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On 16 February, US director of national intelligence James Clapper told the Senate Armed Services Committee there were signs Al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) fighters may already be fighting in Syria. There is growing evidence to support this view, and growing concern that the conflict in Syria could merge with violence in Iraq to form a single, transnational conflict zone reaching from the Iranian border to the eastern Mediterranean.

Iraq | Syria
Issue 921 - 06 April 2012

Al-Qaeda ramps up activity in Yemen

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There appears to have been a rise in Al-Qaeda activity in Yemen since Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi became president in February (GSN 918/1). Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and the related Ansar Al-Sharia group have claimed responsibility for a number of major attacks, and seem to have expanded their operating arena.

Yemen
Free

The situation in Iraq has deteriorated considerably following the 18 December withdrawal of the last US combat forces. Major attacks have killed hundreds of people and raised fears of a return to the sectarian strife that ripped through the country in 2006 and 2007.

Iraq
Issue 918 - 23 February 2012

AQAP’s Tariq Al Dhahab killed

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Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) announced on 19 February, that Tariq Al Dhahab – the man who briefly took control of the town of Radaa in January – had died. According to newspaper reports, Dhahab was killed by his half-brother, Hizam Al Dhahab, who was subsequently killed himself, apparently when another brother, Qaid, blew up their father’s former home, in which Hizam was hiding.

Yemen
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A tougher US stance on Hormuz may usher in a period of greater risk – especially if mounting economic pressures make Iran feel it has little to lose by picking a fight at sea. The USS Abraham Lincoln, one of the US Navy’s flagship aircraft carriers, left the Gulf on 14 February following a 20-day “freedom of navigation” exercise.

Iran
Free

Bahrain was rocked by protests in February and March last year, an uprising largely crushed by security forces and troops. Following the unrest, a report by the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI) concluded human rights abuses had taken place, including the torture of many of those detained for taking part in protests.

Bahrain
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Amid all the talk of war on Iran, it is worth noting that Israeli deputy foreign minister Daniel Ayalon took the time last week to distance his country from any notion of imminent conflict.

Iran
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President Ali Abdullah Saleh has made his long awaited exit, but it is a country in chaos he leaves behind. Militant gains in the south, street protests, gun battles, assassinations and air force mutinies do not build a picture of a nation ripe for political transition, but rather of a Yemen imploding

Yemen
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The Obama administration is cultivating defence ties with GCC states, continuing major arms sales initiated under George W Bush and stepping up military exercises in the region

Iran | Saudi Arabia
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In the wake of the 18 December US troop withdrawal, 2012 opened with the deadliest bombings for more than a year, killing scores of people in and around predominantly Shia targets in Baghdad and the Al Nasiriyah region.

Iraq
Issue 914 - 09 December 2011

The evolution of Asaib Ahl al-Haq

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Asaib Ahl al-Haq (League of the Righteous – AAH) is an Iraqi Shia militant movement formed in 2006 by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) Qods Force with the help of Lebanese Hizbollah trainers.

Iraq
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Despite huge efforts to advance the capability of the Iraqi Air Force, it will be at least four years before an initial 18 F-16s will be operational, leaving Iraq exposed to Iran in the east and, more significantly, Israel in the west

Iraq
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The missile threat posed to the Gulf region from Iran is “overstated”, according to a paper entitled A Crude Threat: The Limits of an Iranian Missile Campaign against Saudi Arabian Oil, published in the Harvard University-based International Security journal.

Iran | Saudi Arabia
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Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula is exploiting uprisings in the north, south and centre of the country to pursue its stated aim of a sharia caliphate, putting the US in an increasingly perilous situation.

Yemen
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A $60bn arms deal, the single largest in Middle East history, has sealed an enduring partnership and seen off competition from the UK and Europe

Saudi Arabia