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inFOCUS Quarterly

Spring 2015

inFocus Examines Israel

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Egypt's Top Prosecutor Killed in Bombing

Early Monday morning, Egypt's top prosecutor, Hisham Barakat was killed in a bombing on his way to work. This comes after several years of escalating tensions between Islamists and the secular, military-backed government.

According to Egypt's Health Ministry, a remote controlled bomb detonated in the wealthy Heliopolis neighborhood of suburban Cairo, wounding Barakat, 6 bodyguards, a driver, and 2 bystanders. The explosion incinerated Barakat's car, and destroyed several surrounding cars, sending flying glass which injured many uninvolved persons. Although initial reports indicated that Barakat would survive his wounds, he eventually succumbed to his injuries.

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By Adam Goldstein  |  June 30, 2015 at 4:29 pm  |  Permalink  |  Submit a Comment

Top Prosecutor Killed in Cairo Bombing

Early Monday morning, Egypt's top prosecutor, Hisham Barakat was killed in a bombing on his way to work. This comes after several years of escalating tensions between Islamists and the secular, military-backed government.

As Public Prosecutor, Barakat was responsible for referring thousands of Islamists for trial, and he had received death threats in the past.

According to Egypt's Health Ministry, a remote controlled bomb detonated in the wealthy Heliopolis neighborhood of suburban Cairo, wounding Barakat, 6 bodyguards, a driver, and 2 bystanders. The explosion incinerated Barakat's car, and destroyed several surrounding cars, sending flying glass which injured many uninvolved persons. Although initial reports indicated that Barakat would survive his wounds, he eventually succumbed to his injuries.

Following the ousting of former President Mohamed Morsi, secular President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi has worked to suppress the Muslim Brotherhood and other political Islamists. The Muslim Brotherhood has engaged in retaliatory violence primarily in Egypt's cities, while Islamist militant groups, comprised mainly of Bedouin tribesmen, are waging an insurgency against President Sisi primarily in the Sinai Peninsula. Insurgents have killed hundreds of Egyptian soldiers and security forces, and have recently expanded their focus outside of Sinai. Human Rights organizations claim that in pursuit of insurgents, President Sisi has jailed Islamists on invented, politically motivated charges. Barakat has led several cases against anti-government activists and members of the Muslim Brotherhood, which many outsiders claim to be politically motivated.

Although the violence has largely been contained in the Sinai, Egypt's recent political instability has further intensified the frequency and scope of militant activity. Cairo-based judges and political figures have been targeted in attacks, and in 2013, Mohamed Ibrahim, Egypt's Interior Minister at the time, survived a similar attack to the one that killed Barakat. The Egyptian military has responded with frequent incursions into Sinai, but have yet to defeat the insurgents, who are armed and supported by Iran.

By Adam Goldstein  |  June 29, 2015 at 4:06 pm  |  Permalink  |  Submit a Comment

Houthi Shelling Kills Three Saudi Soldiers

On Wednesday night, Yemen's Al Houthi militia killed three Saudi Arabian soldiers stationed on the Saudi-Yemeni border. Following the recent collapse of peace talks, violence in Yemen continues to intensify.

Several Al Houthi shelling attacks killed two Royal Saudi Land Forces soldiers as well as one from the Kingdom's Border Guard. According to the Saudi Arabian Press Agency, the strikes occurred in the mountainous border regions of Narjan and Asir. Al Houthis frequently launch missiles at Saudi border posts. Violence is escalating as Al Houthi rebels gain control of important cities and the Saudi-led coalition retaliates.

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By Adam Goldstein  |  June 26, 2015 at 1:03 pm  |  Permalink  |  Submit a Comment

U.S. to Deploy Heavy Armor to Baltics

United States Defense Secretary Ashton Carter announced on Tuesday that Washington will position tanks, artillery, and other military equipment throughout Eastern and Central Europe, and work with NATO allies to bolster cybersecurity infrastructure of member nations. These moves are designed to bolster the confidence of countries formerly controlled by the Soviet Union following increased Russian bellicosity, including the announcement last week that Moscow will add 40 intercontinental ballistic missiles to its nuclear arsenal within the year.

The U.S. released a fact sheet stating that pre-positioning efforts include approximately 250 tanks, Bradley infantry fighting vehicles, and self-propelled howitzers. Carter plans to deploy most of the arms and heavy equipment in Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia, Bulgaria, Romania, and Poland, with some additional weaponry in Germany.

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By Adam Goldstein  |  June 25, 2015 at 1:37 pm  |  Permalink  |  Submit a Comment

Khamenei Expresses Defiance over Nuclear Deal

The June 30th deadline to finalize an agreement over Iran's nuclear program may become more challenging for negotiators after pointed comments from Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Tuesday.

Khamenei listed numerous grievances with the interim framework guiding negotiations; his personal website insists that "All economic, financial, and banking sanctions, implemented either by the United Nations Security Council, the United States Congress, or the administration, must be lifted immediately when the deal is signed." These heightened demands were accompanied by a bill in the Iranian Parliament which, if ratified, will ban international access to military sites, documents, and scientists as part of any future nuclear deal. The bill must be ratified by the Guardian Council, a constitutional watchdog, in order to become a law. But both Khamenei's complaint and the parliamentary bill contradict the position of the Obama administration, as well the P5+1, which insists that members of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) must have unrestricted access to nuclear sites throughout Iran, as well as to non-nuclear sites that they deem to be relevant in order to lift sanctions.

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By Andy Hazelnis  |  June 24, 2015 at 2:44 pm  |  Permalink  |  Submit a Comment

Taliban Assault Tests Afghan Army in Helmand

The Afghan Taliban seized parts of central Musa Qala, in Helmand Province early Thursday morning, gaining control over the area's police station and other government buildings. The attack took place in the Taliban's traditionally sympathetic Pashtun heartland as part of its annual spring offensive, the first that Afghan security forces will face without NATO military support.

During the battle, militants killed at least 11 members of the Afghan security forces. Fire also engulfed two shops and destroyed police vehicles, according to Omar Zwak, a spokesman for the province's governor. Eventually, local police and the army retook the area with the help of helicopters mid-day Thursday.

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By Adam Goldstein  |  June 18, 2015 at 5:48 pm  |  Permalink  |  Submit a Comment

AQAP Replaces Slain Leader

Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) appointed longtime commander Qasim al-Rimi as its new leader, according to a video released by the group's senior leadership on Tuesday. Al-Rimi played an integral role in establishing AQAP from other radical Islamists groups in 2009, and has helped it become of the world's most dangerous terrorist organizations.

Al-Rimi's replaces Nasser al-Wuhayshi, who was killed in a U.S. drone strike in Yemen late last week. Al-Wuhayshi served as a confidant of Osama bin Laden and brought to AQAP radical jihadist tactics he learned from fighting in Afghanistan. Al-Wuhayshi was once a Guantanamo Bay detainee but after being repatriated to a Yemeni prison he escaped in 2006. With 12 other escapees, he would go on to found the al-Qaeda affiliate. His death marks another blow to the organization's core leadership, which also lost ideological mufti Ibrahim al-Rubaish in mid-April.

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By Andy Hazelnis  |  June 17, 2015 at 2:05 pm  |  Permalink  |  Submit a Comment

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