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Jabhat Fateh al-Sham: Al-Qaeda’s Ace in Syria Rebranded

On July 28, 2016 Jabhat al-Nusra declared that it was rebranding itself Jabhat Fateh al-Sham. This maneuver was announced by the group’s commander Abu Muhammad al-Jolani, who in a spirit of apparent transparency revealed his identity after years of anonymity, dressed as and quoting Osama bin Laden. The decision is a significant shake up within the Syrian[…]

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How to Make a Yemen Peace Process Stick

Six months into the Saudi-led air campaign against Houthi rebels in Yemen, the situation inside the southwestern Arabian peninsula country remains as fluid as it is deadly.  Pro-government forces allied to Yemeni President Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi — thanks in large measure to the willingness of Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain, and Qatar to deploy[…]

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The U.N. Needs a New Framework for Yemen

Three months into a Saudi-led air campaign against the Houthi militia and former President Ali Abdullah Saleh’s Republican Guard, Yemen has degenerated into a terrible cycle of misery, fratricidal violence, and nationwide suffering.  Already the poorest country in the Arab world before the Houthis captured the Yemeni capital of Sanaa last September, air operations by[…]

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It’s Time For Politics in Yemen

Highly concerned that the security situation inside Yemen was no longer possible to ignore, King Salman bin Abdulaziz al-Saud made a decision that was highly uncharacteristic of Saudi behavior over the past decade: he went beyond the traditional option of funding acceptable proxies by assembling a Sunni Arab military coalition for conventional operations in Yemen.[…]

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CIA Drone Campaign Demonstrates Need for Greater Intelligence Oversight, Accountability

A year ago SISMEC pointed out that, although most of the victims of U.S. drone strikes have ostensibly been “militants,” the White House definition of “militant” is extremely vague (generally, any fighting-aged male). Moreover, the purpose of the program isn’t to target any and all possible combatants, but instead to eliminate high-value targets from international terror[…]

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When Hypocrites Take the Hippocratic Oath

Or, Undoing the “Arab Spring” Earlier this month, the White House unveiled its new foreign policy credo: “Don’t do stupid shit.” While many lamented the modesty of this approach, acting with restraint in order to limit iatrogenesis is certainly a worthy goal—and an approach with wide and enduring popular support—in fact, this is the vision[…]

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Droning on about UAVs: A Metacriticism

“Before we can talk about what is ‘effective’ we have to talk about what the goal is of using military force at all. Is it to make Americans safer? Is it to keep Afghanis, Pakistanis or Yemenis safe? What’s the goal?  The question of being ‘effective’ – if you’re asking do drones work to kill[…]

That Haven-Hopping Al-Qaeda Finds a Viable Landing Pad in the Sinai

What the vacuous security situation means for Egypt, her neighbors, and the U.S. As U.S. drone strikes and targeted killings in states like Pakistan and Yemen continue to make life for terrorists there less and less sustainable, the ethereal group of Islamic Salafists who self-identify as al-Qaeda seem to be adapting to this new brand[…]

New Hosts of Drone Bowl III?

Reaping Ungovernability in North Africa In the previous edition of the bulletin SISMEC pondered Western involvement in trying to deny al-Qaeda a safe haven in North Africa, wondering if we might see another invasion. It seems that we were provided an answer this week as Niger gave approval for the establishment of a US drone[…]

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Blowback nothing?

Colin Owens Christopher Swift’s article “Strikes in Yemen Aren’t Pushing People to Al Qaeda” (July 2012) draws conclusions about the expanded U.S./Yemen drone program in Yemen, including signature strikes, based on interviews concerning a different and limited Yemen campaign. While the article argues that al-Qaeda recruitment in Yemen is largely driven by economics, and that[…]

Civilian deaths in drone strike prompt increased civil unrest

Have US drone strikes reached a tipping point in Yemen? On September 2, 2012 a US drone strike killed between five and fourteen civilians outside Radaa in Bayda province. Following the most recent attack resulting in civilian deaths, “relatives of the victims vowed retaliation.” Joined by unidentified gunmen, the protesters gave the government 48 hours[…]

Saleh on simmer?

Seeing Red in Yemen Wikileaks cables have revealed that the US embassy in Yemen was informed nearly two years ago of a planned campaign funded by Yemeni sheikh and businessman Hamid al-Ahmar to unseat President Saleh, the second longest ruling leader in the Arab world. The non-violent campaign was to be modeled on the “controlled[…]

State-run media: Is this a joke?

Is state-run media the regime’s misguided last gasp?   This week we watched in disbelief as a Libyan state TV news anchor brandished an Ak-47 during a broadcast.  This type of spectacle symbolized the complete disconnect between Qadafi and his core supporters and the bulk of the Libyan population.  State-run media has surely attempted to[…]