ISIL seen playing dual roles in Iraq, northern Syria on Iran’s behalf
Al Qaida’s Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant has become a leading instrument by Iran to control the Levant, a report said.
The Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs asserted that ISIL has been quietly cooperating with the Teheran regime. In a report, the center said ISIL, established in April 2013, has become immune to Iranian attack, particularly in northern Syria, as part of Teheran’s aim to destabilize Iraq.
An image grab taken from a propaganda video uploaded by the ISIL on June 8.
“Iran wants to be certain that a strong Iraqi state does not emerge again along its western border,” the report, titled “ISIS: Iran’s Instrument for Regional Hegemony?” said.
Author Pinhas Inbari, a leading Israeli analyst on the Middle East, said ISIL commanders came from the Syrian intelligence community. He said the regime of President Bashar Assad has avoided attacks on ISIL while releasing its fighters. One of them was identified as Abu Lukman, now ISIL’s commander in the northern city of Raqa.
“After the revolt began, Syrian intelligence again took an interest in them, and freed them — in full coordination with Iran — so that they could infiltrate the ranks of the Salafis now fighting in Syria,” the report said.
Turkey as well as Syrian opposition leaders have long linked ISIL with the Assad regime. But so far the United States, which reported Iran’s harboring of Al Qaida commanders, has not confirmed cooperation between Al Qaida’s largest franchise in the Middle East and either Damascus or Teheran.
But Arab analysts have asserted that ISIL’s leadership, including commander Abu Bakr Al Baghdadi, was close to Iranian and Syrian intelligence. They said this has been concealed from ISIL’s rank-and-file, said to exceed 120,000 fighters in Iraq and Syria.
“It is unreasonable to expect Iran to fight ISIS,” the report said. “If Iran does so, it would be turning against a movement that has been a useful surrogate for Teheran’s interests.”
The report cited the current fighting around the northeastern Syrian city of Dir Al Zour. Inbari said the Syrian Army maintained a siege on the city in the south while ISIL was deployed to the north and east. The Western-backed Free Syrian Army was said to be trapped inside the city.
“The ISIS connection with the Syrian leadership, and hence with Iran, raises serious questions,” the report, dated June 19, said. “It was recently noted that President Assad released ISIS operatives from his prisons and for the most part left it alone, sparing it from attacks by the Syrian Army.”
In Iraq, ISIL forged cooperation with Bedouin tribes in the Anbar and other provinces. The report said ISIL expanded its presence by breaking into prisons and releasing Sunni insurgents.
The report said Teheran has been aiding ISIL to help break up Iraq. The Iranian leadership was said to be intent in ending the threat of another powerful Iraq, which under the Saddam Hussein regime waged a war from 1980 to 1988.
“To avert that possibility, the Iranians prefer Iraq to become a subservient client state or alternatively, that it be divided along sectarian lines into Kurdish, Sunni and Shi’ite states,” the report said.
“Presumably, Iran would control or annex the Shi’ite sector containing the Shiite holy cities of Najaf and Karbala. In either case, ISIS would serve Iran as a useful tool for advancing its goal of achieving regional hegemony.”
Libya’s rogue general challenges aid by Qatar, Turkey to militias
Libya’s military has concluded that Qatar and Turkey were supporting Al Qaida-aligned militias.
Rogue Gen. Khalifa Hafter, who controls much of Libya’s military, has given Qatar and Turkey until June 25 to withdraw its diplomats and other personnel from eastern Libya. Libyan sources said Hafter, who directed an offensive around Benghazi, determined that Ankara and Doha were supporting Al Qaida-aligned militias in the east.
“They have deployed intelligence assets,” Hafter’s spokesman, Col. Mohammed Hijazi, said.
The sources said Hafter’s intelligence units determined that Qatar supported an assassination attempt on the general in early June. They said Qatar as well as Turkey saw Hafter as a threat to the de facto Islamist state in eastern Libya.
For his part, Hafter was said to have received support from Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. The sources said these countries saw Hafter as capable of rolling back Islamist gains that prevented the stabilization of Libya.
On June 14, Turkey said it was withdrawing diplomats from the consulate in Benghazi amid Libyan Air Force strikes on suspected militia strongholds in the port city. Qatar, however, was still believed to maintain a presence around Benghazi.
“Citizens carrying Turkish or Qatari nationalities must leave the area between Imsaid crossing [along the Egyptian border] and the city of Sirte within 48 hours,” Hijazi said. “We will not be responsible for any backlash against them from the public if they are still present in these areas after that.”
In his warning, Hafter said his military, which includes virtually the entire air force and most of the army, would arrest any Qatari or Turkish national found in Benghazi or other cities of eastern Libya. The general has asserted that Qatar and Turkey maintained a huge network that stretched from the port of Sirte to the Egyptian border.
“The national army will take all the rightful necessary measures,” Hijazi said on June 22.
Mauritania Air Force gains ISR capabilities against Al Qaida
Mauritania has acquired intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities in its war with Al Qaida.
A leading U.S. consultant has reported that the Mauritanian Air Force has achieved ISR capabilities by converting a transport aircraft. Forecast International said the air force modernized a U.S.-origin DC-3 by equipping the platform with an electro-optical turret.
“The Mauritanian Air Force has upgraded its DC-3 into a Basler Turbo BT-67 with an electro-optical turret and associated mission systems so it can carry out surveillance as well as transport duties,” Forecast said.
In a report on June 20, Forecast said the 1960s-era DC-3 was transformed into a multi-mission aircraft. The platform was acquired by Mauritania in 1999 for transport duties.
France and the United States have sought to modernize Mauritania’s military and security forces. Al Qaida Organization in the Islamic Maghreb has long sought to establish an operational presence in the North African state.
“While Mauritania’s armed forces may be able to cope with some internal security contingencies, limited airlift capacity has led to the lack of mobility across the country’s extensive territory,” Forecast said.