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Eurasia Security Watch - No. 248

Edited by Jeff M. Smith
January 5, 2012

If Hafiz Hanif, a young al Qaeda fighter, is to be believed, the world’s most notorious terrorist group is on the verge of extinction in the Af-Pak region. Newsweek magazine recently followed up with the 17 year old Afghan insurgent after interviewing him in mid-2010 for a feature article on al Qaeda. Two years later, Hanif paints a dreadful portrait of the state of his former terrorist cell and al Qaeda at large. “Al Qaeda was once full of great jihadis, but no one is active and planning operations anymore… Those who remain are just trying to survive.” A senior Taliban intelligence officer interviewed the piece concurred, noting that drone strikes had brought the “near ending” of al Qaeda in the tribal areas. “As far as I can tell, the operational command of al Qaeda has almost been eliminated.” The death of bin Laden in May of this year, meanwhile, was described by Hanif as “the end.” “[H]is death and the drones have sucked the blood out of our leadership.” He eluded to the fact that the Arab Spring may be sucking the oxygen out of al Qaeda’s ideological message as well, noting that “Arab people now think the fight should be political at home and not terrorism aimed at the west… The peaceful struggle on Arab streets has accomplished more than bin Laden and Zawahiri ever have.” (
The Daily Beast January 2, 2011)


Turkey’s government may be winning hearts and minds across the Middle East promoting themselves as champions of the Arab Spring, but they are facing growing criticism at home for gross violations of human rights and press freedom. The Turkish Journalists’ Union estimates there are now 97 members of the Turkish news media in prison, potentially more than the number of journalists detained in China. Some 9,000 complaints against Turkey for breaches of press freedom were lodged at the European Human Rights Court last year. And in recent weeks, police detained at least 38 people, mostly journalists, accused of possible links to a Kurdish separatist group. In addition, dozens of intellectuals, politicians, and current and retired military officers have been arrested by the state in recent years, charged with links to a shadowy organization named Ergenekon accused of plotting to overthrow the current government. Despite four years of investigations and 8,000 pages of indictments, none of the 300 suspects arrested in the case have been convicted. The government’s heavy hand is now reaching into cyberspace as well: by some estimates, the Turkish government has blocked 15,000 websites – even Youtube was banned for more than two years from 2009-2011. (
New York Times January 4, 2011)


The Muslim Brotherhood’s most prominent and notorious offshoot, Hamas, is reportedly considering formally joining the Egyptian Islamist group from which it spawned. The Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood is by some estimates the oldest, largest, and most influential transnational Islamist group in existence today. Offshoots of the Brotherhood have cropped up in countries across the Middle East in recent decades, but Hamas appears to be entertaining the idea of becoming an official franchise – a “Muslim Brotherhood in Palestine.” A report in the London-based Ash-Sharq Al-Awsat reported that 59 members of Hamas’ Leadership (or Shura) Council recently met in Khartoum, Sudan to discuss the prospect while Hamas chief Kahlid Mashaal met with Sudanese President Omar Bashir. In addition, Hamas’ prime minister, Ismail Haniyeh, met the Muslim Brotherhood’s chairman, Mohammed Badie, on a December 26 visit to Cairo. Finally, last October, a Muslim brotherhood delegation visited the Gaza Strip for the first time. (
Ma’an News Agency
December 31, 2011)


The oil minister of the United Arab Emirates has announced that a new oil pipeline bypassing the Strait of Hormuz is nearly complete. The Abu Dhabi Crude Oil Pipeline project would ship crude from the UAE’s main oil producing region to the port of Fujairah on the country’s eastern coast, bypassing the vital Strait. The timing of the announcement could not be more prescient; Iranian officials have recently made their most threatening remarks to date about “closing” the Strait of Hormuz as fresh U.S. and international sanctions have put the regime on the defensive.

In recent weeks alone, the head of Iran’s navy boasted that closing the strait would be “as easy as drinking a glass of water”; Iran conducted 10 days of naval exercises near the strait, test-firing several missiles; the head of Iran’s parliamentary national security and foreign policy commission, Aladdin Brujerdi, stated that “if Iran’s oil exports from the Persian Gulf are sanctioned, then no one will have the right to export oil through the Strait of Hormuz”; and Iranian officials warned the U.S. that one of its aircraft carriers, the USS John Stennis, which was recently in the Persian Gulf performing drills, would be attacked if it returned to the Persian Gulf. (The Pentagon waved off the threat, insisting it had no plans to curtail any military maneuvers or deployments). The Strait of Hormuz, 21 miles wide at its narrowest point, hosts 14 crude oil tankers a day, carrying 17 million barrels or 35 percent of the world’s seaborne oil shipments, 85% of which are destined for Asia. (Associated Press December 5, 2011; London Telegraph January 5, 2011)

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