July 28, 2015

Lecture in Jerusalem, 23/7


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The Reemergence of Jaysh Muhammad in Bilad al-Sham

Jaysh Muhammad-run Shari'a Institute in Idlib city: lesson for children.

After many months of social media absence, the jihadi group Jaysh Muhammad in Bilad al-Sham under Abu Obeida al-Masri has recently advertised its presence in the city of Idlib city as part of the Jaysh al-Fatah jihadi-rebel coalition that conquered the city and other parts of Idlib province from Assad regime forces. On its official Arabic Facebook page, the group describes itself as "to support our people in al-Sham" (echoing the full name of Syria's official al-Qa'ida affiliate … [Read more...]

Islamic State Training Camp Textbook: “Course in Monotheism”- Complete Text, Translation and Analysis

Excerpt from Islamic State (IS) training camp course book on tawheed/monotheism.

Preface and Commentary As mentioned in previous excerpt posts (here and here), the textbook "Muqarrar fi al-Tawhid" (Course in Tawheed/Monotheism) is the book that must be learned and understood by training camp recruits if they are to pass the recruitment and training processes. Written by the Bahraini cleric Turki Binali (who most recently appeared in official Islamic State propaganda giving a sermon in Raqqa province), it is issued by the Diwan al-Eftaa' wa al-Buhuth Committee that also … [Read more...]

The Coastal Shield Brigade: A New Pro-Assad Militia

Emblem of the Coastal Shield Brigade, a pro-Assad militia. In middle (with portrait of Bashar al-Assad): "Republican Guard. Knights of Assad." On bottom: "Syrian Arab Army."

Emblem of the Coastal Shield Brigade. On top: "Coastal Shield Brigade." In middle (with portrait of Bashar al-Assad): "Republican Guard. Knights of Assad." On bottom: "Syrian Arab Army." As the Syrian civil war has dragged on with no recent decisive breakthroughs for the Assad regime and the loss of many peripheral territories including all major towns in Idlib and Palmyra, the problem of avoidance of conscription into the regular armed forces has only become exacerbated. Thus, at this point, a … [Read more...]

A Saudi-Israeli Silent Partnership? Unofficial Signals Indicate “Yes”

King Abdallah (right) with Defense Minister Prince Salman. (Photo: Zamanalsamt CC BY-SA 2.0)

The following article was previously published on Mida, March 12, 2014 The leading Saudi paper al-Sharq al-Awsat recently featured articles discussing recognition of Israel as a Jewish State, harsh criticism of the Palestinian authority and even the Jewish Biblical rights to the Land of Israel · Surprising as this sounds, such an editorial line fits the regional situation: Saudi Arabia and Israel have many common interests, and pragmatic cooperation between the two is natural · The offer has … [Read more...]

Pragmatism and Openness – Saudi Style

Saudi Defense Minister Prince Salman and the Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, James Winnefeld. (Photo: Secretary of Defense CC BY 2.0)

The following article was previously published on Mida, March 6, 2014 Liberal? Moderate? These are words one would not generally associate with a theocratic kingdom which regularly tramples the rights of foreign workers and women • Only by understanding the actual relationship between the religious establishment and the Royal Court can one understand the complex factors which shape Saudi foreign policy     They won’t let Islam stand between them; Saudi Defense … [Read more...]

Opening the “Gates of Evil”

The ministers of foreign affairs of France, Germany, the EU, Iran, UK, and United States as well as Chinese and Russian diplomats announcing the framework for a comprehensive agreement on the Iranian nuclear program (Lausanne, April 2, 2015). (Photo: U.S. Dept. of State)

Sunni Arabs see deal as facilitating further Iranian regional subversion, confirming U.S. withdrawal from the Middle East The response in the Arabic-speaking world to the conclusion of a deal between the P5+1 countries and the Islamic Republic of Iran over the latter’s nuclear program has divided along familiar lines. Among pro-Iranian elements, such as President Bashar Assad of Syria and Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah, the news of the deal has, predictably, been met with … [Read more...]

Iran Nuclear Deal I24 News Interview (in Arabic)

Alex Grinberg is interviewed on I24's Arabic channel on Iran nuclear deal.

Rubin Center Research Associate and Iran analyst Alex Grinberg is interviewed on I24's Arabic channel.  The discussion focuses on Iranian popular reaction to the nuclear deal and Iranian hopes for economic improvements as a result of the agreement. Also discussed are the political implications of the deal for Iranian internal politics, including the view of the Revolutionary Guards toward the deal, and the nature of the IRGC as a “state within a state” in Iran. Last, it covers the response … [Read more...]

Coming of Age in Sinai

Weapons used by persons during the 2012 Egyptian-Israeli border attack, which killed 16 Egyptian soldiers and infiltrated Israel before being killed by the Israeli Air Force. (Source: Israel Defense Forces)

The Sinai-based Islamic State affiliate Wilayat al-Sina (Sinai Province) claimed responsibility for the firing of three Grad rockets at Israel on July 3. This attack, which caused no casualties, came closely after a large-scale assault by the group against Egyptian security installations in the Sheikh Zuweid area of northern Sinai. Both events served notice regarding the growing seriousness of the threat represented by the jihadists in northern Sinai. The Sheikh Zuweid attacks … [Read more...]

The Ghosts of Old Baghdad

Shorja Market, Old Baghdad, June 12, 2015, with a Shi'a banner in the foreground.

A few hours in the Shorja open market in Baghdad can teach you a lot – about the Middle East’s past, its present and its apparent future. What’s to be found there is informative. What is absent – equally so. My fixer Yusuf hadn’t wanted to take me to Shorja. I was in Baghdad for a reporting project on the Shia militias. Between heading for Anbar with Kata’ib Hezbollah and up to Baiji with the Badr Corps, we had a few hours of downtime in Baghdad so I suggested we make for … [Read more...]