Eye on Extremism: January 8, 2019

NBC News: Amid Planned Syria Withdrawal, U.S. Scrambling To Find Places To Send ISIS Detainees

“President Trump's surprise announcement that he was pulling the U.S. military out of Syria came with no plan in place for what to do about more than 790 imprisoned ISIS fighters and their families. Now his administration is in a frantic search for solutions, including a renewed look at sending the most dangerous fighters to Guantanamo Bay, U.S. and congressional officials tell NBC News. The scramble has been complicated by the fact that the timeline for the planned U.S. withdrawal keeps evolving, with Trump and his aides giving shifting descriptions of how fast the troops are leaving. The ISIS detainees are being held in Syria by U.S.-backed Kurdish forces, who have warned they may have to let the ISIS fighters go if a feared onslaught by Turkish forces occurs.”

The New York Times: Iran Has Held U.S. Navy Veteran Since July, Family Says

“Iran has been holding an American Navy veteran in prison on unspecified charges since late July, when he was seized while visiting an Iranian girlfriend, his mother said Monday. The imprisonment of the veteran, Michael R. White, 46, from Imperial Beach, Calif., could further complicate relations between the United States and Iran. Tension between the countries worsened substantially after President Trump renounced the nuclear accord with Iran last May and reimposed severe sanctions. At least three other American citizens, two of them of Iranian descent, have been incarcerated in Iran for years. Another American has been missing in Iran for more than a decade. Mr. White’s mother, Joanne White, said in a telephone interview that he had been set to return from Iran via Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates, on July 27, but never boarded his flight.”

The National: Eyeing Greater Bargaining Power, Tahrir Al Sham Seizes Wider Slices Of Syria’s North

“Al Qaeda-linked militants in Syria are strengthening their grip on territory in western Aleppo’s rebel-held countryside, nearly 18 months after taking most of the neighbouring province of Idlib. The Hayat Tahrir Al Sham alliance, Syria’s strongest and largest militant group, is trying to consolidate its hold on more of the rebel-held north for leverage in any talks with interested parties, including Turkey and Russia, analysts say. “The more territory Tahrir Al Sham seizes in northern Syria, the stronger its hand will be in future negotiations,” said Nawar Oliver, a Syria specialist at the Omran Centre in Turkey. “Power comes from control of territory so they are in need of this territory.” Turkey is the most involved player in these parts of northern Syria. It established observation posts there and supports rebels near its own southern border.”

Foreign Affairs: Withdrawing From Syria Leaves A Vacuum That Iran Will Fill

“One of President Trump’s final foreign policy decisions of 2018 was also among his most controversial: the withdrawal of the remaining 2,000 U.S. troops from Syria. The order was an astonishing reversal of U.S. policy, and it raised concerns among Washington national security professionals that the Kurds—who have served as U.S. allies in the fight against the Islamic State, or ISIS—will suffer losses while the Assad regime, Russia, and Turkey gain. This weekend, the president’s national security advisor, John Bolton, seemingly reversed course again, announcing that U.S. forces would remain in Syria until ISIS was defeated and the Turks provided guarantees that they wouldn’t strike the Kurds. The actor who perhaps benefits above all others from the administration’s back and forth on Syria is Iran. An American withdrawal would provide the Iranians with the operational space to expand their growing network of Shiite foreign fighters, who can be mobilized and moved throughout the Middle East.”

NBC News: Ohio Man Gets Nearly 4-Year Sentence For Beating Black Man During Charlottesville Rally

“An Ohio man was sentenced Monday to just under four years in prison for his role in the beating of a black man the day of a white nationalist rally in Virginia. Daniel Borden was sentenced to 20 years, but most of that sentence was suspended. His active sentence amounts to three years and 10 months. Borden, of Huber Heights, Ohio, was one of four men charged in the Aug. 12, 2017, beating of DeAndre Harris in Charlottesville. Last year, Borden entered an Alford plea to malicious wounding. The plea means Borden did not admit guilt, but acknowledged prosecutors had enough evidence to convict him. WVIR-TV in Charlottesville reports that during his sentencing hearing Monday, Borden told the judge he is not a bigot and is remorseful. He also apologized to Harris, who was not in the courtroom.”

The Express: Social Media Is Killing Off the EU - Activists Getting Organised Online

“A SURGE of organised online activity by right-wing extremists has been blamed for hijacking EU support for a United Nations migration pact that was years in the making. Analysis of social media activity shows a coordinated campaign by far-right activists pressurised mainstream European parties to drop support for the UN Global Compact for Migration. The activists included anti-Islam, far-right and neo-Nazi sympathisers, who fuelled a surge in social media activity about the pact from September last year. Until then the pact, which marks the first time the world body has agreed on a list of global measures to cover all dimensions of international migration, had garnered little attention, according to analysis by academic researchers. The burst of activity, including tweets, videos and online petitions, prompted politicians in several countries to take notice of the previously uncontroversial pact and revise their view, respected politics website Politico reports.”

United States

The Wall Street Journal: John Bolton, In Turkey, Set To Navigate Tough Diplomatic Terrain

“President Trump’s national security adviser is likely to face an icy reception in Ankara on Tuesday over his remarks that a U.S. withdrawal from Syria is contingent on whether Turkey can guarantee the safety of the Kurdish forces across its border. The comments by John Bolton, calling on the Turks to commit to the safety and security of U.S.-allied Kurdish rebel groups in Syria, angered the government in Ankara, which has insisted for years that Syria’s Kurdish rebel groups are terrorists and pose an existential threat. On Monday, pro-government daily newspaper Yeni Safak carried a front-page photo of Mr. Bolton with a banner headline saying: “Who are you?” Mr. Bolton, who arrived in the Turkish capital on Monday, is scheduled to meet with top Turkish officials in the hope of laying the groundwork for America’s exit from Syria.”

Reuters: White House Says Trump Position Unchanged As Syria Withdrawal Plans Slow

“The White House sought to make the case on Monday that President Donald Trump had not changed his position on withdrawing U.S. troops from Syria, a day after his national security adviser outlined conditions for a withdrawal that could take months. Trump’s abrupt announcement last month that he was bringing home the roughly 2,000 troops in Syria, saying they had succeeded in their mission to defeat Islamic State there, sparked concern among officials in Washington and allies abroad and prompted Defense Secretary Jim Mattis to resign. In recent days, Trump administration officials have applied the brakes, making clear the withdrawal will not happen quickly. The president himself said last week that the United States would get out of Syria slowly “over a period of time.” “The president hasn’t changed his position, as he mentioned his primary goal is to ensure the safety of our troops and the safety of our allies as well,” White House spokeswoman Mercedes Schlapp told Fox News on Monday. “And so the Department of Defense will come up with its operational plan to safely withdraw our troops.” “It takes time to take the troops out because we want to make sure that our troops are safe in this process,” she said.”

FOX News: Son Of American Missing In Iran Since 2007 Pleas For His Return

“If he's alive, retired FBI agent Robert “Bob” Levinson remains the longest-held American hostage in history – having disappeared in Iranian territory almost 12 years ago. But there's no "if" in the eyes of his children, who refuse to give up hope and are convinced he's very much alive, and being held by the Iranian regime. “He is being held against his will, with no human rights or access to his family,” David Levinson, 31, told Fox News in an interview last week. “It’s inconceivable that, almost 12 years later, we have no answers. The Iranian government knows what happened to my father and needs to send him now. We continue to push for more action by our government, and awareness of his case worldwide.” Despite unconfirmed reports their father died in Iranian custody, his family believes he is “alive and trying every day to come home.” The last affirmed proof of life emerged in late 2011, with photos of him donning an orange jumpsuit. Despite those images, Iranian officials have insisted they have no knowledge of him, and are not holding him as a political prisoner.”

Syria

The Wall Street Journal: Foreign Fighters Are Held In Syria As Home Countries Refuse Their Return

“The capture of five foreign fighters, including two Americans, by U.S.-backed forces battling Islamic State in Syria is spotlighting a long-simmering problem: Countries are largely refusing to repatriate hundreds of such militants held there. The Syrian Democratic Forces on Sunday said they captured the foreign fighters as part of a monthslong campaign backed by U.S.-led coalition airstrikes to defeat the militant group in its last territorial pocket in Syria’s east. One of the Americans came from Texas and applied to become an English teacher with Islamic State, researchers from the Program on Extremism at George Washington University said. Thousands of foreign fighters joined Islamic State as the militant group took over swaths of Syria and Iraq starting in mid-2014. In the past two years, however, the group has suffered heavy military defeats and its self-declared caliphate has been sharply reduced. Around 800 foreign fighters are held at prisons under the SDF’s supervision, Kurdish officials said. Additionally, hundreds of foreign women who were married to Islamic State members and their children are held at various camps.”

The Hill: Military Approves 'Conditions-Based' Syria Withdrawal Plan

“The U.S.-led coalition fighting the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has approved a now-in-motion plan for withdrawing U.S. troops from Syria that “is conditions-based” with no timeline, according to a Pentagon spokesman. Operation Inherent Resolve (OIR) “has an approved framework for the withdrawal of forces from Syria, and is now engaged in executing that withdrawal,” Cmdr. Sean Robertson said in a statement. “That framework is conditions-based and will not subject troop withdrawal to an arbitrary timeline. The framework will be influenced by a number of factors, including weather.” The statement is the latest update of the planned length of the drawdown, which has been stretched out since President Trump first announced on Dec. 19 that he ordered troops to begin leaving Syria and said that they were “coming back now.” Administration officials said at the time that he ordered forces to begin leaving Syria in 30 days.”

The Independent: ISIS Emboldened By Trump Withdrawing US Troops From Syria, Say Western Officials

“Isis, defending its last strongholds in Syria, has been emboldened to carry out counter-attacks like the one which injured two British SAS soldiers this weekend, by Donald Trump declaring that he is pulling out US forces out of the country, western officials say. The president’s announcement of the Syrian withdrawal, after claiming victory over Isis, and the parallel drawdown in Afghanistan, were the key reasons behind the resignations of defence secretary James Mattis and Pentagon chief of staff Kevin Sweeney, as well as Brett McGurk, Washington’s envoy to the international coalition fighting Isis. Mr Trump’s decision has led to grave concerns among US allies, including Britain, which have forces in Syria. His national security advisor, John Bolton, on a visit to Israel – a country which fears US forces leaving would spread Iranian hegemony in Syria – maintained that the withdrawal would not take place until Isis is defeated and that it would not put America’s partners at risk.”

Reuters: Suicide Bomber Hits Kurdish-Run Base In Syria: IS

“Islamic State said one of its suicide bombers killed some people on Monday at a military base in Syria’s Raqqa city, which is under control of a U.S.- backed and Kurdish-led militia. The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), led by Kurds, said a militant blew himself up in a blast that killed one civilian and injured several of its fighters. Though the SDF did not say where the blast took place, two Raqqa residents reached by Reuters said they heard an explosion in a central district of the city housing military offices.”

Iran

The Washington Post: Washington Post Journalist Jason Rezaian And Family To Testify In Federal Lawsuit Against Iran

“Three years after his release from a Tehran prison, Washington Post journalist Jason Rezaian is set to testify in federal court Tuesday that he was taken hostage and psychologically tortured by the Iranian government to extract U.S. concessions before the 2016 implementation of a historic pact limiting Iran’s nuclear program. Rezaian, 43, and family members are expected to take the witness stand and provide the most detailed public accounting yet of his 18 months in captivity, from 2014 to 2016 and the two-month imprisonment of his wife, Yeganeh Salehi. Rezaian was The Post’s correspondent in Tehran from 2012 to 2016 and is now a writer for its Global Opinions section. His federal lawsuit seeks millions of dollars in damages from Iran and alleges that he was targeted for arrest to “extort” the U.S. government in the multinational talks and told by Iranian officials that he and his wife had “value” for a prisoner swap. U.S. District Judge Richard J. Leon of Washington, D.C., scheduled up to two days of testimony by Rezaian, his brother, Ali Rezaian, their mother, Mary Rezaian, doctors and other experts documenting injuries and other effects during and after the correspondent’s arrest, trial and conviction in Iran on espionage and related charges.”

The Washington Times: 2018: A Momentous Year For The Iranian Resistance

“2018 was a momentous year for the Islamic Republic of Iran, and specifically the Iranian Resistance or the People’s Mujahadeen of Iran (PMOI). After the disastrous betrayal by the Obama administration during the 2009 uprisings, and the follow-on enabling of the mullah’s terror machine by Valerie Jarret and the gang, the arrival of the Trump’s administration’s policy to reverse Iran’s attempted hegemony in the Middle East and its nuclear agenda have been a Godsend to the effort to bring down the murderous regime. The clear-eyed policies of the Trump White House are a welcome change to all who value freedom and a peaceful world. The PMOI has taken full advantage of the reversal and has stirred a vast uprising across the Iranian countryside, with more than 1,000 resistance units participating in all cities. The regime has counteracted with terrible repression but the PMOI/MEK persists in its efforts to bring democracy and tolerant Islam to Iran.”

The Los Angeles Times: Iran Arrests Demographers, The Latest Target Amid An Escalating Crackdown On Academics And Activists

“Academics with foreign ties living in Iran are on alert following the arrest of a demographer whose research led her to question the country’s decision to urge people to have more children. Meimanat Hosseini-Chavoshi, who is a citizen of both Iran and Australia, was arrested in November while she tried to leave and is accused of being a spy, according to Kayhan, Iran’s conservative newspaper. Her colleague, Mohammad Jalal Abbasi-Shavazi, a demographics professor at Tehran University and director of Iran’s National Institute of Population Research, was detained shortly after by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard and interrogated about his work on population growth and fertility, the semiofficial Fars News Agency reported. Authorities allege that the two demographers falsified statistics about the fertility rate in Iran to mask the country’s “population crisis,” Iranian state media have reported. The government contends there is a coming population shortage and has been pushing to increase the fertility rate.”

The Guardian: Iran Digging 'Diplomatic Grave' Over Zaghari-Ratcliffe, Says Thornberry

“Iran is digging its own diplomatic grave by punishing the jailed British-Iranian woman Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe after it cut both her food rations and access to medical treatment for a lump on her breast, the shadow foreign secretary, Emily Thornberry, has said. The family of the 40-year-old, who has been detained in Iran since 2016, said last week that she intended to begin a hunger strike on Monday 14 January alongside her fellow inmate and human rights activist Narges Mohammadi. The two women have been requesting medical treatment promised to them by a prison doctor, but denied by the Iranian prison authorities. Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s weekly Sunday phonecall with her husband, Richard Ratcliffe, has since been cut as well as her medical rations. Alistair Burt, the Middle East minister, who was speaking in the Commons on Monday, insisted her access to medicines was of “supreme importance” to the UK, and said pressure was being applied on the Iranian government to allow British officials consular access to her in prison. He said Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s release may change perceptions of Iran.”

Press TV: Iran Security Chief: US Suffered Strategic Defeat In Syria

“Iran's security chief says the United States has been forced to decide to leave Syria because it has suffered a strategic defeat there, and that Washington will ultimately have no choice but to leave the whole region. Last month, President Donald Trump made an abrupt announcement to withdraw the roughly 2,000 American troops from Syria, claiming that the US had accomplished its goal of defeating Daesh. Secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council Ali Shamkhani, however, said, "The US has had no role in defeating Daesh in Syria and has suffered defeat in its strategy there." "In 2019, America's compulsory withdrawal from our region will begin and in the future, they will be forced to start their pullout from the Persian Gulf," the official told an international seminar on defense and security in West Asia that was held in Tehran on Monday.”

Iraq

NPR: A U.S. Commander Went For A Rare Stroll In Baghdad. Many Iraqis Just Shrugged

“It had been years since anyone had seen an American military commander walking around the streets of downtown Baghdad. So when Marine Brig. Gen. Austin Renforth went with his Iraqi counterpart for a tour of the city's most crowded neighborhoods on Friday, it wasn't clear what kind of reception he would get. Sixteen years after the United States and its coalition partners invaded Iraq, most Iraqis still blame the U.S. for disbanding the Iraqi army and for the security vacuum and devastating civil war that followed. For most of the past decade, U.S. forces have been largely confined to Iraqi bases — mostly out of sight and out of mind for Iraqi civilians. But the country's military commanders have relied on American, as well as Iranian, support to help fight ISIS and improve security in the Iraqi capital and elsewhere. "People think Baghdad is not secure," Iraqi Lt. Gen. Jalil Jabbar al-Rubaie told NPR, the only news organization along for the walk. He invited Renforth to sit next to him on plastic chairs set up in the middle of a traffic circle in the teeming Shorja district. "No — Baghdad is secure and very normal. It is my pleasure for any people to visit Baghdad and walk in the street.”

Turkey

The New York Times: Erdogan: Trump Is Right On Syria. Turkey Can Get The Job Done.

“President Trump made the right call to withdraw from Syria. The United States withdrawal, however, must be planned carefully and performed in cooperation with the right partners to protect the interests of the United States, the international community and the Syrian people. Turkey, which has NATO’s second largest standing army, is the only country with the power and commitment to perform that task. In 2016, Turkey became the first country to deploy ground combat troops to fight the so-called Islamic State in Syria. Our military incursion severed the group’s access to NATO’s borders and impeded their ability to carry out terror attacks in Turkey and Europe. Unlike coalition operations in Raqqa and Mosul, which relied heavily on airstrikes that were carried out with little or no regard for civilian casualties, Turkish troops and fighters of the Free Syrian Army went door to door to root out insurgents in Al Bab, a former stronghold of the so-called Islamic State.”

Afghanistan

Voice Of America: Taliban Raid, Market Blast Kill More Than 30 In Afghanistan

“More than 30 people, mostly pro-government forces, were killed in Afghanistan when Taliban insurgents stormed security outposts and a bomb blast ripped through a busy market, officials confirmed Monday. The Taliban staged coordinated raids in two districts of northwestern Badghis province late Sunday, killing 21 Afghan soldiers and police personnel. The attack also injured nine security forces, Abdul Aziz Beg, head of the provincial council told VOA. A provincial government spokesman, Jamshid Shahabi, confirmed the overnight attacks, saying government forces killed 15 assailants and injured 10 others. A Taliban spokesman, Qari Yousaf Ahmadi, claimed its fighters killed more than 32 Afghan forces and seized a large quantity of weapons. The insurgent group usually issues inflated battlefield claims. Meanwhile, a bomb went off Monday in a busy market in eastern Paktika province, killing at least 10 people and injuring 13 others, said provincial police and health officials.”

Yemen

Arab News: Houthis Destroy Relief Aid Depots In Hodeidah

“The Houthi militia has bombed storehouses of relief organizations in Hodeidah, which contained food and basic goods to be distributed to the Yemeni people, UAE state news agency WAM has reported. The militia deliberately attacked these storage depots, located 7 kilometers east of Hodeidah, to hide their raids in which they looted humanitarian aid intended for Yemenis, local eyewitnesses said. Dr. Abdulraqeeb Fath, the Yemeni Minister of Local Administration and the Chairman of the High Committee for Relief in Yemen, said the Houthis were responsible for the worsening humanitarian conditions in the country and that they sold the stolen items for profit. The United Nations World Food Programme (UNWFP) supported the accusations, and accused the Houthis of disrupting the distribution of humanitarian support in the conflict-ridden country.”

The Hill: Central Command: US Conducted 36 Strikes Against Al Qaeda, ISIS In Yemen In 2018

“The U.S. military conducted 36 airstrikes against terrorist groups in Yemen in 2018, Central Command said Monday. The figure is a significant drop from 2017’s 120-plus airstrikes, which was a spike from previous years. The strikes were conducted against al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and Yemen’s branch of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in the governorates of Abyan, al Bayda, Hadramawt, Shabwah and Zamakh. According to the release, 2018 began with 10 airstrikes against both AQAP and ISIS in January. The remaining 26 strikes were all against AQAP and break down into six in February, seven in March, four in April, two in May, two in June, two in July, one in August and two in September.”

Asharq Al-Awsat: Saudi Yemen Ambassador: We Won’t Allow Houthis To Become New Hezbollah

“Saudi Ambassador to Yemen Mohammed bin Saeed Al-Jaber stressed on Monday that the Kingdom supports the political process in the war-torn country and will not allow it to become a “new Somalia.” Speaking from Riyadh, he warned that the Iran-backed Houthi militias must not become a “new Hezbollah” on Saudi borders. “We hope the political course will succeed and believe that it is the solution,” he added. The Houthis have however been stalling in implementing the recently agreed ceasefire that was reached in Sweden in December, said Jaber. The militias are known for reneging on all agreements, he remarked. “We are confronted with a gang and terrorist group. Military and political pressure have been exerted on it to return to political dialogue. It is now standing before a real test to withdraw from Hodeidah and its three ports and restore control to the legitimacy forces,” he stressed.”

The National: Arab Coalition Warns Houthis Are Not Committed To Sweden Peace Deal

“Yemen's Houthi rebels show no intentions of implementing the UN-brokered ceasefire deal in Hodeidah, the Arab Coalition supporting the government said on Monday. The government said there would be no further negotiations with the rebels until they acted on the agreement reached at UN-brokered talks in Sweden last month. Colonel Turki Al Malki, coalition spokesman, said the rebels were breaching the ceasefire in the port city of Hodeidah by continuously bombing mosques and targeting government forces. "The Houthis have no intention of implementing the Swedish peace deal and have violated the agreement 368 times," he said. The talks in Sweden saw a breakthrough when warring parties agreed on a ceasefire in Hodeidah, which went into effect on December 18, as well as the withdrawal of all forces from the area.”

Arab News: Yemeni Army Forces Take Down Iran-Built Houthi Military Aircraft West Of Al-Jouf Province

“Yemen’s army shot down a Houthi military aircraft west of Al-Jouf province on Tuesday, Saudi state news channel Al-Ekhbariya reported. A statement issued on the Yemeni Ministry of Defense’s official website ‘September Net’ read that “the military forces shot down a plane carrying explosives this morning in the Masloub Directorate, and after examining the wreckage it was found to be made in Iran.” Also, eight Houthi militants were killed and others wounded by government forces after trying to infiltrate Yemeni army positions in the same province.”

Middle East

Times Of Israel: The Former ‘First Lady Of ISIS’ Now Loves Reform Jews, Plans To Visit Jerusalem

“Less than six years ago, the British-born Muslim Tania Joya was living in Syria with her husband, an American-born convert to Islam who was becoming an increasingly influential figure in the circles of Islamic State. Next week, she will be giving a talk about “countering the forces of violent extremism” at Temple Shalom, a Reform synagogue in Dallas, Texas. As far as Joya knows, her ex, the former Greek Orthodox Christian John Georgelas who for 17 years has gone under the name of Yahya al-Bahrumi, is still active in Syria with Islamic State, where he is said to head the jihadi terror group’s English-language propaganda operation and to be its most senior American recruit. For her part, Joya has renounced Islam, is becoming increasingly attracted to Jewish customs and rituals, took her sons to help decorate the sukka at Temple Shalom a few months ago, and says she intends to come to Jerusalem.”

Middle East Monitor: Lebanon, Iraq, Jordan To Submit Proposal For Syria’s Return To Arab League

“A tripartite proposal prepared by Lebanon, Iraq and Jordan will be presented at a meeting of permanent representatives of the Arab League’s member countries to discuss ways to allow Syria to return to the Arab League, Lebanese sources said. The proposal, which will be put forward tomorrow, enjoys Egypt’s support. According to the sources, Lebanese Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil aims to turn the economic summit which is to be held in Beirut in to “a summit of reconciliation with Damascus”. Earlier, Bassil said that Lebanon will not invite Syria to the meeting, in adherence with the Arab League decision, but Lebanon can initiate and work for Syria’s return to the League. On Monday, Lebanese President Michel Aoun received minister Al-Azhar Al-Qarawi Al-Shabi, the personal representative of the Tunisian president who handed him an official invitation to participate in the Arab Summit scheduled for 31 March. According to media reports, Beirut has recently made intensive contacts to push for Syrian regime President Bashar Al-Assad to be invited to the planned economic summit.”

Egypt

Associated Press: Egypt To Keep Gaza Crossing Closed After Hamas Takeover

“Egypt will keep its crossing with the Gaza Strip closed to departures from the Palestinian enclave after the Palestinian Authority withdrew its officials amid disagreements with Hamas. The Gaza’s Interior Ministry, controlled by the militant group Hamas, said Monday that Egyptian officials notified them that the crossing would only be open to those entering the Gaza Strip. Hamas handed over control of the Rafah crossing to the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority as part of a 2017 reconciliation deal. But on Sunday the Palestinian Authority withdrew its personnel from the crossing. The withdrawal came as tensions are building between Hamas and President Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah party. The Palestinian Authority said Hamas arrested border officials and Fatah supporters in Gaza to prevent them from holding a rally marking the movement’s founding anniversary.”

Somalia

All Africa: Somalia: Somali Military Court Executes Two Al-Shabaab Militants

“The two al-Shabaab assassins were convicted for the murder of a traditional elder in Mogadishu. The assassins identified as Ali Hassan 25, and Abdirahman Isse Ali 22 were reportedly caught red-handed to the police after they killed elder Hilowle Heefow Hussein. Judges of Somali military court said Ali and Hassan who are members of the armed group al-Shabaab were convicted of killing Hussein in Wadajir district last year. The Deputy Chairperson of Somali military court, Mohamed Abdi Mumin who was present at the scene of an execution in Mogadishu on Monday morning said the court found sufficient evidence to support the charges leveled against the two.”

China

The Wall Street Journal: Beijing’s Curious Silence On The Syria Withdrawal

“One of the more troubling yardsticks by which to measure President Trump’s decision to withdraw U.S. forces from Syria was the gratification it seemed to offer American adversaries. Russian President Vladimir Putin called the decision “correct,” and senior Iranian regime cleric Ayatollah Hassan Ameli asserted that it “hands [Syria] to Iran.” The state-run media of Syria’s Assad regime gloated predictably. Conspicuously quiet on the matter, however, was the country the U.S. increasingly regards as its chief rival—China. Beijing’s silence reveals how much, for all its bluster, it continues to rely on the U.S.-led international order to secure its own interests. Across Asia, the Middle East and beyond, China has embarked on a massive program of infrastructure investment and other commercial activity which it calls the Belt and Road Initiative.”

United Kingdom

The Sun: Brit Tourist Escaped ISIS Killers Who Murdered Two Hikers By Telling The Jihadists He Was Muslim

“A BRIT tourist was targeted by IS fanatics before they killed two hikers in Morocco but escaped with his life by telling them he was Muslim. The four jihadists were looking to kill Western tourists in the remote Atlas Mountains when they spotted the elderly Brit walking downhill. They befriended him then asked him what religion he was. He told them he was Muslim and they allowed him on his way. An hour later on December 16 the Moroccan men spotted Maren Ueland, 28, from Norway, and her Danish friend Louisa Jespersen, 24. They killed both. One was beheaded on video. Morocco counter-terror chief Abdelhak Khiam  revealed arrested suspects told them of the Brit. He said: “We don’t know if he was really Muslim or just scared of the guys with beards.”

BBC News: Oxford Street Terror Plotter Says 'I'm Not Dangerous'

“A man who planned to kill 100 people in a London terror attack said he tried to convince the authorities he was not dangerous in order to get a passport. Lewis Ludlow, 27, from Rochester in Kent, was stopped in February from travelling to the Philippines and his passport was later cancelled. He told the Old Bailey he was then told to set off a truck bomb by an Islamic State (IS) commander. Ludlow pleaded guilty in August to preparing acts of terrorism. Ludlow told the court he had attended a moderate religious event to keep officers from the de-radicalisation Prevent scheme "happy." He also said he attended a meditation session with non-extremists on the same day he carried out attack reconnaissance on Oxford Street because "I wanted to get a new passport to leave the country.”

Germany

The Jerusalem Post: Exclusive: Paypal Closes Nazi Party Account Linked To Hezbollah, Assad, BDS

“The US-based online payment service PayPal has shut the account of The Third Way, a neo-Nazi party, after a series of Jerusalem Post articles revealed the German group’s links to Hezbollah, Syrian President Bashar Assad and support for the anti-Israel boycott, sanctions and divestment movement. The PayPal donation section on Der Dritte Weg (the Third Way) website currently states: “This recipient is currently unable to receive money.” In May 2017, the Post reported that the website of the Third Way published a report in April on a visit by its members to Lebanon to champion Hezbollah’s war against Israel. Members of the extremist group can be viewed on their website visiting the Hezbollah propaganda museum called Where the Land Speaks to the Heavens in the village of Mleeta in southern Lebanon. Kai Zimmermann, a senior leader of Der Dritte Weg, posed next to a plaque reading, “No, Israel is not invincible.” The neo-Nazi group labeled Israel a “terror state” on its website.”

Europe

Radio Liberty: Terrorism Trial Opens In Sweden Against Six Uzbek, Kyrgyz Men

“Six Uzbek and Kyrgyz nationals living in Sweden have gone on trial in Stockholm accused of transferring funds to the extremist group Islamic State (IS). Three of the Central Asian men are also charged with plotting an attack in the Scandinavian country. The first day of the trial took place at the Stockholm district court's high-security chamber on January 7, with the defendants sitting behind a bulletproof-glass wall. The suspects were identified in court documents as Uzbek nationals Akromion Ergashev, Bakhtior Umarov, Gulom Tadjiyev, Shoahmad Mahmudov, and David Idrisson. The Kyrgyz suspect was identified as Atabek Abdullayev. Abdullayev, Idrisson, and Umarov are accused of acquiring chemicals and other equipment, including bayonets and radio headsets, with the intent of "killing and harming other people," the charge sheet read.”

Financing of Terrorism

Al-Ain: Iran's Militant Groups Continue To Steal Iraqi Money

“Despite the directives of Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi to close the economic offices of the Iran-backed al-Hashd al-Shaabi, they are still collecting money and imposing royalties on the residents of Mosul and other cities liberated from ISIS. They also detonate the property of anyone refusing to pay the royalties. In the footsteps of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and under its direct supervision, al-Hashd al-Shaabi-affiliated groups, especially the Asa'ib Ahl al-Haq, Hezbollah Brigades, al-Nujaba Movement, Badr Organization, Ansar al-Hijja, Jund al-Imam, Imam Ali Brigades, and other militant groups continue to control the Iraqi economy and generate financial resources by collecting money, imposing royalties on Iraqis, smuggling crude oil and drugs, and laundering money. Inside information obtained from these militant organizations claims that they rake in more than $1 billion per month.”

ISIS

Sout Al-Omma: Egypt: Trial Of 30 Persons Accused Of Forming And Financing An ISIS Cell In Alexandria

“Chaired by Judge Hassan Farid, the Cairo Criminal Court is expected today to complete the trial of 30 young defendants on charges of forming a terrorist group espousing ISIS takfiri ideology. The suspects face charges of forming and financing an ISIS cell aimed at launching hostile attacks in Alexandria. It’s noteworthy that Egypt's Public Prosecutor, Counsellor Nabil Sadek, had previously ordered the referral of the 30 defendants to the State Supreme Security Criminal Emergency Court on terror-related charges in reference to case No. 147 of 2018. All of these suspect militants were accused of forming a terrorist group embracing the ideology ISIS and supporting it with money, weapons, and explosives, as well as providing its members with information and safe havens. The suspects face additional charges of assaulting churches, Christian citizens and public utilities, as well as undergoing military training in ISIS-affiliated camps in Syria and Libya.”

Muslim Brotherhood

Seventh Day: Expert Accuses Intellectuals Of Helping Muslim Brotherhood Spread Its Sinister Ideology

“Ibrahim Rabia, a former leader of the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood and present-time researcher on Islamic movements, explicitly accused a number of prominent intellectuals of aiding the outlawed group in promoting its "dark and extremist ideology" within Egyptian society. Rabia called upon those intellectuals, who pander to the interests of the banned Islamist organization at the expense of the interests of the state, to adopt an initiative of enlightenment aimed at countering and eradicating dark and radical ideologies in society. The researcher maintained that the Muslim Brotherhood, since its inception, has infiltrated society by exploiting a sizable number of distinguished scholars. He described these intellectuals as off-course traders who are selling {their wares} and disseminating smoke bombs to divert public attention away from the malicious nature of this group.”

Houthi

News Yemen: Houthis Turn Looted Humanitarian Relief Into One Of Their Foremost Sources Of Funding

“The Houthi group, Iran's proxy in Yemen, has turned relief received from United Nations agencies and international organizations into one of the most important sources of funding its armed activities against the Yemeni people. International relief aid to Yemen constitutes the second-ranked funding source for the Houthis' activities after the {top-ranked} oil derivatives trade. A source familiar with the matter said that the Houthis provided a list to the World Food Program containing the names of 1.25 million state employees and another 1.5 million Yemenis, who are registered in Social Security as {eligible} beneficiaries. The Program, in turn, is distributing to each of them a monthly food basket.”