Iraq-Based Komala Party Describes the Struggle for Iranian Kurdistan

Andrew McGregor

April 24, 2009

The leader of an armed Kurdish-Iranian opposition group recently described his group’s continuing struggle for an autonomous Iranian Kurdistan and his views on the future of the Islamist Shi’a regime in Tehran. Details were provided in an interview with Abdullah Mohtadi, the secretary-general of the Komala Party (the short form for the group’s full name, Komalay Shoreshgeri Zahmatkeshani Kurdistani Iran – The Revolutionary Organization of the Toilers of Kurdistan), who spoke from al-Sulaymaniya in Kurdish northern Iraq (al-Sharq al-Awsat, April 1).

Komala 1Iraqi Kurdistan (UNPO)

The party was formed in 1969 by Ibrahim Alizadeh to promote an autonomous status for the Kurdish community in Iran. The group took up arms in 1979 as one of a number of leftist groups to oppose the Shah. Since then it has focused on creating an autonomous Kurdish region based on the northwestern Iranian provinces of Kurdistan, Ilam, Kermanshan and Western Azerbaijan, all of which have significant Kurdish populations, as well as Assyrian and Armenian minorities. The four provinces roughly cover the area included in the short-lived Kurdish Republic of Mahabad (1946).

Komala was driven out of Iran and into Iraq in 1983, where they were initially greeted coldly by the Ba’athist regime, though they were later accepted by Baghdad as a card that could be played against Iran. This did not prevent the group from being attacked with artillery and poison gas during Saddam’s anti-Kurdish Anfal campaign in 1988-89. Today Komala has split into a smaller Communist faction intent on preserving the group’s original Marxist-Leninist orientation and a larger and more moderate socialist faction led by Abdullah Mohtadi.

Inside Iran, the party led a brief rebellion in the largely Kurdish city of Mahabad in 2005 but backed down when it realized the revolt was incapable of toppling the regime and would only bring heavy reprisals (Jerusalem Post, August 23, 2007). As a result of this experience, the movement remains an armed force but concentrates on political activities. Estimates of the number of available fighters range from 200 to 1,000. Komala fighters and officials are based in the Kara Dagh mountains outside the Kurdish city of al-Sulaymaniya in northern Iraq.

Secretary General Mohtadi views the creation of a “Greater Kurdistan” or even secession from Iran as “unrealistic,” preferring the establishment of a “democratic, secular, federal Iran” (, July 3, 2007). The party blames Tehran for a host of ills in Iranian Kurdistan, including “the military occupation of Kurdistan, widespread poverty… the suppression of Kurdish culture, drug addiction, religious suppression, forced migration, imprisonment, terror, torture, and the killing of whoever opposes these tyrannical policies” (

Komala 2Abdullah Mohtadi with Komala Guerrillas

While Mohtadi urged Komala splinter groups to return to the mainstream party during the al-Sharq al-Aswsat interview, he also condemned the activities of the better-known Parti bo Jiyani Azadi la Kurdistan (Party for a Free Life in Kurdistan – PJAK); “PJAK is the other face of the PKK [Kurdistan Workers Party]. It is not an independent party and was not established by the true Kurdish people in Iran. It does not serve the interests of the Kurdish liberation movement…”

Mohtadi opposes the methods and objectives of his fellow leftists in the PKK:

“The problem with the PKK… I mean, the Kurdish toilers have every right to fight for their rights and their freedom. But the PKK as an organization is not reliable. They are very fanatic in their nationalism. They are very undemocratic in nature. They have no principles. I mean, they can deal with Satan. They can fight the Kurds… They have fought the Kurds much more than they have fought the Turks. When you study the history of the PKK, you find out that they have been against every single Kurdish movement in every part of Kurdistan. At the same time they have had good friendly relations with all the states where the Kurds live, where the oppressed live” (, July 3, 2007).

Komala demanded the overthrow of the Tehran regime in a 2006 manifesto signed by two other Kurdish-Iranian groups, but Mohtadi says the movement no longer wishes to “repeat the Iraqi scenario in Iran by overthrowing the regime.” The Komala leader views the Iraqi decision to expel the Iranian opposition group Mojahedin-e Khalq (MeK) with some alarm, not through any common ideology or objectives, but as a possible precursor to the expulsion of the Iranian-Kurdish opposition groups based in northern Iraq. Mohtadi used the interview to remind Baghdad of the strategic importance of these groups; “The Kurdish forces constitute huge pressure cards against Iran. If these cards are lost, the Iraqi government will not have anything with which to bargain with Iran.” When the Iranian regime “inevitably” collapses, the Iranian-Kurdish opposition groups will have a strong presence on the ground.

Mohtadi maintains that the Iranian reformers led by former President Mohammad Khatami have little chance of taking power after the coming elections in Iran because of the support the current regime has from the armed forces, the Revolutionary Guards, the Basiji paramilitary and the intelligence and security services.


This article first appeared in the April 24, 2009 issue of the Jamestown Foundation’s Terrorism Monitor

Strange Days on the Red Sea Coast: A New Theater for the Israel-Iran Conflict?

Andrew McGregor

April 3, 2009

Over the last few months, the strategically important African Red Sea coast has suddenly become the focal point of rumors involving troop-carrying submarines, ballistic missile installations, desert-dwelling arms smugglers, mysterious airstrikes and unlikely alliances. None of the parties alleged to be involved (including Iran, Israel, Eritrea, Egypt, Sudan, France, Djibouti, Gaza and the United States) have been forthcoming with many details, leaving observers to ponder a tangled web of reality and fantasy. What does appear certain, however, is that the regional power struggle between Israel and Iran has the potential to spread to Africa, unleashing a new wave of political violence in an area already consumed with its own deadly conflicts.

Red SeaIsraeli Air Force F-16I Sufa (Storm)

Airstrike in the Desert

Though an airstrike on a column of 23 vehicles was carried out on January 27 near Mt. Alcanon, in the desert northwest of Port Sudan, news of the attack first emerged in a little-noticed interview carried on March 23 in the Arabic-language Al-Mustaqillah newspaper (see In the interview, Sudanese Transportation Minister Dr. Mabruk Mubarak Salim, the former leader of the Free Lions resistance movement in eastern Sudan, said that aircraft he believed to be French and American had attacked a column of vehicles in Sudan eastern desert after receiving intelligence indicating a group of arms smugglers was transporting arms to Gaza. Dr. Salim’s Free Lions Movement was based on the Rasha’ida Arabs of east Sudan, a nomadic group believed to control smuggling activities along the eastern Egypt-Sudan border.

On March 26, Dr. Salim told al-Jazeera there had been at least two airstrikes, carried out by U.S. warplanes launched from American warships operating in the Red Sea. There was no further mention of the French, who maintain an airbase in nearby Djibouti. After the news broke in the media, Sudanese foreign ministry spokesman Ali al-Sadig issued some clarifications:

The first thought was that it was the Americans that did it. We contacted the Americans and they categorically denied they were involved… We are still trying to verify it. Most probably it involved Israel… We didn’t know about the first attack until after the second one. They were in an area close to the border with Egypt, a remote area, desert, with no towns, no people (Al-Jazeera, March 27).

With the Americans out of the way, suspicion fell on Israel as the source of the attack.

Sudanese authorities later claimed the convoy was carrying not arms, but a large number of migrants from a number of African countries, particularly Eritrea (Al-Sharq al-Awsat, March 27; Sudan Tribune, March 28). According to Foreign Minister Ali al-Sadig; “it is clear that [the attackers] were acting on bad information that the vehicles were carrying arms” (Haaretz, March 27). Dr. Salim claimed the death toll was 800 people, contradicting his earlier claim that the convoy consisted of small trucks carrying arms and that most of those killed were Sudanese, Ethiopians and Eritreans (al-Jazeera, March 26). There was also some confusion about the number of attacks, with initial claims of a further strike on February 11 and a third undated strike on an Iranian freighter in the Red Sea. The latter rumor may have had its source in Dr. Salim’s suggestion that several Rasha’ida fishing boats had been attacked by U.S. and French warplanes. Otherwise, no evidence has been provided to substantiate these claims.

A Hamas leader, Salah al-Bardawil, denied his movement had any knowledge of such arms shipments, pointing to the lack of a common border between Gaza and Sudan as proof “these are false claims” (Al-Jazeera, March 27).

A Smuggling Route to Sinai?

The alleged smuggling route, beginning at Port Sudan, would take the smugglers through 150 miles of rough and notoriously waterless terrain to the Egyptian border and the disputed territory of Hala’ib, currently under Egyptian occupation. From there the route would pass roughly 600 miles through Egypt’s Eastern Desert, a rocky and frequently mountainous wasteland. Criss-crossing the terrain to find a suitable way through could add considerably to the total distance. North of the Egyptian border the Sudanese smugglers would be crossing hundreds of miles of unfamiliar and roadless territory. The alternatives would involve offloading the arms near the border to an Egyptian convoy or making a change of drivers. Anonymous “defense sources” cited by the Times claimed local Egyptian smugglers were engaged to take over the convoy at the Egyptian border “for a fat fee” (The Times, March 29).

Use of the well-patrolled coastal road would obviously be impossible without official Egyptian approval. The other option for the smugglers would be to cut west to the Nile road which passes through hundreds of settled areas and a large number of security checkpoints. The convoy would need to continually avoid security patrols along the border and numerous restricted military zones along the coast. Either Egyptian guides or covert assistance from Egyptian security services would be needed for a 23 vehicle convoy to reach Sinai from the Egyptian border without interference. Once in the Sinai there is little alternative to taking the coastal route to Gaza, passing through one of Egypt’s most militarily sensitive areas, to reach the smuggling tunnels near the border with Gaza.

Water, gasoline, spare parts and other supplies would take up considerable space in the trucks. Provisions would have to be made for securing and transporting the loads of disabled trucks that proved irreparable, particularly if their loads included parts for the Fajr-3 rockets the convoy was alleged to be carrying, without which the other loads might prove unusable. Freeing the trucks from sand (a problem worsened by carrying a heavy load of arms) and making repairs could add days to the trip. The alleged inclusion of Iranian members of the Revolutionary Guard in the convoy would be highly risky – if stopped by Egyptian security forces, every member of the arms convoy would be detained and interrogated (Israeli sources claimed several Iranians were killed in the raid). It would not take long to separate the Iranians from the Arabs, with all the consequences that would follow from the exposure of an Iranian intelligence operation on Egyptian soil.

Of course most of these problems would disappear if Egypt was giving its approval to the arms shipments. But if this was the case, why not send the arms through Syria and by ship to a port near the Gaza border? Ships are the normal vehicle for arms deliveries as massive quantities of arms are usually required to change the military balance in any situation.

Israel’s Haaretz newspaper reported that the arms were “apparently transferred from Iran through the Persian Gulf to Yemen, from there to Sudan and then to Egypt through Sinai and the tunnels under the Egypt Gaza border” and included “various types of missiles, rockets, guns and high-quality explosives” (Haaretz, March 29). The Yemen stage is unexplained; Iranian ships can easily reach Port Sudan without a needless overland transfer of their cargos in Yemen before being reloaded onto ships going to Port Sudan. Looking at this route (the simplest of several proposed by Israeli sources), one can only assume Hamas was in no rush to obtain its weapons.

Reserves Major General Giyora Eiland, a former head of Israel’s National Security Council, alleged the involvement of a number of parties in the Sinai to Gaza arms trade, including “Bedouin and Egyptian army officers who are benefiting from the smuggling.” He then turned to the possibility of arms being shipped through Sudan to Gaza; “Almost all of the weapons are smuggled into Gaza through the Sinai, and some probably by sea. Little comes along this long [Sudan to Gaza] route” (Voice of Israel Network, March 27).

Video footage of the burned-out convoy was supplied to al-Jazeera by Sudanese intelligence sources. The footage shows only small pick-up trucks, largely unsuitable for transporting heavy arms payloads. If Fajr-3 missiles broken down into parts were included in the shipment, there would be little room for other arms (each Fajr-3 missile weighs at least 550 kilograms). Sudanese authorities described finding a quantity of ammunition, several C-4 and AK-47 rifles and a number of mobile phones used for communications by the smugglers. There was no mention of missile parts (El-Shorouk [Cairo], March 24). No evidence has been produced by any party to confirm the origin of the arms allegedly carried by the smugglers’ convoy.

Assessing Responsibility

Citing anonymous “defense sources,” the Times claimed the convoys had been tracked by Mossad, enabling an aerial force of satellite-controlled UAVs to kill “at least 50 smugglers and their Iranian escorts” (The Times [London], March 29). American officials also reported that at least one operative from Iran’s Revolutionary Guards had gone to Sudan to organize the weapons convoy (Haaretz/Reuters, March 27). According to the Times’ sources, the convoy attacks were carried out by Hermes 450 and Eitan model UAVs in what would have been an aviation first – a long distance attack against a moving target carried out solely by a squadron of remote control drones.

U.S.-based Time Magazine entered the fray on March 30 with a report based on information provided by “two highly-placed Israeli security sources.” According to these sources, the United States was informed of the operation in advance but was otherwise uninvolved. Dozens of aircraft were involved in the 1,750 mile mission, refuelling in midair over the Red Sea. Once the target was reached, F15I fighters provided air cover against other aircraft while F16I fighters carried out two runs on the convoy. Drones with high-resolution cameras were used to assess damage to the vehicles.

The American-made F16I “Sufa” aircraft were first obtained by the IAF in 2004. They carry Israeli-made conformal fuel tanks to increase the range of the aircraft and use synthetic aperture radar that enables the aircraft to track ground targets day or night. The older F15I “Ra’am” is an older but versatile model, modified to Israeli specifications.

The entire operation, according to the Israeli sources used by Time, was planned in less than a week to act on Mossad information that Iran was planning to deliver 120 tons of arms and explosives to Gaza, “including anti-tank rockets and Fajr rockets with a 25 mile range” in a 23 truck convoy (though this shipment seems impossibly large for 23 pick-up trucks with a maximum payload capacity of one ton or less – on paved roads). The Israeli sources added that this was the first time the smuggling route through Sudan had been used.

Israeli officials claimed anonymously that the convoy was carrying Fajr-3 rockets capable of reaching Tel Aviv (Sunday Times, March 29; Jerusalem Post, March 29). The Fajr-3 MLRS is basically an updated Katyusha rocket that loses accuracy as it approaches the limit of its 45km range and carries only a small warhead of conventional explosives. It has been suggested that the missiles carried by the convoy “could have changed the game in the conflict between Israel and Palestinian militants,” thus making the attack an imperative for Israel (BBC, March 26). Yet far from being “a game-changer,” the Fajr-3 was already used against Israel by Hezbollah in 2006. It has also been claimed that the Fajr-3 rockets could be used against Israel’s nuclear installation at Dimona, but Israeli officials reported at the start of the year that Hamas already possessed dozens of Fajr-3 rockets (Sunday Times, January 2). Some media accounts have confused the Fajr-3 Multiple Launch Rocket System (MLRS), which would seem to be the weapon in question, with the much larger Fajr-3 medium-range ballistic missile.

Reports of the complete destruction of the entire convoy and all its personnel raise further questions. Desert convoys tend to be long, strung out affairs, not least because it is nearly impossible to drive in the dust of the vehicle ahead. Could an airstrike really kill every single person involved in a strung out convoy without a ground force going in to mop up? UAVs with heat sensors and night vision equipment might have remained in the area to eliminate all survivors, but this seems unnecessary if the arms had already been destroyed. The political risk of leaving Israeli aircraft in the area after the conclusion of a successful attack would not equal the benefit of killing a few drivers and mechanics.

What role did Khartoum play in these events? A pan-Arab daily reported that the United States warned the Sudanese government before the Israeli airstrike that a “third party” was monitoring the arms-smuggling route to Gaza and that such shipments needed to stop immediately (Al-Sharq al-Awsat, March 30). Despite state-level disagreements, U.S. and Sudanese intelligence agencies continue to enjoy a close relationship.

With Sudan under international pressure as a result of the Darfur conflict, Khartoum has sought to renew its relations with Iran. Less than two weeks before the airstrike, Sudanese Defense Minister Abdalrahim Hussein concluded a visit to Tehran to discuss arms sales and training for Sudanese security forces. An Iranian source reported missiles, UAVs, RPGs and other equipment were sought by Sudan (Sudan Tribune, January 20).

An Iranian Base on the Red Sea?

As tensions rise in the region, wild allegations have emerged surrounding the creation of a major Iranian military and naval base in the Eritrean town of Assab on the Red Sea coast. Assab is a small port city of 100,000 people. A small Soviet-built oil refinery at Assab was shut down in 1997. Last November an Eritrean opposition group, the Eritrean Democratic Party, published a report on their website claiming Iran had agreed to revamp the small refinery, adding (without any substantiation) that Iran and Eritrea’s President Isayas Afewerki were planning to control the strategic Bab al-Mandab Straits at the southern entrance to the Red Sea (, November 25, 2008).

Red Sea 2Main Street in Assab: New Iranian Military Base?

A short time later, another Eritrean opposition website elaborated on the original report of a refinery renovation, adding lurid details of Iranian ships and submarines deploying troops and long-range ballistic missiles at a new Iranian military base at Assab. Security was allegedly provided by Iranian UAVs that patrolled the area (, December 10, 2008).

The Israeli MEMRI website then reported that “Eritrea has granted Iran total control of the Red Sea port of Assab,” adding that Iranian submarines had “deployed troops, weapons and long-range missiles… under the pretext of defending the local oil refinery” (MEMRI, December 1, 2008).

The story was further elaborated on by Ethiopian sources (Ethiopia and Eritrea are intense rivals and political enemies). According to one Ethiopian report, Iranian frigates were using Assab as a naval base (Gedab News, January 28). An Ethiopian-based journalist contributed an article to Sudan Tribune in which he again claimed Iranian submarines were delivering troops and long-range missiles to Assab, basing his account on the original report on, which made no such claims (Sudan Tribune, March 30). Israel’s Haaretz noted that Addis Ababa is “a key Mossad base for operations against extremist Islamic groups” in the region, adding that some of the weapons destroyed in the convoy had “reportedly passed through Ethiopia and Eritrea first” (Haaretz, March 27).

Only days ago, a mainstream Tel Aviv newspaper reported that Iran has already finished building a naval base at Assab and had “transferred to this base – by means of ships and submarines – troops, military equipment and long range-ballistic missiles… that can strike Israel.” The newspaper claimed its information was based on reports from Eritrean opposition members, diplomats and aid organizations, without giving any specifics (Ma’ariv [Tel Aviv], March 29). On March 19, Israel’s ambassador to Ethiopia accused Eritrea of trying to sabotage the peace process in the region by serving as a safe haven for terrorist groups (Walta Information Center [Addis Abbab], March 19). In only four months, a minor refinery renovation was transformed into a strategic threat to the entire Middle East.


Questions remain as to how the moving convoy was found by its attackers. Did Mossad have inside intelligence? Did the Israelis use satellite imagery from U.S. surveillance satellites as part of the agreement they signed in January on the prevention of arms smuggling to Gaza, or did they use their own Ofeq-series surveillance satellites? Was an Israeli UAV already in place when the convoy left Port Sudan? A retired Israeli Air Force general, Yitzhak Ben-Israel, recognized the difficulty involved in finding and striking the convoy by noting; “The main innovation in the attack on Sudan… was the ability to hit a moving target at such a distance. The fact that Israel has the technical ability to do such a thing proves even more what we are capable of in Iran” (Haaretz, March 27).

The two-month silence on the attacks from other parties is also notable – it is unlikely U.S. and French radar facilities in Djibouti would have missed squadrons of Israeli jets and UAVs attacking a target in nearby East Sudan. If the Israelis took the shortest route through the Gulf of Aqaba and down the Red Sea they would likely be detected by Egyptian and Saudi radar on their way out and on their way back. According to former IAF commander Eitan Ben-Eliyahu, the attack would require precise intelligence and a two and a half hour flight along the Red Sea coast, keeping low to evade Egyptian and Saudi radar. The aircraft would also require aerial refuelling (Haaretz, March 27).

Even if the aircraft evaded radar, their low flight paths would have exposed them to visual observation in the narrow shipping lanes of the Red Sea.  Israeli aircraft would almost certainly have been tracked by the Combined Task Force-150, an allied fleet patrolling the Red Sea. All other routes would have taken the aircraft through unfriendly airspace. By March 27, an Egyptian official admitted that Egypt had indeed known of the airstrike at the time, but added the Israelis had not crossed into Egyptian airspace (Al-Sharq al-Awsat, March 27).

If Tehran was involved in this remarkably complicated smuggling operation, it will now be taking its entire local intelligence infrastructure apart to find the source of the leak. Egypt is reported to have deployed additional security personnel along the border with Sudan, effectively closing the alleged smuggling route (Haaretz, March 29). As Sudan revives its defense relationship with Iran it is very likely rumors and allegations will continue to proliferate regarding an Iranian presence on the Red Sea.


This article first appeared in the April 3, 2009 issue of the Jamestown Foundation’s Terrorism Monitor

Iran, Russia and the United States Vie to Arm the Lebanese Army

Andrew McGregor

December 3, 2008

The day before Lebanese President Michel Suleiman began his visit to Iran, a pan-Arab daily reported that Tehran was preparing to offer the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) heavy weapons, including missiles (al-Hayat, November 23). Tehran believes the LAF can operate in a complimentary fashion with Hezbollah in organizing the defense of the country, though many Lebanese parliamentarians insist that Hezbollah must turn over its weapons to the LAF. Reports from Tehran state that Suleiman requested only medium arms from Tehran for national defense and the fight against terrorism and was not seeking heavy weaponry like missiles or jet fighters (Al-Nahar [Beirut], November 26; Tehran Times, November 26). Suleiman is a former commander of the LAF.

Lebanese Armed ForcesLebanese Armed Forces

The security agreement signed at the end of Suleiman’s Tehran visit, calls for Iran to supply Lebanon with arms and equipment for the next five years. The exact arms to be supplied will be determined in accord with a new national defense strategy (Al-Sharq al-Awsat, November 27; Naharnet, November 27). Lebanon’s ongoing efforts to hammer out this new strategy were discussed at the talks with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Iran has supplied the Shiite Hezbollah movement with arms since the 1980s, but previous offers to supply the LAF have been rejected on national security grounds (Al-Ahram Weekly, November 27 – December 3). As part of Suleiman’s visit, Supreme Iranian leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei made a declaration that; “The Islamic Republic of Iran believes that the power of all Lebanese groups should be at the service of the country’s national unity in order to counter the danger of the Zionist regime” (al-Bawaba, November 25).

Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak told parliament last week that Hezbollah now had 42,000 missiles, three-times the number it had at the beginning of the 2006 Israeli-Hezbollah war (BBC, November 24). Barak warned Lebanon that integrating Hezbollah into the Lebanese state, politically or militarily, will lead to Israel targeting Lebanon’s infrastructure with “in-depth attacks in the event of a new conflict” (BBC, November 24).

Hezbollah leader Shaykh Hassan Nasrallah has urged the government to equip the LAF with anti-aircraft and anti-tank weapons as part of the national defense strategy. Hezbollah made good use of the latter in the 2006 war with Israel (see Terrorism Focus, August 15, 2006). Nasrallah added that an army without anti-tank missiles was only a body “that deals with national security,” adding; “Our army must be strong, and therefore must be well-trained and well-equipped, and not only with assault rifles and grenades” (Naharnet, November 12; Ynet, November 27).

At a recent meeting of the March 14 ruling coalition, Phalange Party leader and former president Amin Gemayel called for all weapons in the hands of Hezbollah or militant groups within the Palestinian refugee camps to be turned over to the state (Daily Star [Beirut], November 24). Other March 14 politicians have also opposed a deal for Iranian arms, which National Liberal Party leader Dori Chamoun described as “not sophisticated” (al-Manar, November 25). Shaykh Nasrallah and the Hezbollah leadership reject the idea of turning their weapons over to the LAF, claiming that to do so would weaken Lebanon’s ability to protect itself against attacks from Israel in the absence of a national defense strategy.

The United States has been heavily involved in reforming the LAF with hundreds of millions of dollars worth of arms supplied in the last few years. In mid-November, Lebanese authorities announced that the U.S. would supply the LAF with dozens of M60 “Patton” main battle tanks beginning in early 2009 (al-Nahar, November 21).  Israel operates over 700 upgraded versions of the M-60. Though Israeli officials expressed concerns that the M-60 might eventually end up in the hands of Hezbollah, it is important to note that the tanks would be easy prey for Israeli aircraft or even Israel’s upgraded armor. Hezbollah has more interest in anti-tank weapons than tanks.

March 14 coalition leader Sa’ad Hariri told reporters that Moscow was willing to sell heavy weapons to Lebanon at “advantageous prices,” following an early November visit to Moscow. Hariri criticized US supplies of light arms, saying that the LAF also need tanks and artillery (Vremya Novostey: November 9; Interfax, November 9). In turn, Lebanon will send a delegation of Lebanese businessmen to the Georgian breakaway republics of Abkhazia and North Ossetia, possibly as the first step in recognizing Russian-backed independence (Interfax, November 9).

Beirut may yet reverse its decision to accept Iranian arms supplies. Mixing arms from different sources would create many difficulties and cannot be viewed as a step forward in creating a national defense policy. If, however, Beirut proceeds, having Iran supply arms for both the LAF and Hezbollah may be an important step in their eventual integration.

This article first appeared in the December 3, 2008 issue of the Jamestown Foundation’s Terrorism Focus

Shaykh Qaradawi Alarms Egypt with Warning of Shiite Imperialism

Andrew McGregor

October 1, 2008

In remarks very similar to recent statements from Egyptian al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri, a popular Doha-based Egyptian Islamic scholar and spiritual leader of the Muslim Brotherhood has accused Iran of being behind a new wave of Shi’a “imperialism” that threatens the existence of Sunni Islam in Egypt and other Muslim countries. 82-year-old Shaykh Yusuf al-Qaradawi is a media-savvy religious scholar based in Qatar. Al-Qaradwi is the president of The International Union for Muslim Scholars (IUMS) and the head of the European Council for Fatwa and Research (ECFR). He hosts a religious program entitled “Shari’a and Life” on Qatar-based al-Jazeera TV.

Qaradawi 2Shaykh Yusuf al-Qaradawi

In a September 9 interview, al-Qaradawi attacked what he perceived as an Iranian-backed attempt to displace Sunni Islam with Shi’ism: “I don’t accept that any Arab or foreign country should attack Iran, but I don’t accept that Iran should attack any Arab country, especially seeing as some Iranians have imperial dreams, which is wrong and dangerous… What is happening is organized, an invasion… It is not a religious invasion but a political one. Iran is trying to impose itself on those around it and we refuse to follow a new form of neo-colonialism, be it Iranian or any other” (al-Masry al-Youm, September 9). Describing the Shia as “heretics” (mubtadioun), the shaykh alleged that well-funded missionary cadres are “invading Egypt,” as well as Sudan, Algeria, Morocco, Nigeria, Malaysia and Indonesia (Al-Ahram Weekly, September 25 – October 5). Iran responded by suggesting the cleric had come under “pressure from extremists” (Gulf Times [Doha], September 17). The remarks came at a time when tensions between Sunnis and Shias have grown due to the civil conflict in Iraq, Iran’s continuing nuclear program and the suggestion by some Western analysts that Iran is promoting the creation of a “Shiite Crescent” across the Arab Middle East.

The shaykh’s views on Shi’a “imperialism” have encountered widespread opposition in the Arab and Islamic world. A Kuwaiti commentator suggested al-Qaradawi was trying to mobilize the Sunnis in a war against the Shia and asked, “Would anything happen to Egypt if 100,000 Egyptians became Shi’is? And vice versa, would anything happen to Iran if the same number of Iranians became Sunni? Nothing would happen as long as brotherly relations prevail among different sects” (al-Watan [Kuwait], September 24). Shi’a Muslims form a majority in Iran, Iraq, Azerbaijan and Bahrain. They form sizable minorities in Saudi Arabi, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates and Yemen.

Reaction was particularly negative in Lebanon, where al-Qaradawi claimed Hezbollah was trying to leverage popularity won in its 2006 victory over Israel to convert Sunnis to Shi’ism. Shaykh Fathi Yakan, head of the Islamic Action Front (Jabhat al-Amal al-Islami – an umbrella group of Lebanese Sunni Islamists allied with the Shiite Hezbollah), condemned the remarks of the “dear cleric”: “The most serious blow we received this week was a sectarian one dealt to us by a dear cleric, a blow which could have been deadly. We hoped that he would not have raised this issue. We hoped that the revered cleric would have referred in his talk to the increasing number of Jews coming to the Land of Al-Kinanah [Egypt]” (al-Manar TV, September 24). Though not referring to al-Qaradawi specifically, Shaykh Na’im Qasim, deputy secretary general of the Lebanese Hezbollah, saw an American hand behind efforts to create a sectarian divide in Islam: “This sedition has recently been bearing the U.S. signature because America wants to ignite the area under the slogan of the Sunni-Shi’i sedition with the aim of infiltrating it, especially since it found that the strength of the unity between Sunnis and Shi’is cannot be confronted” (al-Manar TV, September 24). Hezbollah chief Muhammad Hussein Fadlallah suggested the Egyptian shaykh should speak out against Christian missionary activity in the Islamic world instead of identifying Shiites as the problem. Fadlallah also accused al-Qaradawi of the committing the sin of fitna (creating discord between Muslims) in an interview with Kuwaiti newspaper Al-Rai Al-Amm (AP, September 24).

Leading members of the influential International Union of Muslim Scholars, headed by al-Qaradawi, have been highly critical of the shaykh’s allegations, describing them as divisive and embarrassing. With Shia members of the group threatening mass resignation, a meeting has been set for November to discuss the problem (Al-Ahram Weekly, September 25 – October 5).

Many of al-Qaradawi’s remarks were directed at Egypt, which has a negligible Shiite population, placed at less than one per cent: “When I left Egypt 47 years ago, it had not a single Shiite and now there are many… who took them to Shiism? Egypt is the cradle of Sunnism and the country of Al-Azhar.” Cairo’s al-Azhar University, the Islamic world’s leading school of Islamic studies, recognizes Shi’ism as a legitimate form of Islam and carries courses in Shiite studies. Al-Qaradawi has often found himself at odds with the institution and its leader, Muhammad Sayyid al-Tantawi. Ironically, al-Azhar mosque (which later grew into the university) was founded as a Shiite institution during the period of Shiite Fatimid rule in Egypt (969-1171 A.D.).

Al-Qaradawi’s remarks reinforce an apparent fear amongst Egypt’s leadership that they are subject to a Shiite infiltration designed to depose the regime. Islamic scholars have been asked to educate security forces in Shi’a ideology and strategy, while the Minister of Religious Endowments recently warned, “We won’t allow the existence of a Shiite tide in Egyptian mosques” (AFP, September 23). In a controversial interview in 2006, Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak attacked Shiites as disloyal; “Most of the Shi’a are loyal to Iran and not to the countries they are living in” (al-Arabiya TV, April 8, 2006).

A leading Egyptian jurist and Islamic scholar, Tariq al-Bishri, proclaimed “This fascism in the name of the Sunni majority against Shiites is the most dangerous thing for the Islamic nation because it pits Muslims against each other instead of against the invaders of their lands” (al-Dustur [Cairo], September 20). Prominent Saudi lawyer Amin Tahir Bediwi announced he will bring a lawsuit against al-Qaradawi in Qatar (The Peninsula [Qatar], September 29). A second lawsuit has been launched by Shi’a activists in Qatar, demanding al-Qaradawi be stripped of his Qatari citizenship and deported to Egypt (Al-Ahram Weekly, September 25 – October 5).

Al-Qaradawi has used his internet site this month to accuse Shiites of the forbidden practice of bid’a (innovation in religion): “They slap faces, strike chests until they bleed in commemoration of the death of Imam Al-Hussein (the Prophet Muhammad’s grandson)… They also do things when they visit the graves of the Prophet’s offspring like invoking their help instead of Allah’s” (Islam Online, September 25). The shaykh also used his website to line up a series of Shiite scholars who announced they were “satisfied” with the shaykh’s “clarification” that Shiites are indeed Muslims (Islam Online, September 20). Nevertheless, al-Qaradawi has continued his attacks on Iran and Shi’ism, telling an Arab daily that Iranian money is behind the spread of Shi’ism; “Money definitely plays a role but I cannot say that every person who backs Iran has been paid by them and I cannot accuse everyone of this. There are people who were paid and continue to be paid and there is shuttling between them and Iran. This is known.” (Al-Sharq al-Awsat, September 25). In a second interview with al-Masry al-Youm, al-Qaradawi declared, “I do not care and I am not shaken by this stir. I made this statement to answer to the dictates of my conscience and religion and responsibility… I am trying to pre-empt the threat before it gets worse. If we let Shiites penetrate Sunni societies, the outcome won’t be praiseworthy. The presence of Shiites in Iraq and Lebanon is the best evidence of instability” (al-Masry al-Youm, September 23).


This article first appeared in the October 1, 2008 issue of the Jamestown Foundation’s Terrorism Focus

Shi’ite Insurgency in Yemen: Iranian Intervention or Mountain Revolt?

Andrew McGregor

May 10, 2005

In the midst of growing political tensions between Iran and the United States a Shi’ite rebellion in the remote mountains of northwest Yemen has created suspicions that Iran may be attempting to open a new anti-American front to weaken U.S. efforts in the region. Yemen’s president, Ali Abdullah Salih, has been a resolute ally of the U.S. in the War on Terrorism, but has used the alliance to reverse a once-promising democratic reform process. After a short truce fierce fighting has resumed, as President Salih sought to eliminate resistance from the radical Shi’ite movement. This new conflict follows similar expeditions in the past few years against well-armed groups of Sunni militants.

Zaydi ShiitesZaydi Shi’ites (al-Jazeera)

The Zaydi Shi’ites

Yemen’s Zaydi Shi’ites are well known for passionate loyalty to their Imams (traditional dual religious/political leaders) but are regarded as moderate in their practice of Islam. With the reported growth of the rabidly anti-Shi’ite al-Qaeda organization in Yemen, it has been suggested that Iran may intervene in support of the Zaydi Shi’a. In the past, Sunni veterans of the anti-Soviet jihad in Afghanistan were used to control any resurgence of the Zaydi Shi’a, from whom the old royal family was drawn. [1] Zaydi Shi’ism is one of three main branches of the Shi’a movement, together with Twelver Shi’ism and the Isma’ili branch. Unlike the other branches, the Zaydi-s are restricted almost solely to the Yemen area. Their form of Shari’a law follows the Sunni Hanafi school, which aids in their integration with the Yemeni Sunnis.

The Saada uprising has a more traditional character than most of the modern Islamist militant organizations, which are led largely by military veterans and professionals such as doctors and engineers. The mountain revolt is led by a Zaydi religious figure, Hussein al-Houthi, who leads a student movement committed to Islamic reform, the Shabab al-Mu’mineen, “The Young Believers.” Al-Houthi was a member of Yemen’s parliament from 1993-97. Unconnected to the mainstream of Sunni radicalism, al-Houthi is a fierce opponent of al-Qaeda, which cemented its anti-Shi’ite reputation by participating in the Taliban’s massacres of Afghan Shi’ites. Like the Sunni militants, however, al-Houthi’s most scathing invective is reserved for America and Israel, whom al-Houthi alleges are conducting an anti-Muslim campaign throughout the Middle East. Al-Houthi has urged his followers to prepare for a U.S. invasion of Yemen. Democracy is viewed as a trick to complete the Zionist domination of the Arab world. Even among the Zaydis, support for al-Houthi is far from universal; while refuting charges of Iranian support for the insurgency, al-Houthi’s brother, a member of parliament, called the religious leader a “criminal” and an international embarrassment. [2]

Al-Houthi’s insurrection is not aimed at spreading Zaydi Shi’ism, but is rather an expression of dissatisfaction with President Salih’s pro-American policies. Al-Houthi describes President Salih as “a tyrant… who wants to please America and Israel, by sacrificing the blood of his own people,” [3] while the President describes al-Houthi as “sick and mentally abnormal.” [4]

War in the Mountains

The insurgency began June 18. Since then the government has unleashed the full force of its arsenal of jets, armour and artillery to pound the lightly armed “Believers.” On July 23, operations were suspended to allow religious scholars a last chance to cross the lines and convince al-Houthi of the mistakenness of his rebellion. Negotiations with al-Houthi have failed in the past, but with Yemen’s existence relying on a delicate balance of tribal allegiances there is usually a preference for negotiated settlement. Many believe that the President’s insistence on a military solution derives from the rude reception he received on a visit to the mountains earlier this year.

The campaign against al-Houthi was expected to be quick, but the Shi’ite fighters have lived up to their warrior reputation, giving fierce resistance to what should have been an overwhelming government force. Government troops have had to struggle up passes similar to the one where a well-equipped column of 10,000 Sadaa-bound Ottoman troops was wiped out by the Zaydis in 1904. The savagery of the fighting and the number of casualties on both sides (300-400 dead so far) has been a shock to many Yemenis. Though the “Young Believers” are only somewhere between 1,000 to 3,000 in number, many Yemenis believe that al-Hourthi is only giving voice to opinions widely shared in Yemen.

Yemen Shiite MapIn urban areas like Sanaa, however, there is some disdain for yet another Mahdist-style movement that will come to a bad end for its superstition-fed adherents. Even Abdul Majid al-Zindani, leader of the radical wing of the Islamist Islah party, has warned against the “serious consequences of extremism and all forms of fanaticism, which are the major reason behind the civilizational decline and backwardness of the Muslim nation”. [5] A powerful political figure and a former comrade of bin Laden during the Afghanistan war against the Soviets, al-Zindani has recently been accused of collecting funds for al-Qaeda, only to be strongly defended by President Salih. Like many of Yemen’s clerics, al-Zindani called for a Muslim jihad against American and British troops in the early days of last year’s Iraq campaign.

The ruling General People’s Congress Party has accused Iran of direct support for the Saada uprising as an effort to create a new front to drain U.S. resources in anticipation of American attacks on Iran and the Hizbullah of southern Lebanon. The President has personally avoided naming Iran, but left little doubt to whom he was referring in making charges of interference by ‘foreign intelligence agencies’. There have also been suggestions that al-Houthi has received financial assistance from the Shi’ite communities of Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates. The insinuation of Iranian involvement came only days after the signing of several new economic agreements between Iran and Yemen and the extension of a 10 million Euro credit by Iran following the conclusion of the 7th meeting of the Yemen-Iran Committee, a forum for bilateral relations.

In Yemen’s long civil war of the 1960s, Iran gave financial aid and a small quantity of arms to the Royalist government of the Zaydi Imam, though its contribution was small compared to that of Sunni Saudi Arabia. The Shah’s help had less to do with Shi’ite fellowship than with hindering the regional ambitions of Nasser, who had already deployed the United Arab Republic army on the Republican side. The Republicans were themselves dominated by a mainly Zaydi officer corps and most Shi’ite and Sunni tribes were usually just a bribe away from changing sides. For the most part, the Arab Zaydis of Yemen have continued to evolve in isolation from their Shi’ite brethren in Iran.

Outgoing U.S. ambassador to Yemen Edmond Hall recently expressed satisfaction with Yemen’s anti-terrorist efforts while suggesting that conditions in Saada province made it rife for penetration by elements of al-Qaeda. Hall’s critics in Yemen accuse the ambassador of running autonomous counter-terrorism operations within Yemen, though both the ambassador and the government insist that their operations are fully coordinated. Hall, the survivor of several assassination attempts, was recently described by a Yemen columnist as “the ambassador who did not give a damn for diplomacy.” [6]

Alliance with Saudi Arabia

Efforts have been made to cooperate with Saudi forces in securing the poorly defined and largely unpopulated Yemen-Saudi border in order to prevent the infiltration of Islamist militants fleeing Saudi Arabia’s own crackdown. Saudi Arabia has also long complained of the traffic in arms from Yemen. The Saudis’ construction of a security barrier along the border has outraged opposition groups in Yemen, who compare it to Israel’s wall in the West Bank. Official relations between the Saudi kingdom and Yemen have rarely been closer than they are now. In July, Saudi Arabia returned to Yemen over 40,000 square kilometers (mostly in eastern Hadramawt province) in accordance with the border treaty of 2000. On July 24, both nations exchanged 15 suspected terrorists for prosecution. Questions have arisen over just how far the new Saudi-Yemeni cooperation extends. The Saudis denied charges last month from al-Houthi’s camp that the Saudi Air Force was involved in a joint Yemen-Saudi bombing campaign that destroyed several villages. The death of numerous Zaydi civilians in air and artillery attacks has brought the attention of Amnesty International, which has asked the Yemen Interior Ministry for an investigation.


At the moment there appears to be a movement within some parts of the U.S. administration to identify Iran as a growing threat to U.S. interests, alleging Iranian aid to al-Qaeda before and after the 9/11 attacks. In making ‘links’ between Iran and the Zaydi insurgency there is a tendency to integrate Shi’ite movements within a vertical command structure (with Tehran at the top) that does not accurately reflect historical, social, linguistic, ethnic and even religious differences between the branches of Shi’ite Islam.

Iran weathered similar political storms during the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq with surprising patience, perhaps expecting the U.S. to exhaust itself before it can strike Iran. Despite the encouragement of Israel, the U.S. is unlikely in the short term to take military measures against Iran, a much larger and formidable adversary than Iraq. The usefulness of the Saada rebellion as an Iranian counter-strategy is questionable; the uprising is not large enough to influence the balance of power in the region or to draw away significant American resources in the way a general Sunni rising would. The attractions of militancy to a traditionally conservative and moderate community should sound a warning that the Salih government may be leading Yemen into a period of renewed civil conflict that may easily spill into the international arena.

A more important threat remains from Yemen’s Sunni extremists. On July 1, the Abu Hafs al-Masri Brigade threatened to drag the United States into ‘a third quagmire’ in Yemen (after Afghanistan and Iraq) with the cooperation of local Islamist groups. Yemen’s Sunni radicals played a prominent role in the growth of al-Qaeda; the region may continue to provide an important source of manpower for international terrorist operations. Homegrown militant groups like the Islamic Army of Aden also continue to provide military challenges to the Salih government. With U.S. forces unexpectedly overextended in Iraq, the U.S. has so far avoided a large-scale military commitment in Yemen, preferring to aid the Yemen regime in its own local war against Islamist extremism.

Yemen’s experiment with democracy is withering as Salih, president since 1978, attempts to create dynastic rule at the head of a one-party state. Lately Salih has attempted to reverse the process of integrating Islamists into the government. The pro-US position of the President (and its offer of troops for service in Iraq) is hardly a representation of popular sentiment in Yemen. Salih’s control of Yemen will be sorely tested in the days ahead as the government simultaneously tries suspects in the 2000 bombing of the USS Cole and the 2002 attack on the French tanker Limburg.

Salih has established a pattern of playing off Islamists against Socialists, with the intention of eliminating both as potential opponents of the GPC. While Salih grooms his son as his successor, Yemen threatens to become a replica of the hereditary Ba’athist presidencies of Iraq and Syria. The stifling of democracy and the alienation of Islamists from the political process are contributing factors to the radicalization of Yemen’s Sunni majority. With new challenges from a revival of Southern separatism and the unexpected insurgency in the Zaydi heartland, Yemen has become a new Middle Eastern tinderbox.


  1. The Zaydi Imams ruled Yemen from the ninth century until 1962, with interruptions. The Shi’a represent roughly 40% of Yemen’s 20 million people.
  2. John R Bradley: ‘A warning from Yemen, cradle of the Arab world’, Daily Star (Beirut), July 13, 2004
  3. ‘Yemeni preacher speaks out against Salih’, Agence France Press, July 22, 2004
  4. ‘Yemeni President: al-Houthi is an ill man, mentally abnormal’, Arab News, July 9, 2004,
  5. Mohammed al-Qadhi: ‘Islah warns of Sa’ada events consequences: Criticism of U.S. accusations against al-Zindani’, Yemen Times, July 23, 2004
  6. Hassan al-Zaidi: ‘Yemen bids farewell to Ambassador Hall’, Yemen Times, July 26-28, 2004


This article first appeared in the May 10, 2005 issue of the Jamestown Foundation’s Terrorism Monitor


Unmasking the ‘Axis of Evil’: Iraq, Iran and North Korea are no angels. But they are no al-Qaeda sympathizers, either.

Andrew McGregor

Ottawa Citizen Commentary

February 19, 2002

In his state of the union address, American president George W. Bush repackaged the “rogue nations” of the Clinton era as the more threatening “axis of evil,” a new target in the war on terrorism. Prime Minister Chretien said last week that “the question of the production of unacceptable armaments in Iraq is a problem that is under the authority of the United Nations, and it is completely different than the problem of terrorism,” a statement that could easily be applied to Iran and North Korea. Does the axis play a role in international terrorism, or is the American administration taking care of some unfinished business while it is mobilized for war? For an answer, let’s look at the involvement in terrorism of each of these states.


The prime minister [of Canada] and Russian president Vladimir Putin last week both said there was insufficient evidence to connect Iraq to Islamist terrorism. The secular Iraqi leadership prefers to support secular splinter groups of the PLO rather than Islamist groups. Osama bin Laden detests Saddam Hussein so much that he offered during the Persian Gulf War to raise an army of Arab veterans of Afghanistan to fight Iraq on behalf of Saudi Arabia.

Most allegations of Iraqi collusion with Islamist groups come from defectors to the United States who are seeking citizenship and money in return for information that invariable comes without substantiating evidence. Iraq continues to harbour Mujahedeen Khalq, an Iranian terrorist group opposed to the current Iranian regime and responsible for a number of assassinations. Baghdad continues to host the ailing and inactive Abu Nidal, but, like Osama bin Laden, Saddam’s support for Palestine is mostly rhetorical.

Iraq does have an active chemical and biological weapons program (developed with U.S. and British assistance), but it is highly unlikely to provide such weapons to terrorist groups for fear of retribution. Saddam has nothing in common with Islamist groups, and his commitment to the Palestinians does not include endangering his own position.


Shiite Iran was a bitter enemy of the Shiite-hating Sunni Taliban, supplying arms to the Northern Alliance and nearly going to war with the Taliban in 1998. Al-Qaeda’s anti-Shiite extremists are unlikely recipients of Iranian aid. Iran condemned the September 11 attacks and, in recent days, Iran claims to have arrested 150 al-Qaeda and Taliban fighters and family members who fled to Iran after escaping Afghanistan via U.S. ally Pakistan, a long-time supporter of al-Qaeda and the Taliban.

Iran remains a patron of the Lebanese Shiite Hezbollah organization, which made a successful strategic transition from classic terrorism to guerrilla operations against Israeli military targets in its battle to drive Israel from Lebanon. Hezbollah is listed as a terrorist organization by the U.S., a definition not completely accepted elsewhere. Iran also supports the Hamas and Islamic Jihad groups of militants within Palestine, regarding the liberation of Palestine as a religious obligation. The shipment of arms intercepted by Israel was probably less an attempt to aid terrorist attacks than to give the Palestinians the means to adopt the proven methods of the Hezbollah.

Iran has been listed as a state sponsor of terrorism since 1984, but considers itself a victim of terrorism by Mujahedeen Khalq attacks and likes to remind the U.S. that its unconditional support for Israel undermines the war against terrorism.

Iranian intelligence forces have been implicated in the 1996 Khobar Towers attack in Saudi Arabia, but there have been no major incidents of direct Iranian terrorism since the election of moderate president Mohammad Khatami in 1997. Democratization and westernization are ongoing processes in Iran, but moderates seeking engagement with the West are being pushed into the camp of the conservative clergy by the “axis of evil” speech.

North Korea

North Korea’s terrorist acts have traditionally been organized by state security groups and have been almost exclusively directed at South Korea. Despite this, it is reconciliation-seeking South Korea that has protested most strongly at the inclusion of North Korea in the axis.

North Korea’s major acts of terrorism occurred in 1983 and 1987, during the presidency of the late Kim II-Sung. With American urging, North Korea has since signed five anti-terrorism conventions and is in the process of ratifying two more. But its refusal to surrender members of the now moribund Japanese Red Army (responsible for a 1970 hijacking) to Japan has placed North Korea on the U.S. list of terrorist states.

Nevertheless, there are no pressing “terrorism” concerns that involve North Korea (though a Tamil Tiger video shot last year is alleged by some to show North Korean equipment in use by the Tamils). There is no evidence that North Korea has ever been involved with Islamist terrorist groups.

Each of the axis countries has a historical association with terrorism (a large club), but may be regarded as uncooperative or hostile to the aims of al-Qaeda. The axis appears to be a revision of the list of rogue states, conceived as possible sources of nuclear-armed missile attacks on the continental United States. The $60 billion scheme intended to defend the U.S. from this possibility, the unproven National Missile Defense (NMD), should not have survived September 11 when it was demonstrated that expensive and provocative ballistic missile programs were unnecessary to inflict major damage on the U.S. Currently, none of these nations is close to being able to target the U.S. with missiles. Unable to protect the U.S., the missile defence shield is an expensive gift to the defence industry.

Even if a strike on the U.S. were successful, none of the axis states has arrived at a solution to a variant of Mutual Assured Destruction (MAD) that we might term AD, Assured Destruction.

But while the Americans fret about the “axis of evil,” two of the world’s largest states remain poised inches away from nuclear annihilation in Kashmir. The al-Qaeda leadership remains at large, Afghanistan remains a ruinous breeding ground for violence, Saudi Arabia and Egypt remain unaddressed hotbeds of Islamist extremism and the Israel/Palestinian conflict is escalating. In the meantime, the “victory” over the primitive Taliban is taken as proof that Pax Americana can be imposed on all the U.S.’s enemies at once.

An attempt to replace any of the axis regimes would require a serious commitment of U.S. ground forces, especially with coalition support falling by the way. In the meantime, Americans are left asking; Whatever happened to that Bin Laden fellow?