be the dominant language in major cities like Tehran, Mashhad, Isfahan, or Shiraz, but other languages predominate in cities on Iran’s geographic periphery: Azerbaijani in Tabriz, Arabic in Ahvaz, Kurdish in Sanandaj, and Baluchi in Zahedan. These same peripheral regions are also among Iran’s most restive.

Against this backdrop, the speech by Iran’s Minister of Islamic Guidance and Culture, Mohammad-Mehdi Esmaeili, on the National Day of Persian Poetry and Language is of note. As the excerpts here translated from the ministry’s website show, Esmaeili promoted the Persian language in nationalistic tones when he said: “Persian language is an important factor in the national unity of Iranians and the common heritage of all Persian speakers.”

Looming in the background to his remarks, but unmentioned by Esmaeili himself, are both Iran’s history of separatism and the tendency of local protestors to chant anti-regime slogans in their local languages. Not only do the roots of Iranian nationhood predate the 19th and 20th century organization of states around ethnicity but also, except for more organic Kurdish nationalism, many of the most famous Iranian separatist movements had foreign sponsorship. That said, the growing tendency of non-Persian Iranians to rally around their ethnic identity, if only to organize against the regime, highlights a growing sense of unease within Iran.


“Peyam-e Vazir-e Farhang va Erhad-e Islami beh Ayin-e Bazargdasht Roz-e Melli Sha’ar va Adab-e Farsi (The message of the Minister of Culture and Islamic Guidance to the commemoration ceremony of the National Day of Persian Poetry and Literature),” Minister of Culture and Islamic Guidance, 19 September 2022. https://dashti.farhang.gov.ir/fa/news/656734

Persian language is an important factor in the national unity of Iranians and the common heritage of all Persian speakers. The history of this ancient country is filled with advice, doctrines and witticisms embedded in the institution of this proud language that over the years have made the lovers of culture and wisdom sweet and pleasant. Therefore, preserving, strengthening, and expanding this civilization-creating language is an essential and valuable duty to protect the independence and dignity of our land and nation. The individual and social identity of each of us depends on the Persian language, which, like a prism, forms the cultural basis of all Iranians and must be preserved and pursued in advance of this long-held treasure away from any narrow-mindedness and archaeological, ethnic and racial perspective.


[i] Despite its efforts after the 1979 Islamic Revolution, Iran was never able to entirely subordinate ethnic and historical pride to the ayatollahs’ religious identity. Iranians continued to celebrate the Persian New Year, a holiday with roots in the pre-Islamic era. They continued to read and memorize the Shahnameh, a national epic that celebrates Persian kings dating to the dawn of time, and promoting Persepolis, the ceremonial capital of the ancient Persian Empire.

Image Information:

Image: Mohammad-Mehdi Esmaeili, minister of culture and Islamic guidance
Source: Donya-e-Eqtesad, https://static4.donya-e-eqtesad.com/thumbnail/E2NKNyIBifNX/QHn8O9nsSzT8qCU7RegsN6Pbb5v74eEtbKeSOh05Rab3-SRYPP1-Ekt7TZyzEhnm/pRNdqkr1kRaj.jpg
Attribution: Public Domain

Somali Government Bans Media Reporting on Al-Shabaab

A copy of the Somali Government’s Press release on 8 October 2022, banning the dissemination of extremist ideology in formal or informal outlets.

A copy of the Somali Government’s Press release on 8 October 2022, banning the dissemination of extremist ideology in formal or informal outlets.

I want to inform the Somali media and all Somali people in general that we’ll regard all al Shabaab-related propaganda coverage including their terrorist acts and their ideology as punishable crimes.”

As the accompanying excerpted article from the Somalia-focused East African news site Somali Guardian relays, Somalia’s Deputy Minister of Information, Abdirahman Yusuf Al Adala, recently decreed that Somali media were henceforth banned from “the dissemination of extremism ideology messages both from official media houses and on social media.” In practice, the announcement meant a de facto ban on reporting on the activities of Al-Shabaab, Al-Qaeda’s East Africa branch and one of the deadliest terror groups in the world.[i] The announcement came as Somalia’s new president, Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, who took office in May 2022, has promised to take a hardline stance against Al-Shabaab, which conducted a suicide bombing in late September in Mogadishu that killed seven people.[ii] For its part, the United States and the broader international community have been fighting Al-Shabaab for nearly a decade. In May 2022, the U.S. deployed 450 troops to Kenya to help battle the group. The move to restrict reporting on Al-Shabaab has largely been condemned. Most broadly, reactions seem to suggest that the decree’s bans remain ambiguous in practice: just where the line between simply reporting on the group’s activities and disseminating pro-al-Shabaab propaganda begins is unclear. While it was stated that reporting on Al-Shabaab was not allowed, separately, the same Deputy Minister relayed that the new law would not prohibit normal news coverage of Al-Shabaab’s activities. In its tone, however, the ban on reporting has sparked dissent by Somali and global media rights groups. As the second article, also from the Somali Guardian details, a local Somali journalist organization, Somali Journalists Syndicate, saw its Secretary General arrested approximately a week after the announcement of the decree following his criticism of the new law. The Ministry of Information denied that his arrest was connected to the criticism. Amnesty International has also condemned the new law. Given the prevalence of Al-Shabaab in the security and political fabric of Somalia, just how the new decree will play out remains to be seen.


“Somalia bans media from reporting Al-Shabaab attacks,” Somali Guardian (East Africa-based news platform), 8 October 2022. https://somaliguardian.com/news/somalia-news/somalia-bans-media-from-reporting-al-shabaab-attacks/  

Somalia’s government on Saturday banned journalists from covering stories of Al-Shabaab attacks, weeks after the government launched an offensive against the militant group.

In a press conference, Somali deputy information minister Abdirahman Yusuf Al Adala said the government had banned local media from reporting Al-Shabaab attacks in accordance with national media regulations and those who breach the order will face justice.

He added that dozens of social media accounts linked with the group had been removed and a number of others would be next….

Somali media associations have not yet commented on the decision. The government had previously restricted reportage of conflict stories by local journalists, with dozens killed, others arrested and many more wounded in crackdown to stifle media.

“Arrest of media activist in Somalia sparks outcry,” Somali Guardian (East Africa-based news platform), 13 October 2022. https://somaliguardian.com/news/somalia-news/arrest-of-media-activist-in-somalia-sparks-outcry/

The arrest of media activist Abdalla Mumin in Somalia’s capital on Tuesday by security forces sparked an outcry from journalists and rights groups, days after authorities introduced a media gag order.

The activist was arrested in a raid by security forces on his office, just a day after he had criticized an order by the Ministry of Information that banned journalists from covering reports on the Al-Qaeda-linked militant group Al-Shabaab. He accused authorities of having an intention to muzzle media.

Amnesty International said it was concerned by the “arbitrary arrest and detention” of Abdalla. “Authorities in Somalia must immediately & unconditionally release him & must also respect, protect and promote freedom of expression,” It added.

Somali Ministry of Information, in a statement, distanced itself from Abdalla’s detention and alleged that he was arrested on challenges unrelated to his work by police. But journalists and media activists accused the ministry of playing a role in the detention.

Somali Journalists Syndicate (SJS), where Abdalla has been serving as secretary-general, said he was transferred on Tuesday to the Criminal Investigation Department (CID), days after being held incommunicado.

The media clampdown came months after the incumbent Somali president, who accused his predecessor of using unlawful force to silence journalists, promised to promote press freedom during his election campaign.


[i] For a comprehensive list of the best resources available to study Al-Shabaab, see: Christopher Anzalone and Jason Warner, “Al-Shabaab,” Oxford Bibliographies, 23 June 2021. https://www.oxfordbibliographies.com/view/document/obo-9780199743292/obo-9780199743292-0303.xml

[ii] For more on Al-Shabaab’s use of suicide bombing as a tactic in its arsenal of violence, see: Jason Warner and Ellen Chapin, Targeted Terror: The Suicide Bombers of Al-Shabaab, Combating Terrorism Center at West Point, February 2018. https://ctc.usma.edu/targeted-terror-suicide-bombers-al-shabaab/

Image Information:

Image: A copy of the Somali Government’s Press release on 8 October 2022, banning the dissemination of extremist ideology in formal or informal outlets.
Source: https://twitter.com/SONNALIVE/status/1578774905986093056/photo/1
Attribution: Public Domain

African Leaders and UN See Terrorism in the Sahel as Dire

President of Ghana, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo.

President of Ghana, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo.

“All of us in the [West African] region are being forced to spend huge amounts of money on security.”

Terrorism in the Sahelian region of Africa—broadly, the area of desert south of the Sahara—is among the world’s most active locations of terrorist activity.  The UN recently released a sobering report detailing that in 2021, nearly half of the world’s victims of terrorism came from Sub-Saharan Africa, nearly 3,500 people. The Sahel accounted for a significant percentage of those.[i] Across coastal West Africa, countries historically spared from terrorist violence, like Ghana and Togo, are now preparing for an impending wave of terrorist threats from the Sahel.[ii]

Ghanaian President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo underscored the severity of the terrorist threat in the Sahel in his recent address to the UN General Assembly’s 77th Session in New York. As the accompanying transcript, taken from the Office of the Presidency of Ghana, recounts of his speech, he summarized: “[Terrorism in the Sahel] might look to many, today, as a local conflict which affects only the countries in that region. We, in Ghana, know differently, we have watched in horror as the unrest has moved from the Sahel, inexorably, to the West African coastal countries. All of Ghana’s neighbors have suffered terrorist attacks, and some have lost territorial space to the invading forces.” He then connected the prevalence of terrorist violence in the Sahel to the significant number of coups that have affected West African states over the past several years. At the core, he said, West African states have been forced to spend so much money on security that they can no longer adequately provide social services, thus leading to civil unrest.


“Address By President Akufo-Addo at the 77th Session Of The United Nations’ General Assembly,” The Presidency of the Republic of Ghana (Office of the President of Ghana), 21 September 2022. https://presidency.gov.gh/index.php/briefing-room/speeches/2285-address-by-president-akufo-addo-at-the-77th-session-of-the-united-nations-general-assembly

 …A case in point is the destabilising conflict in the Sahel. It might look to many, today, as a local conflict which affects only the countries in that region. We, in Ghana, know differently, we have watched in horror as the unrest has moved from the Sahel, inexorably, to the West African coastal countries. All of Ghana’s neighbours have suffered terrorist attacks, and some have lost territorial space to the invading forces.

Furthermore, the terrorist pressure has provided a pretext for the unhappy reappearance of military rule in three (3) of the fifteen (15) member ECOWAS Community, two (2) of whom have borne the brunt of the terrorist outrages in the Region – Mali and Burkina Faso. It is a development we are determined to reverse, so that the ECOWAS space remains a democratic one.

All of us in the Region are being forced to spend huge amounts of money on security. This is money we should be spending on educating and giving skills to our young people; on building much needed roads, bridges, hospitals and other such infrastructure, which we are spending to fight terrorists or to keep them out from destabilising our countries.This is a global problem, deserving the attention of the world community for a global solution.


[i] For more on the UN report, see: “Nearly half of the world’s terror victims are African, with organized crime increasingly entrenched,” UN News, 6 October 2022. https://news.un.org/en/story/2022/10/1129312

[ii] For more on the preparations West African states are taking as they brace for a wave of terror from northern Sahelian neighbors, see: Jason Warner, “Coastal West African States Brace for Wave of Terrorism from the Sahel,” OE Watch, Issue 10, 2022.

Image Information:

Image: President of Ghana, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo.
Source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Nana_Akufo_Addo,_Jan._2020.jpg
Attribution: CC BY 2.0

Large Hack of Latin America’s Defense Departments Puts Security Services on Edge

Mexican Secretary of Defense, Luis Crescencio Sandoval, speaks to reporters.

Mexican Secretary of Defense, Luis Crescencio Sandoval, speaks to reporters.

“The information produced…also shows the military’s knowledge of relations between authorities and criminal groups.”

A group of anonymous, self-described social justice advocates called the Guacamayas have carried out a large cyberattack and hack of Latin America’s Defense Ministries. The Guacamayas are a loose network of hackers that aim to expose corruption within the highest echelons of Latin American governments, abuses of Indigenous rights, and the internal governance structures of mining and oil companies. The Guacamayas have engaged in several high-profile hacks of the Colombian and Guatemalan governments before and are thus known to many throughout the region. The Guacamayas are a dispersed group without a known physical location.

The Guacamayas’ recent hack is suspected of exposing upwards of 10 terabytes of information, including information from security services in El Salvador, Chile, and Colombia. However, as BBC News Mundo reports, the portion of the data pertaining to Mexico’s security forces is expected to be the largest—around 6 terabytes of information. While Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador says the Army has nothing to hide, BBC News Mundo says that the leaks have already roiled Mexico’s Defense Department, exposing corruption and links to organized crime groups, as well as a concerning level of advancement of criminal cartels within the country. According to Mexican daily El Universal, the leaks have also revealed connections between criminal organizations and extra-hemispheric actors, such as Russia. In one instance, a Russian national linked to the country’s special forces, trained and provided weapons to a group of self-defense forces in the southern Mexican state of Guerrero. These leaks have the potential to further cause deep concern in Latin America’s defense ministries and security forces for months and years to come. They also demonstrate that despite countries’ best efforts to professionalize their bureaucracies and tackle corruption, many security services throughout the region remain mired in corruption and penetrated by the interests of transnational organized crime groups.


“Guacamaya Leaks: 5 revelaciones del hackeo masivo que sufrió el ejército de México (Guacamaya Leaks: 5 revelations of the massive hacking suffered by the Mexican army),” BBC News Mundo (Spanish-language version of the popular British outlet), 6 October 2022. https://www.bbc.com/mundo/noticias-america-latina-63167331 

The information produced… also shows the military’s knowledge of relations between authorities and criminal groups. For example, there are reports about possible links between 20 mayors of the state of Guerrero with drug gangs and leaders when the Ayotzinapa students disappeared… [the leaks] exposed that there are files on politicians across the entire political spectrum of the country, from legislators to governors, and their possible links with criminals… there are also reports about corruption and weaknesses in customs and how this facilitates the trafficking of drugs and products through the points of entry and exit of the country. Politicians have sought out the armed forces themselves to connect contractors and service companies in the many important infrastructure projects they control.

“Guacamaya Leaks revela conexión rusa con autodefensas de Guerrero…y de éstas con un cártel (Guacamaya Leaks reveal Russian connection with Guerrero self-defense groups…and of with a cartel),” El Universal (one of Mexico’s oldest and most read dailies), 4 October 2022. https://www.eluniversal.com.mx/nacion/guacamaya-leaks-revela-conexion-rusa-con-autodefensas-de-guerrero-y-de-estos-con-un-cartel 

This self-defense group emerged in 2017 and is located in one of the areas with the highest poppy production in the country… Bogdanov Rustam, a Russian national, is identified as an instructor… he is a former operator of the Russian Special Forces Unit and the Antiterrorism Unit… The document also specifies that the purpose of this course for the self-defense groups is to ‘train them to face their antagonists and control their areas of presence.’

Image Information:

Image: Mexican Secretary of Defense, Luis Crescencio Sandoval, speaks to reporters.
Source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Luis_cresencio_sandoval_sedena_notimex.jpg_1934679704.jpg
Attribution: CCA – 4.0