Eye on Extremism: January 10, 2024

Associated Press: UN To Vote On A Resolution Demanding A Halt To Attacks On Vessels In The Red Sea By Yemen’s Rebels

“The U.N. Security Council scheduled a vote Wednesday on a resolution that would condemn and demand an immediate halt to attacks by Yemen’s Houthi rebels on merchant and commercial vessels in the Red Sea area. The U.S. draft resolution, obtained late Tuesday by The Associated Press, says at least two dozen Houthi attacks are impeding global commerce “and undermine navigational rights and freedoms as well as regional peace and security.” The Iranian-backed Houthis, who have been engaged in a civil war with Yemen’s internationally recognized government since 2014, have said they launched the attacks with the aim of ending Israel’s devastating air-and-ground offensive in the Gaza Strip. It was triggered by the Palestinian militant group Hamas’ Oct. 7 surprise attack in southern Israel which killed about 1,200 people and led to some 250 others being taken hostage. Israel’s three-month assault in Gaza has killed more than 23,000 people, two-thirds of them women and children, according to the Hams-run Gaza Health Ministry which does not differentiate between civilians and combatants.”

Associated Press: Minivan Explosion In Afghanistan Kills At Least 3; The Islamic State Group Claims Responsibility

“The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for a minivan explosion in the Afghan capital on Tuesday that killed at least three people. The militant group said it detonated an explosive on a vehicle belonging to employees of Afghanistan’s main prison in Kabul, killing and wounding about 10 people, according to a statement released by the group shortly after the attack. Police spokesman Khalid Zadran confirmed that a bomb had exploded but said three civilians were killed and four others wounded in the attack. He added that the explosion occurred in the eastern part of the city, in the Alokhail area, and that police had detained one suspect. The Islamic State group’s affiliate in the region has in the past carried out attacks often targeting Shiites, whom IS considers to be apostates. Over the weekend, the Islamic State group claimed responsibility for a minibus explosion in western Kabul that killed at least five people. The IS affiliate has been a major rival of the Taliban since the latter seized control of Afghanistan in August 2021 as U.S. and other troops withdrew. IS militants have struck in Kabul and in northern provinces.”

United States

Associated Press: US Defends Its Veto Of Call For Gaza Cease-Fire While Palestinians And Others Demand Fighting Stop

“The United States defended its veto of a call for the immediate suspension of hostilities in Gaza at a U.N. meeting Tuesday and again faced demands by the Palestinians and many other countries for a cease-fire now in the Israel-Hamas war – as well as by a group of rabbis in the gallery. U.S. deputy ambassador Robert Wood called the Russian-proposed amendment to a Dec. 22 Security Council resolution which it vetoed “disconnected from the situation on the ground.” The council then adopted a watered-down resolution, with the U.S. abstaining, calling for urgent steps to immediately allow expanded humanitarian aid into Gaza, “and to create conditions for a sustainable cessation of hostilities.” Wood called it “striking” that those urging an end to the conflict have made very few demands of Hamas, following its surprise Oct. 7 invasion of southern Israel that killed around 1,200 people, “to stop hiding behind civilians, lay down its arms, and surrender.” And he reiterated ongoing U.S. efforts to secure a “pause” in the fighting to get 136 Israeli hostages out of Gaza.”

Associated Press: Blinken Seeks Palestinian Governance Reform As He Tries To Rally Region Behind Postwar Vision

“Secretary of State Antony Blinken will seek governance reforms when he meets with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Wednesday as part of U.S. efforts to rally the region behind postwar plans for Gaza that also include concrete steps toward a Palestinian state. Blinken says he has secured commitments from multiple countries in the region to assist with rebuilding and governing Gaza after Israel’s war against Hamas, and that wider Israeli-Arab normalization is still possible, but only if there is “a pathway to a Palestinian state.” The approach faces serious obstacles. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government is adamantly opposed to the creation of a Palestinian state alongside Israel, and the autocratic, Western-backed Palestinian leadership lacks legitimacy in the view of many Palestinians. The war in Gaza is still raging with no end in sight, fueling a humanitarian catastrophe in the tiny coastal enclave. The fighting has also stoked escalating violence between Israel and Lebanon’s Hezbollah militants that has raised fears of a wider conflict.”


New York Times: Terrorism In Iran Exposes A Vulnerability It Doesn’t Want To Admit

“For years Iran justified its military presence in Iraq and Syria, to its own people and the world, as a strategy for keeping terrorist groups at bay. Iranian officials frequently boasted that fighting terrorists directly or through proxy militias in the region meant they didn’t have to fight them at home. That sense of security was shattered on Wednesday, with the deadliest terrorist attack since the 1979 founding of the Islamic Republic — two suicide explosions in the city of Kerman that killed 88 people, including 30 children, and injured more than 200. The Islamic State, a mortal enemy of Iran, claimed responsibility. Yet even after the statement by the terrorist group, Iranian officials and pundits close to the government insisted — as they had in the immediate aftermath of the attack — that another enemy, Israel, was to blame. Tasnim News Agency, the media arm of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, went as far as claiming that “Israel ordered ISIS to take responsibility for the attack.” And President Ibrahim Raisi, speaking at a ceremony in Kerman honoring the victims on Friday, said Iran would retaliate and blamed both Israel and the United States.”


Politico: Iraqi Officials Privately Signal They Want US Forces To Stay

“Iraq’s prime minister privately told American officials that he wants to negotiate keeping U.S. forces in the country despite his recent announcement that he would begin the process of removing them from the country. Senior advisers to Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani told U.S. officials that his declaration was “an attempt to satisfy domestic political audiences” and that Sudani himself “remained committed” to negotiating the coalition’s future presence in Iraq, according to a Jan. 6 State Department cable obtained by POLITICO. There’s been public uproar in Iraq over a U.S. drone strike last week that killed a senior Iran-backed militia member in Baghdad, and Sudani’s office announced on Friday that his government is putting together a bilateral committee to end the presence of the U.S.-led international military coalition focused on preventing a resurgence of the Islamic State. Iraq’s willingness to keep U.S. troops in the country is critical for the Biden administration. The U.S. sees its presence in Iraq as important for not only preventing a resurgence of ISIS but also for countering Iranian influence in the region. Any decision by al-Sudani to kick American forces out of the country could also undermine the administration’s effort to prevent the war in Gaza from widening.”


CBS: Taliban Detains Dozens Of Women In Afghanistan For Breaking Hijab Rules With "Modeling"

“Afghanistan's Taliban rulers have rounded up dozens of women in an apparent crackdown on perceived violations of the group's strict dress code. Dozens of women and girls were detained briefly last week in Kabul, a senior Taliban spokesperson told CBS News on Monday, confirming what appeared to be a new tactic in the group's efforts to curb women's rights. The arrests by the Taliban's morality police occurred over several days and first came to light via videos and photos posted on social media. The Taliban confirmed the arrests after photos and video clips showed women being loaded onto the back of police pickup trucks in the capital city. A spokesperson for the Taliban's Vice and Virtue Ministry, which enforces its harsh interpretation of Islam on both men and women, told CBS News the women were all either released on bail after several hours, or turned over to judicial authorities for further investigation. It was not clear how many people remained in custody after the mass arrests.”


Reuters: Yemen's Houthis Target Vessel In Red Sea -Yemeni Military Source Told Al Jazeera

“Yemen's Houthi group Ansarullah targeted a vessel in the Red Sea, a Yemeni military source told Al Jazeera on Tuesday. Earlier on Tuesday, the United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations (UKMTO) organization received a report of an incident in the Red Sea approximately 50 nautical miles west of Yemen's Hodeidah. Yemen's Iranian-backed Houthi militants have stepped up attacks on commercial vessels in the Red Sea in protest against Israel's war in Gaza. Various shipping lines have suspended operations, instead taking the longer journey around Africa. The Houthis have vowed to continue attacks until Israel halts the conflict in Gaza, and warned that it would attack U.S. warships if the militia group itself was targeted.”

Reuters: US, UK Forces Shoot Down Houthi Missiles, Drones In Red Sea - US Military

“U.S. and UK forces shot down 21 drones and missiles fired by Yemen-based Houthis on Tuesday into the Southern Red Sea towards international shipping lanes, the U.S. military's Central Command said. U.S. Central Command said there were no injuries or damage reported, adding that this was the 26th Houthi attack on commercial shipping lanes in the Red Sea since Nov. 19. Iranian-backed Houthi militants have stepped up attacks on commercial vessels in the Red Sea in protest against Israel's war in Gaza. Various shipping lines have suspended operations, instead taking the longer journey around Africa. The Houthis have vowed to continue attacks until Israel halts the conflict in Gaza, and warned that it would attack U.S. warships if the militia group itself was targeted. U.S. Central Command said 18 drones, two anti-ship cruise missile.”


Associated Press: Hezbollah Launches Drone Strike On Base In Northern Israel But Military Says There’s No Damage

“Hezbollah said it launched a drone strike at the Israeli army’s northern headquarters Tuesday in retaliation for recent strikes in Lebanon that killed top Hamas and Hezbollah officials. Israel’s military acknowledged that one of its army bases in northern Israel was targeted but said there were no injuries or damage. It did not specify where the base was located. Also Tuesday, an Israeli drone strike in Lebanon killed three Hezbollah members, officials said. The increasing cross-border attacks have led to fears of a second conflict against the backdrop of the ongoing Israel-Hamas war sparked by the deadly Oct. 7 assault on southern Israel by the Palestinian militant group Hamas. Hezbollah says that by keeping Israel’s northern front active, it is helping to reduce pressure on Hamas in Gaza. Hezbollah has lost some 150 fighters in the near-daily exchanges of fire. Hezbollah said it targeted the Israeli army’s northern command headquarters in Safed with several drones, calling it retaliation for an Israeli strike in Beirut last week that killed top Hamas official Saleh Arouri, and for a drone strike on Monday that killed Hezbollah commander Wissam al-Tawil.”

Reuters: Lebanon's Hezbollah Denies Israel's Claim For Killing Senior Hezbollah Commander

“Israel said it killed the southern Lebanon commander of Hezbollah's aerial unit in an air strike on Tuesday, hours after it said he led an attack on an army headquarters base in northern Israel. Hezbollah later denied those claims, saying "the commander was never subjected to any assassination attempt as the enemy claimed," in a statement on Tuesday. Israeli military chief spokesperson Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari said Ali Hussein Barji had led dozens of drone attacks on Israel, as Israel and Hezbollah have been waging their deadliest hostilities in 17 years.”

Middle East

Associated Press: Israel Taps Top Legal Minds, Including A Holocaust Survivor, To Battle Genocide Claim At World Court

“Israel is sending top legal minds, including a Holocaust survivor, to The Hague this week to counter allegations that it is committing genocide against Palestinians in Gaza. The robust engagement with the International Court of Justice is unusual for Israel, which normally considers the United Nations and international tribunals as unfair and biased. The decision to participate rather than boycott reflects Israeli concerns that the judges could order Israel to halt its war against Hamas and tarnish its image internationally. “Israel cannot run away from an accusation that is so serious,” said Alon Liel, a former director general of Israel’s Foreign Ministry and a former Israeli ambassador to South Africa. Israel, which as one of the parties in the case is entitled to send a judge, has tapped a former Israeli Supreme Court chief justice to join the court’s 15 regular members who will rule on the accusation. It has also enlisted a British barrister and lauded international law expert as part of its defense team.”

Reuters: Jordanian Jets Strike Iran-Linked Drug Dealers Inside Syria - Intelligence Sources

“Jordanian jets conducted four strikes inside Syria on Tuesday in the second such raid within a week against suspected farms and hideouts of Iran-linked drug smugglers, regional intelligence sources said. Jordan's army has stepped up a campaign against drug dealers after clashes last month with dozens of people suspected of links to pro-Iranian militias, who were carrying large hauls over its border with Syria along with weapons and explosives. Jordan and its Western allies have blamed Lebanon-based, Iran-backed Hezbollah and other pro-Iranian militia who control much of southern Syria as being behind the surge in smuggling. Iran and Hezbollah have dismissed the allegations as a Western plot against Syria, which itself denies complicity with Iran-backed militia which opponents link to its security forces. The sources confirmed reports by Syrian newsportal Suwayda 24 that three strikes targeted leading drug dealers in the towns of Shaab and Arman in Sweida province near the Jordan-Syria border. The fourth strike hit a farm near the village of Malah.”

South America

Reuters: Gunmen In Ecuador Storm TV Studio In Wave Of Violence

“Gunmen with explosives stormed a TV station on-air in Ecuador on Tuesday during a wave of violence around the nation that prompted President Daniel Noboa to name 22 gangs as terrorist organizations to be hunted by the military. Police arrested the 13 men who burst into TC's studio during a live broadcast, while elsewhere at least seven police officers were kidnapped and there were several explosions. "Thank God, we are alive, because it was an extremely violent attack," said Jorge Rendon, deputy director of the news program that was interrupted. Noboa, who took office in November promising to stem drug-related violence, declared a 60-day state of emergency on Monday in response to prison violence - including hostage-takings of guards by inmates - and the apparent escape of Los Choneros gang leader Adolfo Macias over the weekend. In a revised decree on Tuesday, Noboa recognized an "internal armed conflict" and identified nearly two dozen gangs as terrorist groups, including Los Choneros.”


New York Times: Elections And Disinformation Are Colliding Like Never Before In 2024

“Billions of people will vote in major elections this year — around half of the global population, by some estimates — in one of the largest and most consequential democratic exercises in living memory. The results will affect how the world is run for decades to come. At the same time, false narratives and conspiracy theories have evolved into an increasingly global menace. Baseless claims of election fraud have battered trust in democracy. Foreign influence campaigns regularly target polarizing domestic challenges. Artificial intelligence has supercharged disinformation efforts and distorted perceptions of reality. All while major social media companies have scaled back their safeguards and downsized election teams. “Almost every democracy is under stress, independent of technology,” said Darrell M. West, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution think tank. “When you add disinformation on top of that, it just creates many opportunities for mischief.” It is, he said, a “perfect storm of disinformation.”

Daily Dose

Extremists: Their Words. Their Actions.

In Their Own Words:

We reiterate once again that the brigades will directly target US bases across the region in case the US enemy commits a folly and decides to strike our resistance fighters and their camps [in Iraq].

Abu Ali al-Askari, Kata’ib Hezbollah (KH) Security Official Mar. 2023
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