Posted by Albert Gersh - September 17, 2013
- Thailand convicts Hezbollah-linked operative on bomb materials charges
- Iranian media boasts over naval power projection, Sudanese port docking
- Reuters: Turkey PM's pro-Islamist diplomacy has left Ankara isolated, "sidelined," "increasingly lonely"
- Washington Post: "No significant dent in the pace" of Iraq attacks despite government counter-insurgency campaign
What we’re watching today:
- A Thai court today convicted a Lebanese national allegedly linked to Hezbollah for possessing bomb-making materials, a month after a different Thai court sentenced two Iranians to lengthy jail sentences for their roles in the attempted February 2012 attack on Israeli diplomats. Atris Hussein was sentenced to less than three years in jail for possessing a substance banned under the country’s Weapons Act. Iran and Hezbollah have been linked to terror plots staged in Bulgaria, Cyprus, Thailand, Georgia, India, Azerbaijan, Nigeria, Singapore, and Turkey. A report published this year by the Washington Institute’s Matthew Levitt concluded that Iran’s global terror operations have “climbed back up the list of immediate threats facing the United States and its allies," and a State Department report published this spring noted that "Iran and Hezbollah’s terrorist activity has reached a tempo unseen since the 1990s."
- English-language Iranian media reports on the docking of what the country is calling its 27th fleet - the helicopter carrier Khark (also spelled Kharg) and frigate Sabalan - at Port Sudan along the Red Sea. PressTV used the event to boast that "in recent years, Iran’s Navy has been increasing its presence in international waters." The Khark has been in the theater before, and in 2011 continued through the Suez Canal to Syria. Iranian military officials earlier this year announced that Tehran would deepen cooperation with the Sudanese navy, part of a broad effort by Tehran to project power beyond the Persian Gulf. Those efforts have generated calls by U.S. Gulf allies for Washington to deepen its commitment to the region amid budget-driven cuts in the U.S. naval presence. Gulf countries have become increasingly vocal in criticizing Iran for seeking to foment instability across region and for pressing territorial claims against its Arab neighbors.
- Reuters describes converging analysis from a range of foreign policy analysts to the effect that Turkish diplomats in general, and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan in particular, have been left "sidelined" and "increasingly lonely" in the Middle East. The piece heavily emphasizes Erdogan's support for Islamist actors throughout the region, and echoes points recently made by Georgetown Turkey expert Michael Koplow to the effect that Erdogan has "been raging on a daily basis against the Egyptian army" to the detriment of Egyptian-Turkey relations. Reuters notes that Erdogan's support for the Muslim Brotherhood has also generated friction with the U.S.'s Gulf allies, endangering "investment [which] has helped Turkey to prosper over the past decade." Ankara's isolation, according to Standard Bank economist Timothy Ash, now risks "the erosion of benefits from the enormous strides made over the past decade in terms of the development of trade and investment flows."
- A series of car bombs Tuesday in Iraq killed over 30 people and injured more than 100, followed by more car bombs today that took the lives of at least six more. The attacks are the latest in a five-month wave of Sunni-Shiite sectarian violence that has swept through the nation and left more than 4,000 dead. On Sunday nearly 60 people were killed by a dozen attacks conducted in mostly Shiite-majority cities. The Shiite-led government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki recently launched a counter-insurgency operation, dubbed "Revenge for the Martyrs," that has thus far mainly targeted Sunni areas and groups. The Washington Post this morning bluntly stated that despite the campaign, "there has been no significant dent in the pace of attacks." Analysts have expressed concerns that the country may be sliding into “the scale [of] sectarian slaughter” of 2006 and 2007.
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