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inFOCUS Quarterly

Winter 2015

Ideas for a New Congress


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Riyadh Intervenes Against Yemeni Rebels

Saudi Arabia began a series of airstrikes against Iranian-backed militias in Yemen yesterday in conjunction with other regional allies. Riyadh's ambassador to the U.S. announced "Operation Storm of Resolve" on Wednesday night in Washington, justifying the measure as a last resort in protecting Yemen's "legitimate government" against Houthi rebels.

More than 100 Saudi warplanes have participated in strikes targeting Houthi combat and control centers, weapons depots, and other military installations mostly around the capital Sanaa. By Thursday morning local time, the Saudi military had gained air superiority over the country and threatened to bomb naval ships operating off the coast. CNN cites a Saudi adviser saying that up to 150,000 soldiers could be mobilized for the operation; artillery and other military kit has begun massing on Saudi Arabia's border with Yemen. Numerous other Sunni states including the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Qatar, Jordan, Morocco, Pakistan, and Egypt have joined the coalition against the rebels.

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By Michael Johnson  |  March 26, 2015 at 3:48 pm  |  Permalink  |  Submit a Comment

IS Claims Responsibility for Tunis Attack

Islamic State claimed responsibility Thursday for an attack on the Bardo Museum in Tunis that killed 20 foreigners earlier this week. Security forces killed two terrorists during the assault, which has highlighted Tunisia's growing susceptibility to Islamic State terrorists in the region.

Wednesday's attack started when gunmen fired on tourists disembarking from coach buses outside the museum, before heading inside to take hostages. Police raided the building shortly after, finding at least three Japanese, two Spanish, two French, and one British national, among others, dead at the scene. The museum was widely considered a safe area given its close proximity to the heavily guarded parliament building next door.

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By Michael Johnson  |  March 19, 2015 at 4:07 pm  |  Permalink  |  Submit a Comment

Renewed Palestinian Rivalry Threatens Rebuilding in Gaza

Palestinian Authority security forces arrested up to 100 Hamas members during a series of raids in the West Bank over the past two weeks. The detentions mark only the latest setback in Fatah-Hamas relations following the adoption of an unity agreement last spring.

According to Middle East Monitor, many of the Palestinians arrested include "university professors, schools teachers, doctors, imams" with some previously spending time in Israeli jails. Additionally, the PA has failed to disclose a reason for the arrests or charged any Hamas members publicly.

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By Michael Johnson  |  March 12, 2015 at 4:47 pm  |  Permalink  |  Submit a Comment

Boko Haram Reverts to Old Tactics Amid Setbacks

At least 34 people were killed during an attack in the capital of Nigeria's Borno State on Tuesday when, according to witnesses, a female suicide bomber detonated her explosives in a crowded marketplace. While no group claimed responsibility for the incident in Maiduguri, the bombing bore the hallmarks of killings committed by Boko Haram in northwestern Nigeria.

Earlier in the day, 20 insurgents in cars and on horseback opened fire in the village of Ngamdu about 60 miles away, killing eight people. Military officials confirmed the deaths and noted that soldiers had been deployed to the area to deter attacks. A similar shooting last week also killed 45 people in the Borno town of Njaba; and five coordinated bombs targeted the same Maiduguri marketplace on Saturday, killing more than 100 civilians.

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By Michael Johnson  |  March 11, 2015 at 3:53 pm  |  Permalink  |  Submit a Comment

Tehran Stages Military Drills Near Strait of Hormuz

Iran's Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) staged a series of military exercises near the Strait of Hormuz on Wednesday, in Tehran's largest show of force in recent years. The wargames, named Great Prophet 9, come as neighboring Arab states prepare to spend billions on countering the threats posed by the Islamic Republic.

Iranian state TV aired footage of the exercise showing dozens of IRGC boats raiding a replica U.S. carrier and firing large caliber weapons and ship-to-ship missiles at the vessel. Knowing the formidable presence of the U.S. Fifth Fleet in the region, IRGC commanders often rely on such asymmetric attacks, overwhelming their enemy with swarms of smaller boats. Meanwhile, other sailors practiced shooting down a drone and planting underwater mines, according to the Washington Post. After the trainings, outspokenly anti-western leaders, including parliament speaker Ali Larijani, attended a ceremony to mark the navy's success.

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By Michael Johnson  |  February 25, 2015 at 4:29 pm  |  Permalink  |  Submit a Comment

U.S. Jury Finds PA and PLO Liable For Terrorism

A Federal District court in New York City found the Palestinian Authority (PA) and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) liable for facilitating terrorist attacks in Israel between 2002 and 2004 on Monday. The verdict marks an important milestone over a decade-long legal battle and helps set a precedent for other anti-terrorism cases in the future.

After two days of deliberation, a jury awarded $218.5 million to compensate U.S. victims and their families killed and injured during seven different attacks, including a suicide bus bombing. Prosecutors used bank statements to show how the PA paid wages of officials who organized the killings and that Palestinian leaders supplied "martyr payments" to the families of terrorists. Many plaintiffs in the case chose to testify over the past seven weeks, reciting graphic and emotional memories the about loved ones injured or killed in the attacks.

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By Michael Johnson  |  February 24, 2015 at 4:44 pm  |  Permalink  |  Submit a Comment

Putin and Sisi Hold Talks in Cairo

Russian President Vladimir Putin held high level talks with his Egyptian counterpart Abdul Fattah al-Sisi in Cairo this week as part of a two-day state visit. Putin and Sisi hope to strengthen ties following a deterioration in relations between each of their countries and the United States.

Talks will focus primarily on terrorism and economic cooperation; both countries face challenges posed by radical Sunni insurgents. Separatists in the Northern Caucasus killed 10 police officers in late December, while in Sinai terrorists with Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis have sworn allegiance to Islamic State and regularly target Egyptian security forces with suicide bombings, IEDs, and well organized assaults.

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By Michael Johnson  |  February 12, 2015 at 10:48 am  |  Permalink  |  Submit a Comment

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