Intelligence Reports to 29 Oct 14
The Houthis continue to make territorial gains against al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), while securing formal political power and demanding influence within the military. Yemen’s military is backing the Houthis as they advance on AQAP territories, while the US continues to carry out drone strikes against AQAP militants. But these policies carry their own high risks.
The Syrian regime makes gains in Aleppo where moderate rebel groups are still holding out in the city, but this may not last long. Meanwhile, Jabhat al-Nusra briefly took control of Idlib whilst Kobani remains the focal point for the Islamic State (IS) whose fighters are said to be in charge of nearly half of the town despite facing daily bombardment from US-led airstrikes.
In Idlib, Syria’s second largest city, the Syrian army almost suffered a major setback when hundreds of fighters belonging to Jabhat al-Nusra briefly took control of the newly installed Governor’s office. Dozens of senior military officials were captured and beheaded before the building was eventually retaken.
Elsewhere, the main focus for the IS in Syria remains Kobani. Capturing the town would give the jihadists total control of nearly half of the 500-mile border with Turkey, a crucial supply line for weapons and foreign fighters. After a six-week siege in which US and coalition aircraft have inflicted heavy casualties on the IS, Kobani has assumed a far greater propaganda value, and in effect become a litmus test for it and the People’s Protection Units (YPG) defending it. Not surprisingly, one of the IS’ most experienced battlefield commanders known as Abu Omar al-Shishani has supposedly been moved from Sinjar in Iraq to oversee operations.
The influence of conservative voices in Saudi Arabia have had an impact on the poor performance of the National Commercial Bank’s IPO, demonstrating that despite some setbacks, conservatives remain a force to be reckoned with in Saudi Arabia.
While there are multiple explanations behind the relatively poor result of the IPO, one cannot overlook the impact that conservative forces in Saudi Arabia have had on the result to date. The NCB is a non-Islamic bank, and as such the forces of conservatism seized the opportunity to condemn the NCB shares as ‘haram investment’ and discouraged people from buying them.
A recent speech by Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi threatens to raise sectarian tensions in the country even further. Meanwhile, in a sign of the dangerous security situation in Baghdad, several car bombs struck in and around the capital killing dozens of civilians and Shiite militiamen.
The security situation in many parts of the country remains dangerous.
Sectarian tensions were already high before Abadi made a serious misjudgment with his reference to Hussein Ibn Ali and fresh violence targeting Shiite areas can be expected next week with the commemoration of the day of Ashura (November 3).
Ayatollah Mohammad Reza Mahdavi Kani, the head of the Assembly of Experts, has died of a heart attack at the age of 83. Amongst the favoured candidates to replace him is Ayatollah Mahmoud Hashemi Shahroudi.
The first scenario would see current interim president Ayatollah Mahmoud Hashemi Shahroudi promoted as permanent chairman of the council. One of six members of the Guardian Council, Shahroudi is also seen as a compromise selection between moderate and conservative members of the government, and he is unlikely to cause many problems in public.
The second scenario could see Hashemi Rafsanjani as the possible successor. However, his selection would be opposed by conservatives and arguably weaken Khamenei’s standing in their eyes.
Bahrain’s primary opposition party, al-Wefaq, has been suspended for three months by a court decision. The purported reason for the ruling is that al-Wefaq had broken the law and its own statutes, however the true motive is undoubtedly political.
The decision comes as Bahraini parties are gearing up for the November 22 legislative elections. Western governments, including the US, have warned that the move might serve to stoke instability in Bahrain, where demonstrations and road closures by anti-government protesters has become commonplace.
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